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Ethan Neufeld

Take Care (by Joe & Ethan)

The door opened with a soft click. Grimacing and pale with a trace of perspiration beading in his hairline, Ethan hesitated. He stood in the hatchway for a long minute, forearm braced on the bulkhead, steadying hand on the latch, head bowed and jaw clenched as he willed down another wave of nausea. It’d been close when he left the Qob’s bridge, at the limit of his ability to choke back the bile. He’d sprinted the last few meters from the infirmary’s entrance to the head in the end, barely hooking the hatch closed behind him with his foot.


Three weeks from Zoalus, he still looked like he’d seen better days with the fading yellow of old bruises and discoloration of healed scrapes. The doctors had prescribed six weeks of physical recovery before he engaged in strenuous activities. Roughly two weeks had elapsed since they’d released Ethan from the infirmary and the Qob left Xorax. Four remained and he chafed to move beyond the light work and return to his old routines. But that was just for the acute knife wound to his abdomen and other serious lacerations.


He’d heal from the penetrating trauma. The doctors were more concerned about the lingering infection the Motoroils had left behind. Full recovery hinged on how he responded to the treatment. An unpronounceable concoction that, like ancient therapies, could be as toxic to him as it was to the microbes, and often left Ethan fatigued and nauseous.


It didn’t matter what he ate or when. Episodes of vomiting would hit him every three or four days and lasted nearly as long. The spells triggered painful muscle spasms that exacerbated a healing wound and left him dehydrated and hungry. Nothing stayed down. Pulling a bottle of Ondansteron from the medicine cabinet that Chris had set aside, Ethan poured an 8mg dosage and sipped at it. Once they’d begun treating him for nausea and when he could keep the medicine down long enough, the most he could tolerate was ginger tea and water. Something was better than nothing.


“Captain," Ethan greeted the footsteps and closed the cabinet.


As he entered the infirmary, Joe was still locking one of the buckles of his field belt, a contraption with a number of pouches that hung one strap over the shoulder and wrapped another around the waist. "I hope you feel better than you look," he said, looking Ethan over at the medicine cabinet.


Ethan turned and gingerly downed the last of the oral solution, tossing the medicinal cup in the trash. “Might in a minute,” he assured and sounded anything but convincing.


"There's been some scuttlebutt around the crew about you storming away from a group chat. At least, that's the way Pher may'a seen it. It sure looks you had other reasons to be in the infirmary," Joe remarked with a grin.


“Mm,” he voiced and preventively swallowed, adding a hint of nonchalance as he gave a subtle smile.


"Not sure what's goin' on 'tween you and Pher. Pher generally don't have too much trouble makin' friendly with us menfolk. Women? The competition? That's a different matter. But the men to her are like bartenders to an old drunk like me. Can't help but make nice with them knowin' that they're providin' what you need. She avoids hostility so much, that I sometimes think it a bit naive in this corner of the galaxy. You seem to have touched a nerve with her, though. And I sense that she ain't your favorite person either, which might be even harder to believe.” Joe paused briefly as Ethan moved away from the counter and sat on the nearest bed.


"You gotta understand, Ethan, Pher's gonna do things her way and you're gonna do things yours. I've worked with Pher for over two years now. Most of the times I like the effect she has on others. She's lead a smooth operation in security since she took the department over. And she made as smooth an operation out a tenuous position as she could back on New Risa. I put her in charge because I trust her to get things done her way -- that means with patience and a minimum of fuss. She's the anti-me, which makes her the best complement. With the motley crew we've put together over the last two months, she's the smooth touch that I need to go along with my harsh voice.


"I know you got no reason to do anything that I ask, that you feel like I'm the bad guy. But I've given you assurances about that vial of yours and I still plan to see them through. While I'm working on that, I'd appreciate a small concession in return -- don't get into any arguments with my crew. They get into enough arguments with each other that I've got my work cut out tryin' to smoothen things between them. If you want to volunteer the kind of advice that security firm experts can offer, I welcome it and appreciate it. But keep the critical eye turned inward. I learned long ago that that's the best direction to point it if you want it to do any real good."


“Fair enough,” Ethan responded minimally and laid down, quietly grunting at the strain.


"I know if Chris had it his way, you'd be laid up for the next month. He tends to be a bit on the overcautious side with his patients, while I've always been a bit more of a 'grit it out' type of doctor. I've looked over your charts, so to speak; you'll be just fine as long as you don't strain yourself for the next week or two. But it's advice one way or the other; since you ain't on the crew, you can take it or leave it as you please.


"If you're willing, though, I'd sure like to make use of your skills with some light work over in the Gular neighborhood. It'll take a day or two for me to look into some of the things you told me about the vial; not much for you to do in the meantime. And I'd certainly be willing to share some of the pay with you when we deliver the intel Samus is after. Think you'd be willing to get involved in this?"


Ethan pushed to his elbows with a mild cringe and looked at Joe. “I’ll do what I can. What exactly do you need?”

Edited by Ethan Neufeld

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