I had hoped--beyond hope, at this point--that I would've been left to my own devices to get back upstairs.  But no: the other brother, Tobias, waited just at the end of the hall.  I walked, or rather staggered, down the hall, trying my utmost not to trip and fall asleep before I hit the floor.  With a patronizing sigh he met me about halfway down the hall, and wasted no time in taking hold of my upper arm and setting me on my feet.  Though smaller than his brother, Tobias's hand got a full three quarters around my arm.

In a lopsided three-legged race that involved half-dragging me up the stairs we made it up to the third floor and he deposited me in my room without so much as a how-dee-do.  Which was fine by me.  I eyed my bed with suspicion for about thirty seconds before deciding I was far too tired to care about anything that did not involve me and sleep.  Without even bothering to untie my shoes I collapsed on the bed, fast asleep well before I even touched the mattress.

Boy did I sleep.  I didn't sleep as long as I would've liked--odd snatches of incoherent speech dogged my dreams--but what sleep I did get was beautiful.  Knocking at my door the next morning woke me up.  I blearily glanced at the clock: it refused to slide into focus, but I could make out two digits in the front, meaning I'd slept through breakfast, and this knocking was probably the doc.

The door clicked open as I sat up, and sure enough Doc Esco poked his head in.

"Mornin' to ya, Doc," I said with a stretch.

"Good morning," he replied in that tone that suggested he only thought it was good to be polite.  "I trust you slept well?"

"Like a rock dipped in concrete."  I peered at him.  "You, on the other hand, don't look like you slept particularly well."

He waved his hand dismissively.  "Never mind me.  I was mostly concerned about you.  Anything trouble you last night?"

I shook my head.  "Not that I can think of.  Maybe a dream or two I can't remember woke me up for a second or so, but I feel almost back to normal."  That part was true, and maybe the dream part was true, but I didn't feel like specifying.  "No noises, either, which was good."

He nodded, though I couldn't really tell if he was pleased or not.  Professional detachment, I'd guessed by this point.

The doc glanced at something in my folder.  "Well," he said, "I did some thinking, and I have a new medication regimen almost all figured out.  They're evening medications, which may end up working better for you.  I'm on my way down to talk with the pharmacist, and we'll start them tonight."

"Oh, okay."  I was surprised how quickly he'd figured something out, but you must be able to figure things out pretty quickly if you've been at this for as long as Doc Esco's been.  But something else bugged me.

He raised an eyebrow.  "Something the matter?"

"No, sir."  That look was still there.  I swallowed.  "I dunno, I was just thinking it might be an idea to keep the new regimen until tomorrow maybe, that way whatever's left of the others can work their way..."  I trailed off and sheepishly turned my attention to my shoes.  "Just a thought," I mumbled apologetically.

"It's quite alright," he said, no change in his voice.  "You would be surprised how quickly some things, such as the previous regimen, work themselves out of the body.  No, I'd say it's perfectly safe to start the new regimen tonight."

I nodded.  I wasn't convinced, but he was the man of the mind and medicine.  I threw in an extra nod, a further attempt at persuasion.

My fingers itched.  Not the need-to-scratch itch, but a vacant twitchy itch.  I folded my arms, failing not to drum my fingers on my one arm."Hey Doc?"


"Are you sure all the medications need to be scrapped?  What if it's just one or two that're causing the problem?"

He looked back up from my file with that edge in his eye.  "Why do you ask?"

I winced.  "I dunno.  I mean, I don't feel like they did much, but maybe they haven't gotten effective yet, or two of'm just don't work well together."  Excuses felt weird in my mouth, but they were partly true.  I think."What were they, anyway?"

"Pardon?"  A bit defensive to my ear.

"These meds I was just on, what were they?"  His eyes flashed, though I couldn't understand why.  If my neighbors were asking, I could understand, but it was me we were talking about.  "They don't have to be any names," I offered pitifully, "generic name's fine."

"I'm afraid," he said, half through his teeth, "that that information is unsuitable for the time being."  His eyes prickled on the top of my head as I desperately wished to disappear in the uncomfortable silence that followed.  "I suggest," he began again, less sharply, "you take it easy today so as to get back to a normal schedule.  Rest, but don't necessarily sleep anymore today.  I don't want you to throw off your sleep even further, and I don't want you missing meals."

I nodded with mumbled "yes sir", and waited until the door clicked shut and I counted a slow ten to look at my hands.  Try as I might to hold them still they shook ever so slightly.  I looked around the room for something--anything--that might keep them occupied.  The first thing I spotted was my toothbrush, relaxing on top of the calculus book I had borrowed.  I snatched up, regarded it for a moment, and ran my tongue over my teeth.  I had been too tired to brush them properly before I went to bed, so I started brushing my teeth.

Personal dental health hit an all time high for me when I was in high school, about a year after Roger had left for college, two years after we moved into my mother's then-boyfriend's split-level, and three years after dad passed.  I did everything I was supposed to do, and if I wasn't tinkering in the basement or playing with Amy I was brushing my teeth.  At some points it was kind of compulsive, sure, but it was never enough to make my gums really hurt.  I liked it, it was a kind of a think-help, like how people think in the shower.  I do that too, but it's much more difficult to write down an idea you have in the shower than it is to write one down you have while brushing your teeth.

No ideas came that morning, but I seemed to recall the doc saying something last night about a snake, which made me kind of nervous.  But any kind of active snake here sounded silly, especially a poisonous one.  Did we even have poisonous snakes around here?  I'd never heard of any.

The dream voices bubbled in and out ever so gently throughout the afternoon, but I paid them no mind.

I couldn't understand what they were saying, anyway.

The End

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