Gratitude, and Being Selfish

Xanadu Weyr - Infirmary
The infirmary here is intended for human care. It is regularly scrubbed spotless and smells of disinfectant, redwort and other herbs that are - if sometimes strong - preferable to the scents of sickness. Cots are lined up against one wall, with a set of curtains that can be pulled to give some privacy to the occupants of the cots if they so desire. They're mostly used for examinations of patients and the treatment of mild injuries that won't require long term care; near the back are some more private areas with folding dividers.
There's a number of cabinets that stand off against another wall, instruments and medications stored against when they will be needed, and a back room holds those supplies seldom required.
A desk with chair is set just off of the doorway to the caverns, meant for the healer to sit and catch up on record keeping after a long day's work or await patients. If things get too busy, the patients can do the waiting on a set of uncomfortable chairs set nearby. The other doorway comes directly from the clearing, wide enough for a team to carry a stretcher through.


So far, the time Bethari has spent in the infirmary has mostly been in silence, though whether this is owing to what stole her voice away again following Risabeth’s last hatching or the fact that she has spent a good deal of the time asleep is something even the Healers might not be willing to bet on. She’s ended up in one of the beds towards the back, that she is not going to be going anywhere anytime soon something that she and the Healers must be resigned to now, the damage down her right hand side combined with the late stage of a fragile pregnancy making it ill-advised for her to be left to her own devices. Whether she could walk on that leg is a moot point, what with her lungs already under pressure now added to by damaged ribs and shoulder, and so, while she cannot escape, at least someone has had the decency to furnish her with literature, a stack of books on her bedside table, one of which she props at her side with her left hand and peers sleepily at when she can bring herself to focus.

Hidden away as Bethari may be, it’s a simple enough route once directions are given. D’lei obtained those from a healer, though he’s the one who brought the folded blanket beneath his arm – a slightly nubbly one, with the softness of wool from some particularly-bred herdbeasts and a variegated pattern from the natural colors of that wool. He rounds the last of the corners to see Bethari, and there’s a wry sideways twitch of his mouth before he pauses, a few feet yet from that cot, and speaks. “Hello, Bethari.”

Those looking after her are probably going to get – or already are – very sick of Bethari dropping books on the floor, for that’s what she does when D’lei speaks, her focus lifting from the page so completely that her fingers uncurl and her book goes pitching over the side of the bed with a sharp slam that suggests the small mercy of it falling closed and not landing face down to crumple and fold innocent pages. She tries to sit up a little more properly, planting her left hand down in the sheets to attempt to shove back against the pillows, but with a good two thirds of her now fighting for matter over mind, it’s a losing battle and she has to settle for being half slumped there. Her lips move, yet no sound comes out; not until she gives it a third go and asks a rough-voiced, “…Did the handlers at least get out?”

D’lei is silent as Bethari tries to shift, as she tries to speak; like he’s a statue waiting there, patient but… not helping, or even attempting to, and not saying anything until she does. “…most of them.” His voice is a bit quieter, a bit deeper, but then he restores the more normal volume. “They’re at Black Rock Hold, with the miners there. It seemed… best to leave them with someone who could understand.” He spreads out the hand not holding blanket as part of a shrug. “As much as anyone can, anyhow.” D’lei grimaces faintly. “We only lost one. But… that’s all it took.”

Bethari clenches her jaw and looks down at the bed beneath her – most definitely not at any part of her own body that might remind her of the whole affair, her gaze deliberately and determinedly averted. “…There wasn’t anything left,” she murmurs. “The whers. Just pain and suffering. I don’t know that they even knew who they were.” She twitches her good shoulder, only even so slight a movement pulls at the bad one and has her closing her eyes against any more obvious indication of hurting. “It was like it was on a loop. Like you’d raised a dragon and rider in the dark and silence and never let them see sun. Just dark. No memories but dark and ichor and fear.”

D’lei nods, his gaze lifting to stare at the wall behind Bethari as she does the same to the bed. “That’s… fairly accurate,” he says, and his head tilts further back to see the ceiling before he lets out a sigh. “I’m glad it’s over.” D’lei tilts his head back down, eyes looking to Bethari once more. “For them, I mean. Better Between and quiet than more pain.” He sounds certain of that, at least… though his chin tucks down after a moment. “I keep wondering if there are others. Whers, or humans, or dragons… and the worst of it is, I’m sure there are.” A grimace. “Somewhere.”

“Someone needs to tell Risabeth that, because she won’t believe me,” escapes past what cracked walls Bethari has managed to craft together before she can stop herself. Sighing, she tips her head back against the pillows and adds a ragged, “…Or forget,” now that the rest of it is out there. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they have other sites doing exactly the same thing. For the operation to be like that… It was no thrown together thing. They knew what they were doing. Maybe they’ve just relocated and started it all again already.” She swallows hard and opens her eyes, levelling her slightly unfocused gaze on D’lei. “It’s done now, anyway. Until they surface again.”

There’s a wry tug at the corner of D’lei’s mouth, not really a smile even if it acts like one. It fades quickly, followed by a nod, and a set of his jaw as Bethari continues, a tilt down of his chin. “Yeah,” he says, and his mouth shifts before he speaks again. “Thank you.” His eyes meet hers, steady even if his voice is somber. “I know I’m not as significant as Risabeth… but I do think it was the best of terrible choices, for whatever that’s worth.” D’lei shrugs, just a little. “I brought you this,” he says, with a step closer to set that blanket on the edge of the cot. “I thought you might like something nicer than infirmary-sheets.”

Bethari nods a time or two, taking a deep breath as though to speak, yet, again, no sound comes out until she’s had a few goes at forming the words, her lips moving without truly shaping the components properly. “I know,” she eventually echoes, conviction in her voice that doesn’t manage to colour her features. She blinks as though to clear her vision, successful in dragging back a little focus as she follows the path of the blanket to the edge of her cot, a sequence of shallow nods greeting its arrival in place of any immediate vocal response. Still quicker about it this time, she offers a quiet and sincere, “Thank you,” that is nonetheless somehow tainted with guilt. “…They won’t let me out of bed until…” Her attention flits to the bump of her stomach and away again. “Whatever happens. And I’m right handed. I can dictate, but…” Everything else seems pretty much out of the question.

D’lei nods, waiting again for that answer and then giving a faint smile. “And,” he adds, “If you’re not on enough medication to make your judgment somewhat questionable, you should be.” There’s a trace of what almost sounds fond in those words, a sort of appreciation for stubborness even when it’s a kind of terrible idea. “I know it’s hard to sit still.” The smile is gone now, the words serious. “There’s so much to be done, and it won’t get done by lying in the infirmary.” He circles around the cot, bending down to pick up that dropped book and set it down on the others before he heads back again. “But we can’t save everyone… and we can’t do everything, either.”

“Baby,” is the explanation Bethari supplies for not being medicated right up to the eyeballs, though she doesn’t get through those two syllables without blinking more rapidly now to most definitely eliminate the threat of tears that rises when she actually mentions her unborn child. It makes her redouble her effort to maintain focus, more determined having now confessed to it being pain that drags her away and not the more pleasant, softer lull of something strong enough to dull it more completely. Perhaps by habit, she murmurs her thanks for the retrieval of her book, that being far more easy than anything else she’s uttered so far. The fingers of her left hand hold tightly to fabric for the span of a breath or two, and while she stares her own hypocrisy in the face and doesn’t permit herself to suggest that she totally understands, she chooses to confirm, “I don’t think I’ll be doing anything for a while,” and surrender to it that way. “When I’m back on my feet, you should go on holiday. You and Risali. K’vir.”

There’s a slight grimace for Bethari’s explanation of why-not, but D’lei nods for it. He’s quiet again as she gathers herself to fight through it, not rushing any of that effort on her part. “Probably,” he admits to her claim, the word easy but with a wry smile. “Time in the infirmary doesn’t count. But…” He tilts his head, eyes focusing on her. “You aren’t exactly the best advocate.” He has a smile, but it’s a faint one. “When was the last time you did something for yourself?”

Bethari’s lips twitch in what could be a smile, but it’s there and gone so quickly that there’s no sure way to tell. “Maybe not,” she has to concede, “but I’m the one closest to being able to herd you all out of here and promise that most of Xanadu should still be standing when you get back.” It must have been a smile, since a soft huff of wry – or weary – laughter follow, though she soon sobers when she gives herself over to genuine contemplation of what D’lei puts to her, the silence she lapses into maybe clue enough for both of them. After letting that silence stretch on, she looks down at the bed again and tilts her head, her eventual protest a weak and guilt-ridden one despite the ring of truth to it. “…I decided I wanted another child.” Looking back up, she insists, “It does count. For all the trouble I’ve caused, it does count.” The smile that breaks free is at least bright and honest and far less wry, for all it’s touched with tears. “So, you will let me send you all off on holiday at some point. Hopefully when you’re all back in working order again.”

D’lei gives a head-tilted nod to acknowledge Bethari’s counter, with an amused smile and a gesture of his hand as it to pass her the point in the debate. His own smile fades during that time of deliberation, the weight of it shifting to one corner of his mouth instead of both… but at last she answers, and he nods. “It does,” he says, with a surety to his tone for that agreement, and his smile is a soft one. “I’m glad there’s something.” That’s earnest, at least, though his gaze lowers for a moment before he lifts it up again. “Yes,” he assents. “You can send us on a holiday.” His mouth shifts, somewhere between grimace and wry tug as he considers the taste of further words, and then… he goes for it. “There have been a lot of words gone wrong,” he says, voice a touch softer and expression more still. “Intentions, too. I don’t know if they can be fixed… but I am glad for what you’ve done for Xanadu… and that you are doing things for yourself, too.” Even if they may be rather few and far between.

Whether the touch of colour to Bethari’s cheeks is owing to the tears that have slipped free without her permission or the weight of further guilt as she quickly and unintentionally darts her gaze elsewhere when D’lei addresses what she cannot possibly try to feign ignorance of, it lingers nonetheless, her instinct to knot her fingers together a short-lived thing when shifting her right shoulder makes her eyes brighten for entirely different reasons. “…I know,” she murmurs, making herself lean back while she tries to force her unwilling body to relax. “And I… If the way for it to be fixed… When I’m better…” She still refuses to speak of the baby’s fate. “If… After you’ve had your holiday… the way to fix it is… for me to be somewhere else… then…” Overheard and out of context, those words may be so easily misconstrued, especially when paired with the serious nature of her injuries and what lingers of her tears, and, despite her best attempts to protest, there is no deterring some Healers when they decide a patient needs rest. And so those words will have to hang between them, unfinished and unrefined, until said Healers decide that Bethari is able to handle visitors again.


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