Across from him, Daelen simply watched, patient as ever. For a long moment, as Fiearius tore through the infirmary, back and forth, back and forth, he said nothing. He just watched. It was only when Fiearius finally stopped, dead center, feeling his foundation starting to crumble, that Daelen spoke.
“Captain,” he began slowly. “I know that this is a frightening prospect. I understand. But I need you to understand what’s going to happen if you can’t sever your dependency on this drug.” Daelen took a deep breath. “It’s primarily affecting your liver, kidneys and nervous system. If your liver starts to fail, you’ll become jaundiced, weak, you could become disoriented or slip into a coma. If it fails, you will die. If your kidneys fail. You will die. But most concerning of all, what you were taking has started to affect your nerve endings. If this continues, you could lose feeling to your extremities, become paralyzed, epileptic or even lose mental stability.”
Fiearius could do nothing but stare back at him, entirely speechless.
“Now I get your hesitation, I do. But captain, this drug will be your end. It may not be immediate, it may not even be for a decade, but if you keep taking it, it will kill you. And it will not be pretty. It will not be painless. And it will not be dignified.” He approached Fiearius and lifted his brows at him. “I can’t force you to do anything. But I know what I would choose.”
He didn’t make it sound like much of a choice. Fiearius was still stunned to silence when Daelen put a tablet in his hand. “Here are your test results and a basic treatment summary for typical withdrawal symptoms. Look through it. Research it on your own. Make your decision. If you do choose to go through with the detox, and I hope you do, I suggest you come clean about it now.” He grasped Fiearius’ shoulder and looked him straight in the eye. “She deserves to know.”
– – – –
It was odd to be on this side of an examination, Leta thought, swinging her legs back and forth on the bench as Daelen finished tending to her. He pressed a stethoscope against her back, the buds tucked into his ears as he listened to her breathing. Satisfied, he stepped back and slid the device to rest around his neck.
“Well whatever happened to you while you were unconscious, it doesn’t seem too invasive,” he said, peeling the latex gloves from his hands. “Besides the puncture wound on your neck, I see no other signs of contact. Do you feel any unusual pressure or pain anywhere?”
“No, nothing. I’m even sleeping well again,” she said, thinking briefly of the previous night she’d spend with Fiearius at the hotel. After a moment, she muttered, “So they really gave me the ARC treatment, didn’t they?” though she was quite sure she knew of the answer.
“Signs point to yes. There’s definitely traces of something in your blood and it’s not something I recognize.” He crossed the white tile floor to examine his console screen. “I’ll have to do some research before I can confirm the compound matches what’s been identified as ARC, but as of now?” He glanced back at her. “I’d say it’s a safe bet.”
“Do you think it’ll have any long-term effects?”
“It could,” Daelen admitted. “The dosage you were given was clearly quite small given how little is left and I predict it will physically be out of your system in no more than a few days, but as far as lingering mental effects?” He shrugged. “It’s hard to say.”
Leta heaved a sigh, but forced any dark thoughts from her mind. She’d made it back from Vescent relatively unscathed — really, what more could she ask for?
In a tone that was more cheerful than she felt, she pushed down from the bench and said, “Don’t suppose you usually get patients this interesting everyday, do you, doctor?” She smiled. “How are things going on the Beacon, anyway?”
“Oh, quite well.” He turned away from the console. “The crew likes to keep me busy. Captain Corra in particular has a tendency to demand infirmary care for such little things as minor bruises. Though I’m beginning to suspect she’s more interested in the conversation than the bandages.”
“She tried to get me to take that position,” Leta remembered. “And move over here with her.”
“You’re welcome to take the offer, there’s certainly plenty of space for the two of us,” he mused, gesturing at the massive infirmary around them. “Though the Dionysian might fare better with you rather than without.”
“I always said I’d leave the Dionysian only when I was really ready.”
“So not yet then,” Daelen prompted, a knowing glint in his eyes. “Well … if and when you ever are, I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we’d be happy to have you. Now, just give me a minute to clean up a little and then we’ll go over the test results together.”
He stepped towards the counter to clear away the medical supplies, but Leta rolled her eyes. “Please, I can read a test chart,” she said, crossing toward the console screen herself.
“Shall I remind you how big of a breach of confidentiality that is?” he called back to her as he washed his hands, but he made no motion to stop her as Leta touched her fingers to the screen. “I guess you are going to take that ‘doctors are the worst patients’ cliche to heart.”
“Ha, ha,” said Leta dryly, before focusing her attention on scrolling her medical chart. What she found made her stomach knot in unpleasant surprise. According to the screen, her blood pressure was dangerously low (and then dangerously high); her temperature was feverish; she was having difficulty breathing and was at a near-constant risk for seizures.
“Wait…this is — this doesn’t make sense.”
“Hm?” said Daelen, wiping his hands on a towel.
“These levels are–this can’t be right. I thought you said I only got a small dosage.”
“You did,” he said, frowning.
He walked over and joined her at the screen as Leta went on, “Then how are my levels so dramatically off? ARC shouldn’t be able to do this. Especially a small dose. Why is it like this?”
And then just as Daelen arrived at her shoulder and went very still, Leta noticed the name emblazened at the top of the screen: it wasn’t hers.
“Leta…” said Daelen quietly, warning in his voice.
“This … this is Fiearius’ chart.” Leta rounded on Daelen at once. “What’s going on here? What’s the matter with him?””
Daelen drew his eyebrows together, clearly troubled. “You know I can’t discuss my other patients with you.”
“Daelen, we’re not in the clinic anymore,” said Leta sharply. She could feel her heart beating fast. “Tell me what’s going on with Fiearius.”
“Leta,” said Daelen, throwing an uneasy glance at the screen, “you shouldn’t even be looking at — “
“Fine,” Leta snapped. “I’ll talk to him myself.”
Without a backwards glance, she stalked from the room to find Fiearius.