[29] Poison

He stepped to the right.

Saren stepped to the right.

He stepped to the left.

Saren stepped to the left.

“Damn it, let me get through.”

Cold eyes on his bare torso. Bare throat. He suddenly felt that coming up shirtless wasn’t such a bright idea. Maybe it was even downright idiotic. But he somehow needed air. Needed to struggle to breathe.

“Why should I?”

“That was beyond horrible.” He leaned against the wall, ridges of his forearm stuck at odd angles with the metal plating and pushing painful signals through his nerves into that overworked part of his brain. Oh well. Better than that persistent smell of vomit and fear in his nasal cavities. Damn things needed to be cleaned. He thought about sticking his head in the disinfector and setting it to ‘kill it with fire’. Yeah, that’d show them.

“I would,” Saren said, “leave it at horrible.”

And suddenly he wanted to punch him in the face. Who died and made you Primarch? This is my ship. Mine, you hear? Mine! Leave me the fuck alone!

He lashed down that ugly beast with all his might. “I need. To get to the cupboards.”

Step to the right. Mirrored.

“We must talk.”

Step to the left. Mirrored.

“Conversation now over. There’s nothing to talk about. At least not until you pass me my brain bleach.”

“Why, Nihlus?” And he could tell Saren wasn’t referring to the pick-me-ups pre-mixed into the bottles.

A sickly green robe and a pair of pitch-black eyes. But he didn’t say that. That was only part of the reason.

“You know why.” He replied through gritted teeth.

Saren paused for a full minute, and then passed him the good stuff.

Nihlus was a complete slob, he decided. Living with him for an entire year had been proof enough, but Saren had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Nihlus only made a mess everywhere because Saren had been there to clean up after him.

He brushed away the dripping shirtsleeve that kept falling inside his collar.

“Nihlus.”

Nihlus put down the bottle with a thud, followed by the shot glass. “What?” He dragged out the last syllable, and the subharmonics were out of sync. Just slightly.

“What happened to your washer?”

“Oh, that thing. Yeah, I went to this muddy, gritty kind of place and…” He paused and bit his talon, made a face and spat; evidently, not to his taste. “Yeah, I should change the filter or something. I don’t know where, though. Eh.”

“You wash these by hand?”

“Yeah. I used to do it. Way before. All this.”

“That doesn’t disinfect, though.”

Nihlus sighed and took a swig from the bottle. “I know.”

Saren followed the flash of the golden label in the glow of the single lamp. Nihlus was about to put it back down, but evidently thought better of it and walked over instead, passing it to him.

He sniffed. Hard liqueur. Very cheap. Premixed with drugs? Perhaps.

Nihlus, meanwhile, had already made himself comfortable lying prone on the bench. He looked up. Saren nodded once. He rested his head on Saren’s thighs.

A few minutes passed, during which Saren compiled a list of things to do once Nihlus sobers up–or falls unconscious. The dishes, for one. Find bottles like these and pour the contents down the drain, for another. Then there was the washer issue. The filter should be a standard model, so any turian colony would carry it.

He looked down. Nihlus wasn’t asleep.

“Do you want to debrief?”

“Fuck,” he said, eyes wide open, startlingly green in the darkness.

Saren thought back to the twenty little girls. A technology like that…

“That was beyond horrible,” Nihlus continued. “Dammit, pass me the brain bleach.”

He thought about getting up and pouring it down the drain. But in the end, he placed the bottle in Nihlus’ trembling hand.

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