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(Friendship) In Sickness and in Health

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Of course! Your GOOD FRIEND Ardata! How did you not think about this before? A pretty long time has passed since you last visited that area, and plus, you are 100% sure that this visit could not possibly hurt more than your first one! What could possibly go wrong?

So, you're on your way. You march like a small human invader through deserted alien streets; one that has suffered from broken ribs, arms, blood loss, some quite violent burns, etc. But all that doesn’t matter now, because this not-so-fierce invader is going to visit his good alien bud! And he is going to enjoy it!!

After a few minutes of intense walking (you'll have to thank Nihkee; that is, if you ever get the courage to talk to her after one of her fights, of course), you finally find yourself in front of Ardata's door. You happily knock and, only after doing so, it occurs to you that you may be interrupting one of your friend's streams with your visit.

… hopefully, this will not be too bloody.

Luckily enough, this suggestion is soon proven to be false when an pretty angry troll opens the door... it's your good old, cerulean blue friend!

ARDATA: what the hell do you want now, iiidiiiot? get out of my hiiive before iii make yo- oh.

ARDATA: iiit’s just you.

ARDATA: agaiiin.

You greet Ardata with a big bright smile: yes, it's you (again)! Boy, isn't someone positive today? Maybe it's the warm feeling of being reunited with your first Alternian buddy, or maybe it’s just the general happiness that comes with knowing that you're not going to spend the whole night alone like a total weirdo, that makes your chest feel lighter than usual. You're not sure, but you still love it.

ARDATA: hmm… anyway, get iiin before you do somethiiing stupiiid and get blood all over my entrance.

You nod energetically, cheerfully ignoring the disinterested tone of your friend. However, as you walk in, it becomes harder to ignore that something is different.

Jegus, is it just you or Ardata is looking pale? Her whole face is a lighter shade of gray, and maybe it's just your imagination, but the slight cerulean blush on her cheeks doesn’t look that good either.

You slowly  accompany your buddy to the kitchen and take a seat right after her, just like every good friend should do. Your eyes take on a look of concern when you notice the way she staggers when she does so, and leans tiredly against the expensive chair.

ARDATA: iii KNOW iii don’t look good, fool. iii’m not as bliiind as you.

ARDATA: diiid you come here just to tell me obviiious thiiings?

Oh, well... you guess that makes sense. Kinda. Is she sick? Is there anything you can do to help?

Ardata frowns and all her three eyes take on an angry look.

ARDATA: what are you now? my lusus?

ARDATA: no, iii’m not sick. iiim perfectly fiiine, thank you for nothiiing.

You ignore her obviously sarcastic tone, and point out that she does not look 'perfectly fine'. And then add  that, if that's the case, she shouldn’t pretend to be okay. You do not like your friends to be hurt, or sick for that matter.

Ardata seems about to give you a snarky response, just as she would normally do, but the comment dies in her mouth in that second; her chest contracts, and suddenly she is coughing, bending over the table and holding a hand over her mouth, in a seemingly pretty painful way.

Oh shit! Oh fuck! What can you do?! This is an alien here, right in front of you, probably about to stop breathing or something worse for what you know! Should you call someone? Is there anyone who even knows what to do in this situation?! Dear Gog, you're going to lose your first friend right in front of your eyes!

OH GOD.

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

ARDATA?

PLEASE JUST BE A DREAM. PLEASE JUST BE A DREAM. PLEASE JUST BE A DREAM.

HAHA, OK, MAKE-BELIEVE TIME IS OVER!

OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD…

ARDATA: can't you stop doiiing that for just a miiinute?!

ARDATA: iiit iiis iiirriiitatiiing enough to have to hear your stupiiid voiiice wiiith thiiis headache, iii don’t need to liiisten to your thoughts too.

Uh… what?

You stop your brief panic attack to return to look ahead of you, where a visibly tired Ardata struggles to look at you with disapproval, her chest trembling with each breath. Thanks to some strange alien miracle, she has stopped coughing, and now she is using one of her arms to hold onto the table while the other rests on her chest. However, she does not appear to be very happy with that; in fact, you think she still looks quite sore.

ARDATA: iii would also appreciiiate iiif my own friiiend could stop stariiing at me liiike some sort of freak.

A-Ah… y-you are... sorry? This near-panic-experience has left a lot of fear in your body, and your friendship instincts seem to have been affected by it… Oh no! There's no way you can help your buddy like this!

… wait, did she say she had a headache?

ARDATA: iii'm fiiine, dumbass. iii don’t need to endure heariiing more of your paniiic attacks.

No, no, no: you will not fall back into that trap a second time! You get up and walk to Ardata's seat, who looks at you as if you had finally lost your mind.

ARDATA: what do you thiiink you’re doiiing?

You put a hand on her shoulder and tell her she needs to rest. Sick people like resting, right?

She grunts.

ARDATA: take your hands off me, you FOOL. iii do NOT need to...

Yep, just in time; a new coughing fit seems to be about to start, the only difference is that now she stops talking in time. You nervously rub her back as she coughs, striving to improve the situation at least a bit.

She shakes, lets out a few violent coughs on her sleeve, and slowly begins to lift her head to look at your human white eyes.

ARDATA: ok, maybe a liiittle rest could be fiiine, but you better stop th- HEY!

Upps, too late! You pick up Ardata, just like you remember doing the first time you two met... Only that now you are not under some kind of strange alien mind control, and she is the one having trouble walking.

ARDATA: iii told you to STOP that!

Suddenly your arms lock up. Oh, yeah… you also may had forgotten that she could do that.

Your friend uses her psychic powers to stop your whole body. Your arms begin to move to accommodate her in a better position in your arms, and your legs start walking without your consent. One step. Another one. Three. Four. Five.

You stop. She frowns, seeming tired and frustrated.

ARDATA: you know what? contiiinue, iiit's much better when you do iiit.

She smiles, looking a little proud of herself, and releases her mental control of you. You also smile, glad that she is happy and that you're able to use your legs the way you want.

You begin marching again; however, this time you're not a brave human invader, but a simple man carrying his sick, murderous, alien friend. You walk with her through long, finely decorated corridors, towards what you certainly expect to be her bedroom. Soon Ardata stops you when you are in front of a dark blue door.

ARDATA: here. stop now.

You decide is better do as she says and, ignoring the looks all her eyes give you, you help her down.

The situation begins to be really uncomfortable (and pretty damn confusing) when your friend opens the door and begins to head towards her alien bed. All of a sudden she turns around, looks at you, raises a finger, and your whole body takes a 180º turn and your eyes close without your permission.

ARDATA: don’t you dare to look.

Oh, fuck. Suddenly you feel the strong urge to punch yourself in the face, as the memories of your experience with Skylla and her strange alien bed flow back to your mind. Of course you would not want to look!! That would be a very non-friendly thing to do!

… you really hope that Ardata is not seeing the way you're blushing right now...

You hear clothes sliding to the ground in some part of the room, splatter, and then the ability to control your own body all of a sudden returns to you. And so, you slowly turn around to look at your buddy; she is almost completely sunk in the green liquid filling her strange bed (recoperacoon?), somewhat of a slightly relaxed smile on her face, and her long, beautiful black hair sliding on her bare shoulders... no, seriously, stop that now.

ARDATA: oh, by the way, try not to do anythiiing stupiiid whiiile iii’m takiiing a liiittle break here.

ARDATA: and don't bleed out iiin any of my furniiiture.

You assure Ardata that you have learned to take better care of yourself over the past few weeks, and that you have absolutely no intention of dying anywhere near her property. Or getting hurt either.

She nods approvingly, and immediately proceeds to psychically throw you out of her room.

Well... you suppose this means you're on your own for a little while.

After a few seconds thinking about your options, you decide to venture back to the kitchen (which you do, after another straight 5 minutes of searching for the correct hall). You don’t think your friend would be ‘exactly’ happy with you taking some of her food without her permission, but a little glass of water could not hurt, right?

You take a small paper cup (you don't want to remember where you got it from) out of the pocket of your current sweatshirt and fill it with fresh water from Ardata’s strange alien version of a tap. You sit in one of your friend's refined chairs, ready to enjoy your newly obtained drink, when suddenly a low, guttural sound at your feet suddenly catches your attention…

"GRRRR”

The giant tick that grunts at when you look down is definitely not the worst thing you could have expected (partly thanks to your previous Alternian experiences), but it's not the best either.

Ehh… you guess this must be Ardata’s lusus? ... and probably also the monster you heard in her dunge- (you mean ‘basement’) the first time you were here? You try to be the nicest guest posible by smiling at the creature, but it clearly doesn’t seem to take your gesture that way.

"Hiiiiisssss".

Ok (y/n), think fast: what can you possibly do to keep this creature from trying to kill you (and succeeding) in the next few seconds? What do ticks like?

You nervously start looking inside your pockets for something: anything, that can get you out of this situation. And suddenly, one of your fingers touch a piece of something... one of Diemen's Meaty Delicacies! Thank Gog! You shakily take your hands out of the pocket and try to hand over the meat to the beast, hoping that this will be taken as an peace offering and DEFINITELY not as a threat.

The monster in front of you smells it suspiciously and penetrates the outside of the sausage with its fangs, extracting a little blood from it...

Well, you think that at least looks like a good sign? Maybe?

And very surprisingly, it is! Soon, the giant version of a tick pulls its fangs out from the Savory Bunned Delight and grabs it with its jaw, calmly walking away from you, and looking quite satisfied for the moment.

You let out a relieved sigh and happily decide to celebrate you new victory with a good cup of refreshing, clean water. However, before you can enjoy your prize, and for the second time in the last few minutes, an odd sound catches your attention...

Man, that cough sounds way worse than Ardata's... Unfortunately, you also think you have a pretty good idea about where it may be coming from.

Moving fast, you drink all the remaining water in one gulp and carefully approach the beginning of the stairs that lead to the place where your pal records her streams, walking on your tiptoes. You stick an ear, and concentrate on the not very pleasant sounds that come from below; more coughs, heavy breathing, a couple of sneezes and... oh Gog, is that someone crying?

... you're going to make a very stupid decision.

Biting your lip and praying that your alien friend has not programmed her equipment in any kind of strange automatic recording, you walk down the stairs as silently as you possibly can. Which, to be honest, is not very silent… you don’t seem to be very good at being out of focus. You suppose that just another bad thing about being in an alien planet. Or the protagonist for that matter.

You don’t quite like what your eyes see when you go down; the kids inside the cages are still… well, in cages, and seem mostly frightened when they hear you walking down, obviously mistaking you for Ardata. Some of them even still look terrified after they see that you are not her! Although others seem rather angry, and the rest... they don’t look to be in the best conditions to show clear expressions.

Ignoring your sweaty hands, you warely take an old handkerchief out of your pocket (you definitely do NOT want to remember where you got that from), and carefully put it on top of the main recording machine of your old buddy, trying not to do anything stupid that can turn it on in the process. You run up the stairs as fast as your just-a-little-bruised legs allow you, and quickly come back with your paper cup and a pitcher full of water, ‘borrowed’ from Ardata's private crockery.

Jeez! You can still notice most trapped kids eyes in your back when let the jug on the floor and fill the cup, before offering it to the ‘inhabitant’ of the cage closest to you...

You can swear he seems stunned for a second.

The troll-child hisses, tearing the glass from your hands in a fast move, and swallowing all its contents in less than three seconds. When you try to grab it back, a wild growl resounds inside his chest and he shows you his pointed alien fangs, his hands protectively squeezing the paper cup against his chest.

Well, you already knew this wasn’t going to be exactly easy.

You gently ask the kid if he would not like to drink a little more water. His eyebrows seem to rise more than is physically possible in his dirty forehead, and his hands grasp a little stronger the cheap cup. Just as if he wasn’t sure you were going to give it back to him. Which he obviously is.

Finally, thirst defeats him.

You get the water and fill a cup for him... and then another... and another... When he finally seems satisfied, you pass on to the next child, who after seeing everything looks much more surprised than his prison companion. And, luckily for you, much more peaceful too.

You continue like this until all the kids have been served their water, which takes about 8 full and half jugs of water and LOTS OF PATIENCE. Some of the children seem sincerely terrified of you, and for a moment you understand why Ardata would not like too much to be down here... or at least you think you do. A little girl coughs so hard that accidentally the paper cup escapes from her hands, and then she starts crying when you offer her a new one with a smile, that she drinks between tremors and sobs.

Most of them are sick, apparently with a pretty worse version of whatever is what Ardata has caught. You assume that means either she has infected them, or they have infected her.

Once you have finished, you silently say goodbye to the kids, remove the handkerchief from Ardata's camera (after careful checking it is 100% off), and go back up the stairs on tiptoe. Then you carefully wash and dry your friend's jar and leave it exactly where you found it (you don’t want to have any friendship problems, right?). When you finally are done you decide that you may sit at the table for a while and enjoy the silence... perhaps revise Chittr a bit?

Yeah, that will work for a while.