The Story Continues

Of Fevers, Hats and Nicknames

Tobyn was beginning to royally hate the fourth stratum. Oh, sure, it was incredibly beautiful to look at with the raining pink petals and stone bridges. But there were also dangerous floors, unseen pits, one way short cuts and FOEs that would either appear up from the ground, use status effecting spells every chance they got or wander aimlessly in unpredictable patterns.

The mapping itself was also tedious. Some pathways could only be found and explored by hurling yourself into a pit. To the horror of a certain medic.

"Tobyn?"

Glancing up from the maps he was working on and trying to sketch out into a more readable manner, Tobyn saw that Lynus was standing in the doorway to his bedroom, looking uncharacteristically haggard and weary.

"I know you're busy," Lynus said with a smile as he took a couple of steps into the room. "But could you do me a favour?"

Tobyn blinked. It wasn't often that Lynus asked anyone for a favour. "What is it?"

"Well, Macerio is suffering from a terrible fever, one a refresh won't help with," Lynus explained as he ran his hand through his hair, of which had grown longer, the orange stands dusting over his shoulders and could easily be pulled back into a small ponytail. "Could you sit with him for a few minutes? I need to get a few items from the hospital to make a strong tonic for him."

Tobyn found himself blinking again. "Sit with him?"

Lynus nodded his head as a small, tired smile appeared on his lips. "Lirit has been sitting with him for a few hours now, but I would like someone else there just in case Macerio gets worse and I'm not here."

Tobyn wasn't entire sure if he was a good choice. He didn't know anything about healing. What if Macerio did get worst while in his presence? There wasn't anything he could do. So why him? Hamza was obviously the better choice. But then again, the war magus had been speaking with the Grand Duchy a lot lately. That was probably where he was at the moment.

There must be some other alternative motive.

"I take it everyone else is busy?" Tobyn found himself asking before he had the chance to reconsider his words.

"Some of them, yes," Lynus admitted, the smile dropping from his lips. "But that's not the reason why I'm asking you. But if you're busy..."

Tobyn resisted the urge to repeatedly hit his head against his desk in defeat. Honesty, those downcast eyes and apologetic smile was making him feel like shit. The worst part of it all was that Lynus had absolutely no idea he held such power over everyone. It wouldn't be so bad if he knew and was purposely pulling such a face as that could easily be deflected. But no, he had to be completely adorable and sincere.

"No, I'll do it," Tobyn said as he quickly pushed away from his desk and took to his feet in order to prevent Lynus could begin to apologise for disturbing him or something. "For you. You won't be long?"

Lynus smiled a large, grateful smile at him as he led him toward Macerio's bedroom. "I promise that I won't get hung up at the hospital. As difficult as it might be to believe."

Stepping into the bedroom, the first thing Tobyn saw was Macerio lying on the bed, under a pile of blankets with a compression cloth against his forehead. He appeared to be asleep, but it was not a restful slumber. His face was creased into a look of discomfort and despite the mugginess of the room, he appeared to be shivering.

"How is he?" Lynus asked as he walked over to the bed. Only then did Tobyn notice that Lirit was sitting next to Macerio's bed, in front of the bedside table where a bowl of water with floating chunks of ice was situated.

"Still mumbling," Lirit replied with a half-hearted smile.

"I see," Lynus murmured, not looking all that pleased before turning to look over at Tobyn, beckoning to step inside the room. "I've asked Tobyn to watch over the two of you, all right? Ask Tobyn to come get me if anything feels uneasy."

Lirit smiled softly at both Lynus and Tobyn. "I will. Thanks, Tobyn."

Tobyn simply nodded his head in response, already feeling somewhat awkward. "Hm."

"Macerio?" Lynus said as he leaned over the bed, his hand gently toying with the strands of Macerio's hair in a comforting manner. "I'll be gone for a few minutes. Be good, ok?"

"Don't forget the mushrooms," Macerio unexpectedly muttered, soundings serious.

"I won't forget the mushrooms this time, I promise," Lynus replied dutifully without hesitation.

Tobyn, however, was feeling confused. "Mushrooms?" he murmured under his breath.

"He's gone into delirium," Lirit quickly explained to him with a sad smile.

Tobyn winced. "Oh..."

"I'll get going now," Lynus said as he straightened up and headed towards the door to leave.

Tobyn was starting to feel really awkward now. "Are you sure I should be the one-?"

"You'll be fine," Lynus said, cutting him off by patting his arm in a reassuring manner before pushing him toward a vacant chair that was pulled up toward the bed. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

With that, he walked out of the door, leaving Tobyn alone with a delusional Macerio and a quietly concerned Lirit. Delusion and concern…two of the many things he wasn't good at. Why? Why did Lynus have to have such faith in him?

A soft groan was heard from the bed, pulling Tobyn out of his thoughts. "Ngh…"

Lirit immediately huddled closer to the bed. "Easy now, Macerio," he said, his voice rather calm. It seemed that he had been taking lessons from Lynus in regards to comforting people who had just woken up.

"Lyric…" Macerio unexpectedly mumbled as he looked blearily at Lirit.

"No, it's Lirit."

"Nooooooooooo, you're Lyric."

Lirit stifled a laugh. "Yes, you're right. I'm Lyric."

"Lyric, Lirit," Macerio murmured almost giddily, seeming proud of his new nickname for the troubadour. "Heh."

"Yes yes," Lirit said in a surprisingly soothing manner. "Guess what? Tobyn's here, too."

With absolutely no chance to escape, Tobyn lowered himself onto the seat and turned his attention to Macerio, who in turn was looking drowsily at him as well. Actually, he appeared to be looking at something just above his head.

"Hey, Tobyn?" Macerio slurred.

"Hm?"

"Your hat," he said. "I think it's a Kriss."

Tobyn immediately frowned. "A what?"

"A Kriss," Macerio repeated, again sounding rather serious. "Or maybe a Franklin."

Tobyn could only look blankly at him.

Lirit, however, was chuckling softly. "He's giving your hat a name," he explained to Tobyn.

Tobyn felt himself furrow his brow, slightly indignant as he turned his attention to Macerio once more. "I'm not calling my hat Franklin."

"But it totes a Frankie," Macerio insisted with a huff.

"…It carries a Frankie?" Tobyn blinked.

Macerio laughed giddily. "Totes..."

"I think 'totes' means 'totally'," Lirit was once again explaining to him Macerio's current thought pattern. "At the moment at least."

How could one derive totes from totally? Ah, never mind. He was delirious from a fever, after all.

"Camay!" Macerio suddenly stated, sounding resolute. "You're hat's name is Camay. Yeah. Good name. Jaydel the feather. Heh. Kumat the goggles!"

Tobyn dragged a hand over his face as Macerio laughed almost drunkenly. Hurry up, Lynus. He didn't know how to handle a person trapped in feverish delirium. In all honesty, he didn't know how to handle Macerio at the best of times. The gunner was just…confusing.

All of a sudden Macerio rolled over in bed and threw out an arm, his hand landing on Tobyn's knee before his fingers pinched at a piece of Tobyn's pants. "H-hey, Tobyn," he muttered sleepily as he tugged lightly. "I wished you liked me more."

Tobyn felt a frown immediately appear on his lips as he looked at the gunner in confusion. He briefly glanced at Lirit, who in turned granted him a half shrug before seemingly trying to look elsewhere. His reaction confused Tobyn further and he turned his attention back to Macerio.

Although he knew that getting a straight answer from the delirious gunner would be difficult, he had to ask anyway. "What do you mean?"

"Yeh don't like me," Macerio practically whimpered.

Tobyn's mouth dropped open in surprise. But before he could splutter out some kind of retort, something along the lines of him being stupid if he actually believed he didn't like him, when Lirit suddenly stood up from his seat.

"I'm just going to refresh the water," he said as he picked up the bowl of water on the bedside table. "Won't be a minute."

Before Tobyn could protest, he was left alone with a very feverish and delirious Macerio, the gunner alternating between pinching at the material of his pants and twisting it around. However, he could understand (and somewhat appreciate) what Lirit was trying to do. Turning his attention back to Macerio, he saw that he was staring at him rather vaguely, his cheeks flushed, beads of sweat on his forehead and a pout on his lips.

"What makes you think I don't like you?" Tobyn asked him softly.

"You just don't," Macerio muttered stubbornly. "I know when someone doesn't like me. And you don't."

…It was just the fever talking, right? He…didn't honesty think that Tobyn didn't like him?

"Well, you're wrong," Tobyn stated firmly, albeit also somewhat awkwardly. "I do like you. If I didn't, I wouldn't travel with you in the labyrinth. I can't work with someone I don't trust."

For a while, Macerio just stared at him, his eyes half-lidded and seemingly half asleep. His face suddenly crumbled, though, as if he wanted to cry. Tobyn immediately felt a sense of panic begin to bubble in his chest when Macerio flopped down onto his pillow.

"'m happy," Macerio murmured, causing Tobyn to become still. "I like Tobyn, too."

Tobyn found himself breathing a sigh of relief. He was internally grateful that Macerio didn't burst into tears. He wouldn't have been able to handle a crying Macerio. A serious and delusional Macerio was bad enough.

…A suicidal Macerio was devastating…

Despite himself, Tobyn quickly remembered that…Macerio didn't like to be alone. And he shouldn't be. Not in such a state. Not when…he wasn't thinking clearly.

So, he continued to allow Macerio to hang onto him. Even if the touch was only slight, it was enough to offer the brown-haired gunner some kind of comfort. And, really, that was all Tobyn could do for him. He…wasn't capable of much else. Not really.

"I like your hat," Macerio murmured as he continued to grasp onto his leg. "Let me wear it later, kay?"

In all honesty, Tobyn didn't like anyone touching his hat, let alone wearing it. But...

"Sure," Tobyn muttered as he patted the back of Macerio's hand. "When you feel better."

As few minutes later Lynus returned, simply smiling at him when he entered the room with a medical kit. He did see that Macerio was hanging onto Tobyn, but did not comment on it. Instead, he worked around Tobyn, quickly making the medicine and administrating it to Macerio. The gunner, of course, whined about the taste, but Lynus was patient and after a few minutes, the medicine was gone. After that, he tucked Macerio into bed, making no attempt to remove the gunner's hand that was still grasping onto Tobyn's knee. He then patted Tobyn on the shoulder, told him that Macerio was going to be ok and quietly left the room.

Through it all, Tobyn could tell that Lynus was happy about their interaction. Lirit was, too, when he also re-entered the room. And, well…to be honest…it was nice to…interact with his guildmates. Even just for a little bit.

Of course, Macerio probably won't remember a thing.

And it was probably better that way.

… … … … …

It was a few days later when Lynus declared Macerio well enough to trek back into the labyrinth for an emergency quest. A quest that involved Angie, the nurse from the hospital, recklessly throwing herself into the labyrinth in order to administer a potion to the trees that were withering and dying from an unknown disease, only to be chased around by several powerful monsters.

Lynus, of course, was both concerned and furious at her, actually yelling at her the moment they were able to find her. He calmed down a few moments later, however, when all the monsters were defeated. He did remind Angie, though, that Dr Stiles was waiting for her back in town. And no, they weren't going to smuggle her in behind his back.

As they begin to escort Angie to the safety of the Geomagnetic Pole, Macerio abruptly realised that he had forgotten his hat during their haste. And he, of course, immediately started to complain. As was his habit.

"No wonder my head felt cold," Macerio muttered as he looked up darkly at the falling snow of the third stratum. "My hair is going to get wet now and I'd probably get my fever back!"

Seeing that pouty expression reminded Tobyn of when he was baby-sitting Macerio through that fever. And he just couldn't help himself.

Surprising himself and the brown-haired gunner immensely, Tobyn plucked his hat, or rather Camay, off of his head and sat it upon Macerio's, pulling the rim down over his eyes. "You can wear Camay for a while. Just like I promised. Just be sure to take good care of Jaydel and Kumat while you're at it."

Macerio immediately flushed deeply as he grasped at his new hat and gaped at Tobyn with wide eyes. "I thought that was a dream!" he blurted out, looking somewhat panicky and surprised.

"Afraid not," Tobyn said simply, lifting up his scarf to cover his lower face in order to hide a small grin that was playing across his lips.

"What else did I say?!" Macerio was practically whining as he trailed behind Tobyn, trying to get his attention. "Come on! Tobyn…!"

Tobyn, however, didn't answer. That was what the little shit deserved, thinking that he didn't like him.

He looked happy about being able to wear his hat, though.

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