Bandages and Glue
There were countless minutes of silent glances between Soren and Dorian as Soren washed away the blood from Dorian’s wounds. The bleeding was not as profuse as before, but the once clean water was now some shade of pink. Dorian, for the most part, had stopped crying as hard as before, but tears still gathered from time to time around his puffy eyes.
Soren wanted to explain how Ashlynn had helped him. He wanted to explain that he had made a deal and that a human seemed to respond to his requests. He wanted to ease his brother’s mind – but he could only worry about Rey and reassure Dorian that they were going to be okay.
The wounds, now cleaned, didn’t seem as bad as Soren initially suspected. Granted, they were still bad, and it was obviously traumatizing for Dorian, but Soren was glad Dorian was out of danger for the moment. Dorian still looked eerily pale and needed bandages, food, and rest; but those things could come later.
The sound of the door opening snapped both of them to attention. Dorian instinctively whimpered and stumbled forward behind Soren, latching onto his arm and peering out from behind his shoulder. Soren instinctually pulled Dorian behind his own body, despite the fact he trusted Ashlynn, wrapping his arm backwards around Dorian. [Old habits die hard.] He thought as he forced his body to relax.
Ashlynn stepped into the main room and carefully closed the door behind her, a rush a cold air following close behind. From the floor, Soren couldn’t see anything in her hands. Then he spotted something; a small, rectangular tray no bigger than her palm.
The look on her face was difficult to read; then, a mixture of two emotions. One of them was a pang of sadness while the other had a hopeful gleam. She flashed a partial smile at the two of them as she stepped forward. Dorian whimpered again as Ashlynn approached.
Soren couldn’t take it. He looked up at Ashlynn and called to her. “Did you find him? Is he alright?”
The pain in Soren’s heart burst into relief as he watched Ashlynn nod and carefully kneel, the whole time keeping the small, rectangular tray as level as possible.
“He’s okay, but he’s really stuck on here. I need to get some things. Be careful. You don’t want to get stuck too,” said Ashlynn, her voice much lower than normal. She lowered her hand onto the ground and set the tray near him. Soren felt like he had been punched in the gut.
Rey was, as Ashlynn said, really stuck onto the glue trap. It looked like he had fallen face first into the sticky substance. He was wearing the pelt and Soren couldn’t see his face, but he could hear his quivering sobs. Ashlynn retracted and inched her way to the kitchen to retrieve the necessary supplies to unstick the small boy. She had to use her phone to search for those supplies first.
In the meantime, Soren disregarded the potential issues of the sticky substance and stepped forward to lay his hands on his brother’s back. Soren could hear his heartbreaking sobs and the poor attempt to stifle those sobs.
“Rey? It’s okay. It’s me. It’s Soren. You’re going to be okay.” Soren began rubbing his brother’s back, unable to think of what else he could say or do.
“S-s-so-soren?” Rey’s already tiny voice, muffled by the pelt, was barely audible. There was another round of attempted thrashing as Rey attempted to break free from the glue’s grasp. His inability to break free set off another round of panicked breaths. “I…I c-can’t g-g-get out!” Dorian, still clinging to Soren, began shaking his shoulder.
“S-soren we need to leave. We need to get out of here! Before the human comes back,” Dorian whimpered.
“Soren, I was seen!” Rey was trying to press into Soren’s hands, as if the contact was keeping him grounded. “Are… are we… c-c-captured? I-I-I d-don’t wanna be a p-p-pet!” Soren had to take a moment and breathe. This wasn’t going to be easy – conveying to his brothers that they were going to be safe and that the human six feet away wasn’t going to put them in some kind of cage wasn’t going to be easy.
“Both of you, listen to me,” said Soren calmly. “I told you once that while we’re out here you have to listen to me – that you had to trust me. Do you still trust me?” Both brothers’ demeanors shifted to uncertain, but both nodded as best as they could. There was still uncertainty, but Soren could work with what little he had.
“You have to trust me now – Ashlynn, the human over there, won’t hurt us.” Dorian shifted and Rey whimpered. “Listen to me. I’ve been out here – on my own for a few weeks now – and we have an arrangement. She listens to me and won’t do anything without permission. We’re going to be okay.”
Dorian opened his mouth as though he wanted to say something, looking timid at his eldest brother’s words, but Soren, with a gentle glance, took the words from him. “It’s okay. We’re going to be okay.”
Before he could say anything else, Ashlynn’s voice seized their attention. “Soren, I figured out how to get him unstuck. Can… well… may I approach? This is going to take a while.” Dorian repositioned himself nervously. Soren could feel Dorian’s hands trembling and heard Rey muttering over and over, “no, no, no.” Soren steeled himself and turned back to Ashlynn.
“Can you give us another minute, Ashlynn?” he asked, a thought coming to mind. “Actually, could you cut some bandages so they’re not so big? I want to wrap Dorian’s wounds.” Ashlynn nodded after seeing the situation and retrieved her first aid kit once again and began cutting strips of bandages as thin as she could.
Dorian marveled at this interaction. His brother – always fearless and calm – had just spoken to a human and commanded her to listen and perform a task. More importantly – she listened. Dorian, not keeping his eyes off of the human, listened as Soren continued to try and calm and soothe Rey and evaluate how to best get him off of the trap.
Several minutes passed in this odd mixture of silence and soothing until Ashlynn cleared her throat and waved to get Soren’s attention.
“Soren? Are you all… good?” asked Ashlynn. Soren felt his muscles stiffen, heart still racing. Despite what his brothers wanted, this needed to be done. With a reassuring smile to Dorian, Soren turned back to Ashlynn and nodded.
“Yes, we’re good. We’re going to be okay,” said Soren calmly. Dorian flinched while Rey whimpered. “We’re going to be okay. Listen to me. We’re going to be fine.” Soren continued to repeat this mantra as Ashlynn approached.
Ashlynn laid the bandages near Soren and held a bowl of something in her hand along with a few pieces of cloth. She towered over the three of them as she stepped around them. Dorian trembled as he realized that Ashlynn was sitting less than a foot away.
Dorian could see the threads in her pants. He could see the creases in her knuckles as her hand was mere inches from them. He wanted to scream and run for the walls, but Soren remained unmoving. He didn’t want to leave Soren. He couldn’t leave Soren – not again. He couldn’t go back to being alone with Rey trying to live. If they were captured – at least they were together.
“Soren,” Ashlynn said softly. “I remember our rules and agreements, but you’re going to need help getting your brother unstuck.” Rey began whimpering and thrashed against the glue uselessly.
“Rey, it’s okay. You’re okay. Ashlynn, what do you propose? How are we going to get him unstuck?”
“We need to rub this oil around his body and massage it along the limbs. We also need to make sure his face isn’t covered. I can’t see how close his face is and just pouring the oil into the tray is a bad idea. If we can get him unstuck mostly, I can help lift him out,” said Ashlynn. “You need to bandage your brother, so I can help with the oil if you’ll let me.”
Soren didn’t like the idea of Ashlynn holding his youngest brother, but there was little else he could do. He remembered again with a shudder that he had willingly jumped into Ashlynn’s hands for the first time and had been lifted and carried in her grasp. He remembered her gentle touch and the warmth of her palms, feeling the beating of her heart beneath his hands. It wasn’t a bad experience – but he had taken two weeks to acclimatize to Ashlynn’s presence; and even then he was relatively uncomfortable. At the same time, he couldn’t lift him out of the tray on his own.
“If it comes to it and there’s no other way,” Soren started. “Then you can help; but I think helping with the oil will be enough.”
“Sounds good,” she muttered. “Just let me know.”
They watched as Ashlynn poured some oil onto a few rags, handing a piece of one to Soren and keeping one for herself, and began rubbing the cloth around Rey’s limbs. Soren took a few minutes to temporarily bandage Dorian’s wounds on his arms, side, back, and a scrape on his leg until he could clean himself properly.
After nearly two hours of careful work – and numerous pauses so Soren could console Rey and Dorian – Rey began to pull free. His arm came free first; and his tiny hands instantly clutched onto his brother’s hand. His other arm and leg came free next. His torso began to wiggle free and, after a debate, Soren allowed Ashlynn to tilt the trap vertically for him to grab onto his brother and pull.
It was incredibly sticky and Soren worried that he wouldn’t be able to get free from Rey, but ultimately Rey came free. They toppled to the ground in a sticky heap before Rey turned around and buried his face into Soren’s chest, sobbing and shaking. Dorian quickly joined in, piling onto the adhesive mound.
Ashlynn ran a shallow sink of warm water with bubbles – something that the brothers had only experienced a few times in their entire lives – and waited patiently for them to get into Soren’s box to be lifted onto the bathroom counter and into the sink to clean.
Soren wrapped his leg in something called “plastic wrap,” according to Ashlynn, and joined his brothers to help clean wounds and dirt and grime. They didn’t speak and spent most of the time recuperating in the slightly steaming water.
Once they were clean, they dried themselves and dressed in some of the clothes Soren had stitched together as extras. Soren called for Ashlynn after they were dressed, bandaged, and in the box. She came in, a weary smile on her face, as she carefully transferred them back to her room to the familiar place on the bedside table.
Ashlynn brought two additional makeshift bed materials and set them nearby for them to use. Seeing four additional eyes watching her and then ducking away under the covers was both heartwarming and disheartening.
They were all exhausted, but also unwilling to sleep. Ashlynn left a small light on at Soren’s request. Her calm sounds of breathing filled the room within minutes. The moment she was asleep, both Dorian and Rey slipped out of their cots and into Soren’s bed, tucking themselves under his shoulders and pressing themselves against him.
“Soren?” Rey’s tiny voice penetrated the darkness. “I’m scared.” Soren wrapped his arms tighter around his brothers, exhaling long and hard.
“I know you are,” he whispered before lifting his head up and pressing his cheek to the top of his brother’s head. “But it’s okay. We’re okay. I’m not going to let anything else happen to you ever.”
Soren felt Dorian shift to look up at him. “What’s going to happen to us? Do you think she’ll put us in a cage?”
“No,” said Soren. “We’re okay.” He paused. “Do you want me to stay up and make sure?” Both brothers shifted and laid closer to him. “Okay.”
“We missed you Soren,” muttered Rey. “We wanted to come back.”
“Shhh,” Soren soothed. “It’s okay. Just get some sleep. We’ll talk after a long rest. I’ll stay up.”
“All night?” asked Dorian.
“All night,” replied Soren. “I love you both… so much.”
Eventually, the brothers drifted off to sleep; and, eventually, Soren found a brief moment of rest – yet refused to slip into unconsciousness. He couldn’t fail his brothers again. He would not allow it.