15: No Quick Fixes
As the real-world seeps back into my consciousness, I make myself relax, nearly slumping in the restraining arms containing me. In turn, the person is caught off guard by the sudden change in poise, and almost drops me to the floor.
That small jolt accelerates my return to reality, and my frame stiffens once again to prevent a fall. He or she adjusts their hold, sensing my new panic. When I feel more stable I try to figure out what just happened.
The ebbing adrenaline from the struggle fuels the fear of what set me off, and who I might have hurt in the process of coming down. I mean, did I come out of sleep swinging? Was I in that state of blackout after being awakened? How the hell did I end up in the middle of the room?
That I can't remember being conscious before this moment terrifies me.
"Better?" Uncle Tom breathes, sounding just a touch winded and exasperated.
I slowly twist, not wanting him to get the impression that I'm resisting further, and blink up into his face. I am completely embarrassed to have lost control on him like that.
"That must have been a hell of a nightmare, Michael." Tom pushes me further onto my own two feet, and I put a few steps distance between us before facing him fully.
I can't even remotely remember what I might have been dreaming about – having a nightmare about. That it was enough to drive me out of bed is spooky.
"Are you okay?" I whisper, still worried that I might have harmed him in the moment.
He takes a step back as well, giving himself a once over, as if he's not even sure. He raises his left arm, and my gut tightens to see four parallel scratches contrasting with the pale tan of his arms.
A bit of color comes into my uncle's cheeks. "I'm not bleeding, so thanks for keeping your claws trimmed." He finishes up his self-assessment, and affords me a small grin. "Other than that, I'm fine. The question is, are you alright?"
At first, I think he's asking if I'm physically harmed, and my gaze darts down my body and over my arms. It's reasonable, Tom is hardwired to be stronger than a human. Despite that some of the extraneous cybernetics were removed when he was forced to upgrade his systems, that extra strength still exists.
I shake my head. "You didn't hurt me."
"No, I mean…" he trails off pointing at his head.
I grimace and run a hand through my hair, feeling the electrified sensation all the way through my body. The edges of out of control is still present, and I make myself breathe deeply several times in an effort to dissipate the feeling.
"I think so?" I reply. "Still feeling a bit like a live wire."
Tom's lips press harder together, seeing my uncertainty. "By now, your levels should have bottomed out. Good thing I was expecting it."
I'm embarrassed that he came in here prepared for trouble from me. "Sorry," I say again, not knowing how else to prove that to him.
"It's fine." Tom smiles again. Before he says anything else, he pulls out his handheld and checks something. "So, biometrics confirm you have pretty much passed your meds through your system. I just came in to get your blood sample."
I nod mutely and move to one end of the small couch so he can get that process done. He's quick and professional about it, drawing two vials, quickly registering the bar codes and putting them in his pocket along with his handheld. Biohazards, he immediately moves to the disposal unit and drops them in. There is a quiet hum as the items are sealed and processed.
"Okay that's that," Tom sighs. He points to a small paper cup and the glass of water sitting next to it. "There's your morning's dose. Go ahead and take it so the system can track how your body's absorbing and using your prescription. Don't forget to self-assess."
I move towards them, whispering, "Okay."
"I'll give you time to get cleaned up and change. In about ten minutes, I'll swing by to take you to breakfast," he says.
My stomach growls at the suggestion of a meal. And just like that, I'm famished, which is different from my norm lately. Another sign that I'm pretty well off my meds.
After he leaves, I take the dose and gulp enough water to get the pills not to stick in my throat. More slowly I drink the remaining water, taking a clearer look about the room. I'm surprised to find that the room is pretty well intact, despite my episode. The only sign of my loss of control is the twisted rope that are my sheets and blanket.
I do what I can to make myself presentable – take care of other necessities that come with waking up. I almost forget about the self-assess, and quickly scoop up the tablet to get it knocked out. I'm still finishing this process when Uncle Tom returns.
Patiently, he allows me to get the last several questions answered, and with a smile, waves me towards the cafeteria.
Walking in, we find that there aren't that many ambulatory patients in the area, which is fine, because my stomach is gnawing on its lining. Getting through the line quickly means I get to eat faster. I am fully taking advantage of my meds all time low to get a full meal in me. Once they kick in, I'll be lucky to eat a couple of tablespoons of food at a meal. As I'm packing my tray, I notice that Tom only gets a cup of coffee and a Danish.
"Not hungry?" I ask as we find an isolated table towards the opposite side of the cafeteria area.
He smiles at me, seeming somewhat embarrassed. "I don't eat much, ever." He shrugs. "A very old, very bad, habit."
"Aunt Sarah hasn't broken you of it?" I ask before spooning a heaping forkful of eggs into my mouth.
"She's tried," he says. "It only works consistently when I'm at home. At work, the bad habits come back to haunt me."
As if to prove his point, he pinches off a small bit of the pastry, pops it in his mouth and chases it with half of his coffee. He repeats this process and kills his coffee. From there he merely picks flakes off the pastry layers, now and again deciding to ingest them.
At one pause between bird-like bites, Tom starts flexing his hands and rotating his wrists. A twinge of guilt lights off in my gut, sure that I'm the reason for his discomfort. "Are you positive you're alright?"
"I'm fine, Michael." He nods as if to solidify his claim. "Just… wasn't expecting you to be quite so strong already."
"Sorry," I say, heat rising into my cheeks, "but, I did warn you."
"I knew what to expect – mostly." He smooths his hair back down. He shakes his head and a humored smile breaks across his expression. "You're already about a match for your father."
I sit up straight, blinking. Finally, I shake my head and say, "I am not going to test that theory."
"Probably wise," Uncle Tom says. "I'm going to grab another coffee. Did you want anything else?"
He asks this even though I've got food two inches deep still on my plate. "I'm good, thanks. I eat any more than what I have, I might burst."
"How about something to drink?"
I glance across my space, realizing I never got anything to wash down my food. "Hah! Yeah, orange juice, please?"
"Sure, be right back." He waves over his shoulder and heads for the drink dispensers.
While he's gone, I do my best to demolish my plate, but find that my medicine is faster than my hunger. By the time Uncle Tom returns, I've pushed my plate away, upset at the amount of food I thought I was hungry for but have to throw away.
He sets my juice in front of me and then lowers himself into his seat with a heavy sigh. My eyes bigger than stomach doesn't escape his notice either. While he lifts a brow, he doesn't mention it, simply sitting back and sipping at his second cup of coffee.
When breakfast is finished, he releases me to my own devices once again. And while I entertain the thought of wandering the halls for a while, by that point the meds have kicked in hard. Again, I'm hollowed out, barely managing to make it to my room. I flop onto the couch and time escapes me once more.
I vaguely recall Uncle Tom or the lady – suddenly I can't remember her name – checking on me, to… take blood? There's food on my coffee table I don't remember being delivered – untouched. Cold.
By the time the muffling of my senses wears off, it's late afternoon.
"Damn it," I growl, pushing myself to a more proper posture and taking a deep breath. As I let it out, I push to my feet.
I'm about to let myself out into the hallway, when Uncle Tom swings the door in. He straightens abruptly, as do I, to prevent a head on collision.
He smiles. "There you are."
My face heats, because I know he's not talking about my physical location. "Guess I took a mental nap again," I mutter.
"Well, it's not like there's a lot going on outside of your room either, so don't worry about it."
I grin halfheartedly. "What's up?"
"Well," he sighs, "I've got a bit of good news."
My brow lifts in silent question.
"We've got the information we need." His expression brightens a bit. "So, you'll be able to go home this evening."
"Oh. That is good news."
"I know you really wanted to spend your entire weekend here with your Uncle Tom…" he replies sarcastically.
I laugh along with him.
"Your parents will be here within the hour so we can all discuss what we've found."
My gut clenches. "Good news? Or bad?"
Tom shrugs and demurs, "A little of both – more neutral news really."
"But you're not going to say until Mom and Dad get here, are you?"
He shrugs again, and with a grin says, "I hate repeating myself."
I draw a deep breath and let it out again, knowing better to push my luck on the matter. But it does make me nervous to know there's some bad news in the mix.
Around five Mom and Dad arrive and I accept the embarrassingly long hug from Mom before Uncle Tom ushers all of us towards his office.
"Go ahead and have a seat, David – Angelina."
I'm left to stand because Tom's office has very few chairs for visitors, so I park myself between the backs of my parents' chairs.
Uncle Tom gets right to it. "There is a growing body of evidence that suggests gemues react differently to many of the long held medicinal staples of our society. Things humans use day to day with little to no side effects – things as simple as aspirin – have shown to cause dramatic changes to gemue systems.
"When you brought me Michael's problem, it's the first place my mind went regarding his aberrant side effects. I suspected his sharkmue physiology was reacting in unpredicted ways to a human medicine."
He pauses. "Michael's tests seem to bear out what I've seen in the research. Because his DNA is not completely human, the active ingredients aren't doing what they're supposed to. The suppression of his personality to near catatonia shouldn't be happening with this prescription. The evidence shows that it is working on the thinking portion of his brain rather than the emotional center it should be focused on."
I catch Dad's frown out of the corner of my eye. "So, it sounds like we need to take him off."
"Unfortunately, it's not that simple." Uncle Tom sits back and sighs. "We still have his original symptoms to control. The court is not going to approve him coming off the medication his therapist gave him, unless we have something else we can prove will do the job without turning him into a zombie."
"What are you saying, Tom," Mom chimes in, looking and acting very confused.
He looks away a moment and licks his lips before facing my folks again. "For now, we need him to continue his current meds. I'm going to ask you guys to apply for him to switch to my care as soon as can be arranged. I will give you a statement delineating why this would be beneficial for Michael and his sentence."
"We'll jump on the application tomorrow," Dad chimes in.
"When you have him transferred? What then?" Mom asks. I'm sure she knows, but wants him to say it aloud for the rest of us.
"Then we try some of the medications specifically created for gemue patients. It's a small handful of choices, unfortunately, but if we find a medication that is close to doing what we want, we should be able to work with the gemues researching it to get modifications that will be effective."
"These are through Torlinda?" Dad asks, seeming to surprise Uncle Tom.
"Yes, I take it you know the firm?" Tom adds.
"Yeah," Dad affirms, leaning back. "We did them a solid last year. And it makes me feel a little better to know they're involved with this." He ponders something a moment. "Do you mind if I contact them in advance? They might be motivated to design something faster if I do."
Tom shakes his head and waves at him, seeming relieved. "Be my guest. I've only had peripheral contact with them before this, so yeah, if they know you guys, that would help tremendously."
"Just be aware this isn't going to be a quick fix. Michael, you, me, we'll all need to be vigilant as we test things to be sure we're not doing more harm than good."
Everyone nods knowingly.
Mom pops in with a question I'm sure we've all been considering. "Tom… do you think… Will Michael have to take these medications the rest of his life?"
Tom's expression turns severe. "I can't say for sure, Angelina. I would love to say this is just hormonal and will even out when he grows up some." He shrugs, looking a bit lost. "But if it's not, if it's something to do with his shark DNA…" he trails off, unable to finish the statement.
"Not to mention he comes by his anger issues naturally," Dad pops in.
So, there's the elephant in the room we've all been avoiding 'til now.
Tom throws in half-heartedly, "That's not necessarily the case, David."
"But it's possible – more likely than not."
Tom can't refute that. He takes a breath, meets our gazes, and says, "Let's take this a step at a time. Let's get Michael functional, and we'll worry about whether this is short or long term later."
A/N: Well this one really stumped me for the longest time. Knew what I wanted in the beginning, knew what I wanted at the end, bridging the two ended up being like finding hen's teeth... I ended up having to rewrite the start because it felt like a trudge rather than a dynamic piece. I believe I'm much happier with the second effort.