Day 021: Penance
Summary: Tuan believes that the blood sickness is his way to perform penance. Arlin disagrees.
Date: 2016 Jun 09
Related: Don't Mind the Wall (how Tuan got sick); Caught in the Middle (Britt helps Tuan to the cave)
Arlin Tuan 

Crimson Cave — The Wilderness
Somewhere in the forest, between the Delinquent camp and Coesbur, there is a cave being redecorated with blood.
Day 21

Tuan's cave has a small fire burning near the entrance of it to provide limited warmth for the young man. He is bad off, very bad off considering he's had the blood fever before; but with only recently overcoming the sky flu just a couple of weeks back it is likely his immune system hasn't recovered. Blood is from every spot on him, eyes, nose mouth, and ears; enough to cause a bit of a pool near where he lays on his side, attempting to rest between coughs.

Arlin's had the blood sickness before. To put it mildly, it's not one of his fonder memories. He's also treated plenty of cases of it, which is its own brand of Not Fun. Undaunted, he arrives where Britt informed him Tuan was holing up. Uncharacteristically, his usually heavy footfalls are relatively quiet. Maybe he's making an effort. Maybe the scout can't hear much over the sound of his own blood pouring out of his ears. Perhaps the medic's distinctive baritone will prove more audible. "Tuan. It's Arlin." Closer, he draws, doing a preliminary visual assessment.

There's a soft grunt, half groan, from Tuan as his eyes open some, showing blood red orbs as he looks up at the voice, more of where it is at rather than directly at Arlin. There's a cough of greeting and he attempts to sit up some, turning over a bit and spitting out some blood from his lungs. "She told you where I was?" The words come out slowly.

"If it's any consolation, you did leave a trail of blood." That might be a joke. "A'right," the medic says, unshouldering his rucksack and depositing it off to his side furthest from Tuan before kneeling beside the scout. "On a scale of 'I want to die' and 'please kill me now', how do you feel?" The cross strap from Arlin's medical satchel is lifted and hosted over his head, and the bag is set down.

"I can endure this." Tuan says, his eyes half here, half not. "It is the price I must pay… this is just a punishment, that is all." The young man looks past Arlin and shakes his head, "It is why I did not want help. I must face this and endure this."

"No one's saying you can't." When dealing with the sick and wounded, Arlin's actually capable of curbing wisecracks and affording his patients dignity. (He'll still tell people who aren't dying to quit acting like they're dying. He's also been known to threaten people that he will somehow bring them back to life and kill them himself if they dare die on him. Neither of which is here nor there.)

Hmmm. It sounds thoughtful but not despaired. "You have it pretty bad, but it won't take you out. There will come a point where you'll wish that it would, but Wantoppa wouldn't have a wuss for a Second, so I trust you'll suck it up just fine." Being that Tuan's vision is impaired, Arlin informs him, "I'm gonna clean off some of the blood, starting with your nose." Then, with a fastidiousness that should be unsurprising, and a gentleness that might well be unexpected, a damp rag helps do what was promised.

"Thank you." Tuan says after a few minutes, then he elaborates, "Not just for this. For helping to stop the violence, at least as best you could." He falls quiet then sitting there. "It is why I am sick. Because in my heart, I chose to help them over the clan." Nothing like a little superstition is there. "There is not enough blood to balance the scales, is there?"

Arlin doesn't mind the silence, happy to simply go about the task of a first pass cleaning. Eventually, though, "The heart has reasons that reason does not understand," is what he replies in a wryly rueful tone, as though speaking from experience. That's just how passionate people roll, after all. Such is the way of those with more heart than sense, even if they actually possess a good amount of very sound sense. "And you're sick because you didn't have an immunity to this strain. Your heart merely put you in proximity."

The rag is wrung out, creating the sound of liquid meeting hard earth. Like it ain't no thang, the medic then drapes the mess of cloth across his thighs as he starts to rummage through his satchel. "Penance implies regret. Remorse. The way I figure it, whatever's eating you up inside feels a whole lot worse than what's wringing out your insides. So, yeah, maybe there isn't enough blood to wash away the taint you feel, but there generally is never enough blood for any wound that goes beyond that of body."

Arlin allots for a respectful amount of silence, but then brushes it aside because (1) work to do; and (2) this kind of talk runs the risk of feels. And even though he's an excellent listener, he tends to seize up whenever anything looms too close to one of his proverbial raw nerves. "A'right, I'm gonna lift you enough so you can drink this. It'll help with the fever and aches."

Taking the opportunity to be lifted up by Arlin, Tuan sits up with the aid to accept the drink which of course is sipped down but sputtered around. Nothing that makes you feel better can ever really taste good after all. The entire time of silence seems to be what is best prescribed for the young man and he returns it for a solid amount of time before finally chuckling, a sound that stretches into laughter followed by coughing with a bit of blood. "If we are to die, it is best to die happy, is it not?" He asks the words almost poetically to Arlin, halfway to the air. "I am a silly one. The village trouble maker. I put tar in the girls' hair and honey in their shoes." All those fun Grounder pranks. With the heat of his fever, it is no wonder he might just be talking nonsense through it.

"It is a curiosity. Something I do not know or understand. I can beat this. I can beat the feelings and I can beat them." The last is said almost to himself as he smiles toothily at Arlin; ew, bloody gums. Another nice treat from Sonia's Warband's disease. "I will be ready for what we have next to do." Every word Tuan speaks is a struggle, a gasp of breath by the end but he tries to sound confident and steadfast even as the angling of his body is trying to pull it down to rest once more.

No. It tastes quite awful. Even someone as skilled as Arlin can only do so much. The important part is that it works. Which it will. With the elixir taken and the small bottle returned to the satchel, the cloth is once more retrieved to wipe away more blood. "Open up." Because, really, he is that fastidious.

And then more silence, once he's seen Tuan resettled, making certain the scout's head is arranged on the hide cushion in a manner to prevent choking on blood. Happiness? "I don't know," Arlin finally admits. "Happiness is a fleeting thing. To die well, though… to die with honor, with purpose, with meaning…" The words peter out into the shadows cast by firelight and heavy thoughts. Eventually, there is a soft snort, and the medic's voice regains its usual wry humor. "Here's hoping we know what to do by the time you're better."

"I will come back." Tuan says softly with closed eyes. "I will walk back to Coesbur and all will be well. This dream will have vanished." His eyes flutter open, "If it is a dream, it is a good dream…" Smile touches his lips then before eyes slide shut once more. "A quiet home, a small garden. None of it would be enough now. Do you think my father felt the same when he looked at mother? The warmth? It is the look, the smile that does it. That warms me."

It should be abundantly clear by now, Tuan has entered the delirious stage as he continues to slide into babbling; talking about his parents (long gone) and his Sister and other sorts of things before his mind shuts down from the blood fever.

Does Arlin know those answers? If he does, he doesn't share them. And whatever insights his expression may convey are lost to the scout's closed eyes. And so it is that the medic will settle in and keep watch over Tuan — and wipe away blood, make necessary positional adjustments, and apply cool, damp cloths — until both dawn and the fever break.

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