“I’ve never seen anyone get it this bad before.” A hushed voice stirred Angelo awake. “Didja ever hear about that one politician guy?”
“Yes, yes, we’ve all heard the legends of the man so ill, they named a scale after him. He’s the only one to reach a full unit.”
“Let’s hope our guy’s not the next.”
He opened his eyes to a white ceiling. His head swam and he couldn’t remember where he was, so he pushed himself up. Not in the way he hoped, though. Instead of sitting up, his entire body lifted off of the cot he laid on.
“Uhh, Doc?” Emil’s voice came from nearby. “Our patient’s levitating. Is there a protocol for that, orrr…?”
“Roxie Nursing Tip, don’t let your patients ascend if you can help it. That is the entire point of our profession. Watch and learn.” Through flailing limbs, Angelo saw Roxie approach him from a counter. “Angelo, I’m going to pull you down by your jacket. My assistant will then strap you to the cot. Will that be alright?”
“S-Sure?” Anything for Angelo to get back down.
He soon felt something pinch the back of his uniform coat, followed by drifting away from the ceiling. Like angels, Roxie and Emil stared down on him. Emil buckled a seatbelt over Angelo, pulling the excess strap to fasten it to his waist.
“Not too tight!” Roxie warned. She picked up something from the counter to give to her patient. “Here you go.”
She handed Angelo a plastic bag that reminded him of his surroundings. In the sterile white infirmary of the Celestion-5, he’d spent an uncertain amount of time shoving his face into ones like it before trying to find some comfort in sleep. He should’ve expected something like this would happen. Getting nervous made him sick and getting sick made him nervous. Sibling drama in space did not help.
“Do you feel any better?” asked Emil, concern in his eyes.
Not really. His body felt like it had been hit by a truck, but the bag was still empty, so that had to count for something. He nodded slightly. Just then, he noticed someone missing from the room.
“Where’s Big Brother?” He covered his mouth, realizing how childish he sounded. “Where did my brother go?”
“He went to retrieve your stuff from downstairs.”
“And hydration!” Roxie added on. “Which is why I hope he gets back soon. In the meantime,” she grabbed a clipboard, “I have some questions for you. Number one!” She pointed dramatically. “Have you had any recent head injuries?”
Angelo thought for a moment. “No, not that I know of…”
“Hmmm.” Roxie bit her lip. “That could be very good or very bad. Do you have a headache?”
“Yeah, but I think it’s from not s-sleeping for three days.”
Roxie gasped. “That was my next question! We can probably maybe hopefully chalk off head injuries for now. Yaaay!”
“Does that mean I’ll feel better s-soon…?” Angelo prayed that soon he could stop folding himself into origami.
“Oh no.” Emil corrected. “This is kinda the worst case scenario for space sickness. Not getting enough sleep is a great way to make it extra bad.”
“But you’re not dying!” She raised a finger. “And that’s what’s important at the end of the day.”
“Excuse her for celebrating. We had a bit of a near-death experience last week, so we’re pretty happy to deal with somethin’ way less scary.”
“Was it Big Brother??” Angelo panicked.
He sighed before Emil got the chance to explain. “S-Sorry. I hope whoever it is is okay.”
“She’s doing alright.”
“Th-that’s good. Hm?" Emil’s clothes caught his attention. Instead of his grey version of the dress uniform, he wore orange pants, a white T-shirt, and an orange nurse cap. Roxie wore the same thing, except a head mirror replaced her hat and she also wore a coat. “...Were you always wearing those outfits?
“These?” The blond pointed at the hat half-eaten by his hair. “No, we changed clothes.”
“We could’ve stayed in our other uniforms, but these are cute and the impulse control between us is abysmal.” Roxie spun around, distorting her doctor’s coat.
“Gotta look good to heal good.” Emil winked. He placed his hands on his hips. “So. Three days of no sleep?”
“Dang, you musta been really excited about seeing Leon again. Wait.” The lieutenant nurse squinted. “Didn’t you not know he was here?”
The door opened, but not before Emil picked up on the panic in his eyes. Thankfully, he and everyone else focused their attention on the one who opened it.
Leon came in, holding Angelo’s backpack and a juice pack of some kind. He looked down at his brother. “You’re awake!”
“You have returned!” Roxie announced. “Please hydrate your brother.”
“Here you go.” Leon drifted the juice pack over to Angelo, who took it with both hands. Angelo sipped on the straw, only to get air in return.
“You gotta twist the valve!” Emil mimicked with his hands. This guy loved giving tours and tutorials. He even gave one for the barf bags. Angelo appreciated his willingness to help, especially since it kept him from asking too many questions.
Water gushed out of the straw when he finally opened it. A glob of liquid filled the air by the time he realized he could close the valve again.
“Aaaah, I’ve made a mess, I-I’m so sorry! Let me–” Angelo tried to push it down, but droplets slipped between his fingers, floating all over the place. He felt more water build up in his eyes. Instead of running down his face, it clouded up his vision. Every time he tried to help, he made things worse.
“Just leave it alone.” Sweet as he sounded, Leon probably wanted him to stop embarrassing them both. “Look!”
Angelo couldn’t see very well, but after drying his eyes with the paper towel attached to his bag, he opened them up to see a wobbling sphere of water the size of a ping pong ball floating in front of him.
“Isn’t that the coolest thing you’ve ever seen??” Leon pointed at it joyfully, not annoyed at all. “Aside from space, of course.”
Nothing could compete with him in Angelo’s eyes. “It’s up there.”
“And watch this! You can just–” Leon leaned forward and ate the sphere. He pointed at his cheek and made a sound that sounded like ‘See?’
“Rookie!” Roxie scolded. “That was for the patient.”
He shrugged and swallowed. “Sorry.”
While the dark-haired boy would love to try that someday, getting anything down was enough of a struggle without weird gravity. He stuck to tiny sips.
“Yes… hydrate!” Roxie cheered him on like a mad scientist to her unholy abomination. This encouraged him to drink more.
“How do you feel right now?”
Angelo stopped. “I feel like I drank t-too much.”
“Take it easy.” Leon’s hand ran through his brother’s hair. “The captain was right. You do look kinda rough. I’m surprised Mamá let you go like this. Oh! That reminds me!”
Leon grabbed Angelo’s backpack.
“Is this all your luggage? I can’t even leave the house in fall without a jacket–” He’s definitely tried, “–she wouldn’t let you come without a week’s worth of clothes.” To Angelo’s mortification, he started digging around in his backpack. “You only have one other outfit? And–” Leon gasped, “they gave you a space suit?? Ohhh, now I get it!” A smile grew on his face. “This cuts back on laundry!”
“Yeah.” answered Emil. “On the Celestion ships, we wear ‘em all the time ‘cause they’re easy to clean.”
“Saves water too!” Roxie chimed in.
Good. Angelo didn’t have to open his mouth to lie yet.
“Still seems pretty light, though...” His brother frowned, still a little unsatisfied. He took out Angelo’s earphones. “You’ll probably be stuck in here for a while, and I know you like listening to music, so here’s your earphones. Do you have your phone on you?”
“No, I left it at home.” Technically, Angelo didn’t lie, at least if ‘home’ included ‘buried somewhere in their hometown.’
“Aww man, you won’t be able to take pictures! Or call home! That must’ve really worried Mamá and Dad. I guess they figured you’d see me pretty soon after they dropped you off. Still, they probably weren’t eager to let you go, hm?” He turned to Emil. “You probably had to pry him out of their hands!”
“No one was with him when I picked him up.” Emil’s eyes glanced over at Angelo. “You took the bus like he did, right?”
Angelo nodded slowly, trying to figure out if telling the truth would bite him in the back later on.
“You took the bus by yourself without your phone??” Leon’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Even Dad would freak out! We need to call them right away to let them know that you’re–” He cracked a smile. “Hey, could you sit still for a moment?”
The new recruit had no idea what his brother wanted, but if it got him out of this conversation, he’d welcome it. He did as told as Leon played with his hair for a bit, shaping it upward until he was satisfied.
“There!” Leon held up his phone, showing live footage of both of them. He swept Angelo’s hair upward to match his, but since the latter had longer hair, it looked so ridiculous both couldn’t help but laugh. “We’re twins!”
“Yes, you are very much twins.” Roxie agreed, somewhat confused. To her, he must’ve been stating the obvious.
He snapped a picture. “Oh, we should get one with all four of us! That way you’ll have it to keep.”
Emil and Roxie joined the other two for a group picture. Angelo smiled once more, trying to ignore the signs that his house of lies began to buckle.