He waited patiently for the medications and such to arrive in Jacksonville, all the while lying in bed and trying to keep still. By this time he had a number of remedies for the cramps and mood swings, most of which involved just keeping his mouth shut so he didn’t snap at Don in any way. Hot baths with scalding washcloths pressed to his lower abdomen never failed to soothe for a short period of time.
The package arrived the fourth day of his bleeding and the second day he had been back home. He opened it while Don was in the other room, finding capsules with instructions to only take one a day. He did so, and spent the rest of his week of bleeding sleeping. It was the most rest he had ever gotten during a week of bleeding.
The worst side effect was disorientation. There was no doubt that upon waking he at times didn’t know which end was up. He had rolled out of the bed on accident at least twice, taking the blankets with him and landing on them softly. Somehow he would end up back in the bed, but he didn’t know if it was because Don had picked him up and put him there or if he’d crawled back up onto it in his stupor. He did know he knocked things over. Nothing on his bedside table was safe, which was especially bad considering that’s where the capsules had been sitting. Most of the time he found them knocked on the floor or rolled under the bed or table. Sometimes they found their place safely in the table drawer.
Then one day they disappeared.
It was the third day of his actual season. The capsules had kept him drowsy and pain free. He giggled at himself when he awoke and saw the damage he had done, the blankets twisted around him and the lamps and books lying across the table and floor. His giggling stopped as he realized he couldn’t find the medication. At first, that didn’t cause him much alarm. He stumbled out of bed to the bathroom as per typical, unable to walk in a straight line but making his way there all the same. He could definitely feel the slickness at the meeting of his thighs, but there was no ache. There was no real desire. He was simply loopy and after bathing, he would be back in bed to continue his rest.
The hot water felt so good, he didn’t want to get out of the shower. Rinsing away the slick felt like he was being cleansed. His hand did linger on his nether region, as it tended to during this time. There were sparks of pleasure, but they were vastly muted. It was almost relaxing, almost a simple massage.
Toweling off, he slipped a shirt on and headed back to bed. His stomach growled. He never really remembered being fully awake whenever Don fed him. Most of the time he just ate with his eyes closed and the only evidence he’d eaten was the lingering flavors on his tongue. He ignored his hunger for now, going ahead and curling up under the blankets again.
When he awoke, his heart was pounding. His veins were throbbing. It felt like his whole body was pulsing, the loud thumping in his ears waking him along with a tightness in his chest and a weight in his groin. A very distinct weight. His breathing was shallow. At first, this was just a surreal mirroring of what his heat typically felt like.
But then, however long later, it got worse.
So, so much worse.
Tea’s head cleared, a cold sort of clear like he had just woken up from being well rested. Only he wasn’t well rested. He knew he wasn’t.
He was most assuredly dying.
The weight he had taken notice of before had become a spear through his groin. Tea let out a whimper he wasn’t positive was as quiet as he wanted it to be. And he didn’t stop. The whimpers and whines grew in frequency and volume, the throbbing now even greater. It was like an entire drum unit was banging in his head, in his chest, in his veins and groin. It was so harsh and overwhelming, and he was hot. He was so unbearably hot that he didn’t bother taking the blankets with him when he rolled out of the bed. He just hit the colder floor and started searching for the capsules he had lost.
The longer he didn’t have them the worse he felt.
“Are these what you're looking for?”
Tea stopped scouring and turned toward the voice. Don’s voice. In one hand, Don held the packet of capsules Tea had been desperately searching for. In the other he held a glass of amber liquid.
He stood in the doorway holding the capsules in a tightfisted grip that Tea felt in his twisting gut he would not relinquish.
He didn’t realize just how terribly he was shaking until he tried to pull the rest of his body to face Don. He was barely holding himself up, his arms quivering and his body bent over his middle like he was guarding where he was most vulnerable. “D-Don?” He said the name, but he was unsure how he would answer if Don even responded.
Which he did not. He took a long pull on his drink, leaving maybe a slim film left at the bottom before pursing his lips and glancing up at him. His gaze, which for once was not hidden behind his glasses, was glazed and . . . .
Angry. Don was . . . very angry.
Tea felt the anger before he fully saw it playing throughout Don’s body, before he heard it in Don’s voice. “Who gave this to you?” Tea couldn’t close his mouth, struggling to breathe as it was. His throat did tighten though, to the point he might have started choking if Don hadn’t spoken with more force, “Answer the question, boy.”
“The Masters,” Tea answered, his voice small and weak. There were tears in his eyes as he shrank further in on himself. It was as if a week and a half’s worth of seasonal cramping hit him at once. His arms buckled and he almost fell on the floor. “Don—”
“Didn’t I tell you not to trust them?”
Tea felt himself collapsing. He tried to fight it, tried to withstand all the drumming within him. The loud, horrendous drumming. “Don, they didn’t hurt—”
The capsules were thrown against something hard, the sound startling Tea to the point he did collapse. He let out a frightened whine. Don had been cold. He had been calculating. He had never been this angry with him though. He didn’t think he’d ever see Don this angry. Though the Moderator’s body was tense and drawn like he was ready to strike at any moment, he didn’t move any closer to Tea. He spoke just as lowly as before also, “You don't know them like I do. You don't know the things they've done, the things they would do if they had the chance.” Tea fell silent, covering his head and lying on the ground defensively. He whined again, legs tucking themselves up against his pained abdomen. It hurt so bad . . . he just wanted it to stop hurting again. “Did they even tell you what was in those pills?” Tea didn’t answer. “Did they even tell you what would happen if you stopped taking them?”
At that Tea broke down sobbing from the pain. It started as hyperventilation, then there were actual canine wails coupled with the tears he almost didn’t feel against his burning cheeks. “Donithurts.” It hurt so much. He had been fine taking the medications. He had felt so at ease on the capsules. To have the pain return tenfold though.
He wanted to die. He wanted to curl up and die.
“Who sent these to you, boy?” Tea couldn’t answer. He couldn’t even bring himself to look up as Don spoke. At first there were heavy footfalls on the floor, then there was a harsh grip on the back of his shirt collar. He cried out in utter agony as he was yanked upright, faintly aware of the slick pooling between his legs and the quivering of his body as Don lifted him with ease. “Do you not understand how serious an offense this is? They could have poisoned you.”
“Help? Have I not helped you?”
Tea’s eyes were squeezed shut. He couldn’t look at Don, he was so afraid of the energy he was putting off. Afraid and hurting. He just hadn’t wanted to hurt. He just hadn’t wanted to experience this. He didn’t want a season, there had to be a way not to go through this. “Ididn’twantthis.”
“What exactly didn’t you want? And why didn’t you come to me for it?”
“Ididn’twantthis,” Tea reiterated louder. He squeezed his legs together, hands balling around the hem of his shirt as he wailed. His only support was Don’s hand on the back of his shirt.
“I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times. There’s no avoiding your season.”
“I’m scared,” Tea said with more clarity than before.
“That I’ll . . .,” he couldn’t say it. He couldn’t face it. He howled in his agony. He howled and tried desperately to pull away from Don.
But Don didn’t let go. He dropped his glass, spilling the rest of the alcohol on the carpet as he pulled Tea into a bear hug. Tea screamed against his shoulder, every brush of hands and skin on his smoldering and sending blunt daggers up into his abdomen. He kept his fists balled in his own shirt, afraid he may claw at Don and make Don even angrier than he was now. Though Don’s voice was meant to be soothing, he was still livid. “Hush, son.” His hold was as suffocating as it was agitating to Tea’s need. Tea shook so hard against him, and the hand smoothing over his hair before resting against his nape only made him feel worse. The drumming . . . it would never end . . . . “You heard what the doctor said as well as I did.” Tea whimpered. “It will never happen again. It physically can’t.” The doctor. The one who had botched what Don had called ‘a surgery.’ The one who had all but incapacitated Tea for a month and what seemed like longer to recover from said botch. “Do you remember that?”
Did he remember how he had had his pregnancy forcibly ended before anyone could notice he was showing signs? Yes. Yes he did.
Tea’s cries turned soft. The throbbing wasn’t . . . as bad as before. But it was still horrible. Still debilitating.
And Don had already made his point clear that those capsules were not welcome here anymore because of these side effects.