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Back and Forth

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When had it started? Prisha could give more than one answer to that. 

It had first started, tonight, while she was at a mirror. 

Her job was done for the day, she had thought. Fingers running through her hair instead, twisting and pulling and styling. Counterproductive, yes, considering she really should get to bed in a few minutes - as a responsible health professional - but the styling was always something she had enjoyed doing. It was fun, relaxing. Hair, make-up, clothes…she wasn’t rich, she didn't have the money for anything fancy…but she would make do with what she did have. Sometimes, when she was low…she half wondered…in another life…

Her hair had been an uneven mess - half pinned up and the rest of it still down - when she had heard something at the door. Head quickly turning to the side, getting up to her feet and hurrying over to see who was there. She thinks she knew. She’s almost certain she knew who it was, this hour in the night. There was one person who more than once, had shown up in the same circumstances.

A mix of a dark fear for the worst and a bright, ecstatic hope that made her heart skip a beat, about possibly seeing them again. Had they come back? Was this a visit and not an injury?

And they had come back. But there was an injury. And the back and forth that had happened so, so, so many times before, had gone on once again.

Panic flaring, hurrying Gnarl inside and shutting the door. Leading them to a sofa even as red stained their face, – them making apologies for the blood on her sofa and joking on her own haphazard appearance, rather than making any comment about their own state.

A rush to a sink, washed hands and quickly gathered equipment, before getting to work. Poultices to disinfect, fine needle to mend together with as much care as could be allowed, stemming the flow of that terrible red…it was a horrible fucking wound, she wasn’t going to tip toe around that fucking statement. It was gaping, far more than just, skin deep. Muscle severed that was for damn sure. 

A new scar for the collection she had tended to before.  

Did Gnarl think her an idiot, to not recognise the cause of this new one? That she had not seen and heard stories in her work, honest stories, about similar injuries?  She sometimes wondered. She sometimes tried not to wonder. Would it be better or worse, if it was that they just sort of hoped that she didn’t know?

And so she had gently dabbed at their face with a wettened cloth, clearing away the blood and the grime that soaked them.  

“What the hell happened?!” She had asked, as she always did. More than once, as she always did. It was part of this ritual, that seemed to have formed with her best friend. A foot put down, insistence, as the cloth was dipped back into the bowl, the water gradually turning more and more red, until it reflected nothing at all. 

"Don’t worry about it.”

A cloth dipped in and removed, still trying to scrub away at some grime. Best not to let that remain there, she did not want Gnarl’s wound to become infected.

“It’s fine, I promise.” 

A gaze, lowering, lingering on lips for a moment longer than can be said to have been incidental. Hair carefully tucked out of the way. 

“There’s nothing to worry about.”

She was going to have to get a new cloth soon. It was too stained to be helpful.

"I don’t want to talk about it.”

They never did. So the back and forth always went. 

When had it started? 

When they were both still far too young for it to start. Only teenagers and a frightened young girl, having to sneak in a bleeding friend without her parents noticing. Not knowing enough about healing at all, to properly help them.

And so, after that, the young girl had started learning more, in case something horrible happened again. And then again. And then again. 

Even if she'd found a passion in it, it was a funny, and by funny she meant a terrible thing, that was the only reason she had learned what she had about medicine, that she’d even found this calling as a Healer at all. Trying to patch up her friend together again. Dreading, if one day she…like all the king’s horses and all the king’s damn men…

It had all unfurled from there. And now here they were.

Prisha sighed, her entire body just about sagging, before she looked down at Gnarl once more. A bittersweet, tired smile forming as she did. Fingers trailing softly, through their hair, careful so as not to wake them up. Their head resting on her lap. 

She’d been gone for a moment to rinse their blood off of her hands, only to come back to them already asleep. Despite everything, it had been a funny sight, just how uncomfortable their position looked on the couch. Having managed to apparently contort themself on there somehow.

Their neck would be killing them in the morning, she could say that confidently. It would almost be funny. Memories of past sleepovers had sprung immediately to her mind, where it most definitely had been funny. Of herself rolling her eyes at and teasing them for their own fault, in sleeping like a demented octopus with only four limbs.

Classic Gnarl.

That thought had been unable to be prevented from slipping through and the first, small, sweet smile of the night had formed on the face of a bedraggled healer. And she had been unable to prevent herself from creeping back over, carefully sitting next to them, before even more carefully, moving their head onto her lap instead of that crooked position.

Gnarl would wake up with a hell of a pain on their face, but while it would have been their own fault if they had, they would not wake up with a sore neck tomorrow morning. Although they might potentially wake up with a braid, as the healer started working with braiding, then unbraiding, then rebraiding once again their hair.  

She worried. She always worried, it gnawed it’s way inside of her. Even as she did not hear from them in months and wondered either where in the sweet fuck they were, or if they were even dead in a ditch somewhere. How would she know if they were? How would she help, if one day, they couldn’t make it back here in time?

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men...

Maybe she should get up and get a post it note. Stick it on their head. They would wake up and think, hey, what’s on my head? And they would look and it would be a rhyme telling them not to be a moron, or to at least be a more careful one because-

Prisha's eyes scrunched shut, as that thought also ended. She was tired. She was so, so tired. And she couldn’t trust them anymore. It had been eroded away over and over by too many nothings. 

But she wouldn’t stop. There wouldn’t ever come a time where they came back and she refused to come forth, past her door. No. It wasn’t even a wouldn’t she just damn couldn’t.

She did know some things, at least. Even amidst all the secrets and the lies. 

She knew she loved them. Even if she wasn’t sure what exactly she meant by that.

They were her best friend. She would be there, the next time they came through her door needing help patching up some fresh injury they would give no answers for. That would not change. Never. 

Prisha fell asleep shortly after that thought, her eyes closing being all her tired body had needed to sneak up on her. Her thoughts and then her, drifting away.

Body crookedly slumping in a position that to anyone who looked, would very obviously leave her back in horrible pain, when she woke up. Even as her friend remained comfortably positioned on her lap. Braid elegantly woven into their hair. 

Or at least, it would have hurt when she woke up.

If not how, of the two, it was Gnarl who woke up first.