A Suspicious Rebound (private)
Aishe had been watching Alex with suspicion the whole time they'd been at yoga. This was his beginner class and for the past several weeks had hadn't been able to do all of it without getting worn out quickly. Tonight, though, he'd gone through every step looking fresh and energetic. Unusual for someone with cancer.
It wasn't that she wanted Alex to be sick and weak, but he hadn't yet had his surgery or finished off the chemo. Did they give him new meds? She was curious.
She performed all the poses with him like she'd been doing, but Alex kept right up with her, looking very happy about being able to move around more. When the class was finished he was, like usual, surrounded by mostly women who were commenting on how good he looked and asking him how his treatments were going. That was typical for Alex. Aishe had yet to see woman not flock to him and he was comfortable with them. It was actually pretty cute.
She was his ride, although she'd have waited anyway. When the last person had gone Aishe waited until the woman had gone out of the building and then turned to Alex, who was stacking up yoga mats. He paused when she stood there with her arms crossed.
"So what's going on?" she asked, one eyebrow raised.
Alex looked at her, suddenly appearing guilty. The man couldn't lie. At all. He opened his mouth, paused, and then shrugged.
"Nothing," he mumbled, pulling the yoga mats toward the corner.
Aishe hurried to help, realizing that whatever was going on hadn't made him completely better and he was still somewhat under the weather. It hadn't really shown in class.
"Nothing, but you just led your yoga class in a way you haven't been able to in two months? Did they give you new meds? Did Rowan suggest something?"
She just wanted to know why it was different. She was happy that it was. But Alex's reaction was guarded and evasive, not open like she'd have expected.
He caught himself before that came out. A chill swept through him. That attitude wasn't him. He placed his hand over his heart, suddenly a little afraid of what he'd done. Aishe's curiosity turned to concern and she reached out to put her hand on his shoulder.
Finally Alex sighed. He felt guilty about what he and Eiryk had done. Why should he? He was sick, and it had made him feel better. He winced, knowing he was justifying something that was ultimately not so good for him.
"Eiryk gave me some of his blood last week," Alex said.
Aishe's hand squeezed his shoulder and her brow wrinkled. "Alex... that's..."
"I know," he said shortly. "But I was so damn sick, Aishe. I had to do something. It made me feel better. It's just... now..."
She regarded him solemnly. "Now you want more."
He looked down, ashamed, and nodded his head. "I'm trying not to."
"How many times?" She asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Three," he said, wincing. Three times in one week. Eiryk's blood was so addictive. Alex craved it. Just the tiniest bit and he felt almost normal. Maybe almost better than normal. He could still fight off the urge for it but it was getting harder and harder.
"Just a couple days until the surgery," he said, "and then I can stop. It's almost done."
Aishe just watched him sadly, and then sighed.
"Alex, it's not good for you," she said softly, her voice worried.
"I know!" Alex snapped back at her, and then he visibly winced at his own tone. "I know," he repeated softly. "I couldn't take it anymore that night though. All I could do was lay there with my face in the toilet throwing up nothing. I couldn't even lift my head. What Eiryk did... it gave me the strength to keep going."
Aishe stepped close to him and gripped his soft tee-shirt in her hands, pressing her face to his chest and closing her eyes. "I'm scared for you," she said, her voice tearful. "Please, Alex, please don't do it again before your surgery. It's too much for your body to take. Please don't."
It felt good to hold her. He remembered her walking into his store years ago, right after caribiner-geddon. She'd helped him clean up, just like it was nothing, and then she'd become his first yoga student too. She had stuck with him through everything, coming to classes even when his studio was underwater, helping clean it up, helping him move to Liefde.
So when he heard the tears in her voice, tears from his very practical, not quick-to-cry friend, he did a double-take. Listen to her, a voice inside said. Listen to her before you take it too far.
Alex pushed her away just a little, so he could look at her shining green eyes. "I promise, Aishe. I won't drink any more. It's already something I think about way too much. I won't do it again."
Even having Aishe close was tempting. Even her blood called to him; it was strength, it was endurance, it was everything that could help him get through the tough road yet to come. She was right, though. And, Alex thought to himself, he had worked too hard to avoid things like this to succumb to an addiction of any kind now.
Aishe pulled him back and he smiled and hugged her again. He had every intention of keeping his word. It didn't matter how sick he got in he next couple of days. He would do this surgery, and then he'd handle the last bit of chemo. After that, he might actually have his life back. He was too close to success to fail now.
She wished she could talk to Cris and Rowan, but not only were they still away (due back in a few days though, in time for Alex's surgery), she knew Alex was close to them both and if he hadn't chosen to talk to them about it she shouldn't go behind his back.
There was someone she felt all right with going to, though, and she was certainly going to do that. She thought someone should know about this. Someone much older than her, in a position to possibly do something about it if necessary.
And maybe she should smack Eiryk too. He should know better! But then, she reasoned, what would she do if the person she loved most of all was in such torment? Would she offer a poisoned apple if that particular evil was the lesser of two? Probably, even if she wanted to think not.
She finally let Alex go and smiled up at him. "Want to go out before I take you home, since for the moment you're feeling all right?"
He smiled crookedly at her. "Yeah," he said. "I'll probably be a mess tomorrow."
She reached up, tugged on his shoulder, and pulled him down so she could kiss his cheek. "But you're our mess, Alex. We all love you. No matter what."
He sighed and laughed softly, touching his forehead to hers. "I love you too," he said. "Chocolate sundae? While I can keep one down?"
"Absolutely," Aishe said. "Extra whipped cream."
"How can I say no?"
"You have to tell me this time if I get a sprinkle stuck between my fangs. That was embarrassing last time."
He laughed again, a little freer, a little louder. "Pinky swear," he offered.
The pinky swear was accomplished, and they locked up Alex's building and headed to Aishe's car. If nothing else went right that night, at least she wouldn't have to go to work with a purple sprinkle stuck between her teeth.
((ooc: Both out))