this one's short, sorry. D:


V.

Wikus wakes up a second time from thankfully dreamless sleep, CJ snuggled against him where they've burrowed beneath the heat-retaining spheres. He yawns widely, stretches, and attempts to lift himself out of the alien bed. CJ makes a disgruntled clicking noise when Wikus moves, although he stays asleep.

Hungry, Wikus does his best to retrace his steps, using the memory-map to guide himself back to the control room. Christopher is hunched over the computer terminal, his eyes half-lidded from exhaustion, his six fingers still typing away on the keyboard.

"How long've you been here?" Wikus asks sympathetically as he rummages through the small stockpile of food and tries to decide what looks the least revolting. If Christopher hears him, he doesn't acknowledge it, his eyes scanning the text that scrolls so quickly across the screen.

"Christopher...?" Wikus tries again, this time getting a response. The alien looks up, blinking several times at him before speaking.

"What? Is something wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong." At least, nothing that hadn't already been wrong before the conversation started. "You look tired, is all." Christopher waves him off, leaving Wikus to chew thoughtfully, if somewhat unsuccessfully, on a piece of homemade beef jerky. He reaches up to scratch an itch on his scalp, dimly aware of a large scab he hadn't noticed before. Granted, he's suffered so many injuries recently that it's hard to keep track, but he feels like he would've caught this one. He picks at it, digging a human fingernail into the surrounding skin to ease it out, idly messing with it until a sharp, excruciating jolt of pain shoots itself through him.

"Fuck, ow!"

Christopher's more than used to hearing Wikus shout expletives and nearly doesn't pay him any attention. When he sees exactly where the human is scratching, however, he shouts in alarm.

"What are you doing? You'll hurt yourself!"

"What?" Wikus glances up, panicked. "What'd I do?"

Christopher looks like he's about to lose his patience, but he hurries over, anyway. He parts Wikus' remaining hair and sighs. "You've damaged your left antenna."

"But I don't have--"

Christopher shoots him a look. "How do you think I showed you that map earlier?"

Wikus reaches his human hand up again and feels around at the spot and comes back with blood on his fingertips.

"I thought that shot you gave me was going to stop all this!"

"It will take more than just a few hours to begin working. The transformation itself is not instantaneous; neither is slowing it down."

His voice has lost its anger, and when Wikus replies, it's quiet and defeated. "I'm... I'm not done then, am I."

Christopher shakes his head. "No. Although with luck, we can hope the antennae will be the last parts to change."

Curling in on himself, Wikus rests his cheek against his knee and stares blankly at the far wall. After a long pause, he mumbles, "How much damage did I do?"

Christopher doesn't answer his question. "I'll help you sterilize it." He wanders off in the direction of the small command module that lived beneath his home for so long, and when he returns, it's with the battered remains of a first-aid kit. Wikus winces as the alien dabs hydrogen peroxide against the spot, the liquid fizzing and bubbling against the spot to ward off infection.

Wikus tries again. "What's it look like? How bad is it?"

"I'm afraid you may have permanently impaired its growth. If your next shed goes well, it might recover to some degree."

Mentally cursing himself, Wikus wonders if he's forever doomed to be misshapen and mismatched.