The Brain was most certainly not panicking. There was no cause for panic. Certainly not over Pinky, who despite being the most co-dependent creature on the planet was also fairly capable of taking care of himself when the need arose. Feeling confusion? Yes, that was acceptable. Concern? At this point, Brain wouldn't begrudge his friend a little concern. But full blown panic? Nonsense.
He wanted to yank his paw back immediately upon placing it against Pinky's brow, yet he let his touch linger, if only to solidify the fact that the other mouse was not getting better. The constant sleep wasn't accomplishing anything. Brain could even swear that Pinky felt even warmer than he had yesterday.
While he had yet to experience one, The Brain was well-aware that fevers were a sign that the body was fighting off some kind of infection or virus. It was an important part of the healing process. But knowing that and watching his closest friend experience it were two completely different things. It didn't help that Pinky looked haggard and worn out from doing nothing except lie there.
He attempted to dislodge the lump in his throat, that seemed to have become permanent over the past few days, with a few forced cough before he moved his paw to Pinky's shoulder. He nudged him gently, careful not to cause him more distress, and called out to him. "Pinky? Pinky, wake up."
A part of him felt guilty for awakening him, after all he surely needed all the rest he could get and it was most likely the only time he found relief from his symptoms. But another part, the part that saved a age-old drawing, the part that waited for Pinky to return on the night that started all this, the part that called him his friend, that part desperately needed to see the blue of his eyes and hear the tics present in Pinky's speech pattern. He needed to see that Pinky was still there.
"Pinky," he urged, his voice rising just slightly when his companion didn't stir, in case it was too quiet before. "I normally wouldn't want to disturb you, but..." He wracked his brilliant mind for some sort of rationalization to hide behind. "You need to drink more water. Yes. So, wake up, Pinky."
Still nothing. As Brain's gaze swept over Pinky, icy fear gripped his heart in a vice. Was he even breathing? Brain dropped down and placed his ear beside Pinky's mouth, the tension that coiled in his tense muscles eased as he felt the light puffs of air against his fur. He sighed, placing a paw to his forehead as he shook his large cranium wearily. Willing his heart to start again, The Brain got to his feet and took the thimble in hand.
One thing he could do would be to lower the fever. Then perhaps Pinky would awaken easier. Brain set about refilling the thimble with water, as well as procuring a clean piece of tissue to act as a soaking cloth to cool Pinky's brow. With the scientists about there was not much else he could do, his only assets being what was available to him in their cage.
Despite his rationalizations and self-assurance that it was for the best Pinky continue to sleep, the lack of consistency with what he'd come to know as being the norm with Pinky unnerved him. With the water from the thimble, he lightly splashed some of the cool liquid on the sleeping mouse's face. After a moment or two, Pinky's nose wiggled and his lids lifted to reveal unfocused, blue eyes. For a while, Pinky merely stared at the sardine tin for it was right in his line of sight, but eventually he glanced up to look at Brain.
The smile was so weak, it had no place being on the face of a mouse so effervescent as Pinky. No laughter bubbling out or infuriating 'narf's or the brightness that the childish mouse's grins usually contained. But it was for Brain, and it touched him like none of his other expressions ever had.
Trying to school his face to reflect nothing more than stern objectivity, which most likely failed since that lump of emotion in his throat had yet to dissipate, he took a clean tissue scrap and began to pat dry Pinky's face. "Good to see you awake, Pinky." He ignored the way his voice cracked on 'awake'. "How are you feeling?"
"Better, Brain..." Both mice knew he was lying, but neither did anything to correct him. "Still sleepy..."
"An atypical phenomena considering how much you've already rested." Brain attempted to make light of the situation, folding his arms behind his back while averting his gaze.
Pinky sniffed, Brain handed him another tissue. "Sorry, Brain... I don't mean to be. Poit."
Of course, now he felt absolutely wretched, the melancholy in Pinky's tone was like rubbing alcohol into an exposed wound. "No, Pinky, I- there's no need to be sorry. Sleep as much as you need to." He rubbed his forehead, the urge to bop something was overwhelming.
"But... what about taking over the world?" Perhaps he was getting better if he was capable of remembering the usual agenda for their evenings, even if his physical appearance still had him resembling more of a creature from those asinine late night movies he was so fond of watching. Even now, he looked utterly miserable. "I can't help if I'm sleeping."
"Don't fret now, Pinky. I'm not going to take over the world without you." The Brain reassured his companion, patting his paw in a placating manner.
Brain swallowed past the lump, how could he refuse such a pathetic plea? "I promise."
Pinky's tail, though limp and pale like a cooked noodle, managed to flop back and forth for a few seconds, his eyes closed again as he sighed. "Naaarf."
The cooling cloth slipped off his forehead. Brain took hold of it, noting it had grown accustomed to Pinky's body temperature, and dipped it once again in the thimble. Wringing it between his paws, he got most of the excess water out and replaced in on Pinky. A contented murmur escaped the mouse, his cheeks flushed with the combination of feverish and cool.
Brain poured out the water in the thimble, it just so happened to ruin the scientist's notes that had been set on the counter next to their cage, but that wasn't on purpose (well, maybe a little, he couldn't help being a tiny bit vindictive at times, but he was the future leader of the world, he was allowed to be). He refilled the thimble with fresh water, then carried it back over to the sickly mouse.
As he approached, he caught sight of the red injection site on Pinky's right leg. His grip on the thimble tightened as his entire body tensed. Anger flooded his senses, all he could see was red. How dare those humans do this to him? What was their twisted game? What did they possibly gain from making his cagemate so sick? His desire to become the supreme ruler of the world only burned brighter, for at least then he could be in a position to prevent such injustices from taking place.
With him in charge, no one would dare hurt Pinky.
Shaking away the rush of fury, Brain took a deep breath and knelt down by Pinky's side. "Sit up, Pinky. You need to drink more fluids."
Pinky shook his head, more like a slight lean to the left but Brain got the message nonetheless. "No, 'm too tired, Brain."
"I'm not asking you to run a marathon, Pinky. Or even stand up." Brain quipped, not in the mood to argue with the sick mouse. "I understand that you're exhausted, but this will only take a moment of your time."
A low grumble issued from Pinky's throat, taking Brain aback, though the words that followed still retained their usual whiny quality. "No, Brain."
"We don't have time for your foolishness, right yourself immediately." His patience was wearing thin.
"You... right yourself." Pinky huffed out, a juvenile remark that really meant nothing, but it tipped Brain over the edge.
"This isn't up for debate, Pinky!" Brain snapped, "Sit up or I shall have to hurt you!" Immediately after the words flew from his mouth he regretted them. He winced just as Pinky did, clearly the taller of the two still had a headache and Brain didn't blame him. He was feeling one creep on as well. "I'm sorry, Pinky, but you have to drink this. You're dehydrated and your body can't fight the infection properly unless you have some water in you."
Opening one eye to peer at his caretaker, Pinky slowly processed the words. Even though it took some time, Brain was fairly certain that his companion hadn't understood a good portion of what he said. Finally, Pinky came to a decision and shut his eye once again.
Brain bristled. Pinky was ignoring him? In any other situation he would've bopped the simpleton on the head, but after counting to three mentally, the urge melted away. He had to cut him some slack, feeling so poorly for so long had to be making him cranky. Rubbing a paw over his face, he pondered how else he could possibly persuade Pinky to at least sip at the water.
It was degrading... his reluctance and pride warred with the concern that started following him like a little black raincloud, but he supposed he had no choice...
Groaning inwardly, he set down the thimble. With both paws free, he took one of Pinky's and lifted it up just slightly, enough to get his attention. Even though he didn't open his eyes, the twitch of his right ear gave him away. Brain rolled his eyes at Pinky's stubbornness, before clearing his throat lightly.
"Pinky?" The ear twitched again as he spoke quietly. He gave his paw a gentle squeeze. "Please?"
Brain had to marvel at how a simple word could get a mouse to change his mind. It had worked on him numerous times, though it usually took a lot of pleases for Pinky to get what he wanted and Brain gave in more out of annoyance, but nevertheless, it still worked. Opening both eyes, Pinky looked at him with a watery gaze before concentration overtook him. Brain took over assisting him in sitting upright, though it was more sideways really, but it was good enough.
Almost half of the thimble was drained before Pinky's lips slipped from the edge, water dribbling down his chin. "Narf..."
Brain removed the make-shift cup from Pinky's mouth and traded it for another clean tissue. He dabbed at the wet fur as Pinky sniffled, then held it against his nose for him to blow into. Tossing it to the side with a cringe, he helped lower his friend so he could rest on his back.
"I'm sorry, Brain, you don't have to right yourself." Pinky blubbered, dismayed over his not-quite-an-insult insult.
Patting his knee, Brain waved it away. "It's no matter, Pinky, I was hardly offended."
This seemed to satisfy him, snuggling up next to Brain as he rearranged the blanket over him. Pinky's limbs may have ached, his stomach may have been sloshy, his head may have been throbbing, and his body couldn't decide if it was hot or cold, but at least The Brain was there. Just that knowledge alone made him feel loads better. Well, in his mind at any rate. His body still felt the same.
"Is there anything you need?" Brain inquired, not that he could get much for him with the lab still being open, but he felt it was pertinent to ask. "More blankets? Food?"
At the mention of food, Pinky reacted in two different manners. His face scrunched up in a half-hearted attempt at disgust while his stomach growled loudly. The pair glanced down at his belly, Brain arched an eyebrow while Pinky just appeared weary.
"Oh no, Brain!" He moaned as the shorter mouse got up and strolled over to fetch some food pellets. "I'm not hungry... I won't eat them..." He clamped his mouth shut just to prove his point.
Food pellets in hand, Brain stood over the feverish mouse. Pinky blinked at him tearfully, lacking the energy to move away. Snapping a small portion of the pellet off, Brain offered it to Pinky who whimpered piteously while his stomach continued to protest this hunger strike.
Quite pleased with himself, he was actually starting to get the hang of looking after a stubborn, cranky, delusional Pinky, Brain smirked at the half eaten food pellet and the empty thimble. After forcing the dry pieces of pellet down, he had requested more water which Brain could not deny him, especially with a thimble still half full. Turning his attention back to his friend, he looked into the half-lidded blue eyes practically radiating fatigue. While pleased that he'd gotten Pinky to eat something, he gleaned no pleasure in making his friend miserable. His claims of nausea (in the eloquent form of "my tummy's sloshy washy yucky ducky") were what finally got Brain to cease his force-feeding and allow Pinky to go back to sleep.
If not for the fact that Pinky needed the nutrients in the food, Brain wouldn't have made such a fuss over it.
"Thank you, Brain." Pinky mumbled, fighting to keep his eyes open.
Brain frowned, puzzled by the gratitude when only moments ago Pinky was accusing him of being mean and making him do things when he just wanted to sleep. He knew Pinky didn't mean it, it actually amused him slightly, the names Pinky uttered when cranky and less coherent than usual tickled him rather than infuriate him. Watching him bury his face into the blanket, Brain cleared his throat. "Yes, well, you're welcome, Pinky."
"You're taking real good care of me..." A yawn punctuated his observation, a drowsy smile stretched across his face. "You're my bestest, besty, best friend."
Bringing his fist to his mouth, Brain coughed his emotions out and drew his composure back. "W-well, I need you at your best for when I try to take over the world. I can't have a sluggish associate hampering my conquest."
"Slugs are snails without their shells."
Brain's lips twitched upwards at the familiar inanity. "Of course they are. Now, get some rest, Pinky."
"Stay with me?" He was already half-asleep, the plea trailing off.
His sleepy companion would not know one way or the other, nor would he most likely recall asking that he stay. And yet...
Getting up only to procure his list of potential illnesses Pinky might have and scraps of blank paper along with his pencil, The Brain assumed his position seated beside his friend. Pinky nuzzled closer, sensing the warm body beside him, and Brain allowed him to cushion his flushed cheek on his lap. His temperature still spurred on uneasiness, much too hot, whatever little brains Pinky had before must surely have broiled by now.
Absently, he brushed aside some of the matted fur hanging in Pinky's eyes, running his fingers through it in an attempt to untangle it.
He'd been so focused on his companion, the creak of the cage door opening startled the large headed mouse. The two scientists who'd seen fit to take Pinky away only to return him sick and disoriented loomed over their cage. The female's hand reached in, making a beeline for Pinky. The Brain glared and wrapped his arms around him, baring his teeth for good measure.
"Easy, little guy." She tried to calm him by using a higher pitched frequency for her voice, but Brain knew better. He was onto her game. "We just want to check on your friend, okay? He doesn't look too good."
"How did you get your degree?" Brain muttered under his breath. "Of course he 'doesn't look too good', you injected him with your poisonous virus. Commandeering his body for your own scientific gain."
"What's that cagemate doing?" Glasses asked of his companion, adjusting the spectacles perched on his nose as he eyed the lab mouse warily.
She rolled her eyes. "He's obviously protecting him. Look, we've made his friend sick, I'm sure he can sense that. He's been doting on him all afternoon."
"Doting? Nonsense. I've done nothing of the kind." Brain glowered. Wishing the pair of idiots would just let them be.
"I'm telling you, he's not sick. This is how normal mice should act." Glasses scoffed, ignoring both sets of glares he was on the receiving end of.
Normal? Really, is that what he thought this was? Brain had seen more activity in saw dust than in his normally peppy Pinky. This was not normal behavior for any mouse, let alone one who had his genes spliced. Pinky hardly drank, could barely bring himself to eat, and hadn't even moved from this spot in over a day! Unconsciously, his hold grew tighter, cradling his helpless cagemate against him.
"Brain..." Pinky hummed in his sleep, his nose pressed against the fur of his chest.
"Hush, Pinky." He whispered in his ear, eyes never leaving the scientists.
They appeared to be at odds with one another, for that Brain was grateful. They were clearly distracting each other from whatever task they had come to enact on Pinky. The female scientist removed her hand from the cage, folding her arms across her chest. "He's not eating or drinking, and he clearly has a fever. We need to run some more tests, the drug we administered didn't work, he's not epileptic."
Glasses looked from his colleague to the mice, still unwilling to admit that an issue had occurred with their specimen. "I suppose he doesn't seem 100% just yet, a few tests couldn't hurt."
Brain locked eyes with the scientist as he glowered, satisfied when he saw the man shudder and remove his glasses to clean the lenses. He could easily keep them away, his intelligence and wit had outmatched them before, it could do so here as well. Feeling the heat of his companion, his eyes narrowed. It was of the utmost necessity here.
Unfortunately, as he was intimidating the male scientist, he did not notice the female approach a second time until Pinky began to slip from his grasp. "Pinky!"
The movements jostled him from his sleep. "Brain...?" He garbled, looking up only to find himself staring at a human woman. "Brain?" His voice hitched as he felt a pair of arms tighten around his chest.
"Come on little guy, it's okay." She cooed, unsettling one mouse and enraging the other.
"How dare she speak to me in such a condescending manner." He groused, refusing to relinquish his hold.
But Pinky was slipping away.
"It hurts, Brain." Pinky whimpered.
While Brain's determination sufficiently overpowered that of the scientist's, her size put this 'tug-of-war' match in her favor. She plucked them both up, since the large headed mouse was adamant in hanging on, but detached him from his cagemate and handed Pinky off to Glasses.
"Brain?" Pinky sniffled, squinitng his eyes as they watered from the lights and excitement. He could barely hear his own voice over the rushing of blood in his head. The male scientist didn't handle him so gently, rubbing against the irritated injection mark without a second thought. "OW!"
The female scientist glared at him as she heard the poor thing squeak out in agony. "Careful with him, he's not just some test tube you know." The smaller mouse she'd kept in her hands, started as he heard his cagemate cry out. "He's going to be alright, don't worry."
She placed him back in the cage, he appeared to be sulking, and locked the door as her colleague left the room. The Brain paced in agitation, shaking his head irritably. "'Alright.' Yes, always, of course. He certainly came back 'alright' after he last spent any length of time in your presence. Fools, what kind of an imbecile do they take me for?"
Fueling the fire of his irritation masked the chill of dread freezing in his bones. But this one niggling thought, a memory from one of the more complicated, and potentially harmful, mazes the pair had been put through, plagued him. One of the scientists had simply said: "They're just lab mice. We can always get more."
Yes... to the humans they were replaceable. All they required was a pair of creatures willing to run their insipid experiments. It didn't matter if the mice they'd been using for the past year or so died. Mice had a short life span, of course they would eventually meet their demise. Brain was aware of his life span, but being two years old, he figured he... they had plenty of time.
But he had yet to take illness into account.
The scientists wouldn't try their best to ensure Pinky's survival, what was the dim-witted mouse to them? Pinky wasn't their cagemate, their associate, their confidant... their best friend. If they couldn't fix whatever they did to the little mouse... Brain gulped, his hands instinctively going to his chest, they'd probably go to the pet store and pick up a new mouse. After they used that needle to stop Pinky's heart, to put him out of his misery, so to speak... he'd seen it before. It had been a dreadful subject to broach with Pinky, who'd been with him and quite confused when one of the gerbils across the lab was put to sleep, now made even more unbearable at the thought of the blue eyed mouse alone and frightened with that needle approaching...
Brain slapped his paws against his head. It was a cold! Or the flu, whatever! Pinky was most certainly not going to die, he was overreacting! He dug the heels of his palms against his eyes, trying to pry that mental image from his mind. Slouching against the bars of the cage, he settled for merely rubbing his temples as he caught a glimpse of their empty beds surrounded by scraps of tissue and an empty thimble.
It would be quite the wait.
Unfortunately, Brain was dismayed to see that three hours later, when the lab closed up for the night, his friend was not returned to him. Completely unacceptable. Not bothering to take the time to concoct an elaborate escape plan, he simply used his tail to pick the lock. He'd find Pinky himself, it would not be a difficult task, he'd managed it before.
After all, he was the only one who... tolerated Pinky enough to properly look after him in his time of need.
Sure enough, after only an hour of searching, Brain located Pinky in the part of the lab that focused on immunizations. As he hoisted himself on to the table where a small cage rested, he breathed a sigh of relief as he took in the sight of his friend. Quashing the relief down, Brain attempted to nonchalantly stroll over the the bars.
Pinky was awake, his blue eyes no longer as dull as they had been earlier and his coat wasn't that unsettling shade of gray. His face was still flushed and he still sniffled, but as Brain came closer, he realized the sniffling was due to tears. His left leg also sported a shaved patch, bright red and swollen from where a second needle must have injected him. The Brain went straight for the door, picking up a stray paperclip along the way, and unlocked it.
"Pinky?" He called out, softly just in case the other mouse's headache still lingered.
Blue eyes lit up, the traces of melancholy fled and sniffling ceased. His ears twitched in Brain's direction and his gaze followed suit. "Brain!" A familiar, though still not up to par, joviality coated Pinky's voice as he raised head and smiled at his cagemate. "You came to rescue me!"
The fact that the other mouse sounded much better took Brain's stress levels back down to normal, for it seemed that his friend would be quite alright. "Yes, well, while I wouldn't use that terminology, I did come to check on you seeing as your health is not ideal as of right now." He cleared his throat, feeling foolish for all of his irrational worrying, though the relief still managed to overpower it. How did Pinky get this power? The ability to reduce him to states such as these? "You look much better."
"Oh, I feel much better!" Pinky assured him, moving to stand up yet wincing as he put weight on his injured legs. "Except they made my leg hurt again. And I'm really hungry. And I feel all wibble-wobble when I stand up." As he said this, he swayed on the spot, losing his balance to fall flat on his face. "Narf!"
"Don't overexert yourself, Pinky." Brain reprimanded as he assisted in righting the fumbling mouse. "Just because you're on the road to recovery does not mean that you can, how do you say, 'run around silly-willy'."
"Don't be silly, Brain. I wouldn't dream of running around feeling like this, I'm just trying to stand up." He corrected, rubbing his eyes.
"Yes. Of course." He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, he should've anticipated that he'd miss the point entirely, choosing to place his paw against Pinky's forehead. It was still warm, though he supposed if the infection was being forced out of his companion's system then his body would still retain the fever. He took comfort in the fact that it was considerably less so than the blistering furnace Pinky had been imitating thus far.
The Brain looked past his paw at Pinky. The other mouse had closed his eyes as he leaned into the touch, his lips scrunched together in an attempt to hide his smile, but the corners betrayed him as did his tail which swished from side to side. Brain shook his head, mildly irritated by his lack of concern for himself as well as fond of his return to typical Pinky behavior. Though he'd rather not have to admit that last bit to anyone, to be fond of inanity did not necessarily speak volumes of his sanity.
He ran his fingers through Pinky's fur and gently rubbed for a moment before retracting his hand. Pinky giggled clasping his paws over his mouth as he squirmed. His cagemate was a strange creature indeed.
"Come, Pinky. Let us return to our cage so that you can continue to rest and I can prepare for this weekend." Brain helped Pinky to his feet, allowing the taller mouse to use him as a crutch.
Pinky tilted his head. "Why? What's happening this weekend?"
As they left the temporary cage, Brain paused to collect some vitamin C pills he spied on the counter as well as some fever reducing and de-congestion medication. "Providing that you continue to recover at the rate you are presently, my friend, you should be healthy enough by this weekend to join me in our next scheme to take over the world!"
While the reaction was much more subdued than usual, excitement still filled Pinky's eyes at the notion of returning to their nightly routine. "I'll try really hard to get better, Brain. I know how much you want to take over the world."
"I-" What a stupidly, big-hearted fool his Pinky was. Brain wrapped his arm around Pinky's waist to better steady him, grateful that he did not have to look him in the eyes. Yes, he did regret the lost time they had accumulated over the past few nights, but he could be patient. Taking a few nights off from scheming was a hardly a sacrifice when it came to Pinky's health. "Please do, Pinky."
She almost dropped her coffee cup when she saw the empty cage, her spirits dropping as she realized the implications of the missing mouse. The scientist shuffled down the hall, not even bothering to greet her colleague as he passed her down the hall. While he was just a mouse, it upset her that it was because of their doing that he had not made it through the night. She should've figured just as well, his little heart had slowed so much due to the depressant, she knew if they had not taken him to give him the drug to reverse his symptoms last night, he wouldn't have made it to morning. Not that it didn't make much of a difference now.
Entering the lab where his cagemate still resided, she cringed as she recalled how close the two mice were. In all the tests they ran on the pair, not once had they willingly separated. They would replace the deceased mouse, of course, but she knew the living one would be able to tell the difference.
As she stood above his cage, her eyes widened as she realized he wasn't alone. The one with the large head glared up at her, comfortably resting beside his sleeping cagemate. "How did...?" She shook her head, swearing that she saw the smaller mouse smirk at her.
The Brain watched her leave to mingle with the other humans in their lab, satisfied that he essentially one-upped her. Pinky rolled over in his sleep, the blanket bunching around his waist as he released a few quiet 'narfs'. Brain adjusted the blanket over his shoulders once again then leaned against him as he continued to scribble new ideas on a scrap of paper.
A/N: The end! For now…
I realize belatedly that some of my small, pretty unnoticeable references to my first chaptered fic "Friends?" – which is my own take on how Pinky and Brain met and bonded (as babies! Now everyone say "awwwwww" okay, good). I mean, they're not really that noticeable, but I probably should have uploaded that first. It's just so long (10 chapters plus an epilogue) that I wanted to get these up first.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed "In Sickness and In Schemes"!