Such close scrutiny left Zula feeling a little awkward, and the blatant sympathy that followed only served to make things worse. The fire mage had adapted to the pain of her rotting flesh a while ago – mostly – and in that moment, she quickly decided that physical pain was better than this. Even so, she forced herself to remain still as the stranger finished their examination. Pulling away early would only lead to more questions later, so she decided to just let them rip the band-aid off, so to speak. She wasn’t in the habit of making friends, so situations like these were something of a rarity. Zula had no idea how she was supposed to respond, so she did the brave thing and ignored them. Her guest got nothing more than an awkward nod in response, and when they finally relented, Zula embraced the change of topic wholeheartedly.
As soon as she was free of their attention, Zula quickly pulled her sleeve back down, hiding her affliction from sight once more. When her guest mentioned the shaman from her story again, Zula maintained her silence. She was perfectly happy to let the stranger digest all this new information at their own pace, if it meant their attention was lingering elsewhere. When her guest suggested that their memories might actually contain the knowledge she needed, Zula’s eyes widened a little in surprise. She’d learned to trust her gut, but wasn’t in the business of relying on other people’s hunches. She had no idea if the stranger’s instincts were correct, or if they were just the product of wishful thinking. And yet, despite her skepticism, she couldn’t help but feel a flutter of hope as she considered the possibility.
When talk finally turned to the legality of their situation, Zula couldn’t help but chuckle softly, despite her lingering discomfort. She wasn’t sure what deductions her guest had made, but apparently their logic was infallible. “I’m no expert, but I suspect the way I broke in to an old facility and dragged you back here wasn’t strictly legal either. Nor were some of the things I had to do to get that information” Amusement tinged her voice, even as she tried to mirror their tone. “I’ll start worrying about the law when there’s a chance I live long enough for the consequences to matter.”
The stranger’s confidence that they’d find a solution was completely unexpected, but Zula found it heartening. Unaware of the identity crisis that plagued her guest, she immediately assumed that their use of the word ‘we’ suggested that she’d actually won them over. Apparently taking a leap and showing them her affliction had been the right play after all, somehow. The fire mage wasn’t entirely convinced that going back to the lab would help – she hadn’t yet realised that familiar sights might shake some memories loose – and she didn’t like the idea of wasting so much time, but their enthusiasm was endearing.
Zula had just opened her mouth to voice her thoughts on the matter when the stranger noticed their own impotence and backtracked a little. Her need for urgency went to war against the need for her one lead to not drop dead during their investigation, until she decided against pushing things. The next thing they spoke of gave the fire mage pause, though. Zula had been so caught up in her own issues that she hadn’t even considered how strange this must be for them on a personal level. They’d already discussed the time difference, of course, but they hadn’t touched on how far her guest’s memory loss really extended. A little unnerved, and a little worried that the subject might make them shut down again, Zula was quick to suggest a solution of her own.
“If going back to the laboratory doesn’t pan out, then I know a couple of people who might be able to help you. Mages who specialize in shit like telepathy and oneiromancy. If you’re willing to let them rummage around in your skull for answers, then I can set up a few meetings.. But all that can wait.” Zula found it difficult to imagine the stranger refusing, given their situation. All the more reason to let them choose, though, since she was currently reliant on their willing participation.
“In the meantime, there’s a shower just down the hall. You’re more than welcome to go clean yourself up whenever you’re feeling up to it. You should be able to find some clean towels…” Zula’s brows furrowed as she wracked her brain, just for a brief moment, before she quickly gave up. “…somewhere. Once you’re done, feel free to go digging through my wardrobe. You’re probably too big to fit into most of my clothes, but I’ve got a couple of oversized shirts and hoodies that might do the job.” Apparently Zula wasn’t particularly bothered by the possibility they’d stumble upon something private in the process, like her underwear, or any adult toys that were buried within her drawers.
At long last, Zula pushed away from the desk and made for the door. She wanted to give her guest a little bit of privacy, and not just so they could clean themselves up. If they needed to have another freak-out, better to let them do so in private. Especially if that would help them come to grips with their situation. Zula made it as far as the door before she hesitated. With one hand resting on the wooden frame, she glanced back over her shoulder at her guest one last time.
“You never told me your name.” Zula phrased it as a simple statement, but there was no mistaking the question hidden within. It almost felt a little unfair, for her to share so much without learning even that in return. If she gave one single fuck about propriety, then she might’ve been offended. Even if they were having memory problems, they had to remember that much about themselves at the very least…right?