“Xylon, may I borrow you for a moment?”
Closing his notebook, Xylon looked up from the many jars and ointments on the shelf in front of him and glanced at the doorway of the supply closet. He smiled slightly at the sight of the assistant lieutenant, Milo, standing there with his hands clasped behind his back. It was always nice to have visitors in the Infirmary Wing, especially ones who weren't sick or hurt.
“Sure thing, Milo.” the healer replied, getting up from his crouched position and stretching his back out with a wince. “What can I do for you?”
Milo frowned, adjusting his thick-framed glasses as Xylon approached him.
“Old injury acting up again?”
“Yeah, you know.” Xylon responded with a shrug. “Been taking inventory too long for today. I would take a break, but Leymund wants it done by the time he gets back from his trip.”
“You should at least give it a rest, Xy.” Milo suggested.
“Ah, I'll be fine. As I always say, it's better than not being able to walk at all.” Xylon reasoned, smiling as he tightened his ponytail. He glanced at the shelves then back at Milo.
“If you say so.” the lieutenant said, nodding slowly. He paused, seeming to be lost in thought for a split second before shaking his head and clearing his throat. “Right, you probably want to get back to that. I just wanted you to meet someone.” He took a step back and gestured for Xylon to follow him.
Xylon raised an eyebrow curiously, closing the closet door behind him and locking it shut with a quick spell. He quietly followed Milo towards the medical office at the end of the hall.
“New recruit?” he asked, entering into the office after the other male.
“You could say that.” the lieutenant replied, peering up at Xylon through his shaggy brown bangs. He gave a small smile, looking around the room. The smile dropped into a frown as he glanced up at the ceiling, before he gave an exasperated sigh and called something out in a foreign tongue.
“Rain?” Xylon inquired with a confused expression, following Milo's gaze up to the rafters. He recognized the Nittalian word but felt like he was missing the context. “What do y-”
The healer suddenly reared back with a gasp as a short, dark-brunette girl dropped to the floor in front of him and stood up with a wide smile. She glanced back and forth between Milo and Xylon with mischief in her eyes. Xylon looked her up and down; at her full height, she stood at just above his chin. Her hair was trimmed into a lengthy, wispy pixie cut, and her pointed ears stuck out a little bit. His gaze stopped as he made contact with her eyes and found himself unable to look away from them. Her right eye was a deep purple, while the other was a rich, shimmering gold.
'A shapeshifter.' Xylon thought, blinking as he realized he was still staring. She tilted her head in curiosity, and he looked away in embarrassment. A high-pitched giggle escaped her and she turned to Milo, asking him something in Nittali.
“Rain.” Milo said with a nod at her, before gesturing to healer beside him. He placed heavy emphasis on his words and spoke slowly. “This is Xylon.” He looked at Xylon. "Sorry if she startled you. She's made a habit of that..."
Rain turned her attention back to Xylon and grinned, showing off pointed canines.
“Hi.” she said, giving him a small wave. Xylon gave a weak smile back. He had never been the best at meeting new people.
“Hello.” he replied, nodding. He glanced at Milo. “She knows English?” He frowned as Milo shook his head.
“Only a little. I've been trying to teach her over the past couple of days.”
“What is a shapeshifter doing here?” Xylon questioned in disbelief. "I mean... They've been in hiding for so long since the last war... Where did she come from?"
“She ran away from home. The island that's rumored to be deserted off the shore of Katmar? That's where her tribe lives, along with another tribe. They call it Roc'tan." Milo explained. "She says that her tribe is at constant war with another tribe on the island, and she'd had enough, so she left. The Society was pretty much right in the path of her journey, so she stopped here. I explained to her what we're about and she wants to join. She told me she'd rather fight for a bigger cause and not in the war at home.” He paused, glancing at her with a soft smile, before continuing. “I figured you'd be the next best person to meet her before I integrate her into the trainees, seeing as you know a little Nittali and a lot about shapeshifter history.”
Xylon blinked, taking in this information. He jumped as Rain suddenly stood on her tiptoes and leaned forward, observing him intently.
“Wh-What is she doing?” he asked nervously, watching as she picked up his hand and studied it. Milo smirked, leaning back against the wall as he folded his arms across his chest.
“Oh, you'll see. She did this to Alex and I too.”
Xylon's eyes widened as he turned back to Rain to find himself staring back with a grin. His doppelganger pointed at him before putting both hands on its chest.
“Xylon.” it spoke, sounding like Rain.
“Yeah, they can't exactly replicate voices, but the attention to detail is uncanny.” Milo said, letting out a laugh as he stood up straight again. “You should have seen Alex's face when she walked into her office and saw herself sitting at her desk.” He said something to Rain before fist bumping her. Xylon took his chin in his hand as he circled the shifter and observed her.
“Fascinating...” he breathed, smiling. “I've studied them so long. I've never thought I'd see one shift right before me, much less into me.”
“It's quite exciting, isn't it?” Milo said, watching as Rain morphed back into her original form. “To think we've read so much about them and yet, knew so little. They've been right there all along.” His grin widened. “You don't know how good it feels to finally hold a conversation in a language everyone thought was dead. And they said I was wasting my time in school.”
Xylon let out a snort, shaking his head at Milo.
“Must be nice. I wish I could get a better grasp on Nittali.”
“Well, maybe she can teach you. She'll be staying with us after all.” Milo reminded the healer. Xylon nodded, pausing momentarily.
“Are you going to be mentoring her?” he asked in a soft tone, treading lightly. The excitement in Milo's green eyes quickly faded and he looked away.
“Yes.” he replied, sighing heavily. “It's time I move on. Enough time has passed since...” The lieutenant trailed off and stared blankly at the floor for a second before clearing his throat. “I'm the only one who can communicate with her anyway.”
“Right. Sorry.” Xylon frowned slightly, rubbing the back of his neck and feeling horrible for bringing up a bad memory for the other male.
“It's okay.” Milo responded. He glanced at Rain, speaking softly to her. They exchanged a nod and Milo glanced at his watch. “Ian should be taking trainees out to the courtyard in a few minutes for their first sparring so I figured we'd catch up with him and see how Rain does. I suppose we'll be off.”
“Alright.” Xylon said. “I should get back to inventory. Leymund's returning tonight.”
“He'll be happy to see his supplies in such neat order.” Milo chuckled, his grin returning. “I'll see you around, Xy. Come on, Rain.” He gestured for the shifter to follow him with a tilt of his head and started for the door. She gazed up at Xylon, who smiled nervously and gave her a small goodbye wave. She smiled widely and darted forward, giving him a quick hug. He let out a grunt as she collided with him and tensed until she let him go.
“Bye!” Rain called, throwing him one last look and a small wave back. She then ran after Milo. Xylon let out a breathless chuckle, watching her go with pink cheeks.
“Guh!” Xylon let out a grunt as something pounced on his chest, waking him from his sleep. He sat up and looked around wildly, panting in short, heavy breaths. He sighed as he laid eyes on Loki, his pet Dynxi, sitting beside him on the queen-sized bed. Loki wagged his tail and tilted his head, looking at Xylon expectantly.
Loki let out a whimper, leaning forward to lick his owner on the cheek with his blue tongue. Xylon let out a weak chuckle, wiping his cheek of the Dynxi slobber and tears from his dream. Almost a year and a half had gone by, and she still haunted his sleep.
“I'm fine, bud. Thanks.” the healer whispered, sniffling. “Just another memory...” Loki whimpered again and nudged his hand before jumping down off of the bed and running over to the sliding glass doors. He pawed at the door and looked back at Xylon.
“Yeah... A walk sounds like a good idea.” Xylon said with a nod, getting to his feet with a groan. He stretched, feeling his back pop, and let out a relieved sigh before heading over to the doors to look outside. The dry, brown leaves rattling on the almost bare tree branches outside was an obvious sign that winter was fast approaching. The air was growing drier and more brisk with each passing day. The healer frowned, heading over to his wardrobe to get dressed in something warm; he hated winter. With a sigh, he threw a heather gray sweater over his head and pulled on black slacks, then headed over to the bed to sit and put on his boots.
“I just have to check on Reed and see how the interns are doing, and then we'll go, okay? Maybe get some breakfast after?” he told Loki as he got to his feet. Loki plopped down beside the glass door, seemingly intent on waiting there until he returned. Xylon smiled, heading for the entrance to his room that lead out into the Society hallways. “I won't be long, bud.”