Cawdor felt weak and dizzy as they crawled onto the bed next to Dale. They gently put both palms against Dale's temples and sobbed as Dale convulsed in pain. The force they'd used on Drift had been fifty times stronger because Drift hadn't been in Phase and Cawdor needed not only a Phase, but a female aspect Phase. That level of force wasn't needed with Dale. In fact, in the future, he wouldn't even notice it at all.
"I'm sorry, Dale. I know, it hurts. I'm sorry." Cawdor fought off their own exhaustion. "Look at me being a man!" They laughed weakly. "You can feel me. Look for me, Dale." Dale's convulsions subsided slightly as his body began to adapt to Cawdor's presence. In time Cawdor wouldn't have to 'show' Dale all this. It would be automatic. "I'm here. I'll always be here." Cawdor sobbed in relief and delight as Dale began generating aura. "It's beautiful, Dale. It's like a fine mist. I bet mine's all big blokey spikes, is it? That's right. You're doing great." Cawdor gradually withdrew from consciousness and concentrated fully on Dale's fine mist.
"Shouldn't you check on them, Undris?" Vanley said quietly, after an hour.
"I'm not the specialist when it comes to this." Undris opened the door slightly and looked in. "Dale's signs are stable. They're both out for the count. Kendrew?" Kendrew and Vanley both went to the door. Vanley looked at Kendrew and reached for their hand.
"Brings back memories." Kendrew smiled at Vanley. "Probably a full bond, Undris. It would take that to bring such a weak femnine through."
"Ours lasted six hours. Is that what we're looking at here?" Vanley asked.
"Too many unconventional factors to compare, Vanley." Kendrew quietly closed the door.
"Anz and I will draw up a rota. All we can do is monitor life signs and report changes." Undris said.
"I wonder what they did." Vanley mused.
"Well don't wonder what they did." Kendrew said flatly. "If Cawdor wants you to know, you'll know."
"Excuse me?" a young Bedlite tapped on the wall. "Is it true about Pril Cawdor and the human? Is he here?"
"Gossiping weirdos." Vanley stood up. "We're not telling you because it's classified. Go away."
"What's classified?" The youth wasn't giving up.
"All of it. If I told you what was classified it wouldn't be classified, would it? Do you think I'd declassify things just so I could tell you?" Vanley gave the youth a hard stare. "Do me a favour?" They nodded eagerly. "Take this roll of tape and fence off the hospital. Classified."
"It says faecal samples."
"It's code. I'll have it back if you're scared of classified stuff."
"Oh I see!" The youth laughed. "Really clever! Mark the whole place a shit dump and no one will come near it! Nifty." The youth pocketed the tape and ambled off.
"Cretin." Vanley muttered. "I should really go and see what's being said out there."
"I'll go. You stay with Cawdor." Kendrew offered.
Vanley's estimate of six hours didn't even scratch the surface. Cawdor and Dale were still unconscious two weeks later. Both sets of life signs were strong and healthy, as was the hero worship of Cawdor and their curiosity mate. Rumblings of a rather seedy event involving Drift the outsider had filtered through to Vanley but seeing as Drift seemed to be staying out of the picture, Vanley wasn't overly concerned.
"Didn't Drift elevate Cawdor from Reg to Ocer?" Kendrew asked as they sat at home with Vanley.
"You know they did, Kendrew. If you want to talk, just talk." Vanley put their supper plate in the sink.
"No, no. I was just saying." Kendrew said innocently.
"Cawdor always did go for oddities. Drift was a bad swine even back then. Cawdor wanted Ocer, end of story." Vanley shrugged.
"So they went to the dashingly good looking young rebel. Sounds about right." Kendrew smiled.
"You know it's right. Drift was a bit miffed when Cawdor didn't go back to them once they'd attained Sor."
"Well not everyone's like us." Kendrew commented. "They still had a friendship of sorts though, didn't they?"
"No reason not to. They grew up together. Everyone grew up together. Kendrew it was all ... convenience ... for Cawdor and Drift. Just like it is for three quarters of our population. If my theory on Cawdor's latest transformation is right, then it still is convenient. You saw them! That was the whole hog, the sow and the piglets. It looks like Drift got their elevation at last."
"But Cawdor wasn't even in Phase when ..."
"Leave it, Kendrew. We have to leave it there. Cawdor says to leave it so we must." Vanley said. "You can't tell me you haven't got used to Cawdor being a devious little toad by now." They both had to laugh.
"Cawdor." Dale dragged open their eyelids and the room began to spin. "Cawdor?" They saw Cawdor's head resting on their chest and one palm against the side of their face. "Hey." Dale stroked Cawdor's head and smiled.
"Dale!" Cawdor sprang off the bed and frightened the life out of Dale. "Dale? Are ... are you OK?" Cawdor laughed and cried at the same time.
"I feel like crap. Where am I?" Dale looked round the hospital room.
"Bedlam and don't freak out. Oh Dale I've so much to tell you. You're ... I ... you were ..."
"I'm Bedlite." Dale let out a long sigh. "I feel it, Cawdor. I feel the ... thing ... that was going on in my head with you."
"You're Ocer." Cawdor said weakly. "I'm sorry. Please don't be angry with me."
"I don't know how I feel but it's not angry." Dale held out their arm and Cawdor trailed over. "Right. Fifeogen leak on the shuttle, security systems sealing me in the command room, me passing out with an oxygen mask in my hand. Next?"
Cawdor's 'next' lasted six hours. Undris had been in in that time and Cawdor threatened to remove Dale from the hospital if they sent for Vanley.
"So I've been locked in bond with you for ... hell knows how long. Dale, I ... well we ... both of us ... well that's how you're at the upper end of Ocer." Cawdor stammered. "I did ask, hormonally."
"I know, I heard you, hormonally." Dale smiled. "It'll take a while to get my head round this."
"It'll take a while for your body to heal and adapt too. Once Undris says you're physically well, then you come home with me. I'm Pril, Dale. I'm not brilliant at many things, but I am with all this stuff. You'll be fine Dale, I promise you."