Floala awoke with a jolt, sitting upright as her ICH let out a loud beeping sound.
Startled, Floala’s nose twitched as she sought out her floating robot. Brain addled by tiredness, she was immediately confused by her surroundings.
This isn’t my room, she thought. Where am I?
‘Is everything ok, bud?’
Floala jumped, grabbing at the sheets with her tailpaws. However, she immediately relaxed when she saw a familiar masked face peering at her over the side of the bed.
Of course! Floala thought, blinking her sleep away. I’m in Vututho’s room.
The realisation both soothed and surprised her in equal measure.
After she had left the Judge’s Office, she’d been completely at a loss for what to do. Terrified by the idea of being alone with her thoughts, she had wandered the corridors just to avoid going back to her room.
And then, her ICH had received a call.
‘TRH!’ Vututho had said, eye glittering with sympathy, ‘I just saw the news… are you ok?’
Floala hadn’t managed to keep her face from crumpling.
Before she could protest, Vututho had come to find her. He’d thrown his arms around her and talked to her in soothing tones. Then, at his insistence, Vututho had spent the evening ‘cheering her up’ in his own unique way. As it turned out, this consisted of film and video game marathons and a hell of a lot of coral crackers.
‘Didja sleep well?’ Vututho said, cutting into her thoughts, ‘My bed is soooo comfy, right?’
Floala looked at the krokoko on the floor beside her, sat within his makeshift bed, and felt a wave of warmth towards him.
After their night of tears and laughter, Floala had made movements towards going back to her room to sleep. However, Vututho would hear nothing of it, insisting that she stayed for a ‘sleepover’. She had protested weakly but eventually gave in, silently grateful that she didn’t have to spend the night alone.
Vututho’s beloved waterbed bed had been an… interesting experience but Floala was surprised to realise that she had indeed slept soundly. In fact, she felt more refreshed and relaxed than she had in days.
Floala nodded her head, ‘I did. Thank you, Vututho.’
Vututho’s exclamation of joy was interrupted by a muffled groan from the bed next to her.
‘At least one of us did,’ Lomomo suddenly piped up from beside her, pulling a pillow over his head, ‘How the stars does such a tiny rodent snore so loud?!’
Floala flinched. While Vututho had constantly reassured her that his brother ‘liked her really’, she still felt awkward in his presence. Thankfully, Vututho’s chuckles set her back at ease.
‘Oh, don’t mind him!’ he said brightly, ‘He’s just being a grumpface. And he’s wrong. You make such adorable squeaks when you are sleeping!’
Vututho beamed at her. Floala’s nose twitched with embarrassment. She wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that compliment.
‘Anyway,’ Vututho said, ‘Didn’t your ICH get a message a second ago?’
Floala froze. She felt the fur on the back of her neck prickle as she realised the krokoko was correct.
‘Y… yes,’ she whispered, her voice trembling.
All at once, all sense of serenity disappeared as the events of the previous day came back to her. Her planet. Her dad. The bite.
She felt pain knaw at at her insides. It was so intense, it was almost physical, pushing the breath from her chest.
Part of her wanted to turn away, ignore it and block out her troubles. But she couldn’t. She had to know that her dad was ok.
Sensing her terror, Vututho wrapped his arm around her shoulders while Floala shakily summoned the text message on her ICH.
Hey Flo, I hope you’re feeling ok after yesterday’s round. We’re holding up ok. I want to give you an update but I need to get some things sorted first. Go have some breakfast and I’ll chat with you in the Judges Office later. In the meantime, try not to worry. - Tazan
Floala exhaled, the tension leaving her shoulders. Part of her was relieved to be given a pass to live for a few more hours in ignorance. The other half of her was in agony. She still had no idea what was going on at home and she now faced yet another wait to find out.
Tazan would have told me if Dad wasn’t doing well, right? Floala felt her stomach clench with nerves.
‘Are you ok?’ Vututho said, giving her a squeeze.
Floala laid her head on his shoulder and gave a barely perceptible nod.
‘Yeah,’ she said quietly, ‘Just worried about my dad.’
The krokoko looked at her sympathetically and gave her another squeeze. Floala sighed and closed her eyes. She knew the krokoko couldn’t say or do much to help, but it was nice to confide in someone regardless.
‘Well,’ Vututho said brightly after a few moments, ‘I guess all you can do right now is take your mind off things.’
He pulled away from her slightly, eye glittering.
‘I know somewhere great to get something to eat!’ he said excitedly, ‘They do, like, the best waffles you could ever imagine. It’s amazing! And today is totally a waffle day!’
Floala looked at the krokoko, hesitant. She definitely felt stronger than yesterday but she wasn’t sure she could cope with going out in public.
To her dismay, the decision was made for her. Carried along by his excitement, Vututho had already opened the door before she could signal her dissent.
‘Come on!’ he beckoned her excitedly, hopping from foot to foot with anticipation.
Knowing from experience that there would be no reasoning with him, Floala sighed and made her way to the door.
‘Oh thank the stars,’ Lormomo said grumpily as the door closed, ‘I can finally get some sleep!’