Arkay fell backwards in shock as Retvik, Gath, Elksia and Tenuk all jumped out at him.
“Welcome back Arkay!” Elksia grinned as she grabbed Arkay and hugged him tight. Perhaps a little too tight. “I missed you so much!”
Finally, after way more than the traditional three seconds, Elksia let go and put Arkay down. Arkay still looked shocked.
“W-who told you I was c-coming?” Arkay stuttered, not sure what else to say.
“Psiksi,” Gath replied bluntly.
“He said you were coming to pick some bits and pieces up, but I thought we’d surprise you!” Elksia bounced around him. “Retvik baked a cake and I bought a few bottles of non-alcoholic wine and we thought we’d celebrate!”
“Elksia got a bit overexcited…” Tenuk tutted. “It’s been a while since we last saw you, and… you know what we’re like… It’s good to see you up and about but you look like shit.”
Elksia backed off, and Retvik pulled Arkay over to the living area, where he’d set up one of Arkay’s electronic games. “We’ve been reading about all the shit that happened to you, half of it we don’t even know if it’s true or not. But I thought you could do with a break, some time to relax and do things you like.”
Arkay didn’t say anything, and instead stared blankly at all the nice things his best friends had made for him. He didn’t know what to say, that wouldn’t hurt their feelings.
Retvik watched as the young Rethan sat in his favourite seat. He could clearly see that something wasn’t right. He glanced towards Gath and Tenuk, who picked up Elksia and took her outside.
“Was this too much?” Retvik asked once the coast was clear.
“Yeah. I only wanted to pick up my stuff quickly and go. I… wasn’t ready to see you all yet.”
“Why?” Retvik sat down next to Arkay.
“I look and feel terrible. When Veekay saw me for the first time since… then… he was shocked. Everyone was shocked. I look weak and pathetic and ill. I’m not the being you remember.”
Retvik nodded, but had more questions to ask. “Why are you living with your Ksa, rather than coming back here?”
Arkay laughed unexpectedly. “Oh that? It’s all such a mess… I can’t even tell you. But a lot of it is because I swear, I’m programmed to be with them. You, Tenuk, Elksia, you’re my family. I love you all as the understanding parents and the big sister I never… experienced.”
“You feel compelled to stay with the K-Class.”
“Pretty much. We… still have a job to do.”
Retvik blinked, not understanding what Arkay meant. “Pardon?”
“He’s still alive. A cover up. Traitors. It’s all a mess. And I was dragged into it while I fucking recovered in hospital. I wish I could tell them all to go away, but if I stay here, they’ll hate me and if I go, you will forgive me.”
“Why can’t you have both families?” Elksia suggested, having broken free of Gath’s grasp. “Spend time with your blood, then come spend time with us!”
“Because… I’m an idiot and didn’t think of that?” Arkay shrugged. “I mean, I need to help my brothers get settled down… I did say I wouldn’t be long…”
Elksia thrust a communicator into Arkay’s hands. “Tell them you’ll be a while. Invite them if you want! We can order takeaway! How many of you are there?”
“Well, maybe not all of them…” Elksia smirked.
“Plus, Psiksi told us about your hospital trip. So I made sure that the cake is low sugar…” Retvik added.
“It is?” Arkay exclaimed as he jumped up. “You… You guys are awesome… Thank you!”