It was rare for the hospital to ever not be in a state of chaos- such a thing was practically non-existent. There never seemed to be a single moment of peace. Maybe there were little exceptions- at night, things seemed… calmer, than during the daytime. Barry often found that he preferred to stay awake at night just to prolong whatever inevitably terrifying morning that awaited him. Unfortunately he’d been doing this more and more frequently, and as a result, was becoming very tired. His sleep deprivation eventually caught up to him, because he couldn’t stay awake one night. He just crashed as soon as the lights went out. Then, suddenly it was morning. Dreadful morning, where a voice had woken him. He opened his eyes to see his roommate standing at the foot of his bed, looking down at him. “Hey sleepy-bro! Wake up, it’s club time!”

Club time, the thing Uni was referring to, was their daily social group initiated by Nurse Mood. Social groups were meant to strengthen the relationships of patients and keep them socially stimulated. No patients were allowed to cop out of attending these meetings for any reason, unless instructed otherwise by a staff member. In fact, you technically could choose to not attend, but this was highly advised against by Mood. If feeling unwell, patients could come into the club room, sit out of the group activity, and nap in one of the bean bag chairs. However, this was all they were allowed to do. If not participating, they could not do ANY other activity for the rest of the meeting- just nap, or lie there awake. It wasn’t very thrilling, so it wasn’t often picked. Most of the time, patients just sat through whatever boring interaction they were forced upon today.

All of this was why Barry too wasn’t very thrilled about having to go to this dumb meeting, with all his missed sleep. He sluggishly dragged his legs over the edge of the bed like an acquiescent lemming, following Uni out of their hospital room. “Sorry to wake you up like that bro, you slept in pretty late. I didn’t wake you sooner cuz I figured you’d be up eventually, but you were really out like a light bro! Were you up late, bro?” Uni was always irritating, but with Barry’s conscious brain running on juices- today, he managed to be five times as much with each and every bro he spoke. Barry rubbed his temple, eyes shut tightly as a sleepless migraine pierced his skull.

“No,” Barry replied, “I just haven’t been sleeping well lately…”

“Aw, sorry bro. I hope you feel better, bro.” Barry doubted he would.

Enter the club room, which was likely originally used as some sort of large storage closet. It was brightly decorated, but the wall color itself and tile floor were bland and noticeably unpainted- which is what gave the impression this room was not always meant to be populated. Despite this, Mood had decorated it all by herself, and that made it feel genuine and homey. When Barry and Uni had arrived, there were already a handful of patients in the room sitting around a chalkboard on the wall, where Mood stood patiently rocking on her heels. “Hi friends! Welcome, have a seat! I have an exciting announcement to make!” she squeaked. The patients exchanged glances of uncertainty, before returning their gazes to her.

The science-and-magic duo sat down on the floor near Caroline, who didn’t look very interested in whatever Mood was about to go on about. She greeted Uni and they did one of those weird middle schooler handshakes. Barry watched their hands do strange clapping and bumping motions, with one eyebrow raised. Whatever it was looked dumb, so he didn’t pay it much mind. They returned their attention to Mood again. “Ahem,” she cleared her throat, “I am happy to announce that tomorrow we will be hosting our annual science fair! For those who are new, every year we have a special event where we exhibit cool experiments conducted by our patients- that’s you guys!” The word science was all that needed to be said before Barry was suddenly wide awake.

“A science fair?” His eyes glimmered with excitement. Science was one of the only things he even cared about, being a (former, I guess) physics major. Of course, the reality was, this was obviously another example of the staff infantilizing their patients by having them participate in weird grade-school activities- but Barry didn’t really care about that. This was genuinely exciting for him! It was something he actually liked, now relevant and topical! It was as if all evidence he had missed any sleep had vaporized- he was suddenly bursting with energy. The other patients, however, didn’t seem to bear the same enthusiasm as he.

“Aw, seriously, y’all on this shit again? Science is for nerds!” Caroline cupped her hands and called. Barry gasped insultedly at her claim.

“It is not! Science is the complex study and understanding of the natural world. It is the most powerful weapon that we sapient, complicated, intelligent beings- can wield! With science, anything is possible until proven otherwise. It is not limited to what we can see in the physical world, but extends great lengths- deep into society and universal behaviors. Without it, you would not be here!” As Barry went on this tyrade,  Uni made an alligator mouth with his hand at Carrie. She and Uni snickered. “So it’s not for nerds, A-K-A intellectuals, alone- it also made you.” Barry folded his arms and grinned smugly, as if he was proud of this comeback.

Caroline put her hands over her ears. “What? I can’t hear you, I have no fucking ears.” As far as he was concerned, she clearly did not.

With worried glances between the bickering patients, Mood quickly spoke again. “W-well, even if you aren’t interested in science, this project can be a fun new experience for you to step out of your comfort zones! Project requirements have no limitations- you are free to conduct any kind of experiment that you like!” She quickly paused to add, with a hard stare at Uni, “But nothing inappropriate. I should not have to elaborate!”

“Aw come on bro, I think my science experiments are cool, bro! They always have a conclusion and everything!”

“That is NOT the kind of conclusion listed in the scientific method!” Mood pointed and poked his forehead as if scolding him. Barry let that one breeze past him- he didn’t get it, and really didn’t want to. “Anyways, since Knee-knee reminded me, the only requirement for your experiments is that they follow the scientific method. Make an observation, ask a question, develop a hypothesis, conduct your experiment, and decide whether or not your hypothesis was correct! In other words: ask a question, make a prediction, test it out, then see if it’s true! Simple stuff!”

Sitting with Jay nearby, Barry overheard Hemera start talking about an experiment she’d already planned for this. “I’m going to dye roses! I’ve done it before, it looks really cool, and it’s very interesting to see how easily a plant’s appearance can be changed by its roots. Perhaps it can also be a symbolic representative experiment.” Jay replied that she was going to make a potato battery. All the patients erupted into some sort of chatter, all except for Caroline and Uni. They just kind of sat and listened to the overlaying of voices blend together into a vocal smoothie. When Mood had gone and finished explaining the project, and all was done, it was time for them to go back to their rooms. Barry bolted out the door, eager to get a headstart on whatever he was planning. Uni took his sweet time walking back to their room.

For the next few hours, Barry was head-over-heels, frantically scribbling things down in various notebooks and placing sticky notes everywhere. He was very passionate and devoted to this craft, and Uni had never seen him so hyperactive. He could hardly keep track of what Barry was even doing, because he kept getting up and darting around the room frantically with these books. It was like he’d swapped bodies with a hyper sugar crazed toddler. Uni eventually had to ask, because no matter how many hours he spent watching him, he still couldn’t figure out what the hell Barry was so heavily engaged in. “Bro, what are you even doing?”

“I’m trying to decide on an experiment,” he explained, tapping the back of a pen to his chin. “I have quite a few ideas, but the problem is, everything here is just so basic, I have no equipment or tools or anything! How does she expect me to conduct a genuine experiment with pure accuracy when I have nothing of substance to use?” Barry tapped his foot on the floor, brows furrowed. “I don’t want to make something like a bottled tornado or a mento bomb, I’m not 5!” He drew in a heavy sigh, feeling defeated. “If only I had something…” Uni rolled his eyes.

“Why don’t you use your science-” he gestured his fingers in the air fantastically, “to explain something, bro? Like, talk about Grab Vitty or whatever, bro.” With that, Uni’s horn illuminated as he used magic to lift a bottle off the floor, and to take a sip from it. As he did this, Barry stared, his eyes dilating with interest. Something had sparked an idea in his mind, for there was an idea he had. With a triumphant jolt, Barry exclaimed,

That’s it!

His roommate froze and gawked at him, letting some of the bottle’s contents spill out. “Uh… what’s it, bro?” Uni concerned. Barry had already started towards him, and parked about a foot away, looking up at Uni with a determined expression. Confidently Barry stated a very bizarre sentence-

“Uni, let me experiment on you.”

Those words caught Uni so off guard that he dropped his bottle on the ground, and just stared at Barry, mouth agape. It took several long seconds to even process what he was hearing, and even after thorough processing, it sounded like some kind of alien language. “Bro,” Uni uttered, “that is the horniest thing you have ever said.”

Barry’s face painted with alarm and confusion. “… WHAT?” he retorted, “I just said I want to experiment on you!”

“Bro, that’s even hornier, have you been drinking the tap water?”

Frustrated and confused, Barry cried out, “I’m- not- what does that even mean?! I’m talking about the science project!” Often times, Uni would say things that made literally zero sense, but this was a new level of weird. “I want to explain your so-called magic. If I can’t prove it’s not real, I want to figure out what it really is. Come on, we can submit it as a team project so you won’t have to make one. What do you say?” Barry offered. Uni’s eyes (or whatever they were) glanced around with uncertainty, pondering his prompt. True, this would mean he would not have to make his own, and could piggyback off of whatever nonsense Barry would embark on. Uni agreed, solely for his own benefit- also to quench the thirst of curiosity he had to see what Barry would want to do with him. Excited, Barry insisted they get started right away. He gathered up his notebooks for recording data, and placed them on the floor in neat piles. Uni sat down with his legs crossed, ready to get this over with.

When he finished setting things up, Barry made a list of “tests” he wished to perform, and threw a pen at Uni when he once again claimed it sounded horny. “First off, I want to take a look at your horn.” Uni immediately started choking.

“HOLY SHIT DUDE, AT LEAST BUY ME DINNER OR SOMETHING FIRST!” he laughed loudly. Barry stared at him irritably. He managed to control his laughter and sat upright, with his palms on the floor. “Look bro, it’s not just a weird thing on my head bro, it’s personal to me, bro. I feel weird when people try touching it.” He sighed and glanced away. “But… I guess I trust you, just don’t yank it or anything, ok bro? It’s really sensitive.” Barry sat down in front of his on his knees and leaned closer, looking intently at it. Barry reached out and poked it with his index finger, and Uni winced. Suddenly it changed color. It was now green, which was very strange, as Barry had never seen that happen before.

“Oh no, what’d I do?” he worried.

“Uh- nothing bro, it can change color if you tap it, you ever see those cool light tables that change color?” Uni explained. Curiously, Barry tapped it again, and it turned blue. He tapped it again, and it turned pink, then red, and then yellow again. He started tapping it a bit rapidly to make it change very fast, and Uni started sweating. Suddenly it changed to a rainbow color, and Barry jolted away, squicked out. “I- I told you it was sensitive!” Uni cried, covering it with both hands. Barry shuddered and picked up his notebook, jotting something down.

“This keratinous outgrowth exhibits touch activated light responses, and is also purportedly sensitive,” he read aloud as he wrote, “in some manners which are… questionable.” Barry squinted at Uni.

“Y’know bro, you could just ask,” Uni smiled meekly at Barry.

“Asking does not produce answers. It is only through action in which facts are unearthed,” he declared.

“Alright then Mr. Facts, feel free to resume your exploration of my keratinous outgrowth, I’m sure you’ll get your answers bro,” Uni teased. Despite Barry’s bold defense, his disposition seemed to have become nervous, and he politely answered that he had concluded that test. He moved on to the second test, where he would ask Uni to demonstrate his magic on an object. Barry picked up a recently eaten apple core and placed it on the ground, and instructed Uni to alter its state in some manner. Uni was compliant, and a zap of colored light struck the core. It seemed to regrow the bitten areas, and reformed to a whole uneaten apple. Barry’s eyes marveled at the object, lifting it up and examining it.

“Fascinating… it seems that this apple regenerated its missing cells without you even touching it!” He grabbed his notebook again and started writing. “The outgrowth has some sort of capability to alter the molecular structure of physical objects…” he wrote. “It functions like some sort of fantastical matter-altering laser.” That description made Uni laugh out loud. “That shouldn’t even be possible… I’m stumped…” Barry muttered to himself. He wrote something down again without speaking, then placed his book back down. “Alright, now for my third test. Let me take a look at your wings.”

Scooting over, Barry crawled behind Uni and pulled a wing from the back of his gown, surprised by its soft texture. It felt like a silkie chicken, fluffy like a cloud. He pet the feathers with his hand, momentarily forgetting about the test. “Bro, what are you doing?” Uni laughed.

“Your feathers are so soft and fluffy…” Barry murmured dazedly. He pressed the side of his face to the fluff, and then buried his whole face in. As all this unfolded, Uni sat there sort of uncomfortably confused, blushing. Barry was very warm against his wing. “They should make you into a blanket,” Barry said, muffled.

“Thanks bro, that’s the scariest thing anyone has ever said to me.” It seemed that he was in this position for a really long time without moving. “So… uhhh… what is this test bro?” Not surprisingly, Barry didn’t even hear that, too entranced by the floof. “Bro?” Uni repeated, trying to get his attention. Suddenly his eyes opened and he pulled away, embarrassed. “Let me guess,” Uni teased, “testing to see if they alter matter, bro?” Barry’s face was red and he glanced at the floor shyly.

“N-no, I just haven’t hugged anybody for a long time.” This response was unexpected by Uni, so he just gazed away similarly, uttering an oh and nothing more. Barry shook himself to reality and returned his hands to actually focus on the test. He pulled open Uni’s wings and asked him to stand, and measured it with measuring tape. He wrote things down. “Oh, here’s where it absolutely does not make sense. These wings are far too small to carry a creature of your size.” He returned the measuring tape, measuring from his ears to his feet. “You’re 5’11”, and your wingspan is-” he paused and stretched out the tape, finding that his arms weren’t long enough to reach. “Dang it, hold on-” Barry stepped away in search of some duct tape.

“Did you just say dang it?” Uni bellowed.

After digging through some supply drawers by the sink, Barry found a silver roll and walked back over, sticking the end of the measuring tape to one wing. He proceeded to extend it out, and halted once he reached the top end of the other wing. “Your wingspan is 7’11”. It would need to be at least 11 feet for something as big as you. They’re way too small for flight. Not to mention, the structure and weight of your skeleton and muscles comes into question. You should not be able to fly with the shape of your body. Do you know anything about aerodynamics?” Barry asked as he scribbled things down. Uni looked at him like he was speaking alien again.

“Bro, I don’t know a fucking thing, my guy.”

Squinting, Barry resumed writing. “Subject has a height of 5’11” and a wingspan of 7’11” but still manages to be capable of flight. The subject also admits to his idiocy.”

“I may as well flaunt what I got, bro.” Uni shrugged. Barry wrote up one last analysis of this test for a minute before he finished, and was ready for a fourth test. “Bro, how much longer is this going to take? I’m getting bored of this lame science stuff, bro. And I have tape on my wing.” In response, Barry yanked off the tape very fast, causing Uni to yelp in pain. He pulled a few feathers off one-by-one.

“Be patient. The more thorough we are, the better we’ll do on this project. Don’t you want to do well?” As much as Uni admired Barry’s dedication and passion, he really couldn’t care less. But he didn’t want to upset or disencourage his friend, so he sighed and agreed to participate more. The fourth test that Barry had planned was an eye exam. He approached Uni and opened one eyelid with his finger, peering in. “There’s already a problem here.” Barry immediately stated. “There is nothing for the eyelid to be resting or to close upon. It’s just an empty socket. You should not be able to blink.” He placed a finger in, then the rest of his hand. “And upon my hand entering, your pupil vanishes. It’s as if there is nothing there. This should not be possible!”

“Woah bro, this is a new kind of brofist.”

Barry went over his notes frantically, sweating, at a loss for words. He was supposed to explain this with science! But none of it made any sense! He sighed and held his head in his hands. “I feel like a fool, Uni,” Barry muttered, “I went into this project thinking I’d be able to explain all your weirdness but came out empty-handed. It’s not explainable. It was useless.” Uni frowned and sat down on the floor beside Barry, patting his shoulder.

“Cheer up, bro. I’m stupid too all the time.”

That remark didn’t help. “I’m not STUPID! You’re stupid! You’re stupid and don’t make sense!” Barry got up and stormed away, going back to his side of the room. He climbed in bed and pulled a blanket over his head, starting to cry. Uni overheard his whimpers and snuck to his bedside. He thought long and hard about how he could help him feel better, because he was clueless. Uni was bad at most things, and comforting others wasn’t excluded from that list. He watched the blanket mound shiver and listened to the sniffles it emit.

“Hey gamer, I’m sorry I called you stupid. I didn’t mean it at all,” Uni apologized sincerely. Barry, unfortunately, was skeptical of his genuineness. “I don’t think your nerdy science stuff is stupid. I just call it that because I’m too dumb to understand any of it. I have trouble comprehending lots of information and big words. I’m not good at it…” he sighed, gaze sticking to the linoleum floor. “I know I can’t explain any of the weird stuff I do that doesn’t make sense, but I can explain one thing. That it was wrong to say that, and I’m sorry. You don’t have to believe or forgive me if you don’t want to…” There was a long silence. The sniffling had stopped. Moments later, Barry lifted the blanket off his head and looked at Uni somberly.

“I’m sorry too.”

“It’s okay, bro. Do you wanna make a soda volcano together for the project? We could stick little figures of Doom around it and vanquish him!” Uni smiled at Barry. Barry laughed tearily and smiled back.

“Sure, Uni.”