It didn’t seem like there were any break rooms on the ninth floor, so they had settled for borrowing one of the empty offices, since Alex didn’t feel like walking all the way back to his own just yet.

Josie sat down in front of him with a tray of unidentifiable hospital-sludge. Alex found himself trying to decipher literally any component of the dish, to no avail. It might as well have been as vague as Josie themself.

A part of Alex wanted to just… ask. But that would be– “What the hell is that?” he blurted out, and then grimaced.

“Well, it’s… food,” they said, stirring it around a bit. “It’s definitely edible and probably had nutrients in it at some point!”

Were they joking? Alex wasn’t sure if they were joking. “Do they actually feed you this stuff?” he asked with genuine concern. “You know you can ask for other food, right? Real food?”

“Oh, I know! But this was the kind of food I had at the hospital I grew up in. I suppose you could call it nostalgic.” Before Alex could ask what on Earth they meant by ‘grew up in’, they continued: “You’re the one eating chips and drinking coffee, anyway.”

He shrugged. “Point taken.”

After a small silence, they asked in a hushed tone, like they knew it was a sensitive subject: “How did you finally leave your office?”

“Uh, well… I woke up with a massive headache, and then I found out the door was open.”

“Oh.” Josie went quiet. Alex couldn’t read their expression, as per usual, but it seemed like the answer had disappointed them for some reason. “Have you tried going downstairs yet?”

“No. I’m still nervous! It’s hard enough up here with absolutely nobody. I know they’ve actually got active workers on your floor.”

“Yes… well, I was wondering if one day you’d consider at-home care. But I don’t want to be imposing…”

Alex was caught off-guard by this, but he stopped to seriously consider it. What was Josie’s room even like?