"I don't know. . . I can't see anything." Carl's breath puffed against Van Helsing's cheek, his lips and the tip of his nose almost brushing the man's face as he tried to peer into Van Helsing's right ear.
The hunter had grappled with some sort of hydra-like creature on his last mission, and had been pummeled against the muddy ground with the thing's tail. Shortly after, the hearing in Van Helsing's right ear became muffled, and now he sat on the edge of Carl's bed, his head leaned far to the left, hoping his friend could figure out what was wrong with his ear and do something about it. His hands rested on Carl's hips to keep himself upright--slight dizziness was a side effect of whatever was interfering with his hearing.
Not that he wouldn't have had his hands on Carl's hips if he'd been perfectly fine. He would have. Carl just wouldn't be spending this first hour after Van Helsing's return giving so much attention to an ear. Another reason Van Helsing wanted him to hurry and find the problem.
Carl told him that most likely mud or some other kind of debris had been forced into his ear canal as he was being beaten against the ground. He also said, many times, the man was extremely lucky that a little hearing problem and a few of the required bumps and bruises were all he came away with.
Van Helsing didn't care, as long as Carl fixed it. Soon.
Carl leaned over the man, one hand on the top of Van Helsing's head, holding it sideways, the other pulling gently on the shell of his ear to stretch the opening.
"I swear, if you had broken bones or a missing appendage, you'd stomp in here claiming you were fine. But a little difficulty hearing and you're like a kicked puppy."
Van Helsing started to protest, he was hardly like a kicked puppy just because he wanted to be able to hear. And he did have sensitive ears. And he'd missed Carl.
"You have to hold still, Van Helsing," Carl said too quietly, in his concentration.
Carl lifted the man's head and turned, speaking directly into his other ear. "I say, you have to hold still!"
Van Helsing squinted. "I can hear out of that one, Carl, thank you."
"Welcome." Carl smiled sweetly at him, before shouting, "Now hold still!" and pushed his head over again, Van Helsing's affected ear facing up for Carl's inspection.
After a few minutes of squinting, opening his eyes wide, and moving Van Helsing's head to different angles to take advantage of the sunlight coming in the nearby window, Carl huffed. "Ah! Be back in a moment." He patted Van Helsing's head and hurried out the door.
While Carl was gone, Van Helsing sat and stared, he rubbed his forehead, he stretched out on the bed thinking to rest a few moments but the muffled buzz in his ear kept him from it. When Carl returned, Van Helsing was sitting up again, eyes squeezed shut tightly, digging in his ear with his pinkie.
Carl put down the box he was carrying. "Stop that! You're going to make it worse by shoving whatever it is in deeper." He sighed, then pulled several items out of the box--what looked like a monster-sized pair of tweezers, some contraption consisting of several small mirrors connected at various angles, and The Helmet.
Van Helsing couldn't help smiling whenever Carl wore the ridiculous-looking hat, with its silly shape and bevy of attached gadgetries. It looked. . . funny. Carl was a genius, and The Helmet, as Van Helsing had come to think of it, was an equally brilliant piece of equipment. No doubt its use had helped create things that had saved Van Helsing's life a time or ten. But it was hard to look at Carl with it on and take him seriously.
So when Carl donned it and attached the mirrored contraption to the front of it, going cross-eyed a few times in the process, then dropped two magnifying lenses in front of his eyes and clicked the tweezers, smiling, Van Helsing laughed.
"You should have a bit more respect for my inventions," Carl said, though he smiled himself. "It may look funny, but it'll allow me to see down into your ear and get whatever it is out."
Carl stepped forward again, forcing one of his legs between Van Helsing's knees so he could get as close as possible. He pushed Van Helsing's head back over and moved it around as he leaned closer, angling his own head so that the mirrors reflected light into the man's ear and Carl could see down inside the canal thanks to a mirror near the magnifying lens in front of his eye.
He talked the entire time.
"You know, Van Helsing, if not for this 'silly looking hat' as you like to call it, there's no way I could do some of the precision work on your weapons, these lenses allow me to see the absolutely tiniest things. . . ."
As Carl continued, Van Helsing sighed. And then lied. "Carl, I'm only catching every fourth word or so."
"Really, is that so? Blah blah blah ANNOYING blah blah blah," he mumbled, "blah blah BOSSY blah blah blah BABY blah blah blah TESTY and IMPATIENT blah blah BLAH--"
Despite himself, Van Helsing grinned, but then Carl did something inside his ear that made him flinch.
"Oh. . . I'm sorry, I didn't realize." Carl stopped teasing. "If it's that sore, this might hurt a little. Just try to distract yourself, I'll be as careful as I can."
Van Helsing grunted in assent and scooted forward on the bed until his crotch rested firmly against the leg Carl had between his knees. His hands moved from Carl's hips to cup his buttocks firmly.
"I said distract yourself. My concentration is imperative here."
When Van Helsing didn't move or speak, Carl set back to his task and after only a few moments had extracted a large clump of what appeared to be drying mud and pieces of grass litter from Van Helsing's ear.
"That was the problem, I can once again see daylight out the other side. Still very dirty, though." Carl cleaned out Van Helsing's ear by pouring an alcohol solution into it, and then having Van Helsing tilt his head and let it run out into a bowl. When no more dirt came out with the solution, Carl looked carefully into the man's ear again, and then put a few drops of another oilier solution into the ear, and gently massaged the hollow spot just below on the man's neck.
"This will help with the soreness and may prevent infection. Just let that sit in there for a moment."
Carl cleaned up his supplies and removed the mirrored attachment from The Helmet, which he still wore but with the lenses flipped up and out of the way. When he was finished and had everything but the hat put back into the box, he had Van Helsing tilt his head again and he used a small rag to wipe away the few drops of solution that ran out.
Pleased with himself, Carl put his hands on his hips. He looked into Van Helsing's face and mouthed the words, "There now, all better?" without making a sound.
Van Helsing smirked, then laughed as Carl did. He pulled Carl forward into much the same position he'd been in before, a leg between Van Helsing's, pressed tightly against the man's crotch.
His chin against Carl's chest, Van Helsing looked up with a serious expression "I don't know, Carl, I have another problem, now." As Carl tilted his head, Van Helsing leaned back on his elbows, pressing his hips up. "Right where your leg is. I think there's swelling."
"Really?" Carl acted astounded. "My goodness, why didn't you say something before? That could be serious." Carl stepped back and dropped down to one knee, pushing Van Helsing's legs apart with his hands. He brought his face within a few inches of the man's crotch. "Well. . . maybe once you take your trousers off it'll become clear, but. . . swelling, you say? Hmm. . . I don't. . . ."
Slowly and deliberately, Carl reached up and lowered the magnifying lenses in front of his eyes.
Van Helsing dropped back onto the bed, laughing, and started to undo his belt. "First, my hearing, and now your eyesight. If you think your sense of touch might be intact, come up here and let me demonstrate just how urgent and dire this situation really is."
Carl put The Helmet back into the box. "I was hoping you'd say something like that."