“Tom? Tom, you lazy idiot, get up! …Tom?”
Tom tried to open his eyes, but he couldn’t. He felt too weak. The voice faded in and out, and he couldn’t place it. For some reason, he thought it was Nathan’s fault. Nathan had put him out in the cold, in the rain…
Tom coughed, and suddenly he started shaking. His body seemed to be devoid of any heat, and his muscles clenched and unclenched. He could barely feel his blankets covering him.
“Tom? Relax…sick...no fever?...what...God...if...dying.” Tom heard a door open and close, and he thought someone lifted him before he passed out again.
All he could hear was the pounding whoosh of water. Or maybe it was his blood flowing through him. There was an awful lot of it.
Tom woke up, his eyes snapping open. He sat up quickly, looking around. He was in the infirmary, at the very bottom of the ship. He tried as best he could to remember how he had gotten there, but couldn’t. All he could remember were shadows, and getting hit with water.
“What a weird dream.” His voice was loud in the quiet infirmary.
A skinny, pale man cloaked in traditional healer’s red came into the room. “Ah! You’re awake!” Tom thought the man seemed nervous. “How do you feel?”
Tom didn’t bother to answer. “How did I get here?”
“Mm…Your friend brought you here, about three days ago. You were very sick, but no fever. Very odd. You shook all the time with cold, no matter how many blankets were on you. You’re lucky.”
Tom had stopped listening after the man had said that he had been there for three days. That couldn’t be possible! He kicked off the covers and started climbing out of bed, getting tangled in his nightclothes and almost falling on his face after he discovered how weak his sickness had made him.
“Careful!” The doctor rushed over and pushed Tom back into the bed. “You don’t want to relapse! You’re staying there until tomorrow, to get strength back.”
Tom felt like arguing that he couldn’t get his strength back by staying in bed all the time, but realized it would be futile. He was bored already, though, and quickly realized that he was starving as well. He looked up at the doctor, who was eyeing him warily in anticipation of any further attempts to escape.
“Got any food?” Tom asked. That seemed to please the doctor, who laughed.
“Good, you’re hungry! I have sandwiches, of course, and grass rolls.” The doctor disappeared before returning with a plate of the aforementioned items, which Tom ate greedily. Even the rolls, which were nothing more than seaweed cooked in fish oil, tasted delicious.
The doctor left, and once Tom finished eating, he quickly discovered there was nothing to do. He flopped back onto the pillows, but didn’t feel tired, which he thought obvious considering he had slept for the last three days, according to the doctor. He tried to think of how he had gotten here, but all he could remember was the same sensation as before, that of being hit with water. He thought he might have been burned as well, but there was no sign of it. It all confused him, and he grew frustrated. He wished the doctor would return so he could question him.
The door banged open, and Tom bolted upright. Nathan sauntered into the room, his eyebrows raising when he saw Tom.
“So you’re awake?” Tom didn’t know how to respond to that. Obviously he was!
Nathan looked down at him, his gaze hard to read. “You missed a stop at port.” Tom’s stomach fell in disappointment. “I brought you some fruit. Fresh from the island.” He smiled, and Tom thought it was sincere this time. Nathan handed him the fruit, which looked juicy and sweet. He bit into it eagerly, the juice running down his chin, which he licked with his tongue moments later. The fruit was quickly devoured, only the stem remaining. Tom rarely had fruit that was so fresh. Usually it was dried and salted from the hold.
“Not bad, right?” Nathan said quietly.
Tom had to agree. “Really good!”
Nathan smiled again, but it seemed half-hearted. The energy that he had entered with seemed suddenly spent. He looked almost…sad. Tom had never seen him like that before.
“Are you okay?” Tom didn’t know whether he should be worried or not. He wondered what Nathan had gotten up to in the three days Tom had been stuck here.
“You’re asking me? You’re the one in the damn hospital.” Nathan didn’t look at him. Tom noted that the older boy didn’t actually answer his question. “It was a pain carrying you here, you know.”
Tom bristled. “I didn’t ask you too! If you still feel tired from that, then you’re just weak!”
Nathan laughed quietly to himself. “I’m not tired.” He looked at Tom then, so intently that the younger boy shrank back. “But you haven’t told me how you feel.” Tom thought he used a very odd tone for a seemingly innocuous statement.
“I’m fine! The doctor said I’ll be out tomorrow.” Tom stuck up his chin, promising himself that he would be out tomorrow, even if the doctor didn’t want him to. He couldn’t let Nathan catch him being wrong, or weak, again.
Nathan smirked, but the expression didn’t contain the attitude that it usually did. He didn’t say anything, only looking at Tom in a way that made him uncomfortable. It was analytical, almost, and sad. Tom got worried. Did Nathan think he was going to die or something?
“Hey! What are you doing in here?” Both boys looked up to see the doctor in the doorway. “You aren’t supposed to have visitors! You can see your friends when you leave tomorrow!” The doctor seemed nervous once again, but his tone was commanding. “I told you every day, leave him be!”
Tom’s eyes widened. Nathan had checked on him every day?
Nathan put up his hands in mock surrender. “Alright, I’m out.” He turned back to Tom, and his aura of obnoxiousness returned. “See you tomorrow. Maybe we can fish again.” He grinned and sauntered out the door. Tom just glared at his retreating back. He didn’t understand Nathan at all lately.