Nathan stood on the deck, completely absorbed in whatever he was doing, which didn’t appear to be anything but looking at the sky. Tom felt a strange kinship for a second. Hadn’t that been what he was doing only a moment before?
He shook it off quickly, though. Nathan didn’t seem interested in the rain as much as the horizon itself. Tom didn’t have any idea how Nathan could see anything, but his gaze still remained fixed far ahead.
Tom was trying to decide if he should call out to him when heard a shriek in his ear, and he yelped in high-pitched fear.
Tom whirled around as an albatross flew into the sky, and soon out of sight. He gasped, catching his breath and trying to slow his heartbeat. He soon realized that Nathan was smirking at him.
“Nice, Tom. Real mature, to be scared of a bird.” Nathan laughed.
“N-not my fault! Where did it even come from?” Birds didn’t fly at night!
Nathan sauntered over and patted Tom condescendingly on the shoulder, much to his further embarrassment. “It’s alright, Tom. I don’t think the bird will hurt you.” Sarcasm laced his words, and Tom pulled away.
“I know that!” Unfortunately, Tom couldn’t think of any further comebacks.
Nathan rolled his eyes, holding out his hand. Then he frowned. “Damn, what the hell?” Tom looked at him strangely. It had begun to rain harder, but Tom didn’t think it anything to be concerned about. It suited his mood well.
Nathan frowned, looking down at him. “C’mon then, let’s go inside. The rain is awful anyway.” Tom didn’t agree at all, but he headed inside, stepping down the stairs. He wasn’t even sure why he had gone out in the first place. The rain was pretty, he supposed.
Nathan jumped down the rest of the stairs, appearing next to Tom’s shoulder. Tom’s annoyance grew when he realized how much taller the blond boy was, Nathan looming over him…which reminded Tom of what he wanted to ask. Nathan turned to him, probably to make some sort of scathing remark, but Tom spoke before the older boy could.
“Hey, today I talked to some old guy and he said he knew you…” Tom trailed off, trying to figure out how to ask Nathan about what Archibald had said. Something about clash, and orientation? And he had seen him again at dinner, too. He wanted an explanation, but it suddenly seemed awkward to ask. Nathan smirked at him, but it wasn’t the playful smirk Tom was used to. It was stiff, and almost menacing.
“What did he say to you?” He talked as if he already knew something, and Tom grew nervous. Was Nathan mad at him for something so strange?
“Um…he said that there’s no clash, and that”-Tom didn’t finish before Nathan put his hands on his shoulders and roughly shoved him against the wall of the ship, grinning from ear to ear.
“No clash, huh?” Tom tried to get away, but Nathan’s fingers dug into Tom’s shoulder blades. Tom tried to wrench away once more. Nathan let him go suddenly, and Tom nearly fell on his face.
“What was that for!?” Tom screamed at him, jumping away from Nathan in case he tried it again. Nathan backed up, his hands out in front of him in a peacemaking gesture.
“Hey, just testing something. No harm done.” He smiled.
Tom shrugged his shoulders, his skin crawling as he tried to shake off the sensation of Nathan’s fingers on them. This day had been so strange it was ridiculous, and Nathan had just made it worse. He hadn’t even gotten an explanation of what the old man had meant! He sighed, suddenly tired. He hoped tomorrow would turn out better, and then the following day the celebrations would start.
“What’s on your mind now?” Nathan spoke up, and he sounded actually interested. “You look thoughtful.”
“I’m tired!” Tom shouted at him, hoping he would go away. His shout came out more of a squeak, much to his mortification. For once, though, Nathan didn’t laugh at him, simply regarding him thoughtfully, though with an expression that made Tom mildly uncomfortable.
“You want me to help you back to your room?”
“What?” Tom looked up at the older boy, who actually avoided eye contact. Was Nathan nervous? That was unheard of. Did he think he was getting sick again? “No, I’m fine, just tired.”
“Fair enough. You’re going to bed now?” He sounded concerned, and Tom couldn’t tell if it was due to worry or because Nathan would be bored without someone younger to torture.
“Well, that’s what you do when you’re tired.” The sarcasm came to him easily. Tom realized he spoke nastily, but he chalked it up to his being tired, and he felt very sick of trying to understand Nathan’s motives. He turned away and started down the hall, disappearing around the corners. His body dragged with his exhaustion, and he wanted to get some rest before the festivities started. He also felt like avoiding Nathan for a while.
He had nearly arrived at his door when Nathan showed up behind him. “Hey, Tom, listen.” It was not a question, more of a command. Tom turned. He would give him 30 seconds.
Apparently reading from Tom’s expression that he wouldn’t have much time, Nathan made it quick. “Hey, I’m sorry for manhandling you…I was just testing something.” Tom blinked. Was Nathan actually apologizing for something?
“Um, okay.” Tom opened the door to go into his room, and Nathan left, vanishing down the hall so quickly Tom didn’t even see him. Nathan had no parents either as far as Tom knew, so his room wasn't far. Tom decided not to bother finding him, though, opting to sleep, and as he got ready for bed, he thought over the day’s events. If it was always this weird after getting sick, then he made a vow to never get that sick again. He hoped the holidays coming up would still be enjoyable, at least, and he focused on that as he fell asleep.