“Leave him, he’ll be out for a while.” Footsteps thudded on the wood, and Tom’s heart pounded. “Damn, we should be able to find him!”
Tom huddled by the door. He considered running again, and then wondered if he should climb over the deck. Swimming didn’t scare him. But then, there was Nathan…
“The deck!” the boy shouted, and Tom froze. He should have run while he had the chance. He backed up, and the doors burst open. He faced the girl, the same one that had pinned Nathan effortlessly. She stared at him with a wicked grin on her face.
That broke him. Tom ran, trying to reach the door to the hallway where he knew he should be able to outdistance this behemoth, but the girl caught him, and like Nathan, forced his hands behind his back. Tom screamed, kicking, but with him the girl also had a height advantage. She dragged him into the room, where Nathan still lay slumped on the floor. What had they done to him?
Tom saw the boy come toward him, and he closed his eyes as the boy put his hand on his chest. Tom expected to feel terrible pain, that kind that had so hurt Nathan. Nothing happened.
He opened his eyes to the boy’s confused face. Instinct took over and Tom kicked out, catching the boy in the stomach. He wrenched free of the girl and on all fours scrambled toward the closed door, flattening himself against it like a mouse.
The boy turned to the girl and whispered something, and she shrugged her shoulders, though she did not take her eyes off him for a second. “Why were you here?” she asked, the first time he had heard her speak without yelling.
Tom figured he had better answer. “I was just exploring with…my friend, and he wanted to see people’s rooms…I don’t know, honest, I was just looking at the deck! We weren’t stealing anything!”
The girl sneered. “Take your friend and go. I don’t know what the lying idiot told you, but you’re not allowed to just walk into anyone’s room.” Tom didn’t want to say anything else and possibly incur the girl’s wrath, so he walked over to where Nathan lay. How badly was he hurt? He looked over again at the two of them, but they offered no answers.
“C’mon, man, we have to go.” Tom poked him, and Nathan stirred, groaning. Tom sighed, but was more afraid that annoyed. “C’mon, please? Don’t be lazy.” Tom tried lifting him, but it wasn’t working.
“I’m not lazy.” Nathan pushed himself up to all fours, and Tom jumped back. The taller boy staggered to his feet, and managed not to waver once he stood up. He glared at the two who had felled him, and Tom thought they looked rather shocked. He didn’t have time to wonder about it, though, as Nathan grabbed him and dragged him out of the room. Tom knew by now to open the door for him, and once outside, he closed the door with more force than likely necessary, as if to shut the two others inside. Tom wished that their parents had come home, and not them. Adults wouldn’t have beaten up kids like that.
As soon as the door clicked shut, Nathan staggered. Apparently his strength had only been bravado, and Tom barely caught him before he fell. Nathan sustained some of his own weight, but was incredibly weak, and gasped for breath. Tom shook under the strain of supporting him. He was really frightened now. What if they had broken Nathan’s ribs? He didn’t know what to do, and wondered if he should get a doctor.
“Nathan?” Tom’s voice wavered.
“Ssh!” Nathan hissed. “Just…let me get outside. I’ll be fine.” He started walking, and Tom was forced to follow, being Nathan’s major support. It seemed to take forever to get back to the stairs, and Tom had to open the door to the hall while Nathan leaned on him. Nathan was entirely unwilling to lean on the wall.
Tom had no clue how to get Nathan up the stairs. They were too narrow to walk double, and he doubted he would be strong enough anyway. Fortunately, Nathan started up without him, and though his legs shook, he seemed to be alright. Tom followed behind in case Nathan fell, silently dreading that possibility. If Nathan did fall, they would both be tumbling.
Thankfully, Nathan made it, and collapsed next to the deck rail once he was up, sitting with his head bowed and eyes closed. Tom sat down beside him, studying him for sings of injury. He couldn’t really see any, but Nathan clearly wasn’t fine.
Tom sat silently for a moment before speaking. “What happened? It didn’t look like you were hit that hard…” The thing those kids had done hadn’t hurt him, and then he had been let go. They couldn’t possibly know Nathan to dislike him, so why had he been hurt so badly? Why did they insult him?
Nathan breathed heavily before responding, as if trying to summon energy to yell. “It’s nothing, Tom.” It came out breathy, and not convincing. “Don’t worry. Just go explore. I’ll be fine.”
Yeah, right. Who had helped Nathan out of the room, and through the hall?
Nathan closed his eyes again and leaned his head against the rail, as if exhausted. “Go on, Tom. I really…I just need to rest. You don’t need to help. I don’t even know what’s up with you. You’re so…” Nathan trailed off, and apparently seemed to be falling asleep.
Tom sighed, wondering if he should nudge Nathan awake with his foot. If he hadn’t made him go into that room, then things would have been fine.
He would explore the ship without Nathan, Tom decided. Nathan seemed fine here. Maybe he would find someone his age on Auros’s ship, and hang out with them instead.