Commissioned by Nevergonnafindme
Back in the beginning, when I had first tried wiggling myself into Tyson's little group without entirely understanding why, I had thought getting up at the crack of dawn and jogging would help give me ideas for training regimes. I guess I had figured that if I did it, the boys would be more likely to do it.
Surprise surprise, there's actually more than one crazy person who gets up at 5:30 to run. Most of them were the string bean health types and athletes. No one was my age. For some reason, that made me uncomfortable. I had already come to terms with the fact that I had an easier time getting along with adults than kids my own age. And having such a hard time getting Tyson and the others to accept me as a real friend, not just as one of the many nice acquaintances polite people have, had made me more insecure than ever.
Maybe that's why I had been trying so hard. Because Tyson wasn't the type for acquaintances, but threw his whole self in, body and soul. That kind of stuff only existed in stories, especially in the adult world I had unwittingly thrown myself in to with my efforts to be responsible and dependable.
So, self-conscious as I was, I found myself being drawn to the less perfect rock beaches for my jogs. It was strange for me even then to want to be alone, when I was always so afraid of being just that.
And that's where I had found Kai.
I don't know if he knew I had seen him. He had been running along the edge of the tide, where sand met gravel. His shirt hung out of his cargo jean pocket and water arched up with each step, leaving a curtain of water drops hanging in the pink dawn light and sprinkling gold drops on his bare shoulders and chest. His hair had been flyaway crazy, and a part of me wondered if his eyes would look just as wild.
Though I had made a habit of going there for my runs, I never saw him again. Kai lived up to his elusive reputation. I learned soon enough that it was like sighting some endangered species of cat to catch him in the middle of his morning training.
I remembered that along with that impression of a rare, elusive beast as I more or less dropped a wet Kai onto Tyson's bed.
I shook the thought out of my head and instead got caught between whether or not I'd have to take off his wet clothes.
Of course he tried to stand up, but he hadn't even been able to walk here without my help, so that didn't go too far. He did seem aware enough to realize he was getting Tyson's bed soaked.
"Why am I here?" he grumbled.
"Because you just vomited everything you've eaten since you were 12 and your burning up and it's pouring outside. Why didn't you say anything? Why did you even come to Tyson's stupid party if you were sick?"
He didn't say anything, nor did he look up at me. He did, however, managed to scoot to the edge of the mattress, as though intent to have as little of himself touching it as possible. I watched him hang there, elbows on his knees, shivering so hard he seemed to vibrate, before I managed to get the foaming, screaming freak in my stomach to shut up. I knelt down in front of him. Before he could protest, or I lose my nerve, I put a hand to his forehead.
Whoa. It was almost as though he had gotten out of a boiling shower, not a cold storm.
To my surprise, he closed his eyes and leaned into the touch.
"You're head hurt?" I asked.
Since Kai never admitted to pain, he said nothing. I took my hand back reluctantly.
"You need to get out of your wet clothes."
Nothing. Though he did let out the smallest of groans.
"Please don't make me strip you myself."
"Just let me leave," he mumbled, so soft I barely heard him.
"Sure. Right. Good luck with that. Strip."
I counted to sixty. When he just remained there, eyes closed, shivering, I steeled myself and reached down to the edges of his shirt. I ended up having to put my head over his shoulder to reach. His wet hair swallowed half of my face and neck and he flinched as I made contact with his heated skin. He made some sort of wacky, uncoordinated jerk to get away, but only managed to slump harder against me, so he nearly folded completely in half when I pulled the shirt over his head.
He smelled of well loved, worn cotton blankets and some indefinable, incense-like musk. If plaid flannel had a smell, it would probably be Kai.
My face was as hot as his fever when I finally got his shirt in my hands. It wasn't like I hadn't seen the boys shirtless before, but Kai, well…
He had nice shoulders.
"I-I'm going to get you some medicine," I managed. "Please don't make me take off y-your pants when I come back, or I swear I'm telling everyone, and that includes Tyson."
That got Kai's attention. He shot me a half-dazed, glassy glare.
"I didn't ask for your help," he growled, teeth bared and everything.
I sighed. Wild animal indeed.
Since I wasn't too worried about him diving out into the storm to stumble his way home—wherever that was—I left him there and went in the kitchen to see what I could find. I scrounged through what little medical knowledge I had and pulled out some ginger root, garlic, and a small bit of white rice which I set to simmer on the stove for a bit. His stomach would be too sensitive for any of the pain killers that were also fever reducers. And besides, fevers were technically one of the body's immune response to kill stuff. They only got bad if they went for too long or got too high.
"Maybe some milk?" I thought aloud, just to decide against it. This wasn't a deal of stomach acid, but probably of inflammation, and lactose would not mix well with that.
I returned with a bowl of cold water to find Kai with his eyes closed and his back against the end of Tyson's bed wearing a too short pair of his friend's sweats. They were dry, though, and at least he had managed to tie them up. His chest was still on display.
Insides squirming, face hot, I tugged out the first T-shirt I found and jammed it over his drowsy head. As before, he jerked to alertness, but had the space of mind to not fight me.
"What are you—get off me," he grouched through the cotton.
"Then you shouldn't have been half naked," I grouched back. "Bed."
"Sure," I tugged up on his arm.
Despite the sickly glare and the tightening fists, he did his best to get up. And because the situation wasn't awkward enough for the universe, he lost his balance while half of his weight was on me. Thankfully, we fell backwards on the bed and not the floor, and he didn't land on me. Just next to me with his chest flushed against mine and his face in my hair. Like him being taller than me helped any.
Both of us pushed apart as though electrocuted. He made a loud grunt of irritation, but didn't sit up with me. He just laid there, with his legs dangling off the end. The way he scowled up at me said he blamed me for his situation. Weak, feverish, and trapped by a too soft bed. Mean, mean Hillary.
I had to smile at that. "Am I going to have to pull you up to the pillow too?"
"Not until you get in bed properly. Covers don't work right if you're legs are hanging over the footboard."
"I just need a nap and I'll be fine." But his eyes said 'Haven't you done enough? Do you want to die?'
"Then you won't mind being warm for said nap, huh?"
Another grunt, this one of frustration (really, half his language was in grunts), and heaved himself up. He even went so far as to get himself under the covers, giving the big wet patch on the side of the bed where he had sat before a wide birdth.
More glaring. The almost glowing blotches of red on his cheeks didn't help his case. Nor did the fluffy comforter pulled up to his chin.
Doing my best not to smile again (I'd learned a long time ago that boys didn't like being smiled at when they were down), I went off just to return with a towel, which I attacked his head with. He'd been mostly asleep already, but he must have decided it wasn't worth the effort to bark at me as I dried his soaked head and flipped over the pillow.
Figuring I'd done enough, I closed the door behind me and went to check on the broth.