Word traveled quickly - from mouth to ear. Things were changed, distorted. Little things, what would they matter? But they changed and a little change from mouth to ear can mean quite a big change at the end. Word got to Rab, person by person, until finally Doctor Warren was the first to say it to the intended reciever. The reciever was ill, but in mind he was almost still as sharp as a tack and in heart he was stronger than ever. He would not unveil the news much before Johnny himself would say it.
"'I guess,'" Doctor Warren started, wiping away blood occasionally from Rab's mouth. Doctor Warren thought it was a shame that a great soldier like Rab should be prophetic of a far too early death --- he thought of Johnny's words and wondered if he should tell the older, worn boy. He wondered for an even longer moment how Johnny would take Rab like this, when even a man such as himself was taking it so harshly.
But he continued, barely thinking of the words as they came out of his mouth but moreso focussing on keeping Rab alive as long as he possibly could. For Johnny, he would keep the boy alive. But it was for Johnny that Rab would keep himself alive. "'It looks like you'll be seeing that Rab before I do. May be in Lexington' was what he said. 'You tell that Rab he'd best look sharp. Take good care of himself, for me. Tell that Rab... Oh, anything. Tell Rab I miss him.' As Doctor Warren tended to Rab, he noticed that glow in the boy's dark eyes, and thought of how he was sure Johnny loved those eyes like that, and he thought of how it would hurt the boy when he would not be able to see them any longer.
But this time, the eyes were not glowing with excitement, they were glowing with regret. Of the long, perhaps short, time he had spent with Rab, speaking with him, he knew that Rab's eyes only lit like that when he was talking about Johnny. They glowed with excitement, but whenever Rab spoke of his younger companion, his eyes glowed as well, differently. A dash of pride with a mix of love and admiration. Seeing Rab like that made Doctor Warren feel terrible that he was prophetic of early death.
Those eyes shine for his admiration, adoration, infatuation even perhaps, of that bold fellow named Johnny Tremain. He opened his mouth once as if going to say something, but he could not get the words out. He was choked. Doctor Warren, in all his time of knowing Rab, even before he had known Johnny, had never seen Rab that way. Never seen Rab that lost looking, and he didn't like it. For the briefest of moments, Doctor Warren almost hoped that Rab would die before Johnny came by. To stop the boy from seeing his hero that way. Doctor Warren knew that perhaps, unfortunately, maybe the boy's young heart, so filled with love for Rab, would not be able to uphold the image of Rab in his state.
But moreso was his want for the boy to stay alive. Rab and Johnny must have their parting words. Not spoken to hundreds of other people, no, of course not. Those last words between them should have been said, would be said if he had anything to do with it, between the two of them, and the two of them. Johnny would stay in his very spot, and he would tell Rab anything the older boy wanted to hear. Anything more than the bitter, too harsh words of 'I'll miss you.' Doctor Warren knew that if it was said at their meeting, it would be Rab saying goodbye, and so there would be heartbreak.
The words were too harsh for both of them, and Doctor Warren could see it in the way Rab's face contorted with pain. Perhaps to most it would be physical pain, but Doctor Warren had been through love and broken hearts already and knew that the pain that Rab felt, the thirst within him, could only be quenched when he saw Johnny at least one last time. He could see his face turn even more pallid than before, and he had the feeling that it would be that translucent face that Johnny would see when the time came. He could see the boy's misery in his mind, and he could see Rab's same misery in the way the boy's, perhaps young man's, thin hands clenched at the thin sheet covering him.
The misery made Rab the child he was at heart. The misery, his love for Johnny, his admiration, it all brandished him down to his edges, to the point where he could go no further. The boy's eyes were glassy, perhaps reflecting the hurt that Doctor Warren knew he felt, but he had an idea that Rab was not only in pain, but he was remembering. Perhaps it would be of his first pet, a lost dog, his parents, long gone and seeing them. But Doctor Warren had a hunch that it blurred with Johnny, from the way the boy's eyes shone when he opened them again. The important and unimportant blurred.
He spoke quietly, enchantingly, and for a brief second, Doctor Warren felt as if he were in Johnny's place. He let the boy speak out his thoughts, perhaps and unfortunately if so, his last. "I remember... I remember... That first night he was there. It was uncomfortable. We were afraid we'd violate each other's space, so we slept on opposite sides of the bed. I didn't mind, but it made him blush fiery crimson." Rab smiled at this, and Doctor Warren couldn't help but repeat the brief action. What Rab said next surprised Doctor Warren a little. It brought up provacative thoughts that Doctor Warren did not feel were rightfully his to ask. "He was a virgin in every way possible."
Rab sighed and gulped in air, and Doctor Warren wondered if Johnny would think that everything Rab did might be his last. Rab continued, and as he spoke, Doctor Warren once again went to wipe away blood from the boy's mouth, but Rab stopped him and did it himself. "When I first met that bold fellow," Doctor Warren noted how he did not use Johnny's name, and came up with his own reasons why. "It was an uncomfortable silence. Waiting. I asked him of his folks and he had none, and then I told him about mine.
"He said 'Oh.' Not 'Oh' as is 'I'm sorry' but just 'Oh'. There was sympathy in his voice, but I knew that he understood the pain. In that moment, I knew he had seen the scars on my heart. I had no parents and he had no folk. We looked at each other and I wondered if he could help me fill what my parents had taken with them, and he understood that. He said no, he couldn't. His eyes told me everything and they told me no, but I can come back and try." Rab sighed again, breathed in deeply again. And in those moments, Doctor Warren knew that all 'Polly's, 'Sally's, and 'Molly's that Rab had danced with at Grandsire's Barn did not matter because they were not Johnny.
Rab continued, and Doctor Warren let him have his say. "And in the court, oh yes, the court. The curiousity of what the Hell had gotten Johnny in jail less than a week after I had met him. Gallows-bird Lyte, that's what. Oh, I was furious. But oh how we licked him so. Johnny had every right to call that man a gallows-bird or a wharf-rat, or compare him to that 'squeek-pig' Tweedie, that spinster's aunt dressed up in men's clothes." Rab chuckled at this, commented to himself something that Doctor Warren couldn't hear. "But oh, the silent rage. 'Might I ask the death penalty? There's too much thieving going on in Boston. Poor apprentices are getting out of hand.' Out of hand! While the man himself was playing both sides!"
The venom was low in Rab's voice, but it was vicious. The voice offering you no more than death. The light was back in his eyes, now a mix of anger and regret. Doctor Warren cringed at the look, thankful that it was almost certain it would never be directed at him. But soon, Rab's hardened look softened just as it was destined to, his grip on the thin sheet covering him loosening little by little. Again, the regret took over and washed over the pale boy's figure in waves, one after another until his sadness intensified beyond imagination. Looking into Rab's haunted eyes made him look years older --- years that he should've been able to live on his own. With Johnny.
There was a clamor downstairs and Doctor Warren parted from Rab for as long as he thought he could spare. As he went down the stairs, he found Johnny, disheveled as always but breathing heavily. Doctor Warren assumed that he had ran here, assured that Rab was here and that he would see the boy. The worry was in his eyes and it was shining as bright as day, and just like Rab, it was a glow in his eyes that was reserved only for him. Johnny stopped and stared at him until he ran up to him as well despite the slight protest of the other doctors. He braked before Doctor Warren and stared up at him imploringly, his concern still shining brighter than ever. Doctor Warren explained that there would be no tears for Rab, and Johnny looked almost horrified.
As Johnny walked up the stairs, Doctor Warren straight ahead of him, Doctor Warren noticed Johnny's attire for the first time. He lifted an eyebrow, but made no comment at the boy's purely passive look. He thought that maybe it was just the boy's need to see Rab again and to know that he was alive, and as he stepped out of the way so that Johnny could walk in the room, he knew it was true. For a moment, Johnny merely stood where he was from the moment he laid his eyes on Rab's form, his eyes glowing. Tears.
But he pushed them back and Doctor Warren, almost guiltily, watched the scene unfold. At first it was not much, or so it seemed. It was so much more than it appeared. The chemistry between them was electric, and the look that they shared for each other was one not too unfamiliar to the look of one between lovers long departed and then reunited. Doctor Warren stood there quietly behind Johnny, watching Rab's eyes alight with yet another emotion --- happiness. It was the happiest Doctor Warren had seen him since right before the day he had left for war. When he was still with Johnny.
The encounter was short, sweet, sacrificial. Rab told him to go, with no good-byes, just to go. And Johnny went. As he left, Doctor Warren bent over him again and wiped the blood from his mouth. He asked if it was okay, and chokingly, again in that voice that promised tears that hadn't come the one time before. "Yes... It is better so." There was silence for a moment until Rab spoke, "What was it that Otis said? I'd lose the children I wouldn't live to have, the serenity of old age." Rab stared at the door where Johnny had stood moments before. Johnny's love for Rab had traveled with him as had Rab's love for Johnny.
"The only thing I'm losing is that bold fellow named Johnny Tremain. My..."
The words died on his lips before he could finish them.