I was heated, boiling, burning, hot. The warmth that flooded my skin seemed to flow down my veins, straight into the blood vessels sprinkled throughout my bones. My breath was heavy and slow. With each movement of his hand, the heat seemed to disappear, melting between us. It didn't matter how often he did this, the simple gesture calmed my aching body. The warmth of his touch radiated through my every fiber, and I hoped in some spiteful manner that mine would infect him too.
"This is what you get for playing in the rain." The rat mumbled, nearly inaudible. And I said nothing, partially weak from fatigue, a result of a raging fever, and partly because I was tired of his comments that highlighted the fact it was my fault I was sick and it was nobody's fault but mine. "Were you screaming into the wind again?" Clearly, he was smirking. If I had been in any other condition, the remaining whiteness of my cheeks would have flushed red. But, even his gentle scrubbing of my back and washing of my hair caused me to flinch with pain, if that said anything of my condition. If I had blushed, which I'm completely positive I had, the flustered state of my skin would have concealed it perfectly.
The audacity of him to bring up something so embarrassing, how like Nezumi. My sheepishness flooded through my chest, almost in synch with the raging fever.
"I wasn't screaming into the wind, I was looking for a dog." My throat was dry, I could barely produce a syllable.
"They can take care of themselves. Dogkeeper raised them." As if the last phrase had been a sufficient explanation and, oddly, it was.
The silence seemed to drag on after this short exchange with only the splashing of water there to calm my frazzled nerves. I focused on the feeling of his hands rubbing my back and how the moment the water touched me, it seemed to cool the heat, only to be overcome seconds later. The embarrassment from Nezumi's earlier comment had dispersed, and for now I felt only dizzy and tired.
I truly wish I could have said it was out of Nezumi's character to take care of me in such a way. The longer I lived with him in the Western District, the more often I seemed to get sick. My own theory was that the sanitary conditions of this region weren't particularly high and, having been raised in No.6, my body was being bombarded with viruses it had never encountered before, which resulted in my frequent low fevers and occasional high ones. The more often I seemed to get sick, the more often I was in the same position.
Thankfuly, Nezumi's tub was rather large. He'd fill it with cold water, peeling my sweat soaked clothing off of me, and help me into the tub.
The first few instances he'd sit on the edge, his pant-legs pulled up and his white legs submerged in the water. He'd continuously pour water over me, to the point I seemed to fall into a daze. Rarely during these acts of compassion did he speak to me, and when he did it was to tell me how weak I was to have gotten sick. But, he could have said anything. I was so fatigued that his harsh words meant nothing. Sometimes these little...incidents would last for what felt like hours, but I do think it would be more accurate to say that he poured cool water on me until it began to turn to room temperature and he, personally, felt he'd helped me in defeating my fever.
I'd always felt he had good intentions buried somewhere in those grey eyes, they just couldn't find a way to show themselves. In the minds of all of those I met in the Western District, it was naïve ideology like that that classified me as weak. In my own mind, it was this ideology the set me a part from all of them and gave me strength none of them would ever be able to tap.
And although Nezumi's hands were rough, they were gentle.
After the third time I had grown ill, he began to join me in the tub. The problem was that I would fall asleep, even in the cold water. Behind me, he'd sit on his knees and I'd cross my legs and my body would swoon from the fever but he'd keep me steady and he'd keep me awake.
And the mean things he mumbled, well they meant nothing to me because his actions spoke much louder. The affection I held for him only seemed to grow and I wasn't ashamed.
"You're falling asleep." The familiar, patronizing tone. His hands had ceased to move on my back, and I was snapped from my thoughts and the staring at his reflection in the water.
"No, I'm awake. Nezu-"
I felt his arms wrap around my waist and his forehead press against my back. He didn't say anything, he didn't move anything. His arms felt nice around me, comforting, secure.
"Nezumi," Although, I knew he wasn't listening. I could feel his slow breathing against my back. "you've fallen asleep."