Wearily, Anna wipes the perspiration off her forehead with the back of her hand. As she straightens up from her hunched-over position, which she assumed to better reach down into a cot and dab with a wet cloth at a feverish child's forehead, she wobbles a little on her feet. She casts a furtive glance in Kristoff's direction, and breathes a sigh of relief when she sees that he is preoccupied with creating a fresh poultice for a middle-aged woman, one of Arendelle's best bakers allegedly, who slipped on ice when leaving her house to make bread deliveries to neighbors who needed provisions to get through the seemingly endless, unnatural winter Elsa set off.
Over their afternoon at the kingdom's main medical centre, Kristoff has surprised her mildly with his workable knowledge of herbs and human physiology. Whereas Anna required an instructional briefing from the physician before setting to work with even basic nursing tasks, Kristoff jumped straight into describing a type of flower petal he knew could help ease pain, and suggesting this be included in the mixture the physician was concocting at the time of their arrival. Although he does not know the names of things, Kristoff has some idea of how to treat minor wounds with natural plants, having learnt how to self-medicate in part from the trolls and in part by himself, over his years of solitary living.
Despite his concentration, however, Kristoff regularly glances across the stuffy room at Anna, at first to give her an encouraging smile, but later to surreptitiously check on how tired she's getting. Even now, as if sensing her gaze on him, he looks up from his work and scans her expression for subtle hints of her latent physical weakness catching up to her. He briefly reminds the baker how often to renew the poultice, then walks over to Anna.
She busies herself again, reaching down into the bucket of cool water at her feet and noting out loud to him, "Ten minutes ago this was the last of the ice. We're running low."
Kristoff nods dismissively, aware that since ice-gathering trips take more than a few hours, there is nothing they can do about the shortage. "We'll make do. How're you holding up?" He hesitates a little before asking, wary of her impatient brusqueness.
"I'll make do," Anna counters stubbornly, lifting her bucket and pushing it into his hands. "Could you get more spring water? It's cooler than the village pump, and little Percy's fever seems just about to break." She looks fondly down at the six-year-old orphan boy lying in the cot. She doesn't technically know what his name is, if he has one officially at all, but his curly, dark brown hair and suntanned face somehow say 'Percy' to her.
Reluctant to leave her, but with a sense of purpose, Kristoff consents and turns away. But as he's approaching the door to the general ward, a frantic-looking man bursts in. "Please, you have to help me," he cries urgently, grabbing hold of Kristoff's shirt and clutching it so hard, his knuckles turn white. "My son — the physician gave him medicine but—"
Alarmed, Anna looks up to watch the scene. They are not the only volunteers at work, but having seen Kristoff first, the man has latched onto him desperately.
Kristoff's hushing the man, soothing him as he would a child. "Alright, don't panic. Let's go to your son, and we'll see if we can't do something." He half-follows, half-leads the man out the door, setting the bucket down first to place both his large hands comfortingly on his shoulders.
Meeting someone's eye in a silent handover of her Percy-nursing duties, Anna follows in their urgent footsteps, frowning and worried at the strain in the father's voice. The knot in her throat only thickens and throbs harder when she realizes they are heading into the isolated rooms, and infers from this fact just how serious the patient's condition must be to warrant this treatment.
They hear as they approach the open doorway the sounds of miserable retching, and a maternal voice cooing senseless comforts. Rounding the corner, Anna takes in the sight of a little boy, perhaps nine years old, swathed in bed-sheets and the stench of his own vomit, sitting before a large galvanized pail. He looks faint, relying on his mother and the large pillow at his back to keep somewhat upright. "But I don't wanna dress up for her coronation..." he murmurs deliriously, and the plump woman behind him, his mother, soothes him and rubs his back in little circles. A helplessness lurks behind her every movement, and when she hears their approach, she looks up, warily hopeful.
"He can't keep down any medicine with his fever so high," she tells them, not even questioning who Kristoff and Anna are. She pauses a moment to wipe the sweat and saliva off his face with her grubby dress sleeve, even as dry heaves wrack his small frame again. Then she directs her words to Kristoff in particular, a faint recognition bright in her eyes behind her despair. "Please, you have to get him cool. I know you, you're the ice harvester who brings chips of ice for the kids in the square when it's hot out. You have a kind heart. Please."
A barrage of thoughts races through Kristoff's mind, foremost of which is that he'd never make it back from an ice trip in time to help. Quickly he reaches forward and presses a palm to the boy's burning forehead: at this rate, he thinks, they don't have much time to break the fever. Even now, the boy begins to sway, as if about to lose consciousness.
Anna meanwhile reaches for a pail of water by the bedside, dipping a finger in to gauge its temperature. Next to her, the boy's mother reveals scrunched up in her hand momentarily the cloth she has been using to sponge his head. When Anna takes it and attempts to do the same, the fabric turns hot dishearteningly quickly.
Her mouth is set in a grim line as she turns to Kristoff — only to find him already gone, dashing off, as they both know is necessary, to find Elsa. She turns back to the family. "Help is coming, I promise," she says, then pauses a moment thinking how strange it is that the words sound less hollow the more she repeats them mentally. She says it again as if reassurance can be derived simply from reiteration. "What's his name?" Anna asks then, concealing her frown as she dips the cloth in the only marginally cooler water from the pail, and as her patient shudders and goes alarmingly still for a moment before drawing another shallow breath.
"Tommy," the father replies hollowly from across the room. He's stayed by the doorframe, she realizes now, clutching onto it as if for support. "His name is Tommy."
New school year is turning out to be really stressful for me. Really uncertain about the future of this fic.