Chapter Eight: "As The Days Pass By" (part 3)
“Are your fingers EVER warm?” Rett demands one sunny afternoon.
Doc Ensen is back to check up on the healing progress in his side. She’d arrived an hour before, trading pleasantries with Uncle Den before straightening her spine against the battle that was about to take place as she rounded on the Eive. Though Louk had been cautioned to go outside or at least disappear into his room, he could never turn down the opportunity to watch the older boy go toe to toe with Barrow’s wisest, crankiest, and deadliest woman. So he’d stayed, sitting on the kitchen counter with Kaethe hovering by his shin, watching the carriage-wreck that is unfolding before them.
It is most entertaining – just as all of Rett’s interactions with Doc Ensen were.
“Are you even human?” the older Eive continues, hissing as said chilly fingers press into the angrily scarring skin over his ribs. “OW! Would you quit POKING me? Why do you always have to poke me? What is wrong with you?”
Doc Ensen shrugs, pressing harder at a green-yellowing bruise that has Rett suddenly breathless and bent awkwardly atop the table. “I do know what’s wrong with you,” she says snidely. “Your ribs are still healing.”
“I already knew that,” Rett grouses angrily. “I could’ve told you that. Why not just ask me what’s wrong instead of poking me with your damn fingers?”
“One, because this way is much more fun. You think I enjoy touching you?”
Rett gets a delirious smirk on his face as he answers huskily, “The ladies always do.”
The doc is far from pleased, shifting her hands to grab onto the Eive’s cheeks, pulling his head down to her eyelevel as she stares into them. She pulls at his lids and turns his jaw, being far from gentle and yet not as angrily forceful as she could be. “Have you been sleeping alright since you stopped taking the tea?”
Rett snorts, yanking his head away, rubbing his chin where Louk can just make out fading fingernail marks. “You call that tea? That stuff was disgusting. It was vile. You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you? I’m onto you, Woman. I know your plans. And I will not stand by and let it happen. Self preservation is keen to me, you see, and—OW! Stop poking me there!” He curls protectively over his stitched side, glaring heatedly – if only looks could kill – at the doc who is, so far, unfazed by him.
Or, at least trying to appear that way
Doc Ensen steps away, lowering her hands to her hips as she shakes her head. “You can go now,” she grumbles, pushing Rett away. He does with echoing complaints, walking stiffly from the kitchen to disappear into the room he now shares with Louk and Hale.
“How’s he doing?” Uncle Den asks once the Eive is out of earshot – probably; hopefully; maybe. One can never tell with Kaethe and her brother. The girl is a thief, came outright and said it to them that first night back in Knoll, so it’s expected for her to want to hear and see and take things that aren’t hers. But she also said that her brother wasn’t; that he was just a fisherman or something.
Louk has always wondered, though.
There are just so many things that add up to the wrong thing; to the thief-thing.
First, Rett is insanely quiet when staggering around the house. So is Kaethe, but that is more due to her size – or lack of one – than anything else. Rett, on the other hand, is about as tall as him, which is supposed to be average down in Eiveyn, and yet he can move with no sound save for his labored breathing, but even that is quieter than it should be. Where he should be sounding like a fumbling idiot he has actually been able to sneak up on Louk more times than he would like to admit. Which is a lot. And they always end embarrassingly with him jumping practically clean from his underwear.
Second, the way the Eive picks things up, like . . . Louk doesn’t even really know how to describe it . . . like he’s touching something he shouldn’t and wants to make it disappear as fast as he can. A flick of the wrist and whatever he’s holding should be gone but he just ends up putting it back. Louk has seen him twirl silverware like that; seen him fiddling with arrow heads that Louk hasn’t had the chance to attach to a shaft. Rett has palmed them, spun them around, and then put them back right away as though if he doesn’t then the temptation to take and keep will be too great.
Kaethe is the same way, just a little more subtle because she’s so small and she is hidden quite naturally. She spins things along her knuckles, and one time the knife she’d been holding had disappeared for a moment. That time she’d played it off as a magic trick, but Louk knew what it was – he was very impressed and wanted her to teach him only she’d said it was nothing though he knows different.
And the third thing that tells Louk that there’s something strange about the Eive – and that he’s currently eavesdropping – is the fact that he can’t hear any of the swinging squeaking that usually accompanies the hammock that was constructed from the rafters for Rett to sleep in.
“He’s healing,” Doc Ensen says with a shake of her head. “He’s not progressing as well as I would like, but his body has been through much trauma in the past two weeks or so. That he’s up and mobile is actually very shocking, which might also be the reason that his side is only just starting to stitch back together. I have little doubt that he’ll be making a full recovery. It’s just going to take longer than I would like.” She rummages through her satchel, pulling out three corked bottles. One is familiar, is the tea that Rett has complained about since he was coherent enough to know what it was he was drinking. The other two are not, blue and green colored glass making it easier to differentiate from each other. “I want him to take the tea every night, right after dinner. He doesn’t seem to be getting as much sleep as he should be, which is affecting him. This is to prevent infection,” she indicates the blue bottle. “His immune system is not where it should be and I don’t need him falling ill this winter on top of it all. And this,” she holds up the green, “is a mild pain reliever. He might tell you he’s fine, but he’s still hurting. One doesn’t get injured like that and not feel the pain months after. It’s also got a hint of a sedative, so while it won’t put him to sleep it will make him more manageable. Give these to him in the mornings, the tea at night. I’ll be by sometime next week to see how he’s doing, but if his condition changes at all bring him to the clinic or send for me . . . Or just let him die. Either or. It doesn’t matter to me.” With that said Doc Ensen waltzes from the room, her satchel swinging dangerously from her bony shoulders.
“That woman thinks she knows everything, doesn’t she?” Rett drawls as soon as the door locks closed behind her. He is leaning against the sitting room entry, looking as though he’d been there the whole time.
Louk knows he hadn’t.
“That’s likely because she does,” Uncle Den replies while putting the bottles away in a cupboard. “And I want you to obey everything she’s said.”
His uncle gives a very stern look, one that has been known to quiet the Elders during heated meetings, but now only serves to make the Eive smirk. “You’re not fooling anyone, boy. I know you were listening.”
“Alright. Ya caught me. And I refuse to take anything she left. The woman is trying to poison me, I swear.”
Rett nods. “I’m fine, anyways. Or I would be if she’d stop coming by and stabbing me every chance she gets,” he grouses, glaring at the door. “What does she think she’s doing, anyway? Not helping me, that’s for sure. I think she’s blowing off some built up steam and sticking me with her fingers is her favorite outlet.”
“You think very highly of yourself, huh, Rett?” Kaethe asks, speaking up for the first time since Doc Ensen dropped by.
The older boy is a little upset, and soon the two of them are walking up to Kaethe’s room, arguing back and forth, one’s words nastier than the others, but Rett doesn’t seem to mind, laughing at each vaguely disguised insult as though it’s the funniest thing. Louk wonders why; why Kaethe is becoming so hostile all of a sudden when she’d been opening up more the past couple of days. He thinks that Rett knows why, which is the reason that the other boy has been more obnoxious lately.
“Those two are very strange,” Uncle Den muses as he slips into his coat.
Louk nods. “Yeah.”
“Were you and your brother planning to go out and find that sleeping pad you’d left behind?”
“Yeah. As soon as he gets back from the Course-Run, that is.”
“It should be any minute now.” His uncle looks out the window, sees nothing, and proceeds to walk out of the house with Louk trailing after him. “Make sure you’re back by dark, alright? If you’re not I’m going to send out a search party.”
“We’ll be fine, Uncle Den,” he says with a roll of his eyes.
His uncle smiles. He slings an arm over his shoulders and drags him into a sideways hug. “I know, Little One. I know. I just worry. You can hate me all you want, but I will always worry about you and your brother’s safety.”
Louk throws both arms around the older man’s waist. “I don’t hate you, Uncle Den,” he swears. “Love you, too.”
Uncle Den clears his throat, pats him on the shoulder, and then steps back. “I’ll see you four for dinner.”
“Yep. See ya later.” He waves his uncle down the path, and not longer after the older man has left does his brother come whistling up, hands in his pockets. “‘bout time!” he yells, grabbing his pack and quiver and bow. He marches over to Hale. “We’ve gotta get going if we’re gonna find your pad and get back by dinner.”
“Hey, I was coming as fast as I could,” Hale defends.
He doesn’t believe him, and his expression tells as much.
“Fine. Whatever. I’m here now, so let’s go.”
“Do Kaethe and Rett know we’re going?”
Louk spins back to the house, cups his hands around his mouth and yells “HALE AN’ I ARE GOING! SEE YA LATER!”
The window of the second floor that faces the front of the house shoots open and Kaethe sticks her head out. “OKAY!” she screams back with a wave.
“Now they do,” he declares, marching down the path with his brother whistling leisurely behind him. “Hurry up, you slowpoke! We’re burnin’ daylight.”Hale just laughs as he picks up his feet, trailing along after him as they set off into the trees in search of the pad that has been left forgotten for over two weeks.