The pith helmet landed on the bed covers and woke Evan, sending him into a fit of surprised coughing.
“Leo?” Evan’s huffing gasps filled the room, as did the smells of illness and age. Sought and found with kitten-weak fingers, Evan pulled the helmet up the length of his body and settled it on his head. It covered his hair, solid gray and cropped short, and the comfort of it eased his breathing. Part of his adventure regalia, it left a fine red grit on his fingers. “You’re not expecting me to die, are you? Last great adventure?”
“Of course not, you’ve survived worse.” Leo backed into the room, hunched so as not to hit the door frame, and placed a tray of food on the nightstand before he sat on the bed. He reached over and tapped the helmet with a large, thin hand. “But it has kept you kicking this long as a luck charm if nothing else. I figured you could do with the familiar.”
Coughing again, Evan held one hand on his chest and the other on the dirty white crown of the helmet. Though the violence of the fit did not come close to dislodging it, holding it down gave him something to cling to. “The boy?”
“Presiding over debate club. He won’t be home for a few hours.” Lifting a spoon, Leo gestured toward Evan with the utensil, the soup inside not quite sloshing out. “I wouldn’t put it past his father to have woven some of home into that hat.”
Evan’s hands slid onto the bed-covers and he stared as if willing them to move again. The red dust left smudges down his chest.
After several long moments, he accepted Leo’s offer to feed him with a slight, dignified nod. Swallowing and gasping afterward, the lines of his face deepening as he struggled to cough and not cough, he took his time breathing before trying another spoonful.
Eventually finished and exhausted, he offered Leo a wan smile, “This hat always did make everything feel that much more bearable.”
- desiderii posted this