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Waiting

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He had barely moved in over an hour. There were bags under his eyes and a paleness to his skin. There was food in front of him with one or two bites gone, but that was it. Every time the door swung open bringing a cold blast of air into the room, his head jerked up with hope in his eyes. Then he looked back down when the person coming through the door wasn’t the one he was looking for.

Christopher wasn’t dead, Tom told himself. He’s not dead.

But....he fell into the ocean.

He could’ve survived and gotten to shore.

And after that? He would have frozen to death, or eaten by animals, or murdered by thieves, or…

Okay, okay I get it! But he’s not dead.

He was really starting to hate the cynical, pessimistic part of himself, even though it was the part that was usually right. It was the part that told him Christopher’s schemes were usually a bad idea.

The door swung open again. Bringing a blast of cold winter air with it. Tom looked up despite himself. This time it was a familiar face, though not the one he was hoping for.

After brushing off the snow from her coat, Sally walked over and sat down on the bench with a loud thump. Tom looked up slightly, then cast his eyes towards the ground again. He muttered something that might have been a hello.

Sally noted the barely touched food and pushed it towards him. “You have to eat.”

“I don’t feel like it.”

“He’s still alive. You know that, right?”

“Yes...but...It’s just...just…” He looked like he wanted to say something but felt it wouldn’t be in his best interest.

"Just what?" said Sally. She was looking at him with a face that said she knew she wouldn't like what she heard next.

The fire crackled nearby. The warm light flickering and creating dancing shadows on both youths' faces. The general chatter of the inn continued around them, oblivious to the somber silence growing between the two friends.

Tom's head jerked up. "How would he survive?"

Sally opened her mouth and closed it again, not knowing the answer, if there even was one.

"That's what I thought," Tom said curtly and stormed up the stairs.    

Chapter Text

He's not dead!

Yes he is.

He was thrown off a boat in the middle of winter. If the storm didn't kill him, the cold did.

He. Is. Alive.

Tom lay on the bed in his room staring at the ceiling. The blankets rough on his skin. He should go apologize to Sally. Later.

He wasn't aware of it but, his outburst in the lobby had turned a few heads. In embarrassment, Sally had gone up to her room as well.

It had been two days since the storm. Sally had been out both days looking desperately for Christopher. Tom had stayed inside. He thought back to that day.

Tom and Sally were in the Yawl with four members of the crew. Christopher wasn't.

When the storm had started, the captain had called an immediate evacuation of the ship. As they were making their way to the Yawl, the storm had worsened. Christopher had fallen behind.

They could barely make him out clinging to the rails through the rain and hail.

"Christopher!" he yelled.

The hail felt jagged against his skin.

"Christopher! Christopher! We're over here!"

Sally started shouting.

"The yawl! Christoper! We're in the yawl!"

We saw him get slammed into the deck. Then there was the wave.

"Christopher! Look out!" That was Sally again.

It lifted him up, up, up, and then down. Into the ocean.

Tom tried to go get him, to save him. He was vaguely aware of  arms holding him back.

Then a sharp pain in his head. And one thought repeating.

You were useless.

He couldn't even save his best friend.

The friend whose reckless schemes, that Tom often went along with, regularly failed or blew up in his face. The friend who spoke six languages. The friend who could decode almost anything. The friend who was one of the smartest people he had ever met. The friend who had grown up in an orphanage and had scars on his back. The friend who had been stoned for refusing to give him up. The friend who was hopelessly loyal. Christopher.

His eyes were stinging.

He's not dead.

No matter how many times he told himself this, there was a part of him that didn't quite believe it. A part that was logical. A part that was reasonable. A part that was making him depressed. 

A part that said: He's dead because of you.

Eventually he fell asleep. 

**********

He awoke the next morning. Sunbeams illuminating the dust particles in the air. 

He's not dead.

He dragged himself out of bed, a plan forming in his mind.

Downstairs, Sally was already waiting. She looked up when he came downstairs.

"Sorry about last night" Tom rubbed the back of his neck.

"It's fine. If you eat."

So Tom ate. They didn't speak throughout the meal, a mutual understanding had passed between them in that short conversation. The were both tired, even if it was in different ways. They were both worried. 

They finished their meal. Sally left. This time Tom went with her.

He was done waiting.