By M. Blais and J.D.
"And you're looking scruffy," Claire teased around a mouthful. "Interesting beard you have going there."
He lifted his hand to rub the growth...then shrugged. "Not much I can do about it." Then he dropped the hand to touch the IV line. "How much longer do I need this?"
William crossed his feet at the ankles. "Not necessarily. We've got razors, and the soap works fairly good for shaving." He mildly picked at the meal. "You just need to make it over to the showers. It might go a long way in improving morale, so to speak."
"And a comb," Claire added, a little quieter, though her eyes twinkled some.
"Claire," William said warningly, and she gave him an innocent look.
He rubbed his eye with a fingertip...dropping his head slightly at the teasing. "Been doing mostly just washing in the clinic...hadn't made it to the showers...think Angelique didn't want to risk my catching anything else."
William nodded. "A good precaution, but at this point, you've been through the worst of the contact illnesses, I'd say. I'll need to change the bandage on your leg anyway."
He nodded..."Figured that might be coming."
"It's getting close to evening, and they usually clear out soon, if you want to try it."
He offered a short cough then nodded.."Yeah...sure."
William glanced over at Claire, who was sitting quietly, playing with the spoon in her bowl. "Could you get me that terry robe I left in my foot locker, Claire?" he asked.
"How far are they?"
William turned back to him, as Claire got up without comment and set her bowl on the table. "Not very, actually. We used to just have one area, but now we have two, and the newer is located at this end of camp."
She went to the chest at the foot of William's cot, and opened it, drawing out a navy robe of William's size.
As she pulled it out he raised his hands to slip the oxygen off...the difference in his breathing was noticable with the loss of it as he still fought the congestion. "Should I take the IV out?"
William eased off the machine's knob, cutting off the oxygen as it was removed. "Yes, we need to for the time being."
Claire placed the robe at the end of the cot, over where his feet were, as William set aside his own bowl and moved to flick off the IV drip.
"Okay..." He dropped his eyes to his hand...pulling the tape loose with a wince.
Used to helping her father, Claire took a small sterile pad from William's bag on the floor, and handed it to her father. He placed it over the IV on Luka's hand, ready to remove the needle.
As they moved to help Luka drew his hand back..biting his lower lip in anticipation .
With his other hand, he gently slid the needle out, keeping the pad pressed down on the small prick in the skin, and handed the line and needle to Claire so she could cap it.
"See....not too bad," he said.
As they finished he raised himself up more so he could fully sit, tucking the blanket around his waist as he glanced to Claire then back to her father.
Claire held up her hands in surrender. "I'm leaving, don't worry."
"There's also socks in the bag for when you get back," she added, gesturing to the military duffel the clothes had come from. She took up the two bowls, ready to take them back to the mess tent.
She nodded, then William asked, quietly, "Are you coming back here after we're done?"
As they talked he shifted so he could ease his leg off the bed..being careful not to show too much skin as he did...
She hesitated, holding the tent flap open, the two bowls cradled in her grasp. She didn't look back at them for a moment. "I'll....stop back before I go to bed, okay?"
"Fair enough," William responded, and she ducked out the door before he could add anything else.
Moving forward he put both feet on the floor..then paused again to catch his breath.
William paused, contemplative, then reached for the robe so he could help Luka shrug it on. His eyes flicked over him as he helped, taking in the condition of his body. "You still have a lot of recovery to do."
He slipped his arms in the robe...then pulled it around him..knowing it was a good size too big. He lifted his eyes to him at the comment but didn't answer.
"You look like a gangly teenager," William said, his voice holding a note of amusement.
"I'll need the crutches.." Luka prompted, ignoring the man's observation.
William obliged, rising and fetching the crutches from a corner of the tent, where Claire had stored them, and brought them back to the bedside.
He leaned forward..looking around and then under the cot.
"What is it?" William asked.
"My boots...I'm guessing you don't want me going barefoot."
"Ah." William scanned the room himself, even looking under his cot. "I guess Claire did something with them. Why not just wear the shoes she brought back?"
"I didn't know how muddy it was..." He glanced over to where they lay.
William retrieved them, holding them over. "You didn't know what?"
He took the sneakers and dropped them by his feet..."If it was still raining...they might get muddy." He leaned forward to start to put them on.
William shook his head. "It's not raining right now, although it is still pretty churned up out there."
He nodded..then put his attention on the task of getting the shoes on and tied before sitting up with a slight coughing run. Reaching for the crutches he used them to support him as he stood..then slid them under his arms...
"Ready?" William asked, rising from the stool and fetching his pack from by his cot, holding his soap and other things.
Once up he made sure the robe was secure then glanced to William again. "Yeah.."
"Lead on, McDuff," William murmured, half-joking, as he went to the flap and held it open for Luka to walk through.
To be continued...