Within a few seconds of waking up, Nien was already wishing she hadn't. She didn't want to die, but waking up after each beating did seem like the greater of two evils. Sitting up and looking around, Nien found that she wasn't on the floor of Tom's room. In fact, she was in her room on her own bed. Who? She wondered. Certainly not Joe or Madge Nien thought. She sat bolt upright as she heard someone cough right next to her, and just as quickly fell back down barely holding in a scream of pain. To make a long story short, she hurt. Badly.
Very slowly Nien turned her head and found herself looking at Tom. His wide brown eyes staring into hers with a look of pain and fear, but also... relief and... could it be happiness?
"I thought you weren't going to wake up." The five year old breathed. "Th-Thank you f-for saving me."
"I didn't have a choice." Nien whispered back. "I can't sit here listening to the screams of an innocent child." Intuition and and a quick mind prompted her question "Did you bring me back here?"
The boy smiled and nodded vigorously, but remained silent. Nien was surprised. She had interceded on the behalf of nearly every kid in the orphanage at one point or another, but none had ever repaid her. Nien sighed. When she was honest with herself she realized that she didn't really expect them too.
It was dangerous to be seen helping others, an adage that Nien found to be reality on an almost daily basis. Tom's quiet voice shook Nien out of her reverie.
"I-I brought you something."
To her amazement, Tom brought a small piece of bread and cheese, and gave it to Nien. "Where did you get this?" She asked, her voice rising above a whisper for a bare moment. She was starving. The "caretakers" barely fed the children anything and the boy wouldn't be able to survive here if he didn't eat. Nien appreciated the gift, but started to return it, rebelling against her growling stomach.
The boy pushed her hand away, and seemed to read her mind as he said "It isn't my ration. I... well don't tell anyone... but I st-stole it!"
Nien looked at the small boy, whose beaming smile was more than she could resist. Slowly she grinned too and began to eat the boy's small offering.
It seemed she had made a new ally.