For Seymour, the night passed in alternating flashes of consciousness and brief spells of sleep, the latter of which were plagued by painful and repetitive fever dreams. He could hardly distinguish between when he was awake and asleep, for in the dreams, he was lying in the very same bed, surrounded by the same people, and experiencing the same agony. The only difference was that in the dreams, he was a sort of skinless monster composed of dozens of thick, slimy, fleshy cords, bound together and sculpted to form a hominoid figure. All he wanted was to sleep peacefully, and the frustration he felt from his inability to do so was almost as torturous as the burning and aching itself. He could hardly imagine how much worse he would have felt if not for the fever medicine.
He awoke fully and not at all refreshed in the wee hours of the morning—wondering for a moment why his pillow was so uncomfortable, before remembering that it was not a pillow that his head was resting upon, but Seoc’s thigh—desperately thirsty and possibly in even more pain than he had been in the night before. Finding that he couldn’t reach the pitcher on the nightstand without moving his aching body too drastically, he chose instead to tug upon Seoc’s clothing until he woke up.
“What is it, Sey?”
Seoc poured him a glass and helped him to sit up. The Aechyed drank it—slowly this time—then replaced the glass on the nightstand. Then he sat there for a while, his eyes closed and his head bent.
“Can I get you anythin’ else, Sey?”
Seymour shook his head.
“Yer still no’ hungry?”
“Do you want ta go back ta sleep?”
The Aechyed nodded, and so Seoc helped him to lie down again then crawled into bed beside him, kissing him gently on the forehead.
“Is there anyone keeping watch?”
“Fiona, Simon, Raif an’ I ha’ been takin’ turns. I think it’s Raif’s shift noo.”
Raif audibly thumped its tail in confirmation.
“Aren’t you afraid of catching whatever it is I have?” Seymour asked him.
Seoc laughed wearily. “Sey, I spent most o’ yesterday ridin’ the same horse as you. I ha’ hugged you an’ I ha’ kissed you an’ I ha’ stayed the whole night in yer bed. If yer illness is catchin’, it’s probably too late for me ta avoid it.” He smiled and mussed the Aechyed’s hair affectionately. “Anyway, you know how I feel aboot sleepin’ alone. I’d much prefer stayin’ here wi’ you over sleepin’ in a bed o’ my own, even if it means I’ll come doon wi’ what you got. You keep the nightmares away.”
“I love you, little fish.”
“I love you too, Sey.”
“Do you happen to know what time it is?”
Fiona, fast asleep on the next bed over, was wearing a wristwatch, and Seoc was able to crane his head to read it. “Nearly five in the mornin’, I think. ’Tis too dark ta be certain, though.”
“Are you planning on going back to sleep as well?”
“Maybe another hour. I should no’ try for much beyond that, as the whole castle will be wakin’ up soon, an’ someone’s bound ta come through here at some point this mornin’, at the very least when the nurses change shifts, so it will no’ be safe for me ta stay in bed with you for much longer than that, o’ course.”
“Of course. Good night, then, little fish.” It was not a chronologically accurate statement, but it was all his muddled brain could manage in that moment.
Seoc smiled and kissed him on the side of the mouth. “Sleep weel, Sey.”