Arthur wasn’t sure how he kept ending up here, in this dreary hospital with an IV plugged into his wrist and a boring nurse chattering at him as she gave him the typical hospital meal of a sandwich and watery applesauce. It wasn’t like he was dying or anything – in fact he was twenty and could be quite healthy when he wanted to. It was just that… sometimes he relapsed.
Earlier that week he found himself collapsing in class, weak and far too anemic to even be walking about without a helmet. He had been so mortified when he woke up from his unconscious state, finding that one of his younger classmates in his Biology class had carried him to the nurse’s office on campus. From there he had been shipped right back into the too familiar hospital room that he detested. Hopefully his teachers would be lenient on him for his hospital stay – he didn’t want to fall behind again.
There was a light knock on the door to his room and it opened with an obnoxious creaking noise before he could utter a single word. “Uh, excuse me? Arthur is that you?” A mop of sandy blond hair popped through the jar in the door, the face of the kid that sat behind him in Biology class just below.
Arthur’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Ah, yes, that’s me. I… well, that is to say… who are you?”
“Oh! I’m Alfred Jones. I’m… I brought you to the nurse after you fainted. You hit your head pretty hard on your desk… I just – uh, I wanted to make sure you were alright and stuff.” He stepped inside the room slowly, scratching at the back of his head sheepishly. “Are you? Alright and stuff?”
“I – yes, I suppose I am for the moment.” He beckoned the freshman further into his room with a curl of his finger, pointing at a padded seat next to his bed. “Have a seat? I don’t get visitors often I’ll have you know.”
Alfred did as he was told quickly, plopping down into the chair without so much as a thought towards grace, setting his bag in his lap. “You don’t get visitors? Why not? Hasn’t your family been contacted? I’d be worried if I were them.”
“Oh no, no. It’s nothing to fret over. I’m here frequently – anemia does that to a person. I should be out of here within a day or so; as soon as they’re finished pumping me with enough drugs and pills and such.” He smiled wryly. “So there should be no reason for them to visit. What a waste of their time when is all I've done is fainted again.”
“Oh…” Alfred stared at the toes of his sneakers. “Well, still. If I knew you were here by yourself for a few days, I’d come and see you as much as I could. It’s got to be boring. I'd hate that.”
Arthur looked like he wanted to reply; maybe complain about his nurse who couldn’t hold a conversation with herself if she had tried, or about the unappetizing food, or the itchy IV, but Alfred interrupted his train of thought by unzipping his bag and pulling out the textbook for their Biology class. “I have today’s homework, if you want it? I’ll let you use my worksheet, and I’ll just get a new copy from Mrs. Jade when I get back to campus. It’s really easy stuff – I’ll even turn it in for you if you want me to.”
The room was silent as Arthur marveled in Alfred’s kindness. “You… would do that? For me? A bloke you’ve never even spoken to – just stared at the back of my head for three weeks?”
“I don’t mind staring at your hair,” Alfred said pointlessly, his nose scrunching as he thought about what he’d said before shrugging it off, as if it wasn't one of the most strange things Arthur had ever heard. “Besides, I’d feel bad if I came all the way here and I couldn’t help you out somehow!”
Arthur took the worksheet gently from Alfred’s fingers, hurriedly glancing over the questions and biting his lower lip. “These… did we go over this in class?”
Alfred nodded, but then something dawned on him. “Aw dude, you were gone that day! Okay, see now I definitely have to stay and help you out! I’ll be like… like your tutor or something – for Bio. It’ll be great, ‘coz Bio is one of my best classes.”
They stared at each other, nervous and hopeful and overjoyed to finally bee able to find someone who was willing to take a moment and speak with them. Arthur scratched his cheek, trying not to seem too pleased by the entire idea. “I suppose… if it makes you feel better. I mean, you did help me to the nurse’s office, so I should be far more grateful…”
“Nah, I’d do anything for you.” Alfred made a dumb noise and coughed. “You know… because… Good Samaritan and stuff…”
Arthur smiled, letting his finger fall onto the first question of the worksheet. “How about we start here.”
Alfred came to visit him until he was released, and continued to visit him in his dorm far after that. They had bonded, so to speak, over the past few weeks, and Arthur was happy to make a new friend, even if they were as odd and affectionate as Alfred Jones.
“Hey, Arthur?” Alfred asked him one day, laying on Arthur’s bed and clutching a pillow to his chest as he poked at his DS screen absently. “I gotta question for you.”
Arthur looked up from his English paper, a questioning brow rising. “Yes?”
“I was wondering… well… uhm… okay so I know you’re anemic and stuff – but… I don’t know. I just get worried. I don’t want you to faint again or something and I won’t be there to catch you. I mean, is there anything I can do for you?”
The American stared hard at his DS, unwilling to admit that he was flustered. Arthur smiled gently. “Ah, well to be frank, it doesn’t happen as often as it did when I was a child. I have an iron deficiency after all, so I can’t guarantee that it’ll never happen again, but I’m far better off than most. There’s nothing to worry about. I just bruise easy really.”
Alfred set down his DS, his face steeled and determined as he crawled off the bed and towards Arthur. He leaned down and whispered, “Well… if I’m gentle, can I kiss you?” And before Arthur could question it, Alfred pressed his lips against Arthur’s, softly, as if he was waiting for Arthur to reel back and punch him in the face.
When they finally parted from the honeyed, chaste kiss, Arthur’s eyes fluttered open – when had they closed? – and he simply mumbled: