Chapter 5
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Cale woke up to the feeling of his head pounding. It was so loud and uncomfortable that it took him a while to figure out that his head wasn't the only thing pounding, someone was banging on the door too.

He groaned and curled further under the covers, pulling them over his head to protect him from the sun's rays. But no matter how much he tried, it was impossible to ignore the noise.

"What?" he eventually managed to croak out, his mouth dry.

"What do you mean what, it's lunchtime, you've missed half your classes!" Julius announced from the other side of the door, an edge to his voice that meant he wasn't in the mood for any bullshit.

Cale groaned and pushed his head out under the cover's protection. The sunlight immediately attempted to blind him and he groaned again. He pressed a hand over his face, pressing down onto his eyes as something pounded behind them. He could almost hear the pounding in his head and he was quickly getting sick of it.

He managed to squeeze out, "What are you doing here?"

"Hallow sent me because you missed his class, idiot. Are you sick? Aren't you supposed to be better?" 

"I'm... fine."

"That was a long pause, you're not fine." A deep sigh was followed by footsteps as Julius left. "Damnit, I'll tell Hallow so don't you dare leave your room. I swear if I catch you in the library sick, I'll..."

Cale didn't manage to hear the rest of Julius' words as the boy moved out of range.

He pushed himself as best as he could off of the bed, ending up in some kind of weird position where he was sitting crouched on his knees, his head pressing down on the pillow and the covers still pulled up to his shoulders. He pressed his head harder against the pillow, his closed eyes almost stinging with the force of it.

He needed to get out of bed. He needed to get to the bathroom where his medicine was stored and take the potions. Really, he needed to do a lot of things, but he couldn't seem to move.

He huffed, put his hands next to the pillow and pushed off the best he could. He managed to raise his head by a couple of decimeters, and then his strength promptly abandoned him and he fell back down on it.  He grumbled out a garbled noise and felt his eyes slip closed again, exhaustion hitting him like a train running late.

Just a few minutes of rest couldn't hurt right? He'd get in a minute and take his meds, he just wanted to close his eyes, they were hurting so bad...

Ah, Calla's body was really weak, wasn't it? He hadn't really felt the effects of it, but he guessed that that was just a lucky break. Because his head really hurt, and no matter how much saliva he pooled in his mouth, it didn't seem to keep the dryness at bay.

His body fell to the side on the bed as he fell closer into the grip of sleep. Cale yawned and tried to blink his eyes open, but they closed shortly anyway.

He was really... really very tired. 

It felt like Cale had only just closed his eyes when his body shook to wakefulness as the banging on the door started up again. He frowned and this time managed to crawl out of the covers, immediately starting to shiver from the cold. He stared at the door with bleary, half-awake eyes and asked, "Who?"

He didn't manage to get the rest out of the sentence out, but he trusted that it could still be understood.

"It's me." Came Julius' distinctive voice from the other side.

Cale narrowed his eyes and pressed his hands against his head again. The headache hadn't gotten any better from his brief rest. "Why?"

A single word at a time was still the best he could do.

He winced when the headache got particularly stabby with him. He was sitting on the bed with his legs crossed and his elbows leaned on his thighs, his hands gripping his head tightly. It hurt so badly that his eyes started tearing up from the pain, unused to it as he was. The medicine... why had he put in the bathroom? He had a perfectly good bedside table, why didn't he do the smart thing and place it there?

"Unlock the door, Calla. I have food and medicine." Julius ordered. Contrary to his words, his voice was hard and unsympathetic.

Cale muttered a curse under his breath as he slowly moved his legs over the edge of the bed, the lure of medicine too tempting to resist. He stumbled a little as his feet hit the ground and a dizzy spell attacked him at once, the world feeling like it was spinning beneath his feet. Well, technically it was, but it shouldn't feel like it.

He fought his way over the short distance to the door and fell against it. He leaned his whole body against it, only held up by the door. Finally, after some fumbling around, he managed to locate the lock and turned it.

Instantly, Julius turned the doorknob and opened the door. The boy, despite being four years younger than Calla, caught Cale before he slipped to the floor and succeeded in supporting him while at the same time closing and locking the door again. The sudden movements only made the pain worsen and he clenched his eyes shut, his teeth pressing down harshly on his lip.

Julius dragged him over to the bed and put him down on it, dropping Cale roughly on the soft mattress. Cale felt his body being moved fully onto the bed, Julius walking around him. With his eyes closed, he couldn't see what Julius was doing, but he was in too much pain to pay attention to it anyway.

Julius dragged Cale into a sitting position on the bed and supported his body.

"Medicine." Julius said and pressed a cold glass bottle against Cale's mouth. Knowing better than to argue, Cale opened his mouth and dutifully swallowed the horrible tasting potion.

"Ugh!" Cale managed to swallow most of it before it became too much and he barely managed to keep the rest from coming up again. He coughed violently and crouched over, his hands covering his mouth.

Finally, the coughing subsided and he brought his cold hands down again. He pressed them instead onto his head and winced at the headache that was currently assaulting him like a battering ram.

"Better?" Julius asked and gripped Cale's hand, bringing them away from his head.

Cale licked his lips and shook his head slightly.

Julius hummed as he left the bed.

Cale did his best to breathe deeply and steadily. Slowly, he brought himself out of his crouched position and sat up straighter. It felt like all of his limbs were made of lead, so heavy were they. 

Blinking to get his eyes focusing, he saw the darkness outside of the windows. Somehow he had missed the sun setting, but now that it was no longer attacking him, he felt relief flow through him. He shivered from the cold, his whole body shaking, and gripped the covers around him tightly. Slowly, so slowly that it was frustrating, he swept them up and around himself, burrowing down into the warmth. He brought his knees up to his chest as he pulled the covers all the way up over his head and pushed his head down onto his knees.

All he wanted to do was ignore his own existence, forgetting all of the pain and the unbearable agony. He bit down on his bottom lip again and clenched his eyes shut, hoping against hope that  things would improve within in the next few minutes.

He wasn't used to this kind of pain.

For all that Cale spent most of his time at home reading and watching TV, not getting much exercise or keeping in shape, he didn't often get sick. Certainly it never come this fast nor affected him this badly.

And in the process of getting acquainted with this world, he had forgotten the basics. 

Calla's body was weak, so weak that he spent most of his time bedridden.

And Cale hadn't been treating it well; staying up too late studying, running all over the castle in his search for more information, forgetting to get a full meal, getting up early in the morning for his classes and in general, just working too hard.

Honestly, when he thought about it, he was surprised that this hadn't happened sooner.

Julius sat down next to him on the bed, carrying a tray of food with him. "Here," the boy said and held it out in Cale's direction. "Eat this."

Cale peeked over the edge of his knees and glanced at the tray. There was a bowl of soup on it, a spoon right next to it. Despite feeling absolutely shitty, Cale could still feel his stomach making its demands known in the form of growling.

Painfully slowly, Cale crawled out of the protection of the cover and gripped the spoon. Bit by bit, he carefully ate the soup, most of the time simply sipping up the broth.

Eventually most of the soup was gone and Julius finally shifted it away from him. Tiredly, Cale dropped the spoon on the bed and surrounded himself by the covers once more. He yawned and mumbled, "Sleepy."

"So sleep, idiot."

Within moments, Cale followed Julius' orders.

***

The next time that he awoke, the sun was up again.

Cale rolled over on his bed, pulling the cover over his head as he moved. He heard somebody sighing, but ignored it as a figment of his imagination. This was his room, nobody else could be here. 

Footsteps.

Cale's eyes abruptly opened and he turned his head to peek over his shoulder, shocked at the sight of Julius standing by the side of his bed, the other boy's arms crossed over his chest and a thoroughly unimpressed look on his face. Julius rose a condescending eyebrow at him and stared at him with hard eyes.

"You got sick." Julius imperiously stated.

Cale swallowed the saliva pooling in his mouth and his eyes drove over every inch of his room, trying to spot anything out of place. The only thing that wasn't as he had left it was a of pile of his books on the desk, one of which was still open.

"How long have you been here?" Cale asked, his voice wheezy and weak.

"You're speaking in proper sentences again." Julius noted and sat down next to him. 

Before he had a chance to react, Julius tore the cover off his head and gripped Cale's cheeks between his hands. They splayed out on the sides of Cale's head as the boy turned his head this way and that, examining every inch of it. Then Julius stared deeply into Cale's eyes, presumably trying to spot any irregularities, not that Cale knew if he even had that knowledge.

Out of the blue, Julius said, "It's flu season."

"Oh," Cale lowered his gaze to his lap and tried to ignore the warmth of Julius' hands on his skin. "I didn't realize."

Julius clicked his tongue. "This is why you're an idiot."

Cale didn't respond and felt his heart slow down to a more normal pace when Julius let go of his head. He exhaled softly and stared at Julius as the boy flitted from one corner of the room to another, picking up traces of his presence that Cale hadn't realized were there. Julius disappeared to the bathroom for a moment and when he came out, he brought with him Cale's toothbrush, covered in toothpaste.

"Here," Julius held it out toward him and Cale grabbed it gratefully.

He felt compelled to note, "You don't have to do this." 

"Of course I do. Imagine how ugly you'll be if your teeth fall out." Julius crossed his arms again and stared down at him intently until Cale relented and started brushing his teeth.

When his mouth was full of bubbles, Julius held out an empty cup for Cale to spit into. Julius then stole his toothbrush while he was doing this, disappeared back into the bathroom and came back with it a few seconds later, pushing it back into Cale's mouth without saying a word.

Cale let him be, figuring that this was as good a solution as any. He didn't have any energy to protest anyway and the idea of getting out of bed and going to the bathroom to take care of his teeth hygiene wasn't appealing in the least. The process of spitting into a cup only for Julius to take his toothbrush, disappear into the bathroom and then returning with it again repeated half-a-dozen times before Julius was finally satisfied.

By this time, Cale was sitting with his back against the wall, comfortable as he was propped up by all the pillows he owned. He had the covers pulled up all the way to his chin, his knees bent against his chest. Occasionally he yawned as he watched Julius fussing all over the room.

Evidently the boy disproved of the state of Cale's room.

"You need to clean up after yourself, look at all this dust!" Julius waved the finger he had pulled along one of the bookshelves and waved it in Cale's face, as if to make sure Cale understood the severity of the situation.

He croaked out, "I do clean."

"Clearly not enough."

Cale could no longer bear to be on the receiving end of Julius' judgmental looks and stared in anther direction. Julius clicked his tongue, the sound carrying in the otherwise silent room. "Are you ignoring me?"

Cale didn't respond.

"You realize you probably got sick because of all this dust, right?"

"It's just the flu."

"You'd better hope so, that's the only medicine I brought."

Cale sank further into the mess of pillows and covers and a couple of extra blankets that had been piled on top of him. He pushed his face against the cover, delighting in the warmth of it. Determinedly, he ignored the various dismayed sounds Julius made as the boy cleaned. 

Despite knowing better, Cale couldn't help but feel happiness fill him as Julius took over his room like a hurricane. One that cleaned up after itself.

And then cleaned up after Cale too, just because.

He bit his bottom lip and pushed his face further into the cover, until he could barely see above it. His eyes followed Julius' figure as the boy tore out all of his books to properly clean the bookshelves, stacking them on the floor as he went. The warmth in Cale's body only grew hotter, butterflies dancing in his stomach and his heart flipped in his chest.

"Julius..." Cale started and as he kept peeking at the boy. "How old are you?"

Julius looked up and stated, "I just turned sixteen. Why?"

It was like a bucket full of cold water was dumped on Cale. His stomach dropped and his heart flipped for an entirely different reason. Sixteen... was too young, right? No matter where Cale's feelings had started going without his permission, it would be creepy, right? Calla's body was twenty right now and Cale himself had been twenty-two when he was... transmigrated. That was what, a six year age difference? 

Julius' brusque attitude had kept Cale from thinking about it, but it really wasn't appropriate, was it?

He muttered into the cover, "I'm twenty."

"I know." Julius gave him a harsh look. "What does that have to do with anything? You're still an idiot."

"Four years..." Cale mumbled and hid his whole face between his knees.

He heard Julius standing up and walking over to him again. Cale just clenched his eyes shut and waited for Julius to do something. But Julius just stood there, not saying a word. Cale swore that he could fee Julius staring at him.

At last, Julius stated, "You're an idiot."

Then he went back to cleaning.

Cale's heart jumped in his chest. That had almost sounded like fondness, which really wasn't like Julius at all. No, he was sure that he was mistaken. He pulled the cover and assorted blankets over his head completely until it was like a tent over him. Biting down on his thumb, he thought furiously.

Even if... even if Cale had some sort of non-platonic feelings for Julius, that really didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It didn't change anything. Cale still had his goal of not dying, or getting dragged into the mess that was the plot of 'Fire & Ice'. He still had a lot of studying that needed priority so that he could graduate this year, before the plot really took off. He still needed to find some way to balance his studying with taking care of his health, so that this didn't happen again.

No, he really didn't have any time to be worrying about his feelings.

Really, this whole thing made him feel kind of useless. 

While Julius continued to clean and eventually air out the room by opening the window, Cale kept silent as he tried his best to use the tried and true method of compartmentalizing. His emotions couldn't get the better of him now, he couldn't afford it, so it would just have to be dealt with at some other time, regardless of how unhealthy that might be. 

Julius stood up straight after hours of grueling work and stretched his back, which made loud cracking noises that made Cale look over. After all this time, Julius looked worn, his hair flying in all possible direction, dust and dirt on his clothes and tired slump to his shoulders that betrayed how tired he must be. Cale frowned and asked, "Did you sleep last night?"

"No. I took care of you." Julius stated as he put the last few books back on the shelves.

"That-" Cale licked his lips and sat up straighter, splaying his legs out straight in front of him. "You didn't have to do that. You should have slept. And what about school, isn't it a school day today?"

"I got the day off to take care of you."

"But-"

"I decided it on my own. Don't be stupid now." Julius threw him a glare and Cale backed off, biting down on his arguments. He didn't want to get into a fight with Julius about something like this.

Julius stalked over to him where he was sitting on the bed and put his forearm against Cale's forehead. The boy clicked his tongue loudly and stated, "You still have a fever."

Cale smiled slightly at him. "I can get the medicine for it myself. It's in the cabinet over the sink, behind the mirror. You don't have to stay anymore. You should get a good nights sleep before tomorrow."

Julius smirked at him. "It's Saturday tomorrow. There's no school."

"Still-"

"I'll be back tomorrow with breakfast. You'd better not be dead." Julius snarked out as he left Cale's room without another word, completely ignoring the protests on the tip of Cale's tongue.

In the absence of the teenage boy, Cale smiled a little to himself. He leaned his head back against the pillows and the small headboard, his head only protected from the wall by a single flimsy pillow; all the rest had slid down. He exhaled gently and closed his eyes, the headache reappearing when he was no longer distracted by Julius' commanding presence.

He breathed carefully and then started the process of getting up off the bed. He swayed on his feet as he walked, his legs trembling beneath him. 

Luckily, he hadn't remembered wrong. The medicine Calla's mother had packed was right where he said it was and he swallowed it without hesitating. The taste was obnoxious, but it couldn't be helped. He just had to bear it.

He just had to bear a lot of things.

***

Like he said, Julius returned the next day with breakfast. In fact, he was already there with it when Cale finally woke up late in the morning. His sleep had been strange, as he had woken up several times in the night and it had taken him longer to fall back asleep each time. Cale groggily stared at Julius as the boy ate breakfast at his desk while staring at Cale with disapproving eyes.

It took some time for Cale's tired brain to comprehend what he was seeing and when he did, he sat up straight on the bed so quickly that he got dizzy. "Julius!"

"I said I'd bring breakfast, so I have." Julius imperiously stated, "I don't break my promises."

Cale wasn't really sure how he was supposed to react to that. In this situation, what would Calla do? That thought didn't help, because he didn't know nearly enough about Calla to make that kind of judgement. 

Julius carried over a tray with a light, easily digested breakfast to Cale and sat it down on the bed in front of him. Cale took the hint for what it was and started eating without Julius telling him too. He found that he was ravenous when he took the first bite and soon the whole meal was gone. 

It wasn't until it was all gone that he noted, "There's no hot cocoa."

"It's not good for you. You're sick."

"It's because I'm sick that I should have it."

"Your mother doesn't agree with you."

"What?" Cale stared with confused eyes at Julius. "What do you mean my mother?"

Julius rolled his eyes at him. "I notified your mother of your condition."

There was an unvoiced obviously at the end of that that Cale deliberately ignored. Instead he chose to focus on the fact that Julius and Calla's mother were apparently in contact with each other. "Why would you let her know?"

"She's your mother." Julius glared at him, as if he didn't understand why Cale didn't get it. And thinking it over, he understood what Julius meant, but he still couldn't think of Calla's mother as Cale's mother. He had a mother of his own, one that loved and missed more than he thought that he would have before. He wasn't nearly at a point where he could think of this other woman and his mother and honestly, he didn't think he ever would.

Not only had Cale lost his own mother, but she had lost her son. And she wasn't even aware of it. The idea of pretending to be her son and take over their relationship to continue on as if noting had happened made him legitimately nauseous.

A friendly relationship was fine, but not a familial one. 

It felt as if that would be crossing a line.

"Wait," Cale said as a thought occured to him. "How often do you speak to her?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Frosthaze." Julius scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest. "We write letters to each other. And it's only been going on a few weeks."

"But why?" Cale still didn't understand.

"To make sure you don't do anything stupid."

Cale didn't know how to respond to that and descended into silence. Julius took the tray from him and put on the desk, getting up again to go the bathroom. He came back with the medicine bottle for fevers and held it out to Cale with a challenging stare, like he thought Cale wouldn't want to take it. Sure, it tasted horribly, but the fever was more annoying.

And he needed to get better soon, so he didn't miss any more school. He was already so far behind, he couldn't afford to fall even further.

Cale took the medicine without saying anything and watched as Julius gripped the tray. The boy threw him a glance as he left with the words, "I'll be back soon." drifting behind him.

Alone at last, Cale took the opportunity to get up and do his business in the bathroom before Julius came back and started nagging him about it. Taking a bath was beyond him right now, but going to the toilet and brushing his teeth was fine. When he was done, he returned to his bedroom and crawled back onto the bed, pulling the covers above him as he went. 

The book on his bedside table hadn't been touched in a while as he'd been too sick and though technically he still was, he didn't see a reason why he couldn't read. He had finally regained the ability to concentrate enough to read and focus on the letters and it really was a very interesting book on the coordination of magical affinity and the year one was born on. Apparently it mattered if you were born on an odd or even year? Cale didn't understand it and he doubted the validity of it, but it was still an entertaining read.

As he had said, it didn't take Julius long to return. 

When Julius burst into his room, Cale was in the middle of turning the page in the book. He looked up and gave Julius a quick smile, ignoring the burst of happiness he felt.

Julius stalked over toward him and threw himself down onto the chair in front of the desk. He carried with him a big satchel filled to the brim with stuff — so full that the seams were almost bursting apart — that he sat down on the table and started pulling books and papers out of. He piled them on the desk and Cale had the sinking feeling that he knew what it was.

Julius confirmed his suspicions. "Your homework."

Cale sighed, but he knew that the sooner he got started on them, the better. 

When Julius saw that he made a move to get out of bed, the young teenager scowled at him and shook his head. "I'm not letting you work on it until your fever is gone."

"You don't have any say on it." Cale retorted and grabbed the closest papers, sinking back into the bed before Julius had a chance to react.

Julius glared at him, but made no move to take the papers back.

Cale immersed himself in doing the homework. Despite his sour attitude, Julius still fetched whatever books and writing tools that Cale required to do his work. The work was both time consuming and difficult, as even with his progress in his studies, he was still nowhere near where Calla should be at this time.

Julius didn't offer to help with it, rather he played around with a deck of cards he had gotten out of his bag. While Cale was wrestling with writing essays and trying to figure out what the hell the professor's meant, Julius whittled away the time playing cards.

Cale was nowhere close to finished with it when Julius abruptly tore the papers out of his hands and placed them out of his range on the desk. As Cale was starting to feel kind of woozy again, he didn't protest. Also, the bad sleep was beginning to catch up with him, a yawn breaking through his defenses without his permission. 

He blinked lazily at Julius, who gave him a harsh look in response. Cale smiled slightly at him and yawned again. 

"It's time for your medicine again." Julius declared.

Cale nodded and accepted it when it was held out to him. He drank it quickly, doing his best not to think of the taste and then leaned back on the bed. He pulled the covers up to his chin, burrowed down amongst them and closed his eyes. Soon, he felt sleep beckoning, despite the fact that it wasn't night yet. He wondered where Julius had gotten the key to Cale's room, but he was too tired to ask.

He was only faintly aware of the world around him as he dozed, wakening and falling asleep in a strange cycle. Sometimes he heard muttering, but then he would fall asleep again.

Over and over, the pattern repeated itself. It seemed as if sleep was a difficult thing to catch right now. Cale turned over in his sleep often, more so when he woke up and was vaguely aware of the world around him. But he would always slip away in sleep again so quickly that he had no time to think about what he heard.

Some time in the midst of this, Cale blinked his eyes open to find that it had gotten dark. He mumbled out something he didn't remember and slowly pushed himself up onto his arms, having been sleeping on his stomach. 

He stared around him and stopped at the fuzzy image of Julius sitting in the desk chair. Cale yawned and felt his eyes slip close again. "W-what?"

The whole question didn't manage to leave him but thankfully Julius was smart and figured it out. Julius answered, "I don't want you to die in your sleep. Your mother would never let me hear the end of it."

"No-" Cale yawned again and fell back down on his stomach, lazily shoving his arms under his pillow and resting his face against it. He managed to mumble out, "You need to sleep too."

"Don't worry about it."

Cale was able to blink his eyes open one more time, but then the sleep won. He yawned one last time and felt his thoughts run away from him. What did Julius mean? He was too tired to dissect the statement and really, even though he knew better, he trusted that Julius wouldn't hurt him. Julius was too direct for that; if he wanted to hurt Cale, he wouldn't be this kind to him.

Cale exhaled softly and smiled slightly to himself. Then he really... wasn't aware of anything...

I'm making the executive decision to change Julius' surname to Claymore (because I can't remember what it is) and his magical affinity to earth (because I can't remember what that is either) possibly stone — wouldn't stone be cool instead of just earth? after all, Calla's is ice, not water, so couldn't stone work as a subsidiary of earth or something?

You can now also read this novel on tapas.io. Personally, I prefer tapas' font more... remember to vote, comment and follow! Thanks for reading!

~Dez

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