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Iron Will

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He was so cold.

 

The men moved about around him, working to get the ship on the move again. No one extended a hand towards him, no one offered him a blanket, or something warm to drink or eat. He was all alone.

 

He curled in on himself as much as his exhausted body allowed him, willing his body heat to return. He concentrated on his heart, felt it beating its steady rhythm.

 

He pressed his face against the sodden gang planks taking solace from their steady surface. He knew he couldn’t allow himself to fall asleep. The cold would finally overtake him, and kill him as he drifted away. That couldn’t happen, not now. He had to get Yara back, and he clenched his hands, opened them, clenched them again. Kept on repeating the motion. Felt how his frozen fingers loosened and gradually returned to life. Slowly, he managed to flex his feet and wriggle his toes. Up, down, up, down, open, close, open, close.

 

As the stiffened limbs began to obey him, he managed to curl further in on himself, his hands reaching his knees, where he watched them clumsily rub against his wet trousers. The friction did not send him any warmth. All he achieved was pain. Stinging, itching, almost burning pain. He took a couple of deep breaths, looked up to assess how far he was from the railing and managed to scrabble, crab-like, closer towards it. It took an unmeasurable effort of will but he reached it and pushed himself up into a half sitting, half leaning position, resting against it. Using his hands to lift and pull his legs up until they were bent before him, he hugged them tightly, and hunched up against the railing, a small, human body folded onto itself and rested his head on his knees, panting from the exertion.

 

He sat like this for a long time. The pain was excruciating, the returning body heat making every single cell and vessel scream and itch and burn. His teeth wouldn’t stop shattering.

 

When he looked up again, a couple of sailors stood silently watching him. He couldn’t read their expressions and he looked away from their gaze.

 

“Come,” one of them said. Theon looked back up. A hand was reached out for him. After a few seconds, he took it.

 

“You can sleep in my hammock. Looks like you need it.”

 

Below deck, the men handed him a dry shirt and a pair of too big trousers and left. It took several tries but he managed to undress and put on the warmer clothes. Getting into the hammock felt like climbing a mountain. One of the men returned, and a blanket was tossed loosely upon him. He hung on to it gratefully, and felt the world glide away at a rapid speed as sleep finally overtook him. The last thing he heard was, “’e’s her brother alright. Tough, little shit.”