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She caught a cold, once, a few years back. Usually it was no cause for concern, but the pharmacy had run out of medicine, and so her brother turned himself up at the front door a few hours later, brandishing the paper bag with a smile whose relief was so genuine, it edged into manic.

The sun had long set by then, and she clung to her blankets as Stahn collapsed himself over her desk, exhausted.

“Brother,” Lilith asked, every syllable sticking to her throat, dried out from coughing, “how come you don’t get colds?”

“I’m made of stronger stuff than that!” He laughed, but his smile was tinged with respite, with fatigue, and suddenly she became very aware of the cobweb that had somehow settled on the ceiling of the bottom bunk. She’d need that dusted later. He thwacked his chest with great satisfaction, “If I’m not tough, how can I protect you?”  

“You just went to the city for a few hours.” She blinked up. Sweat had glued her hair to her forehead. “My friend says only idiots don’t catch colds. I wonder if that’s true.”

The next moment Stahn had gotten up, back turned to her. “Oh, suit yourself,” he groaned. “I’m getting you a glass of water. You’re croaking like a frog.”



It was getting dark. I was worried, she didn’t say.

“Thanks,” she murmured sleepily. “For everything.”


And again Lilith turned her cheek into her pillow. It burned, but she could blame it on the fever.