Chapter Fifteen: Giving and Receiving
_____ and Ludwig stood near the wall of Gilbert’s room while the doctor inspected the albino, both watching the doctor’s movements like guard dogs. He gently placed the end of his stethoscope on Gilbert’s bare chest, causing him to twitch slightly. He coughed, keeping his mouth closed, as the doctor moved the stethoscope across his torso.
After finishing with the stethoscope, the doctor dug through his bag and pulled out a cotton swab sealed in a small plastic pocket. He extracted the swab and gently pulled Gilbert’s mouth open. He stuck the object deep into his mouth and rubbed the end of it against the upper-back part of his throat. Gilbert gagged as the swab was pulled out of his mouth, and he went into another heavy coughing fit. The doctor placed the swab back into the pocket and closed it.
“What’s that?” said _____.
“A swab test,” replied the doctor in a thick Italian accent. “He shows all the signs of a certain disease, and if he has it, the swab will turn blue when I shake it.” He shook the pocket, and eventually the swab and the surrounding part of the pocket turned a bright shade of cerulean. “As I suspected,” he muttered as he tugged off his latex gloves and wrapped the swab pocket in them, putting them in the trash can by the bed. “He has pertussis.”
_____ pursed her lips, keeping quiet as Ludwig began to speak.
“I thought only children got that.”
“Adults are susceptible to the disease as well. It is only that children, especially young ones, are much more capable of catching it for various reasons, such as not being able to get a vaccine.”
Ludwig sighed, sitting down quietly in a chair beside them.
“And the treatment?” said _____.
The doctor sighed softly. “Sì. . .Well, normally I would prescribe something, but. . .this is pertussis.” He took up his bag. “My advice is for him to spend the next several weeks on strict bed-rest, until at least the coughing has let up. Let me know if you need anything.” He placed a card on the nightstand, nodded politely, and walked toward the door.
“Lovino will see you out,” said _____, not looking at him.
“Thank you,” he said, and walked out.
_____ sighed and stepped over to Gilbert’s bedside. She sat down beside his convulsing body, gently laying her hand on his forehead. Gilbert opened his eyes to look at her, his cough subsiding. He began breathing in short, shaky breaths. “Hey, Fräu.”
She smiled. “Hey, Gil.”
He frowned. “That arschloch didn’t even give me any verdammte pills, huh?”
“. . .No.” _____ moved some of his hair out of his face. She took the washcloth from the nightstand, wet it, and wiped it gingerly across the albino’s sweaty face.
Gilbert closed his eyes and smiled at the touch. “That feels good, Fräu.”
Seeing that as a cue to continue, she ran the cloth across the rest of his face and on his neck and chest. She pursed her lips as she put the washcloth back into the bowl of water on the nightstand. “I’m sorry, Gil,” she said quietly.
“I think I gave you pertussis. . .”
He looked at her, an eyebrow raised.
She rubbed her arm. “I think. . .I just got sick. . .but I was carrying pertussis. It just didn’t affect me because I got a vaccine. . .”
Gilbert lay his head back down on the pillow with a sigh. “Nein, Fräu. It’s not your fault.” He smirked. “Someone as awesome as you couldn’t carry something as unawesome as thi––” He began coughing heavily again, turning over on his side and curling his body up as his coughs racked his body. He reached out for something, which _____ realized was the trash can, and she brought it to his hands. He held it in front of his face and vomited for the second time that day. When he finished, he almost dropped the trash can from fatigue, but _____ caught it and placed it gently back on the floor, avoiding the stray drops of vomit on the sides of it. Gilbert rolled back over on his back and panted, a cough interrupting every now and then.
_____ grabbed the washcloth again and ran it across the albino’s face, wiping new sweat away. A look of slight relief showed on his face, and his panting calmed again. He sighed slowly. “Gott, this sucks. . .”
_____ rewet the cloth, placing it on Gilbert’s forehead. This made him relax significantly. “Need anything? Something to drink, maybe?”
“Some water?” he asked quietly, keeping his eyes closed.
“Okay.” She looked back at Ludwig, who was still sitting in the chair and watching Gilbert intently. “Ludwig.”
Ludwig blinked, snapping his attention onto her. “Ja?”
“I’m gonna go get Gil some water. Watch him, okay? Make sure he doesn’t get up, or anything.” She stood up and headed for the door.
“I feel like absolute shit, Fräu,” retorted Gilbert. “You don’t have to worry about me getting up for a while.”
She smiled and walked out.
Ludwig looked back at his brother, an unusual softness about his features. He stood and walked to Gilbert’s bedside and sat on the edge of the bed. “How are you, bruder?”
Gilbert smirked, shrugging. “Meh, I’ve been worse. How about you?”
Ludwig furrowed his brows. “Bruder, I’m serious.” His expression relaxed again. “Is there anything I can do?”
The albino smiled. “Ja. Quit worrying.”
Ludwig blinked. He looked down, his brows furrowed again. “Easier said than done, bruder.” Noticing that _____ was almost back, he stood up and walked out of the room.
_____ sat down on the edge of the bed and handed Gilbert the glass of water she had been holding. He quickly sat up and snatched the glass away from her, greedily gulping down the water.
“Slowly, Gil,” said _____. “We don’t want you coughing again.”
Reluctantly, he slowed his drinking to short sips. Finishing, he placed the empty glass on the nightstand and sighed. His vision became narrow and foggy, and he grew light-headed. “Fräu. . .”
_____ froze when Gilbert’s head landed on her shoulder. His breathing steadied as he drew air in and out through his partially opened mouth. A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Thank you, Fräu. . .”
She looked at him, noticing that he had already fallen asleep. She smiled and patted his head as she lay him back down on the bed. “You’re welcome, Gil.”