“So, how are you feeling, champ?”
Lir isn’t sure if it’s from becoming part-Halloran, but his senses went from being a tad more sensitive than usual, to completely heightened in the span of less than two days. The harsh waves that make the ship bob up then down causes his gut to squeeze the little bit of food he’d managed to eat, and Lir supposes the make-up he had to smear all over his features in order to enter the boat isn’t helping either. It stinks. In fact, asides from Tobias, everything smells horrendous here.
He motions at Tobias and tries to gulp down the bile that rises in his throat. “Bucket,” Lir croaks. He barely finds the object in time before he’s throwing up inside it again.
Tobias holds his hair back and rubs gentle circles into his shoulders with his thumb. “I’m sorry, Lir,” he whispers. “I promise we’ll be there soon.”
Lir coughs. He pulls away from the bucket, then wipes his mouth with his knuckles. The act involuntarily smears his make-up, and reveals the blue that was hidden beneath it in the process. As the acid reek of vomit fills the cabin’s air, Lir turns to Tobias. “Don’t apologize.” He sighs. “I’m the one who’s stinking up the place.”
His mentor observes him for a few seconds. His lip twitches, as it always does whenever he’s concentrating, or lost in a thought. The familiar habit takes Lir way back, and although he is still plagued by a wretched case of nausea, he cannot help but feel nostalgic at the sight.
When Tobias snaps out of his trance, he asks him, “Do you think it could be more than mere sea-sickness?” Upon getting a glimpse of Lir’s worried features, his mentor quickly adds, “Sorry. I’m not trying to scare you, Lir, I just want to understand. Maybe it’s the food. Or—”
“It’s fine.” Lir opens the cabin’s closet and shoves the bucket within it in hopes of quelling at least part of the stench. “We need to talk about this anyway.” He returns to sit on the floor, at the opposite end of Tobias, and rests his back against the wall that’s covered in decaying, crusted paint. Lir isn’t sure if it’s clean, but this is better than being dizzy and having to hold himself up on his own. “It’s pretty weird.”
Tobias seems relieved to hear the words. His fist relaxes into an palm that comes to sit atop his knee. He takes another deep breath. He shuts his eyes, then huffs. “Are you experiencing any other symptoms that I might not know about?”
“Uh…” Lir pauses to think about it. He also squints, as if the answer to Tobias’s question can be read somewhere in the space lying between them, if he searches for it hard enough. “It’s like everything smells really strong and every sound is loud. If I tried, I’m sure I could hear the fish swimming below.”
“Yeah.” Lir nods. “Also, I have gills now.”
Tobias chokes on his spit. His eyes fly open as he slams his palm down onto the wood beneath them. “Excuse me?” he blurts. “What?”
Lir shrugs. He pinches the hem of his shirt and lifts it to show Tobias part of his rib cage. “See?” He points to his gills that are, in fact, very much there and moving.
His mentor cranes his neck forward and blinks twice. As he pushes his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, he lets out a low, curious hum. “They weren’t there when I rescued you though… When did you first notice them?”
“Ah. Well…” Lir’s laughter is awkward. He hooks a hand around the back of his neck. His attention wavers from Tobias’s gaze, to his blunt cut bangs, and then, to his long ponytail that sways with the boat’s every motion. “I guess I felt kind of bloated around that area, but honestly my whole body hurt, and I was more concerned with the fact that I could miraculously walk, so…”
“So, you forgot about it,” Tobias supplies.
“No!” Lir’s palm hits the floorboards in turn. “That’s nonsense! I didn’t—” His voice cracks. He drops his shirt. The fabric is taken by gravity again. “Oh, crap.” He buries his face between his hands. “I totally forgot.”
His mentor can only cross his arms. “Is there anything else?” he asks Lir. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to hear about your sudden recovery, but these things never come without a price. We need to be prepared.”
Lir peers up to the ceiling and immediately regrets doing so. There’s mold, and a lot of it, which probably explains what the other terrible stench he’d been smelling since they got here is. “I think there’s more, actually…” His voice is calm, casual. Part of him is glad Tobias followed him after all, for Lir doubts he would have taken all these things into careful consideration—at least, not like this. “Food tastes… funny,” he says, as he recalls his strange experience with the omelet Tobias had taken the liberty of packing for them in his bag.
Tobias scoots closer to him. “How so?” It is like they are sharing secrets, and Lir hates himself for enjoying the slight illusion of intimacy this creates.
“Like everything is bland,” he tells his mentor.
Tobias purses his lips together. “Nothing tastes normal? Are no foods appealing to you anymore?”
Lir considers the question. He doesn’t think the unease that makes his heart sink, due to a sudden unfamiliar feeling of being watched is worth mentioning, so, he settles for an in between. “Maybe one thing, but it’s pretty disgusting,” he says, and Tobias makes a peculiar face right after hearing the statement. “No,” Lir quickly adds. “I’m not craving human flesh, relax.”
“…Was it that obvious?”
His mentor seems flustered. Lir laughs, and wonders if heat has also risen to his face. “Not really.” He waves Tobias’s idea away, yet his mentor doesn’t seem convinced. Lir dares not tell the man that seeing him on the daily turned him into an almost-expert at reading his expressions, no matter how subtle they may be.
“Anyway.” Lir glances out the window. “I think I might need to switch to a diet with raw fish only if I want to stop feeling sick like this.” He pauses. His eyes widen as he gasps with relief. Finally! He’s able to see land on the horizon up ahead! The sight gives him hope that this nightmare, at least, will be over soon.
In the meantime though, Lir can only gulp as another queasy tug kicks at his gut. “Also…” He cringes. “Tobias?”
“Can you hand me that bucket again?”