‘You are certain about this?’ Frej asked softly. Frost twinkled in the moonlight, and his breath swirled visibly in the darkness. He had wrapped his thick coat around Sorcha, but he could see that the tips of her nose and ears were pink with cold.
‘Jesus fuck, Frej, I said aye a hundred fucking times. If you ask me again, I’m gonnae nut you.’
Her cheeks were sunken, her scalp visible through soft, downy hair. He should have brought her a hat. Her head would more or less fit in the palm of his hand, but he suspected that, immortal or not, his testicles wouldn’t survive any attempt to warm her that way.
‘But you understand that there is no —‘
‘Aye,’ she roared. ‘I’m freezing my fucking nuts off here. Can we just get on with it before I turn into a fucking snowman staunin’ here?’
She reminded him so much of Kirsty. A pang of sadness hit, and he glanced across the inky-black Clyde towards where he had last seen her. It had been more than one year since he had watched Kirsty run into nothing outside the Barrowlands. Morag. Kirsty had shouted for her dead grandmother, then she ran, and then she was gone.
‘Oi, dozy, you fallen asleep on me?’
Frej easily lifted Sorcha onto his back. He felt her thigh bones sharp around his waist, her fingers digging into his neck as she clung on like a monkey. He covered her hands with one of his and wrapped his other arm behind him to support her hips.
‘You remember to not let go of me, not for one second? Don’t even loosen your grip, just in case.’
In response, Sorcha barked at him like a rabid dog, and he chuckled.
Dawn was just breaking and the soup place in the hospital atrium just opening as Frej wheeled a dozing Sorcha back down the long corridor towards the emergency department. She was in a deep sleep as he helped lift her back into bed. The nurse, Barry, tucked her in and smiled at Frej.
‘You didn’t have to wait with her all this time, pal. That was nice of you,’ Barry said.
They were around the same age, or at least the age Frej had been before. He wasn’t sure how ages worked anymore, but like him, Barry had long, dark blond hair he wore in a bun. They’d become friendly after Barry heard Frej’s accent and told him all about the Norwegian cruise he’d once gone on for a pal’s 30th.
The pals had been under the impression it would be a wild booze cruise. They'd found themselves surrounded by folk their grandparents’ ages playing shuffleboard and attending nightly singalongs of hits from the West End. Frej had understood exactly none of this but Barry’s descriptions of icy fjords and craggy mountains sharp against a deep blue sky made him happy. Then Barry took Frej to the Cathouse, and the friendship was sealed.
Sorcha snuffled in her sleep, and Barry glanced at his watch with a frown. ‘Did you not take her just as I came on last night? Wait — am I going daft? That cannae be right.’
‘I did not notice the time,’ Frej shrugged. ‘I think there was maybe a problem with the machine. We talked a little bit, it was fine.’
‘Ahh well. Must be sorted out, I saw her scans just came through. Doctor is looking at them just now.’ He gave a sad sigh as they approached the nurses’ station. ‘Pure rotten when they’re that young. Sorry, I shouldnae say that, I just —’
‘She said they told her there was nothing more to do after the last chemo did not work.’
‘Aye, and if she’s back this soon — well, we’ll see what the scan says. I think she’s been spoken to about hospice before, but I’ll just make a note to make sure when she wakes up, hold on a minute —‘
‘Excuse me, I’m sorry to disturb, but could you—?’
The young doctor, her long black hair tied in a low ponytail, had an accent that Frej understood was from the kingdom he had once known as Wessex. She sounded worried as one of consultants, a tall, grey-haired man with tired eyes behind steel-rimmed glasses, stopped by the desk.
‘I just — I’m so sorry, I don’t know what I’m missing —‘
Barry was frowning at some paperwork. A patient groaned with pain in another cubicle and a siren approached as Frej slowly wheeled the empty chair past the desk. If he didn’t return the chair to the porters’ secret store, then the volunteers would commandeer it for their secret store. Frej would never hear the end of it if he lost yet another wheelchair to determined volunteers.
‘It’s quite alright,’ the consultant said kindly, leaning over the desk. ‘What are you looking for?’
‘The, umm — the tumour. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I just can’t see it.’
‘That’s because there isn’t one.’
‘I — wait, what?’
‘There’s no tumour there. In fact, that’s the scan of a very healthy person, I would say. You’ve got some good news to give. That’s always nice.’
‘I — but I — can that — can it happen like that?’
The consultant was gone and the young doctor asked the question into thin air. Frej smiled as he hid the wheelchair in the porters’ secret store. Then he remembered that he was going to have to admit to Nathan that he’d done it again, and his smile faded.