trust me, see what it's like."
Ro didn't speak a word in
response, his expression revealing little more than a flicker of confusion.
He nodded finally and stepped back out of her space, from her touch, and
clearing his head before turning towards the stairs -- leading the way with
an odd, careful gait. The conversation among the others turned into a low
buzz as his attention wavered. He was oddly concerned for Shadow, angry that
someone had taken her, but calculating enough to know that charging off now
wasn't the answer.
The S'Hean paused at the
top of the stairs, jaw clenching – a small nerve throbbing beneath the
skin. “Three,” his whispery baritone echoed slightly in the hall. “To
the right, I know that much – how far down?” Open doors were easy enough
to find through drafts and changes of air pressure, a hallway of closed
doors was an entirely different story. Especially in a place that was
For a moment as she
watched him, Ghet's face was unusually serious and still. There was
something in him that made him hide his vulnerability, and she didn't think
it was anything as simple as pride.
Then she gave an
exasperated shake of the head and skittered after him. Passing, she found
his door and stood by it, trusting in his ability to follow his voice.
"Here, this one. Once you're in, sit down and I'll see what I can
His head lifted slightly,
turning to listen and scent the air. Then he was moving confidently forward
with sure strides that brought him to the door, a hand reaching out to tap
the rough surface of the wood – sliding down to grasp the doorknob and
swing it inwards.
Stepping past Ghet, the
half-elf entered the room he had been sleeping in and shrugged out of the
harness that held his massive bastard-sword in place. Laying it on the
floor, he tugged open the laces on his shirt and pulled it over his head,
revealing a road map of pale-white scars crisscrossing over golden-tan skin.
There was no sign of self-consciousness over them, however. It was as if he
bore them all with a measure of acceptance.
Tiny emeralds glittered
within the flesh where he was marked with the D'Riel seal as Ro turned
sideways, revealing a shallow gash across his upper abdomen. It had been
hidden by the black shirt he'd been wearing. He sat heavily on the edge of
the bed – large hands grasping the edge of the mattress and wrinkling the
coarse blanket. His frame was tense, then slowly relaxed. “Alright.”
Ghet stared at him for a
moment, then snorted. "You know, a normal person might go 'ow'. I can't
believe I didn't bring my medkit on this trip, I should have known people
would be doing their best to get hacked to pieces."
Looking around the room,
she found a candle and lit it at the fire, which she then banked, dropping
the light level in the room to a dim flicker. She filled a bowl with water
that was just going to have to be cold, and then knelt in front of him.
Initially, she paid the cut as little attention as he had, moving the candle
in front of his face and noting the total lack of pupil response.
"You're remarkably good at covering this up. I wouldn't have noticed if
you'd looked at me before. People sometimes miss my face low, they never
look straight over my head. What happened?"
The edge of Ro's mouth
quirked ever so slightly, he could feel the heat of the candle on his skin
– quite clever really. The half-elf's expression was suddenly filled with
feral interest, his concentration focused completely on the redhead. She was
beautiful, that much was plain in his recent memory – the quick
intelligence was a pleasant surprise. His face closed up again, the nerve in
his jaw throbbing. “Someone set off a flash – it caught me off guard,
that's all. My sight will come back eventually.”
Shoving a hand through
his short forelock of chestnut hair, the S'Hean unknowingly left a bloody
streak across his forehead. “Medkit?” he inquired. The question neatly
deflecting the conversation from himself.
Ghet nodded, setting the
candle down carefully next to the bed, her attention momentarily diverted.
"Good. Well, not 'good', but flash-blind is better than retinal
detachment." Sitting back on her heels, she wet a cloth in the water
and pushed a couple of interesting questions back. Let him think he was
changing the subject, it made for a good game. "Medkit. Most of it
doesn't work on Arlsyn anyway, but... drugs and devices for speeding healing
that leave no scars."
She knelt up again,
washing the wound on his stomach with a firm, professional touch. If she
kept talking, she could focus her attention away from his body and see him
as a patient, not a man. "I really miss my medical scanner, though.
Then I'd know if there was permanent retinal damage. It lets me... see
inside people, I guess." She smiled wryly, her eyes still fixed at the
level of his stomach. "Though I don't think that would get me far with
you. I'd need more than a scanner to see through this." She gestured
with her free hand a few inches from her body, which would probably have
been useless even if he could have seen it. "This wall. Nothing gets
out, nothing gets in. Is the world really that scary? I should probably
stitch this. It doesn't really need it, but you'll pull it open again if I
Ro stiffened almost
imperceptibly when she touched him – though the reason wasn't immediately
apparent. He sat patiently as Ghet cleaned the wound, frowning as she
explained what a medkit was – pretty sure the redhead wasn't referring to
magic, but unsure as to what else she could be alluding to.
A sudden flicker of wry
amusement drew an unexpected chuckle and the half-elf grinned for a fraction
of a second, revealing his dimples. “It isn't the world that is scary,”
he said cryptically.
Callused fingers pressed
at the skin near the wound assessingly, perhaps applying more pressure than
absolutely necessary. Nodding, Ro moved the hand away. “Go ahead.” He
relaxed to make the job easier for her. “How long have you been a
Ghet turned away, rinsing
out the cloth to cover how badly her hands were shaking. No. She was
not going back there. Stupid: she'd got herself into this situation, her
subconscious working behind her back to get what it wanted, but that didn't
mean she had to fall for it. He could be as scary and darkly charming as he
She took a deep breath
and worked deliberately to slow down her racing pulse. "I'm a terrible
seamstress, I'll warn you. Not that it looks like you'd mind the scar. As
for how long... well, the blink of an eye by your standards, I guess. I had
basic training at the Academy when I was eighteen, and I chose to take some
of the advanced courses, but medical was never my major, I'm an
anthropologist. There's more than one kind of healing, though, and... a cast
of mind to being A Healer. In light of which, my answer is going to be, four
years. Feel free to run screaming now, before I get the thread in you."
Ro's skin prickled with
sensation – he could feel Ghet's rapid pulse, smell something in her that
the woman was obviously struggling to rein in. He had to force himself to
listen to the words – fighting down what eight hundred years had bred into
instinct. What he couldn't reveal, what he was refused to let anyone see
what his own terror – of himself. Habit had to be broken, and here was the
challenge, practically in his lap.
“I think I'll live.”
He almost raised a hand to stop her, despite the words. Could he face
temptation and resist? Would the pain release something he wasn't prepared
to stop? Maybe he was ready – maybe this was the final challenge that
would bring him past that dark barrier. “Where are you from?” Talking
seemed to help, the distraction keeping him occupied.
Holding the needle in the
hot part of the candleflame, Ghet answered without really thinking, letting
him divert them both though she knew what he was doing. "All over,
really. I was born on a Terran colony planet, and I'd been round, gods, at
least five more of those by the time we settled on Terra." She
snickered, running heavy thread through the eye of the cooling needle.
"I'm a frontier brat, and a military brat, we're just the worst.
Spoiled and wild. No home, though. And I've spent all my adult life
She inhaled hard, trying
to steady herself, and leaned in to his body to start the stitching. His
reaction to the wound was just stoicism, obviously. Her own feelings were...
wrong. Wrong and rare. As the needle pushed through his flesh, she sought
for something to say, to take their minds off it. "So, what happened to
Response to the sharp
pain of the needle was immediate and visceral, the low growl in Ro's chest
barely repressed – the physical reaction impossible to hide in close
quarters. Closing his eyes the half-elf drew a shallow breath to steady
himself, a slow mantra playing in his head as he fought down the desire to
tear into her. He wondered briefly if Ghet knew how close she was to being
yet another victim – then pushed the thought from his mind.
She had asked a question.
Answering it gave him focus. “Shadow is sensitive to bright light, it
hurts her, robs her of her abilities. Whoever set up the trap obviously
knew, it was designed for her specifically. They set off the flash, grabbed
her and disappeared.”
There was a reaction, a
momentary flash of something, and then that damnable wall was back, stronger
than ever. She would have sworn it wasn't pain, but it had to be. Her own
feelings were colouring the faint traces of his. Concentrating on the needle
pushing through his skin, the tiny beadings of blood... it wasn't helping.
She scowled at what he
said, though, and swore under her breath. "Dammit, stupid! 'It's a
trap, Shady, let's spring it'. I should have known something was wrong with
that whole set-up. That man with the eyes, I knew he was feeding me, but...
she's so capable, you know? It never occured to me she might get into
serious trouble." She tied up another stitch and raised her eyes to
look Y'Roden in the face, though he couldn't see her. "Has this whole
thing been about Shadow all along? Dammit, there's something I'm
forgetting." She lowered her head again, more in control of her hands
as she worked in the last couple of stitches. "I don't suppose you're
any good at hypnosis. If I could regress to that conversation... Okay,
you're done, just let me clean it down again... there. I'll come back in a
couple of days and take those out. Gods know where we'll be by then, of
Y'Roden relaxed when Ghet
was done – internally satisfied that he had passed some sort of Fates
given test. He smiled wryly – there was a part of him that was extremely
skilled at making people remember things, even when they didn't want to.
“I suppose you could say I'm a fair hand at something to that effect,”
Blind fingers examined
the work she had done, followed by a low grunt of approval. “Spend a lot
of time stitching up your companions? I suppose that's a given if you've
kept company with my sister before.”
"Hardly ever, actually. Uncle Galain's famous horse incidents almost
never require stitches." She stood, and brushed off her knees. "I
really should get back now, I guess. And you should stay in the nice dim
room until your eyes adjust. Any chance of that happening?"
“Why do you call him
Uncle?” A glint of curiosity flickered momentarily though the half-elf's
eyes. “Your relationship doesn't seem... familial.” Rolling his
shoulders, Ro fell back on the bed – since he couldn't see her anyway.
“I'll stay here. I don't mind my own company.” That was a hideous lie.
The mask slipped slightly for a moment, revealing a twist of agonized self
doubt – and then it was gone again.
"I adopted him.
Well, he adopted me, but it was my idea. To keep me from sleeping with
him." Ghet enjoyed being overly blunt sometimes, given the way it threw
people off their stride, but she was also glad Ro couldn't see her face
right now. "He's kind of really hot, you know, but... well. If I were
ever to fall in love with someone, I'm pretty sure I'd want to be the most
important thing in their life by a long chalk, and I just don't see that
happening there, do you?" She shook her head as she packed up her
things and rinsed out the jug. "I don't like coming second."
“I hadn't quite noticed
that about him,” Ro said wryly, “though my sister certainly has...” He
cut off abruptly. Galain and An'Thaya were a touchy subject for many
reasons. His head turned in Ghet's direction, a slight smirk turning his
mouth. “No – I don't expect you do. A woman like you should always come
Laying back again, he
scrubbed at his face with the heel of his hand – oddly at ease with her in
the room. There was something about the human that calmed his general sense
of distrust. “Love – now there is something I know absolutely nothing
about...” The half-elf's voice trailed off slowly, the ebb of adrenaline
lulling his over-exerted frame, head falling to the side. Later, he would
wonder what the hell had happened, but for the moment, he'd lapsed into a
deep, healing sleep.
Turning back towards the
bed, Ghet was startled to see him asleep. It touched an odd tenderness in
her, to see such a strong, controlled man so vulnerable. She had an idiotic
urge to push his fringe back from his eyes, but she was dead sure that would
wake him. So many things... she'd feared this man so much that she'd missed
the potential for his friendship.
Smiling, she stared down
at him, hesitant to go. “Love – now there is something I know absolutely
nothing about...” Christian's eyes, Andrel's dead body. "Lucky
you," she whispered sadly. "Keep it that way."
She shut the door quietly
behind her, then leaned against it. She had to go be Ghet now, a strength
and a light for people who had lost someone they loved. Time to put her
private heart away.