Once more, in the light

   
Once more, in the light

Aria awoke with a scream, violent enough to wake Dazzle from his own slumber in the next bed. She sat up suddenly, face somehow even more pale and sweat sheening her skin.

With a startled cry Jody rolled out of his bed, arm protecting his face from the impending blow. But after a few seconds, when the rest of his senses caught up with him and the adrenaline started to fade, Jody realized where he was, and what must have happened.

He stood up, brushed himself off, and smiled weakly at Aria. Now that you're up, can I fix you something? Tea? Biscuits? Sedatives?

"Aria, Aria," Iliana soothed, her voice steady, soft. Her calm belied the painful racing of her heart, Aria's scream still caught beneath her ribs. "I'm here. I'm with you."

The sleepless vigil had painted a blue blush beneath her eyes. Iliana didn't dare release Aria's hand, but neither did she tighten her grip upon it or make any other move. Aria would decide what she needed, what happened next; Iliana would adjust, respond.

"Water, please," she whispered to Jody. "Thank you."

She fixed her gaze on Iliana. "I'm to take it then that this time the lead was genuine? I do hope so. I would much rather that the last days, weeks, months, whatever it was, was for some good purpose?"

Jody noticed a few of the medical staff perking up their ears, trying not to show up but clearly interested in the conversation.

Iliana nodded, once. For all that the cost had been terrible, unthinkable, it had been genuine as Aria had hoped.

"Yes," she spoke softly, scarcely above a breath. "I kept my promise."

Only then did she squeeze softly against her friend's fragile grasp. Upon Iliana's face was such a penetrating sorrow, in the heaviness in the lids of her eyes, and her lips forming neither a smile nor frown. After so many lives had been lost it seemed like a sin to feel such relief that Aria had survived. But Iliana felt it and was grateful through her grief, and was grateful against her guilt.

Aria squeezed back with surprising strength and she released a massive sigh of relief. "Thank you. I knew you would but thank you."

"Who- who is everyone? I recognise the blonde man. Why is he here? Other than him I know only you."

"The blond swooned," Iliana supplied carefully. "He spent the night abed. The others are healers; they've been attending to your condition with great consideration."

Though there was strength in surprising amounts in the elf's hand, Iliana searched her face. After everything Aria had been through, it seemed unwise bordering on dangerous to disclose too much. "I worry," she confessed. "That you need to rest and focus on healing."

"No, no, not the fop. Winter's man, that great bear of a thing."

Aria smiled. "What funny company you have been keeping. I only hope that if it is at all my fault that you have enjoyed their company."

"While I feel like sleeping for a year, and have no intention of moving, we must converse and privately too. There is too much and it cannot wait further."

Chastened, Jody obediently poured a glass of water from the pitcher at the table near the door and placed it at Aria's bedside. She had handled his inappropriate remark with such grace that he felt immediately ashamed of himself, and was filled with gratitude to be merely allowed to listen to the ensuing conversation.

But the feeling quickly passed. He had been invaluble, on numerous occasions in fact, and proven his worth to Iliana, at the very least. He had merely to bite his tongue, at least from time to time, and look for ways to be of actual use.

So he sat at the edge of the bed when Aria mentioned conversing privately, so as to ensure he heard everything even if she lowered her voice, and waited.

"Of course," Iliana agreed, releasing Aria's hand. Standing, she was momentarily struck by a vertiginous dizziness; she should have slept, should have known better. Pressing her fists against her closed eyes, she waited until the moment passed before approaching the healers.

The aura of healing magics so gracious and gentle and abundant it warmed the skin. Iliana inclined her head respectfully, and informed the staff: "The Lady Aria and I would like some privacy, if you please."




 

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