Jourd’Umbra, 39th Decima
In a castle hallway, Ghia came to. She was being held up by Jules, who was in closer physical proximity than usual. They were about twenty feet from Aro’s room.
Rosa quickly explained.
Oh. Right. Thank you, Magea, she sent almost distractedly. The Magi gave a mental wave, as if to say, It was nothing.
Probably quite a bit more than nothing but the magea would doubtless do her own investigation. Presently, Ghia had something else on which to focus her attention.
Speaking of focused attention…. Jules was staring at her intently, concern in his eyes, thumbs stroking her cheeks tenderly. “Ghia? You awake?” he asked, hesitant.
She disengaged herself from his grasp and gave a quick bow and what she hoped was a game smile.
“Right as rain. Are my eyes normal?” They both understood she meant normal for Atherians, not normal for her. He nodded. “Good. Ah…Jules?”
His eyebrows were raised; he was waiting patiently for her to go on. Why am I nervous? It’s a thank you, not a proposal, for Amora’s sake. “Thank you for getting through to me. I wouldn’t have been able to contact Rosa without your prompting.” She blushed then and looked away. The drug must still be in her system. She was not her usual self.
Jules merely inclined his head. “Not a problem. I’m just glad it was I who found you. Now,” he added, all medic-stern–and how glad she was that he moved on from the thought he’d just presented!–“want to tell me what you’re doing going to Aro’s room after midnight when you should be resting?”
She put her hands on her hips and glared at him, though there was little force behind it. “I could ask you the same, CMO. But I’m tired of this fight. It’s simple: I had a dream and Anala will be coming back to Harbourtown soon, if she escapes Voco at all, and she’ll need support waiting for her. Aro needs to snap out of it and get moving, or he’ll lose her.” There was real anger in her voice now. If Aro was still drunk….
Jules shrugged and sighed. “I’m tired of this fight, too. Let’s go grab the Major. Then we’ll all go to Harbourtown.”
That came as a surprise. She should question the idea, but how, without arguing again? She hadn’t lied when she’d said she was tired of fighting everything out with him. She gestured down the hall. “Let’s go, then.”
She sensed his surprise and worry over the ease with which she’d given in. She gritted her teeth. Did he never stop worrying about her?
No, said a voice in her head. Funny things happen when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of….
She gave the voice a mental glare. He’s not in love with me, she insisted, and Jules is closer to middle-aged than young.
Right. Sure. She should trade in for a new conscience. This belligerent voice was getting on her nerves.
At Aro’s room, Jules knocked on the wooden door strongly but politely. The latch clicked after only a brief pause this time and the door opened. The interior was just as dark as before but this time there was no Fanchone to be wary of; so Ghia waved her hand experimentally at where the wall sconce should be, concentrating on calling fire power to the spot. There was a flicker; then a stubby candle sputtered to life.
Hm. Learn something new every day.
The candle cast an uncertain light over the sty the room had become. Aro sat on the bed, squinting at the two figures in his doorway. He still reeked of brandy, but didn’t seem quite so drunk as before. Still drunk, however, which enraged Ghia.
“Juno’s tits, Aro!” she said savagely, pushing her way into the room. “You cowardly lush! Did you hear nothing I told you last time I was here?” She kicked aside some clothing on the floor and grabbed his chin, forcing his bloodshot eyes to meet her clearly livid ones.
“Ghia,” came Jules’ voice from behind her, with a scolding coming on in the warning of his tone. Oh, no. I’ll be damned if I let Jules scold me for saying what he’s too afraid to say.
She levelled her angry gaze on him instead. “Don’t you dare take sides against me, Jules,” she said crossly; then turned back to the major.
Aro was crying. Thick tears ran down his face to land on his lap, and he sniffled piteously. If she weren’t so mad, Ghia supposed she might be moved but, as it was, the man just looked pathetic.
“I just…” he began, then hiccupped. “I just…” hiccup “miss Anala…” hiccup “so mush!” One more resounding hiccup, for emphasis.
Oh, Goddess! “For Muerta’s sake, Aro, grow up!” She yelled at him, but he couldn’t hear her. He’d dissolved into a pile of tears at that point.
Frustrated beyond measure, Ghia grabbed him by his hair and dragged him to the bathroom. Normally she wouldn’t have the strength but the assistance of her Magi-powers and Jules’ hasty and guilty help got the job done. She tossed the major into the tub and turned on the showerhead, spraying him with ice-cold water. He spluttered and flailed, mewling helplessly. Ghia rolled her eyes and slapped him across the face, hard.
Suddenly sober, he blinked and looked at her and Jules as if for the first time. “Healer? Medic?” He looked at his surroundings and his sodden clothes and with a sigh let his head fall back against the wall, closing his eyes painfully. “I’m a mess.”
“Damn right you are,” Ghia growled, unwilling to let him off so easily. How she hated weak men! “What the feck did you think Anala would say, could she see you now?” She waited for an answer, but none came. Aro stared at her miserably. “That’s what I thought.” She sighed, a gusty exhalation that expelled the rest of her anger. She waved her hand and rose to go. “Get showered and dressed – we need to leave for Harbourtown by dawn.”
Aro protested with questions she hadn’t the energy to answer. Jules leapt to her assistance, giving her the healer’s signal Go on, I’ve got this. She smiled at him gratefully and left Aro’s fetid room to stand in the fresher, if colder, hallway air.