Jules awakened to blurry shapes above him. He blinked furiously, and the shapes resolved themselves into Ghia, her orange hair creating a fiery halo around a face etched with worry.
She smiled to see him conscious. “Welcome back,” she said gently. “How do you feel?”
He groaned and shifted position on the lumpy mattress. Where was he? Oh, yes, the tavern in Mudflat. “As if I have a spectacularly bad hangover,” he said and a smile quirked her lips. “What happened?” He asked as much out of curiosity as out of needing to distract himself from how cute she was when she smiled.
“Ah, well,” she said, her smile turning to the embarrassed variety. “A fight got started when you were…defending me from someone confused as to the nature of my vocation.” A blush stole across her cheeks and suddenly she got up. He watched her tend to the majors, who were also apparently somewhat worse for wear, and tried not to think about how attractively she walked.
Well, she’d answered his question, but he still couldn’t remember much. He closed his eyes and willed the memories to come back from wherever they’d been chased by this headache. Defending Ghia…from….oh, right. That drunken lout who’d insisted on Ghia’s wenchitude. Jules had walked in and seen the man and found himself flooded with fury. Before he’d known what he was doing, he was across the room and playing the hero.
Try to teach the cretin some manners, and start a bar fight. Great job, Jules. Yarrow was going to be pissed.
Maybe she’d take pity on him. He was injured, after all, and he’d only been doing the right thing. Somehow he doubted she’d kill him and take on Ghia as her CMO, for all the healer’d done a wonderful job taking care of him.
Suddenly remembering the knife that had sliced him open during the fight, he glanced to his left arm to see it bandaged up. There was a pleasant numb sensation and the astringent smell of darkshade paste, and he was prevented from determining the extent of the injury. Unless he wanted to unwrap the neat bandaging job, which he didn’t.
Ghia reappeared at his side then, a cold pack in her hand. He gestured to his arm. “How bad is it?”
She shrugged and gave him the cold pack, which he gratefully pressed to his aching head. “You’ll live. But I still stitched it up,” she added, sitting down gently on his bedside.
“I’m immensely grateful you did that while I was out,” he murmured, closing his eyes as the cold of the pack eased away the pain in his head.
“I numbed it first, Jules. I didn’t want to cause you pain,” she said softly, and he opened one eye to regard her. This was a much different Ghia from the one he was used to – where was the tartness? The teasing? The saucy wench he so loved? (Like. Care for. Not love, he reminded himself sternly, uselessly.) More wild mood swings? Or had being in the middle of a brawl scared away her bravado?
She looked at him worriedly, and he gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “You did a great job, Healer. No complaints over here.”
She returned his smile, creating cute dimples in her cheeks. He adjusted his position again and closed his eyes, ostensibly to rest, but in reality to keep himself from kissing those full lips. That could have pretty bad repercussions. Especially in front of Caelum and Aro. He’d never live it down. If he lived to live it down.
“Jules?” Ghia’s voice cut through his thoughts.
“Mmmmm,” he said, not opening his eyes.
“I don’t think you should go to sleep yet,” she said, healer’s tone back.
He opened his eyes and looked at her. “Until when?”
“Tomorrow morning. You sustained a concussion, Jules. You could slip away from me if you go to sleep,” she added as he began to protest.
He stopped, taken aback. Slip away from me. Not us. Me, she’d said. What…did that mean she felt the same way?
No. Just friends, Jules, his conscience answered him. She’s just worried as a friend. And she’s right about the concussion if you’re having such thoughts.
Reluctantly he nodded, acquiescing, for all that he was dead tired and wanted nothing more than to sleep. Well, nothing more than to sleep with Ghia, but that wasn’t going to happen, regardless of his concussion. He’d just have to keep the two majors up all night, too. Misery loved company.
She smiled, happy at not having to argue with him. “Good. Aro and Caelum already said they’d stay up with you,” she added.
There went that idea.
She went quiet then, a cloud covering her features, and he was worried anew about her. Something was wrong. “Are you okay, Ghia? That man didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“Oh, no,” she said, her face clearing. “Just a little shaken. You came along just in time, Jules. Thank you,” she added, a slight pink colouring her cheeks.
“No problem,” he said, and their eyes locked in an intense, heated gaze. His breath caught in his throat at the sight of Ghia’s parted lips, and he had to restrain the urge to grab her by the hair and kiss her ruthlessly.
She cleared her throat and looked away, and the spell was broken. “I’m going to retire, now. You boys play nice.” She got up to leave.
Jules caught her arm with his hand. “Your gift is downstairs, tied up next to Suki.”
He watched her as she registered the information, and then her face lit up joyfully. “You got me a horse?” she squeaked out, and then he was being mauled by an affectionate Ghia intent on hugging him to death.
“Gently,” he murmured into her hair, though truth be told he didn’t want her ever to let go.
“Thank you so much, Jules,” she gushed, and looked at him with eyes alight with pleasure. “I’m going to go see her right now!” She kissed him on the lips and then was gone, out the door before he could react.
His eyes followed her as she left and, unable to stop himself, he fell back on his bed with a heavy sigh. “You’re welcome,” he said to the not present healer, his lips burning with the taste of hers. Good thing he was supposed to stay up. He was too seriously aroused to fall asleep now.
A snicker from the other side of the room caught his attention, and he looked up to see the two majors trying to hold in their laughter, faces red from the effort.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, though he could well guess.
Caelum collapsed into giggles at that, and it was Aro who answered. “Oh, nothing,” the major said, and a small laugh escaped him. “We’re just admiring your self-control, is all,” he managed to get out, and then burst out laughing along with Caelum.
Jules glared at them. “You both can burn in Tyvian,” he spat out viciously and determinedly looked at the ceiling, pissed off that he couldn’t turn onto his side because of his arm.
“Now, now, Medic,” gasped out Caelum, unable to stop laughing. “We think a horse is perfectly natural gift to get a girl you have no intentions towards at all,” he said, and laughed even harder.
“Yes, well, that self-control you so admire is better served by Ghia riding alone from now on,” Jules said tightly.
The two men laughed still harder. Jules ground his teeth.
It was going to be a long night.