The Houses of Healing was as busy as when the army had left. Navigating the halls with a relative familiarity, Peldirion folded the note back up and slipped it safely into the pocket of his tunic.
”Halethon needs to see you.”
He had been sorely disappointed, though not all that surprised, to find his room empty when he had returned from dealing with the twins. Of all the times for them to start a fight…. Peldirion shook his head, and he distracted his thoughts of Halethon with imagining her name filling the blank space below the beautiful script. The way her dark hair tumbled over her shoulders, how years of stress fled before her touch….
And then he was there. Peldirion stared at the offending door for a moment before pushing it open, not bothering to knock. Halethon lay on a bed in the corner across from him, eyes closed and brow furrowed as he focused.
“Still working at trying to move?”
Halethon started, his head jerking back a little as Peldirion’s low voice broke his concentration. “I’ll get it one of these days,” he said quietly. The younger man glanced at Peldirion’s face, then his arm. “Glad to see you’re still in once piece.”
“‘Bout as glad as I am to still be in one,” Peldirion responded, pulling up a chair as he took note of Halethon’s tired features. “You sleep?”
“Hardly. Was getting worried that you wouldn’t…”
Peldirion grunted and adjusted the sling that held his right arm.
Halethon craned his neck to get a better look at the man. Peldirion moved his chair closer. “I’m… I apologize for what I said before.”
“What part?” He didn’t mean for it to sound as harsh as it did, but he wasn’t all that sorry.
Halethon frowned and looked down over his immobile form. “When… For saying it’s a good thing you don’t have any more brothers left for this one to sleep with.”
Peldirion studied the young man, his dark blue eyes nearly black. “You will never compare her to Lothiel. Unless it is to praise her, you will not. Not ever, do you understand me?” There was no warmth in his voice, and he was not sure what angered him more; the fact that someone would stoop so low as to compare Lalaith to Lothiel, or that it had been Halethon who’d said it.
Halethon nodded quickly, his face twisting with regret. “Yes, sir. I understand. I regretted it as soon as I’d said it. Never again. I’m… There is no excuse. I’m sorry.”
A minute passed by in silence. “How were you while I was away?”
Again Halethon’s features twisted. “I don’t… I don’t want to talk about it.”
There was something about that look that pulled at Peldirion’s core. A memory of despair, and after half a lifetime as friends, he understood that fleeting expression.
“You give up on me, and I’ll bring you back and beat you senseless,” said Peldirion gruffly.
Halethon squeezed his eyes shut and nodded. “It felt easier to give up,” he said weakly. “The thought of living life like this….”
“You can’t give up. After everything… You held me up for years. It’s about time I return the favor. I have new plans for you, and those plans won’t be any good without a right-hand man.”
“Well, if I can at least get full use of my arms back…”
“Full use?” Peldirion said, interrupting as he sat up in his seat.
A grin suddenly spread across Halethon’s face, it’s light banishing the gloom that had filled the room moments before. “It’s so faint I sometimes wonder if I’m imagining it. They pinch me though, the healers. Every time they come in they test and I can tell, all the way to my finger tips.”
Relief washed over Peldirion like a wave, and for a moment he wondered if he would start crying. So many bloody emotions in one day would surely be the death of him. “What do they say?”
Halethon rolled his head as if he might have shrugged his shoulders. “It will be a lot of work.”
“We expected that, though. It’s never stopped us before.”
“You can’t work with me all the time, Peldirion. If you do, you won’t have daylight to do anything else.”
Peldirion sniffed and a wry smile lit his features. “You let me worry about that. Ferris will be running my errands from now on so that will help.”
Halethon’s eyebrows rose. “Ferris? Don’t tell him that it might suit him better than a shield, but…” His voice trailed off and an amused smirk replaced the look of confusion. “Did he see…?”
“There was nothing to see,” said Peldirion briskly, shooting Halethon a half-hearted warning glance. “But, yes. Ferris has been, to some extent, assimilated into our little council.
“And what of these new plans? How are you going to get by with a cripple as your right hand?”
Peldirion grinned, and leaned forward to rest his good elbow on his knee. “Where should I start?”