Chapter 48

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Chapter 48

Head thumping he had no idea where he was or what he was doing, it was as if his head was repeatedly being hit by a rather large mallet. A low ringing in his ears, his eyes sore and scratchy even behind closed lids. His mouth full of soggy old wool, which soaked up all the moisture from his mouth, even as he knew there was nothing actually within his mouth except a tongue which felt too big, or at least bigger than normal...was it normally stuck to the roof of his mouth. Moaning, he had to think, all this thinking was making that mallet hit all the harder shaking his brain around in his skull all the more.

He was beginning to think that this whole drinking liquor did not overly agree with him anymore. Or rather, it agreed with him less now than it did...whenever it was he had actually started drinking. Which then brought him onto another painful fuzzy memory...had he not planned to freeze in the comfortable snow drift he had found in the dead of night? The pain of the reason he had wished that to happen slowly overtaking his chest, competing with that of his head for the main reason he could hardly catch a breath because of the agony he was in.

Rohesia was gone, there was nothing he could do to change that...and he was sure he could see the fuzzy outline of Alfred the stupid Sassenach saving his sorry behind from freezing to death. Ugh, he was going to have to kill the male before he finally lay in that snow drift once more, only this time he would make sure he finished the pilfered whiskey before anyone could steal it from him.

Able to start to think through the pain, whilst his stomach started to revolt within him, he started to feel the cold, rough stone beneath his back, a knot already having formed half way up his spine. With a heave, which made his stomach burn and twitch, he managed to turn on his side, only managing to trap his arm beneath his side at an awkward angle which caused it to start going numb almost immediately. Yet it seemed like too much hard work to move once more. That was until something nudged at his ankle. "About time you woke up. Come on, highlander, we had work to do."

Moaning he over toppled himself and ended up slamming onto his back once more, knocking the wind out of him, causing him to splutter and moan at the same time with no success at either. Slitting his eyes open, the small candle nearby was cutting in its small amount of light. "Leave me alone, I have no idea what work you are talking about, but I most definitely want nothing to do with it." Closing his eyes once more, he knew that it would do nothing to help, Alfred would not stop now that he had a bee in his bonnet over whatever this 'work' was.

This time the voice came from a closer position, the volume seeming to be at a level that would make his head explode. "I do not overly care for what you want right now Artair...only what Rohesia needs."

His mind worked sluggishly over the words he had heard. They made no sense, no matter how many times he went over it, or how much he tried to fight through the pain to fully understand what he was hearing. Maybe he had misheard, or he was hallucinating, his mind had been soaked in whiskey but he could not rule out that maybe...just maybe they were true. A seed of hope tried to bloom in his heart, yet he could not let it take root, for what he was hearing was not possible in any way on this earth.

Slitting his eyes once more he looked up at the looming male before him. The male really was the size of a highlander, the flaming hair giving away genes that spoke of an ancestor from the most beautiful and amazing place in the world. "I do not know what you are saying Alfred, when you speak in such riddles. My head really cannot take much more. So, knowing you will bring this back on me in the future. Alfred. Speak in small words." Not able to open his eyes anymore, he had to watch Alfred in a fuzzy haze as he leaned over him. Braced somehow on his knees, not that he particularly cared though.

Alfred fisted Artair's shirt and pulled him bodily up into a sitting position, making his stomach churn even further. "Small words? Fine, Artair, I can give you that. Rohesia is alive, currently terrified and asking for you. Yet you are here, soaked in whiskey, while she has not been allowed to see you because of the state you are in. She needs you right now, will not be consoled by anything or anyone, the only thing she asks for is you." The ire of Alfred's tone started to seep through his fogged mind.

"Stop it Alfred. I do not know what game you are playing, but this is the lowest I could ever see you fall if that is your way of causing me pain." Wrenching his shirt from Alfred's grip, he stumbled to his feet, still unsteady. Managing to save himself just before he fell on his arse, he looked fully at Alfred, his eyes now used to the light, but the pain still too much to take. "You may not like me, the feeling is mutual, but I thought you better than bringing Rohesia's memory into this." His eyes stinging, but he refused to let the tears show this time, Alfred had already seen him at his weakest moment, he did not wish to give him any more, not now.

Alfred took a menacing step forward. "Rohesia is alive. I would not lie of something like this. She is in the next room. I would not be here with you, if I did not think that she needed you right now." The almost monotone of his voice finally sinking into his fuzzy mind. "Prove it."

Nodding, Alfred waved him forward, a frown marring his face, "there is nothing we can do about your stench right now. Could you have drunk any more of that whiskey?" A sound of annoyance was all he got, before Alfred turned walking through the small door, which meant he had to bend almost in half to fit through it...though that may have been a slight over exaggeration.

Walking confidently through the door, he did not expect the sight which threatened to buckle his knees. Alfred stood to one side, but still a barrier if he decided to move forward unannounced. A priest was across the room, sat on a small stool looking worn and haggard as if from a long, sleep deprived night. Whilst in the corner nearest the priest was a small hunched figure, keening slightly as it rocked. A figure he would recognise anywhere. The sunlight hair a cloud around her shoulders, falling before her downturned face. His breath caught in his throat and he could do nothing else but stare for a moment.

"How long have I been out?" The question was forced from his throat.

"It is nearly midday." The lack of any tone in Alfred's voice had the shock rolling through Artair even further. "How is this possible?"

Alfred snorted a laugh. "What? That you slept for almost 18 or 19 hours. Or that Rohesia is a living, breathing part of our lives once more?" Artair knew that Alfred was being facetious, but could not summon from within himself any response to shoot the male down. Not with the shock of seeing the woman who had claimed the best piece of himself. A part that he had never expected to see again, yet here was a chance for him to be whole, but only if he could trust what his eyes were seeing. If what he saw was true, then the most important thing right now was to see to Rohesia well and safe once more. But only after seeing if she really was real, or if this was all one alcohol soaked dream that wanted to punish him for reason he would rather not think on.

Taking one tentative step forward, Alfred did not attempt to stop him. Another step, which was followed by another and another, as he walked Alfred began to speak. "After I found you in that godforsaken snow ditch...sorry father." A mumbled acceptance of the apology. "I heard a commotion, no one knows what happened, only that when I walked through that door Rohesia was alive. Confused, scared and accused of witchcraft, she stood there trembling. Father allowed us to take over his borrowed home until we can find a way out of this mess."

By the time Alfred had finished, Artair only listened with half and ear, the fog having miraculously disappeared from his mind. Before him was the one person who now mattered. He could deal with the rest later.

Going down upon his haunches, he reached out a trembling hand and lightly touched the golden strands of hair. Her head flew up, eyes wide and wild, until they focused upon his face. Her lips moved silently, before the slightest murmur reached his ears. "Artair?"

At his slight nod, he found his arms full of the woman he could never have imagined warm in his embrace once more. Trembling sobs wracked her body and all he could do was hold her tight, silently promising her to keep her safe from now through the rest of eternity.

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