Chapter 42

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Sebastian finally comes to see me the next day. Hale told me to just give him time, that he was struggling with everything that had happened. I understand; Sebastian is a man of honor and he wasn't there when we were attacked. It can't be easy for him to deal with knowing he left me there. But it still stings that he's waiting so long to visit.

When he enters the infirmary, he's awkward and formal, standing a respectable distance away from me with his hands clasped behind his back. Though his uniform is impeccable, buttons gleaming, not a wrinkle in sight, his eyes have dark circles and his hair is mussed. I've come to realize that you can tell a lot about how Sebastian is actually feeling from the state of his hair. 

I push myself up on the pillows, ignoring the twinge of my sore body. "Captain, it's so good to see you. Please, sit." I gesture to one of the chairs next to my bed.

He seats himself stiffly, avoiding my eyes. My heart gives a painful thump as I watch him struggle to find something to say. 

I wish people would stop making this about them and their ridiculous guilty feelings. I'm exasperated with reassuring everyone that I'm fine and don't hate them for not being there to die or protect me. Especially when I feel like I've proven that I can take care of myself. But they all want to beat themselves up about it and leave it up to me to reassure them that everything is okay.

I'm tired of it. Tired down to my very core of having to be the one making everyone else feel good. Hale, Sebastian, Elias and Gareth are all sulking around feeling guilty and responsible when they should be just happy we are all alive. 

"Let's just get this over with," I sigh, ignoring Sebastian's surprised look. "No, I don't hate you. No, you shouldn't feel guilty over leaving during the ball, especially as you were doing your job. No, I don't think you would have made a difference if you were there, except you maybe would have died. And no, I do not want any apologies from you. Does that cover everything?"

There's a moment of silence from Sebastian while he studies me. I wonder if he can see just how ragged and worn I am on the inside. 

He gives me a small, self conscious smile. "Long week?"

A laugh that's almost a sigh escapes me. "You could say that. All being stuck in this bed all day isn't helping."

I long to be outside, in the fresh air. I can feel all the weeks of training melting away the longer I lie in this bed. I'm going to be weak and shaky as a newborn lamb once I get back with the recruits.

The scrape of the chair is loud in the quiet room as Sebastian moves himself closer, reaching out to take my hand in his. 

"Take all the time you need to rest. And when you're feeling ready, come back and continue training. The men miss you... I miss you." He gives my hand a warm squeeze.

I close my eyes. Now isn't the time, I know that but I can't be dishonest anymore. 

"Listen Sebastian," I start, taking my hand back gently. "I can truthfully say that I've never been pursued before so I'm not any good at this. At any of this... but I feel the need to be honest with you."

He's watching me with a sad smile tugging at the corner of his lips and I know that he knows. Perhaps has known for a while. I wouldn't be surprised if he was simply giving me time to figure things out. Sebastian has always been too good for me.

"It's Hale, isn't it?" The words aren't bitter, more resigned.

"No." I shake my head then stop. "Yes and no. I won't lie that he is part of it. But more than that, it's me. I don't have the time to deal with all of this right now, not with Willow. She has to come first, always."

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