Rin rarely dreamt, but when he did, she often came to him.
Sometimes she came with red-rimmed eyes to gently chide him; other times, she twirled in endless fields of peonies, dazzling in her beauty. The only common thread seemed to be that the further away he aimed to be, the more frequently he called to her in his dreams.
It was maddening.
It was selfish.
He wondered if he so desperately wished to see her that his mind had begun conjuring visions of her to ease the emptiness he so keenly felt in his chest. Or, he thought cynically, perhaps his guilt-ridden conscience had deliberately chosen her as a reminder of the crime he'd committed against his own prince. Still, the cycle continued.
Rin knew he was dreaming once more when he felt fingertips ghost across his forehead. It was a familiar and comforting touch. If he opened his eyes, he knew he would find her on the bedside edge, just as he'd last dreamt of her. The thought crossed his mind to turn his face into the warmth of her hand, but he tamped down the desire as soon as it came. His conscience nipped at him. It was brazen and foolish, indeed, to continually call on her in his dreams. Worse, still, that he continued to yearn for her.
And yet he felt those fingertips, impossibly gentle against his brow. Just once, he hushed the voice in his mind, desperately wishing to prolong the moment. Just once more, he wished to dream of her.
"Foolish man," she spoke into the silence. Rin was inclined to agree. Perhaps she had come to him this time as a voice of reason, to remind him of his follies, to turn him away.
Instead, her voice, laced with the barest hint of a quiver, lowered to a whisper, "You saved us--all of us. Yet, for all your sacrifices... you lay here." A pause. Nearly indecipherable words, but he caught her words: "I worry about you."
Her words clamped down on him, digging into his throat. Silence hung between them, a heavy shroud. Her hand stilled and withdrew. It pained him. For all his bravado, for all his attempts to protect her, he still failed to shelter her from his own choices. There was always a margin of truth within dreams. The thought settled in his chest, an uncomfortable, gnawing feeling.
Despite the heavy weight of his eyelids, Rin forced his eyes open. He strained, vision falling in and out of blurriness as he turned his gaze to the side of the bed. Turned away, she sat motionless, her hands settled in her lap. Shoulders slumped, she appeared drawn and tired.
He wished to comfort her, to speak with the lingering visage of her in his mind. But what more could be said that hadn't already been spoken? He hesitated, swallowed, and spoke through parched lips.
San was losing her mind.
It had been four days since they'd recovered Rin's bloodied and battered body from the stream, and two since the official declaration of his death. Despite the physician's positive prognosis, San felt her concern mounting by the day. With the large dosage of pain medication that he'd been given, Rin had neither woken nor stirred in four days, and it took every ounce of her willpower to keep from checking his pulse on the hour. The sight of him laying pale and motionless in the poorly thatched hut did little to allay her fears. In fact, she felt--to a fairly high degree of certainty--that her increasing insanity directly correlated with the number of times he laid before her, hurt, bleeding, and unconscious.
She wrung her hands and heaved a soft sigh.
San blinked and stumbled to a stand. Heart drumming a rapid pace, she swiveled on the heel of her foot to look at the bed. Despite all the medication, Rin had woken. He met her gaze through half-hooded eyes, lips parted as though her name still lingered on its edges.
A number of thoughts raced through her mind. He was awake! Had the medication worn off? How did he feel? She needed to find the physician. But who would tend to him if she did? Did he know of the fright he'd given her when she'd heard of his injuries? Did he know of the fright he'd given her when she found him in that stream? How dearly she wished to shoulder those injuries herself--
"Ah! You're-- How-- Are you--" Her words came out in a garbled, embarrassingly high-pitched mess; and she shook her head, hurried to the bedside, and cleared her throat. Eyes searching his face, she finally settled for: "You're awake. I was..." She trailed off, focus caught on the light sheen of sweat on his forehead. She turned away and grabbed the water basin beside the bed. "We were all worried," she corrected, dipping a cloth into the basin and wringing out the water. The steadying motion came as a welcome relief from the gaze that she felt on her. San wrung the wet cloth with more force. "You know... For all that strength and for all that practice, you have a habit of getting injured a lot," she joked quietly.
The silence was stifling.
She set the basin on the ground and reached the cloth over to him, hesitating just above his forehead. The glare of red bandages on his chest struck at her, and she felt her expression pinch together. Now is not the time, she reminded herself, and gently brushed his hair to the side. "The water is a little cold, but it should be a little soothing, so--"
With the barest touch, his hand reached up and grasped hers. It was trembling. Or was hers? San glanced from their joined hands to his face. He was looking at her now, earnestly. Observant as he was, she wasn't sure if he had ever looked away in the time that she'd spent rambling to herself.
Voice strained, Rin spoke in a low timbre, "I'm sorry."
The words struck at her. Perhaps it was something in her expression, but his brows drew together and his fingers curled around the palm of her hand.
He was worried.
San willed a smile to her face. "You did what you had to." And she meant those words, truly, which was what made her emotions all the more nonsensical. She needed to recollect herself. "Would you like something to eat?" she ventured, "You've been asleep for four days now, so you must be starving now that you've finally woken. I can leave the cloth here, so if it gets uncomfortable, you can use it yourself."
She registered surprise flicker across his face for a fraction of a moment as his eyes widened. Gingerly, Rin withdrew his hand from her own and cast a look down towards his chest, then back towards her. Several moments passed in which unease and confusion warred across the corners of his lips. "Ah," he finally said, simply.
"Ah?" San repeated. She returned the cloth to the basin and placed it beside the bed. It must be exhausting, she reasoned. Perhaps he had caught onto her worries and her fears. If only she could read his mind. She cleared her throat to fill the silence and stood. "I'll go get the porridge started while you rest."
With that, she took one last look at him, smiled reassuringly, and stepped outside.
Author's Note: Thank you for taking the time to read my humble interpretation of events! I was inspired by many other amazing fanfics out there, including MelissaPuelKnox's Shelter My Heart and shipperholicme's Ever After. Please do go give those a read if you have not already had the opportunity to enjoy their works!
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The King Loves: RecoveryFanfiction
Ever wondered what occurred off-screen between Wang Rin's fall from the cliff and his reappearance with Eun San for their final farewell? This story details that brief period of time, as San and Rin aid one another in recovering from wounds, new and...