Her gaze drifted over to where she left him. For a moment, time seemed to freeze as she found him leaning against the tree and staring back at her. Tears rushed to her eyes. Sylin. He was finally awake. Immediately, throwing her sword aside, she dropped herself down the length of the tree, ignoring the rough bark that chafed at her thighs. At the base of the plant, she paused, to stare at him. The whole thing was surreal, a part of her still didn’t believe that he had finally woken.
She rubbed the tears out of her eyes. But he didn’t disappear. He wasn’t a figment of her imagination, encouraged forth by her tear-blurred vision. He really was here. Sylin! Without realizing, she found herself bolting at him, and throwing her arms around his shoulders. He was finally back.
“Ah.” He acknowledged, with a wince.
“Did I hurt you?” She asked, quickly straightening.
“No.” He answered with a smile, but she could tell it was forced. “I’m happy to see you too.”
“Happy to see me?” She asked, disregarding his obvious attempt of hiding his pain from her. “That’s all you have to say?”
“Well, I certainly discovered that I can’t live without you.” He said with a grin.
“Don’t you dare scare me like that again!” She demanded, burying her face in his chest and landing a fist on his shoulder. His tone was too lighthearted for her liking. Even while knowing that he was joking…a play on the phrase frequently shared between lovers, and even while understanding that jokes were an essential part of how he interacted with the world… that he probably spoke to lighten the mode. She couldn’t bring herself into the mood for jest. He’d worried her sick. “You’ve been out for almost a week. I… I honestly thought I was going to lose you.”
A sting, as he flicked her forehead. “Why is it that you have such low confidence in me?” He teased. “I didn’t think I was that unreliable.”
She couldn’t deny that she’d once seen him as infallible, but recent events have proved that regardless of what he was, regardless of the extent of his abilities, he too had his limits. It wasn’t that he was unreliable… it was just that she’d come to face the reality that she couldn’t count on him as her insurance for every mistake she made. Not anymore. Not out here. Not when both their lives were at stake. She’d been lucky to avoid encounters with whatever was out there over the past few days, but she couldn’t count on that happening forever. That meant that she had to better understand him. She had to better understand the threats that could be out there. But most importantly of all, she had to help him accomplish the purpose that the came here for.
She looked up at him, finding a surprisingly pained look on his face. A look that was gone in an instant, quickly replaced by his familiar grin.
“I know you’re hiding something from me.” She observed. “Can’t you be honest with me for once? If recent events were anything to go by, we need to work together out here. I can’t help you if you aren’t going to be more open with me.”
“Tsk. So you’ve caught me.” He admitted, before leaning toward her and lowering his voice to a whisper. “If I do, will you open yourself to me in return?”
“You!” She started, threatening him with a fist.
“Alright. Alright.” He answered with a smile, raising an open hand before his face in surrender. “I’ll be more open.”
“That’s more like it.” She replied with a huff. “Next time don’t try so hard to play hero.”
“You really have a bad memory.” He answered, lowering himself to the ground and leaning back against the tree.
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“See? You don’t even remember what I’m referring to.” He responded with a laugh. “I’ve already told you before, I’m not part of the self-sacrificing lot. Not interested in joining either.”
“Why can’t you just be honest with me?” She asked, slightly disappointed. Whether he admitted it or not, he fell into such a state because of her. If she hadn’t come back and been at risk of attack outside of his reach, he wouldn’t have ended up in such a precarious situation.
“But I am.” He answered, unbuttoning his shirt. “I did promise to be open didn’t I?”
“What are you doing?” She asked, turning away.
“Opening.” He answered behind her, clearly suppressing his laughter. “Come help me.”
“As if I’d help you with that.” She responded, feeling her face warm at the thought of what he was suggesting. Did he have to go so far to keep things from her?
“I’m serious.” He answered, openly laughing this time. “I need help with the bandages.”
“What about them?” She asked.
“I need you to open them.” He replied. “I’ll explain as you work.”
“This better not be some kind of prank.” She retorted.
“Hey, you did ask me to be open.” He answered with mock defensiveness.
“Deal with your bandages yourself.” She responded, standing.
“No really.” He said, grabbing hold of her arm, his tone suddenly serious. “Something’s wrong with the wound.”