It had been almost a day since they got him out, and nearly 12 hours since they reached the [comparative] safety of this former farmhouse miles outside Paris, and still no sign...Ffoulkes had come to once or twice, but looked around him with glazed eyes and slipped almost immediately back into unconsciousness. Aincourt had done what he could with tight lips and grim eyes, and now, with the others, sprawled in the outer room pretending to gamble and joke; only Percy stood at the window, his concern evident only in the tension of his shoulders and the ceaseless movement of his fingers along the filthy sill -- and is any greater evidence of Percy Blakeney's concern needed than that he paid no attention to the dust smearing on the lace at his sleeve? -- and Andrew still slept, restlessly but with little sign of waking, in the rickety bed.
Time passed, and still he stood there--his gaze shifting from the man in the bed, to the world outside the window. Dusk was beginning to fall over the countryside when a voice startled him from his thoughts.
[Andrew] ::stirs slightly on the bed, no longer delirious but not realizing where he is, thinking dimly that he's rather comfortable and warm and it even feels like something's been done to the wounds and that he's slept for a good long time, and deciding he really doesn't want to wake up and be back in the cell. He mumbles something and stirs again, distressed to discover he's waking up despite his best efforts to the contrary, and sighs in resignation::
[Percy] ::half-turns to look at the man in the bed, gruffly speaking:: You should try to sleep more.
[Andrew] ::opens his eyes and stares at the ceiling for a long moment, letting it slowly filter into his brain that it's not the ceiling he's been looking at for two months, and that although he's dreamt very often about being back with the boys or with Suzanne the dream has never been quite so vivid, nor has the dream person ever requested him to go back to sleep; speaks very quietly, still a little uncertain:: Percy..?
[Percy] ::takes a hesitant--hesitant?--step towards the bed:: I'm here, Ffoulkes...
[Andrew] ::goes to raise himself on one arm and nearly falls back, but struggles back again:: Blakeney! What...where am I?
[Percy] ::gently reaches down to lay him back against the pillows:: You're safe--s'all that matters, man. Try not to struggle too much....
[Andrew] :::;grasps his arm but obediently lays back:: I don't..
[Percy] ::hauls the rickety chair close to the bed and sits:: We've only been here a short while...half the day. You didn't rouse once...
[Andrew] ::sobers, looking up at him:: Is everyone alright?
[Percy] Everyone... ::stresses the word:: is well. The only exception being you, Ffoulkes. ::with a small, forced grin:: Y'do have to be difficult, don't you?
[Andrew] ::with an innocent look:: Difficult? *I* am not the one typically difficult.
[Percy] ::the smile genuine this time:: And see what happens when you do become difficult?
[Percy] ::quietly:: Tell me truthfully, Ffoulkes--how do you feel?
[Andrew] ::very truthfully:: Better. ::than what, we shan't say::
[Percy] ::looks at him in disbelief:: Better than....what?
[Andrew] Than two days ago.
[Percy] What sort of answer is that, man? I vow....if you weren't an invalid, I'd knock some sense into you.
[Andrew] My dear fellow, if I thought that sort of thing actually worked I would have tried it on you years ago.
[Percy] ::grins:: With this head? Pointless from the start.
[Andrew] Rather what I decided.
[Percy] ::wags a finger:: You think to change the subject--enough.
[Andrew] No point in discussing the former subject, I think.
[Percy] Ah, but there is. We won't move from this farmhouse until I'm certain you can travel.
[Andrew] I traveled here, didn't I?
[Percy] Are you talking back to me? ::shakes head:: If so, you must be more ill than we had thought.
::after a moment, more soberly:: Blakeney...I...how long?
[Percy] ::quizzically:: How long?
[Andrew] ::with difficulty, because he knows this is going to reveal at least partly to Percy how out of it he's really been:: How long have I been in prison?
[Percy] ::quietly:: A little over two....months.
[Andrew] ::astonished..it seemed like two years, of course, but it's never been that long before...half to himself:: Two months... ::as it truly filters through that he has been gone, no one has known where he was, for eight long weeks:: My G...Blakeney, how..? ::shakes his head to dispel his own confusion, and one clear thought emerges from the maelstrom and he grasps it:: Percy, what did you tell Suzanne?
[Percy] ::sighs:: There was little to tell her--of the arrest, of course. What news we could find, I shared with her...but it was a cursed small amount.
[Andrew] ::curls one hand on the coverlet, his mind cringing from what she must have endured, these past...:: How is she?
[Percy] ::hesitantly--half-afraid to....:: You'll see her soon enough, friend.
[Andrew] ::gives him a Look:: How is she?
[Percy] ::wearily:: Afraid. Frantic. Worried. ::shakes his head, smiling:: Even now, she hasn't stopped believing.... a strong woman, your wife.
[Andrew] ::smiles:: Yes. Yes.
[Percy] And we'll have you home with her....soon.
[Andrew] ::instantly eager, almost boyish:: Blakeney, I must leave today...
[Percy] Not today. ::firmly::
[Andrew] Why not? I am sure...::starts to rise::
[Percy] ::before he can reach for him, Andrew sags back:: That is why.
[Andrew] Percy, has someone told her yet?
[Percy] Not yet. Wallescourt went ahead for the coast--she'll know by morning.... I didn't want to raise her hopes....
[Andrew] :;sobers slightly...was he really that close to...then nods::
[Percy] But for now--you must rest. And try to eat. And subject yourself to Aincourt's mercy. ::grins::
[Andrew] For a day. Tomorrow.
[Percy] ::shakes his head:: Again--you challenge my word, Ffoulkes. I'm disappointed.
[Andrew] Forgive me, Percy, Is suppose I've gotten out of the habit.
[Percy] ::smiles softly:: You're forgiven, of course. We'll leave as soon as Aincourt tells me you're well enough for the trip. I promise you.
[Andrew] Will you loan me a few pounds, Blakeney?
[Percy] ::chuckles:: What the devil for?
[Andrew] To bribe Aincourt into telling you I'm perfectly fine.
[Percy] Ahhhh--a good attempt, Ffoulkes--but no.
[Andrew] I think he owes me a favor, anyway. Treachery is rife, Blakeney. [Percy] ::shakes his head disapprovingly:: I'll have to remain in the room during the examination, then.
[Andrew] Ah, we've developed a secret code.
[Percy] I will find some way to thwart you, still.
[Andrew] :;sighs:: Yes, I suppose you'd be rather good at that.
[Percy] ::grins:: Cease with your arguing, then.
[Andrew] For the moment. ::after a moment, addressing the ceiling:: Could a man get something to drink, I wonder?
[Percy] I suppose so...do you promise you won't try to get out of that bed, if I go retrieve a cup?
[Andrew] 'Pon my honor.
[Percy] ::grins, rising from the chair:: I'll refrain from commenting.
[Andrew] Do. I'm not as weak as I look. And we' ve already established I'm out of the habit of obedience.
[Percy] ::says nothing, his smile disappearing as he leaves the room::
[Andrew] :;leans back against the pillows with a sigh -- contemplates trying to getup, just to irritate Blakeney, but the bed is really very comfortable, and simply shifting gingerly to find a good position hurts intensely::
[Percy] ::returns with a cup of water, scowling at him:: You didn't try to move, did you?
[Andrew] :;reaches for it, hiding his wince:: You have absolutely no faith in me, have you? I'm hurt.
[Percy] ::seriously:: Yes..you are.
[Andrew] ::his face closes up and he takes the water, falling back on th bed with his eyes elsewhere:: Hm. :;with an attempt at lightheartedness:: They're not known for their hospitality, Blakeney.
[Percy] ::with a forced smile:: So it would seem, Ffoulkes.
[Andrew] Anyways. It is over now, and I will be fine..::won't I..? hangs in the air...it's only just occurred to Andrew that it may have been too much, that even now that they've gotten him out. He sips the water and then carefully reaches to set it down on the floor beside his bed::
[Percy] ::before he can reach much further, he takes the cup from him and sets it aside::
Back to the Table of Contents