Gus wasn’t happy.
“Are you stupid? Just telling that random woman that you’re a healer?”
“I think she’d understand my situation, being a healer herself.” And if nothing else, I trusted priest Miurian to not let her in if he thought she’d go around turning me into the crown.
“Where the hell do you get off thinking that? Squealers ignore empathy or sympathy or whichever one it is.”
Luckily Priest Miurian hired a carriage for us to go home, because despite the little healer’s help, my head was still pounding and I was exhausted, both with healing and the little snippets Nehcor had slipped into the head. That being the case, I didn’t have the energy to argue with Gus today, so I just pinched the throbbing bridge of my nose and tried to ignore him.
“Also, if that guy’s a noble he’ll have magic and it won’t be a surprise if he feels the difference between mine and your magic. What if he quits the good oath keeper and decides to squeal on us both? And for that matter, why didn’t you ask them for money? Don’t we need that?”
“Gus, stop fussing. I’m tired.”
“Which is your own damn fault! Do you have any idea how pale you are right now? I had to chuck that handkerchief because you soaked it through, I was using the Priest’s at the end of it. Were you determined to bleed out your whole brain? He said you could do it in sessions, there wasn’t any reason to rush!”
“Sorry ‘bout your handkerchief.” I really just wanted him to be quiet. The world kept trying to spin on me whenever my eyes were open.
“And aren’t you even a little bit worried about a rich ass noble seeing your face? Yeah, he made an oath to not reveal your identity to anyone, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hunt you down himself and force you to be his personal healer, or worse, his wife. When are you going to learn some self-awareness?”
Wouldn’t that just be good for Gus, though? If I became a nobleman’s wife, that would mean all sorts of access to learning and goods that he couldn’t even dream of living as we were now. That being said, I still didn’t want to be anyone’s wife. Marriage sucked balls, man.
“I don’t know what your world was like, but nobles are used to getting what they want. They don’t take no for an answer. Even all crimpled up like he is now, he wouldn’t just let you say no to him or be happy sitting in a corner and drooling like your other love slaves.”
It always felt awful whenever he referred to me as having ‘love slaves.’ I felt like some sort of slutty dominatrix or flirtatious harlot.
“Please stop with the love slaves. I’ve told you how it makes me feel.”
“It doesn’t change what you are, or how brainless you’re being about your own defense.”
“Stop calling me stupid, okay? And if you’re so smart, why didn’t you do anything about it?”
“I shouldn’t have to do anything about it! What happened to you knowing everything because you’re older?”
“You shouldn’t go back. No, scratch that, I’ll go back and ask for the money, and then we’re leaving—“
“No you won’t, so shut up already.”
“Is it because you were in the temple—“
I felt bad for yelling at him, both because it hurt my head and because I’d only ever wanted to treat him gently. But at least he listened that time and I got my much-needed silence back to the inn.
At least I’d learn, through a very indirect means, that he actually liked the idea of us getting our own little cottage somewhere far away and green. Though something in the back of my head wondered if isolating ourselves would be a good thing for his development. If he was supposed to be the hero, he’d need to learn to deal well with people.
I stopped caring once Hal gave me his palm-steam treatment for the tension headache. I almost melted into his chest with a happy sigh of relief.
I really liked Hal. The last time I’d had any sort of positive male figure in my life was before my grandpa had died. But whenever I remembered how he had threatened Gus, I couldn’t think of leaving as a bad idea, even if I would miss Milly and Hal like a bad toothache.
“Where’s Gus?” Hal asked.
“Probably somewhere to brood,” I said from where I’d flopped onto the floor. “I’d shouted at him on the way back. He was chewing me out and calling me stupid and I just needed some quiet.”
“Yeah. This and that.” I flopped my hand around. “Didn’t do this right, should have thought of this. He still seems to think I should wear a hood and mask everywhere, like a creep.”
“Ah. That again.”
“Just with more fodder. The gentleman the temple asked me to heal was, well, he looked well off. Could have been a nobleman. That seemed to scare Gus.”
“I suppose I can understand. Would you like me to talk to him?”
Before Gus had told me about Hal’s threat, I would have readily agreed, happy to depend on the calm wisdom of someone who has parented a lot longer than me. But now, I hesitated.
“No. I don’t think anything anyone says will help him feel better. He’s seen the worst of humanity, so he’s always expecting it to jump out at him. He just wants me to be safe.”
“That is very true.” He stepped past me towards the kitchens to tend to the cooking there. Milly was currently outside hanging up the laundry. I made plans to go out and help her as soon as I’d gathered my gumption from my finally soothed brain, but the next thing I knew she was toeing me awake, an empty basket on her hip and an amused smile on her mouth.
“What kind of lady raised in luxury sleeps on the floor?”
“An adaptable one,” I said, before wincing. “And a stupid one, ow.”
She helped me get up and the both of us set to work with the usual business of the inn.
Gus wandered in at some point during the rush hour, but he purposely avoided my eyes. When the dining room was finally slowed down enough for me to wander to bed, he followed after me, but seemed to think better of whatever he was about to say for he only brushed my hand with his knuckles before disappearing into the room Hal and him shared.
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