"-e's awake! Someone find Kate!"
Awake? I was less concerned with being awake than I was with being alive. I remembered select bits of the battle with the fae, the explosion.... the arrow.
Griever appeared next to the bed, "Corin, good to see you back among the land of the living. Can you sit up?"
I nodded slowly, "Yeah, I think so..." I propped myself up with my arms, grimacing a tiny bit, but in the end I managed, and no sooner had I finished when the flap burst in to admit Kate, followed by Norida, Kiara, and, if I wasn't mistaken, a healer from the village. All but Kate rushed to my side, fussing over bandages and making sure everything was in order, but I couldn't have cared less, my focus was locked on Kate. We shared a long look, before she turned to Griever and subtly gestured to my attendants.
"You seem to be quite popular" Griever joked, stepping in and putting his arms around the three of them, "Among some of the hawks' more beautiful women. Women who, I'm sure, would rather be dancing with me than cooped up in here with some decrepit old war hero."
The three started to protest as Griever pulled them along towards the entrance to the tent, but eventually, his infectious good spirit won out and the group was laughing by the time they passed through the tent flap. Kate closed the door slowly, very slowly, as if wrestling with some inner dilemma and she was trying to buy more time to come to a decision.
"Kate?" I asked quietly "Something wrong?"
She turned, a smile in place, "No. Nothing that needs to be worried about yet."
I wasn't quite convinced, but I let it go, happy to simply be alive and in Kate's presence.
"I'm fine by the way" I said with a smirk, and Kate punched me in the arm, not hard persay but it still hurt, and caused me to grunt.
"Oh I'm sorry, I thought you said you were fine" she said a bit too sweetly, sitting beside me on the bed. I leaned in to kiss her but she pulled away quickly. I blinked in surprise, a bit stung by the unanticipated reaction. Covering quickly, Kate smiled coyly and said "Might be a bit too much for you to handle I think" she said with a wink, "I'd hate to make you pass out again," And she moved in to lay against my shoulder.
It was my turn to pull away, thoughts buzzing through my head, turning what should have been, what I had hoped would be a warm welcome, a return to what we had been just before the incident. Maybe I had been out longer than I thought, and time had cooled what was between us, or maybe... maybe our fears, the very objections that Kate had made to prove my immorality, were starting to take root.
"It can't be the same can it?" I whispered.
She started to protest, but it died on her lips and she nodded, both of us thinking the same thing, both of us realizing that we could not possibly continue a relationship like this, especially once everything returned to "normal," whatever that meant anymore. The hawks would go back to causing trouble, and I would go back to being forced to stop them, and once again earn their enmity; destroying the trust I had worked so hard to build, trust that, in lieu of the betrayal by my superior, I appreciated so much, trust that I realized I would sorely miss.
"Join us Corin. Leave the sheriff and his kind, and help us fight him! Surely after being with us, you see that we are more than just mere troublemakers. No one would protest, not after what you did."
I was tempted. I truly was, but... "It's not that easy Kate" I murmured quietly, earning a confused glare. "Say I asked you to join me? Come live in the luxury that working for the sheriff allows. Live as a lady, sleep indoors, be adored by hundreds of other nobles who pretend to be your friends, until you turn around. Could you so easily abandon your life here?"
Again Kate opened her mouth to speak, but again her argument never made it out. Her features hardened, and I closed my eyes in acceptance of the rant that was sure to come. But I heard nothing, and when I opened my eyes, I saw nothing either. The flap was thrown open once again and I looked up to see a unexpected visitor.
"Kate! Consorting with the treacherous bas-"
I did little to hide the glare on my face as I responded, "Care to finish that Jem? I'm sorry to disappoint, but your friend isn't socializing, she had the good sense to give a wounded man his privacy. I'm fine by the way," I finished, although the phrase had lost its flirtatious edge.
"I apologize" Jem said, and I could tell it took quite an effort. "I was merely looking for Kate. I didn't see her outside."
"Well she's not here. I made sure of that when I stopped a certain arrow" I drawled.
Jem's face lost a bit of it's galre, but not much. She nodded once, before turning and making a swift exit. The door slammed shut and quiet reigned, leaving me to fend off my thoughts. There were too many for me to handle alone, and before I knew it, I was talking to myself, trying to sort things out.
"What happened Corin?" I said quietly. "Why did it happen? Why now?"
"It makes sense, I realize that. But this is, dare I say it, love is it not? Can it be explained away by logic? Should it? Hasn't it been said that love conquers all? Or is that merely a children's story." I sighed, folding my arms behind my head, allowing the internal battle to rage on. My mind, wielding common sense, battled my heart, which brought up image after image of Kate. Every moment we spent, every feeling I experienced, retaliating hard, and winning.
"No. It doesn't make sense, that we should continue, there is little chance that it would have worked, but what was the chance that two of us would have fallen for each other? Just as small, if not smaller, and that went off without a hitch, why then did we doubt? Why couldn't I have explained it this way?"
I laid my head back, closing my eyes, trying to sleep, but knowing it wouldn't happen anytime soon. Something was missing, leaving a void in my heart.
"Come back Kate..." I whispered.
"I never left" came a soft reply.
My eyes shot open, and I sat up to see Kate once again crouching by my bedside. We shared another long look, longer than before, and this time, when I leaned in to kiss her, she didn't stop me.
No, it didn't make sense, but it didn't matter.