Seoc landed on his hands and knees on the rough, filthy cell floor. The door shut with a sharp clang behind him.
“Welcome home,” his cellmate greeted him. “The catless rats are immensely pleased to see you within the realm of things alive.”
“Shut up, Simon.”
Simon Edmund blinked his eyes at him owlishly. “Hurt?”
Seoc nodded wordlessly, swallowing hard. Concerned, the other man approached him and gently inspected his injuries. Then he pulled his own thin, ragged blanket from his cot and tore a strip of fabric from it, using his teeth and hands.
“Simon, really, I’ll be fine. You dinna need ta—”
Ignoring him, Simon wrapped the fabric strip around Seoc’s abdomen and tied it securely. A bandage. Simon ripped off another strip from the blanket, and repeated the process until Seoc’s whip-striped back was entirely covered.
“Thank you, Simon.”
“May I unshut up now?”
Seoc sighed and nodded again. “I dinna feel well, Simon.”
Simon put an arm around him, gingerly avoiding the wounded area. “Sick?”
“I am too.”
“I want ta die, Simon.”
“I do too.”
“I could strangle you if you strangled me,” Seoc suggested.
They sat in silence for a moment, staring blankly at the opposite wall.
“It would never work,” Seoc conceded eventually.
“No,” Simon agreed. “It wouldn’t.”
Seoc crossed his legs and dried his sweaty palms on his threadbare trousers. He closed his eyes, leaning against Simon, resting his head on his shoulder. The pain on his back—and everywhere else, for that matter—was nearly unbearable, but now he was safe. Or at least he felt safe, huddled against Simon’s warm side, with his eyes shut and the world blocked out.
“We could ask the Lady for help,” Simon remarked softly.
“The one who walks the corridors by night. Sometimes I see her pass by our door. Sometimes she stops and looks in.”
“Simon, there are no’ any ladies here. The only females that come in here are the merrow slaves.”
Simon was not listening. “She’s beautiful,” he informed him, his tone wistful.
“I’m sure she is,” Seoc muttered grimly. “She’s in your mind, Simon. Nowhere else.”