Chapter Thirty-Four: Tibo
White institutional ceiling tile overhead. Soft beeps and pings nearby. The ache that came from having an IV stuck in his arm. Bloody hospitals. He lay on his back, head elevated. Lifting his head was a fight he immediately lost, so he turned it instead. White curtain and bed rail one way, someone reading in a chair beside the bed the other. Rolly squinted, trying to make out who the person was.
“There’s our Irish sleeping beauty.” It sounded like teasing, though Jariah didn’t smile as she set her book aside.
Her lips thinned in a frown. “Recovering.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m not supposed to upset you.”
Rolly fought to sit up, flopped back gasping, and spat out. “I’m officially upset. What the fecking hells happened?”
Her frown only darkened but she did tell him things about what happened in the interview rooms and the hallway, the collision of factions, though not the outcome in a larger sense. She related the conditions of everyone he might know, including Pel, who was expected to recover, and finally got to the strange happenings in the keep.
“We didn’t know how deep Chumin had gone, how far from center, I promise you. Akemi didn’t know. He poisoned you with the antidote at hand to manipulate Tibo. His hope was not only to eradicate all knowledge of the successful dark space portals, but also to bring Tibo into his confidence. His pupil. His protege.”
“Still not telling me about Ti,” Rolly tried to growl but it was more of a whisper.
“They fought. From what we can gather it was physical and emotive. And got pretty nasty. Chumin shot Tibo--”
“Tibo tossed Chumin out the window.”
“Sweet mother of waves and foam! Don’t keep me in suspense, woman!”
Jariah squinted at him. “I’m not sure I should go on. You’re getting upset.”
“I am NOT—I’m not getting upset. But I may have a stroke unless you tell me if my bloody goblin is alive.”
“He’s alive.” Jariah drummed her fingers on her book. “It was two days ago. The bullet punctured his lung, did some damage to his liver, and broke a rib. He’s been through a couple rounds of surgery. The docs say he’s stable.”
She lifted one shoulder in an uncomfortable shrug. “He’s very weak still. They can’t guarantee he’ll be...a hundred percent again.”
Rolly searched her face for a long moment. “You mean they’re not sure he can perform again. Like I give a diseased rat’s ass. If he can’t, the little blighter can’t, and it’ll be a right good thing I’ll be there for the feckin’ eejit, now won’t it?”
“Yeah.” Jariah let out a soft chuckle. “You’ll do, McFarland. You’ll do.”
“Could I see him?”
“Soon.” She patted his shoulder as she stood. “He can’t come to you yet. And you need to at least be able to sit up. Get some rest.”
Rolly grumbled about stupid hemlock poisoning and only recalled his other question too late. “Hey, what abou—”
Jariah was already gone. With an irritated huff, Rolly tried to relax and will himself to rest. Difficult with the constant pinging and the fact that he couldn’t get warm. Gods of wrack and storm, he hated hospitals.
After maybe twenty minutes or several hundred years of restless shifting, a dryad nurse came in with pain meds and a blanket that had just come out of a warmer. Rolly was in the midst of thanking her profusely when he dropped off to sleep.
The next time Rolly woke, morning sun shone through the window and he was alone. He took the fact that no one was hovering as a good sign and that he wasn’t hooked up to any but the one IV bag as a better one.
Well, boyo, you can lie here getting older or you can go find him.
He elected to try sitting up first, which worked well, then scooting down past the bed rail to swing his feet out of bed, which wasn’t quite as wonderful. He sat on the edge of the bed, clutching his IV pole as dizzy waves of nausea rose and ebbed.
“Going somewhere?” a familiar voice spoke from the doorway. Edwige leaned on the frame, arms crossed over her chest. A clean white bandage wrapped part of her slender neck and shoulder, her movements a little stiff but not painful.
“To see an eejit goblin who got his eejit ass shot.”
“His ass is actually fine, you’ll probably be glad to hear.” Edwige shot him a wink though her eyes looked tired and sad. “Don’t move. Let me grab a chair.”
She came back with a wheelchair before he could convince himself to stand and she helped him into it without too much fuss. The hospital gown was ridiculous, of course, but Rolly was past modesty and Edwige didn’t make any comments about his ass. She rolled him down the hall and around a corner and everyone simply stepped out of her way.
“I’m glad you’re all right.” Rolly leaned his head back to see her face. “And that Aegeus and Nootau will be, from what I hear.”
She nodded, short and sharp, so he decided not to pursue that.
“But there was a lot of… Well, I’m a murderer now and I guess Tibo is, too. We’re never going home, are we?”
“Rolly McFarland.” She smoothed the tangled hair back from his forehead. “That’s what you’re most worried about? Chumin lived. He’ll never walk again but he lived. You, from what I heard, acted in self-defense in a terrible moment. And nothing goes beyond these walls. Akemi’s made sure to tell us all that. There won’t be any charges.”
“We’re still at the castle?”
“In the medical wing. Yes. You’re no more a murderer than I’m a salamander, Rolly. And neither is Tibo.”
She turned into another room, this one with far more equipment and beeping things than his own--and there he was. Tiborishandelac Glent. Oh, he looked terrible, gray and still, his face pinched with pain despite being unconscious, his shining black hair in sad snarls on the pillow. But he was the most beautiful thing Rolly had ever seen. His vision blurred and the sob hiccuped out before he could stop it.
“I’ll be back for you in a bit,” Edwige said gently as she pushed him right up to Tibo’s bed. “He’s through the worst of it. Really.”
Rolly did cry for a bit after she’d walked away. But there was gratitude and relief in his tears instead of the bitter, dark anguish there would have been if things had gone differently. Tibo. His Tibo. It was going to be all right, eventually. It was.
“Oh, I love you, you fecking quare bugger.” He held Tibo’s hand tight even though those beloved fingers didn’t squeeze back and laid his head on Tibo’s shoulder. “Don’t you scare me like that ever again.”