Jenny: Weatherless Morning

The Guttersnipe surfaced to wakefulness slowly and painfully. She had slid into a little bunch beside Artos' bed, and as she took in where she was and why, she saw that it was morning, and that a glorious sky showed up through the window, washed clean by last night's mizzle, and coolly autumnal. She sat up to look into Artos' face, not caring if it were storm clouds or summer sun outside the window, if only the shadow of rain or the glow of sunbeams might fall on a refreshed and cogent face.

She found the face turned to her on the heap of pillows washed as though with the rest of death, pale and still but for the soft throb of blood in the vein along the neck. The eyelids were dark as though from sleepless pain; the cheekbones seemed suddenly higher and more pronounced than before. She sat on the edge of the bed and touched his forehead, feeling for the telltale heat of a fever.

"Oh, Pennartos," she murmured. She had not used his pet name in so long, and it made her ache somewhere deep inside to say it now. You must stay with us. Someone loves you.

"How is he?"

She turned to see not Jason or Gaius, but Master Lucius standing in the doorway. As always, the man held Pliny in one hand - in the other he had a honeycake which he had been eating. Of them all, Master Lucius seemed unchanged after last night. Like a feather, she thought, which drifts free and does not lose its lustre...

She looked back at Artos' sleeping face. "He is somewhere far away," she said. "I do not think he can hear me."

"I am sure that he can," Master Lucius assured her, stepping in to join her at the patient's bedside. "I am sure that he can hear us now, wherever he is. Only he knows he must sleep, so he is not waking." He smiled at her encouragingly. She could not meet his gaze, but looked away lest he see the sudden unchecked tremble of her lip. He said, "See, do you go find that young man of yours, and I will sit with Lord Artos awhile and read to him. It can only make him sleep more deeply."

She could not laugh, though he tried to pull a smile out of her. But she nodded and rose, achy all over and inside too. She felt as though her soul were a blossom that had been plucked apart by ruthless hands, and she did not know how to put the flower together again.

"Go on," Master Lucius said, taking his seat. "At least one of you can find her man."

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