16.9

13 December, 2009 by katelaity

“Monsieur! The wine!” The landlord’s voice carried across the yard. While the shout had initially startled Lizzie as she helped Tilney into the carriage, relief flooded her thoughts at once. Although the haste to get away might have made them a tad bit nervous, they had proceeded with sufficient care so as to not leave anything behind. There would be no returning to this place.

“Merci, merci,” Lizzie muttered as the landlord thrust the bottle and a parcel of bread and cheese into her hands. Tilney sighed a reedy thank you as well, but it could barely reach her own ears, let alone those of the landlord. “This will speed our journey and make us much more comfortable.” She smiled and clasped his hand. “Now if only we could take some of your lamb stew as well…”

The landlord beamed broadly at her praise. “My cousin Armand shall take good care of you. I am sure he will bring good news upon his return of your safe travels and monsieur your friend’s vast improvement. Eh bien, Monsieur Tilney? You will be well soon.”

“Merci,” Tilney uttered with some effort and Lizzie swung herself up into the carriage beside him. His paleness alarmed her, as did the renewed gleam of sweat across his brow.

“You shall rest now,” Lizzie said quietly but firmly, lifting her arm around Tilney’s shoulders to brace him as the carriage took off. He tried not to react to the sudden shift, but she could tell how much it pained him.

“Doucement s’il vous plaît, Monsieur Armand, ” Lizzie called out hopefully. “My friend is still very much in pain.”

“Oui, oui, je ferai ce que je peux,” came the brusque response as the carriage rumbled on.

“I shall be fine,” Tilney said, eyes closed but with a weak smile.

“You should rest,” Lizzie cautioned, her voice softer now. She considered taking her arm from around Tilney’s neck, given that its cushion was no longer as necessary, but he seemed comfortable at present, so she thought it might be best to wait until he drifted off into slumber before she took it away.

Surely it was his comfort and not her own she thought of as she admitted to the tingling warmth of his closeness.

“I can’t sleep, Bennett,” Tilney said with some irritation. “I have been dozing for days.”

“But you need to rest and heal,” Lizzie said, her cheek much too close to his. “Now you know it’s best and I am right.”

Tilney chuckled. “Never that, Bennett, never that. Oh, do tell me something amusing!” He closed his eyes but rather than fatigue she saw pain in his countenance.

“What shall I tell you,” Lizzie echoed, her words sounding hollow in her own ears as she became conscious of her heart beating more quickly.

Tilney leaned his head back but did not seem to find comfort. “What about those mad tales of our adventures with the pirates? Not a word of truth there, I hazard a guess.” At last he leaned his head to the side until it touched hers. He sighed as if at last he were comfortable.

“On the contrary,” Lizzie continued softly, conscious of his ear being so close to her own. “Nearly all of what I told you was true. We did indeed sail with the pirate queen herself, Black Ethel.”

“Did you indeed? Tell me more of your adventures, Bennett. I should like to be entertained.”

Lizzie inhaled the scent of his hair, then closed her eyes and began once more to narrate their wild adventures aboard the Bonny Read.

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