The ringing of the telephone in the hall made Siegfried jump about a foot in the air. His first look was to Tristan, but he slept on, oblivious to the noise. James hurried to answer it. Siegfried sighed deeply and scrubbed a hand across his face. He should really telephone the police, explain what had happened, but he was still fighting the irrational fear that the moment he left the room, the moment he couldn't see Tristan, his brother would vanish and would have been dead all along, a corpse hidden out in the hills somewhere. Morbid, irrational, unjustified the fear may be, but it was very very real.
James came back in, grimacing apologetically.
"That was Metcalfe. I've got to head out there, sounds like an emergency. Will you be alright?"
"Yes, yes. I'll be fine James. And so will Tris if he knows what's good for him."
"Alright then." James left quietly, leaving Siegfried alone with the far too still and cold body on the sofa. He sighed again and shifted the hot water bottle to a new position. Tristan's hands were stiff and cold, but Siegfried's examination showed no definite sign of frostbite. He dipped the cloth in the warm water and ran it over Tris's knuckles anyway. Anything to make the rewarming easier. He just wished Tris would wake up, speak to him, let him know that he was really and truly alright.
"Oh, little brother. How do you get yourself into these messes?"
Tristan was cold. Very cold. Why was he so cold? And dark, why dark? Dark and Cold. Was he dead? Oh, ah, pain. No, probably not dead. You didn't hurt when you were dead, didn't you? He couldn't remember, it was too cold and painful.
Should he try moving? No, probably not. If hangovers had taught him anything it was to always remain perfectly still and silent or your body would punish you. Why was it so cold? He couldn't remember…had he gone out somewhere? Cold. Dark. Pain.
Someone was speaking. That wasn't usual was it? Tris dragged up previous memories of waking up to pain. Well, Siegfried shouting at hung-over him, yes, that was normal but somebody speaking? A nice voice too, soft and soothing. It was almost making the pain go away.
"Easy Tris, come on. Wake up please. It's been nearly four hours now. Please wake up. Come on Tris. I'm sorry I blamed you for Tamfern, I'm sorry I told you off for the drinking. Just please please wake up. I need to know you're going to be alright…"
Odd conversation. Tamfern? He was that farmer with the daughter…there was something to remember about the daughter wasn't there? Memory suddenly flashed back, Tamfern, Siegfried, going out, NedWomanFightPAINDARK! Tris panicked. He forced his eyes open, despite the heaviness of the eyelids but had to instantly close them again as the light burned into his brain. He moaned through clenched teeth.
"Tris?" Siegfried's voice sounded desperately hopeful and unbelieving all at once. Tristan felt someone grasp his hand gently. "Open your eyes Tris, come on…please…"
He fought with his eyelids again and managed to open them a slit. Siegfried stared down at him, an expression of sheer relief on his face.
Siegfried almost collapsed in relief when Tris finally responded and opened his eyes. It had been three and a half hours already and Helen had been on the verge of calling the hospital about an hour ago. He'd sent her over to fetch Doctor Allinson when Tris had started shifting and trying to open his eyes.
"Hello Tris, good to see you."
"Siegfri…" Tris trailed off and hissed in pain as he tried to move.
"No, stay still little brother. You've rather been through the wars here."
"I know. You're hypothermic. You've also got other injuries so please stay still."
"Yes, I'm here. Hush. The doctor's coming. You're going to be alright." Tristan fell quiet, frowning up at the ceiling. Siegfried squeezed his hand. He looked so fragile lying there, as though a soft breeze could blow him away. His skin was still far too pale and cold and the cut on his chin stood out starkly against the white of his face. His hair was mussed and covered in dry blood, it couldn't be comfortable. The blankets heaped over his form hid the rest of the bandages and bruises but Siegfried knew they were still there, causing pain and distress. He looked up as the door opened and Helen returned with the doctor.
"He's awake? Excellent."
The doctor bent over Tris, who squinted up at him. The pain was just building up and up, now his arm felt as though it was full of large shards of glass, all rubbing together and shattering further and his ribs felt as though the entire Welsh rugby team had been jumping up and down on them. Not to mention the all-pervading cold and how his head was pounding worse than any remembered hangover. He drew in a careful breath and watched Doctor Allinson.
"Can you answer me Tristan?"
"Siegfried." The doctor said over his shoulder, "Some warm milk please." The older Farnon nodded and headed into the kitchen. Helen followed him. The doctor turned back to his patient.
"Right, Tristan. I'm going to give you some morphine now, but I need you to try and stay awake."
"Mmm." The doctor produced a syringe and shot the painkillers into Tris's undamaged arm.
"There, now, can you sit up a little?"
"Come on old chap, none of that, let's get you up." The doctor managed to gently pull Tris into a more upright position as the drugs kicked in, dulling the worst of the pain. He settled him back against the sofa and pulled down the blankets to examine his ribs and shoulder further. Siegfried came in just then, Helen tactfully waiting outside, and pressed the mug of warm milk into Tristan's good hand. He sipped at it slowly, feeling the warmth burn down his throat.
Doctor Allinson checked the bandages around the shoulder and felt the damaged ribs again. He paid special attention to the darkening bruise on Tristan's collarbone.
"Well, I stand by my original diagnosis. Cracked, not broken. No strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for at least two weeks and bed rest for three or four days. Now Tristan, any other pain?"
"Yes, you have a concussion. Can you remember what happened?" Tristan swallowed the last of his milk and felt Siegfried take the empty mug from his hand. His brother was still staring at him with those anxious eyes.
Siegfried couldn't express how relieved he was to see Tris sitting upright and talking again. He just kept flashing back to those awful minutes in the surgery where he had honestly thought he would never see or hear Tris again.
"Ned Farnby, there was a fight? A brick?" The doctor glanced at Siegfried for confirmation. The older Farnon nodded.
"Good. Well remembered. Now, I want you to try and stay awake, alright? No dozing off. I'm just going to have a word with your brother."
"Doctor?" Siegfried asked as Allinson drew him aside.
"Is that what happened?"
"Yes. The police came by earlier, they've got Ned in custody."
"Good. I wouldn't have expected that of him. He's lucky not to be facing a murder charge Siegfried."
"I know. God I know."
"If he'd brought that brick down just a little bit harder…"
"Is it normal? For him to remember I mean?"
"Oh yes. Concussion sufferers usually either remember everything in vivid detail or nothing at all."
"Right. What next?"
"Well, wake him up every few hours for the next twelve hours or so. His temperature's much better, not too much to worry about there. Come and fetch me if he starts coughing or running a fever. As I said, bed-rest then no strenuous work for a while."
"He'll have headaches. Possibly nightmares too. He might be rather forgetful for a few days, be patient with him. Give him painkillers if he needs them but watch the dosage, I'm sure I don't need to warn you about the dangers?"
"No, of course not."
"Right. I'll be off then. You know where to find me if you need me."
"Thank you Doctor Allinson."
"You're very welcome Mr Farnon."
Tristan was asleep again, Siegfried realised, still sitting upright. He sat next to his brother and Tristan responded by shifting and curling up against him, head on Siegfried's shoulder. Siegfried stifled a resigned sigh, easing Tris's head down onto his lap instead and pulling the blankets more securely around his body. He couldn't stop the smile tugging at the corner of his mouth though.
Helen padded back in quietly, smiling to see the picture they both presented. Siegfried scowled at her but made no move to dislodge his brother.
"I'll tell Mrs Hall to serve dinner in the dining room." Helen said softly.
"Thank you my dear." Siegfried said. Tris stirred at the sound of his voice and Siegfried hushed him; running at hand carefully through his hair until Tristan relaxed. Helen smiled again and left quietly.
"Siegfried?" Tristan asked sleepily.
"Of course Tris. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Now sleep little brother. I'm here."