"Fuck," Eliot growled, head turned to the side and eyes squeezed shut.
"Don't be a pussy," Penny said lowly, trying to focus.
"It- gah, it hurts."
"Not my fault you called someone who sucks at healing magic."
"You were the only-" Eliot sucked in a breath. "The only one who could hear me."
Penny rolled his eyes. "I'm a Psychic, I'm not your personal-"
"Ahh, FUCK! Stop, stop," Eliot flinched away. His breathing had been growing quicker, and now each gasp was rasping and painful. Penny leaned back, hands up in a placating gesture.
"Shit, man, I'm sorry."
Eliot couldn't bring himself to point out how rare it was for the traveler to say something that wasn't caustic. He looked at the other magician and held up an elegant finger. "Don't try to touch me again."
"Hey, I was just trying to help," Penny huffed indignantly, brows furrowed.
"I know," Eliot hissed. "I just gotta take down the wards."
"What wards? Your mental ones? Why?"
The king shook his head, head tilted to the side as he tried to focus on unwinding his magic. "Not those ones. When this happens, I have wards that pop up."
"When what happens?" Penny asked, watching the more experienced magician's lithe fingers work some subtle magic.
"When I feel attacked. I mean, obviously, not consciously. Just when I don't expect a touch and it hurts."
"'s fucked up."
Eliot's pale, bloodstained hands lowered to the ground. His spellwork was done.
"You have my permission."
"Thanks so much, your royal douchery."
The king gave a long-suffering sigh. "I had to say that, you twat, the unbinding of the wards is verbal. Get over yourself." There was silence. Eliot cracked an eye open to glance at the other man, who was staring back at him.
"What?" Eliot opened his eyes.
"Uh, you..." Penny licked his lips, looking unsure of how to explain. "You let down your wards. All of them."
Eliot's eyes widened. "Fuck. Ah, uh, okay." He closed his eyes once more. When he opened them, his mental wards were back up. Penny avoided eye contact.
"Looking at someone's thoughts like that is pretty fucked up. It's like-"
"Yeah, I get it. I didn't try to."
"Well, just go ahead and forget whatever you saw."
Penny was silent for a few seconds. "I read that in your books, in the Poison Room, but I didn't know how bad..."
Eliot, who'd been looking at the forest floor beneath them, looked up slowly in realization. It must've been at the forefront of his mind, talking about those wards... that's what Penny saw.
"Forget it," The king uttered. It wasn't a request, it was a demand. Surprisingly, Penny nodded, returning to tending the gnarly gash in Eliot's side.
God, he needed a drink.