I do not own any of this, I'm just playing.

1

"If I have to continue lying on this floor -- which is cold, hard, and extremely uncomfortable -- you'll have to put up with me a lot longer than that!"

Telemain wasn't sure what had possessed him to say it. It was a sentiment that was far too close to his actual feelings on this particular matter to ever say aloud. Yet there it was, hanging between them. Had it been because of the pain? Had the blasted sword injury made him stupid? Maybe it was just the fact that she was there, after so long. And she was so close. Too close. It made him say things that he only ever said to himself. And only when he was careless with his thoughts.

But what was even worse than the fact that he'd said such a thing was her response -- that strange look on her face, and the strained, "I'l consider the idea carefully."

The magician shifted carefully in his bed in order to stare gloomily at the door. She'd fussed over him after that and gotten him settled, but he couldn't help feeling as though she was trying to make a graceful exit. Not just from the room, either -- from their friendship. From his life.

This last thought managed to draw a small snort from him. He knew he was being maudlin and ridiculous, but somehow he couldn't help it. It was this wound he'd gotten. Cuts from swords had a way of making a man aware of his own mortality. He certainly wasn't young anymore -- fifty was drawing closer and closer -- and while being a magician lengthened his life somewhat beyond what was natural, it still didn't make him young. It also didn't make him immune to regular lethal forces.

He couldn't remember the last time an injury had made him think so much about his own life (and he'd had plenty, in his profession). There was a niggling feeling in the back of his mind that he'd missed out on something by devoting himself so much to his work. Solitude was quite good for research and invention, but there was something to be said for having a little company...

The door creaked open and a short, pretty woman with ginger hair and glasses entered. She was carrying a tray with a bowl and two mugs on it. "How are you feeling?" she asked him.

"Fine," Telemain answered. It was impossible for him to tell what she was thinking, and it almost looked as though she was trying to keep a carefully blank look on her face. "I can't pretend my shoulder doesn't hurt a bit, but it feels much better than it did earlier thanks to you."

She looked pleased. "Good. Are you hungry? I brought soup and tea for you." At his nod, she brought the tray over to a table beside the bed and helped him to sit up. After situating the tray in front of him, she asked, "Do you mind if I join you?"

Telemain kept his expression neutral. "Not at all. If you don't have anything else to do I'd be glad for the company."

Morwen gave him a small smile that made his stomach lurch. "I'm finding myself to be increasingly in the way outside. There are so many reunions and revelations going on that it's hard to find a quiet place." She sat down and took a sip of tea. "The Royal Family has things well in hand, though."

"Yes, I imagine. I always wondered how Cimorene dealt with only having her son to oversee for sixteen years."

"Oh, a son is quite enough to oversee, I would think."

"I suppose you're right."

While he ate and she drank, Telemain studied Morwen discreetly. He had known her for so long but he didn't think he'd ever been able to properly just look at her before. She was about his age but she'd lost none of her beauty. She still wore her hair piled on top of her head, though usually not a wisp was out of place. Today there were strands hanging around her face and curling in a way that he couldn't help but find adorable. He supposed the spell she used was wearing a little thing, what with the battle earlier that day, and that she'd fix it soon, but he wished she wouldn't. That, however, was a thought he'd keep to himself.

"Are you sure you're feeling all right?" Morwen asked him, a note of concern in her voice. "I don't think I've ever seen you so quiet."

"I'm fine," he said simply. At least she was still worried about him. If his earlier idiotic comment had unnerved her, it hadn't caused her to leave the castle immediately.

Scrutinizing him for a moment, she said, "Good. You'll tell me if something's wrong? You won't pretend you've recovered just so you can leave earlier?"

"Yes to the first question, no to the second," Telemain replied with a smile.

There was a long silence while the two of them fiddled with their mugs. Then, almost reluctantly, Morwen said, "Well, I'd better see if I'm needed for anything."

"Oh. All right." Telemain tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. "There isn't really anything you can do for me right now anyway." Except to stay. Preferably forever.

Getting to her feet and moving to the door, she said, "I'll send in one of the cats in case you need anything." For a moment, she lingered on the threshold, then quietly shut the door behind her as she exited.

It was hard for Telemain to tell how long he'd felt...that way...about Morwen. They'd grown up together in a kingdom beyond the Mountains of Morning. Being a couple years younger than him, she'd shadowed him eagerly for a time, which only annoyed him at that age. Later they'd been at school together and while he devoted himself to the theoretical, she became adept at the practical side of magic. They also, along the way, became quite good friends, helping each other with their studies and through their teenage years. Then school had ended and they'd gone their separate ways. Morwen had moved to the Enchanted Forest and Telemain had gone to the Mountains of Morning to test the properties of windows under differing enchantments. That had occupied him for several years, with no time for anything else. Afterwards, he'd begun researching wizards, but he was interrupted very shortly by the arrival of Cimorene and Mendanbar and the ensuing hostilities between the wizards and dragons (which, truth be told, did provide excellent research opportunities).

It was at that point that, quite unexpectedly, Morwen had reentered his life. He was glad to have her there again. Of course, his personality being what it was, they gradually fell out of regular contact once again, despite the fact that they both lived in the Enchanted Forest. Part of it, he had to admit to himself, was because he knew how he felt about her and he didn't want anything to come of it. His research had always come first in his life, and he knew that Morwen's work was almost as important to her. If he were to give his feelings free rein, he feared he'd never be able to do the research that he managed living his solitary existence. And maybe that was true. Perhaps he'd never invent another spell in his life.

Telemain paused in his thinking for a minute. No, that would probably never happen. Perhaps, then it would take three times as long to invent a new spell. And he wouldn't be able to devote his days entirely to research. But if Morwen were a bigger and more important part of his life, then...well, that would be fine. And, of course, there was a lot to be said for being with someone who was just as interested in magical theory as he was.

At that moment, the door opened a crack and a calico cat slunk in. She gave him a look as though she knew exactly what he was thinking about. "I don't suppose you know what I should do?" Telemain asked her.

The cat simply gave him a nonplussed look and jumped up on the bed, curling up at his feet to go to sleep.

"I didn't think so," the magician muttered. Then, figuring he'd only be scolded if he didn't try to sleep, he closed his eyes and drifted off almost immediately.