So, yes, it has been...a while... But hey, it might shock you but I do have a life.. So this is Stage Three, The Beginnings, BECAUSE stage three does not actually start in this chappie but there are two or three very small inklings of what is to come and what stage three is going to be like for dearest Willers.

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Chapter 6 - Stage Three, The Beginnings.

When Mesdron returned, he didn't bother knocking, he heard a soft snoring coming from Halt's room, along with short, raspy breaths, which meant Will was asleep, and he assumed that Halt was also – finally. He poked his head in the doorway and saw he was correct. Halt was snoring soundly, head angled back onto the chair with his mouth wide open, and Will was resting. He supposed he could call it that, though resting seemed to be the wrong word. True, Will's eyes were closed but he was tossing and turning, gasping for air, one sweaty palm was clutching at the askew blankets surrounding him while the other was stretched above him. Halt, the best Ranger there was and the most alert man Mesdron knew, must have been deep in an almost comatose state of exhaustion to not be woken by Will's heavy breathing, and now, the low keening coming from the back of his throat.

Mesdron frowned and took a step inside the room. He had not been gone very long at all, but in the time since he left Will seemed far worse. The keening was unsettling to say the least. The knight moved forward to place Will's arm in a more comfortable looking position and was surprised to notice that the boy's skin was not as hot as he had thought it would be.

"That's good," he muttered quietly to himself.

Mesdron's touch did appear to disrupt Will though and he called out helplessly. The boy's brow was intensely creased, but Mesdron couldn't be sure of the reason. It might have been creased previously, or his touch might have caused it to appear, either way, Will was obviously in distress.

The old knight stroked sweaty brown locks away from Will's face, and the movement seemed to calm him down enough so his breathing began to even, a little. To Mesdron's surprise the boy's eyes cracked open slightly. He reached for the cup of water on the bedside table, which Will gratefully accepted.

"You're Mesdron?" Will's voice was still raspy and raw, but he was, at least, coherent enough to form lucid sentences.

"I've been known to respond to that name," he nodded.

Ropes tugged up the corners of Will's mouth into a light smile, "Sounds like something Halt would say."

Mesdron echoed the smile, "Does it now?" The knight was somewhat in wonder about how the apprentice before him, just minutes previously, had been so sluggish and in suffering, could so suddenly wake up, be a little more alert and be able to string together a conversation. Maybe, Mesdron thought, he was on the mend?

Will nodded, "And again. I can tell why he likes you, cryptic and vague. Much like himself."

"Oh, I wouldn't say I was too much like Halt."

"There is only one Halt," Will mused. Mesdron could see the pride and hero-worship in Will's half open eyes as he gazed at the older Ranger slouching just centimetres away from him in a chair.

"Indeed. There is only one man who can pull off becoming old so ungracefully." Will cracked a large grin at that one, it was nice to make fun of Halt occasionally.

"You seem to be better," Mesdron stated.

"I feel it," replied Will. "Although, I am not entirely sure that it is a good thing."

Mesdron frowned. "Why?"

Will gathered his strength and pushed himself into a slightly upright, more comfortable position. "Apparently," he began, "this is only a stage in this sickness I have. I start bad, then seem to be on the mend and then I get worse, that is what Halt told me. After this bit I will be in a state of delirium."

Mesdron nodded, acknowledging what had been said. "Do you need me to get you anything?" Will shook his head, then winced.

"On second thoughts," he said quickly, bringing a hand to his forehead and squeezing his eyes shut. "There are some herbs around...somewhere. They will help with my head." Will heard movement in the small room, then a dip in the bed as Mesdron returned, obviously having found the herbs.

"Here." Will opened his eyes and Mesdron handed his a small bundle of herbs, which he put in his mouth. A flash of uneasiness briefly made its way across Will's face as he pushed the herbs under his tongue to dissolve, but Mesdron thought nothing of it.

"Thanks," Will gave a small, half-hearted smile, and Mesdron wondered why he suddenly seemed unhappy and withdrawn. It was probably just because he was worn out.

"Anything else?"

Will's head gave the slightest wiggle, which Mesdron took as a shake of no, and slouched down into the bed again. Soon, Will's eyes drooped and he was asleep. He really did look like he was feeling better, even after being awake and talking and sitting up and using energy, Will went back to sleep looking more comfortable and at ease than he had when Mesdron entered the room.

"Now," he spoke to himself quietly, put his hands on his hips in a motherly way and turned to face the sleeping man behind him. "Time to take care of you."

Mesdron left Halt while he went and stripped Will's bed, which had not been touched since after Will had fallen ill, and found new, clean linens. He then collected Halt by lifting him into a standing position. Halt's eyes slitted and he mumbled worried words about Will, but after a "Will is just fine" from the taller man, and forcing Halt to put one foot in front of the other, he was moved from the uncomfortable-and-awkward-to-sleep-in-chair to the fresh, warm and soft bed in Will's room.

Mesdron pulled the blanket up to his old friend's shoulders, then left him to rest in peace. After stoking the fire and adding another log to be certain it would not burn out, Mesdron replaced Halt in the chair, knowing that someone needed to be with Will all the time. Mesdron closed his eyes and thought about all the things he still had to do in order to bring the little cabin back up to proper standards, but for now, the small area was quiet, peaceful, warm and safe, and he was going to take advantage of that fact.


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