Halt sighed into his hands as he sat by the dying campfire. It had been a week since Will had been shot. He'd been unconscious since the first day, and shown hardly any sure signs of improvement. His wounds had began to heal, thanks to Malcolm's ministrations, but the probability that Will was going to wake up dwindled day by day. Halt had been mulling over nothing else since that day, even after they'd started heading back to Castle Araluen two days ago. They were nearly there, now, but had been making slow progress over the past days, weighed down by the injured and impaired soldiers. Will was given something of special attention, because he was the most critically injured warrior that had survived the battle. Halt had personally made sure that his former apprentice was always looked after.
But there was only so much that he, Malcolm, or anyone else could do. Blood could be replenished with time. Wounds could heal with medicine. But some healing relied on the person's will to live, and while Halt thought that Will had everything to live for, he wasn't sure if the other man would come through. Each passing day was another sliver of doubt. Many would have left him for dead already, but Halt refused to let down his hopes until the pulse that he felt everyday at Will's neck ceased entirely. Halt tossed the dregs of his coffee into the fire, and sighed heavily again, rubbing at his bloodshot eyes.
Malcolm approached him from a nearby tent. He sat down next to the ranger, and waited a moment until he spoke.
"Will is still unconscious. He hasn't shown any change from yesterday, Halt. I… I'm not sure how long this will last."
"What do you mean?" Halt's voice was weary.
Malcolm sighed. "Well, he could stay like this for another few days, maybe another few weeks… But if he doesn't wake up soon, Halt, he may never will."
"When do you think he will… Pass?" Halt managed to ask.
"I can't say precisely. I don't know what will happen." He paused, and then looked at Halt with a heavy heart and sad eyes. "I can't say exactly, Halt, but… He could die any day now. I'm sorry."
The healer waited for a few moments, but after Halt said nothing and turned away from the small healer, Malcolm rose respectfully and turned to his tent.
Halt sat there silently for several moments, and had to swipe away the few tears that had appeared on his cheeks. Wearily, he rose from his seat and walked quietly to where Will was laid out on a bedroll, in the middle of a small tent. He knelt down by his apprentice and simply looked at him for a moment. The whole thing was tragic, really. Will's own father had died saving the very same man that Will had died for – him. Halt's heart weighed down with extreme guilt and pain as he considered the thought. But Will wasn't dead. Not yet, anyway. Halt placed a light hand on Will's neck, focusing on the light pulse that flowed through his jugular.
"First your father, and now you. Will, stay with me if you can." Halt told the unresponsive man. He'd taken to talking to Will over the past few days, though he wasn't sure if he was heard. And of course, now as ever, Will made no response beyond his sickly, shallow breathing. Halt sighed to himself and closed his eyes sadly.
As he did, a raspy moan interrupted him.
His eyes shot open, and he looked down at his former apprentice, and he could have sworn that Will was breathing a bit harder than he had been before, and that his lips had moved.
"Will?" Halt asked, hoping against hope.
"Mmmnghnndnn." Came the whimpered response.
Halt's heart was racing with excitement. Will was alive? "What was that?" He asked, putting a hand to Will's arm. The man's skin was considerably less cold than it had been before. He saw Will swallow, and then, to his utter relief, surprise, and joy, Will opened his eyes just barely to look at his master.
" 'M not gonna die." Will mumbled out.
Halt was beyond words. Will was alive. Will was alive! And awake!
"Where've you been, Halt?" Will slurred through cracked lips, "You left me for a minute there. Awfully rude ta leave a man like that, you know. But issalright. Wassa nice sleep, really. But I thought you'd miss me too much. Never could admit it, but I know you like having me around to annoy you."
Halt just looked at him, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. "You're alive. You're really alive." Was all he could say.
" 'Course I am." Will told him. "I can't really do everything that my father did, can I? I mean, if everyone copied their father's legacy exactly, the world would be an incredibly predictable place. Besides, if I were to copy my real dad's legacy, I'd end up something like you, Halt."
Halt just looked at him, and with tears streaming down his face, bent over to wrap his arms around Will in an uncharacteristic show of emotion. "You scared me, son." He said shakily.
Will grimaced. "Sorry 'bout that. Try not to do it again. Rather painful, really." He ventured to move his neck just slightly to the side, to look around. "You don't think you could get me some water, do you?"
Halt hugged him tighter with a tear-stained face, laughing for the first time in weeks.
Malcolm had been the first to find out. After that, the news had spread quickly – Will Treaty was awake! He would live! Horace, Gilan and Halt had stayed with Will in his tent as long as they could, and Will quite honestly got tired of their constant nannying after the first few days.
It had been late at night when Cassandra had received the news, but she'd marched over to Will's tent as soon as she'd heard, bed hair, nightgown and all, and planted a huge kiss on his cheek before fretting over and doting on him like a concerned mother. Will had accepted all her attention without complaint, taking the most amusement out of the jealous glares that he received from Horace. Of course, Cassandra would dote on anyone who'd been through what had happened to Will, but Horace couldn't help but be a bit envious for all the attention. If it didn't hurt so much, Will would have laughed at the fierce glances that Horace shot over at him.
But by far the most rewarding and most enjoyable welcome he received was when Will had arrived at Castle Araluen, limping along as Halt and Gilan helped him through the doors, and, wonder of all wonders, there had stood Alyss, holding their small, one-year-old son, Daniel. Tears were streaming down his face as his wife hugged and kissed him, and as his son latched onto his neck. Briefly, as he continued through the hall with his family at his side, Will glanced back at Halt.
As the older man nodded steadily once, Will thought he caught the glimmer of a tear in his eye.
A man's fate may have been guided by the legacy left by his father, but many times, it depended on which father's legacy a man chose to follow after. As Will looked back at Halt, he knew he'd chosen well.
The son smiled. His father smiled back.