Disclaimer: I do not own Ranger's Apprentice or any of its characters
Again, I apologize for my long absence, but I've returned from the dead once more, and with a new chapter no less.
For all the reviewers of the last chapter, I apologize for not responding to any of them, but I do appreciate the reviews so: Thanks for the review, have a nice day and don't get eaten by the wasp I just witnessed climbing out of its grave
Taking a few steps towards the door to the room and making sure Fianna kept her eyes on him, Halt made sure to seem as unthreatening as possible. He shot a quick glance at Crowley and the other Ranger grinned, his white teeth flashing in the dark night background. Halt settled on solely cursing his companion mentally.
"You could have come back, Halt. There's no excuse that explains why you've been missing for so long. It's not like there's been a war for over twenty years in Araluen that you needed to be involved in," Fianna said, the bitterness underlying every word.
"Ferris was still here," Halt responded gruffly. He was only half focused on the conversation now. He was mostly watching Crowley out of the corner of his eye.
The Commandant had hauled himself up onto the windowsill and slipped through it, landing on the hard floorboards as softly as a cat in its prime. He started towards Fianna quietly and amazingly hard to see. Halt wanted to stop him somehow, but there wasn't a way to do so without alerting Fianna. It might be better that Crowley take this into his own hands anyway, Halt had no clue how to get out on his own.
Fianna frowned at Halt's words and went to say something. However, almost at the exact moment, Crowley hit her over the head with the hilt of his saxe knife. Halt moved forward to prevent her from falling off the bed, shooting the other Ranger a glare.
"Thought you said you were subtle," Halt muttered, helping Fianna's unconscious body onto the middle of the bed. Crowley grinned and shrugged.
"She didn't know what was happening; I consider that to be subtle. Not to mention they'll think she's sleeping if anybody comes to check on her," he answered and watched Halt. "I heard most of what happened and saw about half of it, happy to hear you want to come back."
Halt rolled his eyes. "Shouldn't have taken that long for me to say that," he grumbled to himself.
Finishing with Fianna, Halt retrieved the few things he had. Kyle had lent him a knife similar to his saxe though not nearly as hard or sharp. Crowley went to the door of the room and opened it a sliver, peering out into the main room. It was still and quiet and he opened the door wider, glancing at Halt to see if he was done getting ready.
"Cropper's right outside the town limits and not many people are about," he whispered. "There's a few horses tied up outside a house on our way. You can get one of the horses and we can leave money to pay for it," he added and saw a slightly frown cross Halt's features. He straightened slightly and eased the door shut before turning to face his friend. "What's wrong now?"
Halt shook his head. "Just want to leave," he muttered. That was half the truth at least; he wanted to get as far away from this place and Fianna as possible. However, he felt faint traces of guilt role around him for leaving Fianna unconscious. He'd tried to avoid that for a reason. Then again, there was no other option and he had the feeling Crowley wouldn't allow him to stay and wait until she woke up. Shrugging the matter away mentally, Halt motioned towards the door, he had his head on straight now and the guilt for Pauline was weighing on him heavier than the guilt for leaving the woman that had tried to kill him unconscious.
Crowley opened the door again and they slipped out of the house silently.
Halt strode down the corridor to his apartment. The same hallway where he'd beaten Lance to near unconsciousness and Pauline had thrown her ring at him. It was as normal as it ever was, but Halt couldn't help his gait getting heavier as he went on. He doubted Pauline was going to be all that happy with him, not that he could blame her.
Stopping at the door, he pulled his cowl down and rapped his knuckles against the solid wood. There was a brief pause before his courier opened the door, the bump forming on her abdomen a bit too big to be hidden. Halt didn't say anything as she looked at him, her eyebrows arching upwards. It was hardly a minute before he felt himself being crushed in her embrace. It felt nice to be with her again without her yelling, but he couldn't bring himself to enjoy her presence. It'd only take a few words to get her angry at him again.
Eventually she released him and he glanced down the corridor to see if anybody was coming towards them. He would have pushed her away sooner than she'd released him, but he owed her something. If he was just going to make her angry, he might as well get her in the best possible mood first.
"Are we going to stand here all night?" he muttered and she let a slight smile cross her features as if there'd never been anything wrong before.
Looks could be deceiving though and Halt caught a bit of disappointment in the look she gave him. It was as if she'd known something was going to happen between Fianna and him and was now just waiting for him to spill out his excuses. He felt a bit annoyed, but quickly bit down the feeling. He wasn't going to prompt an argument, it'd just be better to go on like normal.
She moved aside so he could enter the apartment and then went to the stove to start a pot of coffee. Halt's guilt grew as he kept catching her glancing at him as if making sure he was actually in one piece. Though he couldn't see her eyes, the tension in her shoulders gave him enough indication that he wouldn't be able to pretend nothing happened for long. Once his coffee was done, she brought it over to him and sat down across the table. He took a sip of his coffee before setting it down and fiddling with the handle.
"Is Will around?" he muttered to fill the silence. Pauline was as collected and cool as always, but something in her eyes made the air feel tense and he got the hint that he should start explaining himself. The only thing was he didn't know how.
"He's out chasing bandits," she answered and he heard a slight edge underlying her words. It wasn't anything pronounced, but he could sense it anyway. He glanced at her quickly before relaxing back in his chair.
"To be fair, I was nearly beat to death when it started," Halt stated as easily as he could. He had no doubt she knew what he was talking about. The look of disappointment she'd given him earlier told him that much. She already seemed to know it had happened and he might as well explain himself.
Pauline was quiet for a minute before crossing her arms. "I don't need to hear it, Halt," she answered. Just the fact that he was talking about it so simply was enough to make her words slightly sharp. He counted to three mentally to keep himself calm.
"I felt like I had to, Pauline. The way I left before basically ruined her life," he went on, trying to sound as if it were one of their usual conversations.
Pauline eyed him for a minute before taking a deep breath. "If you were so obligated to stay, why did you come back? If you let it go so far as to make it worth telling me, why not just stay?" She didn't sound angry. Halt could still feel the tense air and the slightly edged words, but she was far from arguing with him at the moment.
"I could hardly stay if I'm supposed to be a father," he answered and took another sip of his coffee to try and make things seem like any other day.
"So you only came back because I'm going to have a baby," Pauline summarized. Halt frowned slightly. That was hardly a fair statement. Maybe it had been the only thing to finalize his decision on what to do, but he was trying to settle this neatly, the least she could do was give him the benefit of the doubt.
"It's a good reason," he stated, not wanting to go into discussion about all the other factors that had rolled through his head to come back or to stay for that matter. Pauline rolled her eyes at him.
"I'm guessing that's the reason you cut it off with Fianna as well," she answered. Halt's frown deepened.
"Did you want me to stay with her? I'm not leaving you like I left her." Halt took a steadying breath to keep himself from getting angry. It would only put them back in the position they'd been in for far too long.
"The reason you come back shouldn't be because I'm having a child, Halt," Pauline said. Halt felt himself getting annoyed despite his deep breath. He slipped a hand into his pocket and felt a familiar item, he was glad he'd grabbed it before leaving with Crowley.
"Did it cross your mind that I came back because you left this with an idiot?" Halt muttered and tossed her ring onto the table.
Pauline's brow creased for a moment before she realized what the item was. It took a long moment before she took it off the table and slipped it on. Halt couldn't remember holding his breath, but he let it out when the ring was safely on her finger.
"I didn't plan any of it, Pauline. It just happened," he added once he felt it was safe to say something. Pauline nodded slightly and he saw a faint smile slip across her lips. A knot in his chest loosened and he took another sip of his coffee.
"Maybe it would have been better if you'd stayed away from here though," she said. Halt frowned again. "Lucas thinks I'm having twins," she answered before he could ask and laughed softly at the look he gave her.
"Maybe," he muttered, along with a few choice words that only caused her to laugh again.
Sorry for the terrible ending, but I thought it was time I got this over with and went back to my Gilan story. Still, reviews are welcome