The wound was a real bitch … he certainly knew pain enough to be a good judge … and he could feel the fever starting, the slight tremors in his hand and the sweat beginning to bead at the base of his head, hair clinging and wet. He couldn't stop, not with the Queen's men so close on his heels; Rumplestiltskin had made sure that anywhere he went on land, there was a high enough price on his head that every soldier and hunter would be after a piece of him. So he stumbled through the forest, bleeding, pressing onward as night approached, looking to find a hiding place to wait out the hunt. As his temperature rose, keeping upright was harder with each step and his vision grew fuzzy; memories hovered around the edges, not kept at bay as he started to slip in and out of lucidity. There was a light ahead, and then there wasn't, and then he wasn't standing but lying on the ground, wet leaves soaking his bare skin. He welcomed the cold, no longer caring if he got away or not.
"You're going to be okay." Brown curls brushed across his chest, a flash of scarlet red, green eyes filled with concern. "Can you hear me? You're going to be all right."
A flash of sword in the darkness, the smile of a crocodile, too many guardsmen, have to split up and make a run for it. Blinking the haze from his eyes, he tried to focus, to warn her that they were coming, just behind him, always after him, but his throat wasn't working, filled with cotton.
"Don't worry. We're safe here." Cool hands with a wet cloth, a fragment of an old song, humming soft and low. Endless green around black pupils, falling into them and finding rest. "I can take care of them."
Voices in the trees, coming closer, Peter's taunts, the ship under attack, darting boys flying all around, and now he's here with that laugh, the golden face and grin, hand buried in deep in Killian's chest, searing agony. Got to get the guns primed, get the pixies off of the ship, and keep running, running.
"Stay still and do not move. I'll lead them away. Do you understand? I'll be right back." Flowing red cloth covers him and he suddenly feels colder, the light of the fire gone out, only the brightness of the full moon over head and the lingering heat of her body on the fabric. He bites his lip to keep from groaning and closes his eyes.
The cries of dead men echo; he knows that sound, the rattle that creeps into the voice of someone about to depart this world. Fear mixed with inevitability and, for some, a relief. Death is always a surprise, shock in their eyes that it's come at the hand of someone you loved or thought you loved or maybe never did. Too many gone, she's gone, and there's nothing left but to welcome it … but it refuses to stop for him.
The growls are louder, the smell of blood in his nostrils as shivers rack his body. The fire flares behind him, casting a shadow on the bushes of a beast, a waking nightmare, before he sinks back into delirium. Then warmth, blessed warmth as a weight settles next to him, curled up on the side away from the flames, heavy fur and huff of breath, and he sinks further down, into real sleep.
"These woods are full of dangers," she's telling him as she hands him the steaming mug of tea. Moonlight shines on her hair, hood fallen back upon her shoulders.
"How do you know I'm not one of them?" He manages to quip, caught by her guileless gaze that reflects her every emotion. "I could be the big bad wolf, you know."
When she laughs, it's as if the sun comes out for a brief second to gleam on such beauty. "I highly doubt that. You may be a ruffian or a brigand, but anyone who is running from the Queen's guard deserves help. I'm not exactly in her favor. And neither are you, it seems."
He longs to run his fingers into those curls to see if they are as soft as they seem. "You'd be right there, love." The tea is hot and burns all the way down; he imagines her kisses would be the same way and that thought burrows into his dreams.
"Sleep. The fever's broken and you need rest." Now she's bending over him and he's on his back, looking up at the stars as she brushes his forehead with her lips; the ends of a curl dangle, and he catches it with his fingertips, twining it around and around.
"One kiss and I'll sleep," he asks, and there's humor in those green depths as she agrees with action; light and easy, so warm and soft, her lips touch his, and he knows he knows this isn't real because kisses like this don't exist, sprinkled with moonlight and the smell of lilacs and laced with magic. Hand burrows into her hair, lips part, and the kiss becomes a promise of more, a tasting of things to come; he's so far gone in the fever he's sure that he's imagining all of this, but he's still kissing her when he drifts off to sleep, exhaustion stealing him away.
From the position of the sun, it's late morning when he manages to drag himself awake; worry about pursuit finally forces his eyes open and makes him sit up. The fire pit is cleared and covered with fresh dirt and a small pouch lies next to him, some bread and cheese and a few small coins inside. Her scent lingers, lilacs and something woodsier, but she's long gone, no other sign visible but what she's left for him and some fevered dreams of a wolf and a woman in a red hood.