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A Time to Heal

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Waking up was a little like drowning.

Not that he'd ever drowned before. He'd avoided deep water with less compulsion than fire, but it had never been an issue.

One experience in a stream, age eight and struggling against his brother's hands, and one at twenty, the surface of a pond, a panicking horse churning mud that had clung to his face, his nose, his clothes, until he could claw himself to the shallows, fingers twined around the reeds and plants at the waters edge as if the stems were a life buoy.

This was nothing like that, and everything like it. It was darkness that he came to with no memory and too many.


Cool dim light but he fought against it, didn't want the awareness that drew attention to the pain in his chest, the pain in his head, the thudding, thudding, THUDDING in his head that crowded out thought, that superseded everything except a desire to sleep, to not feel. Cool water traced his forehead and a low voice spoke, but he didn't catch the words. Darkness followed once more.

Pain, so much he couldn't bear it. He wouldn't scream. Fire in his head, in his chest, and it culminated and concentrated in his chest just over his left nipple. Stupid heart, just stop, won't you?  But it didn't. It hurt. But it didn't stop, and flicks of red hair and dark tangles, lithe limbs and childish ones, fled him.

Singing. Aleanor was singing, high treble, lisping syllables, soprano notes fading into nothingness that faded back into a low alto that underlined the march of a cloth as it edged along his legs, spreading wet warmth. When the feel of linen touched his chest, reality sharpened; wet linen stroked along his collarbone and he knew it, heard the last tones, low alto edging into a man's range but still a woman's voice, "forest love, and me your forest lass." There was a humming of the refrain, and then darkness swept over him again.

He couldn't breathe. Lungs struggled to catch breath against ribs that wouldn't expand, wouldn't stretch for the inhalation. He threw out his arms, pushing against anything that might be constraining, and felt nothing but a quick glancing blow of something soft against his left wrist. Something that gave and shied away, something that inhaled in a gasp and a whimper. Remorse. Anger. Remorse, what was that? Shouldn't. But oh, the pain! Clawing into his bones, into his chest, biting into his center.


"Thirsty," he grated, the voice sounding foreign to his own ears, it was so hoarse and quiet.

Water in a cup was pressed against his lips, an arm behind his shoulders helping him to sit up a bit, and he swallowed reflexively as the liquid hit the back of his mouth. He felt like a desert. Like Dorne. Like something dried and desiccated for preservation. The water seemed to spread into his mouth and tongue before he even swallowed. He found his voice, but it was a rasping, inhuman sound. "Wynn?"

"Two days, almost three," the Septon said, misunderstanding. "You took down six."

It took a few moments for the words to make sense. They seemed to circle in his mind, like vultures looking for carrion to land around. He swallowed cool water again. Circling, circling, oh, yes, there was a group, no, not going to think of that, think of the net he'd been weaving. He'd been weaving a net in Karven's shop. Passing the shuttle with the twine connected to it back and forth, in and around the cross hairs, whatever they're called, the bits he wove against. There was a scream outside. Men, some on horses. He'd grabbed Karven's mallet, the one he used for driving pegs when he built houses. Karven drove pegs for houses. He took the mallet, and the men were... 

Sandor had seen a sack before.

Cacophony and chaos. The mallet swung and made contact and he didn't look at the aftermath but only at the next target. Pain in his chest, his ribs, and then to his head, making him vomit stew onto the ground beneath him, before darkness claimed him.

"I didn't...," he breathed. "Six... good," the last came out in a breathy whisper, and more water was urged against his lips. He swallowed it, trying to get his scrambled thoughts in order. "Was 't Gregor?"

"No," and the voice sounded surprised at the question. "The Brotherhood, I think. They kept shouting about the Lord of Light at least. Don't think your brother would be doing that, no?"

Sandor found his hands, and forced his arms into movement. It hurt, and when he gripped Ray's fingers, it hurt worse, but he held on regardless and looked into the Septon's eyes.

"Wynn? Little Antha?"

"No, they're fine. Wynn's been switching off with me so we could both sleep while you were unconscious. And Antha didn't even see it; her gran put her in the cellar the moment she knew anything was wrong."

The painful strength he had found left him as quickly as he'd found it, and he sagged as his fingers left Ray's and fell back against the narrow bed.

"You need to get mehhh," he slurred, before he fell unconscious.