LITTLE BIRD AND THE HAWK

Chapter 17 - Confessions

They all went back and got themselves patched up. Tristan’s wound was worse than they thought; it was deep and bleeding freely by the time they got back to the fort. The village healer made a mess of Lancelot’s shoulder as he ripped the bolt out.

They both got sick, because their wounds became infected. Bors raged at the healer; saying if Dag had been alright none of this would have happened. Dagonet was meticulous about cleaning wounds, but the old healer was not so fussy.

Jules took over; she was injured herself but took care of her own wounds, the wounds of the other knights and some of the Woads. She was no healer; but the fact that she herself and the others she treated fared well and recovered quickly, bore out the fact that she was better than the alternative.

It was decided that when Dagonet was well enough he would start to teach her how to be a healer, so they had some cover if he was ever sick or injured again. They hoped Arthur would persuade Merlin to teach her some of his healing arts as well.

Gawain, Galahad, Bors and Arthur had looked on in horror as she had stitched her own wounds on her thigh and her side. The Woads had murmured in appreciation that a woman was so strong.

She never flinched once; she may as well have been stitching a blanket. She glanced and saw the knights wincing faces and sighed at them “worry not, I am used to it. Who do think cared for me in the pit? Even if he ordered someone to patch me up because I was too broken and battered to do it myself, they would not be gentle about it.”

Lancelot was watching her and could not believe it “Well, I think it takes guts, none of us have ever done it.”

“Nay, because you have Dag….” She smiled warmly at the big knight “if he was well enough, neither would I; but needs must.”

Tristan watched her working intently, and then he glanced at the healer’s handiwork. “I want her to fix me.” He was adamant; and because of this he was subsequently not as sick as Lancelot.

She spoke to Merlin and he advised on what to do for the more serious wounds as he tended to his own multitude of injured.

Finally she spent three days sat between the two knights before anything happened.

Lancelot had been tossing and turning for hours “Jules, Jules…..”

“Lancelot, I am here” she grasped his hand, but quickly realised he was not awake, that his fever was reaching a peak that would either break or kill him. She glanced across at Tristan; thankfully his fever had broken a few hours ago and she knew now he would recover.

“Lancelot?” freeing herself, she wiped his face with a damp cloth.

He swatted at it and grabbed her hand once more, staring at her with fever bright eyes “I love you…..Jules…..I love you….with all my heart, but….but I can never tell you….never.......because…..you love my brother….” The last word was almost an anguished cry.

She sat there stunned; at first she thought he was just telling her how much she meant to him as a friend, a sister.

But now – she did not understand, he knew she loved Tristan; she glanced across and saw him staring at her. Her eyes immediately filled with love for the quiet man next to her. She saw the love in his eyes, but also something else……..he already knew!

Tristan’s eyes had fluttered open at Lancelot’s fevered words and he had seen the horrified and sad look on Jules’ face. Then she looked at him and her eyes had been filled with such love, until he could see her realising he already knew about Lancelot’s feelings.

“Tristan….oh, Tristan; why did you not tell me?”

He looked away”I thought I might lose you…”

“Do you not trust me?” she asked, hurt.

“Aye, I trust you. But I see him; so handsome, passionate and wild; someone who would sweep you off your feet and make love to you, someone who would show the world his love for you. He makes you laugh, and I know you love him dearly.

Then there is me” he sighed “I am not handsome; am quiet and do not talk much….” She silenced him with a deep kiss.

“What did I tell you before Tristan; that night? That is not your way, and I love you the more for it. Yours is a quiet love, the best kind; no grand gestures, no loud declarations. Just constant and unwavering…..that to me is all. Then you kissed me deeply and said “I love my little bird, and would do all for her.”

She paused, easily moved to tears these days, took a deep breath and smiled at him “What more could I want? If I was unhappy I could take up with Lancelot. But I am happy; no man could ever take your place in my heart and soul - and as for not being handsome!!”

She tugged his plaits “You are very handsome; I love your wild hair.” She pushed it out of his eyes “But most of all I love your eyes, those brown orbs that tell me without words how much you love me; you light my nights and fill my days - so shut up!” she kissed him again.

He grinned “Have I told you how much I love you?”

She tugged one of his plaits again and then kissed him once more “that is all you have told me for three days……” He arched an eyebrow. “Listen, I have a witness!” she pointed to Dag, who smiled and nodded.

“Aye, you have – all we have heard for three days is “tell Jules I love her” and “Jules I love you’” the big knight laughed. “She was lapping it up and was constantly hugging you. I think you might get some ribbing from the others - especially Arthur and Bors who have been here quite a bit!”

“I am glad to see you recovering Dag; she would not have coped with the loss of you…..” He studiously ignored the other comments.

The other knight grinned as Jules came over and gave him some water, patted his arm and kissed his cheek; before hugging him. The change in her was wonderful – as was hearing her voice, no longer slightly husky through lack of use, and the same for her laugh.

Dagonet rolled over and pretended to go back to sleep, intent on giving the couple some time ‘alone’.

Tristan watched her intently as she came to check his wounds; she leaned over him, gently cleaning it and then re-bandaging it. He pulled her into his arms, kissing her deeply. She relaxed against him for a moment, kissing him back wholeheartedly before drawing breathlessly back.

His arms did not relax around her and she looked at him questioningly, their eyes locked “Marry me.” He whispered.

“What?!”

“Marry me – do you not wish to?”

She flung herself on him, kissing him and hugging him. “I will take that as an agreement then, or has the shock struck you dumb once more?” He looked at her with a straight face, but eyes full of merriment.

“What? Oh, aye Tristan, aye I will marry you….” She hugged him tightly, making him groan in pain slightly.

“Pax, pax - I'm such an idiot…..” she went move back.

“It is no matter.” He would not release her.

Dagonet, laying on his side away from them, grinned pleased their little bird was finally going to be happy; then glanced across at Lancelot….from what Bors had told him, his poor brother was about to get his heart broken.

+++++++++

As it was Lancelot did not take the news as badly as expected, Jules was advised by Arthur not to say anything to the knight after his fever broke and he began to recover.

He had been gravely ill, and at one point all thought he would die. As she had at Dagonet’s bedside, so had Jules begged at Lancelot’s. And as she had told him her tears would be more for him, so they were.

But finally the fever broke and he began to make his way back to the world of the living. It was another two weeks before he began to recover in any real way and by that time both Dagonet and Tristan had left the room they used as an infirmary.

Jules ignored Arthur’s advice; she had learnt from her own experiences that to deal with anything that haunted you was to face it head on. She loved Lancelot deeply, very deeply; just not in the way he wanted.

But she would not let him go on hoping that one day mayhap he may be more, when she knew that day would never come. For her there would only ever be Tristan.

“Little bird, you still here?” his eyes opened again after yet more sleep, but she could see he was recovering.

“Aye, Lancelot – I will not let my brother leave me.”

Something in the way she had said the word ‘brother’ rang alarm bells in his head. “What did I say?” he asked quietly, yet secretly knowing his traitorous brain had told her his deepest secret in the midst of fever.

She took a deep breath and locked eyes with him. “You told me you loved me, but that you could not tell me because I loved your brother.” She said calmly.

“You must hate me….” He turned his head away.

“I will never hate you Lancelot, you are worlds to me….but….” she took a deep breath “neither can I love you in the way you want me to. I am sorry” she sighed “I wish I could, I wish I could be the one to make you happy; but I love Tristan, I will marry Tristan” She caught his chin and made him look at her.

He blinked at the revelation “I would never have betrayed him….” His eyes implored her to believe him “in my right mind I would never have spoke so.”

“I believe you, I do; have I not told you how I see you differently to all others? I know you are a good man, Lance. I am glad you told me; now we can begin again on an equal footing. But….but if I ever did anything to make you think…..to lead you on….” She floundered “Then I am sorry….so sorry.”

He hugged her tightly to him, wincing at the pain in his shoulder “you did nothing Jules, except be you. You cannot control the feelings of others – I love you….” he said the words painfully “but I will recover and love again.

That is the difference between Tristan and I” He conceded “he loves you so deeply that he would never love again. I want that sort of love too, but with the right person; I would never steal from my brothers.”

“Then we must find it for you……”

“Not yet….” He smiled sadly.

She hugged him again and they stayed like that for some time.

Tristan and Arthur watched from the doorway before walking away. “I did not think she would tell him.”

“Then you do not know Jules…..” Tristan smiled “she would consider it cruel to let him go on loving her from afar.”

“You are certain of her feelings now?”

“Deep down I already was; but how could I not be after she agreed to wed me and then this?”

“True - we are lucky men Tristan, not many find the love we have.”

The scout nodded before walking off; his face as passive as always, but his step light.

++++++

It was a few weeks later that Van found Jules with her head buried in a bucket for the third time that day.

“Dear Goddess Jules, are you well?”

Jules stood, wiping her mouth “I am with child Van….” She looked at the floor and then looked up.

“Are you not happy?”

Aye..…..so much, Van.....but….”

“Bad memories?”

“Aye…” she sighed “I thought I had left all that behind me now.”

“It is difficult to leave that much cruelty behind Birdie. Does Tristan know?”

She shook her head.

“Why?”

“I was not sure myself, but now….” She indicated the bucket, and smiled ruefully “I cannot possibly be wrong.”

“Then go tell him….”

“What if he is not happy?”

“Ahh, I see…”

“What?”

“You are frightened of telling him because of before.”

Jules sighed “I did not think I was - I know he loves me and I know he will be happy, but……”

“Some of your demons still play havoc with you…”

“Aye” she sighed “I am a bad person to think so of him…”

Nay, you are dealing with awful things that happened; it is only natural you would be worried it would spoil things now, and you would be back in the nightmare…” Van hugged her friend “But, trust me Jules, he loves you to distraction and he would be thrilled. So go tell him….”

She hugged Van and kissed her cheek before she ran off, almost skipping to the stables where she had last seen him.

Her friend watched her go; Bors strolled up with Galahad and Gawain, “What was that all about?”

“She is pregnant!” Van crowed, eyes still on her friend’s retreating back…..she clapped her hands over mouth, as the men all started whooping “Bugger! You do not say a word – any of you!” she looked at them threateningly “Or it will be the worse for all of you!”

“Better do as she says boys, you cannot escape her….believe me I have tried! OOOWWW – will you stop bloody hitting me, wench!” Bors rubbed his head grinning “It is good news though is it not?”

“What is?” Arthur and Lancelot wandered up.

“Jules is….” Galahad went to tell, and then saw Van looking at him evilly. “Ummm….er…..she is…..going to…..ummm….paint their room…..and we thought that very good news….” He finished lamely.

The other two knights looked at him suspiciously “Right……aye, I can see where that would be momentous news!” said Arthur with a grin before walking away.

Lancelot was heard saying “They are lying.”

“I gathered; and it obviously has something to do with Jules” grinned their leader.

Gawain cuffed his friend and brother round the head “You are so pathetic at lying!” he hooted.

“Well I did not see you leaping in with a better excuse!”

They too wandered off, still arguing “excuse me?! Was I the one who even mentioned Jules in the first place?” Gawain rolled his eyes “Nay, so do not even start with me! You are a pathetic liar…..end of story!”

“Am not!”

“Am!”

Van laughed and hugged Bors “What was that for?”

“Because I love you; I love them and I love the fact that Jules is having a baby!”

“You soppy date!” Bors hugged her back; pleased that for now there was peace and happiness enough for all.

++++++++++

Jules found Tristan in the stables sitting on a bale of hay, he looked extremely pre-occupied. He was concerned about her; he knew she had been unwell and she seemed so worried all the time the last few days.

He turned as soon as she entered, his eyes lighting up as he saw her; she flew to him, banging into him so hard she knocked them both off the bale and into a heap behind it.

“You seem pleased to see me....” his eyes glowed even as his voice remained as calm as always.

“I have something to tell you…” she picked herself up and was extracting hay from her clothes, as he pulled her back down next to him and began to kiss her - she surrendered for a few minutes but when he began to tug at her shirt she stayed his hands.

“What?” he looked at her, his eyes heavy with love and desire. She nearly drowned in them and thought about telling him later; especially as his mouth began to draw lines down her neck “Sorry, am I distracting you?” he murmured against her skin his voice teasing; his hot breath sending fire through her veins.

She wrapped her hands in his hair and nearly let him continue “Nay…..I….I….”

She tried to regain control of her soaring emotions, but it was so hard when she loved him so much and he knew her body so well. She could tell him later, a little while longer would not hurt surely……

“What?” he had stopped brought to a halt by her emphatic voice, his eyes concerned.

“I….I…want to tell you….” she stammered.

“What?” he was becoming anxious now.

“I am pregnant….with your child….a babe….” She blurted out, eyes tight shut waiting for the explosion; the anger, the rejection.

Instead he was completely still for a split second, and then she found herself crushed to him in such a tight embrace that she could not physically breathe.

“A babe? My child…my babe” he whispered into her hair “I will have a family…”

She gasped, he released his grip immediately “I am sorry….but…a babe.” He grinned; his whole face for once no longer passive but alight with happiness.

He saw she was crying and immediately he sobered “but….you are not happy?”

“Oh aye…aye I am; I have wanted this…you do not know how I have wanted this - but I was not sure if I could…and then I was worried….”

“Worried? Oh….I see….” He realised what she was saying “but surely you know how much I love you and would love our child?”

“Aye…I know that…but….” She sighed “some demons Tristan keep a hold even when we do not want them too. I wonder if I will ever be truly free….”

She paused, mulling over in her mind whether to tell him what had been bothering her “I worry if they will haunt me forever….always lurking somewhere, in the back of mind…..”

“They might, but I will always be here; I will always protect you Jules. Do you trust me?”

“Utterly.”

“Then trust me now, they will fade away one day; as you got your voice back, so you will lose them.”

She hugged him then, kissing him and telling him how much she loved him; he never tired of hearing her say it, never tired of her arms around him.

They lay together for a long time, murmuring their love of each other; their plans for the future……


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