Mouse slowly opened her eyes, blinking as they adjusted to the brightness of the whitewashed room. She stretched, wincing at the sudden sharp pain on her left side. She put a hand to it and could feel the weird texture of bandage wrapped around her side. She stiffly turned her head to the right side and smiled as she saw Vyron, sleeping in a chair beside the bed that she was laying in. She heard something move on her other side and turned her head that way to find Iris watching her.
"How do you feel?" she asked, her voice a low whisper as to not wake Vyron.
"A little sore," Mouse admitted, gently touching the tender spots on her neck where Lord Gregory's hands had been. Just touching the skin sent shivers down her spine as she was reminded of the feeling of his hands around her neck and not being able to breathe. She gently touched her side again.
"Are they broken?" she asked, looking up at Iris.
"No," she smiled, shaking her head. "There have been no signs that come with broken bones. Your ribs are most likely just bruised. They will be tender for a couple of days, but they should heal up nicely in no time at all."
"Good," Mouse smiled as well. The thought of being stuck in bed for a long time horrified her. She sent a silent prayer of thanks to The Creator that her ribs had not been broken. She did not think that she would have been able to survive being stuck in bed for so long.
"Mouse," she heard Vyron's voice mumble as he shifted beside her. She turned her head back to him, wincing slightly at its tenderness. He was still sleeping and he actually appeared to be dreaming about something.
About me, she realized as he mumbled her name again.
"Mouse, I love you," he mumbled some more. "I can't leave you!" He jerked and twitched sharply in his chair. "No, I can't! No, I won't!" his voice rose louder and louder, slightly scaring Mouse.
"Vyron!" she reached over and grabbed his sleeve, tugging on it as she tried to wake him. "Vyron, wake up! Vyron, snap out of it! Wake up!" He suddenly jolted upright, startling Mouse. His eyes were wild as they danced around the room, finally falling on her. They softened when he saw her, his body relaxing as he realized that he had been dreaming.
"Vyron, are you alright?" Mouse asked, concern laced through her voice.
"I'm fine," he replied, putting a hand to his head as he shook it as if trying to shake away the dream he'd been having. "It was just a dream. I'm fine. You're fine." He leaned forward and took her hand in both of his, squeezing it gently.
"You are alright, aren't you?" it was his turn to be concerned.
"I'm fine," she smiled at him. "Just a couple of bruises, no biggie." She lightly touched the tender spots on her neck with her free hand, surprised as his eyebrows knit together unhappily.
"Vyron, what is it? What's wrong?" she asked, suddenly self conscious of her neck, pulling the blankets up to try to cover it.
Are they really that bad? she wondered as she looked at Vyron, who hadn't answered her question, and realized that he wasn't even looking at her anymore. "Vyron?"
"Mmmm?" he turned back to her, coming back from what ever world his mind had taken him to. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"Vyron, is something wrong?" she asked. "You seem... distracted."
"It's nothing," he replied, shrugging her off. Mouse was taken aback by this action. Vyron had never been like this around her before. He seemed tense and uneasy, his focus kept wandering, and he wouldn't give her a straight answer. Before she could call him out on this, the door slammed open and Elsa came strolling in, skipping excitedly as she brought a silver platter over to her.
"Courtesy of my father," she smiled, setting it down gently on Mouse's lap then removing its cover. Warm steam hit her face along with the mouthwatering smell of a melody of vegetables and beef, making Mouse's stomach growl as she looked down at the large bowl of soup.
"Tell your father that he needs to work on his portion control," she laughed as she stared at the huge dish. "Like look at me! I can't eat that much! This could feed an entire army! Twice!"
"I tried to tell him that, but he just wouldn't listen," Elsa joined in her laughter. "You know how father gets when he's fussy while cooking! He overdoes E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!"
Mouse rolled her eyes as she thought about the last time that she had been stuck in bed, sick with the flu, and how Gaston had sent her huge portions of everything, even though the dishes were always sent back not even a quarter of the way finished every time.
Mouse turned her head towards Vyron suddenly as he let go of her hand. He was standing now, shifting uncomfortably and avoiding eye contact with her.
"I've got to go," he mumbled, his eyes looking everywhere but at her face. "I'll see you later, Mouse. Elsa." He nodded to the younger girl before turning and hurrying out the door. Mouse watched him leave, confused and hurt.
What's going on with him? she wondered, her lips forming into a frown. Did I do something wrong? He tells me that he loves me and then he won't look me in the eye? Only seconds ago he was so concerned, so worried about me and now he can't even stay in the same room as me? What did I do wrong? She felt her eyebrows knit together in confusion. She could not understand why he was suddenly being so distant from her.
Two days passed and Vyron did not return to visit her, leaving an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. Actually, no one came to visit her, the only other people that she saw were Iris and her apprentices. Elsa had oddly enough not returned after her visit two days prior, which confused Mouse.
Why is everyone avoiding me? she wondered, slightly worried. Not even Arya had come to see her. At least, not until the third day.
Mouse was just pulling her uniform shirt over her head when the door creaked open and Arya cautiously peeked in.
"Arya!" Mouse exclaimed with a smile, slowly standing up from the bed. Her ribs were almost all better, a testament to Mouse's ability to heal quickly. "I thought that you had forgotten about me!"
"Forget about you?" Arya smiled, relaxing as she drew further into the room. "Never!" As soon as she was close enough, she threw her arms around Mouse and hugged her.
"I meant to visit sooner, but Lord Penton would not leave me alone!" she explained with a sigh. "He kept fussing about my cut," she gestured at the bandage around her neck. "And then there was the whole inquiry about Lord Gregory, how he got out of the dungeon, how he slipped past the guards, how he got into the Throne Room, all of that fun stuff."
"Sounds like you've had an eventful past couple of days," Mouse smirked. "All I've done is laid in bed, wondering why no one was coming to visit me... not even Vyron." Her smile dropped as she said his name.
"Arya, I don't know what I did wrong!" she exclaimed, sitting back down on the bed, burying her face in her hands. "First he wouldn't keep eye contact with me, then he wouldn't stay in the same room as me, and now he won't even come see me! Did I do something wrong?" She paused for a couple of minutes, lowering her voice before saying, "Did I wait too long?"
"Too long for what?" Arya asked, sitting down beside her.
"Did I wait too long to tell him that I love him?" she whispered, her voice cracking as she struggled not to cry. "I love him, Arya! And now it feels like I've lost him! And the worse part is that I don't even know why!" Mouse felt Arya's body stiffen beside her, but by the time she looked up at the older girl her body had relaxed again.
"It's going to be okay," Arya tried to soothe her, gently rubbing her back. "Come, let's go for a walk. I'd heard that Iris had cleared you and that you can leave now." She looped her arm through Mouse's, gently pulling her to her feet as she stood.
"It would be nice to go outside," Mouse admitted with a sigh. "You know how much I hate being cooped up inside."
"Exactly!" Arya smiled as she pulled Mouse along out the door. As they walked down the hall, Mouse started feeling more and more uncomfortable as every time they passed someone, they would avoid eye contact with her.
What's going on? Mouse wondered, frustrated. Everyone's avoiding me as if I have the plague!
"Your Majesty!" the familiar voice made them both sigh as they turned towards its source. Lord Penton quickly rushed over to them, his eyes on Arya. "Where have you been? You know that you are not supposed to be out without a guard with you at all times!"
"I was just coming to get my guard," Arya sighed, gesturing at Mouse. Lord Penton's eyes flickered over to her very briefly, not staying on her for long. And Mouse noticed something unusual in his eyes. Rather than anger and hate, his eyes appeared to be filled with pity.
"I meant a proper guard, Your Majesty," Lord Penton replied, his voice unusually soft. "One that has been trained to protect you."
"And that's exactly what Mouse is!" Arya exclaimed defensively. "Or did you forget about how she has saved my life multiple times, most recently being only a few days ago?"
"But she is just a servant!" Lord Penton argued.
"No, she's not just a servant!" Arya snapped. "She is my protector and my friend and I wouldn't trust my safety with anyone else! Besides, now that I have Mouse back, my routine can finally go back to being normal, so you can tell Iselle that I don't need her help getting dressed anymore."
"But-" Lord Penton began.
"Enough, Lord Penton," Arya cut him off. "This is my decision, not yours. I have made my choice and I would wish that you would honour and respect it."
"Yes, Your Majesty," he bowed to her. "But I do have to ask you to dismiss her temporarily as Sir Gordon wishes to speak with you about the matter that we discussed... privately." His eyes flickered over to Mouse again and again she saw pity in them.
"Oh, right," Arya replied, flustered. "I'm sorry, Mouse, but he's right. I can't bring you with me. Tactics and strategy stuff, you know, top secret and all that jazz."
"Of course, Your Majesty," Mouse bowed to her stiffly, causing a slight sting of pain from her side. Mouse sighed as they turned away, watching as they disappeared down the hall.
She still wanted to go outside, missing the cool breeze and warm sun, so she quickly made her way out of the Palace, suddenly finding herself strolling through the Gardens. When she came upon the bench, she could feel a pang of sadness in her heart. This was where she and Vyron had first officially met. She had seen him around the Palace before, but this was where they had first really met. This was where she met the love of her life. And now she was losing him. She sat down on the bench with a sigh, burying her face in her hands.
I just don't understand what happened! she could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. Everything was going so well between us and now it's like it's all over, with no explanation, no reasons why or what I did wrong. What did I do to cause us to fall apart?
"May I join you?" the voice was familiar, but had lost its usual cockiness.
"What do you want, Darien?" she asked sharply, looking up at him. He was wearing his riding uniform, a large bag slung over his shoulder. His shoulders were slouched low as if he bore the weight of the world on them and there was sorrow in his eyes.
"I came to say goodbye," he replied tentatively. "May I?" He gestured towards the area on the bench beside her. With a sigh, she reluctantly nodded. He eased the bag off of his shoulder, setting it on the ground beside him as he sat down. They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, neither knowing quite what to say to the other.
"Mouse, I'm sorry," he sighed at the same time as Mouse asked, "Why goodbye?"
"Sorry?" she looked at him, her eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement.
"I'm leaving, Mouse," he said, not looking at her. "And I wanted to apologize for my actions before I left." Now he looked at her, remorse filling his eyes. "Mouse, I was a jerk, to you and to Vyron, and I know that I can't expect you to forgive me, but I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I guess I was just jealous of him... Jealous because I really do like you, Mouse. I know that that's no excuse for my actions, but sometimes love makes you do stupid things. I had been so used to girls throwing themselves at me, that it kind of made me a little too cocky and full of myself, yes I'm admitting to that. But then when you turned me down, it sparked my interest cause well, no one's ever turned me down. I turned it into a game, a game of winning you over. But then it wasn't a game anymore. When you chose Vyron over me, it hurt like nothing I've ever felt before. All I ever wanted was to have your love, but I went about it the wrong way. I thought I needed to win it, when really I had to earn it, and my actions were not at all worthy of that. And so I'm sorry, Mouse. I hope that someday that you will be able to forgive me and maybe we could start anew, start over. And hey, who knows, maybe someday I will earn your love. But until then, all I can offer is my forgiveness."
Mouse was left stunned by his words. This was the last thing that she was expecting to hear today. Suddenly her earlier question came flooding back into her mind.
"Why are you saying goodbye?" she asked again. He sighed, running his hand through his long black hair.
"Do you remember how Sir Torden said that fighting would not go unpunished?" he asked her, to which she slowly nodded. "Well, my punishment is to be relocated. I'm being sent to Lorn, one of the outposts on the northern border. Sir Torden thinks that it would be good for me to get some hard discipline from the head Commander there, a man they call Ironfist." He sighed again, shrugging as he stood up and shouldered his bag again. "I am to leave at noon. I just wanted to come and apologize and let you know that you won't have to see me again for a while. I wanted to give you some good news, considering everything that happened with Vyron."
"What happened with Vyron?" she leapt to her feet, caught off guard by his comment. Surprise filled his eyes.
"You don't know?" he asked, confused. "I would have thought that he would have told you, being his girl and all."
"Tell me what?" she demanded.
"Mouse, he got the harder end of the punishment than I did, since he actually started the fight, I mean in the physical sense," Darien explained. "Mouse, he got his title stripped from him. He's no longer a Knight."