Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fleur de Lys Part 7


Why must you lie with your legs ungainly huddled
And one arm bent across your sullen, cold, exhausted face?
It hurts my heart to watch you,
Deep shadowed in the candle's guttering gold.
And you wonder why I shake you by the shoulder
Drowsy you mumble and sigh and turn your head.
You are too young to fall asleep forever
And when you sleep you remind me of the dead.
Siegfreid Sassoon.

FYLING ABBEY, March 1919.

He had effectively smashed his knee with that single bullet at almost point blank range.

Cowan remembered blood, hammering at the door as the gunfire roused the club, scrambling into his clothes and being ordered out of the way as Dev, semi conscious and bloodied, was carried downstairs by club servants and arrangements made to take him to the nearest hospital. A large young man with a face that announced some blood kinship to Dev arrived on the scene from a distant room, wearing pyjamas and dressing gown, and took over. With nothing he could do and no possible reason for being here, fearing the consequences for Dev if he stayed, not to mention his own risk of arrest, Cowan left him in the hands of the crowd, cursing himself, and vanished into the back streets and out of sight. He heard nothing more until Cam sought him out that day at Battersea.

Dev was watching him as he came back from the fire with a can of hot water, dropped towels on the bed and pulled the covers back.

"What the hell are you doing here, Alick?"

"I told you," Cowan pulled him upright and stripped the nightshirt off over one shoulder. Dev was shivering hard, even in the warmth of the fire, and while he moved to protest, the hiss suggested even the slight shifting of his weight was agony to the damaged knee. Cowan put a towel under him and laid him back.

"I came to see why you'd locked yourself up you silly bastard."

“You mean Cam sent you.” Dev subsided back on the pillows, his initial confusion giving way to an adult grimness. It was a look Alick remembered well and hated.

“I’m glad he had the sense." He said shortly. "I watched you turn a gun on yourself a month ago and now I find you-“

“Alick don’t.“

“Pissed out of your head, terrifying the servants and locking yourself up here in the dark."

Dev turned his head restlessly. “How did you get past Winton?”

Cowan wrung out a sponge in the water, soaped it and began to wash him a limb at a time, moving carefully to avoid jarring the heavily bandaged knee.

“He were glad for someone to sort you out. Cam gave me a letter.”

“He did what?”

“Offered me a job.”

“I know exactly what he offered you. I’ll give you another letter for Lindley.” Dev pushed him away, pushed the covers back and swung his legs out of bed. He winced again, hard, as his damaged leg took his weight. He limped like an old man into the sitting room: it twisted Alick’s gut to watch him.

“I won't bloody go and you know it.”

“Were you demobbed?” Dev glanced at him, looking at his civilian clothes. “Go back to your family Alick. You’ll find work up there.”

“You were in enough of a state to barely recognise me last night.”

“Perhaps I’ve learned to drink more than I should, God knows we all drank too much. Bad habits. That’s all, Alick, I’m fine.”

“I watched you shoot yourself.” Cowan said grimly. “You can call it an accident to everyone else but I saw you do it you little beggar, you knew exactly what you were doing.”

“It was a lousy month.” Dev fumbled for cigarettes in the box on the mantelpiece. There was a panic in the rushed and harried movements, a desperation in the speed of which slightly shaking hands lit up, then Alick saw his shoulders relax as he dragged the smoke deep into his lungs. “Perhaps I needed an excuse to stop.”

“So you shot yourself?” Alick said bluntly. “You think I'll swallow that load of balls?"

“They’re all running mad in London , you’ve seen it for yourself.”

“DEV.” Alick fixed him with a stare he couldn’t look away from. Deverel winced. Alick took the cigarette out of his hand and gripped his wrist, holding him still.

“You might be able to con everyone else, but not me. NOT me. I can see right through you.”

“You shouldn’t have come.”

“Because you know I won’t let you lock yourself up here.”

“Alick I’m fine. Really.”

His eyes were on the cigarette. Alick gave it back to him and watched him pace, limping badly.

"Get back to bed with you, you can barely stand."

"I've slept all morning, I hate sleeping anyway, it's-"

He broke off rather abruptly. Alick leaned against the sofa back.

“It's what?.”

Dev gave him another swift, unconvincing smile. “Not in the habit of sleeping much.”

“Unless you’re pissed enough.”

Deverel flushed.

“This in't your room, is it?” Alick said more gently. “Winton said you moved up here."

“I wanted some peace and quiet.” He pitched the cigarette butt into the fire and looked around him, running his fingers through his dark hair. “Did you tidy up in here?”

“It was about bloody time someone did. They told me you wouldn’t let the servants in.”

“Like I said. Peace and quiet.”

Silence. Alick waited. Eventually Deverel resumed his wandering.

“Where did you meet Cam ?”

“Battersea. Told me Hayes went back out to France .”

Deverel muttered. “Yes. Maniac. He wrote to me a few weeks back. He’s got a hell of a company out there. The poor bastards are desperate to get out of the army; none of them want to be clearing up the mess. Most of what he’s doing is burial patrols and I.D.s. Terrible job.”

Alick watched his limp gradually worsen until Deverel put a hand on the sofa arm and lowered himself carefully down.  Then pulled the blanket out from behind him and covered him over.

"Are you going to let me finish getting you straight now?"

Deverel gave him an expressive glower, but said nothing. Alick retrieved the water and towels in silence and carried on his task in the heat of the fire, handling the younger man gently. Deverel didn't move again. For the first time Alick handled him gently and intimately without raising a stir from the younger man's body, and Alick saw no further eye contact. He took the water away when he was finished, sat on the arm of the sofa and ran a comb through Deverel's thick, dark hair, straightening it over his brow. Clean, fresh shaven, he looked younger and at least now well cared for. And blank, sitting where he was put, his face immobile.


Winton appeared at mid afternoon with a tray of tea, nodded gravely to Alick and came into the sitting room to place it on the table.

"Good afternoon my lord." He said courteously to Deverel. Deverel didn't respond or look around. Winton's eyes missed nothing whatever: Alick saw the rapid scan he made of the room and the bedroom leading off it, before he laid the tray down.

"The cook has been asked to provide you with what you feel is suitable for his lordship Mr Cowan." He said mildly. "At what times you feel appropriate. If you would inform me in the mornings of what you would wish to order I will see that it's prepared in addition to the household meals. Since you've had no time I took the liberty of requesting bread and butter for tea, and soup and toast and a milk pudding for dinner on your behalf.  His lordship's eaten very little for some days now."

Alick nodded slowly, picking up the hint. Winton nodded once more to Deverel's oblivious figure. Alick followed him, pulling the door to in the hallway.

"I'll be needing lint. And something for dressing that leg of his. Is there any chance of getting a doctor out?"

"I'm not able to call one without his Lordship's instructions." Winton said mildly. "However I'll speak to the housekeeper and see to it that you have the materials you need."


The cry startled Alick into dropping the brass ornaments he was polishing. It was rapidly approaching dusk outside; Deverel had fallen asleep on the sofa, having rejected all offers of the tea. Alick got up and put a hand down to wake him, disentangling him from the rug he’d been dozing under. Deverel wrenched away when he was touched, struggled to his feet, and Alick saw him trying to get up on a firestep which existed only in his mind. He held onto Dev’s wrist with all his strength, took the rug out of his hand, and gradually Deverel’s agitated muttering quietened and his eyes cleared into coherency. His skin was icy to the touch, despite the warmth of the room.

“Dev?” Alick said quietly. Deverel looked straight through him. Alick shook his wrist gently. “Come on lad. You know who I am. Dev?”

“Yes.” Deverel tugged at his caught wrist and put his hands over his face. “Is there any water up here?”

Alick poured some into the washstand bowl and brought it to him. The water was faintly brackish and startlingly clean. Deverel splashed his face, feeling his heart slowly quieten.

“Do you do that a lot?" Alick said over his head. "Dreaming?”

“It’s the weather- thundery. Not sleeping well.” Deverel shook water off his hands and turned to find Alick still in his way. Alick held him by the shoulders, not letting him past.

“Look at me.”

Cats eyes. Deverel couldn’t hold his gaze and it broke his control. He started to shake at the hands and knees, shivering.

“Yeah.” Alick said softly above his head. “I thought you looked ill when I laid eyes on you.”

“I told you, I’m fine- just run down. Tired.”

Alick’s hands didn’t move on his shoulders. Deverel looked up again into his eyes. Dark blue, quiet, steady as they'd always been. And just as intense.

“Get off me.” He said feebly. Alick shook his head.

“It’s allright kid. You’re safe here, I’ve got you.  I'm not going to let anything happen to you now.”

Deverel folded his arms to stifle the shaking.

“It’s allright.” Alick said again, quietly. For a moment he thought Dev might respond. Then Deverel lifted his hands to grasp his wrists, slipped them gently off his shoulders and edged past him towards the window. There he paced, drifting and limping in front of the glass, arms still tightly folded. Alick hesitated for a moment, then made himself let Deverel and went back to the ornaments, wanting the work with his hands to keep his own nerves at bay, and wanting to stay where he could watch Deverel.

A footman brought a tray just after six pm; yet more tea. A plate of sliced  bread and butter. Alick took it at the door, too anxious to notice the man’s face. He poured steaming tea, watching Deverel’s hunched shoulders at the window.

“You eating?”

No response. Alick got in his way and pushed a cup into his hands when he stopped pacing. Deverel raised it automatically to his mouth; eyes still on the garden. He winced at the taste and handed it back.


Alick cradled the cup between his hands and leaned on the windowsill. “What are you dreaming about?”

“I don’t know.” Deverel gave him a brief, absent glance. Alick saw the tension behind it. “It's worse at night.”

“Can you sleep in the day?”

“Sometimes. It’s not just in my sleep either.”

“What do you mean?”

“Dreaming when I’m awake.” Deverel risked another quick glance and fixed his eyes stiffly on the garden again. “I’m finally going mad. Just as Cam predicted.”

“How do you know?” Alick said matter of factly.

“Things. I went berserk. At home.” Deverel abruptly hunched his shoulders and his voice plummeted, almost to a whisper. “Oh God Alick, I don’t know what happened. I was talking to mother about guests she was inviting here and the next thing I knew I was smashing everything-“


“A couple of chairs were over. This vase at the foot of the stairs. I terrified her.”

“Terrified you too.” Alick commented. “Was that all?”

“No. I lost control like that twice before. Once I was driving and I drove the car into a wall. Not badly but I meant to do it. Told Daddy it went out of control on the ice. The other- I went for Hale- one of the servants- an old man.”

He buried his head in his hands to block away the memory of Hale’s terrified, bulging eyes. He felt Alick's hands close on his shoulders immediately.

"Allright lad."

“I nearly strangled him before Daddy got me away.”

“So he could stop you?” Alick asked quietly.

“I’m not safe.” Deverel said through his hands. “I ought to be locked up. In a hospital or something.”

Alick’s hands closed over his and took them away from his face, too strong to argue with.

“You’ve no chance of hurting me, whatever you do. You want to try and make sure?”

He got a flicker of a glance, a tiny break in the despair in the younger face. Alick touched his cheek, talking to him quietly and gently. “So with me you’re safe. Got it? And I’m not going to leave you.”

“You shouldn’t have come here,”

“Where else should I be?” Alick pulled him closer and took the cup back off the windowsill. “You drink that.”

It tasted of Lys. Metallic. Dusty. Everything tasted of Lys. Deverel winced and concentrated on the heat of the china in his hands.

“Do you know why you lose control like this?” Alick said above him. “What are you doing when it happens?”

“Nothing.” Deverel shrugged faintly. “Normal things.”


“Its not just those times.” He admitted softly. “Its all the time. I feel like this all the time.”

“Until sometimes it gets away from you.” Alick’s hand ran down his back, a warm, firm palm tracing the curve of his spine. “So it scares you and you lock yourself down tighter to try and stop it escaping again, and the next time it only breaks out harder.”


“Had a temper like that all my life. So I know what it’s like. Now with me, it’s bad blood. What is it with you?”

“Ruined nerves.” Deverel said tautly. “I was fine when I had things to do. Damn it, I won’t be one of these wretched, nervous fools-“

Alick clamped down on the tone before the hysteria could start. “You listen. We always said you pushed yourself too hard for too long. One day you’d have to stop and then you’d pay for it. This is it. Now you stop. Here. With me. You’ll be allright. You will, you’re twenty-two. A kid still.”

A kid with black circles under his eyes and the face of an old, old man. Deverel winced.
Alick grasped his shoulders again, standing behind him to follow his gaze into the garden. “To start with, you’re going to have to sleep. And I don’t mean pass out because you’re drunk.”

“I can’t." Deverel said, shaking his head. "I really can’t-”

“You’re going to have to try." Alick interrupted roughly. "And you’ll have to eat as well. You’ll make yourself ill like this.”

“Who do you think you are?” Deverel demanded with a flicker of his usual spirit. Alick smiled.

“You’re a spoilt little bugger, you.”

“I’m going to have to find some clothes.” Deverel said more absently, glancing down at himself.

“You’re not.” Alick steered him towards the sofa, taking more of his weight as his limp became more pronounced. "You can stay there, and you can get some food down you.”

Deverel gripped his hands and collapsed onto the sofa, not ungrateful for the weight off his stiff leg. Alick shook the rug back over him and Dev watched his shoulders in a surprisingly clean and crisp shirt, flex as he bent over the tray.

“You’re good at this.”

“So I’d hope, ‘cause you’re going to have to tell me what to do.” Alick brought a plate across to him. “At least when there’s anyone else around.”

Deverel withdrew from the threat of bread and butter and buried himself in the tea. Alick waited until he’d finished then took the cup away and put the plate firmly into his hand.

“You get that down. I ought to paint this room, it needs it.”

“You won’t convince the staff you’re a valet if you start decorating.” Deverel said in amusement. Alick grunted.

“Clean it then. My ma’d have kittens if she saw this place, dust in every corner. There was a tart in our town, and my ma used to say of her she had a different man in there every night of the week, but her corners were always spotless. You eat that and stop pushing it about.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Hard luck.” Alick abandoned the problems with the room and sat on the arm of the sofa over him. “If you can lead a retreat over open ground, you can bloody well sort out a slice of bread.”

“I really-“

Alick gripped the other side of the plate and pushed it firmly back. “And I mean it. You eat that. And before you ask, let’s just start with the idea that I’m bigger than you, and see where we get to.”


It was going to be a full time job with him, something Alick hadn’t anticipated but realised fast in the next hour as the darkness gathered outside, and Deverel's nerves grew visibly more strained. It began to take constant effort to get him to talk, and after a while to hold his attention. Left for a minute he sank back into his nameless anxiety, unable to do anything but return to that restless pacing. Alick had only one try at drawing the curtains but Deverel stopped him almost instantly, and seeing his face, Alick didn't try again. He talked instead, quietly and gently about anything he could think of. Anything to keep him sat down and his mind occupied. By eight pm he was well aware he'd long since lost that battle. Deverel paced ceaselessly now, arms folded, his face once more immobile, and Alick was aware that under his breath he was once more muttering to himself. And at times now he was beginning to cough. A hard, hacking sound that didn't bode well.

By the time Winton tapped at the door Alick was anxious enough that he was actively glad to see someone else he could view even as tentative support. He opened the door and would have spoken, save for a small and elderly lady standing beside the butler, in her early sixties and sensibly if drably dressed in a grey dress and low shoes. Winton waited a moment, not a hesitation, but a courtesy and Alick recognised it. He allowed time for Alick to look and see in his face a reassurance, a quick and quiet message to him that this was no invasion, before he gestured in his usual stately way between Alick and the woman as though making an introduction at a public function.

"Mrs Grey, this is Mr Cowan, Lord Deverel's valet. Mrs Grey," he added to Alick, "was known in the house for years as Nanny Grey, she was his lordship's nurse and Mr Robert's when they were children."

Alick looked back at the woman uncomprehendingly. Having spent an evening watching Dev pace and mutter with that glassed look to his eyes that scared the hell out of him, this little birdlike woman was the last thing they needed. The brown eyes lifted to his though, somewhere at the level of his chest, were clear and filled with intelligence and compassion. Her voice was soft and calm, and she spoke deferentially.

"You needn't worry I'll upset him, Mr Cowan. I know too that it's late. If you'd rather, I'll come another time, but I was very fond of both the boys and I'd like to speak to Lord Deverel if I may."

"Mrs Grey lives on the estate." Winton added mildly. "She was kind enough to walk up to the house to inquire after his lordship-"

The woman was still watching Alick's face in a searching way that reminded him of his mother, and she interrupted, politely but firmly, looking back to Winton with the compassion of an old friend.

"Mr Cowan, if you'll allow I'll be frank with you. Mr Winton had a message sent to me this afternoon to say you'd arrived, and that begging your pardon, you needed some help. I've come before and often, but Lord Deverel won't do any more than be polite to me, and I'm not silly enough to think I can handle him with the troubles he has now. With your pardon, I've been worried sick about him, and Mr Winton has too, there's a lot of the old staff here who were fond of him as a child and would help now if they could."

Alick nodded slowly, somewhat taken aback. He'd been here a bare few hours, walked in from the street without them having laid eyes on him before: their trust and open collusion astounded him. Winton cleared his throat.

"I talked with Mrs Grey and said you were a comrade- batman- to his Lordship in France."

That wasn't entirely true but it served. Alick nodded to the woman, responding to the keenness of her look.

"Aye. I was there with him a good eighteen months up until the end."

"I can promise you Mr Cowan," Mrs Grey said quietly, "I shan't fret him or worry him. I'd like to help here if I can."

Her accent was the genteel one of the house servant, especially one entrusted with well bred children, but there was a faint and familiar music behind it that Alick recognised as northern, and the simplicity of her promise was reassuring. He stepped back from the door and let it open.

Deverel was still standing in front of the window, still at the moment, but with his arms tightly folded, and he was still muttering quietly to himself. Mrs Grey moved with the carefulness of those used to stepping around the small and the fragile, and without fuss. The warmth in her voice was tangible.

"Hello love."

Deverel's eyes lifted immediately, the first time he'd responded in some hours. Alick saw and was stabbed by the look in his face - it was guilt. Shame. And as that was stifled, a distant and regretful warmth as though recalling something too far away to be remembered. He bent at once to kiss her and while he stood head and shoulders taller than her she still managed to embrace him in a way that enfolded and drew him to her with deep and abiding affection.

He seemed to exert all his strength to put on a show for her.

Alick, who had watched him through the day, knew the effort behind it as he sat with her and managed in monosyllables to give the impression of following her conversation. Although he appeared oblivious to the impropriety of entertaining in a nightshirt, barefoot. Alick found a dressing gown and discreetly helped him into it, something he appeared not to notice. Winton had another of the endless, ornate tea trays brought up and Mrs Grey sat composedly with her cup, her eyes covering the room and missing nothing while she talked of family details. Cheerful trivialities, but slowly enough and in short sentences that told Alick clearly she wasn't nearly as fooled as Deverel believed she was. She stayed only fifteen minutes and when she got up, she put a hand on Deverel's shoulder, pressing him back down onto the sofa.

"No, you stay where you are love, give that knee a rest. Mr Cowan can see me down the stairs and I'll pop back next week, see how you're doing."

Alick took the hint. As they reached the door he was aware of Deverel, up once more and resuming his silent pacing.

Mrs Grey waited until the door was shut, then gave him another of her piercing looks.

"I see you're no happier about him than I am. He won't talk to me, nor to Mr Winton. He wrote to me once a fortnight you know, every single fortnight just like he did at school, all about the other men and the weather and news from home, never a word about what was happening to him. Awful things you see in the papers."

Alick waited, unsure of where this was leading. She hesitated a minute, then looked back at him.

"You do know what he's been through Mr Cowan, and I can see like Mr Winton said, you've done more with him in a few hours than we've managed in weeks. If I can help now, or anything more you need, you tell me or you get Mr Winton to send me a note. What I can do for you is speak with his parents. I was nursemaid in his father's nursery and I raised her ladyship's children, they'll listen to me and if you'll excuse me, I can take some liberties with them that others might not. Mr Winton said you were wanting a doctor for a start."

Relief, warm and active, began to break through the clouds.


When she left, it was to go downstairs with that firm, quiet air that Alick suspected would quickly get her her own way with Deverel's father. She'd further promised clothes, and made a few quiet and shrewd suggestions of her own.

"You make sure he keeps drinking love, even if you can't get him to eat much.  He'll do without food for a while if you can keep him drinking. You can slip eggs into milk, he'll never know the difference and it'll keep him going. And set a routine. There's nothing more secure than routine for anyone unsettled, however old." Her next words were still gentler. "And you make sure you eat too. Starved away you look, just as bad as him."

She was right. Deverel was still pacing by the window, muttering again in a low, hard tone punctuated with coughs at intervals. Alick bolted cooling tea and the remains of the bread and butter, watching him. The look of withdrawal was horrible to see. He seemed to be carrying a visible wall of air around him. When he crossed Deverel's path Dev's head jerked up and for a moment he got a look of blank incomprehension. Then a flicker of interest.

"Cowan, what the hell are you doing here?"

It was another lurch to the stomach, another confirmation that Alick didn't want. He put a hand on Deverel's arm, keeping his voice gentle and casual.

"Come sit down lad. You'll bloody freeze like this."

"No, I need to walk." Deverel pulled away from him, continuing his route. "I'm here. I'm on duty for Godsakes, who else is going to do this?"

"It doesn't need doing." Alick said calmly. "Come on, come and sit down."

"Of course it bloody needs doing, look at it." Deverel's unco ordinated wave encompassed the lawns, rolling gently away under a cloudy, ink black sky, punctuated by hedges and in the distance a summer house. "Totally undefended, it's bloody ridiculous, no one on guard…"  he broke off and ran a hand over his forehead as if it ached, coughed and resumed his pacing. "I kept telling Daddy we needed the place fenced in."

Where they came from open land was an anathema. Dangerous. Deadly. The sight of this rolling, undefended ground must in itself fret at his trained nerves. Alick dropped both hands on his shoulders and this time Deverel lashed out at him, striking his hands away.

"Get off Alick! Get back down the line, you shouldn't be here! Take that bloody tea away."

Alick stood back, shaken and increasingly worried. He was obviously confused- from the jumble of contexts Alick suspected that at least some part of him knew where he was and what was happening, but it wasn't meshing with some other force loose in his mind. He stepped back and moved the tea tray, taking it through into the small, hidden room Winton had shown him earlier as his own room. The narrow bed had been made up, and laid on the bed was a tray of bandages, iodine, a bottle of laudanum and a bowl of lint. Alick picked up the laudanum, for a minute very tempted to try putting a few drops in water and getting that down Deverel's throat. Then he shut the door and went back into the sitting room.

The coughing was getting worse, he heard that as soon as he walked back into the room. There was a hectic flush across Deverel's cheekbones and his eyes were brighter, whether with fever or simply confusion Alick didn't know. He was shivering visibly as he paced, his arms tightly folded, his head bowed over them. There was a despair in his movements that was tangible. The same kind of heat rose in Alick, watching him, that had risen the night in the rest camp a year ago. A knowledge that at this moment in time nothing else mattered, that there was a desperation in the boy's eyes and face that couldn't be denied no matter where they were, no matter what the rules. Alick swallowed on his own nerves and promptly forgot them. This ridiculous, oversized, echoing house didn't matter. The months apart didn't matter. He'd looked at Deverel so often in the line, found reason to be near him, to be with him. And through it all, a voice at the back of his head had told him while he watched Deverel work, the clumsy efforts of Cam and of Hayes to protect him. You could do it. You could make him eat. You'd see he slept. You'd keep him going.

And how? In the way he'd always known would work. That always had worked. Reaching over, Alick took Deverel's hand and drew him over, not hard, but strongly enough that Deverel moved where he was led. Nightshirted, shaking, he looked very unassertive, and Alick swallowed on a wave of tenderness, putting an arm firmly around his shoulders.

"Allright lad, that's enough. Bed, right now."

Deverel pulled back, but Alick simply walked, keeping hold of him, and within a few steps felt Deverel fall into step, limping painfully on his shattered knee. He coughed once and Alick felt the racking of his lungs under his arm, the way it took all of his breath. He sat Deverel on the edge of the bed, moved the covers back and laid him flat, gently but firmly enough that Deverel simply moved with him. There was almost relief in his surrender. Alick sat on the edge of the bed and pushed his hair back from his eyes to rest a hand on his forehead.

If anything he was cold rather than hot.

Alick smoothed his hair once more, looking down into eyes that were anything but oriented, and spoke to them firmly.

"You stay there, don't you move. It's allright."

The one decanter he had found still filled in the sitting room he had hidden in his own room. Alick poured half a glass of it, sniffed at it, and thought it was probably brandy. He took that and the tray of bandages back with him. Deverel hadn't moved, and his eyes followed Alick. A familiar voice, a familiar tone, a means of handling him without uncertainty or hesitation, and he'd responded immediately. Alick sat once more on the edge of the bed and put an arm around him, raising him.

"You drink that and see if that settles you."

Deverel moved thankfully, gulping at the brandy in a way that made it very clear how he'd been using the alcohol recently. Alick let him have the glassful, held him until he was finished, and then laid him back, shifting the covers over him to expose the damaged leg.

"When was this last looked at Dev?"

Deverel didn't answer. Alick put a hand on his chest, shaking gently. This time Deverel's eyes came to his, blurred but aware.

"When was your knee last looked at?"

"Hospital?" Deverel shrugged vaguely. "I don't know. Thought it better to leave it be….not look."

That was more likely the truth. Alick brought water and a towel over, braced himself and began to unwind the stained, untidy bandage.

What lay underneath was a ghastly mess. Mishapen and swollen, seamed with scars, the joint was hot to the touch and the main wound was still open. Alick steeled himself, put iodine into the water and washed it as best he could. The brandy seemed to have helped. Deverel was breathing more quietly, the flush on his cheeks had faded and the coughing had quietened. He winced a few times as Alick touched the wound, but made no protest. Alick dried it gently, took fresh bandage and re wrapped it, leaving it clean and as comfortable as was possible with the amount of bandage needed to cover it.

"You need a doctor to look at that my lad. We'll talk about that in the morning."

Deverel shook his head. He was exhausted, lying quietly now and clearly not far off sleep. At intervals his eyes drifted shut for a few seconds before he determinedly jerked them open. Alick got up and stoked the fire, dimmed the gas lights and came back to sit with him, pulling the covers more closely over his shoulders.

"Allright lad. You sleep now. I'm staying here."

Once more his eyes drifted shut, to be forced open. Alick reached over and took firm hold of his hand, grasping the smaller, colder fingers in his.

"It's allright Dev. You sleep, I've got you."

Continue on to Part 8 of Fleur de Lys

Copyright Ranger 2010

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