Back again! (and not late on this one at least, right?) This week's flash with the Wednesday Briefers was inspired by the prompt: Get off of me before I puke!
Fortitude Part 29
“Damn it. Lower me down.” I looped the rope around my waist quickly and held tight. “Teddy?” I hurried over to him, and accidentally kicked the lamp. It was barely glowing. I reached down and sent a surge of energy into it, gasping at the painful drawing I hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Will?” Teddy blinked up at me.
Relief compounded my exhaustion, and I swayed. “You really must stop falling asleep on me. My heart can’t take it!”
“Come on, let’s go. I have some help to get us out of here.” It was a good thing I’d been accosted by two such strong guys, because it was almost more than I could handle to get Teddy up and over to the rope. I carefully adjusted it around him, tying a good knot. “Here, tuck your arm in against your chest and hold on with the other one.”
Once he was in position I called up to the waiting men, still held in thrall, “Pull him up, carefully, and then sit him down somewhere safe.
I steadied Teddy as he swung in the air until he was too high for me to reach, then watched anxiously until he was safely over the lip. I heard scuffling sounds. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” Teddy called. His voice was strained. “I’m sitting on the edge of the stage.”
“Come back and lower the rope for me,” I ordered. I didn’t tie the rope around my waist, just held on again. I spun and jerked as they heaved the rope up. It was making me dizzy, so I reached for the lip of the hole. “Help me.” Altair and the skinny man reached for me, and I scrambled out of the hole. A wave of dizziness washed over me, and I lost my balance, tumbling to the floor.
The skinny man landed in a heap on top of me, knocking the wind out of my lungs, which only helped until I dragged in a painful breath. “Get off of me before I puke!” His rancid hair was actually touching my face; what did he put in it, pig fat?
“Are you okay, Will?”
“Fine, fine.” I grunted and coughed as Altair picked up his partner in crime. Both of them stared at me with their eerie blank stares. “Go put the ropes back.” I went over to the plaque on the wall, hoping it would close up the hole in the floor. The last thing we needed was to leave any evidence of our presence behind. Thankfully, it did.
I climbed off the stage and helped Teddy to his feet. “We really have to go.” I wanted nothing more than to order the two bastards waiting for my next command to go turn themselves in, but it would be obvious something wasn’t right with them. We couldn’t afford any scrutiny.
“You two go back to whatever hovel you call home, but don’t be seen.” They lived in the shadows, accosting innocents from the darkness; I was sure staying hidden wouldn’t be hard for them. “Do not leave for the rest of the night. You will wake up, hungover, and not remember anything about tonight.”
They left first, and I faced the difficult prospect of getting Teddy back in time to be dressed properly for the concert. We stumbled together through the gloom for a few streets, but then I was forced to hail a carriage, handing over a few extra coins to the conductor for a swift ride with no stops back to my parent’s home. We snuck in the side entrance and up to my room, meeting no one, though I could feel eyes on us. Servants noticed everything.
Teddy’s jacket was torn and his shirt was filthy. His shoulder and back were bruised. “You can wear an extra sash.” I hurried him through a quick toilet, helping him wash up and fixing his hair with pomade. “Okay, so if you leave your jacket buttoned, you can rest your hand in the fold I made on that extra sash to support your arm. I’ll stay by your side the whole time, okay?”
His lips were already thin with pain, but Teddy nodded. “Here, you need this.” I handed him a cup of water with a few drops of poppy oil. “It’ll help.” He grimaced but drank it as I swiftly dressed in a suit my mother thought would be suitable. My wardrobe wasn’t extensive, but it was full of pieces I thought would help me look the part.
Now I wanted to burn them all, especially what she picked out and put on simple trousers and a tunic. We could leave the unscrupulous city behind, find another place. But the nobles and my parents notwithstanding, there were a lot of good people here, and they were being harmed. I’d always wanted to be lauded a hero… though this wasn’t the way I’d planned it, at all.
Walking down the stairs, I linked my arm with Teddy’s. My family would view it as a mark of solidarity or friendship; I just didn’t want him to tumble down the steps.
“Sorry we’re late,” I said when Mother glared at us over her fan as she stood beside Father. She was showing far too much skin in a style suited for younger ladies, not aging matrons. “You look lovely, Mother.” I gave her the compliment she so clearly expected, and it mollified her somewhat, tempering her frown into a neutral expression.
I could still see the wrinkles on her forehead.
“The carriage has been waiting. Let’s go.” Michael and his wife—dressed more modestly, at least—preceded us down the stairs as our parents led the way. Silence reigned as the carriage chugged across the city to the Royal Pavilion.
“You boys mind your manners tonight. This is an honor,” Father said when we queued to disembark. Maybe he could sense my growing hostility that we were on display.
See, Teddy was okay!! Now go read more great updates!