((Continued from: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1731
To Uluki, the journey back to the compound seemed much, much shorter than the trip out had. At least now she knew Rollick was safe. Hurt, but they could face that. It was better than dead, and better than not knowing. He was still with her, and that filled her with relief, like she'd been holding her breath and could finally let it out. She murmured another prayer to the angel. "Thank you for keeping him alive. Thank you so much..."
They'd managed to recover Rollick's weapons and armour, as well as some supplies and pieces from the sellswords. This burden was divided between the various riders, except Yonash, who shared his horse with Rollick. Uluki would have preferred to share with Rollick herself, but he needed someone to lean on, and she wouldn't have been able to stay upright while supporting his weight. Instead she rode as close to them as possible, keeping Rollick in view, occasionally reaching out and touching his leg reassuringly when she could, earning a weary smile in return.
They dismounted when they reached their destination, and Uluki held Rollick's hand-- his left hand, the hand he had left-- as they entered the compound. She wasn't done healing him, because she hadn't wanted to make him stay in that room any longer than he had to. He needed to be surrounded by friends now, to be in a familiar place that didn't carry horrible memories. His face and chest, visible under his ripped shirt, still bore the marks of bruises, though they had faded with the magic she'd already used. He kept his stump clutched close to his body.
"Uluki, before we go inside, I wanted to talk to you about something," Rollick said quietly, so as to keep their conversation private. "I understand if you can't... if you don't want to..."
"If I can't what?" Uluki was concerned about where this was going.
He paused for a moment, collecting himself. "If you don't want to be with me anymore. If you think you and the children would do better on your own. If that's what you need, I'll release you from the vows you made to me."
Hearing this at any other moment, Uluki would have been shocked, and more than a little hurt. But right now, the way things were, she understood that it was the pain talking, and she felt nothing but sympathy. "Do you still love us?"
"More than life."
"Do you still want us?"
His voice broke. "More than anything."
"Then how can you imagine we would leave you? That's never going to happen. You're still you
. You're still the man I married. We're going to get through this together."
Uluki knew that wasn't going to fix everything. He wasn't going to forget about what he'd suffered, or be able to ignore a major injury just because of her love for him. What had happened changed things for him, and he would need time to adjust. She didn't expect him to just... be alright. But he did need to understand that he wouldn't be abandoned in his pain.
She gave his left hand a quick squeeze. "You know what it feels like to lose everything. I understand why you were scared, but that isn't going to happen this time. You did suffer a loss today, and you don't need to try to pretend it doesn't hurt. I know it does, and I want to help you bear it if I can. But you aren't losing everything. You aren't losing me. You aren't losing our children. We'll get through this, I promise. Of course I still want you. I'll always want you. I love you."
"I love you too, dear one. So much. I'm so glad..."
Uluki lifted their clasped hands, and reached in the pouch she wore around her waist to produce Rollick's wedding ring, which Jenny had removed from his severed hand before burying it. Uluki kissed him and slipped it onto his finger. "Together. I promise."
Rollick was visibly exhausted, but he clutched Uluki's hand tightly and tried to hold his head high as they went to rejoin their friends and family.