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Start the Long Road

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Cidgeon braced himself as he approached the door of the airship’s sole bedroom. He had tried not to worry. It was a task easier said than done.

Cabanela’s wounds had been healed, however his bloodied clothing told the story loud and clear when they met back up as the tower shuddered around them. Spotting Cabanela fold up into Jowd’s arms on the airship deck through a wash of his own dizziness had not helped his concerns. The loss of magic and fatigue, he’d reassured himself and later Jowd and Alma. It was discomfiting all the same. Cabanela only needed rest, more than a single night would provide, but this was a start. He tried not to think of nights turning to weeks and months as he pushed open the door.

Cabanela was still in bed, but sitting up. He was awake. He was alive. And if the smile he gave him was too wan and his stare a little too blank for the cheer he tried to convey, it was still a sight better than Cidgeon’s fears.

“Theeere you are, prof.”

“Awake, are you?”

Cabanela’s smiled wavered, but remained. Fixed, Cidgeon thought with a grimace.

“Since yesterday,” he supplied and noted the relief in his eyes.

He perched on the side of the bed and took in his appearance. Exhausted, somehow faded in a way. Frail. He was alive, if not well.

“Fool boy,” he muttered and hugged him.

Cabanela stiffened in his arms before returning the hug. The hug tightened as Cabanela clung to him and his head dropped to his shoulder.

“Dad…” his voice cracked over the quiet word, muffled in Cidgeon’s shoulder.

Cidgeon nodded. Let it out. The goddesses only knew how long he’d been holding it all back. Cabanela shuddered and the hitch in his breath turned to a sob.

He thought of the newly orphaned boy in his care. Grief-stricken, lost, defiant. And there was he, woefully unequipped to handle such things and wondering if he’d taken leave of his senses when he took him in. Maybe some things didn’t change much, he mused as he glanced down at Cabanela’s hair and smoothed a hand down his back. ‘Lost’ certainly seemed applicable now, and he wasn’t sure he was much better equipped now than then, but he rocked his shoulders a bit and held him tight as he shook in his arms.

Cabanela’s voice came thick and choked. “It’s over…”

Cidgeon made an affirmative noise. It was. The road to recovery would be something else and no doubt a long one. This at least was a first step in the right direction.

Eventually Cabanela pulled back with a sniff. He wiped a hand across his eyes with a shaky breath and another sniff. Cidgeon dug into his pockets for a handkerchief and passed it to him.

When Cabanela finished with it and steadied his breath he looked up. “I’m not staying.”

“Where will you go?”

“Travel.” He took a deeper breath, tried to smile. “Seee this new world of ours. Didn’t get much of a chaaance.”

And in some ways it was new all over again. “Do what you need to,” Cidgeon said.

“You’ll like Figaro. They’ll be glaaad to have you.”

Cidgeon snorted. “I don’t need convincing.” And where Kamila was concerned there seemed to be little choice in the matter regardless of his opinion, which happened to not be an issue anyway. However, a second look at Cabanela and the distance in his eyes told him maybe he wasn’t the one in need of convincing. “I’ll be fine. Go out and see the world. Enjoy it.” If he remembered how.

Cabanela blinked. Cidgeon rose to his feet and rested a hand on his shoulder. “Take care of yourself.” For once. “I’ll see you before you take off.”

“You gooot it, professor,” Cabanela replied lightly yet with a softness that told Cidgeon it wasn’t quite as casual as he tried to let on. Hopefully he would take it to heart.

He left the room and not a moment too soon as Jowd and Alma came down the corridor. He passed them by with a nod. That was an entirely different business to sort out and one he was entirely content to stay well out of.

Young fools.