Hypothermia and Arguments  

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(@penelope_stout)
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((A collaboration between the players of Philip Rackham and Pippa Prince))

It had taken a bit longer to get Miss Hughes back to her home in Oakston than Pippa had originally planned for. Adding in time for goodbyes and well-wishes had caused her return to Tyrehampton to be delayed even further. Miss Hughes had offered for Pippa to spend the night at her home, but Pippa had shaken her head and assured her friend that she could make it back to Mrs. Hatch's before dark. Now, though, only halfway to Tyrehampton, the sun had slunk below the horizon, leaving Pippa shivering in the dark. The snow is still up nearly to her knees, soaking her stockings and falling into her walking boots with each step she takes, only making her colder the longer she goes. "I c-c-cannot st-t-top here. I will s-s-surel-ly fr-rreeze if-f I d-do," she says into the night sky, her breath coming out in clouds of fog. It was foolish not to simply take a carriage to Oakston and back. It was foolish to go out without a muff or at least warmer gloves. It was foolish not to simply stay with Miss Hughes and return in the morning. Pippa does not even realize she has stopped walking and sat down on a fallen tree. She can no longer feel her feet or her fingers, and she feels dreadfully tired suddenly. Yes, perhaps sitting for a spell cannot hurt. It isn't as if it can get any darker now. She closes her eyes for only a moment.

 

As soon as he could, Philip had gone to Mrs. Hatch's to inquire after Pippa, hoping to find her well after the blizzard. Upon being told that she is gone with Miss Hughes to her home, he is rather worried. It is getting late, and it is quite dark, and surely she ought to be back by now. So he goes off in search of her, wending his way slowly towards Oakston. It is a while before he spots her, a dark shape against a tree, and his eyes widen in alarm as he rushes to her side. "Pippa? My dearest, what are you doing?"

 

At some point, Pippa had leaned against the tree next to the fallen one she sits on, her eyes closed and her breathing shallow. Her lips, if one could see them in the darkness, are quite blue and her skin quite pale. She no longer shivers constantly, only just every so often as she halfway awakens and then drifts off again. She dreams of her wedding day, standing beside Philip before the vicar, their hands clasped and their faces smiling. She smiles in her sleep as she hears his voice, though it is replaced by a frown. Something is wrong. She stirs a little and her eyes half-open to see his face, though she only smiles sleepily again and reaches out to hold his hand in darkness as they had been before the vicar in her dream.

 

Philip blinks, but allows her to take his hand. Hers is so cold, and he immediately takes it in both of his and begins to try to chafe some warmth back into it. "Pippa? Love? You need to wake up now," he says, his concern rising steeply, and, after a second, wraps her in his arms, both to assure himself she's at least alive and to warm her up. "Pippa!"

 

His arms around her are not what she expects. Certainly it isn't a typical part of the wedding ceremony. She frowns again, trying to make out what is different, and then he's shouting at her and she begins to cry because for the life of her she cannot understand what she has done wrong. The shivers begin again though, enough to make her wake a little. "I'm s-so c-c-cold... Philip..."

 

Seeing her tears, he takes in a breath--he did not at all mean to make her cry! She says she's cold, and he frowns and hugs her closer to him, rubbing her back. "Shh, love, I know. I think you have been out here much too long... Come, we will return to Mrs. Hatch's now, and then you will be warm again. alright?" Giving up on getting her lucid--which only makes his worry spike still /more/--he picks her up, an arm under her knees and one around her shoulders, and holds her as close as he can, beginning to walk back the way he came.

 

"I do not /wish/ to return to Mrs. Hatch's!" She protests, pushing at him weakly though she fails to keep him from picking her up. With a weary sigh, she puts her arms around his neck and burrows her face into his neck. It warms her face only a little, though she hardly notices. Still crying, she whimpers out. "We are /s-s-supposed/ to be m-marrying. We c-cannot leave the ch-church until we d-do." Her tears feel frozen on her cheeks, and she cannot fathom why she is so cold here in the warm church. Or why Philip has picked her up and insisted they leave. Has he changed his mind? Does he no longer wish to marry her? This only makes her cry a little harder, though still weakly.

 

Philip closes his eyes, his heart now pounding in fear for his love. She is clearly out of her head--delirious? Is she so very ill?--and he hates to see her like this; it causes a stabbing pain in his heart that makes his stomach roll around uncomfortably as well. What is more, he doesn't know what to do. Should he humor her? Or should he try to make her see what is really happening? At last, he decides he just wants her to stop crying, to be happy, and so he says softly, "All right, sweetheart. We won't leave the church; we just need to go a little ways to a different part of it, all right? And I should like to carry you there, if I may. Do you think you can let me do that?"

 

Pippa's sobbing slows, allowing her to catch her breath some, though her breathing is still quite shallow. She sighs a bit, though more happily this time, and tightens her arms somewhat around Philip's neck. Her grasp is weak though, her arms so very tired, though from what she cannot quite remember. Perhaps dressing had been more tiring than she remembered. She is very glad, though, that he does still wish to marry her. "Oh, if you say so." Her voice is barely a whisper against his neck.

 

Relieved, he smiles slightly and nods, pressing a kiss to the top of her head and hoping desperately that he can get her inside before anything gets worse. "Very good, then," he says gently, and begins to walk even more quickly, as fast as he possibly can without tripping and dumping them both into the snow. "It won't be too far, and then we can both have a nice rest, and get warm, before we get married." He supposes this is technically true, and in any case, as long as he can keep her happy, he doesn't mind.

 

A small smile comes to Pippa's face and she turns slightly in his arms, hoping that she might find some warmth in him while he holds her. She cannot for the life of her think why the church should be so very cold. It seems very irresponsible of the vicar. Perhaps she will speak with him after, though she is unsure of when she might find the time. "A rest sounds quite lovely, though I do not wish to rest /too/ long. I do so want to be married to you. "

 

He looks down at her to check on her in time to see the smile, and that makes him smile as well, relief trickling through him to mix with his concern. Kissing her hair again, he says softly, "Of course, my dearest. I wish very much to be married to you as soon as possible, too, so you need not worry on that account--we will only rest as long as we need to."

 

This time she does not answer him. Her breathing has grown more shallow, and if one were to feel her pulse it would be quite sluggish. Her arms grow rather lax around his neck, though she does not let go entirely. He is her only source for warmth, she knows this much at least, even if she is unsure of what else might be going on. Something about this is all wrong, and though she does not have the energy to cry in earnest, tears do stream down her face, leaving frozen tracks in their wake.

 

Philip is worried when she doesn't answer, and asks softly, "Pippa? Sweet, are you alright?" He can feel her tears still, and he dislikes this immensely, and hugs her even closer to him, wishing he could go still faster. He is at least somewhat close to Mrs. Hatch's, but Pippa's silence is ominous, as is her lack of hold on him. "Sweetheart?" he asks again.

 

"Hmm?" It is the best she can get out, and the last thing she does get out before she dozes off again. This time she does not dream, only drifts in darkness that frightens her greatly. His voice is the only thing she feels tethered to, though even that seems more and more distant. She clings to it though, even as she drifts. Her head lolls against his neck, the tears coming to an end.

 

The lights of Mrs. Hatch's appear, and Philip gives in and begins to run, half tripping on snow as he does. Pippa is truly frightening him now, as she seems entirely unresponsive, and he knows he /has/ to get her inside. Finally he makes it to the door, having somehow managed not to fall, and bursts inside. "Mrs. Hatch!" The lady appears, ready to tell him off for shouting, only to see the precious bundle in his arms and call sharply for a servant. She immediately leads him into the parlor, where he sets Pippa down on the chaise, dragging it to the fireplace, and sits with her head in his lap, cuddling her close to him. Suddenly he realizes that he could have given her his jacket earlier, and curses himself for a fool before tearing it off and wrapping it around her. The servant brings blankets, which he swathes her in as well, and then there is hot tea, and he bends over Pippa, stroking her hair back from her face, and asks softly, "Pippa, my darling? Can you hear me?"

 

It is suddenly warmer, or at least a little. Pippa's brow furrows against the light and the shouting, and she turns her face into Philip's neck further. It only lasts a moment though as she is suddenly left bereft of his warmth and set down on something only slightly softer than the tree she had settled on before. She protests weakly as she is jostled, her hand reaching out toward something, perhaps Philip, perhaps the fire. The warmth of the room against her frozen extremities is nearly painful, causing her to curl inward around herself. Philip's voice is there, though it seems disembodied, impossible for her to place. She cannot quite make out the words, her brow furrowing as she tries. "Mmm..." It is the best she can get out, though in her mind she is calling his name.

 

He winces as Pippa makes a noise of protest and then curls up, wishing he didn't have to do this to her. Stroking her hair, hoping to calm her, he is relieved when she replies, and nods. "Good girl," he says gently. "Now, sweetheart, I need you to drink this tea for me, all right? I'm going to help you sit up so you can, and I need you to swallow it. Do you think you can do that?"

 

His words are spotty, their intelligibleness seeming to come and go like waves. She hears "tea" and "sit up" and whimpers, managing to shake her head slightly and burrow her face into him. She does not wish to move from where she is, much less to sit up or make an effort to drink. All she wants is to fall back asleep, go back to their wedding and stay there. It might have been cold in the church, but at least she was happy and her fingers and toes didn't hurt so badly.

 

Philip hesitates, having been unprepared for her to refuse. He looks to Mrs. Hatch for guidance, who steps forward and says, "Come, now, Miss Prince, we need you to drink this tea. It is quite important to your health." "Pippa, sweet, it's very important that you should get warm, and to do that you need to drink some tea," Philip adds, feeling helpless. "It won't be so bad, you'll see." "And we will need to get her out of her wet things," adds Mrs. Hatch, looking meaningfully at Philip, clearly telling him that he will have to let her go for a little. He sighs and nods, looking down at her.

 

Pippa pulls a face at Mrs. Hatch's voice, probably similar to one she made when she was very small and told she could not do something she wished to do. But she knows better than to deny the woman when she has said she must do something, though she cannot quite make out her words. Probably something to do with tea again. But Philip's voice sounds so terrible, and she hates that something she has done could be bothering him, so she sighs and nods slightly. Whatever he wishes, she will give in. She relaxes from her curled up position enough that they might help her to sit up even though she greatly hates the idea, her eyes flickering open for a second only to close again on the brightness of the room.

 

Relieved as he catches the tiny nod, Phillip presses a kiss to Pippa's forehead. "Thank you, my love," he whispers, and gently lifts her into a sitting position, leaning her against him. Mrs. Hatch hands him a teacup, and he carefully brings it to Pippa's lips, holding her as close as he can while still balancing the cup carefully. Seeing her close her eyes, he winces in sympathy and kisses her forehead again. "I know it's hard," he says softly, "but I know you can do it."

 

A small smile comes to Pippa’s lips, which are still quite blue, at the feel of Philip’s lips against her frigid skin. The smile leaves as he shifts her though, the effort to stay upright seeming like far too much to ask. She parts her lips just slightly, waiting for the tea which she knows instinctively will burn. If it would not make Philip so unhappy, she would refuse it entirely and go back to sleep.

 

Philip tips the cup softly, allowing just a bit of tea to trickle into Pippa's mouth. He watches her anxiously, hating that he must do this to her, but knowing she needs it. Still, he wishes with everything in him that he didn't have to make her so unhappy in order to heal her, and he holds her even closer against the shivers that still wrack her, wanting badly to just hold onto her until she's better.

 

Pippa begrudgingly accepts the cup, though the heat of it in her throat causes her to choke and splutter. She weakly lifts her hand to push the cup away for a moment and shakes her head slightly. “It’s likely no good until she’s warmer Mr. Rackham,” Mrs. Hatch says, and Pippa opens one eye a little to look at the woman. At least words were sticking now. “Give us a few minutes to dress her properly and I’ll send a servant for you once we’re done. You can wait in the music room.” Pippa turns her head slightly to open her other eye and look at Philip to see what he might do. She feels a bit of detached curiosity as to how things might play out.

 

Looking from Pippa to Mrs. Hatch, Philip nods after a second and sighs. He does not like to leave his fiancee, especially in this state, but he knows it is necessary for her to get out of her wet clothes, no matter how much he dislikes being away from her. "All right," he says reluctantly, and kisses Pippa's hair before standing and carefully letting her lean against Mrs. Hatch, who steps forward to support her. He hesitates for a long moment, and then finally leaves the room.

 

A small whimper of complaint slips past Pippa’s still-blue lips as Philip leaves her. She is so very tired and cold, and he has been the only source of warmth in what seems like ages. As servants enter the parlor to bustle about her, Pippa lets herself drift again. If Philip is gone there is no reason to hold fast to the waking world. Her body is limp again as the servants rush to change her dress and undergarments, one servant standing in the doorway to block both entrance and any view. When they finish dressing her, Mrs. Hatch goes to Philip in the music room, her face drawn with concern. She shakes her head slightly before motioning for him to follow her back to the parlor where Pippa now rests, completely still and hardly breathing, upon the chaise before the fire, bundled in dry blankets.

 

The head shake raises Philip's concern, but it doesn't prepare him for what he sees when he reenters the parlor. He gasps and, terrified, calls out, "Pippa--" as soon as he catches sight of her, and rushes across the room to pull her back into his arms. Hugging her close, he tries to get her attention. "Pippa--sweetheart--come, my darling, can you answer me?" he pleads, rocking her back and forth and rubbing her back, half as an attempt to get her warmer and half as comfort--whether for him or for her, he's not sure.

 

Pippa hardly moves as he calls her name. Though she hears his voice, it is dreadfully far away. She wants to cry /come closer/ so she might hear him better. So she might feel his warmth. The urge to simply let go and sleep is so strong now, she so wishes she could reassure Philip that she will only be asleep. Surely he would not mind her simply dozing for a little while. After all, she is so exhausted, though she cannot quite pin down why. His arms around her bring her back slightly, reminding her of just how much they love each other, but even that she feels detached from, as if experiencing it from across the room. The concern in his voice, as he says her name, frightens her. Why should he be so very worried? It makes her wish to wake up, if only to comfort him. It takes so much effort to rise to the surface that she nearly lets go for good, the struggle almost painful. But for him she /must/ succeed. He is too distraught for her not to. She manages to shift in his arms slightly, her voice coming out barely audible as she murmurs to him. “Alright, darling.”

 

He closes his eyes for a second, swallowing down tears of relief as she answers him. Then he whispers, "Thank you." Collecting himself slightly, he adds in a slightly more cheerful tone, "Good! Good girl...thank you! Now, come, we must have you drink some more tea, do something to warm up. You are far too cold, my dearest." He takes another deep breath--sounding happy is /hard/ just now, though it is much easier than it would have been a moment ago--and kisses her forehead. "Now we are going to sit up, all right? Come on..." He gently lifts her into a sitting position, leaning her against him and then cuddling her close to him again.

 

His voice at least sounds better now, giving Pippa reason to smile slightly. Her smile turns into a frown as he insists upon tea again. She is quite chilled though, so perhaps he’s right. She whimpers slightly as he lifts her, not wanting to leave his arms. At least he draws her close again once she is upright. It is still all she can do not to fall back asleep. It would be so much easier. “‘M so tired, darling,” she whispers against him, her eyes still closed. It would take far too much effort to open them now. “Please. Sleep?”

 

Philip winces at her words, hating to deny her anything. He has to gather his strength before he can reply softly, "Not just yet, sweetheart. I know it's hard, but it's /very/ important, all right? If you go to sleep now, you will still be too cold, and we must get you warm." Mrs. Hatch hurries to pour a fresh, steaming cup of tea and hand it to him, and he holds it carefully as he waits for an answer, hoping hard that he can make her understand. He wishes so much that he could just give her what she wants, but he knows it's impossible right now.

 

At his denial, Pippa cannot help the tears that fall. It is not so much that she is asking, she thinks. And if she is asleep it will not matter whether she is cold or not. Still, he seems so insistent that she knows it must mean a lot to him. She manages a slight nod of her head and sighs, parting her lips to receive the cup. It will be too hot again, she knows, but for Philip she will do her best to swallow it anyways.

 

He has to take another steadying breath as he sees her tears, and then blows it out in a sigh. "I'm so sorry, my love," he says gently. "I promise you may sleep as soon as it's safe." He gives the tiniest of smiles as she agrees to drink the tea, and tips some of it carefully into her mouth. "Thank you...you're doing so well, sweet. So very well. Drink a little more for me now?"

 

“Safe?” Her voice is small and curious, like a child’s. As the tea trickles down her throat it takes so much effort not to choke on it. It would make Philip worry, she reminds herself, her thoughts still half detached from her body. When he asks her to drink more, she sighs but nods a little. Perhaps after this he will allow her to sleep. The liquid is still too hot against her lips and throat, tears slipping past her closed lids to course down her cheeks. Her lips are slightly less blue, though her skin is still quite cold to the touch despite the fire roaring so close by. “Enough.” This comes out in a splutter as she turns her head away.

 

"Yes, my darling, safe. You are far too cold, and it has made you ill. If you sleep now..." He shudders slightly and shakes his head. "You mustn't sleep, or it will make you worse off." He is grateful that she agrees to drink a bit more, and again helps her to do so, then sets the cup down when she refuses it, wiping gently at her tears. "All right," he agrees softly. "But I do still need you to stay awake. I'm sorry. Perhaps you can talk to me? Tell me about your childhood, your favorite story of your father. Can you do that?"

 

Perhaps he is right. She is so very cold, and does feel quite odd, as if something is very wrong with her. But surely sleep would help with that. She decides that she trusts Philip though. If he thinks sleeping would be bad, then she will do her best to cling to wakefulness. “Talk?” She frowns, her eyelids flicking open for a moment to look up at him. “About Papa?” She scrunches her nose up, trying to remember anything about her childhood. She feels guilty that she can hardly grasp her memories tightly enough to pull one specific one to the forefront. “Birds.” It takes her a moment to move the memory around enough to examine it.

 

Philip nods to her questions, and waits quietly while she thinks, praying to whatever deity might be listening that she will be all right, and grateful that she seems a bit more lucid now. He wishes he knew more about her illness, so that he was better able to tell when she will be safe to go to sleep, but he hopes Mrs. Hatch will have a better idea. When Pippa mentions birds, he smiles a little at her, softly. "What about birds?" he prompts gently.

 

Pippa opens her eyes again to watch his face for a moment as if he might have the answer to why she said birds. He has such a nice face, she thinks. Why is such a handsome gentleman willing to marry her? It doesn’t matter she reminds herself. He wants to know about birds. And her childhood. The memory drifts a bit closer and she reaches out mentally to hold onto it. “Papa and I...” It drifts away again for a moment, along with her tenuous grasp on consciousness, though she manages somehow to snatch it back to her. For Philip. “Papa and I... watched birds. In the forest...” She frowns, looking up at Philip again with barely open eyes. “When did we watch birds?”

 

He watches her in return as he waits for her answer, still smiling a bit, encouragingly. /Please let her be all right./ "You watched birds? How nice," he replies, his tone hopefully bracing. At her question, he shakes his head. "I don't know, darling. Perhaps when you were a little girl? And what did you think of the birds? Did you like them?"

 

"Yes..." She thinks hard, trying to hold tight to the memory. It is very difficult to grasp it /and/ consciousness at the same time, and it makes her weary to try. Her eyes flutter shut for a moment as she tries to figure out, with what little presence of mind she has, how to cling to both wakefulness for Philip, as well as the memory he wishes to know about. After a long while, she stirs and opens her eyes again. "I think I was ten?" It is asked as a question, as if he might be able to confirm, even though some small part of her knows there is no way he would know. "The birds were lovely. Finches and robins... and... what else?"

 

Philip nods as he listens, though he takes in a strained, scared breath when her eyes close, and has to forcibly prevent himself from shaking her awake. "It sounds very nice," he replies, smiling at her. "Does your father like birds a great deal? Did he tell you what they were, perhaps?"

 

"I...I think so." Pippa frowns, and finally sighs. Staring into the flames, she tries to remember, but at the moment she just cannot seem to, no matter how she tries. It frightens her greatly, and leaves her shivering for a whole other reason. What would happen if she went to sleep? Why did Philip insist she stay awake? Before long she finds herself crying again, great hiccuping sobs that only make her feel more dreadful than she already does.

 

He nods again at her reply, waiting for more, but instead she starts to cry, and he closes his eyes, cuddling her closer to him. "Shhh...sweetheart, what is it? What's the matter?" He begins to kiss tears off her cheeks, but more just seem to replace them, so instead he strokes her hair, rocking her gently again.

 

His arms around her ground her a little, though not quite enough to place a pin in her thoughts to make them hold still so she can examine them. "What is /wrong/ with me? I cannot ... I cannot /think/. And I feel /terrible/." It is the longest sentence she has managed yet, but it still feels like not enough and it has made her even more tired than she already is. "Please, just let me sleep... I do not feel well."

 

He sighs, shutting his eyes again for a minute before answering. "You were out in the cold too long, dearest, and now you are ill. That is likely why you are having trouble thinking, and it is certainly why you feel so bad. As for sleeping..." He hesitates, and then shrugs helplessly. "I do not know for certain if it is safe now...Mrs. Hatch?" The proprietress of the school lays her hand against Pippa's wet cheek, then against her arm. At last she says slowly, "I believe it will be safe enough now." Philip sighs in relief and kisses the top of his love's head. "Well, then, my dear, go on to sleep."

 

"I was?" She sighs again, tears still streaming down her face as she looks up at Mrs. Hatch when the woman feels her skin. Turning to Philip she frowns and after a moment says. "I think I was taking Miss... Miss Hughes home..." When he tells her she can sleep, she raises her eyebrows and smiles. "May I, really? I do not wish to make you unhappy." She does not wait for his answer though. Instead, she shifts some so her head rests against his chest, his heartbeat against her ear as if she can match her own to it somehow. She's hardly closed her eyes before she drifts off into a dreamless sleep.

 

"You were," he agrees gently, and then nods. "I see." Her question and her smile make him smile in return, but before he can answer, she's cuddling up to him, and he holds her close and kisses the top of her head, waiting patiently for her to wake up.

 

Pippa does not wake up that night. She does not wake up the next day either. Occasionally she comes close enough to the surface that they can give her a bit of water, but mostly she remains deep asleep. Every so often she murmurs in her sleep, but never anything that makes sense. It is not until nearly four days later that she finally stirs and opens her eyes to look around.

 

Philip, who is sitting in a chair next to the bed she has been moved to, is immediately alerted to her movement, and looks up to see if she's awake yet. He has done this so many times over the last days that he almost doesn't believe it when he sees that her eyes are open. "Pippa?" he gasps softly, and then, with joy, "Pippa! My darling! I am /so/ glad to see you!" He drops to his knees beside the bed and pulls her into his arms in a fierce embrace.

 

Her head turns to see that Philip is there, and a weak smile curves her lips. "Philip?" She looks around confused, trying to understand why Philip would be in her room. Why would Mrs. Hatch allow such a thing? And why was her mouth so dreadfully dry? She manages a small, pained laugh as he pulls her to him, and after a moment pushes him away slightly. "Philip you're crushing me... What are you /doing/ here?"

 

"Oh, dear," he laughs, exuberant to see her awake. "I'm sorry; I shall try not to entirely crush you flat!" He shakes his head and sits back on his heels. "I am watching over you, my dearest." He sobers slightly, and adds, "You have been quite ill, you see." He looks to the previously-unseen Mrs. Hatch, who is standing out of Pippa's eyeline and smiling slightly.

 

Pippa reaches out for his hand, sighing slightly and looking around the room confused. "I... I don't /recall/ being ill. The last thing I remember was taking Miss Hughes home because she was feeling poorly." She struggles for a moment to sit up, but falls back on her pillows after a moment, the effort taxing her too much after so many days abed. "How long... how long was I ill? Have I slept the whole time? What happened?" Her questions grow more urgent as panic strikes her.

 

He lets her take his hand with a smile, and presses a kiss to her fingers. At her words, he nods. "Yes, I believe you said you were taking her home. I am sorry to hear she was feeling ill. Do be careful, my dear!" he adds when she tries to sit. "Calm down, love. You have been ill for four days. Yes, you have slept nearly the whole time. And you seem to have stayed out too long in the snow, and that is why you were not feeling well." He kisses her hand again. "Does that help?"

 

At his kiss, she smiles a little more brightly, though the dark circles beneath her eyes give away how weak she still is. "Four days? I... did not realize I was out in the cold for so long. I do not recall returning to the school. I hardly remember leaving Miss Hughes. How did I get here?" She frowns, trying to figure out why she cannot remember anything about it. Try as she might, it seems to escape her. "Have you been here the whole time?"

 

Philip gives her a sympathetic smile. "Yes, it is a great deal of time to be ill. I was quite worried, as was Mrs. Hatch. As for how you got here...I carried you." His smile fades as he remembers that harrowing trip, and he thanks unknown deities again that she is all right. "Yes, I have been here the whole time. Mrs. Hatch had a spare room I was able to use when I was not with you."

 

"I am sorry to have worried you, darling. Had I known what would happen, I should have stayed with Miss Hughes as she asked me to. I thought I could make it home before dark. I suppose I was wrong." She frowns and looks hard at him for a moment. "How far did you have to carry me?" As he says he was there the whole time, Pippa smiles and twists enough that she can lean closer and kiss him. "You should not have stayed. What if I hadn't woken up for even longer?" She does not finish what she thinks, /Or what if I had not woken up at all?/ "You must be exhausted."

 

He smiles softly at her and bends to place a kiss to her cheek. "That's all right, love. I understand." He shrugs. "It was not so very far. You were more than halfway back, if you went all the way to Oakston." Smiling again, he kisses back. "No, no, that's all right. I was far too worried not to stay. Besides, you would have woken up without me there if I had gone, and that would not have done at all." He shrugs a bit at her last words and looks sheepish. "A little, I suppose, but I'm fine, really. I am just glad you are awake again!"

 

"That is /quite/ far to carry someone! Why did you not make me walk?" She wishes she could keep kissing him, but she knows Mrs. Hatch would have many words to say about it if she did. Instead, she strokes his cheek and shakes her head. "I /am/ glad you were here when I woke up. As confused as I was, it was a relief to see your face. As tired as I am, I think I could sleep for another month. I would not have though getting cold could do so much harm to a person. And it isn't as if I were out in the blizzard. I thought I was safe enough. Will you help me sit up?"

 

Philip smiles a little, though his face is shadowed as he remembers her behavior. "I don't believe you were strong enough, my love. You were /quite/ chilled." His smile widens and he closes his eyes at her touch, and then nods. "Then I am glad, too, my dear. And I beg you not to sleep for another month! That would be entirely /too/ long!" he adds with a laugh, and nods again. "Yes, I would have thought so, too. I do not at all blame you for the confusion." Smiling again, he slips an arm around her and carefully assists her to a sitting position, though he doesn't let go of her once she is upright.

 

"I must have been, if I've slept for four days, I suppose." Tracing down the line of his jaw, Pippa decides that since Mrs. Hatch seems to be absent she might be safe to kiss Philip again. "Perhaps a month is too long, but I do think I might need to rest further before I'm well enough to leave my bed. But you mustn't stay here any longer. You need a good night's sleep in your own bed." As he helps her to sit, she scoots higher in the bed so she might rest against the headboard. For a moment she closes her eyes again, the effort having taken a bit out of her. She is quite glad Philip has not immediately released her, both because she is quite tired still and because she enjoys the feel of his arm around her. "Promise you will return home tonight."

 

Philip kisses back entirely willingly, and then presses his lips to hers again for good measure. "Yes, I should think it best if you do rest more," he agrees, slightly grudging, but also glad that she is sensible enough to know this. He frowns a little. "But...are you certain, sweet? If you'd like me to stay, I will." To tell the truth, he would somewhat prefer to be at Mrs. Hatch's, where he knows she is nearby and safe. "After all, I can sleep quite well in the bedroom Mrs. Hatch has let me use. It is still a bed, one way or the other," he adds with a small chuckle.

 

"Of course I would /like/ for you to stay, but I do not think it wise. You will sleep better in your own bed, my darling. You've done enough. I am far better now. Besides, my love, Mrs. Hatch will only tolerate a gentleman hovering over one of her students for so long." She laughs for a moment, though it devolves into coughing that lasts dreadfully long before she finally catches her breath and rests heavily against the pillows. "I confess to being surprised she allowed you into my room at all. It seems quite out of the norm for her."

 

He smiles a little at that, and, slightly reluctantly, gives in. "Very well, if you are sure. I /am/ glad to know you feel better. And I suppose that is true," he adds with a grin. It disappears as she coughs, and he holds her up anxiously, his eyes searching her face. The grin reappears, however, at her last words, with a sheepish tinge to it. "I'm afraid I quite pushed her until she agreed," he admits ruefully. "I was frantic with worry, and...well...I refused to listen to her..."

 

Pippa knows better than to laugh this time. Her body is simply not strong enough for it yet. Instead, she smiles playfully at him and reaches out to pat his cheek. "Why am I unsurprised? I think if Mrs. Hatch liked you less, or if you were any less stubborn, you might be sitting in the parlor instead of at my bedside right now." She softens, and takes his hand again. "I truly hate that I worried you so. It was not my intention. Will it help if I promise never to act so selfishly again?"

 

Philip does laugh, at his own ridiculousness. He puts a hand over the one on his cheek, and laughs again. "I suppose you know me well enough by now that you have no need to be surprised. But yes, I believe you're right about Mrs. Hatch. And, as much as I hate to admit it, about my stubbornness. You clearly know me far /too/ well, in fact." He squeezes her hand and shakes his head. "Darling, no! It was not at all your fault. Though I thank you for the offer... Still, if you were to promise never to get sick again, /that/ might help." He grins.

 

"And yet I feel sometimes as if I hardly know you at all. But that will all resolve itself when we are allowed to spend more than a few hours at a time together, I am quite sure." She smiles and closes her eyes for a moment. Even though she has only been awake for a little while, she can already feel that she is fading fast. It is dreadful being so weak, especially as vivacious as she normally is. "If I thought I should be able to keep such a promise to you, then you know I would make it. Unfortunately, I am unsure if God would respect such a vow. There are other vows, I would much prefer to make." The wisp of a memory drifts through her thoughts, and she tries to reach out and grasp it. "I could swear that while I was asleep, though I am unsure of when, I dreamed of our wedding. Though you were trying to make me leave and it made me quite unhappy."

 

He smiles, too, and strokes her cheek. "Yes, I should think it would resolve itself quickly enough when we are married," he agrees. "And I know you would promise me, if you could, but I suppose you are right. Though I do pray that you are never so /very/ ill again." He casts a glance up at the ceiling, wondering if that counts as a prayer or if he has to actually do it properly. "I would like very much for you to make those vows, too, and I would like to make them myself, as well." He smiles a little, but it's also a slight wince. "Good gracious, no wonder you were so upset! I should have been, too, if I thought /you/ were taking /me/ away from our wedding."

 

"You were there for that dream?" She frowns, trying to get a better grip on the memory of the dream, as if inspecting it further can help her to pin down what exactly happened over the last several days. It remains nebulous though, giving her no clue as to its meaning or when it might have taken place. "Did I say anything else foolish while I was apparently delirious?"

 

"Yes, I was there. I believe that was while I was carrying you here." He watches her face, curious as to what she's thinking, and then grins. "Yes, you told me you were a flower, and that I was the sun," he teases.

 

"Oh goodness, that must have been terribly confusing for you. And worrying. I feel such guilt for putting you through it." As he teases her, she swats his shoulder and tries not to laugh. "I absolutely said no such thing. /Obviously/ you are the delicate flower and /I/ am the sun. Not the other way around."

 

He shakes his head, bending forward to kiss her softly. "It's all right," he replies gently. "It was bad, perhaps, but now it's over, and you are safe and sound." He laughs at her smack and her words. "Oh, no! I am the one who keeps you alive and warm, therefore /I/ am the sun."

 

With a begrudging sigh, Pippa gives in and smiles. "I suppose I cannot argue with that, now can I?" She crooks her finger at him so he'll kiss her again, before resting back on her pillows and turning her face to him. "I do owe you a great deal of thanks. If it were not for you, I should likely be... well, dead, I suppose." The idea frightens her, as well it should, she realizes. She was so foolish, to be so stubborn. And she could have risked Philip's life as well. It brings tears to her eyes that she turns away to try and hide.

 

Laughing again, he obliges, kissing her soundly and then sitting back on his chair. "Now, now, love, you owe me nothing. Is that any way to start a marriage?" he says, before what she says catches up to him, and his smile disappears. He swallows hard at the word--/dead/--and shakes his head, but before he can say anything else, she has turned away, and he frowns. "Pippa? Dearest, are you alright?" Is she upset with him? He hopes not.

 

Pippa shakes her head and keeps her face turned away so he won't see her tears, though her shoulders shake a bit with silent sobs. If she had caused anything to happen to him she would never have been able to forgive herself. She may as well /have/ died if she had caused harm to come to him, she thinks. Clenching her teeth, she tries her hardest to get a grip on her emotions so she might be able to look at him again. Finally, she surreptitiously wipes her tears away and turns back to him, though she cannot bring herself to smile. "It is nothing. Only, I have put /you/ in danger, and it was terribly selfish of me."

 

He slides a hand onto her quaking shoulder, then gathers her into his arms, not knowing what to do other than hold her while she cries over something he can't understand. At last, when she looks up at him again and speaks, he frowns. "Darling, no. You did not put me in danger. I knew what to do to take care of myself...and you were not selfish, either, simply confused."

 

"Even if I did not put you in danger, I /was/ still selfish. I should have known better than to walk back from Oakston on the heels of a blizzard. Miss Hughes offered for me to remain at her home until the morning, and I refused. I was /not/ confused." This only causes the tears to fall again and she buries her face in his shoulder. If she were not so very tired, she would have better control over her emotions, but as it is, she is simply too exhausted to do anything but be carried away by them.

 

"Sweetheart..." He kisses the top of her head before beginning to rub her back softly, hoping she will feel better soon, hoping that perhaps he can /help/ her feel better. "You said yourself that you thought it would be all right, did you not? If you thought you would be fine taking that walk, then it is not your fault."

 

His comfort helps her to feel slightly less dreadful, though it does not help with the guilt. "I think I only told myself that. I was afraid that you would come to see how I had weathered the blizzard and that I would not be there. I was too focused on seeing you again, and it put you in danger." She still cannot help but wonder what might have happened had he not worn a warm enough coat. After a moment, she leans away from him and gives him a small frown. "Philip, did you just happen to be making the walk from Oakston yourself? Or did you come looking for me?"

 

He smiles slightly, still holding her. "Well, everyone makes mistakes, love. It does happen. And I /did/ want to see you again, as well." When she moves back to study him, he glances away, hating to admit it for fear it will upset her more. "Well...I...I /was/ looking for you," he sighs at last.

 

Pippa's frown grows deeper, a sliver of anger pricking at her heart. Perhaps it is only that she is angry at herself, and that he will not be angry at her as well, or perhaps it is only that her emotions are still in a state of flux as a result of her illness. All she knows is that she feels it. "Philip... I was foolish to think I could make it home before dark. And to have convinced myself of such a thing was even more foolish. But for you to go out when you knew it was already dark just to find me? What if I had been at Miss Hughes' after all? You would have made the walk all the way to Oakston, or at least tried. And I would never have known to come find /you/. And then where would we be? I cannot /lose/ you. Not now."

 

Philip is surprised by her reaction, and a little hurt by the anger he sees in her eyes. Her last words cause a sudden rush of his own frustration, which makes him reply, low and fierce, "You act as though it would be all right if /I/ had lost /you/." He shakes his head. "Do you have absolutely no /notion/ of how much it would hurt me if you were to--? You--you nearly /died/, Pippa!" It is his first time saying the word aloud, and it makes his stomach turn. "And if you had, I might as well have died with you!" His voice is still quiet, and all the more dangerous for that.

 

 

Pippa tries to set her jaw and remain angry. It is easier to be angry than frightened. The thought of losing him does not truly make her angry. It just terrifies her. Now that she has him to call her own, she cannot fathom how she would live in a world without him. For a little while, she sits there, jaw clenched and arms folded across her chest, tear-filled eyes fixed on the pink flowers on the wallpaper. He has never been angry with her before. She honestly did not even know it was possible for him to /be/ angry. But his voice scares her, making her afraid to look at him. "But I did not die. And you were in just as much danger as I was." Finally, she turns wide eyes on him, her chin wobbling a bit even as she tries to keep back angry tears. "What do you think would happen to /me/ if I..." She shakes her head and turns her face away, still too upset -- whether angry or afraid -- to speak any further.

 

"So what was I supposed to do?" he demands, glaring at her as though it will make her turn around and face him. "Did you truly expect me to just /leave/ you there? To /assume/ you were fine without so much as a bit of knowledge, or even good information? If I had trusted you, you would be /gone/!" His voice has risen into what is nearly a shout. "If I had assumed that you were alright, you would /not/ be! How can you think, for even one /moment/, that I would put my own health and safety above yours? How can you think I would be so selfish, or so completely blind to what might happen to you? What did you want me to /do/, Pippa?"

 

His shouting does cause tears to fall, though she angrily dashes them away with the back of her hand. She has no answers to his questions, though she tries to think of them. But the anger in his voice has shaken her too much to respond at first. It is all she can do not to recant, to tell him he's right and she's wrong and can things just be alright between them. "It would not be selfish, only smart. As I said, I could easily have been with Miss Hughes. Philip, I cannot fathom my life without you and I do not wish to. It breaks my /heart/ to think of it. If you think you will change my mind, you do not know me very well. I will not say that you should have come to find me. No matter what the consequences might have been. I cannot be grateful that you risked your own life for me, only ashamed that I would have put you in a position to feel as if you must."

 

"You /could/ have been with Miss Hughes, yes, but you were /not/! And--I just--it is /not/ your fault, drat it all!" He shuts his eyes, and then buries his face in his hands. "What am I supposed to say?" he mumbles furiously. "What do you want me to do, even now?"

 

As he puts his face in his hands, her urge is to reach out to touch him, to comfort him. But she is just as angry as he is, even with all of her other emotions. And they are exhausting. She hardly has the energy to hold them all in. She clenches her hands in her blankets and stares at him for a long while, unsure if he means his questions. "I don't know," she whispers, finally. "I don't know." It has made her unhappier than she had expected to have him angry with her. If she knew how to smooth things over without giving in to him, she would. Unfortunately, she is far too stubborn to simply agree and let him win.

 

Philip takes a deep breath, and then lets it out in a long sigh. Finally, he looks up at her with worry and sorrow in his eyes. "All right," he says simply, unsure what else to say. "I..." He shakes his head. "All right." His eyes closing, he waits a moment, reining in his own emotions, and then sighs again. "I'm sorry," he murmurs, looking over at her again. "I...I ought not to have shouted at you, my darling."

 

Something in his eyes only makes her want to cry in earnest, rather than just the angry tears that have plagued her thus far. She grips the blankets more tightly and stares at him, completely surprised when he apologizes. And when he calls her darling, /his/ darling, she realizes belatedly that she has tears streaking down her face. She sniffs, trying to keep them at bay, but she fails. "I did not mean to make you angry. I was only so angry myself -- no. Not angry. That is a lie. I wanted to be angry, but I was terrified."

 

That makes him close his eyes again, and he swallows, her tears not helping his emotional state. Reaching out hesitantly, he takes her hand, hoping she won't pull away, and squeezes it softly with a nod. "I...I understand, dearest. I suppose we were both a little overwrought..." The understatement makes him grin faintly. "...or perhaps a lot."

 

She tenses for a brief second as he takes her hand in his, though a shuddering sigh moves through her as she relaxes into his touch. After a moment, she squeezes back. His pet names only leech what is left of her anger out of her, though it does not help with her fears. "Yes, I suppose we were. Quite. I did not wish to be angry with you." She pauses, sighing again. "Nor did I wish to make you angry with me. Though I suppose I earned it."

 

He is so relieved that she accepts his touch that he overcomes whatever uncertainty he still feels, bending forward to kiss her forehead before shaking his head. "No, no...you did not. Perhaps it was...not the best choice to be angry with me...but I can understand why you were. And I certainly did not /have/ to turn my fears on you in return. I ought not to have done so." He sighs. "I suppose we were both at fault. But...but let us now be happy again, if we can? I find I do not at all like arguing with you. I love you far too much for that."

 

Perhaps it is only that she is so very tired, but his lips on her forehead only bring more tears. She makes a small angry sound at herself and brushes them away again. His profession of love only makes her more emotional, causing her to look down at the blankets while she tries to take hold of her emotions and make them behave. After a long while, when she is certain they will remain stable long enough to speak, she says, "And I love you too. No more arguing. Unless it is over decorating our home, of course." She looks at him with something that is close to a smile, though tears still stand in her eyes.

 

He reaches over to brush away her tears, then kisses at them gently, tasting salt on his lips. He waits quietly while she collects herself, uncertain whether she wants to think, or whether pulling her into his arms would be welcome. But when she looks up and smiles, that is enough to make him give in, and he hugs her close to him, smiling as well. "I still say the upholstery should be red," he replies, and kisses the top of her head with a soft, hesitant laugh.

 

She leans into his embrace, closing her eyes and taking deep breaths. At least in his arms she feels calmer, more able to hold herself together. When he argues, playfully of course, about the color the upholstery, she gives a small laugh as well. Her voice is muffled against his chest when she answers. "You are maddening, Philip." Sniffling a bit, she leans away from him once more, offering an unsure smile. "Are we alright?"

 

He strokes her hair, wanting nothing more than for her to feel better. He can tell it's helping, as he feels her breaths deepen and even out a little, and he's very glad. Hearing her laugh makes his heart rise back up to its place in his chest from where it had been in his stomach, and he kisses her forehead as she leans back. At her question, he nods. "We are...that is, as long as you feel we are," he replies, hoping she'll say yes.

 

Rather than answer right away, she tugs at him until he sits on the edge of the bed, resting her head against his chest and wrapping her arms around his waist when he does. Mrs. Hatch be damned. She needs to feel him close to her too bad not to risk the woman's ire. "I /hope/ we are. I /want/ us to be. But I did not know what to do, and you were so angry, and I was so scared -- not of your anger, of what could have happened to you when you came to look for me -- and then you were shouting and I thought..." She takes a shuddering breath and buries her face in his chest until she is sure she will not cry again.

 

He willingly moves as she wants and holds her as close as he can. He has entirely forgotten Mrs. Hatch now, and would not care either, even if she were to scream at them (which he really can't see her doing anyway). He isn't even sure he /could/ let her go now. "Oh, sweetheart..." he says, upon hearing her side of it, a wave of regret swamping him. "I /am/ sorry. I...I was afraid, too...but I should not have been angry, and I certainly should not have shouted at you like that. Can you forgive me, love?"

 

She runs a hand down the edge of his jacket, letting it come to rest over his heart. The steady beat calms her own, and she finally releases a long breath as if she'd been holding it for hours. "Of /course/ I can forgive you. You did nothing wrong, darling. I am so ashamed I made such a poor decision. Especially one that could have caused either or both of our deaths." She looks up at him from where her head rests against his chest. "If anyone should be begging forgiveness, it is me."

 

His eyes close at her gentle touch, and he is glad that she is clearly calming down, as evidenced by the breath she lets out. Her words make him shake his head, but with a small smile. "I am afraid we will have to agree to disagree on that...or at least I refuse to believe that you are as much at fault as you seem to think. I will concede that perhaps it was a little bit foolish, but that is all." He kisses her forehead, then her cheeks. "But you need not ask for forgiveness, for I have already done so for whatever part of it /was/ your fault, if any."

 

Her laugh is small, and somewhat humorless, but it is a laugh. They will not agree about this no matter how much they may wish to. And she is very tired of arguing with him about it. "If that is all I can get from you, I suppose it will have to be enough." She closes her eyes at his kisses, lifting her face for him to kiss her mouth. "I am glad. I could not bear for you to continue to be angry with me." After a moment, she exhales slowly, resting her forehead against his. "Philip, I am so very tired. You should go home. I will rest easier knowing you are sleeping well at home. You can return in the morning. And for the love of God, take a carriage, or at least a horse, so you get there before dark."

 

He sighs slightly at her first words, but he can only agree. Clearly that is as good as it will get. When she turns her face up, he gladly kisses her mouth, once, then again, and then lets out a soft, contented breath of his own when her forehead comes to rest against his. He can't really argue with her about going home...not now. So he offers her a small smile instead. "Very well, my love. As long as you are certain that is what you want, I will do it." What she says last makes him laugh just a bit, and nod. "That, we can /certainly/ agree on," he replies, and kisses her once more before reluctantly letting go and standing. "I suppose I should go," he says with another sigh, reluctant, although a little part of him looks forward to being in his own bed; he /is/ awfully tired.

 

"I am sure. You need sleep as badly as I do. You can return in the morning and I will be waiting for you when you do." She makes a little shooing motion at him, smiling as much as she is able until he leaves, Mrs. Hatch ushering him out the door and downstairs. Once he is gone, the headmistress returns, offering Pippa a small smile and nod as she takes a seat in Philip's chair at the bedside. "You sleep. Now," the woman tells her. "Yes, ma'am." Pippa doesn't need to be told twice. She turns over on her side, facing away from Mrs. Hatch and quickly falls sound asleep.

 

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Posted : 12/04/2018 9:12 pm
  
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