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And I Shall Be Healed

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Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

Derry shifted uncomfortably, staring at the sliver of evening sky darkening from blue to indigo that was visible through the leaded glass of the narrow window above Morgan's right shoulder. He knew if he had to meet Morgan's kind, grey eyes, he wouldn't be able to say what needed saying.

"You do me a great honor, my lord," he said formally, the stilted words feeling odd on his tongue as he tried to still his fidgeting, which was more appropriate for a young boy than the Duke of Corwyn's aide-de-camp and trusted lieutenant, "but I don't think I can accept--"

"What the devil are you talking about?" Morgan interrupted impatiently. "I realize staying here and watching over the castle and my family," his face softened at the words, "while I'm at court is not quite the excitement you're used to, but it's necessary, and I need someone I trust--"

"Which is why I can't accept!" Derry snapped, formality forgotten as he flung himself out of the chair he'd been sitting in; he needed to move, to burn off the nervous energy buzzing in his veins. The study wasn't large, and he was only able to pace a few steps forward and back on the soft Kheldish carpeting, but it helped. "I can't trust myself, after what I've done. How can I possibly expect you -- or her grace -- to trust me?"

Morgan spoke slowly, as if to a child who was sorely testing his patience. "It wasn't your fault. We've been over this--"

"But you can't be sure it will never happen again." Derry's hands clenched into fists, nails digging into his palms, and he forced himself to open them, tried to control the shaking.

"Wencit of Torenth is dead." Morgan's voice was flat and cold. "I watched him die. And before that, I broke the spell he put on you. Believe me. The king was with me when I did it."

"Everyone knows--"

"Only a handful of people know what happened, Derry, and none of them -- none of us -- doubt your loyalty."

Derry shrugged, the tension in his shoulders almost painful. He could feel the weight of people's stares upon him sometimes, watching and waiting for him to slip up, to betray Morgan again. While it was true the details of his disloyalty had been kept relatively secret, army camps were rife with gossip, and gossip often caught the true gist of things, and simply twisted them all out of proportion. And he knew, even if Morgan wouldn't admit it, that rumors of what he'd done had spread.

But he could bear the censure of others with relative equanimity. Worse than that was that Morgan, whom he loved above all others, knew the sordid details of his ordeal better even than he did.

"Even so," he said, his voice low and bitter. "You have enemies, who now know I can be used against you. They know what you did to save me." He remembered, even in the haze of everything that had happened during and after those terrible days he was Wencit's captive at Esgair Ddu, Morgan riding to his rescue, hair flaring gold in the sunlight like the halo of an avenging angel, sword shining silver like the wrath of God himself. He remembered being torn, wanting to be rescued, to be saved, and not wanting it, because he knew if he were, he would be forced to work Wencit's will.

"And I would do it again." Morgan's jaw was set and his eyes glittered dangerously. "The fate of Wencit and his minions should be enough to deter anyone else from attempting to suborn you."

Derry shook his head. They both knew there would always be men willing to stoop to treachery and torture to accomplish their ends, and Morgan was being willfully nave, which was unlike him, to deny it.

"I've been dreaming," he said slowly. He knew he was weak for being disturbed by nightmares, like a nervous child. He turned away from Morgan, unable to bear seeing the disgust that must be written on his fair face. He put his hand on the carved wood of the lintel, absently stroking the gryphons that had been polished to a warm glow. "I remember what I did, my hands wrapped around your throat -- around your throat, Morgan!" He stared down at his hands, recalling the cold, distant weight of them when they moved against his will, at Wencit's volition, not his own. "And I'm amazed her grace consents to my presence in the castle, let alone that she speaks to me with kindness. I kidnapped her son and tried to kill you."

"I am well aware of the uses to which Wencit put you."

Derry flushed and his breath caught in his throat at the tight fury in Morgan's voice; he could feel tears burn behind his eyes, tears he would not shed here, though he still woke sometimes wracked with sobs from nightmares of his captivity. Sometimes he feared he was still chained in the darkness of Esgair Ddu, that the nightmares were reality and his waking life of freedom now, a dream.

He had not only betrayed king and country, but his very heart and soul as well, and he felt as if he would never be free of those chains, that shame which stained his honor and his soul.

He turned and strode to where Morgan sat, ramrod straight behind his desk, long, pale hands -- hands that dealt death and healing with equal proficiency, as Derry had good cause to know -- clenched tightly together. Derry fell to his knees in supplication in front of his chosen lord, and pressed his forehead to Morgan's thigh, more familiar than was perhaps wise these days. All of that had passed with Morgan's marriage, and Derry did not begrudge him the happiness he'd found with the lady Richenda.

Morgan stroked his hair tenderly, and Derry knew the towering anger with which Morgan had spoken was directed not at him but at those who had tortured and used him, showing him the worst a Deryni -- a man, for were they not all men, in the end? -- was capable of, and who were now beyond his reach, his desire for vengeance.

"Sean," he said softly, raising Derry's face with a gentle hand beneath his chin, "what is it you need from me? What more can I do to make you believe that you still hold my love and my trust?"

Derry choked, forcing back a sob that threatened to escape, and his voice was thick when he said, "I don't know."

"Sean, please," Morgan said, and there was a hint of desperation in his tone.

Derry stared into those grey eyes then, mesmerizing as they had always been, and felt the calm touch of Morgan's mind against his.

"I'm no priest," Morgan said in response to what he'd found there, "to grant you absolution, and you've committed no sin for which you require it. Or," and here he laughed softly, shaking his head, "no sin against me."

Derry swallowed hard. "Please, Alaric?"

"Ego te absolvo," Morgan said, and with the feather-light brush of his lips, warm and dry, against Derry's forehead, offered him absolution and a blessing. "I forgive you, Sean, since you ask it of me, but first you must forgive yourself."

Derry wept, then, like a frightened child, and Morgan stroked his hair gently until his tears were done.