141. Coming Back

Vox stabilised over the following days. It was such a slow, creeping process that the relief about it developed equally reluctantly. One day it simply was clear that she would survive and nobody knew how the certainty had grown. Between their second and third jump, Dankwart and Gerneya undertook a second surgery on Vox to check on her internal organs and it turned out so satisfactorily that they decided to close her rib cage now. Titus was quite bewildered by the revelation that a devastating wound like this had been left open at all but had to admit that he would not have known what to do about it had he known. In this respect the apothecaries knew better.
After the angel’s surgery, the fleet continued on its way. Altogether, they needed five weeks to Erioch. Two weeks more than the last time they had tried to reach it from Oertha. The larger fleet had to be kept further away from gravitational centres and needed a different route.
Titus’s and Corven’s healing duty ended within one day of each other and both started to partake in training again.
When they entered real space once more, the apothecaries took Vox off the breathing machine. Nobody dared to change anything around her while they were in the warp but they mouthed the hope that they might be able to wake her after the next jump. After the bottomless fear for her life it took days for Titus to come to terms with this.
After being warned that she might need time to emerge, Titus ruled that they would interrupt their travels until she had regained consciousness. He discussed the topic with Celeste, who advised that they took the opportunity to take in provisions and fuel for the fleet. The Wings of War had an established outpost in a system only a little out of their way. It was called Sirune’s Gestalt and when the two companies were in position over the third planet, the apothecaries stopped administering the chemicals that kept Vox asleep.
While most of the human population of the fleet were on shore leave and most Astartes took the opportunity to undergo ocean-based training on the surface, Titus kept watch over his beloved.
He mostly sat reading and almost missed her opening her eyes after more than half a day. She did it only for a moment in any case. Then she fell back into unconsciousness and Titus contented himself with kissing her pale, limp hand and settled back again.
The next time, Titus noticed the small intake of breath that preceded her awakening and was fast enough to put the book aside. Gerneya was just entering the room. He paid her no attention. Instead he leaned towards Vox and took her hand.
Her mind slipped over to him and confused memories swirled around. Vox had gripped Titus’ hand once when it had been as cold as this. She had not fully awoken yet and was unable to distinguish between his sensations and her own. Half caught in an uneasy dream, white fire suddenly sprung from her fingers because she thought he was dying.
“Vox, stop it”, he demanded and took her face into his hands to kiss it while white flames licked over both of them. “Look, I’m fine. Wake up, I’m alive.” He looked into her blue eyes. “And you are too”, he heard himself whisper through her ears as well. The joy inside him overflowed in tears of relief and Vox cried as well, carried away by the storm of emotions that overwhelmed him. She wanted him closer because she felt as cold as death but Titus was reluctant to remove his armour. He had not seen her surgery wounds yet but the dull pain of them wove through her rising consciousness already.
Hardly able to focus through their intermingled perception, Titus tried to talk to Gerneya. The apothecary was struggling with her own feelings and it took a while before the need for more blankets could be communicated.
The news that she had awoken spread like wildfire and soon anyone important enough to decide this was back on the ship.
Since Vox had fallen asleep again even the chosen first had to wait before they were granted an audience.
In fact, it took a whole day before Vox received visitors at all but as soon as she could open her eyes for more than a few minutes together, she got back to organising their great undertaking. Titus was more than happy to relay her orders.
The fleet moved on.
They had two busy weeks left before they would reach Erioch. Vox slept often but when she was awake, she changed the world around them. It was a subtle process her right hand noticed and it started with her talking to the figures of import again. She had not done this in a while and Titus was relieved to see her back to old form. However shortly he had been privileged to witness her as Mistress of Secrets, he was ready to attribute her work now to the skills of yore.
Celeste, Saphane, the Mistress of the Forge and the captains finally were regular contacts for her again. Since meetings with them were usually held during the day when Vox was able to stay awake, Titus was rarely present. It was his privilege to watch over her at night. All he could do was lend her a quieting hand because her wounds were too severe to allow more but it sufficed to allow her to sleep safely.
The last stopover before they reached Erioch was rendezvous point one where 4th and 7th company waited for them.
Vox’s recovery was slow but she took great care to meet the captains of the two companies as soon as they were available late in the evening.
With Celeste’s help the angel had made up for her own deficiency in memory and had chosen the audience chamber on the bridge for their meeting. Vox was barely able to walk the distance yet but she had insisted on presenting herself properly. Resting on a stool, she awaited her warriors with a full retinue.
Captain Destun of 4th and Captain Cathra Maulbeer of 7th, were both quite dark haired for descendants of Sanguinius and Destun wore said hair short but they both shared the piercing, blue eyes many of their sisters displayed.
Each of them had their bodyguard of three warriors, the company’s champion and highest ranking chaplain with them but Titus was most pleasantly surprised to find a human figure in the group around Captain Maulbeer.
He had lost a bit of weight and his face had aged somewhat but Killian Solomon was unmistakable nevertheless. The burn mark was as fresh as only a slowly healing human could preserve it and his mechanical hand twitched oddly while he stared at Vox in open mouthed surprise. The warriors around him had sunken to their knees and he missed his cue to join them before the saint ordered them to rise.
While Celeste handled the first announcements, Titus bent down to his beloved to whisper the most notable facts he knew about Solomon in her ear.
“Captain Destun, Captain Maulbeer”, Vox greeted her warriors when the chapter mistress had finished. “I am most pleased to find you alive and victorious. May the Emperor sustain you further! I also see that you have brought an old friend of mine”, she continued seamlessly. “Welcome, Killian Solomon! I wasn’t expecting to meet you here.”
Solomon stepped forward and finally managed to bend enough joints to bow.
At this moment Titus noticed for the first time that something was wrong with Vox. It was a slight flicker in her features he only caught because he was looking at her by accident. There was a twitch there. A flaring of her nostrils. A lifting of her lower eyelids. It was gone so fast Titus could not even place it. Had he not been so attuned to her he would have missed it all together. This way he was quick to lay a gauntleted hand on her shoulder to steady her if she needed it. She looked up at him in surprise and gave him a short, placating gesture. The silent question on his face she ignored.
Then, she turned her gaze back to Solomon and smiled. Titus stared at her.
“My lady”, the legate began a little unsteadily. He was still bowed low. Too bashful to raise his gaze now. “I certainly knew that I would see you with different eyes now that I was privileged to learn your secret but never did I expect to see you like this. I mean, we were told that you had found your Primarch and… Forgive me, my lady, as you can see, I’m blabbering like an idiot for the mere sight of you, when all I want to do is to most humbly ask you to take me along to Erioch. My mistress Elaine has ordered me to meet her there and this way I wouldn’t have to be fetched.”
“You may straighten up, Solomon”, Vox told him. “It will be my pleasure to include you in the retinue I will take to Erioch. Titus?”, she asked, turning to her right hand. “I would like you to see to it personally that our friend is transferred to the ‘Hammer’ while I talk to my captains.”
Vox had decided to take Nostromo’s ship to Erioch instead of the ‘Primarch’s Bride’. The ‘Hammer’ had seen the station many times and was too small to transport more than roughly a hundred Astartes. She wanted to avoid looking like a threat.
“Yes, my lady”, Titus confirmed and tried to smile. He was certain that she did this to give him and Solomon time to talk. Why did it bother him that she sent him out of the room? Why had her smile unsettled him so? Had he not wished to see this on her again? There was no time to think about it now. Not even hesitation was allowable. His lady had given him a direct order in front of witnesses and by no means was he prepared to weaken her position. Titus was loyal and that was all there was to it.
Solomon followed him out.

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Guide Me Through the Darkness by Julia M. V. Warren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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