WHO: Tali Robards, Romilda Vane WHERE: St Mungo's WHEN: Friday, March 7, 2002. Afternoon.
Tali was supposed to have been discharged yesterday morning, but all he had to do was mumble something about being completely terrified about possibly being attacked by his unknown assailant again for the Healer to take pity on him and allow him more time to "recover".
He did do a very good traumatised face, after all. It wasn't hard to put on. He didn't give a fig about the attack but the thought of never being intimate with Romilda again was enough to school all his features into a look of abject misery. It was Friday; if he wallowed some more maybe he could rest over the weekend too. Another camping trip with Dad was too much to bear.
(Dad had dropped by. He had brought Tali a get well card. On the front it read: Sympathies for your misfortune. On the inside: But I told you and told you that you could be attacked anywhere, anytime. So let this be a lesson. No sympathy, really - Dad.)
Yes, if he stayed over the weekend everything might blow over by next week. It was his only positive thought.
A Healer stuck her head through the door. "There's a Miss Vane coming round to see you, Mr Robards. I'll leave the door open, alright?"
Tali could barely splutter out a "what?" before she left, let alone object. Fuck. Fuck. He wasn't ready. He was...he was...he was going to be asleep. He threw his newspaper across the room and lay right down.
Fuck. He had a total mind blank and couldn't remember how he usually slept. On his back? On his side? On his stomach? He tossed and turned, but nothing felt right. Finally he settled for on his front, which at least allowed him to bury half his face into the pillow. He pulled the covers up to his chin and waited, trying not to breathe too audibly.
Romilda had waited and waited for Tali to be discharged before she went to see him. But she'd checked with Lucy and found out that Tali still hadn't gone home. Frankly, she was too impatient to wait even a couple more days to see him. It turned out that her patience only really extended to the realm of potions.
When she walked into the room where Tali was staying, Romilda frowned. Just a couple of minutes ago a Healer had told her that he was awake and able to see visitors. Had he really fallen asleep that quickly? She sighed and set down the bunch of grapes she had brought next to the get well cards beside his bed.
Romilda took a seat on the very uncomfortable chair, pouting. All her plans for what she wanted to say were kind of thwarted by his lack of consciousness. "Being asleep in the middle of the day is really inconsiderate," she told him, helping herself to a grape. "There was stuff I wanted to say."
Reaching for another grape, she started trying to peel it. "I should go and just leave this book for you before I eat all the grapes. No point talking to you when you're asleep. Though you do look kind of frightened already. More than you normally do, anyway." Fuck it, she decided. She'd already sent her best friend to hex him, so waking him up was nothing in the scheme of things. Romilda poked him in the shoulder. "Wake up."
Tali "woke up". It was just as well she had poked him. He had already started losing it when she mentioned a book. (A book? What book? A book he hadn't read? A book he hadn't even heard of? He had to know!) He supposed he could have resisted a poke if he really tried. Can't even play dead effectively, he grumbled to himself.
He opened his eyes and rolled onto his back. Wow. He was struck by exactly how pretty Romilda was. That kind of depressed him further.
"Oh. Um. Hello," he said quietly.
"Hi." Romilda offered a small, awkward smile, then cast her gaze to the floor. Now was not the time to dwell on how he looked kind of rumpled and adorable. She was still annoyed with him, even if that annoyance was now tinged with a little bit of guilt owing to the whole hospitalisation thing.
Maybe she had overreacted a bit. Maybe.
"So… how are you feeling? Better?"
"Yes. I'm alright," replied Tali, completely forgetting that he was trying to stretch out his stay another two days. He bit his lip. Were they going to talk about...?
"So...why are you here?" Ugh. Why did he ask that? It was perfectly normal for her to visit. He was a recently injured person and she was an individual whose concern would be entirely expected, given their relationship.
"No, sorry, I didn't mean it in um, uh..." Tali couldn't articulate which ways he didn't mean it. "Uh, sorry, I'm not used to being visited. Yeah."
Romilda plucked a couple more grapes from the bunch simply to give her hands something to do. Had his parents visited him? Possibly not. It was hard to tell with either of the Robardses. "I was kind of concerned when you weren't discharged yesterday. Wasn't sure if there was anything else wrong." Heidi had promised not to maim him and so far it didn't look as though Tali was missing any body parts or sporting some new scars.
"And I missed you," she added, pushing her fringe out of her eyes.
Tali sat up. "I'm fine," he said. He couldn't feign further injury in front of Romilda. Not when she said she missed him.
Sulkily, she chewed on a grape, swallowing before she said, "I still don't get it. I mean, why did you hire me for some random job in the Ministry library?" Romilda frowned. "I checked my bank account. I've even been paid for it. So you obviously didn't do it for half a dozen galleons every month."
Tali took a deep breath. He gulped several times. "I wanted to give you a library card, only Ministry employees can have one, so I made you one. That's it. That's the whole of it. Anything else..." Merlin, did she see those fake appraisals? "..was just, was just, uh, for my uh, for, killing time?" He finished with uncertainty. He shrank back onto the mattress. Should have just stuck to doodling.
Romilda sighed. She wondered exactly what he meant by killing time, but perhaps that was best left for another time. "I've had to try really hard to overcome a stupid reputation that I earned myself when I was fourteen. And so far I'm failing at it horribly." A few people in Helga's Hill were still icy towards her after the love potion in the water supply. "Getting bollocked for a job I didn't even know I had really doesn't help me. I'm don't think I'm going to stop being pissed off about that for a while."
Tali wished he could shrink even further through the bed. Or he could get into one of those body bags and seal it up from the inside.
"I really didn't know anyone else was going to know. I'm really, really sorry," he said helplessly. It suddenly occured to him he'd missed his appointment with HR. "Am I fired?"
"Um, I don't think so. Though they did ask me if I would feel better if you were sent on a sexual harassment awareness course. I wasn't sure how to answer that." Romilda grabbed the bag of grapes and offered them to Tali. "So they might actually get you to do that. Sorry."
Well there was only one word for that: mortifying. "Oh, God. OK, thanks for visiting. You can leave me here to die now. This will be my last meal." He took the proffered bag and disappeared under the covers with it. He hadn't heard of anyone dying from suffocation by blanket but there was a first time for everything.
"Hey, what are you trying to do under there?" Romilda moved to sit on the edge of the bed. "Dig to Australia?" she teased, trying to tug back the covers so that she could see him. "But if you're going to die, I might as well take the book back with me. Maybe I can get a refund…" A small smile playing on her lips, she dangled the prospect of new reading material in front of him.
Tali held out for three-and-a-half seconds. He inched the blanket down so that only his eyes were uncovered. "What book," was the muffled question.
Stretching, Romilda picked up her bag. She produced a book that looked too big to fit in it, turning it so that Tali could see the brightly coloured cover. "Magical Europe. Lots of good ideas for travelling. Then again, we can't really go to Paris or anywhere else if you're dead." She felt another twinge of guilt as she looked at those big eyes of his. "Or if you hate because you ended up here," she added quietly.
Tali was first elated, then confused. There was a catch? His eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean?"
Romilda pursed her lips, resting the book on her knees. "I might have overreacted a bit. And sort of arranged for you to get hexed. Tali, I was angry. And it was stupid. I shouldn't have done it."
There was a pause as Tali let the news sink in, that Romilda had essentially taken out a hit on him.
He laughed. "Well that's a relief! Guess I don't have to worry about my mystery assailant any more. That's honestly the best news I've heard all day. Wow. Cool." He smiled.
"The fact that your girlfriend had you assaulted is the best news you've heard all day?" Romilda leant forward and kissed his forehead. "You are a strange, strange man." She sighed. "I'm going to try really hard not to get angry like that if you ever mess up again."
Tali shrugged. "Hey, it really beats thinking you've got hostile people everywhere just waiting to assault you for no real reason. You had reason," he explained. "There's a nice cause-and-effect there. It's fine. I'll just never make you angry again, right?"
Though Tali was even pleased about that. She didn't say if he ever messed up again they were done as a couple. Any momentary fit of rage was better than that. She called herself his girlfriend. She bought him a book on European travel. She still wanted to go places with him. OK, the thought of that sexual harassment course (not to mention he was still walking on eggshells around her) meant he probably couldn't bring himself to touch her ever again, but all the previous things were enough to make him feel a bit teary.
"Yeah, I had reason to be angry. But I shouldn't have had you hexed. That was over the top." She smiled wryly. "I guess nothing about me is ever going to be subtle." Romilda lifted her hand to stroke his hair. "I want us to move past this and focus on good things. Like Paris. I've already written out a resignation from the Ministry. If I need library books, I'll read them on site. Or have you borrow them under your name."
"Or you can just take them I don't care I love you so much you can do whatever you want," Tali said in a rush. Then he put the blanket up again as a shield because he was getting seriously choked up and it was a little embarrassing.
"Um. This is just a medicine side effect," he said with a small sniffle.
"Of course it is." Romida smiled knowingly. He couldn't see her, so she couldn't help but grin. Leaning forward until her face was almost touching the blanket, she added, "And I love you too."
Tali would have to hide his face for a while longer yet.