BY : sheepyboy
Category: S through Z > The Sharpe Books
Dragon prints: 293
Disclaimer: I do not own the Sharpe books or characters and no profit is being made from this story.

An hour before dawn, Major Septimus Pyecroft awoke, clutching a pillow to his chest, calling Zara's name in the darkness. The anguished and haunted quality of his own voice had shaken him from sleep. Dreams fell from him not all at once but in trembling veils, as attic dust falls off rafters.
When he realised that he did not have the gypsy girl in his arms, he held fast to the pillow anyway. He had come out of the dream with the scent of her hair. Now he was afraid that any movement he made would cause that memory to fade and leave him with only the sour smell of his night sweat.
Inevitably, no weight of stillness could hold the memory in all its vividness. The scent of her hair receded like smoke rising, and soon it was beyond his grasp.Bereft, he got up and fumbled with the tent flap. Zara had fallen asleep in his arms hours earlier, now she was gone. Where was she? That recurring sense of dread that he'd felt ever since he'd rescued her, surfaced again. His bed, which consisted of nothing but a mattress on the floor, was the only furniture, so he did not have to be concerned about stumbling over obstructions in the gloom.

Septimus relaxed at once when he spotted Zara sitting on the log just outside the tent. She was gazing up at the sky and appeared to be lost in thought.
Picking up a blanket, he sat down beside her and slipped it round her shoulders.
"Ah! Septimus! Gracias!" She put her hand round him and kissed his cheek. He blushed; for he realised this was the first time he'd forgotten to put his leather hood on. He needn't have worried, for Zara had already seen his uncovered face. Instead of recoiling in disgust, she had stroked his badly scarred and burned cheeks, touched the stump where his left hand had once been, and whispered words that he never expected to hear. 

"I love you, Septimus."

Zara knew barely a handful of English words. Yet what she had spoken had stirred the battle-hardened soldier's soul, and brought tears to his eyes. Zara had healed him. Love. That most human of needs, and something that had always eluded him, even before the munitions accident. Septimus had been starved of affection most of his life. As a child, he'd been made to feel unwanted. He'd grown into an angry young man, rubbing others up the wrong way and always spoiling for a fight.

The accident had opened his eyes to those wretched souls maimed in war or through other cruel twists of fate. He'd seen them during his time in London. Poor, damned men with deformities, tormented and jeered at in the streets. Those with the same brain fever that afflicted the King, nothing more than figures to be gawped at in asylums. Lunatics, freaks and monsters. Septimus wondered if Wellington really would've followed through with his threat to cast him out, had he not agreed to blow up the powder depot. Too much booze would irrevocably blur his bad memories. In the years following his accident, Septimus had become a law unto himself - feared and admired in equal measure. For a while, he'd sunk into a deep depression. He'd wished that he'd been capable of drinking himself to death. The army had been his only preoccupation. Violence and hardship didn't faze him, because soon-to-be dead men needed no such comforts. He had welcomed death, but God had other ideas. Now he had a reason to live.
Zara rubbed his back and enquired as to why he was so quiet.


"Ah. Pensando." She looked up at the sky again. The darkness was slowly receding. She turned to him and uttered to him in Spanish: "Morning’s going to bring you the reason you need, some purpose, because that’s what the morning does."

Septimus smiled. She was so beautiful, and wise beyond her years. There was still a great task ahead. He couldn't relax fully - not yet. Not until he had hunted down those who had murdered Zara's parents. Bastards. He was afraid. Not of them, but of himself - afraid of what his anger might drive him to do. Sharpe had shared his suspicions with Septimus earlier - the awful possibility that there was a turncoat in the ranks, spying for the French. 
Zara had spotted one of her parent's horses in the British encampment, and told him that the men who murdered them spoke English. Three gypsies from the nearby camp had been garrotted the following day. If any harm were to come to Zara...
Such thoughts were immediately banished when he felt Zara's hand moving up his thigh. Septimus had been introduced to her wholesome enthusiasm for pleasure earlier, and experienced a joy that was new to him. Though he had lain with women in the past - before his injuries, they were purely unions of lust.

"Again...Septimus, my love?"

Good heavens. His member was already straining against his breeches, and her words almost made him lose control right there. She stood up and beckoned him back into the tent.

"I owe Sharpe for this," Septimus thought as followed his lover inside. Thanks to him, he and Zara had been reunited.

Now that's soldiering.





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