Part 1, in which Rath can't sleep and Kai-stern can't explain.
Warnings: Dark. Very dark. Mentions of nasty stuff, but nothing you couldn't say on Sesame Street. Quick fic. Un-beta'ed.
A/N: This particular fic came about because 1.) I found some spoilers and now I'm pissed. 2.) I'm impatient. 3.) Hey, when the muse hits you at Mach 3 at one in the morning, you obey.
Feedback: C&C loved, flames laughed at and fed to Will, everything and anything else appreciated. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Rath woke, a strange dark shadow on his heart. He may have been too young to understand the feeling, but he was old enough to trust his instincts; right now they were telling him to go see what was happening -and that it wasn't good.
The child silently padded out of his room, wondering where his dog was. He had never woken without Crewgar at least in the same room before. He walked down the hall to where the light and people were; familiar faces of other people who lived in the palace were grouped around Alfeegi's door. Rath wove his way stealthily through the crowd hearing soft murmurs above his head.
"You bet he did."
"Did you see Ruwalk?
"Yeah, he looks dead. Must be hard on him."
"Is he going to be alright?"
"I don't know."
"Why'd he do something like this?"
"Yeah, didn't seem the type."
"You have to admit, he's always been weird. And I don't think I've ever seen him smile."
These snippets of "grown-up" talk only confused Rath as he made his way closer to the door where he could the Dragon Lord and three of the secretaries. They didn't look very encouraging. The lord was comforting his wife, who was crying softly into his shirt. Kai-stern was sort of leaning against the wall, looking like he would rather be explaining his expense reports to Alfeegi than be standing sentry-like outside his fellow secretary's bedroom. He couldn't see Ruwalk's face, but if Tetheus was hugging him, it had to be pretty bad.
Rath could hear the black dragon officer half-chant "He'll be alright, he'll be alright," in his friend's ear and that truly scared him.
He tugged on Kai-stern's sleeve and asked him, "What's going on?"
Kai-stern looked around for someone else to explain this to the child then took Rath by the hand and led him to a little alcove. This conversation could take a while and he wanted privacy why he tried to make Rath understand what he himself didn't.
"Alfeegi . . . is hurt. He bled a lot, and the doctor doesn't know if he's going to be okay"
"How did he get hurt? Was it an accident?"
Kai-stern winced inwardly. "No."
"Oh. Who hurt him?"
He took a deep breath and briefly considered lying. "He did."
"Alfeegi hurt himself."
Rath tried to understand, he really did. "Why?"
"Do you remember when he left for a really long time?"
"He went to visit the fairies."
"Well, on the way home some bad people caught him."
"Demons?" Rath interrupted.
"Yes, demons. They wanted him to tell them secrets and when he didn't, they hurt him very badly." Kai-stern prayed that Rath wouldn't ask for any more details.
Rath blinked at Kai-stern uncomprehendingly.
Kai-stern took off his glasses before continuing. "The demons told him a lot of nasty, untrue things too and he believed them so he hurt even more."
"Like what?" Rath thought that maybe the demons had called him bad names. Alfeegi did feel bad when he was called names. When Rath had done that, some time ago, he gotten really upset and washed the boy's mouth out with soap.
"They told him that no-one liked him and everyone would be happier if he went away and never came back, that we didn't want him to come home."
Rath was speechless. How could have the Chief Secretary believed that? Some people may like to give him a hard time, but only because he could be so funny when he was angry (with someone else!), and more people liked him than didn't. Even the people who didn't like him wanted him to come home and worried when he was late. Everyone had been so happy when Lord Lykouleon had brought him back safely.
Everyone but Alfeegi. . .
"Did he try to kill-" Rath stopped; if he didn't say it, it might not be true.
Kai-stern just nodded. He hugged Rath when the little one began to cry.
"He'll be alright, he'll be alright," Kai-stern half-chanted. "Ruwalk found him, and he'll be alright now." They stayed that way for a few minutes, until the doctor came out and told everyone that Alfeegi should be okay when he woke up. Everyone went back to their beds relieved, except Rath. He waited until he was sure no one would be around, then he sneaked into the bedroom. Just as he had suspected, Alfeegi was awake and staring at the ceiling. Rath tiptoed to the bed and climbed on it. Alfeegi ignored him.
"I like you."
"I like you," Rath repeated, "and I wanted you to come home."
"What?" Alfeegi repeated.
"The demons lied. I like you and I wanted you to come home and so does everyone else."
"Oh." He didn't sound very convinced.
"Alfeegi?" Rath asked hesitantly. "Can I stay here tonight?"
"Suit yourself," was the monotone reply.
But when Rath cuddled closer to him in his sleep, Alfeegi very nearly smiled.
"If you want to die," asked a voice in the back of Rath's head, "why don't you just kill yourself?"
Rath felt the heat from Rune's body just inches away from him and Thats' ki beyond that. He remembered the smell of the soap from Ruwalk's hands after he had washed the blood off of them and the sound of his queen's soft sobs, the worry in Tetheus' eyes and the fear in Kai-stern's, and he knew he couldn't make all that happen again to those he loved.
"Because people like me and want me to come home."