Chapter 13: The Truth Hurts
Jaz and the Sultan looked up when we entered and I felt guilt settle into my stomach. I didn't feel so hungry right then, I felt like getting sick instead. They were looking at me with happiness and I couldn't stand it. I had to come clean about Iago and soon.
The Sultan, of course, was delighted to see Genie. He got up from his spot at the table and came over and he shook the blue being's hand enthusiastically.
"It's so good to have you back with us, Genie." He said sincerely and Genie blushed.
"Aww shucks." He said and then he flashed a wide grin. "Sit down everybody! I'm making dinner!"
The Sultan chuckled and smiled at me before going to sit at the head of the table. Jaz sat on his right and Al on her other side. I sat to the left of the Sultan and Genie got in the center of the table, poofing a strange hat onto his head.
"Okay, prepare yourself for a real culinary treat!"
I smiled faintly, but it faded.
"Hyiiaa!" Genie hollered pulling my out of my thoughts and I jumped. Al snickered across from me. I stuck my tongue out at him and I looked up to see Genie chopping vigorously with two knives. "Hyiiiaa!" He shouted two more times and the Sultan laughed at his antics. Suddenly a sickening sound was heard and Genie's hand flopped onto the table. I gaped at the flopping appendage as did everyone else.
"Whoops." Genie muttered and my eyes widened. Suddenly it started to dance. I ended up trying not to laugh as it twirled around using a cane as it tapped about. The Sultan and I were in fits of laughter at the end of the dance unable to hold it in.
"Most amusing!" The Sultan declared.
"Amusing…right." Genie said, lifting the hand and screwing it back on his wrist. "Scuse me, while I pull myself together." That had the Sultan laughing again and Al rolled his eyes. I smirked a bit at that.
Then the Sultan cleared his throat.
"Now to business. Aladdin, you have proven to be a man with strong moral character." At this Al gave a big cheesy heroic grin and I stifled a sniker. Jaz smiled at him lovingly. "That is why I have decided to make you my new Royal Vizier." Al almost dropped his fork and Jasmine beamed at him. I grinned at him as he looked at me. Royal Vizier that's great!
"Me? Really?" He looked stunned.
"Isn't it wonderful?" Jasmine asked him.
"Wow! Royal Vizier!" Genie shouted as he popped into a pink fancy suit and he poofed Al into a black suit and slicked his hair back.
"Very nice, Al." I snickered at him and he made a face in my direction. Genie handed him a golden statue and then he shook his hand vigorously. Al's hair fell back into normal as he shook hands with Genie.
"Aladdin would like to thank the academy for this great honor." Genie said and then popped up a stand with shirts that had Al's face on them and all sorts of Al themed stuff.
"You want 'em we got 'em: Royal Vizier t-shirts!" Next he changed into a strangely dressed man with lots of frills and blew a horn. "All hail Aladdin! The Royal Vizier!" Genie then popped back to normal and got beside the Sultan.
"So, uh, what's a Royal Vizier?" I snorted into my hands. He made a big deal about it and he doesn't know what it is?
"Well, he will be my most trusted advisor."
"Well that makes sense! Pfft! He's bound to be better than that Jafar character!" As he said this Jafar's head suddenly appeared on Genie's shoulders and with a yelp I fell backwards off of the pillow.
"Don't do that!" I exclaimed at him but he didn't hear me.
"And Iago! Talk About a rat with wings!"
Guilt slammed back into me full force and I pushed away the plate of food in front of me. Al eyed me from across the table, frowning at my lack of appetite.
"Whew! That bird was mean." I squirmed uncomfortably as Genie continued. "Sultan want a cracker! Sultan want a cracker!"
Al nodded in agreement.
I knew that I needed to undo the damage that Genie was causing because if I was going to help Iago, I needed to clear the air about him and now.
"Yes sir! You don't see the kiddo hangin' out with any evil parrots." I stiffened as Genie grabbed me and ruffled mine hair.
"No, uh, actually. Genie..." My words were muffled by the hug he was giving me and I moved out from under his arm. "Now that you mention Iago...There's something I ought to mention..."
"What about him, Rick?" Al asked, eyes narrowing as he began to put it together in his head.
We all jumped as the dining hall doors burst open. Rajah came sprinting in and I caught a glimpse of red. Uh-oh. The tiger had Iago in his mouth. Trying to stop, the giant tiger skidded across the floor and slammed into the table, sending flood flying around. I went flying onto the floor at the impact and sat up to access the damage. Abu came sneaking into the room and I had a sneaking suspicion that he had a hand in this.
"Rajah!" Jasmine scolded the tiger. "You know better than to tear around the palace like that!"
I crawled around the table while everyone was still getting out of their shock and I reached Rajah.
"Help…" The parrot said weakly and I tried to get him from Rajah's mouth, but the tiger clamped down. A muffled "Hey!" came then.
"Rajah!" I hissed. "Spit him out."
"Alaric," I flinched as the Sultan addressed me. "Why did you bring up that deceitful parrot?"
"Yeah, Rick enlighten us." Al stated, frowning at me. I swallowed noisily.
"I...err...See about Iago-"
Suddenly Rajah sneezed, and Iago flew into the table, sliding down and stopping right in front of the Sultan.
"He's…here?" I said weakly. "Ta-da..."
The Sultan stared at Iago for several seconds and the parrot waved at him sheepishly from under a bowl. Slowly the royal's face turned red and he started to get flustered. Iago looked panicked and I felt Al and Jaz both staring at me. I didn't dare look in their direction.
"Iago!? Guards! Get that bird!" He hollered and I panicked as Razoul and the other guards came lumbering in.
"No, no wait!" I scrambled up from the floor as the burly guard smirked at the trembling parrot.
"Yes, your highness it would be my pleasure!" He started to draw his sword.
Without thinking I launched myself in front of Iago blocking him from Razoul, who had his sword above his head.
"No, don't! Please!" I shouted and the burly guard blinked at me in shock for a moment before frowning harshly.
"Get out of my way, boy!" He snapped and I shook my head.
"No!" I picked up Iago and held him against my chest. "You're not going to hurt him!"
Al took the opportunity to grab his arm and snatch the sword from him.
Razoul snarled. "Street rat-"
"Look, I'm not happy about it either," Al snapped and I flinched. "But I'm going to stand here while you hold a sword above his head!"
The Sultan cleared his throat and they turned to him.
"I trust he has a fitting explanation for this-this scandal!" The Sultan said angrily and I turned around slowly.
"He had better." Jasmine and Al said at the same time.
Iago trembled in my arms and I held him tighter. I wanted to protect him, give him a fair chance I reminded myself.
"Yes, your Highness," I began slowly. "I do. You see, Iago…"
"Was mesmerized." Iago muttered from my arms and I looked down at him and shook my head.
"Look, your highness," I interjected, face reddening from guilt and embarrassment at being called out. "I don't believe Iago is all that bad really." Iago looked up at me in shock, but I ignored it. "He's not as bad you think."
"Not all bad?" The Sultan repeated and I took an involuntary step back. "He only served my greatest enemy that's all!" This time I did flinch. Rasoul came over then and leaned into my face.
"We can't have that treacherous bird run free!" He snarled jabbing a finger at Iago. The parrot hid under my arm and I glared at Rasoul as I shoved him away from my face.
"Then I'll watch him!" I declared angrily. We glared at each other and then looked to the Sultan.
I heave a sigh. "What I mean is, Sultan, with your permission, I'd like to take full responsibility for Iago."
Iago gaped at me.
"You would?" He asked incredulously, and I nodded without looking at him.
The Sultan eyed me for a long time. "I haven't known you that long, Alaric, and your priorities seemed questionable to me but, I don't feel that you meant harm." He stood up from his seat. "You will watch Iago every moment." The Sultan then left the room.
"And if the bird makes one wrong move, you'll be the one I pluck boy!" Rasoul snarled at me and I frowned as he stomped out of the room.
Awkward silence fell and I felt Iago shift in my arms, looking up at me in slight awe. I met his gaze and he smiled a little. I wasn't sure what happened, but I felt that we had a connection. Maybe in that small smile was a hidden question: Can we be friends? Iago flew out of my arms and perched on my shoulder and I smiled a little. It felt right, like he was supposed to be there.
"Eh…that could've gone worse." Genie stated, pulling me out of my thoughts. I turned again too see, Al stomping towards me.
"Alaric! How could you bring him here!" Al snapped and Iago flinched back from the anger on his face. "I knew you were up to something!
"He's got good in him, Al!" I argued back and Iago looked up at me. I glanced down at him briefly before looking back at my brother with no hesitation. I know what I had seen. "He does!"
"Alaric, how could you?" Jasmine said getting very upset. Tears were in her eyes and I felt even worse for being the cause. "Secrets and lies?"
"I was going to tell you guys, honest."
Jasmine shook her head. "Aladdin, did you know?!"
"No, Jasmine, please. I-I didn't think he'd bring him here. I don't know what he was thinking."
The princess shook her head at me and I felt shame twist my insides, despite my firm position about Iago. "Alaric...I don't even know what to say to you." She turned and walked away and I frowned at the floor.
"You really messed up this time, Alaric. You chose to endanger everyone and on top of that you hid Iago from Jasmine and the Sultan. And me. Me, Rick. I'm supposed to be responsible for you and you act like-like you don't know any better!"
"I'm not stupid!" I snapped at him. "I know what I did." I let Iago wiggle out of my arms and he flew to safety.
"Well you're acting like it! And you made me look irresponsible in front of Jasmine! Sometimes I don't understand you! How could you do that to everyone? They let us live here, Alaric. They trusted you. I trusted you."
I opened and closed my mouth several times before scowling at him. "Well so sorry for making you look bad!" I snapped.
"You knew what would happen. That's what I don't understand. You knew and you still did it!" Al exclaimed. "I can't believe you! Now everyone's mad at us. Mad at you. What were you thinking?"
"Give the kid a break, Al. Everyone's just a little steamed." Genie intervened, putting his hands on my shoulders. "He's a good kid."
"Well, sometimes I don't know." Al snapped. "How can they ever trust you, Alaric? I thought you didn't like telling lies to good people."
"I told you this would happen." I said almost quietly and Al faltered. "I just didn't think you'd mistrust me too."
I turned without another word and walked off, leaving him to stare after me.
So deep into my newest art project, I almost didn't hear the door squeak open. The easel moved when he landed on the top of it, but I kept my hand steady until it evened out again.
"Hey." I muttered, keeping my eyes glued on my drawing. It wasn't Iago's fault, but I couldn't look at him right then. He was quiet, probably unsure of what to say. "Something you wanted?" I prompted.
"You should have told your brother."
I snorted and reached for the paint jars nearby.
"What good would it have done? Then Jasmine would have be mad at him about that too."
"You didn't have to help me."
I finally looked up at him. I wasn't going to get any painting done with him trying to make awkward conversation. "Well I did." I said simply. "Even if I didn't think you had good in you I would have helped anyway. It's just me."
Iago regarded me for a long time before he spoke. "You're a strange kid, but the good strange."
I smiled a bit and went back to my drawing. I felt him land on my shoulder.
"Still the prince with magic paintbrush, huh?"
I laughed a bit. "Not exactly."
He tilted his head, looking my drawing over. "Eh, not bad kid. You're good at that."
"Thanks. So…Genie put you up to talking to me?"
"Eh…yeah, not gonna lie."
I smirked at that before it faded. "I know I need to apologize to Jasmine and the Sultan. I was waiting until things cooled down."
"Until Aladdin and Princess Jasmine make up you mean."
I frowned. "Yeah, that. She's still in her room, huh?"
"Well, I'm not ready to talk to him yet."
Iago shrugged. "Just had to make sure you weren't getting ready to run or something. The genie said something about it."
"I still might, but I haven't decided."
"You vouched for me. Nobody's ever done that for me before." He muttered and I hid a smile.
"First time for everything. I've never done that either. I don't usually trust people."
Iago nodded. "The genie told me that. So why do you trust me?"
I shrugged and he kept staring at me. "Oh, fine." I consented. "I can tell when people are deceiving. Most of the time at least. And I knew what would happen if I hadn't hidden you. They wouldn't have waited for an explanation. The guards would have killed you or tossed you into the dungeon without a second thought. Probably would have kept it to their selves. You were helping yourself in the Marketplace. I know that. It wasn't about me, but you inadvertently saved my life anyway. And you didn't run away afterwards. I think you wanted to stay."
He silent for a while and then he snorted.
I laughed and shook my head. "Maybe so. I never claimed I wasn't."
He smirked a bit and then lifted up off of my painting.
Iago left then, saying something about a diabolical scheme and I finished up my painting in silence.
Waiting for the paint to dry and figuring it had given most everyone time to calm down, I left the art room to find the Sultan. Even if he ended up kicking me out, I had to apologize. It was the right thing to do.
I found the Sultan in the library and I cleared my throat.
He glanced up at me and frowned. I almost flinched at his expression but I needed to say something.
"I'm sorry about this evening, your highness. I'd like to explain better than earlier." I finished and his face softened.
I told him about my encounter with Iago in the marketplace, leaving out a few of the more dangerous details. "He saved my life. Whether he did it intentionally or not. And I know I don't deserve forgiveness or have even earned your forgiveness, but I wasn't trying to hurt anyone and if I even thought for a second that he wasn't the least bit good I wouldn't have brought him here."
"May I ask why you did?"
"When I first came here as Farid...Iago spoke to me." I told him about how Jafar told Iago to follow me but we ended up having a conversation and throwing grapes at each other instead. "In a way, he showed a side of himself that he really wants to be all the time. Jafar never let him talk to anyone other than him, made him play the part of the dumb parrot who mimics and eats crackers all day long. Iago's really smart and he's...got goodness in him, it's just hard for him to find and it's hard for him to trust. I know about that more than anyone."
He was silent for a moment. "...Then why not explain that himself?"
"Like me, Iago doesn't always think like everyone else. Jafar pretty much squashed any thought of him speaking before hand and all those years he spent with him, it never occurred to him to disobey him, to betray him and show he can talk. He only spoke to me because I caught him doing it. if I hadn't things would have been a lot different. Jafar would have punished him for speaking to me or to anyone."
The Sultan smiled at me. "You're an incredible boy, Alaric. Kind and compassionate. If you really think that he has some good in him, I trust your judgment. Aladdin has explained that you have a peculiar sense about people."
I nodded. "I am sorry about this whole mess. I knew that if I hadn't hidden Iago something bad would have happened to him and I couldn't let it happen. He deserves to have his story heard without a looming psychotic sorcerer listening in or being judged for things that weren't entirely his fault."
He touched my arm. "Look at me, my boy."
I did and he smiled again. "You weren't deceitful. You told the truth, although you probably should have mentioned it all before dinner." I flushed red and he chuckled. "I know there is more to your story than you've told me. And whatever it is, it won't change how things are. I trust you, Alaric. I was a little disappointed at you, but I could never be very angry at you."
I smiled a bit and he patted me. "See? No harm done." I relaxed and he smiled again. "You don't need to be afraid of us. We cannot change the past, but we can always change the future."
"Thank you, Sultan. Now...what do I say to Jasmine?"
The Sultan falter. "Err, oh dear..."
"I was afraid you'd say that. Maybe I better wait until it's morning."
He chuckled. "She'll have cooled down by then, I'm sure. I know your brother is speaking to her." My face must have betrayed me because he shook his head. "We often say things out of anger, but that doesn't make them true." I could only nod.
"Hey, short man."
I looked up to see Genie hovering nearby, looking at me in concern.
"You okay? Al didn't mean it."
I shook my head. "Maybe he was right. Maybe I should have told everyone. But I know what would have happened. Instead of listening to me they'd throw him in the dungeon or try to kill him like Rasoul did. Iago deserves a chance to redeem himself, to explain what happened in his own words."
"You were protecting him." Genie mused quietly. "Because he reminds you of yourself." I looked at him again. "Al, told me some things..."
I turned away again, the same feeling of having a huge secret spilled to someone I cared about rising up inside me. Made me want to run. Genie sensed where my mind was and sat next to me.
"I won't say how sorry I am you had to go through that. I know you know that. I will, however, tell you that you're wrong about yourself."
I looked at him again and he smiled.
"You've got a brave soul, kiddo. There's not many who would act the way you do after going through an ordeal."
I sighed. "Iago went through an ordeal too. I know he has, even if he hasn't told me about it. I can tell."
Genie nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure he has. But you've got to remember that they don't see the same things as you. Your perception of people is tremendously sharp. You know who can be trusted first thing."
"Not always. I've been wrong."
"Do you think that this is one of those times? Or are you afraid that it is?"
"Both I guess." I turned to face him on the fountain. "I didn't mean to hurt anybody's trust in me, but what was I supposed to do? I saved Iago from being crushed by Abis Mal and a mackerel, don't ask," I said when he raised an eyebrow. "Then he saved me...inadvertently." I admitted. "Either way, I felt that I couldn't leave him there alone."
"I still want to know about the mackerel." Genie snickered. "But I see your point."
"I already apologized to the Sultan...I don't know what to say to Jasmine. I feel sick thinking about how upset she was."
He patted my shoulder. "Ah, shorty, she's not really that mad. She'll come around. Iago and I actually got her and Al to speak to each other again."
"Doesn't matter." I said softly. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Genie fell silent at that. "I was just surprised the Sultan forgave me so easily."
Genie gave me a one-armed hug. "You gotta stop beating yourself up, shorty." He said softly. "Things happen. And like you said you didn't do it to spite anyone. No one here is out to get you."
"Yeah, I know that here." I pointed at my chest. "But not here." I poked my head. "I over think things."
He smiled. "Yes, I know."
"In a room eating his fill of whatever he can find." Genie rolled his eyes. "Lounging in the life of luxury."
I snickered and he smiled. "It's weird, but I don't find it strange that he's here."
Genie nodded his head but didn't say anything further.
I heard a knock on my door and didn't have to look to know that Al was standing in the doorway.
"I know you're not asleep." He said. "You up for a talk?"
"As long as you keep it short." I muttered and he scoffed.
"Rick, I...I'm sorry. I know you better than I know anyone and I should have believed you first thing. You didn't tell me Iago saved your life."
"Well, he did and even if he hadn't...You weren't there, Al. You didn't see him talking about Jafar. He has no loyalties to the man anymore. At least, I'm pretty sure he doesn't."
"I didn't mean to call you stupid."
"I know." I sighed. "I should have just come clean."
"I know why you didn't and I don't blame you." He said. I glanced at him. "I would have done it too." He admitted. "I know you were only looking out for Iago and while it's going to take time to trust him...If you believe then so do I."
I smiled. "Thanks, Al."
He was quiet for a minute. "Alaric...You let down your guard for Iago didn't you? Are you afraid of that?"
I turned to him slightly. "Yeah, I am."
He smiled softly. "Everything will be okay, Rick. You gotta let someone in that head of yours sometime." He ruffled my hair. "Now get some sleep."
"I'll apologize to Jasmine in the morning. I made something for her. it's got to dry." I told him and wiggled under the blankets.
Al smiled and patted me. "Night, Rick."
"I'm just glad you're not mad anymore."
He sighed. "I shouldn't have yelled at you like that. You're my little brother. I was just..."
"I know." I smiled. "You can apologize tomorrow."
"Goodnight, Rick." He smirked and shut the door.
Seconds later the door opened again. "Night, shorty."
"Goodnight, Genie." I waved him. "Iago still lounging?"
"Yep." He rolled his eyes. "He found a room to sleep in."
"Good. You've got to tell me everything you saw...Just without the song."
He laughed and came in to hug me. "You got it, short man. Get some sleep."
I rolled over as he shut the door and had a moment to wonder what Iago's first night back was going to be like for him before I closed my eyes.