The Time Has Come (Cringer's Goodbye)
"This can't be happening," Adam said in a daze, as he walked out into the courtyard. The Masters were at Grayskull, fighting off Skeletor again, but for once, Adam didn't care. "This can't be happening," He repeated again chocking back a sob, as he dropped himself down under his and Cringer's favorite shade tree. Prince Adam felt like his whole world was falling down around him, and he just wanted to crawl under a rock and die, plain and simple.
Yesterday was when it all started, wasn't anything out of the ordinary, he transformed into He-Man and Cringer into Battle Cat and went to aided the Masters in driving away Skeletor's pointless raids of Castle Grayskull, but it wasn't the battle when it happened, but after it was all over. He-Man noticed Battle Cat seemed to be a little slower then normal but just thought it was due to the humidity. The heat was making everyone a bit lazy. But then after the battle, He-Man mounted the mighty Battle Cat and they headed for home. Yet half way toward the palace, He-Man suddenly found himself flying forward and hitting the ground extremely hard.
"Battle Cat?" He-Man asked pulling himself back up, then looking back toward his partner and best friend, "BATTLE CAT!!!" He-Man felt his heart stop at the scene before him, his best friend since as long as he can remember and partner from the very beginning laid on the ground unconscious, with small streams of blood coming from his mouth and nose. "BATTLE CAT! CRINGER!" He-Man panicked, as he gently used his great strength to pick up his friend and move as quickly as he could toward the Duncan's lab at the palace.
He changed them both back once he got there, and Man-At-Arms examined him all night, and called Adam back in just thirty minutes ago, the young prince thought he was tired, and he'd be fine, Cringer was healthy, ate good, had plenty of exercise (despite Teela and his father's opinion), what could go wrong?
"Adam, you might want to sit down," Duncan said not facing the boy, but instead stayed facing the sleeping tiger, gently stroking his head.
"What's wrong with him, Duncan, is he going to be ok?" Adam asked nervously, hope twinkling in his blue eyes.
"Prince Adam," Duncan began, but Adam didn't notice the faint tremble in the older man's voice, "Cringer is what now, thirteen years old?"
"I think so," Adam answered not sure what it had to do with Cringer's condition, "Me and Teela found him when we were around five, so I guess that would make him around thirteen now, why?"
"Adam … do you know the average life expectancy for Eternosian Tigers?" Duncan asked still not facing his friend.
"No …" Adam said, suddenly getting a very sick feeling in the pit of his stumach.
"Most in the wild live to be around nine to ten years old, while tamed tigers live to usually no later then eleven to twelve years," Duncan said softly, "Cringer's lived a great life, and he truly is a part of the royal family."
"W-What are you saying?" the teenager asked the color fading from his features, "Cring is going to be ok, isn't he?"
"I'm sorry, Adam," Duncan finally turned to face his young friend, and his face answered Adam's question, Duncan's cheeks were red and wet with his own tears, "He … He doesn't have that much longer to live, all we can do is make him comfortable."
"No! He can't!" Adam said jumping to his feet, "You have to be able to save him, you have to!" Adam was now beginning to cry; he looked past Duncan at Cringer lying on the table, sleeping soundly. Adam suddenly felt sick; he had to set back down, and made a grab for Duncan's trashcan. "Maybe … maybe the Sorceress can …" Adam stuttered after he was finished.
"No, this isn't some disease we can find a cure for," Duncan explained resting a hands on his shoulders, "Cringer's lived a long fulfilling life, I wish there was something I could do to keep him with us. I know, everyone in the palace loves the fur ball, but Adam, it's a part of life, nothing lives forever."
"I-I need some air …" Adam finally said after an uncomfortable silence, "Take care of him, and I'll be back later …" Adam waited for Duncan to nod before starting toward the door, "This can't be happening …"
Adam stayed under the tree for hours till he heard the Masters return. He pulled himself to his feet to try to get to his room, and behind his locked door, but it was too late and here she came. He REALLY didn't need this now; he REALLY, REALLY didn't need this. He stopped and looked back over his shoulder, and sure enough Teela was red faced pissed, and was about to take it out on him. Ancients, he didn't need this right now.
"Under the shade tree, why am I NOT surprised?" Teela snapped cockily, "Honestly, Adam, are you just lazy, or do you honestly not care about anything but yourself?" Adam knew she didn't mean half the things she said, she was just blowing off steam after a frustrating battle, but he really didn't need this right now, and just tried to walk off. Big mistake.
"Sure go ahead, walk away like you always do," Teela said walking up behind him, before grabbing him and spinning him around roughly to face her "All you seem good at is-" she started but stopped abruptly when she saw Adam's tear-stained face.
"Go ahead, Teela!" Adam shouted at the dumbfounded teenaged redhead, "Go ahead and tell me I deserve this! I know you want to! So go ahead and get it out of your system! 'Adam, you're a lazy coward and never deserved a pet anyway, so you deserve every bit of the pain!' Go ahead and SAY IT!" He literally screamed as fresh tears formed in his eyes.
"Adam, what are you talking about?" Teela asked, her voice going from angry to full out worry in a second, "What's happened? What's wrong?" Teela had known Adam for as long as she could remember, and the entire time they've known each other, she had never once seen him shed a tear. But here before her, he stood, his cheeks soaked and his eyes blood shot and puffy.
"Oh don't patronize me!" Adam shot turning around to walk toward the palace, "I know you've already talked to Man-At-Arms, and already looking for ways to blame me for it!"
Teela grabbed his arm and forcefully pulled him back around, "I haven't even seen my father since yesterday afternoon, now tell me what's wrong!" she ordered, but was scared beyond belief at what could possible be so wrong that it made one of the two people in her life she saw as larger then life cry.
Adam just looked away and sighed loudly. Teela watched him for a moment, she watched as his Adam's apple slid up and down slowly as he swallowed and she could of sworn he was trembling, "Adam … talk to me …" she ordered softly, and braced her self for whatever could be wrong.
Adam was silent for a moment before finally speaking, but still not looking her way, "Cringer …" He whispered sadly, "Cringer's … Cringer's d-dieing …" he forced out but wasn't able to stop a small sob from coming out with it.
She thought she was ready for anything. She was ready for anything, anything but that. "W-What?"
"Cringer's dieing, Teela," Adam repeated, now looking down at her, letting his tears fall again, "I'm going to lose him …"
Teela felt like she had been hit in the chest by a full power blast from Skeletor's Havoc staff. Sure she picked a little fun at the cowardice green tiger from time to time, but she helped Adam raise the Eternosian Tiger from a cub, and she loved him almost as much as Adam. "H-How long?" she asked now finding the ground interesting.
"A few days, a week or two at the most," Adam replied, "Then I'm going to lose him, just like that …"
"Oh, Adam," Teela whispered comfortingly, "oh …" she was at a loss for words, as she fought to keep from her own emotions from coming unglued.
Adam then without another word turned his back and ran into the palace. Teela stood there dumbstruck staring the way he went, with only one thought on her mind: Cringer was dieing. The big, dumb, loveable, green coward was dieing. Teela lost the strength in her legs and dropped to her knees breathing heavily, unable to even begin to comprehend the palace without Cringer around, and it hurt to even think of it.
That evening King Randor and Queen Marlena finally made it to their private chambers, "So how is he taking it?" Randor ask placing his crown in its case.
"He locked himself in his room for three hours before he finally came out, and he hasn't left Cringer's side since." Queen Marlena said changing into her nightgown, "This is killing him, Randor …"
"It's hurting all of us, darling," Randor finally said, walking back in, and the sight cause his breath to catch in his throat. The Queen sat on the edge of the large bed her hand running up and down the large wooden corner post, her fingers running into the large cuts where Cringer had used it as a scratching post, and tears running down her rosy cheeks.
Randor walked over and wrapped his wife in his arms and let her sob into his shoulder, and letting a few tears of his own fall for the large fearful tiger that they've all grown to love and accept as a part of their family.
As the days passed on, Cringer continued to grow weaker and weaker, and Adam repaid his faithfulness by staying by his side through it all. Luckily Skeletor seemed to have been staying in hiding, but Adam really didn't care about him, about He-Man, about Grayskull, or about anything for that matter. His best friend lay on the table, growing weaker by the second, and he could do nothing but watch.
"You ok, son?" Duncan asked walking in and standing beside him.
"I'm supposed to be the most powerful man in the universe," Adam whispered hoarsely, obviously from crying, "I can save countless lives from Skeletor's forces … I can even change the tides of rivers … but I can't save my best friend …"
"You can't save everyone, Adam," Duncan said softly.
"I should." Adam stated, running his hand through Cringer's course mane, causing the weakened cat to give off a faint purr.
Duncan sighed and patted his shoulder, as he did his hourly check up on Cringer. And as expected, his condition continued to degenerate. He shook his head as he saw Adam asleep with his head resting beside Cringer's. Only one thing will be able to keep Adam alive after Cringer passes on. He stepped outside the room and looked down at it.
Teela, who had been setting in the floor just outside the door incase Adam or Cringer needed anything, looked up sadly at her father. "Hey," he said with a sad smile.
"How are they?" she asked standing up to stretch her legs.
"Growing weaker," Duncan said sadly, "Both of them."
"I wish I could do something, anything to help him," Teela sighed, "But I don't really understand him anymore, I know he isn't really a coward, but he's just so secretive and it makes me angry when he doesn't trust me. I want to help but … he won't let me in …"
'Forgive me, Sorceress,' Duncan thought looking at his saddened daughter, 'he needs her, and she deserves to know …'
"Teela, can you come with me for a walk?" Duncan asked, reaching out to take his daughter's hand, "There's something I've been meaning to talk to you about …"
Meanwhile, at Snake Mountain, "hmmm very interesting, looks like I got two birds with that one, or shall I say cats," Skeletor chuckled, "who would have thought my new sleeping gas would cause a feline's body to shut itself down, first poor, poor Panthor, then it seems that the Prince's prized feline was close by when we dropped the gas on He-Man, the Masters, and He-Man's Battle Cat a week ago," the Dark Lord mused looking through the recorded image from a doomseeker. He looked down at the half dead Panthor laying at his feet, before kicking him down the steps of his throne, "Waist of space, if this gas is effecting the prince's pet and this hairball here, then surely Battle Cat is standing on death's door as well, poor, poor He-Man, his lil' kitty must be so sick."
Skeletor laughed, as his minions chuckled nervously, not sure if this was a wise move or not. "Now is the perfect time, while He-Man is worrying over his precious Battle Cat, he and Castle Grayskull will be easy picking."
"Adam, dear, go and get something to eat," Queen Marlena suggested as she walked into Cringer's room. Adam looked up weakly, "Go on, son, I'll stay with him."
Adam sighed and nodded. He was hungry, so it didn't take much encouraging. He stroked Cringer's long face twice before he walked out of the room. He slowly made his way to the dinning hall of the palace, when he over heard the other Masters.
"I … I can't believe he's gonna be gone …" Adam heard Ramman sob. The big guy was always emotional.
"Oh give me a break!" Buzz Off's voice exclaimed, as Adam secretly snuck into the dinning hall, without their notice. He looked and saw Ramman and Buzz Off but also Teela, Duncan, Stratos, and Man-e-faces setting at the table.
Adam slowly walked up behind Buzz Off; the whole lot was too into their conversation to even notice his entrance. "I'm telling you, the place is going to better off without that fleabag around, getting green hair all over the place, clawing everything can get his mangy claws one, he's a plague! The palace will be a much better place without the mangy cat." Buzz Off shot waving his arms to emphasize his words.
"Don't you dare talk about Cring-" Teela started but was cut off as Adam spun Buzz Off around and punched him so hard in the face the bug-man went sprawling over the table and through a wooden chair on the other side.
"Listen, bug," Adam said coldly, using his 'He-Man' voice, and ignoring the shocked stares he got from everyone, "you can talk about me all you want, but if you ever …EVER … talk about Cringer again, I swear, I will make you wish your grandparents were never born. Am I clear?"
Buzz Off was in no condition to respond, though none of the other Masters even attempted to help the smart aleck up. "I was hungry, but I lost my appetite," Adam growled as he turned to go back out of the room.
"Adam, wait," Teela said, starting to go after him.
"Just give him some time," Duncan suggested as he placed a hand on her shoulder.
Teela simply sighed before looking down at the KO'ed Buzz Off and kicking him hard in the ribs, "Serves you right."
Adam once again went back to his best friend, and stroked his cheek, holding his breath each time his breath slowed before he would sigh and return to normal breathing. He had hoped that Skeletor wouldn't attack for a while, so he could stay as close to Cringer as possible, so that he'd be there for him, till the end. The mere though sickened him to his core. But unfortunately, Skeletor held no decency toward the heartbroken prince, and yet again made a raid on Castle Grayskull.
"Adam, you're needed," Duncan said patting his shoulder, "hurry!"
"I'm not leaving him," Adam said stroking Cringer's mane.
"Adam, go with Father, I'll stay with him," Teela said walking in, "Besides, I think He-Man will be more useful out there today then me."
Adam blinked once. Then blinked again. "Uh Teela, what do you mean by that?" Adam asked as he and even Cringer looked up with a weak yet perplexed expression.
"I know, Father told me everything," Teela said looking at her father then turning toward the awestruck prince, "At first I wanted to tear you apart for keeping it from me this long, but …" turning toward the weakened tiger, "considering the circumstances I think I'll let it slide. You don't have to worry, you can trust me with your secret, I won't tell a soul."
"So … you know …" Adam said slowly, almost like he was afraid it was some weird dream.
"Yes, I know you're He-Man and the world's greatest actor for fooling us all into believing you were a spoiled coward instead of really being a spoiled heroic fool," Teela smarted playfully, eyeing him cockily, "now transform, Grayskull needs He-Man, I'll stay with Cring."
"O-Oh ok," Adam said standing up and drawing the Sword of Power, nervous that this was some kind of trick of Orko's or the like. He took a deep breath, "BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!" He cried as he was enveloped in white energy. When the blinding light let up a twinkle of the eye later, Adam was replaced by He-Man. "I HAVE THE POWER!!" He cried before relaxing and replacing his sword.
"Wow …" Teela said, her eyes the size of saucers. Her father told her everything about Adam being He-Man but she didn't truly believe it till she just now seen it. But all attention turned to the soft bed-like table, and Cringer trying to force himself to his feet.
"Stay down, old friend …" He-Man said sadly, trying to force Cringer to lie back down. Cringer mewed unhappily as he continued to fight to his feet, before finally losing the battle, and falling down to his belly in defeat.
"I-I'm sorry …" He-Man said in a soft voice, like Adam's, Teela noted, as if she should have seen it all along. "I'm so sorry, please just try to hang on for me, Cring, please." He begged, tears forming at the corners of his eyes.
"Take care of him," He-Man said placing a hand on Teela's shoulder before following Duncan out of the room. Teela watched him good, then looked down at Cringer, and she could see it in his eyes that he was dieing to go with him. His eyes showed no fear, or cowardice, only courage and also something else, grief. Grief, she guessed, was from feeling he had let his master down.
"It'll all work out, Cringer," Teela cooed softly, scratching behind one of his ears, "It'll all work out …"
He-Man stood along side Duncan and the other Masters before the front gate of Castle Grayskull. Skeletor's Minions stopped before them, not unexpected. Skeletor always liked to run his mouth before most offences, especially when he didn't plan beforehand.
"Where's you pet, He-Man?" Skeletor asked, causing He-Man's jaw to tighten, "Is Battle Cat feeling under the weather?"
Beastman then leaned over to whisper to Tri Klops, "Should we start digging the grave now?" he whispered, "I'm not smart but even I know that was stupid."
"You didn't answer my question, He-Man," Skeletor shot, not noticing his minions taking back steps away from him. All of them noticing anger almost visibly flowing off the Guardian of Castle Grayskull. "Or is your poor pussy cat dead already? Maybe he is, I see your eyes are red, as if you've been crying!" Skeletor unwisely laughed, "The mighty He-Man crying over an animal!"
Skeletor's laughter was cut short as a large hand gripped his face. And a large foot shot up between his legs, causing painful gasps from both sides' on lookers.
The 'fight' lasted a good five minutes, which involved only He-Man doing the fighting, Skeletor doing the receiving, Evil Lyn and Buzz Off doing the fainting, and everyone else gasping at every blow and sickening sound coming from the fight.
After another ten minutes of torture, even the Masters were beginning, note: BEGINNING, to feel sorry for the Overlord of Evil. And as quickly as the beating began it ended, with He-Man glaring down at the bloodied Skeletor, whose only movement was the occasional flinch. He then looked up at his fearful minions, "Take him home," He-Man commanded in a tone that made them all flinch, "I want him to heal, he hasn't paid enough yet. When he regains consciousness, tell him that I am NOT finished, and only show his bony face when he's ready to continue. Good day." He-Man then turned and led the Masters inside Grayskull leaving Skeletor's minions with their broken leader.
The group of villains looked down at their master, "I'm gonna be sick …" Evil Lyn said as she looked away quickly.
"Umm …" Tri Klops mused looking at his arm, "I really don't think that's supposed to bend like that …"
"My gods …" Beastman said pointing at Skeletor's barely covered skull, "jeez he dinted it … can that be fixed? Ugh …"
"After that kick …" Clawful questioned, "I mean … is he even still a guy?"
"We really need to carry him back …" Merman stated, though not making a move.
"I'm not touching him," Tri Klops stated, "After that beating … he might just break apart …"
"Rock, Paper, Scissors?" Clawful asked.
"Rock, Paper, Scissors!" Beastman, Tri Klops, and Trapjaw chimed, and the four competed.
"Aw, Man, I always lose!" Clawful complained, as he jerked the limp body of Skeletor over his shoulder, flinching at the crunching sounds he made upon moving. "Was … that … his spine?"
"I hope not …" Tri Klops gulped, "Lets go home … before he comes back out."
A few hours later, Adam and Teela, along with the other Masters and the King and Queen waited outside Cringer's makeshift room. Waiting for Duncan to come out, Teela noting Adam only breathing when he was starting to run out of breath. Not that she was any better.
"Adam …" Duncan said sadly as he walked out the door, "It's time, son …"
(I close my eyes,
and I can see)
Adam felt Teela give his hand one last squeeze, before he let go to walk into the room. He didn't even know how long he was holding her hand, or even that he was for that matter. But the sad smile she gave him before he walked in helped … a little.
Adam closed the door behind him, and he saw his best friend laying there, and he remembered back to the day, he and Teela found the cub trapped in a thorn bush.
(The day we met,
just one moment and I knew)
"Hey buddy …" Adam said fighting off a sob. He sat down on the side of the bed, and stroked Cringer's side. "I'm so sorry … I can't save you …" he said with a lone tear running down his face.
(You're my best friend,
The large cat painfully pulled him self up, and nuzzled his head into Adam's lap, with a weak, yet content mew. "It's not fair …" Adam finally sobbed. "After everything we've been through … it's not fair …"
(We've gone so far,
And done so much,
And I feel,
Like we've always been together)
Adam gasped slightly and looked down, to see Cringer licking his hand affectionately, "You're scared of everything …" Adam mused, "but here you are dieing … and I'm the only one scared to death …"
"I don't know …" Adam said closing his eyes tight, " … if I can keep doing this without you, Cringer, you've been with me since the beginning …"
(Right by my side,
Through thick and thin,
You're the part of my life,
I'll always remember
The time has come,
It's for the best I know it,
Who would've guessed that you and I...
We'd have to say goodbye)
"Ya know, buddy …" Adam said as he held Cringer's head close, "I remember when we brought you to the palace, me, Teela, and Mother begged Father for over a week before he finally gave in and let us keep you …"
(You've helped me find,
The strength inside,
And the courage,
To make all my dreams come true)
"When everyone got mad at me when I didn't take being prince seriously …" Adam said a tear dropping on Cringer's pale green fur, "You were the only one who stayed with me … who's going to stay with me now?"
(How will I find
another friend like you?)
"What am I going to do now, Cringer?" Adam asked looking into his weak, yellow eyes, "What's He-Man without Battle Cat? You're a part of me, Cring … split down the middle … I … I can't do it without you …"
(Two of a kind,
That's what we are
And it seemed
Like we were always winning)
"I need you, Cringer …" Adam sobbed, "Please don't leave me … please … Cringer … please …"
Cringer then looked up at Adam, and with the last bit of strength he had, he reached up and licked up Adam's cheek.
(But as our team,
Is torn apart,
I wish we could go
Back to the beginning)
Cringer held eye contact with Adam, and he easily read what his faithful friend was telling him. The statement was so plain that it wouldn't have been clearer if the cat had spoken it aloud: "Never give up, I'll always be with you."
Cringer then laid his head down in Adam's lap, closed his eyes and let out a loud sigh.
"I love you, Cringer …" Adam whispered, "Cringer? Cringer!" he cried shaking him, "Cring …"
(The time has come,
It's for the best I know it
Who would've guessed that you and I,
Somehow, some way,
We'd have to say goodbye...)
Adam walked out slowly, gasping for breath. All eyes fell on him, but none moved, none except Teela.
"Adam?" she asked softly, walking toward the trembling prince. "ADAM!" She cried as he dropped to his hands and knees, his body jerking with sobs. Teela pulled her best friend into her arms and held him tight, letting her own sobs at the loss of her own dear friend go.
"He's gone …" Adam finally forced out in Teela's shoulder, "He's gone …"
(Somehow today …
We have to say goodbye…)
Disclaimer: I do not own He-Man, Adam, Cringer, or any of the other Masters of the Universe characters. The song The Time Has Come, is from Pokemon: 2BA Master CD and the episode Pikachu's Goodbye.
C. Cowboy: Sad enough for everybody? I have an idea for a follow up if ya want more, and as for Sacrifice, I haven't forgotten about it, or the Return of He-Man story either, just had some bad writers block with them, and I hope to update bother very soon. Now, like it? Hate it? Let me know in a review, please!