Revelations and Regrets
Teela crossed the garden on her way back to the main building of the palace after her stint on guard duty. The sun was setting behind the building, and she was weary, nevertheless, she glanced up, as she always did, at Adam's window.
She was surprised to see it dark. She'd heard him telling Mekanek that he was going to his rooms. Perhaps his father had sent for him, or some such, though that hardly seemed likely with as disgusted as the king was growing with his only son.
When she squinted in through the wide doors that led out onto the prince's balcony, she noticed that there was movement inside, and she saw a brief flash of green and yellow fur. If Cringer was in Adam's room, then it was a sure bet that Adam was as well. But it was early yet for him to have retired . . . .
A moment later, Cringer came padding out onto the balcony. He spied her and took a few steps back. She wondered what was going on until, suddenly, the great cat ran to the edge and took a great leap off. He jumped first to the high stone wall around a fountain, then to the ground, legs bent to absorb the shock of the fall, then ran towards her.
What the – Teela was alarmed by the cat's behavior. She scanned the dark room again, closer now, and saw a faint glint of light, as if the remaining sunlight were reflecting of some shiny object. She took off running, made a crazy jump and missed the floor of the balcony. It was just too high up. She ran into the building instead, taking the steps two at a time as she rushed to Adam's suite.
She'd been worried about her old friend for some time, now, ever since she'd overheard an odd conversation between Orko and her father, the king's man-at-arms.
"Adam seems very depressed, Man-at-Arms," Orko had said as she approached her father's lab.
Depressed?she'd thought incredulously, considering his behavior at the court gathering that night. How does Orko define depressed? The prince had flirted gaily with the young women of the court, earning himself glowers from his father. The louder the giggles had grown, the more angry the king had seemed. Teela had found herself getting annoyed. Skeletor was still threatening the kingdom, there were problems down south with bandits, and Adam was acting like it was time for a party.
Surprisingly, Adam had retired early, and the young people dispersed. At the time she'd suspected that he'd gone somewhere to meet with a selected young girl, but . . . .
"Of course he's depressed, Orko, how could he not be?" her father had said, startling her beyond measure. Father thinks he's depressed? And that he has reason? "You've heard the way his father speaks of him these days."
"Sure, I have," Orko had said, sounding, of all things, angry. "It's not fair. He's doing so much to help the kingdom, and everyone is always mean to him. Even Teela, and she's supposed to be his friend." That remark had made her utterly furious – how dared Orko judge her behavior towards Adam? They were friends, sure, but as his friend, did she have to ignore his irresponsibility? His flightiness? And just what was Adam doing to help the kingdom?
"Quiet, Orko. I'm not sure I closed the door all the way," her father had said
"It's just not fair that he has to keep this a secret!" Orko had protested, but she'd heard footsteps approaching and ducked around a corner. A moment later, there had been a click as her father shut the door to the lab very firmly.
Cringer was close on her heels as she ran up the steps. Not for the first time, she wished that the cat could talk. What was Adam doing up there? Was he alone? In danger? She couldn't be sure, and without certainty, she wasn't taking any chances. She rounded the corner into the passageway, pounding towards Adam's door, thankful for a complete lack of witnesses.
Over the next few weeks, she'd watched Adam closely for signs of depression, wondering on occasion if they'd been talking about a different Adam. He seemed universally cheerful. Gradually, it had dawned on her that the sheer level of cheer was a bad sign. He was never downhearted, at least not in public. He was always the life of the room, smiling, laughing, telling stupid jokes that the court girls ate up.
But he never told anyone about his problems, even though, as she observed, he was always there to hear about other people's. She'd seen him comforting cooks, footmen, older court ladies, and even, once, a young courtier who was unhappy about his love life. The people he talked to always seemed happier afterwards, but she'd never once caught him talking to anyone about his own problems.
Yet, those problems were legion. Despite the fact that over this time she had conscientiously never been 'mean' to him, she observed his father consistently belittle him and disregard him. That was when she started noticing the pain in his eyes. It was there when he looked at her as well. And she found herself stopping remarks cold on her lips that she couldn't imagine making. Not now . . . But they'd come so automatically to mind that she must have said those things, or things like them, many times over the past months, or even years.
Through it all, Adam remained consistently cheerful and flighty. When problems arose, he disappeared, as always, only to reappear with quip once He-Man had solved things. Yet her father, who was not one to suffer fools gladly, never scolded him, never spoke harshly to him . . .
She didn't know what was going on, but it was clearly not a simple as Adam being a coward.
When she reached Adam's door, she found it locked from the inside. She knocked urgently, but there was no response. Leaning back, she kicked at the spot just below the doorknob, smashing through the latch and flinging the door open.
Adam looked up, eyes bleary, seeming startled by her sudden entrance. She scanned the room and saw that he was alone, then closed the door hastily, turning around to face him.
His eyes narrowed, and he stood up, swaying slightly on his feet. "What do you want?" he asked. In his right hand he held a water glass, a tumbler, full of something dark. On the floor beside the chair he'd been sitting in was a bottle of the finest brandy they had in the palace wine cellars. On the other side of the chair was something she was having a little more trouble making out. She took a few steps forward, and he walked towards her, glaring. "I said, 'What do you want?'" His voice was louder this time, and though it wasn't slurred, it sounded almost too precise, as if he were overcompensating.
"Adam?" she said softly. "Are you all right?" Cringer brushed against her legs as he walked past her to stand by his master's side, his eyes worried.
He stood, staring and blinking at her in perplexity. "Am I all right?" he repeated. Then he started shaking his head, his eyes closing and his shoulders starting to shake as well. The sounds that emerged from his throat after a moment were awful. She cringed at the horrible travesty of laughter; it was devoid of anything remotely resembling humor or happiness. His face was a rictus of misery. As she started to take another step forward, his expression changed abruptly. Raising his hand he threw the glass in her direction, missing her head by mere inches. Brandy spewed everywhere, and the glass crashed against the wall.
"Adam, what's going on?" she exclaimed, alarmed by this uncharacteristic behavior.
The crash seemed to have broken Adam out of his hysterical laughter. He looked at her again, seeming more lucid. "What, did my father send you?" His voice was hard and angry.
"No, I came because I was –"
He cut her off. "Because if you expect me to believe that you came here willingly, you're sadly mistaken. You haven't spent five minutes in my company in three years that weren't mandated by our positions."
This was true, though of late she'd tried many times to catch him alone, but he'd proven elusive. "I came because I was worried," she said firmly.
"Maybe I should go see my loving father," he said as if he hadn't heard her speak. From what she could see, it seemed likely that he hadn't really registered her words. He started past her, but she caught his arm. He reeked of alcohol, and his carriage was a dead giveaway. He didn't need to go before the king in this condition.
He turned on her, looming over her. She hadn't really noticed how much he'd grown over the last few years. He was not his father's size, and probably never would be, but he had a good seven or eight inches on her in height, and he was not a small man by any means.
She kept her grip on his arm despite the sudden awareness of his size and strength. Just because he didn't choose to fight didn't mean he was a weakling, as she'd had ample evidence on those occasions when they'd worked together on some task of heavy lifting. "Adam, now is not the time to –"
He grabbed her by the upper arms and shoved her backwards, hard. She stumbled back into the wall, thumping solidly and making a pitiful squeak from a combination of surprise and pain as her head thunked against the wall.
At the sound she'd made, he halted in mid-stride, turning to her with his eyes wide. He started shaking his head. She reached up and touched the back of her head, wincing slightly. It was an instinctive gesture, and she wasn't prepared for the reaction it caused.
He stepped back, shaking his head. She took a step away from the wall, reaching out towards him just as he turned. He took off running towards the balcony edge, and she had a flash of insight that horrified her.
Her heart leapt into her throat and she chased after him, diving into his legs to bring him down with a huge thud that shook the room. Keeping her hands on him, holding him down, she crawled up beside him and pulled on his shoulder, forcing him to look at her. His eyes were streaming with tears, and he tried, very gingerly, to pull away.
"What was that?" she demanded, putting her hand on his cheek. "What were you doing?"
He shook his head. "Let me go, Teela. I can't – I don't –"
Touched to the core by his misery, she pulled him into her arms and started rocking him. "Adam, don't do this to yourself, please."
Adam looked into her eyes, and the vulnerability there took her breath away. "Why do you care?" he asked, sounding as if the notion puzzled him. "You've been so angry with me . . . so hateful . . . I didn't even think you liked me anymore."
"Don't be ridiculous, Adam," she said. "You're my friend, I love you."
This seemed to break down his last vestiges of control and he collapsed onto her neck, sobbing. She held him, arms wrapped tightly around his torso, one leg thrown over his to keep him from trying to get away again. She was uncertain what to say, but murmured affectionate reassurances while she stroked his hair.
He cried for a long time, wrenching sobs that shook his entire body, but eventually, the sobs died down and he just lay limply on the floor, not asleep, but not doing anything but lying there and breathing. After a few minutes, she tried to get him up, to his feet, and managed to walk him over to the bed, where she helped him lower himself down. Taking off his shoes and loosening his belt, she regarded him briefly, trying to decide if it would be more trouble than benefit to get him further undressed. Deciding that it would, she covered him up with a blanket and set about cleaning up the mess.
She swept as many of the shards of the glass as she could up onto a dustpan improvised out of a clump of paper from his desk. Dumping them into the trash, she figured she'd go out in a few minutes and fetch a broom and proper dustpan. She turned back and saw that Cringer had stretched out along his master's body and she walked over to stroke his side. The cat tilted his head up and glared at her, then turned and bending up somewhat, glared over at the chair.
Taking his look for a command, she walked over to the chair, first picking up the brandy and closing it tightly. This she would take away with her when she went, she thought, setting it on a table near the door. Then she squatted and picked up the cloth covered bundle on the floor. She took it over to the glass doors, where the light from the moons could show her what she was looking at more clearly.
Though the colors were muted by the moons' light, she could see that she was looking at one of the velvet banners that showed the king of Eternia's coat of arms. They hung them up on the wall during feasts and such. There was something hard and odd-shaped wrapped in it. Pulling it out, she stared in utter astonishment.
It was a small dagger, unsheathed and very sharp. It was, if she was not mistaken, something Adam's father had given him on his thirteenth birthday, a blade that had been Captain Mirro's during the wars.
Put together with the half-empty bottle of brandy and his attempt to throw himself off the balcony, it added up to a very unpleasant idea. She turned slowly to look at Adam who now lay sleeping in his bed. Cringer nodded at her once, then rested his head on Adam's chest. All thoughts of leaving him alone fled abruptly as she realized that he had truly been on the verge of suicide. Whether he would have done it or not was an open question, but he had clearly been considering it.
Very carefully, she put the blade down across the room and looked around for its sheath. When she found it, she put the blade away and dragged a chair over to Adam's bedside. Picking up the weapon, she walked over and sat down, putting it in her lap and covering herself with a throw.
Then she settled in to wait for morning, and the awakening of a prince who was going to have a massive hangover.