All in a knight's work

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Warnings/notes: Tetheus/Kai-stern, slightly weird.

Disclaimer: I don't own Dragon Knights.

written at 14th march 2005, by Misura, for a request made by Cairnsy in the livejournal-community ficondemand.

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Sometimes, Tetheus finds himself truly amazed by the ability of people not to see things they don't want to see. Kai-stern has returned to the Castle a mere two days ago, looking battered and broken, insisting with his typical stubbornness that he's perfectly all right, and that there's no reason for anyone to worry about him.

And because everyone's been rather busy recently, either with planning the grand surprise-celebration of Lord Lykouleon and Queen Raselane's wedding-anniversary or with keeping the Lord from finding out about said celebration being planned, Kai-stern's words have been taken at face-value.

It's much easier that way, after all, much more convenient for people to allow themselves to be fooled than to add worrying about Kai-stern to the hundred-and-one worries they're already burdened with.

Kai-stern, Tetheus has to admit, is a very good actor, too. For people who don't know him very well, and that's the majority of the Castle's inhabitants, really, due to his long absences, Kai-stern probably looked more or less all right as he made his fake reassurances.

People like Rune and Alfeegi though ought to have seen through his act. Rath, too, of course, but Rath has always been unusual, his attitude towards Kai-stern seemingly determined by nothing that Tetheus can discern. One day he'll find Rath practically glued to Kai-stern's side, the other, it's as if Rath has decided to keep at least half the Castle between them.

If Tetheus is completely fair, he has to admit that Rune -has- been visiting Kai-stern in the rare hours he's not needed elsewhere, and that Alfeegi has been remarkably silent about the report Kai-stern is yet to write and submit to him. However, Tetheus in general doesn't take fairness into account when it comes to his feelings about Kai-stern; emotions and objectiveness simply don't mix very well.

Naturally, Tetheus isn't about to let that interfere with what's his job and his duty, if not wholly his pleasure, as Secretary of Security. Besides, there's always a glimmer of a chance that Kai-stern will give him some sort of opening that will allow him to speak of what's really on his mind. Tetheus feels somewhat shamed to find himself thinking that perhaps, in his injured state, Kai-stern's masks might prove a little less strong, a little less perfect, so that Tetheus may catch a glimpse of what -or rather: who- is hiding behind them.

Telling himself that he only wants what's best for Kai-stern, that his intentions are good, doesn't make reacting to the sight of Kai-stern's weary smile with a scowl any easier though.

"I didn't see you at breakfast this morning," Tetheus remarks, not adding that he'd have been most surprised if Kai-stern -had- shown up for the communal breakfast, nor that Kai-stern's presence was missed, even if both things are true.

"Ah? I wasn't aware that failing to rise at some unholy hour to eat was a matter of security," Kai-stern replies, dismissing the possibility that Tetheus might simply be here out of concern for him as easy as that, as if -of course- Tetheus would never visit him for any personal reasons.

"It isn't," Tetheus agrees, allowing himself to surprise Kai-stern by making a small joke when he adds: "Much as Ruwalk would like to make it so." Kai-stern's smile fades a little. Tetheus wishes he'd limited himself to the words he has rehearsed before. "But it meant I couldn't speak with you about your absence on the pratice-field, these past days."

"Two." Kai-stern shakes his head, once, before he stops himself because the movement seems to hurt him. Tetheus pretends he hasn't noticed and says nothing, since Kai-stern will only be obliged to put on an act then, to exhaust himself in showing Tetheus how perfectly fine and healthy he is. "Two days, and you're already accusing me of being lazy? What, did you think I didn't get enough sword-practice on my trip? Do you imagine I've grown soft and weak during my travels?"

'Soft, never. Weak, only temporarily, due to the wounds you received on them, both physically and emotionally,' Tetheus would like to reply, but doesn't. "There are rules for Dragon Knights and Officers, and I expect you to abide by them," he says instead.

Kai-stern's smile has nearly become invisible. "Do you honestly expect me to show up today, or even tomorrow?"

Tetheus hasn't quite expected this answer, this open acknowledgement that Kai-stern isn't well, and that he knows that Tetheus knows this. It's not like Kai-stern to allow himself to be seen like this, and Tetheus isn't entirely sure what it means that he has done so now, if it's a bad sign, given to the Secretary of Security, or a good sign, given to someone who might become a friend, in time.

He considers asking Kai-stern why he wouldn't expect him to show up, forcing him to make his silent acknowledgment a verbal one, but it seems unnecessary cruel.

"No," he answers, choosing the shortest and simplest answer.

Kai-stern nods. "So ... why did you come here then?"

It seems slightly unfair, Tetheus thinks, that Kai-stern would go on the offensive after Tetheus has chosen not to. Then again, it's definitely like Kai-stern to exploit an advantage when he sees one. It's what makes him such an excellent negotiator, if not exactly the honey-tongued diplomat Ruwalk can be.

"Because I thought you might wish for some company, rather than go out of your mind with boredom, sitting around and recovering?" Tetheus proposes, as a compromise that will leave them both the things they'd rather keep to themselves.

"Why, Tetheus, I'd almost begin to think you care!" Kai-stern grins, and the illusion that he's unharmed and unhurt is perfect for a few seconds. "You'd better watch your words if you want to keep your reputation!"

"Oh, shut up!" Tetheus glares at him, pouring Kai-stern a mug of wine, for lack of any elegant glasses, and handing it to him in an angry gesture. He wants to go on, to make some cutting comment that won't bring back Kai-stern's smile, instead letting him continue to see Kai-stern's real expression, but nothing occurs to him that isn't too bitter or too unwelcome a truth to admit to.

"Me? Never," Kai-stern quips. Tetheus supposes that he hasn't drunk any kind of alcohol for a while now, and that the kick of the wine is enhanced by the lack of any real food in Kai-stern's stomach, a defect that Tetheus intends to remedy as soon as possible.

"I - " Kai-stern manages, before the healing drug that Tetheus has acquired from Rune takes effect and knocks him out, sending him to a sleep that Tetheus hopes to be restful.

"You," Tetheus sighs, deciding that it might be better for Kai-stern to sleep in a bed, and that he might as well make sure that Kai-stern is safely tucked in before he resumes his other duties.

Although, in the end, Tetheus concludes that Kai-stern's body may be too damaged to predict the time at which the drug will wear off, and that it thus might be better for Tetheus to keep watch over him until he wakes up again.

OWARI

A/N: Who do you think treat Kai-stern more kindly: Tetheus and Rath, or Alfeegi and Ruwalk?