Warnings/notes: Kai-stern/Tetheus (semi-established), ooc, shortie.
Disclaimer: I don't own Dragon Knights.
(!) Please note that to have some idea on why this is supposed to make sense, you must have read volume 9 of the manga. Reading this without having read that won't really spoil anything, but ...
written at 4th march 2005, by Misura, for the livejournalcommunity 30kisses (theme: our own world)
"Are you any good at cooking?"
Sometimes, Tetheus doesn't understand Kai-stern, or the things Kai-stern does, says and asks. He has heard that any relationship is supposed to contain an element of mystery, a hint of secrets yet to be revealed, but he's not quite sure why this should make him enjoy being confused and frustrated.
Worst is, of course, that he can't flat out demand Kai-stern to explain himself. He could ask, naturally, yet that would be admitting to ignorance, to being so irrational as to use a word like 'love' (though in reality, no such word has passed his lips, the implication has certainly been there, in kisses and things beyond mere kisses) without really knowing the person he spoke it to.
A request for an explanation would imply that he is unreliable, prone to acting before thinking, and while Tetheus knows this to be a flaw not his, he dislikes the idea of possibly having it appear to be otherwise.
He values Kai-stern, his opinion, too much to risk losing Kai-stern's respect by acknowledging to know less about him than he'd like, even if his only reason for wishing to gain such knowledge about the workings of Kai-stern's mind is because, somehow, Tetheus has come to care for Kai-stern a little more than he cares for everyone else in the Castle. He wants to know more, because he just might love Kai-stern, but he doesn't dare to ask too much for the same reason.
Thus, talking with Kai-stern is an activity both enjoyable and unendurable. If Kai-stern hadn't been away on diplomatic missions so often, Tetheus'd probably enjoy it a lot less, might not even attempt to keep Alfeegi and Rath occupied elsewhere for the sake of his conversations with Kai-stern. On occasion, he wonders if he might not even have loved Kai-stern, had Kai-stern's company been available to him at all times, if the emotion described by the word 'love' can really be as shallow as that.
"Not really," Tetheus says finally, aware that nearly fifteen minutes have passed since Kai-stern has put his question to him, and also aware that Kai-stern has not yet forgotten it, but has simply been waiting, uncharacteristically patient.
Kai-stern sighs. "I could have known, I guess."
It's not small talk, Tetheus thinks; Kai-stern intends to go somewhere with this topic, means something by his expression of resignation. All Tetheus needs to do is to find a key to unlock this particular mystery, to find the one piece that'll make at least this puzzle complete.
"Are you?" he hazards, uncertain and disliking it.
"Me?" Kai-stern laughs softly, all cheer and fake carelessness. "Compared to certain people, I suppose I am, even if I sure wouldn't want to survive on my own cooking for a couple of months. Inns are wonderful things though; I can't remember the last time I had to rely on my own culinary arts to get my stomach filled."
That, Tetheus muses, is probably a lie. Kai-stern's memory is almost as accurate as Alfeegi's; only the type of things they recall -or consider worth recalling- differs.
"And Rath?" he inquires, after a moment that stretches into silence too long, because, somehow, with Kai-stern, everything comes down to Rath sooner or later.
"Well, I imagine that most of the time, people'll be so grateful to him for killing the demons that threatened them that he'll get free food. Otherwise, he can always buy it; Alfeegi's never cutting down on -his- travel-expenses." Kai-stern chuckles, a hint of bitterness in his amusement that sounds to Tetheus like it only serves to hide more bitterness.
Kai-stern always seem to sound a little bitter when he's talking about Rath, or at least Tetheus assumes that the mixture of pain, anger and longing is entirely directed at Rath, no matter how it often feels like Kai-stern's anger is only directed at himself, while Rath is merely the object of his longing and the (unwilling? unconscious?) source of his pain, as much a helpless innocent as Tetheus.
"I meant," Tetheus clarifies, slightly stiffly to mask his own bitterness, "is Rath a good cook?"
"Ah." Kai-stern blinks, as if he could never have suspected that Tetheus would ask him about something like that. "I wouldn't say so, no. Of course not."
"Why 'of course'?" Tetheus wishes he could change the subject, go back to a topic that's as safe as he'd have expected cooking to be, or maybe stop this conversation altogether and move on to a form of communication that doesn't require them to use words, and definitely won't bring up Rath.
"It's my personal curse, you see, to be surrounded by bad cooks," Kai-stern explains. "I keep hoping for someone who'll actually be able to bring me breakfast in bed, but alas, I'm doomed to be disappointed time and time again."
For some reason, it bothers Tetheus that his knowledge that Kai-stern is joking comes purely from his mind; logic dictates that Kai-stern can't be serious about wishing for something as silly and small as breakfast in bed, but Tetheus cannot read any lack of seriousness from either Kai-stern's face or voice.
"I could easily bring up some food to your room tomorrow morning," Tetheus offers, not knowing what else, what -more- he can offer.
Kai-stern smiles. "A gallant offer, but one I fear I must decline. The odds that I won't -be- in my own room tomorrow morning are rather high anyway. No matter." Another smile, more distant. "It's enough to know that you don't hate me."
Tetheus considers this, and concludes that he, personally, wouldn't be able to settle for someone he cares about simply 'not hating' him. He'd definitely never accept someone like that hating him, no matter what the reason.
Sometimes, Tetheus doesn't understand Kai-stern, or the things Kai-stern does, says and asks. He doesn't understand them at all.