It took a little longer than anticipated to get this chapter out. Hopefully, it won't take as long with the next one. Anyway, I just wanted to respond to several PMs I've received over the last couple of weeks. I don't mind how your respond to this fic, whether it's through a reply, PM, or whatever. I truly do want to know your thoughts and I'm touched that any of you take the time out of your lives to say anything about my fic, so please, talk to me anyway you wish. With that said, I hope all of you enjoy this chapter, as well. :)

Noticing Adam Chapter 9

Adam walked into the palace angrily as he went in search of Cringer. Never before had he felt his obligations as He-Man as a burden, but he did, now. After his conversation with his father, he realized just how much his secret identity was costing him. It was costing him respect from everyone in Eternos, and possibly all of Eternia. He also couldn't help but be a little jealous of Adora after the conversation: "She has a very similar secret," he realized, "and yet, she doesn't need to hide to the degree that I do." Almost everyone knew she had Horde training, so naturally, she would be good in battles and would have no reason to cower away from any unwanted situation. Only when situations become too hot to handle would she have to turn into She-Ra.

"How does she do it, though," he suddenly thought. "How does she disappear without anyone noticing and questioning her when she gets back?"

He thought this over in his mind and really couldn't come up with a solution that pleased him: "They either don't notice my sister at all, or she's simply better at this kind of life than I am." With that thought, Adam sighed and then mumbled, "Maybe Father is right to view Adora more favorably than me."

At that moment, he finally stumbled along Cringer, who was sleeping soundly underneath a table in the hall towards the throne room. For once, he didn't really want to disturb his companion. He knew Cringer would complain about having to become that "dreadful Battlecat," and for once, he might be tempted to…

"What am I thinking," Adam suddenly asked himself, horrified. He shook his head as he realized he was actually contemplating not turning into He-Man and helping the Sorceress with whatever task she had for him tonight. What kind of Champion would he be then? Could he even live with himself after doing such a thing? No, he couldn't.

He quickly bent down and scratched Cringer behind the back of his head. "Cringer, it's time to get up. The Sorceress needs He-Man and Battlecat."

Cringer lazily opened his eyes and looked at Adam pitifully. "Aw, c-c-come on, Adam. I'm much too tired to become…"

Adam quickly shook his head, raised his voice, and said, "Don't do this to me, now , Cringer. I need you. Don't you bail out on me, now, too."

Startled at his best friend's loudness and his words, Cringer immediately crawled out from underneath the table and asked, "What's wrong, Adam?"

Adam had a sneaking suspicion Cringer was referring to what was wrong with him and why he had just snapped at him, but he answered, "I don't know. The Sorceress contacted me through telepathy. We need to get going. I've wasted enough time."

Almost immediately, Adam raised his sword into the air and turned them into their alter egos, and they were off to Castle Grayskull.

-

Randor walked into his bedroom and sighed as soon as his eyes caught the sight of his wife curled into the fetal position on her bed. He walked to her bed stand, took off his crown, and dropped it carelessly to the table with a loud bang.

Queen Marlena turned away from the wall and looked at her husband. He was crawling into bed with her. He wrapped his arms around her and nestled his face into her neck. "Are you still upset about Adam," he asked, the question sounding muffled.

Marlena turned around completely in her husband's arms and faced him straight on as Randor moved his head onto his wife's pillow. "How can I not be," she asked, sadly. "There's something wrong with my son, and I have no idea how to make it better again, because he won't tell us what's wrong." Marlena looked at Randor's chest to avoid his eyes. "I'm afraid I might have made a terrible mistake."

Randor looked at his wife in a questioning manner, but unfortunately, she didn't look up at him to see his reaction. He loosened his grip on her and brought his face closer to hers, which made her finally look back up at him again. "What mistake would that be," he asked, because as far as he knew, she hadn't made one.

Tears slipped down Marlena's cheeks as she said, "I should have never made an issue about Adam's bizarre behavior, his constant disappearances, and the fact that he's keeping a part of himself closed off from us. Things were fine. We just pretended nothing was wrong, and it worked. I should have never…"

Randor interrupted her by saying, "Don't ever think that again. You had every right to make an issue out of it. He's our son, and we have a right to know what's going on in his life and to help him. Besides, you shouldn't worry about it anymore, because I've already come to a solution to all our problems."

Marlena inhaled sharply as she heard Randor's words. "And, what solution is this?"

Randor smiled softly and said, "I've already discussed it with Adam. He may not want to let us in, but I told him I would no longer tolerate his disappearing and his behavior. He's reporting to my office tomorrow morning so I can give him new responsibilities to add on to the ones he already has. Also, he now knows that I am to be made aware of where he is at all times."

Marlena quickly sat up with wide eyes. "And, Adam agreed to this," she asked, unbelievingly.

"He didn't like it, but I didn't give him much choice in the matter."

Marlena shook her head and said, "So, your grand solution to everything is to basically lock Adam up in a cage?"

"That's not my idea," Randor said, "But if Adam chooses to look at it that way, then so be it. I can't just sit around any longer and allow my son to go off on foolish missions like he did, today. The Prince of Eternia should have more responsibilities than acting foolishly, behaving like a clown, and having fun all of the time. When I was his age…"

"But he's not you!" Marlena snapped.

Randor finally sat up and faced his wife. "Just whose side are you on, anyway? You almost sound like you're sticking up for Adam."

"Of course, I am," she said. "Regardless of my concerns for my son, I know the solution is not to keep him so busy that he doesn't have the time to have a life of his own. Randor, if you do this, he'll end up resenting us, if he doesn't already."

"Then, what am I supposed to do," Randor asked, raising his voice a little louder than Marlena was accustomed to when he's addressing her. "The boy is obviously in need of some growing up. The best way to do that is to give him more responsibility and to make him accountable for the things that he does. Besides, if he doesn't want to open up to us and discuss what is going on in his life like an adult, then I'm going to make sure that I know from now on. He hasn't left me with much of a choice."

-

He-Man and Battlecat walked across the drawbridge of Grayskull and into the Sorceress' throne room. Once He-Man and Battlecat stopped at the steps which led to where the Sorceress sat, she said, "Thank you for coming, He-Man."

He-Man just nodded and waited for the Sorceress to explain her reason for calling. He didn't have to wait long.

"The reason I've called you, He-Man, is that Skeletor is devising yet another plan to take over Castle Grayskull and all of Eternia," she explained.

"Of course, he is," He-Man muttered under his breath, for once, slightly annoyed with an upcoming task as Eternia's Champion. In light of recent events, he was not in the mood to face his arch enemy, nor did he feel up to it: He still wasn't 100 better from the explosion of the Magic Orb days earlier. Also, he was feeling really worn down; Skeletor had been keeping him busy for far too long.

Once He-Man finished his thoughts, he noticed the Sorceress had ceased speaking and was staring down at him sadly. He gulped quickly and wondered if she had heard what he was thinking.

The Sorceress looked him in the eyes and said, "It was kind of hard to ignore, He-Man. Your mind is practically screaming at me. Besides, it's also written all over your face."

Battlecat looked at He-Man when he heard the Sorceress' words; he was still unaware of the immediate thoughts that were troubling his young master.

He-Man sighed and said, "I'm sorry, Sorceress. You know I would never do, or should I say not do, anything that would endanger Eternia and Castle Grayskull. I have every intention on stopping Skeletor like I always have with whatever plan he has this time. I just sometimes wish things didn't have to be this way."

"I know you do," the Sorceress said, understandingly. "But you must also realize that life is never easy. If you weren't He-Man, there would be other forms of trials and tribulations for Prince Adam. Everyone has their own burdens to carry throughout life. It is an honor to have a burden which effects so many people. It also shows how much of a remarkable man you truly are."

He-Man sighed and said, "Why doesn't someone tell my parents that once in a while?"

The Sorceress walked down the steps of her throne and as she came to stand in front of him, whispered, "One day, they will know."

He-Man wanted to question the Sorceress on what they would know and when and how, but before he could, she changed the subject by saying, "Skeletor is on his way once again to the Widgets' Castle."

He-Man once again sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that day and asked, "Why? He knows one of the quickest ways to draw He-Man out is to attack the Widgets."

"Perhaps, that's the idea," the Sorceress said. "Also, Skeletor plans on stealing more Coridite."

"Why would Skeletor try to do something he's already failed at," asked He-Man, thinking about the last time he and Evil-Lyn had stolen Coridite from the Widget Cave and tried to use it against him.

The Sorceress responded by saying, "Why wouldn't he? Coridite augments his powers, and he believes it'll be enough to defeat you this time."

He-Man quickly ran to Battlecat and jumped on his back. "Then, we're off to the Widget Cave, Cat."

As Battlecat growled loudly in response, the Sorceress said, "Wait. Are you going alone?"

He-Man looked back and said, "Well, Man-at-Arms is off duty at the palace tonight. I could ask him to come along."

"Then do so," the Sorceress said as the turned to go back to her throne. He-Man and Battlecat immediately left to go back to the palace.

-

Man-at-Arms was in his room, lying on the bed, thinking about the latest conversation he and Teela had when he heard a knock at his door.

"Come in," Duncan said, as he sat up and grabbed his chest plate from off the floor. Visits this late at night usually meant trouble was afoot. His suspicions were confirmed as soon as he saw He-Man and Battlecat walking into the room.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Duncan," He-Man said as he came to stand in front of him.

Duncan quickly replied, "You never disturb me, son."

He-Man smiled, but it quickly faded. "I was just at Castle Grayskull, and the Sorceress informed me that Skeletor is going to attack the Widgets again. He's after more Coridite, so we need to stop him."

"Right away," Man-at-Arms said as he grabbed the rest of his armor and helmet. "Let's take the Windraider. It'll get us there faster."

He-Man smirked at Battlecat and said, "You ready to go flying again, Big Cat?" He knew flying was something neither Cringer nor Battlecat were particularly found of.

Battlecat just groaned as they left Duncan's room.

-

The Widgets' Castle was eerily quiet to He-Man. Of course, he had never been there at a time where its inhabitants would be sound asleep, either. Regardless of the fact, he was pretty sure there should be a guard walking along the walls to ensure danger was not approaching.

He-Man glanced at Man-at-Arms who turned to him and verbalized his thoughts, "Skeletor's here. I can feel it in my bones."

He-Man nodded and said, "I'll go into the castle, Man-at-Arms, to make sure everything is okay, while you go to the caves. I'll meet you there if I don't run into any problems."

Man-at-Arms nodded and started jogging towards the cave.

As soon as Man-at-Arms was a good distance away, Battlecat asked, "And, what do you want me to do, He-Man?"

"Keep an eye out for Skeletor and his henchmen. There's no telling where they are or what they might do."

Battlecat let out a complying roar, and He-Man quickly shushed him with a half-shocked and half-amused smile. It had been a while since someone had elicited such a pleasing response from him, but he quickly pushed the thought aside. Right now, he had the Widgets and Skeletor to worry about. He looked around the grounds to make sure Skeletor still wasn't in sight. When he was satisfied, he walked up to the castle wall, and quickly, jumped up, grabbed the top of the wall, and pulled himself up.

Once He-Man was on the railing that surrounded all sides of the Widget Castle, he looked around for any guards who were supposed to be on duty. He found one not far to his left, who was sound asleep leaning his head and back against the wall. He was snoring softly. He-Man quickly walked to the widget to get a better look and saw that it wasn't one he was well-acquainted with, but nonetheless, he needed to wake him and warn him of the imminent danger he and his people were in.

"Hey," He-Man whispered, as he reached a hand out and shook the little guy.

The widget did not open his eyes or respond. Instead he mumbled in his sleep and inhaled deeply. He-Man once again would have found himself amused if the situation didn't have the possibility of becoming more dire. He shook him again and said, "Hey, wake up."

The widget still didn't wake up. In fact, his snoring seemed to get louder. "HEY," He-man said, louder, and shook him a little harder. He-Man was suddenly aware that he wasn't going to wake up. He quickly jumped off the railing further down into the Castle. He went inside the first room he could find. He found Abigail, inside. He quickly called out her name and shook her. She was still asleep.

Almost immediately He-Man jumped back up the wall, because he didn't have time to climb the steps. He jumped down to where Battlecat was, and his companion immediately asked, "Arrrgh, is everything alright?"

He-Man shook his head and said, "No, the widgets seem to be in a deep sleep, and only two people can be responsible: Evil-Lyn and Skeletor." He quickly looked around and said, "Did you see any sign of them?"

"No," Battlecat replied. He sniffed the air and ground and said, "I'm not even picking up their scents."

He-Man looked towards the cave, alarmed, and said, "Maybe they never set foot in the castle at all. They might already be in the cave which means Man-at-Arms is in there alone with them." He quickly mounted Battlecat and yelled, "Let's go, Cat!"

-

He-Man and Battlecat walked deep inside the Widget Cave. Just as the castle had been, the cave was way too quiet for their liking. He-Man brought his hands up to his mouth to cup them and yelled out, "Man-at-Arms!" into them.

Duncan did not respond; instead, he heard a loud multitude of laughs which recognizably belonged to Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, and Beastman.

"Alright, Skeletor," He-Man yelled. "I know you're here. Show yourself."

"Are you sure you want me to, He-Man," came Skeletor's amused reply.

He-Man quickly drew the Power Sword and moved it from one hand to the other, ready for Skeletor or any one of his goons to pop out at him. He turned around very slowly, glanced at Battlecat, and then said, "Skeletor, where's Man-at-Arms? Release him, now."

Skeletor once again laughed and said, "As you wish, He-Man."

Suddenly, He-Man heard someone yelling his name and he could tell the person was very terrified. He turned to the sound of the voice and saw Man-at-Arms practically flying through the air straight at him. He-Man quickly dropped his sword and prepared to catch his friend. Unfortunately, He-Man had no idea how hard and fast Duncan was coming at him. As soon as Duncan was in his arms, they both went back a couple of feet and crashed into the cave wall behind them. Luckily, He-Man took most of the hit.

"He-Man, are you alright," Duncan asked, quickly getting up.

He-Man groaned and shook his head as best as he could. His body was embedded into the cave, so he had to force himself out of the tight hold his surroundings had on him. As soon as He-Man moved out completely, multiple pieces of rock came falling from the ceiling. "Look out," Duncan and He-Man said simultaneously. He-Man quickly covered Man-at-Arms from the rubble that came down. As soon as the rockslide seemed to subside, He-Man stood up, which removed the rocks from on top of them and helped Man-at-Arms back to his feet.

"Whew," Man-at-Arms said, looking around at the boulders and back towards the direction of where Skeletor was, "Thank Goodness you're here, He-Man."

He-Man looked at Man-at-Arms worried eyes and said, "What's going on? What happened? How were you thrown at me like that?"

"Skeletor," answered Duncan. "He's made a Coridite belt, and it's given him incredible strength. I think we should go back to the palace and get extra assistance."

"No," He-Man said, shaking his head. "We can't give Skeletor the opportunity to leave here with that belt. He could attack Castle Grayskull or even the palace. Lives could be lost." He-Man started to walk to the dark part of the cave where Skeletor had been hiding.

Man-at-Arms quickly grabbed He-Man's shoulder. "He-Man…"

Skeletor's voice interrupted Duncan's words. "We're waiting for you, He-Man."

Once again, He-Man turned to walk away, but Duncan quickly said, "Don't you see? This is exactly what he wants, He-Man. He wants to corner you back there and overpower you. By the Ancients, somehow he knows you're not feeling well and at your best. We need reinforcements. You cannot fight them alone."

He-Man turned to Man-at-Arms and said, "I have to try to stop them. I can't let Skeletor leave here with that belt. I have to hold them back."

Man-at-Arms shook his head frantically and said, "We'll stop them, but right now, we don't have the ability to do it."

He-Man looked towards Battlecat and then said, "Take Battlecat back to the Windraider and then fly to the palace. Get Teela and whatever backup you think we need, while I hold Skeletor up as much as possible."

Skeletor could be heard in the distance calling He-Man's name almost playfully and doing his best to antagonize him.

Duncan once again shook his head, and He-Man suddenly said, "Duncan, it's the only way. I'll be careful, I promise."

Duncan looked into He-Man's eyes and said, "You better be. I'll be back as quick as I can."

He-Man nodded and watched for a moment as Duncan climbed on top of Battlecat. He then turned towards the back part of the cave and picked up his sword. He suddenly knew this would possibly be one of the hardest fights in his life.

-

Yeah, I know I'm terrible for stopping there, but I thought it was a great spot for a cliffhanger. Don't worry, I'll post more soon.