Title: Sink Its Claws In
Author: smitha-r
Rating: G
Fandom(s): Bollywood - Eklavya
Pairing(s): N/A
Summary: Harsh's thoughts when he gets the news of his mother's death, and what coming home means to him.
Notes: Thanks to wasabigirl1 for the beta. There was something strangely lacking about this movie, and I was compelled to write some character-driven stuff in compensation.

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When the morning meeting finally let out, Harsh came back to his office to find an umarked envelope sitting on top of all his paperwork. It was worn and battered, as if it had traversed through perilous trials to make it to his cluttered desk. The once white paper had faded to a grimy grey, the corners battered and crumpled. Even though there was no writing on its surface, the excessive amount of stamps on the front confirmed what Harsh's gut had told him the moment he had entered the room and spotted the envelope waiting for him. It was from India, obviously. He put down his briefcase and flipped the envelope over, knowing what he would find there; the royal seal in dark red wax.

Harsh hoped it was nothing serious. He imagined that any news that was extremely bad or extremely good, his father would have the good sense to deliver the information personally. How wrong he was. He only read message through twice before reaching for his briefcase and his keys, walking mindlessly out of his office.

"Cutting out early, Harsh?" His co-worker Vincent intercepted him before he could reach the doors, grinning mischievously. "Can't say I blame you."

Harsh looked at his friend grimly. "Tell Mr. Folger I have to leave; family emergency."

Vincent's face fell. "Sorry, bloke. Hope it's nothing too serious."

Harsh didn't answer, brushing past the man with a curt nod and heading out to the airport as quickly as he could.

---

Honestly, he was torn. He had known Ma had been sick for some time, that her health had deteriorated over the past several months. He had prepared for this, prepared for this moment when the news would be delivered to him in somber yet detached tones. He had prepared himself for the inevitable. After all, adult children had no choice but to deal with the mortality of their elderly parents.

But that wasn't the problem. He had prepared himself for Ma's death; he had not prepared himself for the fact that he would have to return to the palace.

That goddamn palace. Opulent and gaudy all at once, it demanded your attention and awe while its essence sank into your skin. It was stifling and static, a monument to a way of life that no longer existed, a way of life that society no longer cared about. No one at the office cared that he came from an Indian royal lineage. He was just Mr. Harsh Waradan, manager of sales & marketing. He went to meetings, drank his coffee, networked with clients, and that was that. But in the palace, he remembered. There was something mystic and otherworldly about entering the palace that Harsh did not care for, now that he had grown up. An oppressive sense of responsibility. And madness. So much madness...

His cellphone rang and he fished it from his pocket to see who was calling, careful to keep mind of the road. Uday. No sense in chatting now and endangering his life when he would be seeing him in a soon anyway. Harsh tossed the cell onto the passenger seat, eyes back on the road and foot on the gas.

In all honesty, he was torn. Harsh wasn't looking forward to returning to the palace at all. So why was he rushing at such a furious pace?

---

It wasn't just the palace that made him crazy, it was the people too. Larger than life caricatures, stereotypes with distinct roles in the game they played. Harsh was not exempt, of course. He played the dutiful son, caring and loyal, yet rebellious enough to run out into the world and search for the life he was looking for, forsaking those he left behind. It wasn't fair of him, but it was all he could do to stop himself from falling under the spell of the palace and its inhabitants. There was a disconnect between who he felt he was and who he really was: model employee versus epic prince. When he was there, roaming from silent room to room, another future wove into the fabric of his dreams, full of courtly intrigue and righteous justice. He knew his father was not a kind man. He heard the way Rana Jyoti and Uday talked about the villagers. And he knew the secrets that had been kept from him for so long.

Something had to be done. Something would be done. He would assure of it. He could not escape the effect this place had on him.

He spied his sister and Rajjo on the terrace, flying kites without a care in the world. How he envied Nandini! Harsh tried not to think of the times he had wished that she had not been born mad, but that he had instead. Life was easier when it was in the stark black and white that she was gifted with, as opposed to the shades of grey that warred inside his mind.

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