"Don't worry Orphen," Alik said, grasping Orphen's hand pulling him along. "My Mom always said a good bed and some chicken soup is the best medicine."
"Thanks…" Orphen started to reply, breaking off to cough. 'I hate this.' Orphen thought, resisting the urge to wipe his running nose on his cape before raising his hand to his forehead. Even he knew the ache and heat he felt there was not good thing. Not to mention it would start Cleo in on him again. 'More damn tea.'
Alik turned to Cleo oblivious to the fact that Orphen wasn't paying attention, "They'll have soup here, won't they Cleo?"
"If they don't then I'll just have to make him some." Cleo said and Orphen groaned.
"I thought you were trying to cure me," Orphen said. "Not kill me."
"Oh, go to bed Orphen," Cleo said. "The rest of you can eat dinner and Alik, no sweets before bed. When you're finished find your room. I'll be in after while to tuck you in."
"Yes Cleo," Alik said, going off to find a table while Majic paid the innkeeper for their rooms.
"You just can't stop bossing him around can you?" Devon said, "He's my responsibility. I'll take care of him."
"Start being responsible and I just might." Cleo said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need a bath."
"Whatever." Devon said, as he crossed the room and dropped into a chair beside his brother.
"Your room is with Hartia and Orphen," Majic said, as he pointed the way for her. "I'm sorry about that, but there were only two rooms available and I figured you probably didn't want to share with Devon."
"That's no problem," Cleo said. "Just so long as there are two beds."
"I made sure there were." Majic said. "Me, Alik, and Devon are right across the hall if you need anything."
"I'm sure I'll be fine," Cleo said. "Thanks Majic."
Coming out of the small, but clean bathroom and running a brush through her drying hair, Cleo glanced around at the room she'd be sharing with Hartia and Orphen. 'Small village, small inn, six people, of course we'll have to triple up. Not that I mind, but Orphen might… Still if he and Hartia share it shouldn't be a problem…' She shrugged the thought away, looking over to the double bed closest to the door where Orphen was snoring slightly courtesy of the congestion.
She looked at the night table and saw some of the crackers were gone and the spoon was in the bowl so it looked like he had at least eaten a little bit. She was about to walk over to check on him when a voice startled her.
"Nice PJ's," Hartia quipped, after he'd followed her gaze around the room and read her thoughts almost as if she'd voiced them aloud. "I made him eat a bit, before he fell asleep." He rose from the rocking chair and walked to the dresser near the bathroom picking up a small bundle of clothes and toiletries on the way, "My turn…once I get though all the steam that is, so will there be any hot water left?"
"Of course…" Cleo replied smiling sweetly, before grinning wickedly. As he walked past her, she concluded, "Not."
Hartia stopped and looked back at her, "I'll get you for that, later." He entered the bathroom and then stopped at the entrance and turned back, "By the way, Majic won the battle of the bath with Alik, but he's waiting to be tucked in."
Cleo nodded and Hartia closed the door. She walked to the door and rested her hand on the doorknob, looking back at Orphen again before leaving the room. She blinked when she noticed two familiar green dots appear above his head.
"Leki," she called quietly, "please come with me. I'd like you to keep Alik company tonight, okay?" Leki nodded and jumped down to follow her. Crossing the hall to the other room, Cleo knocked against the open door frame and Alik looked up.
"Can I come in?" Cleo asked. Alik nodded. "Where's Majic and Devon?"
"Devon sent me up with Majic because he was talking to the pretty bar girl." Alik said as he pulled off his socks and jumped onto the bed. "Majic's in the bathroom now though."
Cleo pursed her lips. "I see. Well, in any case, did you brush your teeth?" Alik nodded.
"Wash your face?" Another nod.
"Good. Then it's time for good night." She pulled the covers up to his chin and kissed him gently on the forehead. "Sleep well, Alik."
Once Alik was carefully tucked into bed, Cleo crossed the hall and quietly entered the room. She was halfway to the vanity when she realized that, while Orphen was still in one bed, the other one was occupied as well. By Hartia.
"Well, that's just fantastic," Cleo whispered. "Now what?"
"What's the matter?" Orphen said, startling Cleo as he propped himself up onto his elbow.
"Orphen! I thought you were sleeping. How are you feeling? Better?"
"You woke me up." He shrugged. "And I feel fine. I'll be good in the morning."
"So what's wrong?"
"I was supposed to share this room with you and Hartia but you've both taken the beds." Cleo sighed. "I suppose I could always make Majic share a bed with Devon and I can share with Alik."
Orphen's eyebrow rose. "In the same room as Devon?"
"Majic will be there too."
A heavy silence filled the room before Orphen finally sighed and dropped back to the bed, pulling the covers away from the other side.
"What?" Cleo said and Orphen rolled his eyes.
"You can share with me," he said, despite knowing he shouldn't. 'Then again,' he thought. 'I do sleep better with her here.' Drawing a mental line, more for himself then for Cleo, he made sure to add, "But just for tonight. And you'd better wake up when I tell you. Devon is already going to have a problem with you being in here, I don't need him grousing about how I'm 'taking advantage' of his 'property'."
"Are you sure?" Cleo said. "I mean, you are sick…"
"Then sleep on the floor." Orphen snapped, annoyed that they still had to dance around each other after everything they'd been through.
"Well…I guess it would be easier for me to check on you this way…"
"I don't need to be 'checked on', Cleo." Orphen grumbled against the pillow.
"Well if you're going to be like that—."
Orphen grunted and tugged her towards the bed. Slowly she sunk down onto the mattress, blushing when he pulled the quilt over them both and wrapped his arm around her waist.
"Just go to sleep, Cleo."
Brushing off her embarrassment, Cleo nodded and closed her eyes.
"Good night Orphen." Cleo said as she drifted off and Orphen gently pushed her bangs aside before placing a short kiss on her forehead.
"Good night brat."
It was only about two hours later when Orphen was awakened by the sound of the door closing across the hall. Lying still he waited to see where the soft footsteps were headed before he slowly sat up and let his feet drop over the left side of the bed.
The wooden floor creaked just outside of the room and Orphen watched as the door inch open. He was fairly certain of whom it was and the pair of eyes reflecting against the moon light only confirmed it.
"O-Orphen?" Alik's voice was small and unsure and Orphen was quick to wave the boy through the door absently noting as Leki followed sleepily at the boy's heals before he passed Alik and leapt silently onto the bed to curl up at Cleo's feet.
"What's wrong, kid?" he asked as Alik slowly trudged forward. Noting the sniffles and dried tears Orphen ventured a guess. "Did you have a nightmare?"
Alik just nodded miserably as he ran his sleeve over his nose. Had Cleo been awake she would have instantly scolded the boy for the action, but Orphen just fought back a smirk before reaching out to rest his hand on the back of Alik's head.
"I-I'm sorry to bother you Orphen," Alik muttered. "I k-know your sick but…" The boy's eyes were bright with unshed tears and he quickly looked away from Orphen's gaze, ashamed of his weakness.
"Hey, you know you can always come to me Alik." Orphen said, reaching out to nudge Alik's chin back up. "And there's nothing wrong with crying if there's a reason. Now what was it about?"
Alik opened his mouth to respond only to shut it with a self-annoyed huff. The corner of Orphen's lips twitched as he fought back a smirk before he regained his usual façade and ventured a guess.
"Was it about Ga-?" Remembering Cleo, Orphen paused. "About him?"
Unconsciously Alik gave a vicious shudder, but shook his head. Stumped, Orphen first glanced over his shoulder at Cleo and Hartia, noticing that Cleo had rolled over but both were still asleep. Once sure they hadn't been disturbed, he gestured for Alik to move over to the rocking chair. Standing slowly, he weaved for a moment before following Alik. Regardless of his distaste for this specific type of chair, Orphen sat so his eyes were level with Alik's before he clasped Alik's hands and pulled him close.
"Now," Orphen asked quietly, "What was it about?"
"Y-you're not gonna…go away are you?"
Orphen blinked in surprise, not having expected that question at all. "Why would you say that Alik? Of course I won't. I have to protect you and Cleo, remember?"
Despite his sniffles Alik managed to crack a small smile. "Yeah…but…What about after?"
"After we beat the m-monster? My brother said that you won't want me around and I don't want to leave you or Cleo…"
Mentally Orphen cursed Devon's very existence even as he pulled Alik up to sit sideways on his lap. Alik quickly snuggled into Orphen's arms.
"What was your dream about Alik?"
Taking a deep breath, Alik spoke up. "We beat h-him and then Majic went back to the Tower and Mr. Hartia went to see Mariebelle and you went away and took Cleo w-with you and I told you to w-wait for m-m-me but you glared and said to go with my brother cause you d-idn't want me anymore…"
Without thinking Orphen began to gently stroke Alik's hair as he started crying halfway through. Surprisingly enough Orphen found that he didn't feel upset about Alik's dream at all. Yeah he made sure to let the boy know how he felt every now and then but Alik was still young and wasn't nearly as adept to reading Orphen's actions as Cleo and Majic were. It really wasn't a surprise that Alik was worried.
When Orphen finally spoke his words were calm and his tone reassuring as he continued to gently rock back and forth in the chair. "Do you remember that night at Cleo's house when I asked you about adopting you?"
"Well, I still would like too." Orphen held up his hand to stop Alik's response. "Yes, your brother is back and you obviously… love him. Neither Cleo nor I would separate the two of you if you wanted to be together. That said you'll always have a place with me… well, us."
For several long moments Alik was silent before he finally spoke, his voice heavy with sleep. "Promise?"
Orphen smirked. "Yeah, kid. I promise."
"Good...that makes me…" Alik murmured, falling asleep mid-sentence.
For a moment Orphen just watched Alik sleep before Cleo's voice caused him to look up.
"Is he asleep?" She asked raising her head.
"Yeah." Orphen said. "Just like you should be. When did you wake up?"
"When he came in the room."
He snorted. "Of course you did."
Cleo just smiled. "Are you going to take him back to his room?"
Orphen shrugged. "Actually, I was going to keep him here with us."
"That's alright with me," Cleo said. "But won't Devon be worried in the morning?"
"It'll be fine." Orphen said as he laid Alik on the bed between him and Cleo. "We'll wake up early enough that no one will know."
Cleo giggled. "For all of your macho-ness, you're really such a softie Orphen."
Orphen glared as he lay back down. "Go back to sleep Brat. We have to wake up early tomorrow."
"Sir, yes s..," Cleo said with a snicker before she was cut off by Orphen's lips pressed gently against hers.
As the room quieted down once again Hartia silently smirked to himself as he tugged the blanked up under his chin. Boy was he ever going to tease Krylancelo about this. Well, maybe he'd wait until everything else was over first.
Kaliea: This is an updated version of my old story Nightmare . I hope you all enjoy it and don't forget to read "It's in the Family" by GilShalos! It's amazing. Don't forget to review!