Odette wandered through the halls of the castle, trying to find Derek in the labyrinth of halls and stairs. It was like he disappeared off the face of the Earth. She bit her lip through a smile. She couldn't really blame him from hiding from everyone in the entire kingdom. After the Festival Days, the kingdom was very hard to put back together. Getting everything back in working order was quite a challenge. She remembered the year before, the first time they had the Festival Days. It had been… interrupted when Zelda suddenly came into the picture. She remembered the way the red fireball flew at her, coming closer and closer…
She pushed the thought away. When Derek had burned the notes, Rothbart's notes, she had somehow been able to come back. It was pure bliss after that. Even now, a full year later, things were much better than before. Derek still remained protective of her, for fear of losing her again, and things had been quiet. It reminded her of when she was finally able to marry Derek, after he had defeated Rothbart. Things had been so wonderful. They were newlyweds, blissful and careless in every way, spending time with each other, thinking of little else.
But then, though she tried to suppress the memory, she remembered how they drifted apart. After a not-so-helpful-hint from the ever uptight Rogers, Derek began to take more action in governing the kingdom. Gradually, though unintentionally, he became more and more preoccupied with it and Odette fell more or less by the wayside. She knew he would never ignore her feelings purposefully, but she felt so alone in those days. She remembered how Derek would be so stressed all the time, how he wouldn't come to bed until the wee hours of the morning, how he worried constantly about doing something wrong. And then, on their first anniversary, he had felt so guilty for forgetting about it completely. And then Clavius showed up and turned everything upside down. Although she wished it would have happened differently, Odette was a little glad Derek was back to paying more attention to her. She didn't feel abandoned as she had been.
About a month later, they held the very first Festival Days celebration. And then, more trouble. She learned Derek had been keeping Rothbart's notes on the Forbidden Arts without even telling her. She remembered feeling hurt and betrayed. She wondered if Derek had known about that. She was angry that he had put himself and her in danger, but she was hurt because he ignored her feelings about them, even after all they had been through. She regretted being right. Zelda kidnapped her, the ransom being the torn piece of the notes Derek had regretfully kept. But Zelda tricked him. Instead of going through with the deal, she held Odette at her hideout and when Derek came to rescue her, Zelda sent a destroying fireball after her.
But that story also had a happy ending. Derek, in complete misery, had burned the notes, and by the grace of God, she was able to come back and live happily with Derek.
Which brought her back to the present.
She still had not found Derek, and was headed toward the private study. It was like a miniature version of the library. It had been filled with many books, but only Derek and Odette and anyone invited were allowed inside. Derek often used this room as a place of retreat when things were stressful. It was always so quiet and peaceful without all the servants and fellow royals bustling about.
After another minute of walking, she reached the heavy oak door and knocked gently three times. She could hear his groan from the other side just before he said 'come in.' She slowly opened the door, and as quietly as possible walked in. She could see him, sitting in an arm chair, facing the fireplace that was at the back of the room. She noted the heavy novel he had laid facedown on the arm of the chair.
When she approached, she did not immediately go around the front to meet him face to face. Instead, she put her hands softly on his tense shoulders and began to rub them. He soon relaxed, taking comfort in Odette, the one person that was considerate enough not to harass him while he was trying to relax. She was trying to help him, and for that, he was thankful to her. He put his hand on top her hers, holding them there for a moment before she slid them out and walked around to the front of the chair.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, concern deep in her eyes.
He smiled for the first time in what seemed like forever. "Much better. Thank you."
"Derek, are you sure you're alright?" she asked again, not satisfied that he was feeling at all better. She knew he liked to put up a strong front for her, acting as if he was not exhausted or in pain. She sometimes wished he would spare her the boyish heroics.
He did not speak straight away. In answer to her question, he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her into his lap, knocking the book to the floor with a distant thud.
"Oh!" Odette yelped in surprise. He was very strong and was not quite being careful enough. He had surprised her and pulled her down to fast. He gazed at her apologetically.
"Sorry," he said quickly. To his relief, she smiled back at him, the expression lighting up her eyes.
"It's alright," she replied. "But the book was knocked to the floor," she informed him.
"Forget about it," Derek whispered alluringly, leaning in for a kiss, which he returned with a fire that consumed the both of them. He found it a little ironic. All this time, he had been hiding from what he had been considering to be the world, when here she was. Odette was his world, and he felt regretful for shutting her out. As if in compensation for the time lost, he pulled her closer, running his fingers through her long blonde hair. When the kiss broke, they stared into each other's eyes, completely lost in one another. Odette was the first to move after a moment. She gently laid her head on Derek's shoulder and closed her eyes.
Derek could see her with his peripheral vision. He wondered what such an angel was doing here on Earth, with him, no less. There were times when he was absolutely sure he didn't deserve someone so wonderful, so kind, so patient. But there she stayed, with him, unmoving. She soon opened her eyes again and faced him.
"Derek, you've been working nonstop since the festival ended. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Odette," he answered assuredly, "I'm fine, even better than that now that you're here. It's just hard, putting the kingdom back together after it ends. It's difficult, getting things back in order."
"I know," she answered as she kissed his cheek. "But you love doing it."
"Yes," he admitted. "I like giving everybody a few days off, even if there's twice the work when it's over."
"What still needs to be done?" she asked, hoping she could help him.
"Or nothing you would let me worry about," she deduced, knowing that he would not want her to take on any extra responsibility, although she was certainly capable enough.
He smiled back. "No, I'm being honest. There's really nothing left, I'm just exhausted. And what about you? What have you been up to?"
"Worrying about you, mostly," she replied, truth ringing in her voice.
"I'm sorry," he apologized guiltily, wishing he hadn't made her worry any more than she had to.
"I know, it's okay. I just wish you wouldn't worry so much, Derek. You overwork yourself."
"I know. I just hate to let things go undone."
They were both silent for the moment, letting his answer hang in the air. It wasn't an awkward silence, it was just meaningful. Odette was so proud of him. She loved him so much, and sometimes it seemed as if he was either working way too hard or punishing himself. She just wanted to see him happy. He hugged her closer, drawing comfort from her presence. He could not remember the last time he had been so tired. Or maybe he could…
Fighting Rothbart had been the single hardest thing he had ever done. He remembered being slammed to the ground by the huge bat. He recalled being thrown to the ground from a great height, only to be caught at the last second and thrown violently into a tree. And then he fell. He remembered not wanting to get up. He remembered thinking it was over and letting his head hit the ground. Hold on, Odette, I'm coming, he had thought, doubtless they would both die. And then there was something small swatting his face. A little frog. He remembered being confused when it beckoned to his bow. When he realized where he was and what was going on, he forgot he had no arrows as he turned around to shoot at Rothbart. And then, he could hear Bromley, his voice trembling, just before he loosed the arrow. And in that last little game of 'Catch and Fire,' Derek was able to win.
He remembered rushing to Odette, feeling so guilty, feeling so lost as he begged for her forgiveness. Even in a near death state, she was beautiful. He remembered that most of all. And then, as if God himself had taken pity on the poor little fool, Odette woke up. She called his name. She smiled at him. In that moment, all the pain had gone away. He had been sore for a day or so after the battle, but he didn't care. Odette was with him, and that was all he really noticed.
He was brought back to the present when Odette stirred. Knowing she wanted to get up, Derek himself stood up with her in his arms. She kissed him on the cheek. It was light, but he knew something was on her mind, or else she probably would not have moved. His thoughts were confirmed when she broke the silence for the first time in quite a while.
"Derek, I have something to tell you," she announced, a joyous undertone in her voice. He put her down so he could meet her eyes better. He nodded at her, silently telling her she had his full attention.
"Derek, I'm going to have a baby."