I do not claim the world of Abarat at all.
Candy Quakenbush sighed happily from her vantage point on the Yebba Dim Day. After arriving from Huffaker in a small angler's boat just the other day, life for her at the informal capital of Abarat had consisted of never-ending talks, war discussions, and magic lessons all melded together in a cacophony of chaos that only Abaratians could think up. Although, recently some of the group had gone to sleep and she had found a few minutes to sneak out on a small balcony and finally get some time to herself. Some peace and quiet.
Princess Boa was presently mad at her for intentionally avoiding Finnegan, and so when she said "to herself" she really meant it.
She closed her eyes and breathed the wind in through her nose. The eight-o-clock hour was the first of the night islands, and it thrummed with energy. Despite the ominous war that hung over all their heads, it made her feel alive and in the moment.
There was a tree limb parallel with her face, and she scanned the plant's trunk, wondering if it would hold her weight if she were to take a leap over the rail. Then her eyes snapped back to the hovering branch.
He knows how to use the shadows.
His deep-set golden eyes smiled at her and he easily jumped across the distance she had only thought about crossing, and landed inches away.
She glared at him. "How long were you there, watching me?"
"Long enough to have kidnapped you if I wanted." He smiled that smile that never ceased to irritate her, then took a hand off the edge of the balcony to swipe at his hair.
She pursed her lips. "As if you could have gotten far anyways." Even though her talk was tough, she attempted to take an innocuous step backwards. The closer she was to the door…
He rolled his eyes at her. "If I promise not to cross the railing, will you stop acting so ridiculous?"
She glared, affronted. He stared back, not giving an inch.
Finally, she stomped. "Yes!"
His eyes danced and he laughed. "I promise."
She crossed her arms. "Well, are you going to tell me what you're doing here or not?"
He grasped the handrails tighter, then started leaning back until his body was at an angle so extreme that if his fingers had slipped, he probably would have fallen right off the nose of the island. "Of course of course." He hung there for a moment, thinking. "How much do you know about their plan for Absolute Midnight?"
She blinked, surprised. "A little bit."
He gave her a look that said are you really going to play that game but continued anyway. "Well I'm sure you know about the stichlings." He swung forward and folded his arms on the rails, rested his head on the backs of his hands. "She destroyed the entire Midnight Palace except for the thirteenth spire, and inside of it she—"
"Yeah, I know. Her and her seamstresses are making an army."
"Well if you knew, why make me explain it to you again?"
"Well I thought you'd say something useful."
He imitated her then stuck his tongue out; she tried to remain as stony-faced as possible.
"Well I'm sure you didn't know she's got eight thousand teeming down there. And that she's going to start her attack as soon as she has a good ten thou'."
"I already assumed the attacks would start soon." She snapped curtly.
He snapped back. "Well excuse me, your highness, for not being able to give you better information."
"Don't call me that." The glare had come back into her miss-matched eyes. "I'm—"
This time he cut her off. "You're Candy. I know." He shrugged. "I'm Letheo. Doesn't stop anyone from calling me the beast-boy."
A tacit truce ran between them and he grinned at her still crossed arms. She unfolded them. "I just don't like how everyone treats me different now, okay?"
"Okay." He said, and then he gave her that smile.
And she finally figured out why his smile frustrated her so much. It was disarming. He would disarm her, then pull her off into the ocean. Or put a bag over her head. But in honor of the truce, she changed the subject.
"What do you…know about the sacbrood?"
"I know enough to say that such a foul word shouldn't come out of such a pretty mouth."
"Letheo…" she warned, and he grinned cheekily.
"I'm pretty sure the sacbrood are some super secret, super important part of the plan." He scratched his head, sorting through the information in his head. "I know that right about when Lord Carrion employed Vol-the-creepy-bug-guy he spent a lot of time polishing this key and being generally delighted in himself, if that's possible."
"The key!" Candy exclaimed. "He basically chased me all over the Abarat trying to get it."
"Well, then it sounds important. Glad I remembered that bit."
"Of course it was important, Letheo!" She rolled her eyes. "Get on with it!"
He smirked. "No need to get all huffy! Anyway, the important bit is this…he, Vol, and another little guy went on this trip to the pyramids of Xuxux. And it must have been important because the little guy was dead afterwards."
"So, what you've told me is insects, pyramids, key, and a happy Carrion—"
"Equals sacbrood at one o'clock. Yes!"
Everything started to click into place and with a gasp she said, "I need to tell everyone about this."
He watched her silently as she paced back and forth, thinking to herself. Suddenly, she turned and gripped his shoulders. "Thank you!"
He just looked at her, unsure of what else to do. She wasn't backing away.
So with a sheepish grin and a serious expression in his eyes, he leaned the rest of his weight on the railing and reached his hands up to hold those that still rested on his arms.
"Anything for my lady." Then he snickered.
She huffed. "Stop making fun of me, Letheo. It is definitely not as hilarious as you think it is." She pulled her hands away and placed them on her hips.
He laughed again. "No, really. They want me to do anything to earn your trust."
"You, you—what!?" She shrieked, and he widened his eyes in surprise. "I knew it! You're always playing both sides, aren't you?"
He frowned, confused. "I was kidding, Candy. You don't need to freak out." He leaned back, away from her. "But you were serious weren't you?" Signaling the end of the conversation, he let go of the rails and slid nimbly down the rocky tree. She waited a square second and, feeling a little guilty, peeked over the rail and looked down at his unruly mass of dark hair. Eventually he looked back up at her.
"Where are you going?" She ventured, meekly.
He shrugged, smiled that innocent looking smile. (And she knew he had forgiven her.) "As far away from Gorgossium as I can get." The thought of what would happen if the Hag got her wrinkly hands on him went unsaid between them.
In her ear Princess Boa whispered Let him go.
Instead, she inched her arms over the rails and tightly gripped the supports near her knees. She shouted down, "You got your medicine?"
He pulled it out of his pocket and sloshed it around in its bottle. There was perhaps half left. Enough.
"Y'know, Letheo…" by now everything above her waist tilted precariously over the edge of the balcony, and below her, his eyes glowed bright against the contrast of his perpetually shadowed skin. The Izabella swelled and broke on the shoulders of the Yebba Dim Day.
She took a deep breath of the energy- laden breeze.
"…I wouldn't really mind if you crossed the railing."
I can't believe I've done it, but I have. Another Abarat ficlet. This one is happier, definitely. I felt bad that I wrote such a depressing one and that I was going to leave it depressing. The two people that reviewed Letheo wanted me to continue it, but I have no idea how, so I was instead inspired to finish this happier post-Abarat 2 fic. Wow for me.
In case anyone didn't get it, Letheo "joins the group" at this point. My wishful thinking for the actual book :) Oh, BTW, if you're wondering. I named it the Balcony because it has a similar feel to the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. I suppose it's slightly overused... but I didn't intend for it to be "the balcony scene" it just ended up being like that. Anyway. It's between-the-line romance for anyone else who supports the couple. Like me :) I won't get my hopes up for canon though.
Maybe I'll continue this and write more friendship ficlets for Letheo between the other characters. Maybe. If I do I'll publish them as chapters and not as oneshots.