Disclaimer: Don't own anything.
Author's Note: Got this inspiration while going through some old files. Gonna (attempt) to make a dragon in Ceramics. Can't wait to see how that goes.
"If all my friends were to jump off a bridge, I wouldn't jump with them. I'd be at the bottom to catch them."
The innkeeper wasn't pleased at the state of him. He looked at Kratos, standing at the top of the stairs and pointed to the pitiful excuse for a man leaning against the doorway.
Kratos halted the innkeeper's objections before they could begin. "Don't worry. I'll take care of him."
"See that you do."
Kratos shot the man a look, but it wasn't as if he could send the man away. He turned back to Yuan, whose hair hung wet and lank about his blotchy face. "Hey, Krathos!"
Kratos slipped one of the half-elf's arms around his shoulder, supporting the staggering man. "Hush, Yuan, and come with me."
"'S not like I've got mush of a choice."
Kratos led them both outside. Going to the room that they all shared would not be a good idea, for any of them, but particularly Mithos and Yuan. "You reek of beer and vomit." The swordsman said bluntly.
"S' what happens when you spend most of the night drinkin' and pukin'." Yuan looked around at the outside, at the wide expanse of stars reeling above them. "Why're we ou'side?"
Kratos opened the outside water tap, setting Yuan down beside it. He wet his sleeve and began to clean his friend's face. "Mithos is sleeping inside and I don't wanna wake him." Because Kratos had heard the boy sobbing into the pillow and Mithos muttered in his sleep. Because his sister was gone. Because the person who centered his entire world was gone.
That was funny, Yuan thought. It was funny enough that he had to laugh. "You sure 'bout that? How d'ya know the humans didn't kill him too?"
Kratos wanted to punch Yuan, wanted to slam that laughing face into the wall because damn it, it hurt too much, the pain still far too raw, too new, but he couldn't because this was his best friend, his near brother. It was Yuan and Yuan was hurting far more than he was, Kratos knew.
Yuan leaned his cheek against the pretty painted wall, his hair falling forward so that it was difficult to see Kratos anymore. Not that he could see him that well before, Kratos deciding to go blurry and all on him.
"…What is this?"
Yuan's mind vaguely recognized danger in that low voice. But he was tired, so very tired. "Nothin'."
Kratos stared at his sleeve. There were dark stains, reddish in the dim light, on it. "Don't lie to me." Kratos brushed aside the hair close to Yuan's temple, finding the source of the bleeding. "Who did this to you?"
"Yuan." That was the voice that had inspired fear into so many, a voice that demanded immediate answers. "Someone assaulted my best friend. I want their name."
Yuan should never have come back. Not to the inn. Not to this town. "I fell."
"That's a lie!"
Kratos' snarl of frustration and rage wasn't funny. Not at all. But he was hurting so much that Yuan started to laugh again because it was laugh or cry and Yuan didn't want to cry.
"This isn't funny!"
Yuan looked up at him from where he'd toppled over from laughing. "I know." He replied before hiding his face in the dirt, unable to stop laughing.
Kratos scooted to sit up against the wall, moving Yuan's head so that it was on his thigh. His voice, quiet and wonderfully solid, murmured, "First Aid."
Another long moment that seemed to stretch as deep as the space between the stars.
Then, "…She's gone, Yuan."
Yuan stopped laughing abruptly. "…I know."
Kratos didn't want to say his next words, didn't want to make Yuan do this. "You have to be strong. Mithos is…not quite right." Something had fractured inside that boy—no, no MIthos couldn't be just a boy anymore because a boy meant a child and children didn't watch their sisters get cut down right in front of them. Children didn't flinch when the racial slurs and the stones were thrown.
"How did you--?"
"The half-elves told me."
The quiet in Kratos' voice changed to the dangerous kind again. "Which half-elves?"
"Th' ones at the bar."
"They were the ones that did this to you." Kratos isn't sure whether it's a question or not, but he needs a confirmation of some sort.
Yuan attempted to nod, but his head hurt so badly… "Said that we were to blame for the humans comin' to this town. Said we were traitors and that…that…"He couldn't bring himself to say her name. The anguish was still far too fresh. "That she deserved to die. Said it was our fault, that they blame us."
And they weren't the only ones. Yuan could hear his own thoughts as he'd been drinking himself into oblivion in his head. That if he and Kratos had never met her and Mithos, that they never would have traveled to this village and the humans would never have torched that house and she wouldn't have tried to stop them from doing it again and she wouldn't have been cut down…she wouldn't be dead and his world wouldn't be falling and shattering and just breaking apart.
"…I can't go back." Yuan continued. "Can't go back home. Branded a traitor, they said. Won't even be allowed to go back home after all this, Kratos." Kratos' sharp inhale of breath spoke volumes. "It's forever. Can't ever never go back."
Kratos knew the way the half-elven societies worked. He knew that they would believe each other of anything, if it wasn't about the war. If someone told them that a fellow half-elf had betrayed them, they'd believe it.
Finally, Kratos spoke. "You can't be telling me that you expect me to do nothing about this. You've been beaten, denied and exiled from your homeland! And you want me to leave that alone?!"
"How can you possibly expect me to do that?"
"Because I'm asking you to."
Kratos let out a slow breath and Yuan could hear the slow resent in it. They both knew that if either asked something of the other, they'd do it in a heartbeat because that's what you did for a best friend, a brother. Kratos wouldn't like it, but he'd do it.
"…What do you want to do now?" Kratos asks because Yuan has every excuse to leave them because the memories would be painful and no one liked to face those kinds of things.
Yuan wants to never leave this little patch of dirt. He wants to drag his hollow body to the nearest bar and let waves of alcohol crash over his head like the oceans over a drowning man's. Wants to turn back time so that none of this ever happened.
Yuan turns his head so that his tears stain Krato's pants. "…I don't know."
"We can't stay here. We'll need to leave at first light."
At that moment, Yuan thinks that he can't imagine being without them. Kratos and Mithos because they've already lost the center of their world and they don't want to lose more of it. He doesn't want to face it all alone. "I'll go with you."
Kratos looks him over with a critical Healer's eyes. He's sure that there are more injuries beneath Yuan's shirt that are making him move so gingerly and Kratos' magic is feeling very distant and dull. "You can't. Not tomorrow morning anyway."
"You have to let me come with you."
"Look, as your Healer—"
The swordsman glared down the protest. "As your friend, I have to insist that you don't do too much heavy traveling."
Yuan ignores the pain in his broken ribs (They had to be broken because nothing in his world was whole except the man in front of him and damn does it hurt and he thinks he needs more drinks to make the pain go away) and levers himself up on one elbow, the hand curling into a fist in Kratos' collar. "I have to go. I can't stay in this place." This place where his beloved died and he's reminded so strongly of her. They'd planned to be married here after all and she would have worn a pretty white dress and—"Please, Kratos."
Kratos gently loosens the half-elf's fist. "Alright, my friend. It's not as if I could leave you behind here in good conscience anyway."
"And…are you sure about…Mithos?" Yuan doesn't want to imagine the bright boy insane and lost in his own head, though he knows that if it weren't for Kratos being his own solid rock, Yuan might very much be in the same state.
Kratos doesn't meet his eyes, but the bleak expression is more than enough. "I'm sure."
Yuan wants to know at what point a person becomes full of so much pain that everything just stops hurting, stops feeling anything at all anymore.
He hopes it's very soon.