Warning: Major, MAJOR spoilers for Born of Silence. Set right at the end, directly after Darling's face-off with Kyr at the prison. This little scene was conspicuously missing from the actual book, so, here I place it. Needless to say, I'm not Sherrilyn Kenyon so I don't own any rights to the stories she writes. I just like to screw with her characters.

This story was previously posted under the same name, but much longer. I was called out on my extensive borrowing of dialogue - though NOT, I stress, anything but the dialogue - and my story was pulled. It has since undergone extensive rewrites. If anyone is interested in reading the longer version, contact me and I will gladly send it. Read, enjoy, review!

"Is everyone out?" Darling asked the legendary killer he was proud to call his friend. With Zarya safe - well, alive at least- at his side, the Emperor's concern transferred itself to his people. His quick eyes darted from group to group, searching and assessing each one. It was a tenuous position they found themselves in, to say the least. He and the rest of the Sentella, along with not a few representatives of the Tavali and Caillan Dagan (of those Dagans, yes), were at the extraction phase of the jailbreak. The League prison, far-flung as it was, had probably never seen this amount of activity in its life.

Nykyrian nodded back over Darling's shoulder. "The last group is coming down behind you."

"Good," Darling said firmly. "Then we'd better start shuffling people out of here. I wanna blow this popsicle stand." And when Darling Cruel used that particular turn of phrase, lots of explosives were definitely in the near future.

Because no one - no one - took his people from his planet and lived to tell the tale. Kyr had signed his own death warrant with this little stunt. Getting Zarya back only meant that he would not be joining the League Commander in category of 'late.' As in, 'the late Commander Kyr Zemen.' He looked around the docking bay at the former prisoners and he could feel his blood running a slow boil in his veins at the signs of neglect, abuse, and outright torture. Aristocracy and Resistance members stood together, wept together, held one another in support. He couldn't tell them apart beneath the dirt and bruises. Finally, we are one people. And he would fight to the death for them.

He thought back over the heated exchange he had just had with the League Commander via transmission monitors. His identity as Kere was shot to hell, as was Nykyrian's as Nemesis. Caillan had revealed his face as well. Not that Darling regretted the act for a single instant.

Kyr's nostrils flared had flared on the screen. "Those prisoners do not belong to you. They are League property."

Emperor Darling Cruel saw scarlet. Kere had no business here; it was time to stake his claim, now and for all time. He ripped the concealing helmet from his head and threw it to the ground in a fury, stalking forward to the middle of the room, where the vid pickups would catch his face clearly.

He felt the room go still around him. As Kere, he commanded fear, respect, and not a little terror. As Darling Cruel, he'd only ever commanded men's scorn. His people, aristos and commoners alike, men he'd suffered under, men he'd bled with, men who had cursed him to his face, both knowingly and unknowingly, and men who had placed their highest trust in him, were faced with the absolute truth of Darling "Kere" Cruel.

But at that moment, he was beyond caring what other people thought. He had one single fact in mind. "The hell you say. They are my people, not yours. You sent your army into my territory and took not just my citizens but my consort. How dare you!"

The look of surprise briefly highlighted on Kyr's face was replaced by one of palpable disdain. "She's not your consort." You're gay, you fag, that sneer said. There's no way you could take a real woman.

Darling had been fielding those sorts of unspoken - and spoken - slurs all his adult life. It felt good to finally dish it back. "She wears my ring and bears my child. She is my wife in all but name, and that will be amended five minutes after I get her home." And he grinned. Lies and deceptions were falling fast, now. His real identity, his real sexuality, his real position... He glanced at Zarya, who was looking stunned by all this. His real love. Oh, he was riding high on this. Nothing could bring him down.

"So this is war, then," Kyr lashed out at him.

Not even that. If verbal sparring had been blood sport, Kyr was wielding a plastic sword against a laser cannon, and Darling was at the targeting controls.

Darling scoffed. "I would say that you declared it on us. No one marches into my empire and kidnapps my citizens, no one. I don't care who you think you are," he spat.

Kyr snarled. "Your council wanted you off the throne," he defended himself. "Do you really think they'll back you over me?"

It was blood to a shark. Darling had grinned evilly. "Since they declared me emperor, yeah, I do."

Darling shook his head, banishing the memories of the exchange to the back of his mind for analysis later, but he couldn't quite convince his mouth to stop grinning. Emperor. It was a title of high honor, granted to only a few of the ruling governers since the government had been formed. That Darling had been awarded it somehow made him stand straighter. And that was only twelve hours' worth of Emperorship. Who knew what a lifetime might do?

If he would be allowed that lifetime. He sent Sentella members scrambling for the freighters to ready them for loading the prisoners. They had less time than they'd planned on to tel-ass out of there; Kyr wouldn't be standing around while they emptied his prison of its inmates. He grinned, wolfishly. Just let the man try.

That was when the first of the Caronese citizens approached, slowly. "M- my lord... My lord Emperor?"

Darling turned to face him fully. "Yes..." he wracked his brain for the name, "Dawlish?" A Resistance member he'd known in passing under his guise of Kere. Fair soldier, better administrator; by all accounts, a good man. He smiled. "I'm sure Kala will be glad to get you back; I know she must have been worried about you."

The man was floored. "You... you remember my wife's name?" He turned and called back over his shoulder. "It's him! It really is Kere!" There was a stir among the ranks of the newly-freed as they murmured the news to one another, but there was no hesitation in Dawlish as the man sank to one knee. "Your Majesty," he said in reverence. "Thank you. A thousand times, thank you."

One of the gerents came forward, wearing his dignity with such grace that it was almost hard to see the rags in which he was actually clad. "Am I to understand this correctly? Emperor Cruel?"

Maris' nostrils flared in annoyance at the imperious tone, but it was Darling who spoke. "Yes," he said, matter-of-factly, keeping his face straight. And let the muckraking begin... "It was a title granted me by the council just before we left."

"Good," stated the man, with a firm nod. "At last those imbiciles are doing something right." He went down on one knee and raised his fist in the air. "All hail the Emperor! All hail Darling Cruel!" he cried.

"Hail!" came the shouted reply from over three hundred Caronese throats. A forest of fists sprouted at the back of the hall. "Hail! Hail!"

"Hail," replied Maris from his side. His best friend raised his fist in the air, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"Hail," said Zarya's friend Ture, who, injured though he was, eased himself to a kneeling position on the floor, raising his fist and looking up at Darling with a mixture of awe and profound respect, "Hail."

"Hail," Zarya echoed, kissing the back of his fingers before she knelt likewise. "Hail, Emperor Darling, the best of us all!"

The crowd heard her words and echoed them back among the ranks until the ceiling reverbeated with them. "The best of us all. The best of us all! Hail, hail, hail!"

Darling stood there, staring at his people. The people who had reviled him, hated him, sought his death and his misery, now giving him the highest honor any Caronese could hope to aspire to. He could feel the tears welling in the corners of his eyes, and swallowed hard around the lump in his throat. They are my people. And now, I am theirs.

"Citizens of Caron!" he cried aloud. "Let's go home!"