Disclaimer: Nothing from this Marvelous universe is mine. Not even the plot, for this one ;)
A/N: This story is dedicated to Lady Charity, and was inspired entirely by Chapter 4 of her "Syrgja", which gave me ALL the feels and the reading of which is (possibly) required to make this make sense. Gard the Chitauri is hers, as is the plot. (For anyone who hasn't read it, 'Daktoa' is an odd, purple bread-like substance).
Daktoa for One
Gard is a commander.
Not a high-ranking commander, true, but a commander nevertheless. He has fought in several wars, and in terms of martial prowess has nearly two score of Kree warriors to his name. If asked, he would have described himself as pragmatic, efficient and amoral.
So it is something of a surprise to find himself here, in the bowls of his ruler's cousin-ship, with a sack containing one loaf of daktoa in hand in front of the prisoner. Loki, he thinks they call it, when they refer to it by a name at all. He doesn't know if it is male or female. It lacks any distinctive ridges and has no scales. But then, perhaps whatever race it belongs to has no gender.
He does not know. The realms beyond the Turunal system hold little interest for him.
But he watches it, as it sits there against the wall, muscles shaking.
He should not be here.
If he is found... If the guard he has bribed betrays him... but his eyes drift down again and he can feel the bile rising.
It is so very gaunt.
Like his brother, when the Kree had captured him, and all that they had rescued months later was a broken, empty husk. But his brother is long dead now, and he should no longer care. Care is useless. Makes him soft. Only, they are better than this. The Chitauri are not the Kree.
Should not be.
Their role is to bring order to all the realms. They should be above this.
Its eyes are closed, now, and if it sleeps it does not seem content. It whimpers with almost every breath, and he can see that it is malnourished. Starving.
He holds the daktoa more firmly and knows he should not care.
It deserves no kindness. It caused the death of thousands. Refused to give up the Tesseract unless it could lead a war they had never wanted. Worse, it had failed.
And yet here he is.
He steps forwards, and almost at once its eyes flutter open.
As if it has been trained now to associate footsteps with pain. Perhaps it has.
It stares at him sightlessly from dull green eyes. And then sense flares within them and they widen. There should be horror in there, he knows, and fear. Instead there is just a hollow slackness. And the faintest shred of... hope. He steps forwards again and it lets out a sigh so soft he can barely hear it. It does not seem capable of standing. Does not even try.
He crouches down next to it, and it flinches.
"I am not here to hurt you," he says, even though he probably should be.
It twitches its head in mute, uncomprehending misery, and he feels another unwanted spike of pity.
He closes his mouth.
He remembers his brother and if it is too far gone to understand him there is little he can do. But he can see the sheen of water that leaks from it. Can see the way the clothes hang from its wasted frame. He knows it is starving and knows that food is what it craves.
Stiffly, he withdraws the daktoa from his bag and offers it.
It does not move. Its arm twitches, faintly, as though it wants to, but it is still. Its breathing is faster now though. Panicked. Its head falls back suddenly, and he wonders if the smell of food it is unable to take is doing more harm than not coming at all ever could have.
Gently, he reaches forwards and tilts it's mouth open.
Then he crumbles a piece of his loaf beneath his fingertips and puts some in its mouth.
Until finally its tongue shifts and it manages, weakly, to swallow.
Something stirs, unbidden, and he is suprised to recognise it as hope.
Why should he care if it eats?
It is only a prisoner he had heard a few of the soldiers boast about having brutally punished as they ate together in the mess halls. Only a prisoner he had found himself sick for after the tales he heard and who he brought down food because why? He doesn't know. It is nothing special. Of no political significance. Only, there is something child-like in the wonder on its face as he feeds it. Something almost of courage in the way it battles to swallow mouthful after small, crumbled mouthful, and he cannot seem to make himself leave.
Eventually though there is no more to feed it. The loaf is finished and he rises to leave.
It releases a strange, high-pitched keening then, and he wonders if it wants more.
Wonders, blaming the sentiment he should not possess, if he should ask to be stationed here longer and request more time to heal from the leg-wound that landed him here in the cousin-ship's healling halls in first place.
It doesn't matter.
He cannot tell it so.
He leaves quietly and the guard he has bribed nods to him as he passes. He will not talk. He has paid him well.
Later, he requests permission to stay longer. He is refused.
Later, he learns the guard who allowed him in was torn to pieces for the action.
Later, he learns the prisoner was rescued.
And though the battle with the Kree goes poorly, when he recieves the news he is unable to stop his lips from twisting upwards into a brief smile.