Disclaimer: I do not own W.I.T.C.H. or any of its characters in any way, shape or form.
Note: Based on the cartoon, not the comics. This takes place around a month after the events of Season 2.
The hissing laughter echoed around the room like sinister thunder. It bounced painfully around in Caleb's head, aiming to cripple him and succeeding. Around the ex-rebel leader who had been forced to take up his mantel once more the other resistors groaned in agony.
"Hisss-sss-sss," the self declared Lord Cedric laughed. "Who should I sssstart with firsssst?"
"How about no one!" Will cried as she struggled to her knees.
"Yeah! You should go on a diet. Being that fat can't be good for you." The unmistakable, yet pain filled, tones of Irma were quick to follow.
"Thissss one thinkssss she'ssss funny," the humungous monster said. "Hisss-sss-sss-sss. Let'ssss ssssee how you fare in my sssstomach."
"Leave her alone you giant lizard!"
Lord Cedric ignored the screaming girls, slithering towards the fallen water Guardian who was trying desperately to fly away on broken wings. The powers of her friends were useless against the invulnerable snake in their midst.
"You aren't going to eat me you overgrown garden worm!"
"Garden worm? That'ssss new."
Caleb struggled harder against the rocks that pinned him, dragging his foot free and limping to a stand. He tried to throw his own voice into the fray, but he failed having lost it somewhere between Phobos being swallowed and being smashed against the wall.
A jet of water struck Lord Cedric in the face. Caleb swore in his head, unable to do so out loud. He would not get there in time. He would not get there-
The giant snake-man doubled over. When he straightened once again there was one less Guardian in the immediate room.
"Irma! Oh, you'll pay for that!" The onslaught of fire that struck Lord Cedric was as hot as Taranee's tone.
"Hisss-sss-sss-sss. Do you want to go next?"
Then he launched himself through the air and the fire Guardian was consumed.
"Everyone stay out of his way!" Will's commanding tones cut through the loud cries of denial. Caleb was impressed. "We'll find a way to get them back."
"I don't think sssso."
As the hissing voice made another dive, Caleb managed to successfully fling a sword into its opened mouth. As Lord Cedric took the time to spit it away, Will ducked out of range.
"Miranda, my love, deal with that inssssolent sssspeck."
"Yes, Master," the beast replied. She turned to face the rebel looking for all it was worth as though she were grinning beneath the great mounds of black hair that covered her.
Caleb backed away a step.
She crept forward.
He backed away another step.
Beyond the approaching monster Hay Lin tried to blow Lord Cedric off course as he chased after Will. The girls ducked and dodged and weaved, trying to avoid his tail and hands and gruesome mouth all at once.
"Leave them alone!"
An array of vines and roots began to wind themselves around the giant snake. They were not fast enough in growing, however, to prevent Lord Cedric catching both the Air and Quintessence Guardians as his tail smashed them both out of the air. He lifted his arms and opened his great maw.
Caleb's vision was suddenly blocked by Miranda.
"Hisss-sss-sss-sss. You are only avoiding your fate, Guardian."
The wall that pressed itself against Caleb's back was frustratingly real. The pain and terror that coursed through his body was even more so.
"I don't think Master would beguile me a small snack," Miranda rasped. "Although I do much prefer passling meat."
Caleb flailed his hands for a weapon that didn't exist. He swallowed dryly and pushed further up against the ruined wall behind him.
"Blunk save Caleb!" a small green and smelly ball of fury called out as it flung itself through the air.
Blunk, no! But the words of warning could not find a voice to speak them.
Miranda turned as the little passling dove atop her. The struggle was short but violent, the ball of hair doing its best to buck off her unwanted passenger. She eventually succeeded and Blunk came to a rolling stop as sticky webbing fixed him in place. Another shot ensured that no rebel leader would interfere with her meal.
"Now for a snack more to my liking," Miranda rasped as she closed in upon the immobile passling.
Blunk wailed and screamed. Caleb, as he watched horrified unable to draw his gaze away, could not even utter a groan of despair. Soon enough it was over and Caleb found himself wishing that he could still smell passling's potent stench in the air and not the remains of Miranda's meal.
"Delicious," came the female fiend's rasping voice.
Across from them Lord Cedric broke free of the vines restricting him.
"I like my flowerssss crushed."
"No!" Caleb had finally found his voice, but it came out as silent as the figures that now littered the floor. Beyond desperate, he tried again. "Leave her alone!"
Nothing. Not a peep. Not a squeak. Just mocking silence. So he did the next best thing to draw attention to himself.
Adrenaline surging through him like a white hot fire, Caleb managed to pull free of Miranda's webbing. Dodging to the side, he swept up a stray shield and lobbed it across the room straight into the monster's face.
The action did nothing as it clanged away and Lord Cedric emerged from his protective shield. As yet another figure was reduced to screaming, Caleb swept up yet another shield, aimed and then threw. The ground rumbled and shook, but neither shield nor earthquake did any good.
Caleb resorted to throwing whatever he could get his hands on, struggling to run closer and dodge Miranda's incessant attacks at the same time. His lungs were raw from shouting words that could not reach the air. It did no good. Soon enough the fairer, louder half of the screaming duo was silenced as Lord Cedric bent forward once more.
Then the power-crazed eyes turned onto him.
The boy – now almost a man – gasped softly, silently into the night. He looked around the darkened room, shivering from more than just having kicked off the last of the sheets that had been clinging to the bed for dear life when he had bolted upright. A trail of sweat dripped down the back of his neck, drying rapidly in the air.
It was just a dream. Just a dream.
Slowly, Caleb regulated his breathing, but he could not make himself lay back against the mattress and close his eyes. His instincts – honed to a suspicious point under Phobos' despot rule and rekindled by the recent debacle with Nar… with his… her, then Phobos once again, and then 'Lord' Cedric – would not allow him to. Danger! they shouted, despite the only danger being inside the youth's own head.
It was just a dream.
Caleb inhaled deeply. He imagined he could detect the scent of flowers, sweet, sticky, overpowering. Soothing. A delicate musk that embraced him in a blonde and silken warmth, that covered him with a sluggish security. It called to him in a voice like the rich hues of a corn field, gently pulling his eyelids closer and closer together…
Danger! the warning bells in his muddled head screamed.
It seemed he would be getting no more sleep that night.
It was just a dream.
Sighing to himself, Caleb swung his feet over the edge of his bed and into the twisted pile of blankets that pooled on the floor. Slipping slightly in the material, he moved blindly across the room to pull on a shirt and breeches in place of his sweaty nightclothes. Finished changing, he turned to where his boots stood to attention with his brown coat hanging dutifully above.
"I don't think I'll be going outside," he muttered to himself. Nevertheless, the ex-rebel leader and current commander of the Queen's guards shrugged on the rough material of his coat. At a second thought he took up his boots as well, because one never knew.
With one last glance round his room – he discretely secured a small knife by his side – Caleb padded barefoot to his door with his boots swinging from one hand. Breathing in again, disappointed at the lack of flowers scenting the air, he pushed open the wooden door and stepped into the bowels of the palace.
Danger! came the muted call in his head. The youth shook his head clear of the sound. If there was real danger one of the sentries would have seen it and raised the alarm.
Glancing out a window, Caleb noted that the guards had not yet changed shifts from when he had reluctantly trodden off to bed under the stern orders of both Elyon and his father. He had not been getting enough sleep, they had said. Rubbing his bleary eyes, the commander's mouth twitched in a humourless smile. Neither would be happy that this would be yet another sleepless night for him. Still, they were right in that he was growing gradually more tired as the days passed. Between reorganising the guard and dismantling the signs of Phobos' second, briefer rule and following up on rumours that were too dangerous to leave alone, Caleb barely had time to achieve that state of repose in which the terrors in his head could break loose.
The boy shuddered at the still fresh memory of what had woken him. Perhaps he could see if his father was awake.
Pausing in his aimless strides, the Meridian commander decided against such action. He knew that his father was struggling with sleep himself, those of his nightmares not featuring the underwater mines Caleb suspected, with no small amount of guilt, were somehow inspired by him. Not even he, however, had seemed as tired as his son in the past week.
"Not like I haven't gone without sleep before," the ex-rebel muttered to himself. It didn't sound joking in nature. Caleb wasn't sure if it was supposed to. Rather than dwell on it, he continued moving.
Glancing out another window, the young commander finally decided on a destination. The grounds surrounding the palace were peaceful enough, especially now that they lacked Phobos' own personal taste of evil.
If those on guard noticed the weary form slipping between them through the palace doors, they gave no sign of it. Nor did those stationed around the naturally darkened grounds, softly exchanging greetings and farewells as they changed for the next shift.
Moving like a shadow across the night sky, Caleb slunk towards the royal gardens near the entrance gate. The odd torch flickered in the slight breeze and the youth grinned to himself, congratulating his mind for opting to wear a coat. He breathed in the scented air. There was no danger here.
Folding his legs beneath him, Caleb discarded his boots and leant back onto the cool earth on his hands. He attempted to suppress a yawn and then gave in, relishing in the tranquility the simple night could bring. If only he could experience the same sense of peace in his bed. Nevertheless, he could enjoy the peace he had found in that moment without tainting it with the desire for something he could not have or complaints of what he could not control.
The young commander stared out into the cool night for a long while, long enough for light to tentatively grasp Meridian once more. As he sat, he thought. Perhaps he could convince Aldarn to hide Drake's beloved red cape when morning had more convincingly taken the sky. Or maybe he could see if he could locate his strange and smelly passling friend, Blunk, and take a much desired day off on Earth, to reassure himself that it was merely a dream…
Movement behind him made the ex-rebel tense in preparation. His fingers drifted every so subtly to the knife concealed at his side. Whatever it was that thought it could sneak up on him would severely regret their mistake.
Danger! the little, adrenaline driven voice in his head called.
Arms suddenly threw themselves around his shoulders and a loud voice greeted his ear. "Caleb! What are you doing here?"
Turning, fingers dropping back to the grassy ground, Caleb regarded Elyon with the look of a startled rabbit. He blinked in surprise at the first traces of golden rays behind her. When he had last looked at the sky it had been completely black. Must have lost track of time… A tug on his hand drew his attention back to his insistent royal charge.
Elyon took her commander's lack of reply in a cheerful stride. Despite dawn being a snail's step away, and her looking as though she too had had a rough night, the heart of Meridian seemed as jovial as ever. So jovial, in fact, that she happily flung herself down on the ground next to him, never one to waste the opportunity to show off her powers of flight in the process.
"What are you doing up at this time, my Queen?" Caleb asked.
"It's Elyon," the girl replied insistently. She paused. "I had a nightmare."
Caleb raised his eyebrows expectantly.
"It was, well, it was about my brother," Elyon started. "I was trapped on the throne, only Cornelia never came. I just sat there struggling for what seemed like forever and he was laughing at me as the vines grew tighter and tighter. Then the light faded. It got darker and darker, but the darkness wasn't coming from outside. It was coming from in me. He was stealing the light from in me, and making it darker and he was laughing and laughing…"
She paused, getting herself under control. The Queen of Meridian smiled thankfully at Caleb as he took her hand and squeezed it, reassuring her that the darkness was merely inside her imagination and that no light would be stolen while he was around to guard it. With newfound confidence in the way things had turned out, Elyon forced herself to continue.
"It went pitch black, and I could still hear him. That's when it happened." She paused again and sniffed, seemingly trying not to cry. "I could see. It was still completely black, but I could see. And Cornelia was there, and Will and Hay Lin and Irma and Taranee – they were all there."
"What do you mean?" Caleb asked, barely able to force the words out. He liked this section of the palace grounds because it was the sweetest smelling throughout the year, but now it seemed as though all the flora was rotting away. It reminded him of crushed flowers.
It was just a dream.
"They were…they were…" Elyon trailed off, glancing at her commander.
She seemed to see something in his face that made her think better of continuing. Or perhaps she merely could give no voice to what she had seen in her head. Caleb didn't know if his sleep would be better or worse because of it. The way she had said there… The young commander suppressed a shudder.
For a while, the ruler of Meridian said nothing. Caleb saw no reason to break her silence. The girl had taken to twisting her hands in the grey-blue cloth of her dress. Her breathing shook, but no sobs were forthcoming. She was a Queen. She was stronger than that. She had to be to survive what had happened to her. Yet, it was clear the child within her still longed to be hugged.
Caleb obliged, sweeping his arms around the Meridian girl who had been raised on Earth.
"Don't worry. Everyone gets nightmares," he said. That probably have away more about him than the ex-rebel wanted it to, but, then again, there was no shame in waking because of something you feared. His father had told him that when he had been reduced to tears by his first nightmare, when he was a little boy scared by monsters that didn't exist.
Caleb thought about the monsters that had and did exist: Phobos, Miranda, Cedric, Nar… Cedric. He looked to Elyon, words of further comfort dying before they even reached his tongue. Maybe he needed to be told again.
His lapse back into silence did not matter. It seemed all Elyon needed was the contact of another flesh and blood person to reassure her that this world, that this thing Caleb secretly called a paradise – and secretly wept over to himself when it seemed that paradise had been rendered a living hell once again – was real. Though he would never admit it vocally, Caleb desired that same reassurance.
They had planned for Phobos to take Meridian back, him and Will and the others – they had counted on it – and despite a few hitches Phobos was back in his cell and Meridian once again free. That, however, didn't stop Caleb's fear that he would suddenly wake up and Aldarn would be at his side worrying about the lack of supplies and Drake worrying about the lack of weapons and his father still dead, whilst everything about this paradise had been a dream, an illusion like his… she was caught in. He feared that it would turn out this world was not real and he did not think he could survive such a blow.
So he hugged Elyon all the tighter and closed his eyes, pretending he could detect a whiff of flowery sweetness in the air.
The pair soon drew away from each other in mutual agreement. They went back to sitting companionably, watching as the snail of a sun decide it was worth putting in a full appearance for the day.
"Why haven't you got shoes on?" Elyon asked suddenly.
Caleb looked down at his bare feet as if he had forgotten he had carried his boots instead of wearing them. "Huh."
"How long have you been out here?" his companion questioned suspiciously. "And you can't lie to me. I'm the Queen."
Caleb smiled slightly at that, remembering the last time his Queen had said those words to him. He was glad Cornelia had not insisted on ice-skating again, although there was always the threat lurking in the background of her more ridiculous requests.
"A while," was all he said. He struggled to contain a defiant yawn.
"Hmphf. Well, I suppose you have duties you'll need to be attending to shortly," Elyon stated. "Which I am sure can wait until after noon when you've gotten some decent sleep. In fact, I am completely certain I can find others to complete your duties if you happen to sleep through the entire day."
Caleb glanced at the girl's face. No, not a girl, not after what she had experienced – although she was still a child in many respects and still had much to learn about ruling – and not in that moment as she stared her battle-worn head commander down, daring him to challenge her not so subtle orders.
He couldn't help it. He laughed.
Elyon smiled softly at the ex-rebel, at the ex-child, before making to stand. "I think you'll want to stay here to finish watching the sun rise. It's magnificent once all the colours get going. Hay Lin would love to paint something like it if she knew – someone might have to tell her… Then I want you off to bed and no arguing and no getting out of it. I trust your father will make sure you obey my commands."
She left, skipping along the ground as though she were a bunny. Caleb felt the familiar presence that had been lurking behind him for a short while sit beside him. A dastardly, devious bunny, the tired commander thought as he watched Elyon escape into the distance, definitely a dastardly, devious bunny. She's been around the other girls too long. And demanding. Why are all the girls from Earth so demanding?
For a while father and son said nothing. They simply sat, watching the brilliant colours surrounding the sun fade to a simple blue. Then the older of the two shifted.
"Why did you not come to me?" If there was a note of hurt in the words, neither acknowledged it.
"I didn't want to wake you," Caleb replied, looking down at his shoeless feet.
Julian sighed. This, it seemed, would not be as easy as he had hoped. "What was it about?"
"Does it matter?" Taking in his father's unimpressed gaze, Caleb exhaled a gush of breath and turned his shoulders in on himself. "It was just a dream. It wasn't real. Everyone is alright and alive and it was just a dream."
"It's alright to be afraid, son."
Caleb merely bowed his head. They were well enough words to say, but all the lessons he had learned as a rebel and a rebel leader sung a different tune to the invitation being subtly offered. One could be afraid, yes, but one could not show it. One could have nightmares about giant snakes consuming everything in their path, but one could not let it affect their work. Better to keep it to yourself and deal with it. If you could not deal with it, then ignore it, but never let it affect your work. It was an aspect of himself that Caleb was not particularly keen on keeping, and he was not naive enough to think he could change it any time soon. Perhaps he would never take up the invitation his father had offered him out of kindness and love and understanding, out of comfort to a child Caleb feared did not exist anymore.
It was that last thought that made a deep, hollow sorrow engulf the young commander's hunched frame once more.
After the silence had stretched on for a good while and the sun had finally managed to clamber a little higher in the sky than the immediate horizon, Julian stood and tugged his solemn son up by the arm.
"Come on," he said. "Let it not be said we disobeyed the Queen's direct orders."
Caleb stood and meekly let himself by led by the older man. Halfway across the yard he stopped and pulled free from his father's grasp, the impenetrable mask of a leader already falling back into place.
"I should be getting to the food hall. I need to meet with Drake and Vathek before I replace Aldarn for the duty of guarding the Queen. He won't be happy if he ends up with a double shift because I can't keep my eyes open for several more hours," the young commander said with no small touch of authority. His words and the mask that had settled over his face, however, did nothing to stop a large yawn breaking through.
Julian gave a wide, bearded smile and shook his head. "Aldarn will not mind. Besides, You will find that no one will allow you to do anything today except sleep, on the Queen's orders. I believe they have been told to escort you back to your room – with due force if necessary – if you appear anywhere outside of its vicinity between now and dinner."
His son groaned and rubbed his eyes in weary frustration. "Doesn't she understand that I've got things that need doing? The defences of the palace need to be reworked so we aren't merely dependent on Elyon's powers or the guardians to save us. I need to talk to Vathek about the security of the jail, and find someone who has some knowledge about the veil and breaches in it to determine the likelihood of a stray portal ever opening in Phobos' or Cedric's cell like it did for Nar… And I need to see about Raythor – he mentioned something was going on in the west, although I'm still unsure as to how much to trust him, however, Drake has reported much the same…"
Julian looked at Caleb as they continued to walk up the stair to the palace entrance. He had noticed the pause in his son's speech, the outright refusal to say his mother's name. It was understandable, albeit concerning to the man who had hoped the revelation, when it happened, had not affected the boy as strongly as it appeared to. Not that he himself was not brought to a state of confliction over that name. Loathing may have been a strong word, hatred too far over one side for their history and creation, but anger was the most prominent amongst the mess of emotions her revelation and subsequent attempt to kill their child had spurred.
Still, at least his son was alive. Given all that they had face in the last years, given all that he had faced – especially since Julian's own initial capture – nearly always alone save a passling who had proved more competent than expected, Julian thought it was nothing short of a miracle. And he still did not know everything his son had gone through when he had been enslaved and even after his unexpected rescue. But he could imagine it.
Julian closed his eyes. He had woken earlier than usual that morning, haunted by a desperate mother's words "but who looks after Caleb?" and the toppling of a head that had screamed 'too late' and made him sick to his core. Shaking himself free of the horrible dream and even more horrible 'what ifs', the man unconsciously moved closer to his son. 'What if' didn't bear thinking about.
"…And someone has to determine what the smell in Blunk's quarters is which will probably fall to me, and its not like I can leave everything until-"
Julian held up a hand and Caleb's tirade stumbled to a halt.
"You do not have to do it alone," the man said seriously. "And you have been running yourself ragged trying to do everything all at once. Meridian can survive one day without you, son." He paused and regarded said son with a furrowed brow. "Don't make me lock the door behind me when we get to your room."
Caleb, wisely, did not remark out loud and did his best to school his face into an impassive front. Irma would have been proud. Still, he couldn't help the stray thought that drifted across his mind in rebellion – there's still the window.
How many times had he jumped out a window in the past years? The memories brought back the contradictory desires to grin with an overblown sense of confidence and curl up in a corner rocking away the painful images. Caleb did neither, settling for watching for an opportunity to slip away from his father.
There was none.
That fact did not surprise Caleb in the slightest. His father had raised him, taught him, knew him. He would know of how his son might attempt to escape his temporary escort, and, if Caleb were being truly honest, he was tired enough to let several lesser known opportunities slip by him. The prospect of bed was, frustratingly, becoming more and more enticing…
All at once they were at the door to his room. So suddenly did it occur in Caleb's exhausted brain that he would have walked straight into it had his father not grabbed his shoulder and thrown open the door at the same time. Julian was forced to halt, however, as Caleb refused to take another cross the room's threshold.
"It's alright, son." He was not sure if the boy was seeing something visible only to him in the air of the room or simply afraid of what he might see should he enter, but it did not matter. "There's nothing here to fear. It is alright. They are safe. You are safe. It's alright."
After a few more moments, and with several more murmured reassurances, Caleb relaxed just enough for Julian to move forward once more. The pair stepped into the room, one guiding the other's near trance-like state.
Julian smiled to himself as his son continued to stumble along the floor, his eyes further closed than they were open. As much as the youth might deny it, his body knew what it needed and at this point seemed to think even the floor would serve well enough for a bed.
"Come on," he said, gripping his swaying son a little more firmly by the shoulder to avoid the boy becoming a heap on the floor.
The man carefully guided Caleb towards the bed, making sure to place the boots he had carried up from the gardens in their rightful place. He winced a little – and not for the first time – at the slightly smudged footprints his son had left upon the floor in his wake. The maids would not be pleased. Deciding there was nothing he could do about it, Julian sat the half-asleep boy on the bed.
"There," he spoke in a more fatherly manner than he had grown accustomed to using. He gently cupped his child's face in his hand. "Sleep, son. Meridian will still be standing tomorrow."
Caleb yawned, having long since given up the battle against them. He managed a jumbled mumble, something crossed between 'thanks' and 'love you'. Julian pressed his lips against his son's forehead and murmured his love back. Brushing his fingers tenderly down the length of Caleb's face, the man patiently coaxed the youth to remove his arms from his beloved coat. He even more patiently drew the knife from its place at the boy's side and placed it upon the table by the bed.
Standing, Julian brushed his hand against his son's cheek once more. He smiled softly and moved back across the room to hang the coat on its hook before retreating for good. He paused to close the door behind him leaving the young commander alone to face the merciful grip of rest.
From his place on the bed Caleb inhaled and smiled as the ghostly scent of flowers filled his nose. It was just a dream. Perhaps he would sleep, until noon at least, and then perhaps he would take tomorrow off and make a trip to Earth – he was sure he could find some believable pretense or another, although he knew he would be fooling no-one… It had been a while since he had last seen the Guardians, although a certain blonde had visited twice in the past two weeks to ensure, in her own words, 'that her best friend was not getting overwhelmed by the constant presence of a certain high-end and overly devoted member of her guard'.
Distinctly happier than he had been when he had woken – or in the past several days – Caleb flopped back onto the sheets on his bed. Someone had replaced them in the time he had been out, yet the young commander could not bring himself to care about the who or why. Mind becoming more and more lethargic as he finally allowed himself to relax, Caleb drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
There you go. I've been watching episodes recently and wanted to write something about how the incidents in season 1 and 2 would have realistically affected Caleb (and the others to a lesser degree). After all, he was would have been involved in the rebel movement for a good part of his life (even if it was just watching) given who his father was, and his experiences as the rebel leader would have made him suspicious, constantly on guard and high strung – not to mention his constant dangerous/near-death experiences in general. The fact that the paradise of a healing Meridian after season 1 was destroyed in season 2 (especially given the fact it reverted back to hell under Phobos at least for a short while), would have primed the instincts that grew in Caleb under the rebellion. In short, I think he would be suffering from some mild PTSD or something (i.e. nightmares, etc.) as well as some 'mummy' issues.
I'm also working under the assumption that CxC still works after the end of season 2.
In any case, I hoped you enjoyed it (and hope even more that you might be willing to leave a review). I have a second part that I will likely upload once I write it.