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 chapter follows the previous one almost immediately (give or take several hours to half a day).
"Come on, Vathek!"
"You know what the Queen ordered. Besides, you need the sleep."
"I slept already!"
"That does not change my orders."
"I didn't think she was serious," Caleb muttered under his breath knowing it would make for a weak argument to the one currently dragging him by the arm back to his room.
Despite being manhandled by a being three times his size as he begged and complained like a petulant teenager, the young commander still maintained some semblance of dignity. Even more miraculously it almost seemed as though he were walking under his own power and intentions. Neither fact did anything to curb his foul mood.
"You didn't have to spring on me like that. In fact, you could have left me well alone and we'd both be all the better for it."
"If you do not want to get caught then next time do not sneeze."
"It's not my fault they didn't dust behind the suits of armour," came the defiant reply.
"It is not their fault you chose to hide there," Vathek replied. He halted as they drew up to the door to Caleb's room. "In you go."
The young commander was politely allowed in first, not in the least because Vathek didn't trust him not to escape the moment he turned his back on him. Caleb took an unhealthy amount of pride from that fact.
His big blue guard glanced around his messy, yet somehow still sparse room. "At least this is nicer than some of the other places you've been kept in," he commented dryly.
"Don't remind me," Caleb muttered darkly. He suppressed a shudder and pulled his spiraling thoughts together for a final attempt at freedom. "Can't you just overlook the fact that I'm not asleep in my room? Or, better yet, pretend that I am? Elyon won't know the difference if you don't tell her."
Vathek gave the youth a look somewhere between disbelief and sympathy. He took in the eyes that were still shadowed despite the boy's protests he had slept. "You need rest, Caleb."
The human in question chose to make no remark about failing to get much rest even when he tried. "Vathek…"
"You would be in agreement if this were the Rebellion-"
"But it's not!" Caleb drew in an almost shake free breath. "There are things I need to do."
"And they can wait a while longer," Vathek replied firmly. "You are of no use to anyone if you cannot keep your eyes open."
"Fine!" Caleb threw his arms into the air in exasperation. "Fine. If you are all set on keeping me here then so be it, but I will not be dissuaded from my work." He fixed his old friend with a steely eye. "So, Vathek, give me your analysis on the integrity of the prison and its ability to withstand any escape attempt."
Vathek had the good sense not to laugh. He could not, however, stop an amused smile from spreading across his face. "No, Caleb."
The head commander frowned dangerously. "I order you to give me a report."
"And the Queen has given me orders that you are not to do anything more strenuous today than determine whether you will sleep with the window open or closed." His grin grew a shade more sympathetic. "I am sorry, my friend, but in this instance you have been outranked."
"I can see that," Caleb muttered.
The jailer regarded him with a raised eyebrow and shook his head. He had been on his way to the food hall when he had caught the young human sulking around in an attempt not to be seen whilst he tried to do who knew what. Duty bound, he had snuck up behind the former rebel leader and nabbed him. His stomach did not appreciate the delay and let this fact be known as it growled menacingly.
"You should eat something."
Vathek waved his hand dismissively at the youngster's smart comment, the latter having used it several times in the journey from the entrance hall – how had he gotten so far without being seen? – to his room as an attempt to weasel his way out of confinement. The jailer backed towards the door, keeping his eyes on his slippery charge. He pointed a large blue finger at the boy.
"Now stay," he said with threats of worse should Caleb attempt to escape again. "And try to get some sleep."
"I told you before, I've already-"
The door clicked shut behind the prison warden as he left. Shortly after an unfamiliar set of footsteps made their home just outside, a few murmurs passing between Vathek and the guard before the former left the latter to it, effectively imprisoning the ex-rebel in his room. At least it felt like imprisonment.
"Gees Mum, most kids just get grounded."
Perhaps he could climb out the window…
"This time I'll take care of them permanently."
Yes, he would definitely take the window.
Caleb sent another glance to the door, dropping the hand he had placed unconsciously against his throat. He adjusted his coat from where Vathek's grip had sent it askew, reassured that the new guard outside his door would not be coming in any time soon. The young commander strode to the large window in his room. He did not have a balcony – he had not wanted one – but this window was ideal for making hasty and not-so-hasty, more low-key escapes.
Setting one booted foot against the windowsill, and then the other, Caleb softly pushed open the glass. His back was tense, ears listening for any unusual sound that might sneak upon him in his vulnerable position. If Mr Huggles had scurried past in his quietest squirrel form the former rebel leader would have heard him before he had gotten three steps. A drop of sweat drifted absently down the back of Caleb's collar making him shiver. It was a long way down…
He squinted at the midday sun. If Elyon or Vathek – or his father for that matter – thought he would be spending the entire day doing nothing in his room, they could think again. He looked down once more. I've survived higher.
Resolved steadied, but shoulders still tense waiting for… something, Caleb sidled further forward on his perch. He shifted his grip in preparation to throw one leg over the window's edge and found it took all of his instincts and considerable experience not to leap back as a face suddenly appeared in front of his nose.
Shadowy thoughts of a giant hairy beast and silent echoes of agonized wails made the young commander pause for a moment's breath. A gloved hand stretched out to push the green face still disturbingly close to his own away, quietly noting the realness of the stinking flesh. Just a dream…
Caleb pressed a hand to his rapidly beating heat, trying to slow it out of sheer will. "What are you doing out here?"
The passling swung on the sturdy vine that had grown near his best friend's window – the ex-rebel had chosen the room because of it; the vine added to ists escape potential – and used one hand to make what Caleb thought was a very good impression of Gargoyle or very poor impression of Elyon. "Blunk guarding Caleb's window."
"So Caleb doesn't escape."
"Queen says Caleb needs sleep. Blunk agree. Queen ask Blunk to guard Caleb's window. Blunk say yes for Caleb's own good."
Caleb slammed the heel of his right hand into his forehead. He did not feel like dealing with this now. "She wasn't being serious."
"Blunk say different."
"Of course you do." He paused. "How long have you been out there? No, wait. I don't want to know."
Blunk huffed and somehow managed to cross his arms while still clinging to the vine. "Caleb not grateful to Blunk."
"Not when you're forcing me to stay in here!"
Blunk regarded the young human with a searching look. "Caleb not like being confined?"
"No, Blunk. I don't," Caleb sighed.
He closed his eyes and leaned back against the window frame, a fresh wave of weariness washing over him. His brief sleep had replenished him a small amount, but the fatigue from the days before and his bad night still lingered. Little 'Lord' Cedrics still raced about his head, chasing flowers and passlings and throwing the boy further off balance. He needed to do something to set himself at ease and sleep was not it. Neither was being forced – albeit out of caring concern – to stay in his room.
He started as a large and smelly hand patted the top of his head. "Caleb not worry. Blunk take care of Caleb like Caleb take care of Blunk."
Despite himself, the words drew a small smile from the ex-rebel.
The sound of a ruckus outside drew Caleb's attention. He leaned forward, Blunk crying out as he grabbed onto the young commander's coat in an attempt to stabilise him against the pull of gravity.
A trail of people were stumbling inside the palace gates, mostly civilians by their look with a few guards following behind. More guards were grabbing their weapons and heading out of the gate towards the sound of things smashing. The warning horn blew for a few moments, before sinking into silence.
"Dammit." Caleb leapt back from the window, feet landing firmly on his bedroom floor. Blunk flailed behind him at the sudden lack of resistance.
The Meridian commander dashed across his room at record speed. He swung open the door and was met by the guard's eyebrow raised in amusement and no small amount of discouragement. Caleb slammed the door shut and moved back to the window.
"Let me down."
"If they need Caleb they will fetch Caleb."
"Move aside so I can get down, Blunk."
"Caleb not go out window," the passling said stubbornly, ignoring the dangerous tone.
"Argh!" the young commander rubbed a hand down his face in exasperation. He shook himself. Think. He had been in worse situations than this before. He had been in worse situations than this before. Somehow that was not a reassuring thought. "Please, Blunk. I have to get down there!"
"There could be wounded!"
"Come on!" Realising that he was getting nowhere with his small, green – and typically rank smelling – friend he decided to take a different approach. "What if I gave you a well worn shirt? It even has mud on it. Lots and lots of mud."
"Caleb not tempt Blunk!"
"Alright, alright," he muttered, pacifying his indignant friend.
Caleb began to pace around his room, distinctly aware in a hyper vigilant way of Blunk's eyes following him back and forth. There had been a skirmish – that much he could gather from his distant window. He could not, however, tell how many had been injured in the attack, where the attack had occurred or even if there had been an attack at all. It was beyond frustrating. There could be people out there injured, dying, and he was trapped in here, no good to anyone least of all those who needed it the most.
The former rebel leader ignored the rapid pounding of his heart, settling for clenching his hands into too tight fists. He winced as his nails managed to bite into the surface skin through the cloth of his gloves, but continued pacing frantically. He needed to find a way down. He needed to figure out what was happening, who was hurt, what he could do to stop it.
"What is going on?"
Blunk shook his head. "Caleb stay here."
The young commander looked at his small friend. "What if you find out some information for me?" If he could make an escape while Blunk was gone, all the better.
"Caleb want Blunk find out information and tell him?"
The passling shook his head again. "Blunk supposed to stay here. Not leave for anything."
"I could jump out the window like I have before," came Caleb's next sardonic words.
"No! Blunk will scream for guards if Caleb try to jump!" To the latter's surprise, there were tears forming in the passling's eyes.
"I'm sorry," the young human quickly apologised in earnest. "Alright, I won't jump. I'm sorry."
His good friend sniffed. "Blunk not want Caleb to go splat."
Caleb flinched at the blunt words. He pat Blunk on the furry top of his hand. "Caleb won't go splat. Caleb promise."
Finding himself in a position of defeat once more. He could not leave and he needed to find out what was going on. There could be people dying out there… The beginnings of frustrated wetness began to form in his own eyes. He felt utterly useless.
"Blunk, please. I need to know."
"But Blunk can't leave." The passling was clearly torn by his friend's state of upset.
"Hold your horses, you big bad commander. It's been dealt with and everyone's fine. No injuries or deaths, just my awesomeness taking down the villain."
The scent of flowers filled the air outside the window, seeping into Caleb's room with a shameless attitude and doing battle with the stench that was Blunk. The young commander leaned sagged in relief. No deaths.
"Blunk will find out news," the passling swore at last. "If Caleb promises to stay here."
The young human let out a defeated sigh. "Caleb promises to stay here."
The scent of flowers grew stronger, as if it was laughing in the air. Caleb loosed a half-hearted glare at the world.
"Caleb be good and sleep," Blunk said in parting, patting the ex-rebel leader upon the head as though he were a dog.
The laughing scent seemed to grow louder.
"Yeah, yeah…" When the laughing continued he spoke again. "It's not that funny!"
The passling, meanwhile, did not remove his insistent gaze from his human friend. "Caleb go to sleep."
The human opened his mouth and then closed it, giving up the argument once and for all. "Fine! Fine."
He stalked to the bed and threw himself atop it, still fully dressed in boots and all. To the amusement of the others watching he was asleep within minutes.
Blunk hesitated as he dropped from the window. The floral scent grew stronger around the bed.
"It's alright. I'll watch him. He won't go anywhere while I'm here."
Blunk smiled at the figure and shot one last glance towards his sleeping friend. Then he scurried across the floor to the door. There was a half startled, gagging noise as the rank smelling creature exited past the feet of the guard outside and then silence reigned the room, disturbed only by the even breaths of its sleeping occupant.
The flowers smiled lovingly into the air.
"He is not happy about the confinement," Vathek said as he sat at the table. The large blue jailer rubbed his hands together in anticipation of a hearty meal.
"He will be even less happy about it when he learns of what occurred today without him there to take part," Julian commented from his own seat.
Elyon brushed away their concern. "Yes, but the Guardians manage to deal with it with little damage to anything. No one was injured-"
"Shows what you know. Pride can be injured and we were almost drowned," a resentful voice muttered to her right.
"-And the beast was destroyed almost as soon as it appeared." The young girl paused. "Do we know what it was?"
"No," Julian answered. "At least not as of yet, but we will hopefully find out with some research."
"For something that we know nothing about it sure had a blast of a time trying to drown us. Drown us I tell you! Drown us on my turf!"
Elyon ignored the continued muttering. "I have complete trust that you will," she said, smiling. "Now, tomorrow I thought we could-"
She choked off, almost gagging before regaining control of the reflex. The unfortunate person to her right was having far more trouble.
"Ugh, Blunk! What did you roll in? Manure?"
"Irma just jealous of Blunk's natural odour."
"Sure," the Water Guardian strung out, the word dripping with sarcasm.
"What are you doing here?" Hay Lin asked cheerfully.
"Caleb sleeping. Blunk hungry so Blunk look for food," the passling said in answer as he wandered past. One green hand lifted to snag a hunk of bread off the plate of the nearest unfortunate jailer.
Elyon smiled as Vathek realised the thievery that had taken place. "Thank you for watching him, Blunk."
"For Caleb, Blunk do anything." He thought for a moment as he chewed. "Almost anything," he amended.
"Hey!" Vathek growled at the passling who had stolen yet another portion of his meal. Blunk swallowed the stolen goods unperturbed.
"Are you sure he won't try to escape through the window without you there?" Julian asked in concern. The drop from his window was over fifty feet and his son was still unlikely to be fully rested. Such a climb in such a state would not be the wisest of ideas.
"Blunk sure," the passling replied with an air of hidden, but harmless knowledge. "A friend of Blunk watch Caleb sleep while Blunk eat. Pretty blonde friend."
Elyon smiled in a manner that would have had said friend and Caleb worried if they saw it. "A pretty blonde is watching him sleep, huh? How interesting."
On either side of her, Will and Irma snorted into their drinks. Even Taranee cracked a knowing grin as she stretched her cramping arms.
"Uh-uh," Hay Lin broke in, hoping to take control of the situation before it snowballed into a Cedric-sized problem. "Promise me you won't tease them about this."
"Who, us?" Taranee asked.
"Never," came Irma's quite unconvincing drawl. Will merely snorted louder into her drink.
"It is fun making my loud-mouthed commander squirm," Elyon said with a smile.
Julian shook his head as he dipped his spoon into his bowl for another mouthful of soup. "No wonder my son complains about you Earth females so often."
"But-" Looking between the amused faces of the others at the table, Hay Lin gave up the battle. "They won't be happy," she muttered.
"That's not the point," Elyon pointed out. She blinked as she remembered something. "Oh. You should come and watch the sunrise sometime, Hay Lin. I think you could make a brilliant painting of it."
The Air Guardian straightened in her chair, enthralled by the chance laid before her. "If it's anything like the sunrises on Earth-"
"Even better," Elyon said. "There are more colours. I never knew you could see so many shades of pink in one place! Caleb seemed to enjoy it this morning."
"He did? That gives me an idea…"
"That gives me ammunition. And he calls us girly."
"Watching a sunrise isn't 'girly', Irma."
"Oh yeah? Taranee, this is Caleb we're talking about."
As the conversation dwindled into a good-natured argument, Julian snuck a discreet glance towards the passling who was not so subtly trying to sneak more of Vathek's food. He was failing miserably, the large jail warden guarding his bowl as though it were his last meal.
Julian closed his eyes and drew in a centering breath. 'Last meal' was probably not an apt way to describe something when he – and his friend in question – had been on the end of what they thought would be their last meal many times. But it was what it was, and there was nothing he could do except move on.
Mind composed once more, the man opened his eyes and met those of Blunk as the latter attempted to climb over Vathek's broad shoulders. Julian silently mouthed his gratitude to the passling for watching over and looking out for his son. Caleb smiled and a moment of understanding passed between the two. Then Vathek flung the passling off in fury and the smelly green being went flying into the opposite wall.
A mournful voice spoke up. "If big blue didn't want to share big blue could have just said. Blunk would have understood without being thrown."
The Guardians present were reduced to snorting into their drinks once more. Even Elyon and Julian struggled to hold back a laugh as Vathek, now truly enraged, floundered for words that would have been no use against a wily passling.
She gazed at the sleeping figure, shaking her head to herself. Smiling softly and she gently reached out a finger to brush back several errant strands of brown hair. Shifting further in on the bed, her fingers then brushed even more gently across the sleeper's lips. Caleb stirred against the sheets.
The blonde girl carefully removed her fingers from the boy's face. She left them off even as his slumber drew him back under its spell.
Looking to the still open window, the Earthling focused upon the vine she could sense more than see outside. Flicking her fingers gracefully through the air, she slowly encouraged a few out-of-season buds to emerge from the plant.
Like a well-trained dog, blooms began to appear one after the other, expanding at a steady rate as their stems drifted to surround the window. Deep oranges, pinks, reds and purples soon framed the opening into the room in a thick cluster. It was like the entrance to a secret garden, one only their gardener knew about and within which hid the one of the most precious pieces of her heart. The girl smiled softly as she continued to appraise her work.
A large, rough hand grabbed her own small one.
"Beautiful," breathed a voice in her ear.
The girl turned her head, face half hidden shyly beneath waves of cornfield hair. Her smile grew as the hair was brushed aside and chaste lips brushed the skin of her cheek.
For a while the two sat in a tranquil silence, no words needing to be passed between them – a fact that would have surprised a great many who knew them. They watched as several more flowers were coaxed into the world, adding to the sweet aroma hanging in the air. After a while, the fairer of the two turned to face the other.
She took in the fading purple beneath his eyes and the ghostly lines that were new and yet, somehow, had always been there. She took in the look in his weary brown eyes, took in the warmth that seemed to fill their shell-like depths as he gazed at her, the fire that always burnt fiercely at the back no matter the level of exhaustion or hopelessness or safety.
"You could have helped me out the window, you know-"
"Sleep," she murmured with a kiss.
Sinking back into the covers, a warm presence by his side, Caleb smiled at the true scent of flowers in the air. It was just a dream. With a small contented sigh, he obeyed.
I hoped you enjoyed this chapter. I have several more ideas for this story that I may post eventually (I've got some exams coming up so I probably won't post for a while if I do decide to continue with it). They are kind of able to stand alone, but continue on from and link to each other well enough so... Some will also probably be more lighthearted or angsty or romance driven than others, depending on the idea (and feature different characters to varying degrees - Caleb will remain the centre though). In any case, please review. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
To Ellie - I don't usually reply to guest reviews, but I decided to with yours. :) Firstly, thanks for reviewing. It was much appreciated and I am glad you like the idea (and I am not the only who thinks it). I hope this chapter lived up to your expectations (even if it may have been a bit more lighthearted than you expected). I also hope I continued to portray the characters correctly. In any case, you gave me the push I needed to continue on with this, so thanks. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this chapter and further ones. Thanks again for reviewing.