Chapter 8

Namor scowled down at his desk, kelp sheets scattered across it in disarray. Go away on a surface mission for just a week and the whole kingdom needed to be put back in order, it felt like. King was really just another word for country wide babysitter. Surely, people could hold onto their hats for one week, one would think. Apparently not, if the slew of documents and incidents that required his attention were to be believed. Although, Namor considered, he supposed this was to be expected only a few months after relocating. Building a stable country from nothing takes time.

A knock sounded at the door of his study, the guard posted within his study straightening to attention, gaze trained with precision on the entrance. Namor relaxed as he heard the voice of the outside guard announce, "One of the healers from the royal infirmary is here to see you, my King. She says that she requires your attention and the matter is urgent."

Namor called, "Enter," as he pondered what could require his presence in the infirmary. There shouldn't be anything, except... Peter!

It was one of the nurses Namor recognized as working in the royal infirmary that swam through the door. She looked frazzled, her dark blue hair sticking out at odd ends from the tightly woven sea grass bun net. "Nurse Karyth, what matter needs my attention?"

Before speaking, Karyth curtsied deeply, bowing her head low. "My king," she began, "the human child you placed in our care is severely distressed. He has hidden himself beneath his bed and refuses to come out. We cannot placate him and he is calling your name."

Namor frowned. "My name?" he asked.

Karyth nodded, "Yes, my king. We're worried he might hurt himself if he remains like this."

"I see," answered Namor. "Take me to the child. I will calm him, myself."

Nurse Karyth dipped her head, saying, "Yes, my Lord."

She turned and swam swiftly, leading Namor through halls and across courtyards, eventually leading him to a stone construct dug into the very rock of the slope flanking the palace.

Withing the stone building's walls, nurses and medical staff roamed the halls. Cabinets stocked medicines and small fluorescent brain coral clusters. The brain coral gave the hospital a soft blue light, lending the hospital a serene atmosphere. Nurse Karyth led Namor down several hallways before she stopped before a curtain leading into a room separate from the rest of the hospital. Within the room, Namor could hear the noises of at least one nurse softly trying to coax the child out from hiding.

Namor stepped into the entryway and the nurse looked up in surprise.

She rose to attention and bowed. "My king," she said.

Namor lifted his hand, not wanting to waste time on formalities when he was more concerned with the sobbing under the bed. "At ease," he told the nurse.

Namor sank softly to the floor, lowering his body until he could see underneath the bed. Backed into the corner between the bed and the wall, curled impossibly small was the boy child. His eyes were shut tight, brow crinkling from the force of it. His tiny hands were wrapped tightly around his knees, knuckles white from the pressure.

"Peter," said Namor.

Peter jerked slightly, eyes opening to reveal red rims and more tears. Peter stared at him in miserable surprise. Namor inwardly winced, the child must have been crying like this for a long time. While Namor couldn't boast ever being commended as an excellent father, he was a father, children not being in the picture or not. When he saw the boy curled in on himself and frightened, it reached a part of his paternal instincts and he couldn't help but react as if the boy were his own. Especially after the ache left over from Kamar.

Namor spoke softly, not wanting to spook the child. "Hello, Peter. Do you remember who I am?"

Peter mutely nodded, his tears ceasing now that he was distracted.

"Who am I, Peter?" asked Namor, wanting to keep Peter occupied and calm for as long as he could.

For a moment, it looked as though Peter would forgo answering to continue staring at Namor with his big blue eyes. Eventually, though, Peter whispered, "Namor."

Namor smiled gently, keeping his expression soft and open. "Very good, Peter. Now, why are you under the bed? It can't be very nice down there. There's probably all kind of creepy-crawlies under there."

This was able to call a shy smile from Peter, his lips twitching up nervously, white teeth peeking out from behind them. "I'm not scared of creepy-crawlies," answered Peter. "I think they're cool."

Namor lifted an eyebrow, asking, "You do?"

"Mmm-hmm," said Peter, nodding. "My uncle gave me a book on insects and arachnids for my last birthday."

"How old did you turn?" Asked Namor, hoping to get some more information about the child in his care. His tech department was currently going through the files found in the abandoned Hydra base, but they had yet to find anything so convenient as a list of 'children kidnapped and where they come from.'

Peter grinned wider, showing off a gap in his teeth that Namor hadn't noticed before, where an adult tooth had yet to replace a lost baby tooth. Peter appeared more comfortable than he had been earlier, daring to pull one hand from around himself and display his spread palm proudly. "I turned five!" Peter boasted, a priceless little giggle following the statement.

Namor allowed his smile to widen in response. Once Peter was no longer crying, he was quite a sweet child boy. Trying to keep it that way, Namor asked, "What's your favorite creepy-crawly from your book?"

Peter's face screwed up in concentration, clearly thinking really hard. He looked back at Namor and asked, "Can I pick two favorites?"

Namor answered, "Of course you can, Peter."

"Okay," said Peter, grinning once more. "Then my favorites are the Peacock Spider and the Cyclosa Spider. The peacock spider has a blue body, and blue's my favorite color! But, the cyclosa is really cool, too. It draws in it's web! It has these super special designs that help reflect UV light to draw in their prey!"

"That's really cool, Peter," replied Namor. He was impressed by how smart the kid was. He was only five, but he obviously hosted a curious, learning mind in that skull of his. "Did you know, that where we are, we have different kinds of creepy-crawlies than normal?"

Peter's eyes lit up. "Really?" He asked.

"Really," answered Namor, "We have all kinds of shrimp, crabs, and other creatures."

Peter gasped. "Are we by the ocean?!" He blurted out.

"Well, why don't you some see?" asked Namor.