Finally, after far too many years, the Society of the Evening Star had been defeated. Or, at the very least, they had been foiled in their attempt to open the demon prison, and the Sphinx was now under the careful watch of the Knights. Things were far from perfect, as there was still a lot of cleanup that had to be done everywhere, not just in Fablehaven. They weren't out of the woods yet, but they were all optimistic that the worst of it was over.
There had been a big, official celebration hosted by the Knights. Everybody had been happy and cheerful, while Dale had nearly started counting down the minutes to when it would end. Formal meetings of this size had never interested him much. He had much preferred it when they had a smaller, much more casual celebration of their own at Fablehaven. The only ones there had been the Sorensons, the Larsons, Tanu, Vanessa, Dale, Warren, Bracken, Kendra, and Seth.
Four hours the eleven of them just sat in the living room and talked about what they had been up to this whole time. Dale couldn't help but feel a little out of place. Everybody else had some epic adventure to share, and Dale could only talk about his work trying to get Fablehaven fixed up. He didn't resent it though, he liked his work around Fablehaven, and while it was weird to be the only one who hadn't had a direct hand to prevent the demon doors from being opened, Dale wouldn't change a thing.
The eleven of them talked for hours and just took advantage of and enjoyed the fact that there wasn't a threat of the world being destroyed. At least, not one that they were aware of yet. After some time, when Kendra had dozed off and Seth was trying his hardest to stay awake, Dale glanced at his brother. He hadn't meant to, it had just been instinctive, but when Dale saw his brother's state, he was glad he'd checked.
At some point during their discussion, Warren's position had switched from lounging on the chair, taking up as much space as he possibly could, to sitting with his legs drawn up onto the chair next to him. He wasn't quite curled up tightly, and he still looked really relaxed, but Dale couldn't help but get nervous.
For two years Dale had gotten used to watching out carefully for Warren's automatic tendency to curl inwards. He recognized it as a sign that Warren was anxious and uncomfortable. Dale knew that Warren's behavior wasn't necessarily going to be the same as it was when he was catatonic, but old habits die hard. Dale couldn't help but look for the other signs that Warren was feeling overwhelmed.
The first place that Dale looked was Warren's eyes. He was relieved, but not surprised, to see that Warren's eyes were nowhere near as blank as they'd been when he was in his catatonic state. Warren was conscious and aware, but just because it wasn't as bad as it could be didn't mean that Warren was feeling particularly great.
The look in Warren's eyes reminded Dale a little of his unicorn days, when things were just beginning to feel like too much. Over the years, Warren had gotten pretty good at hiding some of his more obvious feelings, but after two years of looking for every little thing that might tell him how Warren was feeling, Dale had learned what his more subtle tells were.
Dale stood up and stretched slightly, feeling a little sore from sitting for so long. "There's a lot of work to be done around Fablehaven. I think I'm going to get started," He looked at Warren. "I could use an extra set of hands."
"Come on, Dale," Vanessa complained. "We all deserve a break. If you insist on working, at least don't drag your brother into it."
"No, I don't mind," Warren grinned and stood up. "I'm great at providing an extra set of hands." He really was. Dale could go so far as to say that Warren's specialty was to assist others. "Besides, Fablehaven's a mess right now. Someone's gotta make sure you don't get yourself killed."
"I appreciate the confidence you have in my skills." Dale said dryly. Warren just laughed and followed him out of the room. Dale grinned to himself. It was nice to hear Warren laughing so casually. Dale knew his brother well enough to know that while he could fake things pretty well, he couldn't fake that. If Warren really was feeling overwhelmed by being around people for so long, Dale had caught it before it got too bad.
When they got outside and out of ear and eyeshot, Warren's grin slipped a little bit. He looked at Dale in confusion and slight suspicion. "Is something going on? You never ask for my help unless you have ulterior motives,"
"I thought you would appreciate getting away from the others for a bit," Dale said. "You've never really liked being around so many people for such an extended period of time."
"That's not always the case," Warren said. He looked a little embarrassed, as he often did when Dale pointed out his social issues. Warren liked people, and he wanted to be around them, he just wasn't always able to handle it for very long.
"But it is now," Dale said. He gave Warren a knowing look. "Isn't it?"
Warren grimaced and put his hands in his pockets. His shoulders fell slightly. Either Warren was letting his physical exhaustion from these past few days show, or he was curling inward to make himself smaller, like he did when he was feeling overwhelmed.
"How can you tell?" Warren asked. "Is it really that obvious,"
Dale shook his head. "I only noticed because I've had a lot of practice," They reached the barn and began to grab any yard-clearing tool they could find. Usually when Dale worked he focused on one thing, but Fablehaven was such a disaster that he didn't even know where to start. Dale figured the best thing to do was just clear up everything they saw, which was why the variety of tools was needed. If they didn't know what to expect, they couldn't really plan for it. It may be a pain to carry so many tools around with them everywhere, but Dale thought it would be better than running back and forth whenever they thought of a new tool they needed.
Warren picked up a billhook and spun it around slightly. "Is it because of my albinoness?" Dale nodded. "I thought you said I didn't show any emotion when I was like that."
"No, I said you showed little emotion," Dale said. "It took me awhile, but I could tell when you were feeling overwhelmed, and that's what I saw in there,"
Warren frowned. His eyes were a little more closed off than they'd been before, which worried Dale. He had been trying to help his brother feel better, not worse.
"What's on your mind?" Dale asked. Warren gave him a curious look. "Your eyes, I can see that you're upset,"
"Just from my eyes?" Warren asked. Dale nodded. Warren's frown deepened. "You said it took you awhile to read how I was feeling. How much time did you spend taking care of me every day?"
"On average?" Dale asked, because there had been quite a few days where Warren had needed quite a lot of attention, but there had been a couple where he'd barely needed more than supervision. "Just a few hours,"
"Don't say that like it's not that much," Warren said. "What, exactly, did you do for me?"
"It varied depending on the day," Dale said. Sometimes taking care of Warren had been incredibly monotonous, but other times it felt like things were always changing. "Most of what I did was make sure you ate, and you weren't always in the mood for that. Meals could take just ten minutes, or they could drag on for nearly an hour." Dale was glad that he had reached a point where he could talk about taking care of his brother.
Warren took a deep breath. He looked a little upset. Dale may be ready to talk about this, but he wondered if Warren was ready to hear it. So far, he'd told Warren very little about the specifics of what he'd done for him. He didn't want to make Warren feel like he owed him anything, and he didn't want to force Warren to think about something that he just saw as a bad dream.
"Kendra told me that you made sure I exercised," Warren said quietly. "How'd you do that if I was catatonic,"
"With a lot of effort and patience," Dale said. He watched Warren carefully. "You don't want to know how long it took me to figure it out,"
"Yes, I do," Warren looked at him, determination in his eyes. "You did so much for me, and I barely know any of it. I...I want to know. I want to understand,"
Dale was cautious. "You don't have to hear this,"
"You didn't have to take care of me," Warren said. He gave Dale a small smile. "I want to hear. How did you figure out how to get me to exercise? How long did it take you to be able to read me so well? What was the worst day you had taking care of me,"
The worst day, that was an easy question. Dale was still a little uncertain about opening up to Warren about this, but he couldn't continue to treat his brother like a child. Warren had a right to know. And maybe it was for the best that Dale started by telling him the worst that it got. If Warren didn't like what he heard, Dale would know to not tell him more.
"The worst day was the time that I tried to get you to hoe the yard in front of your cabin," Dale began to tell his brother what had happened. It was a more detailed account than what he'd given to Kendra and Seth, but if anybody deserved to know the specifics, it was Warren.
Dale spoke as they began to work around the yard. Warren listened attentively, taking in his every word. He didn't interrupt except to ask a clarifying question. He left most of the talking to Dale, which was actually really nice. Dale had never realized just how much he needed to talk about this, and he'd underestimated how much Warren might need to hear it. Just talking about it was really therapeutic, and Dale appreciated the chance.
A/N: To date, this is my longest story. Only by a few thousand words, but when I started writing this about a year and a half ago, I didn't think it would get nearly this long. I've loved writing Dale and Warren just being brothers. For now, I'm going to state this story as being completed, and I'll come back and add more if I feel so inspired.
Now that I'm done writing this, I thought I'd share some interesting facts with you. While I worked pretty hard to have information from the books, there were a few bits that I, for one reason or another, didn't include in this story. I thought I'd tell you guys what those bits were, and why I didn't include them.
1: Stan inheriting Fablehaven from his uncle. Honestly, when I was first writing this story, I had forgotten about that little bit of information. Now, I can't imagine having someone else around Fablehaven before Stan and Ruth get there, so it may have been on accident, but I stand by it.
2: Dale only staying in Fablehaven so he could take care of Warren. Even if I ignore that in this story, Dale and Warren were raised at Fablehaven, this just doesn't make sense to me. This implies that Warren, for some reason, had to remain at Fablehaven when he was catatonic, so Dale had to stay at Fablehaven to take care of him. I just didn't get it, so I happily ignored it.
3: Dale took care of Warren for those two years because Warren had always been willing to help him out, and he was trying to return the favor. I tried to write this, I really did, but there's one big issue with this particular bit of info from the books. Warren is just too young. We know that Warren's in his twenties, and Dale is ten or so years older than him. When there's that much of an age difference, and Warren is still so young, it's hard for him to have chances to really help Dale until he's at least fifteen or so years old. Especially since by the time Kendra meets Warren, he'd been catatonic for two years, and he had to have been a Knight for at least a few years before that, or else he wouldn't be trusted with such an important solo assignment. This leaves very little time for Warren to do anything for his brother, especially since I had him training with the Knights for a few years too. I tried to show young Warren being helpful, but there's only so much that a little kid can do.
4: Vanessa and Warren being a thing. I talked about the two of them knowing each other, but I deliberately didn't go much into their relationship. This was for personal reasons, because I don't really ship the two of them together, at all. I have a really hard time believing that they had dated in the past, because we get not even a hint of it until the fifth book, and they've had far too little interactions with each other in the book for me to be really into them as a couple. Besides, I ship Warren with someone else. I stayed away from my preferred ship in this story, because it wasn't what the story was about. Besides, it's a controversial pairing (for a few reasons that I understand, but don't completely agree with), and I didn't want to chase anyone off because of that.