In which I tear out everyone's hearts and stomp all over them. Strap in, friends. Angst awaits us. Hurt/comfort.
And for the people in the back:
This oneshot was written for feministkendra, who was kind enough to write me a few stories about Dale. As you have requested, dear Princess, here is a oneshot dedicated to Warren and Kendra.
Side note: I cried while writing this, which is something I've never done before. Sorry not sorry. Partly inspired by the song "Her Diamonds" by Rob Thomas.
She wasn't eating, and he knew she wasn't sleeping much. She'd withdrawn into herself and had stopped talking to pretty much everyone.
Stan was concerned.
He'd tried talking to her. Tried to comfort her somehow. His heart was hurting, too – he'd tried to connect with her over their mutual ache, but it hadn't worked. He hadn't been able to get through to her, and she was slowly wasting away in front of him. He'd caught her crying by herself in the darkness again last night, but when she realized she'd been found, she simply wiped her tears and walked away.
No one had been able to get through to her. Not Tanu, not Ruth, neither Knox nor Tess. She managed her responsibilities and carried herself with grace throughout the day, but at night she hid herself away. Oddly enough, Marat seemed to be the one person she appeared to be the most comfortable around, however he had told Stan that all they ever did was sit together in silence when there was no business to attend to. He'd also tried to get her to talk, but she hadn't allowed herself to truly open up to anyone.
She needed help. Stan could clearly see that she needed help. They all could tell.
So when Ruth decided to take matters into her own hands, Stan didn't even try to stop her.
They needed all the help they could get.
When Warren arrived at Wyrmroost, it took everything within him – every bit of willpower he possessed – to refrain from punching Stan in the face. He held a lot of respect for the older man for a myriad of reasons, but this was one thing he simply couldn't accept.
There were other dragon tamers. Adult dragon tamers. Adult dragon tamers who would have accepted this responsibility and been more mentally prepared for the onerous task at hand. Warren didn't care if the world was falling apart – Seth and Kendra should have been kept far away from Wyrmroost. How dare they come to this preserve. How dare they be allowed to even think about becoming caretakers of such a dangerous place at all.
If only he'd been there. If only he'd been at Fablehaven when Agad had convinced all of them to allow children to become caretakers of Wyrmroost of all places. He'd have given them all an earful. He'd have absconded with Kendra and Seth. He'd have sheltered them and wrapped them in warm blankets and put them in front of a fireplace and given them hot cocoa and let them watch as much television and eat as much junk food as they wanted. He'd have taken care of them.
And he wouldn't be here, now, trying to convince himself to refrain from punching Stan's lights out.
Stan, at least, bowed his head and had the decency to look ashamed.
Deep breath in, hold for three seconds, exhale for ten.
"Where is she?" Warren asked, only somewhat trying to rein in his temper.
Ruth stepped forward and gave him a hug; one which Warren did not return. He couldn't bring himself to do so, and that really said a lot about his current frame of mind.
"It's twilight. She's probably up in one of the towers, watching the onset of evening. She's been doing that a lot lately," Ruth answered, taking Warren's bags from him.
She pointed to his left, where there was an archway which showed a stone staircase beyond it.
Warren nodded his head once, then made a beeline for the stairs without looking back. As he climbed the staircase, his anger began to morph into a deep-seated worry. She's got to be a nervous wreck right about now. She's got to be anxious. Beyond anxious. Hurt. Confused. Afraid.
The staircase led to a door, which opened up to reveal a very nice view of the preserve. A summer breeze caressed Warren's skin. To his left was a pathway which clearly led to other towers. To his right was another staircase which wound up and around the outside of the current one he'd just been climbing the inside of. He walked to his right and then moved back to the left in order to try and see if he could spot Kendra anywhere.
He didn't have to look for long.
He looked up and saw her leaning against the railing of the staircase nearest to him. She looked at him as though she wasn't incredibly surprised to see him there. Her face was a mostly emotionless mask.
His heart stopped. Kendra – sweet, optimistic, sensitive Kendra – she looked broken.
How… how could they do this to you?
Warren ran up the stairs as quickly as he possibly could and pulled her into a bone-crushing embrace. She didn't fight it, but she didn't immediately react, either. After a long pause, she finally wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her head into his chest. He planted his face in her hair and kissed the top of her head, then just simply held her close.
Silence reigned for several minutes. Eventually, Warren spoke.
"Come on, Kendra. It's me. Talk to me."
She pulled herself away from him and turned back toward the preserve.
"Kendra," he prompted.
Still no response.
He leaned against the railing and bumped her shoulder with his own. She didn't react.
After another couple of minutes passed with nothing verbalized between them, Warren decided to speak again.
"Kendra, talk to me. Tell me what's going on inside that head of yours. Yell at me. Scream. Cry. Hit me. Do something. Don't just stand there and tune me out. I can take whatever you throw at me. Trust me."
She looked at him, but shook her head and returned her gaze to the distance.
"No? Why not?" he asked.
She whispered something, but he didn't quite catch it.
"Because it'll eat me alive."
Warren grabbed hold of her upper arm and physically turned her so that she faced him.
"Look at me," he said. "Warren is my name. I am a protector by definition." She broke eye contact with him and peered disinterestedly at her shoes. He bent down in order to stay in front of her line of sight before he continued. "I will always be here to protect you. These past few months? That was the last time I will ever be far away from you for more than a handful of days. And this crisis? I'm not leaving your side until it's over. Do you understand me? I will protect you, Kendra."
"Stop," she responded.
"No. I won't stop. I'll never stop." He made eye contact with her again. "I'm here for you."
"Stop!" she shouted.
"Not going to happen," he replied coolly.
"You say that you won't leave, but you can't control that! You can't promise something like that!"
"I can and I believe I just did."
She rolled her eyes and groaned. "Stop it, Warren."
"You stop. Stop blocking everyone out. Stop hurting in silence." He moved himself around in order to catch her eye again. She seemed determined to look at anything other than him.
"I don't know how to deal with it, okay?!" she yelled.
"Don't know how to deal with what?" Warren asked, trying to coax more of a reaction out of her.
"We were fine! Things were finally okay! We were all safe, no more lies, no more betrayals, no more danger and fear and… and… and whatever! Things were finally good! And then everything just went so wrong! How could everything just fall apart like that? How could… Bracken… and then Seth…!" Kendra stopped talking and bit her lip, her eyes brimming with unshed tears.
"How could they what, Kendra?"
"Bracken is probably hurt somewhere! He was in prison for centuries, and he's probably in another one now! I thought he was dead, Warren! When Marat told me he was alive…! What if he's hurt? What if he's dying? What if he's being tortured and no one is there to save him? He's lonely, Warren! He's by himself, and he's hurting! I know he is!" Tears flowed freely down Kendra's cheeks as she ranted. "And then Seth…!" she completely broke down at the mention of her brother, flinging herself at Warren and wrapping her arms around his torso in a fierce embrace. He returned her embrace in kind and rubbed soft circles into her upper arms.
"He doesn't know who he is!" she hiccupped as she spoke. "He… he didn't remember me! H-how… how are we going to get him back? Will we get him back? What if… what if I never see him again? How am I supposed to live without my brother?" She grabbed fistfuls of Warren's shirt as she continued with her tirade. "He was so stupid! For the longest time! So… so stupid! But… but he was always there! And lately… lately we've been a team! A real team, Warren! Y-you should've seen us! We… we were a team…" she sobbed into his shirt and Warren's heart shattered into a million pieces. "He's… he's my brother. He's the most important person in my life. And he's gone." She fell apart and became a mess of unfettered tears and incoherent exclamations of frustration and anger as well as deep and profound sadness.
Warren guided them both to sit down on the stairs while he held her in his arms. Tears of his own leaked down his face and into her hair. How could this have happened? He didn't know the full story of everything that had gone down at Wyrmroost with the Sorenson siblings, but he knew enough to be able to understand Kendra's outburst. His soul ached for her. It ached for Seth. And he was concerned for Bracken as well; they hadn't had a ton of time to connect after the whole Zzyzx situation had been sorted out, but they'd formed a good friendship and Warren hoped his friend was alright.
For now, Warren simply held onto the young woman in his arms whose sobs continued to rage on. She drew in shuddering breath after shuddering breath and slowly, after a solid twenty minutes or so, her body relaxed in Warren's grasp and her tears came to an end. This precious, truly special young woman who had already dealt with more than any one person should have to manage in their entire life, who was experiencing more trials and travails than she knew how to handle, who was trying to be strong for the sake of the people around her when truly she was living a nightmare and didn't know how to cope…
She needed help.
He didn't know how to help her. He'd fix the entire situation in a heartbeat if he could. He'd turn back time and stop it from happening. He'd be there for her. He'd protect her and Seth.
For now… all he could do was simply exist. Be a shoulder for her to cry on. Be her confidante, her friend, the older brother she needed.
Darkness fell while they sat on the steps.
"Thank you for coming, Warren," Kendra spoke softly into the night.
"I'm sorry it took me so long," he answered. "If I'd known what was going on… Kendra, I'd have been here in an instant." He paused before continuing. "I hate that this has happened. You shouldn't even be here. None of this should have happened."
She clutched at Warren a little tighter. "You're here now," she began. "I'm glad you're here."
He kissed her forehead. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be."
Kendra snorted in disbelief.
"Okay, so there's at least a million other places I'd rather be, but what I meant was that I'm happy to be back with you again."
She pulled away from him and fixed him with an incredulous expression. Unfortunately, Warren couldn't see it because it was so dark outside and there were absolutely no lights on anywhere around them.
"I can tell that you're looking at me, but I can barely see the outline of my own hand in front of my face right now, so I can't tell what you're thinking," he said.
"I'm thinking that you're really weird for wanting to be at Wyrmroost of all places," she deadpanned.
"Well, you know. What's a vacation without the threat of a dragon breathing fire all over you while you sleep?" he asked.
That actually earned him a snicker from the girl.
"Oh? Was that laughter I heard?" he asked, reaching out in the darkness to poke Kendra's shoulder.
"Stop it," she whined, poking him back.
"Sorry. Older cousin privileges state that I get to pester you for however long I want," he announced, poking her in her ribcage this time.
"I will leave you out here in the dark alone," she warned.
Warren raised his hands. "You win," he stated. "It pays off to know someone who can see in the dark when you're, well… in the dark."
"What a profound statement."
"Is that sarcasm I hear in your voice? Whatever happened to dear, sweet, innocent Kendra?"
"She died," Kendra answered, her tone becoming serious once more.
"Oh, come here, you," Warren said, dragging her into yet another hug. This one was short-lived, however. Kendra drew back again after a few seconds and stood up, then pulled Warren to his feet. He groaned as he stood up. "Remind me next time that stone steps aren't kind to my tailbone," he complained.
"Come on, old man," she replied. "Let's get you inside where it's warm and you're not blind anymore."
"Hmmm. Sounds like a good plan to me."
Kendra grabbed his hand and led him down the stairs at a relatively slow clip, in order to make sure he wouldn't trip and fall. He appreciated her diligence. Once they'd made it back through the door which led to the first staircase Warren had traversed that evening, he was able to see again thanks to the lit torches which lined the walls. Kendra let go of his hand and waited with him until his eyes adjusted to the light, then they both descended the remaining staircase. "Did anyone show you where your room is?" she asked.
"To be honest, I didn't give them a chance. I went to find you basically as soon as I made it here."
"Where are your bags?"
Warren shrugged. "Ruth took them."
Kendra tapped her chin as she thought. "Well, all of the empty bedrooms are up this way. Follow me."
They eventually found the room which contained Warren's bags. And a few hours later, Stan peeked his head inside Warren's door to find Kendra asleep on the bed curled up next to her cousin, who had his arm around her as though he were protecting her as they both slept. Stan's spirits lifted a little as he watched them sleep for a minute before he closed the door and relocated himself to his own room.
"Did you find them?" Ruth asked as soon as he walked in.
"Yes," he answered.
"They're both asleep in Warren's room."
Ruth visibly relaxed. "Good," she stated as she exhaled. "I'm glad."
Stan moved over to his wife and placed a hand on her shoulder. She placed one of her hands over his.
"Good call," he said. "Bringing Warren into this. That was a good move."
Ruth nodded. "I'd hoped he would be able to get through to her."
"I think he did," Stan replied. "I really think he did."