Stories of Glory

By Kay

Disclaimer: EW is not mine... nor do I get money for writing this stuff. I don't get much of anything, actually. XD

Author's Notes: David/Jalil implied SLASH near end. Mostly just David being angsty and me experimenting with a sort of fairytale gone wrong feel. Hope it's okay and not overly OOC. :)

Here's how it happens.

The boy does not become lost because he has always been so- distant, agonizing in a world he doesn't belong to, sneakers ill-fitting on his feet and hands empty without a purpose. He meets a witch (but doesn't know it), falls in love (but doesn't mean to), and throws himself off a pier into another world (but doesn't know why). He becomes more than he is- boy becomes man, sharp angles and hard steel, dark eyes and grim face, sword and stone and skin. He has a Quest. He has a Purpose. He is a General, he is a Hero, he is a Knight.

He wants to Save everyone.

"You're only our leader until you screw up," Jalil tells him over the counter, the white of his apron glaring under florescent lights. Scorn and understanding, understanding because of scorn, scorn because of understanding. David turns away and hates himself for trembling.

Save everyone, don't screw up, you're a Warrior.

The boy fights dragons and skeletons, suffers rat creatures and aliens. He wipes more disgusting things off of his blade than he can stand to think about, and often tries not to remember. He does horrible things and good ones, too, fights and organizes battles where men stumble around with their flesh hanging about their face and clutching the black gorging of blood into their mouths. He protects a pretty green girl in a forest, saves witches and not-witches, pretends to be larger than he is.

It's the only way David can survive. Saving, saving, saving, until he's so spent that it burns out the soles of his shoes and the air spent on his voice.

"You're no good to us if you fall," Jalil says, handing him a cup of steaming bark tea that Daggermouth's kitchens are infamous for. David takes it with a weak, despairing cough that sounds more like a wet sob. The bedroom shifts in shadows and when he looks up, Jalil is opening the windows.

Save everyone, don't fall to your feet, stand and lead the line. You're a Leader.

The war goes on and there's no more indecision- even if the boy wants to return to the Old World, the door is slammed shut in his face. So he leads battles into marshes and meadows, turns grass slickly red with blood, eats diseased fruits and fish with hard scales. He's still alive. It's not only because of him. Maps drawn with fine, careful lines, battle tactics ruthlessly drawn out into life through sheer perseverance, a studying eye and gentle guiding. Jalil knows when to push his head to the pillow, when to exert a harsh word to get the food in his hands to his mouth. He knows how to make him kill people, too. David wants to hate him for that sometimes, but it's what he wanted, isn't it?

"You're a hero," they all say. Flowers and kisses, clasped hands over his own, thankyouthankyouthankyou.

You're a Savior, you're a Rescuer. Save everything, don't let it die, give and give and give.

In the end, the boy meets the Evil face to face, and not all the shiny shields and swords could help him for what he sees. A nothingness so great that it burns into him- because it is a reflection. But he is still a Hero, and the creature is still Evil, and when they blast it all to Hell, David falls to his knees and starts crying hard enough to throw his beating heart up on the ground before him.

The other men do the same, but they're wheezing is more like laughter.

You've Saved everything, don't break apart now, get back home. You're a God. You're so fucking miserable you could die.

When he returns, he falls into bed. And wakes to a hand pushing through his hair, slow and cautious, fingers sifting through mahogany stuck together with dirt. David opens his mouth, chokes on his words, and hears the soft exhale Jalil gives when he is still silent.

"Are you alive?" he finally asks. David feels something crumble in him at the question.

"I don't know," he answers truthfully, voice cracking.

Bells are ringing outside the castle walls. He can hear them in his bones, thrumming with energy and joy, but it's a million miles away. Here, inside the room, Jalil holds his shoulders tightly in a mimic of an embrace. It feels barren. The Knight is a wreck, the True Love has long been killed by the hand of the Trusted Friend, and the Princess has been married off from her Darling for the good of the Honorable Battle. This isn't how he'd wanted it to go at all.

"You did good, David," Jalil says quietly. Squeezes.

"Shut the hell up." He isn't going to cry anymore, he isn't. He should be happy. Victorious. This is the feeling of glory, sharply stinging in his eyes and moaning thickly in his throat. Jalil is warm and real and not enough of what he needs, and that makes it even worse.

"David," Jalil says, and then, "You're such an idiot."

Happily Ever After comes far too late to save any of them, but Jalil leans down and David figures he'll take whatever he can get.