Eildon Rhymer (rhymer23) wrote,
Eildon Rhymer
rhymer23

On the Road to Come What May - part 14 of 16

On the Road to Come What May – chapter twelve (part 14 of 16)

The story starts here on LJ or you can read the entire story to date here in a single file.


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Chapter twelve
A Pretty Gift
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"I should have realised." Jasper watched Sheppard's hand curl into a fist as he spoke. "I knew Kit was up to something. Annis as good as told me, and I said I had it under control. I thought he was planning on doing something with the boy after we left. That's why I--"

"Huh." Rodney sounded disgusted. "It's worse than that. Here we have a planet that quite clearly has no conception of inter-planetary travel. They think the Ancients are gods, for crying out loud. Of course it doesn't have a functional DHD. Why did it ever occur to us to assume that it did?"

"Rodney…" Teyla said warningly, looking up from her place in the corner.

"It's not like it's going to make much difference now, is it?" Rodney jerked miserably at the chains that were keeping him on his pallet. "Once again, I'm the only one who comprehends quite how screwed we are. Nobody knew where were are. Even before Colonel Dialling Under The Influence brought us on this one-way trip to nowhere, we'd fallen right off the radar. Hyperspace, remember? Nobody's coming to get us. "

Ronon strained at his chains, aiming a furious kick at the door. In honour of his rank, Jasper was the only one with a proper bed, its sheets made of soft fabric from across the Narrow Sea, but they felt like cold chains to him.

"Because – oh, yes! – the DHD's broken." Rodney sounded almost gleeful in his despair. "The only way to dial out would be to go all the way to Myr, to trace every painful step of that nightmare-ridden little journey, and find a way to get the dart back from people with stone axes and hacksaws who are busy dissecting it as we speak. Oh, and then to fix it – and once again the task of saving your sorry asses falls to me. But none of which we can do, because – hello? – in prison here, chained up?"

"We know, Rodney." Sheppard was sitting with legs bent, forearms resting on his thighs.

"What, no pep talk? No relentless optimism? No 'don't worry, Rodney, we'll get out of here?'" Rodney's voice started harsh, but he seemed to lose the heart for it as he went along. He slumped back against the wall, closed his eyes, and said nothing for a while.

Ronon tried for another kick, pulling at his chains. Jasper remembered how badly Sheppard's wrists had bled when he had done the same. Now Sheppard was chained again, not yet fully healed since the last time.

"John?" Teyla said quietly.

"Fine. I'm fine." But he didn't look fine. His time at Stone Hall had saved his life, Jasper realised, but he had needed more days of uninterrupted rest to be completely recovered. He'd been keeping going long enough to get to his goal, but now that goal was snatched away, he had nothing to keep going for.

Ronon growled furiously, and threw himself back onto the pallet, but it looked more like falling, really. When he lay down, he put a forearm over his eyes, as if he was suffering from a bad headache. Teyla was also hurt, bruises dark around her neck, and Rodney had a dark red line at his throat.

"What…?" Jasper cleared his throat. "What are they going to do with us?"

No-one answered. Outside, glimpsed through a tiny window, it was almost full daylight, and it had been the first glimmerings of dawn when they had been dragged over the river and locked in this place. The voices of strangers had surrounded them, but Kit had been absent, keeping himself out of sight, although Jasper had overheard enough to know that he was well known to the whole troop, a native of Daryen.

No-one talked about that. No-one talked about how Kit's betrayal made them feel. Jasper knew how it made him feel. And he hadn't liked Kit, not really, no, not at all. He was just a common thief, who had spent the first half of the journey mocking Jasper, and the second half in a foul mood. It wasn't a personal betrayal, not at all – although Jasper remembered the times Kit had said 'Jasper-lad', and how he had smiled, and how they had exchanged glances in the ruin in the hills. He remembered crouching at the edge of the clearing around the Circle, so sure that Kit was feeling the same as he was. He remembered how Kit had joined in on his side when he had been trying to persuade Sheppard to let him stay. But of course he did, he realised now. He wanted me to come here, so he could do this.

He thought he had barely exchanged a dozen words with Kit, but when he looked back at the journey with eyes that knew that Kit had been false all along, it felt like a hollow, broken thing.

Perhaps he made a sound out loud, because the next thing he knew, Sheppard was looking at him. "Not so romantic when you're on the receiving end, huh?"

Betrayal? Jasper thought, then realised that Sheppard meant prison. He meant Valorian captured by the slavers, or Tamorlin's sojourn in the hands of his enemies. He meant a prisoner who had clung on rather than let himself die, and how for days that had seemed to Jasper to be the only thing that defined the man.

He meant eyes that pricked with tears, and a throat that wanted to cry. He meant the fluttering fear you felt whenever footsteps sounded in the hall. He meant the knowledge that you were entirely in someone else's power. For years, Jasper had known himself to be a prisoner of his father's expectations, but it was nothing like this. It felt nothing like this.

When the tears finally came, he did not try to stop them, but when they had flowed for but a little while, he wiped his face harshly, and refused to cry any more.

******

"I wasn't sure you'd send anyone," Kit said, when he had been ignored for far too long.

"That one," his uncle said, indicating to his page which sash he had decided to wear for today's martial merriment. As the boy scurried to drape him with the trappings of a dauntless commander, Kit's uncle deigned to notice Kit at last. "I almost didn't. It was quite an irregular mode of communication – a few garbled sentences sent through a recruiting sergeant, no less - and entirely without proper explanations." But what else could we expect from you? his tone said. "And to leave us with no means of contacting you if we preferred a different mode of approach. Have you any idea how hard it was to persuade the priests to let a troop into the grove?"

"I would have thought grandfather could have ordered them." Kit looked at the portraits on the wall, each one intensely familiar. Even with his eyes closed, he could have said how many swords hung above the fireplace.

"And to get men who were willing to take the job." His uncle continued if he hadn't spoken.

"I would have thought you could have ordered them."

His uncle was looking critically at his scabbard. "It is always good to have willing men. Orders only go so far. A man who's scared shitless to be so close to the Circle is a man who will run when you need him." With a flap of his hand, he commanded his page to hang the scabbard, despite its invisible blemish. "Knowing your men is the key to command, Kit."

Kit shifted on the carpet. "Spare the lectures. I'm not a child any more."

"I means you can allocate a task to those who are best able to carry it out," his uncle said. "Know how people will react, and act accordingly. Push them in ways that they don't realise is being pushed."

Be a mean-hearted bastard, in other words, Kit thought. A thief, a general, a priest… and a man who had manipulated his new companions from the start. Not so different after all, perhaps. However much you tried to avoid them, lessons taught early in childhood stuck.

"But you came," was all Kit said. "Cousin Vayne and all his shiny men, bravely resisting the wrath of the Gods just for little old me."

His uncle dismissed the page-boy, but his behaviour was no different after he had gone than it had been when every word had been overheard. He still barely looked at Kit, but, then, he never had. Metal leaves gleamed on his chest.

"You aren't going to ask what gifts I brought back from my travels?" Kit asked. "Spices? Fabrics? A shiny new gun? No?" He sighed, wishing he could control his breathing; it was faltering high in his chest, as if something heavy had taken root at the base of his lungs. "I brought prisoners. And are you going to ask who they are?"

"That is for your grandfather and the priests." His uncle flapped his hand dismissively. "My field is war."

Even the smells were intensely familiar: black powder and oil and resin, and the faint smell of the dried petals that his uncle used to keep his uniform fresh. Sometimes, asleep in the Drowned Quarter, he had caught an echo of any of these scents, and had immediately been transported back to here.

"I brought the crown prince of Myr," Kit said stubbornly, refusing to be robbed of his triumph, "who followed me here as trusting as a baby merrow. The other four aren't from around here, but I believe they have a most interesting story to tell. Their technology is like nothing I've seen before, and their secrets…" No, it didn't do to tell one of the least imaginative members of his family that Kit's travelling companions had apparently expected to step through the Circle of Daryen and be taken directly to some distant home.

It certainly didn't do to say that part of him had fervently hoped that they would do just that.

"Like I said," his uncle said absently, opening a dispatch case, "it's nothing to do with me. I have an enemy army to deal with, and half my men are in a panic about the return of the Gods."

"Yeah." Kit cleared his throat. "About that…" He ran his finger along the edge of the mantelpiece, and even the dust smelled familiar.

"The priests say that something came through the Circle." His uncle was busy reading. "Some strange vessel. The people don't know the details of course." He threw the paper down; picked up a new one. "Perhaps the world is ending, and perhaps it isn't, but I've got a war to fight. You don't win wars by rolling over at the slightest rumour."

"No." If anything, the weight in his chest had grown, and he felt as if all the air was slowly being drained out of the room. "So…?" He moved stiffly to a chair, sat down, and crossed his legs, ankle resting on the opposite knee. "What's the plan?"

Absorbed in his reading, his uncle did not answer.

Kit swallowed. "What…?" He had not meant to ask it. "What's going to happen to the others? To… to the prisoners, I mean."

"How should I know?" His uncle looked up from his papers, deigning to give Kit a moment of his proper attention. "And why do you care, anyway? You betrayed them."

******

When footsteps stopped outside the door, Jasper was the only one unchained, and the only one who could do anything about it. All he did, though, was sit a little more upright on the bed, and tried to look as serene as Teyla and as determined as Sheppard and as resolved as Tamorlin in the hands of his enemies.

The man who entered was old, dressed in tarnished velvet, and with ink-stains on his fingers and in his uncombed, thinning hair. "Hmph," he said, stopping two paces into the room, ignoring Ronon's desperate attempts to break free. "It really is you. I thought young Kit was telling tales again. A boy can change in four years, but that one was never going to change."

"Let us go!" Rodney demanded. "We… we've got lots of important friends. They'll burn your buildings to rubble. We didn't do anything. Whatever Kit said, he's lying."

The old man waved his hand, like someone idly swatting away an irritating insect. "But you have something of your father in your face, even though he tries to hide behind that beard – quite an alarming beard, don't you think? The crown prince of Myr…" He chuckled. "What a pretty gift. Now to decide how best to use you…" He snapped his fingers again, and the armed men who flanked him turned sharply on their heels and escorted him away again.

Rodney and Ronon shouted for quite some time after the door had closed.

"Was that the king?" Sheppard asked eventually. "The basilisk guy?"

"Basilis," Jasper heard himself saying, the voice far too level to be his own. "They don't have kings. The priests elect him for eleven years. It's a shameful practice." That's what his father always said, anyway.

"Which helps us how?" Rodney said sharply. "Oh, yes, because knowing the political structure of the people who built the chains is going to tell us how to break the lock."

Jasper shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position. The sun slanted in from above, but didn't strike his bed. Very faintly, he could hear the sound of life going on outside. The hum of activity sounded just like the sounds he sometimes heard drifting in from the Drowned Quarter in Myr, as if he was back at home again, and these were not a cruel and barbarous people. Then a horn sounded, not too far away, and he heard the sound of a troop of men passing over cobbles.

"What's going to happen?" he found himself asking. "With my father? With the army?"

"And now he starts to wonder," Rodney exclaimed.

What a pretty gift. Now to decide how best to use you…The Basilis of Daryen was facing Jasper's father in war. He remembered stories – stories he hadn't thought about before; stories that his nurse had sometimes told, singing them softly to music, then saying 'hush', because they were common people's tales. There was violence in those stories – sons held captive for the good behaviour of their fathers; hostages returned bit by bit, or butchered in full view of their family.

Sheppard had tried to stop this from happening, he realised. But he couldn't quite bring himself to say so, knowing that he might cry again if Rodney said 'We told you so.'

Instead he thought of people imprisoned far away from their home. "Why did you leave your people?" he asked Teyla. "You told me before, but I didn't understand."

Rodney grunted. "And this is going to help how?"

"Talking passes the time," Teyla said softly.

"Time should fly for you, then, huh, McKay." Sheppard's head was pressed to the wall, and his eyes were half closed.

"I left them," Teyla said, her lovely face grave as she looked at Jasper, "because I felt I could serve their interests better if I went elsewhere."

He thought of his home that had never seemed like a home. "Do you miss them?"

"It was difficult at first, because everything in the city was new to me, and very strange. There were times when I was quite unhappy." Sheppard's eyes snapped open, and Teyla turned to him with a smile. "When Sergeant Bates distrusted me," she said, "and never after that."

"But you stayed away." He had no idea why he was persisting on this, but only knew that he had to.

"As their leader, I had to do what was best for my people," Teyla said. "My own happiness is less important than theirs."

Jasper wanted to say something, but he couldn't speak. Too many thoughts crowded his mind – a whole jumble of things he had seen and heard beginning to slot into place. Most of all, though, he remembered what Sheppard had said to him before they had gone into the town to rescue Kit, and how fiercely he had spoken then. No, no, stronger even than that was the memory of Sheppard on his knees by the stream, urging the others to go on without him.

It wasn't just words. Teyla said it, but he had proof that these people lived it, too.

"I don't think…" He raised his head slowly, speaking it like the marvel that it was. "I don't think my father's a very good leader."

"Huh," Rodney grunted. "Well, of course. We knew that."

He said it as if it was nothing, but of course it was everything. Jasper was supposed to be king one day, but whenever he looked at his father, he thought I don't want to be like that. He couldn't be like that, and so his father despised him; and so Jasper turned away from the very thought of doing what his father wished, and turned to the sweet comfort of the only constant and reliable thing that he knew: poetry. Poetry that he lived for.

Poetry that he hadn't thought of even once since Kit had betrayed them at the Circle.

But, "I didn't," was all he said. "I really didn't."

******

Kit really shouldn't have said it. "So, how are you, Kit?" he asked. "What have you been doing these last four years? Welcome home." He crossed his legs the other way, gripping his ankle tightly. "No? It's too much to expect, is it?"

His uncle now had two piles of papers on the desk. "What did you expect?"

At least it was an acknowledgment of sorts. "I don't know," Kit said. "Perhaps a 'hello'? Perhaps a 'thank you'? After all, I did work an exceedingly cunning plan and brought back a prize that will help bring about the glory of my native land, etcetera etcetera."

He realised only after he said it that he was copying Rodney again. Sometimes he would deliberately mimic someone to mock them, but often it was an unconscious thing. He amassed vocabulary from other people, and even when he wasn't deliberately wearing a mask, his speech was a raggle-taggle collection of pieces of everyone he had ever known. It was perhaps not wise to speak like this to his uncle, though.

"So it was all for the glory of Daryen, then?" His uncle laid down his newest piece of paper. "All of this? When you stormed out so dramatically four years ago, it was all because you – so much wiser than the rest of us – had a plan to benefit our state?"

"Sarcasm doesn't suit you." Kit's voice sounded strangled. He concentrated on better things. "I see you've acquired a new tapestry. The stain didn't wash out of the old one?" Hurling the tea had been quite satisfying. He hadn't meant to knock his grandfather over onto his ass, though. 'Dramatic' was an under-statement, really.

His uncle was quite right, of course, which only made things worse. His exit had been prompted by all those usual things: a family that expected you to do your duty and who never allowed you to have any fun. His uncle had summoned him to this carpet for one too many stern lectures. After Kit had burnt his bridges there, he had set off for the one place where nobody was even the most distant of relatives, to live precisely how he pleased, grabbing what he wanted, and living on the knife-edge of danger because he wanted it.

"I know you, Kit." His uncle was reading, still reading. "I took your measure when you came into my care. I did my best to mould you, but you never listened to a word I said. You were always too busy planning your next trick."

"I was seven." Kit's fingers dug into his ankle. "People change."

His uncle snorted, then Kit realised that he was reacting to something he had read, and not to Kit at all. Sitting down, Kit saw the room from the height he had been back then, clutching his sister's hand, trying so hard not to cry for his parents. The shining seal on his uncle's desk had looked like something that would make his sister smile. He hadn't thought of it as stealing, not really, and his uncle hadn't noticed him take it. It was only two days later, after all the pages had been beaten, that the truth had been discovered. It had been downhill all the way after that, really.

But the smells were still there, and the sights, and the colours, and all those little things that you didn't even notice at the time, but all went together to cry 'home!' when you were far away. "I did listen," he found himself saying. "You would have been quite proud of me. Grandfather, too. I looked for an opportunity, and I took it. No, I set it up. I manipulated those people. They didn't suspect a thing. They thought it was all their idea. They even felt sorry for me, because I had to abandon my life in Myr and start all over again in Daryen."

Nothing, of course, and it grew harder and harder to say the words. He'd been in the Drowned Quarter for over two years before he had started to dream of returning home with a wonderful prize – a prize none of his priggish, obedient cousins could ever achieve with their protocol and their posturing and their politics. Then it just became a case of looking for the right moment and the right prize. So when three people had come along, speaking too loudly and too indiscreetly about such intriguing things, it had just been a case of reeling them in, all the while making them think that they were the ones doing the reeling.

"It was as masterful a piece of manipulation as you could ever wish to see," he said, as a portrait of his uncle stared down at him, shiny in his uniform, and lord of ten thousand hapless men.

"Are you expecting congratulations?" The flesh and blood version of that portrait looked up briefly.

And he had, of course, and that was the pathetic thing. He'd dreamed of apologies, and 'you were right all along, Kit', and open arms that greeted him and said, 'oh, Kit, we were so worried about you.' He shifted uncomfortably. "I think I deserve at least a pat on the back."

He wasn't going to get it, of course. Those smells that cried 'home!' blinded you to the other side of things. You forgot the bad stuff. You forgot the reasons why you'd left in the first place. You forgot that while you'd been away living in an entirely new way, learning entirely new things, everyone else had been carrying on doing exactly the same. You forgot that nothing ever changed.

"Which is why you did it, of course," his uncle said. "Not for Daryen. Not because it was your duty. Not because you thought it would help. You did it because you wanted to have the last word in the argument. I said then that you were nothing more than a self-centred trouble-maker without a responsible bone in your body. It seems you've been four years planning your come-back. You always were like that: coming back half a year later with a triumphant fact that would prove someone else wrong in an argument they'd long since forgotten. I know you, Kit. You just want us all to say that you were right."

"That…" His voice rasped to a halt. He tried again. "That's not true."

But it was. Of course it was. Almost. At first. Perhaps.

******

"They're not fastened tight," Ronon said, hauling at the chains.

"Oh. Oh." Rodney looked hopeful, then despairing. "We all saw what was left of Sheppard's wrists after he did that. "

Teyla said nothing, but was looking at Sheppard.

"Think," Rodney said. "We need to think. Use the brain. Talk. We need to… to tell them that we've got something very important to say to the basilisk guy. Tell him everything. Offer him--"

"We aren't supplying C-4 and space-ships to primitive civilisations." Sheppard opened his eyes. "Been there, done that, lived with the fall-out."

"No secret bunkers round here," Rodney said.

"Yeah. That's because they're secret." Sheppard sighed. "No, no, I know there aren't. Just don't see how as it'll help."

"No. No." Rodney subsided. "'Please let us go, because if we you let us go all the way to your enemy's capital city, we might, if we're lucky, get something that will allow us to bring you something you might find useful, but we haven't got any of it here to show you to prove that we're telling the truth.'"

Sheppard cracked a smile. "Hey, I was convinced. Worth a try. We've got nothing else."

"I was wrong," Jasper said.

There was a brief silence. "Well, obviously." Rodney frowned in irritation, then opened his mouth to continue with something else.

"I didn't think." Jasper looked at Sheppard. "You told me to go back. I didn't want to. I was… I was stubborn." His father was stubborn, refusing to deviate from any course of action that he had chosen, no matter what happened. "I didn't want to go back to that. I don't. I still don't."

Rodney still looked irritated, as if nothing he said was of any importance to the gravity of his situation. Ronon ignored him – had he ever exchanged any words with Ronon? – but Teyla and Sheppard were looking at him.

"I didn't think," Jasper said. "I don't think that this could happen. I didn't think through the consequences if it did. There are people out there – real people." He listened to the distant sound of a city going about its business, while troops of soldiers marched out to die. "I've made things worse." He curled his hand into a useless fist. "I never chose to be crown prince." His eyes prickled again, but this time he was determined not to cry. If it hadn't been for an accident of birth, he could have wandered as freely as he liked, and it wouldn't have mattered. "It's not fair."

"Life isn't," Rodney said. "Take me, for example--"

"McKay." Sheppard said it very firmly. Then, to Jasper, he said, "What he said. Sometimes people have responsibilities. They didn't always ask for them, because they have to live with the consequences, because you know what sucks even more? Being one of the little people whose commander doesn't give a shit about you."

Jasper had been trying so hard not to think about Kit, but suddenly his voice came into his mind, lecturing Jasper about what it was like to be a peasant. He thought of what he had seen: the poverty of that farmer; the misery of sleeping out in the rain; the fear of a people held under the thumb of distant laws. The life of the poor in the Drowned Quarter had always seemed to simple, so free, so vibrant, but of course it was not. Then he thought of Teyla, who had left her people because she thought that was best for them, and Sheppard, who had been willing to die alone rather than bring his people down with him.

"But I don't…" He dashed at his eyes, although the tears had still not come. "I don't want to give up poetry. I need it. It's… it's everything."

"No reason why kings can't write poetry," Sheppard said.

Jasper pressed his head against the wall, covering his face with his hands. Images danced on the inside of his palms. His father had dragged him from the care of women, and had been determined to shape him into something that Jasper could not be. Jasper didn't match his father's idea of a proper king. But there were other models for kingship, and – Gods! – Jasper had known this all along; had read about and sung about such images in countless stories. His father's disappointment in him had loomed too large, making him forget.

"I don't want to be that sort of king," he said, lowering his hands. "Not like my father. But I…" He grasped hold of a handful of blanket. "My father was going to send me to the army. If I didn't… If that didn't beat me into shape, he said, he was going to cut me out of the succession and make my cousin his heir instead. He's older than me – a bully, really cruel, loves fighting. I said I didn't care, but…"

"No country should have a king like that," Teyla said into the silence that followed.

"A bad general brings the whole army down." Ronon had stopped fighting and was lying on his pallet again, muscles tense around his eyes.

"Leadership is a responsibility," Teyla said. "It is necessary to make sacrifices, but the rewards are great."

It's not fair! he wanted to cry one more time. Poetry had already left him. Perhaps it was gone forever, never to come back. Perhaps it was the last relic of a self-centred childhood, that went away just like his nurse had done, and his mother, and the lovely gardens of his youth.

"So we're trying to talk the boy into perpetuating hereditary monarchy, are we?" Rodney said harshly. "We're doing the Obi-Wan Kenobi thing with our young apprentice?"

None of them answered him.

"I'm sorry," Jasper said, and he felt his cheeks flush, and looking at them all, one after the other, was hard. "I came with you when you didn't want me to. I made things difficult for you. I refused to go away when you told me to." And now, for a second time, the tears came. Kit had also been on the outside of their circle, unwanted, but now Jasper had lost even that glimmer of companionship.

"No hard feelings," Sheppard said, as if the whole thing had been nothing at all.

"No hard--?" Rodney started, but was silenced either by a look from one of the others, or by something within himself. "No, if this sorry mess if anyone's fault, it's Kit's."

Jasper swiped at his tears, and sat very still, staring at a door that did not open. What's going to happen now? he thought, and the question encompassed everything – the whole world of future beyond that door.

******

His uncle had gone, striding off to posture gloriously at the head of his army. Kit wandered through the mansion to try to find somebody else to talk to. With such a teeming mass of distant cousins, it shouldn't have been hard, but none of them seemed to be around.

In the end, he was reduced to cornering a servant. His sister was married, he was told, and living in the provinces with two squalling brats at her feet. Jay, the cousin he had always been closest to, companion in many boyhood pranks, had finally given in to pressure and become the newest family representative in the inner circles of the priesthood. Vayne, of course, was in the army, along with far too many second cousins. Kit had never really liked him, though. Cousin Herris was at home, he was told, but Kit pursed his lips at that. Cousin Herris, he told the servant in no uncertain terms, was a bore.

After she had flushed and scurried nervously away, it occurred to Kit that you didn't say things like that to servants. In the Drowned Quarter, a girl like that would have been a giggling lass on his lap – or an imperious lass, more likely than not, spurning his charms. An equal, anyway – someone you could speak to freely, as much as you ever spoke freely to anyone.

He trailed along corridors that had once been so familiar, and the smells told him that this was home. Doors were no barrier to him, not any more, and he broke into various cousins' bedchambers, seeing them laid out in a way that made him think I don't want to know this person. You could tell a lot about a person by what they had in their house, or perhaps that was only a thief's way of looking at things.

He paused at a window and looked out, gazing across the rooftops of a city that was not Myr. He wanted to clamber to the top of the pinnacles, and crawl through windows and go wherever he pleased.

He wanted someone to say they were pleased to see him home, but they did not.

Below, in the courtyard, his uncle clattered away, and his grandfather, too, his natural eccentricity stifled by the weight of ceremonial robes. The full retinue, Kit thought, resting his elbows on the window ledge. Doubtless to meet the King of Myr and exchange threats and insults – couched always as the most polite form of politics, of course – before retiring to see whose army could beat the shit out of the other one today.

He moved on again, his steps taking him to the chamber that had once been his own, now full of somebody else's possessions. He paused at the door, hand on the knob, gaping like a fool. My room, he thought. He fought the urge to take those possessions, to scatter them, to stamp on them like a kid having a tantrum.

And all the while, of course, like a persistent itch between his shoulder blades, came other thoughts. Those days scouting with Ronon, communicating without a thought. The pleasure of baiting Rodney. Looks exchanged with the idiot prince. The closeness that those four obviously shared, each one putting the others first, and how cold it felt, sometimes, to be on the outside, looking in. But they had come back for him in Paramor. Even though Sheppard could barely stand, they had come back for him. I don't leave my people behind, Sheppard had said. My people, Kit thought, still frozen in the door. My people. Mine.

Of course Kit had never truly been one of them, but there had been moments… And then Kit had betrayed them. He had betrayed them, and for what? He had betrayed them, and what had been the point? What had been the fucking point of it all?

He let his hand slide from the knob. Not a genius plan. Not a vindication. Not an expression of love for his country. Just betrayal. Just that.

******

end of chapter twelve

On to chapter thirteen
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