Beyond Doubt (February prompt for [community profile] nexus_crossings)

Feb. 11th, 2017 06:13 pm
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He would have acknowledged it willingly from the moment Jim spoke the words and gave him permission. But he didn’t truly know it then. Not until the morning he stood arguing with Stratos in the tribune’s tent. A muted argument of bitten-back words and cool words, because if Stratos decided he should go somewhere then Felix couldn’t hope for his wants and wishes to make any real difference. An argument that had grown increasingly bitter as the northern frost outside because Kirk had no immediate need for help and Stratos could not see that Felix should to be there to tend every little trouble the captain could have. Felix spent far too much time courting his favor as it was. The tribune thought so, and Felix knew it, and lacking the words to convince Stratos this was different the frost in his voice only hardened with frustration.

And then Stratos set his work aside, staring at his younger brother until Felix wound down to a sullen glare. He said nothing, not even an arch ‘Will that be all?’ Gradually Felix became aware that the look he was receiving was not the expected stern reproach: there was something odd to it. As if he’d somehow managed to surprise Stratos. The novelty of it stunned him into his own silence.

“You’re angry,” Stratos said. He seemed puzzled.

It gave Felix some footing to regain his ire. “Well? You can’t just expect I’ll accept every excuse you invent to-”

“Felix.” There were a hundred tones Stratos could convey his name in, and only one that shut the younger Caelus up in an instant. “Enough. I understand. If he is- well. You have my leave to remain where you are needed.”

“I may? Why?” Felix gave him a wary frown. Stratos had long ago stopped placing his brother’s personal commitments over his own plans. What had the last two minutes changed in his mind?

Stratos gave him an exasperated look. “Of course. I’m not heartless, little brother. Now go back to your work.”

He obeyed out of sheer confusion. Only slowly, on the walk back to the practice area, did it start to sink in. There were precious few concerns Stratos would yield to when he truly wanted something. This was hardly the first time he’d complained about being kept away from Jim, only before he’d been easily ignored. Nothing mattered more than Stratos’s plans. Nothing except Imperial loyalty…

…And family.

He stopped dead in his tracks, sucking in the cold smoke-laden air. He felt as if he’d looked up from his map at last to find the path beneath him vanished and a foreign landscape in all directions. Of course he’d meant to go this way, of course he wanted it, and yet somehow he felt terribly, unnervingly lost.

He could think of no answer but one, and that was to go looking for Jim.


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Felix Caelus

September 2017

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