In the Land of Ever After

In the Land of Ever After

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Chapter 23 - Waking Up

John missed all the excitement. Or so they told him, anyway.


John had a very vague memory of half-waking because he was miserably hot and something cool had touched his cheek; the groan he’d let out had caused someone with a high, worried voice to exclaim in alarm, and then a deeper, calmer voice had insisted that the sound had been one of relief not pain and instructed someone to ‘make a cool breeze’. Which they had apparently done, because it had happened and it had felt so good that John had whimpered in relief. And then a warmer, heavier hand had stroked his hair and everything had gone away again.

When he fully awoke, it was with a start that resulted in him sitting straight up in bed. Adam laughed. “Well, you must be feeling better.”

John blinked and squinted. Adam was sitting on a chair by the bed. His clothing looked…odd, not like what John was used to seeing him wear, and it was a deep crimson red. “What are you wearing?”

“A very fine dressing gown, compliments of the former king of Valeureux. Not that he knows it’s with his compliments, since I don’t believe he knows anything at all at this point, but it sounds more genteel than saying I raided my father’s wardrobe because he wasn’t there to stop me.” He handed John his glasses, since he had started feeling around for them, then fussed with the pillows while he put them on. “You took a bit too much cold, so you missed all the fun. I brought you back to the palace, and my dear little sister was so very unhappy with the state you were in – honestly, at first she thought you were dead – that she froze the whole lot of them, bad fairy and all. Looking into the audience chamber is rather like looking at fish caught in a block of ice from the lake. It’s an interesting tableau but somewhat disturbing as well, so I’ve propped the broken door back up and Elsa froze it in place.”

“How did you…”

“Magic.” Adam beamed. “We’re so not telling my wife that I can apparently take on the form of the Beast any time I feel like it – I’ve no desire to enjoy carnal relations in that form, thank you very much. It’s quite well-suited to running through snowstorms, however, although the change is rather hard on my wardrobe. Luckily dear Father and I were very nearly the same size or I’d be running around like King Triton.”

John couldn’t help it, he laughed. And then the room did a sickening loop and twirl around him, or at least it felt like it did, and he was guided back into the pillows by strong, gentle hands. “I didn’t think you could be as recovered as you woke up acting like you were, but I wasn’t sure. Elsa!”

There was a rustle of fine layered silken skirts; apparently Elsa had appropriated their mother’s pretty wardrobe the way Adam had their father’s. “Is he…”

“Woke up, sat up, spoke to me, and then I made him laugh and down he went again.”

“He probably shouldn’t have been sitting up anyway,” Elsa scolded lightly, swooping up beside the bed. Her hand touched John’s forehead, cool and then colder, and after a brief involuntary shudder he breathed a sigh of relief as the dizziness dissipated. The hand withdrew, pulled up the blankets he hadn’t really realized he’d lost. “There, better?”

“Much.” He sighed again and opened his eyes, smiling at her. “I hear you saved us all?”

She blushed. “I got…well, angry. I could probably thaw them back out…”

“I don’t think you should,” John told her, meaning it. “They’d have killed us all, and then probably done it again in some other kingdom when they got bored here. At least your way was quick and painless, sweetheart; if Adam or I had been forced to kill them…well, that wouldn’t have been.”

“Very true,” Adam agreed. “And I already told you they’re probably not actually dead,” he said to Elsa in a reminding tone. “Someone else with the right magic could release them, I’m sure. So what they actually are is imprisoned, which keeps them from doing anyone any more harm.”

“They did plenty of that.”

Elsa scowled when she said it, and John’s heart skipped a beat. He took her hand and clasped it gently in both of his. “Oh Princess…sweetheart, I am so, so sorry. I know it’s a horrible thing to find out, especially the way you and Adam did, after everything you both went through…”

Elsa’s blue eyes widened, and Adam shook his head, patting John’s shoulder. “Not what she was talking about, my friend, but that’s all right,” he said cryptically. “Elsa, do you want to get some of that soup we made? He doesn’t look like he’s going to be awake all that much longer, we should get something into him while we can. Two days is a long time to go without food.”

“Two…!”

“Closing in on three, actually. You took a bit too much cold,” Adam repeated firmly. “I didn’t have any problem once I changed – I have a very thick fur in my Beast form – but you weren’t so lucky, John, and you paid the price for it.” He sat back in his chair, stretching out his legs with a faint smile. “Luckily we’re in no hurry now. Your quest is all completed. I’ll need a bit more time to work out the particulars of mine, but I can do that here as well as anywhere.”

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