Trkasu was tired. He was tired of failure after failure, of struggle after struggle that came to nothing in the end. Nothing ever quite worked out the way he’d planned or hoped or even dreaded. People thought of him as a person, a creature like themselves. But there was a disagreement in his mind; a peculiar set of quirks he’d never been able to quite exactly pick. Animal or human, creature or words of instincts and he didn’t know the full answer.
At times he wondered if there was an answer or a place for him. When people sneered at his weakness, ignored his fear; he wondered. When animals ignored his presence, asked why he cared; he wondered. And when the people he believed he cared for proved themselves ignorant again, he wondered. With his head in his hands and braces sent skittering across the stone floor, he wondered.
In the silence of the scorpion pit he sat without light or sound. The world slept above him, even the hall to the stairs lightless. And he sat awake beneath a blanket he’d grabbed, scorpions kept at bay by hissed warnings and a clicking tongue. In that darkness he wondered why he remained. He pulled the blanket closer to him, pressing the cloth against the top of his head.
Other places would have given him sanctuary, others would have taken him in. Yet he remained in the castle, in the dungeon, with people who did not understand and seemingly did not try. One tried but did not, another may have once but no longer did. And for all their kind words most seemingly did not care to see. Yet he knew he could not leave. For all his talk of uncaring, for all his talk of staying for the duty he performed, that alone did not hold him.
Trkasu trembled slightly, fingers tightening on the edge of the blanket. Pressing against the wall behind him, he calmed himself with slow breathing and tiny shakes. He fell still as the thoughts returned. There were reasons for going, as always. Nothing he had ever seen was black and white or even obvious. But to leave would have meant losing him. And Trkasu wasn’t quite willing to do that, wasn’t even close.
For all he had to do, for all he tried to do, it was worth it. For standing in a store and struggling to balance himself between fear and calm, for the moment of seeing another’s fear, it was worth it. The hand on his shoulder had been worth every moment of panic he’d had to know that another’s touch could be comforting. And there was hint of normality, an offer of a family, that he could not turn away.
There was more behind his clinging to what was offered, but he denied all hints of untoward affection in his own emotion. It was, as he well knew, perhaps more pointless than any attempt than he could have made to become normal. If he but thought upon those flitting ideas for a moment he saw as though through the eyes of a onlooker, the absurdity of his situation. It was laughable to imagine such a thing. Scorpion keeper wondering on the feelings of a leader, a man with no hope wondering on a man who could have had anything. A storybook plot placed directly in his lap by mocking voices and taunting words. It would not have mattered the outcome. Regardless of the true answer, Trkasu would not have revealed the facts for anything offered.
Love was nothing he knew. Happiness was barely an abstract, teetering on an unknown. Asking him of love was asking a mole of sight or a whale of the highest mountaintop. Yet he stayed for no other reason he could see. Wishes did not keep him places, no forlorn hopes of what he could not have. And still he sat within that basement, with creatures that barely needed his care and cared rarely for his attention. His duty was pretended, loyalty extended through animals.
He obeyed unquestioningly, followed blindly, tried what none would have thought he was capable of. Stood in malls and struggled against lame foot and the crush of people. Tried what they asked and tried, tried to understand what he could. Yet nothing came to him, no blinding epiphany that stole him from his ignorance. Each time he tried the muck came higher, the confusion grew. People made no sense in the end, did nothing that was understandable. He could have, would, abandoned them long before.
But he was held by something different than his brother’s vice-like grasp, different than the fear he had of anything new. There was something personal wrapped up in it suddenly, some tiny part of himself pressed into the want and need to stay. To leave would have been to abandon what he wanted to become, what they wanted him to become. And that was no longer acceptable.
Regardless of the pain he knew, the nervous thoughts that left him paranoid and upset, he could not go. The blanket curled beneath his fingernails, soft cloth bunching irritably against his skin. But moving would have been too troublesome, would have distracted him. the sound would have overwhelmed him.
His thoughts turned rapidly back to why he stayed, his own control pulling him away from the physical stimuli. And there it was, the crux of the problem. The control he clung to with his might was what held him apart. His fear of emotion, of closeness, of weakness, of pain. Trkasu knew he would have left before admitting any real weakness, walked on an unbraced foot before he would take a hand. His infamous control, trained into him by an unsmiling father trying to save his own weakness. But Trkasu had taken too well to the trained, learned the lesson by mind, body and spirit. He lived that life his father had held up as exemplarily perfect.
It was not happy. There was no happiness in an emotionless life. There was nothing, truly. Only the sound of voice washing over him and the sadness when he didn’t understand. Sadness he would not admit but knew, understood when others laughed and waited for him to join them. He’d forgotten how to laugh, something unsure he’d ever really know how to anyway. Laughter was that sound other people made, that almost bark that was happiness put into the sound. And he had no happiness to share.
But sometimes he would sit alone with the scorpions, when he wasn’t thinking too hard or wondering when he would next be spoken with. And he would imagine a hand on his shoulder or a friendly pleased smile. And his laugh, he’d found, was quiet and weak. Even he could barely hear himself, the tiny tinny noise sadder than his own silence. He’d stopped that quickly enough. It wasn’t worth making.
He stayed for that tiny tinny laugh he’d made, though. There was hope in that laugh, no matter how pitiful. Tucking the blanket behind his head he closed his eyes and pulled his knees to his chest. He’d thought long enough, left all considerations behind. Wondering was going nowhere. There was no reason to stay, no reason to go and all the reasons if the world for both. Yet he knew he would not go, even with all the reasons in the world. And perhaps the next time he was offered a hand, he would take it.