He slithered around the desert base, sending tendrils of his shadow-self underneath the cracks of rotting doors and through drafty holes of old windows. Somewhere in the back of his mind, whatever semblance of a conscience he had was whispering commands to go and see the king, to report to the king, to give the king exactly what he had wanted. He was supposed to want to see the king. That was what he had been told when he was created. The king was to be his master, and he was supposed to have a need to be by the king’s side, to be his loyal dog at all times.
Shadow wasn’t sure why then he was addicted to Alek.
He growled low under his breath when his search was futile, when none of the normal dorm rooms yielded the dark signature of Alek’s shadow. Shadow continued to move, going out of a window as his namesake, a faceless blob that clung to the stone walls to climb up to a window of the next floor. He startled a guard and paid the nameless soldier no heed as he stalked onward.
“Took you long enough,” the king said lowly, his head resting on one of his hands as he sat upon his throne.
“It’s a late hour,” Shadow said, morphing into a solid body in order to bow to the king.
“I always require reports,” the king said. “I would not sleep until I have yours.”
Shadow plunged into his report of the outskirts of the mountain range. The aspect of fire’s power wasn’t as strong as the aspect of earth’s had been, and Shadow admitted to not understanding why that was so. He garnered that it wasn’t good when the king slammed his fist upon the armrest of his seat.
“Someone else it closer to it,” the king snarled. “You were too slow!” Shadow didn’t move, allowing the king to thunder off of his throne and smack him into the wall. Shadow connected with the stone partition, not daring to release his solid form so the impact wouldn’t hurt. That would have made the king even angrier.
“I apologize,” Shadow said after he stood up from the ground. “Where is the next aspect? I shall go straight away.” It hurt more than slamming into a wall to say that. Shadow hadn’t found Alek yet.
“I don’t know,” the king said, glaring out of the window. “It’d be the aspect of water.”
“What bodies of water are around?” Shadow asked.
“There are none here,” the king said, every syllable dripping with venom. “I rule over a barren, pathetic desert! Get out of my sight. I’ll give you your orders in the morning.”
“Yes sir.” Shadow bowed out of the throne room before the king could change his mind, and immediately renewed his search for Alek. It took him another candle mark to go through the rest of the base’s rooms until he found Alek’s space.
The blond was sleeping, half of his limbs hanging off of the mattress while he drooled into his pillow, a half-opened book laying underneath his chest. Shadow felt a sense of relief at finally seeing the young man, but Shadow didn’t know why.
Alek stirred as Shadow walked closer to him, and the blond sleepily blinked awake. His mouth curled up into a smile despite the yawn that had tried to interrupt it. “Hey, Shadow… Back already?”
A smirk twitched on Shadow’s face. “I was gone for three days.”
“Hm?” Alek looked out the window, as if the moon could tell him the date. “Still, faster than I thought it would take you to get the aspect of fire.”
“I didn’t get it.” Shadow sat down at the end of the bed and Alek sat up to sit next to him. “I failed.”
“I’m sure you tried your best,” Alek said, wobbling dangerously close to falling back on the bed to sleep again.
“It wasn’t good enough.”
“We’ll get the next one,” Alek said, unperturbed by Shadow’s pessimism. “I think it’s beyond the mountains, though. There’s a lake there that may be the house of the aspect of water.” His attention turned to the stack of books on his desk and he shifted to lift the book that was on the bed with them, but Shadow tugged his arm back down.
“What happened to your face?” Shadow asked. Alek paused, his eyes widening as Shadow let a tendril of darkness trace the bruise that was blossoming on Alek’s cheek.
“You have to ask?” Alek asked dryly. “It took a little longer than expected to take a guess as to where the aspect of water is…”
“What about your healing balm?” Shadow asked. “The stuff you used to help me?”
“I don’t have anymore,” Alek said. “I need to make some.”
“I’m sorry.” Shadow removed the dark tendril from Alek’s face. “You used the rest on me.”
“You needed it more than I do for a bruise,” Alek said, waving his hand in dismissal. “Don’t worry about it. It won’t take long to make more.”
Silence hung in the air and Shadow watched as Alek looked down at his bare feet, swinging them in no particular rhythm as the pair sat together. Alek eventually looked back up at Shadow, jerking away in surprise at noticing Shadow staring at him, but a small smile was on the blond’s face just the same.
“Go back to sleep,” Shadow said, standing up. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t,” Alek said.
“I did.” Shadow extended his arm, allowing it to stretch until it was large enough to gently push Alek back down on the mattress and simultaneously taking the open book to place it with the others on Alek’s desk. Alek only resisted until he realized that Shadow would not lose the page on the book, and settled down. He glanced at Shadow with a sleepy smile and murmured a good night.
“Glad you’re back safe and sound,” the blond said before drifting back off to sleep.
Shadow paused by the door, wondering again about his addiction and finding that seeing Alek again had done nothing to curb it.