So Many Things Can Wake You up in the Middle of the Night, and Few of Them Are Good
Owen woke up to a scream, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. It was the middle of the night.
That was Greg screaming.
“He’s probably having a nightmare,” Gavin said, as they both got out of bed. He was rubbing his eyes.
“Yeah,” Owen agreed, heading for the door. They couldn’t hear Greg anymore, but when Owen opened the bedroom door and went out into the main room, he could hear crying. He crossed it in half the usual number of strides and knocked on Greg’s door. “Greg?”
Greg didn’t answer, but Owen heard a sob, so he went in, Gavin behind him. Greg was in bed, the blankets tangled around him, clutching Grey Rain, who was holding him back, looking upset. Grey Rain looked up at them as they came in, but his hands were full so he didn’t say anything.
“Hey,” Owen said, sitting next to Greg, close enough that Greg would feel him but not touching him. Every one of Greg’s muscles was tense. “You’re okay, Greg.”
“I know it was scary, but it was only a dream,” Gavin said, in a soft voice. “You’re awake now, you’re with us and Grey Rain.”
Greg nodded, still choking on air. “I, I, I’m sorry…”
“You don’t need to be sorry,” Gavin told him, gently putting a hand on Greg’s back. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Greg started crying again. Grey Rain looked even more worried, but he freed his hands and looked at Owen. It was a little hard to make out what he was saying, but the boys had a lamp burning low, so he was visible. Please tell him I’m not mad at him for hitting me. It was an accident.
Oh, Greg wasn’t crying because of the nightmare. At least not totally because of it. Owen sighed. “He isn’t mad at you, Greg,” Owen told him. “He knows it was an accident.”
Greg curled inwards a little. “It wasn’t,” he said, in a small voice. “I hit him on, on purpose.”
Gavin looked at Owen, sighing. Then he looked at Greg, leaning in and trying to get Greg to look at him. “Did you know it was him?”
Greg shook his head. “I don’t, I don’t think so. But I still…”
“He’s fine,” Gavin promised. “I think he understands that you were scared.”
“I can’t hurt people just because I’m scared.”
“I know. But you know he’s already forgiven you.” Looking at Grey Rain in the lamplight, Owen thought there was maybe a bit of a black eye swelling there, but it wasn’t going to be anything serious. “And I think if you’re worried about him, the best thing to do is explain what happened.”
Greg nodded, not sobbing anymore but still breathing pretty fast. With obvious effort, he made himself look up at Grey Rain. I’m sorry, he said, hands shaking. I really didn’t mean to hit you. I thought I was still dreaming so I didn’t know it was you.
I know! Grey Rain said, smiling at him. His tail was wagging. It’s okay! Sometimes dreams chase you after you wake up and it’s hard to know when they’re not there anymore. I’m sorry if I scared you more by touching you!
Only for a second, Greg said, swallowing. He hugged Grey Rain, crying again, but obviously feeling better.
Gavin let out a low breath, taking Owen’s hand. Owen squeezed it, his other hand on Greg’s shoulder. Eventually Greg hugged both of them too. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“It’s okay,” Owen promised. “You didn’t decide to have a nightmare.”
Greg shook his head, wiping his eyes. I was dreaming about Paper Mouse, he signed, using Grey Rain’s name for Drew. He came and was making all of you do stuff and I had, I had to kill him.
“Oh, Greg,” Gavin said, sighing deeply this time. He’s not going to hurt us. And you won’t have to hurt him.
The other day they’d had a panicked message from Stag Keep after Edwin had gotten there with the boys. Drew had apparently used it to open a portal and escape the capital, and had made Edwin’s servants forget they’d seen him. Which meant both that Drew still had his powers, and that nobody had any ideas where he was. Neither of those was good and both of them together was really bad.
But there also wasn’t anything they could do about it right now short of tasking people with finding him, which they had done. It seemed like Edwin’s servants were fine and nobody had been hurt. Which didn’t mean Greg shouldn’t be afraid, but it did mean Owen could mean it when he said it was okay. It’s really going to be okay, I promise. We’ll find him.
Plus if we have to fight him we don’t have to kill him! Grey Rain said, bouncing in place. You can just hit him like you hit me! He’s not as strong as me so it’ll probably knock him out! You hit really hard!
I’m sorry, Greg said, but he laughed a little.
It’s okay! You can kiss it better in the morning!
I think we should try to go back to sleep if we can, Gavin told the boys. It’s the middle of the night.
I need to go pee! Grey Rain announced, bouncing in place again.
I think I’d like to have a cup of tea first, Greg said, swallowing. I’ll make it.
Owen can make it for you, Gavin said, and Owen got up. Do you want to sleep with us?
Owen went out into the main room again while they talked. He hunted up the kettle, filled it with water, and started stoking the coals in the hearth to get the water going. Grey Rain followed him out after a second, and hugged him. Owen hugged him back, and Grey Rain went into the privy without a word, leaving the door open. Owen didn’t need him to explain himself.
Owen yawned as he rebuilt the fire, which didn’t take long. He could have just called down to the kitchen for some tea, but that would have meant waking Art up and then waking someone up from the kitchen, and that just seemed silly when he could boil his own kettle in half the time.
He looked up at a bang on the door, which was heavy and urgent. He hadn’t even taken two steps towards it before it burst open and a dozen castle guards burst in, followed by the knights on duty tonight. “What’s going on?” he demanded of Ash, who was with them.
Ash shook his head. “Don’t know. Where’s the prince?”
The guards were fanning out, standing in front of windows and doors, looking behind and under everything. “Greg’s bedroom. I don’t want people barging in there, Greg’s upset. What the hell…”
Gabrielle strode into the room, looking disheveled. Her cheeks were puffy. She’d been crying. “Gabrielle, what’s going on?”
“I need you to get dressed. Where’s…”
“Gabi?” Gavin was standing in Greg’s doorway. “It’s the middle of the night. What’s wrong?”
“Gavin,” Gabrielle said, and there were tears in her eyes again. She went over to him, and Owen’s gut was churning. He followed her. Gabrielle hugged him, and if everything else hadn’t been a huge flag, the fact that she did that when Gavin wasn’t wearing anything was a sure sign that something was really wrong. “Gavin, I’m sorry.”
“It’s Dad, Gavin,” Gabrielle said, and her voice was choked with tears again. “Dad’s dead.”