Chapter 1: Into the mouth of the tiger
"Breathe," Darpan says, "I'll do the talking."
Ajay grunts at he falls from his seat on to the floor of the bus. God why? why was this happening? Now of all times. He was so close and now he was either going to die here or be imprisoned. He didn't know what anyone was saying. He remembers his mother speaking to him in Nepali but that was all. Just a select few phrases.
Darpan pulls him out of his little trance of fear and pushes him to exit the bus through the back. He quickly opens the emergency door and they both topple out onto the cold, wet and painfully solid ground. Ajay is still panicking. He doesn't know what's going on. Then there's the loud whir of helicopter blades too close to him. Maybe ten--no, fifteen feet away?
A man quickly comes in front of him, a soldier. He points the gun in Ajay's face and yells for him to put his hands up. Ajay does so, hoping to what ever deity there was that he wouldn't be shot. Another man limps. He's probably the one in charge. He'd been shot. He quickly taps the man holding the machine gun in Ajay's face and the soldier lowers it, quickly looking to the helicopter. Ajay does the same.
The door slides open and a man in very fancy clothes jumps out onto the ground. He was dressed too nicely to be a soldier of one of the commanding officers. Ajay refrained from judging the character too closely, his mind was racing enough as it is.
The man adjusts his jacket and walks to the injured soldier who was holding his shoulder to stop the bleeding. He walks close, gesturing to the bus as he did so.
"I distinctly remember saying stop the bus." He says with a disappointed frown. "Yes. Stop the bus. Not shoot the bus." The soldier visibly tenses and moves to try and put a small distance between him and the blond haired man.
"I'm very particular with my words." His voice raises in pitch slightly, "Stop. Shoot. Stop. Shoot." He presses his palms together and still makes small steps to keep within arms reach of the soldier. "Do those words sound the same?"
"But it got out of control...." The solder says quickly and quickly, keeping his face turned away from the older man. Ajay could see the fear in this poor man's eyes.
The blond places his hand on the man's injured shoulder and squeezes. "I'm sorry I didn't hear you. What did you say?" He asks, his voice low and dark as he reached for something within his jacket.
"It got out of control." The soldier repeats, visibly flinching.
"It got out of control." The well dressed man mimics and pulls a silver and gold pen from his jacket. "I hate when things get out of control." The older man says and before Ajay can blink the soldier is on the ground with the man repeatedly stabbing him in the neck. "You had onne fucking job and you couldn't fucking do that!" The man yells as the man continues to struggle for a couple more stabs before falling limp. Dead.
The blond falls to sit on the dirty wet ground with a sigh. He grits his teeth, "And I got blood on my fucking shoes." The man hisses. He looks up and his eyes widen when they meet Ajay's. Ajay can see the recognition in the man's eyes though he's never met this man in his life. He waves his hand with a hint of a smile on his face and turns to the now dead soldier. "At least there's a silver lining. You didn't completely fuck it up." he sighs, obviously a bit out of breath. He moves to get up and tells Ajay to do the same, taking Ajay by the arms as if to lead him up. "I'd recognize those eyes anywhere..." The man says with a smile. He hugs Ajay lightly. Ajay tenses, he doesn't hug the man back. He must have the wrong guy. Ajay thinks.
"I'm so sorry about this. This was supposed to be... Well not this." His voice lowers again as he gestures to the soldiers and dead occupants of the bus. "We have a party waiting for you," He grins at Ajay then turns to Darpan who is still on the ground with his hands behind his head, "but I don't think I know your name."
"Who is this? Hm? Is this your +1?" The man asks, squatting to look closer at Darpan. "Strong silent type. I like it." He grins and takes Ajay's shoulder again, going so far as to wrap an arm around him. Ajay does nothing. "I am terribly embarrassed about all this. This was supposed to be very simple, but you know..." He sighs again and gestures to his men and the whole situation, "if you give food to monkey they just throw their shit at each other." His tone turns to an exhausted growl for a moment.
"Oh! Would you hold this?" He hand the blood stained pen to Ajay. He holds it, his muscles really refused to do much else. The blond man took his phone from his pocket and held it out in front of the two. "Just a moment... I want to get a little... picture." he says with the same large grin he had been holding. Right into the camera," He says and the phone clicks, "awesome." Ajay can see out of the corner of his eye that the soldiers were lighting fire to the bus.
"Don't worry about a thing, my boy!" The man says and lightly squeezes Ajay's side before releasing him. "This will soon be behind us and we'll be off on our grand adventure." he takes a few steps away from Ajay. "Because I have cleared my calender for you!" he says over the whirring of helicopter blades. His voice raises pitch and laughs, "You and I are gonna tear shit up!!" He says. Overly pleased. He's got the wrong guy. He has to have the wrong guy... Ajay thinks in a panic before a black bag is put over his head and his hands are tied.
Ajay had had the bag on for far too long. He really needed air. His face was hot and his wrists hurt from the ropes. He didn't know where he was. He just knew he was sitting.
He could hear the blond man talking to someone. His brain wouldn't quite process english though. He was still in a full panic mode though he tried his best not to show it.
"Well go on. Take the bloody bag off his head!" The blond commands and so it was. The light blinded Ajay for a moment and he blinked a few times before he could finally see clearly. And god was the bright pink suit blinding as well. "Again, terribly dorry for what happened before. This, is more what I had in mind." The older man says with a pleased smile.
Ajay would rather not look at the table but it was kind of hard to miss the 'decorations'.
"So! Fresh start. Introductions. Ajay Ghale, our guest of honor; Paul, our very gracious host." The other man to the right of his nods a greeting and Ajay looks to Darpan as the older man in the pink suit does. "The little monkeys, whose name I still don't know. And I, of course, am Pagan Min." He says as if Ajay is supposed to know who he is.
Pagan pauses. "You really don't remember me, do you? Your mother, she never spoke of me, never mentioned me?" he asks, twiddling his thumbs. "Oh, we'll change all that." the man hums and looks to Paul. "Paul, I need cash."
"Uh, how much do you need?" The man to Ajay's right asks and pulls his wallet out.
"All of it." Pagan snatches the money from Paul's wallet. "Thank you. Here we are. Ah." Pagan lifts one of the papers, "Hm?" he tosses it aside. "All right, how about this, with the smile?" he smiles as does the face on the dollar, he drops it as well. He then hold the dollar a bit closer with a grim frown, displeased that Ajay did not recognize him.
"That's you." Ajay says as a conformation, though he really doesn't know who this man is. Only his position. Ajay's mother knew him but he wasn't quite sure how.
"That's me." The man smiles once again and drops the dollar aside. "Although I'm not so sure anymore." He adds quietly.
Ajay looks to Darpan, worried.
Pagan picks up Ajay's mother's ashes. The young man moves to take them back, a twinge of anger rising in the pit of his stomach. Paul moves to sit him back down. Ajay does so. He'd rather not be shot today if he could avoid it.
"No your mother, your mother on the other hand," Pagan hums as he takes the lid from the urn off. What the fuck? "She understood me." No one would understand you, you well dressed psycho. "She knew me in a way no one ever did."
Pagan ran a finger around the rim of the metal container then licked it. Ajau felt sick to his stomach. He really just stopped listening until the man put the damn urn down.
"So, when your mother decided to flee to the United States with you on her hip, I couldn't help but blame myself." Pagan picks up a fork and gets up from his seat, walking to the left and around Darpan. He stops behind the old man and placed his hands on the man's shoulders. "Then I realized, it's not me. No." His tone drips like acid as he hisses, "It was the fucking Golden Path!" He pushes the old man down on the table and rams the pointed end of the fork through Darpan's left shoulder. Ajay flinches and shifts back in his seat. Pagan gets too close. "Those fucking terrorists, they ruin everything." He hisses. "Like dinner! Did no one ever teach you that it's rude to text at the table." Pagan raises his voice and looks to Darpan with a frown.
"Lets see here. Give me the phone!" He swats Darpan's hand and twists the fork. He takes the phone, "Really guys? We're not checking for these anymore?" He says in a bored tone before looking at the phone. "Ah. "I'm with Ajay Ghale" You'll love this part. "Help" A text, for help?" He looks down at Darpan in distaste. "You don't text for help, you cry for help. So come on, you're going to cry for help." Pagan says and gets Darpan up out of his seat just by twisting the fork. Ajay might have been a little impressed in the back of his head but right now he was terrified. "You're going to do something, you're going to do it right. Here we go!" He leads Darpan to the railing of the outlook.
"Go on... cry for help." Darpan doesn't say a word, Pagan twists the fork. "Cry for help." he demands.
"H-help...." Darpan whimpers.
"Aw, pathetic. No. Cry for help." Ajay can hear the frustration in Pagan's voice.
"Help." Darpan says a bit louder.
"Like you mean it, boy!" Pagan growls.
"HELP." Darpan cries.
Pagan mocks him, "Help! From you diaphragm! HELP!" He yells with him. Or more like at him. Then he silences Darpan. "Shh, shh, shh. Now we listen... nothing. I'm afraid they're not coming for you buddy." Pagan hums then lets out a small chuckle before pulling the fork from Darpan's back. Darpan lets out a sound of pain. "Find out what he know." Pagan sighs and throws the fork down as Darpan is dragged away by soldiers under Paul's command. "Terrorists, right? Now, please, stay right here. Enjoy the Crab Rangoon." Pagan says as he pics up Darpan's phone, "Don't move. I will be right back." Fuck no. If you're not back in fucking ten minutes I am leaving this shit hole. Ajay fears the worst if he stays any longer. This was a fight or flight moment though his brain was telling him to do both. Pagan walks out talking to someone called 'Yuma'.
Ajay stands up from his chair when he know's pagan is gone and picks up his mother's urn. He closes it and leaves his seat but his legs refuse to carry him very far. He only walks the room. Ten minutes and Ten minutes only. Ajay promises himself as he paces the room.
And on the verge of Ajay leaving. Pagan returns, looking a bit exhausted and a bit less blinding without that bright pink coat he wore.
"Oh! Fan-bloody-tastic." Pagan says with a smile. "You sir, are a gentleman. I sincerely apologize." Pagan sighs, "We saw terrorists in the area, and yada yada." He sighs as if he'd gone through such things like this a number of times. "The crab rangoon, right? It's--" Pagan is cut off by a scream. Ajay'd rather not think on who is belongs to. "--fabulous. Mm!" Pagan continues as if he heard nothing. Well, come on, let's go!" He grins and waves for Ajay to follow. And Ajay does.
"You know... part of me is surprised your mother asked for you to bring her all the way back here." Pagan says though he's obviously still happy.
"You want me to follow you?" Ajay asks, cynical as to what this man's intentions were.
"Jesus Christ." Pagan huffs. "Yes boy, those ashes aren't going to scatter themselves." Ajay gets out of the helicopter, cautious as ever and follows Pagan.
"Did your mother ever tell you about your father?" Pagan asks and looks back at Ajay. The young man shakes his head. "No. Never."
"Ah. Mohan... the great protector of the Golden Path. Hmph." Pagan rolls his eyes, "He was a cunt." Ajay stifles the small laugh that he might have made at the sudden comment. He was still cautious though he wasn't too scared anymore. "He whored your mother out, sent her to spy on me. But we fell in love, we had a child and that is when Mohan showed his true colors. Hmph. He drove you and your mother away, even killed your sister, Lakshmana." Pagan says this as if it was nothing that effected him. "Which brings us here." He hums as he leads Ajay to a very small shack. He then turns to Ajay with a soft smile. "Lakshmana shouldn't be alone anymore. I'm so glad we're finally back together." he sighs. "After you."
Ajay walks in and Pagan shuts the door behind him softly. He slowly walks up to the alter and places his mother with his half-sister. He looks around for a few minutes then leaves the shack.
Pagan is waiting by the helicopter. "Oh good. Do you feel better now? Get it out of your system? Good. And we can finally shoot some goddamn guns." Pagan huffs as they both climb into the helicopter.
The king lives.
Chapter 2: It's hard to sleep
Ajay can't sleep in this place. Not that it wasn't safe enough for him, it was the bed. It was too soft and molded to his body too well, he was used to just sleeping on an old motel bed. It's what he's been doing for the past several years before he came here and now the bed way too nice and too big. Ajay struggles to get out of it, but he's finally on his feet and he is tired. He puts on a long sleeve shirt then slips from his room, unnoticed by the guard at the end of the hall. He explores the large section of the palace that he has to himself, finding it's just a large apartment that is mostly halls, anything to make it seem like Pagan has more power. He finds a library which is lit softly with a few lamps and candles. It smells of old books and something sweet that seemed all too familiar with him. He explores, picking up books that ranged in languages, some were in Nepali scribble, he remembered his mother wrote like that and only wrote in Nepali in letters and notes. He can't read it but he looks foldy at it as it reminds him of a better time, before he was a disappointment. He doesn't notice the figure sneaking up behind him.
"Ajay." He hears much too close behind him and he drops the book, nearly jumping out of his skin. He turns and slams into the bookshelf behind him, which is thankfully screwed into the ceiling and floor. Ajay holds his head where it hit one of the shelves. "Graceful as a baby elephant, I see." he hears a chuckle above him and he looks up to the alarmingly pink suit he had seen only a few hours earlier. Pagan kneels down and places a hand on Ajay's, removing them from his head and looking over where there should be quite a bad bruise tomorrow. Ajay doesn't say anything, honestly confused with Pagan's care. "I didn't mean to scare you. Jesus, boy. Any harder and you would have knocked your brain out your ear." the man sighs and helps Ajay up.
"Well, I wasn't expecting you to be awake at this hour... or here for that matter." Ajay replies, rubbing the back of his head, it hurt.
"I'm a king, Ajay. I rarely get sleep as it is, what with rebels running around and trying to kill me." Pagan huffs, "Come, sit down. I don't need you passing out. I doubt it's a concussion, but still..."
"It's not, but okay." Ajay mutters and they sit on an old couch, one that Ajay really hadn't noticed coming in. It was soft, but not as soft as the bed, this was actually better.
"Tell me, Ajay. What are you doing up at such an hour?" The king asks.
Ajay shrugs, like he did with his mother when she asked where he was. It was maybe a defense to questions, ignorance. There's a silence between them until Ajay speaks. "I know this sounds stupid, but the bed, it's too soft." And Pagan's brow furrows. "Agh, I knew you'd look at me like that! Listen! I'm just sued to crashing on people couches and in cheep beds... it's just what I am used to." Ajay groans, quickly trying to justify himself. Pagan sighs.
"I know how that feels. Not the whole crashing on other people's couches and the sort, but on occasion I end up on the floor.... You know that's not good for your back right?"
Ajay laughs, "Yeah, yeah I know.". It feels odd but nice just sitting there in a bit of silence. He and Pagan end up talking really unconsciously for the next few hours. Ajay doesn't quite remember falling asleep but he does.
"Ajay....Aaaaajay." The man hears in his ear. He groans and roles over, "Kē? Rukō, k-- WHAT THE FUCK!?" He yelps when he opens his eyes to see Pagan a bit too close, the older man kneeling down in front of him. He actually did end up sleeping on the library couch last night.
"Was that Nepali that I heard you speaking?" Pagan raises a brow as Ajay sits up.
"What the fuck are you-- How did you--" Ajay groans, "Oh my god..."
"Breakfast, darling boy. It's morning and I will not let you sleep any later." Pagan smiles and stands up.
"Actually...I was going to head out today." Ajay mutters and smooths his messy hair back, it doesn't help.
"Ajay, there are no planes coming in and out of this place. And since I took one of the terrorists' favorable 'soldiers', they've blown up my helicopter." The king sighs and raises a brow. "You're stuck here. Oh and what a hell this is. Wonderful views, silk sheets, gourmet meals, free internet. What a horror it is."
Ajay is silent, his lips are pressed into a thin line. "God fucking damn it." He mutters.
"Now up for breakfast." Pagan says before walking to leave.
"Wait, can't you--" the door shuts, Pagan's gone. Ajay groans and holds his head in his hands. He's going to run out of clothes now and he'd be damned if he had to wear one of those painfully colorful suits the king wears.
Ajay got dressed in a pair of old skinny jeans and a tight black long sleeve shirt. He trudges down the empty halls of Pagan's palace, actually following the smell of food to find a large dining room. Not as big as he'd thought it'd be but still large enough for a small dinner party. Pagan smiles at the other end of the table. "I almost thought you were lost, darling boy."
Ajay rolls his eyes, "Yeah. Well... Kathmandu isn't really that hard of a scent to follow." He replies and sits down, gladly eating.
"Oh, so you remember it?" Pagan asks, raising a brow.
"Mom used to cook it....alot." Ajay replies with a small fond smile. "It's hard not to since I woke up every morning smelling it." There is a long silence between them before Ajay speaks up once more. "Are you sure there isn't a way for me to get back to the states?" He asks.
"Not until we get a new helicopter, no." Pagan replies. He gets up from his seat. "Come on. Since you are going to be my guest for a while longer, you might as well familiarize yourself with the pala--" Pagan is cut off when one of his soldiers runs in, babbling in Nepali. The king turns with a sneer, "What the fuck did I say about interrupting me?" He says in a sickeningly sweet tone.
"I-I'm sorry, sir. But there are rebels! They've breached the wall! It's another attempt to take the throne! They won't get far but..."
"The ones leading them are asking for Mohan's son."
Pagan frowns deeply, "If you say that name again you'll end up with some hole in god knows only where and you may not love from it. Leave. Stop the rebels. If they retreat I want more outposts on the road here and more soldiers in their territory." Pagan growls. The soldier runs out.
"Wait, what's going on?" Ajay asks.
"It's nothing of importance. Just some rebels with guns who seem to hate me. Who could hate me?" Pagan returns to Ajay, in his previous good mood. Ajay was sure it was a mask now. He doesn't reply.
"Ah, well.... I have business to take care of." Pagan finishes what little on his plate he has left and pushes it back. He gives a long sigh, then gets up. "If you have time later.... oh of course you do. I think I should be true to my word, we can go shoot some guns.
Chapter 3: Missing and forgetting
Ajay had been here for about a week now and he was running out of clothes. He was down to his last pair of jeans, which had holes ripped through them. The holes littered his knees, thighs, and the bottom of the jeans were frayed from walking. He can't remember where he got them but he does remember the last time he wore them. It was before he got clean, before his mom's death too. It was actually the day he decided to get clean that he wore these. Ajay broke ties with a lot of friends that day and slept on the side walk for the worse part of a week before his mother finally let him back into the house. She had to make sure he had no stashes and no chance to build one up, the woman from that day on saw little more than a cigarette in the house, then after he learned of her cancer, he stopped smoking too. Ajay groans and holds his head in his hands. He's going to run out of clothes and he'd be damned if he had to wear one of those painfully colorful suits the king wears.
Pagan had a few things planned for that day apparently. The man was overly nice to Ajay, practically spoiling him. When Ajay asked for something, he got it and though he didn't ask for much, Pagan constantly asked if he needed anything. He leads Ajay to an old room, colored in soft blues, dark pinks, oranges, and bright greens. All seemed to splash over the walls. "This was your room. I've stored a few old things. I wanted to see if you remembered anything." Pagan spoke quietly.
"You are the son of a famous rebel leader and his wife, whom he sent to spy. She did not leave you with him. No matter how much he 'aserted' himself as the man of the family. She eventually convinced him that you would be safer here, under her watch."
Ajay walks slowly into the room. He can't remember. There are boxes, spread through the room. The room isn't big but it's much too big for just a four year old child. "All of this was mine?" He asks.
"Yes. You quite liked it when I was here with you. Told your mother what any 4 year old boy would."
"And what was that?"
"No girls allowed." Pagan replies in an amused tone. Ajay laughs as Pagan leans in the door way. "Well, it's true! The only time you'd come out of this room is when I left. You'd follow me around with a hand grabbing the back of my pants leg or whining until I carried you. Sometimes both."
"Alright alright. Enough with the embarrassing stories..." Ajay had vague memories of being carried by someone who wasn't his mother. A man who was about a foot taller than her, but that's all the detail there was. He didn't know who it was or where he was at the time, only that it was a very happy memory.
"It's alright if you don't remember. It's all a blur to me. Only a couple years spent together." Pagan hums. There's a small comfortable silence between them as Ajay wanders around. Only looking at the walls and the child's drawings that had been stuck to them. He couldn't remember a thing and there his name was, clear as day in that messy hand writing only an infant would have. He pealed it from the wall and looked down at it. There he was, a little tan stick figure with black squiggles for hair, his mother with black squiggles for braids, and she was holding a little bundle with a face, Ajay assumed it was Lakshmana, and Pagan, holding Ajay's hand and his mother's. "I guess you had the doofy blond hair back then too?"
"Doofy?" Pagan gasped and feigned offense, then chuckled. "I did indeed. You seemed to like it because there wasn't any one else in the county with my hair color." They remain in silence for a moment before Pagan audibly sighs and shakes his head, "Come. We've still got a palace to explore, Ajay. God. This room is making me fucking sentimental." Pagan smiles and waves for Ajay to follow.
Ajay does so. Closing the door behind him. He remembered so little, it was good that they were fond, but it was only Pagan in his memories... nothing about his sister. And sometimes... it's not all that bad no not remember.
Attacks on Pagan's compound happened more than the monarch would like to admit to Ajay. And each chance Ajay got a chance to leave the Golden path would fuck it up for him and he'd have to stay longer. Though, there was little to complain about. Pagan gave him gifts. One of them, a gun.
"It truly is for your own safety, Ajay." Pagan says. "You know about the occasional attacks. This is just in case someone tries to come after you. I doubt they will, my boy; but I won't force this gift upon you."
Ajay likes guns as much as the next guy. Maybe a bit more than the next guy, he accepted the gift and thanked Pagan for looking out for him. He never thought he'd have to use it. He never thought he'd have to see another person die in front of him.
Ajay remembers being woken up by heavy footsteps down the hall to his own bedroom. Pagan usually was on the other side of the palace, getting drunk, or he was already on bed. Usually the latter (gladly). Ajay slid out of bed and took the gun from his night stand. No one was supposed to go near the hall Ajay was in, that was Pagan's explicit instructions to the guards that were in the palace.
Ajay hid quickly over the edge of the bed, the side facing away from the door. He hoped he was just being paranoid. These attacks on the palace made him like this. He's been here around a month now and at least once a week the Golden Path would attack. Sometimes it was a small attack, only a few gunshots and yelling. Only once was he sure that people died on both sides. It was loud. It was the one time that Pagan sent him to hide. Pagan didn't tell him to hide specifically. It was more like he sent Ajay with five elite guards to the back of the palace, away from the front attack.
"Ajaaaaaaaay...." He hears Pagan. He groans and puts the gun away. This place was getting to him. He gets up from where he was and goes to the door. He opens it with a wide frown. Pagan insisted that Ajay be himself. Though, if Ajay were himself, he would be much more vulgar than this. "You scared the shit out of m--"
Pagan nearly falls down past Ajay but the younger man catches him. "Fuck! Are you---Yup. Yes you are. Shit." Ajay curses and half-drags Pagan to his bed. The older man is giggling. "How much have you had?" Ajay groans after he sets Pagan down.
"None! What so ever, boy. No alcohol. Can't promise on other things though. Other things..." Pagan giggles, "I had other things."
"You're...high." Ajay's frowns deeper.
"Oh hush! You look like your mother when you do that! Stop it!" Pagan's smile falters and his brow furrows as he whines.
"Well, you're a god damn monarch and you're getting high from... what I'm really assuming is cocaine."
Ajay rolls his eyes and pushes Pagan down, he'd give up his bed this one time because he was too pissed to go back to sleep.
"Oh, I could get used to you doing that." Pagan giggles.
"Shut up and sleep it off." Ajay growls.
"Still sound like your mother, Ajay~" Pagan giggles and rolls on his side to face away from Ajay.
Ajay groans and sits down. This is the dumbest thing he's ever done. He should have waited for this damn war to be over. He might have just been able to do what his mother wished of him then left, easy. It could be worse. He could have ended up in the golden path's hands.
Chapter 4: In a waking nightmare
Ajay only remembers getting up from his bed. He is in his underwear and a black t-shirt, clutching his gun in his hand as unfamiliar voices chatter outside his door. If it was Pagan again he would lose it. But it isn't. He wakes a first time in a truck with a bag over his head and his hands tied behind him. He sees a few flashes pass him, likely other cars? A town? He doesn't register what it is before unconsciousness pulls him into the dark. When he was able to open his eyes again, he was in a sitting position with his hands tied the chair as well as his legs, with a bag over his head. Great. This is exactly what Pagan warned him about. He opened his mouth to ask where he was but all that came out was a pained groan. He heard footsteps just outside of where ever he was. The door opened with a loud wooden creak.
"You are sure it is him, this time?" A man asks.
"Yeah, yeah. Had some of the guys confirm it. Looks just like Mohan." Another replies in broken English.
Suddenly the bag is lifted off his head and light comes flooding in, over powering his vision. He shuts his eyes and turns his head away with a groan. After his eyes adjusted, he looked to the men in front of him. Well, the other had left, but the one staring at him now definitely looked like he was the one in charge. He was knelt down in front of him, looking over his face, staring at him.
"Ajay Ghale?" The man asks.
"What?" Ajay replies cautiously.
"Brother! We've been searching for you everywhere. Pagan Min captured you before we could secure you." The man looks relieved and starts to untie Ajay. Ajay gets ready to kick and run. "I am Sabal, I--" He did exactly as he prepared himself to do. He kicked Sabal hard in the chin and ran out the door as quickly as he could.
Ajay was brought down by six men once he got right out the door. He cursed and struggles against the hold. A man has one of his arms twisted painfully and another has the other pinned behind his back. He legs are held down by another two men and he's still twisting and yelling so one has to hold his torso and another holds his chin to the ground. Sabal came from the shack with a bloody nose. "We rescued you from king Min, Brother!" He growled and stepped in front of Ajay. "You needn't be afraid of us."
"Get-Get the fuck off me!!" Ajay yells to the men and woman holding him down. "Fuck! FUCK!" His arm hurts and so does his jaw now.
"Has Pagan already filled your head with lies? That we are terrorists?" Sabal asks. Ajay grits his teeth. "He is the terrorist! He kills innocent people to gain control, to make sure no one questions his rule! This is not what your father would have wanted of you!"
Ajay freezes. His father? He didn't know his father, and based on what Pagan had told him, had shown him, he didn't want to. About his little sister. What his mother had to do to protect him...
"F-fuck. My. Father." Ajay yells at Sabal through his teeth, "And fuck you too! Let me go you fuckin--"
Ajay is kicked in the teeth by Sabal, he can feel his nose bleeding and his lips pulsing in pain. Hands lift from his head and it lulls to the side, all of his muscles going limp before unconsciousness claims him once again. "He has already corrupted you, Son of Mohan." He heard before everything went black again.
When Ajay wakes, he is tied back to the chair and Sabal is sitting on the far side of the room, drinking. Ajay just stares. "You just...shit on everything your father stood for..." Sabal says in a low but still angry tone.
"Do you really think I care about my father?" Ajay replies, "He killed my sister, tried to kill my mother, and me."
"Is that what Pagan has told you? Has addled your mind with such bullshit?"
"Nice wording. If you're gonna put it that way... Yeah, and my father's journals were proof enough as well..."
"You have these journals?"
"Not with me." Ajay replies.
"Then they do not exist."
Ajay bites back his anger. How are these people so blind? When the moment Ajay ceased to be useful, they beat him and chained him. They were trying to brainwash him into thinking they were the good guys. Sick.
"Why was my father so important?" Ajay asks.
"He started this movement, you cannot honestly say you feel no connection to this cause." Sabal replies, hope in his eyes.
"I honestly Can." Hope crushed.
Sabal gets up, nearly knocking over or throwing his chair he was sitting in. He is furious now. He rushes at Ajay qnd the american flinches, bracing himself for pain.
"You are a coward, Ajay Ghale. You're father--"
"--Would be very disappointed? Angry? Furious? Ready to skin me alive?" Ajay growles.
That's when a punch comes down on his cheek, making his bite the flesh inside his cheek and his tongue. "Good to see you get the point, brother." Sabal growles and leaves. Ajay drops his head and falls unconscious.
He wakes again this time soft hands on his face, tending to him. He jolts away from them and finds a woman kneeling in front of him. He stares down at her. "Ajay Ghale." She said. "You don't have to be afraid of me. I'm only here to help you."
"You'd untie me if you were." Ajay frowned.
"I can't do that. You're useful to us, more than you know. If you would only see that this revolution would--"
"It would kill a lot of people, already has. If you didn't do this, no one would die." Ajay had seen enough death. Here in Kyrat and elsewhere.
"No. It wouldn't. Pagan Min is evil. We cannot live in this tyranny, you cannot see it because you're too busy being kept inside walls. If you would only see the horror--"
"I've seen enough. I don't want to see anymore, I want to go home."
"This is your home. You were born here, you're father gave his life for this cause. This means nothing to you, truly?"
"I have no memory of my father, I have no memory of this place." Ajay said. She shook her head and picked up her tray of medical supplies. She had cleaned him up for the most part, but she's no doctor and really doesn't have a good idea as to what she is supposed to do. He sighed and stayed there in silence for a while. He was soon lulled into an uneasy sleep as he had nothing else to do.
Ajay is snapped awake by helicopters and gunfire. He doesn't get his hopes up that the Golden Path camp will be liberated. That's when the door is slammed down and he is cut loose from his chair. He's practically dragged to the helicopter.
He is handed a radio when he is seated and the helicopter is taking off. "Ajay Ghale, it's for you." The pilot says. Ajay presses the button on the side.
"Ajay!! Thank fucking god!" Pagan's voice was honestly the best thing he every heard, and right now he wished he could see him. "I was ready to get you myself, I was tackled on my way out though. So I hope the cavalry is enough."
"More that fucking enough." Ajay replies with a small laugh, a lump in his throat forming. His voice is shaking, only hopes that Pagan can't hear it.
"Just get here and we'll get you all cleaned up, I'll see to it personally." There's a log pause before Pagan comes back over the radio. "Are you alright, Ajay?" He asks.
"I am now." Ajay replies. He can hear a sigh over the radio, a sigh of relief.
"I swear if your missing any bits I will hang all of the Golden Path. All. Of. Them." Pagan growls.
"I'm not missing any 'bits'." Ajay laughs quietly.
He's talking to Pagan all the way back to the palace.
When he's finally let off the helicopter, Pagan is waiting there for him. He gets out quickly and before he even knows it, he is gathered up in Pagan's arms and being hushed, comforted. He didn't really realize it until now, but he was crying. Ajay Ghale didn't cry. Not in front of people anyway. Ajay just lets it happen. He wraps his arms around the older man and just stands there for a little bit.
By the time Pagan let him go, the helicopter blades had long since stopped spinning. "Come on, let's get you patched up and looking pretty again, sound good?" Pagan smiles. Ajay nods and walks to the palace with Pagan's arm wrapped around his shoulder and his own wrapped around the man's back.
Chapter 5: Home-ish
Believe it or not, after being kidnapped by the Golden Path, subjected to a few punches, licks and bruises, and nearly shot; Ajay was okay. That's what he told himself anyway. In fact, he wasn't and Pagan could see it.
The moment Ajay stepped off the helicopter, tears welled in his eyes. His nose was bloody, as were his lips. The Golden Path bastards had targeted the places on Ajay that Pagan really liked. Ajay just cried silently in Pagan's arms for a while before they headed inside the safe walls of the palace so the doctor could patch Ajay up.
After a few hisses, taunts (from Pagan), and a couple stitches in a gash in Ajay's cheek later, it was nearly dawn. And Pagan didn't quite want to leave Ajay alone just yet. The boy did look tired, the dark circles under his eyes were proof enough. And the fact that the boy was leaning on him as Pagan walked with him back to his room. It was obvious that the boy wasn't quite lucid either. Pain medication. He was sure Ajay's face would hurt like a bitch without it. Pagan sat Ajay down on the bed and not a moment later, Ajay fell back into the silk covered mattress of the bed.
"Let's not do this again, hm?" Ajay mutters.
"I'd rather not repeat this, yes." Pagan laughs, "Though I do enjoy being your knight in shinning armor."
Ajay gives a tired laugh. "Can you stay? Just for a bit?" He asks, completely serious, much to Pagan's surprise.
Pagan does pause, but he understands. The boy had been traumatized when he first met Pagan and this time by the Golden Path.
"Yes." Pagan says. He finds it impossible to say no to this boy. "I'll stay as long, my boy."
He can hear Ajay hum a small reply before the boy is snoring. Pagan doesn't leave and he eventually finds himself laying on the bed with Ajay, though taking up most of it with the boy practically curled up in a ball to his side. He honestly couldn't imagine what would have happened if the Golden Path had found the boy first. He doesn't dwell on the thought.
Pagan wakes early. Earlier that what he normally did. Mostly because Ajay was a living heater and the boy was suffocating him. Causing him to over heat. It was unbearable.
He groans and moves to wake Ajay, starting with a nudge. "Ajay? Ajaaaaay?" He says softly. The boy groans and covers his head with the blanket. "Good god, boy. Get up. I'm dying from heat and I'm hungry. Get up!" He nudges Ajay again.
Ajay groans again, but he gets himself sitting up. He's obviously not completely awake, other wise he would have panicked and fallen off the bed because Pagan was there, again.
Que Ajay's small panic. He nearly slips off the bed, Pagan catches him. "Careful, don't want you to bust your head open, or break your stitches."
"My wha--" Ajay goes to touch his own cheek and hisses when his finger brush over his stitches.
"I told you." Pagan hums. "Now then, let's get those cleaned, then we can get something to eat. Sound good?
Ajay just nods, trying not to make himself brush his hands over the stitches again.
Pagan got up and watched Ajay go into his bathroom. The Golden Path hadn't even bothered giving him pants. Just kicked him when he ceased to be what they wanted him to be. He scowled deeply until Ajay turned to look at him. "Well.... I guess I could look worse." He mutters. "Worse comes to worse, it'll scar, but it's not too bad is it?" He asks.
Pagan quickly shakes his head. "Still pretty as ever, darling boy." Ajay snorts and shakes his head, not at all taking Pagan seriously. "Take a shower, I'll go find you some clothes." The older man says before leaving. He hears the heavy patter of feet and Ajay yelling down the hall, "Nothing pink!!" Pagan chuckles and finds himself determined to find something with even the smallest amount of pink, just to spite Ajay. Though, first he had a few things to take care of.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and called Yuma first. She was to station more guards in the palace, have some of her elite assigned to Ajay, and a few Golden Path prisoners put on display. They wouldn't get near the palace if Pagan had anything to say about it. Then he called Paul, the man had just come back from visiting his daughter and was ready to work which was good. He was to find out who took Ajay and where they went. These leaders of the Golden path were slippery and ran at the first sign of a battle they'd lose. He knew their names, but knew nothing about them, knew not where they called home, and who their conspirators were, but Pagan would be damned if he wasn't ready to burn half of Kyrat to find them. The phonecall ends and Pagan is back in Ajay's room with some suit pants and a t-shirt. It was the best he could do under the circumstances. He tossed Ajay's bag of dirty clothes to the guards to be washed, which would help for the time being until he could convince Ajay to let Pagan buy him expensive things. The boy didn't seem so set on going home anymore as well. He hadn't mentioned it and actually seemed to be having fun given the circumstances, though Pagan was sure that Ajay wanted to leave now because of this mishap.
Ajay comes out of the bathroom in little more then a towel and groans when he picks up the shirt. The sleeves were pink and as was the hem. "Does no pink mean 'more pink' to you?" He asks.
"If I recall, pink was your favorite color." Pagan retorts. Ajay opens his mouth them closes it again. He is silent for a moment and slips the shirt on. "Hmm, yes. If I remember correctly, when ever I watched you color, you'd just scribble around in pink."
"Okay, okay, enough." Ajay groaned. "Just... leave so I can put on my pants please."
Pagan chuckles and does what is requested of him. "I'll be in the library if you need me." He said and Ajay called back with a single 'Okay.'
Despite how everything was here... Ajay felt... like he was home.
Chapter 6: Everything you need
Ajay's cheek was healing quite nicely, it would barely even leave a scar and even then, the scar wouldn't stay long due to Pagan's fretting over it. Whether it be asking Ajy if he could dress it again or asking him to put some medicines on it. It was nonstop until Ajay didn't need stitches anymore and when it reduced to a mere cat scratch. Ajay had noticed the increase in guards around the palace, or rather around him. No doubt, Pagan did not want a repeat of the incident only just prior, but this seemed... a bit much. He was heavily guarded, but he was glad enough that these weren't trigger happy morons. These men knew how to flow around Ajay and the palace grounds, making it seem as though the guard had just increased, not that these were men assigned to him, though Ajay was more perceptive than most people.
Everything seemed to just snowball down hill when he met Yuma. She was a Vietnamese woman with some pretty interesting hair and a pretty... interesting personality. He found her yelling at Pagan in his office, screaming things and switching between Vietnamese and English. A few things Ajay managed to catch were: "...Fuck is with you and Ghale... Why the fuck... my guards..." and a few other colorful things. Pagan noticed Ajay standing the door, gawking, in which Yuma realized Pagan's attention was no longer on her and on the man behind her. She quickly snapped around and next thing Ajay knew, the woman had grabbed him by his shirt, pulling him hard enough to rip it and now they were face to face. "You'd best fucking leave, boy, or you will be sorry. Fucking weak, you're both fucking weak." And with that, she leaves the two men. Ajay is shocked, his shirt is half ripped down the front and the back of his neck was starting to bruise where the color was pulled. Pagan was angry and stood up once he knew Yuma was gone. He looks over Ajay and gently touched his shirt. "Ah, I was trying to put off the clothes shopping..." He muttered in an attempt to lighten the mood, but there was nothing that would help the bitterness that Yuma always left in her wake.
It had been three weeks now. Ajay had actually began putting his clothes in drawers. Pagan had brought him any scrap of casual clothing he had, most of them were very old t-shirts and much of which were either in Chinese, Nepali, or broken English. His favorite of which read Fuck Popsicle. It amused Ajay to no end and he wore it constantly. Pagan seemed equally amused by it, but for a completely different. That reason being that is was at least three sizes to big for Ajay. All that aside, Ajay was worried he wouldn't be leaving the country, or rather he'd forget about even leaving. Pagan spoiled him to no end, did what ever Ajay asked, and these guards that followed Ajay when Pagan wasn't around bothered him to no end. He confronted Pagan about it, though the man seemed reluctant to even speak about Ajay leaving. He needed to go home, if only to convince his friends he didn't die on his trip or get kidnapped or something, though the latter did happen. Yuma's voice still rang in his head and each time he thought about it, he was closer and closer to convincing himself that maybe she was right. Maybe he was weak, maybe being here wasn't a good idea, maybe he should have waited to bring his mother here... though he doubted it would make any difference.
"I need to go home at some point." Ajay would say.
"Yes, dear boy." Pagan would say and when Ajay would try to press the subject, Pagan would change it. It wasn't like Ajay couldn't press more, but there were several things that kept him from doing so. The first being that Pagan was actually quite patient with Ajay. The younger man had insulted him a number of times, but each time the man would only laugh, or smile, or make his own jab. The second being that Pagan was the king, if Ajay truly ever did get on the man's last nerve, some not so good things might happen, but the way Pagan treated Ajay... he doubted something like that would happen. It'd just likely be, 'Go to your room. No supper.' only in more colorful terms. A few days pass in silence between them after Pagan actually snapped.
"Pagan--" Ajay started.
"I know. Enough about it." The king muttered and looked up from what he was doing with a frown. Ajay took a step back as the look scared him.
"Then help me. You can't just keep me here."
"I told you, I fucking know." Pagan's tone becomes quite harsh and Ajay leaves angrily since Pagan wouldn't stop glaring until he was out of sight.
He finds Pagan a few nights and ate dinner with the man. He had been put off the crab Rangoon from the start of this adventure. Pagan promised not to make it again and that promise was kept. It was rare for them to eat dinner in an actual dining room, but Pagan had insisted. They were alone at a long table which seemed that it hadn't been filled in a very long time. They sat in silence, which was odd in itself. Pagan was usually the one to talk so much that he might choke if he wasn't careful, but the man was silent and it bothered Ajay. Then when the plates are clear, Pagan speaks.
"Ajay, I'd like to apologize for my attitude toward you when ever you mention... going home." Pagan said and leaned back in his chair with a sigh. "I have been patient, but it's too much to hope that you'd even want to stay here."
"You'd been hoping--"
"I'm not done." Pagan cuts him off, "I wanted you to stay, I wanted you to become my heir."
Ajay stands up, his chair flying behind him and clattering to the wood floor. He stares at Pagan in shock.
"My god, you really don't want to be here." Is all Pagan says and he leans forward again, not seeming to be able to keep still. He then held his head in his hands for a moment.
"Well you can't just give me a fucking country, Pagan! Especially when it's falling to pieces! You and the Golden path are just grasping at the crumbling pieces."
"I'm trying to make this right. The fucking Golden path are the ones that just keep breaking everything!"
"And you killing innocents isn't!?" Then Pagan becomes silent, he stares at Ajay as he processes the accusation. It isn't untrue, but he hasn't killed a soul since Ajay arrived, at least not personally. Ajay stares as well, processing what he had even said. Sabal had put that thought into motion and though he tried his best to think Pagan was a good man... well, Pagan isn't a good man.
"I... will admit, the time after you and your mother left, the time after Lakshmana... I did some unsavory things. I spurred the Golden path, I... I did kill people." Pagan said looking down at his hands then back up at Ajay. "You leaving, Lakshmana's death... it only let loose the things that I so badly wanted to keep hidden."
"Don't you dare guilt trip me." Ajay growles, his voice cracks.
"Since you came here, I've tried to be better, tried to repair things. This country is fucked, but I could fix it if you could just--" There is a long moment of silence, Pagan is staring at his hands once again, looking at blood which isn't there anymore, but he knows the stains will never come out, only fade. Ajay stands motionless, his chair long forgotten on the floor behind him.
"Then fix it, Pagan." The younger man says and Pagan looks up once again. "You're the king, so fix it. Don't just push it off on me. And... and if Yuma truly feels like you're weak, then the fuck does she know."
"Don't. I don't want any sappy crap and you calling be 'darling boy' or whatever..." Ajay gives the older man a stern look that Pagan had never seen before, a look of determination, almost reminded him of Ishwari in a way... but this wasn't his Ishwari, this is Ajay, a man who's grown far past his parent's titles and far past Kyrat. "Just fix this fucking country... for me... and so we can both go home."
Pagan wasn't one for physical contact and to be honest neither was Ajay, but the king was out of his seat with his arms wrapped around the younger man's midsection. Ajay isn't quite sure what he should do, but Pagan is squeezing pretty tightly so he just rests his hands on the older man's back and waits for him to recede. Pagan does not let go of Ajay, but makes sure that he is face to face with the young man.
"Pagan... say something. You're creeping me out with all the mooshy smiles and the quietness." Ajay says after a moment.
"Fuck. I'm going to have to burn all my opium plantations now." Pagan says with a smile. The man clearly isn't happy about it, since it's one of the bigger money makers of Kyrat, but maybe finding legal ways to rule this country would be better.
"I'm allergic to Opiates anyway." Ajay shrugs and Pagan chuckles.
"Wanna use a flame thrower?"
"You fucking have one of those?!"
Chapter 7: An Attempted Amelioration
Pagan's attempt at fixing the country starts with him sending out messages to all Commanders of his army, everyone in charge of platoons, even some 'exemplary' soldiers. It's a warning and a bribe. If the soldiers were to attack any village, destroy any township, rape, pillage, or kill all in the name of 'the great king Min'... They would be killed. And for the commanders, a large sum of money to turn in any guard found doing this. Fights were not to happen unless engaged, make the Golden Path the enemy that they should be, not the revolution that most of the country see. This goes quite well, but by the end of the first month, Pagan is tired of scaring these men into submission and decides to make a spectacle of them. This act is violent and quite entertaining to the right people, Ajay is not told of this part. The violations decrease substantially and in the lands around the palace. He even manages to bribe most of Yuma's men into following him, the other part of that most suffered some... tragic accidents. Yuma is none the wiser. Ajay took no joy in the fact that Pagan had to dismantle a few parts of the country's income, but the opiate field stayed.
"We could connect with some rich bitch pharmaceutical company." Pagan said. "Produce morphine and everything else that ends with -ine." The older man seems quite relieved that they needn't burn the fields, that and the fact that when they tried, Ajay had something akin to an asthma attack from all the smoke, thus cutting his fun with a flamethrower short.
Ajay even herd there was a school up and running. Even if it was just one, Pagan had some of the guards from the palace keep it safe from anything that might happen. So far, the Golden Path has yet to touch it and Ajay hopes it stays that way. People still lived in fear of what the Royal Army had been but since they were left alone and guards were replaced, people seemed to trust the king a bit more, even if it was a small change, a but of trust was better than the nothing that Pagan had before. Pagan even left the palace and was not once pelted with rocks. He even visited the school from what Pagan had told him.
"It's not as good as I'd like it to be," The king says and he writes off some papers. "They've no chairs, just some desks that they kneel at. I'll have to remedy that."
Ajay just looks at the king and smiles. Pagan glances up, then down at the papers again, then he stares at Ajay. "Do I have something on my face, darling boy?"
"No. Not exactly. Just... thinking it was good of you to listen to me." Ajay replies. He leans on the door frame and crosses his arms and though Pagan did all the work, Ajay was the one who got the stubborn king off his ass.
"I'll always listen to you, Ajay." Pagan replies with a soft smile.
Ajay raises a brown then chuckles. "Yeah? Well, you did a good job. See? If you had just handed off the country to me, this would have never happened."
"I hadn't meant my offer to seem like that." Pagan chuckles, "I was trying to fix things, though not fast enough for anything to really change. But I hope this doesn't come crashing back down, I hope this isn't going too slow or too fast as the case may be--"
"You did good, Pagan." Ajay presses. He walks from the door and presses his palms to Pagan's desk and makes the king look at him. He only smiles, wider than he really ever had with Pagan. The king's eyes soften and he's sure that Ajay can feel the admiration oozing from him.
"Ajay, before you go off and do what ever you do when I'm not around, I have a question for you." The king says.
"You're not going to ask me to marry you, are you?" Ajay jokes.
"Not yet." Pagan replies and Ajay isn't sure if he's joking or not. Ajay just laughs nervously and he's sure he blushed at the prospect. "I wanted to know if you'd like to go on an outing. Like actually outside the palace, not just in a controlled area. Maybe see the school?"
"Sure. Why not? It's not like I have anything else to do." Ajay smiles and turns to leave.
"I'm thinking next week? That good for you?"
"Oh sorry, I have dinner with the king." Ajay snorts and leaves Pagan smirking. It was a yes of sorts and now, Pagan can't help but sit there and ponder what he felt for the boy.
When they leave the palace, it's under heavy guard but Ajay is just happy to be seeing new scenery. He was sure he was about to go stir crazy from staying cooped up in the palace for so long. Pagan seemed nervous until Ajay put a hand on his shoulder. "You're alright, yeah?" He asks, though it's more of asking Pagan to be alright. The king nods and leans back in his seat, crossing his legs as they reach where the school is. Pagan was right about it. It was run down and the little color it had was from a few drawings from the younger students. He gets out of the car and is followed by Pagan. The children are released from the school and since it would seem many of them had been sheltered from the on going war, they seemed to warm up to Pagan and Ajay.
"Please tell me there's no propaganda in the curriculum." Ajay chuckles as he picks up a little girl. She's no more then 5 and has dark braids and bangs hanging in her eyes.
"That doesn't start till high school." The king replies.
"Only joking, my boy." The man chuckles.
Ajay rolls his eyes and sets the girl down, she runs off to her friends as they go pick flowers and braid them into each other's hair. It seems so nice and normal here, everything Kyrat should be. But from what Ajay learned of this country's history... it was never like this. Schools, but only for boys and it didn't teach anything like math, science, or even English. Here there were more girls than boys and the children's ages ranging between 5 and 16.
"Come, Ajay. There's still more to see." The king says and wraps an arm around Ajay, leading him back to the car. The next ride was short, it was about a half-hour walk from the school and the road ended here. It was a small fishing village that nestled itself in a small peninsula in the river. This was one of the closer towns to the palace, but it was also on the border of where the Golden Path and Royal Army met. They fear the king, but once Ajay is around, they seem to be drawn out by him. Then it's far too late for Pagan or Ajay to see it. There is no young in this town, there is no old, and a good ninety percent of them were men... with guns.
All hell breaks loose as it has many times before. A full out fire fight and Pagan is pushed behind a metal table that had been knocked over. He watches Ajay seemingly harden and he reaches behind him, producing the gun Pagan had given him. His shot isn't half bad, though Pagan can't see. He's constantly moving and he hears thuds behind him. He is far from okay as he watches Ajay reload and go back into the fray. He orders his men to get them back to the palace and they round both him and Ajay up. Pagan grabs Ajay's hand and pulls in with him. Ajay shoots behind them, but makes no protest to follow. Pagan glances only for a second and he sees Yuma, the woman standing proudly and gunning down his guards. He knows she did this and he is enraged. They're running and suddenly Ajay feels the worst flash of pain he's ever experiences. His hand slips from Pagan's and he falls. Everything goes black.
He wakes in a bed, one he knows is his. It's filled with straw that's sticking him in his back. He opens his eyes to a wooden roof, leaking in the midday rain. He then feels something cool and wet laid over his forehead. His head lulls to the side in order to get it off since his hands refused to work. He sees a young girl, no older than 16. She has a soft yet worried look on her face and she places the wet rag back. "Hello." She says in a shy voice.
"Hi..." Ajay replies. His voice cracks and that's how he knows he's been out for a while.
"I'm Bhadra." The girl says.
"Ajay." He replies.
Then the door at the far side of the room opens and he recognizes the person standing there. It's Amita being followed by Sabal. He doesn't want to be here anymore. He wills his muscles to move and he throws the rag away and sits himself up which Bhadra is quickly telling him not to move. He won't stay here, not with that psychopath here.
"Brother, please! Calm down!" Sabal says and comes far to close to Ajay for comfort.
"Fuck no." Is all Ajay says and he's up. He finds the door is locked from the outside and he growls. He's pretty much chased around the room by the two Golden Path leaders till they are at a stalemate. Ajay moves when they move, so they can't grab him.
"Ajay, please. You'll reopen your wound." Amita says and takes small step forward and Ajay is like a cages animal. He takes two steps back.
"Fuck the wound. Where the fuck am I?"
"You're at the Ghale homestead. Where your father and mother once lived." Sabal replies.
Ajay grits his teeth, looking back and forth between Sabal and Amita. He looks to the woman, seeing as she hadn't kicked his teeth in before. "I want him gone." He demands. "I'll lay back down when he's not here."
Amita looks between the two men. Sabal is the first to speak. "Amita, you cannot be left here with--"
"Leave." She says and Sabal looks offended, then angry. His shoulders hunch and he makes his way to the door, ordering whomever locked them in there to let him out. He leaves. Ajay falls to the floor, barely keeping himself up. Bhadra is at his side first and helping him back to the bed.
"I'm surprised you stayed standing that long." Amita commented and gathered some medical supplies.
He lays back and Amita unwraps his wound, cleaning it, blotting some blood from it then redressing it. "Where is Pagan?" Ajay asks.
"Much to Sabal's anger, he is fine. He's back at his palace and raining hell down on any Golden Path in the south, so I hear." The woman replies.
"He left me?"
"No. Not from what I was told. A soldier of Pagan's checked your pulse per his request, even as a firefight ensued," She muttered and wrapped bandages around Ajay's midsection. "When he was told the news... he was ready to kill all of Sabal's men himself."
"Well... Never said the royal guard was medically trained." Ajay chuckles, but it doesn't feel like a laughing matter. Pagan thought he was dead and might as well be undoing any work he had ever done.
"Does Sabal truly not want this country to get better... There was a school for god's sake." Ajay's voice crack again.
"Sabal is... he does everything on instinct. I knew there was a school, he did not. No matter what I said... he just wouldn't listen," She ties a tight knot and Ajay hisses. "I did not want any of this to happen, but Sabal... anything to make Pagan seem like the devil."
"You don't think he's the devil?" Ajay asks.
"No. But he isn't a good man either. But since you got here... everything was getting better. We even had started open trading between villages again."
"Sabal ruined it." Ajay sighs, Amita just hums in agreement and helps the man to his feet. Bhadra hands him a reasonably clean shirt and he is brought outside the hut. Guns are drawn, though not pointed at him. They were expecting him to run. "You're not going to let me go back, are you?" He asks Amita.
"It's not my choice. All these men here are Sabal's. I've no power over them." She replies. "But if it were up to me... Pagan was better with you at his side."
Then there is Sabal again, speaking with his men. "Ah! Brother." He says. Ajay says nothing, only glares at the man.
"There is no need for you to look at me like that." Sabal says.
"You kicked my fucking teeth in. Or did you forget?" Ajay replies and walks up to the man. Guns rise the closer he gets until they are face to face. "Don't you think I should return the favor, brother?" He is ready to clock Sabal is he even said anything else, he doesn't care if he gets shot in the process. But then Bhadra has an arm wrapped around his and is pulling him away, off to somewhere Sabal is not. She says something about a temple and archery, but that's all. He only follows. Amita lets the girl take him, though they are followed by a couple armed Golden path. She brings him to a temple not too far from the homestead. She explains so many things to him. She even shows him what to do with all of the things inside the temple. He connects with none of it, but he does have a memory of a shrine, maybe in the palace or maybe when he was young and after they had left Kyrat, but he knew it was his mother's.
Later in the day, when it's nearly sun down, she's kept him away from the two for almost a full day now and they are sitting, watching the sun go down over the mountains. "They're still fighting." Bhadra says.
"Who is?" Ajay asks.
"Amita and Sabal." She sighs. "They always fight. They can't agree on a single thing. But I agree with Amita. You with Pagan is better, safer."
"What do you mean?"
"You've been shot and neither me nor Amita are doctors. We can't help you as well as Pagan can. And it's safer for us as well. Pagan hadn't attacked us head on since you came here." He reached behind her and pulled a map from his pocket and his gun from the side of her jeans where she had been hiding it. Ajay is shocked. She hands it to him secretively as they were still being watched by the Golden Path. "Amita told me to give you this." She said then produced one last item, a phone, or rather a radio. "You can talk to me and Amita on that. We're on chanel 3.6 and Sabal is on 6.7, just so you know."
She stands and looks down at Ajay then points toward the mountain range then lines it with her finger. "When you reach a steep incline, just follow the path down and there should be the palace."
"Bhadra, you don't have to do this."
"I know. But I think you're the only chance we have. I won't have to become the Tarun Matara and Amita and Sabal will stop fighting." She says with a soft smile. "Now. Run."
He stares up at the girl. He has so many questions, but he supposes this makes up for the time Amita wouldn't release him. He smiles at the young girl, stands up and places a hand on her shoulder. He gives it a light squeeze before he darts off into the Kyrati wilderness. He hears yelling behind him, both Bhadra and the guards. He isn't shot at, Bhadra made sure of that. He feels free, not necessarily safe, but free. He opens the map and he can see where he started, the path he is taking and where he is going.
Chapter 8: The Opposite of Failure
Ajay is happy he knows how to read a map for the most part and the fact that Bhadra had marked a path and land marks makes him feel confident as to where he is going. Amita called him over the radio warning of honey badgers. Ajay has no idea what she means but she heeds her advice, she doesn't speak to him after that. It was night now, near midnight, maybe past and Ajay was exhausted and in quite a bit of pain. He wished Amita had told Bhadra to give him pain medicine, though maybe it's better this way since it would have likely been morphine, which is very allergic to. His abdomen screams for him to stop and he listens to it this once. He finds an old bell tower, which he could have scales easily if it weren't for the gunshot wound. He camps there for the night. It creaks and twists in the wind, but it is structurally sound for the most part. He falls asleep to the sounds of the wind, trees, and the wild life.
He wakes the next morning to voices below him. He takes a single look down from the tower and he sees that he is basically surrounded. About eight guards and two cars between them, more than a thousand rounds of ammunition compared to Ajay's measly twenty. He tries to think of a way out of this as they discuss climbing the tower to get a better vantage point, or rather one suggested to just tear it down. He pulls up loose boards and is ready to toss them off one side of the tower so he can escape down the other side. He finds a stash of some pretty old but useful items. A grappling hook with something that resembles paracord for the line and a few grenades. Screw throwing boards, he's throwing these and hoping that they won't bow up in his hand.
He gets his things together and tosses the first grenade. It's a dud and only hits the ground below in a faint thunk. Ajay frownes deeply and his nerves continue to catch up with him. He pulls the pin on the other one and throws it. It hits the ground in the same place as the other he had thrown and doesn't go off. Ajay groans and rubs his eyes in anger, then it explodes, catching Ajay off guard, which makes him nearly fall off the tower. But his plan is a success and the guards are running off into the forest for find the source of the explosion. Ajay takes this as his queue to rappel down the tower. His abdomen screams at him as he does so.
He's about half way down when he knows something is wrong. He looks up at the boards that the hook is attached to and he witnesses them break and pull free from their ancient nails. He knows this will hurt worse than when he got shot. He falls flat on his back, the air being knocked from him and his wound splitting open as he hits the hard dirt below. Ajay yells loudly in pain but he has no real time to wallow in it. He picks up his things as he is sure that he alerted the Golden Path that was not too far away. He picks up the cord, the hook and his map and runs as fast as he can. He can hear his heartbeat in his ears and the blood running from his wound, but he's sure the heart beat he is hearing isn't really a heart beat but bullets flying past him as he vanishes into the forests again. Adrenaline is the only thing that is keeping him going at this point.
He realizes he's been running for what felt like hours, but he didn't quite know what the time really was. The moment he stops, he collapses in pain and his legs burn, as do his lungs. He pulls the map from his pocket and curses as it is stained with his own blood. He ripped the wound open and it's getting worse by the second. He wants to go back to the palace, if not to seek medical attention, then to just see Pagan one more time. He didn't want to leave this world without seeing another friendly face before he dies. This keeps him going. He wills himself to his feet and walks. He holds his hand to his wound, pressed tightly to be sure that he doesn't die of blood loss. He travels for what feels like even longer than day, but he's sure that the sun hasn't set yet. He treks across two rivers, each time, crossing them got harder and harder. His blood washes down stream but it isn't even refreshing to be in cold water, it just makes him cold, or maybe that's the blood loss too. He doesn't know, his head is fuzzy. He presses onward.
He doesn't know where he is, but he knows he's in the south of Kyrat, Pagan's territory. He's sure he passed the gates some time back, or rather he missed them. He just keeps walking. His feet are killing him, the sun has gone down and the blood loss has gotten so back that he doesn't think he can see color anymore. He reaches a familiar walls of Pagan's palace and he feels like crying. Guards lift their guns, yelling at him to identify himself. Ajay only lifts his arms, his hands covered in his own dried blood and he falls to his knees, pain shoots through him again, burning from his abdomen outward and everything goes black again.
The first time he wakes, he's in a place he doesn't recognize with bright lights above him. There's a woman there. She's dressed quite oddly and wearing a surgical mask. She stops what ever she was doing and looks to Ajay. He opens his mouth but nothing more than a wheeze escapes him. She hushes him and looks over her shoulder at something. She places a mask over his face and he's out again. The second time he wakes, there's someone holding his hand and he's not sure who it is. He doesn't bother to open his eyes since he knows that sleep will come again for him soon and it does. The third time that he remembers he opens his eyes to find a cold rag over his eyes. He groans and pulls it off. He drops it on the floor lazily and looks around, everything seems so bright. He's in a bed he doesn't know, but he's sure the fact that everything is a nice shade of pink isn't helping.
"I knew I spoiled you, but I don't believe I ever let you get away with littering around my palace." He hears an all too familiar voice say. Ajay feels a lump form in his throat and he looks to see Pagan not too far from him.
Ajay gives a weak smile, "Hi." He rasps.
"Welcome back to the land of the living, darling boy." Pagan replies and walks to him. He picks up the rag and places it back on Ajay's forehead. "You've had a fever for days now. It's the first time it's been broken and the first time you've been lucid."
"Around thirteen days." Pagan replies and takes a seat on the bed.
"Oh." Is all Ajay says. There is a long uncomfortable silence before he feels Pagan's hand grip his own. He looks up at the man, examining his features. Pagan hasn't slept in days, there are dark rings under his eyes, he's been high a lot, drinking a lot, and judging by the bandages on the hand that Ajay is holding... been getting violent a lot.
"Even if it was only a day... thinking you were dead..." The king doesn't seem to know how to finish the sentence. He just looks down at Ajay. If Pagan looks this bad, Ajay must look a hell of a lot worse.
"So, how am I doing, doc?" Ajay tries to joke, but he sounds pitiful.
"Considering everything Noore found wrong with you... quite well." Pagan replies then sighs quite loudly. "Don't... Don't do this to me again. I can't loose you again..."
Ajay looks up the man and hums in agreement. "I'd rather not repeat this."
"I might have to chain you to the bed if you even try." Pagan chuckles tiredly.
"Kinky." Ajay replies, they both laugh. Then there is a long silence and Ajay isn't sure what to do. Pagan reaches and removes some of Ajay's fluffy hair from his face, tucking it back into place.
"I feel like I've broken my promise." Pagan says.
"What promise?" Ajay asks.
"I promised your mother I'd keep you safe long before you both left."
"You didn't break that promise."
"I promised you I'd be better... but I've gone and fucked everything up again."
"You were grieving and in pain and knowing how sane you are... you could have done worse."
"At least the school is still running..."
"Yeah, that's a plus." Ajay chuckles. He looks down at Pagan's hand and lifts it in his own. He gently links their fingers and squeezes the man's hand. Pagan just looks down at him softly.
"Sleep, darling boy." Pagan says. "I've some business to take care of, but I'll be here when you wake. Okay?"
Ajay's eyes suddenly feel heavy and he closes his eyes. "Okay." He mutters and drifts off.
Now Pagan works on finding Yuma, the scandalous bitch, a fucking viper. Pagan wants to ring her neck but that isn't enough to make her pay for what she did to Ajay. Paul is completely behind Pagan and is ready to assume any jobs Yuma had. Pagan allows him. The Golden Path must not be protecting her but he doubts they see her as an enemy now but he's ready to change that. He releases several radio broadcasts and videos of what he likes to call 'Yuma's torture porn'. She loved killing, loved killing the Golden Path to be precise. She even decidedly sent back their soldiers all drugged up and under her influence to kill some of their own men. It was an awful tactic and this was bound to send the Golden Path against her. Surely enough, it does and Pagan can not be happier.
He hears nothing of Yuma for quite a while, but he is informed that she was being transported bound and leashed to Pagan Min after the Golden Path has dealt with her. He knew they were savages but she is received with little more than a bloody and broken nose, broken ribs, and a broken elbow. Pagan knows she deserves so much more... perhaps a little taste of her own medicine... quite literally. He leaves her alone in a barren cell dug out into the side of the mountain so she can either suffer through her horrible and terrifying trip or end it herself. He's fine with either but he doesn't stay to watch, but he can hear her screaming at nothing as he leaves, he feels better.
He returns to the palace to find Noore tending to Ajay's wound. "He had a nasty infection. I'm surprised he managed to fight it off with minimal antibiotics." She comments.
"He's strong. I'd expect nothing less of him." Pagan replies.
She packs up her things and looks over the young man, passed out and heavily drugged on pain medicine. She leaves without another word. Pagan sits and watches Ajay breathe and he feels like he can as well.
Chapter 9: What I ask
The weeks Ajay was sick were difficult. He had gained an infection even though he had gotten medical attention just over a day after he got shot, traveling through some of Kyrat's rivers was not a good idea. Ajay didn't exactly have time to find a bridge, but he had ended up making it worse for himself. It was something awful as 12 of the thirteen days he had a fever than couldn't be broken, only brought down. Pagan had listened to his cries as his body fended off the attack and it was harrowing, not just for Ajay, but the king himself. He had held the younger man's hand for so long, letting him squeeze it for stability. Pagan couldn't bring himself to leave the boy's side. Paul had come in on more than one occasion with food as Pagan had skipped so many meals to stay with his darling boy.
Ajay hadn't been lucid once in those two weeks, but he had been awake... sort of. He had opened his eyes and talked nonsense and Pagan listened and replied. The first, he had forgotten where he was and Pagan reassured him first that he was in his palace, but Ajay had forgotten where he had been for the past a few months, so he resorted to tell the boy that they were in a hospital, the Ajay asked about his mother, where she was? When she was coming back? Pagan's heart hurt with each lie he told, but it was better for Ajay to be calm and forget it all than for him to send himself into an unhealthy panic. This happened a few times and once, Ajay spoke in Napali. It was shocking, choppy, but it was the way he used to talk when he was little.
"Bagan..." The younger man muttered. It was the way his mother had said it when he was little, when ever she had adressed the king. She could never pronounce the Ps in English, it was endearing. "Ma yati cōṭa." I hurt so much.
"It's alright." Is all Pagan could say, "I'm here." He gently pushed Ajay's dirty sweaty hair from his forehead and placed a small kiss there. "I'm here." He repeated. Then Ajay was out for a few days more. They had no full conversation, it was just sad questions from Ajay or well-founded complaints. The moment he was forming full sentences, Pagan was hopeful and after thirteen days of watching his boy suffer, he finally woke up and his fever broke.
More time passed and Ajay slowly got better. Pagan started eating again and once Noore informed Pagan that Ajay's condition was stable he was allowed to eat something solid and he ate quite a lot. Then after another week Ajay was finally out of bed. Though his fever returned at night, he was seemingly fine during the day and after a few large doses of antibiotics, Ajay went a full day without a fever and walking around in his sweatpants. His stomach was still heavily bandaged and he was high the entire time off pain medication.
A few points Pagan tried to work on something important and Ajay would come out of nowhere and wrap his arms around either make on odd noise or complain of some odd feeling as a result of the pain medication. However annoying anyone else might have thought it was, Pagan found the contact grounding, it made him happy, wanted. Ajay was still healing and it would take a while, but having Ajay back, having him near him and alive, everything in Pagan released and he felt so at ease. This was the point where he realized that Ajay was more to him. Much more.
Ajay hadn't had much time alone, between Pagan and Pagan having Noore check up on him. Amita and Bhudra likely thought he was dead with the past two weeks that passed. He found himself alone in the library and he was very tired as his high was coming down and his stomach began to be sore once again. He turned to the station Amita might be on and uttered a small, "Hello?"
He heard the button being pressed multiple times before Amita picking it up and yelling into it, "WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN?"
Ajay held the radio away from him for a moment as she yelled at him in Napali. "I'm fine thanks for asking. How are you two doing?" He asked.
"We're okay. Bhudra was worried. She wasn't sure if you made it. She'll be happy to hear from you."
"Where is she now?"
"Sabal has brought her to the temple for the day. I'll tell her we talked though. Be careful when we talk. Pagan would not be happy to hear us talking, same with Sabal." Amita said in a warning tone.
"I get it... listen, thanks for all you did. I need to go now, I really hurt."
"I understand, just stay safe, get well and heal quickly." He could hear a small smile in her voice and he felt reassured. He turned off the Radio after uttering a quiet goodbye.
He left the library, looking for Pagan who was likely in his office or study or whatever that place was that he did his kingly duties. He found the man with his back turned and his palms flat on his desk. Ajay found that he looked too tense, too worried. He walked up behind him and wrapped his arms around Pagan's midsection. Pagan tense then looked over his shoulder, just barely catching a glimpse of Ajay's black hair.
"Hello." He said softly.
"Hi." Ajay greeted. "You've been in here for hours... you need to get away from this. Just take a break or something. Not be king for a day and stuff."
"You know for a fact that I can not not be king for a day." Pagan hummed.
"Sure you can. Paul handles Yuma's old jobs just fine, I'm sure he could handle yours as well."
"Putting that much trust in Paul and bestowing that much power... it'd go to his head." Pagan replied. Ajay groaned and let go of the older man before grabbing his arm.
"You stand here in this office all day signing papers, you need to take a day, just one day off." The younger man said.
"Pagan." Ajay said in a mimicked tone. "Just... do it for me."
This seemed to change Pagan's tune as his features softened, he rolled his eyes, let out a quiet sigh and let himself be pulled from the office.
"I mean, I know there's fuck all to do here, but doing nothing is better than stressing over what ever you were reading."
"I have Mean Girls on blue-ray." Pagan hummed.
"Look, normally I'd reject that, but it'd be the first movie I've seen in months."
"It's a date then." Pagan chuckled.
"I pick the movie next time, if this is gonna be a thing." Ajay frowned before turning his face away and pulling Pagan down the halls of the palace.
Pagan smiled, hopeful, appeased.