"Uh…Theo? Where are dey?" Remy asked, halting just inside Emil's bedroom door so abruptly that Theoren, who hadn't slowed down, ran right into him, sending the two of them tumbling to the floor rather unceremoniously.
"Remy, I don' know, an' could ya warn a person next time you're gon' stop like dat? Ugh…"
A soft voice chuckled from somewhere nearby. "We're in here."
Without further ceremony, Remy and Theoren crawled over to the closet on their hands and knees. They must have looked funny, but they didn't care. Peering into the darkness of the closet, they found the two people they were looking for, Mercy and Emil. Emil was leaning against Mercy, shaking slightly and crying. Mercy was doing her best to comfort him, but it didn't look to Theoren and Remy like she was succeeding that well. They joined their friends in the closet, concern on their faces. It was a tight spot, but none of them minded. Except for perhaps Emil.
"Are you okay, kiddo?" Theoren asked softly, reaching over and ruffling Emil's thick red hair.
Sniffling, Emil shook his head.
Mercy realized that Remy and Theoren had to be told what was going on with Emil, but that he wasn't going to tell them.
"Do you mind if I tell dem what's wrong?" she asked the young man. He thought for a moment, then he looked at her and shook his head again.
Remy, Theoren and Mercy left the closet and stood by the door, speaking quietly. Emil watched them silently from his spot in the closet. He wasn't about to move, not yet anyway. He wanted to hear what they said first.
"He's depressed, guys." Mercy said, thinking it would be best not to beat around the bush. "Ever since dat year his father an' Et were killed, he's been unhappy. De only one who knew was Tante Mattie. Even Jean-Luc didn' know, an' we all know how he tried to keep tabs on all of us."
"Oh no…did a good job of hidin' it, didn' he?" Remy replied.
"Oui. I don' know, but I t'ink first Jean-Luc leavin' without sayin' good bye, an' now de news dat Jean-Luc's dead might be too hard on him." Mercy admitted.
"It's gon' take a lot of work for us to get him out of dis…" Theoren commented. "It's really been goin' on for ten years?"
"Uh-huh." A quiet voice said behind them. The three turned and found Emil standing just outside the closet, watching them, his face still damp from crying. His normally sparkly blue eyes were dull, hollow and tired-looking. "It's not too bad most of de time, an' a lot of de time if it gets bad I jus' sit in de closet for awhile till I'm okay 'gain."
Emil went over and sat on the bed, staring intently at the pattern on his blue and gray bedspread. The pain he was feeling was showing plainly on his face, and in seconds Theoren, Mercy and Remy were seated around him, concern mirrored on their faces. They weren't really sure how to handle the situation, but they all silently vowed to be there for their cousin, whatever the cost.
"Is there anyt'ing you want us to do, Red?" Mercy asked.
Emil sighed deeply. "I dunno…"
Remy put an arm around Emil's shaking shoulders. "Do you want to talk?" Emil remained quiet for a few moments. The others weren't sure he was going to talk again, especially after they saw the tears running down his face again. Suddenly, he spoke.
"You know what Jean-Luc said to me after dat week when Papa an' Et were killed? He sat dere in dat closet wit' me an' he promised me dat for as long as he lived he'd be here for me. He said he'd take care of me. Six months ago, he broke dat promise. Why'd he do dat?"
"Oh Emil…you were really countin' on him, weren' you?" Theoren asked.
Emil nodded. "I knew he wouldn' live forever, but why did he have to leave six months b'fore he was gon' die? Why couldn' he tell us? Why didn' he say good-bye?"
"He didn' want to hurt you, Chil'." Tante Mattie's voice said from the doorway.
"But he did!" Emil exclaimed. He got up and went to the closet. "I…I jus'…jus' leave me alone…" he said, going back into the closet and shutting the door behind himself.
Tante Mattie looked at the three thieves sitting dumbfounded on the bed, all of them staring at the closet door. "He needs de three of you, whether he knows it or not. You're de only real fam'ly he's got left. Jus' be strong an' take care of him de best way you can. I'll help in any way, as will de other three. But it's really gon' be up to you, an' Emil himself."
"Do you t'ink he really wants to be alone?" Mercy asked.
Tante Mattie shook her head. "Non. But I don' t'ink he needs all of us right now. It might be a bit hard for him to talk to all of us. Remy? You an' him have always been close. Why don' you try talkin' to him? We'll go downstairs an' leave you alone."
"If you need us, jus' call." Theoren said.
"Okay. T'anks." Remy replied.
Tante Mattie, Theoren and Mercy went downstairs, like they said they would. When they were gone, Remy spent a couple of minutes thinking about what was going on, and how to help Emil the best way he could. He had to admit, he had a fear that he wouldn't be able to do it. Knowing that kind of thinking wouldn't help Emil, he pushed the thoughts aside and went over to the closet, opening the door.
Emil watched as his friend got into the closet and closed the door behind himself. Remy made himself comfortable across from Emil, his red eyes glowing.
"Talk to me, Emil." Remy said.
"It hurts, Rem. It hurts a lot. I've hidden it for so long…I didn' want anyone to know…but I jus'…I can' do it anymore."
"So don' hide it. You don' have any reason to, you know? Tante Mattie an' de rest of us, we want to help you. If you hide everyt'ing, we can'."
"Dere's so much…I don' know…" Emil hid his face in his hands, sobbing quietly. "Ten years…"
"B'lieve me, mon cousin, I know how long ten years is, especially when you're in pain. Been dere, done dat. Mais, if we take it one day at a time an' work on it, you'll get t'rough it. We'll help you. We won' let you down."
Remy reached out and put a hand on Emil's shoulder. "We're fam'ly, Emil. If we don' take care of each other, no one will."
Downstairs, Theoren was addressing the other thieves. Remy probably would have wanted to do it himself, he knew, but he also figured Remy wouldn't mind the help.
"We have to figure out de best way to help Emil. I feel…guilty, I guess you could say…b'cause I didn' notice what was really goin' on."
"None of us noticed, Theo. Don' fault yourself entirely." Claude commented.
"I can' help it. I vowed after Jean-Luc left dat I'd take care of Emil…dat I'd take care of all of us. An' I feel like I'm failin'."
"I assure you, Chil', you are not failin'." Tante Mattie assured him.
"I should have known!" Theoren exclaimed.
"Jean-Luc didn'." Mercy replied. "Do you really t'ink he would have left an' let himself be sacrificed if he had known? I don'."
"You were very important to him, more important den I t'ink you realized." Tante Mattie told them.
"Den why would he leave like he did?" Genard asked, shoving his glasses up on his nose. "I mean if he cared 'bout us so much…he had to have known dis would hurt us, even if he didn' know how much."
"He did it to better secure your futures." Tante Mattie explained. "He didn' mean to hurt you. He had to do what he t'ought was best for de Guild, jus' as you all did when we had de vote of confidence awhile back."
"True enough. I jus' wish Emil wasn' hurtin' so bad…" Theoren said softly.
"Funny as it might sound, I kinda got used to feelin' de pain a long time ago, Theo." Emil said as he and Remy joined them unannounced in the living room.
"Emil…are you alright?" Zoe asked.
"Non…I haven' been alright in ten years, why would I be alright now?" Emil replied with a wry grin. "I'm sick of it…I want it to end…"
"What do you…what can we do to help you?" Genard asked.
"Dat's a help right dere, G. I guess I jus' need you guys to be here." Emil told them. "I'm…countin' on you guys."
Theoren moved over and put an arm around Emil's shoulders. "Hey. You can. None of us is gon' leave you. We're not gon' leave each other. Jean-Luc left in de hopes of carryin' out de prophecies an' ensurin' dat our future is stable. We owe it to him, as well as to ourselves, to make sure everyt'ing he did wasn' in vain."
"Agreed." Mercy commented. "If we don' stick together, what's de point of…everyt'ing dat's happened, everyt'ing we've done? We're a team…a fam'ly. We're all we have left. I t'ink dat means more to each of us den jus' 'bout anyt'ing."
"So…what now?" Zoe asked, thinking how wonderful it was that the other people in the room considered her to be part of their family. Her own family had disowned her, she had thought no one would ever consider her to be family again. It was nice to know she had been wrong.
Theoren looked at Remy, a questioning look on his face. Remy squeezed Emil's shoulder.
"I t'ink our first priority right now is takin' care of ol' Red here. An' I t'ink all we can do, both as a group an' as individuals, is live one day at a time."
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