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Love Letter part 6

Title: Love Letter to Nobody
Author: Me, naturally
Summary: Amery has died, leaving his possessions behind. His little brother finds a letter from his favorite—and only—brother to a woman defined only as ‘eternal beloved’ and goes to find out who it is.

He easily got a new frame for the broken picture and had taken a black pen to where the glass had cut a mark in the picture, right on Amery's hair. He was glad it blended well. He hadn't smiled at all in the week that had passed, nor had he really spoken to anyone, including Anastasia. Rook strutted around like a smug cock, a nasty grin on his face, always making little snide remarks toward his silence. Balfour would only look at him for a moment, then move on. At the end of the week, there was a book sitting on Balfour's bed, the black cover gilded with gold. It was then that a bright smile came across his face. He hurried over to it, flipping it open and reading the familiar inscription:

My dearest brother, let this book enlighten you as to the history of Volstov as it once did me.

It was simple and to the point, but the words meant the world to him, especially now that he could only imagine his brother saying them. He held it to his chest, relieved to have it returned to him. "Thank you, sir," he whispered, knowing that it was Adamo who had gotten it back for him. No one else had known what he had lost.

He had a raid that night, so he took the book into Adamo's office while he wasn't there, and put it on the shelf, smiling at the sight of the small package on his desk.

Knowing that it would be safe in the Chief Sergeant's office, he slid down into Anastasia's pen quite easily and happily, and got ready for another raid.

It was another good raid, or, at least, no one got hurt. The only problem seemed to be the next morning, one of the men just wouldn't stop sneezing, which really upset Rook and worried Balfour

Rook was mostly upset because, in light of Magoughin's cold—of all people, Magoughin—he was now worried that he'd get sick and be kept from raids. Nothing put him in a worse mood than the possibility of not flying. Any time the large man sneezed, coughed, or even sniffled while looking in Rook's general direction, the cruel man snarled something nasty at him.

Slowly, over the next couple weeks, each and every Airman came down with the same thing, some more quickly than others. Most were either too stubborn to admit they had gotten sick, or didn't realize they even were sick. Balfour, unpredictably, was one of the foolishly stubborn ones, not to mention skilled at hiding illness. Along with taking the shifts of those too sick to go on raids, he was volunteering in the medical center, trying to learn what he could on top of what he had already learned. They were grateful for the help; this virus was spreading quickly. Anastasia was the only one who noticed that something wasn't quite right.

"You have been very quiet," she stated, some metallic worry creeping into her voice. "You have been on many raids. Are you tired?"

He smiled softly at the concern, happy that he was on her back so that she wouldn't see that he wasn't telling her the whole truth.

"I'm just tired," he told her. "I have been volunteering at the medic's. Did you know I wanted to be a medic, myself, before I came here?"
"I remember that Amery once mentioned that you had such a desire. He said that he was proud. Why can Thoushalt's rider not take your place? She has not been up in a week."

"Ace has come down with a virus like a lot of the others," he informed her. In truth, there were only five of them still functioning well enough to fly: Rook, Adamo, Luvander—who was surprisingly resilient given his size—Ivory, and himself. The others were so sick that they couldn't get away from a toilet for more than a half hour, or worse. Jeannot's fever was so bad that it had put him into a coma, Ace was delirious, Raphael was so weak he couldn't move, and Ghislain refused to leave Jeannot's side for anything. "It's getting pretty bad…"

"And are you sick as well?" the dragon asked. "Do not lie to me, little brother, for I always know."

"I am slightly ill, yes," he murmured. "But I can fly, don't worry."

They didn't talk anymore after that, the world having exploded into a windy, fiery hell. On the way back, Balfour only claimed fatigue and stayed silent, not having the energy to shout over the wind.

When they landed, he slipped out into the hall to check on the other two who had gone with him, but heard nothing strange from either stall. He went back to Anastasia's and began to clean the ash off of her, getting into the little corners that were hard to get thoroughly. He could hear her speaking, vaguely, but his mind was elsewhere. He just smiled, patted her, and kept cleaning. Tired and dizzy, he rested his forehead against her cool body and closed his eyes…

"—what the hell he thought he was doing. He better be okay, or I'm going to be fucking pissed," was the first thing he heard as he woke, a familiar and comforting voice speaking much too loudly. He made a soft noise and rolled over a bit, only to find the edge of the bed and be stopped by large, rough hands. "Careful," the voice—he couldn't quite place it—grunted. "Roll the other way if you've got to roll." Once he was settled safely on the bed, he realized that the hands were a bit reluctant to release him, lingering a moment longer than necessary and then pulling back slowly, the warm flesh slipping slowly away…

"—and you'd be happy to know that Ghislain's recovered—though he's not left Jeannot's side—and Ace is getting better. Or…he's not talking quite as much nonsense as he was. Medic says he's not delirious any more, anyway," was the next thing he heard. The lighting and air was different, but the bed was still the same, so he knew well that he hadn't moved somewhere darker, cooler, and quieter. And yet, the owner of that voice was still there…or perhaps he'd come back. He really wanted Amery right then. He would have known how to make the odd numbness in his limbs go away. He would have told him ghost stories and chastised him for over-exerting himself.

He didn't realize that he had asked for his brother until the voice had fallen silent, and that hand, the one whose touch he felt in his dreams, rested on his shoulder.

"Balfour," the man murmured softly, still thinking the younger man was asleep most likely. "Not you, too…" There was worry there, a strange sadness that the young man suddenly recognized, the sound sending him back to his parlor as his body shut down once again.

***

A man was standing in the parlor as his father shoved him in. He knew whom he would be confronting; he had been told. However, Chief Sergeant Adamo was not the kind of man he had been expecting. He first thing he had not iced about him was his boots: the soles well worn, the toes scuffed, not the shiny dress shoes he had been expecting. This only compelled him to look higher, and as his eyes travelled up his pants, he realized that they, too, were worn—but far from ragged—a dark, woolen fabric. His shirt was not the silk that he had expected and did not sit stiffly on the slender body of a stuck-up city yuppie. It was a simple, dark, cotton shirt. Adamo's body was well muscled, hands callused from years of work. Even his words had surprised him.

"Again, I extend my condolences for the loss of your brother. He was a good man," Adamo had said quietly, his tone speaking words he never said, words of regret, sadness, hesitance. He wasn't haughty at all.

Breathtaken by such sincerity, Balfour couldn't snap back, or even glare as he had wanted to at first, as he had at everyone else who had offered such condolences.

"I'm sure you know why I'm here."

Balfour could only nod; yes, he knew well.

"Anastasia will have no other," he had told him. "She has refused—nearly killed, in some cases—everyone else. She wants you and you alone. You don't really have much of a choice. If you say no, we're down one swift. Puts the rest of the team in more danger. You know the part swifts play?" Balfour shook his head. "They're recon. Without, we're flying blind. It puts more men in danger."

The younger male was silent for a while, hands twisting familiar white gloves as he thought of more men—more brothers—going home to their families in boxes…or not at all. Then he remembered the letter, his graveside promise, and stood a bit straighter, blue eyes steely and stubborn.

"I will take his place."

***
 
Those had been the words that landed him here, in the Airman's med-wing, he thought as he woke again, alone this time. He opened his eyes and sat up a bit, looking around, only to immediately regret the movement as he leaned sharply to the left and emptied the contents of his stomach on the floor. He heard—vaguely—a young medic groan and complain, but it was cleaned up promptly, a basin placed there for any other occurrences.

He looked around again. Adamo. He wanted Adamo, even if that meant getting yelled at for being so foolish. He would know how everyone else was fairing.

"Where's the Chief Sergeant?" Balfour asked the young man cleaning the floors.

"Raid siren went off. Him, Rook, and Ivory went off to kill some Ke-Han bastards," the boy said. "Looked a right mess," he added as an afterthought, talking to himself. "Sick as a dog, and he was growling about you being so stubborn. Hadn't slept, either."

Those words sent a shock of terror through Balfour's body, and he swung his legs out of bed, ignoring the protests, brushing off the grabbing hands. He could only think of Adamo, out there flying sick and tired. It was then that he knew that if something happened, if Adamo didn't come back, he'd go insane. He wasn't just attracted to him; he was in love with him.

He ran down to the docks, past Anastasia's pen, straight to Proudmouth's just as the older man was sliding off her huge back.

"You have a visitor, dear," she rumbled, making Adamo turn, surprise on his face at his most unexpected visitor. "Good to see you're feeling better. Anastasia was most concerned."

After a moment more of semi-blank staring from his commanding officer, Balfour snapped, knowing that it was the illness that had dazed him.

"You utter fool," he hissed, grabbing a rather compliant Adamo by the shoulders and shoving him onto a bench. "You yell at everyone else for flying sick, yet you do the very thing! You could have gotten killed!"

"Someone had to," Adamo protested weakly, meeting his eyes not with a challenge but with something close to defiance. He knew he had done wrong, but he also had done what he had had to do. "Luvander was too sick to go; we needed a three-man team. I had to."

Balfour checked him over, not caring that he was touching him too much. A scrape here, a burn there. Nothing to be worried about.
"Ghislain has recovered fully, you said. Why didn't you make him go?" he asked as his hands ran along one arm, checking for fractures. Adamo's shiver didn't go unnoticed. "Cold?" He knew he was being selfish where the man was concerned, but he really didn't want to lose him.

""I wasn't going to make him leave Jeannot. And no, I'm not cold."

"Foolish, foolish man," Balfour muttered affectionately, then called for a medic. "But, you're lucky. You're not hurt too badly. You need rest, though. I'll ask Ghislain to take your place."

"Adamo looked at him blearily, then smiled softly. "When'd you become Chief Sergeant?" he asked softly, then promptly passed out.

Balfour caught him, wrapping his arms around him as they as they sat there. "Stubborn, foolish, lucky man," he murmured. "You're going to make some girl very happy one day." He didn't protest when the medics came, even though he had wanted to cling to him. He knew better. If he had been caught, he would have been tormented and Adamo would have lost respect.

He, too, was shoved into a bed in the med-wing, still being too sick to fly or care for others. He didn't fight them, knowing that it had only been adrenaline that had kept him running down there. As he passed out once more, he smiled, happy that his bed was near Adamo's. He could still feel the warmth of the man in his arms, and as he slept, this lead to very pleasant dreams.

Inspiration: this untitled fic by sam_i_am_89