Kai was exhausted. He was sat behind his desk, the netscreen alive with a million documents that all needed his attention. It felt like he hadn’t left his father’s office, his office in days. There was always more papers to sign, more things he had to agree to and just an endless amount of work. Kai sighed and leant back in his chair closing his eyes. He hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in days and it was beginning to show. An ache had started in his throat, making him wince every time he tried to swallow and his nose was feeling a bit stuffy but he ignored it. It wasn’t a surprise he was coming down with something but that wasn’t about to let it stop him. He was the new Emperor he could handle a small cold.
A knock rose Kai from his thoughts. He’d been staring at the latest reports from the American President trying to make sense of all, though it seemed more like gibbishish than actual words.
His voice sounded a little rough and he tried to clear his throat but it only made him cough.
“Your Majesty, I’ve come with the new reports from the Royal Guard. I thought you may wish to go over them together.”
It was Torin his father’s Royal adviser and now his. Kai had often thought that Torin was the real Emperor, he was one that knew how to run the Commonwealth not Kai. He was still young, still with so much to learn.
“Yes, of course. Please sit down.”
Torin sat in the chair opposite Kai and brought up the reports on the netscreen between them. The words on the screen all blurred into one, his head pounding with the effort of just keeping his eyes open. Kai rubbed his forehead, trying to will the pain away.
“Are you alright Your Highness?” Torin asked.
“Just a headache, too long spend staring at screen, but please do continue.”
Torin looked a little unsure but went on reading though Kai was having trouble paying attention. His nose was starting to run and he didn’t want to be sniffling and give himself away. There was no need for Torin to know he wasn’t feeling his best, Kai didn’t want to be seen as letting the side down.
He sniffed against his wrist, smothering a small cough and put all his remaining energy into listening to Torin.
“The guards have expressed an interest in gaining some new reguits to extend their numbers and will need your approval.”
“Yes, of cour…”
Kai’s breath hitched and he turned away just in time to stifle two harsh sneezes into his fist.
“Bless you Your Majesty.”
Kai had to resist the urge to groan, his head felt worse like it was stuffed with cotton wool and he really needed to blow his nose though he refused to do so in front of Torin.
“Thank you,” Kai said, trying to force his voice to sound normal.
“Shall we carry on?” Torin asked, he sounded concerned and though part of Kai wanted to admit defeat so he could go and sleep he couldn’t. He’d been Emperor for less than a month, he didn’t have time to take a sick day yet and what kind of leader would he be if he did? Needing a break so soon. No, he wouldn’t admit defeat.
The meeting ending up lasting over two hours and by the end Kai wasn’t sure how he’d made it through. Torin had left though quiet reluctantly, he kept saying it was okay for him to take a break if he needed but Kai had waved him away. His father, the Emperor before him had never stopped and he’d been the best leader they’d ever had, Kai had a lot to live up to.
Kai had been working for hours and yet the amount left to do never seemed to get any smaller. He’d been trying to write up a reply to an important comm but he just couldn’t make his brain form the words. He coughed heavily against his fist, wincing as they scaped his already sore throat and make his chest ache. The fit left him feeling breathless, dizzy and undoubtedly unwell. At some point he’d started shivering, Nainsi was meant to bring him a jacket ages ago but she hadn’t arrived.
An itch developed in his sinuses and he paused to sneeze roughly into his sleeve. Each one making his headache worse, like knives stabbing behind his eyes. With a thick sniffle he tried to focus back on the netscreen but he couldn’t, the words kept swimming in front of him and he dropped his head against his hands. He shouldn’t be fazed by a stupid cold, how many had worked through worse? And yet here he was failing to accomplish anything. He ran his hands through his hair and forced himself not to get emotional, he wasn’t going to cry. He would do push through but maybe he just needed a five minute rest and then he’d be fine.
The couch was in the far corner of his office, Kai collapsed against it’s cushions with a sigh.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt quite so ill but hopefully a little sleep would help. After all there was still work to be done.
Cinder was in the lower part of palace where she had a little workshop of her own. Just because she didn’t have to work anymore didn’t mean she didn’t still enjoy it. There were android parts scattered about a workbench as she worked on putting it back together. She’d become the palace’s in house mechanic and she loved it. No Adri breathing down her neck and she even got paid for her a work, a bank account all of her own.
She was in the middle of reconnecting the android’s senor bar when there was a knock at her door. It wasn’t uncommon for members of staff to come to her without a problem but mostly they just commed her, not many actually came down to her workshop.
“Mistress Cinder, may I come in?”
It was Nainsi, Kai’s personal android. What could she be doing down here?
“Sure, come in.”
The door opened and Nainsi rolled in, she looked like every other teaching droid. A bit more human shaped than most with proper hands unlike the hooks Iko used to have. One her hands was holding a jacket and looked rather like one of Kai’s.
“Are you alright? Have you got a software problem?” Cinder asked, not sure why else the droid would have reached out to her.
“No, everything is running efficiently thank you. I’ve come to you about Emperor Kai, I believe there is a problem.”
Cinder felt her heart sink. She hadn’t seen Kai since that morning, they’d eaten breakfast together and then both got their own ways. She hadn’t noticed anything wrong with him then, a bit quieter than usual maybe but she figured it was just the stress getting to him a bit.
“Is he okay?” she asked.
“I do not know, that is the problem. I received a comm from him requesting his jacket from his office but I am unable to get in. No one has seen him leave and I have been unable to find him,” Nainsi explained.
“Can’t you track his ID chip?” Cinder asked, her heart thumping in her ears.
“It says he is in his office.”
Cinder swallowed down the sense of panic. He was probably busy and hadn’t heard Nainsi outside or he’d fallen asleep at his desk, she knew he hadn’t exactly been sleeping well these last few weeks.
“Okay, well it sounds like his office is the place to start. Come on, I can always override the lock if I have to.”
Nainsi led the way up to Kai’s office, his jacket still held in her hand. She wondered why he’d wanted it, it was a warm day and the palace always had perfectly controlled air con systems. They reached his door and at first Cinder tried knocking and calling his name but his voice didn’t come.
“Does it still say he’s in there?” Cinder asked.
“It does,” Nainsi replied.
“Overriding the lock it is then.”
Cinder sighed and opened up the panel beside the door, she realised that breaking into the Emperor’s office could probably be concerned treason but there was something in her gut that said he was in trouble.
It didn’t take long to trick the lock into opening, a simple click and the door opened. Cinder was first in, coming to a quick stop in front of the desk, Nainsi bashing into her heels. Kai wasn’t at his desk, at first glance he wasn’t anywhere but then she saw the body on the couch.
Cinder knelt down in front of him. Something was definitely wrong, he looked pale, his dark hair clinging to his forehead and there was a crackling to his breathing.
“What’s wrong with him?” Nainsi asked.
“I think he’s sick,” Cinder replied.
She put her hand on against his cheek and was shocked at the heating rolling off him.
His voice low and rasping.
“Hey, it’s me. How do you feel?” she asked.
Kai groaned and coughed miserably against the cushions. Cinder had never dealt with a sick person before, she wasn’t really sure what to do. She thought back to the net dramas Iko had always liked so much, they always seemed to called for a Doctor.
“Uhm, Nainsi, go and get a med droid and Torin, tell him the Prince is unwell. I’ll stay here, okay?”
“Yes Mistress Cinder.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone you weren’t feeling well?” Cinder asked.
“I have work to do, I don’t get to just take a sick day,” Kai replied.
He was shaking as he struggled to sit up, his body begging him to lie down, to rest.
“You can’t just ignore when you’re sick, Emperor or not. What did you think was going to happen?”
“Cinder…” he warned, leaning back against the arm of the couch.
“No, tell me, what did you think you were doing? That now you’re Emperor being sick magically doesn’t affect you.”
His voice wavered though he tried to hide it with a cough. Cinder’s heart softened, she’d never seen him look so young, so vulnerable and so unlike the Kai she knew. It made her chest ache and she wished to be able to take all his pain away.
“I’m sorry,” she said, kneeling beside him again. “You worried me that’s all.”
“Sorry,” he sniffed.
“Now, how are you feeling?” she asked. She wasn’t really that familiar with human ailments. As a Cyborg and a Lunar she didn’t get sick like he did, she knew they got things like colds and the flu but she didn’t know what the differences were.
“Awful,” Kai replied, resting his head in his hands.
He looked utterly miserable, she put her hand on his shoulder and he shivered as the metal of her hand touched his skin.
“You’re cold?” she asked.
“Freezing,” he replied, turning to the side in time to sneeze.
She reached her the jacket Nainsi had left behind, draping in over it shoulders. He smiled at her, almite only weakly.
“You know you’re supposed to say bless you when your Emperor sneezes,” he remarked, his voice even raspier.
Before Cinder could reply there was a knock at the door, Nainsi was back.
It didn’t take long for Kai to be diagnosed with a nasty strain of the flu and prescribed various medicines and bed rest. He was escorted back to the chambers by the med droid, Cinder went to follow him but was stopped by Torin.
“Miss Linh, I’m afraid I must ask a favour.”
Cinder stood a little straighter as she addressed the Head Adviser. As much it was obvious he cared for the young Emperor, Cinder couldn’t help feeling slightly judged when he looked at her. Though it may have something to do with the grease stain on her cheek and that she was no one’s idea of what an Emperor’s girlfriend might look like.
“What seems to be the problem?” she asked.
“I wondered if you wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on Emperor Kai until he is recovered. I don’t know if you know but both his parents died of letumosis and he has been under a considerable amount of stress lately. I think it best to have someone around and I think he would prefer it to be you.”
Cinder had known that Kai’s father had died of letumosis but not his mother, he so rarely spoke of her. She didn’t even know her name.
“Yes, of course I’ll look after him.”
“Thank you Miss Linh,” Torin said.
“Please, call me Cinder.”
Torin smiled, giving a small bow before leaving the Emperor’s office. Cinder left in the opposite direction towards Kai’s chambers. She had her own set of rooms a little down on hall from is though she hardly used them, they spend most of their time in his.
It was dark when she entered, she went to call for the lights when she heard the sound of snoring. She was glad Kai was finally sleeping, he’d been struggling lately as the stress of everything had been getting to him. It was no wonder he was unwell with how hard he’d pushing himself the last few weeks.
Cinder went into the adjoining living quarters and started reading up on human ailments. She wanted to help Kai, not only because Torin had asked her to but because it felt right, to take care of a loved one.
She was sat on the couch reading up on the best way to treat a high fever when the door to the bedroom opened. Kai stood leaning against the doorframe, he was wearing a grey hoodie and pyjama bottoms, his hair messy from sleep. Cinder couldn’t help smiling at the sight.
“What’s so amusing?” he asked, rubbing his nose with his wrist.
“You. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so… Un Prince like,” Cinder replied.
She was so used to him dressed up in finery, all smart and Royal. Here he just looked like a normal teenage boy and honestly it made her heart beat a little faster.
Kai raised an eyebrow before turning away to cough weakly into his fist.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying my misery,” he quipped, his voice a bit rougher.
Cinder rolled her eyes and went over to him, helping him over to the couch where she’s been sitting.
“How’re you feeling? Can I get you anything?” Cinder asked.
Kai shook his head, curling up against the arm of the couch.
He sniffed, coughing into his wrist as he shivered. “I’m okay.”
The red light went on in the corner of Cinder’s vision informing her that he was lying. He was not okay by any definition but fought the need to argue.
“Don’t you want to go back to sleep? I read that sleep is good for sick people.”
Kai raised his head to look at her, his eyes looked strange, glassy and unfocused like he couldn’t quite see her probably.
“No, I can’t sleep. My brain won’t shut off.”
“Have you tried turning it on and off again?” Cinder asked.
Normally that would have gotten her a smile or even a laugh, Kai had always enjoyed her cyborg humor but now he said nothing. He leant back against the couch, eyes closed and looking miserable. She thought back to what Torin had said about how’d lost both parents to the plague and that he was the youngest Emperor they’d ever had, the youngest to take on so much responsibility.
“Kai, are you okay?” she asked.
He opened one eye to look at her. “Apart from the obvious?”
“Yes, apart from the whole having the flu thing.”
Kai shook his head, coughing in his fist and groaning as they tore it his throat and chest.
“How am I supposed to just sit here and do nothing why the whole world is on the edge of a war, a war I should be able to stop... “
His voice was a wreck, cracking every words. He cleared his throat and continued.
“I feel so useless, what kind of Emperor needs to take a sick day? I should be better than this, I should be…”
He broke off and for a moment Cinder thought he’d actually lost his voice before she realised he was crying. His breath hitched as tears ran down his fever flushed cheeks, his eyes already bloodshot and red. She’d never seen him cry, never once seen him lose him compose and it hurt. It felt like someone had their hand in her chest, squeezing her chest until she couldn’t bare it.
She put her arm around Kai’s shoulders and pulled him close, his head coming to rest on her shoulder, her fingers running through his tangled hair.
“Shh, shhh, you’re okay.”
Kai shook his head, sniffling wetly against her shoulder.
“I can’t do this, I can’t, I’m not him.”
It took Cinder a moment to realise that Kai was talking about his father. She’d never known him personally but he’d been a greatly loved Emperor for many years and he was a lot to live up to.
“No, you’re not him but you are you. You’re going to be a great Emperor one day but it’s going to take some time and everyone needs a sick day now and then, unless you know, want to become a cyborg.”
“You believe that?” he asked, raising his head from her shoulder. He looked an absolute mess, hair sticking up everywhere, eyes and nose all red and still far too pale. It made her heart hurt just looking at him.
“Of course I do. I may not know much being an Emperor but I do know you. I know how strong you are and how stubborn, you’ll make him proud I’m sure of it.”
“Thank you,” Kai said, a small smile on his lips.
Cinder returned his smile, her metal fingers touching his cheek to wipe away the drying tears. Her internal display said his temperature was still too high as he leant into the cool touch of the metal against his feverish skin.
“I’m sorry for all this, I didn’t mean to get all…”
Kai’s breath hitched and he turned sharply to the side and sneezed. They sounded harsh even to Cinder’s untrained ears and judging by the way Kai winced they were painful too.
Kai tried to clear his throat but it only triggered a coughing fit. Cinder bit her lip as she rubbed his back, he sounded really terrible. With all their technology, they could live on the Moon for goodness shake, was there nothing that could be done to make one illness go away?
“I don’t like seeing you like this,” Cinder said, a mark left on her lip.
“I’ll be okay.”
Her red light didn’t come on, she knew it was true he’d be fine in time in more ways than one. She could blame his little breakdown on the fever and the stress but it was just as much as sign of how much he cared and of how good a job she knew he was going to do.
“I know but it doesn’t help you now,” she said.
“You know there’s something that might help…”
Cinder raised an eyebrow as he turned to face her, a glint in his eye. “And what’s that?”
“You definitely can’t get sick right?” he asked.
“Only with computer viruses.”
The corner of Kai’s mouth curved into a half smile as he put his hands on her face, tugging her toward him until their lips met. He was too warm against her, his skin sticky and lips chapped but he was still the same Kai that made her heart beat faster every time.