One does not ignore the summons from the Queen.
Queen Suria is not her father-in-law; she is a kind woman, interested in the healing and the prosperity of their kingdom, and thus Caleb greatly prefers her to the former, now deceased King Dwendal. Her husband, Dwendal’s son Eidys, isn’t much for politics; thus, most of the day to day running of the kingdom falls to Queen Suria.
Technically, it should be Astrid’s job to deal with the royal family, as she is the Archmage of Domestic Protections, but for whatever reason, the Queen prefers to deal with Caleb in certain matters. A problem that comes from saving the world, he thinks. People think him a hero, though Caleb is reluctant to describe himself as such.
Still, the queen’s smile is kind and small as he crosses her courtyard slowly, his silver cane helping him cross the great lengths of the marble floors. He misses the days when he could have run this distance in no time, six seconds or less, but he was a younger man, back then.
“Master Widogast,” she says with a soft smile as he finally approaches. “My favorite wizard. Walk with me in the gardens?” She offers her arm, which he politely takes in order to escort her.
A private conversation, then.
The Royal Gardens are beautiful and private for a reason, full of flowers that are taller than Caleb, a twisted maze of vines and plants. The Queen seems to know where she is going though, and so Caleb is content to slowly walk at her side, his cane assisting him the same as the Queen’s arm.
“Have you heard the news?” The queen whispers once they are far enough into the gardens. “About our neighbors?”
“I have not, my lady.”
“The Bright Queen has fallen ill,” she explains simply, and Caleb feels a pang of sympathy. Leylas Kryn was always kind to the Mighty Nein. “She has temporarily stepped down from her duties as the Bright Queen while she recovers.”
“Makes sense.” It also explains why Caleb has been summoned; he and Beauregard are considered the Empire’s foremost experts on the Dynasty, given that they lived there for a time.
“Lady Deitra Thelyss has been working in her place,” Queen Suria explains. “Are you familiar at all with her?”
The name is familiar, and it takes him only a moment to place it. “I am familiar with her son, Essek,” Caleb explains. “He and I are friends.”
Were friends. Are friends? The last time he saw him was at the end of the war. He always intended to speak with Essek again, but then there was Lucien, and Vess DeRogna, and then Tharizdun’s cult, and Ikithon, and the end of the world, and Essek had slipped far from his list of priorities.
“I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting Lady Thelyss personally,” he continues, hoping his tone is diplomatic enough. He struggles, sometimes, knowing how to walk the line of diplomacy, although he doesn’t struggle as much as some of their friends do.
“She seems to be an interesting one. Ambitious,” Queen Suria says quietly. “Deeply interested in building better relationships with Xhorhas’s neighbors.”
“That’s ah, good, don’t you think?”
“It might be,” she admits. “She’s sending her sons here as ambassadors to the Empire.”
Son s , plural. He didn’t know Essek had a brother, but the thought shouldn’t be very surprising. Drow live long lives; it would almost be more surprising if Essek were an only child. “That’s a good thing, right? It shows that they are just as interested in keeping the peace as we are.”
The queen doesn’t respond for a moment; she stops instead to pluck a flower from a nearby tree, a vibrant pink peony she carries in her hands. “You said you knew her son: I would like to know your opinion of him.”
A difficult question to answer; Essek’s treason lingers in the forefront of his mind, but he finds he doesn’t want to bring it up, though his position suggests he probably should. “Essek Thelyss is one of the most brilliant mages I have ever worked with. He is a prodigy, the kind of mind that only appears once in a few generations. He’s endlessly clever, and a bit prickly, but he is incredibly kind once you get to know him. Without his assistance, we would have never been able to accomplish what we did together as the Mighty Nein. I consider him one of my few friends.”
The queen grins slightly in response to his answer. “I’m glad to hear you speak so fondly of him, considering he’s going to be working with you.”
That’s a little surprising. “Oh?”
“He requested it specifically, actually. He asked if part of his ambassador duties could be fulfilled working with the Cerberus Assembly on arcane matters, specifically with Master Caleb Widogast,” she says with a bit of mischief in her eyes. “He specially mentioned wanting to work with you over something known as dunamancy? I confess that arcane matters allude me, but I told him I would need to speak with Master Widogast before confirming his appointment.”
Caleb feels a flush rising on the back of his neck and hopes it doesn’t appear on his face. “We would be honored to have him with us,” he speaks on behalf of the Assembly. The others may fuss, but that’s a problem he’s certain he can smooth over if it comes to it.
The queen stops and turns towards him. “I feel this could be a wonderful opportunity, both to learn from the Kryn, and to build lasting relations with the Dynasty. It would be good to see people of different races being accepted in Rexxentrum. However,” she bites at her lips. “Our trust is tenuous. You are to report to me what Master Thelyss does in this city, his movements and actions are to be limited.”
“I understand,” he nods. “And the brother?”
“I was thinking of assigning Master Verin Thelyss to the Cobalt Reserves,” Queen Suria says. “Mistress Lionette speaks Undercommon, does she not?”
“Good, I will speak with her next,” They arrive at the other side of the garden at this point. The royal guards barely acknowledge their presence, practically as stone as the statues in the garden as they watch the two of them approach. “You and Beauregard will meet with the brothers when they arrive a week from now. I will send the details to you once I know them.” She extracts her arm from Caleb’s grasp, and walks towards the palace without much fanfare.
He hesitates, his grip tight around his cane before he decides to speak. “Thank you.”
The queen stops on the steps. “I’m sorry?”
He bites his lips. “I--thank you. For taking a chance on Master Thelyss, and for working with the Dynasty. Essek is an old friend--I look forward to working with him again.”
Her gaze softens. “Peace can only be achieved through progress. I am glad to have you here, Master Widogast. Until next time.”
The walk home is long, but there is a spring in his step that hasn’t been there in a long time.
A week later, he and Beauregard wait in the outskirts of the city for the Theylss brothers to teleport in.
“You excited to see Essek again?” Beau asks, her arms crossed coolly. She doesn’t wear any sleeves, which make the burn scars on her arm stand out more prominently than they would otherwise. Unlike Caleb, Beau walks proud of her scars, the damage her body bore in order to save the world.
“I am,” he confesses, leaning on his cane slightly. “I’ve missed him. And yourself?”
She scoffs, as if his question is ridiculous. “I didn’t mention his, ah, previous occupation, although I was tempted to. I figured there was no point in bringing up old wounds.” She confesses, and that alone feels a little bit like a victory. He remembers how harshly she treated Essek once they learned the truth, and he reminds himself that Beau has grown since then. “I’m going to be watching him like a hawk, though. What do you think he wants to do here?”
“I don’t know,” he says honestly, giddiness escaping his voice. “But it’s bound to be exciting, don’t you think?”
Beau scoffs, and then they are quiet for another moment. Then another.
“What do you think his brother’s gonna be like?”
“I have no idea ,” Caleb laughs. “I didn’t even know he had a brother.”
Beau starts to speak, but whatever she intended to say is lost, as suddenly there is a rush of teleportation, and then two drow are standing in front of them.
Essek--he looks exactly the same, even though it’s been three years since he’s seen him last. Still slender in frame, although he doesn’t have his heavy mantle covering him like he did previously. Instead, he wears an intricate cloak made of spidersilk, laced with a weblike pattern. The strange thing is the parasol he carries, a familiar pink umbrella that Jester made for him, once, and Caleb cannot help but smile at the sight of it.
Beside him, the other drow--Verin Thelyss, Caleb presumes--stands taller than Essek, even as Essek floats taller than he would be if he were flat on the ground. They look like opposites in some ways--Verin is very muscular, broad shouldered. They have the same silver colored eyes, though, and both of the sides of their heads are shaved, although Essek’s hair is short while Verin’s hair goes down long in a braid past his shoulders.
Essek gasps when he sees them. “Caleb ,” he breathes, and Caleb feels his eyes water slightly.
“My dear friend,” Caleb whispers, rushing over to him. Before he stops himself, he wraps Essek in a tight hug. “It’s so wonderful to see you again.”
Essek squeezes back tightly. “You as well. It has been too long, you--” he lets go and takes a step back, examining Caleb like he might inspect a specimen in his lab. “You look older,” he says bluntly, studying Caleb’s face. “You’ve got scars, and--why is your hair turning silver?”
Ah. “I believe they call that aging, my friend,” he grins, proud of the slight gray streaks that have been creaking their way through his red mane. They mean he’s survived, after all.
“Hi to you too, by the way,” Beauregard huffs beside him.
“Beau,” Essek smiles. “It’s good to see you as well.”
“Yeah,” Beau says. “Glad to see you’re alive and stuff. Who’s this?”
“Ah,” Essek turns towards the currently silent drow. Upon closer inspection, Caleb can see the other man is squinting in pain. “This is my stupid little brother, Verin, who didn’t listen to me when I said the Empire would be sunny.”
“I can handle a little bit of sunlight,” the drow winces, his eyes in obvious pain.
“When you go blind, don’t come to me crying about it,” Essek rolls his eyes, unwilling to share the shade of his parasol.
“We should get inside, then, so our newest ambassador doesn’t lose his eyesight.”
They hurry back towards Solystrice, but Caleb finds he cannot move as fast as he used to. Beau has learned to adapt to moving slowly on Caleb’s behalf, but a familiar shame rises up to him when Beau, Verin, and Essek are two to three steps ahead of him the whole walk.
Essek seems to notice, and slows down beside him. “That’s new,” he gestures to the cane.
“Yes,” He grimaces, and then feels the need to explain himself. “Ah, in one of the battles against Tharizdun’s people, my leg was--shattered. Caduceus and Jester did their best to heal it, of course, so I can walk again, but, ah, I won’t likely ever run like I used to.”
Essek nods slowly. “I may know a trick or two to help.”
Caleb looks down at Essek’s floating. “Going to teach me how to do that?”
“If you think it will help you feel less pain, then yes.”
They are quiet for a moment, before Caleb feels a sense of guilt start to rush into his throat. “I’m sorry,” he whispers to Essek, out of earshot from Essek’s brother and Beau. “I should have contacted you--”
“No, Caleb,” Essek shakes his head. “You needed time to process everything. And afterwards, I think you were a little busy saving the world, no?” He smiles at him, kinder than Caleb expects. “I do not blame you.”
“I still could have contacted you. It’s not as though I didn’t know where you were.”
Essek sighs softly. “Maybe, but I--” he bites his lips. “Let’s put it this way: yes, it would have been nice to have talked to you before now, but I don’t blame you for not contacting me, okay? It’s in the past. Honestly,” he looks Caleb over once more. “Honestly, I am just grateful to know you still consider me a friend. I wasn’t--when I requested to work with you, I didn’t know how you would respond.”
“Of course I want to work with you. I’m glad you contacted me--I can only apologize for my own behavior,” Caleb winces slightly, taking a rough step as he goes. “I always intended to contact you again. I wanted to give things a little time to calm down before I contacted you, but then we got so busy, and--”
“ Caleb ,” Essek breathes, putting a hand on Caleb’s shoulder. “You saved the world. I think you are allowed to let little things slip your mind when dealing like something like that.”
“You aren’t a little thing,” Caleb clarifies, finding his breath heavy in his throat. “You’re my friend, and I treated you poorly, and for that, I apologize.”
Essek sighs, as if he cannot find a reasonable counterargument. “Very well then. Apology accepted, although you needed’t feel guilty about it. I forgave you the second I heard you ended up in a battle with Tharzidun himself. I--” Essek flushes slightly, his cheeks a slightly darker burnt purple. “I considered reaching out to you all, once I heard about the battle. But I--I wasn’t sure if I would be welcome, and so--I didn’t.”
Now is Caleb’s turn to reach out, taking Essek’s arm into his own and giving it a gentle squeeze. “You are always welcome, my friend. I’m sorry I ever made you doubt that.”
Whatever Essek intends to say is interrupted by Beauregard. “Yo, are you two done flirting?” She hollers, loud enough for the whole courtyard to hear. “I told Verin we could get pancakes! He’s never had them before!”
Essek scrunches his nose. “What are pancakes?”
Caleb laughs. “Brunch, apparently. Come on, my friend. Beau won’t wait for us long.”
At first, it’s like they were never apart. They fall into a steady rhythm immediately; Essek is just as brilliant as he was three years ago, and he and Caleb work together naturally.
There was a little bit of grumbling in the Assembly when Essek arrived; old prejudices die hard, it seems. But Caleb was able to convince Astrid and Wulf, and between the three of them they were able to smooth over any hard feelings. It helps, too, that for the most part, Essek doesn’t interact with anyone other than those he has to work with, and Caleb. Even Astrid and Wulf avoid him for the most part, trusting him as much as they trust Caleb’s judgment, and that seems to suit Essek just fine.
Caleb may have Trent Ikithon’s old title, but at least the office is new.
(This is because Caleb burnt down his office, his building, the rooms underneath where he was once tortured. Nothing of Ikithon’s survived the flames; he made sure of it.)
He is grateful that his office is new; there are memories still of Solystrice, of what it used to represent for him, and there are times when he still flinches when someone mentions Cerberus, in spite of it being a part of his job title now.
He has a cup of coffee waiting on his desk when he enters his office, courtesy of his secretary. She’s a halfling woman who Caleb will confess to hiring mostly because she reminds him of Veth, though she is younger, and doesn’t have a family yet.
Still, he’s barely had a sip of his coffee before there’s a knock on his door. “Come in!” he hollers, setting the cup of hot liquid down on his desk.
It’s Essek, poking his head sheepishly around the door. “Got a moment?”
“For you, my friend? Of course,” Caleb beckons. “Come in. What can I do for you?”
“Actually,” Essek cocks his head to the side. “I wanted to know what I could do for you . Are you busy today?”
He looks down at his calendar. A meeting after lunch. A stack of essays to grade. Things that can wait. “I have some time. What do you have in mind?”
Which is how they ended up here.
Here being an empty classroom, set off a bit away from the main halls of Solystrice for privacy. Caleb did not wish for others to know about this; he did not know how they would react, and quite frankly, Caleb valued the private time he had with Essek. Even if they did look a bit ridiculous like this.
“I don’t know how this is different from flying,” Caleb complains, feet still solid on the ground. Above him, Essek hovers about a few good inches taller than him. “Or levitation. Isn’t this just levitation?”
“No,” Essek laughs. “This is dunamancy --specifically, this is graviturgy. My specialty,” he swirls around the room like he’s dancing. “The first spell I ever invented by myself.”
Caleb mumbles the verbal components of the spell, and tries not to feel disappointed when his feet stay firmly pressed in the ground. “What am I doing wrong?”
“You aren’t--look,” Essek floats closer to him. He puts his hands on Caleb’s shoulders, squaring them under his palms. “Look at me , not the ground. And think about going up. ”
Caleb rolls his eyes. “I have been thinking about going up.”
“No, you haven’t,” Essek corrects. “You’ve been thinking about how you hope no one walks in on you doing this. And you’ve been thinking about how much standing like this hurts your leg, and how this feels like a waste of time because you’ll never get how to do this.”
Caleb glares. “How do you know?”
“It’s written on your face,” Essek grins. “Now look at me. Concentrate .”
He shakes his head, but does as Essek asks. He looks at Essek’s eyes and tries to concentrate, but Essek’s eyes are distracting--black sclera and silver irises. Has Essek always smelled so good? It seems strange that Caleb hasn’t noticed before now.
“I realize I’m pretty to look at,” Essek muses out loud. “But you still aren’t concentrating.”
Caleb scowls. “I wasn’t--”
“You didn’t even say the verbal components of the spell, Caleb.”
He has a point, but Caleb hasn’t been willing to admit defeat just yet. “I am trying,” he says, his voice low and filled with shame.
Essek bites his lips. “Try closing your eyes, for me.”
“I want to try something. Close your eyes.”
He trusts Essek, and so he does what he’s told. He feels Essek wrap his arms around his shoulders. “Think about being weightless,” Essek whispers into his ear. “Think about floating, like--like lying in a pool, how to water holds you up. But let the air do that for you.”
Caleb keeps his eyes closed, and he tries to imagine it--floating in the bright blue of the ocean, weightless. “I’ll fall,” he whispers, his voice low so that only Essek can hear him. “I’m--I’m afraid to fall again.”
“I won’t let you go,” Essek promises, his arms wrapped tightly around him. “I’ll float with you. We’ll go together.”
“I fell last time,” Caleb tells him, his eyes still shut tight. “The mage counterspelled my fly spell, and I fell over a hundred feet. I shattered my leg--landed on it wrong and it--they could have fixed it if they had gotten to me sooner, but they didn’t, so it stayed broken, and I--”
“Shh,” Essek whispers, his voice right next to Caleb’s ear. “I have you. I won’t let you fall. Trust me,” Essek whispers. “Hold on to me, if it makes you feel better.”
So Caleb does, wrapping his arms around Essek’s waist. “Don’t let go,” he whispers, keeping his eyes sealed shut, a blanket of night before him.
“I won’t,” Essek says quietly. Then, “ Sursum. ”
Caleb feels Essek floating, a little bit out of his arms. “Float with me, Caleb,” Essek whispers, hovering so that he’s just slightly taller than Caleb, still remaining close to him. “Think about the gravity, and bend it to your will.”
A deep breath, and then “ Sursum.”
At first, he thinks nothing has changed; he doesn’t feel any different, doesn’t feel weightless, feeling instead grounded by the presence of Essek’s arms, and the warmth surrounding him. But then he hears Essek laugh, “Caleb, look.”
He opens his eyes.
They are too tall--too high up, much higher than Essek normally floats, and he can feel the drain in his energy for going this high. But it doesn’t feel like flying--flying feels more controlled than this.
It really does feel like floating, he thinks. Like floating in the ocean, held up only by gravity.
Immediately, he falls just a little bit, but Essek catches him, and he manages to regain concentration on the spell. “Look at that,” he gasps, holding tightly to Essek.
He couldn’t tell you which of them moved first. In his memories, he likes to think it was Essek--that he just couldn’t resist leaning over and kissing him in that moment. But in reality, they move together as one, one drawn to the other like moths to a flame. Essek keeps his arms wrapped around Caleb’s head, and Caleb holds on to Essek’s waist as they kiss each other deeply, slowly floating down. He only notices anything’s changed when they land on the ground, and Essek is suddenly shorter than him again.
The weight shift startles them, and they both fall to the floor, ass first, and then they are both laughing, and the sound of Essek laughing like this--lightly, like he hasn’t a care in the world--is the most beautiful sound Caleb has ever heard, and so he has to lean over and kiss him again, and again, and again.
He would have been content to have spent the entire afternoon there, trading kisses on the floor with Essek, had his mind not gotten interrupted with a spell -- Where are you, Caleb? The meeting is about to start --from Astrid, and he sprung away as if he’d been burnt.
“The meeting!” He screeches, and then grabs his cane to try and help himself stand. Essek seems content to remain on the floor, in a daze. “I’ve got to go, I’m so sorry, Astrid, I’ll be there soon--”
He waits a moment for the spell to finish before turning to Essek sheepishly. “I’ve got to run.”
“Wait, I--” Essek flushes, scrambling to stand. “We need to talk!”
“I agree!” Caleb grabs his outer robes, throwing them on quickly. “I’ll stop by your house later--”
“ Your house,” Essek corrects, and Caleb freezes for a moment in confusion. “I don’t want Verin to know about this!”
Right, Verin. Essek’s little brother, with whom he lived with. “Then come by this evening, I should be home after the meeting--”
He pulls Essek close, and gives him one last kiss before he stumbles towards the door. “We’ll talk, I promise!”
“Wait,” Essek rushes after him. “One word, please. Just--give me a hint of how you feel--”
“Happy,” Caleb says honestly, and then he’s out the door.
If his appearance is any different from how it normally is, no one comments on it, and so Caleb counts that as a victory.
When Caleb gets home for the evening, it’s pouring down rain.
He paces in his kitchen, back and forth, waiting for Essek. He never did learn the sending spell, never saw a need to, but moments like this make him wish he had taken the time to learn it. It would be so nice to just mentally tell Essek I’m home now. You can come over and not have to wait anymore.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have that luxury. And so he waits, pacing back and forth in his tiny kitchen. At his feet, the cats whine to be fed, but he fed them earlier--there’s even still food in their bowls, for goodness sake.
The stack of essays he brought home to grade stay sitting at the kitchen table, untouched.
He’s about to give up hope--walk over to Essek’s house himself--when there’s a knock on his door. Essek , he thinks, and he takes thirty seconds to brush his hair out of his face, and hopes he looks presentable.
He opens the door, and there he is--the man he’s been waiting on for hours, now. He’s soaking wet, drenched in the downpouring rain, but there are round spectacles on his nose that seem new.
“Sorry,” he says quietly, holding a bottle of wine in his hands. “I panicked. I didn’t know if I should bring anything, if I should bring anything at all, or what time you would get out of your meeting, or when I should come over, so I spent a lot of time just panicking at the market, and then I realized how dark it had gotten, and then it started to rain, and I started to go home to change but then I found out that Verin had taken my umbrella, and--”
Caleb drags him inside, and kisses him. “I’ve been wanting to do that for hours,” he tells Essek shyly.
Essek smiles, the glasses sliding off of his nose. “Me too,” he whispers, and then he kisses Caleb again.
He wakes up to the sunlight hitting his face as Essek draws the curtains of the bedroom open.
“Sorry!” Essek squeaks out as Caleb groans awake, rolling to the other side immediately to try and hide from the morning light. Besides Caleb, one of the two cats sleeping peacefully beside him rolls onto their back, exposing their belly. Lucky cat, Caleb thinks. “I wanted to double check the enchantment on my glasses--to be honest, I didn’t realize the sunlight would wake you.”
How do you not know that light in someone’s eyes will wake them? Caleb thinks unkindly, his mind groggy and grumpy, as it usually is in the morning. But then he remembers Rosohna, and it’s eternal darkness, and Essek’s former house which had no lights in it, because Essek can see in the dark.
So he swallows his grumbling. “It’s fine,” he says honestly, beckoning Essek closer for a good-morning kiss. His lover--already dressed and ready for the day, likely having been for hours now--indulges him, crossing the room to lean across the bed, careful to avoid the cats, and catches Caleb’s lips with his own. When they pull apart, Caleb is smiling already. “I needed to get up, anyway.”
He takes a moment and admires Essek, and the round glasses on his nose. “Are these going to be permanent?” He asks, admiring the way Essek looks in them.
“They are supposed to be able to block out the sunlight,” Essek explains, and Caleb notices the light fleck of freckles that have grown on his nose since he’s been in the Empire. “I wanted to make sure I had the enchantment right before I made a second pair for Verin.”
He kisses Essek on the cheek. “You look handsome in them.”
“I look handsome in everything, but thank you,” Essek grins cheekily. “I thought you needed to get up?”
Caleb groans, and wraps his arms around Essek’s waist. “In a bit.”
The essays on his kitchen table never did get graded.
“Archmage Widogast,” Essek says politely, with the slightest bow of his head.
“Ambassador,” Caleb returns the favor, bowing his head slightly in return. A daily ritual, as they pass each other in the long academy halls about this same time every day.
Neither of them acknowledge the fact that Essek woke up in Caleb’s bed only a few hours ago.
In truth, their relationship need not be as clandestine as they’ve made it seem. Yes, they are of different stations: Caleb is an archmage , one of the three heads of Cerberus, and Essek is only an ambassador, a figurehead meant to keep the fragile peace. If they were seen together, romantically, people would talk--but people would talk anyway. People talk about him already, speculating whether he is romantically involved with Astrid, with Jester, with Beau or Yasha, or Fjord, or Eadwolf, or anyone he spends more than ten minutes at a time with, or anyone he dares to share a smile and a kind word with.
But Essek’s position is the fragile one. He is a drow in Rexxentrum; no one trusts him (and they are, Caleb begrudgingly admits, somewhat correct in that mistrust, as only he and the Nein know that Essek’s position was Shadowhand before it was ambassador ). If he were romantically connected to Caleb, people would assume he would be doing so to try and influence the new Archmage of Civil Influence.
Not that he would, of course. People don’t realize how little Caleb and Essek talk about their work when they are alone. When they are alone, their time is spent trading kisses and soft words, or discussing magical theory. Neither of them have much patience for politics outside of work.
“I’d like to open up a school,” Caleb confesses to Essek one night, half asleep already. He is warm and love-drunk, Essek wrapped around him, and so he feels safe enough in the dark comfort to whisper his deepest desire, his most secret dream.
“You work at a school,” Essek muses, never as tired as Caleb is, even though he looks close to dosing himself. Essek’s hands continue to play with Caleb’s hair lightly.
“A different school,” Caleb yawns. “Somewhere--away from Rosohna. Rexxemtrum. Both places. Where we could be together.”
Essek is terribly quiet for a moment, and Caleb is already mostly asleep when the drow kisses his forehead. “You dream too big,” he whispers into the dark.
Caleb thinks you could stand to dream a bit bigger , and he thinks maybe he starts to mumble something to that effect when sleep overtakes him, and the thought is lost to the night sky.