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21 September 2008 @ 12:00 am
 
Boy let himself breathe again, knowing that if they were friends of Petr, he was safe. Petr knew him, Petr liked him. He wouldn't be hurt. He looked up at the man once again, and he didn't look as terrifying as before, just strange. Boy glanced back at Petr questioningly, a who are they?

Petr frowned a little, thoughtful, then tugged at the gold in his ear before reaching up to brush his fingers against the similar rings in the other man's. "Familia," he repeated, and Boy nodded--they must be from the same place, and he noticed that the man's skin was darker than his own, just as Petr's was.

They were from the same place, then, or maybe they were actually related. "Familia?" Boy said, pointing at himself and praying they understood. There had to be someone else like him in the village somewhere. There had to be.

Petr wrinkled his nose in thought, studying Boy's features. He shook his head slowly, and Boy felt his stomach drop. It must have shown on his face, because Petr grasped his arm. "Patrekr." He said with a nod and an encouraging smile. Boy frowned and Petr gestured to Boy, then himself, then a wild wave that seemed intended to encompass the village. "Patrekr."

"Patrekr?" Boy didn't understand what Petr was trying to tell him at all, pointing clumsily to himself like he was trying to ask if he was the same as Patrekr. He knew he wasn't, not when Patrekr belonged in the village and he was just a slave there.

Petr shook his head, frowning. "Patrekr," he said again, then waved his hand at the village. After a moment he turned to stand next to Boy and crouched, asking the air, "Familia?" in a slightly squeaky voice that Boy thought he should perhaps be offended to assume was an imitation of his own.

Boy got it then, after a moment of total confusion. He should ask Patrekr, but then, he wasn't sure how to express that he didn't know the word, and did Patrekr know Petr's language? Surely he must know some, but Boy had no way of being sure.

Petr beamed when he saw some realization dawn on Boy's face. The man in violet nudged Petr and said something to him that made Petr laugh, then jangled his metal-laden belt.

"Patrekr--" Boy hesitated, trying to find how to express it. "Familia." He pointed to their group and then gestured back towards the village. "Familia?" trying to make it as questioning as possible. What's the word?

Petr shook his head. "Familia." He nodded encouragingly, and Boy had to take it as affirmation that Patrekr would recognize the word. It wasn't too strange an idea--it seemed as though Petr and Patrekr had known each other for quite a long time, they must have picked up a few words of each other's language.

He nodded, smiling gratefully, and nodded towards his water, then back at the village. I have to get back. He didn't think they would follow, since it was Petr they were looking for, as far as he knew. He was just someone else who happened to be around at the time.

Petr gave him a wink before turning back to his friends. Boy smiled on his way back to the Vraison home, forgetting to be nervous with the promise of discovering if he was truly alone in the village.

He didn't know how to find Patrekr, but with Petr around he was sure to run into him at least once or twice. For now, though, he had to get back to the house before he was punished for being so late.

Happily, Geirvarr was inside when he got back. Less pleasant was the stormy look that Mikjall gave him, and the sharp words that Boy knew were a reprimand for being late. He wasn't sure how to communicate what had happened, and wondered if they knew the same words Patrekr did. It was worth a try. "Petr, familia."

Mikjall's expression changed abruptly. "Petr?" Boy nodded and pointed out the door, towards the stream. "Petr familia." Mikjall just rolled his eyes, then, gesturing Boy to come inside. Whoever the others were, Mikjall seemed to at least know of them.

Boy offered the sloshing bucket to Geirvarr with almost shy pride--he had never felt like this after fetching water at the monastery, but for some reason he was desperate for Geirvarr to be pleased.

And when Geirvarr smiled down at him radiantly he beamed right back, ignoring Mikjall entirely. Geirvarr was there and he was pleased with him, and Boy wanted nothing more than to just hug him again.

He wasn't going to try it though, with Mikjall no doubt watching them. Instead, he remembered that he was likely to need permission to ask Patrekr, especially since from the way Geirvarr had treated him, there was something special about the young man. "Patrekr?" He asked hopefully, curling his fingers around the cuff of Gerard's sleeve.

"Patrekr?" Geirvarr asked, sounding confused for a moment, but then Mikjall came over to him and said something and his whole face changed, slid from confusion to hesitant understanding. At first Boy didn't think he was going to be given permission, and for a long moment he was left wondering what Mikjall had told him, why Patrekr seemed to be other to Geirvarr, but then Geirvarr nodded.

Boy smiled and tried to find words to thank him, but he didn't know. He squeezed Geirvarr's wrist instead, smiling at wide as he could to convey it. He was already hopeful, because someone could know his language and he wouldn't feel so alone.

He didn't know if Patrekr would know anyone--Petr only implied he would know if Boy had 'familia' or not. There was no guarantee the answer would be yes. But either way, he had to find out.

Geirvarr patted his shoulder a little awkwardly, and Boy wasn't sure if the permission was to go now or just at some point in the future. He didn't even know where in the village Patrekr lived.

He knew once Petr got back Petr could lead him there, but for the moment he hesitantly reached out for Geirvarr's hand and asked "Patrekr?", gesturing towards the door. Can you show me where?

Geirvarr stared down at their joined hands, but he nodded. "Patrekr." He went first, and though Boy knew that there was no real reason to hold hands on the way there, he was glad that Geirvarr didn't let go of his.

It was comforting to be able to squeeze Geirvarr's hand, warm in his own. It made him feel better, somehow, and he wanted to never let go if he could.

Geirvarr led him through the village, past many little homes like the one they lived in. But the structure they were approaching now was much larger, obviously decorated and important. Boy shot a worried look towards Geirvarr. He had no idea that Patrekr would live in a place like this, he was such an unassuming boy.

He was almost afraid to approach it at all, but Geirvarr squeezed his hand tight and smiled down at him and he wasn't afraid anymore, not really, not nearly as much as he would be if he was alone. He'd be alright.

Geirvarr paused at the entryway and called something inside. There were a few moments when Boy was afraid that Patrekr had gone, but then he appeared, smiling and beckoning them in. The inside of his dwelling was covered in furs and obviously far finer than Geirvarr and Mikjall's, and Patrekr looked all the smaller and...more normal, for it.

He was still smiling as he started conversing rapid-fire with Geirvarr, so fast that it was lost entirely on him. Boy watched his expressions change, from confusion to understanding to thoughtfulness. "Patrekr," Boy began, hesitantly, and Patrekr turned to him. He pointed to himself. "Familia?" He knew it wasn't the right word in Patrekr's language, but it didn't matter. He could use another word, too, one he only learned from trying to listen as carefully as he could. "Petr sent?"

Patrekr frowned then nodded. He pointed to Boy. "Familia?" Boy nodded, feeling his chest go light. Please. Patrekr paused in thought, and Boy knew without having to hear the broken words what the answer was from the way Patrekr's eyes went sad.

He looked down at the floor, swallowing hard. So there was no one, and he was alone in the village, there was no one who could understand what he was saying or help him learn everything he needed to about this new place. Had they really killed everyone else? He couldn't even think about that now, not when he was already on the verge of tearing up.

Patrekr placed a warm hand on his shoulder, but it didn't make Boy feel any less hollow. Geirvarr squeezed his hand tight and said something to Patrekr, it sounded like an apology. Patrekr made a soft dismissive sound and rubbed Boy's back gently before letting go.

Geirvarr said something quietly to Patrekr and wrapped a hand around Boy's shoulders, turning to lead him out of the house. There was nothing to stay for, then, and Boy took a shuddery breath and tried not to let tears fall before he got out of the house.

Outside, Geirvarr tugged him closer, arm warm against his back. Boy went without a fuss, but he didn't feel the same happiness at the closeness that he would have before. Now he had nothing to hope for--he was utterly alone, no one that he knew, no one who could understand him was anywhere near,

He knew he would just have to learn the language, now that there was no one to help him. He couldn't let himself be alone forever, unable to understand anything anyone said, and if it meant being with Geirvarr and his clumsy, earnest teaching of simple words, it was something Boy would do.

He looked up at Geirvarr, and tilted his head down to rest on his shoulder. Geirvarr tensed, as though surprised, but he didn't try to get away from Boy's grasp. "Svala," he sounded apologetic, and Boy could almost laugh--this wasn't how barbarians were meant to behave, and he should be grateful for what he did have.

Once they were back in Geirvarr's house, of course--Geirvarr and Mikjall rested on each other all the time, though Boy knew that was different, because they were brothers, not master and slave. But Geirvarr had treated him like a real person so far, and cared for him.

He would have to be thankful that the brothers didn't do any of the horrible things the monks had whispered about--or the things that everyone stopped talking about as soon as he came into the room. Right now he wanted to be held, and he was sore from sleeping on the ground and tired down to the bone from the disappointment.

As soon as they were in the house he just hugged Geirvarr to him tight, fingers clutching at the fabric of his shirt. He finally just let the tears fall, sniffling and burying his face in Geirvarr's chest.

"Svala," Geirvarr murmured again, wrapping his arms around Boy's back and tugging him close against his chest. Boy felt horrible, but crying was easier when he had Geirvarr solid and warm supporting him.

He didn't want to pull away, not when Geirvarr was warm against him like that, comforting. He wondered what Geirvarr would do if Boy just didn't let him go, holding him a little tighter.

He fisted his hands in Geirvarr's shirt, hoping that he wouldn't get pushed away. He felt exhausted, after being going through such an emotional gamut and getting unsatisfying sleep the night before, and he yawned into Geirvarr's chest.

Geirvarr pulled back just a little and steered Boy over towards the bed, and he was turning pink again as Boy felt him try to pull away. "You?" Boy asked clumsily, pointing at the bed too, torn between confusion at Geirvarr pulling away now and pride at himself for picking up a word.

Geirvarr was definitely flushed, and he shook his head, trying to tug away. Boy let him go, and climbed into the bed, then rolled over to stare mournfully over at him. He spread his arms out, welcoming, and tried again. "You, Geirvarr?"

Geirvarr shook his head, blush deepening, just staring down at the way Boy was sprawled out on the bed. Boy frowned, pouting like he did when he was asking for an early sample of dinner in the monastery kitchens, reaching out again.

"You," he said more firmly, feeling a little thrill at the idea that he was commanding something. Geirvarr eyed him with a little smirk and Boy pouted outrageously up at him. Geirvarr shook his head, but he stripped off his cloak and Boy was happy to scoot back in the bed--it was far more comfortable than the floor, and already so warm under the piled blankets.

Geirvarr finally crawled into the bed next to him and he grinned triumphantly, pulling Geirvarr close again and clinging to every inch of him he could reach, leg thrown over his legs, arm around his side, nuzzled into his neck. He smiled, comfortable again, and prayed Geirvarr wouldn't try to pull away.

Geirvarr was tense under his affection, but he didn't move away. Boy frowned for a moment, but as long as Geirvarr was there keeping him warm, he didn't mind what else was happening. He huffed out a happy little sigh into Geirvarr's shoulder, closing his eyes.

He was already drifting off to sleep, pulling Geirvarr close to him against his body as much as he could, and he was fading fast, one moment nuzzling against Geirvarr and the next finding himself still latched on, but after a long and strange dream. And when he woke, Mikjall was there, staring down at him.

Mikjall looked--it was a strange expression, halfway between anger and amusement. Boy didn't like it, and he clung a little more desperately to Geirvarr, who shifted with his eyes still closed and a grumpy "Svala."

"Geirvarr?" Boy asked hesitantly, shifting against him, trying to get more comfortable even as he was clinging close. He couldn't ask why Mikjall was watching them, fairly sure Geirvarr hadn't even noticed it yet.

"Mmm?" Geirvarr opened his eyes, looking faintly annoyed but still smiling sleepily. The smile vanished when he noticed Mikjall watching. He immediately tried to move out of Boy's grasp, and started talking far too rapidly for Boy to even catch anything from his tone.

Boy was thrown into his usual confusion, trying desperately to follow it but he couldn't, not even a word, except for his name again. He looked up to Mikjall with big pleading eyes, willing him to explain so he could understand.

Mikjall looked scornful, and his tone was mocking. He reached towards Boy, but Geirvarr grabbed his arm, without hesitation. "Mikjall." He frowned and spoke again, firm and slow. Mikjall looked between them, as though disbelieving.

Boy hesitated, finally deciding it was better to let go of Geirvarr and roll onto his own side of the bed, from the way Mikjall was looking at him. Mikjall was just studying him, though, studying him and then Geirvarr, a faint smirk on his face.

Geirvarr repeated what he'd said before, and Mikjall gave him a curt response. Boy didn't want to get out of bed just yet, but it seemed to be causing some kind of rift between the brothers, so perhaps it was in his best interest to do so.

He retreated to his usual corner, curling up into a little ball. He tried not to listen to the two of them arguing, knowing it was about him, but he could feel their gazes on him even without looking.

Seeing him crawl out of bed seemed to have appeased Mikjall somewhat, and Geirvarr gestured wildly and insistently repeated the same phrases that Boy couldn't understand.

He wished he could understand a little, and he thought he might be able to get a little if he watched. Geirvarr repeated one word every time he shook his head, and Boy frowned, wondering if that was 'no'. It helped to concentrate on that, not on what or who they were talking about.

Eventually, Geirvarr crawled out of bed and came to crouch on the floor next to him. He tucked some of Boy's hair behind his ear and smiled a little. "Svala." He cupped his cheek with the same little smile, and Boy was sure that Geirvarr was trying to tell him that he hadn't done anything wrong.

"Geirvarr?" Boy leaned a little closer with a hesitant smile on his face, glad that Geirvarr wasn't blaming him for the fight but knowing it was still his fault. It still bothered him, just not in the same way, and it was hard to not smile when Geirvarr was looking at him like that.

Geirvarr's smile widened and he nodded in answer to whatever question Boy had raised. He glanced over at the woodpile, and tapped at it, speaking clearly and slowly, with renewed intensity. Boy nodded and tried himself, repeating Geirvarr as clearly as he could. "Wood?"

Geirvarr nodded, smiling wide, and Boy smiled too, proud of himself for getting it. After wood was the fire, and then water. It wasn't much, but it was something, and Boy knew it was a start. He just had to start picking things up. He shook his head, then, and asked "No?" hoping he was right about what it meant.

Geirvarr beamed at him and squeezed his shoulder fondly, nodding. Boy repeated the words over in his head, mouthing and looking at each object in turn to help cement it in his mind. He'd always had a gift for languages, though learning without any real instruction was something he hadn't tried before.

He had a little, but knew it wouldn't be easy to pick up more than simple words from Geirvarr since he didn't know Boy's language. But it was something, and he knew Petr might be able to help him, too.

Still, it wasn't enough to know why Mikjall had been so harsh when he'd gotten home, or what the dark look he sometimes got into his eyes meant. Boy still felt a strange little shiver deep inside him when he thought of Mikjall's eyes when they were like that.

He didn't know what to think of it. It wasn't even a bad shiver, not really, but it made him want to run away and just have Mikjall look at him like that forever, both at once. It was confusing and terrifying and he wished he could ask Geirvarr what it was.

But he was far from knowing any words like that, and he wouldn't want to insult Geirvarr with allegations against his brother. He had no idea how their family worked, or what Geirvarr would do. So Boy just smiled as best he could and practiced again. "Water. Fire. Wood."

Geirvarr just smiled at him, reaching out to ruffle his hair fondly. So he'd gotten it right, then, he knew that. He just didn't know how to pick up more. Geirvarr just shrugged and then pointed back to the bed behind them. "Bed." There was one that would come in handy, Boy felt. It was better than sleeping on the floor, if he knew how to ask to go sleep in it.

He repeated, "Bed" after Geirvarr several more times until Geirvarr was satisfied he'd learned it properly. There was a faint twist in his belly, and he had to think back to the first word Geirvarr had taught him, in the hazy morning. He wasn't sure he remembered it, so he was cautious when he ventured, "Food?"

Geirvarr's smile broadened again and he nodded, and Boy hoped he got that it wasn't just practicing the word. But he was getting up, so that was a good sign. Boy curled up on the floor in the meantime, murmuring the words under his breath. He'd get it.

In a sad way, knowing that he was alone had motivated him more than anything else would have to learn the barbarian's language. This would be all he had. Geirvarr dropped into a crouch next to him, bearing bread wrapped in a rag--it didn't look brown and hearty like bread at the monastery, but it was still something besides meat stew.

He took it hungrily, not even caring what it was. This was a start. He could speak enough to ask for food, and to sleep, and if he was alone, that had to just be a start. No one else was around to help him. He didn't like thinking about that, but he had to. There was no way around it anymore.

Geirvarr watched with placid eyes while Boy ate, and when the bread had been reduced to only a few crumbs on the dirt floor, ruffled his hair again. "Svala," he said, sounding nothing if not fond, and Boy felt that same comfortable warmth in his chest.

"Geirvarr?" Boy didn't think anything was being asked of him--not yet, anyway, and he just let himself smile, lean into Geirvarr's touch. He didn't want to pull away just yet, not if he didn't have to. Mikjall wasn't around to get angry about it.

Geirvarr smiled back, and Boy didn't even think to resist when Geirvarr tugged him close, up against his chest again. Geirvarr was talking again, in the low, soft tones that let Boy know it wasn't anything he was meant to understand, and the sound of it rumbled in his chest and against Boy's cheek.

Boy snuggled closer, pressing himself against Geirvarr's chest, eyes closed. He wanted to understand what Geirvarr was saying, wanted to know, but knew it wasn't anything important, not yet. He'd learn in time. All he could catch for now was his name interspersed with the murmured words.

A week went by--maybe a week, Boy had lost any desire to count the days that he'd slept at the foot of the Vraison brothers' bed--and Boy fell into routine. He was comfortable in this village, knew a few useful words, how to get his chores done with time to spare for sitting with Petr next to the river. And it made it all the worse, this happy pattern, when the door flung open and a tall, harsh man Boy had never seen stood in the doorway. Geirvarr looked up from where he'd been sharpening his knives with sharp words, and Mikjall set aside his whittling. Boy didn't understand anything besides his name and "no," but both of those words came up often. The man pushed past Geirvarr and grabbed Boy by the wrist, his grip tight and painful.

Boy made as loud a sound of protest as he could, but Geirvarr started, like he was about to pick himself up and help, but then stopped. His breath caught. He was just going to be carried away, and they weren't going to stop this intruder? He tried scowling up at the man but it did nothing, and he knew if he bit it would only make things worse for him.

The brothers didn't move. Boy could feel everything in him going grasping cold, and the least of it was the man holding him fast. He was taken out of their home, and neither Geirvarr or Mikjall did a thing to stop him. All Boy could think was that this was punishment, though for him or them he couldn't say. The man took him down the path to some dwellings he'd never been to before.

He wanted to fight the man off, but--he knew Geirvarr and Mikjall wouldn't hurt him. He didn't know about this man. He didn't even know his name. And these dwellings were far beyond where he'd been before, or even caught a glimpse of. He was in foreign ground again, away from anything he knew.

They stopped at a home not much different from Geirvarr and Mikjall's, if a bit smaller. The man pushed his way in, tugging Boy behind him. Inside, a man with a tremendous amount of curly brown hair was seated by the fire. He looked up in surprise at the new arrivals, and the man pushed Boy forward with a short comment and a leer. Boy knew with sudden cool clarity that he was a prize of some kind. A reward, to be used however this new man willed.

He hoped the new man was at least decent to him--that, or returned him to Geirvarr and Mikjall soon. The man seemed... confused, more than anything else, confused and sort of half-smiling. He didn't seem threatening, at least, and that was a start.

The man who had brought Boy here left with another filthy grin, and Boy was left alone. He was at a loss for what to do--whether it would be safer to try to hide in a corner, or just to remain still and hope that whatever this man intended for him would be gentle. It was a risk, he knew, but he took a breath and tried one of his newest words. "Hello."

This time the man did smile, for real. "Hello," he said back, and then started speaking rapidly, words Boy didn't understand and couldn't catch. But the man eventually seemed to get that he was confused--maybe he'd thought he knew the language, for real? and slowed down, pointing to Boy with a questioning look.

"... Svala?" Boy offered, hesitant.

The man tilted his head, making his hair flop oddly. "Svala?" He sounded confused and, though it seemed a bad idea to expose more skin than he had to, Boy tugged up his top just far enough to show the birds on his belly. The man nodded, still smiling, and pressed his hand against his chest. "Rauthi."

"Rauthi?" Boy stumbled over the name at first, but then repeated it under his breath, making sure to get it right. He wished he could ask what he was doing here, but he supposed he'd learn in time; what he wanted to learn the most, though, was if he was staying for good.

The man, Rauthi, nodded, still smiling. He tried to speak again, a little slower than last time, but Boy was forced to shake his head, lost. Rauthi frowned a little, thoughtfully, before trying, "Food? Water?"

Boy nodded, sighing a little. He wanted to know more than that, but Rauthi seemed to understand that he didn't understand much. "Water?" Rauthi asked again, and Boy nodded, grateful, as Rauthi showed him where some was so he could get a drink.

Boy sipped carefully at his water, hoping to occupy himself and not have to wonder if he'd been given to this Rauthi forever, if he'd ever see Geirvarr again. It was something worth asking, even if he was afraid of the answer. He looked down at his feet when he said, barley above a whisper, "Svala....Svala yours?"

Rauthi said something too fast for Boy to catch it, but then just shook his head. Boy couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief at that--it was only temporary, at least, or maybe it had been a mistake that he was brought here. He just wanted to go home, and as much as it made him blush to think about, wanted to go back and curl up against Geirvarr until he stopped feeling so panicked.

Rauthi seemed a little happier too when Boy offered him a relieved smile. He sat back down by the fireplace where he'd been before and patted the ground next to him with a smile.

Boy settled down beside him, cautious. Rauthi wasn't Geirvarr, and he didn't know how comfortable to be around him, especially because he didn't know why he was here. It could be anything.

Rauthi reached over and rested a hand on Boy's thigh. Boy jerked away from him before he thought about things like his best interest, and not angering the man who had control over him--but it didn't seem to matter. Rauthi nodded solemnly and reached next to him to produce a stringed instrument, sort of like the ones Brother Uriah had sometimes played at festivaltime.

Boy frowned at it for a moment, not entirely sure what Rauthi was intending, but then Rauthi held it out to him, and--what? He didn't understand. He was a slave now, not someone who got to play instruments--he knew the way Geirvarr and Mikjall treated him wasn't normal, exactly, but this was far beyond that.

Rauthi plucked at the strings demonstratively, then held it towards Boy again. He took it, and tried to remember anything Brother Uriah had taught him. Cradling the instrument on his lap, he strummed carefully--the sounds it made were a little wavery, but still nice. Rauthi clapped him on the shoulder with a grin and an excited outburst of sound Boy couldn't understand.

Boy tensed a little, unsure of what that was supposed to mean, but it didn't seem to be anything bad so he strummed again, carefully. Whoever Rauthi was, the only thing Boy could figure out about him was that even this clumsy playing made him smile, and so he saw no reason to stop it.

After a few minutes of Boy's playing, Rauthi reached over and rested his hands on top of Boy's lightly. Boy tensed, but Rauthi only guided his fingers, moving their hands together over the instrument to make much more pleasing sounds.

He didn't seem to want anything past that, which surprised Boy a little, but he shrugged it off. There was something behind it, he just had to wait to figure out what it would be. And he was getting better, strumming carefully.

If Rauthi had had any other intentions about him, he must have given them off when Boy first jerked away from his touch. They played for a few hours, then Rauthi fed him some bread and gave him a blanket to wrap around himself when he curled up by the fire to sleep.

And that was all. Boy was still on his guard, tense even as he slept, but he'd seen no sign yet that Rauthi was anything more than what he appeared to be. He just hoped that that didn't change the longer he stayed.

In the morning, Rauthi nudged him awake with an offer of more bread. Boy ate it, wondering what he'd do today--he waited for Rauthi to go for the instrument again, but instead he wrapped a cloak around his shoulders and offered his hand with a smile.

Boy hesitated, not wanting to get his hopes up, but he took Rauthi's hand anyway. Maybe he was going back to Geirvarr and Mikjall. He didn't know, but he was willing to go with him and take the chance if it meant going back.

And sure enough, Rauthi took up along the river to places he knew, past the woodpile back home. Boy looked up at Rauthi with big, hopeful eyes and the man smiled and nodded. Boy hurried inside and the twin cries of "Svala!" were enough to make him feel warmer than he ever thought he would again. Immediately though, Geirvarr and Mikjall were exchanging dark looks, and Geirvarr starting prodding at Boy, pulling at his clothing.

Boy just latched himself onto Geirvarr without even a thought of what it might look like or why they were giving him looks. He didn't care--he was home, he was back. But he didn't like the tone that they were suddenly talking in, especially to Rauthi. He didn't know what had happened, or why he'd been taken, but... something was wrong.

Rauthi was shaking his head, making some sort of denial, and Mikjall--Mikjall looked menacing, eyes dark and face stony. Geirvarr kept touching Boy, like he was checking for something, feeling carefully across his back and down his sides and then...down further.

Boy made a surprised little noise and tried not to blush as Geirvarr's hands slipped lower, but the touch was more examining than anything else, and he couldn't help but frown. The air was tense enough already, and he didn't know what they were accusing Rauthi of, but it was nothing good.

He didn't move again under Geirvarr's hands, just turned steadily pinker, but Geirvarr seemed satisfied at long last. He nodded to Mikjall who scowled, but nodded stiffly to Rauthi. Rauthi just smiled, shaking his head and waved at Boy before disappearing back into the village, hair bouncing.

And then the attention was turned to Boy again, Geirvarr pulling back a little. Boy fidgeted under their gazes, hoping it wasn't anything he'd done, somehow, that had gotten him into this mess in the first place. Mikjall was looking at him in that way of his, the one that made Boy's insides twist in ways he didn't like, and he just wanted to hide again.

"Svala?" Geirvarr seemed at a loss for what to say, how to ask what he wanted to, but he held Boy's hips, fingers pressing just a little into his bottom. Mikjall looked to Geirvarr, and then back to Boy, and his gaze softened, if not by much. "Svala." But he too came up short, and was forced to fall back on their usual. "Food?"

Boy nodded quickly. He wasn't hungry, but it was a way to break the tension for a moment at least, give him a chance to understand why they were acting the way they were. He hugged Geirvarr tight again, not wanting to let go, and hoped that doing this would help at least in some way. He wanted to calm them down at least a little.

Geirvarr sighed against his hair, rubbing his back gently while Mikjall went to spoon some of the stew they'd made into the little wooden bowl Boy was used to using. He set it on the floor next to where Boy and Geirvarr were embracing.

Boy only glanced over to see his expression, but what he did see made him clutch Geirvarr closer. It was almost frightening, frightening and unmistakably possessive, and Boy didn't know how to handle it, so he just buried his face in Geirvarr's chest instead.

Mikjall scoffed before going back to sit on the bed. Boy clung to Geirvarr for a few long minutes before the smell of stew convinced him that he was hungry. Carefully, he extricated himself, not breaking the touch entirely, just enough to pull the bowl to his chest and fish for a good hunk of meat with his fingers.

He didn't know what he'd walked into when he came back, and all he knew was that something had happened. He wasn't ready to face it just yet. And he was glad of Mikjall avoiding him, for now, while he still couldn't ask Geirvarr why Mikjall was looking at him like that. He'd learned a few new words from Rauthi, but not enough.

And nothing was enough when the next morning he woke up, curled up under a pile of furs at the foot of the bed like always, to find Geirvarr gone and Mikjall propped up on his elbows. Watching. Boy sat up, and immediately chilled in the cool air where the blankets fell away. "...hello?" He tried, eyes wide.

Part three