Slogging through the deep snow put more of a strain on Kyr’s legs than he’d expected, even though he was following in the trail that Torin broke. Halfway up the hill he called out for a rest, shifting his weight from one foot to the other and trying to shake his legs out, already panting for breath. Torin was breathing just as hard, the strip of skin visible between his scarf and his snow goggles flushed red, but he seemed eager to keep going. After a few minutes Kyr waved for him to go ahead and pushed on in his trail, mentally cursing the entire situation that had landed them here in this snow-sunk valley deep within the mountains.
Torin had been the one to suggest going to check out the avalanche area, shortly after a breakfast of smoked ham and eggs that Lokan’s mother cooked for them. Ceridwen had told them they were insane to even try it and Solan had seemed more interested in staying to keep an eye on Lokan, but Kyr had reluctantly agreed to go, even if it was just for something to distract him from Solan and the fact that they were surrounded by Fae. He’d regretted it almost as soon as they’d stepped outside, despite the heavy winter layers Lokan’s mother had supplied them with.
“Don’t know if we should go much further,” Torin said eventually, stopping and adjusting his scarf against the wind. “Looks kind of unstable up there.”
“Looks kind of unstable everywhere.” Kyr glanced back and was surprised at how small the house looked, like a painting on a postcard. “What are we doing here?”
“Checking out the damage?”
“Here, Torin. In this fucking valley. Held prisoner to the wild Fae king, who you might remember is the guy who started this whole war.”
“Technically he just made it worse.” Torin shaded his eyes against the glare of the sun. “And we’re not prisoners, at least not to him. We made a promise.”
“You and Solan made a promise, and it was only supposed to be until Lokan could give the order to let us go anyway.” Kyr gestured around at the snow. “Well, he’s conscious but we’re not going anywhere.”
“Exactly, so you might as well shut your mouth for once and enjoy it.” Torin gave him half a grin. “Look at it this way, Kyr. We’re safe here—no, shut up, I already know what you’re going to say—and we don’t have to fight anyone, like say all the people on both sides who now want our heads. And you have Solan back. Wasn’t that supposed to be the driving force behind everything?”
“He’s not...” Kyr bit his lip and made a frustrated noise, looking away from Torin. “He’s changed.”
“So have you.” Torin reached out and pulled him into a hug, made clumsy by all the layers between them. “You want my advice, you’ll stop walking around looking like someone slapped your ass and you’ll actually start getting to know him again.”
“And get him away from Lokan,” Kyr muttered.
“Sure, that too.” Torin squeezed him again and let him go. “Now let’s get back down before we freeze. It’s fucking cold up here.”
It was a little easier going back down to the house, following in the trail they’d already broken on the trip up. Kyr stepped gratefully into the warmth of the front hallway, rubbing absently at his tingling nose, and stripped off his outer layers, hanging them up on the hooks by the front door. He waited for Torin to finish and together they walked back to the dining room, where Kyr could hear the murmur of voices. They walked in to find Lokan out of bed and sitting at the dining room table, though he still looked drawn, his skin an unhealthily pale shade. Solan sat beside him, leaning against his shoulder in a way that made Kyr itch to close his hands into fists, and Ceridwen was discussing the book laid open in front of her with Roisin.
“You’re up.” Something about Torin’s voice made Kyr look at him, frowning slightly, but Torin ignored him, moving forward into the room and dropping suddenly to his knees in front of Lokan. “You told me once that you’d end the war if we put down our weapons and came to you on our knees. I’m on my knees, Lokan.” He spread his hands. “No weapons. Stop this war.”
Kyr saw Ceridwen’s eyebrows go up and Roisin’s smirk, and Solan’s frown of confusion, but Lokan only looked steadily at Torin, his expression giving nothing away. “You think I still can, Sergeant?” he asked after a moment of silence.
“I think you’re a big enough asshole to do anything you put your mind to.” Torin’s mouth curved slightly in the ghost of a grin. “Sir.”
Lokan studied him for a moment longer then looked up at Kyr. “And you?”
“I’d rather die than go down on my knees for you,” Kyr said pleasantly, but his smile faded when Lokan laughed at him and he couldn’t keep himself from clenching his fists this time.
“You can go down on your knees,” Lokan said, returning his gaze to Torin, “but you can’t make anyone else do it. That’s the problem with a war. It feeds on itself and if it grows too big, it turns on everyone.” He pushed himself to his feet, still obviously unsteady, and offered Torin a hand. “Get up.”
Torin stayed where he was for a moment, looking up at Lokan with an expression Kyr couldn’t quite interpret, then he took the hand offered him and let Lokan help him up. “You should go back to bed. You look about ready to fall over.”
Solan started to push himself up. “I can—”
“No.” Lokan reached out to stroke his hair for just a moment before he dropped his hand again. As he made his way out of the room, Torin walked with him, not quite supporting him but close enough to offer a shoulder if needed.
“What just happened here?” Kyr asked when the silence had stretched out too long to be comfortable, but he only got a snort from Ceridwen, a shrug from Solan, and an offer of lunch from Roisin.
They had already finished eating when Torin came back, looking thoughtful. He accepted Roisin’s offer of leftovers with an absent smile, but before Kyr could talk to him, Roisin ushered him and Solan out, telling them to go find something non-destructive to do.
“Are they trying to split us up?” he demanded, reluctantly following Solan down the hall towards another room.
“Me and Torin. They think they can get something from him? He might have some sort of weird thing for Lokan, but he’s not that stupid.”
“You’re paranoid.” Solan took his arm and pulled him into the small library, closing the door most of the way behind them. “What do you mean, ‘thing for Lokan’?”
“He admires him or something stupid like that.” Kyr sprawled out on the leather couch tucked into one corner, putting his booted feet up on the armrest. “And fears him, I guess, he said Lokan scares the shit out of him. I don’t know why he’d admire a Fae and the guy who’s been trying to kill us all for the past three years.”
“Kyr...” Solan sighed and shook his head, shoving Kyr’s legs off the couch and taking their place. “Can you just not for a little while? You hate him, okay, but some of us don’t. And I don’t want to get in another fight with you.”
Kyr shut his mouth with an effort, the words ‘you should hate him too’ trying to break free. He swallowed hard and instead offered his arms to Solan, relaxing when Solan moved up to accept the embrace. The couch was a little too small for both of them—especially with the muscle Solan had put on in Lokan and Ceridwen’s company—but it was comforting to cuddle up to him and feel the steady rise and fall of his breathing. Kyr found himself starting to drift off within a few minutes and let his eyes close, falling into a comfortable half-sleep.
He woke some time later from a dream about Oakenheart Academy, disoriented by opening his eyes to Solan curled around him but the surroundings completely unfamiliar. A few heartbeats passed before he woke enough for his groggy brain to remind him where they were and why. Solan still slept, the lines on his face mostly smoothed out by relaxation, taking off the years that exhaustion and stress had added. Kyr shifted carefully, just enough to kiss his mouth, drawing his hand up Solan’s side until Solan woke enough to return the kiss.
“Mmm.” Solan nuzzled at his neck. “Feeling better?”
“Kind of.” Kyr glanced towards the door and slid his hand under Solan’s shirt, stroking a line across Solan’s skin. “I’m sorry for being kind of an ass.”
“Only kind of?” Solan grinned at him.
“I’m worried, Solo. I’m worried that I’m losing you or I’ve lost you already, I’m worried about Tor getting hurt, and I’m worried that your Fae buddies are going to turn on us. I know,” he added, cutting Solan off before Solan could do much more than open his mouth. “They wouldn’t, they’re your friends, you won’t let them. Except Lokan’s already done pretty much whatever he wants and you go along with it. You didn’t exactly protest too hard when he refused to let me and Tor leave. So I’ve gotta wonder, if he decides we’re too much hassle and he needs to get rid of us, are you going to just stand there and watch?”
Solan frowned at him, mouth firming into an angry line. “You’re really going to ask that? Thanks Kyr. Nice to know you trust me that much.”
“Look at the fucking precedence, Solo.” Solan’s sudden smile cut Kyr off before he could get too angry. “What? What’s so funny?”
“You using the word ‘precedence’.” Solan kissed his forehead. “I’m impressed.”
“You’re an ass.”
“That too. Lokan won’t decide to just get rid of you, and even if he does, I’m not going to let him do anything to you or to Torin. He’s not evil, Kyr. He’s just spent a long time fighting and trying to actually live without most of the country hating him. I don’t really know if you can understand that.” Solan smiled a little and ran his fingers through Kyr’s hair. “You’re human and a Damascus. Everything you wanted, you got. You’ve never had to hide what you are.”
Kyr studied his face, the gentle smile and the green of his eyes, and bit his own lip. “This is such a fucking mess. Let’s just run away together. Go somewhere nobody gives a fuck how pointy your ears are.”
“I wish,” Solan said, laughing a bit. “But for now, please can you at least try to get along with Lokan? At least while we’re all stuck in the same house? Because I bet Roisin would have no problem sending us to our room, no matter who we are.”
“That’s a good idea.” Kyr pushed himself up and took Solan’s hand, pulling him up onto his feet. “The room thing. I’ll think about behaving myself around Lokan. But if he lays one fucking hand on Tor...”
“I think Torin can take care of himself.” Solan laced their hands together and led the way towards the stairs and up to their room.
Lokan didn’t come back down for dinner, something Kyr was both quietly relieved and pleased about, at least until Solan volunteered to take some food up to him. He caught Torin watching him, one eyebrow arched, when he turned back to his plate from scowling at Solan’s back and shrugged irritably. Torin just snorted and began stacking empty plates ready to be taken into the kitchen for washing.
“It’s Kyrianos, correct?” Kyr looked up to find Roisin smiling at him.
“Uh... yeah.” He glanced at Torin and Ceridwen, but they were both ignoring him, Torin in favour of the plates and Ceridwen in favour of her pint of beer and a book.
“A pretty name. Would you help me do the dishes, Kyrianos?”
“Just Kyr is fine,” he muttered, a little grudgingly. “Sure, I guess.”
“Thank you.” The smile she gave him reminded him of Solan’s mother, though their features and colouring were nothing alike. It made him feel a little better about following her into the kitchen, where she set him to washing the dirty plates in hot soapy water.
“So why aren’t you with the rest of them?” he asked, scrubbing at a stubborn bit of food on a pan. “Supporting your son while he fucking destroys things.”
“Language, please.” Her tone was mild but Kyr still blushed. “I’m not a soldier.”
“Okay, but still. You’re his mom. Maybe he’d actually listen to you.” Kyr dunked the pan into the soapy water hard enough to splash himself with suds. “If you told him to stop.”
“Sons don’t often listen to their mothers, no matter how much they care about them. I told Lokan a long time ago that I would not be part of his war. It stopped being my war when his father died.”
“He was killed by...”
“By humans, yes.” She lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug. “It was war, and his choice to fight, as it is my choice to live here, away from my son and my people. As you and Torin both made the choice to fight, as Solan made the choice to return to Lokan’s army. Whether any of them were the right choices to make still remains to be seen.”
“I feel like you’re telling me off.” Kyr laughed a bit. “Even though you’re not yelling.”
“I never yell.” She started taking dishes out of the second sink and drying them with a tea towel.
Feeling the need to change the subject, Kyr asked, “How long until the pass is clear?”
“At least a few months. Unless you have some other way out, you will be spending the winter here, which I realize is not something that you want to do. But perhaps you will learn something while you’re here.”
“What, like looking deep within myself and deciding Fae aren’t such fu—aren’t such bastards after all?”
“Perhaps.” She patted his shoulder and put the tea towel down on the counter. “I’ll send Ceridwen in to finish the drying.” She left the kitchen before Kyr could say anything in response, and a moment later Ceridwen came in.
“Lokan’s mother is a scary lady,” Kyr said, shaking his head.
“You don’t even know the half of it. When I was a child I used to be afraid she would turn me into a frog or something.” Ceridwen picked up the tea towel and one of the remaining dishes.
Kyr laughed despite himself. “Can she?”
“Do you want to be the one to find out?”
“No. I’ll behave.”
“Good.” She smiled at him and as unsettled and angry as he still was, Kyr couldn't help smiling back.