his father's fingers sink into the hair on his scalp as they make their way to the front gates of the camp. they were no longer in cimmeria itself, yet the man still smelled like a blacksmith, his hands still felt as rough as eve on conan’s half shaved head. conan doesn't react outwardly; he knew what his father was trying to express to him even if the words were not spoken.
they were cimmerians. and since he was fifteen years old, he'd been more or less considered a man both in attitude, behavior, and figure. he was bigger than most of the men at home, and his father had relied on him to keep their lives going. forging as much as possible, working the front desk, making sure that a life without a wife to care for him was not something that harmed them.
it also carried other things: conan leaving at night to drink, to fight, to get into whatever trouble that came to him. in truth, they would never speak of the fact that conan wasn't like any other cimmerian. his guts, his brain weren't made the same, couldn't be held down in the land the same way. he still looked at the peaks lining their home, still yearned and yearned for something beyond the borders despite everything that he felt obligated to do, despite the fact that no cimmerian had ever truly left these lands.
he should have gone at fifteen. he'd had all the chance in the world to do so, had the means, had the way, had the burn to do so. and by crom's rotten teeth, he had almost gone. had almost set foot outside of cimmeria, had almost gotten his way out of it.
yet he had hesitated. had thought of his aging father despite it all. thought of the old man waking up to nothing, not his son, not his wife. just the same old landscape between them and the future in front of him. there is anger in him, resentment, emotions fraught and boiling. and yet.
conan wouldn't say that his heart was warm. he wouldn't necessarily put it all down to a familial love. he would say, however, that he had honor. he had foresight.
leaving his father in that state, at the age, wasn't what he wanted to do. it was something that would have weighed down on him for the rest of his days.
the cimmerian would not have it. and so he had turned around then. spent two more years doing what he needed to do as a good son. even as he came home to bruises, even as his school monitored him closely for the near drop out status he could achieve. he'd dragged his sorry bones through the year, and had one more to go. he was making an effort to be present, to make things right for himself and his father.
college wasn't an option. but this camp was. it was a meager thing, and the first taste of a life outside of cimmeria in a place warm and almost wild. his father was sending him here, and after it was over, it was back to cimmeria in it's grey stillness, in the dirt.
yet his father was giving him this one thing. this one taste. even if they had never spoken of it outloud, he had known.
gratitude settles in his chest. Wonder, too, at how his father had known. was it his eyes? was his wanderlust so evident in every step he made? it was a matter for another time. he let his father's hand linger in his hair for a few moments, before he was pushed to the camp. he would do his best to learn everything about this place, about other places, and keep it for himself, for the future. for the promise of more.
FEELING HELPLESS I LOOK FOR DISTRACTION I GO SEARCHING FOR YOU
"you don't need me to help you with this course," luna's voice is steady, calm and has that flint of tone that alexander was starting to recognize as an opening silo to an argument. "you haven't opened up that book the entire time you've been here with me."
caught, alexander isn't quite sure how he should respond to this. he keeps looking at luna's hands, poised in front of him perfectly clasped together, not touching the food alexander had ordered a few minutes ago. he feels as if he's been chastised by this man he's looked up to for months, who he followed onto this campus to know better--even if he would never admit such a thing outloud for fear of what it could mean, to admit to that. he swallows, looks up and tries to say something that doesn't feel foolish (luna makes him feel deeply foolish, sometimes)...
and comes up empty. his mouth closes, jaw clenching with the inability to voice what he wanted to say.
luna is patient, saintly almost, with his silence as it stretches onward.
it takes a few more moments of silence until alexander can finally voice, "no. i don't," he looks up fully, still struggling with what precisely he's feeling, sitting here in luna's kitchen, fingers nervously reaching out to start unpacking the chinese food before him. "you're smarter than-- i..." he feels as if there's something just beyond his grasp for what he wants to say, needs to say. he wants to get there, to stop feeling thrust under a spotlight like this.
luna's fingers touch his own on the bag. alexander freezes at the sudden touch. there are a thousand reasons as to why luna would have reached out to deliberately touch him with the first five being the ones that make him uncomfortable, as none of those ideas are something that he thinks luna shares.
and yet, he can't make himself pull away.
Till we're lost in the heat of the moment
whenever alexander mentions the boarding schools he's gone to, there is always an assumption that such places helped to engender a community of brotherhood, understanding and safety. anyone who has actually gone to such schools knows that such an idea is laughable.
for many people, they eventually made it out with friends, connections, rivalries that mattered in the real world, could always be circled back to, and in a manner, could make something of it.
most boys were not alexander, who routinely found himself sneaking off to other places on the grounds to eat his food alone, who kept to himself whenever he could manage, who's one friend lived elsewhere, and who preferred the company of his nanny to his parents' voices over the line interrogating him on grades.
it was all this to say that to have any semblance of kindness or friendship was sparse and lacking. most contact with other boys in the emotional and physical sense, for him were ones laden with tones of annoyance or purely punitive in nature. his roommate bodychecking him roughly in the hallways, the sports he hardly participated in left him bruised, and the visible irritation others had whenever those necessary social engagements happened and alexander, somehow, failed to miss a social cue, or did not understand the joke being said.
to be suddenly touched by luna ibarra, in his kitchen, in a way that does not feel punitive or laced with irritation is strange. stranger still is that there is a yearning alexander finds in those moments before he bolts from the apartment. a yearning to have that touch spread, to have it linger in a longer way than the few moments he was permitted there, to have a true sense of... of something he has no name for.
So draw me close
two days pass between the hasty retreat. luna texts him, emails him. alexander ignores it, tries to actually pay attention to the course laid out for him. he feels however, his mind starting to wander every few pages. he thinks about what he's left there, about the warmth of luna's hands on his in that moment, on how much he had wanted from it. the words, the emotions are still there, at the very edge of his mind, sitting there, wanting to be understood.
worse, really, is that he misses luna. it isn't the same thing as missing other friends, as missing his parents or missing anything else. it is deeper than that, sticks in the craw of his mind in a way that he can't dismiss the same or push down like anything else.
so when, on day three, luna sends him another text, asking him to meet him for lunch, alexander says yes.
when luna asks him if they are still friends, alexander says yes.
and when luna asks him if he wants to leave for awhile, to make up for time, alexander says yes.