Chapter 17

Fetmar left, leaving Eyeri with Ryraso and Aw'endo. True to his word Aw'endo watched over his 'little brother' carefully, stalking him every moment he could. Eyeri was clearly unnerved by this at times but Aw'endo paid no attention to Eyeri's complaints. His little brother wasn't strong enough, physically or mentally to fend him off and unless Eyeri tried to go against his will, Aw'endo wasn't going to fight him over it.

Occasionally Eyeri did get frustrated with him and would try to tell him to stop but it only took a look and a lifted eyebrow to make the boy back down. Aw'endo made sure to try to do nice things as well to make up for the discomfort, aware that while the warriors were oblivious to most of Eyeri's worries, they weren't stupid. If he kept making Eyeri almost cry, it would click and then Aw'endo wouldn't be able to look after him. Still, the tears seemed to be reducing in occurrences and the only person who really noticed was Ryraso, who seemed to know what Aw'endo was doing.

While Aw'endo wasn't sure Ryraso fully approved of his stalking of Eyeri, he certainly seemed happier about how he was treating Eyeri than how he had been beforehand. Eyeri clearly wasn't sure which had been worse.

Eyeri was still someone Aw'endo was struggling to form a proper relationship with. The boy was too timid and everything Aw'endo did just seemed to backfire on him. It didn't help that Aw'endo still had mixed feelings about his existence anyway.

When he had first heard Ryraso say the words, claiming the boy as an apprentice, he had seen red. The last thing he had wanted was someone to rival in Ryraso's affections. It only took one look at the boy to know he viewed Ryraso as a father. A second more to see that he was meek and therefore most likely the sweetheart of the crew. His rival was protected by the flock of kinsmen around him, even if he did not fit in with the warrior crew.

It had burned inside Aw'endo for Ryraso to claim the human boy as his own kin. True jealousy had grown in him darkly but died just as quickly as it appeared as Ryraso had declared Eyeri the same as Aw'endo. Family, something Ryraso did not want to choose between.

That line had done something to him. His chest had felt warm and his heart like it was bursting. Ryraso had never before claimed him as anything more than someone to look after but at that moment, Ryraso claimed him as family too.

He wasn't alone.

The thing which frightened him more than anything else, being alone with no one to count on. The palace had become a hollow, cold place and Aw'endo had been desperate to escape. The bright colours and beautiful songs of Navat dimming under the painful loneliness as his guardians failed to keep their promises to return. Made more painful because Aw'endo knew they didn't want to leave him alone, they wanted him to be happy but him being safe came first.

It was a fear he could see growing in Eyeri now that his brothers were gone. He was surrounded by people who cared and doted over him, yet he was still very much alone. Something Aw'endo had not understood those weeks ago until he had seen it. It was also when he saw the trace of Eyeri's inner strength.

Eyeri would never admit the fear he felt. He would stand in a room full of people, ruffling his hair, patting his back and talking to him about idle stuff and not admit he was not happy.

It was hard. It was hard because Aw'endo knew his stalking wasn't helping but he had no idea how to connect with Eyeri when the only real connection they had was the love of the same guardian. A guardian who seemed determined to leave the two of them to settle in their own pace instead of giving him any real advice.

Finally, about a month after Aw'endo first entered the ship, things began to shift. Aw'endo watched as Ryraso frowned as the ship creaked loudly. They had landed, a storm going on outside making it unsafe to fly.

It was an unnerving thing to hear the metal creak and the wind batter against the outer hull. The lights were flickering which only added to the dim atmosphere, as most of the power was produced when they were in the air. The air vents were barely running, leaving a stale smell to the air and the whole thing was starting to feel more like a horror story set up rather than the warm place the ship normally felt like.

Eyeri shuddered at the sound, his eyes wide and wary as he finished cleaning up his study books. Aw'endo's eyes caught how the boy clenched and unclenched his fists in order to calm himself. The boy was scared, but he showed no signs of it as he turned to Ryraso who had been doing paperwork. Aw'endo could almost see the mask Eyeri put up as he walked over to the healer's desk, brave and as confident as Eyeri got.

"All done for the night," Eyeri smiled at Ryraso. "I'm going to head back to my room if that's alright?" he asked politely.

"You going to be okay alone tonight?" Ryraso asked, wrapping an arm around Eyeri's waist and pulling him close. "You are still welcome to sleep in my room if you want? It will be tight, but there is always room for you," he said gently, not entirely unaware of what Eyeri was doing.

Aw'endo glared at Eyeri slightly in warning at the words, protecting the kid was one thing, but he was not quite ready to share his nest with the boy. Not unless there was a very good reason. Being an orphan had meant he had rarely had another to sleep by unlike most k'nairi and while he had slept with Ryraso and the royal triad multiple times, that was only after trusting them.

Eyeri flinched as he caught Aw'endo's eye and Aw'endo mentally scolded himself. Scaring Eyeri away from what he had been welcome to for years was not going to be a way to make friends with him.

"I'll be fine Ryraso, if it gets too much you are a corridor away and I know the code," Eyeri said lightly. He knew what that glare meant. He wasn't stupid. Aw'endo had accepted him as part of his family, but accepting Eyeri in his sleeping space was another thing altogether.

"If you're sure kid," Ryraso said carefully, giving him a searching look before ruffling his hair and standing up to kiss him on the forehead tenderly. "Off to bed with you then," he murmured, giving Eyeri a tight squeeze.

Eyeri smiled warmly at Ryraso, before turning to leave the room. Aw'endo shifted and before Eyeri could get to the door, wings blocked him.

"Eyeri," growled warningly Aw'endo, not liking being left out.

Eyeri paused with a frown before sighing and reluctantly moving to hug the k'nairi as well. Ryraso chuckling fondly as Aw'endo pulled the boy into a tight hug, before headbutting him gently in punishment for trying to ignore him.

"Night Aw'endo," Eyeri pouted slightly at being hit, his eyes lowered.

Aw'endo grinned at him with a smirk and nodded. "Sleep well," he murmured, running a hand through Eyeri's hair. The boy meeting his eyes at the action, blue eyes looking into yellow beggingly. Aw'endo tilted his head, silently asking what Eyeri wanted but the moment passed and Eyeri pulled away. The k'nairi let him, watching as Eyeri left the room with heavy shoulders.

"Should I be worried about that?" Ryraso asked, rubbing a hand over Aw'endo's own shoulders. "You haven't threatened him about sleeping with us have you?"

"No, I haven't," Aw'endo said mostly truthfully. A glare wasn't a threat after all.

Ryraso sighed unhappily, having not seen the look Aw'endo had given Eyeri. Instead assuming it was just Eyeri not yet being comfortable with the k'nairi. "I hope he'll be okay," he murmured softly, knowing how storms could affect Eyeri sometimes.

"I'm sure he will be," smiled Aw'endo, cuddling Ryraso, mentally hoping the same thing. He didn't want his brief slip up to hurt Eyeri.

To be fair to Eyeri, he had tried to sleep in his own room. When his brothers were there, they used one of the bunk rooms, but when they were gone Eyeri had his own little hidey hole. It was basically a cupboard with a small bed that touched all three walls like Ryraso's room, but Ryraso had a double/queen size bed. Eyeri's bed was definitely a single. Eyeri found the enclosed space comforting most of the time.

He had gone to his small bed and turned the light off like a normal person. Curled up in his soft blankets, closed his eyes and prayed for sleep to come fast. He was far enough into the ship that he couldn't hear the wind but the creaking was loud and he could also hear the dripping of water somewhere. Someone's snoring was also echoing through the metal corridors and Eyeri felt every clap of thunder ripple through him.

Eyeri whimpered as he listened to sounds, counting slowly backwards from a hundred. The dripping of water increased as the rain did, getting into the vents and running into the drains. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine his brothers there, the sound of their breathing, the smell of five boys in one room, the warmth of being cuddled next to Oria. The feeling he was safe.

It didn't work and Eyeri found himself desperately wishing he could go to Ryraso's room but was paralysed by the fear of what Aw'endo would do to him.

'Ryraso would never let him hurt me if I when there,' part of Eyeri assured himself, trying to build up the courage to get out of bed and race down the corridor to Ryraso's room. His heart longing to go but his legs feeling like lead, tears starting to run down his face.

'Harm not hurt. Aw'endo wouldn't do it in front of Ryraso anyway,' another side of him pointed out darkly. Eyeri whimpered and buried his face in his pillow, clutching it tightly.

'He's gotten nicer! Surely he wouldn't hate us for being scared.' Eyeri tried to reason with himself.

'Only torment us forever more,' the pessimistic side answered, 'And yeah he's gotten nicer. But do you really want to risk him going back to how he was?'

The answer to that was simple. No. No, he didn't. Whimpering as the rain seemed to get heavier in a wave, he curled into a ball and pressed against the corner of the room, trying to block the world out.

Slowly he finally managed to fall into a restless sleep, cheeks tearstained but just as he was about to drop off, a loud boom of thunder rocked through the ship. The shock had him moving before he could think straight, flying out of the room and to Ryraso's room, shaking hands putting in the doorcode.

He practically fell into the room as the door opened, landing on his knees in the middle of the tiny room space. The door shut behind him, leaving the sound of two people sleeping in Eyeri's ears. Breathing erratically, Eyeri took a moment to calm himself down, just listening to the peaceful sounds, painfully aware that he didn't want to wake them up while he was still in a state. He curled at the foot of the bed and took slow but deep breaths.

As he managed to get his breathing back to normal, he looked up. He only just held back a yell as a dark shadow loomed over him. Who it was obvious by the large shadows on his back. Eyeri fell back slightly and whimpered as the figure reached towards him. This was it, Aw'endo was going to get rid of him here and now. Closing his eyes he waited for the blow to come, but none did.

"Eyeri?" A very sleepy Aw'endo asked, the shadow kneeling down next to him, a hand running through his hair. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing," Eyeri tried to say but his voice was too shaky and he could feel Aw'endo glaring at him through the darkness for even trying to lie to him, "Can I sleep here tonight?" he pleaded.

"Why if you're fine?" Aw'endo demanded almost cruelly, his tone a slightly dark one, not impressed with having been woken up.

Which is when Eyeri knew the boy was going to make him either admit his problem or plead to stay. Or both depending on how much he had pissed Aw'endo off by trying to lie. Fresh tears appeared running down his face and he tightened his grip on his arms, still curled in his ball.

Eyeri opened his mouth to try to say something in his defence or to beg, he wasn't sure which, and soon forgot as thunder clapped again. Squealing in fear, he reacted almost instinctively, diving forwards and wrapping himself around Aw'endo. His arms around the k'nairi's neck, his face buried in his neck, sobbing fiercely. Clinging to the warm body desperately, not minding at that moment just who he was clinging to. He wanted his brothers, he wanted the storm to go away!

Warm arms quickly wrapped around him and soft cooing noises were made into his ear, rocking him gently as he trembled. His head firmly pressed to Aw'endo's chest, letting him hear the steady pounding of the k'nairi's heart beat.

"Hush little one, you're safe," Aw'endo murmured gently, nuzzling Eyeri's hair and holding onto him tightly.

Eyeri let out another sob and held on. The two staying like that until Eyeri had calmed himself again, trying to pull himself out of the hug. Shame Aw'endo wasn't standing for that.

The k'nairi growled lightly unimpressed and pulled the boy to his feet before gently pushing him onto the bed. Falling in next to him, Aw'endo gently herded him into Ryraso's arms. Ryraso lifted an eye, before yawning and spooning the boy wordlessly, wrapping an arm around his waist tightly. Aw'endo pulled the blankets back over them and cuddled in too, pressing their foreheads together gently.

"Nice and safe," Aw'endo murmured.

Eyeri smiled lightly as Aw'endo nuzzled him slightly, wrapping his arms around the k'nairi's waist. K'nairi wrapped his arms around him as well. Ryraso shifted his arm from around Eyeri so he was hugging both of them, content with knowing the two boys were hugging.

"Thank you," Eyeri whispered sincerely, his heart still hammering but slowing down, surrounded by warmth.

"Sleep well," Aw'endo smiled, his arms still hugging him tightly, Aw'endo's wings draped over them all. Eyeri closed his eyes and this time fell asleep comforted, safe and warm in the arms of his father figure and a purring k'nairi.