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a taste of lightning

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"Get up, child," he tells the boy lying spread on the ground.

The boy groans, then gasps. "I live," he murmurs, voice full of wonder.

"Yes," he says, leaning down to offer a hand. "It took a lot out of you, surviving that fall." He waits, unmoving, until the boy takes his hand, and then he carefully pulls the kid up. "But survive you did."

The power will return in time, that much he knows. The kid isn't one of his; he's something else. Not older, though. Nothing is older.

Odin's stench is on him, nonetheless. That meddling fool.

"Have you a name?" he asks the boy, steadying him on his feet. The kid's trembling, blinking far too much, and his eyes staying closed for longer each time.

"Of course," he slurs, slumping down. "Haven't you?"

He laughs. He has a thousand names, ten thousand, a million and more. He presses a finger to the boy's temple, and another to his chest, right over his heart.

Lightning strikes, and catches, and the boy jolts in his grip, eyes flying open.

"Lesson the first, child," he says softly. "Survive."

He sees the magic flowing through Odin's son, Laufey's son. Raised in shadow, cast aside for his bright brother – oh, yes. The potential here is staggering.

Odin has always been blind, misguided, with tendencies towards favoritism.

"And lesson the second?" the boy asks, staring at him warily.

He smiles. "Grow stronger." He lets a moment pass in silence, as stormclouds gather on the horizon. "Call me Ash," he says.

"My name is worthless," the child finally says, gazing at the dirt.

"Would you like a new one?" He gently lets go, stepping back. The boy sways in place for a heartbeat before finding his bearings again.

The child's hands clench and his jaw tightens. "Will you take me home like a starving stray?" he demands, his returned magic giving him courage, and his pain turning into fury. He needs to lash out. "Will you use me until you grow tired, and then cast me aside, toss me off the bridge and watch me fall?"

"I'll take you home, yes," he says, standing still. "I'll guide you and guard you until you're ready, and then – well. There'll be many options, then. And I'll name you Van, if you like."

The boy pauses, clearly without a clue of what to do next. He's tired. His spirit is aching. He needs to rest, and heal.

"Ash," he murmurs. "I like Van."

"Van you are," Ash says, reaching out again. The kid doesn't pull away.

So Ash pulls him in, supports him, and leads him home.

Odin, you utter fool, he thinks, weaving the shield even tighter, so the All-Seeing cannot See. You never did understand self-fulfilling prophecies.

Ah, well. He hasn't had a student since Byron; the Highlander never qualified. And Van may not be one of his by birth, but his lightning now sings in the boy's blood and that is more than enough.