“Baba?” Elazar pipes up one morning, lifting his head from where it had been nearly buried in the bowl of meal, eyes barely open. They have learned that, like Agron, Elazar has little patience for mornings and, generally, food must be involved for him to be roused from sleep. Instead, his curiosity - Nasir has noticed with amusement - has revealed itself to be tireless. In response Nasir hums a wordless reply, letting Elazar know that he is listening even as he mends the scraps of leather that had once been a sword belt.
“Baba, why is Vati so much bigger than you?” A sudden, dangerous silence descends as Nasir jerks his head to glare across at Agron, who is doing a very poor job of hiding his amusement. Nasir bears his teeth in something closer to the expression he wears in battle than anything resembling a smile, and Agron suddenly does a much better job of stifling his laughter. “Baba?” Elazar sounds worried now, as if unsure whether he has overstepped some invisible boundary he did not realize existed. Nasir hurries to reassure him, knowing all too well how difficult it has been convincing Elazar of his place in their tiny patchwork family.
“No, it is fine qalby, your Vati is bigger and taller than I am because his father and his father’s father were that tall. My father was as big as I was, and his father as well.”
“Your Baba is quicker and cleverer than I am though,” Agron adds with a small grin in Nasir’s direction and Nasir generously decides not to murder him in his sleep for his earlier amusement.
“So fathers decide how tall a son becomes?” Elazar asks, confused and Nasir smiles in spite of himself, reaching out to curl one hand through the boy’s dark messy curls in a brief caress.
“Not quite Ela – it is family. One grows to resemble their mother and father because they are a piece of both of them, sometimes having the same color of eye, shape of nose, or even height.” Elazar’s face cleared for a moment in understanding – though a second later, his small face grew worried again.
“So what will I look like when I am grown?” Ela asks, anxious. “I do not know what my mother and father looked like.” Through careful prodding and questioning over the past few months, Elazar has revealed just how little he knew of his parents and family before he entered slavery. From this, Nasir and Agron know that it was more than likely that his parents had been slaughtered in some attack and young Ela taken in and sold with little thought. Elazar’s words prompt an uncertain look shared between both Nasir and Agron – neither ready for this conversation, nor prepared to face such difficult questions head on.
“We do not know Ela,” Agron begins carefully, gaze flickering between Nasir and Elazar, who is watching them worriedly. “It will be as much a surprise to you as to us – but whether you are small and quick like Baba, or big and tall like your Vati, it will be exactly right.” Elazar relaxes against Agron at these words and Agron allows himself the pleasure of gathering the boy close and wrapping his arms around him.
He glances up to catch Nasir’s gaze upon the two of them, and it is all Agron can do not to flush uncomfortably at the scrutiny. Nasir’s eyes are dark and warm, and without hesitation Agron offers his free hand to his lover, drawing him close. Nasir crosses to his side and settles one hand in the dark strands of Elazar’s hair and the other upon Agron’s cheek, his thumb caressing the lines of his face gently. “Gratitude,” Nasir murmurs, too low for the distracted Elazar to hear – but Agron hears it and manages a crooked smile in return. The words settle warm and rich in his stomach, a thank you for more than just Agron’s words. Together they watch their son quietly, proud of what they have created here, for the three of them.