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The Reluctant Apprentice

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In a lot of ways, Onni supposed he should count himself lucky. After all, Mora was a fairly large city, and almost everyone spoke Icelandic.

…now if only his own skills in the language weren't so rusty.

As long as he stuck with the Västerströms, things were… okay. Not great, but okay. The adults knew to speak slowly and clearly around him and he didn't much care what the kids were saying anyway; he generally got the gist of it. If there was anything he needed to know in more detail, Taru would translate it for him.

It was when he was going out that he had the most trouble. When he went into a shop or restaurant, even if the merchant in question did speak Icelandic (and not all of them did, especially in the more menial occupations), they didn't know to speak slowly or clearly, and more often than not Onni would be stuck pantomiming and pointing and nodding along without even being sure what he was agreeing to.

Most of the time, he managed to get his meaning across—or at least to endure nothing worse than having to ask someone else. Then, there were the times like this, when the coat he thought he'd been ordering turned out to be a frilly pink dress when he opened the package the merchant had wrapped it in.

"That's a good color on you," Trond commented as he wrapped it back up with a sigh.

"It was a mistake." He'd have to return it tomorrow—for all the success he'd have conveying that request.

Of course, language problems really didn't help with the grunt work that Taru had promised him. The Icelandic courses that Onni had taken had covered most of the basics, but there were still a few key vocabulary words he had either forgotten or never learned at all—how to ask for something like another antenna for the radio, or nuts and bolts? He usually ended up bringing along a sample of what the Västerströms wanted so he wouldn't have to talk to anyone at all.

As trying as things were, though, somehow Trond coming along with him only made it worse.

At the market, Onni didn't speak anymore, only pointed to whatever he wanted and held up the appropriate number of fingers if necessary. Except…

"Han vil ha fem fisker," Trond said, looking over his shoulder, taking care to enunciate the last two words very slowly and clearly. Onni glared. Trond ignored him. From then on, it became a regular habit.

"Brunt eller grått, ikke rosa."

"Han trenger støvler." He tapped his chin. "Og hansker."

"Would you stop that?" Onni demanded as they walked home from the shop.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Trond replied with a completely straight face.

Grudgingly, Onni admitted that his frakk and his støvler and his hansker were exactly what he'd come to the stop to get, and that they were neither frilly nor pink. Still, though, if it meant having Trond constantly treat him like a baby—!

"I am doing no such thing." He flipped the page of his newspaper. "Of course, if you want to keep crawling around blindly rather than get up and walk, that's entirely up to you."

…he still wasn't going to start taking Norwegian lessons. He wasn't. He was in Sweden; what he needed were lessons in how to speak Swedish. There ought to be something around here he could take advantage of.

"I think the university has a class for non-native speakers," Siv muttered distractedly when he asked. "It's 900 kroner to apply. Plus they're close to the end of the semester, so you'd be so far behind on the basics…"

"I was asking for a friend!" Onni blustered before she could say anything more.

"What is the word for this?" He held the object up in front of Trond, his eyes averted and his free hand balled defensively at his side. Trond raised an eyebrow. "That would be en sok. Though I presume that what you want is et par sokker."

"Great. Now give me a pen so I can write that down."

"Sorry, don't have one." He wasn't even looking at Onni as he filled out the crossword.

Onni ended up repeating "et par sokker" to himself all the way down to the shop—and then all the way back, because he'd repeated it so many times already that it now refused to stop going through his head.

"Oh, är du Nordmann?" a startled teller asked him after he'd finished paying for the groceries with little more than a grunt, only to realize he'd have to tell her she'd given him the incorrect amount of change.

"Nei," he answered, before picking up his bags and leaving. Only when he was halfway back to the Västerströms' house did he realize that the language he'd automatically defaulted to was not Icelandic.

"When will you learn to take no for an answer?" he sighed when Trond answered one of his questions in Norwegian—never mind that Onni had pointedly asked in Icelandic.

"I'm used to teaching stubborn kids who don't want to learn," Trond replied with a smirk. Onni snarled back.

Though even Onni had to admit, Norwegian did have some benefits. He could now go out of the house if he needed to, without being accompanied by another person—and he no longer pulled his hood over his eyes and gave his best glare whenever anyone so much as looked in his direction. Not to mention, babysitting suddenly got a lot easier when the brats could no longer to pretend they didn't understand you when you told them it was time to go to bed.

Of course, the brats had something entirely different to say about the situation.

The first the Västerströms learned of the latest Incident (no, not the one with the ear; that was only the first of many) was when Onni staggered into the main part of the house, drenched in water and with his hair coated in something that looked and smelled remarkably like pine sap, letting loose a constant stream of curse words—and not in Finnish or Icelandic.

While Torbjörn and Siv rushed to get their children in hand and Taru attempted to do the same with Onni, Trond only smirked behind his newspaper.

"My work here is done."