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Onni has packed his bags and he's waiting. Waiting. All of his family and people from the village gather close at a safe, prudent distance from the pier. His grandmother isn't here yet.

Best to get it over with, he thinks.

He steps into his mother's embrace, kissing her forehead and wiping her tears away. His father's face is grim, but there are no words to stop Onni anymore. He's said them all already and Onni is still going, still leaving. Tuuri doesn't say anything to him, but the look on her face speaks volumes. Lalli is away from the gathered people and Onni approaches, calmly.

"I'm sorry," Onni says to him.

Lalli looks at him with wide eyes. "Why?" he asks.

"For leaving you alone with grandma," Onni says. "For leaving you in charge of everyone else."

Lalli doesn't say anything.

"You don't have to," Onni says, "You don't have to do anything you don't want. You can change things if you want it hard enough."

He's called away by his grandmother. There are more hugs and pats in the back and are-you-sures. Onni swallows the lump in his throat and climbs into the boat. He waves goodbye and then turns away, he doesn't look back.

"I hope you don't regret this," his grandmother says.

Onni thinks of a pained smile, of triumph and relief that turned bitter on his tongue, on a someone that ceased to exist but for his memories of how he gave everything up for him and his happiness.

"I won't," Onni says.

Iceland. Onni thinks. Reynir Árnason.

I'll find you.

 

 

 

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                                  There's a half drowned man on the pier after the storm passes.

                   The cats are the ones to find him.

         Ensi Hotakainen slaps him awake.

The man is quarantined away from everyone after Onni's grandmother makes sure he's not bleeding anywhere. No one is allowed to see him, but Lalli does after enough pestering from Tuuri.

"His hair is weird," He tells Tuuri, loud enough for Onni to overhear and get them in trouble for misbehaving.

"But it's almost been two weeks already!" Tuuri protests. "Where do you think he comes from?" she asks, trying to distract Onni.

"I don't care," He says. "Probably not far."

Tuuri huffs at him. "You're no fun at all!"

Onni doesn't say anything to that. He wonders if Tuuri would think different if she knew, if she could hear.

The three of them get in trouble. Nothing new there.

 

 

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Onni's eyes are clear of their deepest shadows. His hair is different, his shoulders haven't filled, he probably still has a last growth spurt to go through.

He's so young it hurts.

Reynir is sure: he definitely can't go home, now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The runes are ready. It's taken months, but they're ready.

Reynir has known Ensi for less than a year, working with her. He's not sure he's ready to face her One Big Mistake.

Don't, the voice in his head is harsh, You have to be. You have to.

He's never held an array this big.

He'll gladly burn himself out to stop the alternative from happening.

Not this time, the voice says, and Reynir acknowledges it as his own. I won't let it happen.

 

 

 

 

            

 Onni doesn't find Reynir in his hut; and it has become Reynir's, slowly, since his arrival and subsequent quarantine in it.

He likes to walk around the island, Onni knows. He's probably by the cliff side again, the one with the small cove.

Onni finds him there, as predicted. He's carving a medallion out of wood. Onni has seen them a lot around, lately. Reynir never seems to stop making them.

"What's that for?" Onni asks, and Reynir fails to be taken by surprise.

"Protection, mostly," is the answer. "This one's for you," he adds.

The wood is pale, stained brown in parts. Onni has only ever seen the finished ones, polished and dangling from their leather strings. A red stain blooms on the pale wood in Reynir's hand.

"Reynir!" Onni exclaims, taking Reynir's hand and jerking it away from the carving knife in the other.The medallion falls to the floor. "What are you doing?!"

Reynir's eyes are big and green and surprised.

"You're hurt!" Onni points out, giving a light shake to Reynir's hand in his grip.

"It's how it's supposed to be done," Reynir says, the smile back in the corner of his lips, in the sparkle of his eyes. "Anything of worth is made giving something up: your time, your energy, blood, sweat, tears. Little sacrifices."

And there it is again, that look in Reynir's eyes, the expression on his face. The one that speaks to Onni of having lost something important, something precious.

Little sacrifices, Reynir says.

"It still must hurt," Onni argues.

Reynir's smile is a painful, beautiful thing. "It's worth it..." he whispers, and his voice tugs at Onni's heartstrings.

Onni leans down and steals Reynir's smile off his face with a kiss. He drinks down Reynir's surprised exhalation, the pained sound that leaves his mouth when Onni parts his lips and lets Reynir's tongue into his own.

Reynir kisses like a starving man and Onni lets him take his fill from him.

They break away, gasping in lungfuls of shared air.

Reynir leans into Onni, hiding his face; he's shaking all over. Onni wraps his arms around him and holds him through his silent sobs.

It hurts to know Reynir's heart still mourns his loss. It hurts to know Onni might never have all of Reynir's heart.

Onni breathes deep, his chest full to burst, even through the pain, and he knows.

It is worth it.

 

 

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The foreigner is weird, in that Lalli was right.

His hair is bright red and the longest Onni has ever seen. He wears heavy robes in blue and white colors, with carved medallions sewn into the cloth of his neck and the hem of his sleeves. He barely leaves the hut he's been staying in, and every time Onni sees him he looks dazed, as if what he's seeing with his eyes doesn't register as real.

He barely speaks, and his Finnish is a heavily accented mess.

Onni is the one in charge of his meals, but sometimes he wishes he wasn't.

The foreigner makes him nervous. He doesn't know why, but there's something about him; his eyes, the look on his face, the way sometimes tears just slip from the corners of his eyes, the way he seems to be looking at something far, far away with no hope of going back.

Onni doesn't like these painful thoughts. He doesn't like to think about what this man must have lost Out There.

It makes it too easy to think about what would it take for his small little village to be--

Onni doesn't like the reminder of fragility this man's existence brings with him.

 

 

 

 

"Onni..." Reynir whispers, and Onni quiets his protest with a kiss and a bite on his lips.

"I need you to be sure," Reynir manages to let the words escape, clear in their stolen sound, wasting breath better used for sighs and moans and Onni's name.

"I am," Onni says.

"I don't want to hurt you," Reynir says, a plea behind his darkened eyes.

"You won't," Onni says, because Reynir has proven to be the kind to hurt himself for others.

Reynir, for such a powerful Mage, is only just a man. Flesh and bone just like Onni. Freckled skin and wild red hair and rushing blood.

Reynir tries to hold back, soft touches and languid kisses. It's too late for that. It's too late, because Onni knows how it feels like to be kissed as if it might be the last thing you'll do before you die. It's too late because Onni knows now how it feels to crave for someone, deep inside where all the love bestowed upon oneself feeds into the heart.

It's too late because Onni has already made up his mind.

He wants Reynir to devour him; he wants to be taken and become a part of Reynir's heart. He wants Reynir to always carry him in his mind, so he'll never see through Onni with desolate eyes ever again.

It hurts. Reynir is big, so big and hard and hot, and it hurts. It hurts but Onni grits his teeth and breathes and breathes, holding onto Reynir's shoulders, letting him pet and whisper calming nonsense in his foreign tongue, flowing words that make Onni shiver and feel hot all over.

Reynir moves slowly, slowly, and Onni has no air in his lungs enough to ask for more.

It stops hurting and the pain is replaced by burning. Heat and friction that remain on the edge of hurt, delicious hurt. Reynir drinks Onni's pleasure sounds right from the spring of his mouth, and Onni can taste the hunger on his lips again.

"Onni," Reynir murmurs, kissing him, his lips, his forehead, his eyelids, "Onni..."

Reynir takes Onni's cock in his hand, does his best to keep a rhythm and Onni clings to him for dear life.

Coming while Reynir is still inside him is not something he'll ever be able to describe; what it means, why it made Onni feel what he felt, why the edge of pain seemed to make everything better; worth it.

Reynir takes care of him after, cleans him up, kisses him with tenderness that brings tears to Onni's eyes.

He dozes off curled up close to Reynir, in his modest bed, under the woven wool blankets.

"Ég elska þig..." Reynir murmurs, hiding the words with a kiss on Onni's temple.

Onni pretends to be asleep until he's not pretending anymore.

 

 

 

Onni finds the foreigner, Reynir, crouching down in front of an old birch.

"What are you doing?" Onni asks.

"I found Kantarelli," Reynir replies. He turns his head, looking up at Onni with curious green eyes, "Do you like them?" he asks, the edges of a smile on his lips.

Onni loves them. He nods in response.

"Do you think they're ready to be picked?" Reynir asks, his eyes returning to the mushrooms, "I never managed to get the hang of it, before..." he adds, his voice subdued, his eyes a thousand miles away.

Onni's heart stutters in sympathy. "I can teach you," he hears himself say. Reynir's smile is a bright thing.

"Let's go get a basket," Onni suggests, his face feels hot with puzzling embarrassment. The bounce in Reynir's steps when he stands is testament of his joy.

Onni can barely believe this strange man and his exuberant happiness; he barely recognizes him from the silent, crying person of the first weeks, huddled under blankets in his quarantine hut and staring into the distance.

They manage to fill a basket and Onni's mom gets very excited when they take it to her. Onni looks at Reynir, fidgeting in pleasure when he gets thanked, smiling bright and huge when told he's expected to join them for dinner.

He must feel so alone, he thinks, Homesick.

Maybe he could use a friend.

 

 

He's tying a talisman to the trunk of a young birch when Ensi approaches.

"Is something after you, boy?" She's not one to beat around the bush.

"No," Reynir replies, "Nothing followed me here."

"Why all this, then?" she she makes a broad gesture; Reynir knows his talismans are hard to miss by now.

"Just in case," he says, "I don't want anything bad to happen to you and yours."

He smiles. Ensi raises an eyebrow at him.

Reynir continues, a pang in his chest when he realizes how like her grandmother Onni and Lalli really are, "It gives me peace of mind; let's leave it at that."

 

 

 

 

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There's a storm coming. It's night and the wind is howling, the voices are howling.

His grandmother is out of the house and she took the rifle with her.

There's a crackle of thunder, and Onni can feel his hair stand on end, his skin crawling with goosebumps. Lalli hisses from his place under the kitchen table and Onni knows he's not imagining things.

The voices are silent.

There's a shudder of terror traveling up his back, cold prickles and a terrible pit yawning in his gut.

"Onni!" they yell for him.

"Stay here!" he yells back, wrenching the door open and running out into the night.

The wind pulls at him with icy fingers and in the almost pitch-black lights begin to burst alive, Reynir's talismans and wards alight with eerie luminescence,  round wisps of bluish light that point in one direction, a blazing arrow pointing where Onni needs to go.

The rain begins to fall, hard and sharp like needles.

The earth rumbles, the trees moan and Onni slips and falls to the ground.

The talisman Reynir made for him burns hot under his clothes.

A crack of thunder, a bolt of lightning that leaves him deaf and blind until he realizes the lights are gone.

The wind howls and the rain beats down and the light is gone.

The light is gone.

 

 

 

 

His grandmother finds him. They stumble back together; she's barely conscious and Onni knows she'll be asleep for days.

They won't let him leave again until the storm passes.

He want's to scream.

His mother makes him change, makes him drink warm milk and wraps him in a blanket.

He falls asleep and he dreams.

He wakes up by the cove of the cliff side, where he's woken up in ever since he kissed Reynir.

Reynir...

There's a tug in his heartstrings, just like that time, and Onni is too tired not to follow.

He walks to the edge of his dream place and the pulling in his chest turns into a voice.

A voice is calling him.

"Onni," Reynir calls to him, standing just outside Onni's limit. 

"You died, didn't you?" he asks, voice hoarse with pain.

Reynir's shoulders slump, but the look in his eyes is full of regret. "Not quite," he says, subdued, "It's more complicated than simply dying."

They stare at each other, frozen in this timeless moment.

"I'm sorry," Reynir whispers, "I wouldn't ever forgive myself if I let it happen."

"Let what happen?"

"Let your family die... Let everyone but Tuuri, Lalli and you die," Reynir answers, "Everyone else was supposed to die tonight."

Onni feels sick. "How could you possibly know?"

"You told me," Reynir replies. "The you that survived and mourns the loss every day of his life. I wanted to spare you that. I wanted to change the past for you..."

There's a lump in Onni's throat; tears prickle in his eyes.

"And I did it," Reynir continues, "I changed it."

"And you have to pay the price," the words rasp leaving Onni's throat.

Tears are sliding down Reynir's eyes. "I want to say it was worth it," he says, laughing bitterly through his tears, "I should've pushed you away, I shouldn't have let you need me, love me, I'm just hurting you in the end..."

"No," Onni protests. "Don't say that." He wants to touch Reynir so badly, but knows he probably shouldn't. He doesn't even know if he'd be able to.

"I wish I could stay with you..." Reynir says. A small, sad smile. "Maybe this time you'll be the one to find me."

"Find you?" Onni's heart skips a beat.

"This time's me," Reynir nods, a teasing smile on his lips and Onni's heart hurts, "You're older than me, you know? I'm afraid you might have to wait for me to catch up to you..."

"I will," Onni says, his voice thick with tears, "I'll wait for you; I'll find you..."

Reynir opens his mouth to say something, but he looks away, listening for something Onni can't hear.

"It's time to go..." Reynir says, his eyes looking into the mist.

Onni grits his teeth, and he swallows back the useless pleas.

Reynir walks away, leaving ripples of light upon the dark ocean, his edges slowly losing color until he fades away.

Onni wakes up with tears in his eyes.

 

 

 

 

  

Onni makes it as far as Keuruu with the means he left home with. He enrolls in the military and he trains and he waits.

He fills his days with training and learning from other Mages. In his down time he learns Icelandic. He cries when he learns the meaning the words Reynir whispered the night he gave himself to him, and mourns the unspoken "I love you" in his own chest.

He saves whatever money he can spare. It takes years.

Six years and he doesn't know if all his savings will be enough, but it's time.

It's time to go, his heart knows this.

He asks the Skalds and they help him trace a possible route. First he needs to make his way to Björköfjärden, once there he can revise his options.

He signs his resignation and next morning he's ready to depart. It's a blur and sooner than he's able to parse he's already there, in Björköfjärden, sitting down to wait, ticket to Bornholm in hand. The hours pass in blinks, in stutters of his wildly beating heart.

I'm on my way, I'll find you...

He falls asleep on the way to Bornholm, wakes up when there's still a couple hours left to arrive. They dock on a sea platform, a boat ride away from the quarantine facility. It's night and just the bare minimum of personnel are on and about their business. He manages to find someone that can tell him where he can get his passage to Iceland. He's told to talk directly with the captain of the only ship going back to Iceland right now, or to wait for the morrow, like a sensible person would.

He could wait. He could. He's waited for years now, but his heart is urging him to go, go now, now, now.

He finds the ship, it's not difficult. But there are men busy getting crates of supplies down. He hesitates, unsure how to approach the topic of buying passage, if it's at all possible in a cargo ship.

The men drop a box behind an already large stack and go back into the ship. Onni decides to talk to them when they come back.

There's a clatter of wood and a curse.

Onni looks back.

Reynir's wide green eyes stare at him from a painfully young face, sitting down amidst the contents of an opened crate.

He opens his mouth to say something, but the ship's men are coming back and Onni panics.

"Quick, before they see you!" he barely remembers to say in Icelandic, closing the distance between them, taking Reynir by the hand and pulling him away, hoping they aren't followed.

They find a secluded spot between stacked crates and equipment, the sound of their breathing is loud in the confined space, and Onni's head and heart are filled to burst with the past and the present.

"You..." Reynir says, and Onni looks into his eyes, "I found you..." Reynir whispers, rising shaky hands to touch Onni's face, slowly tracing the curves of his cheekbones, clearing the tracks of Onni's tears after he says: "You're not a dream..."

"We did it..." Onni says, leaning their foreheads together, "We found each other..."

"Onni..." Reynir murmurs in wonder, almost a question, almost.

"Reynir..." Onni replies.

No matter what lies ahead, no matter what the future holds, whatever they choose to do now with their lives... Everything, everything, has been worth it.