Atreus doesn't really know his father that well.
He just knows that the large man is silent, mysterious, and gone for most of the day hunting. He also knows that he's full of secrets that he may never learn.
Also that he doesn't like Atreus to go hunting with him. Or at all, really.
Which annoys Atreus. He's old enough to hunt. He should be allowed! Sure he gets sick a lot, but when he's not, he's really helpful. He is, really!
Today is one of the rare days when he isn't sick, and he wants to go hunting with his father. Who he can see preparing from his bedside.
Okay. His parents think he's sick right now. But seriously, he's fine. He's only coughing a little bit, but that's it. He's totally fine, even if his parents don't believe it. Well, his mom doesn't. His dad doesn't know that she thinks he is yet. And she's not here.
Now is his chance to try and spend time with his ever elusive father.
He clears his throat, not wanting his throat to sound raspy as he pushes up, throwing his feet over the side of his bed. His mother and father's head rest is just beside his, diagonal. His father is currently pulling on his chest armor… that gives him a minute or so to convince him to take him.
“Father?” he tries, proud that there wasn't a single crack on either of the syllables. He can hardly see the large man wince at the word in the dim lighting, swallowing despite himself as his father turns towards him.
“What, boy,” his father said more than asked. In his usual gruff and abrupt tone. There's a clip and Atreus knows the chest armor is on fully now. Less time.
“I, um, was wondering,” he began, pushing from his bed. The wood floor creaks lightly beneath him and he steps around the fire pit in the center of the room, nervously rubbing his bicep. He's never really known how to speak to his father. The man usually has a short temper; especially with him. So he's always tried to tread carefully while speaking to him. “If you'd… If I could… come with you?”
Atreus can see his father’s eyebrows scrunch together minisculely. Another thing about his old man: he's nearly emotionless. At least, to Atreus he is. Mom says that he's very emotional, and caring. Atreus just can't see that.
Aside from his anger, anyway.
He thinks his father isn't going to answer and just leave(he's done that) when there's what sounds to be a gruff growl. “Are you not sick?” his father asked. The most words he's spoken to Atreus in days. “Your mother did leave you.”
Atreus presses his lips together and kicks at the ground grumpily. “She wanted to go alone this time,” he mumbled, which was half the truth, so he wasn't exactly lying. “So she left me.”
There's a moment of silence, filled only with the crackling of the dying embers behind him. And then, as his father is turning back to the door, Atreus hears, “Fine. But you must obey without question.”
Atreus grins and he quickly grabs his bow- even though he hardly knows how to use it- and hurried to the side of the door as his father opens it, a blast of snow filled air hitting him in the face momentarily. As soon as his father is out the door Atreus runs out and slightly ahead of him, kicking snow up as he goes.
“So what are we hunting?” he asks as he waits for his slow walking father.
“Whatever tracks we find first,” his father replied shortly, walking past him. Atreus runs ahead once more, knowing these woods like the back of his hand. He has lived here his entire life, after all. He hops up a slight alcove, stopping as his eye catches the subtle shape of hoof prints. His father takes notice of this as he appears beside Atreus. “What animal left these tracks?”
Atreus hums and crouches down to get a better look at them. His mother had been teaching him different animal tracks for years now. He thinks he's pretty good at it now.
“They're a bit too round to be a deer’s,” Atreus observes, balancing on his toes. He catches his. breath just before he can cough, clearing his throat quietly. He hopes his father didn't notice-
“Boy,” his father’s voice is deeper than usual and of course his throat clearing didn't escape his notice. He swallows and stands back up, knowing the hoof prints now. Maybe he could distract him with the hunt. “Are you still-”
“They look like a stag’s,” Atreus says quickly, biting down on his lip as he interrupts him. He catches the small flash of anger that passes through his father's eyes and he tenses, ready to be scolded angrily.
But then his father lets out a heavy sigh and he hesitantly looks back up at his face. “Good,” his father says finally. “That is correct. Which way do they go?”
Atreus is honestly surprised his father wasn't saying anymore about his “lingering fever”- as his mother called it- but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in mouth. He was just excited to be able to be with his dad for once. He points in the direction the hoof prints are heading.
“South east,” he replied after a moment of thought. At his father’s gruff of confirmation, followed by his father passing him once more, Atreus trails after him. “Hey, Father?” Another grunt. He hesitates. But then, he wants his father to know that this is special to him. “I just… I'm glad we’re hunting right now. Me and you, you know?”
Silence answers him and he's afraid his father doesn't share the feelings until he hears a quiet, “Yes.” If there had been any other noise, Atreus would have missed it. Nevertheless, it makes him smile and pick up his pace once more, ending up beside one of the small streams in this part of the forest. He looks up and towards a clump of bushes at the sound of a low snort and he grins wider at the sight of a large, black stag, it's eyes and antlers a bright, glowing red.
“Father!” he calls back to the large man, motioning him over. “I found the stag!”
“Quiet boy,” his father snaps but his tone isn't all too rough or scolding. Atreus could hear a slight reassurance in his voice. “I am coming.”
Atreus is bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet as his father approaches. It's only ten he realizes the large man hasn't a weapon. He frowns now in confusion. “Why don't you-”
“Hush,” his father interrupts him and crouches to his height, pointing to the bow and arrow. “Do you know how to use that?”
Atreus looks at his bow and then to his dad and back again. He shifts on his feet now, not really wanting to admit he hadn't the foggiest idea how to use it to his father because, well, he doesn't want to disappoint. So, again, he half lies. “A little,” he said. “Mother did just start to teach me how to use it.”
“Hm.” His father grunts and looks back to the stag. He then looks to Atreus, expectantly almost, and it's at that moment he realizes his father wants him to draw his bow. Nervously- hands shaking a tad bit, he doesn't want to fail at this, not because he's sick still- he pulls the bow from over his shoulder.
He's about to grab an arrow to knock to the string, when his chest rumbles and he fumbles with both his bow and arrows. He tries to hold down the cough, only for it to fight back, forcing its way through his lungs and throat painfully. His knees give out- he hadn't even been mad, why was this happening so badly?- and he holds a hand up, his breath hot and moist in the cold, dry air.
He can't hear much else aside from his own hacking, but a moment later and he does feel a large, light hand on his shoulder. The hand feels uncertain, even in his coughing state, and he can tell it's much like a wild rabbit- ready to pounce back at the slightest wrong movement.
It takes about half a minute for him to finally catch his breath and to clear his throat once more, forcing his coughs back down. His eyes are watering by now and the hand is gone from his shoulder as he blinks tears through the corners.
“You are still ill,” his father’s voice is deadpan and low, leaving no room for argument. Atreus swallows heavily at the warm liquid itching the bottom of his throat and blinks up at his father, slight fear of the consequences gathering in his stomach at the fierce look in the amber eyes. Then his father is grabbing his wrist and pulling Atreus to his feet- holding him there, too, he would have fallen if his father weren't holding his arm currently- as he stands, eyes narrowed. “You know better than to leave your bed when you are ill.”
Atreus frowns, crestfallen as he looks at the ground in shame, trying his best to balance himself on his own feet. It's difficult, but he manages, and the tight hand around his wrist slowly relinquishes it's hold. “I just wanted to hunt with you,” he said, forcing himself to meet his father’s eyes once more. “We never do-”
“If that is the case,” his father begins, dark eyes flashing, “I am not taking you hunting again until you are ready. Because you are not now.”
Atreus’s eyes widen and he shakes his head, a small cough shaking his body. “No, wait, I'm sorry-”
“Not another word, boy,” his father snapped, turning around. “We are returning home.”
Defeated, Atreus let's his head hang and slowly follows after his father, not having as much energy now. Especially as he coughs more, not wanting to hide the fact he's sick any longer.
He's silently following behind his father when some kind of creature forms nearby- four of them- and he jumps back as one approaches him. His father stops in his tracks as he calls, “Father!” and turns, clearly ready to fight barehanded, only for the nearest creature to Atreus to knock into him, sending him flying through the air. “Father!” he calls again just as his father shouts, “Boy!”
He flies through a few trees and then over the edge where a waterfall trickles, hitting the ground hard. He coughs further, body and chest aching and he can't stop the blood from flying out of his mouth now. He breathes roughly, trying to see where he had ended up, only to see a wall in front of him. Too tired to move much, he groans and shuts his eyes once more.
Until he hears soft growling behind him.
His eyes snap open and he turns his head shakily, peering over his shoulder. The sight of three wolves greets him, all three staring at him and aware he's there, each one growling softly. He shakes worse, body shaking as he coughs a little bit more.
“N- nice dogs,” he stammers, freezing because of the snow soaking into him.
His breath catches as one wolf approaches him, it's face painted with scars, and sniffs at him. He tenses and then realizes- there is no malice in its eyes. And… he knows(?) that it's not going to hurt him.
And then the wolf is laying down beside him and the other two approach, laying down around him as well. His eyes widen and he's already getting warmer because of the wolves thick fur. He shakily curls up to get warmer, placing a hand between the shoulder blades of the largest wolf. One of the wolves rests its head on top of his and he can hear its breathing.
He never thought he'd be able to get this close to one wolf, let alone three. Yet here he is, sick and curled up in the middle of them.
Though, he is worried about his father. He'd be okay, right…?
His eyes shut and he suddenly can't stay awake any longer. He slowly falls into a slumber, the warmth from the wolves shielding him from the harsh winter winds.
He's awoken again at someone calling his name. “Atreus!” it's his father and he rouses himself, disturbing one wolf to move its head as he pushes up shakily, peering over the shoulder of another wolf. That's strange. His father sounds… almost… worried? But that shouldn't be true. His father never worries. “Atreus, do you hear me boy?!”
Atreus clears his throat and smacks his lips, gathering himself. He needs to answer his father. He doesn't like hearing him like this, so worried. “F-father,” he tries to call back, voice shaking and cracking and he coughs again. He swallows and tries again, “Father…!”
He doesn't hear his father again, but he does hear footsteps, and then a heavy thud. He looks up as a shadow casts on the ground before the wolves. The wolves, smelling his father, growl softly and begin to uncurl from him, hackles raising as they turn on his father.
His father looks furious as he stares at the wolves now surrounding Atreus.
Atreus can already tell what is about to happen and doesn't like the idea of his father or the wolves getting hurt when both parties are just trying to help him- okay, his dad maybe trying to help him, that's still up to debate. He forces himself to his feet and fumbles with the nearest wolf’s fur. “No, don't hurt him!” he cries out, cringing at his own, weak tone. Then he looks to his father as the large man begins to stomp towards them- ready to attack. “Father, no! They're just trying to help-”
“Quiet, boy,” his father snaps and the wolves don't seem to like that tone because they growl louder. One even barks, peeling from the rest to half circle his father. “You have already done quite enough.”
Atreus can feel himself getting angry despite himself and he knows he shouldn't. It will only make matters worse. But currently, he couldn't care less because his father is about to attack these nice wolves and he won't listen to him… like usual. So, he snaps. “No!” he exclaims but doesn't stop even as his father’s dark eyes land back on him, flashing with rage. “Listen to me this one time!They helped me, so don't attack them!” and then he starts to cough, this time so painful he nearly falls over if not for the wolf. The wolf he is leaning on sniffs at him worriedly, hackles lowering and he can hear its question of: ‘Are you alright?’
His father doesn't say or do anything for a few moments and he's terrified that the fight is bound to break out. But then, “Fine.” He blinks rapidly, surprised to hear this from his father. His father untenses and, the wolves, upon smelling his change in air, begin to relax as well, going to instead sniff at Atreus’s face as his father approaches once more, slower this time.
Now the wolves can see his father is not a threat and so they back off, standing at the ready behind Atreus as his father crouches in front of him. He looks up slowly, his aching body continuing to shake- not just because of the cold any longer, he realizes as he meets his father’s eyes. He wants to apologize now, to tell his father he's learnt from this. “Father I-”
“Save your strength, boy,” his father said, raising a hand to Atreus’s forehead. Atreus stills as the palm- larger than his entire head- presses against his skin and his eyelids droop slightly at how warm it is. He unconsciously leans into it, forgetting that this is his father in the moment. A few seconds pass and Atreus could have sworn the hand slid to his temple to caress it. But this was his father and the moment was ended when he spoke again, “We need to get you home. Can you walk?”
Atreus blinks rapidly as the hand slowly draws away from his head. He rouses himself from the half lull and mulls over the question for a moment. He thinks he can. And, even if he wasn't sure, he'd still try to walk by himself anyway. He doesn't want to look weak in front of his father.
“I think so,” he answers, shakily standing. He can half see his father’s hands held up on either side of him, like they are ready to catch him if he were to fall.
“Good,” his father said, standing once Atreus has found his balance. “Then let us go home.” As his father begins to lead the way back, he looks over his shoulder to Atreus. “And, boy, I meant what I said. You will not hunt with me again until you prove you are ready. Because you clearly are not now.”
Atreus swallows heavily but nods, looking at the ground in shame. “Yes, sir,” he said softly, following slowly behind his father.
He needs to better learn how to act around his father, obviously.
And he will.