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Alistair sat down on his bed for the night - heavily. Oof! He hadn’t meant to. Maybe he had exaggerated the softness of beds in his mind after several weeks of sleeping on the hard ground, or maybe it just wasn’t a very nice bed…? He prodded at the mattress, but couldn’t make up his mind. His pondering was interrupted by a dramatic groan from several feet in front of him.

Zevran was rubbing his arms as he paced to and fro across their small room. “I had thought it would be warmer in here than in my tent,” he said, sullenly, “but it seems I was mistaken.” His eyes darted from wall to wall with what looked like accusation - against the fabric of the inn itself.

Alistair was trying very hard not to laugh. In fairness, he didn’t think he’d cope any better with the summer in Antiva than Zevran did with the winter here. “I only just lit the fire,” he said, trying to be reassuring. “It’ll warm up soon enough.”

Zevran paused his pacing to narrow his eyes at him. “We’ll see,” he said. Alistair was pretty sure he was only pretending to be angry, so he smiled. After a moment, Zevran sniffed, turned away, and resumed his pacing.

Alistair’s smile faded as he watched him. He still wasn’t quite sure how he felt about sharing a room with him. They’d been travelling together for months, now, but it didn’t necessarily preclude him making another attempt on their lives, did it? Especially now that he had Alistair alone behind a closed door. The walls of the inn didn’t seem very thick, but they were certainly thicker than tent canvas. It would be pretty easy for him to make his move. If he wanted to. Did he want to? No, that didn’t matter. He still could.

Er… not that Alistair couldn’t defend himself. But that was when he was awake. And they were going to be sleeping together… well, no! Not quite, but, well, you know. He was aware he was blushing, though he was sure the prospect held less than no appeal, so he didn’t know why. It was just that thinking about… that… with anyone had that effect on him. He hoped desperately that Zevran wouldn’t turn back to him before his cheeks had had a chance to settle down. At least it was pretty dark in here, lit by nothing but the fire.

Zevran’s hair reflected the firelight when he had his back to it, red amongst gold. It reminded Alistair of the sunsets over Lake Calenhad. Not that he was looking at his hair. Or at him! He didn’t want to provoke Zevran in any way. He felt so uneasy any time their eyes met. He searched around the room for something else he could at least pretend was holding his attention, but nothing else was as eye-catching. It was because nothing else was moving - and nothing else was likely to kill him in his sleep. Well. Not so far as he knew, anyway.

He wondered if it was too late to ask to swap with someone else. The Warden had seemed reluctant enough about his request for them to share a room, and he didn’t want to make things difficult for their group when everyone else was settled. And who would he rather be sharing with? No-one, and that was why he’d made such a stupid proposition. But there was only so much of Oghren’s snoring a man could sleep through on any given night, and after a long evening spent in an inn, well…

Oghren’s drunken snoring was an awful thing to be in close quarters with, but it was a funny thing to think about from a distance, and he smiled. He was glad he wasn’t thinking about Zevran any more.

Oh, no, wait - wasn’t that him doing it again? He shoved his hands under his thighs, though he didn’t think he’d been fidgeting, per se, and he stared at his knees, hoping that that would help. It didn’t. He wanted his hands free, and he could still hear Zevran moving - and worse, he heard him stop. He was pretty sure the other man was looking at him. He didn’t want to check. He was just going to have to ignore him until it was time to leave in the morning. He sighed with resignation.

“Alistair, my friend, are you well?” Zevran asked. Alistair didn’t like it when Zevran called him his friend. They weren’t friends, and he had always felt there was something… dangerous about it. Like he was being lulled into a false sense of security. And Zevran rarely spoke to him unless to make fun of him, outside of practical matters. This was neither. He risked looking up to squint at him suspiciously, as if that were likely to provide any answers. He’d played Wicked Grace against that man and lost so many times, anyone would have thought he’d have known better - but he didn’t. “Perhaps you are also feeling the cold, yes?” Zevran suggested.

Alistair snorted. “Of course I’m not. It’s not cold, not really.”

Zevran gave him an odd look. “Yet you are flushed, and you are warming your hands.” The odd look was gone, and replaced with the easy, false grin he so often wore. “And there is a snowstorm brewing outside, as you know. It is, after all, why we are cooped up together in here instead of on the road.”

Alistair wasn’t sure what to say to that. He wished he’d been quicker to understand what Zevran had misunderstood. It would have been better for him to think he was cold than embarrassed. He was always embarrassed around Zevran, and he was tired of it. Even when Zevran wasn’t actually making dirty jokes, or picking on him - sometimes it seemed all he had to do was look at him to make him turn scarlet. “I - well - I guess it is a little cold, maybe,” he tried. He felt himself wince, and hoped it wasn’t too obvious. He was pretty sure Zevran would see right through it, anyway.

“Oh?” he asked, smiling. “Otherwise, I would have wondered if this were merely all a ploy to be alone with me.”

“What? No - it’s - no - why would I?” he stammered. “It’s, erm, the snowstorm. As you said.”

“I see,” said Zevran, neutrally. He regarded Alistair carefully. Alistair wished he could sink down through the bed until he couldn’t look at him any more. In fact, he wished darkspawn would burst through the shutters so he could leap up to fight them, but, of course, he knew they weren’t about to. It was hard at times like this to not believe the Maker had perhaps abandoned him a little more than He had abandoned everyone else. Why had he offered to share a room with him? Oh, he should have tried his luck with Sten. Better to be embarrassed by someone who didn’t want to talk to you than someone who did. “My friend,” said Zevran, warily, “you are aware that I do not intend to see through my contract on your life, yes?”

I’m aware you’ve said that, he thought, trying not to frown. Though he wasn’t sure what he should say. Zevran was giving him another odd look. He moved closer, and it took all of Alistair’s self control not to obviously tense up. But he wasn’t coming this way - he was moving to sit on his own bed, facing him. He had to say something, but he didn’t want to be insulting. Insulting a man who probably wants to kill you? he asked himself, in disbelief. “Erm, we haven’t shared a tent. Room. Together. So this is a little bit…”

“New?” Zevran supplied, when it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to manage to complete that thought alone. He nodded. “I suppose we haven’t. And we haven’t spent a lot of time together outside of that. Not alone, anyway.” Zevran looked around thoughtfully. “We don’t tend to stand watch together, even.” The thoughtful look was gone, again replaced by the grin. “A shame. I feel so very safe around you.”

Alistair couldn’t see why. He was always ready to draw his sword when he was anywhere close to alone with Zevran, and surely he’d noticed… oh. He had noticed. And Alistair hadn’t noticed the blush on his cheeks had faded until he felt it resurge. He looked at Zevran to see how offended he might be, and, if anything, he looked amused. He watched him grab some of the blankets from his bed and wrap them around himself, shuffling as close to the fire as he could on the bed. Maybe it was that people wrapped up in blankets were inherently unthreatening, or maybe it was the smile on the other man’s face, but he did feel a little less wary of him. He still wasn’t sure it was wise. But however comfortable he was with him, he certainly wasn’t comfortable with the silence. “Does it snow in Antiva?” he blurted out. He hoped it wasn’t a stupid question.

“In the mountains, yes. But not on the coast.” He pulled the blankets tighter around himself, until his chin was hidden. “Not like this, anyway.”

“Are you really that cold?” Alistair asked, and immediately regretted how rude he’d sounded.

Zevran, as always, laughed it off. “Yes. I don’t suppose I could entice you to warm me up? No?”

Alistair, as always, hadn’t even had time to register his words. He began to splutter something - he wasn’t sure what, but—

“Hmm. No matter. I am no stranger to rejection, even one so cruel as that.” He had the nerve to let out a beleaguered sigh, as if he were the one being teased! “Do forgive me if my crying myself to sleep keeps you awake, though,” he added, with a wink.

“I was only asking if you were cold,” Alistair grumbled. “Whatever. Let’s just get some sleep.”

“Ah, my friend, don’t abandon me!” Zevran said, before Alistair could start getting into bed properly. “Come - you said the room would warm up soon. At least keep me company until then.”

If he wanted Alistair’s company, he didn’t do a very good job of acting like it. The only person he less liked spending time with was Morrigan, and she threatened to kill him on top of the incessant mocking and teasing. Oh! But Morrigan wouldn’t actually kill him, because of whatever her weird ulterior motive for travelling with them was. She was probably going to use him as demon bait, or whatever it was she got up to in her spare time. Apart from the spiders stuff. Ugh. He really didn’t want to be spider bait. Though he didn’t know Morrigan’s reason for being here, he at least knew she did have one. Zevran had no reason at all not to carry out his original threat. Perhaps avoiding him had made it too difficult, and now he’d gone and doomed Thedas, over snoring

“Alistair,” said Zevran, and it was a welcome break to his self-berating, but still an unwelcome intrusion more generally. “Might I ask what you are thinking about so intently?”

No, was what he wanted to answer. Not that Zevran hadn’t technically already asked, anyway. But he was conscious that he’d been unintentionally rude already, and he didn’t want to compound his mistakes. “I was thinking about, erm, training. Templar training,” he elaborated, when Zevran raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Because the, erm, well, we were in stone rooms, and it was cold?”

Zevran didn’t believe him. That was alright, because he didn’t believe a word that came out of Zevran’s mouth, either. “I see,” he said, eventually. “I suppose this reminds me of my own training, too. Not templar training,” he added, with a smile.

“But you said it wasn’t this cold in Antiva.”

Zevran laughed. “No, I don’t mean the weather. More the sleeping arrangements.” He tugged at some of the blankets. “Hmm - the beds are a little more comfortable, at least.”

“Do you mean… sharing a room with someone?”

“No. I share rooms with people whenever they let me. Sometimes when they don’t know I’m there!” Zevran found that hilarious - or maybe it was Alistair’s visible horror at the thought of an assassin lurking under his bed that was so amusing. His expression settled into a half smile. “I mean the way you’re convinced I mean you harm, when I do not.”

Yes, well, they were both lying to one another - Alistair already knew that. But… “Wait… even other assassins thought you would kill them?” Alistair asked, appalled. That wasn’t reassuring!

“As I thought they would kill me,” he said, evenly. His face was impassive, but - maybe his eyes weren’t. Or maybe it had been the light from the fire, because it vanished when Alistair looked harder. “Anyway, we were not yet fully fledged assassins, as it were, but neither are you, so perhaps that is why it is so familiar, no?”

Alistair wasn’t sure he’d followed. He also wasn’t sure how many bird-related words the Crows really used.

“Fear not, my friend. You might be a fairly easy mark, but your comrade would pose more of a challenge, and the contract was for both of you.”

Wait. No, not that nonsense. The nonsense before. Was he saying he thought Alistair wanted to kill him? “I’m not going to kill you either,” he said. “You know that, right?” Zevran shrugged, but Alistair still couldn’t believe he was serious. “I just get, erm, jittery around you.” Everything would be normal, and then he’d go and do something that would send a shiver right down his spine.

“Oh?” asked Zevran, with a smile that made Alistair’s stomach turn over. Yes! It was things like that.

He didn’t want to admit that, though. “Yes. Because you… steal things.”

“Oho! What an accusation! And what of yours have I stolen?”

“Well, nothing,” he admitted.

“And what is there to steal? For a future king, you carry remarkably little of value.” Zevran laughed at Alistair’s dawning comprehension. He’d been rifling through his things! “Yes. And I didn’t poison even one of your possessions.”

“Hmph. Good to know.” He had been trying not to sound too intimidated, but he realised, with a little jolt, that he didn’t feel that way at all. Maybe he was being silly. Maybe Zevran would have tried something long before, if he’d ever really wanted to. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that he didn’t understand the other man’s motivations at all. He didn’t really know anything about him, did he? “How old were you?” he asked. “When you became a Crow.” It seemed like a reasonably safe topic of conversation.

“You might be a little old for such a career change, my friend. Come, I’m sure being a king won’t be quite so bad!”

Alistair rolled his eyes. “I don’t mean that. You know I don’t mean that. I was just curious…” Maybe it was unfair to keep asking questions, and not answer any himself? He didn’t want Zevran to feel like he was interrogating him. Again. “I was ten when I left… when I went to the monastery.” He couldn’t bring himself to say ‘left home’. It stung too much, even now. Oh, he’d claim the castle had been no home to him, but it had still been the only home he’d ever known. “And, well, I was wondering about you. It’s hard for me to imagine you as a child, so—” Ugh! That was a stupid thing to say, wasn’t it?

“Oh? And how do you prefer to imagine me?” asked Zevran, laughing. Alistair had no idea how to respond, but Zevran didn’t let him. “Ah, I was older when I became a Crow, but I was seven when they bought me.”

Alistair was appalled at how casually he mentioned being a slave. “You… oh.” He wasn’t sure what to say. He wanted to be sympathetic, but it didn’t seem like Zevran wanted that, so he tried to take it in stride. “Where did you live? Before that?”

“In the brothel I was born in,” he answered, simply. “And you - you lived in Redcliffe Castle, yes?”

“I… yes,” he said, uncomfortably. It felt like bragging, though that wasn’t his intention. “Did you… so, your mother…?”

“Yes,” said Zevran. “Feel free to factor that into your insults. Whoreson is particularly popular, I find.”

Alistair laughed, though he felt bad about it. “Well, if I do, I guess you can call me a bastard. Hmm. A royal bastard!”

“But I do that already! Mm, you should hear what Morrigan calls you, you know.”

“I can imagine,” he said, and chuckled. His spirits sank, and he felt his face follow. He never should have thought back to starting his training - though he hadn’t, at first, he’d just lied that he had… A horrifying thought occurred to him that shocked him out of his own sadness. Worse than what Eamon had done to him at Isolde’s request— “Zevran, did your mother…?”

Zevran looked puzzled in his cocoon. “Did she…? Oh! Sell me?” Alistair nodded, and Zevran laughed. “No, she was long dead by then.”

“Oh. Good!” Aargh! “Not good!” he clarified, as Zevran laughed, again. “I just… ugh. Sorry.”

“No need, my friend,” said Zevran. He seemed, as always, faintly amused. Alistair wished he was, too.

Motherless… fatherless… it was lonely. Alistair was a lonely person, but Zevran didn’t seem to be. He would have preferred to talk about something else, but he couldn’t think of anything, and Zevran wouldn’t change the topic. “Do you remember her? Your mother?” he asked, quietly.

“No. She died when I was born.” Zevran stopped smiling for a moment, and he looked - younger, somehow. “What of yours?”

“The same,” he said, still looking into Zevran’s eyes. It was a strange thing to have in common. He never would have expected it. “Did anyone… tell you about her? Arl Eamon told me about mine, a little. She worked in the castle. And I have an older sister, in Denerim…”

“Oh?” asked Zevran, interested.

“I haven’t met her,” he clarified. “But I’d like to. She probably doesn’t remember me.”

“Ah. Then, I hope you get the chance.”

“…thank you,” said Alistair, slowly. He didn’t think Zevran had ever been nice to him before. It set his nerves back on edge. It didn’t help that Zevran was giving him a weird look again.

“I don’t believe I have siblings,” he said. “Not by my mother, anyway.”

“You know who your father was?”

“Perhaps? My mother had been married… perhaps her husband was my father. Or perhaps not. I’ll never know.”

“Hmm! And there I thought we were both bastards.” Zevran gave him an apologetic smile. “I’ll stick to… oh, I’m not calling anyone that!” Did people really call Zevran a whoreson? Often? How did they even know?

“Not even if they’re going to kill you?” Zevran asked, with a knowing look.

“I don’t think you’re going to kill me,” said Alistair, and it sounded so natural, he had to believe it. Zevran grinned at him, and shed the outer layer of his cocoon, revealing his hair again. Alistair told himself and the butterflies in his stomach once more that he didn’t think he was going to kill him. He felt a little dizzy… from warmth? The room must have warmed up, for Zevran to want to take off any of his blankets… yes, the fire was burning properly now. He watched it flicker, and tried to calm down. But why did he feel afraid, if there was nothing to fear?

“You were right. About the fire. And to not trust me.”

What?

Zevran laughed and held his hands up, appeasingly. “No!” he said, as another blanket fell from his shoulders. “I mean you were sensible not to trust me. But you could have. And still can.” Alistair relaxed, and watched Zevran pick the blanket back up again. “But I’m glad we can trust one another a little more, now. These pillows are so thin - it would be very hard to sleep with more than one knife under them, no?”

“I guess. Wait - more than one?”

“That’s for not trusting you. There’s always one, naturally.”

“No there isn’t,” said Alistair, weakly. “That must be a Crow thing.”

“Probably.”

“You… you said you didn’t have siblings.” Zevran nodded. “But, what if your mother did? Couldn’t you…?”

Zevran frowned. “I don’t know her name, if that’s what you’re imagining. All I know is that she was widowed, and Dalish.”

“Oh! Then couldn’t you…?”

“Ask the Dalish? All of them?” he asked, amused. “There aren’t that few.” Alistair felt his cheeks burning, again. Maybe trusting Zevran didn’t change anything at all. Zevran chuckled, but then his face fell. “Anyway, I’ve tried, but… I don’t know that she was from one of the Northern clans at all. Perhaps if I still had… ah, who’s to say where she acquired them, anyway?”

“What… were they?” Probably knives, knowing Zevran.

“Hmm? Oh. Gloves! They were of Dalish make, I knew that much, and beautiful. I managed to keep them hidden for years - we weren’t allowed such things, of course - but…”

“I’m sorry,” said Alistair.

“Thank you, but it’s not necessary. They were only gloves,” said Zevran, airily. Alistair was starting to think that Zevran maybe wasn’t so perpetually amused as he appeared. He wished he knew how to make him feel better. Maybe he should just let him mock him. That seemed to make him actually happy. Or maybe that was more lies?

“I had something of my mother’s, too,” he said. He knew for a fact that misery loved company. “An amulet with Andraste's holy symbol on it.” He sighed. He’d stupidly hoped that somehow, the pieces would still be where they’d scattered, a decade later… he’d hoped everything in Redcliffe would have been the same as when he left. Of course, nothing was.

“And the templars, they took this amulet from you?” asked Zevran. “I wouldn’t have expected them to be so cruel.” Huh. Did he realise he was admitting they’d been cruel to take his gloves? Before he could decide whether or not to say anything, he was distracted by Zevran’s grin. “Especially when it was such a suitable object. I’ve seen some interesting illustrations with a supposedly religious bent that I could imagine them wishing to confiscate, but…”

Alistair laughed, despite himself. “No, no. I… it was when Arl Eamon told me he was sending me away. I was so furious, I tore it off and threw it at the wall and it shattered. Stupid, stupid thing to do…” He didn’t want to talk about Arl Eamon. He hoped they would find a cure. He didn’t want to think about it, either.

But he had to. Zevran wasn’t saying a word. He was watching him intently, and, again, it was making Alistair deeply uneasy.

He couldn’t stand the silence. “I guess that’s one more thing we have in common?” he asked, eventually. Obviously, Zevran had no idea what he meant. He wasn’t sure if he was worse at talking to Zevran than to other people, or just noticed it more. “I mean, we both grew up without our mothers, and we had something of theirs, and then we lost it. Forever. Erm. Sorry. That’s not a very cheerful thought, is it?”

“No,” said Zevran, with a small smile, which grew. “And you’re missing out that we both grew up in our mother’s places of work, though neither of us followed in her shoes, exactly. Well. You didn’t. Ha!” Alistair had no idea what to say to that. “I… have something you might wish to see, my friend,” he said, letting the blankets fall to the bed around him, and beginning to stand.

“I - I don’t think I do need to see that!” protested Alistair, staring at the floor.

Zevran laughed delightedly. “No? Well, if you ever change your mind, please let me be the first to know.” He walked over to his pack, and Alistair refused to look any higher than his knees, though that was complicated by him bending down to dig through it. He tried to look past him to see what he was doing, but it was hard. “Aha!” Zevran said, triumphantly. Whatever he’d found, it was small - or maybe he was hiding it, like all the knives he hid under his clothes. Or. You know. Whatever Zevran had under his clothes - he didn’t know, or care. He also didn’t know why he’d assumed Zevran was shedding more than the blankets.

He didn’t want to look up at Zevran’s approach, but he wanted to know what he wanted him to see. And it was a bit silly - more than a bit silly - to be pretending not to be embarrassed, when he was sure his cheeks were hot enough to fry eggs. Well, then. He looked up, and tried not to focus on the way Zevran was smirking at him. “What is it?” he asked.

Zevran still had it clutched tightly in his hand, though he thought perhaps there was a chain sticking out. Jewellery? “I… found this in Redcliffe Castle,” said Zevran, hesitantly.

“You… you are a thief!”

“I’ve never denied that, have I?” he said, defensively.

“I can’t believe you stole from Arl Eamon! We were there to help him, not rob him!”

Zevran sighed. “You may not believe me, but this is all I took. And perhaps it was a good thing, yes?”

Alistair wanted to protest, but when Zevran held the object out for him to inspect, the words dissolved in his mouth. His mother’s amulet? It couldn’t be. But it looked so much like it… the cracks were new, but they were, after all, to be expected. If he could have expected to see it again. Which he couldn’t have, reasonably, but still somehow had. “Where did you find it?” he asked, breathlessly.

“In the arl’s study. In the desk.”

“You—” began Alistair, but he stopped himself, and sighed. That wasn’t the most important part. “He must have... found the amulet after I threw it at the wall. And he repaired it and kept it? I don't understand, why would he do that?”

Zevran shrugged. “Perhaps he was waiting for a handsome Antivan to ransack his chambers?” Maker’s breath. How, and why, was Zevran making that sound dirty? He tried to give him an exasperated look, but all Zevran did was wink. “Or perhaps he was waiting to see its owner again, and return it. Who could say?”

He held his hand out, and Zevran placed the amulet inside. He marvelled at it. Some of the pieces had been tiny, but they’d all been so carefully glued back into place. Arl Eamon had really… he really had… He sighed. He’d been so foolish. “He did see me,” he explained, as Zevran sat back down. “A few times. But I was stubborn. I hated it there and blamed him for everything... and eventually he just stopped coming.” He ran his thumb over the symbol, as he so often had as a child. It really was his mother’s amulet! His thumb might have been bigger, and the cracks were new, but he knew it was the same. When the arl was better, he’d have to talk to him about this. And everything. He might leave out the details of Zevran’s sticky fingers, maybe.

“See?” said Zevran, settling back into his blankets. “I knew you’d like what I had to show you. Everyone does.”

Alistair’s gratitude outweighed his embarrassment at Zevran’s mock flirting. “Thank you. I can’t believe you found this… even if you stole it. I don’t know how to repay you.”

“Ah, my friend, your company is repayment enough.”

Alistair didn’t know about that, but it was still a nice thing to hear. “I’m glad I asked to share with you tonight.”

“As am I! Oghren’s snoring is awful when he’s been drinking an inn dry, and have you tried to carry on a conversation with Sten?” They both laughed, and, when their eyes met, Alistair couldn’t believe how wrong he’d been about Zevran before. “I’m probably warm enough to sleep, now, so, if you don’t mind, I think that's what I’ll do.” He watched, baffled, as Zevran turned his cocoon horizontal instead of using the blankets like a normal person. “Hmm. Perhaps it’s the warm glow one gets from doing a good deed,” he mused.

“Like stealing?” he asked, getting into bed himself - the way everyone apart from Zevran did.

Zevran made an offended noise. “Like returning lost property, and healing old wounds, and so forth!” He tutted, and adjusted his pillows. “The warm glow from stealing doesn’t last this long, Alistair. You’d know if you tried it some time.”

“Yes. Well. Thank you.” He wished he could have done the same for Zevran. Oh, look, here’s a pair of Dalish gloves I happened to find - I think they were your mother’s. Ha! What were the chances of that? He’d keep his eyes peeled, certainly. Maybe he could try to buy a similar pair from the Dalish? Or would that be presumptuous… he wasn’t sure. Would Zevran even want them, if they weren’t really his mother’s? If the amulet hadn’t been found somewhere that implied it was his and not another, would he have been so happy to have received it? Maybe - as a gift from a friend. Zevran had probably received all kinds of gifts, though - he probably wouldn’t care. “Maybe I should go to Antiva and try to find your gloves,” he suggested. If there’d been any real chance at all, he would have been willing. He hoped Zevran took it in the spirit intended.

“Oh? You’ll like Antiva. I hope you’ll allow me to accompany you. Ooh, I could be a royal bodyguard… might get a nicer bed than this.”

“These beds aren’t so bad, are they?” he asked. He hadn’t been sure at first, but now he was glad to be settling in. “I don’t like beds that are too soft. If I get one, I suppose I could give it to you.”

“Ha! That would be marvellous. I look forward to it. I may even dream of it, if I’m lucky. Well, good night.”

“Good night,” said Alistair. He was sure he’d missed something, but, oh well - he was used to that. But now things were going over his head with a friend nearby and his mother’s amulet back around his neck, and that made a world of difference.