He always hated it when Artanis saw something.

It was easy to tell, if you were watching her the way he did. The way her face would close down and she's go quiet and withdraw from the world a little bit, distant, suddenly, and so much older. And he hated it, because usually she would just look at him sadly when he asked and then vanish to who knew where and that was it. She always came back, of course, sometimes after a few days, and would apologize, refuse to talk about it, and be back to her usual self.

He still hated it.

This time something was different, though. This time he was sure she was avoiding him. They'd just been talking and then all of a sudden it had happened. She went quiet, eyes far away, and then she looked at him and he nearly flinched, seeing something in her eyes that frightened him, and just as suddenly turned and fled. It had been three days and they hadn't spoken since. He saw her, once or twice, when his Ata was talking to Finarfin, but when he tried to open his mouth or approach her, she vanished again, not meeting his eyes and always quick enough to elude him.

This time he thought he knew where to find her. He'd gotten desperate and asked Angamaite, appealing to his sense of worry, and he'd said there was a place in the woods, a pool, where she went when something had upset her to think. Not, of course, he added quickly, that he would ever condone intruding on her privacy. And if he did, it would be his responsibility as a brother to beat him up. But nonetheless. He had his location, and this time she wasn't going to get away without at least telling him why she was acting so…so…

Rrrgh.

Tyelko was sitting quietly a little ways away from the pool, wearing his new-earned sword with self-conscious pride, and watching the woods, waiting. He'd been there all day so far, just to make sure he didn't miss Artanis if she did come here. It was nearing evening, and he was beginning to worry that Angy had said something, when he looked back and she was there, sitting quietly with her feet in the water, skirts around her knees, arms wrapped around herself. She looked small, and sad, and tired, and his heart went out to her. His little cousin Artanis.

It was so stupid that she couldn't even talk about what she saw. It made him so angry sometimes, that she wasn't even allowed to have anyone help her, except maybe Findarato, but Tyelko was willing to bet that he wasn't any help.

Straightening, he walked to the opposite edge of the pool and sat down, carefully. Chewing his lip a moment, when Artanis didn't respond to his being there, he tried clearing his throat. "Um-"

"I know you're there," she said, flatly. "You make more noise than a dying boar."

Tyelko felt his temper flare and bit back the annoyed retort that occurred to him. "I was just-"

"I know what you were just. You were just bothering me. And did you have to bring that thing with you?"

"Thing?" Tyelko said, awkwardly, trying to think what he'd brought that she could be bothered by.

"Your sword," she snapped, "Your precious sword, you'd think it was your baby the way you treat it. It's just a piece of metal. I ought to throw it in the water. But you'd probably go after it and then I'd have to fish you out so you didn't drown."

Tyelko frowned. "Artanis, what's-"

Her mouth was a thin line and her voice cut over his. "Maybe I should just witch it into something else. Maybe a snake. Seven snakes. Seven poisonous snakes." She stood up, suddenly, kicking a rock hard so it splashed into the pool, disturbing the still waters.

His bafflement only grew. "Artanis – what are you saying?" He furrowed his brow, bit at his lip. "Did something happen?"

"Nothing happened," she said, too sharply for it to be true. "Don't be an idiot. Why did you follow me? Sometimes you're just like a little dog following me around."

He blinked, standing, slowly. "I didn't – I wasn't following you, Artanis, you saw-"

"I see you and I don't want to. I wanted to be alone."

"You've been alone for three days!"

"Just because I'm not talking to you doesn't mean I'm not talking to anyone, stupid!"

He felt a little prick of hurt and tried to bull through it. "Then who are you talking to? And why are you avoiding me?"

She turned away, violently. "None of your business. Take that thing off, I don't want to look at it."

He hung back, suddenly uncertain. "Please…I'm sorry for intruding," he said carefully, "I was just…I'm worried, Artanis, was it something bad you saw or-"

"I never said I saw anything," she snapped.

"I can tell, all right?" He set his jaw, determined to be stubborn. "You saw something and it upset you."

"I'm fine." She crossed her arms, still not looking at him. "Can you just leave me alone?"

Tyelko took a careful step toward her, not sure what to do with this different, moody Artanis. "What did you see?"

"…I can't tell you." Her voice quavered a moment and he blinked. "Just go away."

He reached out and touched her shoulder, lightly. "It…all right, if you can't tell me, can you talk about it at all? I don't…"

"No, I can't." She turned to look at him, and he started back from her eyes, red-rimmed and accusatory, angry. No, furious, blaming him. He stared at her and the question burst out before he could stop it.

"What did I do?"

For a moment he thought she was going to say. Her blue eyes stabbed through him like steel and her fists clenched, her mouth half opening. Then she shut her mouth and turned away again, shoulders hunched defensively. "I can't tell you."

He stepped back, feeling his shoulders slump, another little sting of hurt joining the one from before. "…all right. If you say so." He tried to keep his voice from being unhappy. "Can you…will you at least stop avoiding me?" It sounded too plaintive, and he tensed, embarrassed.

She was quiet for a long time. "No," she said, eventually, and before he could say anything, added, "No, I can't, not right now. I can't explain – just – I have to think about things." She turned to look at him, and again there was that fury in her eyes, I hate you, Tyelko, I hate you – that he flinched back from, confused.

"But," he tried to protest. "It's – I didn't do anything. At least tell me what I did wrong so I can fix it!"

She wheeled on him, angry again in a flash. "Everything! Why did you have to follow me, you dumb boy, I just wanted to be left alone a little, do I have to tell you everything I do? You wouldn't understand anyway. You don't understand anything that's not dogs or hunting or swords. You're so stupid, why are you so stupid?" She threw a punch at his shoulder he was too slow to dodge, leaving a pain that would become a bruise as he stared dumbly at her. "Eru! You and all your brothers."

"—what?" He said, stupidly.

She lifted her chin and glared at them. "You think you're so special. So great and wonderful and – it's stupid, you're not either, you're just – you're just-" She ran out of words and just made a furious, frustrated noise at him, eyes blazing.

Her words hit hard, deep, and true. Stupid. Stupid Tyelko. A fist closed in his gut and he stepped back away from her, hurt and anger twisting twin knives in his chest. "Fine. Fine," he spat, bitterly, dismay swamping him. I never knew… "I don't know why I bother spending time with a girl anyway," he snapped, and wheeled, stamping away.

"Good! Because I don't want to bother spending time with you!"

"Then don't!" He yelled without looking back, and quickened his stride. He heard her throw something against a tree with a surprisingly pithy curse and refused to look back.

"You stubborn – stubborn idiot!"

He hunched his shoulders and kept walking, refusing to care. It didn't matter. So what if she thought he was stupid? She didn't know anything. All that nonsense about swords. It was probably some female thing, she'd come to her senses soon enough.

Not that it mattered to him. It wasn't as though what she thought mattered to him.

He swiped impatiently at his eyes, muttering something about allergies, and changed direction ever so slightly. It wasn't that he didn't want to see his brothers. He just wanted to walk a little. Just wanted…

…yeah.

*

Part of him spent days waiting for her to apologize, wanting her to come back and explain. But that was stupid. It didn't matter. He had his brothers; that was enough. And it didn't hurt that Angy was withdrawing from him too, and he knew it was because of Artanis. But it didn't matter. It really didn't matter.

He tried to convince himself not to care.

She was only the first friend he lost.