"What the flying fuck are we doing?" Rook asked one night, lying out in the grass. They'd tried to get room somewhere, but all the inns were full. Apparently some festival was going on in a nearby town, and everyone within a fifty-mile radius was coming.

"Some of us," Thom muttered from under his blanket, "are trying to sleep."

Rook snorted. "What, with the mosquitoes buzzing a hole clear through one ear and out the other? Like hell you are."

Thom groaned, and finally sat up, rubbing at his eyes. Rook had already begun to start a fire, apparently abandoning the idea of sleep. "Seeing as how we're going to try to get to a town that actually has decent housing tomorrow, it did seem like a good idea."

All he got in response was a noncommittal grunt.

Thom waited expectantly for him to say something else, but after a few minutes, he finally gave up. "Well?"

"Yeah?"

"What were you getting at, that was so important you decided to wake me up? We're going on some adventurous journey into nowhere, but I don't think that's quite what you meant."

"I meant in a more, fuck, general sense. Who the hell are we trying to fool? Traveling around together, like this. We're not some cushy, easy-living family from Miranda, playing cards every Sunday and minding our mother's words like good little boys."

Thom blinked at him. "I never claimed to be any of those things."

"But, see. What're we playing at, this 'brothers' bullshit, what does that even mean? So we had the same parents, big fucking deal, doesn't make us fucking special. Don't know what you're on about, making so much of it."

"I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, John."

"That, see, that's just it-- John, see, that ain't me. I'm Rook, been that way for twenty years, and I ain't all that partial to changin'. And anyway," he said, glancing at Thom, "Hilary doesn't suit you."

"But you're John," Thom said, "you're my brother. And I can't forget that, or else it's just like you died. Like you really did die in that fire, and I believed that for all my life, I can't go back to how it was before. I just can't do that."

Rook eyed him for a moment. "I don't think of you as my brother," he said. "My brother was a three-year-old who ate fireflies on account of not knowing any better, and you're some smart-talking Cindy from the 'Versity who knows just about everything, useful or no."

"I'm still the same person, inside. Going to school didn't change who I am."

"I'm not the same as I was, back then. I took care of you, even when I wanted to bash your face in." He looked up at the sky, and closed his eyes. "My brother's some bratty little kid who wouldn't listen to me for all the money from the coffers at Our Lady, and you're some bratty son-of-a who can't stop listening to me, even when it'd do you good." Thom tried to think of the right thing to say, but just when he was about to speak, Rook went on. "So why am I out here with you, then? What've I got to gain, dragging your sorry ass along with me? Takes up a lot of my time, trying to keep you breathing. It's a fucking waste, is what it is."

"So leave, then," Thom said, lifting his chin. "If I'm so useless, leave. I can't stop you." Rook didn't move. "See? There's something that keeps you here. You do care for me, even if you won't say it."

"Fuck if I know why. Ain't my job to take care of you."

"Maybe you just enjoy my company. Novel concept for you, I'm sure."

Rook looked at him again. Thom wasn't used to being scrutinized this much, anymore, and it was an odd feeling. "Well, fuck me sideways," Rook said, finally, narrowing his eyes a bit.

Thom barely had time to open his mouth before Rook was suddenly in his face, completely ignoring any silly concepts such as 'personal space', and that lightening-quick way he had of moving was always so damn disconcerting.

Rook told him to just shut up, and while Thom hadn't said anything yet, he couldn't say that wasn't good advice, because his brain was talking rather loudly and it was kind of distracting, especially since Rook was kissing him; that was the sort of thing where being distracted would end up killing you. Most things involving Rook were like that.

Rook shoved him back against the grass and bit his earlobe. Thom shut up.

xxx

"So why are we traveling, then?" Thom asked, later. It seemed like neither of them were going to sleep at all, at this point.

Rook kicked him in the shin. "And here I was, thinking I'd finally found a good way to shut you up," he said.

"It'll take more than that. And you're the one who started asking quasi-existential questions."

"I'm just gonna sit back here and pretend I have any sort of idea what the fuck you just said."

"You could just answer the question."

"What, why are we traveling? Pretty fucking stupid question, if you ask me. What else're we gonna do?"

"I was going to write a book."

"Yeah, and of course that's much more exciting than this."

"I'd probably end up getting punched in the face less."

"And what fun would that be? You'd die of boredom up in some 'Versity tower, nobody'd probably find your body for days."

"I should think the smell would alert them sometime sooner."

"Look, professor, you need to stop thinking everything's got to have a reason, or some well thought out crackpot theory behind it. Some things just are, see, so get fucking used to it. Half the explanations anyone gives for anything are horseshit anyway."

"You know, that's actually pretty deep."

"Like hell it is. Bastion, how thick are you?" He punctuated this statement by knocking Thom in the head with his fist, none too lightly. Thom gave him his best glare, which only earned him a wider smirk than before. "As I was sayin'. We're alive, after that Bastion-damned war, so why shouldn't we be alive? I don't know about you, but I certainly don't fancy sitting pretty up in some tower all day when I could be having a good time of it out here. Make the most of it, all that shit you and your 'Versity professors just eat up."

Thom was silent for a moment, looking up at the sky. He could see a few fireflies, winking in and out alongside the stars. He sighed. "I guess some things are just easier if you don't think about them."

"You can't be all that smart if it takes you so long to figure that out."