*Looks at Word Count* Dang it! This is like... two chapters! It wasn't supposed to be this long! Dang it Berwald. Why are you so fun to write? You'd think it'd be difficult, me being such a talkative person and all.... Berwald has almost no dialog. He's so quiet.

anyway, I used the name Mathias for Denmark. It's a fannon name, for reasons unknown to me. And I had to catch myself almost writing "Denmark" instead of Mathias several times... heheh. If you catch that in the fic, please tell me! I think I might have accidentally left a couple in here...

Hope you like this chapter so far! I've gotten a lot of positive reviews, which kind of surprised me. Probably why this chapter got out so fast...

Don't own don't sue

Please review!

"Oh, so now it's my fault?" The shout resounded through the tiny kitchen from beyond the living room door, loud enough to make Berwald's head hurt.

"Finally! What I've been saying gets through that thick skull of yours!" Berwald sighed and covered his ears, tried very hard to concentrate on his math homework. This noise was driving him crazy—he'd been stuck re-reading the same problem for the last half-hour.

"Oh please. If it weren't for me you'd have gambled the house away a long time ago. If the bank's sending us notices, it's certainly not because of anything I did!" The blond growled at the simple equations before him, unable to do anything about them with his parents being so loud in the next room. He didn't know why they still bothered arguing. They'd been repeating themselves for the last hour or so. It didn't make sense to keep saying the same thing over and over again, especially since neither one was going to listen anyway. What was the point in talking if no one was going to hear it? Wasted breath, that's all it was. Wasted breath and loud noises that didn't mean anything to anyone. (Except to make simple math seem very difficult, apparently)

"I'm sure those new shoes you brought home last week had nothing to do with—"

"Are they at it again?" Berwald looked up from his glaring match with the math book just in time to catch his brother coming down the stairs. Mathias didn't usually hang around the house much. He was in high school now, and he took full advantage of that fact, staying out until long after dark and using things like "class projects" as cover-ups to go to parties. He thought he was something special and that he knew everything about anything. Berwald just thought he was annoying.

"One pair of shoes didn't get rid of all our savings. You're the one who—"

"Jesus, they never stop." Mathias murmured as he meandered over to the fridge. "Don't they know that kind of thing is supposed to be detrimental to our development, or whatever?" He knew better than to expect a response. Berwald only spoke when strictly necessary. Probably a side effect of living alongside such loud, annoying people. He just shrugged and tapped his pencil against the blank page. It didn't really matter to him.

"Expired, expired, expired… Damn, there's nothing to eat in here." Mathias slammed the door shut with unnecessary strength as the argument the next room over rose to a crescendo. He played it cool but Berwald could see that his brother didn't like to see their parents fight. He ran a hand through messy blond locks, closed his eyes and didn't say anything for a few moments. Stupid, Berwald thought. No sense sitting around feeling sorry for himself like that, but at least it kept him quiet.

"Hey twerp!" He called over the din of shouts and shrieks once he'd apparently managed to put himself back together again. "Didn't that old man pay you to rake his lawn last week?" Berwald pretended not to hear by hurriedly scratching something in his book. "I said, hey twerp." Mathias's shadow loomed over his homework and Berwald sighed. His size may have been enough to scare off kids his own age, but his brother was a good four years older, and proportionately larger. If he didn't cooperate now, Mathias would probably just beat whatever it was out of him later anyway. He looked up. "Go buy me something edible." Berwald put all the venom he could muster into his gaze, but his brother wasn't fooled. He didn't pose much of a threat at this point, however disconcerting it was to see that murderous look on a twelve-year-old's face.

Berwald growled as he ducked the incoming fist, figured he'd probably better leave now or risk getting beaten into the ground again. "Bring me something good, or you'll be sorry later!" Mathias shouted after him as he slammed his math book closed, left it on the table and stormed towards the back door. He grabbed his sweatshirt with unnecessary violence form the back of a nearby chair. His parents were starting to throw things the next room over and he wondered if one of the neighbors would call the cops again. "And no Mexican this time! I'm freaking tired of Tacos." He flipped his brother off before shutting the door hard enough to crack the cheap wood, the sound of Mathias's laughter and his parents' screaming chasing him down the dark street.

Of course, he had no intention of returning that night and the other blond probably knew it. Mathias would send him off on these little "errands" every once in a while when their parents were at their worst. Stupid Mathias. He may have been young, but he wasn't completely oblivious. He saw the bruises well enough in the morning to know what that idiot was trying to protect him from. Berwald's fists clenched tighter at his sides as he wandered aimlessly, trying not to think about his family. (And what was there to think about, really? It didn't bother him. It didn't.)

He took a series of alleyways and dimly-lit roads he knew all too well until he made it to the park near his school. This town had always been a relatively safe one, so he'd never had to worry too much about things like kidnappers and child molesters and all other manner of danger. Maybe in a slightly larger city he'd have to think twice about spending the night on a park bench, but here it wasn't so much of a problem. Besides, even at twelve, he was beginning to cut quite the formidable figure. Failing the intimidation factor, he had a knife stashed away in his left boot that he was confident enough could get him out of most situations. Mathias had given it to him (had probably stolen it from somewhere, in all honesty) in a rare show of open kindness a few years ago. Jerk had said something about it not being safe for him to be alone all the time. Whatever.

He'd always been alone. He couldn't remember it being any other way. (And that didn't matter at all, he told himself more times than he could count.) He didn't think it was liable to be any more dangerous now then it had been when he was five, hiding out in the playground. Same park, same shadows, same loneliness. Berwald threw himself down on a nearby bench, leaned back and tried to see the stars behind the glow of the street lamps. It couldn't have been too late, maybe eight or nine o'clock. He didn't know what he was going to do to entertain himself until morning, when he could go to class and "forget" to turn in his homework yet again. He settled for staring at nothing and being bored out of his mind—was just about to drift into sleep when the first shout echoed out of the dark.

Berwald didn't show any outward signs of surprise as he shoved his hands in his pockets, stood slowly and turned toward the sound. Whatever it was, it'd be better to face it standing and prepared. On the off chance there was someone dangerous lurking in the park, he'd rather see it coming. He didn't stop to think that he might get hurt, or that it might be safer to leave the area. Berwald's mind just didn't work that way.

"Get back here, rich bitch!" He heard footsteps, panting.

"Yeah, share the wealth if you got so much to spare!" The unmistakable sound of a group of bullies was racing closer to him from the direction of town. Berwald watched them come in to sight with a kind of disinterest that was probably unhealthy. He remained immobile, a part of the shadows as the debacle unfolded before him.

"Go away!" Whoever they were chasing wasn't too far ahead—a thin blond who was dressed a little too nicely to be out alone this late. The town was safe, but it wasn't that safe. Painting yourself as a target was never a good idea no matter where you were.

"Sure, right after you hand over your wallet!" Ah, Berwald recognized that voice. They were a group of kids from the class above him, all arrogant little snots who thought they were the most badass thing to grace the earth. He could probably take them all down with little difficulty, and besides, he needed a distraction. He sighed, stepped out into the light just as the fleeing victim was about to pass his hiding spot.

"Oh my god!" The kid shouted, his eyes wide with surprise. Berwald didn't really think he'd been all that well hidden, but perhaps being chased had the effect of lowering people's attention to detail? In any case, the boy was so shocked that he'd forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other, and was swiftly on his way to a face-full of concrete. Without really knowing why, Berwald lunged forward to catch him—stared down at the slightly shivering boy looking terrified back at him and tried to think of a reason for this to feel so familiar.

"Oi! Oxenstierna." The three miscreants who had been chasing his… (who was this?) …the familiar person, stuttered to a stop in front of him, far away enough that he couldn't reach out and punch anyone. A shame really. "That kid's ours. Let go of him if you know what's good for you!" A tenuous threat at best. Despite being a grade lower, Berwald was easily taller than the three of them, and stronger. Three against one brought the odds to just about equal and the other boy knew that.

"Leave." Berwald growled, and even with his arms full, he still managed to intimidate them. He could see it in their eyes.

"Three against one, Oxenstierna. Do you really want to risk it?" The lackeys of the group got the hint while their leader bluffed—started edging closer in hopes of encircling him. But Berwald had dealt with their kind often enough to recognize a distraction when he saw it. Normally, he'd probably just step up and slug the closest person in the face right about now, but for reasons unknown to him he wanted to keep the rich kid safe and he didn't think he could do that if this turned into an all out brawl. Instead he took a step backwards to avoid being surrounded, set the small blond back on his feet and whipped the knife out of his boot all in one smooth motion. The blade flicked open with a satisfying click that had his opponents freezing instantly.

"Leave." He repeated, his voice dripping with danger, knife brandished sure-handedly before him and glinting in the eerie light. He didn't have to repeat himself again. The gang took off without a second glance. Berwald waited until he couldn't hear their footsteps any longer before flipping the knife closed and stuffing it back in his boot. First time the damn thing had ever come in handy. Doubtless, he'd pay for it later at school but for now he felt good to know he'd helped… whoever this was. He turned back to the cringing boy, winced at the fear in those strange, near-violet eyes even as he wondered why it should matter. Most kids his age—and many older—were afraid of him. He was used to it. "Y' okay?" He was unable to stop himself from asking, though for the life of him he hadn't the slightest clue why.

"Yes, I'm…" The rich kid answered on automatic before he seemed to forget what he was saying. Terror was slowly giving way to confusion—both expressions warring on that completely open face. "Do I know you?" Berwald shrugged, even if he wanted to ask the same question. "You're… no, I know I've seen you somewhere." He looked uncomfortably from side to side, knew all too well the strange déjà vu his new acquaintance was describing. It made him feel awkward.

"Y' sh'ldn't go 'round at night wearin' th't stuff. S'not safe." That sentence was probably more than his usual allotment of words for the whole week. Berwald had never been much for talking. Few people ever bothered to listen, and even fewer were capable of understanding him. He just didn't see any point in talking if he wasn't going to be heard. So when his charge blushed and looked away, seemed to have understood every word he said, he couldn't help but be a little surprised.

"Yeah, I wasn't really thinking when I ran away, I guess." The boy was playing with the hem of his tailored shirt, and Berwald noticed for the first time that he wasn't wearing any kind of jacket. "Thanks for saving me, by the way. I didn't know what I was going to do if those jerks caught me." He was beaming up at Berwald now, head tilted just so, and the elder blond was reminded of something he thought he'd seen in a dream once, a long time ago. Berwald felt the heat rising to his cheeks. He looked away and tried to ignore the strange feeling in his chest.

"S'alright. W'sn't doin' anythin' anyway." The other boy laughed nervously, his smile didn't falter despite the way he was shivering against the cold. Berwald frowned. Something was going to have to be done about that.

"Either way, really, thank you." His words were sincere, eyes almost completely drained of fear. "I've been dealing with those jerks for a while. They already kind of hated me because of my family's money, but ever since I've been moved into home school they're even more…" He trailed off again, expression distant. The kid looked like he was remembering something painful for a few moments—hurt dancing across his pale face in a way that made Berwald want to fix everything. But the expression was gone just as quickly as it had come. He didn't know quite what to make of it.

"Here." He grunted after watching a particularly violent bout of shivering overtake his new companion. He whipped his sweatshirt off and passed over. The kid looked at him like he was crazy.

"But aren't you cold?" Berwald shrugged and shook his head to the negative. And it wasn't even really a lie. He had long sleeves and pant-pockets. He'd survived colder nights before. He'd be perfectly fine. Besides he couldn't stand watching the pathetic looking blond in discomfort, no matter how idiotic it was. "Are you sure? I—"

"Take it." He coaxed, or tried to. It came out as more of a demand, and his charge moved quickly to obey. Berwald stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked away. No one said anything for a few moments, but somehow the silence wasn't uncomfortable. They stood there in the chill air together and stared out into nothing.

"So where are we anyway?" The question was rather unexpected. Berwald had been roaming town on his own for years and the thought of someone getting lost here was a little strange. But he supposed anyone who forgot to wear a coat and traipsed around the poor part of town in a suit at night was more than capable of that kind of thing.

"W'st Side P'rk." He grumbled once he realized his companion was still waiting for an answer. The other blond blinked, that same look of pained nostalgia creeping back into his expression.

"Weird, really? The last time I was here it was because my mother…" He trailed off again, covering his face with the too-long sleeve of Berwald's sweatshirt. "Because my mother died. How odd. Wonder why when I run away from home, I always end up here?" Usually Berwald wouldn't care about some stranger's problems—he had enough issues of his own to worry about for the moment. But for some reason he wanted to know what was wrong—wanted to fix it. "Sorry, you must think I'm such a dork, pouring all my problems at you when I don't even know your name." He flipped emotions faster than Berwald had ever seen anyone do before. The older of the two wondered if that was healthy. "I'm Tino, by the way." And he stuck out his hand to shake. Berwald took it immediately without knowing what he was doing, shook firmly a few times and forced himself to let go.

"B'rw'ld." He mumbled, willing his cheeks not to turn completely red. Tino gasped.

"No way!" The older of the two blinked, unsure as to what, exactly, was so surprising about his name. "I knew I'd seen you before! You're the dragon-bear guy!" He had to admit that, despite the numerous things people had called him in the past, "dragon-bear guy" was not one of them. He must have looked confused because Tino continued, "You saved my life when I was like, four, remember? I almost fell off the slide!" Berwald had no idea what the smaller blond was talking about. He opened his mouth to say so, met those dancing violet eyes and remembered. Once upon a time he'd found a friend in the dark.

Suddenly the warmth in his chest made a little more sense. Standing right in front of him was the only friend he'd ever made. He'd hid there in the playground every day for nearly a year, waiting for the strange, tiny blond until he'd figured out that it was a lost cause. He'd seen the kid every once in a while in dreams, had gotten to the point where he was beginning to think the whole event had been a figment of his imagination. But here Tino was. He wasn't really sure what to do with himself.

"I mean, I guess—maybe I'm wrong?" Tino was starting to get nervous. Probably because of the way Berwald was staring unblinking, trying to put his thoughts back together. He didn't know what to say—he felt a little stupid for thinking of the boy as his friend all these years, even though they'd only met once before, for about fifteen minutes. Did that even count? "S-sorry. Guess I had you confused with someone else." Tino turned away from him, his face bright red. Berwald realized he had better do something or risk this… whatever it was ending before it could even begin.

"No I—I r'memb'r." He admitted, feeling his face get hot. Tino's expression immediately lit up, his grin wide as he stepped closer.

"Really?! This is so cool! I can't believe I finally found you again!" Berwald nodded, simply because he didn't know what else to do when the bright, happy boy was so close to him. "We've got to stay in touch this time! What's your phone number? What school do you go to? Do you have e-mail?" Tino's thoughts were running away with him, the words all tumbling out at once. Berwald may have been confused on what to do, but Tino wasn't. It was amazing how even after all this time, the smaller blond could treat him this way—as though they weren't only a little better than perfect strangers. It was a slightly frightening and yet Berwald couldn't help but smile. No one had ever treated him this way before.

"D'n't have a phone r'ght now." He admitted, a little embarrassed. His parents simply hadn't been able to pay the bill. "No In'ernet either." He'd never been ashamed of his family's poverty before, but standing there in front of the impeccably dressed Tino made him a little more self aware. Tino was obviously rich—what if he didn't want to be friends with a poor kid? But the other blond didn't bat an eye.

"That's fine. We'll just keep in touch some other way. Why don't you tell me your—"

"Berwald! Thank god you're predictable." Berwald turned around fast enough to give himself whiplash, only to find his brother. Mathias was sporting a rather colorful black eye. "Come on, we have to go." Something heavy and uncomfortable was settling in Berwald's stomach. If Mathias was here, then something must have gone really, really wrong. He scanned the high-schooler's battered face for answers, but found none.

"Wh't happn'd." He asked, voice hard as steel. Tino was a silent but comforting fixture at his side.

"We don't have time for this, twerp. Let's go." All things considered, he probably should have given in, but he didn't like going into situations he knew nothing about. He remained immobile, his stare firm and unbroken until Mathias finally sighed. "Why are you so stubborn? Fine. Dad's at the station, Mom's in the hospital, and we need to go." Berwald's breath caught in his chest, his thoughts racing. His parents had come to blows before, he knew but he'd never thought… Something warm brushed against his hand and shook him out of his thoughts. He looked down just in time to see Tino's fingers cover his own, his face bright red. Berwald felt like his mind was going a million places at once. He knew he needed to leave but at the same time, he wasn't sure how he felt about leaving his friend here alone. "Berwald, I'm serious." Mathias stepped forward, reached out to grab him by the front of his shirt. He batted the hand away with an audible smack, glared, and turned to his friend.

"Y' ok on yer own?" Tino just smiled at him and Berwald felt like smacking himself. What was he thinking? He couldn't leave Tino here alone! The kid had no idea where he was, and was liable to freeze to death. What if the bullies came back, what if—

"Hey don't worry so much! The cops are probably out looking for me right now anyway. They should find me soon. At least, that's what happened last time." He sounded so sure, as though nothing in the world could possibly go wrong. Berwald frowned, but there wasn't much he could do about it. Why did a family crisis have to happen now? He was beginning to think that someone up there was conspiring against him.

"Berwald, either you get over here in the next ten seconds, or I knock you out and drag you with me." He looked between his brother and his new (old?) friend, trying to decide what to do. If he was honest with himself, maybe he wasn't really worried for Tino's safety. Maybe he just didn't want to leave the blond again. Maybe he was just afraid that if he walked away now, he'd never…

"I'll find you again." It was as though Tino had read his mind. "I've got to give this sweatshirt back, after all." He raised one floppy sleeve for emphasis, the thing really did swallow the kid, and Berwald was overwhelmed by… something. Some kind of unfamiliar emotion clawing at his chest and trying to break out. He leaned down and slipped the knife from his boot, lifted the hand in his own and passed the weapon on to Tino. He just wouldn't feel right leaving the defenseless boy alone at night otherwise.

"Stay here 'til th' police c'me." He commanded, looking deep into Tino's strange eyes as he tried to think about what awaited him in the near future. Tino nodded back, and before he could think about it too much, Berwald pulled him into a hug, paying him back for that one time so many years ago. He was storming past his brother, his face bright with embarrassment before Tino had a chance to recover from the shock.

"What the hell was that?" Mathias asked as they marched. Berwald could see headlights in the distance, so he assumed his brother must have recruited his best friend (and subsequently his best friend's car) to get them to the hospital. He rolled his eyes, ignored the question and walked a little faster. He swore to god, if his brother said anything more about this, he was going to blacken the other eye. Consequences be damned.

The thought of Mathias looking like a panda for the next few days was almost enough to dim the worry and uncertainty in his mind. Almost.