“Not so fancy,” Dragomir grumbled, leaning against the doorframe. “My parents live here.”
“And me!” Traveller exclaimed, patting Dragomir on the shoulder. It appeared to be a light gesture, but it was strong enough to knock Dragomir onto the floor. “We’re like brothers!”
Face buried in carpet, Dragomir swore loudly. He pushed himself onto his hands and knees, shot Traveller a dirty look, and passed it on to his parents. His face softened - but only a little. “I… had a brother. He ain’t you. Why is he still living here?”
Martha set the dishes she’d picked up back onto the dinner table and helped Dragomir to his feet. “He had nowhere to go! You know that. We’re just bein’ decent. Besides, he gets along so well with your father.”
“He’s a right retard,” Oswald agreed, grinning. “Headbutt!”
Smiling broadly, Traveller charged across the room, head lowered. Oswald lowered his own dome just quickly enough to intercept the hit - and laughed painfully as Traveller knocked him onto the floor. Martha scolded them both loudly, though Oswald earned more serious remarks. He knew, after all, that Traveller could crack his head wide open were the two not careful.
Dragomir eventually joined his family around the table, grabbing the last bun and chewing on it grimly. When Traveller sat down beside him, Dragomir made a point to move to the other side of the table. When Traveller got a mischievous look on his face and moved again, Dragomir stood up and leaned against the door again. When Traveller sat at his feet, Dragomir smashed the remains of his bun into Traveller’s hair. The jolly cyclops began picking crumbs out of his hair and eating them, piece by piece. That seemed enough to content Traveller, and Dragomir sat down beside Pagan.
“Fuckin’ idiot,” Dragomir muttered. He turned to his advisor. “What’re you doing here? I thought you were meeting with Gok. And the zombie chief. What’s his name?”
“Garlic.” Pagan wrinkled his nose. He couldn’t understand how someone could name themselves after foodstuffs. “I’ve met with both. And attended several training sessions for new recruits. And listened to the ranting of a dragon, come back from patrols to the west. I’ve been more than busy enough to take some time off.”
Dragomir scowled. “We don’t have time to take time off - “
“When you reach my age,” Pagan said coldly, cutting Dragomir off, “you make time. I refuse to spend all of my remaining life at war, little boy. I suggest you learn the same lesson before you’re driven to premature senility.”
Dragomir huffed, turned away, and grabbed at a hunk of meat from a nearby bowl. The room descended into moody silence, broken only by Traveller’s happy munching. Even Oswald, usually a boor in social situations, seemed uncannily aware of his son’s foul mood.
Martha eventually broke the tension by stepping up behind Dragomir, giving him a tight hug, and offering him a gentle shoulder rub. “Haven’t seen you much, kiddo. What’s new?”
Dragomir flinched away for a second, but he quickly gave in, leaning back in his chair. “Oh, gods, lotsa stuff. Lotsa stuff. Troop movements, arguments between allies, Non invading the Imperium, rats being assholes, near-suicidal missions from said assholes - “
“Don’t talk too loud or they’ll hear ya,” Oswald said, looking around. “We see them assholes all the time, stupid. Like to hide in the walls.”
Dragomir apparently didn’t care. “ - some shitty, useless communiques about dwindling defences, and a wife who won’t talk to me outside a meeting. ‘less we’re yelling, anyway. So I guess that ain’t talking. Huzzah, eh? Huzzah.”
Martha patted her son on the head as Dragomir lowered his brow to the tabletop. “Surely it ain’t all that bad.”
“I can’t speak as to the relationship situation,” Pagan murmured, “but he’s not wrong about the rats. They keep sending us on wild goose chases that are whittling down our numbers. Not at an awful rate, mind, but their strategic decisions are awful. It’s only thanks to the decisions of some of our commanders that our ‘missions’ haven’t turned into horrifying routs.”
“If your wife’d hurry up with m’arms ’n legs I could help ya mash those inky bastards,” Oswald piped up. “Man, I can’t wait - “
“She’s busy,” Dragomir shot back. “She’s onea the people keepin’ us going without too many casualties. Cut her some slack.”
Traveller jumped to his feet, shaking crumbs onto Dragomir’s shoulders. “Yeah! And she’s really hot, so - “
The touch of Traveller’s hand seemed to scald like a brand on Dragomir’s skin, and as soon as Traveller uttered the word ‘hot’ Dragomir lurched out of his chair, pulled his fist back, and punched the hairy man in the face. Traveller fell back a step, a shocked shout forming on his lips even though he was clearly unhurt.
The room went silent again, Traveller’s shocked breaths aside.
Oswald broken the silence, voice a tad awed. “Guess his balls finally dropped. Wow.”
“Oh my gods,” Martha whispered. “Dragomir the Guard, what is - “
Dragomir didn’t respond. Instead, eyes blazing, he charged out of the room, and out of the house. No one noticed that his face was oily black, save for two green pinpricks and twin tracks of tears. He was forced to cover his head with a cloak - he always wore a cloak, now - to avoid the curious looks of passers-by.
He did not revert to normal for almost an hour, within the safety of his home. Only the rats who came to visit him ever spotted the abnormality.