I’m surprised that he wanted us to do today’s lesson by the pool. I know he doesn’t swim so this is a little confusing. Still, I can’t refuse him when he asks if I consider that he rarely, nearly never asks for anything at all in the long run. He’s such a quiet soul, you could almost forget he exists. He’s never asked for a particular theme for our suppers, he’s never complained about anything, he’s never much of anything, he’s so keep to himself, so quiet.

So last time when he said he thought maybe spending our next ‘session’ up here by the pool would be nice, I sure as hell couldn’t say no. If he wants to spend time by the pool I’ll be happy to spend that time with him. It’s for him that we’re meeting up this way anyway so I can continue to help him along the pathway to a stronger mind barrier. I’m sure he’d appreciate spending another session in the tanks but he hasn’t been brought up. I leave it to him to decide what he wants from life.

Another thing that surprised me is when I came up here, he was already sitting by the pool with his legs in the water. I’ve never seen him wear anything other than pants and I’ve never seen him roll those pants up at all. The twins wear shorts during the heat of the summer but not Armin, I know it’s more than likely because of his leg, I know he’s afraid still of being judged and I can’t fault him for that. So to see him with his legs in the water, wearing what did look to be shorts, I was very surprised. Pleased that he trusts me this much but surprised that he did actually own a pair of shorts at all.

When I settle next to him, he smiles up to me before he looks down to the water. I tilt my head to the side and I take off my sandals and drop my legs into the freshness. I’m glad we had the temperature controller installed. It’s much better this way. “I’m surprised you wanted us to meet up here, Armin, but I’m pleased you did. Water is a good companion to anyone.” It is to me and to Mira, I know Agni likes water though he wouldn’t want to swim in there alone. Lex is something of a fish though he prefers to swim alone and (with me on the side) and usually bared.

He smiles up to me before he lightly kicks his legs in the water and chuckles. “I thought it would be different. I guess I’ve been thinking about learning to swim. I don’t mean to ask you to teach me, this is just a thought I’ve had.”

“I would be happy to teach you to swim, really. You know that no one in this building will judge you for how you look.” I speak the words as honestly as I can. I know they’re a lie but the one person who might judge him never comes up here to the roof and she’s rarely around lately as it is either. He shrugs and looks up to the sky beyond the slightly tainted glass of the greenhouse-like setup we have around the whole pool.

We stay in silence for a while, I feel like this is what it should be, I don’t want to disturb him when he looks as thoughtful as he does. “I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot lately. I don’t remember much from them other than the basic stuff since they didn’t really spend much time at home with me. If I bring them up to the top of my memories, would you have any ways of knowing if my father really is my blood father?”

I know what he’s asking. I could prod into his memories to find more about his parents, his blood would speak to me. What he wants to know, though, is if the man who raised him is the man who fathered him. A simple enough blood test would tell him that much but I can’t imagine he’d want to go through all that trouble.

I smile down at him and I shake my head gently. “I could in a way, Armin, but I don’t think it would give you the answer you’re looking for. I still don’t know how far up your lineage goes. I don’t know if it was your father who was gifted or even your mother, if it wasn’t one of their parents. Your gift is strong, it’s not diluted too much so I’m thinking it’s either your parents or theirs but I wouldn’t really be able to tell you exactly.”

As if to help the message along that I’m sorry I can’t really give him the answer he wants, I reach out, brush my fingers along his cheek. He sighs and leans into the touch and something breaks in my heart a little. Every time I do this he reacts this way, he just leans against the touch as if he was starved for affection. I wish I could give him more but it’s really not my place. Lex wouldn’t hold it against me but I don’t want to give Armin any false hopes though I think he would know better.

“So tell me again how this gift thing really works. It is handed down from a parent to the child so in a way it has to be either my father or my mother, or whoever my mother might have slept with, believing he was my father. I don’t think my father has ever shown signs of this kind of gift, nor has my mother..”

His words are soft but steady. I ease my hand away and I take off my shirt before I slip into the pool as a whole. These shorts are light, they’ll dry easily and I had nothing in my pockets, I’m not much worried about that. I turn to face him and he blinks at me, his eyes a little wide, startled by my motions. I laugh softly and shake my head.

Along his surface thoughts, I gather snippets of information about Agni and Mira and even Zora, about how their gifts seem rather random and I can’t help another gentle laugh. I gather some water in my hands and I empty it over his head, he laughs, startled as well and I grin.

“Well it is rather simple, really. Gifts are birthrights. That’s the short answer. The long answer is a bit more complex, imagine it this way. I don’t know exactly how the Bachchan’s family gifts go—I caught that from your wandering thoughts—but I imagine it’s something like this: One grandparent could be a wind-gifted soul and the other water. The child could be both or one, or the other, there’s no way of knowing really. The other set of grandparents could be earth-gifted and their counterpart fire. So in the long run, when children are born, usually both gifts are in their blood but only one takes place, one dominates the other and the other remains dormant. When these adults have children of their own, all gifts are handed down to the children but only one awakens.”

I pause to let that sink in and watch his eyes as he takes in that information, he nods and I go on.

“In some rare cases, though I’ve only ever met one in all of my years and I think Lex might have only ever met two himself, the gifts battle for dominance and both are strong in the body so both are present. It makes things much more difficult to handle, having to learn to control two gifts at once. In the case of the young woman I’d met, she was born of a demon who held control over chaos and her mother was a demon gifted with water. There were a lot of typhoons and huge tropical storms happening while she grew up, it wasn’t pretty.”

Again he nods and I hold out my hand as I step back slightly. I try for my most charming smile and he tilts his head to the side in curiosity. “Come on into the water, I promise we won’t go too far and I’ll keep you safe from anyone who might try to do us any harm.”

I can’t help the soft, playful grin that I feel settling on my face. He nods and he takes his shirt off. My breath catches at the sight of the scars on him. I’d never really expected them. He smiles at me though it is a sad smile as he drops the shirt down next to him. “Oh Armin I never would have thought-“

He shakes his head, a shrug to his shoulder and he holds both his arms out. I know this is just his way of asking me to help him into the water but this is beyond me and I step closer, pulling him into a fierce sort of hug. He laughs, a startled sound but he hugs me back as tightly as he can. I can’t help myself, I just want to protect him to the end of the world, I feel like I was just given a chance at having a kid brother to look out for.

When I release him, though only partly, he smiles up at me again, his smile is warm and open and I pull him gently into the water. At first he looks uncertain but when his gaze meets mine, I can see how much he trusts me and it’s like I’m all over the place with wanting to keep him so absolutely safe that I don’t know what to do with myself.

I will keep him safe. This I promise to myself and I vow to uphold. I’ll never let anything harm him so long as I can help it.


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