as icarus loved the sun (too close, too much) @artemiscrock
Prologue

Yusuf is glaring at the man across the fire, wary.

Once they had realized that they cannot kill each other in any way that matters, they came to the conclusion that staying with their armies was no longer safe - they would both be regarded as monsters, abominations. Their best option was to abandon the fight. They’d left their armor on the battlefield, sneaked carefully away from the fighting, and made camp. And now he is stuck with this - he hesitates to call him a man, thinking back to the battlefield, the carnage. He thinks that what he is looking at is more beast than man.

And this is what he's stuck traveling with.

So he glares. The monster glowers in response, though it more closely resembles a pout. They each only recognize a few words in the other’s language, so communication has been sparse and difficult, but the creature opens his mouth to speak, and says a word that Yusuf understands perfectly.

Demon.

He feels his anger spike, considers killing him again. He knows that any death he inflicts will not be permanent. Still, he eyes his blade, fingers twitching. This man, this barbarian is the one who invaded his home. The one who killed his people, callously destroyed his life and countless others, and he dares to call Yusuf a demon? Yusuf's blood boils and, without conscious thought, his hand moves for his scimitar, maintaining eye contact. He sees the Frank reach for his sword in kind, and comes back to himself, taking a deep breath. He releases the hilt slowly, deliberately, and stands, walking away.

Yusuf has never cared for violence, only using it to defend himself and his people, and he will not let this man change that. He can’t. He has had so much ripped away from him by this man and his ilk - home, family, community, even his life. So he won’t let him take this, too, take his kindness and gentleness and warp it, rip it away from him. He will never allow himself to become as violent and vicious as the Frank is.

He flexes his fingers, still itching for the hilt of his scimitar, and looks around. He spots the horses they’d stolen and approaches the one that's become his. He reaches out a hand to let the horse sniff it, and it nuzzles him gently. He smiles at the simple display of affection and grabs the brush from his stolen saddlebag and gets to work, letting the repetitive movement calm him. He waits until he can tell his traveling partner has fallen asleep before wandering back near the fire and laying down, allowing himself to drift.

==========================

They continue their travels, and it is still tense, but their trust deepens, as does their understanding of each other’s languages. They've discovered that if they do not speak of the circumstances of their meeting, they actually get along fairly well. They protect each other in fights and could almost be called friends.

And then, the man - Nicolo, Yusuf has learned - gets drunk one night and speaks of his people's conquest, and he says that it is the will of God, that his cause was a noble one, and Yusuf sees red.

Thankfully, they are in the middle of the desert, so there is no one to hear him when he finally breaks. The dam has broken, finally, and all of the simmering rage he has harbored towards this stupid, cowardly, monstrous man boils over and spills out. He asks what was noble about invading his home, about murdering innocent people who were no threat to Nicolo or his people, about their quest to destroy his home and everything he had ever loved. His voice continues to rise as he goes, until he is yelling, voice hoarse. Eventually, there is nothing left to say. His voice softens to calm, icy rage as he finally throws Nicolo's own word back in his face.

Demon.

And Nicolo looks - in a word, stricken. Yusuf can’t put a name to all the emotions flitting across Nicolo’s face. He sees defensiveness, then horror, then anger, shame, misery, and finally the man looks like he’s going to be ill. He sits in silence for a moment before grabbing Yusuf’s scimitar, which had been sitting in the sand nearby. Yusuf prepares himself for an attack, but the Nicolo just hands him the weapon, eyes focused squarely on the ground. And Yusuf realizes, Nicolo if offering to let himself be killed. Part of Yusuf wants to, wants nothing more than to take him up on his offer. That part reaches for the scimitar and takes it before he knows what he’s doing, and he raises it to strike, hands shaking and stomach turning and furious and heartbroken and disgusted and tired, so tired, and then his mind catches up to him and he looks at the scimitar in his hand, and remembers what he promised himself.

And Nicolo looks - in a word, stricken. Yusuf can’t put a name to all the emotions flitting across Nicolo’s face. He sees defensiveness, then horror, then anger, shame, misery, and finally the man looks like he’s going to be ill. He sits in silence for a moment before grabbing Yusuf’s scimitar, which had been sitting in the sand nearby. Yusuf prepares himself for an attack, but the Nicolo just hands him the weapon, eyes focused squarely on the ground. And Yusuf realizes, Nicolo if offering to let himself be killed. Part of Yusuf wants to, wants nothing more than to take him up on his offer. That part reaches for the scimitar and takes it before he knows what he’s doing, and he raises it to strike, hands shaking and stomach turning and furious and heartbroken and disgusted and tired, so tired, and then his mind catches up to him and he looks at the scimitar in his hand, and remembers what he promised himself.

He will never let himself become mindless, violent, cruel. He looks at Nicolo, his enemy, his traveling companion, his almost-friend, looks at how he’s preparing himself for the blow, sees the slump of his shoulders, and he can’t - he won’t - do this. His scimitar falls to the ground, his hand suddenly numb, his fingers unwilling and unable to curl around the hilt, and he walks away.

He wanders far away, until he cannot see Nicolo, cannot be heard, and he falls to his knees. And he cries. His body is wracked with sobs, shaking. He cries until he is sick, his stomach heaving, and keeps crying still. He does not stop until he physically can not cry anymore. He stares at the stars, at the moon, until he can breathe again.

The next few days are spent in near silence, only speaking when absolutely necessary. One night, as they're eating Nicolo says, almost inaudibly, “sorry.”

Yusuf nods tersely, not trusting himself to speak. He knows that he cannot forgive Nicolo now. But, he thinks, perhaps someday.

I just have a lot of feelings about Nicky and about the work he needs to do to become. well. not a monster. because he was a literal honest to god crusader like he was Evil and he's gotta Work to become good. he needs to make the decision to be better and not make fixing him Joe's job, and Joe shouldn't have to just put up with him being an ass until he gets better and.... yeah lots of thoughts on Nicky and accountability. this is just kinda establishing... where Nicky started in their relationship uhh any and all feedback is welcome, appreciated, and motivates me to write more
1. Prologue 1192 0 0 2. Chapter One 1010 0 0 3. Chapter Two 1478 0 0 4. Chapter Three 2412 0 0 5. Chapter Four 1733 0 0 6. Chapter Five 2894 0 0