Jared snapped to attention as Ethan stepped out of his room. It wasn’t full military attention, he was trying to avoid making the situation worse for the kid, but he was being paid to watch him.
For his credit, Ethan no longer reacted to Jared and Javier’s constant presence. They’d given up hope of getting relief, instead taking forty-eight hour shifts watching him. It was rough and not exactly healthy, but it was the only option short of giving the einharjar time alone with him and there was something untrustworthy about two hypothetically dead Vikings.
He was on hour forty and couldn’t wait to get to sleep. Whenever that option actually came.
“You’re dozing again,” Ethan commented.
“No, I’m not.” Jared replied. It wasn’t entirely true. He wasn’t asleep, using sorcery to remain awake for extended periods had the effect of making the person appear to be non-responsive, often without the sorcerer realizing it. If done for longer than forty-eight it was practically sleepwalking. It was possible at this point he was getting to that point. It’s not like he’d woken up a second prior to going on duty.”
Ethan shrugged, “Hey, make it easier to devour your soul.”
Jared stretched, fighting off the weariness. Ethan made idle threats everyday. It was his way of dealing with the situation, so he ignored it. Hopefully, if anyone tried to review the situation it would look like he was taking the higher ground by ignoring the threats.
Ethan had a growth spurt almost as soon as the assignment had begun. Before he’d appeared to be a teenager, abet one older than thirteen, now he looked like a freshman in college. Javier thought it was natural camouflage as he usually hung out with Rob, Helena, and occasionally Eric, though the medium seemed more disturbed by the Viking warriors that trailed him constantly.
Jared had attempted to keep his distance, but it was clear Ethan was suffering from a growing depression nothing could abate. He was spending time on social media attempting to remain in contact with his friends back at his former school, making excuses for his absence and swearing he’d be able to come back soon. Rob hadn’t dissuaded him. Jared wasn’t sure what the chances were, but they seemed slim, yet Rob occasionally seemed to know more than he let on.
Josh had seemed more concerned when Jared brought it up in passing, but he never spoke about it to Ethan while Jared was there and Javier never mentioned more than a short meeting between the father and son.
He started to suspect that something else was up and no one wanted to tell him or the military or both. He didn’t entirely blame them, but it would make his job more difficult.
His only alternative was to watch them closely and hope he realized what their plan was before it made everything more difficult.
Ethan didn’t bother going into the kitchen or finding himself breakfast, he just collapsed on the couch. and stared up at the ceiling. He wanted to berate him and make him eat something, but he was there to ‘protect’ him, not parent him. It was like he didn’t even have a parent the way he usually interacted with his father.
“Do you have family?” Ethan asked, jolting Jared out of his thoughts again.
“What?” he said, trying not to admit how unfocused he’d let himself get.
“Do you have family that I’m keeping you away from? You said you have a brother right?”
“I have two brothers and a sister.” Jared answered, using the conversation to look at Ethan directly. It seemed rude to stare at him constantly and it really wasn’t his fault this was happening.
Ethan hadn’t bothered to get dressed. He’d only put on some exercise shorts which were now really too small on him. Supposedly, that was a style, but not one that Jared favored outside of pornography. He mentally slapped himself, remembering his own age and Ethan’s. That was never going to happen, for one, if it did when he was on duty, he probably would be eaten.
“I always wanted a brother.” Ethan said, “Like back before I was adopted. I wanted a friend that would always be with me. I know that a lot of siblings in foster care end up separated, but I romanticized it.”
“You have Matt.” Jared pointed out, “He’s more of a brother to you than most brothers I’ve met.”
Ethan frowned, “But I wanted that thing… you know, the brothers who are always backing each other up. Keeping family most important because you share blood.”
He couldn’t help but grin, “Look, I am a huge Supernatural fan, as you’re well-aware. How they act isn’t healthy. You can’t based your entire life on someone else just because you’re related.”
“Really? What happened to blood is thicker than water?” Ethan asked.
“Some people believe the real quote is ‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb’, as in, you may accept Jesus even if the rest of your family disapproves. In a conventional sense it implies that those you choose to be close to are more important than those you are related to by birth.” Jared continued, “You have a pretty decent family here. Not exactly a normal one, but you have a family.”
Ethan sighed, “I know.”
The opening was there. He had to say something, “More importantly, there are a number of people who would be devastated if you were to die. Trust me, I know from experience.”
Ethan’s eyes flicked off the ceiling, “Who?”
“My brother. I may have overstated how many I have.”
“I don’t know. He disappeared. Which these days means that anything could have happened, from running away to kidnapping to whatever happened to Rob.”
Ethan grinned, “The answer to that is ‘yes’,”
Jared rolled his eyes, the kid was spending too much time with Rob, “Yeah. Doesn’t change that he’s probably dead.”
Ethan sighed, “Like Rob says, ‘They aren’t dead until you’ve seen the body’.”