It was noisy. Far nosier than I was used to as everyone arranged themselves into the large caravan. People took up positions that seemed completely comfortable for them; Soruke lead with his two 'favourites', Saravi stayed in about the middle surrounded by females, and Shou guarded the back with his mate. How well they guarded while clinging to each other was a wonder, but an amusing one.
From what I heard, the walk would take three weeks through the mountains and snow. Hearing it made me glad the pups didn't come, but it didn't stop me from pining and worrying about them anyway. Saravi told me to stop it, but in her own way probably approved; at least one of us fussed over her kids, and she wasn't ashamed to admit it wasn't her. The three weeks of walking itself, well. That didn't really bother me. It hadn't been long since I'd stopped constantly travelling, so if anything it'd do me some good. If nothing else, Saravi had gifted me with new clothes suited for the travel, and even though it was done so I wouldn't freeze to death I felt completely flattered.
While we waited to get going, a few males strolling past to reach other ends of the group started to give me odd, almost accusing and 'knowing' looks. I huffed about it, staring back at them when they lingered too long, before asking Saravi about it.
“It's where you're standing,” she said simply, then indicated the surrounding women when I still looked confused. “It's an odd place for a male.” A few of the females around us seemed to share that opinion, looking mildly distrustful.
“I can't help where you choose to walk, nor would I want to.” I shrugged. “I go where you go, I don't see why that's so hard for some to understand.”
Amusement glittered in her eyes, but at me or some sort of possible stupidity she saw in me, I'd never be certain. Most of the time those things are interlinked. Then the look was lost as we slowly started moving, the bristling excitement around us taking its place.
It was tiring, but in a good way. Each night we stopped exhausted, but for me at least it meant sleeping deeply. I'd joined in the hunting party the night before, but found my skills somewhat lacking compared to a lot of the others. Much as I wanted to blame it on my half-dog breed, there was no denying that I was far more used to getting my food already killed from others.
When we got the fires built and settled down to eat and sleep, more people started sharing stories. Aside from being with Saravi, there was nothing I wanted more than to mingle with the troupe of entertainers. Samohan, Sorin, Niki, Unva, and Ryoji brought the night alive with singing and stories of their own, but Shou was the one that encouraged the rest of us to share. About anything, old mates, old battles, flings we had, anything at all. And I wanted to, so badly. I wanted to tell a story, but I still felt displaced. I had no right to do it.
Engrossed in my longing, I startled when I realized Saravi leaned closer to me then I'd last noticed, listening intently to the tales being told. Her face was alight with the dancing of the flames and I felt a whole different wringing of my heart.
Finally, I found the resolve to go walk with the entertainers for a while. Saravi seemed surprised; since when have I ever done anything that involved leaving her side completely willingly while our status is still a shaky thing? I walked mostly with Sorin, enjoying his booming voice and air of experience. The more I shared, the more he seemed to approve of me and every ounce of that approval made me radiate with an unnecessary amount of pride. It'd been too long since I'd bothered to be around other entertainers, and the others didn't seem to mind me either.
There were a few attempts to find out what, exactly, my story was that I didn't want to tell them. And my constant glances back to Saravi probably gave them the completely wrong idea; the story was probably the only thing I still had that didn't center around her.
I made the mistake of walking without my cloak for a few days and managed to catch a cold. Saravi playfully berated me for it and I spent a while attempting to be coddled by her, and some of the other females took sympathy and let me whine as well.
When she asked why I'd done it, I said the simple and stupid truth. “I wanted them to think I was cool.”
She laughed and shook her head at me, but she smiled when she said “You're an idiot, Durril.”
We were almost there. The excitement that had lulled a bit was surging back. I'd kept myself with the troupe and they took me in with many jests and took to calling me 'Ruv-Juk', meaning wolf-dog, after I told them about my Romani heritage and my old nickname. I spent most days with them, often bounding back to Saravi to tell her anything that excited me or to share the stories I'd heard. At night I'd taken to telling little tales of my own, but never the story. That was a thing to build up to, a thing that wouldn't be fitting for the first few times someone new tells a story.
The best moment I had on that trip, aside from all the night-time snuggling I could wrangle out of Saravi, was when she laughed at one of my stories. One about being a pup when my sisters were alive and the stupid tricks they played on me. When I heard her I literally had to pause and blush and grin like a fool before going on, and that's when I started to think a little more of the warmth she was starting to show me.
Cresting that last hill felt like an eternity. The excitement was an almost drowning thing, but ahead of us it seemed to completely still into awe. I was bristling and brimming with energy, much to what I think was Saravi's amusement, and when we finally got to the top all of that stilled and I think that amused her even more.
In the valley below us was the compound, sprawling out of the snow yet almost hidden by it. It was immense and stunning and private. The only thing I could have asked for differently was that it was only Saravi and I there, but I doubted the others would impact on us.
Saravi smirked down at me, always amused by my gawking. “Bigger then you thought?” she asked as we started down the other side.
I smiled at her. “Much, but that isn't why I was staring.” My smile broke to a grin when she cocked an eyebrow. “I get to spend time in such a beautiful place with an even more beautiful woman.”