Eruviel twisted her mouth to one side in thought. Crouching down beside him she switched three of the smaller tiles around. “Maybe . . . no, no,” she corrected herself with a shake of her head, putting the tiles back where he had had them. “This is better.”
Eirikr chuckled and rubbed his beard. “You think so? Anya’s the one in our family that’s got the eye for that sort of thing.”
Eruviel struggled to keep back a smile. “Well, to be honest I put them back because I didn’t want to tell you I thought it looked better the other way . . . . This arrangement is not bad, though,” she added hastily.
Eirikr raised both brows. “Er…really?” He waved his hands towards the tiles. “Well, show me again, then . . . I guess . . . .”
Eruviel nodded and reached forward to switch the tiles around, moving four this time. “There. What . . . do you think?” she asked, sitting back, looking from him, to the tiles and back.
Eirikr pursed his lips together and looked up for Abiorn’s opinion. “Abbi!” he called when he saw the boy had snuck off.
Reluctantly, Abiorn poked his head out of Anya’s room. “Uh, yes?”
Eirikr motioned at the tiles. “Do you like this pattern?” he asked.
Eruviel rose to her feet, snickering as she stepped to lean against the wall, giving the boy room.
Abiorn padded out of the room begrudgingly and looked at the pattern. “Sure. It’s great. Worth its weight in mithril.”
Eirikr rolled his eyes and pointed to a bucket sitting in the corner. “Go fill that a quarter of the way with water. Just a quarter! Too much and you’ll ruin the mix.”
Eruviel’s brow creased slightly as she looked down at Eirikr. “Are you sure you like this arrangement better?”
Abiorn rolled his eyes and did as he was told.
Eirikr nodded and rubbed his eyes. “Yes. It’s fine.” He walked over to where another bucket sat full of thick, powdery mix. He rolled his shoulder and the edge of a scar poked up from beneath his collar.
Eruviel averted her eyes at the sight of the scar, looking for the bag of tools she had left the previous day. “Do you have the tools for spreading the mud?”
Eirikr nodded and pushed to his feet. “They’re over here.” He went to the fireplace and pulled out two trowels. “I figured Abbi could spread some. That doesn’t require a steady ha-hello, there, Abbi.” He smiled at his brother as he returned with the water.
Abiorn struggled a bit with the bucket but grinned. “‘ello.”
Eruviel shot Eirikr an amused glance before stepping towards the bucket of powder. “Shall I mix it then?”
Eirikr arched a brow at her. “Do you know how?”
Eruviel bit the corner of her mouth and shrugged. “I can make an educated guess.” She reached out a hand towards the bucket Abbi hefted, and the boy eagerly surrendered it to her. “How much do I need?”
Eirikr looked to her, straight-faced, and responded, “Enough to create a thick, smooth paste. It can’t be too thin, or the tiles won’t set right.”
Eruviel nodded, easily bearing the bucket’s weight as she carried it over to the table. “I think I can manage that,” she replied with a smile. Taking up a scoop she looked around. “Is there a thick stick or spoon I can use to stir it with?”
Eirikr nodded and tossed her a stick. Abiorn ducked even though he was quite safe from the path of trajectory, and Eruviel snatched it out of the air, nodding in approval at the throw. Stick in one hand she stirred in one scoop at a time, taking care to mix each in completely before adding another.
Eirikr grinned and tousled Abiorn’s head as he moved for the door. “I’ll go get more tiles.”
Abiorn ducked away from his brother’s hand and shuffled over to Eruviel. “Hey, there,” he said as he watched her mix the mud. “That looks delicious.”
Eruviel held onto the edge of the bucket with her free hand, the muscles in her right arm strained as she stirred the quickly thickening mix. “Would you care for a taste?” she asked with a chuckle, lifting the stick out of the mud.
Laughing, Abiorn stuck his finger into the paste. “Mmmm!” he said as he raised it to his lips. At the last moment he darted his hand forward and dabbed it on her nose.
Eruviel let out a small cry in surprise, laughing as she ducked back too late. “Why you . . . !” She quickly dipped her finger in the mud, splotching a bit on his cheek.
Abiorn laughed and dug his hand into the bucket. He flung a fistful at Eruviel as he backed away quickly. Eruviel stepped back as the mud sailed through the air, and raised an arm to protect her face. The mud splattered over the front of her white summer shirt, and looking down with a gasp she leapt forward with a grin, taking a clump of mud from her neck and smearing it over the side of Abbi’s face.
Abiorn shouted between fits of laughter. “I give in! I give in!” He caught her wrist and wiped the mud from his face. “Mm mmm. Good stuff.”
The door swung open and Eirikr stopped short at the sight of them bedaubed with mud. “Wha-?”
Laughing, Eruviel stepped back from Abbi, her cheeks flushing pink. Looking down at the soaked and stained front of her shirt she gracefully moved back over to the bucket, beginning to stir again with a failed attempt at an innocent smile pasted onto her face. “It is almost done,” she hummed.
Eiriikr glared at Abiorn. “Uh huh.” He set the tiles down and then shoved the trowel at his brother. “Scrape that off your face and start in the corner, will you?” he said, shaking his head with a sigh.
Abiorn grinned and took the trowel.
Eruviel wiped another glob of mud off of her and flicked it into the tub with a soft plop. Satisfied with the mix she scraped off the stick she handed it to Eirikr. “You shouldn’t have to get dirty, gwador,” she said, her sweet tone coating her smirk as she placed a delicate, muddy hand on his arm. “I’ll help Abbi scrape.” Turning, she carried the heavy bucket over to the boy.
Eiriikr looked at the hand print on his arm for a moment before laughing. “Fair enough.” He tossed her the other trowel even as she turned her back to him.
Setting the bucket down she glimpsed the trowel heading for her head out of the corner of her eye. Smoothly leaning back, she caught it just in time, not a bit of concern on her face. Scooping out a bit of mud she started opposite the corner from Abbi, the bucket between them.
“Don’t hesitate to lay it on thick,” said Eirikr, a grin spreading across his face. He waited for them to put a layer down before moving forward to start setting the tile.
Eruviel moved out of his way, wiping a slight gleam of perspiration from her forehead with her forearm. As he set the last tile she quickly leaned forward, using the back of her trowel to tap down the corner of a tile that tilted just a smidgen out of place.
Abiorn grinned. “Keep an eye on him, Eru,” he quipped with a chuckle as he laid more mud in front of the fireplace.
“Abbi, stop being such a smart-ass,” Eirikr muttered as he edged the hearth with tiny alternating triangles of tile.
“I wonder where he get’s it from,” Eruviel mused with a smirk, careful not to kneel in her work as she spread a fresh, even layer of mud.
Eirikr blinked several times. “Not from me. I mean . . .” he shot a glance at Eruviel. “He gets it from me?” He looked over at his brother curiously.
Abiorn continued to spread the mud carefully despite his seeming disinterest and lack of concern for the project. He bit his lip as he carefully rounded the corner with the trowel.
Eruviel smiled, shooting him an amused look out of the corner of her eye. “Don’t pretend to look so bewildered,” she teased, scooting back as she spread out another section of mud.
Eirikr contemplated her comment for a moment. “I don’t cuss like a sailor, though. He didn’t get that from me,” he responded in a low voice.
“You know I can hear both of you,” Abiorn muttered
Eruviel leaned forward to tap down one tile, then another. “I was not forgetting you, gwador,” she chuckled. “And I curse too, just in small doses when in appropriate company . . . mostly when I am alone.”
Abiorn snorted. “It’s no fun when you’re alone.” He shoved the bucket down the floor with his foot and scooted along after it.
Eirikr sighed and carefully placed more tile. “Really, Abbi. Listen to the Elf.”
Eruviel rolled her eyes, biting back the temptation to mimic his words like Abbi had earlier. “Besides, there are better things to be said than curses,” she noted with a small smile, her elven accent seeping into her inflection.
Abiorn licked his lips as he finished another section. “Like what?” Eirikr glanced at Eruviel to hear her response as he continued to lay tiles.
Eruviel softly bit the inside of her cheek as she scratched away a bit of dried mud from under her eye. “Well, shoot me an insult, Abbi,” she said matter-of-factly. Eirikr chuckled.
Abiorn pursed his full lips and says, “Well, now that you’re asking me to . . .” A beat passed before he said, “How about ‘you’re a shite-eating grub grabber’?”
Eruviel’s pointed ears flushed red as she glanced to Eirikr. Leaning forward to look around the older man she narrowed her eyes dangerously at Abbi. “The wrong response would be, ‘Keep your damn mouth shut, you flat-eared gate bird.'” Her face then melted into a controlled calm, her green eyes only narrowed slightly as they gleamed. “Or I could say, “I have not time for your petulance. And if that is the best insult you have then go find yourself an orc.” She sat back quickly and returned to spreading mud, frustrated that her initial final response had fled her. No good at all.
Eirikr burst into laughter. Sitting back on his heels, he laughed until he had to wipe the tears from his eyes. “Bema bless us, I’ve missed you, Eruviel.”
Abiorn looked absolutely shocked. “You . . . I. . .” he hummed and lets the mud slide from the trowel to the floor.
Eruviel chuckled softly, her cheeks and ears turning a shade darker. “It was not a very good example,” she muttered, wiping the mud from her left hand onto the side of her already ruined shirt.
Abiorn shook his head. “No, no . . . it was a good example . . .and um . . . yeah.” He leaned over and spread the mud that fell from the trowel rather distractedly.
Eirikr continued to chuckle. “Let’s finish this section and then we’ll call it a day’s work. We can finish tomorrow, Abbi.” He shook his head and laughed again.
Eruviel spread out the last bit on her side, then gently tapped down tiles to secure and level them as Eirikr laid them out. “I can help tomorrow too, if you would like the extra set of hands.”
Eirikr looked at Eruviel with a grateful expression. “I’d like that. And Abbi can continue his argument that speaking like an uneducated street rat is a good idea.” Abiorn glared at Eirikr and scraped the trowel off into the bucket.
Eruviel scraped the mud off of her own trowel and retrieved a spare linen from the cupboard. “Dampen the cloth and cover the bucket. It should keep the mud good over night.” She then nodded, her smile a bit brighter after hearing Eirikr laugh. It had been a long time since she’d heard that sound. Far too long. “I will be here in the morning then. Thank you for letting me help out.”
Eirikr held out his hands. “Thank you for helping.” He gave Abiorn a pointed look as the boy dipped the cloth in the left over water. “We both appreciate it very much.”
Eruviel hesitated only a moment before giving the man a hug. “Of course! I am always happy to help with anything.” She turned her head, giving Abbi a grin and sisterly wink.
Abiorn nodded in agreement, though he still looked a bit sullen. “Yeah. Thanks for coming by Eruviel.”
“See you tomorrow, Eru. Thanks again,” said Eirikr as he moved out of her path.
Eruviel beamed a smile up at him. “Have a good night, brothers. Give Anyatka my love!”
Eirikr nodded. “We will.” Opening the door for her he clasped her gently on the shoulder as she passed by.
Eruviel set her opposite hand atop of his for a moment as she walked out, nodding up to him. “It is good to hear you laugh again,” she commented quietly, nodding before moving onto the porch.
Eirikr followed her outside as Abbi began to clean off the trowels. “It is good to have something to laugh about. I think for a long time I forgot how,” he admitted.
Eruviel rubbed her hands together, dried pieces of mud flaking off. “I am glad you remembered. It suits you better,” she said with a soft chuckle. Looking up at his face the question in his eyes made her remember what she had forgotten all day; what she had been trying to forget for weeks. And his contrite smile told her she would have to, no, need to remember. She knew she couldn’t hide it. She couldn’t with Anya, and she couldn’t with him.
“How are you holding up?”
(RP taken from chat logs, edited for grammar, tense, and detail)