She sees him in the trees before she hears him, dressed all in black and perched on a low branch like an exceptionally lanky raven.
"Ben?" Rey calls curiously. "What are you doing up there?"
There's a pause, and then a yelp, and then with a sudden rustling of leaves Ben is flat on his back at her feet, blinking up at her in surprise.
Rey can't help it. She laughs. "A forest witch who can't climb trees? Or are you just that in awe of me." But he looks so wounded to find himself suddenly on the ground that she relents and holds out her hand.
"Shut up," Ben mutters, ignoring the proffered hand as he gingerly gets to his feet. "And you."
Rey follows his gaze behind her and sees Ylva leaning against one of the trees, near-invisible apart from her shock of snow-white hair.
"I said nothing." Ylva replies primly, though Rey suspects that, to Ben, her look says everything and more. "It was to be a lesson in stillness." She surveys Rey, whose shoulders are still shaking with suppressed mirth. "Perhaps you could do with one as well."
Rey shudders, mirth abruptly forgotten. Stillness in Stockholm meant death, and she's not sure the same doesn't hold true in Silverhojd. "Maybe later," she says instead, because Ylva makes outright refusal seem impossible. "That's ... not why I came out here."
"Oh?" Ylva's eyes sharpen. Behind her, Rey can almost feel Ben trying to sink into the loam. "Why did you come out here, child?"
Rey shrugs, kicks the ground. She doesn't have the words for it, the loneliness that suffuses the grand old house when it's so full of life. If she sat down and counted out the piecemeal family she's fallen into she has more people than she knows what to do with, but talking ... she's still not used to that.
Sometimes she envies Esmeralda, who, for all that she doesn't like the house and doesn't like her school and hardly seems to like anyone else at all has a sort of sameness with Klara that Rey ...
She thinks she feels it with Ben, sometimes, when he's up too late with the lamplight from his room across the hall shining too brightly into hers. She doesn't know what to do with that.
Ylva's still watching her, bright eyes too clever by half. She was wrong, Rey thinks. Ben wasn't the raven, up in the trees. It's Ylva, timeless and odd and inarguable in her kind cruelties. "Well," Ylva says, before Rey can come up with an answer. "I'll leave you two alone for now. Ben, make sure you check the tags on the firewood trees before dinner."
Rey lets out a shaky breath as Ylva pushes off from the tree and heads deeper into the forest, humming a counterpoint to the gentle clinking of the bottles tied to her belt. "Is she always like that?"
Ben hums thoughtfully. When she looks up at him, there's a half-smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, an unusual sort of peace that looks good on him. This, too, Rey envies.
"C'mon," he says instead of answering. "Want to help me on my rounds?"
This pulls a smile from her too. She likes being helpful, and the house is so full it feels like there's never enough for her to do. "Yeah," she says. Stops herself before she reaches out for his hand, though she isn't sure why.
Rey trails after him, the paths still so new to her ingrained in his memory since childhood. She likes being out here with him. Of all of the Silverhojd crowd, he's the only one who seems like he wants to bring her into the forest rather than abandon her to it.
He doesn't talk, much. She's starting to not fear the silence.
At least until they get to the first-marked tree, the one with a raven in it for true.
"Look," she grins, pointing up to the bird. "Ylva."
Ben gives her a strange look, tucks a lock of hair behind her ear and kisses her temple. But he doesn't contradict her, and Rey feels inexplicably colder at the thought.