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A Language He Understands

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“Nicolo?”

 

Nicolo shuffled in his sleep.

 

“Nicolo?”

 

This time Nicolo groaned, swatting mindlessly at the source of the annoying sound.

 

“Oh Nicolo!” This time, Yusef’s voice was almost teasing, and slightly sing-song in nature.

 

Nicolo made no move to respond this time, still mostly asleep and planning on staying that way.

 

“Nicoloooooo.” He lowered his voice to a whisper, smirking when Nicolo tensed briefly for a moment, before relaxing. At the beginning of their companionship, Nicolo would never have been so relaxed around him.

 

“Hm, you are deep in sleep... I wonder if I could- “he thought to himself for a moment, before leaning in just a little closer, “Ana ahibuk.”

 

He then turned to leave, feeling oddly vulnerable. He didn’t notice how Nicolo’s eyes snapped open, the younger man turning to stare after him

 

….

 

Was it... a dream?

 

Why would he have a dream like that?

 

Turning back over, Nicolo fought back the fond smile and the way his heart fluttered.

 

**

 

He fought to learn that foreign tongue he had once despised, listening intently to the whispered conversations Yusef had with stall owners and villagers, catching repeated words and figuring out what they meant.

 

When they met up with the two women from their dreams, Nicolo was dismayed to learn just how many languages Yusef actually spoke.

 

“I was a learned man before… everything happened.” It had been some years since Yusef had referred to Nicolo’s people as the invaders, possibly to avoid hurting Nicolo’s feelings.

 

It wouldn’t have.

 

Nicolo knew now that they truly had been the invaders.

 

“I enjoyed learning about cities outside my own and the languages that they speak.” Yusef continued, turning to the one who called herself Andromache, saying something in yet another unknown language that made her chuckle, “Had it not been for the war, I think I would been a merchant.”

 

Nicolo could not help but feel the twinge of jealousy, as Yusuf talked so easily with these warrior women.

 

“I should go and get some firewood.” He muttered, knowing that he was practically talking to himself as he got to his feet and headed off in a random direction.

 

And then he heard Yusuf calling out after him.

 

“Σε αγαπώ!”

 

He picked up the pace, not looking back, even as he could hear the smile in the other man’s voice.

 

………………….

 

“Have you ever tried saying it in a language he understands?”

 

“… He would never return the feelings. I will not make things awkward between us.”

 

**

 

Nicolo fought to learn as many languages as Yusuf, travelling with Andromache and Quynh across lands he had only heard about.

 

However, even as he learned, Yusuf was learning as well.

 

And he picked up on them very quickly.

 

His prayers contained a lot of pleas for forgiveness, not meaning to fall into the sin of envy over and over again like this, watching Yusuf speaking in yet another language that he hadn’t learnt. He turned from the most recent scene, staring off into the distance as the sun started to set.

 

“-colo? Nicolo?”

 

Nicolo was snapped out of his internal musings, glancing over at Yusuf, hoping that none of his previous envy was written on his face.

 

“Why are you sat over there on your own?” The other man asked, “Why not sit and join us?”

 

“I would not wish to get in the way of your learning.” Nicolo lied, “I fear I would only slow you down.”

 

“Nicolo- “Yusuf paused, before smiling shyly at him, “- Tôi yêu em.”

 

It was yet another language that Nicolo didn’t speak, but he was sure that it was the same one he’d heard Quynh murmuring to Andromache on cold nights.

 

He had no idea what it meant though.

 

………………….

 

“Again… you could say it in a language he actually understands.”

 

“Câm miệng.”

 

**

 

It was four months later, when Nicolo realised that he probably had deeper feelings for Yusuf.

 

He watched as Yusuf was stabbed through the gut, his own stomach flipping over as he honestly thought he would be sick.

 

Of course, by the time the fight was over, Yusuf was fine, but the nauseous feeling didn’t leave Nicolo for the rest of the day.

 

“Nicolo.” Yusef’s voice was gentle and understanding, “You need to get some rest.”

 

All Nicolo could muster the energy to do, was nod wearily, “You too.” He whispered.

 

“Yeah… I will.” There was something in Yusef’s voice, that Nicolo couldn’t quite place. He lay down, closing his eyes in the attempt to catch some much-needed sleep, after the adrenaline-fuelled day.

 

“Mein ap say muhabat karta hoon.” He heard Yusef whisper, before there was a rustling of blankets and Yusef settled down as well.

 

Nicolo vaguely recognised the language as being the one a small number of people were speaking in this new country they’d travelled to.

 

Of course, Yusef would know some of it already.

 

He opened his mouth, desperately wanting to confess it all, before closing it and squeezing his eyes closed, hoping sleep would come soon.

 

**

 

“Are you really going to do this all day?”

 

Nicolo looked up from his studies, flushing at the sight of Yusef standing over him, “We’re moving again.” He forced himself to focus on his book, and not the way Yusef looked with the sun behind him, “I want to learn the language before we arrive.”

 

“Hm.” Yusef sat opposite him, “It can be tricky learning a language on your home. Would you like a little help?”

 

Nicolo tensed up slightly, “I want to try and manage it on my own…. If that’s okay?”

 

“Yes, of course it’s okay.”

 

Was it his imagination, or did Yusef sound a little hurt?

 

Deciding not to focus on that, Nicolo turned his attention back to the book.

 

“Ich liebe dich.”

 

Nicolo frowned, looking up in confusion, to see Yusef smiling at him softly. “P-Pardon? What does that mean?”

 

“… You’ll see.”

 

And then Yusef was gone, leaving Nicolo alone to study.

 

Ich… I

 

Dich… You

 

Liebe…. L-Love.

 

Ich Liebe Dich… I love you.

 

Oh.

 

**

 

“I know what you’ve been doing.”

 

Yusef didn’t look up at him, uncharacteristically keeping his eyes firmly focused on what he was reading.

 

“Were you saying that every time you spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand?”

 

“… Yes.”

 

“Why?”

 

Yusef finally looked up at him, a soft look on his face, “Why do you think?” He got to his feet, the soft look replaced by something a little more serious, making Nicolo falter slightly, “I love you.”

 

The words were spoken barely above a whisper, but Nicolo’s heart still fluttered, freezing in place as he stared at Yusef.

 

He didn’t hear Quynh stumble upon them, mumbling something like ‘finally’ before leaving again.

 

“W-what?”

 

“I know you really understood me that time.” Yusuf teased for a moment, before nervously clearing his throat, “I have for a long time.”

 

“And… you told me in languages that I didn’t understand?”

 

Here, Yusuf winced, looking a little embarrassed, “Quynh and Andromache called me an idiot for it but… I had to be sure how you felt before I confessed properly.”

 

There was a brief moment of silence as Nicolo took the time to process what Yusuf was telling him.

 

“You… wanted me to translate what you were saying.”

 

“I did.” Yusuf shrugged, “I just… hoped you would do it a little sooner. A few languages back in- MMPH!”

 

Nicolo didn’t know what possessed him.

 

He knew what the Church would say possessed him, but they were the farthest things from his mind in that moment, as he grabbed Yusuf by the barely and pulled him into a kiss. It was messy; it was clumsy… it was perfect.

 

When they separated, Yusuf had an amused smile on his face, “So- “

 

“- Ti voglio bene.”

 

“Anch'io ti amo.”