“I’ve been thinking about changing my name.”
January blinked at Daughter, not sure if he had heard the older man right. After all, he had been concentrating pretty hard himself, trying to come up with his own way to break the awkward silence that they’d managed to stumble into. It seemed like those had become more and more common lately, especially during times like these, when they were in-between towns and it was just the two of them. Although if January were being honest, he’d found it difficult to talk with Daughter openly ever since the encounter at the prison.
Not that he said any of that. Instead, he just asked, “Pardon?”
“My name.” Daughter repeated, his eyes still fixed on the path they were following. “I want to change it.”
“…Oh.” January… really didn’t know what to say to that. He waited to see if Daughter would explain further on his own, but all he did was keep walking, one hand shoved into his coat pocket and the other adjusting his bag’s shoulder strap. But he must want to talk about this, right? He had brought it up after all. “Do you mind if I ask why?”
When Daughter didn’t answer for a while, January’s heart sank a bit. Maybe he’d misunderstood after all. He tugged nervously at his own bag’s strap and looked at the ground, wishing words would come as easily now as they had at Lowood. There was just… so much between them now, so much that hadn’t been cleared up at all in spite of the few months they’d been spending in each other’s near-constant company. And though January had once assumed that he understood their relationship and what Daughter felt for him, he couldn’t make himself forget how much it had hurt hearing Daughter shoot those misinterpretations to the ground. Whenever he told himself things were different now or tried to ask, the memory of Daughter’s anger and frustration would reassert itself, and January’d let the question die on his tongue.
“I picked the name ‘Daughter’ to remind me of Lucy.” Daughter finally said, though his words sounded stilted for some reason, almost like he had rehearsed this. “But I’ve already gotten revenge for her and I-” The blonde frowned a bit, head lowering just a fraction. “I don’t… really remember her that well anymore.”
January felt his chest tighten- he wanted so badly to comfort him, but what would be okay? Daughter didn’t like to be touched very much, he knew, and January had forced himself onto him too many times already. He wasn’t given much time to dwell on that, though, because Daughter lifted his head and continued. “So I think I should have a different name. One that still has meaning to me.”
“I see.” January said, mentally kicking himself for failing to come up with anything better to add than the obvious question, “Then, what do you want to be called?” Probably something to do with Lowood or Krohiten, he thought, though he couldn’t imagine what.
The older man stopped walking, rubbing awkwardly at the back of his neck. To January’s surprise, his face seemed a bit red. Was he embarrassed-? No, wait, it was pretty cold out, and they’d been walking for a while, that was probably why…
“…Huh?” January stared blankly at his companion, whose eyes were very decidedly fixed on the ground as his face turned even redder.
“December.” He repeated more firmly. “I told you, didn’t I? I don’t have anything else…” Then he stopped himself, seeming to think better of his words, and shook his head briefly. “No, sorry, I guess that really doesn’t explain it very well.” He looked back up at January. “It’s just… I can’t imagine a name that would have more meaning to me than that one.”
Don’t assume anything, January tried to warn himself, feeling very aware of how loud his heart was beating and how alone they were. You don’t want to misunderstand him. But Daughter wanted a name to match his, felt that it was the most meaningful… was it even possible to misunderstand that? There’d be no one who wouldn’t see them as a pair, like that, wouldn’t know they’d come and go together. January tried to say something, but didn’t even know where to begin.
“But I know what I’m asking is kind of strange.” The blonde said, apparently taking his stunned silence as disapproval, “So… if you don’t like it, I can-”
January had already stopped listening, stopped thinking, stopped worrying about whether or not he was making a mistake. He moved on impulse, stepping towards the older man and grabbing him by the coat lapels to pull him down into a clumsy kiss.
The few moments before he responded felt unbearably long, but then Dau- December’s hands were on January’s shoulders and pulling him closer, and the knot that had been twisted in January’s chest since the first day finally began to unravel.
“I like it.” January said when they finally broke apart, helplessly smiling and trying to catch his breath. “I love it.”
December bumped his forehead lightly against January’s, relief clear in his own short laugh. “Good.” He smirked a bit, “I’ll quote you on that when all the jokes start.”
“You won’t have to.” January moved his hands to grab December’s, squeezing them a bit. He was still nervous, but it no longer felt overwhelming. “It might take a while to get used to, though.”
“Well it’ll still be a while until we reach the next town.” He said, though showing no intention of pulling away. “You can practice.”
“December.” January said, almost feeling more embarrassed by saying that than by the kiss; but December was smiling at him, a softness in his eyes January hadn’t seen in far too long, so he said it again. “December.” December took his hand out of January’s to brush back his dark red bangs. “December.” Each repetition eased the tension and anxiety they’d been cultivating more and more. “December.”
In the end, it was almost dark before they started walking again.