“Vaaaad..? Kom igen!”
Grinning at the older man’s disbelief, Anssi concentrated a moment before turning into a goat. He stood there patiently as Joakim gaped at him, shifting his weight between his extra legs. The one benefit of being a novelty was that he was getting more comfortable at transforming, even if being stared at was still an overall weird experience. He couldn’t even break the stare - the location of his eyeballs meant that he could see everything from his nose all the way around to his tail, including the browned patch of fur on his otherwise grey cheek that denoted his birthmark in human form.
Somehow, though, the part that made him feel least like himself was how he could see his own ears. Goat ears weren’t as weird as human ears, but it was still pretty weird having them just hanging out there in his field of vision.
“Okej, that is damn cool,” Jocke continued on in Swedish as the teenager morphed back into his normal body. “I wish I could be a goat.”
“It’s not that cool,” Anssi downplayed before pausing at Jocke’s indignant finger-raising. “I mean, yes, it is. And it was a lot of work,” he conceded with a weak laugh that couldn’t disguise the pride written warm all over his face. “But it’s not like being able to turn into a bird and fly across countries. All I can do is jump off walls and eat the recycling bin.” Not that he’d felt any interest yet in trying to eat tin cans; he would leave those demonstrations to the real goats of the world.
“Some people turn into birds?” Joakim shook his head, bald scalp gleaming in the sunlight from the open window. “No, no distractions. Goats are cool. How about mountain climbing? You could have a whole camping trip just going solo, eating grass or whatever, you wouldn’t have to carry a tent, it’d be great.”
The seventeen-year-old plopped down on the black leather sofa and started listing off on his fingers. “Wolves. Bears. Idiots with guns.”
There was a brief silence. “I’d say you could bring along protection, but you know I can’t keep up with that, and Ruben…”
“Would go looking for bears.” Anssi rolled his eyes, idly picking at a crack in the leather. He could acknowledge that in some ways, his brother would be the best choice for a camping trip, especially one where there were no supplies brought along; he was big on survivalist skills. (He was still absolutely convinced that the only reason Ruben didn’t live in a cave somewhere was because of Kaye.) But he would also be the worst choice for several reasons, and his desire to wrestle a bear was top of the list.
He watched as Joakim leaned over to push open the window further, letting in the just-warm-enough June breeze. “You went to college, right?” he asked, not feeling a need to disguise his attempt at changing the subject.
“Sure did, and look where that got me,” the graphic designer laughed with a vague gesture around the small living space, copies of his old adverts and digital paintings stacked in IKEA frames up the walls. He was clearly joking but still Anssi frowned a little, and he noticed. “Are you going to apply?”
“Yeah… I’m not sure. It’s a big decision.” The truth was even harder to admit - he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, and thinking about being graduated this time next year, let alone the empty nothing that came after, gave him a stress headache.
“It is, but it’s not. I mean, you get paid to do it,” Jocke pointed out, referring to the cost-of-living subsidies given to Swedish university students. On top of free tuition, it made for a strong case to continue studying. “So just pick any school you’re interested in, even a little, and either you figure it out on the way, or if you don’t, the only thing you lose is a year. You have plenty of those left.”
“You guess? You better stick around, lillebror.”
Finally, Dagny’s voice came around the corner, followed by the woman herself. She’d been shut in the bedroom when he first arrived, and the only trace of her in the time since had been vague sounds of closet drawers opening or the bathroom faucet running. And also a (non-magical) curse shouted down the hall when Jocke called to ask if she was ready yet, but that was no surprise.
What was a surprise was the huge shirt she wore and the huge bump underneath it. Anssi gaped at his older sister as she dropped him a wink and strode right through the living room into the kitchen.
By the time she returned with her water bottle in hand, his mouth was still open, this time in stumbling accusation. “I’ve been writing you every month-- you never said-- when did-- and you!”
He turned his indignation on to Jocke as the laughing man got up to offer Dagny his hand. “I wanted to say something sooner, I swear.”
“Don’t be an ass; you thought this would be just as fun as I did.” She poked Jocke in his round-but-not-pregnant belly before taking his hand and doing a pirouette around him, showing off the swell of her shirt from all angles. “How does ‘Uncle Kalle’ sound to you?”
Anssi couldn’t wrap his head around any of this. “I thought you said you never wanted kids.”
“Well, ever since I got laid off from the paper, I had to find something to pass the time.” Smiling at his expression, the blonde shrugged before planting a kiss on her sambo’s cheek. “I changed my mind.”
“First rule of a successful relationship: don’t question her decisions, and also don’t ask questions when it changes,” Jocke chimed in helpfully, earning himself another poke.
Giving up for the time being as the couple continued to tease each other, Anssi stood up and summoned over the picnic basket with a muttered Accio. “Are we going, or what?” He marched towards the door, pausing just long enough to settle one of the waiting flower crowns over his hair, leaves tickling the shaved sides of his head. He ignored the comment of “I think we broke him” that followed him down the lägenhet stairs, but couldn’t hold back a small grin when Dagny caught up outside and hooked her arm through his. After all these years with his siblings, he could recognize an attempted apology when he saw one.
She looped arms with Joakim on the other side, and the midday sun beamed down on the trio - nearly quartet - as they walked to the bus stop that would take them to Hägnan’s Midsommar festival.