It’s a belt.

The market wove itself over and between the crumbling bridges of Cob Link. The low neighborhood lacked the plazas, sturdy columns, and other public promenades the rest of the city did its business in, but the people below the noble’s sunny levels had shopping lists same as the rich prats. Reid and Vin climbed stairs and rode the rusted cages up to the web of bridges and ropes where merchants strung their wares. Aside from some bristling, most ignored the boys.

Vin eyed a crumbly bit of walkway while his older brother tried to convince one of the sellers to let him look at a distant strip of dyed leather. After some debate, the clothier rotated the clothes line so Reid could examine the belt properly.

“We came here for a belt?” Vin’s fingers signed when Reid finally glanced up.

“The right belt. The right anything.” Reid twisted so Vin could see his hands.

The seller frowned at their signed communication, little agitated beats flaring his nose. Vin watched the seller’s mouth move, making out little meaning beyond suspicion directed at their hands, but the confused aggression making the merchant’s neck cord was familiar enough. Vin sighed, dropping his hands to his side while Reid rolled his shoulders and stepped up to explain.

Reid managed to smooth things over and the seller went back to trying to sell him the belt. Soon Reid passed over coin and they continued to weave their way down the patched bridge. Now Vin asked, fingers moving smaller and closer to his body, “what were they angry about this time?”

“Thieves speech, it uses hand signals. He thought we were thieves.” Reid signed back. Only fifteen, the iron in his jaw as he explained made him look older. “But I got the belt for less than its worth. Real leather.”

“Its just a belt.” Now that Vin was looking for it, he could see the merchants they passed noted the way he spoke with tense eyes. He quieted his fingers.

If Reid noticed the suspicion, and Vin assumed he did as Reid was sensitive to slight or censure— much more than Vin sometimes, he defiantly kept signing anyway. Motions large and loud, he explained, “it’s the right belt, square buckle, too smooth for handwork, made in a –” His hearing brother struggled with the next few  signs. “Factory. From one of the industrial worlds. You have to blend when you go, wear the clothes they do.”

“It’s a belt.” Vin jerked his hands down in the flat statement. But his brother’s passion for the interworld exploration was always a little infectious, and Vin found himself searching the wares above them for anything that might match his brother’s requirements. Vin sighed, at least it was more fun than worrying over narrowed-eyed merchants.

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