Frithjofr flinched as if Hrokr had gone ahead and said all he wanted to. It wasn’t something which needed to be said aloud for him to feel the hurt and the concern, not when it was Hrokr, and he almost took what he had said back again. Maybe it wasn’t necessary. Maybe he could run away from Gods and time and death, just like everything else.
He swallowed, and felt the dull ache in his chest. Maybe not.
‘Say— say I wasn’t here any more,’ he mumbled. ‘Would you… be all right? I mean, ‘s not going to happen, I promise. If any of the Gods or Daedra try to take me I’ll give ‘em a kick and hide. But I still want to know that if anything did happen, you’d be all right. Y’know, that you’d know you could still be happy and you could take care of yourself.’
All the while he kept stroking Hrokr’s head, as if he were trying to reassure him that he was still here, that he would always be here for as long as he could help it.
Hrokr tried his best, he really did. He held his breath and tried to think of how logical this was, given their age difference and Frithjofr’s penchant for getting into trouble, but he couldn’t help it.
It started as a whimper, but after a sniffle and a hiccup, it evolved into full blown sobbing. He buried his face into Frithjofr’s shoulder and cried, his own shoulders shaking with his sobs.
“N-no!” He managed, shaking his head. “D-d-d-do-don’t… n-n-not g-g-gon-gonna hap-happen! Y-you can-can’t!” It was impossibly scary and painful to think of, and he couldn’t handle it. Frithjofr would never die, not until Hrokr did, if he could help it any.
Kade glanced about the inn before leaning in. It was a stretch, but the most the man could do was refuse him, right? “P-Perhaps tracked is the wrong word… Are… Are you any good at finding people? A-A camp more specifically.” He asked in sotto voce, looking the man dead in the eyes.
The Altmer then shifted his weight nervously, it was risky to ask, but he had been searching for days without any luck. He needed help and who better to ask than a hunter? A very successful looking hunter at that!
Hrokr shifted his gaze away from the eye contact, finding it made him too nervous, especially with how the mer was acting all of a sudden. Finding people, a whole camp?
The thought that this was a Thalmor in disguise struck him, of course, but then refusing sounded like a very stupid idea. He hesitated, before giving a tiny nod and asking a shaking question.
“Umm… u-uh, wh-w-who? Wh-where?”
It would have been so easy in that moment to sigh, lean back into the pillows and leave it there. Curled up safely with Hrokr close to him and home all around him wasn’t a scene Frithjofr ever wanted to disturb.
But he sighed, feeling Hrokr move against his falling chest. He would rather face a legion of Thalmor officers than have this conversation, especially here and now, but if he left it any longer, if he let the memory of the instant the electricity bolts hit him, he might lose his courage.
‘We got to talk about something and I know you’re not going to like it,’ he said quietly. ‘I mentioned it before, but this made me think and…’
Stop, start again. Frithjofr tried to slow his thoughts so that the words didn’t come tumbling out all at once.
‘I’m going to die one day. Not any time soon, if I can help it, not for years and years and years, I promise, but… y’know, thinking I’d’ve left you on your own if things’d happened differently today - that scares me more’n anything else. So we got to talk about it, like it or not.’
And just like that, his immense feeling of happiness and relief was washed away by the anxiety and fear. At first he was angry at Frithjofr for bringing this up, at first he wanted to tell him to shut up and call him stupid. How could he ruin the moment of feeling alright?
But he didn’t, he just listened instead. He understood the importance and the timing of this conversation, even if he didn’t feel ready to have it, even if he assumed he never would feel ready.
“Wh… wh-what….” He didn’t want to, didn’t know how. His mother had this talk with him when she was dying, and it was about being a man and growing up strong. He already had grown up. What would this be about?
‘Sounds like a challenge to me.’
Frithjofr chose to behave himself for now. He had finished the potion, which tastes like an unpleasantly cold and bitter mushroom soup, and wrinkled up his nose. The expression lasted approximately as long as it took Hrokr to move his hand to his leg.
He worried for a moment that his heart skipping a beat was all too literal an expression, after the difficulties his chest had been giving him just walking home, but its thumping died down after a few seconds. It did remind him of another thought, though, underneath the general relief and contentmenent of the situation. Trying to move slowly, he shuffled across to the other side of the bed.
‘Come give me a hug?’ he said. ‘Makes me feel… safe.’
Hrokr was perfectly willing to do that. More than willing, in fact. He wanted any bit of closeness he could get right now, assurances that Frithjofr was okay and wouldn’t suddenly breathe his last breath or anything else terrifying.
He gently got on the bed and moved next to his… lover? Partner? Partner seemed most appropriate, less gaudy than the word ‘lover’, which didn’t really match either of them.
Bringing his arm gently up, keeping the other on Frithjofr’s leg, he draped it around the older Nord’s shoulders. No words, since he didn’t feel his voice would express how he felt in this moment anyway. Something far beyond relief.
Frithjofr shook his head against the pillow.
‘I’m fine. I got you, right?’
He gave one of his old and tired smiles before he took the potion bottle. Although it was only stoppered by a cork, after a few seconds of struggling with it his arms felt tired and he handed it back to Hrokr. His grin wasn’t quite strong enough to cover up his frustration with himself.
‘Y’know, I think I’m going to be an invalid for a few days, ‘n have you to take care of me,’ he said. ‘We’ll see how long I can keep it up before you get bored.’
Hrokr took the bottle and uncorked it without a second thought, handing it back to Frithjofr and giving him a small smile.
“N-n-never.” He responded, and then, since he was beginning to calm down, thanks to Frithjofr’s continued calm and apparent lack of excruciating pain. He still looked… not well, of course, but he wasn’t bleeding or dying all over the place, he wasn’t screaming or crying. He was laying there making jokes. He would be okay, there was no need for Hrokr to be so worried, right?
He reached out and kept a hand on the man’s leg, just to comfort himself.
After working so hard to remember the pseudonym, it took a moment for Frithjofr to realise that, after all his efforts, it was no longer necessary. He frowned and closed his eyes, head sinking further back into the pillow while he waited for Hrokr.
‘I mean… that was what he used to call himself. As a disguise name. Real name’s Sier.’
The worst of the pain from walking was subsiding. Frithjofr was breathing normally now, deep and steady breaths in place of shallow gasps, and he had opened his eyes again to stare at the plain ceiling.
‘I thought… I don’t know. He was… he was good, the first time I met him. I thought he was, anyway. I didn’t think I was that bad at judging people.’ He twisted his neck, so that he could see Hrokr’s back. ‘D’you— think I’m stupid? I should’ve known better, I guess. Never should’ve made you worry.’
He found a potion of resist shock, and wondered if it would help the burn mark if he poured it on the skin… maybe not. It might do nothing, or it might make it worse. He just continued to fret, and then turned back to Frithjofr. He didn’t know if wounds like that could get infected, it wasn’t like it was open or bleeding or anything… he didn’t know what to do, and he was more than worried, but when Frithjofr seemed to regret it, making him worry, Hrokr was at his side again, shaking his head.
“N-n-no, y-you’re n-n-not stu-s-stupid.” He managed, even through shaking lips. “C-can’t even t-t-ttrust Thalmor. They’re… a-all like th-that, a-aren’t they?” He hadn’t met that many, to be honest, but they all seemed like they hid secrets he would rather never find out, not to mention how they all acted as if they were better, as if Hrokr wasn’t worth the effort to even look upon. Not good people, no matter what.
“D-do you th-ink you n-need the heal-ealer?” he asked, since he didn’t know how to handle this.
The burn couldn’t have been that painful, because Frithjofr’s mouth dropped into his favourite disgruntled pout when Hrokr didn’t begin applauding the display of magic. It was a discussion they could have later, though. Right now he had neither the energy to defend himself or the heart to make Hrokr worry any more than he already was.
He heaved himself up a little way and propped himself against the pillows, where he had a better vantage point and could get his first real look at the scar. Marked out by white skin, it followed the tracks of the veins across his chest, all running together a few inches below his collarbone.
After seeing it once, Frithjofr dropped himself heavily back onto the bed.
‘Spell,’ he said. ‘Uh… sparks? Mage stuff.’
The mark looked… scary. Hrokr didn’t know how else to describe it, but it scared him. Maybe because it was so unusual, maybe because it was made by magic, or maybe because it could have killed Frithjofr. Sparks… was lightning from someone’s hands. Mage stuff indeed.
He knew it was nothing but trouble and danger.
“I-I… I m-might h-h-h-have sssal-lve.” he managed, willing away any tears and fighting to keep calm. Frithjofr needed someone calm, someone who could help him, not someone who was going to cry and hide from this…
He moved to a cabinet and started to dig through it, looking for anything that might help the burn.
“Wh-why did… who w-was this f-f-ffriend?” he asked, not knowing what he would do with this information once he got it, but wanting to know anyway.
Frithjofr started coughing to try and hide his flinch, but it wasn’t very effective, not with his eyes screwed up in momentary pain. Why keep it from Hrokr, anyway? When he realised that he wasn’t convincing anyone, he let Hrokr lift back his shirt.
The amulet of Talos was knocked sideways, landing on the new scar across Frithjofr’s chest. Although it was a broad wound, the damaged skin was shallow and already pale, as if it had been there for months rather than hours.
’S all right. Promise. Look, I can do this.’
Hie lifted his hand. Nothing happened for a moment, but then a soft golden light started to glow around it and work its way down his arm. A web of the same light faded into life underneath Hrokr’s hands, warm and tingling slightly.
‘Healing spell,’ said Frithjofr, sounding a bit out of breath. ‘Learned it. Doesn’t hurt as much now.’
“Y-you shouldn’t u-u-use ma-magic when y-you’re… y-y-you’re h-hurt like thi-is.” He said, taking his hand away so the magic would not touch him, giving away his dislike of spellwork in general, no matter what type of spell it was.
“Wh-what made the.. the w-w-wound?” He asked, inspecting it with a queasy stomach and slightly watery eyes. It looked almost like an old burn, but that didn’t make any sense, he knew Frithjofr had never had that before. Was it even a burn? He wondered if he should get a cold, damp towel and press it on there, to help, or if that would just make everything worse.
He flushed heavily and was even more tempted to run away from this woman, but… he couldn’t, not if he wanted to get out of here. He also didn’t want to cry or anything, but she was… she was going far too close to a topic he didn’t want to get anywhere near.
“Um… um… S-sorry.” he muttered, ducking his head and biting his lip, continuing to follow her.
Caoimhe turned and caught the scene behind her. “Ohh… Don’t…” She groaned quietly, instantly feeling bad. This Nord was sure something. She sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, okay?” She said, arms and hands gesturing out to the side.
He just nodded. He didn’t want to drag this out, turn any more attention to his apparently ridiculous attitude, that even a Forsworn felt bad enough for him to lead him home and apologize for upsetting him.
He just wanted to crawl into bed and disappear.
Skyrim hadn’t quite woken up outside the window. A bird here, a gust of wind shaking the trees there, but otherwise it was snow-quiet and sleepy. Frithjofr snuggled forwards just enough to invade Hrokr’s pillow.
‘I thought maybe it wasn’t real,’ he mumbled. ‘Happens sometimes, y’know. I think something’s happening and then I open my eyes and it isn’t. ‘S worse than nightmares, got to give Vaermina credit for that. But it is real. ‘M happy.’
Hrokr had even less of an idea for what to say than usual. He was too sleepy to come up with something smart, so he settled for something honest.
“I l-love you.” He muttered, and scooted the rest of the tiny distance between them and pocked Frithjofr on the lips. It was very real, all of it, and it was one of the best things that had ever happened to him in his entire life.
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