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Sigrun hummed softly as she ran the brush through Tuuri's hair. Seated behind Tuuri in the hospital bed, Tuuri's head lay against her shoulder, a book she'd been reading from open on her lap. The short, fuzzy strands parted easily under the soft bristles of the brush - Sigrun had taken it from Landspítali's maternity ward the moment the nurse there had been distracted by some baby's squeaky tantrum, and congratulated herself for being so smart. There was practically no snagging or tangling, and barely any resistance at all, more like a massage than a proper hairbrush. Tuuri breathed deeply, asleep and undisturbed. Sigrun concluded that short hair - or, hair that short - was great. She carefully took the poofy remnant of Tuuri's pre-expedition haircut into her hand, watched Tuuri's nose crinkle, and held still as she would before tackling a troll, counting to three before slipping the brush through the handful of longer fuzz. Tuuri gave a little sigh and slept on.

There was no sign she had nightmares.

"Okay, that's done," Sigrun said after a while, keeping her voice low, and putting the brush aside onto the bedside table, stretching to reach it while keeping her leg in the sling that kept it lifted. "I guess I can just keep brushing if you like, if it keeps you calm. Guess it beats stopping and letting you have another stinky underworld dream… because you're back, you're safe now, and if any of those things down there tries anything funny to gets its hands or beak or teeth on you again - " Sigrun shook her head to banish the images. She'd tried - she'd even let one of the hospital's healer mages walk her through a ritual that was supposed to banish the nightmares for good, and woken up with a rune traced on her forehead in blood, but she'd been reluctant to let the others know how badly rattled she was, wiped it off, and the flashbacks had come right back.

The mage had given her an interested but apologetic look when Sigrun showed up in her office again, and said something about foreign gods that were beyond her power, unlike the more easily curable issues that came with regular troll-hunting. Sigrun was glad the woman was sworn to confidentiality, at least. Maybe, if she could bring herself to breach the subject to Tuuri's brother with the help of the hospital's mage, they'd manage to work something out without Tuuri knowing, and feeling even worse and even more guilty about what had happened.

A knock on the door jolted Sigrun out of her thoughts. Her nurse poked his head in, and in thickly accented Norwegian handed Sigrun the medication for the night, announcing that it was lights-out in a short time. He gave a small smile and salute to Sigrun to see Tuuri asleep with her, and ducked back out. She guessed the hospital staff's indulgence partially was because Tuuri had pulled her cutest faces on them, and partially because some of her story had leaked out - someone braidy and proud about being a newly-minted mage hadn't been able to keep his mouth shut.

Sigrun regarded the pills with a sigh, swallowed them down with a mouthful of water, and took up the brush again to start over on Tuuri's hair while there still was light. Maybe this time she'd manage to actually sleep - and sleep without nightmares at that. She hoped so, while Tuuri was there. Maybe she could finally go back to the same old sleep she'd had always slept.


"Okay! Done, I think! You look nice, look here!"

Tuuri looked pleased and happy as she reached for the mirror and tugged on the thin braids that pinned Sigrun's hair back from her face. Sigrun almost missed the scratch of the comb's teeth over her scalp and the motion of Tuuri's nimble fingers braiding her hair. It helped quell the nervousness gathering in her stomach, and the mildly queasy feeling of lingering tiredness from the past night. She hadn't slept well, and although the nightmares had subsided, they hadn't gone away all the way. Sometimes - as the night before, and fresh on her mind - she could still feel the heat of the slavering dog beast's breath as it snapped after them and raked its teeth down Sigrun's leg as she pushed Tuuri into Reynir's waiting boat, and since running had been all she could do… maybe if she'd turned and confronted the creature - Surma, Tuuri had called it - she might feel better. But she hadn't, and had to live with it now. Actually live, not drown in the river of Tuonela or get torn apart in an underworld she didn't even belong in.

"Let's just get this over with," Sigrun said. "Maybe that'll make me feel less like not doing it at all."

"Your hair?" Tuuri gave her a hesitant look and pulled the towel from the mirror in front of Sigrun. "If… if you don't like it we can take the braids out again?"

"Not the hair. The hair's fine. It's just… all new to me. General Eide is my parents." The smile that Sigrun tried for looked fake even to herself, and probably to Tuuri as well, because her face fell.

"I'm not in love with your parents, though. And your parents weren't the ones that got me out of Tuonela, and it's okay that you need help after all that even though it got you a promotion, because I'm here now and it's the lea-" Tuuri's words became muffled when Sigrun turned to kiss her, but she was right. Tuuri was there. It'd taken only one radio call in the middle of the night, originally to get a hold of Onni and his spells, but the radio mage had fetched them both, and Sigrun had been forced to admit that she had pretended to be more recovered than she was, finally. It'd been a weight off her shoulders, especially after, at the heart of it all, had been her arm acting up after she'd hidden her pain. It was how it was usually done in Dalsnes unless you really needed medical attention, but she hated to have to do the same thing again. That'd been only days after Sigrun had relocated home to Dalsnes, and Tuuri had made the trip to Norway with a pile of bags that contained all her belongings from Keuruu, including three large duffels only for books.

"I'm staying," Tuuri had said, putting her foot down on the pier the moment Sigrun received her from the boat. "You got me out. I'm getting you out. It's the least I can do. Besides, I missed you."

"-st I can do," Tuuri said now, when Sigrun pulled away, just as resolute as she'd been a few weeks ago at her arrival. A flush was rising into both their cheeks, and Tuuri pulled her hand from Sigrun's mussed hair with a startled noise. "Oh no, looks like I have to start over again…"

"Yeah," Sigrun said, tilting her head back for the comb and closing her eyes. She was going forward. She was, there was no way around it - but not quite yet. "There's still time before the ceremony gets started, and they can't do it without me there, anyway. Yeah, let's do that."

"No falling asleep now, we'll have you brand-new in no time," Tuuri said against her ear, a smile in her voice.