Fjord is fascinated with magic, and when Caleb summons Frumpkin for the first time, settles the tabby cat onto the table and the cat preens under the attention, Fjord is instantly smitten.
Caleb is a little awkward, and mostly keeps to himself, but the two of them, yeah, they can make it work.
His throat hurts, stings with rawness and salt dribbling down his chin, and the look Caleb gives him is suspicious and equal-parts contemplative, enough that Fjord shrinks from underneath his scrutiny.
Fjord's heart stutters when he sees Caleb go catatonic, unresponsive, in the aftermath of a flaming corpse (but Molly's there, with a quick kiss to Caleb's forehead, and Fjord turns his head away to give them privacy.)
"We are... the Mighty Nein." Caleb names them, and even though there are only six of them, it somehow seems perfect.
Zadash is big, and open, and new and Caleb's excitement in the smut shop is enough to get Fjord excited about their new surroundings too.
Fjord puts his sword to Caleb's throat, "we're either a team, or you're working for yourselves," and the desperation and betrayal in Caleb's eyes almost makes Fjord falter, but he holds firm.
"I am a fan of calculated risks." Caleb tells him, and despite himself, Fjord's heart skips a beat.
Under a truth spell, Jester's "Who do you find attractive?" almost makes Caleb's name slip from Fjord's lips.
"I think you would look super good with your tusks all grown out, Fjord!"
The tournament is hard, but it's fun, and Caleb sleep spell on the troll saves their asses and Fjord is endlessly inspired by Caleb's magical expertise.
Molly hires some companions and Fjord huddles outside of his room, hunched over his knees, wondering why he feels suddenly so small and yet too big for his skin.
Fjord is being honest, he really is, about his dreams, and how confusing they are; Beau and Caleb might not believe him, but he's trying to be as truthful as he can.
Learn. It tells him, and Fjord follows, curious and intrigued, even with his friends' gazes on his back.
He sees Vandren, and the falchion, and... Vandren taking the orb, and when he comes to, the others are staring at him and the orb is no longer in his hand
He tells them about Sabien and the shipwreck. i
It's time, he thinks.
I can trust them with this, he believes.
He goes down, again, and again, and again, and it hurts and he feels pretty useless afterwards, but the pat that Caleb gives his shoulder when Fjord is healed and back on his feet makes him feel slightly better.
They're all complimenting him, and Fjord doesn't know what to say, until Caleb asks, "are you interested in him?" and Fjord looks at him and can't stop looking, not even when she, flustered, forcefully hands them their keys.
"You look bored out of your mind."
"Yeah, I'm not much of a shopper..."
"Same, same, me too." And Fjord knows that he's lying, because he's seen the way Caleb lit up when they wandered through bookstores looking for books, and tomes and ink and paper, but he doesn't know why.
Fjord is wary that Molly will occupy their room with... more companions, and Caleb's soft, "you could stay with me and Nott," makes Fjord consider, and makes him hope.
Fjord is very, very drunk, and he watches Caleb and Jester dance, their faces bright and happy, and he wants that too, wants it so badly, but when he sees the dwarf woman coming his way, he hightails it out of there and heads for the nearest hiding spot, but only makes it to the latrine.
He's tied up, with Jester screaming into the gag across her mouth, and Yasha furiously glaring at his side, and Fjord tries to blink, to cast magic, but the ropes are snug and too powerful and he can feel the hopelessness rushing in.
The people that have them want to break them. They use knives, and whips, and carve and taunt, and Fjord tries to hold on as best he can, Jester singing in his ear, but the despair is rising up quickly, and Fjord feels useless, useless, useless.
"Thank you... for saving us."
"Ah, group effort."
"Sure it was."
Molly is dead, and Fjord can't... can't handle it. He takes Molly's sword and he makes it his own, as a tribute and a memory.
Caleb is tipsy, so maybe that is why he affectionately clacks their mugs together, and squeezes Fjord's shoulder companionably, or raises a glass in a toast, and Fjord's heart flutters but it also slows, because he isn't sure if he deserves Caleb and Beau's camaraderie, because his weakness nearly got Jester and Yasha killed, and did kill Molly.
Fjord leaves, to hunt down Vandren and to learn more about his patron. He leaves and he goes to the coast, getting information and learning as much as he can. Learn, his patron had said. That's exactly what he's going to do.
The Nein agree to follow Fjord to the coast, and Fjord is still in shock that these people would follow him anywhere after what the Iron Shepherds managed to do to them.
The Mistake is just that, a mistake, and Fjord can't help but feel they are one step away from teetering off the edge of a cliff, following after a notation in a letter that could mean practically anything.
Avantika is everything Fjord has been afraid of. She wants something from him, and he can guess what it is, but if his patron wanted him to meet her, then he needs to play this carefully, no matter the sort of feelings he has churning in his gut.
(After Fjord gets back from his private talk with Avantika, Caleb goes from staring at him intently, something sharp in his gaze, to ignoring him completely and Fjord isn't sure what he's done wrong, but he can't worry about it now, with their heads all on the chopping block.)
"Do what you need to do." Caleb tells him, steel in his voice, and Fjord closes his eyes and nods.
Avantika is obsessed with releasing Uk'otoa and wants Fjord on her side, and Fjord does the only thing he can think of to keep her at bay. He kisses her, and has sex with her, and their dynamic changes but stays the same, a push-and-pull that Fjord can't quite parse.
If he imagines he's kissing someone else, that someone else has him pinned to the bed, well, that's because it is the only way he can get through this.
They make a plan: get dirt on Avantika, bring it to the Plank King, and finish her once and for all.
"Are you sure you are able to do this?" Caleb asks him, when they are alone, Fjord pulling at his shirt self-consciously.
"Yeah. I do what I have to do, right?" Fjord says, with a tight smile, inclining his head.
Caleb doesn't say anything, but his mouth pulls into a white line, and Fjord can't tell if he agrees with him or disapproves.
Avantika is dead, the Nein banished from Darktow, and Fjord would be lying if he said he wasn't relieved that they are finally free of that place and those people.
He wants to find the last orb, find Vandren, unseal the second temple, get the power Uk'otoa promised him, and then he wants this all to be over.
"We understand each other."
Caleb's hand is in his, their scarred palms pulsing between them, blood curling in the water around them, and Fjord feels something shift. Something slides into place, and Fjord feels like he was always meant to make his way to the bottom of the sea, to hold Caleb's hand and to sate their curiosity. That this is fate, that they made it here.
Caleb's eyes shine across from him, and Fjord thinks maybe Caleb is thinking the same thing too.
The scar always itches now, when he's too far from Caleb. It prickles, like a warning, like he's straying too far.
Maybe they had done something, down below in Dashilla's lair, did something they should not have done, but Fjord finds he doesn't care too much, because the itching and the discomfort settles when Caleb is in eye shot, and contentment stirs in his belly like a purring cat when Caleb is near.
Fjord unseals the second temple, and gains the power to control water. He feels high with the ability, and imagines this was what Avantika must have felt like, naked on her balcony, bathing herself. Fjord doesn't get naked and bathe himself, but he does make water droplets float in the air where he leans against the railing of the Ball-Eater. Caleb finds him there.
"Are you satisfied with this?" Caleb asks him, blunt as always.
"Yeah." Fjord says, looking at him, and the ever present itch in his scar settling. Caleb rubs his hand against his chest, and Fjord thinks he must feel it too.
"We should not have done what we did down below." Caleb tells him, opening up his palm. His scar is pink and raised, a jagged line. Fjord's is deeper and darker, from multiple cuts he'd made into it versus Caleb's one.
"Probably not." Fjord admits, looking at his own hand. He wonders if Caleb's scar will heal, and if it does, will Fjord's heal as well? It will take longer, most likely, but if they do, will the tingling stop?
Fjord pulls Caleb aside, after the tower, after Yussa, after they have been on the road heading towards Felderwin for a few days. "You okay?" He asks and Caleb doesn't answer for a long time.
"I feel that we have done something very stupid." He tells Fjord. "With that tower, with that wizard, with this," he shakes his palm out, scar out in the open. "this pact we made beneath the water. I do not think it will leave us so easily."
"Do you want it to?" Fjord rubs his scar with his thumb. He finds comfort in the tingles now, comfort in knowing that when his scar is calm, Caleb is okay and well and in front of him. He likes knowing that he and Caleb are connected this way.
Caleb shakes his head, bangs flopping over his face and obscuring his eyes. "I don't know." He mutters. "I do not know."
Nott--Veth, reveals herself to them, reveals her true nature, her true self, her family and her fears and her past.
Caleb tells them his name, his real name, and about the Cerberus Assembly.
"Do you care about us?" Beau asks him, and Caleb doesn't say anything.
"Are you secretly in love with me?" Jester asks, cheeky and trying to lighten the mood.
Fjord's palm tingles, and Caleb's withering glance settles his rapdily beating heart.
The tunnels are... dark, and long, and endless, and Fjord becomes antsy and impatient, but he is not the only one. Caleb settles into a routine to keep track of the days and time, to keep everyone sane. Nott's patience runs thin and she snaps at Caleb when his routine becomes too annoying. Beau and Jester's antics increase ten-fold, ranging from loudly singing to reading smut aloud, and Fjord has to cover his ears to keep himself occupied. Caduceus grows ever more cryptic and languid, talking to the rocks and the moss and to his bugs, smiling and sleepy and lethargic. Yasha gets so quiet that it seems like she almost isn't even there.
After some time, Fjord starts seeing things. He starts seeing Caleb glancing at him, something almost hungry in his eyes. He sees Caduceus grow several large bug eyes, and Jester's horns grow long and curled.
Stir Crazy, or something, but if Fjord doesn't get out of this tunnel soon, he might just go insane.
Xhorhas is dangerous and uncharted territory, but Fjord feels surprisingly comfortable within the walls of the City of the Beasts. It's... different, to be among people that share his attributes, his skin color, his tusks, even if most of them are full-blooded orcs, larger and muscular. Nott also seems bewildered by it all, taking in everything with wide eyes, especially the beefy Minotaur that strides by.
"He's pretty muscular." Fjord comments, watching him go.
"Yeah." Nott whispers, eyes very round and Fjord realizes she's blushing.
"Are you seriously--?" Fjord laughs. "So much for your husband, huh? You into Minotaurs now?"
Nott's flush darkens and she glares at Fjord, Fjord laughs until his sides hurt. "Well I can't blame ya. He does look pretty apetizin'" Fjord teases.
When he glances up at the others to share in the joke, his eyes catch on Caleb, who is rubbing his palm hard with his other hand. When their eyes meet, Caleb quickly looks away and Fjord falters for a moment.
"Do you need me to do anything, sir?" And Fjord can feel his face flushing with heat.
The fireball is a surprise, and Fjord's palm is like hot-iron, as hot as the burns across his torso and face, too painful to ignore. He finds cover, but his eyes land on a creature in the distance, and the incubus beckons with a long clawed finger.
Join your friend. He whispers, and Fjord can only see Caleb grinning at him.
Fjord comes back to himself only to see Caleb go down to the demon, and then to Yasha, and then a third and a fourth time in succession. He climbs over Caleb's prone body, yells at Jester to pull Caleb to safety, and protectively tries to keep the creature from getting at him.
His palm is red-hot, the scar burns, but Fjord grips the falchion in his hand, letting the pain fuel his anger, his fear, his desperation, and he fights back.
"I'm so sorry." Caleb tells them all afterward, hunched in on himself.
"I'm sorry." Yasha says, eyes closed and face solemn with emotion.
"You didn't know what you were doing." Caduceus reassures them, all calm and soothing. "No harm done."
"You almost fucking died, Caduceus." Nott hisses at him, guilt warring with the disbelief etched across her face.
Caduceus smiles back at her. "Yeah, but The Wildmother gave me something to work towards in return."
Fjord touches Caleb's back, his palm tingles. "I almost fell to 'em too." He admits. "You aren't the only one."
"But I nearly killed you." Caleb bites back, without turning around.
"Like Duece said," Fjord reminds him, squeezing his shoulder. "You aren't to blame."
Caleb turns so that his shoulder is touching Fjord's arm, and then he reaches back with his hand and slides their scars together.
The feeling is so different from how it felt beneath the water. It feels like completion, absolution, something so very, very right.
Caleb pulls away fast and abruptly stands, striding away, leaving Fjord blinking after him, face high with color and disappointment.
With Caleb holding the dodecahedron aloft in The Bright Queen's chamber, Fjord can't take his eyes off him. Caleb single-handedly saved their lives, and Fjord can only gape at him, heart running fast, his palm stinging, and Fjord remembers how right it had felt with Caleb's hand in his.
Oh. He thinks.
Oh, he realizes.
"You are Heroes of the Dynasty." She tells them, tears shining and running down her cheeks.
Uk'otoa punishes him by taking his powers away.
Fjord feels like the world has judged him, and found him wanting. Swallowed him up and then spit him back out because he didn't taste good enough.
He lays in the bed next to Caleb, his breathing too rapid and his throat choked up.
He doesn't dare turn his head to look at Caleb and sees damnation in his eyes.
He only falls asleep after exhausting himself with his spiraling thoughts.
Essek Theylss finds something inside Caleb worth teaching, and takes him under his tutelage. Fjord, now that he knows, feels his stomach twist with unpleasant feelings. Caleb has been fascinated with Dunamancy, and Fjord wouldn't take that from him. But he doesn't trust the Shadowhand and he keeps a close eye on him for more reasons than just suspicion.
"We have bound ourselves together," Caleb tells him, eyes searching, trying to delve into him, figure him out, his secrets, his past, his identity. "You and I. There is... something that has been between us since Dashilla, no, before then, long before." He swallows and Fjord watches him press his thumb into the scar. It has whitened now, no longer pink and raised, but truly a scar, etched into his skin, a reminder of what they had done.
Bound themselves together, Caleb called it.
"I want to understand it, but I want to understand you more." Caleb finishes.
Fjord hesitates. He wants Caleb, yes, has wanted him, for a long time, but he isn't sure if he can share himself to the degree of honesty Caleb is expecting of him. That isn't how Fjord works, and the person Fjord was before was... an absolute nobody. Nobody worth speaking about.
"Let me... come to you, in my own time." Fjord compromises, and Fjord can see that Caleb isn't entirely satisfied, but it will just have to do. For now.
Whatever it is that is between them, be it a blood ritual, a friendship, a partnership, a brotherhood. Fjord has no clue, but he knows that, in time, they will be able to discover what it is, this thing, that pulls them together, and give it a name, a name worth having.
Fjord hopes that day comes soon.