The constricted feeling in his chest is what wakes him up. His entire upper body feels like it’s being crushed. But the thing that shocks him into action is the sudden wet cough that wracks through him, forceful enough that it feels like he’s going to cough up a lung. And the coughs don’t stop, there isn’t enough time between each for him to catch his breath.
And in his newly-awake frame of mind, it immediately jumps to the memories of saltwater burning up his trachea. The horrifying and all-too-familiar ache of water in his lungs.
He’s back . He’s not done with me. He’ll never be done with me. He’s back. He’s back. Fucking hells he’s back. I still have the orb, he still has me. And if he could get enough air between the coughs that make his chest seize up and the shallow, panicked breaths maybe he could think clearly. But in the dim early morning, only getting about three-quarters of the oxygen he needs, he can’t.
Legs trembling he manages to stand up out of bed and put out a hand to summon Dwueth’var. The ice-cold metal burns in his hand even through the leather grip. He isn't sure what he plans on doing with it just the thought of ' Danger ' mixed with the habit of summoning the falchion whenever he felt threatened.
The door swings open gently before he can try anything though. Fjord snaps into defensive position, brandishing the broadsword at whoever's on the other side. Even though the coughing hasn't flagged in the least and his arm is starting to burn from the effort of keeping the sword raised.
Caduceus pokes his head through the gap, his hair is slightly disheveled with bedhead.
He brings up a hand to rub the sleep out of his eyes, “Fjord? Fjord are you alright? I heard you coughing, are you coming down with something?”
Fjord catches himself on the bedside table, Dwueth’var dematerializing in a puff of powdery snow, his coughs interrupted him, “‘Duceus? I’m-. He’s back-. ‘Duceus, help-!”
Cad rushes in and loops an arm around his back to help steady him, brushes back the hair that had fallen into Fjord’s face, “Hey, hey, you’re gonna be alright. You haven’t coughed up any saltwater, have you?”
He shakes his head no.
Cad puts his other hand to the middle of Fjord’s chest and leans in so their foreheads touch, “Hey, Fjord, I want you to try and breathe with me, okay? Just in and out, big, deep breaths. Can you do that for me?”
The tremors from his coughs still echo through his ribcage and into Caduceus’s hand, “Yeah.”
“Okay,” Caduceus takes a deep breath, “In. Out.”
Caduceus’s steady, rumbling voice is already starting to put him back at ease. His chest still constricts, ready to cough again but he’s clear-headed enough now to start and catch his breath again. Caduceus’s hand firm on the center of his chest helps bring him back. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. Even if it isn’t he’s here now.
Fjord puts up a hand to steady himself on Caduceus’s shoulder, to let him know that he’s calmed down, “Thank you.”
“Not a problem,” he pulls the hand away from his chest to brush away the tears in Fjord’s watery eyes.
Caduceus feels so warm, probably just the velveteen layer of fuzz that covers him but it still reminds him of the Wildmother’s presence, “I-, I panicked, I’m sorry. I woke you up.”
Caduceus frowns a little in concern, “You don’t need to apologize, Fjord.”
He can feel the blush shoot straight up from his cheeks to the tips of his ears, the concern in Caduceus’s voice feels undeserved, “I want to.”
His free hand strokes his forehead, his thumb trailing along the line of the scar that cuts through his brow, “You were under his control for far longer than you’ve been under her protection. I think all of us would be scared about that if we were in your position.”
Gods he’s tired, he could fall asleep like this, with Caduceus wrapped around him talking in that rumbling voice, “‘Suppose.”
Another round of coughs hits him and Caduceus guides him back to bed, “Stay here. I’ll brew you something for your chest real quick. I’ll only be gone a minute.”
If not for the lingering fear of what he may see when he closes his eyes he would have fallen back asleep the moment his head hits the sheets, “Yeah, yeah, sure.”
The fear creeps back up his throat the moment Caduceus’s footsteps get out of earshot. He struggles to keep his eyes open but the fear that once he slips back to sleep Uk’otoa will be able to fill his lungs with salt water is enough to keep him awake. By the time Caduceus comes back his eyes are practically closed and his grip on the waking world is threadbare at best.
Caduceus sits down next to him, “C’mon, up. I’ve got your tea.”
He pulls himself up with one of Cad’s shoulders, “Mm? Tea?”
He eases the mug into his hands and Fjord is immediately struck by how warm it is, the steam hits his nose and he can feel his entire chest expand in reaction to whatever herbs Caduceus mixed together for this, “Yup, tea. C’mon, drink up.”
“Thank you,” it’s still scalding hot when he takes a sip, hot enough that it jerks him wide awake, “Fuck! That’s hot!”
Caduceus still has a twinge of concern in his brow when he looks up at him but it seems to be fading fast, “I’d hope so. I just made it.”
After blowing on it a few times he takes a long sip, the ginger-laced steam opening up his chest as he drinks, “It’s good.”
“Are you?” Caduceus still has a hand smoothing his bedhead back out of his face.
Fjord takes another sip to avoid answering, “I will be.”
“You know,” Caduceus waits for him to finish taking another sip, “You can talk to me. You aren’t going to scare me off.”
Fjord lets a hand rest on his chest, where he can feel the steam and tea working its magic, and guessing at where the orb must still be, “I know.”
Caduceus puts a kiss to his temple and rests his head against his own, “He can’t get you. He’s an ant compared to the Wildmother. You’re safe.”
For now , “I know.”
“Do you think you can fall back asleep?” Caduceus wraps an arm around him.
He sets the mug down on the nightstand and returns the forehead kiss with a kiss to his cheek, “Maybe.”
“Do you think you can fall back asleep if I stay here ?” he amends his original question.
An undeniable sleepy smile makes its way onto Fjord’s face, “Maybe.”
“Maybe?” the worry from the start of this lifts from his brow, almost teasing now.
He yawns before he can get out some clever retort.
Caduceus chuckles and pulls Fjord close to his chest, and guides them both under the covers. Fjord’s already fallen fast asleep again when Caduceus puts another kiss to his greying temple and mumbles a ‘love you.’