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stay up in the branches of ourselves

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As drunks go, Fjord is a tolerable one, Caduceus thinks. They've finally all started to make their way back toward the Cottage, deep into the small hours of the morning, and Fjord is casting about, listing right and left erratically as the group progresses through the Mudtop District and back into the Shimmer Ward.

Perhaps, Caduceus thinks, Fjord is a tolerable drunk because it's not actually that he's drunk. In the hours since the fight, as they closed out one bar and then another, he'd seen Fjord carefully minding just a few drinks of his own. Beau had roped the drinkers of the group into a few rounds of shots, but even with those factored in as well, Fjord has managed not to go too far under.

A loose cobble rises up and trips Fjord, or so he declares, cursing loudly as his arms windmill before he subsides.

"Fuck. Tripping hurts. Making sudden movements hurts. Everything hurts," he whines, drawing alongside Caduceus.

"That's your own doing." Caduceus reminds him, keeping his tone mild but not able to hide the amusement entirely. "You're the one who waved off that healer at the Stone Coffin."

"Nhhhhhhhhhhhhh," Fjord almost cuts in over him, loud and emphatic and abrupt. "Nuh-uh. Didn't like him. Didn't want that. Wasn't right."

"It wasn't right?" Caduceus is interested to see where this logic goes. Fjord may not be fully inebriated, but between the drinks he has had, the late hour, and the fact that after his fight he was brought back to a state most accurately described as "marginal," the only appropriate descriptor Caduceus can think of is loopy.

"'S not right. I earned what I got." His voice goes dark. "I earned it. I won it and I deserved it."

"Huh." Caduceus squints at him. It's not the healthiest mindset, he recognizes, but Fjord is nothing if not an ongoing exercise in the cultivation of self-worth. "Just because you earned it doesn't mean you can't accept help healing it afterward, you know."

"Mmmrrphbrrrrrrrrrr," Fjord replies, long and drawn out, a noise of reluctant acceptance. I know , Caduceus hears, but I couldn't do it just then.

"Besides," Fjord continues, his erratic, zigzagging path bringing him in close again. They're a few steps to the side of Beau and Jester and Yasha, while Caleb and Nott bringing up the rear behind them all. "Didn't want that healer to heal me."


He turns, walking sideways and then backwards, surprisingly well for as impaired as he is. And given that he tripped over flat road just moments ago. "It feels different, y'know?"

"No, actually, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Mmmm." Fjord smiles at him. It's sweet and open and Caduceus doesn't even begin to know how to handle it. "Yeah, guess you wouldn't. You've been healed by Jester, though, right?"


"Doesn't that feel different?"

"I suppose it does. I thought that was just the difference between healing myself versus being healed by someone else, though."

"'S not." Fjord folds his arms over his chest, and comes in close again. "Or it's not only that. Every god's magic that I've been healed by has felt different."

"Huh. I see."

"Anyway, that healer was the wrong god's. Nothing against Pelor himself really, it just. Doesn't sit right." Fjord frowns, lines creasing his face. "I'm not his to heal. Too boring and Empire-approved."

"Oh yeah?" Caduceus smiles at him.

"I'm the Wildmother's." Fjord puffs out his chest, the holy symbol gleaming in its pride of place on his breast, then turns an intense, serious expression on him. "I'm yours."

Caduceus feels all the breath go out of him in a whoosh. His whole face goes hot and flushed. He barely recognizes his own voice as it comes out. "Mine, huh?"

Fjord nods, once, still wholly serious. Behind them, Nott's shrill voice rings out, and Caduceus can hear Jester's bubbly laugh from a few feet away. There's an artificial brightness to it; he knows she's still concerned about how Yasha behaved in the pit, and she's trying to help the best way she knows how. But there's a moment of silence wrapped around himself and Fjord that's almost physical. It stretches between them until he can't bear it any longer.

"Do you...want me to heal you, then?"

Fjord shakes his head, looking down at his feet as he walks. "I'll be fine. Sleep it off, wake up right as rain."

"What if I want to heal you?" Caduceus tries.

Fjord frowns, looking a little uncertain.

"If you're-- if you're mine," and he can't help the way his voice drops and curls around the word, "shouldn't I get a say in it?"

He gets a grunt in response that might be irritated if there were any heat to it.

"I don't like to see you in unnecessary pain."

Another grunt, but Caduceus can read the capitulation in the set of his shoulders and knows he's got more to say, as soon as he can figure out how to say it.

"We're almost back to the cottage. If you really want to and you've got some spells left, just say the word once we're back in our room."

"What am I-- which word is that?"

"Anything," Fjord says, after a beat of silence, and laughs a little, looking up at the sky. "Say anything and I won't say no."

Caduceus watches Fjord in silence as they both walk. Down the road, he thinks he can see the lights of the cottage just coming into view. It takes a couple of tries before he can get the words out, his voice swooping low again. "Anything, huh?"

Fjord's golden eyes are wide in the darkness between streetlamps.