Riz ducked low, narrowly avoiding Fabian’s attempted grapple via his battle sheet. He could feel the wind of the sheet sweep past his back, raising the hair along his arms in warning. But there was no time to relish in his victory, as Fabian wasted no time in darting back towards Riz with a dulled version of Fandrangor.
Riz, still low to the ground, sprung into a roll, body connecting solidly with the training mat as he pushed himself back up. Fabian recovered quickly from the missed attack, readying his sheet for a larger arc that would no doubt capture his friend. Seeing this, Riz lunged towards the half elf’s legs, hooking his hands into Fabian’s shins and pulling him towards the ground. Caught off guard, Fabian stumbled back and fell, almost pinning Riz underneath him. As Fabian reached out an arm to grab onto Riz, the goblin scrambled away from the hold, pointed claws catching flesh and ripping on instinct. Fabian’s slight pained wheeze was too soft for Riz to hear over the sound of his heart racing from adrenaline. He was almost out of the hold when Fabian’s leg hooked around his, and the half elf flipped them, pinning the goblin firmly under him.
Riz squirmed in the grip, but Fabian was firmly planted on his body, his efforts halted in place by his friend’s strength. Both boys were tired and sweaty, Riz’s cheeks stained pink from the exertion (and perhaps the fact that Fabian was currently pinning him to the ground, but let’s not dwell on that). It was only after Porter announced Fabian as the winner of the spar that Riz noticed the claw-shaped gashes on his friend’s arm.
“Holy shit, Fabian,” was the only thing Riz could think to say as he looked helplessly up at his friend- best friend- who he had just hurt.
To Riz’s confusion, a proud, if not slightly smug, look appeared on the half-elf’s face.
“I was pretty good, huh, the Ball?”
“Not that- goddammit Fabian, you’re bleeding,” Riz finally said, exasperated.
Fabian’s eyes flitted to the wound, shallow scratches bleeding sluggishly, and he shrugged.
“Yeah, I know. I’m good though, it’s just a scratch,” he said casually.
“Just a scratch? You’re bleeding! I made you bleed.”
Fabian’s face went soft and crinkled with exasperation and fondness in that way that did confusing things to Riz’s heart.
“The ball- Riz- I’m fine. Okay? I can handle a little scratch. Don’t beat yourself up about this. That’s my job,” he said that last bit after a moment’s hesitation, accompanying it with a wink that left the sea-salted feeling of his bardic inspiration flowing over Riz.
Riz groaned, but a smile still pulled at the corners of his mouth.
“I don’t know who has been teaching you those puns, but they need to be stopped.”
Fabian laughed, the sound filling Riz’s chest like light.
“You love it.”
The flush on Riz’s cheeks came back full force, and he deigned not to answer.
“Alright, give me your arm,” he said, rolling his eyes at the bard’s antics.
Fabian arched an eyebrow but obeyed.
“What, after all this time you’re finally deciding to take me up those dancing lessons?” He teased.
Riz snorted as he ripped open an alcohol patch and guided his friend to an empty bench in the gym.
“No, I’m just patching up your arm,” he said, unzipping his backpack and pulling out his first aid kit.
Fabian’s smile dimmed, but he made no move to pull his arm away.
“Riz, uh, you don’t have to do this. It really wasn’t your fault. I get hurt in sparring all the time, so I don’t want you to feel guilty,” he said, not meeting Riz’s eyes but brow furrowed in a that stubborn way Riz knew meant he wasn’t giving up easily.
Riz began to wrap the cuts after cleaning them, winding the medical tape around Fabian’s arm with a steadiness he did not feel.
“I’m not doing this because I feel guilty, I’m doing this because you’re my friend and you’ll probably get it infected if I don’t step in,” he said, matching the half-elf’s stubbornness with a determination of his own.
Riz watched the fight drain out of Fabian as he relaxed in Riz’s gentle grip. Strangely, the half elf wasn’t meeting his eyes. Riz finished bandaging the wound after a few more seconds, but, for some reason, he....didn’t want to let go. ...Not yet. He told Fabian he didn’t feel guilty, so why did he feel like he could do something more? This wasn’t like the guilt Riz had felt minutes earlier, the churning mix of shock and horror as he saw the evidence of injuries from his claws lain across his friend’s already scarred skin. This was...purposeful.
This wasn’t just wallowing, just wishing he could do something helpful. This made him feel like he could do something. His body felt like it was buzzing, alive with a static, pinpricked sensation that traveled from his chest to the palms of his hands. There was a wisp, a thread of something inside of him, just out of reach. Curiosity and caution warred in his mind. But Riz had never been very good at resisting a good mystery.
Blinding starbursts of images and feelings bombarded Riz’s mind, the sensations nearly knocking him back from the force of it. He was dimly aware of someone calling his name, but it felt distant, like he was underwater, like he was adrift in a vast cosmos far away from Solace and even Spyre. All at once, he thought and felt and witnessed the sensation of healing, of flesh knitting back together and wounds mending, of angry red and raised lines returning to smooth, dark skin. And then Fabian was waving a hand in front of his face.
“The ball? Riz? Riz!”
Fabian looked panicked. Riz blinked, his fingers slowly releasing the iron clad grip he had maintained on the half-elf’s injured arm.
“Don’t what me, the ball! You go completely unresponsive for like, ten minutes and now you’re looking at me like I’m the one being weird!”
“Okay, it definitely wasn’t ten minutes-“
“Like you’d know! You went completely just, just numb or whatever! It was. It was scary, the ball! I thought someone cast a spell on you!”
“What would that spell be, the paralysis but only for like two minutes spell? Seems like a waste of a spell slot to me.”
Fabian folded his arms in front of him, lips pursed.
“I feel like you’re not taking this as serious as you should. And if that’s coming from me, it’s definitely concerning.”
“It’s fine! Probably just the results of an all nighter. Besides, it’s not like it had any-“
He trailed off. Fabian was still looking at him impatiently, but the movement of his arms and the increased intensity of their motion had caused the medical tape to unravel.
“....lasting effects,” Riz finished automatically. There was no conscious thought put into the words of course, because all of his conscious thought was currently being channeled into a rush of internal hows and whys. Fabian followed the goblin’s gaze to where it rested on his now-uncovered arm, and he did a tousle take as he processed what his friend had just spotted. Fabian’s wound was gone.