Vex wasn’t quite sure how they got to this point.
Percy was splayed out on the ground a few feet away, clutching his ribs, eyes closed. A dark stain was creeping into the fine wool of his coat under his fingers.
“Pike,” she called, not daring to take her eyes off him. “Pike, do we have any healing spells left?”
“No, I’m sorry. We haven’t had the chance to rest. Are you hurt?”
“Not me. Do we have any potions?”
Vex slowly approached Percy, kneeling beside him. This close, she could hear his breath rattling in his throat.
“Really dear,” he wheezed, making her jump. “I’m perfectly fine. Worry- ah!- about yourself.”
Gently, she raked her hands through his hair. It was surprisingly wild.
“Open your eyes, darling. Look at me.”
His eyelids fluttered, cracking open to focus weakly on some point behind her.
“Pike,” she called again, louder.
Armor clanked as Pike made her way over. Vex heard more than saw when she noticed the small pool of blood collecting under Percy’s ribs.
“Grog, Vax! Get over here. Bring the bag of holding!”
Pike rushed to kneel beside Vex.
“Quick, help me get this off him.”
Percy groaned as they worked his coat off his shoulders.
“I take it- ah- this means we’re out of potions?”
“I’m so sorry Percy. I’m gonna have to do this the old fashioned way,” Pike murmured.
Grog and Vax stepped into Vex’s peripheral vision, Grog’s huge hand dwarfing Pike’s shoulder as he handed her the bag of holding. She rummaged around in it for a moment, emerging with a needle, thread, and a dark bottle.
Seeing this, Percy shrank back against Vex.
“No. Pike, I promise you I am perfectly fine.”
His face, grey before, was positively ashen. Pike’s eyes were kind.
“You’re losing too much blood, Percy. We have to seal the wound.”
“I will be fine until we can rest or- or buy some potions. Pike, please..” He trailed off with another groan of pain.
Pike’s eyes hardened.
“Grog. Vax. I’m gonna need you to hold him down.” Her tone was steel.
“Pike, are you sure-” Vax started.
“If we don’t do this, he’ll bleed out in an hour, maybe two.”
Vax clenched his jaw.
“Alright. I am truly sorry about this, de Rolo.”
Vex shifted so that Grog and Vax could take Percy’s arms. He thrashed, violently, more blood gurgling from the wound beneath his shirt. She cradled his head in her lap as best she could and held on.
“I’m so sorry, darling. We’re just trying to help,” she whispered, over and over, like a mantra.
In the end, Scanlan and Keyleth had to hold his legs down as well. He was stronger than they sometimes realized, their human, and desperate to get away from Pike.
Pike cut his shirt off to get at the wound. Percy thrashed even harder, a low wail building in his throat.
“I’ll buy you another one, Percy, I promise,” Vex murmured to him, stroking his hair.
Tears were rolling freely down his face now. Vex was misty-eyed herself, and she swore she saw Pike dash away some wetness before she plunged the needle into the bottle.
It only got worse from there.
As Pike started stitching the wound up, Vex still whispering gently in his ear, Percy’s eyes glazed over. His eyes darted from left to right, tracking phantoms in his mind. His desperation increased, tugging hard enough against their hold that he had to be hurting himself.
“Percy, darling, talk to us. What’s going on?” Vex asked, desperate.
She recoiled when he bared his teeth.
“Fuck you. Fuck your games,” he gritted out. “I can’t- I won’t!”
“Percival, what are you talking about,” Vax asked, sharply.
“Rot in hell, Anna,” Percy snarled, between gasps of pain.
“Oh. Oh, Percy,” Keyleth sighed, face crumpling in understanding.
They all looked at each other in silent horror, Pike’s needle stilling.
Percy’s thrashing weakened, blood still sloshing out of the deep cut on his ribs.
Vax tightened his grip on Percy’s arm, bearing down with his weight.
“Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible. We need to do this,” he said, meeting each of their eyes in turn.
Pike set her jaw and nodded.
It was a fast process, five minutes at the most, but it seemed like hours. Percy screamed himself hoarse, calling them- calling Ripley and the Briarwoods- every name in the book and begging them to kill him.
Keyleth sobbed openly, looking to Vax for strength. Vax’s face was stone, but his grip on Percy's arm was as gentle as it could be. Scanlan held on grimly, locking eyes with Pike when a particularly pained wail escaped their charge. Grog was preoccupied with making sure not to accidentally hurt him.
Vex alone kept trying to reach him, murmuring comforting words in Percy’s ear even as he vowed to kill her- Ripley- to kill himself, anything to end this. Vex was vaguely aware that her tears were soaking his hair, plastering it to his forehead.
Finally, it was done. Pike stepped away, small hands stained red, face tear-streaked but determined. She went to wash her hands as Keyleth gently wrapped a bandage around Percy’s wound. He was so weak by that point that Scanlan held both legs down easily.
Pike returned, freshly scrubbed.
“If we just let him go, he’s going to rip the stitches out,” she said, voice remarkably even.
Percy sobbed beneath them, chest heaving.
“So what do we do?” Grog said, face troubled.
“Well, we could hold on until he comes back to himself, or...”
“Or we could knock him out and guarantee him and ourselves some rest,” Vax finished.
Pike nodded grimly.
"Alright. Vex'ahlia, move."
Vex froze, forehead pressed against Percy's. Her hair pooled around them, a curtain, a shield. Percy let out an animal sound of pain.
Small, strong fingers pried her hands from his face. Vex looked up to see Pike staring sadly back at her.
"This is the best thing we can do for him right now."
Vex nodded, shakily. She pressed a kiss to Percy's brow and allowed herself to be led away.
Quick as a flash her brother was there, bringing the hilt of his dagger to tap against Percy's temple. Percy snarled wordlessly and struggled even harder. Vax rolled his eyes.
"Good gods you've got a hard head."
Vax readjusted his grip and brought the dagger down again, harder this time.
Vex looked away as Percy went limp, holding on to Pike's hands for dear life. Behind her, the rest of them stood up, easing sore limbs and shaky hearts. Grog gently picked Percy up, cradling his head in a huge hand.
Vex didn't jump when Vax wrapped around her back, holding her like he used to in Syngorn.
"He's gonna be fine, Stubby. He's stubborn as hell, you know that," he whispered, just for her.
She leaned back into him and nodded, eyes still closed.
Pike patted her shoulder, as high as she could reach.
"Let's all get some rest."
Morning came, as it always does, and with it came some relief.
Vex slept fitfully, but enough.
Keyleth had fussed, tucking Percy in with every spare blanket they had. Pike, Scanlan, and Grog had passed out stone cold, exhausted from the fight and the trauma of hurting Percy.
Vax held her as she tried to sleep, but Vex swore she felt him shaking.
She woke in cold, pre-dawn light. In front of her, not ten feet away and dappled in shadow, was Percy, seemingly awake and alert.
Barely daring to breathe, Vex carefully extricated herself from her sleeping brother's hold. Percy didn't move.
She inched closer.
"Percy, darling," she called, gently.
He started, whipping around to face her, and grimacing in pain. His hand flew to his ribs, covering the angry wound almost entirely.
Vex held her hands up, palms out, and waited.
After a tense moment, his shoulders dropped and he smiled thinly.
He waved her over. She sat, keeping a careful distance between them. By his sharp gaze, he noticed.
"How are you feeling?"
"As well as can be expected, I suppose. I do have a few bruises I can't quite account for, though," he mused, gesturing to his bare shoulder.
His arms were shaded with black and blue where Vax and Grog had held him down. Vex supposed his legs must look much the same from Keyleth and Scanlan's hold.
"You don't remember?"
She wasn't sure whether she was glad or not.
He sighed and took off his glasses, fiddling with them.
"I remember... being ambushed. I remember how I got this," he said, nodding to his ribs. "Everything after that is a bit, well, hazy."
He returned his glasses to his nose and looked straight at her.
"I remember- I think I remember- you, after. And Pike. And... after that it's just panic. I think I dreamed of Ripley."
He said it like an admission, a confession of a crime. Her heart constricted.
"We didn't have any healing spells left," she blurted out. "And we were out of potions. And then Pike had to stitch you up but you were so scared, Percy, and we didn't know what to do. So we..."
Percy stilled, giving her his full attention. She took a deep breath and let it out, fighting back tears.
"We had to hold you down," she whispered. "So that Pike could stop the bleeding. It was the only- it was so awful, darling, and I am so sorry. You thought we were Ripley, or the Briarwoods. I'm so sorry..."
Percy's eyes widened behind his lenses. His bottom lip trembled.
"I..." he began, and lost his words.
Vex closed her eyes, bracing. Her heart was heavy in her chest.
"Vex, I am... so incredibly sorry."
Her eyes snapped open.
His face was earnest as he grabbed her hand.
"I am so sorry you had to do that. I can only imagine what I said to you. You have to know that-"
She cut him off, crushing him into a hug.
"Oh you fool, fool man," she whispered, throat tight.
"You amazing, genius, idiot of a man."
She pulled back, gripping his chin to force him to look at her. She dashed tears away with her other hand.
"We are your family, Percy. Stop apologizing."
"Shh. We are your family and we love you."
"She's right, Percy," Pike said from behind them.
Percy startled again, and Vex let him go.
Pike and Scanlan were awake, with Grog rubbing his eyes behind them. Vex turned, and there was her brother, smirking at her, with a sadly smiling Keyleth behind him. Vex blushed, but waved them over.
Pike and Scanlan took Percy's hands. He looked down, startled, into two smiling faces.
"Y'know we're all a little fucked up, Percy," Scanlan said, matter-of-fact. "It's nothing we haven't seen before."
Vex smiled and settled closer to Percy, leaning gently against his shoulder.
Vax and Keyleth hugged Percy together, over her, squishing them all together.
Grog laughed, wrapping his arms around them all and lifting them up. Pike whooped in delight, dangling from Percy's hand.
Percy squeaked, high-pitched.
"Uh, Grog? As lovely as this is, I think my stitches just popped. And I'm also not wearing a shirt."
"Oh, right. Sorry 'bout that," Grog rumbled, and put them all down.
"How about we take care of that cut properly now," Pike said.
Percy smiled, tight-lipped with pain, and nodded.
And if they were all a bit more protective of Percy, throwing themselves between him and danger more than before, after that night, well who could blame them? And if Pike and Keyleth researched natural glues to seal wounds, then who could question them? And if Vex and Vax always made sure they had an emergency potion or spell slot just in case, well then nobody needed to know.
Family takes care of family, after all.