The Polar Bear Club
By Lady Dioptase
Disclaimer: All characters and places belong to WotC and Bioware. This is a work of fiction created for the express purpose of enjoyment, and no monetary gain is involved. I'm just borrowing the characters for a bit.
A lovely little plot bunny inspired by a bit of dialogue between Daelan and Sharwyn in Undermountain. A little tongue-in-cheek, a little crazy, andever-so-slightly fluffy. Note: the italicized dialogue in asterisks was borrowed from chapter 1 of HotU.
This was crazy.
No, more than crazy. Completely and totally insane.
What in the world was she thinking? Or had she been thinking at all? What had ever possessed her to take leave of her senses like this? Had she lost what was left of her mind? Had the freezing cold finally gotten to her brain?
A shiver ran up Sharwyn's spine as she surveyed the goings-on around her. Men and women of all ages had gathered near a large hole in the ice, preparing for what was reputed to be the most looked forward to tradition of the entire year. The mere thought of jumping into ice-cold water was unthinkable to most of the civilized world, Sharwyn included. How could a person with any sense of self-preservation volunteer to do such a foolhardy act as this? The Uthgardt people were nuts, and that was all there was to it. And yet here she was, clad only in a fur blanket and leather slippers, waiting her turn to join the ranks of the insane.
Oh yes, I've most certainly lost my mind...
A voice interrupted Sharwyn's train of thought and sheturned around to seethe familiar face of her best friend; Daelan Red Tiger was calm and collected—the exact opposite of his human companion in every way. He too was dressed in only a fur blanket and leather slippers, ready to take the plunge. How can he be so relaxed when it's so blasted cold? Doesn't he realize that we could freeze to death? As if sensing her thoughts, the muscular barbarian placed a hand on her shoulder and flashed her a warm smile. His gesture was almost enough to reassure Sharwyn that everything was going to be all right.
"You dive into the icy water without clothing?"
""Always without clothing, yes. The body heats itself quickly enough... it would be wet clothes that would leech our warmth. Hmmm…why do you stare at me so?"
"Oh…just picturing you diving."
"If you would like, and if we still live in the new year, I would be honored to show you. But only if you dive with me."
"Hmmm. Tempting. I'll have to think about it."
It had been more than a year since their trek though Undermountain and the conversation that had started this whole mess. There was still time for her to back down, and Heavens knew she had entertained the thought of bowing out, but Sharwyn wasn't about to let some water get between her and watching her favorite barbarian take a dive in the buff! It was just a little water. Very cold water. Water that will freeze you to death if you're not careful…blast it, Sharwyn! Pull yourself together!
"We're almost up. Are you certain that you want to go through with this?"
"Yes," Sharwyn replied a little too quickly to be believable. Daelan breathed a sigh.
"Sharwyn…if you're not comfortable with this, you can certainly back down any time. I will not think any less of you if you decide not to dive," The half-orc spoke in as gentle a voice as he could muster. Sharwyn glared at him in a sudden fit of ire.
"Let it not be said that Sharwyn goes back on her word," the bard indignantly stated. "If I said I will dive, I will dive! But only if you hold up your end of the bargain!" She poked an index finger into Daelan's chest for emphasis.
"That will not be an issue. This dive is something that I greatly enjoy."
He's got the easy end of the deal! All he has to do is participate in something he's been doing since childhood, and here I am going out on a limb! Silently Sharwyn realized that she should have upped the ante a bit more; maybe throw in a backrub or something to make it a bit more fair? Naahh, still too easy. Make him sing for me, perhaps? That'd really get him nervous. Wait a sec! I think I might have it…
"Daelan, I was just thinking…" Sharwyn began, "You've been doing this dive nearly every year for most of your life, am I correct?"
"And you find it pleasurable, not at all challenging for you, right?"
"…yes. It is quite refreshing, in fact."
She sidled closer to the massive barbarian and gave him the biggest puppy-dog eyes she could possibly muster. "Well, then. That being the case, our little bargain isn't exactly fair. Something like this is difficult for me, Daelan. Very difficult. Perhaps if you were to do something else, I might feel more comfortable with this…?"
Daelan couldn't squelch the chuckle that escaped from his throat. "I know those eyes, Sharwyn. You cannot fool me. But…perhaps our bargain is a bit one-sided. I would be willing to negotiate…so long as your request is within reason."
"And what, exactly, is your definition of 'within reason'?"
Sharwyn never got her answer. Just as Daelan was about to speak the signal came for the two of them to make their dive. The time for words had passed, and Sharwyn was left with very little time to make her decision.
Come on, you came all the way up here for a reason. You arenot going to chicken out now!
This is foolish! You'll catch your death of cold out here!
Sharwyn's sensible side and her playful side struggled for dominance in her mind. The argument about drove her crazy and she was very close to just giving up and heading back inside the tent…
…That is, until she noticed that her companion had already shed his blanket and slippers. Sharwyn's eyes widened in amazement; she had seen unclothed men before, certainly, but never one quite so…well built? Daelan's usual armor hardly did him justice when it came to his muscular stature. Unable to stop herself, Sharwyn allowed her curious eyes to drift lower. Bad girl, Sharwyn! Eyes up, eyes up! She quickly shifted her gaze back northward and caught a hint of a blush on Daelan's face. She smiled. Throwing all caution to the wind Sharwyn booted her sensible side into a corner, stomped on it once for good measure, and quickly removed her own blanket.
There was no going back now.
The crowd cheered them on as the pair approached the hole in the ice, and Sharwyn took one last deep breath to steady her nerves. Sharwyn looked up into Daelan's eyes (which, she noted, were wider than she had ever thought possible) and gave a small confirming nod. In and out, that's all there is to it. Just jump in the water, then jump right back out. No problems, no worries. Daelan is right beside me. He'll never let anything happen to me, right…? Right? Her nervousness was quickly silenced when Daelan took her by the hand and smiled. Right.
The initial shock of frigid water against bare skin was enough to make Sharwyn want to scream. It felt as if several warhammers were pounding down upon her chest all at once, accompanied by dozens of tiny icy daggers jabbing into her flesh. Somewhere between jumping and submerging in the water she had lost her grip on Daelan's hand; a sudden jolt of fear washed through her and she flailed in the water searching for something to hold on to. Sharwyn finally found something solid—the edge of the ice hole—and grabbed hold of it, pulling herself up toward the surface. Moments later her head was back above water. Taking a deep breath, the bard said the first thing that came to her mind:
"Yeeeow, that's cold!"
"That it is," came Daelan's response as he surfaced beside her. "Let's get out of here and warm up, shall we?"
He didn't have to ask her twice. Sharwyn pulled herself out of the frigid water and practically sprinted for the tent with her companion hot on her heels, pausing only briefly to grab her blanket from the snow-covered ground. Once inside, the young bard was more than happy to see people waiting with more warm blankets and steaming mugs of herbal tea. She gratefully accepted the gifts and made her way over to a pile of cushions on the floor near the roaring fire. Her toes were frozen, her face was frozen, her chest was frozen, parts of her body that she didn't know could freeze were frozen…
Refreshing, my arse...
The fire, blankets, and hot tea were doing their job, though. Right away Sharwyn began to feel the warmth seeping into her body and thawing her out. She watched as Daelan sat down beside her, also bundled up in layer upon layer of blankets with a hot mug of tea in his hands.
"So…?" The half-orc quietly spoke, catching Sharwyn's gaze with a hopeful glint in his eyes.
"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but I still think you're crazy," the bard replied. "And you never did answer my question."
Daelan quirked an eyebrow. "What question was that?"
"What you considered to be 'within reason'." A wicked smile crept across Sharwyn's face. "And I came up with the perfect suggestion, too…"
"And that would be…?"
Sharwyn leaned over with the intention of kissing Daelan on the cheek. What actually happened, however, wasn't quite what she had planned. The massive barbarian turned his head at that exact moment, and instead of a kiss on the cheek Sharwyn wound up kissing him directly on the lips. A fierce blush spread across Daelan's face and it seemed like every eye in the place was suddenly turned upon them. Sharwyn didn't care; this was turning out even better than she had expected, and the sudden attention didn't phase her one bit. The young bard broke off the kiss a few moments later and greeted her companion with a lazy smile.
At this point the half-orc was too dumbfounded to speak.
But he did respond by wrapping one arm around Sharwyn's shoulders. The bard's smile deepened and she leaned in to lay her head upon his chest. So was it worth it, Sharwyn? Was it worth diving into freezing cold water in your birthday suit? Sharwyn looked up into Daelan's eyes; he looked about as content as she had ever seen him, which answered her question beyond any doubt.
Oh yes, it was worth it.
A/N: So call me a hopeless romantic. :-P Thank you very much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed!