Belkar leaned back, tapping the tip of his knife against the counter. There was a soft murmur of people talking. Soft music played from the dark wood stage. Some guy playing the harpsichord and singing about how much he loved a woman. For the fifth time that night.

"I hold your hand in mine, dear,

I press it to my lips.
And I take a healthy bite
From your dainty fingertips."

Kinky, if only mildly. Meh. Probably written by a vampire or something…

He was sitting in the tavern he and the rest of the Order of the Stick were staying at for the night. The actual rooms were upstairs, but the bar and restaurant were on the first floor. He was sitting at the bar, swinging his legs under a stool that was too big for a halfling and staring at an empty mug. A bunch of tables were behind him, just a bunch of people. None of them looked too dangerous or important, so Belkar wasn't concerned. At the front of the room, which was completely made out of wood (Belkar wondered sometimes if these inns had ever heard of fires before), there was a small stage were some human bard was playing.

But the halfling didn't really care about that. Almost everyone else in his party had already gone up to bed. Vaarsuvius was sitting three seats away from him, casually sipping some elven wine and reading a book in the faint light and looking extremely tempting for some reason.

Belkar glared, tracing the elf's silhouette with his eyes. How is it that he could lust for someone when he didn't even know their gender? Weren't there rules for that?

…Then again, he was Chaotic. It wasn't like he followed the rules anyway.

Was 'falling for' someone pure lust, even? By the gods, he was rusty on this stuff. He would need to ask his cousin about it if he ever went back to his hometown. (Though then again, maybe he shouldn't. Lyle would laugh his ass off if he thought that Belkar had actually 'fallen for' someone.)

So, as any other boy who liked someone but didn't want them to know, he decided to torture the object of his affections.

The stupid Mark of Justice and Roy's activation word kept him from doing anything serious. He just pulled out one of the many rubber bands Roy had given to him to keep him amused earlier that day and stretched it, aimed for the unsuspecting elf's forehead, and fired.

Vaarsuvius started with a small cry of pain and surprise, slapping a slender hand to a growing red mark where the rubber band had hit. "What was—?!"

Belkar started to laugh, stretching another band and hitting the elf's neck. Vaarsuvius jumped up, somehow still managing to look graceful and elegant, and looked down to glare fiercely at the halfling. "I am sorry, I was not aware that I was traveling with a kindergartener!"

Another rubber band was sent flying. Vaarsuvius dodged it quickly, glaring at the cackling halfling with a look hot enough to melt glass. Belkar was going to get a face-full of Explosive Runes tomorrow morning just as he did this morning, but that was fine. The sight of the elf's face flushed attractively with anger was a good enough reward.

"My joy would be complete, dear,
If you were only here,
But still I keep your hand
As a precious souvenir.
"

Wait, what?

The completely out-of-place lyrics stopped even Vaarsuvius for a second, forcing both of the party members to look up at the stage in shock.

"The night you died I cut it off,
I really don't know why.
For now each time I kiss it
I get bloodstains on my tie.
"

The elf and the halfling exchanged glances.

"Hey, you're married—do couples usually do stuff like that? Because if they do, I've really been missing out. I thought it was only my family…"

"No, one usually does not kill their significant other." Vaarsuvius glared at the halfling again, crossing thin arms. "But I suppose you would."

"Hey, hey, I don't kill people I love." Belkar shrugged, smirking. "I just don't love people. Easy out."

"Heartless halfling."

"Hypocrite."

"I'm sorry now I killed you,
For our love was something fine,
And till they come to get me
I shall hold your hand in mine.
"

Vaarsuvius glanced at the stage again, frowning. "I shall go to my room before the bard begins another macabre song or you start your childish antics again. Good night, cretin."

Belkar smirked at the knee-jerk politeness from the elf. "Sweet dreams, pointy-eared twit."

"I do not dream."

"Trance memories, then."

The elf arched an eyebrow. "You know how my 'sleep' cycle works, then. I will not ask how." Vaarsuvius grabbed the book off the counter and left quietly.

"What do you see in her? She seems so pompous…"

Belkar spun on his stool to face an elf who had apparently been sitting behind him the whole time. "Come again?"

She was a moon elf if Belkar knew his elf sub-races at all. She was slender with big red eyes, silver hair, and pale. She had a clearly defined gender, which was nice for a change, her hair was pulled in a loose ponytail, and she had an odd headband on her head with a round white light attached to it. Her body was dressed in a relatively revealing robe, and she looked like the type of girl who'd be willing to help Belkar deal with some leftover 'excitement' from Vaarsuvius's small outburst. It was always nice when Belkar was approached by a slut.

For some weird reason, even though this elf was definitely female and more aesthetically pleasing to the male eye, Belkar would have preferred it if Vaarsuvius had just stayed and kept up their verbal sparring.

"You are attracted to her, aren't you? Or him… it is always so difficult to tell with that race of elves…" The moon elf shrugged it off, folding her hands in her lap. Belkar raised an eyebrow in surprise, provoking a small chuckle. "I'm a druid. I learned how to interpret behavior and demeanor in animals when I first started out, and it passes on to humanoids. You were acting like a standard mammal trying to impress a mate, if you don't mind me saying."

"I've been compared to worse things than animals. So the androgyny is a racial thing?"

She nodded, lacing her fingers together. "She's a part of a rare sub-race of high elf, mostly found in the Northern, forested parts of the Elven Homeland. I think that the androgyny is just an aesthetic thing, but I could be wrong. It has… been a while since my sub-race has associated with our brethren."

Belkar stored the information for later. Vaarsuvius was so private and secretive that any facts, even on something as general as species, was a plus. "And a 'standard mammal' snaps rubber bands in someone's face to get laid?"

The moon elf giggled, covering her mouth politely. "More like… trying to prove that they're strong enough to take care of the mate. Or trying to coerce them with small abuses. Either works."

Belkar smirked, leaning forward and staring at the elf's face, tracing her lips with his eyes. "What's my 'demeanor' now?"

She leaned forward, a smile playing across her lips. "Searching for a mate now that your favorite candidate is gone."

"What's yours?"

Her smile turned into a grin, and Belkar noted off-handedly that her teeth looked a little sharp. "I'll tell you as soon as I know your name."

"Belkar. Death's Li'l Helper." He smirked. "What's yours?"

She chuckled softly, leaning forward so their lips were nearly touching. "Elaraal." Her eyes fluttered. "To answer your question, my demeanor's receptive."

"Then maybe we should go up to my room."

Elaraal smiled. "Maybe we should."

Belkar closed the distance between them, kissing her roughly. For some odd reason, he craved the taste of elven wine. But she didn't taste like wine. She tasted like mint leaves. She didn't kiss like…

But it wasn't as if Belkar was going to be able to kiss that one again.

He parted their lips, taking her wrist and leading her out of the room. Just before they left to take the stairs, she turned slightly, waving casually at another elf that looked similar to her. Her brother, maybe. The male elf rolled his eyes, setting down a drink and standing up.

Belkar shrugged and walked up the stairs, letting the slim moon elf woman into his room.

---

"Excuse me, Ma'am."

Vaarsuvius looked up, ears perking at the sound of the Elven tongue, a hand hovering over the doorknob. The inn had been cheap enough so everyone in the party had a separate room, and Roy had insisted that Elan and Belkar not sleep anywhere near him. An obviously male moon elf (or perhaps a star elf? They looked rather similar and it was so unlikely that one would be here that Vaarusivius simply assumed that the stranger was a moon elf) stood slightly taller than the wizard, leaning against the wall. He had silver hair and pale skin, even by moon elf standards, and he had a familiar headband on his head with a circular white light source attached. He was slim, but his arms and hands were strong and callused. A sword sheathed at the moon elf's hip, partially covered by the folds of a gray cloak, spoke of a fighter class. He had an odd accent that the mage couldn't exactly place, and that alone made V a little wary.

The wizard slowly allowed the hand touching the knob to drop. The moon elf didn't look like he was going to leave soon, and it was nice to hear someone speaking the mage's mother tongue. "May I help you?"

"Yes. I wanted to ask about the halfling that was harassing you."

Vaarsuvius frowned suspiciously.

"Only because he has spirited away my sister."

The mage relaxed. Concern about one's family was something Vaarsuvius could understand. "Ah. To his room, I assume?"

"Yes. May we walk?"

Vaarsuvius tensed again slightly, but slowly walked with the moon elf down the hall. "I am not his keeper or his friend. I know little about him."

"I simply need to know if he might hurt my sister tonight. His behavior with you is not promising."

The elf's lips pursed, careful about doling out information regarding any of the Order's party members, but this seemed harmless enough. Belkar was a Chaotic Evil sociopath, but he was certainly not a rapist or sexual assaulter. Further more, while he enjoyed killing, he wasn't a Bluebeard—Vaarsuvius couldn't think of one situation where Belkar had killed one of his harlots unless she attacked him first. "He will not hurt your sister. He treats me the way he does because he does not like me."

"Ah, but he seems to like you. Inappropriately."

"Believe me when I say he does not."

The moon elf smirked for a moment, as if reveling in a secret that he knew Vaarsuvius wasn't in on, but his face smoothed quickly. "Then why are you both here? You must have a serious reason to be traveling together if you dislike each other so much."

"We are simply in the same party and we are staying here for the night. If you will excuse me, I am rather tired and would like to go to bed…" Vaarsuvius turned to go back to the room, but the moon elf reached out, taking the mage's delicate wrist. V's heart skipped a beat and every muscle in the little body tightened, preparing to launch a spell.

"Be calm. I simply want your name."

"Vaarsuvius. Please let me go."

"My name is Alrahb." He released the mage, holding up his hands for peace. "I don't mean to scare you. I know that I can be intimidating, but I am not sure how comfortable I am with a fellow elf traveling with N-Tel-Quess, especially the sorts that would go to bed with a woman not of their species mere minutes after meeting them."

"Xenophobia is not usually a trait in moon elves." Vaarsuvius arched an eyebrow, starting down the hall. The mage, in a small show of irritation and disapproval, switched back to Common. "Luckily, my decisions on my travel companions have no effect on you. I assure you that your sister is safe tonight. Good night, Mr. Alrahb."

Alrahb's face twitched slightly. He obviously didn't like the blatant challenge to what he seemed to consider his inherent authority. The switch in language probably did not smooth out relations either, but Vaarsuvius cared little. "To quote my sister, ma'am, birds of a feather flock together. And when one tries to force birds of different species to flock, they rip each other apart and let each other starve. You aren't safe with N-Tel-Quess."

"I am safer with them than I am with many of my own species." The sharp rebuttal surprised even Vaarsuvius, but the mage went on. "I would appreciate it if you would not mix yourself into my—"

There was the sound of shattering glass and crashes in Belkar's room. Vaarsuvius stiffened, immediately concluding that the elf woman hadn't been as safe from the halfling as had been assumed. There was a shout and more crashes.

The mage ran to the door, but a firm hand grabbed a delicate wrist, this time with bruising force. Vaarsuvius bit back a cry of pain and spun around. "He—"

"Last chance. You can go to your bed and keep traveling with filthy N-Tel-Quess or come with me and my sister so we can go to a village and protect you from them."

"Your xenophobia is astounding, truly. I thought we were over such things."

Alrahb's face twisted into an ugly expression of hate. "Ssindossa ssinssriggin nek."

The mage's mouth fell open, blinking in shock at the grave insult that had just been hissed. Vaarsuvius had only heard that slur spoken once, and it had enraged an entire village of elves. "Excuse me?!"

The moon elf slapped Vaarsuvius hard across the face. The mage gasped in shock, looking up at the elf, and stared deep into red hate-filled eyes. Moon elves never had red eyes. "Amin feuya ten' lle, ssindossa ssinssriggin nek!"

"Meteor Swarm!"

Flaming chunks of rock slammed into Alrahb's face, sending him against the wall. Another crash came from inside the halfling's room and Vaarsuvius ran in.

---

Belkar looked up, relief flooding him despite himself when his favorite arrogant pain-in-the-ass ran in. He stumbled again, swearing loudly.

The room was a mess. The chest of drawers were smashed on the floor, splinters of wood everywhere, one of the windows was shattered, throwing out shards of glass with the broken wood, and the mattress was flipped off the bed on the floor. The crazy moon bitch was stuck to the wall, spider-style, with giant inch-long fangs bared and eyes flashing. A vampire?! A goddamn elf VAMPIRE?!

His vision was blurring. Blood was draining slowly from two puncture wounds on his throat, seeping into his clothes and staining his skin in a macabre testament to how badly he was hurt. Elaraal had gotten him smack in his jugular and his ankle was possibly injured seriously. As much as he hated to admit it, Vaarsuvius was a very welcome addition to the equation. But, attractive party member or not, he would stab the elf if he or she or whatever the hell it was pointed out the embarrassing fact that he was nearly killed by his lay.

"Belkar! LIGHTNING!"

A bolt of lightning hit Elaraal head-on, but she shrugged it off. "I have Resistance to electricity and damage reduction." She turned her glowing red eyes on the elf, baring her fangs.

Belkar took advantage of the elf vampire's brief distraction and lunged forward, stabbing a dagger deep into her stomach. She let out a furious shriek, slipping a quarterstaff out of her shirt and kicking him back. That would have been really hot if she hadn't bashed the halfling's skull so hard that he fell flat on the floor. The moon bitch grabbed a fallen quarterstaff on the ground, spinning her two weapons and preparing to slam them on the halfling.

Vaarsuvius's eyes widened, fingers twitching in preparation to prepare another spell, but the mage remembered—too late—about the fighter in the doorway.

The halfling rolled out of the way and jumped up just in time to see a bigger male elf behind Vaarsuvius bare giant fangs and whip out a sword, slashing the mage in the back. "Gurth gothrim dhaeraow! GURTH GOTHRIM SSINDOSSA SSINSSRIGGIN NEK!"

Belkar made a mental note to ask Vaarsuvius what the hell that meant, because judging by the mage's deeply offended and outraged expression, it was something serious. V fell to the ground and propped the small body back up, wincing in pain from the glass digging into delicate palms. The slash on an unprotected back stretched with the movement. Blood soaked the back part of the robe and dripped onto the floor, making the cloth stick painfully to the skin. The mage looked up just in time to see Alrahb raising his sword to impale.

"Hey! I'm the only one who's allowed to deal fatal damage to my party members!" Belkar jumped at the vampire, latching onto his arm and stabbing his bicep.

"GET AWAY FROM MY BROTHER!"

Elaraal shrieked furiously and a wolf suddenly popped into existence on the flipped mattress, lunging for Belkar the moment after Alrahb shook him off.

The little halfling only had enough time to swear before he was clamped in the jaws of the giant wolf.

Vaarsuvius staggered up. "Scorching Ray!"

Alrahb was only sent against the wall, dazed for a moment. The mage was almost completely out of spells.

"Son of a—!" The wolf started to shake the halfling like a chew toy. Blood spurted forth, staining the animal's white teeth and splashing across the wood floor. Vaarsuvius's eyes widened, frozen for a brief moment at the grotesque painting. Why hadn't anyone come to help them? Someone must have heard this by now, unless there had been some spell cast!

"SCORCHING RAY!"

The spell hit the wolf's side, sending it sprawling on the ground. Elaraal screamed, hitting Vaarsuvius's hand and head hard with her staves, smashing the hand against the wall and making the mage crumple to the floor. She backed up, allowing Alrahb to straddle the mage's hips and put his hands around the little elven throat. The position was much too suggestive to be accidental. The vampire was trying to demean and destroy the smaller elf in every way possible.

"Let this be a lesson, race-traitor. I will enjoy feasting on your blood."

The vampire fighter tightened his grip on the little windpipe and ripped at the slash on the mage's back. Vaarsuvius couldn't hold back a scream, but it didn't matter. Barely any sound or air could get through. The mage struggled to breathe, convulsing, and desperately scratched at the fingers around the delicate throat.

"GODDAMN GLASS! GODDAMN WOLF!" A bloody mass about the size of the halfling stabbed Alrahb's back. "WHAT'D I SAY ABOUT DEALING FATAL DAMAGE TO THE ELF?!"

Alrahb let go of Vaarsuvius, jumping up and around with a shout of pain. Elaraal lunged for Belkar, but Vaarsuvius had the presence of mind to grab her ankle as she passed and tripped her. With a shout, she fell to the ground. Alrahb immediately looked down to see if she was wounded and the mage stood with a cry of pain, trying to ignore the dizziness and back wound. Their opponents were in between them and the door. If they did manage to succeed in getting into the hall of the inn, they would be murdered within moments by the pursuing predators. That left one option.

While the vampires were distracted, Vaarsuvius grabbed Belkar's hand, slippery with blood, and dragged him to the window. Knowing what had to be done without asking, the halfling punched out the last of the glass, ignoring the skin that was being torn to ribbons, and held the elf close against his body before they both jumped.

Belkar hit the ground first with a shout of pain, cushioning the fall for the more delicate elf. Pain zipped up both of their bodies and an ominous cracking and crushing sound rang in the moonless night. Vaarsuvius desperately tried to stifle a pained noise that sounded like a cross between a whimper and a moan, but it was not possible. Belkar slowly got to his feet, lifting a foot impaled with a glass shard off the ground and palming a rock. With all his strength, he threw the stone at the window of the room that he knew belonged to Durkon. The glass shattered and there was a sudden exclamation from within.

"They're going to—"

"I know. Let's hope they don't have ranks in Survival or Spot." Belkar yanked the glass piece from his foot roughly, shouting in pain, and tried to get Vaarsuvius to stand. They both should have been lying down with a cleric fussing over them. Neither should have been able to move.

There was a furious screech from the room they just left. Vampires tended to be a good incentive to escape.

Vaarsuvius gasped softly in pain, subconsciously taking the halfling's hand and squeezing it hard, and started to stagger forward. Belkar grit his teeth against the pain and concentrated on keeping him and the elf standing. They slipped into the woods just past the inn, practically carrying each other.

"We cannot continue like this…" the mage whispered softly, voice strained.

"You're out of spells, I've turned into a glorified wolf chew bone, we're missing our party members including our cleric, and they're both fast-healing undead bloodsuckers, one being a fighter with a big-ass sword and the other being a shape-shifting animal lover with a hell of a lot more unused spells than you. What do you suggest?"

"We need to stop to dress our wounds. You're bleeding too much and you're swaying on your feet. You are suffering from blood-loss."

"Hello, Pot, my name is Kettle."

"All the more reason to…" Vaarsuvius stumbled, almost falling to the ground. The mage desperately fought against it. If they stopped, the elf would not be able to start moving again.

"Okay, okay, fine." Belkar sniffed the air, limping forward with the elf in hand until they came to a clear pool. Vaarsuvius stiffened briefly, memories coming up at the sight. "Get in the water and get all the blood off. I know jack about first aid, but I'm pretty sure that it's easier to see how bad something is when there isn't all this dried blood screwing with how it looks."

The halfling limped to the edge of the water, letting the elf sit down slowly and sniffing the air for any signs of their opponents. His knees buckled under him, sending him to the ground.

Trees surrounded the clear reflective pool thickly, blocking them from view. That would be the best protection they would get. A giant oak tree grew from the edge of the pool across from them, covering up a lot of the sky, and Belkar had the vaguest sense of being watched.

"Your neck needs immediate care."

Vaarsuvius sat up, careful to keep from moving the left arm too much, and ripped a piece of red cloth from the dirty and blood-soaked robe. "This is far from sterile, but it will have to do."

The elf dipped the strip into the water, ignoring the cloud of blood and filth that floated up from the cloth and hand holding it, and cleaned it as much as possible. "Lie down."

Belkar decided that now was not the time to be a smartass and did at the mage said, frowning. Vaarsuvius carefully wiped the blood away from the halfling's neck, dabbing at the two puncture wounds until they were clean with a gentle hand. The halfling smiled slightly, enjoying the light touch despite the situation. It wasn't often the elf touched him, and even less often that the touch was so gentle and concentrated. V frowned when the bite marks continued to bleed and dipped the cloth in the water again, cleaning it before wrapping the wound tightly, making sure that it was loose enough to not restrict that halfling's airways. "This should help staunch the bleeding. Are you dizzy?"

"No more than you. Careful, don't strangle me." The halfling dipped his bleeding hands into the water, hissing darkly in pain. "Damn glass… where's the dwarf when you need him? Turn around. You're going to bleed out from your back. At this rate, we're both going to need to be resurrected."

Vaarsuvius turned around reluctantly, wincing in pain. "Don't make it worse. Please be gentle."

"Hey, I want you to feel pain when I try to hurt you, not when I try to patch you up. And it would be unsportsmanlike to steal a kill and piggyback on the damage done by someone else—if I kill you, it'll be all me." Belkar reached up, tearing the robe a little more to reach the slash better. Vaarsuvius did not protest.

The halfling took out a dagger with his least-wounded hand, cutting a strip away from his cloak. He copied Vaarsuvius by dipping the filthy cloth into the water and cleaning it as well as possible before tentatively starting to wash the dried blood off of the elf's back. The mage hissed softly, stiffening, and Belkar paused despite himself.

This felt weird. Belkar was a killer by nature from a family of crazies, sociopaths, and criminals. All his adult life, he had done nothing but murder and revel in the blood he shed. When he joined the Order, he started to do little things that went against his nature, like saving Elan from the bandits or letting party members live after they did something like steal from him or blow him up with spells, but they were never big enough to make him worry too much. But now he found himself trying to clumsily heal a person with hands that were only good for killing. He found himself actively trying to keep that person's pain level as low as possible.

"You see, Belkar, no one besides us deserves to live. These silly little meat bags? They're there for us to swindle, to hunt, to murder. They don't deserve mercy. They don't deserve love or compassion. Those are weak emotions. They're disgusting emotions. If you let yourself feel them for anyone but your family, you are just like them and have no right to yourself. They're there for our enjoyment. I enjoy torturing them. So I do. It is my right."

"Please… child… help…"

Grlch.

"See? Now he won't talk anymore."

The halfling carefully started to wash off the blood again. There was a soft gasp and the elf's muscles tightened, but Vaarsuvius said nothing.

Belkar grimaced when all the blood was gone. The slash was a macabre crescent moon, arching from the shoulder blade to the opposite hipbone, and it was slowly oozing more blood. The halfling dipped the cloth in the water again. "It's pretty big, pretty ugly, and it's still bleeding. You know more about this stuff than me; what am I supposed to do here?"

"Make the cloth as clean as possible and press it hard against the areas that are still bleeding. It will be very painful, but pain is a better option than death."

The halfling twisted the cloth underwater, getting as much blood out as possible, and took it out, squeezing it to get rid of some of the liquid. He bundled it up. "Get on your stomach."

Vaarsuvius slowly obeyed, tensing in preparation. Belkar pressed the cloth against the parts still bleeding, eliciting a soft stifled cry of pain.

"Keep the pressure steady until I clot," the elf hissed through gritted teeth.

Belkar would be completely lying if he said that he wasn't turned on a little by all this. Vaarsuvius's back was almost completely bare, slick with sweat and muscles bunched up underneath inhumanly smooth, hairless, flawless skin. The elven body felt almost silky under his hand, tempting in every possible meaning of the word. It brought up memories of plenty of dreams that made him really glad that no one in his party knew how to read minds. If it weren't for the soft hisses of pain and the fact that they both were dying, Belkar would have had a hard time to not have one of his screw-ups and kiss the elf. And Belkar was usually one to try to get what he wanted.

The halfling checked to see if Vaarsuvius's back had stopped bleeding. Belkar had a small realization, and slowly smirked. "You're going to need to take your robe off, Ears."

"And allow you to see me without clothes on?"

"How else am I going to be able to wrap this thing up?"

Vaarsuvius very carefully sat up, making sure to not stretch the slash at all. "I can wrap it myself, diminutive cretin."

"Well I'm not looking away."

"You have no choice. Sleep."

Belkar swore the moment before he fell asleep.

---

"Dispel magic."

Belkar blinked awake, grunting as a virtual thunderstorm of pain made itself very much at home in his body. Ah. What a wonderful way to start the night again.

He sat up very slowly and a wave of dizziness hit him.

"Careful. You're bleeding much too much still…"

"How long—damn it!—have I been out?" Belkar hissed in pain when the elf took his wounded hand, dipping it in the water.

"A few minutes. Our attackers either gave up the chase or have run into trouble—vampires have plus eight racial bonuses to Spot, Search, and Listen checks, and that is added upon their natural keen elven senses. They should have found us by now by all logic."

Belkar looked up, scowling, and noticed that Vaarsuvius's slash was dressed with one of the elf's outer cloaks, leaving just a thin red under-robe to keep out the cold. The elf's left arm stayed limp, perfectly straight save a deformity at the forearm and the shoulder at an odd angle, and bruises were becoming visible around the elegant elven neck. The mage had probably landed on the arm in the fall—the shoulder was swollen and obviously dislocated while (and the halfling inwardly swore about the fact that they hadn't noticed and treated this before) there was bruising, swelling, and a slight weird angle at the center of the elf's forearm. Probably a broken bone.

Vaarsuvius took the halfling's hand out of the water, delicately picking out pieces of glass and looking him up and down shrewdly. "Remove your shirt."

Belkar blinked, processing for a moment, then smirked. "Sorry. I usually wait until the second date."

"You know that is not what I meant. Perhaps if you actually did exercise some restraint in that area, we would not be in this situation," the elf snapped irritably, steadily making a bigger and bigger pile of bloody shards of glass on the grass.

"Touché. Okay, this is going to hurt a bit…"

The halfling grit his teeth grimly, slowly unclasping his cloak and letting it fall to the ground. Simple. His hands were throbbing and bleeding everywhere and the corners of his vision were getting a little dark, but he was fine otherwise. He grabbed the hem of his green-turned-red shirt, shutting his eyes and pulling it up.

He stopped for a moment and stifled a soft gasp when a jolt of pain rocketed through his ribs.

"Belkar?"

The voice was soft, concerned. It caught the halfling completely off guard. He couldn't remember the last time someone had sounded concerned about him.

Belkar was silent for an extra beat, just trying to process the concept. "I'm fine. I think I did something to my ribs in that fall." He pulled his shirt further up, pausing for another jolt of pain, before pulling it off completely. He very carefully lowered his arms and dropped it to the ground. "You can use these things for dressing wounds and stuff. No way am I going to put them back on with these hands and ribs, or lack thereof."

"Very well. Get into the water—I fear that your wounds are too plentiful to wash with a piece of cloth."

The halfling nodded, grimacing at the pool and privately thanking whatever god looked after Chaotic Evil halflings that the pool was shallow enough so he wouldn't have to try to tread the water in his condition. "You should have your arm set first: your shoulder's dislocated and it looks like you broke something."

"There is little you can do for that."

"There's plenty I can do. I used to work with that stuff all the time. Dislocated joints, broken bones… generally internal stuff."

Vaarsuvius blinked in shock, frowning skeptically. "Where did you learn and practice all these skills, pray tell?"

"I wouldn't have lived through a week with a family like mine if I didn't know."

"Oh… Very well." Vaarsuvius shifted to allow the halfling to see the arm.

"Brace yourself. This is going to hurt."

Vaarsuvius tensed and Belkar snapped the joint back in place in one movement. The elf stifled a loud cry of pain, tears streaking from shut eyes despite the efforts to suppress them.

Belkar swayed and the blood from his hands continued to drip to the ground. He shook his head, trying to get rid of the dizzy spell, and grabbed two sticks from the ground, ripping some cloth from his abused cloak.

The elf stifled another cry when the halfling corrected the fracture, realigning it.

Vaarsuvius breathed heavily, trying to forget the pain. "Your… your family. You have never mentioned them before."

"Neither have you." Belkar made sure the arm was straight before putting the two sticks against it. "I'll tell you a bit about mine if you tell me a bit about yours."

The wizard winced, teeth grit against the pain, and concentrated on the sight of the halfling's wounds, trying to ignore the discomfort by sizing up the damage done to the ranger. Vaarsuvius was obviously willing to talk about anything if only to distract from the agony. "V-Very well. I was an only child. Both of my parents were rangers, a profession I obviously have not picked up on, and a family friend of ours introduced me to magic while I was still a child. I later became that friend's apprentice for sixty years, and only recently was I sent to the outside world to continue my studies on my own."

"Sixty years?"

"That is—ah!—not very long for an elf. I believe it is your turn."

Belkar carefully started making the splint. "Alright, then. My mother was a rogue and my father was a fighter. I got a stepmother, and she was an elf bard. I have four siblings, one little half-brother, two big sisters, and one big brother—I have no clue where they are now—and I have a good handful of aunts and uncles. Everyone was either insane, a cutthroat sociopath, or both. I picked up being a ranger from my big brother and a ruthless killer from my Aunt Judy. I left once I felt I was old enough."

Vaarsuvius was breathing heavily, pale from the pain. The halfling got even more painstakingly gentle and was pleased to note that the mage looked slightly less strained. "You… had an elven stepmother?"

"Yeah. She was one of the crazy family members. She hanged herself."

"Oh…" Vaarsuvius hissed in pain when the halfling worked on the splint. "What of your siblings? Surely not all of them are as bloodthirsty as you."

"My big brother tried to pin me down and strangle me with the necklace my mom hanged herself with—the elf mom—and is still trying to hunt me down to murder me to this very day if he hasn't just finally croaked." Belkar frowned thoughtfully. "If he's still alive, then he should be dropping by at some point before the end of the year to try to kill me again. If a crazy halfling carrying around a silver necklace with a heart on it comes by, you'll know why he's here."

Vaarsuvius's mouth opened to speak slowly, then closed, face looking considerably paler.

"One of my big sisters made a little shrine of furry animal heads when she was five and gouged out my half-brother's eye when he was a baby." Belkar shrugged at that, careful to keep the splint he was making from becoming crooked. "She had a fascination with gouging eyes. I needed to get mine regenerated three times because of her. My mom—halfling one this time—locked her in a closet for a week once and, after that, she didn't really try anything."

He chuckled softly. "Well, at least until Mama Bitterleaf died. Then she started it up again, only this time with our half-brother. He was the only one small enough to not protect himself.

"My other big sister tried to drown me—man, was Mama Bitterleaf pissed when she caught her!—and managed to cut me and my cousin's fingers off—I think by then the local cleric just knew us as 'the family that always needs regeneration'—and my half-brother nearly impaled the rest of us with a spear he stole from our uncle when he was about ten years old."

Belkar shrugged at the memory. "He was a cannibal. I think that he picked that up from Grandma and Grandpa. They ate my little half-sister when she was born with some weird internal defect. I think they gave my half-brother a taste or something. He was obsessed with it since. Wanted to see what pure halfling shish kebab tasted like, so he broke out the spears. Aunt Judy nearly blasted his arms off and my big brother cut his tongue out for it." Belkar smiled distantly, obviously not realizing the true depths of disturbing that the tales he was imparting reached. His eyes looked almost nostalgic. "Ah, memories."

Vaarsuvius blinked, thoroughly distracted from the pain.

"Okay, your arm's good to go."

The elf blinked again, looking down as if only just realizing that the splint was completed. Vaarsuvius took a moment to remember what was happening. "Then get into the water to wash the blood off your wounds. I've noticed that you have been getting closer and closer to unconsciousness."

"Do I need to make a pot and kettle joke again?" Belkar slowly slipped into the water, wincing in pain when the liquid touched the tender wounds. He was mildly surprised that all of this washing done in the pool hadn't turned it red and black by now. "Why haven't those vamps come yet?"

"I am rather surprised myself. Elven vampires are affected by the moon as other vampires are affected by the sun, but tonight is new moon… Well, we should not look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth." Vaarsuvius took out the hand Belkar used to break the window first, picking out the last of the glass and letting the not-so-clear-anymore water run against it. "I am surprised you have not fainted yet, considering the severity of your wounds."

"I blame adrenaline. If I fainted the moment we got here, where'd that leave you?"

They both realized that Belkar had made a statement indicating concern for another sentient being the moment it came out of his mouth. Vaarsuvius stared, violet eyes wide, and the halfling stiffened and searched for a way to erase what he said.

"If you die, I want to be the one that kills you. Not some vampire."

Vaarsuvius relaxed and took Belkar's hand out of the water gently while the halfling washed blood off the rest of his body. "Luckily, it does not look infected."

The elf ripped another bandage from the scrap that used to be Belkar's cloak and washed it, slowly and gently wrapping the halfling's hand.

"Hey, what was that thing that the fighter guy was shouting? He just kept talking in Elven. I couldn't understand a word he said."

Vaarsuvius gently pulled the wet halfling from the water, examining the newly-clean wounds. "He seems to be abnormally xenophobic. Perhaps he truly is a star elf. He was mostly promising me death and calling me a race-traitor for willingly traveling with humanoids that are not elves."

"What was that swear thing? That name with lots of S's?"

"Of course you would ask about that," Vaarsuvius said, grimacing slightly. The elf first wrapped the halfling's foot tightly, eliciting a soft swear, then made sure that none of the cuts were infected yet. "It is a very grave insult in my language. Suffice to say, he called me a nymphomaniac."

"Huh? Let's pretend that I have no clue what that means…"

"There are a myriad of stereotypes for different species in the many elven cultures. It is noted that, among humans especially, the rate of reproduction is much higher than that of elves. In the more… close-minded of elves, this must mean that other humanoids are, to use the vernacular, sex-crazed and uncaring with multiple partners. Polygamous for the sake of the enjoyment derived from copulation, and obsessed with getting more of it."

"I match that description!"

"You are humanoid in the barest sense of the word, halfling." Vaarsuvius gently started wrapping Belkar's hairy chest, slipping into an easy rhythm. "This stereotype led to the idea that any elf who would willingly be in prolonged company with any humanoids with this stereotype must match the stereotype as well. Why would one be with harlots if one did not wish to take advantage of the fact that they were harlots?"

"And this means that the thing he says means…"

"The most direct translation? He called me a…" Vaarsuvius frowned thoughtfully. "Well…" the elf shifted reluctantly, eyes narrowed in disdain, eliciting an impatient frown from the halfling, "the vulgar term would be 'whore-loving slut.'"

Belkar took a moment to process it."That is not an insult I would match up with you. Maybe 'androgynous pain-in-the-ass' or 'power-obsessed freak' or 'arrogant pointy-eared bastard' or—"

"That is quite enough." A smile played across the elf's lips, recognizing the backhanded compliment. "At any rate, I believe that I have dressed all of the wounds that need dressing."

"That's good. I was wondering if we'd run out of clothes to rip up." Belkar gave himself a look-over, making sure that there wasn't anything else on his body they could handle. He probably had one or two cracked or broken ribs, but there was nothing that could be done for that. "What about you? Anything else?"

"A slight abrasion on my head and a few cuts and bruises on my hands, courtesy of the broken glass and the young druid's quarterstaffs. I am fine."

Nonetheless, Belkar shrewdly took the elf's head in his hands and examined it, noticing a small and bloody yet unserious cut. Vaarsuvius didn't protest and willingly allowed the halfling's touch.

"Hey, you noticed how we've been able to patch each other up without fighting? I bet Roy will give us a gold star," Belkar joked mildly, wiping some of the blood away to make sure that the gash really wasn't serious. It wasn't bleeding anymore, so he decided that it wasn't.

"I am sure we will go back to hating each other once our lives are not in our combined hands," Vaarsuvius said in an equally mild tone.

Belkar gave a sardonic look. "Hate is a strong word, you know," he said in a sarcastic, mocking tone, letting the elf's head go and examining the bruised and cut yet graceful hands.

Vaarsuvius chuckled softly, thin body shaking slightly with the movement and eyes looking a little tired and distant. "Perhaps."

The halfling paused briefly before starting to pick out the little shards of glass in the wizard's palm. The blood loss was probably getting to Vaarsuvius's head. "So. Your parents were rangers."

"Indeed." The elf stared at the halfling's work in grim fascination, wincing in pain occasionally.

"I would've thought that they were librarians or something."

"Far from it. The taught me little—I learned most from my master."

Belkar nodded absently, wrapping up the elf's hand gently. "You know that I'm still going to set fire ants on you at some point for the Explosive Runes this morning, right? This whole 'Enemy Mine' scenario hasn't changed anything."

Vaarsuvius's eyes rolled. "Diminutive cretin."

"Androgynous twit."

The elf sighed, looking up. "We should go back to the inn. We have handled all the injuries we can, but we need Mr. Thundershield's healing prowess."

"With my ribs? Ha, nice try."

"I shall carry you, then."

"For one, I weigh thirty pounds and I wonder if you'd be able to carry that under usual circumstances. But with your bum back? You'd rip it right open."

"We cannot stay here."

"The dwarf won't be able to heal us until the morning anyway."

"It would still be better to be with him. Either of us could have an injury that we did not see and faint from blood loss. Perhaps internal bleeding…"

"Fine, fine. You're right. Don't get a big head over it, but I guess it's too late for that, huh?"

Vaarsuvius stood very slowly, wincing in pain. "Do you believe you can walk? By now, you're only running on cortisol and the adrenaline would have worn off… I can go and send for Mr. Thundershield."

"With our luck, the vamps would pounce you and eat you alive the minute you were out of here. I'm not going to let you die right after all the trouble I went through to get you patched up." Belkar got to his knees, growling lowly and gritting his teeth. Despite himself, he grabbed the elf's unhurt arm for support as he slowly stood.

Concern flashed in Vaarsuvius's eyes, but the elf quickly concealed it before Belkar could see it. "You're likely to slow us both down. You cannot fight like this."

"And you can fight less. You're almost out of spells that can work on elf vampires—what vampire bites elves?!—and you can't even move your arms too much before bursting open like a big water balloon filled with blood. My ribs are screwed up, sure, but if something came at me, I'd say I could get over the pain long enough to stab the bitch in the face. Besides, it's better we stick together. As weird as it is that no one's dropped in yet, it's not like that luck'll last forever here."

"Wait a moment…" Something flickered over the elf's expression, a realization, and bright violet eyes looked up at the overlooking oak tree with an odd gaze. "Detect Magic."

The area in Vaarsuvius's field of vision turned purple, revealing a magically invisible woman on one of the top boughs of the oak tree. Her skin looked a little like soft bark and her eyes were gentle green, hair of summery leaves covering her head. Her eyes widened and she sharply disappeared into the wood before Vaarsuvius could say anything.

The elf frowned. "A dryad."

"What?"

"A dryad. That is why we have not been discovered yet."

"A tree spirit thing."

"Yes." The elf stared at the tree for a moment. "She protected us for an unknown reason."

The halfling blinked, then shrugged. "Well that makes no sense, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?" Belkar went forward, disguising his limp and grunts of pain easily. He looked up, smirking at Vaarsuvius, but the elf noted that the smirk looked strained. "I can't wait to tell the dwarf that the trees are the things that saved us."

"Yes. He would have an odd reaction to that, would he not?" Without realizing it, the elf took the halfling's least damaged hand for support. The elven hand was as soft as cream or flower petals or both and delicate as a newborn bird. The halfling didn't remember ever holding something that felt so fragile, yet so graceful and precious at the same time. Belkar glanced down at it, suddenly very confused. What was he supposed to do here? Let the hand go so the elf didn't catch on to him? Hold it? Make some joke? What the hell was Vaarsuvius doing holding the hand of someone he or she or whatever the hell it was hated, anyway?!

Belkar settled for holding the hand. That was what people who liked other people generally did, right? Be nice and touch them? Maybe he should have listened to his cousin more when he talked about this stuff…

He missed being a complete sociopath. He needed to murder a small furry animal to get his equilibrium back. Maybe he could try to kill Elan again…

"Hey, if we're about to get into a fight, we're not going to be any help," he pointed out. He couldn't help but smirk at himself. He was acting like a kid around a crush way out of his league. It was ridiculous. Goddamn androgynous twit screwing up his 'Sexy Shoeless God of War' gimmick…

"On the contrary, our presence will end the fight, one way or another."

"That doesn't sound too good."

"Let us hope that our party members are near." They stepped through the trees out of the dryad's clearing.

The sounds of battle suddenly rang out.

"So much for that, huh, Ears?"

The fight was right in front of them, consisting of the two vampires and all four of their party members.

"Fight, fight, fight the crazed elven vampires~" Elan sang loudly, playing his lute though his face was pasty white.

It was complete chaos. Haley was screaming and swearing in gibberish, swatting at a swarm of bats flying around her head and shrieking in her ears. There were cuts and scratches all over her face and she couldn't take the time to try to shoot at an enemy with arrows, with bats pulling her hair and biting at her exposed skin. Durkon was fighting Elaraal with his hammer, casting Turn Undead at random intervals. The druid kept on flinching back, hissing, and trying to climb up one of the trees to get away before suddenly pushing forward and hitting him hard with her quarterstaffs. Roy and Alrahb were locked in furious combat, slashing and cutting with their swords.

Belkar and Vaarsuvius exchanged quick surprised glances. The dryad had managed to block out all of this?

"Tharivol!"

A familiar wolf with blood in his teeth jumped out of the woods, going straight for Durkon.

"Scorching Ray!"

The spell knocked the wolf back, fortunately. Unfortunately, it drew the wolf's attention straight to the two wounded party members.

"Nice going, twit."

The wolf lunged for them.

"Tharivol! Take the halfling—the race-traitor is mine!"

The wolf changed direction and jumped. A pack of wolves suddenly appeared and started attacking Roy, freeing Alrahb to lunge. The wizard was the only one who understood Elven enough to know what was happening.

Vaarsuvius's instinctive reaction was to back up, eyes widening, and roughly shove the halfling to the ground. Bekar swore loudly in pain as the unsuspected fall sent a bolt of agony up his ribs, but the wolf that had previously been jumping for his head hit the tree hard.

The wolf collapsed on the ground, head swaying dizzily and whines leaking from his lips.

The wizard was slammed against a tree. Vaarsuvius stifled a choked cry when the slash on the tiny thin elven back hit the bark roughly, starting to bleed hard. Alrahb pinned V against the tree, eyes glowing dangerous red. The mage squirmed, sneering defiantly, and held up a bruised right hand. "Scorching—"

Alrahb grabbed the wizard's hand sharply, crushing it and making the spell fizzle. Teeth grit against the pain, Vaarsuvius glared rebelliously. "Ah, so shall you kill me now? While I am wounded and helpless? Go on, then. Show how superior your racial purity is."

"Shut up!" Alrahb slapped Vaarsuvius's face hard. "Shut up!"

The elf winced, looking back up and glaring. "Rather physical, are you not? This is the second time you struck me without the impersonal use of a sword—this is the second time you struck my face with your hand. Tell me, did you target my party member and me because you saw us associating with each other? Is that why you sent your sister to eat him? So there would be one less humanoid daring to affiliate with an elf? Is that why you have taken such an unnatural interest in me?" Vaarsuvius gave an ill-advised sneer. "Tell me, where does this violent xenophobia stem from? Perhaps the classic Freudian Excuse? Parental abuse? Or maybe something more plausible? Maybe you were indoctrinated as a child. Perhaps you're a star elf and simply are culturally inclined to racism."

"SHUT UP!" Alrahb slammed a fist into the wizard's eye. Vaarsuvius winced, stifling a cry of pain, and instinctively tried to turn away. The vampire slapped V hard again, gripping the soft purple hair in his hand roughly and forcing the mage to look up at his eyes and leave the delicate, swan-like, bruised neck exposed. "Whore-loving slut! Die!"

The vampire sank his fangs in Vaarsuvius's neck, tightening his grip on the purple hair roughly. The mage tried to stifle a cry of pain, struggling to squirm away and mentally cursing the fact that all the arcane power at the high elf's disposal chose to run out with that last fizzled spell.

"SVB! TVG BLFI GVVGS LUU NY UIRVMW DHL QFHG IZMWLNOY XZNV LFG LU GSV DLLWH!"

Haley nocked an arrow in her bow, struggling to aim through the swarm of bats at her head. She shot.

She was surprisingly accurate, all things considered, but it was not accurate enough. The arrow embedded itself in the tree trunk above the elves' heads, and Alrahb only dug his teeth deeper into Vaarsuvius's throat in response.

"I think I said something about dealing fatal damage to the elf."

Alrahb sharply ripped his fangs out of Vaarsuvius's neck, shouting in pain and looking down. Belkar was standing, an arm wrapped around his ribs and obviously in badly disguised pain, with his dagger buried deep in the vampire's side and a smirk on his face. "By the way, the bitch that I was going to sleep with? Your sister? She just turned into a cloud."

The vampire looked up sharply, just to see Durkon turning away from a sparkling cloud of mist. The wolf that had attacked Belkar and the bats attacking Haley disappeared, the mist blowing away.

Alrahb looked down furiously, eyes glowing bright red and bared fangs stained and dripping with blood. He let Vaarsuvius drop to the ground, tearing the dagger out of his side and lunging for Belkar.

"Turn Undead!"

The vampire stiffened, then sharply backed up, hissing at Durkon, and turned into a cloud of mist.

The pack of wolves practically mauling Roy popped out of existence. The fighter gave a sigh of relief, lowering his sword and struggling to breathe. "V! Belkar! What—"

"Questions later. The elf is bleeding out and I think I might be too." Belkar went to his knees. "Hey, Durkon, healing would be nice. The elf fainted." The moment he said that, he fainted too.

---

The elf didn't know what was happening for a moment, but knew that it was wanted. It was all a disarray of water, lips, and skin. They were kissing each other, touching tongues, and it wasn't frightful or rough. The halfling's touch was gentle, firm, wanting. Not violent. Not dangerous. The taste of pomegranates was overwhelming, but in a good way. The beloved Inkyrius was just a vague concept, abstract, far removed from reality.

The elf ran a hand through the halfling's short hair, deepening the kiss. The halfling fervently kept the kiss heated, stroking the elf's lower back and pulling them both closer against each other. Skin pressed to skin. No clothes, not even space between them. Something deep in the elf tried to call for reason, warning of what this would inevitably lead to. Something deeper said to let it happen. Something even deeper whispered that this was good and reason should be ignored in this frenzy of passion. The only thing deeper than that was a torrent of emotion and desire.

Vaarsuvius snapped awake and a wall of pain smacked down.

"Ah, ye weren't s'pposed ta wake up, yet." The face of Durkon peered from above. "I haven't been able ta pr'pare th' spells ta heal ye an' Belkar. Yer goin' ta feel a bit uncomfortable."

"I believe that is an understatement." The elf squirmed slightly, slowly sitting up against the wall the head of the bed was against. Vaarsuvius noted that they were in a room on the second floor of the inn. It was a small plain room with a chair next to the bed along with a bedside table. To the side, another bed held an unconscious halfling deep in its covers. Without realizing it, the mage appraised the condition of the little hellion. All his bandages were changed and clean, and his face looked significantly less pain-stricken. Vaarsuvius let out a breath that had been unknowingly held, a tiny gesture that Durkon noticed. Beyond the halfling was an open window, showing that it was still night, with drapes gently billowing in the breeze.

The elf winced in pain, looking down. All of the bandages had been changed, as had the clothing. Vaarsuvius looked up and arched an eyebrow.

"Don' worry. I know 'ow much ye like yer privacy. I've been carrying around some scrolls ta let me magic'lly re-bandage an' redress patients without seein' anythin' they wouldnae wanted me ta see jus' in case somethin' like this 'appened." Durkon smiled and gave a little wink, sitting at the chair next to the elf's bed.

"I thank you for your consideration." A smile flickered over the elf's lips before a more somber mood took over. "I feel inclined to ask after the halfling's condition."

"'E messed up 'is ribs a lot. I think 'e collapsed part of 'is lung, by th' way 'e's breathin'. I'm surprised 'e kept goin' as much as 'e did. But 'e's stubborn, I'll give 'im that. Both of ye are." Durkon tilted his head. "Ye were smart ta fix yerselves up. Tha' cut on yer back? Woulda easily killed ye in aboot ten minutes, probably less. That banged up arm woulda put ye in a lot more pain now if ye hadn't 'elped it. Belkar? Ferget aboot it. 'E would be dead, no doubt."

Vaarsuvius nodded and frowned at the sheets, smoothing them slowly. "Is he in pain?" The elf stiffened immediately. What was just asked for the halfling? "Forget I said anything. I am more tired than I thought."

"Na, 'tis a valid question. Jus' shows ye care."

"I do not, I assure you."

A smile played across Durkon's face. "It's okay ta get attached ta 'im, Vaarsuvius. Sure, it is illogic'l. Na ever'thin' is, 'specially when it comes ta people an' feelings. Ye 'ave been travelin' wit' 'im fer a while. Now, I, bein' a dwarf, understand tha' attachments dinnae grow tha' fast, but sometimes they do. Jus' let it be. 'Oo knows? Maybe 'e is a little more capable of complex thought an' feelings than ye think, as odd as it sounds." The dwarf crossed his arms. "Ta answer yer question, 'e's in pain. Na as much as when 'e was runnin' around wit' ye, but in pain. I did me best ta sooth it, but I need Thor's power ta heal either o' ye."

Vaarsuvius nodded, expression indiscernible.

"Vaarsuvius, wha' happened? I wake up with a broken window an' a stone in me bed, I look out, an' I see two vampires. B'fore ye can say 'Thor's Beard,' we were sudd'nly fightin' them an' you both came outta th' woods lookin' banged up and ever'thing's chaos."

"It is a long story, but I suppose that you have time."

Durkon leaned back and got comfortable. When even Vaarsuvius admitted that something was long, it was time to get ready for a about a week-long lecture. "Go on."

Vaarsuvius recounted events slowly, glossing over certain things (getting slapped multiple times, the conversation topics that came up with the halfling, the physical and mental closeness, the borderline intimacy that the situation had entailed…), but mostly giving an accurate and full description of events and the mage easily and cleanly kept any details that did not need to be shared out of the story.

"Ye both worked t'gether? As in, a pair? An' 'e di'n't stab ye or somethin'?"

The elf sighed. Well, attention was going to go there no matter what was done to avoid it.

"Yes, we had to. Under the circumstances, we would have died had we not." Vaarsuvius looked away awkwardly, the next sentence coming in a whisper so soft that Durkon had to lean in to hear. "He was actually quite gentle with me."

Durkon blinked, glancing over at Belkar. "…Ye know, 'e woke up a little b'fore ye. Ah 'ad ta put 'im back ta sleep 'cuz of the pain. 'E asked aboot ye, in 'is own roundaboot way."

Vaarsuvius was silent.

"Ah dinnea think tha' it's workin'. Gettin' 'im ta hate ye."

The elf lay back, letting out a small breath. Images of the trance memory flashed through V's head. "I do not believe that it is working either."

Durkon smiled gently before glancing at the window. "Ye get some sleep. When ye wake up, ye'll be good as new. Ye won't need ta think aboot these things and ye can get back to yer little squabble with 'im. Ye can be attached to someone an' still like messin' wit' 'em."

"I am unfamiliar with such an odd dynamic."

"Ever'thin' aboot Belkar is odd. Jus' accept it an' ye'll be a lot happier."

Vaarsuvius hesitated, then nodded slowly. "I shall attempt to." The elf's eyes closed and trance began.

Durkon smiled for a moment before standing. He needed to compare notes with Haley.

A/N

Thank you to Saeyen for beta'ing this for me. ^.^ This puppy's been waiting patiently for me to get to editing her since the start of the summer, and now she's complete.