They leave a trail of red in the snow as they move.
A thin layer of ice crunches beneath Denmark's boots and the air is uncomfortably crisp, even through his layers of wool and leather, rips and tears leaving his skin vulnerable to the sharp wind. On any other day, the weather might not bother him- he's used to it by now. He's seen worse; days when the sea has frozen thick enough to cross by foot and the trees have split under the brittle white. But today he has no patience for it, not when his muscles ache under the strain of dragging a sword with one arm and Sweden with the other.
"Just keep breathin', buddy," he grumbles into the side of his cloak. Through the fabric, he can't quite see Sweden, bruised and bleeding out into the front of his tunic, but he can feel the slow, measured breaths of unconsciousness against his neck. "Almost home."
It's a lie and he knows it. There isn't a chance that they'll make it back by nightfall. Not at this rate. Not when they're both too exhausted to walk properly. Not when they have to be this careful. Not when there might still be people after them. It's pathetic, really, that he has to flee like this, but he needs to get Sweden out of the ice and to somewhere covered enough to patch him up, and he really, really doesn't have the time to be getting into unnecessary brawls. His clothes are already stained and if Sweden dies on him out here, he's going to get a lot heavier. He'll be back in a few days if he does kick out, but carrying him for that long isn't an option. Not in snow this deep. Not this far out.
Plus, if the bastard is going to die, the least Denmark can do is get him somewhere warm to do it.
"Dammit, Sve, why can't you ever get your ass kicked closer to home?" He sighs and shifts him up a little higher, trying to keep his boots from dragging too much. "I'm not sayin' you gotta do it at my place, but if I gotta bail you out, it's the least ya could do."
Sweden doesn't reply. Not like he's expecting one.
Frozen brambles scrape together and a flurry of snow follows the trail of three men as they burst into the clearing. They don't say a word, merely brandish their swords and step into a triangle around Denmark; they're with the same band as before. And it's a goddamn travesty that they have as much clothing on as they do when Denmark does not. He stares the first man down, turning slowly.
"We really gonna do this now?" He calls. "I'm kinda busy if ya haven't noticed." His arm tightens around Sweden's waist and he draws him in a bit closer. "Told ya once that y'can't have 'im, so ya might as well be on your way." He nods in the direction of the path. "Go on, get."
He's getting really sick of no one responding to anything he says.
"All right, then. I guess we are doin' this now." He bends his knees and lays Sweden out behind him, unclasping his own cloak and laying it out over him, building a cautious barrier between his brother and the trio of thieves too damn cowardly to face him in anything but an ambush. He straightens, turning head-on into the wind, and draws his sword. The footing is terrible, slick with ice, and he isn't liking how the cold is starting to make his eyes burn. As he lifts his arm, his muscles tense in protest, but the dull shine of silver is a nice enough sight, he supposes. Chain mail clinks. Leather creaks. No one moves. This is, if anything, a one-sided fight, and odds are, they're both going to spend the next few days as bodies in the white drifts by the border until Norway can find them.
It's the thought that counts.
"Keep your hands offa him."
He leaves a trail of red in the snow as he moves.