If any of you are reading this...I'm...so, so, so sorry. Please forgive me...
Another arrow went whistling by his head, and he found himself desperately wishing for the protection of his broken and discarded helmet once again. Even the steel chest plate he had recently acquired wasn't standing up well to the onslaught of dark creatures, and exhaustion was slowing his chipped and stained blade.
One more solid hit and I'll be done in… he thought grimly as he side-stepped a rotting hand groping for his throat. His blade, battle-worn and ready to be retired for another, sung diligently as he slashed at the cursed appendage eager to end his life. It wasn't enough to hack straight through, but left a deep gash that bought him precious seconds. The creature stumbled back and groaned, but its dead eyes held no signs of pain…only an otherworldly hunger, further communicated by its gaping mouth. And this was merely one of many – they were surrounded.
I told him we should have waited until morning. We aren't in any shape to handle them.
He turned his head, eyes desperately searching the dark for signs of his red-haired companion through the sting of sweat dripping from his brow. "Honeydew, there are too many of them!" While he couldn't search out the dwarf, he trusted his words to reach him. "We need to—"
The words died in his throat as a blood chilling sound reached his ears; a soft hissing, like the deceptively delicate whisper of death itself, coming from right behind him. He was frozen in place, his face gone pale and his mouth still open in mid-shout. This is the end…Minecraftia, I'm…sorry…
"Xephoooos!" A hoarse battle-cry rung out over the turmoil of Israphel's minions and he suddenly found himself face-first in the grass on the side of the stone road they had been travelling. Before he could lift his head there was a massive explosion, a flash of bright light accompanied by a tremendous booming that left his ears ringing…he could feel the heat of it on his back, cracking his armor and singeing his clothes. His sword had fallen nearby and he scrambled to cover his head with his empty hands as dirt and bits of rock sprayed over him.
"Shit…" he hissed breathlessly. As soon as the rubble settled he was shakily pushing himself to his feet, stumbling forward in search of his companion. It seemed that the explosion had taken out the remaining creatures…on top of a significant chunk of the road. They had been travelling on a long-since deserted path, the lights having gone out ages ago, and with nothing but the stars to provide them with what little they could see. Now the moon, full and round, was finally peeking up over the tops of the surrounding trees, and the pale glow spilled over the disastrous scene. The body of his companion was lying in a heap on part of the still intact road, and Xephos nearly tripped over his own feet in his scramble to get to his side. His legs gave out on him as he reached Honeydew, and he fell to his knees beside the still form. "…Are you okay, friend?" he asked quietly, the gentle tone feeling loud and obtrusive in the eerie silence. The ringing in his ears seemed more deafening in comparison to the previous clamor of battle.
There were a few terrifying moments in which the dwarf remained perfectly still, and he began to fear the worst. With a barely noticeable twitch of movement, a hand was suddenly on his own, gripping firmly.
"Xephos…you really are terrible at fighting," Honeydew rasped, his voice gravelly with pain. The friendly teasing brought a reluctant smile to the spaceman's face, and he held Honeydew's hand in both of his own. Even with all of his remaining strength, it didn't feel like he was holding on tightly enough. There was a numbness settling into his body, spreading slowly from his chest and through his limbs, as if to cushion him from the shock. His mind was slowed to a grating halt, refusing to allow him to consider the long-standing implications of…if Honeydew was really going to…
"That's why we're a team, isn't it?" Xephos replied, though he could hardly produce more than a whisper. His lips felt cold and reluctant to form words. "That's why we need each other if we're going to stop Israphel. We're going to save the world…aren't we?" His throat felt tight, as uncooperative as his lips, and embarrassingly enough, there was a noticeable tremor, a hint of pleading in his final question. The hidden inquiry beneath it was painfully obvious.
There was no immediate response and he was torn between wondering if Honeydew had even heard him, or if…he was no longer able to. The journey had been a rash decision, one made based on the dire circumstances looming over them. They had been low on supplies, having used up the rest of their food, and their armor and weapons weren't in top condition. But Israphel's uprising was drawing ever-nearer, and fearing they couldn't waste sitting out another night, they had chosen to travel. The distance had been farther than expected, bringing them through empty wilderness, and their meager supply of torches had failed them quickly. They had been forced to jog through the darkness and hope they could outrun the terrible monsters that plagued this land. Ultimately they had gambled against stakes that were too high for them to beat. And now he was looking through a veil of remorseful moonlight at the crumpled form of his best friend.
A ragged cough stirred Honeydew's body again and Xephos squeezed his hand. Was it his imagination? Was the dwarf's grip really weakening?
"Yeah…the world…sounds pretty epic, don't it?"
Xephos nodded weakly. It took him a moment to recover his voice, realizing that the dwarf was probably unable to see the gesture.
"Really epic. I bet when we save the dwarves they'll sing about you, about all the magnificent holes you've dug, and how bravely you've fought. They'll give you all the ale you can drink and all the jaffa cakes you can eat. You always tell me how dwarves throw splendid parties…" He was talking much too quickly now, his shoulders hunched forward and shaking a little. It was just the cold…probably just the cold. And he was subconsciously stroking the back of Honeydew's hand, petting it with barely concealed desperation, as if the fervent touch were enough to heal the wounds his friend had taken in order to save him. "Honeydew, you idiot, why would you do something like thi—" His voice was starting to take a rather unflattering turn, but he was abruptly cut off by Honeydew.
"…I could really go for some jaffas right now…Xephos, do you have any?"
It startled him. There was that familiar airy tone that his companion got when he was frequently "peckish"…and maybe it was being startled with that familiarity at such a time that won a choked laugh from him. "Hungry again? You know that I'd give them all to you in a heartbeat if I had any, friend…"
"Well…that's alright, then. Would you lean down? There's...something I want to tell you."
He wasn't expecting the request…but wasn't it always just before when people confessed? Their regrets, secrets, things they thought were important. No, he didn't want to believe that their time together was over. This quest was such a heavy one, and without the light-hearted support from his dwarven friend, he wasn't sure if he could handle it. They were supposed to save the world together…they were both supposed to come out of it okay. But he couldn't deny Honeydew's request. With his shaking more noticeable now, he hesitantly lowered himself over Honeydew, presenting him his ear. His eyes shut and he waited, heart pounding in his ears as the rest of the world stayed respectfully quiet in the face of their scene.
I promise to burn this moment into my heart, Honeydew…I promise that I will hold onto this memory forever, and that I won't allow Israphel to get away with what he's done. My friend…I promise that, for you, I will…
Suddenly the dwarf's hand was on the back of his neck, gripping with surprising strength, pulling him closer until he could feel the curls of his beard against his ear. "Xephos, I may have eaten all of our pork chops before we left…" Came the confession, steady and with no signs of his previous pain. No, in fact, Honeydew sounded cheeky, like a child that had played a prank with immense success. Before it could properly hit him, before he could stutter out some sort of exclamation, Honeydew had shifted and crushed their mouths together in a brief but suffocating kiss.
Xephos scrambled backwards with a rather undignified noise of shock and embarrassment, his cheeks burning hot against the cold night air. "Honeydew…!" His voice was raised a pitch by indignance and mortification, and he rubbed furiously at his mouth with the back of his hand as if to scrape away the tingling sensation left behind. Then came the joyous, innocent laughter of his companion, loud and hearty and full of his ever-present vitality.
"Come on, mate, you really think I'd let one of those green bastards be the end of me? I'm a dwarf – we're tougher than that. Tough as the rocks we dig through." He thumped his bare chest, and his bright smile was visible even in the dim light of the full moon. Then he was laughing again, his words hardly recognizable amongst his chuckles, though by his tone it was obvious he was teasing the spaceman for his reaction. But despite everything…getting to hear that sound again, knowing that his friend was going to be okay…Xephos couldn't help but join in with his own affectionate laughing. He just couldn't stay mad at Honeydew with all this relief flooding through him and thawing the cold that had begun to settle in his heart.
"Yeah…you really are something," he said quietly, his voice full of warmth.