The cave wasn’t too far from Fenlin’s camp and she’d planned it that way in case the Qun showed up unexpectedly. Retreating into the spider-infested cave system as a spider offered as much protection from an army as she was going to get. The path along the shore was slippery from the constant rain, and cold ocean water lapped at her feet as Fenlin stopped to collect spindleweed on her way. She’d used most of the healing herbs she’d had on Rahlen’s leg, leaving the gash she’d need to replenish her stock of elfroot before long.
Fenlin made a note to take the long path back to the camp. Running up along the clifftops, there were patches of elfroot growing along the path and ruined buildings from the Inquisition era.
First though, Fen reminded herself, the spiderwebs. Sure, she’d thought of the fact that she could turn into a spider herself and make webbing but… but somehow the thought of making web and then using it to treat Rahlen’s leg, but. That seemed a bit… erm. Well. Fenlin’s ears went red just thinking about it. She wasn’t sure if excreting web then putting it on the man was too intimate or just too //weird/ to even consider. Mythal only knew how he’d react if he had woken up to a massive cave spider wrapping his leg up in her web. Likely, Fen would have suffered some burns along with the slash on her side.
Yeah, collecting web was the best option, all things considered.
Fenlin ducked into the cave, slicking back her wet hair and blinking the rain from her eyelashes. This cave was one of the more extensive ones, she knew. Although it looked narrow, dwarven ruins lay deep in the mountain, with a collapsed deeproad entrance further still. Between that waited the spiders she was after and packs of deepstalkers that could be annoying at best and dangerous at worst.
Something skittered in the darkness ahead. Lifting her hands, Fenlin cast a spell to light the sconce bolted into the rock wall ahead. Veilfire bloomed, filling the cave with green light and reflected off the dozens of eyes that watched her from along the walls and ceilings.
There they were.
A gob of web shot out from the shadows, landing on Fenlin’s foot and splashing out to stick her in place. With a silent sigh, Fenlin pulled at her foot. This much web would be enough but it was the wrong kind. She and Rahlen needed the stuff that spread out over the rocks, not the glob of glue that held her in place. With a grunt, Fenlin yanked her foot free, then gasped as the slash on her side opened.
She threw forward a fireball, chasing off the more adventurous spiders. It’d buy her time, but Fenlin knew she would be in trouble if she lingered. Pressing a hand to her side, she grit her teeth and hurried over to the nearest cobweb to gather what she needed. Fen stuck her staff into the web, sweeping it up and around to collect the strands of silk in a bundle around the staff’s branching head.
The skittering of spider legs told Fenlin the time she’d bought using the fireball had run out. Glancing over her shoulder, Fen caught the next gob of web on the side of her face. Warm, sticky, and horrible, the web splashed over her hair and across her shoulder, holding it up against her ear. Uggghhghghghghgg. It was on her ear. The web was on her ear and it was wet and sticky and gross.
Shuddering, Fenlin managed to dodge the next gob of web, and hurried out into the safety of the rain. Safe and out of range, Fenlin used her free hand to make a rude gesture towards the cave mouth. Her lips formed the shapes of soundless curses, at least until some of the spider web on her cheek got into her mouth. Oh, gross.
Fen coughed and spat out what she could, but the web was still sticking to her cheek and face. Ugh and her ear. Trying to look on the bright side, Fen reminded herself that she had the spiderwebs to take care of her side and Rahlen’s leg, and spindleweed to help clear out any infection. It was almost worth getting a gob of web in the face. And hair.
Rahlen was lucky he was so pretty… she thought, sulking as she started to pick her way back up along the coast to their camp.
The elfroot was going to have to wait until she cleared off the web and took care of her side, though. The last thing Fen felt like doing was running into some of the bandits that lived deep in the hills. Speaking of her side… Fen glanced down and frowned at the red stain that was slowly seeping through her tunic.
Hand pressed tight against the fabric, Fen used her staff to help her balance as she picked her way across the slippery rocks. Climbing over the rise that hid the camp from the sea, Fen was relieved to see that the tarp was still holding up, and the camp didn’t appear to be ransacked. Carefully, she started to pick her way down the path.
“You weren’t gone long,” Rahlen said, looking up from the fire “You’re hurt!” He pushed himself up to his feet, or tried to. He went pale and staggered, falling over onto the small bed of mosses with a grunt of pain.
Fen rolled her eyes, but only after she’d hurried over to help him back up to sitting. She tried to snap at him, to tell him to stay sitting, but her mouth just opened and nothing came out. Instaed she swatted him on the shoulder and glared, pointing down at the bed of moss he was now sitting on.
“It felt better,” he said. “And you’re bleeding,” he added, pointing to her side.
Yeah… and? He’d been the one to do that. Fen’s scowl didn’t budge. Actually, she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to un-scowl the left side of her face. The web was now holding some of the folds in place.
“Sit, let me take a look at it,” he said, reaching out to try to guide her and help her sit next to him. “Was it a spider?”
Fen resisted swatting his hands away, and sighed in resignation. She’d need his help to undo the mess in her hair anyways and the slash on her side was difficult to reach on her own. Grudgingly, she sat next to him, peeling off the rain-covered poncho. The oiled canvas stuck for a moment against the webbing on her, but with a slow and steady pull, she got it free with a minimal loss of baby hairs on her temple.
“Show me what I need to do to help you stop the bleeding,” Rahlen said. Fen realised in surprise that he was waiting for her okay to reach and tug up the hem of her tunic.
That was… oh. That was a pleasant surprise. Suddenly self conscious of the spider web on her, and the location of the slash on her side, Fen’s ears started to burn. The scowl softened.
Okay, maybe Rahlen wasn’t so terrible. For a human.
Fen pointed at a small jar and waterskin that sat near the fire.
“Those? Okay,” Rahlen said, grunting as he rolled on his hip to reach them. He’d changed into the hastily mended clothes. It helped that he wasn’t half naked, that had been…distracting.
Focus, she told herself as Rahlen straightened again, ready for instructions. Sure he’d caught her glancing at his shoulders, Fen coughed awkwardly and pulled the tunic up over her shoulder to reveal the slash of his spirit blade. Twisting, she peeked down and winced at the inflamed edges of the cut. Okay so maybe it was a little infected despite her efforts to keep it clean.
“Maker, how long have you had this?!” Rahlen said, “Spiders didn’t do this, did they?” He asked, glancing up at her face.
Fen blinked. He didn’t remember?
She looked pointedly at him, then down at the cut. You did this.
“Right, uh, water first?” he said, opening the waterskin.
Fen nodded. He’d misunderstood, thinking she was telling him to focus on cleaning out the wound. It didn’t matter. Lost in thought, she straightened her back with a hiss as the cold water poured over the inflamed skin.
“Sorry,” Rahlen said. “What’s next?”
Fen pointed at the jar, then motioned to scoop out the paste and pat it gently onto the cut. Rahlen looked up at her, concerned.
“Won’t that hurt?” he asked.
“If I knew a healing spell I’d just-” the man sighed, frowning down at the cut. “But I don’t.” Carefully, he opened the jar and sniffed at the elfroot and spindlewood paste inside. Most of it was gone, used on his leg. But there was still enough for her today. She’d have to go buy more at the nearest town soon, though.
“Okay, you ready?” He asked, scooping a small bit onto his fingers.
Fen took a deep breath and held it, nodding. It stung, drawing the held breath out of her lungs in a slow hiss as Rahlen gingerly dabbed the paste into the wound.
“Sorry, I’m being as gentle as I can,” he said. Fen reached out to pat his arm, to tell him it was alright. Instead she ended up gripping it tight as he smeared more of the paste into place.
“You… are much stronger than you look,” Rahlen said with a small chuckle. “If it helps, you can hold onto me. I don’t mind.”
Ears turning red, Fenlin yanked her hand from his arm and gripped a handful of her ankle instead. She stared straight ahead, focusing on the glowing coals of the fire instead of the fact she’d left white finger marks on his arm, or that his skin had been warm and–
Mythal’s mercy that stung.
“Done,” he said after far too long. “You could have held onto my arm you know, I’m not shy.” He was teasing her, and Fen just felt her face get hotter.
She pulled her staff over, and using gentle fingers, teased free some of the spider silk from the end of her staff. Carefully, she spread it over part of the cut, patting it down with a wince.
“Here, I’ll do the rest. What about after this? Do you have any bandages left?”
Fen shook her head. She’d used them all up on his leg. She’d just have to make do without something to tie the spiderwebs into place.
Rahlen had another idea, though. Stripping off his shirt, he ripped along the bottom, tearing along the weft to make strips long enough to wrap around her and hold the treatment in place.
Fen stared, eyes wide at the sight. It was one thing to see him lying down and nearly dead, it was another thing to watch his shoulders flexing and- Suddenly very warm, Fenlin stared down at her lap.
“Here, lift up your arms,” he said, suddenly very close. Fenlin could practically feel the heat from her face reflected off his skin and bouncing back to heat her still further. She looked at him, eyes wide. Why did he want her to lift up her arms?! Her tunic was going to stay on thank you very much.
“So I can tie on the bandage,” he said, and smiled that horrible dangerous smile and Fenlin wanted to die because she was sure he knew what she’d thought he was going to ask her to do. She raised her arms, but prayed to Mythal that she’d fall into a sink hole and be gone forever.
Mythal wasn’t that generous. Instead she felt the heat of Rahlen’s hands as he carefully started to wrap the makeshift bandage around her ribs and waist.
“I didn’t realise elves could turn as red as you do,” he said with a not-unkind laugh. “You can relax, I won’t do anything to make you uncomfortable.”
Lies. Just sitting this close to her was making her feel uncomfortable. He could literally be sleeping and she’d feel uncomfortable around him.
“All done,” he said, tying a knot and gently pulling her tunic back down into place. “So, what did do that?” He asked. This time when Fenlin looked at him, she reached out and tapped his hand. The hand that had pulled the spirit blade from nothing.
Rahlen frowned, looking at his hand.
“I don’t understand. This was when you fought off the bear?” He said, trying to understand.
Fen sighed, and shook her head. Cupping her hands, she placed them on her head like bear ears and made a growly face.
“Bear,” he said, watching her with those stupid pretty blue eyes. Fen nodded. Right. Bear.
Then she tapped his chest, and mimed the spirit sword motion he’d made.
“I cut the bear and-” Fen nodded, then pointed at herself, and made another exagerated expression. ‘ow!’.
“I cut the bear and it hurt you?” He asked. “Maker, I’m sorry, I was trying to get away before it ate me, I didn’t mean to make it angry and have it hurt you!” He said, resting his hand over the bandage he’d just tied. On her ribs, and Fen coulds swear she felt the heat of his touch through the layers of cloth and through the skin, straight to the sudden thud of her heart.
He had hit his head, she reminded herself. His thinking might not be clear and she had never been good at charades.
Fen tapped his chest again, and this time took his hand, making the motion of the sword, and pulled it towards her, ‘stabbing’ herself it it. Then she let go and pointed to herself, making the ears and bear face again.
“I stabbed…you? You were the bear-” he said, eyes widening. “You were the bear. I stabbed you. Maker’s breath.” He stared at her, and Fen wasn’t quite sure if he was going to run away or faint or what. Eyes flicking over his face, she gently tapped his arm.
Hey, you okay?
“You saved my life,” he said quietly. “You pulled me to shore and I stabbed you, and you still took care of me?”
Fen shifted a bit awkwardly, then nodded. Of course she had. She wasn’t going to let him bleed out just because he’d panicked at seeing a bear.
Catching her face in his hands, Rahlen leaned over and pressed his lips to hers.
He still smelled like the elfroot medicine, but he tasted like rain and fire and Fenlin’s heart thudded painfully against her chest. She’d been caught off guard, and her hands flew up, hovering, unsure if she should push him back or pull herself against him.
“Sorry,” he said, pulling back and looking at her. Fenlin was still frozen, unsure of what to do. “Thank you. Thank you for everything. I- I’ll make this up to you, somehow.”
Hadn’t he just done that? Fenlin wondered, dazed.
Rahlen let go of her face, with a sheeping grin that turned to concern as one of his hands tugged her cheek with it. The spiderweb, Fenlin realised.
“Um. I’m really sorry,” Rahlen said, a faint tinge of pink rising to his cheeks and ears. “I think my hand is… stuck.”
They stared at each other, Fenlin trying to remember how to unstick spider web, and Rahlen– well she wasn’t sure. To be honest, she wasn’t sure how to think, she was kind of stuck on the way his lips had felt just like he was stuck to her cheek.
“It comes off eventually, right?” Rahlen asked. “A cave spider? We had those back home.”
Fenlin nodded, moving his hand along with her head. The silk would degrade eventually, it would just take time. Time that they’d be stuck together, literally and his hand was still so warm and it felt nice.
Cautiously, hesitantly, Fenlin leaned forward.
“Oh, did… you want another kiss?” Rahlen asked, and grinned. “I guess if I’m already stuck there’s only so many ways to pass the time, hm?”
Cheeks and ears red, Fenlin nodded once. She didn’t need to nod a second time. His hand on her cheek guided her back to his lips. Unhurried this time, Fenlin closed her eyes, melting into the heat of his lips. Shifting closer, she rested a tentative hand on his shoulder, the other supporting her so she wouldn’t risk bumping his injured leg.
“Hey,” Rahlen said, lips brushing hers. “Thanks, for not eating me. You know, when you were a bear.”
Fenlin couldn’t help it. Her sides started to shake in silent laughter, and she leaned over, biting at his shoulder playfully before dissolving into more silent laughter.
“I’m serious!” Rahlen said, cheeks pink. “And don’t start something you aren’t ready to finish, Bear.”
Fen’s laughter caught in her throat as Rahlen nipped at her ear. She shivered, biting her lip. Oh… that had… been nice. Wait- she could feel his smirk against her neck, and the next nip was just below her earlobe.
Oh. Bluff called.