squeaklings: (FFT - Delita)
[personal profile] squeaklings
Title: Wounds
Wordcount: 3813
Fandom: original fiction, Daeron!book
Rating: G
Warnings: nothing really
Summary: The aftermath of the fight with Ilvitre.
Notes: I kind of hate this, but I have been working at it for about three weeks now and just wanna get it out and done. I am, however, happy to use a line I've had in my head for years, so there's that. As always, super beta.



Daeron woke to pain.

His side alternated between stabs of agony and acute numbness, and the passing nausea compounded the effect. He groaned in pain and something scurried nearby, followed by the rustling of leaves.

“Do not move.”

Erain knelt beside him moments later, her hand cool against the side of his face. Daeron blinked sluggishly and tried to roll onto his side to push himself up. He lay nestled among the roots of a great tree, sunshine dappling the ground as it broke through the canopy. He was close enough to camp he could see his companions around the cooking fire, but still within the confines of the trees.

“I said do not move.”

“You…”

Another bout of nausea threatened to overtake him and Daeron squeezed his eyes shut until it passed. Erain remained hovering over him, her long white hair hastily tied back in a messy knot atop her head; she looked strange without her hair framing her face.

“You broke three ribs and fractured your right arm when you landed. I have set them right, but you must still rest or the pain will not cease.”

“Who,” he whispered, and every word was halting and painful, “are you?”

She pursed her lips and stared down at him with eyes the same grey as his. “You always knew, did you not?”

Daeron squeezed his eyes shut again in a desperate bid to fight both his nausea and his anger. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You never asked.”

He barked out and laugh and then groaned. “You’re an ass.”

“And you are a fool.” He opened his eyes to see her looking just past him, her eyes distant. “You suspected, yet never asked.” She touched his hair, as white as hers. “You did not ask because you did not want to know.”

He wanted to move away from her touch, but did nothing. He wanted to argue with her, but he’d only be lying.

“Only crazy people believe they’re connected to a god.”

“You are not crazy.”

He stared at the trunk of the tree in sullen silence for a long time before he finally spoke. “He called us your children. What does that even mean?” He forced himself to sit up, using the tree for balance. The pain had lessened to a dull ache, and his nausea seemed all but gone. “Do you choose a random baby and do some weird magic and, “he ran his hands through his hair, “they change? Or are you my mother and replaced my parents’ real son with me?”

“I am not your mother.” For the first time since he’d woken up, the faintest hint of emotion passed over her face. He’d call it amusement if he thought she was capable of it. “Your first assumption was more correct.” She paused. “Not quite correct, but close enough.”

Daeron narrowed his eyes. “That sounds very close to mocking me.” Maybe she was capable of amusement.

Erain kept her expression vexingly neutral. “I am not.” She sat down with her knees tucked beneath her and her hands folded on her lap, almost like she was waiting for something.

“So I’m your child, and Nasheer and Tika are children too, then who is…” He trailed off as he stared at the fire in the distance. He could see the camp clearly, but only Eon and Nasheer sat chatting. “Where is Tika?”

“She is also healing.”

“Healing where?” He took a deep breath to quell the panic rising in him, but he still found himself struggling to his feet. “She didn’t go away, did she?”

“You must remain still.” Erain pushed herself to her feet in one fluid motion, but he shrugged her hands away as she tried to force him back down. “I said stay still.”

Memories of them tumbling to the ground, of her screaming in pain and giant wings in the wind all jumbled together into a ball of panic that settled in his belly. How could he have just sat here all this time as if nothing happened?

“I got her hurt. I have to make sure she’s all right.”

“She is healing; your presence is not needed.”

Stop it!” He stunned himself with his shout, but quickly recovered and shook off her hands as he stumbled from the tree. Erain watched him as she slowly lowered her arms against her sides, her large grey eyes unreadable. “I have to make sure,” he said with some semblance of calm. “Please.”

Erain slowly lowered herself so she sat on her knees again, hands folded in her lap. “She is at the river, just beyond the camp.”

“Thank you.”

He stumbled away from the tree, his pain returning in slow increments. He gritted his teeth and pushed through it. I can do this. I have to do this.

Nasheer and Eon stood as he approached the camp, both sharing the same disapproving frown.

“You look like hell, why are you up?” Eon never was one for tact. “Get back to your tree.” He pushed at Daeron’s chest, but there was no force behind it. Nasheer easily plucked the younger boy away.

“Did Erain send you?” The older man looked between Daeron and the pale woman sat beneath the tree. “She was very adamant that we not disturb you.”

“I sent myself,” he said, his words haltingly slow. Eon hadn’t pushed him hard, but he hadn’t had to—his ribs felt on fire. “Where’s the river?”

Nasheer frowned, but Eon spoke up. “No. Turn around and go back to your tree.”

Daeron rolled his eyes. “No. Where’s the river?”

“Eon is right.” Nasheer gently grabbed Daeron’s arm and tried to turn him around. “You’re not well. Go rest.”

Daeron shrugged out of the older man’s loose grip and grimaced. “Like hell. Where is the river?”

Nasheer stared at him for a long while before he shrugged and nodded his head just east of the campfire.

“Five minutes’ walk.” He paused. “A lot longer for you, though.”

“You’re just gonna let him go?” Eon asked, craning his neck to look up at the older man. “If he hadn’t--“

“Quiet, Eon.” Nasheer rested a hand on top of Eon’s head, but the boy quickly knocked it away before he stormed off. They watched him toss himself angrily on the ground in front of the fire. “He hasn’t slept at all; he’s been alternating going between you and Tika, checking up on you.”

Daeron stared at Nasheer. “Eon? I thought he hated me.”

Nasheer shrugged. “Perhaps it’s time you actually started paying attention, then.” He reached to pat Daeron’s shoulder and then stopped. “Uh, habit.” He dropped his hand with a sheepish grin, but his expression sobered quickly enough. “If you need us, we’ll be right here.”

“Nasheer?” The big man looked back over his shoulder. “…did you know? About Erain?”

The older man smiled sadly. “Didn’t you?”

He left Daeron alone to make his slow way to the river. Start paying attention, huh? His words stung as much as Erain’s had before. “Am I really that bad…?”

He’d never wanted to be a hero; he’d never wanted anything other than to stay in his village and be the son his mother wanted him to be.

But I jumped at the chance to follow Erain. He walked slowly, but in the shadow of the trees his body didn’t feel as sore as it had. And I stopped dyeing my hair the moment I was away from home.

The world was so much larger than his little village. Meeting Tika had taught him that, but she’d gone away. She’d been so proud of being different, so proud of her bluish hair and how that meant she would be a great priestess someday; he hid behind disguises and lies.

I really didn’t want to know. He sighed and slowed as he stared at the leaf-covered ground in front of him. I’ve always just been running away.

The sound of rushing water jarred his thoughts, and he glanced up. The sun played along the surface of the water, sparkling and mesmerizing. Tika sat on the bank facing away from him, and he started to call out before her name froze in his throat.

“Daeron?”

She must have heard him coming. Her voice was soft and pained, and she looked back at the river as soon as she said his name. Daeron hesitated before he approached, and all the words he wanted to say disappeared when he saw her.

The long, fine hair she prized so much was a torn and tangled mess; some of it was unharmed, but most had been shorn at random angles and lengths, falling around her neck and ears in a tattered curtain.

“Tika…”

She shrugged, and he realized she sat with her legs pulled up to her chest. He sat along the bank a few feet away with his legs folded before him. Tika kept her face turned away.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said, his soft voice loud beside the gentle sound of the river. “I caused that, didn’t I?”

Silence. Then, “It wasn’t your fault.”

“I think we both know that’s not quite true.” He picked up a stone and tossed it at the water. “If I hadn’t moved—“

“If you hadn’t moved,” she interrupted, her voice dark, “I would be dead. He would have done it.” She looked at him then, legs still held protectively against her body but her expression defiant.

Three large, angry red gashes traveled down the left side of her face, from the far corner of her eye to her mouth. A smaller one trailed low along the right side of her jaw. Daeron stared until she turned away to gaze out over the water.

“When we fell,” she added after a long, uncomfortable silence. She lifted a hand to her cheek before wrapping it around her knee again. “This was him losing his grip.”

Her scream. The panic that had been eating away at his belly felt like a punch to the gut.

“Does it hurt?”

She glanced at him and he stared hard at his knees, flushed with anger and embarrassment. Of course it hurts, you ass.

“Yes, but not like before. Veilien healed most of it.” She started to reach for her cheek and then stopped. “It will never fully heal, though.”

Daeron opened his mouth to apologize again and then swallowed back the words. They felt hollow and useless, and he tossed another rock; this one made a loud thunk before it sank beneath the water. “Is there anything I can do?” he finally asked.

Tika shook her head. “You’re hurt yourself; don’t worry about me.”

“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t worried.”

She was quiet a moment. “I suppose that’s true.” She looked over and gave him a weak smile that pulled at her gashes and the rock that was the pit of his stomach sank further. “But there’s nothing you can do.”

He watched her turn away again, and the remnants of her long hair slid over her shoulder. Maybe…? Daeron checked his belt for his knife, relief easing the weight in his belly as his fingers brushed the familiar pommel.

“I think,” he said slowly, easing himself to his feet, “there might be something I can do.”

Tika glanced at him from the corner of her eye. He’d always liked her eyes, but now they just looked dull and lifeless. She noticed his hand against the knife and he saw her body tense up. “What.”

He approached slowly, and pointed at his messy white hair. “I know a thing or two about hair,” he said. “I can’t change what was done, but I could make it look nice.”

For a moment he thought he saw some spark of emotion in her eyes, but she quickly glanced down and simply nodded. He sat behind her as Erain had with his legs tucked beneath him, and gently ran his hands through her hair. She winced at each knot he untangled, and he noticed fine scars along the back of her neck. Gods, what did he do?

He spent more time combing through her hair than he meant to, and his arm and ribs ached by the time he unsheathed his knife and eyed the strands with a critical eye. Cutting and dying his own hair had become second-nature, but he’d only ever done another person’s hair a handful of times. Tika sat with her chin on her knees, staring at the water.

The knife cut through her hair with surprising ease, and pale strands fell around them like down. The longest remnants went first, leaving her neck bare. Daeron never saw her hair so short; she’d kept it long when they were children. She hugged her knees closer to her chest as the last strand fell, and Daeron hesitated. “I need to get around your ears,” he finally said, and she nodded curtly. “I’ll be careful.”

He took his time despite the sharp spasms of pain in his arm. Daeron wasn’t sure she even noticed, but she flinched every time the knife came close to her ear, and he couldn’t blame her. Would he be so willing to let someone bring a sharp object to his head if he’d been the one attacked?

By the time he finally sheathed the knife and brushed the last few loose strands from her hair, his chest felt inflamed and he could barely lift his right arm. Tika sat still as a rock; she’d made no comment the entire time.

“All done.”

Tika slowly unwound her arms from around her knees and brought a hand to the back of her neck to tentatively brush bare skin. She paused as she finally found the tips of her hair; aside from the bangs he’d left untouched, the longest strands were perhaps the length of her hand.

“It’s all gone.” Her voice was thick.

“I know.”

She pulled her knees away from her chest and leaned forward to look into the water. The river moved too quickly to work as a mirror, but she stared at it for a long time before she sat back. Her eyes were glassy when she looked at him.

“Does it look bad?”

Daeron shook his head. You could never look bad. He bit the words back. Now was not the time. “I don’t think so. It’s short, but it fits you.” As strange as it was to see her without that curtain of hair, and despite the scars crossing her face, he still thought she was beautiful. “It’s a little messy,” he added, “but I can even it out in a few weeks.”

Tika absently ran a hand through her hair, pausing each time her fingers met empty air. “I thought,” she finally said, her voice still thick and her words halting, “I had accepted that I’m ugly now, but I don’t think I really had.” She shook as she brought her left hand to her face and traced the deep scars along her cheek.

“You’re not—“

“Don’t,” she growled. “You’ll only be mocking me.”

“I’m not mocking you,” he snapped back.

“Everything about this,” she dug her fingers into her cheek, “is ugly!”

“I don’t think you’re ugly.” He held her gaze. “I’ve never once thought you were ugly.”

Tika scowled. “Of course you wouldn’t, I didn’t have half my face torn off before!”

“Never includes today!” Daeron dug his nails into his knees in an effort to calm himself down; his body hurt and Tika couldn’t be feeling much better, either. “You’re still beautiful.”

“Don’t you dare.”

“What?”

“Don’t say things like that.” She looked away, her eyes fixed on some point to the left of him. “You’ll just make it harder.”

“But I—“

Please stop.” She glanced back at him as the first few tears trailed down her cheeks. “I have to accept it and you,” she paused as her voice caught and she quickly scrubbed at her eyes, only to flinch in pain. “You just…” Her voice broke down as she squeezed her eyes closed in a failed attempt to stop crying.

Daeron moved closer and pulled her into a hug that she didn’t push away from. Instead she buried her face in his shoulder and sobbed, heaving with every breath, her arms pressed between their chests. He rested his cheek against the back of her head and held her, unsure what else to do.

“I was doing so well,” she finally said, breaking the stillness that had settled around them. She’d quieted long before but kept her face pressed to his shoulder; Daeron thought she’d fallen asleep. Tika pulled away and rubbed the heels of her palms against her bloodshot eyes, never quite looking at him.

Daeron glanced down at his tear-soaked shoulder. “Maybe not as well as you thought?”

Tika laughed, the sound loud and quick but not forced. She reached up to run her hands through her hair and paused as reality sank in again. “Thank you.” She gestured at her head. “For trying to make it better.”

His heart sank. “It’ll grow back."

Tika shook her head. “Not my hair. I’m sure you made it lovely.” She laid a hand against her cheek and traced the scars. Her eyes were no longer dull, but she wouldn’t meet his gaze and instead stared past him. “You should probably head back.”

“What about you?”

She focused on him briefly. “I’ll be fine.”

Daeron just barely stopped himself from pulling at his drenched shirt. “I really doubt that.” He shifted so his legs were folded in front of him and draped his arms across his knees. “I can stay.”

“You need to heal.”

“It’s not like I’m running around, I’m just sitting.”

Tika shook her head and met his gaze. “You need to go back where she can heal you.”

Daeron crossed his arms over his chest and did his best not to wince and prove her right. His aches were harder to ignore now. “She’s a god, she can do whatever she wants.”

Tika narrowed her eyes. “I’m sure you know it doesn’t work like that.” She sighed, reached for her face, and quickly pulled her hand away when she realized. “Actually, maybe you don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?”

“The Corners have spheres of influence. They can’t just do whatever they want whenever they want.”

“If that were true, then Ilvitre or whatever his name was wouldn’t have been able to do what he did.” The gashes looked even worse after her breakdown, vibrant red against her tanned skin and puffy cheeks. She froze, her eyes wide, and Daeron cursed under his breath. “I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.”

Silence hovered around them before she finally answered. “You’re not wrong, though.” The air felt heavy between them. Birdsong mixed with the sound of the river in a way that would have been soothing yesterday but only highlighted the silence between them. What aches he’d been able to ignore flared up the longer they sat, and Daeron fidgeted uncomfortably as Tika stared into the distance. “You really should go back,” she said as his movements finally caught her attention. Her voice was tired.

“I know,” he conceded, but remained sitting. “Come back to the camp with me?” He glanced up at empty blue sky. “You shouldn’t be alone.”

“I’m not alone.” She smiled weakly. “I’m safe here, don’t worry.”

We were supposed to be safe before, too. “At least come and eat?” When was the last time they had a meal? Judging by the sun he’d been asleep almost a day, and judging by Nasheer’s comment she’d holed herself here for at least as long.

She glanced in the direction of the camp for a long time before she shook her head, hands clenched against her knees. “I can’t yet.” She paused. “But I won’t drive you away if you decided you wanted to eat by the river.”

“That—“

Tika held up a hand to stop him but she didn’t turn to face him. “You really should go now.”

“That’s a start,” he finished, and slowly pushed himself to his feet. Leaving her alone left a bad taste in his mouth, but he couldn’t deny he needed Erain’s help.

“Oh.” The look of surprise on her face made him smile. “Thank you. For understanding.”

I don’t, though. “I’ll come back soon.” He hobbled a few steps from the river before he felt a hand on his arm and turned to see her standing just behind him. “Tika?”

She pulled him into a hug, her arms wrapped loosely around his waist and her face pressed against his chest. He stood there like a fool before he snapped out of his daze and hugged her back.

“I’ll help you to the tree line,” she said after a long moment, and shifted so his left arm was flung over her shoulder. He let his right hang at his side and leaned against her without complaint. “Why didn’t you say you were hurting so much?”

“I didn’t realize it was this bad.” He glanced over at her out of the corner of his eye. Her hair tickled his cheek. “It’s just been some aches and sore muscles.”

“That’s not what I heard,” she said, but didn’t press him.

The shadow of the trees felt like bliss, and Tika helped him lean against the trunk of a large pine. Sweat beaded his face but he grinned at her. “Looks like I got you to come with me after all.”

Tika started to say something, stopped, and then laughed softly. “I suppose that’s true.” She looked past him in the direction of the camp, and gently brushed a finger against her cheek.

“You shouldn’t keep touching it,” he said, and pulled her hand away. She blinked and looked down where he lightly held her wrist. “You keep tracing them.”

“I didn’t…” She pulled her hand loose and wrapped her arms around her stomach. “Will you be all right on your own from here?”

“I will.”

The urge to touch her was almost overpowering, but he kept his hands at his sides. Once, he’d convinced himself he loved her based on memories of a few months spent together as children. He’d idolized her so much he created a fantasy he still had to fight against.

But this was different.

“Tika.” She stopped, half-turned away from him. He pushed himself away from the tree but kept his distance. “If there’s anything I can do to help, please tell me.”

She smiled sadly. “Rest. I’ll see you later.”

Eon and Nasheer were waiting when he finally reached the camp. Nasheer set aside a plate of food for him and Eon did nothing but insult him while fussing over his health.

Erain was nowhere to be found.

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