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Daisies & Heart-shaped Cupcakes

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The next few days were probably some of the most chaotic ones that the orc had ever experienced. The elf’s nightmares and rising fever along with his everyday workload kept him constantly busy, making him exhausted to the point that even keeping his eyes open required heavy concentration. He became more and more sloppy and he often made silly mistakes while hunting, even scaring his prey away.

As the quality of his work worsened, his frustration only grew. It was time to take a short break, he decided. At that moment, he was determined that the next day he wouldn’t leave the house more than absolutely necessary. 

Rubbing his eyes and giving way to a half-hearted yawn, the orc stepped to the bed and even though it was only late afternoon, he flipped onto it, enfolding the elf in his arm, stroking his hair lazily. They had just eaten which made him even more sleepy, but for a few more minutes he didn’t want to give in to the tiredness. Seeing the elf this relaxed had been a rare sight lately and he wanted to admire it while he could.

While he was watching the lad, his thoughts wandered towards his idea of repaying him, for his scars. He figured that he needed to make a trap for the humans to lower the risks they imposed.

He knew some human made roads, making a trap would take only one or two days if he’s not interrupted by travellers and the conditions are favorable. None of the nearby roads were overused, only once or twice every other week would a group of merchants pass by. Even though the forest was dangerous, many rare herbs grew in it as well as some uncommon magical beasts, especially if one got closer to the mountains. Those plants and animals should be quite high-priced if people were willing to risk their lives for it, the orc assumed.

These groups varied in size, some only consisted of a few humans while others had more than a dozen armoured soldiers and beastkin mercenaries. If he fell out of the gods favours he would meet one of the latter. Fortunately those kinds of people didn’t come too often.

The orc’s trail of thought was interrupted by the elf’s subtle movements. Judging by the anxious look on his face the man could tell that he was having a bad dream again. He immediately pulled the elf closer, hugging him more firmly, burying the youth face into his greenish shoulder while rubbing soothing circles on his back.

This strategy had become increasingly effective over the last few days, now calming the elf down in just over a few seconds. The orc would never admit it, but he was pretty proud of himself.

They remained in the same position for a few more minutes until exhaustion took over him and the orc fell asleep in no time.

 

***

 

The orc woke up sooner than what he had expected. He opened his eyes at the crack of dawn, the sky was only a shade lighter than during nighttime. He could hear the calming noise of the rain from the outside which soon came to a stop.

He lay there idly for a while, not wanting to break the tranquil atmosphere that had settled over the room. The air had cooled down in the cabin due to the night precipitation, but the orc found the temperature pleasant. He felt, however, the elf snuggle closer to him and he couldn’t suppress the quiet laugh escaping his mouth.

He continued to absent-mindedly stroke the elf, which put one of his hands into a slightly twisted position, but he really didn’t want to move because of it. The lad’s hot breaths tickled his chest, making him smile at the sensation.

He didn’t regret in the slightest that he decided to stay at home today. This was probably the best morning in his life so far. He had a nice place to sleep instead of the rough, filthy ground under the sky, and there was no danger waiting for him. On the contrary, there was a beautiful elf sleeping peacefully by his side. His chest swelled with satisfaction and joy.

He gazed down at his lovely companion just a moment before the other’s eyelids hesitantly opened.



***

 

Regaining his consciousness the first thing he noticed was the comfortable warmth and the faint scent of forest surrounding him. The only part of his body that was exposed to the cold air was his back, the feeling made him shiver. Still half asleep, the elf tried to snuggle closer to the source of the heat in front of him.

He heard a quiet chuckle coming from somewhere above his head, and a hot gust of air touched his face. There were small movements around him as well made by someone other than himself. Still dizzy and only half-conscious from the long sleep and the illness, he was utterly confused.

According to his last memories he collapsed on the forest floor , tired of the long chase and ready to die at any moment. But now, he was sleeping comfortably in a place that was surely not a prison cell. 

Although he was fairly curious about who his rescuer was, instead of opening his eyes, he focused on all the sensations and noises around him. He was lying on a soft object, presumably on a bed, with someone else hugging him. The person’s arms were strong, heavy from the muscles, one was wrapped around his waist in a firm, but not violent manner while the other’s upper arm was under his head, the hand’s fingers tangled in his long hair, occasionally drawing slow circles on the back of his neck. There were calluses on his palm indicating that this individual was most likely a warrior. Despite the unusualness of the situation, he felt oddly safe in the arms of this unknown man.

The elf took a deep breath inhaling the scent of the person, which surprisingly wasn't as strong or unpleasant as most outsiders' smell. He could smell many things on this man. He had the scent of the forest on him; the trees, the soil, the river, even the odour of meadow flowers. It would have really been a perfect scent if it hadn’t been for the faint smell of sweat and blood tainting it because of which he couldn’t help wrinkling his nose a bit.

Finally, he gathered enough strength to open up his eyelids. It took him some time to focus on what was around him as he drowsily looked around. 

Firstly, he noticed the broad, greenish chest directly in front of him, merely centimetres away from the tip of his nose. Then he glanced up, and what he saw made his breathing come to an abrupt stop only to quicken up a moment later.

All he could see were the yellow eyes peering down at him and the slightly curved tusks, the special characteristics of an orc.

Any feelings of safety that he had up until now left him in an instance as he struggled to free himself from the orc’s embrace. The man was holding him unyieldingly for a few seconds murmuring something that he couldn't understand, before loosening his arms and letting him go.

He crawled backwards, flinching every time the orc made even the slightest movement. Suddenly he reached the end of the bed, but was too scared to stop, dropping down onto the hard wooden floor. The pain of the impact was suppressed by the fear-induced adrenaline rushing through his body, filling him with desperation to flee. 

Only then did he notice that the only piece of clothing he was wearing was a huge, plain shirt covering his body to his knees. This discovery made him even more terrified as he couldn’t be sure of what had happened to him while he was unconscious. He pushed himself further away from the orc in a panicked attempt to create even more distance between the two of them. 

He had heard so many stories about orcs and all of them were very informative when it came to how the other race tended to behave. They were blood-thirsty, unruly people, attacking innocent wanderers for selfish reasons, killing and robbing them. They did all kinds of evil deeds, within elf communities they were known for torturing their hostages and doing disgraceful things to young ladies. In every elf family there were dozens of stories telling how atrocious these people were. Many said that after the extinction of demons, orcs were the most immoral race on the continent.

Horrifying thoughts chased each other in the elf’s head, all the terrible stories he heard came to his mind at this moment. Would the things that his family was talking about happen to him too?

His back hit the wall of the room making his muscles tense up, until he was trembling with such fear that he became completely paralyzed. His eyes widened in horror as he looked up at the orc slowly approaching him. The man was huge and although in the dim light he couldn’t make out his expression, his frame alone was enough to intimidate him and make him feel absolutely helpless.

The orc slowly crouched down in front of him and extended his hand towards the elf causing him to shake even more. As the rough fingertips touched one of his tear-soaked cheeks his body flinched violently and suddenly the power came back into his limbs. He shot up and sprinted towards the door that he had just noticed. He rushed out, straight into the depths of the forest as fast as his legs could carry him. He had no destination in mind, the only thing he knew was that he had to get away.

As he hadn’t been exercising for a long time, his lungs soon started to burn with exhaustion and his legs lost their power too. A moment later, he tripped over a branch and fell face-first onto the muddy ground. Ignoring the pain, he tried to get up, but his muscles were sore and too tired to support his weight. He could only turn onto his back and watch as the orc ran towards him, the soil underneath him shook with every one of his footsteps.

In no time the orc caught up to him and was squatting in front of him again, hands stroking the quivering elf with slow soothing movements. But it only made the youth even more confused and frightened with every touch.

“Please, don’t hurt me. Please, don’t hurt me.” mumbled the boy repeatedly in a quiet, brittle voice, tears running down his cheeks once again.

Never in his life had the elf felt so powerless. His heart was beating in his throat, he could hear his own blood rushing in his ears, everything became blurry as if the whole world was spinning around him so much that he couldn't even breathe. As he was being lifted up by the orc he tried to push the man away, but his weak attempts were completely ignored as if the orc didn’t even feel them.

He did everything he could in order to get free, but the orc's strength was way bigger than his, besides, he was getting more and more tired as well. He tried to stay awake, but exhaustion soon overpowered him, and everything fell into blackness.

His stiff body soon went limp and the orc could finally hug him a bit closer to his chest so as to protect him from the cool morning air, not caring about the dirt getting smeared all over him.

Finally, having secured the elf in his arms the orc quickly walked back to his house. As it had been raining earlier at dawn, the ground was still muddy and now the elf and the orc were both completely covered in it and they all needed a bath.

Holding the youth in one hand he quickly filled a basin with water and warmed it on the fire. Then he undressed the elf and washed his body clean. Having a larger tub would have been nice, but as he hadn't needed it so far he never bothered to get one. Having these kinds of items wasn't common among orcs anyway.

By the time the elf was free of dirt again the colour of the water had got so dark that the bottom of the basin could not be seen anymore. He quickly put the spare shirt on him, then tucked the lad into bed and covered him with the quilts.

The wounds on the elf’s feet and arms didn’t look deep or serious, they were mostly just superficial scratches so after some basic cleaning, he let them heal naturally.

He knew that he should clean the elf's clothing as well, but wasn't in the mood to do so. He was still a bit restless from the morning chase, and now was pondering about the next step. He obviously couldn't let  the elf run around as he pleased, the boy was still sick and needed to rest, he couldn't risk angering the Sentinel by being too reckless. Moreover, the forest was a dangerous place inhabited by many ferocious creatures and poisonous plants. Even if the elf avoided these he could easily wander into another orc's territory which would have catastrophic consequences. Not everybody of his kin was as kind as him, meeting them would end with the elf's death or with horrendous injuries even before he could get a chance to rescue him.

As a temporary solution he tied the elf’s left wrist to the bed frame, with the most complicated knot he knew, so that the boy couldn’t immediately escape after awakening. Fortunately, the orc didn’t plan to spend too much time outside today, so he was confident in his ability to keep an eye on the elf for the rest of the day.

While still thinking about this matter in his head, the orc slowly stood up and started preparing their breakfast. Even if the situation is far from ideal, he was still capable of at least providing food for the two of them, so they shouldn’t leave out the first meal of the day. They can deal with the rest after filling their stomachs.