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Daisies & Heart-shaped Cupcakes

Chapter Text

 

In the middle of July

 

It was one of those hot summer days, when even if someone was sheltered by the woods, they would still feel their skin burning under the scorching rays of the sun. The blistering heat could easily make one lose consciousness if they didn’t have enough water or let themselves be exposed to the light for too long.

At this ungodly hour, when the sun reached the peak of its track and every sane animal was hiding in their nest, a lone creature walked through the forest, seemingly unbothered by the high temperature. His breaths were even and slow as though he was just taking a stroll on a fresh spring morning. His green skin glistened with sweat, but he didn't seem tired.

Orcs were famous for their endurance and ability to adapt to harsh environments be it extreme heat or freezing cold. Their skin was thick and hard, everyday objects couldn’t possibly injure it. Their bodies were strong, made of firm muscle and the required amount of fat as stored energy. Bards sang about their fierce nature and love for battle, but instead of heroes, they were depicted as barbarians who took pleasure in pointlessly slaughtering anyone and everyone in their way, taking their victims' valuables from their dead bodies. Their presence only brought destruction and chaos into the world, some said.

This orc, however, was just simply looking for raspberries, sour cherries, or some late strawberries, but what he found eventually was not what he was expecting.

He discovered the person under the thorny branches of a huge blackberry bush out of pure luck as he usually didn’t come here until later, when the small fruits of the plant were already ripe and sweet. 

He had never seen elves before, so it took him a moment to realize that the scrawny figure in front of him was one of the long-eared race. He could immediately rule out the other being an orc and the remaining options were humans, beastkin, elves and fairies. The lack of round ears, animal characteristics and the fact that this person didn’t have wings excluded three of the remaining possibilities with only the elf race remaining. 

Of course, he heard the legends and tales about the elves, which were passed down from parents to children, and which all described elves as ominous creatures who used their beauty to charm their victims, lure them away and kill them at night. Seeing the elf’s frail body, now he could understand why they would use such underhanded tactics, although he doubted whether only a single glance at a beautiful face could make this kind of magic come to life. He couldn’t help but wonder if this kind of sorcery really existed. He had already been watching the elf for minutes and he still didn't feel like anything had happened to him.

The orc squatted down to have a better look at the other. The elf seemed to be young, but it was hard to tell exactly how old he was, the orc couldn’t even guess it. Elves aged differently than other beings and even between elves from the same tribe significant differences could occur. Led by curiosity, the orc reached out to stroke the unfamiliar face. The youth‘s pale, spotless skin felt soft to the touch just like he imagined. He caressed his cheeks, traced his nose, his tender lips with a subtle rosy colour to them, then proceeded to brush his fingers through the silky, ivory locks of hair. He just couldn't resist, it was all new to him.

Even if the elf wasn’t moving the orc could tell that he must be exceptionally graceful. His body was slim, his fingers slender and obviously not used to wielding heavy weapons or other tools. 

Although there were many things that he didn’t understand or only had a vague idea about, he knew that unlike orcs, elves lived in big groups, had their own place in the hierarchy and had their jobs to do and get paid for.

The orc wondered what the elf might be doing for a living. Was he an actor? A bard? Or something else? He had no way to be sure. Looking at the lad’s fragile physique and his now ragged, stained, but still visibly decorated clothes a new idea came to his mind. Could he be some kind of noble? That would explain why there weren’t any calluses on his skin. He looked at his hand again and lifted it, putting their palms together, comparing the size of their hands. Even though the elf’s fingers were long the orc’s hand was still easily more than one knucklebone bigger than the elf’s.

He absent-mindedly interlaced their fingers. It felt nice. Their hands looked good together. Seeing his greenish, strong fingers intertwining with the elf’s lovely, delicate ones was undoubtedly a sight to his liking.

Realizing what he was doing the orc abruptly jerked his hand away and looked at the elf cautiously. He had no idea what this strange, tight feeling in his chest was. ‘Is this the magic that the elders were talking about? Is it possible for him to bewitch me while being unconscious?’ he wondered a bit confused. ‘How dangerous…’

The orc examined the elf with a complex expression on his face. The boy had numerous cuts and bruises on his body, some looked pretty serious. The orc could see that the elf’s injuries clearly weren’t caused by the thorns of the blackberry bush, as they were not sharp, nor long enough to cut that deep. He looked as though someone had beaten him up quite badly. The orc wasn’t sure what to do. He should help him, shouldn’t he? His brain told him that he should leave the elf alone, as taking care of him would only lower his own odds, yet a faint voice he identified as his conscience said that he should at least give the other a first aid. If it hadn't been this strange feeling in his chest whenever he looked at the elf, he would have just ignored his moral sense and did what benefitted his survival the best, but now, for some reason, he couldn’t get rid of the urge to help him.

He leaned down and as carefully as he could got the elf out of the dense thicket. Only when he could finally move the elf freely did he see the nasty, deep cut on his back and the massive puddle of blood behind him. No wonder the boy was unconscious. He had severe blood loss!

The orc knew that he had to act quickly if he wanted to save the lad, but he didn’t have anything useful on him. He held the elf close to his chest with his hands covering the wound in a desperate attempt to slow down the bleeding. He started to run with all his might towards his shelter.

He sighed in relief and exhaustion when he reached the small hut. Kicking the door open, he hurried in and put the elf down on the table where he could quickly tend his injuries. First, he gave the elf a quick but efficient bath to get rid of the dirt and hardened, bloody mud on him. Then he proceeded to stitch up the deeper cuts and bandage the swallower ones without forgetting to put some smashed herbs on them to prevent infection and assist healing.

He didn’t know if he did the right things in the correct order, but he hoped it would work.

Now, as he didn’t have anything to do and because the elf was most likely not waking up for who knows how long, the orc set off to retrieve the berries he had gathered before the elf-emergency interrupted him.

On his way he realised that he had no idea how elves lived, what they ate, or whether they were vegetarians or not. He knew a bit about humans and the beastkin as they would occasionally wander into his territory, but elves lived so far from here that he never bothered to learn more about them. Now he regretted not asking about the outer world earlier. He could have found out these things if he had paid a little more attention to the teachings of his mother or to the conversations of his former pals.

It didn’t matter anymore though. He had no way to go back in time, so now he could only make the most out of the situation.

Later in the afternoon, he stopped by the river to catch some fish. Fish meat was quite tender if made in the right way and was easy to prepare. It also contained many important nutrients, and couldn’t be put in one group with the other types of meat like pork, beef or venison, so he hoped that the elf wouldn't have problems digesting it.

He ended up catching more fish than needed as he got lost in his thoughts circulating around the events of the day, processing all these new experiences. He still didn’t really understand why he decided to help the elf, but he definitely didn’t mind having more fish. He loved the taste of it, and even if they couldn’t eat all of it tonight, he could easily preserve them for later. Although he was a bit short on salt, he could still smoke or dry them today if he didn't waste time.

By the time he arrived home the sun had already set down, and it was getting darker and darker outside. He was a bit surprised by this. He had totally lost track of time and didn’t realise that this much of the day had passed already. He hurried inside nervously, thinking about the elf. What if he had woken up already and was now roaming around in his house totally unsupervised? The thought of this left him somewhat upset. He didn’t want a stranger to touch his belongings.

The elf however, was still lying on the bed completely unmoving and oblivious to the world around him. The orc sighed in relief and frustration. On one hand, no one had touched his possessions which was good, on the other hand the boy didn’t look any better than when the orc picked him up which was nowhere near as good. Yet the feeling that he didn’t return to an empty house, and that someone was waiting for him and needed him was rather pleasant. 

He quickly shook his head to get rid of these irrelevant thoughts. "This must be the effect of his magic… It must be…” he said to himself, but he wasn’t sure who he wanted to convince. He tried not to think about it for now.

Putting down the basket of fruits on the table, he went out to scale the fish and remove their innards. Fortunately the river was close, so the fish didn’t spoil during the short trip home.

The night was approaching, he didn’t have much time left until the sky turned entirely dark. He quickly lit a fire in front of his house as he decided to start smoking one half of the fish while he would cook the other half of it. He cut the fish fillets into wide thin strips, covered them with the appropriate amount of salt, then hung them above the fire. Afterwards, he filled a moderately big pot with water and hung it above the flames as well. Maybe the fire was a bit too hot for cooking but he needed the heat to reach the hung salted fish therefore he just ignored it for now. The water began to boil in no time, so he threw the fish in, alongside some chopped vegetables and added a small amount of the few spices he had.

The soup was soon ready. The orc divided the content of the pot into two bowls and set the smaller one aside to let it cool down. He ate his own portion, swallowing rapidly. Being too busy and distracted during the whole day, he hadn't realized how hungry he had been until now. He had to purposefully slow down his pace in order to avoid choking on a bite of food.

Having eaten himself full, he picked up the other bowl and walked over to the elf. He sat down on the ground next to the bed as he ran into another problem. How could he feed an unconscious person? He had never done anything like this before. 

Luckily, he didn’t muse on this for too long. Soon a passable idea popped up in his mind, and he acted accordingly. After standing up again, he grabbed a fork and mashed the ingredients of the soup into pulp. Then he pulled a chair closer to the bed, put the bowl on it with a small spoon, and sat down next to the elf. He lifted the elf’s torso up and letting the boy lean on his thigh,he tilted his head slightly back, and poured a small amount of pulp into his mouth. Then he tilted the lad’s head even more back, until the mush triggered his gag reflex, and the food smoothly slid down his throat straight into his stomach.

It took a lot of time to feed the elf all of the soup, but the orc wasn’t impatient. By the time the bowl was completely empty, half of the young man’s face was covered in pieces of the mush and his own saliva. It wasn’t the most beautiful sight to see, but the orc wasn’t disgusted at all. He gently wiped away the stains from the elf’s face with a piece of cloth, and laid him down to rest. He was deep in thoughts the entire time, still figuring out his own emotions. There was also the problem of sleeping waiting to be solved. He had no idea where he should spend the night. The only bed in the house was occupied by the elf and he was afraid of accidentally crushing him in his slumber if he were to rest there as well. However, sleeping on the ground didn’t sound too appealing either.

Eventually he just gathered all the spare animal hides in his home, put them next to the bed and lay down there. As his eyes closed and his consciousness slowly faded away, one last thing crossed his mind.

‘Well then, good night, elfie…’  

 

Chapter Text

 

end of July

 

The melodious, joyful chirping of the birds outside could almost be called unrealistic, as if it was only a part of a dream. It made the orc slightly unmotivated to get up and start the day. The tempting to stay in bed, however, vanished when the pain in his stiff limbs reached his brain. An irritated groan left his throat as he stood up and stretched a bit. 

He hadn’t slept in a bed for two weeks now, and the quality of his sleep on the hard floor wasn’t the best. He had to gather twice as much food as he normally would, not forgetting about the elf’s share and preserving some for the long winter. Furthermore, having to constantly worry about someone didn't contribute to getting a relaxed  either. He became more and more exhausted with each passing day.

The elf hadn’t woken up since the day he found him, and his condition was getting worse and worse. He was breathing heavily with visible discomfort. From time to time, his eyelids trembled as a person’s would, who was having a nightmare, but he had never regained his consciousness. His sickly pale skin was flaming with fever, it's redness already dissipated a few days ago. 

The orc knew he had to bring the boy’s temperature down, but he didn’t know what else he could do. He had already tried cold compression on him, but that didn’t seem to work and he didn’t dare put the boy into cold water as it would likely just worsen his state. The only thing he could do for the other was giving him some relaxing and pain relieving herbs, so he wouldn’t suffer too much. 

As he got more experienced in looking after the elf, the feedings became easier and he didn’t make such a mess of the area as he had done with his first try. He made sure that the elf drank enough and remained as clean as possible. Because the elf needed a lot of care and continuous supervision, he couldn’t move too far away from his house which considerable limited his hunting and gathering possibilities.

Inhaling deeply to calm himself, he put a hand on the elf’s face. His cheeks were still burning hot, a bit damp because of the sweat droplets gathering on the skin. Then he put his palm on the other's chest over his weakly beating heart. For a moment, he almost couldn’t feel it, which made his eyes widen in fear for a second.

His heart ached whenever he looked at the elf’s strained expression, and his skeleton-like body, bones protruding, visible even through his clothes. It was clear that the elf was dying.

His last thread of hope was bringing the elf to a Sentinel. Only one of those legendary creatures could help him, curing the elf with their unparalleled magical capabilities. Only they had the required amount of mana to treat a disease as serious as this, ordinary magicians couldn’t maintain a spell strong enough to handle something like this.

Although he knew that his chances were not the best, findinga Sentinel in the forest was as though he was looking for a needle in a haystack, but he couldn’t give up on the elf now.

Today, he left his house with the determination of finding a Sentinel. Then, after not even taking two steps outside, he realized if he wanted to cure the elf, maybe he should bring the lad with himself so that the Sentinel can help him immediately. He ran back into the house and after gently scooping up the youth and taking the necessary tools in a bag with him, he set off again.

His only luck was that the sky was covered  with clouds, so the weather was a bit more bearable than before. What concerned him was the fact that it looked like it was going to rain later that day, and he didn’t want to get caught up in a summer storm. That wouldn’t do the elf any good.

He headed towards the denser, more sparsely populated area of the forest, where he guessed a Sentinel would live.  If there was a Sentinel in this part of the forest. 

He couldn’t be sure. This was orc territory and orcs tended to be highly violent only believing in their own strength. They didn’t have an organized religion, but in most cases still had their own gods that they worshipped, usually a local variant of the same deity. These beliefs were passed down in the families and differed in many aspects. Some thought that Sentinels were holy beings, nature spirits of some sort, however others claimed that they were just some shiny deers that were only different from other animals in their appearance.

The orc had met many kinds of people at the annual gatherings, and despite his mother’s teachings he had faith in the Sentinels' rumoured power. Even more so now, as that was the only thing that even had the slightest chance of saving the elf.

Around noon, he took a short break to feed the elf and let his arms rest. He had had no luck so far apart from getting out of the rain area in time. He hadn’t found any proof of a Sentinel living in this part of the forest. He was hoping for at least some hoofprints, but even those didn’t show themselves.

Either there were no Sentinels here, or they were masters of erasing evidence.

The day went by quickly and the sun was close to setting. The orc considered turning back, but then he would need to start over tomorrow and he would never get further than this. He headed deeper into the forest staying close to the borders of other orcs’ territory. If he wentured too deeply into others’ territory conflicts would arise and he had no time for that. He had to reach the place where no orcs lived as soon as possible. He figured only in a place where no one could harm them would Sentinels reside.

He sometimes heard the intimidating roars of the others of his kind warning him not to trespass their domain, and to go away quickly which he did.

They reached the edge of the mountains two days later. Orcs rarely left the plain part of the forest as their build wasn’t exactly suitable for maneuvering in narrow canyons or trails. He looked around, hoping to spot something that could indicate where to look for the Sentinel, but he could hardly see anything from the beeches and seedling growing densely around him. He didn't have much space to move, unlike in his home area where mostly oak trees grew with large distances between their trunks.

He put the elf down next to a tree so that he could quickly set up a camp for the night. It wasn’t much, just a shabby tent and a fireplace but it was still better than nothing. Setting everything up, he fed the elf and laid him down in the tent then stretched himself out next to him. By this time he wasn’t afraid of crushing him, he had long learnt how to sleep motionlessly.

The night was colder than the orc had anticipated when they left, the youth soon began to shiver. Now the orc really regretted not packing warmer clothes, not knowing what else to do, he pulled the thin body closer, gently enveloping him in his strong arms.

Just as he was floating on the edge of dreaming, a quiet noise pulled him back into reality. Opening his eyes, he first examined the elf. He hoped the sound came from him, but he had to be disappointed. The boy was still completely unconscious.

The man slowly stood up to look around carefully, not putting down the elf not even for a moment. He didn’t want to strain him too much, but didn’t dare to leave him alone either. He was afraid that a wild animal might find the youth while he’s away or the elf’s condition would get even worse in the cold.

The sight, however, that greeted them outside was not something that he could have ever predicted. Only a few steps away from him a deer stood, its white fur reflected the moonlight, looking as if the animal itself was glowing. Even if its imposing antlers were ignored, the deer looked dangerous enough that no one would dare attack it. Despite all the force its body was emitting, the creature  had a majestic aura around it.

The deer glanced at the orc, clearly not afraid of him, then walked closer, moves full of grace and power. As he stood in front of the orc, the man noticed in surprise that the creature was even taller than him. Leaning down slightly, it smelled the elf then lifted up its head abruptly, staring at the orc with eyes full of anger.

“How dare you seek me out to help this poor soul, while you are the one poisoning him?” The deer’s proud, commanding voice rang in his head loudly. “And you did not even provide him with enough warm clothes! Did you come here looking for your own demise?” It asked while furiously spudding the ground with its hooves, but the orc was too taken aback by the content of the creature's words and couldn’t answer. The man was so shocked that he could only look in front of himself, face burning with shame. He didn’t know what he had done wrong, but the Sentinel was clearly angry with him, which wasn’t the way he planned this encounter. He could only hope that the creature would still help the elf.

“I didn’t intend to hurt him…” he finally managed to croak out, voice raspy due to his embarrassment. The deer snorted judgingly and the orc could feel its rage and contempt radiating through the connection between their minds. “I have never taken care of someone before, and I really didn’t expect that the plants that my mother used on me would be poisonous for him.” The orc hurried to explain the situation, earning a few more disdainful snorts from the Sentinel. He wasn't completely sure what his sins were, but that was the only thing that he could suddenly think of.

He really didn’t mean to do anything bad, however the deer didn’t seem to believe him. 

“Please, could you tell me how to make him feel better?” he pleaded.

To confuse the orc even more, the Sentinel’s mood suddenly twisted and now it seemed to be laughing. “Are you trying to say that even orcs can care for beings other than themselves? Do not make me laugh. The only thing that you, greenskins are good at is destruction.” Hearing this comment the orc felt a bit offended.

“I can’t speak for the others, but I most definitely care for this elf, I wouldn’t have brought him here otherwise.” The orc announced with a barely visible pout on his face. For a second the deer was deep in thought and stayed silent.

“Very well. I shall heal him.” the orc couldn’t suppress the relieved sigh escaping his mouth. “You had better take really good care of him, or you will not be thankful when we meet the next time.” The orc nodded so hard that his neck started to hurt. “I see you have understood. Good… Now let me see him.”

The orc tried to hold the boy in his arms in a way that the Sentinel could have a better look at him. The deer leaned down again until his nose touched one of the elf’s cheeks. Soon the place where their skins were in contact started to sparkle with magical energy. Even as an outsider, the orc could feel the warmth of it.

"Do not give him herbs that are used on orcs. Your kind's body is very strong, so you will only feel a bit light-headed from them and they are good for subsidizing pain, but elves are not that sturdy. These plants' toxics have strong deleterious effects on their mind and body. Apart from high fever, chills, stomach pains and breathing difficulties they are also addictive to elves and humans, and can cause hallucinations, nightmares and a general difficulty in discerning what is real and what is not. Furthermore, after taking it in a large dose for this long, the withdrawal symptoms may be even more serious." spoke the deer with a strict, instructive voice making the orc feel more and more guilty. Only now did he realize how much he had harmed the elf even though he only wanted to help him.

When the light disappeared, the elf’s death-pale face gained a much healthier colour, and the wrinkles from his forehead also disappeared. Now he simply looked as though he was just sleeping peacefully.

The orc’s heartbeat sped up happily and he couldn’t stop the smile forming on his lips. He looked up to express his gratitude to the Sentinel, but was surprised to find it nowhere. The only thing that remained back was the faint voice in his head saying: “Give him Chamomile or Coneflower tea twice a day to help his recuperation. He should wake up in a fortnight or so and be healthy again in a month. As I have said, it is likely that his symptoms will worsen as he will not be getting those addictive plants, but he should survive from now on.”  The voice became more and more quiet, maybe as the deer was getting further away from them. Then everything became silent again.

The orc laid back into the tent to sleep, but he couldn’t close his eyes all night, the thought that the elf would finally recover making him childishly excited. Realizing that he couldn’t sleep no matter how hard he tried to, he might as well get back to his house. With this thought in mind he set off at the first sign of dawn, glancing at the elf from tim to time, wondering how their first meeting would go. 




 

Chapter Text

 

 

Having arrived home late in the afternoon, the orc immediately wanted to bath the elf in warm water. Because they couldn't really clean themselves while traveling, now the grey layer of dust on the boy’s skin was undoubtedly perceivable. Warming the water was a real pain to do, as the wooden basin couldn't be hung above the fire, so he had to boil water in different pots and then pour it into the basin in order to make the temperature appropriate.

After washing him, the orc didn’t dress him up again, just simply tucked him into bed and covered him with the quilts there. While the elf was sleeping the orc had to to wash their clothes and make dinner for themselves, so he didn’t waste any more time and got down to work.

Night had long fallen by the time he was ready to sleep as well. He lay down on the makeshift bed on the floor and tried to fall asleep while listening to the quiet, calm breaths of the elf. He could still faintly sense traces of the Sentinel’s magic on him, this perception gave him feelings of tranquility and peacefulness.

However, it couldn’t quell the thoughts of insecurity surging forward in his mind as now he had nothing to occupy himself with and was too tired to make them stop. He soon began to reflect on his previous actions. 

He really had been a fool, hadn’t he? He should have suspected it as even after the elf’s wounds had closed up already his condition didn’t get better. Maybe if he had acted sooner he could have prevented these unfortunate events. Maybe the elf wouldn’t have been dying of poisoning. Maybe he wouldn’t have those big scars all over his previously smooth, unscratched skin. Maybe he could still be whole and intact.

The whiteness of the marks attracted his eyes so much that he couldn’t avert his gaze from them to be polite enough to stop gawking. Lying still on the pelts, he was looking up at the elf only seeing the sides of his face, but the image of the jagged-edged patterns remained vividly in his mind.

He knew those scars would be carried by the elf for the rest of his life, always making him remember how an ignorant orc had almost let him die. How he almost killed him with his own hands even if he didn’t mean to.

His chest felt tight and heavy as if a whole mountain was towering over him. He wanted to apologize, he wanted to go back in time and handle things differently. He wanted to do so many things to make up for his stupidity at that time, but at the moment, he could do nothing. His mood fell, a bitter, shameful expression crept across his face, his eyes squinted as he tried to keep his emotions under control.

The thoughts in his mind kept swirling around insanely, making the formation of a viable idea nearly impossible. He was only sure of one thing, that he wanted to make up for his mistakes. He wanted to try it even if the elf wouldn’t accept his apology and would despise him instead.

It was past midnight, by the time he finally made a decision. He would make a gift to the elf. A gift so beautiful that he would not be able to decline no matter what had happened between them.

With that thought comforting him, he quickly calmed down and closed his eyes. He already felt much brighter than before, then with a light smile plastered on his face, he fell deeply asleep.

 

***

 

Morning arrived much sooner than how he would have liked it. He groaned grumpily as he staggered on his feet, rubbing the sleepiness out of his eyes. He started the day by making some breakfast and dressing up the elf with his freshly dried clothes while waiting for the food to warm. After they both had their own share, the orc set off to gather more ingredients, herbs recommended by the Sentinel and other necessities.

He was strolling through the forest all morning searching for edible plants, berries and eggs, he also checked his traps and set up some new ones replacing those that had been used or damaged. He came across some mushrooms on his way, but he didn’t dare to touch them. He wasn’t an expert at distinguishing poisonous ones from edible ones  and he didn’t want to risk having another accident with the elf.

Although the weather today was much better than during the week, he didn't want to take a rest, not even for a mere moment. He was deep in thought pacing aimlessly among the trees. He was determined to make a present for the elf, but he had no idea what elves liked. 

It was said that they took pride in their looks and were exceptionally conscious about it, which made the orc feel even more remorse for what had happened. If he made some kind of jewellery that looked more magnificent than the ones the youth had ever seen, would he forgive him? Would that compensate him for the beauty that he had lost? He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure that it could ever be compensated by something made by him, but he had to try. 

His thoughts settled on a necklace, although he still had to find the perfect gemstone for making the pendant which wasn't an easy mission to do. It meant that he needed to leave the forest to steal it from the humans, or had to find another orc that had a gem, but was surely weaker than him. He couldn’t risk dying and not coming back to look after the elf. 

However, the chances of finding a precious stone like that on an orc was extremely low. Orcs weren’t the kind to keep useless stuff around, and everything that couldn’t be eaten or utilized as clothing or weapon belonged to the useless category. He could only rely on humans in this matter, although most of them didn’t have these kinds of stones either. He had to rob someone rich, for example a merchant or a prestigious man or woman, a noble. After finding them he would have to defeat their guards and the accompanying soldiers to put his hands on their possessions. It was very risky and on top of that, he should do all this in one day.

He needed to think this through. He had to make a plan and wait until the elf woke up and could feed himself. He couldn’t let the boy starve for a whole day.

He looked up at the sky, the sun was on the peak of its track. Having gathered enough resources already, it was time to turn back and check on the elf.

Once he arrived, he quickly prepared lunch for the two of them. After eating he decided that he wouldn’t go out again today, instead he would stay and clean up the house a bit. Now that he noticed the amount of dust and patches of mud on the floor, they annoyed him a lot. He grabbed a broom and started working.

Usually he wouldn’t pay too much attention to cleanliness, but now for some reason, he just couldn’t not mind it. 

He tossed the dirt out of the house and quickly scrubbed off the older, long dried staines on the floor. He couldn’t remember when the house had been as clean as it was now. He doubted that it ever was.

He glanced at the elf subconsciously, letting his gaze linger on him for a bit. When he woke up, he would be happier to find himself in a neat place rather than a messy one, right? He hoped so.

After he was satisfied with the room’s looks, he rummaged through one of his large, wooden chests until he found a pair of short-sleeved shirts. They were plain and had a yellowish colour indicating that they weren’t the newest, best quality ones, and the touch of the fabric was a bit rough as well. But these two would be sufficient for now. It was already fortunate that he had shirts in his house, as most orcs tended to show almost every square centimetre of their skin all around the year, only wearing boots and pants if needed, possibly with some protective gear on their upper-body.

Deeming the elf’s old, torn clothes unacceptable for further use, he changed the boy into one of his shirts. The youth was so small compared to an orc like him that he almost got lost in the sizable piece of clothing. It reached down slightly past his knees and the ends of the sleeves were somewhere between his elbows and wrists.

The orc couldn’t help the smile spreading over his face. The elf looked so adorable right now, if he could he would hug him for hours.

His mood however soon fell as the elf revealed a discomforted expression accompanied by a quiet pained groan. The Sentinel’s powers were about to be completely worn out, he realized. The harder part would begin here.

He put the elf back into bed, and covered him with a fairly thin quilt, before he could accidentally catch a cold, although the weather was quite hot at the moment. Then he went back to work. Before he made dinner he wanted to wash the only window of his house and make it spotless.

Having finished this last task, he cooked some rabbit meat and steamed some vegetables that would be mashed into pulp later for the elf to eat. He didn’t want to strain the lad’s digestive system before sleeping, he hoped he wouldn’t cause more trouble with his actions.

After feeding the elf, he boiled some chamomile tea and made the elf drink it too. Then he lay down on his pile of fur getting as cosy as he could. Staring at the ceiling he quickly started to doze off, falling asleep in no time.

 

***

 

The orc woke up in the middle of the night to the elf’s muffled shouts. The other was clearly still asleep with his eyes closed, and his small hands clutching the sheets tightly. He was obviously having a nightmare, as he had a fearful expression on his face and was moving around a lot. That was one of the withdrawal symptoms that the Sentinel had warned him of.

The orc quickly got up, debating for only a few seconds he climbed onto the bed pulling the unconscious elf to his chest. He loosely hugged the hot, thin body whispering in a calming tone to him, hoping that his voice would reach him in his dream and help him defeat whatever horror might be chasing him there.

Even in his slumber the elf seemed to notice that he was being restricted by someone and tried to fight it off, but was too far from reality to put any force to his moves. He was fearfully babbling in his native language which was incomprehensible to the orc. 

As the little whine-like sounds left the elf repeatedly the orc couldn't help being concerned. He had no idea what the elf could be seeing in his dreams, but it was definitely far from being pleasant. The strong urge to chase away whatever was scaring his protected one didn’t let him be at ease even though he knew that the elf was now on a straight path to healing. His overall complexion was way better now than how it was a week ago, the Sentinel’s power seemed to work very efficiently.

The older male gently turned the elf around and pulled him closer, burying the youth's face in the crook of his strong neck. The elf's cheeks were damp with tears, the orc could feel the hot drops touching his skin.  

Due to the faint sensation of being held, the nightmare the elf was in seemed to worsen, but the orc was reluctant to let go. How could he protect this lovely thing in his arms if he wasn’t even allowed to hold him? Fortunately, after being embraced for a few minutes the boy's expression got better and his breaths slowed down a bit.

He prayed for the elf to finally wake up, but it didn't happen. If he could believe the Sentinel the elf wouldn't wake up for at least one more week, until then there's nothing that could disturb his slumber.

The feeling of his own impotence made him somehow furious at himself. If only he had known better and learnt more about the other races, he wouldn’t have poisoned him by accident. If only he hadn't been so conceited when he had the chance to learn...

The elf seemed to notice the change in his temper and started to struggle again,  more vigorously than before. Immediately, all the bad feelings left the orc and his focus was once again back on the elf.

“I’m here, little boo… I’m here, you can hush now. No need to be afraid, it’s just a dream. It’s all just a dream, it can’t hurt you.” The way he spoke was comforting and soft as if he was a loving mother talking to a panicking child, athough he had never witnessed such a scene. He hadn't even heard his own mother say something so caringly, however, he felt that what he was doing was right. His throat was unaccustomed to talking in a kind tone like this, but at this moment he couldn’t care less about the uneasiness that his vocal cords felt. 

His large hands reached out, his fingers gently combing through the elf's silky hair. The warmth in his chest increased with every touch, every second with which the silence between two crying hiccups was longer. His heart beated rapidly as he imagined how the boy's face would look when he finally smiled, then his face turned a bit red with a mix of nervousness and embarrassment. There was that strange, tight feeling in his chest again. 

The orc was confused as he had never experienced anything even slightly similar to this before, and he couldn't figure out what this emotion meant. Fluttering heart, warmth in the chest, and heat occasionally spreading over his face, even his ears. What was this? Hopefully not some kind of rare disease.

Despite being unsure, he cared for the elf more than he had ever cared for any other creature. Being with the elf gave him a sense of duty, it broke the unanimity of his everyday life. His presence was refreshing, every day became something to look forward to.

The orc would have mused a lot more, if the boy's quiet noises hadn't pulled him back to reality. Right now his first priority should be getting the elf back to health. Thinking about the future can be done later.

He continued murmuring kind nothings in the youth’s long, pointed ear while rubbing soothing circles on his back. He could feel the ribs and the backbones under the oversized shirt, thinking about how much weight the other had lost made his mood dismal.

He didn’t know how much time had passed until the elf finally quieted down and the wrinkles on his forehead smoothened. His breathing slowly evened out, if it wasn't for his high temperature one could believe that he was just merely sleeping.

Soon the orc began to doze off as well, feeling the elf’s pleasant heat next to him oddly made him feel secure.

"Please get well soon…" he wished before finally falling back asleep.



Chapter Text

 

 

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.



 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Making a simple porridge with fruits and different kinds of seeds in it wasn’t a big culinary accomplishment, but it still caused some difficulties for the orc. Usually he didn’t make this kind of grain dishes, and even when he did he never cared too much about the way they tasted or whether he had burnt them a bit or not.

Now, however, that he had a guest, he suddenly felt extraordinarily self-conscious about it. He didn't want the first thing the elf ate in his house to taste bad. He knew it would be better if he could make it with milk instead of water, but he didn’t have a cow and people didn’t come to his territory with it either. Moreover it was a liquid that spoiled very quickly, he couldn’t have stored it for this long. For now, he was glad that at least his house looked acceptably clean. Even if the meal he could offer wouldn’t meet the elf’s preferences, he wouldn’t lose face that much.

As he was putting the food on the plates, the low groan of the elf attracted his attention. Finishing with the preparations he turned around just in time to see the lad's eyes flutter open. They were drowsy at first, but they quickly became terrified as he took in his surroundings. The boy immediately tried to jump up to flee, but his attempt was stopped by the rope tied to his wrist, making his expression change into something even more desperate.

The orc paused and for a moment even the wind stayed still. Neither of them moved, not daring to break the moment, however the reasons behind their lack of action were different. The elf didn't want to risk drawing more attention to himself, orcs getting close to elves never resulted in anything good. On the other side, the orc froze so as not to frighten the lad any more than he already did.

The burning feeling in his fingers successfully impelled him to move a few moments later, ending the stillness of the room. He walked over to the elf, holding the dishes in one hand, while hauling a chair with the other. His steps were slow, not daring to make any sudden movement. He set the chair in front of the bed and sat down on it trying to look as unthreatening as he could. Keeping one plate to himself he held out the other for the elf to take, who by this point had completely squeezed himself into the corner as far from the orc as the rope allowed him, refusing to take the food.

As the painful hotness intensified, he carefully put the bowls next to each other, pushing both of them towards the elf to choose, hoping that this would convince him that neither of them were poisoned. He wouldn’t mind even if the frightened elf spilled them, he could easily wash the sheets and he had made sure earlier that no wetness could reach the mattress. The boy looked at the porridge warily, occasionally glancing up at the orc. The fear in his eyes didn't lighten, but a certain level of confusion was now visible on his face as well. It was clear though, that he had no intention of eating. 

The orc chose to approach the problem from another way, picking up a spoon, tasting the content of both bowls, showing that they were completely edible and harmless. He couldn’t hide his disappointment when the elf still didn’t budge.

He pushed the dish a bit closer to the boy, but he only tried to press himself into the wall even more.  

He consumed his breakfast in front of the lad, hoping that the elf would change his mind, then he left the other serving on the bed. Whether the lad ate or not, he had to go out to get food and water. Then he should preserve some of it for the winter, not forgetting to get more, in case the elf stayed with him. On top of that he had to work on his trap as well, figuring out the most effective way to carry out his plan.

Taking one last look at the elf, the orc went out the door, but only after he left a mug of water for him next to the foot of the bed. He was well aware that if the boy wanted to escape, the rope wouldn't be enough to hold him back. But at least it would show him, that he wanted the elf to stay. Of course, tying the elf completely down was out of the question as the last thing he wanted was making the other even more frightened. Besides, he had confidence in his tracking skills, even if the elf ran away he would be able to find him before nightfall. 

Outside he was greeted by massive, grey clouds covering the sky and huge puddles spread out on the ground. The air was still chilly from the rain, the sun couldn’t heat it through the nebulous firmament. Squelching sounds followed every step he took, mud adhered to his feet. For once, he was happy that orcs only wore boots in the toughest winters, as cleaning them would be a real pain to do now.

He walked to the road where he was planning to set up his trap to assess the terrain, calculate and measure his options. As the place was at the edge of his territory, he couldn’t spend too much time there, he needed to hurry back to look after the elf. He had a hunch that the boy didn’t stay put after his exit.

On his way back to his home, he checked a few of his animal traps. He caught two rabbits, one of which was a magical one, with a pair of short horns and blueish fur, that he had to release. Magical creatures were essential for the forest’s well-being. Their environment was always greener than other places, as if their presence itself stimulated plants’ growth. 

Many speculated that this phenomenon was due to their constant release of energy that the flora around them absorbed, but whether or not this was just a coincidence, the orc did not care. Letting one or two of his preys go from time to time wasn’t a significant loss, keeping his part of the forest healthy and abundant was more important and profitable in the long run.

Fortunately he got to keep the fatter rabbit. Cutting the throat of it he hurried to the river to process the meat and wash the blood off of himself before going back to the elf. He regretted a bit not keeping the hide, but he knew it was the right decision. He wouldn’t have time to tan it anyway.

His steps quickened as he hurried home, not wanting the meat to spoil. He had to make it back in two hours in order to still be able to eat the rabbit safely, before it went bad. Raw meat couldn’t be kept for more time than that without freezing.

Nearing the house, he easily noticed the small footprints leading into the forest. Without doubt, the elf had escaped. The orc burst into the house, quickly putting some wood onto the embers still glowing in the stove, hoping that it would ignite the fire. He quickly put a pot of water over it, cleaned the rabbit, threw it into the pot with some salt and prayed that this way maybe the meat will still be edible when he comes back. Then he dashed out the door.

The man followed the tracks effortlessly, the mud preserved every step the lad had taken. Judging by the occasional long lines, knee- and handprints, the boy must have been still very weak when he left causing him to often lose balance and trip over. Although the slippery ground must have played a significant role in the majority of the falls as well.

The traces led him to a large, hollow tree, where they disappeared in the cavity between the massive roots. The orc looked in, but the only thing he could see was darkness. He could hear, however, the boy’s shallow, laboured breathing from the inside. The whistling noises his respiration made were quite alarming for the orc. 

He crouched down, and propping himself with one hand, he reached out with the other until his fingertips brushed against the soft, unsettlingly cold skin of the elf. Small legs kicked out as the elf tried to get further away from the orc, a feeble attempt to keep distance. But it was futile as the orc swiftly caught one of his ankles, slowly dragging him out of the hole.

The pulling came to an abrupt stop, when the lad grabbed a root not letting himself be moved. The orc felt helpless for a moment, before doing the only thing that came to his mind. Tickling the elf’s sole.

The resistance immediately vanished, accompanied by a surprised yelp, and he hauled the rest of the boy’s body out. Having secured the lad in his arms, his wheezing only became worse. Not daring to move, the orc did his best to calm the elf before the boy could lose all connection with the real world becoming engulfed by panic.

Remembering the times he had held the elf when he was having a nightmare, he imitated the same movements, stroking and petting the lad’s back lightly. He even attempted to hum a lullaby-like melody, but as he realized his voice wasn’t as good as he hoped, he soon stopped and got satisfied with just simply whispering. 

The effect wasn’t immediate, but it did seem to help slow down the elf’s rapid breathing, making each breath a bit deeper and longer than the one before. When the pace of the inhalings stabilised, it was still faster than the relaxed space, but the orc was content with the result nonetheless. The boy would learn not to fear him eventually, for now, not being terrified was good enough. 

The possibility of the elf not getting used to him was completely ignored, as it only caused the orc to feel that uncomfortability in his chest. With sufficient persistence he would be able to gain the elf’s trust, he believed. He was vaguely aware of the outside world’s opinion on his kind and he swore to himself that he would show the boy that not all orcs were wild savages.

When the elf quieted down, he carefully began to walk back, consciously smoothening his steps, not wanting to stir his already dozing companion. Now that the adrenalin rush had worn off, the lad must be exhausted. His eyelids fluttered open a few times as he was fighting against his fatigue, but he was unable to stay awake for longer.

Carrying the elf’s limp body into his home he set him on the bed, washing him and changing his clothes for the second time that day. Having no more spare clothes he picked up the one from the morning and dusted off the dirt that had dried on it. Even if this was not quite clean either, it wasn’t wet at least.

Worried about what happened with the boiling rabbit, the orc was relieved to see that there was still water in the pot so the meat didn’t get burnt. It was cooked thoroughly, a little more than what was necessary. He took it out the water and put some vegetables in instead. 

He put a bit of meat into his mouth. It was soft and could be separated easily from the bones. The taste was a bit blank, but honestly, he expected it to be worse.

The soup was ready in no time. Dividing it into two portions, the orc got ready to feed the boy. He hadn’t eaten all day that concerned the orc. The elf was as thin as a rake already,  now was the time that he had to start eating no matter what.

Bearing this in mind the orc stepped over to the bed, where the lad had awoken a few minutes ago, although he was still pretending to be unconscious. When the elf noticed the orc walking towards him, he scrambled back into the corner not daring to attempt to escape under the eyes of the man.

Under different circumstances, the orc would have waited for the elf to calm down and take the initiative, but he didn't want to worsen the other's condition. The boy had lost a considerable amount of weight already during the time he was sick and unconscious, his cheeks were now hollow, collarbones and ribs visible even through fabric.

Climbing onto the bed, the orc reached out to grab the lad by his shirt, pulling him out of the corner as gently as he could with one hand while holding the bowl in the other. The bony hands held no strength when the elf tried to push him away, not trusting in the slightest whatever the orc wanted to do. The man however had already made the decision; the elf would eat today, even if it means that he will be hated for the rest of his life.

Half straddling the elf, he put one of his knees to the other side of the boy's hips, pinning him to the bed with his shin, while holding his shoulder and pulling the skinny torso to his own, propping the youth's back with his arm. He couldn't think of a better position at that moment that would both keep the elf close and make him immobile.

Scooping up a mouthful of soup, he tasted it first, trying to convey to the lad that the food was fine, he hadn’t tampered with it. Then he dipped the spoon again, now holding it out to the boy. Small carrot and meat pieces floated in the stock, steaming and spreading a mouth-watering scent. The elf turned his face away, gulping heavily, eyes lingering on the bowl, but he still refused the nourishment offered, disregarding the audible rumbles his stomach was making.

There was no way he could believe in the goodwill of an orc. Not after all the stories he had heard, all the lectures his family gave him saying that he should not trust anyone, especially not the greenskins. Only his own kind would help him, all the others are just looking for ways to manipulate him and get what their greedy hearts want. He should reject everything the man gives him, for his own good. 

The room was silent, safe for the cracking of embers in the stove heating the tea water and the barely audible cricket chirping that filtered in from outside. Ignoring the two figures sitting on the bed, the atmosphere would have been even idyllic.

As the elf remained dismissive, the orc soon got tired of waiting. He hoped he wouldn’t have to do this, but he couldn’t allow the boy to starve himself anymore. He pinched the other’s nose, instantly making the elf protest with a renewed strength, scratching the orc with his nails. Although some red lines formed on the orc’s body, not even one drop of blood was shed thanks to the thick skin characteristic of his species. There were not many things that could hurt an orc, and the nails of a young elf wasn’t one of them. 

The boy’s lips parted so that he could breathe, but his teeth remained closed despite the orc’s efforts. He soon gave up, not wanting to accidentally damage the youth’s teeth if he were to force them open, and made up his mind to use another, much less pleasant method.

Grabbing the elf’s cheeks with one big hand, he pressed at the joint between the skull and the lower jaw, prying his mouth open, then forcing his index finger in to keep it that way. 

The elf’s thrashing ceased immediately, and his heart clenched at the sight of the youth’s terror-filled eyes and quivering body. Knowing what he was doing must have frightened the lad even more, didn’t help to ease his conscience either.

The boy stayed frozen, looking at him with wide eyes, and suddenly the orc’s own hands started to tremble as well. At that moment the orc wanted nothing more than to be able to release the elf and apologize to him properly. The more he looked at the elf’s frightened gaze the more his chest ached, it took all his self-control to steel himself up and actually finish his task. ‘You are doing this for his sake.’ he tried to encourage himself.

Holding the elf’s face in place with his thumb and middle finger, he pulled out the digit from the boy’s mouth quickly replacing it with a spoonful of soup as it closed. The elf immediately tried to spit it out, but the orc caught on his intention and prevented it by firmly covering his mouth with his hand. The boy had no choice but to swallow, which he did without realizing, judging by his shocked expression afterwards.

“Hey, you have to chew it or you’ll get a stomachache.” the orc reprimanded, but kept his voice soft. The elf wouldn’t understand a word anyway. “You’re lucky that I cut the ingredients into really tiny pieces.” he said nonetheless, just for the sake of talking. He hoped that after hearing his gentle tone the boy would be less afraid.

Although the orc’s plan could have worked, it was still bound to fail, as the elf had never heard orc speech before so he had no way of knowing that the harsh sounding words of the man were actually tender compared to the normal tone of other greenskins. Hearing the unfamiliar words being spoken to him only added to his confusion.

“Eat.” the orc said, holding out another spoonful of soup to the boy, who, probably accepting that he had no choice in this matter, opened his mouth willingly, albeit rather hesitantly. “Good.” the man praised and smiled at the elf, patting his arm happily.

He wanted to start teaching him a few words so that they could slowly learn to communicate with each other. Starting with some basic, but essential words would be great. Eating was a priority, and knowing when he was praised would help the elf acquire new knowledge later on, as well as develop their relationship. He hoped everything would work out eventually. 

It took a lot more than half an hour to feed the elf, patiently waiting for him to settle down whenever he got agitated and refused to consume the remaining food. The orc was sure that the content of the small bowl would only be enough to satisfy the hunger of a child, therefore he was certain that the elf didn’t reject eating because he was so full. 

After the dinner, he took the left-over porridge and ate it before his own share of soup, even though he was not sure whether it should still be eaten or not. He could simply not tolerate wasting food.

The elf watched with wide eyes, his curiosity seeping through his fear, as the orc cleaned the dishes and mopped the floor, before heading to the corner to wash himself with the water in the basin. By no means was it a thorough cleansing of the body, it was merely a quick rinse to remove the dust and sweat from his skin.

Having got into his night clothes, the orc slowly approached the bed, a bit puzzled by the elf, who now had his back turned to him, curled up and hiding his face behind blonde locks.

For a moment the orc had no idea what had caused this reaction. He did nothing interesting or out of place. He just washed his body and...

“Oh.” he whispered dumbfoundedly as he realized what had happened. 

The problem lay in those few seconds when he was washing and changing clothes. The boy was most likely embarrassed by the sight of the naked orc. His people were unnecessarily prudish, and would never reveal their bodies to others so carelessly. He cursed under his nose, but there was nothing he could do about it now. He had to be more careful in the future.

As he got into bed and wrapped a hand around the boy’s waist to prevent him from escaping, he could feel him tensing up and beginning to tremble, his breaths hitching. If he had been any other orc, the elf would have been slaughtered already after being through thousands of tortures and violence. Given the situation, this was the expected reaction, yet the orc couldn’t help the dejectedness that filled him. He was not any other orc. He would never do those kinds of things to the lad in his arms.

“No one will hurt you here, little bird. I promise you... Take a deep breath, please?” he muttered softly, inhaling measuredly, wishing that the elf would follow his lead, only relaxing when the elf started to do the same as well.

“Good.” he mumbled in a barely audible voice, stroking the boy’s waist with his thumb and falling asleep a moment later.