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Of braids and promises

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Several adventures have passed after that night at The Wild Mare, night in which the Watcher and Tekēhu confessed each other what they feel before retreating to the bedroom the water godlike had booked for them.

Sometimes Nerkèas finds themself thinking about that night, and when they do a fond smile blooms on their face while shivers run down their spine at the memory.

Things are good between them and Tekēhu - well, things have been good from the very beginning, and lately even better. And they can trust their guts this time because when they look into the godlike's eyes, they see openness and sincerity, almost too much to handle. And Nerkèas considers themself so lucky to have found him along the road.

The two are each other's rock and strength, they have each other's back and fight against the enemies with such a good chemistry like they are meant to be together, in and out the battlefield.

It's something Nerkèas has never had in his life, always strolling around to find a place where they could feel like they truly belong. And in that endless journey, the only thing they feel really connected with was Nature. They never fear the night because they know It would protect them, no matter what. They constantly feel Its embrace tight around them, a sweet, warm, embrace, Its gentle force flowing through their veins giving them strength, and when they cast a spell Its voice speaks into their ears whispering words of reassurance, like a mother would do to her child.

They never felt close to Galawain though. They’ve always known that, since they are a druid, they should pray and thank Him for His guidance, but they hadn't felt His touch or heard His voice once, and how could they spread His words among the other kiths when He doesn't even speak to them at all? It's absurd.

Their mind clearly switched since the day he finally saw the deity face to face and listened to His roaring rants, and from that moment their feelings towards Him have become even more confused.

Despite everything, they can't make themself trust Him completely. In all honesty, they don’t trust any of the deities they’ve met so far, so they keep relying on Nature and Its power.

They have always been certain about that, that has been their steady belief when nothing seemed right. And they would do it until their final departure.

But after having come to know Tekēhu, something has changed within them.

They have friends now, sure. People with whom they can feel connected to on a personal level, with whom they can feel comfortable enough to let their guard down and just breathe. Edér and Aloth could be considered like that, even Xoti, Maia and Serafen, they aren't sure about Pallegina yet. And, of course, the other members of the crew, especially Rekke. Nevertheless, there is something completely different with Tekēhu, something deeper and truer, and it's only increased since they took off their masks and clothes that night in the brothel, baring themselves to one another like Nature would want. Nothing between them, just a thin layer of flesh. Soul to soul.

Well, they can’t deny that it had been sexual attraction at first, since Tekēhu is ridiculously gorgeous and charming and they ain’t blind. Nerkèas had been struck and overwhelmed by the godlike from the day the group came across him at Watershapers Guild, and it got only worse once he’d become a member of the crew, because it’s when the pining - and their southern annoying problems - got started. The Watcher’s always been a complete mess in that area: they are confident and expansive with their friends, hugs and kisses and bad puns, a bit teasing and flirty with everyone when in the mood, but not at all with their crush. And that’s what had happened with Tekēhu. Their cheeky, silly behaviour tumbles down every time the godlike smiles heartedly at them or laughs at one of their stupid jokes and everything gets awkward, because Nerkèas blushes frustrated and their throat tightens up irritatingly not allowing them to be a normal functioning person.

The moment Nerkèas realized that wasn’t just a crush was the moment he knew he was fucked, and it was too late.

But then, the confession had happened and they couldn’t have been happier because their feelings had been mutual.

When Nerkèas is alone in their chambers on the Sprezzante, they think about all of that, about the journey the crew is on, about the choices they had made and still have to make together with their companions. The destiny of Deadfire lies in their hands and that scares them so damn much, it's a burden they didn't want at first, although they know they can rely on trustworthy people now. But in the end, their thoughts drift to Tekēhu, and his bright smile, his love for life, his careless spirit. And all the fears leave their chest at all once.

This night is one of those times. They are seated on their bed, back to the door, glancing over the dark sky through the big window, thumbs twisting in their lap.

A long sigh.

They are tired from the last quest. Stopping a cult that worships an overgrown imp tends to make you so.

Every muscle in their body aches terribly and they can't wait to reach Neketaka to go to the hot springs and dip themself in the water for a long time. Suddenly, they feel like an old tree, weighted by the years, their bark marked by the countless fights, their sap still and dried.

They’d fancy a rest from everything, if only it could be possible.

Another sigh.

They lie slowly on the bed, their gaze always across the horizon.

It's so quiet down there and they can breath in the salty air, but not the one they long for.

Nerkèas shuts their eyes close as they slip a hand through their own hair. It's growing fast, they should see a barber to fix it properly.

After some plain minutes of peacefulness, they hear a squeaking sound, and their eyes crack open again.

"Oh-" Nerkèas smiles at that voice, their vision readjusting quickly in the dimly lit room.

"Sorry captain, I thought you were awake." the voice continues to say as the silhouette of Tekēhu comes to view in the crack of the door, now ajar. In the faint light of the night, Nerkèas can see the golden shining of his eyes and their heart takes a tumble in their chest.

"No, no, don't worry." the elf shakes their head as they invite Tekēhu to come on in with a lazy wave of their hand. "I can't seem to put myself to sleep anyway." they keep talking while their gaze follows the godlike entering the room and closing the door behind himself.

Then, he steps closer to the bed, catching Nerkèas’ eyes.

"You okay?" he asks gently, his left hand resting on his hip in his usual sass pose.

"Yes, I was just.. relaxing." Nerkèas breaths out the last word, exhausted. "Not in the mood to feast with the others, that's it." they then shrug a shoulder, their nose wrinkling in a funny way.

"Mmmh." the godlike’s eyes narrow as they roam up and down the Watcher’s body. "Something troubles your mind." he then says scratching his chin with his free hand.

At that statement, Nerkèas pulls themself to sit up, looking at everywhere but Tekēhu.

"Care to share with your pretty fish?" his voice is even gentler than before, smooth like a wave caressing their skin, the corners of his mouth turned up in a small but genuine smile.

The elf mirrors that smile before speaking. "My mind wanders as well as I used to do long before I met you people." they try to assure the godlike with a humorless chuckle as they make themself look at him. "Nothing to worry about." they minimize the godlike’s worries in the end, huffing slightly before gazing back through the glass.

As Nerkèas speaks, Tekēhu takes a sit next to him, the mattress sinks a bit under his weight.

He just stays there, staring at them with those deep blue eyes, dark as the bottom of the ocean. The Watcher’s breath catches in their throat under that heavy scrutiny.

Even if there's a gap between the two, that closeness is enough to make them feel like they are floating, their fingers hitching to reach him, but their body is stiff, rooted where it is.

"You are a free spirit, my beloved." his voice murmurs quietly after several beats, and the elf hears tension shaking Tekēhu’s body, like he's not sure if he can say those words, if he's crossing a dangerous line, and Nerkèas’ heart jumps furiously because no one ever called him that way, no one ever cared about him that much.

That's what makes their look go back immediately up to Tekēhu.

“But not alone.” the godlike continues when their eyes meet his, and shows a wide smile, all sharp teeth and warmth, although there's a veil of uncertainty behind it, still hesitant about what he’s saying.

In that moment, Nerkèas remembers that the godlike is new to this kind of things too, to emotions and relationships.

Nerkèas blinks at him a few times hearing the last words, like he can’t fully process them, then nods quickly, darting their eyes again to the window, their cheeks flushing brightly.

They're still struggling to accept that show of affection towards them, both verbal and physical. It makes a fuzzy feeling spread all over his chest and their stomach clench awfully. But they can't leave Tekēhu hanging there, drowning in doubts and fears because of their insecure self. They don't want that, there's two of them in the relationship, and everyone has to play their part.

A hand slides on the sheets to reach and take Tekēhu's and grip it gingerly to calm him down as well as themself, to answer to his unspoken worries hidden behind those gleaming pieces of ocean that now are watching them wistfully, to tell him they understand what he’s saying and they are on the same level. To tell him that they meant those hushed words, that night back at The Wild Mare. To assure him that everything is alright, that they don't regret a thing that happened between them. How could they?

"Yeah.." Nerkèas croaks out at least after a long pause, their tone thick and their throat dry, as they hear their pulse pounding rapidly in their ribcage, in their veins, in every part of them. “I suppose you're right.” they mumble further and this time their gaze peers into Tekēhu’s fiercely, while the grip on his hand tightens.

They hope that look can speak what their mouth can't.

Thump thump. Thump Thump.

Suddenly Tekēhu’s face is of a deep blue and little drops gather in the corners of his eyes that flutter more than once in a frantic way, drops that highlight his long, thick lashes.

"I can leave, if you want to be by yourself." now that voice sounds so small, helpless, it quivers under the emotions the godlike is clearly feeling, but those beautiful, stormy orbs don't leave theirs, and something strings hard in the elf’s chest.

Finally, Nerkèas leans forward and with one hand cups his face before sweetly tracing his cheek with their thumb. “No, it's fine." they offer in a whisper. ”Stay.”.

They bask in the sensation of tiny scales against their bare skin, that salty breeze of him that can soothe their nerves just with one intake.

Tekēhu starts studying the Watcher with his glassy eyes, a thing he's always done since they have become companions, whilst the elf wipes his tears with gentle strokes.

The two stay in that position for what seems like an eternity, not caring to move, not when they both are where they most want to, still looking at each other like there’s no other thing in the world.

Some minutes and a loud sniff later, a soft smile forms on the godlike’s lips and a chuckle falls from them, making Nerkèas smile too.

"It's pretty long, I say." the godlike states as a matter of fact, his free hand reaching to ruffle Nerkèas' greyish-pink hair playfully.

The heavy moment from before seems to vanish in a second, and Nerkèas can't be anything but grateful for that. Now they feel even more tired though, especially on the emotional side.

"I thought the same thing." the Watcher laughs in a breath, their gaze now up to where Tekēhu’s fingers curl some locks of theirs. “When we reach Neketaka, I'll do something about this mess."

"Mmh." Tekēhu just murmurs thoughtfully.

"I could braid it in the meantime." the Watcher says asbentely while shrugging, slowly sliding their hands down from Tekēhu’s face to his bare chest, where they can feel his heart beating fast under his cool skin.

Those words clearly have flipped a switch in the godlike's mind because now he is staring at them with his dark eyes wide open, a joyful glint flashing in them.

"Would you like them?" he can't hide the excitement in his voice, still hoarse from the suppressed cry but energic nonetheless, and all of the sudden he wraps his hand around the elf’s.

A dumbfounded expression shows on Nerkèas’ face at that question. "What?"

"Braids."

"Oh-" the Watcher is speechless, their brows scrunch even more in a puzzled way. "You.. Can you do that?" they tip their head on the side, eyeing him curiously, their ears flatting down a bit making the earrings that ornate them tingle.

"Ekera, sure I can!" laughs Tekēhu heartily, speaking in an amused tone. "Just give me some bands and I'll show you.”

Nerkèas keeps looking at him for a good long second, before slowly leaning over the nightstand beside the bed and rummaging in the drawer.

"Here you are." they say as handing him the thin bands they’ve just found. "Work your magic, pretty fish."

A mischievous grin slips on Tekēhu's face.

"Don't tease me, captain." he says as a languid look lingers on the elf in front of him, sending jolts of anticipation to their lower belly.

Nerkèas giggles nervously biting their bottom lip, before they watch Tekēhu glide further across the bed and positioning himself behind them.

As the Watcher crosses their legs shaking their head to get a grip, the godlike’s slide next to their sides, making himself more comfortable and closer to them.

Like that, surrounded by Tekēhu, the elf feels the same embrace Nature gives them, they feel safe, loved.

The blush from earlier is back on their cheeks.

“Tell me if I'm hurting you.”.

The Watcher gives a quick nod in understanding, not trusting themself to talk.

 

After Tekēhu’s hands have begun to stroke Nerkèas' hair carefully, a deep humming echoes in the room.

The elf smiles a little listening to his low voice so close to their ears. They can feel it like a rumble from the godlike's chest where it lies against their back, a pleasant sensation that runs through all of their body, head to toe, and suddenly all they want is to lean against him and stay like that forever, letting themself be cradle by that rough yet sleek sound.

It’s always surprising how the mere presence of Tekēhu can lift their mood up, everything feels right as long as he’s with them.

His fingertips move smoothly on their head and a funny prickle springs beneath their skin, ever so responsive.

"What are you singing?" Nerkèas’ voice comes out like a whisper, not wanting to ruin that perfect atmosphere.

The moon outside casts a soft light on both of them, making Nerkèas’ skin looking paler than the usual and the scales of Tekēhu’s thighs and legs shining of the shades of ocean, while the waves blow loudly, as if they were following the rhythm of Tekēhu’s song.

Nerkèas wishes they could stop time in that exact moment.

"An old aumaua chant.” answers Tekēhu, his hands now splitting their hair in little locks to start braiding it one by one, hands that tremble slightly while he says those words, notes the elf.

They want to ask further, but then Tekēhu speaks again, like he perfectly knows how curious Nerkèas is.

"The words can be translated to something like-” Nerkèas hears the godlike sucking a shaking breath before keeping on “'Dearest one, it’s time to sleep / Moon smiling at you / Close your eyes / and let your mind wander / I will hold you here through your dreams / I’m not leaving your side / You’re seeking truth / deep within your heart / Do not fear, my dearest one / wherever you go I’ll follow / If lost, listen to my voice / it will guide you / Calling you home / our home’" as he talks, his lips move sweetly against the elf’s ear, teeth scraping the flesh so tenderly that gooseflesh erupts on their neck.

Heat creeps quickly again up Nerkèas’ cheeks and down their chest as they clear their throat almost exaggeratedly.

They sense there’s more behind those words, something the godlike isn’t deliberately telling them, something he can’t make himself speak out loud, not yet at least, but they won’t push further. They can read between the lines, and he’ll tell them when he’s ready eventually, they’re sure about that.

When did their eyes close?

"I-I see..." it’s the only thing the Watcher can say in a soft mumble, falling back into silence right after.

They can feel Tekēhu smiling smugly behind them and it's unnerving, but also dizzying.

His breath tingles the heated skin of their neck as he returns to hum, the chill of his scales sends little shivers along their spine, making their toes curl, their lungs are full of his distinct scent that they have become addicted to by now. His heart hammering like a drum against their back, cuddling them into a peaceful numbness.

"When did you learn to braid hair?"

That question gets a light chuckle from the godlike. “Back when I was much younger.” he answers with a nostalgic tone. “A friend of mine, a little girl I knew, taught me. She had several sisters and she’d learned from them. We used to make flower crowns, even.” he continues to explain, while wrapping the end of a braid in a band before giving it a little squeeze.

They imagine a tiny Tekēhu, his shark smile always there, making colorful flower crowns with his friends on the beach. Their mouth curves in a fond smile and they shoot a glance behind them. “That sounds funny.” they comment, pressing themself more against that solid chest of his and resting a hand on his right upper thigh.

A brief pause. A loud gulp. “I’ll make one for you, if you want.” offers the godlike in a strained voice, fingers still slipping through their greyish pink locks causing their tired eyes to struggle to stay open. It’s too relaxing, they think.

Nerkèas feigns thinking about it, while smiling winningly at that reaction. “It would be nice, actually.” they nod as their thumb starts brushing his skin almost absentmindedly.

After that, another comfortable silence falls into the cramped room, filled only with the whistling of the wind outside and the rustling of hair being tied up.

Nerkèas is almost falling asleep thanks to the gentle caresses of Tekēhu’s fingers and his scent, but, before their eyes can shut completely, they feel hands gathering all the braids together, grazing their sensitive ears that twitch briefly and blush at that touch, earrings tingling.

Once he has finished his work by knotting the last band, Tekēhu wraps his bulged arms around Nerkèas abdomen and a soft puff falls from his lips as he sees the elf completely melting into the hug.

He rests his chin on their shoulder, taking his time to admire the result, a wide smile slowly blooms on his face as his gaze flickers up and down the Watcher’s profile.

"Ekera, you are truly beautiful," he purrs in the elf's ear, before chuckling delighted seeing the tip of it turn even redder.

Nerkèas is overwhelmed by the feelings those words send right to their core, and squeezes coyly the godlike’s forearm with their left hand in a way to say they appreciate his words, but their throat doesn’t want to function.

“Do you have a mirror?” he asks then, eyeing the room as he looks for it.

Refusing to leave that pleasant and comfortable spot between the godlike's arms and thighs, Nerkèas decides it would be much more convenient to just bend over as far as they can to reach the small mirror - a gift from Aloth - they keep on the nightstand.

Tekehu's hands end up on the elf's hips, their behind in full display for the godlike to admire.

Now, isn’t that an interesting position.

Sometimes, the godlike forgets that under the armor the Watcher hides a body that should be praised by every poet, chanted by every bard, portrayed by every painter. Due to that movement, in fact, their muscles flex exquisitely under the thin, white sleeveless shirt they often use when on board: shoulder stretched, neck in tension, exposed in front of his eyes.

Tekēhu is suddenly hungry and wants to bite down on that pale skin so bad.

Mother, they’re gonna kill me one of these days, he thinks as the grip on their hips tightens in a way to refrain himself from acting out the thoughts that are wildly swimming in his mind at the moment. He sucks in a long breath while intensely stroking the pale skin through the fabric, tongue wetting his own lips.

His gaze still wandering up and down the elf’s back, he catches the moment said shirt lifts a bit exposing even more flesh of their lower back, emphasized by the fine, silver body jewelry they’re wearing. Velvety, firm flesh so close for him to reach.

Scenes from their nights together flash before his eyes and a knot forms in his belly.

Tekēhu can’t help the needy whimper that escapes his throat as he feels his cheeks warming up, but Nerkèas is so preoccupied with checking their own reflection now, that they are completely oblivious of the poor godlike suffering behind them.

Nerkèas’ eyebrows shoot up utterly surprised, their mouth slacked open in astonished amazement while their purple eyes shine from joy.

“I-it’s amazing!” they stutter in a enthusiastic yelp, blinking more than once still looking in the mirror held in their right hand. “Thank you, Tekēhu.” they say afterward as they turn to face him and place it on the bed before taking his face in their hands and plant a brief, searing kiss on those plump lips of his.

The godlike is always bewildered by the way the elf can be so expressive of their gratitude towards him, knowing where they come from and what they got through, knowing that they are trying their best and it means so much to him because it proves that they are in this together. It leaves him at a loss for words, a reminder of why he cares deeply about them and their happiness. Nerkèas has a heart of gold and, even though he perfectly knows they don’t need his protection - since he saw what they can do in battle -, he would do anything to shield it from the evil of the world.

It takes a few seconds for him to reply. “You are welcome, my beloved.” he whispers breathlessly in an earnest tone, staring at Nerkèas with such a fond look, his heart lurching in his chest while his face is warm again, but from a completely different feeling.

The elf grins as they brush the tip of their nose against Tekēhu’s whilst one hand slips to reach and play with one of his locks that wave freely upon his shoulder.

Purple meets deep blue and a knowing smile spreads across both their faces.

“Would you.. lay down with me?” Nerkèas asks, their mouth mere inches from the godlike’s, breathing that request warmly on his skin.

Lighting crushing up and down his spine, Tekēhu just nods before following the elf down on the soft mattress, allowing them to cling to his side.

It’s so endearing how cuddly Nerkèas can be when they feel comfortable, it warms his fish heart like nothing else does.

As the godlike envelops them between his arms in another hug, the elf quickly places heir head on his broad chest, allowing themself to let out a deep, content sigh.

It’s not the first time they share a bed, of course, but tonight feels oddly special. Maybe it’s the moon that lulls them with its gentle touch, maybe it’s the waves of the ocean that sound like a lullaby in their ears, or maybe it’s the conversation they’ve held, still ringing in the back of Tekēhu’s mind.

“I like this.” the elf’s voice shakes him from his thoughts, and he glances down at their face that looks so relaxed, cheek plastered on his pectoral while their fingertips trace abstract lines on his belly, giving him funny feelings in the gut.

The hand of his right arm that lays around the elf’s shoulders starts playing distractly with the tip of the their ear, the nibbled one. “Me too.” he confesses without any hesitation this time, the words simply flee from his lips. It’s so easy that way, it’s always been easy to talk with Nerkèas somehow, like they understand each other, the elf never judged him, if anything they helped him getting through his problems. He’s so proud of himself for having been brave enough to confess them what his heart kept telling him since the first time they visited The Gullet, when the Watcher gripped his hand and said everything was alright, that they was there with him. He couldn’t have this if he hadn’t done it, if he hadn't swallowed down his anxiety and spoken first.

Nerkèas leaves a feather-light kiss on the same spot, a familiar blush appears, while fighting a goofy smile to bloom on their face.

“I’ve told you, Tekēhu. Never more.” they say softly as they lift their head to look him straight in the eyes, theirs tremendously serious, peering like they could reach his very soul.

The godlike holds that gaze, his mouth opens and closes more than once before choosing to slip in a silent, affectionate smile. He fully knows what those words mean, he doesn’t have to answer with his voice, not here, not with Nerkèas between his arms.

He rests his hand on the elf’s where it lies on his belly and nods vehemently.

Once Nerkèas’ head is down on his chest again, he tilts his to the side to lean against it and he sees the elf beaming, plastering themself even more to his body.

The two stay there in the captain's chambers, while the crew on the deck is feasting with food and grog. They stay there, laying on Nerkèas' bed, in a sated silence, cuddling, until the elf eventually falls asleep, starting to snore not-so-gracefully against Tekēhu’s collarbone.

Chuckling warmly, Tekēhu looks down at the figure beside him tangled to his body, at the soft smile on their face, the makeup they’re wearing all smeared on their eyelids and below their eyes, hears their steady breath, feels the pulse running through their neck making him remember that this is real, they are here, together, safe.

He spots a sliver line of drool rolling down the corner of their bottom lip and he has to muffle another laugh with the back of his hand, before planting a small kiss at the top of their head. As his lips touch their skin, he feels Nerkèas winding their arms tighter around his body and that makes him smile smittenly.

A swell of pride blooms right in the middle of his chest at the sudden realization that he couldn’t be luckier, because the person he’s cuddling right now is braver than any others he’s ever met in his entire life. Always standing on their feet no matter what, even if bruised and bleeding, even if life hasn’t been fair with them, even if they have a motherfucking god to fight against for the sake of the world, even if they are scared and could break down at any moment. That same person who could slay an army by themself bare handed, that same person who has so much love locked in their heart, that person chose to stay with him, to be with him. He wasn’t expecting to fall that deep for someone, but he thinks it was inevitable, he’s known it since their eyes met, he’s known that Nerkèas was somewhat special. And Tekēhu finds himself wanting to be the one who has the key to open the treasure that lays behind thick walls of fear and insecurities, he would hold it dearly next to his, oh so carefully.

He saves that adorable image in his mind, wanting to savour it a bit longer, but tiredness wins over him in the end, and he slowly slips into a troubleless sleep too.

For the first time in a long while, Tekēhu is truly happy. And he hopes Nerkèas is too.

The thought of waking up and finding the elf right next to him in the morning is what keeps him warm all night.