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this time, with tusks

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Fjord realizes that his tusks are really starting to grow back when he cuts his tongue on one of them one morning. He tastes blood in his mouth, bile in the back of his throat, and dread churns in his stomach. He does not go for the file at the bottom of his sack. He thinks, you don’t need to do that. He doesn’t need to hide as much of him that doesn’t fit with everyone else as he can because here, with the Mighty Nein, being a unique eccentric weirdo is the norm. He can put all of his weirdness on display and not stand out in this band of seven colorful assholes. It’s fine. It’ll be fine. He won’t be singled out.

“Your teeth are looking kinda sharp there,” Beau notes the very same morning, tone and face flat, gaze pointed and fixed to his tusks, feeling like an accusing finger pointing at him.

He feels his body want to flinch, lets it wash over him without outwardly affecting him, a neutral-edging-towards-positive expression slipping onto his face without his say so. He wonders if he could tuck his short tusks underneath his lip without making it look deliberate while Beau’s glaring right at them.

“Oh?” he lies smoothly, for no damn good reason at all, an instinctive reflex, “I hadn’t noticed.”

“Beau,” Jester hisses with zero subtlety, punching Beau in the shoulder in a way that makes the woman wince and twist up her face as she tries not to let on how much that casual punch obviously hurt her. “Fjord is sensitive about his teeth because mean boys bullied him for them when he was a kid, be nice!”

“I was being nice!” Beau wails self defensively, cradling her shoulder.

Fjord is so torn between embarrassment at Jester furiously defending his feelings to his bro, relief at remembering that Beau just has a perpetual bitch face and bitch voice, and then more embarrassment at having forgotten this very obvious fact and gotten all upset inside over nothing, that he says, without thinking, “It was actually mostly the adults doing the bullying.”

“What!?” Jester says, like he just shot an arrow through her heart with those words.

“The fuck!” Beau says, utterly indignant on his behalf. She looks like she wants to punch someone.

Oh, god. Fjord’s face is going dark green with mortification.

“Is something wrong!?” Nott’s shrill worried voice carries from the other side of their campsite.

“No!” he shouts back, very much not a fan of the idea of the entire group getting involved in this-- whatever this is. Watch Fjord Embarrass Himself Hour, perhaps. “Nothing is wrong, stay-- stay over there!”

Frumpkin winds between his legs. Fjord pinches the bridge of his nose, knowing Caleb’s propensity to spy on fuckin’ everybody with that damn thing.

“Get off,” he mutters, gently shaking a leg. “I’m allergic, remember?”

He opens his eyes to see Caduceus looking at him knowingly from across the campsite. He isn’t even within damned earshot but he still sighs. He wouldn’t put mind reading past Caduceus.

“Fjord that is so awful, do you want revenge on them?” Jester asks with tearful earnestness.

He looks down at her sweet face, over at Beau whose resting bitch face is transforming into an active bitch face, at Caleb who’s playing with sparks with his fingers by the dying campfire with a particularly intent look on his face, Nott nervous and twitchy with confusion and curiosity at his side, Yasha quietly sharpening her broadsword that is in some inexplicable way more threatening than usual, Caduceus serenely sipping at a cup of tea that Fjord knows for a fact was made of a plant that he had personally made grow from a corpse he had personally made die only yesterday.

These people would absolutely go on a murder revenge quest for his sake. The idea of it is absurd in so many ways, but he’s certain of this fact to the marrow of his bones. A small, incredulous huff of laughter escapes him, and his mouth tugs up into a smile. They really aren’t great people, huh. That’s alright. They’re more than good enough for him. They’d kill for him, just to make him happy. Violent weirdos.

They’re the best friends he’s ever had.

“Nah,” he says. “No, that’s alright. It wasn’t really one single person making life hell for me, anyways. It was more like just constant low levels of bullshit from everyone around me. It was just worst from the adults ‘cause they had the most control over me, since I was just some lil’ kid and all.”

“We could burn the whole village you grew up in down,” Beau suggests. “Wait, no, that’s too extreme, isn’t it?”

“Little bit,” he says.

“Yeah, yeah, heard it just after I said it. Umm… poison the water supply?”

“I know we are assholes,” Caleb cuts in, the fiction that this is a conversation that not absolutely everyone is listening in on quietly crumpling in on itself ignominiously, “but that is some cartoon super villain bullshit, Beauregard.”

“True, true,” she says. “I’m just more used to breaking some guy’s nose in if they’re being a douche. How do you get revenge on a whole town?”

“Oh! Oh!” Jester says with the excited happiness that signals that she’s just gotten a ‘great idea’. “What if we did poison the water supply… with laxatives.” She breaks out into snickering, clearly delighted by her own mischievous cunning.

“Or we could put itching powder in all of their sheets!” Nott suggests.

“That sounds like quite the endeavor,” Caduceus notes mildly.

“Guys, I appreciate it and all, but I don’t really need revenge on where I grew up. I doubt they even remember me.”

“Well, they should!” Jester says hotly. “You are so handsome and smart and special, Fjord, they should have a statue of you in their town square!”  

“This is the town where Fjord the-- the handsome half orc grew up,” Nott says. “I can see the placard now.”

Jester nods along empathetically, her hair swaying into her face from the vigor of it. Fjord’s hand twitches with the want to tuck it back behind her ear.

“They should just rename the town ‘Fjord’,” Beau joins in.

“That sounds confusing,” Caduceus says. “A fjord is a kind of landmark, you know. Everyone who reads that on a map will be confused.”

“‘Fjord’s birthplace’, then,” she says.

“No, no, let’s name it after one of his achievements,” Nott says. “Like ‘Fjord’s abs’.”

Well now they’re definitely just trying to fluster him.

“Or ‘Fjord’s dimple’!” Jestery happily chimes in.

And it’s working.

“Oh, he does have a dimple,” Yasha says, sounding mildly surprised. “I never noticed that.”

Nott scurries with quick ease halfway up a tree next to him, and reaches out and pokes his dimple. “Boop.”

“Oh, me, let me boop it too!” Jester says, reaching out for him.

“Okay, that’s enough messing around!” Fjord says perhaps a touch too loudly. “We’re all packed up, let’s hit the road! Come on!”

“I want in on the booping,” Yasha says.

“I should get a turn too,” Beau says.

“Well, if everyone’s doing it,”  Caduceus says.

“Caleb, get in on this!” Nott says.

“No one is touching the dimple.”

“Nott did!”

“It’s true, I did!”

Fjord grabs his pack and books it for the road. He only realizes half an hour later that he was entirely distracted from feeling self conscious about his tusks, and has been smiling easily without embarrassment.

 

Fjord cuts his lip, his tongue, and the inside of his cheeks on his tusks four more times before he gets used to them again. There are no more silly conversations about them, the Mighty Nein having seemingly gotten it all out of their system in one idiotic go. No one is an ass about them. Of course they aren’t. No one’s an ass about Nott being a goblin, or Caduceus being a firbolg, or Jester being a tiefling, or anything like that. The Mighty Nein are asses about entirely inconsequential things, like Caleb being a filthy hobo or Beau having a resting bitch face or Caduceus drinking dead people. His friends are, at heart, decent people. He’s lucky to have them.

Jester keeps staring at them, though. That’s surprising. She’d be the last person he’d pin for being weird about his tusks, considering how encouraging she’d been when he’d awkwardly explained that he filed them down. Jester’s a rascal, but she’s sweet. She’s kind hearted. And she’s sheltered, in a way that means that she’d be the least exposed to people sneering about orcs or half orcs out of all of them. She’s the most surprising person to feel awkward about it, and also the one that makes the least sense. So maybe he’s misreading it, is all.

She keeps looking at them, though. It’s undeniable.

“Caduceus,” he tries to say in a tone that’s quiet enough not to be overheard but also casual enough to hopefully not be weird. “Does Jester, uh, seem weird to you?”

“All of you seem weird to me,” Caduceus says.

“Uh, yeah, fair.” That’s rich coming from mister ‘grew up in a graveyard’, though. “But, like, is she acting strange for her?”

“Why do you ask?” Caduceus says, apparently trying his level best to be smilingly unhelpful.

“She,” Fjord says. “It’s nothing. It’s probably nothing. It’s probably just in my head.”

“You mean how she keeps looking at you whenever you smile?” Caduceus says.

“What?” Fjord says.

“She’s always done that, at least for as long as I’ve known you guys,” he goes on. “I suppose you’re only just noticing it now because you’re so insecure about your tusks growing back in.”

“I-- what-- I never told you about--!”

“Oh, you were trying to hide that?” he asks, sounding genuinely surprised. Maybe faux sincerity is the new sarcasm. “My apologies.”

Fjord decides to speed up to get away from him and this terrible decision of a conversation. Caduceus easily catches up with him with zero effort, long legs keeping up with him in a relaxed stroll.

“I do admit that there’s something new to her expressions now, though,” he says thoughtfully.

“What?” Fjord asks, at once annoyed and embarrassed and done with this conversation but at the same time so curious. He has to know how she feels about them, about him. She, it’s. Important. “What is it?”

“I don’t know,” he says, sounding very confused about this. “I don’t really recognize the look in her eyes, I don’t understand… It’s not something I’m familiar with.” And then he smiles at Fjord, that dopey, sleepy, somehow wise wide smile. “You should ask her,” he says with placid certainty.

“Uh huh, sure,” Fjord lies.

“Think about it,” he says, not buying it. He keeps doing that.

“Mhmmmm,” he says, and speeds away again. Caduceus doesn’t try to catch up again, thank god.

 

Jester hopes the Traveler likes drawings of Fjord, because that’s all she’s been able to draw for the last week now. Not even silly, funny drawings! Pretty drawings. Realistic drawings. Detailed drawings. Drawings that show off his--

“What’re you drawin’ there, Jester?” Fjord asks conversationally from the other side of the table. Beau and Nott are drinking some overconfident idiot under the table off in the corner, Yasha’s gone doing mysterious things, and so Jester and Fjord are left alone with no one but Caleb (who’s nose deep in a book), and Caduceus (who’s seemingly contently lost in placid thought). Fjord must be feeling a bit bored, fishing for conversation topics.

Jester hugs her sketchbook to her chest and squeaks, “Nothing!” around a wide, panicked smile. “Nothing interesting that you would want to look at, Fjord, hahahaha.”

Fjord raises his eyebrow. “I saw you proudly show off your lovingly illustrated disembodied dicks to your ma’.”

“Well, if anyone would know what a good dick looks like, it’d be her!”

“Just wondering what you could possibly be too embarrassed to share, is all.”

“Me? Embarrassed?” Oh no her voice is so high and squeaky, like if a squirrel could talk. BAD. “Noooo, I don’t think so. You must be a little bit drunker than you thought, Fjord.”

“After one tankard of ale?”

“More like one tankard of watered down piss,” Caleb mutters into his book.

“Oh, what? Hm?” She puts a hand up to her ear, like she’s listening closely to something faint. She widens her eyes dramatically. “Guys, I think the Traveler is calling me! I should go and talk to him now, hah. Bye!”

She waves energetically enough that she cuffs someone up the head. They cry out and fall to the floor, unconscious, but really they must be exaggerating so she just laughs and quickly leaves for her room. Behind her, she can hear Caduceus sigh and cast Healing Word.

“Fuck, that was a close one,” she says to herself as she leans her back against her closed door, heart beating quick in her chest, shaky relief in her head. It would be so embarrassing if Fjord saw those drawings. He’s not even naked in them, how awful.

She strokes her sketchbook, reassuring herself.

The sketch book turns into a poof of smoke in her hands. A fake illusion. Trickery.

“TRAVELER,” she yells, and whips around to rip the door open and get the real sketchbook away from--

--Fjord. Standing in front of her, surprised at her suddenly opening the door. Holding her sketchbook. Her open sketchbook. Letting him clearly see the pages and pages of lovingly crafted drawings of him smiling, laughing, any expression that shows off his tusks.

“You… really like them, huh?” he says slowly, looking back and forth from the drawings to her. Jester feels naked, except she’s fine with Fjord seeing her naked. This is much worse.

“Oh, Fjord!” she cries. “I know you are all sensitive and touchy about them, I’m sorry, it’s just that they’re so pretty and cute and--” hot, “--and I just wanted to draw them! I didn’t mean for you to see, those are just drawings for me, oh and well also the Traveler I suppose since he can always see me and what I draw, but that’s fine, right? He’s a really nice god, not like yours, no offense.”

“None… taken.” He blinks at her slowly, taking in the barrage.

“Really? Your feelings aren’t hurt at all?”

“No, Jester, I’m fine.” He smiles, crooked and charming and oh, oh, there’s a peek of one of his tusks, damn. “I promise.”

“That’s good,” she says, feeling a bit too distracted and bothered to be relieved. “That’s very, very good, uh huh.”

“These are some very flattering drawings.”

“Yeah huh, I’m pretty great.” She should probably be making eye contact instead of staring at his mouth like a weirdo.

“They’re… sweet.”

“I’m sweet.”

“Yeah,” he says, and oh, he’s closer now. “You are.”

He kisses her. Her eyes fall shut automatically, and she leans up onto her toes to kiss him back. His broad hand settles on the small of her back to steady her. She loves his hand there, oh. It should stay there forever. He smells like the sea in the best way possible. Like home. Like comforting familiarity. Like love.

Jester’s kissed before, and she’s good at kissing, but she’s never kissed like this before. She has to break it off to breathe. Her face feels so hot.

“Was that okay?” Fjord asks, and his voice is soft and considerate and oh she loves his voice. His real accent is so cute, but the one he uses to remember Vandren is so very, very good as well. It feels wonderful to hear it after having the breath kissed out of her.

(The first time he’d kissed her, he’d kissed the breath into her. Hee.)

“It was great,” she breathes. “Do it again. And this time, with tusks.”

He does. It’s delicious.