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It takes Olruggio a while to register it, that Qifrey doesn’t smile.

He’s vaguely aware of it, that his new friend is quiet. Scared, sometimes, of all the things he doesn’t know that everyone around him takes for granted. He’s serious, but who wouldn’t be, in his situation – Olruggio doesn’t know everything, but he’s heard enough rumors to know Qifrey’s introduction to witch society wasn’t exactly traditional.

But it’s just how Qifrey is, how he’s always been in the short time Olruggio’s known him. It doesn’t warrant further consideration. And besides, they’re busy – he’s teaching Qifrey all sorts of things, and Qifrey is a quick and eager student.

Today’s lesson is on loitering. It usually works to their benefit, being small; the shopkeepers can’t see them over their stalls, piled tall and haphazard as they are. It makes it easy to pinch a snack when you’ve forgotten your coin purse – not that Olruggio would ever do that – and there are all sorts of interesting things to be overheard, things that grownups don’t say when they know they have an audience.

But then—

“Don’t you think it’s eerie, how he never smiles? As if he isn’t unnerving enough already, coming out of those awful woods, and then he has to go and look so dreadfully grim all the time—”

It takes Olruggio a moment to put the pieces together, to work out who they’re talking about. Beside him, Qifrey has gone suddenly, terribly still. Olruggio’s blood boils. That’s his friend—

He has half a mind to march out and give them a piece of his mind, and he’s about to – but then there’s a hand around his wrist.

“Olruggio,” comes Qifrey’s voice, impossibly quiet, “I forgot – I needed something at the stationer’s.”

He’s looking anywhere but the stall, anywhere but Olruggio’s eyes. There’s something fiery and furious in Olruggio’s chest and it only gets more terrible when he sees the slump of Qifrey’s shoulders, the resigned acceptance in his eyes.

Olruggio lets it drop, because Qifrey asks – even though he’s not sure he should.

He lets it drop, but he doesn’t forget, and that night he sits down to his lessons and frowns at his book and doesn’t read a single word because he’s too busy trying to remember whether he’s ever seen Qifrey smile.

He doesn’t think he has. Does it make him a bad friend, that he hadn’t realized? He’d never thought about it. Maybe that’s even worse.

He thinks he’d like to see it, Qifrey smiling.

But then he surprises Qifrey in his room one day, catches a glimpse of him in the reflection of his window, studying his reflection. His face is pulled into a stiff, thin smile, false as anything, that drops as soon as he realizes Olruggio is there.

Olruggio doesn’t say anything, pretends not to notice, but inside – he feels sick to his stomach.

If that’s what it means, what it takes for Qifrey to smile – Olruggio doesn’t think he wants to see it, after all.




Qifrey doesn’t complain much, so it sticks in Olruggio’s mind, when he says the cold of the Great Hall during the winter makes his head hurt.

“He’s the one with the eye, right?” the healer’s apprentice, Sinocia, asks.

“His name’s Qifrey,” Olruggio says, sharper than he probably ought to be with his hands in Sinocia’s care – although she probably wouldn’t try anything, not with the real medic standing in earshot. Probably.

“Well so-rry you’ve never bothered to introduce us,” she says, swiping burn cream across his palm harder than she probably needs to and not bothering to look apologetic at his pained yelp. “But it’s probably irritating the scar tissue. The cold, I mean.”

His stinging hand is forgotten. “That can happen?”

“Uh-huh,” she nods. “I dunno why. But the Knights are always in here for salves when the weather changes, especially the old ones.”

“Oh,” Olruggio says, and although Sinocia gives him a strange look she doesn’t comment when he sits silently until his hand is wrapped.

He stays up late that night, and the next, and mumbles an incomprehensible excuse when he’s caught sleeping in class, and one sleepless week later finds himself in front of Qifrey’s door.

He hesitates before knocking only for the door to swing open from inside and reveal Qifrey, rubbing his temple.

“Oh—” he startles, “Olruggio? Is everything alright?”

“I’m fine,” Olruggio says, “I just – here.”

As soon as he hands Qifrey the contraption, Olruggio wants to take it back – can see all the places his lines weren’t quite clean, where the carving is a little uneven and imperfect, embarrassing, not the finished product he’s been hoping for. He almost reaches out his hand to take it back, but then—

“Oh,” Qifrey says, eyes going wide, “it’s warm—”

He looks up at Olruggio, then back down to the sphere in his palm.

“Olruggio,” he says, “did you make this?”

Olruggio almost doesn’t want to admit it, suddenly – it feels too-much, for Qifrey to know he made this, made it for him. Like he’s revealing more than he meant to.

“Well,” he settles on eventually, “you said you were cold.”

Qifrey doesn’t seem to know how to respond to that, just stares at him, the contraption, him again.

“How does it work?” he settles on asking, eventually.

Olruggio takes the distraction gladly. “It’s two separate halves, connected here,” he says, pointing at the small hinge. “When you close it the rim forms the circle for the seal. You can’t really see it when it’s closed but it’s hollow inside, that’s where the fire is.”

Qifrey nods, studying it intently. “And to make the fire go out you just—”

“—Open it, like this,” Olruggio says, leaning over to show him.

Which is, of course, when the flame spits out of the side.

Qifrey yelps and snaps it shut again, and for a moment they both stand there, perfectly still, staring at each other.

“It, uh – didn’t do that. When I was working on it,” Olruggio says, “obviously. Or I wouldn’t have—”

His face must be bright red – it’s burning up, he thinks he might be sweating. Qifrey still hasn’t said a word. Olruggio can’t decide if he should try to salvage the situation or maybe just turn around and leave and never show his face in witch society ever again.

“Look,” he says, holding out a hand, “if you give it back maybe I can fix it—”

Or throw it in the garbage where it belongs, he doesn’t say, but it must show on his face because Qifrey snatches it away.

“No,” he says, suddenly stubborn, and Olruggio lunges for it and Qifrey jumps backwards and his hand knocks it and of course the stupid thing spits out another bolt of fire that comes inches from singeing his cloak and he yells and Qifrey—

Qifrey laughs.

Or Olruggio thinks he does, anyways, because he’s never heard Qifrey make a sound like that before, sharp and surprised and instantly silenced by the hand clapped over his mouth. Like he’d surprised himself.

“Sorry,” Qifrey says from behind his hand, “sorry, I didn’t mean to—it’s just, your face—” he manages before he loses the words to a breathy, muffled noise, and this time Olruggio is sure it’s a laugh because he can see the crinkling at the corner of his eyes, the way his shoulder shakes, and he wants nothing more than to see what Qifrey looks like behind his hand.

He doesn’t know what to do with himself, just stands there, hot and embarrassed and smiling helplessly himself, chest suddenly too-full. It doesn’t even help when Qifrey finally stops laughing because when he drops his hand there’s a smile on his face, a real one – Olruggio can tell because it’s awkward and lopsided and nothing at all like the thin polite one he’s started wearing around the Great Hall.

“Thanks, Olly,” Qifrey says softly.

Olruggio’s blushing again, he can feel it – or maybe he never stopped. He clears his throat.

“I—I’ll make you a better one,” Olruggio mumbles, unable to look away.

“No,” Qifrey says, and his grin fades into something soft and gentle. Genuine, a little vulnerable. “No, this one is perfect.”

And Olruggio looks at it, not his sad little contraption but at Qifrey’s smile, this unpracticed, unpolished thing that Olruggio’s never seen before – that maybe nobody has seen before. There’s something fluttering in his chest, some anxiety, like he’s been handed something delicate and fragile and told to protect it.

It is perfect.

Olruggio wants to see it again.




Qifrey does not take naturally to cooking.

Neither of them do, not really, but Olruggio at least tries to improve, and their meals on the road gradually improve from ‘barely edible’ to ‘occasionally tolerable’ to ‘usually fine, if nothing special.’

Qifrey, on the other hand, makes one memorably terrible attempt at stew and then declares he’ll never cook again.

So it’s a surprise, when Qifrey volunteers to make dinner. Olruggio narrows his eyes, considering – but for all that Qifrey excels at getting into trouble, he’s never been one to play pranks.

He’s banished from the campsite while Qifrey works, with orders to “make himself useful and get some sticks or something.” Olruggio skips stones by the river until Qifrey calls for him, instead, and tries to think up a contraption that would make it a little easier to catch a fish. Just in case.

But it smells alright, when he gets back to camp, which is honestly more than he was hoping for. Qifrey won’t sit down, even after he hands Olruggio a bowl of something warm, won’t even get his own bowl. He’s all motion, pacing back and forth by the fire and giving Olruggio quick, careful glances from across the fire.

“Well?” He looks up at Olruggio, almost urgent, and Olruggio realizes – he’s nervous. Whatever it is Qifrey’s made, he’s really tried.

Olruggio vows to school his face into neutrality, no matter the taste. He might even be able to manage an encouraging smile, he thinks, as long as it’s even a little better than last time.

When he finally takes a bite under Qifrey’s focused scrutinization, he can’t keep his face neutral after all.

“Oh,” he says, eyes widening, “it’s good!”

“You don’t have to sound so surprised,” Qifrey mutters, but his cheeks are bright red and he’s got the beginning of a shy, embarrassed smile that betrays how pleased he is at the praise.

“No, I mean it, it’s really good, Qifrey! How did you make this?”

All of Qifrey’s anxious energy goes out of him in a rush. “You really mean it? I’ve been practicing.”

Olruggio nods. “I can tell. When, though? Not out here?”

Qifrey looks away. “It was so bad that time—”

“It wasn’t—” Olruggio starts, ready to reassure him; Qifrey rolls his eyes.

“It was, I ate it too. And it took – a while. For it to be less bad.”

“Oh,” Olruggio says. He can picture it, Qifrey practicing on his own, as diligent a student in this as in anything else. “But why? I don’t mind cooking, even if I’m only decent at it. Unless I’m not—”

“No, that’s not it!” Qifrey jumps in, suddenly urgent. “That’s not it at all. It’s just—”

He hesitates, like he’s searching for the words. Like he wants Olruggio to understand something.

“It was nice, when you cooked for me,” he finally settles on. “I wanted to be able to do that for you, too.”

Any doubt Olruggio had about his own abilities drains away, replaced with a warmth spreading out from his chest. Qifrey is looking at him, expecting a response – but Olruggio can’t find anything to say, not with Qifrey smiling at him like that, shy and proud and a little lopsided. His smiles aren’t so rare, these days, but each one feels precious all the same and Olruggio always finds himself a little speechless when Qifrey surprises him with one.

“Anyways,” Qifrey says, when he realizes Olruggio isn’t going to say anything, “I thought it might be – I mean, maybe now we could cook together.”

For the second time in as many moments, Olruggio isn’t sure what to say at first – but there’s a slow smile spreading across his face, one mirrored on Qifrey’s.

“You’re right,” he says, and Qifrey ducks his head, “we could. What do you want to make first?”




Qifrey always stays so neat, somehow – Olruggio, who has never managed to leave his workshop without at least one scorch mark on his robe, has always been a little envious.

Even in the garden he somehow never looks quite as grubby as Olruggio inevitably does. So it’s a surprise when Olruggio looks up from his weeding to see a smudge of dirt high on Qifrey’s cheekbone – enough so that he stops working, staring without even realizing.

Qifrey catches him, of course. “What is it?”

“You’ve got dirt on your face,” Olruggio says automatically, reaching out to thumb it off.

Or he tries to, anyways, but he’s forgotten his hands are covered in dirt, too.

“Oh,” he says dumbly, and doesn’t follow up even when Qifrey tilts his head to the side, questioning.

Any words he might have found are gone, lost to the image of Qifrey, sun-kissed and slightly sweaty, dirt uncharacteristically smeared across the side of his face. It’s – unexpectedly endearing, Olruggio thinks, a lump rising in his throat.

“Olly?” Qifrey prompts, brow slightly furrowed. Olruggio blinks, shakes himself out of it.

“I—made it worse, I think,” he manages, glancing down, and Qifrey follows his gaze to his dirty fingers. Olruggio can see the moment he realizes because his eyes crinkle up into a fond smile.

“Well,” he says, “luckily it’s just the two of us out here, no harm done. I needed a break, anyways.”

He stands, stretching, and abandons the garden in favor of searching for the vapor bubble they’d brought out with them. Olruggio watches him go, slightly mournful as he watches Qifrey dampen the front of his robe and wipe the smudge off for good.

“Come on,” Qifrey calls over, “you should drink some water, since we’ve stopped.”

Olruggio rolls his eyes. “It’s not that hot out.”

“Who said anything about being hot? It’s good for you.”

“Bossy,” Olruggio grumbles under his breath – but he stands and goes to join Qifrey all the same.

It’s not that hot out, but they’ve been working in the sun for most of the morning, and Olruggio finds he’s built up a sweat without realizing it. He cups his hands for Qifrey to pour water into; Qifrey doesn’t say anything but raises his eyebrows, knowing.

When he finishes drinking and wipes his mouth in time to see Qifrey stretch out on the grass, Olruggio knows that their small break is about to turn into them being done for the day. But that’s alright, too – there’s no agenda out here.

Olruggio pushes his sleeves up over his elbows and follows Qifrey in stretching, yawning.

“Your back cracks like an old man’s,” Qifrey says from the ground, “you ought to at least try to sit with good posture.”

He’s seen his success with the water and is trying for a second win – Olruggio won’t let him have it. “Who says I have bad posture?”

Qifrey scoffs. “Please. I’ve seen you when you get into one of your moods, you know.”

“One of my – what’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean – when you’re stuck on some commission and hunch over into that terrible little ball, it looks so uncomfortable—”

Unfortunately Olruggio does know exactly what he’s talking about – which Qifrey knows perfectly well, judging by the smug little grin on his face.

“Hmph.” Olruggio flops backwards without responding, lets the conversation fade away in the warmth of the sun.

It’s a beautiful morning, especially in the shade – a faint breeze rolls across the hills, bringing the scent of warm grass and, somewhere, flowers. Olruggio lets his eyes slip shut for a moment, breathes it in.

It doesn’t stay quiet for long.

“I was thinking,” Qifrey starts, conversational, “we could grow erbe bushes out back, probably. By that hill looking over the river, I think they’d get a good amount of sun there. Wouldn’t it be nice to have fresh leaves for tea?”

“Mm,” Olruggio hums in vague agreement, tilting his head to look at Qifrey out of the corner of his eye. He’s not paying any attention to Olruggio – he’s thinking out loud, talking with his hands, focused on some hazy future that comes further into focus the longer Olruggio stays, the longer Olruggio watches him.

“You’ve thought about this a lot,” he says, when Qifrey’s talked himself out, when it’s quiet except for distant birdsong and the sound of the wind in the tall grass, ruffling their hair.

“I like it out here,” Qifrey says sleepily, eyes half-closed. “I like being able to see the sky.”

He looks relaxed. Peaceful, even. Like some great weight has been lifted from his shoulders, now that he’s out from under the sea. Olruggio isn’t sure Qifrey even realizes he’s smiling.

“Yeah,” Olruggio says, watching Qifrey watch the clouds. “I like it, too.”




“Maybe I should retire,” Olruggio grumbles into his bottle, slouched against Qifrey’s back as they float slowly back home.

He feels, more than hears, Qifrey’s snort. “Retire? You? You’d get bored.”

“Being bored would be worth it if I never had to talk to anyone again. And anyways, it’s possible I’ve ruined my career already.” He’s aware he’s being a touch melodramatic, as such. “But you don’t understand—”

Qifrey probably does understand, given that he’s been listening to Olruggio complain since before they even left Kahln, since before they decided to break into the sweetnectar wine on the boat across the river, since before Olruggio drank – perhaps more than he should have, for a person who’s ostensibly supposed to be navigating them home.

It’s probably fine. Qifrey’s floating punt doesn’t move all that fast, at any rate.

“You don’t understand,” he repeats, “the way she loomed—”

It becomes clear to him, suddenly, that the only way he’ll ever get Qifrey to understand is by showing him. Olruggio stands up, wobbles for a moment.

“Olly,” Qifrey’s turned to face him, eyes wide, “are you sure you should—”

“It’s important,” Olruggio says, certain of it although he’s not sure why. The world doesn’t seem quite so steady, now that he’s standing up, especially not on the moving punt. Not that Qifrey needs to know that. “For—body language. It’s about the body language.”

Qifrey raises an eyebrow at him but doesn’t say anything beyond that.

“Anyways – she came over and said – well, the windowway’s not framing the view quite the way I was hoping – what if you moved it an inch or so to the left?—”

“Oh no,” Qifrey says, eyes widening, “Olly what did you do—”

“So I told her, well, ma’am, maybe you could just move an inch or so to the left—”

Qifrey bursts out in unexpected laughter that rings clear through the woods. “Olly, you didn’t – that’s so rude! I can’t believe you—”

“You weren’t there, Qifrey, three weeks” Olruggio hisses, and Qifrey poorly stifles another laugh.

“Anyways,” he continues, turning too fast and feeling the board wobble beneath him. Qifrey lets out an alarmed yelp before dissolving into giggles again, “she refused to pay us after that, so before we left I took the whole thing down overnight.” He wonders for a moment if he should sit down after all – he’s feeling a little more unstable than he’d expected – but Qifrey is laughing, and it would ruin the effect if he quit now.

“So if a woman shows up at the house and demands to speak to—” he puts his hands on his hips and leans over until he’s looming over Qifrey— “that awful young man with the rather offensive beard—

Qifrey is laughing so hard beneath him he’s holding his side like it hurts. Olruggio leans over further, just to really drive the point home, but it’s too much – without his weight at the end, the punt comes unbalanced and suddenly he’s leaned too far over the edge, and swinging backwards to compensate just makes it worse—

There’s a moment of weightlessness and then he’s crashing through a bush, leaves and branches tangled in his cloak.

The wind is truly knocked out of him; Olruggio just has to lie there for a moment. When he has the energy to look up it’s to see Qifrey has managed to stay on the board but is laughing so hard he can barely get a word out.

“Olly—oh, no, Olly—” he breaks off into another peal of helpless laughter — “where—where did you go, oh, are you—Olly, are you alright?”

He’s winded, dizzy, suddenly a little nauseous. He can already feel the beginnings of a monstrous bruise on his tailbone.

“Down here,” he manages, and Qifrey turns the punt around, bent over laughing so hard he can barely steer. When he sees Olruggio he starts all over again, laughing so hard he has to wipe away a tear.

“Oh no—you’re all tangled, we’ll never get you out of there, Olly—” he’s visibly trying to compose himself, but every time he looks down at Olruggio he loses control all over again. “Are you okay?”

Olruggio looks up at him, breathless and already sore and smiling like a fool despite it all.

“Never better,” he says with a lazy thumbs up, and when that sets Qifrey off all over again he finds he’s laughing, too.




Olruggio hadn’t been sure, at first, about the apprentices.

He was sure Qifrey wanted them there – and even fairly certain he wanted to be there, he’d agreed to it, after all. But still, in the days before the first of them had arrived, he’d been nervous, filled with some implacable anxiety that he couldn’t describe. For himself, for Qifrey. For how it would all go.

“They’re so – young,” he’d said over dinner to Qifrey while trying to express this daunting feeling one night, in the early days. “I don’t ever remember being so small.”

“Well, they probably don’t feel so small then, either,” Qifrey says. “If we never did. So we mustn’t treat them like they are.”

“They might not feel like it, but they are children,” Olruggio frowns. “It’s our job to keep them safe.”

“I never said we wouldn’t – but did anyone ever help us by treating us like we were helpless? They have agency, Olly – they’ve chosen to come here, after all.”

Olruggio had let Qifrey talk him back into it, then, but still – he’d had doubts, even if he wasn’t sure what exactly those doubts were.

For some reason it’s that conversation that comes to mind when he wakes up from where he’s been dozing by the fire. It’s raining, too hard even for Qifrey’s rain repelling spell judging by the fact that lessons have clearly moved inside. Richeh is curled up in the corner on her own, and he can hear Tetia humming to herself in the kitchen, but Agott and Qifrey are huddled together in front of the fire, going over a book.

“I’m sorry,” Agott is saying when Olruggio registers the conversation, “I don’t—”

Her voice is so small, barely a whisper. She won’t meet Qifrey’s eyes.

“That’s quite alright,” he says gently, “let’s try thinking about it a different way, hm?”

Qifrey smiles warmly at Agott and she doesn’t smile back and Olruggio remembers that Qifrey understands what it is, to be treated coldly by adults, even those who were supposed to protect him. To be seen as a problem, a difficulty.

He doesn’t know everything about Agott’s life back at the Great Hall, but – he remembers the way people had looked at Qifrey, sometimes. How overwhelming it had been, once he realized the sheer volume of dirty looks his best friend had attracted, simply for being. They had hurt, back then, and they hadn’t even been directed at him. If Agott had been subjected to even a fraction of that – well. He wouldn’t expect her to trust easily, wouldn’t expect her to show anything so vulnerable as a smile so soon.

It’s like looking in two places at once, the image of Qifrey as he is overlaid with Qifrey as he was, solemn and small, a perfect mirror of his new apprentice.

He can’t believe it’s taken him so long to realize it – that Qifrey is perfect for them, their odd little flock. Olruggio can’t look away from him, from how he’s grown, settled, how he’s become the very person he needed all those years ago, and oh, how Olruggio loves him for it.

Agott still doesn’t look up, doesn’t see – but then, she doesn’t know that her teacher’s smiles didn’t always come so easily. She doesn’t know how precious they are, still.

Qifrey catches him looking, of course, smiles up at him just as warmly. Olruggio feels his face heat.

“Sorry, Olruggio, we didn’t mean to wake you. Is there something..?”

“Nothing,” Olruggio says, unable to look away for even a moment and breathless for it. “You just reminded me of something, that’s all.”

He’s sure, now, of it all.


and one more


They’re doing dishes in the dark, now.

It feels a little ridiculous, but the sun hadn’t yet set when Olruggio came to find Qifrey, and now that it’s past dusk neither of them have bothered to light any lamps. There’s barely even enough light from the dying fire to see by as Olruggio finishes drying the last of them.

“Is there some project you’re avoiding that I don’t know about?” Qifrey asks, “you’re not usually so eager to help with the dishes.”

“Maybe,” Olruggio says, because of course Qifrey’s gotten it on the first try. “Here, let me—”

He slips his rings back on, holds them out for Qifrey to dry his hands. Qifrey hums at the warmth.

“Thank you, Olly,” he says, then bends down to kiss him.

It’s a surprise – not in that Qifrey’s never kissed him before, but that Olruggio hadn’t been expecting it, and couldn’t see it coming in the low light. He grasps at the counter behind him for balance, and his hand knocks into something that falls to the floor with a clatter.

They freeze.

The kitchen goes utterly silent for several long moments, both of them listening for signs of movement from the rooms above.

Qifrey must decide they’ve waited long enough, because something in him loosens and he leans forward again, head falling to Olruggio’s shoulder with a sigh.

“I don’t know what I’m so worried about – I’m sure we’d be able to come up with some explanation. Besides, I’m almost certain Tetia saw the last time I saw you off.”

“Wh—and you didn’t think to mention this before?” Olruggio starts to protest – he thought they’d been so discreet, just one quick kiss through the windowway– only to be distracted by the press of Qifrey’s lips at the hollow of his throat.

“I forgot,” Qifrey says, blatantly lying – Olruggio would call him on it, only Qifrey’s lips are moving up his throat and that seems the more pressing matter.

The kiss is warm but not heated – familiar, comfortable. Easy. It’s not urgent, even as Qifrey makes a low noise and presses Olruggio back up against the counter. He’s more careful about where he puts his hands, this time.

Then suddenly there’s a cold hand up his shirt and he doesn’t quite manage to stifle the startled noise it elicits.

“Olruggio,” Qifrey hisses, “be quiet—” and Olruggio can feel it when he dissolves into breathy laughter, soft and joyous against his skin.

It gets so dark out here, in the middle of nowhere; Olruggio always forgets. Now that the fire’s gone out he works by touch alone, hands finding Qifrey’s shoulders and sliding up his throat until he’s cupping Qifrey’s jaw, tilting his face up. Qifrey hums, pleased – Olruggio can feel him smiling against his mouth.

“That was your fault,” he murmurs when they pull just barely apart, foreheads pressed together, breath mixing. “Your hands are freezing. Give them here.”

Qifrey huffs, amused, but presents them obligingly. Olruggio takes them between his, makes a show of blowing on them to warm them until he hears Qifrey’s soft laughter again.

Then he takes one hand, slowly traces the shape of each long finger, the callouses there, feels Qifrey shiver as he does. He digs his thumbs into Qifrey’s palm and gets a sharp inhalation for his trouble. Olruggio wouldn’t pay so much attention, usually, it would feel too excessive – but it’s dark. Qifrey probably can’t tell he’s blushing as he presses a reverent kiss to his knuckles.

“Better?” he asks, when he’s not sure he could bear drawing it out any longer.

“I wasn’t the one complaining,” Qifrey makes an attempt at sniping back, but his unsteady voice gives him away.

“Mm,” Olruggio makes a noise of vague agreement before moving on to the other hand, repeating the process. This time when he’s done he presses one last kiss to Qifrey’s palm, the inside of his wrist, lingers there.

“Olly,” Qifrey starts, a little breathless, “what’s gotten into you?”

Olruggio is still holding his wrist in place, mouth over Qifrey’s pulse. It’s racing.

“I told you,” he says, because he doesn’t know, “your hands were freezing.” His voice comes out ragged, rough.

Qifrey lets him get away with it. “Alright,” he hums, “if that’s all—”

Then his hands are back under Olruggio’s shirt and they’re warmer but not by that much; the only reason Olruggio doesn’t make a louder noise is Qifrey’s mouth on his, muffling the sound.

“You’re terrible,” he mutters in the space of a breath, “just awful—”

There’s a smothered sound; Qifrey snorting into his neck. Olruggio doesn’t need to see it to know he’s smiling.