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He’s exhausted; Orym had expected to fall right asleep, upon leaving the remaining members of his party at the bar, and heading to his room for the night. He can’t sleep, though. He closes his eyes, and sees Danas, her throat slit, hears the chuckling of the strange dwarf who killed her. 

If he’d just moved a little faster, if he hadn’t hesitated, if he’d rushed in sooner, rather than risking waiting just to hear a little more, she might have lived. 

If he’d prioritized looking for her, rather than fighting, maybe Dorian or Fresh Cut Grass could have saved her. 

If, if, if… the fact remains that Danas is dead, and Orym cannot help but feel at fault. And even besides that, she was killed because of their investigating, because they had made her uncomfortable and she told the dwarf about them. 

“Fuck.” He sits up, giving up on sleep for now, and draws his sword. If he can’t sleep, he may as well practice his forms, make some use of this time. He needs a distraction. 

 

There is a knock on his door some time later, just a light one. 

“Who is it?” Orym keeps his sword in his hand, at his side. 

“S’me.” Dorian’s familiar voice comes through in a whisper. “You’re still up.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Orym replies. “Come inside, no need to whisper through the door.” 

The door creaks open, and Dorian slips inside. “Party’s over,” he says. “Bertrand went for a walk, everyone else went home.” 

“Bertrand went out alone? Drunk?” Orym frowns; it doesn’t seem like a good idea. Bertrand isn’t exactly the most, well, capable, of them, even on the best of days. 

Dorian shrugs. “I offered to go with him, but he insisted he wanted to be alone.” 

“Strange.” Orym wonders if they should go after him, just in case, wonders if this is going to be another thing to regret. Still, if Bertrand gets himself robbed, well, they’ll deal with it, they’ll patch him up and get on with it, he supposes. 

“Yeah.” Dorian glances at the sword at Orym’s side, and Orym sheathes it. 

Orym smiles a little, weary. “Hey, thanks again for before. I know you said-“ 

“No keeping score between us, yeah, and I meant it, so don’t start,” Dorian warns with a hint of a smile. “You’re my - my friend, Orym, I’m not gonna let you die. And I know you’d do the same, hell, I’ve seen you do the same, drawing fire when you’re barely standing just to keep attention off the rest of us, but that’s the thing is you don’t actually have to, you know?” 

Orym shrugs. “I guess. I just -“ He sighs. How can he explain why he does it? That he could have, once, and didn’t, and he lost everything? That he failed to protect the person who mattered most, and now..

And now he looks at Dorian, and he feels that old familiar swooping in his stomach, that same fear every time he sees Dorian take a hit, and it feels like a betrayal and the fresh start he’s been looking for all at once. 

“We don’t need to keep score,” Dorian says again, more gently. “That’s not - we take care of each other. It’s what we do. There’s no ledger, nothing to repay, we just - make our choices, and I made mine, and you gotta let me do that, okay?”

Orym sighs. It’s something ingrained in him, this idea of balance, reciprocity, fairness. He keeps track of what he owes people and pays his debts and it’s so hard to imagine not doing that. To imagine not measuring every deed, every word, and holding it up against what he owes, not in money, but in.. everything else. Those less tangible things. 

But Dorian doesn’t see it that way, doesn’t see the ledger in Orym’s head - or he does, and he doesn’t care, doesn’t have one of his own. 

For Dorian, it’s that simple; they’re friends, so there’s no score, no ledger, no owing anyone, it’s just what they do. 

Friends. 

Orym hadn’t missed Dorian’s hesitation, calling Orym his friend. He doesn’t want to think about it too much - he can’t. He knows Dorian cares, knows the hesitation isn’t about that. He’s pretty sure, anyway. They’ve been through enough together, Dorian has saved Orym’s sorry ass enough times, has put himself in danger for Orym’s sake enough times, that Orym doesn’t doubt that they’re friends. 

He’s not stupid, or slow, or unobservant. He knows that Dorian has looked at him, and he knows he’s been caught looking back. He knows what happened in Niirdal-Poc, too, though they’ve never talked about it since. A single kiss, a single moment of weakness after a hard fight.. it feels familiar. There’s a tension in the air - they’re having the same conversation, almost, too. But they’ve been busy, and romance is a distraction Orym can’t afford, and there’s that ever-present feeling of betrayal, too, every time he feels that swooping in his gut, and he knows Riegel would want him to move on, live his life, be happy, but he just doesn’t know if he’s ready, and - 

He’s been quiet too long. Dorian is sitting, waiting, patient. Trying to be, anyway - Orym clocks his nervous fidgeting, the anxiety always just below Dorian’s skin. 

He takes Dorian’s hand and squeezes, nods, and sits on the edge of the bed. “Yeah,” he says eventually. “Yeah.” 

Dorian looks like he wants to say something more. Orym watches him work through it, finding the words, deciding if he should speak or not. Wonders if Dorian is thinking about the same thing he is, that night in Niirdal-Poc. Nothing had even really happened, except for how it had felt like everything was changing at the time, and then.. and then nothing really changed, did it? Except now they’re here, and Dariax and Opal are gone, and there’s the circlet, and - 

Everything has changed except for Dorian and Orym, which is to say, they have individually changed too - what’s stayed the same is DorianAndOrym, this nebulous thing in the air between them, unspoken.

“Orym.” 

Orym looks up toward Dorian. 

Dorian looks conflicted, still, but clearly he’s made a decision. “I don’t know what all is up with you. I won’t pretend to, and we don’t - we don’t owe anyone our whole truths, I won’t ask that of you. But. I’m here. I’ll be here, when you- make up your mind, I guess.” 

Orym looks away, heart thudding in his throat, stress and something else rising in him in equal measure. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly. 

“I’m not,” Dorian says, suddenly fierce. “Orym. I’m not. Okay? Take your time. I don’t want anything you’re not ready to give. You are my friend, first and foremost. That already means a lot to me.” 

Orym’s exhaustion hits him in full force, suddenly. He nods. He feels guilt, like acid, in the pit of his stomach; Dorian is fiercely loyal, and Orym feels like he’s leading him on, for the sake of a man who died years ago and wouldn’t want Orym to deny himself this, but. 

But. 

“Stay tonight?” Orym asks. Bertrand got them all their own rooms. It’s a luxury Orym isn’t used to, and he should appreciate it, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to be alone. 

“Course,” Dorian says with a slow smile. He steps forward, closer and closer, until their knees are touching, and he bends down, and Orym thinks this is it, Dorian will kiss him, and he wants it and fears it in equal measure, heart racing, until - 

Dorian presses his forehead to Orym’s own, his long musician’s fingers curling in Orym’s short-shorn hair, and just stays there for a moment, quiet. 

Orym relaxes, slowly but surely, and returns the gesture, and there they stay. He couldn’t say for how long - an eternity and a moment at once. 

When Dorian pulls back, it’s to set his lute aside gently, to undress to his underclothes. Orym watches - he shouldn’t, it feels like voyeurism, only Dorian doesn’t seem to mind at all. 

“Like what you see?” Dorian catches Orym staring, and Orym blushes. 

“Yeah,” he says, honest, because he can be nothing else. Not with Dorian. 

Dorian seems surprised, which is absurd, because Dorian is objectively a very attractive person, but then, Dorian has insecurities aplenty, though he tries to hide them. 

“Oh.” His voice is a little higher pitched, his cheeks more purple than blue for a moment. 

Orym just lays down, holding the covers up to make room for Dorian. “I know ‘back to back’ is your thing with Dariax, but..?”

“Back to back,” Dorian agrees simply. 

Orym flips over, and feels Dorian’s back against his. They’re both quiet for a moment, preparing to sleep. 

“I won’t make you wait forever,” Orym whispers, suddenly, impulsively, not thinking about it. 

“That’s good,” Dorian replies after a long moment of quiet. “I’d still wait, but - that’s good.” 

“Yeah.” Orym hesitates, flips over once more, and props himself up, leaning over Dorian just enough to press a kiss to his cheek. “Good night, Dorian.”

“Good night, Orym.”