Percy liked being held. Didn’t like to admit it, of course, but he liked it all the same. It seemed to calm him, somehow, put something right in his head. If you let him step into you, wrapped your arm around his shoulders and cupped your palm at the back of his neck, then after a minute or two it’d feel like all the crazy in his head had flushed out down his spine and out the bottom of his feet. He’d shudder a bit, curl into your chest. Let it go. It was pretty awesome, really. Hell of a thing to feel happen against you.
Funny thing, when Grog thought about it, he didn’t remember how he’d come to figure that out. This thing they did, this thing where Percy came to him, twitchy and hesitant every time, and let Grog hug the crazy out of him for a bit. Grog couldn’t remember how it had started, which one of them started it. Probably him. Must have been, it wasn’t the sort of thing Percy tended to let himself ask for. So it had to have been Grog. He just, he couldn’t remember when. Couldn’t remember how, either.
It just seemed like something he’d always known about the man. Something that had seemed, you know, simple and easy and right. Maybe he’d grabbed him once while Percy was freaking out, pulled him away from an injured Keyleth or Vex to let Pike at ‘em, tugged him in against his chest to keep him out of the way and then felt the tremors ease through the hand he’d put at the top of Percy’s spine. That sounded right, sounded like something that could have happened. Percy was weird about touch. It would’ve had to have been something big enough to start it off.
It had to be big full stop for a while there. Something for emergencies only, for when one of them was hurt. When Percy was hurt, too. Grog tended to end up carrying people when that happened. He’d carried all of them, at one time or another, knew what every last one of them felt like in his arms, awake and shuddering, trying to laugh it off, or limp and dangling, terrifyingly silent. It’d been Percy more than once. Frankly it was Percy more often than he’d like, but then again he thought that about all of them.
They were so tiny, you know? All of them. It scared him sometimes how little they were, how easily any one of ‘em could be hurt. And, yeah, he’d done his share of the bleeding too, and even the dying once or twice, but that was different. It was different when it was him. He wasn’t small the way they were.
Maybe that was why he liked it when Percy came to him. Maybe that was why he’d started … Sometimes Grog went to Percy either. Not a lot, you know, not like he’d go to Pike or to Scanlan, but sometimes. Percy was taller than the other two. Human, not gnome. Percy came up to Grog’s chest, could stand against him and wrap his arms at least partway around Grog’s waist. Not that Grog didn’t love holding his buddies in his arms either, but it was nice sometimes just to be leaned against. It was nice to bring his hand up to cup Percy’s neck, nice to wrap the other arm around him and just hold him gently in against him. It was nice to … to feel the crazy run out down Percy spine, leave the man limper and calmer behind it. It was nice to feel like he was helping someone. It was nice to feel like he was helping make something right.
He wouldn’t have thought it’d be Percy. Once upon a time, you know, before they'd come to know the man. Percy didn’t look like the kind of person you could come up to, touch him on the shoulder some night and just ask silently for a hug. He didn’t look like he knew what hugs were. He held himself all stiff. Always had. Held himself all tight and careful and chin up against the hit. Grog wondered sometimes if he’d looked like that once. Before Pike and Wilhand. Before his family. He wondered if he’d held himself as stiff and scared as Percy used to, as Percy sometimes still did.
It made it better, you know. The feeling, when Percy shuddered and let go and curved in against Grog’s chest. The thought that Percy didn’t do that, that Percy didn’t let himself, maybe hadn’t originally known how, made it all the better that he could do it now with Grog. That he could come up sometimes, shuffle his feet in some corridor or behind some tree in the wilderness, and lean in with this little noise of relief when Grog lifted his arm in invitation. That Grog could go up to him, could hold out his hands or touch the man’s shoulder to ask, and Percy would blink a bit and then open his arms in his turn. That felt good. That felt like something precious, you know?
It was an odd thing they did. It felt different; it wasn’t like the easy thing he had with Pike or with Scanlan. It felt stiffer, more fragile. More secret, maybe, although Grog was pretty sure the rest of them knew about it. Nobody mentioned it, but then they wouldn’t, not with Percy. They didn’t like to poke these things too much when it came to him. They’d known from the start that it was harder for him than it was for a lot of them.
It was the way he held himself. So stiff, so careful. They’d known, Grog thought. All of ‘em. They’d known from the start.
It still felt a little secret, though. Maybe not that it happened, so much, maybe not that he and Percy shared a hug sometimes when they needed it, but maybe the feel of it. Maybe the way it felt, the stiffness of Percy’s collar under Grog’s palm, the tickle of his hair against Grog’s fingers, the little shudder when he gave in to it, the tip of his weight when he let himself go and curled in against Grog’s chest. It felt like a secret thing. It felt like something you didn’t tell anyone, something where you just looked at the other people who knew and let them see how you knew it too. Scanlan’d smiled crookedly at them when he stumbled across it once. A little sadly too, maybe. Pike had stuffed her hand hastily into her mouth and shuffled bright-eyed away to leave them to it. Even Vax had only been careful, crept away without a sound so that Percy never even knew he’d been there at all. They knew, they just didn’t say. They didn’t need to. Wasn’t like it was anything needed talking about.
Percy just liked being held sometimes. By Grog, when he knew Grog wouldn’t hurt him, when he knew Grog was big enough to lean against. And Grog liked holding him too, Grog liked being the one big enough to keep them safe, to hold them and feel the bad things running out down their spines. He liked the reverse, too. He liked that he could ask, that there were people who weren’t scared by how big he was, that he had people who wouldn’t hold it against him if he came up to them in the middle of the night and wanted to hold them just to know they were there. He liked … he liked having that. He liked being able to share that with somebody.
He liked Percy, truth be told. All of ‘em, really. His friends, his family. The ones that’d always been there for him. He liked them, he loved them, and he loved Percy too, as stiff and skinny and full of crazy as he was. He was glad Percy’d come to him, or he’d gone to Percy, or whichever way around they’d done it originally. He was glad that this was something he could look at his friend and know.
And most of the time, when Percy looked at him wryly and half-ashamedly afterwards, he though that Percy was glad of it too. Despite himself, maybe, but he was. Whatever this thing was, it wasn't something Percy regretted either. Which was all to the good, really, because Grog hadn't been planning to stop any time soon.
If luck was with them, he honestly hoped he'd never have to stop at all.