Cole remembers mostly details from that time he almost froze to death.
He remembers of the odd feeling of his foot not meeting the ground when expected, and a sharp pain on his right shin. He remembers how the world tumbled around, before landing him face first in gravel and water so cold it would have frozen had it not been in motion. He remembers the taste of metal in his mouth. At the time he connected it to the temperature of the water, thinking that only metal could feel that cold, but in hindsight he'd probably just bit the inside of his mouth.
He remembers discovering a whole new level of cold. So cold he was numb and out of breath. He remembers shifting his body to get out the small creek, but somehow that just made it worse and the icy water found parts of his back that had been dry. He remembers thinking well, shit.
He remembers the sound of the trickling water, peaceful and reassuring against Ramses worried voice calling his name, far away first, then closer.
"Cole! Cole, man. Hey, let me have a look at you." Ramses hands on his face, behind his back, pulling him up. "So you decided to go for a swim, huh, at this time of the year? Bad idea, buddy."
"The ground disappeared," Cole said dumbly.
"Yeah, that's one way to put it. Looks like you stepped into a hole that was covered up by the snow."
He remembers being numb: his body, is brain. Luckily, he also remembers Ramse being the complete opposite, unusually quick and talkative, even for him: "Hey, stay with me, brother, remember that bridge we passed a few minutes back? We're going there. It's not far. Come on. It'll be good. We'll have roof over our heads and I'll light a fire. We'll rest there for a bit, get you warm."
He doesn't remember how they got there. He remembers Ramse starting to take his clothes off in the dim light of the fire, snow falling in the background, thinking that's a weird thing to do when it snows.
"Cole - take your fucking clothes off! You think I'm stripping for enjoyment over here?!"
Cole remembers his teeth clattering and trying to say something about how it is hard to move and Ramse finally getting it, helping him to take off his wet, clingy clothes.
He remembers Ramses warm torso against his, and a jacket being thrown over his shoulders and naked back. Ramses arms around his waist and his hands like heated gloves on his shoulder blades, down and up his back.
And Ramse cursing quietly and talking about how fucking cold he is, sooo fucking cold, man, it's like you're dead, you're not dead, right? Tell me you're not dead, buddy.
He remembers saying s'okay, cause it was the only thing he could manage, and Ramses laughter that followed, how that sparked a beautiful realization: It really is okay. I'm not gonna die.
He remembers laying chest to chest with Ramse, all their dry clothes in layers over them, even a blanket Ramse had been foreseeing enough to bring. He was still cold, but not like before. Ramses arms were tight around him, one of his hands cradled Coles head, fingers rubbed his scalp.
He remembers feeling awkward about staying like that, like a kid, or someone who can't take care of themselves.
He remembers telling Ramse: "Hey, Ramse, enough with the hands, okay? It's too much," and Ramse immediately pulling away, saying: "Sorry, man, didn't even know I was doing it.
And what a stupid fucking thing is that to remember, huh? When your friend - your best friend in the whole world - is slumped against a tree, white as no one is in the twenty-thirties unless they're two days from dying, with a knife-wound in his side and blood leaking out between his fingers?
It's pretty stupid. Cause you should do something. Something clever. Instead, you're thinking about this, you're thinking about how to not freak the fuck out and throw your arms around him and scream at him DON'T DIE, RAMSE. Please, Ramse, don't die on me. I can't fucking deal with it, Ramse, stay with me.
Luckily, Ramse is less panicked than you are, and snaps his fingers in front of your face, tells you to look at him. You do, and you have for the last minutes, days, or weeks, but therein lies the problem: his skin is so pale and his lips are almost blue, it freaks you out like nothing else. You try to look look at him anyway, at his hands and what he's trying to tell you.
"Cole," he says calmly. His dark eyes are soft, understanding. "It's going to be okay. It's not as bad as it looks. But you're gonna have to clean my wound and stitch me up. Okay?"
"Yeah," you say, finally finding your voice again, "yeah, of course, I'm sorry, I lost my head." You take a deep breath. It's gonna be alright.
The last couple of weeks you've been crashing in an old hunters cottage a mile and a half away. You have needles, thread, you have some alcohol. You've never stitched up anyone before, though. Not like this.
"We should get you home. If I rip up my sweater we can use it as a bandage. Stop the bleeding. You think you can walk?"
"I think so," Ramse says with a nod. "It's gonna be a slow one, though."
Later, your knees are sore from kneeling beside the old green couch in the cottage, but Ramse looks much better, and you're a few stitches away from being done. You have to look away from time to time cause your eyes blur if you focus on the same spot for too long. It's gross, sewing into someones skin, but it beats the alternative. Fucking scavs. You both know they'll be all over this place in a matter of days no matter how much you keep it dark and quiet, and it feels almost ceremonial sitting there, stitching him up. Repairing him so you can move on.
"Remember when I fell face first into that creek a while back?" you ask before you press your mouth shut for extra concentration. It actually helps.
"Yeah," Ramse says, staring off into the distance. "Hard to forget. Thought I was gonna lose you there for a bit."
"Yeah," you say, trying to figure out how to tie the knot at the end. "Sorry for telling you off back then."
"Telling me off?"
"Yeah, I... told you to get your hands off me, or something like that. I was freaked out cause you had your hands in my hair or whatever - some stupid thing, you know? After you had just saved my ass."
Ramse lets out short laugh. "I can't even remember that," he says, "I mean, I know how you can get kinda bitchy-"
"I'm trying to apologize here."
"... yeah, and I'm just trying to tell you this: at the time I was probably way too happy about you being alive to care about how you felt about pretty much anything. Least of all how you felt about me touching your hair." He looks over at you, smiling. "If that makes you feel any better."
You shrug. Maybe it does. Maybe it makes you feel a little childish for bringing it up. You cut the thread. All done.
Ramse looks down on his abdomen. Touches is stitches with his fingers. Makes an eww-face. "So why do you bring this up now, anyway?" he asks.
You kinda don't wanna tell, but you know by the way he looks at you that he'll ask again if you don't answer.
"I was more scared today than when I fell into the creek," you tell him before looking away. "Way more."
One of his hands find its way into your hair, tugging slightly. You lean into it.
"Yeah," he says. "That's the way it is."