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headfirst into the water (i guess we could breathe all along)

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Caleb falls for Fjord fast and hard.

He thinks it probably has to do with the fact that he met Fjord first. They’re quick to establish a rapport, a familiarity with each other that is not comfortable by any means but that is necessary to travel together. To survive together.

It begins as a crush. A budding hope of something between them that blooms within Caleb until it fills his chest, until every look and touch and smile become the best thing about his day. It will fade in time, he’s sure. No matter the fact that he hasn’t felt like this since his days at school, and no matter that Fjord breathes a life into him that Caleb thought no longer existed, that he lights a passion that Caleb assumed to be dead. 

It’s an infatuation, sure, but he’s had them before. It will pass; he’s certain of it.

But the longer they know each other the stronger the bond gets, until an actual bond is formed in blood under the sea. Until they lay next to each other and Caleb is itching to reach out and touch. To admit his feelings. To ask if it would ever be possible for Fjord to feel the same.

(Or pretend, at least, just for a night. In his most selfish fantasies, that’s what he asks for. Fjord has always been a good actor, maybe he could give Caleb one little indulgence. It was never something Caleb could ask for, but it seemed attainable. Much more attainable than Fjord actually wanting him, at least.)

Caleb’s fall for Caduceus is slower, but it isn’t any easier.

The group meets him at one of their lowest points, and Caleb is too wrapped up in his grief for Molly and worry about the other members of their group to pay Caduceus much mind. He assesses him, sure. Keeps an eye on him until he’s certain that Cad’s personality is genuine, that he is as honest as he appears and does not seem likely to do them harm. 

It’s not until they’re back together, that the others are freed from captivity and the immediate worry is gone from his mind, that he starts to pay attention to Caduceus. 

There is a surface-level simplicity to him. It is a kind of charm that is unique to Caduceus, comforting and safe. The kind that made someone feel that they could spill all of their secrets to him and trust that he would keep them safe. Yet still he holds secrets of his own. There are plenty of things he has never told them, truths that he keeps close to his chest. They know of his family’s existence but barely know more beyond that. Caleb still doesn’t know if he withholds his age from them for a reason or if he’s simply forgotten it himself. He appears to be an open book, but there are plenty of pages missing or stuck together—lost forever or entirely unreadable. 

But he is gentle. And he is kind. He protects Caleb from himself and heals him when he is hurt and Caleb finds his heart torn in two, wanting people that he’s too afraid to admit his feelings for.

Of course this means that at exactly the time Caleb realizes this, Fjord and Caduceus fall for each other.

It is hard to know exactly when it begins or what tips it off, but Caleb suspects that it begins sometime between Fjord taking Melora as his patron and when the two of them start to commune together. It makes sense to him; Caduceus has been able to give Fjord a new home, a new purpose. Why should love not come with that? The two have grown close as ever through their now-shared faith and Caleb wishes it were in him to be a more religious man. Perhaps in another life he could find some comfort from a higher power, but as it is now, he only has himself—his books and his spell components and the arcane practices on which he has relied for so long. To give all that up and throw himself into mysticism would be unrealistic at best and unsafe at worst. 

Still, he watches. He envies.

There is a new closeness between them, after Fjord is taken under Melora’s wing. Caduceus cannot seem to pass by Fjord without reaching out to touch him, be it a quick brush of fingertips on Fjord’s shoulder or back or hand, and Fjord reacts every time with a blush and a smile turned to Caduceus. Fjord sits next to Caduceus at dinner and more often than not they retire together in the evening, heading up the tower to the tree that sits on top of their house, a beacon of Caduceus’s light and devotion and love. 

Caleb thinks about them sometimes, when he is alone in his own room. What they talk of when they’re up there, what they do. Surely all their time can’t be spent in meditation. When he is at his coldest and loneliest he tries to picture what it would be like to be up there with them, under the lights of that tree, huddled together and surrounded by them. He would be happy enough to let them talk around him, they wouldn’t need to acknowledge him at all and he thinks he could still be content just to be near them, to pretend to be with them.

He could never hope for either of them, and, despite his low opinion of himself, he knows he is not cruel enough to try and come between them. Hurting one to have the other? Unthinkable. Earning the affection of them both? It’s not something he considers for more than a moment, because it seems too ridiculous. As if either of them want him anyway, when they’re already so happy together. No, he will not ruin his friendship with either of them to pursue his own selfish desires. He will do his best not to begrudge them for their happiness. 

It aches when he thinks about it too long. A pang worse than any hunger, a need worse than any madness that has ever clouded his mind. He watches them move and flirt and exist around him, and the jealousy stings and he swallows it back because that is what he will always do. Even when Caduceus heals him and the syrupy warmth of his magic flows into Caleb and mends his wounds and Caleb soaks in the touch, memorizing the sensation of Caduceus’s hand on his chest. Even when they are out on the road and he and Fjord are sitting at the edge of the dome on watch and, being the masochist that he is, Caleb asks him how things are going with Caduceus.

He glances back at the same time Fjord does, looking at the sleeping form of Caduceus on the other side of the dome. He’s curled up on his side facing them and while not a pretty sleeper—his mouth hangs open, the occasional snore rolling out of him, low and rumbling like thunder—he looks so peaceful Caleb cannot help but smile. He glances over at Fjord and sees a softness in his eyes, an affection that Caleb has never seen before as Fjord watches Caduceus. 

Fjord is not the type to wax poetic about his feelings or gush about his relationships. “Things are good,” he says quietly, still smiling as he looks over at Caleb, and all Caleb can do in response is nod.

They are in love, Caleb is sure of it. For the longest time they are joined at the hip (going through their honeymoon phase, which no amount of Nott’s teasing could seem to stop, try as she might to get them to “stop making those gross faces at each other when we’re trying to eat dinner”) and even if they do seem to take a bit more time for themselves now, they still room together whenever they can and walk hand in hand no matter where they are. It’s fascinating to watch them from afar, to see Fjord slowly grow more and more confident in them until he’s the one reaching out to take Caduceus’s hand first, to press a quick kiss to his cheek when he thinks nobody is looking.

Caleb watches. And he envies. He tells himself the ache is bearable, that it’s starting to go away, that in a month’s time it will be like he never had any feelings for them at all.

Of course the night after he decides that, they all have to share a room. 

The only inn in town has two rooms left, and it’s decided amongst the others that the girls will take one room and the boys will take another. It’s been a while since Caleb has shared with anyone—Nott has taken to sharing with Beau and Jester, and Caleb has become the one in a room on his own to give Caduceus and Fjord their privacy.

“You’re alright with this, Caleb?”

Jester’s voice pulls him from where he had been lost in his thoughts, bringing him back to the present. And the question now hanging in the air.

Was he alright with sharing with Fjord and Caduceus? He didn’t think he had much of a choice. His glance shifts over to them, to the expectant look on Fjord’s face and the lazy smile on Cad’s. 

He would have to bear it. He could, for a night. Even if it set his feelings back a bit. Even if it renewed the ache. 

He nods, and Beau places the necessary gold on the bar for rooms and meals for the evening.

Caleb is the first one up to their room. The rest of the group is still downstairs but after a meal of them mostly talking around him, Caleb is eager for a few minutes of peace and quiet. Fjord had taken their things up before dinner, but somehow Caleb isn’t surprised when he opens the door. 

The room is sparsely furnished. It has a fireplace against one wall with enough wood next to it to keep the room warm and comfortable throughout the night. Two chairs sit in front of the fireplace, with a desk and an additional chair along the adjacent wall. A wash basin is in the corner, and Caleb’s gaze finally turns to the other side of the room and settles on the bed. 

Big enough for two, he notes. Whatever higher power that watches over him is probably having a good laugh. 

He’s sitting at the desk, a fire crackling away in the fireplace, when Fjord and Caduceus join him in the room. He half-listens to them talking around him, his back to them as his attention shifts slowly from the books and papers spread out in front of him. It’s hard to concentrate when they’re around. It always has been. 

They’ve been in the room for exactly fifty-two minutes before he hears Fjord address him.

“Caleb?”

He looks up, turning around in his chair. Fjord and Caduceus are sitting by the fire. A teapot is warming over the flames, three cups set expectantly out in front of the hearth. 

“Come join us,” Caduceus says before getting out of his chair and kneeling to pull the pot from the heat. 

“At least take a break,” Fjord amends. Caleb’s hesitation must be more evident than he thought. “Pull up your chair. Deuces says the tea he’s making is a good one.”

“The Flicken family,” Caduceus says, as if it offers any kind of explanation. “Some mint sprouted up alongside the tea leaves. Terrible to deal with in a garden since it spreads so fast, but perfect for settling the stomach and relaxing before bed.”

Caleb does as he’s told, bringing the wooden desk chair over to the fireplace. He sets it off to the side of Fjord’s, sitting up straight with his hands folded neatly in his lap. All he wants to do is snap his fingers and summon Frumpkin—anything to keep his hands busy and take his mind off the anxiety rolling around inside him—but he worries about setting off Fjord’s allergies. He’s grateful when Caduceus stepping up in front of him pulls him from his thoughts. He takes the offered teacup with a nod, clutching it close in both hands.

“What have you been working on?” Caduceus asks as he returns to his own chair. “You’ve been buried in those books all night.”

“Nothing of much significance,” he replies with a shrug. “Just organizing my books, refining my notes.”

Caduceus hums thoughtfully before taking a small sip of his tea. “I’d say that’s pretty significant.”

“Don’t want you fumbling with books when we need you to save our asses,” Fjord adds with a grin that makes Caleb’s face warm. He takes a sip of his own tea to be able to blame it on that. It’s still too hot and nearly burns his tongue, but the ache gives him something to focus on beyond the sudden nervous energy that has him wanting to wring his hands in his lap again. 

Caduceus was right, the tea is good.

“I am hardly the only one who saves our asses,” he replies, eager to turn the conversation away from himself. “I don’t know if any of us would be here if it weren’t for Caduceus keeping us on our feet.”

“And Jester, of course,” Caduceus adds with a pleased smile. Caleb can’t help but smile back.

“Of course,” he agrees.

They chat for a while, the kind of casual talk that pairs well with a good cup of tea. 

“Caleb,” Caduceus says suddenly, when there’s a lull in the conversation, “Fjord and I were actually hoping to talk to you about something tonight.”

The sudden shift in tone has Caleb’s mood dropping instantly. He glances at Fjord, hoping to gain some insight on if the talk is going to be a good one or a bad one, but seeing Fjord shift nervously in his seat and avoid eye contact only makes him feel worse.

“Yes?” he says, encouraging Caduceus to continue. He finishes off his tea but it’s gone cold by now, the last dregs of it bitter and unpleasant as he swallows and sets his cup down on the floor next to his chair. 

When Caduceus speaks again, Caleb thinks he sounds much less sure than he did moments before. “Well,” he says, and Caleb glances back up in time to see Caduceus reach over and take one of Fjord’s hands in his own. “We’ve been talking a lot about...us. And our relationship.”

“And,” Fjord suddenly speaks up, sounding as nervous as he looks, “we...we’ve been talking about you.”

Caleb’s stomach sinks at that. Any anxiety the tea and their company had helped chase away returns in full force, and he does his best to keep his face as neutral as possible even as a storm rages inside of him. In an instant he’s sure he knows what is about to happen.

They’ve noticed his pining. They know about his feelings. And they’re trying to let him down gently. 

Of course he’s tried to be careful. He’s done his best to keep the staring to a minimum, to not let any contact between them linger. To be friendly with them but not too friendly. But evidently he’s become too bold recently. Something he’s done has tipped them off and they’ve discussed it and come to the conclusion that they need to ask him to stop.

They’re both too kind to directly ask him to leave them alone. They’ll probably just tell him they aren’t interested, let him down gently and hope he gets the message as if Caleb hasn’t already figured out what they want to say. He’ll leave them alone, leave them to be happy together and avoid bothering them any more than he already has—  

“Caleb?” Caduceus’s concerned voice cuts through his thoughts. “Are you feeling alright? You’ve gone a bit pale.”

Caleb blinks, realizing he’s spaced out and has been staring somewhere in the vicinity of Fjord’s collarbone for a while now. He looks up abruptly, at Fjord’s face that’s also twisted with worry, but as he stands and reaches towards him, Caleb flinches away from Fjord’s touch. Fjord tries to hide it but Caleb can see the almost-imperceptible fall in his face as he looks to Caduceus, who also stands. 

“It’s just,” Caduceus tries again, “things have been really good between us.” 

“Really good,” Fjord affirms as he takes Caduceus’s hand. “But we were thinking-”

“I understand. You do not need to say it,” Caleb interrupts. He doesn’t think he can bear to hear them say it. Better to avoid as much heartache as possible, even if he knows his heart is already breaking.

Caduceus sounds confused. “Really?”

Caleb nods and stands. Maybe the girls will let him room with them. Maybe he’ll sleep in the hallway. Anything is better than this, than being in this stifling room with two people who deserve each other and deserve so much better than him. 

“I do,” he says, tugging at the hem of his shirt and smoothing it down over his chest, if only to give his hands something to do. “And I apologize for any discomfort I have caused.”

“What?” Caleb glaces up as Fjord speaks, and he looks just as confused as Caduceus.

Clearing his throat, Caleb tries to elaborate. “Despite my best efforts, I have not successfully hidden my...my feelings from you. Please believe me when I say I have tried my hardest to avoid them-”

“What feelings?” Caduceus asks and Caleb’s face twists miserably before he can stop it. Whatever his carefully neutral expression cracks away to reveal makes Caduceus’s eyes fill with pity and makes Fjord’s mouth twist in the way it always does when he’s upset with something. 

“My feelings for you both,” Caleb elaborates. He looks down at that, not wanting to see how they react to that. “Though I swear to you I would never...I would never even consider…” He shakes his head, wrapping his arms around himself. He should have known this was coming, should have figured that someday they would notice his painfully obvious affections and ask him to stop. 

“I would never wish to come between you. I will make this easier for all of us and go.”

He starts to move, to make his way past them and to the door and to somewhere he can be alone, somewhere he can calm his thoughts and determine his next move. 

“Caleb,” he hears before his arm is grabbed and he turns, meeting Fjord’s gaze. Fjord looks nervous and worried and his expression isn’t adding up with what Caleb knows to be true. There’s no disgust or anger or pity. 

“We don’t want you to leave,” Fjord says, keeping his hand on Caleb’s arm. “Please.”

Caduceus moves to stand on Caleb’s other side and just like that he’s surrounded by them. It’s overwhelming in both the best and worst way, a place he’d love to stay in forever that he knows he will never deserve. But it still makes no sense. Their kindness, their concern. Why would they care about his feelings?

“I-I don’t…” His voice trails off as his arm slips from Fjord’s grasp. He tries to wring his hands but then he realizes why Fjord let go of his arm. 

He glances down at Fjord holding his hand. Immediately there is a spark of panic and he looks to Caduceus, certain that a line has been crossed and there’s no going back now—  

But Caduceus is smiling, as soft and serene as ever. When he speaks it is low and soft and unbelievably comforting.

“Things have been good between us, but we believe they could be better.”

“Better with you,” Fjord adds, and Caleb is sure he must be dreaming now. He looks between the two of them again, eyes fluttering closed as Caduceus reaches out and runs a hand through his hair, moving to gently cradle the side of his head. Caleb moves his head, nuzzling into the touch without thinking, practically ravenous for any amount of affection they deem him worthy of receiving. 

It feels like it should be a trick. A joke. But while they could never be so cruel, he cannot fathom a world in which they would want him too. 

And yet here they stand. He feels Fjord’s hand give his a squeeze, and he squeezes back in return. He’s soaking up touch, every bit of warmth. It’s so much better than he could have ever imagined and before he can stop himself a low noise leaves him, soft and wounded.

“Is this okay?” he hears Fjord ask and Caleb nods immediately. The two of them move closer, Caduceus’s hand moving to run his fingers through his hair again and rest on the back of his head. There is a hand on his hip, another rests on his chest over his heart. Caleb cannot discern whose hands are whose anymore but he finds that he doesn’t even care. The feeling of being surrounded by the two of them is secure. It’s the safest he’s ever felt.

When he finally answers Fjord, his voice is thick with emotion. 

“It’s perfect.”

To be wanted by them both is heavenly, but it does not escape him for a moment that it still makes no sense. Not without a condition. The world has never been so kind to Caleb, he cannot imagine it starting to care for what he wants now. So if his time with them is limited and he is being granted just one night with them, he will cherish it. He will give them everything they want, stay for as long as they can stand to keep him around, and keep the memories for when he needs them the most.

The hand on his chest moves up, a finger curling around his chin and turning his face and, before Caleb can even think to open his eyes, lips are pressed to his. Fjord makes a low, needy noise and the hand moves to the side of his face and the thumb that strokes over Caleb’s cheek is rough and he knows in that moment that Fjord is kissing him. 

Fjord is kissing him. He keeps trying to comprehend that, but it still doesn’t feel real. Fjord is kissing him. Fjord is kissing him. Then Fjord is breaking the kiss and and his hand is slipping from Caleb’s face, and for a moment Caleb is scared that he’s somehow ruined things already, but then he is being guided into another kiss and it’s Caduceus this time. He can feel the softness of Caduceus’s lips, the tickle of facial hair. He parts his own lips and kisses back and lets out a low keen that he knows he should be embarrassed about when Caduceus’s tongue tentatively meets his own. But it’s hard to bring himself to be embarrassed when Caduceus makes a noise of his own and further deepens the kiss.

Fjord’s mouth is on his neck. Their hands are still everywhere. Caleb melts between them, wax amongst their flame, and he goes without complaint. 

“That’s very nice,” Caduceus all but purrs as he pulls away from their kiss. For once time has slipped away from him, Caleb couldn’t say how long they’ve been locked in this embrace even if he wanted to. “Even nicer than I thought it would be.”

Fjord is still mouthing at him but the hum he gives is definitely one of agreement. Caleb opens his eyes then, staring up at the ceiling for a moment at dark wood flickering in low firelight, before Caduceus turns his face towards him again.

He hears Fjord murmuring something and it takes a moment of focusing for Caleb to realize it’s his name—spoken reverently, as if Caleb were something to be worshipped, to be treasured. The realization hits him right in the gut, a pulse of arousal warming between his legs.

“Would you like to take this off?” Caduceus asks, tugging gently on the hem of Caleb’s shirt. Caleb nods and Caduceus chuckles.

“Fjord? I’m afraid you’ll need to move, sweetheart.”

Fjord responds with another kiss to Caleb’s neck, a bit more force to it than the lighter pecks he’d been leaving, and it’s enough to draw a little groan from Caleb. Fjord responds with a groan of his own and before he pulls away Caleb tilts his hips back, allowing himself to grind against Fjord and feel through the fabric of their clothes how hard Fjord is getting.

“Tease,” Fjord growls and as Caleb turns to look behind his shoulder he can see that Fjord is smiling. 

They work together to divest Caleb of his shirt, Caleb looking down at himself after if only to see who is touching him where. Fjord drags his hands down Caleb’s chest, nose pressed to the crook of Caleb’s neck as he breathes in deep, and Caleb’s head spins as he sees Caduceus’s hands settle on his hips to steady him as he sways. 

He glances up to see Caduceus looking just beyond him, presumably at Fjord, though Fjord doesn’t lift his head until he’s spoken to.

“Dearest,” Caduceus says, “would you like him to yourself for just a bit?”

The pet name pulls Caleb back to reality with a small prick of longing to be addressed so tenderly, for Caduceus to have a special name for him too. Fjord dips his head down to press another line of kisses into Caleb’s skin and Caleb watches Caduceus nod and smile, pleased at whatever wordless exchange had just passed between himself and Fjord. He lets go of Caleb’s hips and Caleb reaches back to grab at Fjord, feeling suddenly exposed as Caduceus backs away from him.

He only has a moment to wonder what Caduceus is going to do before Fjord turns him around. He’s finally able to get a good look at Fjord’s face, at pupils blown so wide his yellow eyes are nearly black. Fjord leans in for a kiss and Caleb kisses back just as fiercely, a hand moving to the back of Fjord’s neck as Fjord pulls Caleb close to him. 

“I’ve wanted this for so long,” Fjord breathes as he pulls back from the kiss, his hands moving to work at the laces of Caleb’s pants. “Caleb, gods above…”

Caleb is happy to stand still and let Fjord do as he pleases. His hands trail over Caleb’s chest, claws digging in ever so slightly over his sides before his fingertips press into Caleb’s hips. His mouth follows the course of his hands and it’s only then that Caleb comprehends that Fjord is getting down on his knees, that he’s slowly unlacing the front of Caleb’s pants and looking up at him.

He looks around, searching for Caduceus, only to find him perched on the side of the bed. He’s smiling with all of his usual calm, though his arousal is betrayed by the visible length of his cock, hard and still concealed by his pants. He’s palming himself slowly through the fabric as his gaze meets Caleb’s.

“I’m here whenever you’re ready for more,” he says. “Fjord wouldn’t admit it but I knew he’d want a bit of time with only you.”

Though he’s confused as to why Caduceus would be so okay with that, Fjord has begun nuzzling at Caleb’s crotch and the arousal is enough to chase his anxieties away. Caleb threads a hand through Fjord’s hair and nods towards Caduceus. His struggle to keep the needy sounds trapped inside him only gets harder as Fjord eases Caleb’s pants and smalls down to his knees in one quick motion. 

Fjord wastes no time in wrapping a hand around Caleb’s length and taking him in his mouth, and Caleb swears for a moment he actually sees stars. The moan that leaves him is embarrassingly loud, loud enough for him to clap his free hand over his mouth as he feels his face warm with a blush he’s sure is making him bright red. 

From his place on the bed, Caduceus speaks. “None of that. I want to hear you.” 

The command is gentle, but a command nonetheless. Caleb closes his eyes, trying to get a grip on himself even as Fjord begins to move his head and take him even deeper. He nods, wanting to be good for Caduceus too, but it takes all of his effort to pull his hand from his mouth and move it to his side. He keeps his other hand threaded in Fjord’s hair but makes no move to push or pull, keeping himself as still and obedient as possible. 

Fjord bobs his head up and down, taking Caleb’s cock deeper every time, until Caleb feels himself hit the back of Fjord’s throat. He gives another moan, still trying to stay a bit quieter than he knows he could be, but Fjord responds well to the noise. He gives a moan of his own, one that Caleb can feel , and the sensation makes him weak in the knees. 

“Fjord,” he whimpers. “Oh, that’s...that feels so good.”

Fjord has to move carefully, keeping his tusks out of the way as he continues to move and Caleb keeps trying to stay still. He’s nearly shaking with the effort of it, every fibre of his being wants to help guide Fjord along by his hair, wants to thrust his hips forward and take just a bit of control and fuck Fjord’s mouth properly. Fjord’s own movements pick up speed but the noise he gives is an almost frustrated one. Caleb opens his eyes, looking down just in time to see Fjord choke himself on the length of Caleb’s cock. 

The noise Caleb gives is half moan, half cry of surprise as he pulls at Fjord’s hair, trying to ease him off of his cock. Fjord pants, brow furrowed and mouth still open, his tongue sticking out ever so slightly. Caleb is about to ask him what’s wrong when Fjord leans in to lick up the underside of Caleb’s cock, and his head spins as Caduceus pipes up again. 

“I think he’d like you to move a bit, Caleb. And he likes having his hair pulled.”

Fjord gives an appreciative hum and takes Caleb in his mouth again. Caleb nods, testing the waters and thrusting forward just a bit. Fjord relaxes under his touch, eyes closing and moaning again with every tentative thrust of Caleb’s hips. He’s still afraid of choking Fjord, doesn’t want to go too fast or too hard out of the fear of hurting him, but the noises Fjord is making are enough encouragement for him to relax just a bit and enjoy the sensation of Fjord’s mouth on him. 

Caleb is almost fascinated as he watches Fjord, at how content he looks as Caleb gently fucks his mouth. He had initially thought he’d be the one on his knees for both Fjord and Caduceus, that their hands would be guiding him for the duration of the evening and he wouldn’t have much to do beyond whatever it was they wanted. To be given just a bit of agency, to be told that what Fjord wanted was for Caleb to take control… It throws him for a loop in the best possible way. 

“You like that?” He murmurs, feeling his cock hit the back of Fjord’s throat again. Fjord groans and nods as best as he can, though it isn’t very much Caleb still gets the gist of his answer. Caleb smiles, unable to keep himself from running his hand through Fjord’s hair with just a bit more fondness than he thinks Fjord probably wants. 

When Fjord finally pulls back it’s with a wet, obscene sound. He grins up at Caleb, still running his hand over Caleb’s cock in slow, easy strokes. 

“What do you want, Fjord?” Caleb breathes. He’s prepared to do anything in that moment, be anything, give them whatever they want so long as they keep touching them and he gets to bask in their attention. 

“You,” Fjord replies. “And me. On our knees for him.” 

Fjord looks to the bed and Caleb does the same, taking in the sight of Caduceus still palming at himself through his loose trousers. There’s a noticeable wet spot in the fabric that makes Caleb’s mouth water. 

“If that’s what you’d like,” Caduceus says. He’s clearly trying to maintain his usual collected, calm demeanor, but his composure is already slipping. There’s a tremble to his hands, a hitch in his voice. 

Caleb feels Fjord pull his pants and smalls the rest of the way down his legs, and he steps out of them. Caduceus beckons him, gives a gentle crook of his fingers that has Caleb eagerly settling down on his knees between Caduceus’s legs. 

Caduceus smiles down at him and runs a hand through his hair, and Caleb closes his eyes and leans into the touch. 

“You’re just lovely,” Caduceus sighs. Caleb could cry at the kindness in his voice, at how overwhelmed he feels under the heat of their collective gaze, but the arousal that still sits deep in his belly pulls his focus from his feelings. 

He leans forward, mouthing at the long line of Caduceus’s cock through his pants, and Caduceus gives another almost-purr. 

“Eager, too,” Caleb hears Fjord comment from behind him. And then Fjord is there too, settling onto his knees behind him, warm palms settling onto his hips. Caduceus’s helps Caleb with the waistband of his pants, easing them down until Caduceus’s cock is exposed. 

As his eyes flutter shut Caleb’s focus is entirely on Caduceus’s hand running through his hair. It’s a lovely feeling, knowing Caduceus isn’t afraid of keeping Caleb exactly where he wants him. It helps him feel a bit more secure. Fjord’s hands on his hips only add to that pleasure, to the rush of satisfaction at being held in place and used by two people he trusts, by two people he wants to please more than anyone else in the world. 

He’s pulled closer to Fjord, his back flush against Fjord’s broad chest, and for a moment he panics at the feeling of the tip of Fjord’s cock against his skin. He hasn’t been prepped at all, he can’t imagine Fjord would just—

And then Fjord is pressing his cock between Caleb’s thighs, slick with what Caleb can only assume to be precum, until his hips are flush against Caleb and it’s hot and wet and a strange sensation but not an unpleasant one at all. 

Fjord leans in, his lips nearly pressed to Caleb’s ear as he whispers, “Is this okay?”

Caleb pants, the warmth of Caduceus’s length pressed to his cheek. He looks up blearily at the wide, content smile that stretches across Caduceus’s lips and he returns it with a small smile of his own. 

“Yes,” he breathes. “Yes, Fjord, it...it’s wonderful.”

Fjord gives a soft, low moan as he moves his hips back, and Caleb lets his eyes shut. He turns his head, mouthing at the base of Caduceus’s cock and pressing a sloppy kiss there before beginning to work his way up the length. It’s as slim as the rest of Caduceus but it is quite long, and Caleb is glad he has a hand free to wrap around it as he takes the head into his mouth and teases it with his tongue. 

“Oh,” Caduceus groans above him. “That’s very nice, Caleb.”

“He’s perfect,” Fjord murmurs. Caleb begins to move his hips to meet Fjord’s thrusts against him, and Fjord only grips his hips tighter in response. 

“I knew he would be,” Caduceus replies. His hand on Caleb’s head has begun to stroke his hair, and Caleb marvels at how tender they both are. He’s sure they would be this way with anyone they brought into their bed, but it doesn’t stop him from stealing away a bit of satisfaction at the admission that they’ve been thinking of him doing this. The thought alone is enough to make his already-hard cock throb. He wonders how often they’ve talked about it, how long they’ve wanted to do this. 

Caleb watches Caduceus’s face as he moves, taking as much of Caduceus’s cock into his mouth as he can before pulling back up and running his tongue around the head. He strokes the rest of the length with one hand, his other hand gripping the sheets of the bed. 

Fjord’s mouth is on his neck again, sucking and nipping and leaving marks Caleb hopes never fade. He wants evidence of this night forever, to proudly display that he was wanted enough for someone to leave so many marks on him. 

Fjord’s hips begin to move, the slick slide of his cock between Caleb’s thighs punctuated by the smack of skin on skin as he thrusts forward. Caleb moans around Caduceus’s cock. His eyes flutter closed for a moment, too overstimulated to focus on keeping them open, but then he hears Caduceus’s voice. 

“Let me see your eyes. They’re so pretty.”

The compliment combined with the low rumble of Caduceus’s voice, strained with arousal, is enough to make Caleb’s cock throb again. He opens his eyes and is rewarded with Caduceus running his hands through his hair again. 

“That’s it, Mister Caleb,” he murmurs. “That’s nice.”

Fjord’s hands are everywhere, running up his sides and his chest, cupping at his chest as his thumbs run over Caleb’s nipples, eliciting another moan around Caduceus’s length. Fjord seems to enjoy that sound because he keeps his hands there for a bit, getting Caleb to make it again and again. He keeps one hand there as the other slips back down, taking his time and skimming blunt claws over Caleb’s stomach. The sensation draws a shudder down Caleb’s spine and in that moment he wants more. More pressure, more hands, more anything , he feels like he’s moments away from something pulling him from his head entirely and launching him into a state of simply feeling and being, of reacting to whatever stimulation they offer him and giving as good as he gets. 

The pull finally happens when Fjord wraps a hand around Caleb’s cock and begins to stroke it in time with his thrusts. Caduceus’s hips are moving too, easing himself in and out of Caleb’s mouth, the hand in Caleb’s hair keeping his head steady so he doesn’t choke. 

“Oh, Caleb. Fjord,” he hears Caduceus groan, and it’s a delicious sound. He’s beginning to moan in earnest now and every sound is music to Caleb’s ears as Caduceus slowly loses control. “I-I can’t… I’m close.”

“Me too,” Caleb hears Fjord reply against his neck. “Fuck, Caleb, it feels so good.”

Caleb twists his wrist and flicks his tongue, and something in the movement pushes Caduceus over the edge. With a strangled cry he pulls Caleb’s head away from him, and Caleb keeps his hand moving as he feels the warmth of Caduceus’s release paint his chin and his neck. Caduceus is beautiful when he comes, his face scrunching up and his body going completely tense, knees drawing up ever so slightly and his free hand gripping the sheets of the bed under him, before he relaxes in one sweeping motion. His hips stutter with the aftershocks, Caleb’s hand working him until he gasps. 

“Th-That’s good. That’s good! Caleb-“ With another broken moan he reaches down to grab Caleb’s wrist, stopping him from continuing. “That’s good,” he repeats, curling in on himself and pressing a kiss to Caleb’s forehead. He loosens his grip on the bed, moving instead to run his fingers through Fjord’s hair. He leans in just past Caleb’s shoulder and Caleb feels Fjord press just a bit harder against his back and Caleb realizes suddenly that they’re kissing. 

“Make him come,” he hears Caduceus murmur against Fjord’s lips. “I want to watch him come.”

Fjord’s only response is a low moan, his hand on Caleb’s cock beginning to move in quick, purposeful strokes that match the close to frantic thrusting of his hips. Caduceus pulls back, keeping his face close, his hair falling over one shoulder in a soft curtain that Caleb wishes he could bury his hands in, but Caduceus is suddenly taking Caleb’s hands in his. 

“That’s it,” he says with a gentle smile as Caleb looks up at him. He can’t begin to imagine what kind of expression is on his face, his mouth hanging open and his eyes wide as Fjord brings him closer and closer to the edge with every thrust of his hips. 

“C-Close,” is all he manages to choke out, and Caduceus’s smile widens. 

“And you, Fjord?” He asks, gaze flicking to beyond Caleb’s shoulder again. 

Fjord replies with a groan, the smack of his hips against Caleb the loudest sound of the room under their moaning. One of Caduceus’s hands lets go of Caleb’s, moving over his shoulder to touch Fjord. 

“Why don’t you both come, then?” Caduceus says. Caleb hears Fjord’s breath hitch, feels his hips stutter and the hand on his cock work frantically to push Caleb over the edge with him, and all it takes is hearing Fjord cry out his name for Caleb to follow him into orgasm. 

His eyes roll back, he feels his toes curl, and he squeezes Caduceus’s hand hard enough that he’s sure he would feel bad about it if he could feel anything in that moment beyond blinding, all-consuming pleasure. He floats in that beautiful weightless space for as long as he can before the inevitable return to his body. 

It’s only when he begins to catch his breath and calm down that he realizes Fjord is still moaning his name, repeating it under his breath as if it were a prayer as he pulls away from Caleb. 

Caleb breathes in deep, head still spinning as he comes down from the high of orgasm. He’s a mess, he realizes as he opens his eyes and looks down at himself. Fjord spend runs down his thighs, his own is spattered over his stomach. Caduceus’s release paints his neck and he can feel more of it on his lips and chin. He runs his tongue over his bottom lip and the taste of Caduceus, the evidence that he brought him pleasure and satisfied him, is enough to draw one last little moan out of him. Before he can stop himself he reaches down, swipes his fingers between his thighs and tastes Fjord too. 

“Fuck,” he hears whispered in his ear and he becomes suddenly, horribly aware that they’re still watching him. That it’s over. They’ve had their pleasure and surely it’s time for him to go now, time for this to end—

“That was beautiful,” Caduceus all but purrs. He leans down, takes Caleb’s face in his hands and runs a thumb over his lips to wipe the rest of his spend away before giving Caleb a soft, sweet kiss. Caleb kisses back until Caduceus pulls away, opening his eyes and looking up to Caduceus smiling down at him. He can feel Fjord against his back, his hands still on Caleb’s hips, thumbs gently running over his skin as he kisses the back of Caleb’s neck.

He is vaguely aware of them helping him stand on shaking legs, of cleaning themselves up and settling into bed together. He lets himself be led without question, still in the mindset that whatever they want he is prepared to give, even when they settle into bed with Caleb between the two of them. 

He listens to their breathing even out, listens to Caduceus begin to snore as Fjord nuzzles closer even in his sleep, his face pressed into the crook of Caleb’s neck. 

Caleb lays awake and returns to himself and hates every second of it. He holds his hands to his mouth, presses his fingers to his lips and breathes in deep through his nose. 

The tears stream down the sides of his face and into his hair, and he can feel the cold tracks they leave on his skin. The ceiling is a dark, wet blur above him, barely visible but for the slivers of moonlight that make their way into the room. He tries to stop himself from shaking, from releasing the sobs that he knows are trapped inside him.

He hates himself for wasting this. He should be savoring every minute of contact with them, should be focused entirely on how it feels to lay between them, because he knows he will never get this again and he will want to remember every detail of this night for the rest of his life. He squeezes his eyes shut and clenches his hands into fists against his mouth, and all he can think of in that moment is that the ache is worse now. It hurts more than it ever has, a hunger pang he’s never felt before that makes him want to cry out in agony.

Because now he knows what it’s like to have them. He knows how it feels to be wanted by them, to hear them whisper his name with such care and touch him as if he were something precious, something to be cared for and treasured. With a clarity Caleb has never had before, he can imagine what it would be like to be able to do this every night, to be part of something so much more than a one time fling with friends.

Even with Caduceus on one side of him and Fjord on the other, even snuggled close to them under the covers, he feels more lonely than he ever has. He dreads going to bed alone now, knowing what he could have and knowing what can never be.

It takes Caleb exactly forty two minutes of laying still and calming himself down before sleep begins to take him. If he dreams he doesn’t remember it, and when he wakes to sunlight streaming into the room he doesn’t feel very well-rested.

He opens his eyes to see nobody on the other side of the bed, and for a moment he thinks he might be alone until there’s a shifting next to him and an arm wrapping around his waist. He’s pulled close and hears Fjord’s voice in his ear, low and thick with sleep. 

“Deuces went to get breakfast,” he murmurs. “Bet we can convince him to eat it in bed.”

Confusion and anxiety mix together in Caleb’s stomach and he’s not sure if he can even think about eating. Shouldn’t Fjord be asking him to leave? Hasn’t he overstepped his bounds enough by staying in their bed until morning? What will Caduceus think if he walks in and sees them tangled together? It’s one thing to do it with his permission, when he says he’d like to watch them. It’s another when it’s just him and Fjord, and all Caleb wants to do is turn around and let himself be wrapped in Fjord’s embrace but he’s terrified that one wrong move could make them both hate him forever— 

“Caleb,” Fjord says, sounding nervous, “I, um. I just wanted to thank you.”

“Thank me?” He can’t imagine what he’s done to deserve Fjord’s gratitude lately.

“Yeah. Not just for...I mean, last night…” He clears his throat and shifts a bit, but still keeps his arm around Caleb. “Thank you for...for everything, I guess. For being with us and for being you. It’s just. For the longest time I-I thought that I’d missed my chance, you know? To let you know how I feel. And I’m glad I didn’t.”

Caleb is struck speechless, unsure how he’s meant to even respond to such a thing. After a beat of silence Fjord speaks again.

“Everything okay?” 

He hears the questions before he feels Fjord’s lips on the back of his neck, pressing a gentle kiss there, and it’s enough to make him close his eyes and bite his bottom lip as the ache returns. 

“Fine,” he spits out because he has to say something. “Everything is fine.”

If Fjord doesn’t believe him, he doesn’t get a chance to say anything. Caduceus returns with a tray full of food, clearing a few of Caleb’s things out of the way. 

“They didn’t have much,” he says as he sets the tray down. “I was hoping for some fruit, but bread and cheese will have to do.”

“And bacon?” Fjord asks. He makes no move to get up, still keeping Caleb close to his chest.

“It was an extra gold piece but I did spring for bacon.” Caduceus turns to them and grins. “Are you two going to stay in bed all day?”

Caleb opens his mouth, willing to slip out and not overstay his welcome if that’s what’s being hinted at, but he hears Fjord laugh behind him.

“Maybe not all day. Not unless you join us.”

Caduceus looks to him, and Caleb fights the impulse to avert his gaze. “Is that something you’d like to do, Caleb?”

He doesn’t think there’s anything he’d like more, but the worry still pulls at the back of his mind. He doesn’t know when whatever this is between them is supposed to end and the uncertainty leaves him feeling vulnerable, which only heightens his anxiety. He needs a moment to breathe, a moment to think, a moment to collect himself and shove his ridiculous feelings back where they belong. 

When he finally gives an answer his voice is stronger than he thought it would be. “I think I need to um. To check on some things. Check in with the others.”

He sits up, slipping from Fjord’s grasp and focusing on getting dressed. Caduceus had taken the liberty of folding all their clothes, with Caleb’s in a neat pile on one of the chairs by the fireplace, his coat draped over the back. There’s another warm surge of fondness that runs through Caleb, one he immediately feels guilty about.

“Jester told me the girls were thinking of taking it easy today too,” Caduceus replies. Caleb glances over and Fjord’s sitting up against the headboard of the bed, taking the tray Caduceus offers before he joins Fjord under the covers. “We’ve been on the road for quite a while, a bit of a breather is nice.”

Caleb slips his coat on, clutching at the lapel for a moment. “Then I’ll take the day to run some errands as well. You, erm. You may find me in town, if you’d like.” 

“Oh.” Caleb glances back, and Fjord almost looks disappointed. “Um. Well. If we don’t see you in town, we’ll be here when you get back.”

Caleb nods. If they’re sharing a room again he supposes there’s really no choice but for him to return. Even if just the thought of sleeping in his bedroll on the floor already has him feeling cold and miserable.

He slips out of the room, shutting the door behind him, and hears the low muffle of their voices through the wood as they begin to talk amongst themselves. Part of him itches to stay, to eavesdrop and finally confirm what he’s known all along—that having him wasn’t what they thought it would be and that they won’t be extending any more offers to join in.

Another part of him thinks he can’t bear to hear that at the moment. So he sets off, pressing his copper wire to his lips and letting Nott know he’s heading out before he makes his way down the stairs and out of the inn.

Cool, crisp mid-morning air has Caleb pulling his coat a bit tighter around himself as he wanders through town. It was something he hadn’t been able to do for a long time. In any populated area he’s become accustomed to keeping his head down and doing his business as discreetly as possible, only to hide away in whatever room he’d managed to afford the moment he was done. He’s surprised to find out how much he’s missed being able to linger, being able to take his time and take in his surroundings and people-watch for a while. 

The heels of his boots click under haphazardly-paved streets as he walks. The town, small as it is, does have a little square near its shops where various booths have been set up for travelling vendors. It’s clearly a town of convenience, a collection of businesses all kept afloat by the wanderers of the roads and their need to stop and rest and refresh their supplies. The stalls Caleb passes boast an impressive array of adventuring gear, some with gleaming armor on display and others with a vast array of potions. The warm smell of spiced meat hangs in the air and as he notices a food cart, he also remembers he declined Caduceus’s earlier offer to stay and share breakfast. He pays what is definitely far too much for a bit of food and wanders through the bustling marketplace, losing himself in the noise around him as he eats.

The usual temptation rises in him to seek out a bookshop, to find something he can truly lose his mind in for a while, but he knows that will only prolong his uncertainty. Avoiding the thoughts that raced through his head would not keep them from returning the moment he shut the book and returned to the real world. 

So Caleb walks. And thinks. And when he has walked enough circles around town that he’s beginning to attract a few strange looks, he finds a bench near the marketplace and sits down, snapping Frumpkin into existence as he does so. The cat curls up in his lap, glancing up and meeting Caleb’s gaze, and a moment passes between the two of them. With a little chirp of acknowledgement Frumpkin settles down, content to purr away as Caleb runs his hand methodically down his back. 

He’s replaying every moment of the previous night. Every touch. Every word. Both Fjord and Caduceus had been so sweet, so tender. Not once had Caleb ever felt like he was just being used. Not once did he feel like he could be replaced with any other warm body and they would still be just as caring, just as satisfied by the end of it all. 

It felt like he mattered to them, but Caleb still couldn’t believe that was true. 

There was something deep within him. It was a conviction he’d held since he had escaped from the asylum, blood on his hands and panic in his gut. 

The world does not care for you. It does not care for your hopes or your feelings. It will chew you up and spit you out and it is your job to stay one step ahead of your own undoing. 

He’d repeated it countless times, until it was burned into his brain, until it became his first tool of survival. He’s always assumed that he knew the truth of the world and that with that truth he could never be let down. If he never let himself want anything, he could never be hurt.

Logically, he knew he still wanted. He wanted revenge. He wanted to see those who had torn his happiness from him and countless numbers of his peers, his brothers and sisters, burned for their crimes. He had allowed himself one want, one goal that would keep him going. A goal that he would be satisfied in dying while trying to reach.

But wanting someone else? Wanting care and affection and companionship? That had been out of the question. People had the capacity to hurt him. People could let him down. People could break his heart, and giving them that power was too great a loss of control for him to bear. 

Realistically, he knows he’s already let people in. The Nein have chipped away at his walls and burrowed into his heart and he’s already kicked himself enough for that, has already made his peace with the knowledge that losing them will break him all over again. To let anyone in further, to let himself fall for Fjord and Caduceus and let them see all his scars, let them know him better than anyone else and give them his heart completely?

He doesn’t know if he can do it. Truly, he doesn’t think he’s strong enough. For all the strength his magic gives him, Caleb knows himself to be a coward. 

“Caleb?”

Both he and Frumpkin look up at the familiar voice, and Caleb’s stomach twists as he sees Caduceus approaching him. After being on the road for so long it’s almost strange to see him so dressed down outside of their room in the inn, with none of his usual armor on and a simple light tunic under what Caleb recognizes as Fjord’s cloak.

“Would you mind a bit of company?” Caduceus asks, gesturing to the empty space on the bench beside Caleb. Caleb looks down and shakes his head, scooting a bit to the side to make more room even though the bench is plenty big for the both of them.

The two of them sit in silence. Caduceus reaches over to give Frumpkin a scritch behind the ears, which the cat leans into with an even louder purr. Caleb counts three minutes and sixteen seconds before Caduceus finally speaks again.

“We’ve all been dancing around each other, yourself and Fjord for the longest time out of any of us. Before I knew about my own feelings for either of you, I knew about his. And one of my biggest hang-ups before we got together, the one hesitation I had...was wondering if he’d always be secretly wanting you, no matter what I did.”

Guilt twists in Caleb’s stomach. He opens his mouth to apologize but Caduceus speaks before he can.

“I made my peace with that. I wouldn’t have confessed my own feelings to Fjord if I hadn’t. But the longer things have gone on, the more I’ve realized that I have my own feelings for you.”

Caleb clenches his hands into fists in his lap. It can’t be true, it can’t be true, it can’t—  

“While we’ve both agreed that we’re open to you being with us, in whatever way makes you happy, we also don’t want you to feel like you’re being coerced into anything. And...I apologize, if last night-”

Caleb interrupts. “Last night was not...I wanted it, okay?”

Caduceus gives a little hum, but Caleb can tell he’s still unsure of that. “Well, I suppose I just wanted to let you know that what happens next is entirely up to you. If you want, we can forget it ever happened and move on-”

Just the thought of that sets Caleb’s heart close to breaking.

“-or we can take this at any speed you’d prefer. Fjord and I have agreed that your comfort comes first in this.”

“And yours?” Caleb asks. “Your comfort, your happiness?”

“Just as you care for ours, we care for yours.”

Caleb bites his bottom lip.

“I...am not good, Mister Clay. I do not believe either of you stand to gain anything from my...my presence in your relationship.”

“Well. Not to argue semantics, but if you were involved it would be your relationship too.”

“I am no good for you,” Caleb insists. “I am no good for either of you and the sooner you realize that, the better off we will all be.”

They fall into silence again. Caleb is certain that he’s succeeded for a moment, that the subject will be dropped and never spoken of again and he hates himself fiercely for ruining something that he’s wanted so badly, but then Caduceus speaks up again.

“You’re awfully hard on yourself. And I know you have your reasons. There’s a darkness in your past, plenty of burdens that still weigh on you to this day. 

“We aren’t looking to take those away. Truthfully, I don’t know if we can. But we can help shoulder those burdens. We can manage a bit of that pain. Just as you’ve done with us, how you’ve put yourself on the line—not just for myself or for Fjord, but for everyone in this group. 

“I believe we’re better together, Mister Caleb. All of us. We’re stronger when we’re open with each other, and when we allow ourselves to be happy.”

Caleb takes a deep breath and looks over at Caduceus. In the dark brown of Fjord’s cloak around him, his hair looks even brighter in the mid-afternoon sun. A cool breeze still passes over them and tosses his hair back, and Caleb allows himself to stare as Caduceus closes his eyes and tips his face up towards the sunlight. 

“Take as much time as you need to think it over,” he says. “Fjord and I will both be here. Regardless of your decision.”

With that he nods to Frumpkin and looks to Caleb, giving a small smile before standing and heading back the way he came. Caleb watches him go, until the crowd of the marketplace swallows him up and he disappears from view. 

They care for him. They want him. The proof has been shoved in his face too many times for him to deny its existence any longer, yet still he knows they are making the biggest mistake of their lives. There is a need inside him to withdraw, to run, to protect them from him because he has only ever hurt those he loves most and he would not be able to live with himself if he hurt them too. 

Yet still a greater need has risen in him, and he is beginning to think it might be best to give in to the hunger that has gnawed at him for what feels like forever. What they’d said to him last night, what they’d done, had opened the floodgates within him. 

Caleb has been trying to keep himself from getting swept away in the excitement of wanting and being wanted in return. He is certain the only destination at the end of this road is pain. Along the way there may be happiness and peace and even love, but there are too many threats around them— he is too much of a threat to them —for Caleb to fool himself into thinking that happiness could ever last.

But it might be worth it, in the end. To give them what they want. To let himself be happy. If he is meant to lose them, to be broken irreparably by their loss, shouldn’t he savor the time he still has with them? Shouldn’t he give them as much happiness as he can? He knows they’re worth that, at the very least. 

For so long he was certain they couldn’t ever want him. Perhaps in time, his other certainties can be proven false. His only option now is to hope they will, and do his best in the meantime to protect and care for Fjord and Caduceus. 

Caleb blinks, pulling himself out of his head and back to his surroundings. It’s late in the afternoon, the market still bustling with travelers and townsfolk alike as they run the rest of their errands for the day. Frumpkin hops up to perch on his shoulder as he stands and begins to wander the stalls again, paying attention this time to what each vendor has on display.

“Lookin’ for somethin’?”

The voice catches Caleb’s attention and he looks up at the source. A half-elven woman stands beside a card loaded with flowers of all kinds, blooms that fight for attention with bright colors and pleasant scents that mingle around the cart. Caleb steps forward, putting a pleasant smile on as he addresses the woman in return. 

“I think,” he says as Frumpkin leans forward to curiously peer at the flowers, “perhaps I may have found it.”


 

Despite the room technically being theirs, Caleb knocks on the door. Best to be polite, to not barge in if one of them is indecent. Fjord is the one to answer, his eyebrows raising almost imperceptibly.

“Caleb,” he says, sounding surprised. “Hey.”

“Hello, Fjord,” Caleb replies. He watches Fjord look him over, watches his eyes widen as he takes in what Caleb is holding in his hand.

“These are for you,” Caleb adds, trying to get an explanation in as soon as possible. “Or, specifically, this one is.”

He holds up the bundle of daffodils tied together with dark green twine. Cradled in his other arm is a bundle of lavender. Fjord’s gaze flicks from the flowers up to Caleb’s face, then back down as he reaches out and takes the offered daffodils. 

“You didn’t have to-”

“I wanted to,” Caleb interrupts. “May I come in?” 

“Oh!” Fjord steps aside, holding the door open. “Of course, yeah.” He still seems a little stunned as he watches Caleb enter the room, looking back down at the flowers every few seconds. Caduceus is in the room, sitting cross-legged at the foot of the bed.

“I didn’t mean,” he starts, then stops, then starts again, looking between Fjord and Caduceus as he speaks. “I hope I didn’t interrupt-”

“You haven’t interrupted anything,” Caduceus says with a pleasant smile. He gestures next to him, where a brush lays on the bed. “Fjord was just helping me with my hair.”

“I like brushing it,” Fjord murmurs as he closes the door. As Caleb looks to him he can see the slightest blush darkening Fjord’s cheeks. 

“Did you have a good walk, Mister Caleb?” Caduceus asks, drawing Caleb’s attention back to him, and Caleb abruptly remembers what he’s come to their room to do. He nods, stepping forward and holding the bundle of lavender out to Caduceus. 

“I did,” he says as Caduceus takes the flowers from him. “I did quite a bit of thinking. And...purchased those as well.” He gestures to the lavender. “An apology. For my rudeness this morning.” 

“These will make for lovely tea,” Caduceus replies with a smile as he sniffs at the lavender. “Thank you, Caleb.”

He hears footsteps heading toward him and then Fjord is there, moving to stand next to the bed and holding the bunch of flowers tight to his chest. 

“There’s nothing to apologize for,” he says. “Caduceus and I were talking this morning, and I thought… Well, we agreed…” He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, and Caleb can see his free hand clenched at his side. 

“If we took things too fast, I’m sorry. I know my own eagerness…” He blushes again and looks back down. “It got the better of me. I’m committed to taking this at whatever speed you prefer from now on, but. If you’d like to break things off here, I’d understand.”

Despite the kindness in his voice and the grace with which Caleb knows he would take the rejection he seems certain is coming, Fjord still looks crestfallen already. Caleb’s heart aches at the sight. 

“On my walk,” he says, looking from Fjord to Caduceus, “I thought quite a bit about you both. About my feelings for you. And...about whether or not I even deserve to have those feelings.”

Fjord looks up at that. He opens his mouth, about to interrupt, but Caduceus takes his hand and he remains silent.

“You are both unequivocally good,” Caleb continues. “And what you have with each other is good. And I have always thought...my presence would only serve to soil that. I would certainly never want to come between you. So perhaps in my...insistence to hold onto what I believed was true, I ignored anything that did not align with those beliefs.” 

He takes a deep breath, steadying himself against the emotion that wells up inside him, even as his gaze drifts down to the floor.

“I have spent...a bit too much time in my own head, in the past few years. And I do forget that I can be wrong sometimes. About others. I can misread people.

“Despite my convictions you have found it within yourselves to want me and I-I did not want to believe it. I had convinced myself so thoroughly that it could never happen. I think...I may still be a bit convinced of that. 

“But I am attempting to push beyond that. I am trying to let myself hope for the best. And if...if your offer still stands...

“All I can promise you both is myself. However you want me, for as long as you still want me...I am yours.”

Silence falls onto the room, and in an instant Caleb is certain he said something wrong. He’s misread the entire situation. They don’t want him anymore and trying to convince them otherwise with a stupid little gift is foolish—  

And then he hears movement. And then they are approaching him. And then he is being pulled into what he immediately recognizes to be Fjord’s arms, the smell of him so familiar and comforting that Caleb relaxes without thinking and clings back just as hard.

“Of course we want you,” Fjord says. His voice is so soft, so gentle. He holds Caleb as if he were made of glass, and Caleb doesn’t know what to do with all of the emotions that realization dredges up. “We want you, Caleb. All of you.”

There are hands on his waist that he’s certain are Caduceus’s, confirmed by the press of lips to the back of his head and the low voice he hears coming from behind him. 

“It will take time,” he says, “to adjust to this. But we’re here. We’ve got you.”

Caleb lifts his head. Fjord is looking down at him, his gaze shifting ever so slightly from Caleb’s eyes down to his lips. He looks unsure. 

Caleb nods, and the worry clears, and Fjord leans in to press his lips to Caleb’s. 

The kiss is slow and gentle, made even more perfect by the sensation of Caduceus’s mouth on his neck. They move together; a tangle of warmth and intimacy, of soft touches and tentative exploration. None of the urgency from last night is there, but it isn’t any less intense. There is still that heat, a pulsing need to give and take comfort as each of them sees fit. 

“Should we get a bit more comfortable?” Caduceus murmurs. Caleb gives a little affirmative hum, and Fjord huffs out a laugh. 

Somehow they manage to get themselves situated on the bed, laying on top of the covers. Caleb is bracketed by them, on his back with each of them on their sides facing him. Fjord nuzzles into the crook of his neck, Caduceus presses a kiss to his cheek and Caleb smiles at the tickle of Caduceus’s beard against his skin. Fjord reaches over, takes Caduceus’s hand that is laying on Caleb’s chest and twines their fingers together.

Caleb breaks the silence between them. 

“Can we always go to bed like this?” His voice is quiet, hesitant. “Together?”

“Of course,” Caduceus replies.

He can hear the grin in Fjord’s voice. “I’m certainly not opposed.”

They lay together for the remainder of the afternoon, trading touches and kisses and conversation as they soak in each others’ warmth. In the comfort and love they’ve found for themselves. Caleb knows they’re meant to head back on the road tomorrow, that it might be a while before they get time like this to themselves again, and he’s determined to enjoy every moment he gets with Fjord and Caduceus. 

It’s only when Jester knocks on their door that they finally move, her declaration of dinnertime and their own empty stomachs prompting them to head down to the first floor of the inn and eat. As he’s making sure he’s decent for company—a habit only recently reacquired—Caleb hears Caduceus speak up from where he’s standing by the desk in their room. 

“These are just lovely,” he says, and Caleb watches him admire the bundle of daffodils that he’d given to Fjord.

“Do you have a book you can press them into?” Fjord pipes up from the chair where he’s slipping on his boots. “I’d like to keep at least one of them, if I can.”

Caduceus looks at Caleb expectantly, and Caleb nods. 

“I… Yes. Yes, I believe I do.”

He digs through his belongings, finds the little book he’s been keeping for himself. He doesn’t write in it often, only when something important happens. Something he’s determined to record, to remember, even if his memories are stolen from him again. Perhaps this can serve as his entry for them. Or part of it, anyway. Caleb plucks a daffodil from the bundle and flips to the first clean page he can find, slipping it between the pages. He closes the journal, pressing down hard before returning it to its usual space between his spellbooks. 

It’s something he’s able to return to when they’re out on the road. In his worst moments, he can flip to that page of his journal and see the flower pressed there. He can be reminded of them, of how they care for him, in spite of everything telling them they shouldn’t. He can remember what it feels like to be held by them, to feel their lips against him and hear their honeyed words in his ear. When failure and doubt and worry threaten to swallow him whole, to make him close himself off and hide away, he flips to that page of his journal with shaking hands and reminds himself that they want him. That they care. That two people have allowed him into their hearts and have wormed their way into his and that he cannot let them down. 

Caleb does not feel worthy of them but in time he thinks he could be, he thinks they could show him what an all-encompassing, unconditional love feels like. The kind of love he holds for them. He feels unstoppable with them at his side and he vows to help them feel the same, to see him as valuable. Though he’s certain if he asked they would reassure him that they see him as more than just valuable, he still needs to convince himself. He is of use. He is helpful. He is vital. 

And they are kind. And they are gentle. And they are everything he needs and more, everything he thought it was foolish to hope for. And they will continue on together into danger and triumph and adventure, and they will guide and protect and heal and love together. 

And they will continue on into their future together, secure in the knowledge that they are not alone.