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Somewhere Not Here

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Tyler dreams. 

Broad fields of wheat surround him. Their ears rustle in the wind all around him, raising loud combers of gold that reach for the sky, waiting for their doom, their harvest, their reaping. For now they’re high enough to bury him amongst them. He’s sitting, but not purposefully hiding.

He just likes it here. The rustle of the wheat is lenient in his ear, suffocating all the other noises beneath it. It’s a warm day today, the sun is caressing his face and smiling upon him, and it feels weird. It’s weird because it’s something he’s not supposed to feel for months to come; the winter has been cruel this year, Tyler has seen it himself, and it’s not meant to be over yet. He knows this, yet here he is, looking at the bright blue sky and listening to the ripe wheat make its waves.

It’s not real, well, not really. For this is all a dream, yet it’s a true story. Tyler himself doesn’t remember all the events. 

He draws in a breath that doesn’t chill his lungs. It’s wrong, but feels right. He doesn’t deny it, but falls into it instead, spreading his arms to embrace what was brought to him.

In his dream, he’s not in The Pale where he fell asleep tonight, nor is he in the north altogether.

No, he’s back in Rorikstead, sitting on the ground and ripping dry grass off its hinges, getting cuts on his hands as he does. 

Someone calls for him. He turns to look, gets up, and walks up to their mother who is visiting his memories tonight.

Tyler dreams. And this dream is to give him nightmares.

 

*

 

“Tyler!”

Tyler spins around. Their mother is watching him, standing at the end of a pathway of downtrodden wheat. She waves her hand furiously, telling him to get up at once.

He does, dusting off his pants as he goes. He approaches her, trying his best to not leave any new traces by stepping on his old footprints, but fails.

He always goes to sit in a different spot.

Their mother doesn’t seem pleased.

“Stop trampling on the crops,” is the first thing she says. “Your father doesn’t want you to do that,” she continues with a tired voice, her tone as low as the broken culms.

“Sorry mom,” Tyler says. His gaze is gracing the dirt.

Their mother grabs his chin and pulls his face up roughly, turning it from side to side. Tyler’s eyes go wide as he’s twisted back and forth.

“Mom…?” he asks, confused. His face aches from where her farmer’s hand is clutching his jaw.

She lets go of him. “Go wash your face,” she says. “We’re having dinner soon. Help Zack to peel the potatoes.”

Tyler rubs his sore jawbone. He’s not given any other chance but to follow her back to their house. He stares at the scarf around her head and the basket she carries with her as they walk. It’s filled with chicken eggs. These ones are from Lemkil, a farmer living across from theirs. Carefully packed with feathers, they don’t go cracking against each other. The brown shells remind Tyler of human skin full of goosebumps. The thought draws a chilly finger against his spine. 

 

*

 

“We’re leaving for Whiterun this week,” their mother says suddenly, two days later. 

Tyler’s eyes shoot up, a spoonful of food dropping down his chin at the same time. His hand comes to recover it, guiding it back in. Broth staying behind, Tyler licks it away with his tongue. Their mother is staring at him, and he’s not sure if she expects him to say something.

They’re having dinner in the common room. The house is faintly lighten up by the setting sun, its stark, red glow pushing through the dusty windows on the robust timber walls. Flooding the house with its dim light, a candle tree stands at the center of the wooden table, bold flames flickering in a serene flow. The table is decked with plenty of food; baskets of freshly baked bread rest at both ends, a selected amount of seasonal vegetables and potatoes are set next to them. A half-eaten salmon with herbs on top of it is placed in front of their father.

They’re all starving after hard work in the fields today. Tyler fights the temptation to keep eating, but their mother is speaking, and it might be better to pay attention to what she has to say.

Zack doesn’t mind. He’s inpatient and doesn’t do much to hide it. Mouth full of food, Zack goes to ask, “Whiterun?” he blabbers, trying to get the conversation going. “Why are we going to Whiterun?”

“The fair. We’re going to sell our vegetables there and get new customers. Zack, you’re coming with us. Tyler is going to stay here and look after the house and the crops.”

“What?” whines Tyler. “I want to come with you!”

The annual fair was a big celebration for the farmers all across Whiterun and the towns and villages surrounding it. Thousands of people would come, take their families, fill their carriages and head out to the capital of the Whiterun Hold, the very heart of the province of Skyrim.

Missing out would mean missing out the only days of the year that the farmers were allowed to rest from their hard work and concentrate on meeting other homestead families, all the while trying to learn their secrets so they could focus on mending their own. That, and obviously trying to get new customers. The event would always peak in an enormous feast to enjoy a good meal with drinks and plays, making merry of the forthcoming harvest and a promise to meet again next year.

It’s not fair.

“Someone needs to stay and take care of the responsibilities,” come the words without a second thought, a decision made without a chance to negotiate. The fair will take days on end, maybe a week. He’d be chained inside the fences of Rorikstead for an eternity.

“Responsibilities,” Tyler echoes disputingly. “The wheat doesn’t die if you don’t water the roots with your eyes every second!”

“Tyler,” she says, a warning.

“Don’t worry brother, I’ll be sure to share the sweetest details with you when I get back,” Zack says and taps Tyler with his smeared spoon, poking fun at him.

Tyler pulls his hand away. “Fuck you Zack,” he says laughing, hiding his disappointment. “I haven’t been to a proper fair in years!”

“What makes you think that I have?”

“We’re not going there to have fun. It’ll be hard work you knuckleheads, and the traveling takes a lot of time,” their father reminds them. “The fair will be held in a few weeks. Tomorrow we’re going to reserve our stall there and run a few errands while we’re there.”

“Aw man,” Zack sighs. 

“Go suffer,” Tyler quips. “I wanted to practice my swordhand with you, too,” he adds, dissatisfaction coating his words now.

“You can practice it by some other means.”

“What does that even mean?”

Their father hawks. An amused smile pulls the corner of his mouth faintly upwards at his sons. He tries to cover it with his hand, but the attempt is feeble. The brothers smirk, but swallow their humor to listen to their mother as she comes back into the conversation.

“Lemkil is coming with us. We’re borrowing one of his horses to move the carriage. Also,” she says, and turns to look at Tyler. “There’s one more thing.”

Tyler’s eyes flick askingly down and quickly back up. “Yeah?”

“You’ll be looking after Sissel, Lemkil’s younger daughter, while we’re away. Tomorrow and in our absence during the fair. I’ve given him my word, and you’ll help me to keep it.” 

Tyler looks at her as if she was joking. He huffs with a smile full of disbelief, flicking his hand in the air. “Like, what? You’re making me babysitter now too? We’re nearly the same age.”

“Well,” she starts with, thinking before landing her words. “She’s a farmer’s daughter, but she doesn’t have much… experience. Mostly, she’ll need your help with the animals.”

“How does she not know how to handle them?”

“She can handle the chicken but the bigger animals frighten her. I trust that you’ll take good care of her while we’re away, Tyler. I’ll take no excuses.” 

With that, the conversation is over. Even Zack falls quiet beside him, the spoon stands out of his hand, soup running down the smooth wood of it.

Tyler puts his own down on the table, quiet. “I’m suddenly not hungry anymore,” he mutters without looking at his family, and leaves the table with an empty pit in his stomach.

No one tries to call after him. Their mother moves on to gossip with their father. With a smile so tight on her face, she goes to say, “Did you know that Erik and Britte are expecting a baby?”

 

*

 

It’s the seventh day of Second Seed. The day dawns with misty clouds pressing into the pits and sunken fields. The air is chilly, the sky grey, and Tyler is eagerly waiting for the sun to appear from behind the misty mountains. 

Puffy clouds of his breathing push through the scarf wrapped around his lower face. Tyler pulls it down, chewing on the last piece of bread he’s counting as his breakfast.

A bulky mare stands beside him as he loads food and other supplies into the cart. With Zack standing over him, they’re quick and efficient about it. His younger brother jumps down when they’re done, and pats Tyler on his shoulder like the good brother he is. He goes to drink some water from a nearby well then.

The fair is on. His family is leaving. 

Checking that everything is set in the carriage correctly, Tyler hears his name being called.

Their mother is coming with the basket in her arms. Beside her is Lemkil, his scarce grey hair hidden under a hat that covers his big hairy ears but leaves his crinkled up forehead to show. He’s not drunk as he often is, and maybe that’s the reason why he looks so irritable today. 

Behind him comes Sissel, the younger daughter of Lemkil’s twin girls. Her hair comes in shades of withered hay, dry and unkempt but braided from the sides as it usually is. Stray locks loom over her face where she likes to hide behind. A simple tunic pulled over a fully long dress covers her body with a leather belt and a satchel fastened around her waist, hanging freely from the buckle.

Her freckles stand out on her pale skin in the frisk morning light. She’s staring at the ground shivering, keeping behind her father’s back. However the surly man gives her no protection. Lemkil goes to grab the reins, saying nothing as he walks past Tyler and their mother to pet his horse that snorts, feeling its master’s presence beside it. 

That leaves Tyler alone with their mother and a nervous Sissel squirming beside her.

“Alright, children,” she starts with a honey-coated voice that is so uncharacteristic for her. “You know how it is. We’re trusting you two with everything we have. I hope you understand that.”

“I know,” Tyler says sourly. Their mother gives him a pointed look. 

“Anyhow,” she continues. “Have no fear, Sissel. Tyler here will be by your side at all times. He knows what to do, and takes care of you.”

The girl says nothing, unable to even meet his eyes. Seeing her nervousness, Tyler’s eyes soften. He has nothing against her. They’ve lived in the same village their entire lives, but have never talked with each other anything more than what’s necessary. Lemkil’s family seemed to live their own life, often withdrawn from the community. 

The two girls have no mother. Now thinking about it, Tyler never really knew what happened to her. He doesn’t remember ever meeting her, and even if he did, he was very little. 

However they had time. Wondering if it was okay to ask about it, Tyler’s thoughts start wandering, trying to come up with things to talk about. He’ll have a lot to think about.

“Sure,” Tyler says quietly then, trying to coax her out of her shell. She looks like waking up then, her green eyes daring a quick look at him. She nods carefully, curling her hair around her finger. She says nothing, but turns her head the other way again, diving into her own thoughts. Tyler lets her be.

Thinking he’s only being polite and maybe even a bit uncomfortable himself, Tyler draws distance between them. He doesn’t get much time in peace. Their mother comes soon to him, yanking him from his arm, clutching it relentlessly. ”Tyler, a little word with you,” she says, pulling him for a walk with her.

”What?” he asks after a while, her silence kicking him to do that.

“She’s very beautiful, Tyler,” she says with an odd face, looking as if he should have said it himself. Her faintest smile feels like a grimace. Confused, Tyler takes a look at the shivering girl in the background, turning back to their mother then.

“I guess she is,” he says flatly and and lets trouble take over his eyes as she lets go of him.

She sighs. “Tyler, I’m worried. You’re our firstborn, and more than old enough to start a family. Soon enough there aren’t any free girls left in the village, and I haven’t seen you even trying.”

“So what?” Tyler deadpans, knowing it was the same topic again. They’ve talked about it before. “I just—“ he gulps, trying to place his words right. “I haven’t found anyone suitable yet.” 

He’s not interested in women. It’s that what he would want to say, but it’s not what she wants to hear right now. 

“It’s not about suitability,” she says, repeating her earlier words. “She’s very beautiful, Tyler. This is a great opportunity to get to know her,” she points out and looks at the girl moving pebbles around with her foot, paying no attention them. Tyler looks at her, pretending as if he was considering her words.

Standing further away from them, the old drunk Lemkil is driving his incessantly discontent eyes at Tyler, unknown to him. His usual hard face pulls into a baleful smile, dropping only as he mounts his horse, signaling that it was time to leave. The horse is his and their only way to move all the goods. Thus, he was the one to decide when they moved.

Their mother knows this, giving one more look at him before bidding him goodbye. Zack is in the front cart, their father sitting at the other where their mother is meant to be. She walks away, smiling politely at the girl, her basket carefully cradled in her arms. Sissel bows her head in acknowledgement, stepping back and nearly flinching as Tyler comes to stand beside her, sending their families off.

He raises his hand, wishing all the bandits away from the roads.

Zack has his sword with him.

Hopefully, there will be no need for it.

 

*

 

At a very young age, Tyler had learnt that whining got him nowhere. His mother gave him a task and he intends to fulfill it. However taking care of both households is a backbreaking job. Figuring that they need to start early and work with minimal breaks, Tyler feels the fatigue at the end of the day. 

He lays in bed exhausted, mentally wondering whether he had forgotten something. Crossing out tasks they did through the day, his brain is working like a smithery with no chance of cooling down. Even in bed, he can’t find the much needed relaxation, limbs tackled and unmoving. 

Sissel is deep asleep not far from him, curled up in the common room bed where the fire and warmth was. She’s never spent a night on her own, and he’s not the one to make her do that even now. 

Tyler sighs, guiding his fingers through his hair. Sissel is okay, despite the reason they had never talked much dawned back to him soon enough. She’s shy and shaky, fiddling whenever he said something to her. Her laugh was anxious but oddly loud, starting whenever she felt the need to babble how she’s never done this or that as if afraid to even try.

Like he’d do something bad to her no matter what she did.

Tyler’s eyes close. There was no helping it. If he was the first to show her how things worked, he’ll do it. She’ll learn. Tyler will be patient with her.

 

*

 

They’re at the fields the next day harvesting wheat when Tyler asks,

“What happened to your mother?”

Sissel looks surprised, her face growing in length as she stares at him a few feets away.

“I mean,” Tyler starts with, trying to arrange his questions. “I think I’ve never met her. Does she live somewhere else? Or is she-“

“She’s dead.”

Great, Tyler cusses in his mind, knowing fully well it was coming the second he asked. He should have kept his mouth shut.

Sissel doesn’t seem to mind. “She died when giving birth to us. Britte and I were born healthy, and she was fine. I’ve been told she even held us in her arms. Then she just crumbled. Died. We don’t talk about it a lot.”

It must be the longest bout he’s ever heard her talk in one go. However his expression remains cloudy, taking in her story.

Sissel continues, growing almost comfortable to confide around him.

“So you can imagine how much our father despises us. He thinks we’re good for nothing, keeping us away from his sight most of the days. He’s only crawling back inside when he’s drunk enough. So I’m sorry you have to do this.”

“N-no, it’s okay. I’m sorry that I asked.” Now he’s the one stuttering.

Sissel shrugs. “It’s okay. I think you’re very nice, Tyler.”

Tyler nods, astonished at her words. Turning back to their task, Tyler realizes that he didn’t say anything nice in return. They fall into a tense silence, cutting the hay at their own pace. Throwing the straws aside, Tyler steals a glance over his shoulder, looking back at Sissel.

Her back is hunched and her knees are shaking. She’s going to have sore muscles after this, but she wanted to help, and Tyler lets her. So he eyes her doings, seeing her working a sickle. Sissel is there, holding a bunch of wheat and hay between her fist, yanking as she cuts them close to the soil.

“No, don’t take it down to the root,” Tyler says, gentle with his voice. Knowing that harsh words would help with nothing, Tyler puts his tools aside and steps towards her, light of his feet and swift with his movements. “We’ll let the animals to the pasture later.”

Despite his calm approach, Sissel doesn’t seem to notice him, much less hearing his words. Drowned in her own world, Tyler is taken by confusion, stepping even closer and making the mistake of landing his hand on her shoulder. “Hey…?”

The touch scares her thoroughly, and Tyler has no time to react before she shrieks like getting struck, swinging the sickle at him. 

Eyes wide, skin splitting, Tyler’s fingers make a cage around his palm. He sees the blood filling it in no time, oozing right out. It rains on the cut down crops, forming bloodied spears at their feet, pointing at the sky.

“Shit,” Tyler curses, his back bowing until his knees press into the damp soil. He only got a cut on his palm, but the sudden incision seems to shock his whole system, weirdly betraying his legs beneath him. 

He holds his bleeding palm, blood flowing freely. Sissel stumbles back frightened, pulling the sickle up as if to shield herself from the thing she’d done. Her lips are sucked into a thin line, paling in shock as she sees Tyler bleeding on the ground.

“Tyler, I’m so sorry, I— I’ll get Jouane!” she splutters chaotically, already running to the healer with the sullied sickle still in her hand. However she halts when she hears his words.

“He’s not here. He took off to Whiterun with Rorik as did everybody else,” Tyler tells her, his sleeve dampening with the red color of his blood. They need no magic to deal with this, Tyler decides. He doesn’t like magic anyway. Healing or not, life was tricky enough without any spellcasting already. As much as the villagers respected the two war heroes, he’s not going to run to Jouane at every cut he got.

It looks worse than what it actually is, Tyler is sure. The sickle didn’t hit him as bad as he first thought. He just needs to stop the bleeding, clean the wound and bandage it. He’ll be fine. He says as much.

“Finish this up for me? I have to patch this up,” Tyler mutters, walking past and leaving her behind. Feeling agonized eyes nailed on his back, Tyler keeps moving, a bloody trail following him back to the house.

 

*

 

Sissel doesn't show up for the rest of the day. Having no idea where she went, Tyler gives up on his tries to look for her or get her open the door after his third time of calling for her. She must be thinking that he’s angry with her, Tyler assumes sadly, taking care of all the tasks he can for her and the animals. He goes early to bed, quickly seized by sleep.

The night is peaceful. Savoring the warmth of the common room himself now, Tyler wakes up at his own pace. His brain is somnolent after deep sleep, the heavy feeling of it nearly pleasurable. Tyler plumps down on his back, rubbing his eyes to get rid of the sand in them.

It’s still early, Tyler reads from the slight amount of daylight in the house. He’s wrapped in blankets, a light fur at his legs, pressing him harder against the straw-filled mattress. Enjoying the heavy feeling on top of him, Tyler sighs, soaking in the moment. Pulling his hand lazily back up from the covers, Tyler inspects his palm, the way the bandages run over each other. Deciding to change the dressing later, Tyler’s eyes close, nestling his hand back under the covers.

It feels so good. Nearly absent-minded, Tyler draws in a slow breath. His legs start spreading, making room for his slowly downwards traveling hand.

Luckily it was his left hand bandaged, Tyler thinks distantly as his fingers curl around his half-hardened length. Thoughts whirling in his mind, a feeble fantasy drives Tyler to move his fist up and down, coaxing his cock to harden even further.

A noise or two escapes as it does. Blindly collecting all the tiny pearls that break and smear at every upbeat movement his fist does, Tyler gains a higher pace to pleasure himself. Having no one around, Tyler can luxuriate in peace. He sighs louder, rolling his head back, putting more weight on his feet as his back arches, feeling the knots on his tense shoulders solving. The apple of his throat bobs as he gets closer, closer, closer…

His brain is barely there to register the sudden steps up their porch and the door slamming open. Tyler jumps like a goat, pulling his hand quickly back. His body jerks up and onto its side, knowing fully well that someone has stepped inside the house without any sort of permission.

He’s staring eye to eye with Sissel who smiles, her shoulders heaving up and down.

Gaping in pure disbelief at the sight of her while trying to catch his own breath, Tyler hopes his face is not as red as it feels. Sissel looks at him, still saying nothing, and in the lack of better words Tyler blurts,

“What?”

“Nothing,” Sissel says, and Tyler wants to scream. His hand is damp, the slightly tacky fingers more than enough to remind him of the full hardness between his legs. Tyler squirms uncomfortably, feeling his sensitive skin rubbing against the rough blanket on a nearly painful level.

He wipes his clammy palm on it unseeingly, getting carefully up. Praying that she’ll have the sense to leave, Tyler walks up to her. “You can’t just barge in here if everything’s alright.”

“Oh. Sorry. I thought we’d be starting.”

“Not yet.” He feels like chewing his teeth, words barely slipping through.

Her eyes go soft. “Actually, I wanted to apologize about what happened yesterday. I mean, you know. I’m really sorry about what happened. And I just thought that… I could make it up for you,” she trails off with her words, eyes traveling slowly lower and lower on his body, and she sees him. She fucking sees him. As much as he hoped that his loose pants would hide it, the look in her eyes is clear as day and exposes him to the worst possible fear at that moment. 

Sissel’s gaze jumps up. Tyler learns two things about her the next moment. First, her hand is perturbedly cold as it wraps around his neck. Second, her lips are dry but fit against his own like a hot knife sinking into butter.

Sissel is kissing him. Tyler’s eyes fall instinctively closed as her mouth presses harder against his, so suddenly he doesn’t have time to react for what comes next.

They’re stumbling, Tyler’s hands come up to Sissel’s elbows, trying to keep her from making them both stagger. It’s then when her slender fingers wind around down to his waist, only going to the front of his pants, trying to untie them.

Tyler jolts away, hand over the loosened knots. “What are you doing?” he goes, bewildered of the warmth draining from his lips as he had pushed her off. He didn’t expect getting touched so suddenly, and certainly not by Sissel, the shy daughter of the old crank Lemkil. 

“I thought…” she starts stuttering again, confusion clear in her eyes as well.

Tyler looks at her with an unintended coldness, tugging his tunic to cover himself further. His quietness and the lack of intensity sets her off as quickly as it had started, just like yesterday.

“I have to go,” she says then, turning on her heels and yanking the door open with a groping manner, running away like a dog with a tail between its legs. 

The door shuts with a slam, shutting Tyler inside with a rock wrenching in his stomach and his cock flaccid like an earthworm.

 

*

 

“Hey Tyler. Can I borrow you for a second?”

That’s how Erik approached him that night. Born and raised in Rorikstead just like him, the innkeeper’s son comes to the well as the sunset with long, brittle clouds have claimed its colors as their own. 

They’re good friends, having grown together like brothers. Erik is a married man now, a soon to be father. With Lemkil’s older daughter Britte as his wife, the Nord has a clear path of what his life is to become in front of him.

Erik stops abruptly. “Oh,” he says, eying Tyler’s hand. “What happened to your hand?” 

Tyler brings the sloppily bandaged thing up, allowing the Nord’s curious eyes to get a better look at it.

“Yesterday,” Tyler says, curling his other hand around it. “I was reaping the yield and the sickle slipped.” He keeps the truth to himself. 

“Looks bad,” Erik winces, despite being a hard one to get startled. 

“I didn’t lose any fingers,” Tyler smiles, his eyes squinting at the remaining bright light in the sky. “What did you need?”

“Well,” Erik says, scratching his long auburn hair and looking as if he doesn’t want to ask anymore. “A courier came this morning. He said that there’s a big group of people from Solitude approaching the village on their way to the fair. There are some soldiers with them, too, and they’re most likely going to get drunk. Me and my father might need some help with the inn, if you’re free.”

Tyler nods, contemplating, yet giving his answer without putting much thought into it. “I’ll help. Let me just finish this thing and check up on Sissel and I’ll be right there.”

“Sissel,” Erik chuckles downbeat. “You’re taking the babysitting seriously,” he says before coming to lean against the stones on the well’s wall, sitting next to Tyler as if he wasn’t in a hurry anymore. They take a little breather, facing the sunset together.

“Sorry,” Erik says after a while. Tyler turns to look at him surprised. “I don’t know why it had to be you. I guess Britte didn’t want to stay with her sister, much less letting me do it. She hasn’t been very well these days you see. Twins…” 

Tyler picks on the bandage, snorting. “You’re married to her,” he points out in amusement. “There should be no fear about any… infidelity between you two,” he finishes, studying Erik’s face as he does.

“It’s Britte,” Erik exclaims. “She’s always been a little incredulous. Not paranoid, just a little defensive. I guess that’s coming from their father’s side. I swear, he’s the coldest man in all of Skyrim.”

Tyler hums, wondering what his own family was doing at the moment. The streets of Whiterun must be full of people by now, the celebration unending.

“Come eat at the inn when you’re done. There’s plenty of food prepared for the night, and no mind to work with an empty stomach. We have some good ale, too,” the Nord says with a wink and heaves himself up, rubbing his backside. 

“Okay,” he replies and hoists the boarded cover away from the well’s top again.

 “Thanks Tyler. We’ll pay you as always.”

“Sure.”

Tyler grabs the bucket, easing it into the well. He’s still saving to get a sword forged for himself, and working at the inn is his only straw to get there. 

He carries the fresh water back to the house to prepare a warm bath later. He pours the water into a container, swirling there like a black marshland. 

Tyler watches it settling, seeing his dim reflection greeting him in return. He might have responsibilities, but with his family away, he has some freedom as well.

He might as well enjoy it.

 

*

 

The Inn of Rorikstead gets its name from Frostfruits. Erik’s father Mralki runs the place with a great passion, putting all his soul and back into it as his days as an Imperial legionnaire were done. Working at the inn was nothing new for Tyler who habitually knew his way of waltzing around the drunken people, serving their food and drinks to the tables. 

The people had come just like the word had promised. Mostly residents of Solitude, the Whiterun fair was still pulling people to it. 

He’s is taking an old woman’s order when his attention gets yanked elsewhere, somehow sensing whenever someone was looking at him.

There’s a man staring at him. A soldier. He’s older than Tyler, dark of his hair with equally dark facial hair. Maybe it’s the beard that adds years to his looks. And the man, he’s smiling at Tyler, leaning his chin on his hand. His posture could easily imply that he’s bored of the small town, comparing it to the capital of Haafingar Hold where the headquarters of The Imperial Legion was stationed in. Highly welcomed, Erik’s father is pleased to have them under his roof, serving the first round of drinks for free. 

But the man doesn’t look bored but hungry, wordlessly pulling Tyler up to him.  

 “Tyler, could you please take these to the Imperial soldiers over there? My father doesn’t want to make them wait,” Erik says as if on cue then, walking past and pointing at the freshly prepared meals at the front counter.

“Sure.”

He takes the supper to the lot. Trying to act as casual, Tyler fills the table, lastly bringing a new barrel of ale to the table. The group of soldiers exhilarate, slamming half-emptied tankards on the table. The tacky beverages spread around, decorations quaking on the hardwood.

“Enjoy your stay in Rorik’s Steading.” He’s sure that his sarcasm shines through the petty pleasantries at the mess they’re making. 

His guard betrays him then, turning face to face with the man his curiosity didn’t seem to let him drop.

Instead of the food, the Imperial keeps his eyes on Tyler, still sloppedly smiling at him. Quiet and oddly mysterious, he ignores his loud friends altogether, only favoring Tyler with his attention. 

Tyler looks at him askingly. “Anything else I can get for you?” he goes and returns the gaze, reading every gesture. Something in his body tightens. 

The man hums. “Maybe later,” he says, leaning his head back on his hand, his dark beard and even darker eyes meeting Tyler straightforwardly. “If you’re free.” His voice is honey, gentle yet deep with fondness towards a stranger that makes Tyler forget to breathe as he stared at the other.

”Later,” Tyler confirms rather quietly, going back to his tasks and helping Erik to prepare the customers’ meals and serve them. Through the night, Tyler can feel a pair of eyes following his every step. The feeling burns his skin beneath his clothes. It slackens his concentration, Tyler tries to shake it off, but helplessly catches the soldier’s look, returning it every time - making sure he was still there.

His apron hides his excitement. However the night feels way too long this way. When Erik’s father finally calls his name, Tyler feels a wave of goosebumps run through him.

“Thanks Tyler, you’re always a great help son,” Mralki says and walks up to him in the backroom, handing him a full horn of ale and a small bag with money inside of it. “Take it. You’ve earned it.”

Tyler empties the horn quickly, a tacky trail running down his chin and the glow of the candles catching on it. The money goes into the loose pocket in his pants, pressed deep into its safety. 

With his apron gone, Tyler enters the large hall, looking over the heads and their shapes, until his gaze is returned with a heavy intention.

The soldier is still there, calling for him like a bloody bait, and Tyler takes it without a fight. As for now, he’s getting tired of their game. Too much staring, Tyler decides, and sets the horn down on the counter.

He goes to talk to him. 

 

*

 

Only moments later, he’s leaning his forehead on the damp grass behind the shadows of the inn with two fingers moving in and out of his ass. A warm hand roams his back where his tunic has ridden up. His body is wary of the sudden intruder, resisting the two slicked up digits preparing him for more.

The Imperial soldier behind him laughs by himself.

“What are you, a fucking virgin?” he asks as he keeps going, scissoring his fingers to stretch him open.

“No,” Tyler sighs, pressing back against the intrusion. “It’s just been a while.”

“Not that it’s bad,” the man says. “You feel fucking amazing,” he groans.

“Can’t wait to get inside of you,” he adds and Tyler moans, giving in for the thrills that raise goosebumps on his skin.

“I’m ready, I’m ready.”

His company doesn’t wait as the words leave his mouth. The fingers press against him for one more time before withdrawing. Tyler squirms at the feeling, but the cold doesn’t bother him for long as a hard tip of the man’s cock replaces his warm fingers. Tyler throws his head back to see, the man is pumping himself with oiled palm before going to align his length on Tyler’s entrance once again. Pulling his cheeks apart with one hand, the man enters him, and Tyler can’t look anymore. The feeling is overwhelming, Tyler’s brows knit together, rising higher as the man goes deeper.

Once the worst part is over and the knob of the Imperial’s cock has slowly gone beyond the tight muscle of Tyler’s rim and all the way in, they freeze. Three times Tyler just breathes. He’s so full, too impatient for his own good. He reaches back, taking a hold of the back of the man’s thigh, and Tyler squeezes, telling him to wait without using his words.

Leaning his weight on his other arm, Tyler can feel his sweat starting to push forth. Letting go of him, Tyler puts his weight on both of his arms, allowing the damp grass to cool him down.

It hurts, almost. The man presses his thumbs against the small of Tyler’s back, massaging his hips as he waits for Tyler to adjust, patient. Tyler shivers, grateful. The Imperial’s hands move higher, gracing Tyler’s spine like a map of a grand mountain range. 

He lowers himself on Tyler’s level, chest to back, and swarms his palm beneath Tyler’s tunic, feeling for his hardened nipples. And in the heat of the moment, he pulls his hips back, only to push them in again, repeating the movement with a slow, steadfast urge.

Tyler keens. “Gimme that,” he implies with an embarrassingly eager voice and nudges his head back again, waiting.

Like this, Tyler gets what he wants.

He needs it.

Skin slaps against skin, and soon it doesn’t hurt anymore. Tyler is adjustable, Tyler can take it. Scraping the ground with each hand, he gets moist dirt under his blunt fingernails as the thrusts behind him rut his knees deeper against the moist soil.

There’s nothing convivial about their actions. In the end, they’re only working together to get off with the aid of somebody else, for neither of them knew when the next opportunity would turn up. 

Tyler wants it to last, but he’s growing close already. His hand creeps between his legs, dry from the base but quickly fixed as he smears the beads of precome around his erect length with a nimble hand. The Imperial on his back quickens his pace, he reaches for Tyler, only to find him working himself already.

The man laughs again. Tyler thinks he’s attractive, but doesn’t say anything. The Imperial’s smile gets audibly wiped away soon enough as Tyler chokes on air and clenches around him, spilling on his stomach and the dirt beneath him. The moment climaxes the Imperial as well, and he empties himself inside of him with a deep exhaling gush.

The man breathes hard and pulls out, running his hand over Tyler’s leaking hole, smearing his own come around before pushing it back in for one more time, then wiping his hand clean on his pant leg.

Tyler does the same with grass.

They don’t talk much after that, separating as soon as their breathing evens out. The Imperial leaves first. He’s craving for the fire inside the inn while Tyler got all he craved for and more. So he waits, not sure if his legs can carry him just yet.

But they do, and Tyler heaves himself up. He doesn’t bother to buckle his belt as he walks back to his house, holding his pants up with one hand as they refuse to stay up. With his shadow moving stretched out in front of him, Tyler slips inside through the front door, loving the fact that he doesn’t have to worry about the creaking floorboards or waking his family up, raising questions.

Tyler washes his clothes in a dim candle light that night. Damp spots of come stain the fabric of his pants, but Tyler doesn’t mind. He’s still tingling with pleasure as he floods his rigs into the washing basin and rubs his thumbs over the stains, the hot soapy water washing away the proofs of his nightly ventures. 

Stepping into the basin as well, Tyler scrubs his body with a worn cloth. With a deep sigh, he runs it around his arms and chest with no sense of hurry, getting his shoulders, his abdomen, his thighs, and between. 

He sits down in the water, losing himself in the warm bath. The water makes him clean, until it’s all washed away from him again.

 

*

 

Tyler digs dirt from the underside of his nails the next morning. Turning his hand around, he stares at the bandages. The healing cut is itchy on his skin, constantly reminding him of its existence now. 

Sissel came back to him this morning. She pretends as if nothing had happened the day before, or the day before that. He decides it’s better this way. However she’s working hard to get his attention, sending fleeing touches to him, and Tyler doesn’t want to think anything more about it. He only laughs at the obvious ones, taking the turn of being awkward, and Sissel doesn’t seem to take any notes of the way he actually felt.

He’s only doing his job. He has to.

The land has been turned. The animals have been moved back to the clean stalls. They’ve fed, milked and taken care of the cattle and their manure. Tyler’s back aches. He needs to wash his clothes again.

They’re finishing a short break when Sissel returns from her house.

“I found something nice.” 

She pulls a bottle of Alto Wine out of her sleeve. Tyler looks up at her, sitting on a stone.

“Is that your father’s?”

“Whose else would it be?” she asks in return, almost grinning. She moves a strand of hair behind her ear. “We’ve worked so hard the entire week. I think we deserve some relaxation too.”

He’s had his relaxation the night before, but says nothing. Sissel grabs on his hesitation.

“He won’t notice. Do you even know how many of these cursed things he has?”

“So you’ve done this before then?”

Sissel shrugs, holding the bottle with both hands. She seems oddly nervous again, pleading him to say yes. Tyler shrugs back at her.

“Alright.”

 

*

 

Darkness has fallen over the village of Rorikstead. The soles of his feet feel numb, almost tingling as he hoists them over a stool, leaning his head over the back rest.

He lifts his heavy head back up, feeling the blood starting to circle again. It brings a dizzy feeling, and Tyler smiles. 

“Okay. This was a good idea,” he admits and empties the rest of his cup. The wine is tasty, better than the cheap ale he’s gotten used to drink at the inn. Tyler reaches forward, grabbing the leftover food from yesterday that Erik had delivered earlier that day. “I’d drink it more often but my money is stuck on the smith.”

“Oh?” Sissel breathes, sticking an apple slice between her teeth. “How come?”

“To get a sword crafted,” Tyler says, chewing. “I don’t know who to commission though. There are some good ones in Whiterun I hear.” 

“We don’t have our own smith here?”

“You should know it!” Tyler exclaims, the wine going slowly to his head. “You live here.”

“I don’t go that much outside,” Sissel says, bending her head to the side so her hair pools past her shoulder. “And what do you need a sword for?”

“I don’t know,” Tyler answers honestly. The village has their own guards, and the beginning of a Stormcloak rebellion was only a rumor on the foot at this point. But life would never know. He keeps practicing with his brother, despite not knowing if he would ever get into a real fight. Life in Rorikstead was peaceful, and he’s never hoping to hurt anyone. But a sword was a tool for protection and defending, and keeping his family safe had to be someone’s responsibility. It had the sound of platitude to it, but he ignored the thought, choosing to live in his secret fantasies instead.

“To protect the family?” he voices then, realizing how he’s looking Sissel right in the eye.

Sissel’s mouth twists into a smile. “Let’s drink more wine,” she decides and jumps up, strutting back to Tyler’s parents’ wine cabin without even asking a permission, and pulls out another full bottle of wine. 

Her back is turned to Tyler as she struggles with the cork. With her knuckles tight and white, Sissel gnarls like a critter. The lip gives in with a pop at last, hitting the cabinet and dropping on the dusty floor. Tyler laughs.

“Be careful or you’ll get a black eye. I don’t want to explain that to your father.” Tyler talks easily, oblivious of the blue bottle that Sissel pulls out of her small satchel then.

”Oh, I’m sure you would beat him in a fist fight,” she laughs nervously, panicking as she fumbles with the flask and the said dosage that has already slipped from her head.

Stopping, hesitating, Sissel opens the small thing and pours the whole portion into the wine, making a fizzing sound. 

Tyler shifts his eyes back to her. “Do you need help?” he asks, ready to leave the table, but Sissel spins around, her hair of golden hay swirling like flames as she says, 

“Oh, I just got it,” she smiles, turning fully back to Tyler and swirling the round green bottle in her hands like a trophy. She steps to the table, her long hem trailing against the heating stones on the floor with the fire living in the hearth. 

“You’re not having any?” Tyler goes surprised as she sets the bottle down after filling his cup.

“I still have some left,” Sissel says and takes her own, swirling it like Tyler has seen his parents do while enjoying their wine. He lets it slide.

“I like this one,” he says and brings the cup to his lips. The sweets of the wine fill his mouth, and he swallows with ease. Admittedly he’s snatched a bottle or two many times before as well, sharing it together with Zack and Erik. When they were younger, the strong flavor would make them cringe, but the air would make it sweet after a while and thus easy to down. Tyler liked wine, but he didn’t always like the aftermath of it.

The headache, the fatigue, the nausea. Their mother would instantly know what the three rascals had been doing the first time. She’d let them rest, only to make them work twice as hard the next day. She’s not stupid, and Tyler still remembers the way his father laughed at his green face.

Drinking more, Tyler shakes his head, thinking about the old days. Having to grow up fast, their childhood seemed like a distant dream now. It dawned to him how little of it ever happened outside of their village, and always with the same group of friends or family. He rarely thought about life outside of Rorikstead, mostly because he had no time, but he did think of people. That maybe, there was someone out there he could share his life with on a deeper and meaningful level.

He didn’t lie to his mother when telling her he hadn’t found anyone suitable yet. He had the feeling that his love wasn’t meant to be found in Rorikstead, but somewhere else. Maybe, he will look for it forever, but he kept his heart open for a fortunate encounter. The thought kept him warm, waiting for that someone to step in front of him.

Swallowing, Tyler looks at his drink, smile waning. He can’t quite put his finger on it, but he feels weird. His eye sight seems to distort for a second, images blurring together.

Putting the cup carefully down, Tyler blinks. He knows he’s never been the strongest with the wonders of alcohol, but this was different and wrong. He wipes his mouth, leaning against the sturdy dining table. 

At the opposite side, Sissel is babbling, and Tyler realizes he has no idea what she’s been talking about. In the middle of a great story, her words pour out like an autumn rain, her hands conforming every turn and twist nearly hypnotizingly.

Figuring it might not have been his fault after all, Tyler blinks again with a frown forming between his eyes, watching as the sound simply gets sucked away. It seems to form an invisible wall between them, and Tyler stares, he stares at her dumbfounded, looking at her lips moving and forming words. However following the movement and trying to make a connection is not working. Sissel seems to talk in a completely different language now, and Tyler can’t understand a thing she says. The intoxication seemed to creep in treacherously quickly, urging him to pull everything into a stop as the dizziness started to make his head spin.

“Um,” Tyler starts with, trying to get a word out of his mouth. “I don’t-“

It’s like Sissel only stares at him, doing nothing, and somehow it alarms him even more. Her voice is only a mess in his ears, like a distancing echo in the night. Tyler knows something’s wrong when her shape starts to change into a shadow, dark spots drowning his vision. He feels a dull sense of panic rise in his senses, but it’s not getting through for his body to act. There’s drool slippin from his slack mouth, Tyler feels it, but falls unable to wipe it off. His body is not taking his commands, his head utterly heavy.

The next thing he knows, Sissel is wrapping her arms around him, still saying something. She pulls her arms under his armpits, trying to haul him to his feet or to the floor. Tyler is barely aware of what’s happening, his head dropping against her. He can vaguely feel himself being pulled up and his arm go around her shoulders, but the world goes black before he has time to pick up on anything else.

Sissel takes him to bed.  

“Are you awake? Tyler?” asks Sissel, glancing at Tyler who doesn’t respond but only breathes, his legs hanging off the bed’s edge. Earning nothing from him, Sissel grabs his shins, moving them into the same line as the rest of his body. 

Sitting down beside him, Sissel starts untying his boot laces. She pulls them off, dropping them to the floor one after another, testing him for his reactions. 

Nothing. Tyler’s eyes stay closed, his breathing even, full of sleep.

Her fingers tremble and slip as she glances over to the windows, listening to the sounds around the house. The wood pops in the hearth, and she starts loosening Tyler’s belt. The metal clanks as she pulls on the straps, her father’s voice echoing in her head.

‘You need to please him, Sissel. Put this in his drink and do as I told you, and he’ll warm up for you.’  

‘You know what will happen if you don’t.’

Her face has a sorry look to it as she moves his tunic up, feeling his warm skin raise up and down to his breathing. With his belt open, Sissel gets his pants lower, untying his smallclothes. She takes his cock in her hand.

Dithering with a sick weight in her stomach, Sissel leans down as her hand trails up. With the tip of Tyler’s cock peeking out, Sissel cracks her fingers open, wrapping her lips around the side of it.

Her nose crunches up in displease. She doesn’t like the taste. However she keeps sucking the head as her dry, loose hand clumsily rubs against his flaccid length. Her long hair comes in the way, sticking to the damp skin where her spit spread. Sissel flicks them out of the way, blowing on instinct, before going back to work.

Taking him deeper into her mouth, Sissel frowns as he starts to harden and change color in her hands. She takes a look at Tyler’s face when his mouth falls open, a faint shade of pink tinting his cheeks as well.

The sight makes her heart beat faster.

Sissel continues. Her tongue peeks out to dare a quick touch, and then another and another with Tyler lying on his back in front of her, completely unaware of her actions. His chest is heaving, fingers twitching against the loose sheets, but his eyes stay closed.

The spit makes things easier. Her hand is moving freer now. Sissel tightens it curiously, pumping the growing size in her grip. Tyler makes a noise then, his head jerking at the next upward stroke of her hand, and Sissel doesn’t stop. 

Despite the unawareness, Tyler’s body reacts fast, disconnected from his mind. He draws in a sharp breath as his hips buck at their own accord and coming into her mouth, spurting into the back of her throat.

Sissel coughs, caught off guard. She pulls off, spitting the come out and wiping her mouth as she watches Tyler come undone right in front of her eyes. The long string of his semen drips from the tip of his softening member, pooling on his stomach. 

Sissel halts at the sight, feeling hot at her cheeks. Hustling to clean up the mess, she pulls his pants off the rest of the way, throwing them aside. 

She snuggles quickly next to him, pulling the blanket over both of their bodies. Getting closer, Sissel puts her head as close to him as she can. Lastly, she caresses her hand through his face to the dark of his hair, and closes her eyes. 

 

*

 

It’s like a trip through a rabbit hole. Like possessed Tyler’s body jumps up, his eyes firing open. Heart pounding fast, Tyler feels his ribcage quaking as he stares in front of him, trying to make sense of his surroundings. 

It hurts. Keeping himself up on his two shaking arms, Tyler breathes, hard, feeling his throat ache from the sound he must have made upon waking up.

Outing one last shaken up breath, Tyler runs his hand through his messy hair, feeling for the raw scalp. He could have sworn he felt someone ripping on it. However there was no one in the empty house with him, Tyler knows. He harkens the sounds around him, finding the silence more upsetting than relieving.

He was alone. His family was still not back, and the lack of people forms a sudden void in his heart then.

It’s another early morning. With the shock slowly wearing down, Tyler is met with the throbbing pounding in his head, forgetting the weird pain in his ribs altogether. 

It’s so strong, it nearly blinds his other eye. Tyler groans, dropping his head back into his too-flat pillow, pressing his palms against his face. 

It mitigates the pestling for a moment, but he has duties to attend to. The realization saps the strength out of his body. Hoping to hide in his pitiful cover and disappear into thin air, Tyler knows there was no way getting out of it. Slowly, he attempts to climb on his feet, dragging them over the bed’s edge. He’s not getting there. With his legs betraying him, he falls right back after trying to hoist himself up.

Tyler takes a hold of the bedpost, trying to keep himself upright. The sudden weakness leaves him confused, utterly struck by loss of strength in his limbs.

His eyes catch on something on the floor then. There’s an abandoned vest in a heap there, wrinkled as if having been tossed there in a hurry. 

Tyler squints his eyes to see. It’s Sissel’s vest. It’s definitely hers. And it’s untied.

“Gods, no,” turms Tyler’s head away, praying that his pleas would make it go away. “No, no, no, no, no.”

Through his fingers he looks at it again, his first instincts torturing him like the worst outlaw out there. Kicking the thing quickly under the bed and out of his sight, Tyler doesn’t care what happened to it after. 

He notices something else then, too. He’s half naked with his pants at the end of the bed, equally messed like the smaller garment under the bed frame.

His head throbs at the sight of it. He doesn’t remember what happened last night, and the fact makes his temples pulsate even more.

“Fuck…” Tyler groans, throwing his sweating body forth, desperately trying to reach for them. He just wants his pants back, feeling sick, dirty and drained. He doesn’t know why. His blood pushes itself through his cramped veins, visibly throbbing against his temple like a hammer trying to mold cold metal.

It can’t be real. With one foot through the pant leg, Tyler starts feeling nauseous at the second. He tries to breathe deeply, but the cold sweat starts to violate his entire body, and Tyler wants to die.

He has to get out of here.

With the door slamming open, Tyler’s arm wraps around the wooden column before he falls over. The misty morning air is both a blessing and a torture with the fire raging inside of him. The flames stab him as if in war with each other, twisting his insides like a raw dough. 

Wanting to scream and retch at the same time, Tyler collapses, giving up everything that could keep him up on his feet anymore. The wood scrapes his face into a contusion, he barely feels it, the pain in his stomach only growing as he doubles over.

For his luckiness or unluckiness, Erik walks by just then, a large basket of handpicked stones from the turned fields in his hands.

“Tyler.” Erik says as his eyes fall on Tyler’s form rocking back and forth. He takes his poor sight in only after a second glance. “Hey, are you alright?” 

The basket falls to the ground, spilling its contents on the ground. 

“Fine,” Tyler squeaks, pulling on his already loose collar.

“You don’t seem very fine to me,” Erik worries and puts his hand on his back.

“How is your baby, Erik?” Tyler asks unexpectedly even to himself, driving his crazy eyes straight at him. He probably looks as pale as he feels. Shaking all over, Tyler has no control over it, and the sight just freaks his friend out. 

“What?” Erik high-pitches, thrown off the common track. “Tyler, what the fuck is going on? Have you taken something?” 

“Baby,” Tyler gasps. “’m gonna throw up.”

When nothing comes up, Tyler shoves his fingers into his throat, emptying his stomach down their porch.

 

*

 

Tyler doesn’t remember blacking out. He doesn’t, but the next thing he knows is Erik’s blurry face hovering over his own.

It’s not the most lenient way to wake up. Without warning, Erik snarls, grabbing his shirt and pulling his back up from the ground.

“Did you take something, Tyler? Answer me.”

Tyler stares up at him, bewildered. Shaky hands nesting over Erik’s big ones, a thick veil of sweat squeezes around his body, feeling like a second skin. It’s thick enough to make him burn, the feeling only adding to whatever his body is trying to smoke out of his system. 

Erik sees him paling and lets go of him, quietly apologizing.

Tyler swallows nauseously, carefully turning to lay on his side. His fingers fiddle against his flat pillow, realizing he’s back in bed only then. Too afraid of moving, Tyler resolves to staying still or he might just throw up again. Trying to come up with an answer at the same time, Tyler gives the only sensible explanation he can think of. “I ate something bad,” he utters with a voice so pathetic that he doesn’t even believe his own ears. 

“You mean food poisoning?” Erik confirms, and Tyler nods at that.

“It must be, it must,” Tyler utters weakly, though deep down, he can’t push down the horrid feeling that makes his stomach wrench. Did he lay with Sissel? What if she gets pregnant? 

Tyler can’t remember. He tries so hard, but nothing comes to. He only remembers sitting down with her, and they ate, and they drank…

But that’s it. That’s all. Everything else is black, and what’s under that cannot be restored. Tyler doesn’t even know if he wants to. However the constant wrenching and churning in his stomach can’t be caused by the panic alone, or that’s how he thinks.

He’ll never touch that wine again.

Erik must take his shut-screwed eyes as a sign of getting nauseous again. He’s standing beside Tyler’s bed, a bucket in his hands and ready to give it to him if he needs it. Tyler swallows the acid down audibly, shaking his head at the offer.

“You sure?” Erik asks and believes as Tyler nods his head carefully, looking sick like a dog, probably.

“I want— I want to be alone,” Tyler swallows, his voice heaving. He doesn’t care if their crops get stolen or lit on fire, he doesn’t care if he’ll get into trouble for slacking off for one day in his life. And Erik, he only nods and leaves, promising to check up on him later. 

Tyler breathes hard for several minutes, screwing his eyes shut before attempting to get up. With dangerously swaying steps, he goes to bar the door from the inside, keeping the world out for a while. However the change in position wrenches everything upside down, and he can’t deal with the boiling in his stomach.

The next thing he knows, he’s sitting against the side of the bed with his legs clutching the bucket in his lap, fingers deep in his throat as he forces himself to throw up again and again, until nothing came up anymore.

With red-rimmed eyes, Tyler pulls his mucous fingers out of his mouth, moaning long and loud. Bitter tears leaking, Tyler wishes his mother would be here to help him, to run her hand against his sweaty back and make it go away, to tell that it’s gonna be alright.

But she’s not here. No one is. Incapable of doing anything else, Tyler sits on the floor, shaking like a leaf. The bucket in his sweaty palms, Tyler holds it until his legs felt twisted and numb, still afraid of moving. 

He spits into the bucket, the foul smell washing over him. Stomach jolting, Tyler swallows, willing the nausea down without succeeding.

He’ll rinse it later. Carefully, Tyler sets the bucket on the floor and pulls himself up. Out of breath after the slightest of exertions, he crawls into bed, and stays there.

He’s so sick, he doesn’t understand. Incapable of anything for the rest of the day, Tyler rests for the entire day until the sun starts sinking into its grave again, ignoring all the chores of the day.

He’ll deal with Sissel later. 

 

 *

 

The entire day passes in a haze. With descending darkness comes a knock at the door, yanking Tyler back to consciousness.

Tyler whimpers, curling into a tighter ball on the kitchen bed, hand tucked against his stomach. The knock comes again, and he hits his fist into the pillow.

He goes to open the door. Pulling the bar up, it drops to the side with the matching force he puts into his heated actions. And at the other side of the door stands no one else but Sissel, urging her shaggy dry hair behind her ear again. 

She smiles. Tyler’s eyebrows lower dangerously at the sight of her. 

“Hey,” Sissel says cheerily and is about to step in, however stopping as Tyler shoves his arm in her way to enable her enter. Her smoky green eyes flinch at the gesture, and then she’s looking at him.

Tyler swallows.

“Sissel,” Tyler says, trying to get something sensible and benevolent out to not hurt her feelings while preparing to ask her the most painful question he’s ever had to think about.

Tyler bites his tongue. He can’t believe he has to do this.

“Last night,” he starts with. “I need to know. Did I— I mean did we—“

Sissel looks at him askingly. “Did we do what?” 

Tyler stares at her, her face as blank and unreadable as an unwritten page. When he doesn’t say anything, Sissel starts to laugh, his silence making her utterly uncomfortable.

“What?”

Tyler blinks in confusion, wanting to shake his head for having to even think about it.

Of course they didn’t do that. He must have passed out early. Maybe he was just more tired than he anticipated, and his first instincts were messing with him.

“Nothing. It’s nothing, I’m just—” Tyler sighs. “I’m not feeling very well right now. Can you please go home for this one night? I’m sure there’s nothing to-”

“But the wind is so strong tonight,” the words start pouring out of her mouth like a waterfall then, and Tyler leans his head against his trembling hand that holds on to the wooden door, listening to her conjure her bullshit. He just didn’t have the energy right now. Swaying back and forth against the door restlessly, the hinges creak as if someone had thrown a handful of sand between them. Tyler’s fingers go through his dirty hair, combing through like a plough raking through a dry land.

Staying up makes his head hurt. He needs to lie down.

“...and I’m so scared to listen to the howling, it sounds like a real pack of wolves you know—”

 “Okay,” Tyler retorts, throwing his palm in front of her face to make her stop her babbling. “Okay,” Tyler repeats. “You can come in. I just might not be the best company right now,” he warns and that’s that. Sissel grins, relieved, and the smile shows her teeth up to her gums.

“It’s okay,” she says. “I can help myself.”

“Yeah,” says Tyler and backs down, opening the door just so that she can enter. Sissel steps in happily, humming something as she goes. Tyler is sure to mark that her dress is out of the way before slamming the door shut. 

He’s just about to do that when something catches his eye outside. A dark shadow moves on the lawn, pulling Tyler’s attention to it.

Then it disappears. He might have seen it wrong. Tyler squints his eyes. It’s so dark outside, he can’t even see. The bright light of the fires at the inn makes his vision throb, and Tyler shakes his head, trying to make it go away. 

Still nothing. Maybe the wind had caught on something, pulling it alongside its grapple, baffling his peripheral vision.

“Tyler?” comes a worried voice and Tyler flinches, turning his gaze back on Sissel. 

“Did you see wolves there?” she asks, her frights gnawing at her words.

Tyler could swear someone or something is watching them. He feels it, always. So he stares again, the wind rises, and Tyler feels dizzy all over again. 

Sissel pushes the door shut, closing the howling wind outside. “Tyler,” she calls for him. “Come away from the door. I’m sure it’s nothing,” she promises, smiling nervously, and suddenly she’s the one comforting him.

He nods weakly, swallowing his doubts. A tender hand finds its way on the small of his back, tugging him along. Sissel speaks, “Come now,” she says. “You need rest.”

Tyler gives in. His feet drag against the floor, letting her guide him back to the bed. Tyler sits down, setting his heavy head in his hands, tiredly praying for the pounding to stop.

“Are you sick?”

“Yeah.”

Sissel pulls a stool to get seated by his side. She shoves her hands between her knees, her shoulders rise up as she smiles rather compassionately.

“Taking care of a farm on your own is really hard, huh,” she thinks out loud, blowing her long hair out of her face.

Tyler rubs his aching forehead, fingers streaming down the dry skin where his sweat has dried against his face.

He pours himself some water. “I guess,” he admits mindlessly, tired eyes growing even heavier. The bags under his eyes pull his face into a sick frown.

“You need a family to manage everything. Living alone as a lone wolf won’t bring you anything.”

Tyler blinks slowly at her words, putting his cup down. He turns to reach for his blanket, pulling it aside so he can lie back down. 

And so he does. Tyler is lying on his side now, only to turn onto his back. He sets his arm over his eyes to block out the light, wishing he could cover his ears as well. He hears Sissel keep talking, but none of her words set in. Her talk is just a buzz next to him, seeming to fade away with his hearing.

“But it’s okay, you can rest now,” his guest says lastly. “I’ll take care of you,” Sissel adds with a weird bout of confidence. 

Tyler doesn’t say anything. He’s too tired to make sense of anything. He’s nodding off too soon, he knows it, but maybe he can just close his eyes for a moment without having to be in charge for once. He’s worn out, deadly tired, and needs the rest.

He’ll just close his eyes for a moment, and… 

Tyler wakes up to somebody hovering over his lap, grinding against his crotch. A hot breath moves up his temple and evokes every hair in his neck to stand up in a frightened attention. 

There’s hair on his face. It is not his. It’s definitely not his.

Tyler kicks. The force throws his whole body back, and his head slams against the hardwood bedpost with a sickening crack. 

Tyler whimpers for what must be a hundredth time that day. His arms fly up to nest themselves around his skull, he tosses from side to side on his back to try and allay the pain, but it’s little help. There’s a dull, rusty saw eating its way inside his head and into his jellified brain, swelling against his skull and shattering his head into two exploding pieces.

He can’t fucking take it. He’s going to throw his insides up.

And there’s Sissel, staring at him like a clumsy statue, doing nothing but setting his nerves on fire. Her legs are still spread around his, it’s fucking real, and Tyler tries to pull himself free. Sissel sits down panicked, squeezing her legs together and keeping him trapped beneath her.

“You’re awake,” she says dazedly, fixing her long hem that pools in a wrinkled mess around them.

“Yeah, I’m awake,” Tyler assures her with venom. “What the fuck are you doing on top of me?” 

Sissel frowns, for once she’s out of words as she tries to explain her actions. She reaches out to hold Tyler’s arms, but Tyler slaps her hands away, telling her not to touch him. 

“Are you crazy?!”

The next thing he knows, Sissel’s eyes start shining with desperation and she starts pulling on the laces on her vest with blood-red fury. He has no time to do anything before Sissel is showing herself to him, shaking her shoulders to get the rest of the garment out of the way so that there’s nothing between her chest and Tyler’s face.

Tyler stares in disbelief, unable to believe she just did that. Sissel’s bare breasts are hanging in front of him, and Tyler did not provoke her to do that. He turns his head away, to try and save her dignity, but she just sits there. Paralyzed, the whole situation is getting out of hand and Tyler doesn’t know what to fucking do.

His words seem to shake his whole body. “Sissel,” he starts with. “Please, cover yourself,” he says simply, hoping it’ll enough. Please, let it be enough. 

Sissel stares at him with devastation. She looks down at herself, then back at Tyler. He’s still avoiding her gaze with his hand covering his lower face, saying nothing more.

The bed creaks as her dead weight sinks down on his legs.

For a moment, it’s just Tyler, Sissel and the heavy cloak of silence between them. The wind is indeed howling outside, Tyler can hear it now. It’s smothering, and for the next instance he hopes it would blow the whole house away with them inside of it, leaving nothing behind.

But what doesn’t happen doesn’t help. Instead, Sissel resolves to speaking, and her next words demand an answer for a question he does not want to answer.

“Why don’t you like me,” Sissel asks, Tyler can already hear the upcoming tears in her voice. He remains silent. There’s nothing but silence.

And when Sissel speaks again, the wind starts making its spins.

“They want us to have kids together.”

”What?”

Sissel’s words hit him like a punch. And now he’s looking at her, about to even grab her as Sissel’s eyes are cast elsewhere, her long hair veiling her chest now.

“Tyler, I-“

Everything happens so suddenly that moment. There’s the sound of creaking wood on their porch. Unmistakable for anything else but someone standing there, Tyler’s head jerks at it’s direction. There’s a shadow standing there, watching them right through the bleary windows, peering in.

Forgetting the pain in his head, Tyler shoves Sissel aside and grabs a knife from the kitchen table. Storming to the door, Sissel screams in fright, she screams for her father, and Tyler can’t understand. He thrusts the door open with force, feeling a weight against it as he pushes. Stepping outside, he sees that noisy shadow flash between the torches outside, landing hard on the floor, rolling down the steps.

It’s Lemkil. The old man’s face is twisted in a pained crunch, angry curses bursting from his mouth.

Tyler stares at him in bewilderment, not sure if he was hallucinating or not. 

“What is this?” Tyler’s voice quakes thick against his throat, dropping the knife in his stunner. “What are you doing here?” Lemkil says nothing, face turning even redder at every answer Tyler demands from him. “Weren’t you supposed to be in Whiterun?”

“F-father,” Sissel stutters behind him, her voice dribbling with fear for the reasons Tyler can’t even imagine. Lastly, with no answers provided, Tyler utters with a shaky voice,

“Where’s my family?”

“Shut your fucking mouth already!” the old man finally bellows, immediately cutting off the two.

Tyler frowns, refusing to fall into his threats. He watches the old man slowly swaying his way back up. He’s drunk off his face, the foul smell of booze reaching his nose only then as his blaring nerves settle enough, allowing him to clear his head after the first reaction.

“Is this some sort of joke?” Tyler says, looking between the two. Sissel is crying silently with salty tears down her cheeks, fearing for confrontation. Taking a hold of his temper, Tyler lets her be and looks back at her father, standing over him at the end of the steps.

The light from the open door drives his shadow over the old man’s silent form, still standing there as if he owned the place.

“Say something!” 

“You can ask your mother,” Lemkil growls as if to threaten him. “It was her idea from the beginning anyway. I just stayed back and kicked some spirit into my stupid girl to make you two get on it.”

Tyler stares at him, his mouth opening before falling shut again. Get on it? What does that even mean? And what about his mother? What- 

‘They wanted us to get kids together.’

The words dawn on his face, the strings weaving together sickeningly quick then. His mother’s words and the exasperation in her eyes. Her constant pressuring and the weird idea of looking after Sissel despite barely knowing her. All the forced touches, Lemkil’s appearance, and— 

This. He made her do it, Tyler realizes and feels a knife stabbing his heart. It was all a forced act. Suddenly, Tyler registers the bruises all over her body only then, something he wouldn’t have noticed unless she hadn’t undressed in front of him. Maybe, it was her silent cry for help. Maybe, she’s been pressured with more force than he can even imagine. 

His stomach wrenches for a whole new reason. “So-“

“Tyler,” Sissel’s voice reaches his ears then. ”I swear to gods I didn’t do anything that night, I would never—“

“But you did something there,” Lemkil laughs disgustingly, humored as if this was some sort of game to him. Tyler doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.

“Shut up!” Sissel shrieks then, so angry it rips something into pieces inside of her, pushing even more tears out of her eyes. “I hate you! You have ruined everything!”

Her father only laughs as if it was the funniest thing ever. A dirty trick, the father ignores his daughter’s pain like it was nothing, and Tyler can hardly imagine the blows she’s taken, how he’s avoided her face to stop people from seeing what’s truly happening behind those closed doors, in the present and the past. Tyler’s heart is racing. He needs to do something.

Lemkil is still laughing, however his temper snaps the other way like a hound’s maw, spit flying as he bellows, “Don’t talk as if it wasn’t you who destroyed everything! You’re good for nothing, much like your older sister, and I’ve grown tired to feed you and see you become your mother whom you killed upon coming to this world. I would gladly pay someone to get rid of you, so I wouldn’t have to watch your sorry ass trying to be someone you’ll never be. And you!“ Lemkil says and points at Tyler, “I saw potential in you after your mother came to me with her worries. To me, of all people!

His breath is wheezing as his finger jabs the air his way, drunken eyes oddly clearing in a mocking concern.

“Do you even know how disappointed she will be when she hears the truth? That her oldest son is whoring around with other men? Behind the inn?”

“That’s not true,” Tyler whispers weakly, not sure if anyone can hear him. The old man is so drunk he can barely stand, speech slow and slurred but paining more by every word. Lemkil is a liar, a dirty liar and they both know it. However they’re doomed to stare at him spineless and broken, completely unarmed against his slicing words.

But Lemkil opens his mouth. He opens his mouth, and throws one more insult that crosses the line.

“Just fuck girls instead of being one.”

It’s like a vein bursts in his head. Bending down, Tyler moves like an arrow, grabbing the knife from his feet, rushing to Lemkil’s throat.

“No!”

Sissel stops him, and it’s beyond his comprehension how she’s able to do that. The panic doubles her strength, and Sissel holds him back with both of her arms. He sees it’s not strength that she needs to stop him; just a flick of her foot, the movement catches on his ankle in a yanking movement, and Tyler falls from the steps, knocking the air out of his lungs as he lands.

His rage is blind and abysmal but weighs nothing as his jaw hits the ground. Eyesight blurring all over again, Tyler gasps on his stomach, hearing his heartbeat through the ringing in his ears. Holding on, Tyler looks up, and sees nothing but Lemkil’s smug face above him. His smile stabs him worse than the knife in his hand ever could, and Tyler doesn’t understand.

Why is she protecting him?

Tyler gnarls breathlessly, struggling. If the sickness didn’t make him so weak, he’d easily shake her off and strike that knife right into Lemkil’s windpipe. The apoplectic need to shield their dignity has driven him mad, and the inability to do that wrenches the last bit of strength out of him.

Sissel sits on top of him, making sure he’s not getting anywhere. She doesn't have to do that. He can't move.

Feeling him start shaking beneath her, Sissel eases her hold, nothing but worry in her eyes. Laying on the ground beneath her, Tyler breaks into silent tears of solid frustration and inadequacy. Lighter or not, his utter tiredness presses his face right into the mud, smudging his broken skin. Snot and tears, Tyler shakes all over, lifting his face to see the knife he’s holding. 

It doesn’t fit into his hands. Dropping the weapon, he simply doesn’t have what it takes to use it. Tyler pushes it, getting rid of the blade as if having gotten burnt by it. 

She did the right thing. He could never kill. He could never do that.

Lemkil snorts at the poor sight of him on the ground, disgusted. 

“You’re a coward.”

“Father,” Sissel warns him. “Get out of here. If you want to die so bad, go grab that bottle and be done with it. I couldn’t care less. You’ve been slowly killing yourself for years now. I only stopped him because you don’t deserve a clean way out of this. But I’m not letting you insult him either.” Her face is full of despise for her father. Tyler doesn’t see her, but hears it from her voice. The knife lays in front of him abandoned, his hand squeezing into a stone. 

“Go away,” Sissel says. “You’re not wanted here.”

It’s too much. Listening to her defend him, Tyler tries to swallow his tears. However the pressure and humiliation becomes too painful in his chest, and Tyler pushes himself free, unable to face anyone anymore. His fight turns into flight, and Tyler runs, fleeing to the fields. He hears Sissel calling for his name, but he only wants to hide himself, to bury himself into the cover of their wheat, and disappear. He wants to disappear.

“I’ll shovel your brain out next time I see you, boy! And no one will even care!” Tyler hears Lemkil’s words next, getting louder every second despite him running away. The words run back and forth in his head, giving him no escape, and in a fright-struck moment he thinks he’s followed, forcing him to look back to face the threat.

Suddenly, there’s nothing but a black wall there. Heavy and impermeable, the wall seems to fall on top of him, trying to swallow him whole. Jumping back, Tyler yelps, getting deprived of everything but the pure sense of terror.

Someone touches his hair again. Frosty fingers, the touch feels like burning steel against his skin, and Tyler starts screaming in cold blood. The frantic swing of his arms wipes the rest of the nightly fields away like an autumnal storm. Suddenly, he’s ripped away, the darkness spreading like water falling onto floor. The sudden abyss beneath him sucks the strength from his legs, and Tyler drops, utterly terrified.

He can’t let himself fall away. But instead, Tyler jolts like breaking out. He goes up.

It’s pitch-black and dead silent sans his shallow breathing. He doesn’t know where he is. Unsure whether there’s a threat looming in the dark, he’s clammy from sweat and panicked after a nightmare, of its viscously tight grab that makes his heart hammer.

He’s not his younger self anymore. His chest is bandaged, herbs burning his skin hurt him, and the dry wall around his throat makes his sharp apple bob in distress. 

His ribs hurt from sitting up so suddenly. Feeble and disoriented of his condition, Tyler utters, “Huh…?” 

His voice is quiet, yet unsettled - thick, but uneven. Someone hushes him.

It’s Josh, Tyler remembers. Josh is here with him. Registering the gentle strokes up and down his back only then, Josh’s palm is warm and dry against his clammy skin. It stops at his shoulder, gracing over the bandages, and Tyler feels a gentle pull. He gives into it, lying slowly back down from his sudden sitting position, his teared up eyes on Josh the whole time.

The hard tips of the archer’s fingers shift to caress through his hair at his wincing breathing. The movements are enough to bring him back to his senses. Tyler stares at Josh lying beside him, hearing the settling murmurs that calm his slightly labored intakes of breath.

Josh slows down behind the shell of Tyler’s ear as his eyes shed the blur around them, a slow trail sailing down his cheek.

Josh speaks. His voice is barely above a whisper in the wind.

“No fear,” he tells him. “You’re safe. It’s okay. It was nothing but a dream.”

Tyler hears the words, but absorbs none of them. He wishes it was true. He wants to say that, but the words get stuck in his throat. Exhausted, Tyler lowers his head back against Josh, heedless of the growing heat in his body. He just needs to get closer, so impossibly close that it pushes a pathetic noise out of him. Feeling Josh’s protective arms wrap around him, Tyler brings his hand up to rest it against his chest, fingers spreading. He feels it rise and fall deeply, steady as it starts lulling him back into the dream world.

The last thing he’s able to register are Josh’s lips on him, pressing a kiss against his forehead. It calms his heart, like the distant rustle from his past.

 

***