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Íþróttaálfurinn shakes his head when he sees the bruises, furrows his brow as he takes in the blood caked in Glanni's short hair.

"Oh, Glæpur," he murmurs, "what happened to you?"

Glanni lets out a laugh, wipes blood and lipstick from his mouth. "What does it look like, elf?" he asks, a little weakly but still with fight in him; "I had a run-in with some old friends."

"From Glaumbæjar?"

"Where else?"

Íþróttaálfurinn picks him up as if he weighs nothing, bridal style, one arm under his knees and the other under his shoulders. Glanni hisses in pain just at being moved. "I know, I know," he murmurs; Glanni must be sore all over. Anger at the beasts who did this to Glanni boils in his chest. "Where are you staying?"

"Nowhere now," Glanni says, "they found me there."

Íþróttaálfurinn sighs and closes his eyes for a moment. "My hotel room, then."

It's a fairly short trip to the motel and Íþróttaálfurinn thanks whatever deity is listening that there's outside access to his room so he doesn't have to carry Glanni past the front desk. He sets Glanni gently on the bed. "What is broken?" he asks.

Glanni sighs. "My arm, I think, just a hairline crack," he says. "A couple ribs, definitely. I'll be fine. I've had worse."

Íþró reaches out and begins helping Glanni out of his catsuit, unzipping it and helping him peel his arms and legs out. He drops it on the ground and looks back at Glanni, under the light this time. The man's long, slender form is covered in cruel bruises; he was kicked in the ribs and stomach many times, it seems, not to mention the blows he suffered to his face and chest. Purple and yellow dance over his pale skin, mottled like watercolor blooming over paper. Íþró cracks his knuckles. He has to get to work sooner rather than later; who knows what kind of internal damage he could have?

"What are you doing?" Glanni asks when Íþró reaches out toward him with splayed fingers.

"Shh, it is alright," he says, reassuring. "Do you know how I can make the flowers grow?"

"Yes...?"

"My powers over living things don't stop there," he says, and lays his palms flat on Glanni's chest. Magic flows between their skin; Íþró directs it, feels out what needs fixing. No lacerations on any organs and no internal bleeding, that's good, but his ribs are broken, and so is his arm. "This may hurt," he warns, and then lets his magic go.

Glanni cries out, arches as if electrified as Íþróttaálfurinn's magic glides over his skin, sinking in and forcing his bones to re-fuse, grow back together stronger than before. It takes a lot of energy and Íþróttaálfurinn keeps pushing until he's certain the bones are strong and healthy and then finally he draws his hands back, breathing hard to match Glanni.

If he had more power he'd heal the little things, too, the bruises and the cuts on his face, the less severe but still painful things. But he doesn't; just taking care of a few broken bones was a struggle, and it'll take days to refill his magic stores back to full capacity.

"What the hell was that?" Glanni asks when he can, meeting Íþró's eyes.

"I mended your broken bones. Did it hurt?"

"A little," Glanni admits, "mostly it felt strange. Cold and warm and good and bad all at once," he says; he looks content, rolling his shoulders luxuriously against the duvet, looking up at Íþró with eyes half-lidded. "Still feels good," he purrs. "Can you do it again?"

"No," Íþró says. "I don't have any more. I wasn't even able to finish the job and clear your bruises."

"A shame," Glanni sighs. "I didn't know you could do that."

"It's not something I advertise," Íþró says, "now go take a shower, get that filth off of you."

Glanni stands up and moves toward the bathroom, sinuous, flowing like liquid. "Care to join me, elf?" he asks, throwing a glance over his bare shoulder.

Íþró does.

 

-

 

"How did you get caught off guard like that, Glanni?" Íþró asks, tracing a particularly nasty bruise at Glanni's side with a fingertip. Glanni's cuts have been smeared with ointment and bandaged, the blood and grime has been cleaned from his skin. They're in bed now, facing one another, still warm and damp from the shower.

Glanni sighs, eyes fluttering shut. "What is there to say, Íþró? I was jumped. No warning. No time to grab my switchblade. It just happened."

"You should be able to protect yourself without a knife," Íþró murmurs, "self-defense is essential."

Glanni huffs a little laugh. "Yes, well, not everyone can be as strong as you, Íþróttaálfurinn."

"It isn't a matter of strength, it's a matter of using your body intelligently, using your opponent's own strength against them," Íþró says. "You should let me teach you."

"Perhaps," Glanni says, dubiously, then with a leer, "you just want an excuse to spar and give me a few bruises of your own."

"Close your lying mouth and sleep, Glæpur," Íþró scolds lightly, and Glanni laughs.

 

-

 

Glanni's gone come morning as he usually is when they spend nights together. One of them always leaves before the other wakes up; they hardly ever wake up together, and Íþróttaálfurinn tries to tell himself that he doesn't wish they did. He doesn't wish they'd wake up cuddled together, doesn't wish they'd share little half-asleep kisses in the sunlight filtering in warm lines through the slats of the blinds. Absolutely not.

Glanni's usually the one to wake first and creep out of the room like the cat burglar he is, leaving no trace of his presence. Today, however, there's a note scrawled on a napkin on the side table.

 

thanks for a good time (and the dr services)
(but mostly the good time)
xxoo - g.g.

 

Íþróttaálfurinn rolls his eyes but he also folds up the napkin and slips it in his pocket before he leaves the room and heads back up to his hot-air balloon.

 

-

 

It's evening a week later when Íþró's crystal goes off, buzzing at the end of his hat. The stone projects an image of Glanni into his head, begins tugging him toward wherever the reckless human is now.

He runs as fast as his powerful legs can carry him, vaulting over obstacles and climbing walls if they are in his way. He is led to yet another filthy alley; usually the scent of mold and garbage would be assaulting him but right now there are other scents overpowering him. He can taste blood in the air, deep blood and marrow. The heavy scent makes his stomach turn.

He finds Glanni on the ground, dazed, panting. "Hi," he manages, wheezing, and Íþró drops to his knees beside him.

There are sharp, jagged fragments of bone sticking out of Glanni's ankle, blood pooling too-fast underneath him, a mess of shredded skin and muscle and tendon and Íþróttaálfurinn fights back the bile rising in his throat. He can deal with blood, can deal with injuries, he has seen worse--so much worse--but Glanni is never supposed to be hurt like this.

"Don't worry, it doesn't hurt much," Glanni says lightly, and that pulls Íþró back into action.

"That's because you've gone into shock," Íþró snaps, and yanks on the zipper of Glanni's catsuit with absolutely no gentleness. Glanni's hands weakly bat at Íþró's in protest.

"Be gentle with the fashion," he murmurs weakly, "this costs money, y'know..."

"Shut up, Glæpur," Íþró says roughly, "don't move."

He has one main job at this point: stop the bleeding. Everything else is, ultimately, optional. Íþró's hands flatten on Glanni's chest, sending thick threads of magic straight to his core and letting them flow quick as lightning to where they are needed.

Glanni's eyes go wide and he gasps, again, back arching up off the filthy pavement as the magic pushes into his body. Glowing gold lights up his veins, pulsing down to his ankle; Glanni yelps and then laughs as the bones in his foot shift back into place with an awful grinding sound, squirms even though he tries to hold still as sliced veins reconnect and heal, as skin closes and scars over in seconds.

With the last of his power Íþró forces Glanni's system to produce new blood to replenish what has been lost on the ground below; it's not enough, not as much as he would like, but it's all he can manage. When the magic has run its course he pulls his hands away and Glanni slumps back down against the pavement, breathing heavily. Íþró's panting too, magic use like that tiring like nothing else is; he's not used to getting tired, hasn't in a long time.

"There's nothing really like that, is there," Glanni says dreamily, a lazy smile on his face, eyes half-shuttered as he stares up at the sliver of night sky visible between the roofs of the buildings that form the alleyway.

"Where are you staying?"

"Motel at the corner of fifth and Elskan. The sleazy one. Can't miss it."

"That isn't a motel, that's a flophouse. Sleazy is not the right word," Íþró says disdainfully. "Are you trying to catch fleas?"

"If you're trying to get me in your bed again, all you have to do is ask," Glanni drawls, eyes lazily shifting and focusing on him.

Íþróttaálfurinn swears quietly and scoops Glanni into his arms, stands up with him held, once again, bridal-style.

"I can walk," Glanni protests, and Íþró shakes his head.

"Not on such new bone. Residual magic is still in your system and finishing the job."

"Mm," Glanni hums, "take me home, Íþró."

 

-

 

"Loan sharks," Glanni says simply, "or their goons."

"Loan sharks?"

Glanni raises a brow, sardonic. "My friend Dan Can had to afford all his product somehow."

Íþró swears quietly. "That was a year and a half ago."

"Yes, and coincidentally that's how long I've been evading the loan sharks," Glanni says, "if anything, you should be impressed with my stealth."

"So you were finally found and attacked because you couldn't pay up," Íþró sighs, reaching out and stroking Glanni's hair, daringly affectionate. He can be like this when Glanni is tired; any other time and he fears retribution, fears that this softness would not be allowed. "You must be more careful, Glæpur."

Glanni hums, contentedly. They're in Íþró's hotel room again, curled in bed, legs twined together and faces close enough to kiss. "I'm the very picture of discretion," Glanni says, and Íþró remembers him in a spangly pink outfit with a fake fur collar, and he rolls his eyes, gives a dismissive huff of laughter.

"I'd hate to see your idea of indiscretion." Íþró runs the pad of his thumb over the curve of Glanni's soft, rounded ear. Glanni closes his eyes, relaxes. "Sleep, Glæpur," Íþró murmurs.

"You can't tell me what to do," Glanni says on a yawn, not so much as opening his eyes.

 

-

 

It's four solid days before Íþró sees Glanni again. The man's in his hotel room when Íþró opens the door. Adrenaline floods him for a moment before he realizes it's just Glanni; he relaxes, takes a step forward into the room and closes the door behind himself.

"Through the balcony, I take it?"

"The fire escape is easy enough to climb, and it's not as if it's hard to open a locked sliding door."

Íþró's crystal thrums unhappily, sending unpleasant jolts to his mind. Pain, pain, pain, it says, and Íþró winces with it. "What is it this time?"

"Slammed my fingers in a car door," Glanni says lightly, holding out his left hand.

Íþró swears, steps forward and takes Glanni's hand in his own two. Glanni whimpers at the touch, teeth grinding against the sound even as he makes it. "How did you manage to do that?" Íþró asks.

"It's very easy to do, you wouldn't know, because you've probably never seen a car, but--"

"Glanni."

"Accidents happen," Glanni says on a shrug, "now, are you going to fix me or just stand there looking pretty?"

Glanni's already sitting at the edge of the bed and wearing a shirt and pants instead of his catsuit. Íþró eyes the broken fingers, bruised and visibly swollen up. He could make Glanni go to a doctor, but he knows the man won't; if he doesn't, his fingers will set wrong, and that kind of damage isn't really reparable.

Glanni's also in pain. He's good at masking it, hiding it like an animal, it's a survival mechanism; Íþró sees his pain, though, sees it in the subtle way he trembles, in the pallor of his face, in the sweat on his forehead and, of course, in his stone's alert.

"I will," Íþró sighs, and reaches out, slips a hand up Glanni's shirt to rest against his heart, lets his magic flow.

Glanni gasps, head bowing, his good hand coming up to grip Íþró's wrist; the man moans, low and needy, as magic slips into his veins and travels to his hand, flawlessly setting bones and securing them in place, weaving them together with golden threads and binding them there. It doesn't take much to get him healed this time; Íþró's tugging back within half a minute.

Glanni falls back against the bed, eyes closed and a faint openmouth smile on his lips as he slowly flexes his newly fixed fingers. Sparks still dance in the veins that show at the back of his hand. "Thanks, tiger," he drawls, opening one eye to look indolently up at Íþróttaálfurinn.

"Next time you break your fingers you go to the emergency room," Íþró says, and Glanni smiles like a wolf.

 

-

 

Glanni and Íþróttaálfurinn have a strange symbiosis; Íþróttaálfurinn will stay out of Glanni's way as long as Glanni both keeps his illegal activities out of Latabae, gives him information about any underground goings-on, and stays out of his way in return.

Íþróttaálfurinn knows there is always going to be crime, there is always going to be filth and villainy; when Glanni offered him their little deal, he hesitated for a moment--it went against his ideals--but then he realized that it could be very useful to have a friend on the other side, and maybe eventually even a friend in a position of underworld power, if Glanni ever climbed the ranks.

Glanni has his finger on the cities' pulses, is intimately familiar with their workings, and it's been invaluable to Íþróttaálfurinn; has allowed him to take down more than his fair share of evildoers.

And if that means turning a blind eye while Glanni Glæpur courts and cheats and blackmails, well. It's still a net gain for his side of the coin and a net loss for Glanni's, and the ends justify the means.

What isn't justified is their relationship, but honestly, Íþróttaálfurinn is already allowing Glanni to walk free no matter how many crimes he commits, is already using him for information, so what's the added harm in fucking him, too? That moral ship's already sailed.

That moral ship's already sunk.

 

-

 

Íþróttaálfurinn is asleep when there's a knock at his door. He blinks awake and slips out of bed, hissing at the cold floor on his feet, and makes his way toward the door.

Glanni's there, leaning in the doorway.

"Two things," Glanni says, "firstly, I happen to have some tasty information about a robbery that's going down in Lygaribae in about a week."

Íþróttaálfurinn takes a deep breath. He can taste blood in the air. "And the second?"

Glanni shrugs off his coat. "Got thrown through a window," he says lightly, revealing several long jagged slices down his shoulders and back; blood has congealed in thick, tacky drips, the very movement of taking off his jacket causing the wounds to flex and reopen and produce beads of bright red along them. Íþróttaálfurinn winces.

Thrown through a window?

Why didn't his crystal go off?

"You're lucky none of them cut too deep," he says, steps aside to allow Glanni in. He takes Glanni's bloodstained coat and sets it aside, helps the man out of his ruined shirt and tosses it down too. "It seems like you're getting hurt a lot recently."

"Or maybe you're just seeing my wounds now because I know you can help, so I come to you instead of suffering alone," Glanni shoots back, "now hop to it."

Íþró considers refusing for only a moment before he breaks, sighs, steps into Glanni's space. He lets one hand alight over Glanni's heart as always, the other slipping around to rest just above the small of Glanni's back, near the beginning of the wounds. Magic wells in his chest and slips through his palms, meeting Glanni's system and jolting through his veins.

Of course, Íþró would be lying if he said he didn't sort of enjoy the way Glanni reacts. He gasps and melts, pressing close and shuddering against him, head dropping to rest on Íþró's shoulder; he trembles and pants with it as the magic works, clinging to Íþró's shoulders, giving full body shakes as waves of it hit his heart and make their way through him from there on out.

The wounds scar over neatly and Íþró guesses they'll be invisible within a week. He withdraws his magic and Glanni lets out a shaky breath, wobbles on his feet; Íþró holds him up, steadies him.

"Seems like you like that a little too much," Íþró murmurs.

"Who wouldn't," Glanni manages, "n-now, do you want to hear about that r--"

"Why don't you wash that blood off yourself first," Íþró says, "you smell like death."

Glanni pulls back. "Is that any way to talk to an informant?" he scolds, teasingly, and moves off toward the bathroom.

Glanni always takes a long time in the shower. Íþró doesn't mind; he returns to bed and enjoys a moment of quiet with the shower running in the background. It almost seems domestic, like he's a husband waiting for his partner to return to bed, like they're normal. The thought causes a pang of an unpleasant, unidentified emotion to strike through his chest, and he shakes the idea off as quickly as it appears.

The water turns off and only a few minutes later Glanni emerges, naked and loosely toweled off, hair half-dry and fluffed where he obviously swiped at it with his towel. His lipstick is gone and most of his eye makeup is as well, only a few smudges of mascara and liner lingering stubbornly waterproof below his eyes. He looks relaxed, shoulders not hunched up to his ears for once, his body language casual and unguarded.

He looks vulnerable. Íþró is charmed.

"Enjoying the view?" Glanni purrs, eyebrow quirking. "Going to invite me to lie down with you or are you just going to stare?"

"Oh!" Íþró tugs back the covers and Glanni slides into bed next to him, nestling in close for warmth. It's nice.

"About that robbery," Glanni says against Íþró's skin, and Íþró sighs. There it is. The break in the delicate illusion of normality. Glanni tells him how four men are planning to rob an upscale jewelry store in Lygaribae during the parade which celebrates the anniversary of the town's founding. It's a big deal among town; everyone attends and uses it as a good excuse to throw a huge party--including all the law enforcement, who in fact participate in the parade itself by attaching lights and spangles to their cars and driving down the route as their own float of sorts. They even break out the few horses that the Lygaribae police force still has. Everyone is there.

"The perfect time for a good bit of grand larceny," Glanni says with a lopsided smile. "It's across town from the parade route. By the time the police arrive they'll be gone."

"Of course," Íþróttaálfurinn sighs, then tilts his head. "How did you come to find out about this plan?"

Glanni's eyes widen innocently. "Why, because I'm one of the thieves, of course," he says, and Íþró groans.

"You want me to take them out so you can have all the stolen goods," Íþró says.

"Well, think of it this way, you'd still be getting three known criminals off the street? Better than none off the street, eh?"

"No," Íþró says flatly. "I'm not helping you rob a jewelry store."

"You aren't helping me, you're hindering them!"

"Glæpur."

Glanni sighs and rolls his eyes theatrically. "Fine," he huffs. "I thought you might be that way. You're absolutely no fun, do you know that?"

"Poor thing," Íþró says with singsong mock sympathy. "I'll be there to catch them. If I see you slip so much as one speck of gold into your pocket, Glanni..."

"Mm, what? You'll punish me?"

"I'll make you write a letter of apology and hand-deliver it, and the jewelery, to the owner of the shop. The letter will be hand written and detail how very sorry you are for your inexcusable behavior," Íþró rattles off, and Glanni recoils.

"Ugh," Glanni groans. "Wonderful. And here I was expecting some good kinky fun. Had to go and nip that in the bud, didn't you?" He rolls his eyes. "Fine. I will take nothing."

The 'this time' goes unsaid, and Íþró pretends he can't hear it loud and clear. Glanni knew Íþró wouldn't let him steal things right under his nose; he wants the other three men eliminated for other reasons. Perhaps they're his competition, or perhaps they have wronged him somehow. Íþróttaálfurinn doesn't particularly care. They are bad men, and soon they are going to be jailed men. Anything beyond that is of no concern to him.

"Good," Íþró says, lightly. "I look forward to it."

 

-

 

If there's one thing Íþróttaálfurinn hates more than anything, it's a firefight. He hates gunfire, hates the harsh muzzle flash, the sudden explosion that accompanies and makes his ears ring and his brain rattle in his skull.

The thing he hates most about the thing he hates most, though, is the aftermath. Íþróttaálfurinn hates gunshot wounds, hates how bullets effortlessly shatter bone and tear straight through muscle and leave gaping, ragged punctures in their wake--hates that they can either kill instantly, so he has no time to intervene, or with inhumane slowness, so if he's used up all his magic healing others all he can do is cradle the last victim and whisper I'm sorry, I'm sorry and pray to the gods to forgive that he could not help, pray to the gods to sweetly sing the victim's soul to the Meadow Green as they die gasping in his arms.

So, all in all, he has very little sympathy for these gun-wielding robbers.

They don't notice him perched on top of a tall display case in the corner of the showroom when they arrive; he's mostly in shadow, crouched like a gargoyle. Glanni notices him, meets his eye in the darkness and winks.

"Hello," he says, dropping down among them, teeth glinting white in their flashlight beams, and the panic begins.

Íþróttaálfurinn's crystal goes off seconds before a trigger is pulled, giving him warning enough to dance out of the way of each bullet. The men scatter in different directions when they realize they can't just shoot him; Íþró grins and cracks his knuckles and leaps toward the first of three.

He doesn't need to kill, just incapacitate. The first one is almost at the door to escape when Íþró reaches him; Íþró dodges another bullet and snatches the pistol from his hand, smacking him in the head with it and dropping him easily to the ground.

Where's number two and three? Íþró swings his gaze around the showroom. The second and third robbers have disappeared into the back and Íþró dashes after then, his crystal singing louder as he gets closer.

"Hello,"  Íþró snarls as he overtakes the second one, grasping him by the collar and lifting him off the ground--

His crystal is still beeping, warning him. The man gurgles and paws at Íþró's arms but Íþró ignores him, eyes sweeping the halls and doorways before landing finally on someone standing in the back office, trying desperately to get a locked window open. Íþró throws the man he's holding to the ground; he doesn't get up, and Íþró nods, satisfied, before vaulting into the office.

"Hello," he says, and it's not all for bravado, it's to panic and disorient, and it works. Frightened and shaking, the last robber attempts to shoot at him but his reflexes are just too slow and Íþró knocks the gun from his hands; another swift kick and the man's left kneecap shatters under Íþró's heel. The man howls and drops to the ground and Íþróttaálfurinn dashes back to the showroom.

Glanni is nowhere to be found. Good, Íþró thinks, relief flooding him; he's already split the scene. He looks around; no lights, no air flow from the heating system, the power's been cut. That means no security camera footage. Perfect. He will let the police know what went on here, and the men will go to prison where they belong.

His work here is done. He hums to himself as he leaves the store and heads over to the parade route to go fetch a police officer.

 

-

 

"Íþró," he hears the second he opens his hotel room door later that night, "I need help."

It's Glanni's voice; Íþró closes the door behind himself and steps closer to where Glanni sits at the edge of the bed, knee bent and leg folded so he can cradle his foot in his hands. "Glanni?" Worry slams into Íþró. "What is wrong with your foot?"

"I was shot," he gasps, "in the confusion."

Íþró's eyes widen and he kneels before Glanni, takes Glanni's foot in his hands. Glanni's wrapped it in a towel and Íþró unwraps, carefully, hissing when he sees the  massive wound. "Oh, Glanni, why didn't you come to me immediately?!"

"I was afraid to be caught if the police showed up," Glanni gasps out, "now please, Íþró--"

The words are bitten off, Glanni clearly in pain, and Íþró can feel it, can feel how he hurts, he hates gunshot wounds; especially point-blank ones like this, gunpowder burns around the entry wound. Magic flows to the surface of his own skin, automatically, desperate to stop Glanni's pain. Glanni's already unzipped his catsuit and it's easy to just slip his palm in and seal it over the human's heart.

Glanni sighs, tips his head back, closes his eyes as energetic threads slide through his veins; it reaches his foot and forces bone to grow, tendons to reconnect, muscle to heal. Íþró pushes hard; the magic finishes the job, sealing his skin over, and that's all Íþró can do without entirely depleting his stores. He pulls back, panting, and Glanni falls back against the sheets, breathing hard to match.

Íþró's other hand still cradles Glanni's foot. He catches his breath, looks down to check his work. A fresh knot of scar tissue where the wound used to be, that will heal within days. He sighs as he notes that he wasn't quite able to heal everything, that gunpowder burn still remains, a delicate halo around the scar.

Wait.

Gunpowder burn means point-blank range. Íþró blinks.

Something about this seems wrong.

The entire evening's events play through his mind. Glanni was fine, Glanni was not standing near any of the other men when the gunfire began, and then they scattered into the back and Glanni disappeared.

Even if Glanni had accidentally been shot, it could not have been at point-blank range.

No.

"You were shot," Íþró says evenly.

"Yes, obviously," Glanni drawls, "you just healed a gunshot wound. Good deduction."

"Who shot you, Glæpur?"

There's a pause. "What?"

"I said," Íþró repeats, rising to his feet, "who shot you?"

"Does it matter who did it?" Glanni's voice is rising in pitch.

"I wonder if the police have discovered bloody footprints leaving the scene," Íþró says, anger and hurt flooding him, "I wonder--"

"Íþró?" Glanni scrambles to a sitting position again, looking actually fearful. "What are you--"

"Tell me, Glæpur," Íþró says, willing his voice not to shake, "how many times have you hurt yourself so that I'd heal you? How many lies?"

Glanni's expression hardens. "I didn't lie," he spits. "I did slam my fingers in a car door. You assumed it was an accident. That's your problem, not mine."

Íþróttaálfurinn swears, turns away, runs fingers through his hair and tries to fight the prickling feeling in his eyes. "Get out," he says.

"What?"

"Get out!" He turns back, advances on Glanni; the man scrambles up from the bed and draws himself up to his full height in response. "You used me," Íþró half-shouts, "you shot yourself, you used me for a high!"

"Don't pretend like you're so morally untouchable," he hisses. "Don't forget that you use me, too, you use me for information and a warm place to put your cock," Glanni spits out the words like they've personally wronged him, "don't try to take the high road, elf, I'd say we're pretty even!"

Glanni cannot hope to physically overpower him, and yet Íþróttaálfurinn feels as if he's been knocked to the ground. Silence hangs like a specter between them, growing, menacing.

"Is that what you think of me?" he says finally, dangerously quiet; "is that all you think I--? Gods damn you," Íþró swears, and he thought--he thought maybe things were genuinely becoming soft between them, maybe Glanni was genuinely showing vulnerability, coming to him for help, he thought maybe they were growing closer--

--that maybe someday they could be something other than what they are, maybe they could be--could be better, both of them better--

--thought that maybe they were falling in love, or that Glanni was, but--

He's a fool.

"We're already damned, elf," Glanni says, sardonic, and that's it.

He's shaking, and he's a fool.

"You want magic?" he asks, not expecting a response, he advances and shoves both hands into Glanni's chest, pushing him back against the wall, holding him there so tight that he hopes it hurts. "Is this what you want from me? In return for me using you so unfairly?"

Glanni makes a soft noise of shock as he slams into the wall, eyes wide and unsure, "Íþróttaálfurinn--"

"Then fine," Íþróttaálfurinn snarls, holding Glanni at arm's length, "take it!"

He cracks open his reserves and unloads every ounce of magic he has. With no injuries to head for, the magic just bounces around Glanni's system aimlessly and fizzles. Glanni's not reacting like normal, he's lighting up, golden in his veins, but he doesn't seem to be enjoying it. Good, he thinks. "I-Íþró--"

Íþró growls and keeps pushing, shoving every last drop of magic in his system straight to Glanni; he has no more and still he struggles for it, powered by rage, angry tears in his eyes, nails digging into the skin of Glanni's chest, he wants to tear him to pieces, wants to hurt him, wants to hold him and that's the worst fucking part. "Gods damn you," Íþró breathes raggedly as he finally pulls his hands back; his heart is pounding and he's panting for breath, pins and needles travel up his arms followed by numbness, he wobbles on his legs, darkness swallows his vision and the last thing he hears is a frantic

"Íþróttaálfurinn!"

before he loses consciousness.

 

-

 

He returns to the world of the living slowly, blinking, hearing things as if through water. Glanni is above him, shaking him, speaking. Íþróttaálfurinn tries to speak but it just comes out as a half moan; tries to reach out but it's as if his hands are moving through syrup. He wakes up slowly, things ratcheting back into focus.

"Íþró? Íþró!"

Glanni sounds frantic. Hah, Íþró thinks. Afraid he might lose his dealer. "Leave me," he manages, finally, "leave me, Glæpur."

"No," Glanni snaps. "What happened?!"

"I gave you everything," Íþró says, "I have no more. That's all. I have nothing else you want."

"Why did you pass out?" Glanni asks, visibly spooked, and Íþró huffs a mirthless laugh.

"It takes energy to exert magic," he explains, as if to a child, "much energy."

"I..." Glanni swallows dryly, throat clicking. "So every time you heal me, it takes something from you?"

"Yes, you fool," Íþró rasps out, "it does."

"Then why did you do it?!"

That question takes Íþróttaálfurinn off guard. "Why--because you were hurting," he snaps, "I couldn't let you hurt."

Glanni's voice frantically rises in pitch again. "Why not?!"

Íþró lurches into a sitting position and the world spins. He doesn't have the energy for real anger, just annoyance, at this point. "You think I'd let you suffer?"

"You should have!" Glanni shakes his head again. "It makes no logical sense for you to sacrifice anything for me," Glanni says, sounding distressed and puzzled in equal measure, and even though Íþró's the one who's been played, who's been strung along, he suddenly feels like he's got the upper hand, somehow. Glanni is unsettled, for once he doesn't have all the answers.

"And why are you so concerned? As if your behavior would have changed had you known it was taking something from me? All you wanted was a temporary high; you deceived me for--"

"It was more than a high, you idiot! I felt--I felt cared for!"

The words come out in a strangled, half-shouted rush; Glanni looks desperate and broken and frightened and Íþróttaálfurinn is back on the 'puzzled' side of things again. "Glanni?"

The man's arms are curled around himself and he's looking steadfastly away from Íþró. The healing made him feel cared for. Wanted, needed, loved; and he couldn't just ask for that kind of attention because--

you're using me for information and a warm place to put your cock.

It makes no logical sense for you to sacrifice anything for me.

Oh, they have both been blind fools. Glanni has no idea that Íþró cares for him.

Every bit of anger dissipates from Íþró instantly, evaporates like sun-shower puddles on a hot day. All at once Glanni's behavior makes sense.

"It's all right, Íþróttaálfurinn, I understand and I will not bother you such again, I will not--"

"I love you," Íþróttaálfurinn says.

"--will not come to you for help and will stay out of your way unless you need--"

"I love you," he says again, louder, and Glanni pauses, stares at him owlishly.

"Pardon?"

"You asked earlier why I would help you if it took something from me. That's the answer. I love you." He shrugs. "It is as simple as that."

Glanni blinks several times.

"I love you and I want you to come to me for help and I wish you would stay the night and the mornings too," Íþró says, words he's been holding back for months, "I wish you'd visit Latabae more, I wish you'd stay with me every night instead of in some terrible flophouse, I wish you'd let me teach you self-defense, I wish--"

"I didn't know you wanted me to stay the night," Glanni says, understanding finally flashing over his features. "No one ever has. Wanted that. I--I didn't... I thought I was a...a good time. I thought..."

And there it is; that's why he sought out closeness without asking directly for it. That's why he was so desperate for it that he was willing to point a gun at his own foot and pull the trigger.

"I thought the same, I thought you didn't want to stay, didn't want anything from me beyond sex and our deal," Íþró says, "we are both damned, you're right, Glanni."

Glanni makes a strangled, frustrated noise, "damned stupid elf, if you want something you should ask for it," and it's as if he doesn't sense the irony at all in what he just said and Íþró doesn't have time to call him out for it before Glanni is crawling into his lap and kissing him; softly for once, hands snaking up to his hair and knocking his hat off in the process.

Íþró wraps his arms around Glanni, kisses him back, both of them sprawled on the floor and shaking a little; hands wander, touching lightly in ways previously thought disallowed, tracing long ears and exploring old scars, gentle, tender.

How is this going to work? Íþró has no idea how to move on from here; he supposes they'll be feeling it out as they go along, playing things by ear. They already work together well, their arrangement is mutually beneficial and maybe as time goes on Íþró can coax Glanni further to his side of the coin, maybe they can fix these broken towns from the underworld on up.

His mind races almost painfully fast; he pulls back and rests his forehead against Glanni's, still holding him close, brilliant and beautiful and alive in his arms. For now, he thinks, they settle in to this new aspect to their partnership. They can work on everything else later.

"We should probably get off of this filthy hotel carpet," Glanni says after a long moment of silence, of sharing breaths, "there's no telling what it's seen."

That, Íþró thinks, finally smiling, nudging his nose against Glanni's, is a good first step.