Getting LubricatedCollab with Stormy and the Schaftonater17th of Midyear, late at night...
The last time Gaius had felt alcohol in his blood, it had been an uncountable time ago. At least, that’s what it felt like, though it was only a few months ago. Or something. Before the Imperial City had been sacked, in any case. He’d been occupied ever since, too much to open up a bottle or tip back a tankard, or keep very good track of time. And so, he found himself grimacing at the burn of liquor as it went down and looked ruefully at the two bottles that he’d purchased and would never be able to finish. Sighing, he slid them in his tunic pockets in lieu of drinking more, opting instead to wander aimlessly about the celebrations, a distraction that served just as well.
Perhaps an hour after his conversation with Meg, he spied another familiar face. Not someone he knew, no. A familiar face. Though he’d seen it most often in the mirror or the barracks instead of on a grizzled Ohmes-Raht, he knew the taut wariness that lurked behind the khajiit’s eyes: the look of a man who had seen a very
large amount of combat. Despite his own wariness, he found himself fascinated by the man; had he seen him somewhere? Perhaps after the prison raid? He wasn’t sure. He’d barely even been conscious returning from Kthrakz, let alone awake enough to recognize a face. Weighing his options for a bit and fingering the still-pocketed bottle, he shrugged heavily to himself and approached the man, holding the unopened bottle out.
“Care to share a drink? You look like you could use one.”
“And a few more besides.” Sevari mumbled, only looking at the face to take the offered bottle and bidding him sit next to him, seeing the tell-tale signs of a life of military service in his every move, “Gaius. You look like a legionnaire. I’ve seen a lot of them in my time, worked with a few Legion men and women.”
“Sevari.” He offered his hand out to the man, straightforward, there was a comfort in that. No games, no tip-toeing. Talking to Legionnaires was a respite in the constant charade of service to the Penitus Oculatus, in which you weren’t supposed to exist. Inspectors, it was no wonder why his ilk were called Specters, a shortening and a bogeyman title. Here one day, gone the next, with a new name and a new job. “You were one of the men we sprang from Kthrakz. Milonem. The name is well-respected, isn’t it?”
Gaius nodded along as the newly-named Sevari introduced himself and gave him a firm handshake, sitting down beside him. “You’re not wrong. I’m a Legionnaire through and through. And right again: the Milonem family has been around for a decent long time. My father was Triarius in the Prima Cohort. We used to be much more well known; after Father and Mother died, I drove us into the ground before my much more competent sister--” he swallowed heavily as memories of Helena rippled through his mind, and he had to pause for a moment before he continued. “--Apologies. Before my more competent sister took over the administration.”
“On to matters more present, and,” he chuckled lamely, “less upsetting. You said that you’ve worked with the Legion before. What’s your line of work?” He had a sneaking suspicion, given that there weren’t a huge amount of jobs that aligned closely to the Legion, but he didn’t want to offend with haphazard guesses. Best to let Sevari speak on his own.
“Inspector.” Sevari said, leaving it at that. “Those special people who fight the Empire’s enemies when the Legion is too heavy-handed. I’ve been fighting the Empire’s enemies for a long, long time.”
Gaius cracked a wan grin, quickly warming up to the fellow soldier. “So have I, friend. So have I. And I suppose now I’m doing so even more with these damn Dwemer.” He fished the corked bottle out of his pocket, popping it open. “Still, I look forward to seeing the looks on their faces when we reclaim the Imperial City and burn their airships to cinders.” Raising the bottle in the air in toast, he prepared for the burn of the alcohol. “To wars, fought and won!”
Not exactly a gentleman to miss a toast as it was occurring, the sight of Gaius and Sevari imbibing together hit that part of Fjolte that had missed and longed for familiar camaraderie and brotherhood. How could he continue to walk past that of all things? It was a festival was it not? He had been feeling much more himself in the days since his escape, and it was hard for Sevari not to stick out, the Nord had not seen much of him after he had walked through the prison, sour and heavy. He seemed less so now.
“Hah! Nothing like a toast among brothers—” he remarked with his usual beaming smile as he swaggered over with the confidence and enthusiasm that would have made anyone believe he had been part of their meeting all along. He had no ale of his own, but that didn't stop him from raising an invisible glass anyway, “to life, freedom, and friendship!” a mirthful chuckle rolled off his toast and he brought himself next to Sevari, giving him a hearty slap on the shoulder. “Thanks for saving my neck, friend…” for a second, his expression slipped into one far more serious and sincere than he wanted - not that Fjolte was one to disguise feelings. “You two look like you're talking a bit deep for a festival…”
“What else do two old fighters talk about but their aching knees and numerous stories about every scrape they’ve been in?” Sevari raised his cup a tad to the newly arrived Nord, resplendent in his insufferable fucking beauty, “Wouldn’t expect a Ponce like you to understand.” He quipped good-naturedly with an impish grin while lighting a cigar he’d put between his teeth, “Or could it be the first time in forty-some years that I’m wrong?”
“You might be wrong indeed. I've been in plenty of scrapes, don't let the smoulder fool you…” he laughed and took a seat on one of the stacked crates. “Us Nords come out of the womb ready to brawl, I certainly did. I'm still a man of my youth though, not as old as you two farts by the sounds of it.” He nodded in the direction of the Imperial. He could not remember seeing him in the escape. “I'm Fjolte, by the way, friend!”
“Gaius,” the Legionnaire responded in kind, inclining his head at the boisterous Nord. He smiled at his antics; after the soul-sucking trials of the past few weeks, talking to someone who seemed both generally happy and sane was a welcome reprieve. He turned to Sevari, eyes twinkling in a way that they hadn’t in far too long. “Careful, Sevari. This one looks like he could eat a cow and still have room left over to guzzle a keg and start punching.” With that, he turned back to Fjolte again, passing over the bottle after taking one more long pull and wiping his lips. “To life, freedom, and friendship!”
“Aye!” Sevari toasted, raising his glass. “I think Fjolte knows I’m only giving him shit. I pried the bars apart so he could crawl through them and taste the air of freedom again.”
He chuckled, “And that’s why he should think twice before calling me an old fart. Figured the baby-face young Nord would have some manners.” He took a gulp from his cup and chuckled good-naturedly, “Besides, I’m not even fifty yet, you ass.”
“You laugh at the thought of me eating a whole cow, but it’s been done! Of course, I had my brother Honon the Fat to help me but we cleaned it down to the bone just the two of us. Just regular Loredas activities…” he sighed, letting his thoughts wander to home. He hoped his family were alright. Sevari’s words lifted him from dipping his toes too much into the melancholy of it all, and he laughed aloud - his usual bellowing laugh. “You’re not that old, and I’m not that young. Don’t let this handsome mug fool you both, I’ve seen some shit.” He ran a hand through his sand-coloured hair, and let his laughter patter out. “So what’s next for you two then? Where will the wind carry you after tonight?”
Gaius exhaled a heavy breath. “The wind will carry me where it always has, eventually. Back to my people, back to my home, however long it takes me to get there. I don’t care how many miles and Dwemer lie between us, but I will
see the Imperial City reclaimed.” Then a snort. “But after tonight? Hopefully a blacksmith.” He tossed his head back, draining the rest of the bottle and grimacing at the burn.
“Can’t have a legionnaire without his armor.” Sevari said, tipping back his own cup and growling at the burn, wiping his mouth off on his forearm, “Finally, someone who likes whiskey.”
He turned to Fjolte, an eyebrow cocked, “You’ve seen battle? When?”
Made sense of course that Gaius was a Legionnaire. Fjolte almost felt bad for his own past allegiances, but he was no longer ashamed and scared of consequence. He saw no use in hiding it. War put people against each other, simple as, and there was no going back from the truth of it now. “Aye, battle for Windhelm - some others during the civil war. That must have been the last one though… Most fucking memorable I’ll tell you that. Raelynn was there too, well, she was there after. Frightened and out of her depth pulling bodies from the wreckage…” he sighed with a soft laugh and ran his hands through his hair, hoping that he hadn’t just caused potential tension with two new friends. “Now we’re back in the thick of war, I suspect there will be more battles to come.”
Sevari cocked a brow at that. He spit off to the side and lit a cigar, letting the moment drag on as the tobacco crackled with his inhale. He let out the smoke as he spoke, quiet-like, and his eyes didn’t leave Fjolte’s, “Which side?”
The Nord just shrugged at the question and the corners of his mouth curled into an awkward smile, “the losing one.” Fjolte rolled his shoulders back - hoping that his confession wouldn't start a fight or damage any chance at bonding with the two of them, but there was a lightness to him that suggested he'd already accepted if they did choose to hold it against him.
Gaius tensed up, knee-jerk reaction to the presence of a Stormcloak at the ready. His lips began to curl into a snarl.
Then he paused, and thought for a moment before staring Fjolte dead in the eyes. “You know,” he began slowly, “I knew a lot of good men and women that died during the civil war. Riki Armandgove, Srani Briza, Sextus Quirinus, and so many more. Many were at Windhelm.” He heaved in a deep breath. “But there are bigger trolls to kill right now. Maybe after all this, then I'll have to fight you. But for now?” He forced out a lopsided grin. “I’ll shut up and drink.”
“I learnt a lot back then, did a lot of terrible things too - we all did. I like to think I've made good on that in the years since, and if not yet - well I'll keep working towards it,” he said hopefully, his eyes pointed up to the stars. “I don't tend to pick many fights these days either so good luck with that in the future,” the Nord began to laugh, “and for what it's worth, I don't intend to fly those colours anymore. I'm a free man now!”
“Now, now.” Sevari mumbled, taking a pull from his cigar, “What were we but two sides of the same coin? I was never in the Legion, but I was there in Skyrim. Always good men on either side. The real enemy is still out there, and I intend to shove these Dwemer assholes aside to get back to those piss-skinned, knife-eared Thalmor cunts.”
Gaius belted out a sudden laugh from deep in his belly, and raised his empty bottle. “The wisdom of an old soldier, eh?” He turned to Fjolte, this time with a huge, genuine, apologetic smile on his face. “Sorry about that, Fjolte. It’s been a long couple of weeks, as I’m sure it’s been for you too. Fuck the elves, hmm?” He tossed the bottle back, cocking his head for a moment in surprise when he realized that it was empty. “...Except Anifaire. She’s alright, from what I remember.”
“I bet there are some Dwemer that are alright. Good and bad eggs everywhere right? Let's just all get through it in one piece,” Fjolte commented as he placed his hands flat behind him and leaned back on the crate. “No need to apologise to me either. Not much I'll take offense to, brother.” He wondered whether or not he'd met Anifaire, he had recalled a quiet and timid Altmer from the escape, “Anifaire huh? That the girl with the voice softer than a unicorn's fart?”
Gaius nodded and stumbled, realizing that he was probably drunk and furthermore, that he didn’t care in the slightest. “If she’s tall, yellow and meek, that’s who you’re thinking of. Only high elf I’ve ever met that didn’t have a stick the size of Dagon up the arse.” He laughed. “There were three altmer in the Jeralls, counting her: freak that looked more like a ghost than an elf, named Sulandi or something stupid like that, and Durantel
. Real shithead of an elf, carried himself like a Thalmor.” He swayed, leaning against a wall. “Couldn’t stand that fop bastard.”
“Ah, Durantel.” Sevari nodded, a knowing grin on his face, “He was on my list. I was going to spit him on my sword in Gilane back when I was masquerading as Dwemer Secret Police. Hell, I might’ve done it for fun.”
Fjolte nodded along with them, taking from his pocket a short smoking pipe, and letting it sit on his lower lip while he scrambled another pocket for his bag of alchemical ingredients
. “Ahh yeah, Durantel. I wanted to kick my foot so far up is ass he’d smell my feet you know?” He said in a humourful tone, he didn’t know who the fuck Durantel was, but he’d clearly wound up Gaius and Sevari. Finally stumbling across the bag, he took a pinch and loaded the pipe with it. “Shit, need a light…” he muttered, looking to his left and right for a means to do so. “Be so kind as to pass your flame to a new friend?” He asked, motioning to the lit end of Sevari’s cigar. “I’ll share if you do, this will blow your knickers off.”
Sevari shrugged, puffing a few times on his cigar before handing it over, “That’s the most harmless thing anyone’s threatened to blow off of me.” He said, watching Fjolte light his pipe, “What is it? Moon sugar?”
He frowned a bit, “Don’t tell me you’re a fucking skooma smoker.”
Gaius laughed, maybe just a touch
scornfully. “Thought you’d seen some shit, Sevari. Come on, if he was on the skooma, how would he have survived in prison? Boy would be dead from withdrawal already.”
“Very barely, is how. I knew a man who was hooked on it, I tied him to a post for five days and only gave him water twice a day.” He shrugged, as if torturing addicts was a simple hobby of his, “He got clean. He also gave me what I needed to know.”
“Not skooma,” he laughed as he took Sevari's cigar to light the end of the pipe. As he held the small flame into the bowl at the end, it lit up into a violet flame with magenta sparks. “This is something I created after several failed experiments. Can't tell you fellas what's in it though, don't want anyone stealing my recipe…” Fjolte laughed again and took a long drag from the pipe, letting the smoke fill all the way to his lungs - after holding it for some time, he exhaled it as a series of perfectly round rings before handing the pipe to the Ohmes-Raht with a grin, his pupils dilating just so.
After an hour or so, having finished the pipe entirely, the three were sat down around the piles of crates. Each once lounging back in their own way. Fjolte sat in his usual relaxed pose with one leg outstretched and the other brought up to his chest, his arm lounging lazily over his knee. There were beaded tears clinging to his eyelashes as he let rip a laugh from the pit of his stomach, and it wasn’t the first of that night either, his stomach felt sore from the endless clenching of laughter, so much so that his other hand grasped at it, and he panted in pain in between each roll of chuckles.
As stories, theories, ideas, and opinions were passed back and forth, the laughter carried on to an almost obnoxious level. “Do you… Do you… Do you think that it would be better to have hands for feet or feet for hands?”
”I have been told that I must have some giants blood in me somehow, you know, because of the size of my…”
”Bosmer women are so fucking hot. Dunmer women too… And Altmer… Women are hot”
“Yeah, women are hot.”
“This sand is pretty hot too, or is it just my arse?”
“If oranges are oranges, then why are lemons not yellows?”
“Why are grapes not purples?”
“And pineapples blues?”
”What the fuck happens if I get scared half to death… twice?”
”What’s the meaning of life?”
”Do teeth have a taste?”
“Mine taste like…. Teeth.”
“Yeah, mine too.”
”What language would we think in if we were deaf?”
“Can you hear your own head?”
“What was that sound? What’s that smell?”
“Sorry, my bad”
“Sounds like you blew your fucking knickers off.”
“Oh, gods.. Party is over. Abort”
“Yeah, fuck me.. I’m out.”
“What’d I do?!”