Or What We Wish We Could Hold.
For the first time in years I have written something. After promising myself and others to write for various fandoms but never having the time or headspace to do it I have instead found myself stretching long rusted muscles and writing Critical Role- or specifically Perc’ahlia.
Anyway, here is a small introspective piece to work out kinks in my style, with a little character study. Set sometime after ep 44, in a forest, somewhere in their travels.
Word length: 1,800+ words.
If there was one good thing to come out of her brother making a deal to become a sort of Paladin to a Goddess of Death, it’s that her ravens make decent messengers. Even if they do creep Vex out a lot. On this day, when the leaves are plump with water and shimmer with refracted light, she has taken to sitting cross-legged on top of Trinket, the pair of them situated a little ways away from the others. Her bear is munching on some fish she had caught that morning, large teeth crunching on delicate bones around happy grunts. Her hands are steady in a way they haven’t been for quite some weeks now as she sharpens her arrowheads, movements sure and precise.
When she’s done they’ll be sharp enough to slice through scales. Slice through painful memories of her mother’s fondest smiles, the curve of her thumb as she rubbed at the dirt on Vex’s chubby face. Slice through until it cuts the dead flesh that still hangs from the ruins of Emon, the ghosts that still cling to its rubble as prisoners to a Cinder Pretender.Vex’s priorities have narrowed exponentially since Emon’s fall, since her death. Right now the only use she sees of her hands is through making sure that she can exterminate vermin while protecting what’s left of her people at the same time. Death helped clarify her role somewhat; in war there are only tools and those who wield them. In a world of gods and dragons and immortal elves, Vex can’t help but think that everyone else are just tools in a game of chance.
Rattle a whole bag of die and add the numbers where they fall.
At least she can make herself sharp enough to give the edges to beat the odds stacked against them.
A sudden cackle from a raven breaks her thoughts and she looks up to the thick bodies perched several branches above her. They have been following Vox Machina for several days now and the atmosphere has become stilted and tense as a result. Vex was left to watch, helplessly along with Keyleth and Pike, as Vax became more withdrawn, less inclined to start conversations with them all.
She clenches her teeth and settles down to ignoring the birds for the rest of the afternoon. That is, she would if Percy hadn’t chosen at that exact moment to heft himself to his feet and cross the clearing to the ravens. A letter is clutched in his hand, probably to his sister Vex supposes, folded neatly if a little creased from Percy’s grip.
It becomes even more battered when Percy tries to fix it to a rather slim raven’s leg, the bird’s constant shifting causing Percy’s nose to crinkle and mouth to twist in displeasure and determination. After a corner rips he turns to her, shoulders lifting in a helpless shrug, eyes widening as if to seek her aid. She grins and holds up her arrowhead, to which he snorts and shakes his head before turning back to his unruly messenger, who is starting to take mean-spirited jabs at Percy’s thumb.
It’s a little strange, she thinks. Percy’s fingers are broad and covered with oil and shine weakly in the wet sun. They are hands that look more suited for heavy work, to grip wood and pry apart, or strike metal with a large hammer at the smithy, small wonders the fragile letter would fall mercy to his strong grip.
Instead the strange, confusing man before her has hands that dance nimbly over screwdrivers and tiny little cogs, that take great care with delicate materials to make something sharp and dangerous looking. The way he wrote was just as strange, the pen an extension to his hand, perfectly sat in the callouses and barely touching the paper as ink spurts out a loopy if spindly handwriting. Despite the ease of constructing sentences he writes like it’s a chore, one he had to be reminded no more than twenty times this morning to complete by Keyleth and Scanlan. It’s like writing a letter is a methodical puzzle he’s done a thousand times and struggles to repeat simply because there’s nothing new he can experiment or tweak with, grammar and structure so perfectly in place it must surely exist to punish him.
And yet the paper he chooses is always nice. Nothing special, just nice. For Vex (who has never experienced anything truly nice in her life except for the guilty pleasures of glimpsing the contents of her fathers study, a magical world that has been tightly sewn shut from the reality of her and her brother, removed, ready to be cut open and spilled out into the dark corridors of her father’s stately manor if only to risk his ever elusive and much sought for wrath) the thick parchment he keeps in his workshop seems to weigh with value, is sharp at the corners.
She wonders how much the paper costs, and what worth would Percy find in it if he was given a stack for his next birthday. She wonders if Percy has ever considered such simple fineries as something he is worthy of. He has such heavy sarcasm and sharp wit, she would love to see him write down his dry jokes on such finely made paper. Maybe she could steal his notes, or his freshly crafted letters and keep them in the locked box which has other similar trinkets of worth that she and her brother have amassed in their years. She didn’t ever think that touching him in this way, covetously, possessively, would be like this. Percy becoming solid when she has only thought of him as smoke, a human whose lifespan is as fragile as a candle flame in a hurricane. The worth of Percy concentrated into useless if expensive paper and ink.
He could maybe become permanent then. Not Percival, but Percy, the man made human made killer made friend made brother by Vox Machina in tiny written snap shots of his life with them. The man with acerbic thoughts and dry humour and fond smiles and sharp gaze and smouldering anger. A dear, darling man who won’t be erased by fire or smoke or wind, or a Lords title. A hard man made soft made hard made soft again.
She wishes she could keep him and hates herself because she knows how much she hates the idea that anyone could keep her.
Percy steps back, a fluid motion that draws her attention to the line of his back, the almost bashful way he runs his hand through the hair at the nape of his neck. He mutters his thanks, vowels imperious even if his consonants imply gratefulness. The raven, leg heavy with parchment, takes off with an ungainly leap. Its flight is true, however, and she and Percy both watch it fly away until it is a black smudge in the endless blue horizon.
God, how she longs to do the same.
The air smells of wet earth and wet bear, and she huffs out to rid her forehead of her hair, curled and wild from the damp. She glances over at Percy for some reason and her spine straightens when she realises that he has been staring at her. He looks, for lack of a better word, soft, his mouth loose with something unreadable even as it pulls at the line of his eyes, his brow. It seems like fondness except for whatever it is on Percy’s face that makes him look like he’s been split open and stitched together again, uncomfortable only because the shape is still so raw.
It’s too big, too sudden, almost unsightly to have caught him so unguarded; she ducks her head, and wonders why her heart is thundering in her ears. Before she can do anything (leap off Trinket and run, draw an arrow to point it at Percy’s heart, leap into the trees and will wings to erupt from her back so she can fly, fly, fly away if only to rid herself of this immediate energy that is filling her up until she is choking with it), hot fingers are brushing her hair from her face.
Her shoulders are rigid, and she can feel a knot forming in her neck that she knows will be a bitch to crack loose later, but she peers up at him anyway. The emotion on his face is gone, but his eyes are still an endless horizon, touch careful like he is handling an easily spooked wild animal. Her hairline feels like it’s on fire.
He draws away, only for his hand to once again dip down and dig at her cheekbone, not hard enough that she feels pain, but enough to brush away the mud she realises must be there. It’s only for a moment, and he is pulling back for a final time and she is suddenly struck with an image of hummingbirds, that flutter in and out of flowers for the sweet taste of nectar.
The heat spirals down to her cheeks. She feels flushed in this damp weather, and has sudden, wild thoughts about whether Percy has ever thought about another’s skin like nectar. She has known him for years and the way he telegraphs an aversion of touch through a tucked chin and thick coats, twitching hands when a body presses too close, stuttering breaths when she kisses his cheek, just inches from the curve of his chin, his lips.
It makes moments like this one more significant to her, his choice to reach out a heady phenomenon, where Percy touching another is a sweeter sin to pull out and inspect at the darkest of nights, between the folds of sheets.
She pulls a shuddering breath and grins at him, feeling something manic play at the parting of her lips. Percy’s answering smile is a little contained, almost rueful and right there is the Percy she knows. This Percy she has measured and tucked away at the corners of her ribcage, not the person from seconds ago who had touched her like he was holding a bag full of die and was about to throw it into the air. A Percy reaching for ruin just to taste sin disguised in sweetness once again.
He suddenly mouths You ok? at her and she waves him off with a quick Yeah. He frowns a bit, teeth pressing on his lower lip but he thankfully drops it. He bends down to ruffle Trinket’s chin before straightening up and shoving his hands in his pockets, ambling over to the fireplace while throwing her another smile, this one close lipped, a mere twitch that shows off new laughter lines that only half-elf eyes can pick up.
As he walks away, her hands start trembling.