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In Sickness & In Health
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Story Notes:

Written circa 2007.
Do you take this band to be your lawfully wedded profession?


"Where th' hell's Skwisgaar?" Pickles snapped worriedly at lunch. "I ain't seen 'im all day."

"Uh, probably shleepin' off lasht night's hoedown," Murderface muttered, trying to find some way to eat cream-of-beef soup with a knife. "I could hear the noiszhe all the way from my room. Fuckin' manwhore."

"Someone should go check on him," Nathan proposed gruffly. "He might've finally fucked himself to death."

"Don't get our hopes up," Pickles smirked.

All eyes collectively settled on Toki, who was munching away on a grilled cheese sandwich (yes again, he likes them a lot) and flipping through an issue of MAD magazine, deaf to everything around him.

"Hey Toki," said Nathan, "go to Skwisgaar's room n' see if he's still alive."

The Norwegian half-shrugged and said airily, "Nah. I don't feels like it."

A Sharpie slid across the table and skidded to a stop on Spy vs. Spy. Toki looked up at Nathan. "I'll give you ten bucks to do somethin' to his face with that."

Toki grinned mischievously, crammed the rest of his sandwich into his mouth, picked up the Sharpie and was off.

Nathan smirked and turned to the rest of the band. "Kid'll do anything with the right motivation."



Toki didn't bother knocking (not that he even had the vaguest conception of manners in the first place) as he walked into Skwisgaar's bedroom and found the fastest guitarist alive sandwiched between a lovely pair of Japanese twins that didn't look a day over eighteen. Feeling the bitter sting of envy, Toki pouted and walked over to the bed, quite oblivious to the three naked bodies tangled together on top of it.

"Hey sushi breath," he snapped, poking Skwisgaar's bare shoulder. "Wakes up before I draws a va-guy-na on your face."

The Swede, lying on his side with his back to Toki, didn't stir. He was alive, judging by the way his shoulders rose and fell and the tiny wheezing sound of breathing, but he seemed to be in a deep sleep. Toki poked harder, then slapped, and then finally took up a handful of snarled blond hair and gave it a mighty yank. Skwisgaar let out a yelp that woke up his mewing bedmates and Toki let go, stepping back and crossing his arms.

"Time to gets up, Sleeping Slutty," he chirped maliciously. "You needs a bath to washing off all that sex juices."

But when Skwisgaar rolled over onto his back, Toki's meanness abruptly died. The blond looked really bad; his eyes were red and puffy, his cheeks were flushed, his nose was leaking snot down his upper lip, a crust seemed to have formed around every facial orifice he had, and there were circles under his eyes so dark that he could have passed himself off for an Italian.

One of the newly awoken twins noticed her famous lover's condition and melted over him in a disgusting (but also very perky-breasted) display of sympathy. "Oh! Sukuwisu gaaru-sama!" she moaned sadly, rubbing herself against his bare chest so sensually that Toki had to look away for fear that something might pop up. "He is siku! Ayaa...but is oh-kei, koibito. We make yu betta soon."

"Poor poor beibi," cooed the other one, stroking his feverish cheek. "No worry. Ayumi and Ayame take gooda care of yu-"

"Ah haha. No you doesn't," Toki snorted jealously, wishing to deprive the lucky bastard of any sort of medicinal treatment from a couple of Asian girls who were probably very qualified to do that sort of thing. He bent down and picked up a plaid skirt and one knee high sock, then tossed them at the two young women. "Sleepovers-fucks time is through, ladies. Go home."

"B-but! But Sukuwisu gaaru-" Ayame cried.

"Who are yu to terr us what to du?" retorted Ayumi.

Toki got angry. The nerve of some groupies, thinking they could walk all over him in their stiletto heels just because he would totally let them. He'd show these gorgeous, barely-legal sex kittens a thing or two. "I his lawyer, that who's! Now gets out before I…before I sues you, yeah!"

Ayame cocked her head. "Law…yer?"

"Law…ver?" echoed Ayumi.

"Lawver?"

"Lovver?"

"…lover?"

"…"

Then they both looked at each other and let out a piercing noise of joy that made Toki clap his hands over his ears in agony and what we all know to be the mighty SQUEE.

"Get out! Get out!" he yelled desperately, and actually had to shoo them off the bed and toss them their clothes and have one of the Mordhaus guards show them the way out. Once they had left the room Toki slammed the door shut gratefully. "Damn crazy fan-banshee-goiles. Make my ear bleeds. I hates those type!" But, on the other hand, he would totally do them. How strange, this mind of men.

Guests gotten rid of, Toki strode over to where Skwisgaar still lay on the bed and crouched down to eye level. "Hey. Butter head. How sick is you?"

You could almost hear a pair of rusty hinges squeaking as the Swede opened his eyes. "Oh gods Toki," he rasped in a voice that he hadn't had since he was twelve. "I'm goings to die."

"Liar. Don't sets me up for disappointments."

But when Skwisgaar closed his eyes and accepted the retort without so much as a peep, Toki started to get worried. This wasn't the cocky, lady-killing son of a bitch he knew.

"Oh…Skwisgaar," he said softly, sinking down to his knees and placing a hand on the blond's burning forehead in a gesture of unusual compassion. "You real sick, huh?"

Skwisgaar nodded pathetically and sniffed, which sounded like someone sucking egg whites through a straw.

In that moment, as he was staring at the sallow face of perhaps the one person who knew him best, Toki did a very noble and mature thing: he accepted a responsibility. A responsibility that was deeply rooted in the forging of the world's most powerful band. A responsibility that he had agreed to take long long ago, one that he alone must do.

"Okay Skwisgaar," he said with sudden energy, grabbing the Swede by the wrists and dragging him off the bed with a loud and undoubtedly painful THUMP. "What's you needs is a nice hot bath! I now looks after you until you gets better—I knows a lot about helpings sick peoples with de real home medicine—so leaves it to me that I'll gets you better in zero time!"

And even though Skwisgaar protested in a variety of hoary groans and moans, Toki succeeded in dragging his awesomely naked bandmate out into the hallway and in the direction of the main bathroom. By sheer and unbelievable coincidence (it's my fic—I can have all the sheer and unbelievable coincidences I want, however unlikely they are) Ofdensen happened to be making his way down the same corridor, talking with a Mordhaus employee about who cares when he suddenly caught sight of Toki Wartooth dragging a nude and presumably lifeless body that looked an awful lot like Skwisgaar.

"Good heavens he's killed him," Ofdensen murmured, then called out, "Toki!"

The Norwegian paused in hauling, looked up, tossed his long hair behind his shoulder, smiled brightly and said, "Don't worry, I takes care of it! I clean up de bathrooms when I finish!"

These were not comforting words, and Ofdensen very calmly turned around to go alert the rest of the band about this unfortunate tragedy.



Toki shut off the tap in the large spa bathtub, turned around, threw Skwisgaar over his shoulder like a continental soldier, and dropped him into the scalding hot water. Much of it was displaced in the resulting splash. It was a lucky thing that Skwisgaar's voice was mostly gone, otherwise Toki might have been rendered utterly deaf by the scream. The Swede's pale skin took on a blotchy red complexion as he panted congestedly and weakly tried to crawl away from the pain. But Toki put a hand on his chest and shoved him back down, pulling out a sponge and setting to work.

"Augh! Auuuggghhhh!" Cough cough. "TOKI! What's de fuck you doings dis for!?"

"You sick," Toki answered pertly. "I takes care of you."

The blond's sinuses had opened and he was leaking snot like Slimer from the Ghostbusters. "I don'ts need yours care, dildo head! Let's me out of dis-"

"Woo-ee, Skwisgaar, what shampoo you been using? You gots de split end on every hair, and dan's ruff, lookit that. Hang on, I thinks I got some Heads & Shoulders in here somewheres…"

"Don'ts-" Cough. "-touch my fucking hairs, idiot! I-! Uhh…" Skwisgaar slumped, his energy to fight against Toki's ministrations dwindling. The water didn't actually feel so bad now…now that his flesh was boiled to a practically edible state. He thought about cannibalism and murder by heat as Toki poured a dollop of shampoo into his blond hair and merrily set to work lathering it up, digging his fingers in too hard and pulling hair and letting the suds run into Skwisgaar's eyes and into his ears, and then dousing him over and over again until he choked and was sent into a chronicle of hacking.

Then Toki picked up a bottle of body wash and totally chaffed Skwisgaar's already tender burnt skin. He put up a hell of a fight when Toki showed that he had every intention of scrubbing the Swede's nether regions, claiming that owning tools this dirty was probably illegal, and after a brief tussle that Toki won after six seconds, Skwisgaar had nothing to do but lay in the tub and take it like a champ. Toki was remarkably unbothered and casual about it all, which was a little comforting. But then he decided to rinse Skwisgaar using ice motherfucking cold water straight from the berg floes of Antarctica, and the blond's teeth were chattering so loudly that he sounded like a typewriter at 90 words a minute. He was so cold that he forgot his pride and clung to Toki when he dragged him out of the tub like a dead walrus and wrapped him in a fluffy white towel. Toki thought Skwisgaar was showing his appreciation, not his severe need for body heat, and was flattered.

"Come on, Skwisgaar," he said comfortingly, leading his sick bandmate from the bathroom. "Now you needs to gets dress up nice and warm. I gots some thing in my closet I thinks will fits you just fine…"



"Boys, I have some terrible…terrible, terrible news," Ofdensen said at the three gathered members of the band. "It seems that Skwisgaar Skiwgelf is dead, and Toki has taken it upon himself to dispose of the body. He is, as we speak, dismembering the remains in the second floor bathroom, I believe. Whether or not he is responsible for Skwisgaar's death, I'm uncertain, but if this does turn out to be the case I suggest we do everything in our power to snuff Toki and make it look like a double suicide."

No one. Said. A word. Then they all jumped up at once and ran to the doors.

"Uh, where are you going?" their manager asked.

"T' go see!" Pickles exclaimed.

"Bathtub of blood," Nathan uttered excitedly. "Severed limb suicide. That is so fuckin' METAL."

"God I hope he'zsh uzshing the right knife!" Murderface worried, hands to his face. "Anyshing but a sherrated blade's gonna shnap like a toothpick!"

Ofdensen facepalmed and let the trio run off to see the carnage.



Skwisgaar, alive (but not by far), sat hunched over on the edge of Toki's bed, dressed in Toki's clothes, and looking for all the world like a catatonic rape victim. He was wearing bright blue polka dotted toe socks, red plaid pajama pants, and a grey-blue sweatshirt that had the Norges Fotballforbund (Norwegian soccer thing) logo on it. He stared straight ahead numbly and tiredly, and sucked the snot down his throat as Toki, smiling like a proud mother, finished tying the second pigtail-braid in the Swede's long blond hair.

"There! That will keeps de snots outta your hairs. You looks better already, Skwisgaar!"

Skwisgaar snuffled and turned to gaze at Toki with heavy, dead eyes. "I…really hate yous."

"Ah, you just says that 'cause you sick and crankies. Here, sleeps in my bed for a little and I'll go makes some teas."

"Toki."

"Isn't this fun?" Giggle giggle. "I gets to takes care of you!"

"Toki."

"You wants some peanut's butter toast too? That stuff really helps making you feels better. I all de time eats that when I gets de sickness and it alway makes me to feelings better."

"Toki."

"You bed's room off limit now, is all fulla germs you know. Beside, is too cold in there anyway, and probably also nasty from screwings all de time."

"TOKI."

"Yes what."

"I need meds-dicines, Toki."

"I makes you good medicines, don't worries."

"Not dat herb's teas—shlerrrk—you fucking shits-for-brain, real meds-dicines. Pills. Green liquids stuff dat has mints and all dat shit."

"Hey I resents that! Herb teas is good for you."

"I don't want anys. Get me outs of heres." Skwisgaar tried to stand up but Toki wasn't having any of that.

"No," he ordered, and shoved Skwisgaar down into the pillows. "You stays right here and not gets up. You needs to rest, okay? You doesn't wanna gets any more sick, do you? Here, Teddy Bear will keeps your company." And Toki picked up his own pointy-tailed bear, set it against Skwisgaar's shoulder and tucked the blankets up under everybody's chins, then clasped his hands together and beamed with selfless maternal warmth.

Skwisgaar stared up at Toki through half-lidded eyes. "I'm not sick. You is sick. You sick fucking bastard."

Toki smiled generously and patted Skwisgaar's warm forehead. "I be right backs with some tea and a thermomostat."

Just then there was a knock at the door and the rest of the gang suddenly invited themselves into Toki's room. "We followed the trail of water here," Nathan said, looking around for signs of violence. "There wasn't any blood in the bathroom and we figured…" He trailed off when he saw the scene before him. "Oh sweet lord."

"Shkwishgaar! Yer alive?" Murderface cried, somewhat disappointed.

The Swede sat bolt upright, braids flying. "Help!" he croaked. "Calls de police! I being holds hostage!"

Pickles gaped. "Jeezes Christ, Toki! What've ya done ta him!?"

"Done? I just taking cares of him."

"No yer not, yer killin' 'im!"

"He look likes that when I founds him! He sick!"

Everyone calmed down right then and got real quiet. "How sick?" Nathan ventured warily, giving Skwisgaar the eye.

"Oh, very very sick," Toki answered gravely. "I takes good care of him though. He be betters again real soon."

"Is it th' flu?" Pickles asked. "Or somethin' else we should know about? Like fuckin' SARS or rabies or some shit like that?"

"It's nothings! I'm fine!" Skwisgaar snapped, and then launched into a series of sneezes and coughs to prove his point.

"Jeezsh, letsh get outta here," Murderface muttered, making a face. "I don't wanna shlip in all that goddamn shnot. I mean look at it, it'sh all over the plashe."

"Yeah Toki, keep that Swedish snotball away from us, 'kay?"

Toki saluted smartly. "No problems!"

"Good luck with your patient, Dr Dolittle," Nathan grunted with a smirk. "Let us know when to call the morgue."

"Oh ha ha, very funny," Toki retorted, then got up and shooed the trio out of the room. "Goes away now, no visitations! Skwisgaar's needing rest and you all bothers him!"

Skwisgaar moaned in defeat and flopped back down into bed, accepting his fate with grim tact and more than a little hope that death would spare him from any long term suffering.



In the days that followed, Toki did everything he could to make Skwisgaar as comfortable as possible, which meant that most of the time Skwisgaar was as miserable as could be. First Toki got the notion into his head that a) he knew how to prepare hot tea and that b) he would use herbs and spices that he grew himself, just like the real greenie, holistic-medicine type apothecary hippies did. Only Toki a) didn't know how to grow plants and b) didn't know anything else about plants other than they grew between cracks in the sidewalk and clogged the gutters. But he decided that anything green couldn't possibly be bad for you, and that pine cones and dandelions were just as good as chamomile and ginger. The first time Toki made his special Wartooth Blend Home Flu Remedy tea, he had to give Skwisgaar the Heimlich Manoeuvre after the Swede got a dead snail stuck in his windpipe. Then Skwisgaar threw up all over the place and was violently ill for the next two days. Maybe snail allergy or something.

But Toki didn't give up after that; he'd heard about the magic surrounding the all-powerful chicken soup, and Jean-Pierre nearly suffered a massive heart attack when he entered the kitchen one morning to find his Norwegian master surrounded by a truckload of stinking, pecking, shitting broiler hens.

"Helps me, Jon-Pear!" Toki demanded desperately. "I keeps asking these chicken about de secrets of their magic soup, but they don't says anythings to me! I been asking for hours and they doesn't listens! I thinks they don't even knows how to makes soup at all!"

But Jean-Pierre, after almost falling to pieces again, composed himself and took care of the problem, and everyone ate chicken for the next week and a half. Toki never did learn the secret of the chickens' magic soup, but he did learn how to operate a can opener. Skwisgaar eventually got his chicken soup, though Toki lamented about it not being "the real thing".

The rest of the band observed with incredulous disgust the tender care that Florence Vikingale was dishing out to his Scandinavian brother, and began placing bets on whether he would end up killing his patient or whether the patient would kill himself first. It was a tough call. Either way it seemed Skwisgaar was going to die, so the band prepared themselves to look for a new guitarist to fill in the tall, slender gap that the Swede would leave.



A week later and Skwisgaar, despite Toki's diligent care, showed no signs of improvement. The second fastest guitarist finally got the idea that maybe a more Swedish method of treatment would have better luck in helping Skwisgaar to regain his health. So one day Toki wheeled his patient over to the Mordhaus spa, where Skwisgaar was buried in a vat of mud while Toki looked on approvingly. Then he was excavated some time later, hosed off in mineral water, and then soaked in a jacuzzi.

Skwisgaar was actually feeling somewhat better after this extensive pampering and could almost begin to forgive Toki for holding him captive all this time. But then Toki decided that no trip to the spa was complete without a nice massage, and instead of a couple of buxom women administering the sick Swede, Toki had taken it upon himself to deliver the healing touch. He also wanted an excuse to try out the Swedish-style massage methods he had actually taken the time to learn from Björn, the Mordhaus Master Masseuse.

So Skwisgaar, squawking and croaking and protesting the whole way, had to be bodily pinned down to the massage table in order for Toki to do his thing. Skwisgaar was still pretty weakened by his illness, and after a few minutes lost the interest and the energy to fight against the much stronger, healthier Norwegian.

Toki did a miserable job at first and it was only thanks to Skwisgaar's sharp cries of "fuck!" and "not dere!" that he finally learned how to massage correctly. And once he got the hang of it, it was great.

"How's am I doing?" Toki asked concernedly, kneading the aching muscles of Skwisgaar's lower back.

"Still dildos," came the flat answer, but Skwisgaar was smiling contentedly through the face-hole in the massage table. "Keep tryings."

So Toki kept on, Skwisgaar began to get pleasantly drowsy, and it seemed to be quite a while later that he woke up and noticed a very heavy, pleasant weight on his upper thighs.

"…Toki?"

"Yeah?" came the voice from directly above him.

"Yous…are yous on my back?"

"Yeah, I couldn't reach real good from standings on de sides. What's you thinks of this feeling?" Toki was rolling the balls of his hands in a circular motion up and down Skwisgaar's spine, pressing into his lumbar with his strong fingers, rocking his palms up underneath his shoulder blades. "It don't hurt, do it?" he asked worriedly.

It felt fucking mouth-watering, lip-biting, eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head motherfucking orgasmic is what it felt like. But Skwisgaar could never admit to complimenting Toki so shamelessly. "It's okay," he muttered, trying to keep the immense satisfaction out of his voice. "Just…keeps on…"

Well, wait. It did hurt just a little bit, just below there. Like a dull ache that…oh fuck. Fuck.

"Uh. Okays Toki, I t'ink dat enoughs for now."

"But I not even gets to de good parts yet."

"Dat's alls right, I feel betters now. Yous can get offs me."

"But Skwisgaar, I-"

"TOKI!" The shout echoed in the tiled room.

"…yes?" came the small reply.

Skwisgaar's face melted in agonising shame. "You haves to get offs me. I…has a big hard-on."

"Oh." Pause. "That's okay, Skwisgaar." Toki leaned down close to whisper, "I has one too."

Mother of Judas.

Skwisgaar opened wide and said, "AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!"



It wasn't a total relapse, but Skwisgaar came back to Mordhaus that night looking visibly worse for the wear than when he had left. He was extra pale and had a nasty twitch that made him resemble an albino Chihuahua in a cold breeze. Nobody wanted to ask what had happened down at the spa that day, even though everyone had heard the scream resonating from the massage parlour earlier and they all knew it was Skwisgaar's. They didn't actually count on seeing the blond alive ever again after that, but the tyre fires of their hopes still burned and smoked brightly to see their esteemed guitarist in one of the nicer looking transition stages between life and death.

Toki made certain that Skwisgaar went straight to bed, and after returning to the room with some freshly-brewed tea that Jean-Pierre had been kind enough to substitute in place of Toki's catastrophic Ivy and Privet blend, the Norwegian caregiver took a seat in the chair by the bed and placed the tray in Skwisgaar's lap.

The Swede stewed silently and stirred his tea, deliberately not looking at Toki; however, he still felt too groggy to be truly angry. For a while they sat in complete and awkward silence. When it became apparent that Toki wasn't going to leave him alone any time soon, Skwisgaar sighed, sniffed down some snot, and uttered, "Why you doos dis to mes?"

Toki looked somewhat taken aback. "Why doos what?"

"Tries to take cares of mes. Acts as if really yous cares about mes. Doos all dis stupid things to make me betters, as if yous woulds be actually gettings a rewards for it. Since whens does I matters so much to yous anyway, ah?"

Toki responded to such nihilism with unusual concern. "Aw Skwisgaar," he murmured, sounding a little offended by the implications for his own caring behaviour and Skwisgaar's own lack of meaningful relationships, "we in this together. We's the fastest guitars player alive. We looks out for each others."

"Huh," the blond scoffed. "I don't look outs for yous."

"Maybe you one day will."

"Pfft. Dat's dildos."

"We tooks a promise to each others, remember?"

Skwisgaar frowned. "Promise? What's promise?"

Toki looked hurt. "You knows, de one. 'To has and to holds for betters or worst, through good's time and bad's time, in sickness and healthy, until death takes us'."

Skwisgaar calmly put down his teacup and smiled acidly. "Toki," he uttered, "you big dildo…dat's a MARRIEDS VOW."

Toki's expression was utterly blank. It was the look you'd only see on the face of someone whose brain just burnt down from a circuit overload.

Skwisgaar facepalmed. "We is not husbands and wive. We is band's mate. Yous fucking gay idiot."

"But…" Toki mumbled numbly, grey matter still smoking. "But we…"

Skwisgaar massaged his temples. "Band's oath. Legal cons-tract. Pre-metal arrangements. We dids dat. But we didn'ts haves a fucking white weddings! No cakes! No rices!" Cough. "No limos! Dere was no marriages!"

Toki quietly sat in his chair and stared at the edge of the bed. Skwisgaar didn't feel the need to clarify his point any further and resigned to moodily sipping his tea. After a while Toki rose from his chair and walked from the room, leaving the door cracked slightly. Skwisgaar felt better with that dumbass gone. He finished the rest of his tea and set the tray on the bedside table, then settled down into the blue covers with a box of Kleenex tucked under one arm and Toki's teddy bear under the other. (It just felt good to hang onto.)

"Your mom's a big idiot," he muttered to the bear. "Don't know bands from marriages. Pfft. No wonders you don't talk. I'ds be shamed to talk too wis a parent likes dat."

Skwisgaar closed his eyes but his nose was running and itchy and he couldn't sleep. He started to get bored, but not bored enough that he wanted to get up and walk across the cold stone floor and find something to do. He studied the posters on Toki's walls, gazed up at the model planes hanging from the ceiling, at the cluttered desk in the corner with the pieces of his next creation lying unfinished and scattered on its surface. Toki was possessive of his things, like a little kid who would share but never really share. Wanted his toys back as soon as they'd left his hands, never trusted others to take care of his stuff, never wanted anybody else touching his personal things…

Skwisgaar twiddled his feet and watched the covers move. Here he was, dressed in Toki's clothes in Toki's bed with Toki's bear in Toki's room. And then, Skwisgaar realised, maybe Toki didn't deserve to be thought of like that.

The door suddenly opened and the Norwegian walked in, shut it behind him, strode over to the bed, sat down in his chair again, and set a very thick book in his lap.

"What's dat?" Skwisgaar asked hesitantly, sitting up.

Toki said nothing. He opened the tome and went through chunks of pages, then as he got closer to what he sought, page by page, licking his thumb and forefinger to turn them. Skwisgaar watched with a raised eyebrow.

Finally, after running his finger down the length of a page, it seemed Toki found what he was looking for, and he lifted the book slightly, cleared his throat and read aloud, "Mare-ee-edge. Noun. Any cloze or imitate…in-ti-mate. Intimate association or union. 'De mare-ee-edge of music and word in a hit song.' A formal agreement between two company or enterprise to combine operation, resource, eckt period, for moo-too-ull…myoo-chyu-ull. Mutual benefit." He closed the book with a loud slap that sent his brown hair briefly flying. He looked nonchalantly at his friend. "We has a marriage, Skwisgaar."

"…wheres did you gets dat book from?"

"De book grocery."

Skwisgaar laid back down on his pillows and snuffled wetly. After a pause he looked the other way and muttered, "Fine. So we marrieds. Big deals. Peoples are marry all de times. Just don't expecting me to be making de loves to yous."

"I not expects that from you, Skwisgaar."

"Good."

"Anybody can tells you de bride anyway."

Skwisgaar turned his head to glare at Toki. The Norwegian was smiling cockily but endearingly. Skwisgaar sighed shortly. "Why you so means to me? I don't deserves dis."

"Because I hates you, Skwisgaar. More than you ever knows."

Toki placed his hand on the bed, and the Swede's own pale clammy one soon found it. They both knew the word game they were playing—they'd played it often enough. They knew the translations now, knew exactly what each other meant. It was fun, it was funny, it was a little bit awkward, but if you couldn't speak your mind…well then, you're bound to lose it someday.

Skwisgaar gave Toki's hand a little squeeze, sniffed, and smiled snidely. "Ja," he said. And that was all he said.



Two weeks later Skwisgaar was back to his usual hair-whipping, guitar-shredding, groupie-banging old self again. The rest of the band was glad to see that he hadn't kicked the bucket after all, and promptly cancelled the 8 million MySpace adverts for a new guitarist they had sent out. Morons everywhere died in disappointment at their chances of joining Dethklok being reduced to nil. The band decided to celebrate with a nice drinking binge at their favourite local bar, and by the time midnight rolled around they were all in possession of highly flammable breath and couldn't be feeling better.

Except for one member of the group, who couldn't seem to get that rasp out of his voice that had settled in earlier that day.

"Why's yous beingk so quiets, ah?" Skwisgaar asked Toki, slinging his arm around his friend's shoulder. "Has de cats got stucks in your throat-pipes?"

"I'm fine," Toki said nervously, massaging the itch in his throat.

"Reallys. Well. You's…lookings pretty hot."

"Was that a comes-on line?"

"Huh?" Blink. "No. Yours cheek is…yours tem-pre-toors is hot. Like you gots a fevers."

"I'm drunks," Toki excused. And then he sneezed.

Skwisgaar's drunken blue eyes gleamed with the beautiful glow of vengeance. "You's are sick," he said excitedly, then leaned in and gave Toki a crushing hug, petting his brown hair and spilling beer all in it. "Don'ts to worries darling!" he cried chivalrously, "I'll takes good cares off yous!"

"I knows," Toki moaned, face skwished against Skwisgaar's bosom. "That's what worry me."

"I'll make teas for yous and gives you baths for yous and-" He pulled away with a wicked evil grin. "-massages for yous..."

Toki laid his head on the bar and moped with all the dignity he could muster. No way was he going to come out of this on top.

In any sense of the word.



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