Tove showed up in the doorway of the infirmary, a wan and hungry wraith. “Don’t tell Cap I’m back yet,” she said, and promptly fell over.

Ambrosine was able to keep Tove’s head from hitting the floor and only knocked her chair over in the process, which all in all the guardian considered a victory. “Gah you idiot, what’ve you been up to?”

“Trying to save my idiot,” Tove mumbled, accepting Ambrosine’s hand and staggering back to her feet. “He’s my favorite; I want to keep him. Do you know how much I want to keep him?”

A frown creased Ambrosine’s brow as she walked the ranger to a bed and watched her flop backwards onto it. “I have a feeling you’re going to tell me because you’re rambling.”

“Damned straight I’m rambling. I’ve had my mind stuck in hunger! The tree bark started to look good. I’ve refused to eat anything as a result. That’s logical, right?”

“No,” Ambrosine said grimly as she walked over to the fire and began gathering things for a broth. “Not even a little bit.”

“Oh, well, you know, I’m not all science-minded like Fiel and Rikvi. I go on instinct. I don’t have an understanding of magic, I just…do it. I feel it. And everything was screaming that being hungry was WRONG, so I didn’t eat. Okay?”

“No, but go on.” 

“I think it has to do with…the spirits. The corrupted ones. Maybe, if I get a shaman of Wolverine, and drag back one of those shrines the fucking Svanir use, I can do something with it. Or Rikvi and Fiel can.”

“Sure,” Ambrosine said genially, dropping some herbs into a pot. She’d cheated with some magic of her own and got the water boiling faster. Some matters of healing should be tackled the old fashioned way, and gently refeeding the hungry was one.

While that steeped, however, she went back to Tove and began casually removing her boots and gloves, as frostbite was a concern even for Norn in the Marches. There was definitely some on the ears, which she casually reached a free hand out and began mending. That, at least, was simple and worth doing the easy way. “You know I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“That’s okay, it’s better that way. It’s just…Cap. Cap stuff. Trouble Cap is in. He’s so good at finding it sometimes. My heart hurts for him. Or it just hurts, I can’t tell. He really is my favorite. I’m so scared.”

“I know,” she said gently, helping Tove sit back up and pressing a cup of water into her hands. 

Tove suddenly stared right at her, glanced bright and sharp. “You would. You’ve had someone you love in trouble, although the demons are different. And you’ve had to just…fret, and wait.”

“I mean I did more than fret to start with but I really couldn’t save Jess from herself, no.” Ambrosine pursed her lips, wandering back to the broth. “And their problems are very different, at least. So is that why you felt compelled to go risk yourself studying…whatever you were studying out in Bjora? The need to do something?”

“I was fine,” Tove said, waving a hand dismissively, Ambrosine caught her wrist and let Tove observe how much her hand was shaking.

“No you weren’t, but I’m glad you came back. I’ve been worried about you, and missing you, of course.” She spooned a Norn-sized portion of beef broth into a Norn-sized bowl.

“Have the others been getting into trouble without me?”

“Of course. I had Niklas in here a quarter dead, but like all necromancers he hid it well. Fiel did good healing with him, but I wasn’t without work to do myself. Mostly making Nik eat properly and sleep. Several others were roughed up in the same fight, but you know how they are about coming to visit me.”

“I don’t know why they’re afraid of you scolding them. You are soft. Squishy. Nowhere near as fierce as you pretend to be.” Tove was staring at the bowl.

Ambrosine pointed at her. “Excuse you, I’m exactly as fierce as I present myself, I just prefer to aim it at my enemies rather than my friends. But you lot are stubborn and drive me crazy, this is true. But that’s why I have you, you’re here to be more approachable and less strict. Now EAT, Tove.”

“I…I don’t want to.”

This time she waggled her finger. “I’m sorry but that’s not an option.” 

“Look, I was studying the Boneskinners, and they are…they’re hunger. Just hunger, empty and aching and hollowing out your bones. I’m afraid I came too close to them, afraid I…I’m afraid if I start eating I won’t stop.”

Ambrosine set the bowl aside and placed her hands on Tove’s. She was smaller than the ranger, of course, but at the moment she was hale and hearty and Tove was…not. “If I need to I will stop you,” Ambrosine said, slow and steady and deadly serious.

And Tove relaxed. “Okay. You could stop me, I know you could. This…this has messed me up, Ambro. I was trying too hard to study it, and I feel like I got too close.”

“I think you’ve just literally starved yourself,” she said gently, pressing Tove’s fingers more firmly around the bowl. “Eat this—or well, drink it, because there’s not much solid in there for good reason. Eat it, then take the potion I give you, and then sleep.”

“Don’t tell Cap,” Tove said fervently. “I want to be–I want to be more together before…before.”

“As if you haven’t seen him in terrible shape,” Ambrosine chided gently, sorting through her collection of vials for the right ones. She was no alchemist, but her wife was, so she was always in possession of various goodies. 

“But not on my behalf.”

Ambrosine sighed. “I won’t seek him out but I won’t bar him, either.”

Tove groaned. 

“Look, eat and sleep and you’ll be much better off. Don’t make me force you–I will, and you know it.”

The Norn shot her a sulky look, then began slowly sipping the broth.  “This is why people don’t want YOUR healing–ow!” She rubbed her knuckles where she’d been tapped with a spoon.

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