The troll druid quietly slipped around the orc, helped the tauren to sit more comfortably against his cushions, and unobtrusively left, leaving the orc staring intently at her friend. Sunlight streamed in through the small window, creating a faint halo around his horns. Her eyes raked across him, noting the haggard sag of his face, the trembling in his hands, and the massive bandage around his torso.
"You're a sight for sore eyes," the orc said. They grinned stupidly at each other.
"Sore is right," the tauren replied, wincing as he shifted. "I feel like I was trampled by a stampede of kodo!"
The orc folded herself down next to her friend. Seated, he still towered over her. She pushed away the knowledge that the injury was far worse than being trampled, that the druids had despaired of him waking, that he could have lost the use of his legs. He didn't need to hear those worries. Noticing a blanket folded at his feet, she made a show of draping it over her own legs, then casually tucked the other half across his knees.
"I'm not a calf," he said shortly, reaching for the blanket.
She ignored his hands and smoothed it across his lap. "I know that."
"I'm not ready for pasture yet, either." His voice rose.
"I know that," she replied mildly. Their eyes met for a tense moment. "You've got a while yet till you start losing your mane," she joked.
After a pause his glare softened, and he snorted. "Earthmother send that I never wind up as bald as you."
"You could never look as good as I do bald," she shot back, and the mood was just like old times.
The orc tilted her face up, feeling the sunlight prickle her scalp. "Do you remember when we had to go swimming?"
"To get those vines?" He grimaced. "I like swimming, but when everything in the water is trying to kill you..."
"At least you're good at swimming! If it hadn't been for those endless breathing potions, I wouldn't have even gotten into the water."
They exchanged glances before downing their water skins together. The tauren shook his head, sticking out his tongue at the unpleasantly salty flavor. He waded in to the water, the orc following less eagerly. She stopped, immersed to her ribs, and frowned.
"I don't know if I'll ever get used to breathing underwater," she muttered. Then, she sank under the surface, eyes squeezed shut, and breathed deeply through her mouth. Thanks to the magic of the breathing potion, the water was uncomfortable, but not choking. It swirled coolly down her throat and pooled in her lungs. She opened her eyes.
The tauren had been waiting patiently for her and now kicked his hooves, moving towards the dark, sinuous patch of seaweed climbing the steep bank opposite them. Nestled in the undulating seaweed were the knots of slimy, strangling vines the druids needed for their forays into Tempest Keep. He did not relish fighting aggressive vegetation on the doorstep of Serpentshrine Cavern, but this would be their job until a new method was discovered.
"But then, that one time we dropped by the hop field..." the orc said, eyes twinkling.
The tauren scrunched up his face even as he smiled. "Ahh, don't remind me, it hurts to laugh!"
They had been merrymaking at a small farm owned by a mutual friend and were leaving in the wee hours of the morning. Chuckling quietly, they staggered across the dry chill of Durotar, aiming for the Orgrimmar city gates. They passed by other small farms, including a small personal hop yard.
The tauren gestured to the vines climbing the support trellis. "L-look," he slurred. "We could grab these and make-" he hiccuped, "-beer armor."
The orc snorted. "Could enchant it to make drinks stronger to the wearer."
Giggling, the orc grabbed a vine and wound it around his head like a crown. The hop clusters stuck out comically over his forehead. "I'm ready for Brewfest!"
The orc began to laugh, doubling over and shaking helplessly in her drunken state. "Hop bracers could make you able to hold bigger, deeper mugs!"
Suiting her words, the tauren grabbed another string of hops and wound it around one wrist. He fumbled, attempting to wrap the other, and finally gave up. The orc laughed hysterically at this display.
"Don't-don't use too much," she cautioned, gasping with mirth. "You'll ruin the beer!" She leaned against a support pole of the trellis, then stumbled backward. Her hands grasped for purchase, finding only fistfuls of hops, and she fell gracelessly to the ground covered in vines.
Forgetting where they were, the tauren let out a guffaw. "Now who's ruining the beer?" he challenged. Neither spoke while they cackled maniacally.
A light flared to life inside the distant hut, and the door opened with bang. "WHO IS THAT ON MY LAWN?!" shouted an irate orc.
The pair looked at each other, mirth forgotten. "Go, go," whispered the orc breathlessly, scrambling to her feet.
They took off, trailing vines behind them.
Two days later, having slept the previous day away, the orc turned up early in the leatherworking shop and discovered several lengths of hop clusters in her bag. I must have carried them with me, she mused, not remembering much after the party. With no pressing matters on the schedule, she decided to put her idle hands to work and make a gag gift for her partner.
Three hours later, she had a fairly convincing pair of gloves, which she placed on the tauren's worktable. She rationalized the use of valuable leather as practice rather than waste. After all, the design was still new, and she needed to make good armor for the druids that commissioned the shop. Stomach rumbling, she closed the workshop and went in search of some grub.
Upon returning to the workshop, the orc noticed that several other leatherworkers had trickled in during her absence. The tauren was seated at his table, pretending to peruse a Cenarion Circle missive. His eyes were still a little red. The orc strode over to him and slapped the table good-naturedly, causing him to wince slightly.
"Did you get my present?"
He blinked. "What present?"
She gestured to his desk. "I made your a pair of gloves and left them on your table. A special pair of gloves," she prompted, grinning. He showed no recognition. Frowning, she continued, "A Brewfest...pair of gloves...?"
Another leatherworker, an unusually slender goblin, strode into the room. Hearing only the last part, she piped up, "Oh, I found those gloves you made and added them to the shipment to Shattrath. The vendor there can't seem to keep anything in stock, so it was great you made extra!" She continued about her business, oblivious to the frozen silence she left in her wake.
The trouble seemed far away now, safe in the bright room in the valley. Dust motes pranced through the sun shafts, heedless of the quiet inhabitants.
"I didn't tell anyone else in the workshop but you. I sent a courier to Shattrath, but by the time he arrived they had sold the pair, and the druid wore them into battle before he heard of the mistake. It's a miracle he survived wearing what should have been a party favor."
"All's well that end's well," the tauren said consolingly. "Just think of all the time we wasted gathering vines the hard way!"
The orc threw back her head and began to laugh. The tauren looked on, smiling, as she laughed herself silly. After several minutes, her giggles subsided and she wiped tears from her eyes.
The tauren watched this with polite amusement. "What was that all about?"
"I don't know," she said, gently clapping a hand on his shoulder. "I'm just glad you're back."