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Felt Antlers

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    A year ago, Sebastian would have taken one look at the farmer and bitten down a snort. A year ago, he would’ve brought up her festive winter sweater in a pool game with Sam, and the two of them would have heckled the woman's overeager personality.

     Jesus, time had changed. Maybe he’d gotten too soft. Maybe - he’d just gotten less bitter.

     Sure, he still scoffed, fighting down an eye roll when he caught a glimpse of her - her multicolored sweater that Evelyn had clearly knitted, the baggy socks peeking out from under the cuff of her jeans. The antler headband on her head.

     But, amidst his amusement, he felt a lopsided grin crawl onto his face. She hadn’t noticed him quite yet, her backpack slung over her shoulder.

     Sebastian made easy work of stepping to the side, grabbing hold of her elbow and pulling her behind the tree he’d been standing under. She gasped, a hand coming up to cover her mouth in surprise, before realizing who it was.

     “Oh – Yoba, Sebastian! – You scared me,” she whined, her hand lowering to her chest. “You - didn’t dress up for the feast?”

     “Did you think I would?”

     “Well -” she stuttered, “No, but - … I had hoped – …”

     She trailed off, realizing how close he had gotten. She stepped back, bumping into the tree, her eyes stuck on his. The taller man bent over, just slightly, his hands in the pouch of his hoodie as he pressed his lips to hers.

     For once, she didn’t immediately taste nicotine, but - chocolate? Hot chocolate. She knew he wasn’t as much of a scrooge as he pretended to be, a smile threatening to ruin their momentary affection. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, easily kissing him back.

     “A-hem.”

     She startled, pulling away from the black-clad man. Mayor Lewis peered over at them, a festive red-and-white hat atop his head.

     “The children will be here soon, you two. Ah - Sebastian, nice of you to get in the spirit for once.”

     “What?”

     When he glanced back at the farmer, he noticed her headband had - disappeared. With a belated sense of embarrassment, he reached up over his head, fingers brushing a felt-covered antler.

     “You little shit!”

     Her peal of laughter as she stumbled, taking off in a half-hearted jog across the town square to escape Sebastian’s wrath, was enough for him to decide the accessory was worth it.