It was a cold, stormy night. Echoes of thunder rumbled through the sky, lighting so brief, so beautiful. The rain heavy, like a cry, like a song and any other sound was only a mere whisper compared to it.
Ethari sat at the balcony as he admired the view. He was cold, yes, wet from head to toe, but who cared, he was also probably on his way to catching a cold but then again, who cared. He loved to get wet as it rained, adored a good thunderstorm. Whenever he needed to clear his mind, the noise from the storm would always be greater than the one in his head.
Oh and did he need to quiet his head down. Things with Runaan had been... Complicated, they had been for a while ever since they got the news about their friends. At first, Ethari had been there for Runaan and so had he. They both were there for Rayla as well, but then something changed. Runaan started talking about taking Rayla with him on his next mission.
Ethari loved his husband and his daughter more than anything in the world. He would agree with them most of the time, knowing what they wanted was always what was best for each other, but this time, Ethari didn't even know what to say.
Take her with him? What was he even thinking! Runaan claimed to know what was best for Rayla but Ethari knew she wasn't ready, she might never be. She was just a kid! And taking a life was a reality way too harsh to face just yet. She was too naive, too innocent. She was... She...
"You'll get sick if you stay there any longer."
Ethari turned around immediately at the sound.
"Come on, get inside," he said calmly, quietly and turned around. Even if he spoke in a whisper, all he said echoed harder than the storm inside Ethari's head.
Staying outside was no longer an option, he couldn't outrun his problems forever anyway. He stood up from the balcony and started to follow Runaan before he turned around and stopped him.
"Ah, no- you stay here." Ethari shot him a confused look and he just smiled. "Don't want the house getting wet now, do we?" Ethari nodded and stayed where we was. Suddenly the cold hit him and he found himself shivering.
Runaan came back back with a large and thick towel. He wrapped Ethari in it and kissed his forehead briefly before stepping away
"Can I get in now?" Ethari asked, a teasing tone lingering.
Runaan rolled his eyes and practically pulled him in. "Don't even think about getting the towel wet from the rain too, it's the only dry one we've got"
Ethari's smile grew wide. "I wonder who's fault is that?" He chuckle as Runaan tried to hide his embarrassment.
"Come on..." Runaan started walking again and Ethari had nothing better to do than to follow him.
A long silence fell upon them as they walked, almost like a spell. It was at that moment that Ethari noticed the storm hadn't stopped just yet, he could even say it got stronger. The lighting and rumbling in the sky becoming more vivid.
Finally, he dared to speak.
"Runaan... We need to talk about it. You know that, right?"
Runaan just kept walking but Ethari could see his arms tensing, his breathing once steady and calm was now inconsistent.
"Ethari." he turned around and took both of his hands carefully on his own. He looked up at him, hurt, almost helpless. "Let me take care of you first, then we can talk."
He squeezed his hands gently and nodded. "Okay, but we do need to."
Runaan didn't say another word as he continued with his walking, now less stiff but still doubtful.
They finally arrived to their bedroom, Ethari hadn't even noticed where they were walking towards until now, his head too busy getting lost in the storm outside. It was so weird, how one second ago he was standing in the door frame, then he blinked and now he was sitting on a small chair in their bathroom.
"You have to take a shower, don't want you getting sick."
Runaan leaned in a little, it looked like he wanted to kiss Ethari again but he was too afraid.
"I'll go heat some water," he whispered and decided to kiss his cheek instead.
Ethari barely registered the words this time, too lost, too weak both emotionally and physically. He had been working at the forge since last night until today, too much stress to be hammered away.
He ruffled his hair with the towel before putting it aside. He took his scarf off and folded it neatly before continuing to take the rest of his clothing off. They were warm with the scent of hot metal, dirty with the smell of forest rain.
He lit a few candles, knowing the glowing mushrooms would be too bright for his eyes right now.
He got inside the bathtub and curled up inside it. Apparently he had forgotten the cold existed, again. He hated the cold just as much as he hated hard pillows. He loved all things in his life soft and warm, and they were, at least until very recently.
Runaan came back after a while with two buckets of warm water, obviously startled to find Ethari in such a state.
"Lo... Ethari! What are you doing- I am trying to stop you from getting a cold," he said in a annoyed tone as he knelt down to pour the water in the bathtub. "Are really this stubborn?"
Ethari relaxed instantly with the warm water surrounding him. Things were finally starting to feel like home and he could finally hear Runaan again. He just chuckled.
"Of course you are..." He huffed but smiled anyway. He took some aromatic soaps from one of the drawers, analyzing them closely. "Moonberry... Or Fart flower?" He said with a smile. "Which one do you think it's better, Ethari?"
It was the craftman's turn to huff now. "You've got to be kidding me..."
"Fart flower it is!" Runaan said and poured the moonberry soap in the water. Bubbles started to emerge from the water, the dim light from the candles reflecting on them beautifully.
Ethari smiled at the sight of it all. He smiled at Runaan, too. The storm had finally started to calm down both on the inside and the outside.
"Let me wash your hair?" Runaan asked shyly.
Ethari turned so his back was facing him. "You know... This usually goes the other way around," he whispered and toyed awkwardly with the water while looking down at it.
The assassin ran his hands through his husband's hair. Such lethal weapons were now caressing one of the most precious things in the whole world, it was almost funny to Runaan, only that it wasn't.
"You know I don't agree with what you want to do... Right?"
Runaan stayed quiet, Ethari spoke again.
"You know what I think, too. Rayla, she..." He sighed. "She might be talented, a prodigy even but that's one thing, taking a life is another."
More silence, the storm outside rumbling angrily again.
"I disagree, strongly, with what you want to do, Runaan," he whispered, tears threatening to break free, Runaan noticed from the tone of his voice. It broke his heart, but there was nothing that could change his mind either.
"I... But I love you, so I have decided to trust you." he looked up to face Runaan.
They were so vulnerable now, so open, exposed in more than one way. Internally, Runaan was terrified, probably externally too. He knew there was no turning back. Ever since he brought the idea up, all paths back to the way their life had been before were closed, all the strings cut, a free fall. Ethari could feel it too.
"This must be done, Ethari. She needs it." His hands fell from Ethari's head to his nape, cupping it gently. The other leaned in the touch and closed his eyes.
"Okay..." He nodded once more. He looked up at Runaan, amber eyes filled with pain and love alike. "I trust you."
Runaan's heart was finally reduced to dust, his eyes teared up but always refused to let him cry. The same feeling from before was haunting him. He wanted to lean down and kiss Ethari, cup his cheeks and tell him everything would be okay, tell him he would be fine, promise him, reassure him. He wanted to pour his heart out, remind him that no matter what, he would always love him.
But did he even deserve to show his love? Was he allowed to speak about it right now? After all he had done?
Ethari cupped his face instead, he made sure Runaan was looking at him directly when he finally spoke.
"What are you thinking about, mmm?" He asked, knowing very well what the answer was. "You aren't overthinking again, are you?"
He wiped away the 'tears' in his eyes and kissed his chin.
"I love you, Runaan," he whispered once more. "And there is no thing in or out of this world that will be able to change that, not even you."
Runaan looked away from him and Ethari frowned, there was only one way left to get his message across.
"I will love you always... even if you eat the last moonberry surprise."
Runaan gasped and looked at Ethari again, surprised, smiling. They were soon laughing and giggling together, Ethari still cupping Runaan's face–more like squishing it–and Runaan struggling to wash Ethari's hair.
They were mostly silent for the rest of the bath, the rain outside being a calming background noise as long as they were together. It had also been a while since they had been this close- not physically, but emotionally. Even if they supported each other after receiving the news about their friends, they also closed up, even with each other. Even if they didn't notice it at all.
"I think it's time we end this bath," Runaan said after a while.
"But why tho? It's so comfy here," his husband hummed and Runaan only rolled his eyes.
"Speak for yourself..." He stood up and walked towards the door. "I will go get some clothes for you, get out and dry up before I come back."
Ethari huffed at that. "Bossy," he whispered.
"Whiny," Runaan said with a satisfied tone and kissed his cheek again.
Once alone, Ethari could hear the storm loud and clear again. He got up slowly and just like when he got inside the bathtub, he regretted it immediately, the coldness of the night attacking him once more.
Ethari could not think of a time in his life in which he had changed so fast into his sleeping clothes as he did when Runaan finally came back with them. He was still cold and he hated it.
When Runaan finally noticed his shivering, slightly grumpy husband, he decided it was finally time to tuck him into bed and lay down with him. So he did just that.
"Is this comfy enough?" He asked while running a hand up and down Ethari's side in a soothing manner.
"Mhm... Yeah." he snuggled closer to Runaan, one hand under the pillow and the other around his neck. Runaan moved his hand to the small of Ethari's back shyly while the other just smiled.
"Your hands are cold...'' Runaan breathed quietly.
"And you are hot."
"Well thank you," he said with a smile. "I work hard for it."
They giggled together a little more before the silence came back. They felt more at easy now, under the covers and shielded from the world and their problems, they only had each other now and that was enough for them.
Runaan took a deep breath and finally managed to reunite enough courage to talk to Ethari after feeling like he didn't even have the right to.
"Sorry won't fix what's about to come," he said and waited for Ethari to look at him before he spoke again, "Nor will it stop it, there is no turning back now."
"I know..." Ethari sighed with a painful expression.
"I can't promise you anything, no matter how much I wish to hold you..." He let his hand pull Ethari closer, their foreheads touching against each other. "Tell you how much you mean to me, tell you that we will come back."
"I need you to promise me, Runaan." there was the littlest crack in his voice as he spoke, "I need you to tell me it will all be okay even if we both know... Even if we know there's a possibility it won't."
Runaan took Ethari's hand and moved it close to his lips, kissing his knuckles softly.
"...May the time come where I find myself lost in darkness, my love, I promise I will always make my way back to your light," he whispered softly and Ethari could feel himself starting to tear up.
"If this will be the last time I feel your warmth," Ethari mumbled. "Let me at least feel it... For a little while longer."
They stayed tangled under the covers, a soft mushroom light lighting the room barely enough. The rain outside their room hadn't stopped just yet but it had morphed into something soothing that both elves enjoyed.
As much as Ethari wished to stay awake and hold his husband close to his chest, the emotional rollercoaster he had just gone through both inside and outside of his head had let him too tired and he soon fell asleep.
"Good night, my light," Runaan whispered to his sleepy husband. "Rest well because tonight, I will take care of you."