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I'll Be Home for Christmas

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The quaint seclusion of the small room failed to withdraw from showing off the eye-catching decorations placed strategically among the interior of its neighbouring rooms. The holidays were in full effect in the Silvergrove, and Ethari would be the last elf to fail to take advantage of such an occasion. Runaan joined in as well, of course--the magnetic pull of easygoing domesticity reeling him in without much of a strong resistance. Watching his husband's eyes dazzle with excitement as the bright lights he'd strewn reflected in them, making the stunning amber even more beautiful, made the domestic activities that much more understandable to the assassin.

What he still hadn't fully grasped, though, was the simple (as Ethari told him through encouraging, albeit very patiently delivered instructions) act of wrapping gifts. He supposed it could serve as a metaphor; he was an assassin, after all. Taking things apart remained easier than putting them in a nice package.

Still though, he was not one to give up. Especially not when Ethari had his strong arms wrapped around him, gently guiding him through each motion as if it were as easy for him as it was for his graceful, experienced touch.

"There it is, wonderful job my love." Ethari murmured, his voice becoming muffled as he leaned in to press a kiss against the assassin's hair.

A soft collection of breath he'd been holding due to the demands of focus escaped Runaan, causing him to shrink in Ethari's arms before returning to normal. "It looks alright?" he asked.

Moving his hands so they circled Runaan's waist in resting, Ethari rested his chin on his shoulder as he surveyed their--or rather, Runaan's, he reminded himself--work with a careful eye. "Looks presentable."

Runaan dropped his head. "Ethari, I don't want it to just be presentable. I want to give my best."

Laughter bubbled in Ethari's chest. "But others hardly look at the outside of the gift, it's about what's inside." he offered.

"But how will they even know it's worth opening if it looks so subpar?"

"Because it's from an elf who's known to be loving and warm." Ethari replied, sounding slightly mischievous.

Runaan allowed his pride to subside as he felt the warmth of the compliment before snapping back into reality. "Wait, I thought this gift was from you."

The craftsman leaned his cheek against his husband's neck as he embraced him. "Mhmm. Warm and soft, like I said."

Runaan sighed. "Then does this mean you'll be wrapping gifts addressed from me in my honour?"

"Not at all. You're not giving up that easily."

"Ethariiii. I don't have nearly the soft reputation that you have."

"But you have a soft heart. And the willingness to learn."

Runaan turned to press a small kiss to Ethari’s forehead before continuing. "I appreciate your patience."

Before his husband could fully turn forward, Ethari caught his attention, the two sharing a split second of eye contact before the craftsman leaned in, brushing his nose against his in a gentle touch. Pulling away, he made a mental note of the soft way Runaan's eyelashes fluttered as they parted, clearly dazed by the tender gesture. "Each uncertain moment leads to a greater moment where we can use our true skills which help affirm our places in the world. Basically, it's time to curl the ribbon."

Recognition flashed across Runaan's face as he jumped from softness to his new task. Choosing to use a blade rather than scissors--a decision he convinced Ethari on through the means of 'you've never made a pair of scissors that I could use, but could I use that blade you have on your wall?'--he held it easily, quickly growing used to the feel of the hilt against his palm. Ethari continued holding him as he watched the assassin work against the grain of the ribbon, causing it to change shape as it fell into dazzling swirls and other endless rivets.

Soft gasps left Ethari as he watched his husband work flawlessly, realizing with an encompassing softness as the shapes began to resemble the swirlies he'd engraved in each piece of metalwork he'd made. An observant fan of his work, it was no surprise to him that the same elf who'd watched him craft had come to memorize the shapes that were second nature to the craftsman.

As if on cue as Runaan finished his last string, Ethari nosed the side of his long hair tail before pushing it behind his ear. "Are you making small replicas of my own work?" he teased, his smirk growing as he watched his husband's expression grow amused.

"Are you surprised that I find it hard to look away from your stunning works of art?"

"I find it adorable that you've adapted to my rounded ways even though you're sharp, as you tell me."

Runaan blushed. "Through all the ways in which you're great, I'm glad my heart has chosen to resemble yours."

Pulling him closer, Ethari rested his head on his shoulder once more, curling into him as he did so. The faint purple blush on his cheeks was noticeable even now; the low light of the evening accompanying his half-hidden face.

"Well, that handiwork and that both deserve some softness." he affirmed, smiling up at him before leaning in, brushing their lips together as they leaned against each other, firmly encased in each other's arms. Runaan's hand came to rest on the underside of Ethari's jaw as his left sat on his arm, holding all of him that he possibly could as his heart sang against where their lips met. Ethari's grip on his waist tightened ever so slightly, his thumb beginning to move in gentle motions against the fabric of his shirt.

Parting, they looked deep into each other's eyes before Runaan mimicked the affectionate gesture from earlier, brushing the tip of his nose against his--though lighter, as the softness of the kiss caused him to feel weightless. Ethari chuckled as he mirrored his motions, ever amused by the depths of his husband's softness.

"If only everyone else knew just how soft you are, I wouldn't be the softest in the Silvergrove anymore." Ethari observed, gently squeezing him as his sentence finished.

"You handle it much better than I could. You wear softness as naturally as you do your horns."

The taller elf curled into him, pressing his face into his shoulder. "Mmf. I don't think I could handle you being soft all the time. Maybe it's better for my own health this way." he confided, a soft laugh punctuating his sentence.

Runaan nuzzled the soft upturning of white hair that sat between his husband's horns, a soft smile permeating his features. “That saves me a lot of emotional strain then.”

Snorting at his remark, Ethari resigned himself to one final close squeeze before loosening. “Do you still require my guidance?” he asked, gesturing to the stack of unwrapped presents still on their table.

“I could use your artful eye." he affirmed.

With a warm smile, the taller elf moved closer again, returning his chin to where it previously sat on his husband’s shoulder. Allowing the other elf to test his skills, he kept his arms strewn across his abdomen, occasionally pulling him closer, subconsciously.

With a sigh, he thought of the luck both elves had been granted in order for this quiet activity to have even been able to happen. In the event where urgency was due, the Silvergrove council would not use holidays as an excuse to hesitate sending out their best assassins to take care of a threat across the border. Despite holding celebrations and different festivals during the winter season, the elves would fold at a moment’s notice if a looming threat made itself known.

Choosing to look on the bright side, Ethari pushed aside his ‘what if’s’ in favour of attempting to peek at Runaan’s adorably focused face--one easily seen when he was mesmerized by a task much less intense than those relating to assassin work. His turquoise eyes were fixed on the intricacies of achieving the perfectly wrapped gift; its importance only multiplied by the fact that the gift was meant for Rayla. Moving ever so slightly, Ethari angled his head to prevent eye strain as he observed the pointed yet soft way the assassin’s eyebrows narrowed. His gaze travelled downwards--as if by its own accord--before the hilarity of his husband’s soft pout caused him to restrain the soft bout of laughter that threatened the secrecy of his observations. Expressing himself through his hands, he pulled Runaan even closer, poking his cheek with his nose affectionately. Runaan’s focused form turned soft for a moment, easily blending into Ethari’s protective yet gentle grasp. The taller elf smiled, kissing his cheek before returning to his daydreams.

Half a minute later, the pressure of Runaan leaning against Ethari to get his attention failed to catch the receiver’s attention, his shut eyes carrying him further into his state of unawareness.

Smiling to himself, he retreated backwards once more, though, this time, with his horns. Poking his horns into Ethari’s shoulder, he prodded him twice. Ethari was easily thrown out of his daydream, quickly returning to reality, he looked around to see what had jolted him. His answer, low and behold, stood right before him in his arms, snickering quietly to himself.

Squeezing him closely, Ethari leaned in closer, his voice brushing the assassin’s ear. “Is this appropriate 32 year old, leader of the assassins behaviour?” he asked menacingly.

Runaan shook with laughter in his arms. “I do what I must.”

“I hardly call poking one with your horns the best call of action.”

“At least I was paying attention. Makes me relieved that I’m the assassin and you’re not.”

“You--” Ethari began, halting in favour of playfully swatting Runaan’s butt. “You aren’t a very grateful student.

The action earned a snort from the assassin. “Actually, if you’d listen, you’d know I’m calling for your attention due to my lack of expertise on what we’re doing. I think that’s a wonderful show of gratitude.”

Ethari couldn’t help but feel warm at the notion that his stubborn husband was actually asking for help instead of attempting to figure it out on his own. “You’re not wrong.” he admitted, allowing his husband this victory before quickly humbling him with a swift pinch to the hip. “What’s the issue?” he asked, looking over Runaan’s shoulder.

---

"Now I have secret business to do." Ethari shared, his voice low as if he were trying to hide something.

Runaan only leaned in closer, his voice lowering to a quiet warmth. "Secret enough that your husband may not attend to it beside you?"

Ethari returned the gesture, the corners of his lips turning up in a clever smile. "You know quite well what I mean."

"But what if I don't?"

"I'd expect you of all people to know that secret missions must not go known."

"It's like that, then?” Runaan questioned, lightly placing his hands on the other’s arm as he turned to face him with a patient unhurriedness. “And you're expecting it to slide past me."

"Only if you cooperate."

"I think I require some bribery in order for that to happen." he requested, smoothing his hands over the indigo of Ethari’s scarf as he returned it to its original shape after his back had flattened it. Looking up, his eyes parted from Ethari’s lips to his amber eyes; a short wink of a motion that did not go unnoticed.

"The honourable assassin? Taking bribes? I'll have to meet with the council first thing tomorrow morning to report this treasonous offense." the craftsman warned, his hands complementing his tone as they trailed up his husband’s sides. The action only encouraged the assassin, who leaned in; eyes lit with a conniving flame.

"Tell them I kissed my husband, they'll have me ghosted by dusk." he stated, the smile on his lips remaining even as Ethari laughed against them.

Cupping Runaan's shoulder blades, Ethari's nose poked his as their lips pressed together, ease spreading through him as the two embraced. The assassin's hands remained firmly on his scarf, gently tugging him forward as they kissed, urging him closer than what was possible. Ethari's smile returned as he recognized this, prompting an idea. Regrettably parting from the kiss, he hooked his fingers on the ends of his scarf before discarding it from where it sat. Pressing the round part of the garment in his hands, he looped it around Runaan's neck, too eager to release his husband's hair from the confines of the scarf. Drawing close once more, he threw the other end around his own neck again, encasing the two in the scarf's grasp.

Before Runaan could tease him for it, Ethari closed the distance between then again, cradling the other's face as they met in another soft kiss. A quiet laugh bubbled in the assassin’s chest--thoroughly amused by his husband’s cleverness. Feeling his smile return, he drew backwards.

“You’re very clever, you know this, right?” he asked, patting Ethari’s cheek to signal him to open his eyes.

“I know I am. The scarf trick always gets you.” he replied confidently.

Runaan made a sound. “Tell me I’m not that obvious--”

Ethari responded with a short kiss against his lips before returning with a kiss similar to before. Runaan kissed back before remembering his inquiry. “Ethari, I’m unpredictable too, right--” he asked before his husband cut him off again, the tender gesture failing to quell his incessant need for validation. Realizing that Ethari was smiling out of amusement at his continued acuity, the assassin began feeling more indignant by the second.

“Eth--”

Kiss.

“Are you cutting me o-”

Two kisses.

Trying his best not to give in to laughter, Runaan frowned, continuing his indignant expression even as Ethari leaned in again. Brushing his lips against the assassin’s, Ethari burst into laughter at the sensation of his husband’s frowning pout against his own. The abrupt laughter tossed Runaan out of his revere, as he opened his eyes to find the other elf’s face scrunched with laughter. The sound of his laughter caused him to forget his previous objections, as he gave in to the mesmerizing sight of his husband’s pure, unabashed joy. Bringing his hands to support Ethari’s waist, he allowed himself a few chuckles he selfishly hoped the other wouldn’t use against him.

“Now I know you’re definitely impressed with yourself.” he remarked.

“Don’t forget my infatuation with your stubbornness, as usual.”

“Infatuated? Last I recall you were chiding me over my ‘tendencies’, as you call them.”

Ethari snorted. “You got me there. I can appreciate both reactions it evokes from me, can I not?”

Runaan slowly pulled him closer to himself, brushing away the part of Ethari’s bangs that had fallen over his eyes in his joyful stupor. “If it means you’re happy, then yes, my heart.” The taller elf leaned in for a well timed kiss before the assassin pressed his finger against his lips.

“You didn’t answer my inquiry.” he stated.

Pressing an affectionately condescending kiss against his poised finger, Ethari cooed at him. “You surprise me in many ways. Your agility and dexterity never fail to impress me, and you move like you’re made of something all the other elves are missing. But, you are as predictable as the phases of the moon when it comes to how you are when charmed.”

Runaan lowered his head to his husband’s shoulder, silently delighting in the softness the thick sweater provided. “Ethari. You won’t stop, will you?”

Ethari hummed, bringing one hand to run through the other’s hair as he spoke. “I won’t. But you deserve to be reminded just how soft you are, even if I’m the only one who gets to see it.”

“That’s not true. Rayla also sees it, regrettably.”

“Pfft, okay, that’s enough with specifics. Can my mission commence now?”

Raising an eyebrow at the usage of a technical term he knew Ethari had picked up from him, Runaan straightened. “Alright. One more kiss, though.”

“How could I deny that?” Ethari asked before resting his hand under the other’s chin, the two kissing softly and with a feeling of fond satisfaction. One small peck later, and the assassin regrettably left the room as quietly as he’d entered it.

---

After proudly inspecting his finished work, Ethari departed from the dimly lit room, keeping an ear out for wherever his husband could be. Remembering the snowy weather outside, he knew the assassin could be found burrowed under blankets near the window seat installed on the first floor of their home. Feeling his heart skip with excitement, his skin became warm as he anticipated the feeling of closeness with his familiar beloved.

Climbing down the ladders that led to the lower floor, he heard the pages of a book turning, confirming his suspicions. Entering the room, he found Runaan wearing the same focused face from before, when he was deep in thought over the perfect wrapping techniques. Cuddled in a blanket that was pulled up so as to only show his comfy clothes from the chest up, the elf looked perfectly adorable. Ethari did not go without noticing the way Runaan’s ears perked up upon his entrance into the room, nor how they stayed active even as his instincts had proven to be correct. Ethari strode over quietly, not wanting to disturb the peace.

He knelt beside Runaan, leaning in to press a gentle kiss against his erect ear before closing in on his pink cheek, and then his lips. Runaan smiled into the kiss, always enjoying these domestic occurrences.

“Can I join you?” Ethari asked.

“Yes, come in.” he replied without a second thought. The craftsman climbed into the quilt, his free arm wrapping around his husband as if on instinct. Intertwining their legs, he sidled next to Runaan, the curves of their bodies aligning naturally; like puzzle pieces.

Runaan’s hand lingered on the skin below where the slit of Ethari’s crop top sat--quietly asking permission, to which the other elf quickly gave his approval. His eyes fluttered shut, if only for a moment, as Runaan caressed his skin, his thumb gently rising and falling over the ridges of his ribcage.

“The mission was a success?”

Ethari laughed softly into the fabric of his husband’s sweater. “It was. You’re holding on to a valiant and capable hero.”

A barely audible exhale through Runaan’s nose was part of his response. “Say the other part. Go on.”

Ethari’s expression brightened with mischief. “And noooww you knooww how I feel!” he sang, punctuating his sentence by kissing Runaan’s cheek. The assassin sighed, pretending to be over Ethari’s silliness.

“Very cute. I appreciate it.” he admitted, his tone growing softer as Ethari’s hand found its way to his hair. “Speaking of which, I think you’ll be happy to hear that I have a soft mission of my own tonight.”

Playing along, Ethari laid his cheek on the assassin’s chest. “One like mine?”

“An assassin never tells.”

“Okay, secret keeper.” Ethari cooed, his tone bright with amusement. “Shall I leave you to your errands?”

Lifting the blanket farther up the both of them, Runaan laid it so it sat against his husband’s shoulders, leaving plenty of room for added warmth and comfort. “Not yet,” he replied, burying his nose in the elf’s messy hair. “Would rather stay here for a bit.”

Ethari smiled, his eyes fluttering shut at his husband’s soft grasp. “Sounds perfect.”