Runaan studied the sleeping elfling in front of him, all curled up and cozy. Ethari was sitting by her side, humming softly as he stroked her hair. It had been a hard evening, seeing as that Lain and Tiadrin had left for the Storm Spire this morning and the two husbands were not prepared for what came after dinner.
“Rayla, you can’t not take a bath,” Runaan’s voice rang in his head as the memory of the events of the evening replayed. “You’re dirty from training and you smell.”
“But, Runaan!” the small voice whined. “I can’t take a bath! It’s too big! There’s… there’s too much…”
Ethari got down on her level, calming the young elfling before she went into a panicked state.
“Hey, I’ve brought along a friend to play with you in the tub. They’re really excited for bath time. And they’ve brought bubbles, too!” the craftsmith tried in vain, revealing a rubber ducky with horns from behind his back. He’d crafted it just for her.
The assassin sighed as he bent over and placed a kiss between Rayla’s horns, resting a hand on Ethari’s unoccupied hand.
Ethari shook his head before letting their foreheads rest against the other’s.
“I don’t know, my shade. For once, I just don’t know what to do.”
Heavy steps pounded on the ground as the flap to Runaan’s office area was practically ripped open. The assassin leader looked up sharply from where he sat, a scroll detailing intelligence on a target falling to his desk.
“Runaan! I think I’ve figured it out!”
His eyebrows drew together in that cute way Ethari always adored. “Wha–”
“Moons above, I feel so stupid for not figuring it out before, but the answer is so simple! All I have to do is make it smaller, something to fit herself better. And if I make it transportable so that it’s not built into the wall of the bathroom then she might not feel so trapped and panicked–”
“Ethari, what is this you’re going on about?”
The craftsman’s eyes sparkled. “Bath time.”
Mission: Bath Time was one of the most excruciating missions Runaan had ever been assigned. The target was stubborn, dramatic, and unpredictable. The location was slippery–quite literally. Time stamp? Dinner clean-up. Perfect. They’d have to strike fast.
“Alright, Rayla! Bath time!”
“Ep! No. You’re taking a bath and that’s final.”
“But the water’s too–”
Ethari looked over from the kitchen sink. “You heard Runaan. Besides, we made you a little something.”
Rayla’s resolve didn’t budge, though.
Ethari sighed. “You’re not getting dessert until you take a bath.”
She squinted, pouting her lip stubbornly. Stay strong. There was no way in Xadia she was going to break at the mention of–
“What kind of dessert?”
Do it for Xadia. Do it for Mx Ducky. Do it… do it for the moonberry surprise.
She stared at the water with wide eyes. The tub was smaller than the one in Runaan’s and Ethari’s shared bathroom. It also stood on four legs in the middle of her smaller bathroom rather than built into the side of the wall. It felt more spacious, like she had room to run if so needed instead of having only one direction to go in, like the other bathroom had.
Runaan was now starting to see the flaw in their plan.
She looked up at Runaan blankly, a towel wrapped around her small frame. He sighed.
“What are you– Eek!” she squealed as large hands wrapped under her arms and her feet were lifted off the ground. The surface of the “ocean” drew nearer. “No! No no no no! Ethari! Help! Help! Ethari, save me!”
Runaan’s heart felt like it was being stabbed at the sounds she made when her body entered the water. He’d heard those same sounds before when he was gone on missions, but never had he been forced to hear them come from a young elfling before, and he never wanted to again.
Somewhere between the whole ordeal her towel had fallen to the ground. Her body tensed up when Runaan’s hands let go of her, the room going very silent. Like someone had died. Runaan could feel Ethari’s worry from the kitchen. The whole Silvergrove probably felt it, to be honest.
The young assassin-in-training sat in the tub silently, her eyes very wide. Very still. Not even a breath. Don’t. Move. Runaan held his breath.
And then there was movement.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rayla spotted Mx Ducky, floating their way towards her. Runaan thought she was going to pass out, poor thing.
“Rayla? Moonlight, are you–”
It was the deadly steel in her voice that made Runaan stop dead in his tracks. And then Rayla farted. Runaan tried to hold his laughter back when he saw the bubbles make their way to the surface, but he didn’t have to because as soon as they broke the surface, Rayla panicked.
“Runaan!” She thrashed around. “Runaan! Save me! Help! I’m going to drown! Runaan, please!” Tears welled up in her wide eyes and Runaan could hear his own heart break. She wailed and thrashed and the water spilt over the edge, but for the love of the moon, she could not get herself over the edge of the tub. She was trapped.
“It’s okay, Ray. You’re going to be okay. Nothing is going to hurt you, just relax and everything will be fine.”
She reached out for his hand, but he was just too far. Runaan had to restrain himself from reaching out and saving her from the mean and horrible bathtub. She sobbed and begged and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. Whatever happens, don’t cave, Ethari’s voice echoed in his mind from earlier. He took in a breath to steel his nerves, but he showed her one small mercy and reached out for her small hand, but didn’t lift her up.
“It’s okay, wee one. I’ve got you. You’re safe. It’s going to be okay. I’m here.”
“Runaan, please.” Her silent prayer ate at him alive.
“I’m sorry, my little blade. But I’m here. I won’t leave. We’ll get through this together.”