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Hold Me Tight (Or Don't)

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Kravitz ran into an empty room, closing the door behind him and leaning up against it, relieved to have escaped the party for a moment. It was a Candlenights tradition that his mothers threw a huge party every year and every year Kravitz had to leave for a few minutes to catch his breath. At least his mom wasn’t trying to set him up with every handsome young man at the party this year.

Since he’d left for university, it had been the same every Candlenights break. It started with his mothers asking him if he’d found anyone since last they saw him and when the answer was invariably ‘no,’ Raven started introducing him to every one of her friends’ kids at the Candlenights party with a wink and suggestive nudging while his other mom, Istus, laughed and encouraged Raven from the sidelines. Not this year, though. Kravitz had thought up a way to avoid the endless parade of men he wasn’t interested in. Still, he needed a breather from the sheer amount of people.

The room he was in was dark. The breakfast room had wide windows on two walls but it was late and, since it wasn’t part of the party space, the lights were off. Kravitz didn’t mind the darkness, it was a relief to the mild headache that had sprung up behind his eyes. He rubbed his face and sat on a cushioned bench that was up against one of the windows. He had a moment before his mother would realize he’d left.

As he was sitting, enjoying the relative silence, the door Kravitz hadn’t come through swung open. It was the door to the kitchen, which was bright and bustling with the activity of the catering company. A backlit shape snuck out the door and closed it quietly as Kravitz, unnoticed, watched. The shape leaned on the kitchen door like Kravitz had done to the hall one only a few moments before, shaking their long hair out of a hairnet and breathing a sigh. They looked up and spotted Kravitz in the dim light.

“Oh, sorry,” he said, “This hiding spot taken already?”

Kravitz was silent for a moment, trying to piece together where he knew the figure from. His face was vaguely familiar, even in the dim light. Then it struck him.

“Um, I’m sorry, this might be weird, but is your name Taako?” He said.

The figure flipped his long blonde hair and stuck out a hip dramatically. “Why yes I am, but how the fuck did you know that handsome?”

Kravitz was struck silent. This kind of thing could only happen to him. Only he would have the guy he got to pretend to be his boyfriend so his moms would get off his back show up at the family party.

“I’m, um, I’m Kravitz,” he said, resisting the urge to bury his face in his hands. “The guy who got you to send him pictures to prove he had a boyfriend.”

Taako’s eyes widened, but whether it was in shock or amusement, Kravitz couldn’t tell. “Oh shit,” he said, “well isn’t this a small world.”

Kravitz had made a plan. He would fake a boyfriend so that his mothers would stop their annual matchmaking. He’d posted on Fantasy Craig’s List asking for pictures to show his mothers as proof. The first response he’d gotten was from Taako, and had consisted of one line: you want me homie. Attached had been a selfie with a flower crown filter. The man in the picture certainly was pretty, Kravitz had to admit. So he’d sent a message back, asking specifically for pictures that looked like they’d been taken by someone else, and transferred the $20 that had been promised in the original listing. And Taako delivered. The pictures were perfect, a mix between candids and posed that all looked like they could have been taken on dates. He’d had almost no problem convincing his moms that he’d recently started dating the handsome elf in the pictures, though he’d left out the one that Taako had sent that made it look like he’d just woken up, rumpled hair and wearing only a t-shirt. His moms didn’t need to draw any unwanted conclusions. It had gone off without a hitch, and by pretending they’d just started dating before the break he was able to make excuses for not knowing answers to too many personal questions. All he had to do, then, was stage a fake break-up a few weeks after Candlenights break ended and he’d be in the clear. The perfect crime.

Except now Taako was at his parent’s Christmas party.

“Oh my gods, okay, my mothers can not see you here,” Kravitz said, getting up and taking a step towards Taako. “They think we’re dating, and this’ll just throw everything off.”

“I mean yeah, obvi,” Taako said. “Besides, I’m not dressed for such a swinging party.” He looked Kravitz over as he said it, nodding. “Nice suit. I sure picked a handsome boy.”

Kravitz was glad it was dark because he was pretty sure he’d just started blushing. This was crazy.

Because it was Kravitz’s life and this was the kind of thing that happened to him, the door to the breakfast room swung open and there was his mother.

“Kravitz, darling, what are you doing here in the dark?” Raven asked as she flicked on the light. “We’ve been looking for you everywhere and, oh,” She stopped as she saw who was in the room with him.

“Mother,” Kravitz said a little too loudly. He hoped and prayed that his mother wouldn’t recognize the elf standing beside him. But of course he wouldn’t get so lucky.

“You’re Taako, aren’t you?” Raven said, her face breaking into a wide smile. Kravitz prayed that the floor would swallow him up.

Taako, for his part, immediately jumped into the role. He discretely tossed the hairnet to the floor behind him and smiled, stepping forward gracefully and extending a hand for her to shake. “Absolutely charmed,” he said. “Kravitz, dear, won’t you introduce me to your lovely mother?”

Kravitz found his throat suddenly dry but he forced himself to speak. “Yes, um, Taako, this is my mother Raven. Mother, this is Taako, my… er…”

“His boyfriend,” Taako said, turning to smile at Kravitz as he shook Raven’s hand. “I am so sorry for my appearance, I was just passing through on my way home for the holidays and I was close by so I decided to pop in to see my Kravvy.”

Kravitz winced. “Please don’t,” he said, and Taako laughed. It was an airy sound, a little too high pitched.

“Oh don’t be shy, darling. I’m sure your mother doesn’t mind.”

“Of course I don’t!” Raven exclaimed. “I am so happy to meet the man who has stolen my son's heart.”

Taako laughed politely, motioning behind his back for Kravitz to step forward. He did, and when he was next to Taako Taako grabbed his hand and wrapped his arm around him. Taako leaned into him, making it look like it was Kravitz who had made the move.

“Well I am so happy to meet you! Kravitz talks about you all the time, it’s really quite sweet.”

Kravitz was sure he was blushing now.

“Oh, you simply must come meet Istus,” Raven said, taking Taako’s elbow and steering him to the hallway that led back to the party.

“Oh I couldn’t,” Taako protested, “I’m not dressed for it.”

“Nonsense darling, you look excellent!” Raven said. “Kravitz, doesn’t Taako look just excellent?”

Kravitz looked at Taako and considered it. He certainly was beautiful, perhaps even more so in person. His copper skin was dotted with freckles and his eyes were forest green, shining as they looked up at Kravitz, perhaps with a little too much mischeif. His blonde hair cascaded down his back in waves. He was tall, only a few inches shorter than Kravitz who was, by all accounts, ridiculously tall. He was wearing a white collared shirt, pushed up at the elbows and tucked into a pair of high waisted black pants. It was the outfit all the caterers were wearing, minus the tie and vest, but Taako made it look effortlessly lovely. Maybe his shirt was a little crumpled and he was a little sweaty from working in the kitchens, but Kravitz couldn’t deny that he looked good.

“Of course you do,” Kravitz said, trying not to sound shy. Trying to sound like he told this man that he looked good all the time. “You always do.”

Taako beamed at him and turned back to Raven, nodding. “Of course I’d love to meet Istus,” he said. As they left Kravitz took a few deep breaths. He had no idea how he was going to get out of this one.

The party they returned to was in full swing. The ballroom was full of people, most of whom Kravitz only sort of recognized. Taako leaned over to Kravitz and whispered, “Offer me your arm.” Kravitz did so and as Taako took it he smiled, waving occasionally at a guest like he recognized them even though he almost definitely didn’t. People occasionally looked over with vague interest but no one seemed too curious. Istus was sitting on one of the couches by the fireplace, talking to the guests who passed her. She looked up as Raven rushed over to her, whispering in her ear as Taako and Kravitz approached more slowly. Kravitz would have been happy to hurry along and get it over with but Taako was setting the pace.

“So who is this Istus?” Taako whispered even as he grinned and waved at her.

“My other mother,” Kravitz whispered back. “You really don’t have to do this.”

“Are you kidding?” Taako said with mischief in his voice. “And pass up the opportunity to crash a rich ass party and be arm candy for someone as handsome as you?” He leaned up and whispered right into Kravitz’s ear as they got within range of his two mothers. “You should know me better than that, babe.

Kravitz couldn’t remember the last time he’d blushed so hard. It was usually difficult to tell but at that moment he was sure that even his dark face was turning bright red.

Taako was just as good talking to Istus as he had been talking to Raven. He was charming and dramatically over the top, obviously having a great time. Kravitz mostly stayed quiet, deathly afraid he’d say the wrong thing and ruin it. When one of the waiters came by with a tray full of glasses of champagne Taako took two, offering one to Kravitz while giving a shit eating grin to the server. One of his co workers, Kravitz realized when he saw the glare the server was giving him. For a moment Kravitz was worried the man would give them away, but Taako just turned his back on the man and continued to talk to his mothers. The man switched his glare to Kravitz before turning away and walking around the room, offering champagne to the rest of the guests.

“Don’t worry about him,” Taako whispered when Raven and Istus were briefly distracted by another guest. “He’s got the hots for ol’ Taako, he won’t give us away.”

Kravitz wasn’t sure, but he tried to relax as much as he possibly could under the circumstances, which was not very much. Taako was doing fantastic, he had to admit. He glazed over things he was just learning about Kravitz as if he’d known them all along and when other guests came by to be introduced he charmed them easily. It was going shockingly well when Istus stood and said “Well, it has been an absolute pleasure Taako, but we should probably go socialize with our other guests.” She offered her hand, which Taako took and kissed with flair. Istus laughed as she took Raven’s arm. “Come, dearest, have you seen the pictures of Anastasia’s new baby?”

“No, but I suppose there’s no way to avoid it,” Raven said as Istus dragged her away. She gave Taako a warm smile as they left. Kravitz sank into the couch he was sitting on, sighing in relief.

“They’re going to be so disappointed when you have to stage a breakup with me,” Taako said jokingly as he sat back beside Kravitz. He leaned into Kravitz’s side and, when Kravitz coughed awkwardly, said “We have to keep up appearances, darling.”

“You don’t have to call me that,” Kravitz muttered. “No one can hear us.”

Taako hummed shortly before sighing and sitting up. “Well, I should probably make my exit while I can,” he said. He looked over the back of the couch, towards the kitchen, and winced. “There’s almost no way I haven’t already been fired,” he said.

Kravitz frowned. He hadn’t thought of that. “I am so sorry,” he said. “You really didn’t have to go along with it, and if you want I can have a talk with your supervisor or...” He was cut off when Taako got to his feet, shaking his head.

“No need for that, handsome.” He grinned. “I had a blast and got to have some of that amazing champagne. I can make excuses for myself, and besides it was only a holiday job.” He shrugged, then held his hand out for Kravitz to take. When Kravitz hesitated, feeling awkward and horrible that he didn’t even consider that Taako might lose his job, Taako leaned forward and took the hand that was resting in Kravitz’s lap.

“Come on, walk me to the door and I’ll make my escape. No reason to push our luck any more, is there?”

Kravitz agreed with that, so he stood and offered his arm to Taako again. Taako took it with a grin.

“You’re learning,” he said as they started heading towards the door. “Do you want me to tell your mothers I’m leaving, or would it be better to skip out without saying goodbye? It might make the breakup easier if they think I’m rude like that.”

Kravitz agreed that not saying goodbye was probably for the best, and lead Taako out the front door. Outside it was dark and chilly, a relief after the warmth in the house. As soon as the door closed behind them Taako dropped his arm and Kravitz shoved his hands in his pockets.

“I’m sorry about your job,” he said as they stood there awkwardly. It felt like there should be something he said, which was ridiculous. It hadn’t been an actual date, after all.

Taako shrugged. “I might be able to get it back. I’m sure Lup will vouch for me with the manager.”

Kravitz didn’t ask who Lup was, just nodded. “Well, I feel bad anyway. If you want I can transfer you some money for helping me out again tonight, make up for any wages you might have lost.”

Taako stared at him a moment, eyes narrowed, as if he wasn’t sure what to make of the offer.

“Well, buddy, under normal circumstances I would say no. Taako ain’t no cheap ho. But what I am is broke and probably jobless and you live here.” He gestured to the house and Kravitz winced. He didn’t want Taako to think he was some rich asshole. “So yeah, I think I might take you up on that bubeleh.”

“Alright, well I still have your email. I’ll send you a message.”

“I can’t wait to hear from you,” Taako said with a grin and a wink. Kravitz snorted. Now that he wasn’t drowning in his own anxiety, he thought it had been kind of fun to pretend to have a boyfriend for a night.

Taako waved by wiggling his fingers at Kravitz as he walked down the path to the front gate. Kravitz watched as he stepped off the path and rounded the house, towards the side of where the caterer trucks were parked. He was almost disappointed to see Taako go.

No use thinking like that, he reminded himself. After all, he was going to have to break up with Taako soon anyway.