Tinker was drying his hands off from washing the dishes as Runaan placed the last plate in the cupboard. Tinker always made a big meal the night before a mission; he didn't want Runaan to go to bed on an ordinary meal. No, not his husband; not his strong, confident assassin husband. Runaan deserved a meal that was both filling and nourishing before going out on a several week's mission. Moonberry juice can only sustain a person for so long.
"Dinner was amazing as always, love," Runaan said, closing the cabinet and wrapping his arms around Tinker.
The craftsman pecked Runaan on the cheek. "Nothing but the best for you, dear."
The two lingered in their embrace, almost reluctant to let go of each other.
"You gonna go meditate for a little while?" Tinker asked.
Runaan shook his head. "I'd rather be around you."
The craftsman grinned. "You're a sap; you know that?"
"I'm not a sap," the assassin said. "I'm your sap."
Tinker smiled and leaned in to give Runaan a small kiss. "I'm trying to finish up a design in the workroom. I'm afraid you'll be terribly bored."
"Nonsense. I love watching you work," Runaan said, leaning in and pressing their foreheads together.
Runaan wasn't lying when he said that he loved watching Tinker work, be it in the workroom here at their home or in his workshop in the village proper. When Tinker comes up with a new idea or design for an item or weapon, he spends days drafting and making mock-ups. He allows Runaan and sometimes Rayla to be in and around him during the "development stage" as he called it, but wouldn't let anyone near the project once he started bringing in raw materials.
Runaan always loved the expressions his husband had whenever he was working on a project, old or new. For a Moonshadow Elf, his eyes burned with the intensity of a Sunfire Elf warrior in heat-being mode; it was both beautiful and captivating.
Runaan walked up behind Tinker and rested his chin in between the craftsman's horns. "I've been curious about this for a while; why do you add these little swirlies to everything you make?"
"I don't know," Tinker replied. "I think I do it because it's an interesting design detail. You don't really see it all that often, and I 've gotten so attached to it, it's kind of became my signature."
Runaan leaned down and kissed the swirly marking on Tinker's cheek. "Well, it suits you, love."
Tinker smiled. "Oh, that's right! I almost forgot..." He got up from the worktable and pulled a small box off of one of the shelves. "I made this a week ago when you came home and told me about the mission." He pulled out a necklace with a unique pendant attached to the chain, decorated in Tinker's signature swirlies.
"It's a special pendant made just for assassin work," the craftsman explained. "If you're out in the woods, you crush the jewel, say Mystica-abora, and you and anyone else in the immediate vicinity are camouflaged to look like the surrounding area."
"It's beautiful, darling," Runaan said as his husband looped the necklace around his neck. "Though I hope I don't have to use it."
"If you do, I can always make more. You know I won't mind." He pulled another necklace out of the box. "I've got one for Rayla, too. Just in case she needs it."
Runaan placed his hands on Tinker's; he could already feel them shaking slightly. Tinker had been worried about this mission more so than usual, mainly in part because Runaan had told him Rayla would be going with him. Tinker didn't necessarily approve, but he didn't say so, especially in front of Rayla. She was so excited to be going out on her first real assassination, and she'd been training more and more than ever lately to prepare. And the whole while, Tinker had been a nervous wreck. He made sure she was eating well and getting enough sleep when she came to stay with him; he was more protective than usual.
Runaan knew this wasn't easy for Tinker to digest. Both of them knew Rayla wanted to be an assassin ever since they'd been tasked by her parents to care for her, but it was already risky business to have Runaan go out now and then and potentially not come back. Rayla was different. Not because she wasn't capable- quite the contrary, she was unquestionably capable, combatively speaking- but because this was supposed to be her first kill; this wasn't training anymore.
"Runaan, are you sure she's ready?" Tinker asked.
"Her instructors say she is, and she's been putting in more than enough time for training," the assassin replied.
"And you believe that?"
Runaan nodded. "She'll be fine, love. I know she will. You know she will."
Tinker leaned in and hugged his husband, burying his face in the crook of Runaan's neck. "She's still too young, in my opinion."
Runaan managed a smile. "She'll always be too young in your opinion."
"I'm a concerned uncle figure, shut up," the craftsman said, smiling and pressing his face further into Runaan's neck.
"You know I can do my hair on my own, right?" Runaan said. He was sitting on a small stool in front of their bed, Tinker sitting on said bed and drying off Runaan's hair from the bath they'd just taken.
"Yes, but I know you like it more when I do it," the craftsman replied.
Runaan couldn't and wouldn't deny it; he loved it when Tinker fussed over his hair. He was very meticulous about it: treating it like it was one of his projects. Each part needed precise handling; otherwise, it wouldn't stay in place or look as refined. In Tinker's hands, each lock and every strand was precious and deserving of care.
"It's longer now than it's ever been," Tinker said, setting the comb down and running his hands through the silvery-white tresses and along his husband's scalp. "Doesn't it get in the way when you're in combat?"
Runaan leaned into the touch, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. "Not at all. The way you braid it keeps it well out of my face."
"You're probably due for a trim when you get home," the craftsman said, twirling a strand around his finger.
A pale glow slowly illuminated the room. The two Moonshadow Elves turned and saw clouds moving away to reveal the moon, well on its way to being full. The longer they stared, the more uneasy Tinker felt about this mission. He couldn't figure out why this particular mission, out of all the others Runaan had done, was bothering him so much. Rayla going along definitely wasn't helping; the fact that the Dragon Queen specifically asked for her to go didn't sound right. Perhaps she was looking for revenge not just on the people who killed Avizandum and destroyed her egg, but also to punish Rayla's parents for abandoning their duty. If that was the case, it was a dismal concept; make the daughter pay for the misdeeds of her parents. Not that Rayla held her mother and father in high opinion anyway, but still. He didn't want them to go, not when everything felt wrong, off, askew. If there were a better word for what he was feeling, he'd use it.
He wrapped his arms around Runaan's shoulder and placed his head in between his husband's horns. "Do you have to go?" he asked. He knew the answer before he spoke. He knew.
The assassin reached up and took one of Tinker's hands, giving it a small squeeze. That was all Tinker needed.
"Promise you'll both come home safe," he said.
Runaan turned around and pressed a kiss to Tinker's cheek. "We'll both come home safe, love. I promise."
Tinker had hoped morning would never come. He'd hoped and prayed to any higher power that would hear him. He'd hoped Runaan would suddenly get sick, or himself, either one of them would be enough to prevent Runaan from leaving. Or that Rayla would show up, pounding on the door, bawling and lamenting that she couldn't go through with this, even if the Queen had requested her. Or that disaster would strike the village- something Tinker never wished to happen. Or maybe time could stand still just in their house, or even just their bedroom, Runaan asleep and Tinker looking at him until the other assassins had gone west without Rayla. He hoped this and hoped that anything to keep them from going, but he knew that nothing short of a miracle was going to prevent his husband and his basically adopted niece from leaving tomorrow.
He was tempted to hide Runaan's bowblade. He was starting to think that maybe he should cook breakfast so raw in the morning, that Runaan would get sick enough to keep him home. He toyed with the notion of going over to Rayla's and trying to talk her out of it. He had half a mind to send a message to the Queen herself.
He knew none of these ideas would work. He knew if he hid the bowblade, Runaan would tear the house apart looking for it. He knew that cooking breakfast raw was an all too easy to recognize sign. He knew negotiating with Rayla wouldn't work; she was determined to prove herself, to the Moonshadow community, and the Queen. And he knew the Queen would rather see all five of the human kingdoms burn before she let a craftsman tell her who to send on a revenge mission.
Tinker hated this. He hated feeling helpless, like he couldn't do anything. Coupled with the sinking feeling in his gut, his hands couldn't feel more tied. He hated this.
Don't let the sun come up , he thought. Please, please don't let the sun come up. Don't come up, don't come up, don't come up . He was holding his husband impossibly close in his arms, feeling Runaan's breath as he exhaled. How could he be so calm? How could he sleep when everything felt so wrong?
When the sun poked through the curtains, Tinker knew his time was up. There just wasn't anything he could do to stop this from happening. He ran his hand through Runaan's silvery-white hair, savoring the feel and look of it before he left. Part of him doubted he would have another moment like this after the mission; holding his husband in his arm, in their home, safe from everything else.
They'll be okay , he tried to tell himself, they'll be okay, and they'll both come home. Runaan promised. He always keeps his promises .
As much as he hated to do it, he unwrapped his arms from around Runaan and gently nudged him awake. "Morning, love. Big day today."
Rayla had come by for breakfast like she usually did whenever Runaan left on a mission. Only this time, she'd be going with him. Tinker tried to be cheerful and supportive, giving her bigger portions, lots of hugs, and complimenting the little braid in her hair and her new assassin's uniform.
Not too long after finishing up the dishes, the other assassins assigned to the mission showed up. Runaan, already in uniform, stepped out to talk with them for a moment.
Tinker watched as Rayla hurried over to the window and peered out, obviously excited for what was happening and where they were going. He wanted so badly to talk to her, persuade her not to go, tell her she was too young, anything at this point. But he knew she wanted this too much. It was so important to her. Taking a deep breath, he let out a long quiet sigh and went over to the window, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"I have something in the workroom for you," he said.
He led her into the workshop and took down a box from the shelf. He pulled out the second pendant.
"It's beautiful," Rayla said, looking a little closer at it. "But I don't think I need any fancy decorations for a mission."
"It's not just a trinket; it'll protect you," Tinker explained. "Runaan has one, too. With both of you going, you can't be too careful."
"We'll be fine," Rayla said, "you don't have to worry. Runaan's an expert, and we have the others-"
"And you're young and inexperienced," Tinker pointed out. "I can't risk not sending you off with something to help keep you safe."
"But I've got these," Rayla said, whipping out and showing off her blades. "You made these especially for me. They're the perfect things to keep me safe."
"Your weapon can't protect you from everything," the craftsman said, placing the Moon Opal pendant into her palm. "Better have it and not need it than need it and not have it."
"Rayla, come along," they heard Runaan say from the front door. "We're heading out."
Rayla paused for a moment, then quickly handed it back to Tinker. "I'm gonna see you again in several weeks," she said. "I'm not gonna need to use this."
She hurried out the door before Tinker could protest.
Pendant still in his hand, he moved to the front door and stood in the doorway, watching the other assassins smile and pat Rayla on the back, welcoming her. Ironically, this was the only thing that made him genuinely smile for the first time that morning.
"She didn't take the pendant?" Runaan said, coming up to his husband.
"She said she wouldn't need it. You have yours; it should be enough."
Runaan cupped Tinker's face in both hands. "We'll be alright, love. We'll both come home. I promised."
The craftsman leaned in and kissed Runaan on the mouth, something he never did around Runaan's colleagues. With everything feeling so out of place and with the uncertainty of this mission, he felt like- no, he needed this kiss.
"Be safe," he whispered, looking deeply into Runaan's turquoise eyes.
"We will," Runaan whispered back. He then turned to Rayla and the other assassins, and headed off into the woods. They wouldn't be back for several weeks.
Tinker stood there for a little while, staring at the treeline before heading inside and out the back door. The garden was his and Runaan's pride and joy, aside from Rayla. It was where Runaan meditated, where Tinker grew fruits and veggies for their meals, but the thing they were most proud of was the fountain. Tinker had poured hours of work into making that fountain, Runaan helping with the heavy lifting of the stones and carrying the water, but admiring his architectural work wasn't what he came into the backyard to do.
In the fountain were two incredibly unique lilies, unlike anything else in the world. A friend of his had helped him make them. The flowers in the fountain water were connected directly to Rayla and Runaan; if anything happened to them, Tinker would know.
Kneeling at the fountain edge, he stared at the lilies for a long while. His reflection peered back at him, just as worried as he was. Could Rayla really do this? Could she be an assassin? Maybe.
In any case, it was out of Tinker's hands. All he could do was sit tight and hope nothing bad happened. He stood up and put Rayla's pendant around his neck. He held it tightly in his hand.
"Come home safe," he said.