The first time he sees them, he stops dead in his tracks. He has joined Clover on patrol, and as they walk along the wall, the sun beams brightly down on them. No one else is around, it’s just the two of them. Still, they’re out in the open, he should probably control himself. Oh come on, who would know. He marches up toward that uniformed back and wraps arms around his middle, squeezing him tight.
“Q-Qrow?” Clover baulks as he’s pulled against a firm chest.
His only response is a hand rolling fabric up his shoulder as lips press firmly against skin. Once, twice, until there are too many kisses to count.
Fluttery laughter fills the air as Clover asks, “What on Remnant has gotten into you, birdie?”
Qrow moves to the other shoulder, repeating the barrage of soft pecks. Mumbles in between warm presses of skin, “You never told me you had all these freckles, and then you just waltz around with them on display without warning? Unbelievable.”
The indignant remark has Clover howling with laughter, hands grabbing Qrow’s and squeezing warmly. “If I had known you have such a thing for freckles, I would’ve said something. I get them all over with enough sun.”
“Shamrock, you are gonna regret telling me that when I kick you outside naked to see how many of these beautiful marks show up.”
Clover can only laugh harder, tilt his head to place a kiss to the man's temple. “Mm, an excuse to even out my tan? Looking forward to it.”
"Oh my gods, they're on your face too. Gimme those cheeks."
The next time, he’s returning from a flight, tired wings gliding him steadily down until he lands safely in brunet hair. Clover startles, stumbles a little, reaching out a hand to steady himself against the front door. He was just about to head inside, when the weight settles on his head, and a familiar squawk tells him not to worry.
"Hey there, pretty bird," he says, glancing up as Qrow peers his head down to catch a glimpse of sea green. Clover smiles up at striking red, the sun catching his cheeks beautifully as he does, and there's a flurry of feathers as Qrow hops from his perch quickly to Clover's shoulder.
Clover turns his head to see what the fuss is about, and finds himself smothered with gentle pecks and head bumps from the silly bird, all focused on his cheeks and nose.
Laughter bubbles up before he can do anything to stop it, and he brings up a hand to ruffle feathers fondly. Seems someone is finally noticing just how vibrant his freckles get, even in spring. “Silly birdie,” he says when the little pecks get to be too much, places a hand over that beak, tilting it down so he can kiss a feathered head. Qrow closes his eyes at the touch, feathers ruffling lightly.
“Take it easy,” Clover breathes, a huff of laughter rushing past lips and tousling that crest of feathers, “I know you love your trinkets, but these ones can’t be carried away like my pin, you little pickpocket.”
The bird caws a low note, a little indignant, and squirms until his beak is released. He closes it gently on Clover’s nose, sticks his tongue out to lick it playfully before turning his head away with a light puff of plumage. Shaking his head at Qrow’s antics, Clover brings up a hand to steady him and buries his face in wing feathers affectionately. That earns him a little chatter before the bird puffs up quite large and lets out a loud squawk as feathers smooth back into place.
“Love you too.”
It’s a sunny summer day, not warm, not even close in Solitas, but still a day where the hours of sunlight last longer than those of moonlight. It also happens to be a day off, well, since Qrow convinced Clover to change his status for the day, determined to give them a relaxing day outside under that bright ball in the sky. No ulterior motives whatsoever.
“You just wanted to be able to enjoy my freckles without having to worry about battling Grimm on such a fine, summer day,” Clover teases, nudging the side of Qrow’s face with his nose as they sit in a small park, enjoying what little greenery can be found in the city.
“Can’t prove nothin’, boy scout.” So he says, leaning against Clover, connecting the varied dots on his arm, fingers trailing delicately along skin.
Clover looks up at the sun, then down at his arm, watching fingers find each little brown fleck. Uh huh, sure, he thinks to himself with a fond smile, wondering if perhaps there’s some picture Qrow sees in his freckles that he does not. Shifting his arm, he takes that hand in his, lacing fingers and giving a squeeze. Qrow turns his head, red seeking green with a questioning glance. Clover turns too, feeling the shift in movement, eyes widening when he sees small specks of colour against fair skin.
“Now hold on just a second!” he says, hand reaching up to a chin, tilting it back so light shines directly on nose and cheeks. Qrow startles, dark eyebrows leaping up on his face as he makes to object, before Clover cuts him off. “Unbelievable. You had something to say about my not telling you I had freckles, but here I find out months later that you have them?”
“What, pshh, no I don-...” he cuts himself off as an old memory floods his mind. Teammates pinching cheeks playfully, ruffling hair as they all lounged in the warm sun after their first Vytal tournament victory. Oh. He had forgotten. How had he forgotten something so wonderful, so perfectly happy as Summer and Tai poking at the little specks on he and his twin’s faces, pointing out that see, when you two aren’t too busy lurking in the shadows to enjoy the sun, even your faces brighten up.
Thumbs brush gently across his cheeks, and he realises they are wet as he stares into worried teal. Oh, he hadn’t thought the memory would bring him to tears. Right, he should probably explain. But how to admit that he completely forgot he even had them?
“They, uh, haven’t been seen in years,” he starts, eyes darting to the side before returning. “As you know, I… I tend to stick to the shadows, so…” That wasn’t entirely true, but he had a habit of turning his face away from the sun, his only time actually looking up toward it spent alone. No one around to notice the little pigments, to bring attention to them, presumably faded by the time he returned to the others.
“Then I’m glad we got you to enjoy some sun, baby bird. You’re always beautiful, but you look so warm and bright with freckles.”
And oh. Oh, the tears are falling again. But he couldn’t have known how much he sounds like…
Qrow tells him. He doesn’t even give Clover the opportunity to worry about whether or not it’s okay to ask. He wants him to know. Needs him to know the reason for these tears is a good one. A happy one, even.
So he shares with him another tale of team STRQ, of overbearing teammates and terrible brats who tormented him relentlessly in the best way for years. Teasing brat, a role Clover somehow took over without ever knowing it was exactly what Qrow had been missing for so long. He should’ve known earlier on he was in trouble, but he supposes it’s just his luck that he wouldn’t recognise a huge brat sneaking into his heart until he captured it so fully it was all he could do to let him have it.
Maybe he’s still crying by the end of the story, maybe for his own foolishness now instead of the nostalgia that started it all, but at least those brilliant sea gems don’t look so concerned anymore. No, they gaze at him with a soft fondness reserved just for him.
Lips press softly to a cheek, then again. And again. Over and over, back and forth from one side to the other, and oh if only he thought to keep count, maybe then he could tell him just how many ways he loves each and every one. Before long tears have stopped, and light laughter fills the air.
“You see now why I reacted the way I did the first time I saw yours?”
“I’m sorry I ever made fun of you for it.”
"You're lucky I love you."
It's not the fourth time he's seen them, goodness no. He's seen them dozens of times, but right now, with his love's face glistening with sweat as he glides gently over him… he finds himself starstruck, as mesmerised by their beauty as he's ever been.
"Like stars," he gasps softly before a moan can slip past his lips, whimpers as Clover’s movements pause, and oh he feels so warm and good around him.
“Stars?” And he’s moving again, easing into a slow, steady pace.
Qrow thinks it must be on purpose, that he must be teasing him, asking for an answer when he knows damn well it’s all he can do to focus on letting Clover do all the work, as he insisted in this quiet afternoon together.
Warm autumn sunlight filters in through the window behind their bed, illuminating Clover’s face and chest as he moves, catching those little specks of colour on skin that shines so beautifully. Fingertips delicately trace a sharp jaw, drawing sea glass gems his way. And oh, how they sparkle too, he thinks, turning his hand to brush the back against a warm cheek. He feels his fiancé shiver as the metal band on his finger slides against his skin, smiles sweetly in return.
“Your freckles…” A shudder runs through him as languid movements are drawn out, so deep before slowly sliding up, then back again. He whines softly, tries to collect his thoughts. Lets out a low, shaky breath. “They’re like stars on your skin.”
The movement stops again as those teal eyes widen slightly, as fresh colour spills across cheeks, and it’s all Clover can do to stare back at warm red, utterly captivated by perhaps the fondest look he’s ever seen on his fiancé’s face. And oh, he really is hopelessly in love with this man, this man who makes him feel so full in every sense of the word. He leans gently into the hand against his cheek, tilts his head to press lips to a ring that shines just like his eyes.
“You’re still my favourite constellation,” he finally whispers in return, leans forward to claim soft lips with a gentle kiss, lingering for a few moments.
He makes to pull back, stopped by warm hands that suddenly cradle his face, holding him in place as those lips move against his. Languid but insistent, parting for a hot tongue to slip past and dance with his. He moans softly into that mouth, begins rocking hips one more. Slowly, gently, taking his time until soft whines breathed against lips grow to helpless cries that they drink from each other, swallowing the sounds as pleasure spills between them.
Mouths part, drawing shuddered gasps of air as they come down, and red shines appreciatively up at green. And at the beautiful specks scattered beneath.
“Mm… Next time I’m putting a mirror in front of you, then we’ll see what your favourite constellation is.”
Clover huffs a laugh at that, drops his head to rest on the pillow beside Qrow’s, nuzzles into the crook of his neck. Presses a kiss to warm skin, drawing a shiver beneath his lips. Whispers softly against him, “Nothing will ever outshine the brightest star in my sky, Mr. Ebi-Branwen.”
He is almost grateful that those seafoam eyes are hidden from him as his heart all but stops in his chest. If he saw the honesty in them now, the honesty he so clearly hears in his voice, his own eyes may very well send falling stars down his cheeks. Damn him for being able to so easily render him utterly still, speechless. All with a simple truth, punctuated perfectly with that name, that name that still feels so unreal to be his. That name he has so grown to adore, to cherish as his own.
It’s a handful of seconds before fingers find their way to greying chestnut, tangling themselves desperately in damp strands as his other hand digs weakly into a shoulder blade. Stolen moments to collect thoughts that are scattered like so many tiny stars.
Qrow draws a ragged breath across his tongue, holds it until he thinks his voice may cooperate, and it is all he can do to fall back on jest as he has nothing with which to counter. “Technically still just Branwen for a few more months, shamrock.”
That earns him a nip of teeth, and he jolts in response. Clover pushes himself up, gives him a look as he carefully lifts off of him completely. And he watches with a satisfied grin as the sudden release of pressure forces red eyes closed, a lip tugged between teeth to hold back a groan at the sensation.
“Rude,” he hisses with no real heat. Vermilion blinks up at teal, rolling fondly at that smug look as he adds, “Least I know you’ll do the name proud, Branwen-Ebi. You know, since you’re such an insufferable brat.”
“Takes one to know one,” Clover laughs, sliding from the bed and holding out a hand. Qrow grabs it, and he pulls him to his feet. “You sure it’s Branwen and not Bratwen?”
Clover chuckles at the almost exasperated expression from his fiancé, stopping only when hands grip his butt and hoist him into the air. That shuts him right up as Qrow carries him off toward a shower, trailing lips across little speckles along the way.
"Q-Qrow!" He laughs as those familiar arms encircle him, looks in the mirror at the face resting over his shoulder. "You know we're not supposed to see each other before the ceremony. Your brother is gonna have a fit." So he says, but his hands find Qrow's, holding close.
"Yeah, yeah, bad luck and all that. Look, if something bad is gonna happen, it won't be for some stupid reason like me sneaking a peek at my obnoxiously gorgeous husband a few minutes early."
Clover hums, turning to place a kiss to his absurdly handsome husband's forehead before asking, "If not that, then what might cause something bad to happen?" It’s a gamble, asking such a question of Qrow. But he suspects it’s a safe bet, today of all days.
"You missing a button, for one thing," he murmurs, not a hint of hesitation, tugging hands free to button it for him. He smooths hands down Clover’s shirt front before taking a hold of a waist to spin him around. Gods, but the man really is too beautiful for his own good, and the perfectly tailored shirt looks nice too. Even without the formal coat he spies hanging on the far wall, sporting a familiar colour scheme.
A giddy laugh spills from Clover as those hands guide him to face his love, and seafoam eyes all but sparkle as he takes in the full sight of him. He’s always well dressed, but something about the cling of finer fabrics, the flow of an almost sheer cape, all in his best colours, is just… stunning.
“Qrow,” he whispers, breath hitching in his throat. “You’re beautiful. I mean, you’re always beautiful, but-” He is cut off by a finger pressed to lips, and he lets out an almost indignant huff, helplessly fond smile tugging the corners of his mouth upward as he gazes into adoring red gems.
“Easy there, Cloves,” Qrow breathes quietly, fingers trailing to the curve of the man’s jaw, curling gently against warm skin. He knows if he allows him to keep talking like that, it will be a swift undoing for both of them. And they can’t be reduced to blubbering old fools just yet.
They stand still for a moment. Bask in soft affection, in the promise in mirrored eyes, and try not to think too far ahead to the day’s events. Red flicks from green, noticing the faint dusting of spots across flushed skin, and he could never resist that.
"Have you been laying out in the sun in the cold just for me," Qrow murmurs, pressing lips softly to freckled cheeks.
Clover chuckles, slipping arms about shoulders, resisting the urge to run fingers through feathery grey strands. They would both be in trouble if he messed up Qrow's perfectly styled hair, as the girls had put it.
"Winter in Patch is like summer in Argus, remember?" He stares into those vibrant eyes the colour of the ring that is currently missing from his finger, stored safely until the ceremony, and smiles at the tender fondness in them.
"Y-yeah, I remember," he says, has to look away and clear his throat, pull himself back from the emotional riptide such a simple statement wrought upon him. They still have a whole day to get through, and he can't afford to start crying now. So he does what he knows works. He turns up the brat dial. "Of course, silly me, thinking Clover Space Heater Ebi could ever get cold here in Patch."
"Hey, it's Clover Space Heater Branwen-Ebi now. The only cold-resistant Branwen of the bunch." Two can play the brat game, and he's also up for a little distraction to keep them both from becoming sobbing messes. At least for now. All bets are off once the vows start. He's practiced his at least a hundred times, and not once has he made it past the halfway point without tears rolling down his face.
Qrow can't help but laugh at that, nodding in agreement as he corrects, "Technically not for another hour or so, but fair enough." They'd been using their combined names since the first exchange of rings, sometimes even calling each other by just the opposite one for fun.
And then it hits him all over again, that first, shuddered whisper offering him the world.
“No,” he says.
No, Clover has been a part of this family for a long time now.
“That’s… it’s been yours since…”
Clover draws his hands back, cups Qrow’s face as he sees the tears forming in those eyes. “If you start, then I’ll start, and I don’t know about you, pretty bird, but I don’t want to get yelled at by our nieces today.”
“Cloves, honey, I love you, but you are not helping,” he almost laughs, swallowing down the sob that wants to break free. The words he speaks are too wonderful, too emotionally charged, with the reminder of their family, of their home.
So he focuses instead on the loving face before him. On all the little speckles that dance across his cheeks, and whispers breathlessly, “You really are a map of stars, aren’t you?” Fingertips trace the little marks, entranced once more at how well they compliment his features.
A map, he says. Clover catches that hand in his own, squeezes it gently before holding it against his chest. Leans in to brush noses softly, teal flicking between crimson, almost glasslike as water shines in them.
"I’ll be a map if it means this little bird will always find his way home."
He isn’t prepared for the crushing kiss, for the broken cry breathed into his mouth as lips press firmly, roughly against his, for the tears that splash his hand on Qrow’s face. And he’s really done it this time, hasn’t he, Clover thinks, and he can only continue to hold on, push back just as much to keep them both standing. Accept this shattered devotion and respond in kind.
Clover feels the heat stinging his own eyes as they part briefly, allowing a short gasp for air before lips are sought again. And again. How many times, he doesn’t think to count, but as he leans in again, he finds himself stopped by a choked whisper.
“You,” Qrow tries, huffs in frustration as his voice cracks, “I am home, you dummy, and I’m never leaving.” And home, he is. Anywhere they are together.
There’s more to that desperate promise than those simple words, and an outsider may misunderstand just what it is home means to the huntsman. But not Clover. Finally the searing heat behind sea green breaks, spilling over rapidly, and he can only offer a fractured smile in return.
He knows that Qrow will never leave, has known since long before that first acceptance of his name, but to hear him say it, and say it so firmly despite the sobs that strangle his throat and seize his chest… To know that Qrow himself really believes it, finally trusts himself to never run away from this, from them, enough to voice it… the overwhelming adoration, admiration, for everything he is and has overcome is simply too much.
And now Clover is the one in need of a grounding presence, of something strong and steady as he sways, and he claims those lips once more, steals air from them just as was stolen from him, for it’s all he knows how to do to keep from shattering like glass, scattering on the floor in tiny shards, glittering like stars that fall endlessly down already shimmering cheeks.
A loud crash outside the door shatters the moment, and they turn frantically toward the sound. There are muffled apologies, but it sounds like no one was hurt, so they heave a sigh of relief.
They look back at each other. At puffy eyes and tear stained faces, and it’s all they can do to laugh at themselves. Just their luck they wouldn’t even make it to the altar before bursting at the seams, overflowing with tender devotion and loving warmth.
Qrow brushes tears gently from reddened cheeks, leaning in to kiss freckles once more. “Still handsome,” he laughs softly, “I’d marry you.”
Clover smiles, all cheek and soft affection. “Well, what are you waiting for,” he teases, nosing at equally reddened skin.
“For you to say I do, ‘course.”
The weather may be getting warmer, but the mornings are still frigid. Cold toes retreat back under the warmth of the covers, a disgruntled whine sounding quietly from their owner. He snuggles further into the breathing heater at his side, tries to fall back asleep, but to no avail. Once awake, it’s almost impossible for Qrow to find sleep again.
Light snoring reaches his ears, and he laughs silently at the sound. Still snoozing away, he thinks, hand stretching further across his husband’s chest. The steady rise and fall is soothing, the heartbeat under his ear so utterly relaxed in peaceful sleep.
He carefully lifts his head, casting red eyes to that face he so adores, looking softer in sleep. Lips quirk faintly upward. It’s not unusual for him to wake before Clover, but he doesn’t always have the time to simply admire him before they’re both up and moving for the day.
Him and those freckles. Qrow leans in, placing a featherlight kiss against the faint specks. They’re starting to become more apparent again, as the days grow longer, sunny and warm. He can’t wait until summer, when that pretty face will be once again completely covered in them. The sheer glee of finding new freckles here and there the more time they spend in the sun never lessens, and Qrow is fairly certain his husband gets a kick out of it. He certainly doesn’t mind the attention, at the very least.
Red eyes sluggishly cast a glance at a clock on the bedside table. Still a little early, but he knows how fussy a certain someone gets if he sleeps in past the asscrack of dawn. Qrow shakes his head fondly as a lovely idea for how to wake his husband comes to mind.
He presses lips to warm cheeks, a little firmer this time. Trails sweet kisses over stars on skin as Clover shifts, breathing an intelligible mumble that signals he is close to waking. That mouth ducks down to the column of his neck, pressing lips to very different stars. Grins as an arm tightens around him, as his husband leans into the touch, letting out a little whine as he is finally pulled from slumber.
“Mm… what did I do to earn such a pleasant wake up call,” he murmurs, voice low and sleepy, laced with just a hint of heat.
Nuzzling faded red marks, Qrow answers, “Just being you.”
Clover stretches a moment, tilting his head to give his husband more access. “Sure I didn’t serenade you romantically in my sleep?”
“If snoring can be called romantic.”
A huff of laughter slips from Clover at the joke, and he can’t even find it in himself to protest. Qrow smiles against skin, enjoying the mirthful sound. He gives a light squeeze to his husband’s side as lips find their way back to speckled cheeks. To waiting lips with a good morning kiss.
“Good morning, Mr. Ebi-Branwen.”
“G’morning, Mr. Branwen-Ebi.”
“Do we have any plans for the day,” Clover whispers to soft lips.
A lopsided grin greets him. “Only plan I have is laying you out in the sun.” He bumps their foreheads together gently. “Draw out more of those beautiful stars on skin.”
“Of course, I should have known. Bird’s gotta have his trinkets. Only if you join me, though,” he breathes, bringing a hand to his husband’s face, thumb brushing across a fair cheek.
“See, you like them too,” Qrow teases as warm red eyes gaze fondly into green, crinkling at the corners.
“I do,” Clover says, leaning in for one more languid kiss before they start another day, together.