The first day of Yule began perfectly, with a snowstorm that threatened to close all the shops in Theon. Yumil was quite content to see that there was, in fact, a sort of justice in nature. Now that Vell’s protection was gone, the once eternally-vernal land seemed almost desperate to restore order. This was the first harsh winter anyone in Kuryle could remember. No one had been prepared.
Dirk had been working alongside the rest of the castle to try and provide furs and food to those who had not thought to stock up and were braving the winter cold to come get some. Yumil, newly freed from the devil that had been his greatest source of power, was no longer tied to Dirk magically. But somehow, he’d been unable to go back to a solitary life in the Tower. Now, he came down quite often, just to see the great brute of a man.
There was still no word on whether Dirk accepted his feelings or not.
That first day of Yule, however, was quite splendid. The entire castle was decorated with holly and tinsel. Stars were everywhere, and Yumil could admit that he helped a little, providing magical lights that floated throughout the Priest-Queen’s home. The snow was blowing fiercely outside, and very few people were braving the cold. Which meant that Dirk had a little bit of time to spend.
Unfortunately, it seemed Yumil’s apprentice wanted all that time to himself. He tried not to be jealous of the boy, after all, Dirk and Jorgan had been together long before Yumil joined the picture. The two had been close friends, and in Jorgan’s eyes, Dirk was as much a father as anyone could have. Yumil didn’t begrudge this relationship, in fact, he was glad for it. No one was more worthy of hero worship than Dirk.
However, watching the two of them while they played soldiers on the floor of Dirk and Jorgan’s room made it difficult to think of anything other than a parent and a child. Laying out on the carefully knotted rug, Dirk’s long form seemed hunched, as if he were trying to make himself smaller to match the other form on the rug. The two of them were deep in a battle that had been raging for hours. As far as Yumil could tell, the only rule was that Jorgan was winning and would stay that way.
Yumil sprawled across Dirk’s bed, bare feet on Dirk’s pillow. His long hair was plaited into a five strand braid that Lette had taught him, which shortened the weighty length of it quite a bit. His golden eyes crawled over Dirk’s form, and he had to admit, the warmth in his chest was the sweetest feeling he’d ever felt. Nothing compared to watching Dirk when he was happy.
“Oh!” Dirk stopped what he was doing as if he’d just remembered something. Yumil sat up on his forearms, as Dirk went to his chest and opened it. He pulled out two packages wrapped in brown paper and tied in string. One was deposited immediately into Jorgan’s waiting hands. The other was fussed over for a moment, Dirk making sure the bow of the string showed prominently.
This package was held out to Yumil.
He stared at it for a moment, unsure what to do. Then, realizing he was supposed to take it, he reached up, letting his fingers brush against Dirk’s as he took the package. Glancing to Jorgan, who was tearing into the paper with abandon, he took his cue. Opening the package, he found a swath of knitted cloth. Pulling out the beautiful, soft cloth, he found a woolen sweater, thick and warm and a soft grey color. He held the cloth to his face, and it was just a tiny bit scratchy. Somehow that little imperfection made it all the more precious. He’d seen Dirk working the wool, but had assumed it would be more socks.
“Thank you.” He managed through his choking throat. Tears threatened to spring to his eyes, although he fought it down.
“Happy Yule.” Dirk beamed, obviously happy with Yumil’s response. In that moment, Yumil realized Dirk was probably waiting for a reciprocal gift. He racked his brain for something that would please the soldier, and when his brain hit on something that might, Yumil called it from his laboratory to his hand.
“Happy Yule to you as well.” The gift wasn’t in a package or wrapped, as Dirk’s had been. It was a crystal vial, with a stopper in the top. Dirk pulled out the stopper, and took a sniff. Then he blinked, and took a deeper breath of the scent.
“…Oleanders.” Dirk commented, before smiling.
“I know they remind you of home.” Although Yumil wasn’t sure why Dirk would WANT to be reminded of that place, he knew that the other man did. So, this perfume, at least, he could provide. “It will last all day, and mingle with your own scent, so that it’s unobtrusive.”
“Thank you.” Dirk’s voice was soft, and there was something in his eyes that made Yumil’s heart beat faster.
“Think nothing of it.”
Of course, this was the point when Jorgan demanded a present as well.
The next day, the snow stopped. Yumil woke Dirk with his gift early this time. Plopping down on Dirk’s bed, he was unsurprised when a roan-headed boy popped up, confused and tired. He patted Jorgan’s head and pointed towards the boy’s gift, which garnered him a squeal of delight, and Jorgan’s vacating of Dirk’s bed.
Dirk was a bit harder to wake, groaning and rolling over to take over the warm spot that Jorgan had left. Yumil smirked, and found himself wanting to tease the dark-skinned man. He leaned in, kissed the spot just in front of Dirk’s ear, and whispered, “Time to wake up, lover.”
“Mnnnnf’koff.” Dirk mumbled, not falling for Yumil’s teasing even in his sleep. The dark-haired mage laughed, and shook Dirk’s shoulder to rouse him properly.
“Come on, Dirk. It’s time to open your second gift.”
This got him a blue eye, distrustful and tired. He smiled and held up a package. This one he’d thought about more thoroughly, and he knew it would be appreciated. Dirk was the athletic type, after all.
“Fine.” Dirk mumbled, sitting up and kicking off the blankets. Yumil was treated to the sight of naked chest, which Dirk didn’t bother to cover. The innocence! Yumil wanted to lick those abs.
He handed over the package dutifully, and watched as Dirk tore away the paper, ignoring the bright red ribbon on it. When he got it open, he found a pair of boots with blades at the bottom. Ice skates. Dirk’s face lit up, and he turned to Yumil.
“You’re going to skate with us, aren’t you?” He asked, and Yumil felt oddly welcomed.
“Of course.” He made a gesture and his own skates appeared out of nowhere. He grinned, “I’m going to skate the pants off you.”
Dinner later was Dirk’s treat, a meal for the three of them at the fanciest restaurant in Theon. Everyone skirted around their table, staring in awe at the mage who’d destroyed half the town. Yumil felt out of place, but Dirk’s smile kept him from bolting. He enjoyed the meal very much. Enough that he only accused Dirk of cheating his way out of a Yuletide gift once.
So it went, little trinkets passed back and forth for twelve days. Yumil’s favorite, though he’d never say so, was the hand-carved chicken Dirk gave him, saying that it matched his personality. Yumil had given Dirk a real chicken in exchange, so the whole evening was spent making egg-puns.
Then came the final day, and Yumil had his riskiest gift yet. It was wrapped in silk, and Yumil wasn’t sure if Dirk would like it. He’d had to search for hours through the tower to find one that was just right. It was harrowing, thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be good enough.
When he presented the blade to Dirk, however, it was as if he’d pulled the sword from the proverbial stone and handed it to Dirk. Dirk tested it, a few practice swings to feel out the balance (which was bloody perfect, by the by) and then, unceremoniously dropped the sword. Yumil made an affronted noise, and an aborted motion to pick up the blade he’d spent time tracking down.
That is, until Dirk’s hands wrapped around his shoulders and kept him still. Yumil felt the breath leave him, as those blue eyes stared at him, vibrant and alive. He swallowed back the sudden rush of emotions rising in his throat. Dirk smiled, just the corner of his mouth, and then darted in.
The kiss was both the longest and shortest moment Yumil had ever experienced. It was perfect.
When Dirk pulled away, he breathed a minty breath across Yumil’s lips, saying, “Happy Yuletide.”more