Feb 9, 2018

Short Story: "Adair's Domestic Fluff"

First, he and Etri needed to implement Plan Keep Blythe Distracted. Adair had wanted to call it Operation Adair Distracts Blythe With Kisses Until She’s So Distracted She Doesn’t Hear a Thing Plan, but the others had shot it down for being too wordy with an acronym of nonsense letters. (And in the words of Firedrake, “Ew.”) All of Adair’s sad puppy eyes were to no avail. Plan:KBD it remained.


(This story came from a prompt game where I was asked to write "a fluffy drabble about two (or more) characters.” I definitely fulfilled the fluff part of the prompt with a story with kisses and refrigerators and interior decorating. It’s just not a drabble since it ended up 3.5k words. I hope the cuteness makes up for the length! My husband wanted me to call it “Extreme Makeover Home Dork Edition” but my other muse​ got there first, so it technically has two titles. This would take place right after Book 2 [Sentinel].)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "Adair's Domestic Fluff" / "Extreme Makeover Home Dork Edition"


If there was one thing Adair wanted, it was a home that belonged to him. As a kid he’d lived with his parents, sure, then with his master’s family when he was a little older, but a room wasn’t the same of having a kitchen and a studio that were his. It was even worse on the road. He loved traveling and seeing new things so regularly, not to mention trying new food everywhere he went. Staying at inns and crashing on friends of friends' couches and fumbling to pitch an occasional tent, though, not so much love there. Then he’d moved in with Blythe. What was supposed to be a temporary thing became a permanent thing, but all he'd had was a space on the floor for his makeshift bed and a place in the corner for his trunk of canvases and art supplies. He'd felt like a visitor and it had never felt like home. Now, though...

He stared up at the new float-wagon that was going to be his home. His. Well, his and Blythe and Etri's together, which was far better than only being his. It was large, much larger than Blythe's old one. This one was two floors and it would be a bear to drive. He hoped he wouldn't have to, considering he could barely drive the old one without making it drift constantly to the left. Once he’d even glitched the weaving that made it hover, causing it to tilt sickeningly at a thirty degree angle until Blythe managed to right it again. He still had no idea how he’d managed that one. This wagon floated perfectly and was so new it still smelled of wood and paint, although most of the painting was going to be done by him once they moved in. He had ideas for how to decorate the walls. Ceilings, too. And maybe the cabinets and shelves and-

A warm hand on one shoulder and a chilly one on the other pulled him out of thoughts of interior decorating. "Do you like it?" Blythe asked.

Despite her voice never losing its confident edge, their empathetic link told Adair she was hesitant. Unsure. He hoped it was over his opinion and not over if he and Etri truly wanted a new home with her. He pushed himself up on his toes to kiss her cheek. "It's amazing!"

That was the right answer, or maybe the right kiss, because her unease faded. "You haven't seen anything yet. Let's go in."

As Blythe led him up the stairs by the hand, he caught sight of Etri lifting his arm. Perfect, their plan was still on. If Blythe saw, she would hopefully think Etri was scratching his head, but Adair knew better.

By the time they were inside and the staircase had retracted back under the wagon, Etri had caught up. Adair was aware of the layout, having worked with the other two and a team of carpenters to design something that would work for all three of them, but Blythe hadn't let him come the times she checked on it being built. She said he'd be bored and she was probably right. He wanted to decorate the home, not see how a table was built or how a stove was fitted so nicely between the sink and the spice rack or how the cold box the exact size of the corner was--

Wait, a cold box? A stove with a full oven and not just a single heated burner? Six feet of counter space? A full kitchen, something he'd dreamed about for years? Dreams that always made him sad when he woke up and realized his cooking space was limited to one measly countertop and a tiny stove that only worked because Sol kept tinkering with it?

Adair spun around, knowing the wide grin on his face probably looked maniacal. "This wasn't in the blueprints!"

Etri pulled him into a tight hug while Blythe embraced him from behind. Adair nuzzled against Etri’s chest, content to be sandwiched between his two beloved sentinels even if he was currently suffering from a lack of air. Height was the only similarity between them and right now the contrast Adair noticed most was between Blythe’s body heat and Etri’s body cold. He wasn’t icy, not like the cold box would be, but Etri’s weaving made his body temperature run distinctively cooler than Blythe’s mundane warmth at Adair’s back-- not that “mundane” was ever a word Adair would use to describe Blythe in any other way.

"Told you it was better inside the wagon.” Adair could tell from Blythe's voice that she was grinning as much as he was.

"We wished to surprise you," Etri said into his hair. "I take it you are happy with this, yes?"

Happy? Happy didn't begin to describe it! He wiggled his way out of their hold only somewhat reluctantly because a kitchen was almost as good as hugs. He wanted to test the temperature of the cold box right now! It must have cost a fortune; those were Artisan-made and the weaving powering it needed to be charged every few months, which meant more money. He was reaching for the handle when Etri caught his hand. A pout was beginning to form on his lips when he noticed Etri glance in Blythe's direction for a brief second. Right. He couldn't hang around in the kitchen or the studio located a few feet away. This he wanted to explore, too, but since that was exactly how he planned it, he figured it could wait.

First, he and Etri needed to implement Plan Keep Blythe Distracted. Adair had wanted to call it Operation Adair Distracts Blythe With Kisses Until She’s So Distracted She Doesn’t Hear a Thing Plan, but the others had shot it down for being too wordy with an acronym of nonsense letters. (And in the words of Firedrake, “Ew.”) All of Adair’s sad puppy eyes were to no avail. Plan:KBD it remained.

Right on schedule came the nearby sound of hammering. Blythe, not nearly distracted enough, asked, "Do you hear that?"

Adair was too far away to kiss her-- drat his tendency to poke around in kitchens!-- so he scrambled to find something to say. "I... I don't hear anything."

He grimaced as the words left his mouth. Of course he'd heard it. Someone three streets away probably heard it. Blythe shot him a disbelieving look as the hammering started again. "That noise."

Etri swooped in to the rescue. "It is one of the other wagons under construction. Remember, we passed two others as we walked to this."

"Huh. I didn't see any of the carpenters." She grimaced as the hammering grew louder. "I should go out there and ask them to hold off until we leave."

As she started walking towards the door, Adair fumbled for a way to stop her. Maybe if he lunged across the table, he could kiss her before she got the door open... Once again Etri was faster. He caught her hand much as he'd so recently caught Adair's and nodded towards the ladder. "I wish to see the rest. If we delay the builders, they may charge us extra for their time."

"Good point. Come on, then."

Adair vowed that after this was over, he was going to have Operation Give Etri a Billion Kisses For Distracting Blythe With Bills and Logic.

Adair followed them up the ladder, grimacing as he carefully set his feet on each rung while staring fixedly at his hands. This was the one thing he didn’t liked about the blueprints. While his terror of heights had downgraded into more of a nuisance than an actual fear, it didn't mean he liked them. Blythe and Etri had suggested getting a staircase built in instead, but Adair had vehemently vetoed this because it would have cut into space in his studio. Now he wondered if maybe it had been a rash decision. He had drawn and painted on crowded public trolleys, cramped tables at restaurants, once even crawling under Sol's bed to get away from distractions. After getting himself stuck there for an hour until Blythe finally found him, he'd decided not to use that one again. A smaller studio would still be an amphitheater compared to those places. Curse the lack of foresight in past-him! Curse the--

Adair stumbled into Etri as he stepped off the ladder. After a horrifying, teetering moment where he almost fell back down, Blythe grabbed him and all but lifted him safely out of the way. As he slumped down onto the bed and tried to get his heart to stop racing, he realized why Etri hadn't walked further into the room. He stood staring up at the ceiling with the same dumb smile Adair wore while thinking about kitchen appliances.

Ah. So he'd noticed Adair's contribution. Past-Adair, still smug about the larger studio compromise, grew yet more smug about his brilliant idea to give Etri a skylight. A window in the ceiling had meant three months of constant painting commissions that left Adair's hand cramped and his mind questioning if turquoise was more green than blue. Feeling Etri's pure joy spread across their link made it all worth it, though.

Etri finally lowered his head and turned towards his pair. He said nothing as he held his arms out. Words weren't needed when his intention was so clear. Within the span of a moment Adair and Blythe were wrapped in his embrace. That was one thing Adair could say about Etri's extreme height: long limbs made for good hugs.

"It opens, too. That way you can go up on the roof without having to go downstairs," Blythe said, her voice muffled by Etri’s coat.

As much as Adair loved Etri, he could never understand his obsession with sitting in the highest place available. While Adair knew Etri's weaving would prevent a fall, that didn't make the knowledge comfortable. But Adair's comfort wasn't important. What mattered was Etri could climb up high whenever he wanted and--

"I can see the stars," Etri breathed.

Adair nodded as best he could, once again smooshed between his muses. Etri’s observation was exactly why Adair had suggested putting the window over the bed instead of over the bookshelves and sitting area on the other side of the room where the daylight would have been more useful. "Yeah. When you can't sleep or if you're feeling stressed, you can look up and see the constellations you love."

"Even if you still think the constellation-muses are real people," Blythe chimed in. It was an old joke between the three of them which made Etri chuckle.

After the rumbling of Etri’s chest subsided, Adair realized another sound had faded away, too. He looked up at Etri to see him nod ever so slightly. Time for the next phase of Operation Something To Do With Blythe Being Distracted. Adair couldn't remember what it was called, so he kissed her instead. He could do that for more reasons than just distraction, after all, such as a reward for helping him plan a star-window for Etri. Or for also secretly working with Etri to give him all the kitchen he could ever want. Adair had the best sentinels!

When she finally pulled away looking somewhat stunned, Adair grinned at her. "How about we go hand over the final payment so we can start moving in?"

That was the next part of the Plan: get her outside without suspecting anything. It was her turn to be surprised.

Etri caught her with a quick kiss before he headed down the ladder. He wasn't much for kissing, so this left her as flustered as Adair's deeper one had done. Perfect. Maybe she wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary about the wagon right away. Maybe this was closer to Operation Give Blythe Lots of Kisses Until She Doesn't Notice Anything than Adair previously thought. He certainly didn’t mind Etri getting in on that plan!

They made their way down the ladder and past the studio and kitchen. Adair allowed himself two wistful looks, reminding himself that soon enough he'd be seeing these all the time, then they were back out the door. The people who were the source of all the hammering were out of sight, which meant he and Etri had timed it right despite kitchen distractions. Blythe didn't suspect a thing as she began to walk towards the carpenter's office. Adair caught one of her hands the same time Etri did. Gently they spun her around.

"What are you doing? I thought we were going to pay for…" She trailed off as she saw what had been done to the wagon while they were inside.

When she didn't say anything for several moments, Adair looked up at Etri, afraid they'd made a horrible mistake. Etri only gave a small shrug; he had no more idea of how this would go over than Adair did. Both knew this idea was a risk. Maybe Blythe wanted the wagon to look plain and simple, like her last one, or new and unadorned, like this one had up until a half hour ago.

What was once bare wood planking now appeared to be part tree or possibly flower. Maybe a bush? Adair didn't know much about plants, so he'd left the design for this up to Sol, who could create anything out of metal, and Firedrake, who trained for years under a master carpenter before becoming a dancer. In theory Firedrake could combine what Sol made with the wood of the wagon without damaging any of the construction, and judging from how perfectly it all fit together, it had worked. Off to the right Adair could make out the blond of Sol's hair and the fiery red of Firedrake's skirt as the pair peeked around the side of the neighboring half-finished wagon. They were both likely trying to figure out why Blythe wasn't responding. Adair wondered if someone had warned the carpenters who were in on this about Blythe’s temper and all of them had wisely gone home for the day.

A full five minutes passed and still she stood staring up at the intricate metal vines that wound around all sides of the wagon. The moss-colored tendrils draped over each box that would soon hold Blythe's flower and herb gardens and snaked through the trellises made to support her various creeping ivies. Eventually her plants would cover some of the metal, blending the faux garden of the piping with the true living garden.

Just as Adair was beginning to wonder if he and Etri should flee like the carpenters presumably had, Blythe finally acted. She moved forward to touch the wagon, running her hand along the portion of vine that looped around the nearest window box. She continued tracing it until her hand met one of the many valves spaced out along the pipes. The water tanks under the wagon weren't filled yet, so the knob wouldn't do anything. Blythe, though, was smart even when facing one of Sol's unique and baffling inventions. Her hand trailed over the portion of the pipe where tiny holes would allow water to slowly pour into the dirt once dirt was added. She stepped back and her gaze traveled along the pipes while she counted under her breath, then she began to circle the wagon, still counting.

Adair must have shown his confusion or sent it through the link because Etri leaned over to whisper in his ear, "She is counting the valves, likely to see if they all lead to each box."

Blythe was on the other side of the wagon and probably couldn’t hear them, but whispering seemed like a good idea. "Does that mean she likes it?”

Etri wrapped his arms around Adair from behind and held him tightly. It was frequently hard to tell how Blythe would react and this was the longest she’d ever gone without saying what was on her mind. Adair appreciated the support of his other sentinel, even if he did kind of get the feeling Etri was using him as a shield.

When she came back into sight, it was with a smile as large as the ones Adair and Etri so recently wore.

"Thank the Creators,” Adair murmured under his breath as Etri echoed his words.

Blythe darted over to them and pulled them into a tight hug. Adair was ready to call this one of the best days of his life if just for all the affection! "It's an irrigation system, isn't it? I thought it was some stupid decoration, but the valves are there so I can control which plants get water. That's brilliant."

"Thanks! Dray helped me make it!" Sol's voice directly behind them caused all three to jump.

Firedrake stalked over and grabbed Sol's sleeve. "Solei, can't you see they're having a moment?"

Blythe laughed and let go of her pair to pull the other two into a hug. Hugs initiated by Blythe were about as rare as kisses from Etri, so both Sol and Firedrake stood a little awkwardly until she let go. She took a step back and faced her sibling. "I'm not going to ask Sol this because we all know how well he understands things like money, so how did you all afford this? There's no way he could have found all that metal in the trash."

Trash heaps were where Sol normally got the materials for his creations. Adair spent far too many hours of his life waist-deep in trash, trying to find a specific piece of junk for his best friend. From the way Firedrake wrinkled their nose at Blythe’s question, Adair got the suspicion Sol dragged them out on garbage adventures, too.

"A little here, a little there," Firedrake answered with a shrug. "It added up faster than you'd think with the four of us contributing."

Blythe turned around with her arms crossed over her chest. "Addy, how many paintings did you sell?"

Adair gave her his best reassuring smile. He wasn't about to tell her the number, not with those plus the ones he’d used to buy the window. To be honest, he’d lost count a few weeks ago. "Enough."

"I know Sol probably sold some inventions-- Creators help us if any backfire on unsuspecting customers-- and Dray probably picked up a few more hours dancing, but how did you get the money, Etch?"

Etri stared down at the ground. Yeah, Blythe posed a good question. Adair was pretty sure it wasn't through more hours on stage because Etri avoided performing since becoming Adair's sentinel. Etri had assured him that he hadn't stolen any of the coins he handed over. Adair didn’t really need the assurance because he trusted his sentinel and knew Etri had never been that kind of thief, but he'd been too worn out from an endless stream of painting to ask. Now, though, he possessed the energy and the curiosity. "Yeah, how did you?"

Firedrake stepped up and rested their chin against their hand in a too-theatrical gesture of thought. "I believe I may know his secret."

Etri's head snapped up. "You do not."

"I do so. One night I saw you after I got done performing and followed you. Well, I say followed you. I meant to catch up and subtly hint that it would be nice if you carried my bags back for me, but those damn long legs of yours move too quick."

Before Adair could ask Firedrake if they meant “actually hint” or “subtly try to manipulate Etri’s mind,” Blythe spoke first. "So where'd he go?"

Adair strained to hear when Firedrake leaned in to whisper to her. His disappointment in not catching Firedrake’s soft words didn’t last long because Blythe let out a laugh and said, "Poetry? He sold poetry?"

Etri's head dropped again. Adair could feel a thick strand of his embarrassment coursing through their link, as could Blythe. She walked over and touched Etri’s chin to get him to meet her eyes. "Oh no, you don't. You're not allowed to mope about this. It’s too damn sweet of you."

Etri looked away again, only this time it was with a small smile on his lips.

Adair was aware of Etri’s hobby of writing in journals, but his tiny, cramped handwriting always made it impossible to see what it said. Adair respected his privacy too much to ask about it or to snoop. Now that it was out, though… “Yeah, Etch! You need to let us see some of it.”

"Haven't we suffered enough?" Firedrake moaned.

Before Etri could say something that would inevitably start an argument with Firedrake, Adair laced his arm through his and tugged him towards the wagon. “Now can I see the cold box?”

Firedrake’s grumbles about not being allowed to have any fun faded as the trio headed back to the wagon. This really was the best day. He’d prevented one of Etri and Firedrake’s annoying bickering contests, there was an entire wagon to decorate and cook inside, and he was madly in love with two sentinels who would share his home. His home, with the nice kitchen, star-window, and wall garden. Life was perfect, even if it did unfortunately include a ladder.

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