Chapter 41:

Domestic Affairs (Part 1)

Afflicted by Snow

     Their village was everything one would imagine the home of a plethora of forest folk to look like. All of their buildings were built in or around trees or hills with their pathways laid by multicolored flowers and shrooms across the greenest grass you’d ever see, and just like the Forest Mist the lighting was mostly from magic in some way or by fireflies. Unlike the Forest Mist however, there were satyrs, elves, halflings, other centaurs, and even more, including the likewise fairies and pixies.

Elerios directed them to a pair of small homes which shared a wall with each other, letting them choose how to split the housing between them. Naturally Linias and Haetia were together while Myrin got a guest house all to himself. For the time being however, Haetia crashed Myrin’s place since Linias wanted to procure what he could for dinner.

Immediately he was met with overly enthusiastic shopkeepers who absolutely refused to let him pay for anything in any way, shape, or form out of sympathy for the dryads, making him also end up with more than he wanted to gather in the first place.

And on his way back he was met with a cluster of children who followed behind him ‘sneakily’, since they couldn’t keep their ogling and giggling all too quiet.

Linias eventually stopped and turned around and instantly they scattered to hide.

“You can come out, don’t worry.”

They tip-toed from behind their cover, approaching Linias hesitantly.

“Y-You’re a dryad, right Mister?” “You don’t have to answer that!” “We shouldn’t ask…” “Dad said we should leave you guys alone…”

“No it’s alright. But you’re all right I am a dryad, you guys have good senses for being so young.” Linias smiled softly, then knelt onto his knees so that his height wouldn’t frighten them.

And just like that their nervous faces turned into bright and excited beams.

“Does that mean you can grow stuff?!” “Like out of nowhere!!” “Like anything!!?” “Can you show us!! Pretty please!?”

“Of course, I don’t mind.”

Effortlessly, he made a few flower crowns seemingly out of nowhere, then a tree with a vine swing set and they flocked to it like doves would a splash of bread.

“Thanks Mister dryad!” “You’re the best!!” “You should play with us!” “Yeah come play with us!”

“Maybe some other time.” Linias smiled again. “I have to get back for now.”

“Next time then!” “You proooomiiiiise?”

“I prooooomiiiiise.” He chuckled before ruffling some of their hair and continuing on his way again.

The next person he ran into though was none other than Elerios, who seemed to be making his rounds which he could only assume was his daily routine.

“Linias was it? Good, I wished to briefly ask you something. It’s about that pale boy with you, Haetia I believe he was called?”

From that alone Linias already felt his improved mood start to decline. There were only a few things people could ask, and none of them good.

“What about him?”

“It seems peculiar for a dryad such as yourself to be with a person such as that. May I ask why?”

“He lived near where I used to live so I’ve known him for as long as I can remember, and since he didn’t know much about himself I decided to help.”

“Hmm.” Elerios eyed his expression for a lie, which remained as neutral as ever. “Alright. Then may I offer you an alternative? You’re welcome to stay here. If you’ve been traveling awhile I doubt many or anyone at all knows of your dryad origins, so you wouldn’t pose much of a threat staying here, and it’s better for us forest folk to stay together. Other mythicals don’t practice our way of living and out there is much more prone to danger, especially for a dryad.”

“I appreciate the offer but I can handle myself.” He withheld a scowl.

“Then I won’t keep you any longer, but keep it in mind. Yours are always welcome so long as the numbers are small and unknown.”

The centaur leader resumed his patrol, while Linias took his words and shoved them far into the depth of his mind along with Willowsbeak’s.

     In the meantime, Myrin and Haetia sat by the kitchen counter waiting for Linias to come back and prepare dinner as they had their idle chatter. Haetia’s fever had gotten slightly worse along with his arousal and he knew it was just a matter of time before it was fully ignited again. If anything, at least Myrin’s talkative self helped distract him somehow.

It went from some observations about the forest town, to more about its people, to Linias which was a topic Haetia especially didn’t want to talk about now of all times but he let him have his fun.

“Hey Haetia, don’t kill me for this alright? It’s purely out of curiosity I swear and I won’t tell a soul-”

“If you have to preface it like that you’re better off not asking.”

“No-no I’m going to anyways I can’t help it. I can read people like a book but something I haven’t figured out is what he’s into, so–”

Haetia choked on his saliva. “Kc-Excuse me?! I’m not telling you that!”

“Oh come on, don’t be like that. We’re adults we can have an adult conversation respectfully.”

“That’s his business and I don’t know why you want to know it.”

“I’m not trying to seduce him not in a million years, like I said I’m just curious. And I bet he’d tell me if I asked and you know it too! But if I ask him that’s worse than asking you because then it feels like I’m into him though I don’t think he’d think that but you might–”

“Okay okay! Ugh…Look, I don’t know. Happy?”

“Seriously?” Myrin pouts in disappointment. “Everyone is into something and I’d DIE to know what a guy like him is into.”

“And I’m telling you I don’t know. He’d just do whatever I wanted before and I never paid attention to that before, you know that.”

“Then what happened at the Forest Mist?”

Haetia’s cheeks deepened their warm shade, and not from his fever. “You have no shame do you? We know, had sex.”

Myrin gives him that look.

“Fine, maybe he likes softer or cuter appearances. I couldn’t tell you.”

“Why don’t you go on a sexual journey with him? That’d be a good way to bond since you’re oh-so desperate to be friends with him.”

“That’s sex friends then.”

“Not if you do it right.” Myrin grins. “Strike a balance between sex stuff and cute stuff–”

As soon as the front door opened they jumped in their skin, hushing their girly gossips the moment the man of the hour entered.

“Oh Linias! I was just going to go take a bath, so why don’t you guys call me when dinner’s ready?” The siren gives his ‘partner in crime’ a mischievous and encouraging smile then rushes out past Linias before he could even say anything though he’s ultimately unquestioning.

He closes the door behind Myrin and sets the groceries onto the counter along with his jacket, rolling his sleeves up and getting to work with dinner preparations while Haetia quietly and anxiously watched from the other side.

Now was the worst possible time for him to even think about following Myrin’s ‘advice’ with how close his heat was. If he even tried anything slightly suggestive he was sure it would send him spiraling down and the last thing he wanted was to ruin a chance at getting to know him better with a slippery slope into more sex that’d take him further from his goal and display of his intentions.

The vegetables were cut swiftly yet perfectly and not even for a second did Linias pause to think about what he was doing or what the next steps were.

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve seen him cook before. It’s been fruits and campfire fried vegetables for as long as I can remember. Haetia thought to himself as he ogled his retainer who worked with a simultaneously focused and relaxed expression.

“...What’re you making?” Haetia finally gathered the courage to try some icebreakers.

“Originally creamy broccoli and potato soup since I know you like milk based things, but the locals gave me a lot more than I wanted so now I’m making vegetable stir fry with a side of rice, unless you’d like the rice fried as well?”

“No, no, it’s alright. You make what you want.”

The silence returned even louder than before.

More chopping. Setting up the rice and letting it boil over the fire.

“You’re alright with the fire?” Haetia tried again.

“Not really, but it’s smaller in scale so it’s a bit easier to handle.”

…Quiet again.

He seasoned the meat then went to fry it. Once it was almost done he threw in the plethora of veggies and seasoned it all some more. Afterwards he dosed some of the fire so it’d stay at a low heat, just enough for it all to stay warm and marinate without drying. He cleaned the counters and set the table, and only then did Haetia notice he was staring for far longer than he wanted and he was almost out of time.

“...You like cooking?” He rushed to fill the empty air again.

“I do. I used to cook for you in Gwyneira and when I started I hated it but it can be oddly relaxing.”

Linias took the finished meal off of the fire, setting it aside for now.

“...Master, why do you keep asking me things like this? Small talk I mean. You never used to do that before.”

Haetia jumped within himself again, but at the same time he was more surprised at the reason he was asking than the question itself, and in that case, it was better he was just honest about his intentions if Linias didn’t understand them by now.

“Well, I want to get to know you better.”


“Because I want to be friends…?”

“I understand that, but why?”

“Because quite frankly I hate this Master-Servant thing between us. That wasn’t something either of us got to decide so I’d rather start fresh as friends and then figure it out from there.” Haetia leaned over the counter, gently slapping Linias’s cheeks between his palms to help knock him out of his shock-induced-trance. “So, what do you say? Friends? Talk casually, have laughs, some food, all that stuff?”

For a second Linias swirled the words within his mind. Dharax had diminished whatever hope they had at friendship early on in their lives…but now he was no longer here. Yet it still never crossed him that was the reason behind Haetia’s actions.

…Is this what he meant by making things right?

Linias gathered his needless doubts in an inhale and exhaled them away. His hand graced Haetia’s and he nuzzled further into its cold embrace that was more tender and heartfelt than that he’d ever received from hands deceivingly warmer.

And with a new found breath, he replied, “...I’d like that.” Linias smiled inside and out.

Haetia’s once calm heart sped to a gallop and skipped a few beats along the way. Whether his blush or fever was setting him ablaze right now he didn’t know, but before he knew it his limbs moved on their own and he leaned in further until he could feel his soft breaths against his lips, and soon enough those breaths exchanged with his own in an equally gentle kiss.

Not once did it delve any deeper from its light nature, no matter how many times they traded and traded kiss after kiss. And yet, he always found a way to ruin it anyway. The butterflies thrashing about inside of him started to shift into other things and before it could get any worse Haetia forced himself to part.

He avoided Linias’s eyes at all cost as he scurried to find some excuse, knowing full well that if he looked at him now that Myrin wouldn’t be getting dinner tonight and neither would they.

“I’m–gonna go get Myrin-! Y-Yeah! And call me Haetia!”

“Thanks but it’s staying Master for now, that’s a line I’m not ready to cross yet. Consider it just me being respectful.”

By the time Linias had finished his statement Haetia had already rushed out of the door, making him smile to himself.

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