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Roasted Chestnut #16; Coffee #7; Banana

Author: Regret
Rating: 15
Story: Destruction/Reconstruction Steampunk Universe
Challenge: Roasted Chestnut #16 - Christmas Tree; Coffee #7 - Gloves
Extras:: Banana
Word Count: 2,792
Summary: Niko and Kirill go Christmas tree shopping, but end up meeting people Kirill would sooner forget.
Notes: So stuff happened in real life and then this turned out to be longer than I expected. Also, Kirill is actually 25, he's just also very shy and nervous.

“It’s early enough that it shouldn’t be too crowded, but will you be alright?” Niko asked, twisting to look over his shoulder as he lifted his shirt over his head. “I know you’re still a bit.. with... after...”

From his perch at the edge of their bed, Kirill smiled at Niko’s helpless expression, and maybe just a little at the way the elegant muscles of his back moved. Judging from the grin that flashed over the other man’s face, Niko knew exactly what effect he was having too. “I’ll be fine, I promise.”

“If you’re sure...” Niko turned to watch as Kirill stripped off his own shirt. His grin widened. “Would it matter if we leave an hour or so later?”

Kirill blinked, halfway through pulling the fresh, non-work-stained shirt beside him onto his lap. “If that’s what you want to do, then I don’t mind.” Fiddling hesitantly with the fabric beneath his fingers, he added, “why?”

“Because,” Niko laughed as he padded to the bed and pushed Kirill gently back onto the sheets, “I can think of something much better to do right now.”

He couldn’t help grinning too, although it rapidly dissolved into soft moans as Niko’s kisses trailed along his neck and down to his chest, raising a trail of goosebumps in their wake. Two years ago he’d never have believed this could feel good, or that he’d be allowed to run his hands down the powerful chest of his owner and marvel at the strength contained within.

Two years ago he’d never have believed he could be living with a man who insisted he wasn’t his owner, that loved him for being him, and that he loved back with all his heart. That he could be happy.

Niko’s kisses fluttered back up his neck, his long fingers working their way into Kirill’s trousers; Kirill wrapped his arms around Niko’s neck and submitted entirely to him.

* * *

“You’re sure you’re alright?” Niko asked yet again as they wended their way between the haphazard market stalls and groups of chattering shoppers.

“I did promise I’d be fine,” Kirill said quietly, glad that the large pockets of the coat Niko had given him disguised the way his nails dug into his palms.

One side of Niko’s mouth lifted in a half-smile that told Kirill he saw straight through him before morphing into his more customary grin. “I was more concerned you might have trouble walking,” he whispered into Kirill’s ear, then laughed at the immediate flush that burned his cheeks. “But I’m happy to hear it anyway.”

“That’s not fair...” He edged closer to Niko, hunching up as he buried his hands still further.

An arm wrapped around his shoulder and pulled him close against the other man’s warm body. “I’m sorry, but you’re so cute I can’t help it.”

It was mystifying that Niko continued to insist he was attractive against all evidence, but he’d long since learned that arguing was time-consuming and ultimately futile; instead he burrowed against him and let himself smile. It was busier than he’d expected—quite probably busier than Niko had expected too, if his calm curiosity was anything to go by—and the snow-dense sky dulled the brightly coloured awnings, giving the market an oppressive atmosphere that set Kirill’s nerves on edge. At least the groups of laughing men around the various alcohol stands seemed less threatening with Niko’s comforting presence by his side.

“Oh, here it is.” Niko’s voice sliced across his thoughts as he pulled him towards a stand that, contrary to the mild surprise in his voice, was almost impossible to miss. Bristling firs reached towards the steel-grey clouds in a miniature forest, almost entirely obscuring the stall they belonged to. “You know I said picking a tree was simple?”

“Yes?” Some of them were huge, easily bigger than anything previous owners had chosen; he half-expected them to be topped with snow.

Niko gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Pick one.”

He stared at Niko, wide-eyed. “Really?”

“Really.” Niko reached out and ran his fingers along the needles, encouraging Kirill to do the same. “I’ve been reliably informed these are some of the best trees available, so as long as we can fit it in the house, you can choose any one.”

The spiny leaves tickled his fingers, leaving behind their warm scent. This was a far cry from only being tasked with cleaning up shed needles. “I— I don’t know...”

He must have looked as stricken as he felt: Niko took his hand, twining their fingers together. “Want to choose together?”

Kirill nodded gratefully. They made their way between trees that snagged at their sleeves while Niko examined each one, explaining his opinions to Kirill while encasing his icy hand in both of Niko’s warm ones. Truthfully he couldn’t choose between them, aside from the ones clearly too large to fit into their rented house, but the simple act of meandering around with his handsome lover was more than enough to make him happy.

They’d spent ten minutes in the localised forest when Niko, and by extension Kirill, came to a halt in front of a six-foot tree with rich green needles. “This one?”

“It looks good,” Kirill said, nodding.

“You said that about the last three,” Niko laughed. “Do you think it’ll fit?”

He nodded again, squeezing Niko’s hand, and bit back the urge to apologise. Just for today the teasing wasn’t worth it. “I think so. The ceilings are quite high, I think it’ll fit.”

“Okay, we’ll have this one.” He lifted the carefully held hand and kissed the back of it, smiling as Kirill ducked his head rather than show his shyness. “Your hands are cold. Are you alright to stay here while I go and sort out delivery?”

“Yes, it’s fine. Thank you.”

Niko pressed a kiss to his temple, heating his cheeks all over again, then vanished off between the trees in search of the stall owner. If the close-packed firs were anything to go by the man would be as lost as Kirill was, surrounded by a maze with no way to navigate. He had to put his faith in Niko, and after everything there was no reason not to.

It wasn’t as cold inside the Christmas tree forest as outside it; there were worse places to stand and wait—he’d waited in some of them before for his previous owners—and the trees were almost as comforting as Niko in their own way, with their towering forms and warm scent. Waiting here felt like something he could do, safe from the crowds outside with his hands crammed deeply into his pockets again as protection from the biting chill that even the dense trees couldn’t shield him fully from. From the darkening of the sky above it was only going to get worse. How could Niko withstand the weather and still keep warm hands? Still it made a nice excuse to hold them—

A hand seized his shoulder and squeezed painfully. “Well, well, what do we have here? Someone I never expected to see again.” An unpleasant laugh too close to his ear made his blood turn to ice. “Been abandoned by your new owner, I see—or did they leave you here so people like me can have a little fun?”

Perversely, only terror kept him from bolting.

“Who owns you now, anyway?” The unmistakeable voice of Reuben Gamble continued, one gloved hand trailing down the nape of his neck while the other retained its vice-like grip. “I’d wondered if you’d get bought by a brothel. I thought about tracking you down, to see if I could have you one last time.”

“No chance of that,” a second sullen voice muttered. Kirill didn’t know his temperature could drop even lower, but now his hands were frozen and his feet refused to move. “I reckon he’s still with the guy he says he loves.”

Reuben bit back a short laugh. “Love? I warned you about lying, Jack.”

Kirill wanted to run. He’d always thought he would if confronted with Reuben again. The hand on his shoulder rendered him powerless. Behind him, Jack let out a bitter snort. “It’s not a lie. I met him. It’s disgusting, he ran into a sword for that man.”

The hand squeezed again, then yanked him round to face two of the last men he’d ever wanted to see again. “So you found a backbone again? Shame it seems to have deserted you, a bit like your owner. Hoping to lose you in here, was he?”

He shook his head dumbly.

“Still, if he cares so little, then maybe I can get my revenge now.” Reuben’s hands moved to play with the buttons on Kirill’s borrowed coat.

Kirill wanted to flee, but where could he go? The entire back end of the market seemed to be packed with trees; his chances of finding Niko before these two caught up with him again were nonexistent and running away only ever brought ruin. “Revenge?” He tried instead, through a mouth that felt stuffed with cotton wool.

The first button surrendered to Reuben’s fingers. “Mama regretted selling you afterwards. She became very suspicious, it was absolutely no fun at all.” He affected a sigh, fiddling with the next button until it too gave way, exposing the shirt and sweater beneath to the wintry air. “In the end she realised that it was very unlike you to attack someone without reason and found out what happened. In short,” he grinned, undoing the third button, “I’ve been kicked out and it’s your fault.”

“I’m sorry,” Kirill whispered, barely hearing the words over the pounding of his heart.

“It’s not all bad. I have my own slave now, he makes an adequate enough replacement—but it seems he already knows you.”

He nodded slowly and tried to ignore the hatred in Jack’s dark eyes.

“I know him too.” A new voice, thick with anger, made Kirill instinctively flinch before recognition kicked in. “And unless he wants me to hit him again he won’t take another step forward.”

Reuben treated Niko to a disdainful look that washed straight over him. “I assume you’re his owner?”

“No.” Niko was a little shorter than Reuben, but what he lacked in height he made up for in physical presence. “I’m his lover, and you can take your hands off him.”

Reuben released Kirill’s coat. Suddenly free from paralysis, he scrambled backwards and almost impaled himself on a spiny fir. “Now I’ve heard everything,” Reuben sneered, lifting one eyebrow at Niko’s fury. “You should take better care of your property, sir. You never know what might happen.”

The muscles worked in Niko’s jaw; his hands balled into fists. Kirill usually tried to placate him, finding his anger to be singularly terrifying when he was normally so cheerful. This time fear—and, even if he felt ashamed of it, just a little hate too—kept him silent. “If anything should happen, I’ll know who to hold responsible.” Before Reuben could react Niko grabbed his collar, dragging him forwards until they were a hair’s breadth apart. “Do you understand me?”

For one second he was sure he saw a flash of fear in Reuben’s eyes, and the way his hand shook as he carefully prised Niko’s fingers from his clothes could have been from the cold, but Kirill thought not. “It’s a good thing I have no interest in your property then, isn’t it sir?” Taking Jack roughly by the arm—who put up less of a fight than he’d led Kirill to believe—the pair vanished between the trees, leaving Kirill to wrap his arms around himself and screw his eyes shut.

He barely twitched as a warm embrace enveloped him and a cheek pressed to the side of his head. “I’m sorry I wasn’t back sooner. If I’d known—”

“No, it’s alright. I’m sorry. I’m fine.” It was a struggle to speak.

“It’s not alright.” A warm hand buried itself in his hair, cradling the back of his head. “You don’t need to apologise.

Kirill untangled his arms and hugged Niko back hard, pressing his face against his shoulder. “I didn’t think I’d ever see him again...”

“Your former owner’s son?” Niko asked, voice low and gentle. Kirill never spoke about them and Niko tactfully tried to avoid bringing the subject up, ever since they’d first danced around the subject over a year before, but he guessed it had to be obvious now.

Kirill reluctantly raised his head again. “Yes. I... He...”

Niko gave him a sad smile. “I can guess.”

He wanted to cry. Instead he swallowed it down and tried to return the smile. “Did you buy the tree?”

“I did.” Niko released him slowly, letting his hands drop to catch Kirill’s and raise them to his mouth, pressing warm kisses to each palm. “It’ll be delivered to the house tomorrow. And,” he grinned mischievously, “so will a little one for our room.”

Kirill blinked, allowing Niko to take his hand and lead him back through the maze. “Why?”

The bigger man shrugged innocently. “Why not? I saw it and couldn’t resist.” His expression sobered. “I wish I had, now.”

“No, don’t.” Kirill shook his head vehemently, startling Niko. “It’s fine. I promise.”

“Liar.” The sad smile returned, only to evaporate as Niko grimaced. “God, your hands are cold! Wait a sec, there’s something else too.” Kirill obligingly came to a halt at the edge of the fir forest as Niko plunged one hand into his pocket, pulling out a thick, dark bundle. “This is the other reason I was late. These are for you.”

The dark bundle turned out to be a pair of black gloves, a mix of leather and wool parts that turned out to fit like, well, a glove, as well as being the first pair he’d ever owned for himself.

“They aren’t worth the trouble you found yourself in, but—!”

His sentence was cut off with a grunt as Kirill flung his arms around him in a tight hug, then pushed himself up onto his toes to press a soft kiss to his lips.

“—But I’m glad you like them anyway,” he finished, wrapping his own arms around him, grinning at the blush Kirill knew filled his cheeks again.

This time he wouldn’t let it win. There was no way this burning shyness could make him look away now. “Thank you.”

Niko brushed his fringe aside and dropped a light kiss onto his forehead; not for the first time, Kirill marvelled at his lack of revulsion over the scarring. “You’re welcome. Now,” he said with a glance up at the pale, thick clouds hanging threateningly low, “we should probably head back, it's going to snow.”

Kirill nodded, happily accepting Niko’s arm wrapped protectively around his waist, and fell into step with him as they made their way through the marketplace. He just wished he could stop darting glances around, heart beating harder at the thought they might run into Reuben and Jack again; from the occasional tenseness in the arm around him, Niko felt the same.

“You know,” Niko said at length as they approached the outskirts of the stalls, “after that, if you want to stop... I mean, if you don’t want to sleep with me again...”

“No!” It came out louder than he expected, startling both of them. “I wanted— And after everything, and it took me so long, and you’re not them, and—” He took a deep breath. “No, I don’t want to stop. And I...” He held his hands out in front of himself, admiring their new coverings, and felt himself blush again before he even spoke. “I wanted to thank you for these, in... In a certain way...”

It took all his strength to look at Niko, half-expecting to see disgust that he could say that despite what had happened. Instead he was met with a broad grin. “You know, I don’t care about the snow any more. Now I’ve got a real reason to want to get home.”

Kirill grinned too, even though he was sure he was red enough to light the street. Niko took his hand, meshing his bare fingers with Kirill’s gloved ones; Kirill squeezed gently and murmured, “maybe we should hurry. It’s getting dark.”

“Maybe we should,” Niko agreed softly, squeezing back.

“Except,” Kirill said, and wondered if it was possible to blush any more or whether he’d simply pass out, “I don’t mean maybe. I mean definitely. And— And it has nothing to do with the dark.”

Niko’s grin widened. “When you put it like that, who am I to argue?”


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2013 01:33 am (UTC)
If I were Niko, I would have done more than threaten
with a glare (like a heavy fist in his face)! I love
Niko and Kirill together. Do you have any more with
these two?
Dec. 27th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Niko's a little careful about using violence around Kir, but believe me, he'd have loved to plant a fist in Reuben's face. (And Kir probably isn't as against it as he thinks... hehe)

I have a couple more posted here (Tinsel; Hook) and here (Book; Lost in Translation), but most of their backstory is in a currently unfinished novella unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view! *lol* ).
Dec. 28th, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)

Love these two. Niko's a great guy.
Jan. 2nd, 2014 12:15 am (UTC)
I know I keep saying it, but I'm so relieved Niko turned out to be a nice person! He has his flaws (which... I guess aren't so visible in what I've been writing) but he's a nice person and as much as I love Alex, it's nice to write someone who isn't an arse sometimes.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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