36: Morals and Maybes (Part 1:2)

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C H A P T E R    T H I R T Y S I X . O N E

Morals and Maybes

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THE LAST TIME Louis glanced in Harry's direction, the elf – half-elf – wore a dusting of flour in one eyebrow and an easy smile. This time, there was an additional brush of white powder along one side of his jaw. Still an easy smile. Louis mirrored it when their gazes met.

Harry had said they couldn't show up in Claus Village without bearing gifts, so they'd made a pit stop first. Santa's favorite cookies were gingerbread, and his daughter's were peanut butter. Harry's specialty was peppermint sugar, but apparently he can make a mean peanut butter cookie. According to him, anyway. And gingerbread were pretty straightforward.

Louis was currently tasked with shaping the gingerbread cookies. And thankfully, shockingly, he was enjoying himself. He was happy, which was...far more than Louis had ever expected after everything.

"So," Louis breathed after a lapse in conversation. They'd been talking about the elflings again since they were back in the kitchens, and Harry had been happy to divulge more tales from before he came to London. The silence that followed had been comfortable. "We've got gingerbread for the big guy, peanut butter for his daughter. What about Mrs. Claus? Don't tell me she doesn't have a favorite cookie," Louis continued.

"She actually passed a few years back. Probably don't mention it when we're there."

Switching cookie cutters, Louis tilted his head. "What is an elf's lifespan?" And then, as an afterthought, he peeked over at Harry and added, "And a half-elf's?"

Harry chuckled, surprising both Louis and apparently himself, and he stopped mixing his peanut butter cookie mix. "The same, Lou. We're all basically human, we just handle cold weather better. And regular elves are shorter. And the ears."

Louis snorted and lifted his hands, holding them like a surrender. "Laugh all you want. It's not like they teach elf biology or history in our studies back home."

He wasn't offended. He liked that he and Harry were joking around again, that this was all light-hearted like it used to be. But it really was like learning something brand new, something he never even considered before. He wouldn't learn anything without asking about it. He couldn't believe he was asking about it, but...he wanted to know. He wanted to understand who Harry was and where he came from and everything he could possibly know, even if Christmas will be constantly dancing around the edges – sometimes right in focus – of what he might learn.

"You're right," Harry nodded, completely sobered up. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have laughed at you."

Surprised, Louis set his cookie cutters down and wiped his hands off on the apron Harry had tied around him earlier. He reached for the poet and wound his arms around him. This close, Harry only looked a little troubled. Louis hoped he could see that he didn't mind, hadn't taken offense. He could also still see the flour, so with a smirk, he reached up and brushed it away from both Harry's eyebrow and his jaw.

He let his fingers linger there, trailing down Harry's jawline and then toward the back of his neck, cupping his head. Harry tilted his face into it, and God, Louis wanted to see him this way for the rest of his life. He really did. He really fucking loved him.

Something in Harry's expression looked familiar suddenly. It was the same look from this morning, the last time they were in the kitchens. Louis had even asked about it then, but they were about to be interrupted by the elflings, so Harry said he'd tell him later.

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