Tiberius and Aula were celebrating their three-month wedding anniversary. Most elves didn’t, but, most elves didn’t need an excuse to buy new toys, break out their best wine, and throw a twenty-four-hour party for two. (For that matter, Tiberius and Aula didn’t need an excuse either, but it’s always nice to celebrate an occasion you’ve decided to make special.)
“Just wait until you see what this darling little device does,” Aula was saying, reaching into a discreetly plain shopping bag, when there was a knock at the front door. “Come in and join the fun!” Aula called toward the front of the house without so much as looking around.
“It’s me,” said a voice gruffly from outside, “Aarindarius.”
“Then hurry in, already!” Tiberius shouted with a laugh, “Come help us celebrate.”
“You both know I’m not here for that,” Aarindarius yelled back as he let himself in.
“That’s what you always say,” said Aula, gliding out of the bedroom to meet him, “At first.” Upon meeting him she embraced him and flicked the tip of his ear playfully.
“Please put some clothes on, Aula,” the wizard said, blushing.
“Now why would you tell her to do a thing like that?” said Tiberius, poking his head out of the bedroom doorway, “Trying to make my life miserable?”
“Please tell me you’re wearing something,” said Aarindarius.
“No,” said Tiberius, striding out of the room and stroking Aula’s hair with an affectionate smile, “We’re celebrating.”
“Sorry to interrupt,” said Aarindarius, absentmindedly pushing Aula away from him gently but firmly, “I’ll leave.”
“We don’t believe in interruption,” said Tiberius.
“You should know that,” said Aula with a nod, “What’s bothering you, honey?”
“Are you still worrying about Dominic?” Tiberius asked.
“Are you not trancing?” Aula added.
“That’s not good,” her husband finished.
Shaking his head and almost laughing about the way they’d practically spoken in tandem, Aarindarius said, “Yes. Every time I close my eyes I see the day he learned how to make fireballs.”
“The rabbits,” said Tiberius grimly, “You told us.”
“But you taught him better,” said Aula, putting a comforting hand on her friend’s shoulder, “Your students always learn so much from you.”
“He’s still Neutral,” said Aarindarius, “I’m worried.”
“That just shows what a good teacher you are,” said Aula in a conciliatory tone, “But you can’t treat yourself this badly every time you think one of your students is about to make a bad decision.”
“But now he has made a bad decision,” Aarindarius protested wearily, “I got a letter from him today. He’s joined an evil adventuring party.” He rubbed his eyes to stave off exhaustion. Not to be rid of tears (or so he told himself).
“Oh…” said Tiberius distantly. Ever since he’d started teaching a couple of decades ago, Aarindarius had always cared so fiercely for every one of his students, Tiberius knew that if one went to the dark it would tear his friend apart.
“Oh honey,” said Aula, grasping the mentor’s hand and pulling him toward the bedroom, “Come here.”
“Dammit, Aula,” Aarindarius spat, yanking his hand away, “Don’t you ever think of anything else?”
Blinking and trying to recover quickly from the uncharacteristic outburst, Aula said a little snidely, “I meant to talk. I’ll go get dressed.” She disappeared into the bedroom.
“Sorry,” said Aarindarius, rubbing his tense neck and blushing.
“She knows you didn’t mean it,” said Tiberius with a shrug.
“Are you sure?”
“I know you didn’t mean it,” Tiberius replied simply.
“I know you didn’t mean it too,” said Aula, returning in a silky purple nightie that was almost the same color as her hair, “You should probably get dressed too, honey.”
“Oh,” said Tiberius with a downward glance, as if he’d forgotten he was naked, “Be back in a minute.” He ducked into their bedroom and started rummaging through a closet.
“Now sit down,” said Aula to Aarindarius, patting the bed beside her.
“Talk to us,” said Tiberius, emerging from the closet wearing a pair of black boxer shorts.
“Tell us about Dominic,” said Aula, “And why you’re so worried.”
“Thank you,” said Aarindarius quietly, collecting his thoughts, “It’s good to know I can rely on you.”