A Special Christmas Surprise
The usual bitter cold winds of Lagaard had thankfully stilled, allowing for the residents of the city to venture out into the streets once more to prepare themselves for Christmas Day. Of which happened to be tomorrow.
Stepping from a book shop and into the bustling streets decorated with festive lanterns and wreaths, Lynus tugged his thick winter coat around him as soft flakes of snow fell around him. Clutching one of the presents he had bought for Axel against his chest, he walked slowly through the snow covered streets as he did a mental checklist to ensure that he gotten everything he needed.
With such a large guild, everyone had decided that it would be best for all to participate in a Secret Santa, drawing a name from a hat and concentrating on buying a present for that person. However, everyone also agreed, wordlessly really, that they would also find the perfect gift for their significant (or soon-to-be significant) other.
Lynus had bought Axel two gifts this year. A book from a series he had been reading and a pair of silver dog tags that had both their names engraved upon them. And for the Secret Santa, he had pulled Jhon’s name. Knowing that the blond protector was very susceptible to the cold, he had gotten him a thick scarf for him to wear.
He honestly felt a little bad about not getting gifts for everyone, so he was planning on asking Matron whether he could borrow a corner of the kitchen before the dinner rush to make either chocolates and cookies for each of them. He just wanted to show them, show his family how much he appreciated their endless support toward him.
Smiling softly at a group of children singing Christmas carols, Lynus found himself heading in the direction of the town square where a beautiful tree stood, decorated in glass baubles and handcrafted tinsel. And as he drew closer to the tree the sound of troubadours playing Christmas tunes filled his ears.
Though the town centre was busy with shoppers and couples admiring the Christmas tree, Lynus found a secluded spot to simply gaze up at the tree himself. As he took in the sight and breathed in the fresh scent of pine he found himself thinking back to last year. To his last Christmas.
Though, back then, it wasn’t really Christmas. It wasn’t a special occasion. It was just…another day.
Lynus unexpectedly felt his breath hitch in his throat as he continued to stand before the tree. This was his first Christmas he had experienced in eight years. He had almost forgotten what it was, what the traditions were. It had been so long since he had enjoyed listening to the gentle Christmas music or decorated a tree. From the ages of ten to eighteen, he wasn’t able to celebrate Christmas. And as each year, each day went by, he wondered if he would ever experience it again.
Yet, here he was; in Lagaard, with his childhood best friend who was the love of his life, with a family who cared for him, and experiencing the joys of Christmas once more.
A few snowflakes landed gently upon Lynus’ cheeks and he idly brushed them away with his gloved hand, only to realise that he had cried a few silent tears. He chuckled lightly and rubbed at his cheeks to remove those tears as well. Although he knew where those tears came from and why he felt it would be best to keep them to himself as he didn’t want to worry anyone. Certainly not on Christmas Eve.
He was just…a little overwhelmed by how far he had come. And excited with the prospect of his first Christmas in Lagaard, with Axel and his new family by his side.
It really was a dream come true.
Lynus was pulled from his thoughts when a pair of warm and oh-so familiar arms wrapped around him from behind, holding him tightly. He smiled and snuggled back to rest against a taut chest and turned his head slightly to allow his beloved redhead to place a quick kiss to his cheek.
“What are you doing out here by yourself?” Axel asked as he rested his cheek atop of Lynus’ hair.
“Just gazing at the tree,” Lynus replied as he turned his attention back toward the large, beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
Axel idly ran his hand across Lynus’ stomach, inexplicably holding him closer. “You’ve been crying,” he said. “You’re eyes are slightly red.”
How Axel could tell that he had been crying with the dim lights of the Christmas lanterns, Lynus didn’t know. But he smiled nonetheless and idly reached up with his hand to cup the side of Axel’s face as he turned his toward him. “I’ve just been thinking,” he admitted. “About how this is the first Christmas for me in eight years.”
Axel immediately pressed a kiss to Lynus’ temple, his lips lingering there. “I know,” he murmured.
…It was probably Axel first Christmas in eight years, too.
“Axel,” Lynus sighed as he quickly placed his bought gifts into his bag and turned around in Axel’s arms to face him. Axel’s arms loosened just enough to allow him to do just that before he promptly pulled him back against him, holding him so tightly and closely that nothing would have been able to get in-between them.
With his hands resting against Axel’s chest, Lynus pushed up onto his toes to press his lips against Axel’s. Axel immediately slipped a hand to the back of Lynus’ head, cradling him softly as he deepened the kiss. He tilted his head to the side as his arms slipped around Axel’s neck, kissing him back just as deeply as he was being kissed, hoping to convey what he truly meant to him without having to utter a word.
They stayed there, embracing warmly, unconcerned with the world around them as the snow continued to drift softly and silently. Only a sudden bitterly cold wind brought them back to their senses. Pulling back from the kiss, Lynus shivered slightly so pressed himself against Axel’s chest.
“I’m glad that I’m here,” Lynus whispered as he rested his ear against Axel’s chest to listen to his heartbeat while he gazed over at the lovingly decorated Christmas tree. “I had almost forgotten what Christmas was like.”
“I know,” Axel said as he wrapped a secure arm around the small of Lynus’ back as he reached up to toy with Lynus’ hair with the other. “Which is why this Christmas is going to be extra special.”
Lynus tilted his head back slightly to look up at him. “Oh?” he said as a smile appeared on his lips and he interlocked his fingers behind Axel’s neck. “What have you got planned?”
Axel smiled warmly down at him. “You’ll have to wait and see,” he said simply.
Lynus was both curious and excited, something he used to attribute to Christmas, something he hadn’t felt for a long time.
“Ah, Lynus, there you are.”
The familiar voice of Dr Stiles calling to him caused Lynus to turn his gaze away from Axel and to the left of him. He slipped his arms from around Axel’s neck, though he made no attempt to push himself away from. And his landsknecht made no attempt to remove himself either. He simply loosened his arms enough to allow Lynus to turn before pulling him back against him, Lynus’ back pressed against his chest.
“Ah, Dr Stiles,” Lynus greeted as Axel settled his hands on Lynus’ hips to allow him to speak more comfortably with the head doctor. “Merry Christmas.”
Dr Stiles smiled warmly as he walked over to them, cradling a rectangle shaped present in the crook of his arm. “Merry Christmas to you both as well,” he returned before he gave Lynus a slightly paternal click of his tongue. “No need to be so formal. Just call me Derek.”
Lynus felt a flush rush to his cheeks, slightly surprised, but smiled brightly all the same. “Yes, of course.”
“I’m glad that I caught you here,” Dr, no Derek, continued as he unexpectedly moved the take the present he was carrying from his arm and presented it toward Lynus. “Here, this is for you.”
Startled greatly, Lynus felt his mouth drop open slightly as he stared down at the gift in surprise. “F-for me?” he questioned as he lifted his gaze back up toward Derek. “But, I c-couldn’t, I didn’t, I mean…”
Derek sighed and shook his head slightly, though a knowing smile remained on his lips. “Yes, this is for you. And no, I’m not expecting anything in return. I want you to have this. This really is a gift for everyone, though.”
Lynus tilted his head to the side in confusion. He, however, soon straightened himself when Axel squeezed him around the waist. He soon realised that it was very rude not to accept a gift from another, especially one from his mentor.
Though he had received quite a few gifts since living in Lagaard, he was still nervous in receiving them.
Carefully, Lynus received the gift from Derek and noted that it felt quiet heavy, no doubt that of a book. As he pulled back the wrapping, he felt his eyes widen and a soft gasp of surprise pass his lips. “This…”
It was a book, as he had thought. But it wasn’t just any book. It was essentially his book. A book that he had drafted out for the hospital. A book on what he had learnt and discovered from his time in the labyrinth. But the book in his hands was different. It was a polished copy. A published copy. With his name etched on the front cover.
“Wait, isn’t that…?” Axel questioned as he wound his arms around Lynus’ waist and rested his chin on his shoulder as he, too, looked down at the book in Lynus’ hands.
“That’s right,” Derek said with a slight chuckle in his voice. “I published Lynus’ medical findings of materials from the labyrinth. This is the first edition. Every medic and anyone who is interested in healing will want this book. I may have been the one to arrange for it to be published, but all rights belong to Lynus as well.”
That was…he hadn’t…expected anything like that.
Tears welled in Lynus’ eyes as he shakily trailed his fingers over the front cover of the book. Of his book. “But, I…”
“Everything you’ve done has been for the benefit of others,” Derek continued, promptly Lynus to lift his teary gaze from the gift and back to Derek once more. “It’s only right that your hard work can also be appreciated by many more.”
Lynus felt his breathing hitch as he wrapped his arms around his book and clutched it against his chest. “I…don’t know what to say,” he stuttered. “Th-thank you.”
Unexpectedly, Axel simultaneously loosened his hold around him, took the book from his arms, and gave him a gentle push. Lynus staggered forward slightly for a moment before he pushed himself forward and wrapped his arms around Derek, hugging him as he pressed his face against his chest.
It felt as though Derek was startled for a moment, but he soon recovered and wrapped his arms around Lynus in return. He hugged him tightly before he patted him on the back a couple of times and placed his hands on his shoulders to pull him back.
“You honestly deserve a lot more than that,” Derek said as he wiped away Lynus’ tears. “And it will take more than one day a year to properly shower you in the gifts and attention you truly deserve.”
Lynus shook his head softly. “N-no. Being able to live in Lagaard is all the gifts I need,” he said.
Derek made a sound of slight disagreement, but he chose not to say anything more about it. Instead he idly pulled Lynus’ coat tighter around his shoulders to ensure that he stayed warm. “Best be heading back to the inn, then,” he said as he ushered Lynus back toward Axel. “I hear there’s a surprise awaiting you there.”
Axel immediately hooked an arm around Lynus’ waist and tugged him against his side as he continued to carry his book with his other hand. “You’re not coming?” he unexpectedly asked.
“I may try to find a way to join you at the bar later tonight,” Derek replied before an irritated twitch could be seen coming from his left eye. “Unfortunately, there are always fools getting themselves injured regardless of what time of year it is.”
“Maybe you should let them stew in their own stupidity for a few hours,” Axel offered, sounding sympathetic.
Derek gave him a half smile. “Tempting, but the board are likely to complain. Better to deal with reckless fools than those obnoxious ones. Hopefully I will see you both at the bar later.”
“We’ll catch you later,” Axel said.
“Don’t push yourself,” Lynus added.
Derek smiled at the both of them before he turned on his heel and departed in the direction of the hospital. Lynus watched him until he was out of sight, feeling his respect and admiration for the other man grow. He thought highly of him, but to think that Derek thought the same of him was both amazing and humbling.
Lynus rubbed at his cheeks with his hand as he turned his full attention back to Axel. “What’s happening at the inn?” he asked.
Axel slipped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him closer as he led him in the direction of the inn. “You’ll find out soon enough,” was all he would say. And he wouldn’t say any more. Not even when Lynus asked for a hint or two. He would only grin a knowing grin.
“I promise it’s nothing harmful,” Axel said as they walked up the steps to the inn.
Lynus was already sure of that, but he was still insatiably curious.
Startled, Lynus jumped slightly and snapped his head up to look toward the entrance of the inn to see Binah waving energetically at him. There were people everywhere to be seen, and he knew every single one of them. Everyone from his guild (including Cedric), from Simmons’ guild, from Ryker’s guild, along with Matron and her daughter, Abigail and her father, Darrell and Angie, even Cass was there. And they all appeared to be waiting on him.
And they were all carrying gifts.
“Wh-what’s this?” Lynus stuttered as Axel ushered him toward the large group of people and into the inn.
“What do you think?” Macerio said as he grinned widely at him. “We’re having a Christmas Party.”
Lirit suddenly appeared behind Macerio and wrapped his arms around his neck as he leaned against his back. “And you’re the special guest!” he added cheerfully.
“E-everyone has gifts for you,” Magnus also chided in as he cradled a meticulously wrapped present against his chest. “B-be sure to open them all, ok?”
“Even Chi-hung has a gift for you,” Jhon said with a warm smile, indicating to the white tiger carrying a gift in his mouth next to him. “He picked it out himself.”
Lynus was breathless and speechless.
“Th-this is for me?” Lynus stuttered in complete shock, finding it hard to comprehend everything. “B-but, this, y-you didn’t, shouldn’t have-”
“Well, of course we should have,” Hamza was the one to say. He walked through the group and paused to stand directly in front of Lynus, and rested a hand on his shoulder. “We wanted to do this as well. After everything you have done for us, for everyone, we wanted to show you how much we truly appreciate having you here with us. One party will not be able to properly convey that, but it is a start.”
Lynus couldn’t say anything. What could he say?
He felt a fresh wave of happy tears appear in his eyes as everyone quickly pulled him along into the tea room, to where a beautifully decorated tree sat in the corner near the fire place. They cheerfully gathered around him, wishing him a Merry Christmas as they jostle on who was to give him their gift first.
It was almost impossible to comprehend.
This time last year he could never even dreamed that he would find and experience so much happiness. He had all but forgotten what it was like to be happy, to be safe, to be loved. Though he held onto that promise he made with Axel when they were kids; a part of him was resigned to the reality that he may never experience freedom again.
But he was wrong.
Though tears rolled down his cheeks and though others gave him warm hugs, it was all out of pure happiness. He was free, he was safe, he was loved. And he was happy. So very happy.
Through the wonderful chaos of well wishes, Axel slipped an arm around Lynus’ shoulders and pressed a kiss to his temple once more. “Merry Christmas,” he said softly into his ear. “Enjoy every moment. You deserve it all.”
Lynus still wasn’t sure he did, but he certainly wasn’t going to let this moment slip through his fingers.