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Daero Windwhistle was an elf who could cope. He'd weathered the sort of market upheavals that would make lesser men hang up their MBAs for a life of asceticism and nondenominational SAD. But that is exactly where he thrived. Daero's versatility was a singular point of pride - and Daero Windwhistle possessed very few of those. Points that he would safeguard meticulously, polish up every morning and shine on the front of his wool suit any time he was called on to answer for his management style, or found himself forced to review operations protocols, or whenever he was cornered into a vaguely uncomfortable social situation - which was most of them. He'd relied on his talents like an engine driver does a cowcatcher, a shield that would gently and decisively displace the voices demanding anything more from him than quiet competence. He coped - and the workshop coped with him.

When the feyless turned to assembly lines and mass production, he'd personally supervised each and every one of the 10,000 horsepower worth of high performance, laboratory-grade toy manufacture being installed in the Pole's new hangar. When feyless younglings dropped their generics for cathode ray-fortified brand name playthings, Daero had overseen the largest commercial licensing and distribution agreement the world had ever known, just so they could slap labels like "Fisher Price" on their product. And when the domination of the home console cast its long shadow over toyland, Daero had repurposed the industrial hangar into 150,000 square feet worth of fully accredited C++ training. Yes, Daero Windwhistle could cope with just about anything - except wives.

Women had no place on the shop floor. That much should have been obvious. Just the hint of a possibility of a woman bumbling through the fine-crafted clockwork of his shop sent his heart into palpitations. If he had it his way, they wouldn't even hire any men who weren't dyed-in-the-wool bachelors. And he nearly did. But the decision wasn't his - it was the big guy's. And for now, he'd just have to cope with it. "It," in this context, being the exquisitely crafted kidskin boots currently dominating his line of sight. They were bespoke - the contour lines on the arches spoke volumes - and the embroidery work by itself was a revelation. He could marvel at these boots all day, especially if it kept him from acknowledging the person standing in them.

"Did you not hear me?" The voice was musical - with all the stentorian aplomb of the Rite of Spring; lyrical - with all the eloquent menace of Coleridge; beautiful - like a tsunami looming over a mast-studded harbor. He reluctantly cocked his head back, letting his eyes drift over the bucksin chaps, to the embroidered linen tunic, stopping at the uncovered, milky arms crossed over the chest - a considerable feat, considering how far that chest pushed them out. Past that, he could make out nothing - until she stepped back, her gaze finally finding its way past the soft obstacles to bore into his confidence. She was just as stunning as he'd feared. From the braids in her hair, to the bluntness of her fingers, to the leathers on her person - this was very much a traditional elven woman. And Daero, in his vented jacket and mouseleather shoes, was a woefully modern elven man. If she'd caught him at his desk, he might at least be able to pull off some narrow pretense of authority, standing at waist-height. But she had found him on his way from the shop floor - deliberate, he mused, for an adventurist like this - and he was helpless to do much more than graciously accept the invective she dispensed from on high.

"I was told in no uncertain terms that my husband would have a full two weeks of personal time after the holiday. The holiday is over. Yet my husband claims the workshop is still being made to work crunch. I understand you are in charge, Mr. Windwhistle?"

He fairly gawped, his mouth about a half paragraph ahead of his brain, sputtering to fill the air with something that would mollify the imperious gaze above. Somewhere in the muddle was a nebulous yarn about unmoved inventory and restocking. He only realized that the explanation was over when, to his terror, the space between him and the woman was again filled with a viscous silence.

"I don't think you understand. My husband is coming home right now, and you will not see him again until the end of his vacation, and not a day sooner." Daero had spent his whole life at the Pole, and had never been chilled like he was by the ice in her voice right now. "His name is Nimo Dawnbright. I want you to call him from the floor."

He knew the name. A newer guy. One hell of a worker. But a luddite. Seemed like a trend among the new generation. Young hipsters who were turning to clockmaking and cordwaining. Put one of those kids in charge of the floor and they'd go back to putting out wooden ducks on wheels. The factory could eat one lost day from a guy like that. But - he had principles! He'd managed this operation for well over a century! And he wasn't so spineless as to toss his chops just cos one bit-

"You're not trying to stand between a woman and her husband, are you?" She had knelt down, and with that final, arrogant you, her eyes had flashed green, moss suddenly blooming from the points where calloused fingers supported her weighty frame. Daero nearly shit a brick. This was forest magic. Nature magic. OLD magic. The sort of hocus pocus he'd only seen the big guy pull off. The kind most elves forgot long before this workshop was even built. There was something feral and ancient in those eyes, pulled from an expanse of myth and savagery that made his world of spreadsheets and shipping manifests recede to a mote in juxtaposition. He searched his peripherals, desperate for an exit, a witness, maybe a priest. Her snarl deepened, slow rage nestling into those immaculate features. Daero took a trembling step back...

"Baby! What are you doing here?" The voice came from behind him. Bright. Naieve. Oblivious to the mortal peril that had descended on the North Pole this accursed day. Suddenly wind was all around him, feet slipping. something massive displacing the air. His voice found its way into his throat, a strangled pathetic thing. And then, he was staring once more at the boots. He blinked twice and ventured a glance upward. The massive frame had jumped to its feet. He could see between bounces, as the rest of her jiggled into place, her face had transformed, the predatory fury of seconds ago now unimaginable in that beaming smile. The supple boot lifted, and his heart skipped before it smoothly stepped over him, no longer interested in intimidation.

"I missed you. And I was worried your bosses were-"

"Relax. This isn't like the cobbler's. Just a couple hours overtime. I'm all yours now, Chandrelle." Daero, his confidence thoroughly dismantled, decided he was not too proud to crouch behind a crate, where he could furtively observe the Dawnbrights' reunion. There was Nimo, tired smile and sandy hair peeking out from under a liberty cap, hand on cocked hip. The kid was probably a whole head shorter than himself. And there was the woman, "Chandrelle," hands on knees, braids resting on the expanse squeezed between her powerful arms, gaze locked on the elf at her feet. Like a pendulum, the arm swung down, and then Nimo was gone, leaving only a red cap in his place. Daero started in horror as the woman devoured her 'husband,' plush lips sliding over his face, his neck, his torso. Atavistic grunts and murmurs rumbled from somewhere deep within the beastly female as her tongue lapped and smacked at the morsel. Until she pulled her hand away.

"Easy - cough - easy, big girl. I'm still gonna have to clock back in here when my vacation's over. You can at least save the PDA until we're outside the workshop." Nimo chuckled as he wiped the damp hair out of his eyes and rested his arms on the fist that hid his lower half from his better half. Unrepentant, Chandrelle slid a languid tongue, wider than his shoulders, from his crotch up to the tip of his nose.

"But it's so chilly outside. If I did this out there," she gasped between kisses, "you could end up a little Nim-cicle. Besides, asking for that sort of restraint from a new bride? That's just cruel."

"Bogus argument," he cried, fighting off another assault from her tongue. "I'm already drenched!"

"Well, guess I'll have to make an extra effort to keep you warm on the trip home." With that deadpan statement, Chandrelle pulled the neckline of her tunic far forward, parted her cleavage, and held her huband in front of her lips. With a final kiss, she released him, and the elf disappeared into a sea of milky flesh. Chandrelle's gaze swept over Daero's hiding spot, lingering for half a second - and she turned, stalking out of the workshop, boots barely whispering across the cement floor.

It was a full five minutes before Daero could will his feet to move again. When he finally slopped back into his office, he realized he was nearly as soaked as Nimo, this time with the unpleasant fragrance of his own sweat. Wives. If only he never had to cope with wives. He idly spun in his office chair, watching the calendar on the far wall blink in and out of view. All over a fortnite's holiday. He could sure use one of those. To somewhere sunny and quiet. Where there weren't any toys or elf women, and no one celebrated Christmas.

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