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Other [FanFic] Rose & Sunflower 3: A Different Perspective (Updates MWF) -Ch 37 [24 April]

Discussion in 'Fan Works' started by Risukage, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. Risukage

    Risukage Existential Complex

    //Someone should have taken his own "coffee-and-nap" advice from the other day. Looks like he was just too caught up in it all to remember, and sometimes when you're really deep in a project it's amazing how you lose track of time and totally lose the connection with your "self" that would remind you to sleep, eat, shower, or whatever. :p//


    He awoke the next morning wondering about Lysander's condition, as he hadn't heard from him since their messaged conversation the previous morning. Trying not to worry, he showered and dressed as usual, awaiting his friend's arrival. There was no reason to be concerned! It was a small town and they couldn't have gone too far, and if something had gone wrong he'd definitely have heard of it. Of course he would have. He was just being silly, Lysander was just fine.

    Trying to swat away the gossiping noise in his head, he very studiously prepared coffee and set about cleaning, even though it didn't need to be done, for the sake of keeping himself occupied with something constructive. The knot of worry in his chest immediately dissolved at the familiar knock and greeting as Lysander let himself in. Elliott set aside the towel and walked over, trying not to show his relief. That warm smile wiped away the last of Elliott's fears, and without really thinking about it, he hugged his friend, who laughed and squeezed him back, asking about his unusual behavior.

    "Ah, apologies," he replied, holding him at arm's length and inspecting him for injury, "it is just that I had not heard from you until now, and I had been concerned about your physical health..." He had expected another laugh, or a snarky response, but the smile got softer and lit up the corners ofhis eyes. Oh gods, Sam was right...

    "Thanks, I mean it. It hadn't occurred to me that you might be worried about me. Riding can be dangerous, and we took precautions, but sometimes stuff just happens. I should've messaged you to let you know I was okay and coming by like usual."

    Lost in that hazel stare for a moment, Elliott was almost slow to reply. "No, there is no fault, I am simply being overprotective. You are your own person, and I am certain that you and Sebastian covered every possibility. Please, sit, I will serve us."

    Patting his arm, Lysander walked past him to the kitchen. "How about you sit and I'll pour?"

    "Very well, but only if you regale me with your adventures of yesterday," Elliott said, seating himself and opening the laptop.

    As he always did, two mugs of coffee were quickly prepared as he talked. "Not a hell of a lot, really. I learned a lot about motorcycles in general, and I'm really glad that I already know how to drive stick 'cause I was able to apply some of that knowledge to riding. 'Bas had a lot of good info and real-world experience that he was able to share so that I don't have to make those mistakes myself."

    He handed over one mug and sipped his own as he pulled out the folding chair and sat down. "I'll need another round or two of lessons to be really comfortable, but I like it already, and I think I've got enough income to put some aside for a bike of my own. What I wouldn't give for that freedom." His eyes crossed a little as he turned his thoughts inward, then grimaced. "I'll have to put a lot aside, now that I think about it. I'm larger than he is, so I'll probably need something with a greater level of displacement, and I've also got to consider safety gear, too. Looks like I've got a lot of research to do." He returned his gaze back to Elliott, giving the writer a soft flutter of contentment. "I'll have to have you ride passenger one of these days, if you're comfortable with that sort of thing. Get out for a little while, right?"

    He hadn't expected this offer, and while the prospect of riding was somewhat scary, at the same time it sounded exhilarating. "I...would like that very much. It's been far too long since I went anywhere."

    As if it were a promise sealed, Lysander grinned again. "Great! That's still in the future, but for now, you said the other day that you think you're almost done with your book?"

    Elliott lit up with excitement at the reminder and clutched the mug in both hands. "Yes! I was too busy yesterday with Sam to compose anything new, but I know what needs to happen. With your assistance I will-" He cut off as he realized something; what would happen after the story was done?

    Seeing the energy suddenly vanish and a look of sadness take its place, Lysander put a hand on his wrist. "Hey, what's up? Is it not going the way you want it to?"

    "It isn't that, it's... What happens after it's finished?" He stared at the floor, now feeling cold as the enthusiasm drained away and left him empty.

    "After it's- What?"

    "When I complete my novel," Elliott replied softly, "what then? What will you do?"

    Confused, then understanding, Lysander laughed and set both of their drinks aside to hold Elliott's hands in his own. "Then I'll just work with you on the next one. You do plan to write another book, don't you?" Elliott's reaction of relief and wonder made him laugh again. "Did you really think that I'd just walk away after this was done? This was brilliant! I haven't had this much fun in ages, and I've never been able to create anything this great before. I mean, it's your creation, I'm just helping, but still, I'll do it again if I have the chance." Leaning over from his chair, Elliott hugged him again, and Lysander sighed and shook his head fondly. "You really were worried. That's why I'm sticking around, you know, you really are a good person, and I want to support you."

    Light burn me, I want to tell you everything, to ask you to stay by my side even longer, to be more than just a companion. But in a strange way, I am glad that I lack the courage to do so, because even more terrifying than the thought of you leaving is the thought of you pushing me away.

    Feeling relieved in a fashion, Elliott sat back comfortably in his chair. "Thank you. I feel clingy and selfish in asking you to work alongside me again, but I could not have done this without your input."

    "No worries!" The smile was bright and cheerful, and Lysander took a long drink from his mug. "There's not a hell of a lot more I can do on the farm at the moment, as everything is kinda self-sufficient, and I'm not sure how I can expand my operation without stretching myself and my resources too thinly. Like I said, this was fun, and if you've got more ideas, I want to hear them. Do you-" He laughed again and tilted his head to the side, wearing that gentle smile that melted Elliott completely. "Do you have any idea what a dream it's been to meet someone whose work I've read? And then being able to work with them? This has been amazing and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

    "I cannot express my full thanks. Perhaps one day I will have the words and means to do so."

    "Then for now let's use what words we do have and get this finished!" Lysander grinned, shifting his chair closer to the laptop, "I love the twist you're pulling at the end. It totally fits with everything that's been set up and still comes as a surprise."

    Talking back and forth as Elliott typed, they worked until it was time to leave for practice, and very reluctantly, Elliott saved their work and got up. Lysander's touch on his arm was reassuring; it wasn't as though this was the last time they'd work on it, they also had tomorrow. He packed his satchel and followed, thinking as they walked, and Lysander didn't bother him, giving him the mental space he needed.

    A lot of it was required, apparently, as Elliott was somewhat distant all evening. Not absent-minded or ignoring anyone, but if something didn't require his direct attention he scribbled quick notes on the pad of paper that he always kept on hand. Nobody minded this, as they were mostly figuring out the new vocals, which involved Lysander and Sam for the most part. His skill as a writer had translated well into lyric-writing; what he had written with Sam the day before had come out quite well, and not only was Lysander was suitably impressed, the general consensus was that it was what they were looking for. The two strings players sounded excellent together, and the lyrics not only fit their vocal style but the musical one that they were trying to cultivate as well. They were on their way to being professionals!

    As they broke up for the night Elliott made up his mind to finish the story as soon as he got home. He was almost finished with it, he was so close! After all of these years, after this last year, he could feel his triumph just a finger's breadth away. He was still wide awake, and the sudden adrenaline rush would surely keep him going until he was done. The first one to leave for once, he offered Lysander a quick hug before rushing out the door, grinning at the playful warning to "be sure to get some sleep tonight!" Ha! He would sleep when this was finished and not a moment sooner.

    Closing the door behind him but not locking it, he unbuttoned his waistcoat and hung it over the back of his chair, opened the laptop again, then went to the kitchen for coffee. It was going to be a long night, but damn it, he was ready! With his drink at the ready, he sat down at his chair and typed quickly, glancing at the notepad now and then, and only pausing to consider the wording of a phrase or to be certain that particular character interactions flowed correctly. Leaning back in his chair to re-read something, he unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves, needing the slight freedom it offered. A little while later he got up for another cup of coffee, and unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt. He really did need a shower, but that would wait, he was very nearly finished!

    He was startled by the first rays of daylight through the window and glanced at the clock in his taskbar. It was morning already? Where had the time gone? No matter, it was time well-spent, and the book was nearly complete, he just needed to work a little longer. Rubbing at his bleary eyes, he rested his weight on his arms as he scrolled through the last few pages, checking a few things. It took a few minutes to realize that he'd read those pages several times and didn't remember it any of those times. Damn, he was getting fuzzy, another cup of coffee should do it...

    Feeling a soft touch on his arm, Elliott woke up, startled and confused. A glance at the taskbar again showed that it was a couple of hours later, as evidenced by Lysander's arrival. He couldn't stifle a broad yawn, and massaged the bridge of his nose, piecing together his thoughts as he blinked away the meager sleep he hadn't intended to get.

    “Mmm, it appears that I dozed off. Damn. Good afternoon, Lysander.”

    Lysander looked relieved that Elliott wasn't ill or injured, but also annoyed at him. “Did you get any rest after practice last night?”

    Shaking his head, Elliott sat up properly in his chair and winced at a crick in his neck. “I did not, as I am in the final stretch of finishing my novel. With the end in sight, I seek its light, illumination at the end of the tunnel.” This produced a moment of introspection and a self-effacing laugh. “Even in my current state I am given to moments of poetry.”

    Now looking relieved but stern, Lysander put a hand on his arm again. “Lovely. Get your ass to bed and get some sleep, you can finish it later.”

    “Your concern is appreciated but unnecessary," Elliott replied, amused at Lysander's reaction, "just a little more work and I can rest.”

    Lysander doubted this openly, knowing that Elliott would toil himself to sickness in this pursuit, and reminded him that it would be best to return to it later once he was better rested. Once again, Elliott turned down his offer, claiming that he simply required more coffee, but this was unconvincing, as he had to hastily grab for the edge of the table after a sudden wave of drowsiness almost made him drop the mug that he'd just picked up. Taking away the mug, planting a fist angrily on one hip, and gesturing without ambiguity, Lysander told him in no uncertain terms that he was to get some sleep, right now!

    Sighing, Elliott offered him a polite smile. "I have work to do," he explained, wondering why Lysander didn't understand, "I will sleep when it is complete." Lysander shot back that he would make him, and Elliott called his bluff. "I doubt that, now if you- Gah!"

    It wasn't a bluff, and Lysander had no patience left for his exhausted companion, leaning down to grab him around the waist and throwing him over his shoulder. Confusion and embarrassment had a quick argument for dominance, refereed by astonishment, as Elliott tried to process a reply while Lysander strode to the bedroom. "Lysander! Put me down, this is quite unbecoming," he demanded, and when Lysander agreed, he had no time to question it, as his vision suddenly took in the floor, the wall, then the ceiling in one smooth arc before the mattress creaked loudly as Lysander roughly dropped him onto his bed. Struggling to a sitting position, he glared at his friend. "If you are done with being domineering I have work to-"

    Again he was interrupted, this time when Lysander put a hand in the middle of his chest and firmly shoved him back down. "No you don't. You need rest, and I'm going to wait here until you go to sleep. You’re almost as stubborn as I am and will work yourself to exhaustion if I don’t do something about it. I’m your friend, and I’m looking out for you. Now quit being a pillock about it.”

    This aggressive and dominant side of Lysander was unusual, and, Elliott had to admit, rather arousing, but he was of a rather single mind of the moment and put that thought from it. However, before he could offer up another argument or protestation of complete cognizance, he yawned again. He dropped back against the pillows and sighed at himself, knowing that it was futile to resist any further. With a quirk of his lips in a weak smile, he agreed with Lysander's assessment that yes, he was tired, but that didn't justify him being so forceful about the entire thing.

    With a posture that clearly lacked any sort of humor, Lysander sat down next to him. "Really? Can you say that you wouldn't do the same for me if our roles were switched?" Considering this, Elliott replied that he could not, and the fierce hazel stare became warm and gentle again as he squeezed Elliott's shoulder supportively, two actions that made Elliott's pulse quite erratic for a few moments. "You know I'm right," he said, with a smile to take away the edge, "I understand, I really do, that drive to finish something when you’re just so close, but you also know that you might make errors while tired that could compromise the entire project.”

    Reaching up, Elliott wrapped his fingers around his friend's, barely able to keep his eyes open. He agreed with Lysander's opinion and position, and was asleep before he could finish his thought.
     
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    • Risukage

      Risukage Existential Complex

      //You sweet, romantic man. Lysander deserves you so much. :)//


      It was dark outside when he woke again, and looked around, trying to figure out why he was in bed, still fully dressed. The last that he remembered was-

      That’s right, he’d been working on finishing his novel, and he’d dozed off. Then Lysander arrived and insisted that he go to bed for a while. Apparently his friend had been thoughtful enough to make sure that he was comfortable, as he also didn’t remember pulling that blanket over himself. Smiling at the thought and feeling a pleasant warmth, he stood up and returned to the other room to get his phone. A quick glance at the time showed that it was very early in the morning. Also, the battery was very nearly dead, so he plugged it into his laptop for power, and, since he was already there, had a look at what he had been working on before his enforced nap. He had intended to go shower and clean himself up, but he wanted to fix this bit here. And add this there. Hmm, the next part was supposed to go like this, and…

      Once more he lost himself in his work, and for the next few hours wrote without pause, feeling the adrenaline of literary triumph just within his grasp. Then, it was done. He sat back and ran a hand through his hair, exhausted yet elated.

      It is complete. For so long I have dreamed and toiled, and now, oh light, now it is done. It staggers belief, and I hesitate to think too hard or pinch myself, in the case that this is all a dream.

      With shaking hands, he saved his work, then exported it as a PDF to review in a few minutes. After a moment of consideration he also saved both files to his external storage, just in case. A polite knock at the door made his heart skip with anticipation.

      “Hey, I’m here- The hell! You still haven’t changed?!” Lysander asked as he walked in, and Elliott greeted him with delight, clearly wearing it, getting up to greet him. Lysander was getting wound up with irritation. “Don’t tell me you- Ah!” He was cut off as Elliott hugged him under the arms and spun them about, unable to contain his sheer jubilation.

      “It’s finished! Lysander, I’ve done it, and it would not have been possible without you.” Whatever the other man was going to say was forgotten and he matched the writer’s grin, asking if he could have a look. “Go right ahead, I had just saved a PDF copy when you walked up. And you were correct, I did need that rest. I slept the entire day and woke this morning with a fire in my heart and lightness in my fingers.”

      The musician got comfortable in the recently-vacated chair, remarking that he had an idea of what it was all about from their work together, but had not yet read it all the way through. His smile of contentment as he read gave Elliott another flush of warmth. In the kitchen, he made a quick cup of coffee for Lysander, as he needed to bathe quite badly, and would likely be at it long enough that a cup for himself would be cold. Setting it next to him, he got polite thanks for it, but it was out of courteous reflex.

      “I require a shower, will you need anything else before I disappear for a little while?” Lysander once again replied reflexively, but it was also clear that he wasn’t listening. This was probably the best compliment that his work could receive, and he entered his bedroom after retrieving his waistcoat from the back of the chair.

      As he undid the line of buttons down the front of his shirt, he blushed as he realized that he’d left the bedroom door open. He’d lived there alone so long that it hadn’t been necessary, and he recalled their banter that one morning…

      No, it would be inappropriate to ask that of Lysander. Yes, he was attractive, and had openly offered for anyone interested, and Elliott was most definitely interested, but… He shook his head at himself as he quietly closed the bedroom door and continued undressing. Lysander had also stated that he was not ready for a relationship! Besides, even if the door was open as an invitation, it would go unnoticed, as Lysander was completely immersed in their story.

      …Their story…

      He paused in the middle of removing his earrings in the bathroom at this thought. It wasn’t just his story. They had spent weeks together every day, and every page was filled with words that the both of them had supplied. He could not have done it alone. Running the shower to start the water flowing, he placed the silver rings on the sink and stepped into the shower, enjoying the tingle of hot water on his skin. As he scrubbed his fingers through his hair, he sighed to himself, inhaling the steam gratefully.

      A pity that I must do this alone. After so long sitting in that chair I would welcome someone to help get to a few places that ache.

      This thought produced another flush of embarrassment, but only momentarily.

      Damn it, I cannot push him from my mind. Light help me, what I would not give to have him in here with me. Long have I wanted to know and see more of him. I desire him, I admit that freely to myself now, and will give anything to have more than just the friendly touch I have only known so far. I need him.

      There was something else that he needed, or at least wanted, given his reaction to these thoughts, which got significantly more intimate. A few minutes later, feeling quite a bit more relaxed, he took his time to shower, and after rinsing off the last of the soap, toweled himself off before stepping over to the sink to shave.

      It must be done. I will tell him everything. I will hide myself and my feelings no longer.

      Finally finished, he rinsed off and set aside the razor, putting the earrings back on as he opened the closet and found fresh garments. It was such a refreshing feeling to finally wear something clean after the last couple of days. He could have stopped to bathe and change, yes, but never before had he felt the uncontrollable urge to finish something like that. Buttoning the shirt and tucking it tidily into his trousers, he shrugged into the waistcoat and entered the main room again, getting to the ones on his cuffs as Lysander tried to drink from an empty mug and chuckled at himself.

      “Okay, wow, that is really good, I just got pulled in. You really know how to- You got changed.”

      “I did mention that I was going to get cleaned up while you read, but my words fell upon deaf ears,” Elliott replied as he did the last of the buttons on his waistcoat, “normally I would find that irritating but now it is flattering.”

      Stretching as he stood, Lysander chuckled again. “And apparently you got me a coffee as well. I don’t remember that. Well, I think that that speaks highly of your work.”

      No more hesitation, no more fears. I can do anything with him at my side.

      Elliott began to speak but suddenly found himself unsure of what to say. “Speaking of, well, speaking, I…” Lysander asked him if there was something he was thinking of, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops. Becoming a little flustered, Elliott tried to press on. “Yes. Well, that is, there is something with which I would like to discuss with you.”

      That warm smile returned and nearly derailed Elliott’s train of thought. “You’re being awfully hesitant today, what’s up?”

      After another failed start, he cleared his throat and found what he thought were the words that he needed. “I no longer wish to be friends.” The moment that the words left his lips he knew that he had said exactly the wrong thing the wrong way, and the look of hurt on Lysander’s face as he backed away into the table cut him more deeply than anything else than he’d ever known. “No, not like that, I-”

      Lysander interrupted him and looked away. “Ah, it’s no worry, I’ve been a bit of-”

      This is all going wrong! I cannot lose him!

      He cut off his friend’s protest with a hug, now terrified to let him go. “Light burn me, no. Not just friends, more than that. I… I need you.” He felt Lysander stiffen in his grip, and his own fingers did the same into his back, terrified that he would continue saying exactly the wrong thing. “Just give me a moment, hear me out and then you can say anything, but I need to say this before I lose my nerve. You gave me a second chance. You gave me hope. You brought a light into my life that I had never seen before, and like a moth to a flame I am irrevocably drawn to it, and I care not if I get burned. Your energy, your passion, your kindness… It awoke in me a desire to be so much more than I was. You became my muse, my inspiration, and every day I awaited your arrival with anticipation. I realize that you said before that you are not pursuing a relationship and I respect that, but at the same time I cannot hide this any longer. I want to be at your side, to support you, to share everything with you.”

      Having said everything that he possibly could, he waited breathlessly and with a racing pulse for an answer.

      “Elliott… I can’t…”

      Oh gods, no. I have completely miscalculated. I was wrong. Light burn me, I was wrong.

      Releasing him, Elliott stepped back, now feeling the cold pain dig in even deeper and more sharply, almost dizzy from its effects. “Ah, my apologies, you did say that-”

      “It’s not that-” Lysander cut in, but Elliott could only think of how badly he had failed.

      I know not what to do now. I will not cast him out, yet I cannot stay here. All that we have done together has been shattered because I was too greedy and desired too much.

      “Forgive me, I was too forward,” he said, about to turn and leave, when Lysander snarled and grabbed him firmly by the collar with both hands.

      “No, you fool, I love you!” There was a moment of silence as both of them realized what had just happened. The cold pain changed, from despair to hope, and Elliott tentatively reached for Lysander’s hand. The other man shook his head, trying to find his own words as he brushed out the wrinkles that he’d made in Elliott’s collar. “It’s your turn to listen. I don’t want you to get hurt. I have fire, yes, and it’s too strong, I can’t control it. My last relationship… We… We had an argument, and both of us lashed out at each other. We were angry and frustrated. But I did so with the intent to hurt. I’ve never done that before. I wanted to cause pain in retaliation for what I felt, against the person I claimed to love and protect. I can’t let that happen to you. I won’t do that to you.”

      Yet again your concern is not for yourself but for me. You are trying so hard to keep me away. You fear for me, that you could cause me irreparable pain. Let me comfort you.

      With a hesitant smile, Elliott reached out to him, fingers on his shoulder, scared that Lysander would push him away. “I’m not a delicate flower,” he laughed softly, “this rose has thorns. I am strong enough to stand up both for and to you. Do you really think I will simply allow someone to strike or shout at me without provocation and let it go?” Still unable to meet his eyes, Lysander offered a counter-argument, that he’d hurt Alex when they had fought, and Elliott rebuffed that it didn’t mean that there was a pattern. “You are not the sort to stay angry at someone for long, and given your regret over what happened with your last companion and how quickly you resolved issues with Alex I know that anything that causes you anger enough to harm someone is both serious and nothing that cannot be mended.”

      Let me support you.

      Lysander still looked away, though he didn’t pull away. “There’s a first time for everything. What happens if I get angry and selfish over something dumb and try to take it out on you?”

      “Then we will resolve it once we are calm enough to discuss it like rational adults,” Elliott reassured, “you are causing yourself worry and pain over one moment in your past, one that is not likely to repeat itself. Do not let it hold you back and prevent you from being happy.”

      Let me stand by you.

      Those warm hazel eyes finally met Elliott’s and were wide with wonder. “You’re not scared?”

      Elliott reached over with his other hand, gently tracing it down Lysander’s cheek, fearing that he’d never be able to do it again. “Only of being unable to tell you just how much you mean to me.”

      Let me love you.

      One thing that he would always say, for years after, was that one of the things that he loved most about Lysander was the way he always surprised him. At this moment he had expected a smile, and had hoped for a hug. But what he wasn’t expecting was for him to step forward, knot his fingers tightly in his hair, dig his fingers into his back, and kiss him with a level of passion that almost left him weak in the knees. Everything about his touch spoke of possession and desire.

      Oh gods. This is more than I had ever imagined. This fire, this warmth… I am both consumed and invigorated.

      Clutching him for support, Elliott lost himself in Lysander’s touch, feeling light-headed from relief and the somewhat euphoric effect of the kiss he almost hoped wouldn’t end. All things must end, however, and when Lysander finally pulled away to let him breathe, Elliott found himself almost unable to form a coherent thought, only commenting on Lysander’s skill, which produced a satisfied smirk.

      “I’ve had a lot of practice. That’s… It isn’t a problem, is it? My history? You know you aren’t my first.”

      Again, his concern was for someone else! Elliott smiled with contentment. “As long as I am your last.”

      Sighing with relief, Lysander sagged into Elliott’s arms, head on his shoulder, and promised that he was. His silence was only temporary, though, as he once again surprised Elliott by growling and nibbling the side of his ear with a somewhat feral grin. “Mine.

      Elliott laughed and hugged him even tighter. “Yes, I am yours, all of me.”

      I was right. Love is something to which he devotes himself completely. I shall do the same, for he deserves nothing less. I swear that I will protect him at all costs. Oh, and now that I remember…


      “And you don’t have to be afraid of being a bit physical with me when displeased,” remarked Elliott, “you have already done so once.”

      Blinking, Lysander tried to remember the incident in question. “When did- Oh, the community center. I’m still a bit miffed at you for that, you know.”

      “Then I will apologize until you forgive me.” Gently, he moved the collar of Lysander’s shirt to kiss his neck, and smiled at the small shudder of pleasure it produced. “I’m sorry.”

      Huffing a mock sigh of irritation, Lysander smiled back at him and kissed him on the cheek. “I can’t stay angry at you. Fine, you’re forgiven. Sorry for slapping you. Though I feel like we’re forgetting something- Ah! The community center!”

      The both of them had completely lost track of the time and would be late for band practice if they didn’t leave right then. Lysander grabbed Resonance and didn’t even touch the stairs as he dashed out the door. In a similar hurry, Elliott closed the laptop with one hand and snatched the satchel with the other, pulling the door hastily shut behind him. As he ran up, about to call out to Lysander to slow down, the other man stopped, then grabbed his hand.

      “Keep up.”
       
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      • Risukage

        Risukage Existential Complex

        //I wrote most of this while waiting for my car to be repaired after a semi truck sniped my radiator with a well-placed rock shard, causing the entire coolant system to vent itself all over the highway inside of two miles. It was a long repair. This is a long chapter. It's been a long day. :rofl://


        Elliott didn’t have the stamina that Lysander did, and anyway, the other man was carrying the guitar, so the fiery musician was forced to slow down to a brisk walk. They weren’t running that far behind on time, but Lysander was still wound up with relieved energy, and Elliott had to keep reminding him to slow down a bit.

        “It appears that I was not the only one who was worried,” Elliott said, tugging at his partner’s hand again playfully, earning a grin.

        “I’ve been terrified since yesterday. After you finally went to sleep I went to talk to Sebastian. He put a boot in my ass and just told me to get on with it, and y’know, I’m glad that he did. But no lie, my heart was pounding so loud on the bridge over the river that I was sure you could hear it from your table.”

        Laughing at the mental image, Elliott nudged him as they walked. “Sam more or less said the same thing, though there was less altruism in his efforts.” At Lysander’s noise of curiosity, Elliott chuckled as he thought back to the conversation in question. “The general gist of it was that if I didn’t approach you soon then he would, though I still am uncertain as to how serious his intentions were.”

        It was Lysander’s turn to laugh, and that bright, cheerful sound gave Elliott a satisfying rush of warmth. “I genuinely have no idea, either. He’s a spiky-haired troll most of the time, but he’s remarkably honest about himself and what he wants. Well, I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t try, because I bet he’d be a lot of fun, but you…” He squeezed Elliott’s hand as his smile became fond, one that Elliott knew only he would see. “You’re brilliant. I owe you so much, and it’s going to take a long time just to tell you how much.”

        A little while later they arrived at the community center and saw that everyone else was already present. With a quirk of a smile Sebastian commented that it had taken them long enough, for which Lysander apologized, as it was a rather distant walk from Elliott’s home. Giggling happily, Abigail corrected the direction of the innuendo, and Elliott hastily released Lysander’s hand, slightly embarrassed that their relationship had already been accidentally announced. As usual, Sam couldn’t resist the urge to tease, and his grin and hand gestures of a descriptive sort gave a very good indication of the reason he thought that they had been late. To Elliott’s surprise, Lysander bristled and growled at this, but glanced over at him when Elliott gently put a hand on his shoulder, and after a dark look at his antagonist, put his hand over Elliott’s and nodded.

        As Lysander retrieved the keys to the community center, Haley got to her feet and remarked that previously they had simply been “cute” together, but they were now “adorable,” and Elliott once again flushed in embarrassment. He hadn’t expected to make this public so soon! Lysander didn’t seem to care, and turned to Sebastian, who was about to follow Haley and Alex inside, remarking that there was chalk dust on his hoodie. There didn’t seem to be anything there, as that would show up starkly against the black of his garment, but Elliott surmised that this must have been a joke to which he’d not been privy, as the dark-haired man reacted in a manner similar to his own a bit earlier. Abigail did as well, and Elliott smiled to himself; apparently he and Lysander were not the only ones who had found companionship recently.

        The others filed in, and Lysander waited a moment for Elliott. The writer took his hand, savoring the simple physical contact he had long desired.


        After a few hours of dedicated practice Lysander suggested a quick break, and Elliott sympathized with his and Sam’s need to rest; piano wasn’t nearly as demanding as bass or guitar. A new arrival grabbed their attention as Lewis let himself in. He was carrying a small box, and upon being asked what it contained, set it on a table and opened it, revealing a very large collection of photographs. At a glance one could see that there were pictures both old and new, many possibly older than anyone in the room, save for Lewis.

        They converged on the box and its contents, and some of the newer ones caught Lysander’s attention. He took one, looking at it quizzically. “That’s odd, I would have thought that-” Gasping, he staggered back as he dropped it, and Elliott felt a sympathetic jab of pain at his look of shock. Sam found humor in the moment as he picked it up, not yet comprehending the reason for his friend’s distress, asking aloud and with a snarky grin if it was related to his arachnophobia. With stiff shoulders and held breath, Lysander was clearly trying not to break down, and having seen the photo in question, Elliott knew why. He’d not seen it before, but Lysander had previously described that moment; the last time that he’d performed his song for his grandfather.

        You’re not alone. You no longer have to bear this pain by yourself. I will support you and stand by your side.

        Gently putting an arm around his waist, he hugged him lightly, which seemed to be exactly what Lysander needed. Lewis sighed, retrieving the picture and examining it with a strange sort of sad happiness. “I was trying to find that before you did. Your parents sent this and a few others to me after Lex passed. It’s strange but satisfying to have a record of my friend’s entire life and legacy. I’m glad to see one of us found true happiness.”

        Alex seemed interested now, asking if his name really had been “Lex,” and Lysander confirmed it, having gained control of himself. “Short for ‘Alexander,’” he replied with a smile, “apparently we’re big on giving large names and then using extremely short nicknames. I’d have mentioned it sooner but I didn’t want it to be awkward.”

        Shrugging, Alex said that he didn’t mind, it was just a coincidence, and a funny one at that. Lewis was lost in his own thoughts as he replied without thinking about it. “Not really. Clara did say that she named you after her favorite uncle.” Everyone was familiar with the phrase “so quiet that you could hear a pin drop,” but until that moment had never actually seen it happen. The first to break the silence, Lysander commented that there was quite a bit that he wanted to ask. Frowning thoughtfully, Lewis tried to recall how that particular family tree branched. “Let’s see, Alex, you’re Clara’s boy, and she was Evelyn’s daughter. And Lysander, your mother is Lynn, and her father was Emmett, Evelyn’s brother.”

        The stunned, curious silence again descended, and once more was dispelled by the perplexed musician. “Half a moment, Alex and I are cousins?” This was also confirmed, but it didn’t answer everything. “Wait, if I’m related through mom then how was grandpa her ‘favorite uncle?’ He was from my dad’s side.”

        “He was always an uncle of sorts to everyone their age when your parents were growing up,” Lewis replied, which only partially clarified things, “and when Lynn and Art- short for Arthur, since I know that someone will ask- got married he ended up being related that way. Clara was quite fond of him, and he enjoyed taking care of Art’s friends and watching after them. A large number of people in town spent their childhoods playing on his farm. Though Art and Clara’s husband didn’t get along at all. The first time they met they got into a rather nasty fistfight and Art put him on the ground.”

        Lewis jumped in surprise as Lysander erupted into hearty laughter, holding onto Elliott for support. Remarking that history seemed to repeat itself in unusual ways, Elliott again put an arm around him, as Lysander was barely able to stand on his own as he wheezed for breath. It was now Lewis that needed explanations, and Alex gave a summary of their first encounter, hastily clarifying that it had been resolved when Lewis looked ready to ask something.

        Elliott lost his grip on Lysander as his legs completely gave out, and he dropped to the floor, giggling fit to burst, and wincing at a cramp that his hilarity had produced. “Can’t breathe… Oh, by the light… It hurts…”

        They looked through and talked about some of the pictures for quite some time, and everyone was surprised by how closely the men in Lysander’s family resembled each other. Elliott could definitely see Lynn’s influence in him as well, especially once Lysander brought out his own photos from his phone. He also noticed the similarity with Alex and his mother, and Haley voiced the same opinion, though the athlete looked unusually somber about this. Now that Elliott thought about it, Lewis had said that Alex’s mother “was” Clara, where Lysander’s mother “is” Lynn.

        …Oh…

        Lysander piped up with something funny that Elliott missed in his introspection, but Alex hadn’t, and he laughed in reply. “You are weird, bro. No, wait,” he said, thinking about it more, “I guess I should call you ‘cuz’ from now on, hunh?” The family resemblance, even removed as it was, showed up in the matching smiles.

        “You know, I think I’d like that.”


        That evening, having put aside practice to sit down with the photos and their accompanying stories, the band and Lewis left the community center. Alex left first, and Lysander appeared to want to talk to him, but not in front of the rest of the group. He had seemed a little distant, and Elliott had a fair idea of why, as well as why Lysander wanted to reach out to him.

        Leaning against the wall as Lysander closed and locked the door, Elliott relaxed. The air was still warm from the early-summer sun, stirred by a light breeze. “So it appears that we are an ‘us’ now,” he asked, enjoying both the weather and this thought, “are you comfortable with that?”

        Arms around his Elliott’s waist, Lysander smiled back. “Of course I am. The reason I wasn’t chasing a relationship previously is because I didn’t want to risk any of the friendships I had here, and even if I was, I still had a few issues to work out. I still do, but, well, you already addressed one of the big ones.” He sighed and leaned into Elliott, continuing that for a while now he’d had interest, but not only was he not sure if it was mutual, who would want someone with his past? Who would trust him?

        With gentle fingers, Elliott traced the lines of Lysander’s face. “Then perhaps you can give me credit for looking past that and seeing all of your other qualities. You’re not as ‘easy’ as you claim to be, and your penchant for flirting is just you expressing your love for others.” He hugged him tightly for a moment, unable to hold back his own affection. “I admit to being selfish in wanting to keep some of that love just for myself, something that no one else has.” Lysander playfully offered to give him anything that was asked, but modified it with “within reason,” and Elliott’s smile got a little more daring. “Then I must consider my requests carefully. But for now, my only desire is to feel your touch again.”

        As he leaned in, he paused to blink when Lysander murmured, “I wonder what flavor of lip gloss you prefer.” Lysander clearly realized how silly and nonsensical it must have sounded and explained that it was a story for later.

        My enigmatic, brilliant flame, you always surprise me. Could anyone fault me for wanting you for my own?

        “I do not know what the context for this is,” he replied with a teasing smile, “but I am quite partial to strawberries, although you are a bit more ginger. Regardless, the taste I want right now is that of you.”

        It was just as good as the first time. Not as desperate, a little more tender, and this time Elliott needed to support his partner. He held on as long as he could, unwilling to let go, to let this moment end. Lysander was the one to pull away again, sighing, lamenting that as pleasant as it was, it would always have to end.

        “Then you can simply look forward to our next encounter,” Elliott suggested, and Lysander agreed with a happy smile, glancing south. He needed to go find his cousin and see what was bothering him. Encouraging this, Elliott hugged him again, and Lysander promised to visit again the next day. “I look forward to our next encounter,” quipped the writer, and that bright laugh that it brought warmed him more than the remaining rays of sunlight ever could. That warmth faded a little with the departure of Lysander’s touch as they left in different directions.

        Elliott didn’t remember walking home, and looked around with surprise when he reached the bridge, stirred from his thoughts by the sudden change in scenery. He considered walking out to the pier to stand by the ocean for a bit, but saw that Alex was already doing the same. Reaching into his pocket for his phone, Elliott sighed at himself when he remembered that he’d left it plugged into his laptop and hadn’t taken it with him when they had left. The satchel was set down by the table as he unplugged and picked up the phone to dial Lysander.

        The call was answered with the musician’s usual cheeky cheer. “Hey, couldn’t wait to hear the sound of my voice again?”

        Elliott couldn’t help but smile and leaned against the table. “As much as I’d like for that to be the reason for reaching out to you right now, I actually have information that is useful to you.” Upon being asked what it was, Elliott glanced out the window to be sure that things hadn’t changed. “Alex is out at the pier. I’ve not talked to him, but he does not appear likely to wander off any time soon.” Lysander was at Alex’s house, where apparently he had gone before departing again without telling anyone anything, so this intel was quite welcome.

        “Thanks, love,” Lysander replied, and Elliott felt that same nervous but delighted flutter he’d felt the first time that they’d touched.

        “Already using terms of endearment?” he laughed, “perhaps I need to find something suitable in return.” Lysander was curious to see what Elliott would think of and thanked him again, replying that he would be on his way, and Elliott offered aid should it be needed.

        Hanging up, Elliott shut off the lights as he walked to the bedroom and set the phone on the bedside table as he undid the buttons on his waistcoat and let himself idly recall the events of the day. He had finished undoing his shirt when it all finally hit him, and he sat down heavily on the bed. After a moment of silent contemplation, he grabbed his phone again and called his brother.

        “Elliott! How are you?” asked Charles, sounding glad to see him, “It’s been a month or so, hasn’t it?”

        “…It’s finished…”

        “Elliott? Are you alright?”

        Feeling tears start to run down his face, Elliott rested his arms on his knees as he smiled, feeling overwhelmed but ecstatic. “My novel. It is complete. It would not have been possible without him.”

        “Heh, your ‘boyfriend?’” Charles teased, hoping to provoke a reaction, and it worked, but not the way that he had expected.

        “He is, I suppose. I hadn’t considered that.”

        “I- Wait, what? I was joking. Are you really doing well over there?”

        The gentle sound of Lysander’s guitar wafted in from the window, and Elliott smiled again, feeling that soft surge of comforting warmth again. “Yes, and I am serious. I told him, Charles, what I feel. He means so much to me but I was scared to say anything before, worried that he would push me away. But today I finished my book and took the chance, and he feels the same. I- Please say nothing to mother and father just yet, I am still barely able to believe it myself, but…”

        “I’m happy for you, little brother,” Charles replied, laughing softly on the other end of the phone, “I apologize for my earlier behavior, I should not have treated your feelings so lightly.”

        “No, it is alright. You meant well and intended no harm.”

        Sighing with relief, Charles was quiet for a moment as he considered the situation. “I really do need to meet him someday and offer my deepest thanks. And this news is yours to offer to our parents, I will keep my silence. Congratulations, on both counts.”

        “Thank you.” He wiped away more happy tears and sprawled on his back, almost out of energy after the everything that had happened that day. “I will tell them soon.”
         
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        • Risukage

          Risukage Existential Complex

          //More fluffy stuff, 'cause I need it. DealWithIt.gif :p//


          Arms behind his head, Elliott studied the ceiling as he smiled to himself the next morning. It was almost too much for him to believe. Not only had he completed his novel, he had opened himself up to a dear friend and had gained something so much more. That touch, that warmth... He hadn't felt this content in years. Lying there for a little while longer, he allowed himself a few minutes to replay a few events from the day before. Even as memories they still evoked the same emotions and sensations that they had at that moment.

          I am almost afraid to move and rise for the day, lest it all be merely a dream. I have never been unfortunate, but never have I expected to achieve such success like this. Lysander, thank you, for everything.

          A quick glance at his phone for time told him that he wouldn't be able to lounge about any longer if he wanted to get cleaned up before Lysander was likely to arrive, and he momentarily wondered if he should wait just a little longer, perhaps it could be shared...

          No, they had just begun this relationship, and Lysander had been concerned enough about going too far with him. Though the musician was comfortable with his desires, sexuality, and self, he was also aware that very few others were as well, and would likely not pursue a more physical relationship for a little while. This wasn't a problem, Elliott didn't mind taking it slowly. He would enjoy the time that they shared together, and would let the relationship progress as it happened.

          Dressing in warm, bright colors, he ran a brush through his hair and affixed his earrings as he strode out of the bedroom, humming to himself. He prepared a coffee for himself and reviewed his work, scrolling slowly as he took in the story as a reader, not a writer. It wasn't ready for submission just yet, it needed one last check with himself and Lysander, but they could do that a bit later. Once he had finished his coffee he got up to make another, then set aside the mug to sit at the piano, suddenly taken with the urge to play again. He remembered the day that Lysander had first visited, how he had felt the same need to play after so long away from this set of keys.

          This time there was no clumsy stiffness this time; confidence and practice had made him much better than before, and he tried that personal composition that he was still working on. It came to him as easily as breathing did, and after playing it once went back and tried it again, but a little bit more this time. It still wasn't quite finished, but he was getting farther with it, and he could feel it nearing its completion. Partway through a third rendition he felt a flutter of delight as Lysander let himself in. He greeted his companion enthusiastically, and the other man sat down next to him with a smile, favoring him with a quick kiss on the cheek.

          "Hey love, you sounded good on the way in."

          Feeling gently affectionate, Elliott pulled him closer, an arm around his shoulders. "That's because you inspire me to greatness." Elliott let his fingers follow the lines of his partner's face, from cheek to shoulder, as he kissed him softly, savoring every sensation. With a smile and a sigh, Lysander leaned into him, remarking that they'd have to do that again, and asked if he could request a favor, to which Elliott agreed if it was something that he had the skill or resources to provide. Playing a line of ascending notes with one hand, he wondered if Elliott could show him how to play the piano, which made the author's pulse skip a beat.

          “I would be delighted to be able to share this with you,” he smiled, not only flattered that Lysander looked up to him as an instructor, but that this was something that he could teach him for once. Unsure of Lysander's skill, he asked him to play what he did know, and for the next hour they tinkered and experimented to find the best way for Lysander to learn.

          Eventually, Elliott paused to massage his left wrist. All of this playing today, plus the practice the last couple of weeks, and especially the novel writing, had left him with a bit of an ache; an artifact of his injury that last winter. Noticing this, Lysander inquired, and Elliott related the tale, feeling a little silly for the manner in which he had injured himself.

          "Want me to try to work on it for you?" Lysander asked, "I'm pretty good with my hands in a lot of ways, and I might be able to do something."

          Offering his hand, Elliott nodded. "If you have anything that can be done it would be welcome. It was not a crippling fall, for that I am fortunate, but now and then it does ache, and I would be rid of it if possible."

          Lysander unbuttoned and rolled up Elliott's sleeve, turning his arm so that his wrist was up, then probed deeply with his fingers as he felt for what was wrong. It was a little painful, but it wasn't from any lack of skill.

          After silently prodding for a minute, Lysander nodded. "Yeah, it was just a sprain, but it looks like it healed a little weird. Do you have any anti-inflammatory meds?" Elliott confirmed that he did, and Lysander nodded again. "Okay, take a couple tonight, and again for the next day or two. I'll do what I can right now and get a few things relaxed, then again tomorrow and see how you're doing. I'll try to be gentle, but this will be a little painful at first, sorry about that."

          "It is no prob- Gnnh!" Elliott's hand spasmed as Lysander massaged his wrist with near-professional skill and an unexpected level of strength. He tried not to twitch, but he did so involuntarily a few times. However, it didn't take long before the pain subsided and he felt a pleasant tingle instead.

          "There we go," Lysander smiled, "I finally popped loose a couple of things in there. They were a bit tight and were putting tension on other areas, which put tension on other areas, and so on. Like I said, grab those meds a bit later and I'll have another go tomorrow. Any other spots you want me to try to get to?" His posture wasn't terribly good, and he had spent a lot of time in that chair, so Elliott remarked that his back sometimes gave him problems, and Lysander got up to stand behind him. "Yeah, I feel a big knot here on the right side, feels like the same tension I get when I use the computer mouse too long without changing position. This is gonna be worse than your hand at first, and I'm really sorry about that."

          Gasping loudly at the sharp pain, Elliott forced himself to relax as Lysander inspected the area of tension, then the area around it. He calibrated himself to Elliott's needs quickly, and dug in his thumbs in calculated areas to shift and relax specific tendons and muscle groups. The pressure and pain increased until Elliott actually heard a pop, and at the same time felt a massive rush of relief.

          "I do not know what you did, but already I am- Ah!" He gasped again as Lysander continued prodding the tense, sore muscles.

          "Same as your hand, I just got a few things to pop free. This gets easier from here on out, at least."

          It certainly did, and Elliott felt his senses being drowned in a warm, tingling sensation as Lysander's hands moved up his back and over his shoulders. The feeling got stronger as Lysander's fingers worked into his neck, and Elliott made a rather loud sound of pleasure, one that left him blushing a red nearly the color of his partner's hair.

          "I-! My apologies, dear, that felt quite good and-" He paused at the odd look that Lysander wore. "Is there something wrong?"

          "No, not at all. It's..." He wore that soft, happy smile that Elliott knew belonged to him and nobody else. "I like that."

          Unsure what Lysander meant, Elliott was about to ask, then realized his unintentional term of affection and chuckled to himself. "It came to my lips without a second thought, and for that I would have yours again."

          "You can if I can hear that again," Lysander giggled, pulling Elliott to his feet.

          "I will say anything you desire if it will make you smile, my dear." This was what Lysander wanted, and melted into Elliott's arms happily, who enjoyed the simple luxury of twining a few locks of that copper-red hair around his fingers in the mutual silence. "I suppose this was the 'continuing it later' that you suggested earlier?" Elliott asked when he finally allowed Lysander to speak again.

          "We can do that for a while longer if you like," he grinned, running a finger over the edge of Elliott's ear, which felt very nice.

          "It is my turn to suggest that we continue this in the near future," rebuffed Elliott, "I have not yet eaten today and think it is time that we directed our energies in a more culinary direction."

          Lysander considered this and looked a little sheepish. "I'll help, but I'm a terrible cook, so I might end up getting in your way."

          "Are you willing to learn?"

          Sniffing with mock injured pride, he swatted Elliott on the bottom as they walked to the kitchen. "When have I ever not wanted to? Though it's your kitchen that's at risk. I haven't burned anything in ages but that also means it's probably time for it to happen."

          "Then I shall have to be vigilant during these lessons. Here, if you can cut these up I will do the rest," Elliott offered, handing over some vegetables as he retrieved various things from the pantry, cupboards, and refrigerator.

          He almost didn't catch the look of hesitant worry as Lysander paused in reaching for a knife, but didn't comment on it. He must simply be worried about making a mess, that was all. This thought was reinforced when he was forced to step in to keep Lysander from cutting himself instead, and reached over to change the way in which Lysander was holding, well, everything, as well as the way he was using the knife.

          "First, don't extend your fingers so much, hold it with your fingertips so that when you cut the blade meets a flat surface. Second, cut slightly away from yourself. Try to use this portion of the blade so that you have better leverage and are less likely to slip with it or get it stuck."

          Frowning in concentration, Lysander followed the instructions and had much more success, cutting much faster and more cleanly than last time. "Oh, wow, that's a lot better. Funny, it's not like I never tried to learn, mom and dad really did try to show me at least the basics, but it just never clicked for me."

          "Perhaps you simply needed a good reason, something to make it interesting."

          "Or a cute enough teacher," he grinned, bumping him lightly with his hip.

          Under Elliott's tutelage Lysander succeeded not only in not setting something on fire, but actually being a useful assistant, and watched with focused interest as Elliott cooked while asking thoughtful questions. Once finished, Lysander served them both as Elliott reached for a bottle of wine, then thought about it and put it back.

          "Not the one you wanted?" Lysander asked.

          "It is, but I didn't think that..."

          "That?"

          Smiling uncertainly, Elliott picked up the bottle again. "I didn't think that it might be terribly appropriate. Or that you'd like it."

          In response, Lysander pulled out two wineglasses from the cupboard. "I do, and I think that it is. You've just finished your life's dream, remember? It still needs to be submitted for publishing, but still, that's just details at this point."

          Elliott felt relieved at this assessment and opened the bottle, pouring for them both. Taking one glass, Lysander closed his eyes and took a moment to smell it, smiling faintly, then a small sip. "Very nice. Several berry notes, but also some oak. I do love a good dry red, but sometimes they can lack character or have too much tannin." At Elliott's look of surprise he giggled and leaned against the counter. "Dad's a wine snob, mom's a beer enthusiast. I'll have to tell you stories some time, assuming they don't get to it first. Which reminds me, I need to ask mom again about that one time. Apparently she and dad were involved in a somewhat legendary pub crawl a few years before I was born, and it's a hell of a story."

          He suddenly looked introspective and downcast, and examined the liquid in his glass. Brushing his hand gently, Elliott asked him what was on his mind, and Lysander swirled the dark red wine. "I wonder, would they have been happier without me? It's not like they're bad parents at all or anything, and I never lacked for love or what I needed, but... They've told stories of their adventures before I came around, and I wonder if having me meant an end to all of that."

          Moving over to stand next to him, Elliott put an arm around his waist and kissed his temple. "I very much doubt that. If you are anything at all like your parents then you are simply a new adventure, one that they love with all of their hearts. Have you ever given them reason to doubt you, or felt as though you were a disappointment?" This question brought tears to those warm hazel eyes, and Elliott immediately regretted it. Biting his lip and shaking his head, Lysander took another sip.

          "No, I haven't. I... I have done something I regret, but it has nothing to do with them. They've always been proud of and have supported me. You're right, love. Thanks." He brightened again and raised his glass. "Let's sit down and celebrate a bit. To the completion of your book, and to us."

          This simple but heartfelt toast made Elliott feel flush with happy warmth, and he returned the gesture. "To our book, and to us."
           
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          • Risukage

            Risukage Existential Complex

            //:)//


            The next day Elliott was seated comfortably in his computer chair, with Lysander equally comfortably curled up around him in his lap. The chair reclined a little, and that helped keep them from being twisted about or needing to sit strangely to accommodate the both of them. One arm around Elliott's neck, Lysander occasionally reached over with the other to grab the mouse to scroll down the page, or to retrieve and sip from his coffee. Elliott had one arm around Lysander's waist and a coffee in his other hand, enjoying the other man's cuddly presence as they read their story together, checking for any final errors before it was submitted for publishing. Now and then Lysander would lean over to kiss him, just a quick, fond peck, before turning back to their work.

            Sighing contentedly, Lysander idly wound a lock of Elliott's hair around his finger as he again scrolled further down the story, then nibbled his ear and smiled at the chuckle it produced. Elliott pulled him down for a more prolonged, pleasant kiss, putting aside his coffee to gently run his hands over his companion. "You are feeling quite affectionate, my dear," he noted when he finally allowed Lysander to sit up again, "and I cannot complain."

            "It's a nice day out and I get to snuggle up against you for a bit. My only complaint is that we could use a better chair, this one's a bit limited. And you seem to be rather affectionate as well."

            With a smile, Elliott traced the lines of Lysander's face with a finger. "As you said, it is a lovely day, and not only do I have the pleasure of reading a story that I crafted with my beautiful muse, I get to do so with him in my arms. Never before have I felt so content, and if there is sadness to be felt, it is that I do not know if any moment could be any better."

            "I think you've got a few other things to look forward to," Lysander grinned, leaning into Elliott's touch, "like seeing your book published, for one."

            "Our book," he reminded again, "and you make a valid point. Whatever it is that happens, I shall be happy as long as it is with you."

            Lysander hugged him, laughing merrily, and kissed the top of Elliott's head. "Oh! I never asked, do you have a place to submit this?"

            "That I do, however, I do not know the name under which I should do so." At Lysander's look of inquiry, Elliott reached for his coffee. "You recall that I came here to find my own way, and that I do not want to use my family name just yet. As you saw, I simply used my initials when submitting my short stories, but for this... I am still loath to use a pseudonym, but I also do not want to use my true name. Do not worry, though, I will not ask you to change yours. You will be credited, my dear, and I insist upon it, though if you choose to not use your own name as well I understand."

            "Actually... Why not use mine, I guess?" Lysander suggested, scrolling a bit further through the file, "I mean, it's not quite your own name, and it's not a pen name, either, but..." He wrinkled his nose and shook his head. "Nah, never mind, it's a silly idea. Sorry."

            "Not at all," reassured the writer, "it isn't a bad idea. You must be credited, and since I am unable to conjure up a new moniker for myself, it stands to reason that I borrow an existing one."

            "It won't be a problem in the future when you write your next book?"

            Laughing, Elliott hugged him again. "I will deal with that conundrum should it still exist at that time. For now, I am simply pleased at what I have accomplished. And all that I have attained." He pressed a kiss to Lysander's fingers, smiling at his companion's chuckle.

            "Fair enough. Well, let's finish looking over this so we can get this sent off that much sooner."

            They continued reading their novel, pausing only for a quick bite of lunch, then promptly went back to their task, finishing only when it was dark outside. Lysander glanced out the window and sighed, stretching with satisfaction. "We've done nothing all day but I still feel tired off of my butt. If you don't mind, I'm going to get off home and crash out for sleep."

            "I am not the least bit perturbed. And while we did nothing physical, we were engaged in a heavily mental task for quite some time. Thinking does take effort, you know. I shall send it off tonight before I go to bed myself, so that the editor may see it first thing in the morning."

            "Nifty. Well, sleep well, then, I'll be back tomorrow."

            He threw his arms around Elliott's neck and kissed him again before picking up Resonance and leaving, waving as he closed the door behind himself. Smiling, Elliott returned to his laptop, pulled up the contact information for the publishing editor, attached a cover letter and the file, and sent it off. With a deep breath, he sank into his computer chair and stared at the screen, running a hand through his hair, the same as he had done a couple of days previous.

            Light guide me, I cannot believe it. Not just complete, but delivered. Whether or not it will be accepted is still to be seen, but regardless, I won't give up hope. Many authors never find success on their first try, and must edit and re-send their works over and over before they are published. I have done it, that is what matters.

            He undressed leisurely, thinking of the day, having spent it with Lysander in his arms, and how it should have given rise to more...risqué thoughts. But for the moment he was happy to simply be able to hold him at all, to call him his own, and to feel his touch every day. The matter of a more physical relationship could be brought up at a later date.

            Setting the alarm on his phone, he plugged it in, turned out the lights, and slid under the sheets, just now feeling the tiredness of which Lysander had spoken, but tempered with the happy warmth of the memory of his companion's touch.

            The next morning he woke and rose as usual, taking his shower and dressing, then making a drink and seating himself at his laptop. To his surprise, he saw a new email. From the editor! Hastily setting aside his coffee, Elliott opened and read the message, feeling his heart skip with relief and then excitement. It was being considered! There were a few changes to possibly be made but overall...

            "Hey love- Oh! Something good happen?"

            Elliott looked up from his screen to see Lysander walk in and set aside Resonance, and he nearly ran over to his partner. "It's being accepted! At least, it might, there's a few things that they want to go over. But still, I-" He swept Lysander up into a hug, lifting him off of the floor for a moment, laughing with delight. "Come, sit with me, let us review their demands and see what must be altered for our work to be accepted."

            Making the requested alterations and asking a few questions of their own, Elliott sent off a reply, and Lysander snuck another kiss before going to make his own coffee. As he returned, another email came back. The editor was quick in their replies! Elliott sent one of his own again, and was surprised to see another one come back so swiftly. Apparently they were at their desk and working specifically on his submission. They read over this next missive and cheekily sent back that it would be faster if they were to call. This suggestion wasn't as unlikely as they had thought, as the editor suggested that it would be faster than sending emails back and forth. Trading contact information, Elliott plugged his phone into his laptop for power just as a call came in.

            "Hello, am I speaking with Elliott?" asked a professional female voice.

            "You are, along with Lysander, my co-author."

            "I'm fine with Lys," offered the copper-haired man, pulling the folding chair over to sit closer to the phone.

            "Good, it's nice to put voices to names," said their caller, "I'm Val, let's see if we can get some particulars worked out."

            This was much faster than sending messages between each other, and avoided the potential complication of misunderstandings or miscommunications. Overall the story was solid and didn't need much changing, and their careful scouring of the text had caught all but the tiniest of errors, which left them feeling a little embarrassed, but all the same, after staring at it for so long, it was only to be expected. They were glad for a third pair of eyes to read it fresh, and therefore could catch things that they had missed.

            Eventually, Lysander glanced at the clock and swore quietly. "Bugger, I hate to be rude, but we've got band practice soon."

            "Oh, you're musicians as well? You two are quite talented," laughed the editor, "well, that's all that we can do for now. This is good to go. I'll make these changes and pass it on for review, and will let you know tomorrow what's going to go on."

            Elliott saved the work that they'd done and unplugged his phone from the laptop. "Our deepest thanks for all of your assistance. Should you require anything else my phone is always on."

            "I'll make a note of that. Better get going so you can get there on time, I'll talk with you again later." Val hung up, ending the call, and Elliott picked up his satchel as Lysander grabbed Resonance.

            "That was unexpected, but awesome," he smiled, holding open the door for the both of them, "on one hand I can't wait for this to get the green light, but at the same time, I don't want to rush anything and mess it up."

            Agreeing with his statement, Elliott closed the door behind the both of them and blinked at the bright, mid-summer sunlight that was such a stark contrast from the dim coolness of his cabin. It took a couple of steps for him to acclimatize, and once he had done so he reached out for Lysander's hand. They were on time, they could take their time to walk and enjoy the weather...


            Two days later, Lysander entered Elliott's home and stopped short. Elliott was sitting in his chair, phone held in both hands, tears running down his cheeks. Terrified that something had gone wrong, he dashed over, and felt his pulse steady when he saw Elliott look up at him and smile.

            "It's been accepted," he whispered, "it's going to print. I've done it, Lysander, I've finally done it." He put aside his phone and stood to hug his partner, burying his face in Lysander's shoulder, feeling weak with relief and not holding back the tears of joy that overflowed. "By the light, I have done it, and it is all thanks to you, my dearest."

            Sighing with his own relief that the news was good and not dire, he returned the embrace, being a solid support for Elliott, who seemed barely able to stand on his own at the moment. "I'm proud of you, love, and I bet your family will be, too. I mean, okay, I've only known you a few months, but in that time..." He chuckled softly and threaded his fingers through Elliott's hair. "We made something brilliant together, that feels amazing. I can't wait to start the next project. Don't get me wrong, I love what's going on with the band, too. I haven't done that sort of thing in ages and it feels great to play with a group again, but this... I'm finally making something. Creating something of my own. Thank you."

            With a smile, Elliott kissed Lysander on the neck, just under his choker, and continued to hold him, almost too overwhelmed to do anything else. "I am almost dizzy, my dear, my thoughts are tangled and scattered. It is finally done, and now that it is, I have difficulty in telling myself that it is real. To wake and find that this was all a dream, I could not bear it."

            "If I'm just a dream then you've got a wonderful imagination," Lysander soothed, "and you shouldn't fear waking, because if I am a dream, all you need to do to see me again is close your eyes, right?" He felt Elliott's fingers dig into his back as his hold tightened.

            "It is I who claim dominion over the written word, but yours is over the ones spoken aloud. You are correct. I fear no longer. Let us converse and celebrate. I will regale you with the details."
             
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            • Risukage

              Risukage Existential Complex

              //In the last few days I've been catching up on current content in Final Fantasy 14, as I went on hiatus for about six months. ...At least I've remembered to shower and to grab a meal now and then...//


              With the book no longer weighing so heavily on his mind Elliott was better able to focus his attention on the music at practice with the rest of the band. Sam noticed this but didn't say anything, but the enthusiastic grin he threw in the pianist's direction said everything. It was after practice the day that Elliott had told Lysander about his successful publication notice (though not to anyone else) when Sam smirked at him after the new couple had shared a quick embrace and kiss, and the copper-haired man had left.

              "Seriously, it took you two long enough. I really was this close to going for it, you know. Man, I didn't peg you for the competitive type, but that just goes to show how people can surprise you, hunh?"

              "You what?" Elliott asked, having no idea whether Sam was honest or jesting.

              Sighing and rolling his eyes, Sam lightly punched Elliott on the arm and laced his fingers behind his head. "Yeah, I'm not into dudes, but y'gotta admit, he's different, and that could be fun. Still, it's been stupidly obvious for, like, ever that you wanted some of that more than I did. I figured that just telling you to go talk to him wouldn't work, so I had to be sneaky about it. I mean, come on, I freaking kissed him in front of everyone and you didn't say anything! What did it finally take for you to make your move? Or did he get to it first?"

              This level of candor was unexpected, though really, Elliott should have expected it. "It was...a bit of a mutual confession," he admitted, smiling faintly at the memory, "and though I did feel, well, jealousy at your affection toward him, I always held back because I thought that what I felt was not shared. But I wonder, and answer me truly, had I not said anything, would you have pursued him romantically, and not just on a whim?"

              For a moment, Sam dropped the grin of mischief and gave Elliott a wry smile. "Fine, I'll level with you, but just this once. No, I wouldn't have gone for him. Hell, I barely had the courage to do what I did in the first place, and it was mostly because it was funny. It's just... Life's all about trying new things, and I figure hey, while I'm young and can get away with it, see exactly who and what I like, you know? I'm pretty sure I only like girls, but I'm not not-attracted to guys." His usual grin returned and he stretched his arms over his head. "But anyway, it's all moot. I'm happy for you two, really. You're one of those stupidly cute couples, and watching you be all awkward is just hilarious. I'll kinda be sad to see you gain confidence."

              This actually annoyed Elliott a little, who folded his arms across his chest and gave Sam an annoyed look. "I am of the impression that not only will whatever I do be met with amusement, but I shall never be free of your continual need to tease."

              "Nope," Sam giggled, "not until you give me a reason to stop."

              Silently, Elliott filed this away in the back of his mind as Sam shouldered his backpack, waved, and wandered off.


              Practice continued every night for the next couple of weeks until the Luau, and while they had confidence in themselves and their music, it was a completely new experience for them to perform for others. Well, for everyone but Lysander, who not only seemed completely relaxed, but almost indifferent to the entire thing. Due to the beach-side location, it wasn't much effort to move Elliott's piano outside to the area that they'd be performing, which was done while the rest of their gear was set up. Alex and his truck had been invaluable in getting everything from the community center to the beach, and his help in putting it all back together equally so.

              As they set up their "stage" (on some plywood that they'd set down to give them a flat surface) Elliott glanced around to see how his fellow musicians fared, as well as take stock of their "uniform." They all wore a similar style in that they wore black pants and a shirt of some sort, with a bit of color over it to match the band name: The Elements of Sound. Elliott was glad to give his black trousers and waistcoat a use, as well as that sapphire-blue shirt that he'd not worn in a while. Lysander's garb was the same as his usual manner of dress, with black cargo pants and long-sleeved shirt under an unbuttoned short-sleeved shirt in red. Sam had black jeans and wore a black t-shirt and a yellow jacket over it, and Sebastian had a similar pair of jeans but with a short-sleeved hoodie in green. Abigail looked like her normal self for the most part, given that one could hardly recall her wearing anything other than violet and black.

              We are coming together as an ensemble. How strange, yet how comfortable. Soon I will be published, and not much time after it is possible that we will make our professional debut. Had one told me of this a year previous I'd have called them mad, possibly even a liar, and told them not to taunt me so. What will the next year bring, I wonder? No matter, it is the now that matters.

              As the shadows grew longer toward evening they went over their set list one last time, and Lysander provided them a gentle touch and words that somehow assuaged their apprehension, never once losing that warm smile. Then, it was time for the show to begin. One last time, Lysander gave Sam the support that he needed to find his confidence and step up to the microphone. Elliott took a few deep, calming breaths to find his own center. He wasn't nervous, strangely, and looked forward to performing with everyone for the town. For the first time he actually felt like he was a part of something, of this place. Now he actually belonged, and that feeling was something that even he almost couldn't describe...

              The set went very well; all of the practice had showed itself, and Sam had proved to be an impressive songwriter. Elliott could take a bit of credit on some of the lyrics, that was true, and this thought filled him with a sense of accomplishment. So much had been achieved in just a few months! They performed for a couple of hours, never losing their energy or spark. In practice they had sounded good, but even out here, without the benefit of acoustics, they sounded brilliant. Caught up in the moment, Elliott never once felt self-conscious or hesitant, even during the vocal battle piece with Lysander. Rather, he delighted in the opportunity to perform alongside his partner.

              ...His partner...

              Elliott remembered almost nothing about the set when it ended, as everything blurred together into a single memory. Later on he would be able to pick it apart and recall specific bits, but for now, he felt almost euphoric. Their moment was over, and they could rest. Except for Lysander, though, who had something of his own that he wanted to do.

              Surprised that a town that did so many traditional dances didn't perform this one, Lysander had asked the mayor for permission to perform this one the week before, and it was immediately granted. He then asked Elliott if he would like to join him, but Elliott had turned almost as red as his partner's hair and, as he had before, professed that he had no confidence for performing for others like that. As a part of a group, yes, but a dancing duet? Perhaps in the future, but not now...

              Slowly feeling his mind spin down from the energetic high of the set, Elliott followed Sam to the sidelines, giving Sebastian and Abigail the room they needed to provide the music to which Lysander would dance. He still felt a little dreamy, though, and watched his partner fondly as he took his place in an area cleared for him, standing in the starting pose with absolute confidence. As the music started, Lysander moved, and the elegance made Elliott's pulse skip a little bit. Such grace, such skill! Could anyone watch and not feel inspired?

              The Dance of the Summer Flame, how wonderfully appropriate for you. A dance of life and joy, energetic and brilliant. How I would like to join you, but not in front of others. I will not intrude upon the opportunity for you to shine your own light this evening, my flame of hope.

              Standing next to Elliott, Sam let out a long, deep sigh of relief and shook his head, remarking that he'd had fun, but it had taken a lot out of him. As he rubbed the back of his neck he also offered the opinion that Lysander was quite "gutsy" in choosing to do his solo dance, which produced a moment of thoughtfulness. "Wait, isn't this supposed to be for two people?" he asked.

              Elliott confirmed this, still watching with a rather distant and introspective look, and added that it was Lysander's act to perform, as he didn't have the confidence to do it as well. Surprised, Sam glanced between the two of them and asked if Elliott knew how to dance, which also provoked a positive answer. Sam's sudden silence would have been worrying to anyone paying attention, but Elliott wasn't, and therefore was completely unprepared for what happened next.

              "Prove it."

              He felt a pair of hands in his back push him with surprising strength, and being completely unprepared to resist, Elliott lost his balance and staggered forward, directly into Lysander's path. There was laughter from the crowd and a yowl of pain from Sam from behind him, and Elliott silently cursed his friend. Despite this, Lysander reached out and took his hand, guiding him in, and reflexively, Elliott followed his partner, knowing how the dance went. Embarrassed, he tried to apologize, but Lysander would have none of it.

              "Forget them," he smiled, "dance with me."

              The entire evening up to that point had been a blur, but here, now, this moment he would recall later without error. Though he had turned down the offer to perform together for the town, that didn't stop them from practicing together at Elliott's home, and it had been exhilarating. Elliott had always been reserved and conservative in his modes of expression, but this dance... It was of companions, of partners, of life and love and the love of life...

              For a little while Elliott forgot where he was, lost in the music and the moment. More than just a dance, it was ritual combat as well, proof to each other and to those who watched that they were equals. Balanced in mind, body, and spirit to each other, the lead passed back and forth between them, and despite Elliott's relative inexperience, he felt nothing but joy. The crowd seemed to be enjoying the show as well, but they didn't matter. For now, for just this temporary slice of time, it was them. It was their stage.

              The final bars of the music played, the final steps were danced, and they stood in each other's arms, breathless and exhausted, but exuberant. Then, as he had done back home every time, he pulled Lysander closer and kissed him, barely aware of applause in the background.

              ...Applause, what- OH GODS.

              The reason for his elevated pulse rate changed as Elliott suddenly remembered where they were, and tried to quietly apologize for it.

              "We're still on stage," Lysander interrupted, once more wearing the performer's smile that he'd had all night, "roll with it." As directed, Elliott turned and bowed to the crowd, though not with as much flair as his partner. He felt a small surge of relief when a glance at the crowd showed that they thought it had all just been part of the act; he really did love the other man, but light help him, he wasn't quite ready to make this sort of thing public just yet.

              The mayor and the governor approached, and Elliott felt another cold wave of panic. Oh, light help him, he had just done that in front of everyone, including...! As usual, Lysander wasn't bothered, and with the stage voice that he'd perfected over so many years from so many performances, thanked the townsfolk (and a few tourists!) for their time and attention, and requested one final bout of recognition for his fellow bandmates, helping shift the spotlight off of them. The "control" of the events was turned over to Lewis, who questioned the end of the dance, but seemed more concerned with the public image of the town in front of the governor, and didn't seem to object to it on a personal level.

              Pulling aside the band one last time, Lysander gave them his most winning smile and words of praise. They had performed brilliantly, and their debut could not have gone any better! Even with Sam's little prank, which Elliott added to his growing mental notes of "things about Sam to remember." Lysander reminded them that, until the night was over and everything was put away, they were still performers, and needed to behave as such.

              "So get out there and mingle," he laughed, "and stay in character." While watching them depart, Lysander's expression put Elliott in mind of a proud father watching his children, and when he expressed this to his partner, he got a delighted giggle and a hug. "I like to think I'm more of an older brother to them, but I'm a bit more of a mentor than anything else right now, aren't I?"

              Brushing aside a few stray copper-red hairs, Elliott kissed his cheek, now that they were mostly out of sight of the rest of the town. "You are inspiration and hope given flesh, and the radiance with which you shine brings us warmth and comfort."

              As always, this sort of thing made Lysander give him that soft, warm smile that Elliott knew only he would ever see, and he returned the gesture. "I don't know what I did to deserve you, but one day I'll figure it out."
               
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              • Risukage

                Risukage Existential Complex

                //I really do like Elliott and Alex interacting together. They're such opposites, yet they've still go so much in common.//


                Elliott was worried that he'd be asked awkward questions, but to his relief as he mingled and socialized, the matter of the end of the dance never came up. Rather, people were more curious about his book, as well as his unexpected membership of Sam's group, which everyone had honestly assumed to be little more than a hobby or a "garage band." After a half an hour of trepidation he felt relaxed enough to be himself, and found himself enjoying the festival much more than he had expected. A LOT more than he had the previous year, that was certain!

                The other band members seemed to be holding up well as well, though he could see the underlying nervousness of the sudden limelight as well as the success of their set. Lysander, however, appeared to thrive in this sort of environment. Not because of the attention, but because of the performance that had been excellent, and therefore he was able to continue fanning the flames of excitement and enthusiasm among the crowd. It was never for himself, it was always for the benefit of his bandmates or the audience. Smiling fondly at him, Elliott found a cold, refreshing drink that he didn't realize he'd needed quite so badly.

                Once the Luau wound down and the festivities concluded, they dismantled their temporary setup, loading it into Alex's truck before returning the piano to Elliott's home. (He was extremely relieved that no harm had come to the instrument!) Taking a moment to catch their collective breaths, Lysander laughed with delight and gathered everyone around him again. There was the need for a few hands to offload the equipment at the community center, but he, Elliott, and Alex would handle that. The others lived a bit too far away to make it safe, so he directed the other four to go home and get some sleep.

                "Great job everyone, I mean it," he smiled, "you’re on your way to being professional.”

                Sam reminded him that yet again he'd forgotten to include himself in the group statement, and hugged him fiercely around the waist. "C'mon guys, group hug," he offered, waving an arm at everyone else. Abigail needed no further encouraging, and neither did Elliott, who allowed her to grab his arm and drag him into the impromptu hug. The attempt to bring Sebastian in was met with a polite refusal, which was impolitely ignored by Alex, who pulled him over with insulting ease. Protesting this loudly (though Elliott could tell that he didn't really mean it), Lysander teased him gleefully before letting everyone go.

                Straightening his clothes, Lysander reminded them again to get home safely, and they departed without further preamble. Once they were no longer in view or earshot, he yawned broadly, no longer able to hide it and completely unable to stifle it. With a patient sigh, Elliott offered that he and Alex could manage alone, but he waved it off.

                “I’m fine, love. I’ve been up as long as Alex has and he’s okay.” Alex looked skeptical, noting that he hadn't been playing two hours of music, followed by a very energetic dance. “Really, I’m fine," Lysander sighed, cuffing him in the arm, "the sooner we finish unloading the sooner we can get to sleep.”

                The "sooner" happened very soon, as the empty streets between the beach and community center made for a quick trip, and they only unloaded everything inside. It would get set up the next time they practiced. Sighing with relief, Lysander dropped into a chair at the table, leaning against it, and running his fingers through his hair, remarking that now he could finally relax.

                Smiling, Elliott agreed, feeling as tired as his companion looked. "Alex, can I impose on you for a lift back? Or at least to your home, I could walk the rest of the way if-” A soft snore interrupted him; Lysander had already dozed off, his arms folded and head resting atop them. Amused at his cousin's exhaustion, Alex promised to get him home, right after they locked up and got Lysander to his place first. He was a creature of habit, and Elliott remembered that he had always kept the keys in his lower left pants pocket. Feeling as though he were violating his privacy, he reached into that pocket and retrieved the necessary keys, passed them to Alex, then picked up his companion somehow without waking him.

                The community center was secured behind Elliott, and Alex darted around him to open the passenger side door to allow him access to the cab. Somehow Elliott was able to get inside without assistance or injuring either of them, and still Lysander remained asleep. Would nothing wake him? Alex got into the driver's side and returned the set of keys before getting his own and starting the truck. An arm around Lysander, Elliott held him close, and part of him hoped that he wouldn't be woken by the trip. It had been a tasking day for them all, more so for him, and Elliott did not want to cost him even a minute of sleep. Besides, he rather liked the feeling of supporting him like this...

                Neither of them said anything on the drive to Lysander's home, though it wasn't from animosity, just the mutual aversion to potentially waking him. Once again Elliott took the keys from his pocket and passed them over so that Alex could let them into the house, and still Lysander remained asleep as Elliott carefully extracted him from the cab. What would wake him? He hadn't met such a deep sleeper before. Granted, it had been a long day, but still, he should have reacted to something by now.

                As Alex let them in and turned on the lights, it occurred to Elliott that this had only been the second time that he'd been inside of this place. Lysander had visited him at the beach nearly every day for several months, but Elliott had yet to return the favor, and this left him feeling somewhat saddened. He would have to change that one of these days. Following Alex into the bedroom, he eased Lysander to the sheets and sat down next to him.

                “Even though I’m finally making friends and have completed my novel, I still do not stray far from my home," he sighed, removing the round-rimmed sunglasses that Lysander always wore, "perhaps I’ve not changed as much as I had hoped, not like he has. And yet, I still wonder what he hides, what else he feels he cannot tell me.”

                Still in the doorway and leaning against the frame, Alex remarked that apparently there was a lot to be said. "The other day he asked me to look out for you in case he, I dunno, got really angry and tried to fight you or something... Whatever it was he seemed to be really worried about hurting you." Elliott's expression became one of surprise, and Alex nodded, continuing that apparently Lysander wanted to make sure that he wouldn't hurt anyone else, and that this concern worried the athlete. "He’s never been that serious before, it seemed like it was something that had hurt him previously and he didn’t want it to happen to you.”

                This was completely new information, though this general concern had been voiced when they finally made clear their feelings for each other. Elliott silently took Lysander's hand, considering Alex's words, and the other man offered a wry grin as he crossed his arms across his chest and shifted his position.

                “It’s weird how things change. I thought you were a loser and an outcast for the longest time, and the first thing he did when we met was to nearly knock my block off for it. I stormed off and was angry about everything. I mean, he’d been here only a week and someone like him was defending someone like you? Both of you had to be losers." He laughed and thought about that memory. "Then he apologized and turned it right around, trying to help me with my problems and never asking anything in return. I got to know you both better and you’re actually pretty cool. And he’s just… He inspires you. He’s got this kind of infectious energy that makes you want to do your best, because you know that he genuinely believes that you can. I want to protect that. And if he loves someone like you enough to ask me to guard you, I guess you can’t be all that bad.”

                This is the heart and mind that I never saw. That I never took the time to see. This gentle guardian and keen mind, possessed of such loyalty. This is what Lysander inspires, what he cultivates in others. We all owe so much to him. Light help me, I do not know what I have done to earn such a treasure, but I shall protect it at all costs.

                With a sardonic grin, Elliott looked back up at Alex. "And if a person like me creates the desire within him to personally appoint you as a guardian, you cannot be that bad yourself.” This was met with another laugh and the remark to go "kiss your boyfriend good night, again," as he walked out. He would message him to let him know that they wouldn't be running in the morning. They had earned that break. Hearing the front door close, Elliott leaned over to brush his cheek with a light kiss, giving his hand one last squeeze, and stood up. The sunglasses joined both sets of keys atop the dresser, and a message notification chime indicated that Alex had just sent off his message. Still completely unconscious, Lysander made no sign that he'd heard his phone, and Xander strolled into the room, trilling happily as Elliott gave him a quick ear-scratch.

                The ginger cat continued into the room and jumped onto the bed, curling up next to his owner, and Elliott paused a moment to remember this moment before he walked out, turning out all lights behind him. The truck was already running, and Elliott jogged around to the passenger side, letting himself in. "Apologies for the wait," he began, but was waved off.

                "It's okay, you were making sure he was good to go. Got all of your stuff?"

                "Yes. And he has all of his. I will have to message him myself. Pardon me a moment."

                In a few moments, he had typed up and sent off a quick text, just in case Lysander woke up wondering what had happened. “You were asleep quite soundly at the community center and we chose not to wake you. Apologies for invading your personal space, I had to retrieve your keys to lock up and to get you home.”

                "There," Elliott sighed, putting his phone into his pocket, "it is done. Thank you once more for your help, Alex, you have been a valuable companion to all of us, and I am embarrassed that it took this long for me to appreciate what you do."

                Chuckling, Alex turned south through the plaza back to the beach. "I really get why he loves you, bro. Not just the flowery language, though that is kind cool, I guess, but you're really polite. I mean, you're honest about it. I've been around a lot of people who just kinda talk shit and say whatever, but you, man, if you say something, it's truth. I respect the hell out of that. I don't think you're even capable of blowing smoke up someone's ass."

                Elliott laughed openly at this unexpected but also honest assessment of his character. "I do not think that I could receive a higher compliment from you. And you are correct, I do mean it. I regret not being able to establish a friendship with you sooner, but I am glad for your presence in my life now." He was amused as an interesting thought came to him, and Alex gave him an inquisitive look. "You really are a 'dog person.' Stubborn and loyal, eager to serve and do the right thing. Though I would not call you a 'dog,' no. Rather, you are a young wolf, learning your place in the world and your strengths. You will soon lead a pack of your own, and will do so with wisdom and strength."

                They had reached the bridge over the river, and Alex stopped the truck, giving Elliott a very odd look. "Y'know, I'm actually kinda pissed at myself that I called you a loser back then. Man, I'm such an asshole sometimes."

                Reaching over, Elliott put a hand on his shoulder. "We all make mistakes, and part of growing and becoming a better person is recognizing them and moving on. You have done splendidly in that aspect, better than I, even, because you have grown so much so quickly, while I have remained relatively unchanged. I will not ask you to 'not change,' because I hope that you will continue to advance and become something greater."

                With a grin that was strikingly similar to the one that Elliott looked forward to seeing every day, Alex opened his arms and leaned over. "You are awesome. Bro hug." Elliott accepted his offer, though Alex's strength left him without breath for a moment. "Awright, get some sleep, lemme know how he's doing tomorrow since I won't see him for a run, 'kay?"

                "I will do so. Thank you again for the lift." He waved as Alex turned the truck around, both of them leaving for their own respective homes.

                The beach was strangely peaceful after the commotion and excitement earlier that evening, and it was hard to believe that it had only been a few hours previous. Elliott still felt a bit silly about...that, but he was now tired enough that it didn't bother him as much as it had earlier. He paused for just a little while longer to take in the taste and smell of the mid-summer breeze off of the ocean; warm, slightly moist, a little salty, vaguely organic. This town had truly been what he needed to achieve his dreams. What he hadn't known before was it wasn't just the town, but the people living there that would guide him to success.

                Letting himself into the house, he closed the door behind himself and navigated effortlessly through the dark room to his bedroom, pulling out his phone and plugging it in before stripping completely and tossing his garments over the chair. He'd put it all away in the morning. For now, however, he had just enough coordination and energy to pull the sheets over himself and settle comfortably against the pillows.

                This entire day has been a magnificent blur. Perhaps tomorrow I can disentangle all of the various threads from each other, but for now, all of my memories are tangled about each other. Save for one. Never before have I danced with such energy and abandon. Though we were in front of a crowd I did not notice them, for I had something much more wonderful in front of me. With him at my side I truly can accomplish anything.

                With a smile of satisfaction, he dozed off, sleeping quite deeply and without interruption, waking quite a bit later than he normally would in the morning.
                 
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                • Risukage

                  Risukage Existential Complex

                  //I liked writing for Elliott's parents back in book 1. Getting the opportunity for more dialogue with them (or, at least, Liz) is a proper treat.

                  Also, weird, I remember updating the thread title the last few chapters, why the heck was it still showing "chapter 31?" Weird...//


                  Rising, showering, and dressing, Elliott stretched his arms over his head as he prepared coffee. He sat down in front of his laptop and skimmed over his notes. They didn't quite have a second book started, not yet, but they'd been tossing about ideas. However, that's all that they'd been able to work out, as they'd been spending most of their time in practice for the Luau. With that over, they could once more turn their focus back to writing.

                  The Luau, oh gods...

                  With a groan, Elliott put his face in his hands and leaned back in his chair. In front of everyone! And, oh worse, it was likely that this had been filmed by someone, and therefore would find its way online... He still hadn't told his parents about his book or his relationship with Lysander, and he would rather that they didn't find out like this. It had been a few weeks, it was definitely time to say something, but...

                  They should not object to him, I don't think. At least, not to "him." They have always claimed that they care not who I love, but at the same time there is a certain status to uphold. Though we are in the business of theater, what would they think of my choice of an actor? I am still attempting to make a living for myself, and sadly, actors and musicians also tend to find difficulty in earning steady income. I do not think that they will object, but at the same time, I cannot be certain.

                  He almost didn't hear Lysander knock and enter, and that warm smile helped to ease some of his concern. Crossing the room after setting down Resonance, Lysander kissed him, then sat down on the piano bench.

                  "Hey, love, think you're up for more lessons?"

                  Smiling, Elliott got up to sit next to him on the other side. Lysander had picked up on his lessons with satisfying speed, and after going through the drills that they'd done last time, he asked to have a try at the song that Elliott had been playing during his first visit. This request delighted him, and Lysander watched with focused interest as Elliott played it again. His first attempt was slow and filled with errors, but the second try was much more confident and closer to tempo.

                  Partway through he glanced over at his partner and nudged him with his elbow, almost missing a few notes. "What's up, love? Looks like something's on your mind."

                  Elliott sighed and shook his head. “As lovely as last night was, I am still embarrassed about my actions. I cannot believe that I forgot where I was. Right in front of the entire town…”

                  He looked up as the music stopped and Lysander reached over to gently brush his hair behind his ear and told him not to worry; years of stage work had given him a good eye for an audience, and they had all treated it as a part of the script, so to speak. “The only people who know about us is the band," he soothed, "I mean, I haven’t even told my parents yet. It’s not that I’m embarrassed or worried, I just didn’t want to say anything to them until I’d talked to you first. I don’t know what your family has said.”

                  That touch was reassuring, and Elliott pressed against it, needing that comforting sensation, unable to mask his apprehension. With a chuckle, Lysander correctly guessed that Elliott also hadn't told his family, and he confirmed it. "Like you, I am not embarrassed, but I am concerned," he replied, noting that being the youngest gave him more freedom than his brother, and that his parents were amenable to any relationship that made he and his brother happy. He also expressed his concern for whether they would be overly critical due to the public image that they had to maintain. "Father runs the business side but mother is the face of it all, and he will likely acquiesce to whatever her decision is. I know her very well, and I do not think that she will disapprove, but then...”

                  His heart sank a little further, and he clenched his fists on his thighs, fearing their disapproval. That warm touch again on his face was a source of comfort, and Lysander smiled softly. “Hey, love, look at me. It’s okay. Talk to them when you’re ready. I won’t push you to do anything you’re not comfortable with. I just want you to be happy.”

                  Setting his jaw firmly, Elliott made his decision. He thanked Lysander for respecting the time and method of contacting his family, but also knew that he'd held back long enough already. "No more," he stated with conviction as he took his phone from his pocket, "I have finished my novel, I have found you, and now it is time to finally announce it. While I still have the courage to do so…”

                  He opened his contacts list and scrolled to his mother, then hesitated again, feeling the painful, cold stab of fear, which eased a little at the gentle smile and pressure on his hand from his companion. "It'll be okay. I'm right here." The kiss on the top of his head provided that last bit of support that he needed as Lysander got up and went to the other side of the room, giving him privacy but still being close enough to be reassuring.

                  With him at my side I can accomplish anything.

                  One final breath to steady himself, and he pressed the icon to dial her number, his fear returning twice as strongly when the line on the other side picked up. "Elliott? We've not heard from you in quite some time, we were getting worried."

                  Swallowing to try and get some moisture back into a mouth that was suddenly dry, Elliott knew there was no turning back. “Hello, mother, it’s been a little while, my apologies."

                  "You have reached out to us, that's what matters," she laughed, "are things finally looking up for you out there?"

                  A flush of pride momentarily warred for dominance with another stab of fear. "Yes, I am doing quite well. That is why I called, actually."

                  "Oh! Your book, you've made progress on it?"

                  "Yes, I have. I have finally finished the novel for which I left home. It should be published in a couple of months."

                  "A couple of- Ah, that is excellent news, Elliott, I'm so proud of you. And it is officially being published, not submitted for review?"

                  The surprise and delight in her voice were genuine, and the pain lessened enough for him to smile a little himself. "Correct. In addition, I wanted to tell you that I am..." He almost couldn't say the words, terrified that his happiness was at an end. "Seeing someone," he finally said, feeling his heart pound in his ears.

                  "Really!" she replied, and this seemed to be more of interest to her, though possibly due to the unexpected nature of this news, "you are dating someone out there?"

                  Biting his lip, he pressed on, waiting for the hammer to drop. "Yes, I am."

                  "That's wonderful, dear, how did you meet?"

                  "Pardon?"

                  "Was it at a cafe or the like, or perhaps through a shared common interest?" She sounded pleased with this thread of conversation so far, but Elliott wasn't sure how long it would last.

                  "Well, sort of. He helped me with my work, and I couldn’t have done it without him."

                  "Him?"

                  Oh gods, it was all going to go wrong now, wasn't it? "...That is correct," he affirmed, "it’s been a few months now, but we weren’t certain that-"

                  "What is his name?" she interrupted, but not impolitely.

                  "Ah? Lysander."

                  "Lysander?" She asked this name as though it sounded vaguely familiar to her, but she couldn't put her finger on it. He confirmed this statement as well. "Is he there with you right now?" Once more he replied in the affirmative, then asked him something that made his heart skip a beat. "Would it be possible for me to speak with him?"

                  He shot Lysander a look of panic, which was immediately reflected in his companion's face as well. "You wish to-? Yes, one moment.” The copper-haired man had a good idea of what the request was as Elliott offered him his phone. “Mother would like to speak with you. If you don’t feel comfortable-”

                  Shaking his head, Lysander came back to him and took the device. "Hello, ma'am?" he asked, and Elliott felt his stomach drop all the way to the floor. Light help him, it was all going to go wrong, this was a terrible idea, he should have-

                  No. I will not despair, nor will I admit defeat. He is charming and eloquent, and there is no reason for mother to find fault with him.

                  He was unable to convince himself of any of this, especially once he saw Lysander's eyes get a bit wider and his posture straighten a little. She usually had that effect on the unprepared, and he suddenly felt terrible that he'd not taken even a minute to brief his partner on even the basics. This was going to go wrong and it was all his own fault.

                  "Yes, ma'am. Ah, is that the correct form of address? I’m not quite sure-” Lysander paused as she cut him off, but he looked confused, not angry, and apparently she asked him a question that caught him off-guard, given his reply of, "I want to support him and make him happy.”

                  Feeling the need to do something, anything, other than sitting around and worrying, Elliott got up and went to the kitchen to prepare coffee, his hands beginning to shake as he listened to the conversation with half an ear.

                  “Well, that’s true. I enjoy being with him. I feel like I’ve got something to fight for, that I want to protect, and it gives me a purpose again. I want to make sure that he has everything he needs to continue his work and not worry about supporting himself.” Elliott smiled at this response, knowing that it should satisfy; his mother respected honesty and selflessness, and one could hear both in his voice. “I… Primarily, I am an actor and a musician," Lysander continued, shifting his position and looking a little uneasy, "but since moving to the town where Elliott lives, I’ve picked up gardening to provide an income.”

                  By the light, here's where it goes wrong. Please, oh gods, please let ME be wrong!

                  The cold pit in Elliott's stomach got harder and larger at the change in Lysander's voice; there was restrained anger in it, and he could almost hear a feral rumble in the back of his throat as he spoke. “He has never mentioned his family name nor the source of his income and I respect that. I refuse to be a dead weight on him and will not ask about either until I can provide for us both.” His ire was now visible as he clenched a fist and his posture stiffened in response to another question. “Words or fists, I will stand up and take down anyone and anything that threatens him.”

                  Oh no... She is deliberately provoking him, and I have seen his temper. My dearest, please be mindful of what you say, she is far more fearsome than you know.

                  “Then I will burn the world!" Gasping, Elliot dropped the cup he had just pulled out, almost breaking it, and turned in horror to see Lysander pacing with fury as he verbally lashed out at the person on the other end of the phone. “If I cannot protect him then my life may as well be forfeit. He has given me a reason to live again, and for that I owe him everything. I ran away from my past life and started over, but I didn’t begin living again until I met him. I’ve never been happier with anyone than I have with Elliott, and with or without your blessing I will love him and stay by his side, and I’d much rather have it.”

                  ...This is it. Oh gods...

                  Lysander suddenly processed his outburst, surprised at himself, and frowned at another question that puzzled him. “No, I don’t. It’s possible that I may not recognize it anyway. ...That’s... I actually do know that name, but it’s at the back of my mind-" The light of comprehension dawned; clearly Lysander was familiar with his family name. "Wait... The theater in the city, I remember seeing it on a placard there somewhere. Half a moment, you’re telling me that you’re-” Lysander looked as though he'd been struck between the eyes, and took a few steps back to use the table for support. "And it’s quite possible that you’ve been to one of my performances. This is a strange connection. I truly had no idea.” He paused again to listen to her, and whatever was said appeared to be courteous, or, at least, neutral. “Ah, yes, certainly. You too, ma’am.”

                  Looking even more stunned, he held out the phone for Elliott to take, and the writer moved with speed to retrieve it. “Mother? Is everything-"

                  "I assume that you were present for that?"

                  "Pardon? That is correct, I heard everything," he replied, almost unable to hear her for the frantic heartbeat that once again threatened to drown out all other sound, and she asked if he agreed with Lysander's remarks. " Yes, every word, and I would have said the same."

                  "Do you love him?"

                  This question silenced the organic thunder in his mind. "What? I...yes, that is correct," he finally stated, fearing her inevitable disapproval.

                  "Good," she said, and Elliott could hear the smile in her voice, "clearly he loves you dearly in return, for nobody would dare speak like that unless they had something precious for which they wanted to fight. It appears that he has found fulfillment in your company."

                  The weight that he didn't realize he'd been carrying suddenly sloughed off, and he almost sagged with the sudden feeling of lightness. “Likewise I did not find inspiration or direction until we had met, and I will not trade our bond for anything." Steeling his courage, he pressed on, determined to speak his mind. "And also likewise, I will love him and stand by his side, even if it means walking away from the family. I love you all truly, but he has given me a gift that I do not think I can ever repay, and for that my devotion is his.”

                  "Phillip and I will never know why you never pursued theater yourself, dear," she chuckled, "you are positively dramatic, and I am not the least bit surprised that you found companionship in one who did. He is a passionate, compassionate man, and I am certain that your father will enjoy talking with him as well."

                  All of the tension and fear vanished, and the lightness almost left him dizzy. “That... Thank you. I had been worried that-"

                  "Oh, Elliott, you truly thought that we would cast you out? Dear, never forget, we will always support you in your pursuit of happiness. We are critical, yes, in your choice of life partners, but only because we want to be certain that they deserve you."

                  "Ah, I see," he replied, now feeling foolish for having caused himself so much grief, "once more, thank you. Please give my regards to father. I’ll call again soon, I have been remiss in that."

                  "That you have," she laughed, but not unkindly, "but from what I have gleaned your silence was understandable, and this news was quite worth the wait. I think that I have put you through enough for now, I'll update your father myself in a little bit. It was delightful being able to talk with the both of you. Love, you, dear."

                  "Love you too, mother, until next time.”

                  He ended the call and almost felt his knees buckle under him, not noticing his phone hitting the ground as he let out a shuddering breath that didn't realize he'd held. The sturdy warmth of Lysander's arms around him pulled him back to reality, and he sought solace in its comfort, clutching his partner firmly. "I'm here, love, it's okay. I think I made a decent first impression." The musician's smile became a bit wry as he recalled the specifics of the conversation. "Although, it is probably bad form to shout at one’s potential mother-in-law like that.”

                  Elliott's laugh was ragged but relieved. “I was terrified, Lysander, I really was," he admitted, "perhaps it’s silly of me, but-”

                  “It’s not silly at all," cut in Lysander, meeting his gaze, "your family and their approval mean a lot to you, and now that I know who they are- who you are- I understand why."

                  He wondered aloud if he had been the one to be rude by not questioning it sooner on his own, and it was Elliott's turn to reassure him, insisting that he had always held back too often himself. "You are the fire that I need. Like the water outside I am far too placid and stoic, full of sound but no real action.”

                  That wonderful, warm smile split the other man's face as something amusing came to mind. “Well, I don’t know about that. Although your eyes are the color of the ocean. And right now I’m happy to be lost at sea.” His bizarre, playful flirt was awful but welcome, and Elliott told him so, earning a kiss that was equally as welcome. Retrieving the thankfully-undamaged phone, Lysander handed it back and pulled out his own. “Well, fair’s fair. Guess it’s my turn. Ready for round two?”
                   
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                  • Risukage

                    Risukage Existential Complex

                    //This conversation was alluded to but never talked about back in book 1, and that's a shame. Granted, we did eventually meet up with Lynn and Arthur later, but I think that this was a missed opportunity. But then, this only really has the proper gravitas if it follows the last chapter from Elliott's side, given his concerns about his family's approval, so maybe it's for the better that this didn't happen until now.//



                    Now finally able to smile again, Elliott felt much better, and actually found himself looking forward to this conversation. "After that first call I am ready for anything."

                    Lysander's grin was cheeky but reassuring. "We'll see about that," he chuckled, scrolling through his contacts list, "my mom isn’t as intimidating as yours, but she will talk your ear off if she gets the chance, and she loves to ask embarrassing questions just to see how you’ll react."

                    Returning to the kitchen, Elliott remarked that he was of the opinion that he physically resembled his father, but intellectually resembled his mother, which Lysander was quick to confirm. "Still want to do this?" he asked, waving the phone at the author.

                    "As you said, fair's fair," Elliott replied, inspecting the cup that he had dropped and was relieved to find it undamaged, "let me at least pour that coffee first."

                    Returning with two fresh cups, he offered one to Lysander, who dialed his parents and leaned into him. Comfortable despite the stiffness of the piano bench, he put an arm around Lysander's shoulders, and the other man perked up as someone answered the phone. "Hi mom, how goes it?" His grin shifted and he sipped his coffee. "Yeah, it's been a while. So, do you and dad have a few minutes? I've got a few things to tell you." This should have left Elliott concerned or worried, but after the success of talking with his own mother and Lysander's assertion that his parents would be welcoming, he patiently waited for Lysander to explain the situation. He was, instead, intrigued when Lysander pulled the phone away from his ear for a moment and smiled warmly. "You feel up to taking a video call?"

                    This was extremely unexpected, but it sounded interesting. "Do you have good enough reception out here for that?"

                    "Yeah, and my data plan is pretty robust, I can soak the cellular data for this, it's totally worth it." He turned his attention back to the call, agreeing to the video conference, and pulled the phone away again to tap a few buttons, then set it horizontally on the piano so that they both could see the screen. In a very small picture-in-picture it showed their position, and they shifted a little so that they were both in frame just as Lysander's parents joined them.

                    "Hi mom, dad, it's been a little while, sorry about that," he greeted, and Elliott studied the screen with intrigued curiosity.

                    Lysander was definitely his parents' child; the familiar, brilliant grin that Lynn wore was a near-perfect copy of the one that Elliott had been privileged enough to see nearly every day. Arthur's smile was a little more restrained, but it was the mellow, softer one that only Elliott ever got to see. Further, the bright, copper-red hair that Arthur had was much shorter, almost putting Elliott in mind of a small campfire, but Lysander had also inherited the thick, voluminous locks that Lynn boasted.

                    "Oh! He is adorable," she gasped, grinning fit to burst, "you always did go for the cute ones."

                    "If you've trying to embarrass me in front of him you're not trying very hard," Lysander snickered, rolling his eyes, "and you can do that later once you've met him in person."

                    "So you are dating!" she laughed.

                    Sighing and shaking his head, Lysander took a sip of his coffee. "What makes you say that?"

                    "The fact that he's just about as red as your hair, sweetie." A quick glance at Elliott confirmed Lynn's observation, and Lysander kissed him on the cheek as Lynn continued. "Besides, everything about the way you two are sitting together just shouts 'together.' Looks like you've been together a little while, you look comfortable next to each other."

                    She was quite observant, and Lysander took this in stride as he nodded, leaning into Elliott's shoulder. "Yeah, since late spring or so. This is Elliott, we met at one of the festivals here, and started hanging out when I began helping him out with a novel he was working on."

                    "An author, really?" queried Arthur, looking interested, "how's that working out for you?"

                    "Ah, I'm only just recently a proper author," Elliott averred, smiling a little at a gentle elbow jab from Lysander, "previously I'd had no luck in writing at all, and only in the last year have had small works submitted for publication. I had been working on this project for a number of years without success, and it wasn't until I partnered with Lysander that I was able to craft my novel. I owe your son a great debt, mister von-"

                    "Arthur," interrupted the other man with a lopsided, friendly grin, "or 'Art' if you like. You don't have to stand on formality, but thank you."

                    "And Lynn works just fine, Elliott," piped up the blonde woman, "but as you were saying, the two of you collaborated on a book?"

                    Lysander's parents exuded a friendly warmth that made Elliott feel welcome and included, even after just this couple of minutes of conversation, and appeared to be genuinely interested in what he had to say. "That is correct. Initially we were simply brainstorming, as I had only the desire to write, but not the ideas. With his assistance I was able to discover and create those ideas, culminating in publication very soon. Don't worry," he added hastily, "he is credited as a co-author. It is our work and I am proud to call it such."

                    The delighted, excited expression that Lynn wore made both men share a quick smile, and Arthur laughed, folding his arms across his chest. "From musician to writer. You always did jump around with your hobbies, Pick, and every time you're successful."

                    "I'm still a musician, dad, in fact, that's the other news." One word held Elliott's attention, and he leaned over to ask, "Pick?" in his companion's ear. "What do- Oh! That's right, I never told you," Lysander giggled, "that's dad's nickname for me. Y'know, guitar pick. I was crazy skinny when I was growing up, and I started learning guitar really early on. But yeah," he continued, addressing his parents again, "one of my friends in town put together a band, and I joined up on bass. Elliott got pulled in for piano, and we just had our first gig last night at one of the summer festivals here."

                    Arthur laughed again and applauded. "Nice! I had just hoped to hear that the old farm was treating you well, but this is even better."

                    "Well, I am doing well there, I'm making a decent income and can start expanding a couple of things again soon, but that's just income. The book and the band are fun."

                    For at least a quarter of an hour they conversed, and already Elliott felt like "a part of the family." The chat might have gone on longer, but Arthur and Lynn had a few things to take care of and would have to depart shortly. With a few last goodbyes and well-wishes, Lysander disconnected the call, put down his empty mug, and hugged Elliott fiercely and warmly around the chest.

                    "They like you so much, love, this was great."

                    Elliott set aside his likewise-empty mug and returned the hug, followed by a soft, prolonged kiss. All of the trepidation, fear, and pain that he'd carried that morning were completely dispelled. It had all gone right!

                    Glancing outside once Elliott had pulled back, Lysander squeezed his hand and gestured toward the door. "It's still nice and sunny out. Let's have a quick sit in the sun for a bit. I feel so good after all of this."

                    "I also feel significantly better for having made both calls," Elliott agreed, following him outside, "I feel slightly foolish for how much I had worried, but at the same time, I think that my concerns were valid at the time."

                    He sat down in the sand in front of the porch and leaned back against it for support, and Lysander happily snuggled up into his arms, resting against him. Arms around his partner, Elliott relaxed into the comforting warmth of the mid-summer heat and Lysander's body. Strangely, all of the stress of the day now caught up to him, and his shoulders shook a little as he tried to hold back the emotion. Noticing this and becoming concerned, Lysander turned a little in Elliott's hold, and upon seeing the tears, turned around completely and put a hand on his face, brushing his hair out of the way with the other.

                    "Love, what's wrong? I thought you said that everything was just fine."

                    "It is, but..." He felt extremely silly about this, and almost couldn't keep himself under control. "But it very nearly wasn't. I do not like to engage in pointless 'what ifs,' but the thought of mother disapproving of you and our relationship, I... I do not know what I would have done. I would never abandon you, my dear, you are precious to me, but to turn my back on my family, after everything that they have given me, it would have been the height of rudeness and discourtesy to throw it all away. The thought of being torn between these two worlds, I..."

                    Smiling and sighing, Lysander removed his round-rimmed sunglasses and hung them off of the collar of his shirt, brushing away tears with gentle fingers. "I know and understand your fear, love. I haven't dealt with it myself, but I have been with people who did, and I respected their position every time. This time, though, I have found something amazing and wonderful that I want to protect and love, and I won't let you go. Tell me anything, everything, so you don't have to carry this alone again. You had expressed your concern earlier today but I didn't take it as seriously as I should have. I'm sorry, I won't do that again. I promise to be the partner that you deserve."

                    It wasn't as though Lysander wasn't eloquent, but this sort of thing was normally Elliott's style, and for a moment he was silent with surprise. Then he laughed, pressing a kiss to Lysander's palm and holding it against his cheek a bit longer. "Thank you, my dear. I had not expressed my full concerns because I did not want to be a bother, and anyway, I did not know if there were anything that could have been done about it, so I chose not to cause potential trouble. I shall be more open in the future as well."

                    He pulled Lysander back into that firm, enveloping hug, and his companion melted into it with satisfaction. For a while they sat together this way, watching the waves roll in and out, hearing the crash of the surf, and tasting the salty mist blowing from over the ocean as it mixed with the hot, dry air off of the sands. But as the shadows grew longer and the air cooled a little, they knew that it was time to get up and take care of evening tasks at their respective homes. But not immediately, as Lysander again turned around in Elliott's hold to wrap his arms around his neck and kiss him again, tangling his fingers in his hair and collar, quite enjoying himself.

                    "If this is how we shall end every day then I will develop a strange fondness for departures," Elliott chuckled, and Lysander giggled and nibbled his ear before standing up and offering a hand to help him do the same.

                    "Then I'll have to start doing that first thing in the morning, too, just to balance it all out. So remember this one until I get back tomorrow, 'kay?"

                    "There will be little else to occupy my mind," he replied, giving him one last hug, "and I shall rest well for having exorcised my inner demons."

                    Lysander went back into the cabin once more to pick up Resonance and his phone, then brushed Elliott's lips with a quick kiss as he squeezed his hand. The memory of that warm smile, touch, and affection occupied Elliott's thoughts as he had said they would, and he didn't mind one moment of it. Taking care of any final chores and tasks around his home before bed, he undressed as he always did and set his phone to charge on the nightstand as he made himself comfortable under the sheets.

                    Such a bright future ahead of us. I do not know what it will bring, but what has transpired so far already gives me hope, and that is something that I thought lost to me before. Where shall we go from here? How will our relationship advance and mature? Ah, I will not speculate needlessly. I have always planned everything meticulously, but in this case, I must let it go where it takes us.
                     
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                    • Risukage

                      Risukage Existential Complex

                      //This is already half the length of book 1 and I'm only partway through summer. Oh gods, this will never end, will it?//


                      Those pleasant thoughts translated into dreams, ones that were extremely pleasant, but also were ones that left him slightly embarrassed when he awoke. He would like to do those sorts of things with Lysander eventually, but this was a bit too soon!

                      Not for a lack of desire, that is for certain, Elliott thought to himself as he got out of bed, but the way he hesitated in reciprocating my advances, and from what I have been able to glean of his past... I am certain that though he would be an enthusiastic and devoted lover something holds him back. It is best to support him quietly while he works out his issues at his own pace. But what I would not give to be able do more than just hold him, to be able to touch that magnificent form with abandon...

                      He stepped into the shower and relished the tingle of the hot water against his skin as he let his mind wander, idly following that thread of thought as he scrubbed his fingers through his hair. This one, like many before it, led to much more intimate ones, that produced a particular reaction that he couldn't ignore. It wasn't as though he didn't like it, or the thoughts that followed as he took care of it, but it did feel as though he were disrespecting Lysander a little. Even so, Elliott was a healthy man with needs and desires, and they had to be met somehow. With a wry smile to himself, he felt it was safe to assume that he wasn't the only one...

                      Much later he shut off the water, feeling quite refreshed (in several senses of the word!) and dried off before changing into warm, bright colors. The silver earrings were, as usual, the last to be affixed as he left the bedroom. Also as usual, a coffee was made before he sat down at his laptop, but he didn't open it, instead pulling one of the magazines off of the shelf and flipping to the story that he'd submitted to it many months ago. With a faint smile he sat and read, feeling the giddy sensation of success; back then he'd only hoped and dreamed. Now it was a reality! Laughing with merriment, he put aside the magazine when he finished his coffee, then put the mug in the sink, picked up the bag he used for his grocery shopping, and stepped outside. He could tell that the day was going to be hot but lovely, and the breeze was refreshingly cool. As he walked, he wondered if this had been good training for Lysander and Alex, and he made a mental note to ask later.

                      "Elliott! Hey! How are you?" someone called to him, and he turned around to see Leah trotting up, looking happy to see him.

                      It just then occurred to him that they'd not spoken in a couple of weeks and he felt a sudden wave of embarrassment wash over him. "Oh, I am dreadfully sorry, I've not said anything in ages," he apologized, but was waved off with a laugh.

                      "It's okay, from what I hear, you've been busy lately."

                      "That I have," he smiled, then noticed that they were fairly close to the saloon. "I have a few minutes to spare, actually, perhaps we can catch up over coffee?"

                      "Your boyfriend won't get jealous?" she giggled, then laughed again as Elliott blushed even more deeply. "Oh wow, you've got it bad. That's so sweet! C'mon, let's get that coffee and you can tell me all about what I've missed."

                      They got their drinks and grabbed a two-person table, and Leah put her chin in her hands and listened with rapt fascination as Elliott filled her in on everything that had happened the last couple of months; Lysander and his initial musical collaboration, then their work together on the novel, the practice and performance with the band... She noticed with amusement that when speaking of himself he was the reserved person she had always known, but when he spoke of Lysander, he became more animated and expressive, smiling broadly and speaking with enthusiasm. At some point he realized that he was dominating the conversation and apologized, and she rolled her eyes.

                      "I asked you to talk, and that's what you did. It's fine! And I'm so happy for you, I totally am. You two are so great together. He's really brought out something wonderful in you. You were so quiet and stuff, and after hooking up you've just...wow." She glanced off at nothing for a moment as she thought, then turned her attention back to him. "How did you hook up, if you don't mind me asking?"

                      "We... That is, I..." He took a sip of his drink to order his thoughts, then smiled softly. "It was strangely mutual. The both of us had been interested in finding a relationship with each other for a little while, but were worried that the other wasn't. It took a small misunderstanding to clear it up, and..." The warmth and happiness of that memory almost brought tears to his eyes, from the relief that it had gone well, when it almost didn't. "It was the day that I had finished my novel. With his help I had found and achieved my dream, one that for so long had seemed impossible. I resolved to tell him what I truly felt, and strangely, he had been nudged to do the same the day before."

                      In his silence, Leah studied him, and when he noticed it he jumped a little in surprise and cleared his throat. She shook her head and drank the last of her coffee. "He is such a good influence for you. You've come a long way, you should be proud of yourself."

                      "...I am. But I am also proud of him and his own accomplishments. We have helped each other in this journey, and I hope to continue doing so for many years to come."

                      "Already thinking long-term?" she teased, snorting with laughter as he gasped and put his face in his hands. "You are precious! Lys is just so lucky, I'm almost jealous." Elliott wasn't quite sure how to follow this, but welcomed the friendly pat on his hand as she stood up. "It looks like you were running an errand, and I've gotta run off to do something myself. But this was great, I'll hafta drop in at your place some time again. Hope I won't interrupt anything," she winked, and giggled again as Elliott turned another shade of light crimson.

                      "We aren't- That is, our relationship isn't that..."

                      "Completely precious. He totally deserves you. Anyway, I'll see you later. Bye!"

                      Absentmindedly, he returned the dismissal and finished his own drink before departing. He had been terribly remiss in contacting pretty much everyone lately. This was something that he'd have to make an effort to change. But then, most of his time and thoughts had been focused on one person... Leah was right, he did "have it bad," but it felt so good.

                      The grocery stop was a quick affair, and he returned to his cabin with just enough time to put away his purchases before picking up his satchel and heading off to the community center. This double round trip was a bit of a nuisance, but he needed the exercise, and it was already shaping up to be a lovely day. He intercepted Lysander where the road from his house met the plaza, and greeted his companion with a soft hug. However, there was something a bit off about the musician's demeanor that Elliott couldn't quite put his finger on, but said nothing of it.

                      However, as they walked and conversed, Elliott noticed that Lysander seemed to be somewhat withdrawn and distant, as though there was an inner pain he was trying to mask. Elliott asked about it, prodding it from a couple of different angles, concerned for his partner's health, and wondered if he had also been concerned about the previous day's conversations. All hypotheses were rejected with a fond smile and the shrugged statement that he had quite enjoyed both calls and felt much better for having had them. But he did acknowledge that there was something nibbling and niggling at the back of his mind, something that he couldn't quite address just yet, and one that he didn't feel comfortable coming to others about.

                      This didn't reassure Elliott at all, and he pressured Lysander a bit, hoping to tease out some small bit of information, but again, he was rebuffed. It was just "noise" in his head, as he put it, "lots of leftover bits and fragments from my past life. I ran away because when I fought it I screwed it all up. Getting together with you has helped a lot, more than you know. But there’s still a lot of darkness in there. Lots of things still tangled and messed up.” Once again this was far from satisfactory, and Elliott offered his assistance, but Lysander was steadfast. "It’s not that I won’t, it’s that right now I outright can’t. It’s too much of a mess," he explained. He didn't know if he could describe what was going on without causing more confusion and trouble, and in any case, he didn't think he could forgive himself for his actions.

                      Why do you push me away with such ferocity, my dear? Let me help you, let me stand by and support you. You no longer need to fight alone. And forgiveness? What is it that you have done that you think puts you beyond redemption?

                      Reminded of Alex's remarks after the Luau, he brought it up, and Lysander went silent, looking away and biting his lip.

                      I continue to unravel this tangled skein. You and someone dear to you hurt each other deeply, and for reasons you have not yet revealed you refuse to forgive yourself. Why?

                      Pushing him further would yield nothing constructive, and would likely make things worse. With a sigh, he relented. "Very well, I won’t pry. I understand that there are some matters that take time to work through and must be done alone. But I do hope that you trust me enough to open up about it some day." Hugging him with an arm around his waist and fingers gently brushing his cheek, Elliott smiled to take the edge off of his words. "Do not feel that you need to hold anything back because of me. And whatever it was that happened in your past I want you to be able to forgive yourself for it, regardless of the situation or outcome. Bring back that person I fell in love with. I saw that once more the other night on the sands, don’t let it fade again."

                      These seemed to be the words that his partner wanted to hear, and with a quirked half-smile, he promised that as soon as he'd gotten something untangled that he would come to him with it. "I avoided it for a long time but I’m finally able to start poking around in my own thoughts. Thanks for being patient with me.”

                      Their moment together was interrupted by Sam's arrival and his unrepentant snark, which rather killed the mood. Despite this, what had needed to be said had been, as well as all that could have. Practice went as it usually did, and as they locked up the community center for the night Lysander suddenly remembered that he was going to follow Sebastian home to borrow a book.

                      "G'nite love, catch you tomorrow," he grinned, giving Elliott that warm, tingling kiss that he was getting accustomed to enjoying every day. The copper-haired man took one of the offered strawberry-flavored cigarettes when it was offered by Sebastian, and waved as the two of them walked off.

                      Such a strange aroma, one of these days I'll have to sample it myself. Though likely second-hand of a sort! And he conceals his thoughts so easily, yet it is not natural to him. He is open and honest by nature, and to keep secrets like this is unnatural and painful. But even more so are the secrets that he hides. My dearest, please, talk to me.
                       
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                      • Risukage

                        Risukage Existential Complex

                        //Poor Elliott, things were going so well, and then they very nearly didn't. Good thing both he and Alex were there!//


                        They continued to visit every day, either meeting up en route to practice, or sit and spend a day together when there was none. To Elliott's concern, with each passing day, Lysander seemed to become more and more fatigued, as though whatever was gnawing at his mind was also consuming his body as well. When in conversation or doing something he was his usual, vibrant self, but when left to his own devices or given a moment for silence, Elliott saw pain that he wore all too visibly. Elliott tried to back off, to let him deal with this on his own, but couldn't hide the pain in his own touch, the strained restraint in his kiss and lingering hold in his hug. Lysander continued to insist that it was just bad dreams. That sort of thing just happened, you know!

                        Elliott was a little better about remembering town events now, and made sure that Lysander was aware of the Dance of the Moonlight Jellies one night, and that morning, confronted him about his concerns. Sighing and giving him that warm, soft smile that never failed to make Elliott smile in return, Lysander took away the hairbrush that Elliott was gently running through his hair, having just got dressed after a shower only minutes before his partner's arrival. Lysander gently pushed him to sit in his chair, then stood behind him to brush out the slightly-damp tangles, and Elliott opened the laptop to make a few notes.

                        "It means a lot that you care enough to be worried about me, but really, it's okay," he soothed, pausing to brush Elliott's cheek with his fingers, "it's just a string of bad nights, love, because I've been digging around in the scarier parts of my memories. It'll vanish soon. There's nothing wrong." There was honest confidence in his words, but Elliott wasn't quite swayed yet, and Lysander knew it. "Look at me," he chuckled, "not lying, see?"

                        Leaning back to be able to look up at his companion, he scrutinized his face for signs of, well, anything, but only saw the familiar smile of contentment he usually wore when around him. "No, you are not," Elliott finally sighed, still unconvinced. As Lysander continued to brush out his hair, he once again voiced his desire to help, as he could tell that Lysander was hiding something which caused him pain, but respected him enough to know his own limits. "I understand that there are some things that must be resolved by one’s self, and you are a born warrior."

                        Lysander riposted with a cheeky remark that he was more of a "rogue" than a "warrior" as he set aside the hairbrush, and kissed Elliott's cheek as he wrapped his arms around his neck from behind, and had a laugh at him trying to hide a smile. "Now, tell me about this thing going on tonight. Some kind of migration?" With a nod, Elliott gave him a basic explanation of the event, reminded of his first time seeing it the year before, and feeling excited for Lysander being able to experience it the same way as well. "That sounds pretty neat," Lysander commented, playing with a lock of Elliott's hair, "so you can see it from the shore?"

                        This was also affirmed, but Elliott pointed out that it was much nicer to view from the pier. Lysander's hold suddenly tightened around his shoulders, and he asked him if something was wrong, to which he replied that while things weren't exactly wrong, they weren't quite right. Puzzled, Elliott turned a little to look up at him again and asked him his thoughts, finding this sudden hesitation to be strange. Looking away, Lysander stepped back as he rubbed the back of his neck, looking for the right words.

                        "I..." he began, then sighed and shook his head. "Okay, it's silly as hell, but I don’t know how to swim. At all. And I’m kinda hydrophobic. I’m terribly uncomfortable around water that I can’t see the bottom or far side of." He laughed sardonically at the irony of dating someone who lived directly adjacent to a large body of water.

                        Feeling reassured that there wasn't anything to be worried about, Elliott provided it himself, as now and then one's fears were legitimate. "If you trust me, I will be your..." Realizing what he was about to say, his lips twisted in a dark smile. "I suppose 'anchor' is exactly the wrong term to use in this case." He promised to be supportive in any way that he could and that he wouldn't let him fall, which seemed to be what Lysander needed to hear, and he asked that Elliott not laugh about it.

                        "I mean, go figure," he chuckled, "I can dance for an entire town of people without blinking an eye, but the thought of stepping onto that dock just sends chills down my spine."

                        Elliott could see the embarrassment that Lysander was trying to hide, and immediately felt the need to reach out to him. Clearly this was a dire phobia, one that he likely hadn't mentioned to anyone else before. Taking his wrist, he tugged gently and pulled his partner into his lap, which was gratefully accepted. Lysander snuggled into his hold and relaxed, and requested piano lessons again, ostensibly to take his mind off of the previous topic. Elliott was happy to oblige, but first wanted a little time to hold him like that; it was quite nice, although he considered (yet again) picking up a better chair for this sort of thing.

                        After an hour of lessons they got up to wait outside for everyone else, discarding shoes and outerwear to place on the porch, and their friends did the same as they arrived. Lysander was enjoying the warmth and sun, and flopped onto the sand, absorbing the warmth that it had taken in over the day. As they waited for dark, they chatted about nothing in particular, just enjoying each other's company, but as soon as the sun touched the horizon, everyone got up and went to the pier on the far eastern edge of the beach. Lysander sat up but didn't get up, glancing warily in the direction that their friends were going.

                        With a gentle smile, Elliott offered a hand. "Come on dear, it's time. I'm here, trust me." Still wary, Lysander accepted his hand and stood up, shaking the sand off of himself and out of his clothes as he walked. Once he'd finished adjusting his clothes, Elliott squeezed his hand supportively, earning a smile, and Lysander walked a little less hesitantly.

                        This lasted until they reached the pier, where Lysander stopped short and his hold on Elliott's hand tightened. Elliott saw and felt Lysander's hands shaking, but before he could do anything, his partner gripped his wrist with both hands, biting his lip as he kept his gaze firmly on the pier. Their friends had noticed their slow, measured approach, which made Lysander turn a deep shade of crimson, mumbling that he wasn't comfortable around large bodies of water, as he couldn't swim.

                        Laughing and cuffing his friend on the arm (which made Lysander snarl in fear), Sam remarked the same thing that he'd remarked earlier in the cabin, that he was dating the person living by the ocean despite his phobia and lack of swimming ability. Abigail also took the opportunity to tease him, which earned her a glare of disdain as well, while he let go of one hand just long enough to put it around Elliott's waist, and he reciprocated with an arm around his shoulders. Again he felt his partner relax, and felt pleased to himself that he was able to continually provide physical comfort despite his mental misgivings.

                        They didn't have long to wait before the show began, and Elliott smiled as Lysander forgot his fears and watched the water with wide-eyed fascination; soft pastel colors illuminated the water from under its surface, pulsing gently as they made their journey. Elliott remembered how remarkable and inspiring it had been the year before, and wondered if Lysander felt the same sense of wonder that he'd felt back then. There was silence as they watched, and Elliott lost track of the time, surprised when the last of the lights had drifted out of sight and the ocean was again as dark as the moonless sky above. Such a romantic evening, this had been delightful!

                        Movement and chatter resumed as the silent magic wore off, and Lysander reached over with his other hand to grip the pylon nearby, no longer as relaxed as he was earlier, but not as tense as he had been. Haley commented about wanting to purchase a camera good enough to film it for the next year, and Elliott noticed Sam and Alex playfully sparring, as apparently the prolonged quietness and stillness had wound up the smaller man, and he was burning off energy. Not paying attention to them, Lysander rested his head on Elliott's shoulder, still not completely comfortable out there like that, but expressing the desire to make the effort to change.

                        Then, Elliott staggered as Lysander shoved him aside for no reason he could discern, impacting Alex and sending them both onto the pier in a heap. Before he could figure out the reason for the sudden rough handling, he saw the end-result of a chain of events of which he'd not seen the beginning, where Lysander frantically tried to grab the pylon again for purchase, missing completely when Sam stumbled into and bounced off of him. This might not have been initially bad, but in Sam's attempt to regain his own balance he ended up clipping Lysander on the jaw under his ear with his elbow, momentarily stunning him. Without further resistance, Lysander collapsed, falling off of the pier and into the water below.

                        Disentangling himself in panic from the athlete, Elliott scrambled to his feet and dove off after his partner, almost inhaling in shock from the sudden chill of the water. Lysander had just regained his senses, but too late; he ineffectively lashed out as he sank deeper and panic set in. Not a strong swimmer himself, Elliott pursued his stricken companion, already feeling the bands of pressure tighten around his chest as they both went deeper, barely closing the distance between the two of them.

                        No, I'm not swift enough! My dear, please, hold out just a bit longer!

                        Lysander's struggles were getting weaker, and Elliott almost couldn't see him anymore, as the new-moon night provided almost no light, especially this deep. Just as he reached and securely grabbed him, Lysander stopped resisting. Damn it, damn!! The return to the surface went too slowly, with Elliott now burdened with Lysander's limp form and only one arm to propel himself upward. With aching lungs, Elliott surfaced, coughing as he inhaled a mouthful of seawater as an errant wave broke over his head, temporarily sending him below the water's surface again.

                        He heard a water-muffled shout of "I've got him!" as something pulled Lysander from his arms, and Elliott gratefully allowed Alex to take over. Finally, Elliott was able to get his head back above water long enough to get his bearings and follow Alex back to shore, shocked at how far away they'd drifted. In short order, Alex was on the beach, pulling Lysander with him, and laying him out on the sand to check his vitals as Elliott made it to shore himself. The coastal shelf had dropped off shortly and sharply from the edge of the beach, no wonder they'd gone down so far!

                        "Shit, he's not breathing," Alex growled, and Elliott's legs gave out from under him as cold terror lanced through his veins. Immediately the athlete began providing rescue breathing, and for a few moments Elliott forgot how to breathe himself. Haley, Sam, Abigail, and Sebastian hadn't moved from the pier, still trying to process what had happened, and terrified that they had just lost their friend. Eyes burning from salt and tears, Elliott almost didn't have the coordination to drag himself over to the other two; this was taking too long! ...No...

                        My dearest, my undying flame, I have failed you. I made you a promise, I failed to keep it, and I have killed you.

                        Then Alex sat back on his heels as Lysander coughed, struggling to breathe. Helping turn him over so he could get the water out of his lungs and throat, Alex supported his cousin as he gagged and retched, gasping raggedly. The rest of the group whooped and cheered with relief as Elliott felt the grip of terror finally loosen.

                        "By the light, you're... Lysander, my dearest, you've... Lysander, can you hear me?" he asked, a hand on his partner's shoulder, which finally got his attention. Blinking, Lysander looked at him with confusion and tried to ask a question, which eased the last of Elliott's fear. "You had us terrified, dear, are you alright?" he asked as Lysander looked around, clearly puzzled.

                        "No kidding," Alex remarked, looking pleased, "for a minute there we thought you were a goner. Good thing both of us were here.”

                        Still confused, Lysander was about to ask what had happened, recalling that the last thing he remembered was them all on the pier, when he was interrupted by Sam impacting him with a hug, making him cough up the last of the water that he'd inhaled. Sam apologized in a jumbled rush of words, and Lysander stopped him to ask him what he meant before his vision unfocused and the memories suddenly came to him. Releasing him, Sam sat back on his heels and wiped his eyes as Lysander remembered what had happened and began to shake again, going into shock. Before Elliott could go to him, Lysander beat him to it, getting up to stagger over and drop into his lap, face against Elliott's chest as he broke down in tears.

                        "I almost lost you," Elliott whispered, fingers knotted tightly in Lysander's hair and shirt, "for a moment I thought that the one light in my life had gone out."

                        Alex pointed out that Lysander was only alive because Elliott had responded immediately and was the one to recover him, and all that he'd done was get him back to shore. Acknowledging this, Elliott returned that it had been a team effort, as Alex had also provided the rescue breathing that had brought him back. Sebastian asked where Alex had learned to do that in the first place, as it wasn't a skill that one would normally acquire. Two years of swim team in school had provided this ability, in addition to toning and cardio that he'd been seeking to round out his gridball training.

                        Now a little calmer, Lysander still clung to Elliott, but no longer felt the need to cry. "Sorry, love, I just..." he began, and sniffed as he tried to find his thoughts, "that's the second time I nearly... You really risked yourself for me?"

                        Ever as always, even after nearly dying, he was concerned for someone else! Elliott brushed damp hairs from his partner's face, relieved that he was already doing better. "There are some things that are worth risking everything for, because without them life isn’t worth living.”

                        It was a little sappy, but it was honest and heartfelt, and Elliott felt no embarrassment for it. Nobody gave him cheek for it, though, as everyone was feeling the chill of the evening, even those who hadn't gone for the impromptu swim. They gathered at the fire pit in front of the cabin, and Elliott reluctantly broke away from Lysander only for the time it took to obtain the fire-starting items that he kept near the fireplace. Despite the summer's heat, the wood had a bit of moisture from the evening and permanent proximity to the coast, and was slow to catch fire. It eventually did, providing the elements that everyone needed, and the group clustered tightly around it, almost as tightly as Lysander held onto his companion again.

                        "Sorry again," he apologized, "feeling a bit clingy at the moment."

                        Almost as firmly, Elliott held him in return, kissing the top of his head. “It’s quite alright. I’m the one who must apologize. I promised to not let you fall and failed to uphold my vow.”

                        Abigail was the next to offer apologies, for teasing him about his fears despite his efforts to overcome them. Waving it away as he took a lit cigarette from Sebastian, he took a drag from it before glancing at Elliott and apologizing himself, offering to move.

                        "Stay, it's alright," Elliott soothed with a smile, "I don't mind this. Rather, the smoky scent of strawberry settles on you well. This sort of thing suits you."

                        They chatted quietly, though it was Lysander doing most of the talking, and though he was still a little rattled from the experience, it was over now, and he was fine, so everything was alright. Sam had been silent and downcast ever since Lysander had revived, but now the familiar mischief returned as he snickered and fixed Alex with his usual face-splitting grin.

                        "Hey, Alex." At the other man's reply of inquiry, he grinned even wider. "You totally kissed your cousin."

                        As Lysander choked on his cigarette, Alex stared at Sam, trying to figure out what the hell he meant. "What are you on about?"

                        "After you pulled him out of the water. Don't deny it, we all saw it."

                        It took only a few more seconds for Alex to make the connection and groan loudly with frustration. "That was rescue breathing, you doofus!"

                        Sam laughed and accused him of making out with his "hot cousin," to which Lysander shot back that, “it wasn’t proper ‘making out’ because there was no tongue involved." He did agree that he was the "hot cousin," though, so any thoughts that Alex had of him were completely reasonable, and Alex threatened to pitch the both of them into the water, to the merriment of everyone present.

                        Once everyone had dried off, the group retrieved their belongings and left for their homes. Lysander gave Sam a warm, brotherly hug, promising that there was no animosity, which finally convinced the spiky-haired man of his sincerity. Finally alone, Elliott held and kissed Lysander with determined desperation, refusing to let go until they needed to breathe again. Lysander joked that Elliott still seemed bothered, and he didn't deny it. "I almost lost you tonight," he sighed, tracing gentle fingers down the side of his partner's face, "for a while I will worry that every kiss might be our last."

                        That energetic fire had returned, as Lysander chuckled and grinned. “Well, every one for me feels like the first time, so I suppose we balance each other out.” He echoed the smile that Elliott finally wore, asking him not to worry any further, but there was something that Elliott remembered that did worry him.

                        "Earlier you said it was the 'second time.' You've nearly died once before, haven't you?" The sudden, painful silence as he looked away and asked to not talk about it at the moment made Elliott relent a little, but only for the moment. "I will not press further. But knowing that twice now you have evaded the Reaper makes me even more concerned for your safety.” Lysander attempted to make a joke about this, that he seemed to be getting better at it now, so it wasn't a concern, but saw how it fell flat along with Elliott's spirits, and promised to be more careful, as well as that he wasn't going to be going anywhere.

                        It had been a long day, with a sudden moment of peril, and they both felt the weight of the day pressing upon them. Sharing one last, quick kiss, Lysander gathered his belongings and returned home. Elliott closed the front door behind himself, went to his bedroom, and undressed and set aside his clothes to wash properly before diving into a shower. His clothes didn't look to have been damaged from this maritime excursion, but even then, an outfit was a tiny price to pay in exchange for his beloved.
                         
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                        • Risukage

                          Risukage Existential Complex

                          Um, so, long story short, I was doing maintenance on my system, and about twelve hours later I'm trying to find a recovery disk to reload my operating system. It's a bit like doing the dishes and then having to explain to the police the dead body in the kitchen while the fire department puts out the blaze. Things just went very, VERY wrong. I should be back soon. ...I hope...

                          Update: a new boot drive and a fresh OS are on order, hopefully should have a functioning system tomorrow, and everything "as it was" the day after. We had planned to do an upgrade eventually, but not this soon, and not like this!
                           
                            Last edited: Apr 27, 2017 at 4:05 AM

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