Other [FanFic] Rose & Sunflower 3: A Different Perspective (Updates MWF) -Ch 48 [24 May]

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

  1. Minimanta

    Minimanta Existential Complex

    Don't you worry about repeating the old chapters, this is just as enjoyable to read the second time as it was the first! :D
     
      Risukage likes this.
    • Risukage

      Risukage Existential Complex

      //Popping out of town again for the weekend, going to have two tablet-updates, here's hoping nothing goes wonky. Yay.//


      As Lysander went down one hall to look for the storage room, Elliott had a look around the community center. Even though he had no experience with a professional band, he could see that there was plenty of space in this main room for all instruments involved. He heard a jingling of keys down the hall, so apparently Lysander had found the storage room. In no particular hurry, he strolled toward the corridor as Lysander successfully opened the room, turned on the light, and walked in. His yelp of surprise was unexpected, as well as him springing backwards with an impressive level of speed and agility, flattening himself against the wall. Sam walked over and inquired about his reaction, and Lysander's grin was somewhat embarrassed now.

      "Ah, heh. Spider. Big one."

      Sam disappeared into the room, and from Lysander's reaction, had apparently caught the spider and was trying to show it to his friend. As Sam emerged from the storage room, his hands cupped around something, Lysander sprinted down the hall, very nearly impacting Elliott, and ducked behind Sebastian.

      "What- Hey! The hell, Lys?"

      "Get him away from me!"

      Smirking, Sam approached the both of them, and though she wasn't in his direct path, Abigail still reached into her pocket and flipped open her butterfly knife, threatening him both verbally and physically. Sam had paused in his advance next to Elliott, who gave an indifferent shrug and had a look at what Sam had caught, not just to distract him from the others, but to ensure that the spiky-haired nuisance had not accidentally picked up a venomous spider.

      “Hmm. A regular orb weaver of some sort. Lots of those around here," he observed, and Sam giggled as his captive skittered around in the space between his palms. Once again he offered to show it to Lysander, who was quite shouty at this point about his lack of interest in such a thing, and was trying quite unsuccessfully to hide behind Sebastian, who was not the least bit amused. Sebastian's patience was nearly spent, and with a groan of irritation, he directed Sam to release the spider outside, who tried one last time to get a rise out of someone when he passed by Alex. However, the athlete, like Elliott, was curious but uninterested.

      Returning and showing his open hands to prove that he had discarded his quarry, he grinned again as he got close to Lysander, wiggling his fingers. "SPIDER HANDS!!"

      Once again Lysander got very shouty, but this time he grabbed Sebastian around the waist and picked him up, using him a shield. Sebastian's patience was completely gone.

      "Augh! Lysander Erik von Morgensonne, put me down!

      Elliott winced in sympathy as Sebastian grunted with pain, as his outburst surprised the taller man enough to drop him instantly on command, and Lysander blinked a few times as he sorted his thoughts and self. “Bloody HELL, ‘Bas, you wield the power of a full name like a tactical nuke. Sorry about that.” Abigail asked him if that was in fact his middle name, and he confirmed it as he helped Sebastian get up, though it was spelled with a "k" and not a "c." Elliott was barely able to hide a smile as he considered this new information.

      A name that suits you, I see, one belonging to a hero, who possesses energy and honor. Yet you wear your name with humility, preferring to support others than stand out in front.

      Lysander rolled his eyes at Sam, who had been oblivious to the fact that his full name had been in his contact information, and sighed as he crossed his arms across his chest. “If we’re done giving me grief over my arachnophobia let’s see if we can get things set up. I can start pulling out the equipment we need if everyone else wants to bring up the instruments from Sam’s house.”

      He couldn't resist it. Elliott felt a sudden urge to engage in mischief, and casually stepped up behind Lysander. “Are you certain you want to do that alone? There might be other things in there as well.” With a soft, quick touch, he brushed his fingers across the exposed skin between his choker and shirt collar. He expected Lysander to jump in surprise or something similar. What he didn't expect was for him to make a high-pitched shriek of terror. Immediately Lysander turned and slapped Elliott across the face with a full, open-handed swing, then realized what he'd done. Elliott's face stung from the strike, but strangely, it didn't hurt.

      Well then! I deserved that.

      Lysander tried to apologize, but Elliott burst into hearty laughter, doubling over from the effort of it, and had to sit down on the piano bench before his legs gave out. He wasn't the only one who found the situation to be hilarious, and Sam managed to gasp out the (shared) opinion that he screamed like a girl. Lysander regarded them all with confusion before he folded his arms across his chest again. "Fine, I’m just going to pout a bit until you’re all done having fun at my expense.”

      Almost unable to get control of himself, Elliott wiped his eyes with one hand and offered the other to his friend. "Come here, I'm sorry."

      Lysander's posture got even more stiff at his gesture. “Pouting, I said.”

      "Oh, stop that," Elliott replied, standing up to pull him over to the bench, "my sincere apologies, but I simply could not resist." He hugged Lysander around the shoulders, finally no longer in the grasp of giggles.

      Still stiff for a moment, Lysander sighed and sniffed with injured dignity. “...Fine. Just don’t do it again. I’ll slap you twice as hard next time,” he warned, relaxing into Elliott's hug.

      Elliott agreed to this, and ruffled Lysander's hair as he kissed the top of his head, much as he and Charles would do when soothing the other after an altercation between themselves. He saw Lysander's expression change again and worried that he'd gone too far. "Is something the matter?"

      Clenching a fist, he stiffened again in Elliott's hug. “I… I was just thinking about Harmony.”

      “Your grandfather’s guitar?”

      Lysander nodded. Along with the rest of his belongings, it was still in storage, but he had no way to retrieve any of it at the moment, lacking any sort of transportation. Considering this, Alex asked how much he had, and it turned out to not be a lot. It was just enough boxes to fill a 10x10 unit, as he had sold all of his furniture. This was satisfactory, apparently, as Alex did some mental math and spatial planning and guessed that as long as he could find the items he needed to secure the load, his truck could take it in one trip. Lysander couldn't believe his luck, and before he could find the words he needed to thank him, Elliott asked if his assistance would be useful as well. Remarking that the truck might not be comfortable for the three of them, Sebastian chipped in his help as well, as it would be a good day for a ride, and Lysander could go with him.

      Awed at the sudden outpouring of aid, Lysander was at a loss for words. “You all… It’s not a bother?" He yelped in pain as Sebastian stalked over and tapped him on the top of the head with his knuckles, and Elliott wasn't quite sure how to respond to this.

      “Doofus, I told you to drop the meek act already. We’re your friends. If we say we’re going to do something then we’re going to do it." He directed the two of them to start unloading the storage room while he and the others would go back to Sam's to begin breaking down gear. Alex was going to meet them there, but first he was going to get his truck so they could move everything up the hill in one go. With a whoop of delight, Sam promised to cover everyone's bar tab that night and was the first out the door, jogging briskly back to his house. Abigail, Sebastian, and Alex followed, albeit at a more relaxed pace.

      Turning to Elliott, Lysander folded his arms across his chest for the third time and pulled a face at him. "Still pouting, you know."

      "I am sorry, really, that-"

      "I'm giving you grief," he grinned, cuffing Elliott on the shoulder, "I'm miffed but not bothered. Technically that was kinda funny. I didn't hurt you, did I?"

      Rubbing a hand to his cheek to be sure, he shook his head. "It only stung for a moment, and even then I was surprised more than hurt. I deserved that, anyway. Let us get to the storage room, then. If you aren't comfortable poking about in there just direct me and I'll retrieve what we need."

      "...Thanks for not, y'know..."

      "We all have our fears, and yours is not unjustified. Let us work around your misgivings and make progress."


      By the time they had brought out everything that Lysander knew they would need and had begun laying out cables and wires, the rest of the group returned with all of the equipment from Sam's room. All of this gear made a very haphazard mess that nearly everyone eyed with trepidation, but Lysander already had something in mind and guided everyone with efficiency. Inside of three hours everything had been set up, although nothing was connected to power or sound. They sprawled around on the floor and the furniture, feeling both fatigue and exhilaration at their success that day.

      Standing up rather stiffly, Lysander stretched his arms over his head and looked around. “We’re good to go. This is our new practice area. Congrats, Sam, you’re on the way to being a rock star."

      "You are the best person ever," Sam grinned as he threw himself at his friend, giggling as Lysander staggered and gasped for breath from the impact. Everyone was exhausted but still up for doing something else, and the unanimous decision was quickly made to go to the saloon for celebratory drinks. As Elliott and Lysander passed by, Alex got their attention, but paused, unsure of what he wanted to say. Elliott prompted him to continue, and after hesitating a moment, Alex sighed and simply laid out his thoughts.

      “So, yeah. When Lys and I had our fight? It was because of you. I… I said you were basically a loser who dresses funny and he socked me for it. So…sorry.”

      This... I almost cannot believe this. We've never been able to see eye-to-eye on anything, and while we have not been hostile to each other, we were hardly cordial. But here he is, being the bigger person and admitting to an opinion that he now considers incorrect, and seeks to mend things. I have held an incorrect opinion of him as well, it seems, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be proven wrong and make a positive change.

      He couldn't help laughing a little at this, but for him, not at him. “To be fair, I do dress strangely compared to the rest of you, and I’ve not had much fortune in my work thus far, so your assertions were not completely incorrect. Despite that, I am not offended. Rather, I find myself respecting you more for your candor and courage of this admission. I look forward to a long-term friendship between us.”

      Alex appeared to be genuinely relieved by this, and offered a fist-bump to seal the friendship, which Elliott returned, though he was unused to the gesture. They caught up with the rest of the group, who didn't even realize that they'd fallen behind. Random chatter floated about as they walked, and then Alex took Sam up on his offer to cover his drinks, but cautioned him with a broad grin that it would likely eat at least two of his paychecks to do so. Lysander sassed this boast, and Alex called him out on his sass, doubting the musician's ability to out-drink him.

      “I outweigh you by, like, fifty pounds, bro.”

      Lysander shrugged and grinned sideways at him. “You do, but muscle mass isn’t the only thing that plays into alcohol tolerance; metabolism, body fat, genetic heritage, and what one has eaten that day can all drastically tip the scales in one direction or the other. And I can tell you right now, mate, that I can drink you under the table and still walk you home.”

      Going back and forth again, they made a bet to see who could win, and Elliott began to feel a bit concerned about this, but held his tongue while the two men shot mock taunts at each other. As they arrived at the saloon they decided that it was a simple challenge with a simple outcome: the loser had to do anything the winner wanted. Sam and Abigail appeared to be amused by this, and Sebastian and Haley were bored. Elliott, however, was even more worried, but still kept his silence, choosing instead to monitor and only intervene should something happen. He trailed Lysander and assisted with bringing back enough glasses for everyone, along with Haley, as the other man set three pitchers on the table.

      “I’ve grabbed the first round for everyone, but after this, you lot are on your own. But first, in celebration of what we’ve done so far, the hope of what will be, and the friends I have made and hope to know forever. To all of you.”

      It was a pleasant enough toast, and momentarily Elliott began to relax, until Lysander finished his glass in one go, turned it upside down on the table, and smirked at his "opponent." He sassed Alex again, who thought him funny until he took a drink from his own glass, then realized that Lysander had picked up a decent brew.

      “Damn, you don’t play around. I expected something lighter, not the good stuff.”

      “Getting worried already? Don’t worry, I promise to be a gentleman about our bet. You can take it as slowly as you need.”

      Sam was in no hurry and was enjoying his own glass as well as the show. “Trash talking on the first beer? You’re either super-confident or have an ace up your sleeve.”

      With a dismissive wave of his hand, Lysander leaned back in his chair. “How many times must I tell you? I never do anything partway.”

      Still slightly concerned, Elliott spoke up, if anything to test the proverbial waters. “Then I suppose it must fall to Sebastian and myself to be drink a bit more responsibly tonight as we are the only two strong enough to drag either of you two home." Sam gleefully warned Elliott to be careful, as he might find himself dragged all the way to bed if he did so, which earned a sniff and look of disdain from Lysander.

      “Tch. You wound me. Tonight you all are safe from my advances, as I have a very firm policy on not making love while drunk.” Another taunt of his inability to perform earned Sam an even sharper sniff and glare. “I have carefully cultivated a reputation for completely satisfying my partners, and when intoxicated it is all too easy to be sloppy and careless. A kiss, however? Well, I admit that I do find it pleasant to taste a drink from someone else’s lips."

      Elliott huffed a chuckle into his own drink at this audacious yet honest statement.

      He certainly doesn't lack for confidence, and I've no reason to doubt his words. Further, though it might be a front to uphold his reputation, it IS a good idea to avoid physical pursuits while intoxicated, as that can lead to questions that have no good answers.

      The off-handed remark from Sam that his romantic ambitions were bizarre was met with indifference, as well as the admission that for the moment, romance of any sort was not something he planned to entertain, as he had other business to which he wanted to focus. Once more Elliott hid amusement behind his glass, as from what he'd seen so far, once Lysander did attempt to initiate a relationship with someone, they'd be hard-pressed to resist his charm.

      Alex got up to get another couple of pitchers, and Lysander told him that he would cover this round as well. He punctuated his statement with a raised glass and the toast of "kanpai," which took Elliott a minute to remember as more or less the Japanese word for "cheers." Haley hadn't been paying attention and wondered when the topic had shifted to pie, and Lysander giggled at himself.

      “You know, cheers. Ah, right. I get a bit multilingual when I’m buzzed. I started nearly half a dozen languages but never got anywhere with them. Spent so many years in college, I wonder how many majors I’ve got all of the prereqs out of the way for. One of these days I’ll actually finish one of them.”

      Something about this statement intrigued Elliott but seemed a bit off, but he wasn't sure exactly what. Shrugging, he finished his glass and poured another, and it was Abigail's turn to bring the sass, asking how he just said he never did anything partway, yet never followed up on those courses.

      Oh, so she answered the question I had not yet figured out. That's what didn't feel right about his statement. It didn't feel like a lie, or even a mistruth, just a statement that didn't seem to fit.

      Sighing again, Lysander rested his weight on his arms atop the table. "That was less a lack of follow-through and more of a lack of focus. I did well in all courses that I took, but I drifted for several years as I tried to figure out what it was I was good at and wanted to do." His expression changed again, a little thoughtful, and somewhat regretful, as he slowly dragged a thumbnail against the empty glass. "And while I am a brilliant musician I’m rubbish at most everything else. I tried a broad range of classes in the hope of discovering some other talent that I could use to support myself, but… Muri da ze… Mmph, sorry. No matter what, it was useless, I couldn’t really do anything. Turns out I’m just a pretty face and voice.”

      Frowning a little, Elliott tried to parse the foreign phrase in the middle of Lysander's monologue.

      Japanese again. My comprehension is terribly rough, but that's a phrase I've heard a few times. Ah, "it is useless." ...I see. You aren't multilingual for a lack of control or coherency, it's so that you can express yourself but still remain hidden. So even now you do not feel that you can completely open up, that you must still say something but wrap it in something obscuring.

      Haley was next to question him, wondering if he at least had hopes or dreams, or at the very least, something that he wanted to do. Staring at the tabletop through the bottom of his glass and a small haze of foam, he thought about it and shook his head with a self-deprecating laugh. “Träume nicht mehr haben. No, I don’t, never really did. And it doesn’t matter. Ah, Alex, that’s the start of four? Well, tvoe zdorov'e.”

      That's German, so what was... Ah, yes. "I don't have dreams anymore." No? Then what is it that drives you? And that last one... Ah, a Russian toast, "to your health," as I recall. He is a courteous drinker, I must admit.

      His curiosity getting the better of him, Elliott tugged at this particular thread, wondering where it might lead, and if it might inadvertently reveal something that Lysander didn't intend. “You really don’t have anything you want? Isn’t there anything at all you’re searching for?” he smiled as he refilled everyone's glass with what was left in the pitcher.

      “...za lubov…”

      Elliott almost dropped the pitcher.

      "...For love." You aren't searching. You're running. I was right, you were hurt by someone close to you, and now you fear closeness from anyone.

      Despite his attempt to not reveal his knowledge, he asked Lysander to repeat himself. Fortunately, the other man was lost in his own thoughts and didn't notice Elliott's observation and attempted to change the subject. Elliott didn't protest this and helped guide the flow of conversation to something more engaging.

      Eventually Alex and Lysander were on their seventh glass each, and taking the moral high ground, Lysander offered to call it a draw. Alex was initially insulted by this, but his friend made the compelling argument that they'd had their fun, and that anything more would go beyond that and leave them both ill in the morning. They had business to take care of the next day, and Alex agreed that it would be unpleasant to have to deal with the contents of a storage unit while hung over. This filled Elliott with relief, as he hasn't been certain how to step in, and he was certain that he would have had to had they gone another glass.

      The merriment was paused for a moment when Lewis stopped by their table to hand Lysander the documents pertaining to running and maintaining the community center. The offer to return the keys was refused, and Lewis wished him luck with their work and took a seat at the bar, greeting Gus with a broad smile. Elliott felt a tiny pang of, well, not quite guilt, but not quite sadness, for Lewis seated there alone, remembering how they'd often talked together the previous year. But then, he hadn't talked to many other townsfolk, and Lewis had often said that he hoped that Elliott would find friends of his own age with whom he could comfortably socialize, so in the end, it was alright.


      Lysander and Alex had called off their drinking game and used the next couple of hours to sober up, while the rest of them finished the pitchers themselves, though slowly. The bar tabs paid, they left as a group, pausing outside to enjoy the cool night air as they said their goodnights. Alex and Lysander were going to meet for sprints in the morning, and the musician demanded that Alex hydrate before he went to bed, as they'd both had quite a lot to drink, and he wanted to minimize the chance of a hangover. This was met with the demand in return that Lysander get a decent night of sleep so that they could have a solid run together.

      Sam, being a bit shorter and having less mass that the other men, was feeling the effects of the alcohol much more heavily, and Lysander, continuing to look out for others, offered to walk him and Haley home, as it was en route to the farm. He also offered to help carry him back, as it was quite apparent that Sam would end up walking twice the distance everyone else did because so much of it would be lateral travel. Sam almost knocked Lysander over as he haphazardly threw his arms around his friend's neck, but gave no more trouble when the taller man got a grip on his legs and stood up. Well, no trouble until he stood, anyway.

      “Kick ass, I’ve got an epic mount. Hi ho, Sunflower, away!”

      Lysander almost lost his balance and shot his friend a glare from over his own shoulder. “Bloody hell, I told you to be careful.”

      Amused by the spontaneous tomfoolery, Elliott excused himself from their company, as he had a much farther distance to go than the others. Well, save for Sebastian, he wasn't sure which of them were farther at that moment. As he strolled off, he smiled to himself as he heard Haley remark that she quite enjoyed watching him depart, and Abigail agreed. He felt a quick tingle of warmth when Lysander echoed their opinion, and was very glad that he was walking alone.

      He is charming, clever, and an all-around delight to be with. I feel that I am becoming obsessed with him, and I must be careful in my future interactions lest I give the wrong impression. ...However... He searches for love but claims to have no interest in romantic pursuits. I wonder, is this love one-sided? Or does he instead seek forgiveness so that he is worthy of it? No, this is none of my business. If he brings it up I will ask, but otherwise, it is his matter to deal with and I shall not interfere.
       
        Last edited: Mar 10, 2017
        611, Minimanta and Alkanthe like this.
      • Risukage

        Risukage Existential Complex

        //Alex's and Elliott's musical tastes may reflect my own. Maybe. And yes, that DID happen; my friend and I were examining some satellite radio equipment at the store one day as we listened to what was playing, and saw that Tool, which we had listened to in high school, was now listed as "classical alternative." We're old. :(//


        Elliott was somewhat annoyed at being unable to write again for the day, but pushed it from his mind while he showered. At last he finally had ideas! He would be too busy again this day to compile his ideas, but he now had them, that was what was important. He would be able to sit about and write at his own leisure tomorrow. For now, he had promised to help Lysander retrieve his belongings from storage, and given his own anxiety at the thought of not having all of his books and other possessions when he was moving, he empathized with the musician’s situation. He only spared himself a quick minute for a cup of coffee (which he had set to steep before he took his shower) as he messaged Lysander to let him know that he would be on his way over in a few minutes.

        He felt rather good that morning, and dressed to reflect both it and the season; beige trousers and waistcoat, with a dark blue shirt to contrast. His style could be called pretentious, but then again, one could describe him as stylish. For now, though, he wondered if it would be suitable for shifting boxes, and decided that it wasn’t likely that anything would be damaged, just dusted a bit, and that was easy enough to launder. Lost in these idle thoughts, he almost didn’t notice Alex trying to get his attention.

        “Elliott, bro! Need a lift?”

        Finally noticing the sound of an engine behind him, he turned to see Alex pull up in his pickup, and gratefully accepted the ride. “This greatly shortens my travel, thank you,” he remarked as he buckled his seat belt.

        “S’all good, it’d be stupid for me not to help you out. Even though… You know…”

        “I understand. We hardly had good first impressions of each other, and our later interactions lacked any sort of common ground. I am grateful to Lysander for a number of reasons, one of them being that it gave me another chance to get to know you.”

        Chuckling, Alex downshifted as the road turned from pavement to packed dirt. “Yeah, I kinda feel the same. He’s a cool guy, just offering out of nowhere to bust his ass for someone and asking nothing in return. I mean, he picked a fight with me, but instead of being an asshole about it, he apologized and took full responsibility for it, and volunteered to train running with me. That’s… I dunno. I respect that. Oh, hey, is that Sebastian?” he asked, seeing a motorcycle slowing down in front of him.

        “I believe that it is. It appears that we should be ready to go shortly, then.”

        Lysander was scratching a ginger tabby cat behind the ears as they pulled up, holding a coffee cup in one hand. “Looks like we’ve all got good timing this morning, all we need is Elliott-“ He blinked as the person in question got out of the truck and grinned at himself. “Oh, never mind.”

        Elliott explained that Alex had picked him up partway there, closing the door of the truck as Sebastian took off his helmet. Shrugging, Lysander set aside the coffee cup, did a double-take as he saw Elliott, and then burst out laughing, sprawling on his back on the porch. Confused, it was Elliott’s turn to be perplexed, until he saw that Lysander wore colors similar to his own; tan cargo pants and long-sleeved shirt, with an overshirt in a brighter, more sapphire-blue. Lysander wondered aloud about the coincidence, and Elliott commented that they seemed to share a similar color aesthetic.

        “Which raises the issue,” Elliott grinned, “that normally etiquette demands that one of us go home and change, and we’re already at your place.”

        “Nah, can’t be arsed, we’ll be twins today. Just let me- Oh come on, Xander, you’re not helping.” As Lysander had prepared to get up, the cat hopped up onto his chest, licked his nose, and tucked its legs under itself, purring loudly in its “breadloaf” pose.

        “Who is your new friend?” Elliott asked, noticing that the cat looked somehow familiar.

        “This is Xander, and he’s already being a pain in my ass.”

        “Xander?”

        That’s a strange… Half a moment, aren’t all ginger cats male?

        “Ah, I see, clever,” he laughed as he caught the joke.

        And another half a moment, I have seen that cat before. Last year, when he was just a kitten with his mother and littermates, I passed them by when exploring this place for inspiration. I wonder how the others fare, but given that this one looks healthy and comfortable around humans, I suppose I shall assume that they are doing just fine as well.

        Alex had just picked up on the subtlety himself and offered to move him for Lysander, who shot him a look of concern. “Noooooo, I’d rather you didn’t.” It wasn’t that he was worried that Alex would hurt him, or vice versa, it was his own health that was in question, as cats that didn’t want to be moved very rarely did so without protesting in a rather painful manner. Instead, Lysander hugged the cat, ruffling his fur and ears and making silly talk at him, which offended the feline enough to get him to move on his own.

        “Well, we no longer match,” Lysander commented, looking down at his shirt, “since I’m now covered in cat fur. Good thing this doesn’t show up much on a tan shirt.” He excused himself to get up to put his empty cup in the sink and retrieve a helmet so he could ride with Sebastian, who was lazily smoking one of the flavored cigarettes. Returning with the safety item in hand, Lysander thanked them again for their help, especially on such short notice. They all informed him, although joking, that they had their own ulterior motives about getting out of town, which actually made Lysander feel better about the whole thing. He took Alex’s phone to put in the directions to the storage place in the city, then put on his helmet as Sebastian gave him a quick safety run-down. Alex and Elliott got back into the truck and headed for the main road, pausing a moment to ensure that Sebastian was following. They turned onto the road and followed the phone’s GPS instructions to their destination.

        Their travel was quiet at first until Elliott remembered something that he wanted to ask. “That’s right, you said that he is helping you with your running? As I recall you desire a career as an athlete.”

        “Yeah. I was captain of the gridball team back in high school, but haven’t done anything since then. I’ve been doing some weight training, but my cardio isn’t very good. I mean, I probably could have done it on my own like I do with the weights, but never really had the motivation. I was kinda in a slump for a while, then he came along and kicked me in the ass. Okay,” he laughed, “knocked me on my ass, but he picked me up right after and just…” He gave Elliott a bit of a dark look at first as the other man laughed, but then realized that it was agreement with his statement.

        “I understand completely. You saw my spiraling decline over the last year, and then, all of a sudden, he appeared and reached out to all of us. He was hurting- still is hurting-, and yet of his own accord tried to make things better for us all. For the first time in years I have the tools that I need to create my novel, and all it took was just a few conversations and suggestions.”

        Alex was silent for a moment as he thought about this and offered a small, friendly smile. “I hope you get published, bro, that’s a hell of a dream. I don’t even like reading much, so writing something? That’s gotta be pretty hard.”

        Returning the smile, Elliott rested his elbow on the door frame and his chin on his fist. “And while I am hardly the athletic sort, I wish you well in your own pursuits. I am in decent shape for the little I do exercise, so I respect the time and energy that you devote to your own dream. I think that, in return, we need to do what we must so that Lysander can achieve his desired success as well.”

        “Any idea what that is?” Alex asked, looking perplexed, “he just said something cryptic about wanting to support others instead when I asked him about what he wanted.”

        “I know little more than you, I’m afraid. Someone hurt him recently, and from what I am able to gather, it was someone for whom he cared greatly. However, I am loath to pry into private business, and he seems unlikely to open up about it any time soon. I want to respect his privacy, but at the same time it hurts to see him suffer when he thinks that we aren’t looking.”

        Once again, Alex was silent, and Elliott was impressed with his compassion. “If you figure something out, let me know. I dunno what it is about him, but I’ve just gotta help him out like he’s doing for us, y’know? Karma, or whatever. I dunno.”

        “Likewise, I lack the words, but I share the sentiment.”

        The trip to the storage facility didn’t take very long, and once Lysander had let them in and guided them to his unit, the process of emptying and loading all of the boxes was also a swift affair. He had no furniture of any sort, just boxes, and according to Lysander, most of them were books. Elliott suddenly wanted to inspect them, wondering what he had in his collection, if they shared similar interests, and if there were any that he’d wanted to read but not had the opportunity. Like his earlier thoughts that morning, he shoved these to the side as well. There was work to be done, and he could explore Lysander’s collection once he’d had the time to properly do inventory and put them away.

        As Alex secured the load with tarps and tie-downs, Lysander walked out with the last item, which everyone else had left for him; a rather battered guitar case, which he held onto as though he were afraid to let it go. He handed it to Elliott by the strap, as none of them wanted to risk it on the back of the motorcyle or truck, and almost didn’t let go when Elliott carefully took hold of it.

        “Sorry,” he apologized, looking a little embarrassed, “just had a moment… Harmony and Resonance are probably the only two things I have that actually mean something to me. Everything else in that unit and house… They’re just possessions. Those two, though, they’re, well…part of me, I guess.” Elliott’s smile seemed to reassure him, and he returned it, looking a little less hesitant about parting with the precious item. Securing it in the cab between himself and Alex (also with one of the seat belts, just to be sure), Elliott buckled his own belt as Lysander went to close out his account at the front office, after which he donned his helment once more and mounted up behind Sebastian.

        Travelling back, Alex and Elliott went through the radio stations, trying to find something upon which they could both agree. It wasn’t that they disagreed on musical choices so much as they had a surprising amount they liked in common, as well as that which they didn’t like. Alex wasn’t much for classical, where Elliott was terribly picky about pop, but they agreed that it was difficult to go wrong with classic rock music. They also agreed that alternative had some decent bands, although Elliott pointed out (and Alex agreed with a laugh) that some bands being labeled as “classical alternative” made him feel somewhat old.

        It took much less time to unload the truck into Lysander’s home than it had taken to put it in the truck, and Lysander directed them to stack them in the living room, where he’d go through them later when he had the energy. Elliott put Harmony on the kitchen table, as that seemed to be the safest place for it at the moment. There was still quite a bit of time before practice, which Alex was keen to attend, as he was interested in learing to run the soundboard under Lysander’s tutelage.

        “Well, this was an unexpected ‘arms day,’” he grinned as he tossed the tie-downs into the back of his truck, “and I’ve gotta take care of one or two things before we get started at the community center. I’ll see you all there later."

        Lysander hugged him, confusing the other man, who returned it as if he were worried that he’d break his friend. “Thanks again, Alex, you have NO idea how much I owe you for this and yesterday’s equipment run.”

        “No worries, bro, you running with me makes up for it. See you in a bit.”

        “Yeah, see you.” He watched Alex drive off, then joined Elliott and Sebastian in the kitchen, who were having a look around his home. “Hey, want a coffee while we wait to hear from Abby and Sam? Might as well relax here.” They agreed to this, and three cups were made and poured. They took seats at the table, and both Elliott and Sebastian noticed that Lysander was very carefully looking at them and not Harmony. Finally, the writer sighed and set down his cup, gesturing toward the instrument. “Go on, we both know you need to.”

        Lysander stammered something out, and Sebastian nudged him, reclining comfortably. “Like a bandage, just rip it off. You clearly want to open that case. Get it out of your system.”

        Clenching his fists on his thighs, Lysander shifted his gaze away from the both of them. “…I just don’t want to…in front of…”

        “I said it yesterday and it appears that I must say it again today,” Elliott soothed, “we’re your friends.”

        Biting his lip, Lysander considered this and nodded, shifting in his chair to open the latches on the case. Where Resonance was beautiful black lacquer, Harmony was a rich maple-gold with a dark rosewood neck. As Lysander shifted the instrument to slip the strap over his head, Elliott saw the word “Harmony” written in gold pen, the same way it had been on Resonance. Elliott held his cup in both hands, watching quietly as Lysander removed the pick from the frets, the way he stored the one for Resonance. He shared Lysander’s look at how badly it was out of tune, but the musician found his inner peace as he hummed the correct note for each string and quickly matched the sound. Then he hesitated again, the pick hovering over the strings, lost inside of his own mind again. Without thinking about it, Elliott reached for his hand, and that small bit of support was exactly what Lysander needed. Inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly, Lysander found the mental strength he needed and began to play.

        This song… It was the same one that he had played on Resonance, but the sound was different. Harmony sang in a different voice, and Elliott could hear the years and memories in its tone. He watched Lysander’s face and saw both the joy and pain, and how they fought within him for dominance. Joy won out, but at a cost, and Elliott saw the ache that the memories had left behind. Biting his lip again as he blinked back tears, Lysander put Harmony back on the table.

        “…Sorry, it still hurts. That sound, it’s…”

        He stood up to leave the room, but Elliott intervened, gently taking his hand again. “It will for a while, but don’t run from it, that will only make it worse.”

        He saw that Lysander had been holding the pick so hard it had made an impression on his palm as he dropped it on the table. Wrapping his arms around his friend’s waist, he hid his face in Elliott’s shoulder, looking both embarrassed at the intimate act but also grateful for someone who could offer it. “I just…need a hug for a moment, sorry.”

        A little surprised, but pleased, Elliott held him close, providing the mental and physical support that his friend needed. “Don’t be, take the time you need.”

        Sebastian knew what Lysander was thinking and feeling, and pointed out that they both knew he was hurting, from both his grandfather and the reason that he’d come out to his family home. They understood his situation and that it was difficult to face, but he would need to do so eventually. He wasn’t alone. Sebastian fell silent as he finished his coffee, having said his piece, letting Lysander have the space that he needed. It wasn’t very long, however, and shortly his hug grew a bit stronger in thanks as he stepped back and sighed, looking much better.

        “Sorry… Thanks. I needed that.” The sunny smile began to return as a thought occurred to him. “Heh, that’s one of the reasons why I prefer dating guys, we’re taller so we give better hugs.” As he said it he realized what he had implied and turned a bit red, embarrassed once more, but this time for his friend. “Ah, not that we’re dating, just that…just saying…”

        I shall treasure your friendship always. Your energy and honesty have been a welcome light in my life, and I would protect that with all of my power. Let me find a way to repay you for all that you have done.

        He ruffled Lysander’s hair playfully and reassured him again, understanding the context, and Sebastian directed him to go to Elliott for affection, as it “wasn’t his thing,” and they were “taller than I am anyway.”

        Lysander had found his mischief again and agreed, punching him in the shoulder. “That works for me, you’re not cuddly enough. You’re too emo and prickly.” He laughed at Sebastian’s indignant reply and picked up his coffee cup, draining it in one gulp before leading the way to the door. They had stuff to do at the community center before everyone else arrived!
         
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        • Risukage

          Risukage Existential Complex

          //Sorry that the quality on these last two chapters is a bit lacking. It's been a VERY long Reserve weekend (four days, whoooo), and I was busy until late at night most evenings. Plus, the barracks wifi crapped out, so I had to go out and about to upload tonight's work. Gah! I suffer for my art... :rofl://


          They weren’t alone at the community center for long before they were joined by everyone else. Lysander had found tape with which they could secure the cables to the floor once they had been hooked up to something, and was already tearing off small strips to momentarily secure them as they figured out what needed to go where. Chatting idly as they moved, connected, and adjusted things, there were several small conversations going on, until Sam lamented that they still weren’t sure what sort of genre they’d be, and Lysander offered a few, save for one.

          “And as much as it would be hilarious to try to do an idol group since those are fairly popular right now, we’re all playing instruments, so we won’t be able to dance, and I’m sure that Sebastian isn’t interested in learning.”

          Sam perked up at this, asking him if he knew how to dance, and Lysander affirmed it, remarking that he’d done a lot of theater and that his mother is a dance instructor. With a small chuckle of satisfaction, Elliott took the roll of tape from Lysander and handed it to Alex, who needed it for what he was working on.

          Ha! I knew it, he moves with too much elegance and grace to not have some form of training. He had mentioned his history with theater and music. His father a musician and his mother a dancer. How delightfully eclectic, I must ask him further about this, I’ve no confidence for dance myself, but at the same time I respect the art.

          Naturally, Sam’s next question went risqué, asking if she knew how to pole dance, and everyone did their best to ignore him. Lysander’s look of “really?” matched his tone. “Just for me, take that question, and replace my mother with yours.” This suggestion produced a few funny looks from the rest of the group, but its effect on Sam was priceless, as his sunny grin slowly faded and was replaced with a mask of horror. His wail of despair was even more amusing, as he held his head in his hands.

          “I can’t un-see it! You have ruined that forever for me!”

          Lysander shrugged with indifference, but anyone looking closely saw the quirk of a smile at the corner of his lips. “You started it, I finished it.” When Sam grumbled that he just thought the idea of him knowing how to do that would be funny, Lysander shrugged again. “I never said I didn’t.”

          …What?...

          Elliott paused and mentally re-played the reply as Sam gave his friend a confused look. “What. Did you date a stripper or something?”

          Shaking his head, Lysander retrieved the roll of tape again and tore off a few more strips of varying sizes. “No, just a biology undergrad. Though I helped her out with more...anatomical studies.” He giggled to himself at the memory and handed the roll of tape to Sebastian. “But anyway, she took a class because it’s actually really good cardio and strength training, and it gave her amazing abs.” Pausing again, he tapped a finger to his chin as he thought of something. “Funny thing is that the hardest part of learning was just finding heels in my size.”

          He… Light help me, I am trying so very hard not to be lecherous, and yet…

          Elliott wasn’t the only one who was now completely drawn in by the conversation, and also wasn’t the only one listening with their mouth half-open, wondering if they really were hearing what was being said.

          It took Sam a moment to find the words he wanted. “…You have heels,” he finally said, for a lack of anything else to say. Lysander confirmed this off-handedly as he taped down cables, commenting that they were a cute pair in beige with chunky heels, that would likely match Haley’s aesthetic. The grin returned as Sam came to grips with the situation and asked if he still wore them. Initially Lysander replied in the negative, before he thought about it again and corrected himself.

          “Wait, there was that one time when I paired them with those low-rise jeans and the t-back thong.” He giggled again at this memory and smirked to himself. “I totally ended up winning that bet.”

          Sam was of the opinion that one would do that for a losing bet, but his request to know more was rebuffed with the statement that this particular story had a three-drink minimum, and it was up to someone else to pay for it. Then Abigail’s hope that photos existed as proof were met with yet another moment of thoughtfulness.

          “I’m pretty sure that I do.” Muttering aloud to himself as he pulled out his phone, he scrolled through his photos, trying to remember the timeframe, and smiled as he found what he was looking for. “Ah, here we go, this one and two more.” He passed the phone to Abigail, and both she and Haley gawked at it. They were impressed, but Haley almost seemed to be insulted that he looked almost as good as a woman as she did, although Abigail did compliment his bottom in those jeans, which earned the reply that he’d heard that before, but it also had a minimum drink requirement for which he was also not going to pay. Alex was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable with the conversation, just confused, and remarked that he couldn’t not listen.

          Abigail thrust the phone in his face, looking quite serious. “Well, take a look at this and tell me that you wouldn’t tap that.” Alex protested loudly as he took the phone (so he could see it properly), and did a proper double-take as his jaw hung open. He agreed that Lysander made a “pretty cute chick,” but had no idea how he’d pulled off the effect.

          Apparently he’d done quite a bit of theater, as he described the use of cosmetics to change the colors, contours, and shape of one’s face with subtlety, and in particular had used blush, bronzer, and a bit of highlighter. He grimaced a little as he remembered having a hard time finding red lipstick that wouldn’t clash with his hair, and had eventually gone with a neutral color, which matched the brown mascara and eyeliner, as black was too harsh with his skin tone and color of hair and eyes. Grabbing the phone from Alex, Sam matched his amazed expression, and Elliott almost felt embarrassed when he involuntarily whistled with impressed approval.

          Nobody called him out on it, though, as Sam piped up with a comment that nobody was expecting. “Dude, no wonder I kissed you last night, you’re hot.” This complete absurdity caused Elliott to laugh heartily (although he did feel a small twinge of jealousy that confused him), but he was the only one, as Alex, Haley, and Abigail all gave the spiky-haired man the same look of confusion. Sebastian seemed amused, rolling his eyes, and Lysander put his face in his hand, shaking his head.

          “You what?” asked Haley, “how long were you two out there after I left?” Sebastian suggested that everyone should just ignore him, as he couldn’t be serious, even though it was funny to see him snark on Lysander like that. A little unsure of how to explain it, Lysander said that no, Sam really had kissed him, but he hadn’t initiated or encouraged it. It was Sam’s turn to shrug, affirming this, and remarking that it had been interesting, but he wasn’t likely to do it again. Unsure as to whether he wanted to know or not, Sebastian asked him why he’d done it in the first place, which produced another shrug.

          “I just wanted to know what it was like.”

          Elliott lost track of the banter for a moment as he took both the phone and a moment to study the photo in better detail; Lysander’s hair was loose over his shoulders, the same length as it was currently, going almost to the middle of his back, but he’d not yet had his bangs cut. He did, however, have it tucked back neatly behind his left ear with a couple of simple gold-colored clips. There was a rather impressive (and alluring) amount of exposed midriff between a black crop-top shirt and the jeans that barely went over his hips, fitting snugly against a very nice figure that was somewhat hidden under the much looser clothes he now wore. What did go over his hips, though, were the strings of the thong, drawing no small amount of attention to that part of his body, but somehow without looking trashy or tacky. He also looked surprisingly comfortable in those heels, which shifted his stance enough to give him a very effeminate posture that looked remarkably natural. Elliott felt a small flutter of something in his stomach at that smile; still soft and warm, still touching his eyes and bringing light to their hazel color, and still completely recognizable as “him.”

          Sam was reeling from a rather impressive turn-around of a clever innuendo by Lysander as Elliott returned the phone back to its owner. “For what it’s worth, you made that look both sexy and classy," Elliott commented, "no mean feat there.” Lysander seemed to be flattered by this, and hastily changed the subject, noticing that everything was ready to go. They all went to their equipment or instruments, and Lysander began to give directions and suggestions, then caught himself, chuckling in embarrassment. He apologized for taking over, as it was Sam’s band in the first place, but he wasn’t bothered.

          “S’okay,” Sam replied, picking up the electric guitar, “you’ve worked with a real band and done stuff live before, so you take lead on it for now.”

          Encouraged by his friend’s confidence and permission, he suggested the song that they’d first practiced together in Sam’s room, and Elliott pulled the sheet music for it out of a folder that had been provided to him a few days prior. He’d had a little time to look over it but not practice, but strangely felt confident enough to sight-read it. It wasn’t as though he’d not heard it before, and he knew the lyrics as well, so it was just a matter of doing it himself. Sebastian led off with the intro, and he was promptly joined by everyone as their part demanded. They sounded quite good! Lysander hadn’t been working with them long, this was the first time that Elliott had performed with others, and Alex had never before run a sound board. Despite this, they already had synergy with each other, and Elliott heard Sebastian join in on vocals, something that didn’t happen often, judging from the look of surprised delight on Sam’s face.

          They had sounded excellent together, and Sam almost couldn’t contain his enthusiasm. Sebastian and Abigail were likewise impressed, and Lysander’s grin was warm and energetic. This was going to work! Elliott turned around on the piano bench to observe the rest of the group as he thought to himself. He’d never had the confidence for public performance of any sort, but this had been fun, and he could see himself be comfortable performing for others in the company of his friends like this.
          Sebastian remarked that they’d sounded okay as the three of them in Sam’s room, but something about this location just inspired true musicianship for them, especially with the addition of Lysander. “Maybe we just needed a change of venue to make it ‘real’ for us. Some place we could really cut loose and open up without disturbing anyone.”

          Agreeing, Elliott voiced the opinion that he’d not worked with others before, but despite his novice level of skill, he had performed with competence in their presence. Sam flashed him a sunny smile and told him that he was wrong, he had sounded great, and that he was not only going to keep him on permanently instead of just for the one song, he wanted to do more vocal pieces with him as well. This blunt honesty gave Elliott a rush of satisfaction; he’d never been complimented like that before (or in such a manner), and he knew that Sam meant every word. Abigail also liked what she’d heard, but echoed the earlier comment that they still didn’t know what they were going to sound like.

          The grin nearly split Sam’s face in two. “It’s gonna sound like this.” Elliott was impressed by the sudden improv of Lysander’s song in a rock anthem style, but it was nothing next to the sheer amazement that Lysander wore. Having already learned his friend’s song, Elliott joined Sam, supporting the wild, energetic guitar with stately chords that were a stylistic counterpoint. It was infectious, pulling in Sebastian next, then Abigail. Lysander had set down the bass to pick up Resonance, entering the song as the powerful intro finished, striding into a musical declaration.

          They’d only heard the song yesterday, and despite that knew just what to do, just how to harmonize with and accentuate each other, passing the melody and backup to each other as though they’d done it for years. Elliott couldn’t see the others from the way the piano was angled, but he could hear and feel the energy that filled the room.

          I understand now, the bond that ties together performers. That love of a medium and the stage, regardless of its subject matter. All of them are artists, and I find myself awed not only by their skill and deep love for what they do, but the selfless trust and respect that they have shown in giving me a chance. I must do my best, and work as hard as I can to surpass what I am now and ascend to something greater. I am not yet at their level, but I will be. …Yes, I can be so much more, because I have people who believe in me. Lysander, you do not yet know what it is that you have done, not just for me, but for all of us. Some day I will repay every one of you, though I may always be in your debt.

          The song ended, with triumph and energy. Elliott could still feel the vibration of the lingering sound as they looked at each other, feeling flushed with excitement and the sudden group harmony. Sam looked both smug and excited, still wearing that grin. “That’s what we sound like.”

          Nobody replied for a moment, until Lysander let out a breath that he didn’t recall holding, and returned Sam’s smile with his own soft one. “Yeah, it is. That sounded… You all already know my song. I… Thank you.”

          He put Resonance on its stand as Sam set aside his own guitar and hugged him around the waist. “Dude, you are the coolest big brother ever. We’re gonna be awesome, and you made it happen.”

          Setting aside the headphones, Alex stepped away from the soundboard and held a shoulder as he rotated it, feeling a little stiff. This had been good practice, but he was feeling a bit tired already, and everyone else could also feel the adrenaline wearing off. Sam proposed that they pop off to the saloon again for a quick bite and a couple of drinks, and Sebastian questioned whether or not it was a good idea to make a habit of this. They all were rather hungry and tired, it was true, but they also agreed that Sam had a point.

          “As long as we don’t get crazy we’ll be okay,” Lysander remarked, “and besides, it is a bit late. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t have the energy to cook tonight. We’ll behave ourselves in the future, but right now I think we can all afford to splurge one more night.”

          “Yeah, makes sense,” Sebastian replied, putting his hands in his pockets as he considered it, “I mean, mom’s cooking, so it’s not like it’s a problem for me, but I’m still having a good time and don’t really feel like going home just yet.”

          Abigail put down her drumsticks and stood, stretching with satisfaction. “Same. I’ll message mom and dad so they know not to expect me tonight. I’ll make it up to them by cooking tomorrow.” This seemed to tip the scales for everyone else in favor of one more group night out, and they took a few minutes to power down what shouldn’t be left on, secured a few items, and turned out the lights, after which Lysander locked the door and headed south toward the saloon with the rest of his friends.
           
            Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
            Alkanthe and Minimanta like this.
          • Tagraneya

            Tagraneya Guest

            I haven't fully caught up on the story, but I just finished Vox Arcana. Fell in love with the story and how you incorporated so much magic.

            Looking forward to see Stardew Valley from Elliot's point of view. Only two chapters in and already can't wait to get to chapter 19
             
              Alkanthe and Risukage like this.
            • Risukage

              Risukage Existential Complex

              //So another writer and I were talking the other day about what kind of drunks most of the SDV characters are. We seemed to have pretty similar opinions. Sam=cuddly, Sebastian=mellow, Haley=giggly, Alex="I Love You Bro," Abigail=naked, Elliott=chatty, and Penny doesn't have a drunk state because she's a sweet cinnamon roll that doesn't touch alcohol. What are your intoxication headcanons? :)

              Speaking of headcanons, it is my personal canon that for fragrance preferences Elliott wears Aqua di Gio, and Lysander alternates between Sunflowers By Elizabeth Arden and Dior Addict 2. I own all of these and they are LOVELY.
              *BIG HUGS.* Thanks so much, sweetie. I'm an engineer and a realist, and the way so many magic systems are done just frustrates the hell out of me. I get science and physics up in my mystical arts, darn it! :D And you're not going to see this comment until you get to now, so hello from the future, it's nice here! :rofl://


              Unlike the previous night, there was no boasting or taunting, only the heady sense of excitement, though it was mostly from Lysander and Sam. Elliott wasn't surprised, as Lysander was the most accomplished musician present (as far as he knew, anyway), and it was Sam's project in the first place, so such an initial success had to be quite satisfying. Not being a musician, Haley didn't seem to be as energetic as the others, but she had still enjoyed the music, and had taken a fair number of photos, which she seemed keen to review as soon as possible.

              Same as the previous night, they found one of the largest tables in order to accommodate everyone, and grabbed a couple of pitchers of beer to go around. This time there was far more in the way of food, as though they weren't famished, none of them had eaten that much today, and it had been a strangely strenuous task getting everything set up. Finally slowing down after devouring his fourth slice of pizza (combo, which he and Alex shared and Lysander refused to touch, picking up pepperoni for himself and Sebastian), Sam leaned back in his chair and sighed happily, sipping his beer.

              "I keep saying it, but this is gonna be totally awesome. We just...damn, dude, that sound we had. I still feel all tingly and stuff. It's weird to think that it's really happening now, and it's thanks to you," he grinned nudging Lysander, who was slowly working on his third slice, "I gotta find a way to thank you one of these days."

              Shrugging, Lysander refilled his glass and took a drink. "You can do that after we get our first gig. Until then, we're just still a bunch of itinerant musicians messing around. I think we'll be okay, though, once we get some more stuff written and really nail down our sound and image we'll deal with that."

              "Makes sense. Still, gonna totally be optimistic about this, no reason not to, y'know?" He paused to glance over at the jukebox when the song playing on it changed and grinned wider. "And I totally call BS, dude, you said that you can dance, and you've definitely got some moves, but I'll believe it when I see it."

              Amused at being so directly called out, Lysander wiped his hands on a paper towel. "Fine then. Pick the music."

              "Seriously? You're gonna do it?" Sam asked, his mouth wide and showing all of his teeth.

              "You really think I'll be too shy to do it? Oh Sam, you're precious," Lysander giggled, patting him on the head, "soon you'll learn that I'm damn near impossible to embarrass. Go on, pick something and I'll show you how it's done, that way you can't accuse me of cheating by doing the one thing I know."

              "Oh wow, you are on. Be right back, then."

              Sam pushed back his chair and got up in one fast, fluid motion, trotting over to the jukebox and prodding the display. It was completely digital, no mechanical parts, so it had a very impressive library of music, which was almost wasted on the small town and its limited musical taste. Lysander got up, strode over to the dance floor, shifted his weight to one leg, and put a fist on his hip as he flashed Sam a grin of his own. This began to generate interest and attention, not just from their table, but the rest of the patrons, as it was Friday and therefore one of the busier nights. Then Sam cackled and poked a button, choosing the song, which made a number of people look up in surprise.

              Laughing heartily, Lysander's grin got cheekier as he shifted his weight to his other leg. "Really? We're doing it like this? Fine, then I really get to show you how it's done!"

              The song that Sam had chosen was a newer, popular tune, due in no small part to the very provocative dance that the vocalist performed in the music video. Even if people didn't like the artist, it was difficult to have not heard of it or seen the video due to simple pop culture osmosis, through internet memes, social media, and other avenues of digital interaction. Even Elliott, not fond of this sort of music, was aware of it, and his jaw dropped as he realized not only what Sam had selected, but that apparently Lysander knew it, and was prepared to dance it in the middle of the crowded saloon!

              Oh, this was going to be a disaster, they were going to be reprimanded or asked to leave after this. People danced to the music on the jukebox all the time, but nothing this indecent. The other members of Sam's group looked amongst themselves as they saw the entire room's attention focus on Lysander, who settled into the starting pose, waiting for his cue. Sam flopped into his chair, snickering to himself. The intro finished, and Lysander flowed into the dance.

              All other activity in the room stopped.

              Where the original video was sexually charged and very nearly erotic, the way in which Lysander moved was elegant, somehow managing to look skillful and artistic. He sang along as he danced, completely immersing himself in his performance, putting on a show to entertain and inspire. Elliott continued to watch, absolutely captivated, and he wasn't the only one.

              He has always moved with such grace, but this transcends that. He translates sound into motion, and I cannot look away. What should have been something that would be uncomfortable to view has been turned into something I need to watch. Guitarist, vocalist, dancer... We have been gifted with a muse to guide and inspire us, and I do not know if we are worthy

              Sebastian whistled quietly to himself and glanced over at Elliott. "He is pretty damn good, isn't he?" he asked Elliott, who suddenly realized that he'd been staring, but Sebastian didn't think anything strange of it. "I don't do dance, or anything athletic, for that matter, but I can respect the hell out of his skill. That's not an easy one to do, and he's making it look classy."

              Alex agreed, holding his glass in both hands as he watched with professional interest. "No wonder he's able to keep up with me on the run, that's gotta take crazy endurance to do."

              Elliott half-expected Haley and Abigail to be watching with a different sort of interest than the rest of them, but like the others, they were much more invested in what he was doing, rather than how. Even Sam watched with an impressed look on his face, not the least bit bothered that his prank had been turned around like that. Refilling his drink, Elliott sipped at it and put his chin in his hand as he continued to watch Lysander's routine.

              When it was over, he was met with applause, and took a small, simple bow of thanks for the appreciation. Emily darted around from behind the bar and bounced on her toes. "Oh, tell me you can do other stuff, too!"

              "I can and will. Name it," he smiled, and laughed softly as Emily went to the jukebox, pulled up a lively swing tune, and returned to the dance floor, taking his hand. Robin and Demetrius were one of the few couples that routinely danced, and Lysander and Emily found themselves joined by the older couple, and Sebastian barely stifled a groan (but still rolled his eyes) at his parents being embarrassing like that, and Haley did the same for Emily. Elliott and the others watched their friends again, vicariously enjoying the fun that they were having on the dance floor. Despite being a writer and not a dancer himself, Elliott observed their moves and compared them against his own mental notes, as he had learned some forms of dance when growing up, but had very little practice at it. Perhaps it would be worth his while to learn...

              When this song was over Sam leaped up again and queued up a couple more songs and ran over to Lysander, who was just freed from a hug of thanks from Emily before she returned to her bartending duties. "Dude, you have got to show me your moves. That was totally cool!" Laughing again, he agreed, and they were immediately joined by Abigail, who had just chugged the last of her own beer.

              "We'll start simple," he said, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops, "both of you face me and mirror what I do. Yeah, I'll be doing it 'backwards' for your benefit so you won't have to worry about trying to 'translate' it for yourselves, okay? I'll do something, then you two do it right after. Don't worry about going fast at first, just get used to the footwork and rhythm of it, then we'll pick up the pace to match the music."

              He drilled them on a few basic moves, making them do one a couple of times until he was satisfied that they had the gist of it before going on to the next one. After they'd picked up a few different steps he showed them how to string them together. They were rather quick learners, and even Elliott had an idea of what to do just from watching. A quick glance at Sebastian told him that he wasn't the only one learning from a distance, and Elliott wondered if the other two really were that quick on the uptake, or if Lysander was just that good an instructor.

              By the time the first song had ended he seemed to be satisfied that his protégés knew enough to try it in time with music. "Right, you two know how to do it, I'll call out the moves for you, and you make them happen. I'll throw in some new stuff, just to see how fast you catch on." They had learned fast, and Lysander was that good an instructor, as Abigail and Sam stood side-by-side, facing Lysander, easily keeping up with his commands and looking very confident with their abilities. "Great! You two are naturals. C'mon, use those hips, girlfriend! You too, other girlfriend!" He laughed again, encouraging them while being powered by their energy.

              When this song was over he waved them off, smiling happily. "I'd love to do this all night, but I still need something more to eat. That was still brilliant, though, I haven't had this much fun in ages." He sat back down next to Elliott, giving him that smile as well that sent a tingle of warmth through the writer, who returned it without thinking. "You seemed to get a kick out of that. Want a go next time?" he asked, only partially serious.

              "Not in public, no," Elliott replied, refilling his glass again, "but perhaps you could arrange private lessons. I lack your courage for public performance at this time, but respect your talent. And your skill, by the light! You've done this long, have you not? Only one who dedicates themselves so wholly to the arts can move as you do, with beauty and strength."

              Lysander was quite flattered by this, but there was something a little off about Elliott's cadence of speech and particular word choices, and he tapped him on the arm. "Thanks, but... Here, do me a favor, follow the tip of my finger with just your eyes." Confused but amused, Elliott complied, and Lysander sighed, though he still smiled. "You're proper buzzed, mate, how much have you drunk tonight?"

              Glancing into his glass, Elliott did some mental math and came up with a variable that could not be successfully substituted into a constant. "Um, yes."

              "...Have you had anything to eat?"

              "Um, no."

              Laughing brightly, Lysander got up again. "I'm going to snag you something from the bar, then, since pizza doesn't seem to be your thing. It's not going to help you much later tonight since it would have cushioned what you were going to drink, but it's better than nothing. Also, I'm walking you home tonight, just in case."

              "That is a welcome offer but unnecessary," Elliott smiled, draining his glass (for the last time), and sat up a little straighter out of surprise when Lysander leveled a dangerous hazel glare at him.

              "I'm bloody well walking you home to make sure you get there safely and don't have a raging hangover, and I'll have no arguments about it. Be right back."

              The rest of the table was also caught aback by this, and as usual, Sam piped up with his usual cheek. "I hope you're a better kisser than I am, he didn't seem too impressed last night."


              Once everyone had finished their food and drink they departed, filtering out one by one. Sam and Sebastian were the only ones left when Elliott and Lysander were leaving, and waved as they got up to leave. The cool night air was welcome and refreshing, and Elliott breathed deeply of it as he matched Lysander's stride, albeit somewhat unsteadily.

              "Your offer truly is welcome," he again remarked, "but I will be just fine, I do not want you to put yourself out by going so far. You do live quite a way away from my home."

              "And I said that I'm bloody well walking you home, mate," rebuffed the copper-haired man, giving him a sidelong look, "because I'm your friend and I care. And also because I care I'll take you up on that offer for private lessons at some point. Not many people want to learn, so I'm happy to instruct anyone who's interested."

              "Your altruism is appreciated," Elliott chuckled, "and to be taught by one so skilled and confident would be delightful. I feel as though there is nothing that you cannot do when you are sufficiently motivated."

              It was Lysander's turn to chuckle as he shook his head. "That's nice of you, but I'm not that good. I mean, I'm not bad, but it's not like I'm totally brilliant at it, y'know?"

              Suddenly annoyed, Elliott stopped short, grabbed Lysander's arm, and tugged sharply. He was pulled off-balance and stumbled as he regained his footing, collapsing into Elliott and wrapping his arms around his neck for stability.

              "What-"

              Elliott put an arm around his waist and held him close, gripping him firmly by the chin with his other hand. "I have had enough of you speaking ill of your abilities, and you will not do so ever again in my presence," he growled, "it is one thing to be modest about one's self, but you are talented in many ways and I will not allow you to state anything about yourself that is any less than how brilliant you truly are. Have I made myself clear?"

              Mouth open, Lysander was silent at first. "...You are unbelievably hot when you're commanding," he finally said, then turned quite red as he realized what he'd blurted out.

              This wasn't exactly the answer Elliott had been looking for, but between that and the alcohol in his system he found it satisfying enough for the moment. "Close enough, let us away lest we be here all night."

              He had noticed a few things with Lysander so close, like the scent of his cologne, which he hadn't picked up on earlier. But it was a bright, rather floral scent, which one would normally associate with a perfume, not a cologne. He followed that odd thread of thought and considered the difference between the two and what they meant, and felt Lysander elbow him gently.

              "Hey, what's on your mind?" he smiled.

              "Your cologne, or is it perfume?" Elliott said, furrowing his brow, "it is assumed that men wear cologne and women perfume, but it is also assumed that the former is often more spicy and musky, while the latter more floral and sweet. What you wear is somewhat between the both of them, and to be honest, I wonder if the terminology is split upon a gender-specific basis and not a compositional one."

              Again there was that merry laugh that made Elliott feel that warm butterfly-tingle, as well as the accompanying smile. "I get you, I sorta wondered the same thing once. Technically, it's perfume, but I loved the citrus-and-floral smell, and it really works well with my body chemistry. Thanks. For what it's worth, yours is nice, too. Very clean and fresh."

              They conversed about this the rest of the way back, and after Elliott let them in and turned on the lights, Lysander made a straight line for the kitchen. "Take off your shirt, I'll get you a drink."

              "I...pardon?" It wasn't an unreasonable request, and Elliott strangely didn't feel embarrassed about the prospect of partially undressing around him, but the command was unexpected and unusual.

              "I'm getting you a glass of tomato juice," he replied, grabbing a couple of glasses from the cupboard, "you had some food, which is good, but you drank enough that you've probably depleted some salts, electrolytes, and vitamins. Tomato juice is pretty good for replenishing that, and it also stains like crazy, so I'd rather not risk having to get it out of those nice clothes you wear just in case one of us gets clumsy."

              Elliott considered this and nodded, fumbling at the buttons on his waistcoat as he strolled to the bedroom. "You raise valid points all around. Under normal circumstances I'd feel rather silly in that you need to be such a stern voice of reason, but this isn't normal for me, and instead I feel grateful that I have a friend that looks out for my well-being like this."

              It took him longer than usual to undo the buttons on the front of his shirt, and when trying to remove it suddenly remembered that he'd forgotten to undo the ones on his wrists. Sighing to himself, he sat down on the edge of the bed as he was joined by Lysander, holding two glasses as he stood in the doorway. Also under normal circumstances he would likely have felt self-conscious about being observed like this, especially in his own bedroom, but right now, he was more focused on buttons, and upon removing his shirt, tried to toss it over a chair, which he missed completely.

              "I'll get that," Lysander offered, handing Elliott a glass. He picked it up and draped it over the back of the chair as Elliott carefully drained his drink, already feeling quite a bit better. Passing back the empty vessel, he saw that Lysander had likewise finished his own and walked back out to put the glasses in the kitchen. Elliott ran his fingers through his hair and sighed as he took stock of his physical state when Lysander returned.

              "I shall have to make this up to you. I can feel the alcohol's effects starting to fade, and though I would not have had a hangover in the morning, I would not be feeling completely myself. Thank you, Lysander, you are a considerate friend and a dear companion."

              That warm smile again, the one that touched his eyes, appeared as Lysander leaned against the door frame. "You too, mate. Get some sleep, I'll be back over tomorrow some time if you want me to check in on you, just in case. Not sure how good you're feeling, or if you want to be bothered if you're writing."

              "I would welcome both your presence and ideas. Already you have shown me new possibilities, and I would see if there are others that we can uncover."

              "Sure thing. I'll see you tomorrow, then. G'nite."
               
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              • Minimanta

                Minimanta Existential Complex

                I pretty much agree with your intocication headcanons, except for Sebastian who actually doesn't drink. He's one of the few characters in this game who hates alcohol. Unless he's one of those people who drink alcohol anyway even though they don't like it. In which case I also agree with your headcanon.
                 
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                • Risukage

                  Risukage Existential Complex

                  ...
                  I had totally forgotten that he doesn't like booze. He was always one of the first and easiest to befriend, so I can't remember when I last looked at his character page for gift info. Heh! Well, I figure that he's not the type to get smashed off of his ass, but probably likes a little bit of one or two particular things, just enough for the relaxing mellow, and that's it, but not often. Probably a pint of Guinness or its equivalent, as he likes coffee, so would possibly enjoy the smoother, darker, and richer palette of a stout beer than a hefeweizen or pilsner. Like me, I LOVE a good stout! And, like me, IPAs are RIGHT OUT. :p
                   
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                  • Risukage

                    Risukage Existential Complex

                    //This is one of the chapters that I've been so eager to write, and I'm damn near giddy that I've finally gotten to it. It's one of those ones I sorta wanted to do back in book 1, but didn't have the confidence or skill to pull off. Also, the musical that Elliott references is this universe's version of Les Misérables, and Lysander had the role of Enjolras, performing "Do You Hear the People Sing," because damn if that song isn't iconic, and I totally believe he'd nail that character. ...You know, as in he'd totally be brilliant in that part, not- Oh sod it, we all know that he'd shag him, he's cute. :p//


                    Elliott laced the fingers of one hand with Lysander’s, the other supporting his own weight as he leaned down to nibble his ear, making Lysander gasp. That lovely, copper-red hair was a bright contrast against the sheets, somewhat disheveled and tousled. Lysander reached up with his other hand to knot his fingers in Elliott’s blonde locks, kissing him on the cheek. Shifting a bit so he could move his hand, Elliott ran it slowly down Lysander’s body, from his shoulder to those hips that he for so long had desired to touch, and-

                    -Blinked at the light streaming in from the bedroom window. Confused, he raised himself up on his elbows, recalling that he’d been dreaming, but what was it-

                    Oh gods, we were-!

                    Despite being alone, he turned bright red with embarrassment and put his face in his hands.

                    By the light, I cannot believe… How indecent! He’s a friend, not a… Well, granted, his performance last night was alluring, and he is quite attractive and free with his charms, but still, there’s no call for these sorts of thoughts. …He could have pressed the issue last night; I was receptive to a number of suggestions, and if he had suggested anything physical I’d have accepted it. I very nearly initiated it myself, to be honest.

                    Sighing, he rested his arms on his knees with his shoulders slumped.

                    That dance, I cannot get that moment out of my mind. The fires of his passions consume me, and I dare not tell him. I shall put it from my mind, there is work to be done. Besides, he has stated that he is not pursuing a relationship, and we have only known each other less than two weeks. I should get to know him better first.

                    That last thought caused him to almost trip into the dresser as he stood up. He wasn’t seriously thinking about- No, he was simply being lecherous, that was all. His…physical reaction to his dream was proof of that. He’d deal with it in the shower…


                    A few hours later he put hot water in the press with the coffee and pulled out a mug from the cupboard. On second thought, he pulled out another one, just in case. Lysander had said that he might drop by, and it was around this time of day that he’d visited before. A knock at the screen made him chuckle to himself, and he turned to cross the room and allow in his guest.

                    “So you were able to make it down after all. Once again I must thank you for your care last night. I am doing much better than I would have on my own.”

                    The same smile as last night returned. “Glad to hear it. I felt a bit pushy, telling you what to do, sorry about that, but I was a little worried.”

                    Elliott returned to the kitchen and pulled the cream from the refrigerator as he prepared to pour the coffee. “Quite alright, and to be honest I believe that I got a little pushy as well. My memories are somewhat hazy, but I do remember everything. I recall that we had an interesting conversation on the way back, what did we…” He had just poured both cups and set down the press when he gasped and put his hands over his face. “Ah! I cannot believe that I- I am so sorry!”

                    Laughing, Lysander set Resonance against the table and joined Elliott in the kitchen. “It’s quite alright, you meant well and were right, to be honest. And it was interesting to see that side of you come out. I didn’t expect that at all. Thanks,” he said, accepting a mug from Elliott and strolling over to the bookshelves, “I really do downplay my skills, and I need to stop doing that. I’m quite good at what I do, all of it,” he grinned, winking at Elliott before turning his attention back to the shelves, “and I should really take more pride in it. Oh! You read these, too?”

                    “Hmm?” Elliott picked up his own cup and walked over to see what Lysander was examining. It was the magazines in which he’d been published. “Of a sort, why do you ask?”

                    “I’ve been reading them for a while. They publish a lot of new writers, so it’s a great place to pick up on authors that I might want to follow. Not everything is good, but most of it is, and I totally respect someone putting their work out there like that. I just play what others write, so people who can make things deserve to be recognized. You know, I think this was the first one that…” He pulled out the first magazine in the series and set his mug on the table to flip through it. “There’s a new author I’ve been reading that I've quite liked, I think that they started in this issue.”

                    …Wait, does he mean…

                    Elliott suddenly felt a bit light-headed. “You mean that there’s someone that you’ve been reading continually?”

                    “Mm-hmm,” he nodded, flipping through the pages to get to the story he was looking for, “you can definitely tell that they’re new, but they’ve got a lot of skill and great ideas. They just need a bit more confidence in their writing. Here it is- Wait.” He looked at the title of the story then glanced outside. “…’A Legend from the Gem Sea.’ Isn’t that…” It was now that he saw the name attached to it, and looked up at Elliott with surprise. “No WAY.“

                    Unsuccessfully hiding a smile behind his mug, Elliott nodded. “That is the ‘small success’ I mentioned before. So far I have had a short story publication every month, but…”

                    “I love your work!” Lysander laughed, almost causing Elliott to drop his coffee, “you were already good but I could see your writing evolve and improve as you gained confidence. And experience! Oh, this is too funny. What are the odds?"

                    He laughed again and traded the magazine for his coffee as Elliott smiled at his compliments. "This is quite the amusing coincidence, and I never thought that I would meet one who was interested in my writing. At least, not until I had written my novel, but until I met you, that seemed to only be a dream, not a reality. And do not sell yourself short on this point, either. You may not create stories but it does take a significant amount of skill to tell them."

                    "Heh, yeah, that's true, too. I really did get a kick out of working with the Players, I really should get in contact with them again."

                    "Players?"

                    Sipping his coffee, Lysander sat down on the piano bench and nodded. "Oh, right. I did a lot of freelance work, so to speak, with smaller theater groups growing up, but the last ten or so years I've been a part of the Grand Company Players. You've likely not heard of us-"

                    "I love your work!" Elliott exclaimed, now the one to be amazed by the other person's past, "the Players do some of the best performances I've seen. Your musicals have the best choreography and composition as well. Two summers ago you did my favorite- Half a moment," he gasped, seeing a grin form on Lysander's face, "don't tell me that you were a part of it?"

                    In reply, Lysander set aside his coffee, stood up, and closed his eyes, relaxing as he exhaled. When he opened them again his posture and demeanor had changed, transformed into the character he had played. To Elliott's delight, he performed the first chorus of the song for which that character was known, and applauded when Lysander's familiar smile returned.

                    "Brilliant! I remember you now, you played that role to perfection. Your death was beautiful, and- Oh, I'm sorry, that sounds rather bad, doesn't it?"

                    Chuckling, Lysander returned yet again to his seat and picked up his mug. "No, I totally get it. Too many people try to be overly dramatic or whatever, and it's supposed to be poignant and tragic. All of that optimism, bravery, and hope for the future. He fights for high ideals and a better future but in the middle of battle is cut down, unable to see the future that he helps bring about. I auditioned specifically for that role, you know, and while the rest of the Players are good, I don't think anyone else could have done it better."

                    "Now that is the confidence I want to see," Elliott smiled, tapping Lysander on the nose, "and I agree wholeheartedly. It very nearly brought me to tears, that honest portrayal, I felt a connection with the character that some actors might not have had the skill to establish."

                    Resting his elbow on the edge of the piano and his fist on his chin, Lysander's smile got softer and warmer. "Thanks. That really means a lot. Actors get both a lot of applause and grief, but it's usually the lead roles that everyone loves and remembers. I always picked the support roles because they just don't get enough attention and respect. And speaking of both, wow, I can't believe that Sam picked that song last night. I'm glad that I knew it so it wouldn't look like I was just bragging, but damn, it was difficult to make that look classy instead of erotic."

                    "You somehow managed both," Elliott replied without thinking, then gripped his mug tightly, embarrassed by his admission. "Ah- That is, I have not done much dance myself, but I could see how and what you did and why, and as someone who is a fellow patron of the arts I understand the difficulty- Not that I- Oh dear." He put his mug on the table and his face in his hands again, turning bright red.

                    Just shut up, you'll only embarrass yourself further.

                    "You know how to dance?" Elliott looked up to see Lysander's face lit up even further by a broad smile. "You said that you wanted private lessons some time. Either you are the one who needs confidence, or you have ulterior motives."

                    The smile became a little suggestive, and Elliott turned even brighter. "I- That is, yes, I do know some, but not properly trained as you, I just learned a bit here and there, and... Oh sweet Yoba I feel a fool." He hid behind his hands again and heard the creak of the piano bench as Lysander stood. Peering up from behind his hands once more, Lysander stood in front of him, wearing that warm, inviting smile and holding out a hand.

                    "Show me."

                    At first Elliott hesitated. He wasn't a good dancer at all, and he'd not done it in years. Besides, it was so embarrassing-

                    Wait, why was it embarrassing? To open one's self to another in such a manner that leaves one vulnerable? That was called trusting someone. Lysander was the one person that he knew he could implicitly trust. Almost cautiously, Elliott reached out and accepted Lysander's hand. It was warm and strong, but still gentle, and he squeezed Elliott's hand in support before helping him to his feet. Unsure as to what he should be doing, he felt the wave of butterflies again as Lysander put his hand on his hip and took his other hand in his own. He'd been thinking about that all night, and then this morning with that dream, and now he was actually touching him, oh gods... Then his concern was forgotten as he realized that Lysander had given him the lead position, not sure what to make of it.

                    "Ready? Oh, I suppose we'd need music," Lysander remarked, tapping the fingers of his free hand on Elliott's shoulder, "and a dance. Heh, I'm such an airhead now and then. How about a basic waltz? Easy enough." His mouth dry, Elliott could only nod, and felt the tingling rush again at that smile. Closing his eyes, Lysander began to hum his song. For a few seconds, Elliott was paralyzed with indecision.

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

                    It had been several years, so he was a little clumsy at first, but Lysander moved smoothly with him, somehow able to guide even though Elliott was technically the one leading. Eyes still closed, he continued to hum, providing a guiding tempo and beat that Elliott could follow. After a minute he began to get the feel for it again, and in an unexpected moment of confidence, tried to push his own limits. Lysander was the skilled dancer, but that didn't mean that he couldn't try to surprise him, didn't it? Despite his best efforts, Lysander matched him effortlessly, flowing and moving with him as though they'd practiced together already.

                    He hadn't felt like this before; the desire to push himself beyond his limits and challenge a partner- an equal-, to really let himself go and have fun. Carefully avoiding what there was of furniture in the room, he allowed his steps to get more dramatic, using all of the available floor space. Lysander stopped humming to laugh happily, flashing him that sunny grin that he instinctively returned. Even without an external song, Elliott moved with the memory of the music. He was lost in those bright hazel eyes and that smile, and the dance only ended when Lysander threw his arms around his shoulders, hugging him with gratitude.

                    "Thank you so much, I haven't been able to do that in ages. We've got to do this again some time."

                    Returning the hug, Elliott allowed himself to take in all of his senses; the color of that fire-red hair, the scent of his cologne, the warmth of his touch, the sound of his laughter...

                    I fear that I am falling for you, but even more terrifying is not having you near. This light, this life, this love that you feel and share, I have experienced nothing like this before. Light burn me, I am being consumed by your fire and I will not have it any other way. You took such a risk opening yourself up to me, and in return I have done the same. We are both so much greater for it. I almost wish that this moment would not have to end...

                    "I have no obligations today," Elliott hedged, "so if you still have the time for a little while..." He wasn't certain how to continue the thought, and as always, Lysander saved him the need to do so. Hugging him again, he pulled out his phone, tapped a few things, and brought up some music. "Style change?" Elliott smiled, and Lysander returned it.

                    "Keep up!"

                    Swept up in the energy, he took Lysander's hand again (this time feeling no concern about his other hand on his friend's waist) and immediately flowed into the steps he could remember, followed and yet guided by his partner.

                    Elliott got no writing at all done that day, but he didn't regret a moment of it.
                     
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                    • Tagraneya

                      Tagraneya Guest

                      Goodness, you are an Engineer? No wonder I love your stuff. I LOVE science and figuring out things work. Though I don't think I would have the patients to go for an Engineering degree. Hello from the present! ;)

                      My favorite drunk headcannon would be the wizard. In my mind he comes out of his shell and starts doing random acts of magic. Changing peoples hair, making the mop to the work all by itself, etc.
                       
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                      • Risukage

                        Risukage Existential Complex

                        Heee! <3 Specifically, I'm a network engineer (the internet is SO FREAKING COOL YOU GUYS), but I'm also one in the general sense in that I love examining and tinkering with the universe at large. I've not actively studied physics, but I'm keenly interested in it and its sub-fields (astro and quantum in particular), and have a possible near-future sci-fi book in mind in addion to the high-fantasy-high-tech series I've been messing with for a few years. I'm quite sure that Sebastian and I would get along brilliantly; Maru is cool, but I'm crap at theory and experimentation. I am, though, good with my hands and maintenance, and have taken some coding courses, so we could easily spend an afternoon working on software, adjusting stuff on his motorcycle, or pwning d00ds in a tabletop game. :D

                        LOL. I love it, I hadn't considered him, but yeah, I totally see him breaking out the crowd-pleasing cantrips and just going wild. *High five.*
                         
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                        • Tagraneya

                          Tagraneya Guest

                          Oh you would get along with my DnD friend. She is in university studying all the coding/computer stuff. She has sent me a couple examples of what she does and it scares me just a little. :rofl: You have to be dedicated to learn all that. I am more of an examining and experimenting type of person. I only have a two year degree in Science from the local college near me, but anything about the human body or animals was fascinating. The labs anatomy and physiology were my favorite. Chemistry was fun but it just wasn't the same.

                          Personally, if your book has even an inkling of your writing style in the fan-fics I would go ham on those books. For example, the last Harry potter book-- I read that in one day. I would do that to your book. So if you do write it, I think it would sell fantastically. As for the two half-siblings, I think you would make them work together in a more streamline/friendly fashion by being in their life haha.

                          *high five*
                           
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                          • Minimanta

                            Minimanta Existential Complex

                            *Peeks in 'cause science*
                            Sounds like you guys need a chemist in here? Well here I am :D
                            Technically not a chemist, but I love chemistry. Everything about it, it's so much fun to work in a lab. I also really like microbiology and, completely unrelated, paleontology.

                            Currently going to school so I, in 5 years time, will be able to call myself a scientific laboratory technician. I've said it before and I will probably say it all my life, science is awesome.

                            ...Would anybody be surprised if I told you I instantly liked Demetrius because he has a effing home laboratory :p
                             
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                            • Risukage

                              Risukage Existential Complex

                              //
                              LOL. Coding is less scary and more raging that "THIS SHOULD BE WORKING WHY WON'T YOU COMPILE YOU RUBBISH PIECE OF- Oh... I used the wrong punctuation on that one line. Fixed it. :-\"

                              *Blushes.* Once I'm back in a job (and I finish this series, dear GODS this has been running a while) I need to sit down and have a go at both series I've had in mind; a near-future sci-fi story, and a high-fantasy high-tech world that's been my pet project for about a decade now, but has been mothballed while I take care of Life Stuff And Things. No shit, about 80% of the characters in R&S are expys or have traits from the characters from that latter series, so getting the chance to "test run" them like this has been amazing for helping me flesh out both them and the world they're in. :)

                              *Laughs.* I get you. I'm rubbish at bio and chem, so you both have a leg up on me. Hell, pretty much all of the life sciences were cool, but I struggled with. Math, though, I took it all the way to Integral Calculus before I dropped the course to make room for stuff I DID need for my degree. And the lab that Demetrius has? Awesome. The hubby wants his own lab of sorts as well now that we have a house, but it would have to be multi-purpose, 'cause he's, well, not a Renaissance Man because that's not quite it. He's more the "can do a bit from every branch and do it well, often dangerously." :rofl:

                              Anyhoo, no other commentary today, I had a good weekend to mellow the hell out, and started up a new SDV save. ...Once I finished doing some texture merging for some skin mods I'd downloaded. Ended up devouring all of my RAM (16GB, impressive) doing something stupid, so I just went to bed 'cause it was 4am. Woke up to error messages on the lines of "I ran out of memory, what the f**k were you doing, dumbass??" Everything sorted itself out and I didn't have to do anything or reboot. Huzzah. :p//


                              Lysander returned the next day at the same time, and as before, Elliott had coffee prepared.

                              “You don’t need to wait on me,” Elliott remarked as he poured them a cup each, “just come right on in. My door is always open to you.”

                              As was his new habit, Lysander leaned Resonance against the table. “Well, if you say so. It feels a bit weird just barging in, though. I mean, what if you were getting changed or something?” he joked, and Elliott chuckled as he handed over a cup of coffee.

                              “Then it would be my fault for leaving the bedroom door open while I did so.”

                              “I guess I’ll have to visit unexpectedly some time,” replied the musician, earning an amused smile as Elliott sat down at his laptop.

                              “Once wasn’t enough the other night?”

                              “You think I wouldn’t be interested in seeing you like that again?” Lysander smirked, leering at him as he sipped his drink. “Though the next time I’d rather you be in full control of yourself, I almost felt like I was taking advantage of your state.”

                              “As would I,” Elliott replied, with a similar smirk, “but perhaps the situation could be reversed. Turnabout is fair play, you know!” As he said it he suddenly felt a bit silly and cleared his throat as he turned away, taking a long sip of his coffee.

                              “You really aren’t used to flirting, are you?” Lysander grinned, sitting on the piano bench and resting one ankle over the other knee.

                              “I-! No, I am not. My apologies, that was forward of me.”

                              “You are just too much, y’know? That wasn’t forward at all, you were sassing me right back and I’ve missed that. The only other person who can do that so far is Sam, and he’s just not as sophisticated as you are. Abby kinda can, too, but I get the feeling that it’s to rib Sebastian in a roundabout way, and he's almost no fun at all. Just say whatever’s on your mind, mate, you can say anything around me.”

                              Setting aside his coffee mug, Elliott considered this. “I shall try. It is not normally in my nature to be so bold around others, particularly if it might give the wrong impression. It feels as though I am taking far too much a personal interest in someone, and in addition, I lack your confidence, and... "

                              With a warm smile, Lysander stretched his legs in front of himself and crossed one ankle over the other. "No, it's alright, I get you. For me, it's not so much about being 'attracted' to someone as it is a way to make someone else feel good about themselves. I was being a bit theatrical and cheeky the other day at the park, but I really do like making someone smile. So if it means being a bit goofy or playful at the same time, well, sometimes it helps them because they know that they can accept the honest compliment but not worry about other overtones. Or undertones. Whatever, I need another coffee," he muttered, staring at the scant drops in the bottom of his mug.

                              "I will pour for the both of us, as I likewise require a refill. But I think I begin to understand. You are taking an interest in someone, not in a romantic sense, but in one that is vested in their well-being and sense of self. Do I have the gist of it?" he asked, and smiled at Lysander's nod while he prepared the last of the coffee from the press. "Perhaps I shall have the ability to do so myself, but I simply do not know if it is in my nature. When I present a compliment I do so with as much honesty and clarity that I can offer so that one knows it is genuine."

                              Huffing a light chuckle, Lysander took the fresh mug with thanks and took a welcome sip. "Fair enough. It works, I'll be the sassy tease and you'll be the refined gentleman. What a pair we'll make!" His eyes momentarily crossed as he considered something and laughed heartily. "And again I come back to that vocal duet. Damn, you sounded good! And those lyrics, oh wow, that was brilliant. Now that I know who you are it's no surprise that you've got the skill you do."

                              Elliott felt a small jolt of panic at this. How had Lysander discovered his past? He wasn't hiding anything, but at the same time he was trying to make it on his own, and-

                              -Oh, right. The short stories. Of course. Fortunately, Lysander hadn't noticed his discomfiture, which he disguised behind making himself a bit more comfortable in his computer chair. "No flirting this time? How do I know if it's genuine?" he asked, meaning it in jest, then realizing that it could be construed as rude. His unease was dispelled in the light of that warm smile, and he realized that he'd mirrored it without a second thought.

                              "It's actually pretty easy to tell whether or not I'm genuine," Lysander remarked with a shrug. At Elliott's prompt to continue, he smirked over the rim of his mug. "Easy. If I'm smiling I'm probably not being completely serious."

                              "It is rare to see you not doing so."

                              "There you go!"

                              Elliott laughed heartily at the grin that split his friend's face. "I find that all too easy to believe, which is why I feel the need to treat it with the proverbial grain of salt. But as you have reminded, that song in the park was unusual for me. I am unaccustomed to and unskilled with improvisation, and that moment surprised me more than any of you. If it is not an onerous request, I would ask your assistance when you have the time. You have been-" He cut himself off as he realized what he was about to say.

                              Shrugging, Lysander switched the position of his feet and shifted on the bench. "Easily, I've got time in the late morning and early afternoon. What have I been? You were about to say something. What's on your mind?"

                              Biting his lip, Elliott was almost unable to meet that soft hazel stare. There was no teasing or mischief in it, only curiosity, and he wondered if admitting his thoughts was going too far. Clearing his throat, he looked into his mug, hoping that the dark liquid would give him the clarity that he needed.

                              "You...are a muse to me," he admitted, finding the words slowly coming to him more easily as he continued speaking, "I had been lost in a rather dark fit of depression for several months when we had met, and to be honest, I was at the lowest point I had ever been in my life. I had considered not attending the festival at first, but hearing of your story from Lewis, I was intrigued. Perhaps before I knew it myself I saw a tale that I could use to weave my own epic. It is a selfish thought, I admit that freely. I did not know what to expect, but you caught my interest immediately; everything about you was a mystery and I wanted to learn more. For the first time in months I was genuinely curious about something." He took a long drink to ease the dryness in his mouth, and then smiled at the next memory.

                              "And then you stood up and recited those lines flawlessly! I had to join you, if anything else because I needed to see what would happen next. Such a strange, brilliant young man. Enigmatic and charismatic, but hiding behind a mask for reasons I could not discern. After we parted ways and I returned home I realized that I had been given the seed that I needed to grow the tree of my novel. I feared being over-eager in meeting you again, but to my relief it was you that approached me. The few times that we have been able to work together I have been gifted with such inspiration as I have only been able to dream of before."

                              "Which muse am I?" Lysander asked, that smile barely touching the corners of his eyes, "I am a dancer, but also a musician. However, you are a writer, and it seems that that's where you needed your ideas." He waited for Elliott to reply, and chuckled as the author turned a little red at some inner thought. "I trust you, mate, I told you that already. Talk to me, which one am I? I'm proper curious now, you can't leave me hanging like this!"

                              His gaze flickering between Lysander and his coffee, Elliott hastily drank the last of his brew and stood up to pace back and forth, holding the mug between both hands. "Apollo. God of the sun, music, poetry, healing, and more. More than simply a muse, you were a light that I did not know was missing from my life and illuminated a path that I did not before know existed. I fear that I may have been somewhat obsessive in our early meetings, for which I apologize profusely. It had been a very long time since I felt the urge to write like that, with ideas that I could not transcribe quickly enough. You brought me back from a very unpleasant place that terrifies me now that I have the ability to examine it from a distance. Thank you."

                              He paused to put the mug on the table and saw that Lysander hadn't moved. Concerned that he'd finally gone too far, he turned to him, ready to offer any words that he could to mend the situation, but realized that the silence wasn't negative. That smile completely lit up his eyes, and that radiant warmth and gentleness... Oh gods, Elliott felt a little weak at the knees.

                              Lysander set aside his mug, stood up, and hugged him firmly. There was no need for further words, Elliott could feel it in his friend's touch; he understood the honesty and gratitude, and shared it himself. He'd never seen Lysander smile quite like that before, and he felt as though he'd been missing something very special his entire life. There was also something about Lysander's posture, the way his fingers dug into Elliott's shoulder, and he guessed that something he'd said had touched something very deeply within him. Not a nerve, no, but there seemed to be some kind of relief or comfort that, while subtle, hadn't been there before.

                              Kissing him on the cheek, Lysander stepped back a little and then grimaced at himself. "Damn it, sorry, shouldn't have done that."

                              "Why not?" Elliott asked, surprised by but not averse to the act of affectionate gratitude.

                              "Because...I didn't think that you'd be comfortable with it," replied Lysander, looking away, "and here I am getting up in your personal space without asking. I already did it to Sebastian and I still feel bad about it. Trying to break this habit, sorry."

                              With an amused sigh, Elliott tapped him on the nose. "If I did not like it then I'd have told you so earlier. It isn't that I'm uncomfortable with it, it's that it isn't in my nature to initiate such contact. Do not hold yourself back or change yourself because of me. I am glad that you can find yourself again in this town. Be yourself."

                              The smile returned a little and Lysander looked away again. "Yeah, I guess so. I'm too much of a flirt, and it is a bad habit that I really do need to- Ah!"

                              He jumped a little as Elliott flicked at his ear, the same way that he and Charles would do to each other when they were being particularly bothersome. "I have already told you twice now, stop that! That is a part of you and you are my friend. If there is something that I find to be troublesome then I shall inform you, but until then carry on as you are."

                              Giggling, Lysander put his fists on his hips. "You really are hot when you're being commanding."

                              "And you are a gleeful nuisance that I tolerate for your brilliance and insight."


                              They talked for a little while longer before Lysander ran off to take care of errands, and Elliott sank back into his computer chair with another smile. Lysander really did bring a cheerful energy with him wherever he went, and after every visit Elliott felt himself inspired to write.

                              Opening his laptop and then a document file, he leaned back in the chair and laced his fingers behind his head as he sorted out the tangle of ideas that were filtering in at a rapid pace. An idle thread of thought went back to the day at the park, and that was the one that he grabbed onto. That vocal battle, it had been fun, but that off-handed comment... "Two beings of power, competing for the attention of a lovely woman, determined to prove that their method is the best." He stared at the ceiling as he let his thoughts sort themselves, and they began to do so neatly, arranging themselves into structure, plot, characters, and more.

                              Yes, this will work. He said it in jest, but it was exactly what I needed. Light help me, you truly are my muse, and I will do anything to assist you in your own success.

                              Sitting up straight, he began typing, slowly at first, then quicker as his fingers caught up with his thoughts. He had a couple of false starts; they weren't bad, but not quite what he was looking for, and he saved those files as "notes for later." This draft, however, yes, it felt right, this was the one. He worked on it for several hours until he felt the pang of hunger, and at a glance at the clock on his taskbar, realized that not only had he not eaten at all that day, it was extremely late.

                              Making a quick snack to tide him over until the morning, Elliott ate quickly as he undressed, now feeling the exhaustion that had been held back by enthusiasm. Tossing his pants over the back of the chair (he'd hang up everything neatly tomorrow), he turned out the lights and barely remembered to plug in his phone before sliding under the sheets. He yawned deeply, rolled onto his side, hugged a pillow to his chest, and dozed off before the light on his phone's screen could shut off.
                               
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                              • Risukage

                                Risukage Existential Complex

                                //I freakin' LOVE tormenting Elliott like this. I'm such a bad person, I know, but c'mon, Lysander is so good at what he does and he knows it, and it's so much fun writing the interactions I've headcannoned since book 1.//


                                Despite going to bed later than he normally had, he still managed to wake up five minutes before his alarm was set to go off. Disabling the alarm, Elliott got up to shower and dress with greater speed than he had in quite some time. But then, it had been quite some time since he'd felt this energetic and had so much that he wanted to write...

                                Scrubbing his hair to just past "damp" and combing it quickly, he grabbed his earrings from the side of the sink and put them on as he strode to the main room. He opened the laptop and the document file he'd been working in when he had gone to bed, and tapped out a couple of quick sentences that had just come to mind. Then another, and a few more, and without thinking about it sat down to write for at least an hour before he remembered that he had wanted both food and drink that morning.

                                The coffee steeped in the press while he made two fast slices of toast, buttered them, and prepared a mug of coffee with swift efficiency. He returned to his workstation with the small plate and warm mug and continued to write until he heard a polite knock on the door. As he looked up, Lysander let himself in, knocking the sand off of his boots before he entered.

                                "Hey mate, looks like you're busy already. It appears that my influence precedes me," he grinned, resting Resonance against the table, and laughed at a sudden thought, "and I rather like the 'Apollo' comparison. Skilled strings musician and vocalist, warm and brilliant personality, epitome of the beardless and athletic youth, I can see it!" He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and turned his gaze over to Elliott, who felt a small flutter of...something at that stare. "You know, it would make you look a bit old now, but I bet you could totally rock a beard once you're in your 40s or something. All dignified and stuff. Right now, though, you've got that great 'casual bachelor' look going on and it really works for you."

                                Elliott wasn't quite sure how to follow this. Lysander was smiling, yes, but it wasn't that cheeky, flirty one that he'd had most of yesterday, it was contemplative and honest. "I... Thank you," he finally replied, enjoying the compliment, "I had sometimes worried that I would appear to be too formal, but you aren't the only one who has stated that my appearance matches the style that I had sought."

                                Waving a hand dismissively, Lysander grinned again, but this time with a hint of mischief. "Pfft, if someone doesn't get your aesthetic then they're not worth talking to. You're not a fop or a twit, you're just a little posh, and a lot refined. You take pride in and put effort toward looking presentable, but you don't spend a lot of time or money on it, and you're not obsessive. I respect that. Hell, look at me, I just found a way to be comfortably lazy. Not like I'm trying to impress anyone, right?"

                                You weren't trying, but you succeeded anyway. I wonder what will happen when you truly put your mind and energy into a project.

                                Finishing his coffee, Elliott made a non-committal shrug. "That is true, but you still have some level of pride in yourself. Regardless, as much as I am enjoying this conversation, I require a refill so that I can continue my work. I am certain that you would appreciate a cup yourself, and I would appreciate your help, so allow me to-"

                                "I've got it," Lysander interrupted, grabbing the mug from his hand and pushing him back into the chair with a hand on his shoulder, "keep working, just tell me what you're thinking of."

                                "Really, it's no bother."

                                "And I'm your muse, remember? That means helping you create, and part of helping is getting you a coffee so that you can continue to work instead of messing about with menial tasks, okay?" He tapped Elliott on the forehead and smiled, taking any bite out of his words.

                                With a sigh, Elliott nodded and returned to his laptop. "Very well, I cannot argue with your logic. I simply feel rather...lazy in having a guest do that."

                                "Go ahead and be a little lazy," Lysander called from over his shoulder as he retrieved another mug, "it's not like I'm in here cooking dinner while you just sit about with a book or anything. Not that you'd want me to, I'm not a good cook, and while it has been a while since I set something on fire, I think I'm due for a culinary accident of some sort in the near future. Anyway, you looked really into your work when I walked in. You finally figured out what sort of story you want to write?"

                                "That I have, although..."

                                Lysander strode over and handed Elliott a mug, then sat on the edge of the table near him as Elliott typed quickly, having just thought of something new. "Oh? What's it about?"

                                "I... Very well, at the risk of ridicule, your reminder yesterday set off a cascade of ideas that I have been transcribing since the moment you departed."

                                Laughing merrily, Lysander took another sip of his drink and fixed Elliott with an amused smile. “So you’re really running with that idea I threw at you that day at the park? That romance-battle thing? It was just a silly suggestion.”

                                Elliott riposted that technically it was, but he had already developed a plot and characters, and once more remarked that Lysander's suggestions would be welcome. At his inquiry of what that would be, Elliott returned the smile, stating that one of the protagonists was based upon him, and therefore he needed to know how he would act and talk. Laughing again, Lysander remarked that he didn't think that he was quite that interesting, and grinned even harder when he dodged the flick that Elliott had aimed at his ear, the same as yesterday.

                                “One of these days I will get you to accept that you are, in fact, interesting and worthwhile to be around. If you weren’t do you think that I would spend so much time in your company?” Elliott replied with mock sternness.

                                His grin changing into a smirk, Lysander crossed one knee over the other and held his mug in both hands. “Aww, I thought it was just because I’m so cute I can get away with almost anything.”

                                The merry attitude was infectious, and Elliott gestured emphatically as he returned to the keyboard. “Now there is material with which I can work.”

                                As for the material in question, Lysander asked him about what it was that he had hoped to accomplish with that character. Not just who and what they were at the moment, but what they would be in the future, and how they planned to accomplish those goals, so that he could give better advice in writing that character. A rather spicy suggestion nearly made Elliott spill his drink, and produced another giggle from the copper-haired man. He returned to the topic at hand of character-building without missing a beat, listing traits and concepts that would need to first be developed before the character could properly take form.

                                After a few minutes, Elliott set down his mug and pushed back from the keyboard, reclining back in his chair and huffing a chuckle at himself. “I may claim to be a wordsmith but you are the sculptor who carves a story out of an idea.”

                                It was Lysander's turn to shrug, but it was softened with another smile as he took a long sip of his coffee. “Not really. We’re two sides of the same coin. You create the stories that I tell. I’ve just been doing stage and music for as long as I can remember, so storytelling is completely intuitive to me. I know how and why stories work, and I know their structure and flow." He leaned over to tap him on the forehead again, meeting his eyes with that warm, hypnotic hazel stare. "But the thing that makes you special is that you are the one that builds those stories. Like Pygmalion and the statue, you are the artisan who creates something beautiful, I’m just the one that gives it life.”

                                I am not the least bit surprised that he is so well-versed in the old myths and legends. His knowledge might rival even my own, and I actually hope that it does. Long have I desired an equal, but for once, I would like to know one who is my superior.

                                Retrieving his coffee, Elliott teased that it was a goddess that had given it life (the goddess of love, to be specific, but he chose not to mention that), and Lysander was of the opinion that he would make it look quite good either way, as evidenced by the photos that he'd shared back at the community center. Elliott remembered those photos quite vividly, and though he said nothing, he was quite certain that his interest in those images was quite obvious, but it thankfully went unnoticed. It then occurred to Lysander to ask who the romantic rival would be, and this time Elliott was unable to hide his embarrassment, trying to cover for himself by hastily finishing the last of his coffee.

                                “No way, so you really took that idea to heart, hunh?" Lysander giggled,"maybe Sam can turn that song into a full rock opera based on your story.”

                                Feeling a little annoyed at Lysander's amusement, but relieved that he thought it was an interesting idea, Elliott justified it with the position that all authors engage in some level of self-insertion, and the work that the two of them had done was what had inspired all of this in the first place. When Elliott said that he'd change it later and took Lysander's mug to refill, he flashed that cheeky grin again, telling him to not to change anything, as the idea of them doing that sort of thing on a bet was a funny concept. Elliott was glad that he had his back to the other man because he couldn't hide a smile, glad that not only had he not offended his friend, but that he found it as amusing an idea as he did.

                                Shifting his position a little on the table, Lysander tapped a finger to his lip as he thought about his literary avatar. "In that case, if you’re writing for me, it mostly depends on the other person what I do.”

                                Puzzled, Elliott paused as he refilled both mugs. "How so?"

                                Lysander shrugged and rested his weight on his hands behind himself, swinging his legs. Was he never not in motion? "So I’m an unrepentant flirt, yeah, but the way it’s done depends on the person. A lot of it is based on touch, but again, technique depends on who I’m using it on.”

                                This made even less sense, and Elliott frowned a little as he tried to parse it. "Sorry, I don't quite follow," he sighed, feeling a little annoyed at himself for not understanding.

                                Turning a little to see Elliott as he approached, Lysander eyed him up and down as he considered something. “Right, so you’ve got that coffee, and you’re going to hand me a cup, which I would normally just accept. But if I was being flirty or playful, I’d do something like this.” Elliott felt his pulse jump as Lysander took the mug from him with both hands, lightly brushing his fingers with his own and letting the touch linger there just a little bit. “Nothing terribly overt or obvious, just enough to be noticed, and that’s the trick; to make them aware of you and get them thinking about you. And you did notice, right?" Elliott nodded and Lysander's smile grew brighter now that he'd been able to make his point. "But it could be brushed off as me just being extra careful about not dropping the cup, or maybe you’re just over-analyzing it. Regardless, it’s small gestures like that. You want them to think of you, to plant that seed in their mind and let them cultivate it." He paused again to think of a couple of last things and sipped the fresh brew. "Also, body language and eye contact play a big part of it, but let’s focus on one thing first.”

                                This all made sense in a strange way, but it was only strange in that he'd had so little or no experience with it at all, on the giving or receiving end. “I think that I understand now, although…” Though he didn't verbally finish the thought, he traced the mental thread as he sat down, glancing at the screen.

                                Now that I am aware of it I know to look for it, and I can write about it. But though I know if it now, do I recall any of those moments in the past? He has no reason to have interest in me personally, and yet I cannot help but wonder if he has offered more than simply playful gestures in the past.

                                "You had a thought?" Lysander asked, and Elliott replied in the neutral, that he had, but it was unimportant. That cheeky grin split his face as he took another sip. "...You were wondering if and how often I’d done something like that to you, didn’t you?”

                                Oh gods, I did not realize that I was so transparent.

                                He turned somewhat red at Lysander's too-accurate observation, and the grin softened to a friendly smile. “Don’t be embarrassed, everyone at some point wonders that. That’s one of those bad habits I’m really trying to change. Which isn’t an answer, I know, but as an answer, well… That’s a secret.”

                                The smile and wink sent a flock of butterflies into motion inside of Elliott, and not for the first (or last!) time did he wonder what he really thought of his friend. "That's more of your flirting, isn't it?" he asked, not certain of what answer he wanted, and Lysander confirmed it, remarking that Elliott seemed to be figuring out how it worked. "You are fortunate that you are cute enough to get away with almost anything," he replied with a wry smile, earning applause and a chuckle as Lysander noticed and appreciated the call-back to his earlier statement. He stood up and walked around to Elliott's side of the table to have a look at the screen so that he could see what was written and give insightful feedback. Elliott gave him the chair so that he could read, and prepared another batch of coffee, noting that he should probably call this his last cup, at least until after lunch.

                                "This is good stuff," Lysander observed, scrolling through the document, "I totally take back my 'silly suggestion' remark, you can make anything brilliant. So I like what you've got so far with the two rivals. What about their mutual interest, then? I mean, she's gotta be more than just a macguffin or a trophy or something, she needs to be interesting, her own person. Got anything in mind for her yet?"

                                Sighing, Elliott returned again with drinks and shook his head. "Sadly, no. It isn't that I am not good with writing female characters, it is just that I'm not certain what I want to do with her. I do not want an airheaded trophy, to expand upon your statement, but until I have a better idea of the two rivals I am uncertain who she shall be. I want someone interesting and compelling, someone who initially attracts their attention for her appearance, but captivates them with her self."

                                He sipped his coffee and stared off at nothing while he thought, and Lysander did the same. Then, the musician grinned broadly and put down his drink to stand up. "Okay, let's see if we can get something started." Reaching back, he untied the ribbon that secured his hair and ran his fingers through it to let it flow loosely over his shoulders, and once again Elliott felt his pulse flutter, which was beginning to be both confusing and bothersome. "I've read over what you've got so far, so let's see if I can get in-character so we can build one."

                                As he had several times before, he rolled his shoulders and closed his eyes, relaxing all of himself. With that usual deep inhale, he held it for a moment before letting it out slowly. Elliott almost dropped his mug as Lysander transformed in front of him, but did so without any direct, outward effort. With graceful ease, Lysander flipped his hair back over one shoulder, put a hand on his hip, and gave him a dark and imperious look. Elliott had no idea what his friend had done, but at a glance he was definitely female, and the smoky look quirked into a smile at Lysander understood the confusion.

                                "Just a bit of stage magic," he giggled, "here, I'll show you, stand like I am, mirror me." Still confused, Elliott did so, and froze when Lysander held up his hands. "Stop! Okay, don't move. The way you're standing, think about it. Look at yourself and then me. Yeah, I said not to move, but you know what I mean." Lysander resumed his pose and smiled as Elliott looked between the both of them, seeking the similarities and differences.

                                "Ah, I think I see part of it, your weight is mostly on one foot while I am balanced."

                                "Good eye. Also, your hand. You put a fist on your hip, I used my hand. Not everyone does it like this, but it's usually a good rule of thumb. Also, your shoulders. You have them rolled back and chest out, and you're standing straight. What is different about me?"

                                Elliott examined him for a moment and saw the subtlety in just a few seconds. "You have your shoulders slightly pulled forward. You aren't hunched, but something about it changes your figure."

                                "Excellent!" Lysander replied, applauding and stepping forward, "here, I'll show you- Oh, sorry, almost got handsy."

                                "How often must I tell you? Stop apologizing. If you 'violate my personal space' or the like then I will inform you, but I sense no malicious or perverse intent in your actions. Continue your demonstration. This is genuinely fascinating."

                                That warm smile tugged at the corner of his lips again, and Lysander nodded. "Sure. So, you're familiar with the differences between male and female forms?" Lysander traced lines on himself as he described, and Elliott made noises of comprehension to prompt him to continue. "For females, the shoulders and hips sort of have the same vertical lines, with the chest tapering in a little to the waist, and flaring back out to the hips. You see it in the exaggerated 'hourglass' ideal that a lot of cultures have. I'm sorta effeminate in that I have dimensions a bit closer to that than most guys. For us, we have slightly wider shoulders than our hips, so it produces more of an upside-down triangle effect." He traced those lines on Elliott, who glanced back and forth between the two of them, seeing what Lysander was describing and felt the lights of comprehension flicker on and make connections.

                                "I think I understand," he hedged and reached out to Lysander, but it was his turn this time to pull back a little. At a raised eyebrow and a teasing grin, Elliott chuckled at himself and continued his train of thought. "By turning inward like that and shifting your center of balance you created the illusion of a more curved figure that appears more feminine than masculine. Further, not only is long hair more often worn by females, the way you let it fall helped mask and soften some of your harder lines. Now that I understand it I have a better appreciation for those photos. Ah, that is..."

                                Why did I say that? Oh, by the light, I am a complete and total FOOL.

                                "I understand, and thanks. It's satisfying when a fellow artist understands your work."

                                Elliott sighed with relief and hoped that it hadn't been too obvious. "Well, I am the one that now requires understanding. This exercise was interesting, but I do not comprehend its purpose."

                                "I thought it was obvious," Lysander replied, assuming the feminine pose and putting a delicate finger to smiling lips, "we're building her. This time we're working in reverse. The goddess of love has animated your statue, so come now, sculptor, shape me to your desires."

                                Oh dear gods, Elliott was absolutely certain that his face was completely red, and he could hear his blood pound in his ears. "I don't know if that is how it works, but I shall try. Though I feel as though we are working with clay and not marble."

                                "I suppose that that works. Then I shall be putty in your hands."

                                That sultry smile nearly gave Elliott a heart attack. "This is not what I was expecting," he managed, sitting down at his laptop and surreptitiously wiping away sweat, "far from her to be demure and quiet, but I was not planning to write her quite this bold. Not that it is an issue, it simply was not in my initial notes. However, you propose and demonstrate a far more interesting concept than what I had originally considered."

                                Sitting down again on the edge of the table, Lysander resumed his earlier position with his hands behind himself and crossing one knee over the other, but the way in which he did it invited thoughts that were not safe for this conversation. If ever at all. "You did say that you wanted someone that would captivate others with her self and personality, hmm?" he smiled, already fully "in character" with this new person, "I think that I am exceptionally qualified to assist you with that."

                                By the light, Lysander was going to be the death of him...
                                 
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                                • Risukage

                                  Risukage Existential Complex

                                  //This chapter happened because a few weeks ago another writer and I were chatting about our OCs, and what tattoos they'd have if they did, and... Well, it lead to this. I was legitimately wiping away tears as we talked, that was some FUNNY stuff. You're welcome. :)//


                                  Lysander comfortably straddled Elliott's hips, putting both hands on his shoulders and pushing him back into the pillows. As he leaned down to kiss him, Elliott let his hands wander.

                                  "You've worked so very hard today," Lysander smiled, "I think I'll do the rest of the work..."


                                  Fumbling for his phone to shut off the alarm, Elliott yawned and stared blearily at the screen. That was odd, Lysander had gone home after working with him on the novel for several hours, so why did he remember-

                                  ...Oh... Well, that was quite an interesting dream. He certainly is good at what he does. Or at the least, I assume that he is.

                                  Sitting up, he sighed and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, feeling annoyed at himself for dreaming of such a thing. It wasn't that that sort of dream was wrong, simply that it was about a good friend and colleague who he respected.

                                  ...But still, given the opportunity...

                                  No, that opportunity will not happen. How many times must I remind myself?! He has already stated that he is not pursuing a relationship!

                                  Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, he paused in standing up as he reconsidered this line of thought.

                                  Although... He has also stated that he is not averse to an unattached fling, as it were. No, I will not jeopardize our working relationship with mere physical desires. ...That said, if it IS offered, it will be difficult to not take him up on it, but I will leave that decision up to him.


                                  Showered and dressed, he was seated at his laptop and finishing a chapter when Lysander arrived. "Good morning! We will have a little time to work before practice this afternoon," Elliott smiled, "let me get us our coffee so we can begin."

                                  "Maybe I should do that," offered Lysander as he set aside Resonance, "you were working pretty hard yesterday, so I should do some myself."

                                  Elliott outright tripped and fell over as he got out of his chair, turning a shade of red almost as bright as his friend's hair.

                                  By the light!! That's very nearly what he said when-

                                  Lysander stood over him, looking concerned and offering a hand to help him up. "Whoa, you took a bit of a fall, mate, you okay? You're awfully red. Almost like..." Stifling a giggle, that sunny grin split his face. "Oh wow, did I remind you of something? Tell me!"

                                  Only able to squeak helplessly, Elliott's mind raced as he tried to find something to say to deflect this. He certainly couldn't tell him the truth, no! But at the same time, he was a terrible liar, and didn't like doing so in the first place. Now quite concerned, Lysander took a knee to get down to Elliott's level.

                                  "Hey, seriously, are you okay? If you're not comfortable saying something you don't have to. That just seemed like an odd reaction, that's all."

                                  "I... I don't... You'll laugh," Elliott replied, unable to meet his friend's eyes.

                                  "Then I promise that I won't. But I do mean it, if it's uncomfortable for you I'll drop it."

                                  Elliott hesitated a moment longer, as he still wasn't sure if he should mention it, but at the same time, it would help clear his conscience a bit. "What you said, it was..." He took another breath and held his head in his hands, feeling extremely silly and self-conscious. "I was dreaming last night. We were together in my room, and that was very nearly verbatim what you said just before we..." He couldn't finish the sentence, but he knew that his posture and reaction to his memory very clearly conveyed the events that had next transpired.

                                  With a soft chuckle, Lysander put a hand on his shoulder, and Elliott felt his pulse jump again, remembering that touch in his dream. "Well, I hope it was good for you. It may have been your dream, but I still have pride as a skilled lover, you know."

                                  He was unprepared for the humorous response and replied automatically. "You- Well, yes, it was, and you were as skilled as you claim- I'm sorry, that's not what- Oh gods, I feel such a fool." He curled up on himself again, wishing that he could take back the last five minutes completely.

                                  "Well, I'm glad that you had a good time. Looks like I've been a bit too forward around you, sorry about that. I'll do my best to back off."

                                  "What? No! Not at all!" Elliott replied, taking Lysander's hand as the other man stood up, "there is no fault at all. I am..." Taking a firmer grip, he accepted the help in standing up and continued to hold his hand, actually feeling relieved for his admission. "I am a man of passion, dreams, and experiences. It is not uncommon to dream vividly of the events of the day, or of, well, 'alternate possibilities.' I am not embarrassed in that I dreamt of those activities, it is that you are a trusted friend, and I feel as though those sort of dreams violate that trust."

                                  Chuckling again, Lysander favored him with that soft smile that always did such erratic things to his heart rate. "I understand where you're coming from. Still, I do feel a little bad about doing that to you, even if I wasn't even trying. And thanks for being honest with me like that, I really appreciate it."

                                  "All I ask is that you not mention it to others," Elliott said, feeling the color return to his cheeks again at the thought, "it is strange enough to know that I think of my friends like that, and I'd rather not make them uncomfortable thinking that I might think the same of them."

                                  "Done! Now let me get us that coffee. We don't have much time before practice, but we do have enough for one cup and to review what we did yesterday. After a night's sleep we'll have a better idea of whether or not this will work."


                                  It did work, and they were both surprised, upon reading what they had for the second time, just how good their collaboration was. There were a few small things here and there to tinker and adjust, but the concept as a whole was solid, and they both had similar ideas on how it should proceed. They saved their work, closed the laptop, retrieved their necessary belongings, and left for the community center, still discussing possibilities.

                                  Practice was both a long and a short affair; though they all had good sound and synergy together, there simply wasn't much that they could practice, as Sam only had a few full songs written. Working on those helped to work out the musical kinks within them, and with a full band they now had input on several instruments, so most of the afternoon was taken up with Sam making changes and annotations every few minutes. Alex was still getting used to running the soundboard, and the constant halts didn't help him much, but at the same time the downtime gave him the time to tinker with and experiment, which gave him better insight into how the rig worked. As a photographer, Haley had nothing at all to do with the music, but had her camera bag with several lenses and multiple backup batteries and SD cards, so she enjoyed the opportunity to capture the practice session in a candid manner, from numerous angles and heights, even changing out lens types and messing with shutter speeds to generate different effects.

                                  As the afternoon completed its transformation into evening, Sam put his guitar on its stand and stretched. "This was awesome, but my ass is kicked. I'm up for a few beers to wind down. Anyone else?"

                                  "Sounds good to me," Lysander replied, likewise setting aside his instrument and knuckling his back, "I've been doing a crazy amount of creative work the past couple of days and a bit of booze to help me mellow out would be a massive help right about now."

                                  While not everyone was quite in the mood for an alcohol-specific drink, they all were in agreement that it was time for food and drink of some sort, and swiftly cleaned up and packed up, with Lysander locking up once they were all outside. As before, they took one of the large tables in back, and placed various orders with Gus, who wasn't expecting such a turnout, but wasn't complaining at all.

                                  "Awww yeah," Sam sighed, drinking half of his glass in one go, "that's the stuff."

                                  Nodding assent, Lysander drained his glass a bit slower, but steadily. "No kidding, after these last couple of days my brain almost hurts. It feels good, though, I've never been terribly creative, though not for a lack of trying. Actually having useful ideas is pretty nifty."

                                  "It has been more than 'nifty,' I'll have you know," Elliott replied, sipping at his own beer, also needing something to help relax with after the brainstorming of the last two days, "your contributions have been invaluable, and I would have as much of your time as you can spare."

                                  "Ooh," piped up Sam, poking Abigail, "I need to get you and Lys together some time for good design ideas for the band. Like, we totally need matching tattoos or something, y'know?"

                                  Blinking a couple of times, Lysander put his elbow on the table and his chin in his hand. "So why do you need me?"

                                  "Uh, duh, 'cause you've totally got experience with that, right?" At the somewhat perplexed look from his friend, Sam frowned. "Wait, you don't? I would have thought you'd have something like a tramp stamp with 'insert x here.'"

                                  Elliott nearly choked on his beer, and he heard Sebastian heave a deep sigh from the other side of the table. Snorting with amusement, Lysander shook his head. "I'm flattered, and I'm pretty sure that I would totally rock a set of arse-antlers, but nope, no tats here. I mean, I don't even have any piercings, why would you assume I've got a tattoo somewhere?"

                                  Shrugging, Sam drained the last of his glass and reached for the pitcher. "After all of the stuff you've bragged about doing, and everyone, I figured that that'd just be something else you had."

                                  "I have considered it, yeah, I was just never sure what to get or where."

                                  With a snicker, Sam refilled both of their glasses. "So, what, you need ideas? How about an arrow on your lower back labeled 'free parking?'"

                                  "Not bloody likely," Lysander replied, taking a sip, "ass, gas, or grass, nobody rides for free."

                                  Wincing a little, Sebastian momentarily joined the conversation. "That's not the context that that expression- You know what? I don't care, leave me out of this."

                                  "Oh, so a parking meter, then!" suggested the guitarist with a grin that connected both ears, "'Insert Coin Into Slot!'"

                                  "You mean a credit card," smirked Lysander, giggling as Elliott nearly inhaled his drink again. Haley and Alex were laughing, and Abigail was already in tears and gasping for breath as Sam drained his second glass and thought of something else.

                                  "So only people with good credit rating need apply? Not a bad idea; your butt may bounce but their checks don't need to."

                                  This actually got a full laugh out of Lysander. "Like hell it does, my ass is way too firm for that. Though I've never had any of my partners complain," he giggled into his glass.

                                  "Whoa, partners, plural? As in more than one at once?" Sam asked, clearing winding up for something as he emptied the pitcher. Lysander put down his glass and gave Sam a flat look.

                                  "You of all people do not get to kink-shame me. Go get laid and then you can bring your sass."

                                  At this point Abigail was holding onto the table for support as tears ran down her face, Sebastian actually looked amused for once, Haley had the hiccups from laughing so hard, and Alex was considering this last comment with confusion, trying to figure out how it would work and with whom. Pouting, Sam put his chin in his hand and took a sip. "Well, I've tried, but you turned me down."

                                  "No, you knocked me on my ass and then kissed me, then walked your drunk ass into the front door as you tried to let yourself in. I already told you that I won't shag anyone unless they're sober, and anyway, like I said, nothing's for free."

                                  "So, what, a beer might get me a handy, what'll dinner get me?" Sam grinned, and this time Elliott was certain to not be drinking while he spoke.

                                  Rolling his eyes and smiling, Lysander smirked at Sam. "You'll have to find out one of these days, won't you?"

                                  "Cool, be right back, ordering munchies."

                                  "Get back here," sighed the copper-haired man as Sam walked by, grabbing him by the belt and tugging. Sam let himself fall with the new change in inertia and flopped into Lysander's lap.

                                  "Make up your damn mind already."

                                  "You're already buzzed, it's not happening tonight."

                                  "Ah-ha! Tonight. So some other night!"

                                  With another sigh, but still amused, Lysander poked Sam in the forehead. "Maybe. But definitely not tonight, you utter lush, I'll give you a roll in the sheets when you're not already three of them to the wind."

                                  "You are totes my bestie, dude," Sam giggled, hugging Lysander around the neck, then kissing him rather in the same way that he had the last time. Elliott felt a sudden stab of jealousy at this and immediately wondered where it had come from. Not sure where to put his hands, and certain that he shouldn't encourage this in public, Lysander froze, and Sam again saved him the peril of decision by sitting back up and laughing again. "Wicked totes my bestie. You have the best benefits."

                                  "We aren't friends with benefits, you dingus, now get up, I need to use the restroom and you bouncing around isn't helping any."

                                  "Aww, you're way more comfy than the chair is," he grumbled with good humor.

                                  "That's flattering, but you need to learn to ask in the future. And I'll grab another round when I get back, just a minute."


                                  Their merriment and repast finished, they all reconvened outside a couple of hours later. Lysander yawned and stretched deeply, checking the time on his phone. "I shouldn't be this tired for how early it is. I'm off, see some of you tomorrow."

                                  "Isn't it someone else's turn to walk you home?" joked Alex, and Lysander smiled at his jest.

                                  "Technically, I suppose it might, but I'm tired, not drunk, and there is no way I'm asking anyone to go all the way out there and then back home. And since we've been drinking," he smiled, waving a finger at them, "nobody's allowed to stay the night, to protect everyone's virtue. 'Cause Yoba knows I have none of my own. Anyway, hugs for you all."

                                  He went around, offering a hug and a quick peck on the cheek to everyone (except Sebastian, who gave him a look that plainly said "how about NO"), and Elliott was the last to accept the friendly affection, enjoying the pleasant flutter that it produced. He wasn't interested in him, it was simply that Lysander was attractive, and Elliott had missed having physical contact over that last year. That was all.

                                  Lysander departed, followed quickly by the others, but Elliott lingered a moment longer, watching his friend walk away, and noticed that he wasn't the only one.

                                  "Man, I've really gotta work up the courage to try that sober, but then, it wouldn't be as funny. Tough choice," Sam remarked, lacing his fingers behind his head.

                                  Elliott felt that jealous twinge again, perplexing him. "You were actually serious about propositioning him?"

                                  "Why not?" was the shrugged reply, and Elliott couldn't fault him. The offer had been made plainly and openly to everyone, all one had to do was ask. "But that means that you better make a move first if you wanna give him a try, 'cause he claims to be easy but I get the feeling that once he finds someone he's gonna stick with them."

                                  Elliott's confusion changed at this observation. "What do you mean? You think that I have a...physical interest in him? What makes you think that?" He wasn't denying it, but at the same time...

                                  Giving Elliott a thoughtful look, Sam shrugged again and walked off. "Dunno, just saying. You'd be a tough act to follow, but that's only if someone else didn't get there first. G'nite, dude."

                                  Thoughtfully, Elliott considered Sam's words as well as the evening, in addition to the events of the previous day as he walked home. He wasn't interested, damn it! Lysander was a valued colleague and a fellow artist. Any interest that he had was purely professional or an appreciation for skill and beauty. That was it.

                                  ...He really was a terrible liar, he couldn't even lie to himself...
                                   
                                    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
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                                  • Risukage

                                    Risukage Existential Complex

                                    //This chapter took too damn long because I went back and skimmed book 1 to ensure that I'd gotten the right references (and hadn't referenced others too early), and that took bloody well forever, so I'm tired off of my ass with nothing funny to say. Besides, all of the funny happened LAST chapter. I'm going to bed, see you all again on Wednesday. :p//


                                    The breeze from the ocean was cool and edged with salt. Elliott stood at the end of the pier, hands in his pockets and eyes closed as he listened to the wind and felt the waves beneath his feet. That dream again... Not the exact same one, no, but ever since Lysander had danced for them, each night his sleeping mind had reached out for his touch, and so much more. It wasn't that the dreams were unpleasant or unwanted, far from it. He'd been without physical intimacy in quite some time, and it was a situation that he would like to change, but not ever at the cost of the of his friendship.

                                    He was pulled out of his reverie by an enthusiastic greeting from the beach, and turned around to see Lysander waving at him. "Hey mate! Thinking of a swim or something?" he grinned, waiting on the sand.

                                    Returning the smile automatically, Elliott returned to the shoreline. "If I did would you join me? Though I would wait another month, the waters of the bay are still frigid this time of year."

                                    "Nah," Lysander replied, "like you said, it's too cold, and we've got stuff to do."

                                    "Perhaps later, then," Elliott remarked as he led the way back to the cabin.

                                    Resonance went to its customary position before Lysander went to the kitchen to prepare coffee. Back at his laptop, Elliott opened the file they'd been working on and accepted a hot cup, as he'd left the liquid to steep while he'd been outside. Thanking him for it, he took a grateful sip as Lysander sat down on the piano bench.

                                    "I really should bring in a folding chair or something," he noted, "this isn't bad, but I can't quite pull it up to the table next to you or anything."

                                    "Once more I apologize for my severe lack of furnishings. In uncharacteristic shortsightedness I failed to prepare for the possibility of guests."

                                    Shrugging and waving dismissively with one hand, Lysander crossed one ankle over the other as he drank. "It's all good. You had a lot going on, I imagine, and brought only what you knew you'd need. The only reason that I've got any place for someone to sit is because the house came with furniture. You saw what we pulled out of storage. When I got here I had two suitcases and Resonance. I'll be comfortable somehow." He thought of something and giggled, shaking his head.

                                    "Something amuses you," Elliott observed, reclining in his chair.

                                    "Yeah, just, Sam last night. He is such a cuddly drunk, it's adorable. Heck, he's adorable. But light help me I wish he hadn't glomped onto me like that." He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck as he shook his head again. Curious (and secretly somehow pleased), Elliott inquired why, and Lysander flashed him the flicker of a grin. "Because to be completely honest? The real reason I excused myself for the restroom? I had to...let off a bit of pressure, so to speak." The frank admission was unexpected, and Elliott was without a reply. "I know, sorry to make you uncomfortable."

                                    "I am not bothered," Elliott laughed, both at himself and his friend, "I completely understand your position, I was simply surprised that you feel comfortable enough around me to admit it. But you said that you wish that he hadn't 'glomped onto you like that.' Was it physical discomfort, being concerned that others would notice your 'reaction' to his act, or something else?"

                                    "It's..." Lysander sighed again and shifted his position, elbows on his knees as he examined the surface of his coffee. "To be honest again, he is cute. Hell, a lot of you are attractive and I'd take anyone of you up on the offer of a good night if it was made. Gods, I would do just about anything for a friend with benefits, but I'm not gonna do that to any of you. You all deserve so much better, and with the shit that made me come out here..." He trailed off and drained his mug, standing up to get another.

                                    Slightly heartened by the admission that Lysander was not only actually entertaining the idea of accepting a proposition of physical intimacy if it was raised, as well as the fact that he did have an interest in several of them, Elliott mentally filed this away as he offered his mug for a refill as well. "There are circumstances that preclude you from pursuing those options."

                                    "Yeah. I mean, I'm cool with just taking care of physical needs and having a good time. Like I said, love and lust are different things for me. But at the same time..." He put down the press and rested his weight on his hands on the edge of the counter. "I also want a proper relationship. I sorta had that with-" He cut off as he stiffened, recalling a bad memory, and Elliott saw him subconsciously brush the choker with his fingers. "Anyway, I'm used to short-term flings and just having a good time. I mean, I did theater for as long as I can remember, and I'm a musician, and you know as well as I do that we're just full of drama. Everyone sleeps with everyone but never gets angsty about it because our schedules and lifestyles often don't really allow for something more serious, and we tend to be pretty open-minded about a lot of things."

                                    Elbow on the arm of his chair and cheek on his fist, Elliott observed his friend carefully, noting how he reacted to their conversation. "However, you are concerned that we are not, and that in such a small community the opportunity for gossip is greatly increased, as well as the potential for any 'drama' to escalate to an unpleasant point."

                                    "Right on point," confirmed the other man with another sigh, pouring the drinks, "a falling-out of ANY sort would completely tear apart the group as it is now, and I will not risk that for a good time."

                                    The slightly distant and sad look, as well as previous conversations made Elliott take another blind stab at the truth. "You don't think that you 'deserve' companionship."

                                    As ever, he was correct in his assumption, and there was a flicker of pain in Lysander's expression before he hid it behind the rim of his mug. "No, I don't. Light burn me, I've been way too open and free with all of you, I need to back the hell off. It may be fun now, but someone is going to muster up the nerve to call my bluff, and it's all going to go to pieces when it does." The pain deepened as he set his jaw firmly and ran a hand through his hair. "Shit, I should never have come here, I'm just going to screw it up for everyone."

                                    The parallels to not only what Sam had remarked the night before, but his own words at the saloon the night before they had met, as well as Lysander's somewhat-hidden remark the first night at the saloon made Elliott think carefully.

                                    He has been hurt deeply, and despite this pursues happiness, though not without trepidation. This is why I must put aside my own desires and support him instead. I carry loneliness, but he bears pain, and to initiate anything beyond friendship would open up the possibility for more suffering. I will not allow it.

                                    Reaching over, Elliott put a hand on Lysander's, offering a smile of support. "I cannot speak for anyone else, but I, for one, am glad that you are here, and the good that you have already done must surely counter or outweigh that which you left behind. I do not know who hurt you or why, but know that I am here if you need to open up about it."

                                    Lysander was silent, those warm hazel eyes wide and brimming with tears, and Elliott felt a moment of panic, knowing that he'd said the wrong thing, but not what. A small smile, though sad, turned up one corner of Lysander's mouth as he squeezed Elliott's hand in return. "That tells me a lot about you, and why I don't deserve any of you."

                                    Struck dumb himself, Elliott gripped Lysander's hand as he quickly replayed the conversation to find his error. "I- What? I don't understand. Of course you deserve our friendship and the happiness that it brings. What do you mean?"

                                    The smile finally made its way to the other side of his face as well, and he rubbed his eyes with his sleeve. "It never once occurred to you that I'm the one that screwed up? That I'm the one that hurt someone else?"

                                    "...No. Not once. Perhaps I am seeing you in an unusually favorable light since I do not know your history, but in the short time I have gotten to know you I find that fact very difficult to believe. Not impossible, no, for people are complex creatures and capable of anything, but I do believe that if you did then you had a good reason for it."

                                    Once more, this was apparently the wrong thing to say, as Lysander gritted his teeth and turned inward on himself, shoulders beginning to shake with held-back sobs. Elliott stood and tried to find something to say, anything, whatever could fix this. Standing, Lysander almost tried to put a hand on his shoulder, but drew back immediately. "You're a good person, you really are. I don't deserve to work next to you. I'm sorry, I'll go."

                                    "What? No! Wait, please." He grabbed Lysander's wrist, hoping that his friend wouldn't try to pull away. "I do not know what it is that I said to cause you such pain, and for both that and those words I am truly sorry. I value your companionship and insight, as well as the ceaseless energy that you always carry. Please tell me how I wronged you so that I can make it right."

                                    Lysander didn't reply immediately, then stepped into Elliott's arms and hugged him around the waist, needing a physical anchor to mentally stabilize himself. "You said nothing wrong. You said all of the right things, technically, and that's what hurts. The truth. You have no idea just how right you are, and I'm sorry, I really am, but I can't tell you. Not now. Light help me, you're probably the kindest person I know, next to-" Once more he cut himself off, biting his lip to hold back further tears.

                                    ...I remind you of a past companion. Someone dear to you that was hurt by your actions. I begin to see why you were drawn to me so quickly, how you feel so comfortable in my presence, and yet still hold me at arm's length.

                                    Returning the hug, Elliott provided Lysander with a source of support, feeling no small amount of self-recrimination for the distress that he'd caused his friend. "I may be kind but apparently I am careless with my words. But make no mistake, they are true and honest. I- We all enjoy your company, Lysander, and all of us are grateful for all that you have done. We are the ones that must ask what we have done to deserve someone like you in our lives. Regardless of your past, it is the 'you' of now that we know, and if you believe none of my other words, then believe these: you do deserve companionship, and we are all better people for having known you."

                                    There was another moment of silence, this time as Lysander thought about what he'd said, then nodded and squeezed Elliott in a firm hug before stepping back. "Yeah, I do. I may not feel that it's true, but I know it is. Thanks. And sorry for being such a mood-killer."

                                    "If apologies need to be offered then they are mine to do so," Elliott replied, picking up and returning Lysander's coffee, "I was the one that steered the conversation into territories that produced bad memories. Let us put them aside until you are ready to discuss them, if ever, and return to better things." He smiled as he retrieved his own mug and took a sip. "We do have a story to build together, do we not?"

                                    That warm, comforting smile returned, and Elliott felt a little silly for enjoying the small butterfly-flutter that it produced. "Yeah, we do. Where did we leave off last time?"


                                    After Lysander had departed that evening, Elliott walked outside and sat on the steps to the beach as he dialed Charles, having not talked to him in a little while. The phone on the other end rang twice before it was picked up and answered enthusiastically. "Elliott! So how are you and your new boyfriend doing?"

                                    Elliott could hear the grin on the other end of the phone and sighed, quite sure that Charles could see his expression as well. "You aren't nearly as funny as you think you are."

                                    "Maybe not, but I haven't been able to be a nuisance this badly in quite some time, so forgive me if I'm having a good time doing so. You sound as though you're in good spirits, he's apparently doing good things for you!"

                                    Again, Elliott was not amused by his brother's jesting, and shot back with a barb of his own. "That he is, though I'm getting as much as you have been lately, so not quite that good, I suppose."

                                    At his brother's silence, Elliott grinned to himself. Charles laughed heartily at the riposte. "That was proper savage. I'm impressed! I have no idea who he is, but if he brings this out in you I may need to offer my thanks in person."

                                    "I'd love to see you again, but it is a bit far out here, and you and Jeanette are busy with the baby and- Oh, it's been over a year now, hasn't it? I've quite lost track of time being all the way out here."

                                    "Not a problem!" replied Charles, sounding happy and relieved, "but your bon mot was still accurate."

                                    "As was yours. No, we are not...'together,' we have simply been working in each other's company this last week while collaborating on my novel. He is brilliant, Charles, with such a passion for the arts, and I did not realize his skill until recently. He was with the Grand Company Players until he moved out here."

                                    "The- Really!" the other man exclaimed, well aware of the group and their work, "they get more work at our theater than any other group I can recall, and they always put together an excellent show. The two of you have a surprising amount in common."

                                    Laughing himself, Elliott stood and walked out onto the sand, following the sun, which had moved away and thrown the steps into the shade. "More than you know. Apparently he has followed my written work long before we met. We are fans of each other and didn't know it. Fate is truly a cheeky mistress sometimes."

                                    "But a kind one now and then, if your current state is any indication. It's good to hear from you. I was worried for the longest time until your last call, and you sound even better than you did then."

                                    Sighing, Elliott leaned against one of the awning supports, feeling the latent warmth of the day permeate his back. "Every day I recover, as though I am convalescing from a crippling and near-fatal disease. My strength of body, mind, and spirit are recovering slowly yet steadily." He smiled again as he stared out over the ocean, listening to the muted yet powerful crash and roar of the waves. "This place is exactly what I needed, it just took me a year and the right person to see it."
                                     
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                                    • Risukage

                                      Risukage Existential Complex

                                      //This is annoying. I'm the one that wrote this damn series, but the longest part of writing book 3 is checking book 1 to avoid continuity issues or outright errors. *Facedesk.* Also, I HATE these stupid emoticons, I wish I could shut them off. HATE. THEM.//


                                      Work on the novel progressed quickly over the next week. Lysander stopped by every day, and they threw ideas at each other and then into the laptop until late into the evening, or until band practice was set to start, depending on the day. Lysander was always moving about; either gesturing wildly and grandly as he visually depicted what he was trying to describe, or outright getting up to walk around the room as he thought. Now and then he would be taken with a snippet of song and pull Elliott in for a moment of dance, which was accepted immediately as Elliott was glad to have someone who knew what they were doing teaching him. Those moments would always give him the ideas he needed to continue where he'd been stuck (the reason Lysander was up and pacing about in the first place), and as much as he was trying to not be obvious about it, he did enjoy the physical closeness with his friend, but made no effort to push it any further.

                                      A couple of times their writing was interrupted by a musical interlude instead, where Lysander suggested the lyrical spur-of-the-moment writing again like they had the first time he'd visited. These breaks also provided inspiration, as well as a quick break to catch their breath, so to speak, before they returned to writing. Elliott was amazed at how much better he'd become in just this last month, with only Lysander's assistance and practice with the band, but perhaps he'd always had the ability, he'd just never been properly challenged to see it.

                                      They had also taken to "acting" out their parts as they tested them, trying to see if the dialogue and interactions felt natural. Naturally, Lysander donned the mantle of his character and the object of his pursuit, but Elliott took longer to do so. It wasn't that he was uncomfortable, he'd just had no stage experience, despite his love of theater and stories. With coaching from his friend, however, he learned how to put his "self" aside and become someone else for a little while, and with this ability to mentally transform he discovered new possibilities about how to write, and of what. This delighted Lysander, pleased with himself that he'd opened up new avenues of approach.

                                      One morning, Elliott greeted him as he walked in, and was curious to see Lysander yawn broadly before he set down Resonance, smiling ruefully. He apologized for it and sat down in the chair next to the table (he'd found a very nice wooden folding chair at his house and brought it over the previous week), asking about where they'd left off the last time. Elliott was already reviewing the work that they'd done the day before for errors and continuity, and remarked upon them. Partway through his explanation, he heard a soft snore, and saw that Lysander was asleep, his head on folded arms.

                                      "Nngh! I'm awake!" he gasped when woken by Elliott's accidental laugh. Turning a little red in embarrassment, he apologized again. "I was up stupidly late last night and Alex ran me pretty hard this morning, so I'm way out of it. Didn't mean to be rude."

                                      "Not at all. May I inquire as to the nature of your insomnia?" asked Elliott as he got up to pour them coffee.

                                      Leaning back in his chair, Lysander grinned lopsidedly. "Well, you're gonna laugh, but..." Elliott promised not to do so and offered a full, hot mug. "I was re-reading your earlier publications."

                                      "Really! I suppose that I should be flattered."

                                      Lysander half-shrugged. "Yeah. They're good, so I wanted to read them again anyway, but I thought that since we're working together on this I should have a better idea of your style so that I can better create alongside it, y'know? Your style did evolve a little bit over time, but one can still tell that it's you, if that makes sense."

                                      "It does. And?" he prompted, sipping delicately.

                                      "And I think this book is still 'you.' It's a bit different, but that's a bit of my influence, and also because you're doing a much larger and more epic story this time around. I just don't know how much help I'll be today at this point, though."

                                      Elliott pondered this and remembered something. "There is something that I learned during my time at university for days like this. Finish your coffee and take about a ten or fifteen minute nap. It will give the caffeine the time to get into your system as well as 'reset' your need to sleep for a little bit. I forget the exact science behind it, but it's something to do with neurotransmitters, blockages, and the like. I regret that I do not recall my biology courses as well as I do my literature studies."

                                      "Oh yeah, I did the same thing a few times," Lysander recalled, tapping a finger to the tabletop, "it's not a magic cure and won't keep you going indefinitely, but it's good for keeping you going until you actually can get the time and place to get real sleep. You don't mind me dropping off for a few?"

                                      "It is better than having you doze off every few minutes," he teased, "please, feel free to use my bed, I will wake you in a quarter of an hour."

                                      Downing the last of his coffee, Lysander exhaled with satisfaction and stood up, not bothering to mask his fatigue. "Thanks, mate. I feel a little weird about borrowing your bed like that, but it's not like you have a couch I can crash on."

                                      Elliott waved him off with a smile. "Shoo! As I said, I will prod you in a little bit. Make good use of the time you have."

                                      The smile that was returned was muzzy but grateful, and Lysander managed to not stagger as he disappeared into the next room. Figuring that a second cup would be welcome upon rising, Elliott finished his own drink and took the mugs to the kitchen to rinse, as well as the press, which he refilled and set aside. He resumed his scan of the previous day's work and only made a couple of small corrections; minor changes to grammar for better structure, or noticing a parsing error when they'd changed the syntax of something that had already been written.

                                      When the fifteen minutes were up, Elliott pushed himself back from the table and felt a small flutter of... He wasn't sure what, to be honest. Not quite contentment or happiness, not excitement. Not satisfaction, either. It was warm and pleasant, but he couldn't put a name to it. Mulling this over, he walked quietly, trying not to wake him, then sighed at himself. He was there to wake him up in the first place! Fool of a man. Lysander was out cold, sleeping on his side with his back to the door, having probably dozed off the moment his weight had hit the mattress. With a touch on his shoulder, Elliott gave him a gentle shake and called his name.

                                      "Hnngh, what's- WAUGH!" Lysander had rolled over in response to Elliott's summons, not realizing that he was pretty much on the edge of the bed, and had fallen off. Not expecting this, Elliott completely missed in trying to catch him, and winced as Lysander nearly cracked his chin on the floor. "Well, I'm awake now."

                                      Offering a hand, Elliott helped him get up. "Are you hurt? I did not intend for-"

                                      "It's all good," laughed the copper-haired man, "it worked. Your idea and falling out of bed. I'm good to go for a few more hours. Caffeine and adrenaline are an interesting mix." He followed Elliott back to the main room and pushed his friend into his computer chair before going to the kitchen to make the next batch of drinks. "I must've REALLY been out of it," he thought aloud as he offered a mug, "I didn't even make a half-assed attempt to flirt and ask you to join me or anything."

                                      Elliott felt his pulse skip at this suggestion but said nothing, as it was clear from Lysander's expression that he had a fair idea of the writer's thoughts. "Perhaps next time," he rebuffed, trying to mimic his friend's attitude, "but I suppose that I would have to take that side so as to prevent you from falling off again."

                                      "So you prefer being the 'big spoon?' Works for me," Lysander grinned, and giggled at Elliott, who wasn't sure how to reply to his turn-around being turned around on him. "Okay, sorry, I'm pushing boundaries. You're not as open as I am about this and I need to back off."

                                      Sighing with good humor, Elliott tapped him on the forehead. "No, you do not. I appreciate your jests. They are helping me, well, break out of my shell, as it were, and I appreciate your unfiltered candor. How many times must I say it? Be you. Further, this is the sort of material I need for your character. Now, speaking of such, let us return to building our story."


                                      Over the next month they met every day at Elliott's home to collaborate. Elliott found himself almost impatient every morning for Lysander's arrival, but that was simply because he was eager to work on the book with him. That was all! Lysander appeared delighted to be able to be of such great assistance, and Elliott valued his contributions, finding it difficult to not smile at his antics. That laugh, that smile, everything about Lysander's presence was a warm ray of sunshine that brightened the room, and Elliott always felt somewhat diminished when he left at the end of the day. They were colleagues, he kept reminding himself, professionals working together on a project, nothing more...

                                      As Lysander departed one evening, he remarked that he might be unavailable the next day, and Elliott was almost unsuccessful in hiding his disappointment. He had already made exorbitant demands upon the other man's time, it would be extremely rude of him to be offended by him doing something else for a bit. Apparently Lysander had asked Sebastian for lessons in motorcycle riding, and it was possible that the reclusive programmer would have time the next day. Elliott wished him the best of luck and reminded him to be careful, he did worry about his safety. With a playful hug and kiss on the cheek, Lysander promised to do so, waving as he jogged away with Resonance in tow, and didn't see Elliott put fingers to his face and smile.

                                      In the morning, much earlier than he had expected, Elliott received a message, but from Sam.

                                      RawkStar: hey d00d you free today after lunch?

                                      Sighing at Sam's continual lack of punctuation and capitalization, Elliott replied.

                                      SeasideScribe: I should be; Sebastian might be instructing Lysander in the riding of a motorcycle

                                      RawkStar: COOL. i'll stick with my deck instead. anyway i wanted to steal you for a day for some lyrics writing. you have all the words d00d :)

                                      SeasideScribe: as soon as I hear from him I shall update you

                                      RawkStar: sweet thx

                                      Lysander's message came only ten minutes later.

                                      SixStrings: hey, Sebastian’s offered to teach me how to ride that motorcycle. You think you’ll be okay without my help today? :p

                                      With a wry smile, he replied to Lysander's message and prepared a cup of coffee.

                                      SeasideScribe: I suppose that I might be able to discern the usage of a keyboard on my own, yes

                                      SixStrings: :D

                                      SeasideScribe: in seriousness, Sam messaged a bit ago to work on lyrics this afternoon, so it appears that we both have our own individual sidebars to distract us today

                                      SixStrings: hoopy, the two of you make kickass lyrics, next practice is gonna be fun

                                      SeasideScribe: we will see about that tomorrow. Be safe out there

                                      He switched back to the conversation with Sam, opening the novel document while he awaited the digital affront to his literary senses.

                                      SeasideScribe: he is indeed occupied for the day. When and where do you want to meet?

                                      RawkStar: i'm free now actually. park? we had some good writing there last time and today's gonna be nice

                                      SeasideScribe: I'll pack my laptop and be there presently, then


                                      Satchel in hand, Elliott entered the park only minutes after Sam did, as the lead guitarist was still rummaging through his backpack. He looked up and grinned, an expression that was more "electric" than Lysander's "warm," but no less effective. "Sweet, ya made it," he remarked, finally finding his pencil at the bottom of the bag, "this is gonna be awesome."

                                      "I believe that this will be a delightful challenge. I am confident in my ability to write a story, but lyrics are new to me."

                                      Rolling his eyes, Sam cuffed him in the shoulder and opened his notebook. "Whatever! I remember what you just came up with that first day we were all together. Lyrics are a story, dude, and that's why you are gonna come up with some seriously awesome stuff. Aw crap," he sighed, wrinkling his nose at a sudden thought, "I didn't think to ask Lys if I could borrow Resonance. It'd really help, y'know? Oh well, I guess we'll hafta be all a capella today."

                                      Elliott was almost surprised to know that Sam knew that word, but mentally slapped himself. Sam was a musician and a brilliant young man. He was often irresponsible and mischievous, but he wasn't stupid. Bolstered by his friend's confidence, Elliott opened his laptop and then a new document file. "Very well. Let us begin. Where shall we start?"


                                      After a few hours of work, Sam stretched his arms over his head and then stood up, bouncing on his toes to work out some pent-up energy. Elliott was saving their latest changes and looking over their work and very nearly dropped his laptop when Sam opened his mouth. "You know, I wasn't kidding, I'm going to make a move if you don't, dude."

                                      "I- I beg your pardon?" Elliott asked, not at all expecting this sort of challenge. Eyeing him with feigned boredom, Sam was for once without a smile or smirk.

                                      "You heard me. I'm not into guys, but at the same time I am kinda curious. If you don't do something soon then I'm going for him myself."

                                      Setting aside the laptop, Elliott tried to figure out if he was actually serious. "I don't understand what you mean. Why would I...?"

                                      With a sigh of patient frustration, Sam laced his fingers behind his head and stared off across the park, explaining it as though it were completely obvious. "I see the way you two look at each other when the other person isn't looking, and especially when you think someone else isn't, either. I mean, he always smiles for everyone, that's just how he is, but when he looks at you, it's...." He wrinkled his nose again as he looked for the right words. "I dunno how to say it. Fondness, I guess? It's like he's always honest about it, but for you it just...it really touches his eyes. Everything kinda lights up and gets softer at the same time. You're the author, I have no idea how to say it." Still caught off-guard by this information, Elliott considered it silently as he pulled up his own memories, and felt a hot jolt of embarrassment as Sam continued. "It's the same way you look at him, y'know. You tell me how it works."

                                      What? Preposterous, surely I'd have noticed if he did. ...He does. The smile he shares with them is so completely different than the one he gives to me when we work alone. With others it is radiant, but alone together it illuminates. But, even so..

                                      "He has stated that he is not pursuing a relationship," Elliott said quietly, "I will not press the issue. Further, he has never stated any interest, so I shall not interpret his intentions as anything more than simply companionable."

                                      Another bored look followed his statement, then a shrug. "If you say so, dude."


                                      That evening Elliott cleaned up after making a quick meal, with Sam's thoughts buzzing in his mind. The musician had said some very observant things, but still, Lysander wasn't interested. How could he be? At least, he'd never said anything, and he had said that he wasn't looking.

                                      He is honest, brilliant, and, if I am being honest to myself, quite handsome. Of course I would be attracted, who would not? His kindness is endless, his voice always brings joy to those who hear it, and his touch gives strength to others. Over and over he offers all of himself without hesitation, and not once have I heard him complain. Little wonder that I love him.

                                      He dropped the glass he was washing and almost broke it.

                                      I... That can't be- I shouldn't...

                                      Sighing, he allowed himself a small smile.

                                      I really do. Light burn me, I didn't mean to, but how could I not?
                                       
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                                      • Minimanta

                                        Minimanta Existential Complex

                                        My fave thing about the emoticons is when people write a time, like 11: 30 and the : 3 turns into a kitty face :3
                                        It never fails to make me smile, trolly kitty face be trollingX3

                                        But other than that, yeah the emoticons suck. I prefer to use text emoticons.
                                         
                                          Risukage likes this.
                                        • Risukage

                                          Risukage Existential Complex

                                          Heh, yeah, I preview the hell out of my posts to avoid accidental emoji-trolls, but still, I wish there were a way to disable them, even just for my own posts, 'cause I do love things like the chat logs, but the damn forum emotes just kill the mood. I mean, the ": D" face (I spaced it 'cause GET REKT HAHAHA) looks like they're snoring or something, and even the regular smiley looks...off...

                                          But I'm old and grumpy and old-school, so meh, i suppose! Which reminds me, I need to neuter my phone's keyboard with a knife, 'cause I have NO USE for the microphone button or the "PUT IN SMILEY PICS LOLOLOLOL" one. No. Just...no.
                                           
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