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. Risukage

    Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "After it's- What?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      …Their story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      This is all going wrong! I cannot lose him!

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

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

      “Elliott… I can’t…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Let me support you.

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

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

      Let me stand by you.

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

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

      Let me love you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

      “Keep up.”
       
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      • Risukage

        Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        …Oh…

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        “…It’s finished…”

        “Elliott? Are you alright?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          "Are you willing to learn?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          "Not the one you wanted?" Lysander asked.

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

          "That?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Risukage Existential Complex

            //:)//


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            "Hey love- Oh! Something good happen?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

              Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

              ...His partner...

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

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

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

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

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

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

              "Prove it."

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

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

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

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

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

              ...Applause, what- OH GODS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  Risukage Existential Complex

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

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


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

                  The Luau, oh gods...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  With him at my side I can accomplish anything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  "Pardon?"

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

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

                  "Him?"

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

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

                  "Ah? Lysander."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  "I assume that you were present for that?"

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

                  "Do you love him?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                    Risukage Existential Complex

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                    "So you are dating!" she laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                      Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                        Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                          Risukage Existential Complex

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

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

                            Risukage Existential Complex

                            //Woo-hoo! I live again! It took a bit of tinkering and a LOT of installing and sitting patiently while it all did so, but I have a functional system again, and with a couple of upgrades! I gotta say, I've been doing updates three times a week since, what June? And this is the first time I've had to take a break from that. Pretty goddamn impressive for a fan project, if I'm allowed a bit of narcissism. ;) Back to the story//


                            The next three days produced no answers. Rather, Lysander continued to withdraw further from Elliott, even though it wasn’t intentional. There was hesitation in his kisses, a slight twitch and flinch when Elliott tried to hold him, a listlessness to his words… Elliott didn’t want to pry, he respected Lysander’s privacy and the need to resolve his issues on his own, but this, it taxed him as well. Others noticed it, and though most everyone tried to hide their concern and curiosity (except for Leah, who did ask him privately one day if there was something going on and if she could help), it was obvious that the strain between them was visible. Even those not physically present were aware of something being amiss, as even Charles picked up on something not being quite right when talking with Elliott one day, but Elliott assured him that things were just fine, and his brother begrudgingly accepted the statement and changed the subject. Like Elliott, everyone knew that it was between the two men and therefore none of their business, but Elliott knew that it was Lysander’s issue, and therefore none of his business.

                            …But still…

                            The stress continued to take its toll on the copper-haired man’s health as well as his mental state, and one day he arrived to the park for practice much later than he normally did, having not visited Elliott at his home beforehand (which the author found worrying but not insulting). Huffing in mock irritation, Abigail playfully complained that the day that she had something interesting to show him was the one day he was running behind. The look of fatigue on his face faded as she showed him a sword she’d just been talking about with everyone else.

                            Impressed, he took the weapon as she explained that she’d found it when she was in the storage room looking for something, and wondered if he’d had any weapons training, given his extensive theater history and propensity for taking odd college courses. With nearly-expert eyes, he examined the weapon from one end to the other, awed at what he saw. As he inspected it, he commented aloud about what he noticed, and Elliott found himself quite amazed at the depth and breadth of Lysander’s knowledge about not only weapons, but weaponsmithing.

                            It was a shortsword, given the weight and size of the weapon, and quality materials had been used in its construction, as both leather and metal were still serviceable and intact, though a bit of oiling and professional care would go to great lengths in restoring the weapon. Having thoroughly inspected the exterior, he drew the blade from the scabbard, and was suitably impressed.

                            “Oh, VERY nice. This was forged, not cast,” he said, mouth open wide with awed glee, “look, you can see the layers from where it’s been folded in on itself several times. Looks like a good carbon-steel. No…” His eyes went wide as the light caught it just right and he gasped with sudden realization. “Oh wow, that color, I think this is nickel-steel. This is a meteorite sword! Yeah, look at that dark color, with the light speckling. I think they used a ferric chloride etch on it, too, to further enhance the starry-night look and give it that lovely rippling pattern.”

                            He turned it back and forth a couple of times to let the light play off of it and demonstrate what he had pointed out. “This is beautiful, it’s Damascus-quality. A master smith must have spent ages working on something like this; nickel-steel alloys can be a right nuisance to fold properly, and I bet they mixed in a bit of spring steel so it would fold and hammer out without separating.”

                            Glancing up, he grinned wryly as he realized that everyone was staring at him silently, but with fascination, not irritation. Sam laughed and asked if he’d dated a blacksmith to have learned all of this. He hadn’t, but he had dated a metallurgist who was a blacksmithing hobbyist. Naturally, the next question to be asked was if he knew how to use it, and to nobody’s surprise, he did. In addition to some stage work that had swordfighting, he had also taken fencing classes. The one skill set that would be most useful, though, was having taken Tai Chi, and that class had used a short sword similar to this one. Also naturally, this was a show that nobody wanted to miss, and everyone made themselves comfortable on the benches as Lysander familiarized himself with the weight and balance of the sword.

                            Such elegance, such grace… Elliott watched his partner flow and dance, moving with the forms effortlessly, treating the weapon as an extension of himself and shifting between stances effortlessly.

                            My dearest, you never fail to surprise me. I am entranced and enraptured. I know what it is like to be held in those hands as you dance, and for a moment I feel jealousy toward an inanimate object.

                            As he completed the forms, he changed the last few steps to reach down and pick up the scabbard, neatly tying it into the final stance and sheathing the sword, bowing to applause. For a moment Elliott forgot his earlier frustration with his partner as Lysander sat down next to him, giving him that smile that Elliott knew belonged to him alone. The private moment was interrupted by Abigail asking for lessons, and Sam teasing him about his personal choice of “classes,” which was some sort of gaming reference that Elliott didn’t quite get and would have to ask about later. Lysander riposted that actually, no, swords of this sort were a Rogue’s weapon, as they were more dexterous than the heavier strength-based weapons other combat classes would use.

                            “Though I’m much better with knives, I admit, as I’m very good with my hands,” he grinned, leering at Elliott. Catching the subtext and feeling a little relieved that Lysander appeared to be recovering from whatever was bothering him, Elliott laughed softly.

                            Sam wondered what sort of knives he knew how to use, using Abigail’s butterfly knife as an example. “Those are dangerous, dude,” he added, probably having been on the receiving end of that object more than once. Yet again, this was a skill that Lysander possessed, and when Abigail mockingly offered it to him to prove his point, she seemed surprised that he was so quick to take it.

                            With a cheeky grin, Lysander twirled it with elegant skill, almost not bothering to pay attention. His carelessness caught up with him, though, and he lost control for a fraction of a second, dropping it. Elliott cringed as Lysander grabbed for it without thinking, hissing in pain as he succeeded in catching it, but by the very sharp blade. Catching it properly by the handle as he dropped it for the second time, he swore between his teeth before apologizing to Abigail for getting blood on it. He glanced at his injured hand and trailed off, his vision unfocusing as he thought of something.

                            This was concerning, and Elliott waited a moment before standing to approach him, noticing that something was a little off about his reaction. The wide but shallow cut was already beginning to pool blood, and Lysander stared at it, swaying a little on his feet. The knife fell from his fingers again as his knees buckled and he collapsed to the ground, his other hand over his mouth, apparently fighting the urge to vomit as he gasped around his fingers for breath, in the middle of a panic attack. This sudden change startled Elliott, but only for a moment, and he took a knee next to his partner and took his arm, trying to steady him.

                            “Lysander? Talk to us, what happened?”

                            This seemed to help a little, and after a few seconds he was able to catch his breath. “I’m…” he began, still looking quite ill, “it’s… Memory. A bad memory.” He cut himself off again, holding his breath, eyes closed, lost in the terror inside of his own mind.

                            “Dear, what memory?” Elliott asked, putting a hand to the side of Lysander’s face, “look at me, please.” Eventually, he did, though unsteadily, and told him to not worry, it was something that had just happened in the past. Annoyed, Elliott’s grip on his arm tightened a little. “The hell I will not worry. You very nearly perished a few nights ago, and now you have this reaction to a small injury. Dear, tell me, what happened in your past?”

                            Lysander clearly wanted to say something, but nothing came out. “…I can’t tell you,” he finally whispered, “not yet. Light help me, not yet. I’m sorry. Please don’t be angry, I can’t…”

                            This is not the time or the place. But this MUST be addressed at some point. This is not a simple phobia or an event that is merely unpleasant, this was an incident that caused you suffering that had never healed. Why won’t you tell me?

                            This injury needed to be dealt with now, and finding a handkerchief in his pocket, he used it to apply pressure to the wound, helping Lysander get to his feet as he did so. Finally in control of himself, Lysander was finally able to joke a little, that his keys were always in his left pocket, and that was the hand that he’d injured. At his request, Elliott rummaged in that pocket to obtain the keys for the community center and asked if he wanted an escort to the medical clinic. This was politely refused, explaining that he wanted to use the walk to gather his thoughts and collect himself.

                            “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he smiled, “this shouldn’t need stitches, I don’t think I cut myself that bad.” His grin slipped a little as Elliott stopped halfway in attempting to reach over to him, and instead turned and walked away. Looking through the keys, Elliott set his jaw firmly and blinked back tears as he stalked toward the community center.

                            You do not trust me. Why? You hide so much, and you have been pushing me away so hard lately. What have I done? Have I hurt you? Have I insulted you? Do I smother you without realizing it? I have tried so hard to not intrude or interfere, but this silence hurts, sharp and stinging, as though it were a knife wound itself. My dear, what has happened?

                            He unlocked and opened the door, stuffing the keys in his pocket, and went to the piano and sat down stiffly, his own silence quite loud. The others filed in, likewise quiet. Wordlessly, they set up their respective pieces of equipment and, when finished, examined the music, did some minor maintenance or testing, or simply waited. The tension was palpable, and nobody wanted to be the first to break the silence. His back to the others, Elliott was well aware that he was the source of the tension, but at the moment, he didn’t care.

                            Eventually, he heard the familiar sound of Lysander’s boots outside and looked up, noticing the bandage on his partner’s hand. Lysander offered a small nod of greeting to everyone, trying to find a smile, and Sam took it upon himself to bring about a bit of levity.

                            “Wow, moody and bleeding,” he smirked, “guess you’re on your man-strual cycle, hunh?”

                            This was somehow exactly not what needed to be said, as Lysander snarled and glared at him. “I am not in the mood for this shit today!” Even he seemed to be surprised by how rude and harsh his words had been, and at the look of shocked pain that Sam wore, he tensed up and withdrew in on himself. Without another word, he spun about and stalked toward the door. Elliott got up and caught up to him, demanding to know why he’d said what he did.

                            “Nothing,” Lysander replied, sounding like he was still holding back anger, “I… I'll go. See you tomorrow when I’m less of an ass about everything.”

                            This ends NOW. I will have no more of this. Damn it ALL, Lysander, you will not push me aside again!

                            “No you won’t, I am done with this,” Elliott interrupted, taking Lysander’s wrist, and glaring back when Lysander gave him a look that plainly told him to back off, “you are going to talk to us and tell us what’s on your mind, right now.” Roughly pulling his hand away, Lysander muttered that he had a lot on his mind and he’d deal with it himself, and Elliott stepped around to block his path to the door. “Now I am the one who is not in the mood for this shit today,” he growled, “I am tired of your evasions. You have never lied to me but you have never told me the full truth. I demand answers and will not accept any more excuses.”

                            Lysander’s eyes flashed with anger. “I’ve never given you excuses. And I haven’t told you the full truth because I don’t want to hurt or scare you. Now get out of my way, I need to clear my head.” He stepped forward to continue, but Elliott would not be budged, snarling that not only would he not move, but that Lysander thought him incapable of comprehending his position and concerns was completely insulting. “Get out of my way,” he hissed, and at Elliott’s refusal, growled under his breath. “Move.”

                            He attempted to force his way around his partner, but Elliott was strong despite his lack of dedicated exercise, and a two-handed shove nearly knocked Lysander off-balance. “I said ‘no.’ This is not finished.”

                            “I won’t fight you. Get the hell out of my way.”

                            This very impolite request, coupled with the implied statement that Elliott was too weak to fight back, Elliott lost himself to his anger, something that he’d never done before. “So you will fight Alex at a moment’s notice but dance carefully around me?” he yelled, too angry to think straight, “You asked him behind my back to defend me, as though I were a fragile porcelain doll. Do you really think that little of me, that I am weak and defenseless?” Alex’s admission of this fact had never sat well with Elliott, but he’d never mentioned it to anyone, and now, all he could think of was the pain he felt. Lysander tried to brush him off, saying that Elliott didn’t understand, and again he erupted in fury. “Of course I don’t! You’ve never explained yourself. Every time any sort of conflict seems to come up you shut down and back off. Do you have any idea how much that hurts? That the person I love thinks I’m not strong or worthy enough to share their past?”

                            Lysander was also shouting, hurt as well, and for a moment Elliott felt a flash of sadistic pleasure, knowing that he’d struck true. “That’s not the point. I’ve hurt too many people and I promised that I’d never do that again.”

                            “That’s life, Lysander, pain is something that happens, and you will hurt people. Sometimes it’s accidental or unavoidable, and what is important is how it is dealt with.” Snapping back, Lysander asked why Elliott disliked wanting his protection, and Elliott returned the question just as hotly, that he didn’t want it. “Have you ever considered the possibility that I want to look out for you as well? That I do not want a protector? I want an equal, a partner, not a guardian.”

                            Looking away and shaking his head, Lysander clenched a fist. “I’m not equal to you, not yet. I’m still not good enough, and I need to be better. You deserve better.”

                            “That is nonsense and you know it. Stop being foolish,” Elliott shouted, once again feeling the hot sting of tears.

                            “So I’m a fool for wanting to improve myself?” Lysander asked, his tone cold, but Elliott didn’t notice the dangerous sound, blinded by pain and emotion.

                            “And now you are deliberately being obtuse. That is not what I implied, do not twist my words.” Apparently attempting to end the conversation, Lysander snarled that nothing was going to be accomplished like this, and that he was leaving before he could cause even more problems than he already had, trying to get around Elliott and leave. Having none of this, Elliott very nearly got a handful of hair as well as he grabbed Lysander by the collar and yanked him back into the room. “Stop running!”

                            “I’m not running!” yelled the other man, bristling with fury.

                            “Then what do you call it? Evading?” Elliott snapped, “Quit being such a damn coward and take responsibility!”

                            In an instant, Lysander’s look of shock was replaced by teeth-gritting rage as he clenched his fist even tighter, and the same way he had in his fight with Alex, shifted his weight to the same foot behind himself before redirecting his momentum forward. His full weight behind it, his fist impacted and actually splintered some of the wood of the wall, too fast for anyone to react to until it had already happened.

                            Oh gods… What have I done…

                            Terrified, Elliott hadn’t moved, almost unable to believe that Lysander had not only taken a swing at him, but that he’d done so with so much force, and that at the last second had barely avoided hitting him. It took a couple of seconds for him to realize that he’d forgotten how to breathe, and that all he could hear was his heart pounding in his ears. His partner’s anger dissipated immediately, and Elliott was certain that their expressions were mirrored, though it was Lysander’s turn to fight tears as he unsteadily staggered back, unsteady on his feet.

                            No… Light burn me, no, I… My dearest, forgive me, I’m so sorry…

                            He tried to move over to him, to offer his partner comfort and apologize for what he’d said. “Dear, are you-“ he began, but got no further, as Lysander shoved past him and ran outside.
                             
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                            • Minimanta

                              Minimanta Existential Complex

                              Oh definitely, I'm very impressed by your regular and steady updates. I've always been amazed you can write that much that fast! You deserved this unexpected break, I'd say :D
                               
                                Risukage likes this.
                              • Risukage

                                Risukage Existential Complex

                                //
                                Heh, well, that is sorta true, but I wish it'd been under better circumstances! :p

                                As for today's update, it was hard enough for Lysander to talk about his past in book 1, but what about everyone else who was hearing it for the first time? And finding out what he'd nearly done? Yikes, it's surprising that Elliott took it so well, but then, this was a lot to take in all at once, and he did have an idea of why he'd done what he did.//


                                Alex had been watching the exchange silently with everyone else, as he didn’t want to intrude on an affair that wasn’t his. But when he saw his cousin nearly hit Elliott, he waited, ready to chase, knowing that Lysander would flee instead of fight further. He wasn’t entirely certain why, but he knew that it was what he’d do, and he was right. As the other man pushed past his companion and escaped outside, Alex had already begun moving, sprinting after him and grabbing his cousin. Arms around him from behind, he pinned Lysander’ arms in place, though he could do little about the rest of him as he shouted and flailed ineffectually against the athlete’s greater strength and leverage.

                                “Bro, what the hell? Chill out a sec!” he grunted, trying to maintain both his grip and his balance, coming very close to losing both.

                                “No… No!” shouted the copper-haired man, now almost frantic, “let me go! Get away! Just let me die!” Shocked, Alex almost let go, but it was enough for Lysander’s panic-boosted strength to free himself, and in doing so, struck Alex in a spot that left stars dancing across his vision for a moment. Without thinking about it Alex struck back. He apologized immediately but swore and ducked an angry punch from his cousin, who this time had actually tried to hit him, and with all of his strength.

                                “Calm the hell down,” he said, holding up his hands as he defended himself and avoided Lysander’s attacks, “this won’t- Ow!” The family blood ran hot, apparently, as Alex felt his own anger flare as pain bloomed from a hard elbow-strike to his ribs, and he joined Lysander in battle. “I will freaking end you!”

                                Elliott dashed outside and froze, horrified at the spectacle that unfolded. He had heard Lysander’s anguished demand, cutting him deep to the core, and now he watched the two of them engaged in a fight once more, his partner lashing out in undirected rage, overwhelmed by emotion. The first time, so many months ago, Lysander had been cheeky and taunting, dancing about and not taking it seriously. This time, he and Alex were out to destroy each other. Alex was powerful but slow, and Lysander was fast but didn’t have the same strength. The longer the battle would last the more chance Lysander had of coming out ahead, but all Alex needed was an opening…

                                The others had followed Elliott but huddled in the doorway behind him. Oh gods, what had he done? This was all his fault! He watched helplessly, almost unable to follow the action, wincing as they both landed blows on the other but still refused to go down or give up. Then, after Lysander had snuck in a sharp jab to Alex’s chin and took a rib-strike the same way he’d done to Alex earlier, the musician backed off momentarily, getting enough space to get his breath back.

                                I must stop him myself. I caused this, all of this suffering, and I am the one that needs to suffer for it, not them.

                                Reaching out and grabbing Lysander’s arm, he prepared himself to be attacked, but that fist never came. Lysander turned and hissed at him angrily, then his eyes went wide as for a moment his true nature grabbed control, temporarily halting his rampage. Before either of them could react, Alex used this opportunity to grab Lysander in a choke hold, trying to end the fight without bloodshed by withholding circulation and breath from his opponent. Fear traded places with anger, and he once again flailed in Alex’s grip. This time, however, Alex had the advantage of both surprise and leverage, and in seconds his quarry went limp in his grip.

                                Almost dropping him, Alex sighed with relief and set him down carefully, trying to get his own breath back and wincing at his stinging cheek, which he massaged as he nodded to Elliott. “Holy shit does he hit hard for someone of his size and weight,” he remarked, very impressed, “I didn’t want to do that but I couldn’t think of any other way to end this without hurting him badly. Thanks for the assist.”

                                Elliott knelt by his partner’s side, unsure if he would be of any help, but still feel the need to be there anyway. “You did exactly what you had to. I did not think that he was capable of that.” He thought about this for a moment and then sighed as well, noting that he would need to apologize to him for exactly that. His musings were interrupted as Lysander returned to the waking world, sitting up and looking around in confusion, then gasped as he remembered what had just happened. Once more he tried to run, scrambling away from both Elliott and Alex but hit the wall of the building.

                                “Shit, no, I didn’t,” he whispered, looking between them both, not wanting to believe what his memories held, “I did. I… I didn’t mean to-! No, not again…” He appeared ready to get to his feet and run once more, but saw that Alex was ready for him to do so. Gently, Elliott touched his arm again, asking him to explain what had happened, and he felt his insides twist painfully at the look in those warm hazel eyes. The fight was over, both internal and external. “…I won’t run away. No more hiding. It’s over.” His gaze swept over everyone, and it seemed as though a massive weight had settled upon his shoulders as he hugged himself and prepared to open up the locked door of memories that he’d kept sealed away from them so far.

                                “I came here because I ran away. Because I destroyed everything worth living for,” he said in a shaking voice, then swallowed and blinked back tears, “and it seems that I’ve done it again.” The group sat down around him, listening patiently as Lysander spilled out his past, surprisingly calm, though his voice sounded empty at the same time.

                                They already knew that he was fond of flirting and playful affection, and he explained that this had initially been a way to ward off aggressors and keep people at a distance. Eventually, he made it a part of himself, as he did like making others smile and be happy, and though he was rarely taken seriously, he didn’t mind. Despite this, he never really considered himself a person that someone could actually love, and so while he pursued and enjoyed physical relationships, he never expected anything to pan out for the long-term. He dated often and with a variety of partners, and eventually picked up a somewhat flattering reputation for being a lover that always satisfied. Further, he was very careful in his dalliances, making sure that he always used proper protection, and routinely made sure to get medical checkups to ensure that he hadn’t picked up anything along the way, or left anything behind with someone else.

                                To Elliott’s surprise, this admission caused no jealousy or envy within him. True, this was something that Lysander had mentioned early on in their friendship, long before they’d become companions, but hearing it again made him feel…pleased. He had been drawn to the musician for a number of reasons, and the fact that he had attracted the notice and devotion of someone who treated intimacy with the same sort of normality that others would treat food or music, something to be enjoyed and shared, and nothing about which one should be embarrassed… It filled him with a warm sense of pride and gratitude.

                                Lysander paused in his narrative to gather himself as he segued into the next part of the story, the flicker of a fond smile flickering at the corners of his lips. The year before he had encountered a good friend with whom he’d not spoken in some time. This friendship reignited immediately, and shortly, became something more. Elliott smiled a little himself as Lysander’s became a bit more solid and softened his face, though he didn’t seem to realize it. Continuing, he talked of how they had been happy together, and that this was the first relationship that he had really wanted to nurture and make permanent. He had genuinely been happy with him, and from the way Lysander spoke and the implied subtext, Elliott was certain that he’d been willing and ready to settle down with that person permanently.

                                This didn’t happen. After a few months his lover had become distant; less interested in spending time together and being intimate, but Lysander had shrugged it off. There were a number of things taking up their time, and it was to be expected that they’d see each other less, and that the stress of these activities would create a bit of friction in the relationship. At least, this is what one would normally think, and Lysander did so, and it was confirmed by his partner. Even so, Lysander was concerned, despite the other man’s insistence that things were well, that he just needed a bit of time to himself to think and handle some matters himself, that was all. But he would miss calls and messages from Lysander, sometimes for a couple of days, and eventually the musician decided to talk to him and bring it all out in the open.

                                There was another pause in the story as Lysander blinked away tears again, biting his lip, lost for a moment in the pain he remembered. He had confronted his partner, but he knew he should have waited; he caught up to him in public and insisted on speaking then and there. Initially, it was a minor discussion, then a simple argument, then a major altercation. What could have been handled with more finesse and diplomacy in the privacy of either of their homes broke down quickly in the presence of viewers, and words were said by the both of them that could not be taken back. While Lysander could not recall exactly what had been exchanged, the general idea was that his partner didn’t think he really was attracted to men, and that he didn’t think he could be with someone who had the reputation that Lysander did. Whether or not these statements were true, they had hurt, and they had developed a bit of a crowd, as their conversation had escalated in volume.

                                Lysander fell silent, staring off at nothing, and everyone waited patiently for him to resume his telling. Not wanting to interrupt but still wanting to provide some sort of comfort, Elliott ghosted the lightest of touch across Lysander’s fingers, just enough to let him know that he was there and supporting him. A hesitant smile tugged at one corner of the copper-haired man’s lips, and he pushed his fingers a bit further into that touch, almost scared to let go or take it further. It did give him the impetus he needed to press on, and Elliott felt the twisting ache of sympathetic pain deepen as he listened.

                                The emotional stress between the two men had built up to a dangerous level, and like any container under too much pressure, they both broke and struck at each other; one with words, one with a fist. They had both intended to hurt the other, in petty revenge for their own suffering. Elliott felt overwhelming self-loathing as he recalled himself doing the same thing only a few minutes earlier. He knew exactly how Lysander had felt at that moment and why he had done it, and so much of his thoughts, opinions, and actions made so much more sense now, and why and what he had held back from Elliott. But back then, Lysander hadn’t had the time to apologize or run, as he had been hit back by one of their friends who had just arrived, in defense of the other man, and any chance of peaceful reconciliation had been completely dashed.

                                By the light, no wonder he never wanted to speak of his past. I am almost unable to listen to it, so to have that knowledge within his mind, always clawing at and reminding him of what he had done to his last lover…

                                Taking a deep, shuddering breath as he bit his lip again and pinched the bridge of his nose, Lysander was even closer to tears than he had been. He said that was hotheaded and impetuous, and had a fiery temper that he sometimes could not control, particularly when already hurt. After all that had happened and been said he lost control, giving in to the pain and striking out against any who stood up to him. Alone against four, he fought and nearly won, being the only one actually trained in some form of fighting, but he could hold them off only for so long. Like Alex had, one of them had attempted to choke him out to stop the fight without hurting anyone further, but even with the disadvantage of being pinned down he had been able to throw off his attacker and get up. This had been enough to get him to clear his head long enough to see what had happened. To see what he had done to his friends, to his lover. He saw the fear that his companion now held for him…

                                He ran.

                                As fast as he could, as hard as he could, he ran back to his apartment, almost unable to breathe as he burst in through the door. Everything hurt, it all burned, he felt as though he was being consumed by his hate for himself. He went to the kitchen and-

                                He finally broke down crying, hugging himself as he dug his nails into his arms, shoulders shaking with sobs he couldn’t hold back. With unsteady hands he discarded the cobra-stitched bracelets, pushed up his sleeves, and removed the choker, the first time that anyone had seen him not wear it. And then they saw why; scars, thin and white, on his wrists and neck. Elliott’s stomach dropped out from under him and he felt a sickening wave of horror as he realized what had happened.

                                Oh gods… The scars you have hidden were not just mental and emotional. This is why you never wanted to get close to someone, to let them see those, because you would have to answer questions that you could not answer. This is what you meant when you said that you had nearly died a second time. Light burn me, I once said that you’d had a ‘beautiful death.’ Burn me to the core, what you must have thought of me at that moment, and yet you didn’t say a thing. My gods, my dearest…

                                He didn’t know how it had happened, that memory was thankfully gone from his mind. But he did remember a brief moment a little later; lying on the floor and seeing his blood pooling around him, the red-edged knife still in his hand. Help had arrived, and medical assistance was being applied, but he didn’t want it. Elliott’s own blood ran cold at Lysander’s words: “My only thought was, ‘why are you doing this? Why won’t you just let me die?’”

                                That was his last clear memory for the rest of the day, though he recalled occasional moments of consciousness before being dragged back under again. When he fully regained his senses he was in the hospital, and there he remained for a couple of weeks as he recovered. …And also so that it would be certain that he wouldn’t try again… Upon being released, he ensconced himself in his apartment for the next month, avoiding all contact from the outside world. His isolation ended when he found a letter from his late grandfather containing the deed to the home in which he now lived. He had walked away from his past and tried to start over. Despite that, he had slipped back into old habits and history had repeated itself.

                                “Stupid,” he hissed, “I’m just such a damn idiot.” Clenching a fist, he punched the ground next to himself as tears flowed without end. “I don’t know why I tried to kill myself. I don’t know why I thought I could come here and change. I don’t know why I thought for a moment I deserved to be loved. Completely useless, dumb, stupid, idiotic…”

                                Elliott was about to try to reassure him, to try to provide some kind of comfort, when Alex beat him to it, grabbing Lysander by the shoulders and yanking him to his feet. “Don’t you ever call yourself stupid again!” It wasn’t what Elliott would have done, but it did have the desired effect of snapping Lysander out of his destructive spiral, and he stared at the athlete as he continued. “You got hurt and had nobody to talk to or help you out. You thought you were completely alone in that moment, didn’t you? That in a flash of anger and pain the world was completely against you. You always solve your problems, and for one moment you saw a way to make it stop hurting.” His grip and expression softened. “I don’t agree with it, but I understand why.”

                                Still without words, Lysander tried to find something to say as his cousin finally released him, and Elliott stepped over, wrapping his arms around him from behind, needing the physical contact almost as much as his partner did. He did relax a little and rest some of his weight against him, yes, but Elliott could still feel his pain, and he hated himself for knowing that he’d caused some of it, for forcing him to drag all of this out from where it had been buried. One arm around Lysander’s waist, Elliott took a wrist with the other hand, brushing the scar with his thumb as if to be certain that it really was real. His thoughts had ordered themselves, and quietly, he spoke, words barely loud enough for anyone else to hear.

                                “Do you know what I see?” Lysander shook his head and almost clenched his fist again. “I see someone who is too strong. Someone who has always had to lock part of themselves away because nobody else is willing to understand. Someone who makes it a personal mission to protect everyone because he loves them and wants to ensure their safety and happiness.” Elliott hugged him a little tighter, feeling his own pain begin to fade a little. “And even when it all crumbled and you had to fight those you cared about you never once blamed them; you turned your rage inward because you felt weak. Weak, because you were unable to resolve the situation any other way, and you took it out on the one person you could fight: yourself. And even when you tried to destroy yourself, what you saw as the source of pain in others, you were still too strong, and survived.”

                                He felt Lysander stiffen again a little, but not to pull away, to keep himself from crying again, and Elliott smiled and softly kissed his neck. “You could have tried to end it again, or tried to re-open wounds and make contact with them, but you didn’t. You left to find yourself, to start over, to find answers. You could have stayed in that apartment, alone, but you had the strength to decide to make a change. I’m glad that you moved here, because I got to meet you, and I am greater for it.”

                                With a voice that nearly cracked, Lysander finally spoke again. “…I tried to hurt you.”

                                “I provoked you,” Elliott replied, and when Lysander shot back that he had almost hit him, he caressed his cheek. “But you didn’t. Even in that moment of fury you had enough self-control to deflect aside.”

                                Eyeing Lysander with new respect as well as sympathy, Sebastian drew fingers across his throat in the same line that he saw on him. “Damn, you really don’t do anything in half-measures, do you?” He asked for the keys to the community center, and Lysander seemed confused by this. “I’ll lock up. Go home, you’re a mental mess right now, and we sorta helped cause it. Take tonight to sort yourself out and we’ll meet up again tomorrow.” This was said without any heat or malice, as they all knew that it had been traumatic for him to have to re-experience that event, and that he wouldn’t be able to recollect himself properly around everyone, even if they were friends.

                                Elliott retrieved the keys from his pocket as Lysander agreed, handing them to his partner, who inspected them to make sure they were all there before handing them to Sebastian. The choker and bracelets were returned by Abigail, and he almost dropped them as he put them back on when Sam impacted him with one of his usual high-energy hugs. He wasn’t the only one to try to offer some sort of support, as Haley gave him a quick peck on the cheek, and Alex’s sunny grin returned as he ruffled his hair, promising to run with him again in the morning.

                                “Sorry I had to drop you like that, but you were seriously close to kicking my ass.”

                                “It’s okay, you did what you had to.” He made an inquisitive noise as Elliott was unable to stifle a laugh, remarking that he’d said the same.

                                “Do you think you will be alright, dear?” Elliott asked, loath to leave him alone despite Sebastian’s recommendation.

                                Picking up and slinging Resonance’s strap over his head, he thought as he flexed the bandaged hand. “I… Maybe, I think so,” he finally said, “if you could walk home with me, I don’t want to be alone just yet. I’m also not sure I can make it back by myself right now, feeling pretty beat.”

                                “Anything you ask. Lead the way.”

                                Elliott retrieved his satchel before they walked off together, and he felt a wave of warmth as Lysander took his hand and held it firmly.
                                 
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                                • Risukage

                                  Risukage Existential Complex

                                  //I love Elliott being sweet, caring, and understanding. I also love embarrassing him. :rofl://


                                  Their walk was mostly silent, though it was more that they were wandering in their own minds than some outward level of hostility. Elliott kept replaying the words that Lysander had said when Alex had stopped him: “Just let me die.” If they had let him go, to run away to what unknown destination that he’d had in mind, what would he have done? Elliott tried not to dwell, but it still gnawed at him, and he wondered if he could find a way to remain there with him the rest of the night. Not for any sort of untoward reasons, no. He was concerned for Lysander’s health, as though things seemed to have been resolved, Elliott knew the sort of darkness that could plague one’s mind after this sort of event, and he didn’t want to risk any chances.

                                  Lysander finally broke the silence, his voice almost empty. “I’m sorry I hid so much from you. It was insulting and condescending of me to think that you couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. That was extremely wrong of me.”

                                  Squeezing his partner’s hand, Elliott shook his head. “I am no longer angry about that. Rather, now that I know what it was you hid I know why you chose to lock it all away. It seems that it hurt you worse to tell the story than it was for me to hear it. I am sorry for pressuring you so rudely.”

                                  It was Lysander’s turn to shake his head. It was over now, and though there was a lingering ache that left a hole inside of him, it also felt as though a weight had been lifted. The conversation ended again, and they once more walked in silence.

                                  He opened the door and wandered in, almost lost, setting down Resonance and staring off blankly. Concerned, Elliott set his satchel by the door and closed it, putting a wary hand on the other man’s shoulder. “If you are doing better, I’ll go. I don’t want to intrude.” He knew that Lysander would probably want to deal with this on his own, and he could see why, but at the same time, he didn’t want him to be alone, but wasn’t sure how to ask without it coming out wrong.

                                  “No, I…” Elliott stepped back as Lysander turned around, and felt a small rush of relief when his partner leaned into him with a weak hug. Then he asked what Elliott wanted to hear: “Stay, here. Tonight. I need you.” Unsure if he was possibly misreading the situation, and not wanting to take advantage of him in such a damaged, unstable mental state, Elliott asked if he was certain about it, and was interrupted with a kiss that was much different than any he’d had before; there was need to it, desire. “Stay, please,” he whispered, “I want you.”

                                  Elliott had waited for this, for so long, but for a moment he wondered if he should pursue it. The look that Lysander gave him, though… Unable to hide a smile that reflected his own desire, he unsnapped the choker, dropping it carelessly as he pulled him closer. “I was wondering when you would ask…”


                                  Quite some time later, Elliott felt his heart rate begin to come down, threading his fingers through that lovely copper hair, lying back with Lysander draped across him, his head on his shoulder. His hair had gotten a bit disheveled from the very vigorous activity in which they’d been recently engaged, so Elliott untied the ribbon that held (most of) it back and tossed it onto the dresser with a flick of his wrist, allowing it to spill across his partner’s shoulders.

                                  “Still finding a way to undress me?” he giggled, shifting a little to meet Elliott’s eyes.

                                  “There is still a little left, but I find the sight of you wearing naught but your jewelry to be quite arousing, so I shall leave it.”

                                  “Bits of plastic and waxed cord are ‘jewelry’ to you?” Lysander teased, giggling again as Elliott hugged him and kissed the top of his head.

                                  “I am uncertain as to the correct term for them. Perhaps I should have specified ‘accessories,’ but even then, that seems incorrect.”
                                  Feeling quite languid, Elliott took in the scent and feel of him, letting his hands idly play across his partner’s body, and from the subtle twtiching and shuddering, he seemed to be enjoying it as well. Then he remembered an earlier thought and traced his fingers down the side of Lysander’s face.

                                  “I am concerned, my dear.” At a curious noise, Elliott sighed and tried to phrase the question correcly. “Your words at the community center, just after you had fled, the echo of the ones you spoke while your life drained away from you.” Lysander stiffened in his arms, and Elliott knew that he had been right to stay, in any form. “Tell me, my dear, had we not prevented you from leaving, what would you have done?” Still tense, and now quiet, Lysander could no longer meet his gaze, his fingers digging into Elliott’s shoulder. “…Dear?”

                                  “I…” Tightly closing his eyes, Lysander tried to hold back tears. “It’s not important.”

                                  “Yes, it is. Dear, please, tell me. If we had not stopped you, would you have tried again?”
                                  Sitting up, Lysander clenched his fists on his legs and bit his lip. “I… I might’ve…” His shoulders shook again as he fought the urge to cry. “Yes,” he finally replied, “maybe, I don’t know. I- I wanted to, but- I’m sorry! I’m so damn weak, I-“

                                  “Dearest.” The word was soft and quiet, but it was all that was needed. Shifting to sit up as well, Elliott brushed the hair out of Lysander’s face. “Thank you for being honest with me. And you are not weak. I completely understand. I very nearly did something similar myself once.”

                                  Eyes now wide with surprise, Lysander clasped Elliott’s hand. “You… When did-“

                                  “It was the night before we met. I was at the lowest point in my life that I had ever been. A year in this town and I had nothing to show for it. I had failed, and all that I wanted at that moment was to drown my sorrows for a little while. Sadly, unlike my spirits, they were bouyant.” There was a flicker of a smile from his partner, and Elliott pulled him close, foreheads touching, wanting that physical contact almost as much as Lysander did. “There was a verbal altercation. It very nearly became a physical one. I was not at fault, but it was due to my presence and statements, and it left me feeling even more unwanted and unwelcome. I left, walking without purpose or direction, until there was no further that I could walk.”

                                  Twining a lock of Lysander’s hair around his finger, he sighed at himself, remembering the emotions that he’d felt, or the concerning lack thereof. “I stood at the end of the pier, staring off into nothingness. All I felt was pain and emptiness. I was a failure, and I had brought shame and disappointment to my family and all of those who had supported me. I was useless, a dead weight. For a moment, just a brief flash, I considered diving in.” Lysander sat up suddenly, about to say something, but Elliott pressed a finger to his lips. “But only for a moment. Even so, had I actually gone through with it, I’d only have added ‘completely soaked’ and ‘extremely cold’ to the list before dragging myself back to shore. It was only a minor fit of despair, and it faded as soon as I had thought of it. But that is why I understand what you did and why you did it. I do not necessarily agree with your decision, but I can empathize with your pain.”

                                  His face fell a little and he hugged him even tighter, remembering the exchange at the community center. “And I am so very, terribly sorry about what I said to you. I said things specifically calculated to hurt, to cause pain to you. I took pleasure in your suffering and that is inexcusable. If you do not forgive me I understand why. Regardless of my frustrations there was never a reason for me to take it out on you.”

                                  “I can’t forgive you because there’s nothing to forgive,” Lysander smiled, kissing his cheek, “you were right, all of it, and I deserved it. If I’d told you about it sooner you’d never have wanted to say that in the first place.” He looked at his wrist, at that white scar, and the old pain of memory came back for a moment. “This is why I never wanted to pursue a relationship with anyone, and even when I did take the chance with you, why I never brought up intimacy. I was terrified that you’d see these scars and ask what happened, and hate me for what I’d done. For what I was. I’m glad to be wrong, but…”

                                  With a gentle smile, Elliott took his hand, kissing the mark, then did the same on the other hand, then kissed a pattern up the line on his neck, enjoying the gasp of pleasure it gave
                                  his partner. “All of that is in the past. Let us look toward and work for a better future. Together.”

                                  Knotting his fingers in Elliott’s hair, Lysander kissed him again, but it wasn’t one of the ones that they’d shared so often before. Like the one in the other room a bit earlier, this was more personal and demanding, and carried the air of complete possession. With determined fingers drawing up and down his partner’s back, Elliott allowed himself to be consumed by it, enjoying the sensation of holding him close with nothing else in the way, that warm, skin-to-skin contact.

                                  Finally letting Elliott go so they both could breathe, Lysander nibbled on his ear and flashed that cheeky smile. “As much as I want you again, and all night, I haven’t really eaten today. How about a quick snack before I get back to pleasing you?”

                                  “I am peckish as well,” Elliott purred, nipping at his lip, “and perhaps I shall be the one to return to pleasing you.”
                                  Before they could banter any further, Elliott’s phone rang, and Lysander leaned over the edge of the bed to retrieve Elliott’s trousers and fish the phone from his pocket, glancing at the screen. “Charles?” he asked as he handed it over and stood up.

                                  “My brother.”

                                  “Oh! You take the call, then, join me when you’re done.” He brushed Elliott’s lips with one last kiss, picked up his own pants, and left the room. Sighing with satisfaction, Elliott answered the device.

                                  “Charles, hello. How are you?”

                                  “Quite well, I just thought that I should call and wish my little brother a happy birthday.”

                                  Elliott shifted his position as he checked his mental calendar. “I had completely forgotten about that. How easily I lose track of time out here!”

                                  Laughing, Charles prodded him, as older brothers are given to do. “Is that so? Perhaps you’ve just been so busy that it slipped your mind.”

                                  “That is true, things have been rather…complex down here,” Elliott replied, shifting again to get comfortable, then realized that he was wearing nothing under the sheet and turned a bit red. But wait, it wasn’t as though it were a video call, there was nothing to be embarrassed about. …Right?

                                  “Even so, do you have any plans for tonight? Maybe make some now that I’ve reminded you?”

                                  “Ah… Not so much. Perhaps we shall just stay in.”

                                  “Oh-ho, ‘we’ is it? So you two do have something in mind!”

                                  Trying not to make evident his mounting panic, Elliott tried to redirect the topic. “Well, not really. We do spend a lot of time together now and it is simply something that we do.”

                                  “So dinner and a bit of entertainment?”

                                  “Of a sort…yes. Um…” He was never good at ad-libbing, nor being untruthful, and Charles caught on to the hesitant edge of his brother’s voice.

                                  “Are you quite alright over there? Did I interrupt something?”

                                  “…No, we are… That is… We need a break to…”

                                  There was silence on the other end before Charles laughed heartily. “Haha! Well then! Perhaps I should let you go so that you can get back to what you were doing. Or is it ‘who?’”

                                  “That’s-! I really don’t feel comfortable discussing this with you!”

                                  More laughter, then an amused sigh. “Ah, sorry about that, little brother, but to be fair, it is about damn time that your physical needs are being met. You’ve gone far too long without, you know.”

                                  “What- This sort of advice is completely unnecessary!”

                                  “Fine, fine. I’ll leave it at that,” snickered the very-unhelpful sibling, “but really, that is good to hear. It sounded like you both are compatible as far as interests and everything, and being physically compatible is a part of a strong relationship, you know.”

                                  Sighing again, Elliott managed a rueful smile, even though Charles couldn’t see it. “All of that is true, but it is also something that I did not want to rush.”

                                  “Fair enough! Oh, I hear an incoming call.”

                                  Elliott glanced at the screen of his phone. “It’s on my end, mother is calling.”

                                  “Probably to wish you the same. I’ll let you go, then. Again, happy birthday, Elliott, say ‘hello’ to your boyfriend for me.”

                                  “I shall, and thank you.” He hung up and answered the next call. “Hello, mother, I’ve not called in a while, it seems.”

                                  “You have not, and so I took it upon myself,” she replied, sounding amused, “and besides, it is customary to call the person in question when one desires to wish them well. Happy birthday, dear, how are things?”

                                  Chuckling, Elliott ran his fingers through his hair. “First Charles and then you. I am quite popular today. I am doing well, though I had forgotten the date until he reminded me.”

                                  “Oh, he has called as well?”

                                  “Yes, we just finished speaking.”

                                  “I hope that I didn’t interrupt anything,” she replied, and Elliott felt his face flush again at words that were very similar to the accidentally-accurate ones from his brother.

                                  “Ah, no, we were done, actually. That is, Charles and I were done, not Lysander and I- I mean, nothing was interrupted in any form, we…” Groaning, Elliott put his face in his hand, mentally slapping himself. There was a moment of perplexed silence similar to the one that Charles had experienced.

                                  “Is there something going on?” she asked, sounding puzzled.

                                  “No, not at the moment…” He trailed off, still unsure of how to word the statement of “my lover and I are taking a quick break to recuperate before returning to engaging in physical intimacy,” in a discrete and casual manner. There was no need for this, as she laughed much in the same way that Charles had, and Elliott buried his face in the sheet. Oh gods, now his mother knew!

                                  “I may not be interrupting but I am possibly keeping you from something. And therefore someone as well.” He could hear the teasing smile in her voice, and he squeaked in embarrassment. “Oh, Elliott, you really are too old to be this innocent,” she chuckled, “I do hope that Lysander understands just what it is that he has.”

                                  This slight shift brought him around, and he found his smile again. “That he does. But to be honest, it is I who did not realize at first just what a treasure I had found.”

                                  “I look forward to meeting him,” she said, and Elliott heard the approval in her voice.

                                  “Once we have reliable transportation out of town we will make that a priority.”

                                  “That is acceptable. For now, however, I shall let you get back to him. Give him our regards, dear.”

                                  “I shall. And pass on my love to father.”

                                  “Once more, happy birthday, it’s good to hear that things are going well.”

                                  Hanging up, he exhaled deeply and flopped back against the pillows. Great, just as he’d obtained a sex life his family knew about it. Who would be next? He got up and put on his trousers, setting the phone on the nightstand, and joined Lysander in the kitchen, who was nearly done preparing something quick.

                                  “Hey love, how went things?”

                                  “First my brother, then mother calling to catch up,” Elliott replied, not wanting to divulge more, as he felt a little awkward about mentioning the subject at hand.

                                  “You look a bit flustered,” remarked the copper-haired man, taking a quick bite of what he’d made, “never talked to your mom without pants on?” At the shocked, embarrassed look that Elliott gave him, Lysander giggled around his food and swallowed. “Just remember, it’s only weird the first couple of times, and that’s ‘cause you make it weird. It’s not like there’s a camera on you, so just don’t worry.”

                                  “You say that as though it is a common occurrence.”

                                  “It doesn’t happen all the time, but you do know my past, and therefore how likely it was that I’d get a call while in the all-together, so to speak.” Considering this, Elliott blushed a little again, then accepted a bite of what Lysander offered him. “So, how about we finish this quickly so we can get back to bed?”

                                  “I like the sound of that. However, just once more before we eat,” Elliott smiled, sliding a hand down the back of Lysander’s pants and biting his ear, “I am no longer uncomfortable, and am suddenly reminded of just how alluring you are.”

                                  Grinning, Lysander pulled him over to the couch. “Is there anything else you’d like to take off of me this time?”

                                  “Not a thing.”
                                   
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                                  • Risukage

                                    Risukage Existential Complex

                                    //...So... I was listening to the soundtrack for Revolutionary Girl Utena (seriously, it is a FANTASTIC soundtrack) while writing most of this, and when I took a break I let my mind wander. As one does.
                                    ...
                                    I now feel the need to see Lysander in Utena's "battle" outfit and Elliott in the Rose Bride dress. Things like this are why it's a good thing that I can only write and not draw...
                                    *Lays down on the floor, stares off at nothing.*//


                                    Elliott awoke rather confused. The bed was comfortable, yes, but it wasn’t his bed, and something about the room wasn’t right.

                                    Xander? How did you get in-

                                    He blinked and looked around the around the room in the early-morning light, now remembering the previous night’s “activities.” Scratching Xander between the ears, he smiled and reclined again, enjoying a soft sense of contentment. His actions the night before surprised even him; so demanding, so enthusiastic, so passionate. How unlike his usual self! But Lysander had enjoyed every moment of it, and remarked at one point that he liked this side of him. He replayed a few scenes and happily felt no embarrassment about it. It was nobody’s business but theirs, and even if others found out, well… He just hoped that nobody else would. Having his family know was cringe-worthy enough!

                                    That was an amazing night. And Lysander… I feel so comfortable here, so welcome. This place already feels like a home. I could see myself staying here…

                                    The spot next to him was still warm, and he relaxed from it and the scent of his partner on the pillowcase, already finding both to be familiar and welcome. Dozing off again, he slept a little longer, but not deeply, as the sound of Lysander removing his running jacket was enough to rouse him again. Elliott scratched Xander again, raising himself up on one elbow, sharing that mellow, contented smile with his partner. He greeted him, inquiring about his mental and physical health, and Lysander replied in the very positive.

                                    “I don’t ever want to go through a dry spell like that again,” he remarked as he sat down to remove his shoes, which made Xander give him a look of disdain before the ginger tabby hopped off of the bed and padded out of the room. Voicing the opinion that he’d not felt this good in a number of years, he leaned over to give Elliott a quick peck, adding as he removed his shirt that a good portion of it was the person next to whom he had woken. With a chuckle, as he took the opportunity to run his fingers from Lysander’s now-bare shoulder to his hip, Elliott replied that he thought the same, and without missing a beat Lysander suggested that Elliott could live there.

                                    This honest and immediate reply left Elliott thoughtful. “It is something that had crossed my mind…” he said, still taking the opportunity to caress his partner.

                                    Lysander leaned over again and twined a lock of blonde hair around his finger, grinning with mischief. “Well, the thing that has crossed my mind is that I’m fire and you’re water, so why don’t we go catch a shower so that things can get properly steamy?”

                                    His terrible and unexpected flirt was far more amusing to Elliott than it probably should have been, and he said so, facepalming as he allowed himself to drop back against the pillows. Lysander giggled himself as he stood up to remove his pants, then took Elliott’s hand to help him up, gasping as the other man wrapped him in a warm hug, nibbled his ear, and began using one hand quite skillfully. Nearly stumbling a couple of times from this attention, Lysander got them both to the shower, where Elliott took the time to demonstrate other skills.

                                    As such it was quite a while later when they both stepped out, and Elliott examined himself in the mirror. Lysander offered him the use of his razor and any other toiletries he’d need, seeing as he’d not packed an overnight bag. As he toweled his hair dry he remarked that he was going to start the coffee, and that Elliott didn’t need to hurry. Elliott replied that he didn’t expect it to take long, then remembered the bandage on Lysander’s hand, and asked about it, as while it hadn’t gotten in the way the previous night or become dislodged, he wasn’t certain how it had held up being wet.

                                    “It’s still good, looks like Harvey knows his stuff,” Lysander said, flexing his hand for emphasis, “I don’t think it will come off until it needs to.” Elliott nodded as Lysander put on a clean pair of pants and left for the kitchen. He removed his earrings so he could brush his hair (he had been a bit too tired to do it before they’d gone to sleep, then a bit too busy before their shower), borrowed Lysander’s hairbrush to quickly work out the tangles, then put the silver hoops back on. Rubbing his fingers over his chin, Elliott inspected himself again before reaching for the shaving cream and razor, then glanced out of the room in the direction that his companion had gone once he noticed something. He hadn’t seen any stubble on Lysander, and the razor was still dry, so he hadn’t shaved earlier. Apparently he was one of those sorts who could go a day or two without needing it.

                                    Filing this away in the “interesting but not terribly useful” portion of his memory, he concentrated on not cutting himself on the unfamiliar blade, and in a few minutes was clean-shaven. Wiping his face on the just-used towel, he hung it up, then realized that unlike Lysander, he had no fresh garments into which he could change. Well, the ones from the day before were still relatively clean, and he could at least wear them until he could get home to change out. He put on and buttoned his pants, then picked up his shirt, shrugging into it and rolling up the sleeves.

                                    Hair loose across his shoulders in a copper-red cascade, Lysander hummed to himself as he poured the drinks, and Elliott couldn’t resist a smile and a swell of pride.

                                    Such a magnificent form. A body that almost seems as though it were designed for the pleasure of others, and a brilliant mind within it. He is mine, and I feel privileged to be able to touch him and no longer hold back.

                                    Lysander didn’t notice his arrival, and produced a satisfying gasp and jump of surprise as Elliott nuzzled his neck and flicked a gentle finger across his shoulder. Grinning, he gave Elliott his coffee and expressed amusement that it had taken him only one night to learn all of the best ways to touch him. Elliott rebuffed this, that he had so much more to learn, but was keen to do so. Lysander leaned against the kitchen counter, thinking about something.

                                    “So… You’re okay with us being…” he said, letting the silence speak for itself.

                                    Elliott sighed and smiled, reassuring him that if he hadn’t then he would not have escorted him home the day before. “As I said, I was wondering when you would get around to suggesting it.” Laughing, Lysander said that he had been waiting for Elliott to bring up the idea of going farther, as he didn’t know how comfortable he’d be with taking their relationship to that level. This lined up with what he’d said last night, and Elliott knew that he likely would never have asked to pursue being physically intimate on his own. He had always been too passive and rarely initiated anything without prompting, and Lysander had probably picked up on that.

                                    Sipping his coffee, Lysander chuckled and smiled at him again. “Absolute truth, when we first met? That line about earrings and such? I was covering for the fact that I was thinking about how you were crazy hot and I wanted some of that.” Elliott laughed as well, shaking his head, seconding the first impression and initial thoughts, in addition to pursuing options similar to what they’d done earlier. Face falling a little, Lysander stared into his cup. “It’s interesting, and sorta frustrating, that only now we’re finally on the same page. Sorry it took me so long to finally open up about my past. I should have trusted you more, but-“

                                    He paused as Elliott took his cup and set them both on the counter, then pulled him in for a very satisfying and prolonged kiss. “Do not apologize any further,” Elliott said once he had given Lysander the chance to breathe, “I fully understand your suffering and fear of losing everything. Regardless of how long it took for us to get here, it is not the destination I seek, it is the journey, and I want to walk it by your side from now on.”

                                    Only slightly amused by Elliott’s perpetual habit of being correct about everything, Lysander handed back the coffee and took his, drinking the last of it in two gulps. He had to get to the garden before anything else could get done, and he gratefully accepted Elliott’s offer of help. There likely wasn’t much he could do to assist, but the company would be more than welcome. After slipping into the bedroom for his work shirt, he happily took Elliott’s hand and gave him a quick tour as he went about his business.

                                    Gesturing to a still-empty part of the garden, he rubbed his arms, still warming back up from the coolness of the morning. “Now that it’s fall I was going to put in sunflowers over there. I’ve wanted to do that for quite a while now and it’s satisfying to finally get around to it. One of these days I’ll also do roses, once I have an area set aside that I think they’ll look nice.” Elliott immediately thought of the roses that his mother cultivated, and considered bringing up to Lysander the possibility of using some of those cuttings. This thought was momentarily shelved as his partner mentioned purchasing a motorcycle, as Sebastian’s training had given him confidence enough to think about riding on his own. “It would be nice to have the freedom to get out and about a bit more. And I’m confident enough to have a passenger, too."

                                    His obvious grin and wink further emphasized his intent, and Elliott very much liked the idea, as he couldn’t remember the last time he’d left town, other than the trip to Lysander’s storage unit. “I support your decision, if anything else for the selfish desire to escape this place for a little while.”

                                    That warm smile was now soft and happy, and gave Elliott a sympathetic tingle. “I think it’s a journey I’ll enjoy having with you.”



                                    Once finished with the harvest (Lysander had a rather interesting and self-sufficient setup that required very little effort on his part now), they put their haul where it would be picked up later and taken to the various locations in which his produce was being sold. They could get properly dressed, and Elliott rolled down and buttoned his sleeves, tucking in his shirt as they entered the bedroom again. It was now that Lysander had realized the same thing that Elliott had, but the author shrugged and put on his waistcoat. There was plenty of time before practice, they would just go to his place next. Lysander changed and dressed with practiced efficiency, putting on his guitar-pick accessories and pushing his sleeves up a bit. This, plus the lack of the choker, brought a smile to Elliott; he was no longer scared of his scars, and now wore them openly.

                                    Commenting that he just needed to do his hair and get Resonance, Lysander went to the bathroom to get his hairbrush, which Elliott plucked from his hand, offering to do it. The copper-haired man thanked him, enjoying the sensation of someone else doing it for once, and wondered if they should just start keeping clothes at both places, just in case, as they were somewhat distant from each other.

                                    “Thanks again,” he remarked as Elliott set aside the brush and tied back his hair with that familiar ribbon, “right, sunglasses, and then- Oh, you know…” He picked up the silver half-rim spectacles that Elliott hadn’t seen him wear in a very long time. “Want to try these?” he asked, “they’re not prescription, they just have some anti-glare and anti-UV coatings, good for things like computer monitors or when you don’t want to wear sunglasses for some reason.” With Elliott’s lighter-colored eyes and proximity to the ocean, these were valid concerns, and he took the glasses after he finished with the buttons on his wrists.

                                    He continues to look out for me and my health, in the smallest of ways, and that means so much.

                                    The spectacles fit comfortably, and he did notice that they’d be useful when working at the laptop again or simply when out and about. Picking up his satchel, he saw Lysander smile with satisfaction, biting his lip and looking him up and down.

                                    “You appear to approve,” Elliott observed, and Lysander replied without shame that they looked very good on him, and that he did have a glasses fetish, so this was extremely attractive to him, in addition to matching his earrings. Quickly glancing in the mirror over the dresser, Elliott agreed on all counts, and they left to go to his cabin so he could also get changed.

                                    Elliott began unbuttoning his garments as soon as he walked in the door, feeling very comfortable about that sort of thing now, and Lysander trailed behind, having put Resonance by the door. In a rather catlike manner, Lysander dropped onto and stretched across the bed, already looking completely at home.

                                    “I think I could see myself waking up here now and then as well.” Elliott shook his head and huffed a chuckle, removing his shirt and waistcoat to set them aside, and pulled out a fresh shirt. As he did so, Lysander rolled onto his back and folded his hands behind his head, gazing at the ceiling as he thought aloud. “You know, Sebastian was right. I said that I couldn’t let go, but really, I wouldn’t. I was so scared and hurt that it all wrapped up together in a giant tangle that I was even more scared of to try and un-tangle. For as much pain as I was in, it was more terrifying to imagine things being even worse.” Elliott turned as he buttoned the fresh garment, seeing Lysander’s expression become a little sad, which lasted only a moment as he followed the thread of his thoughts. “But it was all just my imagination. It wasn’t my memories that were the source of pain, it was myself. And now...I’m free. I’m myself again, I’m more than I used to be, and I’m happy with that.”

                                    Elliott had always been poetic and prone to flowery, lyrical moments, but something about Lysander truly brought it out in him, and this was one of those times. He sat next to his partner, leaning over him to meet his gaze, lacing together the fingers of one hand. “Though your fire is no longer wild and uncontrolled like it was before, it now burns brighter and more warmly. You were my light in the darkness, but now you are my light of day."

                                    To Elliott’s satisfaction, he caught a quick flush in his partner’s cheeks and a look of delight in his eyes; he hadn’t been expecting that, and almost didn’t know how to react to it. For once he was the one to be spontaneous! The hesitation was gone in an instant, and Lysander laughed brightly, grabbing him by the collar with his free hand.

                                    “You know that you can’t say romantic fluff like that without me doing something about it.”

                                    Gods, this man knew how to kiss. Elliott was getting into it when he felt Lysander’s fingers nimbly undoing the buttons on his shirt, and he sat up, telling him to hold off for a while. “Ah, you naughty thing!” he laughed as Lysander began undoing the buttons from the bottom this time, “later, I said.” He playfully swatted away his partner’s hands, prompting a cheeky grin and the query as to whether it was a promise. As he tucked in his shirt the musician shifted to lay on his stomach, elbows on the bed and chin in his hands, watching him with lecherous glee. Chuckling and donning his waistcoat, he fixed his partner with a wry smile. “Your libido appears to have very few boundaries.”

                                    Shrugging, Lysander continued to visually undress the other man with that ever-present smile. “It usually does, but it’s been a while since I was getting any regularly, and you’re hot. Deal with it.”

                                    “I will deal with it later tonight, then,” Elliott replied, checking himself in the mirror one last time, “let’s go before we’re late.”
                                     
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                                    • Risukage

                                      Risukage Existential Complex

                                      //If you see any changes to the last two or three chapters in the following days, I'm not retconning anything. Formatting and stuff sometimes gets funny when copying from my tablet's copy of Word, and I have no sodding idea why. *Shrugs, sighs.* Anyway, have an update. I'm gonna start taking bets to see just how much longer this will run than the last two books, and if I stretch this nonsense out to something like seventy chapters I invite you all to stage an intervention. And YES, that is a very obvious Hitchhiker's Guide reference there. It seemed to fit...//


                                      They left the cabin together, but while Elliott was about to head toward the bridge, Lysander was taken with a playful mood, and grabbed his hand to pull his partner round and about. Elliott nearly stumbled but Lysander didn’t let him fall, instead whirling them into a quick dance of no particular sort. Amused by his partner’s sudden enthusiasm, Elliott remarked on it, and Lysander grinned and hugged him, dancing away himself to stare at the ocean. After everything that he’d been through (most of it self-inflicted!) he felt so much more alive than he had in so very long.

                                      He tilted his head to the side thoughtfully, then set Resonance onto the sand, took a breath to steel himself, and walked out onto the pier. Upon reaching the end, he again gazed out at the endless blue expanse, and though there initially was tension in his shoulders, he finally relaxed and found his mental and physical center. Same as he had back at the park a few days earlier, he went through the sword forms, and Elliott smiled to himself, watching his partner shift and flow with the movement of the water below.

                                      Facing your fear as only you know how. I am proud of you, my dear.

                                      He gasped with his own fear, however, when Lysander laughed brightly and rose up out of one form to grab onto a pylon and hoist himself atop it. “Dear!” he shouted, running over, “are you sure you-“

                                      “I’m not afraid anymore.” Elliott stopped in his tracks at the quiet statement, watching Lysander balance with ease on one foot, the other behind it and arms wide for stability. “I can feel the water now, I know how it moves. I can dance with it.” Relieved, Elliott stood next to him, seeing the determination on Lysander’s face. “And because of that, I think I understand you better, too.” Elliott stepped back to allow him to hop down, then gasped again as his partner wrapped his arms around him and actually lifted him off of his feet for just a moment. “I’m not scared of myself or my scars, of the past or future. I’m here with you and I can’t ask for anything else.”

                                      He gave Elliott a quick peck on the cheek as he swept past him to pick up Resonance and chivvy him to catch up; they would be late if they didn’t hurry! They didn’t need to, though, as though Sebastian, Abigail, and Sam were already present and the community center open, the three had arrived earlier than usual anyway. Sam gleefully greeted them both, looking much better at their arrival, and immediately remarked upon Lysander’s lack of his normally-present choker. Gesturing with the sleeves that had been pushed up his forearms, he replied that he no longer needed it.

                                      “I’m not embarrassed or afraid of them anymore. They’re a part of who I am.” His face fell a little and he looked extremely apologetic. “Also, I didn’t say it yesterday, but sorry for snapping at you like that. You were trying to cheer me up and my reaction was completely uncalled for. Thanks for being a friend.” Once again, Elliott stepped aside, correctly predicting that Sam would throw himself at the other musician for a full-body hug. Laughing, Lysander returned the hug, squeezing him hard enough to leave him winded. The guitarist grinned as he adjusted himself, asking if they were prepared for practice.

                                      “You have no idea,” Lysander grinned as he mussed up his friend’s hair, “let’s make some noise.”

                                      Smirking, Sam shot him an amused look as Lysander moved past him to swap Resonance for the bass.

                                      “What, you two didn’t make enough last night?”

                                      Turning nearly as red as his partner’s hair, Elliott shot Sam a look of shock while Lysander nearly tripped over a microphone stand.

                                      HOW DID HE-?!

                                      Perplexed, Sam wondered what their problem was, and as he put both reactions together and got an interesting answer, his face was bisected by a grin that almost lit up the room. He elbowed Elliott in good humor, expressing his approval. “I don’t care where that hand has been,” he laughed, holding up a hand, “high five!” Holding up his own, Elliott was only vaguely aware of Sam slapping his hand against it and looking between them as he giggled. For once, Sebastian found something to be funny, and Abigail was bent over double, seated at the drum set, almost needing the snare to her side to keep her from sliding off of the stool.

                                      First my family and now my friends! Will I ever have a secret that doesn’t immediately become public in less than a day?!

                                      There was gleeful and snarky banter for a minute that left Elliott even more embarrassed, particularly when Alex and Haley arrived and it had to be “clarified” for them. Eventually, Lysander apologized to him, realizing that they’d probably crossed a line with which Elliott wasn’t comfortable, and Sam seconded it. Remarking that he wasn’t as comfortable as everyone else was in discussing details of this sort even with friends, Elliott was grateful for both Lysander’s hug and the thoughtfulness of his friends.

                                      Adjusting his clothes, Sam grinned at him, but supportively. “Sorry, dude, didn’t mean to embarrass you. I’m happy for you two, seriously.” As they pulled out their gear and got set up, they chatted and teased each other, feeling the tension from the day before dissipate.

                                      Haley inspected her camera gear as she pulled it out of her bags and addressed Elliott. “Well, like Sam said, I’m happy for you two. It looks like you’ve finally found what you’re looking for,” she remarked, picking up the camera and looking through the viewfinder at him, “you’ve finished your novel and found someone nice to hook up with.” She lowered it as she tried to remember something. “Oh, you said before, but I forgot, any news on when it’ll be published?”

                                      Grateful that the conversation was now on professional matters and not personal ones, Elliott sat down on the piano bench, feeling that sense of success again. It would be published later that month, and if his information was correct, the first print would take place very soon. Alex perked up, complimenting his success, but Elliott was quick to attribute some success to his partner.

                                      “Well, if it wasn’t for Lysander’s input I likely never would have gotten this far, so I cannot claim success on my own, and thusly have listed him as a co-writer.” Perking up, Alex was happy to see Lysander get credit, and asked how they’d be listed, if Elliott would be first or what. He confirmed it, but clarified that rather than use his own name or a pseudonym they went ahead and consolidated under Lysander’s. Once he was established as an author he could use his own name.

                                      “Hunh, that works, I guess,” Alex mused, scratching his head, “but couldn’t that be confusing later? Or are you keeping Lys’s name when you get married?”

                                      Married? What- …Oh gods…

                                      Somehow this implication had never occurred to him at any point in the discussion, and from Lysander’s expression, he hadn’t either. They talked over each other as they tried to clarify the issue with their friends while simultaneously reassuring each other that this was not what they had intended when they had agreed upon this matter.

                                      “Regardless, Alex is right,” Lysander stated, looking very flustered, “we still have time to change it before it goes to print, to put your name on it properly so that-“

                                      “No,” interrupted Elliott, “now that it has been mentioned…”

                                      I had compartmentalized it, myself and him, two separate people; Elliott, and Lysander von Morgensonne. But looking at it now, this is a partnership. And now that I have considered it…

                                      He chuckled softly as he played it over in his mind a couple of times. “You know, ‘Elliott von Morgensonne’ doesn’t sound too bad.”

                                      The sudden wide-eyed blush that Lysander now wore told Elliott everything that he wanted to know, and after considering it himself, agreed. “I hadn’t thought about it before.”



                                      Elliott had the least to put away out of the entire group, save for Haley, so he brought his satchel and sheet music over to the table to pack in order to stay out of everyone else’s way. Likewise, Haley had very little, and what she did was just scattered across the table. As he opened his bag and fastidiously filed away his paperwork, she smiled at him.

                                      “We’re all happy for you, sweetie.”

                                      He looked up, not expecting any further commentary on the new status of his and Lysander’s relationship. “Oh, well, thank you. I don’t know what prompted this, but you have my gratitude all the same.”

                                      Sighing with friendly patience, she put down her camera, and rested one hand on the tabletop and the other on her hip. “We all remember when you first got here, and how hard you were trying for such a long time. You seemed to have a few high points where you seemed to have found what you were looking for, but then the world kept dropping out from under you. I mean,” she sighed again and shook her head, “I remember that time you nearly had the dust-up with Shane at the saloon the night before the flower dance. You looked so sad and alone and hurt, and a lot of us felt kinda bad that we hadn’t tried to step in and welcome you to one of our groups. We knew that you were in a bit of a bad place at that time but nobody made the effort to try to help you change that, and I, at least, am sorry about that.”

                                      “It’s fine,” he reassured, not having expected this kindness, “I was a recluse and an oddity, it is likely in my state at the time that I might have refused any help that was offered.”

                                      Glancing over at the rest of the band, she smiled again. “Speaking of help, thank you. Both of you. You and Lysander have been such a good influence on Alex. He’s always been a sweetie, but kinda distant, and he always thought he was, well, in his word, ‘stupid.’ Now that he’s been hanging around with everyone here he’s a lot more confident about himself and what he can do, and I’ve caught him reading a few times. Not just comics or magazines, actual books. He’s found a future he wants to work for, and I haven’t seen that in him before.”

                                      “I am grateful for his friendship as well. He is possessed of a gentle heart, and to see him find success as well is a delight.”

                                      Everyone else had finished packing, and Elliott noticed that Lysander had just finished a conversation with Sebastian and Abigail, who walked past him, and Haley linked up with Alex to leave, giving him one last wave and smile. Sam also departed, but as he went by Elliott, he smirked as he gave him the gesture of two thumbs up, once more expressing his approval of his new status with Lysander. Pinching the bridge of his nose and nearly dislodging his glasses, Elliott sighed heavily, which earned a snicker from the other blonde man.

                                      Waiting by the door, Sebastian intercepted Lysander and asked him to follow him home, as he had something that he wanted to give to him. Lysander agreed to this and hugged Elliott, who remarked that he would be on his way home, adding quietly that he would wait for him to arrive. His partner’s grin was confirmation that he had heard and would definitely be showing up later, and they went their own directions; Elliott south, Sebastian and Lysander east.

                                      He walked slowly, in no particular hurry. It was a bit of a hike up to Sebastian’s house, and then Lysander would probably drop by his own home for a few things before coming out to the cabin. Letting his thoughts spin, Elliott considered his novel and sighed with satisfaction at the warm tingle that the memory brought. The time that they had spent working on it together, it had been wonderful! And the next one should be just as delightful.

                                      …The next one…

                                      His stride slowed at the bridge, and he set down his satchel to rest his arms on the railing and stare out over the water.

                                      How strange. It is just now that I consider the future. For years my only driving goal has been to finish my novel. I finished it recently, and just a bit after that submitted it, but it had not yet been PUBLISHED. At that time it was still an uncertain future, something for which I hoped, fearing it might not happen. But now it is certain, and strangely, I almost feel lost. What is my future now?

                                      Frowning, he watched the flow of the river as he considered this line of thought.

                                      I do not know. The idea of the novel has consumed me for so long that I never stopped to consider what would happen when I finished it. That is due in part because in the deepest recesses of my mind I never thought it would happen, so I never felt the need to think about it further. It is a certainty now, and I must find a new goal. But…what?

                                      He sighed and shifted himself, resting his weight on his hands as he pushed himself up from the railing.

                                      I don’t know. To be happy, I suppose? What is it that would make me- Ah, the answer is more easily found than I had considered. It was an unexpected surprise, an unusual happiness. I wonder, perhaps my future is to be more? Not just myself, laboring away at a keyboard, but as a partner, finding joy and fulfillment with someone else.

                                      A soft smile spread across his face as he considered this.

                                      Yes. This is the new future that I shall pursue. I cannot imagine life without him, despite the short time that we have been in each other’s company. Perhaps it will fall apart in a year or two, as love is a fickle thing, and this could just be a strange euphoric high and nothing more. But right now, I feel so complete with him around, and I have never felt this sort of happiness before. He is my life, my world, and my all. I may simply be a romance-addled fool, but however it plays out, I am glad to experience this, and I will give it everything that I have.

                                      Satisfied with his decision, he picked up his satchel again and completed his journey home. He noticed that the kitchen was a bit of a mess, as he hadn’t been home the night before to clean any of it up. Since he had a little while to wait, this was as good a time as any, and he unbuttoned and rolled up his sleeves to take care of it.

                                      Some time later he finished, and was drying his hands just as Lysander walked in with a backpack slung over one shoulder. He dropped the bag by the table as Elliott approached, greeting him, but the author was interrupted when Lysander pounced, throwing the both of them to the floor, though somehow doing it without injury. A little stunned, Elliott blinked a couple of times from behind glasses that had half come off, flat on his back, with Lysander straddling his hips, grinning with mischief. He leaned down to nibble Elliott’s neck and begin slowly undoing the buttons on his shirt. Adjusting the glasses so they sat properly on his face, Elliott was about to ask something when Lysander removed both those and his own sunglasses and set them atop the table, then returned to his original task.

                                      “You know, I think I’m rather enjoying this after all,” he purred, “all of the anticipation of seeing and touching you without anything in the way is extremely…exciting…” Unsure of how he should proceed, Elliott found rational thought harder to maintain as Lysander teased him with soft kisses.

                                      …He is my future. I will no longer hold back. He is MINE.

                                      Grabbing his partner and pulling him down into a fierce hug, he took the kiss that he’d been wanting but been denied the last few minutes, then nipped Lysander’s lip.

                                      “I want you over the table,” he growled, “Now.

                                      …MINE…
                                       
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                                      • Risukage

                                        Risukage Existential Complex

                                        //At this point the story can diverge a bit more. The last...lots of chapters had a lot of plot with the both of them that I couldn't either skip or shorten, so hopefully it wasn't a tedious retelling. Yay! More new content ahead!//


                                        Lysander had just departed for his run with Alex, and Elliott stretched in a leisurely manner and relaxed in bed, in no particular hurry. After being woken by a random dream that morning that Lysander had had (not quite bad, but had had been a little off-putting), Elliott had been quick to assuage his fears and lift his mood, though that had been after Lysander had taken offense to his laughter. He couldn’t help it, the dream had been so strange and endearing, and had come just after Lysander had professed to not be afraid of the ocean any longer. Perhaps some fears had deeper roots than either of them had expected. Still, though, him a merman? Ha! And Lysander had claimed to have no creativity.

                                        Enjoying the pleasurable afterglow of having (unsuccessfully) tried to make his partner late for his run, Elliott let his thoughts wander. No longer did he have that gnawing, aching drive to write. It wasn’t as though he didn’t want to write anymore, rather, it felt like, well, he did right now, after spending some very nice time in Lysander’s arms. The novel was complete, and he could relax now and enjoy the sensation of a completed project. Perhaps later they could sit down and do a bit of writing, but for now, well, he was happily content, in many respects. No, the next book could wait a little while, he needed to focus on the music with the band.

                                        How perfectly strange. While he possessed musical skill, he’d never considered himself a “musician.” And now, here he was, a member of a local band that had the potential to become professional very soon. It felt so surreal! But at the same time, it also felt natural. He had never considered himself to be “rock star” material, that mantle was much better suited for his partner, who wore it as though it were a second skin. Performing was in his blood, not Elliott’s. …Still, though…

                                        With a sigh, he sat up again and stretched once more, considering the possibility of lying about a little longer, but he remembered that Lysander would shower at his own house after the run, not here, so he got up to clean up and get dressed. As he put down the hairbrush a bit later and put his earrings back on, he considered the notion that he probably should be embarrassed or uncomfortable with his strange change in demeanor when feeling as strongly aroused as he had been the last few days. However, as he thought about it further, why? It wasn’t as though it was unlike him, it was simply a side that had never before had the opportunity to be expressed. He liked it, actually, being so bold, confident, and determined. It was just that he didn’t feel comfortable discussing or displaying it around anyone but Lysander.

                                        Time seemed to fly by so quickly now! He finished dressing, made and drank a coffee, and had a bit of time to himself before leaving for practice. Though he left a little earlier today than he usually did, as Lysander had mentioned before he left that he was going to show Abigail how to use that sword that she’d found before practice started. Lysander had also stated that Sebastian had loaned him a sword from his own collection, which appeared to be a twin to Abigail’s, though a longsword to her shortsword. The dancer proved to be a decent instructor, showing her basic mechanics and good habits, and by the time they went into the community center for practice, she already felt comfortable and confident with her weapon. Music practice went just as well, and they discussed options for their first gig, and how to go about getting it lined up, but still had no concrete solutions yet.

                                        Afterward, Lysander locked up the building and smiled as Elliott put an arm around his waist and kissed him, walking next to him the entire way to his house. This already felt natural, staying with each other like this. Elliott noticed that he had slept much better these last couple of nights than he had in a very long time. It wasn’t just due to simple physical needs, it was that mental comfort of having close the person who meant so much to him. Lysander echoed this, as since he’d had a number of partners in his past it was also a feeling that he recalled experiencing more than once.

                                        This sensation was shared by the both of them again in the morning (in addition to a few other things), and as Lysander dressed for his run, he brought up a strange but interesting idea. Curious, Elliott asked him to elaborate, and that familiar, cheeky grin split his face. Costumes. Well, not costumes in the holiday or dressing-up for a party sort, stage costumes. What one wore for a role was not necessarily what one would wear on the street. It separated the performer from reality, from the audience, and at the same time immersed them in the role, into which the audience invested themselves. He suggested that they trade clothes and “personalities” for the day, and Elliott immediately liked the idea. They were so drastically different, that to impersonate the other would be to completely give up themselves, and would illustrate the point to their friends better than simply trying to talk about it.

                                        Lysander’s garments fit comfortably, if strangely, but that was mostly due to the fact that their respective aesthetics were so drastically different from each other. They were pleased to note that while Elliott had a slightly larger frame than Lysander did, the musician had hips a bit larger in proportion, so each other’s shirt and trousers fit them both. Relatively speaking. Elliott could see where the shirt could be taken in a little better around Lysander’s chest, and the sleeves on the shirt he wore were barely too short. But these were things that only they would really notice or care about. Lysander tied Elliott’s hair back, securing it with the ribbon, and handed him the guitar pick accessories and sunglasses, taking the silver half-rim spectacles once more. After one last check to ensure that they looked the way they should, Elliott picked up Resonance and the newly-acquired sword, and Lysander obtained the satchel.

                                        Leaving, they strolled without hurry, taking the time to get into character. Lysander naturally adopted Elliott’s posture and stride in just a few minutes, but it took Elliott a little longer to figure it out, particularly since his partner was now mimicking him, and that was a little confusing at first. However, once he cleared his mind and didn’t think about it so hard, it came to him. All he had to do was think like the other man, to put himself in Lysander’s headspace, and it clicked for him. He thought about that warm but often daring smile, his fluid dancer’s gait, the carefree ease with which he carried himself… By the time they had reached the town Elliott had already figured it out, and Lysander smiled and brushed his hand with his fingers; the same way that he normally would. They had done it!

                                        Meeting up with their friends, Elliott found it nearly impossible to not crack a grin at their baffled confusion. He was quite certain that he heard Lysander whisper, “it’s showtime,” and Elliott was the first to take the stage. “Well, you’ve got a bigger audience than you did yesterday. Think you can work like this or you gonna get cold feet?” This manner and style of speaking felt strange, but it also felt right, and his smile widened at the side-eyed sniff that Lysander gave him, which was normally his to give. He laughed with delight as he tossed the sword to his partner, and almost without looking, Lysander snatched it out of the air with one hand.

                                        “You forget that I am a professional, dear,” he replied with dignified confidence, “not only do I perform well under scrutiny, I often thrive when observed by many.”

                                        They had bantered often together when writing the novel, and they had learned each other’s mannerisms, idioms, and slang. As such, trading places for their verbal sparring was second nature. “Your confidence is an inspiration to us all, love,” he replied, and once again Lysander gave him that look, but there was his own smile in it.

                                        “It is born of skill and training.”

                                        How strange to see myself mirrored like this. Do I really carry myself with such deserved pride? I have never felt that confident in myself or my skill, but I do not doubt his portrayal. I want to think that I have changed much in these last few months, but seeing him now, I know that it was always there, I just needed to be made aware of it.

                                        Perplexed, Sebastian remarked that they were being strange, to which Lysander responded that they were themselves, and therefore there was no reason for confusion. Elliott seconded it, albeit in Lysander’s casual and snarky manner, and Sam found this to be gleefully amusing.

                                        “Dude, you two are just crazy, and this is just awesome. Though how far did you take the cross-dressing? You wearing each other’s underwear, too?”

                                        Ah, Sam, you always try to get a rise out of us, and you have so often done so from me with such skill. I remember recently that you will not cease your mischief until I have given you a reason to stop. Well then, let’s see if I can give you one.

                                        Donning the flirty smile that he so often saw Lysander wearing, he softly traced a finger from Sam’s ear to his shoulder. The spiky-haired man’s expression quickly changed from glee to utter bafflement, and Elliott again had to resist the urge to laugh as Sam blushed deeply when he pulled him over by his shirt collar. “How badly do you want to know,” he asked, dropping the octave and volume of his tone to a very suggestive level, “and in what manner?” Impulsively, he added a wink, recalling that his partner would do that when feeling particularly cheeky.

                                        Oh, that wide-eyed silence was exactly what Elliott had been going for! Maybe now Sam would be a little less obnoxious in his interactions. This must have been an excellent impersonation, as Lysander broke out laughing, therefore breaking character. “Okay, you win, love, that was good.” Elliott returned to his own “self,” complimenting the other man’s performance as well, but Lysander shook his head and flashed his usual grin. “I’m the actor, but you’re the one that got my stride and attitude spot-on, and that’s hard to do.”

                                        Elliott’s smile grew warmer and fonder at the compliment. It had felt so strange but so much fun to be someone else for a little while. He clearly understood Lysander’s love for the stage now, and hoped inwardly that they might have the opportunity to do something like this again.

                                        Wait, did I just consider role-play? As in- Ah! This is not the time to think of such things!

                                        He was distracted from his own thoughts by Sebastian asking for clarification again. The same as he’d explained it to Elliott earlier that morning, he asked them to think about what they had just done and how. It wasn’t them just playing around, they were demonstrating how in order to make a name for themselves they needed a way to stand out from the proverbial crowd. It wasn’t uncommon for musical groups to have a theme or at least some kind of “persona” associated with the band. This produced introspection from everyone present, and Lysander was clearly glad to see that everyone was not only taking it seriously, but that the demonstration had had the desired effect. He asked Haley if it Emily was open to a commission of this nature and scale, and the answer was positive.

                                        “I bet she’d love to. She’s so weird and eclectic, but that’s what makes her good at what she does, I guess.” She was of the opinion that her sister would appreciate the challenge, and Lysander asked everyone to begin thinking up ideas for band names and outfits. They would try to meet up with her the next day to share and expand on those ideas, as well as get preliminary measurements for whatever they would come up with.

                                        Now that the business portion of the day was concluded, Lysander and Elliott returned to having a bit of fun and traded personalities again, this time to the amusement of their friends. Elliott hadn’t had this much fun in a while, and amazed himself with how easily he was able to think and act like his partner. When they left that evening and Lysander reflexively tried to retrieve the keys that were now in Elliott’s pocket, the blonde man couldn’t help himself. This is what his partner would do, and now that he had more confidence in himself, well, it was natural all-around.

                                        He twirled the ring of keys around his finger as they walked outside before handing them over, and accepted them back once the door was locked. “Well, looks like everything is tied up around here,” he remarked, “except for you, love, but that can wait until we get home.” Lysander’s expression was genuine, when Elliott ran his fingers from the small of his partner’s back, past his waist, and very meaningfully grabbed his bottom.

                                        “Dear, really now!” he gasped, and only he and Elliott knew for certain whether it was a natural or “character” reaction. The soft redness in his cheeks and the slight widening of his eyes told the story that Elliott knew how to read, and he was quite pleased with the progression of this plot. Everyone else just found this funny, however, and they went off in their own directions home. The two actors went south to Elliott’s home, and Lysander gave him that soft but inquisitive smile that Elliott wore so often around him. “So, do you intend to follow through with your suggestion?”

                                        “That was the plan, actually,” Elliott grinned, “feeling adventurous?” This was a bold question, given that it was usually him who wasn’t adventurous, but the almost-shy suggestion if they could continue to try to role-play each other the rest of the night pushed any final hesitation from Elliott’s mind.



                                        At the community center the next day, they cleared the large table in the main room so that Emily could spread out a surprising number of sketches and notes. Apparently their performance at the Luau had inspired her to do a bit of design on her own just for fun, and once she received word the day before that they wanted her to create costumes for them she almost couldn’t sleep for the ideas she had. They took their respective pages and expressed their approval. She had been particularly enamored with the color assignments, and had drawn up a few sketches for everyone with their own specific theme. “I kept that idea and elaborated a bit, trying to mix elemental, well, elements into each outfit,” she explained.

                                        They hadn’t decided on a band name or unifying theme yet, but Emily might have solved both problems for them with one stroke. Each design clearly matched the style of the person for whom it had been designed, ranging from classy to outlandish. Ticking off on her fingers, she named each design’s prototype label: Garnet Fire, Sapphire Water, Topaz Lightning, Emerald Earth, and Amethyst Sky. Sam liked the idea (though not as much as Sebastian, who tried to hide it), but he was of the opinion that it sounded like a superhero group or some other sort of magical troupe of warriors. Agreeing with this but pointing out that this was the sort of thing he’d been looking for, Lysander was already enamored with the entire concept.

                                        Trying to find a flaw in order to cover for his enthusiasm, Sebastian wondered if “obsidian” would be a better fit than “emerald,” as he wasn’t sure how much he liked the alliteration, but Emily explained that she’d gone with that because they were already using black as a base template, so the contrast would be lost on his outfit, and that names with “stone” or “rock” kept coming out rather unwieldy. Sebastian did like green, so this wasn’t a bother, just an observation, and he studied his concept art with a smile that he didn’t realize he wore.

                                        Naturally, Sam found something amusing and giggled, grinning at Sebastian, who told him to get it out of his system. “Green and rocks are perfect for you,” the shorter man snickered, “because you’re a stoner.” With obvious frustration, Sebastian reminded him that his cigarettes contained tobacco and not cannabis, but before the banter could escalate further Emily asked if she could get them individually to get their measurements before they did any further work. There were a couple of rooms that they weren’t using, and they set one aside so that they could disrobe enough for her to get what she needed without standing around in their undergarments around everyone else.

                                        Lysander volunteered first, as he knew it would make everyone else a bit more comfortable to not be the first to suffer scrutiny. However, when Elliott stepped into the room and began unbuttoning his shirt, Emily had a difficult time in not smiling, and there was something about it that produced inquiry from Elliott.

                                        She shrugged and toyed with her tape measure as she waited for him to take off his shirt. “Sorry, just… I’m glad to see you’re doing well, I was worried for you after that whole thing back at the saloon this spring. Looks like you and Lys have been what each other needed.”

                                        He blinked a couple of times as he paused in undoing the buttons on his cuffs. “Yes, we are, but why do you-“ It occurred to him then that he had been very vigorous and a bit rough the night before, having left behind a few marks on his partner. …That normally were hidden beneath a shirt… “Ah! We-! Please say nothing to anyone else,” he asked, and she giggled again, interrupting him with a playful wave.

                                        “I don’t gossip like that, don’t worry. Sorry to embarrass you, but really, when I saw Lys’s back like that I was actually worried for a moment, and…”

                                        Blushing a little, Elliott cleared his throat and continued to undo buttons. “Well, he is quite good at what he does, so to be blunt, it is to be expected, I suppose.”

                                        She laughed heartily, both at his statement and then at his look of surprise. “Funny enough, that’s almost exactly what he said!”
                                         
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                                        • Risukage

                                          Risukage Existential Complex

                                          //A bit of a shorter chapter, sorry, got caught up with a few things. Still, short and sweet, as it were. And spicy! :3

                                          EDIT: I'm a doofus, I had clipped out a paragraph to move it and had forgotten to add it back in where it belonged, didn't see it until I was checking something this morning. The missing paragraph happens at the end of the bar scene, so scroll most of the way down to catch the bit I left out earlier. DERP.//


                                          Face-down on the bed and hugging a pillow, Elliott made very happy sounds as Lysander worked out the knots in his back. The copper-haired man appeared to be enjoying the activity as well, given his intermittent chuckles at some of those sounds.

                                          “This seems to be doing good things for you,” he remarked.

                                          You are doing very good things,” Elliott replied, somewhat muffled by the pillow, “if you could keep working that- Oh gods, right there.”

                                          Laughing, Lysander paused in his work to lean over and kiss the back of his partner’s neck. “I usually don’t get that out of you until late at night.”

                                          “Your hands are amazing,” Elliott murmured, feeling extremely relaxed, though he knew it wouldn’t last much longer, as Lysander had to get going for his run in a little bit. Another soft kiss and Lysander went back to his work, finally undoing the knot that had plagued Elliott’s shoulder for a little while. As he got up he gave his partner a playful swat on the bottom, which was met with an amused look of contentment.

                                          “That’s all I can do for now, I’ll get you again later tonight,” he smiled, reaching for his running pants. Almost reluctant to move and alter the warm, relaxed sensation, Elliott shifted a little to watch him dress. Only a little lecherously, he was too mellow to think of much at all at the moment. Still, Lysander noticed, and put on a little bit of a show of getting dressed. “Don’t worry about getting up just yet, I’ve gotta come back for a shower, so I’ll wake you up then.”

                                          “Mm, I would appreciate that,” mumbled Elliott, already beginning to drift off. He smiled as he felt Lysander lean over to kiss his temple and stroke his hair, and then he remembered nothing else until the other man did the same again when returning from his daily exercise.

                                          “This already feels normal,” Lysander chuckled as he sat down to remove his shoes. Elliott agreed as he stretched, sat up, and returned the kiss.

                                          “How quickly we adapted. Perhaps I should entertain that idea of moving in, though I am hesitant to leave my cabin.”

                                          “And it would be such a nuisance to move all of your stuff, anyway,” Lysander grinned, pinning him down in a playful hug, “besides, I think it’s still a bit early in the relationship to discuss that sort of thing just yet.”

                                          They took their time showering and getting ready for the day, as though they did have practice that afternoon, on the days that Elliott stayed with Lysander, he was able to help with the daily chores. Elliott was unused to this sort of work, but he adapted quickly, and after so many years of “ivory tower” life it was fascinating and edifying to work with his hands like this. Further, though Lysander was only recently more schooled in horticulture than he was, he was still a font of knowledge and information, and happily shared what he knew. He thought of the potted rose that he had brought from home and half-considered bringing it here, but immediately dismissed it.

                                          He has offered, and I have considered it, but as he said, it is just a little early in the relationship to consider moving in just like that. Although, if going by “milestones” is any indication, we have already had our first major fight, and we have become stronger for it. I shall take each day as it comes. Always I planned so far into the future and laid out everything exactly. For once I am free and have no obligations or set tasks for myself. It is time to drift upon these currents and go where things take me.

                                          Lysander noticed his introspection and asked about it as they got changed for the day, and he averred that it wasn’t much, just that he was without a dedicated path for the first time that he could recall, but he didn’t mind it. “I am emulating your carefree spirit,” he chuckled, running a brush through his hair one last time, “and it appears to be working well for me so far. I am beginning to understand just why you are so successful.”

                                          “Oh really,” returned his partner, nibbling his ear as he hugged him from behind, “I shouldn’t be doing well at all, really, remember that I just ran out here with no plan in mind and just a bit of cash in my pocket.”

                                          “Then you have proven that you thrive in adversity.”

                                          With no reason not to be, they were in good spirits the rest of the afternoon, and though there wasn’t a lot of practice going on with the rest of the band, they did take care of a lot of planning and administrative work that should have been taken care of earlier. As they packed and cleaned up, Elliott noticed Lysander and Haley conversing quietly and furtively, and when they noticed that he was looking they both giggled and smirked at him, sharing a private joke.

                                          “Beer,” stated Sam with conviction, “I need it, we’re getting it.”

                                          “Hard to argue with that argument,” Lysander snickered, “but that sounds good, I’m in.”

                                          Everyone else was also in the mood for some kind of relaxing food or drink, and in what seemed to be a weekly habit, departed as a group for the saloon. Half of them grabbed a table for themselves and the other half placed various orders with Gus, so that not only was he not overwhelmed by everyone ordering at once, but one single person didn’t have to remember the entire order. Shortly, they had what they wanted, and tucked in with gusto, forgoing conversation for a little bit. Sam, naturally, was the first to satisfy himself for the moment, and set down a pizza crust to pick up and drink the last of his beer. The first, anyway.

                                          “This is the life, y’know? I wanna make it big so bad, but at the same time, even if it never happens, this has been awesome enough. I’m happy with how far I’ve gotten.”

                                          Grinning and poking Sam on the forehead, Lysander finished his own beer as well. “Don’t defeat yourself before success can happen. We’re almost there, trust me. Once we get the outfits and promo materials done all we need is a venue and we’re there. Don’t worry about that last bit, we can’t do anything for a little bit anyway, and I’ve still got all of my old contacts back in the city, so I’ll see if I can pull in a few favors here and there.”

                                          He grunted and barely caught his glass from being knocked off of the table as Sam slammed into him with his usual full-contact hug. “Totes. My. Bestie,” he said, grinning from ear to ear, “you’re always right. Yeah, we are gonna totally be a hit, and it’s gonna be soon. Yessss!”

                                          Having found his energy again, Sam bounded up and trotted over to the jukebox to queue up a few things, most of them just to listen to, but a couple everyone recognized as a not-very-subtle hint for Lysander to get up and dance. Sam and Abigail got a kick out of his lessons and were picking up on it rather quickly. They still lacked his grace, and so while they had the steps down, the style was still a bit lacking. Even so, they had fun, and that was really the entire point. There were a couple of jazzy pieces that Emily liked, and she roped Lysander into some swing dance, which left her sweating and tired, though her partner showed no fatigue.

                                          The music changed to the next track, and Elliott perked up a little bit. It was one of the ones that he and Lysander liked, and had danced to often at home. But here? In front of everyone? Also recognizing the song, Lysander smiled and held out his hand, the request silent but understood: dance with me.

                                          In front of everyone? I can’t, I… I can. I can do anything with him by my side.

                                          Sam noticed this and laughed. “Not likely, dude, he’s way too- Wait, what?”

                                          Elliott matched his partner’s smile and stood, walking over to take his hand. The entire band watched with surprise, as short of the accidental incident at the Luau, nobody had seen them dance together before.

                                          “Glad you could make it,” Lysander remarked, waiting for the intro to finish.

                                          “Would I ever miss the opportunity to dance with you?”

                                          Nobody else mattered. It was just them and the music, and they owned the floor. Elliott could not have done this back in spring. He couldn’t have done it this summer. It was now that he had the confidence in himself to not worry about what others would think. When he thought about it, that confidence and self-assurance had always been there, but he had refused to acknowledge them. He had been unable to let himself see his own worth and accomplishments. Lysander had held up the mirror that he needed, and for the first time in his life he was. He finally felt alive, that he was actually living and not simply existing.

                                          The music ended too soon, but there would always be another time. Delighted, Lysander hugged him around the neck and kissed him on the cheek, taking his hand to sit down again. “I’ve wanted to do that with you forever, love.”

                                          “We have danced together many times before, dear,” Elliott replied as he refilled their drinks, “what is so different this-“ He paused as he considered this train of thought and chuckled to himself. “Of course. This is the first time we have danced in front of others. Intentionally,” he added, giving Sam a meaningful glare. Lysander squeezed his hand and gave him the smile that did such erratic, wonderful things to his pulse and stomach.

                                          “Heh, it’s cool to see you two so happy together,” Sam remarked, sipping on his third beer, “though you looked happy with the last guy. Sucks it didn’t work out, I guess, but you two look like a much better fit anyway.”

                                          Perplexed, Elliott stared at Sam as he tried to parse this remark. “I…beg your pardon?”

                                          Lysander gasped with delight and put his chin in his hands, grinning with glee. “Oooh, so I’m not your first male conquest after all? Spill it, girlfriend!”

                                          “I- What? No!” Elliott replied, confused but not embarrassed, and turned back to Sam, “what are you talking about?”

                                          With a thoughtful frown, Sam gave him an equally confused look. “The first day you were here, when you were looking for a place to live. Vincent and I were playing on the beach and you and some other dude were talking with the mayor.”

                                          Pulling up the memory and time frame in question, the pieces finally clicked and Elliott groaned with frustration. “Sam, that was my brother.” Lysander burst out laughing (as did Abigail and Haley), and Sam’s eyes crossed a little as he also re-examined his memories.

                                          “Ohhh. Hunh, yeah, I see the resemblance now.” He shrugged with casual indifference and took another drink of his beer. “I just thought you had a thing for redheads.”

                                          Elliott sighed and removed the half-rim spectacles to rub the bridge of his nose between his fingers while Lysander removed his sunglasses to wipe his eyes.


                                          Two nights later, they were on the way back to Lysander’s home after practice, and again the mischievous man and Haley had conversed quietly, and a package had exchanged hands. Elliott asked about it, but only got a sly smile and a promise that he’d find out soon enough. This enigmatic reply didn’t satisfy, but there was little else to be done except wait, so Elliott put it from his mind and continued the journey to his partner’s home.

                                          As they walked in, Lysander bit his lip, looking very amused and told Elliott to go have a seat on the couch. “I’ve got something for you,” he grinned, setting aside Resonance and taking off his boots by the door and taking with him the mysterious package.

                                          “If it’s as interesting as the other night then I look forward to it,” he replied, remembering that Lysander had surprised him by wearing the same outfit that he had in the photo; the crop-top shirt, low-rise jeans, thong, and high heels. Dear gods that had done good things for him… Likewise discarding his shoes and satchel, he pulled out his phone and reclined on the couch, checking up on a few things.

                                          “There we go, that took a little longer than last time, but totally worth the wait, I think.” Looking up at the voice from behind him, Elliott was about to ask what Lysander had meant by that, and his mouth went dry as his throat (and front of his trousers!) became very tight. Same as last time, he wore the black crop top and thong, as well as the heels, but had exchanged the jeans for black thigh-high stockings. He had also undone his hair and added the mascara and lipstick like last time, and the entire package had somewhat overloaded Elliott’s mind.

                                          With a hand on one hip, Lysander smiled down at his partner, enjoying the effect that he was having on him. “I think you’ll want these in a few minutes,” he whispered, pressing a couple of items into Elliott’s hand as he brushed his lips with a soft kiss, “if you can wait that long. Now, I remember that I danced this for everyone a while back, but not the way it should have been done. It’s your lucky night, love, you get a private show.”

                                          The dance that he had performed for everyone else, the first one that Elliott had ever seen him perform, the one that had left him completely smitten… Lysander flowed into the starting pose, flashed him a smile that left no doubt as to what was going to happen, and began to dance.

                                          Elliott very nearly couldn’t hold himself back that few minutes.
                                           
                                            Last edited: May 16, 2017
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