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

    //Here's a longer chapter to make up for Monday's half-assed attempt. Yay!//

    The next evening Lysander remarked that he had an errand to take care of that would take all day. Elliott inquired about it as he checked the temperature of what he was cooking, and only got that usual, mischievous grin that told him absolutely nothing.

    “You’ll see later, love,” Lysander replied, pocketing his phone and kissing Elliott on the cheek, “just something I’ve wanted to take care of for a little while. Anyway, I think I’ve got the hang of this. Wish I’d had you for a cooking instructor ages ago. I’ve never been incompetent, but still, I can’t say I’ve liked much of what I’ve made.”

    Elliott returned the kiss and reached for plates. “I think that we both have a number of qualities that we didn’t appreciate, realize, or improve upon until we met each other.” Agreeing with his statement, Lysander set about pouring drinks. Still wondering what it was that he’d been talking about, Elliott considered pressing further, but decided to let it be and finish cooking. If it was important Lysander would have given details, and from his reaction he had some sort of surprise or secret in mind that he’d likely find out about soon enough.

    Yawning, Elliott got out of bed himself, as Lysander had just departed a few minutes earlier for his run. As he’d see nothing else of his companion for the rest of the day, he ran through a list of errands and things that needed to be done as he stepped into the shower. He took his time, enjoying the heat and warmth that soaked into him, though he did miss having someone there with him. It had been such a recent change to his routine, but he had already grown accustomed to it.

    Am I asking too much, I wonder? This is a “honeymoon period” of sorts, and I am not certain how long this will last. Perhaps our mutual fascination with each other will taper off over the next few weeks. I certainly hope that it doesn’t, but at the same time, I cannot help but be realistic. I will not worry or look for problems, I will enjoy our time together and work toward a future that includes us both. It is a curse to be so pragmatic.

    Leisurely, he dressed and made his way to the kitchen, preparing a cup of coffee and checking his phone for anything important. There wasn’t. He took stock of his food stores and other consumables and perishables, and determined that a quick grocery run was needed.

    It was early fall, so the weather still retained its heady warmth, but the days already grew shorter and Elliott could feel the breeze beginning to chill. He didn’t feel the need to wear a coat, however, and walked with his hands in his pockets to Pierre’s, greeting people as he went. Knowing what he needed and where to find it, he was quick to fill his bag, and took a few minutes to catch up with Pierre. They didn’t have much in common, to be honest, but Abigail’s involvement with Sam’s band was enough, and Elliott was glad to see her father not only take interest in it, but approve of her activities.

    On his way back, he encountered Leah, who was just about to walk in. “Oh, Elliott, hi!” she grinned, “I haven’t seen you in, like, forever. Busy much?”

    “Ah, my apologies, I have been somewhat busy and- No, no excuses, I should have made time to see you again sooner,” he replied, now realizing how he’d neglected some of his previous contacts.

    Laughing, she waved him off. “It’s not a problem at all. I’ve heard of what you and everyone else are up to and you sound crazy busy. Though I don’t know if you’re still writing now that you’ve finished your book.” She glanced at the store and back at Elliott. “Hey, if you give me two minutes to grab something I can keep chatting, if you’re not off to do something else.”

    “It is no bother at all,” he chuckled, following her back in, “Lysander is busy today so I am left to my own devices. All that I have immediately is to put away my own purchases, which can happen at any time.”

    “Sweet! Awright, be right back.” In the promised two minutes, she returned with her own shopping bag slung over her shoulder. “Off to your place, I guess, is there anything you do want to do?”

    He thought about the question as they walked and shook his head. “This was all that I specifically needed to do. How about you? Is there anything that you would like to get done?”

    “Wellllll,” she thought out loud, tapping a finger to her chin, “I was gonna go foraging a bit, but I can do that tomorrow, the weather will still be good.”

    Intrigued, he led the way back to his cabin. “That actually sounds interesting. You forage for your own food?”

    “Yeah, not a lot, but I do supplement a lot of my diet that way. It’s so healthy and fresh, and it saves a lot of money. You wanna come with?”

    “I would like that. I don’t think that I will be of any help, but at the least I can be company.”

    She grinned and bounced in place, clapping happily. “This’ll be neat, I’ll get to show you so much cool stuff. There are so many good mushrooms this time of year.”

    “Mushrooms? Isn’t it dangerous to harvest those yourself?”

    “Only if you’re untrained,” she replied, gesturing for emphasis, “and I’m very trained. Plus, I’ve studied the flora of this place inside and out, and have actually been helping Gunther update and improve the books on the plant life here for a while now. Let’s stop by my place once we drop off your stuff so I can drop this off and get my other bags.”

    They conversed as they walked, and Elliott was glad for the opportunity. Leah was a good friend and he felt quite bad that he’d not reached out to anyone outside of the band in far too long. As they passed westward through the south part of town, they encountered Haley as she left her home, and she smiled with obvious glee.

    “You’re welcome,” she giggled, and Leah frowned in confusion as Elliott blushed in embarrassment.

    “I… Yes, that was…a surprise,” he responded, very vividly remembering what she had supplied for his partner. Leah shifted her look to Elliott, and his blush deepened. “Ah… She and Lysander collaborated on something, for my benefit.” He cleared his throat and looked away, trying not to think of what Lysander had looked like, but he couldn’t help himself from doing so, and both women laughed heartily at his expression.

    “Oh WOW. Tell me what it was,” Leah gasped, and laughed even harder as Elliott refused to make eye contact. “Awww, okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

    “It’s no worry, it’s just that, well…” He cleared his throat again, and still unable to look directly at them, gave a brief description of the brief number of items that Lysander had worn. Trying to sound impartial and uninterested, he still couldn’t help getting descriptive, and trailed off when he saw their matching expressions of fascinated amazement.

    “You are such a lucky man,” Leah gasped, hands on her face and eyes wide.

    The embarrassed flush became one of flattered satisfaction, and Elliott coughed again, finding a smile. “You are interested in that sort of thing?”

    “Nah,” she replied, giggling as she imagined what the scene must have looked like, “I like something a bit more stylish. A three-piece suit is to women what lingerie is to men, you know. I’m just saying that he must really love you, ‘cause he put a lot of thought and work into that, and I bet he probably hasn’t done that for anyone else before.”

    Haley put her chin in her hand and sighed wistfully, thinking of something. “I wouldn’t mind seeing that. It would be a great chance to try boudoir photography or the like, I haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet.” She glanced over at Elliott and waved her hands as she tried to clarify. “I mean, it’s not that I want your boyfriend to strip for me, I want him to model some time. I’ve done a lot of photos with people, but I haven’t been able to do figure studies or specific posing. You know?”

    Amused, Elliott chuckled, feeling a bit better that the discomfiture had been shared. “I completely understand, and I am absolutely certain that if you ask he will happily comply. He is completely comfortable with his self and body, but he remains courteous of what others might think. And at the risk of appearing rude, I think we all have errands to attend.”

    “Yeah, I gotta run,” Haley remarked, checking her phone, “but it was great running into you two. See you tomorrow for practice. And again, you’re welcome!” Sighing and shaking his head with good humor, Elliott echoed the farewell and walked again with Leah toward the forest.

    “I’ll say it again, you are such a lucky a man,” Leah said, shifting her bag to her other shoulder, “and he has just been so good for you in every sense. You are just looking…wow, you know? Looks like your relationship going to this level has really been good for you.” She giggled again at the surprised look he gave her and shoved him playfully. “I’m being honest! And seriously, sometimes you just need to get laid.” He stammered an incoherent reply amidst her laughter, and she opened the door to her cottage to duck inside. “I am actually jealous of him, you are absolutely precious. But I had my chance last year, so I can’t whine about a missed opportunity. There, got my foraging stuff, let’s go!” She handed him a bag and strode off confidently into the forest.

    Her knowledge of the Cindersap Forest was almost staggering. Not only did she know the entire place from memory, but she also recalled where particular items could routinely be found, as well as where she had been recently, in order to not over-harvest or visit areas she knew to be empty. They walked for several hours, filling her bags and basket with berries, herbs, mushrooms, fruits, and the occasional tuber and root vegetable. In addition to the bags, she had brought along a satchel that carried digging and cutting tools, as well as a pair of heavy gloves (which came in handy when they got to the wild blackberry hedge!), and she only took what she needed each time around.

    As they walked and worked, she pointed out what was and wasn’t safe, as well as why and how. Fascinated, Elliott listened with rapt attention, asking numerous questions and examining her finds with scrutiny. “I think truffles grow here,” she noted as she harvested a particularly large brown mushroom, “but only pigs are really good at sniffing them out, and I’m just not that good with animals. Also, I just don’t have the space and all to keep one. Though I have considered talking to Marnie about it and just renting it for a day, but I’d be harvesting the truffles for myself and not for profit, so it would be totally one-sided.” She stood up and brushed dirt off of her knees. “Pigs are good for rooting out a lot of stuff, really, so it would be useful for a lot of things, but unless I went into business selling what I find, it just wouldn’t make sense.”

    Examining the mushroom, Elliott asked her how she knew that this one was safe to eat. “You said that one needs to be trained in order to know the difference between safe and toxic varieties. I trust in your knowledge, but you’ve never found a bad one?”

    “I took a class on the plants of the valley when I was at the community college, and I learned a lot there. When I came out here I read every book the library had, and damn near talked Gunther’s ear off. Even then, I took pictures and notes of everything out here and did research and talked to people before I actually tried any. For instance, I wanted to make sure that what looked safe elsewhere wasn’t actually toxic here. I’ve read about stories like that and didn’t want to be one myself!”

    When the shadows grew long they returned to her cottage to look over their harvest, and she bounced on her toes again when they set their cargo on the table. “Wow, I got a lot today. Having someone else to help made this a lot easier. And a lot more fun! We’ve got to do this again when you have the time. Oh! Maybe next time Lys can come, too. With all he’s doing at the farm up there I bet he’d love this.”

    “He most definitely would. He isn’t the outdoorsy sort, but he does love the opportunity to learn. I do not know when we will have this time again, but when we do I shall definitely let you know.”

    She returned his promise with a smile as she pulled out a small basket and began rummaging through their haul. “Sweet. So, what kind of fruit do you two like?”

    Caught off-guard, he thought for a moment, trying to remember his partner’s preferences. “I love pomegranates, but those aren’t found here. We are both very partial to strawberries, and as I recall he likes most of the sweeter berries, and isn’t as partial to the tart ones. Why do you ask?”

    “I figured I should share a bit of the love. Just packing a small basket for you to take back and share with him.”

    “Ah! That’s not necessary,” he replied, flattered but hesitant, “I don’t want to take away from your stocks.”

    “Whatever. You helped, you get a cut of the loot. Besides, I bet you’ve never had fresh forest berries before. Bake ‘em in a pie, serve cold with cream, whatever you choose, they’re delicious. There! Here y’go, take these with you. Thanks so much for your help.”

    Smiling, he took the basket with a variety of the berries that they had foraged, and immediately thought of a few things he could do. “My thanks as well. This was a good day out, and I am glad for the exercise, fresh air, and excellent company.” He accepted her friendly hug as he departed, and walked home feeling quite pleased with the day’s events, and wondered how Lysander’s day was going. He’d not heard from him at all that day, and he admitted to himself that he missed him, though he felt glad that he wasn’t worried.

    The basket was set upon the kitchen counter as he rummaged for a few items, then it was upended in the sink to wash and drain its contents. He set the fruit aside to dry and put the basket where he would remember to take it back to Leah the next time he was in town. Since he hadn’t heard from his partner yet, he decided to make a quick meal to tide himself over until the next day. He didn’t realize how hungry he’d been until he ate, and ate much faster than he had expected. The dishes were washed and put way, and the fruit into a sealed container in the fridge to do something with later.

    It had been quite a long day. Yawning, he unbuttoned his waistcoat as he walked to the bedroom and hung it up, then began working the ones on his shirt. He felt a little disappointed that Lysander wouldn’t be there, but then, it’s not as though they could realistically spend every-

    A motorcycle?

    He paused and turned toward the other room, hearing the faint sound of what was unmistakably a motorcycle engine, and walked back into the other room. The sound was getting louder, so it was coming in this direction, and now he was both confused and concerned. As he opened the door the sound stopped, as the bike had parked next to his home.

    “Sebastian?” he asked, peering out, “What brings you- No, you’re…” The bike was black like Sebastian’s, but the rider wore red and black mesh riding gear, not the leathers that Sebastian favored. Besides, both ride and rider were larger than his friend, and immediately Elliott made the connection and smiled broadly. “Dear?” The rider removed their helmet, shaking out their hair, and Elliott’s guess had been correct.

    “Hey love, what do you think?”

    Lysander sat astride a large black sport cruiser, of a similar style to Sebastian’s, but of a different make, and already Elliott could tell that he was comfortable with handling it. “I think you look amazing, and it suits you. That is a lovely piece of machinery.” He reached out to offer a hand as the other man dismounted, his helmet under his arm. “Come in, tell me all about it, I’ll have a better look at it in the morning.”

    “Sure. Ah, though I…” Lysander paused just inside the door to think about something, then sighed heavily. “Okay, I’ll just say it like it is, I kissed Sebastian tonight.”

    Some people would have become angry at hearing this, others hurt, but Elliott knew his partner well already, and from the look of guilt that Lysander wore, it clearly hadn’t been for any ulterior reason. “Did he enjoy it?” he asked as he took a seat, feeling quite happy that such a good day would end with them together. Lysander did a double-take and replied that he wasn’t joking, and Elliott smiled to take away the edge of his tease. “Then I imagine that you had a reason. You seem very torn up about it, so clearly it’s causing you trouble. Talk to me, dear, what’s on your mind?”

    Examining his helmet for a moment, Lysander set it on the table and rested his weight on the same, unable to meet Elliott’s eyes. “We had just finished the purchase at the shop when he suggested going to his favorite place to just…chill. It was a great ride out, I’ll have to take you that way some time. We went to a place that overlooks the city and just hung out a bit. He likes it there because it’s both near and far away from everything, and the view is amazing. I’m glad he shared it with me.” The flicker of a smile graced his lips, but only for a moment.

    “And then… You know I’m a bit of an airhead and just kinda zone out sometimes. I did, and just wandered back through some old memories with my last boyfriend, ‘cause it reminded me of then, and Sebastian of him, and… I just forgot where I was and who I was with. He suggested that we head on home, and like I always did with…him… I just…” Shifting a little, his gaze remained firmly on a point somewhere on the floor. “He wasn’t offended, at least. ‘Bas, that is. He actually found it a bit funny when it was all figured out. But still, I feel like I totally cheated on you and…”

    Elliott regarded him with a fond, soft smile. “What was his name?”

    Finally looking up, Lysander gave him a puzzled look. “Who?” Comprehension dawned and he looked away again. “Oh. Allen. Why do you ask?”

    “So I can better understand your past and help you move on. He was truly dear to you, and I cannot blame you for missing him and all that you did together.” He stood and walked over to his partner, putting his hands on his partner's waist. “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me about all of this, that is what matters the most to me.” Lysander’s smile was weak, but it was enough. “But we must continue this conversation at a later date. Come, join me. It is late, and you can get home quickly in the morning now that you have transportation. I imagine that your mind will be assuaged by staying at my side, though I lack the energy to please you tonight.”

    Lysander’s smile returned completely, and he hugged Elliott in return and kissed him with relief. “That’s okay, love, I’m wiped too. Though I’m already feeling better for just being able to talk to you about it.”

    He asked for help in removing his riding gear, as he was barely able to stand on his own as well, and once divested of his safety equipment, began to discard his normal clothes as he led the way to the bedroom. He tossed his shirts in a pile on the floor and sat on the bed to take off his boots, then removed his pants and slid under the sheets. Elliott wasn’t far behind, hanging up his shirt with the waistcoat and removing his trousers to hang up with the same. Turning out the lights and joining his partner, he curled up around him, an arm under the pillow and the other around Lysander’s waist, the other man’s breathing already slow and even. He kissed his neck and drifted off, likewise asleep in just minute.
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    • Risukage

      Risukage Existential Complex

      //This book is going to run SO LONG and I DON'T CARE. :D//

      Waking with Lysander in his arms, Elliott enjoyed the feeling of just holding him before he had to get up and head back to his house. It reassured him in a way, that even though they hadn’t been intimate the previous night, he felt no pressing need for it. It would have been nice, but he didn’t feel disappointment at the lack of it or the need to make up for it. Perhaps there was something to their relationship, that it could be more than just a temporary infatuation. Sighing with relief, he kissed his neck again, allowing all of his senses to drift and take in sensations.

      Finally, Lysander awoke as well, blinking away sleep and looking blearily over his shoulder to smile at Elliott. “Hey love, I’ve gotta get going in just a few, since I’ll hafta get home and get changed quickly to make the run.”

      “I am unperturbed,” replied the blonde man, now able to kiss him properly, “do what you need to in order to meet your appointments. I shall catch up with you later today, perhaps?”

      Rolling over completely to hug Elliott, he considered something, and nibbled his partner’s ear as he sat up and got out of bed. “Yeah, I’ll do that. I was thinking of having a quick shag before I ran off, but I do need to get going. Sorry, love, but-“

      “Later, dearest,” Elliott reassured, “I had thought of the same, and to be honest, I am glad that it isn’t a burning need. I had worried that our relationship only had a physical basis, but I am relieved to know that while it is has mutual attraction it isn’t the only reason for our relationship.”

      Leaning over the bed to kiss him again, Lysander traced soft fingers down his partner’s face. “I’ve had more relationships than I can count, so it probably doesn’t mean a damn thing, but I promise, love, this is more than just a passing fling. I want you. I need you. You complete me. I’ll stay by your side as long as you’ll have me.”

      Lysander gasped with surprise as Elliott grabbed him and pulled him back into bed in a full-body hug, digging his fingers into his hair and back. “My heart, body, and soul are yours, dearest. I owe you more than I can express, and my only fear is that I might never be able to repay you for all that you have done for me.”

      With a giggle, Lysander snuggled into the hug, squeezing him back, and got up again. “Thanks, love, I think I needed to hear that. Meet you later at the park before practice? I wanna hear about your day.”

      “And I am interested in hearing about your adventure as well. Go, ride, don’t be late.”

      Elliott got out of bed as well to help Lysander more quickly get into and snug up his riding gear, and shared one last kiss before the rider dashed out and swung a leg over the bike. He would have gone outside to see him off, but he hadn’t bothered to grab any clothes before assisting his partner. As he returned to the bedroom to continue on the way to the shower, he paused in the main room to ponder the fact that only a few months ago he would have felt completely embarrassed to be nude in his own home, even alone like this. Now? It was his home, he was alone, it was a comfortable temperature, and he felt secure in his own skin.

      He smiled to himself and stretched languidly as he strolled to the bathroom and turned on the shower, removing his earrings before stepping into the hot steam. Again he missed Lysander’s presence, but it was a minor ache, not a need.

      A little later, after some coffee, he picked up his satchel and left, heading for the park. The breeze continued to chill, but it wasn’t cold just yet, and Elliott estimated another three weeks before he would need a coat. He didn’t encounter anyone of note on his way, and though he would have liked to have met Leah again just to thank her for the berries, he was certain that they would get sidetracked for a long time.

      Arriving at the park, he lounged comfortably on a bench, closing his eyes and feeling the sweet caresses of the sun and wind, then that of his partner, who had just arrived. “Hey love, you look happy.”

      “I have no reason not to be, particularly now that you are here.”

      Lysander set Resonance on the ground, leaning against the bench, put his sword next to it, and sat down next to his partner, hips touching, and put an arm around his waist. “So, you looked almost as tired as I was last night. What’d you do? Anything fun?”

      An arm around Lysander’s shoulders, Elliott kissed him on the cheek and gazed idly at the fountain. “I caught up with Leah, of all people. I have been remiss in maintaining our friendship and took the time to make amends for it. We talked of what we had been doing in the time since we last met, and she took me with her foraging in the forest.”

      Leaning up a bit to grin at him, Lysander appeared genuinely intrigued. “Really? That must’ve been pretty nifty. I’m a lot closer to her than you are but we hardly ever speak. I really should fix that.”

      “She remarked something similar, and that she would like to take us both some time. I do not know if it will be a skill that will be terribly useful for us, but I found the opportunity to learn more about our home an irresistible offer. Oh!” He snapped his fingers as he suddenly remembered something. “She gave me a basket of some of our find to take home. We found a number of berries and fruit that I am certain that you like, and I would like your input as to what to do with them.”

      “Oooh!” Lysander’s eyes lit up at the suggestion, and Elliott couldn’t help but mirror his smile. “Tell me you got strawberries.”

      “And blackberries, which put up much more of a fight, as well as a few others. I believe that we shall be staying at your home tonight, but perhaps tomorrow?”

      Giggling again, Lysander hugged him tighter. “I’ll look up recipes.”

      “I look forward to it. For now, tell me of your day. It was quite the surprise to see you ride up like that last night.”

      “You know how my day ended, but yeah, I hooked up with Sebastian at my place, and I rode out with him to the place in the city where he got his bike. We poked around a bit, looked at a few models, and found one that just fit. I took it out for a quick test ride and, well, funny as it sounds, it sang to me.” He shrugged and huffed a chuckle. “So we got the paperwork started to buy it and I picked up the safety gear as well, ‘cause all I had was the helmet that ‘Bas loaned me, so I picked up everything I could, head to toe. Well, except for boots, I have some and they’re good for what I need. So we got all of that, paid for it all, got my paperwork and stuff, and then we headed off to that place where we-“

      Lysander cut himself off and hunched a little, looking away. Nibbling his ear to make him giggle Elliott hugged his shoulder. “Dear, I told you, I am not offended or bothered in any way.”

      “I know, I just-“

      Elliott interrupted him with a deep, probing, and satisfying kiss that left Lysander somewhat breathless and very pleased. “That is why I am not bothered,” Elliott smiled, which shifted to a smirk, “though I must know, how do I compare to Sebastian? I am not a jealous man, but I do like to know all I can about my competition.” To his delight, Lysander blushed and looked away again, and he tilted his partner’s chin up to gently kiss him, letting their touch linger. “So it appears that one of the few ways in which I can tease you is to remind you of previous conquests.”

      “He wasn’t a conquest, love!” protested Lysander, “I just thought he was-“

      “Dearest, I tease,” Elliott sighed, putting a finger to his lips, “I understand. He is attractive, and from what I understand, the sort of personality and build to which you are attracted. Also, as you mentioned last night, he reminds you of your last lover, who was quite dear to you. Fear not. Tell me of anything you wish, and I will not hold it against you. I wish to know of all of you, of your past as well as your present. I cannot truly understand you unless I know all that I can about you.”

      The warm smile returned, and Lysander nestled into Elliott’s shoulder again. “Yeah. I will. Over munchies, though, I see everyone arriving, so it’s time for Abby’s lessons before practice.” He returned the wave that Sam gave to him, and the lead guitarist trotted over and hooked his thumbs in his belt loops.

      “Gods, you two are stupid-cute already. Speedrunning a relationship or something?”

      Elliott wasn’t sure what this term meant, but apparently Lysander did, as he stuck his tongue out at his friend and grinned. “If we are, then that means we’d be getting married by early next year, and we sure as hell don’t have the money for that, among other things.” He paused as a strange thought took him, then shook it off and shrugged. “Anyway, my focus right now is the band.”

      Walking up with her own sword in her hand, Abigail caught only Lysander’s remark. “Hey, speaking of, we got any idea where we’re gonna play? I dunno about the rest of you, but I think we’re pro material now, and if we don’t move soon we’re gonna lose the inertia we picked up from the Luau.”

      “I was thinking about that,” Lysander replied, greeting everyone else as they walked up, “and I was thinking that we could try scouting Zuzu City together in a day or two. I just bought a bike yesterday, so between that, ‘Bas, and Alex, we’ve got a ride for all of us. And it would let us get the hell out of town for a little while.”

      Everyone exchanged glances, clearly on-board with the idea. Sebastian shifted his weight to his other leg and folded his arms across his chest as he mentally did a few calculations. “We’re still short a helmet, though, that’s a bit dangerous, and I think Alex’s truck can only fit three.”

      Lysander looked critically at Elliott and did his own mental math. “If Elliott can wear my helmet just fine, then I can pop out to the shop tonight or tomorrow really fast to grab him one, and Abby can use your old spare, ‘Bas. If he needs a different size, though, then we’ll both head out and get him fitted tomorrow and then we can meet up together the next day. Sound good?”

      This worked out for everyone, and they all took seats to watch the show as Lysander got up and retrieved his sword to instruct Abigail in swordplay as he’d promised.

      Fortuitously, not only was the plan for Elliott to stay at Lysander’s, so he was immediately able to try on the helmet, but it fit snugly and comfortably, so Lysander was able to purchase one for him the next day. He pulled up to Elliott’s cabin that evening with his prize in tow, and refused all of Elliott’s attempts at repaying him for it.

      “It’s my ride, love, so I’m looking out for your safety. To be honest, I don’t feel comfortable with you riding behind me unless you’re geared like I am.”

      “If we leave earlier than everyone else we should have time enough to allow me to purchase gear like yours,” Elliott suggested, and Lysander nodded, having thought of the same.

      “That’s what I was figuring. We’ll ride slowly just in case, ‘cause I really do worry that something’s going to go wrong until I put a jacket on you.”

      Turning over the helmet in his hands, Elliott looked at the path back into town. “Perhaps we could give it a try now? There is still enough light out for a quick ride, and it would allow us both to get used to riding together before we need to be on roads with traffic.”

      Lysander’s warm, delighted smile melted Elliott from the inside out, and he brushed his cheek with gloved fingers and his lips with his own. “You have no idea how much I want to. Here, let me help you get that on and adjusted. Oh! Let’s find you a hair tie, I’ll show you how to tuck it in like I do. You are going to get epic tangles and the most wicked split ends if you don’t.”

      Five minutes later, the helmet in place and his hair inside as Lysander had shown him, Elliott raised the visor and watched his partner mount the vehicle, turn it over, and take it off of the kickstand. “Okay, same as ‘Bas told me: just hold on and relax. Don’t worry about leaning or shifting with me, just let yourself go. Basically be a sack of potatoes or something, I’ll do all the work.”

      Elliott’s pulse suddenly raced as he got onto the machine behind his partner, nervous but excited. Hugging him gently around the waist, he shifted himself a little to get the feel for the seat, then hooked the heels of his shoes over the foot pegs for the passenger. Now that his weight was completely on the bike and nothing else, he leaned forward and gripped Lysander more firmly in a moment of fear, then relaxed and admonished himself. Lysander chuckled softly, and Elliott couldn’t see his smile, but he saw the way it touched and lit up his eyes. Returning the smile, he relaxed again and allowed himself to be a “sack of potatoes,” as the other man had put it.

      “Here we go. I’ll drive slow through town, then pause by the bus stop in case you need to change position or something.”

      The motorcycle growled with acceleration and moved forward without any lurching or inelegance. The sand gave poor purchase, but that swiftly gave way to paved road and the bridge, and in moments they were riding through town. Elliott worried that it would be too loud, but for all of the size of the bike, it wasn’t that noisy. He realized halfway through the plaza that he was tense as piano wire and forced himself to relax, instead examining their route. It was the same as he’d walked so many times before, but this time…

      As promised, Lysander stopped at the bus stop, checking to see how Elliott was doing. “I’m not going to go fast or get on a main road, I’ll just go up and down this way a few times so you can get used to us moving at speed. If you ever at any time feel uncomfortable or need me to stop, tap my chest. Here, do it now, I want to make sure that you can. Okay, good, don’t be afraid to thump and really get my attention. Your safety is the most important thing right now. Ready? Onward!”

      For about fifteen or twenty minutes they rode up and down that strip of road, until the shadows grew long enough to disappear and the stars emerge from their cloak of day. Elliott felt much more comfortable and confident, and actually anticipated the trip to the city tomorrow. He mentioned this once they pulled up at his cabin and dismounted, then fumbled with the chin strap that secured the helmet. Removing his gloves, Lysander guided his fingers to the buckle, and showed him where he needed to press and tug in order to open it so that he could remove his headgear. Once the chin strap was undone, Elliott removed the helmet as instructed, and gratefully let the breeze blow through his hair. Lysander appeared to be of the same mind, as he drew his ponytail through his hand to straighten it.

      “I do enjoy riding, and this gear feels proper safe, but damn if I don’t feel good getting back out of it afterward. Well, looks like we’re gonna get you geared up tomorrow. How’s that feel?”

      Hugging the helmet to his chest, Elliott studied the motorcycle with new eyes and awareness. “I feel…ecstatic. I prefer the safety and comfort of a car, but this was exhilarating, and I know that the trip to the city will be much more so. This is a beautiful, well-crafted piece of machinery, and the two of you already move together in synchronous. I feel no fear riding with you and on it.”

      Morgenlied,” Lysander replied with a smile, then gestured to the bike. “That’s its name. It told me.” He shrugged and grinned, and Elliott could see that he was a little embarrassed at this admission.

      “German, isn’t it? ‘Morning Song?’ I was right, the two of you already possess a synergy. I eagerly await being able to ride with the Morning Sun, carried by the Morning Song,” he laughed, and took Lysander’s hand to bring him inside. “Let us rest now, tomorrow will be a very long day, I imagine.”

      He had just put the helmet on the table when Lysander set his down as well and grabbed his hand and put an arm around his waist, giving him a rather smoky smile. “You know, you’ll need to learn how to put this gear on. Why don’t you get a feel for it by helping me take it off? And if you keep going, well, you're just really thorough, aren't you?”

      “Then I should start right now,” Elliott replied, licking his partner’s lips and undoing the collar, “because once I’m done with this lesson I intend to ensure that we get right to bed, even if we don’t end up getting much sleep.”
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      • Risukage

        Risukage Existential Complex

        //I was up WAY too late playing FF14, but then, I was making sick bank at the Gold Saucer, and almost have enough MGP to buy the last couple of items I want. Woo-hoo! Have a chapter, I'm debating whether to grab three hours of sleep, or a coffee and just stay up until 8pm tonight and crash out at a normal hour.

        Also, while I was proofing this before posting, the cat brought in two mice. Two SEPARATE mice, within 45 minutes of each other. (Yes, I could tell.) I guess that that was his hint that it was time for breakfast.//

        Gentle, teasing kisses woke Elliott from an unremarkable dream, but seeing as reality held a handsome and amorous man in his bed, he was quite happy to wake up. “Good morning my dear, shouldn’t you be getting ready for your run?”

        With a shrug and a flash of that warm smile, Lysander settled down on Elliott’s chest and played with a lock of his hair. “Nah, we figured we could take a day off and sleep in a little so we would have enough time and energy to get out there early today. We remember how wiped we both were after the Luau, so a day to ourselves won’t hurt. Ready to get suited up?”

        The prospect of being able to accompany his partner anywhere from now on was quite exciting, though still a little frightening. However, the ride the night before had been pleasant, and it would be a long enough ride to the city that he’d be able to get comfortable with it, but not so long that he would begin to worry again or become uncomfortable. He brought this up with Lysander, who shared the same opinions, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before standing up and stretching. Elliott watched him do so with relaxed satisfaction, which his partner noticed, and stretched again exaggeratedly for Elliott’s benefit.

        “You like what you see?” he grinned, putting a hand on his hip and smirking down at Elliott.

        “I find it to be simply captivating,” Elliott replied, “should I tire of such a vision I shall be tired of life itself.”

        Laughing happily, Lysander sat down next to him and kissed him properly, the slight flush to his cheeks and glint in his eyes exactly the result that Elliott sought. It was so easy to produce the effect that he desired, and he was almost hesitant to do it too often, lest it lose its effect. Taking Elliott’s hand, Lysander stood once more and pulled him to his feet.

        “C’mon, love, let’s get cleaned up and get on the road.”

        An hour later they were outside, Lysander assisting Elliott with his helmet again before affixing his. Elliott raised the faceplate as Lysander adjusted his helmet and did the same, doing one last check to ensure that his gear was snugly secured into place and that Elliott was also ready to ride. Snapping shut the clasps on the sport backpack that Lysander had provided, he checked how it rested across his shoulders, ensuring that it wouldn’t become uncomfortable during the ride.

        His checks complete, Lysander mounted Morgenlied, turned over the engine, and grinned over his shoulder. “All set. Ready, love?”

        With a little less confidence, but an equal amount of eagerness, Elliott got into place behind him and got comfortable, same as last time. Arms around his partner, he took a deep breath and let it out, forcing himself to relax. “Right, I’m ready to go, dear. I hope I don’t give you any trouble.”

        “You’ll be fine. Trust me.” He closed the visor and, once again the same as the night before, put the bike into gear and rode off into town. As they had an errand to take care of before everyone else, they were leaving first. Elliott almost asked him to stop, as he remembered that Abigail would need the spare helmet, but recalled last night that Lysander had mentioned dropping by Sebastian’s before he’d gone to the cabin, where he had likely dropped it off. This removed the last of his tension and he smiled to himself.

        “Trust me.” You have never given me a reason not to, therefore I put my life and safety in your hands. How strange to have such a thought and find it to not only not be terrifying, but to actually be comforting. My dearest, you have done more for me than I shall ever be able to express.

        He left open the visor until they got onto the main road, enjoying the early-morning air, then shut it as they picked up speed. Lysander drove at the same speed that they had gone the night before, giving Elliott the chance to get accustomed to it again, but as they turned onto the highway that lead into the city, he accelerated smoothly to the speed of traffic. Fortunately, it was still early enough that they weren’t going to encounter morning traffic when everyone heads to work, which was a rather sizeable load off of Elliott’s mind; he trusted Lysander implicitly, everyone else, not so much.

        Once he had gotten used to the speed of the highway, Elliott found it to be an exhilarating and interesting trip; so often had he driven or ridden in a car, but this, gods, this was a completely alien experience in comparison. It was so free yet so perilous, and Elliott immediately appreciated the amount of concentration and confidence that Lysander possessed to control the motorcycle. Somehow, this deepened his trust in his partner, and he watched the scenery and cars zip past with a newfound appreciation for enclosed, four-wheeled travel.

        Despite Lysander’s careful handling and trying not to ride too quickly, Elliott was grateful to put both feet on the ground when they arrived at the shop, removing his helmet and taking a deep, welcome breath. He smiled again as his partner also took off his helmet, kissed his cheek, and squeezed his hand. Helmets tucked under the other arm, they walked into the store, hand in hand, and the receptionist giggled as she saw Lysander.

        “You’re already a regular customer, aren’t you? And you’re the one with a friend this time. Hi! I’m May.”

        Releasing Lysander’s hand, he offered a handshake to the receptionist. “Elliott. It’s been a curious few days, I admit. We are, ah…” He trailed off and looked to his partner for guidance, not sure what to ask for.

        “Safety gear,” he supplied, inclining his head toward the area in question, “need to get him suited up to ride with me.”

        A glance at the helmet told the entire story to May, and she flashed them both a grin and waved them on. “Looks like you know what you need, then. If you’ve got questions, I’m here, and James is out on the floor. You can leave your items here if you want, I’ll keep an eye on them for you.”

        “Nifty, thanks.” Lysander turned to Elliott and asked for his help in removing the gear, as some of the snaps and closures were a little difficult to do alone. This suddenly reminded Elliott of his partner’s request the night before and he almost was unable to avoid turning very red. Clearly, Lysander remembered the same thing, but while his wink and smile would normally exacerbate this sort of situation, they actually reassured him.

        A couple of minutes later Lysander stretched again (and once again Elliott tried not to remember that morning!) and led the way to the section of the store that stocked personal equipment and gear. “I really should have tried to call ahead or something, ‘cause we’re both tall and hard to fit, but I’ve no idea what your size is so I don’t think they could order something ahead anyway.” He shrugged and put a hand on his hip again. “Well, what do you think would work for you? I don’t know your style, which is also why I didn’t want to do anything sooner.”

        Looking around at the options, Elliott tapped a finger to his chin as he walked around and examined the racks, and glanced over at Lysander. “To be quite honest, I rather like what you wore. At the risk of copying your style, now that I have considered it, it looks as though it provides safety without sacrificing mobility. Sebastian is certainly stylish in his preferred leather gear, but we are physically much different than he is.”

        With a shrug, Lysander agreed, stepping back to look him up and down. “I was thinking the same thing. Well, let’s see if we can find your size, then, jacket first.” Selecting blue and black to complement the red and black of his partner, Elliott shrugged into the lightweight mesh jacket, noticing reinforced plates in places where he might take serious injury if he fell. A clever way to provide protection but reduce weight and provide breathability! He zipped up the front and secured the wrist straps, then fastened the mandarin collar that protected his neck.

        “Here, it’s loose in a couple of places, lemme snug that up for you,” Lysander offered, pulling on a couple of straps, “how’s it fit? It should be close-fitting but not tight.” He tugged at the bottom of the jacket, ensuring that it was the right length. “Good, I’m surprised we were able to find this size in a ‘tall.’ Lucky us. Think you’ll want to find the pants to go with? I’m more concerned with getting you boots, though, as those shoes are not made for riding.”

        “If we can find trousers that fit then yes, by all means, but I understand the need for proper footwear, it was a concern of mine as well.”

        Their luck held out, as matching pants were also found, in the same colors, and the only one in that size left. They both shared the lament that being tall had few advantages and numerous disadvantages, something that people of “normal” heights never had to experience. Sturdy riding boots were next, and though they felt strange, they were comfortable. Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t remember the last time he hadn’t worn his current style of shoes. He had truly been in a rut of all sorts, hadn’t he?

        Inquiring about the total cost so that he could pay for his gear, Elliott blinked in surprise when Lysander tapped him firmly on the nose and grinned. “Nope, I’m covering it again, love. You’re riding on my bike, which means your safety is my responsibility.” The smile softened as he traced gentle fingers down Elliott’s chin. “Besides, it’s kinda nice to be able to spend money on my boyfriend. Let me treat you a little, okay?” Sighing and conceding defeat, Elliott barely resisted the urge to kiss him, but Lysander felt no hesitation, and brushed his lips with a light kiss. Then he remembered something, went over to a table, picked something up, and returned. “Gloves,” he explained, “SO bloody important. Get these on, see how they fit. I’ll do one last check to make sure you’re all snapped together and secured.”

        Fully dressed, Elliott felt rather invincible, despite knowing the reality of it all. Still, he enjoyed the temporary mental comfort, and felt a swell of satisfaction as Lysander bit his lip and gave him a look of focused desire. This was the last of what they had come to obtain, and Elliott was about to start taking it off when he realized that they were just going to be going out in a few minutes anyway. Lysander and May concluded the financial portion of the transaction, and Lysander slipped the receipt into his pocket before Elliott could look at it, arching an eyebrow at him. Getting used to the gear, Lysander dressed again, and picked up his helmet, gloves tucked inside, and left, once more holding Elliott’s hand.

        “Lookin’ proper spiffy, love. Feeling good about this?”

        Flexing a gloved hand, Elliott examined himself as Lysander did one final check and nodded. “I still feel comfortable yet protected. It is not infallible, as while you are a skilled rider mistakes do happen, and other people are unpredictable, but we have eliminated a fair number of unpleasant variables.” He picked up and put on the sport backpack again after having put his other shoes and a couple of other items in it, snapped shut the clasps across his chest, put on his helmet, and tugged on his gloves. Lysander was already astride Morgenlied, with his visor open and the engine rumbling. Taking his now-accustomed place behind his partner, Elliott adjusted himself on the seat again, as the gear slightly changed his posture and position, and took a few more seconds to get his feet properly on the pegs.

        Secure and comfortable, Elliott wrapped his arms around Lysander and relaxed into him, and this was the signal that he needed to leave, exiting the parking lot and turning back onto the road to their agreed-upon destination in Zuzu City to meet with their friends. What an adventure his life was turning out to be! Charles would be delighted to hear about all of this, and mother and father? Oh, what he wouldn’t give to see their faces. He would have to arrange a visit one of these days. They had expressed interest in meeting his partner, and knowing of the extent of their relationship, well, it was probably about time. He smiled to himself and hugged the other rider, trying not to distract or disrupt him, but he felt him laugh, and knew that his affection had been appreciated.
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        • Minimanta

          Minimanta Existential Complex

          It's kinda funny, I actually know a woman named May who rides a motorcycle :D
            Risukage likes this.
          • Risukage

            Risukage Existential Complex

            Heh, nifty. Proooooobably not the same person, though! She and James are simply supposed to be a very round-about Top Gear reference. If you caught that back in book 1, an internet cookie for you! :p
            • Risukage

              Risukage Existential Complex

              //I'm not sure what's going to go on with Friday's and Monday's updates, as I'm going out of town and have no idea how much time I'll have to write, and whether or not I'll have internet connectivity to post it. I'm off to Miscon in Montana for the weekend, and I doubt I'll see any of you there, but hey, you never know. :p//

              They had arrived quite a bit earlier than their companions, as their errand hadn’t taken quite as long as they’d expected, so they had a bit of time to themselves. The park was lovely, and the day already shaping up to be sunny and warm, so Elliott was quite looking forward to some time on the town, so to speak. He ran his fingers slowly across Morgenlied’s frame, examining the machine with interested scrutiny.

              “So, how does one operate this vehicle?” he asked, “I know how to drive, and a manual no less, so I am curious to know if this operates upon similar principles.”

              With a grin of delight, Lysander set their helmets and the backpack to the side, instructing him to sit astride it as he normally did, and proceeded to give him a quick run-down of how to ride. It wasn’t that difficult, once the basics had been explained, it was simply a matter of practice. And confidence. For the most part, the bike would right itself (due to gyroscopic forces and the like) once in motion, so unless something went really wrong, all one had to do was pretty much point it in the direction that they wanted to go and give it a bit of throttle.

              The casual lesson lasted until everyone pulled up at the same time, with Alex, Haley, and Sam in the truck, and Abigail riding behind Sebastian on his motorcycle. Their matching attire produced no small amount of good-natured ribbing from their friends, which Lysander riposted with his usual sass. Sam had a one-track mind, and immediately brought up the topic of scouting out the location of their first performance.

              “Hey, you mentioned before that your dad plays around here somewhere. Do you think you might be able to get us a spot there?” Lysander confirmed this, and added that he’d called his father earlier, but was still waiting on a response, and expressed doubts that there’d be room enough for a proper audience. Shrugging, Sam seemed unperturbed. “Well, we may be here for business, but I also wanna just hang out. It’s been ages since I got out of town for a bit and I want to wander around for a while, too.”

              Everyone was of the same mindset, and agreed on a time to meet up again as Lysander and Elliott removed their riding gear and stashed it in Alex’s truck. Elliott put his usual shoes back on, flexing his feet a couple of times as he got used to them again. He had considered wearing his boots the rest of the day, but didn’t want to risk injury or blisters from breaking in a new pair of shoes. Lysander took his hand and tugged gently as Elliott picked up the backpack again, walking off together in a different direction than their friends.

              Elliott squeezed his partner’s hand, noticing the look on his face. “You’re worried about running into your old colleagues, aren’t you?”

              With a shrug, Lysander smiled, though his heart wasn’t in it, and remarked that he was, but at this time of day and week it was unlikely that he’d encounter them, and he’d changed enough that they weren’t likely to recognize him. Elliott doubted this, that there were few who bore the distinctive features and personality that he did.

              “Yeah, that’s kinda true, but…” he replied, sighing and shaking his head, “I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to have a good time today with you and that’s what matters. Although,” he paused to tap a finger to his chin, I did have one thing I wanted to do really quick in this area.” Elliott also had an errand nearby, as he wanted to add a few more books to his collection now that he had the opportunity. Lysander’s smile was warm and supportive. “You’re anticipating being able to find your own work there soon, yeah?”

              Feeling a sudden flutter of butterflies, Elliott enjoyed the warm flush it produced, thinking of their success, and hugged his partner, trying to share it. “Correct. It is almost difficult to properly comprehend it, that I have finally achieved my dream for which I have worked for so long without success. I very nearly fell into depression due to my continual failure. I could not have done it without you. It is now my turn to ensure that you accomplish what it is you seek to do.”

              Lysander agreed with his statement, and offered to meet up again in roughly half an hour. This was satisfactory, as though Elliott wanted to browse a little, he didn’t think he’d take too terribly long. Allowing their fingers to linger just a little longer as they walked away, Elliott smiled as he walked into the bookstore. Ah! That warm, rich scent of paper, leather, and wood. He didn’t realize how much he’d missed it until he walked in, and stepped to the side to close his eyes and just take in the old, familiar sensation.

              He stood there for a couple of minutes, politely waving off an employee who asked if he needed assistance. Perhaps in a little bit, but for the moment, he wanted to simply be. Looking around, he made off in the direction he guessed would carry the books he wanted, and glanced at various tables, imagining seeing his- no, their book there. He felt a small twinge of embarrassment when he recalled the accidental insinuation of being more than just companions, borrowing his partner’s name like that. And yet it felt and sounded right. It was far too soon to consider anything permanent, of course, but it still was a possibility…

              Shaking his head, he tried to dislodge this thought. They hadn’t known each other that long yet. There was still so much to learn, so many things that they needed to do first. He realized that he was staring at the cover of the book in his hands, not realizing that he’d zoned out. With a deep breath, he tucked those thoughts away to deal with at a later date and put down the book, finding the one he was looking for. He wandered a little to find the other book he wanted and went to the counter to pay for his purchases.

              “Hi, are you ready?” asked the woman behind the counter, and Elliott nodded as he set down his items.

              “I am. I have recently begun reading this author’s works and am somewhat behind in the series.”

              She scanned the two books and put them in a bag, took his card, scanned it, and returned it. “They’ve been around a little while, I think these are what, books five and six? Oh, that reminds me, we’re getting another couple of authors in soon. Well, one book, two authors collaborated on it.”

              Elliott’s pulse skipped a beat at this mention and managed to maintain a straight face. “Really? Who are they?”

              She frowned as she handed over his bag. “I’m not sure, to be honest, they’re supposed to be sorta local, which is pretty cool, and one of them shares your name,” she replied, glancing at the computer screen, “which I guess is pretty cool, too.”

              Almost unable to keep his composure, Elliott shrugged and smiled pleasantly. “Then it will be easy enough to find them. I’ll have to return next month and keep an eye out for it. Thank you!” He unshouldered the backpack and secured the books inside, slinging it back over his shoulder as Lysander walked up, holding two cups of coffee. The copper-haired man smiled and offered one, which Elliott took gratefully. Thanking him, Elliott took a sip, then paused, looking at him with greater scrutiny. Something was a little different, but he couldn’t put his fingers on something. Sipping his own drink, Lysander gave him a curious look himself.

              Then it struck him, and Elliott laughed with delight. “You cheeky, sneaky thing,” he remarked, taking a better look and appreciating Lysander’s new addition, “perhaps Sebastian is correct, you are taking this ‘cute couple’ thing a bit far.”

              Lysander now wore earrings, a pair of gold studs, and they looked quite good against his hair and skin tone. Strangely, his appearance looked more “complete” now, and he ran a thumb over one of them, returning Elliott’s smile. “Nothing gets by you, does it? But even though it was a cover-my-ass line I threw out there when we met, I was serious that I had been considering earrings for some time. So I figured that while we’re in the city I could get that done and check another thing off of my list.” Elliott offered the opinion that Lysander seemed to be on a personal mission to distance himself from what he used to be, earning another shrug. He averred that it wasn’t quite that drastic, simply that he wanted to be more than he used to be. “Now I’ve got a path and ideas, and while I don’t have a dream yet, I don’t mind. There’s things I want to do, and that’s good enough for right now. Also you’ll notice I did studs.”

              Smiling at his partner’s mischievous giggle, Elliott sighed. “I noticed.” When his partner’s smile grew wider and cheekier as he very gleefully pointed out that he wore studs because Elliott wore loops, the blonde man stepped in to kiss him, sharing his amusement but still feeling the need to distract him from that train of thought. Almost as soon as he had done so, he stepped back and glanced about, feeling embarrassed, but relaxed when Lysander gave him that warm, supportive smile that always made things better.

              “Don’t worry love,” he said, squeezing his hand, “it’s a big enough city that nobody’s going to give us trouble about it. Besides, it’s not like we’re making out or anything. Be yourself.” The cheerful smile returned as he led them both off in a particular direction, as he had a few places he wanted to investigate as possible performance venues. Though they took a direct route, they were in no hurry, and enjoyed the coffee, the weather, and each other’s company. The weather held out, being sunny and warm but without the heat of summer. Lysander took several fliers and cards that contained information about using particular venues, tucking them into the backpack, but didn’t seem hopeful that any of them would be what they were looking for.

              Scrutinizing one last flier, Lysander sighed and put it with the others, and discarded their empty cups. “I think we’ve got a lot of options here, and we should be able to cover the cost of our choice, but it occurs to me that we’ve not done anything to put out our name so far, so even if we do get a gig we won’t have much of an audience.” Elliott considered this silently, then nodded and agreed, that while they still had some lingering interest from the Luau, they’d not done anything more since then, and Lysander was next to nod. “Today was definitely great in that we got some good recon done, but before we make any plans to perform we need to solidify our ‘image’ and start advertising. I’ll work with Haley on that; she’s been doing a great job of documenting us so far, so we just need to start using that to our advantage. Still, it’s been great to get out and about.” This produced a quick chain of thoughts, and he gave Elliott that smile that always left him feeling melty and weak. “Hey, you know, this is technically our first ‘date,’ isn’t it?”

              “For most social definitions of it, I suppose it is,” Elliott replied, having thought about it himself, “we have spent a lot of time together, but not in the traditional sense of ‘dating.’” This pleased his companion for some reason that he couldn’t quite articulate, and Elliott seconded the statement. “Like my writing endeavors, I was unsuccessful in cultivating long-term relationships. You have been my only companion of more than a couple of months.”

              With a cheeky wink, Lysander nudged him. “Well, you’re not completely inexperienced, as you’ve surprised me in knowing how to do a few things I hadn’t expected of you.”

              “I- That’s-“ Elliott began, but let the thought go when Lysander put an arm around his waist, that warm smile returning.

              “I’m just giving you grief, love, don’t take it seriously. And rather, I’m glad you’ve had some experience of some sort. It wouldn’t be healthy otherwise for someone of your age, regardless of your status.” Feeling his cheeks grow hot, Elliott asked if they could talk about that subject away from potentially prying ears and eyes. Lysander apologized, but amended it with the opinion that Elliott was cute when flustered and he liked that. Then he looked around as he noticed where their aimless wanderings had taken them. “Oh, hey, we’re at the theater. I haven’t been in here in so long, let’s have a look around. This is probably the closest I have to a second home.” He remembered Elliott’s name and chuckled. “That’s right, your family…”

              Elliott had been here so many times himself, but only as a member of the audience or when meeting with his parents and brother for business. He’d never been on-stage the way that Lysander had, and suddenly he wanted to experience it for himself, not only to better understand his partner, but to gain a better appreciation for theater and what it meant. Gently taking Lysander’s hand, he asked for his partner to show him around, to show what it was like for him. Lysander’s face lit up with joy and he tugged at his hand.

              Oh gods, that smile, he had so many of them, and they all did wonderful, different things to him, but this one was the one that belonged to Elliott and no other. The smile that would always bring him happiness and contentment, even just the thought of it. They walked in, and Elliott followed his partner back stage, and into another world.
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