Other [FanFic] Rose & Sunflower 3: A Different Perspective -Ch 73 [EDIT 26 Aug]

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

  1. Risukage

    Risukage Giant Laser Beams

    //Yet again all of you have my most, deep, and sincere apologies for going silent again. Depression and anxiety are rubbish as it is, but when you're fighting a war on both of those fronts at once, well... It's been bad. Meds are finally starting to work, and going to school again is making things a bit less rubbish. But I still had a BAD crash last year in all directions: mental, physical, and emotional. I'm absolutely SHIT at taking care of myself as it is, and after all of that it's put a lot of pressure on my husband, making things worse. it's been hard getting into the habit of doing just ONE thing each day, and doing it well. If I can do more, good, but I burned myself out hard with unrealistic personal expectations and I'm paying for it. Be kind to yourselves. Take care of yourselves. And each other, if you've got a person or people in your life. Meanwhile, there's only a couple of chapters left to this story. There's a light at the end of the tunnel and for once it isn't a train come to run my ass over. Thank you all, deeply, SO MUCH for coming back to read my silly, crazy project, and I promise to give you all an ending. Just give me a little more time.//

    Two weeks later was the Feast of the Winter Star, and Elliott was filled with happy energy. The year previous he had simply gone through the motions, but this time he was looking forward to visiting with the town and enjoying some communal food and drink. Lysander had been rather insistent upon refusing any sort of gift, but Elliott felt it almost a duty to get him something, and finally found an item that would satisfy both of them. It went into his pocket and stayed there firmly tucked under his wallet, so that it would not fall out.

    He took his time in journeying to the plaza, delighting in the bright strings of colored lights that outlined nearly every edge on every home, as well as the bits of green décor from evergreen vegetation. Little things, all, to bring life and comfort to a cold, empty time of year that was almost completely devoid of light. Lysander shared this with him, holding his hand and walking slowly and silently, smiling at the town festooned with color and gaiety, despite being bundled and wrapped up against the chill.

    They waved to passers-by and offered greetings, finally arriving at the plaza, making a sharp detour to the large, steaming pot on a table. Gus was stirring it, and grinned as they walked up. “H’lo! Good to see you two. Care for a cup of hot cocoa? I’ve got both marshmallows and whipped cream, whatever you prefer.”

    “Whipped cream,” Elliott said, just as Lysander piped up with, “oh, marshmallows!” They shared a laugh as Gus carefully ladled out two mugs, and both men took it upon themselves to add their own additions to their drinks. “Well, shall we go have a seat where it’s warm?” suggested the blonde man, nodding toward the bonfire that was being tended to by Lewis and Robin. Lysander needed no prodding, and gestured to both of them with his mug in greeting, as he was loath to let go with one hand for even a moment, happy at the warmth that seeped through his gloves.

    “Elliott, Lys, hey!” Robin beamed at them, setting aside a poker. “Good to see you two. The only reason I haven’t got a gift for you both is I don’t know how to wrap up gratitude. The both of you have been amazing friends for Sebby, and everything you’ve done for the town has been just great. Well, I’m going to check a few things, throw a stick at me if the fire gets too low, ‘kay?”

    They agreed to mind the blaze and sat down on a bench near it, sighing happily at the warmth. Both of them looked up and turned at the same time, catching the scent of freshly-baked cookies as Evelyn made her way to Gus’s table, assisted by Alex and followed by George. Alex set down the large package, opening it just enough to remove two cookies, which were grabbed gently by Evelyn.

    “I’ll take them to your cousin and his boyfriend, dear, you get George over to the fire so he can warm up.” Nodding, Alex pushed his grandfather’s wheelchair to a place by the bonfire where he could get close and relax, while Evelyn tottered over to Elliott and Lysander. “Happy Winter Star, dears, have a cookie, they just came out about ten minutes ago.”

    It took immense willpower to not devour the gooey, soft, chocolate chip cookies and try to enjoy them. Lysander sighed happily after the first bite. “Oh wow, this is amazing. I can only wish that I could bake like this. Thanks, granny, this is really hitting the spot!”

    “Thank you, that really means a lot. You both are eating well, are you not?”

    Elliott used the cookie to scoop up a little bit of whipped cream from his cocoa. “Very well, actually. Between what he is growing and our combined income we have been able to eat healthy, filling meals. We are both awful bachelors, terrible at taking care of ourselves and our needs, but we are brilliant at taking care of each other.”

    Patting his knee, Evelyn smiled at him. “I’m so glad for that. The year before was very unkind and many of us were quite worried about you. Seeing you two happy like this warms my heart, it does. And authors and musicians! Here in this town! Why, I am downright giddy to be in your presence, what with all of that talent. And Alex, too! Why, none of us had any idea that he had such an ear for music. George and I worried what would happen if he were to get injured while playing, but now he’s got something to rely on if he cannot play anymore.”

    Lysander blushed a little, ducking slightly under his scarf, and Elliott kissed him behind his ear. “I would not have thought to reach out to him for that. It’s rather a happy accident, isn’t it?”

    “This place has changed more in the last two years than it has in the last twenty,” chuckled Lewis, who was just arriving with his own cup of cocoa. He accepted a cookie as well, his mustache bristling like a broom as he smiled while chewing. “Although I can’t argue with constants like Evie’s baking being delicious.” Taking another bite, he sipped his cocoa and sat down. “I finally got about to reading your first stories, Elliott, the ones you got published in that magazine. They’re damn good. I’m surprised that you were so hard on yourself about not getting the book going, but…” Sighing, he ate the rest of the cookie and licked his fingers clean. “I suppose that I can understand the frustration of being so close to a goal but being unable to achieve it.”

    “Do you have a favorite?” Elliott asked, feeling slightly embarrassed about basically fishing for praise, but he was genuinely curious about the mayor’s opinion.

    Lewis took a long drink of cocoa as he thought. “A Legend from the Gem Sea,” he replied, smiling warmly, “I was flabbergasted that you had done such a sweet and poignant twist on the town’s tradition. It brought tears to my eyes, and not many things do that anymore. Heh, almost reminds me of Lex proposing way back when. …So long ago…”

    Looking curious, Lysander finished his cocoa. “I remember the story of the pendant in that it’s a tradition of sorts, but kinda forgot about it and haven’t thought of it in years. Heh, well, until the other day, anyway. So what, grandpa went and found a seashell or something?”

    Elliott tried not to smile as he put an arm around Lysander and waited for Lewis to elaborate, and the mayor’s smile was sad but not unhappily so. “Same as I told Elliott the pendant story when he was looking for writing inspiration, I told Lex about it when he was thinking of proposing to your grandmother. The legend goes that on rainy nights, if their love for another is true and pure, one can find a lost mariner on the beach who will give them a pendant to give to their beloved. It was rumored to be fashioned by the mermaids who live in the Gem Sea, and is imbued with magics that will protect the couple and provide happiness and longevity.”

    Even more curious, Lysander leaned into Elliott’s hug and made a thoughtful noise. “Okay, yeah, now I remember it. Damn, it’s been, like nearly twenty years since I heard that story, but I was a kid back then, so it didn’t make much sense, and was ‘grown-up stuff’ anyway, so I sorta forgot. Heh, it’s a sweet legend, though, and I can see how Elliott adapted it. It makes a lot more sense now, and even more tragic.”

    “I bet, but Lex, well… Your family never does anything half-assed. He sat there and thought about it over three beers. Then, with no warning, he shoved his wallet at me to settle the bar tab and ran outside. Into the rain! Now, mind you, I was also rat-arsed drunk by then, so I had no idea what he was off to do and couldn’t be assed to follow, but figured that I might as well clear his tab before I forgot. …Though I did have another drink at his expense, heh! We did that all the time, so it was just his turn.” He laughed and swirled the dregs of his cocoa in his cup. “Goddamn near midnight I was getting changed out for bed when I heard this awful banging on the door, and it spooked the shit right outta me. So I hauled ass through the house, worried that Lex had gone and hurt himself on some fool errand again, threw open the door, and he stepped in, soaked to the bone. Damn fool was grinning like an idiot, now completely sober, and showed me a lovely shell he’d found on the beach that he had scrounged up. In the rain! He asked me if I thought she’d like it or if he should go find another.”

    Shaking his head, he laughed again, wiping away fond tears. “He had no artistic talent, he was a musician, so he sought out the town artist and got it decorated up nice and put it on a chain. Poor sod didn’t have much cash to blow on a shiny ring, and he was all about personalized gifts anyway. He was terrified that it wouldn’t be good enough, but it was all worth it when he proposed, and I don’t think I had ever seen her so happy before. She never took it off after that, and I remember at her funeral that she still wore it. …Ah, sorry, that was…”

    Lysander shrugged, patting Lewis’s shoulder. “No, it’s okay, I don’t remember much of her, she died when I was really too young to remember much, but I do recall that necklace. I never asked about it, it was, well, like I said, grown-up stuff, it was just something that she had and was hers. I probably wouldn’t have thought to ask about it for several years later, but… Yeah.”

    Sensing the need for a slight shift in topic, Elliott took Lysander’s mug. “You seem to be in need of a refill, dear, let me get that. Lewis, would you like another?”

    “Not just yet, I’m feeling pretty good from this one right now.”

    “Thanks, love, you don’t mind?”

    “Not at all.” He gave his partner a kiss and this time couldn’t suppress a happy, silly smile. The way that Lysander’s smile touched his own eyes, the way they crinkled at the edges and got even warmer… That was something that only he would ever see, and that made a delicious pain well up in his chest. Walking back over to the kettle, he was about to refill the mugs when Leah arrived. He glanced over his shoulder and saw that Lysander was out of earshot, but dropped his voice a little anyway. “Hello, Leah, how goes the…project?”

    Taking a mug for herself, she put in a couple of marshmallows, paused, then put on a bit of whipped cream, unsure as to which she wanted more of. “It’s going great. I was right, and there’s enough for three, so I’ve got backups in case one breaks or I want to try different things. I’ll be done by the end of the month.” She took a sip and grinned after shooting a glance at Lysander. “When’re you planning to ask him?”

    Both mugs were full again, and he added marshmallows and whipped cream to the appropriate ones. “I was thinking the Flower Dance. We first met there, so…”

    Giggling into her drink, she bounced on her toes. “That’ll be so perfect. And like I said, I’ll totally be done by then. The painting will be easy, it’s just fiddly as all hell doing any carving ‘cause I’m always worried about cracking it. I know it’s sturdier than I think, but I’ve never worked with it before so I don’t wanna push too far. I’ve actually been scouring the beach for similar shells so I can do a bit of practice work, just in case. So! Did’ja ask his parents?”

    He ducked his head and blushed in a gesture similar to Lysander’s a few minutes earlier. “That I did. They were…ecstatic to say the least. Mother approves as well, though that is hardly a surprise. She and father have always wanted the best for me, and they have taken a particular shine to him.”

    There was laughter by the bonfire and Leah nudged him. “C’mon, let’s go have a sit, can’t let those drinks get cold, right?”

    She sat down across from them, next to Evelyn, eating a cookie that she’d grabbed before walking away from the table. Lysander gratefully accepted his mug again, nuzzling Elliott’s chin with the top of his head. The blonde man sighed happily as he put an arm around his partner’s shoulders once more. Conversation resumed, about Winter Star gifts, more stories about the town and its inhabitants (particularly Lysander’s grandfather, who was apparently quite the troublemaker in his youth), and several cups of cocoa and snacks provided by Gus. As the night made itself comfortable so did the two men, now alone to their own devices as other friends filtered in and out to chat and then disappear to talk to others. They counted the stars and constellations in the clear, dark sky, snuggling up against each other from the cold, though the bonfire to their backs was deliciously warm.

    Chuckling at a thought, Lysander nudged him and confessed to getting him a gift for the season after all. “Check your tablet, I bought a couple of books that you were looking for and dropped them onto it when you weren’t looking.” Elliott perked up at this, not having expected anything, as he’d already stated before that he didn’t need anything. Still, he had bought that tablet specifically to read e-books and the like, as while there was a library here, the nearest bookstore was out in Zuzu city, and he had also wanted to pick up magazine subscriptions. Digital copies meant that he wouldn’t have stacks of both read and unread magazines that he likely would never get the energy or courage to throw out, and could be archived for later reading when he needed space on the device again. …And also because it tickled him something fierce to have a digital copy of his- their book. It felt so futuristic somehow, and he could read while listening to music.

    He reached into his pocket, under his wallet, and produced a simple ribbon, in a dark, matte green. “I thought that this color would look rather nice with your hair,” he said, reaching up to undo the one that Lysander currently wore, “you really should get a couple of others, I’m amazed that you’ve only had the one this entire time.” He was right, as the nearly-black green looked bold against the copper hair, standing out while still complementing.

    Lysander reached back to touch it, feeling the way it held back his hair, and laughed as he smiled, remarking that he was terrible at taking care of himself and his own needs. “I’ll have to look for a few others soon, thanks for the suggestion.” Elliott reached out to hug him, once again feeling that pleasant ache as Lysander put his arms around his shoulders, leaning into the embrace. After a quick glance to make sure that they weren’t too much on display, he cupped Lysander’s cheek to hold him in place for warm, lengthy kisses. This made the other man nearly melt into him, and he was quite happy to hold him even more closely for support. “…I guess we’re getting good at this ‘relationship’ thing, hunh?” Lysander asked softly, resting his head on Elliott’s shoulder as they resumed their shared inspection of the winter skies.

    Much later they discarded their outerwear by the front door, putting on house slippers as they went to the kitchen to make a late-night snack before bed. Lysander rubbed his arms as they undressed a little while after that, and Elliott took his hands in his own to blow on them for warmth. “No matter how hard I exercise I’ve never developed the metabolism to really fight the cold,” Lysander sighed, “but I dump heat like crazy. Summer never really bothers me.” Elliott stripped him of his shirt, having already discarded his, and hugged him firmly, relishing the skin-to-skin contact. It was mutual, as Lysander almost greedily absorbed his warmth. “Mm, this is so good. Well, let’s curl up so I can steal all of your body heat.”

    Hardly one to disagree with such an offer, the rest of their garments were removed and set aside, and the light turned off as phones were plugged in for power. Elliott curled up on his side, an arm under the pillow as he wrapped around his companion, an arm around his waist and legs wrapped around one of Lysander’s. Nuzzling his neck, Elliott nibbled an ear and chuckled at the shivering giggle it produced then began to drift off in happy comfort.

    “Y’know, that was neat.”


    “Grandma’s pendant. That’s pretty neat.”

    Elliott’s pulse skipped for a second, but he told himself to hush and listened. “The story behind it?”

    “Mm-hmm. Little things like that with so much character. How a local legend inspired someone to go and do something so crazy but so sweet. That’s… I wanna be able to do something like that myself someday. To do or make something that someone carries with them the rest of their life that has special meaning like that.” Biting his lip, Elliott was almost unable to keep from bursting into laughter. So close! His big plan was so close to being revealed by night-time musings! “I just… I’m kinda sad that I never asked about it, y’know? I had all that time with grandpa and I never bothered to ask about his past and grandma and all that. And now…it’s all gone. Too late.”

    The way he got quiet told Elliott that he was trying to hold back tears, and he squeezed him in a warm hug, brushing his cheek with gentle fingers. “You always live in the ‘now,’ my love. Never in the past, and always looking toward the future. It is not because you lack respect or interest, it is because you are full of life and love and energy and dwelling on what was takes away from what is now and what will be. If you truly feel despondent about this, talk to Lewis or your father. I am certain that they will once more leap to regale you with stories, smiling the entire time. And you know what?”


    “One day others will do this for you, too. They will ask for the stories of your youth and mischief, of all that you endured and how you came out stronger for it all, of your compassion and love, and your unending zest for life. They will all smile and laugh, because those memories will be precious to them, memories of someone that they love and treasure that enriched their lives beyond what they thought could be possible. You are already doing that, dearest, remember who we talked to tonight, recall how your actions in less than a year have already changed lives and shaped futures. You will be remembered, and you already have done things that people will carry with them throughout their lives. “

    He flexed his left hand for emphasis. “I fell badly last year, you remember, and even though it healed I was still plagued with stiffness and the occasional ache. But you figured out what to do, and in a week it was gone. As if it had never happened. And you already have made something that a person will carry with them forever. My novel. Our novel. The one thing I had sought for years but had eluded me. And you came to me, full of life and light and love, and you helped me create something more amazing than I could ever imagine. I could never have done it alone, for all that I desired and dreamed about it. The only thing more precious than that is you.”

    Lysander sniffed again, this time actively fighting tears, and he got up to turn over and press Elliott flat onto his back so he could lay across him, tucking his face into Elliott’s neck. “…Thanks, love. I... I don’t… I dunno what to say. Just…”

    There it was again, that delicious, sweet, painful ache in his chest. Like something welling up inside of him that was too big to be contained by his mere mortal form, something that threatened- no, demanded to consume him. Something so powerful it almost left him dizzy, drunk upon the sensation of loving and being loved. He had heard so often of such a phenomenon but had scoffed at it. How could pain be beneficial like that? How could love hurt but be good at the same time? Now he understood, now he was enlightened. It was not just the euphoria of having someone so close and dear, but also the knowledge that it was fragile. That someday it all must end and one of them would be alone. That was what true beauty was, after all, wasn’t it? That which is ephemeral and rare is considered to be beautiful and valuable, and therefore must be protected.

    He felt the pinprick sting of tears in his own eyes as he dismissed the thought that someday one of them would be left behind, and oh, oh, how it would crush them. But not yet. Not now. Right now, they were together and happy, and more than ever Elliott knew that it was the right decision. He would ask at the Flower Dance, and they would build so many things together for a very long time. Together… “I love you dearly, remember that always. And if you should ever forget then I will be delighted to remind you.”

    Sniffing again, though still happily, it was Lysander’s turn to trap Elliott’s leg with both of his own, and adjusted the pillow for the both of them. “I love you, too, so much. And I won’t forget, but I’ll make you tell me over and over, ‘cause I never expected someone to say it, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.”

    “How long will it take, then?” Elliott whispered, wrapping a lock of copper hair around a finger, “weeks? Months?”

    Lysander was silent for a moment before he chuckled and pressed his face further into Elliott’s neck. “…A lifetime. Do you think that’s greedy?”

    Once more, that ache, that pain, starting deep in his hips and arcing out and up all the way to his throat, constricting everything in its path. “If that is what it takes then you shall have it, my dear. I love you. And I will say it again tomorrow, and the next day, and every day after that I can hold you in my arms.”

    He squeezed Lysander tightly, fingers tight in his hair as they both laughed. Now warm and relaxed, he felt himself begin to drift off once more, and noticed with amusement that his partner was already ahead of him.

    It is said that we feel pain to know that we are truly alive. I always dismissed this, but now I know it to be true, and in this moment I have never felt more so.
      Alkanthe likes this.
    • Risukage

      Risukage Giant Laser Beams

      //I've been in a bad spot for a couple of years now (physically, emotionally, and mentally), so writing has just not been happening. Worse, part of it was anxiety, so while I wanted to write I couldn't, and that just made me more anxious because I'm falling behind and augh I'm feeling worse so I can't write, so I couldn't write, and... It's a bit of a terrible cycle. But! I picked up a laptop, which I've set up to be exclusively for writing, and that's helped, because while my main tower is amazing and powerful, I've got SO much on it and going on that I tend to find distractions, and therefore excuses. I also set up a little area for myself where I can plug in and be comfortable, which is something else; my favorite chair finally got repaired, and it's MUCH better for sitting and lounging in than a computer chair. So a laptop with a drink on a tray nearby is a quite relaxing and inspiring setup.


      And then Microsoft happened.

      This afternoon I had opened my primary work file, in .doc format, which I'm slowly entering into Scriviner for better storage and searching and what have you. This is a new laptop. It automatically came with the current version of Office.
      Which not only needs a license past the first 30 days, you LEASE it. You can buy it, fine, but it's the piddly, cut-down version that doesn't do what I need. But the one I do need? As long as I pay a rental fee I can use it? Oh, EAT MY ASS!!
      So after about an hour of screwing around to try and get it to play nice (including a trial mode that wanted payment info, which raised my blood pressure), I was somewhat less than enthusiastic about writing by being word-blocked by MS. The FIRST time I finally have the energy and drive to write and FINISH THIS STORY and I can't even open my goddamn files. AUGH.


      So I uploaded and opened in Google Docs, where I'll be working until it's all in Scriviner and I can be bothered to figure out a permanent solution. (FWIW, I'm using a copy of 2k7 on my Win10 tower, that I've had since forever, which is what confused me because I forgot that I'd not installed that on the laptop.) I'll faff about with making this easier on myself in the future, but for now, I'm back. Now, let's finish this so I can get to writing (and neglecting) books 4 and 5!//


      EDIT 26 August 2019: I honestly came close to breaking down in tears earlier today. I was checking my notes and files because stuff had gotten a bit scattered between my PC and laptop. For some reason my chapters and content didn't quite line up, and some parts were missing while others had new stuff I had been working on earlier this month but was saved in the wrong place. It took me damn near an hour to track it down, but 3/4 of this chapter was basically ALL OF CHAPTER 72 AGAIN, VERBATIM. The last couple of paragraphs of 73 were "new," but didn't quite go anywhere, and I honestly have no idea how I managed to do that. I had hoped to post chapter 74 and finish out the series for Pride Month, but shit happened. Then I hoped to at least wrap it up as a birthday gift to myself earlier this month, and more shit happened. I'm honestly so damn demoralized that getting that last damn chapter written and posted physically hurts right now. Yes, I screwed up so bad that I have nearly killed the desire to write ever again, that's pretty goddamn impressive.

      I've gone and fixed it; torn out the repost from chapter 72, cleaned up what SHOULD have been 73, and added a few more paragraphs to complete that particular "scene" and make the transition to the Flower Dance. Once I get some sleep and feel a bit less like a total goddamn IDIOT I'll have a go at the last chapter and finish this book. I still want to do books 4 and 5, as there's so much story I want to tell, but... If it's going to take me this long then I might as well not waste everyone's time. We'll see, before I talk of any future works I need to finish THIS one. Trying NOT to be one of those writers who dies and leaves works partially done and nobody to close it out, right?//

      At the end of the month Elliott made a special stop. Instead of heading to the farm he continued west a bit longer, following the river, to a cabin in the forest. Quite out of breath, he knocked on Leah’s door, glad that the snow hadn’t been that deep, and that it was a safe, well-established path, if unpaved. Still, that had been quite a walk! The door opened on the second knock, and Leah pulled him inside, gesturing toward the table. “You look wiped! Here, I made some tea, get a cup in you while I get The Item.”

      He laughed at how he heard her pronounce the capital letters, removing his coat and boots by the door, and taking a seat at the table to pour himself a nice cup of oolong. “The snow was troublesome but thankfully not impassable. I was concerned that the path underneath would be a muddy mess, but since it has not got above freezing in a while it hasn’t had the chance to melt. It also hasn’t become ice for that matter.”

      Sitting down, Leah’s smile was ecstatic as she handed him something small wrapped in a handkerchief. “I’m almost done. Just need a bit of color, but the basic shape is done. It’s perfect!”

      He had only taken one sip of tea, but put the cup down to accept what was offered. Unwrapping it carefully, his breath caught in his throat once the object was revealed. The shell had been carved to the shape of a guitar pick, and in the center were the outlines of a rose and a sunflower, their stems entwined. So simple but so elegant, and the same as it had happened before he felts tears welling up in his eyes. “...It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. This is simply magnificent. How can I ever… Your price, name it and it is yours.”

      She giggled and sipped her own tea, which she had poured while he was distracted. “I’ll get it to you once I’m all done. Still gotta paint it, then it needs a coat of lacquer to protect it and keep it from smudging and stuff, then need to string it. I’ve got some waxed cord that should do the trick, same as what he already wears. But yeah, the hard part’s already done. Been testing out the right paints and dyes to work well with that shell, since it’s so shiny, and therefore not much sticks to it well. And what does ‘stick’ may not be what I need. As long as I can get something neatly in those grooves and get it to dry then I’m good to go. So thankfully I’ve got plenty of time.” Taking a long drink she smiled at the somewhat dreamy look he wore. “I’m not gonna take my time on it, I’m loving this project and it’s got a deadline, but I’m glad I’ve got time to tinker so I get it just right .”

      Elliott folded the shell pick back up and passed it over. “I cannot wait to see his reaction to this. Ah!” He looked at his hands and laughed. “Even I am getting the jitters just thinking about it.” With a relieved sigh he finished his drink. “I must be on my way, but once again I thank you for all that you are doing. So many dreams so close to fruition, it is almost beyond my ability to believe it all.”

      She waved at him and smiled, looking happy and slightly smug. “Hey, this is going to be one of my smallest pieces, and it’s gonna be seen by everybody . I’ve got so much on the line for this it’s awesome, and I’m so jazzed about it. ...Oooh, I’ve gotta look into one of those online storefronts. If this takes off and I can find materials to do more stuff like this I can really supplement my income doing jewelry. The beach is just crazy with shells, and there’s a lot of stone and wood around here that…” Her eyes crossed as she stared at the opposite wall. “...Oh wow, I’ve got so many ideas. Eee! Thanks!”

      “Err, you’re welcome?”

      “I’ve got so many ideas for things that I can make and sell and help bring in cash, but I’ll enjoy it and not sacrifice my artistic vision, and I’ll have the time and money to work on my bigger projects.”

      Surprised, Elliott stood up, adjusting his waistcoat. “But how did I help?”

      She poked the handkerchief. “This! I’ve been getting so much inspiration lately, all because of this. And now that I’ve had a bit of practice and I’ve got the tools I need I can really take off. You and Lys have been amazing for this town, you’ve made all of our lives better.”

      Elliott blushed behind the collar of his coat, smiling softly. “Ah, heh, I suppose that we have had a beneficial effect upon this place. We just keep to ourselves, so… You know, no, we do interact far more than i think we do. Thank you .”

      “Oh? What for?”

      He straightened after putting his boots on. “For reminding me of what we all do for each other. I’ll pick it up the morning of the Flower Dance on my way there.”

      Getting up with a bounce, Leah hugged him and ruffled his hair. “Can’t wait to see you then! And sooner, yeah. Stay warm and dry!”

      “I’ll try, but there is considerable snow between myself and my destination. Fortunately, there is coffee and a handsome man at the end of my trek, so I find myself enervated. Until next time.” He rubbed his gloved hands together as he went back out into the cold, ready to continue his journey. Once at the farm he let himself in and hung up his coat and removed his boots as he had at Leah’s place.

      “Hey, love, I’ve got toast and coffee ready, c’mon and join me.” Lysander was grinning as he raised a mug to him before filling it. He reached for the other one but gasped when Elliott hugged him from behind, kissing his neck. “Ah! Haha, feeling cuddly today?”

      With a happy sigh and nod, Elliott squeezed him before taking the other man’s chin to turn him a little for a kiss. “Just making sure you know how much you are loved.” As always, there was that smile, and yet again, he affirmed to himself that yes, this was the future that he wanted.

      Nothing else of import happened that winter, simply the taking-care of things that needed to be done and preparations for spring. Since nothing could grow under the snow it was a good time to clear out deadfall, weeds, and other unwanted mess from the gardens so that there wouldn’t be a mad scramble once the weather warmed. The berry hedges appeared to be in good condition, and the greenhouse was putting out substantial harvests, so Lysander was pleased at his prospects for the next year. There was nothing to really be done for or at the cabin, so while time was spent there together, most of their leisure was shared at the saloon, the community center with their friends, or at Lysander’s home. Elliott felt slightly silly admitting it to himself, but he felt more at home at Lysander’s place, and now and then he would idly wonder where some of his own belongings would fit.

      One early spring afternoon he mentioned this to the other man after having helped Alex select a restaurant to take Haley for her birthday, as well as a hand-prepared bouquet of flowers. Elliott smiled as Lysander melted into a hug, making a soft, happy noise. He wound a small lock of the copper-colored hair around his finger, appreciating the colors it reflected in the light through a window.

      The other man looked thoughtful as he rested his head on Elliott’s shoulder, arms loosely around his waist. “I wonder where things go from here.” When questioned about where he wanted them to go, Lys shrugged. “I… I’m not quite sure. I’m happy here, right now, content.” He frowned and wrinkled his nose. “But that’s not to say I don’t want things to change. It’s like… We’re on this journey together, and we’re continuing along, and it doesn’t feel like we’ve slowed or stopped, but at the same time, things have felt the same for a while. I don’t mind the thought of the journey going in a different direction. At the same time, I’m still content where we are now.” Giggling at himself, Lysander shook his head and hugged Elliott firmly for a moment. “I’m not making any sense at all today.”

      Kissing the top of Lysander’s head, Elliott brushed soft fingers across his cheek. “You are eloquent and coherent, and I understand the message that you are trying to convey. I suppose the question that I must now pose is whether you desire a passive change to the situation or one that is derived from a mutually-made decision.” As he said it, he admitted to himself that it was a very flowery, round-about way of asking him if he wanted to move in together, if he really wanted a future together as more than just “friends with benefits,” as he had heard it described. It was difficult to hide a smile when Lysander replied that it didn’t matter how, he just wanted them to be together. “Then you desire my presence more than you have already? That would be difficult short of moving in.” Once again, he knew that he was unsubtly fishing for something obvious, and that his partner knew it, but he also knew that it was sometimes difficult for the musician to state his own desires so openly.

      “Well, I have thought of where your piano would go…” Elliott was delighted by this small statement, chuckling at the way that Lysander blushed and looked away, honest but still hesitant to demand anything.

      Fingers under Lysander’s chin tilted him up for another kiss, making him smile again. “I have done the same, but at the same time, I have also wondered where your furniture would fit in my cabin.” He looked around and laughed. “I think that you win, as you seem to possess more living space than I do.” Lysander riposted that Elliott was making a better income than he was, as the sales of his book were doing well, but Elliott pointed out that Lysander was still ahead, as his name was also on the cover, and that he had written it as well. Apparently, Lysander was refusing to accept that he was in fact capable of such great things, as he tried to bring up the fact that the money was going to Elliott, but the blonde man put a finger to Lysander’s lips to stop him. “And I couldn’t have done it without you. Let me hear you say it, or I shall be insufferable until you do.”

      Trying to pout a little but failing, Lysander looked away again as he brushed a lock of hair behind his ear, clearly trying to work up the courage he needed. “You might not-” Elliott interrupted him once more to say that he could not have done so, making Lysander pout again, as he’d been trying to elevate Elliott’s status in the project. “Fine, you couldn’t have done it without me. There, happy?” He was, and they nearly missed another kiss thanks to a sudden fit of mutual giggles. The hug was softer yet firmer now, both of them feeling that a significant bridge had been crossed.

      Lysander brought up the fact that their coffee was getting cold, but it took another minute or so before they did anything about it, once the possibility of something to eat was mentioned. That shy look reappeared as Lysander mentioned that he had been trying to learn to cook. He’d always been rather bad at it, but now he had a reason to learn and get better, someone for whom he wanted to learn, but the way that it was brought up and stated made Elliott feel needed and included. “Would you like me to aid you or is this a solo endeavor?” It was almost a bit cruel to make him come out and state it, and Elliott knew that Lysander hated asking for help, but he also knew that volunteering his assistance might be intrusive.

      Biting his lip, there was a hesitant smile as Lysander finally met Elliott’s gaze. “…I’d like your help.” It finally touched the corners of his hazel eyes as he mirrored the one that Elliott now wore. “I want to do more with you. We’re a good team together, and I need to stop doing everything myself. I’m not alone anymore. I want to be a better person for and with you.”

      That sweet ache resurfaced and brought a prickling to Elliott’s eyes as he hugged Lysander tightly, almost unable to breathe from the squeezing around his own chest. This simple statement meant so much. It was that copper-haired man with a tongue of silver and a heart of gold who had inspired him to be more, to be better, to reach for greater heights than he could have thought possible so long ago. Lysander had pulled him out of despair and loneliness that Elliott thought too deep to escape, giving him hope and a reason to go on. But to know that the other man felt the same way, that he also sought to be more because of someone, because of the love of another who meant the world to them…

      He blinked back tears and smiled, his lips almost against Lysander’s ear. “You already are.” Lysander kissed his neck and relaxed into the hug, fitting against him perfectly. Yes, this was the future that he wanted. “Let us prepare that meal you have in mind,” he finally said, caressing his partner’s hair, “I am excited to see what we can do together once more.”

      “Yes! You’re here! I have a surprise for you!”

      Elliott had to momentarily suppress a surge of panic, worrying that his own surprise had been discovered or usurped. Still, he maintained an air of carefree interest and hugged his partner before taking the coffee that had been offered to him when he walked in. “Oh? You are delightfully chipper, my dear. Am I to learn of this surprise soon or am I to be made to wait?”

      With a grin that nearly connected his ears, Lysander took his free hand and led him outside, opening the shed and gesturing to the worktable inside. “Care to help me plant these?”

      “Oh! These are lovely!” Elliott clasped his coffee in both hands as he examined the rose cuttings, their roots carefully wrapped. “You must have just got these in just this morning, or you’ve been holding onto them for a day or two. Have you an area set up already, or do you need help with finding a suitable location?”

      Lysander sipped his coffee and chuckled. “Just got them in like half an hour ago, and I’ve had a plot set aside for a bit. Got all of the weeds and stuff out, and got the soil turned over and ready. Whenever you’ve finished your coffee we can get them planted. I ordered them in a couple of weeks ago and have been totally jazzed about them coming in.” His eyes sparkled with delight as he rubbed a wine-colored petal between his fingers. “I love sunflowers myself, but ever since I saw your potted rose I’ve wanted to have roses here as well. You inspired me right back. And while it’s tempting to go with just red ones, I wanted a bit of a rainbow.”

      Examining them all with a smile, Elliott took note of the varied colors on display, from the classic deep red to pink to champagne to cream to white tipped with red as bright as blood. “And I see that you have fertilizer and other things necessary to get them situated. Well! Let us go back inside, finish our drinks, and get changed into clothes more suited to working in a garden.”

      Half an hour later they were on hands and knees, carefully troweling out a hole for the first rose cutting, the rest of the tools and plants in the cart of the four-wheeler. However, as Lysander began teasing the roots free to be able to get it to take to its new home, Elliott noticed something when the other man hissed and put a thumb in his mouth, having pricked himself. “Um, dearest, there’s only one set of gloves here.”

      Giving Elliott a curious look, he glanced at the cart, then the shed, then groaned. “Shit, the second pair wore out, I’ve only got regular gloves besides that heavy pair. Go on, take those, I’ll be fine.”

      “No, it would be unfair. I will suffer the scrapes and scratches alongside you. We will bear the scars of our endeavor together.” Lysander chuckled around his thumb when Elliott promptly jabbed himself by accident when taking the cutting from his partner to allow him to finish preparing the hole. Sighing in good humor, Elliott mimicked the other man for a moment until the jabbing pain subsided. “I suppose that that is a good start, we already have matching injuries. Let’s try to limit how many we accrue, though.”

      Lysander laughed and grabbed a couple more tools. “Fair enough, I have a few scars as it is, I really don’t need any new ones. This one’s ready to go in, hold it in place and I’ll get it secured.” Carefully, they planted the cutting in its new home, patting the soil into place, their fingers twining together. “Heh, it’s like you’re getting more of a permanent home here, yeah?”

      This observation gave Elliott a warm rush of happiness, and he leaned over to kiss the other man’s cheek. “You would have me here permanently?” he teased, testing the proverbial waters, and chuckled at the happy blush that spread from the site of the kiss.

      "Well...yeah. I…” He squeezed Elliott’s hand and smiled. “I love you, and the house feels more like a home when you’re here. I mean, like I said before, I’ve thought about where your stuff would go here, and…” Shrugging, he blushed again and booped Elliott’s nose, leaving a small dirt smudge. “But first, we’ve got more of these to plant. Hit up the saloon for munchies when we’re done? We’ll be a bit too tired to make lunch ourselves when we’re done.”

      Elliott took another cutting from the cart and knelt where he was before. “I agree, this isn’t laborious but it will leave us fatigued. Here, prepare this one and I’ll dig it a bit of space.”

      They worked together for a couple hours, laughing and cursing softly whenever they were pricked. Once all of the cuttings were planted the cart and tools were put back into the shed, and they took a very welcome shower. A bit of playful intimacy was almost curtailed by the light pain in their fingers, but mouths had no such issues, and not only provided pleasure but distracted from said soap-induced stinging. They somewhat gingerly dried off and got dressed, but some ointment and bandages solved the problem, and they no longer noticed it when they walked hand-in-hand to the saloon, enjoying a sunny spring day.

      For the rest of the day Elliott almost felt as though he was walking on clouds. What a lovely day it had been, such a fun bonding experience. The Flower Dance was only a week away and he could not wait. It was going to be perfect. He would ask for Lysander’s hand, and at last they would be together. He knew that at the moment it was all just imagination and fantasy, but even so, he had been subtly (and unsubtly!) prodding the last month, and he knew that his partner desired him in more than just body, he craved his companionship. A year ago neither of them would have been bold enough to suggest such a thing, but now, oh, after all that they had done together, his confidence was limitless.

      He wrapped himself around Lysander that night, holding him close and imagining being able to do this every night. Well, they had been doing that the last few months, but properly. Where they weren’t going between each other’s homes, they would be sharing a home together, everything. He considered Lysander’s place to be home, where his cabin was simply a place to live. In this moment, listening to and feeling the other man breathe evenly in his sleep, their shared warmth and the softness of the blankets… He wanted nothing more than to do this for the rest of his life.

      The next week they awoke at the cabin, and Elliott laughed when Lysander rolled over to wake him with kisses and very wandering hands. The laughter was shared when Elliott did the same to the other man, and a brief bout of wrestling and tickling ensued, which turned into something much more energetic. Afterward, they wrapped around each other, sharing a fast cuddle. Lysander got up and dressed, while Elliott prepared for a shower. The copper-haired man tied his hair back after pulling his shirt over his head. “I’ll get cleaned up after all of the garden work is done. You said you’ve got something to do?”

      “Correct.” Elliott pulled out a fresh towel and gave his partner a warm kiss. “I need to run a couple of errands before the dance. I shan’t be late, but I’ll be unable to assist you with your farm.”

      Adjusting his clothes, Lysander put his phone into his pocket. “No worries, there’s not a lot to do anyway, everything is still growing back and I made sure to do a lot of work yesterday so we can have all of today to ourselves. I’ll see you at the dance, laters!”

      Elliott sighed happily as he stepped into the shower, hearing the front door close behind the other man. Soon, so very soon! He showered as fast as he could and wrung his hair out before reaching for a towel. Once dry and his hair brushed out and blown dry, Elliott reached into his closet to get dressed and paused. He thought about what would be appropriate and sought out the clothes that he had worn the last time; the crimson shirt with charcoal trousers and waistcoat. Ah! Perfect! Lysander would definitely be amused to see him the same as he had the very first time. His own phone in his pocket, he put on his shoes and left, taking the path west into the forest to Leah’s house.

      It was a short walk in perfect weather, and upon his arrival at the cabin in the woods he only got in one knock before the door flew open. “Yes! Come on in, I’ve got tea.” Her work table was covered in bits and detritus, the sign of hard work, and at a quick glance, it seemed to be several projects. Taking a seat at the dining table, she poured tea for them both, as everything was set out already. She grinned broadly, giggling with delight. “It’s done, and perfect! I’m so freaking happy with it.”

      Elliott took a sip and gasped. “Oh! Delightful! You had mentioned that it was done but nothing else. This didn’t take you any time at all, I’m astonished, honestly, I had thought that this would be, well, much more difficult.”

      Shaking her head, Leah got up to retrieve something from the work desk. “I thought so, too, but I was just so jazzed for the whole project, and it was mostly that it was fiddly ‘cause it’s so delicate. The actual carving was pretty easy, especially once I had a reference sketch.”

      She handed him the small triangle of shell, and his breath caught in his throat as he saw the engraved sunflower and rose with their lines carefully filled in with color. “Gods, Leah, this is magnificent. You’re right, it’s perfect, he will be enthralled.” The soft white color was pearlescent in the light, and he could already imagine it on his partner. “I will have the rest of the payment to you promptly, I promise that, and more. It’s lovelier than I had thought it would be.”

      “Whoo! I knew you’d say that. I’ve been all wired and stuff since I got it done. Well, okay, it’s not totally done yet, I’ve gotta put it on the cord, but yeah, it’s done.”

      Elliott carefully returned the pendant-to-be and picked up his cup again to take a longer drink of his tea, sighing with relief, not realizing how stressed he had been about not only getting the necklace done, but keeping it a secret. “It truly is the perfect engagement item for him. I had thought the story a romantic and curious tale, but to see him find it likewise interesting and an important memory tells me that I have made the correct choice.”

      She returned with the pendant and some cord, as well as a box to put it all in, stringing the shell-pick with casual skill and tucking it neatly into the box, padded with a bit of cloth to keep it from rattling about. “There we go, how’s that look?”

      Once more Elliott accepted the gift, holding it in both hands, imagining how it would look when presented to his partner and… “…It’s perfect. I… I have no words, Leah.”

      With a squeal of glee she bounced in place and flopped into her chair. “I knew you’d say that, but still, there’s always that tiny voice nagging in the back of my mind that there’s something I messed up and didn’t see because I was just too close to it, y’know?”

      “That I do. So very well.” He affixed the lid, clutching it protectively for a moment before slipping it into his waistcoat pocket. “Now, the rest of your payment-“

      “-Can wait until after the Flower Dance,” she interrupted with a grin, “go, run away and pop the question, I can wring some lucre out of you later. You’re ready to explode with pent-up energy, I can see it, and you’re the sort that will worry himself to pieces if he doesn’t do something right away.” She made a shooing gesture and picked up her boots, sitting down to put them on. “I’ll be heading over in a few myself, I just wanna put away a couple of things before I forget.”

      Nodding, and swallowing a lump in his throat, he bent over to give her a hug and kissed her cheek, almost feeling dizzy with elation. “One day I will be able to properly articulate and offer my full thanks, but for now I am simply overwhelmed.”

      She giggled and returned the peck on his cheek. “You’re fine, sweetie, now go before you end up being too late and your date turns into a pumpkin or something.”

      Laughing at the teasing prod, he straightened and left, closing the door behind himself. A sudden rush of butterflies in his stomach made him stagger, but he forced himself to stand tall, take a deep breath, hold it, and let it out slowly. There, that did it. His resolve reinforced, he resumed his trek to the site of the dance, at the far edge of the forest. This was it, just as he had done so many months ago when their novel had been finished, he would bare his heart and soul and see it reciprocated. Unlike that last time he had no fear that he would be rejected. He couldn’t wait to see Lysander’s face light up, to see his eyes go wide with surprise the way he always did when presented with something he wasn’t expecting. This made a delighted laugh bubble up, and he allowed himself a bit of a skip in his step for a few moments.

      My dearest, my love. It has only been a year, but oh, what a year! My soul has never felt more complete or full and my life more radiant or exciting. The stage is set and I am the final player to arrive, let the curtain rise upon the final act of this play so that a new story can begin. Our story…
        Last edited: Aug 26, 2019
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