Other [FanFic] Rose & Sunflower 3: A Different Perspective -Ch 75 [24 October] COMPLETED

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
        Alkanthe and Lew Zealand like this.
      • Risukage

        Risukage Giant Laser Beams

        //So. Yeah. I'm back, and almost done. One more chapter, but that's what I said last time, wasn't it? Well, this time it is the last chapter, because while I wanted to finish it all here it would have been rushed, and you all deserve better than that.

        Thank you, THANK YOU, deeply and honestly, for following me this far. Thank you for supporting my work, even though I keep falling off of the face of the world for half a year at a time. And thank you for all of your kind words. I still hope to do a book four, but right now I need to finish this project first. Mental and physical health issues have been getting in the way a long time, as have excuses, but I think I'm getting better. At the least, I'm not getting worse. I'm still looking for work, but I got a short story published, and that's given me the confidence I've needed for a long time. Further, I've never stopped having ideas. Now that I've got my writing system working again (and my notes in order, dear gods, what a MESS they've been) I can finish book 3, have a go at book 4, and maybe start that FFXIV series I've had in mind since the Shadowbringers expansion dropped. Overly ambitious? Definitely! But I want to create again, and I've not felt that in ages.

        Things are hard now. For everyone. For a lot of us they've likely never NOT been hard. But it won't always be that way. There are people who care about you, even if you only ever know them by screen names and digital avatars. There are professionals out there that can help, all you need to do is call or text or email or find them in person, and it's scary, I know, it's terrifying. And that's okay. Take care of you. Because in your life, YOU are the one that matters the most. This is YOUR story, make it one that you'd like to read. //

        He was alone for the walk to the forest, encountering the other townsfolk once he reached Pierre’s booth at the entrance. The shopkeeper waved to him and Elliott changed his path to visit for a moment. “Good morning, Pierre, already set up to sell?”

        "I was one of the first here,” he replied, sipping from a thermos that smelled of coffee, “gotta make sure I don’t miss anyone who wants something, right? Can I interest you in anything?”

        Ordinarily Elliott would have done so, but he politely averred. “Much as I want to, I have an engagement first.” He felt his heart skip at the word “engagement” and burst out laughing. He waved away the confused look that Pierre wore. “My apologies, I realized I had made a pun only after I’d made it.”

        The confused look remained for a moment longer before the other man’s eyebrows doubled their height and he laughed as well. “So! Rumors are true, we were wondering how long it’d take.”

        “I… Pardon?”

        Resting his chin in his hand and elbow on the stall counter, Pierre gave him a fatherly smile. “Lewis and a couple of others and I have been dead certain that one of you was gonna ask sometime soon. There may have been a bit of side betting going on, too.”

        Elliott laughed once more and shook his head. “I’m quite glad that we have provided gossip for those needing it. But pardon my haste, I am off to win someone a bet, apparently.”

        “Go on, enjoy your youth, be happy like you deserve.”

        He broke away and continued his route to where they had first met the year before. Of course Lysander would be there. He was a creature of habit, and this had been a momentous change in his life. So naturally- Ah! There! Elliott paused a moment to chuckle, noticing that their friends had already converged upon his partner. The smiles that they all wore and the confident, happy poses and gestures spoke of deep friendship, a stark contrast to the cautious curiosity they all had last year. As he walked up he realized that Lysander was wearing nearly the same thing that he’d worn the year previous as well!

        Haley was complimenting his style, then realized what Elliott had. “Omigosh, aren’t you wearing…” she gasped, and Elliott took this as his cue to make his own appearance.

        “It appears that he is, though it is not the same style as last year the color matches.” He blinked and looked the other man up and down again. “No, I am partially wrong, the shirt is the same, but naught else.” The long-sleeved green button-down shirt that Lysander had worn the year before was now worn open over a beige shirt, matching his trousers, and the green shirt’s sleeves had been rolled up. “How tasteful and stylish, dear,” he complimented, and his heart once more skipped at the smile that only he would ever know.

        With his customary elegance, Lysander stood up and hugged him, resting his head on his shoulder, then pulled back a little to examine Elliott once more, realizing that they had both reached back to the previous year for fashion inspiration. Grinning, he booped Elliott’s nose. “We’re sentimental dweebs, aren’t we?” Elliott replied that they both had a good reason for it, and the other man agreed, hugging him again. “And you’re fashionably late as well as regularly fashionable.”

        Stroking his partner’s hair, Elliott allowed himself a moment to enjoy the rising tension and suspense. Perfection, all of this was perfect perfection! He explained that he’d had a quick errand, and Lysander nodded, apparently having forgotten despite being informed only a couple of hours prior. Elliott could hardly blame him, he almost felt scatterbrained himself. Giggles from Haley and Abigail got their attention, and the amused pair shared one last glance before sharing their mirth. They had been recalling how both men had confidently and competently performed a few lines from a play without prior rehearsal, or even a nod between them to indicate their intentions. The energy Elliott felt swelled once more; of course he remembered that moment, it was when he first became enamored with this strange man, one who mystified him more than any had ever done before and gave him purpose.

        Lysander shook his head, snickering. “It was brilliantly awful, wasn’t it?” He pondered which one it had been, and Elliott smiled, remembering it in full, casting his memory back a year and adding the rush of emotions to his current state. Ah, he could barely contain himself! Lysander put a finger to his own lips and winked. “Are you feeling theatrical?”

        Of course! This was a fantastic fantasy made real, how could he shy away from the chance to share this once more, to build upon the swell of delight he felt. He almost could not breathe from how full of love and energy he was, this delicious tightness, this wonderful ache. It almost could not be contained! He shifted his stance to face their friends, an arm around Lys’s waist, a laugh bubbling up that almost ruined the moment. “Our bond is something true and strong, so tenuous but lasting long. As soft as breath, as hard as steel, there is naught else that I would feel."

        There! That look! That smile and poise and oh-! Once more they were in a moment together, a moment as one. Lysander rested his hand on Elliott’s shoulder, eyes warm and bright as he recited the next line. “Warm and gentle like breaking dawn, I pale like dusk when you are gone. But like dawn’s light you shine once more, and with your touch my heart does soar.”

        Their friends tried to smother their amusement, but not too much, knowing that the performers were doing this specifically to amuse them. Elliott took Lysander’s hand with his free one, lacing their fingers together, and he saw his partner’s pupils dilate for just a moment. That love, that devotion… “Though misunderstood and oft-maligned, our destinies are intertwined. They know not what it is we share, though I know for certain they do not care.”

        Lysander clearly was close to erupting into raucous laughter, but he was a professional, he would remain in-character for the duration of the scene. Stepping closer, with his other hand he knotted his fingers into Elliott’s collar, pulling him even closer, his voice suddenly deep and breathy, and it was now a tightness in his trousers that Elliott felt. “Then just for now I’ll hold you tight, if you’ll permit to stay the night. Our passions burning pure and hot, we find the climax we’ve so long sought." Elliott very nearly leaned in to kiss him until he saw the mischievous smirk and a wink. “So, your place or mine?”

        Merriment overtook the entire group for several minutes, and both men had to hold onto each other for support until they could compose themselves. Elliott fumbled with a pocket to retrieve a handkerchief to wipe his eyes, offering it to Lysander once he’d finished. At Abigail’s wheezed remark that she had made a good decision to wear the waterproof makeup that day, the writer nodded and retrieved his handkerchief. “It amazes even me that anyone can take his work seriously.” He took a deep breath to compose himself and put away the square of fabric. “It is delightfully absurd and bombastic, and still manages to find popularity despite its grandiose prose.” Lysander agreed, but pointed out that it was entertaining in its own strange way.

        Sam, who clearly hadn’t had his fill of sassing his friend enough lately, folded his arms across his chest. “Yeah, you two are an amazing pair of lesbians.” This set everyone off again, and yet again, the performers nearly fell over without each other’s help.

        Once he could stand upright unassisted, Lysander checked the time and noticed that their friends should go and get ready for the dance. Alex gave him an odd look, wondering aloud why the best dancer in town wasn’t participating, especially after doing so much for the community. Shrugging, Lysander replied that it being a “traditional” dance it might look odd to some people for him and Elliott to participate together, but grinned and promised to “mess with the tourists” at the Luau that summer. With a sigh, he sagged a little and stared off into the treetops. “I kinda wanted to have today to just think. I’ll always remember it fondly because this was when things started to turn around and get better for the first time.” Elliott smiled at the way that the other man took his hand reflexively, a faint smile on his face, moments before that familiar, bright grin reappeared. “And lastly, I’d wear that white dress because it’d be hilarious, and I’d make it look better than any of you because I’m hot like that, but I’m just too nice to do that to Haley.” A z-snap gesture punctuated his statement and produced another wave of merriment among their friends.

        This is it. Now. This moment. There will never be another as perfect; everything has led up to this. The first step on a new path. And for the first time in years I will not take it alone.

        Squeezing Lysander’s hand one last time, he tugged at his waistcoat, ensuring that his appearance was perfect. “Before everyone departs I would ask an audience of you.” Everyone looked curious and paused, but Lysander was still amused, asking what was on his mind. “You are.” This got everyone’s attention, and they regarded him with curious interest, much in the way that Pierre had. The stage was his now, and it was time to put on the best performance of his life.

        “For years I drifted, alone and without guidance, and in this one year I have been gifted with unparalleled companionship and inspiration. I found a spark of fire, so dim and fragile that any breeze could extinguish it, but I reached out to it all the same and found it warm and welcoming despite its faint glimmer. As it brought me strength that spark grew and flourished, and with it together I achieved my dream, and that spark is now a brilliant flame of hope.” Lysander smiled at him, obviously flattered, but still unaware of what was to come. Elliott reflected that smile, warm and full of love and confidence. Then, finally, the pieces clicked for him, and the smile became a wide-eyed stare of disbelief. Continuing, Elliott, reached out to caress his cheek.

        “Now, selfishly, I want to keep that fire for myself, so that I may guide and empower it further. No longer a moth to a flame, I will be the beacon upon which you can dance and bring your light to the world.” Lysander looked as though he had been hit between the eyes, unable to believe what was happening. He almost looked as though he was ready to collapse, and it was Elliott doing the asking! Removing the treasured box, Elliott clasped his partner’s hands around it firmly, stepping back as he steadied himself. His own hands were nearly shaking from excitement, yet he steeled himself to tranquility, etching into memory all that he could. Almost hesitantly, Lysander opened the box, placing it inside its own lid as he examined what was inside. His eyes managed to get wider as he realized what it contained and what it meant. Lips moving silently, he looked up, then realized that Elliott had gone to one knee, smiling up at him, taking his hands once more.

        “Lysander Erik von Morgensonne, will you marry me?”

        The only sound was the gasps and shouts from their friends, as Lysander was still too stunned to react. He truly hadn’t expected anything like this, ever. Elliott saw the look of gratitude, awe, and love in his eyes, as well as the tears that were beginning to well up. His own smile was supportive and confident, already knowing the answer, but still needing it to be said.

        Let me hear it.

        “…Yes,” was the whispered reply, almost a choked sob as the musician lost himself for a moment. Elliott felt the sting of tears in his own eyes that he blinked back as he stood, removing the pendant and looping it over his partner’s-

        His fiancé’s head, brushing his hair out of the way and ensuring that it was at just the right length, just above the red pick necklace, where it would always be seen.

        Lysander nearly needed support once more, then sniffed and scrubbed at his eyes while Elliott took back the box and put it back in his pocket. “You silly, magnificent, wonderful, romantic man…” He nearly collapsed into the tight, possessive hug that Elliott pulled him into, hoping it would never end.

        Tangling his fingers in the other man’s hair, Elliott felt a nearly orgasmic wave of bliss break over him, hugging fiercely as though he never intended to let go. “Because you have inspired it in me,” he whispered, feeling complete for the first time in his life. He was mostly oblivious to the celebratory cheers from their friends until Sam hugged them both with his usual full-body contact style of affection. Alex gave a thumbs-up and a whispered “that was so cool,” and Sebastian offered a friendly shoulder-squeeze to Lysander before Sam cajoled him into something more than that. Initially Sebastian nearly reacted as he usually did, but to their surprise gave his friend a proper hug.

        “I’m happy for you, dude. Congrats, ‘little brother.’ And you theater types are so weird, but damn if that wasn’t pretty cool.”

        Elliott felt a rush of energy again, and couldn’t help smiling with mischief. “Well, I found the timing too perfect to pass up, as he did say something about a white dress.”

        This set Lysander off once more, and this time he needed help in sitting down on the bench to collect himself. He was joined by Sam and Abigail who were almost laughing too hard to breathe. Penny checked her watch and gasped. “Oh! We need to get going soon if we’re going to have enough time to change.” She took Elliott’s hands and gave him a sweet smile, one so pure and honest he almost felt weak in the knees. “I’m so glad for the both of you. You came to the town for different reasons and with different pain, but you have cured it in each other. You’re going to be happy together for a very long time, I can tell.”

        “I… Thank you, Penny, that means a lot.” He hugged her gently, slightly worried that he might be too strong and hurt her. She pinched his cheek and helped Sam up off of the bench, heading off to get changed. With a patient sigh but softened with a grin, Sebastian gave Abigail help as well, and while Haley was also giggling madly she had Alex to lean on for support. Sitting down next to Lysander, he watched their friends depart, an arm around his companion’s shoulders as he fished out the handkerchief a second time. “Are you alright, dearest?”

        Taking a deep breath, Lysander nodded and wiped his eyes again, then shifted to sit in Elliott’s lap, head on his shoulder and arms around his neck. “I’m… I’m fantastic. Better than I have ever been. I feel whole for the first time. It’s like, you started putting me back together when we hooked up, and I healed more after we…started sleeping together, and I thought I was all fixed when I made up with Allen.” He pulled away a little to kiss him deeply but softly. “But now I’m…” He touched the pendant and caressed Elliott’s face. “I’m complete. Like I was missing a part of my soul and didn’t know it until now. And I’m so confused because I’ve never been happier, I’m floating and flying and just don’t feel like I’ll ever be able or want to come down. But at the same time there’s still that awful voice in the back of my head that says it’s all just a dream and I’m going to wake up or it’s just going to crash down in tatters because of something, and…”

        Elliott interrupted him with a kiss of his own, fingers digging into the green shirt as he held him close. “I understand, and I will do my best to support you and help remove that voice. You should only ever hear how much you mean to me and to our friends. To this entire town, even.” He laughed and pulled Lysander closer to press their foreheads together, stroking the other man’s cheek. “Dearest, have you any idea what you mean to how many people? I will help you realize that and love yourself the way that I do you. You aren’t alone anymore.” These words stuck in his throat, momentarily choking him.

        “You aren’t, either. I’m… I’ll…” He sniffed back tears, composing himself again. “We’ve been together for a while now, but now I’m with you.” Hugging for another few minutes, they heard the music start and smiled at each other. “Let’s go, then, we can celebrate over dinner and wine, yeah?”

        They made it to the dance area with plenty of time, but found themselves the center of attention before the start, as word had spread very quickly and everyone wanted to offer their congratulations. By the time the festival was over and they were leaving both of them almost felt dizzy. At the fork to the farm Elliott paused, then pulled Lysander in for another hug and a kiss. “I think we should celebrate. How about a nice dinner at the saloon?” This was agreed to heartily and quickly, and once more they were showered with well-wishes upon setting foot in the saloon. Thankfully, they were able to get a table to themselves and a bit of privacy, as everyone who had wanted to say something had already done so, or would politely wait until later. The meal was filling and satisfying, and Gus was the last person of the night to congratulate them when they left. Walking home slowly, they held hands and turned up collars against the night breeze, as neither of them had worn coats, but it thankfully wasn’t cold out.

        Lysander retrieved his keys, unlocked the door, and barely let Elliott get inside before closing the door and pinning him to it, kissing him with desire and need. He tugged at his lip with a growl, then took his hand to drag him to the bedroom. Almost laughing, Elliott allowed himself to be pulled along, using the inertia to pin him to the bed and nibble his neck. With a gasp and a giggle, Lysander’s hands began to wander; undoing buttons and buckles, then he paused, as if something had occurred to him. “…I’m yours.” He grasped the pendant and blinked, finally absorbing and accepting it. “I… I’m yours. You want me and you claimed me and…” Elliott wasn’t sure what to do or say, but it was moot when Lysander pulled him down on top to hug him as tight as he could. “I’m yours.” He let him up enough to run a thumb over Elliott’s lower lip. “Do with me as you want. Anything you need. I just want to feel you and touch you and have you touch me back in any way that you want. Use me. And tomorrow morning…we can start building a new life together.”

        With a dark chuckle, Elliott leaned over to bite Lysander’s ear, sucking on it the way he knew it aroused his partner, and savored the moaning gasp the other man made. “Then sing for me, my love, I want to hear your voice filled with passion as I take you and pleasure you until you are spent.” Lysander shivered and kissed him again, once more undoing Elliott’s buttons with one hand.

        Some time later Elliott curled around him, pressing soft kisses to his neck and shoulder, still tingling and warm, floating once more and feeling more content and relaxed than any other time in his life. “Sleep well, my dearest, I love you.”

        Taking Elliott’s hand, Lysander pressed it to his lips, wearing only the engagement pendant that he clutched tightly as if he worried that it might vanish. “I love you, and I always sleep the best when I’m with you.” Elliott remained awake a little while longer, committing to memory the entire day and almost needing to blink back tears of joy and relief. Eventually, his breathing matched that of his fiancé’s, and he joined him in sleep, dreaming of that new life together.

        //If for whatever reason you think I'm interesting, I am the Random Squirrel on Tumblr and L33t Squirrel on Twitter. Contains reblogs of things I think are interesting and random acts of shitposting.//
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        • Risukage

          Risukage Giant Laser Beams

          //...Well. It's finally done. It took over two and a half years but book 3 is finally complete. To those of you who have stuck with me so far, thank you. I can't thank you enough for continuing to read this silly project and wait for literal months while I cram my personal demons into a box again and faff off to go write on some other story because hey, what is actually following through with one project, right? If you've been following my other work you've noticed that I've moved pretty much exclusively to FFXIV fan works. I have one or two more SDV projects I want to do, I mean, this game is the reason I'm writing at all, and the reason that holy shit I actually got published, so it will always have a warm and fuzzy spot for me. Hopefully I can get back to my SDV stuff again now that the anxiety of having this one undone is finally dealt with, and that I've remembered how to write the Lysander from THIS series. Yeah, I've been writing his FFXIV character so much I almost forgot how he and Elliott are written, and I'm not kidding, I had to go back and read so much of books 1 and 3 to remember what I was doing and how.

          To those of you who are new to my work, welcome! You showed up at a great time, enjoy a very long story! :D

          To those of you who have been there from the start, you are literally the reason that I got this far. The clicks and positive feed back has been amazing, and all of your encouragement, especially when I was at my lowest, has done more for me than I can express. We're all random strangers on the internet, faceless names that interact with memes and digital communication stripped of nuance, but you all still mean so much to me and thank you, THANK YOU.

          To all of you, if my work continues to entertain, then I'm ecstatic to have you continue the journey with me. I've got a lot of stories to tell, and while I'm still not in a great headspace yet, I'm better than I was, and the genuine love I've gotten from people both online and IRL have given me the confidence and drive to create something worthy of being read and enjoyed. Hell, I set up a Ko-fi, in case I ever get the confidence to get paid for this sort of thing! If you're in a Discord with me or find me on Twitter, feel free to give me a kick in the ass if I'm not updating fast enough. Sometimes I need that feedback to help tell my gremlins to sit down and shut up so I can work. :)

          Lastly, I treated myself to a comm from the amazing Crowstuffs on Twitter, and I'm still vibrating back into existence. Just happy husbands reading their published novel together, and I really can't think of a better way to close out this series. Cheers, all, and be kind to yourselves, because you're the only "you" that exists in all of this universe, and that's pretty damn special. <3//


          The shifting of the other man woke Elliott, and he sighed happily as he woke up slowly. That had been a lovely dream, and-

          No, it hadn't been a dream. He had actually worked up the courage, and... He smiled as he watched Lysander yawn and sit up, propping himself up on one elbow as he blinked against the morning light. "Good morning, dearest," Elliott said, reaching up to caress his fiancé's face, "would you like to lay about a little and enjoy the first of many mornings together, or have you tasks that need your immediate attention?"

          Giving Elliott a lopsided smile, Lysander leaned into the touch, humming softly. "We've been shagging for a few months now, I-" He stopped as he remembered something, and wordlessly he grasped the carved shell necklace. "...You... It wasn't just a..." His expression was now one of disbelief, and a small battle seemed to be taking place in his mind. "You really... You want me. More than just..."

          With a soft chuckle, Elliott pulled the copper-haired man down atop him, hugging him fiercely. "I have desired you for so long, dearest, all of you. I will tell you this as many times as you need to hear it, and I will do so without being asked." He shifted them to kiss him, a warm and lingering touch, and he pressed their foreheads together as he stroked Lysander's cheek with the pad of his thumb. "You complete me. And I...can only hope that I do for you even a fraction of what it is that you give to me."

          It was his turn to be kissed, but something much stronger and needy, and when the musician pulled away he held Elliott's face in his hands, holding back tears, but still smiling. "Love... I love you, you gave me a reason to go on. To try again. I fucked up so bad, so many times, and I ran away from it all. I was too scared and weak to face any of it, and..." He sat up, tracing a scar on one wrist with the fingers of the other. "...I nearly tried again. I nearly ended it all for good. But you refused to let me go, you saw something that I didn't think existed, and..." Leaning back down, he draped himself atop his partner, burying his face in his neck as he hugged him. "I complete you, but you're the reason I'm still alive. Every day since that one has been a gift. It's...still hard to believe that I'm worth anything, especially being loved, but...I'm getting there. I'm trying. You and Sam and Sebby and Abby and... I'm so glad I came here. And I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you, however long it is."

          "Then I hope that it is a very long time, because I have so many things I want to do together," Elliott whispered, tracing gentle fingers up and down Lysander's back. For a while they shared a warm, comforting silence, until certain biological needs shooed them out of bed. While Lysander usually tried to be good about sticking to a schedule, that morning he heeded Elliott's suggestion and took the day to just be together. It was a lazy day where nearly nothing got done, but neither of them cared, because they had all the time in the world to do everything now.

          The next week was another gig in Zuzu City, at a new locale larger than the first one, and the venue was packed completely full. Elliott no longer hesitated to go on stage. Rather, he now understood why the other man loved it so, and he felt a swell of pride and all-consuming love to see him simply shine when in front of a crowd. The way that he and Sam harmonized, the synchronicity that he had with all of his bandmates, the energy that he imparted to the audience and fed off of in a positive feedback loop of ecstasy... They were alive. Lysander was always handsome (well, he was biased, true, but that didn't render his statement incorrect!), but he was absolutely beautiful after a performance. A month later was another venue, and once more, their concert was sold out, and when it was over Elliott felt a little faint as he wrapped his head around it all. Lysander had laughed, but with him, recalling the same feeling when he had finished his first theater performance. "We've made our mark on the world, love," he had said, his smile touching his eyes and making the hazel color bright and warm, "even when we're gone what we have created will remain, and we'll be remembered. We've achieved immortality." It was a strange thought that had not occurred to him, and once more Elliott needed to sit down. As long as there were people to read stories and listen to songs, they would be remembered...

          Between those two gigs they had curled up on the couch together, reading their novel while it rained outside, and Elliott kept losing his place because he kept pausing to remind himself that he had done it. They had done it. His dream was fulfilled at last, and not only could he hold it, physical proof of his desire made manifest, but also while in the company of the person who had helped make it possible. When they put in a bookmark and set it aside for a moment, both of them wanting a nap, Elliott shifted the pillows behind himself to recline, not support, and Lysander turned around to lay face-to-face now, pulling the blanket up over them both a bit more. Elliott dotted Lysander's cheek with soft kisses as he played with his hair. "You know," he remarked, "we need to put that on a shelf when we finish reading it."

          His hint did not go unnoticed, nor its implications, and Lysander blinked as he pondered it. "...Well, this house is larger, but your place is wicked cozy, too."

          "That's a polite way to say that it's small."

          With a mock pout, Lysander prodded the other man's nose. "I'm being honest. This house is too big for one, bur your place is much more, well..."

          "If this house is too big for one, perhaps it will fit two much better?"

          "...Well, yeah, but..."


          Shifting a little for better comfort (and due to mental discomfort), Lysander picked at the collar of Elliott's shirt. "I don't just wanna uproot you and force you to do anything."

          With a chuckle, Elliott tugged the trapped lock of hair. "Have you ever successfully 'forced' me to do anything?"

          "Well, no...but..."

          This discussion went on for several minutes, in much the same fashion, until Elliott sighed in good humor, kissing his fiancé with determination. "My dearest, stop. You aren't being pushy. You're being the opposite, and it doesn't suit you. Let us look at this logically, then. You have the garden here. Your house is much larger. It is also in your family and therefore deserves to stay that way. But most of all..." He kissed him again, a ghost of a touch against his lips. "I want to live here with you. I remember sitting upon the front steps some time after I moved to Pelican Town, and when Lewis told me about the family who had lived in it before I wanted to learn all that I could about them. This house and its land, and those who had resided here sparked my imagination and curiosity like few things had before. Then you moved in, and each visit was a grand adventure, a new chapter in a tale I did not realize needed to be written, and once it began to be I could not put down my pen. This isn't just a house, dearest, it's a home, and it has been one since you took me to your bed."

          "Really," huffed the musician, "it seems like we spend a lot of time in that room. I'm not arguing, but there is more to the house!"

          Elliott kissed him again, grinning wickedly. "But of course, more places where I can make love to you, and in more creative ways." Lysander laughed at this, and returned the kiss before draping himself across Elliott once more. "But, to be serious... I felt a pull to this place from the moment I walked onto its grounds. As though all of the pieces of a puzzle were present, they just needed the final one to-" He blinked and glanced over at their pet, curled up in an armchair and sleeping happily. "Everything really was here. Xander was here as well."

          "Wait, what? Seriously? He was a skinny little juvenile when he just walked in one day, only, what, about a year old- Ohhhh..." The timing clicked for Lysander, and he chuckled as he hugged his partner. "You were here a year before I moved in, that's right."

          "Correct. As the mayor and I were conversing I remember watching a barn cat roaming around, with a small trail of kittens, and I distinctly recall a little ginger one. If that isn't him then, well... I can't think of an appropriate reaction, so I shall come up with something after a nap."

          Lysander was quite happily cuddled atop him, and starting to doze off from the happy warmth and Elliott stroking his hair, much like he did Xander. "And I guess we can work on...getting you moved in..." He blushed a little at this, then laughed when Elliott prodded him with a gentle tickle. "I'm excited about it, stop that! I... I just... It's so weird not being alone, and having a nice place, and having someone to share it with. ...I'm happy..."

          They dozed off for a nice afternoon nap, and after figuring out a late lunch, contacted Alex for the use of his truck at some point (for which they would handsomely compensate him!), and worked out how to box things up to get them to the house. It wasn't terribly far a move, just one that could be inconvenient if they didn't actually try to plan, and when they reached out to Robin for assistance, word promptly got out to the rest of their friends via Sebastian, of all people. Crates and boxes were loaned out to help shift dishware, books, and other small miscellany that could be moved quickly and easily, and emptied at Lysander's home to be returned and refilled back at the cabin. Before they could do this, however, a bit of rearranging was in order, and the next day was devoted to shifting furniture to accommodate for what new things would be coming in, or simply creating a "drop zone" for things to be stacked as they were brought over. They took the time to explore the upstairs a little, a place Elliott almost kept forgetting existed, as the stairs to it came off of the hallway leading to the laundry room, and therefore often out of sight and mind. It had as much floor space as the first one, and while there were a few shelves and bits of furniture, it seemed to be the sort that the previous occupants couldn't easily take with, so they left it behind for the next resident. Just in case. Lysander had burst out laughing before burying his face in his hands to find not only a second bedroom, but an entire bed, and felt very silly for the rest of the day. "You could have used this instead of the couch when I was sick!" he had lamented, and Elliott was swift to riposte that the sofa was very comfortable, and it put him much closer in case anything had been needed.

          Two days after that was the move, and both Elliott and Lysander were astonished at the number of people who offered to provide assistance. It very nearly turned into a town project, and Elliott felt the hot sting of tears as a lump welled up in his throat; he had not expected such an outpouring of unprompted and enthusiastic aid, and he was almost overcome with joy that he and his companion had earned it. Three "teams" were then assigned: one at Elliott's cabin to pack and load the truck, another to unload it at Lysander's place, and the third to move it all inside. Putting it all away could happen at their leisure, but this was one of the rare sunny days that springtime in the valley had, and they meant to make every minute of it count. The work went on almost from dawn to after dusk, and it was in the waning daylight that Elliott paused to look around the now-empty cabin. Oh, the bed was there, and a couple of other things that had already been present when he had moved in that he didn't feel right in taking (and it would also mean that whomever moved in later would not be sleeping on the floor!), but everything that he had brought with him was now either at the farm or loaded on the truck. He walked through the place slowly, partly to ensure that nothing had been missed, but also to remember. Remembering the feeling he had first had when he had stepped in for the first time, then his visitors, and then Lysander... Running his fingers over the door frame, he stared out at the ocean, smiling at those memories, and...

          "Hey, you okay?" asked Alex, having finished securing the final load, "you look a bit out of it. You need to take a break before we head back?"

          Elliott shook his head and leaned against the frame, half inside and half outside, taking a few last minutes to make a few last memories. "I am fine, thank you, Alex. I am simply...reminiscing." He put his hands in his pockets and looked around the now-empty room, much the same as it was when he had moved in, albeit not quite as dusty now. "I arrived with stars in my eyes and a heart full of prose, ready to embrace all that this town offered and create the story that I knew that I was certain to write. But as time wore on it wore me down, and I was lost to despair for a while."

          Folding his arms across his chest, Alex leaned on the wall outside, thinking back as well. "I remember that. I didn't know you much at all, but yeah, you moved in all shiny and bright and just...dimmed." He shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck. "I know what that's like and...kinda why I gave you shit when I did. It wasn't cool of me, I was in a bad spot in the same way and was just lashing out 'cause I didn't know how to deal with it, y'know, in a healthy way. It's funny how Lys showed up out of nowhere, and in a week we're all just...friends. Weirdest shit ever." He laughed and shrugged again, mimicking Elliott's pose with his hands in his pockets as he stared out at the ocean. "Like, on one hand I really wanted to hate him. All cheerful and honest and nice. But even after we had that fight, 'cause I insulted you, he still tracked me down to try to fix things. Just...who does that? And it made me feel super shitty that I'd been such a jerk out of nowhere like that." Grimacing, he rubbed his arms, shrugging once more. "I felt like my dad in that moment, and I hated it. Hated me. But he didn't, and that was just... Why? Why not? ...He inspired us all to be better, just because he believed in us, he knew we could be great, and he never applied it to himself." Looking up, Alex gave Elliott a wry smile. "He made us better people, but he couldn't have done it without you. I'm glad you came here. This town is a better place thanks to you."

          Blinking in surprise, Elliott stared at Alex for a moment, then off at nothing as he considered this. He wasn't special, he wasn't, well, much of anything. How could he-

          Really now...

          He chuckled to himself and pushed off of the door frame to stand upright, then gave the interior of the cabin one last look before turning off the lights and shutting the door. Power and other utilities would be disabled in the next couple of days, just in case they needed to return to finish any last cleaning or maintenance. "I had not considered that. I have always tried to be modest and humble, and to avoid bothering others where I could. It has always been Lysander that has sparked the fire of progress, but I am the fuel for that flame. I am glad that I have helped to enrich the lives of everyone in this town, it is the least that I can do for all that has been done for me." Alex grinned broadly, and made a "come here" gesture, obviously wanting to share a hug, and the writer accepted, though he gasped for breath at the rib-cracking squeeze he received. "By the light, Alex, I may have to pay you to do that later," he laughed, holding onto the athlete for support for a few seconds, "though you have been doing most of the heavy lifting, so it would be disingenuous of me to request such a thing."

          "Whatever, I'll just hit the sauna up the mountain afterward, this has been a bitchin' workout and a stretch and a steam will really hit it."

          They returned to the truck for the last time, the sun halfway behind the trees to the west, and arrived back at the farm with just enough daylight to move in the final load from the truck. Everything was left where it had been set, as it could be put away at their leisure now that it had been successfully shifted. The moving done, everyone involved convened at the saloon for dinner; since everyone had been so kind to offer their help without prompting or promise of reward, the least that they could do was ensure that they were properly fed! A lunch had been provided (which Lysander had driven down on Morgenlied to get and bring back for them), and now they could enjoy the leisure of a filling meal at the end of the day. There was much merriment, as though it had been a bit of a long day, it had been a satisfying one, and everyone was excited for the upcoming wedding, whose details were still being planned. Opinions and options were offered, and Elliott took notes while Lysander took it all in good humor. Much later, Lysander noticed Elliott's longing look south, and suggested a quick walk on the beach before going home.


          "You're thoughtful, love," the musician remarked, hugging his arm as they walked along the beach and toward the dock, "what's on your mind?"

          Elliott considered this and his musings with Alex earlier that day. "It has been over a year since I had very nearly considered casting myself off of this very pier and letting the waves do with me as they would." This casual and almost off-handed remark took Lysander by surprise, and Elliott smiled ruefully, an arm around his fiancé's shoulders. "The day before the Flower Dance I had hit the lowest point in my life. I had no ideas and only saw failure in every one of my efforts. I look back upon myself and my actions back then and feel foolish, but at that time and in that moment all that I knew was despair and suffering, and..." He sighed and turned to pull Lysander into a possessive hug. "You know of my time alone, I have told you much of it, but that night I had gone to the saloon, desperately seeking company but knowing that I was of a poor sort myself. I had chosen hard liquor, something to burn and tear me from my current state, but all it did was deepen it. I expressed my lamentations to Lewis, and I was overheard, whereupon my state was mocked by another, and... Ha, Samson, such a bright, vibrant soul! He stood up for me, taking the brunt of the altercation for me, and... I raised my voice, I was angry like I had not been before, and the hate I felt for myself I nearly turned upon another. I fled the scene, feeling cowardly and unwanted, and walked until I could go no further." He dug his fingers into Lysander's back, feeling tension in his chest make it hard to breathe for a moment. "It was a flash of thought, a brief moment of passion before logic intervened, but I had never felt so low and useless. I could do nothing more than sleep, and when I awoke I briefly considered not attending the dance, but Lewis had spoken well of you, and curiosity overcame my self-loathing. I did not expect much, but I met you and... You changed my life. My dearest, my beautiful, brilliant fire, I was immediately captivated, and when I departed the dance I felt a surge of inspiration that I had never known before. All of this, everything that we have and share was very nearly lost from one rash, impulsive decision."

          "...And I'd not be here, either," Lysander murmured into Elliott's shoulder, "I wouldn't have opened up without you, and I know I'd have done something stupid to get me to run away again or... Or to finish what had sent me out here in the first place." He squeezed Elliott in a firmer hug, then pulled away for a soft kiss. "We owe each other everything, don't we? Thank you for telling me. I knew you were doing bad last year, but I didn't realize just how bad it was."

          They spent a couple more minutes there, needing each other's presence while the feeling of mutual dread at what they both almost had lost had faded, and returned to the farm, greeted at the door by Xander. "Hello, you fuzzy little bastard," Lysander cooed, picking up their pet and rubbing his face in the soft fur, "you always want love when it's a bother. Like last night, didn't you, you stripey little shit, begging for pettings while Elliott was fucking me senseless." Elliott nearly fell over in trying to take off his shoes, laughing at the playful reprimand of the purring animal. "I didn't need a face full of your ass while he was balls deep in mine, and headbutting me wasn't going to change my mind. Nooo, it wasn't, nooo," he said, replying to the chirps and trills that Xander made, happy at getting attention. Putting Xander down, Lysander shrugged out of his coat and hung it up, then sat as well to remove his boots. He followed Elliott to the bedroom, where they both began undressing, tossing clothes into the hamper and feeling the fatigue of the day set in. Of course, playful kissing and touching happened, and Lysander pressed Elliott to the bed, kissing him deeply while letting his hands wander. Elliott moaned into the kisses, grasping Lysander's bottom and squeezing, and he blinked when he felt a soft paw pat his cheek. The both of them paused, as Xander had jumped onto the bed and was now prodding them both for scritchies, chirping at them with ears and whiskers forward. This was so ridiculous that both men burst into laughter, and Xander stalked off to the other side of the bed, insulted. They could have restarted the mood but... They didn't need to. Phones were plugged in, lights were turned out, and they curled up together, holding each other close and breathing in each other's scent as they shared their warmth.

          "...I love you, so much..." Lysander whispered, clutching the carved pendant. Kissing the top of his head, Elliott wrapped a lock of copper-red hair around his finger as he felt himself doze off, and the last thing he remembered was Xander curling up on the pillows with them.

          The next day, once the the usual chores were finished, they set about cleaning up the messes from the day before and putting away what they could. After a couple of hours Elliott went to the kitchen to make a fresh batch of coffee, and upon returning to the living room noticed Lysander staring off into space as he sat on the floor, surrounded by books. "Are you alright?" asked the author, offering a cup, and Lysander blinked and took the drink gratefully.

          "Yeah, just... It's real now. It just ran up and bashed me between the eyes, and..." He picked up a book and set it back down again. "You're moving in. Your stuff and mine. It's...real." He looked up at Elliott, and that warm, loving, hazel gaze made Elliott's knees weak for a moment. "Home, love, it's not a house anymore, it's a proper home."

          Elliott sat down to join him, and smiled when Lysander leaned over to brush his lips with a happy kiss. "It is a strange sensation, and it it very nearly left me a bit light-headed as well. I was putting away everything in the bedroom closet and had to sit down to truly think about it. No longer am I simply storing a change of garments for when I spend the night, I have a permanent place for everything, next to everything of yours." Sipping his coffee, he looked up at the shelves and then the stacks of books. "You took everything off, I see."

          "Yeah, I saw we had a lot of stuff that complemented, or we actually were completing each other's series, so I figured I should just pull it all out and do a proper sort and inventory." He held up his phone and sipped his own drink. "I've been cataloguing everything, too, I grabbed a library app, so as I put something up I scan the bar code and log it, so we have a record of everything. I figure it'll be useful next time we hit the book store and want to see what we're missing."

          Gasping softly, Elliott gestured to be handed the device, and he scrolled through what Lysander had already scanned. "Oh, this is brilliant, dearest, what a good idea. Here, let me help, I will scan and you can put away."

          "You're sure you don't mind learning my sorting system?"

          Elliott put down both coffee and phone to lean over, cupping the back of Lysander's neck to hold him in place for a warm, lingering kiss. "I am certain that it will be efficient and sensible. I trust you, dearest. Let us finish our drinks and get to working on this."

          A couple of hours later everything was logged and placed, and Lysander held the final book; their book. He ran his fingertips over the cover with a bewildered smile, then looked at a space that he had set aside for it; Elliott's magazines in which he had been published on one side, and Lysander's sheet music on the other. The book slotted neatly into the space between the two collections of slim publications, and he stepped back, biting his lip to hold back tears. "...Ours..." He melted into Elliott's arms, resting his head on the blonde man's shoulder. "We did it. We both had dreams and we achieved them, and helped others with theirs. And this feels like a dream, too, but I'm not scared of waking up from it, rather, it feels so good to be able to have this feeling and not be scared anymore."

          The day finally arrived. There had been more planning than they had anticipated, but their families had been eager to assist, as well as many of their friends and acquaintances in town. It was late spring and the day was sunny and warm, and they were at Haley's and Emily's house, making last-minute adjustments to their suits. Emily's tailoring skills once more were absolutely splendid, and they looked resplendent. They wore matching suits in charcoal gray, and a shirt in white with red accents and a bow tie for Lysander, and the same in blue for Elliott. As Lysander removed the ribbon that tied back his hair, Elliott stepped behind him with a hairbrush, brushing out the vibrant copper locks with loving care, then tied it back neatly. As Lysander turned around, Elliott took a moment to adjust the red rose that was pinned into Lysander's pocket, then made sure his white rose was also presentable.

          "Of all of the stage work I've ever done, this is by far the strangest-fitting costume I've ever worn," Lysander remarked, glancing in a mirror, "not that it fits badly, just... I didn't think I'd ever see myself in something like this." He observed that charcoal looked nicer than full black would, and Elliott replied that it was amusing that Lysander considered a suit to be a costume, and that this would be the most interesting stage on which he'd ever been. Lysander grinned and hugged him carefully. "And I wouldn't do it without you. I've never liked being the center of attention for myself, but right now?" He fiddled with the bow tie, managing to get it in a knot he couldn't untangle. "This is our stage, and I can't wait to share it with you. Ah, thanks, love, I arsed that up pretty good."

          Elliott undid the knot and tied it correctly, pressing his fingertips against the pendant under Lysander's collar. That and his earrings were his only adornments; both of them had left their glasses and other accessories behind, and Elliott only had his own silver hoops as well. So well-matched, so balanced, halves completing each other... He felt a surge of pride and love, and he cupped Lysander's cheek in his hand, committing the moment to memory. Lysander leaned into the touch, and both of them were barely aware of Haley moving about and taking pictures from every possible angle. She had already come close to filling one card, but she was expecting this, as any photographer knew that one took hundreds of pictures to get a handful of good ones.

          Lewis arrived, wearing the suit he had worn to officiate the wedding of Lysander's grandfather, and it was agreed that the mayor still wore it well. "Everyone is just about ready. Time for the guests of honor to take their places." Removing his hat, Lewis took a moment to take in the sight of Elliott and Lysander, clearly feeling old but delighted to be able to be present for such important events in the lives of people who meant so much to him. "And thank you again for asking me to officiate, Lysander, I remember when your grandfather asked the same of me long ago. ...It was so long ago... But I still remember it like it was yesterday."

          Haley and Alex gathered a few things and left ahead of them, going to get the cameras set up and be ready to take both photos and video. Watching them go, Lysander looked nervous for a moment, and Elliott nearly laughed when he saw the other man close his eyes and find his center. Lysander took a deep breath, held it, and exhaled slowly, getting into character as though this were a play and not something actually happening to him. Once he was settled, they followed Lewis, and it was now that Elliott felt the excited rush of butterflies in his stomach. It was really happening!

          As they proceeded toward the crowd and up the aisle, Elliott tried to keep his eyes forward, but he still stole glances to see those in attendance. His parents sat next to Lysander's, and the way that they contrasted yet complemented in subdued and sprightly colors must certainly have been planned ahead of time! Charles was there as well, and the excited smile that Elliott received from his brother dispelled any further apprehension. He was also pleased to see Allen with Arthur and Lynn, glad that he and Lysander could still remain friends, and that none of them felt any antipathy toward each other. Lysander had seemed nervous when they had left with Lewis, but now he owned this stage, and he almost seemed to demand that the audience pay attention to them. This bolstered Elliott's confidence further, and when they stopped at the fountain in the center of the plaza Lysander's grin almost made him feel as though he were flying.

          Lysander took Elliott's hands in his, and for a moment Elliott forgot that anything else existed. "It's showtime, love."

          Flowers that they had grown had been woven into garlands or placed in pots and vases that decorated the fountain and the plaza, as well as strings of colored lights to match. It was simple but elegant, and a subtle display of what they had helped to create. There had been soft conversations among the guests, but now all eyes were on them and it was silent, save for the gentle splashing of the fountain. A year ago it would have been a silence that would have terrified him, but now, he felt as though it were a performance about to start, the conductor's baton at the ready and all musicians drawing one last breath before the music began.

          Examining his notes, Lewis cleared his throat. "Friends and family, together we gather to celebrate. Two members of our community have found companionship and fulfillment in each other, and have decided to make that bond permanent." He smiled as he read the next portion, recalling how he had met them the first time, none of them having any idea of the paths their lives would take. "Arriving in town in dire straits they drifted, searching for purpose and direction. Together as friends they succeeded, and as partners they have prospered. It is time now to take the next step in the journey."

          They had memorized their own vows, being the skilled performers they were, but despite that, Elliott almost forgot what he wanted to say when Lysander gave him a delighted look of adoration. "Two years ago I departed my home to search for inspiration, seeking the muse that would assist me in the creation of my literary masterpiece. For too long my search bore no fruit and I despaired at ever attaining my dream." He squeezed Lysander's hands, pausing for a moment to take a steadying breath. "Then I met a living flame, illuminating the darkness and providing a guiding light that led me out of the abyss into which I had fallen. It was only together that I discovered that I had desired not a source of ideas, but someone to stand by my side. I had thought that it was simply my mind that was empty, but it was really my heart that carried a void, and now it overflows with warmth."

          There was a glimmer at the corners of Lysander's eyes, and he blinked back tears as his smile got softer as his voice became more resolute. "Last year I ran away. From my friends, my problems, and myself. I was too scared to face it all, and almost too scared to try to make friends here." It was his turn to squeeze Elliott's hands, and his voice almost cracked before he hastily swallowed it down. "But I found someone who I wanted to get to know and to help, a person who had such enthusiasm and love for life that I couldn't help but be drawn in. Over time I found the strength of mind and spirit that I had been lacking, and it was all because that person believed in me. I was able to go back and face my past and fix what I had broken, ending the pain that had followed me for so long. I'm now more than I could ever have been on my own, and have never felt more alive."

          Soft gasps and sniffles rippled through the crowd as the guests tried to keep any emotional expression from being too loud, and Elliott felt an electric tingle across his skin. This was real, but it was also a performance, and that they could evoke such a powerful response from people they knew made him feel so alive! He almost didn't notice Lewis remove the box containing the rings from his own pocket, and Lysander was the first to take one of the simple platinum bands, continuing his speech as he held Elliott's hand once more. "I now want to share that life, and its journey, wherever it will take us." Elliott saw the performer's mask almost slip for a moment, in the way that Lysander's breath caught in his throat and his hands almost shook as he placed the ring on Elliott's finger.

          Now Elliott's turn, he took the other ring and Lysander's hand. "Together we will walk this path wherever it leads, hand in hand, and I will not let go, even at its end." He slipped the ring into place on Lysander's hand, and felt that sweet, wonderful ache in his chest as the other man stared at the metal band, appearing bewildered that this was actually and truly real. Stepping forward, he put gentle fingers under Lysander's chin, tilting it up to make the other man meet his gaze, and the look of all-encompassing love in those warm hazel eyes pushed aside any notice of anything else. This stage was theirs, and this was the closing act, he would make it one to remember. He leaned forward, and Lysander rose to meet him, a shuddering sigh on his lips. This kiss, it was so different from their first, but this was the first one of a new life together, and he would remember it always.

          "I give to you Lysander and Elliott von Morgensonne," Lewis said, putting the box back into his pocket, "let us all celebrate their union and their contributions to our lovely town."

          Elliott felt Lysander mouth the words "I love you" against his lips as he pulled away, ready to greet the guests and mingle, as though this were a gig in the city with the band. They were first approached by Elliott's parents, and Elizabeth gave Lysander her usual piercing look, but smiled and nodded with satisfaction. "Now you may call me 'mother.'" The newlyweds laughed at this, and proceeded to receive hugs from their parents, then Charles and Allen. The rest of the guests queued up to offer congratulations and accolades, and Haley continued to photograph from every angle she could. The play was over but the encore had begun, and now it was time to celebrate! And what a celebration it was! Gus's catering was as delicious as ever, and when they weren't enjoying something to eat or drink they were accepting or making offers to dance, and Elliott smiled when Lysander coaxed Sebastian into a few steps, surprised at how agile the usually-reserved man was. When he was finished with that Lynn strode over, apparently having just remembered something, and was walking with surprising steadiness despite being in two-inch heels and three glasses of wine. Her grin was the one Elliott always saw on her son, and Lysander's was a little worried in return, knowing that only mischief happened around that sort of smile. She informed them with barely-contained glee that she had left a "nice surprise" for them at the house, and departed with an evil cackle that would have done any theater performer proud. Evelyn and George were her next targets, who were conversing with Arthur, and Elliott and Lysander exchanged a curious glance before laughing heartily.

          Charles found them again, and clapped Elliott warmly on the shoulder. "I am so proud of you, little brother, you've come such a long way in two years. As for you..." He turned to Lysander and raised an eyebrow at the cheeky smirk that he received. "I have heard the stories, and no, you are not to call me 'Chaz,' and 'Chuck' is completely unacceptable."

          While this was said with good humor, Lysander apparently took the request to heart, although he did have a solid laugh, then gave Elliott a nudge. "Love, I just realized, you're the only one of your family that doesn't have a name that can be shortened into something more amusing."

          Now that it had been brought to light, Elliott had to concede that this was true, and he chuckled, kissing Lysander's cheek. "That is true, but you have given me a longer one that I shall treasure always."

          They noticed Lynn and Arthur heading roughly in their direction, though they seemed to be aiming more toward Elliott's parents. Lynn had apparently found a fourth glass of wine and absolutely no fucks, because her grin was the sort that Elliott knew heralded only trouble, proven when she waved at Elizabeth. "Hey, Lizzy!"

          Elliott actually felt a chill as his mother turned and very nearly manifested The Evil Eye in Lynn's direction, parting the crowd between them, and Arthur reflexively ducked behind his wife. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked, sobering up very quickly, and Lynn pouted at him over her shoulder.

          "Oh, throw me under the bus, will you?"

          Sighing with exasperation, Arthur gave Elizabeth a wary glance and kept Lynn between the two of them. "Throwing nothing!" he replied, "you're the one standing in the middle of the road waving at traffic!"

          Despite her pretense at irritation, Elizabeth was in a good mood, and she and Lynn chatted amiably, and Lysander and Elliott resumed their rounds of socializing. This went on until well after dark, where the lights brought a soft glow to the festivities, and the scent of the flowers almost as intoxicating as the alcohol. Despite Lysander's apparently bottomless well of energy, he found himself yawning, and Lewis noticed this, strolling over and offering congratulations once again, and suggesting that they head on home. "Don't feel bad, you're not being rude," he chuckled with a wink, "rather, it's always assumed that the happy couple will retire earlier than the guests."

          Lysander hesitated, but Elliott leaned over to nuzzle his neck, earning a giggle and a smile. "Yeah, that's true. Well, we at least need to say goodnight to a few people." They met up with Arthur and Lynn again, and the elder couple knew what this meant, offering hugs one last time. "You're gonna be in town, you said?" asked Lysander, and Arthur nodded.

          "Yeah, we've got a spot in the inn at the saloon booked for a day or two. Might as well take a vacation to catch up with everyone here. Since you two will definitely be sleeping in, give us a call when you're up and we can try to grab lunch somewhere in the city. No offense to Gus and the saloon, but I think a 'just married' meal should be something a bit unique." Elliott blushed deeply at the implication of what they would be doing to be requiring an afternoon meet-up, but was also pleased that his in-laws were so casually blasé about the whole thing. It was strangely refreshing. Everyone else was going to be leaving later, however, going back to their respective homes, and Lysander and Allen shared one last lingering hug again.

          "...I still love you," Lysander whispered, and Allen chuckled as he gave him a squeeze in that hug.

          "I never stopped loving you, either. It just changed. We both did. And I'm so happy for you. I only ever wanted you to be happy." They parted, relieved, their relationship renewed, and Lysander took Elliott's hand, giving a small tug as they left the festivities for home.

          Their home.

          The sky was free of clouds and full of stars, twinkling pinpricks of color against a backdrop of velvet sable, and they walked in silence as they took in the view together, their feet knowing the path automatically. At the front door, they paused while Lysander retrieved the key, and Elliott felt a surge of mischief once the door was opened, putting an arm around Lysander's shoulders, then stooping to put the other behind his knees, picking him up. Lysander gasped and threw his arms around his husband's neck, looking surprised to be carried and gasping a query of confusion. Elliott smiled, pleased that the silly but romantic gesture had succeeded. "What do you think?" he said, striding into the house, and the bubbling laugh Lysander made gave him a delightful rush of happiness.

          "I think you are a delightfully and unrepentantly romantic man and I love you dearly."

          Elliott closed the door with a bump of his hip, a well-practiced maneuver by now, and set Lysander on his feet. Still holding his hand, he caressed the platinum ring that the musician wore, the sign of the bond that they had forged over the last year. "We're home, my husband," he said, and he saw the glimmer of tears in Lysander's eyes again, the other man almost overcome with emotion.

          For a moment Lysander couldn't speak, and then he smiled again, his voice barely above a whisper. "Welcome home."

          Caressing Lysander's cheek, Elliott put an arm around his husband's waist to pull him in for another kiss. All stories had to end some time, but in doing so they often began new ones, and this was the start of their story. He would make sure that this one would be worth reading.

          //If for whatever reason you think I'm interesting, I am the Random Squirrel on Tumblr and L33t Squirrel on Twitter. Contains reblogs of things I think are interesting and random acts of shitposting. I can also be found on AO3 as Risukage, but be warned, it's a bit...spicy there sometimes.//
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