Other [FanFic] Rose & Sunflower 3: A Different Perspective (Updates MWF) -Ch 67 [14 August]

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

  1. Risukage

    Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A motorcycle?

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

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

    “Hey love, what do you think?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      “I know, I just-“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Risukage Existential Complex

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Minimanta Space Kumquat

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

            Risukage Existential Complex

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

              Risukage Existential Complex

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                Risukage Existential Complex

                //Whee! That was an amazing weekend. Lots of pictures, so many stories, all kinds of great stuff. I attended a few writers' panels, too, and got a LOT of good information. I might actually have what it takes to be an actual author, imagine that. Though I don't have much time to catch my breath, as I'm out of town this weekend again. Updates should happen normally, though, I won't be quite as busy and will have a little more down-time to myself. The big question is if the damn wifi will be functional or if I'll have to wander off and find a Starbucks or something.//


                Elliott couldn’t recall Lysander being so enthusiastic before. True, he had always been energetic and passionate about many things that they’d shared in the past, but this, this was special to him. They wound their way around the rooms and halls where Lysander pointed out objects and locations of interest, relating stories and anecdotes. Listening with rapt, fascinated attention, Elliott followed, not losing hold of his hand for a moment. He didn’t think his partner had ever looked more handsome or alive. Glancing into the dressing room, Lysander giggled and explained a few make-up techniques unique to theater that one wouldn’t usually use in daily life, which Elliott found to be most intriguing, and it also explained how he’d achieved the “female” appearance from that picture that Lysander had shown him a couple of months back.

                The tour of the back rooms concluded, Lysander took him behind the scenes directly, describing how and what the different ropes, pulleys, levers and so many other mechanisms operated. There wasn’t a way for them to access the room that controlled the lighting, but Lysander promised to show him that one day, and Elliott almost laughed; it was his family that owned this place, but it was Lysander who treated it as if he did! But then, after all that he had done there, he almost did. For Elliott, this had simply been a business and a place of occasional entertainment. For Lysander, this was home.

                Finally releasing Elliott’s hand, Lysander strode confidently out onto the stage itself, and his smile of absolute delight was completely infectious. “I missed this, love,” he remarked, sweeping the empty seats with an almost hungry stare, “it’s not been long, but it’s actually hurt to be away. It’s not that I missed the attention, it’s the joy and experiences that I give to people.” His smile softened and he wrapped his arms around himself, recalling past performances. “I live for that; telling a story and making people think and feel something amazing. I’ve missed performing with dad and his group, even for small venues, because of the camaraderie and synchronicity you get with your fellow performers. I wish I could explain it all, but I don’t have the words. I’m a performer, not a composer.”

                My dearest, you have no idea just how wrong you are and how happy I am for that. Our novel is your creation as well. It is I who do not have the words for it, for I have not had your experience in immersing one’s self in another world. I was the sculptor of our story, you gave it life.

                He met his partner in the middle of the stage, pulling him into a determined hug, and Lysander snuggled into it with a smile. Running his fingers through his partner’s hair, Elliott assured him that what he had said, and how, was more than enough to describe it. “I already feel the love and respect you have for these media, and if it is within my power I will assist you in standing out here once more.”

                Head on Elliott’s shoulder, Lysander considered this for a moment, then smiled and chuckled. “That’s not necessary, love. I won’t ask you to pull strings with your family, that feels wrong. Though if I could just do one last show I could walk away and be content.”

                Laughing happily and tapping the tip of Elliott’s nose, he brought up the prospect of their book being adapted for the theater, with them as their own characters, which made the blonde man laugh thoughtfully in return. Elliott found the idea interesting, but only that, as it was unlikely that it could be done, and that he completely lacked the ability to act, even alongside Lysander. With a confident smirk, the actor replied much in the same way that Elliott had thought only moments earlier, that he had plenty of skill that just needed practice.

                “Anyway, it is just a bit of a silly dream,” he sighed, sparing one last glance into the darkened room, “I’m just happy that you’ve gotten this far. Though, who knows, it’s a strange world. I guess that’ll be my dream for the moment; to be able to stand up here in any form, just one last time.”

                Before Elliott could reassure him or offer an idea, he heard a very familiar voice address them from the opposite end of the stage. “Who is there? Who dares trespass here?”

                Lysander broke from Elliott’s hug to see who it was, and Elliott blinked in surprise. His mother was here? Again, Elliott didn’t have the time to say anything, as Lysander took it upon himself to reply first. “I can’t trespass in my own home, and how do I know you’re allowed to be here, too?”

                “Because I own this place,” she replied in a clipped, dignified tone.

                Oh, this was not going to go well; Elliott saw that his partner’s proverbial feathers had been ruffled, and the slight edge to his voice wasn’t quite antagonistic, but he was certain that his mother also wasn’t in the mood for mischief. It was up to him to try to intercede and keep this from blowing up horribly.

                “Hello, mother, I did not expect to see you here,” he greeted, feeling his stomach begin to hatch a small swarm of butterflies. This was beginning to feel like the day that he’d called her to inform her of his relationship with Lysander, and he wasn’t certain that this encounter would end very well. Her manner of dress caught him off-guard, too, as the simple violet dress and bolero jacket were definitely meant for a nice night out, in addition to the matching clutch purse and low heels. She eyed Lysander with the scrutinizing glare that Elliott had so often seen reduce the arrogant to the meek in just seconds.

                “I must say the same,” she replied, nodding at her son, “hello, Elliott, it is good to see you again. And you must be Lysander. You call this your home? What audacity breeds this sort of assumption?”

                Oh no, gods no, this is going to go so very, very wrong!

                Elliott unconsciously held his breath, feeling panic well up as he saw his partner’s eyes narrow as he felt his pride and honor being called into question. “Because I have spent many hours upon this stage, entertaining and delighting the guests that provide your income,” he growled, “so while you may own it, you also owe me.”

                “Dear! Please don’t-“

                He was interrupted by his mother’s gesture to be patient, though she never broke eye contact with the ginger nuisance. “It’s quite all right, Elliott, he does have a point of a sort, though he lacks tact in expressing it. A theater without performers is merely an expensive and pointless form of interior decorating.” The ghost of a smile had appeared for a moment, and only Elliott could see it, but it disappeared again as she continued. “However, it is no small amount of arrogance to assume that your name and presence are what command and demand an audience.” This was going as badly as Elliott had feared, as he saw his partner grit his teeth and snarl. She had hit him right where it hurt, and he was barely holding back from snapping at her.

                “I never said that, and further, I never performed for my own sake. To do so would be to sully the art of theater. I stand upon this stage and revel in applause, yes, but not for the attention; it is because that is proof of myself, of my performance, of the story that I have told. It is thanks for the entertainment that I have provided and skill that I have demonstrated.” He was in his element here, and Elliott momentarily forgot his worry as Lysander’s performing nature asserted itself. “My songs, my stories, my voice, they are all given freely to any who ask and I ask nothing in return. That is the soul of an artist, and while it may not bring prestige or wealth those are mere material concerns that get in the way of and diminish my art. You may speak ill of many things about me, and they will likely be true, but I will not tolerate a slight against that which I have devoted most of my life.”

                Elliott was somehow caught between not breathing and hyperventilating. This was somehow worse than the phone call! However, his fears were put to rest by her intrigued, almost amused look. “How very curious. You are quite the interesting young man. You have also been a positive influence upon Elliott.” As though she had made a very careful decision, she nodded with satisfaction. “Very well, I approve. You may call me Elizabeth.” Elliott almost felt his knees buckle under him with relief, but he tensed again at the smirk that Lysander immediately sprouted, which his mother noticed. “No, you may not call me ‘Liz.’ Nor ‘Beth.’” Almost in proportion to the cold glare she gave him, his smile was threatening to leave the confines of his face. “And should the name ‘Lizzy’ ever attempt to cross your lips your future vocal career will be as a soprano. Are we understood?”

                Ever cheeky, Lysander pushed his luck just a bit further, asking if “mom” was acceptable, or if “mother” was more preferable, and Elliott put his face in his hands with a silent groan. His breath caught in his throat when she told his partner in a very firm voice that he was to use neither of those terms until he had married her son. “Which brings me to my next point,” she continued, not paying attention to Elliott’s open-mouthed stare of shock, “my eldest has already taken on the responsibility of carrying on the family name. Do you plan to have Elliott do the same, or is yours the one that shall take precedence?”

                Marriage? Mother! We haven’t been together nearly long enough for that! he thought to himself, then interrupted that thought with another, very surprised one: half a moment, she was the one who brought up the possibility, and did so with all seriousness. She actually thinks that well of him?

                Lysander either didn’t comprehend the gravitas of the moment, or didn’t care, because he shifted his weight to one leg and laced his fingers behind his head, thinking about her question with a look of pure insolence. “Well, personally, I think that ‘Elliott von Morgensonne’ sounds quite nice, but that’s just me.”

                Heart skipping a beat, Elliott felt the flock of butterflies finally hatch and take flight. He was of the same opinion, but it had only been suggested in jest previously. His mother, however, seemed well-acquainted with the name. “Von… I thought that I recognized that infuriating smile,” she said, putting her hands on her hips, examining him more closely, “you are the son of Arthur and Lynn von Morgensonne, are you not?”

                Both men were surprised by her casual admission of knowing his name and parentage, but Lysander was faster to recover, remembering aloud that since both of his parents taught music and dance, they had done considerable work at the theater as well. “I keep forgetting just how much influence they have around here. It’s funny what you get used to when you’re so close to it for so long.”

                A little relieved by the neutral resolution to the near-argument, Elliott was about to add his own opinion when he heard his father walk up. The older man commented that Lysander had apparently been performing at the theater for a while, which he gleaned from something on his smartphone. Elliott wanted to ask how he knew, but then remembered that he had told Charles some time ago that Lysander had been a part of the Grand Company Players, which had then been passed on to their parents, and now that his father had a full name, he could search their database for information on him. Elliott did comment, though, that he had been wondering if he was also present, given his mother’s attire, and the dark tan suit and light blue shirt were evidence of the precursor to a night out together.

                “Good afternoon, Elliott,” he replied, putting a welcome hand on his son’s shoulder and giving him a warm smile, “I see that you are doing well, and that you are apparently romantically involved with a performer that has been a part of this theater for a number of years.” He turned his attention to the copper-haired man, who had been watching them with interest. “I see no leading roles on your dossier, Lysander, all of them are support or background characters. Intriguing. One might take that to infer that you are shy or lack confidence, but your, hmm,” he paused again to search for the right word, “’conversation’ with my wife speaks otherwise. It appears that your love for both theater and my son are genuine.” The fatherly smile now extended to him as well, and he offered a hand in greeting, which Lysander took. “I am Phillip, and I will head your question off at the pass and inform you that no, you are not allowed to call me ‘Phil.’”

                Laughing, Lysander gave Elliott a fond smile of his own. “I like your parents so much, love, nobody has been able to out-cheek me like this in a long time.”

                Putting fingers to his temple to rub away an impending headache, Elliott wasn’t quite as relaxed as his partner, but did feel good enough to politely tease him to not antagonize his future in-laws any further. The headache dissipated, and so did any lingering concerns, when Elliott’s mother finally smiled as well, understanding his thoughts. “Do not worry, we all were testing each other, and it seems that we have all passed. Now that initial introductions and impressions have been made, we can move on to business.” Her commanding presence reasserted itself, and she took in both men with the same firm, professional stare. “When we last spoke you mentioned that your book was completed and had been submitted for publishing. Has there been any further development on that front?”

                Elliott confirmed this, and gave details on when and where it would be available, promising to inform them as soon as it was ready. Phillip made notes on his phone and nodded in confirmation. “That would be excellent. You have been laboring over this endeavor for many years now. I am delighted to hear that you have achieved the success that you have desired.” He brought up the question of whether or not Elliott had used a pen name, remembering that his son had wanted to avoid association with his family name until he could prove his worth on his own first.

                Without a quick reply initially, Elliott hesitated. “Ah, I did not. Nor did I use my name. To be honest, Lysander has writing credit as well for the amount of work that he put into it with me, so we…”

                He felt embarrassed to admit their “error” in their authorship, and wasn’t sure how to phrase it in order to avoid awkward questions. None came, however, as his parents shared an entire conversation in one understanding glance, and Phillip took out his phone again while Elizabeth silently considered something. He remarked that using Lysander’s name would not only make it a simple task to find, but also deal with the legal issue of rights to an adaptation, since strange questions would be asked if Elliott had used his own name. He also assured them that it all would be handled gracefully and legally, and that they would be afforded all of the proper credit and monetary compensation that this sort of thing required.

                With twin expressions of amazed surprise, they listened as Elizabeth outlined the loose schedule for an adaptation and release, and after listing the back-of-the-napkin estimates on how long some things would take, suggested an opening night some time the next autumn. “We can work out particulars once it is published and I have had the opportunity to read it,” she concluded, as if it were already a signed contract.

                Elliott was familiar with her rapid decision-making process, but Lysander was baffled. “I- Wait, are the both of you really talking about adapting his novel for the stage? Already? You don’t even know what it’s about!”

                Looking over the rim of his silver spectacles (that somewhat resembled his own, Elliott noticed) at Lysander, Phillip replied that both of them had written it, so it was their work, actually, and that even though one could always count on certain stories to always pull in an audience, new stories were crucial to catching public interest and keeping people returning. “It can be a risky maneuver,” he admitted, “but such is the nature of things. And no, we do not know the content nor the nature of your novel, so it is potentially likely that it is rubbish.” Elliott felt a quick stab of annoyed insult at this, but liked it, as for once he had something he could be proud of! “However, knowing the exacting standards to which Elliott holds himself, as well as the love of storytelling and the stage that you have already displayed, we are confident that the subject matter will be appealing.”

                Any irritation from the perceived insult was immediately wiped away with that last statement, and Elliott felt a surge of pride, elated that he had finally done something of which his family could be proud! Elizabeth cut short any further discussion, having noticed the time. The two of them had come to the theater on business and that meeting was coming up shortly. She did, though, express her delight in being able to encounter both her son and his partner, and accepted a hug from Elliott when he reaffirmed his promise to make sure that they had one of the first copies of their book.

                “I appreciate that,” she said, and turned to Lysander. “As for you, I suppose that it is not premature to welcome you to the family already. Though it is probably for the best that you are both men, as I am certain that your children would be simply unruly.” Elliott was also used to her somewhat dry sense of humor, but Lysander was likely still feeling a little bothered from their earlier chat, and let his temper take charge for a moment.

                “What- Hey now! Just remember that you’d be the grandmother so we’d pawn them off on you when they’re being little shits because it’s your job to spoil them. So there.”

                Gratefully, Elizabeth thought that this was hilarious, and accepted the hug from her potentially future son-in-law. Phillip did the same for both men, though he asked Elliott with a bit of concern about his glasses. “Have you really been spending that much time behind a screen?” Elliott replied that no, these were preventative, not reactive, and that they had been Lysander’s idea. The gentle, warm smile reasserted itself, the smile of a father who could not be more proud of his progeny. “Then he has been quite a good influence. You have always let your health go when focused upon something. Perhaps a companion was what you lacked, not vision or skill.”

                Polite goodbyes were made, and both couples parted ways; the elder to some other part of the theater, and the younger outside to reconvene with their friends. This had been as nerve-wracking for Elliott as the phone call had been, but like that call, it had ended better than he could have expected. Once again, hand-in-hand, they walked, and Elliott almost felt as though he were flying.
                 
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                • Risukage

                  Risukage Existential Complex

                  //The downside to conventions is, inevitably, one always gets sick. *Sigh...*//


                  There had been a few things that Elliott had wanted to bring up with his parents, but running into them unexpectedly like that, as well as Lysander’s first meeting with them, had completely dashed those items from his mind. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he thought about it; Lysander and his mother had put him in mind of a pair of strange cats sniffing each other, then hissing, then swatting with claws put away, then composure grooming before deciding that the other was all right after all. His musings were interrupted when Lysander realized openly that Elliott’s mother had outright stated that she expected them to get married, which was something that he’d not expected.

                  “My parents are refreshingly direct and blunt,” Elliott replied, squeezing his partner’s hand, “they prefer not to leave things to ambiguity and chance. But yes, you are correct, and it was an unexpected statement for me as well. They have taken a liking to you, dear, something that has weighed upon my mind for some time.”

                  With chuckle, Lysander squeezed back. “That’s the second time someone’s inferred that we’re going to get hitched at some point. It feels…weird.” Elliott pulled him closer to kiss the top of his head and smirk, amused at his partner’s consternation, and asked if he was averse to the idea of no longer being a bachelor with his pick of lovers. “No, it’s…” Lysander replied, wrinkling his nose as he thought, “don’t take it the wrong way, love, but I never gave the matter any thought, ever, because I never really thought it would happen.”

                  He sighed and gently body-checked Elliott in a sort of walking hug, trying to explain what he thought. “In college I was always busy and focusing on my education, and as basically the campus bicycle it didn’t seem likely that anyone would be interested in anything more than a few months of fun. After I…” He was almost unable to continue this thought, biting his lip and squeezing Elliott’s hand again. “After that fight with Allen and everything that happened, I gave up on the idea of long-term love. I didn’t think I deserved it, and to be honest, I didn’t think I’d live long enough to get the chance to try. Even after meeting you, I was still stuck in a bit of depression, and…”

                  Elliott kept walking for a few more steps before he realized that Lysander had stopped, his grip on his hand tighter than before. His partner was trying to blink away tears, rather unsuccessfully. With gentle fingers, Elliott brushed them away, a comforting hand on his shoulder, asking him to speak his mind. “Share your pain so that I may carry some of your burden.”

                  A glance at one of the white marks on a wrist brought an involuntary shudder. “For the first couple of months in town I still hadn’t gotten over everything. I was doing a good job of locking it away and keeping it from everyone else, and I wasn’t going to try again, but… But if something were to happen I wasn’t going to fight it.”

                  This statement sent a cold jolt of fear through Elliott, as he remembered their conversation in bed after their fight when Lysander openly admitted that he had considered trying again. He offered a warm, supportive hug that Lysander gratefully leaned into, sniffing back further tears. “I didn’t think I had a future or a purpose, and if I disappeared it’s not like it’d be a big loss. I’m over it now. Mostly. Still working through a couple of things, but I’m no longer in that state. Still, it’s just weird to me, I never thought I was the marrying type. Never thought I’d be able to make someone properly happy.”

                  Finding the opportunity to tease but uplift, Elliott affirmed his remark, and when Lysander gave him a strange look and asked what he’d meant, he smiled and brushed aside the copper-red bangs to kiss him on the forehead. “You have made me feel both delight and contentment. By day I cherish your smile, by night I desire your touch. You have given me more than mere happiness, and I am now devoted to repaying that gift.”

                  Lysander’s look of delighted relief almost completely melted Elliott, and this time his enthusiastic kiss was welcomed and returned by the author.

                  My dearest, one day I will get you to understand your worth, to realize just how valuable you are to not only me, but to so many others. You are the “marrying type,” because otherwise others would not have suggested it, and because the idea already fills me with such joy…



                  They returned to the park where they had all met up that morning, and the only one that arrived after them was Sam, but Lysander and Elliott were the only ones that could have been called “successful” in their hunt for a locale for their first performance. It had been a lovely day for everyone, however, so it hadn’t been wasted in any sense, but they were still no closer to their overall goal. As they compared notes and commented on what they had done and where they had gone, Lysander’s phone rang, and he pulled it from his pocket, noticing that it was from his father.

                  “Hey dad, how goes it?” he answered, leaning against Alex’s truck as he talked, “sweet, thanks! Any idea on timeframe? Brilliant! We’re all here, actually, gimmie a sec to bounce it off of everyone.” He pulled the phone away from his ear to give everyone his cheekiest grin and ask if anyone was busy in the next two or three weeks. The response was positive from everyone, eliciting gasps, hugs, and laughter. “Yeah, I think everyone’s cool with that. No worries, that’s- Wait, what? No, that’s ‘wait, what’ as in did you mean ‘Elizabeth and Phillip?’” The mention of his parents’ names made Elliott’s ears perk up, and he tried to listen in while Lysander’s expression became one of amused surprise. “Actually, I just met them a bit ago. They’re Elliott’s parents.”

                  Lysander pulled the phone away from his ear again, this time because his father was laughing loudly enough that everyone could hear him, and winced at a statement that Elliott didn’t catch. “Please don’t terrorize my potential in-laws, I barely made a good enough impression as it is. Well, she did say that she ‘recognized that infuriating smile,’ and stated that I had a ‘vexing personality.’” He huffed a chuckle and squeezed Elliott in a hug, his arm around his waist as his father said something else. “I was already warned in no uncertain terms about doing that. Will do, see you then.”

                  Their friends were extremely curious about not only the contents of the call, but what they had been doing, and Sebastian was of the opinion that they’d had quite the interesting day. Lysander shrugged and smiled in reply. “Um, the long and short of it is that we ran into Elliott’s parents when we stopped by the theater for old time’s sake, and apparently my parents are meeting them on business right now. So I’m not sure if I’m annoyed that I missed the chance to say hi, or am glad that I’m not at potential Ground Zero for shenanigans.” He checked his phone when it chirped with a text notification and groaned. Elliott smiled at the simple message of “LOL!!! :D” while Lysander shook his head. “Oh great, and now mom knows. Let’s get geared up and head on home. By the time we get back they should be done and I’ll get to find out of one ends up getting disowned or forbidden from dating.”



                  Once again, their timing was excellent, as they had left after evening traffic had dissipated, so the roads were clear enough for them to enjoy the ride and not worry about other drivers being idiots. Elliott was glad for the riding gear, not just for its safety, but that it blocked the wind. It wasn’t cold out yet, but at the speeds they were riding there was just a bit of a bite to the breeze. He watched the sun set as they rode, something that he’d not done in a very long time. There was a strange tranquility to this mode of transportation, and it put him in an introspective mood. Just as the last rays of light faded away they arrived at the bus stop, and Elliott sighed with relief as Lysander slowed and turned onto the road that was so very familiar now. They pulled up at the house, parking between it and the storage shed. Elliott dismounted first, but waited for Lysander to walk up to and unlock the house, as he still didn’t know where the lights were, and removed his gear while his partner checked his phone.

                  “Nifty, dad got me the info. Gimmie a sec to send this off and we can get out of this gear.” Once done with that task, he unsnapped his collar and opened the closet. “Here, I’ve got a few spare hangers in the closet by the door, we can hang up the gear in there, though you’ll probably want to keep yours handy when you head home, won’t you?” Elliott affirmed this statement, but as he was staying there that night, he would store his gear with his partner’s. “Well, it’s not that late,” Lysander remarked as he took off his boots, “and I’ve still got some energy. I thought that I could show you something really nice…”

                  Elliott noticed the playful sound in his voice and smiled. “Your smile is both flirty and mischievous. You hint at activities of an adult nature, as well as an ulterior motive.” In reply, the grin became wide with anticipation, and he handed him a guitar case that Elliott hadn’t seen in a while and instructed him to go to the couch while he retrieved Resonance from the other room. “Is this Harmony? So you propose to instruct me tonight?”

                  Returning from the bedroom, Lysander put the much more familiar case on the floor. “Yeah, you taught me piano, I should return the favor. Why, not interested?” he teased, as Elliott put Harmony’s case on the table and opened it. He had been interested for some time, but they had been somewhat busy. “Well, we’ve been getting busy, so you’re partially right.” When Elliott tried to protest, he kissed him and sat next to him. “Smile, love, I say stuff like that because I’m trying to get a rise out of you. Now, first, stat with posture.”

                  Elliott was pliant as Lysander pushed and prodded him into the right position, putting his hands and fingers where they needed to go, pointing out how and where everything went, and things to avoid doing. He sat forward on the edge of the edge of the couch with his back straight, similar to how he’d been taught to sit at the piano. “Hold it like this, don’t kink your left wrist too far, and hold the instrument into you with your right. Feel that? It should be an extension of yourself.” Nodding, Elliott tried to commit the current position to physical memory while Lysander got up to sit behind him, as he wasn’t very good with teaching opposite him.

                  “I wonder if this is less of an assistance to your teaching and more of an opportunity to be affectionate,” Elliott mused with a smile, and Lysander confirmed that there was a little bit of an ulterior motive to it as he nibbled his ear and removed the pick out of the frets. “Later, dear, there will be plenty of time for that tonight.”

                  Amused by his partner’s confidence, he returned to his instructions. “Well, here’s the basics; it’s six strings, from the lowest to the highest they are E, A, D, G, B, and E.” Elliott picked at each of them as shown and listened to the sound each one made. “Hear them? Right. The gaps in between the raised bars are frets, and they are all a half step each, twelve per string. Let’s try a basic scale on the lowest string.”

                  Lysander tucked the pick into his own hand, as he would teach him to use that later, and showed him how to pluck the strings correctly. It took a couple of tries to get the feel for it, but already Elliott felt himself becoming comfortable with the action. Taking the fingers of Elliott’s left hand, he put them into position on the frets, using the very tips to depress the string. This required more pressure than the author was expecting, and he adjusted his grip to hold the neck a bit more firmly so that he could hold down the string.

                  “There, you got it,” Lysander praised as Elliott successfully held down the string long enough to pluck it with his other hand, producing a note.

                  “I believe that I will need to develop not only greater hand strength but a few calluses in order to properly play this instrument,” Elliott observed, but Lysander encouraged him again, his smile warm and enthusiastic.

                  “Next is fourth,” he continued, referring to the next note in the progression, “good, now fifth- No, not six,” he corrected, “five, there. Seven, nine, eleven, twelve. Nice! Back down now.” He repeated his instructions in reverse, correcting the second note when Elliott strummed a full step instead of a half one, but praising when he remembered the oft-missed half-step near the end. “There you go, E major scale. You’ve already learned something!”

                  Surprised at how quickly the lesson had progressed and he had picked up on it, Elliott was silent for a moment as he processed it. “I… I have,” he replied, feeling a swell of satisfaction, “and I can already feel the instrument, how it sings when pressed against you. I now know why you called yours ‘Resonance.’” Lysander agreed, but replied that it required a more complex sort of piece to really notice it. “Could you show me?” Elliott asked, “you’ve played a number of songs in my presence but I do not recall anything that would take an abundance of skill.”

                  That smile! Elliott almost tingled with anticipation and warmth from it, and let him shift his hands to a place where he could feel the instrument but not be in the way. He wasn’t quite sure what Lysander had in mind until he reached around him from behind and shifted the pick from his palm to his fingertips, pressing himself against Elliott’s back as he pulled the guitar into him. Then, the instrument seemed to come to life under his partner’s hands. It was an energetic, heavy, powerful piece that made the guitar almost dance under his touch; the voice in which this construct of wood and metal sang was warm and rich, and it felt alive. Lysander almost danced in place himself, and Elliott actually felt him holding back, as he couldn’t hold the instrument properly with him in the way, but he knew that the other man enjoyed not only the challenge of it, but being able to share the experience.

                  As he so often did, the musician allowed the last notes to fade away on their own, and once again the guitar became inert. Elliott had almost been holding his breath the entire time, loath to interrupt the duet in any fashion, and he now relaxed.

                  How amazing. How lively! I almost feel as though I were a voyeur, intruding upon an intimate moment that others share. Were I the jealous sort, I would be envious of the manner in which he touches an instrument, as I thought that I was the only one who he caresses like that.

                  This thought was extremely amusing, making him laugh, and at Lysander’s query, he explained what he had found funny, which prompted the same laugh from the guitarist, as well as a delighted kiss on the cheek and hug around the shoulders.

                  They worked a little longer until Elliott heard the other man yawn. Looking over his shoulder, he noticed that the hazel eyes were a little unfocused. “You appear to be tired, dear.”

                  “Mm, yeah,” Lysander agreed, sitting up and yawning again, “I guess the adrenaline high of, like, everything wore off, and I’m starting to feel it.”

                  Putting Harmony into its case and putting the pick in the frets where Lysander had retrieved it earlier, he closed the case and secured the clasps. They hadn’t pulled out Resonance since Lysander had been devoting the entire lesson to Elliott and Harmony, so both guitars went to their respective locations of storage and both men to the bedroom. Lysander stripped down in a rather haphazard and scattered manner, discarding his garments randomly before he dropped into bed, yawning deeply as he fumbled to get under the blanket and pull it over himself. Elliott was only barely more coordinated in his disrobing, tossing his clothes over a chair, then easing himself into place behind his partner, who was already mostly asleep.

                  Kissing Lysander on the temple, he shifted him a little to slide his arm under the pillow while he curled up around him, and was gratified to feel him reach up with the same hand to twine their fingers together. He snuggled as close to his partner as he could, his other arm around his waist, and felt the other hand clasp firmly over his. “Good night my dear,” he said, hugging him as he felt himself begin to drift off, “I love you.”

                  “Mm. Love you too, love,” Lysander murmured, almost asleep himself, “you feel so good, just…warm…”

                  It is my body that gives you warmth, but it is the flame of your soul that gives warmth to me, my dearest. We enhance each other. Together we are so much greater than we ever could be alone.

                  Idly, as he felt the tendrils of sleep dig in, Elliott brushed the place on Lysander’s hand where a ring would go…
                   
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                  • Risukage

                    Risukage Existential Complex

                    //Finally over that damn cold, yay! It nearly messed with my posting schedule, and that will NOT do.//


                    Lysander giggled as Elliott kissed his neck, and tried to block him with a pillow. “Stoppit, I’m ticklish, that’s- Oh gods, GAH!!”

                    At this admission, Elliott grinned, wrapped an arm around his partner’s shoulders, and held him close to dance fingers up his side. Yelping and laughing, Lys tried to struggle free, only to find himself pinned flat on his front while the other man sat across his hips. With both hands now available, Elliott tickled furiously, enjoying the breathless swearing gasped out in between laughter. After a minute or so, he shifted to allow Lysander to sit up, but his partner was in no condition to move just yet, wiping his eyes and still giggling from the residual high.

                    “You are so lucky I love you. You are just awful!”

                    “That’s why you love me,” Elliott riposted, leaning over to kiss him, “and I think I’ve got you quite warmed up for your run.”

                    Finally able to sit up, Lysander tangled his fingers in Elliott’s hair with one hand and gently dragged the nails of the other down his back as he kissed him in return. “And I’m hot for you. You should get a little more rest, ‘cause when I get back I am going to ride you harder and faster than Morgenlied.” It was Elliott’s turn to laugh, somewhat ruining the kiss, but it was the effect that Lysander had wanted, so he giggled again and gently bit the side of his ear as he got up. “Stay comfy, love, I’ll be back soon.”

                    Amused, Elliott reclined against the pillows again, folding his arms behind his head. “So my duty in this relationship is to keep your bed warm for you?”

                    “You say that like it’s a bad thing! Besides, you’re just so good at it that it would be a shame to have you do anything else,” Lysander replied with a straight face, which changed into a smirk as he pulled on his running pants.

                    He dressed quickly and gave Elliott one last peck after he laced up his shoes. Hearing the front door close, Elliott shrugged to himself and leaned over to retrieve his phone from his trousers, plugged it in to one of the cables on the nightstand, and browsed idly while he waited for Lysander to return. He might as well “stay comfy,” as his phone needed the charge anyway, and he wasn’t quite hungry enough to get up to make anything. Returning a little while later, Lysander kept good on his “promise,” and Elliott needed a few minutes after it all before he could get up to join him for a shower.



                    “I’m pretty much free whenever,” Lysander remarked, seated comfortably at a table at the saloon several hours later, “but I dunno about you, Sam, or if anyone else has any specific commitments in the near future.” Everyone was likewise checking schedules on their respective phones while they ate or drank, all wearing thoughtful expressions.

                    “My work days are the same as always, so we can go ahead and knock those out. Any chance we can aim for a weekend? Better chance for a bigger crowd, y’know?” Sam replied, poking the screen with the thumb of the hand that held the phone while he stuffed a slice of combo pizza into his mouth with the other.

                    “Weekends’re good,” Abigail piped up, “I’ve got some online classes going on right now, but nothing I need to attend directly, and all of my homework will be due on Friday anyway.”

                    Nobody else had anything of import or that couldn’t be moved, and after a bit of back-and-forth about finalizing their set list and the last bit of practice that they’d need prior to the gig, they decided on a date and time. Elliott refilled Lysander’s beer as he messaged his father, narrating out loud as he did so, and grinned widely as he tapped “send.”

                    “So, how does it feel to know that we’re going to be performing live as a proper band in a couple of weeks?”

                    Sam had finally put his phone down in order to grab a paper towel to wipe his hands, and as he reached for his beer he suddenly stared off at nothing and put his chin in his hand. It had been his dream for as long as he could remember, but it actually happening? It was almost difficult to grasp. Lysander patted him on the shoulder in the manner of a supportive older brother, glad that he was able to help him make it happen. “Good thing that dad has the inside lead on that spot, because yesterday was fun but not a success for any of us. Even me, and I’ve performed in some capacity all over that area.”

                    Agreeing as he took a long swig of his beer, Sam noted that there wasn’t much that their friend hadn’t done. “Theater, music, dance…” he ticked off a few styles and chuckled. “You’ve probably also done film, too, haven’t you?” Somewhat surprised, and almost hesitant to answer, Lysander confirmed this, and drank about half of his beer at once, putting it down just in time for Sam to nudge him with a playful grin. “Ha! Man, I’m not surprised. Though I figure that with your history you’d be doing movies of a naughtier sort instead of some artsy crap.” Elliott, as usual, found Sam’s ever-risqué commentary to be amusing but nonsensical, but raised an eyebrow when Lysander coughed and put down his glass. He wasn’t the only one, as Sam was wondering why his friend would react so strongly to such an off-the-wall remark. “Dude, I’m just funning you and you know it.”

                    Lysander had no reply, and Elliott knew his partner well enough to recognize him trying to think of a way to hastily distract the other musician and change the subject, despite the fact that he was a terrible liar and pretty much wore his emotions on his sleeve.

                    …Wait. Dear, have you really?...

                    Usually oblivious to subtlety, it was now that Sam also noticed Lysander’s reluctance to answer and did the necessary mental math to come up with a sum that his friend had tried to avoid giving. “…You didn’t actually… Dude, no way.”

                    The sudden silence from everyone was surprised, not judgmental, but even so, for once, Lysander appeared embarrassed to answer. He toyed with his half-empty glass for a moment before setting it down and rubbing his eyes. “Okay, fine. We’re all mature and friends, so I’ll just tell it like it is. Yes, I was a performer in a film of an adult nature a few years back. End of story.”

                    Completely broadsided by this absolutely unexpected admission, Elliott was without words.

                    You have never mentioned this to me. We are aware of so many of each other’s secrets, but this one has never been alluded to, much less admitted.

                    Glancing around the table at his friends, Lysander finally noticed Elliott and went pale. “Love, I know I-“

                    “It’s… This is a….” Elliott was just as flustered as his companion, but he was unable to start over and put together something coherent because the other man had grabbed his wrist as he stood up.

                    “Back in a few,” he remarked to the others, “just need a minute.”

                    Elliott allowed himself to be dragged outside, and, standing just outside of the door, Lysander hugged himself and looked away, unsure of where to start, but his partner didn’t have that hesitation. “So when were you going to tell me? You weren’t, were you?” he asked, when Lysander didn’t reply to his initial query.

                    Biting his lip, the other man couldn’t make eye contact with him, for once looking uncomfortable with a subject. “I didn’t think you’d…”

                    “What? That I wouldn’t understand? That I’d be angry?” Elliott pressed, not mad or irritated, just confused. Shifting his feet, Lysander shrugged.

                    “I could handle that. I…” He paused and shrugged again. “Thought that you would be disappointed.” Even more confused, Elliott blinked as he tried to see the conversation from his partner’s angle and asked him why he thought like that. “Because… Screw it, I don’t know, it was a stupid concern.” His stare was fixed very pointedly on the ground and his tone empty as he hugged himself even more tightly.

                    My dearest, what is wrong? I have never seen such reticence or a lack of confidence in yourself before. What is it about this one moment in your past that brings about such a reluctance to speak?

                    “No, you had a reason,” Elliott replied, still trying to be patient, but now more concerned than confused, “you always do.”

                    For a moment, Lysander was finally able to look him in the eyes, and Elliott’s heart ached from the look of worry that his partner wore. “You know why,” he whispered.

                    “No, I don’t, which is why I want you to tell me.” Elliott wanted so badly to hold him, to make his pain go away, but he didn’t understand. It didn’t matter, because of how firmly Lysander had turned in on himself and therefore shut everyone else out.

                    Eventually, Lysander licked his lips and tried to formulate a reply. “You’re posh, love. You come from a prosperous family with a good name. I thought that you would, well…”

                    “So? That doesn’t-“ He was a little relieved at this statement, that ever again, ever as always, Lysander’s concern was for others and not himself! Taking a long breath to compose himself, he found a smile. “Dear, I have already told you that I don’t care what you did in your past. I love you for who you are now, and that includes everything that has happened, because every event and decision has contributed a piece to create your gestalt.”

                    This appeared to ease Lysander’s apprehension a little, and he put gentle fingers under his chin to meet his eyes again. Those hazel eyes still looked a little hurt, but they were warm. “I’m not disappointed,” Elliott reassured in a soft voice, “I promise. Confused? Yes. Surprised? Extremely so. Mostly I am feeling hurt in that you did not trust me enough to tell me about this sooner.” He toyed with his partner’s hair with his other hand, the smile deepening further. “I will not condemn you for things that happened before we met. You know that I am not bothered by your lengthy history of lovers. Why do you think that I would think adversely of you for this?”

                    Sighing, Lysander leaned into Elliott’s touch. “This is different. At least with other people it was because I was romantically involved in some way and it was personal. This was basically getting paid to shag, and I thought that you’d look down upon it.” His face fell again as he looked away once more. “That you’d think I was cheap and easy.”

                    Seeing an opportunity to make him laugh, Elliott helpfully pointed out that his family was in the entertainment business, so being paid for a performance was completely understandable. It didn’t quite make him laugh, but it was the first smile that he’d had since this topic had come up, so it would have to do. “The only thing I do not understand is the why. That’s what I want to know.”

                    Lysander leaned against the wall, his hands in his pockets. He wasn’t quite relaxed, but it was better than nothing. “Because I thought it might be fun. Why else do I do anything, really?”

                    He sighed and bit his lip again, shifting his stance to something a bit more comfortable. Elliott listened quietly as Lysander ticked off a few points, all of which eased his mind; it was all completely consensual and his choice, everyone used proper protection, no real names were used, and because of the way it had been done and how, it was difficult to find because it hadn’t been distributed in anything other than a limited hard-copy format.

                    “Nobody else knows about it,” he remarked, the smile finally finding its way to both corners of his lips, “I just saw an advert and thought, why not? Hell, it would be the first time any of my skills could actually be useful and generate income.” This strange but in-character comment brought a hearty laugh from Elliott and finally thawed the last of Lysander’s self-imposed ice. It was the other man’s turn to reach for the other, with a hand on Elliott’s face and an arm around his waist. “But you know me, love I’m all about trying new things, and back then, it’s not like I had a good reputation anyway.” His smile slipped a little as he remembered this, and Elliott’s expression mirrored it, remembering a similar statement in the city the day before. “I thought I might as well have a bit of fun while I was young, and like I said yesterday, I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me long-term or anything, so what did it matter? But now?” He smiled at Elliott, giving him that welcome, warm tingle that he’d wanted since this conversation had started. “You and your family have a good reputation, and I was concerned that word of this thing would reflect badly on all of you.”

                    Ever as always, my dearest, I am first in your mind. What I would not give for you to be a little selfish and think of yourself for once!

                    Hugging Lysander fiercely, he threaded his fingers through his partner’s hair, relieved to feel him melt into the embrace. “One of the many things that I love about you is your unwavering confidence in yourself and your abilities,” he sighed, nuzzling Lysander’s ear, “I cannot imagine myself doing that, no, but I do not think any less of you for it.” Lysander’s hold grew a little firmer as he softly apologized for not mentioning it before it had come out like this. Kissing his neck, Elliott reassured him. “I have learned something new about you, and yet again I am fascinated by your history.”

                    “If anything else comes to mind that you should know I won’t hesitate to tell you again,” he sighed, his words somewhat muffled in Elliott’s collar, “you should know all about my past, because I want to share my future with you.” Completely relieved, Elliott thanked him for his candor, though he lamented that he lacked the experiences and stories that his companion did. “Well, I suppose the least that I can do is show it to you. It’s buried somewhere but shouldn’t take me too long to dig up.”

                    The sudden shift in tone gave Elliott pause, and he blinked a couple of times as he thought about Lysander’s comment. “…Pardon?”

                    That ever-present, cheeky grin now split the copper-haired man’s face. “You really think that I wouldn’t keep a copy for myself?” At Elliott’s admission that he had wondered but hadn’t said anything, Lysander grinned even more widely. “But you were too embarrassed to ask? No, that’s not the word for it.” He glanced away as he thought about it. “You’re too polite to ask. You know what? I’m going to be impartial about it,” he decided aloud, clearly enjoying the look of mounting embarrassment on Elliott’s face, “but I promise not to be lecherous, perverted, or the least bit seductive at any time. I want you to know everything about me and be comfortable about it. And again, don’t worry, this can’t be found anywhere online or anything, so you don’t have to worry about something like your mom discovering it.”

                    Elliott was the next to relax into the other person’s arms, but it was only momentary, as Lysander’s grin became quite mischievous, and Elliott knew well what sort of things that it heralded. “Although… I wonder if it would be more amusing for her to find out about this, or if we made our own film together and left it lying around.” The blonde man’s internal monologue was a sustained, incoherent scream of terror, which must have reflected on his face and in his body language, because Lysander burst out laughing, and did so long and hard enough that he doubled over, clutching his middle, and barely was able to wipe his eyes. “Oh wow, I should feel bad about that, but I wish you could have seen your face just then.”

                    His face red and his heart pounding, Elliott felt himself almost sweating in terror at the thought of such a thing happening. “By the light, please don’t joke about things like that, dear!” he gasped.

                    After a moment or two, Lysander scrubbed a sleeve across his eyes and put his sunglasses back on, the fit of laughter reduced to giggles. “I’m sorry, I really am,” he wheezed, “but I could not pass up that opportunity. And I know you’re not an exhibitionist, so I won’t suggest that sort of thing again. The thought of it is funnier than you know.”

                    No longer in a state of near-panic, Elliott sighed again and tried to appear offended, though he knew he was failing at it, and suggested that they return to their friends, provided that the other man was finished with teasing him. Agreeing, Lysander kissed him and took his hand, volunteering to be the one to deflect Sam’s inevitable barrage of questions, holding the door open for them both. Elliott squeezed his hand again and took his seat once more.
                     
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                    • Risukage

                      Risukage Existential Complex

                      //One of these days I'll move the story along. But today is not that day!//


                      Topping off the half-drunk beer that he’d left behind, as well as Elliott’s, and giving Sam a look that said he wasn’t interested in mischief, Lysander offered his friends a smile. “Now that that’s settled, where were we?” Sam reminded him of the last conversation that they’d had and how he wanted to know more, but the other man gave him another look of warning. “That’s none of your damn business and you know it,” he said, politely but firmly. Elliott found it interesting that his partner was so adamant about not talking further about this subject, since he had never been bothered by much in his past. Then it occurred to him that it wasn’t himself for which he was concerned, it was for Elliott’s sake. He felt a small flutter of pride in his partner for his thoughtfulness.

                      Shrugging, Sam appeared to have dropped the subject, but that lasted until his ears were connected by a very toothy grin. “Hey, you should change your Chatter name to ‘G-String’ instead!” Lysander put his drink down roughly and called his friend by his full name, surprising the others, and it was this that finally got Sam to back off. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry dude, I sometimes have a hard time letting go of something funny or interesting. And you’re both.” He grinned again, but it wasn’t cheeky, it was happy. “I’m not giving you shit most of the time, usually I’m genuinely curious. You’re the only person in this town that’s weirder than I am and that’s so cool.” Smiling back, Lysander thanked him for the compliment but denied being “cool,” and Sam appeared to be miffed for once.

                      “Don’t give me that crap,” he huffed, pointing a finger at his friend for emphasis, “you believe in yourself and your abilities a hundred percent. I mean, damn, I’m outgoing, but you’re the one who got up and danced for the entire town a few months ago.” He blinked as he remembered this, and apologized to Elliott for it, laughing both in amusement and embarrassment, and turned back to Lysander. “But still, I mean, not much bothers me, but the thought of that kind of thing terrifies me, and you just went out there and owned that stage.” Lysander was quite flattered by all of this, but repeated his statement that he was neither cool nor interesting, just strange. As he picked up his beer his expression changed to one of baffled shock when Sam slapped the back of his head, and Elliott was caught between laughing and gasping as Sam glared at his friend. “Quit being a dumbass and so modest about everything.”

                      Still baffled, Lysander picked up and put down his drink again. “No, seriously, I’m not.”

                      Now with the proverbial bit in his teeth, Sam had a look of determined seriousness that Elliott couldn’t ever recalling him have before. “Okay, fine, I’m just buzzed enough that I’ll stroke your ego. Elliott can stroke something else for you later.”

                      Both Lysander and Elliott were silent with surprise, but both for slightly different reasons. However, Elliott smiled as Sam ticked off on his fingers why he liked and respected his friend, and the author began to understand why the other man had considered pursuing Lysander as a romantic option. He respected his skill in music, dance, and voice. He always gave everything a try, even if he was scared, because it needed to be done. He was dating “the hottest guy in town,” and Elliott allowed himself to feel satisfaction from his friend’s approval of not just their relationship, but that Sam considered him to be that attractive. He also respected how the musician always believed in people and worked his hardest to believe in themselves as well and to succeed.

                      Gesturing emphatically, he pointed a finger again at Lysander as he reached his final points. “We’re all better people just because you told us we could be, and you’re so damn honest and enthusiastic that not only did we believe it, we didn’t want to disappoint you. So shut your noise-hole, dude, you’re totally my cool older brother and I’ll slap you again if you give me lip about it.” He looked quite pleased with himself, but nearly spilled his beer when Lysander leaned over and pulled him into the sort of hug he normally only gave to Elliott, and asked him what it was that he’d said wrong.

                      “Sorry,” Lysander whispered, digging his fingers into his friend’s back, “nothing. Everything. I..”

                      It was Sam’s turn to wear a look of surprise when Lysander kissed his cheek and ruffled his hair, somewhat messing up the spiky coiffure. He sat up in his chair properly, wiping his eyes with the back of his sleeve, and gave his friends a warm, happy smile. “I’m who I am because a long time ago I figured, ‘why the hell not?’ I was always the weird outcast, and I never had any dreams or desires for the future. I honestly figured I’d die young and alone, so what I never did really mattered, so why not do whatever? Have some fun, do a few things really well, burn my candle short but bright and brilliant. And even though nobody ever took me seriously I still wanted to help them out.” Elliott had heard this before but it still hurt to hear him admit it. He knew that it was in his partner’s past, not his present or future, but the knowledge of the pain that had shaped him into the man he now was still felt like a twisting knife.

                      Holding his glass with both hands, Lysander made random prints in the condensation on his glass with his thumb, smiling softly as he mused aloud. He spoke of the feelings and emotions that he loved, ones that were hard to describe sometimes, but he valued and wanted so much to share with others; the closeness that people could get together, where their warmth and “selves” almost merged, something soft but electric at the same time. A sort of happiness that filled a person entirely and gave them both a solidity and weightlessness inside. Most of the table looked politely puzzled, interested in his words but not quite getting the point, but Elliott understood the sensations he was describing, having just discovered them himself.

                      “I just want everyone to know that happiness, at least once, and all I want in return is a smile, because I was able to show them something amazing and wonderful, and they can now share that with someone else.” He came back to reality and blushed at the way his friends were looking at him, apparently not having expected to be quite that emotionally verbose. Glancing away from the stares of his friends, he smiled again when Elliott took his hand and twined his fingers with his, recognizing that his partner knew what he had been talking about and felt the same way.

                      Trying to spare Lysander further embarrassment and redirect the conversation, Elliott asked what everyone else had done while they were in the city, offering to cover the next round of food and drink for them to do so. This worked, and they all forgot about the moment of prose, for which Lysander spared him a glance of thanks. He had returned to his usual self by the time they paid their tabs and got up to leave, and as usual, was the last one to depart. This time, though, Sebastian waited a moment for him to get his attention.

                      “Hey, I just want to say that I didn’t get it before, and I was a bit of a self-absorbed ass about it sometimes, but I understand now. Thanks for sharing that with me.” With a self-deprecating chuckle, Lysander apologized for not respecting his personal space at that time, but his friend sighed and rolled his eyes as he cuffed him on the shoulder. “Lys, you’re not listening.” Neither Lysander or Elliott were expecting the happy smile from the generally-solitary man, but Lysander was quick to recover.

                      “I guess I wasn’t. Thanks for sharing that with me, too.”

                      The smile got even wider, and he offered Elliott a friendly fistbump as he walked away and pulled out the pack of flavored cigarettes. Elliott wasn’t quite paying attention when Lysander took his hand and offered to take a longer route to walk on the way home, and he immediately fell into step next to him. It took him nearly half a minute to realize that he had instinctively turned to walk in the direction of Lysander’s home, as well as the realization that he considered it to be “home” as well. It was another full minute after that that he remembered the video that Lysander had promised to show to him, so he had subconsciously been going in the direction that contained said video. Lysander picked up on this and giggled, though to his credit, he did try to hide it. Elliott asked him what was so funny, and with a shrug, Lysander called him out on exactly that thought.

                      Turning almost as red as his partner’s hair, he tried to explain himself. “I suppose that I am somewhat transparent. It is not that I desire to see that form of film, it is simply that I wish to know more about your past and what you have done so that I better know and understand you. However, I do not want to seem overly eager-“

                      Lysander laughed heartily and loudly, tugging on his hand to get him to walk faster as he increased his pace. The sooner they got there the sooner that Elliott’s mind could be put at ease…



                      Toying with a lock of his partner’s copper-red hair wrapped around his finger, Elliott relaxed against Lysander’s shoulder, his full weight sprawled atop him, but Lysander didn’t seem to mind. Rather, the other man laid back on the couch, head on a pillow against the armrest and arms around the author, looking extremely satisfied. He let go for just a moment to reach for the remote to turn off the TV screen, as they had paused the disc partway through, and Elliott relaxed a little further now that they were quite done for a little while and he could be embarrassed about that sort of thing, not aroused.

                      “I’m almost annoyed that I didn’t tell you about this sooner,” Lysander remarked, “that was very good.” He giggled as Elliott flushed a little and let go of his hair, and he took the now-free fingers to kiss them. “I’m teasing, love. I’m just glad that you’re okay with it.”

                      Elliott shifted to kiss his neck, then traced his fingers over the lines of his chest, as his shirts had been discarded earlier and they hadn’t bothered to get them back. “Now that I know what to expect, and that you have told me, I am. There’s so much I understand now, and I am a greater person for all of it.” At Lysander’s non-verbal query of curiosity, Elliott shifted again to brush his lips with another kiss before settling back down again. “What you said at the saloon today, that feeling that you want to share with others. I understand it. Now, I do, that is, I never experienced anything like that before. I have had a couple of romantic interests, and one longer than the others, but never before has it been anything as…much as this. This feeling, here…” he tried to hug him, though it was a little awkward with the way he was laying atop him, “this pressure and weight of body and soul, almost merging, sharing our warmth together. Sharing us, ourselves.”

                      Nodding, Lysander kissed the top of his head and hugged him again. “It’s interesting what we learn from other people. …Oh…” Lysander’s sudden, thoughtful silence was worrying, and as Elliott sat up to look at him he saw a smile. “I just remembered something else you should probably know, too.” A little concerned, Elliott reclined atop him again and listened as Lysander threaded his fingers through his hair this time, diving back into his memories.

                      “I’d always been, well, sorta free with my affections for a while when I started university, but I hadn’t really dated much. Then I went out clubbing one night, just for a change of pace and met someone really cute.” This memory made him giggle and bite his lip and Elliott feigned a pout, which made him laugh again. “We were chatting it up for a while, we bought each other a drink, and he offered just a quick one-time thing. I figured hey, why not, sounds like fun, I’m young and free, and I was there to have a good time. So we finished our drinks, popped off to the men’s room to grab a few items from the vending machine, and I expected us to go somewhere else, but he had another idea.”

                      “You…” Elliott blinked and gave Lysander a look of incredulous surprise. “Are you telling me that he suggested… Right there in the club?!”

                      “Mmyup,” he laughed, “I wasn’t expecting it, either, but again, young and adventurous, and this sounded sorta exciting, so we found a dark area nobody else was in and, well… Yeah, up against the wall. The music was loud enough even over there that we weren’t in much danger of getting discovered. Much.”

                      He paused again to think about that memory and shuddered with pleasure, biting his lip even more firmly. “Gods, that was good. Just so…dangerous and forbidden and… He would already have been great in the sack normally, but I’m just enough an exhibitionist that this was amazing. I still had a hell of a time trying not to make any noise, even though he did tell me I could be a bit vocal. So I did, and gods, that pushed him right over the edge. I wasn’t quite done yet, but before I could say anything he turned me right around and…” He shuddered again and nibbled on Elliott’s ear. “Damn, the things he did with his mouth, I don’t know how I lasted as long as I did. And yeah, I know you’re wondering, we used protection, that’s what the vending machine stop was for,” he said, poking him playfully, “then we got ourselves presentable again, went back to the bar, had a couple more drinks, exchanged numbers, and went our separate ways a little later.”

                      “…Well,” Elliott commented after a lengthy pause, “this appears to have been the event that began your, how should I put it, career as a freelance lover.”

                      “A little, yeah. We hooked up a couple of times again on and off, usually just for a quick break-a-dry-spell shag, since we liked each other enough as friends, especially ones with benefits, we couldn’t really see us together. So… Yeah, that’s something that happened. I got busy with a complete stranger in the back hall of a busy club. That’s the sort of person you’re dating, love.”

                      Elliott sighed, and it made Lysander worry for a moment, but once more Elliott sat up to kiss him, this time deeply. “That was the person you were, it is not who I love now, and it does not make me love you any less. Thank you for telling me. If I may be blunt, I almost envy your self-confidence in being able to engage in such spontaneous flings. One of the many reasons for which I treasure you is that you always find a way to surprise me. Always an anecdote or event or hobby or interest, something strange and unusual, yet completely you, and each time I feel as though I am meeting you all over again.”

                      That warm smile lit up Lysander’s eyes, and he palmed a hand to Elliott’s cheek. “And you still find me an acceptable companion sometimes?”

                      “I find you a wonderful companion every time.”

                      Lysander hugged him close again, silent for a moment. “Thank you, love. Sometimes I need to hear that.”

                      “I will say it as often as you need, because the truth should always be known.”

                      Laughing, Lysander wrapped both legs and arms around him to hug him as tightly as he could. “C’mon, love, I enjoy having you on top of me like that, but I don’t think I’ll get a good night of sleep on the couch. Let’s go get comfy.”

                      Elliott agreed and got up, offering a hand to his partner, then walked with him to the bedroom, arm around his waist. Though they usually took up the entire bed between the both of them, Lysander had wanted a bit closer contact this time, and Elliott carefully distributed his weight upon his partner as he got comfortable, also enjoying the full-body contact, but not wanting to cause him discomfort. After a minute they figured themselves out, and Lysander sighed happily as he tucked his nose into the curve of Elliott’s throat, gently bumping his chin.

                      “I’ve needed this for so long,” he said, already close to dozing off, “I’ve slept with so many people, but this is the best sleep I’ve ever had. I just feel so…complete with you.”

                      “I was likewise incomplete, and together, we are more.”

                      “Yeah. We’re us now.”

                      This thought gave Elliott a warm surge of pleasure, which was the last thing in his mind as he joined his partner in rest.
                       
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                      • Risukage

                        Risukage Existential Complex

                        //This took a long time to finish and posted so late because I finally got FFXIV!Lysander to level 50, so some of my FC mates and I were having a little "hurrah" and some fun in crafting some vanity gear for him now that he can glamour his armor whilst conversing in voice chat as well as in-game. ...The short of a VERY long story is that shenanigans happened and we all very nearly need rescue breathing because we were laughing so goddamn hard. I couldn't see for several minutes and damn near coughed up a lung. We got some AMAZING screenshots... :D//


                        Another nightmare. Lysander hadn’t had them in some time, but this one woke Elliott first from him nearly thrashing about, then the dreamer himself. He sat up, a wordless shout of fear startling Elliott further. Putting a hand to his neck, he was nearly hyperventilating from whatever it was he had just woken, and jumped in surprise when Elliott softly called to him. Hazel eyes that were usually warm were now wide with terror and pain, though it eased a little when Elliott reached out to him.

                        The fear turned to mixed relief as tears welled up. “Love, you’re- I thought you- I had- I… By the light, you’re safe, I thought…” He leaned into Elliott’s hand on his cheek, his hand over his partner’s, drawing strength from this simple contact. Elliott offered reassuring words, and Lysander finally took a deep, albeit shuddering, breath and continued. “I don’t know what happened. Just… Something happened, and you’d died, and I didn’t know about it, I couldn’t help you, I was useless, and it hurt. Everything hurt. I couldn’t stop screaming.” He found further comfort in Elliott’s arms, pressing against him as hard as he could, eyes closed tightly, barely able to form a proper sentence. “My mind, my heart it all… Pain, so much pain… Like last time, I… I had to end the pain… I wasn’t strong enough, I couldn’t live without you, and I found the same knife…” He dissolved into tears. “I’m sorry, I’m not strong enough. So weak. Sorry, I’m sorry, love…”

                        Elliott felt a cold wash of his own terror at this admission; not the nightmare, those were sometimes a thing that happened. But the freely admitted fact that he had, even in a dream, chosen that route again. He had already considered it before, after that argument, but even this amount of time and companionship had not healed wounds completely, if at all. Worried for his partner, he was able to keep his voice light and steady, offering the support that he knew Lysander needed.

                        “You are not weak, you are a man of passion and action,” he said, stroking his hair, “you are capable of such great love and caring for others that you also feel their loss and pain just as strongly. And in dreams we are often given to extremes or to do things that we normally would not.” He refrained from mentioning that fight, as it wouldn’t help his case any, and Lysander did not need that sort of reminder. “Put your mind at ease; I am here and so are you, and I will be here for many years yet. But your fear now raises a shared one within me. Promise me that if something were to happen that you would continue on, that you would find someone new to make you happy.” Lysander shook his head and stiffened, asking him to not make such a request, but Elliott would not relent. He put gentle fingers to his chin and forced Lysander to meet his eyes. “Dearest, promise me. Please.”

                        Always a terrible liar as it was, Lysander definitely couldn’t do so to Elliott’s face and they both knew it. After a moment of silence he nodded. “…I promise.” When Elliott prodded him to continue, he took another breath, this time steady. “…To keep going if something were to happen to you, and to find someone new.”

                        Elliott felt as though the weight of the house itself had been lifted off of him, and he sighed with relief both for and from it. “Good,” he said, pulling his partner close for a kiss. There was still residual fear and worry in that contact, but he wasn’t the only one who felt a lack of both mental and physical pressure melting away.

                        My dearest, I wish that I had the words to tell you exactly what you mean to me. I should find it horrifying and morbid that you would choose such a fate were I gone, but at the same time, it fills me with hope, because it also means that you will fight your hardest to keep what you have. I do not have your bravery, I would simply waste away and languish in despair. I will fight for you, for us. What we have is precious and I refuse to let go at any cost.

                        It was far too early for Lysander to meet with Alex for his customary morning run, but he was too agitated from the somnambular near-death experience to go back to sleep. There wasn’t much else to be done at this time in the morning, so Elliott suggested that he at least curl up with him a little while, just to ease his mind and calm down again. Reclining back against the pillows, Elliott waited for his partner to get in place atop him before pulling the blankets back over them and holding him just firmly enough to be comforting, but not so much that he was smothering.

                        “I thought that I was finally beyond those fears,” Lysander sighed, “that I was finally free.”

                        Kissing him on the cheek, Elliott ran his fingers through the loose, copper-red hair. “As long as you love someone that concern will always be there. What matters is how you deal with it, and whether you learn to manage it or let it control you.”

                        Lysander said nothing further, but from what Elliott could see of his expression from his angle his silence was thoughtful. The silence changed a few minutes later to the soft, rhythmic breathing of deep sleep, and Elliott nearly woke him again from chuckling; not only was he already asleep, he was snoring as well! Without trying, he matched his partner’s breathing, and was asleep shortly after as well.

                        They both slept without further incident until Lysander needed to get up for his run, and Elliott got up as well to get (partially) dressed and make coffee and a morning snack. Lysander was grateful for both when he returned, and traded a warm, if somewhat sweaty, hug for both caffeine and calories. As he consumed his repast he remarked that he and Alex had discussed giving him swimming lessons later that day.

                        Leaning against the counter, Elliott listened as he held his cup in both hands, trying to remember the location in question. “There’s a… Ah, yes, I recall now, I haven’t been that way in a little while, but there is that small lake just south of here, isn’t there? Yes, I passed by it on the way to the Flower Dance both times, but I didn’t quite go that far to visit Leah, so it had rather slipped my mind. Although we did find a number of interesting things there to forage the other day. Oh!” He snapped his fingers, remembering something else. “The berries are still good, but they’ll not keep for much longer. I’ll make something with them later tonight.”

                        Lysander perked up at this suggestion, putting down his cup to brush crumbs off of his fingers into the sink. “That’d be amazing. Especially after swimming, I’ll probably want something hot and filling like that when I get out of the water.”

                        “And it would be a lovely reward for you for facing your fears like that,” Elliott teased, nuzzling Lysander’s neck. The other man laughed and ducked away, blushing a little. “Well, it would,” he stated, putting an arm around his waist to draw him closer and kiss him, “the memory of the night on the docks still brings me worry, and to see you stand up and decide to take action yourself gives me satisfaction and pride. It is not an easy thing to do, staring down one’s phobias, and so while I may gently tease, know that I am both delighted and relieved to see you improve yourself.”

                        Returning the kiss, but letting it linger a bit longer, Lysander smiled and gave him a one-armed hug before reaching for his coffee. “Thanks, love. No lie, I’m a little worried, but that’s just old, bad memories talking. It’s perfectly safe; the lake isn’t that deep and doesn’t have any hazards or weird currents, and I’ll have you and Alex there in case of…something. I’m sorta looking forward to it, actually.”

                        Their meager breakfast over, they quickly got cleaned up and dressed, and took care of the morning chores. As they returned to the house, Elliott paused to glance at the area that Lysander had planted his sunflowers (which were growing quite nicely), and the other man asked what he’d been thinking of.

                        “I… You said once that you had considered planting roses here before.”

                        “Oh? Oh! Yeah, they’d be great right about… Over there,” he said, pointing in one direction, “why, you thinking of transferring yours over here? How is it faring, anyway?”

                        Elliott smiled, feeling a rush of warmth at the unprompted offer. “It is doing much better for the advice that you have given, though it would do much better to not be trapped within the confines of that little pot. However, I have a suggestion in mind, if you are amenable to it.” Lacing his fingers behind his head, Lysander shifted his weight to one leg and asked him to continue. “That rose is from mother’s garden. We aren’t given to horticulture, but she has a fondness for roses, and we have a variety of colors and variants. Perhaps I can ask her if we could transplant a few cuttings here.”

                        The warm feeling almost became hot as Lysander’s eyes and mouth grew wide with delight. “No way. She does? You would? That’s be- That’s just- Yes, and we’ve got a way to get down there- Oh bugger, it’s probably a bad idea to transport cuttings on a motorcycle, isn’t it?” He laughed and hugged Elliott very firmly. “I would love that. It’d be like having you here, too.”

                        Arms around Lysander’s shoulders, Elliott toyed with a lock of his hair. “Would you like me to be here more often?” he asked quietly.

                        “I’d love to have you here all the time,” he replied, then realized what it potentially implied, and blushed even harder than he had earlier. “I- That is, you know, it’s always a good idea to live together for a while to see if you’re compatible- Not that we’re doing anything more than dating- I mean-“

                        Elliott interrupted him with a much longer and meaningful kiss. “I understand your intentions and meaning,” he said, tracing a finger over one ear and brushing the gold earring with his thumb, “I would enjoy being here as often as I can as well. This feels more like a home than mine does and it does not bother me in the slightest. However, that is a conversation for later. Right now, let us get inside and changed for the day. It is still rather chilly out at this point in the morning, and I hope it will be much warmer this afternoon.”



                        There had been a unanimous decision to cancel practice that day so that Alex and Lysander could have their lesson, but despite this, the musician was still surprised to see Sebastian and Abigail ride up, followed by Sam and Haley in Alex’s truck.

                        Perplexed, Lysander looked between his friends. “What are all of you doing here?”

                        Sam was his usual, sunny self, grinning widely enough that it nearly connected his ears. He explained that Alex had called him and Haley, and that Abigail would likely want to be present for the shenanigans, so she requested a ride down from Sebastian, and so here they all were. They had agreed to cancel practice, so it figured that they might as well witness the reason that they wouldn’t be rehearsing for their upcoming gig. When Lysander remarked that this didn’t encourage him very much, Sam riposted that they were there to be entertained, not for moral support.

                        “Freaking thanks, mate,” Lysander huffed as he took off his shirt. However, he got it over his head but not off of his arms when he heard Sam, Haley, and Abigail whoop with delight and wolf-whistle at him. As Sebastian sat downwind of them to take out a light a cigarette, he smirked a little when Abigail cajoled Lysander to continue taking his shirt off. Sam shouted for him to do it a little more slowly. Elliott tried not to be too amused by it all, though he offered a warm smile and shrug when his partner glanced over at him with a raised eyebrow.

                        “It’s not like I haven’t seen you do this before, dear,” Elliott remarked, getting comfortable next to his friends, “they’re quite lucky that they get to experience it as well.”

                        This produced a feigned sniff of displeasure, but the smile he wore told the truth as he shifted his weight to one leg again, put his fists on his hips, and pouted for effect. “I’m genuinely not sure if I want to give you all a show for the fun of it, or deny you all that pleasure because you’re giving me grief about all of this.” Unsurprisingly, it was Sam who brought up the prospect of a striptease, and Elliott and Alex devolved into a fit of barely-smothered laughter at the actually-annoyed look that Lysander now wore, and Haley and Abigail were giggling behind their hands, shooting each other meaningful glances.

                        Having regained control of himself, Alex took off his shirt and threw it at his cousin, hitting him in the face. “We don’t have all day, bro. Strip faster or I’ll have Elliott do it for you.”

                        With a gleeful whoop of “naked time!”, Sam was the next to remove his shirt, also throwing it at Lysander, who had just pulled Alex’s shirt off of his head. “Oh what the merry hell!” Lysander yowled, sounding like an annoyed cat, “normally I wouldn’t object but I get the feeling that you’re all doing this at my expense.”

                        Sam partially agreed with this, though his motivation was primarily to get in a final chance to swim before the weather cooled too much for it, which was sweetened by the opportunity to bother his friend.

                        Smirking and winking at Elliott, Abigail was having a very good time. “Looks like all of the guys are getting undressed. You too, handsome, show some solidarity for your man.” She turned her attention to her boyfriend next. “And it is cooler out, Sebby, so you can take off that hoodie for a bit.”

                        The software engineer rebuffed her statement that there wasn’t anything that she could do to convince him to do such a thing, but a whispered suggestion into his ear changed both his expression and opinion immediately.

                        Elliott shook his head and waved a hand in dismissal, that he was there to provide a morale boost for his partner, not to teach. “Besides, any state of undress on my behalf would only distract him, and he needs all of the focus that he can get.”

                        “Says the man who hasn’t blinked since I started taking my pants off,” grinned the musician, allowing the waistband of his pants slide down his hip a little.

                        Sam confirmed this statement, but observed that it was Abigail who needed to “wipe her chin” as he discarded his shoes and then his jeans, though he almost lost his balance while trying to remove them. His swim trunks were a bright yellow, which surprised absolutely no one, but it wasn’t him from whom Lysander had borrowed a pair. Alex had apparently loaned his cousin his casual swim wear, as he had finished undressing to reveal that he was wearing his professional gear from when he was on the swim team back in school.

                        Elliott was the first to notice how good the athlete looked in them, and wondered just how much one had to exercise and tone in order to not only get but maintain that sort of muscular definition. Haley noticed next, and her lip-biting grin of approval drew Lysander’s attention to his cousin, which produced a quiet look of surprise. “I’m really trying not to stare,” he said, looking very impressed, “especially since my boyfriend is right here and you’re my cousin, but damn if you don’t make pro swim gear look amazing.” Not immune to flattery, Alex smiled and folded his arms across his chest, threatening to throw the other man into the water as-is unless he got changed out a little more quickly. “Give me a damn minute, I wear boots, you know,” he huffed as he knelt to unlace them.

                        Laughing raucously, Sam taunted him, telling him to take it off in the same manner that he had in the film he’d been in. He avoided getting hit by a thrown boot and grinned even more widely. “Ooh, so it was an S&M movie? I didn’t know you were into that!” Barely avoiding the second boot, he threw himself into the water, safe for the moment.

                        Lysander had finally undressed, putting his clothes in a neat pile, and removed his guitar-pick accessories and sunglasses to set atop it, and picked at the waistband of the trunks to ensure that they fit correctly. As he straightened up, Alex walked past him and with almost insulting and casual ease, grabbed him around the waist and picked him up, tucking him under one arm and striding toward the water. Elliott laughed into his sleeve, trying not to make himself heard, but he didn’t have to worry, as Alex and Lysander had begun a quick argument about whether it was better to acclimate slowly or to simply dive in quickly and get it over with. Lysander was in the camp of “slow and steady,” but Alex couldn’t be bothered to wait, and after a brief scuffle, succeeded in dragging his cousin completely into the water.

                        Once the musician had become comfortable in the shoulder-deep water, Alex guided him out a bit deeper, offering guidance and verbal support. Sam frolicked like a blonde otter, flitting about and providing very unhelpful commentary and suggestions, but Elliott noticed that while Lysander did seem to be slightly annoyed by it, he also looked a little grateful for the distraction. The four on the lake’s side enjoyed all of it, though Elliott noticed that while he and the two girls had quite a bit of eye candy, Sebastian was somewhat left in the cold, so to speak, but he appeared to gain a lot more entertainment from Lysander’s suffering than everyone else. Sebastian noticed Elliott studying him and shrugged.

                        “Look, you’ve gotta admit, it is kinda funny watching him be a bit uncomfortable in a safe environment. I don’t wanna see him get taken down a peg or anything, but it is amusing to see that he isn’t always full of piss and vinegar all the time.” He took a long drag from his cigarette, smiling around it. “I love him like a brother, but you know that sometimes it’s fun to watch your annoying younger brother have someone give him grief for once, y’know?”

                        Amused and agreeing, Elliott inclined his head to the side. “I suppose that I do, but I am the younger brother, so I cannot quite say that I share the sentiment completely.”

                        They turned their attention back to the lesson at hand, which hadn’t progressed very far. Lysander was trying, he really was, but they all could see him getting tense and frustrated, and despite his brave exterior, he was still scared. For another fifteen or twenty minutes Alex tried to instruct him, but eventually Lysander broke free to head back to the shallows and get on his feet. Elliott frowned with curiosity when Sam and Alex exchanged a look and a subtle nod, and Sam swam over to the edge of the lake and pulled himself onto the shore, putting a finger to his lips when he saw the others watching him.

                        Looking defeated, Lysander rubbed his arms and sighed, apologizing. He really had been trying, but there was a lot of mental baggage to sift and sort, as well as a lot of bad habits and fears that he just wasn’t able to overcome at the moment. “Give me a moment to catch my breath and clear my head and I’ll try again.”

                        Sam had walked over to Lysander’s clothes, picked up his sunglasses, and put them on. Fists on his hips, he gave Lysander the biggest, shit-eating grin he could. “Pretty nice, dude, wicked cool style.” Lysander stared in shock at him for a moment before loudly demanding that he put them back where he found them. “Come and get them,” Sam replied, diving back into the water and sculling over to a nearby rock with a casual freestyle stroke. Climbing atop it, he posed ridiculously. “Oooh, look at me, I’m Lys, I’m a sexy ginger man, making all of you so hot, ooh.” He flexed as he wiggled his hips, being as silly as possible, and his audience erupted into laughter, clapping and cheering.

                        This apparently had been what Alex was planning, because it was his turn to grin when Lysander dove in next, swimming the same way with angry speed. His antagonist hadn’t noticed him yet, still enjoying his parody, focused completely on his audience. Hooking a thumb in the waistband of his shorts, he tugged suggestively and winked as he ran the fingers of his other hand down his chest. “Awww yeah, you all know you want some of this luscious porn star up in your-“ It was now that he noticed that Lysander was missing, but not that the other man had succeeded in swimming to and around the rock, and had now climbed up atop it behind him.

                        “MINE!” shouted Lysander.

                        “SHIT!” yelped Sam.

                        “Splash” went the water.

                        Elliott sat up a bit straighter, now a little worried, though he was as surprised as anyone else (though not as much as Sam!) that his partner had tackled his friend into the lake like that. Sam resurfaced quickly after a bit of splashing and looked around with concern. Seconds later, Lysander appeared, wearing his retrieved sunglasses, glaring at Sam. “I said, mine,” he repeated with a growl. He was confused by Sam’s gleeful laughter and held up an arm to block the water that he flicked at him. When he asked what Sam was on about, he realized that he had been treading water without thinking about it. Sam apologized for the jest, for which Lysander immediately forgave him, understanding what Alex pointed out as they returned to him.

                        “I noticed a while back that you learn by doing, but you also rely on and trust yourself and your instincts implicitly. The more you think about something the worse you do, so I just needed something, or someone, to distract you so you could let your training take over.”

                        Lysander laughed heartily and hugged Sam, now completely unafraid, and his friend returned it. “I’m just paying my debt for nearly getting you killed his summer,” Sam grinned, but Elliott could hear the friendly support in his voice, “now I can proper roughhouse with you like an older brother that I always wanted.”

                        Like brothers, they played, splashed, and shoved each other as they returned to shore, and Haley picked up her phone when it chimed with a message, looking at the screen curiously. The three swimmers strode over, with Lysander wringing water from his hair. Emily had texted Haley to let them know that the band’s outfits were ready, and the final fittings could be done the next day. There was amazed silence for just a couple of seconds before Sam made a noise like a kettle whistling and hugged Lysander, bouncing with joy as he did so. Sebastian seemed to be a little reticent about the whole thing, even at this point, but wasn’t opposed. Just uncomfortable. Abigail and Elliott, however, were keen to see what Emily had crafted for them.

                        They gathered up their items quickly; Sam and Alex just toweled themselves mostly dry so that they wouldn’t damage the truck’s interior, and would shower at their homes. They and Haley departed, and Abigail and Sebastian waved before they took off as well. Lysander removed the ribbon from his hair to scrub it with the towel as Elliott retrieved his clothes and shoes.

                        “I’ll hold onto these for you. By the time you’re dry enough to wear this we would be back at the house anyway.”

                        “Good idea,” he replied, draping the towel over his shoulders and falling into step next to him.

                        Lysander briefly considered showering there, but changed his mind and simply put those clothes back on, packing fresh clothes to change into at Elliott’s. Backpacks filled with the necessary items for an overnight stay at the cabin, they grabbed helmets and walked outside, as there wasn’t need for full riding gear for that distance and slow speed.

                        As the still-damp man stripped in his partner’s bedroom for a shower, Elliott was in the kitchen preparing something to eat. He was a much better cook than a baker, but he still knew a few recipes, and with the berries still as sweet and fresh as they were, and the bits of pastry he had left, a cobbler would be just the right thing, and fast enough to make as well. By the time it went into the oven Lysander strode out, dressed in warm clothes with a towel over his shoulders again, and a hairbrush in one hand.

                        “That already smells great love, what is it?”

                        “A cobbler of sorts. I can do something fancy when we have more time and resources. This should cook quickly, I think. Here, sit, let me get that for you.” He took the hairbrush and sat down on the piano bench, with Lysander reclining back in the computer chair. His hair didn’t normally get in a tangle like that, but it was a quickly-solved problem, and Elliott tied it back when he finished.

                        Lysander almost purred with satisfaction, still leaning back. “That feels so nice. I know you do that for me a lot, but this time it was really good.”

                        Kissing him on the top of the head, Elliott got up to check the food, which was getting close to being done. “Here, set out the plates and glasses, I’ll fetch a bottle of wine. From what I sampled, I think that…this one will pair nicely. Yes, this will do,” he confirmed, pulling out a bottle with dark-red liquid. Uncorking it and pouring two glasses, he set the bottle on the table and pulled out the cobbler. It had come out to his satisfaction, and Lysander looked quite impressed.

                        In short order they had a plate each and were seated at the table. Lysander took a large mouthful, chewed twice, and stared off at nothing as he tasted all of the flavors. “Oh my gods, love, I am going to marry you just for your cooking.” He dropped his fork and almost turned the color of his hair, squeaked in embarrassment, and hid his face in his hands. Laughing, Elliott reached over to pull his hands away, smiling.

                        “That is possibly the best compliment you have ever given me, and a valid reason for such a suggestion. Thank you, dear.”

                        Smiling faintly, though still feeling a little silly, Lysander retrieved his fork and dug into his food with gusto. He was right, he had needed both the calories and something hot after that exercise, and a little wine didn’t hurt, either! Swirling the wine in his glass as he drank the last of it and refilled it, Elliott laughed to himself that all that this scene needed was some lit candles for a properly romantic atmosphere, but then, he liked it like this; the two of them sharing a simple meal and each other’s company. He wanted every night to be like this…
                         
                          Minimanta and Alkanthe like this.
                        • Risukage

                          Risukage Existential Complex

                          //The "uncle" part of their conversation was partially inspired by a text my stepsister and I received the other day when my sister asked us what we thought of being aunts. In a response that is very telling of not only the way I think, but the way we converse, I read this just as I was waking up, so I read "aunt" with a "c," not an "a," and had a moment of "well, f*ck you, too" until I realized my error. Then it took me another few seconds to figure out what "aunt " meant. I don't wake up very well in the morning...//


                          “You look thoughtful, love,” Lysander remarked, his arms around Elliott’s waist from behind as he examined himself in the bathroom mirror after their shower, “what’s on your mind?”

                          Elliott ran his fingers over his chin, wondering if he needed to shave, and decided that he should be as presentable as possible. He applied shaving lather and reached for his razor, replying carefully as he worked. “Simply remembering our meeting with my parents. These last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and surprises. I had not expected to run into them there, and to have them immediately suggest a stage adaptation was nearly staggering. I’m certain that they’ve passed the details on to Charles by now, but I’ve not heard from him yet, so I must assume that he’s busy with family and work.”

                          "Who- Oh, that’s right, your brother. I’ll meet him one of these days. What’s his part in all this?”

                          Rinsing off the razor, Elliott continued to shave as he explained. “He is the one that is inheriting the business, and he handles quite a bit of it for mother and father, allowing them to do more of the ‘face’ work. He also has an excellent eye for literature and playwriting, though he doesn’t quite have skill for creating on his own. However, he is quite talented at taking one work and converting it into another format. As such, once our book is published it will go to him so that he can ‘script’ it.”

                          Done with his shave, he rinsed and dried his face, and Lysander leaned over to kiss his cheek, enjoying the scent and texture. He took his earrings as his partner handed them to him, affixing them quickly and handing over the hairbrush so that Lysander could work out the tangles for him. “Okay, nifty,” Lysander remarked, “some of that conversation the other day is making a bit more sense. You said he’s got ‘family’ stuff going on, too?”

                          “Correct. He and Jeanette had their firstborn last year, and while I understand that everything is less hectic than it was at first, things are still busy.”

                          “Aww, you’re ‘Uncle Elliott. How cuuuuuute.”

                          Elliott took the hairbrush with an amused sigh and returned the favor. “And you could potentially be ‘Uncle Lysander,’ you know.”

                          “Heh! True, that’s… Hunh…”

                          “Hmm?” Elliott inquired, the brush already sliding through his partner’s hair without resistance.

                          “It’s… That sounds weird. But I kinda like it. Never thought I’d hear that.”

                          Perplexed, Elliott set down the hairbrush and kissed his neck. “Why not?”

                          “I’m an only child, thought I mentioned that before. And I don’t have any cousins or whatever I can recall, other than Alex, so…” He shrugged. “Dunno. Just stuff that never occurred to me. It’s…” He handed over the ribbon so that Elliott could tie back his hair. “It’s kinda happy and sad. I’m happy that there’s so many new things and opportunities open to me, but it’s also a bit scary at what I nearly missed out on…”

                          Elliott saw him staring at the mark on one wrist, already losing himself in memories that he knew weren’t healthy. He took his partner’s wrist and kissed the mark, relieved to see that Lysander had smiled at the gentle act of affection. “That’s better. Yes, things very nearly went badly, but that is in the past. Look to the future.” He smiled warmly, pressing a hand to Lysander’s face. “Such as today. We will take a large step toward success soon, and I for one am excited. Put aside the memories of pain, smile with me. Let us dress and be off, this is something to which we should not be late.”

                          Agreeing and kissing him, Lysander rummaged in his backpack for this change of clothes and proceeded to put them on as Elliott reached into his closet. Ten minutes later they were ready to go and, hand in hand, strolled without hurry to Haley’s house. The door was open with the screen door shut, and before they could knock Emily called out to them to let themselves in. They weren’t the first ones present, as Haley and Emily lived there, and Sam was right next door, so he had arrived quite a bit ago. Alex was the next to arrive, even though he wasn’t necessarily “needed,” and Abigail was next. Half an hour after Lysander and Elliott had walked in Sebastian finally showed up, looking a little tired but still interested, though he tried not to show it.

                          Emily bounced in place with pent-up excitement now that all of the band was present. “Yay! This is going to be so amazing! Okay, so, I’ve got all of your clothes, and I had good measurements, but I’ll need to do a bit of last-minute hemming and touch-ups and everything. I’m so glad you liked what I had in mind, they were just… Just so… You guys, you know?”

                          She giggled and seemed almost close to vibrating with glee. Lysander noticed Sebastian looking a little hesitant and smiled, punching his friend in the shoulder. “Mate, we all had creative input on our designs, it’s not like you’re going into this blind.” Sebastian half-shrugged, replying that Lysander was the actor, not him, and that he didn’t know how to wear the masks that his friend did. “You tabletop game, though,” Lysander pointed out, “and I’ve seen you get into character. I think you can do this and make it brilliant. And worst case, Sam and I will be up front, so you can hide a bit if you need to.”

                          This seemed to ease his mind a little, but he still looked a little nervous. Emily returned with an armful of clothes that she set on top of the coffee table around which everyone was standing or seated. This pile contained Sam’s, Elliott’s, and Lysander’s clothes, and she dashed off to get Sebastian’s and Abigail’s outfits. With a chuckle and a shrug, Lysander volunteered to be the first to try his outfit on and pulled his shirt off over his head. As he did so he laughed at himself and shrugged in apology. “Ah, sorry, all, I keep forgetting.”

                          Sam thought it was quite funny and grinned at him. “Forgetting what? That we’re not as eager as you to get naked at random?”

                          Shrugging again, Lysander refrained from undressing further. “Well, that too, but I’m comfortable with myself as well as the rest of you, and I’m used to changing clothes in a mixed environment when doing theater, so I sometimes forget that other people have a bit more modesty and all than I do.” He apologized again and offered to use another room. Alex didn’t care, as not only was he not changing, but he was used to locker rooms. With the last two sets of garments in her arms, Emily offered the use of both her and Haley’s rooms, as well as the kitchen for changing. Abigail took her clothes and went to Haley’s room, and Sebastian with his to Emily’s. Sam went to the kitchen, smirking that they should probably separate Lysander and Elliott as who knew what they’d get up to otherwise.

                          Rolling his eyes, Lysander grinned at his friend. “What, you mean in front of my cousin, his girlfriend, and her sister? You think very highly of my seduction abilities.” Further, there wasn’t much room elsewhere, and he wasn’t bothered by changing in front of those people. Neither was Elliott, strangely, but it was mostly due to Lysander’s presence.

                          He changed from his clothes into something quite similar to what he was already wearing, but much nicer. The same went for Lysander, who was the first to finish changing, and laced his boots back up before bouncing to his feet and examining himself from a few angles as he tugged at and smoothed out the fabric. Elliott fastened buttons with swift efficiency as he did every day, quite enjoying the feel of the silk under his fingers. A black shirt and trousers were elegant, complemented by a waistcoat in a dark, gemlike blue, with a handkerchief in a brighter color folded neatly into the pocket. He looked quite dashing, and he felt as though he could wear this every day.

                          Lysander wore something quite similar to his usual clothes as well, also clad in black trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, with a short-sleeved shirt in crimson unbuttoned over it, also in silk. Emily had chosen the best materials possible for this work! Elliott also noticed that they both had delicate accent work in their own colors on the cuffs as well as the sides of their trousers, giving just a little definition without being gaudy.

                          “You are brilliant, Emily,” Lysander whistled, looking very impressed, “this fits perfectly, I don’t think I’ll need any adjustments.” He held still as she checked him from head to toe and everything else possible with swift efficiency, scrutinizing with the eye of a professional seamstress. She spoke her thoughts aloud as she tugged, prodded, shifted, and other –ed things, ensuring that everything was just so. They were, and she was ecstatic.

                          Smiling at his partner (and just how handsome he looked!), Elliott moved over to the mirror to inspect himself, very much liking his reflection. “I must also provide my accolades, and express my sincere apologies for not seeking out your services in the past for my tailoring needs. This looks and fits splendidly.” As he made a mental note to do exactly that in the future, Sam wandered out from the kitchen, in the middle of donning a blazer in bright, warm yellow, which perfectly suited the one that most of the town had dubbed “The Sunshine Child.” The same as the other two, his shirt and pants were also black, with the pants in denim instead of the material the others had properly matching his style.

                          “Dang, you two are looking posh up in here. We’re starting to look like proper musicians. Hell, I feel like one already. You were right, dude,” he grinned at Lysander, “funny how what we needed was an actor to show us how to be better musicians.”

                          Sebastian walked out, adjusting his outfit, and remarking that they were already good musicians, this was them becoming performers. “And I feel no hesitation in seconding you, Sam, this actually feels and looks good.” Sebastian was both tall and slim, providing a bit of a challenge in making something that complemented both without looking baggy or making him look like a caricature. She had done splendidly, however, as the long, double breasted coat went from his neck to his hips, but where it stopped in the front it continued in long panels on the sides and back. Elliott noticed as he turned to look in the mirror that it had been also pinned back just above the waist to ensure an elegant fit, as well as to break up the empty space on his back. A deep hood was secured to the back of his collar, which was likely added at Sebastian’s request.

                          Even more impressed, Lysander whistled again. “Damn, ‘Bas, you look like a modern-day Wizard. That looks wicked cool.”

                          Not expecting the garments to look or fit this well, or to be complimented, Sebastian was surprised at first. “Really? It does fit really well, and the hood feels natural.”

                          “I’m not feeding you a line, that works for you,” Lysander nodded, looking him up and down with a performer’s eye, “you’re slim enough that the straight, harsh lines make you look dignified, and I wouldn’t think it out of place to see you carrying a heavy spellbook hanging off of an arcane-reinforced chain.”

                          Before he or Sebastian could converse further, Abigail stepped out and gasped with obvious delight. “Oh. Sweet. Yoba. Sexy butler.

                          Lysander smothered laughter as Sebastian turned, about to be annoyed. “What- Butler? Now you’re just-“ Now he noticed her outfit, and he stared, open-mouthed. Like everyone else, she had black as a base, but where they had chosen trousers, she had opted for a pleated skirt that came down to around mid-thigh, with fishnet tights, and boots that had purple laces which very nearly met up with the bottom of the skirt. A stylish corset in violet was topped by a bolero jacket in a slightly darker shade, and the entire ensemble was quite enough to make most of them somewhat weak in the knees. She had also gone with varying shades of violet for her makeup, but tastefully so, further accenting the “gothic” look that she favored.

                          Everyone saw that Sebastian’s brain had somewhat overloaded from the visual stimulus, so Lysander helpfully nudged him, smiling supportively and encouraging him to speak his mind. After a few seconds, Sebastian managed a dazed “you look great,” which satisfied Abigail enough for her to hug him happily and kiss him on the cheek. He was the only one to not see that her lipstick had left a nearly-perfect imprint in sparkly amethyst, but they figured he’d notice it eventually.

                          Haley moved for the first time since they had begun changing, hefting her camera, examining them with scrutiny. “Excellent. I can work with this,” she remarked, taking a good look at everyone, “I’ve got a space set up in my darkroom to get the portraits done. Just give me a moment to set up the tripod and we can get started.”

                          This was what finally brought Sebastian back to reality, and he hastily protested the idea of pictures. Lysander again offered brotherly support and put a hand on his shoulder. “We need promo materials to post around so people know to come looking for us, mate. We’ve got a good window for it; close enough that people won’t lose interest before we perform, but also not so close to the event that it feels rushed or half-assed.”

                          Still uncomfortable, Sebastian mumbled that he didn’t like his photo being taken, and Lysander replied with his usual grin that it wouldn’t be his. When Sebastian looked even more puzzled, Lysander asked him who he was. “I’m Sebastian, you twit, what are you-“

                          “No, I mean, who are you? Right now.” He tapped his friend on the chest for emphasis. “You don’t normally dress like this, so who does? What is he like? How does he think and move? When he stands on that stage how does he do it? That is who I’m talking about.”

                          This had been directed at Sebastian, but everyone else mentally took a step back to consider these words. Elliott had already been familiar with these concepts thanks to them writing their novel, but it was still strange for him to apply such filters to himself. Yes, who was he? Who was he? The person that dressed like this, he was similar to him, yes, but this wasn’t something that Elliott would usually wear. Who would? How would they walk and talk? Much like him, likely, but still…different.

                          Sebastian took all of this to heart and it showed. He pulled the hood over his head and glanced at the mirror again, but his posture and demeanor changed; the slouch and distant indifference were gone, replaced with silent, stoic confidence. The violet eyes that met Lysander’s hazel ones were now composed and thoughtful. “I should probably be more annoyed at how right you are so much of the time, but I can’t argue with results.”

                          Laughing and applauding, Lysander suggested that Sebastian be the first to go to Haley. “But nobody tell anybody what you’re doing for your photo, I want to see what we all do separately.” He disappeared into the other room for a few minutes, and when he returned, Abigail immediately went in next. Elliott looked at his partner with approval, which was noted and returned. “You like what you see, love?”

                          “You remind me of a cat in that you can make yourself comfortable anywhere and in anything, my dear,” he replied, reaching over to pull him close so that he could nuzzle his ear, “and you look simply dashing. You are a gallantly roguish figure in that, and I am quite certain that between you and Samson the audience shall be swooning en masse.”

                          Giggling at this and his touch, Lysander carefully hooked his fingers in Elliott’s collar and kissed him. “Then we best keep you hidden behind that piano, love, else we will be suffocated underneath thrown undergarments. It’s a good thing we’re leaving these clothes here ‘cause they might not survive me trying to take them off of you later.”

                          Sam made exaggerated gagging noises, grinning at them, and laughed when Lysander stuck his tongue out at him and grinned in reply. The lead guitarist darted around Abigail when she emerged from Haley’s room, eager to get his portrait done. Exchanging a quick glance of conversation, Lysander nodded in the direction of Haley’s room and smiled, squeezing Elliott’s hand; he would go last, Elliott would go after Sam was done. He took a deep breath and entered Haley’s room when Sam exited, trying to get into character for himself.

                          Fiddling with settings, Haley looked at Elliott as he strode in, glanced at the LCD screen on her camera, checked the spot where he would stand, and nodded to herself. “Okay, you’re the tallest one here, so getting you framed right is gonna be trickier than the others without screwing up balance and scale, but I already accounted for that with everyone else. We should’ve had you go first, but Sebastian needed to get that out of his system before he lost his confidence. Okay, stand right…there. Good, let me check, okay, you’re in frame. Find your pose while I make a few other adjustments.”

                          Pose? Well, it was a staged photo, not intended to be natural, but he was at a loss for just how he should- No, he was going about it all wrong. It wasn’t him, it was the person who would wear this sort of thing. Who was that person again? He put his elbow in his hand and adjusted his glasses thoughtfully as he shifted his weight a bit to one foot, and looked up at a gasp from Haley.

                          “Oh, don’t move, that’s perfect. You just need something a little…” She bit her lip as she tried to articulate what she was thinking.

                          Elliott wasn’t certain, either, but he tried to view himself from the outside, to see how it was that he stood, and he felt a rather superior smile slide into place; not quite arrogant or condescending, but still a look that said, “yes, I do make this look good, and am well aware of it.” He heard the shutter snap a few times, and she quickly reviewed what she’d taken. “Freaking yes, that’s perfect. You just look so… Well, hot.” She laughed and shrugged. “I dunno how to say it, you’re the author. But this is totally the persona that fits your look. Nailed it! Now go send in your boyfriend so I can get this all finished.”

                          As requested, he strode out, and since Lysander had been waiting by the bedroom door for his turn he was able to duck right in for his own picture. A few minutes later, he returned as well, followed by Haley, who was reviewing everything but refusing to let anyone else see just yet. “These are going to be perfect,” she said, looking very pleased, “I’ll send off the full raw files to you in a little bit, Abby. You sure you won’t need anything else?”

                          Waving a hand dismissively, Abigail shook her head. “Nah, I’ve got the editing software I need, and it’s gonna be a bit abstract anyway, so I’ll be doing a lot of stuff by hand. I’ll send back the finished poster tonight; I’ve got a lot of energy and ideas, and I already had some stuff put together because I kinda knew what we were doing. I’ll be doing two; the basic ‘glamour’ image that’s just the band and name that we can use and post anywhere, and with the date and location of the gig.”

                          Haley agreed to this, commenting that she was going to go into the city the next day to do physical prints and then begin posting them. Lysander asked for a copy of the finished files as well, as he still had logins for a number of sites and forums where not only would musicians and performers hang out, but people who were looking for bands to watch. Abigail made a note to do so, then giggled when she glanced at Sebastian.

                          “Hey, Sebby, did she take your pic of that side? ‘Cause that’s a good look for you.” Her meaning was unclear at first, then he noticed himself from the other side in the mirror and turned extremely red. Haley admitted that she had been tempted to do so, but had refrained and photographed him from the other side instead. Seeing that they were all done with their errand for the day, Lysander got up to hug Emily, thanking her for her hard work. Emily was caught by the spontaneous urge to dance, and naturally, Lysander couldn’t resist. Smiling warmly and fondly, Elliott watched them whirl around for a few moments until Sam, wound up already as it was, got caught up in the energy and grabbed Lysander around the waist in a firm hug, actually lifting him off of his feet for a moment.

                          “We’re going to do this and it’s gonna be fantastic!” Sam whooped, breaking free to punch the air victoriously.

                          They split up again to change back into their original clothes, carefully putting the new outfits into garment bags; Emily would keep them until their gig, just in case. Lysander stretched and remarked that he wanted a quick smoke, and everyone else followed suit, still feeling the residual effects of the successful afternoon. They sprawled out on the lawn, in the shade or the sun as their preferences ran, and Lysander stood downwind of everyone as he patted a pocket and grimaced. With a huffed chuckle, Sebastian pulled out his own, and after removing one and lighting it, offered both the pack and lighter to his friend.

                          “I owe you another pack, mate, I’ll refresh your stash this time,” remarked the copper-haired man as he returned the lighter and pack. Sebastian took back the items and exhaled a stream of smoke that smelled faintly of strawberry, clove, and tobacco. Lysander furrowed his brow as he thought of something. “Heh, I never did get that answer.” At the other man’s noise of inquiry, Lysander grinned around his cigarette. “Remember when you gave me that lift home the first time months ago? I wondered what it would be like kissing someone who smoked these.” He glanced over at his partner, who was in the shade near him, enjoying the scent. “Though I suppose I could ask Elliott, he’s got a bit of experience in this category by now.” He hooked his thumbs in his belt loops and smiled, awaiting an answer.

                          Some months ago Elliott would have been too embarrassed to answer, and possibly only a month ago would have just said something to mollify him and take the spotlight away. But now, after all of this time, spending so much of it with him, learning more about himself and becoming a different person, he felt a surge of mischief as he remembered something. He tapped a finger to his chin, pretending to consider this question carefully. “You are correct, dear,” he replied, “perhaps I can give you the answer that you seek.”

                          To his partner’s surprise, he reached over to take the cigarette with elegant fingers, put it to his own lips, and inhaled slowly and deeply. He wasn’t experienced with it, but he had observed Lysander do this many times before, so he had a fair idea of what to do. It wasn’t that bad, actually. Regular cigarettes smelled noxious and unpleasant, but this was actually sort of nice, and he could see how he was fond of this activity but not addicted to it. He heard a muted series of giggles from his friends as he exhaled, which became all-out laughter when he took Lysander by the chin and kissed him, letting it linger a bit. He stepped back and inhaled from the smoldering stick again, looking and feeling extremely pleased with the baffled look of silent confusion that Lysander wore.

                          It took a couple of tries for Lysander to figure out how words worked. “…That was quite possibly the hottest thing you’ve ever done and I think I need that smoke back. That was an amazing call-back and variation on it. I am properly impressed.”

                          Elliott was feeling good about it, but this praise made him smile as he returned the cigarette. “It was that good?”

                          Chuckling and shrugging in the direction of their friends, he took a drag on it himself, wondering aloud how nobody else suddenly needed a smoke as well. As the breeze rustled leaves and ruffled their hair, Lysander stared off at nothing, smiling with contentment. “Well, how’s it feel, everyone?” he asked, flicking off the ash and putting the half-consumed cigarette to his lips again, “in a couple of weeks we’re going to be live on stage. You’ve finally achieved your dream.”

                          “Well, you got ours, it’s time he got his,” Abigail remarked, gesturing in Sam’s direction, “though I guess that that was Elliott’s dream more than yours, wasn’t it?”

                          Sharing another silent conversation, they squeezed each other’s hands, and Elliott put an arm around Lysander’s waist. “That is true. It was my dream, but it became a shared one, as though it was not his desire to write a novel, it was his desire to help me succeed in my efforts. So in a sense, yes, it is ‘ours.’ I have learned so much working alongside him, and I know without any doubt that I could not have done this alone. I was looking in the wrong directions and places for inspiration and story. He showed me the true path and I am now enlightened.”

                          Sam again made the exaggerated gagging sound, to the amusement of everyone, but Lysander shrugged instead of taking mock offense to it. “I dunno if I can quite claim to be that amazing, but yeah, I learned a lot, too. I’ve always been on stage doing everyone else’s stories, so when it came time to make one myself I knew the mechanics of it but not the details. I knew how a story should flow, how characters should act and interact, whether a thing would work or not, but getting those ideas in the first place? I had none of that. He had all of the ideas, I just helped make them work.”

                          They chatted and relaxed for a while longer until it was getting close to dinner time, at which point they all departed for their respective homes. Elliott went with Lysander back to the farm, however, as was part of their routine now, and it felt absolutely natural. Continuing to converse idly, they mostly enjoyed each other’s company and the mid-fall warmth.

                          “What do you want to do for dinner, love?” Lysander asked, and Elliott almost didn’t hear him at first, lost in his own thoughts.

                          “Pardon? Oh, well, let’s see what you have and we’ll go from there.”

                          “Nifty. You look distracted, something on your mind?” Lysander asked, opening the door and sitting down to remove his boots.

                          “You asked something similar this morning, and the response is similar,” Elliott replied as he put his backpack in the bedroom, “simply thinking of the past, present, and future, and what it all means. I’m not exactly overwhelmed, but when I pause to think about it I’m amazed at how far I’ve come.”

                          Lysander greeted him in the kitchen with a hug, resting his head against his shoulder. “You’re not the only one. Everything’s just…better. I’m happy, finally. I don’t hurt, I don’t feel alone, I actually feel like I’m useful. Needed. I didn’t know how bad I wanted that until I met you. Thanks.”

                          With a happy sigh, Elliott relaxed into the hug, winding his partner’s hair around his fingers. “For all that you have done for me, I shall give you everything. Never again shall you be wanting, my dearest.”

                          Their moment was interrupted when Xander padded in and yowled at them, likely for food, but possibly attention. Lysander gave him an irritated look before turning back to Elliott and kissing him warmly. “Well, all I want now is a nice meal and then the chance to curl up with you the rest of the night.”

                          “My earlier attire and actions did not leave you ‘hot and bothered’ as you claimed to be?” Elliott asked as he examined the pantry.

                          Lysander’s smile was fond as he shrugged, leaning against the counter. “They are, and I am, but… Right now, I just feel good.”
                           
                            Last edited: Jun 14, 2017
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                          • Risukage

                            Risukage Existential Complex

                            //Sorry if the quality of these posts has been off the last few updates, been all kinds of blah and stuff lately, and while I could take a break, I'd rather not; the schedule does help a bit, and this is kinda therapeutic in a way.//


                            “Ready, love?”

                            Elliott snapped shut the clasp on his helmet and checked the fit of his gear before mounting up behind his partner, adjusting the backpack on his shoulders as he got into place. “There, I am ready. We have everything we’ll need for when we get there?”

                            “Yup, I double-checked, it’s all in your backpack, and Emily has our clothes. Well, hold on, here we go.”

                            Putting Morgenlied into gear, Lysander pulled away from the house, onto the road, and then picked up speed as he took the turns necessary to get onto the highway. Elliott was already comfortable riding behind him like this, and he opened the visor just a little bit to allow in some of the breeze. The first portion of their route was familiar, but as they reached the city Lysander took a route to a place he’d never been. How strange, he’d lived there for so long and had been nearly everywhere, but once more, Lysander found a way to surprise him. Finally, Lysander turned in to the parking lot of a small pub, but pulled around the back at a different entrance.

                            They dismounted and removed their helmets just as their friends pulled up, Sebastian and Abigail riding together, Sam, Haley, and Alex in the truck, and Emily with their gear and clothes in her car. Lysander strode over to the back door and let himself in, much to their surprise. He propped the door open and waved them over. “I’m allowed to do this, it’s okay. C’mon, start unloading, gimmie a sec to get out of my stuff really fast.” He and Elliott discarded their riding gear in just a minute, ducking back outside to assist with moving their equipment. “Gear goes to the right against the wall with the posters, clothes to the left with the rack you can hang them on. I saw my parents’ car back there, so I’ll go track them down.”

                            Elliott straightened as he saw someone partially-familiar walk up. “Heya, Pick! Beat you to it!”

                            Turning around and lighting up visibly, Lysander went over to hug the elder Morgensonne once he had put down his instruments. They exchanged greetings and pleasantries as their friends gathered around, as only Elliott had actually “met” him before. Arthur wore a green polo shirt, simple jeans, and scuffed but clean sneakers, clearly the person from whom Lysander had inherited his highly causal manner of dress. Lynn arrived from the stage, striding over in chunky heels, wearing a warm yellow three-quarters sleeve shirt and a brown camisole, also clad in jeans, though boot cut to her husband’s straight cut. She was where Lysander had inherited his sense of style!

                            Seeing her son, she smiled with delight and changed course to intercept him, taking his face in both hands and examining him with interest and satisfaction. “Sweetie! You are looking fantastic, living on your grandfather’s farm has been wonderful for you.” Elliott smiled to himself, approaching to finally meet his partner’s parents, wondering if this is what he had felt when they had talked with his parents earlier that week. She noticed his arrival and gave him the same look she had Lysander. “And speaking of wonderful things, you must be the handsome young man that Lysander introduced to us a couple of months back. Oh, if only we had known then, I would have given Liz such grief about it so much sooner.”

                            Getting the feeling that they were quite casual with their greetings as well, Elliott still thought it best to be a bit formal at first, just in case, and offered a hand in greeting. He was surprised at how enthusiastically and firmly Lynn returned it, then Arthur. “I am very pleased to make your official acquaintance. Although I confess to being grateful that you were not aware of my connection that readily.” He offered a wry smile. “Mother is not overly fond of surprises.”

                            Fists on her hips, Lynn laughed with raucous amusement, a sound that Elliott had heard so often from his partner. “She gets over things quickly. Even after that time that we pranked her by installing poles all over the stage and had my students dancing on them. Tastefully dressed, mind you, but I will never forget her face.” Elliott gaped openly at her in muted horror, remembering that incident and shocked that not only did he finally have a face to put to the culprit, but just to whom that face belonged. Laughing again, Lynn grinned at him, noting that his expression somewhat matched his mother’s at that time.

                            “By the light, that was you?” he asked, finally finding his voice, “mother was furious about that for a week!”

                            Lynn didn’t seem bothered by this fact and waved it off. “Only because she didn’t know who did it, and then because she did. I didn’t damage anything; I’m sassy but not malicious.”

                            Curious, Sam began to express a thought to Lysander, which his friend interrupted. “I never said that she didn’t, I just deflected the question.” He recognized Sam’s thoughtful look and warned him against considering it further.

                            “Already done, dude, your mom intimidates the hell out of me.” His look changed, though still thoughtful, and asked why Arthur had called him “Pick.” Same as he’d explained to Elliott during the video call, he had been quite the slim sort when growing up, and had been playing guitar for as long as he could remember. Lynn reminded him that while she and Arthur had met Elliott, they didn’t know the rest of his friends. Laughing and apologizing, Lysander introduced the rest of the group, though Lynn gave Alex a strange look until his name was mentioned.

                            “Alexander Mullner, is that you?” she asked, then grinned even more widely, “ha, it is! You’ve got Clara’s smile. And your father’s eyes, but yours are so much gentler.” Alex replied that he was aware of their relation but not any meetings. “First, call me ‘Lynn,’ or ‘Aunt Lynn’ if that’s more comfortable for you, and second, you were only a baby, so you won’t remember it. Heck, I barely remember, all babies look the same.” At everyone’s look of surprise she shrugged without shame. “Oh, don’t give me that look, I’m a mother, I get to say it. But regardless, you grew up into a handsome, successful man, and I know that my cousin would be so proud of you.” The athlete nearly beamed at this praise, and Elliott found himself mirroring his smile. Little wonder that Lysander was such a thoughtful, caring soul if these were the people who had shaped his life. Though they wanted to converse further, they still had to set up, and they dispersed to take care of their respective duties.

                            As they began to scatter, Lynn took another look at Lysander and gasped. “Sweetie, what happened? It looks like you got caught on something pretty bad.” Elliott turned to see Lysander looking shocked, and realized that his partner had never mentioned any of that to his parents. Lost in his thoughts as he tried to figure out what to say, the copper-haired man traced the scar on his neck with his fingertips. Reaching out to him, Elliott put a gentle hand on his arm, and Lysander met his eyes with relief. Nodding, Lysander bit his lip. “I… Something happened last year.”

                            Eyes going even wider, Lynn was quick on the uptake and shook her head. “Don’t worry, sweetie, if you thought it was important you’d have told us, but this seems to be something that you’re not comfortable talking about yet.”

                            Almost hesitantly, Lysander touched Elliott’s hand on his arm, thinking quietly. “Actually, if you and dad have time after the gig tonight, I’ve got a few things to tell you.”

                            Feeling relieved that Lysander didn’t want to avoid the subject, Elliott stepped in. “We have something to tell. I was unable to support you during the first telling of this tale, so I will make amends for that time.” Lysander’s relief and gratitude were obvious, and he promised to tell his parents everything after the show. He wasn’t the only one, as though Lynn still looked concerned she was no longer worried. Activity resumed as they moved and set up equipment as and where it was needed.

                            Quite a bit had already been done, surprisingly, leaving Elliott and Lysander little to do other than check their own instruments. As Lysander got his bass plugged in and adjusted, Elliott dodged and stepped over cables and stands to reach the piano. It had been so long since had played on a piano that wasn’t his, but there was little personal calibration needed to gain familiarity with it. Presently, Lysander sat next to him, facing the other direction with Resonance in his hands. It was already mostly in tune, needing only a few changes.

                            Suddenly feeling playful, Elliott began playing Lysander’s song, though with a brighter tempo and in a major key. Lysander’s smile perfectly matched his own, and he stepped in with rhythmic chords, supporting the song. The next pass they traded places, with Lysander providing the melody and Elliott following with lyrical runs and flourishes. The third time they played in harmony, balanced between each other, trading the melody back and forth. This was brilliant! Elliott lost himself in the music with his partner, and when the song ended, he almost jumped in surprise to feel a hand on his shoulder. Shifting to see who it was, he was greeted by that very familiar grin, worn by Arthur.

                            “Welcome to the family,” he said, and before Elliott could figure out a reply, he stepped away to go check on something with one of his own band mates, who had volunteered their services in helping the new band get on their feet.

                            A touch on his other shoulder made him turn again, but it Lysander’s smile that he saw this time, and it was filled with adoration rather than the fatherly one that Arthur had worn. “They really do like you, love. I haven’t seen them look this happy in a while.”

                            “All that I have done was say hello and to warm up with a song,” Elliott replied, somewhat perplexed. With a soft chuckle, Lysander leaned over to kiss his cheek.

                            “You’ve done so much more and you know it. It’s been a while since I was doing this well, too, and they can see that. They also know about our book, and I saw the way that mom looked at us when you stepped in a bit earlier. They can see that you genuinely care, and you’re talented and successful. They’re proud of you, too, just as much as your own parents are.”

                            Considering this, he took Lysander’s hand and kissed his fingers. “I have no reason to doubt your words. Mother has already accepted you as an adopted son of sorts, so I should not be surprised that yours has done the same for me.”

                            They shared another smile before going back to preparing for the gig. Already familiar with the piano, Elliott got up to assist one of Arthur’s bandmates in running the last of the audio cabling and securing it. He looked around for Alex and saw him talking with the other professional, who was showing him how to manage the sound controls.

                            “Here you go, sorry, I missed your name?” asked the shorter Asian woman as she handed him a cable, “I’m Jen.”

                            “Elliott, pleased to make your acquaintance.”

                            She smiled at him and taped the cable in place while he plugged it in. “You too. I don’t know what you’ve done for Lys, but thanks, we’ve all been a bit worried about him.”

                            Taking the tape to secure a different cable, Elliott gave her a puzzled look. “Pardon?”

                            “He sits in with us now and then, but we haven’t seen him in damn near a year. I don’t know what happened over the winter but something went down and he pretty much dropped off of the face of the planet. He would message Art and Lynn now and then, but they didn’t hear much back from him until late spring or so. They were pretty worried, but we all know that he tends to withdraw hard when something goes bad, so we all figured that we should just let him work through it.”

                            Elliott wasn’t certain at first how to reply. “You are correct, he did have an…incident last year, something that scarred him deeply, in many senses of the word, and on many levels. He has been coming to terms with that moment over time, and I do allow myself some credit in assisting him with that recovery. But I will not claim it all; he possesses great strength of body, mind, and spirit.”

                            She stood up and dusted off her pants and hands, looking around to ensure that everything was up to her standards, and nodded. “That he is, he’s always been a resilient kid. No,” she shook her head, correcting herself, “he’s a young man, and a fine one at that. You two are really good together.” She offered him a friendly smile, putting her hands on her hips. “His song, you know that like you’ve been playing it forever like he has. You sounded good together, and watching him play next to you, you can see it, you two just synch up just right.”

                            “I… Thank you. He means the world to me, and he has been an equally bright light in my life as much as I have been one in his.”

                            Smiling again, she nodded with satisfaction. “Well! I’d love to gossip a bit more, but I need to do a couple of last things before you all go live. ‘Scuse me.”

                            She departed, and Elliott helped move cases and other items that wouldn’t be used to the back of the stage while everyone else finalized their calibrations. Shortly after that, they all filed backstage to get changed. Everyone took the dressing room, but Abigail elected to change in the women’s restroom, as though they were friends and weren’t going to be strange or lecherous, she wasn’t quite comfortable enough around them to do that just yet. Lysander looked a bit distant and thoughtful while he changed, a bit of a surprise given what they were about to do, but everyone left him to his thoughts.

                            Sam and Sebastian checked themselves one last time and got up to leave, and Elliott moved to follow, having inspected himself as well.

                            “Love, wait, I need to…”

                            Elliott paused at Lysander’s request, and saw Sam winding up to snark on something. He decided against it, however, when Lysander gave him a look of patient exhaustion, and the yellow-clad man understood and left, closing the door behind him.

                            Taking a deep breath, Lysander hooked his thumbs in his belt loops. “Tonight with mom and dad… I… I don’t want you to be caught broadsided by anything. So…” He trailed off, and Elliott offered the impression that whatever had been occupying him was something he’d not mentioned previously. Nodding, he continued. “Yeah. It’s…Allen. I’ve never talked about him much. But what you should know is that he was one of my oldest friends, I grew up with him. And…” He paused again to swallow and take another breath. “We were each others’ first.”

                            This was new information, and Elliott gestured for him to continue as he considered his partner’s words. His words were somewhat empty, as though he were reading from a script, and though he tried to speak with casual indifference, Elliott could tell that these memories ached. “We didn’t know anyone else we could really ask, and neither of us had the confidence anyway. We were good enough friends, so we experimented. It was no big deal, we were learning things and took care of each others’ needs for the time being, and then we got older, dated other people, and his family moved away.” He went quiet for a moment, apparently recalling that event, then cleared his throat and continued.

                            “We didn’t see each other again for several years, until he was accepted to the same university in Zuzu City. And as I said before, we picked up our friendship again, and after a while I asked to take it further. You know the rest of the story from there. Mom and dad know that we were friends when we were young, and that we hooked up in college, but not anything else, or about the…incident.”

                            There was a lot that Lysander hadn’t told his parents, little wonder that he was worried about talking to them. Offering a warm, supportive hug, Elliott offered his observation. “He was more than just a companion, he was a dear friend and lover, and meant a great deal to you for many reasons.”

                            Nodding, Lysander rested his head on Elliott’s shoulder. “Yeah. I’m trying, but I’ve never gotten over him or what happened, and I don’t know how.”

                            “Put it out of your mind for now, we have business to attend,” Elliott said, kissing the top of his head, “we will address that problem later. Together.”

                            The smile that Elliott wanted to see returned, and the guitarist kissed him with relief and took his hand. “You’re right. Time to focus on the music. Let’s go be brilliant.”

                            As they left, they saw their friends already gathered together. Sam once again tried to tease his friend, but Lysander grinned and told him to shut up, which made the other man laugh. He inquired about everyone’s state, and got varying replies, but the consensus was both nervous and excited. Arthur walked over and offered encouragement, the proud father watching his children grow up. Further reinforcing where he’d got a number of his traits, Lysander cheekily sassed his father, who rebuffed it with the same grin as he ruffled the younger Morgensonne’s hair.

                            “So I’m not allowed to be proud of you and offer you the benefit of my decades of knowledge and experience? I see how it is. Well I’m going to be positive and supportive and you’re going to like it, young man.”

                            Smirking and laughing, Lysander replied with, “fine then, be useful,” to which his father nodded, “fine then, I think I will.” Arthur returned his attention to the group, giving them one last bit of advice. “Now, this venue might be a bit strange at first, but you’re all quite lucky; it’s a pub, yes, but it’s got a reputation for decent musical entertainment of varying styles. It’s also large enough that you won’t feel crowded but not so large that your sound will get lost.”

                            He met each person’s gaze, taking their hands and holding them all firmly for a couple of seconds, lending strength and stability with his smile. “Just remember your set list, be confident, and have fun. And I do mean it, I’m proud of you. Everyone here has worked hard for this. People come here specifically to hear new and interesting things, so do what you need to in order to get yourselves mentally in the right headspace. Marcus will assist Alex with recording the sound, Jen will assist Haley on the video equipment. I’ll pass the results to Robert this week and he’ll clean up and mix everything at his studio, and I’ll get a copy back to you as soon as it’s all done.”

                            This news left Sam literally staggering, but it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. Rather, this added to it, and whooped with glee. “We’re doing it. We’re really, finally doing it, and we’re going to have a professional recording of it after it, too. Art, you and your buddies are freaking awesome!”
                             
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                            • Risukage

                              Risukage Existential Complex

                              //...I went clubbing last night. I'm going to bed now. *Faceplants.*//


                              Elliott smiled as he watched Lysander get “into character.” It was so natural for him, as simple as putting on or taking off a coat. His smile was now flirty and dangerous, and he managed to convey a swagger even when standing still. Everyone else noticed this and did their best to mimic it, to find their own “character,” but only Elliott had complete success. The musician in red checked the clock, took a quick look at the audience, and gave his friends a grin of enthusiastic delight.

                              “It’s showtime.”

                              That swagger manifested itself fully as he walked out, not bothering to look back because he knew that they’d be right behind him. Sam almost didn’t follow, but a soft tap on his shoulder from Elliott brought him around, and Abigail playfully punched him on the arm. The two of them giggled as they continued their mock fight, then grabbed Sebastian and pulled him along with them. This had been practiced earlier, all for the show of it, but even so, it didn’t seem that Sebastian was acting. Elliott was the last to step onto stage after them, offering a warm smile and an amused shake of his head at his friends’ antics. They all split toward their instruments, and Elliott’s fingers lightly danced across a few keys when he reached the piano. Once he sat down, those flickering notes became a rolling, flowing melody. Lysander was at his microphone now, and his timing was, as expected, impeccable.

                              “You wanted to see something new. Something interesting. And you came here to see us.”

                              Elliott couldn’t see the crowd the way that Sam and Lysander did, but he could hear the whispers and murmurs begin to ripple. He felt a strange, exciting tingle begin on the back of his arms at this, which strengthened when Abigail joined him in a riff on a ride cymbal and Sebastian joined the song, building it together with him, harmonizing.

                              “Well, it’s a good thing you’re here, because we are something new,” Lysander continued, with a daring smile in his voice, “but I’ll tell you now that if you want something interesting you’ll be disappointed. Because we’re amazing.”

                              Out of the corner of his eye, Elliott saw Sam very nearly leap over his microphone and grab it, his own smile energetic and radiant. “You all are brilliant, and we are The Elements of Sound. Now listen to our song!”

                              The final two musicians added to the song, and the circling, flowing introduction stepped forward, launching into their first piece, full of vibrant energy. The audience heard and felt it, and they reciprocated it, sending that energy back to the stage.

                              This… This is what he lives for, what he has always tried to describe but always lacked the words. I feel it now, I truly understand, what it means to stand upon a stage and lay bare your soul to the world. It is both exciting and terrifying, I feel as though I hold the reins to a chariot that speeds ahead with abandon, able to control with just a flick of my wrists, but at the same time a subtle change in the wrong direction spells disaster. This is amazing, and I feel privileged to be able to experience such a sensation.

                              He heard Lysander and Sam open with the vocals, harmonizing with each other, and he felt a rush of excitement scamper up his back and settle in his neck, tingling and sparking. What a beautiful, vibrant sound! Elliott felt no jealousy at their synchronization. Rather, he reveled in what they were able to create together, something so much bigger than themselves, than any of them. Almost as quickly as it had begun, their song ended, and the crowd erupted in applause and cheers. Elliott almost couldn’t hear it over the sound of his racing heart. They had done it! Their set was not yet over, but they had begun, they had finally taken that first, hesitant step toward the future, and they had succeeded!

                              The two hours of their set almost seemed to fly past, and Elliott reveled in every minute of it. Everyone sounded even greater than they usually did, and he was certain that they all felt the energy that he had, the synergy between performers and audience. The set list was mostly what they had performed at the Luau, with the addition of new songs that had been written since then, and everyone had the opportunity to step up and take center stage. He had always been partial to the vocal battle between himself and Lysander, but the audience response to it this time… He and his partner were in perfect synch with each other, complementing each other even as they competed, and the audience loved every moment of it. How had Lysander ever walked away from this?

                              Finally, they paused before their last song, and Sam grabbed his microphone as Lysander put down the bass. “This has been the best night ever, and you have all been the craziest best audience. I love you all so much right now. Yeah, all of you!”

                              Sound filled the room again, that of a delighted audience expressing their adulation and appreciation for a skilled performance. Glancing over his shoulder, Elliott saw Lysander pick up Resonance and duck into the strap, removing the pick from the frets. He plucked one string, just once, and that single note was a razor-edged blade that brought silence in its wake. Curious and enthusiastic, the crowd waited with bated breath for what was next to happen. Lysander gave them the smile that always made Elliott feel safe and loved, and he found himself mirroring it as his partner stood in front of his microphone.

                              “You have been magnificent,” he said, and everyone heard and knew the truth in his words. “We could not have imagined a more welcoming reception. You may be delighted to have seen us perform, but we are honored to have been able to play for you. And because of that, we have one last song, something very special.”

                              Tears burned at the corners of Elliott’s eyes as the first notes of Lysander’s song began to waft from the instrument in his hands. He remembered how much it had hurt him to hear it again when Lewis had played it, and to see him take it and make it his own here made him more proud than he could express. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his partner’s parents stand up straighter and share a look of amazed surprise, not having expected to hear this piece. Elliott smiled to himself, sharing their happiness as Lysander continued.

                              “I started to learn the guitar when I was very young, and the first song that I learned was one that my grandfather taught me, which he had taught to my father before me many years before. It has been a song that I have carried with me ever since, and when he passed away, I played it for him one last time. I was unable to play it again for many years until I met my friends, and someone that is now someone very special to me.” Elliott felt the eyes of the audience land on him, knowing that Lysander had looked in his direction. It was obvious, of course, their vocal battle had clearly demonstrated that, and while he would have been completely embarrassed to have this attention earlier this year, now he relished it; look at me, know that I am the one that has claimed his heart, that it is my arms into which he falls each night, that it is my smile and touch that he desires.

                              With the fond, loving smile in his voice, Lysander continued. “With their encouragement I played it again, and they learned it as well, and I learned how special it was, how it could bring people together and make them smile. Now, I will teach that song to all of you, and show everyone the love and happiness that I felt when my grandfather and I played together. Listen and learn, the song of my legacy, ‘Stardew Valley.’”

                              His fingers had danced almost idly and without direction upon the strings, but now they strode with determination, and Elliott felt as though he had reached out his hand to everyone, the same as he had done for him, asking them all to dance with him. Four bars into Lysander’s song Elliott joined in, walking with his partner, supporting him, and four more bars after that the rest of the band joined. It was a sweet, almost wistful ballad, and Lysander had struggled with lyrics at first until Elliott had told him to write it the same way that they had the first time they had played together, a stream of consciousness exercise. He had been uncertain at first, unsure of whether or not he liked what he’d written, but Elliott had reassured him, that those were the words from his heart, from deep within, and all they needed was a little polish and finesse. These were the words he now sang without any hesitation, sharing his love with the world.

                              “Spring’s cool breezes call out to me, they sing the song I once knew. Summer’s warm touch embraces me, like love I held once so true.

                              “Autumn’s bright leaves fly on the wind, like words I never could say. Winter’s pure snow falls silently down like tears when I left that day.

                              “Sapphire waves crash on the shore, topaz sands sparkle in the light. Amethyst winds, obsidian hills, all memories lost to the night.

                              “Emerald forests so green and cool, the plains all gold like the sun. My heart aches for what has been lost, the colors all blurred and gone.

                              “Some day I will return to you, and walk the valley again. Alone together we’ll recall the places that no longer remain.

                              “My friends, my love, I call to you, a request I make from afar. Reach out to me, please guide me back, to the land of the valley of stars.”

                              There was silence for a moment as the final notes faded away, but not because the song had been ill-received, it was that nobody wanted to break the spell and let the song end completely. Hesitant applause started somewhere, then spread like wildfire across the room, culminating in deafening applause. Sneaking a glance at the two guitarists upfront, he saw them take a sweeping bow. Then, Lysander turned around and gestured to the other three, cajoling them to do the same. Abigail and Sebastian appeared to be unsure about it, but joined their friends after Lysander waved them over a second time. Elliott needed no further encouragement and took his place with the others, reveling in the sensation of a successful performance. They had done it!

                              “We’re done for the night,” Lysander began, and waved a hand to indicate that he was not yet done, “but we’ll be here a while longer. Give us a few to put a couple of things away and we’ll come on down and say hi. How’s that sound?” More applause met his question, and laughed as he set Resonance back on its stand. “Great! Just give us a moment, then. For the moment, you can bother Haley in back there for info about us, as well as how to get in contact if you’d like to see us again. Be right back!”

                              He waved one last time and turned to depart backstage, followed quickly by the rest of the group as they offered their own momentary farewells. Once they were all safely out of sight, he laughed and bounced gleefully, hugging them all with a smile that split his face. “You all were amazing! But remember, like the Luau, the show isn’t over yet. Get out there and mingle. Talk, laugh, show off, whatever, but make a good name for not just us, but yourselves as well, okay?” He hugged them in turn, giving Elliott a kiss as well. “C’mon, let’s continue to be awesome.”

                              They returned to the main room and split up, filtering through the crowd and chatting pleasantly. Several people wanted photos, and everyone, even Sebastian, was happy to oblige. Elliott took readily to being a professional, though given his family’s business this really was a parallel shift for him. For another half an hour they talked and socialized before they had to excuse themselves to finish some final business.

                              Sam was brimming with energy even at this point in the night, and was bouncing around with glee, sweeping Lysander up into it as well. The copper-haired man hugged him and grinned at his friends. “How does it feel to be pros now?”

                              Sam and Abigail resumed the impromptu dance while Elliott considered the question. “It is strange but welcome. I had never fancied myself as such in the past, yet I find the mantle of a performer to be a comfortable and pleasant fit. I could not do it alone, no, but as an ensemble I feel quite at home.”

                              Nodding, Sebastian chimed in scrubbing his fingers through his hair and giving a surprised sigh. “I’m the biggest introvert you’ve ever met, but this was a hell of a rush. Even after we were done, and were walking around the crowd, I was okay with it, like I was someone else. Like Elliott said, I couldn’t do this alone, but together it was a lot of fun and we sound great.” He smiled, almost hesitantly, giving light to his violet eyes. “I actually want to do this again.”

                              Arthur arrived from the other room, looking extremely pleased with things. “Then you’ve got that chance. Doug liked you guys so much that he’s offered a spot on the calendar next month if you’re interested. The crowd got bigger after you started playing, and he made a heck of a profit on sales tonight for it.” He put his hands in his pockets and gave them the grin that they were so used to seeing on their friend. “Also, the first round is on him; it’s his tradition for all new bands. Congratulations, everyone, this was a hell of an opening night.”

                              It appeared that Sam’s energy had finally been spent, as he finally stood still, staring off at nothing for a moment, then unsteadily made his way to Lysander and hugged him as tightly as he could. “…We really did it. I… I’ve dreamed of this forever, but it’s always just been that. It’s thanks to you, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to thank you enough.”

                              Initially surprised, Lysander’s smile was brotherly as he returned the hug. “It was your dream and your drive, mate, I just provided the tools you needed to advance.” He turned a little to include everyone else in that smile. “And I can’t thank all of you enough, either. I left this city without any dreams or hopes, and you all gave me something to fight for, to live for. …Which reminds me of unfinished business. You guys get changed out, I’ll join you in a few and help break down the equipment. I’ve got something to do first.”
                               
                                Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
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                              • Risukage

                                Risukage Existential Complex

                                //I am having SUCH a blast with the new Red Mage class in FFXIV. I've not hit the new areas yet (still working Lysander up to that content right now), but holy CRAP is this class just his freakin' aesthetic. It's elegant and flashy, stylish and flamboyant, and I love being both a caster and a swordfighter. The only reason I've been able to keep up with my chapter output is that I have SO much downtime while sitting in the queues for the mandatory dungeons. DPS is fun but augh, the wait times! :D//


                                Joining them from the other room, Lynn gave her son a concerned look. “You’re sure you want to go into this sweetie? It’s been a great night and I’d hate for it to end on a bad note.” Her attempt at a joke was met with a small smile but a shake of his head.

                                “No more hiding, no more running,” he said, looking between his parents, “you need to know.”

                                While the rest of the band got changed back into their normal clothes or broke down the equipment, the four of them moved to a quiet corner. Obviously trying to be nonchalant, it was apparent to his parents and Elliott that he wasn’t exactly having second thoughts, but at the same time he wasn’t sure how or where to start. In silent support, Elliott reached for and gently squeezed his hand, and this was the stability that Lysander needed. Taking a deep breath in order to settle himself, he found the words he wanted.

                                "So, you remember Allen?”

                                “Yes,” Lynn replied, tilting her head to the side, “we haven’t seen him in a while, though, not since a while before you moved to Pelican town.”

                                Lysander nodded again. “Yeah, well, it’s… It was him and I, that is… I figure that you already figured it out, but we’d already kinda been together for a long time, since before he moved. It was mostly messing around, we weren’t quite ‘dating’ or anything, but when he moved back and came to university we met up again and decided to actually hook up.”

                                This was met with twin nods from his parents. “I remember the two of you being pretty happy about it,” remarked Arthur, tapping a finger to his chin, “but you wanted to keep it a bit low-key. As I recall, his parents weren’t quite open to same-sex relationships and he was worried of, well, things.” He gave Lysander a look that spoke of a sudden realization, but his son shook his head and bit his lip.

                                “No, it wasn’t that. It… Shit, I didn’t think it’d be this hard the second time around… The short of things is that we were pretty good together for a while, yeah. But… You two also know that I used to… Screw it, I’m not gonna sugar-coat it, I was a total slut and slept with, like, half of campus.”

                                “You were not,” Lynn rebuffed, firmly but gently, “you are confident in yourself and your desires, and you made that clear to your partners. All that we ever asked was for you to be safe in your relations with others. You had numerous partners, and that’s just fine. That’s who you are and what you wanted to be, and it was your choice to be so.”

                                A small smile found its way to his face, and it warmed even further when Elliott put an arm around his waist. He sighed and continued. “Well, either way, you two knew about that sort of thing, but he didn’t. It’s not like I lied or tried to hide it from him, it just never occurred to me to mention it, and he began getting whispers and rumors from around university.” He bit his lip and took another deep breath. “He started to avoid me. I didn’t know why, and when I asked him about it he just…said he needed a bit of space to think and stuff. I’ve known him since forever so I figured that if he wanted it then he needed it, and he’d let me know what’s up when he was ready.”

                                “You two’ve known each other...over twenty years, haven’t you?” Lynn asked, looking surprised as she realized the length of time that her son and friend had known each other.

                                “Yeah, so I figured…yeah…” Removing his sunglasses, he pinched the bridge of his nose and bit his lip, trying not to cry.

                                Looking even more concerned, Lynn hugged herself loosely and shifted her weight to one leg, trying to be supportive as well as considerate. “Sweetie? Do you want to talk about this at a later time?”

                                He shook his head, inhaled deeply again, and continued. “So eventually I was tired of the evasions and non-answers. You both know I’m direct and don’t like people screwing around with me or my time. But instead of trying to catch him alone, like at either of our apartments or whatever, I confronted him on campus. Stupid idiot, I shouldn’t have done that!” Elliott squeezed him gently in a hug, breaking him out of his self-destructive recriminations, but he could feel him beginning to tremble with pain and self-loathing. “…Sorry. Anyway, it got…loud. We began arguing and things got out of hand and I… Gods, I’m such an asshole, I just took a swing at him and put him on the ground.” Arthur and Lynn said nothing, gesturing for him to keep talking. “We…shit happened and… And I ran, I just had to… Gods, I had screwed it all up and made him hate me and I hurt him, mom, I had always protected him and looked out for him and I loved him and I just hit him for no good reason!”

                                He was shaking visibly now, barely able to fight back tears, and Elliott took the sunglasses from him, knowing what part of the story was next. “I… I ran back to my apartment,” he continued quietly, unbuttoning the buttons on his cuffs, “and I went to the kitchen. Everything hurt so bad and I hated myself so much and I… I…” Unable to finish the sentence, he showed them his wrists, letting the scars tell the rest of the story. Again the expressions were matched, with shocked gasps, but Elliott was relieved to see that they weren’t horrified at what he had done, it was because they understood his pain and why he’d hidden the last year from them.

                                Stepping forward, Lynn put a hand on his face and the other on his shoulder. “Oh sweetie, you carried that by yourself all this time? I wish that we could have been there for you.”

                                This warm kindness was apparently unexpected but still what he had wanted, and it was the final crack in the dam of emotions that he’d been trying to hold back. Shoulders heaving, he sobbed and put a hand over his mouth to hold it back, still trying to be strong. Simultaneously, Elliott and Lynn tried to hug and hold him close, to provide the comfort that he needed at that moment, and bumped into each other. This produced a small moment of welcome merriment before Elliott stepped back and allowed Lynn to go to him, but still offered a hand in the small of his back, just a small reminder of his presence and support.

                                Crying into his mother’s shoulder for a minute, Lysander hugged her and allowed himself to finally feel and accept everything that he’d kept inside and away from them for almost a year. “It’s okay, sweetie,” she whispered, “we’re all here for you. We all love you, and understand why you did what you did. All of it. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Allen hates you. Whenever you two were together he was always happy, and I’m sure that he still loves you, regardless of what happened.”

                                Slightly calmer, he nodded and stood up straight, taking a handkerchief that his father had offered. He sniffed and wiped his eyes, feeling a little better as the older man put a hand on his shoulder. “I understand why you chose not to tell us sooner, and I respect that. And in a strange way, I’m glad that you waited, because there would have been nothing that we could have done to help, and we would have been worried and greatly bothered by it. Knowing you, you’d have been beating yourself up as well because you knew that you were causing someone else trouble.” He sighed and gave his son a kind smile. “But your time in our old home has helped you change and heal, and you’re happier and more confident than I’ve seen you in ears. You’ve also found someone who genuinely cares about you and has been a massive help in getting you back on your feet.”

                                His smile got warmer when he shared it with Elliott as well, looking quite happy for the both of them. “Though apparently it goes in both directions. You’re a published author now, and from what I’ve gleaned from Liz and Phil, they’re both happy with what you’ve done for Elliott as well. I’m proud of you, Pick, you went through a lot and a very dark time and you’ve come out with your fire burning brighter than ever.”

                                Lysander sniffed one last time and caught his breath as Lynn took his head in her hands and kissed his forehead, brushing his bangs to the side to do so. “It’s okay, sweetie, what happened is in the past now, and you’re still here, that’s what’s important. We all make decisions that we regret later.”

                                Finally, there was that smile that Elliott ached to see, that always lit up the room! Breathing deeply again, Lysander nodded, looking between the three of them. “Thanks, mom, that means a lot. I was worried about telling you two for the longest time because exactly that, I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. At the same time, it hurt that I felt like I was hiding something or lying to you.” One last sigh and he was himself again, even if his smile was a little lopsided. “I’m going to wash my face real fast and get changed out. Be right back.”

                                Still concerned, but feeling nearly as relieved as his partner, Elliott watched him walk off and relaxed the rest of the way; the manner in which the other man carried himself showed that while he was a mentally tired from it all, he felt lighter for it. He glanced over at Lynn when he heard a relieved sigh from her as well, and she put her fists on her hips as she smiled at him. Yes, that was definitely where he’d inherited it, and like the effect his partner had on him, he felt warm and loved from it.

                                “I don’t think I’ll ever have enough or the right words to say it, but until I do, thank you, Elliott.” She nodded her head in the direction that her son had gone. “He’s always been too strong, taking the weight of the world and the problems of everyone else onto his own shoulders and never asking for help. He’s always tried so hard to look out for others and protect them, and refuses to let anyone do the same for him.” Her smile got brighter and softer. “You’re the first person he’s ever trusted enough to support him in return like this. You have our respect and gratitude.”

                                He felt as though he had already made a decent impression with them over the video call, and more so earlier that evening, but it was now that he completely felt accepted. It wasn’t as though they had indicated any displeasure with him until now, no, but he hadn’t felt as though he had properly earned anything with them. Now, he saw the honest thanks in their eyes and heard it in their words, and he had felt Lysander’s relief in his touch. Just as Lysander had allowed himself to open himself up to his parents, Elliott had allowed himself to internalize the knowledge that they really did consider him family now.

                                “And you both have mine, for raising someone like him,” he replied, feeling a rush of contentment, “were it not for his ability to show love for everyone and desire to help I’d never have finished my work. I will protect and support him and his dreams at any cost.”

                                So many times have I sworn this oath to myself, and I will do so to anyone and everyone to whom it concerns. He has done so much for me and I do not think that he fully understands the scope of it. One day I will show him just what it is that he has done, the life that he has saved and made worth living.

                                They all turned to see Lysander return from the restroom, looking like his old self again. Arthur clapped Elliott on the arm and gestured at the dressing room. “You get swapped out too, Elliott, Lynn and I will help the rest of the band break things down. Meet us over by the bar when you’re ready.”

                                He nodded and followed. “I shall, thank you.”

                                Lysander had just removed and hung up the red overshirt and smiled as Elliott walked in, undoing the buttons on the black one. “Hey love, thanks for being there. I needed that more than I thought I did. Not because I was worried they’d get mad or anything, but that mental support. You’re the best thing to happen to me in years.”

                                Removing his waistcoat and hanging it up, he was the next to undo a long line of buttons while the other man hung up his second shirt. He heard Lysander sigh thoughtfully and glanced over to see him draw the thumb of one hand over the scar on the wrist of the other, and Elliott recognized the thoughtful look that he wore. Fairly certain that he should go over and pull him from his thoughts, Elliott paused with his shirt only halfway unbuttoned. When it didn’t seem that Lysander would come up from that line of thinking on his own, he moved to put his arms around him from behind, silently supporting him. Lysander recognized this and turned a little in his hold to kiss his chin.

                                “It’s funny, isn’t it, how such a little thing defines so much of me now. That one bad, selfish decision nearly ended everything.” He sighed again, this time deeply. “It worked out for the better in a strange way, but at the same time, it almost feels wrong that I should benefit from it. I don’t know,” he muttered, relaxing against and leaning into his partner, “I’m still a bit messed up, I guess. But still, as terrifying as it all was and how much it still hurts, I don’t think I’d change it. You mean everything to me.”

                                He smiled weakly, shrugging into Elliott in a sort of half-hug. “I’ve known you for what, less than a year? And even so , this doesn’t feel like any other relationship I’ve ever had, even with Allen, for as long as we’d been together.” His eyes went wide and he stepped away to hold up his hands. “Not that I’m comparing you! And not that I’d do something crazy like that again if something happened, I promised you, and it’s not that I hope something happens to you, I-“

                                Elliott almost couldn’t help himself keep from laughing at the sudden change in demeanor and attitude from his partner, and pulled him over to kiss him softly but thoroughly. He threaded his fingers through Lysander’s hair as he ran a gentle finger over the edge of one ear, a sensation that he knew always left him tingling. It appeared to work quite well, as Lysander pulled away with a laugh, having begun to undo the rest of Elliott’s buttons.

                                “Sorry, love, I’m developing bad habits faster than I can correct them.”

                                They finished removing their “costumes” and began to change into their normal clothes as Elliott lamented that he felt helpless to do something about the emotional strife that he had experienced, as well as what he felt now, but it was exactly that what had helped to give him the qualities that he loved. “And because of the same, had you not been through all of that I would never have met you.” He fastened this trousers and belt buckle and pulled on his shirt, working on yet another nearly-endless line of buttons. “So it is a strange dilemma in which I find myself glad for your past, and am displeased with myself for such thoughts.”

                                Lysander’s sigh was somewhat muffled as he pulled his usual shirt on over his head and tugged it into place. “Yeah, it’s weird, but… I guess moments that knock you down that hard and low are what let you appreciate the good things and fight for something better.” Elliott quietly watched him stare at his reflection in the mirror and run his fingers across the thin white line that ran across one side. Shaking his head, Lysander adjusted the ever-present guitar-pick accessories and put on his overshirt. “I’m reminded of that every time I look in the mirror. And it’s also strange that since we’ve been, well, intimate, I’ve not had this nightmare again. Now I fear losing you. What love does to a person, yeah?”

                                “It has done many things, and all of them wonderful,” Elliott replied as he stood, examining himself one last time, adjusting his waistcoat, and opening the door, “and likewise, I fear nothing else in this world now, save for the thought of losing you.” He smiled with mischief as something came to him. “My heart and mind are now clad in armor that your devotion has forged for me.”

                                He knew that Lysander was secretly weak for this sort of flowery speech, and his blushing giggle was exactly the response that he had wanted. Lysander kissed him on the cheek as he walked by, grinning. “I did not think that you could get any cuter. That was so adorably goofy and I love it so much.”
                                 
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                                • Risukage

                                  Risukage Existential Complex

                                  //I really liked writing for Lynn and Arthur, they are so much fun, and they help give so much more context and depth to Lysander. But still, it's kinda sad just how many of my own characters I introduced into this "universe." Just...really? I might as well have written my own story not set in this game world if I was gonna do that, right?//


                                  Due to the rather lengthy conversation with the von Morgensonnes, as well as getting changed, there was very little left to do by the time they reached their friends. They helped stage everything by the back door (it was a bad idea to load it in their cars until they were ready to leave!) and put back the pub’s own equipment where they had found it. Standing to one side, Haley held a camera in her hands, grinning as she watched the screen and replayed some of the video that she’d taken.

                                  Lysander sneaked a quick glance at it before she finished packing it all up and smiled at the footage as well, offering that he and Elliott would stack her gear for her so that she could take a seat with Alex. She thanked him for it, punctuated with a quick peck on the cheek. Emily had just completed inventory of everything that she had brought and nodded with satisfaction, remarking that they had looked even better than she had expected onstage. “Those costumes looked so good up there in the light like that, you all stood right out and looked so classy.” She nearly bubbled with delight that once people had found out that she was the one who had designed their costumes they had been grabbing her business cards.

                                  Elliott missed half of the conversation, as he had been putting a few last things into a case, and handed it to Emily to stack with everything else. Apparently it had been about her own career plans as a seamstress and clothing designer, as she wasn’t sure what the future held for her, but she was optimistic and upbeat about the possibilities.

                                  With everything packed and stacked, Emily joined everyone else at the tables, but Lysander paused to look around, smiling faintly.

                                  “You seem happily lost in thought, dear,” Elliott observed, gently running his fingers down the other man’s back. With a half-shrug, Lysander sighed with satisfaction.

                                  “It’s been so long since I had been on stage in any form, and this…” He paused to gesture in the direction of where they had just performed. “It was better than I could have ever imagined. Doing theater was fun, and I loved telling a story like that, and I’ve got great memories of playing here with dad’s group, but none of those compare to tonight. This was our night, and it was our material.” He hugged himself and leaned into Elliott, the smile softening and lighting up his face. “Sam, Abby, and Sebastian created something wonderful, and you and I helped give them the hand that they needed to pull themselves up. I’ve finally found that feeling I’ve ached to have again. Heh, I could die happy right now I suppose. Love, not like that!” he gasped as he saw Elliott’s expression of pain, “I…”

                                  When will I no longer worry for your physical safety and mental health? You have advanced so far, yet there is poison in your thoughts, leeching out when you least expect it to taint your words. My dearest, I know that this is a battle you must fight on your own, and I will be there to bind your wounds and ease your pain, but please, for the both of us, let this war within you end.

                                  “I think I understand the context in which those words were spoken, yet their existence is disturbing,” replied Elliott, brushing the back of his fingers across Lysander’s cheek, “there is still a lingering pain in your mind, though most of it has been excised. I am glad to see that you are healing and finding your fire again, but I will not hide my concern.”

                                  Sighing again, Lysander nodded and took Elliott’s hand to kiss his fingers. “Thanks, and I understand. Just remember that you gave me something to live and fight for, I won’t throw it away.” The smile returned, and his hazel eyes were warm and grateful. “I gave you armor, you’ve given me a sword. Together we’re unbeatable.” He laughed and took Elliott’s hand. “Now let’s go mingle, I’m totally itching for a beer now.”

                                  His word is his bond, so I trust and believe what he has said. I could see it in his eyes, in his smile. He sees and fears it as well, but he works to overcome it. That is all that I can ask for now, and I will be satisfied with it.

                                  Leading the way, Lysander waved to everyone as they approached and took a seat across from his mother and next to his father. As such, Elliott sat next to Lynn but across from Arthur, and accepted a freshly-poured drink before the older von Morgensonne stood with his own. “Now that we’re all here, a toast to The Elements of Sound, for a successful opening night, and to many more in the future.” His smile was an exact copy of the one that Elliott had seen only moments earlier. “Congratulations, all, you’ve made the biggest and hardest step of your careers.”

                                  Cheering and applauding, the group shared their enthusiasm with each other in varying ways, from simple hugs to friendly fistbumps, and other forms of enthusiastic delight. Everyone broke off to their own conversations, in which apparently they’d already been engaged before Elliott and Lysander had arrived. Only paying the barest attention to the others, Elliott put his chin in his hand and sipped his drink, watching and listening with amusement as Lysander talked eagerly with his mother, and noticed that Arthur wore a similar expression.

                                  “So! How’s the farm going, sweetie?” she asked, halfway through her beer already, “you sent us a few pictures and updates, but that was a month or two ago.”

                                  He grinned and pulled out his phone, as he had many more photos taken since then. “Not sure if I mentioned it, but I finally got around to putting in ‘fun’ stuff, things I really wanted. Got the sunflowers planted and they’re doing great, I’m really happy with them.”

                                  “Oh! Gimmie,” she giggled, taking the phone and getting a closer look, “ooh, those did come out nice, you always did love sunflowers. I could never keep them alive,” she sighed, passing back the phone, “I grew up out there but couldn’t grow anything. I’ve got a TOTAL brown thumb. Good thing you got your gardening genes from your dad. Speaking of, I’m out, Art, pass the pitcher.”

                                  As requested, Arthur handed over the pitcher, and Lynn refilled her drink, topping off everyone else’s while she was at it. Lysander reached over to squeeze Elliott’s hand, sharing a smile with him. “And I might be able to get in roses soon, too. Apparently they’ve got some nice roses at his parents’ place and we might be able to get a few cuttings. I already know a place that a rose hedge would look fantastic, with all sorts of different colors.”

                                  Lysander’s parents gave Elliott an interested look, and he ducked away a little, taking another drink to hide his blush. “Ah, yes, well, mother has cultivated some rather lovely blooms, and I am certain that they would do quite well at his home.”

                                  Squeezing his hand again, Lysander nodded and pulled up some other photos. “Everyone’s done well, when you get down to it. Sam’s done great with his music and the band, Sebastian has made great strides with his coding, Abby’s taking classes online. So’s Alex. I’ve been running with him in the mornings for cardio training, but he’s also going back to school, too.”

                                  With a happy gasp, Lynn clapped quietly and turned to Alex. “Oh! Alex, sweetie, Lysander told me that you’re taking college courses. How’s that going for you?”

                                  Not expecting to be called out like this, Alex was surprised but happy to share his own success. “Pretty good, Mrs.- Err, Aunt Lynn,” he corrected himself, earning a laugh from her, “I just had finals and passed all of my courses. I was talking to Marcus about some other courses I can take, and I’m waiting to hear back from the gridball recruiters I talked to the last time I was in the city. I’m going to see if I can get started at the collegiate level.”

                                  This produced giggling applause from Lynn and an approving smile from Arthur. “I’m glad to see you’re doing well, Alex,” he remarked, resting his arms on the table, “I admit that when your parents got together a lot of us were pretty worried for your mother, and didn’t think that you father was a very nice man.” He grimaced and wrinkled his nose, another gesture that was familiar to Elliott. “Hell, when we first met he said something that I didn’t like at all and I put him on the ground for it. He split my lip but I still walked away better than he did.”

                                  The knowing grin that Lysander and Alex shared made Arthur raise an inquisitive eyebrow at them both, and his son took it upon himself to share that story. “It seems to run in the family. Alex said something that I took offense to in our first conversation, and I took a swing at him.” His grin went all the way across his face. “Though he got the better of me, ‘cause I knocked him down, but he damn near knocked me out.”

                                  The reaction between his parents was split: Arthur with an eye-roll and head-shaking sigh, and Lynn with a full, raucous belly laugh. Alex rubbed the back of his neck and gave his cousin a weak smile. “Yeah, sorry about that, I hit harder than I should have.”

                                  Lysander waved it off with indifference. “S’okay mate,” he replied, “I started it, you were well within your rights to finish it. Hell, I was giving you shit the entire time I danced around you, so I’m not the least bit surprised that when you had the opportunity you tried to punch a new hole in my face.” He flashed Elliott a snarky but warm grin. “On the upside I got the chance to nap on my future boyfriend for a while, so it worked out.”

                                  Returning the smile, Elliott thought back to that day. He remembered the fight, but didn’t know that Lysander had actually been taunting his opponent. It wasn’t out of his character, to be honest, and it matched with his mental footage of the more agile man dancing and dodging around the much stronger one. His smile softened as his thoughts drifted to the aforementioned nap, how he had felt such relaxed contentment at Lysander’s casual and confident ease at resting upon him. And the way that he had reached for his hand while asleep… That feeling would stay with him forever.

                                  Lynn was very nearly finished with her second drink and sighed, stating that she was happy that he hadn’t been injured but asked him to be a bit more careful about future altercations. Then her eyes crossed a little as she thought of something and gave Lysander a very concerned look. “Though speaking of safety, you and Elliott are using protection, aren’t you?”

                                  In the middle of a long drink, Elliott coughed and sputtered at her out-of-the-blue question, staring at her in shock and blushing almost as red as his partner’s hair.

                                  WHAT? I- She just came right out and asked it in front of everyone!

                                  Completely unperturbed, it was Lysander’s turn to sigh and roll his eyes. “Of course I am, and we’re monogamous now, so it’s no big deal.” This did nothing to mollify her, and Elliott was of the distinct impression that she was usually direct by nature, but extremely blunt when mildly intoxicated.

                                  Pursing her lips, she gestured emphatically at her son. “That doesn’t mean a damn thing until you put a ring on it and you know it, young man. I don’t have to worry about unexpected grandchildren but that’s no excuse not to be careful.”

                                  Lysander finished his glass and poured another, not the least bit bothered by either her statements or the unrestrained giggling from Sam and Abigail. “Chill, mom, I’m the only guy he’s ever shagged so there’s nothing to worry about.”

                                  Completely embarrassed, Elliott put his face in his hands, but relaxed at little from a supportive, fatherly pat on the shoulder from Arthur. “Like I said, welcome to the family. She has fewer filters after she’s had a couple of drinks, but she always means well.”

                                  Nodding emphatically (and somewhat exaggeratedly, thanks to the alcohol), Lynn gave him a warm, fond smile. “I wouldn’t give you grief if I didn’t care, and if you’re anything like your parents then we’ll get along splendidly.”

                                  Less embarrassed, Elliott removed his hands but put one to his temple to rub it wearily. “As I recall you appear to be fond of pranking my mother and pushing her buttons on a whim,” he observed, to which she laughed and gave him a grin that showed almost all of her teeth.

                                  “If she can’t take it then she has no business being in show business. I help keep her sharp.”

                                  Oh gods, so this is the true nature of the family into which I might marry. I understand him so much better now.

                                  His other hand joined the first in rubbing his face. “In only one evening I have already learned so much about Lysander and the source of his personality and mannerisms.”

                                  With a similar, amused laugh, his partner promised to make it up to him that night, and glared at his mother preemptively, causing a fit of giggles into her beer. “And yes, I’m going to wait until I get home. Even though I do know all of the places around here to sneak off for a bit.”

                                  While Abigail and Haley were simply giggling, and Sebastian and Alex wearing amused smiles, Sam had laughed himself to tears at this exchange, and had clumsily slid off of his chair and under the table. It didn’t stop him from continuing to laugh, though it did sound like he was close to passing out.

                                  “You okay, mate?” Lysander asked with a careless air as he glanced under the table. At the gasped reply of, “can’t…breathe…” Lysander shrugged again. “Well Alex is the one that knows rescue breathing, so if you pass out you’re his problem.” Alex made a face at his cousin, replying that it only mattered if he was actually drowning. “Do his own tears count?” he asked, nudging his friend with the toe of his boot.

                                  Wordlessly, Arthur offered him a handkerchief (Elliott wondered how many he had!) and got up to get another pitcher for their table. When he returned, Sam had dragged himself out from under the table with Abigail’s help and got back into his chair, wiping his eyes with the handkerchief. They all had a few more drinks but could feel themselves begin to wind down, the energy of the evening finally fading, and the fatigue of the day beginning to set in. Empty glasses and pitchers were set on the counter for Doug to take and wash, and once the tables were clear they helped to straighten up and clear out what they could.

                                  In less than five minutes, all of their equipment was loaded into Alex’s truck or Emily’s car, and Alex ensured that the load was secure before getting out of the bed and closing it behind him. With a languid, satisfied stretch, Lysander looked at the sky and asked his cousin if he minded going home a little slower than usual or hanging around for a bit. “It’s nice out and I wanna stop off somewhere first, also have a nice ride home.”

                                  Alex told him not to worry, that he could offload it all himself without any problem; it could all go just inside the door and be put away properly the next day. Agreeing to this, Lysander handed over the community center keys and began saying goodnight to everyone. Haley and Sam got hugs, as they were riding in the truck, then Emily, who was taking her car back with their costumes and her sister’s camera gear. Sebastian and Abigail had just finished zipping up their jackets and were reaching for helmets and gloves, and he nodded to his friend.

                                  “You’re heading to that place we went when you got Morgenlied?” Confirming this, Lysander asked if he minded, as it really was his spot to be alone. “Nah,” the other rider replied with a smile, “it just means that we’ll have to message each other before we go up so we don’t interrupt anything.”

                                  This was met with a laugh and a hug, though Sebastian did his best to pretend to be annoyed by it. Abigail hugged the taller man from behind, complimenting his singing, and cheekily reminding him not to stay up too late being naughty with his partner.

                                  “Don’t you keep Sebastian up with the same, then,” Lysander replied, “he sleeps in late enough as it is.”

                                  Watching their friends depart, Lysander yawned and stretched again before going back in to put on their riding gear and say goodbye to his parents. He smiled at his partner, who had already donned his equipment and was in the middle of putting on his gloves. The blonde man seemed a bit surprised to see Lynn give him a look of approval, but he smiled, recalling her earlier remark about wanting them to be “safe.”

                                  She put on her coat and smiled happily at both of them. “Well, you both certainly make that look dashing, and I’m pleased to see that you’re both using more than one type of protection.”

                                  Elliott once more gave her a look of surprise, not only because he’d had a similar thought just a moment earlier, but the manner in which she said it and the innuendo involved. Her son verbally prodded her, although playfully, inquiring as to whether or not it was his father that would be driving. She confirmed it as she zipped up her coat. “But that’s ‘cause we took his car. I’m honestly happy for you, sweetie. For you both,” she clarified, giving Elliott that motherly smile that he was already beginning to find familiar, “we’ve known Liz and Phil for years, and she’s actually been in a better mood than I’ve seen her in ages. Not that she’s a grump or anything, but something about her overall attitude has changed a bit.” She snapped her fingers as she remembered something else and dug into her purse. “Oh! That reminds me… Would it be gauche of me to ask for the authors’ autographs?”

                                  With a chuckle, Lysander rubbed the back of his neck as Lynn handed a very nice pen and a hardcover book to Elliott. “Dangit, I was hoping to surprise you with a copy.”

                                  He opened it to the dedication page and paused for a moment for the right thing to say, and wrote (though with difficulty in those gloves), in his elegant script, “To those who supported us from afar, we give to you our dream,” and signed his name, very nearly using Lysander’s last name. Lynn brought up its usage on the cover, and he made a wry face. “It is…a long story. We had not quite meant for it to imply…”

                                  Unsure of how to end the statement Elliott trailed off, but Lynn saved him the need to do so with a shrug. “Well, it’s nice to know whose name you’ll be keeping. And ‘Elliott von Morgensonne’ sounds rather nice, I think.”

                                  Shocked, he dropped both items, but apparently Lysander was expecting it because he caught both with ease. Holding up his hands, Elliott almost stammered as he tried to explain. “Ah! That wasn’t the intention, Mrs. Von-“

                                  Lynn, sweetie,” she interrupted, still wearing that smile, “and I’m only partially giving you sass, it really does sound nice. Regardless, though, we support whatever decisions you two make, whenever you make them.”

                                  She… I was not expecting my mother to so readily approve of our future bond, but to have such acceptance from Lysander’s parents already is something that I did not anticipate. From the way in which she said it, it is as though she not only assumes that it will happen, but soon. I wonder, did they think the same of Lysander and Allen before? Or is our relationship different? I almost do not want to know the answer to this question, but at the same time, it would give me insight into many things.

                                  Finished signing the book as well, Lysander returned both book and pen. “Thanks, mom, but we’re not rushing into anything. I mean, we haven’t even known each other a full year yet. This isn’t some kind of terrible romance novel or fairy tale.”

                                  She nodded, as though this confirmed something for her. “Good. If you were talking about marriage this soon I’d be concerned. Dating and getting to know each other is important.”

                                  Agreeing with her, Arthur zipped up his coat and fished his keys from a pocket. “Just keep in touch a bit better from now on, okay?” he asked, being kind, but with the slight edge of a finger-wag to it, “we do worry about you, Pick. We’ve done your best to give you the space you need, and after what you’ve been through we understand, but at this point you’ve got no excuse.”

                                  Lysander nodded, wearing the smile of someone who has been gently admonished but not browbeaten. “I will, and sorry about the distance and silence. Regardless of my reasons it was still rude of me. I should have at least told you guys something.”

                                  Reaching out to touch his face again, Lynn brushed his bangs aside. “It’s okay, sweetie. That’s all done and over with. Time to move on and make a change for the better.” Lysander nodded and squeezed her hand, then broke away to grab his helmet and lead them outside.

                                  Hugging both of the younger men, Arthur patted Elliott on the back as he did so. “Great to finally have met you, Elliott. Thanks for being there for him where we couldn’t.”

                                  He wasn’t certain how to reply to that, and blinked in surprise when Lynn took his face in both hands, the same as she had done for her son earlier, and kissed his forehead. “Take care of him.”

                                  Lysander appeared to be as surprised as his partner, but Elliott recovered quickly and smiled gratefully. “I shall continue to do so to the best of my abilities.”
                                   
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                                  • Alkanthe

                                    Alkanthe Oxygen Tank

                                    I don't think it's sad at all; introducing your own characters to support the world, especially as they're background characters to flesh out backstories and places, is a sign of caring about the world enough to finish it.
                                     
                                      Risukage likes this.
                                    • Risukage

                                      Risukage Existential Complex

                                      //So I was working on this update when the cat brought in a mouse, right around 1 or 2 in the morning. After playing hide-and-squeak for a half an hour I just gave up, and said "sod it" to go to bed and finish this when I woke up. I've not seen any viscera, so it's still alive somewhere in my home, so I'm now off to do housekeeping whilst keeping a look out for anything suspiciously fuzzy.

                                      DAMN IT, CAT.

                                      Heh, that's true. SDV is a great game and "universe," and part of the fun of it is how open it is, allowing you to fill in the gaps yourself. I guess I'm just really good at that. :D//


                                      They put on their helmets and checked the fit of their gloves as they watched Lysander’s parents depart. The red-clad rider mounted up and glanced over his shoulder. “Well, hop on, love, I’ve got some place I wanna show you before we head home. If you’re still up for anything, that is.”

                                      With a smile, Elliott got into place behind his partner. “It has been a long day but I am not yet fatigued. And I am curious to see what it is that you have in mind.” He put his arms around Lysander, getting settled, and felt Morgenlied shift as the other man took it off of the kickstand, then the rumble of the engine turning over. Elliott left his visor cracked just a bit; the night was cool, but the breeze through a slit was refreshing. Their route was slow as they went through the city, turning onto different streets and pausing at lights, but as soon as they got onto the highway, they picked up speed and flew.

                                      Such an amazing experience. So dangerous yet so free. Elliott tried not to shift too much as he looked about, silently gazing out across the night-darkened landscape, gently illuminated by the moon and what stars could be seen behind the lunar brightness. He heard the wind, listening to it whistling and singing as it swept past them, a wispy soprano to the vibrating tenor of Morgenlied. Feeling no concern about their route, speed, or other drivers, he allowed himself to almost daydream, simply feeling and just being, experiencing the ride and internalizing it.

                                      He implicitly trusted his partner to carry them safely to their destination. It never at any point crossed his mind that something would happen with him at the helm, so to speak. As such, he reflected and exuded the same confidence that Lysander did, enjoying the touch of holding him, protecting and being protected by each other. Idly, he watched their path of travel, but he’d never been this way before, so it was completely alien to him. The road wound away from the city and up, then somehow back. Eventually, they arrived, and Lysander slowed enough to stop and put down the kickstand and turn off the engine.

                                      Getting off first, Elliott stepped aside and removed his helmet, shaking out his hair, then put his gloves inside of his helmet and set both atop Morgenlied. He turned around as Lysander did the same, and paused to stare, almost not hearing his partner’s chuckle at him. The city spread out across the horizon, a vista of lights and steel. The stars were much more visible here than in the city, but not quite as much as back home.

                                      …Home. So he considered that little shack on the coast of the sea a home now. He smiled warmly as he thought about this, looking at the place he used to live, running a hand through his hair, trying to organize his thoughts and feelings.

                                      Lysander stepped over to him and folded his arms across his chest. “It’s a heck of a sight, isn’t it? This is where Sebastian and I went after I picked up the bike.”

                                      Feeling a moment of mischief, Elliott nudged him with a smile. “Ah, so this is the place where you nearly made out with him?” He almost felt bad for his jest, as Lysander put his face in both hands, making a sound of embarrassed regret.

                                      Now feeling a little bit of regret himself, he reached over to put a hand in the small of Lysander’s back. “I am only teasing, dear,” he reassured, “I believe that I am allowed a bit of that tonight after having your mother inflicted upon me all evening.”

                                      This produced a small smile, and Lysander leaned into him, sighing. “It’s okay, besides, I still feel stupid about it, sorry love.” Curious, Elliott pressed him to know why he felt that way, as it had been accidental and a one-time thing. “I… That’s the problem,” Lysander replied, looking downcast, “given the chance, if he ever offered, I’d be hard-pressed not to take him up on the offer. It’s not like he ever would, so that’s not a question, but if anyone at all ever did, I mean…” He clenched a fist and set his jaw, and Elliott said nothing, simply listening and considering his words. “Damn it, damn me. I love you, so much it hurts, but I still have these urges, and I… I just feel like such a total asshole for it. I’m trying to hold myself back so much, and I’m terrified that I’m going to act on those urges and do something dumb that’s going to hurt you and-“

                                      “Stop,” Elliott gently interrupted, “dear, look at me.” Lysander nodded and bit his lip to hold back tears, leaning into Elliott’s finger on his cheek. This sort of confession would have triggered jealousy and mistrust in so many other people, but for Elliott, he felt pleased at his companion’s candor and honesty. He saw how much it hurt him to say it, not because he feared insult or rebuke, but because he thought that such thoughts would hurt him. Ever as always, his thoughts were of others! Firm but kind, Elliott continued.

                                      “You are a man of passion and emotion. You act without thinking, trusting in your instincts, and your first thoughts are always of others. I almost never see you do anything unless it benefits someone else as well. If someone were to make you an offer I know that you would consider it but likely not follow up on it. If you do?” He shrugged and smiled warmly. “Well, that is something that can be discussed should it arise, just as we did the other night. I will not worry about something unlikely to happen.” Brushing Lysander’s hair out of his face, Elliott kissed his forehead. “And do not let our relationship prevent you from sharing your fire and love with your friends. I am not given to jealousy or irrational fits of speculation.” His smile became amused as he poked him where he had kissed him a moment before. “If I am to be annoyed it is because I wish that you were a bit more selfish.”

                                      Silent as he thought about this, Lysander took a deep breath and nodded, sharing the smile. “…Thanks, love. But…I feel selfish all the time, though. Like, mom’s the third person who’s insinuated that we’d get married eventually, and I know that she was just teasing, but it’s still something that scares me. It’s a stupid fear but…” He shook his head, trying to dislodge a thought. “I’m worried about disappointing you or something bad happening or… At least dating like this gives you a way out if I screw up, and that’s almost worse because it gives me the option to run away and I hate that, I hate myself-“

                                      Stop,” Elliott commanded, seeing his partner begin to enter a downward emotional spiral and cut him off before he could get any farther. “You are causing yourself needless anguish. It is an idea that I view with trepidation as well, and likely for similar reasons.” He sighed and kissed his forehead again. “However, it is something that I will save for later consideration, as I am enjoying the time we have together now. I am learning more and more about you, about the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. As I once told you before, it is the journey that I desire, not the destination. I want to take this slowly and learn all that I can about you before we dive into anything permanent. Like… For instance, I have never asked when your birthday was, and I do not recall you mentioning it.”

                                      He stared off at nothing as he searched his memory for this information and came up completely blank. Huffing a chuckle, Lysander hugged him and remarked that he hadn’t mentioned it, and when Elliott was about to ask when it had been, he shrugged and chuckled again. “Already passed. It was between the Luau and the jellyfish migration.” Surprised but not hurt, Elliott asked why, as they could have done something to celebrate, but Lysander sighed and rested his head upon Elliott’s shoulder, squeezing him in a fond hug. “That’s kinda the reason why. I love being on stage and working alongside others, but I don’t like being the center of attention for myself. It feels weird.” He shrugged with indifference. “I like celebrating stuff, but not for me. Make any sense?”

                                      Elliott agreed with this, wrapping a lock of hair around his finger and kissing the top of his head, remarking that he felt the same way. Then, he remembered his own birthday and froze, recalling all that had transpired. Lysander noticed his change in demeanor and inquired about it, but he tried to deflect it casually. When pressed again, Elliott tried to be nonchalant about it. “…It has already passed as well.” Unsatisfied with this reply, Lysander nudged him again, politely demanding an answer. “…It was in the first week of fall.”

                                      Looking away and clearing his throat, Elliott knew that he was completely transparent, as his “tell” was obvious, and Lysander knew it well. The other man peered at him curiously, thought about all of the information at hand, and laughed warmly.

                                      “You’re telling me that your birthday was the first night we-“ Hastily agreeing with him, Elliott blushed even further, but smiled at the delighted hug that he gave him. “So I gave you the best present you could have gotten at the time, yeah?”

                                      Elliot considered this and smiled to himself. It was true, that night he had finally freed himself from the last of the bonds that held him back, and he and Lysander had taken down the last barrier between them. He felt much more confident in himself now, and it truly was a birthday, as he had very nearly been reborn after all that had transpired. He hugged Lysander back twice as strongly, chuckling.

                                      “You did,” he sighed, “I could not have asked for a greater gift.”

                                      The other man appeared to have a cheeky, teasing reply ready, but discarded it, instead reaching over to caress his cheek. “I promised that I would give you anything you asked for.”

                                      “That is true,” Elliott replied, leaning into the touch, “first your mind, then your heart, and now your body. And one day I will ask for your hand.”

                                      Lysander’s reaction filled him with indescribable warmth; the slight flush to his cheeks, the way his eyes widened and dilated a little, the hitch to his breath… He was genuinely surprised and pleased. Had no one ever before suggested such a thing? No, of course not, and he had always denied it to himself, too. He had never considered himself worthy or deserving of someone’s devotion. Finally, a hesitant smile returned to light up his face.

                                      “…Gold or platinum?”

                                      This simple question delighted him. He saw none of the fear and worry that had been expressed only moments ago, and took his hand to kiss it. “We’ll decide whenever we get that far.” Lysander chuckled quietly at this as he ducked more firmly into Elliott’s arms as a cold breeze whipped around them, remarking that they should get home as it was beginning to get cold. “Then I look forward to warming you back up and keeping you that way the rest of the night.”

                                      Gearing up again, they sat astride Morgenlied, all possible points of wind-entry on their clothes and gear very securely sealed; the night was technically lovely, but at highway speeds it grew teeth. Despite this, it was still a pleasant ride back, and though Elliott expected Lysander to turn off at his home given the late hour, he continued on to Elliott's. Parking where he always did next to the side of the cabin, he once again set the bike on its stand and turned it off, then waited for Elliott to dismount so he could do the same.

                                      Lysander shivered and hugged himself even before he took off his helmet as he followed Elliott inside. “Bloody hell, I’ll need to add a warm layer under my gear from now on. It was a good ride but that stuff was definitely made to breathe, and it inhaled a LOT of cold air!” Removing their helmets and gloves to set them on the table, they discarded the outer garments and hung them up, then retreated to the bedroom where Elliott promptly started a hot shower. With no preamble or finesse, they disrobed quickly and haphazardly, ducking into the hot spray with delight.

                                      Exhaling with satisfaction, Lysander positioned himself between Elliott and the water, feeling the hot water run down his back and shoulders as he hugged his partner. Elliott didn’t begrudge him the closer proximity to and majority of the water, as while he was also cold, he didn’t feel it as badly. For a minute or two they simply relaxed into the heated environment, being warmed from without by the water and the steam within. Elliott untied the ribbon that held Lysander’s hair and, carefully leaning out of the shower, flicked the slightly-damp object to land on the sink.

                                      “Mm. Thanks, love, I kinda forgot to do that before I ducked in. Too cold,” he murmured, putting his head back on the other man’s shoulder and holding him gently again.

                                      With a sigh of contentment himself, Elliott held him, kissing his cheek and toying with a lock of hair again as he did a quick mental status check of himself, and, by proxy, Lysander. They both felt much warmer, and now that they had recovered, he could feel both of their fatigue weighing down on them. Still, he wanted a few minutes more to enjoy this, and slowly ran his hands across his partner’s body, relishing the skin-to-skin contact.

                                      Lysander sort of did the same, but only grabbed Elliott’s bottom with both hands and squeezed, giggling as he kissed his chin and leaned into his touch. “I’m feeling so much better. I think I’m ready to dry off and pass out now, you?”

                                      Nodding Elliott tilted up his chin to kiss him a bit more thoroughly and turned off the water, accepting a towel that Lysander handed him. “I am likewise restored, though exhausted. I had not realized that performing would drain me so. But then, the day ended up being a little longer than I had expected.”

                                      “Mm, yeah. This was a great way to wind down. Not all performances end with me feeling so tired, but there were a lot of moving parts that I usually don’t have to do myself, and we did stay out a bit after. Still…” He smiled happily at a few thoughts as he draped the towel over his shoulders. “Gods, I missed that so much, it feels like I’ve found a part of me that had gone missing. I feel more complete.”

                                      Elliott hung up both of their towels and followed him to the bedroom, both of them retrieving their phones and plugging them in for power, as they had gotten dangerously low. “I feel more than I was before,” he replied, turning off the light, “this was not anything that I’d ever done before, and to have experienced it enriches and enhances me.” He slid under the sheets next to his partner and nuzzled his neck, smiling at his delighted giggle. “Thank you for showing me another world, to help me become more than I was.”

                                      Shifting to get comfortable on his side, Lysander yawned. “C’mon, curl up around me, I still need your warmth. And you’re welcome, this…” He took Elliott’s fingers as he put his arm around him and kissed them. “I’ve wanted to share something like this for years. Allen, damn, I loved him, but this just wasn’t his thing, and I respect that. He was talented in other areas, but he still supported me and enjoyed being there. You… I love you so much, and I’m so glad that I could share this with you.”

                                      It took Elliott a moment to get himself into place, holding his partner close and wrapping around him almost possessively. He nibbled Lysander’s ear to hear him laugh, then relaxed into the pillow. “I love you as well, my dearest, and I feel contentment and relief in that you are healing and finding yourself again.”
                                       
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                                      • Risukage

                                        Risukage Existential Complex

                                        //I was SO glad to get to this bit in book 1 because not only did it close out that bit of Lys's history and clear things up, but I liked the comments and reactions I got from readers seeing Allen pop up and tell his side of the story. It was interesting to see how they perceived him and events after only knowing Lys's side and how he's dealt with it up to this point. Now, I'm happy to get here because Elliott finally gets to put a face to the name and stories he's heard about. We never did get his opinion on some stuff last time, did we?//


                                        The next few weeks were uneventful, with Lysander contracting Robin (and by proxy, someone specializing in glass work) to repair the greenhouse before winter. Elliott wasn’t completely idle, as he and Charles communicated back and forth to work out particulars for the adaptation; it wasn’t the first time that he’d done this sort of thing, but it was a massive amount of help to have the authors just a phone call away. He promised to send over the script as soon as he was done, but given the length of the book, as well as his duties as a father, it wouldn’t be until late winter at the earliest.

                                        Elliott found the time to assist Lysander with moving what they could into the greenhouse once it was finished, though some things couldn’t be shifted, and would possibly be lost over the winter. However, it wouldn’t be much effort to bring them back in the spring, though Lysander looked rather annoyed at the prospective loss of his sunflowers. The berry bushes, however, were thriving and would definitely last the season, which was a relief, as that had been a bit of a risk for him to take, one that had thankfully already started to pay off. They weren’t the only ones doing well, either, as news of their performance was already gaining momentum, and the band was working out the particulars for another gig some time soon. Things were looking up for everyone.

                                        Then, a few days after the first snow, Lysander and Elliott bundled up at the house for the walk to the saloon, as Alex had something he wanted to tell everyone and therefore celebrate. Seeing the conditions outside, and remembering the fall he’d taken the year previous, Elliott elected to wear the riding boots, knowing he’d want the support and traction, as well as the warmth. Assisting each other with scarves, they zipped and buttoned up their coats and pulled on gloves as they walked outside. The cold didn’t bother Elliott that much, but Lysander clearly didn’t like it one bit, pulling up the hood of his coat with a scowl the moment they stepped outside. Elliott smiled but said nothing, knowing that his partner thrived in the heat and the light, not this shaded, chilled landscape.

                                        They made their way swiftly to the saloon, thankfully without incident, and likewise, Lysander said nothing about Elliott's overly-careful tread, knowing that he didn’t want to have a repeat incident. Greeted by their friends, as they were the last to arrive, they gratefully discarded their outer garments and took the last two chairs at the table. Lysander apologized for their tardiness, as they had elected to walk instead of ride since he still wasn’t comfortable with riding in the snow yet. Alex wasn’t the least bit bothered, smiling fit to burst.

                                        “So, what’s the good news, cousin?” Lysander asked as he pulled over a glass and a pitcher of beer, “something special come up?”

                                        Almost unable to contain his glee, Alex held his glass in both hands, sweeping the table with an ear-splitting smile. “I got accepted to the gridball team at university. I’m going pro, bro!”

                                        The saloon was suddenly filled with joyous noise. Apparently he’d not yet mentioned this to anyone, as Haley got up to hug him, bouncing with delight.

                                        “So that’s the call you were so excited about, sweetie!” she gasped, kissing his cheek, “oh wow, I am so happy for you!” Sebastian and Sam offered their congratulations, despite having no interest in the sport, but at least showing their support for their friend and his success.

                                        Lysander’s expression mirrored the athlete’s. “That is brilliant, you’ve busted your arse for months getting ready and it’s paid off,” he smiled, genuinely pleased for him, “proper nifty, Alex, I’m really proud of you.”

                                        Taking a satisfied drink, Alex looked ready to float away, buoyed by glee. “You’re the one that inspired me to try again and chase my dream. Thanks, I owe you.”

                                        With a theatrical, careless wave, Lysander leaned back in his chair and drank his entire glass at once. “Eh, you saved my life earlier this year, consider the debt paid.”

                                        Conversation was loud and enthusiastic for several minutes, and Elliott listened quietly, enjoying vicariously everyone’s happiness. He’d never before been in such lively company before and felt so welcome. He was happy to sit back and simply be there. This was lovely, and he sipped at his beer as he listened in on everyone’s conversations. Then, the door opened, letting in a tendril of cold, making him shiver.

                                        He glanced up to see someone he’d never seen before; he was tall, but not quite as much as he or Lysander was, of an average build with short black hair that could definitely use the attention of a hairbrush, as the time spent doing that must have gone into carefully trimming his close-cut beard and mustache. He adjusted glasses with large, black frames that nearly obscured gentle green eyes, and in doing so, he looked around the people seated at the table, but only half of them had noticed his arrival and scrutiny. Then, he saw Lysander, and his face lit up as he sighed with relief.

                                        “Lys, it is you! It’s been a while!”

                                        Before Elliott could query either of them as to how or if they knew each other, he saw his partner freeze and drop his empty glass; his back had been to the door, so he had not yet seen the other man, but clearly he recognized the voice. At first Elliott thought his partner’s surprise was pleasant, but the flash of rage that immediately consumed the copper-haired man scared him, and he was therefore unable to prevent him from rising out of his chair, charging the person who had addressed him, grabbing him by the collar, and forcibly slamming him against the wall.

                                        “YOU UNBELIEVABLE BASTARD!”

                                        Shocked and horrified, Elliott was unable to move, having no idea of what to do or if he should even interfere. Alex felt no such hesitation and got up to dart around the table, grab his cousin by the arm, drag him away, and twist that arm behind his back. Lysander gasped, as this maneuver clearly hurt, but it did nothing to dampen his ire.

                                        “Cuz, the hell!” Alex asked, looking between Lysander and the man he’d pulled him off of, “what’s gotten into you?”

                                        To everyone’s surprise, that sort of assault would have terrified anyone, but the newcomer looked sad more than anything else. “Lys… I… I came here to talk.”

                                        Snarling with rage, Lysander glared at him with unfiltered hate. “You don’t have anything worth listening to,” he hissed, still resisting against Alex despite the pain, “last time I tried to talk to you I woke up on the kitchen floor covered in my own blood.”

                                        This outburst caused Alex to accidentally release him, and Lysander winced and rubbed his shoulder as he stood up, but made no move to lunge forward again. Looking between his partner and the new arrival, Elliott realized immediately who he was. “You are Allen, correct?” he asked, and the other man smiled again.

                                        “Yes, he’s told you about me?”

                                        “They all know about you,” Lysander snapped, “and all about you. We’re done, you made that very clear before.”

                                        “No!” Allen interjected, holding up his hands, “Lys, wait, it was a misunderstanding-“

                                        Really!” interrupted Lysander, causing everyone to prepare to intervene again, “what part of ‘you’re easy and I don’t like men’ is a misunderstanding?”

                                        Allen looked quite distraught and tried to get in a word edgewise. “That’s not what I meant-“

                                        “Then what did you mean?” Lysander demanded, getting louder and angrier, “because it was pretty obvious that you didn’t want me in your life anymore.”

                                        “I never said that!”

                                        Elliott felt torn and hurt; he wanted to go to Lysander to calm him, yet he wanted to stand between him and his former lover, knowing that this was only going to escalate badly. His indecision meant that someone else stepped in, but he was glad for it, because he was at a loss for how to help.

                                        “Dude…” Glaring at Sam, Lysander looked extremely displeased that his friend had wedged himself into the argument with just one, quiet word. The blonde man was unusually introspective, and was looking into his empty glass as though it would provide him inspiration. “As someone who screws up a lot, and most of the time on purpose, I can tell when someone wants to make things right. And few things hurt more than not being able to. Just…” He looked up and met Lysander’s gaze, cool blue to the burning hazel. “Please chill out a sec and hear him out, okay?”

                                        Elliott stood and walked around the table to his partner, who while still angry, held the reins on his fury for the moment. For a moment Elliott was worried that he’d pull away when he went to put his arms around him from behind, but was relieved that while he remained tense, he didn’t make any effort to break free. Biting his lip, Elliott had no words prepared and was worried that he’d say exactly the wrong thing, but spoke anyway, knowing that Lysander needed to hear something. He needed to provide that love and support he needed, even though he was completely at a loss as to how to do so.

                                        “Dear, I realize that you were hurt in so many ways, but do not forget that it cuts both ways,” he said, pulling him a bit closer, “you need this closure as well, and you know it. Listen, talk, reconcile. If not for him then for me, because it hurts more than I can express to see you suffer over your past like this.”

                                        He felt so selfish and terrible for saying that, but it was true; he felt an awful, gnawing ache in his gut over this, knowing what had been told to him and having a fairly good idea of how Lysander would push away his former companion. Or worse. His heart drummed in his ears for a moment in the tense silence that followed, and he exhaled gratefully when Lysander gave a sharp nod of assent. Elliott stepped away and watched his partner very nearly storm away to lean against the wall, very firmly staring at the floor as he folded his arms across his chest.

                                        Allen seemed to share Elliott’s concern and glanced over at him, having guessed that he was Lysander’s new companion. This silent, respectful query eased a bit of Elliott’s tension, and he offered the other man a warm smile and a nod, gesturing for him to go to talk with Lysander. This smile was definitely for Allen, however, as he himself did not feel that same confidence and reassurance. He took his seat again, his back to the other two men, and held his glass in both hands, trying not to listen in too intently, but at the same time, their conversation was public.

                                        Unsure of how or where to start, Allen sighed with frustration. “I didn’t want you to leave, and it’s not that I didn’t love you, it’s that… It changed. I changed.”

                                        Lysander didn’t sound the least bit moved. “That’s a roundabout way of saying you’re not interested.”

                                        “I’m not not-interested-“ Allen began, “that is, I’m not uninterested.. Damn it, Lys…”

                                        The black-haired man sighed deeply and began again. He had always loved Lysander, but though for the longest time he was certain that it was romantic, after awhile he realized that it wasn’t, but he still cared for him, a love to which he couldn’t put the right name. Despite his internal conflict he was happy and enjoyed the time that he spent with him, and upon returning from their long absence, was glad to resume their relationship. Yes, he did still love him, but he couldn’t describe it then, and he still couldn’t now. Further, his parents weren’t comfortable with same-gendered relationships, and he was worried about them discovering what he had with Lysander and driving something between them.

                                        Elliott must have looked particularly downcast, because a gentle touch from Sam on his arm made him jump. He didn’t realize that the musician could actually be supportive like that, and his warm smile was more reassuring than he’d expected. He returned the smile and took a sip from his glass, returning his attention to the dialogue behind him, morbidly curious, but at the same time, eager to know the other side of the story that had so scarred his partner.

                                        Busy with his courses, Allen didn’t have the time he wanted to spend with Lysander, and in their time apart, began hearing disquieting rumors about him. He didn’t believe such things, but at the same time, it wasn’t malicious, it was simply spoken as fact, as though it were a thing that was simply commonly known. Unsure of how to bring this up with him, he avoided him, knowing that it wasn’t the right thing to do, but had no idea of what he should do, and the longer it went on the more worried he got. He knew that he should have trusted and respected him enough to have said something, but at the same time it was because of how close they were that he hesitated.

                                        Eventually, he made up his mind to say something, to come out and come clean to Lysander about everything that had happened and everything that was on his mind. He had prepared something, with everything that needed to be said. He’d worked up his courage and was going to talk to him late one afternoon. …Only to have Lysander publicly and angrily confront him hours earlier than he had expected. It all went wrong; he completely forgot his “script,” and kept messing up everything he tried to say. They both got angry, then they got loud, and they both lost their temper. Finally, Lysander lashed out, knocking him to the ground, and the friends of theirs that had gathered fought him back. This had been a horrible series of mistakes, as though it might have been salvaged despite Allen being hit, once Lysander had been struck all sense went out the window. He had got to his feet as quickly as he could and pursued Lysander, assuming that he’d go to his apartment like he always did when he needed to be by himself.

                                        Elliott’s grip on his glass tightened, knowing what had happened next, and felt the knot in his stomach grow tighter. The tense silence around the table was proof that he wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to hear this portion of the story again. Allen clearly didn’t want to tell it, either, as he went silent for a moment, and when he spoke again, he was almost too quiet to hear.

                                        He wasn’t certain how far behind he’d been, likely only a couple of minutes, but that had been just enough time… They heard a muffled sob as the story paused again, and Elliott’s knuckles went white around his glass. Allen had found him in the kitchen, still holding the red-stained knife and not responding to anything he did. He had called for help to arrive while he did what he could to staunch the bleeding, and Elliott put a hand over his mouth and blinked back the burn of tears. Oh gods, he had wondered who had summoned medical aid, but Lysander hadn’t said who, and he’d never asked. He could only imagine how Allen had felt at that moment, seeing his lover and friend like that, having chosen oblivion over pain.

                                        Again, he felt Sam’s touch on his wrist, and he nodded in thanks, not trusting himself to say anything without breaking down. He wasn’t the only one, as Allen sounded moments away from tears himself, especially once he recalled that Lysander had briefly awoken, only to tell the medics to let him die. It was the last that he saw of him until now, having fled to somewhere else after hearing those words and knowing that he had been the one to cause them. When he had heard that Lysander had survived but not contacted him, he assumed that he had wanted to cut ties entirely and therefore didn’t reach out to him himself.

                                        However, when he had found out that not only was he doing well but part of a new band that was to play in the city, he had to come and see for himself if it was him and how he was doing. He felt relief that Lysander not only was well after all, but thriving, and enjoyed the entire set. But the final piece, the song that Lysander’s grandfather had taught him, which Lysander had played for him so often was too much for him. He had to leave, but it also stirred within him the resolve to find him and try to make amends. Even if he couldn’t gain Lysander’s forgiveness, he at the least needed to lift the burden of guilt from himself and reached out just this once, even if it was the last.

                                        “I’m sorry for snapping at you like I did,” he said, his voice shaking, “I don’t blame you one bit for hitting me, and if you want to do it again I won’t stop you. I deserve it. I just…Lys?”

                                        Elliott looked up and turned around, hearing the concern in Allen’s voice, and saw that Lysander’s entire posture and demeanor had changed; where earlier he was holding back from lashing out, now it was tears that he held back. Shrinking away from Allen, Lysander looked devastated, having heard the other side of the story and everything that it implied and meant. Without thinking, Elliott got up to go to him just as Allen did the same; despite their own pain their first reaction was to try to comfort him first!

                                        Seeing this, Lysander fled, ducking away from both of them, but didn’t see the obstacle of a chair in his path, which sent him sprawling. Once more he was too swift and scrambled to his feet to run outside.

                                        “Lysander!” Elliott called, then grabbed his coat. “Damn it, I was afraid of that, I’ll go and bring him back.” He looked up at Allen as he buttoned his coat as quickly as he could. “Please, have a seat. Sam, get him a glass. Alex, tell Gus that I’ll cover whatever he wants.” Curiously, everyone obeyed without further prodding, and he somehow didn’t feel strange at not only taking charge like this but doing so with confidence and the knowledge that they would listen.

                                        Allen walked over but didn’t sit down yet, still worried. “What happened?” he asked as he glanced out the still-open door while Elliott put on his scarf, “I thought he was angry and hated me, but he just ran off.” A horrifying thought came to mind and he turned back to Elliott. “…He’s not going to do anything...?”

                                        Putting on his gloves, Elliott shook his head. “He ran because he thought that you hated him, and because he now fully knows the pain that he has caused to you.” He picked up Lysander’s gear and paused at the door. “Again, please, sit and be among friends. I shall return as swiftly as I can.”

                                        He closed the door behind himself as he strode quickly into the snow, following the fresh tracks that led south.

                                        Light, don’t let me be wrong. I know that he is strong, that he has recovered and grown so much, but that wound never healed and now it has been ripped wide and made to bleed. I trust him, but at the same time I know him, and it is that fear that chills me more than ice ever could.
                                         
                                          Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
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                                        • Risukage

                                          Risukage Existential Complex

                                          //In which Lysander has realized exactly what happened back then and questions everything about himself, and Elliott continues to be awesome and knows exactly what to say.//


                                          Lysander’s tracks were distinctive enough; there was no mistaking the tread of those boots or the length of his running stride. There were few other sets of tracks out, as the snow was fresh enough, but Elliott was no tracker, and in his haste to follow he worried about following the wrong path. He also wasn’t a runner and quickly felt the burn of fatigue smolder in his chest even as the icy air clawed at his throat. His pragmatism in wearing boots that day made his trek much faster and safer, though he still picked his route carefully; though he had seen no sign of stumbling or sliding about in the icy conditions, that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t fall. The trail still led south, to the river and the ocean and…

                                          No. Stop that. Just follow the trail, wherever it leads, he can’t have gone far… I hope…

                                          That hope held out, and he exhaled a ragged sigh of relief to see Lysander, staring out over the river on the bridge. He slowed to a trot, then a walk, but still went to him as quickly as he could. “Lysander! Dearest!”

                                          There was no response at first, then a sad smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “…I don’t deserve either of you…” Finally having reached him, Elliott had almost missed his comment, and asked what he had meant. “I’m such a damn, stupid idiot,” Lysander whispered, somehow not bothered by the cold, “I rush into everything without thinking. I never think, I just do things and screw them up.”

                                          He devolved into a litany of self-recrimination, lamenting that he should have waited, talked to Allen in private, and kept a leash on his temper. More so than anything else, he regretted striking him, and he knew even then that he should have attempted to contact him once he had been discharged from the hospital, but he hadn’t. Elliott listened quietly, as though he agreed with his statements, he did not agree with the way in which he was handling his grief.

                                          “He was my oldest and best friend, we did and shared everything together. And I threw it all away from one little misunderstanding, because I’m too stupid to wait and listen. I hurt him so much, which he never deserved, and I hate myself for it.” Setting his jaw firmly, Elliott back a remark and patiently waited for his partner to continue, though he began to worry for his health. “All of the pain I’ve carried this year has been of my own doing. I don’t deserve love or happiness, I’ll just destroy it all anyway…”

                                          This offended and infuriated Elliott, and almost without thinking he yanked off one glove, pulled back, and slapped Lysander across the face with all of the strength he could muster. This was completely unexpected, and the sound of the strike was loud enough to almost echo, causing Lysander’s legs to buckle under him and send him sprawling on his back. It was impulsive and done out of short-sighted anger, but for the moment, Elliott’s blood ran hot, and it was his turn to lose his temper.

                                          “So my love for you means nothing?” he snarled, and Lysander gave him a look of awed bafflement, looking up at him from flat on his back on the bridge.

                                          “What? No! I didn’t-“

                                          “Does the devotion and care that I feel for you make me a fool, then?” Elliott snapped, close to shouting, “you would discard everything that we have and are, everything that we have done, out of self-recrimination and pity?”

                                          Sitting up, Lysander waved his hands at him, trying to smooth things over. “Love, no, that’s-! …You’re right. I’m the one being foolish,” he sighed, giving him an apologetic smile, “I’m falling back into bad habits. Thanks, I needed that.”

                                          It was Elliott’s turn to feel remorse as he helped his partner to his feet. He shouldn’t have done that! “Are you hurt, my dear?” he asked, putting a hand to Lysander’s face to check for any bruising, “my apologies, I did not realize that I had that level of strength when my ire had been invoked.”

                                          Strangely, Lysander seemed to actually be proud of him for that, and shook his head as he put a hand over the one on his face. “I already said it, I needed that. It stings, both ways, but you were right- are right and I had that coming. I didn’t mean to denigrate you or your feelings. Sorry love.” They both felt better for airing their thoughts together, but Elliott’s concern suddenly manifested when Lysander gasped and hugged himself, eyes wide with realization. “Bloody hell, how did I not notice this until now?” he hissed, reaching for his coat, “it’s freezing out.”

                                          Elliott helped him with donning his coat and garments, as the cold had finally taken effect, and Lysander’s hands were suddenly clumsy. Once Elliott had secured his partner’s scarf he put his glove back on, seeing that Lysander had done the same and was rubbing his hands together. He pulled his partner against him, providing mental and physical support, and Lysander sighed again as he rested his forehead against Elliott’s, trying to find his center.

                                          “Allen and I both screwed up here. We’re both to blame,” he remarked, no longer sounding dejected, but still rueful.

                                          Elliott squeezed him in a gentle hug, echoing his sigh. “There is no blame to assign. However, you both have responsibility for it.”

                                          Thinking about this, Lysander nodded and chuckled. “Heh, yeah, you’re right. Twice in one day.”

                                          Further relieved that things had been resolved, Elliott suggested that they return to the saloon before everyone worried about them. This was met with no resistance at all, as Lysander was still quite cold, and took the other man’s hand as they walked back. For a minute or two they were silent, then he chuckled once more.

                                          “You really are something special, love.” Elliott looked over at him and made an inquisitive noise, which received a warm smile. “You’re the first person to take a swing at me and not set me off. I’ve always had a short fuse and a hot temper, and for as long as I can remember I always got into fights ‘cause someone insulted me or a friend, or outright took a swing at me, and every damn time I’d get into a scuffle and come home such a mess. But this time… I felt like such a total asshole ‘cause you’re such a sweetie and so mellow, and I’d done something so dumb that you were hurt enough to thump my dumb ass. First time that’s ever happened.”

                                          Elliott looked a bit downcast and squeezed his hand. “That is true, but I still lashed out at you, my dear. I lacked the discipline and self-control necessary to handle the situation in a mature fashion. I understand exactly why… Back then, all of it, I…”

                                          Sighing again, Lysander stopped and hugged him around the waist, nuzzling his ear as he smiled. “Love, don’t ever apologize for that, ever. I’m glad you did that, that you have the temerity and drive to not only call me out when I’m being a dumbass, but to knock me on my dumb ass when I need it the most. Do you have any idea how great it feels having a partner that isn’t afraid to knock some sense into me? I’m strong enough, I can take it. Now and then I need a bit of a swat and that’s not a bad thing. Thank you for being able to do that for me.”

                                          “But…” Elliott squeezed him tighter, wrapping a lock of Lysander’s hair around his fingers. “You cannot do the same to or for me. I am not as strong or resilient, and I am certain that should you use your full strength I would be greatly injured. Thus, I cannot hit you because you cannot hit back with the same results.”

                                          “Shut up.”

                                          “I-“

                                          Lysander kissed him softly and laughed, tugging his hair playfully. “No, I am not having any of that. You aren’t the dingus that can’t be arsed to pay attention or think things through. And you know what? You are so much stronger than you let you think you are, in so many ways. No,” he said, putting a finger to Elliott’s lips when he was about to protest, “I’ve seen you change, love. I remember when we first met, and I saw you grow since then. You’ve always been strong.” His smile softened further, and he traced his fingers down his partner’s cheek. “You’ve always been kind and thoughtful. You didn’t talk much to people before I got here, but from what I gathered, they thought well of you, and a few were even a bit worried about you.”

                                          He had no reason to disbelieve Lysander, but at the same time it felt difficult to believe. …Wait, why? Why did he always doubt himself? Hadn’t this entire year been proof otherwise? Wasn’t the man that loved him, here and now, wholly and unconditionally, complete proof that he had no reason for those doubts? He laughed and blinked back tears as he hugged Lysander fiercely, digging his fingers into his back.

                                          “You are right, my dearest. It feels strange to think well of myself, but only because I refused to let myself accept my success. It is… It is as though I am stretching long-unused muscles. They hurt and ache, but there is also a sense of relief and satisfaction in their use again. Thank you, dearest, once more you illuminate a path I never knew existed.”

                                          The laughter from the copper-haired man was bright and warm, and it made Elliott smile, as it always did. “How did we survive without each other for this long?”

                                          It was Elliott’s turn to kiss him now, feeling much better for the conversation. “We very nearly didn’t. We were broken and damaged, drifting aimlessly and bleeding from wounds never healed. We were the salve and bandages to each other’s soul that we didn’t realize we needed. Or deserved.” He saw that Lysander was looking much warmer, the color having returned to his cheeks. “Well, let us continue our trek back. Although… Shall I talk to Allen first, or-“

                                          “No. Sorry, didn’t mean to cut you off, but no, I need to do this. He…” Lysander almost seemed on the verge of tears, and so quickly after recovering. “He deserves to hear everything from me. I screwed up so badly, and it’s my responsibility to fix everything. Besides, he took the risk to track me down and apologize, even after this time and all that happened. I… I still love him, but… I still don’t quite know what kind it is. I just want him back, y’know? I remember all of our good times and even our bad times, and gods, just… Twenty years, love, you can’t just throw that away. But…”

                                          Elliott put his arms around his partner’s shoulders, stroking his hair. “But at the same time you fear that one moment of miscommunication and pain has completely dashed any hopes for reconciliation, yes?”

                                          “Yeah… It’s…”

                                          “Turn it around.” Lysander gave him an odd look but said nothing, waiting for him to continue. “Exactly that, dear. Switch places. Had he been the one to strike you and run, to attempt to take his own life and then run away, severing all communication, what would you have thought and done? Would you have had the courage to attempt to try to speak to him again? Let’s assume that you did, and the scenario played out as it did just now. You opened up and confessed everything, laid your soul bare and did so without the expectation of forgiveness and the chance to start again, only the hope of it. Then he ran once more, but because he saw the pain that he had caused you without realizing it and couldn’t handle the guilt of it. What would you want him to do?”

                                          Nodding, Lysander sighed and sagged into him. “I’d want him to come back, so I could tell him it’s not his fault, that I want us to be…friends again. That I miss him and want things to be the way they were before, when we were happy.”

                                          Kissing his forehead, Elliott gave Lysander a supportive smile. “It looks like you know exactly what you want to say.”

                                          “Mm, yeah.” He took a deep, calming breath, and squared his shoulders. “I’m taking responsibility. I’m going to make this right. I’m not running anymore, ever again. From now on I deal with things upfront and head on. Although… I’m still not strong enough to do it alone. I… I don’t need you next to me, but I still want you there.”

                                          Elliott’s hug nearly took Lysander’s breath away. “You will never be alone again, my dear, I will always be at your side, and even when I cannot be physically present know that you will always have my love. I am your partner, don’t ever forget that.”

                                          Sniffing a little, Lysander blinked back tears as he buried his face in Elliott’s scarf. “How do you always know exactly what to say?”

                                          “Because you are my muse, and thus you are my inspiration.”
                                           
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