Other [FanFic] Rose & Sunflower: The Music Within (Updates MWF) -Ch 64/64 [30 September] -COMPLETE-

Discussion in 'Fan Works' started by Risukage, May 7, 2016.

  1. Gabaw

    Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

    It's understandable that you might second guess yourself on a difficult topic such as this being in the position that you're in. As a second opinion, I can't find any fault with the way you did it. "Dying is easy. It’s living that’s hard." Amen to that. You did take the harder path of writing a real, actual story so you inherited the work that comes with it. The payoff is something pretty damn good imo so :p Maybe don't be too hard on yourself.
    • Risukage

      Risukage Giant Laser Beams

      //Day three of my sabbatical and I just barely got this done in time. I blame the holiday. :p Something fun is coming up on Friday, but today Lys gets to know a friend a bit better and ask a few favors from others. Still quite pleased how I've been able to weave in nearly everyone's (that's relevant) heart events and make it work plausibly within this setting. Maybe this isn't rubbish after all. :D Hugs for all of you lovely people who continue to get a kick out of this, and thanks again for reading. ...Okay, fine, and hugs for those of you who don't, too. :)//

      Light help me, it’s everywhere… His hands shook as he stared at himself, covered in red, and noticed-

      I’m still holding it, no! Why? Why won’t you let me-

      He woke up with a jolt, dislodging Xander, who jumped off of the bed and shot him a dirty look before composure grooming. Blood pumped in his ears as he tried to calm his breathing, still trembling from the memory of…

      Shit… I haven’t had that nightmare in months. Why now? ...No, I know why. Damn it. Damn ME.

      He scrubbed a hand through hair slightly damp with sweat and sagged, feeling the empty relief of consciousness erasing the terror of sleep.

      I won’t let it happen again. I am the blade, but he also needs a shield…

      It was a warmer morning than it had been, but still cool enough to warrant the full jacket and pants, which Lys wore zipped up as he walked into the plaza. Alex looked up from his stretching and grinned.

      “Hey, cuz, ready to- Are you okay? You look really serious this morning.” Lys didn’t respond immediately, focusing on a distant object as he arranged his thoughts.

      “Do you remember when we first met?”

      “It’s hard not to, especially since I was reminded of it yesterday.”

      “If that happens again will you win?”

      “This is a pretty twisted joke and it’s not very funny.”

      “It isn’t a joke, and it’s not meant to be. I ask you in all seriousness, that if I, as you said yesterday, ‘go feral,’ can you stop me?” Alex looked him up and down, trying to find the ‘tell’ that would let him in on the joke, and set his jaw in determination as he realized that there was none. He put his hands in his pockets and considered Lys’s query.

      “I don’t know. I really don’t.”

      “That’s not the answer I need, Alex.”

      “That’s the only one I have! What the hell is this all about? You got weird overnight.”

      “I’m not a bad person, but I don’t think I’m a good one, either. I’m dangerous. I’m wild and unstable and not strong enough to control it. I’m trying to be something better, but I’m still too weak. I’m a threat to our friends. To Elliott. I need you to be ready to protect him in case…” His fists clenched as he dismissed the thoughts that followed. “I can’t explain it, not now, and I hate to ask, but you’re the only one strong enough. Promise me that you’ll look out for him.” Alex was silent, and didn’t look at Lys for a minute while he thought, and finally nodded.

      “You’re family. You love him. I’ll watch out for him, too.”

      “That’s all I can ask for now. Thank you.” Alex continued to study him with a level of introspection that Lys didn’t expect but was glad to see.

      “This isn’t new, this is old. And either you’ve been hiding it really well or something changed recently. What are you?”

      “....Damaged. Let’s go, we’re burning daylight.”

      That afternoon Lys returned to the beach like he always did when the band wasn’t practicing. As he crossed the bridge he saw Sam and Vincent out by the water, as Sam stared at the ocean while Vincent built a very lopsided sand castle.

      “Hey, Sam, how goes it? Watching Vincent for a bit before Penny picks him up for tutoring?” Sam looked up and waved.

      “Yeah, Vincent wanted to play out in the sun for a while and it’s a nice day out, so mom told us to pop out here until Penny takes him to the library.” Lys noticed that Sam wasn’t the grinning, energetic person he usually was, and his lips quirked in a quick, self-recriminating smile.

      I’m not the only one that’s particularly somber today. And today is sunny and warm, too, such a strange atmosphere for this atmosphere. He sat down next to Sam and brushed a bit of sand off of himself.

      “What’s on your mind? You look worried.”

      “I never told you about dad, did I?”

      “No, you haven’t. Is he?...”

      “I don’t know what’s going on. He’s a Soldier, fighting in the war. I haven’t seen him in over a year, and it’s been months since we heard from him. I’m trying to be the man of the man of the house and look out for mom and Vincent while he’s gone, but I don’t know if he’s… I don’t want to have to give up everything I’m working on now, on my future, but if dad never comes home…” Lys felt the pain of sympathy for his friend, not quite sure what to say. He had forgotten that there was a war on, being insulated from it by distance and not following the news coverage.

      First Alex, and now Sam. And the way that Sebastian talks about Demetrius... Am I the only one here who isn’t having issues with their father?

      “No news has to be good news, right? If something bad had happened they’d say something. As it is, maybe he’s in a place that he can’t easily get out a letter, or he doesn’t want anyone to worry.”

      “That’s what I thought, but I still just dunno. And I don’t know what to tell Vincent. I don’t want to lie to him or give him false hope, but I also don’t want to make him worry, too. I don’t know what to do for mom, either. She’s trying to be strong but I know that she’s hurting worse than either of us. He always brought us here on sunny days, and I’m scared that it’ll never happen again.”

      “I don’t think I can help any, Sam, I’m sorry. I don’t know anyone who serves and I don’t know what the fighting is like over there. I can’t give you any comfort or advice.” Vincent had overheard them and now looked in their direction, head tilted in thought.

      “The news said that there are lots of people getting hurt over there. Dad is coming home someday, right?” Lys saw Sam choke on an answer, and put on a smile and stepped in for his friend.

      “Of course he is. He can’t be gone forever, can he? Just be positive and do the best you can so he can be proud of you.” Vincent beamed, satisfied with the answer, and returned to sculpting his sandy structure.

      “Dude, what are you doing?” Sam whispered so his brother wouldn’t hear, “I don’t want to lie to him, but I don’t want to get his hopes up, either.”

      “I didn’t lie. Technically, your dad will come home someday, I just didn’t say how.” Sam didn’t understand at first, but as realization dawned he ground his teeth and gripped his jacket as he hugged himself, trying to keep it together.

      “I hate that you’re right, but you are right. It’s just so hard... I’m strong not like you, and sometimes I act out because if I don’t I’ll just go crazy. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

      “I’m not as strong as you think I am. I’ve done some stuff I’m not proud of, and I’m just good at putting on a mask. But I think you’ll be okay. I’m here if you need it.”

      “Yeah, one of these days… Thanks.” Lys sighed and leaned back on his hands behind him, flashing a smile as he changed the subject.

      “Well, I do have some news that should cheer you up.” Sam glanced over at his friend, wondering what he was up to.

      “Oh? What’s that?”

      “Nothing much. I just talked to the mayor today and convinced him to let us provide the music for the luau this month. You know, since we need to learn how to perform for a live audience and all. Since it’s here on the beach we can shift Elliott’s piano out here without much trouble, and we’ve got enough experience with the sound equipment that it’ll be a great test run.” Sam’s eyes slowly widened until they were nearly as wide as saucers, and they were only eclipsed by the broad grin that connected both ears as he lunged over to hug Lys around the waist like he usually did, and like he usually did, almost knocked the wind out of the taller man as he sent them both sprawling into the sand.

      “You! You are amazing! This is going to be great!” Vincent paused again in his earthen construction.

      “What’s amazing?”

      “This guy,” Sam laughed, messing up Lys’s hair with a sudden burst of energy, “this is what amazing looks like. We’re gonna perform at the luau, Vincent!”

      “You’re a rock star now?”

      “Not yet, but we will be, soon. If we make it big I’m gonna find a way to pay you back a million times over, dude.”

      When we make it big I’ll just be happy to see you achieve your dreams. Everyone here has given me something to fight for and protect, and I’ll just be satisfied to everyone succeed.” He disentangled himself from Sam and stood up, dusting and shaking off sand from nearly everywhere. “I’m off now, you two have fun.” Sam saw the direction Lys was headed and his irreverent grin returned.

      “Sounds like you’ve got fun planned of your own.”

      “Actually I do. And it involves his hands,” Lys grinned back with a wink, “see you tomorrow.” As he approached the cabin he heard piano music and laughed to himself at the memory of their first meeting.

      He’s gotten so much better since then, and it’s mostly due to confidence. I think I’ll take a bit of pride in knowing that I’m a source of that. He let himself inside and unslung Resonance as Elliott turned on the piano bench, pausing in the middle of his song.

      “Ah! Lysander, it’s good to see you.”

      That smile, it belongs only to me, and I want to see it every day. Propping Resonance against the table, he sat down next to Elliott and brushed his cheek with a light peck.

      “Hey love, you sounded good on the way in.”

      “That’s because you inspire me to greatness.” Elliott put an arm around his shoulders and pulled him in for more than just a peck, tracing the fingers of his other hand slowly down Lys's cheek to his shoulder.

      If I ever tire of this then I am tired of living.

      “We can continue that later, but for now, I was wondering if I could ask you a favor,” Lys remarked, leaning into him as he played a slow, ascending scale with one hand.

      “If it is within my ability I will make it happen.”

      “Do you think you’d be able to teach me piano? I kinda know the basics, and I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember, but I never picked this up, and I’d like to.” Elliott's smile somehow became even warmer than before.

      “I would be delighted to be able to share this with you.”
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      • Risukage

        Risukage Giant Laser Beams

        //So wow, I made up for nearly being late with Wednesday's update by making this one so long that it got split into two separate chapters, so Monday's update is already over half done. Go me. Getting my literary mojo back, as well as an artistic one, so apparently what I needed to jump-start my creativity was to be out of a job. ...OMG, I'm one of those out-of-work artists. AUGH! :p

        Also, I want to clarify from Monday's post in that I know what Alex's story is like in that I also lost my mom years ago. I'm on great terms with my dad, and his surprise 60th birthday party a few years is one of those memories I'll happily keep forever. I just realized that my remarks may have been a bit ambiguous, and for whatever reason, felt the need to set the record straight. *Shrug.* Anyway, here's an inspirational chapter, and I'm quite happy with it, because I genuinely miss performing (both music and theater), and this gave me a moment to live vicariously again those memories. Damn, even a karaoke night would hit the spot, even though I'd have to listen to everyone else as well just to be polite. :D//

        Two weeks later Lysander was on the bridge between town and the beach. Quite literally, as he stood upon the railing, balanced on one foot, the toe of his other shoe tucked behind for further stability. Closing his eyes, he relaxed just so, and with the breeze from the ocean and the sound of the river, for a moment he felt like he was floating… He enjoyed this sensation and the soft warmth of summer’s early afternoon until he heard Elliott approach.

        “Please come down from there, dear, it worries me.” Lys gave him his cheekiest grin and tucked his thumbs in his belt, continuing to maintain complete balance on the edge.

        “I’m just fine up here, see?”

        Dear,” Elliott pressed, offering a hand. Sighing with good humor, Lys leaned down and put his hands on Elliott’s shoulders for support as he hopped off, which allowed him to transition to a playful hug once he had both feet firmly on the bridge.

        “Fine, there, I’m down. Looking forward to tonight?”

        “More than I had expected, actually. It is strange, I do not find myself apprehensive about performing for an audience. Rather, I anticipate the opportunity.”

        “You sound like a proper musician, then,” Lys giggled, hugging him again before taking his hand and heading out to the beach, “once Alex gets here we can get the piano shifted outside. I wonder how Sam is holding up, too, he looked so excited and terrified at the same time last night.”

        “Hopefully better than the mayor, as he seems quite nervous about the local governor visiting. Which is considerably generous of him allowing us to perform tonight. It appears that he hopes our performance will give the governor a good impression of the town.”

        “And it’s excellent word-of-mouth advertising. This is going to be so great for everyone. And it’s been so long since I was on stage, I’ve missed performing for others. I’m going to have a great time tonight.”

        “I must say, I was surprised to hear part of your proposal. Your knowledge of dance is greater than I had initially surmised.”

        “Well, I’m surprised that for as traditional as this place is they don’t perform that one here, especially for a summer festival with music and dancing. I mean, they do the spring one, why not any others? Maybe I’ll start the tradition myself. Are you sure that you don’t want to join me?”

        “Thank you, but no. My current confidence for performance is limited solely to that of a musical nature.”

        “Aww, maybe sometime later. Oh, there’s Alex. Hey, cousin! Ready to be amazing tonight?” Alex strolled up and greeted Lys with a ruffling of his hair (apparently something that everyone did now!) and a clap on the back for Elliott.

        “Damn right I am, I’m gonna make you guys sound great. Let’s get that piano moved and we’ll take the truck back to the community center; everyone else is packing and stacking there.”

        Moving and assembling everything took much less time than it had the first time at the community center, giving them ample time to tune and balance everything. For a more professional and coordinated look, Lys had suggested that they wear something similar to what he usually did; neutral colors with a splash of something bright. This would somewhat reflect the band name as well, so they voted for black as a base, and everyone chose a color of jacket or shirt to wear over it; Sam picked yellow, while Lys and Elliott (naturally) reached for red and blue respectively, most of Abigail’s wardrobe was black and violet anyway, and somewhere in the back of his closet Sebastian had found a dark green short-sleeved hoodie. Lys went over the set list one last time with Sam to check for length and content, and laughed cheerfully at his friend’s state of enthusiastic terror.

        “Relax, mate! We’ve worked on all of this for weeks, we’ve got it. And it’s a good, high-energy playlist, like Lewis asked for, so channel that energy where it’s needed. As well as a couple of optional slower tunes, just in case, so don’t rush those if we’re asked for them. Just take a few deep breaths and chill.”

        “I dunno how you do this, dude,” Sam replied, wiping away sweat that was not caused by the heat, “this is always what I wanted to do, but now that it’s happening I’m just… How do you do this?” Lys smiled and laughed again, shrugging expressively.

        “Damn if I know how, it’s just how I am. I’ve been on a stage or performing for as long as I can remember, so times like these are where I really come alive. It’s just natural by now.”

        “You have no fear, do you? Well, except for spiders. But how are spiders worse than getting up and playing and dancing for people? I mean, damn, you are wired in a weird way.”

        “You’ll be fine. You’ve got the personality and drive for this sort of thing, you just need the confidence. I’ll step in tonight if you need me to, but otherwise I’m just the bassist, and you’re the lead and the face of the band. This is your project.”

        “It’s yours, too. If you hadn’t come along and given us a shove we’d still be goofing around in my room with nothing to show for it.” He took the advice as well as a deep breath, held it, and exhaled slowly. “Okay, I’m good. Let’s do this.”

        As the light faded to evening the town arrived for the festival, and there was no small amount of gossip and conjecture about the source of the musical entertainment for that evening. Usually a DJ or the like would be brought in, but live entertainment was a first for as long as anyone could remember. Humming to himself in good spirits, Lys checked a few final settings and went around to everyone, offering words and a touch of encouragement and support, which had a noticeable effect on the morale of the group. He had too much tact to say anything, but Lys could tell that even Sebastian was slightly rattled, despite his indifferent and calm exterior.

        “And we’re live,” he grinned, nudging Sam, “nearly everyone is here. Take the mic, and your future. The time is now.” Swallowing a lump of fear, Sam took another deep breath and stepped up to the microphone in front of him.

        “H- Hi, everyone,” he started, and jumped at the sound of his voice amplified over the sands. The whispering and chatter of the crowd subsided a bit as attention now focused on the band. He froze at the sea of faces turned in his direction, but found his confidence as he heard Lys humming to himself, a sound that only Sam could hear. Finding his grin of energy and determination, he picked up the microphone and waved brightly to the crowd. “Cool, you can hear me, sweet! And you all are so lucky, because you get to hear the debut of the world’s newest music sensation, Elements of Sound. Now get ready to move to the beat, because I want to see you all get out there and dance. Listen to our song!”

        It was a success. Their weeks of rehearsals had paid off, giving them the confidence, skill, and synergy that they needed to work together as a group. Spirits were high all around, and the town overall enjoyed the music, both young and old. Everything was their music, songs that they had all written together, and it showed.

        Every ensemble piece or duet showcased the talent of that performer; Lys took no small amount of pleasure in enjoying the shouts and sighs from the women in the crowd at the vocal battle that he and Elliott performed. Sam’s vibrant vocals resonated with everyone, and the energy he imparted to the crowd was palpable, especially when backed by Sebastian, whose mellow and deeper voice meshed well with Sam’s higher and more energetic sound. Sebastian and Abigail had their moment together as well, in an energetic love ballad that Sam, Lys, and Elliott had written for them in secret, and they almost refused to perform together until Lys finally convinced them that they sounded excellent together. The audience was in particular enamored with a complex piano and synth piece featuring Elliott and Sebastian, and Lys laughed at himself for a momentary pang of jealousy, exchanging a smile with Abigail when he saw that she shared the same feeling.

        After a couple of hours Sam and Lys set down their instruments, and Lys picked up his mic and stepped forward.

        “You have been an amazing audience, thank every one of you for this warm and enthusiastic reception. It has been a delight performing for all of you so far.” He paused for a calculated moment, allowing his words to sweep around the audience, and smiled as he remembered how many times before he’d been able to work a crowd like this. “But now we’re going to change the tempo just a little bit for something special.”
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        • Gabaw

          Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

          Probably the scariest chapter yet :p Which is worse, spiders or stage fright? Both!! Looks like they gave a great show once they got going and that's kinda how it is, eh? I'm trying to discern the genre as I'm pedantic like that. plus you're also pretty good at writing out performances so that helps. just gonna imagine an 80's power ballad if that's okay with you :rofl:
            Risukage and Alkanthe like this.
          • Risukage

            Risukage Giant Laser Beams

            *Laughs.* Well, many studies have determined that more people fear public speaking/performing more than they do heights, spiders, and even death! I'm one of those rare freaks that's actually a bit invigorated on-stage, especially with others. And I think I remarked earlier, they're going for a bit of a dance-rock and synth-pop sound, as best as I can describe; high-energy and complex instrumentation. I can't really imagine them doing anything like that terribly sugary garbage pop music that's currently polluting the airwaves. (And screw you, Autotune, L2sing, n00bs.)

            I was trying to look up the genres for some of the stuff I've been listening to recently because it's quite energetic and sounds amazing, and I grew up listening to a lot of the rock and pop out of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I really don't like much of anything on either side of those decades, though. Here's a couple of songs that have a bit of what they might go for, because OH DAMN, LISTEN TO THAT BASS SECTION. (The guitars in the Durarara!! opening make me tingly.)

            I realize that "No Reply" is much slower and not as "dance-rock," but it's the ensemble sound that I think they would have, and every band does need to diversify, yeah? And listen to Steve Conte on those vocals, you just KNOW that Sam could totally rock the mic like that. Also, for what it's worth, I'm gonna throw it out there, that's what I think the theme is for Lys and Elliott; that pain and loss they've had, and that shouting out for someone and getting nothing in response, as well as the despair that they'll never get the chance to fix things. I repeat the hell out of this when writing their chapters. Those feels, man, those feels.
            --- Post updated ---
            //Well, it's a good thing that I established early on that I use the double slashies to separate comments from fic postings, 'cause it seems like they changed the way posts work if someone replies several times in a row to a thread. *Shrug.* But I'm not bothered because I've got some warm fluff for you today, because it's summertime, so I'm warm and happy (and finally getting my tan back, YES), and Pokemon GO is now live. Everything is awesome, so you all get fluffy stuff. Whooo. And for what it's worth, Lys sleeps like I do; it takes a while to drop off, but once I'm out, I'm GONE and will wake up only for a few specific things. The alarm clock doesn't always count as one of those things...

            Also, Team Valor FTW. :p

            *Puts on sunglasses, shrugs into an asbestos-lined suit, and picks up a cold drink with a long straw.*//

            Lys paused again to let the audience murmur and absorb this information before continuing.

            “During midsummer festivals it’s often traditional for many places to perform the Dance of the Summer Flame, in celebration of life, love, and the warmth of the season. It is also a lament, however, of how ephemeral and fleeting they all are, and a reminder to cherish it all while we still have them. Tonight I will perform that for all of you, as thanks for the love and warmth that everyone in town has shown me since I moved here, and for the hope that it lasts.”

            He turned off and replaced the mic to the mixed sounds of excitement and confusion from the crowd; the older townsfolk looked intrigued and impressed, while many of the younger appeared confused. Striding out with his rolling walk, he took his place on the sand and waited for Sebastian and Abigail to begin playing. Sam and Elliott stepped to the side, and Sam sighed in relief.

            “As fun as that was, I’m glad that this song just needs those two and that the gig is over now, ‘cause I am wiped. And damn, he’s gutsy going out there like that alone.” He paused and thought as he remembered something. “Wait, isn’t this supposed to be for two people?” The music began and Lys flowed with it, dancing like a flame alone on the sands, feeling pure delight at the opportunity to perform again, and enjoying the sound of the music as he moved with it instinctively. Elliot wore a soft smile of fondness and affection as he watched Lys weave a visual tapestry upon the beach.

            “You are correct, but it can be performed alone. In addition, I completely lack the confidence that he does, and in any case, this is his moment, I shan’t interfere.”

            “Wait, you know this? I didn’t know you danced.”

            “Only a little, I did have a rather classical education. I do not know nearly as many styles as he does, but this is one.” Sam thought about it for a moment and gave Elliott a hearty shove.

            “Prove it.” Alex stomped over to slap Sam upside the back of the head as Elliott stumbled onto the sands and was caught by Lys, who moved with Elliott’s momentum and pulled him into the next steps. Fortunately, the crowd assumed that this was a part of the performance and applauded with friendly laughter. Elliott caught himself and synchronized with Lys, quite embarrassed at his entrance.

            “I’m sorry, Sam just-”

            “Forget them. Dance with me.”

            He was correct in that it could be performed alone, but with one person it was as Lys had said; a lament of the fleeting and temporary nature of life and love, but with two it was a celebration and a declaration. A solo dance was elegant, but the duet was one of power and equality. Lys and Elliott moved with and around each other, passing control and the lead back and forth, in and out, spiraling and circling, and the audience was respectfully quiet as they watched. But it was not just a dance together, it was against each other, as they also traded and blocked attacks in a contest of will and strength, proving to each other that they were strong enough to both defend and yield. The Dance of Summer Flame was not just a dance, it was ritual combat, to display equality between partners, not dominance, because life and love are fragile and temporary, and both partners need to stand up for it and each other.

            The music ended and the two dancers stopped, in each other’s arms as the sound traveled and faded across the sand. Applause rose up like the ocean’s waves, and was almost drowned out by the sounds of laughter and surprise as Elliott, caught up in the moment, kissed Lys deeply, and realized a moment later what he’d done.

            “Damn, sorry again, I-”

            “We’re still on stage. Roll with it,” Lys whispered, putting back on the broad smile he wore when working a crowd, taking a bow with a flourish, and nudged Elliott to do the same without anyone else noticing. Elliott’s bow was more restrained and formal, and their audience assumed that his spontaneous act of affection was just another part of the show. Out of the corner of his eye, Lys could see Lewis and the governor walking toward them.

            Time to wrap this up.

            Lys had no need for a microphone, as years of theater and live stage performing gave him the skill and capacity to project his voice and make himself heard clearly without having to shout.

            “Thank you all for an amazing night, everyone. And I do mean that, thank you, because if it weren’t for everyone here we would not have had this opportunity to perform tonight. Your attention and enthusiasm are the currency with which performers are paid, and tonight we are wealthy. It has been a delight and an honor to perform for our hometown, and as an adopted son of this lovely place, I am overjoyed at the reception that I have received. If I may be indulged, could I please get one last round of applause for my fellow performers before we turn the night over to the mayor?” He called over his bandmates, stepping back to grab a microphone as they accepted their accolades and handed it to Lewis.

            “Well said, Lysander, thank you. Although I wonder if that last bit was a bit...much.” Lys shrugged in good humor.

            “Quite possibly, but isn’t that the way that this dance should end?” Lys asked, which prompted further laughter and assent from the crowd. Lewis sighed and shrugged as well, but the governor gave Lys a look that said while he did not disagree, he couldn’t quite condone it, either. “Regardless, it’s time to move on to the next event of the night, the community soup! If the governor would be so kind as to have the first taste, we can continue the festivities.” As the attention of the night shifted away from them, Lys quietly called over the rest of the band to himself, just a bit out of hearing and sight of the rest of the town, his smile now one of genuine glee.

            “You all were brilliant tonight. Even you, Sam, for pulling that stunt.”

            “I thought I pushed him,” Sam shot back, grinning with pure cheek, accepting a small shove from Elliott in return for the barb.

            “It still worked out, and that’s what matters. But what you can’t forget right now is that you’re still on stage the rest of the night. The gig is over but the show isn’t. While you’re out here remember that you’re a member of Elements of Sound, and continue to wear that persona. Until everyone goes home and the equipment is packed up, we’re still in the limelight. So get out there and mingle, and stay in character.”

            The luau stretched late into the night, and thanks to Lys’s coaching, the band made a good representation of themselves as they shared the soup and conversed with the rest of the town. Naturally, Lys and Sam wore the performing mantle like a second skin, and Elliott was his usual, charming self. Abigail and Sebastian had a bit more difficulty in finding the courage to be their musical “personas,” but managed to play it off as “charmingly cute” and “dark and mysterious” rather than nervous and silent. As the evening wound down and the townsfolk trickled back home, the band broke down and packed up their gear, loading it into Alex’s truck. When it was all ready to go and the piano returned to Elliott’s cabin, Lys directed Sam, Abigail, and Sebastian to head on home.

            “Abby, you and Sebastian live the farthest out, and it’s already late, and you’re close by, Sam, but after putting away the equipment you’ll be one of the farthest, so just head on back now. The three of us can manage this on our own and get it unloaded in no time. Great job everyone, I mean it. You’re on your way to being professional.”

            “You forgot to include yourself again,” Sam said, hugging Lys with what strength he could muster after the night, “we couldn’t have done this without you. C’mon, guys, group hug.” Abigail immediately threw herself at the other two, pulling Elliott in and grasping at Sebastian’s arm.

            “You, too, Sebby.”

            “I’m just fine, thanks.”

            “Sucks to be you,” Alex commented, sweeping up the shorter man into the communal embrace.

            “This is exactly the opposite of what I said!”

            “Majority rule, mate, feel the love of your friends,” teased Lys, “and get home safe all of you. As the most experienced one here I’m making it my responsibility to look out for everyone. You three get going, Elliott, Alex, and I will deal with the rest of this.”

            Sebastian escorted Abigail off, and Sam punched him in the shoulder as he jogged by, waving to everyone one last time. As they departed, Lys unsuccessfully stifled a yawn, prompting a chuckle from the other two.

            “You are nearly exhausted, dear, let us handle this.”

            “I’m fine, love. I’ve been up as long as Alex has and he’s okay.”

            “Yeah, but I wasn’t performing for something like two hours, and that dance looked it took a lot out of you.”

            “Really, I’m fine. The sooner we finish unloading the sooner we can get to sleep.”

            The ride to the community center and return of all equipment was as quick as expected, and Lys sat down heavily next to the table, running a hand through his hair.

            “Damn, we did it. Our first gig was a success from beginning to end. Now I can finally relax.”

            “You have certainly earned it. And I am likewise out of energy. Alex, can I impose on you for a lift back? Or at least to your home, I could walk the rest of the way if-” He stopped at the sound of a gentle snore, and they both turned to see Lys asleep, leaning on the table with his head on his folded arms.

            “I can, but first we’ve gotta get him home. Hand me the keys, I’ll lock up if you can get him.” Lys always kept his keys in his lower left pocket (as it was all too easy to lose things in pants with so many pockets), and Elliott retrieved them and tossed them to Alex before carefully picking up Lys and heading outside.

            Lys didn’t show any sign at all of waking up during the ride out to his house, and once again Elliott rummaged through his partner’s pocket to obtain the keys to the front door.

            “You know, this is only the second time I’ve been in here,” Elliott observed as Alex unlocked the door and fumbled for a light switch, “how curious. Lysander has spent so much of his time at my place and yet I’ve only once before set foot past his threshold.” He set Lys down on his bed and sat down next to him, carefully removing and folding up his sunglasses and holding his hand as Alex leaned against the door frame. “Even though I’m finally making friends and have completed my novel, I still do not stray far from my home. Perhaps I’ve not changed as much as I had hoped, not like he has. And yet, I still wonder what he hides, what else he feels he cannot tell me.”

            “More than you think,” Alex replied, nodding at his cousin, “the other day he asked me to look out for you in case he, I dunno, got really angry and tried to fight you or something... Whatever it was he seemed to be really worried about hurting you. Wanted to make sure that if it came down to it I could keep him from harming anyone else. Not gonna lie, it kinda scared me. He’s never been that serious before, it seemed like it was something that had hurt him previously and he didn’t want it to happen to you.”

            “He never said anything about that to me,” Elliott said, glancing up at Alex, “though it is a concern that he expressed when… When he finally expressed his true feelings for me. But he has said nothing more about it since then.” Alex shifted and folded his arms across his chest.

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

            “And if a person like me creates the desire within him to personally appoint you as a guardian, you cannot be that bad yourself.”

            “Heh. Go kiss your boyfriend good night, again," he grinned, "I’ll be outside. It was a long day, and I’ll send him a message to let him sleep in. I think we can take a day off of running after today.” Elliott squeezed Lys’s hand gently and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek before carefully getting up and setting the sunglasses atop the dresser. He heard the chime of a message on Lys’s phone as he left, likely the one from Alex, which generated no response from the other man. Leaving quietly, he bent down long enough to scratch Xander behind the ears, who trilled at him and padded into the bedroom to curl up with Lys.
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            • Gabaw

              Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

              now I get the whole deal with the new post system. damn lol. well as long as we're diligent about leaving comments it won't be an issue :p like this one! Lys' remarks about the gig being over but the show going on are insightful and so true. that's what separates the true performers and stars from the dudes who are just cool (though nothing wrong with that either). at this point I figured Lys would be chill with the current situation but it looks like the road ahead is still a bit rocky. and not like the ice cream :rofl:
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              • Risukage

                Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                //Hello and good morning! Welcome back for your tri-weekly dose of Rose & Sunflower, in which more things happen as we attempt to advance the plot!

                Several of us in the Skype chat are plotting to annoy ask the mods politely to see if they can change it back. Not like it'll work but it's better than doing nothing. :D Although perhaps that's their sinister plot; force us to continually comment on each other's work and be supportive. Like a community, guys. Truly Machiavellian in scope...

                And yes, what is it with Lys and his cryptic request? Alex and Elliott don't seem to be too worried, maybe he's just being overprotective, so maybe we shouldn't be as well? ...Nah! Stuff is gonna hit the fan eventually, because there's too many chapters left for it not to! :p Today's update is also inspired by real-world events once again, and everything about it just clicked. It's one of the few chapters I'm quite happy with, and AUGH, I keep saying it, but I wish I could do this as a visual novel, because the way this was blocked out in my mind would have been brilliant like that. But, as seen in the half-arsed art thread, I'm slowly getting better. Maybe in a few years I can revisit this with inks. You know, if I can be bothered. And speaking of bothered, Elliott is going to feel quite silly about that evening for some time, mostly because Sam will not let him forget it, even though HE was the one to start it, the little sod. :D I also can't take credit for Lys's terrible flirt at the end, I nicked that from somewhere else and it was too good (bad?) to not use.//

                Lys woke up a few hours later, as something in his pocket was digging into his hip when he had rolled over at some point. He sat up and looked around, very confused.

                Wait, I was just at the community center. What… What time is it?

                Pulling out his phone to check the time he noticed two new text messages, from Alex and Elliott.

                “Hey, cuz, don’t worry about tomorrow morning, I’m beat, too. I’ll see you the next day if I don’t catch you sooner.”

                This was an unexpected surprise, one for which he was glad. As for Elliott’s message…

                “You were asleep quite soundly at the community center and we chose not to wake you. Apologies for invading your personal space, I had to retrieve your keys to lock up and to get you home.”

                He reached into his lowest left pocket and discovered that it was empty, and noticed that both sets of keys were on top of the dresser once his eyes had adjusted to the moonlit room. Smiling at the thought of their concern and care, he put his phone down and undressed to properly go to bed, haphazardly setting items atop the dresser as he removed them, and tossing his clothes in a practiced arc into the laundry bin. Yawning broadly, he flopped down on one pillow and hugged a second one close as he pulled the blanket over himself, idly replaying the day’s events as he drifted off again. His thoughts lingered on one moment in particular, and he felt a pleasant, warm tingle.

                We may have performed for the town, but we danced for each other.

                That happy warmth stayed with him the rest of the day as he continued his lessons with Elliott, who was a decent piano instructor. Lys already had a vast breadth of musical practice, and knew some basics, but had never gotten both hands to work together properly on the piano. Under Elliott’s tutelage, however, he picked up the skill faster than he had expected, and on a whim, asked to learn the song that Elliott had played the first time that they had met at the cabin. They sat next to each other on the bench as Lys tried the song on his own after watching one more time.

                “As lovely as last night was, I am still embarrassed about my actions,” Elliott sighed, “I cannot believe that I forgot where I was. Right in front of the entire town…” Lys paused in his second attempt at the song to brush a lock of hair back from Elliott’s face.

                “Love, stop worrying. I know how to read an audience and everyone assumed that it was just a part of the show. The only people who know about us is the band. ...I mean, I haven’t even told my parents yet. It’s not that I’m embarrassed or worried, I just didn’t want to say anything to them until I’d talked to you first. I don’t know what your family has said.” Elliott leaned into Lys’s touch, unsuccessfully hiding a look of hesitation. “Ah, you haven’t told them, either?”

                “I… No, I have not. Like you, I am not embarrassed, but I am concerned. As the youngest son I am free from the responsibility of carrying on the family name and legacy, which my brother has already fulfilled anyway. And while they are open to the idea of...alternate relationships...I am unsure as to whether they would be thinking about the family’s public image. Father runs the business side but mother is the face of it all, and he will likely acquiesce to whatever her decision is. I know her very well, and I do not think that she will disapprove, but then...” Elliott’s posture was the picture of downcast uncertainty, and Lys reached up to touch his face again.

                “Hey, love, look at me. It’s okay. Talk to them when you’re ready. I won’t push you to do anything you’re not comfortable with. I just want you to be happy.”

                “Thank you, I appreciate your courtesy. But I have procrastinated for too long in nearly every aspect of my life so far. No more. I have finished my novel, I have found you, and now it is time to finally announce it. While I still have the courage to do so…” He pulled his phone out of his pocket, began to dial, and hesitated again. Lys squeezed his hand and smiled.

                “It’ll be okay. I’m here.” Lys stood up, kissed him on the top of the head, and walked across the room, giving Elliott a bit of space but being close enough to provide moral support. Taking a deep breath to settle himself, Elliott dialed and put the phone to his ear. Lys could see the tension in his shoulders, which increased as someone on the other end picked up the phone, and Lys listened to half of the conversation, suddenly apprehensive about what was being said on the other side.

                “Hello, mother, it’s been a little while, my apologies. Yes, I am doing quite well. That is why I called, actually. Yes, I have. I have finally finished the novel for which I left home. It should be published in a couple of months. Correct. In addition, I wanted to tell you that I am...seeing someone. Yes, I am. Pardon? Well, sort of. He helped me with my work, and I couldn’t have done it without him. ...That is correct. It’s been a few months now, but we weren’t certain that- Ah? Lysander. Yes. What? Yes he is,” Elliott replied, turning to look at Lys, who felt a quick, cold jab of fear, “you wish to-? Yes, one moment.” He held out the phone, looking very nervous. “Mother would like to speak with you. If you don’t feel comfortable-”

                “It’s okay, give it here. Hello, ma’am?” he answered.

                “Hello. Elliott said that you are Lysander, is that correct?” The word that immediately came to mind was “matriarch.” In just a few words, the clipped and precise voice painted a picture of a woman in her prime, with the demeanor and presence of a territorial hawk. It was not an unkind voice, but the speaker definitely commanded respect, not demanded, and Lysander almost laughed at himself for subconsciously straightening his posture.

                “Yes, ma’am. Ah, is that the correct form of address? I’m not quite sure-”

                “Ma’am will do, Lysander. Now, it is my understanding that you are in a romantic relationship with my son. What exactly is it that you seek from him?” Caught completely off-guard by such a blunt and up-front question, Lys said the first thing that came to mind.

                “I want to support him and make him happy.”

                “Curious. And of yourself? I doubt that you are completely selfless.”

                “Well, that’s true. I enjoy being with him. I feel like I’ve got something to fight for, that I want to protect, and it gives me a purpose again. I want to make sure that he has everything he needs to continue his work and not worry about supporting himself.” Elliott had moved from the bench and was now in the kitchen very carefully making a batch of coffee, trying to stay busy to occupy his mind and hands, now even more tense and nervous than he had been at the beginning of the call.

                “Hmm. I see. And what is it that you do? That you will use to, as you say, ‘support him?’” Lys didn’t like where this conversation was headed, but answered with open honesty anyway.

                “I… Primarily, I am an actor and a musician. But since moving to the town where Elliott lives, I’ve picked up gardening to provide an income.”

                “A thespian and a performer. Not normally professions with which one can support themselves, much less others. How can I be certain that you do intend to follow through with your intentions? Or do you plan to pretend to work, and once he has committed, rely on his name and inheritance in the future to support yourself?” Lys snarled without thinking at the personal attack, and Elliott looked up with concern at the change in the tone of his voice.

                “He has never mentioned his family name nor the source of his income and I respect that. I refuse to be a dead weight on him and will not ask about either until I can provide for us both.”

                “That is easy enough to say but so very few people follow through. Tell me, Lysander, you said that you will fight for him. To what lengths will you go?”

                “Words or fists, I will stand up and take down anyone and anything that threatens him.”

                “And if you cannot? If you do not possess the strength of will and body to ensure his happiness and safety? What then?”

                “Then I will burn the world,” he snapped, and Elliott dropped the coffee cups with a clatter as Lys strode back and forth across the room, suddenly angry and forgetting to whom he was talking, “if I cannot protect him then my life may as well be forfeit. He has given me a reason to live again, and for that I owe him everything. I ran away from my past life and started over, but I didn’t begin living again until I met him. I’ve never been happier with anyone than I have with Elliott, and with or without your blessing I will love him and stay by his side, and I’d much rather have it.” There was a thoughtful silence on the other end, just long enough for Lys to realize what he’d said.

                Very interesting. Tell me, Lysander, you really do not know his family name?”

                “No, I don’t. It’s possible that I may not recognize it anyway.” She told him, and he thought about it, looking quizzical. “That’s… I actually do know that name, but it’s at the back of my mind- Wait… The theater in the city, I remember seeing it on a placard there somewhere. Half a moment, you’re telling me that you’re-”

                “Ah, so you do know of us. Then your claim of being an actor has some level of merit.”

                “And it’s quite possible that you’ve been to one of my performances. This is a strange connection.” He was at a complete loss for further words and sat against the edge of the table for support. “I truly had no idea.”

                “You are likely a fine actor but a terrible liar; I can hear the truth in your voice. Yes, very interesting indeed. I have everything that I need to know.” Her sound now developed a matronly warmth, and Lys nearly dropped the phone at the sudden change. “This has been both an enlightening and edifying conversation. Could I ask you to return the phone to my son? It has been a delight talking with you, Lysander.”

                “Ah, yes, certainly. You too, ma’am.” Feeling broadsided and off-kilter, he offered the phone to Elliott, who took it with concern.

                “Mother? Is everything- Pardon? That is correct, I heard everything. Hmm? Yes, every word, and I would have said the same. What? I...yes, that is correct.” Elliott’s posture relaxed, and he no longer looked worried or defensive, instead he now looked determined. “Likewise I did not find inspiration or direction until we had met, and I will not trade our bond for anything. And also likewise, I will love him and stand by his side, even if it means walking away from the family. I love you all truly, but he has given me a gift that I do not think I can ever repay, and for that my devotion is his.” Elliott listened to a response that Lys could not hear, and an expression of complete relief slowly washed over his face. “That… Thank you. I had been worried that- Ah, I see. Once more, thank you. Please give my regards to father. I’ll call again soon, I have been remiss in that. Love you too, mother, until next time.”

                As he hung up, he exhaled slowly and deeply, dropping the phone on the floor. Lys moved over to him and noticed that he was shaking slightly and trying to control it.

                “I’m here, love, it’s okay,” Lys whispered, pulling him close and feeling his pulse racing, “I think I made a decent first impression. Although,” he chuckled, “it is probably bad form to shout at one’s potential mother-in-law like that.” Elliott smiled despite his tight hold on Lys as he tried to calm himself.

                “I was terrified, Lysander, I really was. Perhaps it’s silly of me, but-”

                “It’s not silly at all. Your family and their approval mean a lot to you, and now that I know who they are- who you are- I understand why. Rather, I wonder if I’ve been insensitive or willfully oblivious to it. Maybe I should have asked sooner, but I didn’t want to-”

                “No, I have always hesitated too much. You are the fire that I need. Like the water outside I am far too placid and stoic, full of sound but no real action.”

                “Well, I don’t know about that,” smiled Lys, finding his mischief again, “although your eyes are the color of the ocean. And right now I’m happy to be lost at sea.” Elliott forgot about his anxiety and laughed at the unexpected flirt.

                “That is terrible! Although it is exactly what I needed, thank you.” Lys kissed him and let him go to pick up and return the dropped phone.

                “If I can make you smile then as bad as it was it must have been good.” He reached into his pocket for his own phone, turning it in his hand as he worked up his own courage. “Well, fair’s fair. Guess it’s my turn. Ready for round two?”

                “After that first call I am ready for anything.”

                “We’ll see about that. My mom isn’t as intimidating as yours, but she will talk your ear off if she gets the chance, and she loves to ask embarrassing questions just to see how you’ll react.”

                “I get the impression that you take after your father’s appearance but your mother’s personality.”

                “Exactly. Still want to do this?”

                “As you said, fair’s fair. Let me at least pour that coffee first.”

                Lys accepted the drink and dialed his parents, leaning into Elliott, who put an arm around his shoulders in silent support.

                “Hi, mom, how goes it? Yeah, it’s been a while. So, do you and dad have a few minutes? I’ve got a few things to tell you…”
                  Last edited: Jul 26, 2016
                  Gabaw and Alkanthe like this.
                • Gabaw

                  Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                  Cheesy, poetic, nervewracking. and you leave us on that cliffhanger?? this is gonna be one of those bunker busters I was talking about :rofl: also yeah, pissing off the mother in law is no bueno but lets be honest here. sometimes it's unavoidable :p
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                  • Risukage

                    Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                    //Sorry, @Gabaw, you'll have to wait a bit longer to meet up with Arthur and Lynn, but we will at some point. Today, though, we get more dialogue inspired by real-life events, so I wonder if at this point I should just rename this damn thing to "An Autobiographical Wish-Fulfillment Story." And if my pacing is correct, we should find out why the heck Lys dropped everything and moved to Pelican Town in the next couple of weeks. I'm not trying to draw this out, really! But there IS a lot of story to go into that story, and when we DO get to it it's a long story. ...Yay?... Don't worry, though, there's still more to tell once that happens, because that's not the end of the story, just the beginning of a new chapter. ...I am seriously loopy after exercise. On the upside, I found an Eevee on my walk! (Team Valor FTW, but I'll still fight for the rest of you! :D)

                    In other news, it's always strange when games invade one's dreams, because Alex looks really weird with bleached-blonde hair, which annoyed Sam and I as natural blondes. However, he gives great hugs, so I couldn't be too mad, and in any case, I guess he just wanted to be one of the cool kids. :p//

                    Lys woke up with a shout, throwing a pillow across the room. Like the last time it had happened, Xander bolted and sat in the doorway, glaring at Lys with a flick of his tail, before stalking off into the kitchen. In a cold sweat, Lys breathed heavily in the lingering fear from his dreams, feeling his heart still racing.

                    Not again. This damn nightmare again! Why now?! Everything is going well, it won’t be like last time. I finally deserve happiness, damn it!

                    “I do deserve to be happy,” he whispered to himself, and felt the words ring hollow in his own ears. He couldn’t lie, even to himself.

                    ...No. No I don’t. Not after what I did, to them, to me. I can’t fight it, I can’t run from it. I can’t do anything about it, about me. Why? What is wrong with me? Fighting back tears, he gripped the blanket, and gritted his teeth. I want him to be happy. I don’t matter, and neither do my desires. But I do need to protect them all, and I need to be strong enough to do it. He pulled his knees to his chest and set his chin on them, staring out the window to the rising sun. And I need to get up and ready for the day. Just put my thoughts in a box and into the corner, deal with them later. Can’t let anyone else know, I don’t want to hurt them.

                    Alex noticed that Lys was a little bit distant during their run, but Lys apologized with a smile, explaining that he hadn’t slept well. It was something that sometimes happened, you know? Elliott picked up on it as well when he met Lys on the way to practice, but dug a bit deeper than Alex had.

                    “Was it the phone calls from yesterday? The both of us were rather stressed about it all at first but I had thought that the evening had ended with success and understanding.”

                    “It’s not that, love,” Lys smiled, climbing the steps to the park, “I felt better about everything when I left your place. Your mom was just looking out for you and wanted to be sure I was good enough.” He hesitated for a fraction of a second as he mentally added, and I’m probably not, which Elliott noticed but didn’t comment on. “And mine? She totally got a kick out of you. Watch out for when you meet her in-person, she’ll smother you with hugs. I’m glad we’ve got a good enough cell connection out here for a video call, that really made her day. I just… Sometimes I just have a bad night, you know?” Elliott still looked worried and sighed in frustration.

                    “That may be true, but as good an actor as you are, you are a terrible liar, and you are hiding something. This cheerful mask hurts worse than an outright lie. Talk to me, what’s on your mind?” Lys walked a few more steps before stopping, his hands in his pockets, unable to face Elliott, who put a hand on his shoulder, trying to see his expression.

                    “Dear, is there something-”

                    “No, things aren’t going quite right, but they’re not bad.” He laughed at himself and ran his fingers through his hair. “Though it is funny, your mom said the same thing. And don’t worry, it’s not your fault, there’s no blame or recrimination on you. Nothing that you’ve done, I promise. I… I’ve just got a lot of noise up in here,” he tapped the side of his head and sighed as well. “Lots of leftover bits and fragments from my past life. I ran away because when I fought it I screwed it all up. Getting together with you has helped a lot, more than you know. But there’s still a lot of darkness in there. Lots of things still tangled and messed up.”

                    “Then tell me, let me help.”

                    “I can’t. Love-” he put a finger to Elliott’s lips, interrupting the protest Lys saw coming, “it’s not that I won’t, it’s that right now I outright can’t. It’s too much of a mess. Even if I tried to describe what’s going on in my mind it wouldn’t make any damn sense, and would probably make it worse because I’d get frustrated and angry at myself. I need a bit longer to sift and sort everything. ...And to forgive myself for what I’ve done…”

                    “Alex told me about what you requested of him.” Lys didn’t say anything, and Elliott knew he’d hit the mark. “So that and your current situation are related. Very well, I won’t pry. I understand that there are some matters that take time to work through and must be done alone. But I do hope that you trust me enough to open up about it some day. And I also hope that you understand that the desire to protect goes both ways; your fire has been muted in the last few weeks. Do not feel that you need to hold anything back because of me. And whatever it was that happened in your past I want you to be able to forgive yourself for it, regardless of the situation or outcome.” He put an arm around Lys’s waist and a hand on his face, giving him the smile that Lys knew belonged only to him. “Bring back that person I fell in love with. I saw that once more the other night on the sands, don’t let it fade again.”

                    “You’re right so much of the time. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to be wrong so often, otherwise things will be out of balance,” Lys joked, covering Elliott’s hand with his own, “but I promise, once I’ve got it untangled I’ll say something. I avoided it for a long time but I’m finally able to start poking around in my own thoughts. Thanks for being patient with me.”

                    “Are you two done making out yet? ‘Cause we’ve got practice to start soon,” interrupted Sam with his usual cheeky grin.

                    “And there goes the mood,” Lys remarked, annoyed at the method of distraction but somehow thankful for it, “I almost wish you and Penny were more publicly affectionate so I could annoy you in the middle of it.” Sam’s look of surprise mollified Lys for the moment.

                    “Hey, that’s not-”

                    “And the only reason I won’t is that she’s a sweetie and I don’t want to be mean to her. You, however, have no such protections, so watch yourself or I’ll have to get mischievous.”

                    “Now that is the fire I was looking for,” Elliott said, flicking at Lys’s ear and ducking a playful swat in return, “and that, too. Let’s go, we’ve got music to work on.”

                    As they closed up for the night Sebastian reclined against the wall of the community center, watching Lys lock the front door.

                    “Hey, walk with me.” Lys wasn’t expecting this invitation.

                    “Hunh? Okay, sure. Anywhere in particular?”

                    “My place. That book you wanted me to loan you?”

                    “Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Sure. Just a sec, then. G’nite, love, catch you tomorrow.” Sebastian pulled out the pack of cigarettes and shook two loose with a practiced flick of his wrist as Lys and Elliott shared a quick kiss, offering one to Lys as Elliott left.

                    “You two are so cute it makes my teeth hurt,” Sebastian commented, lighting Lys’s before his own.

                    “Well, we’re happy and comfortable with each other and around others. If it’s too much we can back off a bit.”

                    “If you’re happy then your definition is different than mine.”

                    “What’s that supposed to-”

                    “What’s up? You’re not you today, and it’s bothering him. I don’t like seeing friends hurt. Something’s on your mind. The two of you hooked up, I thought that it’d fix all of your angst. What, did you have an argument over whose place you’re going to do it at?” Lys choked on his cigarette and shot Sebastian a warning glare, who returned it with a raised eyebrow. “Hunh, so you haven’t jumped him yet. Weird, with your past I thought that you’d have gone all the way a couple of times by now.” Snarling, Lys grabbed him by the collar and shoved him against a tree, his good mood evaporated.

                    “Don’t you ever talk about him like that again.” Sebastian smirked despite the building anger from his friend.

                    “I was talking about you. Y’know, since you always considered yourself so ‘easy’ before. Is that something else that changed when you got here? Or maybe he rejected your advances?” Lys tried to form a fist but remembered the cigarette in his other hand, and Sebastian watched his reaction curiously, taking a drag from his own cig, completely unbothered by the threat of violence. “Hunh, so it’s not the physical side of the relationship.” With another shove, Lys released Sebastian, taking a long puff to occupy and calm himself as the other man placidly straightened his clothes and began walking again.

                    “You are deliberately provoking me. Why?” Sebastian blew a slow stream of smoke and gave Lys a sidelong look.

                    “Because that’s the best way to get right to the core of you. Poke the right nerve and you immediately say what’s on your mind, like a reflex. I’m pretty sure that Elliott already asked, but he did so politely and by appealing to your intellect. And there’s that fire and stare again. Yup, nailed it. So now that we’ve established that there’s something going on in your head and it’s bothering you two, out with it. What’s up?”

                    “It’s… I can’t explain it. And don’t give me that look, it’s same as I told Elliott. There’s a lot of noise and tangle in there and I’m still sorting it out. I just didn’t sleep well and it’s because of some of that stuff, and I’ll deal with it. I’m fine.”

                    “The hell you are.”

                    “Yes, the hell I am. I screwed up bad and I ran away from it all. I’m finally able to sit down and start untangling everything in my head now.”

                    “Get over it and yourself already. Whatever happened it’s done with.”

                    “You don’t know what happened.”

                    “You’ve never said anything. You clam up as soon as anyone brings it up. It’s okay to forgive yourself, you know.”

                    “I can’t,” Lys snapped.

                    “You can, you just won’t,” Sebastian riposted. Lys coughed again, and Sebastian watched his reaction again with a languid smoke.

                    “What the hell does that mean?” Lys muttered, trying to find his composure.

                    “It means that you refuse to forgive yourself even though there’s no reason for you to keep beating yourself up over it. No matter what you did it can be forgiven. I mean, it’s not like anyone died, right?” His eyes went wide as Lys dropped his cigarette, barely catching it before it hit the ground. “Shit, did you-”

                    “No! No… Nobody died. I… I was hurt worse than anyone. Mentally and physically.” Sebastian looked him up and down a couple of times with a scrutinizing stare.

                    “How bad?” Lys didn’t reply immediately.

                    “I was in the hospital for a while. About a month or so after I got out I made the decision to come out here.” Sebastian saw Lys rubbing a thumbnail over the inside one wrist as he stared off into the forest, lost in his own mind, clearly an unconscious gesture.

                    “So that’s why you wear long sleeves even in the summer.” Another sharp, wordless, hazel-green glare continued to provide Sebastian the information he sought.

                    “Says the person who wears a hoodie year-round.”

                    “My reasons are different than yours. I’m the most comfortable in cold weather but I burn easily. So as unpleasant as it might be wearing this in the summer, it’s better than a sunburn. And you really shouldn’t frown like that, it doesn’t look good on you.” Taking a long drag from his smoke, Lys exhaled it slowly and now refused to meet Sebastian’s eyes.

                    “So why do you care? I recall you getting grumpy when other people get up in your private business. How is it okay to now mess in mine?”

                    “Because you’re a friend, and so is Elliott. You can’t talk to him about this because you’re too close to him. You need someone who knows you but has enough distance to be able to give you feedback and perspective without it being colored by emotion. And as a friend that isn’t afraid of getting up in your face, I’m telling you that you need to do something about that tangle in your head very soon, because if you don’t everything is going to unravel and it’s going to be bad. He’s genuinely concerned, and I can see how much it hurts him that he can’t do anything for you.”

                    “I know… I’m just...scared…” Neither of them said anything else on the rest of the way to Sebastian’s place, and Lys remained silent as he followed his friend to his basement room, sitting down on the couch and staring at the floor. Sebastian found the book in question and handed it to Lys, who mumbled a quiet, “thanks.” Sighing to himself, he sat down on the arm of the couch.

                    “The shit I do for you, dude. C’mere, you need this more than I dislike it.” He leaned over and put an arm around Lys’s shoulders, who resisted the gesture.

                    “Don’t worry, I know you aren’t big on physical contact, it’s okay. Ow!” Lys rubbed his head where Sebastian had knuckle-tapped him.

                    “Shut up and take the damn hug before I kick you out of here,” he grinned, gasping for breath as Lys hugged him around the waist with surprising strength. “Bloody hell, dude, I’m glad you’ve got Alex and Elliott to roughhouse with, you’re crazy strong now.”

                    “...Thanks. I just… I’m terrified of losing him.”

                    “Then take it from the professional introvert and talk to him. Hiding things will hurt him worse than any spoken words and you know it.”

                    “I know. And thanks again.” Lys stood up and ran a hand through his hair for the second time that day. “I’ll catch you later. Although,” he grinned, regaining a bit of his fire and leaning over, “I wonder if you deserve a good-night kiss for all of your help.” Sebastian put a hand in his face and pushed him away, laughing.

                    “That’s what we’re all looking for. Now get going and get some sleep. I’ve got some coding to finish before I can crash out.” Lys returned the shove with good humor as he mounted the steps and left, feeling somewhat better, but not entirely.

                    I can’t lose Elliott. He means more to me than anything else in this world and I’ll protect him at any cost. And if I am the source of that danger, then I hope I will have the courage to remove myself…

                    --- Post updated ---
                    //Most of you are going to be VERY frustrated at me these next two weeks, because I've got some BIG things going, and there are gonna be so many cliffhangers. I mean seriously, I'm'a start handing out parachutes in here because ALL of the cliffs will be hung from. Fortunately, unless something goes really weird with my pacing, this current "arc" will be wrapped up next Wednesday, and then the last third of the fic can begin as we work toward the conclusion, so sit tight and get ready for some oh no you didn't girlfriend moments. And again, damn this new formatting! I want to generate those sweet, sweet likes. Oh well, at least I can comfort myself with view counts. I mean, dear gods, that alone is inspiring me to sit down every day and lay down words. You people are amazing and all you are doing is clicking on this. Amazing! :)

                    Also, I had a "wait, what?" moment, as I was catching up on webcomics this evening, and I just now realized that I had accidentally based a couple of bits of Lys's design and personality on Tarvek Sturmvoraus from the Girl Genius series. I feel like such a hack... And lastly, today's writing music is Dance of the Moonlight Jellies, and If I Ever Lose My Faith in You by Sting and the Police. The first song is obvious for this chapter, the next for Wednesday's update, 'cause I ended up splitting it in two because it was sooooo long, and I am Literary Evil. :3//

                    Over the next week his sleep was plagued with the recurring nightmare, as well as new dreams, that while not as unpleasant, were still unwelcome. Not every night nor its entire length, but just often enough that he felt dread every time night cast its shadow on the sky. Despite this, he continued to wear the cheerful face that he knew was a lie. His friends knew it, too, but he seemed to have regained some of his lost spirit, so they left it at that, trusting him to know himself best and whether or not he needed assistance. Lys could see and feel the tension behind Elliott’s smile and touch, which never faded despite his repeated insistence that everything was just fine, really, it’s just bad dreams, that’s all.

                    “It’s just a string of bad nights, love, because I’ve been digging around in the scarier parts of my memories. It’ll vanish soon,” he assured, running a brush through Elliott’s hair as he sat at his laptop taking notes for a new story, “there’s nothing wrong. Look at me, not lying, see?” Elliott leaned back in his chair, Lys’s face upside-down from his perspective, but still honest and open. He sighed and sat back up, allowing Lys to continue his work.

                    “No, you are not. But you’re still hiding something, and whatever it is it’s hurting you deeply. I wish that there was something that I could do to give you peace of mind, but again, I will not pry or interfere. I understand that there are some things that must be resolved by one’s self, and you are a born warrior.” Lys finished his task and set the brush on the table, leaning down to drape his arms over Elliott’s shoulders and kiss him on the cheek.

                    “There we go, handsome again. And I’m more of a Rogue than a Warrior, but that’s just being nit-picky.” He giggled at the look of semi-amusement that Elliott gave him as he paused in his typing. “Now, tell me about this thing going on tonight. Some kind of migration?”

                    “Correct. Somewhere near the end of the summer a particular variety of bioluminescent jellyfish migrate through the waters here. It looks like tonight is going to be the largest of the migratory groups that will pass through, according to the biologists who have been tracking them. During the daylight hours it’s nothing much, but at night it’s stunning. Tonight should be particularly brilliant, as it’s a new moon, so there will be even less ambient light to compete.”

                    “That sounds pretty neat. So you can see it from the shore?”

                    “Yes, but it’s best to view on the pier out upon the water. Hmm? Is there a problem?” he asked, feeling Lys suddenly tense.

                    “Not really a problem, just…”

                    “Dear?” He turned to look up at Lys with a mixture of concern and curiosity. “What’s on your mind?” Lys straightened and rubbed the back of his neck, now uncharacteristically quiet.

                    “I… Okay, it’s silly as hell, but I don’t know how to swim. At all. And I’m kinda hydrophobic. I’m terribly uncomfortable around water that I can’t see the bottom or far side of. Doesn’t it just figure that I’m dating someone who lives right on the ocean?”

                    “We all have our fears and phobias, and sometimes they are justified. Well, if you trust me, I will be your… Hmm, I suppose ‘anchor’ is exactly the wrong term to use in this case. I’ll be there to support you, both in mind and body, and I promise that I will not let you fall. Is that sufficient for your needs?”

                    “...Yeah. I think so. Just… Just be patient with me and don’t laugh, okay? I mean, go figure, I can dance for an entire town of people without blinking an eye, but the thought of stepping onto that dock just sends chills down my spine.” Lys gasped in surprise as Elliott pulled him into his lap and an all-encompassing hug, and for a moment the cold feeling faded.

                    “Finding the courage to look terror in the face and not blink is not something to be dismissed. I will push you to find and expand your limits, but only when I am certain that you are comfortable doing so.” Lys settled into the embrace, feeling better about the upcoming evening.

                    “I hope I can do the same for you one of these days.”

                    “You already have. I am hardly the man you first met.”

                    “That’s true, you’re more than that. I think I can take credit for a bit of it.”

                    As the day began to fade to evening the beach began to gain visitors, as did Elliott’s cabin. Sam, Sebastian, Abigail, Haley, and Alex all converged upon it to visit before the night’s main event. It was a little crowded inside for that number of people, so they sat, stood, and lounged around out front both in the sun and shade, having removed shoes that were already full of sand, and setting aside jackets and other outerwear that wouldn’t be needed until later that night. Lys sprawled on the sand out in the last of the sunlight, feeling the warmth gathered from the day baking back out into the world.

                    “I’m going to miss this,” he commented, removing his sunglasses now that the sun was sitting atop the waves, “the heat of the day that makes you just feel alive and suffuses everything with energy, and the warm evenings that are like the world slowly exhaling after a sip of a hot drink. That gentle, radiating warmth that makes you feel like you’re wrapped up in a blanket. Now I need to bundle up against the bite of autumn, when the world slowly dies.” Haley laughed and snapped a quick photo, mostly out of reflex.

                    “Apparently couples do start to resemble each other. You sound like Elliott right now.”

                    “So, what, I got more lyrical and poetic? Does that mean he’s more flirty and sexy now? ‘Cause I can totally work with that,” he grinned, earning a pleasant smile and eye-roll from Elliott.

                    “I don’t know if the town could handle that much awesome,” she smiled, checking her photos, “especially when you two are already dating each other and are therefore unavailable. Being that much of a tease would just be rude. Oh! And don’t let me forget again, I submitted the photos I took at the luau to a couple of places in the city, as well as uploaded the video of everything to my channel. I figured it’d be great for my portfolio as well as getting interest about the band. I got some positive responses, and someone actually did a write-up in the paper with comments from the governor. It looks like you all made a great impression.” Lys grinned even more widely at Elliott, who groaned and hid his face in his hands, knowing exactly what it was his partner was thinking. “Yeah, even that, and you would not believe the number of comments and views that that video has gotten already. I’ll send out the links when I get back to my computer.”

                    They continued to chat idly and enjoy each other’s company as the sun continued its descent to the far side of the horizon, and the crowd grew to its peak as the darkness became complete. Everyone bounced to their feet and moved to the pier on the far east of the beach which was currently not occupied; Sam and Alex racing each other, Haley and Abigail walking and talking, and Sebastian taking his time, pausing when he saw Lys sit up but not get up completely. Elliott gestured for Sebastian to go on ahead and offered a hand to Lys.

                    “Come on, dear, it’s time. I’m here, trust me.” Accepting the assistance, he got to his feet and shook the sand off of himself and out of his clothes, trying to disguise his hesitation. “It will be fine. Let’s go.”

                    His grip on Lys’s hand was gentle but firm as he led the way to the rest of the group. Lys stopped as soon as his feet hit the wooden planks, feeling the structure shift and sway slightly under the weight of its passengers and the ocean currents below. His hands began to shake, so he gripped Elliott’s wrist with both, keeping both eyes on the wood and not the water as he followed the other man to the cluster of friends, who gave him a combined look of curiosity that made his cheeks flush.

                    “I… I can’t swim. I’m not really good around a lot of water,” he mumbled, releasing one hand to grip a sturdy pylon. Sam laughed and punched him in the shoulder, which earned him a snarl.

                    “You’re scared of water but you’re dating the guy who lives by the ocean. Brilliant.”

                    “I already made that observation earlier.”

                    “Well, I think it’s brave of you to face your fear like this,” Abigail stated, sitting down on the pier and swinging her legs idly.

                    “Thanks, at least someone here is sympathetic.”

                    “And it’s also cute watching you cling to Elliott like that. You two are freakin’ adorable.”

                    “...Thanks...” He let go of Elliott’s wrist with his other hand to put it immediately around his waist and pull him close. “At least someone is amused by my discomfiture.” Elliott put his arm around Lys’s shoulders, and again the strong warmth relaxed him. He allowed his gaze to sweep up from the pier to the water, when he squinted at something strange in the distance. “Hey, I see lights. Is that?...”

                    “Ah, our timing is impeccable. The show has begun and we have an excellent view.”

                    Soft, multicolored lights began to appear to the west, speckling the sea like a slow-moving rainbow of constellations. They could be seen in a number of colors; pink, blue, green, yellow, blue, and a rare few in violet. While the stars in the sky were solid, white pinpricks of unmoving light, the lights in the ocean were soft, flowing orbs that swirled and danced with the flow of the current. The only sounds were the crash of ocean and swirl of wind that guided the creatures on their journey. Despite his earlier apprehension, Lys now found himself mesmerized by the random and unhurried patterns woven with light that now illuminated the bay. Elliott was right: the new moon in the sky allowed the migration to be even more brilliant and luminous without the lunar competition. For quite some time, nobody spoke, and the silence was only broken when the last of the lights had drifted to the east and out of sight.

                    “That was so lovely,” Haley sighed, “I wish I had the right equipment to film that. Maybe next year I’ll have the money and gear to make it happen.”

                    “I’m glad that you all dragged me out here to see it,” Lys replied, still holding onto both Elliott and the pylon for support, “I’d normally be scared out of my mind right now, but that was amazing. It’s actually not so bad right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable out here like this, but I can try.” Sam and Alex were playfully trading punches, as Sam was feeling wound up from the extended period of silence and the impressive display that night, and Alex was being amused by keeping the much-shorter Sam at arm’s length.

                    “That was so neat. All those colors, like squishy fireworks. I wonder if any of them are poisonous?”

                    “You mean venomous,” Sebastian corrected, pulling out a cigarette, “poisonous refers to being toxic when ingested. Venomous is when it’s toxic from a bite, sting, or other physical contact.”

                    “I didn’t know you were a biologist, I thought you just liked computers.”

                    “I spend a lot of time online. I pick up a lot of things.”

                    “Nerrrrrd,” Sam giggled, shoving Sebastian in good humor, who was completely unprepared for it.

                    This set off a chain of chaos; he tried to grab a pylon for support but did so with the hand holding the cigarette, causing him to bruise his knuckles against it and stumble and throw his other arm wide for balance to avoid falling off. Sam saw his friend lose his balance and reached out to grab for him, only to be accidentally backhanded. Lys wasn’t paying attention to them, still lost in thought, but caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and upon seeing Sam staggering back, reflexively shoved Elliott out of the way, knocking both him and Alex to the pier. The momentum of this action put him further in Sam’s path and in a panic, he reached for the pylon again, missing completely, and would have shifted his weight and balance to stay standing, had Sam not bounced off of and elbowed him just below the ear, enough to send a small dance of lights across Lys’s vision and stun him with a moment of dizziness as his inner ear lost coordination. He felt a strange sensation of floating before hitting the water with a dull splash.
                      Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
                      Gabaw and Alkanthe like this.
                    • Gabaw

                      Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                      Frustration isn't the F word I'm looking for with that kind of ending :p Early AM shenanigans up in here, at least on my end. Lys is right to be deathly afraid of the ocean. and going in at night?? He's already braver than most. that's feeding time... for sharks!!! dark, blind, cold wet suffocating toothy death. no. hell no. anyway at least Seb is right about poison vs venom. You can safely digest most venom which is a key difference. gets in your blood or eyes you're toast tho.
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                      • Alkanthe

                        Alkanthe Supernova

                        I did not expect that. Dang.
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                        • Risukage

                          Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                          //Welcome back, and have a resolution to this little "incident." No commentary today, but that's okay, 'cause you're here for a story, not to have me talk at you. :p//

                          He coughed in pain, gagging as he regurgitated salty, bitter water, feeling sand under him and the sensation of being completely soaked.

                          I… What…

                          Coughing again, he drew in ragged, gasping breaths as he choked, still feeling water where it shouldn’t have been and spitting it aside as it came up.

                          Sand… How…

                          He weakly sagged as he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, vaguely aware of sound around him. Voices. They sounded...relieved? One sound was repeated several times, and it took him a few moments to realize that it was his name. He felt a touch on his shoulder and barely had the coordination to see what it was.

                          “...Love? What?...” Elliott appeared to be on the verge of tears, but it faded and was replaced with a look of relief at Lys’s response.

                          “You had us terrified, dear, are you alright?” His vision and hearing had cleared, and he now saw that they were on the beach, by the water’s edge. Elliott and Alex were also both soaking wet, and his cousin appeared to be quite satisfied with himself.

                          “No kidding, for a minute there we thought you were a goner. Good thing both of us were here.” This made no sense. What were they talking about?

                          “...What happened? I…” He sat up and looked back at the ocean, puzzled. “We were just on the pier. How?...” Sam threw himself at Lys, hugging him as hard as he could, and Lys coughed once more, tasting still more ocean water that he had somehow ingested.

                          “I’m so sorry! I was just playing around and, and…”

                          “What? I remember you fell-”

                          And then he remembered.

                          Falling, sinking… He frantically clawed at the water, trying to get purchase on something, anything. Nothing. The water surrounded him, suffocating and crushing. Nothing to hold on to, nothing to push off of, nothing, just silent, endless emptiness. His usual grace and dexterity did nothing for him as he continued to fall into the liquid abyss. Panic gripped him as the pale starlight above faded, blotted out by the vastness of water above him. His chest hurt; his breath was running out and he could feel his body try to force him to breathe. Resisting the urge, he fought against the water, trying to move, to swim, to do something… And then his autonomous systems overrode his conscious effort and forced him to inhale. Water rushed into his lungs. Pain, terror, cold… As he began to lose consciousness, he thought he felt something grab onto him…

                          “I… I nearly…” he gasped, now recalling the previous moments. Sam let go and sat back, scrubbing his sleeve across his eyes. As the memories rushed back Lys began to shake, now fully aware of what had happened.

                          “Damnit, he’s going into shock,” Alex observed, looking around for something, “we need to get him warm.” Lys stood up enough to collapse into Elliott, burying his face in his shirt, sobbing in terror. Elliott held him tightly, fingers tangled in his shirt and hair, as if he never intended to let go.

                          “I almost lost you… For a moment, I thought that the one light in my life had gone out.”

                          “Yeah, but you were the first one in after him,” supplied Alex, “and you got him to the surface. I just got him back. Good thing you were so quick on the uptake, too. With no moon out the water was almost completely black.”

                          “That is true,” returned Elliott, almost back to his calm demeanor, “but I am a competent swimmer, not a strong one. I brought him up but did not have the skill or strength to get both of us to shore. Had it not been for you we both might have been lost to the ocean. In addition, you are the one that knows rescue breathing, so even if I had successfully reached land I might not have been able to do anything further.”

                          “Where did you learn to do that, anyway?” Sebastian asked, still holding the unlit cigarette, having forgotten that he had it.

                          “Oh, I did a couple of years of swim team in addition to gridball back in school,” he laughed, “I thought it would help out with toning and cardio. And I totally rocked the swimsuit, heh. Lys may make stuff look sexy but I make things look awesome.” The initial terror had finally subsided and Lys caught his breath, no longer feeling the stomach-turning taste of salt water or the drag of liquid whenever he inhaled.

                          “Sorry, love, I just… That’s the second time I nearly… You really risked yourself for me?”

                          “There are some things that are worth risking everything for, because without them life isn’t worth living.” Haley stood up, rubbing her arms.

                          “I really hate to be rude and interrupt, but I’m feeling a bit cold right now, so you three have got to be freezing. Let’s get somewhere a bit warmer.”

                          “There is a fire pit outside my cabin that I can light. It is large enough for all of us and should be what we require.” Elliott helped Lys stand, who was still a bit shaky and leaned into him for support a little longer. The crowd that had gathered to watch the migration had already dispersed, leaving them alone on the beach. Elliott disappeared indoors just long enough to retrieve the materials to start the fire, as wood had already been neatly stacked and arranged in the pit. The wood was slightly damp from the constant ocean humidity and took a few tries to light, but once the spark took it quickly became a comforting source of light and warmth. Lys sat on the far side of the fire pit from the ocean, and again leaned into Elliott, feeling a bit of self-reproach as he did so.

                          “Sorry again, feeling a bit clingy at the moment.”

                          “It’s quite alright. I’m the one who must apologize. I promised to not let you fall and failed to uphold my vow.”

                          “I’m sorry, too,” Abigail said, sitting next to Sebastian, who was between her and Lys, tracing patterns in the sand and looking extremely downcast.

                          “What? Why? You didn’t do anything.”

                          “Because I teased you about being scared, even though you were really trying. It takes a lot to face a fear like that, and I gave you grief about it, and if it weren’t for Elliott and Alex that would have been the last thing I said to you.” She sniffed and blinked back tears, looking away again to draw random lines again. Sebastian lit the cigarette he’d been holding onto the entire time, thought about it, and offered it to Lys, who took it gratefully. He took a deep pull from it as Sebastian put an arm around Abigail in a supportive hug, and chuckled darkly.

                          “I survive drowning and first thing I do once I’ve got the water out of my lungs is to fill it with smoke. What doesn’t kill you, right? And no worries, Abby, it’s okay. This wasn’t anyone’s fault. You too, Sam, you’re too damn quiet over there and I know what you’re thinking. Sometimes stuff just happens. What’s important is that we’re all okay. Ah, sorry, love, I’ll move downwind.”

                          “Stay, it’s alright, I don’t mind this. Rather, the smoky scent of strawberry settles on you well. This sort of thing suits you.”

                          “What, I’ve got the ‘bad boy’ thing going on? Though I probably look a complete mess right now.”

                          “To the contrary. You remind me of a Japanese saying, that you are ‘a man so handsome not even water can ruin his beauty.’ Despite nearly being claimed by the aquatic depths your fire still burns bright.” He laughed around the cigarette as Sebastian lit another one for himself.

                          “You know, I should be terrified, more than before. But...I’m not. I mean, I survived. I’m still not comfortable being near that much water, but now it’s more a sense of, well, wariness rather than outright fear. I suppose I was more scared of the possibilities, of what my mind could conjure. I’m kinda feeling numb right now, and will probably feel it properly later once the shock has worn off, but for now, I’m...happy. Despite that one moment I had a good time with everyone. This will be something I’ll look back on years from now and laugh at, probably while we’re all at the pub having a drink, and I’ll guilt-trip Sam into covering my tab for the evening because I’m an ass like that. I won’t trade this moment, right now, with all of you, for anything.” He stared into the fire with a relaxed smile, the dancing flames reflected in his eyes. There was pleasant silence for a moment until Sam was suddenly taken by a fit of giggles.

                          “Hey, Alex.”


                          “You totally kissed your cousin.” Lys coughed again, this time on smoke, as Alex gave Sam a perplexed stare.

                          “What are you on about?”

                          “After you pulled him out of the water. Don’t deny it, we all saw it.”

                          “That was rescue breathing, you doofus!”

                          “Call it what you want, you totally made out with your hot cousin!”

                          “It wasn’t proper ‘making out’ because there was no tongue involved,” snarked Lys, “if you’d had more practice yourself you’d know better. But you are right, I am his hot cousin, so if you’re ever thinking of anything inappropriate or embarrassing, Alex, I totally understand.”

                          “I’ve got half a mind to throw the both of you in the ocean again.”

                          For a while longer, they talked about whatever came to mind, simply enjoying each other’s company and the comfort of a crackling fire, until Lys, Elliott, and Alex had finally dried off. It was quite late and they all felt the exhaustion of the day creeping in. The fire had nearly burned itself out anyway, and they retrieved what articles of clothing that they had discarded earlier, leaving for home. Lys swept Sam up in one final hug, reminding him that things were okay and he wasn’t angry, which Sam begrudgingly accepted. Alex waved over his shoulder as he promised to be up in the morning like usual for their run, accompanied by Haley, and Sebastian and Abigail followed behind. Lys dusted off what sand he could and pulled Elliott close for a soft hug.

                          “Time for me to head out, too, love. See you again tomorrow.” He was expecting a departing kiss from Elliott, but not for it to be that strong or passionate. “You still seem worried,” he observed, once Elliott let him go long enough to catch his breath.

                          “I almost lost you tonight. For a while I will worry that every kiss might be our last.”

                          “Well, every one for me feels like the first time, so I suppose we balance each other out.” This produced the smile that he wanted to see. “There, that’s better. And if you are concerned past tonight then I will be very cross with you, because if you worry about something going wrong then it will. I’ll be here for many years.”

                          “Earlier you said it was the ‘second time.’ You’ve nearly died once before, haven’t you?” Lys’s smile vanished as he recalled his statement, and found himself without an answer he wanted to give.

                          “...I don’t want to talk about that right now. Please.”

                          “It is late and you have already had a difficult evening. I will not press further. But knowing that twice now you have evaded the Reaper makes me even more concerned for your safety.”

                          “If I’ve escaped twice then maybe I’m getting good at it and you should be less concerned. I’m not going anywhere, love, I promise. Well, okay, I’m going home now, but in the long-term, metaphysical sense, I’m not going anywhere. Okay? Sleep, I’ll be back tomorrow. I need to get going if I want to get a shower and still have enough time to get a full night of rest.”

                          He had enough energy to jog most of the way back to his house, which lasted just long enough to shower off the sand and salt, and then set the alarm on his phone before tossing the damp towel over the back of a chair and collapsing into bed. He was asleep almost as soon as he pulled the blanket over himself, already dreaming deeply.
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                          • Gabaw

                            Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                            A harrowing conclusion. Lesson, don't f**k with the ocean :p Geez. Nobody thought to bring some floaters or a life ring? Good thing the Alex in your story lives up to the hype lmao.
                              Risukage and Alkanthe like this.
                            • Risukage

                              Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                              //The shenanigans continue, as we find out about more fun but useless stuff that Lys knows (which are once again based on my own experiences and knowledge...), as well as some interesting but painful things he still won't share. Further, I've had a massive burst of writing mojo, and have almost all of this arc completed, which ends next week, and the final third of the story begins on August first. I'm really excited for this upcoming week, because it answers damn near all of the questions you all should have and brings around a bit of resolution. Not completely, because there has to be something to push the plot, but I think it's about damn time for a bit of catharsis. :)

                              As always, thanks for reading, and if you've got comments I wanna hear them. If you don't have any, well, I guess just keep reading and it's all cool. *Nods.*//

                              Another nightmare added itself to the suite of terrors that plagued his sleeping mind. The next few nights he got almost no useful sleep, and for the third morning in a row he awoke gasping for breath, trying to convince himself that he was no longer falling endlessly, drowning, helpless. He could feel the strain it was putting on his mind, and how it made him short-tempered and irritable. Still, he continued on as normal as he could, wearing the false mask, behaving much more subdued and quietly than he usually did, to try and prevent any incidents. It would pass, it was just a few bad nights…

                              He was running a little behind that day, due to fatigue and carelessness during his daily work and chores, which took longer to complete than normal. He waved to the group, laughing an apology, trying to brush it off.

                              “It figures, the day you’re late is the day I wanted to show you something cool,” Abigail said, looking very excited. Lys noticed that she was holding a sword and perked up.

                              “Oh, nifty, is that really-”

                              “Yeah, I found it when digging around in storage, it was buried way back somewhere. It was so difficult to get it out of the house without mom and dad noticing. What do you think? I figure with your theater time you’ve done some sword work and might have an idea of how good it is.” He took the weapon and examined the sheath critically, tracing parts with his fingers as he inspected the craftsmanship.

                              “From the weight and size, it looks like a standard shortsword. The scabbard is in great shape. No tarnishing or rusting on the metal, and the leather is still supple, both could use a bit of oiling, but no cracking or damage. Same for the hilt, the wrapping is still intact and shows no signs of excess wear or damage, and could use a bit of oil as well to restore the leather. The guard is sturdy and will protect the user from incoming strikes, and likewise doesn’t show any corrosion. As for the blade…” He unsheathed the sword and was impressed at first glance. “Nice, it’s a quality shortsword. No blood channels, but it doesn’t really need them on something this light. Wait, is that? Oh, VERY nice. This was forged, not cast. Look, you can see the layers from where it’s been folded in on itself several times. Looks like a good carbon-steel… No, oh wow, that color, I think this is nickel-steel. This is a meteorite sword!” Delight was scrawled all across his face as he carefully turned the blade back and forth in the sunlight.

                              “Yeah, look at that dark color, with the light speckling. I think they used a ferric chloride etch on it, too, to further enhance the starry-night look and give it that lovely rippling pattern. This is beautiful, it’s Damascus-quality. A master smith must have spent ages working on something like this; nickel-steel alloys can be a right nuisance to fold properly, and I bet they mixed in a bit of spring steel so it would fold and hammer out without separating.” All five members of the group now watched him with puzzled fascination.

                              “Wait, don’t tell me,” Sam grinned, “you once dated a blacksmith.”

                              “...It was a metallurgist that did blacksmithing as a side hobby.”

                              “Ha! So you might actually know how to use that thing.”

                              “Actually, I do know how to use it, but that’s because I’ve done a few shows that required swordplay. I also took a few semesters of fencing, as well as a course that taught Tai Chi with the straight sword, which this is actually perfect for.” Sam’s mouth was open, baffled by the torrent of information.

                              “Bloody hell, dude, is there anything you can’t do?”

                              “Can’t cook much better than instant noodles, and as you saw the other night, I can’t swim. I’m just good at the cool but useless skills.” Abigail bounced with glee as Haley pulled out her camera and fiddled with some settings.

                              “You can’t say stuff like that and not give a demonstration. C’mon, show us your moves.”

                              “Well, I did say that this is a shortsword, which was pretty much what the Tai Chi class taught, and the forms do look pretty cool. Let’s move over to the park where there’s a bit more room for me to work.”

                              The other five took seats on the benches and the fountain (with Haley choosing the best angle to film from) as Lys twirled the sword experimentally, getting the feel for its weight and balance. Closing his eyes, he let himself relax as he took a slow, deep breath, reaching out to feel every part of himself. He exhaled slowly, feeling the synergy between all of his senses and self, as well as the sword in his hand. With the second breath he began to move in the forms, changing stances without thought, letting his body move itself as it had been trained, allowing his mind to empty itself and focus. It wasn’t flashy or impressive; it was an elegant dance, flowing like water, and the sword moved in his hands almost of its own accord, guided by the slightest nudge and shift in position and weight. It wasn’t merely a weapon, it was an extension of himself, and he knew exactly where he was and needed to be at all times. As he finished the forms, he flourished to reach down to retrieve the scabbard and sheathe the sword smoothly, completing the dance. Abigail applauded in awe and even Sebastian whistled in appreciation. Lys bowed with a further flourish at the accolades, then strode over to sit down next to Elliott.

                              “You MUST teach me that!” requested Abigail, “That was so cool!”

                              “That would be fun, sure. As well as proper sword fighting, since I’m pretty sure you’ve only got an idea how it works from TV and movies, which are total rubbish.”

                              “Dude, you keep saying you’re a Rogue, but that was totally a Warrior skill,” Sam remarked.

                              “Not really, shortswords are also a Rogue’s weapon, since they’re more finesse-based than strength-based. Though I’m much better with knives, I admit, as I’m very good with my hands.” He winked a leer at Elliott, who chuckled and shook his head at the implications of that statement, and Sam laughed at both of them.

                              “What, like Abby’s butterfly knife? Those are dangerous, dude.”

                              “That’s one of many variants I can use, and it’s quite easy if you’re paying attention.” Abigail pulled the item in question out of her pocket and offered it to him.

                              “Go on then, prove it.” He took it before she could pull it back. “Ah, I didn’t think you’d be serious- Wow, so you do know how to use it after all.” The silvery weapon flashed in the light as he twirled it with impudent skill.

                              “I told you, I have all kinds of cool but useless- Blast, that was- Ow, damn it!” In a moment of carelessness he lost control of the knife and dropped it, and out of reflex reached out to catch it. He succeeded, but also failed by grabbing it out of the air by the blade. Again he dropped it, but caught it by the handle with his other hand. “Shit, that thing’s proper sharp. Sorry, Abby, I’ll clean it before… Before… Hah…” The knife hadn’t cut very deep, but it had left a wide gash on his left palm, which was now generating a small pool of blood that also shone bright red on the knife’s edge. He felt a bit dizzy as memories rushed in.

                              It’s everywhere… Light help me, it’s everywhere… I’m still holding it…

                              He dropped the knife for a third time from a shaking hand as he backed away, breathing in short, sharp gasps as a panic attack set in. All of the pain, fear, and dread that he had been fighting that had finally just dissipated crashed back down upon him. The world spun and lurched sickeningly, and he clamped a hand to his mouth as he collapsed to the grass, fighting back a wave of nausea. His shoulders shook as he fought both the urge to both vomit and hyperventilate.

                              It’s everywhere...mine...

                              “Lysander? Talk to us, what happened?” Elliott’s hand on his arm restored some of his senses, and he pulled away his hand, able to breathe normally again, swallowing the foul taste of bile.

                              “I’m… It’s… Memory. A bad memory.” Eyes tightly closed, he tried to focus on something, anything, whatever wasn’t in his own mind.

                              “Dear, what memory? Look at me, please.” With assistance, Lys slowly sat up, still trembling slightly.

                              “It’s… Something happened. Don’t worry, I…”

                              “The hell I will not worry. You very nearly perished a few nights ago, and now you have this reaction to a small injury. Dear, tell me, what happened in your past?”

                              “...I can’t tell you. Not yet. Light help me, not yet. I’m sorry. Please don’t be angry, I can’t…” Sighing with frustration, Elliott relented, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and pressing it against Lys’s palm.

                              “Now it not the time for it anyway, we need to get you to the clinic. Can you stand?”

                              “Yeah, I just- Thanks. Damn, figures that I’d mess up my left hand, that’s the side my keys are on. If you can grab them for me I’ll go get this taken care of and be right back.” Elliott retrieved the community center keys from Lys’s pocket and hesitated.

                              “Would you like me to accompany you? I realize that this is an insignificant injury, but…”

                              “No offense, love, I’ll go alone. I need a few minutes to clear my head. I overreacted there, sorry to worry everyone. Damn, I need to clean up your knife, too, Abby, sorry about that.”

                              “It’s all good,” she replied, picking up the knife, rinsing it in the fountain, and drying it with a handkerchief of her own, “you have no idea how much blood this thing took out of me when I was learning to use it. I went through SO many bandages. Gotta say, though, I never got myself as bad as you just did, but you keep saying how you never do anything halfway.” Lys’s lips quirked in a flash a of a smile.

                              “I do keep saying that, don’t I? I’ll be back as soon as I can. This shouldn’t need stitches, I don’t think I cut myself that bad.” Elliott started to reach out for him, stopped, and turned to walk back to the community center.

                              I’m sorry, love, you can’t know, not ever. Damn it, my mind is breaking, I’ve got to protect him. It’s all going wrong and it’s all my fault…
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                              • Gabaw

                                Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                                I don't know which edge is sharper, the knife's or the story :p (probs the knife tho as I can attest from my early days of flipping). I'm confident you'll make good on your promise to shed light on some of the darker goings on in Lys' mind but in the meantime +1 for legit sword facts.
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                                • Risukage

                                  Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                                  //A good Monday morning to everyone! In today's update things continue to go downhill as things continue to go wrong. This just isn't his day, is it? Guess we'll find out on Wednesday if it gets better or not. And as rough as it is on the characters, this was quite an interesting and satisfying chapter to write, if anything else because it moves everything toward a definitive end. Quite happily tapping away at Friday's update, and am quite pleased with myself that I've got a bit of a buffer, so I have the time to sit and make sure everything is crafted properly.//

                                  He leaned against the door to the clinic, which fortunately pushed open without the need to work a handle, as he was still applying pressure to his hand. Doctor Harvey was at the desk, scribbling on a notepad as he referenced another rather large book. He looked up to greet the visitor and immediately took in and assessed the situation in a glance.

                                  “Here, let me have a look, what happened?” Lys carefully removed the handkerchief in case it might rip off what had already clotted and release a fresh torrent of bleeding.

                                  “Um… Okay, no lie, I was a bit careless with a knife. If I drop something I reflexively grab for it, so…” The doctor examined the wound thoughtfully and excused himself, going into the back of the office, and returning with bandages, disinfectant, and swabs.

                                  “Well, it isn’t deep, and it’s a clean cut. Looks like it was a good, sharp knife, so you have that going for you. On the downside it’s nearly in the crease of your palm so it’ll be a little difficult to grip things properly for a day or two until this heals. You know, you’ve been here over half a year now and I still haven’t had you in for a checkup. I have no medical records for you, either.” Lys didn’t reply, and Harvey sighed as he worked. “I don’t mean to jump in where it’s unwanted, but your health is important, and also importantly, if something unexpected happens it’s best for you if I have some data beforehand.”

                                  “...Sorry, I just… I had a bad experience with a hospital previously.”

                                  “Well, this is a clinic, not a hospital,” he chuckled, trying to lighten the mood, “and anything said or done while here is bound by patient-doctor confidentiality. Nothing will leave the office, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Lys flinched at the unexpectedly on-the-mark comment, and though Harvey noticed it he said nothing.

                                  “I’ll contact the city and have them send over my records.”

                                  “That would be immensely helpful. May I call you to make an appointment once I have that information?”

                                  “Yeah, that’s fine.”

                                  “Then I will see you on that date, as you are good to go now. How does that feel?” Lys flexed his hand, and though it was a bit restricted, the slim and compact dressing felt secure.

                                  “Just fine, this won’t get in my way at all, thanks.”

                                  “If you need it redressed or replaced before it heals drop in at any time.”

                                  “Hopefully I won’t. Thanks again, I’ll keep an eye out for your call.”

                                  Outside in the sunshine and early-fall warmth, Lys stopped to take a deep breath, trying to silence the noise in his head, which somehow made it worse.

                                  It’s all going wrong… Not again…

                                  His hand no longer hurt, even though his mind was in worse pain than ever. Too much noise, too much clutter. Past events continued to resurface and taunt him with his failures and suffering. He could feel his nerves fraying. Lost inside of his own mind he entered the community center, nodding to the group silently. Ever the cheeky sort, Sam tried to tease Lys to cheer him up.

                                  “Wow, moody and bleeding. Guess you’re on your man-strual cycle, hunh?”

                                  “I am not in the mood for this shit today!” Lys snapped, far more rudely than he had ever expected. His rebuff was a slap in his own face as he saw the shock and hurt on Sam’s. Gritting his teeth and clenching his fists, he turned on his heel to leave.

                                  I’ll only make it worse. Shut up and leave. Just go.

                                  “Lysander! This is unlike you. What is going on?” Elliott called out, getting up from the piano bench.

                                  “Nothing. I… I’ll go. See you all tomorrow when I’m less of an ass about everything.” Striding over quickly, Elliott grabbed Lys’s wrist, ignoring the dark look of warning from the other man.

                                  “No, you won’t. I am done with this. You are going to talk to us and tell us what’s on your mind, right now.”

                                  “There’s a lot on my mind and it’s something I’ll deal with on my own.” Lys broke free of Elliott’s grip and tried to leave again, only to have his partner step in between him and the door.

                                  “Now I am the one who is not in the mood for this shit today. I am tired of your evasions. You have never lied to me but you have never told me the full truth. I demand answers and I will not accept any more excuses.” The rest of the band watched the argument escalate in intensity and volume in awkward silence, unable to leave politely and unwilling to step in and interrupt.

                                  “I’ve never given you excuses. And I haven’t told you the full truth because I don’t want to hurt or scare you. Now get out of my way, I need to clear my head.”

                                  “I am going nowhere, and am insulted that you think I am unable to accept and understand whatever is going on now and what has gone on in your past.”

                                  “Get out of my way.”


                                  Move.” He tried to push past Elliott, who shoved him back with both hands and more force than Lys had expected.

                                  “I said ‘no.’ This is not finished.”

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

                                  “So you will fight Alex at a moment’s notice but dance carefully around me? You asked him behind my back to defend me, as though I were a fragile porcelain doll. Do you really think that little of me, that I am weak and defenseless?”

                                  “You don’t understand-”

                                  “Of course I don’t! You’ve never explained yourself. Every time any sort of conflict seems to come up you shut down and back off. Do you have any idea how much that hurts? That the person I love thinks I’m not strong or worthy enough to share their past?”

                                  “That’s not the point. I’ve hurt too many people and I promised that I’d never do that again.”

                                  “That’s life, Lysander, pain is something that happens, and you will hurt people. Sometimes it’s accidental or unavoidable, and what is important is how it is dealt with.”

                                  “Why is it so wrong for me to want to protect you?”

                                  “Why can’t you understand that I don’t want to be protected? Have you ever considered the possibility that I want to look out for you as well? That I do not want a protector? I want an equal, a partner, not a guardian.”

                                  “I’m not equal to you, not yet. I’m still not good enough, and I need to be better. You deserve better.”

                                  “That is nonsense and you know it. Stop being foolish.”

                                  “So I’m a fool for wanting to improve myself?”

                                  “And now you are deliberately being obtuse. That is not what I implied, do not twist my words.”

                                  “And you think that this will accomplish something? I’m leaving now before I screw up everything worse than I already have.” Lys tried to push past again, only to have Elliott grab him by the collar and drag him back.

                                  “Stop running!”

                                  “I’m not running.”

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

                                  There was horrified silence in the community center. Lys’s fist had splintered the wood of the wall, barely an inch away from Elliott. Freezing pain iced through Lys’s veins at the one thing he had never hoped to see in those clear blue eyes: fear. He hadn’t even tried to defend himself from the strike. Backing away, his own vision blurred as he felt the crushing sensation of self-loathing wrap in suffocating bands around his chest. He couldn’t breathe and swayed on his feet, close to collapse.

                                  I… I’m… What a useless son of a bitch. A complete and total failure. I’ve gone and destroyed everything again. I don’t deserve him, I don’t deserve anything.

                                  Elliott reached out to him, now worried. Even after all that had been said, after what Lys had done, Elliott’s first concern was for Lys’s well-being.

                                  “Dear, are you-”

                                  Pushing past him with what was left of his strength, he ran outside and was immediately grabbed around the chest by Alex, pinning his arms to his sides, who despite his larger size was quite fast over a short distance. Lys struggled in his cousin’s grip, unable to get away. Alex strained to hold onto him, having difficulty maintaining his own balance.

                                  “Bro, what the hell? Chill out a sec!”

                                  “No… No!”


                                  “Let me go!”

                                  Run away!

                                  “Get away!”

                                  I don’t deserve any of you!

                                  “Just let me die!”

                                  This last outburst surprised Alex enough to loosen his grip, and Lys lashed out blindly, trying to break free completely, hitting just hard enough to cause the other man to retaliate reflexively. Lys tasted blood and lost himself in his mind again, in the noise, in the pain.

                                  “Damn, sorry Lys, I- Shit!” Alex dodged aside as Lys hissed and swung at him, fully intending to hit to hurt.

                                  End it all.

                                  Anger took over, and he now ran on instinct and emotion; wild and feral, out to cause pain.

                                  End the pain, stop the suffering. FIGHT.

                                  Alex dodged again, getting angrier as well, but still trying to defuse the situation.

                                  “Calm the hell down, this won’t- Ow!” Lys knew how to fight, or rather, how to end a fight; hit them hard and fast and where it hurts, so they don’t get back up. Alex took an elbow to the ribs and growled as he swung in retribution, furious at the attack. “I will freaking end you!”

                                  He grappled Lys again, who went limp to break free, rolled away, and launched himself again from a crouch, trying to strike a vital point. Completely on the offensive, he ignored a hit just above the ear that dizzied him momentarily as he tried to break Alex’s jaw. Likewise, Alex chose not to defend as well and drove a fist into Lys’s midriff, sending him flying back and skidding across the ground. Lys gasped in pain and for air, snarling as he aimed a kick at Alex’s knee, trying to disable and drop the larger and stronger adversary. Alex dodged aside, lunging forward to strike out and down at Lys, barely missing as the smaller and faster fighter sprang off of his hands backwards. A sharp jab caught Alex on the side of the jaw again, but put Lys in range of an elbow to the ribs, same as Alex had been hit earlier. Staggering back, Lys wheezed for breath, blinded and deafened by rage and pain. He felt someone grab him by the arm, and he broke free to turn around and face the new assailant.


                                  The half a second of confusion was all Alex needed to get behind Lys, wrap an arm around his neck in a choke hold, and squeeze. The rage fled and was replaced by mindless panic as Lys tried to fight back, clawing ineffectively against Alex’s arm, feeling pressure on both sides of his neck that cut off both air and circulation. In only a few seconds he passed out, and Alex shifted his grip to carefully ease him to the ground, panting in fatigue and rubbing the side of his face from the most recent punch.

                                  “Holy shit does he hit hard for someone of his size and weight. I didn’t want to do that but I couldn’t think of any other way to end this without hurting him badly. Thanks for the assist.”

                                  “You did exactly what you had to. I did not think that he was capable of that. I believe that I owe him an apology for disparaging his desire and ability to fight.” Lys twitched as he slowly regained consciousness, and rubbed his neck around the choker as he sat up.

                                  “Sonova… What in the hell…” He took in the scene in a glance and jumped in shock. The memory of the fight hit him, and he scrabbled backwards, bumping against the wall of the community center, staring in horror at Elliott and Alex. “Shit, no, I didn’t. I did. I… I didn’t mean to-! No, not again…” The urge to run consumed him again, but he saw Alex tense once more to pursue, and Elliott…

                                  “Dear, talk to me. Please.” Lys met the ocean-blue gaze and once again felt the freezing stab of guilt and self-hatred. He slumped against the wall, surrendering without any further resistance. Sam and Abigail peered out from behind Sebastian, who unconsciously had assumed a protective air over them, and Haley hugged herself as she stood in the doorway, ready to bolt if the fighting began again.

                                  “...I won’t run away. No more hiding. It’s over.” He looked around at his friends and sagged further under the weight of everything he felt and thought. The anger was gone, and in its place was a crushing emptiness that slowly filled with pain, as he recalled his past and current actions. “I came here because I ran away. Because I destroyed everything worth living for. And it seems that I’ve done it again.”
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                                  • Gabaw

                                    Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                                    omfg if there's one more chapter in suspense like this I'm gonna pull a Lys on the nearest piece of vertical drywall and billing you for the material. a full sheet too, not one of those cheaper but still overpriced plugs :p It was a good fight tho and that made up for it. I like that Haley's just standing there uselessly but at least she was out of the way. not that it would be a tragedy if she took one to the face. but anyway. Wednesday. it's gotta happen!
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                                    • Alkanthe

                                      Alkanthe Supernova

                                      ... First of all, what would Haley have been able to do? She's no fighter. It would be best for her to stay out of the way. Secondly, Sam and Abigail weren't really contributing either, if you didn't notice. I wouldn't blame them for that. I'm no fighter either, and the best thing I could do would be to stand out of the way, or in front of my friends to protect them. I understand you may not like Haley, but you have no reason to pick on her and pay no mind to the others who were doing practically the same thing.
                                      Also, if she had bolted, she might have been able to get some other people to help with the situation.
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                                      • Risukage

                                        Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                                        *Laughs.* Fair enough, both of you. TBH, standing back and being ready to assist or run for help is the best thing someone can do in a situation like this if you're not properly trained in how to fight. Alex is a tank, and pretty much everyone else there is a support class, so let him soak the damage from the DPS for a little bit until he has time enough to drop a couple of debuffs, or the DPS runs out of energy/stamina/skills. :p

                                        And I promise, no more suspense after Wednesday. At least of THIS kind. It's been making even me itch because AUGH, I wanna post it, but no, gonna pace myself. And you know what? I think it's a pretty good sign that I've been able to build steady and believable tension that brings back the reader for more. One of these days I'll be a real author!
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                                        • WATERTHOOOOOSSEE

                                          WATERTHOOOOOSSEE Phantasmal Quasar

                                          THE SUSPENSE....

                                          ITS KILLING ME....



                                          --- Post updated ---
                                          Also,i quite agree with Haley standing there,Damn,id even imagine her uttering anti-depressing spells a priest class could have.
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