Sweet Limerence of the Morrow

23rd of Cylus 720

The shallow bay Egilrun is situated upon is used, these trials, for crafts and crafting. From boatmakers to weaponsmiths, glassblowers to metalworkers, the sound of hammers and saws can be heard almost every break of the trial, with crews working in shifts to produce the beautiful craftsmanship which they might, one trial, become famous for.

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Carver
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Sweet Limerence of the Morrow

23rd Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720
North End Lodge, Egilrun, Scalvoris
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Polished wood floors reflected the candlelight that hung from chandeliers adorned with antlers and brass rings. The lobby of the North End Lodge looked exactly how one might have expected from the building outside: warm and inviting. Woven runners of ornate quality lined paths on the floor, a red runner leading from the entrance to a long desk where a young man sat behind while flipping through a book. He didn’t glance up, though the door had slammed behind the couple, along with a breeze of icy wind that followed in.

Carver and Laures had managed to find the place with only a little help from a local drunk they’d run into. Dressed in decisively non-bloody attire, Carver adjusted his gloves and the jacket he wore. It was almost too small for his shoulders, which was a bit odd for him as he was used to fitting in most clothing that he acquired. While they hadn’t much of a plan, far too tired to think clearly enough to formulate anything beyond the simplest: Find the lodge, find the suite, sleep.

Except there seemed to be an infinite number of options of which way to take past the foyer (there were four different open-door frames). Carver gestured for Laures to stay closer to the door, while he approached with a survey of the different paths. One looked to lead into a tavern-area, from the quiet noises of dishes and conversation, so he ruled that out.

The front desk attendant looked up then, and his eyes grew wide. Black cropped hair, darkly tanned skin, yet brilliant gold eyes, he wore attire similar to the clothing that Carver had found on the docks. He stood quickly, gaze darted to look at Laures, then he returned his attention to the younger blond. “A-antoni, wh-where have you been?”

“Out,” answered Carver as vaguely as possible.

“Krozerr didn’t find you?”

Krozerr… must have been the fellow who now drifted at the bottom of a well. Carver took off his gloves and folded them over his palm. He yawned, widely and dramatically, and then said, “No. ‘fraid not. Could you help me bring some extra blankets to my suite?”

“Oh, uh… sure, okay. I just need to let Ms. Caldwell know you’re bac-”

“No,” interrupted Carver with a light slap of his gloves against his hand. “I’m tired, I don’t want to deal with that yet. Come now, can’t we consider it a favor?”

The younger man glanced again at Laures, and he gnawed on his lower lip. In his irises, the gold changed to a vivid blue color. Carver stared at this unusual occurrence and took a small step back – unsure if it meant some sort of magic was being cast. It didn’t seem so, as nothing else happened. Instead, the attendant leaned over and whispered, “He’s not supposed to be here.”

Carver considered this, while he glanced over at Laures. He hummed, then said, “Then you tell him that.”

“Wh-what? N-no…” the gold-blue(no, the eyes were green now…)-eyed man nervously laughed. “Ms. Caldwell isn’t going to like this…”

“Just get the damn blankets, will you?” snapped Carver.

Green of eye, and looking greatly surprised, the young man nodded and walked past one of the frames. Carver gestured for Laures to follow. While he followed, to a small room filled with linens, he kept an eye on the hall.

“What time is it?” asked Carver.

“Time, oh… should be about midnight in about a break,” answered the stranger while he collected a stack of folded blankets. “Here y-”

“Carry them for me, so you can take the old ones on your way back,” instructed Carver. He gestured out, in a guess that it might be down the hall that had many doors along it… but the attendant only returned to the foyer, crossed the space, then went along the opposite hall instead. Quick to stay at his heels, he noticed a few people drinking at a bar past the warmly lit frame. His stomach growled, audibly, and he set a hand over it.

They passed rows and rows of doors, through a path of sharp turns down corridors, until they reached a dead-end hall with intricately carved wooden doors that unlike all the other doors – had no numbers on them. The attendant stopped in front of one sandwiched between two other doors and said, “Key?”

Carver quickly retrieved the key from his pocket, that he’d been holding close to since they’d left the cottage. He slid it into the lock and opened the door. The younger blond gestured for the attendant to go inside… though he glanced at Laures, as if silently asking something. It seemed likely that the attendant would inform whoever Ms. Caldwell was, about their return, and did they want that to happen? He held the door open for his lover to follow the attendant inside the private suite.

Beyond, the suite wasn’t extravagant, but it wasn’t modest either. Far more than the bed in the cottage. Structured in fine craftsmanship of wooden architecture, a single glass window framed in stone showed the perpetual darkness outside. Under the window was what looked to be a writing desk with a stiff-backed chair. As the attendant lit a few candles, the room came more into view. A hearth with a plush loveseat near the bed, and near a set of intricately engraved oak chairs that matched the four-poster bedframe. All connected by a large area rug and a smooth table that had various items, papers, and the like scattered over it - as if left behind in a haste. Across from the sleeping area was a large armoire, a gilded vanity with an attached mirror, and an adjacent room that was too dark to figure out what it might be.

Uncaring if he guessed wrong, Carver wagered, “Is there water in the bath?”

“Wa-oh, there’s the pump? It isn’t frozen over or anything?” answered the attendant with slight confusion. “Did you want me to get a maid to prepare a bath?”

“No. No one else here,” muttered Carver. He crossed his arms, glanced over the various earthy-colored blankets on the bed, then looked at Laures. “What do you think? Will this do?”
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Re: Sweet Limerence of the Morrow

23rd Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720
North End Lodge, Egilrun, Scalvoris

Laures wasn’t used to being looked at like this.

He’d thought that he’d gotten used to the staring by now. Nearly an arc had passed since he had noticed it, since he had started being noticed. It had been jarring then. It was jarring now. But the people here, the strange citizens of this endless dark, they didn’t look at him like the people did back home. Not home - back in… his memory failed him again, and the name was lost. Back in hell.

He had been a curiosity, there. Unusual for how delicate and precise his features had been made, desired for his difference. A spectacle to some, for his ghostly pallor, for his bright and freely-flowing blood. He had not been noticed before then. Too easily he had been able to fade into the background of everyone else’s life, and he had been content enough to do so. Not content - he had been… defeated enough. Subjugated.

This was different. This was not ignorance, nor indifference; it was not lust, nor curiosity; it was nothing like the reactions he had known and come to expect from others when they looked at him. Not for the first time since waking beside Carver on the sapphire shore, Laures reminded himself that he was dead. That he was alive. That he was somewhere in between. He didn’t know. He couldn’t tell. But he wasn’t himself. Not himself - he was himself, but he wasn’t whole.

Me, I -

We would have known what to make of it all.

But Laures was alone with himself.

The attendant at the front desk was too far for Laures to hear him, to make sense of whatever it was that he was saying to his husband, but the look thrown in his direction said enough. Carver’s gaze followed after, and Laures stood awkwardly near the door, arms crossed over his chest. He was hunched in on himself a little, cold despite his coat, with his shoulders drawn closer to his multipierced ears. Not the only parts of him that were pierced, either - washing his face in the water brought in from the well, he had discovered more, all empty: in his nose, hidden away and piercing through his septum; two faint scars at the arch of his left brow; a dip right below the center of his lower lip that he had not noticed in the dark, that his tongue curiously pressed against from the inside of his mouth. It pressed there now, curving his lips into a subtle frown, even as he tried his best to look friendly.

He didn’t like that look. He didn’t like the nervous shifting that had accompanied it every time he met someone new in this peculiar place. Whoever this Iver had been, whatever he had done to acquire such a reputation among these people, Laures didn’t know - but it seemed that he was troublesome even in death, as his very appearance beside Antoni seemed to always cause alarm. Laures didn’t know what to make of it, didn’t know how to handle being looked at with such distrust. He had been worthless before, looked down on for his inabilities - now, it seemed, he would be looked down on for the things he could do.

How Carver managed to convince the nervous attendant, Laures didn’t know that either. But when the younger beckoned for him to approach and follow along, he did so, keeping his arms crossed almost defensively as he walked across the room to meet him. He did not reach for him or follow too close, ever mindful of the watchful eyes surely around them, even as a part of him longed to grab his hand. He imagined it instead, as they were brought to a linen closet and then onward again: the soft palms, the fingertips, the lotioned skin, the smooth, polished nails. He thought of his own scarred fingers clasping around them, drawing the warmth from his hand, pulling support from his touch. They passed through rows and rows of numbered doors and Laures stayed silent, save for his quiet breaths and the shuffle of his clothes as he walked. He watched the back of the attendant’s head, eyed the dark, cropped hair. He thought of the golden ring from a life before, of their union given shape in a band of raised flesh and beady eyes. He kissed it, in his mind, and they came upon an unmarked door.

His hair was still damp, darker where it clung to his forehead. He reached up and pushed it to the side, but it fell over his face again, the clump broken apart into fluffier blond strands. Carver retrieved his spindly key. As he turned it, Laures glanced to the attendant to find those… (what color were his eyes? Had they changed since he saw them last, or were his own playing tricks on him?) eyes staring back at him. They averted, quickly, and the door was pushed open before them.

The attendant went in first. Laures followed, but only after realizing that the door was held for him. He dipped his head in silent thanks, his face carefully blank, and continued into the room. Or… suite, for that’s what it was. While it was far from the nicest room Laures had ever seen (for he had seen far too many to really compare things anymore), it was nicer still than most. Certainly better than the paltry apartment he had lived in, and the lifeless quarters of a slave before that - better, too, than the humble cottage they had found before. And, most importantly, it had a bed.

A real bed. A warm bed, a cozy bed, a bed with extra blankets that he could wrap them both in. Laures’ posture seemed to relax at the sight of it, though he did not venture much farther into the room, blue eyes drifting about with only the slightest glint of curiosity. The attendant was speaking with Carver; he heard the words, but did not linger on them. Something about a bath (there was a bath!), about water, about a maid (less excitement over that one), but he did not glance over to either of them again until he was questioned directly. He sniffed; the tip of his pointed nose was pink from the cold outside.

“Yes,” he answered, voice a little scratchy - he cleared his throat and uncrossed his arms, looking from Carver to the attendant and back. Would he cause them any trouble? He had not heard their conversation before, but it had been clear enough from that look that he was not pleased with the older’s presence. But what were they to do, risk this nice suite by offing someone already? Where would they put him? Laures tried not to let the conflict show on his face, and he managed, mostly.

Crossing to the bed, he ran a cold hand over the blankets, sniffing again and taking another look around the suite. He did not want to lose this place. They were already so tired, and he did not trust himself not to mess things up, should they deal with the attendant now. With a little sigh, he offered a nod. An irritated blue gaze settled on the young man, and his hand came to rest against one of the columns of the bed frame for him to lean against it. If these people did not like him already, then he would not try to make them.

“I’m tired. Are you done?”

His words were questioning, yet held the tones of boredom, of disapproval for the man’s continued presence - he was not asking him, however, nor was he truly displeased. Laures looked to his husband, in sign that he would let the younger blond make this choice. He would do his best to stay awake and stay alert, should he decide to take a chance and kill him… and he would share the risk, just as easily, should he decide to let him go.
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Re: Sweet Limerence of the Morrow

Carver glanced between the two men: one, the light of his life, heart of his heart, the soul he could not exist without… and the other, some stranger who was dead meat waiting to be flayed from whatever bones lay beneath. He didn’t like how the iris-changing man looked at his husband. As if Laures was undesirable, or dirty, or dangerous (the last one was accurate, and he could admit that such fear might have some merit to show but it wasn’t the right sort of fear. Instead, it was a stupid sort of fear like the raven-haired man might expect to escape if that danger was turned on him). He thought, in the short moments between Laures going to the bed and the attendant setting blankets down, about how best to murder the man.

The act itself could be simple. Even in his exhausted state, as long as he didn’t put any theatrics into it, he could accomplish it within mere trills. His new body was too weak to accomplish a hard-enough punch to the back of the neck, but he likely could manage a swift snap to the side. It would be over before the attendant even knew what had happened.

Carver looked back at Laures, in a knowing connection of their gazes. He recognized, however, the fatigue in the other man. The same fatigue he felt himself. It was this, and only this, that saved the raven-haired attendant from an untimely and violent end. Instead, the younger blond escorted the attendant out the door and to the hall. He closed the door behind him, with only the slightest crack left in it, but enough that Laures couldn’t really see on the other side…

…and he grabbed onto the attendant’s wrist to keep him from what seemed to be an eager retreat.

“O-oh, Antoni?” inquired the attendant, his eyes turning gold in iris again when he glanced at the tight grip that held him in place. “I- uh- did you need something else?”

“Don’t tell her that I’m- we’re- here, please,” whispered Carver in a low voice. “Whatever I’ve gotta do, to repay the favor. I just want to sleep, okay? Make sure no one bothers us?”

The attendant’s eyes almost glimmered for how gold they’d gotten while staring. He pulled his wrist out of the grip. An obvious blush had risen to his darkly tanned face. He shook his head and said, “Fine, okay… anything else?”

Once Carver shook his head, and he watched the attendant walk away and disappear around the corridor’s corner, he returned to the suite. He shut the door and locked it, then dragged one of the wooden chairs over to barricade it. He walked across, and secured the shutters on the window.

“Gods, that fellow is lucky,” he muttered while he unclasped his jacket. He threw it onto a chair and then took the sharpened hand axe off his belt and set it on the table. Carver barely glanced at Laures, as he picked up one of the candles, then walked into the adjacent room. He lifted it to shine light around on the timber-and-stone interior of a washroom.

Behind a partition of engraved chestnut wood, he found a raised round tub that had narrow wooden steps that led up into it. Formed out of polished stone, the edges were smoothed out and it looked big enough to hold three, maybe even four people at a time. He followed around until he reached a water pump in the nearby corner. Carver set the candle in a nearby lantern that multiplied the candle’s flame into an array of patterned amber designs. It reminded him of the lace curtains back in their old apartment. He smiled slightly, then lifted the pump’s lever to see how tough of a task it might be.

Water spurted out with ease, but not without having to press down with most of the muscles in his arm and shoulder. He sighed, then crouched next to it to look at… what seemed to be a latticed iron over a long, narrow strip of ember coals. About four tall iron-cast pots rested over the iron platform.

“Ah… I see,” he murmured, then glanced to see if Laures had followed or not. He called, “Could you see if there are more candles out there, or matches, one or the other or… some tinder from around the hearth?”

While he waited, he got back to his feet and continued his casual search to see what all else was there to find. He opened a stained-glass cabinet (of every color imaginable, in similar lace designs) to find an overwhelming collection of lotions, perfumes, colognes, oils, powders, and any beauty or hygiene item possible contained in a bottle or tin. There was so much that when he opened the door, a couple powder tins fell out and crashed on the smooth stone floor. He caught a glass bottle to avoid the same as the items simply spilled outward. Carver mentioned, whether to himself or if Laures had joined him, “Damn, no wonder my skin is so soft. Do you think I… uh, I mean, he was actually using all this gunk?”
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Lars
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Re: Sweet Limerence of the Morrow


His bored stare followed the other men as they exited the room, as his lover (for some reason) accompanied the young attendant out into the hall and pulled the door nearly shut behind him. Laures did not move to open it, nor did he do anything else beyond lean farther to the side, until his head and shoulder rested lazily against the wooden column of the bed. He watched the door, watched it waver slightly in its frame as it adjusted to its position. The attendant’s voice from behind it - he heard nothing else. He only watched the waver, as the last of his energy sunk further into him, further away from where he might reach it and put it to use. His mind wandered, his feet did not. The sound of footsteps distancing themselves, and soon… after…

Carver returned. Laures’ eyes snapped back into focus (when had they drifted?) as he watched his dear husband lock the door and then drag one of the pretty engraved chairs to barricade it. Again, his posture righted itself, as the older man drew away from the wooden column and took a deep breath. Carver didn’t look at him much, if at all, and his arms were once again crossed over his chest - a new little habit that his body seemed to slip easily into. He uncrossed them again, already self-conscious, and moved away from the bed to look around more.

“Gods, that fellow is lucky.”

“Is he?” his tone was light, distracted; his exhaustion was wearing his focus thinner and thinner. He supposed Carver was not seeking a response in the first place, as he recalled the statement a moment later, and shook his head. Gods, he was tired, and little of it had anything to do with his physical state. He could only imagine that his lover felt the same, and reminded himself not to let it overwhelm him; he could not rest until Carver did as well. That reminder alone was enough to propel him into some more useful state of wakefulness, and he flexed his slender fingers at his sides to ground him. Carver had carried on into the other room, candle in hand, and Laures followed a few trills after.

Looking about in the dim light, his eyes caught quickly on a glint of color. Colors, more accurately: the stained glass captured his full attention, and Laures stepped further into the washroom. Head tilted ever so slightly to the side, he approached the cabinet, and raised a hand to slide his fingertips against the glass. Such beautiful, intricate designs… the thought to curl his fingers and smash his fist against it entered his mind and fled just as soon. He did not want to destroy it, how could he ever do such a thing? But the thought had existed nonetheless, powerful and bright.

Carver’s voice drew his eyes away from the designs, his fingers away from the cool glass, and he gave a small nod in agreement. It was only then that he noticed the light had changed at all, the candle having been set into a lantern, and more intricate designs graced the room all around them. In spite of this, he did not linger there. Carver wanted something (he was trying to remember what that something was), so he would not waste time standing around and watching the flicker of light. The flame could be rekindled, but wasted, misused time would not return.

In the end, he found what he needed (after taking a trill or two longer to remember what the hell he was looking for). The last of the tinder from a nearly-empty box near the hearth, a few matches nearby - he left the candles as they were, and took the rest of it back to the washroom. Though Carver had wandered and stood before the pretty cabinet, Laures moved past him, silent, and crouched down to set the requested items near the… very nice tub. One of the biggest he had seen, for sure. He stared at it a moment, almost stunned by its appearance, before he forced himself to stand back up. That was… yes. That was a nice tub. It took hearing his lover’s voice, wrapped around a wondering question, to pull him away from its side.

“Oh…” coming to stand beside Carver, shoulder touching his, Laures peered into the cabinet. Antoni had so many nice things… he felt as if he did not even have to wonder about Iver’s collection. He had no leads with which to follow his body’s previous occupant, save for the strange looks so easily thrown his way, but he could not imagine a man with such a reputation owning nice things like this. Leaning down, he retrieved some of the fallen tins and powders, and shoved them back into the cabinet.

“I suppose he must have been. All this stuff, it’s…”

A scarred hand reached out. Even just the sight of it, all calloused and worn beside the lotions and creams, disgusted him now. It was drawn back before he could touch anything else, and the blond turned away, shrugging off his coat in one smooth motion.

“It seems he was rather well-off. I wonder if there's more, besides this suite,” pondered Laures, stepping out of the washroom. He crossed the room, setting his coat on the chair with Carver’s and then sitting down at the edge of it to remove his shoes. As he slipped them off, he called, “your body now though, right? So…”

Socks left on, his footsteps were quiet as he crossed the floor. He found the armoire, ran his fingers over its doors, then continued to the gilded vanity. “Your stuff, too,” he approached it with a curious look. Eyes darkened in the long shadows of the room, he kept his gaze down and away from the mirror, but ran his hands over the drawers. Exhaustion paled in comparison to his desire to turn the room inside out, to find and take each and every little thing that held value, to smash apart hold everything pretty and more.

“Um - bath? Do you need any help?” he questioned then, stepping away from the nice vanity and into the doorway of the washroom. Laures walked through, finding his lover again but not moving to approach. The cold had at least left him; his nose was still tinged pink in reminder, but it would not last for long. It began as more of a twitch, but soon enough his fingers tapped idly away at his sides as he stared. There was more he wanted to say; there was little said.
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Re: Sweet Limerence of the Morrow

Exhaustion hadn’t so much crept over both men, as much as they had woken up with it already fastened around them and neither could truly shake the damn weariness off. Their slumber on the cottage floor (nested in blankets beside the hearth) had been a desperate sort of rest, as much as they could get, and the same with the scrounged food that Laures had managed to make into a decent meal. Before that rest, they had killed. After that rest, they had also killed. Carver had ferried water buckets from the well, out in the frigid wind that came from the darkness, and he had killed then too. Laures had scrubbed and cleaned the bloodstains from hard wood with what little water they had to use.

Ever since he’d healed the other man’s hands, though he did not want to admit it aloud, Carver felt numb in his fingers and his body tingled just enough to wake him from the drift of drowsiness that would otherwise have bothered him to lay down. Instead, he searched through the washroom and he paused in front of the glass cabinet when his lover stood beside him - close enough that their shoulders touched. He watched while Laures picked up some of the fallen powders, and when he went as if to grab one of the items before retreating without a touch and shrugging off the coat instead.

Carver looked at the bottle he’d caught, and wondered what it was, but the only label he found was a hatched symbol on top of the cork that he didn’t know what it meant. He glanced over at Laures and asked with sincere curiosity about what the other man had said: “More?”

He set aside the bottle and followed. He stopped at the door frame, then mimicked the motion of taking off his shoes. Carver leaned against the frame while he watched his lover examine the armoire, the vanity, the drawers… he hummed in simple agreement that it was his stuff now, he supposed. It was otherwise abandoned, and Carver never had any issue with stealing possessions regardless. This felt almost too easy, though, and it didn’t pique his interest all that much because of it. It felt more like inheritance than theft.

Carver turned away, and headed back into the washroom soon enough, and he went to where the tinder box and matches had been left. He knelt beside the narrow coal strip, settled the tinder in spots though it used up the box, and he struck the matches. The younger blond got the heat going, as flames traveled between the coals as they heated up and orange fire glowed bright between them. He stood, lifted one of the empty pots and set it under the pump.

For a moment, he flexed his fingers out and in while he repeated making a fist. He stopped when he heard the question, though. He looked over and forced a thin smile. “There’s only one pump so…”

“You don’t mind if it’s just warm, not hot?” he asked while he took hold of the lever and started to press with both his hands to get the water going while he started to fill up the tall pot. “Could you… when this gets full, switch it out for an empty one? That’ll go quicker, maybe.”

It took a whole of forty-five pumps to fill a pot. Carver knew because he counted it silently to ignore from the burning ache in his shoulders. Gods, he was running this soft body ragged but he knew this was the last thing. It had to be. Then they could take a bath, and soak some, and more importantly – get clean before they got into the bed. He yawned, though, while he waited to see if Laures could manage switching out the pots or not and he slumped slightly over the pump. Carver muttered to distract from the manual labor task, “Put it over the coals to heat, then get the next one ready. Laures, y’ remember what y’ were saying ‘bout… feelin’ different?”

He aimed to fill the next pot, like he had with the first, and ignored the aches and pains while he talked, “We’ve had to be here for breaks now, and… It’s more than this body just being weak, y’ know? It’s… I don’t feel like I gotta smoke. Haven’t even thought about a cigarette, not once. Nor a drink, or any of that. I’ve got this weird desire for… I don’t know how to describe it. Somethin’ sour? Like a… like some sort of fruit?”

“That’s not the only thing,” he mentioned while he threw his entire weight into the pumps because the numbness had started to travel up his hands and into his forearms. “It’s like… I can think so much clearer now, or whatever. Like, before I… I had a glass window I was lookin’ through, right? And- it- was-”

Carver finally paused from the work, tiny gasps because he couldn’t ignore his body much more. He hadn’t noticed they’d move onto the third pot and his back hurt while he couldn’t feel parts of his arms. The younger blond stretched, arching his spine in a backbend and drowsily looking up at the ceiling. “And my window was filthy with grime and soot, blood and... And I could see shadows passing me by, but not a whole lot else.”

He straightened his spine out and looked at Laures. His face had gone pale again. “Now, it’s like… like I got a whole new window to look through, and it’s as clean as glass can get and the people here, the ones we've seen, they aren't anything like shadows. They're almost too… too much to see...”

Here, Carver stopped and though he wanted to conclude with something disparaging against himself – looking at Laures made him not voice the thought. Instead, he bit on his lower lip and then moved to position his numb hands on the pump again and continue the work. Once all four pots had been filled, the first would be poured into the bath and then set back under the pump. From eyeing it up, Carver suspected it would take about six rounds before a reasonable level of water in the tub.
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Re: Sweet Limerence of the Morrow


There was only one pump. Right. He glanced away from the thin smile that’d been pulled across Carver’s face, and offered a nod. Laures did not care about the pump, or the tub, or anything else in particular - he just felt so godsdamned useless. The feeling was hardly a new one, but it felt different now, like a… like a toiling ball of something in his chest that he could not quite name, rather than the sense of peaceful acknowledgement that he had once known. He had not minded being useless before, because it was not expected of him to be much else. Fragility provided excuse and allowed for contentment within it; whatever fortitude there was to be found within his body now, it ached to be put to good use. Even in his exhaustion, he found room for shame, for disappointment with himself.

Gods, he could stare at the wall for five trills and feel as if he would never see light again. He did not know whether it was the body’s fault or his own, but he had never fallen so quickly before. He gave another nod to the question, and moved to lean against the doorframe - he almost got comfortable, too, but a request from Carver drove him forward again.

The pot was not full, it was still quite far from that. Laures seated himself beside it anyway, sitting on the floor with his legs crossed beneath him. Lazily he watched the water spurt from the pump and slowly fill the tall pot, his eyes a stormy sky, unreadable and blank. He made no attempt to speak, and did not move from his place beside the pot until it was filled. Standing up, his hands reached down and grabbed where they could. He moved the pot, though his arms strained with its weight and the water rocked and threatened to splash over the sides, and then it was set over the burning coals to heat. Carver’s yawn dragged a similar response from the older, who covered his mouth with his hand before fetching the next pot.

It was set beneath the pump, and he resumed his place beside it. Only this time, he did not watch the water fill the pot - craning his neck a bit upward, he watched only Carver. The concentration in his face, the weariness in his hardworking (but unaccustomed) limbs. Laures did not interrupt him when he chose to speak, but settled back with an open (if tired) mind. Yes, yes… it was more than the body being weak. He nodded along, slow and attentive, eager just to hear his lover’s voice. He did not have to smoke… Laures had not thought about it until then, but he supposed Carver was right. The younger had not even mentioned a cigarette since waking, and Laures, for that matter, did not crave one either. Wanted one, perhaps, now that he had mentioned it - but no. He did not care to find one.

“Nor a drink, or-”

Just the word made him hurt. He hoped dearly that he would not speak it again, but did not voice his concern. There was no need to burden the other man with such trivialities; he could handle a headache, and the nausea had passed. A creeping suspicion caught hold of him and warned that it would not stay gone, not for long, but it did not matter now. It could not. There were far more pressing matters to attend to than the state of his unruly stomach.

Carver pushed on, bearing down on the pump with all of his weight, and Laures had to stop himself before he reached out to pull the man away from the damned thing. His efforts were appreciated, as they always were, but he was not fond of the notion of his lover overworking himself more than he already had. Still, he could do little to change the course, and with a deep, steadying breath, he remained there, sitting calmly on the floor. Carver’s voice helped, for as unfamiliar the sound, the words remained the same. Carver’s words, Carver’s thoughts, Carver’s expression of both. Another pot was switched out, carried in lightly trembling hands; another breath was drawn in, while blue eyes watched the backward curve of a spine.

In his tiredness, he tried to find the allure, if only to let it fuel him. But it was hard when he swallowed, so thickly, the reminder of himself.

Those eyes looked even darker, surrounded by all that soft pale skin. Laures would have killed for all of the powders and lotions and creams stuffed away in that pretty glass cabinet. Would have - when it would have suited him more. Now, what use were they to him? He hated this, he thought. He hated feeling it. He wanted to sleep, and be rid of it.

“I… I think I understand,” said Laures, as the fourth bucket began to fill, “I feel the changes, yes, in my mind and my body, and it…” but again, he could not explain. With a slight shake of his head, he continued.

“And I do feel like… like some sort of fog has been lifted. Like you say, like a… new, clean window to look through. But I don't understand why, and I can't quite... tell what I'm looking at, for how clearly I see it.”

He would not presume to think it a better window, not for himself at least, but a new one, certainly. The fourth pot was set upon the coals when it was filled, and after emptying the first into the tub, it was placed back beneath the pump. This time, Laures did not sit, but remained standing near his lover. “Switch with me, please,” he requested, setting his hands over Carver’s where they rested on the pump, “I will fall asleep, if I do nothing much longer.”

Gently, he nudged his husband’s hands away, leaving his own alone on the pump. A hard push, and then another, and he began to fill the fifth pot.

“Carver…”

The pump squeaked with every push. He was not looking at his lover, his demeanor still careful, and guarded. In the end, he did not finish the phrase. He swallowed, and continued to work until the pot had been filled. Once it was done, the second pot was dumped and switched to the sixth. It went quicker still than the fifth, as the blond rushed to get it done. He was silent, mostly, as he filled it, and when it was done, he exhaled, heavy and relieved. The water sloshed back and forth in the pot, and he moved away from the pump to help empty each one into the tub. Wasting no time, he soon began to undress -

- undress Carver, that is. Laures’ hands were gentle, tingling from the repetitive push and pull, and he regained his breath as he carefully removed layers of Master Arkwright’s clothes from his soulmate’s new form. His shirt came off first, pulled lightly at the hem and then up and over his shoulders; he pressed a kiss to his shoulderblade, and moved on. His belt then: he grabbed both ends and tugged, pulling his lover close… closer… close enough to steal his breath, and he kissed him on the lips as he pulled the belt free. It was dropped to the floor.

“Were you afraid to die?”

One could have missed them, for how softly the words had been spoken. Laures’ eyes drifted up briefly to catch Carver’s gaze, but darted back down, to focus on removing his breeches. Slowly he pushed the fabric down, following with it to the floor… and then he straightened back up, and removed his own shirt.

“Were you afraid to kill me?”

He had no belt of his own - Arkwright’s pants were not loose on him as they would have been before. They were removed, and Laures reached for Carver’s elbows, walking backward to pull him towards the tub.

“Are you glad to be here, darling?” up the wooden steps, down into the water. It was not hot, but it was warm, and already it soothed his weary legs. He moved to sit, and pulled his lover down with him, his eyes unrevealing.

“I just want to know, I want to… know that this is what you want. That you do not still wish for only rest for us - for… whatever kind of final rest people like us might find. That you’re here because you want to be, and not for the sake of not hurting me.”

Laures did not know where it had come from, the desire to ask such a thing. But as he spoke, as he voiced the questions that he had not known he needed answers for… he felt lighter. He did not look at his dear Carver, across from him in the warm, soothing bath, and feel anything but all-consuming love. It was a relief, not to feel the bitterness so strongly. A hand broke the surface, lifting to touch his husband’s soft cheek. His thumb traced the outline of the bruise, and Laures’ voice was firm, despite the softness of its sound.

“I would do it again, if you wanted me to. I would do it, for you. I want you to know that I would, if you asked.”
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Carver
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Re: Sweet Limerence of the Morrow

The lack of reluctance, or stubbornness to remain at the pump, was testament to Carver’s fatigue. Under Laures’s touch, he simply released the lever and allowed the other man to take over when nudged away. He leaned against the older blond for a few trills, head rested on his shoulder with a quiet hum while he considered their exchanged words about the windows they could see through. Carver stepped aside though, to allow the other to attend to the task. Massaging his palms, he tried to regain proper feeling to his hands. It was far more difficult to lift the full pots of water, then it was to pump, but he said nothing about it. He focused all his energy on not dropping the heavy things, and the muscles in his arms trembled while he did so.

Carver didn’t know if it went quick or slow, he just tried not to focus either way on the lapse of time. After the last pot poured in, he set it aside and stared at the water in the tub. It wasn’t as much as he’d would have preferred, but it was enough to wash and soak in. He rested his hands on the stone edge, breath heavy and sweat trickled over his smooth pallid skin. A quiet groan sounded from him when Laures peeled off his clothes. He tried to help but couldn’t hide a grimace when he had to lift his arms to remove the tunic shirt. His shoulders hurt only more than when he’d entered the suite. He had spent the better portion of the last several breaks, either carrying water or swinging an axe to chop apart bodies, and the water pump had only topped it off. Neither of which were tasks that this body was accustomed to.

Weary, sore, unable to hide anything from his expressive dark eyes, he still felt bare and raw – especially when Laures pulled him closer… closer… close enough for his breath to be stolen, and for their lips to meet in a kiss. He sighed behind the touch of their lips, a sound of attempted relaxation and to let go of all the tension he’d been holding in his body and mind since they left the cottage. They had made it to the lodge. The door was shut, locked, and barricaded. They hadn’t stolen this place from anyone and shouldn’t be bothered because of it. Carver lifted one of his numb hands and set it gently against the other’s chest, fingers grasping the shirt.

Were you afraid to die?

His touch drifted down, and away. In his dark eyes, a surprise showed first. Obviously, he hadn’t expected the question. He didn’t say anything yet and stepped out of his breeches. Carver stared at his lover, and didn’t do much else of anything other than watch and consider the question – and the one that came after it:

Were you afraid to kill me?

Guilt, then. Not surprise. It showed as obvious as the rest. He turned his head in the paltry attempt to hide the expression. Carver followed the touch to his elbows, however, too tired to do anything else. His companion had suddenly gotten inquisitive, it seemed.

Are you glad to be here, darling?

Why was he asking all these questions, now? Carver didn’t try to answer, not yet, and he hissed a quiet exhale when he stepped into the warm bath. The soles of feet had somehow gotten irritated, but he didn’t know why or how. From simply walking on the wood floors in the cottage, maybe? Where the other’s blue eyes didn’t reveal a thing, Carver’s dark eyes seemed to reveal everything while he listened to the older’s considerate shared thoughts. All his guilt, and discomfort, and endured physical pain. It showed in the squint of his eyes, and in the downward curve of his mouth, and the furrow of his brows. He looked as if he were the one that was trying to resist a surge of nausea. He even went so far as to lean against the tub’s edge and place a fist over his mouth to hide the involuntary frown of his lips. Still, in the posture, he moved toward Laures rather than away from him.

Carver tried to focus on the relief he should have derived from the bath. Instead, he only felt all the little pains through his body that he’d been ignoring till this point. He almost felt like crying from mere exhaustion. He journeyed to sit right beside the other man, the tub large enough to accommodate such a thing, and he wrapped an arm around the other’s waist while he nuzzled his cheek against the touch to the swollen bruise there. A couple tears managed to escape past him while he heard the other commit to death, yet again. Death, in honor of him… by his word.

“Laures…” he whispered. He brought up a hand of water and rinsed his own face off, clearing away the tears and sweat. Lifting another handful of water, he rinsed Laures’ face next. Fingertips lightly dragged over the bony contours in benign exploration. “I… It’s…”

His hand drifted back under the water. He slid out his legs, then dipped down to hide under the surface for a few trills. Soon enough, he returned and slicked back his wet hair with a slight grimace from the motion in his shoulders. The warmth felt nice, but he needed to sleep. He gazed at the water. The patterns of candlelight reflected on the ripples.

“No. I wasn’t afraid,” he said in a certain voice, though he kept his sight fixed on the water between them. “I was… furious.”

“I’m glad to be with you,” he added, with a slight glance up to check on those blue eyes. “If… if we have a chance here… my love…”

Though he clearly had something more to say, it never sounded from him. He dipped under the water again, then returned with a sigh. He leaned to a nearby table that was just within reach, to grab at what he assumed must be a soap of some sort in one of the various glass bottles lined up next to a stack of towels. Hands numb, smooth skin wet, he didn’t think about the lack of grip and friction until the dark blue bottle slid right past his palm and onto the floor between the sidetable and the tub. It crashed and shattered in a foamy puddle. Carver stared at the glass shards, then closed his eyes and shook his head. He muttered, “‘Course. Why would I be able to pick up a damn bottle? Gods, I just want to sleep.”

Restless, even in his exhaustion, Carver stood in the bath. He wavered in the stance for a few trills, then moved to climb out and leave already. The younger blond paused, though, and looked at Laures… the guilt returned to his eyes. He retraced the motions he’d already made, and instead, lowered to sit beside the other man again. This time, Carver simply rested against Laures. He moved to cuddle in the bath, laying his head on the older’s scarred shoulder. “I don’t want you to. I want to hold you, and hear your voice, hear you speak, and breathe, and let me warm you… maybe there isn’t such a thing as rest, Laures. Maybe next time, we won’t wake up next to each other either. None of that is why I want to stay like we are, though.”

“I’m tired…” he whispered as he closed his eyes. “But everything will be alright, because we’re together… and I love you. I wanted to give you everything, Laures, I still do... and maybe I can provide that for you here. I want to try.”
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Re: Sweet Limerence of the Morrow

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Carver

Experience: 15 no magic xp

Knowledge:

Deception x 4
Endurance x 2
Strength x 3

Renown: 5

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level

Loot/Losses: none

Injuries/Conditions: Sore muscles from all the strenuous activity.

Consequences: The attendant has noted that Antoni is not acting himself, and word will spread from there, potentially snowballing.

Laures

Experience: 15 no magic xp

Knowledge:

Psychology x4
Strength x4

Renown: 5

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level

Loot/Losses: none

Injuries/Conditions: Sore muscles from all the strenuous activity.

Consequences: The attendant has noted that the behavior of Iver is unusually different from normal. He's taken mental note, and it will likely snowball from there.
Comments: Another extraordinary entry to Cares' story, strangers in a strange land. I was almost relieved they didn't kill anyone for at least one thread. Murder is hard work, and Cares need their rest.

This thread was almost slice of life-like in it's progression, just two guys checking into a room together, and figuring out how the technology in this new world work.

Great writing and enjoy the rewards.

If you have any concerns about this review, please PM me about them.
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