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[ thread content warning of rape implications. warning can be found at the top of the post containing it. ]
mythril air had never tasted so bitter.
he returns the next evening, slipping away from the warmth of his brother's side to face the cold. the dropping temperatures do nothing to deter him, who grew up in colder weather than this, who feels numb from overwhelming emotion, who is determined to find a trace of his love at the spot that had left him reeling.
but he finds nothing but a cigarette stubbed out on the ground, and he doesn't remember if it was from the night before.
so loukas returns the next night, and the night after, and the night after that, until he quickly loses track of the days and the nights. rhett appears a couple of hours later each time, drawing him into an understanding hug and coaxing him back home. loukas gives in each time, but always looks back as he's led away, eyes wide, hopeful, then stinging from tears.
he's sure he's finally lost his mind.
hallucinations were no stranger to him, and even less so were the ones of a figure he thought dead. he's felt the ghost of a kiss to the back of his neck whilst stood at the wheel of his ship, woken up to the ghost in his bed and disappearing when he reaches out, and heard a question from the ghost himself and responded without realising, only to be met with silence. always, he said i love you to the air, filled with a desperate hope that he might be heard. if this was a illusion, he thinks he might ...
loukas breathes in a deep, shuddery breath and squeezes his eyes shut, and continues twisting his dagger around in his hands and reading the runes he's read a million times over. he'll wait here, at the spot he saw the ghost, until something happens; he'll wait until the end of time if he has to.
// kester grayson
when your #aesthetic is apparently sad men hunched over on a bench
he avoids the spot as though it has been marked with a red cross -- once upon a time, that sign would mark houses of the plague. kester is afraid; he cannot bear the look in loukas' eyes, the way he was pleading for kester to not leave. kester has never doubted his strength before, but he does not believe that he has the strength to turn loukas away again. all he wishes is for the distance to be kept for just long enough for his wizard to grow bored of mythril, to move on to the next city.
then it hits.
kester is left a pile of sticky notes and a pen on his bedside table when he awakes, a note that says he is to label anything he wishes to bring. for a while, he busies himself with the task. his dragon sculpted chest is marked, his table that he uses for drawing and writing -- days pass in this fashion of living and marking. the guilt builds as he looks over the letters he'd never sent, and then in a moment of heady impulse it is decided. he cannot leave without saying goodbye, has barely even dared to watch from afar.
when he grabs his bag he is careful to grab a LETTER, and then he is off. the wizard can take his absence for a few hours, he's given the man so much of himself already. the fear still settles in his stomach that he is being watched, but he bats it away.
three times he nearly turns away. the first is at the half way point, right by the deli, and he thinks that maybe loukas would simply be better without the goodbye. maybe loukas would be better off believing that their encounter was simple an illusion. the second time he thinks that he can't handle the encounter, that loukas will magically make his resolution wither away and with a glance of those soft blue eyes he will crumble. he is doomed to fail under loukas' gaze.
the third time is when he sees the man hunched over a bench as though all the weight of the world is on his shoulders, and it is all kester can do is to stare. he thinks it ironic that he, of all people, would fall in love with atlas himself.
he takes a deep breath, focuses on placing one foot in front of the other, and approaches the bench. "loukas." his voice is breathy, as though possessed by some other man in a world that is light years away. he looks down with a deep frown, eyebrows furrowed. "we need to talk."
he thinks: the last time he introduced a conversation with that statement, he had moved to england.
the last time he introduced a conversation with that statement, he had led himself to his death.
&loukas frey. always finding a way to bring that dank letter in. it's the last in the collection. love u.
his name, uttered with a sigh more akin to pain than relief. for a moment, loukas thinks it the voice of his brother, come to lead him away, unable to speak more, but with a presence enough to provide comfort.
then it sinks in.
loukas is quick to his feet, sliding the dagger into its sheath in the span of a second, his heart quickening, fluttering, as his eyes focus in on the face of the figure before him. he sees the ghost, he can smell their scent on the air, he can hear their voice - but his senses have lied to him before. yet it does nothing to stop the softness of his gaze, his lips partially parted, his eyes slightly wide, as he takes in the figure before him. then, he breathes out, "kit."
bittersweet, full of relief yet combined with sadness, pain, fear. loukas's face begins to fall, his gaze trailing to the side, downwards, lingering on the empty space next to kester. his words have sunk in, giving rise to the last time he heard them. loukas touches his lower lip with his teeth, toiling with himself, his thoughts, now relentlessly coming - why now, why now, why?
he breathes in, the process shaky, and shakier still as he exhales.
quiet, like snow -
"first you want nothing to do with me, and now, you're..." a half-gesture to the space between them, heavy, threatening to drop back down, "here."
his voice shakes with the last word, almost choked out as his body begins to fail. breath ragged, tears pricking at his eyes, weakness in his bones, loukas drags his body to the bench, where he collapses with heaviness, hunched over again, head held in his hands as he fights to stay calm, fights to not cry, a losing battle from the moment kester spoke his name. his thoughts, endless still, questioning, filled with disbelief, confusion, fear. he wants to understand, wants to-
wants this to not be happening.
he doesn't know how much more he can take.
// kester grayson
loukas just can't any more
in one word his heart shatters. it's pathetic, really.
he'd heard the word uttered more times than he can count. with salt in the air, bodies tangled in a multitude of beds, in the embrace before journeys separated. he'd heard the word in his sleep, in his memories, wished to hear it in the present oh so many times.
and here is: standing in front of the man he's begged decades of safety for and it is uttered only in sadness. pain. so he looks away for a moment, takes a breath, and rebuilds his facade before it crumbles away. he cannot afford to be weak in this moment.
he doesn't know what to do as he watches loukas crumple in on himself, the weight of reality crushing everything he holds dear. that is wrong: kester knows precisely what to do to make loukas feel better. he knows that a hand rested on loukas' shoulder would relieve the weight there; he knows that his arms around the other's chest would spark a forestfire of happiness.
hope. so much hope.
"that is not... entirely true."
he wants so much to do with loukas. he wants to spend the rest of his natural born life with the man, to regain all the time lost between the stockades and the alleyway. he would do anything in the world if he thought those dreams were possible.
they aren't, and so he settles beside loukas with the presence of a phantom, notably keeping his hands to himself.
"i was never able to say goodbye." his voice cracks on the final word, he curses inwardly, but he soldiers on. "and it would be unfair to leave you in this town wondering if i'm still roaming around somewhere. i cannot fathom the pain it would cause to leave you wondering if we would ever meet again." he has found a new strength, can only allow the words to continue steamrolling right on out of his mouth and into loukas' lap.
"that is why i am here. i owe you a goodbye." a pause. he lets what he said sink in.
he lets himself process the gravity of it all.
he will never make such a mistake again.
"i am to leave in a few days. mythril has outlived its relevancy for us." but there it is: a greivious mistake. us. kester catches it the moment it falls, is quick to raise himself to replacing it with an immediate: "me."
&loukas frey. song.
there used to be a time when kester would sit himself beside loukas, and loukas would be reaching out to bring him closer, pulled against his body or onto his lap. or even, vice versa; loukas draping himself over the man's shoulders, or creeping onto his lap, needy for attention and physical contact from the one whose touch would set alight a beacon of happiness and peace within him for all to see. it was a constant between them; to not be touching was to feel incomplete.
( "that is not entirely true." the phantom says, though the words may as well not have been spoken, loukas too trapped in himself, too focused on steadying his breaths. )
yet this body, now seated beside him, feels more a ghost than the solidarity of a lover. though he aches to touch, feel their skin against his own, he fears that contact would reveal unto him a hallucination born of grief, and the ghost would slip through his fingers, to disappear into the cosmos like ashes spread out onto the wind.
the voice speaks again, and loukas hears the words this time. he hears a crack, and his heart twinges from the sharp pain that lances through it. loukas breathes in, straightens his back to look up at the stars above, hands held together in attempted self-comfort. the words spoken are like a bed of thorns without the roses, pricking and tearing open his skin, and yet he cannot bring himself to drag himself from them. he listens, he suffers, he looks down again.
then he hears it - us. nevermind the correction, the word still comes out. loukas tilts his head, chances half a look to the side, but his eyes never rise higher than the legs of the man next to him, only lingering for a few moments before he returns his gaze to the grass. he lets the words sink in, repeats them, tries to think, but his mind is both as empty as the park around them, and as busy as the city streets. he doesn't know what to say.
he thinks of all the things he could say, but none of it holds the weight he wants it to. he's never been good with words, instead letting his actions speak the bulk for him, but what is there for him to do to make his love stay? it's not within his rights, nor his morals, to dare close the distance between them without permission, to grab and take what he considers his. it would not do well to stir trust.
he realises, with bitterness and fear, that words are his only option, so he breathes in, and steels his voice.
"i don't believe that the fates have drawn us together, only to pull us apart again."
his voice comes out stronger than he thought it would, but then,
loukas has always been strong in his beliefs.
// kester grayson
wowza i did a write
it is a cheap shot for loukas to mention the fates, and kester feels his jaw clench with the burst of anger before he registers it.
the fates hold as much control over this world as the next; it is man who decide what strings are cut. it is not fate that makes him want to hold loukas close to his chest when he sees the deflation in his form. it is his humanity -- it is the shell of the man who once believed of a life permanently tethered to the ocean.
kester abandoned his beliefs in the fates (in all of it) long ago.
”the fates didn’t do anything.” the venom of his thoughts seeps into his tone in a way that he knows he will regret. he cannot stop it. ”i’ve known your whereabouts this entire time. where there are disappearances and slaughter, there is a rhett quick to follow.” when he speaks his form stiffens, his fist tightens around the edge of the bench and he feels his fingers try to dig into a material that is unyielding. unwilling. he wants to ask: why can’t you see this cannot be? but the words die before they pass his lips, instead manifesting as a small noise akin to that of pain.
he looks away and to the side, away from loukas. his eyes close and he mumbles something incoherent under his breath. when he looks back to loukas his eyes are dulled, and when he speaks much of the bite has left his tone. kester is subdued.
”please try to see it how i need you to.” this time, kester begs. he cannot express how much he needs for loukas to agree, how everything his life has been built on centers around loukas living. ”you can’t be in the same town as me, ever. you have to put distance between us. i am not asking.”
a man is not living until he grasps what it is he wants most in this world. kester knows this, and he tells himself that loukas does not truly want whatever shell of a man that sits beside him. loukas wants love and happiness and all the things that kester is no longer capable of granting.
loukas wants the man he once fell in love with.
”too much has changed for this to be anything more than a cruel game,” and that much he means. ”you and rhett need to pack up and go before it is too late.”
with those words spoken he pulls his bag up, stands and makes to leave. he doesn’t try to breathe past the lump in his throat.
the biting tone does its job; it stings loukas in a way that he believed he would never have to feel. he's filled with disbelief, and again his eyes fall to kester's leg, listening to his words on repeat in his head. the fates didn't do anything, says the man who believed in them as much as he believed in their love. so it may be that the fates did nothing, that it was all coincidence that pulled them together again, but if loukas cannot believe in the fates, in the gods, he knows he can still believe in the guiding hand of his ancestors - his existence is proof enough that they exist.
his disbelief grows at the words that follow: "i've known your whereabouts this entire time."
"and you never..." he starts, a half-whisper trailing into the air, before silence takes over. he closes his eyes, breathing in, feeling pricks at his eyes once more. quickly, he stands - not to leave, but to, to do something. he threads his fingers through his hair, wills his body to not give up on him. he wills himself not to grow lost in himself, lest he turn around and find kester gone; he thanks skaði for his hearing, catching a muffled but nonetheless choked noise reminiscent only of pain. loukas turns, focusing his eyes on kester's form, and feels his heart break.
kester is little more than a shell, he sees it now. the fire that once burned within him with unparalleled vigor is now naught but a smouldering ember.
he wants little more than to stoke those flames, to draw that body close to his and hold them closely, to whisper promises of a brighter future - but suddenly he feels unsure of whether he can even promise it.
loukas listens, as much as it hurts to hear the pain and desperation in kester's voice. he tries to do as he asks, tries to see things from kester's eyes - but he can't. he understands little of what's going on, only that kester is alive, and that he doesn't want anything to do with loukas. it's a tumultuous sea of confusion and pain and disbelief; loukas refuses to drown in it.
he's about to shake his head, but then kester stands, taking a step to leave. loukas is quick to react, closing the distance between them faster than kester can walk away. he cannot, will not let kester disappear again. he will fight the gods themselves if they truly mean to draw his other half back to him only to tear them apart again.
loukas grabs kester's wrist, pulls him back, willing him to turn around, to face him.
"you know who i am, kester."
his voice is soft, like the one he would use when they were the only ones in the world, lost in each other's company, but at peace.
"if you really wanted me to leave, you wouldn't have come."
( he's not sure if he's grasping at straws, or if he truly believes. but he hopes - )
"so why did you?"
( why come to the man who stops at nothing to save someone? )
// kester grayson
tw. rape implication/mention.
for a moment, his heart lifts as though it will fly among the stars.
breathing comes easier, and his form lifts as he watches loukas stand as though he cannot handle the information given to him. he watches the man's eyes reflect his heart as he becomes a tornado of emotion. he watches as loukas tries to process and kester almost believes that he can walk away.
( because, maybe, if he makes loukas hate him he can leave his heart here in this moment, too. )
he makes to leave and he is stopped by the hand that holds onto his wrist like a lifeline.
there are three things that go through kester's head in that moment. they trail alongside one another with equal parts intensity and pain.
he thinks: loukas' hand is so much warmer than the space they inhabit, and kester can feel his pulse hitch to jump through to the other's body. he wishes for loukas to hold tighter, to hold him in the moment like a tether.
then there is the fear associated with the feeling of skin coming into contact with his own. loukas holds his wrist with a furiosity and it nearly makes kester stumble away, a flash of fear that grips his lungs; it betrays his eyes and he clenches fist once again as if to will loukas away. he is brought back to a room that is too-cold, a bed too-rigid, and a home too-dark. he cannot stop his breathing from quickening.
lastly he is reminded of the feeling of the waves rocking his body slowly side to side. the feeling of wood underneath his palm as loukas pulled him away from the edge of a ship to the wheel. he is reminded of a featherlight touch guiding his arms to hold a captain's wheel, and the tickle of a voice in his ear that says steer us home, darling.
( except he was already home, situated perfectly between loukas' arms with the big, wide world to explore. )
so when he turns to face loukas, following the point that connects them by the wrist, his eyes are simply pooled with grief. his heart splits as he reaches up to pull his glasses from his face, and he simply lets them dangle beside his thigh.
"i-" his voice cracks with the weight of it, and he stands uselessly as the tears begin to fall properly. first slowly, then a stream as he brings his hand back up to cover his mouth as it envelopes him.
( like a tide; the pain sweeps in and carries him into the undertow )