You turn around and put the torc and brooch on the glass-top table with a clack and he’s crouched down beneath this massive glassware cabinet, peering around inside with it. “Recognize anything?”
It squints and shakes its head; he shrugs and motions you over. Bottles of whiskey, scotch, cognac and various others you don’t recognize in different languages sit there, faintly dusty and gleaming. After a moment, his long fingers pull out a pair of tall slender ones and passes one to Bel.
“That’s a mild one, if you want to try.”
It nods, a grin spreading over its face that makes you snort. Silly.
You watch him as he pours the drinks and ice with cut-crystal glasses from the cabinet; he’s so... ethereal, almost, so... amazing and beautiful, like a different creature altogether... the little contented smile on his face, like he’s taking joy in just doing mundane tasks...
[‘Maybe he still has it, after all, that joie de vivre... he just doesn’t notice it or something...’]
Then he turns and puts one in your hand with a smile and tells you, “Try it.”
You do, and it’s... different, different from what you’re used to but still creating a pleasant warmth somewhere in your stomach like the feeling of fire—
Fire. Oh-so-carefully, just nudging it, just nudging it gently, ever closer to that fringe of hair... and then it lights, and it’s so difficult to keep a straight face; and and he (Jay) and he (Emory) don’t look any wiser and he (Levi) has this tiny little flicker in his eyes and he (Chesh) has this knowing, amused smile on his face that hasn’t left and it (Bel) just bites its lip—
The leather is cool at first in this... lounge, you guess, but very swiftly it warms up as you sit there and gently swill your drink, Chesh sitting adjacent on a couch with it beside him with a tall glass of something faintly fizzy and sipping it slowly...
He sighs softly and leans his head back, groaning faintly and closing his eyes. “Never again... no, that’s not strictly true, you made it quite memorable, Loki, and I’m always glad to help out a friend, but... that atmosphere is something I haven’t tasted for a while now.”
“Drink,” you say. “That tastes better.”
He laughs, laughs and doesn’t move, though a smile tugs at his lips. “That it does... and you? What’s your impression of modern formality, if not exactly high-class society?”
“Don’t care for it at all. ...I must say the clothes are nice, though.”
He chuckles and you grin into your drink. “True... perhaps next time I’ll take you to a gentleman's club or something, those involve nice clothes and drinks... like we’re doing now...”
“Are we? You’re not.”
He opens his eyes and sits up properly and winks. “I’m a touch slow tonight.”
“We all are.”
His tail twitches slightly as he drinks, your eyes catching the slow, back and forth movement. Bel has a sleepy smile on its face, half-sleepy and almost half-drunken, holding the glass with both hands. He pets its head and it leans up into the touch, crooning, “Kitty... Cheshy kitty...” His smile widens.
‘That’s the first time it’s called him something other than his full name.’
‘Huh. Must be drunk.’
“...you haven’t known it all that long, have you?” you ask, taking another sip.
“Mmm... no, not quite a year... why?”
“Mm-mmm, just wondering...” Doesn’t take that long to fall in love, huh...? ...what am I thinking anyway, ha...
The drink is cool and slightly bitter on your tongue, and it’s dark, the only light coming from a low lamp somewhere off to the side, catching off his fingernails (painted) and your glasses and the liquid and its eyes...
“...You’re weird, you know,” you say, almost not quite sure why you’re saying it.
“Mm?” he raises an eyebrow over the rim of the glass. “So are you.”
You can’t help but grin. “Aren’t we all? But really, you are, kind of.”
“Something... about you. Like a star or something, or a sun, or a planet... you radiate this... feeling... ...obviously the alcohol is inhibiting my words.”
All he does is wink. “Aura, my dear.”
Surprisingly it doesn’t bristle at the joke, the pet name; just leans back and drinks before setting the glass down with a light clack on the table and snuggles up against his side, closing its eyes as he wraps an arm around it, holding it close.
Close. So... close... Memories of cuddled up close to someone in the dark come to mind, first one somewhere else, followed by one of her...
Close. Being... close. Warm. Safe. Loved...
“Are you all right?”
You snap out of your trance and he’s looking at you with gentle concern, his hand running slowly up and down its back, protecting and soothing. You grin. “Yeah, I’m fine. ...cute.”
He blinks, nonplussed by the remark; you merely shake your head. Better not to meddle. I’m all right like this. Not wanting anything.
“You’re sure I don’t owe you anything for the clothes?”
“Mhm, of course~ Think of it as a gift if you like, or just a helping favor...”
“I could afford it, though.”
His eyes glimmer. “So can I.”
You snort faintly. “What are we even talking about, again?”
“Such a short memory~”
“Nah, it depends. Like fire, depending on the fuel.”
“Fire... it suits you, you know.”
“Don’t I know it.”
His smile becomes rather lopsided. “Wish I’d thought of that, before... fire on people’s hair...”
“Never be afraid,” you whisper (why whisper?). “No regrets, no second thoughts. Trickster’s creed. Plan it thoroughly, cover it up, don’t get caught. Look after yourself first. But no regrets. Pointless.”
“Not a bad way to live,” he says, eyes closing as the ice in his glass clinks. You find yourself grinning wider.
“Not at all...”
It’s fallen asleep against the sofa, and he smiles, gently running his fingers through its heavy bangs.
“You really love it, don’t you,” you say, not really as a question, eyes not really focused on anything in the space between him and the liquor you’re swirling slowly.
“Mhm, I do.”
You raise your eyes from gold and ice and meet his gaze. “What’s that like?” And just like that, all those familiar questions, the ones that have gone through her head so many times come trickling to the surface: ‘What’s it like, to love? To be that devoted to someone, to feel that strongly about them, to care about them so much? To feel that swelling in your soul and that pounding in your heart, is it really as amazing as they say?’
“It’s... a really big feeling,” he says, still combing through its hair. “It varies from person to person, of course, but it’s... sometimes it’s quiet, sometimes it’s bold... sometimes it doesn’t really show on the surface but it’s still there...”
You lean back in the leather with an elbow on the armrest. “...odd, that.”
“Rather, I suppose...” As it nuzzles him in its sleep his smile becomes tender, almost amazingly so, remarkably so, the love and care almost overflowing from his eyes... What IS that feeling? I don’t... really... get it... Isn’t it enough to just live...? Live for yourself... like I have...
“...you’re happy?” His eyes dart back to yours and even though you’re sure he knows what you mean you find yourself explaining anyway. “Loving it. Being that vulnerable and close... having to look after someone else as well...”
His expression changes to sympathy, understanding; he can tell how you’re struggling and while your pride stings just slightly at that you’re more grateful that he just gets what you’re grappling with.
“Mhm, I am. It’s... caring for someone and looking after them and being close... all of that is being returned and while in theory, to someone looking in, it might seem like a burden or something close to it, while you’re experiencing it, it’s... not. Things like worry and anxiety... it’s just care and ultimately... I suppose what true love is is absolute selflessness: being able to do anything for someone and putting them before you because their happiness matters more than yours, and if they’re happy, you are by extension...”
For a moment you’re silent, digesting this information. A line floats to mind, from her: ‘If you truly love someone, you have to be able to let them go, forever. Otherwise you don’t love them enough.’
That’s out of context. Plus the girl in the story didn’t have to.
That was ambiguous. She did, for a certain amount of time, sure.
“...well. Given that I’m pretty much the epitome of selfishness, that’s not going to happen to me anytime soon.” Almost apologetically you grin; he nods but raises an eyebrow.
“You’re not nearly as selfish as you might think.”
“Maybe I just want to think I’m selfish, then?” You eye him over the rim of the glass.
“That’s certainly a viable explanation.”
You make a noncommittal noise and take another sip. Getting attached to someone like that, boxing myself in, cutting off potential routes... well, I guess if I loved them, that wouldn’t matter, or I’d love someone with the same attitude. ...or maybe not, what am I thinking.
You look back up at them, at the tender smile on his lips and the content in its sleeping expression. But they look so happy...
“Mm?” He looks back up and you’re almost not sure why you said that.
“...is it okay if I call you that?”
He smiles. “Everyone does. It’s fine.”
“...’Kay... ...you... do you think... I don’t know. I’ll ever find a... purpose for being here or something...”
“I would’ve thought you’d say, ‘Do you think I’ll ever find love,’” he smiles, putting his chin on his hand. “Ultimately, it is you alone who determine your purpose. Ultimately, everything boils down to you yourself. This you can understand, yes?”
“So. While I cannot answer the question for you, strictly speaking, I also trust you and believe in you and have faith in you; if you wish to accomplish something, or simply even wish for it, I do think you will.” He finishes with a wide, closed-eye smile, so much that it makes your face flush. Why does HE have faith in me of all people...?
You cover up the blush with a hasty swig. The alcohol’s going to my head.