by Tsukigawa Rika (月川 りか)
“Mother, I don’t see why you’re so desperate for me to go to this silly spectacle,” the young blonde said. He put a hand on his back nervously, feeling the strange metal that had been used to replace a part of his spine after his accident.
“Why, Warren, you used to love such things, don’t be so negative!” Lady Ackiss exclaimed as she fixed his tie. “I thought this would be a most excellent way to celebrate your recovery!” She smiled brilliantly at her only son. “And this particular show is apparently debuting some fantastic invention. Just go along with it, my dear. No one has to know.”
Warren sighed, slightly. “It’s a good thing that the Ackiss name isn’t well known in these parts, mother, or they’d all know anyways.” He finished tightening his ties and sat back on his bed to tie his boots.
He nodded. “All right, mother, just let me get my boots on.” He nodded for her to leave the room. Once she had left, he stopped, and put a hand on his back again, feeling around. The plates were designed to be hard to notice, but he couldn’t help but worry that someone would try to pat it, or touch it, or somehow see through his clothes and understand that he wasn’t fully human. But, he knew this was unfounded. No one would be able to touch it, it was just some strange sort of neurosis that he couldn’t help. He got up.
“Mother! I’m ready to leave now,” he called. It was time for him to socialize again.
The scene at the spectacle was much as he expected—the same mix of eccentric high class gentlemen and ladies along with the servants and riff-raff that you might see in the market. His mother had gotten them a box, so that they could pretend to be the former. It was, she would say, a treat, an easy way out. A way to forget, just for a moment, everything that had happened.
But, she didn’t have quite enough influence to get them a private box, and before he could even find his way to his seat, he had already seen the glimmer of a smile and a lovely young lady sitting beside him. He tried not to stare, or even acknowledge her existence, but before he could do anything about it, she had already leaned over to whisper in his ear.
“So, you’re the young man who’s sharing the box with me tonight, is it? I’m Frances. Frances Lafoure. I’ll admit I could probably afford my own box here, but it’s so much nicer to get to know new people, isn’t it?” Her voice was perhaps slightly lower than most girls he was used to hearing, a bit more ironic. Warren shook it off—it’s not as if he had socialized with a lady in a long time.
“Ah… I guess you could be right.”
She grinned up at him. “No name? No smile? Come now, you’re at a spectacle, you should be enjoying this. Right?”
“Ah, right, I’m Warren Ackiss.” He gave a curt nod, praying that this woman wouldn’t recognize the name.
Frances tilted her head a little. “Can’t say I recognize the name, but no matter. Is anyone else joining us? Did you have an escort?”
He looked away, slightly embarrassed. “Ah, I’m here with my mother.”
She grinned at him, and started to say something, but then of course at that moment was when the Lady Ackiss had to come back. She smiled dubiously at the woman in the box and sat down. She leaned over to stage whisper in Warren’s ear.
“Warren, have you been kind to them so far?”
“Of course I was kind to her. Who do you think I am? A few months away from society doesn’t mean I’ve completely lost my manners, now does it?”
His mother smiled sweetly at him. “You should call on her later, I would say.” Warren’s mouth opened in protest, but before he could emit a witty retort, the announcer had come to the front of the stage.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my honor to present Mr. Lackadaisical’s Fantastical Spectacular, featuring something new and exciting every time it comes to town!”
Warren had to roll his eyes a little bit. Mr. Lackadaisical’s was always almost exactly the same, save for one small twist. But it looked like Warren might have already found his. Frances Lafoure.
The next morning, Warren received a small engraved calling card when the postman came. The stock was thick, and there was a delicately embossed L on the seal. He opened it curiously, and really, he wasn’t at all surprised when he read the note that was within it.
“Dear M. Ackiss,
It was most wonderful to make your acquaintance last night at the spectacle, and I do hope that you enjoyed yourself as much as I did.
If it would please you, I would very much like it if you could pay me a visit tomorrow night. Talk a bit about the things that we saw?
He wrote a hurried reply and sent it back over. He wasn’t quite sure what was so intriguing to him about the lady, but he knew that he had to meet her. He almost wanted to push it forward to tonight, or just surprise her at home. But—right, his mother had made arrangements for him today, regardless. The meeting would stay at the set time, but only because it had to.
He heard a knock on the door, and hid the note in his breast pocket, and went to greet his mother. It would be better not to get her hopes up quite yet, and he almost enjoyed the idea of keeping this a secret, for the moment. He didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of knowing that her plan had been successful. He would find another reason to be out the house tomorrow.
The face of the townhouse that the letter led him to was really quite impressive, especially to someone who wasn’t used to seeing beautiful things. It wasn’t unusual, in any particular way; but even its tiniest details reeked of money, the tiny elaborations of the door, the exact color of the knob.
He knocked, once, and almost considered running away so he would not have to see the woman. But before he could, the door opened, and a beautiful young man opened the door.
“Ah, excuse me, is Fr—”
“Ah, Mr. Ackiss, you’ve come! How delightful, indeed. Frances will be out in just a moment. Would you like to come in?” The man grinned at him, and Warren could have sworn he saw something of the woman he was seeking.
“I suppose I must.” He stepped into the townhouse and looked around a bit. It wasn’t a particularly luxurious inside, or at least not in an open, obvious way. The ceilings were low, surely, for such a place, but again, there were details that indicated the presence of funds.
His attention was brought back when the young man snapped his fingers in front of his face. “Would you like to come upstairs?”
“Ah, is she–?”
He smiled again. “Yes, she’s upstairs. Right this way!” He followed the young man upstairs, and the red-headed young man led him into a pretty parlor, and turned around and gave Warren a meaningful look.
“Well? Have you figured it out yet, Mister Ackiss?”
Warren stared back at him dumbly. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you are trying to convey, sir.”
“I’m Francis.” He smiled and sat down in one of the overly cushioned armchairs in the parlor.
“Ah, do you want an explanation? Well, Mr. Ackiss, I’m sure you understand a little bit about wanting to hide.” He took this moment to look up at Warren, smiling all the way through. “Anyways, I just don’t want people knowing where I’m going all the time. Could you understand that, at all?”
Warren couldn’t stare back, not at him. “It’s not your business.”
“Do you not want to speak to me anymore?” Francis slowly pulled himself up so that he could look at the other man in the eye. “I promise that my conversation is just the same, no matter how I’m dressed.”
Warren took a deep breath and sat down. “I suppose … I was mostly just surprised.”
Francis looked a bit surprised, but he still managed to give him a smile. “I can allow you that much. Here, let me make this easier.” He waltzed to a bookshelf and pulled down a musty old tome of herbal remedies. “Any interest in this?”
Warren couldn’t help but smile a little bit. “What about them?”
This pattern continued for several weeks. Warren would find one excuse or another, and he would visit that beautiful townhouse to talk about some topic or another for several hours. As the weeks went on, they became a bit more comfortable with each other, and eventually, the scene of their discussions shifted from the parlor to Francis’ bedroom. One week, they had been talking about past romantic interests, when Francis gave him something of an odd look.
“All of your lovers have been women, haven’t they?”
Warren looked up with a bit of a start. “Well … yes, they have, Francis.”
He sighed and smiled a little. “At least you didn’t say something along the lines of ‘of course’.”
Warren didn’t reply.
Francis got up and leaned on the side of Warren’s chair, speaking into his ear. “You’ve seen some of my vulnerability, and I know you have your own, so please.” He touched Warren’s hipbone, almost touching the metal plate in his back. “Let me see it.”
Warren wiped the hair out of his eyes before speaking. “Francis, why would you want to?”
He grinned knowingly. “Just trust me.”
Once Francis had persuaded Warren to sit on the bed, he began untying his cravat and smiled. “It’s really so interesting, how much stock people put into how you take off somebody’s clothes, don’t you think? The order of how you do it, the amount of thought that goes into exactly how much you feel you can tease someone. It’s all really quite…” He finished untying it and started unbuttoning Warren’s shirt. “It’s really quite fascinating, wouldn’t you say?” He grinned. “But don’t worry too much, I’m not aiming to tease you. Pull off your shirt the rest of the way, I need to work on your trousers, now.”
Warren could feel his face heating up a bit. “Are you sure you want to see it–?”
Another bright, un-malicious laugh. “See what? Your own member? Trust me, Warren, I can’t very well pleasure you if my eyes are closed the entire time–” He pulled down his trousers slowly, and the slight gleam of the metal on Warren’s side caught his eye. He furrowed his eyebrows together slightly. “Roll onto your stomach.”
Warren was still busy with attempting to pull off his shirt, so he only made a bit of a questioning noise as he rolled over without thinking, exposing the metal plating on his back.
Francis almost gasped when he saw it. The metalwork certainly was an odd thing to see on a mostly human body, but the person who had crafted it clearly cared, at least a little bit, that it would be beautiful. He hesitantly lowered his head and kissed the spot where the strange, silvery metal met Warren’s rough, pale skin. “Is this what you were afraid to show me?”
Warren shifted uncomfortably, trying to move back onto his back, hoping that somehow when it was out of sight it would be erased from Francis’ memory. “Why are you looking?”
Francis smiled and let Warren move back into the position he preferred. “I don’t have to, if you don’t want me to. I can make you feel quite pleasant without having to see your back ever again. Though I’d like to.”
Warren grimaced. “You aren’t going to ask what happened?”
Francis leaned down again to capture those words in a kiss before speaking again. “I wouldn’t dream to.”
Warren closed his eyes for a moment. “Thank you.”
Francis sat back up so that he could finish pulling off Warren’s clothing. “You’re very welcome.”
After a few awkward moments of Francis trying to pull off his own clothing without making Warren feel unnecessarily embarrassed, Francis leaned down again and grinned. “I’ll be careful. All you have to do is tell me when it gets to be too much for you, and we’ll find a way to make it better. Is that alright?”
Warren nodded a bit, not daring to speak.
Francis grinned and wrapped his fingers along the edge of Warren’s shaft, and kissed him once. “Then let us begin.”
Francis looked up as he kissed down Warren’s chest. It was clear that he was being careful of Warren’s various scars from his old injuries. Warren could feel him pause as he made it to his navel, but he nodded, a bit, trying to convey that it was alright.
Francis slid down again, and Warren could feel the smile on Francis’ lips as he wrapped them around the tip, teasingly, carefully, with skill that could only come from doing this many times before. He lifted his hips slightly, to try to be encouraging, just hoping and praying that just this could be enough.
And as far as he could tell, this was enough, for Francis. Bit by bit, he took more and more of him into his mouth, clearly aware that even if Francis wasn’t inexperienced in general, he was inexperienced in this, specifically. He pulled off a little bit, and kissed the tip again, and looked up.
“This all right?” He smiled mischievously, his lips wet and obscene.
Warren could only make the tiniest of nods before Francis dipped his head down again, laughing as he worked at it, doing his best to make each touch unique, before Warren couldn’t bother attempting to be stoic anymore, and he let himself go, completely, into Francis’ welcoming mouth.
When Warren opened his eyes again, all he could see was Francis’ lips, still curled into that same sardonic grin, but this time, at the very least, it was dry. Francis patted the blonde’s head a little bit, and Warren couldn’t tell if it was meant to be doting, or condescending.
“Enjoyed that, did you?”
It was certainly condescending, but Warren couldn’t help but smile. “Of course I did.”
Francis looked at him knowingly and ran his thumb along that spot where the metal met his skin. “I just hope that next time you won’t be afraid of your differences.”
Warren opened his mouth, momentarily. He was going to say that he wasn’t afraid of them, that he knew who he was and that it wasn’t, in any way, his business.
But then he looked again at those beautiful eyes and he realized that for the moment, at least, it just didn’t matter.