Gilmore blinked, rubbed his eyes, and leaned back in his chair. It was his most comfortable chair, large and covered in cushions, well stuffed with feathers and right now it was about as comfortable as a hard wooden bench for how long he had been sitting in it, studying a new book he had recently acquired. He glanced out of the window and winced at how dark it was. Sarenrae only knew how late it was now. He could vaguely remember the midnight bell tolling, and had thought to himself that he would set the book aside after he had finished the chapter. Flicking back through the pages, he saw that it was now four chapters past the end of that chapter, and sighed to himself.
He placed a bookmark in the book and closed it, moving over to the window to glance outside. It was quiet and dark, the occasional street lamp not withstanding and Gilmore sighed to himself again as he stretched, loosening stiff muscles and decided that he might need someone to take the book away from him. If Vax had been here….
Gilmore shook his head firmly. No, he was not letting his mind wander down that path. However, despite the stern talking-to he was getting very good at giving himself, he couldn’t stop thinking about Vax now that he had started, his mind wandering as his body moved through the room, snuffing out candles and getting ready for bed. It wasn’t the longest separation they had ever had, that dubious distinction went to the six months that had occurred shortly after their first year together, but this separation was hitting the three-month mark, and that was longer than it had been in a while.
Gilmore knew what he was signing up for when he decided that he wanted to be with Vax, and it was part of the reason that Vax had hesitated for so long in telling Gilmore exactly how he felt, along with the fear that they would try it, and it would fall apart because one or both of them couldn’t handle not seeing each other. But for nearly four years so far they had managed, and arguably had been thriving. Even so, every time Vax went away, Gilmore spent two weeks functioning normally, and then he slowly deteriorated into worry, which inevitably led to sleeplessness and distraction. The first couple of days after Vax got back was always spent just sleeping in each other’s arms before moving onto more… vigorous activities.
The faint tolling of bells filtered through Gilmore’s consciousness and he paused, standing in the middle of the room and counting mentally, pinching the bridge of his nose as he counted three. Three am. He had to get up in five hours time. That was the downside of owning a shop, even such a specialist and luxury shop like Gilmore’s Glorious Goods. Gilmore sat down on his bed and extended his hand to extinguish the last of his lights, when the sound of his window being slid open made him start gathering magic into his fingers, and he was preparing to release the spell when he saw the dark outline of a very familiar figure step inside, stumble a little, and catch itself heavily with a hand against a bookcase, which shook and rattled. The figure hushed it rather more loudly than the rattle had been, and glanced over to where Gilmore was sitting, watching the proceedings with some degree of amusement.
The figure pouted and Gilmore’s smile got even wider. Getting up from the bed quickly, he crossed over to the slightly swaying figure and opened his arms, exclaiming. “Vax!”
Vax, pink-faced and flushed, still swaying and bright-eyed, took one step forward, tripped over his own feet and fell into Gilmore’s arms, his own arms winding around Gilmore’s neck and holding on as he murmured. “I was trying to be stealthy. It was gonna be a surprise.”
Gilmore wrapped his arms around Vax’s waist and pulled him close, ignoring the chill of the armour against his bare chest so he could set his chin on Vax’s shoulder and in turn feel Vax press his face into Gilmore’s own shoulder in response as he replied. “This is a surprise; I am surprised. You normally go back to the Keep after the ‘we’re-back-in-Emon’ pub crawl.”
Gilmore felt Vax mutter into his shoulder. “It’s not called that. Scanlan calls it the ‘thank-fuck-we’re-still-alive’ pub crawl, and Keyleth calls it the ‘I-really-need-a-drink’ pub crawl, and Grog just makes noises and gestures towards the nearest pub.”
Gilmore laughed and stepped back a bit to take Vax in as he asked. “Was there any need to be grateful that you’re alive?”
Vax shook his head as Gilmore checked him over. Dirty and tired from being on the road, and certainly not very coherent, though that was definitely down to the amount of alcohol that had been consumed prior to Vax deciding to climb through Gilmore’s window. There was no visible sign of any injury and Vax had climbed through the window gracefully enough, allowing for the drunkenness, but there was something in his attitude, and the way he clung onto Gilmore. He seemed almost sad.
Deciding not to pursue it whilst Vax was clearly drunker than Gilmore had seen him in a long time, he just gently manoeuvred Vax backwards until he was sitting down on the edge of the bed and said. “Get your boots off and I’ll go and fetch you some water.”
Gilmore barely had enough time to straighten up again before Vax lurched forwards and wrapped his arms around Gilmore’s waist, pressing his face into Gilmore’s stomach as he whined. “No, don’t go! I don’t want you to go, I like it when you’re all soft and sleepy and….” Vax looked up into Gilmore’s face, a lazy drunken smile on his own face. “Half-naked. I really like it when you’re naked. I should be naked too!”
That, obviously, led to Vax immediately trying to pull his top off. He actually did quite well considering his armour was still buckled on, and managed to get his left arm out before getting stuck and apparently deciding that seeing as that arm was stuck, he should start working on the other one. Before he could get too far with the right arm, Gilmore caught his hand and said firmly. “Vax, dear, let me do it.”
Vax’s face lit up. “You’re going to get me naked?”
Gilmore couldn’t stop a chuckle. Drunk Vax was apparently just as endearing to him as all the other versions of Vax were, but he replied. “I’m going get your armour off, and your boots off, and then I’m going to get you a drink of water and then we’re both going to sleep.”
Vax pouted again and opened his mouth to say something, but that quickly turned into a gentle sigh as Gilmore leaned in to press a kiss against his forehead as he began to work on the straps of Vax’s armour. Considering Gilmore had not had much chance to handle armour before, he managed quite well, and the armour came off along with the cloak attached to it. Whilst he was working on the boots, Gilmore glanced up and saw that Vax had tilted to the side and fallen asleep against the headboard, dark hair covering part of his face.
Once the boots had been eased off, Gilmore shook Vax awake gently and murmured. “If you’re warm, take some of your layers off; I’m going to get your drink. Don’t go back to sleep.”
When Gilmore got back, Vax was bare-chested and curled up on the bed, on top of the sheets with his head against a pillow and blinking slowly. He sat up when Gilmore came back, immediately reaching out for him and Gilmore happily let him, arranging them so that Gilmore was sitting next to Vax, and Vax was curled up next to him, head on Gilmore’s shoulder and arms around Gilmore’s waist, letting Gilmore hold the cup up to his lips as he took sips.
After a few minutes, Vax started refusing the cup, and so Gilmore set it aside and with a fluid movement, shifted both himself and Vax so that their heads were on the pillows, and that the sheets settled over them. Vax blinked at Gilmore, surprised at the sudden movement, but reached up to run his hand through Gilmore’s hair, pulling the tie out so that it framed his face and smiled. “That’s better. I love your hair.”
Gilmore sometimes wondered how he contained all the love he felt for this man, but knowing that it was reciprocated went a long way to letting him feel freely and completely. He leaned in for a kiss and Vax met him, even whilst being half-asleep. The kiss was barely more than a peck, and Vax tasted of cheap wine and cheaper ale, and it was the best kiss Gilmore had ever shared up until that point. Every kiss with Vax was the best kiss he had ever given or received.
Gilmore was mostly asleep, revelling in the comfort and warmth of having Vax back in his bed, where, in Gilmore’s opinion, was where he belonged, when he caught the tail end of a sentence. “… not mean.”
“What was that, love?”
Gilmore felt a deep sigh flutter across his neck and Vax repeated. “Vex was mean earlier. We fought. That’s why I wanted to come here, instead of the Keep. Home isn’t mean. You’re not mean.”
Gilmore felt Vax fully relax beside him and could tell from the slow deep breaths that he had finally properly succumbed to sleep, but Gilmore knew from the last sentence that Vax has uttered that he would be lying awake for a little while yet, trying to work exactly what had happened between Vax and his sister and wondering what in Exandria he was going to be able to do about it.