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of pralines and poetry

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"Oh," Raphael breathed. Coloured lights reflected in his eyes, now wide with surprise, and his mouth was doing interesting things, as if there was something he wanted to say but didn't quite know how to say it.

Ivory slid onto the cushions next to Raphael, squeezed tight up against him despite the fact there was still half a sofa length behind him. Raphael was warm, and he was staring at him, but hadn't otherwise moved. He was tense, Ivory could see, so he slowly put his arm on the back of the sofa, leaning closer - he smelled of punch and old books, and this close he could see the faint shadow of stubble. "What are three things you like?" Ivory murmured, eyes on Raphael's lips.

"Cheekbones," said Raphael, his lips moving. "Uh, your cheekbones, specifically, not cheekbones in general..." his pupils were blown wide, and his voice was raspy, and this was going so much better than Ivory had ever let himself dream it could.

"And?" he prompted, putting his other hand on Raphael's thigh, just above the knee - he'd never touched Raphael like this before, and it was dangerous, so dangerous...he'd seen Raphael in the air, seen how determinedly he could destroy his enemies. Ivory's hand burned. Raphael's breath hitched.

"I...ahh…" Raphael was looking troubled, sweat sheened on his forehead and a muscle was working in his jaw. "Sorry," he said in a rush, pushed Ivory away, leaned forwards and threw up.

Ivory jumped off the couch. He didn't wait to see what happened next, just took off, out of there as fast as he could. He didn't pause until he was in his own room, door firmly closed behind him.

His hand still burned, but it was now accompanied with a sour feeling of disappointment and fear tugging at his gut.

~*~

Around mid-morning, there was a scrape by the door and Ivory sat up from the bed, where he'd been contemplating a) getting food b) playing the piano or c) setting himself on fire, and saw that a small scrap of paper had been pushed underneath his door.

Ivory stared at it. That scrap of paper could be any number of things, but first and foremost it was cowardly; if anybody wanted to say something to him, they had better say it to his face.

He picked it up. It was a short note, with no sender, but Ivory would've recognised that hand anywhere.

I would like the chance to talk to you about something important. Tonight?

Hm. Perhaps not so cowardly after all.

He looked into the hallway, but Raphael was nowhere to be seen. Ivory did see Luvander exit the common room, however, and hollered at him. "Have you seen Raphael?"

"He went out," Luvander hollered back at him, knowing grin on his face. "Told me to tell you he'd be back by dinner."

Ivory gave him the finger and Luvander gave him one right back, still grinning. He shut the door to his room again, and eyed the note thoughtfully. Raphael could be at a number of places, but given the season and his general character, Ivory thought he knew where exactly he could find him.

If he wanted.

"Curiosity killed the cat," Ivory muttered, as he found his boots and coat, "but satisfaction brought the damned thing back, and I'll be damned if I'm not coming back from this."

It didn't take long for him to locate Raphael's dark curls. He was exactly where Ivory thought he would be: at the market. He watched him from a distance, weaving in and out of the crowd to stay hidden from Raphael. His cheeks were pink with the cold, Ivory noted, and he'd turned the collar up against the wind.

What did Raphael want to talk to him about? Last night's events had been...confusing, to say the least - what kind of person would look at you like Raphael looked at him like he'd done last night, and then promptly throws up at...overt advances? Or had he just had too much punch? Did he have too much punch and now didn't want to...do whatever they'd been about to do?

Ivory followed Raphael through the crowd, but stopped short when he saw where Raphael was headed next. There was a stall straight ahead that sold the most wonderful almond pralines that could be scrounged up in Thremedon; Ivory had had half a mind to stop by that stall before heading back to the Airman. Now Raphael was there, surveying the goods and talking to the saleswoman. Ivory moved closer.

"Did those have chili in them, did you say?" Raphael asked, pointing. The saleswoman had a box in her hand and was filling it with the things Raphael pointed at. The box was only a quarter full. "I think five of those."

"Make that ten," Ivory said, looking over his shoulder. "Those are my favourite."

"Wha- " Raphael startled, and spun around. All colour had drained from his face. "Oh," he said. "Uhm. Hi."

"Well?" Ivory said.

"Ten of those," Raphael said, not turning to face the saleswoman. "Uhm. What are you...why are you here?"

"Thought you wanted to talk." Ivory had put his hands in his coat pockets to keep them warm, now he kept them there so Raphael wouldn't notice how hard he was clenching his fists. People were milling about them; somebody bumped into Ivory's back, and under ordinary circumstances he wouldn't have hesitated to retaliate, but now his attention was focused directly on Raphael.

"I - yes. Here?" Raphael's eyes darted about, assessing their environment. "Now?"

Ivory shrugged. "Why not?" He turned to the saleswoman. "Fill up the rest of that box with those, those and those," he instructed, pointing at different pralines in turn.

"What are you doing?" Raphael asked, faintly. He fished coins out of his purse to pay for the goods.

"Completing your order. If these weren't for me, I'd have stolen them anyway. Might as well save both of us the trouble."

"They were supposed to be an apology gift," Raphael mumbled, resolutely not looking at Ivory as he slid the box into the bag with the rest of his shopping. "Because I threw up on you yesterday."

"You didn't throw up on me."

"I almost threw up on you," Raphael amended. He looked up now, colour back in his face. There was something new in his face, something Ivory had rarely seen on the ground. "Let's walk."

Ivory followed, fists clenched in his pockets once again, and his heart fluttering in his chest. They walked in silence, at first, winding their way back towards the Airman, taking a shortcut through the 'versity grounds.

"There are three things I like," Raphael said, once they'd left the 'versity behind. "Poetry, your cheekbones, and you."

Something inside Ivory quieted.

"Not poetry about my cheekbones?"

"I'd say that, but I'm the only one who's written any, and it's a bit gauche to say that I like my own poetry." Raphael looked at him now, sideways, from under his curls. "I'm sorry," he said, "for botching things up yesterday. I didn't mean to."

Ivory looked back. "Is Ghislain to blame?"

Raphael considered this. "Well. I was the one who made the decision to drink it."

"I would like to read your poetry," Ivory told him, softly, almost not sure he wanted to be heard. Raphael stopped walking, and Ivory considered the merits of holding his breath versus hyperventilating.

"Would you really?" Raphael asked. He was standing too close, their breaths mingling in the air in white puffs, obscuring his face a little.

The Airman was in sight, just behind Raphael's shoulder and this wasn't safe, not here, not this close to the Airman where anyone was liable to pop out at any moment -

"I do," Ivory breathed, and then Raphael's lips were on his, cold and dry, but his hand had come up to cup his jaw, and it was warm.

"Come to my room," Raphael said against his lips, "and I'll let you read my poetry."

fin.