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From Crema to Pemberley

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In December, Jane and her sisters and parents joined Elio’s family at the Perlman villa for the holidays. Three days before New Year’s Eve, Elio and Jane were sitting in the living room, both reading their respective books in silence as usual, when Elio’s phone beeped with a text. He glimpsed at the screen.

“Huh, it’s my piano teacher.” Elio read the text and put the phone back on the table. “She wanted me to let you know that Charlie has supposedly rented the apartment again.”

“What? When? How does she know that?” Jane asked. Elio explained that his teacher was friends with the professor who had rented his apartment to the Bingleys and Oliver in the summer. During the breaks of their piano lessons in the fall she had learned about the short-lived affair that had happened between Elio’s cousin and one of the Americans.

“Apparently Charlie has rented it again for New Year’s.”

”What does this mean?” Jane asked with wide eyes.

Elio smiled. ”It means Charlie will be in Crema again. Might be here already.”

“Fine. Okay. But I don’t really care whether he’s coming or not. I just wish people, like your teacher, wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it,” Jane groaned. “But I know they will. And oh, my mother will be insufferable. Anyway, I’ll be so happy when the week is over and he’ll be gone again and I never have to think about him again.”

As much as Jane pretended not to care, the thoughts bouncing inside her head were clearly visible to someone like Elio who knew her well. It would be interesting to see how well she would keep her calm when they would inevitably run into Charlie in town, sooner or later.

 

 

It turned out to be sooner rather than later. The next day, Elio and Jane were in town, running errands with Elio’s mother and stopping for ice cream to celebrate the successful submission of Elio’s application to Juilliard, just before the deadline.

They emerged from the grocery store carrying bags full of items for Mrs Perlman’s New Year’s dinner and stopped outside to wait for Elio’s mother who was still paying inside, when they saw Charlie across the piazza, browsing at the newspaper stand.

And that wasn’t all; next to him was a tall man in a dark blue winter parka.

Oliver.

Elio and Jane froze in their spots, not knowing if they should go and say hi, or leave and hope to escape undetected.

The latter option wasn’t an option for long, as Charlie spotted them and practically ran to them. Oliver stood back instead, continuing to leaf through the newspaper selection at the stand.

“Hi, Jane, Elio. Good to see you. Oh, and hello Mrs Perlman.”

At that exact moment, Elio’s mother came out of the store stuffing her wallet into her purse and joined them, making the reunion even more awkward.

Elio watched Jane and Charlie make cautious small talk, Jane slowly warming up to Charlie’s questions as he seemed genuinely delighted to see her again and talk to her.

All the while, however, Elio kept one eye on Oliver, who seemed to be doing the same while making his purchase at the stand. The young man selling the papers smiled at Oliver as he handed him his change, and Elio was instantly jealous; he would’ve been jealous of anyone getting to talk to Oliver.

Oliver walked over to the rest of them with the newspaper under his arm.

“How are you, Elio? Hello, Mrs Perlman.” Very polite, but distant; there were no signs of the light-hearted demeanor that had been there in New York.

“I’m good. And you?”

“I’m good too. It’s good to be back here.”

“It’s quite a surprise to see you here. Have you come for New Year’s?”

“Yes, we’ll be here for a week. What do people do here for New Year’s?”

“Oh, I think there might be some festivities in town,” Elio’s mother interjected. “But our family just spends it at the villa, we have an annual New Year’s Eve dinner tradition.”

Elio kept wondering why throughout the conversation, Oliver seemed brooding rather than happy to see him. Was it because his mother and the others were there instead of them being alone?

Elio found himself disappointed that they had reverted back to their earlier ways of keeping each other at arm’s length. But could he have expected anything else, really, after the whole Lucia thing? He couldn’t blame Oliver for wanting to keep his distance.

“We have the whole family visiting for the holidays, just like we had for the summer,” Elio’s mother continued. “Except Lucia is not here. Her parents wanted to, umm, keep her home for a while.”

Elio did not dare to look up at the mention of Lucia, so he did not see whether Oliver let anything show on his face.

Had they been alone, Elio would have at least wanted to ask him about his involvement in getting her back home safely. Yet, this was not the time nor place, since his mother had no idea Oliver even knew about it, let alone had been secretly instrumental in her rescue.

 

 

Back at the villa, Elio and Jane headed directly to the kitchen to unpack the groceries and to get a chance to talk in private. Jane admitted that it had been nice to see Charlie.

“But I’m glad that it’s now taken care of and over with. I won’t have to keep wondering when or where I will suddenly run into him. It won’t be like there’s a danger lurking whenever we go to town,” she said as she kept handing items from the shopping bags to Elio.

“Based on what I saw, I think there’s a great danger of him falling in love with you,” Elio said, smiling while he placed the milk cartons in the fridge.

“Don’t be stupid,” Jane replied, but her cheeks flushed. “It’s just too bad he had to bring that stuffy boring Oliver with him.”

Elio took the bag of oranges she was handing to him and shook his head. “Please don’t call him that.”

“Why not?” Jane was flummoxed.

“Oh Jane, I’ve been so blind,” Elio sighed, but he didn’t have time to elaborate as Mafalda rushed in, eager to take over and to make sure the kids weren’t messing up the intricate order in her kitchen cabinets.

 

 

Meanwhile, Oliver and Charlie were having coffee at their favorite place in Crema.

“So, what do you think?” Charlie asked.

“I definitely think it’s worth a shot,” Oliver smiled.

“You don’t think that she’s over the whole thing?”

Oliver’s phone rang at that moment, so he only mouthed “absolutely not”as he picked up the call.

“Aunt Catherine, how are you? You’ve actually reached me in Crema now. Yes, I’m here again, with Charlie Bingley.”

While Oliver talked to Lady de Bourgh, Charlie texted Jane asking her to dinner with him that evening.

As the text arrived, Elio made sure it only took her one minute to reply and say that she would be happy to.

 

 

Returning to the villa from said dinner late that night, Jane was happier than Elio had ever seen her. It seemed like Charlie had not revealed his friend’s involvement in thwarting their budding relationship – most likely out of loyalty to Oliver, Elio guessed – but over three courses and as many glasses of wine, they had finally talked about everything else and neither of them had no more confusion about the other’s feelings.

“Oh, I only wish you could be as happy as I am, Elio!” Jane sighed happily, twirling around in Elio’s room.

Elio was not jealous of Jane’s happiness, he really wasn’t, but as he got ready for bed, he did wonder why Oliver had come to Crema. He didn’t seem to have any intention of similarly reuniting with Elio or even spending time with him. But Oliver hardly could have wanted to just see the town or meet up with anyone else there. After all, it was not like he had enjoyed his stay in Crema that much or made that many friends during it.

 

 

The day before New Year’s Eve went quietly, up until the moment Elio’s phone rang early in the evening. He groaned when he saw Colin’s number on the screen of his phone. He knew he’d better answer now or he would only end up in a long text chain with him, whatever the subject was.

He tapped the answer button reluctantly. “Hello?”

“Elio?”

“Yes. Hi Colin.”

“It’s me, yes, but I have Lady de Bourgh here for you.”

Elio stopped in his tracks. Why would Lady de Bourgh call him?

“Okay, sure?”

For a little while Elio heard nothing but rustling, but then: “Elio, this is Catherine de Bourgh. How are you?”

“I’m very well, ma’am. And how are you?”

“I’m sure you know why I’m calling, Elio.”

“I…I don’t think that I do.”

“Oh please. Don’t pretend to be so innocent. I can see right through you and I’m going to go straight into business here. I heard you visited New York last month.”

“Yes, with my aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs Giardiniere.”

“And my nephew, Oliver Darcy, hosted your visit?”

“He wasn’t exactly hosting, but yes, he was very nice and took us to dinner one evening.”

“I heard that he’s in Crema now and that he’s dating you, which cannot possibly be true. I will absolutely not allow my nephew to get into a relationship with a nobody like you.”

Elio was flabbergasted. The call had taken a peculiar turn very quickly. Where was all this coming from?

Lady de Bourgh continued: “You may think that you apply to Juilliard, and then sneak your way into the society in New York and into my nephew’s life, but that’s not going to happen. You are just a small town talent. You may think you have what it takes, but you cannot possibly be at the level that they require at Juilliard.”

Elio grew icy.

“I believe the application board of Juilliard can make their own assessments of my talents when they hear me play. And as for your nephew, I’m sure Oliver can make his own decisions as well.”

“I still need your answer. Are you two dating? You and Oliver?”

“I believe you just told me a minute ago that it couldn’t possibly be true.”

“Yes, but you may have somehow tricked him into it.”

“In that case, would I admit to that?”

“Just tell me once and for all, are you dating him?”

Elio felt quite sad when he had to admit that he wasn’t.

“Good. You do know he’s meant to marry my daughter when the time comes, right? So I need you to promise you will not date him in the future, either.”

“I will not make any such promises to you, ma’am.” Elio started getting anxious. “And you have insulted me in every possible way by now. Has this been all?”

Lady de Bourgh was stunned that her influence did not work on this boy. Usually her intimidation tactics paid off and she always got her way. This poor cousin of Colin’s was really something.

“Yes, that was all. I will know what to do now.” Her voice as glacial as Elio’s, she hung up the phone without a further goodbye.

Elio sat at his desk, watching the candle that Mafalda had brought to his room. He had no idea what had just happened, but it surely had been weird. He stared at the fluttering flame thinking what might have prompted Lady de Bourgh to make that call.

Finally the dinner bell rang and he blew out the candle and joined the others downstairs.

 

 

On New Year’s Eve, Mafalda was cleaning the kitchen after yet another delicious lunch at the villa. Everyone else was resting, when Jane’s younger sister Kitty yelled from downstairs that Charlie was trudging through the snow in the driveway.

Jane and Elio were reading upstairs and they both put their books down. She glanced at Elio from the other end of the bed and Elio watched her barely contained excitement, amused. She was like a 18thcentury woman, excited about a suitor who was going to call on her at her manor.

“And he’s not alone! That tall, proud American is with him!“ Kitty continued her reporting.

As Kitty’s words registered with Elio, Jane’s excitement suddenly caught on to him as well.

Soon there was a knock on their front door and Elio watched from the upstairs landing when Jane answered the door and Charlie, looking even happier than her, greeted her with a warm hug and a kiss. Jane invited him in, helped him take off his coat, and led him to the living room to meet her parents.

After they were out of sight, Elio noticed Oliver still standing in the doorway looking like he was waiting for something or someone until he glanced up and saw Elio at the top of the stairs and clearly relaxed. They both smiled and Elio descended the stairs.

”Hi.”

”Hello.”

Oliver’s smile finally bore similarity to the one that had been on his face in New York, and it made Elio grasp for words. He was grateful that Oliver spoke first.

”Would you like to go for a walk? We might want to give those two lovebirds some privacy,” Oliver grinned and nodded towards Jane and Charlie who were by now already sitting on the couch, Charlie’s arm tightly wrapped around Jane.

Elio nodded. He grabbed his coat from the knob on the wall and followed Oliver out the door.

 

 

They had walked well past all the villas, along the snowy road towards the countryside before Elio brought it up. He just had to, despite his promises to his uncle.

”I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t say anything, but I have to thank you for what you did with the whole Lucia thing. When you bribed George to tell where they were, or whatever it was that you had to do to get her home safely. I really appreciate it.”

Elio didn’t get any further than that before Oliver grew uncomfortable, so he hastened to add:

“And please don’t blame my uncle for telling me, Lucia let it slip first that you had been there, and then I demanded to know the rest. But you don’t have to worry, no one else in the family knows. So anyway, ever since that I’ve wanted to thank you. If the family knew, I’m sure they’d thank you too.”

Oliver rubbed his face, still looking uneasy. ”They don’t have to thank me for anything. I mean– I didn’t do anything for them. I… I only wanted to ease your worry about your cousin. So, your family doesn’t really owe me anything. I only did it for you.”

For Elio. Only for Elio.

Elio tried to hide his excitement. “Okay. Well, thank you on my behalf, then, at least.”

They walked a bit further in silence, but Oliver must have noticed a change in Elio after that confession, because Oliver cleared his throat and dared himself to similarly bring up a subject he wasn’t sure he was supposed to.

”I asked you something back in August in Rome, remember?”

Elio didn’t answer as that had to be a rhetorical question. In what world would Elio not remember that?

Oliver continued: “Would you still give me the same answer? My feelings for you haven’t changed, but just let me know if you don’t want me to ever bring them up again.”

His feelings hadn’t changed. Oliver’s feelings hadn’t changed.

Elio’s heart swelled, and pure joy started bubbling inside him. He didn’t know where to start but told Oliver how he was embarrassed to remember how he had behaved back then, based on completely false information and shyly admitted how much his own feelings for Oliver had changed since then.

“So much so that they are, in fact, the complete opposite right now.”

A smile spread on Oliver’s face as they kept walking, but Elio didn’t see it because he did not dare to look at Oliver for fear that the happiness he felt himself would make him burst.

”How did you know? I mean, what made you ask again?” Elio managed to get out.

”My aunt called me last night, and I think her call had the exact opposite effect that she had intended,” Oliver laughed. “She told me she had called you and mentioned what you two had discussed. I knew you enough to know that you would’ve had no problem telling her you wanted nothing to do with me, if that was the case. So, when you didn’t tell her that, it gave me hope that I might still have a chance.”

”You do know me,” Elio chuckled. “I already told you off back then and would have had no problem saying said the same things to your aunt. If I still felt them, that is. Which I don’t.”

“But you were right to tell me those things back then. I have felt horrible and ashamed thinking how I acted.“

Elio was surprised. “I had no idea that what I thought or said could affect you that much.”

“Yes, you probably thought I was incapable of any real emotion. But you have no idea how many times I’ve thought about those words of yours: with your arrogance and selfishness, you’re the last man I could ever want.”

“Please don’t repeat what I said that day. I was an idiot,” Elio groaned.

“No, you were right. Our parents taught Georgiana and me good values, but I have more often than not followed them with pride or judgment instead of compassion. I would probably still be that way if I hadn’t met you.”

Elio didn’t know how to react to the unexpected praise and so he changed the subject back to the phone call with Lady de Bourgh.

”So anyway, you were right, I totally would have told your aunt there was no chance of you and me happening. I mean, had I not been interested in you.”

At that point Oliver couldn’t take the dancing around anymore and he stopped in the middle of the empty country road, grabbing Elio by the arm. ”So you’re interested in me, huh?” he teased.

Elio blushed and looked at their feet. ”Well, what does it look like?”

Oliver slid his forefinger under Elio’s chin and tilted his face up, making him look into his eyes. ”It looks like you might finally let me do this.”

The kiss was gentle and tender, as if they were careful not to spook away what they had finally found after having chased it for so long, every time having it slip through their fingers just when they were about to catch it.

With all its sweetness, the kiss still stirred things in both of them deep under their thick winter clothing and Elio groaned when Oliver wrapped him in his arms. There were way too many layers between them to his liking.

Elio brushed his gloved fingers against Oliver’s when they finally broke away from each other and kept walking. “And when did you know that you were interested?”

Oliver didn’t let Elio’s fingers get away and instead laced them with his. ”I can’t tell what the exact moment was. I think I was in the middle of it before I even realized I had begun.”

Elio sighed. ”Oh Oliver, we have wasted so many days. If only I hadn’t been so cruel to you that final day in Rome.”

”I wasn’t any better. It’s not my proudest moment; I don’t know what came over me.”

Now it was Elio’s turn to stop them.

”Well, let’s not dwell on that, there’s no need to compete in who was more horrible that day. I would like to believe that we both have learned and improved since Rome, right?”

“Right.”

After a short silent stretch where Oliver brought Elio’s hand to his lips, Elio mentioned: “Gogol’s most important love affair took place in Rome. Count Vielhorsky.”

“I remember reading about that. Are you Gogol in this scenario?”

“That would make you the Count.”

“Sure, I can be the Count. I’d prefer not to die of tuberculosis like Vielhorsky, though.”

“You won’t. I will take better care of you than Gogol did. Or, contract it from you and we can die together.”

“Wow, that escalated fast,” Oliver laughed. “But for now, can we decide that no one is dying? And that there’s a lot of life ahead of us and I’d like to see it together with you?”

“I’d like that,” Elio smiled.

As they were standing in the middle of the long, empty country road with the barren field covered in light dusting of snow expanding next to them, the world seemed nothing but open to them.

The affection Elio saw in Oliver’s eyes reflected the one in his own when Oliver cradled his face, cool from the frosty air. He closed his eyes when Oliver’s lips touched his again, this time more fervently and their bodies molded to each other as closely as they could in the cool winter afternoon.

Oliver’s warm breath pooled between them when he pulled away enough to be able to ask:

“So. I still haven’t actually gotten an answer to my question. Will you let me take you to dinner tonight?”

“Well, actually… I already had plans. But let me see what I can do about them,” Elio smiled against his lips.

 

 

When Elio returned to the villa he could hardly contain himself. Oliver had returned to town after their walk, to change into something more festive as Elio had invited him and Charlie to the New Year’s Eve dinner at the villa.

Now Elio just had to convince his parents to let Oliver join them for the dinner.

Yes, Oliver, the one he had complained about in the summer, the one who everyone considered – to quote Jane – a stuffy bore, the one who they had thought disregarded everyone. But that’s not at all who he was, now that Elio had actually gotten to know him. He might actually be the best person he had known his entire life.

Elio’s father who was able to read people much better than his quiet, observing nature sometimes let on, was easy. He had always suspected there was more to that young man than met the eye; that he was just shy and once he would let people in they would see him for who he really was.

Mrs Perlman, on the other hand, took more convincing, but eventually she, too, believed that his son knew what he was doing.

Jane was surprised, to say the least.

“But I thought you hated him!”

“Maybe I didn’t always like him as much as I do now,” Elio agreed. “But let’s not think about any of that anymore, okay?”

Jane was still in disbelief and Elio had to tell her everything that had happened, including the details from Rome and New York and Oliver’s involvement in helping with the Lucia debacle.

“So what you’re saying is that in fact, we, and I, owe him for so much more than I knew,” Jane said, realizing how much she had been kept in the dark. Partly because Elio had wanted to protect her feelings, partly because he had not been able to make sense of his own.

“Oh Elio, all I wanted was for you to find someone who made you as happy as Charlie makes me. Oliver does that, doesn’t he?”

“Happier, if possible,” Elio smiled.

And so when the Americans arrived, you would never have guessed that any apprehension had taken place only a few hours earlier, for everyone at the Perlman villa welcomed both Oliver and Charlie with warmth to their annual New Year’s Eve dinner table.

 

 

The last ones of the cousins were still finishing their desserts when someone yelled that it was already getting close to midnight. If they wanted to usher in 2016 with fireworks when the clock struck twelve, now was the time to get into positions.

The fireworks were carried to the open space in the backyard and Elio’s father and the uncles took charge of the lighting.

Elio and Oliver stood back near the porch, just the two of them, watching the others scream and clap at the fireworks that wheezed and whistled as they shot above the trees before glittering down like gold confetti.

Elio leaned against Oliver and Oliver wrapped his arm around him.

Oliver watched the lively, warm Perlman family in front of them, a family who he knew must have been apprehensive about letting him into their house after everything they had initially heard about him. But they had welcomed him into their home with open arms, and Oliver knew the change in attitude had been all Elio’s doing.

Oliver couldn’t believe he deserved this, deserved him.

“Do you really like me that much?” he asked, voice breaking a little as he turned his eyes towards the starry sky.

“Do I like you, Oliver? I worship you,” the voice leaning on his shoulder replied.

 

 

 

March 2016

New York

 

Elio walked out of the audition hall, hurried out of the building and almost ran the block and a half to the nearest café on West 67thstreet. When he entered, a table of three erupted in cheers and they all came over to hug him.

“How did it go? How did it go?”

“I think I did okay, but you never know until you hear back from them,” Elio said, nevertheless looking relieved that his Juilliard audition was over.

He had practiced and been anxious for weeks in advance. His nervousness about the audition had only been pushed aside during the flight from Milan to New York, when his anxiety about flying had taken over. Luckily his travel companion, Jane, had tried her best to keep her cousin distracted and had entertained him with tales of how much fun they were going to have in the city with Oliver and Charlie.

After Charlie, Jane, and Oliver had all congratulated Elio on making it out of the audition in one piece, they sat back down at the table, but Oliver’s arm stayed firmly wrapped around his shoulders. He couldn’t have been prouder of his boyfriend, whether he would get into the school or not.

“So, what are the plans for the rest of the day?” Elio asked.

“I have a dinner reservation and show tickets for me and Jane, but I don’t know what the special thing is that Oliver has planned for you guys,” Charlie said with a wink.

Oliver smiled and shrugged, pretending not to have any idea what Charlie was talking about.

 

 

It turned out to be a New York Philharmonic concert at the Lincoln Center, a performance of the original version of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor. When Elio marveled at how Oliver had managed to secure the tickets, he had to admit to having used Lady de Bourgh’s connections. He obviously had had to use a cover story to get her to help him; his aunt had still not warmed up to Elio.

“It’s been described as this dark but unbelievably beautiful, surprising, complex piece,“ Elio gushed when they were at their seats.

Oliver watched him closely, pleased by the fact that by all appearances, he had managed to make the correct choice. “It’s perfectly fitting then,” he said.

“What?” Elio lifted his eyes from the program leaflet, confused, but one look at Oliver let him know what Oliver had implied. “Oh. Come on.”

He nudged Oliver on the shoulder bashfully, but slipped his hand into Oliver’s. Oliver secured it there with his other hand, smiling, and when the lights went down, he pressed a kiss to those fingers he had admired in a similar situation at the opera in Rome so many months earlier. As the violinist began the piece with his solo and Elio leaned his head lightly against Oliver’s shoulder, Oliver thought about all the ways life can surprise a person when you’re open to it.

 

 

After the concert, they walked the few blocks through Upper West Side to Oliver’s penthouse apartment, only stopping to kiss in front of the Juilliard building for good luck on their way.

Once inside, Elio walked from room to room, marveling at the size and tasteful decoration of the apartment that took up the whole penthouse floor.

Oliver was slightly embarrassed. He didn’t really need all that space, but the apartment had belonged to their family for ages and he had forgotten how it grandiose it must look like to someone who didn’t come from their background.

Secretly, Oliver was also happy about all the space, because if Elio ended up moving to New York, there would be plenty of room for them both in this place. Certainly for Elio’s piano, too.

Oliver disappeared into the kitchen to open a bottle of wine and to find two glasses, while Elio checked out the magnificent view from Oliver’s living room – Hudson River to his right, Central Park to the left, and all the lights of Manhattan in between.

Oliver came up behind him and after placing the wine glasses to a side table, pressed a kiss on the side of his neck.

“I love this, Oliver.”

“The view, you mean?” Oliver quipped, wrapping his arms around Elio.

“No, you silly. Us.” Elio corrected him and turned around within Oliver’s embrace. “Except now the view, too,” he said looking up at Oliver through his thick lashes.

Oliver leaned his forehead against Elio’s and suggested, rather shyly, that since Charlie and Jane were planning to go back to Charlie's place after their show, Jane would not be missing Elio at the cousins' hotel. He could easily stay with Oliver that night.

Unless Elio minded, of course. They wouldn’t have to do anything because after all, the days they had actually spent together up until then could be counted with one hand. Despite the hours spent on the FaceTime calls, they hadn’t seen each other in person after New Year's and hadn’t even spent the night alone yet. Some of their calls had gotten pretty heated, yes, but Oliver did not want to presume anything just because they were now face-to-face. Especially since he knew that Elio had not been with anyone yet.

“I don’t want you to think I’m trying to take advantage of you or anything. I just thought it would be nice to wake up next to you,” Oliver blushed faintly and hid his face in Elio’s hair.

He couldn’t believe talking about this was so nerve-racking. It was not like he hadn’t asked the same question before; he had had phases in his life where he probably had asked it too often. But maybe it was because now for the first time, he actually cared what the answer would be.

While Oliver was uncertain, Elio was beaming. He also couldn’t believe he had ever thought Oliver to be aloof or selfish, when he was so vulnerable now.

Later that night Elio would also see Oliver’s passionate side, when he hungrily kissed Elio when they stumbled towards his bedroom, getting rid of Oliver’s shirt along the way. And Oliver’s tender side, when he slowly undressed Elio and placed caressing kisses on every bit of his creamy skin that was revealed. And Oliver deliriously happy, when Elio, in turn, unzipped Oliver’s dress pants and swirled his tongue along the hard length that was waiting for him inside. Oliver in love, when he laid his head on Elio’s shoulder for sleep when they were spent and consumed by the feverish and, especially on Elio’s part, curious exploration of each other’s bodies.

And yes, Oliver’s vulnerable side too, when he in the morning searched Elio’s face for a confirmation that Elio still felt the same, that their night together had not changed his feelings for Oliver.

But now the night was still ahead of them and Elio pulled Oliver’s face towards his for a deep, languid kiss. Oliver’s lips were soft but the way his hands held Elio by the waist was firm and for once, Elio did not mind feeling like Oliver had the upper hand.

“What’s all this talk about you not wanting to take advantage?” Elio murmured against Oliver’s lips. “Forget the audition; my whole trip to New York will have gone to waste if you don’t take advantage of me, Mr. Darcy.”