Elliot thought he was prepared. He really did. He had psyched himself up after the embarrassing ring incident—
(—and the “flirting-but-it’s-for-my-novel” incident, and really it was a wonder how Farmer still greeted him in Pierre’s store every Thursday morning.) He sent a letter to Farmer’s mailbox, asking to join him for the Dance of the Moonlight Jellies.
Their response was as warm as always, but he fretted about his clothes in the solitude of his cabin, and brushed his hair until it shone over his shoulder and gave the right side of his face a curtain, should he lose his nerve.
And he was determined not to, really. If there was any night to play the part of the charming, suave author that was pictured on the back of his books, it was tonight.
But he found himself making a sound akin to a dying fish anyways, the sound quietly escaping him before he slapped a hand over his mouth. He resisted giving Leah an elbow for barely muffling her snickers beside him.
Farmer didn’t notice, thankfully; they were still chatting with Mayor Lewis a few feet away at the entrance to the beach. But even from here, Elliot could feel himself swooning. Was it too late to dedicate a poem to the torches’ glow on their lovely form?
“Yes, it is.”
This time Elliot did smack Leah, who was now openly guffawing at his thoughts spoken out loud. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Farmer turned towards them at the sound; his insides did a familiar knot in response.
“Leah, I would appreciate it if you did not make this worse—“ Elliot hissed. His face burned; it was probably visible from space. He would most certainly die tonight.
Leah finally stopped laughing. “It’s not my fault someone is a lover boy through and through!” Her eyes danced in the way that he recognized as fondness, but still.
Elliot found himself fiddling with his lapels again. “Please don’t, Leah. I’m certain that I’ll make a fool out of myself the minute I’m in front of them. Some wordsmith I am,” he said mournfully, cursing his weakness for warm smiles and a farmer’s tan.
“So what?” Shifting next to him, Leah leaned against the pier’s wooden posts. “The town’s reclusive author is actually a giant dork? They were going to find out sooner or later, if they haven’t already.”
She rolled her eyes at him as he whined again (but he quickly glanced to see if Farmer was nearby; they weren’t, thank goodness.) “Elliot, just talk to them, ok? I’m sure that it’s not as bad as you think.”
Elliot froze. Her tone was still lightly teasing, but also made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up straight. Her tone was familiar, in the same way as it was during their college years, forlorn out of love rejected while lying across the dorm beanbags.
Her tone, of course, was a meddling one.
“You said something, didn’t you!?” He whirled towards her, panic settling in. “What did you say to them, Leah—“
It was her turn to lightly shove him. His nerves nearly sent him into water, but he clung to the post next to him just in time. Leah’s laughter erupted once again, and Elliot could feel an old exasperation come over him.
He had long thought that there would come a time where their friendship would end with murder, figurative or otherwise. The world couldn’t handle both of them existing.
“I hope you don’t fall in before the jellyfish come by,” a voice chuckled behind them. Ah, Elliot thought faintly, turning to see Farmer standing there, it seems I’d die from being starstruck by a lovely being. Or perhaps sunstruck?
“Hey, Farmer!” Leah grinned easily, as if she didn’t nearly send Elliot into the water. “Glad to see that you could make it.”
“Well,” Farmer said wryly, but smiling as they did, “I couldn’t turn down a direct invitation, can’t I?” They nodded at Elliot, who frantically willed his heart to stop beating so damn loud.
“I’m—glad to see you could make it,” he said fervently. Farmer’s smile widened, and was their face a little pinker?
Leah glanced in-between them, noticing Elliot struggling to close his slightly gaping mouth. “I’ll leave you two to it!” She said brightly. She merely grinned at Elliot’s glaring daggers as she whirled on her heel, waving goodbye. “Enjoy the festival, Farmer!”
Farmer raised their hand in kind, and Elliot watched as his traitor-best-friend left the dock, leaving the two of them standing in front of Willy’s shop. He tried to take a subtle deep breath. “W-would you like to sit down?” he offered, gesturing to the end of the dock.
They nodded, and the two of them walked towards the dock’s end. Farmer settled on the edge of the planks with a solid thump, carefully taking their shoes off before letting their feet dangle towards the water.
Elliot followed suit, just barely keeping himself from dropping his shoes as he stared at their hands. He felt a stab of disappointment seeing a bigger, working glow ring on their finger, seemingly mocking him for his sad attempt a few months ago at a similar gift.
He couldn’t blame them, of course. The mines were dangerous without proper light, and he was glad for their new replacement. Their hands, he noted absentmindedly, were so soft-looking for a farmhand. Not for the first time, he wondered how they’d fit in his.
“I’ve never heard of a festival like this,” Farmer said out loud, distracting Elliot from his thoughts. Their face was turned towards the water, as if the jellyfish would spring up any minute. “Grandfather mentioned them in a letter once, I think. But this will be my first time seeing it in person.”
Elliot hummed. “I first heard of it after I moved here, and discovered the whole of the town on my front doorstep,” he shook his head, chuckling.
His heart warmed to hear his companion laugh softly in response, and he continued. “I didn’t step out much when I first arrived. I mostly wrote indoors, and played piano to the sounds of the sea and rain.”
He stared off into the middle distance, reminiscing. It had been lonely, the first year. All of his writing pushed to the forefront of his attention. It was now, faced with the blue and warm tones of the festival, that he realized how terribly lonely it sounded in retrospect.
He laughed. “It all seems so overwhelming now. The thought of life on a farm like yours is a comfort, even just in thought.” It occurred to him what he was saying, and he worked his jaw silently, trying to think of a recovery.
He nearly missed Farmer’s next words. “…you play beautifully.”
Elliot snapped his head towards them in surprise, a blush slowly but surely creeping its way across his nose as Farmer tilted their head down at his hands, considering. He clenched them unthinkingly, and they looked up. “I didn’t mention this last time I came over, but it was lovely to listen to.”
Their voice was soft, but their eyes were remarkably present as they caught his gaze. Their glint too, however, softened as their mouth quirked up. “You definitely have an artist’s hands, compared to mine. Barn work isn’t exactly kind to one’s skin.”
Elliot’s mouth gaped. “But you’re beautiful! I mean—!” he stammered, suddenly aware of how Farmer’s eyes widened, even in the dimness of the faraway torch light. “I mean, your hands are so beautiful, y-yet so gentle and deft! I don’t think anyone would think otherwise—“
Abruptly, Elliot stopped himself, embarrassment flooding his body. He inwardly cursed his tongue once again, not meeting Farmer’s gaze. “…Farmer, I—“
He could feel the movement of Farmer’s head, but did not raise his own as Mayor Lewis’s voice carried across the beach. Behind them, the sounds of Jas and Vincent running to the edge of the pier clattered across the wood. “The jellies should be coming in just a few minutes!”
The sounds of the townspeople echoed faintly in Elliot’s ringing ears. Eventually, he heard the rustling of Farmer’s clothes as they turned back to him. “…Elliot?”
He took a deep breath. “Farmer, I wanted to….apologize,” he said haltingly, raising his head, “if I have made you uncomfortable these past few months. It seems I have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth, so to speak.”
As he turned towards them, he could see them opening their mouth, but he continued hurriedly, “And I appreciate your kindness to me thus far, despite my lack of tactfulness in our encounters! I cannot even begin to return your generosity, and I must apologize again for the glow ring, I was sure that it was working when I found it and only wanted to assist you on your trips to the mines—“
Laughter. Elliot stopped and stared in surprise as Farmer’s shoulders started shaking, a self-conscious(?) smile on their face as they held up a finger silently, fishing under their shirt collar with the other.
It was then that Elliot felt his heart stop at the sight of his ring, his broken, useless gift, hanging from a thin chain around their neck.
“You.” He had to swallow, his surprise making his words fight to tumble first out of his motuh. “You. Kept it?”
Farmer laughed (again, with a self-conscious ring to it—were they shy?) and nodded. “Of course I did.”
“…but it doesn’t work?”
“It was the first gift that someone had given me, since I arrived to this town,” they said softly, and Elliot could feel his heart start again in rapid time. “And while I don’t mind helping everyone with their requests, you were one of the first to help me help others.”
Their hand carefully tucked the chain back into their shirt, with the reverence of a child handling a newborn. Elliot struggled to breathe normally in light of this information, but Farmer pressed on. “If anything, it’s luckier than any rabbit’s foot I could find in my coops.” they said offhandedly, brushing their clothes down smooth.
They cocked their head a little, teasing. “And luck is what I need to brave those terrible, monster-infested mines, right?” Elliot felt a wheeze of laughter escape him, unbidden, and their grin bloomed.
Elliot’s mouth, of course, couldn’t be stopped. “Well that makes you a dashing hero for this town, doesn’t it?” he found himself quipping, a smile playing on his face at the thought. “Fighting monsters, bringing treats for the children.”
Almost as if he was out of his body, he watched his hand come up to tenderly pick a leaf sticking out of Farmer’s dark hair. So, so close.
He could feel their eyes on him, their body dreadfully still. “Stealing the hearts of the princesses,” Elliot murmured quietly, his heart making embarrassment an afterthought in light of his true feelings. “Like a true prince from the storybooks.”
It was quiet. And then, Farmer surprised him once again. They sucked in a breath, almost as if they were steeling themselves. “Then that would make you a princess, as well, wouldn’t it?” they whispered.
Elliot froze. He watched as they lifted their hand in a mirror to his, reaching forward to gently brush his hair back from across his face. Stealing hearts, his own words bounced back at him.
They looked pensive, but hopeful? “Is…is that ok? To call you that?”
His throat worked to respond yes, yes it is, I didn’t know how long I’ve waited to hear that from you but please say it again, but he couldn’t speak. He could only nod, and then nod again rapidly as Farmer’s face broke into relief.
Blinking, Elliot suddenly noted the bluish glow now intensified across both of their forms. Voice lost, he looked out across the ocean to see that it was burning brightly with the translucent forms of the jellyfish, now arriving for the main event. The ooohs and ahhhhs of the townspeople behind them followed.
He could hear gentle cooing from Farmer next to him as they bent their face down closer to the water’s surface, taking in the sight. He felt a need to put pen to paper rise inside him. If I could quote Shakespeare to even begin to describe this feeling, this moment—I could be a writer satisfied.
Farmer spoke suddenly, breaking him out of his reverie once more. He’d have to get used to that, he thought to himself. “Elliot, I’m not—“ They broke off, shaking their head. “I’m not as good with words as you are, but you make me want to try.”
They turned to face him, determined. “I never want you to think that I don’t appreciate what you do for me. I don’t know if I have the right words yet, but I. I care about you a lot. And maybe…” They trailed off, unsure.
Elliot breathed in, and reached out for their hand. He marveled at the fit, the softness he knew was true as their fingers curled around his.
“I…I could write a romance novel that would put my current one to shame, I think. Using what I feel right now,” he admitted, smiling at their burst of hysterical laughter at both his words and touch. “But I don’t know if I could survive what I think I want just yet…I ask for your patience, and continued kindness, and…”
“And…?” They started stroking the back of his hand with their thumb. Good lord, Elliot would have to borrow the whole world’s courage to keep going.
“And…your continued affection.” He exhaled, looking up at them. “I adore you, Farmer. And would like the chance to show you, if you’d let me.”
Their reaction was immediate, a grin giddy enough to vibrate his soul out of his body from sheer happiness. “I look forward to it.”
The two of them walked back to the beach’s entrance after most of the town had left. Farmer’s horse, Fern, snorted softly as they walked to up her, shushing her and stroking her nose. “It’s way past her bedtime,” they joked, glancing up at Elliot. “But I had fun. I really did.”
“Me too. Ah, will you be stopping by the General Store tomorrow…?”
“Yeah, I’ll have to buy a new round of crops for the fall. I think I’ll be there around noon, if I get through plowing fast enough…?”
“Oh, of course! I’ll probably sleep in, with how late it is. I usually don’t stay up this late…”
“Ah,” Farmer started, and then cut themselves off as they laughed to themselves, shaking their head. “This is bad. I don’t want to leave,” they admitted quietly.
Elliot let out a small squeak, hands coming up clasped in front of his lips as they perked up at the sound, amused. “I…feel like I have been on the verge of combusting since the beginning of this evening.” He sighed heavily, feigning being put upon. “Your sincerity is too potent, my dear.”
It was almost too dark to tell, but Elliot watched their face turn an interesting shade of pink. “Was…the pet name ok?” he asked cautiously. Curiously.
“Y-yes. Of course, I—“ They shook their head again, almost in disbelief. “Look at me. I dropped the princess line and yet here I am, a mess when it’s turned on me!”
Elliot choked at the mention of their previous words. He was about to reply when a blur of movement shifted in front of him, then—
Farmer gently grasped his hands in one of theirs, and then: one, two, three quick kisses were pressed into his knuckles. They looked up at him through their lashes, contemplative. “And. Was that ok?”
It was probably too soon to tell them that yes, anything you said or did would be fine, and that weight of that truth might overcome me soon enough, and so he nodded. They shared a moment quietly, hands joined and the waves of affection newly acknowledged wrapped around them. Elliot marveled at the duality—he felt like his world had been shaken, was being shaken to its core, while a serene calm cradled his lovelorn heart and let him bask in the moment, in the person in front of him.
Too soon, Farmer stepped away, gently dropping Elliot’s hands to grasp Fern’s saddle and hoist themselves up. “I better get going. I’ll…see you tomorrow?”
Elliot managed to speak then. “Yes, of course.” He smiled, edging on another lovestruck grin. “Goodnight, dear Farmer.”
They blushed that interesting blush again. He couldn’t wait to figure out its origins, its variances. “Goodnight, Elliot.”
He watched the farmer and horse turn, and trot off into the dark. Breathing in the salt air, he only felt a warmth indescribable as he stood there for the longest of moments. God knows he’ll attempt to write about it anyway, hands already itching to hit paper, to stain with ink.
The urge, of course, was immediately tempered as he stepped into his cabin, only to be greeted by the smuggest of faces.
“So? Are you two dating?” Leah sipped casually from a cup of his stored mead (his mead, the nerve! Willy never shared and it took him ages to get a bottle) and eyed him knowingly. “That was a very cute scene I just saw out there. So when’s the wedding?”
Elliot flailed for a moment before sighing heavily. It was no use to reprimand her now, not after the night he just had. “At least be a dear and pour me a drink as well.”
She cackled, reaching for another cup. “At least you two finally got your acts together. I was wondering if it’d be another few seasons before anything happened.”
At that, Elliot stopped. “I…don’t know, actually?”
“We never said we were dating, per-say?” He said slowly. “I mean. We talked and such but—“
He flinched as Leah dropped his glass on the table to spin around at him, pointing her finger. “You mean to tell me that you aren’t dating yet?! But the smooching! Don’t think I didn’t see you two all cosy and holding hands on the dock!”
“It wasn’t smooching,” Elliot corrected weakly, “and we were talking and I told them how I felt, and they responded in kind, but we’re…”
Leah peered at him carefully. “You’re what? Taking it slow?”
“…yeah.” he said finally. He accepted the cup offered to it and sipped it, the liquid joining the warm fluttery feeling in his stomach. “They asked many times if things they did were all right with me. It was nice.”
There was a beat of silence while he felt Leah’s eyes considering him. At last, she sighed, chuckling. “Well, I’m glad for you, Elliot. You deserve someone nice.”
A helpless smile appeared and he smushed a hand against his cheek, also helpless in general. “They’re the sweetest. Wait a minute,” he started. Leah’s eyes widened as he suddenly slammed his drink down, his turn to point at her accusingly. “Miss Leah, you have some explaining to do! What did you say to them?!”
“Aha, well at least it turned out well, right?”