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Keep On Climbing

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Rarely were they lucky enough to spend so much time together in one stretch. Piers didn't often feel like fortune smiled upon him, but even a tended pessimist like him couldn't help but look on the bright side for this.

Steven had been wanting to bring him to Hoenn for a proper vacation for ages, and was ecstatic when Piers had mentioned a free enough schedule to fly over and make that dream come true.

The ticket had been booked (by Steven, of course) before the phone call even ended, and Piers could hardly sit still the whole flight across the sea.

So far, the trip had been wonderful. A whole week of spending time with his long-distance boyfriend? Sure there were some clumsy moments, because fate seems to have a penchant for spitting on Steven's luck at the worst times, but what mattered was that they were together to laugh about it and move along.

They visited some public hot springs Hoenn was famous for (managing to keep their hands to themselves, miraculously, save for a few pinches), restaurants and food stalls, and even took an unforeseen jaunt into Devon's headquarters when a shock emergency reeled an understandably frustrated Steven into his work building.

Steven apologized endlessly about the detour, that he didn't mean for their vacation to be interrupted like this, but Piers took it in stride, curious because he'd never been inside the place before. Seeing just how respected and admired Steven was within Devon did light some fresh pride in him, and yes, he could admit, hearing the whispers of "Is that...?" and "So that's Steven's—?" were endlessly entertaining.

It was a final-day mountain hike up one of Hoenn's famously scenic ranges that Steven seemed most excited about.

So excited, in fact, that Piers couldn't find it in him to be grumpy about having to wake up at ungodly morning hours and dress all practical for nature.

There was just something about an adorably giddy boyfriend that made it hard to scowl at one's circumstances.


The mountain air was crisp and fresh, the surrounding views magnificent, with peaceful dark skies and birdsong hailing all around.

Piers felt like dying.

His legs screamed with fatigue, nape overheated despite him removing his choker an hour ago, and his feet felt like blocks of hot concrete inside his hiking boots.

Oh, sure, the scenery was gorgeous. It was the exact type of stuff outdoorsy morning people cherished. Objectively breathtaking. Raw majesty of nature, and all that. Made one grateful to be alive just to witness it and even more grateful to experience it firsthand. But Piers, as one could hazard with just a glance, was neither an outdoorsy nor a morning person.

This hike was probably going to kill him.

The only things that kept his poor self going were his strong singer's lungs and a sense of stubbornness, and most of all, the beacon of positivity that hiked a half dozen steps ahead. A veritable lighthouse for him to trudge after in the pre-dawn dark, trusting it would guide him to wherever he needed to be.

"We're almost there!" Steven called over his shoulder. Chipper as he was at the base of the mountain when they first set off, that grin of his standing in for the not-yet-risen sun.

"You said that an hour ago," Piers wheezed. "We ain't anywhere close."

"But we're a lot closer than we were at the start!"

He had no rebuttal to that. Needed to save air anyways.

They rounded a curve of the switchback and Piers took a moment to look out over the slope.

Hoenn's sky was framed jaggedly by endless textured peaks jutting into the gradient of lightness in the east. Trees and trees and ever more trees, deciduous and evergreen both, darkly carpeted every mountain in sight. High above, the stars clung to their stage, weakening every minute.

Pretty enough even for his exhausted self to spend a few measly tokens on appreciating it.

All in all, not a bad event to end this vacation on. And even though Piers felt like the slightest greater incline would render his legs unusable, he could appreciate this quality time.

Plus, Steven looked pretty damn cute in his hiking outfit. Tacky multi-pocketed vest and walking stick and all. The view from behind wasn't bad in the least. If only that absurdly enormous backpack wasn't in the way, he could better appreciate the local scenery...

Piers groaned when the path steepened yet again. One foot in front of the other...

True to Steven's word, they really were close to the peak. Half an hour and one wicked clambering over some boulders later, and Piers about collapsed against his boyfriend's side and was happily assisted through the final gentle curve of trail.

The first thing to greet them at the top of the mountain were stretches of grey stone and sparser trees.

A dark, angular shape atop a craggy limb twitched upon their entrance, and Piers clutched at his boyfriend when a sharp yellow eye peered straight at them. Its body unfolded with the melodic sound of sharpening knives, and with a shake of its head, the Skarmory flew off, feathers shining even in the dim lack of sunlight.

Steven laughed and removed his hand from his pockets. "I'm glad he decided to let us stay and enjoy the view. Let's rest this way. The sunrises at this elevation are breathtaking."

Piers was led on shaky legs to a particular stretch of low, flat stone. He gratefully collapsed onto the chilly surface and let his poor legs stretch out in front of him. He quickly massaged his burning thighs.

A loud whump sounded not far off. Steven's enormous pack stood upright nearby, top flipped open with two skinny-but-strong arms digging deep into it.

Out extracted a blanket. Piers recognized the pattern on it; he's seen it folded on Steven's bed in the background of all the video calls they've shared, and recently, had gotten to snuggle within it throughout the past week.

One flap, two, and the grand thing was spread wide over the hard ground.

"After you, darling," Steven said with a chivalrous sweep of an arm, gentlemanly as can be.

Piers laughed and crawled onto the blanket, pausing before letting his hiking boots onto it and continuing when Steven motioned that it was alright. He settled with a grateful groan and sat back on stiff arms, head rolled back to gaze appreciatively at his partner.

"Come on, you're the one who brought me up here. Enjoy the sunrise with me," he said with an inviting jerk of his head.

"Ah, one moment!"

Steven's arms delved once more into the huge backpack. Was that... tupperware? Lots of it too. How on earth did Steven pack a whole picnic without Piers seeing him prepare it?

Granted, he was groggy as hell that morning, but still...

Piers' jaw dropped when Steven delicately removed two honest-to-Arceus wine glasses, followed by a gilt glass bottle of wine.

"And here I was assumin' you hiked with that big-arse bag because you liked the challenge." He exhaustedly laughed.

"That too," Steven smoothly said with a smirk. "I figured we'd be hungry by the time we reached the top, and, well, I couldn't resist the idea of a picnic with you."

"Romantic," he teased, heart growing warm.

He helped organize the spread between them. All of his favorites were present, and he kept his eyes down to manage how touched he was over Steven's mindful selections for brunch. There was even a container of those baked sweets he loved so much from the Hoennian bakery down the block from Steven's workplace. How early did Steven wake up to fetch these before their pre-dawn hike?

Piers busily smoothed out the edges of the blanket, chest warming something fierce because damn, he would never get used to being with someone who saw him as worth all this effort.

Within minutes, the spread before him was picturesque and made his stomach growl. And Steven was still dallying on joining him.

"Quit standin' there, everything looks perfect. Sit down with me."

For some strange reason, Steven patted over the numerous bulky pockets of his vest before joining him on the blanket.

Brunch atop the mountain was amazing. Much as he bitched and moaned on the way up, now that they were at the peak, the awful hike was worth it.

"Say ahh?"

Steven's face colored pink, and he obediently opened his mouth for Piers to push a piece of quiche inside. With his fingers, obviously.

Piers made sure to nonchalantly graze his lover's lower lip with his thumb before pulling his hand away and licking a flake of pastry off it. Indirect kiss, he teased with his eyes, and smirked when Steven went redder over the unspoken flirt.

Steven, of course, made sure to return the favor, extending a shiny spoon with determination that Piers was all too happy to accommodate.

That was one benefit of being all alone up here. Nobody around to witness them being disgustingly romantic. Piers had never thought of himself as one of those lurid romantic types, but what do you know, the man beside him helped him learn plenty of new things about himself. Things that only came out around Steven.

He used to be uncomfortable with those newer, fluffier, foreign inclinations of his, and look at him now.

Only took half a year of being suspect of the man's intentions every time he held a car door open or enthusiastically paid the tab of astronomical restaurant bills before it sunk in that no, Steven wasn't a show-off trying to rub in what a rich blue his blood was, he just genuinely enjoyed being polite and providing well for the one he wanted to romantically pursue.

Piers had never been treated that well by a date before, and Steven's chivalry had consistently thrown him. But... over time, he allowed himself to enjoy just how nice it was. To be valued like that. Treated like something precious.

And he learned how good it felt to deliver that same effort right back and have it received with open arms and a brilliant, thrilled smile.

They polished off brunch having fed each other more than they fed themselves.

Stomachs pleasantly full, empty dishes packed away, they sat back with newly poured glasses of wine in hand, and simply enjoyed the atmosphere. Between them, Steven's hand rested atop his on the blanket.

The wine was pleasantly dry and suited the crisp mountain air quite well.

Piers snorted to himself and took another sip. Look at him, sounding like a sommelier or something. Steven's posh-boy knowledges were rubbing off on him.

By now, the eastern sky had lightened considerably, a gradient of rosy gold that melded seamlessly into new violets. Streaks of pink reflected off the clouds just above the horizon.

The mountains themselves cast long, majestic shadows against the sky, their rugged peaks splitting the approaching sunrise into golden beams radiating in all directions. Every minute that passed, the colors transformed.

Artistically minded as always, Piers couldn't help but lift his wine to observe the palette of sunrise through the warped glass. But only for a moment. He wouldn't miss the real thing unfiltered for the life of him.

"Arceus, that's beau'iful," he breathed.

The hand atop his gave a squeeze of appreciation.

The sun in all its golden glory finally ascended the mountains on the horizon. Just a sliver, a tease, its light spilling forth with every degree it climbed.

When the rays of the sun finally touched their faces, Piers closed his eyes and enjoyed the warmth.

Sunrises were nice. He could count on one hand the number he was intentionally awake to watch. Wasn't a habit of his by any means, but with Steven, he could stand to experience a few more just like this.

A nostalgic sigh had him opening his eyes.

"Hey, Piers..." Steven said, stroking the back of his hand. "Remember how we first met?"

"You mean how we first ran into each other?" Piers slyly corrected, and snorted when his partner's face scrunched.

"You're never going to let go of that, are you," Steven mumbled, taking an embarrassed sip from his wine.

"Nah," Piers drawled. "Not when it's such a fond memory. You were in such a hurry, bowled me right over and only stopped to apologize and say you'd make it up to me before boltin' right off. Practically left a cloud of dust in your wake."

"But I did come back!"

"Ya sure did, love." He stretched out his legs before him and swirled his wine. It shone pleasantly in the new sunlight. "Never entered a café with someone so sweaty before."

Steven made a mortified sound and set his glass aside to cover his scarlet face with both hands. Piers grinned and thumped the man on the shoulder consolingly.

"Oi, you were the one who pulled out the map to memory lane, don't act like the sights ain't what ya wanna see."

"Yes, but I try to suppress how terrible of a first impression I really made..."

"Memorable, not terrible."

"It was a little bit terrible."

"Alright, I'll grant ya that. I was right exasperated with you. Strange fellow in a fancy suit barrelin' into me and hardly stoppin' to apologize. I'm amazed I let ya treat me afterwards."

"And I'm so happy you did," Steven said with genuine gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity, gratitude for his time, for the chance given by fate for their paths to cross.

"Someone tell past me I did good lettin' ya explain yourself."

He remembered it like it was yesterday, of course. The reason why Steven was in such a hellish hurry was because he'd left something vitally important at his hotel and had to race back to grab it before he became late for some conference he was giving a talk at. Soon as said talk was over he had sprinted back hunting around for Piers, who happened to still be around thanks to needing to get some shopping done, and had apologized profusely through breathless wheezing for being so rude earlier.

It was quite the sight; one that Piers is still fond of in his memory. Steven's hair had been a windblown, ruffled mess, face red, suit cravat half undone from the run, huffing and puffing for air with a pleading finger shakily raised for him to please, please wait just a moment.

After catching his breath, Steven had begged to make up for his rudeness earlier.

Piers could tell right away that that bloke was the tenacious type and the best way to shake him was to give him what he wanted as fast as possible, so he had agreed to step into the nearest café and let the frazzled man pay for a drink. And some pastries. Man had ordered a half-dozen deluxe macarons like they cost nothing to him and pushed them to the center of their tiny table.

And what do you know, once they had got to talking, it turned out there was some chemistry between them.

Piers had done his best to ignore it given how obviously posh the man across from him was, with his gemstone cufflinks and ridiculously fine (if not slightly disheveled) suit, way out of his league, clearly, but after one caught stare too many he couldn't ignore anymore that the stranger across from him was blushing for reasons beyond exertion and social embarrassment.

When Steven had asked him if they could maybe, perhaps, only if he was free of course, no pressure and please forgive if this overstepped any bounds—do more than just coffee, his mouth moved ahead of his brain and said yes.

The expression of pure delight he had gotten in return wiped out the rest of his lagging doubts.

Coffee turned into dinner.

Dinner turned into a whole evening spent together.

Numbers exchanged outside the gates of Spikemuth where he had been escorted home.

A first kiss, brushed along the back of his hand because the man with a new light in his eye was a damned romantic gentleman straight out of the classic cinemas.

Steven had to fly back to his home region the next day, but they kept each other in their pockets and texted and called each other steadily over the next many months until work reeled Steven back to Galar.

For their first reunion after flirting long-distance for so long, having orbited the idea of romance without ever directly addressing it, they were ecstatic to see each other again.

So ecstatic that they'd kissed at the airport mid-embrace before remembering that technically, on paper, they were still 'just friends.'

He still can't figure out who initiated it first. Maybe they both moved at the same time and their lips met in the middle. Either way, it was a major tipping point for them, and soon after that, they'd become official.

Good thing, too, since people had caught their happy little reunion on their phones; word that the illustrious Steven Stone had a foreign sweetheart spread like wildfire before they ever made it back to Steven's fancy hotel suite for a more private catching-up.

Piers smiled into his glass of wine and inhaled the dry fragrance of it before taking another sip. Reminiscing was nice. It wasn't often that Steven felt nostalgic. Maybe being in the Hoenn countryside roused something in him?

"Mm... three years it's been. Feels like we've been together far longer'n that," Piers commented.

Steven touched over his heart. "I agree. All I can say is that I wish I met you sooner. The more time I can spend with you, the happier I am."

"Likewise, love," Piers sighed. "Long distance sucks arse sometimes, don't it."

"It really does..."

Steven's hand tightened over his pocketed vest. He seemed to have something on his tongue, and Piers turned towards him out of curiosity.

Now that he was looking more closely, the pocket under Steven's palm seemed to bulge slightly. That came as no surprise—the geology enthusiast always had something-or-other tucked away in his pockets, whether it was a tool or a find—but the way his hand pressed over the spot, like there was something vitally important stowed away...


Slowly, mutually, they set their glasses aside.

"Forgive my sudden awkwardness," Steven said with a nervous edge, "but could you stand up with me? I forgot that making us sit down to eat would mess up our positions."

"Positions for what..." he questioned as he started to rise. His heart skipped on some instinct that something big was about to happen, but his brain was lagging behind, somewhere still on the blanket.

Steven helped him up, and held both his hands as they stood face to face. A fresh breeze whisked over the mountaintop and ruffled their hair, and Steven's calloused hands tightened around his to keep them warm.

"You see, I..." Steven swallowed and squeezed his hands again, and Piers belatedly noticed that his partner's were shaking slightly.

Steven's hands drew away. They drifted to the pocket over his heart, and the little snap of the fastening coming undone felt far too loud in Piers' ears.

His heart lodged in his throat when his beloved took a knee.

Out of the pocket came a black velvet box.

"Like you've said, long-distance relationships have their drawbacks. I'm incredibly happy with what we have, Piers, but I've always thought about having more. More than just occasional visits and having to video call if we want to see each other's faces. I love you more than anything, and... and I want to take this a step further."

Piers' head spun, and he couldn't excuse it on the high mountain air. He recognized what this meant—but his brain just couldn't process what was happening before him.

Steven on a knee—holding up a velvet box—talking about steps further—looking up at him with such glittering, hopeful determination—it was almost too much for him.

It was true, they'd discussed commitment on a deeper level before. They'd established that they were both open to a vague 'next step,' but were mutually too flustered over defining precisely what that 'next step' would be to continue talking about, so the phone call had ended awkwardly and left Piers in a daze all day with a strange lightness to his chest.

He'd put it out of mind not long after, assuming it wouldn't lead to anything incredibly serious—because come on, who'd want to marry him of all people? Piers knew he wasn't exactly someone to bring home to the parents—but the idea must have clung to Steven all this time, strongly enough that the man bought a ring and prepared this outing and—Arceus save him, this entire hike must have been a set-up for this proposal. This whole trip, even. Steven had this prepared for how long, exactly?

Piers was too dizzy to speak, chest swelling with anticipation that felt like it could lift him off the ground at any moment.

Before him, his partner flashed a smile, the edges of it still nervous, and opened the box. And oh...

It was the prettiest ring Piers had ever seen.

The band was silver, delicate and elegant with vine-like twists that curved towards the gemstone in the center. The gem itself was a gorgeously pale blue that instantly reminded him of his lover's eyes, and he knew it had to have been done on purpose.

His tongue clumsily loosened.

"Don't s'ppose you've got a romantic speech for me," he rasped.

The sparkle of the ring didn't hold a candle to the sparkle in Steven's eyes.

"You know me, of course I do," Steven warmly spoke, and cleared his throat. "From the first day I met you—"

"I take it back, I ain't ready," Piers groaned, and Steven mercilessly kept going.

"—I knew you were special." The warmth to Steven's expression quieted his urge to squirm. "Some part of me felt that magnetic draw to you even across the ocean. You tugged at my heart even when we were far apart!"

Steven went wistful. "The times we were able to meet were the happiest days of my life. It felt so right to be with you, and I don't just mean 'with' you in the conceptual relationship sense, but really with you, being able to touch you and meet your beautiful eyes and hold you in my arms. Saying goodbye always broke my heart a little bit," he confessed.

"The day we managed to say our first I love you's was the day I knew I wanted to be with you forever. You're the best thing to happen to me, my tourmaline, and all I want is to make you as happy as you make me every time you do something as small—and significant—as smile my way!"

The way Steven was looking at him, you'd think he hung all the stars in the sky. Or in this man's case, would it be he who put all the gems in the ground? Piers didn't know how to handle it. The words, the weight of the sentiment, the enormity of the love and devotion rolling off Steven like water from thundering falls.

"I know I can be distractible and excitable and ramble on and on without realizing. And I can be forgetful and lose track of time, and you scold me often for not taking proper care of myself, and I'm aware that I tend to have terrible luck when it comes to trying to be romantic with you..."

"Thought you were tryin' to make me say yes to somethin'," Piers managed to crack.

Steven flushed and stammered. "I- I am! What I'm saying is, I'm far from a perfect man, yet you love me like one regardless."

His face lit up like a beacon. Oh, bloody hell, this man... this man, this man, this man!

"You even follow me so far out of your comfort zone, coming with me on a hike like this without hesitation, and I can't explain how much that means to me. I sincerely hope that I can be the support you need, Piers. I love you, so much that it's difficult to describe it, and all I want is the ability to make you happy, and the chance to build something truly lasting between us."

Steven took a deep breath and straightened his posture, presenting the ring anew and speaking with that genuine, charismatic confidence that Piers had fallen in love with years ago.

"Piers... will you grant me the honor and joy of getting to spend the rest of my life with you? Will you marry me?"

How funny that Piers had been expecting the question, yet once it was finally asked of him, it wiped his mind blank.

Marrying Steven.

Spending their whole lives together as a pair.


A flash of a potential future, of little pattering feet and tiny voices calling to be picked up nearly brought Piers to a knee himself.

His mouth fell open wordlessly.

Come on, speak! Say something back, you're the songwriter and poet here! He deserves a speech back!

Piers floundered for some lofty, romantic response that he could proudly sing from the mountaintops, but the longer he took, he more he could see in Steven's eyes what would make the man happiest to hear.

His eyes stung with welling tears as his voice released around what mattered.

"Yes! Steven, yes, I'm marryin' you!"

Steven's grin could replace the sunrise for every day of the rest of Piers' life.

He rubbed at his eyes with his palms and sniffled, grateful for their isolation up here. The only one allowed to see him turn into a right mess like this was Steven.

He peered through his lowering fingers and laughed when he saw his partner struggling to pull the ring out of the box. Steven's hands were shaking and he nearly dropped it (which would be in line with his usual luck), but he managed to hold the silver ring aloft, other palm upturned in a silent request.

"May I?"

Piers' eyes blurred anew as he lowered his left hand, fingers spread. His heart pounded and he was pretty sure collapsing would be a viable next move as soon as things calmed down for them both.

The engagement ring approached his finger. And missed. Steven fumbled it again, and knocked the gem against Piers' nail on the next try.

"Sorry," Steven breathed, "normally my hands are steady when handling rocks."

He wetly laughed and stroked across his beloved's knuckles. It steadied, and after one more try, the ring slipped comfortably onto his finger.

A perfect fit.

"It's beautiful, Steven..." He marveled at how it sparkled in the morning sunlight. The color really was gorgeous. Every time he looked at it from now on, he'd think about his partner's eyes.

"Thank you. I designed it myself, with some input from my friends. The stone is from my personal collection, one I knew I wanted to give to you someday. I even cut the facets personally!" Steven struggled to his feet and nearly stumbled against Piers' side. "A-Ah, sorry."

Piers stole the perfect opportunity to center Steven to himself and shyly hugged around the shorter man's waist, lip bitten.

As cheesy as it was, he rather wanted the man who just proposed to him to give him a kiss. That was what people typically did after a marriage proposal, right?

He gazed at his partner's mouth meaningfully, and his heart skipped a beat when a strong hand curled beneath his chin.

"...I really have been preparing for this day a long time," Steven murmured. "I knew what I wanted for ages. Waiting for the right moment was the challenge."

"It was perfect," he whispered. "Everything. The trip, the picnic, the sunrise... You're so thoughtful and sweet, Steven. Couldn't have asked for a better right moment."

Steven warmly smiled, and stood on his toes to finally give him the kiss they'd both been waiting for.

Given the circumstances, Piers thought himself fully allowed to describe it as magic.

He tilted his head into the kiss and made a small sound when Steven's hand slid along his cheek to cup the back of his neck. They didn't part for a minute yet, enjoying each other's closeness and the scent and feel of their bodies together almost more than the kiss itself.

When they parted, they gazed into each other's eyes and broke into quiet laughs at the same time over how overwhelmed they both were.

Piers wrapped an arm around his fiancé (his fiancé!) and guided them to sit back down. They both needed a moment.

Steven's side was always a place of security for him, and he leaned against it with all the comfortable weight of someone leaning against a favorite spot on a wall. It was made all the better when a familiar arm wrapped around his waist, and gave him a loving squeeze.

The trees dotted around the mountaintop rustled in the cool breeze, and the sky was an even brighter blue than before. Puffy clouds had formed and slowly trekked their way across the sky, and Piers knew Steven was watching them just as he was. For someone with his eyes usually stuck in the ground, Steven had become quite the avid cloudwatcher ever since Piers told him how much he loved watching them whenever he needed to get away from life and just think for a while.

Hoenn's clouds weren't so different from Galar's.

"So... does this mean I'll be movin' to Hoenn with ya after the wedding?"

What a word to say out loud. Wedding. They'd be having a wedding...

Steven jolted in surprise.

"What? I could never ask you to leave Galar behind! Honestly, I've already been making plans for opening a Devon branch in that region so I can move there and be with you. My work can be done internationally. Taking you from Galar would feel... It'd feel like I was robbing you from your home!"

Piers slumped against his fiancé's side. That was a relief to hear, even if he wasn't leaning towards one option or the other as favorable. True, leaving Galar would make him terribly homesick, but for Steven? For Steven, he would do it.

"And," Steven rambled on, "I might already have architectural plans drafted for a house in Galar. It was a daydream project of mine, we don't actually have to build a new place if that sounds too extreme! I'd be happy to house-hunt with you if you already know where you want to live—somewhere close to Spikemuth, of course, I know your city means so much to you, but I was just thinking how wonderful it would be to have a spacious property, with plenty of room for our pokémon and any guests that want to visit, and... well..."

Steven cleared his throat diligently. "You just never know if those extra rooms might come in handy in the future."

A lightning bolt thrill raced through him and it took everything he had to not tackle his fiancé over and smother that gorgeous face with kisses. Piers held back. Barely.

Instead, he very lightly pushed Steven onto his back and slid into place atop him, and with utmost precision he kissed his lover right on his handsome lips.

Two surprised hands soon rested over his back and hugged him close while the kiss singular became kisses plural.

"You can show me those house plans later," Piers whispered, and playfully nipped his partner's jaw.

The hands roaming over his back pressed firmer and slid to grip his waist. "I have the drafts in my office at home," Steven breathlessly replied. "We can look them over right away."

"Hmm..." He grinned and pushed himself up onto his elbows, waist still pinned in place, granting just enough space to fully appreciate the sight beneath him.

Adorable flushed cheeks, tousled hair, and lips subtly shining from being kissed.

"We took all the time to hike up here. Be a right shame to leave so soon when there's so much more to appreciate."

Steven blushed even pinker. "You mean the glorious sights of nature?"

"Eh... that too." He grinned and pressed their foreheads together. "Although in my humble opinion, the scenery can wait when I've only got eyes for you right now, love."

He wheezed with mirth when two hands thrust up between them to cover an absolutely glowing face.

"Piers!" Steven groaned at a high pitch. His ears were the only thing visible—delectably pink, and oh so temptingly nibble-able...

"You're so damn adorable, Steven, you have any idea how hard it is not to eat you up sometimes?"

To his delight, those obstructive fingers parted and he was met with a cute flustered glare between them.

"...Do you have any idea how difficult it is sometimes to not let you?"

Piers' grin turned devilish. "Up here, there'd be no witnesses."

"I'm aware..."

"Up here, I could do whatever I like to you..."

Steven squeaked when a cold hand snuck up his shirt. "I-I'm aware!"

"That's it, I ain't holdin' back. Get ready to be made into dessert."

"This is far from what I planned, getting ravaged by my fiancé right after—"



"Say that again," he mumbled, suddenly shy.

Steven's lips moved as he worked out what to say, and recognition sparked in his eyes along with an indulgent grin. He reached up and brushed along Piers' cheek.

"My fiancé. You're engaged to me now, Piers," he murmured, "and if I have my way we'll be married by next year."

Butterflies swarmed in Piers' stomach. Married by next year. He rather liked the sound of that. Getting to call Steven his husband, maybe even taking on his last name—living together, waking up together, no more long distance.

Partners for life.

Face warm and body pleasantly tingling with anticipation for the future, Piers laid himself down atop his boyfriend-turned-fiancé. The pockets of the damn vest were uncomfortable, but he didn't care. He just wanted to be closer.

Steven's arms folded nicely around his back, and they just relaxed there, under the blue sky atop the mountain.

Torturous hike be damned, Piers would climb a hundred mountains if it meant marrying the love of his life and a thousand more if he could do it with Steven as his husband by his side. Steven was worth it, and he knew that as a couple they could reach whatever grand heights they set their eyes upon and keep on climbing, together.