There was a line stretching almost to the door, fans eager to meet their beloved author, even if only for five seconds as he signed their book. Men praised him, young girls fawned nervously in front of him, each insisting they were his biggest fan.
Freed greeted each with a smile. Some brought gifts. He had an assistant to deal with those, placing little trinkets of adoration aside for later. He was tired and his wrist throbbed from signing so many books. Still, this was all part of the job. He wanted to write a bestseller. He got it! After years of obscurity, he finally made it!
The duties that came with fame were tiring. He continued to smile and be polite to each fan as the line slowly whittled down. However, inside he was ready to go back to his hotel and avoid the world.
The line was almost done, the bookstore was closing, when a burly blond came up, the very last one. Freed had seen him around all morning, a worker here at the bookstore. It was a surprise that he too wanted an autograph.
"Whom should I make it out for?" he asked, a standard question he had repeated ad nauseam.
"Laxus," the man said gruffly.
"Wonderful name. Spell it please." Again, all standard book-signing requests.
"Perfect. So, is there any specific message you want me to include?"
"Yeah. Write in there, Thanks for the coffee."
Freed was already writing before he realized what the line was. He jolted up and finally truly looked at the man.
"You look exhausted. Store's closed and my shift ended. There's a coffee shop next door. Really good coffee. My treat, if you want."
Freed's words stuck in his throat. "I … that is … I am thirsty, but … Evergreen?"
His assistant came over. "Yes, Freed?"
"When do we plan to leave?"
"We have to tear down the booth and pack up any extra books. Bickslow is talking with the store owners right now. If you need a break, you have about an hour before we're done here." The brunette (who looked like she quit as a school librarian to be this author's manager) patted him on the shoulder. "Really, go get some coffee. It's a long drive back to the hotel."
Freed nodded. A drink sounded good, and if this man was paying, even better. Being an author was not as glamorous as some people think it is.
They strolled over to a little café. The coffee was good, the atmosphere was a bit hipster, a mix of retro lamps and strange urban junk recycled into coffee tables, but Freed did not mind. He sat by the window to stare out at the people traffic, and Laxus took a chair across from him.
"Rough work, that," the blond said casually. "How the hell do you do it? After three hours of dealing with customers, I'm a pissed cat, yet you kept on smiling."
"It would have been rude otherwise," Freed reasoned. Still, he rubbed out his wrist.
"Writing for that long, you're gonna get tennis wrist, or carpool-something-or-other."
Freed laughed at his loss of words. It was a bit endearing. "Luckily, I don't do signings that often. I have a few days to rest."
"Still ain't good. Ya mind? I have some training in massage, pressure points, that stuff."
Freed looked surprise. "You mean … you want to massage my wrist?"
"Just an offer," Laxus muttered petulantly.
Freed felt himself blushing. He was not the sort who touched people a lot. He rarely even shook hands with fans. However, he hesitantly stretched his hand across the table. Laxus had massive hands hardened from work. Freed guessed he mostly did stocking at the bookstore, hefting massive boxes filled with books.
However, when he took Freed's wrist, those dry and rough hands were gentle. Laxus aimed for a spot slightly up the forearm, a nerve that shot a tingle straight down Freed's hand and buzzed in his thumb.
"Whoa!" he said, slightly alarmed by the sensation.
"Just a pressure point." Laxus focused on the slender arm. "It's not just the wrist that can be affected by fatigue. It goes all the way up." His hand slid higher. "To the elbow."
Freed gulped hard as Laxus pressed his thumb in just below the crook of his forearm and dragged it down, pressing deeply the whole way. It was painful, and it was wonderful. The muscle protested, but instantly relaxed and felt warm.
"That's … truly nice," Freed said in amazement.
Laxus worked on the wrist itself next, then the webbing between his hand and thumb. Freed was amazed by how quickly he got used to the feeling of his hand being cradled by a total stranger.
"You have nice hands," Laxus said so quietly, Freed almost missed it. Perhaps it was not meant to be overheard.
"So, do you work at this bookstore, or it is a summer part-time gig?"
"I work here and there," Laxus admitted. "Worked as an electrician, bouncer, I work as a post office deliverer during Christmas. Even worked at a chiropractor's office, which is where I learned massage."
"Well, if I'm ever back in town, and if you're still at this store … maybe we can get together again."
Laxus glanced up. "Where ya from, anyway? This is some promotional book tour, right?"
"Yes, traveling around, new novel hit the bestseller lists. I actually live on the other side of the country."
"A shame," Laxus said, continuing to caress his wrist, but not in a massage anymore.
Freed gulped and gazed at this man. "You … are you…"
"I'm interested in you," Laxus stated bluntly. "To be honest, I'm a huge fan, although I'm not gonna squeal like those girls. You write from the heart, and I really dig that."
Freed chuckled at his strange way of putting it.
"I fell for your stories, but when I saw you in my store … well, I don't wanna sound like a creep. You're hot. I wouldn't mind … I mean, just hanging out more, if you want. We can … talk. It don't matter to me."
Freed arched an eyebrow and smirked. "Talk? I somehow doubt pleasant conversion is your goal."
Laxus scowled. "Look, I ain't some creep, okay? If this was a bar and we were listening to crap music blasting, I'd dance with you, grind against you, and take you to a hotel. But that ain't here, and that ain't you. So I'm stuck with a coffee shop and rubbing a sore wrist. Not exactly the best atmosphere for a guy like me. Feels like we should be talking about Sense and Sensibility or some shit."
Freed had to laugh again. He was honestly shocked this massive man knew anything at all about Jane Austen.
"You're … intriguing," he admitted, gazing Laxus over, and Freed could hardly help a light lick to his lips. "I'm here for two days. Tomorrow is free, meant for sightseeing. I don't like coming to a city and not experiencing it. Maybe … I could use a tour guide."
Laxus chuckled and squeezed Freed's hand. "Did I mention I worked a summer as a city tour guide?"
Freed met Laxus just after breakfast. It was a flurry of activity. Laxus really did know the city, and he made sure Freed saw all the highlights. He looked perfectly content to guide him around, and he kept glancing at the sparkle in the man's eyes.
"This architecture is amazing. I could use this in a story," Freed would say as he took pictures on his phone.
They dined, not in some fancy place Freed normally would have chosen off a list of "Places to Eat In…" It was small, funky, crowded, but the food was incredible, the people inside were a colorful variety of locals, and Freed felt like he was just another one of them. Most of all, the man across from him looked pleased to be taking his idol around his hometown.
They explored more. When Freed's feet began to hurt, they sat in a park overlooking a pond. Laxus bought duck treats from a small vendor, and they rested while feeding the ducks. Freed laughed at the birds swarming around their wooden bench, quacking and demanding more food.
He grinned up at Laxus, ready to tell him how much fun he was having, when he saw the gentleness in his electric blue eyes. It was like a scene out of one of his own novels. Time seemed to stop. The quacking ducks faded into the distance. It was just them, and everything else went hazy.
"Laxus," he said softly, gazing at his lips.
The blond slowly leaned over, Freed reached up into his spiky blond hair, and the warmth of those lips pressed against him. He could smell the cologne wafting up from Laxus' purple shirt. As the kiss deepened, he tasted the hamburger Laxus ate for lunch. Freed hummed, wrapped up in such a strange and random moment. Here he was, kissing a man he had known for less than twenty-four hours.
Yet his heart raced like it used to as a teenager discovering love.
Laxus leaned back and saw Freed's head still tipped up, lips loose, wanting more. However, he pulled back sharply. Freed finally opened his eyes, concerned at the pinch to Laxus' brow.
"I don't want you to think … I mean … shit," he growled, turning away from Freed. "You probably think I'm some stalker fan, right? Or some random guy out for a good time. That ain't it at all. I didn't want this to turn into that."
"Into what?" Freed asked, confused by his frustration.
"Some fling! A one-night stand. Just some random guy in yet another town."
"Are you saying you think I fall for men in every city I visit on my tours?" Freed looked furious at the implication.
"I didn't think so but … shit!" His hands fisted up and clawed into his jeans. "Why did you kiss me, then? You travel, you see lots of people, you have … opportunities."
"I do not sleep around, if that's what you're implying."
"Then why are you hanging around me? Why kiss me? I mean … who am I?"
Freed put a hand over the massive shaking fist. "I don't know who you are yet. I want to get to know you, though. I've deduced only a few things. You're a man who cares for my well-being, who enjoys my stories, who gives great massages and has a good taste in food. You're a jack-of-all-trades who somehow knows about Jane Austen, so I'm guessing you're well-read. Beyond that, I know little about you." He reached up and petted the blond hair. "You have amazing eyes, you use too much hair gel but you style it well, you obviously work out, and on a purely physical level, you are everything I look for in a man. If I wanted something purely physical, I would invite you to my hotel right now and give you a night you'll brag about years to come. However, I want more than a fling. I don't do flings! So I'm going to ask you to keep showing me around town. We'll talk, we'll learn more about each other, we'll have a nice dinner—my treat this time—and we'll see where things go from there."
Laxus glanced over cautiously. "Where things go?"
Freed leaned in closer so no other people in the park would hear. "I'm planning on writing an erotica next. I could use … inspiration."
Laxus' eyes nearly glowed with desire.
"Or we could get that part out of our system right now so we can enjoy the nightlife of this city. I'm guessing we've both at least thought about it a dozen times since yesterday. I know I've been imagining it nonstop, and quite frankly, I'm ready to yank you into the nearest public restroom and get my knees dirty so I can suck you off."
Laxus gulped hard, shocked that this famous author had a dirty vocabulary after all. "You wouldn't mind?" he asked, still uncertain.
"I think…" Freed dragged his finger down Laxus chest. "Sometimes a boring plot needs a spontaneous change of action."
Their breathing was already racing by the time they reached the hotel. Freed opened the door and Laxus slammed it shut by thrusting Freed against it. His kisses were animal-like, his body raging like a storm, and Freed felt lost, as helpless to the flow of the plot as one of his own characters.
For half an hour, he felt detached from reality. This was all fantasy, too crazy to be real. Freed experienced it with a sense of exploring what his own characters might do. Even as he moaned Laxus' name, even as his naked body arched with the pleasure this man gave him, a part of him noted his own thoughts, desires, sensations.
"Oh God, Freed! More of that!"
He made another note of what Laxus liked. He drank in every taste and sound. He aimed to give as much pleasure as he would want his own character to give. He took control over things, guiding it like a storyline building to a climax.
Instead of time standing still, now it was like time sped up. Freed knew that, despite the pages upon pages of erotica in novels, in reality sex did not actually last long. The rush was over, the heat dissipated, his body thrummed with satisfaction, and he felt a bit sore from bites. Laxus stayed above him, their cocks still pressed together from frotting, slowly shrinking. He had sweat on his brow and a sheen on his torso. He gazed down at Freed with amazement, but also disappointment.
No matter what, this would be a one-night stand. Nothing more than a fling with his favorite author.
"You … you really don't just fuck random people? Like the old sailor saying: a girl in every port."
"I wouldn't call myself a saint," Freed said with a smirk. He reached up and scratched through Laxus' hair. "I want this to not be a one-night stand. If I can travel back here … not for a book, but for a vacation … a vacation with you … would you mind that?"
"Like, a long-distance relationship?"
"If you want. I'm quite good at writing emails," he said with a teasing chuckle.
"I bet!" Laxus exclaimed with a grin. "Man, how lucky I would be, to get a love letter written by the bestselling author Freed Justine."
"So, is that okay?" Freed asked with nervous anticipation.
Laxus leaned over and gave him a deep, endearing kiss. "Go out with me."
What a bold man, just demanding it! "I'll accept the challenge," Freed retorted.
Laxus laughed, and their noses rubbed together. "I'll make it a good story to tell!"
The rest of that day was a blur of happiness. Instead of acting like a tour guide, Laxus held Freed's hand, at times wrapped his arm around his shoulder, and acted like a doting, deeply in love boyfriend. To Freed, this was a story out of a perfect romance novel. Dinner, strolling along the lit-up main boulevard, even slipping into a club when Laxus insisted the local rock band playing there was the best in town. They danced, they drank, they kissed, then they sneaked out to an alley to make-out until the alcohol faded away and they realized what a bad idea this was. They laughed about it, wiped their lips, and continued on their way.
When at last it was over and they both kept yawning, Freed invited Laxus to come back with him. No sex. They curled on the hotel suite's couch watching some movie while caressing each other casually. Then Freed straddled Laxus' lap during the ending credits, and they made out again, kissing heavily, rubbing their hands all over each other, yet stopping when things got too much. This was enough, and they were both incredibly happy.
They shared the bed, Laxus in just his boxers, Freed in some satin pajamas he preferred. They kissed with their heads on the pillows, they gazed at one another in the darkness, but that was it.
"I really don't want you to leave in the morning," Laxus said in distress.
"I wish I could stay a whole month." Freed sighed, unable to handle the sadness in those blue eyes. "Roll over."
Laxus flipped onto his side and felt Freed curling around him.
"I'll wrap you up like a book cover, so just sleep to the story of our lives together."
Laxus sighed, and he closed his eyes. How could he fall so fast, so hard, so clumsily for this man he had idolized ever since he read his first book? How could this incredible writer love him back?
Love at first sight was supposed to be…
"Only in fairy tales," he heard Freed whisper.
"Exactly," Laxus replied.
Freed's arms squeezed around him tighter. "I'm afraid it'll be a short story and not a novel."
Laxus felt his hand wrapped across his waist and gave it a squeeze. "You're the writer. Make it as long as you want. I'll be your avid reader, craving more."
Freed made a contented hum, blushing and feeling intensely happy to hear that.
"I'll do my best to write the happiest story ever," he swore.
EIGHT MONTHS LATER
Laxus watched the line to the table, even longer than the last time. Maybe it wasn't a bestseller, but the gay erotica from famous author Freed Justine rocked the literature world. The people who lined up for the book signing thanked him profusely for making homosexuality mainstream, for portraying it so delicately yet naturally. He smiled, he thanked each of them, he turned down many offers from men, and he laughed as women exclaimed that they absolutely had to have a sequel with the two main characters.
"Time will tell, but I hope inspiration comes to me again."
More than once after saying that, Freed's eyes drifted to Laxus.
At last it was over, but one more fan remained. Freed grinned as Laxus approached his table.
"Oh? Would you like a signature? Whom should I make it out for?"
Laxus handed him, not the erotica novel, but his previous book. "You wrote my name and a message. You never actually put down your signature."
Freed looked down and saw that he was right. He even saw how he had flinched when he wrote the word coffee, that moment when he realized Laxus had just asked him on a date.
"My, what an oversight!" he said lightly, and he signed the novel. "I must make up for such a mistake. Please, let me take you out for dinner."
"Freed!" Evergreen gasped.
"I'll return to the hotel later by taxi." He smiled up at Laxus. "I must go seek some inspiration. My fans want a sequel, after all."
"How about we make it a series?" Laxus offered. "Are you looking for a roadie, a helper?"
Freed's mouth dropped. "Wait, you mean…"
"I put in my two-week notice a while back. Today was my last day. One way or another, I'm not losing you. That is … if you'll have me."
Freed could hardly contain himself. He leaped up and hugged Laxus around the neck.
"Be my lover!" Freed whispered in a shaking demand. "Stay with me. My house. Move in. Please."
Laxus chuckled and stroked down his long hair. "We never do ask things in the old fashion way."
"Too cliché. Who wants a boring, predictable story?"
"Aren't we predictable? This was inevitable, right?"
"Only if the author demands a happy ending. There could have always been an angsty twist along the way."
"I don't much like angst. Being apart for eight months, that was bad enough."
"Agreed. So it's time to make things right."
Laxus leaned back and cupped Freed's cheek. "What sort of happy ending would you write?"
Freed chuckled and leaned into his massive, warm, rough hand. "No ending. A cliffhanger, followed by a note promoting the next book in the series."
"Nice answer," Laxus said proudly. He leaned into Freed's ear. "So let's go back to your hotel and go through the sort of scene your editor will have to cut out for censorship."
"Laxus!" Freed gasped, blushing red instantly. However, he stuttered, "Y-yeah … come back with me. I want you with me. No more chapters filled with the protagonist missing his beloved. Be with me … from now on."
Laxus tipped his chin up. "I promise … until the end."
He leaned over and gave Freed the sort of incredible kiss that made scenes fade to black.