Five in the afternoon. A few hours before the winter solstice begins.
Wolf’s laugh was always peculiar. It comes with a pause—the calm before a storm—until he gives in to his instincts, and turns into an explosion of chuckles.
The sound is carried by the courtyard. It wastes no time bothering the elderly around them.
“Wolf…” Lir tilts his head to get a better view of his good friend’s features from the seat of his wheelchair. “It wasn’t that funny. A kid fell over, you’re terrible for mocking him.” In truth, Lir finds it endearing. As of late, there is warmth in the pit of his stomach whenever they get together like this.
Wolf leans down to kiss his forehead. He smirks. “You say that, yet you’re still dating me.” His friend smells of peppermint and of pine-trees. Lir wonders if Wolf hasn’t overdone it with the perfume he received from his classmates two moons ago.
As he returns Wolf’s grin, Lir snickers. “Getting cocky with me, are we?”
“Maybe.” Wolf pulls away. He goes back to pushing Lir’s wheelchair with a whistle, and a hum.
Lir doesn’t let others do this for him often. He usually uses his arms, they work quite well. But he has noticed how Wolf enjoys taking care of him, and he does not think it’s worth it to refuse, especially when Wolf seems so happy while indulging in simple tasks like these.
The flowers in the pots and gardens around them have started to bloom. Even if it’s only for today, tonight—because magic doesn’t last as long in the Winter—Lir finds it beautiful.
Nearby, a group of friends head to a tavern. Echoes of their cheers linger in the air town square’s air, until they dissipate, then die. The only words that make it to Wolf’s and Lir’s figures are ‘legend,’ ‘shore,’ and ‘flower.’ And Lir remembers what day it is today, asides from his eighteenth birthday. “Lamensae,” he mutters, as his eyes widen alongside the syllables. He turns to face Wolf once more. His lips are parted with both curiosity, guilt. “You wanted to see it.”
Wolf pauses again. This time, he kisses Lir for real—all tongue and teeth-bites; messy and wild, just like his friend prefers it. “I’d rather be here. With you.” His voice is low. It is filled with hunger; the same one that dances deep within his eyes that are color of skies on days clear of clouds. “Than out there”—he nibbles on Lir’s lower lip—“picking some imaginary”—he sucks on the nape of his neck—“hundred year old flower.”
His statement sounds like half a truth, half a lie. Lir moans against him. It is subtle—such as murmurs in the dark night are, kisses of the wind—but he knows Wolf has heard the whimper nevertheless, for his good friend leans in next to Lir’s ear mere seconds later, and says, “Tonight, let’s do it.”
Four hours before midnight. They come out of the tavern with tipsy feet and giggling mouths. Wolf is pushing his wheelchair faster than before, though Lir doesn’t mind. It’s fun, freeing in a sense. Tonight is special, and Lir can tell Wolf has this all planned out, just like when he leaves to go hunting with the men of his village, every other weekend.
“My house?” Wolf asks. He slows, yet only by just a tad, since Lir finds it complicated to read street signs as they move forth, past alleyways and isolated corners of a modest town. For once, the streets are illuminated by lanterns hung up to celebrate the occasion—a yearly festival always held in silence for gods whose tales are unsung, revered between their people, secrets made for them to keep.
Lir nods. Then, he mumbles, “Your house.”
It doesn’t take long for them to arrive; Wolf was already heading there from the moment they had stepped out of the tavern. Sneaky bastard, Lir thinks, as his friend guides him into his house, helps him out of his wheelchair, then onto his living room’s sofa.
Lir takes a single glance at his surroundings before he’s laughing again, just like back in the tavern, where he and Wolf had been making jokes about their first meeting that had involved an apple tree and too little apples.
“I can’t believe you even bought candles!” Truly, Lir cannot. One or two of them wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but they are surrounded by fire, a physical representation of the burn loneliness inflicts on them, whenever they are apart. And Lir wonders, if he were to capture his own flames and Wolf’s—to put them in jars and compare them—what he would see. Would Wolf’s shine brighter?
Wolf locks the front door. He draws the curtains before the window’s darkness, that has been drowned out by moonlight. “You have something against me seducing you?” he asks Lir, once his jacket is tossed away, and left crippled by his feet.
The question elicits a fond chuckle from Lir. “You already have me.” He wraps his arms around Wolf’s shoulders. It isn’t easy to kiss him when they are both smiling to the point of showing teeth.
Nor is it any less than a small show of rivalry, a friendly battle, when Lir tries to undress him. For Wolf has slid his palm over Lir’s own, and refuses to let go, because, “It’s warm.”
“Idiot.” Lir tugs on their arms that are still linked together without much resolve.
They both have their shirts off now.
Their backs are covered with a blanket made from thick fur. Lir can see the yearning that bubbles within Wolf’s clouded gaze. It is the same expression he’d sometimes make when they started dating, and it has accentuated tenfold—a hundredfold even—since then.
Wolf squeezes Lir’s palm. “I love you,” he tells Lir, and Lir should be happy. Lir should be satisfied, to say the least. Yet, Lir cannot help but think of the irony in these words, and how he believed he’d never want to hear such confessions from anyone other than Tobias.
His mind wanders. He wants to know why Tobias left. Why he didn’t say goodbye. If Tobias had pretended to care. If he’s still alive and well today.
Lir blinks. He shakes the image of his mentor away. He doesn’t want to ruin this. Tobias was never destined to be anything more than a childhood crush anyway. He wouldn’t have settled for Lir, even if Lir would have given up the world for him.
“Yeah.” Lir leans in. His lips are pressed to Wolf’s again. It’s warm. It’s a feeling he hopes neither of them will forget, no matter how old they grow. “I love you, too.” His palm comes to rest atop Wolf’s chest, his scars. “Did it hurt?” He doesn’t know why he asks the question exactly. Of course it hurt. Freedom never comes without a price.
“Not as much as looking at myself when I still had them,” Wolf tells him.
Lir kisses the places where his nipples used to be, and then, Wolf’s neck. His shoulders. His skin. The battles etched into his body. Places only Lir has been. “I’m sorry I never realized until you did it.”
“It’s fine.” Wolf runs his fingers through Lir’s hair, whose shade he often compares to the wings of ravens. “I get that it’s hard for you to imagine.” His hand slips under the blanket, over one of Lir’s breasts, until it finally finds its resting place on his nipple—a place that makes Lir shiver, and whisper Wolf’s name. “Yours are… nice. Small,” he mutters, as he continues to toy with Lir’s chest. “Easy to run with when hunting.” He bites down against the crook of Lir’s shoulder. “Handsome. So, so handsome.” Wolf laughs. “If I had been blessed like you”—he runs his teeth down his lover’s sensitive skin—“you bet I would have kept them.”
Lir tilts his head back. He gasps and shuts his eyes. “Fuck.” The cuss is more of an inaudible grunt over anything else. He’s done this before, on his own, but being touched by another—by Wolf—is different in the best of ways.
He reaches out. He smears Wolf’s saliva over his lip that has been tinged a dark orange by the candles that surround them. Until Wolf is on him again, carving the feeling of having their mouths pressed together into his bones.
Until the shape of Wolf’s lips, is all Lir can remember.
Eventually though, Lir’s tongue goes numb from having wrestled with Wolf’s for minutes without end. He sighs. He grabs at the hems of Wolf’s under-garments. “Off,” he mumbles the word into their kiss.
“You don’t want the bed?” Wolf doesn’t sound offended, only amused.
“Doesn’t matter,” Lir replies, “I just want you.”
“Oh yeah?” Wolf strips like his life depends on it. As calm as he had been acting, Lir has a hunch some of it may be an act, if not all of it.
As soon as he is completely bare, Wolf approaches.
Lir gives him permission to slide the remainder of his clothes away
from his waist, down to his thighs that part for Wolf’s fingers which
slip inside him in a gentle, loving pace, Wolf’s gaze darkens. And he
whispers, “Tell me more.”
It’s midnight in forty minutes. Lir rouses before Wolf does. There is a certain quality to this night of festivities, for as soon as silence reigns, tradition claims none should be out to greet the hour once it arrives.
Lir kisses Wolf one final time. Then, he slips out of their blanket, off the sofa, and onto the floor.
Thankfully, the boards don’t creak as much as he expects them to.
Crawling to the entrance isn’t easy, but Lir wants this to be a surprise. He wants this to be special, a day to remember—one they can laugh about once many moons have passed; enough for them to reminiscence on their youth.
His wheelchair comes into view. He topples onto it and huffs. This isn’t the first time he’s done this—sneaking out is somewhat of his specialty by now—however, what he didn’t account for was that having sex beforehand would make this twice as exhausting.
A single glance at the clock ticking beside the door tells Lir a good ten minutes have passed.
If he wants to pick the legendary flower that may or may not appear tonight, he’ll have to be quick.
The usual drunkards have cleared the streets, as have the beggars. Lir has witnessed such scenes before from the window of his bedroom in the past, yet seeing it in person is quite intimidating, more so than he wants to admit.
He shivers. He presses on, past the ghost town full of baskets filled to the brim with offerings—money, fruit, incense and small knick-knacks surely dear to somebody’s heart.
Lir arrives closer to the shore. The sirens have yet to lure him out with their songs, and he wonders if the myths weren’t simply closer to legend than truth after all.
As he rolls over stone paths, the bumps beneath his wheels make him curse beneath his breath. The thought that he could turn back and get Wolf a proper gift in the morning with his pocket money crosses his mind. But giving Wolf something rare isn’t the only symbolism that picking this flower holds.
The prospect of proving his love to Wolf, and perhaps proving that he loves Wolf more than he had loved Tobias to himself, is tangled in Lir’s gesture.
Lir is met by the sight of sand, the smell of the ocean, as its waves lap at seashells, whose shades range from dark pinks to pale blues. He lifts himself off, away from his wheelchair, and begins his slow descent towards a prize awarded to brave fools, never winners.
Midnight reaches the land. Lir sees it, the Lamensae—a flower of legends that has sprouted close to the sea.
The waves lap at his toes. The way the water glimmers under the moon’s light is inviting. It is as if it sings to him, words that are not words, yet words he understands nevertheless. Come. Come. Closer. Closer.
And he listens. Because the flower is there. And Lir needs it. More than he has ever needed anything in his life.
Lir inches forward. His elbows dig into barely solid ground that crumbles beneath his weight with each extra movement. He is fascinated. Enthralled, like he was when first seeing Tobias, and when first kissing Wolf. He wishes could bask longer at the fauna that strikes him like no beauty has ever stricken him before, but his time is limited. If he wastes too much of it, the translucent blossom may disappear.
Lir cannot have that—a journey without meaning.
This isn’t about Wolf anymore. This is personal now. The Lamensae’s petals are a spectacular thing to behold. They are like glass, the shape of a perfect soul. And although it is tangible, Lir still cannot fathom it will soon be his. His and no one else’s.
Wonders such as these should not belong to any mere hand. They should belong to Lir. It is his. All his. They are his. His. His.
His fingers curl around the roots which bind it to the sand. He tugs, softly, like when he had gripped Wolf’s hair earlier tonight. The flower doesn’t show any sign of resistance. It glows within his hand. Soft shades. Golden. Bisque. Deep blue. Black.
Lir turns around. There is a whooshing noise. A slight tilt of his head reveals a wave that towers over his seated figure. He does not have time to think, to get away or do anything but watch as the strangeness of it all pulls him in.
He fights, instinctively, against bubbles, regret and tinges of sea salt which enter his mouth. The flower sinks. It is replaced by a prison of aqua that makes his body—his fingers—feel like the heavy iron his father always forged back home.
Home; the word hurts more than the dread that fills his lungs.
Home; Lir is far from whatever that may mean now. He doubts he could return. He is sorry to have left it. To have left them. His friends. His family.