"How can you stand it? It's absurd!" Waylon's voice echoed off of the vaulted ceiling. He stood in the center of the foyer on top of a mural that depicted the sea in blues, greens, and grays. A wave rose up and swirled down, crashing against the water’s surface.
"I don't think it's that bad." Keyleth shrugged.
"Not bad exactly, but..." Waylon turned in a circle. "You could fit half the city in here."
"It's not that big," Ayen rolled his eyes.
"Yes it is. It's ridiculous in fact." He looked around again, eyes falling on the large vase by the door and the painting of a willow tree on a hill. All of it had been there when Ayen bought the place except for a little potted plant on the table. He found it at the market and thought that the house could use a little greenery. "You rob places like this and yet this is where you end up? And all for turning me in?"
"What do you think we would get if we turned him in a second time?" Keyleth pondered.
"Hanged as his accomplices no doubt," Ayen said.
"My accomplices. I like that," Waylon grinned. "We should form a gang."
"I don't do murder so maybe not the ‘Waylon Gang’," Keyleth said. "Though, I appreciate your work. Especially when it comes to Baron Davron, I assume that was you, the rumor was that he had a concerning interest in teenagers."
Waylon puffed up quite proudly. "I don't often take pleasure in killing-"
"Yet it doesn't pain you, either," Ayen cut in.
"But that was a particularly nice night," Waylon finished with a grin.
"Last night was particularly nice and no one had to die."
"I'm gonna throw up my breakfast." Keyleth wrinkled her nose.
A knock came at the door, startling the whole group into silence. "Thank goodness," Keyleth said. "I don't want to know where that conversation was going." She hopped up from her place on the edge of the fountain and went to the door with Smudge at her heels. His feet were wet and left a trail behind him.
"Good morning," Keyleth greeted. She peeked around the door. "Can I help you?"
"I'm looking for a friend of mine. A certain angel you might know," said a voice from behind the door.
Waylon groaned. Ayen looked from him to the door. He wondered at first if he should be worried, but Waylon seemed more annoyed than anything else so he supposed it was safe.
"Let them in, Keyleth," Ayen said.
She stepped aside and held the door open. In walked a person with a face that made Ayen's heart stop and not for any pleasant reason.
"You!" he gasped. It had been weeks, but it turned out that he was not done being pissed about his first night in town. That night when his pocket had been full to bursting only for him to end the night empty handed and sleeping in a ratty tent.
The shapeshifter grinned with painted red lips, too blue eyes shining. "I see you're offering a much finer bed these days," they said. They swept back their shoulder length hair. It shined red and green as light filtered in from the skylight.
"You two know each other?" Waylon was the one who looked surprised now.
The shapeshifter shrugged. "You two hadn't met at the time so I didn't see reason to mention it. I don't tell you everything, Waylon dear."
Ayen looked between the two of them. "And how do you two know each other?"
"I asked first," Waylon countered.
Ayen rolled his eyes, placing a hand on his hip. "Your dear friend robbed me my first night in."
Waylon snickered. "You are so damn unlucky."
The shapeshifter smirked. "Damn arrogant, too, but I suppose that's why you like him."
Waylon's cheeks pinked. Ayen wanted to laugh. He could spend the night in his bed, but he couldn't admit he had a crush on him? Did he spend afternoons with his shapeshifter friend gossiping about him?
"Uh, can I know what's going on?" Keyleth asked.
"This is Phase," Waylon finally introduced. "My roommate and apparently Ayen's nightmare."
"It wasn't that bad," Ayen grumbled. He folded his arms over his chest. Yes, Phase had been a major annoyance, but if anything they have brought Ayen's expectations of West Catoig down to something more realistic.
"I should hope not," Phase purred, offering him a wink. "I'm only teasing," they assured Waylon as he bristled.
"What are you doing here, anyway?"
"I brought a house warming present." Phase took from inside their coat a bottle of wine.
"Oo, I'll break the bread!" Keyleth declared. She ran into the kitchen along with a happily squawking Smudge.
"Allow me to help you with that, Ms. Keyleth," Phase said, though they looked at Ayen with glittering eyes as they passed.
Ayen waited until they were gone to speak. "You have a roommate?" He looked at Waylon.
"Are you jealous?" he asked, but he sounded more hopeful than teasing.
Ayen scoffed. "It's not like we're dating is it?"
"No, I guess not." Waylon said, instantly closing himself off. Ayen wished he could take it back. Waylon's armor had gone up like a brick wall and his face settled into the smile that he hated. The one that was made of false confidence.
The four of them gathered around the table at the center of the kitchen. There was bread and cheese to share with their wine. Half of it ended up on the floor for Smudge until he decided that the table suited him just fine. Ayen found that once he had gotten past how Phase had slighted him, they were actually quite pleasant and they told the best stories.
"Waylon was what you might call a young eighteen," Phase said while they all listened intently. "He'd lived a very simple life and it was only by luck that I happened across him and saved his very neck."
Waylon rolled his eyes at the story. "It was not that bad. I kept myself fed."
"But were you ever going to bathe, Waylon?" they teased. Keyleth and Ayen both grinned as they listened.
"So what happened?" Keyleth asked between bites of cheese.
"Well Waylon was a wanted man, as I said, and I found him hiding beneath a haystack. A not bad place to hide, but not a terribly smart place is it? I invited him home with me, with no small amount of trouble-"
"How was I to know you weren't going to turn me in?" Waylon argued.
"It would have been cruel to have you arrested as skinny and pitiful as you looked." Phase him a frowning, pitying look.
"Oh fuck off," Waylon threw him bread at them, but Smudge caught it and swallowed it which sent Keyleth into a laughing fit. Ayen couldn't help chucking either.
Phase continued on with their storytelling. "Before I could get the filthy, hay-covered boy home, a man turns up and he's furious. He doesn't care in the least that Waylon is wanted, if he's even aware of it. No, he's pissed that Waylon dragged his son out back of the tavern and sweet talked him out of an antique pocket watch."
"Got a pretty penny out of it, too," Waylon said with a smug smile.
Phase continued, "The man grabs Waylon by the shirt, picks him and drops him in a rain barrel. No bathtub required."
They all laughed. "It turned out that he didn't appreciate Waylon causing a scandal the week before his son's wedding. He didn't even care about the watch."
"Thank goodness for that because it was long gone."
The story telling carried on, but in the moment that Waylon caught his gaze it all faded away. They stayed locked together in a single moment as Phase continued to speak and Keyleth continued to laugh, Smudge continued to steal from their plates. Waylon's cheeks turned pink, something Ayen hoped would never stop, as he grabbed his hand. Then pulled him away from the others and back into the foyer. Waylon let himself be pulled along up the stairs and out onto Ayen's balcony. Together, they looked out at Greeley. How gray it was in the moonlight. Not that it was any less gray in the sun.
"It was just over there that we met," Ayen pointed off across the rooftops.
"I should have killed you then. Saved myself a lengthy arrest record," Waylon joked.
Ayen curled his hands around the rail of the balcony. "Your roommate seems to miss you."
"I was only gone one night, though they are known for being quite dramatic." Waylon turned and leaned against the balcony in a pose which seemed to lengthen his already long legs. "There's a question underneath that statement."
"No, just observing."
"Of course." Waylon nodded. He turned back to the city.
Ayen rolled his eyes. "Obviously that was a question. I'm asking you to stay. You don't have to, of course."
"Well, if you'd like me to."
"Of course I would."
Waylon looked at him. A small smile turned up his lips and there was a gleam in his eye. "Of course," he agreed.
"Unless there's something waiting for you at home?"
Waylon stood fully and leaned in until their noses touched. "Don't be jealous," he whispered.
"Why would I be jealous when your roommate is gorgeous and you two are obviously very close?"
Waylon gave him a soft kiss and Ayen wrapped his arms around him. There was still that gleam there in his eyes and it was growing from charming to smug far too quickly.
"You know I thought Keyleth was your lover when I first saw you together."
Ayen barked a laugh, struck by the revelation. "Keyleth? She's so... I don't know, adorable?"
"You don't like adorable?" Waylon batted his eyes. "Am I not adorable?"
Ayen pushed him away. "Certainly you are unsightly and irritating and-"
Chuckling, Waylon crowded into his space again. "And handsome and charming."
Ayen nodded. "Yes and murderous and broody and closed off among many terrible qualities."
"Tell you what," Waylon suggested. "I promise to ignore your flaws if you can look past mine."
Waylon blinked in mock surprise. "No, not that you would ever be flawed. Aside from that you are reclusive, self-righteous, and you're much too friendly. It is appalling that everyone who meets you likes you. It's unnatural, in fact."
Ayen laughed. "You are always welcome to hate me if that makes it easier."
Waylon surprised him with his sincerity. "I could never hate you."
"I suppose if you don't hate me after throwing you in jail pending your presumed execution, what could you possibly hate me for?"
"I wouldn't hate you for that anyway." Waylon turned away and looked out again at the city. "I admire the way you try to save people. It's futile in a world that wants to watch you fail, but I like that you try." Ayen didn’t miss the way he had turned the topic away from himself.
"There you go again," Ayen grabbed his arm and pulled him back to him. "You keep running away from me."
Waylon smiled. "Maybe I like it when you chase me."
"Maybe-" Ayen stopped at the sound of dishes crashing downstairs. "Maybe we should not have left those three alone."
Ayen Fenfir is no common elf, but that won't stop him from pretending to be one as he tries to hide from his past. Life as a criminal isn't easy, but when Ayen sees the bounty for turning in an assassin, known as 'The Angel', he finds himself caught between romance and a chance to retire from his life of crime. 'Don't try your luck in West Catoig' is what they always say, but Ayen has yet to discover just how unlucky West Catoig is for its more humble citizens.