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About Lacuna

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  1. Lacuna

    Chapter 5

    Sorry, I didn't see your comment! But don't worry, all will be revealed (maybe). ^^
  2. Lacuna

    Angels And Monsters

    I’m reading this long past its publication, but I’m just very glad someone finally fed that poor kitten. Love the story!
  3. Lacuna


    Thank you! <3
  4. Thank you so much for your feedback! Maybe it needs less editing than I thought. (:
  5. Lacuna

    Chapter 5

    Sygny let himself into the apartment, thankful that the lights seemed to be off, and the computer system idling. His father had been there when he had left earlier, but he seemed to be gone now. Sygny knew that this only delayed the inevitable, but for the time being he was happy that he would have some peace. He shut his bedroom door behind him and kicked off his shoes before flopping down onto the bed. You’re an idiot, he thought to himself, imagining the look on Arno’s face over and over again. He had tried to be flirtatious, but he had just ended up making him uncomfortable. He couldn’t help but imagine Arno having a tail, as he was sure he did now, and the appendage wrapping around him in bed. However, he was concerned that Arno wasn’t even interested in him in the first place, despite his roommates’ assurances that he was Arno’s type. He supposed that this is what he got for forcing a guy to go on a date with him. He hadn’t even asked if Arno wanted to go out again, but he figured that it probably wasn’t the case. Sygny took out his phone and almost texted him to tell him that he had a good time, but he stopped himself at the last moment. Don’t be clingy, he admonished himself. He hoped that, regardless, they could at least be friends. When he woke his first thought was that he had fallen asleep on top of his blankets, fully clothed. His arm where his sleeve was shorter was cold in the temperature controlled apartment, and he blinked slowly, wondering what had woken him up. It was Sunday, and he had no responsibilities. Then he heard it, a clattering of pots and pans in the kitchen as if a whole stack of them had been thrown to the floor. The noise came again, clearly deliberate at this point. Sygny scrambled around for his phone on the bed, finding it under a pillow and looking at the time. It was six thirty in the morning; just late enough that there was some sunlight coming through his windows. An even larger crash came, startling him physically out of bed. Pushing his hair, which was sticking up in all directions, out of his eyes, Sygny opened his bedroom door slowly and peered around the door jamb. He couldn’t see the kitchen, the likely source of the sound, from the hallway, so he crept out. His father, a huge man with brunet hair a few shades darker than his son’s and small black horns in a crown shape over his skull, was glaring at him with gray eyes that matched his own. Except for his small stature and lack of demonic features, he mostly looked like his father. “It’s quite rude when someone wakes you up with loud noises,” his father said, grinning to reveal brilliant white teeth. His hand snatched another metal pot from the counter and knocked it to the floor. Sygny stepped back without realizing it, pressing himself against the wall that led to the hallway. “I apologize,” he said, remaining formal and trying to keep his voice from shaking. “Get your shit together,” he said. “You will do credit to me if you want to live here. No running off with greasy bikers and disturbing the whole neighborhood when they drop you off late at night.” He stepped out from behind the counter, stalking towards Sygny. Though his fingers shook he still managed to erect a magical barrier about six inches in front of his face, hoping his father wouldn’t get close enough to realize what he had done. It made him feel safer, protecting him from the memories of times when he had first come to live with his father six years ago and couldn’t yet produce a solid shield to keep the man out of his face. “Useless. Whatever money he paid you for sex, I want it. Give it to me, or I’ll set the computer not to let you out except for school.” He held his hand out, and Sygny shook his head vigorously. “Don’t lie to me.” “He’s just a friend,” Sygny managed. Though it wasn’t necessarily true, as Sygny certainly wanted Arno as more than a friend, one date where they didn’t even kiss didn’t a relationship make. “Hmph,” came the growling response, his father peering at him to evaluate the truth of his words. Sygny did his best to meet his eyes, before dropping them, as one would before a predator. “What happened to that nice boy you were seeing, Kareem?” he asked. Sygny didn’t know how to reply. His father had liked Kareem for his family connections and money, approving of his relationship. He had been taken on expensive dates and vacations, but the second he displeased him Sygny had been given the cold shoulder, and Kareem had found another in a string of boys to cheat on him with that looked eerily similar to him. He would never have had a problem with a polyamorous relationship, but that wasn’t what Kareem had wanted; he just tried to teach Sygny the lesson that he could be replaced if Kareem so desired. When Sygny had tried to leave for good, Kareem had tried to get violent, forgetting that the mage could keep him from making contact. He was done with assholes like that for good. Silence seemed to be answer enough, and his father walked away, slamming the door of his office. Sygny held still and counted to thirty, but his father stayed away. Unfrozen, he took a deep breath, shaking out his arms and dissipating the barrier in front of him. After grabbing his school bag from his bedroom and left the house before his father decided to lock him in, heading toward the library. ***** The keys on his laptop clicked in the otherwise silent room. There were other people there, reading books on tablets or wearing headphones, but no one else seemed to be doing homework on a Sunday. One might think that libraries would have died with the advent of technology like holoscreens. It was true that there weren’t as many paper books, but people still liked reading, and there were more people writing than ever before. It didn’t hurt that there was internet for everyone, free of charge. Sygny liked the library, it was always quiet, and he never expected his father to go there. Even so, he couldn’t stop thinking about his father. Each time he had to read something particularly boring from one of Tomas’ textbooks his mind would wander. He knew that he was lucky; his father didn’t hit him, and couldn’t really, even if he tried, but he still shuddered each time the verbal onslaught came for him. It sucked to be told you were a piece of crap over and over until you almost believed it yourself. All his father cared about was his image, his money, and, if Sygny was going to bother him by living there, what he could do for him. He missed his mother, the sweet, caring woman who had raised him. She had died of cancer only a few months into his education, forcing him to live with the father he had never met. He wasn’t sure what his mother had ever seen in his father, the part-demon acted like he would have crushed her if it wasn’t for her power to tell him the future sometimes. Sygny tried to shake himself out of the past. He pulled out his phone to check the time, seeing that only a few hours had passed. He didn’t want to go back to his father’s apartment anytime soon. No one had contacted him over the weekend; he didn’t really have any friends from school except Jaide, and they were on a trip to another territory to study with a water mage. Being in Davnihar’s territory all the time made them feel like they were dehydrating, even with the humidity. He missed his friend though; anyone else he had hung out with had been pushed away by Kareem. They weren’t mean to him or anything, but they didn’t come back to him now that he was single, either. He once again considered texting Arno, but was still worried that he was mad at him. What kind of asshole forced someone to go on a date with them? And he had been gracious about it as well, just like Lacuna had said he would. In the end, he decided to text Arno’s roommates, figuring he could be friends with them even if Arno was annoyed with him. He shot off a quick message but did not receive a reply immediately. It was only ten in the morning, so he figured it wasn’t impossible that Lacuna and Tali were still asleep. After another twenty minutes of trying, he realized he wasn’t going to get any more work done. He stuck his computer in his bag and pushed the chair back from the table, deciding to take a walk; anywhere was more appealing than sitting in the library for the rest of the day. The air was close and humid, immediately causing him to sweat. The library was pretty far from the demon lair, but even with just a sporadic few puddles of lava bubbling up through the sidewalk the temperature hadn't dropped. Sygny put in headphones and listened to music as he walked, wandering aimlessly around. He found himself sitting in some shade outside of a coffee shop. He was hungry but still didn’t have any cash. A park was his next stop, and he threw a shield over himself before taking a nap under a tree. Certainly, he hadn’t gotten enough sleep that morning. When he awoke there was a notification blinking on his phone, Lacuna and Tali inviting him over for an, as Lacuna put it, “crappy movie marathon.” He quickly replied in the affirmative, stretching as he got up and cracked his back. Maybe sleeping under a tree wasn’t such a good idea. Arno wasn’t there when he arrived at the warehouse, and Tali explained that he was working out down in the basement. Despite the description he had received of the planned activities, she quickly launched into a description of the first movie’s plot and told him it was one of her favorites. “Crappy movie marathon, like I said,” Lacuna interrupted towards the end, rolling her eyes. Regardless, she seemed amicable enough as she got the popcorn ready. “Do you want cinnamon sugar, cheese, or spicy?” she asked. “Spicy!” Sygny said, grabbing a spot on the couch. Tali turned down the lights as Lacuna prepared two bowls, a spicy one for herself and Sygny to share and a cinnamon sugar one for Tali. “Ugh, I don’t know how you eat this stuff,” she said as she handed Tali her bowl. The spiked girl shrugged, immediately popping some into her mouth. They had paused the movie for a bathroom break when the door to the basement opened, and a shirtless and sweaty Arno appeared, chugging water from a huge container. Sygny stared at his defined muscles, not realizing he had turned completely around on the couch to take in the view. “Hey,” he said after a moment, catching Arno’s attention. The other man looked at him with a raised eyebrow, putting down his water. He took a look at the screen before asking, “Are you enjoying that?” Sygny looked around to make sure that Tali wasn’t lurking in the hallway before replying. “Not really, I’m not sure what she sees in this stuff.” Arno laughed. “When it’s over I’m sure you won’t want to suffer through another one. I’ll get cleaned up and then we can go see an actual decent movie?” he said. Sygny stared at him for a moment. The previous day flashed through his mind, reminding him that he had insulted Arno, to the point where he didn’t even want to bother him by texting. Before he could answer Arno added, “Just as friends, I mean.” Sygny’s heart sank. It made more sense now, but he would take what he could get. Since Jaide was going to be going to be gone for the whole summer he needed someone to hang out with that would keep him out of his father’s apartment. If Arno just wanted to be friends, then he would be friends. “Sure,” Sygny said, a smile spreading across his face. Arno disappeared down the hallway just as Tali came back from the same direction and Lacuna returned back with more hot pepper for their popcorn. She gave Sygny a sly look but didn’t say anything. He wouldn’t be surprised if she had heard their conversation, but was just glad that she didn’t seem to be holding his escape plans against him. They settled in for the rest of the movie, but Sygny was quick to jump up and follow Arno down into the basement when Tali went into the kitchen for something to drink afterward. “We can just walk,” Arno said. “It’s not far.” Sygny agreed, and they headed out into the early evening. Their route was indeed short, and Arno bought tickets for them without asking Sygny to contribute. They took their seats and Sygny whispered to Arno, “Oh good, action. I need to get that crummy drama stuff out of my brain. Every single word someone said was over the top.” “Tali’s taste in movies is legendary,” Arno agreed in a low voice. They kicked back the reclining seats and settled in for a fully immersive action movie experience. At one point Sygny grabbed the armrest in a combination of terror and exhilaration at a scene, only to realize Arno’s hand was already there. He let go immediately, but made sure not to do that again for the rest of the movie. When the lights came up at the end Sygny ran his fingers through his hair, feeling like he had just run a marathon. “Wow,” Sygny said, his eyes wide. “Talk about intense.” “Well, there was none of Lacuna’s spicy popcorn, but I’d say it was a better experience overall,” Arno said. They made their way out of the theater into the dark, walking quickly back to the warehouse. “I should really get home,” Sygny said, making a pinched face. The afternoon and evening had been greatly preferable to his morning. “Of course,” Arno agreed. “I’m glad I could—” he cut himself off, staring at the front door. “What?” Sygny asked, but then he saw what he had thought was a shadow was actually a person, lurking by the door. Arno stepped in front of Sygny, who shook his head. Clearly, Arno had forgotten that Sygny was more than capable of protecting himself. In fact, he thought to check the spells on the building, which did not seem to be activated. Whoever was in front of them didn’t wish his friends ill, at the moment. Sygny couldn’t help but feel like the person had some kind of negative intent, though. The person pulled off their hood, and Sygny observed a ghostly pale face and hair crowned with black horns. Their eyes looked like black pits, though they might have a color in more light. Overall, including the long cloak they wore, the effect was spooky. “Joss, you scared me,” Arno said, and Sygny could see his shoulder muscles relax from where he stood behind the big man. Despite this, he wasn’t so quick to discount the newcomer as harmless. “What is the meaning of this magic?” Joss said, their voice whispery but forceful. They didn’t speak loudly, but Sygny heard every word clearly. He found himself automatically defaulting to neutral pronouns, as the person before them seemed genderless, even after hearing them speak. He didn’t want to offend them by accident with the wrong pronouns, even in his own thoughts. “Haven’t you heard?” Arno said. “There was a death at the lair. I wanted to have extra protection for Lacuna until everything was sorted out. Without you here we’re more vulnerable.” He began to walk towards the front door. Joss hissed, their words cutting through the night. “That was nothing.” “People dying isn’t nothing,” Sygny said, hands on his hips. Arno turned around and made a calming motion with his hands. Joss directed their gaze to the mage, their head moving slowly, but they said nothing. “Good night Sygny!” Arno said, more cheerful than Sygny had yet heard him, as he unlocked the door. It made goosebumps rise on Sygny’s skin, but it was true that he needed to get home so he could be rested for school the next day. “Good night,” he replied, resolving to text Arno as soon as he got home to get an explanation.
  6. Lacuna


    When I was 21 I married a dying man. Now, I only hold him in pictures, and I don’t cry because you can’t mourn someone who never wanted to be what you imagined them. It’s been almost two years since the funeral and I boxed up the memories he left, pressed them into scrapbooks, set them on the shelf as something to treasure but never look at. It’s not a wound now, not even a scar, just an empty attic in my chest growing cobwebs but I never have the energy to dust anymore. Since that day I haven’t said his name, but in quiet corners of our own home I can call the right one, devoid of pretenses. Other people still think he’s alive! When the body you love doesn’t host a headstone it's easy to see why— just a walking memory, play-acting the part the skin of your lover a freckled roadmap leading you far away from what you thought was your home but it’s achingly familiar— I love her. This poem was meant to be a eulogy but the person I love is still here. In her smile. In her hair. In cats greeting you at the door when you open it. If your body is a temple you have to worship it. Your lover’s body is a temple, and there is no wrong way to pray as long as you are doing it as long as there is no ending to it. Tell her not to accept anything less then her own, inevitable, manifest destiny where she takes up all the space she deserves. Put her on a pedestal but don’t blame her when she falls, just pick her up again. When she rises from that grave other people built for him, same face, different expression— It’s not a miracle. It’s not because you loved her. It’s because she was able to love herself, no more or less than anyone else does. This was supposed to be a eulogy, but instead, it’s just a whispered breath in my lover’s ear telling her that she is real, unapologetically, standing here. It is spring. The flowers bloom on the only land she’s ever owned, her gravestone, but she’s ready to sell it. These months are a time for cleaning so we leave the past behind together, opening up our windows— and I sweep out my ribcage. I never realized just how much love was in there. I’ll climb to the top of the hill and sing it, even if I sound like a bird on its first wing screaming among the leaves and then catching the breeze, so shocked in my own fortune that I fall and roll, and roll. And I’m dizzy on the side of the hill, sneezing in the flowers, looking up at clouds. There are no shapes that look like anything I recognize from the fraction of life I’ve been alive. It reminds me that when you stare up to that blue sky if you were just to look far enough you’d see everything, and you’re so small but you’re still the most important thing to someone. I take the scrapbook off the shelf, open it and show her what I remember, and then add more to it each time I’m convinced it’s the end.
  7. I really appreciate more traditional haiku! These are lovely. I just finished writing a poem about virginity; it needs to go through a few more rounds of edits before I perform it or post it, but I figured I'd share. I'd consider this close to Mature but... more artfully? Content does contain references to female masturbation and m/f and f/f sex. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JiHLnDqwHn-h7gp8tjO9QDDiemGzDEJ-DtUsGLk9rsI/edit?usp=sharing
  8. Lacuna


    I really like the title of this collection! The parenthetical statement as a fifth line makes for very interesting pacing; it almost removes the reader from the scene for a moment. The ending feels like a story told backward; I think it would be interesting to explore telling more of it in this way and see how that changes the dynamic.
  9. Lacuna

    Chapter 4

    Thank you! I’ll be posting a new chapter each Tuesday. (:
  10. Lacuna


    I’ve been trying to read this but I just find the characters too unbelievable. If they were 17 or 18 they could still be in high school, but the whole situation would be a little more realistic. Even in the prologue there were 11 year olds with no abilities yet speaking with more advanced vocabulary than I’ve seen from most adults. The result of this language and adult detachment is that the characters don’t seem relatable, and I don’t really have a drive to keep reading because I’m not invested in what happens to them. I think you have a good concept, and I was interested in the story, but I just can’t get past this, sorry. I don’t want to just make a comment to be rude; I hope it can help you if you go back to edit the story. I wish you well!
  11. Lacuna

    Chapter 1

    Thank you so much! I’m glad you’re enjoying the vibe. (: I’ll be posting weekly on Tuesdays-ish so there will be more to read soon.
  12. Lacuna

    Chapter 4

    Thank you! I definitely did want to kind of turn that trope around, but hopefully, it's coming across as believable rather than just subversive.
  13. Thank you! Interestingly enough, I was in Colorado performing over the summer! It's a big state though, lol.
  14. Lacuna

    Chapter 4

    The next day was lazy, with all four roommates pitching in to cook a huge breakfast with all the fixings. As he munched on a rare strip of bacon (people were vegetarian most of the time due to the expense of meat; mages who could grow crops with ease just made it an economical choice) Arno couldn’t help but imagine Sygny there at the table with them. Stop it, he thought to himself, but his day dreams continued to betray him. It was clear to him that Lacuna and Tali already liked Sygny, and he seemed nice, but Arno was stuck wishing that their possible friendship wasn’t forced into a romance. It was inevitable to him that they would be incompatible. After breakfast, Rex left again, and was accused of stalking the lair. Tali reminded him that he would have to go to work the next day, but he just waved her off. “I just don’t want anyone else to die,” he said, glaring at the rest of them. Arno followed him out of the warehouse, waving goodbye to him as he lit up a cigarette. The whole situation both in the city and in his personal life was stressing him out, but at the same time he almost felt like he should be hiding the smoking. When he examined the feeling, he realized that it was because Sygny had spoken against it. He was in deeper than the thought. A few hours later there was a knock on the front door, and they looked at each other in confusion. “Maybe it’s someone from the lair,” Tali suggested. Arno decided to check, looking through the peephole to discover no one on the front step. “What the hell?” he said, which encouraged Tali to appear, squeezing around him to take over the peephole. “No one’s there,” she said. “Should we open the door?” “I don’t think so,” Arno said. For a moment his mind was filled with wild theories, wondering if Sygny’s spell had somehow made whoever had knocked on the door to vanish into thin air. Maybe Sygny’s worry had been that his spell wouldn’t work properly? He tapped his fingers against the phone in his pocket as he thought, wondering if he should text the mage. Certainly, he didn’t want to be in trouble for someone from the lair failing to return to it from their residence. “Oh, Sygny said if a person was not welcome they would just think no one was home, give up, and walk away,” Lacuna said from the other room. “Would have been nice to know that,” Arno said, crossing his arms as he walked away from the door. “I guess it was one of Davinhar’s demons then.” “Probably,” Lacuna agreed, seeming unfazed by Arno’s annoyance. “So, what are you wearing tonight?” Tali asked, and Arno immediately saw that he had no way out of his pushy roommate’s interference in his date. No matter what response he gave it would not be adequate; she was convinced that most men were unable to dress themselves. Her theory was only validated (in her mind) by Arno’s wardrobe of black on black on boring. Between himself and Lacuna, she had her work cut out for her in injecting color into her roommate’s clothes. “Let’s just get this over with,” he said. Tali squealed and jumped with a grin, dragging him into his bedroom while Lacuna smirked from the couch. “Better me than you?” he asked, but didn’t get to hear the reply, if there was one. The bedroom was a decent size, the queen bed taking up space but failing to overwhelm the desk and shelves that Arno also kept around. There was a laptop on the desk that he used solely for keeping business accounts and ordering parts, and vintage textbooks on the shelves alongside retro auto magazines and interesting scrap metal art. The walls were gray, and the windows covered by heavy curtains. Tali ripped these open, letting the afternoon sunlight into the room. She bustled over to the closet, discarding article after article of black clothing onto the bed. “Casual restaurant, but none of your ripped jeans,” she mused, holding up a jewel toned red button-down shirt that Arno couldn’t remember ever wearing. “This is nice.” “Where did that even come from?” he asked. “Oh, I bought it for you a few months ago when I was out shopping. I put it in your closet in the hopes that you would just spontaneously wear it, but no such luck. It compliments your horns nicely,” she said. Arno touched his head, grimacing. “Oh, please. You could hide them under your hair if you wanted, but you shave the sides so they’re obvious.” “They still make me look like one of those old, inaccurate bible illustrations,” he said. “I’ll put a hat on you if you don’t shut up,” Tali said, flouncing back into the closet. “Do you own any pants that aren’t ripped?” she called out after a moment, and when he stepped closer she had her hands on her hips and was staring at him. “Maybe?” he said. “Helpful. Why don’t you come in here and look? You need some organizers or something,” she said. Arno squeezed into the closet, which was just large rather than actually being a walk in, as Tali stepped out. After digging around for a few minutes, he produced a pair of matte leather pants that were whole. “This is all I’ve got,” he said. Tali’s eyes lit up, and he groaned. “These are hot,” she said. “Maybe a little too much for a first date, but he’s into you, so it’ll be fine. Who cares what other people think?” She laid the pants and shirt out on the bed, on top of all the discarded options. “Are you going to put those away?” he asked, not hopeful. Tali shook her head. “Now, just boots, of course, and you won’t need a jacket. It’s still nasty humid out. It’s like we don’t even have spring around here; it just jumps straight to summer. Stupid lava demons.” Though she complained, Arno figured she probably didn’t mind that much, considering the fact that she always wore as few clothes as possible even in what passed for winter. “Now just put some gel in your hair and get dressed up. You don’t want to be late to pick him up,” Tali giggled. Lacuna wolf-whistled at him sarcastically when he went to leave, making Tali smack her gently. “Be nice,” she said, sitting up more primly in her position on the couch. “See you guys later,” Arno said, grabbing his riding gloves as he headed down the stairs. In the basement garage was his pride and joy, two retro motorcycles that he had modified to filter their own exhaust. It was clean energy without sacrificing the signature power of the gas engine, and he was proud of the modifications. He had a Harley as well as a more standard bike, which was the one he chose for that evening. He wanted to go fast. He put a helmet in the storage compartment on the back of the bike and mounted up, taking off through the garage door and waiting for it to automatically close behind him before leaving. Sygny had given him an address in a rich area of town, where there were high rise apartment buildings that rented by the floor, full of sophisticated technology and without the lump in the salvaged couch in his warehouse living room, he was sure. He pulled to a stop outside the appropriate building, his bike making a loud spectacle among the shiny facades and sleek new technology that made vehicles whisper quiet. After putting one foot on the ground, Arno pulled out his phone to text Sygny that he was there, five minutes early, but he had barely opened the messaging app when his date appeared at the front door and walked towards him. Shrugging, he shoved the small device back into his pocket. “Shit, are you trying to get me murdered?” Sygny asked before Arno could say anything. He wasn’t smiling, but Arno couldn’t help but appreciate the more toned-down outfit he was wearing. There were still weird details, like asymmetrical sleeves, but Arno found that he didn’t mind them as much as he had the first time they had met. He also appreciated the fact that Sygny was wearing sturdy, if bright blue, boots. “Huh?” he asked intelligently, breaking his gaze from the mage and looking around for possible assailants. “My father is going to kill me for disturbing the neighborhood peace,” he elaborated. “I wouldn’t have had you pick me up if I knew you would be driving that.” He looked genuinely upset, which made Arno feel like crap. “I’m sorry,” he said, meeting Sygny’s gray eyes and speaking with a serious tone. “Let’s get a helmet on you and get out of here, then.” He reached behind him and opened the compartment, passing the helmet to Sygny. Minus one point for you, he thought to himself, though there was no way he could have known his bike would be such a problem. He just thought it was cool. Sygny settled in behind him, and Arno looked over his shoulder to make sure he was ready to go. “Hey, why aren’t you wearing a helmet?” Sygny asked, trying to play at the same shtick he had brought when he caught Arno smoking in the garage. Arno, hesitant to cause more problems, decided to reply seriously. “My horns get in the way, and I’m too cheap to get one modified. You ready?” He saw Sygny nod in his peripheral vision, and with that he took off, driving conservatively through the streets until he reached the city proper. When he gunned it, he felt Sygny grab his waist, thumbs digging into his kidneys in an attempt to keep from crushing completely against him, but he didn’t stop his companion. The grip didn’t feel like fear, and he heard Sygny laugh before the breeze he was creating snatched it away. When they parked outside the restaurant Sygny stepped off the bike with care, staring at Arno once he pulled the helmet off. “Hoverbikes don’t go that fast,” he said. “Nope,” Arno said, unable to stop himself from grinning after the exhilaration of the ride. “There’s no substitute for a real gas-powered engine.” “I want one,” he said, his concerns about his father and neighbors seemingly forgotten in the moment. “Maybe when you learn not to crash your hoverbike into a lava puddle,” Arno said, smiling as he took the helmet to show that he wasn’t really being mean. “Whatever,” Sygny said, but there was no venom in it. With the helmet stored they walked into the restaurant. It was casual, so Arno hadn’t need to make a reservation. While busy, there were still tables available, and a hostess led them to one in a corner. Arno took the seat against the back wall, looking out at the other guests. A server came almost immediately to pour them tea, and the menu illuminated on the tablet built into the table, waiting for them to make their selections. Arno clicked “Do Not Disturb” on the tablet, meaning that the server would only come by if they ordered something and she was dropping it off. Whoever had decided that was a good idea to include in restaurant software was probably a billionaire. “What do you like?” Arno asked Sygny, his fingers hovering over the menu. This location wasn’t classy enough to serve real fish, but he liked it well enough and their imitation products were quite believable. Sygny took a sip of his tea and peered over at the tablet. “I don’t see anything I don’t like,” he said, “so you can pick.” Arno shrugged, taking Sygny’s assertion at face value. “Well, if there turns out to be something you don’t want, then I’ll just eat it.” He keyed in an appetizer of pot stickers and then several different sushi rolls, plenty of food for the two of them. When Sygny’s attention was caught by something over by the kitchen he also ordered a mochi ice cream dessert. Sending the order off he leaned back in his chair, smiling. Though he projected an air of confidence, he was actually terrified. The last time he had been on a date… Arno thought, but he could barely remember. Probably when he was still in school, but the name of the guy wouldn’t come to him. Sygny tipped his chair back onto two legs, earning a side eye from a server that he was oblivious too. Whether it was an act or not, he just seemed happy. Arno hoped that he was forgiven for the motorcycle incident. It was not surprising when Sygny brought it up, though. “So, isn’t it bad for the environment to ride that thing?” he asked, gesturing out to the parking area. “No, actually,” Arno replied, exhaling in relief. This was a safe subject, for the most part. “In school we learned all about clean energy options, of course, though some people still drive old gas-fueled vehicles and we worked on those, too. I had this idea that I could combine the two, and I managed to do it. It scrubs the exhaust before it hits the open air.” “If you sold something like that, you would be rich,” Sygny said, and then he dropped his gaze. “I mean if you wanted. I’m not saying you’re poor or anything. I’m just used to people wanting to make the most money possible off anything because my father—” Arno reached across the table, which wasn’t very large, and put his hand on Sygny’s shoulder. The younger man’s eyes snapped up, going wide. He clearly knew that he had been rambling, but Arno smiled. “Hey, don’t worry about it. I don’t really care about money though. I’ll put the scrubber on someone’s engine if they want it; it’s not a secret, but if I was wealthy I’d have to deal with annoying great demons and all that crap. I’m a pretty simple person, myself. I don’t want to be involved in demon politics.” “Oh, that makes sense, don’t worry about it,” Sygny said. Arno leaned back for a moment, having spotted their server. She dropped the pot stickers off, and Sygny licked his lips. “Hungry?” Arno asked. “Always,” Sygny replied, and picked up his chopsticks to snag one of the dough pockets. Their conversation resumed around their meal, Sygny eating his share easily despite his slim frame and small size. As promised, there was nothing he didn’t dig into with gusto; apparently, sushi had been a good choice. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Lacuna had asked Sygny what he liked and prominently suggested it. She was crafty and would do something of that nature just to see if it would work. As they spoke, the topics ranged from hobbies, where Sygny was surprised to learn just how often Arno worked out; he was apparently pretty lazy outside of the required physical training need to perform magic, and preferred to hang out on the internet or play video games. He also seemed pleased with how knowledgeable Arno was in matters of science; the mechanic knew that he often gave off the air that he was just muscle, but he was proud of his education and how hard he had worked to get it. They found common ground there, as magic was just science on demonic steroids, and Sygny explained the theory behind how magic was passed through genetics, revealing that his mother had been purely human, but a gifted fortune teller with extrasensory perception. The plates were clean before either of them realized, and Arno found himself smiling much more often than he usually did. However, he couldn’t find any way to talk about how he wasn’t really one for the type of relationships most popular in the twenty-second century without seeming like a dick. Arno had just spotted the server coming their way with the ice cream he had ordered when Sygny made innocent looking eye contact with him and asked, “So, do you have a tail, too?” He pressed his fingers to the top of his head, indicating Arno’s horns. He smiled, and Arno could tell that he was trying to be flirty rather than rude. Thankfully, he was saved from having to answer the question immediately by dessert. Three little balls of ice cream decorated the plate, each a different flavor. The server had brought spoons as well, and Arno reached over to the plate to slice each mochi in half. Arno took a bite, savoring the strawberry flavor as it melted on his tongue. “You didn’t answer me,” Sygny giggled, making a mock grouchy face. His expression turned to stunned when Arno blushed, the color almost a deep enough red to match his eyes. “Sorry,” he said, sticking his spoon in the ice cream and looking down. Arno recovered after a moment but didn’t answer. Even worse than his horns, in his opinion, was his tail. A lot of part-demons had them, but, once again, he was cursed with the stereotypical type, a thin red whip with an arrowhead point. He always kept it wrapped around his waist under his belt. Not for the first time, he wished he looked even a little bit unique. “I really am sorry,” Sygny said, and when Arno met his eyes there was clear remorse in his expression. “Don’t worry about it,” he replied quickly. The ice cream was almost gone, but Sygny had left a piece of the strawberry. He waved his spoon toward Arno, indicating that he should have it. “Thanks,” he said. He quickly paid the bill on the tablet, debiting his account for the meal and an appropriate tip for “Do Not Disturb” service. Sygny walked out next to him, close enough that their arms brushed. Arno realized he was probably being too aloof, and he smiled at the mage when he handed him the extra helmet. “Do you want me to drop you off somewhere else?” Arno asked. “Nah, it’s okay. I’ve decided I don’t care if my dad has a fit about it. He’ll just find something else to complain about if it’s not this,” Sygny replied, but he looked worried. As soon as Arno got him off the subject of his father he was outgoing and confident, but he saw the pattern of behavior when the man was brought up. Arno clenched his fist, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. “Okay,” he said; it wasn’t in his nature to argue things that like. Sygny put the helmet on and they mounted the bike. This time he didn’t try to keep himself pulled away from Arno, and clutched his body tightly with both arms. Closer to his ear this time, Arno could hear Sygny’s giggle of excitement as they rushed through the city like a speeding bullet, always in the fast lanes. The ride was too short, taking barely a few minutes, but Arno was acutely aware of Sygny’s warm presence at his back the whole time. Arno cut the engine when they stopped, as to annoy fewer neighbors, and Sygny let go of him slowly. He pulled the helmet off and handed it to Arno, who stowed it. “Thank you so much for taking me out,” Sygny said, bouncing on his toes from the adrenaline of the ride. He reached out and hugged Arno, surprising him. Before he could reciprocate Sygny had let go. “Good night!” he said. “Good night,” Arno replied, though Sygny was already heading inside.
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