to keep us side by side Jan 16, 2020 3:34:51 GMT -5
Post by WT on Jan 16, 2020 3:34:51 GMT -5
"You could," you agree, softening to match the note in Kette's voice that isn't quite a joke anymore but still smiling in case she decides to laugh it off after all. You still aren't entirely sure how seriously she means any of her flirting, and you've hesitated to lean into it, even when you would with anyone else, for the same reasons it never would have even occurred to you to flirt first; she's been with Illario for as long as you've known her, and in all that time they've been happily and specifically devoted to each other. But she doesn't flirt habitually—only with you, and only recently, and as readily in front of Illario as alone. Maybe she's only joking, but you'd be surprised, and now—while you have them both and the kids are occupied—seems as good a time as any to clarify. "If Illario doesn't mind."
They look at you for a quiet moment, Kette with her dark eyes incisive and bright and Illario obscured but calm in your peripheral vision, before Kette turns a mock-mournful face skyward. "I had plans for this conversation," she says. "It was going to be nice."
"This is nice." You know what she meant, but you mean your part, too. You're cold but comfortable, tucked against Illario's side for warmth and with your fingers bundled in Kette's where she reached over the table to claim them after you pulled your feet away from the others' to press your toes into the warm spaces behind your knees. Every time you pull your hand away from Kette's and lean away from Illario to sip your cocoa, both of them are there waiting when you settle back into place, and your rock hums where it's pillowed on your sweater, the only presence at the table steadier than your friends. Once in a while Rune's or Vibeke's voice makes it to you through the din of shouting children on the rink, where they're still rocketing around the ice with abandon well after the three of you tapped out. For once the world feels safe, feels easy—only for now, you know all too well, but you also know to take these moments where you find them. Whatever happens later, this will always have been a place of fire-lit color and a blanket of cheerful voices.
"Illario and I talked about it." Kette looks back down at you with a crinkle to her face that belies her grumbling. "I was going to make dinner."
Illario laughs, more of a movement beside you than a sound. "You can't beat everyone to the chase."
"You didn't have to marry me," Kette says, her eyes dancing, "if it mattered that much who got their ring out first."
Grinning, you lean your head against Illario's shoulder to wait out a round of well-worn teasing—then lift it sharply and sit up as bits of that exchange collide somewhere in the back of your mind. "Kette," you say before Illario has a chance to answer her, trying not to sound like you would be spinning your rock if you had your other hand on. You know what to say when a near-stranger asks you to coffee, to dinner, to bed—how to find out what they want and tell them as gently as possible if it doesn't match what they should expect, how to explain what you can and can't offer. You don't know what to say to one of the people who helped you figure those explanations out to begin with, patiently fielding a stream of questions a decade ago about what being in love felt like and how you could tell when it happened. Or didn't. Maybe this would have been a better conversation to have back in the familiar comfort of Twelve, after all. "Kette, not that I'm not flattered if you were planning to—" you fumble for a better word, given that she's already married, and find nothing— "propose—"
"Hey, back up," she says warmly, squeezing your hand. You blink down at the bright web of your gloves, torn between the familiar automatic impulse to return the gesture and a nearly-as-familiar quiet anxiety that accepting offered affection makes a promise that won't be fair not to keep. "I wanted to tell you I'm in love with you because I wanted you to know, not because I expected you to do anything. I love you, not whoever you would be if you changed for me."
You try to remember the last time someone said that without making an argument of it and come up blank. Somehow, that relaxes you—not the reminder that conversations like this have gone wrong, but the reminder that Kette knows why they have, and knows what all the different absentminded or deliberate ways you reach out to other people mean and what they never will. You finally squeeze her hand back. "I don't want you to feel like... like there's something you're not doing right."
"And I'll worry about that if I ever do anything wrong." You raise your eyebrows affectionately while Illario laughs quietly again, and Kette's smile and the tilt of her head lose their bluster. "Ara, I don't want you to feel like I think your friendship is something to settle for. I don't love you more than you love me, or better, or more than I loved you last year, that's not how this works. We don't—you don't have to change a thing to make me happy." She pauses. "Though I'm not arguing, if you're serious about kissing you."
You tilt your face toward Illario, knowing that the quiet way he's been sipping cider through this conversation is an answer in itself but also knowing you need to hear it aloud. "You don't care?"
"Not the way you're asking. I love you both, I care about your lives. But no, I'm not jealous." He shrugs. "When I asked Kette out—" from somewhere under the table comes a whisper of fabric as one of them nudges the other with a foot— "I already knew I was spending my life with you. You didn't change my mind about each other, I'm not going to think you having something I'm not part of means either of you doesn't care about me."
Something old in you, as long as it's been since you realized you were more to Illario than the ward of a woman he felt indebted to, still catches in your throat at how casually certain he can be about people when he always steps so carefully with numbers and plans. "That simple?"
"I would be hurt if you—I don't know, convinced Kette to divorce me behind my back so you could elope." Kette snorts; you shoot her a look at the interruption, but don't try to hide the corners of your mouth twitching upward in agreement. "Realistically? I'm happy if the two of you are happy. That simple."
You smile and press your shoulder back into his briefly before you look back at Kette, expression sobering. "If we try this," you say, "will it hurt you if I keep seeing other people?"
She frowns. "I told you I'm not asking you to change anything for me. I don't want you to stop doing things that make you happy. And I'm not dumping Illario."
"Thanks," he puts in, and there's a slightly louder rustle of fabric this time as Kette shoves him with a foot.
"You're still allowed to say yes. Please say yes, if that's the answer."
"I don't think so," Kette says slowly. "You'd tell them about me, right?"
"Then I know where we stand, and I know it has nothing to do with anyone else."
You study her face. "You're sure?"
"I haven't been upset before." She sways your still-linked hands over the table, careful of your cocoa. "I understand why you're asking, but I honestly think you're overthinking this bit."
"We're never quite going to be on the same page about this," you say, smiling a little ruefully. "I'd rather work that out now than find out it's a problem later, that's all."
Kette opens her mouth, but Illario gets there first. "Limestone."
You both turn to look at him. After a confused beat, you're the one who asks, "What?"
"Limestone," he repeats after a sip of cider, looking pleased with himself. "It has different bits, right? Fossils and crystals. But it's one rock."
Kette laughs like a crystal herself, clear and smooth and delighted. "If there's a fossil here, it's you." Two years, Illario mouths, shaking his head, and she reaches across to pat his arm conciliatorily with her free hand. "Don't worry, we—Aranica, are you crying?"
"Not yet," you say, but even if it comes out a little choked, you're smiling easily now. Illario has never entirely understood how you are with rocks—you think you and the rocks themselves are the only ones who do—but he tries, in the ways that he can without hearing them.
Fuck, you got lucky with the people in your life.
"Alright," you say, your voice clearer. "Kette, tell me if things aren't working for you, and I'll trust you and not worry. I'll worry less," you correct at the look she gives you, because she's right. "Promise."
The teasing glimmer in her eyes doesn't fade all the way, but all she says, earnestly, is, "Okay."
"Okay," you echo.
She blinks at you as though waiting for more, then tilts her head a fraction when you only smile at her. "Is that an okay, next topic, or, okay, that's settled and yes you can kiss me now, or—?"
Not everything is settled. There will be things to discuss later—what to tell Vibeke and Rune and when, whether to say anything to any of your other friends, all the small details about how both of you want to approach this. But for now, laughing, you tug her forward by your joined hands to kiss her first.
title song is the acoustic version of "The Shade" by Metric.
shoutout to Shrimp for the table!
I started writing this because I realized I didn't know what to call Kette in the npc directory I'm [haphazardly and intermittently] working on. I... still don't. whoops. (whatever you call it when party A catches romance feelings and party B loves her a lot but is decisively aro but sometimes they smooch and that's pleasant and meanwhile parties A and C are in mutual romance and sometimes B also sleeps with other people but everyone involved knows what's up with everyone else so it's chill. (this is an angst-free arrangement, okay, there's enough angst in the rest of Aranica's life.)) (tangentially: I think it did not necessarily occur to Aranica, when she was younger, that people might often expect for sex to imply 1. romantic sentiment and 2. exclusivity, because there was zero drama after her and Mace's fling so it's always going to go like that right? and it didn't always go like that, and she legitimately hurt a partner or two before she figured these things out. but she got there eventually.)
but at least there's this now? which I'm largely throwing online so I can make myself stop fussing with it, but which I'm also glad I wrote—if nothing else, because I don't think I've ever directly canonically addressed Aranica being aromantic, and I like that that's where this character who is so guided and grounded by all the forms of love in her life has settled.