Short Story: Rooftop Reprised

He would never stop regretting that a year ago his weaving had picked the worst possible time to return. It had forced him away from his pair right before they would have become his pair and left them without his protection.

(I got a request for a story about my trio either on their first date or their anniversary. I ended up combining both ideas into them reenacting their first date on their anniversary. This would take place a year after book 1 [Colorweaver].)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "Rooftop Reprised"


Etri stood atop the roof of his wagon-home and surveyed what frequently served as his floor. It wasn't exactly the same as the previous roof. The propelling fan was an updated and larger model and the piping for the plumbing was attached to the right side rather than the left, but he doubted Blythe or Adair would care much that those things were different from this day a year ago. All Adair was likely to pay any attention to was the "floor" being larger and this was likely to put him more at ease, not less. Adair's comfort was really what worried Etri about this plan. He was gradually overcoming his fear of heights, largely due to short sessions sitting up here on calm days, yet Etri fretted that the time spent up here today would be too long for him. He wanted Adair to enjoy this, not have reason to panic. He whispered a plea to the Creators to keep this night still of any wind.

Adair placed an unsteady foot onto the roof, followed by another, before he slowly released his grip on the ladder. His eyes were scrunched tight and his knuckles drained of color from clutching the rails with all of his strength. Etri took a few steps towards him, then fought his legs to stop moving. As much as he wanted to reach out to comfort Adair, he kept his distance. Adair had said before that he needed to do this on his own. He did move towards Etri, more than likely sensing the location of his sentinel through their link rather than through closed eyes, and the ghost of a smile was forming on his lips-- until a slight gust of wind, no more than a breeze, made him sink to his knees with a whimper. Etri caught him in his arms in an instant and led him away from the edge.

"I still think this is a cheesy idea." Blythe's words were followed a few seconds later by her head appearing over the side of the wagon's roof. When she noticed Adair's current state, she scrambled up the last few rungs and reached for his hand.

Adair took a few deep breaths, and to the relief of all three of them, the breeze abated. When it seemed it would remain calm for at least the moment, Adair squeezed their hands and stepped away. It was towards the center of the roof, not the ladder, which filled Etri's heart with pride for Adair's courage. He didn't wanted to force Adair up here and if he chose to stay, it meant he was comfortable with this idea.

Once Adair was in what was likely the exact center of the roof, he sat with his arms wrapped around his knees and gave Blythe a smile almost its normal level of sunniness. "I think it's a sweet idea. Etch never got to ask us out that day and if we're going to count today as our anniversary, I want to know how it would have gone if... you know... hadn't happened."

Etri couldn't help wincing even though Adair didn't mean his comment in a cruel way. He would never stop regretting that a year ago his weaving had picked the worst possible time to return. It had forced him away from his pair right before they would have become his pair and left them without his protection. Blythe rubbed his back lightly and whispered, "It's okay," before before she went to sit next to Adair.

"I didn't say it was a bad idea, just a cheesy one." She reached behind Adair to pat the roof where Etri had sat before. "Come here and ask us out."

Adair nudged her with his shoulder. "Blade! We're not supposed to say that. It'll be more fun if we pretend it was like last year, right?"

Blythe let out one of her overdramatic sighs and flopped onto her back against the smoothed, sealed wood that still smelled new. With luck the roof would hopefully be warmer now despite the day being chillier than last year. Etri knew in advance this time that they'd be up here for a while, so he'd asked Sol and Firedrake to put some of their fire weaving into the wood. He hoped it wouldn't be enough for his pair to notice. He did want to play by the script, but not enough to sit on something so cold for as long as this would take. When he sat on Adair's other side, just as he had last time, Adair kissed him on the cheek before laying on his back next to Blythe.

It was Blythe's turn to nudge Adair. "I saw that. I know you didn't do that last time."

"But I really wanted to. Does that count?"

Although Etri couldn't see it, he was pretty sure she was rolling her eyes. "You're the one who wanted to stick to the plan. No kisses yet."

Adair kissed her so fast he was a blur before leaning back to cover his eyes with his arm. Before she could protest again, he said, "Okay, last time I was freaking out about the roof. I kinda still am, so the distraction thing you both did last time sounds really good right now."

Etri slid closer until his knee brushed Adair's side. He knew he'd done this before because nervousness had made for a solid memory. He'd been so worried then that Adair would notice how close he was-- or even worse, wouldn't notice. Adair grinned at him from under his arm, the wide smile that always made Etri's insides turn to mush, which meant he'd noticed now and would have noticed last time. Heat rose in Etri's cheeks, which was something that only happened around these two. Flustered was okay, however, because a year ago he'd also been flustered, so he was playing by the rules.

He attempted to keep his voice steady and knew he hadn't succeeded back then, either. "I believe we spoke of the stars. Blade could not find Chiaroscuro and you attempted to help her without knowing which it was yourself."

At least the sky was as clear now as it was previously. If this continued each year, they should make it a tradition if Adair didn't mind being taken to the roof each time. Judging from how well he was handling it, his fear of heights had abated to a manageable level.

Adair chuckled, another sign he wasn't nearly as frightened as he had first been tonight, and moved his arm so he could take Blythe's hand. "Mostly because I wanted an excuse to hold her hand. And before she says anything again, now I'm back in character. I think it's those stars right about there."

As Adair said this, he pointed upwards with their joined hands. Their wrists were oddly bare without their ribbons, but this would be amended soon. Blythe rested her head against Adair's, which made Etri smile as it had last year. That deceptively simple motion from her had been the confirmation of Etri's assumption. He'd known then that his question was unlikely to be turned down-- he just hadn't been given the opportunity to ask until much later.

Blythe squinted at the sky. "I still don't see it. I never was any good at this."

Her words got Etri's lips to twitch again. Blythe had never improved at spotting the constellations despite a career involving memorization and creation of patterns for healing. Etri had a theory about why she struggled with something at which she should excel. Either she was playing at purposely obtuse so he and Adair would move closer to her to point out the stars or she was simply being stubborn on her point about the constellation-Muse myths being silly. Knowing Blythe, she would claim the second when the reason was entirely the first.

The sound of her throat clearing caught Etri's attention the same time Adair brushed his thigh with his other hand. Adair's touch was gone in an instant, fast enough for Blythe not to comment on this deviation. With their reminder that it was his turn to speak a line, Etri leaned in over Adair and pointed up. "It is that one. You see the two bright stars near each other, yes?"

A year into a relationship with these two and his heart still got a little fluttery every time he was near enough to Adair to feel his warmth. He would swear Adair possessed lightweaving if not for the fact that he tended to avoid fire if it was for anything other than cooking. Adair simply had a mundane yet irresistible kind of warmth that drew Etri to him like a moth to flame.

Blythe snorted the laugh Etri always found so strangely endearing. "They're all bright, Etch. They're stars."

Adair moved closer to her until his side was pressed against hers, surely much closer than he had been a year ago... or perhaps not. Blythe didn't comment on this as Adair pointed from their shared vantage point. "Oh. There. If Etch showed me from there, I would have gotten it by now."

Etri's cheeks and skin warmed with that pleasant flush again. This time it was only partially to do with the proximity to Adair as Etri closed the distance between them until his leg was once again resting against Adair's hip. Etri was sure Blythe's words were the exact ones she'd said before or at least close enough to be as he remembered them. Now, however, he knew for sure what she'd meant by it. She'd wanted him as near her as Adair was. His past self was too obtuse to notice, so unfortunately he couldn't do it now.

Perhaps replaying earlier events was not the best use of their time, but the next line was his again. "You know I do not like laying on this cold surface. Sitting is chilly enough."

Blythe shot him a grin that could only be described as vulpine and this meant the comments which unsettled him so much before were about to return. He truly was doubting the wisdom of this idea. With a wink she hadn't done last time-- probably for the best because Etri's fluster would have burst him into flames on the spot despite possessing weaving the opposite of fire-- she said, "I never did knit you a butt warmer."

Adair elbowed her again and answered her impish grin with one of his own. "Wrong tense. You didn't know about the butt warmer in advance so you couldn't have known to say you never did make a thing for his butt... Or something like that. Either way you mean pants. Butt warmers are pants."

Etri was positive Adair hadn't said that particular word at all last time. A year of friendship with the ridiculous Sol had left Adair no longer bashful about saying the word "butt." Sol was a terrible influence.

"Pah, tenses smenses. And butt warmers don't have to be pants. I could design something else for Etch's butt that would keep his butt warm."

Apparently Blythe was as bad an influence. Now Etri knew they were purposely going off script to fluster him. He meant it as much now as he had a year ago when he asked, "Please may we not talk about my posterior?"

When the laughter of his pair faded and they caught their breaths, the three of them realized they'd caught up with where the date would change from the previous experience. Etri sensed their worry, although not the cause behind it; the link was never as precise as thoughts or reasons. Surely they didn't think his weaving would go strange simply from the conversation itself.

Etri's fingers wrapped around the pair of ribbons in his pocket. The ribbons were the same as before, but the loose embroidery threads and frayed edges tangled around his fingers in a way they hadn't then. Neither Blythe nor Adair had wanted to to take these off and only reluctantly agreed when Etri explained his plan to make this day more authentic. His heartbeat sped up and he hoped they couldn't tell this through their link. It was ridiculous to be nervous when they had already said yes. This was their anniversary, not a true first date.

Still, Etri couldn't meet their eyes as he took the knotting ribbons from his pocket and clutched them tightly in his hand. After a year of constant wear, both were equally faded and tattered; the orange embroidery on one and the brown on the other had washed out into a mutual dull tan. Perhaps it was symbolic that ribbons for two separate troupes had become as one just as Etri and his pair had helped form a single new troupe. Those contemplations aside, Etri had pointed out to his loves on multiple occasions that they were full members of all three troupes in their own right and could claim their own ribbons and display them however they wished. They no longer needed Etri as a voucher to be a part of those troupes. Neither Blythe nor Adair liked this idea and wanted to keep wearing his on their wrists. It was a little like how they kept stealing his shirts, he supposed. It was sweet, but one of these days he was going to run out of clothes and would also need to give them new ribbons before they frayed to the point of falling off.

With ribbons in the hand he kept close to his heart, Etri lowered himself onto his side and reached across Adair to take their joined hands in his. Now was the reason he'd wanted the rooftop heated because it was unlikely he could stand the chill of a winter surface for long. Adair was so warm, though... Despite his original plan, Etri nuzzled at Adair's cheek where the black whorls stained his skin. When Blythe snorted a laugh, he reluctantly pulled away from the warmth to glance over at her.

"You wouldn't have done that then. And neither would he," she added as Adair gave a disappointed sigh and gently pulled Etri back to him with the hand not held.

"Like frit I wouldn't have." Adair's fingers wove their way through Etri's hair as Etri nuzzled at his neck and now his sigh was of contentment. "I so would have done this given the chance. He was going to ask us out, remember? Of course I'd have let him kiss me. This definitely would have happened."

Blythe's disbelieving "hmph" sound was silenced when Etri brought their joined hands to his lips, first kissing hers then pressing his lips to Adair's. His stomach no long felt so knotted and the beat of his heart had slowed, although it felt so full it might burst. His pair was the most calming and wonderful thing that had ever existed in his life.

Etri let go of their hands to gently knot a ribbon around each of their wrists. Perhaps his pair was on to something with their desire to keep these specific ribbons. These were a visual confirmation that Blythe and Adair were his and he was theirs, just as much as the Artisan bracelets they each wore on the opposite wrist confirmed their relationship in Adair's circle. "You will wear my ribbons and become a part of my troupe and my heart, yes?"

Adair let out a sound somewhere between a squeal and a yelp and pulled Etri down into a tight hug. Etri had the feeling he would have responded precisely the same way a year ago.

"I thought you'd never ask," Blythe replied when Adair finally loosened his hold. For someone so small he was rather like an octopus when it came to hugs-- a tight grip and far too many limbs than could possibly exist.

Etri sat up and propped himself on his elbow so he could see her better, gently levering himself away from what felt like five arms. "Is that a comment on now or is it how you would have answered then?"

She leaned in to kiss him softly as Adair nuzzled against his chest. When she pulled away it was with a mischievous smirk on her face. "Both. As if any answer to you could have possibly been anything other than yes. Or a weird sound in Addy's case. What was that?"

"The sound of a really happy artist. Creators, I would have said yes long before that day." Adair pulled away so he could look up at both of them. "Hey, you know what would be fun? Picking another day and asking us then!"

Now it was Etri's turn to sink onto his back and cover his face with his arm. "Please do not ask that. My heart cannot take the stress."

A hand brushed his chest and he couldn't be sure whose it was. It didn't matter because when Blythe spoke, Etri know it was with the same words Adair would have used; he'd voiced this phrase more than enough times for Etri to know his thoughts. "Our hearts beat as one, remember? Yours can handle plenty of stress. Besides, I think it's Addy's turn to try this out since he's so keen on it."

If she thought that was going to deter Adair, she was wrong. More likely she'd meant it as the encouragement for which it was taken. "I'd love to! Just one thing."

"No roofs," Etri and Blythe said at the same time.

"I was going to say no taking away my ribbon again, but sure, that too. The ground would be a much better choice. But I was thinking more along the lines of a campfire? You know, like the night after we met?"

Blythe's groan sounded less elevated than her voice was a moment before. Etri peeked under his arm to find her laying in the same position he was, with her hands covering her face. "Addy, we would not have started dating the day we met you."

"You speak only for yourself," Etri said as he rolled onto his side to wrap his arm around Adair's stomach. "He emits much warmth. I am quite sure in mid-winter I would have knotted him for that alone."

"That's sound logic right there." Adair was trying to hold back a laugh from the way his body and voice shook. "See, we could have been doing this a long time ago."

Blythe pushed herself up and climbed to her feet. "You both are hopeless. I'm going inside where there's warmth besides our artist and a slightly heated floor. You forgot Addy and I can see weaving as a glow, didn't you? Pfft. Butt warmers, indeed."

CONVERSATION

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