Itoshigo - beloved dear child

He was brushing his hair, facing the mirror, and could see the muscular man coming up behind him. He could see the lascivious look on the other man's face.
Not tonight, Gateau, he said, frowning. He put down the hairbrush and stood up, walking straight past the dumbstruck blonde.
Wha -? Not tonight? Marron what's -?
The other man just continued to frown and dropped his robe, hanging it on a hook by the bed. He got into his side of the bed, pulling the sheets over his half-naked body. Half in a daze, Gateau followed Marron into bed.
Laying his hand on the pale, taut shoulder, he was dismayed to feel it tighten under his touch. Marron turned over, his back to Gateau, and said nothing.
What's got you so surly, Marron-chan? he said, wishing he could figure the man out sometimes. But the beautiful man said nothing. Amazing how well Marron retained his youth and beauty. As Gateau was beginning to fear that he was fading, Marron looked not a day over twenty. If you don't tell me what's the matter, how can I fix it?
What makes you think you could? snapped Marron, not turning over to face him.
Taken aback once again, the blonde was quiet for a moment. Please, Marron... Whatever I did, I'm sorry. It amazed him, also, how like a woman Marron could be: Gateau never knew what it was he did to upset his lover. Well, he hardly ever knew.
Marron snorted. It's not something you did. Rather something you didn't do - can't do.
exclaimed Gateau.
A heavy silence filled room as Gateau waited patiently for the other man to expound.
Finally, Marron spoke again, quietly. Thirty. Thirty, Gateau.
Oh gods... How like a woman he could get sometimes!
I turned thirty today. Do you know what that means?
Attempting humour, he replied, That you're still three years younger than me?
It means that this spring we'll have been together thirteen years.
Oh no...
You know, that's as long as long as Niisan and Tira have been married.
mused the warrior sentimentally.
Yes, longer. Marron's voice was not soft, but bitter. What was he getting at? If it wasn't aging, and it wasn't some issue about anniversaries... Then what?
He moved his calloused hands from Marron's shoulder to his lower back, massaging gently. Marron, I really don't get where you're coming from..
His lover let out a sad, heavy sigh. Are you really that clueless, Gateau? Gateau really didn't know what to say. You mean to tell me that you don't feel it?
What? Feel what?
I suppose so.
Another lengthy pause followed, while Marron screwed up the courage to say what he was about to say, at the same time, berating himself for his fear. After thirteen years, after all!
Oh my gods, you want to get married! Gateau exclaimed before Marron could say anything.
Wha -? No! gasped Marron.
You -?
I mean, it's not what I meant!
Well, then, what, dammit!
I'm jealous, he finally spat out.
It seemed as though Marron just wasn't going to stop surprising him that night. What? Of who?
... Of my brother and Tira.
Huhn? Why? Carrot definitely didn't have anything on them!
He laughed softly. You are so naive!
Gateau's mouth moved like a gaping fish out of water as he tried to think of something to say in return to that blatant insult.
Don't you see... Niisan has children!
Oh my gods, Marron!
He laughed again, more bitterly. I thought you'd think I was crazy... But I have this... I want a child, Gateau.
he said, suppressing a laugh rather unsuccessfully, you have maternal instincts!
Don't laugh, Gateau! Marron exclaimed, turning over.
Upon seeing his beau's face, Gateau lost whatever mirth he might have had. I'm sorry, Marron.
I don't really understand it myself. Kami, Gateau, I love you. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone in my entire life, I'm sure. He made a hopeless face. But - What do I have to prove for it? Occasionally an extremely sore ass, an that's about it.
Gateau sniggered, knowing that was all too true.
But I'm serious! Something of my own blood! A child! Not adoption, he said quickly, cutting off the suggestion in Gateau's eyes. It's just not the same, I'm sorry to say. Besides, I've thought about it. They don't often let couples like us adopt.
Couples like us? asked Gateau, incensed. How the hell are we any different than anyone else, dammit?
We're not... Not really... But the the narrow-minded outside world, this wouldn't be a suitable environment to raise children in.
Like hell it isn't!
Don't be angry, Gateau, love. It's not about that. Really, I want a child that has our mark on them. Not some beautiful orphan, no. Something our own.
But, Marron, without a sex change, that's physically impossible.
I know, he replied forlornly.
Another long pause, this one quite hollow for all their like of ideas.
What if -! No... Gateau said, cutting himself off.

It's stupid.
Marron laughed a little. It can't be any stupider than a sex change.
Chuckling himself, Gateau said, Well... I was just thinking... We could find someone who would be willing to bear the child for us.
You mean, one of us... inseminate... some random woman...? That seems awful, Gateau.
Not some random woman! One of our friends, or something!
Well, then, Gateau, replied Marron in a mockingly cheerful voice, that leaves the choice between Chocolate and one of your lesbian friends!
Flustered, Gateau sought for words. Well, OK, d'you have any better ideas?
No, but... Well, who?
I'm sure as hell not letting Chocolate have my child!
No. I mean, which of us. Which one of us would be the one to...
After a long, thoughtful pause, they both said, Well, you - before stopping and staring at each other in horror. In unison, they both exclaimed
A long moment passed where they stared at each other with a mixture of horror and mirth. Gateau broke the silence, saying, Well, Marron, you're the better half of our couple, you know! Handsome, smart. The kid sure wouldn't get any smart juice from me!
How can you - ! Me?? Marron looked absolutely flustered, and slightly disgusted, if Gateau knew him at all. I'm not even bisexual, Gateau!
Oh, don't do that, Marron! said Gateau, unable to suppress a laugh.
Well, you are!
But I'm not about to go fuck someone else!
Well - Well neither am I!!
Laughing, Gateau pulled Marron against his chest, where he felt that Marron was also laughing.
This is ridiculous, Marron mumbled into Gateau's skin. Just... forget about it...
But Gateau couldn't just forget about it. What Marron had said touched him, somewhere in his semi-conscious. Something of his own blood. Yes, he knew the feeling. Just like Marron, he had felt it at Carrot and Tira's house. Sitting on the patio in the red-lit twilight, watching Marron's nephews crawl all over their Uncle's lap, Gateau, too, had felt some twinge of jealousy. He'd felt some longing for that. Some wish to be He craved the pride he'd seen in Carrot's eyes as he watched his children. Gateau, too, wanted children. So, long after Marron had fallen asleep against Gateau's chest, his breathing warm and even against his bare skin, Gateau had stayed awake and thought about the issue his lover had raised.

Gateau woke up the next morning with the perfect idea, only to find that Marron was already awake and out of bed. In fact, the smell of food wafting through the house seemed to suggest that he was downstairs making breakfast.
He sprung out of bed and dressed quickly, and padded, or, rather, thudded, downstairs.
Good morning, Kitten! he called as he waltzed into the kitchen. There was Marron, wearing only his pants, standing over a frying pan with omelette in it. He stalked up behind Marron and draped his arms around his shoulders.
Look out, Gateau, he warned genially, hot frying pan. Don't want to spoil your breakfast!
the blonde replied with a smile, sitting down at the round table. He helped himself to some of the tea that was sitting on the table. He sipped the scalding tea, watching Marron cut the sweet egg into strips and attach it to small pads of rice.
Marron happened to be, much to Gateau's constant delight, a fabulous cook. He could've been a professional chef, if he'd gotten the training. Instead, he was teaching at the school, Master of Magic. Gateau also had a position there, as Second Combat Master. Marron ranked higher than he did, and was a tough taskmaster at times, but he loved the children. He was great with the students - an excellent teacher. Gateau enjoyed it, too. Neither of them would have given up their positions for anything.
His lover put down the tray the tray of sushi and seated himself. Gateau stretched across the table to give Marron a sloppy kiss. Sitting back, Gateau looked at Marron, and murmured, Gods, I love you.
Why, because I make good tomago? teased Marron.
No, because you're absolutely perfect.
replied Marron, taking his turn leaning across the table to kiss his lover.
After Gateau had eaten his fill, he looked up at Marron, who had been watching him with a gentle smile on his face.
I had a thought last night, about our conversation last night... Gateau began.
said Marron, calmly sipping his tea.
He gulped, and said one word:
Marron sputtered.
Eclaire could be the mother...
Gateau, that's incest!
I thought we decided you were going to be the one to do, Marron-chan...
We never decided anything! And we certainly didn't decide that!
He tried to reckon with his lover. Marron -
I'm not making love my my sister-in-law.
Your what? We aren't married, Marron.
I know that! But it's the same thing, nevertheless.
Look, Marron, you're the one who wanted a child... I think it's a wonderful idea, I'd love a child, but neither of us can come up with a better idea...
I ... just... Gateau, I love you. It feels wrong. I'm not really comfortable with the idea of...
Gateau reached across the table and caught Marron's face in his large hand. I'll write to Eclaire, and see how she feels... Maybe it'll happen, maybe not. But I think it's worth a try...
Marron hesitated for long seconds. O... Okay...

Marron was in the middle of a class on Earth Magics when he noticed that Gateau had appeared in the doorway, watching the class. It was an extremely strenuous lesson, and so Marron had to tune out his presence until the period had ended.
The boys bowed and said in unison, Arigato, Sensei! before running out of the room like a flood. As they left, they greeted Gateau warmly - the children liked Gateau a lot, he was a fun teacher. While Marron's class offered a lot of strenuous training and deep philosophical and religious speculation, Gateau provided the Combat Course with comic relief. Which, in Marron's opinion, was just what a Second Master should do. The aging Combat Master was a rather unsmiling fellow, an ex-general who worked the boys hard. Soon he could be retiring, an Gateau would take his position. Marron had no assistant in his course, nor did he have any need of one.
Grabbing a towel and patting his face dry before slinging the cloth around his neck, Marron walked over to his lover.
Good class, Marron said contentedly.
Yours usually are, he replied, laying a kiss on Marron's smooth forehead. There was a taste of sweat on his skin from his exertion during the course. Seems like it was tough work.
It's no easy thing to move the earth, Marron joked, smiling. Gateau loved it that Marron had started to make jokes after they had begun dating. It was a side of the man he hadn't seen much back when they were younger. Calm, and intelligently funny.
You have the block after lunch free today, ne?
Yes, why?
Want to go out to lunch?
Oh, alright. Let me go change.
Hmmm... OK... I'll be waiting for you out front.
Hai. I'll only be a few minutes.

Marron emerged in front of the school about ten minutes later wearing his usual white button-down shirt and black slacks. He had abandoned his white kimono some time ago. He had also begun to tie back his black hair, which had gotten even longer, into a loose ponytail at the nape of his neck. It suited him nicely, the more casual look. Besides, it kept his hair out of his face during practice, and looked very commanding when he wore his glasses.
He strode over to Gateau, and took his hand as they walked off campus.
I wish the school had been open when I was a child, he'd said, looking back at the campus. But there was only the public school in town then. I really would've benefited from such an education.
Gateau knew that Marron still regretted not having gone to college. His six years as a Sorcerer Hunter had prevented it. Not that it had inhibited him from getting a decent position in life. In fact, a year after Gateau had taken his position Second Combat Master, it had been Big Mamma that had recommended him to the school board for the position of Master of Magic.
I think we all would have. That public school was crap. Gateau smiled. He wouldn't have gotten in to college, even if he had tried. He'd never been that type - never anywhere as smart as Marron. In Marron's case, they probably would've been begging him to attend.

As they took their seats at an outside cafe, Marron wondered why his lover was so solemn. His blue eyes looked worried, deeply involved in some inner thought process. He wondered what could be the matter.
After the waiter left with their orders, Marron leaned forward, his elbows on the table. What's wrong, Gateau, love? You look troubled...
Not worried so much... I just have a lot on my mind.
The school?
Gateau looked up, and at Marron. No, Marron realized, Gateau wasn't looking at him, but out past him, to at the busy street. No. Actually, I was thinking about my sister.
Marron's browed furrowed. What the matter?
Gateau's eyes refocused, looked at Marron. Nothing, actually. I got a letter from her yesterday, regarding a particular discussion you and I had a couple of weeks ago.
The blonde watched his love's face, and final he saw the recognition settle into the gorgeous features.
What did she say?
Well, she agrees with you that it certainly is strange, but... Well, here, why don't you just read the damn thing. He pulled from his pants pocket a creased letter. It looked to Marron as though Gateau had already read the thing over many times, which he had.
Marron opened the letter, and read.

Dear Brother, it said in a hand similar to Gateau, although neater,
I received your letter today, and I couldn't wait to reply. While it's always good to hear from you, and I always hasten to reply to your letters, I felt especially compelled to do so today. So here's my reply:
I don't know if I've ever seen a sweeter letter. I always knew you and Marron loved each other. It's so obvious. But this has got to be one of the most touching things I've ever heard. Without a doubt, it's also one of the strangest, but no matter.
If Marron's willing, so am I. By now, you must know that I'd do just about anything for you, Gateau, just as I know you'd do anything for your little sister. And, closet romantic that I am, I'd also do just about anything for a love as strong as yours is. I'm also willing because I know you two will make wonderful parents. If I had any doubt in my mind that you would raise a child with the utmost grace and care, you can bet that I would be turning you down right now. But I know you, both of you. I know this is a good idea.
You tell me when, and I'll be there.
Much love,
Your sister, always and forever,
Eclaire Mocha

The waiter returned with their drinks to find the black-haired man refolding a letter, tears rolling gently down his cheeks. Setting down the drinks, the man asked, Is the gentleman alright?
Gateau looked from the waiter to Marron, and back again. I hope so.
Marron looked up. after the waiter left, his gold eyes wavering. Then, all of a sudden, he lunged across the table, spilling the drinks, locking Gateau in a deep kiss. Gateau, surprised, moaned into Marron's mouth, only to find that it has no longer there. He felt the soft lips near his ear, and hear Marron whisper, We're going to have a baby!
Only when Marron sat back did they both become aware of the surprised and uncomfortable stares their fellow diners were giving them.
Maybe we should take a walk, Gateau suggested, leaving some money on the table for the drinks.

Having foregone lunch, the two lovers walked through the park. Gateau couldn't help but grin as he watched the children playing on the playground. A gentle smile crossed Marron's face as he thought of earlier dates in the very same park, the time they had fallen asleep together on that bench over there...
What should we name the child? Marron mused happily as they sat down on that same bench.
Whoa, Marron... I haven't seen you this excited since the ice cream incident...
Flushing deep red, Marron replied, I know, it's just that... He leaned against Gateau and nuzzled his head into the space between the blonde's head a shoulder. I can hardly believe it. I had always sort of thought that I would have children. And I always sort of knew I wouldn't. I can't explain it - it just makes me so happy.
Are you nervous? Gateau asked gently, looking at the top of his lover's head.
Yes, extremely. You know you were my first, and, he added with a contended laugh, my only.
For the gods' sakes, how can you stand it?
I don't mind it in the least, Marron said, nuzzling further. I love you, in case you've forgotten.
It's been a long time since you told me that.
Marron looked up. What, this morning?
Marron laughed. Gateau smiled, then sobered. You know you don't have to do it if you don't want to.
I know. Strange as it is, I can't turn back now. But I think of the future - a child for us to raise on our own, and it melts away any fear I might have.
Gateau kissed Marron's soft black hair. Gods, Marron, I love you.

That evening, Marron came home to find the front hall dark. Looking around suspiciously, he hung his coat on the coat rack. Marron removed his shoes and but his satchel under the coat rack. Knowing better than to call out, he simply padded quietly down the hall, past the shuttered windows with their curtains drawn. He turned to corner into the living room only to be surprised by the glow of numerous candles, placed on every surface, making the room shrinelike, sultry.
Smiling, Marron sat down on the sofa as he knew he was probably supposed to do. On the coffee table in front of him, illuminated by several shimmering candles, was a note written on brittle paper... Look up, it said.
Still smirking slightly, Marron obeyed, and noticed Gateau's large form as a dark shadow leaning in the corner. Marron rose and walked over to his lover. When he reached the blonde, he rested a hand on the broad chest, leaning in for a kiss. But Gateau grabbed his hand and stopped his movement.
Come on, he whispered in his lover's ear. Follow me.
Gateau led Marron through the living room and into the kitchen. Marron gasped as he saw the kitchen. A bowl of roses and floating candles was illuminating the middle of the table, which was set for a dinner of two.
... Gateau...
The warrior seated the smaller man at one side of the table, and then proceeded to serve the first course before sitting down. After a few moments of quietly sipping their soup, Marron spoke up.
So, what's the occasion?
Gateau smirked playfully. We're having a baby.
The first course went by without much further conversation. Then Gateau took up the bowls and set down several plates of beautifully-arranged sushi.
Gateau, when did you have time for all this? asked Marron, a look of near ecstasy on his face as he bit into a piece of eel nigiri.
Gateau hesitated. Actually... I didn't.

It's takeout. Marron laughed. Gateau frowned. You know I can't cook a lick, Marron-chan.
That's such a lie! Marron shot back affectionately.
Unless you count tea, which -
Which I do... Marron smiled widely. You know something...

Suddenly, I'm not so hungry anymore.
asked Marron's lover, cocking his eyebrow.
Well, not for food... The black-haired one leaned across the table and locked the blonde in a passionate kiss.
Mmmm... Point taken, Gateau said once they broke apart. Do you want to go upstairs?
Marron raised his eyebrows indifferently.
Right here? Gateau sounded a little surprised.
Marron replied contemplatively. I was thinking on the living room floor. It's a little bit better lighting in there...

Still breathing hard, Gateau leaned up on one elbow and spoke. ... Marron...
The black-haired man looked up from where he was sprawled on the hardwood floor.
... I have something to show you... He searched the floor for his pants, and when he found them, he removed a small box from the right pocket. By the time he got back, Marron had sat up and was watching him. Gateau leaned forward and kissed Marron, who arched his back and moaned slightly. Taking advantage of their proximity, Gateau took Marron's hand and placed the small, soft box in his hand. Breaking the kiss, Gateau whispered in his lover's ear, Open it, before sitting back to watch.
Marron, his eyes shimmering in the candlelight, opened the box. He gasped. The candlelight reflected two smooth gold bands.
whispered Gateau, will you marry me?
There was a pause as Marron stared at the rings.
Gateau let out a hurt sigh... After a long moment, Gateau reached out to take the ring box back, saying, Al-alright, Marron... I'm sor -
said Marron clutching his hand, with the box in it, against his chest.

Gateau, I do want to marry you. Gods, I want to put that ring on my finger right now. But not until after... After I've spent my time with Eclaire, then I will put that ring on my finger, and keep it on until the day I die. But I don't want to be engaged to you if I'm not going to be faithful. Gateau seemed a little surprised. Gateau, I feel that to be engaged to you as I make love to your sister is wrong, wholly morally wrong... I couldn't do it...
Oh, gods, Marron, Gateau whispered, blinking away a tear. I love you.
May I keep these, Marron asked humbly, lowering his hand from his chest, looking at the box, until that day?
Gods, yes, Gateau replied before kissing Marron again. Marron kissed him back, his tongue aggressively probing Gateau's mouth. Gateau moaning quietly as his love slowly pressed his entire weight upon him, not that Marron weighed that much, even as an adult, but the closeness was maddening. Marron's lips were suddenly making their way down his neck, down his chest... he asked breathlessly.
Marron looked up to look Gateau in the eyes, and the blonde was secretly disappointed to break the contact. Do you mind? asked the golden-eyed man. Marron broke his gaze and flicked his tongue across Gateau's nipple, eliciting a throaty moan from the other man. Mmmm, didn't think so...

Marron's body flowed, wavelike, with each movement the body beneath him. The hair in the front of his head had worked itself free of its ponytail and was falling in the man's face. His skin was damp, shining. The black-haired man didn't notice, however, as his attention was fixed absolutely on the task at hand. Marron pulled on the reigns, and whispered words of encouragement.
Gateau did understand why horse was spooking. We'll be late, he called to Marron.
It's the thunder, Marron called back, as though he had read Gateau's thoughts. It's scaring him.
Gateau scowled. It's still far off, how can it be scaring him?
Horses are sensitive. Bad weather will make them jumpy. Marron's horse,a young mare, bucked nervously again and Marron drew the reigns sharply and whispered to the horse again. She bucked again, and Marron almost lost the reigns.
Gateau urged his older horse forward so that he was at Marron's side. The drizzle was driving him mad. Why couldn't it just all-out rain, already? How could Marron be so patient? Even after all the years, Gateau never failed to be amazed by Marron's limitless patience, whether it be with Gateau himself, a confused student, or a spooked mare. It was just one of Marron's many endearing qualities. If it had been him, Gateau would have already shouted at the horse, maybe even gone back and exchanged the animal for another that was older, less nervous. But Marron was content to spend a little extra time on the black mare.

Finally, they were on the road to Sargento, the next town over. Although Marron said nothing, it seemed that he might have - just maybe - cast a simple spell to calm the black mare down. They were walking at an easy pace down the dirt road which led from Collintos to Sargento.
Gateau got his wish a half-hour into the trip when it began to rain in earnest. The blonde groaned and put up his collar, but his lover simply smiled as the rain fell on his head. Gateau couldn't help but think how beautiful Marron looked there, seated on the horse, a simple smile on his face, slick with rain.

There was a knock at her door, and Eclaire took a deep breath before marching over and opening the door. She let a gasp that was half laugh as she saw the two soaked men standing on her doorstep.
she said happily, and stepped aside to let them in. Come in, both of you, you must be freezing out there.
They both stepped into the warm, glowing home. Eclair embraced Gateau, smiling broadly. The front hall was long and ran across the entire front of the house. The door to the study was open, letting in the warm glow of the lit fireplace, which was all Marron could notice before Eclaire wrapped him warm hug.
I'm so glad to see you, Gateau! It's been a while, ne?
A few months... Not since the holidays.
said the woman, that's right! I came to visit you in Collintos, and we spent the night with Carrot's family.
Marron looked up, a rather apologetic smile on his face. How did that burn heal up?
Eclaire laughed, looking at the back of her right hand. She turned it so that they could see. Hardly even a scar.
Rye didn't mean to do it, really, Marron said. He's just a little clumsy sometimes, like his father... and fire excites him a bit...
It's fine, really, Eclaire assured him with laugh. Here... Let me take your coats. She removed their drenched jackets and ushered them into the study where she hung the coats on hooks at the side of the fireplace. Sit down, please...
They sat in quiet silence for a few minutes before Eclaire asked, Are you hungry?
Gateau looked to Marron with his eyebrows raised, and Marron made a bit of an indifferent face and shook his head slightly. No, thanks, sis, Gateau replied.
Something to drink?
I don't think so, said Gateau, throwing another glance at Marron, who just smiled as he shook his head again.
said Marron politely, how are things in Sargento?
Placid, as usual. The shop has been doing well, Dorothy suggested that we open another branch.
That sound like a good idea, mused Gateau. He held shares in the business, a small health store in downtown Sargento. Dorothy was Eclaire's rather over-dramatic business partner. If I weren't at the school, I'd offer to open one up in Collintos.
Eclaire thought about it for a moment. Do you think you'd be willing to supervise if we decided to hire some people in Collintos? You know, while we got it established?
I don't see why not... As long as it didn't interfere with my teaching schedule...
It'd be fantastic, Gateau. We'll have to work out the details with Dorothy some time soon.
replied the blonde, smiling at his sister. But we can't talk business all night.
No, we couldn't do that.
The siblings looked to Marron, who had been silent during the discussion about the business. He often served as the social grace, for some reason. But at the moment, he couldn't think of anything to say. He felt sort of frozen-up, for some strange reason.
Noting his distress, Gateau came to the rescue. I'm taking the position of Combat Master soon. I've discussed it with the Master of the School, and the Board, and Bracken, though soldier though he may be, is retiring soon. They want me to fill his place.
Congratulation, brother! enthused the younger blonde.
Of course, we knew it would happen sooner or later, Marron said, regaining his tongue.
Oh, and I hear you received some honors from the Board, Eclaire said to Marron.
Marron nodded humbly. he said. Nothing too prestigious...
Nothing prestigious! scoffed Gateau proudly. Only the Laureate for Outstanding Magical Education!
Marron coloured slightly.
said Eclaire, grinning.
There aren't many other mages teaching magic, he pointed out.
Why's that? asked the woman. One would think you would have to be a mage to teach magic...
Most of the Magi are sorcerers. Sorcerers will only teach other sorcerers. Go to a sorcerer-only school, and you'll only find Magi. Every sorcerer has a mage to tutor his children. But take a look on the educator list at any Parsonner school, even a school for magic, and you'll be lucky to find one mage.
You really feel strongly about this, don't you? Eclaire looked touched.
It's my profession. I should feel strongly about it. After a pause, he resumed. We may have made some minor political changes to the sorcerer's positions, but they're still managing to oppress us by keeping our children uneducated. It isn't just magic. In any branch of education, the sorcerers have snapped up all the qualified teachers and left the dregs to the Parsonners.
I get this rant from him about once a month... Gateau joked.
The only reason the School gets any sort of Laureates is because the Board has scoured the Continent looking for the best teachers. The unfortunate part is that the Collintos School is private, and expensive, by Parsonner standards, anyway. Tuition for four years would just barely pay for one year of private tutoring for a sorcerer child.
That's awful!
It's sad, is what it is...
Collintos School is the only school in our diocese with a mage anywhere on the educator list, Gateau put in, a proud smile on his face. He placed one arm around Marron and held him close.
It's not anything to be proud of, Marron said. I just worked hard, got an education, as stupid as that sounds.
Not stupid, Eclaire said, seeming to share her brother's pride. That certainly is something to be proud of.
... If I could, I would open my own school...
exclaimed both the siblings.
Marron, you never told me that! said Gateau.
Marron shrugged and smiled slightly, looking a little sad. It doesn't matter. Just idle fantasy. I'd never be able to do it, just something I've thought of...
Gateau notice that he had his hand wrapped around a gold chain around his neck. Gateau wondered what they... Then he realized: their wedding rings. He felt flustered for a moment, and the he got that warm, fuzzy feeling inside... He was going to marry Marron... God, he was an idiot! He was just sort of sitting there, staring at Marron's long, elegant fingers like some sort of funny-farm patient...
Are you tired at all? Eclaire asked, breaking the silence. Gateau and Marron both stiffened, knowing what that meant.
Swallowing, Marron spoke up. Perhaps it would be best... It's been a long day.
They all got up from the sofa. Marron was about to follow Eclaire upstairs when Gateau took his hand and pulled him into a big bear hug. Once the man was close, he kissed him and whispered some gentle encouragement into his ear, letting his lips sensually brush Marron's skin. You'll be fine.
As Gateau released him, Marron wondered how Gateau had meant that.

Upstairs, in the master bedroom, Marron was more nervous than he could ever remember being in his adult life. He was shaking slightly, and though it was barely perceptible, he felt like a fool.
You can sit down if you like, Eclaire said, motioning to the bed.
Glad to be off his feet, where his shaking wouldn't be so obvious, Marron complied, and sank onto the bed. No sooner had he done so than Eclaire was removing his boots and socks. He stifled a small gasp of surprise - he hadn't been expecting this, not nearly so quickly.
Are you alright? the blonde woman asked.
As well as can be expected, he mumbled, not really sure what answer she was looking for.
She smiled gently.
He frowned slightly. I thought not, but... He held up his hand, which was shaking quite obviously now, and grimaced. My body seems to be betraying me. I was trying for stoic. I'm getting schoolgirl...
It's okay... I'm not going to judge you for this, and no one else will either.
If only it were really that easy, Marron sighed. My brother is going to have a conniption fit. He's finally gotten used to Gateau and my relationship... This will certainly throw him for a curve. He let out a harsh half-laugh. We should probably...
Let's make this as easy for you as possible... I don't want to make you even more uncomfortable, but... Boy, this is something most little sisters never want to ask... Marron raised on eyebrow. When you and Gateau have sex, how do you do it? I mean, what sort of foreplay, who's on top...?
Marron made a rather startled face. Massaging his neck a little nervously, he said, Well... Usually... Obviously, we'll kiss each other... It can take some time, we'll both do a one-over, you know, kissing ever part of the other's body... It's quite maddening, but I'm sure you know...
Actually, no one's ever done that to me, Eclaire replied contemplatively. Straight sex can be a lot more straight forward sometimes, which is sort of a let down. Even worse when it's one sided, and you're just giving, and getting nothing in... Okay, never mind, continue... It was so casual for her, Marron thought, as though they were discussing a grocery list, or a class schedule.
Blushing slightly, Marron resumed. A lot of the time, he'll push me just to the breaking point with his mouth before he enters me. Quickly he added, It's usually him on top, yes, but I've had my turn a few times over the years. He just seems to know exactly what he's doing. After pausing for a moment and swallowing, he continued with the rather embarrassing play-by-play. From there, it all depends on what sort of mood he's in... Sometime's it's over like - that! - and then other times the orgasm seems to build for hours... I don't know - Is this helping any?
Yes, yes it is, Eclaire affirmed, smiling gently.
Marron laughed a little. You know, I think that's the most I've ever said about sex to anyone besides Gateau.

Gateau shifted in the bed, feeling it sink beneath his weight. He was determined to get to sleep, but he just couldn't. Although he'd tried to be the affirmative one, Gateau was just as worried about that night as Marron was worried.
And, worried though he was, he had to admit that the thought of Marron with another sort of... excited him. It was disgusting to him, that he thought that, but it was true... Disgusting or not, it was how he felt. He'd learned long ago that any attempt to change how he felt could fail miserably.
They were in the next room over. Soon, he knew, he would hear them. He knew form years of first-hand experience that Marron was fantastic in bed, and he was fairly sure it didn't matter what sex it was that he was sleeping with.
His heart flinched a little at that thought. He knew he was a little, if not very, jealous of his sister at that moment. Not only did he want to take Eclaire's place in that bedroom with Marron, be he also felt saddened by the fact that he couldn't do what his sister could. There was no way that either he or Marron could ever foster life inside themselves. Granted, he had absolutely no desire to be a woman. It was just this twinge he felt at failing. Something women could do that no man could ever do. Something a woman could have given Marron that Gateau could never give. Something Marron had decided didn't matter as much as true love.
That thought picked up Gateau's heart. To Marron, it didn't matter whether or not his love could foster life in such a way. And Marron was completely content with the fact that his love couldn't produce life with him, and he'd chosen to love him anyway.

Marron shuddered as hands that were not his lover's ran down his torso. Lips that were not his lover's claimed his own, and he moaned quietly into their warm, foreign chasm. A tongue that was not his lover's pierced his own dark cavern with a beaconlike warmth. He felt his tongue responding as his breath quickened.
That foreign mouth then broke the embrace and he felt kisses hail down upon his neck and chest. The tongue that was not his lover's massaged his nipple, and he moaned again.

Gateau could hear them both gasping and moaning like some sort of bad romance novel. At least, he knew he heard Eclaire, and he was fairly sure that some of those pleasure-racked moans were coming from Marron's mouth.
Feeling not just a little betrayed, Gateau got out of bed, dressing hastily. He closed the door behind him with the utmost care and quietly stalked downstairs. He went out the back door and into the garden courtyard behind the house.
He sat on a bench beneath the silver moonlight, his hands clasped in front of him, his elbows resting on his spread knees. Gateau sighed.
I brought this upon myself, he said. I have no right to complain... But I can't help it. Every moment I'm not with him, there's just this huge, dull ache that spreads with every second he's gone... I can't help it... I love him.

Marron gasped as the person who was not his lover mounted his body. His back arched as that body that was not his lover's lowered itself onto him. He felt detached as that body moved atop of him, a separation he knew. It was the separation of the trauma victim. His body, with all its pains and pleasures, was left far away, a vague impression somewhere below him. As though from miles away, he heard the voice that was not his lover's call out in pleasure. He was sure he was probably moaning himself, in response to the tightness that was no his lover's, but he didn't notice.
He was suspended in pale brightness, completely unaware of the sensual tortures the person who was not his lover was administering below.
Suddenly Marron was pulled back into his skin as the one who was not his lover screamed in final release. He was instantly aware of the heat rushing through his body. Before he had fully realized what was happening, his climax hit him. His back arched as he shouted out,

Gateau looked up, hearing footsteps. He saw Marron's delicate face shimmering in the moon's glow. His hair was loose, and a little mussed, blowing free in the breeze. He looked peaceful.
How was it? Gateau asked, not a little bitter.
A pale shadow compared to anything I've ever had with you. He looked into his lover's eyes, completely earnest. It's over. And I'm glad.

Marron replied. It's an experience I never want to have again. And do you want to know why?
asked Gateau.
Gateau watched as Marron reached behind his head and fiddled with something on the back of his neck for a few moments... A chain. When Marron held out his long-fingered hand there were two rings in his hand. Before Gateau could do anything, his lover grabbed his strong hand and slid the larger of the two rings onto the fourth finger of his left hand. Then he placed the smaller ring on the fourth finger of his own left hand.
Leaning in close to Gateau's ear, Marron said, Because, I'm engaged now.
Marron sat don next to his fiancee - gods, it felt good to say that - and leaned his head against Gateau's shoulder. What do you think we should name the child? he murmured.
Gateau laughed.
Well, it's something I've been pondering ever since we had that crackpot conversation almost a month ago.
It makes sense... Gods, all couples have this conversation, don't they? Gateau said excitedly.
Marron chuckled. Yes, I think so.
So, what are your thoughts on the subject of names for our child?
If it's a girl... I like Caritas. It means
And there's a bit of a play on your brother's name in there, ne?
I hadn't noticed it before, but, yes.
Caritas M - Gl - Gateau blinked. Which name will our child take on? You aren't going to change your name, are you?
No, I wasn't planning on it. Marron Mocha' doesn't quite have the same ring to it... He chuckled again. He was so happy. In fact, both of them were positively elated. I figure our child can choose which name they like when the time comes for him or her to go into the world... But until then... I think the father's name is usually taken by the child.
Gateau lifted an eyebrow. Father? Wouldn't that apply to both of us?
Well, Caritas Mocha sounds better than Caritas Glace.... That sounds too much like my brother.
Gateau laughed. Fine. Caritas Mocha... I like that. What about if it's a boy?
I don't know... I couldn't come up with anything. Nothing sounded right...

Hmmm... Victor?

Marron looked surprised.
Yeah... It was my father's name...
Oh... You'd never mentioned that before... Marron was puzzled by the look that statement elicited in Marron's eyes.
No, because I didn't know him for very long. It... Well, you know he never played a large role in my life... He was a wanderer at heart, always a wanderer. Gateau had told Marron the story before, how his father had left them not long after Eclaire was born... Gateau said that every once in a while he would stop back into town to visit with his estranged children. Gateau's thin, dark-haired mother had done all she could to raise her two children on her own... She had succeeded well, in Marron's opinion. He could have to be sure to tell the woman that some time.. Yes, Mrs. Mocha was still alive. She hadn't been very old when she'd married Gateau's father, for better or for worse. She lived in Sargento, somewhere downtown. Eclaire's shop was nearby, so that she could visit her mother more easily.
suggested Marron, out of the blue.

Just something I heard once, I suppose. I think it means to protect' in some ancient tongue.
Lotan Mocha...? It sounds nice. Even Lotan Glace has a nice sound to it...
Lotan and Caritas, then? Marron asked.
I like them. And, besides, we have nine months to change our minds...

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