A/N: I'm sure this update is quicker than the last one... this chapter has actually been sitting on my computer for a few weeks, and I just forgot to post it. Sorry about that!


Predictably, Crope and Tibbett did not spend the remaining days of summer at Lake Chorge, but rather at Crope's house, attended happily, if slightly warily, by Pipio. Crope's mother had died when Crope was young, and Pipio had since more than made up for the absence of a maternal presence in the house by taking to various household tasks with gusto – when the mood suited him. Thus Crope and Tibbett were treated to myriad exotic dishes and clean clothes three times a week (Crope jokingly told his father he would be bringing a boyfriend home every summer from then on, as previously his shirts would come back to him a week after their last use), and in general lived in such comfort that Tibbett offered to employ Pipio permanently.

The boys were allowed a degree of privacy, but had to sleep in separate rooms. Tibbett was rather excited about this, as it meant he could act out his fantasy of sneaking into Crope's room in the middle of the night. When Pipio left for work each morning, the boys would watch him leave through the front windows, then pounce on each other as soon as he was out of sight. This plan generally worked well, except on one morning when Pipio forgot his umbrella and had to come back for it, forcing a partially-dressed Tibbett to come up with a hasty cover story about looking for a clean shirt, as he had spilt coffee on the last one, while Crope ducked into the kitchen and closed the door, stuffing an apple into his mouth to keep from giggling.

Besides reacquainting themselves with each other, the boys spent their days visiting cafés, lying half-asleep in the sunlight on Crope's back porch, and formulating increasingly bizarre letters to Tibbett's parents about his supposed adventures with Myrtle and her family at Lake Chorge.

It was after sending one such letter, detailing Tibbett's lakeside picnic with Myrtle and her fire-eating triplet uncles, that the boys were lying on Crope's bed, their shirts undone to combat the heat while remaining chaste enough to satisfy Pipio. Tibbett was examining the ceiling, and Crope was examining the underside of Tibbett's jaw, so engrossed in his task that he jumped when the jaw moved and Tibbett spoke.

"I can't ever go back to my dear parents," he said contemplatively, his eyes still fixed on the ceiling.

"You could," Crope replied, a little confused. "They don't know you're here. They haven't outright disowned you."

"I can't keep lying," sighed Tibbett. "As fun as it is," he added quickly, beginning to giggle. "I don't know if it was enough to only let Myrtle have three uncles, though."

"There had to only be three," Crope reminded him. "It's too implausible that Myrtle's darling grandmother Transcendia could have come up with another name to rhyme with Korem, Dorem and Lorem."

"Well, she could have, I suppose, but she'd have mixed them all up."

"The Ipsum family aside," Crope said gently. "What about your parents?"

Tibbett sighed, and threw an arm up towards the ceiling, then let it drop over his face. "I don't like lying to them. I don't like not being myself. Telling them stories about Myrtle the Mute is delightful, but what happens if I have to marry her? Or if they want to meet her family of Unionist circus freaks?"

Crope was silent, considering Tibbett's reasoning. "Still… Tibbett, your mother. She does love you rather a lot."

"If she really loved me, she'd love you," Tibbett declared, and got off the bed, pulling at the hem of his shirt as he stared out Crope's window. Crope got up and stood behind his lover, circling his arms around the other boy's waist and resting his chin on Tibbett's shoulder. Tibbett relaxed into Crope and sighed.

"You're a peach," Crope murmured, in an attempt to cheer Tibbett up. "You're a fuzzy, round, adorable little fruit."

"Oh, round, am I?" Tibbett laughed, turning to face Crope and poking him in the ribs. Crope giggled and backed away.

"Well, you have been eating an awful lot of my father's cooking…"

"If you're not careful I'll leave you for your father," Tibbett announced, preposterously, and backed Crope up against the bed, still tickling him.

"You will not, by Oz," Crope gasped, struggling for breath. He fell backwards onto the bed and allowed Tibbett to sit on top of him, then grabbed the blonde boy's wrists. With his tongue he gently pushed at the web of skin between two of Tibbett's fingers. Tibbett squealed and yanked his hands away.

"I yield!" he laughed, tumbling onto the mattress beside Crope.

"Oh, good," Crope grinned, and sat up to settle on top of Tibbett, one hand tracing a gentle passage across the blonde's abdomen. Tibbett shivered with delight.

"You'll have to stay here forever," Crope said softly, and Tibbett smiled.

"I can't think of anything more lovely," he replied, gently guiding Crope's hand lower.

By the time Pipio returned home, the boys were asleep, tangled in each other beneath a single cotton sheet. Each young face wore a matching expression of perfect contentment. Pipio, looking on the door to check on them, simply smiled to himself and left them to their peace.