The Story Continues

Family and Chocolate

Lynus had been working at his desk, going over a few of his research notes when Binah entered his room in a hurried, but playful manner and stopped near his desk, her arms folded behind her back.

“You know...” she began. “It’s a thing called Valentine’s Day tomorrow.”

Lynus glanced over at the wall where a calendar rested. “Hm. You’re right,” he said as he pushed back his chair and took to his feet. He already knew what the pink-haired troubadour was going to imply next, so there was no point in asking. “I wonder if Matron will mind me borrowing the kitchen.”

Binah giggled happily as she followed him out of the room. “At least Lynus don’t need no prodding. Whatcha going to make?”

“The other day Axel made the comment that he hadn’t had chocolate for ages,” Lynus replied as they descended the stairs. “I don’t know if it was a subtle hint, but I’ll take it.”

“Chocolate is so cliché.”

“And you’re just loving it, aren’t you?”

“Yes~” Binah giggled once more before she scampered off in the opposite direction of the kitchen, no doubt off to prod and badger the others of their guild.

Lynus watched until she was out of sight before he ventured into the kitchen. It was no surprise to find Matron there, fussing about, cleaning and clearing the area. What was a little bit of a surprise, though, was the mountain of ingredients on the centre counter.

Ingredients to make chocolate. A lot of chocolate.

Obviously, Binah and Becky, and ultimately Matron, too, had been eagerly waiting for Valentine’s Day to come.

“You’ve been expecting me?” Lynus asked as he lightly folded his arms over his torso, giving Matron a playfully suspicious look.

“Hm?” Matron murmured as she turned around to face him before breaking out into a huge smile and laughed. “Oh-ho, Binah tells me that you know your way around a kitchen,” she said simply.

“Indeed I do,” Lynus said, willing his mind not to automatically remember that the last kitchen he had stepped foot in was out of need and necessity, the simple task of preparing eatable food tinged with fear. “I’m no chef, but I can make sustainable food. You don’t mind?”

“Not at all!” Matron beamed as she wiped her hands on her apron and unexpectedly made her way to leave the kitchen. “I’ll leave you to it. I have a few chores to do. Don’t be afraid to ask mama for help!”

“I promise I won’t burn the kitchen down!” Lynus assured as the caretaker left the kitchen, leaving him alone.

Turning his attention to the piles of ingredients, Lynus took a moment to muse about what he should make.

He had made chocolate before, believe it or not. It was for Binah and Rahas’ sake, really. It had been Binah’s birthday and she had been silently lamenting that she was still living in the terrible nightmare as Taksony’s prisoner. In effort to make her forget, even for a little while, Lynus had snuck into the kitchen to get them something to eat, secretly raiding the pantry in order to make something with a hint of chocolate (her favourite food) in order to cheer the young girl up.

She was so grateful that she had cried, which startled Lynus in return as he hadn’t intended to make her cry. She treasured the moment, though and since then, chocolate had always been a symbol of peace even in the darkest of times for them.

Lynus was pulled from his thoughts when he heard someone shuffle into the kitchen and he turned around, expecting it to be Matron checking up on him, but he was slightly surprised to find Magnus looking at him with wide blue eyes.

“Ah, Magnus? Is there something wrong?” Lynus automatically asked.

Magnus shuffled nervously on his feet as he skittishly glanced around. “A-ah, um, y-you’re making chocolates?”

Deciding that he must have learnt that from Binah, Lynus smiled and nodded his head. “That’s right. For Axel as it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.”

Magnus’ fidgeting increased and he wrung his hands together nervously in front of him. “...C-can I also...?”

“Hm?” Lynus tilted his head to the side, not quite hearing what Magnus had said. He quickly caught on, though, and smiled kindly at him. “Ah, you want to make some for Shen?”

Magnus automatically reached up toward his scarf and pulled it up to cover the lower half of his face. But he bravely nodded his head nonetheless.

“Of course,” Lynus said as he reached out toward the blond and pulled him to his side so that they were standing right next to each other. “I’ll help.”

“T-thank you,” Magnus said as he lowered his hands from his face, a tiny smile of relief and gratitude on his lips.

Lynus simply smiled at the adorable blond before turning his attention to rationing out the ingredients. He couldn’t help but notice, though, that there were more than enough ingredients. They could easily cater to two or three more people. Who else was Binah hoping to throw into the kitchen with him?

As many as she could, probably.

“Hey, something smells good. Whatcha doing?”

Upon hearing Macerio’s voice, Lynus paused in what he was doing to look over at the kitchen’s door, immediately spying the brown-haired gunner. “Making chocolates for Valentine’s Day tomorrow.”

“E-eh?” Macerio unexpectedly, but adorably all the same, spluttered and flushed lightly. “That’s tomorrow?”

“That’s right.”

“O-oh…”

Choosing not to point out how red his cheeks were becoming, Lynus instead gave Macerio a look of understanding. “We have plenty of ingredients. Want to make some for Lirit?”

Macerio looked momentarily startled at the suggestion and it was almost as if he wanted to deny that in some way, yet his tongue appeared to be tied with embarrassment. “A-ah…”

“You can use the excuse of thanking him for staying with you when you had that fever that time,” Lynus added for good measure.

Macerio glanced down at the floor for a moment, his face still flushed, before he sighed and nodded. “Alright,” he said as he made his way to stand on Lynus’ other side.

Knowing that any form of teasing might cause the gunner to turn on his heel and flee, Lynus stayed silent as he shared the ingredients with Macerio, helping him and Magnus to plan what kind of chocolates they were going to make. He found himself reassuring Magnus that they’ll use the kitchen’s stove instead of forcing him to use his fire magic and smacking Macerio’s hand every now and again when the other tried to sample the materials to ‘see if they were as fresh as they looked’.

“What are you lot doing in here?”

Once again turning his attention to the door into the kitchen, Lynus had to admit that he was surprised to find Tobyn standing just inside the kitchen, his hair pulled into a ponytail at the nape of his neck, his scarf and hat missing. Binah must have caught him while he was also working and harped on him enough to get him to at least step inside the kitchen. She mustn’t have told them what they were doing, though.

Ah, she probably knew that if she did, the survivalist would turn and flee in the opposite direction.

“Making chocolates for Valentine’s Day tomorrow,” Lynus explained to him before indicating to the empty space next to Macerio. “Do you want to join us?”

Tobyn, surprisingly, seemed to pale at the thought. Either he had forgotten about Valentine’s Day tomorrow or he was internally struggling with the idea of doing something romantic, still caught up in the concept that survivalists were meant to be loners. “Well…”

Hugging the mixing bowl against his chest, Macerio momentarily paused in his work to glance over at the survivalist. “What kind of chocolate does Jhon even like?” he unexpectedly asked.

“Dark chocolate,” Tobyn immediately replied, only to twitch, his eyes narrowing when Macerio smirked smugly at him.

Lynus laughed softly at the two before shaking his head slightly. “There are plenty of ingredients, so you’re free to join.”

“Oh, all right,” Tobyn said, giving in relatively quickly as he rolled up his sleeves and moved to the counter beside Macerio, nudging him with his elbow. “That gunner wouldn’t stop harping on me if I didn’t, would you?”

Macerio continued to grin. “Absolutely not.”

Lynus simply smiled once again as he handed Tobyn a portion of the ingredients.

Surrounded by three of his guildmates, he couldn’t help but muse about how nice it felt. How peaceful it was to be standing in a kitchen with his family, making chocolates together as they bantered and talked comfortably. The last kitchen he was in was dark and full of fear. This one…was light, filled with warmth and security.

He had…come such a long way.

“Move it! You’ve got to participate, too!”

“No I don’t!”

Startled from his thoughts by two familiar voices, Lynus found himself turning around to look over at the doorway once more. “Rahas?” he murmured when he gazes locked with that of the white-haired dark hunter.

“What?” Rahas asked as he looked away, ignoring the way Binah was fruitlessly tugging on his arm to pull him further into the kitchen.

Lynus glanced at the others in the kitchen, then at Binah, before finally turning his attention back to Rahas. The others were…thankfully unbothered by Rahas’ appearance and Binah was still trying to push him into spending more time with others rather than on his own. It appeared as if…the others of their guild didn’t know of the tension between them or was being mindful not to appear that way.

Whatever the reason, Lynus was grateful. They weren’t isolating Rahas from the guild, he was doing that himself. And he didn’t have to. Not because of Lynus.

“Why don’t you join us?” Lynus asked kindly. “This has turned into a family event, after all.”

Rahas looked surprised, his eyes flickering up to meet his before he looked away, defiantly. “Who am I supposed to make chocolates for?” he asked, folding his arms across his chest when Binah finally let go of his wrist to instead face him with her hands on her hips in an irritated manner.

“Whoever you want,” Lynus said in response.

“There’s always Simmons~” Binah said in a sing-song voice.

Lynus winced slightly, half expecting Rahas to shout something about not caring about ‘that blue-haired idiot’. Instead, he noticed as a grimace of guilt appear on Rahas’ face and he couldn’t help but feel a sense of concern wash over him. He wasn’t going to ask him about it now, though. Not in front of everyone.

“Actually, that would be a good idea,” Lynus said instead in regards to Binah’s suggestion. “I’m sure he’d appreciate some chocolates. It’ll be a surprise.”

“As far as I know,” Tobyn suddenly spoke up. “He had never received any chocolate before.”

Macerio snorted lightly. “He probably doesn’t even know what Valentine’s Day is.”

“True.”

“Don’t be rude, you two,” Lynus chided.

“T-that’s kinda sad,” Magnus murmured as he slowly stirred his ingredients together. “E-everyone should get chocolates.”

Rahas, however, still looked defiant. “Still not convinced in joining.”

“Oh, stop resisting and join them already!” Binah scolded as she stomped her foot down. “This is what family does. And you’re family, right?”

“Wha-?”

“Right,” Lynus said before Rahas had the chance to rebuke the statement in anyway. “This is exactly what a family does.”

Rahas roughly ran his hand through his hair, clearly out numbered. There was still the chance that he would turn on his heel and storm away, though. “Argh, fine,” he surprisingly said as he sulked closer. “I’ll make the idiot some chocolate. Only because you told me to.”

Lynus felt a rush of relief when Rahas made his way to the counter, standing on the other side of Tobyn, but with some distance between them.

“Yay!” Binah cheered before skipping from the room. “I’ll go keep the others away now.”

Still carrying his bowl of ingredients, Macerio pushed his way between Tobyn and Rahas, standing shoulder to shoulder with the dark hunter. “You could always put some chili in it.”

“Macerio,” Lynus warned as he gathered ingredients for Rahas.

Rahas held his chin as if considering it. “…Do we have any?”

Lynus sent the dark hunter a maternal warning look. “Rahas.”

Macerio sniggered while Rahas tried to suppress an amused smirk as he took his portion of the ingredients.

Rahas still appeared standoffish, but Lynus could see the tension in his shoulders had lessened. He was glad that Macerio regarded him the same as he usually did. And it was clear that Rahas didn’t want to isolate himself. Whether that was a conscious thought or a subconscious one, he wouldn’t have agreed to be standing in the kitchen with four of his guildmates if he wanted nothing to do with them.

Though it still pained Lynus to think that Rahas was avoiding him, he understood why completely. For better or worse, things had changed between them. Lynus knew it was somewhat selfish on his part to ask Rahas to continue seeing him as a brother when he had confessed to be in love with him. It wasn’t fair on Rahas having to watch and put up with his displays of affection with Axel. But, it was also unfair for Lynus to limit his interactions and moments of affection with Axel in order to please Rahas.

It was a no-win situation for everyone involved, really. All Lynus could do was hope that Rahas would come to understand and accept that Lynus would only ever see him as a brother. And that he would learn to love someone else, someone who would love him as he deserved in return.

Lynus was pulled from his musings when Tobyn reached across the counter to grab something, unintentionally leaning in close toward him. It didn’t bother Lynus in the slightest and he simply leaned back slightly to allow him room. But he found himself stilling when Tobyn spoke into his ear.

“Did something happen between you and Rahas?”

Lynus stiffened from surprise before he turned to regard the other man. “Oh? Well...can you tell?” he asked with a slightly guilty smile.

“There’s obvious tension there,” Tobyn replied quietly as he pulled back.

Lynus sighed as he glanced down at his hands, at the chocolates he had been preparing. “It’s...a long story,” he said before he cast a quick glance over in Rahas’ direction and a sense of determination appeared in his chest. “Could...could you distract Macerio for me? I want to try to speak to Rahas.”

Tobyn didn’t ask why or what, thankfully, he just nodded his head. “Sure,” he said before he straightened up and glanced over at the brown-haired gunner. “Hey, Macerio. Can’t help but notice both Lirit and Rahas have gained a few inches on you.”

“What?!” Macerio shrilled as he bristled wildly and spun around to face Tobyn. “Why did you bring that up? Are you trying to pick a fight with me? Huh?”

Tobyn snorted lightly. “Intimidation has never been your strong point.”

Macerio immediately made his way to stand right next to Tobyn, trying to get into his personal space. “Yeah, well, takes one to know one.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“I don’t know!”

Lynus smiled at the bickering pair as he quietly picked up his ingredients and made his way to the other side of the two, to stand next to Rahas. As he set his materials down, he felt Rahas stiffen slightly and turn his full attention to what he was making.

“Is everything all right, Rahas?” Lynus asked softly.

“Fine,” came Rahas’ terse response.

Lynus hesitated for a moment to glance over at the other occupants in the kitchen. Satisfied that they were distracted he turned back toward Rahas. “…Can I say something?”

“What?”

Lynus drew a deep breath before continuing. “I know there has been some tension between us lately and I understand why, I truly do. I just want you to know that I won’t abandon you. You will always be a brother to me and I hope that you’ll one day understand that you feel the same about me. I’m…also glad that you’ve been spending time with Simmons, but don’t forget that the Guardians are here for you, too. You can open up to any of us. When you’re ready.”

Rahas was silent for the longest time and Lynus felt slightly dejected at the lack of response. However, he wasn’t giving up. He would persevere for as long as needed. He was about to say something more when Rahas unexpectedly sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with one hand as he leaned against the counter with the other.

“I know,” he said before he shook his head. “Lynus, listen, about Simmons.”

Lynus tilted his head to the side in concern. “Is there something wrong?”

Rahas sighed as he dropped his hand from his nose and stood up straight. “…No, don’t worry about it.”

Lynus wasn’t convinced. “…How about we talk about it later?”

Surprisingly, Rahas nodded his head. “Yeah, all right.”

Lynus hoped he meant that and wasn’t just saying it to get him off of his back.

“What’s prompting you to make chocolates for Lirit, anyway?” Tobyn suddenly questioned loudly, prompting Lynus to abruptly remember that he and Rahas weren’t alone in the kitchen.

“Ah, well, you know…” Macerio stuttered, blushing lightly.

Looking up from his work, Magnus smiled before he explained, “Lirit played his lute outside his window.”

Tobyn looked positively surprised. “What?”

“N-not because of that!” Macerio immediately insisted.

“Yeah, romantic as shit,” Rahas added in a mockingly disgruntled way. “Nauseating as well.”

“I-it wasn’t!”

Tobyn frowned in a sense of protectiveness. “When did that happen?”

“It doesn’t matter!”

“The other day when Macerio had a fever,” Lynus helpfully answered.

Tobyn nodded his head slightly before a twitch appeared under his eye. He liked to play off that he was constantly annoyed with Macerio, but it was fairly obvious that he had grown brotherly protective of him. “Lirit, huh. That troubadour has guts, I must admit.”

“Are you making fun of me?” Macerio all but whined.

“Of course not,” Lynus said as he placed a comforting hand on Macerio’s shoulder. “I thought it was very sweet of Lirit to do something like that for you. I can’t imagine Axel doing something like that, to be honest. Well, Axel himself is a little too honest, sometimes.”

Tobyn nodded his head, this time in agreement. “I can’t imagine Jhon doing it, either.”

“S-Shen wouldn’t,” Magnus added with a deep blush to his cheeks. “I-I don’t think I want him to.”

Macerio laughed for a moment. “Can’t even imagine it,” he said before he side-glanced over at Rahas. “Simmons probably would.”

Rahas immediately snapped his attention to the gunner and glared at him. “If you give him the idea I will make your life a living hell.”

Macerio sent him a mischievous grin. “I’m sure it would be worth it.”

“Ah!” Magnus suddenly squeaked.

“What’s wrong?” Lynus immediately asked as he turned to give the blond-haired alchemist his full attention.

Though his cheeks were beet-red, Magnus looked distinctly unwell. “I-I just realised that I-I’ll have to give Shen these chocolates…” he whispered with a sense of horror and fear in his voice.

For a short moment, Lynus could only stare at the blond before his expression softened and he made his way to stand next to Magnus to offer him some reassurance. “Well, that’s what’s traditionally accepted.”

Magnus tugged at his scarf and shook his head. “I don’t think I can…”

“Now, you’ll be fine,” Lynus said gently yet firmly as he placed a hand on Magnus’ arm and gave it a comforting squeeze. “Shen will readily accept anything you give him. In fact, I think the all the recipients of these chocolates will be happily surprised. You’ll see.”

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