Author Topic: A Brave Face  (Read 10649 times)

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Offline Trillian

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A Brave Face
« on: December 22, 2019, 01:37:27 PM »
When Ben returned from Venture, he'd found a despondent Cain. His pet had already cried himself out and was stoic when Ben returned. Ben hadn't offered much of an explanation and wore Cain's blame on him for Ben leaving. He said nothing, even going so far as assigning Kerr's leaving to that particular night of cruelty when he'd frightened Cain quite badly. After saying that, he'd thought Cain might leave as well. There was a long moment when they'd stared at one another and then Cain had burst into tears again and Ben had taken him to his bedroom where they'd both undressed and slipped beneath the covers, holding one another. Ben hadn't intended sex but of course it went that way because it always did with Cain. Even though Ben wasn't in the mood he pushed through it until thoughts of Kerr were gone and there were just pleasant sensations left. Cain was driving their interactions but the sex was soft and sweet instead of punishing and angry. Surprising, since Cain was upset with him.

Afterward, when Cain had drifted off to sleep, Ben reached out for where Kerr might be and couldn't really tell which direction he'd gone. He could sense Kerr was alive at least, so it wasn't like when their connection had severed like when he'd gone into the portal vault. It was probably because he wasn't Kerr's full fledgling but only half. His connection to him continued to be muddled, even after all the blood they'd shared together over the years. It seemed the making mostly took precedence. Arles and Kerr were hard locked in him together, so that he could never favour one over the other. That knowledge made him sad. He stared at Cain's ceiling, willing sleep to come, but it took as many hours as it took for the sun to come up.

~ ~ ~

When he woke Cain was sitting on the bed atop the covers in his underwear, playing a game on his tablet. Ben didn't want to remain in the penthouse, facing down Kerr's obvious absence, so he instructed Cain to get dressed. They would go to the Academy. Ben needed to touch base with the lecturers there now that Ichabod had left. They might have a Dean in Zim Parry but they were still short-staffed in the management levels now that his fledge brother had gone. Perhaps Kerr was catching up to Ichabod now. They would be able to find one another easily, being fully bonded.

His bitterness served no purpose so he struck it from his mind and focussed on each task as it came. He dressed smart casual; dark blue jeans over tan shoes and a tight mustard coloured turtleneck sweater beneath a plain navy-coloured suit jacket. Cain had dressed warmly as well and they headed to the Academy in Ben's turquoise Impala.

Cain separated from him once they got there, heading for the common areas where there were some entertainment areas. Almost all of the dormitories were full so there were some live-in students that Cain could hang out with. Ben let him go, aware that there was something strained in the air between them as well. Even though they'd had a nice time comforting one another last night, Cain still seemed not over blaming him for Kerr leaving.

It was around half past one in the morning that he became aware Kerr had returned to the city and his stomach flopped in its nervousness. He didn't know how to feel about his sire's sudden return. He could no longer focus on the laptop on the desk in front of him and ended up clicking around on various websites instead, checking out cat memes.
INFUSCO : Ben : Hugh : Lan Bao : Mick : Todd : Vincent : Win :
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2019, 03:21:55 PM »
It took Kerr only one day to realise he was a fucking idiot.

He'd left Ben and flown to Hawaii, where he'd secured probably the only hotel room in all the islands with a bad view (due to having only one window). He'd busied himself taping extra coverage over it - not content with trusting the block-out curtains alone, in case they moved - and then had spent the rest of the night tossing and turning on the bed, thinking. Through the hours, he'd ranged from complete despair and a certainty that he'd made a mistake to dizzying triumph and utter conviction that he'd made the only sensible decision under the circumstances. By the time the sun started to come up, he went to bed with a smile, having circled back and secure in the knowledge that he was doing The Right Thing.

Then he woke up alone.

The simple act of opening his eyes to an empty bed and empty arms brought a weight upon Kerr's chest so crushing he was held immobile, unable even to blink. As much time as he spent wishing the peculiar, hateful sensation gone, the second it left, he wished it back because the pain that filled every crevice between every atom in his body was worse. So much worse. He curled into a ball and rode that wave out, too, deciding when it ebbed that he'd been a complete idiot and very, very wrong.

He was punishing them. Himself and Ben. He didn't know why he hadn't seen it sooner but the clear light of a Hawaiian moon finally made him see that all of his noble motives and righteous gestures were little more than heartbreaking bullshit. He'd felt guilty and angry and the combination had somehow led him to the conclusion that both he and Ben deserved to be punished for their misdeeds and separating was the simplest way to go about it. But nothing about this situation was simple and him walking away from it wouldn't make anything better. The only way to set everything to rights was to actually stay and set it to rights.

Shame pooled in the void left by his heart when it lightened at the decision to return home. He felt a fool. He'd walked out, stayed away only part of a night and a day and then decided to go straight back. Would Ben even take him back or would he feel too betrayed and keep him at arm's length? Would he have had time to shake off his bewilderment and begin exploring his options with Saraekiel or would he have buried himself in work? Would he have sent Cain away or chosen to take his frustrations out on him? He wouldn't know until he got there but Kerr was braced for the worst, hoping for the best.

He took a commercial flight because it was easier than organising the jet to return but he got back to the city later than he'd have liked. He knew, once he got in the cab heading back to The Luminary that Ben wasn't home. He was in the east, at least, which relieved him. Kerr was torn, however. Travel home and drop his bags off or go straight to the east? He debated just long enough in telling the cabbie that his destination had changed that it added extra time onto his journey because switching routes wasn't easy when you were headed into the city on freeways that didn't have unlimited exits.

The cabbie got annoyed enough with Kerr's, "Just drive in that direction and I'll tell you more when we get closer," instruction that he had to soothe him into cooperating but he welcomed it. The need to focus another mind took attention from his addled one, the buzz of possibilities had been deafening him as they swarmed inside his head. By the time he pulled up at the Academy and stood at the front entrance with his big and small suitcases, it was heading for two thirty in the morning. Kerr didn't know what Ben was doing on the campus but he was grateful he was here and not at Penbrook (which he'd pondered when first realising Ben was in the east of the city).

Kerr headed for his office in the east wing, planning to leave his suitcases there and then hunt Ben down if that wasn't where he was but even as he thought it, another option clicked. Vincent. Ben was probably here seeing him. Would he tell Vincent about Kerr's stupidity? The Irishman certainly hoped not, this was humiliating enough without throwing the censure of someone he admired into the mix... but he kind of deserved that, too. He'd just have to see how it panned out.

Once he got to the offices, Kerr realised exactly where Ben was. He paused at the top of the stairs because he needed to catch his metaphorical breath, needed a moment to steel himself before he continued. He looked down at his sneakers, jeans, green tee and leather jacket and felt underdressed. He doubted he'd have felt more armed in a suit, though. There was no armour thick enough to protect him when his heart was already outside his body and sitting in an office not twenty metres away. He wheeled his suitcases along the carpeted hall and left them at the office before Ben's, wiping his palms down his jeans and leaving his hands perched there, at his hips, as if he was feeling his pockets to see if he had change to give a busker.

He walked into Ben's office slowly, watching his face, trying to gauge his feelings and unable to do it past the rain-on-a-pond plinking of his own bouncing around inside him. He stopped where there was a bit of space in front of Ben's desk, not wanting to be tangled in chairs, not game enough to sit. "I was wrong," he admitted, pausing to let that sink in. "It was stupid to go and I'm sorry. Can I come back?"

Offline Trillian

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2019, 04:22:15 PM »
Ben stared at the screen not seeing it as he felt Kerr close in on him. He could sense when Kerr was not far away, in the carpark perhaps. It felt like he was on top of him when he was somewhere in the building. Ben's eyes were trained on the door. He hoped he got to see Kerr before Cain did... or maybe it would be better if he didn't. Cain was likely to give Kerr a joyous welcome back hug. Ben didn't feel like doing that.

He had to shift his gaze very slightly to make eye contact with Kerr when he appeared at the door. It made the whole disappearance and conversation from last night feel distant and unreal, because he was here now like he'd never left. Ben knew it had happened, though. It felt sour in his mouth and in his heart.

He realised he was frowning at Kerr as he watched his sire approach like a naughty school boy entering the headmaster's office. The two sentences were expected. The question was not and it only served to drive Ben's frown deeper.

"Yes," he said, because Kerr could. He couldn't think of a single thing to say after that and settled for staring at Kerr instead.
INFUSCO : Ben : Hugh : Lan Bao : Mick : Todd : Vincent : Win :
HALFLIGHT : Graille Min Sayer :

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2019, 04:41:52 PM »
Kerr's shoulders relaxed and he walked closer, sitting tentatively in a chair across the desk from Ben. The way the leather of his jacket creaked as he sat seemed very loud in the otherwise silent room. Ben was mad. Hurt. Kerr's expression flittered between frowning and relaxed, smiling and lips pressed together anxiously because there was no easy way to diffuse the situation. Except with honesty, perhaps, but he could imagine Ben would be very wary about him for a while yet. He wouldn't blame him.

He opened his mouth to speak and no noise came out so he cleared his throat and tried again. "I missed you. I know that sounds... trite or just something you'd say but... I missed you," he emphasised heavily, looking directly at Ben. "So much it felt like I was dead. I couldn't move." He looked down, finding it difficult to keep eye contact when Ben was weighing the value of every one of his words and finding them wanting. He looked at the desk instead.

"It made me realise my mistake. Last night, when you told me... everything... I was angry. And mortified. Mostly mortified. I left because it seemed the best thing to do, in that moment. I really believed it was. Fairest. Easiest. But I saw it differently tonight. Tonight I realised I was just punishing us both. Being away from you is torture and I can't do it." He lifted his gaze again, sincerity shining in his brown eyes as he shrugged helplessly. "I'd rather be beside you, hurting, than away from you and feeling dead."

Offline Trillian

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2019, 04:52:31 PM »
Ben forced his frown away, smoothing his features as he listened to Kerr make his plea. It sounded overly dramatic, the whole 'couldn't move' part especially. Obviously he could move because he'd brought his sorry ass back here.

Angry. Mortified. Now this was something Ben could take the blame for. This was what made actual sense. He'd done something wrong and upset Kerr. But then Kerr twisted it again, continuing down the 'fair and easy' path. For fuck's sake, if he said anything about taking turns again...

But he didn't, so Ben didn't have to think about what he would do. The last statement was so terrible that Ben moved all the way backwards in his chair, leaning against the back, where his fingers curled tightly over the ends of the chair arms.

"I don't want either of those things," Ben said. After a long moment he clarified what options Kerr had, delivering the news without emotion. "So you can sleep with Cain in his room if you like, I'm sure he'd love to welcome you back. Or you can stay in our room but I'll be in the spare one."
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HALFLIGHT : Graille Min Sayer :

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2019, 04:55:24 PM »
Kerr stared at Ben, frowning. "So... I actually can't come back?"

Offline Trillian

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2019, 04:59:27 PM »
"Coming home is coming back," Ben replied.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2019, 05:17:02 PM »
"I meant coming back to you. You're my home, I want to be with you," he sighed, glowering at his fledgeling. He supposed he shouldn't argue, that Ben was doing what he could manage but he hadn't made any confessions regarding his thoughts or feelings and they were conspicuous in their absence. Kerr had no idea how long he'd be kept at arm's length because he wasn't sure where Ben's focus was.

"I can move into the spare room. Most of my stuff is already packed, no point you being disrupted," Kerr relented, staring expectantly at Ben. "You haven't told me what you're thinking. I mean, I know you're angry, I can feel it but... I... you haven't... why won't you talk about it?" he finished, clearly frustrated.

Offline Trillian

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2019, 05:20:33 PM »
There was only a slight hesitation. "I don't know what to say. You left me. Sure, you came back straight away, but you left me. Properly, out of the country, left me."

Ben looked away to stare at the books on the shelf on the far wall. He read the titles of them, doing his best to focus on something other than Kerr in front of him. Once he felt under control again, he looked back.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2019, 05:33:53 PM »
Kerr blinked, watching Ben's expression, tasting his words and trying not to pull a face at the sourness of them. He wanted to argue so many things, to deny the statement via semantics but he really couldn't. What it boiled down to was still the same thing. No matter his motivations, no matter the provocation, he'd walked away from Ben.

He lowered his gaze to frown at his lap, watching the middle finger of his left hand scrape back and forth across the faded part of the thigh of his jeans. It only occurred to him in that moment that he would be tarred with a brush of a far darker making, because he hadn't contemplated Ben's viewpoint. Not really. Not enough to think about the fact that the last time he'd left unexpectedly, Ben had thought him dead and his heart had broken.

And Kerr had just left him again. It wasn't difficult to draw a parallel and extrapolate Ben's mindset after that. Fuck. Fucking Hell. Why couldn't he have considered that sooner? Feeling like shit, Kerr got up out of his chair and walked around the desk, kneeling beside Ben's chair. Low down and repentant was where he belonged. He rested his forehead on whatever part of Ben he could access. "I'm so sorry," he whispered.

Offline Trillian

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2019, 05:41:27 PM »
Ben watched Kerr move around his desk and his wariness and anxiety increased as his sire closed in. Getting onto his knees beside him just made Ben want to back up and move away but that would feel like too much in the other direction.

"Okay, fine. Get up." His hands twitched because he wanted to push Kerr off him. Once again he didn't move because it would seem like a rejection.

He was aware of the irony that he didn't want Kerr close to him right now because Kerr had wanted to give him space. Of course it was more than that, deeper than that.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2019, 05:49:08 PM »
Kerr did as he was told, realising Ben was reaching critical levels and that he was best to leave him alone. He was around the other side of the desk again when a penny dropped and he paused, turning back to give Ben a confused look over his shoulder. He'd offered him sleeping with Cain as a place he could stay in the apartment.

"Did you not send Cain home, yet?" he asked, expecting Ben would've dismissed him last night, after he was the catalyst of why Kerr had left. He'd even warned Cain that his contract was all but terminated and wished him luck before he'd left, apologising for getting his hopes up and telling him he'd enjoyed their time together. Cain had been so upset he hadn't even been sure he'd heard anything Kerr had said.

Offline Trillian

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2019, 06:25:40 PM »
"No I had to do some damage control there," Ben said as if he was speaking about elements of his campaign. Ben clicked out of the website of amusing cats and closed the laptop as he spoke. "Cain will be staying. I never really viewed him as his own person, I never gave him a chance. I've extended his trial period to two months. After the election, after I find out what's happening there, I'll know more. Also, you were right when you said I should live with the consequences. Cain is a part of that."

He wondered if Kerr would insist but he doubted it. His sire was feeling apologetic and cowed. Ben could probably demand the world right now and he wouldn't fight it.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2019, 06:40:18 PM »
Kerr's expression didn't look any less troubled as Ben responded crisply, in his cultivated politician mode. It hurt to be on the receiving end of it but he wasn't about to complain; he did have one point to argue, however.

"That was before I fully understood why you did what you did to him," Kerr justified but he didn't say what he really meant, which was, 'I don't t think it's healthy that you keep Cain around for months'. He was unsettled by it but also supposed it wouldn't matter, since he wasn't going to be sleeping with him anyway. At least Ben could take comfort in that.

"Are you finished working?" he queried, noting Ben closing his laptop. He wondered if Ben would offer him a ride back to The Luminary. He'd been going to get a cab because he'd thought Ben wanted him out of his sight.

Offline Trillian

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2019, 07:28:49 PM »
"Yes I've already spoken to everyone I needed to. Except Samuel. I didn't realise he wasn't rostered on today," Ben said, the last part more to himself than to Kerr, but he'd been sure the librarian was supposed to be on tonight. The roster had shown he had a lot more days off suddenly, which Ben was pretty sure he hadn't cleared. He hadn't noticed before he'd talked to the Dean and it seemed petty to chase it up. He'd keep an eye on Sam's hours though. Sam was supposed to be Head Librarian. Just because he had extra staff didn't mean waltzing in and out working whatever hours he liked.

"Come with me and we'll pick up Cain together. I think he's still in the Common Room," Ben said, standing up and putting his laptop into his bag, packing up his things. He hadn't mentioned that Cain was actually on the campus either until now. Perhaps that would surprise Kerr too, that he'd brought Cain with him.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2019, 07:45:30 PM »
Kerr certainly was surprised and his double take at Ben showed it. A lot of obvious questions popped through his head and he filtered them until he got to the succinct one.

"Why did you bring Cain here?" he asked cautiously, preceding Ben out of the office when he got close and stepping between his suitcases when he got around the corner. He collected them efficiently by their handles to roll them with him as he walked alongside Ben.

Offline Trillian

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2019, 07:55:42 PM »
With a smirk Ben replied: "I was going to release him into the wild but you're not supposed to do that with your pets."

He sobered after his joke, throwing a quick look at Kerr before picking up his bag and gesturing for Kerr to leave his office first. Ben turned out the light and closed and locked it after himself before they moved down the wide corridor towards the student area.

"I didn't want to leave him behind after you left," Ben said, not pulling the punch of his reasoning. Leaving Cain at the apartment would feel like they'd both abandoned him. It was another reason why he hadn't wanted to make Cain go. He'd been dealt a shit hand and now Ben was determined to make it up to him.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2019, 08:35:07 PM »
Kerr raised his eyebrows at Ben's joke, not showing any signs of mirth beyond blinking rapidly while he processed that Ben was, indeed, making light of the situation. He couldn't decide if it was a good sign or not because it was about Cain, who hadn't devastated Ben in the last forty-eight hours as Kerr had. Of course he'd be able to joke about him.

He didn't have anything to say about Ben not wanting to leave Cain at home after Kerr had left. The reasoning was rooted in kindness, which Kerr took as positive. It stalled the conversation for him as his mind travelled to imagining Cain's reaction to seeing him again so soon. Would he hold a grudge, too? Kerr wouldn't blame him. By the same token, he would also apologise to Cain for his errant decision but he refused to wallow in self pity about the whole thing.

The mistake was made and he'd realised his error pretty damn quickly. It hadn't been easy approaching Ben but it could've been worse. He'd been permitted back into the apartment, even if it wasn't quite where he'd hoped to be. That was fine, too. Ben could keep him at the desired distance as long as he liked. He was confident he could handle it. Thoughts of punishing Ben after their last big fight and his interlude with Saraekiel rose unbidden and Kerr considered them before pushing them away. He couldn't see himself acting that way. Ben would punish him by being cold and that would do.

It was all a matter of trust. He'd broken Ben's in him by abandoning him and now that he understood, he was pretty sure that Ben wasn't going to see past that abandonment to any underlying causes for a very long time. Kerr wouldn't appreciate it if the digs about him leaving kept coming but he had a thick skin. He'd been taunted by Sawyl and the twins, he could withstand Ben's efforts... he hoped. The problem was that he loved Ben so much more than his previous family - Hell, more than anyone in his life - and even if his efforts to wound were lesser, their effect was far more potent.

The sounds of his suitcase wheels muttering across the different surfaces of the Academy's halls, stairwells and pathways was the only sound that accompanied their trek from the offices to the Common Room. There was so much to say but no motivation to say it from either of them, it seemed. Kerr didn't mind. He was just happy to feel right again, with Ben at his side and their blood bond more than just a faint blip in the distant darkness. Oddly, he'd got a lot closer to Ichabod on his journey but that had only made him feel worse. He didn't need the reminder that he'd let Ichabod down first. His fledge must have wondered what the fuck he was doing, though. He probably put it down to a business trip or something.

"I'll wait outside," Kerr nominated when they reached the Common Room, aware that Cain wasn't alone in there. If there was going to be some emotional scene between he and Cain, he'd prefer it to happen in a more anonymous space where no-one had to witness anything private. Concerns about the airing of their private business had been what started this whole business in the first place. There was no need to add fuel to that fire.

Offline Malkavian Riddler

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #18 on: December 23, 2019, 09:25:41 AM »
Cain was seated across the room on an arm chair that faced the doorway at such an angle that he could see a bit of the corridor to the left. The grief in his heart had kept him from participating in all the games with the other folks but he'd still had a good enough time with them that he considered them friends. One of them had revealed he was an imp and at the urging of his next door dorm-mate had taken his shirt off to show Cain how his wings folded really close to his back. Cain had been fascinated by the reveal and a little lusty at the now half-naked man standing in the room. His lust for the imp had him mentally comparing it to Ben (the blond vampire and this imp had similar physiques) and then of course Kerr swam into his thoughts, losing his interest in the small group as they crowded the imp.

He looked to the doorway just as Ben got there. Beside him and not coming to the doorway proper was someone else, someone he couldn't see beyond the left side of his body because the wall hid the rest, but he was tall and very familiar. Cain's heart thudded in his chest and he leapt to his feet, the people in the common room forgotten as he sprinted across the room, a whimper of hope and need sounding in his throat. He didn't think about how it would look to the others, that they would see him running to Ben because that was who had appeared in the doorway, he could only think of Kerr who he was sure was off to one side. The luggage handle in his hand had been the biggest giveaway.

He didn't end up barrelling into Ben, he must've moved out of the way. Cain entered the corridor and stared wild-eyed at Kerr for less than a second but it felt like it hung in a frozen moment. Then he threw himself at Kerr, wrapping his arms around his neck and landing bodily chest to chest against Kerr's familiar hardness. It was his smell, his shape, and it was so good that Kerr was merciful and had forgiven Ben so quickly. He hoped he'd been missed too, but he knew better. It was enough that he didn't have to suffer Kerr's absence.

"Welcome back," he breathed, planting a kiss on Kerr's jaw.
Digital: I drink from the poison chalice
Lan Bao: I reap the harvest of my people
Cain: I am the instrument that vampires play
Shan: I take what is mine and what is yours

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: A Brave Face
« Reply #19 on: December 23, 2019, 05:39:12 PM »
Kerr could detect Cain's scent above all the others in the room, its familiarity rising above the mingled aroma of the unknown. Before he knew it, it was enveloping him, warm arms were tight about his neck and forgiving lips were upon his flesh. Kerr's eyes fell closed and he hugged Cain back, bowing his face to rest his forehead on Cain's shoulder.

"I'm sorry," Kerr whispered back. "I'm sorry to have upset you. It was a mistake to go but... I'm back now," he finished lamely, lifting his head and looking past Cain towards Ben. "I shouldn't have gone." He gave Cain one last squeeze and then gripped the mortal's shoulders in order to move them apart, smiling into Cain's mismatched blue eyes. "Let's go home." His hands moved back to the handles of his suitcases and he waited for Ben to lead the way.

It felt appropriate that he should follow after them, in a position of humility. The tale of how he'd be sleeping in the spare room could wait until they got to the apartment.