Post-Route: Date

More than anything, Krystoff hates being seen out of his element. He avoids unfamiliar situations to such a degree that a charitable person might interpret it as bashfulness, but a trained eye recognizes it for the narcissism that it really is. He’s far too self-important to risk lifting the curtain on the fact that he’s as woefully mortal and fallible as anyone else. Perhaps this neurosis is born of two hundred plus years spent trying to live up to a demon father’s unattainable expectations, or perhaps Krystoff is just a vain person by nature. Whatever the reason may be, he swerves from situations that may threaten his image as if his life depends on it and would sooner crucify himself in a town square than try something new in front of others because at the very least he could control how elegant he looked in his final moments, nailed up and saintly.

So whatever honesty he may lack when it comes to expressing affection, he is more than making up for by allowing Jun to drag him to a skating rink. Nothing short of a small miracle, possible only through his private fondness for Jun. Of course, that doesn’t mean he goes without a lot of grousing.

“It’s my first time too, you’ll be fine,” Jun assures him as they tighten their own laces and stand up experimentally. But they already look a hundred times more comfortable on their new wheels than Krystoff could ever expect to be, and the fact that Jun’s also a novice is demotivating him severely. “Besides, can’t you levitate? If you fall you can just float.”

“It—” Krystoff huffs as he tries to come up with an excuse, as if it’s Jun’s fault that he needs to bullshit. “It doesn’t work that way. If I’m surprised, I might not catch myself in time. And I’d look awfully foolish levitating with skates on. Everyone would know that I’d slipped.”

“Would they?”

“Yes,” Krystoff convinces himself, turning pale. He undoes his laces and starts to tie them again, probably to buy time, though the added tightness brings to him some simulacrum of comfort and security. Jun rolls their one good eye but says nothing. These days, Jun knows better than to tussle with Krystoff once he’s gotten a pesky idea in his pretty little head.

Jun pushes away from the bench to give the rental skates a proper spin, and although it’s quite different from skateboarding, Jun’s pleased to find that their sense of momentum and balance transfers over to the new skill to some degree. They’re able to skate themself into a comfortable circle around Krystoff before long. He regards them like one might a fly or a wasp but says nothing; this is him on his most gracious behavior, given the circumstances.

“Come on, I’ll even hold your hands if you want.”

Krystoff looks away in mild embarrassment as if the two of them hadn’t been together for the better part of a year now. His ability to tease and banter with them dissolved considerably once the feelings he’d always joked about became a real, palpable thing that he now had to be responsible for.

Jun thinks back on a time at the bar where Calisto was leaning over the counter, his hands folded politely to conceal his urge to gossip. His gaze was trained on Krystoff across the way as the apparition harassed poor Cassius, making the subject of his prospective gossip all too clear. “Krystoff is so much more sulky around you,” he’d said at length. Jun leaned forward to hear him better over the din of happy hour.

“What do you mean?” Jun tried not to sound too hurt by this diagnosis, but they couldn’t help feeling like he was right.

“Hmm, how do I put it? Just because Krystoff smiles, doesn’t mean he’s happy. I feel like he was smiling all the time when we were together.” It’d been long enough since Calisto and Krystoff shared their tumultuous relationship that Calisto was able to speak breezily of it now. “He’s a lot more willing to show you his ugly sides. Or whatever he thinks counts as his ugly side, anyway. He trusts you.”

Those words float through Jun’s mind now, and the thought, ‘This is most certainly an ugly side,’ accompanies them with some measure of fondness. They take initiative and scoop up Krystoff’s tepid hands, hoisting him carefully to his feet. The height disparity between them becomes apparent as Jun struggles to support his center of balance far above their own. Nevertheless they manage.

Krystoff smiles, and Calisto was so right about the apparition’s mirthless grins. “If I move at all, I will immediately eat shit,” he says matter-of-factly. Indeed his legs are locked into place like iron bars.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you.” Although Jun feels a little out of their league, they try to impart confidence onto him. “I think it’s like, do it less like walking and more like swimming side to side.”

“I’ve never swam before,” Krystoff admits with another wave of casual shame.

“Oh.” Next date, then. “Well, just shift your weight left and right. I think. That’s just kind of what felt right to me when I got up, anyway.”

“Fine.”

Krystoff is at the very least benefited by his preternatural ability to observe others and learn quickly from that alone. After a few minutes of guidance from Jun, he’s moving forward, very slowly, very cautiously, but forward all the same. Jun is still figuring things out as well, but they know that if they fall, their ego will be far less bruised than if it’s Krystoff, so their focus gets spent solely on keeping the man’s vanity afloat.

By the turn of an hour, Krystoff’s death grip on Jun’s hands has eased into a moderate fear grip, and their blood circulation is able to commence. Two hours has him able to get by at a casual pace without the hand holding, and he expresses zero interest in evolving beyond that. “No, I do not ‘want to go faster,’ are you daft? I’m going to continue going in my slow little circle until you’ve tired yourself out, so be grateful.”

Feeling somewhat like a dog at a park being humored but happy to be humored all the same, Jun does as he says and tires themself out. Gratefully, of course.

When the two of them return the skates and slip their shoes back on (or rather, Jun slips their shoes back on and then spends a few minutes watching Krystoff meticulously redo the laces on his tall, tall boots), Jun complains, “Man, kinda sucks being back to regular old walking after a few hours of being on wheels. I’d skate everywhere all the time if I could get away with it.”

Krystoff pauses, probably blotting out a less affable response, before saying, “I’m glad you enjoyed it!” Of course he wouldn’t share the same sentiment, considering the lucky bastard has levitation abilities. He’s said before he doesn’t envy a human’s lack of transportational options.

“Did you not?” Jun asks meekly.

“I enjoy watching you enjoy yourself,” Krystoff concedes, a little more sincere than usual. Exhaustion brings that out in him sometimes. He spares an affectionate smile, a small sideways glance and a quirk of the lips, baring his fang in a nonthreatening manner. “If you had fun, I’m happy.”

It sort of reflexively irritates Jun how effortlessly Krystoff is able to be charming and attractive, sometimes. Rather than express this they shove their hands into their pockets, face slightly flushed, and start leading the way home. “Next time, I’ll take you swimming at the beach. That’ll be funny.”

Krystoff hears it for the threat that it is and starts enumerating the reasons why he doesn’t find it funny at all.

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