Where Ages Meet: Ch. 4: Settling In

  • Word count: 900 (2 to 8 minutes) | Rating: T
  • Available on Kofi and Simily
  • Note: Magic, historic elements
  • ©2022 Quillful

The still-animated trunk plunked the other bags down and started to unpack them. A simple order like that didn’t need any more chanting, luckily for him. He needed to work on that unfortunate habit if he wanted to make good on his own potential.

Pivoting on his heels, Oliver leveled a grin at Rick. The steady stare he got back was familiar already. Comforting, he might say.

“Would you like me to do yours next?”

“Oh, uh.” Rick looked down at his bag and its heaped contents. Not many other options with that sack. He brushed aside messy waves of brown hair that only fell back after, too short for anything else. “I’m alright.”

Watching him pack things away into a drawer showed Oliver some things he wasn’t expecting. A flute, of all things. Rick didn’t seem artistically inclined, but he wouldn’t be the first musician in hiding Oliver’d ever met. The notebook looked like it was held together by a magic he didn’t know. Hope, feasibly. The rest was toiletries anyone might bring—a toothbrush, that sort of thing. All of it probably could’ve stood to be replaced. But the puzzle of Rick was coming together bit by bit. And as Oliver worked on that mystery, his trunk finished unloading his bags of clothes.

“It’s only right you take turns,” Oliver enchanted the bags to unpack the trunk of books and—well, mostly books. Not all his. Mostly not his. The workhouse population was on the illiterate side without much spare time, and he considered them a going-away-and-never-coming-back present.

“Big reader,” Rick commented, eyeing the bags with less suspicion than the very first time Oliver enchanted something in front of him. Progress!

“Oh, yes! Help yourself, of course,” he offered, flicking a hand at the shelf the bags loaded up. “There aren’t many to do with magic, but we’ll need ways to pass time while we recharge our mystical energies.”

Staring blankly, Rick waited for details.

“Ah, we’ll get there. It’s too much to go into tonight. Tomorrow night,” Oliver decided, a finger raised in triumph.

“Mm,” Rick agreed, testing out the bed by pressing down with his hand in the center. His face made it completely impossible to tell if it passed this test or not. He grabbed one of the piled-up pillows and held it up a little. “Oliver?”

He didn’t want to jeopardize the titleless use of his name, but it was out of the question not to smile about it. Finally, no more ‘sir’ or ‘Mr. Oliver’. He could only hope it would last when Rick got more rest.

“Lovely, thank you.”

Rick tossed it over, and to his own surprise, Oliver caught it.

What shouldn’t have surprised him was that Rick tossed his shirt off onto the floor before he climbed onto the bed. He was fit, generally unscarred, and appeared quite comfortable without a shirt. Many laborers in and around the workhouse shared his opinion on that. For Rick, his seeming skepticism of the bed was a much bigger concern.

Oliver kept his back to his aide while he changed into more modest nightwear of a long-sleeved shirt and loose pants. He untied his ponytail for extra coverage. In case of emergencies. There were some marks you just didn’t explain to someone you scarcely knew; it was—only polite. Calling it lying would be an exaggeration. Who told someone their whole life story from the outset anyway? Rick definitely hadn’t. And why should he? They had a budding friendship that could be washed away with that much information.

“Good night, Rick.”

“What if I can’t do it? Tomorrow, I mean.”

Rick sat cross-legged in the middle of the bed, his tanned skin even warmer to the eye beside the bland white quilt. He picked at the seams of it as he glanced at Oliver and away again. Obviously, there was more at stake here than the free stay that first convinced Rick to come along.

“Come now,” Oliver reassured him, clambering onto the bed to sit in front of him. “No one ever does anything perfectly on their first try. You will be marvelous in the arena!”

“How do you know?”

There it was, that fire in his gaze again. Oliver never could tell exactly when his vulnerability would give way to a conviction that would make mountains apologize and shuffle away. Theoretically. He figured that was fair, since he’d only seen known Rick for a week or so.

“Magic is a sensed thing, you know.” Oliver tapped his own chest, expecting to be scoffed at but just getting a flat stare as Rick rested his head on his hand, propped up by the elbow on his knee. “I can tell you have it in you.”

“That’s not enough. It can’t be.” Flopping back, Rick draped an arm over his face and stared at the beams above them. Oliver peeked up too. Just in case some secrets of the universe had tucked in there with the cobwebs not even this place could get rid of. “I should go home in the morning.”

Read Chapter 5

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