ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was written outside the prompt calls, inspired by the "flirting" square in my 5-22-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread in the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Braiding Moonbeams"


Lawrence watched Stan
all through study hall,
tap of foot and clench of fingers,
the pinch of his eyebrows
making a fine line between them.

When the final bell rang,
Lawrence stooped to pick up
Stan's backpack and asked,
"What's been eating you?"

"Not everyone's a math whiz
like you, Lawrence," said Stan,
his voice a little sharper than usual.
"This stuff is impossible --
I might as well be trying to
braid moonbeams in my hands."

This wasn't quite Lawrence's fantasy
about Stan begging him for help
with algebra, but it came close.
"I could try to explain it ... if you like?"
Lawrence offered tentatively.

A smile cracked Stan's scowl.
"You'd do that for me?"

Given the crush he had on Stan,
Lawrence would do almost anything.
"Sure, just come over to my house.
We'll need my books," Lawrence said.

So that afternoon, they both went
to Lawrence's house to study.
"Your mom won't mind, will she?"
Stan asked as they climbed the stairs.

"No," Lawrence said quietly.
He checked her bedroom,
and sure enough, she was
sprawled asleep on the bed,
an empty glass on the nightstand.

Lawrence covered her with a blanket
and then silently shut the door.

He turned to find Stan watching him.

"Is she okay?" Stan asked,
leaning against the wall.

Lawrence looked down.
"Good as ever," he said.
"We just need to avoid
making too much noise."

Lawrence parked Stan on his bed
and then started pulling books
from his shelves. "We'll need these ..."

"I have my textbook?" Stan said.

"Pff, piece of crap," Lawrence said
with a wave of his hand. "Forget it,
no wonder you're lost using that."

Stan was staring at the stack of books
in Lawrence's grasp as if they
were covered in spiders.
"I have to read all those ...?"

Lawrence realized that Stan
found the math books
genuinely daunting.

"Not all of them, just parts,"
Lawrence said gently.
"Here, I'll show you.
Each one has a really good
explanation of something."
He flipped open the top cover.
"See, this one introduces
linear equations."

Hesitantly Stan leaned over
to peruse the relevant section.
After a moment he brightened.
"Hey, this does make more sense."

Lawrence led him patiently
through the background material
to shore up Stan's grasp of concepts
before venturing into today's homework.

Under that thoughtful care,
Stan began to relax
and even to smile a little.

It wasn't sexy like in his fantasies,
but Lawrence enjoyed it anyway.
There was something about it,
slow and solid and comforting,
that made him happy just to
have Stan beside him.

Sometimes their hands touched,
turning pages, or shoulders
pressed together as they
leaned over the homework.

Lawrence startled at first
when they touched, but
he got used to it more
and they slipped deeper
into concentration.

By the time Stan finished
all of the day's problems --
and Lawrence had checked them --
a couple of hours had passed.

Stan rubbed his side
where the recent stab wound
was healing into a puckered scar.

"Bothering you again?"
Lawrence asked.

"Yeah, I must have been
sitting wrong," Stan said,
shifting postion on the bed.

"Want some help?"
Lawrence offered.

"Sure," Stan said.
He stretched out on his back
and dropped his fetish onto the table
beside Lawrence's bed.

Just the sight of it lying there,
so innocent and out of place
in this familiar room,
made Lawrence shiver a little.
He wasn't used to being trusted.

Lawrence pushed aside
the distraction, though,
tucking it away like
the hair that fell in his face,
so he could concentrate
on helping Stan.

They'd been doing this
ever since that first day
in the hospital, slowly
working out the parameters
of Lawrence's ability to
speed healing in other people.

Stan tugged his shirt up
to give Lawrence access,
the scar still puffy and purple
with a line of paler pink
where the scab had flaked off.

It was already much better
than it would have been
without the assistance.

Lawrence spread his hand
over Stan's warm skin,
just the feel of his breathing
another distraction.

The power flowed more easily
between them now, almost
as if it knew the way,
a thin stream instead of a trickle.

Lawrence concentrated on it,
the heat of the body under his hand,
the shape of the scar there,
willing himself not to move,
not to trace it with his thumb,
just spill the power down and in
to help the flesh knit faster.

"Hey, are you okay?"
Stan's voice and his hand
on Lawrence's shoulder
startled him out of the trance.
"You look like you've got
that headache again."

Lawrence did, a faint pain
that stretched like heated wire
between his eyebrows to
the back of his skull.

He had half a bottle of blue
but he needed to save that
for emergencies. This,
he could just ignore.

"Yeah, but it's nothing,"
Lawrence said with half a smile.

"Doesn't look like nothing to me,"
Stan said, kneading the shoulder
underneath his broad hand.

Lawrence flinched
but did not pull away.

"Is this okay, or should I
stop touching you?" Stan asked.
"You keep wincing, and
I don't want to hurt you."

"It's okay," Lawrence said.
"I'm just ... not used to it."

Stan's fingers crept up
and stroked through the hair
just above Lawrence's ear.

Lawrence twitched a bit
and then settled, as always
torn between wanting and
not wanting, because he had
been hurt so often in so many ways
that his skin shivered at any touch

and yet there was this yearning in him
that craved it, glutton for punishment
like his father had sometimes said,
only Stan's touch soothed
as much as it ruffled.

Lawrence's hair flopped forward,
getting in his face again.
With an irritated huff
he pushed it back.

Stan was more careful
as he tucked the wayward strands
precisely behind Lawrence's ear,
and there they stayed.

"I don't know why my hair
minds you better than me,"
Lawrence said. "It's just so
flossy now that I can't
get it to behave."

Stan smiled at Lawrence
as he tucked his shirt
back into his pants,
hiding the scar.
"I could braid it for you."

"You can do that?" Lawrence said.
His own skill wasn't much.

"Sure, I do it for my little sisters
when our mother is busy,"
Stan said. "Got a brush?"

Lawrence had a brush,
a beautiful silver-backed one
with soft bristles that
his grandmother had left him,
although he usually used the comb.

Stan had asked for the brush,
though, and for some reason
Lawrence wanted to give him that.

Stan stroked a considering thumb
over the bristles to test their texture,
then nodded in approval. "Sit down,"
he said, tapping the floor with his toes.
"That way I can reach you better."

Hesitantly Lawrence settled
on the floor between Stan's knees.
The press of legs against shoulders
was dizzying but he didn't want to move.

Stan cupped the brush in his big hand
as if it were a currycomb, rather
than holding it by the handle.
Lawrence wondered why
until he felt the first touch,
and then -- oh.

Oh, that was why.
It gave Stan more control
so that he could stroke the brush
over Lawrence's hair without
ever pressing too hard or
pulling on any knots.

Baby-soft bristles smoothed through
long tresses as fine as silk,
putting them in order.

Stan's other hand came up,
gently sweeping through the strands,
fingertips gliding along scalp.
Lawrence could feel the tension
unwinding, almost as if Stan
had some healing power of his own.

Lawrence found himself
melting back against Stan's lap,
his eyes fluttering shut with pleasure.

Then the brushing stopped
and Stan's fingers combed through,
separating out three locks of hair
to plait together.

"I never get tired of touching this,"
Stan said reverently.
"It's so beautiful and so silky.
I feel like I'm braiding moonbeams again,
but these ones I get to touch."

For all Lawrence felt self-conscious
about his ridiculous silver hair,
he knew that Stan fancied it
for some reason, and that
was enough for Lawrence
to let him play with it.

Besides, it felt good,
quick little shivers
dancing over his skin
with every touch.

Stan worked slowly
yet confidently,
making one long braid
on either side of the head
and then joining them
together in the back,
holding the loose hair
securely in place.

It was beautiful and elegant
and it worked, and
why hadn't Lawrence
thought of doing that?

Well, if he had, then
he would've missed
getting Stan to do it for him.

Lawrence shook himself
out of the reverie,
not wanting to get so deep
that he couldn't pass it off
as ordinary appreciation.

Stan, he recalled, had
a weakness for spaghetti,
mentioned over school lunch.
Lawrence would certainly
have no trouble topping that.

"Come on," he said.
"Let's go back downstairs.
I'll make spaghetti for supper."

"You cook?" Stan asked,
perking at the mention of spaghetti.

"Of course I cook," Lawrence said.
If he didn't, who would?

It didn't take long to boil the water
and put in the pasta, while
he whipped up some sauce from
tomato paste and chopped vegetables.

Stan's sigh of approval made
the extra work worthwhile.

If Lawrence were a girl,
this is when he'd make
a cute comment about
the way to a man's heart
being through his stomach.

Lawrence wasn't a girl, though,
and Stan liked girls, and that
wasn't the sort of thing
to say to a friend.

It was heavy enough
just realizing how much
he wanted to be Stan's friend.

Then Stan said,
as he twisted his fork
in the perfectly done pasta,
"I keep thinking about
Lady and the Tramp ..."

and Lawrence was just gone,
so head-over-heels in love
that he didn't know which way was up.

* * *

Notes:

High school algebra is one common cause of math anxiety. However, some math aversion may be genetic. There are ways of coping with math anxiety.

Parental substance abuse has many negative effects. I'm not sure yet whether Lawrence's mother is misusing alcohol, prescription pills, or both; but she's busy, tired, and emotionally unavailable so this is one of her negative coping methods. Understand how to deal with substance abuse in the family.

Neglect is easier to miss than physical abuse, so know the signs. Take steps to help neglected children.

Math textbooks are often inferior. Studies have been done about textbook quality, but we're still losing ground. Stan isn't stupid, but math is not his strong suit and the crappy book isn't helping.

Peer tutoring is one way to help students get a handle on math. Learn how to be a good math tutor.

Sex is just one of the things you shouldn't rush in a new relationship. There are additional concerns for gay romance too. Understand how to take things slow and get more intimate without sex.

Blue chamomile oil is made from chamomile plants. It soothes a variety of nervous and metaphysical complaints, and in Terramagne is a leading first aid supply for people with superpowers because it works on overstrain.

It's important to get consent for touching people. Stan is finally starting to notice how often Lawrence twitches and flinches when people get close to him. Due to a lousy home life, Lawrence is torn between skin hunger and touch aversion.

See the vanity set and hairbrush that Lawrence inherited from his grandmother.

Hair intimacy can be an important part of a relationship, more meaningful to some people than others. You can tell it's momentous for Stan and Lawrence. Braiding hair is one example of nonsexual intimacy. Read instructions for simple or more complex braids. While Lawrence's hair isn't quite prehensile, it is expressive, and it definitely likes Stan.

Cooking for someone is another sign of intimacy. Here is one basic recipe for vegetable spaghetti sauce. Really, you can start with some tomato paste or sauce, and add pretty much whatever chopped vegetables you like.

The spaghetti kiss in Lady and the Tramp is one of the most famous movie kisses. Watch the original scene on YouTube.
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It's so layered, and meaningful on so many levels... and yet so typically 'first love' that it's kind of painful to read.

The whole setup works. There are plenty of sketchy details, which actually isn't a bad thing, because it adds depth while keeping the focus precisely where it should be, on the two young men.

Thanks for posting this one, too!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 06:07 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
God, the description of Stan brushing Lawrence's hair. Goosebumps. I'm very particular about who I let touch my hair, it's a very intimate thing for me.

I can't decide whether these guys or Danso and his sibs are my favorites in this series.

Awwwww!

Date: 2014-08-01 07:30 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
This is just fabulous. I never tire of reading about these two, and that last paragraph hits right in the feels.

This wasn't quite Lawrence's fantasy
about Stan begging him for help
with algebra, but it came close.


This made me chuckle. Real life has a way of not quite matching up, doesn't it?

"Of course I cook," Lawrence said.
If he didn't, who would?


The first time thru, I misread the second line as being part of the dialogue, and I could hear him saying it, just quiet and matter-of-fact, and I could envision Stan's reaction as it sunk in, what that one simple sentence meant. I'm a little sorry it didn't actually happen that way.

There's a common aphorism in one of my online communities, to the effect that while someone with an unreasonable family may find it hard to imagine living in a reasonable one, it's almost impossible for someone with a reasonable family background to imagine what living in an unreasonable family is like. I suspect this is going to be a source of both shock and consciousness-raising for Stan as their relationship unfolds.

Lawrence twitched a bit
and then settled, as always
torn between wanting and
not wanting, because he had
been hurt so often in so many ways
that his skin shivered at any touch

and yet there was this yearning in him
that craved it


Our Kitsune-kitty is like that. She was a backyard feral for almost 6 months before we caught her, and she still has exactly that kind of reaction pattern of wanting to be touched but then flinching away from it. If she can get up on the window ledge behind the mini-fridge, where a human can reach her to pet but not to pick up, she purrs and seems to enjoy it.

Re: Awwwww!

Date: 2014-08-01 06:47 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
A secondary thought that didn't come up clearly until later -- "braiding moonbeams" reminds me of Zenna Henderson's "platting the twishers", which would certainly be an interesting ability to explore!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 11:54 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
Well, you mentioned glass, and no bottle, so that sounds more like pills not alcohol. [besides, taking into account the apparent social strata, prescription abuse is slightly more probable statistically.]

Just a thought though, probably irrelevant, but from your description of him Lawrence could cosplay a Tolkin elf with minimal effort, especially with the braids. [which were a nice touch in the films, because they're not mentioned in the books but of course an archer would need to do something with long hair to keep it out of the way.]

Although, come to think of it... does cosplay or the SCA even exist in this universe?

It's odd though, I mean I know we're getting this from Lawrence's perspective... but for someone who isn't trying to seduce him, Stan is doing all the right things. Methinks he may eventually have to re-evaluate his estimation of Stan's sexuality.

Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-01 08:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Well, you mentioned glass, and no bottle, so that sounds more like pills not alcohol. [besides, taking into account the apparent social strata, prescription abuse is slightly more probable statistically.] <<

Valid points. One thing I do know is that her level of abuse is concealable. It's not a whole-bottle-of-booze or handfuls-of-pills problem. She's just the kind of person who is rarely if ever 100% sober. Pouring one glass of alcohol would be within that range.

>> Just a thought though, probably irrelevant, but from your description of him Lawrence could cosplay a Tolkin elf with minimal effort, especially with the braids. <<

*laugh* Oh he would. He looks like the Galadrim.

>> Although, come to think of it... does cosplay or the SCA even exist in this universe? <<

Likely so.

>> It's odd though, I mean I know we're getting this from Lawrence's perspective... but for someone who isn't trying to seduce him, Stan is doing all the right things. <<

Part of that is just Stan being Stan. He's a great guy, very friendly and helpful. But another part ...

>> Methinks he may eventually have to re-evaluate his estimation of Stan's sexuality. <<

... is that Stan really needs to take a closer look at his own feelings. He thinks of himself as straight, because he had a girlfriend. He is actually bisexual and has not clued in yet. This happens a lot in areas with a conservative culture.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 02:07 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Awwww. Cooking is love, and my sweetie is particularly fond of my bolognese... hitting all the feels with this, you are.

Again, slash done *well*. It's very rare ... almost blue. :)

Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-01 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Awwww. Cooking is love, and my sweetie is particularly fond of my bolognese... <<

Mine was all over the batch of venison spaghetti sauce I made recently.

>> hitting all the feels with this, you are. <<

I'm glad you found it so moving.

>> Again, slash done *well*. It's very rare ... almost blue. :) <<

I think if we had more positive stories about gay relationships in general, and young gays in particular, then the ones in our world would be healthier. They'd be less likely to hate themselves and each other, waste less time trying to act straight.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-01 09:04 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
I think if we had more positive stories about gay relationships in general, and young gays in particular, then the ones in our world would be healthier. They'd be less likely to hate themselves and each other, waste less time trying to act straight.

YES. Stan is going to have to come to terms with that himself ...

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-01 09:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
It starts in the next poem, "A Walk in the Park." There will be more later as I have time to write further in this thread, frequency depending on audience requests. It's certainly a match for Tuesday's topic of "flexible truths."

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-01 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
I've been waiting for this one to pop up ever since I first read its title on your masterlist.

It was ... just as good as I'd anticipated (if not better). I fear I am falling head-over-heels for these two (and, indeed, for your writing!). Thank you for writing such beautiful, thoughtful, respectful and downright awesome stuff.

Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-02 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I've been waiting for this one to pop up ever since I first read its title on your masterlist.

It was ... just as good as I'd anticipated (if not better). <<

Yay! That's flattering. It can be hard to live up to expectations.

>> I fear I am falling head-over-heels for these two (and, indeed, for your writing!). <<

That's always nice to hear.

>> Thank you for writing such beautiful, thoughtful, respectful and downright awesome stuff. <<

*bow, flourish* Happy to be of service. You can always ask for more. Next fishbowl will be on Tuesday, August 5 with a theme of "flexible truths."

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-02 03:44 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Love this -- I really like this pair. Very sweet.

Some kids (like my wife) learn to cook just because their otherwise-amazing mothers are lousy cooks. Our courting had a lot to do with food -- cooking together can be even better than going out for dinner.

OW!

Date: 2017-09-01 12:08 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
*whimpers*
*slinks off into the corner*
*curls up*
....this HURT...this HURT...

Re: OW!

Date: 2017-09-01 02:52 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
no, it just rubbed up against one of the raw places....a longing unfulfilled in person space and I wasn't prepared...it's on me not you.

Re: OW!

Date: 2017-09-02 07:40 pm (UTC)
mama_kestrel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mama_kestrel
(wraps gentle wings around you, preens your hair and behind your ears, churrs)

Stay in soft-warm-feathery-dim space for as long as you want/need. Mama birds are very patient people.

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