Jay braced himself as if he expected the ground to fall out from beneath him, and his stomach was light and bubbly as he gripped the armrests of the chair.
He honestly didn’t know what was going to happen.
He’d never kissed an Asra before. Something weird was definitely possible. Plus, it was Asta, who’d already proven to be quite unpredictable, so the chances of shenanigans were vastly increased.
Where would a kiss lead? Would they touch each other? Would they go all the way? Why the hell was it suddenly so easy to imagine Asta bending him over the desk and ravishing him with those two dicks?
By all the gods, Jay was freaking out.
But he was excited too.
Right as Asta pressed close enough for Jay to smell his warm breath, however, Asta did something extremely unexpected.
Asta pulled away.
Flustered, Jay demanded, “What are you doing?”
“You said I only get one kiss,” Asta replied smugly. “You think I’m gonna waste it here, making out in front of my computer?”
“I… I have no idea how to answer that.”
“The answer is no, babycakes.” Asta leaned back in his chair with a sigh. “I’m saving this kiss for the perfect moment. You just wait. It’s gonna be awesome.”
Jay sagged, relieved but also strangely disappointed. He had really wanted to kiss Asta, and he surprised himself with how worked up he’d gotten thinking about it.
A first kiss after hours of raiding a dungeon together sounded like about the most romantic thing Jay could think of, although he didn’t want to say that because it might sound too geeky.
Not that he should have been worried about that as his current company was most definitely as geeky as he was.
Still, he hesitated.
He didn’t want things to happen too fast, and he knew his feelings were already trying to get away from him.
“How long exactly are you planning to save it?” Jay asked sourly.
“Does this kiss have an expiration date?”
“It might,” Jay warned.
“Hmm.” Asta typed on his keyboard. “Well, how about after dinner tonight?”
“What, like a date?” Jay said that far too quickly.
“More like a surprise kiss quest,” Asta mused.
“O-Okay. You know it’s not that much of a surprise if you tell me you’re planning a surprise.”
“That’s where the surprise comes in!” Asta grinned. “You’ll see.”
“All right.” Jay turned back to his keyboard, and he looked at the screen.
Asta’s character was dancing in front of his, and the height difference between them made a particular head bob look a tad pornographic.
Jay backed his character away with a snort. “Why do you play a fairy monk anyway?”
“Uh, because they completely kick all ass?” Asta raised a brow.
“You could be anything. The fairies are so small.”
“Yeah, and they’re, like, impossible to hit because of it. Critical strike chance is higher than any other race, and their intelligence is through the roof without needing a buff. Major pew pew as a monk.”
“But if you do get hit, you could die almost instantly.”
“That’s why you make sure not to get hit.” Asta chuckled. “What about you? Fighter class?”
“What’s wrong with a fighter?”
“Nothing. I just, you know…” Asta gestured vaguely. “Fighters are kinda boring. I thought you’d wanna… Maybe play something cool.”
“You know, something like—”
“Like a magic user, right? That’s what you meant? The magic in Crusaders isn’t like real magic.” Jay shook his head. “It’s not the same at all. You know, people in the game don’t ask me why I didn’t roll a wizard or a damn alchemist. They don’t ask what’s fucking wrong with me because I don’t have spells. They don’t ask if I had some sort of an accident that took my magic away. They don’t tell me I’m a weirdo or a waste of space or a fucking disgrace in the eyes of the fucking Lord of Light!”
Asta’s eyes widened.
Jay didn’t realize he’d been yelling, and he immediately cowered.
Being born Silenced was a curse as far as he was concerned. It had plagued him for all of his life, and it was why he’d gone into technologies like computers and coding, things that magic didn’t work well with. He had wanted to feel useful, valued, normal.
For someone who wasn’t born with natural gifts, the fact he could make himself feel magical in other ways by using electronics was priceless.
He couldn’t summon fire or mend a broken leg, but he could sure as hell replace the toner on a tricky printer or walk someone through checking their email.
No one assumed there was anything wrong with him. They thought he was a nerd, and that was better than being treated like he was inferior to everyone else.
Because deep down inside, Jay sometimes believed he was.
Asta opened his mouth to start, “I’m sorry—”
“I’m sorry!” Jay froze when he realized he and Asta were talking at the same time. When he saw Asta hesitate, he tried again, “I’m sorry! I’m really sorry! I didn’t mean to go off like that!”
“No, hey, dick move on my part. I should have realized what it was gonna sound like.” Asta scooted close so he could rub Jay’s shoulder. “I’m sorry too.”
“I wasn’t talking about you being Silenced,” Asta said quickly. “I would fucking never, okay? People are real assholes. But not me. Well, most of the time anyway.” He offered a reassuring smile.
Jay frowned. “What were you talking about then? Playing something cool?”
“Uh.” Asta cringed. “I meant, you know, like a bard or a paladin. Fighters are pretty fucking vanilla.” He paused. “Fighters suck, okay?”
“By all the gods.” Jay snorted out a laugh. “You elitist dick.”
“Basic bitch.” Asta grinned.
Jay laughed again, and it was then that he knew everything was all right.
After lecturing Asta on the many virtues of playing a fighter and listening to Asta pretend to snore loudly, they returned to the game. Asta summoned up some sushi for them to snack on because of course he knew it was Jay’s favorite food, but eventually King Grell came calling to let Jay know his presence was being requested for dinner that evening.
If Asta could stand to share his new bestest friend who he couldn’t stop staring at longingly, of course.
Asta ignored the teasing while a flustered Jay blushed, and Asta said they’d be at dinner when it was time for dinner. They went right back to playing as soon as Grell left.
Jay hadn’t thought to ask where Ted was after he’d seen a new hickey on Grell’s neck.
Even though Ted was clearly keeping himself busy, Jay knew it was probably a little rude of him to hide back here all day with Asta.
After all, Jay had traveled here to specifically check on Ted. He knew now that Ted was doing great, so the checking part was basically over, and he really was having fun hanging out with Asta. Being here with him and raiding dungeons felt like the most natural thing in the world, and it tamed Jay’s beastly anxieties.
However, it did create some new ones.
Like, when was Asta planning to get that kiss? What exactly was the perfect moment? How long was Jay going to have to wait?
Not knowing was driving him crazy, and he had half a mind to kiss Asta right now and kill the building anticipation.
Asta was ethereally beautiful with the cerulean light of the computer illuminating his face. The violet and crimson flashes from the flames of the Fire Bomb spell he’d just cast made his eyes even brighter and more alluring than ever. There was something so sexy about the way he smiled when he took down a mob, and Jay had a lot of trouble not gawking.
Yup. He was bailing on catching up with his roommate who had literally traveled to this magical dimension and was going to marry its king because he was sweet on his cat.
Well, the cat who was actually an Asran prince.
Jay needed to stop thinking of Asta as a pet, but it was hard to shake after having taken care of him. It was also difficult considering certain things Asta had been privy to, and great, now Jay was getting anxious about that—
“You okay?” Asta asked.
“Huh?” Jay adjusted his glasses. “What?”
They hadn’t spoken in a while, both of them in the zone as they tore through the catacombs of Orkorge Castle together.
“Are you okay?” Asta asked slowly. “Did you spontaneously lose your hearing? Or were you just distracted by my awesomeness?”
“Definitely the awesomeness.” Jay smirked.
“I knew it.”
Jay made himself turn back at the computer.
“Seriously, what’s up?” Asta nudged him.
“Nothing. Nothing at all.” Jay refused to look back at Asta because he knew Asta would know he was lying. “I was just thinking. About stuff. Normal stuff.”
“Well, like how you still know more about me than I know about you.”
“You have but to ask, babycakes,” Asta purred. “The only thing I like better than talking about you is me. Ask away.”
“Uh.” Jay pushed at his glasses. “Well, do, do you have any other family?”
“It’s just me and dear ol’ Daddy,” Asta replied. “We got some distant ass cousins, but fuck those hoes. They only act nice because my dad’s the king.”
“Nope. They’ve all been dead for like a gazillion years now, some of them before I was born.” Asta shook his head, and he added gently, “I know you were real close to yours, yeah? Your grandma? She raised you?”
“Yeah, Gerdie Tintenfisch. She was my great-grandma actually.” Jay smiled, but it was sad. “My parents lost custody of me ‘cause they had, uh, issues, and well, to keep me from going into foster care, Gerdie decided to adopt me. She taught me all about the old ways, she bought me my first computer, she loved watching TV with me…”
Without a doubt, Gerdie had been Jay’s best friend in the world. Even long after he finished college, they had decided he’d stay with her because they enjoyed each other’s company so much. They both loved the same movies and television shows, they played cards every night after dinner, and Jay even got her to play some Crusaders from time to time.
Lower level dungeons of course, but they still had fun.
In a world where Jay long felt unwanted and rejected, Gerdie was the one person who he knew loved him no matter what. She didn’t care that he was Silenced or a nerd—her only concerns were making sure he was on time for dinner and then stomping his butt in gin rummy or crazy eights.
After her death, Jay was devastated. The light in his life was gone. Gerdie hadn’t just been his best friend. She was also the only real family Jay ever had. The house he grew up in was the first and only home he knew, and he found out the day of the funeral that he was going to lose that too.
Without Gerdie’s retirement coming in now, he couldn’t afford the mortgage on his own. Unbeknownst to Jay, Gerdie had been borrowing money against the house to offset her bills when she got sick, and he didn’t have the credit to refinance it.
He had to say goodbye to the house full of a lifetime of happy memories and the person he’d made them with all in the same day.
It was not a good day.
Jay couldn’t say it was completely terrible though as that was also the day he’d met Ted.
“She sounds like she was a real kickass lady,” Asta said with a kind smile. “She did a real good job with you.”
“Duh. Obviously you like me, so we know she made sure you only had the most refined taste.”
Asta cackled and spun around in his chair.
“You really can’t help yourself, can you?”
“I can, but I won’t.” Asta spun around again. “Why ruin the fun?”
Jay chuckled, clicking the mouse to steer his character over to a rest point. “Fun, huh? Is that what we’re calling it?”
“Fuck yeah.” Asta stopped himself by grabbing the edge of the desk. He clicked his mouse and brought his character over to dance on top of Jay’s as he rested.
Jay ignored Asta’s in-game shenanigans, asking quietly, “Do you mind… if I ask about your mom?”
“I’m sorry for asking! I just, I was thinking about Gerdie and how much she meant to me, and then I thought about how you lost your mom, so we’re kinda alike, but, but—”
“Jay!” Asta grabbed Jay’s arm.
“Huh?” Jay stared at him.
“I said no. As in, I do not mind.” Asta let go of Jay’s arm and rubbed it soothingly. “It’s okay. I like talkin’ about my mom. Whatcha wanna know?”
“Oh well. Do you remember him? Did he… well…”
“I sure do,” Asta replied warmly. “I wasn’t that old when he died. I mean, it was, like, three hundred and sixteen years ago, but I totally remember him.”
“Three hundred and what?”
“Which makes you how old exactly?”
“Three hundred and ninety-nine.” Asta winked. “About to hit the big four-oh-oh.”
“Holy shit.” Jay blinked rapidly. “And you’re still… young.”
“Well, yeah, duh.” Asta laughed. “Four hundred is not that old for an Asra.”
“How old is your Dad?”
“Oh, that asshole will never tell. But my Mom was over seven hundred years old when he died, so I’m gonna guess he’s close to that. He told me one time that he wasn’t much older than me when they got married, and they were hitched for six hundred and fifty-six years, so. Yeah, math that.”
Jay paused to count in his head. “He’s at least a thousand and fifty-six years old or more.”
“And you’re really almost four hundred.”
“Wow.” Jay fidgeted. “I guess… I guess that makes me like an embryo.”
“Creatures all mature at different rates,” Asta said firmly. “You’re at least four hundred years old in Asra years.”
“Thank you. I think.” Jay paused. “How old is Ted?”
“Like twenty. Ugh. Can’t even catch his own tail yet.”
Jay tried not to laugh too hard.
The hours ticked by, the dungeons rolled on, but soon it was time for dinner. Jay was really feeling good, and he was looking forward to dinner tonight with Ted and King Grell.
Although, he didn’t exactly have anything to wear.
Back to Asta’s bedroom they went, and a mere snap of his fingers created a rack of outfits for Jay to choose from.
It did not escape Jay’s attention that many of them had assless pants, and he wordlessly skipped those. He found a blue suit that seemed conservative but very well made, and he pulled it out for Asta’s approval. “What about this one?”
“Hmm.” Asta wiggled his nose.
Jay was now wearing the suit, and he patted himself down, feeling the fabric and checking the fit. He gasped as the suit’s blue hue morphed between green and purple, settling finally on a dark violet that was almost black. “Really?”
“Brings out the green in your eyes,” Asta said sweetly.
“Well, thank you. Uh. What are you wearing?”
“You know, everyone is very lucky that I’m wearing any freakin’ thing at all.” Asta flipped through the rack with a yawn. “Gee, decisions, decisions…”
“Why are you always naked?”
“I normally tell people it’s because I like the whoosh on my balls when I portal. Which is true. But really?” Asta smirked. “The only people who care are mortals, and I love pissing them off.”
“But you wear clothes for me,” Jay pointed out.
“Because I like you.” Asta grabbed a suit, a three-piece in black with silver pinstripes. It was on him in a blink, and Jay did his best not to drool.
Asta wore no tie, and the black button-up shirt of his ensemble was unbuttoned almost all the way down to his vest. The entire suit fit him like it was painted on, and he had accessorized with a silver watch chain and sparkling cufflinks.
His usually unruly hair was neatly combed back, and he was wearing small sleek black sunglasses. His pocket square was dark purple, and there was a deep violet boutonnière pinned to his collar.
Jay was definitely drooling.
“What?” Asta grinned. “Did you think because I like to be naked that I don’t know how to dress?” He offered his arm out.
“You, you look awesome,” Jay gushed, eagerly looping his arm with Asta’s. “Like, wow. You should be on the cover of GQ or something. You look great.”
“So do you.”
Asta was gazing so adoringly at Jay that Jay’s face got hot. No one had ever looked at him like that, and he had no idea what he’d done to deserve it.
Asta seemed to be about to say something again, but he only smiled as he pulled Jay close to get ready to summon the portal.
With a pop, the portal brought them into a lavish dining room with elaborate chandeliers hanging overhead and fancy sconces lining the walls. The glow of the purple stone was muted here, outshined by the supernaturally bright flames of the candles.
Jay squinted, as no other area of the castle so far had been so well lit, and he understood now why Asta had put on sunglasses.
King Grell was sitting at the head of the table in an emerald brocade suit with a green feather boa, and he was visibly surprised. “Hello, spawn. Jay. Don’t you two look just dashing.”
“Hey guys!” Ted was sitting to Grell’s right, and he stood up to give Jay a big hug. He was wearing a simple black suit, but he looked very handsome.
Jay was glad he’d let Asta dress him.
“Hey!” Jay was also glad Ted didn’t give him one of his usual crushing hugs. “How are you?”
“Good, good!” Ted grinned. “You look awesome, man!”
“Thanks. You too!”
Grell cleared his throat.
“Yes, you’re hot and amazing and green is so your color.” Ted groaned. “Happy?”
“Rapturously so.” Grell batted his eyes.
“Come on. Grab a seat.” Ted ushered Jay over to the table, though he paused to greet Asta. “Asta.”
“Cat Kicker,” Asta said coolly as he strolled over to sit on the other side of Grell, glaring at Ted across the table.
“Missed you today. It’s been so fuckin’ quiet.” Ted grinned. “You also look nice—”
“Ah, good. It’s still you.” Ted smirked as he took his seat.
Jay had started to sit beside Ted because he wasn’t sure where else to go, but he found himself next to Asta when he sat down.
Asta was pretending like he hadn’t just magically transported Jay over, asking casually, “What’s on the menu, huh? The usual giant artery-clogging slabs of meat?”
“See?” Ted nudged Grell. “Told you.”
“Told him what?” Asta scowled. “What are you guys talking about?”
“Oh, nothing, my darling spawn,” Grell crooned. “We had merely been discussing your infatuation with Mr. Tintenfisch.”
Jay froze, and he knew at once he was blushing and there was nothing he could do about it. His heart pounded, his skin crawled, and he hated how everyone was suddenly staring right at him.
He did not want to discuss being the object of a cat prince’s crush with his big cat king father right there.
“It’s very cute.” Ted eyed Jay for a moment, and he quickly added, “But we are not going to talk about that.”
“We’re not?” Grell pouted. “Because I had some amazing jokes lined up—”
“You can tell me later.” Ted smiled warmly, addressing Jay now as he said, “So, uh, been enjoying Xenon so far? Now that you’ve had some time to chill?”
Grell raised a brow in question, but he didn’t say anything. He seemed thoughtful, and then he grinned as if he’d figured something out.
“Yes. Thank you.” Jay glanced warily at King Grell, worried he might share whatever his revelation was, hesitantly adding, “Your Highness. Your Highnesses? I think. Uh. Are you a Your Highness yet?”
“No.” Ted chuckled. “And even when I am, you don’t have to call me that. You’ve cleaned up my fuckin’ puke.”
“My future husband.” Grell raised a wine glass. “A classy specimen of manhood if there ever was one.”
“I was sick, you damn lush.” Ted laughed. “Had some kinda gnarly stomach bug. Jay made me soup, was bein’ my nurse and shit, and I took like two bites and right back up it came.”
“This is what we’re talking about before dinner?” Asta grumbled. “Really?”
“Right. Sorry. I still forget normal people get grossed out by stuff.”
“This is not nearly as disgusting as the time he decided to regale me with the worst case of explosive diarrhea he’d ever seen on a house call,” Grell drawled, “right as we’re about to have chocolate fondue.”
Jay, having heard that same story before, cringed.
“Now I’m gonna puke.” Asta groaned.
Ted and Grell laughed, and Jay cracked a small smile. Some of the earlier tension had lifted since the focus wasn’t on him now, and he was able to enjoy the easy flow of conversation.
Ted kept things going and on mostly not gross topics, and he surprised Jay with burgers from their favorite fast-food restaurant for dinner.
“I haven’t had one of these in weeks!” Jay exclaimed, delighted as he dug right in for a big bite.
“Why?” Ted asked. “The damn place is two blocks away from our apartment. That’s why we fuckin’ ate there all the time! Okay, and yes, the burgers are dope as fuck, but it was also totally within stumbling distance.”
“Well.” Jay paused to dab some grease off his chin with his napkin. “After you went missing, it didn’t feel right to eat there without you.”
“You can totally eat there as much as you want to now, guilt free.”
“This is a heart attack waiting to happen,” Grell said, delicately picking at the burger with a fork. “No wonder humans have such limited lifespans.”
“I dunno,” Asta mumbled through a mouthful. “Tastes pretty good to me.”
“You’re lucky you’re my offspring because I have the most delightful retort to that.”
“Uh-huh. So fuckin’ lucky.”
“Hey, you’ve got some…” Jay noticed Asta had some ketchup on his cheek.
“Where?” Asta wiped at his face and totally missed it.
Jay grinned. “Try again.”
Asta did and only succeeded in smearing it more.
“Come here.” Jay picked up his napkin to swipe at the sauce, laughing. “You’re a mess.”
“Uh, yeah. A hot one.” Asta laughed. “Come on. Help me out here.”
“I’m very needy, you know. I need lots of help. All the time.”
“Oh, I’m aware.” Jay definitely wiped at some imaginary ketchup too just to give himself the excuse to keep touching Asta.
Asta smiled. “Thanks, babycakes.”
“No problem.” Jay withdrew with a shy smile of his own, and he realized Grell and Ted were both grinning at them.
They said nothing, but it still made Jay squirm in his seat.
“You guys got anything fun planned tonight?” Ted asked innocently. “Some more raiding?”
“Uh, maybe,” Jay replied. “We didn’t finish all of the Rattkin Ruins yet, so maybe, uh, we may go there.”
“Shit, I remember that place.” Ted grimaced. “You and your party people were stuck there for, like, a whole fuckin’ week.”
Ted had tried to play Crusaders once. He died valiantly in the beginner’s area and opted not to respawn after being killed by a low level mob for the tenth time. Even though it was clear he was not a fan, he’d always shown a friendly interest and kept up with Jay’s guild and their progress when new raids came out.
“Yeah, a whole week just in the first room.” Jay snorted. “Asta is crazy powerful and he already got us into the second room within twenty minutes. He could probably solo the whole instance.”
“Can and have!” Asta declared.
“Well, you boys let us know if you need any Mountain Dew or Hot Pockets delivered.” Grell chuckled softly. “I expect it’s going to be a long night.”
“You need anything?” Ted asked Jay. “Doin’ okay and gettin’ settled in all right?”
“Yeah!” Jay smiled. “I’m, uh, you know, feeling a lot better. About, uh, everything. It was a lot.” He toyed with the corner of his napkin. “You know, the whole magical world, you drowning, the talking ball thing, the ghost kid…”
“Don’t worry about the talking ball,” Ted soothed. “That’s Kunst, and I already told him to steer clear unless it was super important royal business, okay?”
“I told him that you were horrified by his ghastly disembodied appearance,” Grell chimed in. “In other news, spirit balls can apparently cry.”
“Wait, are you being serious?” Jay blinked.
“No, he’s not,” Ted said quickly. “But don’t worry. Kunst is gonna make himself scarce. Graham is upstairs watching a Master Chef Junior marathon, so he’s cool. He does like you, though. No pressure, but he does want to say hi without you freaking out.”
“Do… Do I know him?” Jay kept pulling at his napkin. “Wait, was he there with us at the apartment?”
“Yup. Our souls are basically superglued together. Where I go, he does.” Ted shrugged. “Even across dimensions apparently.”
“He can’t go… in a ball?” Jay frowned. “Like the other guy?”
“He doesn’t want to. No hamster ball for that little dude. Which is great because, uh, it wouldn’t work anyway since he’s bonded to me. That whole two living souls thing is tricky.”
“Oh. Sure. Right. Of course.” Jay dropped his hands into his lap to pick at the napkin, trying to stay calm. His anxiety was under control for now, and it didn’t feel quite as insane as before to discuss these things. “But… what if it could?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well.” Jay twisted the napkin around his fingers. “Gronoch was going to use me as a vessel for a god because I’m Silenced. No magic, so, with enough of those binding symbols, it’s possible. Like with Alexander and Rota, those guys that were trying to kidnap me?”
“Okay. With you so far.”
“Rota was able to share his soul with Sloane because Sloane was touched by Great Azaethoth.”
“Yeah, ‘cause then they totally made out.” Asta cackled.
“Sloane is blessed, like someone with starsight would be. Like you.” Jay gestured to Ted. “If Graham did want to ever be bound to something else, even temporarily, maybe it needs to be blessed. Like, some sort of artifact blessed by Great Azaethoth himself, or, well, uh, someone else with starsight could be a vessel for him.”
“Clever boy,” Grell praised. “That is an excellent idea.”
“Wait, could that really work?” Ted grinned excitedly. “Hey.” He poked Grell. “You got anything just layin’ around that’s been blessed by Big A he could try to use?”
“We could check the crypts.” Grell scratched his beard thoughtfully. “I seem to recall a ragdoll of some kind that was blessed during a solstice ritual a few thousand years ago. How would Graham feel about running around as a stuffed kitty cat?”
Ted’s arm suddenly jerked down, pulled by an unseen force. “Ah, someone’s marathon is over, and yes, he says yes.” He beamed over at Jay. “Graham also says thank you.”
“No problem.” Jay grinned.
Asta slid his hand over to squeeze Jay’s, and he smiled. “Look at you, bein’ all helpful and stuff.”
“Yeah.” Jay’s heart soared. “I guess I was.”
The rest of dinner was equally pleasant, though the chatter occasionally paused when Graham wanted to talk and Grell had to summon a new dry erase board for him to write with. Jay could see that Ted was really happy, and he and Grell were absolutely smitten with one another. Jay swore he saw the actual fireworks going off whenever their eyes met.
He could definitely hear Asta’s colorful gagging sounds when Grell took Ted’s hand to lay a kiss upon it.
The meal wound down, and Jay was pretty sure two burgers was his limit. He nibbled on a few fries and watched in a mix of horror and amazement as Ted finished off a sixth burger before finally declaring defeat. Asta tapped out at five, and Grell seemed content to keep drinking his wine.
“Hey, so, wow. This family bonding has been just delightful, but, uh…” Asta flashed a sly smile.
“Have fun, son,” Grell drawled, as if he already knew what was about to happen.
“Huh?” Jay glanced around the table as if he could discern the mystery by looking at their faces.
Grell was smug, Ted seemed concerned, and Asta’s smile was questionable.
“What’s going—” Jay gasped as Asta took his hand and the dining room vanished away with the pop of a portal. “—on?”
They were at the edge of the lightning tree forest Jay had seen before, standing in a small grove framed by tall black rocks. There was a large red and white checkered blanket spread out in the middle of the clearing with an actual wicker picnic basket and a blue vase filled with white flowers.
“That… that’s…” Jay stared in shock. “That’s the Summertime Picnic Basket vanity item from Crusaders? You, you made it in real freakin’ life?”
“Totally did, babycakes.” Asta had removed his sunglasses, but he still had a hold of Jay’s hand. “What do you think? Pretty perfect, right?”
“It’s amazing.” Jay laughed. “It’s really, really freakin’ amazing.”
“But is it perfect, though?” Asta pressed.
“I mean…” Jay didn’t know why Asta was smiling so smugly right now, and he looked back at the picnic. “I guess, uh, it’s like ninety-nine percent perfect.” He fidgeted. “It’s a super tiny thing, but the flowers are wrong.”
“Yeah!” Jay walked over to the blanket to show Asta. “Look! The flowers in the game are supposed to be all rainbow colored. These are just white.”
“How very weird!” Asta gasped dramatically, urging Jay to sit down next to him on the blanket. “Maybe you should investigate.”
“It’s not a big deal.” Jay frowned. “I wasn’t going to say anything, but you kept asking me—”
“Touch the damn flowers, Jay.”
“O-Okay.” Jay settled beside Asta, squeezing his hand as he poked the petals.
The moment he touched the flower, a cloud of glittering light erupted from the vase. The flowers shot up into the night sky above them and exploded in a barrage of prismatic fireworks. They hovered in the air, the colors shifting and glowing. Just as one faded, another went off and kept the magical display ongoing.
“Holy crap!” Jay laughed in delight, staring in awe at the beautiful lights. He leaned into Asta’s side, and he smiled as Asta’s arm wrapped around his waist. “This is amazing!”
“Oh, I know,” Asta teased.
A glance at the flower revealed they’d returned to the vase and were now rainbow-colored like the vanity item in-game, and Jay plucked a blue one to examine it. It looked and felt just like a real flower, though it weirdly smelled like…
“Look,” Asta said when he saw Jay’s nose wrinkle, “I thought sushi scented flowers was a good idea bein’ your favorite food and all.”
“It’s okay.” Jay chuckled. “It’s still very sweet.” He glanced back up to the sky as the fireworks continued to pop. “You did this for me?”
Jay snorted. “You did. You did it for me.” He turned to look at Asta, and his heart skipped over itself when he realized how close they were.
Asta’s eyes were reflecting the blues and purples as they flashed overhead, making them look like distant galaxies and Jay was instantly captivated. Asta’s hand on his waist was warm, firm, and Jay became hyper-aware of all the places their bodies were touching as Asta drew him in a little closer.
“Maybe,” Asta whispered coyly.
“Were you, uh, maybe planning something?” Jay asked, not sure when he’d gotten so out of breath. “Because I seem to remember you talking about waiting for the perfect moment for a certain something, a something that okay, yes, I’ve been thinking about a lot, and I think maybe this could be it, but I don’t know, and now I just can’t stop talking—”
Asta pressed a sweet kiss to Jay’s lips.