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Dusk barely notice the waiter bring water to the table, which was unusual as the raccoon would normally chastise himself for carrying on such a display in public. Zylo made being open and vulnerable feel safe somehow.
The two finally released each others hands and Dusk took a drink of water before posing his next question. ‘Fingers crossed that this one doesn’t send the both of us on another emotional roller coaster,’ Dusk thought to himself.
“I think I already know what it is I want you to tell me about next.” Dusk set his elbows on the table and rested his chin on the place where his two paws met. “On more than one occasion now, you’ve expressed some concern over my safety and, in particular, my safety with you. So I suppose my question is, what is it that I need to be kept safe from?”
"Almost three years ago, I decided to take on a contract from a Mysterious stranger. They claimed the reward was more valuable than any amount of gold in Feila. . .I was interested, but also still new to the game. The task called for a team, but - naturally - it was a team that was assigned at random. My partner's names were Shadow, a tiger who harbored some kind of demon spirit. Irik an apprentice sorcerer. Real nice boy, that one. Lastly, Nyulotha, a soldier. Stern, but there was something I admired in the way she persevered with her attitude" Zylo stopped for a moment, realizing just how crazy he sounded. He looked at the Coon, noticing a slight sense of confusion, he knew the best way to clear things up was to continue with the story. "Anyway, we started tracking down the relic, along the way... we realized something was following us. It was like someone could see what we were doing and at any given time... they could just jump out of thin air." He paused again. "It was much more terrifying when we soon discovered that they were, indeed, able to appear out of thin air. . . on a mountain, amidst a blizzard. . . even though it was only a few assassin grunts the timing was not optimal for taking on an ambush. After handling them, we were set on finding the relic, although we suspected that whoever 'they' were, they were probably right behind us searching for the same thing," another pause. Zylo took another sip of his water, he set down the glass and stared deeply into the ripples of water. The story was clearly becoming harder to tell. The glossy cloud in his eyes told it all. "We succeeded. I thought that it was over... that would go home to Monte, richer than any king in the kingdom..." He couldn't stop the first tears from falling "That I would go to my father and show him what a man I've become, without his help, loving the one I chose... But Alas, none of that happened... "I took two steps out of the ancient tomb, and saw Monte on his knees... there in the snow...he-," Zylo stopped, taking the table napkin and putting it to his eyes. "He looked so cold. They had a knife to his throat, too. It all happened so fast... none of us could react quick enough to save him," Zylo averted his gaze as chocked back a sob, only leaving him to whine softly.
Zylo was holding back a deep sadness, something he hadn't touched since that day. The primal urge to howl was almost too becoming, still he attempted to hold his composure. He wiped his eyes clear, and looked to the Coon. "I've been alone for the last two years, for one fear and one fear only... that those who get close to me will meet the same fate the Monte did that day," Zylo reached out and took the Coon's paw once more. "So you see...Alessio, it is for that reason that I ask you, plead you, beg you... to be careful around me," He spoke softly. "Please."
"Your food, Good sirs," A loud voice quickly brought the attention of the two furs back to their surroundings. The waiter set down a large plate of beautifully cut chicken, roasted and cooked over a small medley of mixed vegetables before Zylo, but his appetite escaped him at the moment. "Enjoy," The waiter said as he served Alessio's plate and quickly resumed his rounds.
A strange calm passed over Dusk as the fox gave his final words of warning and the food arrived at the table. The same calm that he had lived in for the last decade as he sought revenge against those who had wronged him and stolen his love away. In that moment, the raccoon felt Zylo’s pain become his. The uncertainty that had clouded Dusk’s future in the wake of his victory over Andrea was swept away. If Andrea had been worthy of toppling, the furs who had so viciously torn at Zylo’s heart deserved far worse and Dusk would be the one to deliver that punishment.
As the waiter stepped away from the table, Dusk watched Zylo grapple with the feelings that had bubbled to the surface as a result of recounting his story. “Zylo,” the raccoon began with an edge to his voice, “I have never killed another fur. I’ve never really needed to. BUT there is one thing that I can promise you. I will make the furs who hurt you pay. I’m not sure how right now, but there is red in their ledger and the debt they owe you is long overdue.”
Regardless of who would be protecting who on this journey, Dusk knew that the return of Zylo’s appetite meant that he was beginning to forget his troubles. “Well, let me not be the fool that stands between a predator and his prey,” Dusk said as he took his hand out of Zylo’s and picked up his silverware. Dusk began eating his entrée, occasionally taking glances up at Zylo to make sure the fox was actually feeling better.
As the two devoured the food on their plates, Dusk said between mouthfuls, “You know, it’s your turn to ask a question.”
"I guess I am wondering . . . if you know Leonardo is out there. How come you don't try to find him?" Zylo asked, his head tilting to the side, ears shifting over limply.
“Of course, that wasn’t the only reason,” Dusk continued. “As I said before, Leo is an exceptionally talented artist and I did not want to get in the way of his success.” Dusk’s eyes shifted down toward the table, “In the art industry, reputation plays a crucial role in how acclaimed an artist becomes. One might even say it is just as important as the works of art themselves. As you’ve seen, two males being in a relationship is rather frowned upon in this country. There are plenty within the upper echelons of the art world who indulge in such pleasures, but those tristes must take place in private.”
Dusk began to feel self-conscious as he realized how pathetic he must sound. “There were times when I thought about trying to figure out where Leo had been sent, but the more time that passed, the more distant I felt from those feelings of love. At some point, I think I stopped tormenting Andrea and my father for Leo and just did it because I hated them.” Dusk heaved a deep sigh. ‘Now I sound petty and pathetic. Wonder how long it will take him to request the check and sprint out of here?’
Dusk looked up at the fox trying to gauge his reaction to what he had said so far. “Honestly Zylo, with everything that has transpired since you showed up, I very well could have a go at finding Leo. After all, with the leverage I have over Andrea, I could probably just ask him where Leo is.” Dusk could feel anxiety clawing at his chest and he hesitated before continuing, “But I’m not sure that I should try to find Leo. It’s been a decade since we were separated from one another and there is not telling what he thinks or feels about me after all this time. I suppose a part of me believes that Leo is a part of my past that I am supposed to be leaving behind.”
The raccoon leaned back in the booth and looked up at the wood beams that crisscrossed below the restaurant ceiling. “So many things have changed and so many things are possible.”
Zylo sat back for a while, crossing his arms behind his head and letting out a soft sight. The weight of his meal was starting to set in... he was still, surprisingly tired from the night before. 'I think using it... takes more energy than I'm used to,' he thought to himself, looking at his paws. "We should get the check soon and maybe get some more rest?" Zylo raised an eyebrow, knowing that going back to the apartment and was quite a bit more enticing than looking for any clues at the moment. There was something about the Coon that just made him want to take hold... latch on and never let go. It was a feeling he hadn't shared with anyone for quite some time, and he was willing to capitalize on the opportunity.
He quickly reached into his coin purse and placed the approximate value of both dishes on the center of the table before grabbing Zylo’s hand and pulling him along behind as they ran out into the street. Dusk waived to the waiter on the way out and shouted, “I’ve got to go, but please let Bart know that I’ll come by again soon.”
The raccoon dragged the fox into the nearest carriage and told the driver what their destination was. Before the carriage had even lurched into motion, Dusk was straddling the fox’s lap and kissing him passionately.
The carriage came to a halt, and the two furs exited quickly. Zylo tossed a small bag of silver to the driver as the pair made their way into the stairwell. The top floor was too easy to get to in this moment of necessity.
Once the two furs had sated their lust for one another, they both collapsed, exhausted, into Dusk’s bed of pillows. Zylo was not the first male Dusk had rolled around in his apartment with, but he was the first one that Dusk still wanted to touch and be touched by even after the lust was gone. The raccoon rested his head on the fox’s chest and let out a contented sigh. “I feel more at home in your arms than I ever have in this city before,” Dusk murmured quietly as he began to drift asleep.
It had been too long since Zylo had felt such a deep passion, for anyone. He wasn't concerned with the way Alessio looked, there was just something special about him. It called out to the fox, made him want to be a part of it, too. When Alesso spoke, Zylo chuckled. He nuzzled the coon, and snuggled up tightly.
"I dare say, Alessio..." He spoke dreamily into the Coon's ear. "That you make me feel... Like I belong," he whispered as his breathing became heavy. Soon the pair had drifted off into their deep slumber.
Morning came all too quickly for Alessio and Zylo. The sun crept in through the open window of the apartment. The ambient sounds of the city coming to life, the threat of morning bells was imminent.
Zylo's ears twitched as the fox stirred. His eyes fluttered, seeing nothing but coon in is direction. He smiled, basking in the warmth for a few moments before carefully sliding out of his position on the bed, as to not disturb the coon.
The fox sat up on the bed, rubbing his eyes and gazing out at the early sky. 'Hopefully today... We can get one step closer to solving this mystery,' he thought. Zylo made his way over to the kitchen, and poured himself a glass of water. His hazy mind reeled as he tried to devise a plan of action.
For Dusk, his experience over the past couple of days simply told him that Zylo was special for some reason. Special in a way that was hard to put into words. As much as the raccoon disliked the idea of letting his guard down around someone, he had decided that the fox was worth giving a shot and he would just see where these feelings took them.
But all of that was in the future and it was time for Dusk to focus on the present. He had made a promise to Zylo the day before that he would find a way to make his tormentors pay and he intended to keep that promise. The first step was getting as many details from Zylo as he possibly could and then using that information to find further leads among his contacts within the city. Whoever these people were, they were obviously quite dangerous and Dusk knew that crippling them would require far more delicacy than he had employed in targeting Andrea.
As for Zylo, the fox had not been very explicit about what he planned on doing now that he had satisfied his contract with Andrea. Whatever it was, Dusk would likely be going with him and that might complicate the plans he was laying for the assassins. ‘I’ve always been flexible,’ the raccoon thought to himself. ‘I’ll just have to find a way to work around whatever plans Zylos has for himself.’
The raccoon rolled over and buried his face deep into the pillows. For now, the raccoon’s bed interested him far more than any of his thoughts.
Zylo made his way back to the old studio he met Andrea in, so many things were beginning to make sense now. The door had been kept unlocked since last time, making for an easy entrance. Everything had been left just as it is, which was surprising considering the sheer amount of artwork and tools in the small building. Regardless, Zylo found what he had been looking for. The painting he had left on the small desk. With the painting pieces tucked safely in his pocket, Zylo left. He made his way to the tavern, not far from the studio.
Moments later, Zylo emerged from the tavern. He slung his pack, containing his travel equipment, over his shoulder and flagged down a carriage. As he stretched his thumb out, his eye caught something. A lemur, wearing a dark cloak, eyes as dark as night, his gaze seemed to pierce the fox.
Before long, a beam of sunlight found its way directly into the raccoon’s face and it seemed to be a sign that he had slept long enough. Dusk’s eyes fluttered open and he slowly stretched himself out as he looked about the apartment. Other than the bits of red fur scattered on the pillows where the fox had been sleeping, there was no trace of him anywhere in the studio. Dusk chuckled to himself, ‘Quite the tidy houseguest.’
Zylo had mentioned that he would be back soon, but Dusk couldn’t think of a way to entertain himself in the meantime. After all, the raccoon hadn’t taken on any new appointments to critique artwork and he had no intention of completing his review of Andrea’s collection. Without his legal and illegal work within the art world, Dusk began to realize that he really didn’t have many hobbies. ‘I am finding myself less and less attractive every day,’ the raccoon thought to himself.
Rather than sulk in his apartment all day, he decided that he would take a stroll about the city. ‘Maybe,’ the racoon thought, ‘I’ll find something interesting to do along the way.’ Dusk scribbled a quick note letting Zylo know where he had gone, put on some casual clothes, and made his way out onto the street.
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