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Lost and Found

Chapter Text

Lewis was not lying. In fact, a little rough around the edges might have been an understatement. The farm was definitely no longer in its glory days. The stories Rainier was told about Celestial Farm as a child boasted of lush fields of crops and a beautiful maze of trees. Many, many years later, the farm was mostly reclaimed by the nature it was built on, the forest line creeping forward, no more than five feet of cleared land in any direction.

The porch she stood on creaked in a way that would definitely need to be addressed, but for now, all there was to do was start. It started with one overgrown patch of weeds. Then chopping up a few of the larger fallen branches.

Hours flew by quickly, and Rainier felt her arms shaking with exhaustion and her shirt was drenched with sweat. Stopping, she sat down on the porch step and looked at the small patch that she had been able to clear, and laughed. Who would have thought, in a million years, that she would be here, swinging an axe and pulling weeds. However, it was the most alive she can remember feeling in a long time.

The sun was still out, and Rainier saw that her watch only read noon. She glanced at the tools laying on the ground, knowing she should try and clear a little more, but the ache in her arms that hadn’t done more than type in years, begged her not to.

Lewis had said that the folks of Pelican Town might be a little wary of a stranger, but insisted that she not be shy, and make sure to introduce herself to everyone. He made that sound so easy, but the task seemed daunting.

Rainier sighed, standing back up on the rickety porch, “Let’s go make some friends.”

Rainier had made her way through the people north of the farm. Robin’s family was kind, her daughter just seemed eager to see another woman her age moving to town. Sebastian, her son, was pulling off the whole brooding and mysterious thing.

“Rainier just moved from the city.” Robin explained, trying to pour more coffee into everyone’s cup. Rainier politely shifted her cup to the side, not wanting to overstay her welcome, knowing there was a whole town of people left to meet.

Sebastian raised his eyebrows at mention of the city, no longer feigning interest. “Why the hell—” he started. “Sebastian! Language.” Robin interrupted.

Sebastian rolled his eyes, beginning again, “Why in the world would you want to move here?”

Rainier answered with a shrug, just saying, “I think sometimes we think we know more about what we want than we really do.”

Sebastian scoffed at this, but she just smiled and stood from the table, thanking Robin for her hospitality and accepting an eager hug from Maru, who said quietly, “I’m so glad you’re here.”

Even though she felt awkward, she felt grateful. It definitely wasn’t like the city, but this kindness felt like something she could get used to.

“I am too.”

It was 5:00 PM and Rainier had shaken hands and or hugged almost everyone in town. Her feet hurt from all the walking, and she swore even her cheeks hurt from all the smiling. There was one last stop to make at the clinic before she would be done. Walking up to the door, she saw the sign that posted the hours out of the corner of her eye. Looking closer, she saw that they closed at 4:00 PM.

Sighing, Rainier closed her eyes and let her head fall forward to rest on the glass pane of the door. She was tired, exhausted in most forms of the word, and this felt like one drop more than the bucket could hold. Fighting back tears, Rainier moved to stand up straight, “We’re not going to cry about this.” she said aloud, as if to convince herself, “We can just come back tomorrow.”

Just as she finished her little speech, the door in front of her swung open, Rainier’s eyes going wide and a yelp catching in her throat, “Oh, I’m sorry! I was just leaving.”

A tall man stood in front of her, glasses perched low on his nose and brown hair tousled. The tie around his neck was loose, the first two buttons of his collared shirt undone, and the sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

“You must be Rainier,” he said, extending his hand, “I’m Harvey, the town doctor.” Rainier reached her hand out to meet his, cheeks burning red with embarrassment.

“Yes, it’s, uh, it’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry about the weird door thing, I was just getting ready to go—” she stopped herself from rambling, “I-I just wanted to introduce myself, I just moved to town.”

Harvey smiled, one hand keeping the door propped open, the other fiddling with a pen now. “I thought I heard someone at the door. I’m glad you stopped by, Mayor Lewis mentioned that you were coming to take over Celestial Farm. You know, he is very excited to have a farmer back in town.”

Rainier shifted where she stood, the word farmer still didn’t sound like a word that would describe her. “Ah, that’s so nice,” she let out a small laugh, “I’m not sure you could call me a farmer yet.”

Harvey gave another one of those soft, attentive smiles and Rainier tried not to blush under the gaze. “Well, you live and work on a farm, don’t you? Sounds like a farmer to me.”

She smiled back, “Yeah, I guess I am.”

Bidding him goodbye, the smile stayed on her face as she began walking down the dirt path back to the farm. The sun was starting to set now, the sounds of the creatures in the trees transitioning.

Harvey was right. She was a farmer now.

Days had turned to weeks, and before Rainier knew it she had quite the routine going. Every day started early, she was never a morning person before, but it felt different now. Even though she was the most tired she had ever been in her life, she still felt excited.

Spring had drawn to a close and she couldn’t believe how different the farm looked now. Rainier had a modest field going, even a coop with a few chickens. Every time one of her crops was ready to harvest she felt a special kind of joy bubble in her chest. It wasn’t much, it only started with fifteen parsnips, but it felt so tangible. Like she had accomplished something.

Pelican Town was an adjustment. It seemed like everyone had a special place in this community. It was so close knit that sometimes Rainier worried how she would fit into it. All of the spring festivals had come and gone and Rainier couldn’t help but feel like an outsider at each one. At the egg festival she watched as everyone joyfully cracked open their decorated eggs, delighting in the spoils. Rainier quietly slipped away with the few she had found and opened them by herself at the farm, trying not to tear up about it. When Mayor Lewis had mentioned the Flower Dance, Rainier got excited. There was no way she thought anyone would want to dance with her, but she still looked forward to celebrating. When she got to the field she wasn’t surprised to see everyone had already paired up with their dance partners. She smiled as they all danced, her stomach turning as a few of the older folks in town gave her a pitying smile. It wasn’t that everyone wasn’t nice. They were plenty nice, but it didn’t feel like the conversations could go further than pleasantries.

Perhaps Rainier was lonely. No lonelier than she was when she was in Zuzu. Lonely nonetheless.

Seeds. So many seeds. Pierre had spread his selection of seeds for the season out on the counter for Rainier, rambling on about how they were the finest selection in the whole valley.

She hummed in response, only half listening, most of her focus on reading the information on the back of the seed packets. “Hm, that’s interesting.”

“Yes, you won’t find seeds like these at JoJo Mart. These here will produce the best fruits and vegetables you’ve ever tasted, just you wait.”

Smiling, Rainier nodded, knowing that she had no interest of shopping at JoJo mart, and he didn’t need to convince her of that.

As Pierre rang her up, Rainier looked around the shop, admiring how quaint it was. There was a quiet humming behind her, turning, she followed the sound to find Dr. Harvey looking at produce. After inspecting two apples, he carefully placed them into the basket in his hand. Rainier hadn’t seen him much since their introduction, only at festivals and in passing, and she found him to be one of the most curious people in town.

Deciding to stop staring, she turned back to the register where Pierre was boxing up the rest of her seeds.

“Alright, Rainier, you’re good to go.” Pierre said, sliding the box across the counter. “Thank you.” she smiled, getting ready to walk away.

Knowing Pierre, she should’ve known it would be that easy. “You’ve done a whole season in Pelican Town now! How crazy is that.”

Rainier let out a light chuckle, box still in her hands. “God, you’re telling me.”

Pierre laughed back, nodding his head. “You making any friends? Abigail tells me she doesn’t see you at the saloon, or anywhere really, very often.”

A familiar blush rose on her cheeks, her introverted ways embarrassing her. “Ah, no. You know I’ve just been adjusting, don’t seem to leave the farm too often, unless it’s coming to see you.”

In true dad fashion, Pierre gave Rainier a knowing smile, assuring her, “Well don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of friends soon. If you want a secret from me, bring them little gifts. Everyone here has something they can’t resist.”

Intrigued, she let her hands drop from the box and listened. “Like Dr. Harvey back there.” Pierre gestured, lowering his voice a bit, “Coffee. Absolute fiend for the stuff, maybe even a bit of a coffee snob. Based on his purchases here, also loves a good bottle of wine, and oddly enough, pickles.”

Resisting the urge to pull out her phone and take notes, Rainier continued to nod, feeling like she was being let in on a secret.

“Oh, and let me think.” Pierre continued, leaning his elbows on the counter and resting his head in his hands, a little too happy to be having this little gossip session. “Shane, you know, miserable guy, loves hot peppers. Abigail’s buds: Sebastian loves sashimi and pumpkin soup, Sam, unsurprisingly, likes pizza.”

Rainier was desperately trying to make note of all of this in her head, surprised that she hadn’t thought of it yet. With a laugh, she said, “So I just bribe them to be my friends.”

Pierre gave her a wink, “Exactly. I could go on and on. Elliot likes lobster and pomegranates. Leah can’t resist wine and goat cheese. Penny loves a good melon.”

Grabbing the box off the counter again, Rainier thanked Pierre for his help. “I suppose I don’t have any excuses now.”

Nodding, Pierre stood back up. “You’re young, Rainier. Better put yourself out there, you’ll have more fun that way. Can’t just spend all your time working.”

As she turned to walk out of the store, she made eye contact with Harvey, who was making his way towards the register. “Hello, Rainier.” He said, smiling.

“How are you, Dr. Harvey?” Rainier asked in response, stopping and resting the box on her hip.

A slight look of surprise crossed his face, something Rainier wasn’t quite able to read. “I’m good! People don’t get sick much during the summer. That’s nice.”

Before she could say anything in response, “Guess I don’t get asked that a lot,” he laughed, “How are you?”

Rainier watched as he pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, then running the same hand back through his hair, pushing the bit of overgrown fringe from hanging over his lenses. His hair was a bit longer, just slightly. Rainier wondered if he always let it grow out in the summer. Or maybe he just hadn’t gotten around to getting a haircut. Snapping out of it, she shifted the box in her hands so the edge wasn’t rubbing on the bandage she had wrapped around her palm, covering the blisters she had amounted. “I’m good, I’m adjusting, but I’m good.”

Harvey’s gaze had fallen to the box in her hands, his eyes almost comically zooming in on the bandage.

“Have you gotten hurt?” He asked, placing his basket on the ground, and taking a step closer. Rainier felt herself blushing for the second time today, shaking her head, “Oh no, it’s nothing it’s just a few—”

Harvey clearly wasn’t interested in any of her excuses, carefully taking the box from her hands and setting it on the ground between the two of them, looking up for permission to grab her hand. Rainier lifted her hand up, surprised when he took it into one of his, already peeking beneath the bandage. “It’s just, uh, it’s just blisters. Got them from using the tools, guess my hands aren’t quite used to it yet.”

A small hum of understanding came from Harvey’s throat, his eyes still trained on the redness beneath the bandage. “It looks a little red. Has it been bothering you at all?” Rainier craned her neck to try and see what he was looking at, surprised at how small her hand looked in his bigger palms. “Not particularly, it’s been a bit tender.”

“Okay,” he said quizzically, “Please keep an eye on it though, and make sure to keep it clean. Wouldn’t want it to get infected.”

Rainier sheepishly smiled at him, letting her hand fall back to her side as he pulled his hands out from underneath it. “I will. Thank you, Dr. Harvey.” He smiled, bending to hand her the box back and picking up his own basket.

Out of everyone Rainier had met in Pelican Town, Dr. Harvey felt like the hardest to read. Calm and polite, he always gave smiles that seemed too friendly to be for her. At the same time, she could see his nervousness in small ways. The way he couldn’t quite figure out what to do with his hands after she had pulled away, the way he shifted his feet where he was standing, just barely noticeable.

Pierre laughed in the background, “That’s Dr. Harvey for you, always giving medical advice that you didn’t ask for.”

Harvey rolled his eyes, looking back to Rainier again, “Have a nice afternoon, Rainier. And don’t work yourself too hard.”

She wasn’t sure if she was blushing again or if the warmth just hadn’t left her cheeks this whole time. “You as well.”

Harvey turned and headed to Pierre, “I’ll remember that next time you ask me to look at another one of your mystery freckles, Pierre.”

Pierre did another one of his guttural laughs, eyes crinkling at the corners. Rainier couldn’t help but chuckle too, making her way out of the door.

Just as the door clicked, Rainier noticed Mayor Lewis standing at the town board.

Thinking that maybe she could walk by without being seen, she began heading back towards the farm, only to be stopped with a booming, “Rainier!”

Turning on her heels, she gave him a smile, widening her eyes as if to feign surprise. “Mayor Lewis! How are you?”

Not listening, he went off on one of his tangents, “I am so glad to see you today. You know I was just thinking to myself, I wonder what Rainier is doing with the farm this summer? You must be growing blueberries, aren’t you? I love a good blueberry.”

Rainier smiled politely as he rambled, nodding as he continued, “Your grandfather grew the best blueberries I ever had, I’ll tell you that. Absolutely delightful. Well, I’ll let you get going, I know you must be busy.”

Giving another nod, Rainier opened her mouth to say goodbye, but Mayor Lewis beat her to it, continuing, “Oh! It’s Friday. You know the saloon gets pretty lively on a Friday night. I haven’t seen you there yet, but you should come tonight. I think Gus is even putting on a little wine tasting.”

Remembering what Pierre said, Rainier surprised herself when she said, “I’ll be there.”

“Okay,” Rainier breathed, rubbing her clammy palms down the fabric covering her thighs, “Just go inside.”

It was dark in the square now, just a few of the street lamps glowing. Rainier could hear the sound of music and chatter even standing outside of the saloon. Even though she had met everyone already, she was nervous like it was the first day in town. The outfit Rainier wore was simple, just a pair of leggings and a loose top, but she realized without her dirt stained overalls, she felt almost naked.

As soon as Rainier opened the door she began scanning the bar to see who was there tonight. Taking a few steps past the threshold, she heard the door swing shut behind her, the gust of warm air that followed practically pushing her forward towards the bar.

No one looked up from their drinks or conversations, so she felt confident enough to walk straight up to the bar. Gus’s smile seemed to get even wider when he saw her, almost shouting over the music, “Rainier! Make yourself at home, can I get you anything?”

Rainier noticed quite a few bottles of wine lined up on the bar, and a selection of glasses spread out in front of them, pre-poured. Leah was standing with Elliot, both with one of the small tasting glasses in hand. If there was anyone in town who would be able to actually have a conversation about the differences in the wine, it would be them.

Abigail, Sebastian, and Sam were in the game room to the right. The two boys playing a game of pool, and Abigail on the couch nearby playing on her phone.

Turning her attention back to Gus, she spoke, raising her voice to be heard over the music, “I’m not sure what I want, what’s popular?”

Gus smiled at this and immediately went to the tap, filling a glass with a bubbly amber liquid. Setting it on the counter, he slid it across to her. “I’m glad to see you out tonight.”

Rainier took a sip of your drink, the cold bubbles a welcome sensation on this hot day. “This is good!” she smiled, bringing the glass back to her lips to take a bigger sip.

“It’s a cider from the valley. Apples grown just a few miles from here!”

The pride folks here had in the gifts the valley brought them never failed to make her smile. Rainier hoped in time that she would feel that proud of what she did as well.

“Rainier, haven’t seen you in a while.” A voice spoke beside her. Rotating a little, she saw that Sebastian had moved from the game room, empty glass in hand. “How’s the farm thing going?”

Gus, without having to say a thing, accepted Sebastian’s empty glass, filling it back up quickly and putting it right back into his hand. Everyone was so familiar with each other.

“It’s going,” she chuckled, taking another big sip, “It’s definitely going.” Sebastian nodded, taking his free hand to scratch at the back of his neck. “Well I’m glad.”

Before Rainier could ask how he was in return, he had begun to walk away, and she tried not to feel embarrassed, taking another sip of her drink. Looking around again, she tried to make a plan. A million thoughts ran through her mind, “Should I make rounds, say hello to everyone? Or maybe just sit at the bar, catching people as they get refills?”

All of the tables had empty chairs, but something about the way everyone was deep in their conversations made her think there definitely wasn’t any room for her there. So, sitting at the bar it was.

Faster than Rainier expected, she found herself at the bottom of her cider. Gus swooped in without a word, swiping the empty glass and returning it again, this time with a slightly lighter colored drink.

“I think you’ll like this one as well.” He smiled, with a look in his eyes that was a little more sympathetic than she’d prefer.

“Thank you.” Rainier muttered, shifting on her bar stool.

Looking above the rim of her glass, Rainier saw Shane standing by the fire place, staring forward at nothing in particular. It was sad, and she wondered what it was that had him so low. Part of her wanted to ask, but based on any interactions she had with him, which were only early morning passings with him on his way to work as she ran around town, the looks he gave her made her think that he probably wasn’t interested in casual conversation.

Rainier kind of wished that she had brought some of her pepper crop with her, maybe that would’ve been enough to break the ice with him tonight. “Or,” Rainier thought, “People will think you’re weird for showing up the bar with a basket of hot peppers.”

The apples of her cheeks had started to warm, and for once not from embarrassment, instead from the alcohol hitting her stomach.

Harvey was sitting by himself as well, his cheeks a little red and eyelids a little low. He’s cute, Rainer thought tipsily as she continued to inspect his face. Just as she was going to stop staring, his eyes raised from his phone and met her gaze, a smile lifting his lips. In that split second, Rainier panicked.

A quiet, “Fuck.” fell from her mouth, her mind racing with, “Do I smile back? Is he trying to communicate with me? What if he is smiling at someone behind you? Should I look to check?” Deciding to do something, anything, before he thought she was crazy for possibly ignoring him, Rainier returned the smile, shifting her eyes back to her drink.

Rainier knew she was the opposite of playing it cool at that point, stomach flipping and cheeks burning just because someone smiled. Taking another sip of her drink, Rainier tried not to jump when she noticed Harvey standing up. There were only a few stools between where he was and where she was sitting, and as he rounded the corner of the bar, she realized that he was definitely coming over here.

“Rainier,” he spoke, voice level and smooth, “I am surprised to see you here.”

Rainier set her glass on the counter and straightened her back as he pulled out the adjacent stool and sat down. He had a glass of wine in his hand, taking a drink as she tried to gather her words. “Oh,” she laughed, shakier than she hoped to sound, “I guess I’ve been a bit busy on the farm, but Mayor Lewis talked me into coming tonight.”

Harvey hummed, nodding and chuckling, “He can be persuasive. Regardless, I am glad you are here.”
The way her heart was beating Rainier could practically feel the blood moving through every part of her body. He was so polite it hurt.

“Thank you, I’m glad I am too.” she smiled, and she meant it.

Everyone around town made jokes about how shy Harvey was, but compared to Rainier right now, he was the smoothest person on Earth. He effortlessly asked her about herself, asking questions that she realized no one else had really asked yet. That was one thing, and the way he listened was another.  It felt like in that moment, he was paying attention to Rainier and only Rainier, giving small nods and quiet hums of acknowledgment.

Maybe she was just starved for attention, but for now, a few drinks in, Rainier was just going to believe that he was actually interested in what she had to say.

Gus was good at his job; maybe too good. As the two of them were chatting, he continued to fill drinks, just waiting for a nod of approval before pouring more. Rainier knew she was at the point where she knew if she stood up she would feel the warmth of the alcohol all the way down to her legs. This also meant that her guard was low enough that she felt much more comfortable talking with Harvey. With the way that Harvey’s laugh had gotten a little louder, Rainier could tell he had relaxed as well.

They both exchanged funny stories from their work, and just as Rainier finished asking him weird questions that she’s always wondered about being a doctor, he took his glasses from his face, using the back of his hands to wipe at his eyes. “You are very funny, Rainier.”

In the background Rainier could hear laughter all throughout the bar, everyone in their own little groups having fun. It felt a little less lonely to be having her own fun too.

“Other than your newfound fear of chickens in numbers, how has farm life been?” Harvey asked, tipping his head back slightly to finish off his glass.

Rainier finished her own sip, nodding as she set her glass down, “You know, it is actually really good. I don’t think I’ve ever felt satisfied by my work before. This is tangible though; I see the results of what do and- and that feels good.” It felt weird to say that out loud, to be so honest, and despite being drunk, Rainier almost felt embarrassed by it.

Before she could, Harvey spoke, “I understand what you mean, it feels good to have a purpose. To know what you’re doing has meaning.”

A smile broke through her sheepishness, “Yes, exactly. It does.”

“I will have to come see the farm sometime, I can’t remember the last time I was out there.” Harvey said, using his pointer finger to move his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“I would offer to take you now, just so you could see how intimidating chickens can be, but it’s a little dark.” Rainier teased, a hiccup leaving her throat, making both of them laugh.

“That was so cute.” Harvey said amidst his laughter, eyes crinkled at the corners. Rainier tried not to react, but she couldn’t help but flush at that, just grateful that her cheeks were already red. Cute.

Rainier picked her phone up from where it was lying face down on the bar, glancing at it briefly to check the time. “Wow, it’s late.”

Harvey looked to the watch on his wrist, wincing, “Oh, that is definitely past my usual bedtime.” Rainier laughed at that, tilting her head back to finish the last of her drink.

Gus quickly came over, ready to give a refill. “Gus, I have to be up in like,” Rainier glanced at her phone again, “6 hours.”

Gus laughed, taking her empty glass, “You’ve been a pleasure, Rainier. Don’t let it be so long before I see you again!”

Smiling, Rainier slid her money towards him, Harvey doing the same. “Here,” Harvey said, handing it to Gus first, “Let me.”

Rainier raised her eyebrows at him, Gus just smiled and walked away. “You didn’t have to do that.” She said, rushed, trying to hand her money to him now. Harvey just laughed, putting one of his hands over hers and gently pushing it back. “No, do not. I can’t remember the last time I laughed like this, it’s on me.”

Rainier feigned a scowl, he just continued laughing, standing from his seat. “C’mon, we’ll walk together.”

The way he was talking to her was sweet, Rainier knew he was being kind because she was a little more drunk than he was, and a little younger, and that probably made him feel protective, even a little paternal. Rainier wished it was a little less that way, but knew there was no way he would be interested in her aside from that.

As she stood to walk to the door, Rainer was surprised when a few folks called out, “Bye Rainier!”

This made her turn, and when she looked around at everyone that was in the bar, for the first time since moving here, she really felt like she wasn’t alone. Even if it took a bit of alcohol to get there.

The temperature outside had cooled down now that the sun had been set for a while. Rainier welcomed the breeze that was hitting her warm face. A quiet laugh left her mouth when she felt the wobbliness in her legs. Harvey had stuck his hands in his pockets as they walked, digging his keys out. The street lights in the square illuminated the clinic door, and Rainier tried not to feel disappointed as she realized that meant they were going separate ways.

“Well,” Rainier started, bringing her eyes back to Harvey, “Thank you for hanging out with me tonight.” It was cheesy, but she really did feel grateful.

Harvey smiled, “Of course. I enjoyed your company.”

Rainier began to turn on her heels, looking at the dark path, that unlike the town square, was not as well lit. “I will see you around, have a good night, Harvey.”

Before she could set off, Harvey spoke up, “Are you sure you are comfortable walking back?”

It made her smile to hear him offer, but she knew she’d be fine. “Of course, if I can raise chickens, I’m pretty sure I can do anything.”

This made Harvey laugh again, and Rainier took one more look at his red cheeks and low eyelids before turning to head down the path. She tried to ignore the feeling of Harvey watching as she walked away, and when she heard the clinic door click shut, Rainier let out deep breath.

Cute.

Summer was in full swing and Rainier was drowning in bright, fresh produce. Robin had finished building the barn, and two baby cows from Marnie followed. With each new addition to the farm the sounds changed, and Rainier was happy to hear the experimental mooing of her calves as they grazed the grass on the farm.

With a heavy basket full of precariously stacked tomatoes resting on her hip, Rainier made her way to the shipping bin, her breath coming out in short puffs. As she carefully placed them into the bin with the blueberries and melons she had already gathered that day, she let out a sigh of relief. Closing the lid, Rainier walked over to the porch and took a seat on the ledge, wiping the sweat from her brow and grabbing her water bottle with her other hand.

With fall already on the horizon, Rainier realized how quickly this summer had gone. While things were feeling more familiar, she still felt aware of how little she made it into town to socialize. When Rainier left the city she had made promises to herself, that this wasn’t just going to be a career change, it was going to change her whole life. She knew it wouldn’t be like a switch that flipped and stopped her from being shy ever again, but she thought maybe some of that shame would have been left behind.

The gifts helped, she talked more to folks as she was running errands around town, but she found herself occupied with her farm tasks and spending time in the mines.

Everyone had warned her that she shouldn’t go into the mines. Marlon seemed to be the only one that had any confidence that she could, and even he was apprehensive. Rainier hoped to have a sprinkler system installed by next spring, and in order to do that she needed quite a bit of ore. So, every day for the last few weeks, after tending to the animals and watering the crops, she ate lunch and headed to the mines, her sword in tow and some snacks packed in case she got tired.

Grandpa told stories of the creatures of the mines, and as a child Rainier hung to every word, jumping as he spoke of slimes of all different colors. As she got older the thought had disappeared from her mind, but once she met them in the mines she realized her grandfather had prepared her. What he had not prepared her for, were the other creatures of the mines, the stronger, more elusive creatures. The kind that she was wary to tell anyone that she saw, in fear that they would accuse her of hallucinating because of the lack of oxygen down there.

Now that the old mine elevator was in order, it was much easier to go further and with each ding of the floors going past, Rainier felt her stomach twist with nervousness for what she would find today. The numbers glowed as she descended further into the Earth, and she was in awe of the fact that she had made it as far as floor 90, and wondered how much further she would have to go until she reached the bottom. Anytime she asked Marlon about it he said something that sounded like a riddle, eluding to the fact that no one really knew. Rainier thought that maybe she didn’t need to find out.

Today, though, she was in pursuit of gold. It was the last of the ore she needed to make into bars to make herself some quality sprinklers, and as soon as she had the money she would be able to start upgrading her tools with Clint. Stepping off the elevator, she sighed when she realized this floor wasn’t as well lit as she would like, but she moved forward anyway, slowly, taking care to glance all around her. The usual screech of a bat alerted her and she raised her sword, quickly deflecting it before pulling her pick axe out to get to work.

Five floors later Rainier was feeling tired, but she knew that she wanted to go just a little further, then she might not even need to go back for a few days. Rounding the corner, she was surprised to see quite a few of the red sludges gathered together and a couple lava bats curled up on the ceiling. For a split second, she considered turning around and calling it a day, but before she could the sound of her boots on the gravel caught the attention of the creatures, and they immediately lunged for her.

Yelping, Rainier lifted her sword, doing her best to fight them off as they came, but as one stunned her another lunged, and she felt herself getting weaker under their attack.

“Rainier! Rainier, wake up, try and open your eyes.” Linus called, hand bracing Rainier’s shoulder and giving it a few good shakes.

As Rainier woke up she let out a wince, slowly opening her eyes, surprised to see Linus leaning over her. “I found you unconscious in the mines. You’re lucky I happened to pass by! Be a little more careful next time, okay?”

The sound of Linus’s voice was a hushed as her ears rang, but Rainier managed to croak out a, “Wait, you’ve been going down in the mines too?”

Linus laughed at this, standing up from where he was kneeling on the ground, “Well, at least I know you’re okay.” He said, extending a hand in hopes to get Rainier to stand, “Still asking questions like you always do, my curious friend.”

Rainier shrugged her shoulders, wincing again at the pain it brought, “Ah, fuck.”

The curse made Linus chuckle, and he made special care not to tug too hard on her arms as he helped her stand. Rainier gave a small wobble but was able to stand on her own. “Thank you, Linus.” Rainier said, tears starting to burn at her eyes from a mix of embarrassment and realizing what had happened.

“We should really take you to the clinic.” Linus insisted, offering his arm as they started walking. Rainier, limping a little, quickly responded, “No, no.”

She shook her head, only to tense at the pain that brought her shoulder, “No, that won’t be necessary. It’s not even that bad.”

Linus’ brow furrowed, not saying anything else as they walked around the lake. As they came around the corner and Robin’s house came into sight, Linus stopped walking, looking towards the path. “Rainier.” He spoke again, looking pointedly towards town.

“Linus, really, it’s not that bad, I just need to rest.” Rainier sighed, her fatigue making her less pleasant than she hoped to be. Linus had become a friend of hers, every day on her way to the mines she would stop by his campsite, bringing him any fresh produce she had that day or any good foraging finds.

Both of them jumped when they heard a voice ask, “What’s not that bad?” Robin slid her work gloves off her hands, setting them on the table saw that was illuminated by the lights on the side of her house, a curious look on her face.

Linus said nothing when Rainier turned to him, hoping he would talk her out of this. As she turned back to Robin, Linus spoke up, “I found her passed out in the mines.”

Rainier opened her mouth to speak, but before she could Robin took a few steps further, her eyes getting wider. “Rainier, is that blood? What happened?”

Rainier looked to Linus again, who only gave her an, “I told you so.” face.

“Oh, is that blood?” Rainier asked, feigning dumb and looking at her shirt, “I wonder how that got there.”

Robin was in peak mom mode, grabbing her arm and inspecting for any further injuries. As she turned the arm in her hands, Rainier tried to fight back a wince, her shoulder burning. This made Robin stop, grab her other arm, and begin pulling her in towards the path to town.

“Robin—” Rainier started, limping behind her, looking back to Linus who was fighting back a chuckle as he waved goodbye.

“Do not!” Robin interrupted her, “You went into the mines?”

Feeling like a kid again, Rainier sputtered, “I mean, yes, but I didn’t—”

“You didn’t what? Go willingly into the mines?” Robin wasn’t interested in letting her finish her sentence. Rainier decided to stop talking, just letting Robin pull her along, wincing every few steps as she tried to keep up. “I bet you weren’t even going to go see Dr. Harvey were you? What were you thinking?”

Not wanting to anger her further, Rainier sighed, “I wasn’t thinking.”

Robin had felt fond of Rainier since the first day she came to town. She wanted to make sure that someone was looking out for her, and felt oddly protective of her, almost motherly. Rainier appreciated Robin and knew that she would check in on her every few days.

It was dark now, and Rainier wondered what Robin was doing working so late anyway. Late. It dawned on her that it must be past 11:00 PM by now, and Harvey was likely asleep.

Panicking, Rainier tried to slow Robin’s pace down, “You know,” she started, making Robin look behind her, raising her eyebrows, “You must be tired, why were you working this late anyway? Why don’t you head home and I’ll take myself the rest of the way?”

Robin wasn’t interested in her distractions, answering as she continued to walk, “I have a coop I need to take to Grampleton tomorrow, had to finish up the final touches. And no chance, I am passing you right to Dr. Harvey.”

Ignoring the pain burning through her body, Rainier continued to plead, “I really don’t feel that bad, Robin! I just need rest. Dr. Harvey is probably asleep by now anyway; I will just go see him in the morning.”

Turning the corner into the square, the clinic in sight, Robin shook her head, “Dr. Harvey will not mind at all, he is a doctor, don’t try and get out of this.”

Now accepting her fate, Rainier came to stop at the door and Robin began incessantly knocking on the glass while pulling her phone from her pocket. Within a few clicks she was calling Harvey, releasing Rainier’s wrist to put her hand on her hip. The phone rang for quite a bit, and Rainier briefly had hope that maybe they wouldn’t be able to get a hold of him, and she could head home.

As the universe would have it, she would have no such luck, and Harvey picked up. Robin dramatically began to recount the tale, “Dr. Harvey, you have to come down to the clinic, Rainier was in the mines and she passed out now she is bleeding.”

Harvey hung up immediately, and Robin pulled her phone from her ear, checking to see why the line went dead, and before she could call him back, the light of Harvey’s apartment upstairs turned on. Rainier stood in silence for a moment, while Robin stared at her.

“It’s nice out tonight, isn’t it?” Rainier attempted to make small talk, anything to break her stare. “Rainier, why would you go into the mines?” Robin replied.

Shifting where she stood, Rainier knew better than to shrug with her shoulder and instead opted for honesty, “I go to gather ore for tools for my farm.” She explained with her voice cracking, “I need better tools and I need to get a sprinkler system. I need the sprinkler system so I have more time, then I won’t have to spend so much time watering my crops.”

Rainier knew she was doing the thing where she got upset and started talking too fast, but couldn’t stop, “And I need more time because I spend my whole day with talking to my fucking cows and I— I am really, I am so lonely, Robin, I— I am so lonely.”

A full sob broke from Rainier’s throat, her upper body slumping forward and her hands coming up to wipe at the tears on her face, “I wanted to come here, I chose it. I left the life I had because I wanted to be a farmer.”

Robin took a step forward and put a hand on Rainier’s better shoulder, just hoping to comfort her. “Yoba, who does that? Just decides to become a farmer?”

“Rainier,” Robin tried, voice gentle, “No— It’s just, I’m sorry, I just have no idea what I’m doing, Robin.” Rainier interrupted, “I wasn’t happy before, and I like what I do now, I really do, but I still have no idea what I’m doing it. Yoba, that doesn’t even make sense. Just, why am I not happy?”

Robin had nothing to say, just allowing Rainier to let it out.

“Why am I not happy?” She repeated, quieter this time, her body deflating all the way now that she was done. Silence fell between them again, just the sound of Rainier breathing heavily filling the cool evening air.

Neither of them heard the door opening during the outburst, and both of them jumped when Harvey spoke, calm as ever, “Rainier.”

The sound made her stand up straight, another sob wracking her body when she looked at Harvey, who’s hair was fluffy and eyes were small with sleep. Robin put a hand on Rainier’s back, guiding her towards the door. Harvey took a step to the side, opening the door all the way, letting Rainier walk through.

Robin and Harvey shared a look as Rainier let herself inside, walking through the hallway towards the beds in the back exam room. “Linus found her passed out in the mines, I think her shoulder is hurt, she’s also pretty bruised up. I think she’s just a bit overwhelmed.”

Harvey nodded, giving a sad smile as the sound of Rainier’s sniffles drifted to the door. “Thank you for bringing her. I’ll give you a call tomorrow.”

Robin gave the same sheepish smile back, “Thank you, Dr. Harvey.”

Harvey shut the door, fumbling in his coat pockets to see if he had everything he needed after rushing to get ready. Grabbing his stethoscope and draping it over his neck, he headed to the exam room, where he found Rainier sitting on the edge of one of the beds, legs dangling above the ground. She looked up to him with teary eyes, Harvey gave her a once over, noting the crusted blood on her arm and the dirt that covered her hands.

“Dr. Harvey,” Rainier started, immediately noticing how oddly formal that felt on her tongue, “I’m sorry, I know it’s late, I’m really fine I— I’ll just head home.”

Harvey shook his head, pulling his stool up and taking a seat in front of her. “Do not apologize, this is my job after all.”

Rainier took a breath, getting ready to try again, but Harvey continued, “Anyway, we’re both here now, might as well check it out, yeah?”

A sense of ease came over Rainier as he spoke, and she watched as he rolled back a bit on his stool to grab a pair of gloves, snapping them onto his hands as he rolled back to where she was.

“May I take a look?” He asked, and Rainier nodded silently.

Harvey rose to his feet again, coming to stand at her side and pulling his stethoscope out.

“This may be a little cold.” He warned, sliding the bell beneath her shirt and pressing it lightly into her upper back. Rainier shivered at the contact, and willed her heart rate to stay down.

After taking her vitals, Harvey slid his gloved hand out from beneath her shirt and slung his stethoscope back around his neck. Rainier adjusted to sit up straight, wincing as she flexed her shoulder. Harvey noted the sound and took a seat on his stool again. “Your pulse was a bit high, but other than that you seem very healthy.”

Rainier nodded, and Harvey continued, “Now let me see about these injuries.” Taking her leg into his hand, he moved it around a little, stretching and bending it. There were bruises and a few scrapes but nothing major. Rainier watched in awe, for the second time surprised by how large his hands were. “Your shoulder is bothering you, is that a sharp pain or a burning sensation?”

“Uh, both?” Rainier offered tentatively. Harvey hummed in acknowledgement as he stood again. He cupped her good shoulder with one hand, taking his other to grab her arm, bringing it up over her head and back down before bringing it resting it at her side. Moving to the other side, he cupped the shoulder again, this time moving slower, requesting, “Tell me if this hurts, okay?”

The same movement began, and Rainier took a deep breath as he raised her arm higher, trying to bear it. Harvey could tell she was in pain and stopped, putting her arm back down slowly. “Well, the good news,” he started, sitting back down on his stool so he wasn’t towering over her, “Nothing is broken.”

“The bad news,” he peeled his gloves off and tossed them into the waste bin behind him, “Is that you do seem to have sprained your shoulder, and because we don’t know why you passed out in the mines, I can’t rule out a concussion.”

Rainier nodded, “Okay, so sprain isn’t that bad though, right? Sprain is good.”

“Well, no,” Harvey gave a sad smile, “It’s not good, but it isn’t the worst?”

Thinking on it some more, she began to worry, remembering that she used her body for the work she did every day now. There was one harvest left this summer, and Rainier felt herself getting worked up again.

Harvey watched as she processed, seeing the way her eyes started to water up. “You’ll need to wear a sling for a few weeks, as long as you let it rest for that time you should heal up well.”

“A few weeks?” Rainier asked, exasperated, “I— I still have crops left this season, and next week I’ll start my fall crops. I can’t just not work—”

Harvey reached out, putting a reassuring hand over her knee. “Rainier.” He spoke, and Rainier stopped to listen, “Take a breath.”

Listening, she followed as Harvey took a deep breath through his nose, held it, and let it back out through his mouth. They stayed like that for a moment, just breathing, and Rainier felt very aware of how tired she was. “Good.” Harvey broke the silence, pulling his hand back and grabbing another pair of gloves. “I’m going to clean up your scrapes, and then you’re going to rest.”

Rainier didn’t say anything but watched as he wet a cotton swab and swiped it gently over the broken skin on her arm, repeating with clean swabs until the dried blood was gone. Harvey’s sense of calm was relaxing, and Rainier could tell that made him a good doctor. He moved quickly but did not fumble as he wrapped her arm up, and Rainier couldn’t help but joke, “Wow, it’s like you’ve done this before.”

Harvey chuckled at that, standing from his rolling stool to open a cabinet, pulling a cotton sling out and adjusting it. “Maybe once or twice.”

They didn’t speak as Harvey maneuvered the sling under her arm and over her head, Rainier just let herself be moved, surprised that it didn’t hurt as he adjusted her arm, he was so gentle. Settled, Harvey took his gloves back off and turned to write something down on the notepad by the sink. He turned back to her with a small light pen, clicking it a few times as he came to stand in front of her. “I just want to check your pupils; can you look straight ahead at me?”

Rainier obliged, deciding to focus on his mustache as the light traveled back and forth across her eyes. “Alright, now try and follow the light for me.”

After a few moments of that Harvey clicked the pen back off, sliding it into his coat pocket and sitting back down so she didn’t have to look up at him. “I think you’re good to go. I’ll want to check on your shoulder later this week, I’ll have Maru give you a call to remind you to come in. You shouldn’t be too busy, however, because you need to let this shoulder rest, Rainier.”

Rainier nodded, lip already quivering at the idea of not being able to work. “Because I cannot rule out a concussion, you really shouldn’t go back to the farm by yourself tonight. It’s late, but I know you won’t be comfortable staying in the clinic.” Rainier could tell that he was thinking as he spoke, struggling with the choice, but Rainier interrupted him, “I can stay here?”

Harvey raised his eyebrows surprised, “You’re comfortable with that?”

Rainier nodded, absolutely exhausted, already maneuvering her body to try and lay back. The clinic sheets were so sterile that they felt a bit rough against her tender skin, but she didn’t mind, because it felt so good to lean back against the propped up bed.

The sling made it hard to get into the position that she usually slept in, but she carefully lifted her legs up onto the bed, effectively curling into a ball on her side. Harvey watched, ready to assist, but was surprised when Rainier quickly settled in and her eyes were already closing. He couldn’t help but smile as her breathing started to slow down and the furrow left her brow.

Now that she was relaxed, Harvey turned his back to her, writing down some notes, and making a mental note to ask Maru to make Rainier a chart tomorrow.

“Harvey?” Rainier called, voice a bit scratchy.

“Yes?” Harvey replied, shifting to face her, pen still in hand.

Rainier spoke with her eyes still closed, “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

“How does that feel?” Harvey asked as he gently removed her sling, guiding her arm to relax down at her side.

Rainier almost didn’t respond, her mind too focused on being able to feel Harvey’s warmth from where he was standing behind her. Snapping out of it, she gave a non-committal hum, not really feeling anything.  

“And this?” Harvey used his palm to force her elbow flat, sticking her arm out straight in front of her. Rainier gave her head a shake, “Feels normal.”

Now Harvey hummed in response, slowly bringing her arm back down to her side and sliding the sling back into the place. Coming out from behind her, he scribbled a few things into her chart before sitting in front of her on his stool. “Everything looks good, you’re healing up well.” 

Rainier nodded, giving an almost mischievous smile. “Does this mean—” she started to ask, but Harvey stopped her before she could finish, “No, that’s a big no.”

“You’ll be good to go in a week or so, just take it easy for a bit longer, please.” Harvey practically pleaded.

Rainier gave a sigh and slid off the exam table, planting her feet on the ground, now taller than Harvey where he sat on his stool. “Are you going to the festival tonight?” 

Harvey had started to scribble in the chart again, stopping to look up and ask, “Is that tonight?

“Mhm. The Moonlight Jellies.” Rainier replied, adjusting her sling as she started taking steps toward the door. 

Harvey let out a small sigh, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose with this index finger, and then pushing the fringe of his hair back off his forehead. “I have quite a bit of paperwork to do, I’m not sure–”

“Only happens once a year,” Rainier interrupted, almost in a sing-song voice, now standing in the hallway, “A natural phenomena unique to the valley.” She let out a small chuckle as she quoted Demetrius, who had really been trying to push the event. 

Harvey opened his mouth to speak again, but closed it, knowing she was right.

This made Rainier smile, eyes crinkling a bit at the corners, “I will see you there! Maybe I’ll bring you a treat from the farm for showing up.”

Harvey rolled his eyes, “I don’t need to be bribed.” He feigned annoyance, thinking to himself, I already wanted to go if you were going. 

The thought made his cheeks light up, and he quickly muttered, “But if you are bringing something, I wouldn’t oppose more of those pickles.” He was grateful to see she was already out of sight and unable to see his blush, the sound of the front door bell dinging as she pushed it open. 

“Only for you, Dr. Harvey.” She teased back, the door swinging shut behind her.

 

Rainier found herself hurrying to the beach after getting distracted with some last minute, very slow, one-armed harvesting of the last of the summer crops. She carried a small bag in her hand, the jar of pickles she brought for Harvey bouncing around inside it. 

The sound of people got louder as she crossed over the bridge and the shock of the cool sand on her exposed feet made her gasp. Everyone was spread out across the beach, some people perched on the dock. Rainier could see Mayor Lewis and Willy fussing at each other while they huddled over the candle boat. 

A familiar nervousness settled in Rainier’s stomach when she looked around. Everyone had their own little clusters of friends and families, and Rainier had no idea where to go. Her mind immediately went to Harvey, who didn’t seem to be here yet. Looking to her left, she remembered the smaller cove of the beach where she often found corals.

No one was over there, and Rainier felt herself feeling a bit relieved as she sneakily crossed the bridge and walked to the shore line. It was darker over here, the lights of the dock didn’t quite reach, and only a few candles were peppered around the sand. 

Rainier looked out at the water and she could still dully hear the voices of the rest of town over the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. The water looked so dark this time of day, the line between the night sky and the water a bit blurred.  Pulling a blanket from her bag, Rainier tried to lay it out using one arm, and quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. 

“Want some help?” A voice asked behind her, making her jump and release a yelp. The same voice began to laugh, and Rainier knew it was Harvey before she turned to see him. 

“You spooked me,” Rainier laughed, hand over her heart.

Harvey closed the gap between where they were both standing, taking the blanket dangling from her hand, “I’m sorry.” 

The smirk on his face didn’t say remorse, and Rainier was grateful for the darkness as it hid the blush that formed on her cheeks as he laid the blanket down onto the sand. 

“Thank you.” She said quietly. 

A lull fell between them, both shifting where they stood in the sand. Harvey watched Rainier as her eyes turned to the water. The candles emitted a faint yellow glow, and a shadow formed on the curve of her neck, defining the space between her head and shoulder. It was a gentle curve, Harvey noticed, his cheeks getting warmer the longer he looked. Her hair was bundled at the top of her head in a haphazard bun, leaving a few strands of hair loose. The strap of her sling was twisted on one side, and he had to fight the urge to reach out and adjust it, letting his fingers trace along the bit of skin that was exposed there. 

“I’ve never seen the moonlight jellies before.” Rainier broke the silence, making Harvey snap out of it, his hands sliding into his pockets, “I hadn’t either until I moved here.” 

Rainier could faintly hear the sound of the other town folks, barely making out that it sounded like things were about to start.

Carefully, Rainier navigated herself to sit bottom first on the blanket, shaking each foot off over the sand before tucking it beneath herself to sit with her legs crossed. Harvey saw the other half of the blanket and knew it had been purposefully left open, but felt too shy to invite himself to sit. 

Once Rainier settled, she looked back to Harvey, giving him a curious look, and patting the space next to her with her hand. 

Harvey mimicked her movements, carefully sitting onto the blanket, trying to be mindful about bringing too much sand with him. 

Rainier noticed the respectful amount of space he left between them, and felt a familiar embarrassment, just like she did the night at the bar. This wasn’t more than Harvey being polite. Yoba, he’s your doctor, of course he isn’t interested in being more than polite.

The lights on the dock flickered off, and it got even darker on the beach. Excited chatter filled the air as Mayor Lewis cut the candle boat free. It slowly drifted out into the water, eventually far enough from the docks that Rainier could see it from where she sat in the cove. Silence fell, as if everyone was collectively holding their breath. 

As the water lapped at the sand, the edge of the blanket they sat on started to get wet, but Rainier didn’t mind, or even notice, as she eagerly looked towards the water. Harvey watched as she moved from sitting on her bottom to kneeling. Having seen this a few times, Harvey knew that it would be a few moments before the jellies came in, but watching Rainier wait so excitedly made him not want to tell her. 

Quietly, Rainier looked back over her shoulder at Harvey, a smile of pure excitement on her face, “I feel nervous.” She said breathily. 

Harvey only smiled in response, his chest feeling undeniably full as he witnessed her joy. The first gasp came from the far end of the other dock, but Rainier was so focused she didn’t hear it. A few more gasps followed, now grabbing her attention, and she came to her feet, not seeing anything herself. 

Rainier watched as one glowing spot in the water appeared a few feet out from the shore, and she bounced with excitement where she stood. Harvey was still sitting on the blanket, looking at Rainier, not the water. 

“Wow.” Rainier said in an exhale as the water blossomed with more light, a soft, almost green glow. Harvey moved to stand up, also amazed by the sight. The group of jellies gently floated closer and closer to the shore, now filling the water as far as they could both see. Things stayed like that for a moment, the jellies just bobbing where they had floated.

“It’s beautiful.” Rainier said aloud, this time directed to Harvey and not just the water. 

“It is.” Harvey agreed. 

“How weird is it,” Rainier continued, just thinking out loud now, “That we can’t see them any other time than this moment. So beautiful but…”

Harvey shifted his gaze from the jellies back to Rainier. Almost every part of his body burned with the urge to move closer, but he stayed put while responding, “Fleeting.”

Rainier reached up to wipe at her eyes, nodding, and looking at Harvey. “Yes, fleeting.”

Their gaze met, her gut told her to look away, but Rainier couldn’t. The light from the nearby candles reflected off his glasses, and while the fringe of his hair no longer threatened to hang over his lenses, Rainier still wanted to reach out and touch it. Harvey could hear his pulse in his ears, and suddenly felt very aware that feeling this way, looking this way, at his patient, could not happen. 

The sound of voices along the docks and beach got louder as everyone started to chat amongst themselves. Rainier opened her mouth to say something, but nothing seemed to come out. She watched as he shifted where he was standing, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. 

Harvey looked away first, and Rainier felt her stomach drop. 

“It’s late.” He said, and Rainier gave a light laugh, trying to break the tension that settled between them, “That’s kinda the nature of this festival, isn’t it?”

Harvey chuckled back, sliding his hands back into his pockets. “I think I’m going to head back.” Rainier nodded, swallowing thickly, feeling that something had shifted. 

As Harvey turned to walk away, she remembered, “I brought you pickles.” 

Harvey stopped, turning back to Rainier, “Really?” 

“Yes, uh, nothing special just the usual ones.” Rainier hurriedly grabbed her bag, trying to pull it out with one hand, and struggling to situate it correctly. Her cheeks began to burn hot, feeling even more embarrassed now that this interaction was stretching out and Harvey was watching her as she fumbled. 

“Here,” she spoke, holding the jar out. Harvey took it, accidentally grabbing most of her hand during the hand off. They both flinched, nervously laughing as they both mumbled, “Sorry.”

“Have a good night.” Rainier said, watching as Harvey began to walk away. “You as well, Rainier. Thank you for the pickles.” 

Soon he disappeared into the part of the beach that was completely dark, and Rainier sat down onto her blanket, not sure what had just happened. For a brief moment, when they both looked at each other, she thought that the weird fluttering made sense. Harvey’s reaction reminded her that the feeling was not mutual. Whatever the feeling was.

The jellies were still floating in the water, but there were less of them now as they receded to the deeper waters. 

“Nice sling.” A less familiar voice spoke. Rainier didn’t jump this time, instead twisted to look behind her, where she was surprised to find Sebastian. Before Rainier could say hello, he asked, “Mind if I join you?”

Rainier nodded, quickly saying, “Of course.” Sebastian plopped down next to her, hands stuffed into the pockets of his hoodie. 

“Is this your first time seeing the jellies?” Sebastian asked, eyes on the water as he spoke. “Yes.” Rainier answered, swallowing before continuing, “It’s amazing.”

Sebastian nodded this time, “Yeah. Things can get pretty old around here, but this is always cool.”

“Why are you over here by yourself?” he asked, now looking at Rainier, who replied, “Uh, well,” she considered saying she hadn’t been alone, but decided against it, “I guess I just didn’t want to intrude.” 

Sebastian gave her a funny look, “Intrude on what? Could always come stand with my mom.”

A soft chuckle escaped her lips, “Yeah, I guess I could’ve.” Rainier tried to snap out of the fog of Harvey leaving so abruptly, asking, “How are you?”

Sebastian shrugged as he replied, “I’m alright.”

Rainier nodded, understanding. Sebastian reached up to scratch the back of his neck, looking a bit sheepish as he suggested, “Uh, you should come hang out sometime. If you want.”

Now Rainier was surprised, eyebrows raising at the suggestion, “Yeah?”

“Yeah, I mean, you seem cool. My mom would probably freak out too. Like in a good way. Or I could come to your farm. Whatever works.”

This made Rainier smile, because she knew Robin would indeed freak out. “I’d like that.”

Sebastian knew he was rambling now, so decided to just stop talking, and let out a slightly louder exhale, one that Rainier thought maybe she wasn’t supposed to hear. 

When he glanced at Rainier out of the corner of his eye though, he saw that she was smiling at him. “Thank you for asking me.” 

Flustered, Sebastian rolled his eyes, “You’re always so polite.” 

This made Rainier laugh, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” 

 --

“I can just pick it up?” Sebastian asked, visibly nervous.

Rainier stood to the side, nodding, “Yup, just scoop him!” 

Sebastian looked at the chicken standing in front of him, almost looking up at him expectedly, and over to Rainier, who was beaming. “I don’t think I can.”

This made Rainier laugh, and she walked closer, bending at the waist and wrapping her arms around Mumford, her oldest chicken. “See?”

Sebastian was amazed, mouth agape. “I didn’t know chickens liked that.”

Rainier hugged the chicken close to her chest, and Sebastian swore the little thing cuddled into her. “Neither did I. When I first started all this, I was terrified of them.” 

Sebastian watched as she squatted down, the hem of her shirt rising up a bit, exposing the skin on the small of her back. The chicken hopped from her arms once she was low enough and waddled away. “Once I got to know them though, I realized they’re sweethearts.” 

Rainier stayed close to the ground, and to Sebastian’s amazement, another chicken hurried over to stand between her open legs, delighting in the scritches she gave it. “You sure you’re not, like, a wizard or something?”

Standing, Rainier shook her head, thinking of the magic of the forest the actual wizard in town bestowed upon her, “Nope, just super sweet chickens.” 

The two walked from the coop back toward the house, watching as the leaves that had begun to change with the season fell from their trees and floated through the air with the wind. 

As they sat down on the edge of the porch, Rainier turned herself so she was facing Sebastian, crossing her legs. “So, what do you do for work?”

Sebastian didn’t look at her as he sheepishly replied, “Uh,” his hands came out from his pockets to rest on his thighs, “I do freelance coding.”

Rainier’s eyebrows raised, interested, and Sebastian continued, “I didn’t go to school for it, or anything like that, I just taught myself online.”

“That’s amazing.” Rainier smiled. Sebastian almost hated that he could tell she meant it. Almost.

“Not really,” Sebastian looked over to her, still not quite making eye contact, “Anyone could do it. There’s a ton of free classes and shit on the internet now.” 

Rainier didn’t want him to dismiss himself, admitting, “I couldn’t.”

Sebastian swallowed, continuing, “I know I could make more money if I did go to school. This works for now though, I’m just saving up so I can leave this town and move to the city.” 

Rainier nodded, “Have you always wanted to move to Zuzu?”

“Yeah,” Sebastian shook his head, “I’ve never felt like I fit in here. Guess I’m not fit for small town life.”

“Mm.” Rainier acknowledged, shifting so she wasn’t facing Sebastian anymore, and letting her legs dangle off the porch. 

Sebastian watched out of the corner of his eyes as she adjusted, wondering what she was thinking. “Why’d you move here?”

Rainier used the tips of her toes to trace in the dirt on the ground, she felt shy talking about it, worried that he would think she was silly, so she just shrugged. “I lived in the city my whole life, eventually it just stopped working for me. I needed an out, guess I got lucky.”

Sebastian was interested in her perspective, asking, “What do you mean it stopped working?”

Lifting her gaze, she looked to Sebastian who was finally looking at her when he spoke, “I was sick of running towards something I didn’t want. I didn’t even know what I was running toward. I went to work, to pay rent for a place I only slept at, because I was always working. I didn’t like my job, hell most of my friends didn’t like their jobs. It was just something you did, and for what?”  

“It has to be better than here though, there’s nothing to do. It’s just the same people every day.” Sebastian countered, not quite understanding.

Rainier didn’t know what else to say, she knew they both had very perspectives on this. The silence hung for a second, and she sighed, saying, “Just depends on what you want, I guess. You can be in the city, with hundreds of thousands of people, and still be completely alone. Might still only see the same people every week, sure, you pass others on the street, but you don’t know them. You don’t have anything in common with them other than being in the same place.”

Both of them looked to their feet now, Rainier still tracing little circles into the soft dirt. 

Usually when Sebastian’s mother would play devil’s advocate with him, trying to tell him that all of the fantasies he had for the city might not be the reality, he got frustrated, annoyed. He was intrigued as Rainier told him about it though. The way she was in complete opposition of his view made him want to know more. He had no intention of changing his mind, but her disagreement was magnetic. 

“Do you want to come to the saloon with me tonight?” he asked, breaking the silence.

Rainier looked up, letting out a surprised chuckle, “You want to keep hanging out?”

Sebastian nodded. 

“I’ll have to change.” She said, not intending for it to sound like an excuse as it came out. 

Sebastian looked at the sky, seeing the sun hadn’t completely set yet. “We don’t have to leave yet, I can wait.”

Rainier nodded, moving to stand up, “You want to come inside?”

Though they had been together all afternoon, this offer surprised Sebastian, and he stuttered when he said, “Y-yeah.” 

Rainier was already headed for the door though, and didn’t notice the way his pale cheeks got a bit pinker. 

--

“Should I let Sam win?” Sebastian asked out loud, mischief in his voice. Abigail laughed from where she sat next to Rainier, and Sam shouted, “Hey!”

“Sam has literally never won a game of pool. Even against me, which says a lot, because I’m pretty sure Vincent could beat me.” Abigail explained, her face a little bit flushed from the beer. 

Rainier laughed, and Sam dramatically pointed his pool stick at the two of them saying, “Rainier, don’t laugh! You wouldn’t be able to beat him either, it’s not that I’m bad!”

This made Rainier laugh more, her stomach tender as if she had done a workout. Abigail countered back, “I bet she could, even with her sling on!”

Rainier stopped laughing, shaking her head, as she caught her breath, “No, no,”

Sam was already on board though, walking her direction to hand off his pool stick, and declaring, “Yes! You play him, then I don’t have to get beat again.”

Sebastian was standing with a smug smile on his face, just taking another sip of his beer while he watched this play out. Once the pool stick was in Rainier’s hand she knew there was no point fighting it, and she stood up, approaching the pool table. 

“You ready to get your butt whooped?” Rainier asked, feigning confidence. 

Sebastian raised his eye brows, setting his drink down, “Oh yeah?”

Rainier finished the last of her wine, handing her glass off to Abigail, who was enthralled. “Mhm, you shoot first.”

This made Sebastian chuckle, “Alright, if you say so.”

Sebastian hit the cue ball, dispersing the triangle throughout the table, none landing in any pockets. Rainier stepped up, purposefully moving to stand where Sebastian was, still playing up the competitive façade, “Excuse me.”

Sam was quietly cackling from the couch, giddy as Rainier moved in front of Sebastian. Eyeing the table, Rainier lined herself up adjusting to accommodate her sling. Pulling her good arm back, she shot, sending a solid ball right into the pocket. 

Abigail squealed, and Rainier looked up to Sebastian, giving him a smug look. Sebastian rolled his eyes, “First ball is always the easiest.”

“Whatever you say, Sebastian.” Rainier teased. Walking around the table, she hit the ball again, this time sending two balls into two different pockets, making Sebastian’s eyes widen, “Wait—”

Sam was already on his feet, hands above his head, “Oh yeah!”

Rainier felt her cheeks getting warm as she laughed, struggling to keep up with her pretend confidence. Moving again, Rainier ended up back where Sebastian was standing. Sebastian watched as she leant over the table, her spine in a straight line, but her back slightly arched. 

“Don’t choke.” He mumbled, enjoying the game they had going.

Rainier looked back over her shoulder, almost taking the breath out of his chest, as she smiled, “I won’t.”

Abigail pretended to fan at herself from the couch, pulling at Sam with her other hand, “Oh my god.”

Another ball landed in the pocket, and Sebastian realized he was done for. 

“Hmm,” Rainier stood up straight, twirling the pool stick in her hand, “Should I let Sebastian win?” she asked, mimicking what he had said earlier. 

Sam was back on the couch, dramatically laying across Abigail shouting, “Avenge me, my queen!”

Sebastian couldn’t help but laugh now as he tried to take another sip of his drink. Lining herself up again, she pulled back, this time only barely touching the ball, sending it forward less than an inch. 

“Oops,” she laughed, standing back up. Both Abigail and Sam said something about not pitying him, but Rainier was focused on Sebastian now, giving him a wry smile, “Your turn.” 

Rainier watched as Sebastian walked around the table, looking at her expectedly, needing to be where she stood. Feigning dumb, Rainier tilted her head to the side, silently asking, “Yes?”

The two held eye contact for a moment, and Rainier felt her face soften, feeling vulnerable under his gaze. Sebastian didn’t often look her in the eyes, but now that he was, Rainier felt herself getting warmer. For the sake of the game they were playing, Rainier didn’t want to look away first, but she was worried the others might see how blubbery she had gotten if she looked any longer.

Taking two steps back, she allowed Sebastian to move forward, and he gave her a pointed look, saying, “Thank you.”

Abigail and Sam looked at each other, Sam saying, “Why do I get the feeling that they forgot that we’re over here.”

Abigail’s eyes were wide, and she eagerly said, “I hope they keep forgetting, this is the most exciting thing that has happened in months, maybe ever.”

Sam rolled his eyes, “I’ll go get us refills.” 

Abigail, who was already looking back at the two playing pool, nodded, “Yeah, go do that.”

Three shots later, Sebastian was trying to decide his next move, not wanting to lose his streak. Rainier was back to strategizing, watching carefully as Sebastian eyed the table. In the thick of it, Sebastian had pushed the hair back from his face completely, revealing parts of him that Rainier hadn’t noticed yet. He looks younger like that, Rainier thought to herself. 

On the next shot nothing went in, and Rainier stepped up, putting her competitive smile back on. “Mm, what a shame.”

Sebastian sighed, knowing what this meant, “You win.”

Rainier shook her head, “Oh, not yet. I want you to watch.”

Abigail let out an actual scream, bouncing in her seat. “Make him watch, Rainier. Make it hurt!”

Sam almost spit his beer at that comment, putting a hand on Abigail’s thigh, reminding her to breathe. 

Sebastian huffed and leant himself against the back wall, watching as Rainier almost effortlessly hit the remaining balls, leaving just the 8 ball. Wanting to get one last laugh in, Rainier looked to Sebastian and said, “Call the pocket.”

“Hm?” he asked, not understanding, “You’re supposed to call the pocket.”

Rainier let out a low chuckle, “Oh I know, I want you to though.”

Understanding, Sebastian raised his eyebrows as he pushed himself off the wall, making a point to walk all the way around the table as he thought. Abigail and Sam were literally on the edge of their seats as they waited, not knowing what would happen.

After a few moments of deliberation, Sebastian stood next to Rainier, who glanced up at him. Placing his arm around her shoulder, Rainier felt her heart rate pick up, surprised by the physical gesture. She almost immediately melted into his side, once again aware of the burning that had now spread to her entire body.

Sebastian looked down to meet her gaze, and said, “Top left.”

Glancing at the table, grateful to break his eye contact, she hissed out a pretend wince. Sam let out a loud, “Oof,” from the peanut gallery, but Abigail was too busy watching them touch to care about the outcome of the game at this point. 

Sebastian had put the arm around Rainier as a part of the act the two of them were putting on, but found himself yearning as Rainier moved out from beneath him to make her shot. The way she had softened into his side made him think that maybe that wasn’t a joke for her, but she soon turned to him and continued the running joke, “Top left? You make it too easy.” 

With a move that shouldn’t have looked so effortless, Rainier managed to get the ball into the pocket, standing up straight with a smirk as Abigail and Sam cheered. 

“Why didn’t you tell anyone you were so good at pool?” Abigail asked as she walked over with a full glass for Rainier. 

“I like to keep some mystery.” Rainier joked, taking a sip of the wine Abigail offered her. 

Sam was pretend punching Sebastian in the shoulder, “You are not undefeatable!”

As the group settled down Rainier realized she couldn’t remember the last time she had this much fun. Sebastian sat on the couch and Rainier took the seat next to him, landing with a sigh. Sebastian looked at her, watching as she tipped her head back to take a sip of her drink. Despite the work that she does, her hands looked so delicate wrapped around the glass. 

Rainier caught his gaze and smiled, “That was fun.”

Sebastian nodded, to his surprise, with a smile still on his face.

“You look younger with your hair pushed back.” Rainier admitted, a blush immediately rising on her cheeks once she said it, “Yoba, that was weird, I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re fine.” Sebastian laughed, hand automatically going up to fuss with his hair, bringing the length back over his forehead and shaking his head a bit to get it to lay flat.  

Digging the hole a little deeper for herself, Rainier continued, “It’s good that way too.”

“Thank you.” He replied, trying not to smirk at the shade of red her face and neck had turned. 

Sam had wandered back to the bar, chatting with some other folks. Rainier hadn’t noticed until she heard his booming voice from the other room, “Dr. Harvey, my man!” 

This caught her attention, her eyes immediately looking that way, watching as Sam clapped his hand around Harvey’s shoulder, and Harvey sheepishly laughed, “Hello, Sam.”

Sebastian watched as Rainier stared in the other direction and turned himself so he could see as well. Rainier didn’t say anything, just continued to watch as Harvey took a seat. She wondered if he knew she was over here, or if he would even wonder. 

“You missed a show,” Sam continued, now practically hanging on Harvey’s shoulders from behind, “Rainier whooped Sebastian’s butt in pool. It was a massacre.”

Harvey turned his head as much as he could in Sam’s hold, “Yeah?”

Sam hummed a yes, releasing Harvey so he could sit up straight. “She was avenging my honor.”

“Well I’m glad.” Harvey laughed. 

Rainier hated how fond she felt watching him humor Sam. 

As Sam was grabbing his drink and preparing to walk away, Harvey turned to the room where Rainier sat, and smiled in her direction. Rainier gave a reluctant smile back, immediately looking away and back to her drink. Sebastian watched the exchange, noticing the tension in it. Feeling it was better not to ask, he turned back to Rainier, “How did you get so good at pool anyway?”

Rainier welcomed the interruption, clearing her throat before explaining, “When I was in college our dorm had a pool table in the common area, my friends and I liked to play when we didn’t want to study, so lots of practice.”

Sebastian nodded, “What did you go to school for?”

“Biochemistry.” Rainier thought back to her time in school, releasing something between a scoff and a laugh, “I know, a lot of questions there.”

It seemed like the most logical decision when Rainier was leaving high school. Science was interesting, it came naturally. After all, her father was a doctor, her mother a lawyer. There was a push towards something “great” from the beginning. One time in elementary school everyone wrote down what they wanted to be when they grew up on a piece of paper, and Rainier wrote, Artist. She didn’t mean anything by it, she could barely color a coloring book, that was just what sounded cool that day. Her mother quickly corrected her when she brought it home that afternoon, saying, “How about a lawyer, or a scientist?” and her father chimed in with a, “That isn’t a career, honey. Making art is a hobby.”

And so the story went for the rest of grade school, and in her last years of high school, when the guidance counselor asked what she wanted to major in, she could hear her father in her head, and without thinking, answered, “Biochemistry.”  To be fair to her parents, she didn’t hate it. Actually, at first, she loved it. It was interesting and it kept her busy. It wasn’t until she started working that it stopped being something that made sense.

“Biochemistry?” Sebastian asked, interested.

Rainier nodded, finishing the last of her drink and setting it down. “Yes.”

“Is that what you did before you moved here?” Sebastian prodded, needing more information.

Giving another nod, Rainier swallowed, “Yes, I worked in a lab.”

Sebastian wanted to know more but felt awkward asking more questions so he took another sip of his drink and waited. Rainier didn’t say anything for a while, just listened to the sounds of the bar, but found it increasingly difficult to ignore Sebastian’s waiting stare. 

“I assume there are some blanks you want filled in?” she laughed. “Yes.” Sebastian chuckled, adding sarcastically, “Just the small one, of course, the whole being a biochemist and now being a farmer.”

Rainier returned the tone, “Ah, yes. That one.”

“I really enjoyed it when I was in school. There were only a few routes that made sense once I graduated: work in a lab, become a teacher, or continue towards my PhD with hope of becoming of professor or something.” Rainier explained, bringing her feet up on to the couch so she could sit with her legs crossed, “I am not cut out to teach, and did not want to do research as a professor necessarily. I wasn’t motivated enough to follow that track, I didn’t have a passion to pursue.”

Rainier took a deep breath, continuing, “The lab job was fine, really. It just gets monotonous. I knew that there was value in the work but it was hard to see. I didn’t get any joy from it. I realized I didn’t want to dread going to work every day. So when I found out my grandfather had left his farm to me, that was it.” 

Blowing air from her mouth, Rainier had to consciously untense her body, relaxing into the cushions of the couch. “I’m sorry, I’m sure that was a bit more than you were looking to get.” 

Sebastian shook his head, “No, it wasn’t.”

They shared a knowing look and Rainier sighed, “I feel like we only ever talk about me.” 

Sebastian shrugged, “You’re more interesting.” 

“False.” Rainier countered, unraveling her legs and moving to stand up, “I’m going to get another drink.”

Sebastian acknowledged with a hum, making a point to not watch as she stood up and walked away.  As soon as she was out of the room, Abigail came flying onto the couch, Sam following, throwing himself over both of them.

“Guys,” Sebastian groaned, squirming under Sam’s weight, “What are you doing?” 

“What are we doing?” Abigail asked, eyes wide, “What are you doing?”

“In particular,” Sam added, propping himself up a bit, ignoring the grunts from beneath him, “With Rainier.” 

Sebastian rolled his eyes, glancing around to make sure Rainier wasn’t close enough to hear, or see, this interaction. “I am not doing anything.”

Sam dug his elbow into Sebastian’s side, “Yeah, try to be a bit more convincing next time.” 

Abigail continued, pointing a finger at him, “She is cool and you are totally into her. You think we didn’t know you spent the afternoon at her farm today?”

Now Sebastian was turning red, and he tried to push Sam off of him but having no success. Sam cackled as Sebastian shook his body, “You’re into her, say it!” 

“Have you made a move yet?” Abigail asked, no longer pointing. Sebastian continued to push at Sam, shaking his head, “No, Yoba, we just started hanging out today!”

Sam conceded, rolling off of Sebastian and onto the floor. As he moved to stand up, he continued to pester, “So? If you feel it you feel it!”

“Yeah, great advice, Sam.” Sebastian laughed, voice laced with sarcasm. 

“I’m serious, I’m sure you’re not the only one in town who thinks she’s cool, dude. Might want to make a move now before someone else does.” Sam taunted. 

Abigail rolled her eyes a bit, “I hate to agree with Sam, even though Rainier is an autonomous woman that get’s to make her own decisions and no one can claim her, but he’s right.”

Sam took that as a compliment, “My work here is done. Make a move, man.” 

Rainier waited at the bar and couldn’t help but look at Harvey. Today he brought a book with him, she wished that he would lift it up just a bit more in his hands so she could read the spine and find out what the title was. Gus returned with her drink, and Rainier thanked him before quickly heading back to the other room. 

Harvey looked up from his book as Rainier walked away, releasing a puff of air from his cheeks. He could feel her looking at him as she waited for her drink and wanted so badly to start a conversation. Instead, he stared at the same paragraph on proteolytic enzymes until he knew she was gone. It felt ridiculous to avoid her, after all, just because he might be attracted to her didn’t mean that she was attracted to him. And if that was the case, which he was sure it was, there wasn’t anything wrong with being her friend. 

Yoba, she is so young, Harvey thought to himself as he watched Rainier sit on the couch with Sebastian. She had been over there all night hanging out with the three of them. Harvey didn’t necessarily feel jealous, the feeling was odd. Maybe it just made him feel creepy? She was so young and still had years of fun in front of her. Harvey, though, was sitting at the bar reading. The most fun he had on the weekend included completing a model airplane and going for a walk by the river. 

As Rainier laughed at something Sebastian said and put a hand on his knee for a moment, Harvey wondered if she liked him. Liked, liked him. Not that it is any of your business, Harvey reminded himself, trying to bring his attention back to his book. 

“What’s on your mind, doc?” Gus asked, interrupting his train of thought. 

Harvey cleared his throat, “Hm?”

Gus leaned against the bar with his hip, drying a glass with his rag. “You’ve been staring off into space a lot tonight, something must be on your mind.” 

Harvey closed his book. “Oh I’m just tired, flu season is approaching.”

Gus gave him a knowing look, putting the glass on the shelf and throwing his towel over his shoulder. “She was staring at you too.” 

Harvey stammered for something to say, his face burning. “I- no, I wasn’t staring—” 

Before he could defend himself Gus had walked away, a smirk on his face. 

Rainier watched as Sebastian moved to stand up, taking her glass from her hand as she did. “I’ll get us another.”

Surprised that she had already finished her glass, she shook her head, “Oh no, I’m good. In fact, it’s getting late.”

Sebastian nodded, trying to hide the disappointment he felt. “Yeah?”

Rainier stood up as well, patting her pocket to make sure she had her phone and wallet. “Yes, I wake up at a ridiculous hour.” 

“Ah,” Sebastian acknowledged, trying to ignore Sam and Abigail from the corner of his eye, who were making kissy faces. 

“You want to walk together?” Rainier asked, casual as ever, even though Sebastian felt his stomach flip at the offer. “I know we live on opposite sides of the mountain, but the foraging up there is pretty good.” 

“You’re such a freak,” Sebastian teased, laughing as they headed for the door. 

“Hey, free fruit is free fruit.” Rainier countered back, turning to Sam and Abigail, who quickly made straight faces. 

Stretching out one arm, she walked to Abigail and gave her a hug. Sam tried to wrap his arms around the two of them, making everyone giggle. “Aw, Rainier gets to stay in the gang, she gives hugs. Sebastian, you’re out.”

Sebastian rolled his eyes and said, “Goodnight, guys.” before heading to the bar to drop the empty glasses off. Rainier finished her goodbyes, thanking them for a good time before following after Sebastian, shouting a goodbye at Gus on her way to the door.

She noticed that Harvey was still deep in his book, and thought about saying goodbye, but decided against it. Sebastian held the door open as she walked out, the cooler fall air giving her a shiver. 

Sebastian tucked his hands into the pockets of his jeans as they began walking. Neither of them spoke, only the sound of their shoes on the cobblestones filling the silence. 

“Thank you for inviting me tonight, I had fun.” Rainier said as they walked towards the community center, everything getting darker now that they were away from the light of all the street lamps. 

Sebastian smiled even though Rainier couldn’t see it, “Thanks for coming.”

The pleasantries felt odd and both of them knew it. As they got closer to his house Sebastian realized they would be going separate ways and felt himself panicking. Stopping, he opened his mouth to say something, but couldn’t find the right way to say, “Hey, know we just started hanging out, but I really, really want to kiss you.” 

Rainier noticed that he wasn’t keeping pace with her anymore and stopped, looking behind at the general shape of Sebastian she could make out. The one light by the community center shined just enough to let her see some of the details of his face. 

“You okay?” She asked, taking a few steps back to where he was standing.

“Yeah—” he said, his voice cracking a bit. Swallowing, he continued, “Yeah, I’m good. I just, uh, I just don’t want to go home yet.”

Rainier nodded, feeling her stomach start to buzz, not quite a flutter, but a curious kind of nervous. “You want to see something?” 

Sebastian didn’t say yes before Rainier started walking back to the entrance of the community center. Once he caught up with her at the door she stopped to look at his face. Standing beneath the light she could see him fully again, and smiled. 

“The old community center?” He asked, wanting to know where this was going. 

“Yes.” Rainier answered, twisting the door handle and pushing hard. The old wood and hinges creaked as it opened and Sebastian peered inside, not remembering the last time he had seen the inside of this place. 

“C’mon.” Rainier encouraged, passing through the threshold and waiting for Sebastian to follow and close the door behind them.    

Sebastian looked around at the space, noticing a small hut in the middle. “This way,” Rainier walked across the creaking floorboards to the right. The room they came into looked like a stark difference compared to the rest of the ruins. The floor was finished and the walls weren’t falling a part. There was what looked like a brand new furnace on the wall and everything. 

“When did this— who do this?” Sebastian stuttered, amazed. Rainier shuffled where she stood, looking around herself and then back to Sebastian. “Well, I guess I did? It’s a bit of a project, and it’s obviously no where near done yet—”

“Wait, you did this?” Sebastian interrupted. 

Rainier nodded, biting her bottom lip nervously, “Yes. I want to fix the whole place up, but this is a start.” 

“Wow.” 

Rainier started to walk out of the new boiler room and back towards the main room, feeling a bit silly for showing him this. “Do me a favor?” She asked, using her foot to kick at some of the debris on the floor, “Don’t tell anyone about this, I don’t want it to be, like, a thing.”

Sebastian nodded, “Yeah, no, of course.” 

The two took a deep breath at the same time, and Sebastian continued, “But, this is amazing. I mean, why are you doing all of this?” 

Rainier looked up, shrugging her shoulders. “It just seemed like such a waste. This whole space was important to so many people and it was just rotting away.” 

Sebastian felt a new feeling in his chest, one he wasn’t quite sure what to do with. He was amazed by her. He knew it didn’t make sense, because he barely knows her, and she barely knows him, but standing here, in this dusty old building, he was truly and unreasonably amazed by her. 

“Rainier,” he breathed, taking a few steps closer to where she stood with her hands tangled together nervously.

Rainier’s eyes widened, her good arm dropping to her side. Sebastian closed the distance between them, now standing mere inches from where she was. Rainier could feel his breath fanning across her face, and she felt her chest shaking with each of her shallow breaths. 

“Sebastian,” she started, voice quiet now. Without even meaning to, it felt like they were both getting closer, like there was some kind of force that was pulling them ever so slowly together. 

Despite her tendency to overthink, Rainier felt her mind go blank, entirely focused on Sebastian and the way his chest felt pressed against hers. They hovered like that for a moment, their faces just far enough to still look into each other’s eyes. Soon even that space was gone, and Rainier felt her eyes flutter shut, her lips quivering at just the sensation of being this close. 

Without much thought Rainier brought her free arm up around the back of Sebastian’s neck, and he snaked his arms around her waist, pulling their hips flush together. Sebastian’s open palms sliding against her waist, rubbing assuring patterns into the small of her back, made her buck against him. 

“Is this a good idea?” Rainier breathed, the movement of talking bringing her bottom lip to brush against his. If there was going to be an answer, it was too late now, because that bit of contact was enough to make both of them close the last bit of space, bringing them impossibly closer. 

There was no urgency in this kiss, they moved slow, as if trying to feel every part of it. Rainier arched herself into Sebastian, every part of her body buzzing with his touch. 

It was Rainier that opened her mouth first, welcoming Sebastian, both of them taking a breath before sliding their tongues together. A quiet but deep sound left Sebastian as they deepened their kiss. He couldn’t help but squeeze Rainier’s waist between his hands, wanting, or maybe needing, to feel more of her. 

“Rainier,” he broke their kiss just enough to breathe, almost unable to stop himself enough to say more than one word at a time. Feeling her legs get a bit shaky, Rainier slowed down, pulling back just enough to separate their mouths but tilting her head to rest her forehead against his as she caught her breath. 

Sebastian mirrored her breathing, his eyes open and watching Rainier, her lips red and shining with saliva. “Was that okay?” He asked, needing to say something. 

Rainier nodded, the skin of their foreheads rubbing together as she did. “Yes,” she opened her eyes and pulled her arm back, “So okay.” 

Sebastian chuckled, keeping his arms around her waist, not wanting to let go yet. 

Rainier looked at Sebastian, his hair a little messed up and his lips slightly puffy from the kissing. She wanted to stay like this just a bit longer, enjoying the way it felt to be held, but knew she shouldn’t. Out of the corner of her eye she saw one of the junimos timidly watching her with a human they did not know. 

“I should go.” She said, trying to fight a laugh as the junimo did a happy dance, leaning in to give him one quick kiss. 

With that she walked out of his grasp and towards the door. Sebastian watched in awe as she walked away so casually, as if they had not been so close just moments before. 

Realizing he did not want to be left alone in the big, abandoned building, that he swears he heard running around in while they kissed, he rushed after her. 

“Wait, Rainier,” Sebastian called once they were outside, Rainier headed in the opposite direction they went before. “Where are you going?”

Rainier stopped and turned to him, a smile still on her face, “Home, Sebastian.”

Not wanting to seem like a child, he decided not to ask if they were going to walk together. “I think it’s best we both go, so we don’t have sex on the floor of the community center.”

This made Sebastian audibly choke, his face even more red than before. “Rainier—”

She was already walking away, laughing as she went, “Thank you for tonight, Sebastian.” 

Sebastian watched as she went, feeling even more enthralled with her as she disappeared out of his view. 

 

While it felt like fall had just begun, the trees of Pelican Town had already turned beautiful shades of orange and red. Rainier was knee deep in cranberry and pumpkin plants despite only having one arm available to till her field this season. If the chickens would stop poking around the grape vines, she hoped she would have enough to take a shot at making her own wine. 

Rainier found her mind wandering as she worked through farm chores the past few days, she wasn’t sure how this was supposed to work, the whole Sebastian thing. There hadn’t been time to go into town but she wondered if maybe she should try and see him or maybe even just send a text. 

Oddly enough, though, she didn’t really want to. The memory itself felt good. Really good. If she went to see him it would be more than that moment, and if it were more than that moment, it could get complicated. They barely knew each other, it would be silly to complicate it. 

At least that’s what she told her cows as she milked them today. 

After wrapping up with the chickens Rainier looked at the time, “Shit!” she cursed, seeing it was already 3:10 PM. Today she had her last appointment at the clinic before she got her sling off, and it was in 20 minutes.

Running towards the house, she grabbed her bag, wincing as she looked in the mirror and saw her dirt stained clothes and messy hair. There was no time to shower as she planned, and she was not the type to be late. Taking off down the road, she half fast walked half jogged towards town. 

“God, you have to do more cardio.” She puffed to herself, cursing again as she tripped over a small rock. Barely catching her footing, she continued towards the clinic, hoping no one would see her sad attempt at running. Getting to the door, she grabbed the handle and flung it open, stumbling inside to see a very surprised Harvey sitting at the desk, a newspaper in hand. 

“I’m so sorry!” Rainier practically yelled, bending over and putting her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath. 

“Rainier, are you okay?” Harvey asked, putting his paper down and standing up.

Rainier nodded, a small wheeze coming out, “Yes, yes! I’m so sorry I’m late.”

Harvey looked at his watch, giving her a perplexed face, “You’re not late,  it’s only 3:28.” 

Standing up straight, Rainier wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, leaving a faint smear of dirt, “Wait, really?”

Harvey nodded, laughing a bit, “Yes, really. Punctual as ever.” 

“Oh thank Yoba,” she breathed, “That’s my best time yet.” 

Harvey chuckled and started to head to the exam room, motioning with his hand for her to follow. Rainier walked through the hall, feeling aware of her dirty shoes on the stark white floor. Coming into the room, she took a seat on the table. Harvey set her chart onto the counter before turning to her, “So, how are you today, Rainier?” 

Rainier had caught her breath, “I’m good, yeah, I’m good.” She replied, lifting the arm with the sling in it up a bit, “Going to be even better in a minute.” 

Harvey smiled, “I’m glad you’re feeling well. I just want to check your range of motion and then you’ll be free.”

Rainier beamed back as Harvey came closer, bringing his hands up pull at the straps of her sling, careful as ever as he pulled. 

“How are you?” Rainier asked as she ducked so Harvey could lift the sling over her head.

Harvey gave a hum, turning to toss the sling on the counter near her chart, trying not to laugh as dirt fell from the fabric, dusting the floor. “I’m doing well, I like the fall weather.” 

Things were quiet for a moment as Rainier let herself be lifted and adjusted, too worried that Harvey’s hands were getting dirty from the layer of soil on her skin to get flustered like she usually did. 

“Alright, stand up for me?” Harvey asked, taking a step back as Rainier hopped down from the table. Giving herself a little shake, Rainier relished in the feeling of both of her arms being down at her sides for the first time in weeks. 

Harvey guided her through a few movements, asking her to lift her arm above her head on her own, doing a few windmill motions as well. Once he was satisfied, he scribbled a few things on her chart, “Alright, Rainier, you shouldn’t start picking up any heavy weights or anything,”

Rainier didn’t let him finish, she happily wrapped her arms around him, giving a tight squeeze. Harvey froze in her embrace, eyes going wide. 

“Ahh,” She shook Harvey a little bit before releasing and taking a few steps back, “Thank you!” 

“But please be careful, especially in the mines.” Harvey continued, “You really shouldn’t even go into the mines.”

Rainier nodded, “Yes, yes, understood.” 

After finishing up the normal goodbyes Rainier turned before opening the door, “You know, you should be honored, that’s the first real hug I’ve given in weeks.”

Harvey begged his body not to react, just smiling as she opened the door, “Oh, I am.” 

Rainier laughed as she walked outside, happily throwing both of her free arms above her head. “See you around, thank you!”

Harvey sighed as the door slammed shut, falling back into his seat behind the desk. Rainier seemed good, completely neutral about their time at the festival. That night he swore she might have looked disappointed when he left, but that was just wishful thinking. She is literally 10 years younger than you, Harvey reminded himself, she’s only 24.

After leaving the beach that night Harvey knew he had come off as cold. It was inappropriate to be attracted to Rainier, she was one of his patients. Not to mention it would be humiliating to realize she wasn’t attracted to him, which he’s sure she wasn’t, especially after watching her in the bar with the folks her age. By folks he really meant Sebastian. He had tried to ignore that Rainier left with him, but he wondered if they had done more than walked together.

“Not your business.” Harvey sighed aloud, rubbing his palms against his pants before standing up. Through the window he could see Rainier still in the square, seemingly talking to someone. Peering around, he noticed someone in all black, and felt his stomach drop. Sebastian. 

He quickly looked away, feeling like a creep. That didn’t last long though, because he looked again, seeing Rainier rock back and forth on her feet, a tick that he had become familiar with. He wondered if Sebastian even noticed that, probably not. 

“Stop,” Harvey shook his head, looking to the papers spread out on his desk, shuffling them in attempt to stop harboring a grudge against someone who he really didn’t need to. He barely knew Sebastian, and he definitely didn’t need to pretend he had something against him just for talking to Rainier. 

Rainier jumped when she heard Sebastian’s voice call her name, his hands in his pockets as usual as he smoothly strolled over to her.

“Sebastian! Wow, I, wow, it’s good to see you.” She panicked, even more aware of the state of her body. 

“I was wondering when I’d run in to you.” He smiled, stopping in front of her, a little closer than usual. Rainier fought the urge to take a step back, worried she might smell like dirt and sweat. 

“Yeah, things have been busy.” She explained, feeling a little embarrassed. Sebastian nodded, and before he could speak Rainer exclaimed, “Oh!” 

Raising her arms above her head, she proudly said, “Check out the sweet digs.”

Sebastian laughed, taking his hands from his pocket and grabbing her arm. Rainier let herself be pulled closer, eyes wide as he inspected her arm in his hands. “Hm,” he teased, “Seems functional.” Rainier started to gently rock back and forth on her feet, unsure what to do next,

“So about—” they both started, followed by, “No, no, you go ahead—”

An awkward laugh was shared between them, Sebastian rubbing the back of his neck and looking at his feet. “Listen,” he started, “It, uh, doesn’t have to be a thing. You know, we can just,”

Rainier nodded, unsure what he was quite getting to, but felt relieved about it, “Oh, yeah, of course. Totally not a thing.” 

“Totally not a thing.” Sebastian echoed. 

Remembering their moment in the community center even more clearly now, Rainier wished she didn’t have such a reactive face as a blush started to warm it’s way up her neck. 

“But if you still wanted to hang out, that’s also cool.” Sebastian added, a sheepish smile on his face. 

“Right now?” Rainier asked, immediately regretting it once she said it. Sebastian laughed before she could correct herself, “I mean, sure, but I meant like, in the future.” 

Rainier was full blown red now, her hands sliding into the pockets of her overalls. “Your place?” Sebastian asked, taking a few steps in the direction of the path to the farm. Surprised, Rainier started to follow, “Uh, yes, but I didn’t mean right now right now. I meant like—”

“I’m not busy, are you?” Sebastian asked, full blown walking now. 

Rainier caught up with him, walking side by side, “Well no, but I am disgusting if you haven’t noticed.” 

Sebastian stopped walking, doing a once over of her body, making Rainier cross her arms, wanting to hide herself. “Nah, I don’t see it.”

They continued walking, now passing Pam at the bus stop, who grunted in their general direction as they waved. Crossing the gate into the farm, Sebastian started to slow down, looking around cautiously. Rainier looked at him curiously, releasing a loud laugh when she realized what was happening, “Are you looking for the chickens?”

Sebastian looked at her, then quickly back at the land, shaking his head, “No.” 

Rainier gave a suspicious hum, “Mhm, don’t worry. They are very timely creatures, always go to bed at 5:00.” Sebastian pulled his phone from his pocket, trying not to give a relieved sigh when he saw the time read 5:01 PM. 

“You want to come inside?” Rainier started walking up the steps to the house, “I have some beer in the fridge.”

Sebastian followed, shutting the door behind himself. The house was a modest size but it was simple and cozy. He leaned against the counter as Rainier opened the fridge, pulling a beer out as promised. Handing it to him, Rainier opened a drawer and pulled out a bottle opener, also passing it his way. The beer sizzled as the pressure released, bubbles cresting in the neck of the bottle, making Sebastian put his lips around the top, gently sucking to stop it from over flowing.  

“I’m going to grab a quick shower if that’s alright.” Rainier said as she walked toward what Sebastian assumed was the bedroom. Sebastian nodded, meandering over to the couch, “Good, you were starting to stink.”

“Hey!” Rainier shouted, throwing a stern look, “If I’m so stinky, why’d you follow me home?”

Sebastian rolled his eyes, holding his beer up, “Free beer.”

Another scoff was throw his way as Rainier disappeared behind the door, the sound of the shower following after. Looking around, Sebastian took in the space, noticing how neat it all was. Her couch pillows were all fluffed, and there was a very neatly folded blanket gently but purposefully draped over the arm of the matching chair. Her rug was so clean that Sebastian realized he should probably take his shoes off. 

Carefully tip-toeing back to the wood floor, he slid his shoes off by the door where a few of Rainier’s shoes were lined up. While he was up he looked at the shelves on the wall, noticing that there were some books organized by color. There wasn’t a lot of clutter, but there were a few trinkets around, he could only assume they all had some kind of significance. A photo of two older people was framed by the door, and Sebastian figured it must be her parents. The man in the picture had similar features to hers, big, almond shaped eyes and dark hair. 

Her kitchen was small, but the whole house was really. It was only two rooms which made sense considering there was only one of her. Going back to the couch, he set his beer down on the end table. There was some simple art on the wall, just line drawings and color blocked shapes. Sebastian realized it all explained a bit more about Rainier, who he still didn’t know much about. 

The water in the other room stopped and Sebastian was surprised by how quick that was. Rainier fluffed a towel through her hair, trying to be fast. Opening her dresser she pulled a crew neck out and pulled it over her head, delighting in the soft fabric against her clean skin. 

After shimmying a pair of underwear and leggings on, she went back to the bathroom to hang up her towel and glance in the mirror. She hated how her hair looked when it was wet, but it felt silly to pull out the blow dryer while Sebastian was waiting on her couch. After some thought, she brushed her hair and pulled it up into a bun, spending more time than she’d care to on adjusting her baby hairs before snapping out of it. 

As she walked back into the living room she felt a familiar nervousness when she saw Sebastian sitting on her couch. He looked up from his phone when she came in, putting it down and picking up his beer. 

“Hey.” He smiled, giving her a quick once over. Rainier gave him the middle finger, going to the fridge to grab a bottle of wine.

“Are you hungry?” She asked, uncorking the wine and pouring herself a glass. Sebastian gave a noncommittal hum, asking, “Are you?” 

Rainier gave the same sound in response, opening her cupboard and pulling a bag of chips out. Coming back to the couch she took a seat, bringing her legs up, tucking them beneath herself, and tossing the bag of chips at Sebastian. He immediately opened it, popping a few in his mouth before setting the bag between them. 

They both focused on their drinks for a moment, and Rainier turned herself so her back was resting against the arm of the sofa and she was facing him. 

“How was your day?” She asked, extending one of her legs just enough to poke him in the thigh with her toe, he grabbed her foot, stilling her. Even though she was no longer trying to pester him he kept his hand there.

“Good,” Sebastian answered, “Finished up a project for a client today.”

Rainier was happy to hear him talk about himself and tilted her head, encouraging him to keep going. “It kept me busy for a few weeks, kinda bummed that it’s over really.”

“Yeah?” Rainier asked, and Sebastian continued, “Yeah, usually get a lot of similar projects that require the same process. Was just nice to have a change of pace.” 

Sebastian took another drink before asking, “How was your day?”

“It was good, just usual farm stuff, then went to the clinic to get my sling off.” She raised her newly freed arm up, and Sebastian nodded. Both of them racked their brains for what to ask next, not finding anything. It felt a little soon to be out of things to talk about. All Rainier could think about was how they didn’t have to talk about anything when they were smashing their faces together. 

“This is weird, isn’t it?” She asked with a light laugh, immediately following the question with a drink. 

Sebastian also tilted his head back, finishing his beer and chuckling, “Yes.”

“What do you want to do?” Sebastian asked, getting up to grab a another beer from the fridge. As he came back to the couch Rainier grabbed a few chips, mumbling an unhelpful, “Dunno.” through the crunching.

Rainier grabbed her phone off the coffee table and saw that as usual there were notifications. Sighing, she tossed it back on the table and threw her head back. Sebastian didn’t bother being discrete about looking at her. 

Looking at the ceiling, Rainier suggested, “Not to be cheesy, but want to play 20 questions?” 

Sebastian shook his head, laughing, “Actually, yeah.” 

After an hour or so of chatting back and forth, basic questions about childhood and favorite foods, Rainier  had polished off her bottle of wine, and Sebastian had collected quite a few bottles of beer. No longer satisfied by the dinner of tortilla chips, Rainier was peering in her fridge, bent at the waist to look into the back. Sebastian was watching from the couch, paying special attention to the curve of her hips. 

“I do miss that about the city.” She admitted, shutting the fridge with defeat and flopping back down on the couch, this time next to Sebastian, forgoing the empty middle seat. 

“Miss what?” He asked, trying to ignore the fact that his arm that was stretched out along the back of the couch was now technically around her. 

Rainier reluctantly put another chip in her mouth before explaining, “The food. Can get pretty much anything, anytime. Don't get me wrong, I love growing my own food now. It’s just when I’m a bottle of wine deep I’m not really trying to eat an artichoke.”

This made him laugh, and he let his arm slide down off the cushions just enough to drape over her shoulders. 

“When you move to city you have to try the dim sum restaurant on Dekalb Avenue.” Rainier practically moaned, letting her head fall back against his arm. 

Sebastian turned himself to face Rainier, the shifting of his arm beneath her head making her look over to his face. He looked surprised, and Rainier raised her head and eyebrows when she asked, “What? Do you not like dim sum?”

His eyes got a bit smaller when he chuckled, “No, I like dim sum.” 

Rainier shifted to match his position, even though it meant moving out from beneath his arm that she was quite comfortable under.

“No one has ever said it like that. When you move to the city.” Sebastian emphasized.

Rainier gave him a sad smile as she said, “Well, I believe you will if you want too.”

“Thank you.” Sebastian replied, unable to fight the urge to lean forward and give her a kiss. He pulled back slowly, taking a deep breath as he did. Sitting back completely they both looked at each other with glassy eyes, Rainier not even noticing that her cheeks had turned pink.

A now familiar feeling settled between them, and Rainier felt her heart rate picking up and breath getting more shallow as they held each other’s gaze. Not feeling close enough, Rainier pushed up on to her knees, surprising herself when she boldly planted one on either side of his thighs. Sebastian adjusted himself with her, shifting to sit flat so she could settle in his lap. He looked up at her, literally slack jawed, his hands naturally finding themselves on her hips. Rainier grabbed the strings of his hoodie, tangling them between her fingers as Sebastian stared at her. 

“What’re you doing?” He asked, unable to fight the smile that came with having her on top of him

Rainier was redder than ever, and she shrugged, dropping the strings. “Just sitting, you?”

They both laughed, and he pulled at the elastic band of her pants, letting it snap back against the small of her back, “Just sitting, huh.” 

“Mhm,” she hummed, their shared laughter making her less nervous. Placing her hands on his shoulders and pressing the pads of her fingers into the skin there, Rainier craned her neck to bring her lips to hover just above his. She stayed there for a moment, enjoying the anticipation of not quite touching. 

Sebastian on the other hand wasn’t so keen on waiting, and tilted his chin up so their mouths met. Her lips were just as soft as the other night, only this was better, because they managed to get even closer than before. It didn’t take long for their kiss to deepen and Rainier was torn between the running of her thoughts and the feral desire to feel Sebastian touch her everywhere. 

“We don’t have much in common,” she spoke into his mouth, hands tangling into the hair on the back of his head.

“No,” Sebastian agreed, a deeper than usual chuckle rising from his chest as his. Moving his hands from her hips, he lifted the hem of her sweatshirt up and slid beneath the fabric, making her back arch under the touch of his cool palms. He relished in how soft her skin was, enjoying the way she squirmed at the temperature difference between their skin. 

“We want such different things.” She continued, fighting a moan as his hands traveled further up her back. Rainier was almost dizzy, sighing, “But it’s so easy with you”

“I know,” Sebastian tried to stick to short answers, desperate to keep kissing her. 

That didn’t last though, because as soon as Rainier rubbed her hips down on his lap, he groaned out, “We don’t have to want the same thing, this can just feel good.” 

Rainier started moving her mouth to his jaw, planting quick, sloppy kisses down his neck. Sebastian’s hands tightened on her waist, his eyes rolling back in his head as she circled her hips again, bringing herself down on his now unhide-able erection.  

“It can just be that.” He panted. 

“Yeah?” She asked, sitting back enough to look at him.

Sebastian nodded, using his hands to pull her back into his chest, but Rainier resisted, even though she wanted to fall back into his mouth. “So we,” she started, breathing heavily, “We’re just doing this?”

Rainier didn’t wait for an answer, instead clarified, “Just having sex.”

Sebastian was again surprised with her to-the-point choice of vocabulary, even though sex was exactly what they were doing, it just made him blush. “I hope to be, yes.” He squeezed her again, pushing his hips up to meet hers this time. The pressure made her fingers dig in to his shoulders again, but she stayed upright, “Not,” she waved one of her hands between them, gesturing, “Together, together.”

“Only physically.” Sebastian leaned forward to capture her lips again, sighing as she pulled back.

“Sorry, sorry, I know. Just to be really clear though, you are not going to catch feelings?” Rainier was never one to be vague, even when they could both agree this was terribly inconvenient timing.

“I am not going to catch feelings, Rainier.” Sebastian repeated, a funny grin on his face as he tried to stop himself from laughing. Rainier furrowed her brows, “Don’t laugh! I don’t want anyone to get hurt because we aren’t on the same page.”

Sebastian couldn’t help himself now, letting out a full laugh. Rainier rolled her eyes, waiting for him to finish. “We are on the same page.” He assured her, and as soon as he said it she relaxed, giving a quiet moan as he rubbed his hands up and down her back, “I find you incredibly sexy. We want very different things though.” 

Rainier’s eyes fell shut as he spoke, “Mm, talk dirty to me.” She joked, making them both laugh. “I’m going to move to the city, and you are going to grow vegetables until the end of time.”

His hands hooked her sweatshirt, tugging at the hem as Rainier raised her arms, the fabric going up and over her head, getting tossed to the floor. “In the mean time,” he continued, leaning forward and pressing his lips into the middle of her chest, “We’ll do this.”

Rainier’s head fell back, skin tinging now that she was so exposed, and warmth spreading where his lips pressed patterns into her collarbones. “Good,’ she sighed breathily, shivering as Sebastian continued to kiss his way up to her neck, sucking gently at the spot just beneath her ear. Not wanting to be the only one with their shirt off, Rainier started pulling at the fabric of his hoodie. Sebastian took the hint, sitting up just enough to pull it off before leaning back, bringing Rainier back down against his chest. 

They pushed their mouths together again, this time with a new sense of urgency. Even with only pants between them Rainier wanted more, the pressure between her legs growing almost unbearable as Sebastian brought a hand between them to rub at the mound of her breast. She gasped into his mouth as he took the nipple between two fingers, rubbing it back and forth gently. 

Sebastian thought he might die if he didn’t get some kind of contact on his cock soon, the sound of her moaning against his lips driving him wild. Rainier managed to slide her hands between them, lifting her hips so she could grab at the button of his pants. Pulling the zipper down, she climbed off Sebastian’s lap completely, their mouths separating with a lewd sound. 

Eager, Sebastian stood as well, pulling his pants down and kicking them off. Rainier frantically pulled at her leggings, cursing as they got stuck around her ankles. They both stood in their underwear now, eyes meeting and chests heaving. Sebastian took in her body, the curve of her waist and the bruises on her shins, she looked so soft around the edges but strong. Not satisfied, Rainier stepped forward, tilting her head up to capture Sebastian’s lips with her own, her hands now on his hips as she teased at the band of his boxers. 

Sebastian felt the muscles in the bottom of his abdomen tighten as she began tugging the fabric down, teasingly slow, dragging it over his now painful erection. Once the fabric was low enough if fell the rest of the way to the floor, and Rainier pressed the flat of her stomach into him, moaning as she felt the head of his cock, wet with precum, slide against her. 

Not wanting to tease him longer than necessary, she moved her hips back, replacing her skin with her hand, wrapping it firmly around the base. Sebastian felt the remaining breath in his lungs leave in a single gasp, his hands digging into Rainier’s side as she rubbed her hand up and down his length, stopping at the top to circle the head and gather some of his slick. Rainier smiled into his mouth as he panted against her, body shaking just slightly as she moved faster. 

“You’re going to have to stop—” he spoke, words coming out in broken fragments, “I’m going to cum if you keep doing that.” 

Hearing him admit that made Rainier slow down, not completely stilling her hand until Sebastian wrapped his arms around her waist, spinning her around and pushing her down onto the couch. She landed with a thump, feeling exposed as Sebastian stood over her, his cock standing upright against his pale stomach. He was slim, but with his shirt off Rainier could see muscle definition that she didn’t know he had. 

Sebastian came down to his knees in front of the Rainer, smirking as her mouth fell open as she watched. Her legs opened to him and he moved to kneel between them, his fingers looping into the fabric covering her hips. She was desperate to be touched, immediately lifting her waist for him so he could pull them out from under her.

With the fabric gone she watched in anticipation as he leaned forward, not pressing his mouth quite where she wanted him. Instead he pressed a wet kiss on her hip, one of his hands propping him up while the other ran up her abdomen to her breasts, pulling at her nipples again. They were beyond teasing at this point, so Sebastian didn’t waste much time before lowering himself completely and opening his mouth on her vulva. 

Rainier’s hips bucked up into his mouth, the contact enough to make her light headed. He widened his tongue and ran it up and down her slit. Once he got to her entrance he moaned at the taste of her, the wetness there practically dripping between her legs. Licking back up, he focused himself on making small circles over her clit, dipping his tongue inside her occasionally, enjoying the way it made her mewl.

The sounds she released made Sebastian high, and Rainier wasn’t sure how much longer she would last if he kept going. “Oh, fuck,” she moaned, head straining back into the couch cushions, one of her hands coming up to cup the hand that Sebastian used to play with her chest, the other reaching for his head, trying to anchor herself as he continued to work on her clit. 

Her lower body was practically vibrating as Sebastian started lapping faster, going up and down on her clit now. “I’m going to cum,” she breathed, squirming in his hold, his free arm holding her waist down. 

“Sebastian,” she warned, voice getting more high pitched as she moaned again, fingers tangling in his hair and pulling, hard, “Sebastian!” 

Rainier felt her back arch off the couch as she came, her hips pushing further into his mouth as he worked her through her orgasm. Soon she was shaking, the sensation all too much, small gasps leaving her throat as she came down. Sebastian pulled away slowly, widening his tongue to lick up all of the slick that had formed, Rainier watched as he looked back up to her, his lips wet and eye lids low. 

“I want you inside me.” She spoke, not caring about anything other than feeling his cock right now. Sebastian was grateful for her forward speech this time, immediately crawling back up her body and slamming his mouth against hers. Rainier moaned as she tasted her cum in his mouth, her tongue eagerly dancing with his. 

“Condom,” Sebastian spoke, making both of them pause and look at each other, “Do you have a condom?” They asked at the same time.

Sebastian climbed off her, standing up and looking around for his pants. Rainier sprung off the couch, running to her bedroom, throwing open her nightstand drawer, tossing the books and other junk to the side in hopes to find even just one of those aluminum squares. 

She heard Sebastian curse in the other room, and she began to worry before triumphantly crying, “Yes!” As she found a small box in the bottom corner of the drawer, “I found one!”

Sebastian let his pants drop back to the floor, feeling so grateful he could actually cry, “Oh thank Yoba,” he said, meeting her halfway to the couch, wrapping his arms back around her waist and kissing her. 

They backed up to the couch together, barely avoiding tripping over their clothes that were strewn all over the place. Rainier put her hands on his chest, pushing gently, signaling that she wanted him to sit. He obliged, clumsily trying to pull her with him, not wanting to lose contact. Rainier stumbled as they continued to kiss, landing in his lap, straddling him. She sat far enough back on his thighs so his cock was between them, and after successfully wrangling a condom from the box she tossed it to the side, tearing the packet with her fingers. It was hard to do without looking, but Rainier managed to line the lubed material up with his member, quickly rolling it down his length. The contact made Sebastian take a deep breath, his whole body tingling with anticipation. 

They both pulled back to watch as Rainier shifted forward, lifting herself up to hover over him. Sebastian grabbed the base of his cock to guide it towards her entrance, pushing the head into her warmth, his eyes rolling back in his head as he did. Rainier let out a shaky moan as she sunk down onto him, her fingers pressing into his chest as she steadied herself and took the rest of him, once again sitting in his lap once she had taken him to the hilt. It was quiet for a moment, both of them just breathing. 

Sebastian let out a relieved moan as she started to move. “Ah,” she sighed quietly, her first few thrusts timid, lifting up just enough to be able to come back down, the sensation making her core shake. He kept his hands on her waist as she started to move faster, her hands moving from his chest to the cushions on either side of his head to give herself more leverage.

Rainier’s fingers curled around the fabric as she found a rhythm that took her over the entire length of Sebastian’s cock, each stroke brushing against the bundle of nerves deep inside her, sending a shock straight to her clit. Sebastian felt his breath getting faster as Rainier continued to ride him, he watched her face as her brow furrowed like she was focused, sweat glistening on her skin. It was almost too much to see her like this, her breasts bouncing and mouth slightly open, and as he felt the coil in the bottom of his stomach tightening more, he closed them, not wanting this to be over yet. 

“Rainier,” he moaned, pads of his fingers pressing deep into the thick of her hips before reaching around to grab her ass, gripping there and spreading her open, “Fuck that feels good.”

Rainier ate up the praise, lifting her hips up a little more on each stroke, teasing the head of his cock at the top, almost letting him slide out completely before sinking back down. Her legs were tired from all the movement, and for a brief moment she thought she might laugh when thinking, “At least you’re stronger now from all the farm work.” The burn only encouraged her though, a surprisingly loud cry leaving her throat when Sebastian grabbed her ass harder and thrusted his hips up into her, his own moans getting louder. 

Opening her eyes she looked at him, the look on his face said that he was thinking the same thing, and she let herself be lifted and turned just enough to throw her back onto the couch, Sebastian now between her legs, cock miraculously still inside of her. 

“I didn’t realize you were so strong,” she breathed, flushed, as she watched Sebastian straighten himself out and chuckle at her, “Sh,” he teased. 

He brought one of her legs up over his shoulder, the other dangling over the edge of the couch. Sebastian planted one of his feet on the floor and wasted no time, thrusting hard and fast into her. 

Rainier’s eyes rolled back and closed, the change in position giving her a whole new angle of pleasure. “Sebastian,” she moaned, one hand coming up to still her breasts that were now bouncing with each thrust, “Faster,”

Sebastian was happy to oblige, leaning down to get closer closer to Rainier, putting one hand down on the couch and stretching her leg with him. Rainier craned her neck to meet his lips, one hand cupping his face as he started to pound his hips into her, the sensation of being stretched into this position only making her body burn hotter. 

“Fuck,” He cursed, eyes pinched shut as he felt himself teetering on the brink of orgasm, “Rainier, I’m—”

Rainier felt herself getting tighter, unable to control her breath now as he fucked harder, his hips faltering a bit, “Cum for me,” she begged, head falling back down against the couch, “I want you to cum.” 

Sebastian didn’t need any more encouragement than that, his thrusts growing sporadic as his body shook, orgasm crashing over him, cock throbbing as he spilled into the condom. Rainier followed right behind him, grateful her orgasm came before his thrusts stopped completely, and on one last thrust, deep into her, they both cried out as she came around him, milking his cock. Their moans slowed as Sebastian stopped moving against her, staying buried inside her for a moment, their labored breathing syncing up. 

Pulling out slowly, Sebastian sat up straight and gently brought Rainier’s leg back down to the couch. Rainier propped herself up on her elbows, watching as Sebastian stood up, pulling the condom off his cock before he went flaccid. He walked toward her bedroom, turning to her to ask, “Is the bathroom this way?”

She nodded, still in a bit of an orgasm haze, falling back down onto her back once he was in the other room, releasing a puff of air as she did so. 

“Fuck.”