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Ghoul resists the urge to tuck Party's hair behind his ear as the desert wind whips it about. The soft sand keeps slipping from under his feet and he has to take these massive marching steps to stay ahead of it, so Party is bobbing in and out of his line of view, hair getting increasingly wild. They're talking about nothing, gossip and empty chit-chat, and Ghoul loves it. Ghoul loves Party. He catches himself, mentally scolding his lack of self-control, and keeps marching.

"How are you and Pony getting on?" he asks during the next pause.

"Yeah, alright," Party sighs. "Just... normal, I guess."

"Wow, you sound so head-over-heels," Ghoul quips back.

"Fuck off," Party grins. "Everything's fine. I'm not in love with them or anything, but there's nothing wrong. Can't see anything terrible happening, either. I think we'll just drift eventually."

"End of the honeymoon phase?"

"Maybe," Party replied, but there was doubt in his voice. "I don't think so, though. It feels like the end of something bigger. I could be wrong though."

"Wait- Party, you shouldn't settle for something just because you don't hate it. " Ghoul can feel hope bubbling in his chest. He hates himself.

"Oh, it's not going to last indefinitely. This whole thing has a use-by date and I don't think it's far off. I just don't wanna be alone again."

Fuck it.

"Party, stop for a sec." Ghoul can't make eye contact.

"What?" Party stops and looks back, sliding down the dune a little until he's on Ghoul's level.

"Okay, I... I wasn't going to say this because I didn't want to fuck up a good thing and make you unhappy." Ghoul is giving his boots a meaningful look. "But I just don't think you are happy, and I know I'm being selfish, but whatever, I'm going to do this." He takes a deep breath. "I like you. In, you know, that way. And I'm not saying you should leave Pony, or that I think you like me back, or anything. I just-I do, and I had to tell you."

The two second silence stretches out into years.

"I guessed," Party finally said. "There's a look you give me sometimes, when you think I can't see you. You didn't drop a bombshell, and you were right about the Pony thing."

"Crap," Ghoul muttered, colouring like a tomato. "Sorry."

"Don't be," Party says in this chirpy voice. He reaches for Ghoul's hand and pulls him up the dune a few feet, and then they're walking again. Ghoul is just beginning to think that this is one of those things that they'll never mention again, when Party quietly says his name.

"Mmm?"

"If I wasn't seeing someone, I would have kissed you then."

Ghoul is engulfed in euphoric, agonising fire.