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out to pasture

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“The cottage,” Linhardt murmured, groggy-voiced and completely without preamble. “What does it look like?”

Ignatz--who had been quite absorbed in restringing his bow--nearly started out of his chair. “Ah! Don’t frighten me like that, I thought you were asleep.”

Linhardt rolled to face him, stretching as languidly as a lapcat. “I was. Now, tell me about the cottage.”

Ignatz furrowed his brow, setting his bow down on his desk. “What cottage?”

“The one we’re moving to after the war.” He said this with the nonchalance, the inscrutable degree of confidence that was his trademark, despite the fact that Ignatz had absolutely no idea what under the sun he was talking about.

“We-- did I forget something? I don’t think we’ve talked about this, Linny.”

Linhardt preened, as he always did, at the pet name. “We haven’t. Only, I had a dream that we eloped to the countryside after the war, retiring peacefully in a little cottage that I just can’t seem to picture. Do try to keep up, dear.”

Ignatz could tell he was turning red--if not by the slow burn of his cheeks, then surely by Linhardt’s self-satisfied little smirk. “E-eloped?”

“Or just moved,” he amended, combing through his bedhead with slim fingers.

Well. It was a nice enough thought. That the war even had an ‘after’ was something Ignatz had found himself needing reminders of in recent months. Or, if he was being honest, since the day it was declared. A peaceful life-- a peaceful life with sweet, spirited Linhardt-- was a welcome thought experiment.

“I suppose I’d need to hear more,” said Ignatz, after a moment. “Where is it?”

Linhardt, of course, answered readily. “In the foothills, below Fodlan’s Throat. Next to a river, but not an especially big one. About ten minutes’ walk from a small, quiet town.”

“I see,” said Ignatz. It came together in his mind’s eye--rolling hills, sparkling water, the Throat’s peaks hazy in the distance. Lots of green, of blue. It was the sort of place, he decided, that would have a positively enormous sky. “Yellow.”

“Yellow,” Linhardt mused, propping himself up on one elbow. “Golden Deer yellow, or--?”

“Pastel yellow. We wouldn’t want to overwhelm the scenery. The color of...”

Linhardt waited patiently, sleepy eyes fixed on his lover’s face.

“Butter.”

A snort, falling exactly between delighted and derisive. “Of all things! I thought you were an artist!”

“You put me on the spot! Anyway, I suppose there would be a... a nice front porch, and a lot of flowers. I’d take care of them. Take up gardening. Grow... blackberries.”

“Mm, that sounds nice. So long as you don’t expect me to weed.” The indulgent, gentle look on Ignatz’s face told Linhardt that he wouldn’t dream of it.

They lapsed, for a moment, into silence.

“I could make money off of my research, I suppose, and you could sell your art. We wouldn’t want for anything. Even if your parents did cut you off for running away with someone like me.”

Ignatz laughed. “If people bought my art.”

“I’ve no doubt that they would. You’d paint such beautiful landscapes, with all that scenery... and such beautiful portraits, with a dish like me around.”

“Hm. I can’t argue with that.” It was an excellent image, Ignatz with his easel, staring out at all the glory of creation... “In a place like that, I don’t think I’d be able to do anything but paint.”

“It’s a good thing, then,” said Linhardt, around a yawn, “because I don’t think I’d be able to do anything but nap. Out in the fields, on a sunny day... I’d watch you paint for a while, keep you company, maybe do a little fishing... but after a while I’d be out, quite honestly.” He sat up a little, then, patting the mattress to invite Ignatz over.

He, of course, wasted no time, letting Linhardt rest his sleepy head in his lap. His fingers, on instinct at this point, drifted into his hair, gently massaging his scalp. His Linny was prone to tension headaches, after all.

“And then, after you were done with your painting, you could lay with me until I woke up, and tell me all about it. And after that--and this is what the dream was actually about, I confess-- you could make love to me. Right there in the grass, since there would be nobody around to bother us. And doesn’t that,” he murmured, pulling Ignatz’s free hand to his lips, kissing him gently on the palm, “sound like paradise?”

Ignatz looked down on him with a smile like he’d seen the Goddess. “It does,” he said, voice barely scraping a whisper, “even if it was a ploy to get me into bed.”

Linhardt made the most nonplussed face a human being was capable of making--but he laughed. “Of course not, Ignatz, I meant every word! But... we do have the rest of the afternoon...”

“Hm! That we do, Linny. That we do.”