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Breaking Down Barriers - Chapter One

So I FINALLY started that fic that had sprung up in my mind those few months ago. I'll probably end up editing it, though, but I'll post it for the sake of posting.

Edit: Also added prologue. For those of you at HMFic.

Prologue - Scattered and Sown

Gill never expected something like this to change his life so much. He always thought that he would be able to do this on his own. He didn't need help; no one wanted to help, anyway.

But when a young man looking for a new start arrived on the island, his island, his town, dripping wet and storm-wrecked, he had a sinking feeling sitting in the bottom of his stomach.

The blond perked up to the sound of a bell jingling, alerting him and his coworker of a visitor. He turned his eyes to the door and sighted his father, a rather plump, old man, accompanied by a soggy brunet. He exchanged glances with his coworker, who was actually checking the soaking man out. He nudged her, eliciting a quiet giggle from the baker as his father stepped towards them.

"Gill, Elli, I want you to meet Ivan Isbel. He's come over from the mainland to start a ranch somewhere near Caramel Falls," his father said, motioning a hand towards the young man standing beside him. The soon-to-be rancher gave a small wave in greeting, offering a small smile.

"Hello, Gill, Elli. It's nice to meet you," Ivan said cordially, glancing at from Elli to Gill. When Gill saw his eyes, a deep brown that didn't really reflect the smile plastered on his face, he felt a frown tug at his lips. The brunet raised his eyebrows in response.

"Hi! It's nice to meet you, too," Elli replied, smiling widely. "Gill and I run the Town Hall. If you need to buy more land for your new ranch, swing by and to get some property from us, 'kay?"

Gill nodded along with her. Ivan hummed in affimation, giving another wave before being whisked off by the mayor.

For the next few days, Gill hardly saw the rancher on his way to and from work. He might see him at Sundae Inn when he was out for his lunch break, but otherwise, he didn't really interact with him. He didn't really find a need to; it would just be a waste of time when he could be thinking of a way to help the mother tree come back to life.

But one day, about halfway through Ivan's first spring in Waffle Town, the brunet approached him, mentioning something about a quilt.

"I don't really think that I trust you with that information," Gill told him curtly, only glancing at him for a moment before returning to his paperwork. Elli was upstairs, fixing the library, so he was the only one in the lobby to receive visitors to tell them about the town.

"What... Well, then what can I do to prove to you that I'm worth informing?" Gill was slightly surprised at Ivan's response, how straight to the point he was. He didn't even ask why he refused to give him the information that he sought after.

The blond raised his eyes to return his gaze and saw the determination shining in the brown eyes that stared back at him. He swallowed subconsciously before replying, "Get your house upgraded to level two and I'll tell you all I know."

Ivan nodded and turned on his heel, heading briskly to the door. Gill frowned and looked at the door for a moment longer before returning to his work.

That guy sure is strange.

The very next day, Gill found out that Dale had just filled out an order for a house upgrade. He stared at Elli for a moment before shaking it off when she told him.

"I dunno, Gill," she mused, looking at the file that needed updating. "Looks like he's trying to do your job."

That interested Gill a lot more than his paperwork. And when Ivan appeared at the Town Hall the next day, after having his house upgraded, he was curious as to why he wanted to know about the quilt.

"So you're saying that you've had... dreams about the Harvest Goddess?" the blond asked, genuinely interested in what the other had to say. Ivan seemed to recognize this by the way he responded.

"Yes, that's right. She asked for my help, and I thought that it would only be polite to fulfill her request," the rancher replied nonchalantly. It seemed as if he was doing the Harvest Goddess a favor, and the way he put it made Gill's hackles rise.

"Although I didn't come here to revive a Goddess or whatever," Ivan continued, leaning on the front counter of the Town Hall's lobby, "It's a nice thing to keep me occupied. I also think that it would make this town happy, which is good payment in return for letting me reside in that house on the hill for free."

"You're damn right it would make the town happy," Gill spat in reply, placing his palms on the counter to give Ivan a good glare from a better angle. "I don't see why the Goddess would choose you to do this job. You... You're taking it so lightly!"

The brunet seemed to be amused by his reaction, a smirk spreading across his face. "So what if I'm taking it lightly? At least I'm getting the job done. Who else would do it? Don't tell me you wanted to do it. You spend all your time cooped up in here, pretty boy, I don't think you've even talked to your father about doing anything about. He knows a lot about it. In fact, that's where I got the first half of the quilt."

Gill's mouth opened and closed as he sought for words to respond. He stared furiously at Ivan's smiling brown eyes only to come up with an indignant shout of, "P-Pretty boy?!"

Ivan let out a snort of laughter at his lame comeback. "Yeah, pretty boy. Look at yourself: a scrawny little blond with an attitude that fits a spoiled brat to a T. But you sure got ambition, that's for sure." He leaned in to poke the tip of his nose. "But if I'm ever in need for a sidekick, I'll be sure to drop in, alright?"

The blond spluttered incoherent threats and insults in return, his face flushed with anger. "You...! If I ever, I'm gonna... You should go jump off a... The fish sure could use a good body... I mean, a--"

"Oh shut it, pretty boy," Ivan interrupted, pressing a finger to his lips. "When I do talk to the Harvest Goddess, I'll be sure to tell her to look after a certain short-tempered blond, okay? I've got a quilt to make, so I'll see you around."

Gill growled in the back of his throat, the vibration spreading to Ivan's hand. When the rancher backed off, he saw him shake his hand lightly before offering a small wave, opening the door and letting himself out.

He groaned loudly and slammed his fists on the counter as he stared helplessly at the shut door. The nerve of that man!

Next time he comes by, I'll be sure to give that bastard a piece of my mind...

A few days later, the bell of the Town Hall door rang, alerting Gill and Elli of a visitor. It wasn't Monday, so Simon wasn't their customer. The door opened to reveal Ivan, a bottle of red liquid in his hand. The blond stared at it curiously, pressing his side into the edge of the counter as he involuntarily leaned forward.

"Hello, pretty boy, it's me again," the rancher greeted rather pleasantly, his face all smiles. "I brought you something I heard you might like: a bottle of tomato juice. See, I even brought enough for you and your lady friend to share."

He winked at Elli, causing her to giggle. "Wow, Ivan, how nice of you! Gill loves tomatoes. How did you know?"

"A certain cook over at Sundae Inn told me when I was checking out their menu," Ivan replied, swishing around the contents of the glass container. "It's out of season, so I don't have any of the fresh stuff, but I suppose this'll do. Sorry about the other day, I guess that was hitting below the belt, huh?"

Gill scowled in response, refusing to let himself speak. Blood was rising to his cheeks, but he wasn't sure if it was from anger or from embarrassment. A glance at Elli's face confirmed that it was both.

"I didn't know that you came over yesterday," Elli mused, shooting Gill a pointed look. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Ivan grinned as he approached, setting the bottle on the counter. "I think he was too busy trying to retaliate against my awesome wit. Isn't that right, pretty boy?"

Gill glared at him, still blushing. "Wh-whatever," he muttered, eyes trained on Ivan's smiling eyes. They sobered as he held his gaze, the rancher leaning forward slowly and quietly.

"Heehee, and he even has a cute little nickname for you, Gill," Elli squealed, not really paying attention to their exchange. When they stayed silent, the baker stopped to examine their demeanor towards each other. "I, um... I think I'll leave you two alone for a while, 'kay? The bookshelf needs dusting anyway. See ya!"

The blond saw Ivan's eyes flicker away to Elli, and in the back of his mind a voice cheered and said, "Ha! You lost. You looked away." He groaned and smacked his forehead as he finally closed his eyes. Oh god, I am so pathetic.

The sound of a bottle opening brought him back to earth, the click of the cap being taken off ringing in his ears. Gill blinked weary blue eyes and saw the rancher offering him a tall glass of tomato juice.

"Here," he saw in a low tone. "Sorry if I said any mean things to you. I haven't even talked to you enough to judge you, so it was really uncalled for."

Reaching forward to receive the glass, Gill looked down and replied, "It's okay, I guess. I had no right to accuse you, anyway. Maybe you really are more suited for saving the Mother Tree than I am."

"Well, duh," the brunet laughed, pouring himself a glass. "I'm the one with the wacky dreams, remember?"

A weak smile played across his lips as he said, "Yeah." Gill's face smoothed out with a more serious expression as he added, "But we're counting on you, alright? If you can't do it... Well, I don't think any other farmers are going to wash up and have dreams of a beautiful green-haired woman."

Grinning, Ivan set down his glass. He propped his head in his right hand, tracing idle circles onto the wood of the counter with his left. "I'm glad that you do have a sense of humor under that stuck-up exterior of yours."

The blond pouted, moving to mimic Ivan's posture. "I'm not stuck up, I just have a higher standard than most people." Ivan snorted at that. "Besides, when you work with a woman like Elli, you'll learn how to loosen up every now and then."

"Hey, I heard my name back there!" she called out, her head popping up from behind a bookshelf. The brunette grinned at Ivan and gave a little wave before joining them at the front. "You, no loitering."

"Aww, you just had to ruin my fun, didn't you?" Ivan smiled at her and downed the rest of his juice. "You're right, she is a pretty bouncy person. If it weren't for her, I think I would have chewed your head off back there."

"Do you really think you can chew my head off?" Gill challenged, his eyes settling into a narrow-eyed glare.

Ivan returned the look and replied, "I know your heads a little big on those scrawny shoulders, pretty boy, but I think I can manage it."

Elli gave Gill a nudge, pushing him out of her way. "You gonna work part-time or what? Can't spend the whole day talking to Gill here, though he does have a big mouth..."

The blond shot her an angry look as he put his glass to his lips again, red liquid flowing down his throat. Blue eyes turned back to the rancher standing in front of them, watching as his face showed contemplation.

"You know what, I think that's a good idea, Elli," Ivan stated, walking around the counter and under the arc. "What do you need help with?"

Gill swallowed thickly, replacing his glass on the counter as the baker led Ivan to the back and showed him some recently delievered boxes of books that needed unloading. His gaze wandered back to the half-empty bottle of tomato juice. He sighed. I have a feeling I'm going to have to deal with those two for a very long time...

Chapter One - Close Calls

"You know, people usually leave after closing time."

A brown-haired rancher turned his head to the source of the voice, one laden with slight annoyance and slight curiosity. He offered the other a small smile. "Yes, they usually do. Thank you for giving me such important information."

On the other end of the room, a female voice giggled in amusement. "Gill, your comments don't work on Ivan. You know that."

"Well, I think it's always worth a shot," Gill retorted, stepping away from a bookshelf before dusting off his shoulders. He returned the rancher's look and said, "Why do you always hang out here, anyway? You should be trying to get the mother tree back to life."

"Geez, come off it, Gill," the brunet replied with a scoff. He approached the shorter man, giving him an intense stare before saying, "Give me a break, will you?"

The blond stood there for a moment, trying his best to return the stare his elder was giving him. Gill swallowed thickly before tearing his eyes away. "F-Fine. Just know that you're not getting any more money by staying after hours."

The woman crossed the room to join the pair, a secret smile plastered across her face. "All you think about nowadays is money, Gill. Money, money money. You should take a break and try for other things, you know? Get a hobby. Socialize." At that last word, she gave a short wink to Ivan, causing him to splutter quietly.

"I have a hobby, thank you very much," the man replied, obviously annoyed. "And I get enough attention from the two of you, anyway."

"But are you getting enough?" The question was asked with a bit of wistfulness, a twinkle in the woman's eyes as she gave Gill a sly smile.

Ivan gave a short, uncomfortable laugh before saying, "Haha, Elli, you're so funny. I think that it really is a good time to go, actually. Bye, guys!"

He shot the woman one last aggravated look before rushing out of the door.

Gill sighed, heaving himself onto the front counter. He rested his weight against the arc standing to his left and turned his eyes to the brunette putting away a vacuum-cleaner into a cupboard. "What the hell was that about, Elli?"

She turned around to face him, bracing herself on a nearby table. "What was what about?" She smiled coyly at him, inwardly giggling at the annoyed look that always seemed to grace his features.

"You know what I'm talking about," Gill replied, fingers clenching on the edge of the counter. "Are you... hiding something from me?"

Elli watched as the annoyance was replaced by a hint of worry. It was still there, but now it was in a jumbled mess of frustration, worry, and confusion. She recognized his desire to know, having worked with him so long. "No. How could you think that I'm hiding anything from you? You know I could never do that to you."

"Well, if you're not hiding anything from me, how come I still feel like I'm missing out?" the blond asked, almost to himself. A frown was tugging at his lips, similar to that of a sad puppy.

"Because you are," Elli responded, idly twirling a lock of short brown hair with her index finger. She was looking out the window to avoid his eyes. "I suggest asking Ivan about it."

A look of realization dawned on his features, the frown flattening out into open-mouthed wonder. "Of course! If you aren't hiding anything from me, then he must be..." His eyes flickered to the corner of the room, widening when he discovered how late it was. "Ugh! It's eleven! I better leave quick!"

Elli smiled at him and waved as he ran out the door. Boys will be boys, I suppose.

Ivan groaned, sliding against the sheets on the top of his bed. He just could not stand Elli's hinting, it was... It isn't even close to hinting. It's more like spelling it out! Dammit, she's gonna give me away one day, I swear to god...

The brunet turned over, the fabrics below him shifting under his weight. He stared quietly at the refridgerator sitting innocently at the foot of his kitchen counter, the barely affordable appliance buzzing faintly in the night.

At this rate, I won't gather all the ingredients needed for the Tree's fucking revival. Dammit, why does he keep distracting me? I'm better than this.... I know I can get enough fish to feed that stupid bear, I just... Always trying to get to town hall on time just to... Ugh. I'm pathetic. At least I still have my beautiful tomato plants, which... Which are for HIM anyway...

Ivan rolled over again, the sheets clinging to his waist. He glared at the window, staring angrily at his plants. The brunet groaned again and rubbed a gloved hand over his eyes, exhaling deeply through his nose.

Knock! Knock!

Jesus Christ, who the fuck is knocking this late... Ivan thought with a jump, his face instantly wrinkling into a grimace. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, ripping the sheets wrapped around his hips off on the way to the door.

Still scowling, he wrenched the door open. "What the fuck do you-- Oh, shi-- Uh, h-hey, Gill." Smooooth.

Flinching at his choice words, Ivan watched Gill's facial expression waver at the sound of his cursing.

"Hello, Ivan. I, uh, I've never heard you use such vulgar language before, but I guess that it's only natural seeing as I've probably woken you up..." The blond motioned to his tired eyes, ruffled hair, and messy sheets lying halfway on the ground.

Ivan rubbed at his face again, shaking his head as he replied, "No, no, you weren't waking me up. I don't know why I'm up this late, anyway." The brunet glared at the floor for a moment, gripping the door with a white knuckled grasp. "Soooo, what's up?"

As Ivan returned his gaze to Gill's face, he smiled when he saw the blond flush a little. "I was wondering if... I was just checking... Ugh, why am I here again?"

"I dunno, Gill," the rancher replied nonchalantly, regaining his composure. He offered Gill a smirk. "And I thought that you were the smart one."

"Oh, shut up, you, I-I, I know why I'm here," the blond replied hotly, "I'm g-getting to it. Give me a second."

Smirk transforming into a grin, Ivan moved further into his home, beckoning his companion in. "Well, better not stand in the night thinking about it. Those little fairies will come out and eat you if you do."

Gill opened his mouth to object, but closed it after a quick moment of reluctance. Carefully, he stepped into Ivan's small, one room home and gave it a quick once over.

On the other hand, Ivan was already seated comfortably in his bed again, idly picking up his sheets. He tucked them into the corners of the mattress before motioning the blond over to sit next to him. Gill shook his head silently, the blush persisting to stay on his cheeks.

"Ivan, I just wanted to know if anything was wrong," he admitted, looking at his shoes. The brown leather had a spot of dirt on it from the journey to the hilltop residence. "I mean, today was just one of those times when you'd... And Elli would... You know."

Ivan nodded at him to continue.

"I, um." Gill raised his eyes to give Ivan a quick look and saw that he was listening intently, giving him a focused stare. He could feel his face get even warmer, so he continued to fill the short moment of silence, "I'm just... Worried. That maybe I... Or, that you're... I don't know, I just want to know what's up."

The brunet crossed his legs and held his head in his right hand, playing with the sheets with his left. "Nothing's up, Gill. Maybe you're just noticing things you've never seen before."

Gill nodded, seeming to believe what Ivan said. He rubbed at his eyes, looking down to check his watch. "Yeah, maybe you're right Ivan. It's pretty late though, so I guess I should be leaving..."

"Mmhmm. You know, you could have just talked to me in the morning, anyway..." the rancher added absently, getting up to let him out. "Don't know why you had to drop in tonight. Unless it would have kept you up anyway, thinking worrying thoughts..."

The blond turned around to give Ivan a blank look. "Ivan, that's enough now."

He gave Gill a small smile, opening the door for him. "Alright, alright. Oh, and you're welcome. I know my advice is great and all that, so you--"

"Shut up, Ivan," the shorter man replied, shoving the other's shoulder lightly on his way out of the doorway. "Good night."

Ivan's smile grew as he watched Gill walk down the dirt path leading to Waffle Town. "Good night, you..."