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Breaking Down Barriers, Chapter Three

Chapter Three - Plan for the Unexpected

Gill stared wearily at the Town Hall door, looking at the knob that had been turned a few moments ago to release a young brunette from work at the end of the day. He basked in the dimming sunlight of twilight, sitting on the table next to the bookshelves, head in his hands.

He didn't want to leave. Maybe, if he just sat there on the surface of the empty table, everything could just stop along with him, and he wouldn't have to deal with his father yelling at him for coming home late last night and the night before, and he wouldn't have to deal with Ivan offering him a late night tomato juice after a hard day at the ranch, and he wouldn't have to deal with Elli offering him cookies like everything was fine. He could sit and wallow in his troubled thoughts that he knew no one could help him with.

If anything, this would be a problem for Ivan to help him with, but he couldn't risk that.

Ivan hadn't come to the Town Hall again today. He saw him through the window, though, crossing that rainbow that led to who knows where. The blond figured that he was just busy, trying to raise funds and all that. Last Sunday, he saw a young calf and a chicken grazing on his fields from the hill next to Maple Lake and assumed that the animals must have cost a lot.

He could have at least said hi as he passed,
Gill thought miserably, moving his eyes to the floor.

"You're gonna choke on dust one day, you know that, Blondie?"

Snapping into pencil-straight posture, Gill felt his eyebrows and the corners of his lips fly upwards. He realized that he must have looked like he had mental problems, so he shook his head and straightened out his facial expression. "Of course I will. And you'll break your back pulling weeds because you're too lazy to use your sickle."

Ivan laughed, hopping over the counter to join Gill on the table. "Why you so down, pretty boy? Girls don't like frown wrinkles, you know. Smile."

If it weren't for the familiar nickname, Gill would have frowned instead. A small smile graced his normally stoic features as he continued to stare at the carpeted floor. "I'm just tired."

Ivan leaned back on his hands and Gill could feel his eyes running across his back. Blood began to rush to his face, running from his neck to his ears as silence filled the room. He slowly brought his hands together to fidget with his fingertips, waiting for some sort of wisecrack from the rancher seated beside him.

"You do look tired," the brunet finally stated after a few agonizing moments. "But I don't think that's it."

The blond bit his lip, feeling his shoulders creep a little higher to his ears. "What makes you think that?"

"That can't be it. If you were just tired, you wouldn't be here, you'd be at home making up for the lost sleep. It's not like you to waste time doing nothing," Ivan replied, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Gill's hand lifted as soon as he felt the contact from the man beside him, but he was at a loss of what to do with it. He didn't want to make it seem like he was angry at him or something, so he didn't swat it away like he intended to do in the first place, but he couldn't just lift his hand and not do anything with it. That would mean that he wanted to do something, but decided not to. After catching himself, he decided to play with a lock of hair just above Ivan's hand.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm okay, I guess," Gill muttered under his breath, refusing to look at Ivan's searching brown eyes.

"That was a hypothetical question, blondie," the rancher replied, a laugh evident in his voice. "Seriously, though, what's on your mind?"

"I don't know if I can tell you this one, Ivan," the blond admitted. The guilt weighed down his heart, the feeling of lead sitting at the bottom of his stomach strengthening.

He could almost feel the change in Ivan's demeanor, he could almost feel that frown that pulled down the corners of his lips. "...Why not?"

Gill exhaled deeply and raised his head to look Ivan in the eyes. It was one of those moments when Ivan wasn't wearing a fake mask of pleasant politeness or when he wasn't being sardonically distant. He was showing genuine concern.

"Ivan..." he murmured, lowering his eyes again. "I... Ugh, I know that no matter what I say, you'll drag it out of me anyway, so I guess I might as well tell you."

"Atta boy, give in before you crash and hurt yourself," the brunet replied, squeezing his shoulder in reassurance. Gill almost flinched.

"I... Have been thinking too much about... um, this person." Tell him, but don't tell him. Oh how words can be twisted.
Ivan lifted an eyebrow at him, that frown returning to his face. "Go on."

"And I... don't know if asking them about their, um, love life, would be appropriate." Oh god, I'm going to end up asking him anyway, won't I?

The rancher let out a shaky laugh, moving his hand to pat his back a little too hard. "Pretty boy, asking is never really "appropriate", but there's never really another way of find out, is there? And it's kind of like hitting two birds with one stone; you find out if she's single, and by her reaction, you'll probably find out if she's interested as well."

Gill was still staring at the floor, eliciting another frown from Ivan. He leaned closer to get another look at his downcast expression. "Ah, so there's something more to this, isn't there? Never expected someone like you to stray away from tradition."

Letting him talk it out of me makes things a lot easier,
the blond thought, biting his lip. But am I really ready to ask this? Am I even sure this isn't just a, a thing? I should stop to plan this out. Then again, plans fall apart when dealing with him.

"You know, I won't make you tell me if you're not ready," the brunet added absently, putting his hand back in his lap. "But I will get it out of you. Though I would understand if you thought that you miiight as well tell me while we're at it, I know how important planning is to you, seeing as you always need your perfect outcome and--"

"Look, Ivan, it's you," Gill burst out, scowling at Ivan's teasing. He ignored the look of bewilderment painted on the other's face as he continued, "I-I, I want to know if you have a girlfriend. Why? I don't know. Don't ask me, I don't have an answer for you, alright? I spent four damn hours thinking about it, wondering why in the hell I would want to know and why not knowing bothers me so much. In fact, it would be great if you told me, you all-knowing bastard, it would be just fan-freaking-tastic if you told me why I spent so much time thinking about you."

Ivan's jaw made a loud clicking sound when he closed it, teeth snapping together too hard and too fast. He winced at the feeling, rubbing his eyes with long, gloved fingers. "Jesus," was the only thing he said, his breathing deepening.

Gill flinched along with him, the words he just gushed out registering in his mind. Oh god, that was horrible.

"I'm guessing that that made you feel better," Ivan breathed, bracing his hands on his knees, "But... wow. That sure was a lot."

He exhaled loudly, hunching over. Gill was holding his breath as he anticipated the rancher's answer. "The answer is no. I don't have a girlfriend. And I'm not interested in any of the girls currently on the island, if you were wondering."

Straightening up, he slung an arm lazily across Gill's shoulders, leaning heavily on the shorter man. "To tell you the truth, that made me feel better, as well. Don't need you losing sleep over me, you know."

The blond turned around to give him a tired look, expecting to see that mask on his face again. But Ivan was smiling, eyes hooded and comfortable. He tilted his head so that it was almost resting on his shoulder, his breath fanning out on Gill's neck. A blush was creeping its way onto his face as Ivan whispered, "But keep me in your dreams, okay?"

Abruptly, the brunet stood up, the weight of his arm lifting from his back. He flashed Gill a brilliant grin before returning his face to its usual smirk, hopping over the counter and heading to the door. With a quick wave, he turned the brass knob of the front door and slipped into the night.

Moving as if he was encased in molasses, Gill raised his arm to touch his neck, still warm from the vapor of Ivan's breath. His eyes were wide open, staring at the door with wonder.

Oh Harvest Goddess above, that was... indescribable. But, I have a weird feeling that things are going to get a bit... crazy. Ugh, that man is going to make me lose my mind, I just know it.