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"I believe I will survive this vast and aching disappointment."


Kelsey Williams, Edmond Basumatary

25 November 2017

After Elliot leaves for work, Edmond and Kelsey eat dinner anyway, and they surprise both themselves and each other with the things they say and feel.


Highgate Apartment #8, R06

LAST TIME in Meeting Neighbors:

"Oh no!" calls Edmond, honestly dismayed. "Listen: I am Edmond Basumatary! When I hear you come home I will knock and have leftovers for you, okay? Or if you hear me playing you can knock!" He finishes chopping the spinach, and then looks sadly at Kelsey after Elliot flees, his hands pausing for a moment in their deft work. "Did you hear her stomach? I feel bad now. I hope she does not have an entirely hungry shift."

That's a lot of syllables to try to fit between Elliot's 'have to go' and her being out the door. Kelsey doesn't try to get any in edgewise. He eyes the door behind Elliot instead, with a tight little frown and knit eyebrows. "Well, hey," he says after a moment. "If it gets really bad, she could always eat her coworkers."

Hopefully he's kidding.

At least he's a little short to be Hannibal Lecter.


"..." Edmond turns to give Kelsey a slow look, but apparently decides 'eating coworkers' is a joke, because he just shakes his head and smirks and picks up the cutting board to brush all the chopped spinach into the simmering and popping ghee, stirs it with a wooden spoon, and adds a little of the simmering cream. He opens the overhead cabinet again to take down more spices and starts putting them in with all that, eyeballing amounts; he talks all the while. "I never see her with groceries or takeaway food," he says, corner of his mouth turning down a little until he blows his bangs out of his face with a quick upward puff of breath.

"You're right," Kelsey concedes to that slow look. "She's too close to my build, they could fend her off with a knife and probably carry her around like a backpack if she tried a garrote." He wanders closer to the so-named kitchen, leaning on the side of the counter to try to get a look at the overhead cabinet, or at least at the spices actually involved. "So either she eats at work, or she doesn't eat? That goes with the nervousness."

Edmond rolls his eyes at Kelsey, but makes room for him to peer into the cabinet or around his shoulder to see what he's doing, what he's adding. What he's doing right now is dumping the rest of the bit of cream in with the spinach and spices and a little bit more ghee, and then getting out a frying pan and putting the same combination of ghee and spices in the bottom of that, then dumping the cubes of paneer into that to let them brown and sizzle some. "She probably eats when she can," he says quietly, then sidesteps Kelsey gracefully and opens up the fridge to take out a ziploc of cooked rice. A steampot's bottom section's filled with about three fingers of water and the basket put in it, and then the cold cooked rice goes in the basket with a lid on top. "Part time jobs are kind of shit. So are irregular jobs, but at least with mine, sometimes I get a lot of money at once."

Far side of the counter, not actually in the way. Mostly, anyway. "Yeah," Kelsey says, to the 'eats when she can.' And again, "Yeah," overlapping with 'so are irregular jobs.' There's a brief smirk at the 'sometimes I get a lot of money at once.' "Let's face it. If our jobs weren't shit, we wouldn't be living someplace like this. I'm a little worried about what might be paying rent for inside the walls."

"Eh, I like living in places that are like this," says Edmond with a philosophical shrug, then grins, teeth once more bright in his evening-sky face; his stars glitter with self-amusement. "Unless they do not let me repaint the walls. Then to hell with them." He takes a spatula and starts flipping the cheese cubes on their sides to brown them more evenly, and the scent of the food is already growing thick in the air. "When you are poor and everyone around you is poor, you are not judged for the wealth or status you may have. There is no one to dictate what you can and cannot do, and you may give as much as you like without it being charity."

For all that the primary note in Kelsey's mien is candleflame, his eyes are one of the bright leaf-greens common among plant-kin. And those bright green eyes are drawn to that glitter, particularly striking as it is against the dark background of Edmond's skin, then the red of the walls.

Conversation, however, is not derailed by any mentally-numbed 'your stars are pretty' remarks. "Is that why you haven't fixed the problem?" Kelsey wonders. "An aesthetic or moral preference for poverty? Not that I've fixed it either, mind, but I haven't been here as long."

The boy of stars with hands of wood and feet of clay, he glances up from his frying in mild surprise. "...problem?" he echoes vaguely, then goes back over everything that just got said and focuses. "Oh. Neither aesthetic nor moral. Primarily convenience. And also--"

Here Edmond looks distinctly self-amused, and even the stars in his hair twinkle brightly, and the ones in his eyes are practically suns. He flips the cheese blocks again, not even paying attention to them, and absently takes the lid off the spinach and stirs the pot again. "--when I come into money I buy nice clothes and new strings and pen nibs. I do not have an airtight identity, so banks and things of that nature are awkward, anyway. And I like to move around. It is easier to pack and leave if everything fits in a shitty little car."

That grin is like sunlight itself.

Kelsey spreads his own hands, distinctly non-wooden, even if their shadowed places take on the lilac hue and soft, uncannily even textures of flower petals. "I can't argue," he says. "Given that you've just seen me hauling most of my worldly goods. Most; I have a shipment of inventory catching up with me soon. But there's something to be said for nice clothes and emergency funds. Or in your case, for feeding your starveling neighbor, since you seem intent on making that a habit."

The grin turns decidedly sheepish. "She is nice and she is hungry. I do not like it when people are hungry and it is not on purpose." Then he shrugs blithely, and shuts off the heat under the cheese, moving to pour the excess ghee into a warm glass jar and dump the fried cheese into the spinach, stirring it again. He also takes the lid off the steamer, and un-clumps the rice before replacing the lid. As he opens the fridge again and takes out a tetra-pak of mango lassi, he notes offhandedly, "She has a job, she also may not be starving for much longer. It does not matter to me: I like to share. Can you put this on the table? Glasses are in the cabinet next to your head."

There's a wicked little spark in those green eyes now, and it's echoed in the sly smile -- but that smile's a conspiratorial one, rather than cutting. His tone's teasing, too, but it's not the kind of teasing that pushes away. "You don't know her well enough not to have to tell her what name to call you by. But you know her well enough to know she's nice? That's interesting." Then Kelsey threads himself in, careful of Edmond's range of motion and of avoiding jogging elbows, to retrieve two glasses. Given the size of the kitchen, this does put him in thwacking range. If thwacking occurs, he's likewise careful not to drop glass (or plastic) or spill lassi, even if he's pouring at the time.

Eyebrows lifting at Kelsey over his shoulder, Edmond looks prim suddenly. "Of course she is nice. She may also be an axe murderer, but if so, she is a nice one. It is perfectly possible to be both nice and evil, or nice and completely batty in awful and dangerous ways, or nice and also sometimes utterly awful." The prim literally only lasts through what he says, and then Edmond's laughing as he turns the heat off underneath the spinach cheese thing and puts the lid on it. "You, I think, are not nice, but I believe I like you anyway. I am very nice, but I will also steal a corpse from a police morgue in payment for a fancy sandwich. Nice is not a very telling descriptor, you see."

"I am terribly nice," Kelsey says brightly, letting lashes flutter back at Kelsey over his own shoulder before he goes to set the pair of glasses on the table. "If only because 'nice' is a word that's meant almost anything, one time or another. Including polar opposites. Everyone's nice for one of them or another."

He drifts back doorward, but only to listen at it for a moment (anyone in the hallway? No-one in the hallway) before adding, "That's a remarkably specific example. I feel like I should stock up on fancy sandwiches."

"Well," says Edmond, pulling shallow bowls down and spooning rice into them first, "it needed doing, and I happened to be hungry. So I said I would do it if they bought me a fancy veggie sandwich from the--"

It's really not much of a hitch. And it's so smooth afterwards.

"--cafe, the Cat-22 Collective place, down the street thataway." That part gets an inclination of his chin. "But," he says with a breezy smile as he finishes spooning palak paneer on top of the rice, then brings both bowls over to the coffee table and sets them down, spoons and all, "the newspaper said it was a paperwork mixup, so obviously no corpses were ever stolen and I am having you on. There is clearly no need to stock up on fancy sandwiches, unless you are just planning to be nice to me."

He's having a conversation with a Fairest. A Fairest whose Mantle, weaker than Edmond's as it is, is still candlelight flickers and Autumn flowers. There is very little chance that that hitch goes unnoticed.

If it is, though, it is filed away somewhere for later, not pounced on on the instant. "Should I not be nice to you?" Kelsey asks blithely, glancing back kitchenward to see whether anything else needs carrying. "If you like me better not nice, I could always be mean. But that seems terribly out of balance when you've just been cooking for a pair of strangers. Well. A stranger and a near-stranger."

Edmond flops onto the couch and picks up the bowl he sat in front of, then sticks his tongue out at Kelsey. Mleh. And then he bursts out laughing. "I met both of you today! Just because I have seen her in the hallway does not mean I know her. But now you are both near-strangers! I have no bread to break with you, alas, but perhaps this will suffice." Apparently nothing else needs carrying: the burfi box is still on the table for after, and Kelsey brought the drink and glasses over, and there's dinner right there. As if to punctuate, Edmond salutes with a spoonful and then stuffs it in his mouth.

Kelsey slides onto the couch on the other side, tucking themself in prim and small. The second bowl is collected and held delicately in his lap. "Breaking rice seems perfectly appropriate," he says. "One grain's as good as another." His mouth curls upward at the corner nearer Edmond. And he deliberately fishes one single grain of rice out of his bowl with his spoon, divides it neatly in half with the spoon's edge, and deposits one half on the edge of Edmond's bowl before eating the other. Then taking an actual spoonful and trying with enough to, oh, actually taste. A pleased sound follows.

There is a sound that is almost a snort of laughter except that Edmond catches himself just in time and avoids getting spicy up the back of his nose. Then, with almost-grave deliberation -- the suppressed smirk keeps tugging at the corners of his mouth -- he picks up the half-a-grain delicately and puts it in his mouth, watching Kelsey the whole time.

Okay, putting his fingertip in his mouth afterwards probably wasn't necessary, but there it is.

Perfectly matter-of-factly, but with a real smile for the sound of Kelsey appreciating his cooking, he goes back to eating his own bowl.

Probably not necessary. Probably also not necessary: Kelsey answers the gesture with a glance through lowered lashes, head deliberately angled to allow it to be emphasized. Then returns to his turn at primness, eating with a certain degree of delicacy. And without the American tendency to want to talk all the time while eating. Apparently he really does appreciate the palak paneer. That, or he might be concerned that he could break out laughing if he tried to say anything.

Eyebrows up. For like a second. And then Ed just grins, bright and wide and delighted, and curls up in his corner of the couch with his palak paneer. He himself is not actually inclined to start laughing should he stop eating, or say anything, he's just hungry-- as evidenced by the fact that he manages to scarf the whole thing in two minutes and still be on the civilized side of eating quickly. When he's done, he unfolds his legs and puts the bowl down and picks up his lassi, hyper-aware of Kelsey being there, but he still doesn't say anything, just drinks his drink.

One thing that can be said for the place, as brightly and busily decorated as it is: it's meticulously spotless, and there's neither clutter nor mess. Absolutely everything is in its place except what he'd just finished using to cook. It's warm, it looks warm with the fool-the-eye colors, it's someone's version of homey, and it is flawlessly clean. The books are alpha by author for fiction, and clearly grouped in topics and organized within those, and all lined up precisely so their spines are flush with each other; the spice cabinet had been organized-- there's no mail or letters visible, the sarode is on its stand and its case is leaned against the wall behind it; the keyboard is broken but it's not trailing guts or anything-- and the inbox and outbox of the typewriter are aligned with the edges of the little table it's on, and the chair is pulled up flush against its front.

The floor's seen better days, but from the cleanliness of the rest of the place, the guy probably washed it with a bleach solution when he moved in.

The question is whether there's anything that can even be done for the carpeting, or whether it's custom-designed to reject carpet shampoo. One does not ask these things. One simply does not.

Kelsey's rate of consumption is somewhat slower than Ed's, given time taken to savor, but soon enough he has his own glass cradled in his hands instead. The first sip may have been a little overly quick; that's still more spice than most Americans are entirely used to. But not too much more in this case.

"That," Kelsey says at length, "was really good." And definitely better than the amount of food visible in among the luggage he was hauling in, which if the rest of his bedding was stuffed in there with the pillow, probably amounted to 'maybe a handful of breath mints.' "I think your neighbor has a better thing going than she knows."

Edmond looks supremely pleased with himself, toes curling around the edge of the couch cushion from where he'd drawn his legs up, and shoulders hunching in a little bit as he ducks his head and beams at Kelsey, eyes little half-moons. "I am so glad! I was not allowed to cook when I was small, but I watched everything I could when I hid in the kitchen. I have been watching cooking youtube videos and reading recipe books a lot since I got back, but I had not cooked for anyone else yet. You can come here for dinner any time you like!"

"Now that's a dangerous offer," Kelsey says, brightly sly and teasing again. He curls sideways and tucks his own knees up onto the couch cushions, toes pointed but shoes not touching the upholstery. His hair, on the verge of lambent, curls down the front of his shoulder. "For all you know, I might eat you out of house and home. Or shall I buy groceries for you to make up for it? Then you'll have more to spend on pen nibs."

It is not a pledge phrasing. It skirts close to it, but it's not.

Kelsey does not avoid Edmond's eyes, but meeting them is a quick thing, a flicker up and then away to his mouth, or his hands on the dishes, or the set of his shoulders. "I think I should tell you," they say softly, "that I might flirt, but it's not serious. That I'm not actually -- mm, let me not use that saying. That I'm not actually looking for a relationship. Or even for a hookup. I think right now you're having fun with it, and I think right now you're okay with it just being having fun. But I don't want to risk it getting serious for you when it isn't, it can't be, for me."

Whether or not he'd have given that warning if Edmond's storm-warning summer-night Mantle weren't strong enough to push his own back ... that's a question for later, maybe. Or maybe for never.

His body language had gone still for a moment; now it eases, a shift of weight, a light little bend-and-stretch like a breath against a candleflame. "If you still were to write a letter to me, knowing that -- why, then you might address it to Kelsey Williams, and it might get to me okay."

Edmond pauses with the dishes in his hand, on the way to the sink, and the storm warning doesn't change. There's no anger here, there's no heat of wrath, no lashing of a monsoon, only the quiet chirping of crickets and the steady hum of the cicadas amongst the background sounds of living in a cheap apartment with thin walls in a bad neighborhood. He doesn't look away from Kelsey, and nothing about his body language shows a gathering of tension.

Only there's a faintly amused, faintly sad little quirk to one corner of his mouth, and then he goes on moving again, to put the dishes in the sink and turn on the water so it runs hot, eventually. While he waits, he takes out a dry erase marker and he writes 'Kelsey Williams' on the fridge in a gloriously graceful, looping, antique hand. As he writes, and then as he re-caps the marker and goes back to the sink, he speaks.

"That is all right. I believe I will survive this vast and aching disappointment. Please do not think it creepy if I date guys who look a little like you-- it is only that you are," he glances over his shoulder and grins at Kelsey, "my type. If we are to be friends, that is perfectly lovely. If we are friends who flirt, that is lovely also. Only if-- you think you are flirting too much, please do not stop the friends part, only the flirting part."

"I may have guessed the your-type part," Kelsey admits, with a gloriously exaggerated show of modesty. Fortunately, he's still on the couch, so he can't actually scuff a toe on the floor. "That is. I did notice that your neighbor and I look a tiny bit alike. Just a touch." Small, thin, blond -- he doesn't have that smile, granted.

It's a moment after that he uncurls from the couch, slipping over toward the counter, trailing behind and regarding the handwriting on the refrigerator. "If you think," he says lightly, "I am flirting too much ... please tell me, so that we can also stop the right part there. I don't know what you find acceptable, and what you find beyond the pale." He pauses. "-- is that an idiom you know? English is made out of weird."

"I," says Edmond comedically self-importantly, "even know the origin of that phrase." Comedically; his fingertips are on his chest for a moment, which leaves suds on navy blue hoodie-front. Then he finishes up and actually dries the dishes and puts them away. "Also, she is safe from being my type, I am not attracted to girls. I fear I break many, many hearts just by walking around."

He sounds completely serious, but there's laughter in his eyes as he turns back to look at Kelsey, and there's fondness there. "I am a great deal older than I look, or act, Kelsey. I think if you start groping me I will ask if you have changed your mind about hooking up, and if you say you have not, then I will inform you that you are in fact flirting too much."

Kelsey steps back from the counter at this news --

-- to give himself room to drop into an extravagantly courtly bow over his left arm, right hand out in a fluid flourish, left foot drawn back in poised counterweight. He holds the pose for a moment before straightening. "I'll keep that boundary in mind, and on your own head be the rest."

There's an instant's pause. "Mmm. I should tell you that I'm occasionally a girl. But only occasionally, and briefly, and honestly it almost always seems to happen when I have a knife in my hand for reasons entirely unrelated to food. So it shouldn't be a problem, I think." He cocks his head to the side inquisitively; the motion makes a bright ruffle out of the contained firefall of his ponytail. "I hope."

The voice in the back of his head screaming at him about why in the world he's opening his mouth on the subject in the first place is consigned ruthlessly to the same internal box as the urge, a few moments ago, to touch that hint of sadness at the side of Edmond's mouth. The only hint of either unexplained touch of irrationality is a faint, faint brittleness in his smile.

Edmond looks faintly taken aback, but then shrugs and smiles. "Well, you are not interested in hooking up-- or a serious romantic relationship-- anyway, so yes. That is fine." He leans against the counter himself, then, across from Kelsey. "If you were, I--"

The Elemental pauses, looking even more startled, and shuts his mouth. Then he frowns a little, and when he looks back up at Kelsey his eyebrows are up, like this is news to him but it's topical and relevant so he's going to damn well share it anyway. "If you were, then for you, I would be willing to work on it. And I don't know why. I have known you less than an hour, and that seems a silly thing to say. But-- just-- there is... trauma. So please do not surprise me by being-- ..." His mouth shuts again, as he looks for a way to put it.

Finally he sighs and straightens up, running a hand through his thick starry black hair. "I do not think you would do that. But in the interest of full disclosure, I will... freak out. If you are a girl and you start coming even close to the line I have drawn already."

There's a quick shake of Kelsey's head when Edmond trails off on the request not to surprise him. Another quick shake when Edmond is finished, and now the tail of his hair is hardly a tail at all, as opposed to a bright half-glowing ball of dandelion fluff. He pulls it back over his shoulder and runs his fingers through it. "No," he says. "That's not something I'd do. That's -- we've all got trauma. The way we get along is by not stepping on it. And I understand. I --" He hesitates for an instant. "There are things that make me freak out like that, too. I'll remember that's the same for you as ... as glass elevators are for me. So if I ever shift like that when I'm near you, I'll back off. Probably across the room. If that's okay, if that won't upset you."

"That is over-okay," says Edmond with a little shake of his head and a chuff of a laugh, bracing his hands against the edge of the counter. For what it's worth, he hasn't backed off, hasn't even telegraphed it. "I can be close to you. I have many friends who are girls-- I do not avoid touching them, being near them. Hugs are okay! A kiss on the cheek is okay! Just-- not-- just not anything that... hmm... that a sister or a mother would not do," he finally settles on, looking wry, looking apologetic.

Straightening up a little more, the starry boy looks down at his wooden hands, then glances up past Kelsey, and moves around the counter again to head back to the couch and the lassi. "We do not step on trauma, yes, but sometimes related things can be stupid and awkward and upsetting to people we like, and I am sorry if-- this is--"

His hand closes on his glass, and he picks it up and holds it in both, and he just keeps looking down at it. "It is not you, or what is a part of you, and it is not me, and it is not any of my friends who are girls, and it is not any other girls, it is just-- Her." He actually shuts his eyes and there's actually legimitately a flinch that stays, like someone unused to alcohol getting a mouthful of straight scotch. A faint breath, and he forces himself to relax, and his words are quiet and firm, a resolution. "Someday I will be able to make myself get past it. I am sorry. Our conversation was fun! And then I went left."

Couchward. Kelsey turns to trail after Edmond, if at a polite distance, and the couch shifts just a little as his relatively light weight settles down onto the other end of it. No interruption of the awkward words, even in the hesitations. No distraction from the staring at the lassi.

It's only after Edmond says that last, and finally finishes, that the couch shifts again. And that's all the warning he has before there are thin arms wrapped around his shoulders, and a slim body pressed (through two hoodies) against his side, and a chin prodding firmly into his shoulder.

"Don't you start apologizing over that," Kelsey says, low and fierce. "Not to me."

There's surprise, but there's no flinch this time, no tension: apparently hugs *are* always okay. Except if Kelsey were covered in blood and gore it might be an issue. Difficult to say. Irrelevant at the moment. Instead of tension, Edmond relaxes into that squish. He's warm even through the hoodies, and it's not just his mantle: he's warm, alive and present, pulse fluttering fast with the quick beat of his heart.

And Kelsey is so close. In addition to the scents of a storm-warning summer night, he smells of clean earth that's freshly turned, and of living forests, wild and untamed, and his Wyrd offers the sense of expansiveness and awareness of astronomical distances and geological time. He feels like someone who should be patient and calm and solid, and somehow the electric wildness of his Mantle's low angry warning fits with that. Somehow. There's a link, there's a sense to it, that only Kelsey's particular flavor of Autumn obsession would be able to put together: this boy, if boy is even the right word, is that solid and that patient and that enduring, which means his Mantle indicates a very large temper at the end of a very, very long fuse.

None of this washes with the twitchiness he'd displayed initially, or the recklessness of inviting total strangers into his home, or the sheer desperation to please them that's danced about the edges of his interaction. Something happened, and happened recently, that's set this patient and solid creature off-balance. And none of this washes with his blithe, flippant statements about packing everything in his car and leaving. Someone like this should put down roots, shouldn't live in a building where no one talks to each other, should be part of a community, should become a fixture-- not steal a corpse for a fancy sandwich and be ready to bug out at a moment's notice.

But here he is, complicated and nonsensical, as damaged as the rest of them in myriad ways-- and here he is setting his glass down again and lifting his hands to hug Kelsey's arms around his shoulders, living wooden hands polished-smooth and hard but warm, and he lightly leans his starry dark head against Kelsey's candleflame bright one. His voice is soft. "All right."

That's the thing. They got loose. They don't have to be what they were made to be.

Even if it might be better for them, sometimes.

None of what's happening makes any sense. It's something, again, that Kelsey can fold away, can set aside to take out and examine at a later time. The Autumn Court is, as a rule, in favor of living with one's emotions rather than trying to conquer them. But even when one has a roommate, one doesn't need to prioritize them all the time. Feel, yes. Consider later, yes. Act on ... not all of them at the same time.

He stays there, therefore. Not still, precisely. His breathing is definitely evident, given that some of his weight is outright draped on Edmond. Fingers flex. That pointed chin shifts, just a little. Small things that, although sometimes uncomfortable, make the difference between a still more uncomfortable silence and a lving one.

And eventually, the murmur quiet and low and blending oddly perfectly with the quiet and the warmth and the contact: "If you turn out to be some kind of codependent jerk with no borders and abandonment issues, Summer or not, I'm gonna find some way to kick your ass."

Perhaps oddly, there's literally no body language of discomfort from the elemental in the room-- the elemental who looks for all the world like a very confused Fairest, in many ways. Part of him is very, very much that patient solidity, and his breathing is easy and natural, and he remains relaxed, and his heartbeat slows down.

Kelsey's voice, an almost sudden thing in the humming quiet of the room, gets Edmond to open his eyes and turn his head a little, starry navy blue meeting that too-bright green with affectionate mirth. "If I display signs of such, please kick my head instead, in order to dislodge whatever may be possessing it. Behavior that poor would be distressingly out of character for me."

Quiet again for a second, that regard so very close as almost nose-to-nose as they are, Edmond studies Kelsey. And then he brightens, ridiculously, grinning like he just managed to see the individual wingbeats of a hummingbird in flight. "I figured out how you feel!" he crows like it's a huge revelation, dropping his head back and saying it to the ceiling so Kelsey's not deafened. And then he starts laughing in relief. "Yes, it is strange how easy it is to be comfortable with you, and I am worried for it also, because I do not like to become too attached to people or places? Because I do not wish to be eaten by loss. But I will not run from you, Kelsey," he finishes, patting the flamesiren's arm. "If I find I have to leave I will tell you first. I will trust you and give you whatever you need for you to trust me. I want your friendship very much."

It's a bright green glare, but the indignation is just another layer over that odd sense of comfort. "Permission and invitation noted. And will be remembered." He bares teeth as if he might be about to attempt to bite Edmond's nose... but tips his own head back in turn when Edmond laughs to the ceiling again. And heaves an exaggerated sigh.

"It's 2017," he says. Still looking ceilingward. Even after being patted. "They have these things these days. I know it's hard to catch up with everything, but some things are useful to know about. 'Internet.' 'Cell phone.'" He does not draw out the syllables or exaggerate the way they're pronounced, at least. Not this time. After a moment, though, he squirms, and the unpatted arm comes up and a fingertip taps Edmond's nose.

(Yes, he glances to check whether the stars are also indignant.)

"You should be more careful with your promises," they murmur, their voice dropping lower. "Somebody might take you up on them before you have the time to think things over."

The stars are very indignant. Across Edmond's face, a constellation's stares abruptly flare bright, picking out the path of Eridanus. All the same, the boy's mantle never wavers; there's no anger. "I," he says with supreme dignity, "have a Chromebook. I have been back four whole years. I have a gmail account." He shifts a little too, facing Kelsey more easily, which also makes tapping his nose easier. "I have a tumblr."

Then there is the nosetap, and he blinks-- and a shooting star tracks rapidly across his face, from just below his right eye, before it vanishes in the vicinity of Achernar. Still, he doesn't stiffen, doesn't tense. There's something else instead, something inscrutable and distant, which shifts his demeanor in almost imperceptable ways-- shifts it to something regal and grave and full of a vast and weighted sorrow that tastes almost of despair. Almost.

It's very quietly that he says, one hand coming up to catch at Kelsey's and hold it in the air near their faces, "You do not know how careful I am with my promises, or with my heart."

That shooting star wins an expression other than the glare: Kelsey melts into a delighted grin, eyes wide with a moment of sudden wonder. They manage to take their hand back a little, rather than letting it wander across the river-trail of that constellation. Which of course, means that it's all the easier to catch. Particularly when Kelsey doesn't actually try to pull it away.

"I don't," they answer gently, not quite lightly. Weighed down a little by that near-despair. "I only know about that one. And it makes me worry. Maybe I worry too much. I don't know you yet. But I'd rather worry too much than not worry when I should have."

There's the smallest smile, finally, and maybe it's partially in response to the delighted grin that he drove away a little bit with his words, sadly, or maybe it's in response to the last things Kelsey says. "But you worry. About me, of all people," like there's something inane about specifically worrying about Edmond.

He takes a breath, and releases Kelsey's hand, and the thin pre-dawn light at the v of his hoodie's zipper grows warmer, brighter, beginning to be touched by hints of airy white-gold and lightening the blue above it. "I will trust you, and give you whatever you need for you to trust me. That is neither bound as promise in Wyrd or words, but it is a declaration of intent, and you are not the boss of me so I am making it."

The earth and sky and the green green leaves grin at Kelsey abruptly, and this time it's quick and bright and teasing. "It is an offer to make a promise, Williams! I am not so bad at English that I do not know the difference!" And then the elemental pulls himself up and away off the couch and spins deftly on his foot to face Kelsey again, and the smooth-polished wood of his hands goes into his hoodie pockets. Standing, he cocks his head and regards the flamesiren, and there's mischief that goes with the reckless and careless front that doesn't mesh with the slow steadiness or the deep vein of burning anger like magma or Centralia.

The stars are brightest on the upper half of his face, and in his eyes, and in his hair, and he's teasing and he's serious and it's all plain as day. He's not hiding a damn thing. "It is an offer I make because you want to protect me. It is also very heavy and you have to unpack, yet, so I will graciously allow you think on it-- ah, if you even wish to-- and I?"

Affection. "I will play my sarode until I fall asleep."