It had been more than a typical afternoon for Espresso, who had been hard at work practicing new spells and concocting fresh formulas. Espresso was feeling pretty good about today, having made substantial progress as well as feeling more energetic than usual. Of course, as a reward for such significant progress, Espresso must reward himself by only working harder. To not take advantage of his streak would be foolish and counterproductive.
Espresso was abruptly stunned from his work upon catching ear of the familiar click that indicated his laboratory door opening. He was sure it was his boyfriend, Madeleine, making another nonsensical visitation. It was only logical to assume, as Madeleine was the only other person who had a set of keys to his lab space. So unless that idiot had lost them (which Espresso wouldn’t put past him, really), it was undoubtedly Madeleine. But Espresso had no time for nonsense today. He loved his boyfriend, surely, but there were times when work took precedence over silliness.
“Not now, Maddie,” said Espresso, eyes unmoving from the chalkboard he’d been mulling in front of for the past twenty minutes. Expresso had thought that that was that; nothing more, nothing less. Yet he found that another minute ticked by without a response from the other. Typically, Madeleine would respect this boundary of Espresso’s under the condition that Espresso wasn’t harming himself from lack of a life essential. And when Madeleine respected it, Madeleine would typically peck Espresso on the cheek and mutter a loving but somewhat sullen goodbye. Though, again, that hadn’t happened. This prompted Espresso to set his chalk down on the chalkboard tray and turn around.
Madeleine was standing there, as expected, but appeared somewhat off. He was looking off to the side and playing with the ends of his sleeves in silence. Espresso was a bit confused at first. At first, he didn’t understand. With scientific calculations, Espresso was always precisely on point. Though with facial expressions and emotions, he was often far off the mark with his estimates. All he could recognize was that Madeleine was in no way acting like himself. Not wanting to assume incorrectly and play the wrong move, he stepped towards Madeleine ever-so-tentatively and placed his thin hand against Madeleine’s cold cheek.
Espresso, for a moment, only stared, his mind searching for words to spew. “Madelle? Are you feeling well?” Espresso internally grimaced. He wanted to smack himself. He could’ve done better than that and yet, he just didn’t know how.
Madeleine, to return the moment Espresso had taken, was silent for a moment. He clenched his fists to his sides, his body trembling. After a few seconds of nothing he at last opened his mouth, to which ended in him hiccuping on a half-sob.
Espresso’s visage softened, now beginning to comprehend just what this was. He understood now that something had upset his lover and that Madeleine must be here seeking solace. “What is it?” he began to coax. "You can tell me anything you like."
“No,” Madeleine interrupted, overlapping his hand with Espresso’s only to push the softness of Espresso’s palm away. “You’re busy, aren’t you?”
It was true, yes, and Espresso almost told him so. But before he spoke so mindlessly, he mentally took a few steps back. Words were hard, especially when you feel as though anything you say could destroy the person in front of you. He wouldn't wish for Madeleine to feel guilty, no? “Not anymore,” Espresso replied.
“You told me to respect your boundaries. I want to be good to you, Espresso.”
“I have told you, I am no longer busy.”
Madeleine only sighed, shaking his head and making his way to the couch in the corner of Espresso’s lab. Once there, he sat down and buried his face into his hands, breathing loudly and unsteadily.
Espresso took to filling the space beside Madeleine, examining Madeleine up and down and contemplating once again. Goodness, he really wished he was as good at this as Madeleine was. Espresso couldn’t help but feel like a shit boyfriend for that reason but decided to bite back on the self-conscious feeling and instead view it as an opportunity to improve on that aspect of himself. Madeleine had always done so well improving for him and listening to him, and despite not always being perfect, it was alright. Espresso would be alright. To try his best was enough to return the favor.
“Madelle, could you tell me what the matter is? Is everything alright?” Espresso leaned close, resting a hand on the knee of Madeleine’s nervous, bouncing leg. Madeleine whimpered a bit at the action, leaving Espresso slightly bemused. “I will not know what to do unless you tell me. It’s alright, darling.”
Madeleine let out a broken sob, at last cracking the glass of his exterior. “I just– Ess–” Madeleine lifted his head, revealing wet tears that had spilled all over his palms and down his cheeks. His eyebrows were knitted in frustration as he tried ever-so-carefully not to scream. “No– I– uwa–”
Seeing those tears made Espresso’s heart ache. He frowned, patting the empty space in his lap. “Come here. Would you prefer it if I held you?”
Madeleine nodded, needily scooting his way to Espresso and settling his head into the mage’s lap. From there, Espresso wrapped one hand around Madeleine’s upper torso and another on the back of his head.
“This okay?” Espresso whispered, rubbing circles over Madeleine’s upper chest.
“Mhm–” Madeleine breathed, relishing in the relaxing aroma his boyfriend emitted. Madeleine swore there was no way from the heavens and back that he could get tired of that sweet coffee fragrance. “Essy–” Madeleine gasped, curling up defenselessly in Espresso’s lap.
“Cry,” Espresso pleads. “Be my guest, Madelle. Go on.”
“You will listen to me, no?” Espresso spoke demandingly, though expressed it more softly than anything. “You will feel better. That is what you always tell me. Is it not?”
“It– It is. But–”
“Hush. I will be right here listening, understood?”
Madeleine only hummed as a sign of understanding before allowing himself to shatter completely. He began slowly, in whimpers, but steadily grew more disoriented and loud as he realized how desperately he was in need of a release. Madeleine spoke of nothing, not a single thing at all. The only noise escaping his mouth being the loud sobs of somebody who's had a long, long day.
Initially, Espresso responded to this with silence. Oh, if only providing comfort came as easily as mathematical formulas. Espresso sighed, listening to Madeleine's wretched sobs before he could no longer hold himself back. Espresso had to do something. Anything. He could not stand to observe this torture any longer. And thus, the mage began quietly, in a murmur, uttering gentle affirmations; reminding Madeleine how good he was, how important he was, how he was so, so very proud of him. Espresso didn’t even need to know what Madeleine was upset about to hit all his soft spots. Praise is what Madeleine loved most, and praise is what Espresso would distribute. Madeleine only wailed on and on, so much so that Espresso felt stung in the heart.
Espresso ran his fingers through Madeleine’s hair, continuing to shush the knight tenderly. “My, my. My knight, you’ve truly been aching, have you not?” Espresso hadn’t required a coherent response. “Oh, Madelle…”
Madeleine shivered, babbling something through the sobs to which Espresso’s ears hadn’t entirely caught.
“What was that?” inquired Espresso.
“You– You don’t– believe it’s pathetic to– to see me in this state?”
“Hm. Not at all,” Espresso assured, removing his hand from Madeleine’s chest to grab a tissue. Espresso tilted Madeleine’s head to an incline so that he could wipe away the tears and snot that had covered the man’s face from his ugly crying. “I do not view you as any less, darling.”
Madeleine nodded, rubbing his sore eyes and taking deep breaths. Espresso soon took to rubbing Madeleine’s chest again, which is when Madeleine began to calm. At last, he had finally wrung all the sobs out of his system and was left to deal with the aftermath which came in the form of a headache.
“Look how good you are,” Espresso cooed, brushing Madeleine’s bangs out from the front of his face. “Now that wasn’t so hard, hm?”
“Mhm.” Espresso leaned down, pressing a quick kiss to Madeleine’s forehead. “Care to elaborate, love?
“Mmph–” Madeleine looked up towards Espresso, who gave a comforting smile in exchange for the gaze. “Well, first of all, I fell down my front porch steps and bruised my knees pretty hard. They were bleeding, and I had to bandage them up. Second, during battle I felt really dizzy and had to excuse myself. I felt real unheroic, and I acknowledge that I need rest too, but– I don’t know. I could have done more. I almost threw up after that. Almost being more bad than good because I was nauseous for another hour or so. After that was over, Pancake splashed mud near me and got it all over my precious sword. After cleaning it, I came here.”
“Oh, love, goodness, I was apprehensive that something far worse transpired. You’ve simply had a bad day, haven’t you?”
“I have indeed.” Madeleine sighed. “I want the day to be over already.”
“I understand,” Espresso sympathized. “Stay with me until the night falls and this day vanishes far from your mind. I am here for you.”
Madeleine moved his position, getting up so that his legs straddled Espresso's waist. In turn, Espresso wrapped his arms around Madeleine's back and pressed the paladin’s head to his chest.
“Thank you…” Madeleine mumbled, nuzzling against the soft fabric of Espresso’s dress shirt. “I enjoy it when you hold me," he said, putting his arms around either side of Espresso.
Espresso grinned, his grip on Madeleine tightening. “I see. I enjoy holding you all the same.”
“I like your warmth. And your hands. I like you a lot, Espresso.”
Espresso chuckled, amused. “You truly believe I do not already know that? You’ve reassured me many times.” Espresso explained as he rubbed Madeleine’s lower back.
“And every time you’ve denied it! I love you, Espresso. I do. I love you.” Madeleine sniffled, relaxing into Espresso as his pain eased. “I love you, I love you so very much.” Madeleine raised his head, giving Espresso an appreciative peck against the lips. When Madeleine was with Espresso, everything felt like a sugar-high fever dream. Everything about Espresso made his heart want to just– explode. His face, the way he wears those somewhat dorky oversized glasses, his words, his voice– everything. Madeleine loved Espresso so purely, so abundantly, through all flaws, as Espresso adored him all the same.
“Oh, darling~” Espresso purred, blushing at such simple words. “I, too, love you.”
Madeleine smiled, resting his chin on the crook of Espresso’s neck. “Mhm. I need you.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that now. You’re quite strong, with or without me.”
“I know, I know. Are you going to be alright?”
“As long as I can stay. I do not believe I could withstand leaving here with such puffy eyes.”
“I know. Stay here with me. Close your eyes. Sleep would do you good.”
“That’s funny coming from you,” Madeleine gave a quiet chuckle. “But if it’s what the cutie professor says, then I shall have no choice but to oblige! Haha~!”
Espresso only giggled at the teasing, just cheerful to know Madeleine was feeling more like himself again. “Oh, hush.”
Madeleine lazily kissed the side of Espresso’s neck. “Promise you won’t go?”
“Of course," Espresso vowed.
Despite being far off from Espresso’s original plans, the remainder of the night went by easily. Espresso had mumbled a few more praises before bidding Madeleine a goodnight, to which Madeleine reiterated his 'I love you’s' before bidding the very same. Limbs entangled, the couple soon fell asleep in the midsts of the evening, uncaring of the uncanny hour and both feeling more loved than the world itself.