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Enchanted Forest (M)


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Hey folks, and happy pride month. I've had this idea floating around in my head for a while now, and I finally got around to fleshing it out. This is meant to be a continuation of Class Clown, starring my beloved OCs, Mick and Harley.

It's also come to my attention that they sound like Alice Oseman's own 'Nick and Charlie', which was completely unintentional, I swear on my life. (I also find it hilarious.) Anywho, this one takes place in the summer following the winter semester. Without further ado~





There was a dead bee floating in Mick’s ice coffee. It couldn’t have been the most interesting thing to have happened all day. Still, it warranted photos on oversized smartphones, and some sort of weird symbolistic vibe in the midst of all the table work going on in rehearsal. 


Outdoor performances weren’t Mick’s favourite. Community theatre could be hard, especially when it wasn’t easy to afford space for build in a convenient vicinity to the venue. Today though, he was on deck for the first load in and notes for his set. There were semi-shameless ideas going through his head of fishing out the poor bee (it was a wasp actually, so there may have been less sympathy on his part), and just finishing the half that was left. Although the thought of receiving the first round of notes for the set was already giving him jitters.


“That a wasp?” A deep voice asked from behind him. Mick turned. Harley’s brown hair looked lighter under the sun, almost blonde. It was getting long, curling just above his shoulders. He wore a grey muscle tank and black shorts, and a green sweatband on his wrist, which made him look comically eighties-esque. From the way his dark eyes were narrowed and his brow was furrowing, Mick couldn’t tell if he was confused or if the sun was just too bright.


“Yeah,” Mick sighed, holding it up slightly. “You want a picture, too?”


Harley pouted, looking a bit amused. “I mean, it’s not my bounty to show off.”


Mick scoffed softly. “Yeah, one down, about three more in the stage.”


Harley cringed, his hands on his hips. He lingered for a bit, casting a glance over at his fellow performers hanging around the apron of the stage. He raised an index finger to rub under his nose and sniffed. “So, you gonna toss it, or…?”


“Well,” Mick exhaled, finally turning to face Harley. “I did pay like five bucks for it. But I have seen these guys partying around the trash, and who knows what’s in there,” he went on, concluding with defeat.


“At lunch, I’ll buy you another one.” 


Mick glanced up to see Harley grinning softly at him. It was such a tiny issue, and he’d finished at least half already. “It’s okay, you don’t have to do that,” he said with a soft chuckle.


“You kidding?” Harley’s bright-eyed, squinted gaze looked across the grassy terrain around the secluded park. “Don’t worry about it. I got you.” Harley nudged him with those last three words, and flashed him another smile, before turning to go and join the other performers.


Mick glanced down blankly at the ruined beverage in his hand, and up at the group of actors, who were laughing and talking. He took a breath and checked the entrance of the park again. Still, the director was nowhere to be found. Mick walked over to the large trash bins at the side of the park, and from a cautious, wasp-avoiding distance, threw out the half-cup of iced coffee. Then, he brushed his hands off on his jeans and walked back towards the stage.


The concept was an enchanted forest. However enchanted you could get on a tight budget. Mick’s solution was fabric. Sheer fabric, that would both create the whimsical atmosphere and cover the wooden back walls of outdoor theatre structure. Across the stage, Mick and his team had created trees made of wood and sonotube painted to look like bark. It had taken a significant amount of time for them to produce, but since they were still in early stages, it was still subject to change.


“Hey, Mick.” Mick’s attention was grabbed again as he was staring at the round sonotube, wondering if they could use more texture. Faye, the stage manager, walked up to join him in surveying the set.


“Hi,” he greeted back with a friendly grin, waiting for something to be asked of him. The smile was genuine - but so was the stress. Things always got more cozy once rehearsals started on deck.


“How’s it goin’?” she asked casually.


“Uh,” Mick swayed with his hands in his pockets. He knew Faye from a show that Allison had worked on, where she’d also been stage managing. “We’re good to go. Do you guys need the stage?”


“Uh, not yet. We’re just waiting on Agatha, she said she might be a little late.”




“Yeah, sorry. We’ll probably just do some warm-ups, and… see how people are doing. It's looking pretty cool,” Faye said, grinning, and turned to face the rather 'arts and crafts'-y landscape.


“Thank you,” he replied, grinning back. He stood there nervously, rocking back and forth on his feet. “How are you doing?”


“Pretty good. Getting close, eh?”


“Yep,” Mick exhaled. The tree bark could definitely use some tissue paper or paper mache for roughness.


“Keep up the good work,” Faye said kindly, and turned to go join the performers.


“Thanks, will do.” 


Mick went back to supervising the stage, making notes in his head about what might need changing, and what the next steps might be. There was already a rather long-legged spider getting ready to make the fabric on stage right his home, and Mick had no immediate plans to intervene.


“Stop rubbing your eyes, man,” he heard Faye say casually behind him to one of the actors. He admired how acquainted she’d become with them, as he knew stage management to be a rather social task, and he himself tended to be more reserved.


“Agh, I know.” A low voice responded. There was a sharp sniff, and a cough - one that Mick recognized right away. He peeked over his shoulder to see Harley sitting on the edge of the stage, facing away with his legs dangling. Sure enough, he appeared to rubbing at his right eye, against all advice. His hand finally dropped as he stood to join the other performers in a circle, shaking out his arms. Mick couldn’t see his face, but he could hear a slight thickness in his voice.


“You good, Harley?”


“Yeah. Allergies, man,” he muttered, and shook his head like a wet dog.


Just then, Mick could see someone approaching from the far end of the park. “Agatha!!” Em, one of the performers shouted.


As the performers greeted her with a warm welcome, Mick gave a friendly wave in the background. He was already watching her face for any visible reaction to the setup they’re been working on the entire morning. As Faye went to go speak with the director as she settled in, Mick headed down the stage steps, passing the performers on the side. Agatha Brown was an experienced director with years working in the industry, as critical and honest as they came.


“It’s looking nice already,” she said, greatly to Mick’s relief. Mick stood by the production table and took a look at the set from her point of view.


“You think?”


“Yeah. I do think the two trees in the middle could have more space, in between.”




“And we discussed having fairy lights that would come on during the night time scenes?”


“Yes. And they’re battery-powered, so we’ll need someone backstage who can-”


“Turn them on, right. We’ll need to discuss that in rehearsal.” Mick nodded slowly. “But for now, it looks awesome. It’s just that one tree stage left - could be moved a bit more outward-”


“Okay. And we’re still working on painting them, but I was thinking, for texture, we could use paper mache to get more of a root-bark sort of look, like, at the bottom and certain areas-”


“Sure, sounds great.”


As Agatha proceeded to open her notebook and script, Mick finished up typing his notes on his phone. “Cool. Let me know if anything comes up during rehearsal.”


“Thanks, dear.”


With another nod, Mick headed back up onstage. He’d stapled the fabric from wall to wall, so he’d have to pry out the staples before moving any set pieces. He began by using his flathead screwdriver to get under the staples, and pulling them out with pliers. Once the fabric was moved, he was able to crouch and push the base of the tree more towards stage left. He straightened up and looked out towards the audience.


“Agatha, is this okay?” he called out.


“Much better, thank you!”


“Cool,” Mick flashed her a thumbs up. He picked up the fabric and re-stapled it, then headed off the stage and into the audience. As the performers resumed their warm-up, now with Agatha in the circle, Mick grabbed his water bottle from the production table and took a few sips, while simultaneously checking his phone for any messages.


“huh’GDSCHhhiu!! *snff!* Agh…”


“Bless you.”


Over at the circle of performers, Harley stepped a few paces away, his brow furrowing and his eyelids fluttering shut. He raised the collar of his muscle tee over his nose. “hep’TDSCHHiuhh!! *snrf!* Oh, excuse me. *snf!*” He emerged like a turtle from his collar and sniffled a few times, then turned back towards the group. His nose was still wriggling, but his attention still seemed to be focused on what the director was saying.


“Bless you,” said Em.


The next few moments went on relatively smoothly. Mick watched from the front row of chairs as the performers practiced their entrances and exits behind the fabric, and made their way between the trees. The movement aspect between transitions was rather nice. Some enchanting music played over the speakers that the performers moved to.


“hg’d’ESSCHIUHhh!!” Mick’s ears perked up. A sound came from behind the fabric masking - muffled, but still audible amidst the music. 


The performers kept going: Em and Travis had their duet moment, and came to a graceful conclusion. Mick knew that Harley was supposed to enter at this point, and was worried for a moment, but his wavy brown hair appeared, his arms and legs moving without missing a beat. At the same time, Grace entered from the opposite side. They did a series of moves on their respective sides, and then closer together, until they laid down in between Em and Travis, where the number ended.


“Very nice,” Agatha said proudly, while the other crew members clapped. Some of them cheered, making the performers smile as they sat up from the ending position. “Em and Travis, that was great. Trav, I’ll need you to loosen up a little, okay? I know you got all the moves, and it’s brilliant, but I need to see the magic of it, you know?”




As Agatha gave out notes, Mick’s gaze wandered over to Harley. He was beaming as Grace said something to him, then wiping his eyes with the palms of his hands. His face had gone a bit red, perhaps due to the heat. The smile faded a little as he rubbed his nose, his focus returning to the director.


“Harley dear, your entrance was a bit late.”


“Yeah, sorry,” he said somewhat apologetically, wiping at his eyes again. Mick noted how entirely itchy Harley looked at this distance, but was also doing a decent job of keeping it subtle. His brown eyes shone as he nodded, and he had a fist hovering near his face, which he’d press occasionally against his runny nose.


“Okay,” Harley responded again, nodding eagerly. He cleared his throat and sniffled liquidly, now rubbing absently beneath his pink nostrils. At a certain point he dropped the fist and leaned back on both hands, sniffling wetly.


“And we’re just about at break, so… everyone grab something to eat, something to drink…. Take a nap, if you desire… and we’ll see each other back here at two-thirty. Okay?”


As the others nodded and chirped in agreement, Mick got up and stretched his arms. He took a look at the stage, where there were no visible defects after the run through. Things were going pretty well.


He cast a glance over at the tent to the left of the stage, where the actors were returning props and various costume pieces. He didn’t want to seem too eager, so he stood around looking for things to clean up. Then, he walked over to the other side of the production table, where he took another sip from his water bottle. After a bit, he closed it and decided to go over to the tent.


“hrR’ESSCHHIEWWww!! Excuse me, *snrf!*”


“Damn, you sneeze so loud!” someone jeered.


“I know, *snrf!* huh-! sorry, if- hEH! huH’AASSSHHIEWW!!


“Bless you!!” More than two people shouted.


“*sddrff* -if I scared you, oh mby god… wait, there’s ad-a-dother- HURRESSCHHIOO!! *snrk!* Jeeesus, *snrff!*” There was a low, raspy chuckle, and a deep sniffle.


There was a burst of laughter. “He’s in the corner for his crimes.” “Don’t put that there.” “Have you seen my shoes?” “No.”


“Crihh… Cribes-? Huhh- hHaaAAAESSCHIEWW!!! *snnrff*”


“Blesss youuu…” “Wow, that was a big one.” “Right? Oh, I found my shoes!”


As Mick approached, he could hear the distant conversation and laughter coming from the tent. Inside, the performers were sorting their items on a table, while Harley sat in a chair in one of the opposite corners. He was still sniffling wetly, wiping his face with his wrists.


“Hey,” Mick greeted blankly, evaluating the situation. 


“Hey Mick,” Em waved at him, and he waved back.


“Hey,” He went over to Harley, hunched over in his own corner. Harley raised his head, his eyes looking rather red and watery. “You okay?”


Harley snuffled, appearing redder than before. He straightened up, and gave a weak chuckle. “Umb, yeah…” he muttered casually, raising a curled knuckle to rub at his twitching nose. “*snff* …I’b id the corder for by cribes.” he explained croakily, with a crinkly-eyed grin.


“Oh my gosh,” Mick mumbled, immediately patting on his person for something. He yanked the navy blue bandana from his back pocket and shook it out, then folded it in half twice before touching it to Harley’s forearm.


Harley took the cloth, his breath starting to hitch again. “A-Are you… Are you sure-“ he began softly, shakily.


“Of course,” Mick responded softly.


Harley nodded slightly, looking very sneezy. “Huhh,” He quickly turned and raised the cloth over his flaring nostrils. “huh’ERRSCHH!!hmm -RRRSSCHH!!hmnhh… *snrff!* … *sdf*” Though he tried to smother them, they still came out desperately and loudly.


“You okay, dude?” asked Travis, who was lingering by the entrance flap.


“Yeah, I’b okay. Thagks, bad,” Harley panted, and sniffled thickly. Travis nodded and left. 


As the others exited the tent, Mick stayed behind and shifted his gaze over to the props table, replaying the ultimately deep and stuffy response, “Thagks, bad”, in his brain. He noticed the props were sorted together in an interesting way, perhaps due to presets. He heard Harley blowing his nose behind him, and a soft, squishy sound as he rubbed hard at it afterward.


Harley cleared his throat once. He tried again, and snuffled thickly. He gave a slightly more contented sigh. “Huh. Wow.” His baritone voice sounded a bit winded.


“I keep saying you should take something for your allergies,” Mick nagged gently, leaning on the table.


“Ugh, I know. *snf!*” Harley sighed. “Doesn’t always work, though.”


“I mean they might, if you actually took them…”


“Well, how else would I jack your style?” Harley muttered, hiding a smirk behind Mick’s bandana.


“Yeah, you wish you could recreate this,” Mick grasped for an attempt at wittiness, feeling Harley’s brown eyes on him. He didn’t feel any less breathless as Harley got up, standing about half a head taller than him.




Mick’s wit seemed to have left the chat. “Yeah,” Mick breathed. Now he was really leaning on the table, resting his palms on the edge.


He stared into Harley’s brown eyes, which gazed back, as they narrowed into a devilish smirk. One of which Mick thought to be absolutely handsome. Those brown eyes suddenly began blinking rapidly. “Ahh… *snrf*” Harley sniffled again, with a soft groan, and had to move back as he rubbed at his flushed, itchy nose. Mick felt a touch of sympathy and reached out to rub Harley’s back.


“Be my arm candy, at least?” Harley then tossed out casually, making Mick scoff out a laugh. He gave Harley a playful shove on the back, and stepped out of the tent.


“Wow,” he chuckled, shaking his head.


“Come on,” Harley slipped out of the tent behind him.. “I’m joking. *snf!*"


“You suck,” Mick said, but couldn’t stop smiling.


“Come on,” Harley repeated.


“Fine, but only if you buy me that coffee,” Mick jabbed, finally turning to Harley. “That wasp ruined my first one and I don’t have anything to splash you with right now,” he went on, nudging Harley’s ribs.


“Okay, okay!” Harley laughed his deep, baritone laugh. “Fair.”

Edited by Skylacticon
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More please! Harley is the cutest! I hope a small cold sneaks up on him and he tries to hide it, claiming it’s just his allergies and whatnot. Either way, I’m loving this and I hope there will be more!

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OMG!!  My favorite pair are back in action!  I am beyond thrilled to see their story continue!!  Harley and Mick are so soft and cute.  I love their dynamic, and Harley's allergies are just to die for!

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Hello. I hope y'all are having a lovely day. ^_^

@a-and-b-snz Thank you! ❤️

@RipleyToo Oo, that's a fun idea. We'll see what happens hehe~

@funbusej Thanks!! I can't wait to share the next few parts.

Although it's hot, lately I seem to be having fun delving into the summer vibes and the beauty that comes with a job that involves working mostly outdoors. Did I enjoy it that much? Maybe. But it makes for good nostalgia, haha. xx




After grabbing coffee and sandwiches, Mick and Harley headed back to the studio at the community centre. Mick was wearing an old oversized black t-shirt with a worn out Pearl Jam design on the front, which he didn’t mind getting sawdust and paint on. He liked to wear black even when it was sunny out, but the air con would be nice after working all morning. Plus, it would be good to get Harley inside for a while, away from the pollen and cobwebs around the old bandshell theatre.


He was still sniffling liquidly as they walked up to the entrance. “*snrff!* I mean, it depends where you go. Sometimes they give you really nice pieces, but *sdrf* some places can be stingy.”


“The sandwiches too,” Mick agreed, tapping the key fob over the sensor. “They’re either huge, or all breading.”


The door clicked unlocked. Harley pulled it open and held it open for Mick, who grinned appreciatively. The rush of cold air was refreshing. It was like Mick could breathe again. He turned back to look at Harley, who sniffled again twice, shuffling his drink and bagged sandwich into one hand. He raised his free hand to rub hard at his nose, still flushed pink.


“You okay?” he asked softly, stopping in his tracks. 


“*snrf!* Yeah. *snrf!* Oh, wait-” Harley paused as the door fell shut behind him. His eyes were glassy, blinking rapidly. He quickly turned and lifted his elbow to his face. “huh’ISSCHHhiu!! *snnrff!* hAh’AASCHHhioo!! *sdrf* Agh, sorry… *sddrffh!*" The next couple of sniffles were quite wet. He was blinking frantically, sniffling, trying to reach for his pockets.


“Bless you. It’s all good. Here,” Mick said gently, offering to take his food.


Harley handed over his drink and sandwich, then pulled Mick’s navy bandana from his pocket. As soon as he got it out, he raised it and pitched forward with another harsh, wet sneeze. “ieyY’ESSCHHIEWW!! *sdrf!* Oh by god,” he muttered, rubbing under his nose with the cloth. 


“Bless you.”


Harley sighed and walked over to a nearby bench. “Sorry, I have to blow by dose.”


“No worries, take your time,” Mick insisted, hovering at a considerate distance.


Harley turned his back, his frame jerking forward with a lighter, but wet-sounding sneeze. “ahht’TDJSCHhh!!” He sighed softly, and sat on the bench. “Ugh…”


“Bless you,” Mick breathed.


“Thagk you. *snrk*”


The lobby of the community centre was rather empty, a boxy space with white walls and a polished, grey-tiled floor. The sound of Harley’s thick, wet blows seemed to echo a bit off the high ceiling. There were vibrant pieces of art hung on the walls, with museum exhibit-style labels underneath. It wasn’t like the community centres Mick used to go to back home, where the doors were painted metal frame and the walls were red brick. Sure enough, there might have been community centres like that in the suburbs, but here in the city, the spaces seemed to look more sophisticated.


His eyes drifted back over to Harley, who was raking his fingers through his hair. His pink, glassy eyes stared out the window as he gave a few experimental sniffs, his nostrils flushed red and twinging. Mick sat down next to him with a gratified sigh. 


“So,” Mick said, breaking the silence.


“Yeah?” Harley glanced at him, a bit perplexed.


“Can I drug you now?” he questioned playfully.


Harley chuckled and sniffed, raising a wrist to swipe under his septum. “Uh, yeah, maybe,” he mumbled, his itchy, reddened gaze trailing along the floor.


Mick grinned sympathetically. He set down the drinks and unzipped his fanny pack, where he kept his stash of Reactine. “Remember when these were nerdy?” He glanced up at Harley with a soft grin.


A smile tugged on the corners of Harley’s lips as he looked down. There might have been a quip lingering there somewhere, but he kept quiet.


“I used to wear these before it was cool,” Mick continued casually. “The great perks of having asthma. And allergies, and all that cool stuff.” The aluminium crinkled as he removed it from the pouch. 


“Now I get how you survive.” Harley held out his palm as Mick pushed the tablet out of the packet. He popped it in his mouth and swallowed it with a swig of iced coffee. “Thanks.” He lowered his arms and sniffled sharply. “Ugh… *snrffh!* I don’t know, I guess I thought I could just, like, grow out of it.”


“Mm,” Mick hummed in understanding, as he zipped up his fanny pack. “I’ve heard of that kind of thing. I think it only really works for… food,” he said thoughtfully.




“Yeah, my aunt apparently had a bunch of food allergies, including peanuts, so she just had a little bit at a time, and her body just adjusted.”




“But I don’t know, it’s…” Mick trailed off, starting to think of his own allergy problems. Some things just sounded so easy if you weren’t in the middle of it.


“It sounds hard.”


“Yeah,” he looked over at Harley, who seemed to gaze back with understanding.


“I’m ready if you are, if you wanna go,” Harley breathed, pocketing the bandana. Mick noted the patience and softness in his tone, as if they hadn’t just sat down for Harley’s benefit.


“Yeah,” Mick breathed. He reached for Harley’s coffee and handed it to him, then grabbed his own. They both started down the empty hall.


There were photographs of mural art done around the city hung up on the walls. Blends of traditional art styles with more modern styles, detailed portraits, and bold calligraphy. Mick was charmed by this region’s sense of community. He’d always thought about going into painting murals - leaving a part of himself in a place like this. He didn’t know if the city was his home, but there were certainly times it felt that way, and he wanted to leave his mark on it.


“Hey, Mick?” Harley said after a while.


Mick’s gaze had settled over a brilliant spray-painted mural with a portrait of a peacock, done in elegant blues and greens. “Yeah?”


“Uh, so my family always does this cookout on July first. To kinda, celebrate… Well, it’s been a tradition for a while, and it's a thing where we all just relax and have food, you know?” Harley explained, his gaze drifting around the hall. "My cousin makes really good barbecue chicken."


“Yeah?” Mick glanced over at Harley, who was staring at the tips of his sneakers. He also glanced down, following the sound of Harley’s voice as he continued.


“Well, I wondering, if you weren’t busy…” Harley began.


“You want me to come?” Mick finished softly, slowing to a stop in the hallway. 


He turned and looked up at Harley, whose round brown eyes stared back at him. The look on his face was rather serious, but had a gentle hopefulness to it. 


“Yeah, I’d really like it if you could. What do you say?”


Maybe it was the seriousness that made him nervous, or the question he was asking… A clunky few teasing  words found their way out of his mouth.


“As your arm candy?” No. Why? What are you doing?


Harley gave a flustered chuckle. “Okay, I deserved that.”


The two started walking again, their gazes wandering nervously about the hallway. They came up to the studio door, which was also guarded by a lock. Mick stopped by the door, raising his key fob just above the sensor.


“…We’ll see. I’ll let you know.” Mick smiled up at Harley, who was still gazing down at him. The lock chirped, lighting up green.


He pushed open the door, and held it open for Harley, who walked a few steps in and paused dramatically in front of the others in the room.


“I’ve arrived,” Harley announced, with a charming grin. Mick smiled to himself and shook his head.


“Hey guys,” Em greeted, marching around the space with a container of red apple slices. In the centre of her march, Grace sat cross legged, eating from a Thermos. Faye flashed them a peace sign, sitting at a table with her laptop. Travis was sitting at the piano, practicing a series of notes over and over. Once he seemed to capture them, he played them in a longer sequence with the sustain pedal, accompanied by lower chords.


Mick and Harley sat down at the edge of the room near the piano on some sport mats, watching Em do peculiar steps around Grace. “What’re you doing?” Harley questioned.


“She’s getting her steps in,” Grace said, covering her mouth with her hand.


“What, you don’t do that enough just coming here?” Mick smirked, opening the bag with his sandwich.


“I got a ride from my uncle,” Em panted. 


“So walk,” he teased.


“I live in Brampton, you nut,” she stopped and rested a moment, chewing on another apple slice.


“All the more reason.” 


Em rolled her eyes and kept going. Mick listened to the music that Travis was playing on the piano. By then it sounded familiar, like it was from a musical he knew, but he couldn’t quite place it. 


“hgG’ISSCHHhh!!-unh, *snrf!*”


“Bless you,” Mick breathed.


“Thank you, *snrf!*” Harley sniffled and cleared his throat. “Are you cold?”


Mick paused. “A bit, it’s just the air con. Are you?” He stared at Harley in his tank top and shorts.


“Not really,” Harley replied casually. He sat up from his slouching position and leaned back on both of his palms, looking over at Mick. “I have a hoodie, if you wanna wear it.”


“Umm… well that’s okay, I don’t feel too-”


“Hold on,” Harley grunted, and got up from the mats. Mick stared blankly at the shiny green surface. For a second, he wanted to lie face-down and melt into it. 


Harley came back and sat down with a huff. He shook out a large, red hoodie. It had the logo of Harley’s high school basketball team, and the number thirty-seven printed on the back in bold. Mick knew he might get hot after a few minutes, but didn’t protest as Harley proceeded to englove him in the giant hoodie. 


“There ya go,” he said with satisfaction, in the most prairie-Canadian voice Mick had ever heard. Harley patted the top of Mick’s head, which was covered by the hood. He stared at Harley through his dark, flattened bangs, and finally allowed the smile to break through. As a final touch, Harley tugged on the hoodie strings, gently shrinking the hole that revealed Mick’s face.


“Thanks,” he muttered, staring at Harley, who broke out in giggles. Then his head tilted back with one of the most beautiful laughs Mick had ever heard. 


“Oh my god,” Harley chuckled, reaching for his phone next to him.


“What?” Mick was grinning from ear to ear, watching Harley get so amused.


Harley tilted up his phone camera at Mick. Mick threw up a peace sign. He held up the screen for Mick to see. It was a look. It was an accurate capturing of how he felt inside.


“Pfff,” Mick started to laugh, himself. “That’s amazing.”


After giving consent for that to be posted on Harley’s story, Mick finally pulled his arms properly through the sleeves, and pulled off the hood. The two of them got to eating their sandwiches in comfortable silence, watching as Em started an interpretive dance to the tune Travis was playing on the piano.


After lunch, they headed back out to the park, where the production manager and his assistants were waiting for them. Mick had returned with a tub of glue, a bowl with some water, and a stack of old newspapers, which Harley insisted on carrying for him. It was definitely warmer in the big red hoodie, but the sun had shifted in the sky, casting shadows from the trees over where Mick was working. He swirled the liquid in his cup, making the ice jingle a bit. He took a sip, and put it down on the table. Then he rolled up his sleeves and went to work on creating a fun soup out of the water, glue, and strips of newspaper.


As he began dunking the strips of paper and layering them onto the sonotube, his mind began wandering. He wondered if it might be okay to listen to music, but he liked observing the rehearsal going on, and he also wouldn’t be able to hear if anyone was calling him. It was like him to want to get tunnel-visioned into his work in order to get it done, but the atmosphere of this gig was refreshing, lighter.


“No, kick up your legs, or you’re gonna fall,” Mick turned his head to see Em and Harley onstage. Em was doing a handstand - or trying to - and Harley was hovering nearby, his hand out as if preparing to catch her if she fell. “Yeah - like that.”


“I’m doing it!” Em shrieked. Harley clapped and swung his fist triumphantly.


“Yeah!! Faye, check it out!”


“Oh my god.” There was more laughter, as Faye came up to take a photo. Mick felt his cheeks pulling into a grin. “Don’t barf, okay?”


Mick put his head down again, still grinning. Sometimes he didn’t know how someone like Harley could keep wanting to spend time with him, someone so quiet and reserved. And he wasn’t sure how he felt about going to a dinner party with his family. It sounded wonderful, actually - being considered liked enough for someone to want to bring him around. Harley always talked about his little cousins and their soccer games. He had a younger sister in high school, who Mick had met once or twice. Regardless of how much he knew, or how much he managed to put together a nice picture in his brain, he still felt a lingering sense of doubt. Maybe it was because of how important this seemed to be to Harley, that the presence of doubt didn’t feel right at all.






“Mick, the glue, it’s dripping onto the stage.” Meg, one of the production assistants told him. He glanced down. Sure enough, the watery glue mixture was dripping off the tree base, onto the wooden stage.


“Ah, shit. Thanks.” He quickly grabbed a rag from the paint cart and started wiping up the drips. He pulled another large sheet of newspaper and put it under the base, to protect the stage surface.


Mick stood up and took a step back, wiping sweat from his forehead. He crossed his arms over his body and pulled off the big red hoodie, then hung it over a chair backstage. After a while, Mick managed to finish adding paper mache texture to the trees. He went back to the community centre to wash up and put away some materials, then headed back down to the park. When he came back, it seemed as if the performers were on break. Mick found Harley sitting on the edge of the stage with his legs dangling, his head tilted back, looking straight up.


Mick approached him, slightly amused. “Hey,” he greeted gently.


“Hey,” Harley replied, his head still tilted back.


“Bird watching?” Mick teased, sitting down next to him.


Harley exhaled and sniffled, tilting his chin back forward. “No... *snf!* I keep feeling like I need to sneeze, but it’s not coming.” 


“Oh,” Mick breathed. “I guess meds will do that to you.”


“Yeah. *snff!*” 




“No, it’s okay, *snrff!*” Harley snuffled and laughed softly. “It’s been helping, so thanks.” Harley raised a curled index finger to rub his nose, which was still flushed red in hue. He dropped his hand and sniffed, then turned to Mick. “How’d the paper mache go?”


“We just gotta wait for it to dry. I might want to seal it with more glue before painting it so it doesn’t just crumble if it rains.”


“Yeah, that would suck.” Mick nodded, staring down at the grass below their dangling feet. Harley leaned back on one hand, his eyes drifting over Mick. “How’re you doing? You okay?”


“Yeah, I’m okay,” Mick seemed to say on an exhale. “A little tired, but…” he shrugged. “Oh, I got hot, so I took off your hoodie.”


“Yeah, it’s sweltering out here.” Harley sniffled again, hard, and gave his nose another hard rub. “Hey, do you remember when the power went out in first year? When you and I both had the same costuming class?”


“Oh my god,” Mick sighed.


“That room got so fucking hot, *snrff!* how was anyone supposed to sew anything?”


Mick cringed a little, memories of thin, sharp sewing needles and sweaty hands flooding his memory. He turned to look at Harley again. Back then his brown hair had been much shorter, and he’d sat at the front of the room, while Mick had always chosen a seat further back. He recalled Harley being lost throughout the entire sewing process, and being rather relieved once the costume rotation was over.


“Come on,” Mick breathed, and pushed off from the edge of the stage.


“Where are we going?” Harley muttered, sitting up straight.


A gentle smile spread on his face. “Just come.”

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Harley, you sly dog, asking him over to meet the family...OOOOOOHHH!!  I am LOVING the development, and their strange friendship/relationship/thing they have going on.  But now where is Mick taking them....Hmmm....

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Hey, I hope y'all are well. :heart:

@RipleyToo Thanks! ^_^

@funbusej Thank you thank you! We'll find out...




Around the bandshell theatre, there was a path leading to a wooden staircase heading down the steep hill. It was framed by tall, lush green trees. Mick had remembered something that had been covered in their orientation, but he hadn’t actually expected himself to do it. He stepped down carefully onto the wooden platform, and looked back at Harley, who was still making his way through the clearing.


“Hey, wait up!” Harley called.


Mick grinned. “Come on!” Harley came down after him, his large footsteps clunking on the wood. “Careful, watch your step.”


“Okay.” Harley followed as Mick descended the steep wooden staircase, both hands holding the rails on either side of them.


About three fourths of the way down, Mick could see the river sparkling in the distance, reflecting the afternoon sun. He kept going, faster now.


“Hey!” Harley bellowed, a smile in his voice.


As Mick reached the bottom of the stairs, he froze, one hand still resting on the railing. The sound of the rushing water filled his ears, alongside the singing cicadas and the rustling of the wind in the trees. The river was wider than he expected, deep green, and filled with stones of various sizes. For a moment he thought about wading in it.


“Hey,” a deep voice huffed behind him. Mick glanced back and up at Harley. Panting slightly, he joined Mick at the bottom of the stairs, where they entered a clearing before the river. 


With no trees to block the sun, its bright rays washed over him, making his wavy hair glow like amber. The irises of Harley’s eyes lit up a deep, rich shade of hazel, before they narrowed against the harsh sunlight, and then fluttered shut. Harley’s brow furrowed, and his frame swelled with a long gasp. Quickly, he tried to pivot, but the huge sneeze erupted from him before he could fully turn away. 


“hieyY’EDZSSCHIEWW!!!” A spray of mist was visible in the air for a moment, and Harley sniffled wetly a few times, not even trying to get an apology out before properly turning away and lifting his elbow to his face. “AASSCHHIEWW!!! hihhh- huHh’AASSCHHhieww!!! *sdrf!* heh! huh’EEISSCHHhh!! *sdrf!*”


Mick was stunned for a second, a soft “Bless you,” slipping out after the first gargantuan sneeze just as Harley jerked forward with a harsh second, third, and fourth. When it seemed he was done, for now at least, Mick reached out and put a gentle hand on his back. “Bless you, wow, are you okay?”


Harley kept his back turned, taking a few panting breaths and sniffling rather liquidly. This time around he seemed to be equipped, pulling out folded tissue from his pocket to raise to his dripping nose. There was a soaked, gurgly blow, and more wet sniffling, as Harley caught his breath. He raked his hair back with his fingers, and turned back slightly towards Mick, bleary-eyed and dazed.


“Uhb… *ahemm, snrff!* … Oh mby god. Yeah, *snrff!*” He sniffled hard a few times, his red nostrils scrunching a little as he did. He gave a small huff, like a shell of a laugh, and raised the palm of his hand to wipe his watery eyes. “I’m so sorry, did I sneeze on you? *snrfh!*”


“No, you’re okay,” Mick assured him, running his hand gently up and down his back.


“Okay, good. My god, that was intense,” Harley muttered, still wiping his eyes. 


“I know.”


“It actually felt pretty good, though.”




“*snrf!* Yeah. I’ve been trying to sdeeze for like, half an hour.”


Mick chuckled softly. “Well, there you go.”


The two of them had started walking down the trail by the river, slowly, side by side. It was a peaceful, tranquil area, surrounded by the looming trees. At a certain point, Harley seemed to settle down a little. Just as Mick was hesitating to drop the hand on his back, Harley slung his arm over Mick’s shoulders. Mick let himself relax, and left his arm around Harley’s waist.


“It’s really nice down here,” Mick said after a bit.


“Yeah, it is,” Harley breathed. “Can you believe there’s only about a week left until opening?”


“I know,” Mick sighed, glancing along the shore. They were approaching a long patch of rocks and sand along the river. Slowly, Mick let his arm descend, as he gravitated towards the water. “What time are you guys back?” he asked, remembering that the actors were on break.


Harley blinked, like he’d completely forgotten about that. “Ummm…” He quickly pulled out his phone to check the time. “They said be back around four.”


“And what time is it?” 


“Three fifty-seven,” Harley responded casually. 


Mick glanced back in the direction they came - then over to the coursing river, and the stones that lay on the shore, in various greys and even reds. “Then we should probably head back.”


“Hey,” Mick’s longing gaze shifted over to Harley, who walked past a patch of grass close by the shore. “Check this out.” Mick’s serious features were eased by another gentle grin as Harley held up a very long, thin stick.


“What’re you doing with that?” he asked softly, watching with amusement as Harley brought it over.


“Oh, nothing, just…” Harley stepped closer, and gently tapped Mick’s right shoulder, then his left shoulder with the stick. “Knighting you.”


“Ah, it’s dirty,” Mick brushed a few grains of sand out of his hair.


“Sorry,” Harley lowered the stick. “I dub thee sir Mick of the Hudson River,” Harley declared in a bad English accent.


Mick snickered, and smiled up at Harley. “Thank you, my liege,” he replied. Harley just grinned at him, and glanced down, dragging the tip of the stick through the sand.


Maybe it was all in his head. For the past couple of years prior, Mick had made superficial assumptions about him, and they turned out not to be completely true. And moving to the city on his own had been a risk. So far it was okay - he had a job that he enjoyed, a small but nice apartment, and he’d spent a lot of time with the friends he’d made at school. And a big part of his comfort settling in was due to Harley - who had helped him by driving him from place to place, and showing Mick some of his favourite spots around town.


“heHt’ISSCHHIEWW!! God, *snrff!* ‘Scuse me.” When Mick turned around, Harley was rubbing hard  at his nose with the back of his hand.


“Bless you,” Mick said softly.


“Thank you,” Harley muttered, with a punctuating sniff.


Mick gazed around the riverbank, which was surrounded by tall weeds and grass. He could see fluffy little dandelion seeds floating around in the warm breeze. Their flowers were scattered along the trail, in their vibrant yellows to matured, rounded globes of fluff. With another breeze, more tufts got swept away, and swirled around with the scent of damp earth and freshly cut grass from up at the park. 


More damp sniffles came from Harley’s direction, as they lingered by the shore. Mick glanced over again. Harley’s long eyelashes were fluttering, blinking rapidly, as if his eyes itched. “*snnff*... hh’ihh… *snrff!*” His chin tilted up a bit, his lips parted slightly. Then his hand came up again, to give his pink nostrils a brief, but wet-sounding rub. Still, his breath caught, and his chest expanded with another soft gasp. “hh’RRESSCHHhieww!! *snrf!*” A light, misting sneeze, and more squishy rubbing.


“Bless,” Mick breathed. “Maybe we should head back. I think something here might be bothering you.”


Harley’s round brown eyes blinked, glassy with itchy tears. They shone as he looked out across the river, his poor flushed, sniffly nostrils twitching. “I don’t know, *sdrf!* I think it’s just from earlier.”


Mick’s gaze lowered thoughtfully, and the notion seemed to dissipate. He wandered a bit along the shore, and crouched down to inspect the rocks among the sand. He found himself searching for flat stones, ones that could skip across a body of water. Although the water was flowing too quickly; it wasn’t likely that they’d skip. He found an oval-shaped rock that looked almost perfectly round, fitting in the centre of his palm. “Harley, look,” he said softly, standing up straight.


Harley’s sneakers entered his field of vision, stopping about an inch from the tips of his worn out Vans. When Mick looked up, their faces were inches apart. Harley didn’t seem fazed by it, only looking down with a soft gaze at the rock in Mick’s right hand. A gentle flutter went off in Mick’s stomach as Harley’s right hand came up to touch the rock, grazing its smooth edges with his fingers.


“It’s for wishes,” Harley breathed. His hand was touching Mick’s now, a heat that didn’t seem to bother him. 


Mick’s gaze gently drifted back down to the rock. “What makes you say that?”


“It has a… particular aura,” Harley said softly.


Mick wished he was a gems and crystals person. Harley didn’t seem the type, but up to now Mick had given up making any assumptions. Mick raised his left hand with his palm facing upward, a gesture that requested another person’s hand. As Harley’s right hand slowly moved forward, Mick took it and gently placed the smooth rock into his palm. Harley stared at him with a look of wonderment.


“What do you wish for?” Mick asked in a hushed tone, and dared to look up, past the anchor symbol on Harley’s grey tank top, past his long eyelashes, at the warm, brown eyes that met his. 


For a second, he thought he knew. He could see the wispy shapes in Harley’s brown irises, which hid away as they flickered just south of Mick’s eyes and nose. He could feel the warm breath with Harley this close, as his own eyes began to flutter shut.


“Hey, you guys!”


Mick blinked rapidly, taking a startled inhale. Harley’s eyes had gone wide, appearing just as startled. Travis stood at a distance, staring awkwardly.


“Uhh, it’s four oh five. Agatha wants you guys to come back.”


“Sure, yeah, we’ll be there in a sec. Thanks man,” Harley replied, turning to look at him with an awkward, but appreciative grin.


“Yeah.” Travis nodded, then turned and left.


Harley’s chest rose with a deep breath, and he let it out slowly as he turned back to face Mick, whose left hand still clung gently to his right. Mick exhaled softly, and glanced up again at Harley.


“Well,” Harley breathed. His brown eyes drifted down to the rock in his hand, and so did Mick’s.


“Keep it,” Mick told him, his gaze drifting back up with a soft smile. “For another time.” He patted Harley’s hand, and slowly moved away.


Their footsteps crunched on top of the tiny stones in the sand, as they quietly made their way back to the path. As they walked side by side, Mick was reliving the past few moments, staring ahead at the weeds that grew along the riverbank. There was lingering warmth, and excitement. But there was also something else.


With a few valuable minutes lost from their adventure to the chugging production train, Mick and Harley returned to their positions. Rehearsal continued on, and the enchanted forest slowly but surely kept branching into existence. At the end of the day, the cast packed up their props and costumes into boxes, and prepared to return to the community centre; while the production crew began returning the chairs, tables, and equipment into the bandshell theatre for the night. 


“Bye guys, see you tomorrow!” Em smiled and waved. Mick looked up and waved.


Harley slung his backpack on his shoulders, turning to watch as the other cast members dispersed. Mick noticed him lingering, helping to bring some chairs backstage. The rest was just a couple of tents, which the production assistants were already getting started on.


“Hey, you want a ride?” Harley offered after a bit, as if he didn’t give Mick a ride home every time he came on site. He stood on the grass near the edge of the stage, below from where Mick was standing. The curves of his Harley's toned arms were shadowed nicely under a nearby streetlamp, as he slipped his thumbs under the straps of his backpack. 


Mick brushed his dusty hands together and glanced around to check that he didn’t forget anything. “I actually need to make a couple of stops,” he replied, descending the steps centrestage. “Errands and such. It’s okay, I can take care of it.”


“You sure?” Harley asked softly. 


“Yeah. Thanks, though.”


A small beat, then, softly, “You okay?”


Mick’s gaze found its way back to Harley, who stood patiently as Mick gathered his stuff. “Yeah,” he said, not sure why the response sounded a tad overassuring - maybe it had just been a stressful week, and he wanted some time alone. “Yeah, I’m good. It’s just been-” he let out a breath as he pulled on the straps of his backpack. “A long week, and I’m just a little tired.”


“Ah,” Harley breathed, putting his hands in his pockets as they walked to the end of the park.


“Today was good,” Mick added, simple but genuine.


A grin seemed to soften Harley’s worried features. “It was,” he agreed thoughtfully.


It was a short walk to the intersection, where one direction led to the parking lot, and the other led to the bus stop about a block over, where Mick intended to go. The darkening streets were colourful with bright signs that hung over the restaurants and shops. There was a strange beauty to it, as if the city never did sleep - tempting to an outsider like Mick. “Text me when you get home safe, okay?” Harley said gently, as the walk signal changed.


“I will. Drive safe,” Mick replied with a small nod, and turned to cross the road. 


Some of the signs that hung overhead were pretty bright. They lit up the road where cars whizzed by. The scent of cigarette smoke drifted in the cool air, a lonely but freeing combination as Mick made his way down the street. So many people and so little space in this part of town. So many choices and opportunities.


Mick’s leg bounced nervously as he rode the bus. It wasn’t too crowded, which was nice and peaceful. Although he tried to settle down for the rest of the ride, he was already thinking of his list of tasks for tomorrow, how much time he’d need, and the logistics of getting it all done. That was all okay - he’d put together a list to divide and conquer between him and the crew, and it seemed doable. Mick looked up to check the stops coming up in the little screen at the front of the bus. He was still a ways away. His gaze returned to the bus floor.


It was a lot, perhaps - but there would be a time and place for everything.



Also, a lil drawing I did of them! ❤️

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Oooooh, this is such a cute, heartwarming, and delightful story!  I absolutely adore these characters, and watching them get to know each other better.  Travis, my guy...your timing, though...it's atrocious.

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Just found your stories and I'm in love with these two. I really hope you continue writing. You're stories are incredible 🥰 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello hello.

@RipleyToo @funbusej @2SHY222 Thank y'all so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it. 🥰

Here's the next part, without further ado.



Mick’s version of homemade soup never quite seemed to match the soup his mom made at home. Just like art, making a dish could easily be affected by the preferences of the creator. He never seemed to add enough tamarind flavouring, for fear of it overpowering the taste with sourness - but it’s what made the dish. Anyhow, it was still a feat to have cooked it, and it would last him a few days.


He put a scoop of rice into a bowl and spooned some soup on top, checking the time intermittently. Designer work was like a twenty-four seven job - constantly thinking of new ideas, trying to keep track of the ones he already had going. He ate rather mechanically, as if fuelling up a machine.


But there were also thoughts of what came after - Mick supposed he got that from his mom, who always thought ten steps ahead. Standby during the shows, strike afterward. Then there was the cookout.


Mick picked up a slice of radish with his spoon and flipped it over. Barbecue was huge where Mick came from. When he was younger, his aunts and uncles in the Philippines would have parties at night and invite the whole family. Large trays of spring rolls, heaps of steaming rice, and stir-fried noodles. Though his mom worried, his uncles let him get near the grill, where the lechon and chicken skewers would be cooking, smoky and hot enough to warm his face. It had been a while since he’d been to a good barbecue. Here in North America, it was such a different atmosphere - or so it seemed. His family on his dad’s side tended to be much more reserved, and became more so as he and his cousins grew older. They were lovely, generous people, but Mick sometimes missed the closeness of the family back home. Perhaps enough, that it gave him an almost urgent feeling of excitement to be invited to Harley’s family’s cookout.


After eating, Mick washed his bowl and left it in the drying rack. He checked his appearance in the mirror by the front door. A loose, white t-shirt and the same painter’s jeans. Perhaps he needed a haircut? Running his fingers through the dark strands, he remembered to grab his phone charger from the bedroom, and made sure he had his keys and wallet before he left.


Itinerary for the afternoon slash evening: Get there. Test fairy lights. Finish painting trees. Finish sewing the fog. So first, pass by the community centre, grab the package and supplies, then go to the park, and Bob’s your aunt.


“Hey,” Mick was greeted by Faye as he beeped into the studio.


“Oh, hey. How’s it going?”


There was a strange pause. The look on her face was a little blank, perhaps in the stressed-but-fine way, but he didn’t like to assume these things. He hoped things were fine. They probably were. “Um-”


“Do you have the fairy lights?” Mick asked hastily.


“Oh, uh, yeah. They’re here,” Faye gestured to the counter, where an amazon envelope lay.


“Okay, awesome.” Mick stepped over to it, then turned to look at her again. “What’s- What’s going on?” He wanted to ask ‘What’s wrong?’ or ‘Why are you here?’ but either potential response seemed to make him nervous.


A small beat, then, “Have you been to the park yet?” Faye asked, leaning back on a folding table.


“...No,” Mick said slowly. “Why?” When she didn’t immediately answer, he went for it. “What’s wrong?”


Faye stood up straight from leaning, and took a few steps closer. “Come on.”


Mick tried to contain the anxiety from the anticipation, that was given a wide-open door from his existing worries about things going well today. Maybe it rained overnight and some pieces got wet. Maybe a squirrel or raccoon discovered the snacks that the production team were storing in the theatre. From afar, nothing seemed too out of place. He saw Em and Travis in the audience, sitting on a couple of folding chairs. Then he saw Harley, who was already coming his way - but by then, it was clear to Mick what had happened.


“Mick,” Harley rushed toward him and joined them walking towards the theatre. “I’m sorry. I tried to fix some of them, but-”


Mick’s stomach fell. It was like a mini deforestation. Cardboard trunks with awful folds where he’d tried so hard to be careful that they wouldn’t. Ripped boughs. Strips of dried hot glue fully visible.


Mick’s mouth was wide open. Detaching from the two at his side, he climbed the stage steps. He crouched down and saw cracks in the paper mache. He ran his fingers over the damaged tree base, revelling at the pieces of the set he’d worked so hard on for the past couple of weeks.


“Mick, we’re so sorry. We arrived, and it was just like this. Someone must have broken in,” Faye said gently.


He glanced around inside the bandshell walls. Part of the fog fabric was still intact, stapled in place. He took a deep breath, and stood slowly. 


“It’s okay, we can fix it.” Mick said, as firmly and calmly as he humanly could. He couldn't take vandalism to heart or let it make him upset. He didn’t know who did this, and he’d probably never find out. Even if it was possible, all that could be done was to try and rebuild what was broken, and carry on with the plan.


“Mick?” Harley had caught up to him on the stage. Mick could see a towering shadow in his peripheral vision. He could also see the tiny zigzags between the layers of cardboard that had been torn apart ruthlessly. “Hey,” Harley’s deep voice had become soft. It poked at the layer of strength Mick seemed to be gripping onto with childlike stubbornness. He couldn’t let go of it now, not while he was still able. “Mick.” 


Mick turned his head, but his eyes couldn’t detach from the scene. “Yeah,” he said, more like a statement rather than a prompt.


“I…” Harley looked like he wanted to say something, but the words wouldn’t form. Then, he blinked, and let out a soft breath. “Agatha reported it. She- She’s livid. We all are. I just thought you should know.”


Mick nodded. Even though deep down he was telling himself over and over that blame and reason for the crime weren’t relevant to their next steps production-wise - there were events and news reports that were resurfacing in his brain. He was beginning to process the reality of what he’d seen.


“They don’t know who did it?” he asked Harley softly, against his own judgement.


“No. Apparently, no one saw,” Harley answered, his voice low.


Mick looked again upon the scene. He would have to factor it all in. How long would it take to sort through what was usable and to put the usable parts back together? How many things would have to be remade from scratch?


“Hey, don’t worry. Okay?” Harley began, touching Mick’s arm. “You have a lot of people to help you. You have Meg, Riley, Finn, the production team-”


“I-I know,” Mick stuttered, not wanting to cut him off while he was trying to be helpful, but at the same time being pained by each word. 


“You have time.”


“I-” A weak laugh emerged from Mick, that he wished he could’ve shoved back down his throat. Instead, he ran his fingers through his hair and shook his head. 


“I’m sorry.” Harley breathed, like it was his last card. Mick could only shift his gaze from the wreckage over to Harley, who was standing over him like a bodyguard. “You wanna sit down for a bit?”


“No,” Mick said quickly. “No, I have to… I have to write down a list of things to do. Maybe I can get the P.A.’s to start glueing things.”


“You sure?” Harley asked him in a gentle tone.


“Yes,” Mick responded. He turned to connect eyes with Harley, keeping a straight face. “Thanks, Harley. I have work to do,” he mustered, and headed offstage toward the production table.


There was no way in hell he was letting something like this get to him. Would it throw off his schedule? Maybe. But it was fixable. It could be redone.


First, Mick got the production assistants to help him tidy up the stage. They threw out the really mangled and useless pieces in the trash. It was good that the tree trunks were for the most part, sturdy, and any dentage could be passed off as knots or whimsical bends, with an appropriate paint job. As he himself got to work collecting the pieces that were still good, he felt an itch in his nose. He turned his head and raised the crook of his elbow to his face.


“aht’KGSSHHh!! *snrf!*” Mick sighed and sniffed, glancing up.


There was a gentle, steady scraping sound on deck. Riley, one of the assistants, was clutching a push broom in both hands, clearing the deck of debris. Just watching the small puffs of dust that resulted from it, Mick’s throat was starting to get itchy. He stepped over to another part of the stage, and kept sorting through pieces, collecting them in a pile near the apron. When he was done, he brushed his hands together. His next breath was accompanied by a soft, high-pitched whistle, which he tried to banish with a gentle cough. 


Shit. Did he forget to take his own meds?


Mick stepped down from the stage and took a drink from his water bottle. That was it. That was what he forgot before he left. He set down his water bottle on the production table and grabbed the fanny pack that he left next to Faye’s laptop. He popped out a white pill from the sheet of aluminium and plastic, and downed it with another swig of water. Then he stood up and got back to work.


“huh’Esschhiu!! *snf*” Mick rubbed his nose with the back of his hand, and sniffled softly. After a while of cleaning up, he felt a bit out of breath, and paused to lean against the outer edge of the bandshell. He wrinkled his nose, which was still tingling. Unable to fight the itch, he raised the crook of his arm and let out two itchy, throat-grazing sneezes. “ISCHhiu!! hih’TDSCHhh!! *snrf!*”


“Bless you.” Harley said, from near the edge of the stage. The actors were continuing their exercises on the grass, as Agatha had given the stage over to the production team to arrange things.


“*ahem!* Thank you,” Mick exhaled, rubbing under his nose. Even the outer rims of his nostrils seemed to be itchy. His throat wasn’t getting any better. It was probably just the dust from the theatre being kicked about, and the flora from all around the park. 


“Come sit,” Harley breathed, jumping up to sit on the edge of the stage. Mick gave a slightly wheezy sigh and came over to sit next to him. He stared at the grass beneath their feet, still trying to focus on his breathing. He felt a warm hand run over his back, and relaxed slightly, snuffling a small chuckle. “You okay?” Harley asked him in a gentle, hushed tone.


Mick nodded. “Yeah. Just… readjusting. How about you?”


Harley pouted and squinted against the sunlight. “Wanting to pummel whoever did this.”


That made a tiny grin twitch on Mick’s lips. “*snf* …Would you punch them like the guy who cheated on your sister?”


Harley slung his arm around Mick’s shoulders, giving a gentle squeeze. “You kidding? I’d do more than that. I’d drop a real tree on them.” Mick gave another soft, whistly chuckle. He sniffed and coughed again. Harley frowned a little, decreasing the weight of his arm on Mick’s shoulders. “That doesn’t sound too good,” he said softly.


“I’m okay,” Mick breathed.




“Yeah… *snf*” He took another inhale, nice and slow. Sitting was probably a good idea, as it allowed time for his heart rate to slow, which made breathing a little easier. He straightened his posture a bit, and turned his chin toward Harley. “I think I want to get some food soon,” he said softly.


“Yeah? What do you want?” Harley asked, stroking Mick’s shoulder with his thumb.


“I don’t know… Pizza, maybe.”


“Cheese pizza?”


“Cheese pizza.”


Mick leaned slightly into Harley, whose frame descended with a calm exhale as he rubbed Mick’s arm soothingly. “Sure you don’t need anything? You sound kind of wheezy.”


“Yeah. No, yeah, I just forgot to take Reactine, and I did a few minutes ago. Which is kind of why I was wondering about you, cuz…”


“Cuz I never-”


“-cuz you never seem to remember, and then you end up looking so much cooler than me, carrying around my bandanas.” Mick muttered, leaning more and more into Harley’s sturdy frame.


“Actually, I came prepared.” Mick felt Harley shift as he dug a hand into his outer pocket, and pulled out a pack of travel tissues. “And, I had a pill before I left.”


“Wow,” Mick breathed, impressed.


“Do you want any?” Harley offered, tipping the pack in Mick’s direction.


Mick paused a little, about to politely refuse, then, “Yeah, maybe. Just one, if you don’t mind.”


“Of course.” Harley pulled back his arm from around Mick’s shoulders to open the pack of tissues. He handed Mick one of the soft, white sheets, which he began folding to dry his watery eyes. Mick paused as Harley placed another one in Mick’s lap. “Just in case,” Harley shrugged, with a gentle grin.


Mick scoffed softly, with a bleary-eyed grin. “Why do I feel like you just got these for me?”


“What? Pff, no.” Harley tucked the packet shut and slipped it back into his pocket.


“You can still have my bandanas,” Mick breathed.


“So you do bring those for me?” Harley grinned at Mick, leaning both hands on the edge of the stage.


“I just feel like your getup could use a little more zhuzhing,” Mick teased through a tired smirk. 


“Okay, Mr. Fashion Police,” Harley replied wittily, his gaze drifting out towards the trees.


At breaktime, Mick and Harley headed up the street to the pizza parlour. Harley was taller, and his legs were long, but he seemed to be matching Mick’s pace as they strolled together. The wheezing had mostly faded by then, but the exertion wouldn’t be doing him any favours. 


“Thanks,” Mick huffed, walking through the door that Harley held open for him. A refreshing gust of cold air greeted him as he entered.


“You’re welcome,” Harley followed him inside, and the two stood before the counter to read the menu. Mick’s gaze hovered over the glass case that had a variety of choices. Harley stepped forward a little, his hands in his pockets. “Cheese pizza?”


“Um, yeah. Oh, I can-”


“Don’t worry about it, I got it,” Harley said gently. “And Canada Dry, right?”


A small, hesitant beat. Then, “Yeah. Thanks.” 


He could get the next one. Mick watched gratefully as Harley went up to the counter and ordered their food. He decided to find them a place to sit, and slid into a booth by the window. Harley came and sat across from him with a receipt in his hands, turning to gaze out the window. Mick found himself studying his soft features. The way he was acting reserved, but not aloof, kind, but not syrupy. There was a goodness there, that Mick was entirely longing for.


“Wasn’t sure what sauce you’d want, so I got creamy garlic,” Harley said after a bit.


“Oh. That’s actually my favourite.”


“Same. My whole family loves it.” A soft smile tugged at Mick’s lips. Just then, the girl at the counter called out an order number. “That’s us. Be right back.”


Speaking of family. Mick still hadn’t RSVP’ed about the barbecue. With the tight schedule and the vandalism, he’d totally forgotten, and a small part of him was wondering what the schedule shift would mean in that case. He fidgeted nervously, and raised a curled knuckle to rub hard at his itchy nose.


Harley returned to the table with the pizza and a smile. Mick’s shoulders relaxed with a gentle sigh, and he rested his arms on the table.


“Here we go,” Harley slid a tray over to Mick, wafting a wonderful scent of melted cheese and tomato sauce his way. As Harley settled into the booth, his eyes watched Mick with soft concern. “You okay? I’m getting itchy just watching you.”


“Ah,” Mick groaned softly, running his hands over his face. “Yeah,” he exhaled, letting his hands drop to the table. “Just gets like this when I forget to take meds.”


“Mm.” Harley’s pizza was decked out with pepperoni, mushrooms, and green peppers. “You know, if you wanted, they’d probably understand if you took the rest of the day off.


“What? No,” Mick’s brow furrowed a little.


“I mean,” Harley said quickly. He continued in a calm, gentle voice. “I’m just saying, it’s been a rough day. We have the hands to work on the set.”


“Well- yeah, I mean it was a setback, but…” He paused as Harley reached out to put a warm hand on top of his. His brown eyes were staring into Mick’s. Mick’s gaze shifted down, and he put his other hand on top of Harley’s. “I appreciate your concern. But I’m really fine. Really.”


“Really?” Harley repeated.


“Yes,” Mick replied, and drew back his hands to start eating. He picked up a piping hot slice of cheese pizza and took a bite. As he did this, Harley cracked open his bottle of Nestea and took a long drink.




The same work resumed once they got back. Mick was feeling a little better, and the food seemed to have gotten his strength up. At least the stage deck was clean, meaning that while the trees were being mended, the actors could rehearse on it. 


“It’s terrible, what happened. I’m sorry,” Trevor offered quietly, having stepped aside to grab his water bottle.


Mick was kneeling by a slightly bent piece of sonotube, trying to reinforce it. He nodded faintly. “Yeah, well.”


“Every day on the news we hear about things happening in the city. Unreal - but then it happens to us, and... It’s hard to… believe in one thing, or another.”


Mick gave a small, sad grin. After a short beat, he sighed softly. “Well, lucky for me, I’m stubborn. There’ll be a goddamn mystical forest here, whether they like it or not.”


A small grin sparked on Trevor’s usually solemn face. “You’ve got good spirit.” Then, lingering a second longer, “We need that here.”


As Trevor walked away, Mick peeked up with a thoughtful glance. If something like this happened back home, there wasn’t much anyone could do, except try to fix what was broken and move on. The arts budget wasn’t exactly huge. That’s where Mick learned to source and be creative, and being here had given him more opportunity than he’d imagined.


Around six-thirty, the actors started to wrap up with their rehearsal. Mick still had P.A.s restitching some of the fog fabric, after discovering that it had been torn in a couple of places. The trees had been reinforced and some of them had new boughs created and attached. They still needed to be painted. Maybe if he stayed a little longer, he could get that done. But they would probably need to move things into the community centre - the sun would start setting soon.


“Hey,” a voice greeted him from behind. He turned his head to see Harley standing there, his light brown hair tousled and a little sweaty. Mick’s shoulders loosened with a soft sigh, and stepped over to Harley, who put a soothing arm around his shoulders.


“Hi,” he said softly. He leaned his head into Harley’s frame for a second, then lifted it. 


“Planning to go soon?” Harley questioned softly.


Mick took another breath. “No, I think I’m gonna stay longer. Get started on painting the new tree pieces. That way, tomorrow, we can likely finish them.”


“Are Meg and Finn gonna stay too?”


Mick paused. “...No.”




“They’ve been working really hard both on set and with the actors, and… It’s not their fault that this happened.”


“It isn’t yours, either.”


Mick didn’t move. There was a gentle beat, as Harley joined Mick’s gaze along the unfinished tree structures. 


“Okay,” Harley breathed. “Why don’t you load them in my car? I’ll give you a lift.”


“Really? That would be awesome.” Mick turned to give him a grateful glance.


“Of course,” Harley shot back a kind grin, and stepped forward.


“Just watch the branches, They might lean forward,” Mick warned him and he started lifting.


“Got it.”


With a few trips, they loaded the tree pieces into Harley’s car. They had to lower the back seats to fit them in, and luckily, it worked. Mick gave a punctuating sigh, and brushed off his hands, as Harley closed the trunk.


“Whew,” Harley huffed, as the trunk thudded shut. Then, out of the blue, he gasped and turned away from Mick. “hhHEH’TSCHHIEWW!!” His frame doubled forward with a sudden itchy-sounding sneeze.


“Ooh,” Mick breathed, blinking in surprise.


“Oh… *snff!* Bless me, Jesus.” Harley turned back slightly, and raised the back of his hand to wipe his eyes.


“Bless you,” Mick echoed. “You okay?” 


“Um, yeah,” Harley chuckled and sniffed, like he usually did. He went around the car and got into the driver’s seat, while Mick entered on the opposite side.


“Oh,” Harley exhaled breathily again, his big hands up at his eyes, rubbing. After a couple of seconds, he managed to pull them away, and blinked a couple of times. “...*snrf!* The meds I took this morning must be wearing off.”


“Oh,” Mick said, in a sympathetic tone.


“Ah, it’s fine.” Harley sniffled hard, his neck muscles twitching as the air made its way noisily up his flared nostrils. “We’ll be inside, anyway,” he said casually, before his face contorted into a yawn. 


“...We?” Mick repeated, his voice soft.


Harley paused and looked over gently. “Yeah, we.”


Mick connected his gaze and grinned gently. Then, as Harley started to car and started to pull out of the parking lot, “Good thing you brought tissues, then,” Mick teased, glancing over again with a soft smirk.


“Oh, yeah,” Harley grinned. His features looked extra pretty in the soft, pinkish light streaming over from the horizon. Mick watched his big hands as they turned the steering wheel, his tongue sticking out a little with focus as he glanced back over his shoulder. The golden hour sunlight made his brown hair appear almost auburn, shining through.


Again, Mick started to feel good inside. Maybe it was the not-so-tacky air freshener in Harley’s car, or the classic rock that instantly began playing as his Spotify connected. Maybe the fact that it was a live version of a song by Elton John dueting with George Michael, that Harley occasionally sang to when their conversation hit a lull, and peeked over at a spectating Mick, who grinned uncontrollably.


In no time, they arrived at the community centre, near the studio.


“Thank you sir, that’ll be ten pounds,” Harley said in an awful, scruffy, British accent as he put the car in park. He looked over at Mick with such a goofy, expectant expression that Mick couldn’t help but grin and exhale a small laugh.


“Sorry, all I have are these trees,” he replied, nodding to the back of the minivan.


“Alright love, that’ll do,” Harley stayed in character, sighing and fully turning off the car.


Mick hopped out, and waited for Harley to do the same before closing the passenger side door. 


“You have the key, right?” Harley asked in his normal voice, meeting Mick behind the car.




As Harley opened the trunk, Mick could see his long eyelashes fluttering again. His frame swelled with a deep breath, and once the trunk door was fully raised, he ducked to the side. “hd’ESSCHHIEW!! - mby goodness, *snrff!*” Harley mumbled and sniffled. 


“Bless you,” Mick said automatically.


When Harley straightened up, his brown eyes were a bit teary and pink, narrowing as his nostrils flared. He quickly pinched the collar of his shirt and yanked it over his nose. “Hihh- *snrf* huht’ISSCHHhiuh!! *snf!* God, excuse me.” 


“Bless you,” Mick breathed again.


Harley lowered the hem of his shirt collar, and sniffled sharply a few times, then raised a hand to wipe his teary eyes. “Thank you, *snff!*” 


Mick’s eyes caught on the round planters by the entrance of the community centre, which were blooming with tall, orange lilies. Lower, around them grew yellow geraniums. Behind him, he heard a small, soft squish as Harley rubbed at his nose.


“Shall we?” Harley prompted.


“We shall.”



[7:45PM. Studio A.]


Mick blinked a few times, staring at the pieces of cardboard that were laid out on the drop cloth. He probably needed something to eat. What time was it?


He picked up a couple of brushes he was finished with, and spun around quickly to wash them - almost colliding with Harley.


“Whoa! Sorry, my bad,” Mick breathed, and went around him. Gosh. Maybe he did need something to eat, the vertigo must have been putting him slightly off balance.


“That’s all good,” Harley said in a gentle tone, catching him steadily by the arm. “Want me to wash those, so you can keep going?” he offered.


Mick paused. Washing brushes seemed to be the role of an assistant, which was not on Harley’s job description (not that Mick had read it, but it was probably most certainly not there). He glanced up at Harley, whose facial expression was nothing but kind. “Um-”


“Here, I’ll take care of it,” Harley moved forward slowly, and Mick handed him the brushes.


“Thanks,” Mick breathed, making sure to connect his soft gaze before turning away.


[8:07PM. Studio A.]


“huH’kG’JSSCHHhieww!! *snrk*" A rather wet-sounding sneeze, followed by a few liquid snuffles. "Whew. Scuse be, *sdrf!*"


“À tes souhaits.”


“*snrff* What?” Harley mumbled from behind a tissue.


“Bless you.”


“Oh. …Merci." Then a gentle, but wet nose blow.


“De rien.”


[8:40PM. Studio A.]


Mick sat on the floor with his legs bent backward. He was subconsciously clenching his teeth to hold off a yawn. It came eventually, and he raised the back of his hand to cover his mouth.


As he exhaled sleepily, he drooped a little to his right, knocking elbows with Harley, who was picking up cardboard scraps that Mick had trimmed off from the boughs. Mick moved upright a little, one hand raising to rub his eye. “Sorry.”


“It’s okay.”


Harley quietly set aside the scraps of cardboard and sat on the floor next to Mick. The weight of the day was becoming a bit heavy in Mick’s head, but he was still determined to put things back together. He was so close to finishing. On the floor before them lay a vast collection of new and old leafy pieces to go on the trees. Maybe he could attach them tonight, if they were dry enough. Some of them were - the ones that he started with.


Okay. So maybe that would be his next move.


If… he could move.


The next thing he felt was an arm moving upward, brushing against his back. Then a hand on his left shoulder, gently guiding his head toward a very comfortable shoulder on his right.


Mick smiled instinctively. But it was a shaky one. The kind that you make when a friend suggests all the solutions to a problem that you’ve already tried. The kind he’d made when he laughed, earlier, upon arriving at the theatre.


“I’m fine,” Mick whispered, staring at his rushed artwork sideways.


Harley said nothing. Just held him a little tighter. Mick was starting to feel very sad. There were things that he was trying not to think about earlier, that were beginning to resurface. But he still didn’t move as Harley rubbed his shoulder firmly with his thumb.


“It… It was,” Mick started to say, but stopped. It was just a mindless crime, he wanted to say out loud, like he believed it, despite how it might come out. But he was past any believable attempt. And deep down, he thought he might have known the truth. He was just scared to confront it.


“Hm?” Harley breathed.


“Just a dumb, mindless crime,” Mick exhaled, and sniffed. He leaned a little further into Harley’s frame, and Harley brought up his other arm, linking his hands together.


Mick sniffled and sighed, looking up through bleary eyes. He didn’t want to start crying because he was tired, although it seemed like that was entirely the case right now. Harley had been so kind and patient, and it was honestly just embarrassing. He could be better than that. For this long, he had been better than that.


But to not be… for a moment, just felt… good.


It was tough to not let out a couple of pathetic laughs out here and there, his feelings jumbled and sad and rusted with dark humour. And now Harley’s grip on him was so tight, but he didn’t want to move a muscle. Mick’s eyelashes fluttered with rapid blinks, his cheeks wet with warm tears. Before he’d been afraid of being vulnerable, having earned this role in a city of talented and connected people - it was scary to show weakness. Maybe more, after being humiliated.


Though, at that moment as it lingered, he began to feel much stronger.


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I LOVE this! I love how they understand and connect with one another. I love your writing and everything about this! Please do continue! I hope there will be more Harley sneezes and maybe him getting under the weather too 😉 

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Poor Mick!!  All his hard work, just destroyed by hoodlums!  And Harley, is the sweetest human to ever live!!! I can't decide if Mick and Harley are my favorite characters that you write, or Steve and Eddie...I guess it's a good thing I don't have to...

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