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A few days after the end of the summer solstice festival, Preston takes some time to browse the shelves at Lotus while Eugene works on his laptop behind the register. Finding a book of interest, Preston makes his way through the back door of the sales floor into the back study room.

Sometime later, after Preston has settled into his favorite nook in the study room – curled up not unlike his wild, feral mammalian cousins, the quiet hum of downtown Rancho Duna is interrupted by Lucien coming through the hallway into the study. Today, more than ever, he has a certain intensity that still intrigues Preston – months after their first date and those that followed.

“Hey Preston” Lucien says casually. “I’m glad to see you’ve made yourself comfortable again. I’m done running my errands now. Would you like some tea from the kitchen?”

“Sure” Preston says with a soft smile before returning to his book.

Lucien quietly makes his way into the kitchen to prepare some tea. Preston closes his book, moves himself over to the couch and checks some messages on his phone. Lucien has a broad smile of contentment on his face and hums to himself as he boils water on the stove.

Lucien grabs some loose-leaf tea and sets it aside. As the water heats on the stove, Lucien glances longingly at Preston from inside the kitchen and thinks to himself how adorable he is when he curiously scrolls through his phone with gentle motions of his finger.

A bit distracted by the pleasant view, the shrill and sudden sound of the kettle coming to a boil is enough to snap him out of his daze. Taking a breath, he pours boiling water from the kettle into a teapot filled with tea leaves. Taking a moment to compose himself, he grabs some honey from the kitchen counter.

Moments later, Lucien places a serving tray with both a teapot, teacups, honey and spoons onto the coffee table and sits on the couch next to Preston. “We’ll just let it steep for a bit now” Lucien says softly.

“So, I was thinking” Preston says. “Since I chose our first big date location at the playhouse, I thought it would be nice to do something you enjoy. I know theatre is not your favorite, and I’d like to expand my horizons.”

Lucien pauses for a moment – carefully choosing his words before saying, “Well, there is something I’m planning to do with Eugene and Magid in a few weeks, but I’m not sure if you’ll like it.”

A look of frustration washes over Preston’s face and with a sigh he says, “It seems like everyone wants to tell me what I’m supposed to like or dislike.”

“I’m sorry” Lucien says. “I don’t want to be yet another dismissive or controlling person in your life. I’m just so used to people passing judgment on me because of my tastes in music.”

“What kind of music?” Preston inquires genuinely.

“I like metal music” Lucien replies nervously. “A lot of people have strong opinions about it.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being passionate” Preston says reassuringly. “I’ve never listened to metal, but I’m willing to give it a try if you’re willing to share your favorite artists and genres with me.”

Lucien gives Preston a relieved smile and says, “Okay Preston. I’ll try to be more open.”

Sometime later, Lucien pours tea into each of their cups. They sit quietly in the study room and Lucien introduces his boyfriend to a little bit of the history of metal music – as well as various styles.

“Have you ever had your leaves read?” Lucien asks.

“No, I haven’t. I didn’t know you did tasseography” Preston replies. “Sure. Go ahead.”

Lucien looks down at each cup – studying the position of the leaf fragments sitting at the bottom and interpreting the shape that appears. With a look of amusement and shock, Lucien says, “Wow. I can’t believe it. We both got the same symbol.”

“Which symbol?” Preston asks – leaning forward with increasing interest.

“We both have the symbol of the goat in our cups” Lucien says. “It is not only a symbol of independence, change, revelry and exploration, but also one of the most iconic symbols of metal.”

“Seems like fate to me then” Preston says with a smile.

In the days that follow, Lucien introduces Preston to more bands. With even more enthusiasm, Preston finds even more music on his own and starts to develop quite a nascent appetite for the metal genre as a whole. Preston grows even more excited to go to the concert with Lucien because of the sheer variety of bands he would be able to enjoy in such a tangible way.

On the day of the concert, Eugene offers to drive Lucien and Preston along with his boyfriend Magid riding in the front passenger seat. Turning towards Lucien behind the driver’s seat, Magid says, “So, are you gonna join me in the mosh pit again Lucien?”

“You know it!” Lucien replies excitedly.

“Don’t worry too much about what you should do at a concert” Eugene says to Preston while glancing at the rear-view mirror. “Everyone enjoys the music in different ways. I’m not into moshing, but some people definitely love it.” Eugene turns to his boyfriend and with a playful tone says, “Though I sometimes wonder if some people like it a little too much.”

After a short drive, the four men arrive at the concert venue – seeing crowds of people with band shirts and battle vests pouring into the building from the parking lot.

Seeing Preston’s nervous yet excited expression gives Lucien a lot of joy, and although there’s a part of him that thinks he needs to offer consolation, he resists the temptation and lets Preston take in the frenetic, powerful, anticipatory energy of the venue as the chaotic noise of the space begins to build.

Once they all find a spot for themselves, their double-date at the metal concert begins in earnest. With an unyielding intensity and enthusiasm, the bands begin to play. The roar of the crowds and the rhythm of arms and feet join the chorus of sound on the stage. Preston feels – for the first time in his young life, the power of live drums, deep bass and fearsome distortion. He hears the virtuosity of their instruments and the penetrating, evocative sounds of extreme vocals of many types.

Preston watches as Magid and Lucien are drawn to the mosh pit like moths to a flame. Seeing the chaos and aggression of the crowd is shocking at first, but also entrancing to Preston. With a gentle nudge from a smiling Eugene, Preston makes his way over to the mosh pit.

Feeling the power of the music and following the flow of the moshers, Preston joins in – being welcomed like a young man on his first hunt. Lucien finds himself nervous, but although he is tempted to step in, he decides to just stay close instead. The two of them share big smiles as the primality of the mosh pit sweeps over the venue – joined by a cacophony of extreme sound.

In the midst of the crowd emerges a particularly unruly mosher – more than a little drunk and quite disagreeable among an already chaotic group of people. This imposing, drunken, male lizard pushes people nearby and finds himself irritated by the joy around him – particularly Preston, who is smiling brighter than anyone. He quietly shoves Preston – which draws the attention of those in the pit.

With a fiery look in his eyes, Lucien draws nearer to his boyfriend. But just before he’s able to step in, Preston jumps high and head-butts the lizard right in his snout. As he stands there quite dazed, an amused, gargantuan male boar chucks the drunken lizard out of the pit and gives Preston a high five as everyone gets back enjoying the metal concert.

During a brief intermission, Lucien notices that the drunken asshole gets removed by security. Turning back to Preston, he notices how joyfully his boyfriend is befriending other people at the venue – exchanging numbers and being quite popular as a newbie to the metal scene.

Preston draws close to Lucien and says, “Thanks.”

“Thanks for what?” Lucien replies.

“Thanks for letting me be myself” Preston says with a big smile.

Preston pulls Lucien by the hand back towards the main stage where new bands are about to perform. Lucien finds himself in awe of the man he’s dating – stopping them both for a moment before saying, “Hey.”

“Yeah babe?” Preston says.

“You’re amazing” Lucien replies.

“We both are” Preston says with a smirk. “Now let’s finish the rest of the show. I can’t wait to see the headliner!”