Fuoco allowed the others to leave the room, before turning to stare down at the girl on the floor. He still felt embarrassment for kissing Eruttare in front of everyone else, but there was nothing he could do about that now.
“Why are you so offended, Autumn?” he asked at last in the silence that followed the sound of the door closing.
She shook her head, looking rather dazed. “That Phantom of Grace,” she finally murmured.
He remembered the play of the two lovers and frowned. Autumn had been disgusted that it was technically two women that loved each other, even though one was really a man (in not only the characters’ opinions, but also Fuoco’s). Autumn, however, was convinced that it was still two women, and it was wrong.
“I see,” he managed to say over the lump in his throat. “Well…Eruttare and I have been together for a while. The signs were all there. And unlike in Phantom of Grace, we are both happy being male and being together.”
Autumn blinked up at him, her mouth still gaping open. “Why, though? That’s just…disgusting!”
He shrugged. “We’ve always been attracted to each other,” he admitted, figuring it was best to tell the truth. “At first, neither of us said a thing. Then…Eruttare kissed me one night, and I returned the kiss. I questioned him about it again and again, if he was sure he wanted to be with me. It’s…well, you clearly prove to me that it’s unwanted in society. But he told me again and again that he didn’t care and wanted to be with me. So…we’ve been together a long time now.”
“But why?” she hissed, her hazel eyes wide and watery.
He frowned. “Why would it offend you so much that you’re on the brink of crying?” he inquired.
She looked away and remained quiet for several long moments. Finally, she whispered, “I thought you liked me. I though that maybe we’d be together….”
Fuoco then understood why a tear was streaking down her cheek. He thought back to the times he spoke to Autumn and acknowledged that it’d be easy for her to think that, especially if she wanted them to be together.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to…lead you on like that.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she growled forcefully, her eyes now shut tight. “You’re with Eruttare, and I’ll just have to…get over that.”
“Even though you’re disgusted?” he asked, trying to make a joke of it.
“Yes,” she growled, getting to her feet. “You still need to help me find my parents, and I still want to help you with this war. And I still like you and Eruttare—you’re my friends. So…even if you’re…like this…I’ll still be your friend.”
She pushed past him, avoiding his gaze and opening the door. She didn’t glance back as she left the room.
He bit his lip and stared at the ground, staying where he was momentarily. Finally, he followed Autumn and the rest of the group.
He couldn’t help Autumn—or anyone, for that matter—understand if they didn’t want to keep an open mind. He and Eruttare loved each other for who they were, they kept an eye on each other, they would die for each other.
“And that’s what true love is.”