I’m not even gonna front with you guys, some of these pictures are not up to my usual standard. The chapter was a headache to shoot (the phone I shoved in game happened to only be an adult’s accessory, of course), and then one of the scenes evolved but I didn’t have the right picture for the end, and so on. But these past few weeks haven’t been great – lots of emotional rollercoaster stuff – so honestly I just need to get this out otherwise I’ll keep putting off coming back.
I will actually get a holiday next week – yes, you heard me right, my first damn holiday since Xmas – and I plan to catch up then, though my comments may be sporadic.
It was almost no surprise when Echo’s response to Law’s message came through that night. It was always him that was cautious, taking time to reply, and didn’t that just reflect how he was in every day life anyway? But Echo, she was quick and excited, and by the time Law was home and ready for bed she had sent a message back.
He’d been on his phone anyway, aimlessly scrolling through the New Scientist website, the subscription to which Elspeth and Eilidh had bought him for the previous Christmas. He was skimming an article about physics without any true comprehension about what it really meant when the notification popped up at the top of his phone. His heart seemed to freeze for a second, before pounding twice as fast as before, and with shaking hands he read the rest of her message.
Should he call her? His father was on one of the later shifts and wouldn’t be home for another hour, and anyway he had no way of knowing Law was talking to anything more than a girl (and wouldn’t that please him, Law thought darkly), but the real question was… was he ready for that?
Echo was his half-sister, the first of many new family members. If they didn’t get on, that was it. Well, almost. Loxley was still eager to be in contact with Law, though not for similar reasons.
Law took a deep breath. Be bold, he reminded himself.
He shuffled up, pulling his knees to his chest, the cotton fabric comforting under his fingertips. He hovered over the call button in the app before taking the metaphorical leap and pressing it. Then he pressed the phone to his ear and hoped he could hear her over the blood in his hears.
The back of the sofa was warm and firm, grounding him, and Law focused on that instead of the ringing tone which went on and on. With each unanswered ring his heart sunk lower. What if he had been too fast, too eager? Was he embarrassing himself? Was she really that interested in getting to know him? What if he’d interrupted her and she hadn’t meant for him to phone right at that second? He was just about to hang up when the ringing stopped, and then –
“Law?” Echo’s voice was soft but bright with excitement.
“Hi,” Law said, feeling his toes curl at the sudden awkwardness.
Echo didn’t seem to notice. “Oh wow! I – sorry, I usually reply to you and then, like, chuck my phone away so I can’t stare at it for hours but, um, this is amazing! I can’t believe… I’m sorry, I’m talking lots, aren’t I? Um, how are you?”
Law bit his lip to prevent a cautious smile. “I’m, uh, well. Thank you. I hope I didn’t interrupt anything. I can call back…”
“What! No! Are you kidding me, I’ve been waiting days for this. Did Uncle Lox talk to you and get you to phone me?”
“No, actually, he didn’t want much to do with that side of things.”
“Well, that’s him,” she said, sounding a little put out. She bounced back soon enough. “But who cares! Tell me – tell me about yourself. What do you do?”
Law relaxed and folded his legs in front of him, perching on the edge of the sofa so his toes could curl freely in the fabric of the cushion while he spoke. “I go to an accelerated school nearby and, well, I do a lot of biology. Martial arts, too. And your basic subjects.”
“Do you have a job? What’s the place like where you live? What’s your dad – well, maybe that’s not something you want to talk about. Sorry, again.” She laughed self-consciously. “I’m aware I’m, like, interrogating you. I really don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“It’s okay,” Law laughed, pulling at a thread in his trousers. “No, and it’s nice, but small. Uh, your turn.”
“Okay, okay. I don’t go to a fancy school, but I’m looking into leaving at sixteen to go to an art college. I do a lot of painting, and drawing, and costume making, and so on… That’s, like, my thing. I do have a job, kind of, where I work at the local theatre and make props for them. It’s really fun! And they give me a good amount of artistic licence too. My home is technically in Inverness but I stay with my – well, our – grandparents a lot because dad is a musician and mum just, goes around with him a lot. But I like it here, my cousin is really close by. Our, sorry. Our cousin,” she said, sounding embarrassed.
“It’s fine, really,” Law said, smiling into his phone. “It’s hard to imagine that…” he trailed off as he heard the door unlock, its heavy lock scraping and clunking back. “Two seconds, I’m just going to head to my room.” He put a hand over the phone and waved quickly to Kane, who was home early, and then shut his door behind him.
“Erm… I’m not sure?” Echo cleared her throat and he could hear that she was moving something around. “See, dad and mum are both in Australia for some festivals right now, and dad hasn’t mentioned it beyond ‘we’ll talk when we get back’. But gramps isn’t going to let mum just breeze past it. He’s pretty big on family. I think he’s already yelled at her over the phone a bit…”
Law winced. “I’m sorry.”
“Hey, it’s not your fault. But I can’t promise that mum will, like, be super… interested in meeting you. Sorry. I just, feel like I should warn you. She’s not all that maternal, and I think she’d just stay in Egypt.”
“What?” Law blinked.
“You know, de nile!”
“Oh my God,” Law said, staring up at the ceiling and shaking his head. “Please, no. You’d get on so well with one of my friends here. He loves lame jokes.”
“Well I had to make the news easier somehow,” she giggled.
Law fidgeted around to lie on his back, head perched on his soft pillow. He only had the one thin one, after reading several articles about how it was better for the neck, but it had taken a while to get used to. “What are you doing?” he asked curiously, hearing her moving about again.
“Oh, I’m watering my plants,” she said, sounding blissfully happy. “I uh, have quite a lot of them. It’s a bit of a pain, really, because I’m not always at my house that much, but I love them. They all have names! My favourite is Spike, the cactus, and Angel, the venus fly trap. I’m trying to find the perfect Buffy but it’s hard…”
Law laughed at this, imagining his little sister going around and naming all of her plants. “That’s… amazing.”
“Thanks,” she said. “What about you?”
“Just lying here,” he said, and on cue Echo began to hum James Blunt’s song. “You’d definitely get on with Rhoan,” Law muttered in return. Songs were the one cultural reference he did get.
She gave a delighted laugh. “Well, dad and I are going to be in Glasgow soon, for an art show. Maybe we can meet up? Not that you have to, but –“
“No, that sounds good.” Law held his breath at the quick reply. Maybe a little too bold?
“Oh, wow! I was so ready for you to say no. Well, we’ll be there next month. So… that’ll be nice.”
“Yeah,” Law said, grinning into the phone. “It will be.”
“No,” Eilidh said crossly, jabbing her finger into his side. “His super power is his brain, doofus. He’s building an arc reactor in a cave! I’d like to see Batman do that,” she muttered.
Rhoan snorted, his fingertips smoothing across Eilidh’s shoulder, her skin warm and soft. Every time she moved her head her hair tickled his neck, but it was a small price to pay to be so close to her.
“Both have no parents, both super rich playboys, both angsty… what’s the difference?”
“Ugh, loads!” Eilidh peered up at him just to glare. “Tony is… misunderstood. He’s a jelly bean, okay?”
Rhoan burst into laughter. “A jelly bean! What, sugary and sticks to your teeth?”
“Nooo!” This time it was her elbow that dug into Rhoan’s side, and he gave a little grunt as she hit a rib. “Hard shell with a soft inside. He has a lot of love to give!”
“Well, at least we have that in common,” he shrugged, causing Eilidh to snort.
“It is badass,” Rhoan agreed, rewarded with her stunning beam of a smile. “So when does he become an avenger?”
“You know if you could just watch the films in order this would all make sense to you. I mean who watches the second avengers and then follows that up with Antman. Those are like the two worst!”
“Uh huh,” Rhoan said, deciding just to agree. “I just can’t sit still through films.”
“I’ve noticed,” Eilidh grumbled.
“And there are far better thing to do with my time…” Rhoan said, dramatically sweeping his gaze over to Eilidh, who blushed at him.
“But Tony is too pretty to look away from.”
“So are you,” Rhoan grinned.
He pulled her closer, hand snaking up into the silky smooth brown strands of her hair. Her eyes fluttered closed as she tilted her face towards his, lips meeting, the kiss slow and lazy. Her breath tickled his cheek, the faintest smell of mint toothpaste still present. Her hand twined together with his.
The kiss was nothing new, but it was still exciting, still exploratory. Rhoan chased something deeper but Eilidh rapidly pulled away as the film changed pace.
“Aw, we missed Tony being rescued.”
“Mmm, what a shame,” Rhoan said, closing the distance again. He could feel Eilidh’s breath as she giggled silently, and the film was forgotten.
“To be fair,” Rhoan said, amused, “it was more my fault than yours.” His lips almost felt sore, and he rubbed his hand over his chin to make sure there were no sneaky bits of stubble that would have given Eilidh a worse time.
“Yes, it’s your fault. I like that.” She grinned at him. “Your bus will be here soon. Shall we go out and meet it?”
“Sounds good.” Rhoan stood up and slid his phone, wallet, and keys back into his pockets.
“Carry me!” she demanded, hoping up onto his back before Rhoan could agree or protest. He gave an ‘oof’ in surprise but caught her legs before she could slide down. She hooked her arms around his neck and nuzzled into him. “My noble steed.”
“Neigh,” Rhoan said sombrely, and they both laughed. “Hey, has Law spoken to you about Chase at all?”
“Uhhh, no, why?”
“Damn,” Rhoan sighed. She squeezed him and poked her head close to his. “Nothing’s wrong,” he told her, before she could ask. “But Chase is totally head over heels for Law. But he’s oblivious, of course.”
“Chase is gay?” Eilidh said, blinking.
“Uh, yeah,” Rhoan laughed. “I’m hoping Law doesn’t need my help to tap that, but I’m prepared to play cupid if I have to.”
At that, Eilidh snorted. “Law isn’t gay.”
It was Rhoan’s turn to blink.
He tilted his head around to try and look at Eilidh but it was too awkward a move to be able to see her face. She pressed her lips to his cheek and squeezed his sides with her legs, but he didn’t move.
That Law had told only Rhoan surprised him, because Eilidh had known him for far longer. But, he grudgingly admitted, it wasn’t like Law was particularly free with any kind of personal information, and considering the small town he lived it that wasn’t all that surprising.
But Eilidh was his oldest friend. It must hurt not to be fully open with her. Though,Rhoan wasn’t sure how Eilidh would react either. She was bright and confident and caring, but she didn’t exactly question the narrow minded opinions she’d grown up with.
He chewed on his bottom lip. He had almost accidentally outted Law, which was unacceptable, but at the same time he had to know what Eilidh really thought. It was important to him that she wasn’t prejudiced; his family was so open he couldn’t imagine spending a large amount of time with anyone who wasn’t.
“Maybe not,” he said, in a tone which he hoped conveyed the opinion that she was probably right. “But I mean wouldn’t it be cute? They’d be a good couple.”
“Nuh-uh, Law is going to find some gorgeous girl and have the prettiest and smartest children, and I’m going to be the cool aunt, and then they’re going to take over the world and I’m going to live in a castle.”
Despite himself, Rhoan laughed. “Oh, that’s your life plan is it?”
“Absolutely.” She squeezed her legs again and obediently he began to walk forward, but the subject wasn’t dropped yet.
“But what do you think? Really?”
Eilidh frowned and leaned her chin on his shoulder. “I dunno, it’s a little weird isn’t it? I can’t imagine Law being gay.”
Rhoan opened his mouth, but couldn’t figure out anything to say, so eventually closed it again.
“But I guess if he’s happy…” She shrugged, and Rhoan relaxed beneath her. “So long as he doesn’t tell me about what they do together in detail… but that would be gross no matter what. Can you imagine Law telling us an embarrassing sex story about anyone?”
Rhoan snorted. “He’d take it to the grave.” And for now, Rhoan would take her answer. It was a better start than he worried he’d get, and he could work on it.
Law shook himself out of his thoughts. He couldn’t even deny it; he’d come into their study room with the intention of getting some of his work done and had just ended up staring into nothing with a frown on his face. “I should be happy,” he sighed.
“I should be rich, I’m sure,” Chase returned with a shrug. “But since we’re not…”
“I spoke to Echo for almost three hours last night.”
“Holy shit,” Chase spluttered, eyebrows rising. “Was she doing most of the talking? I don’t think you’ve ever spoken so much in one sitting before.”
“Well there’s a lot to catch up on, I guess.” Chase shuffled over and knelt beside him, dramatically stroking his chin as if he had a beard. “And yet you’re still moping.”
Law shrugged. “She made it clear that… that mum would never be interested in knowing me.”
He heard Chase exhale, and out of the corner of his eye, Law could see him run two fingers up and down the length of his nose. “Then she’s a fanny,” he said bluntly. Law startled, but despite himself he snorted at the bluntness. “I’m serious, Law. You can’t change her decision, but you can change how you think about her.”
Law made a noncommittal sound. “I guess… It’s hard not to take it personally. You know? Well, maybe you don’t –“
“No,” Chase interrupted grimly. “Trust me, I know. And take it from me, Genius, the quicker you realise that her opinion of you means nothing of how much worth you have as a person, the happier you’ll be.”
Law nodded distantly, staring off at nothing, while Chase settled down beside him. Their arms touched briefly, and then Chase leaned against the recycling bin, the plastic creaking. He rested his head on his knee and glanced at Law; it was then Law realised what had been said. He fidgeted, wondering if he should bring it up, but he was sure Chase would tell him if he didn’t want to talk about it.
“You… Your dad?” Law asked hesitantly.
“My parents,” Chase corrected softly, eyes faraway.
Law remembered the cheerful blonde woman who had greeted him at the door a few times when looking for Chase. She seemed bright and loving, though Law supposed he didn’t know what happened behind closed doors.
“You’re thinking of my aunt,” Chase said, apparently knowing why Law looked so puzzled.
“What…” Law trailed off before he could ask the question he was dying to know. Chase’s usual good humour had washed away and there was a tightness around his mouth and eyes. Law wondered if he should distract Chase with something else, and then wondered how on earth Chase made cheering someone up seem so easy.
“What happened?” Chase checked, before Law could come up with some way to get him singing karaoke. After a pause, Law hesitantly nodded. Chase exhaled slowly, his nostrils flaring. “I made the mistake of telling them that I thought I liked boys. They told me I could either be their straight son or a gay stranger. So I left.”
Law gave a sharp intake of breath. “Jesus,” he hissed, whipping around to look at Chase. His eyes were dry and hard, but there was misery in the shadows of his face. He made a small sound of agreement in the back of his throat, and Law floundered for what to do next. Finally, he closed the gap between them and hooked an arm around Chase, pulling him closer. The other boy looked surprised but didn’t fight it, and sighed against him.
“It’s alright Law. It was a while back, and my aunt made me take a lot of therapy.”
“It’s not alright,” Law said stiffly. “I can’t imagine how anyone could do that, let alone to their own son.” The vehemence in his words didn’t surprise him, but what did surprise him was seeing Chase smile.
“And that’s why we’re friends, Genius. C’mon, best that I don’t dwell on it. This was meant to be reassuring you, damn it.”
Law snorted. “I suppose this is some role reversal. But I guess we can still sing some grease songs if that would make you feel better.”
Chase’s eyes glittered. “You know just how to win my heart, Genius.”
“It’s amazing how stunted we, as the human race, would be without biotechnology,” Law mused, glancing out the window as the younger years played a game of dodgeball out on the grass. Their shouting was dulled, but definitely still audible. Luckily Law and Lukas were having a casual discussion, not a teaching session.
“Oh, absolutely. The use of enzymes and antibiotics alone revolutionised medicine, and will continue to do so. Combined with advances in robotics, and it’s not difficult to imagine nanobots altering the DNA of a cancer cell to cause it to die, or repair damage to nerve tissues, and so on. Fascinating.”
“Was it these possibilities that encouraged you to specialise in viruses?”
Lukas paused, eyes flicking from the window to Law. “More like it’s a personal interest. There are many people with viruses that seem incurable and impact on their lives. Some of them have been close to me. If I can help them…”
Law nodded in understanding. “You mentioned a while ago that you had a project that you’ve been working on for some time. Is it to do with that?”
“Yes,” Lukas sighed. “I’m afraid everything points to this virus being incurable, but I… can’t quite take that for an answer. I hope that your brain is up to task.”
Law felt the corners of his lips tug up into a smile. “I’ll give it a good try. What’s the virus?”
Lukas missed a beat. “It’s rare. In the family Orthohepadnavirus, similar in many ways to the hepatitis virus. My personal project, I suppose you could say.”
Lukas laughed at that. “I’ll only be pleased. I take it your plans haven’t changed?”
Law shook his head. “I was thinking of working for Loxley – uh, you know, Loxley Williams? He’s my uncle.”
Lukas nodded, and then raised his eyebrows as a delayed reaction. “You haven’t mentioned this before.”
“Um, long story,” Law shrugged, feeling his cheeks redden. “He gave me an offer, but I think I’d prefer to work with you. It can be my dissertation, right?”
“Absolutely,” Lukas said. “Whether or not you succeed. I must talk to your teachers here, so that we can continue to contribute to your degree credits. Then you can go into your masters or PhD in university proper. If you wish,” Lukas added after a moment.
“No, that sounds amazing!” Law beamed.
Law opened and closed his mouth. The answer was yes, in that he’d thought about almost every spectrum and been so excited he’d had to pace around the study room talking animatedly to Chase about all the possibilities. Chase had laughed, but he hadn’t much to add. They both knew he was set on going to Harvard to study physics and that was that.
“There are a lot of possibilities,” he said eventually, feeling the buzz of excitement nip at his skin. “I think… I would like something with lab work. I’ve always enjoyed that the most.” And anything with a puzzle for him to solve, but that was science at its core. “I was thinking reproductive biology might be interesting.”
Lukas’ eyebrows arched. “Oh?”
“I mean, three parents babies – who ever thought we’d get that far? And the other day I was thinking about it…” Law narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, tilting his head to the side. “Would it be theoretically possible one day for two women or two men to have a child that is genetically theirs?” He waved his hand dismissively. “Of course there would be traces of the donor DNA, but just like three parent babies it would be minimal, or possibly just a sex chromosome.”
Lukas scratched at his chin slowly, his eyes distant. “Hmm,” he mused aloud. “I don’t know nearly enough about reproductive biology to give you an answer. Currently I would say no, but science is progressing at an amazing rate. It may be theoretically possible. Then you would just have to translate that to reality, assuming you would ever get approval from the ethics committee and government, and so on.”
“I’ve read a little bit up on it,” Law admitted, drifting back over to the whiteboard but not seeing it. “If you could figure out what signalling hormones cause a primordial germ cell to become a sperm or an egg cell, could you manipulate that? You’d still require someone to carry it to gestation, of course, but…”
“I can already see your mind whirling a mile a minute,” Lukas said fondly. “I think you should continue thinking on it. I’m sure if anyone could do this, you could. Now,” he cleared his throat, “shall we return to our discussion?”
“Oh,” Law said, snapping back to reality with a little laugh and red cheeks. “Sorry.” Lukas waved the apology off, but Law was entirely focused on the whiteboard now. What about biomimetics? Would that count?”
“Absolutely,” Lukas said, so Law picked up the blue marker to add it to their diagram. “And it’s such a wide subject, one that has been employed time and time again throughout recent history. And possibly before.”
“Weren’t planes based on animals?”
“Certainly,” Lukas said. “Birds, of course – the Wight brothers observed pigeons in flight. Also the shape of marine mammals. As are wind turbine blades, submarines, and so on. Anything which needed to be streamlined has often taken from them. They are incredibly adapted for their environment.”
“What else?” Law mused.
“Did you know that the ability of the termite to remain cool in its mounds despite blistering African temperatures inspired a building in Zimbabwe which doesn’t need air conditioning?”
Law’s eyes widened. “That’s cool!”
Lukas checked his watch with a smile. “Then your homework can be to write an essay on some other aspects of biomimetics.” The bell rang on cue, and he stood up, brushing his hands down his shirt and jacket. “I shall see you next week, Law. Have a good weekend.”
“You too,” Law said distantly, picking up the rubber so he could erase the writing on the board.
Law’s snail-pace walk came to a stop outside the café Echo had set up the meeting in. Law appreciated the choice; a small quaint place called The Tea Cosy, with snug seating areas and casual food. Still, his heart was hammering in his chest and he had to keep wiping his hands on his jeans. Unusually for him, he wore all black, and he remembered why he hated doing that as soon as he made the walk from the train station further into Glasgow. The sun – not filtered through clouds for a change – caught the dark clothes and exacerbated the sweat trickling down the back of his neck.
It was ridiculous, in some ways. Law had faced down various big exams, presentations, and mixed martial arts tournaments, with no more than a determined stare. And yet here he was, nervously shaking the keys in his pocket, the thought of meeting his sister face to face for the first (technically, he supposed, the second) time sending his heart into overdrive. Worse, he was meeting his grandfather, who was escorting Echo to the art show in Glasgow, and was apparently excited to meet him.
There was a dark thought niggling the back of his mind.
What if he was a disappointment?
Law blew out a breath and steeled himself. He had to be bold. He had to try. Besides, rationally speaking, he knew it was unlikely that he would disappoint them. For one, he was confident in himself and he knew that he was interesting to be around (maybe not fun, though). He knew that they were both looking forward to this, and that they wanted to know him because he was family and that was enough for them.
But the thought still plagued his mind.
He shook his head. The only way to wash away those fears was to prove them wrong. He reached out to the handle and pulled the door open, the whoosh of warm air from the café a stark contrast to the cooling afternoon. The chatter hit him next, and he could tell the moment that a young girl and an old man fell silent, their voices leaving a noticeable absence in the room. He found them easily and his half-sister raised her hand in a jaunty way.
“Be bold,” Law muttered under his breath, and stepped inside.
a/n: yeah sorry about those pics. if it helps, I’ve been working on the sets for when Law has moved out, and they’re gorgeous. So that’ll make up for this I hope.
I hope everyone’s had a better time of things than me, and I shall see you in the comments when I’m off!
p.s. I’m not sure if I’ve ever used ‘fanny’ in this story before, but unlike in America it does not mean bum (think the other side, lmao), and it’s used a lot in the UK to also mean messing around, taking too much time, or – particularly in Scotland – just generally being an idiot (but in context it can be more scornful or more teasing than idiot. I don’t really know, guys. The Scots are weird).