Helplessly, Law had drifted closer to Chase. He hadn’t even noticed himself doing it, but that was no surprise. Chase had always drawn him in, like a moth to flame. In this instance, Law felt like he was the moth banging his head on the light, never learning its lesson.
He pressed his hand to his chest as if the phantom pain could be felt as a real wound. “I thought…” he trailed off, unable to speak around the ache of unshed tears and want in his throat.
Chase shuffled his feet. “That I was in America? I came back for the Summer early.” He scratched the back of his neck, ran his hand through hair that Law had always thought was an undeniably sexy haircut. “I, um, actually signed up for a semester abroad and was allowed to pick Glasgow. I was going to tell you, before…” He bit his lip.
“Before you dumped me?” Law supplied, unable to keep the acidity from his tone.
Again, Chase flinched. “Can we go upstairs to talk?”
Law had silently led the way into his room and sat with his back to his bed, hugging his knees close to his chest. He didn’t know what he wanted to say to Chase, though he wished they could rewind time. But things were different now. They couldn’t go back. Could they?
“I’m sorry,” Chase said glumly, settling down next to him. He played with the rings on his fingers and avoided Law’s eyes. “What I did was shitty. In… In the interest of honesty, Rhoan told me that you spoke to your dad. That’s… part of why I came here, but not all. He said that you’d fallen out.” Chase’s eyes were sad, an echo of the pain he had felt years ago – and was still feeling, in many ways. “I’m so, so sorry, Law. I wanted to believe that… my parents were the exception, not the rule.”
Law stared at his feet, picking apart a knot in his laces. There was a lump in his throat. He didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing at all.
In the silence, Chase bit his lip, casting his gaze about. He shook his head with a small, fond smile. “I’m always amazed at how little stuff you have. Hasn’t Eilidh tried to steal your shelves yet, since you’re not using them?”
Law relaxed a little, smirking. “She’s tried.”
Chase nudged him with his foot. “No, maybe not. But… I’m still sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you like that. Just I…” He bit a hangnail on his thumb, mulling over his words for a moment. “I can’t hide anymore. It’s like my parents win, if I do. It’s dumb, I know… and I hate that I tossed away our relationship over them, of all people. But it’s still true.” He looked at Law, his expression conveying something that Law was too thrown to understand at that moment.
“Echo very perceptively told me that the reason I couldn’t tell dad was because… well, my mum already doesn’t want me. I didn’t want dad to feel the same.” He shrugged and continued in a small voice, “but that ship has sailed.”
“Even if he doesn’t, we all want you. You’re one of the most amazing people I know, and if they can’t see that, screw them.” Chase narrowed his eyes in defiance. “Succeed to spite them.”
“Is that really a good way to live?”
“It’s worked for me so far,” he shrugged.
“Law, I’m not just here because I care about you and I was worried,” Chase said, kneeling in front of Law. “I’m here because I’m a miserable excuse for a boyfriend and I missed you so much all I could think about was coming back here to sweep you off your feet.”
Law’s eyes filled and he furiously blinked the tears away. Barbed anger coated his words. “Conveniently, the issue of coming out to my dad is no longer that.”
Chase remained expressionless. No, not expressionless; expectant. “I know.”
“And you’re right, trying to make me come out to my dad by turning up out of the blue wasn’t right.”
“I know,” he said again, waiting. Law stared at him, framed as he was by the crumbling paint on the walls of the bedroom, chips of plaster leaving a white gash against the splash of colour. He wanted to stay angry, to wear it as an armour, because without his anger he had no shield. Without his anger everything hurt so much more, the pain brought into sharp focus.
Try as he might, he couldn’t. The anger fled before Chase’s patient presence, and Law deflated. “But I couldn’t help but think I’d lost you because I cared more about what my dad would think when he knew the real me than what you needed.”
“You haven’t lost me,” Chase whispered, closing the distance between them until Law couldn’t meet Chase’s gaze without going cross-eyed. “I’m here.”
And there was that expectant pause again, and Law realised this question was for him to answer.
“I know,” Law murmured, closing the distance between them and kissing Chase with the sort of desperate passion he’d only read about in old romantic novels. The past weeks he had been a lost piece of a puzzle, dreaming of Chase at every opportune moment and curling around the aching pain of loss in his chest. When Law had seen Chase after coming home that day, the first thing he wanted to do was to go to him, press every part of his body against Chase’s, feel him with every sense. Chase’s absence was all the more painful even if they were inches apart, and now Law could only think about how much he had yearned for Chase’s arms or even just his presence for all of those hours without him.
Chase met Law’s fervour with his own enthusiasm, drawing groans from Law as easily as ever, encircling him with those strong arms and pulling him tight. Law didn’t know if it was this movement that had pulled him onto Chase’s lap, or if somewhere in the madness he had climbed up himself, but he could only enjoy the new development.
“I’ve missed you,” Chase breathed, between kisses. “I’ve missed you so fucking much, Law. I’m sorry.” He moved his attention to Law’s neck, that sweet spot Chase had first discovered years ago, nipping at the skin. “I love you, Law. I swear I’ll make up for my shitty actions.”
Law shook his head. It was hard to focus with Chase’s lips and tongue against his sensitive skin, but somehow he managed. “You don’t need to,” he promised around a groan. “Just keep doing that and I’ll call it even.”
Chucking, Chase plunged his hands lower to make a point. “Just this?” he asked innocently, and Law huffed out a breath and answered with another pleading moan.
Echo knocked cautiously and stepped into the laboratory, finding Lukas away from his desk and instead hanging a large sign against the otherwise blank sea-foam green wall. He looked surprised to see her, but pleasantly so, and placed down a nail with care on the counter before beckoning her inside. Echo was aware that this was Law’s domain and not hers, so she stepped in tentatively.
Lukas leaned against the counter. “What can I do for you, Echo?” he asked.
“Well,” Echo said, feeling herself blush. “Law is, ah, predisposed and can’t come to check up on you today. He sent me with some questions to ask, and some data to get.” She indicated the notebook in her hand with an awkward smile. “If that’s alright?”
“Of course,” he said, a troubled look tugging the corners of his lips down. “Is he well?”
Echo thought of the brilliant beaming grin he had given them all that morning, before retreating back to bed, and laughed joyously. “Oh, very. He and his partner made up.”
“Ah.” The scientist tucked his hands in his pockets and gave a thoughtful hum. “That must have been why he’s been so down lately.”
There was a lull in conversation and Echo remembered her notebook too late to avoid the slightly prolonged silence. “Oh, shall we do this here?”
“You should be wearing a lab coat,” Lukas pointed out, nodding his head towards the new and glossy sign. Echo wondered if there was a hint of a teasing smile or if she was imagining it.
“So should you.”
“Touché,” he grinned.
Lukas considered this, tapping his fingers against the counter and staring off into the half-distance. “Human,” he said, with another fleeting but genuine smile. “I’d forgotten… a lot. For one, Scotland is an awful lot colder than I remember it being.” At that, Echo gave an astonished laugh. She couldn’t disagree. “And food… tastes spectacularly.”
“You didn’t eat before?” Echo asked, raising her eyebrows.
“No, I did on occasion. To blend in, if I had to. Mostly red meat, if I’m honest. My appetite was vampiric; human food generally wasn’t appealing. But…” Lukas gave a groan that was not at all work appropriate. “I had paella yesterday. Not a scratch on my mother’s cooking as I remember it, but…” He smacked his lips and then, as if realising he had been carried away, coughed awkwardly. “Let’s go to the staff room, shall we? I can give you the answers you need for Law.”
“No,” Lukas said, shaking his head. “Heart rate, blood pressure, blood count, all ideal. He’ll be relieved to know that I appear to be making red blood cells, and that the virus count has remained at nil, or at least undetectable if we’re not being optimistic.”
Echo observed him out of the corner of her eye. He looked lighter in his step and was certainly smiling more. She couldn’t imagine the sort of weight that had been removed from his shoulders. What she did wonder, was how much of the pre-vampire Lukas remained? So many years had passed in fear – how easy was it to recover oneself after that?
“I think he was interested in your energy levels, too. And any other anecdotal evidence you’d like to pass on.”
“I’m certainly a lot more tired,” Lukas admitted. “What remains to be seen if that is the normal level of alertness for humans or something more. But I’ve been living as a human for the past four days, and certainly nothing is causing me alarm.” He patted Echo’s arm. “Tell Law to stop worrying. He deserves to enjoy his time with his partner.”
Echo led Lukas to the sofa and sat down, folder her hands underneath her skirt. She saw the lemsip sachets by the coffee machine and smiled. “You won’t be so happy to be human when you catch a cold from colleagues.”
“Or students,” Lukas groaned, thinking of the notorious fresher’s flu that went around every year, a dreaded beast that was the topic of conversation for both the week prior to and post patient zero generously gifting their germs to all who would take them. “A small price to pay, however.”
“And tell me, what have you been spending your newfound freedom on?” she asked, too late wondering if it was an invasive question to ask a man practically a stranger.
Lukas folded his hands together. “Not much,” he admitted. “I find that now I’m truly trying to interact with the world, it’s rather… overwhelmingly different than I realised. I confess that I’ve been spending my evenings eating. I’m probably going to gain weight,” he said, laughing gently.
Echo fixed him with a thoughtful look. “Do you like to dance?” she asked, out of the blue.
Lukas smiled ruefully. “I like the idea of it, but I’ve never done anything more than be swung about by my mother in the kitchen to the radio. Why?”
“Some of my theatre group go to a dance evening once a week,” she answered, ignoring the misting of his eyes for his sake. “I’ve done it a few times, and it’s fun. You’re welcome to join me and see if it’s something you enjoy.”
Lukas looked at the girl he was beginning to learn was the kind of mystery the likes of which he’d never solve. “Why?” he asked.
Lukas opened his mouth but quickly became aware that he had no idea what he was about to say, and rapidly closed it again. His hands tightened together on his lap, as they so often did when he was nervous, but there was no hint of malice within Law, and even less within Echo. He trusted them both, even if he had survived for so long by refusing to do so with others. Part of being human was taking risks and enjoying yourself; Lukas had learned that from listening in to his students’ scandalous conversations if nothing else.
“Okay,” he said, surprising them both. “I would love to join you.”
Echo gave him her Disney princess smile and wrote the address and time down for him in neat cursive, passing him the scrap of paper which would sit in his pocket and smell deliciously of patchouli for days.
“Come on, genius, you’re so close!” Chase hissed, watching the screen with rapt attention. Law nodded absently, fingers furiously tapping on buttons as he curved his entire body each time his character took a corner in their game.
“Okay, we don’t need a replay of your intimate dialogue,” Rhoan quipped. “We’ve heard enough as it is!”
“Don’t listen to him,” Chase recommended. “He’s just trying to distract us.”
“Uh-huh,” Law mumbled, eyes darting about the screen.
“Chase doesn’t need any help to distract you, Law. I’m surprised you’ve even surfaced from your bedroom at all,” Rhoan grinned, referencing the fact that Law had hardly been seen since Chase had returned last week, although rather embarrassingly, he had been heard. Chase simply smiled like a satisfied cat who had eaten triple its usual servings of food.
“BOOYAH!” Chase crowed as Law launched a green shell behind him, which hit Eilidh who had been gaining on him.
Rhoan groaned and slapped his face in horror. “NOOOO!”
“Calm down, babe,” Eilidh said, expertly drafting around a corner. “Ya girl’s got this.” Punctuating this, she launched off three red shells in quick succession and succeeded in hitting Law with two of them, smoothly overtaking him just before the finish line. “See it and weep, loser! Luigi number one!”
“Bugger,” Chase groaned, as Law finished fourth. “I hate you all. I’m cancelling my semester abroad.”
“You still have to put up with us for summer,” Rhoan pointed out, reaching out to ruffle Eilidh’s hair in congratulations.
“And we still have to put up with Law waking us up in the morning,” Eilidh teased, glancing over to see Law’s face go flame red.
“What can I say, it’s hard not to be loud when you’re faced with this,” Chase said, jerking his thumb to his chest.
Law groaned and hid his face in his hands. “I’m leaving this lewd conversation,” he stated, standing up, only to be weighed down with Chase wrapping his arms around his shoulders.
“I love my boys being back in town,” Rhoan said, rocking them both side to side obnoxiously.
Eilidh gave a groan. “You know that ridiculous song but not films like Parent Trap?”
“Guess who just got back today! Them wild-eyed boys that had been away,” Rhoan started in reply. Chase, who was unable not to join in with a classic song when he heard it, began to shout along with their friend.
“Haven’t changed that much to say, but man, I still think them cats are crazy!”
“No,” Law groaned, fighting to get away. In response, Chase pulled him tighter against him.
“You know that chick that used to dance a lot? Every night she’d be on the floor, shakin’ what she got,” Rhoan sang, skipping a verse. Chase picked it up a second later and they looked to Eilidh who played along, dancing around the room. “When I say she was cool she was red hot, I mean, she was steamin’!”
Law finally gave in and laughed with his friends, letting them sway him around the room. His heart soared as he looked at his family, only missing his sister, who was dancing in her own way downtown.
“I did,” he said, smoothing down his shirt. “And I admit to feeling somewhat under-dressed.”
“Oh, nonsense,” she said cheerfully. “I don’t often get a chance to wear something like this. I either get it covered in soil or it’s too cold.”
“You’re not wrong,” Lukas muttered, peering out of the high and somewhat grimy window where rain streamed down. “Regardless, you look beautiful.” He cleared his throat awkwardly. “I’m sorry, I have no idea if that’s appropriate to say in this day and age.”
Echo laughed. “I appreciate the compliment. Have you ever seen grease?”
“Actually, I have,” Lukas said. “In the cinema, no less.”
“Brave of you,” Echo commented, trying not to sound like she was teasing him.
“I was dragged there,” he replied. “Is this your way of telling me that we’re doing a dance from the musical?”
“Oh, but of course,” she said playfully, offering out her hand. “Liana will tell us what to do in just a moment.”
“Well,” Lukas said, taking her hand in his. He looked at it for a moment and Echo realised it was probably the first time he’d held someone’s hand since he’d turned human. He bowed his head solemnly. “I shall do my very best to keep up.”
Echo giggled and squeezed his hand. “Has anyone ever told you that you can be quite charming?”
“Only the viruses I spend most my time with,” he replied, though Echo thought she noticed some blood in his cheeks.
Liana chose that moment to signal for the group to watch her. Behind her the TV flickered to life and one of the dances began to play in the background. “It’s a lot easier than it looks when you take it step by step,” she promised, looking at the faces staring dubiously up at the screen. Lukas sneaked a glance at Echo, who was alive with joy, beaming with excitement and happiness, someone who had utterly perfected the art of being content and in the moment of life. He could learn a thing or two from her, he knew, and suspected she knew it too.
So began their hour of dancing, following Liana step by step, every so often putting the rest of the dance together like pieces of a puzzle. Echo’s delighted laughter warmed the room, especially when one of them transposed a move from later on in the dance, or forgot what was next. Lukas found himself utterly fixated on their goal, intensely satisfied each time they succeeded in getting a section right, and towards the end of the hour Liana set them loose to perform one final time, completing the whole dance with a few minutes to spare.
They came together in the final move and the music trailed off, replaced by the heavy breaths of the dancers. Echo felt the fast beating of Lukas’ heart beneath her palms and grinned up at him, hoping he had enjoyed the evening as much as she had. Their eyes met for a moment and the world slowed – not because of any particular romantic notion, but because Lukas’ eyes were both joyful and shining with tears.
“Thank you,” he said to Echo, dropping his hand away from her waist. She smiled and stepped back a little, giving them both room to breathe. “I… I don’t think I knew how much I needed a night like this until you gave it to me.”
Echo curled her hair back behind her ears where strands had come out of her plait during their intensive dancing. “Well, there are plenty more where they came from, if you’d like. I love my flat, but they’re uncultured swines,” she said, dropping a wink and a laugh. “No one ever wants to accompany me to things like this.”
“I would be honoured to,” Lukas said, noticing for the first time that the other dancers had already vacated the room. Liana packed up the last of her equipment and blessed Echo with a knowing smile before stepping out of the room also, leaving the two of them to their moment.
Echo drifted over to the piano for lack of anything better to do with her hands, and because she wasn’t quite yet ready to go. Lukas had surprised her, both in turning up to dance and giving such energy to it. Her fingers smoothed over the keys as she considered her own feelings, realising very quickly that perhaps it hadn’t only been Lukas that had been lonely when she had invited him to dance with her, despite a father’s advice to a seven year old.
She played a piece that he had taught her, smiling at the many memories of watching Fox’s peaceful expression as he played his soul into the piano at home, the notes soothing her while she dug into soil and weeded her plants.
“You play wonderfully,” Lukas said, leaning against the wall.
“My dad taught me. He’s taught me a lot, over the years,” she smiled, finishing the last note and leaving it hanging between them. She flicked her gaze up to see Lukas watching her hands thoughtfully. “You can choose next,” Echo said, too casually for the sudden thundering of her heart. “What is something you’d like to do?”
Lukas opened his mouth and then, as the tips of his ears turned pink, he snapped his mouth closed. Echo gave him a look which told him he wouldn’t get away with staying silent, so with a sigh he admitted what he’d first thought.
“I’ve always wanted to go to a fish and chips shop.”
Echo blinked at him. “A what?” she squeaked around her laughter, quickly pressing her hand to her mouth so as not to embarrass him.
“It’s so quintessentially British!” he protested. “By the time I arrived in this county, I was already a vampire. I thought it would be a waste.”
“Well,” Echo said, giggling, “far be it for me to stand between a man and his dreams.”
Back home, Law put away some of Echo’s pencils that he’d borrowed as his phone buzzed incessantly in his pocket. In the dying light of the sun, he slipped it from his pocket to see a text from Echo to state that she would be home shortly, and an incoming call.
Law stared down at the phone. He’d thought about this moment for many weeks, but nothing prepared him for actually seeing his father’s ID on the screen.
He sucked in a breath and, with trembling fingers, accepted the call and brought it to his ear.