“You don’t have to sleep on the couch, you know?”
Malik looked up from the cushions he had been rearranging to see his friend watching him.
“It’s ok, Lor. I came over unannounced, I don’t want you to go to any trouble.”
“We never emptied my grandma’s room” Lor said, looking at the door. “There was no-one to live in it, and it just didn’t feel right to put it all in storage. I look after the animals for her. We-” he hesitated, before restarting the sentence “I have clean sheets in the cupboard, you can sleep in a proper bed.”
Malik sat on the bed and looked around the room. He remembered how happy Verixe had been when she’d collected all these, and how kind she had been to him. All of Lor’s family had been kind.
He could hear the soft sounds of crying coming from the other room. He stood up and raised his hand to the door handle, then he let it fall back to his side. If Lor wanted him, he’d know where to find him.
Cooking didn’t come naturally to him, but he would try his best.
The crying had carried on until the early hours of the morning, though it had been faint and muffled. Eventually, he had fallen asleep to the sounds of the menagerie that had surrounded him in the borrowed room. He didn’t know what time Lor had fallen asleep, or if he had at all.
As long as the house doesn’t burn down, he thought to himself as he moved the eggs around in the pan, and as long as the food is edible, I’ll have done a pretty good job.
The smell of food woke Lor from his slumber. For a moment, he didn’t remember what had happened the previous night. He would walk into the kitchen and see his mama there, waving a spatula at his mum to keep her from sneaking bits of food before it was finished.
Then it came flooding back.
He was tempted to curl back up under the covers and cocoon himself away from the world, but the promise of food was impossible to ignore.
As he stood, his stomach gurgled alarmingly and he held his hand to it, willing it to settle down. He felt the small bump beneath his fingers and the rest of the memories slid into place. He was pregnant.
Now that he knew for certain, he felt like an idiot for not recognising the signs. If he’d just been putting on weight, it would have been all over his body, not just there.
He didn’t want to look in a mirror right now. He must look a fright with his red eyes and a too-small shirt, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. His parents were dead, everything else seemed insignificant in comparison. Well, he thought, feeling a slight shift in his abdomen, almost everything.
Lor sat down at the table, unsure of what to say. He was grateful, truly, but the words seemed to get stuck in his throat.
“Thank you,” he said, his voice quiet.
Malik looked over at Lor, and found his eyes drawn downwards. Now he knew to look, he could see the slight changes in his friend’s physique. Lor flushed, looking downwards at his food. He really must have looked a mess.
Lor looked up, surprised. Malik gave him a faint smile and said “You were talking out loud. You don’t look a mess. You look like someone who’s had a lot to deal with.”
He turned back to his food, but he caught the grateful look in Lor’s eyes. He felt guilty – he’d only told half the truth. He always thought Lor looked beautiful.
“Will you help me?”
“Hmm?” Malik said, fork halfway to his mouth.
“Will you help me give them a proper burial?”
His heart hurt at the sadness in those words.
They’d finished by midday. Lor stepped out of the shower and walked to his room, towel around his waist. Nothing really fitted anymore – not comfortably, anyway. The suit in the corner caught his eye, and he wondered. Allison had said that once claimed, the suit adjusted to his body. Would it be able to adjust to this?
Surprisingly, it did.
He had to admit, they looked peaceful out here. Surrounded by flowers and next to each other, just like they had been in life. He had written the inscriptions himself.
Lissa Centauri, beloved mother and wife. Came from the stars and is now back among them. Passed at the same time as her wife, Morgan.
Morgan Centauri, beloved wife and mother. Reached for the stars and actually found them. Passed at the same time as her wife, Lissa.
He had then remembered a conversation he had overheard as a child. It hadn’t meant much to him then, but now it was almost painfully relevant.
I’m scared that I’ll have to spend the end of my life without you, Morgan had said.
Would he really have wanted one of them to live without the other if it had brought them so much grief?
The last sentence adorning both graves had been the hardest to write. It simply read: Together until the end.
He stood up and wiped his eyes before turning to Malik. The other man’s eyes were wide as he took in the suit, and he felt a stab of self-consciousness. It was as form-fitting as before, but now that form included a rounded stomach. Was it awful?
Malik’s face softened in worry as he saw the tear-tracks, and he reached out his hand to rest on Lor’s shoulder and draw him a little closer. He felt the other man flinch slightly at the contact, and began to move away.
“Do you want me to leave you alone?”
“No, I don’t. I just…” Lor was ashamed. He crossed his arms over his stomach to hide the bump. Malik noticed and understood.
“Hey, you really want this baby, right?”
“Of course I do!”
“Well then, this is a good thing.”
“You don’t think I look ridiculous?”
“Lor. Look at my shirt. Look at my trousers. I am the last person to judge anyone on their fashion sense.”
The corner of his mouth twitched up at that.
“Besides, it suits you.”
Lor blinked, wondering if he’d heard that correctly. Probably just wishful thinking.
“How long is your sister going to be home?”
“I think she’s going to stay for a while. Not by choice, but she might have caused a few minor catastrophes whilst on tour. No one died, but it came close a few times. She’s going to need to find a new manager.”
Lor looked over at him as he stared into the sky.
“You can stay here. At least until you have somewhere safe of your own.”