Sometimes, Leo wasn’t quite as sure of himself as he liked to imagine. He tended to act without too much thought, and he preferred it that way most of the time. As long as he didn’t hurt the people he cared about, he was doing well. He didn’t know what to do when one of them was hurting for a reason that wasn’t his fault. Apologies didn’t work when you’d done nothing wrong.
The walls weren’t thick enough to completely muffle the sounds from the room next door. He’d thought that this would only become a problem if Al got a girlfriend, but he’d woken up this morning to quiet sobbing from his brother’s room.
Leo hated feeling helpless. Grabbing his boxing gloves from the floor, he turned to face his target, hoping that the thwack of his fist hitting the punching bag would be enough to drown out everything else.
“For goodness sake, slow down. No one’s going to steal your food if you stop to breathe, you know.”
Lyra swallowed the toast in her mouth with no small amount of difficulty. Her dad may have a point, there. “Sorry. School soon. Need to finish.” She took another bite, just as big. Ellie giggled.
Mal rolled his eyes. What she was doing couldn’t really be called eating, it was more like shovelling.
“Where’s Al?” he asked, looking around as if he expected his son to suddenly pop out from behind a tree.
“He’s still upstairs.”
“School time!” Lor moved to stand in front of the screen, relishing the groans of annoyance from his children. “I’m sure the vampires can wait for you to get back.”
“Five more minutes?”
“Not unless you want to run to school.”
It was a testament to the quality of the film that the the three teens looked like they were actually considering it. Especially Ellie – she hated running.
“Come on. It’ll still be here later, but your education won’t be.”
He wasn’t half bad at this whole parenting thing. Maybe he wouldn’t foist the ‘woohoo talk’ duties on Mal – he might be able to do a good job at this rate. Well, better than his mum had with him, anyway. He shuddered.
Even now, the thought of it made him cringe.Maybe he should write a script for it – better to be prepared.
The new scientist was crying again.
San Myshuno had finally transferred some younger staff to the facility, but they came with their own difficulties. Miss Braden, for instance, would not stop watching sad films before work. She’d just subscribed to the tragedy channel on TV, and seemed determined to watch everything on it.
Wailing in the workplace was not exactly ideal.
She sniffled, turning to him with big, wet eyes. “I’m sorry, Dr Centauri.”
“I’ve got something that might cheer you up.”
“Mm-hmm.” He fished a large glass vial out of his pocket and grinned at her. “This should help.”
“What does it do?”
“Well, it’s green. That’s a happy colour.”
She looked reluctantly at the liquid. Last time she’d tried one of his potions, she’d ended up singing country songs whilst standing on the reception desk. She wasn’t really wanting to repeat the experience.
Lor stood there, patiently waiting for her to take it. It was a very happy colour – he was almost tempted to drink it himself. He smiled as she reached out and downed the contents.
Ah well, he thought to himself as he hoisted her unconscious body onto a chair. Maybe sleep would help her. Snoring was infinitely preferable to crying, for everyone involved.
“I will be replaced soon.”
Lor looked up from his work, startled. “I won’t let them get rid of you.”
“Dr Goth was replaced. Others have been, too.”
“They weren’t replaced, Steve. They died.”
“New people appeared afterwards. They were replaced. I did not want them to go, but they did. You do not want me to go, but I will.”
“I promised you I’d find a way to keep you safe, remember?”
“I do not forget.”
“Do you trust me?”
The inventor was quiet for a moment. “I think I do.”
“Then please, believe me. I will look after you.”
He turned away, hiding the pain on his face. They weren’t just idle words to him.
Lor meant every one of them.
He was going to keep his promise…
… one way or another.
“We noticed!” Lyra called back, grinning at him. “Now shhhh… we’re trying to do homework.”
“You got told off~” Malik whispered in his ear, wrapping his arms around him and kissing him on the cheek. “Welcome back. How was work?”
“It was interesting. I may need your help on my next project, though.”
Malik looked positively thrilled at the prospect. “Me?”
“Yes, you. You’re my favourite computer expert, and I trust you not to tell everyone what I’m doing.”
Mal smiled. “Nothing too dangerous, I hope.”
Lor reached up and ran his fingers through his hair, looking sheepish. “Not dangerous, as such.”
“Lor? What are you planning?”
Lor looked around, scanning the area. Leo was sat on the sofa, watching them with far too much interest for his comfort. He leant forward and beckoned his husband closer.
“YOU’RE DOING WHAT?!”
“Someone’s in trouble~” Shea sang under her breath. The others gestured for her to be quiet, and as a group they began to eavesdrop.
Unfortunately for them, there was no more yelling.
“Lor, sweetheart. There are about a million sci-fi films out there explaining exactly why this is not a good idea,” Malik whispered.
“I know. I can’t sit back and do nothing, though. Without him, I wouldn’t exist.”
Malik sighed. “Haven’t you seen Blade Skipper? Or U, Robot? This is a bad plan, love.”
“It’s the only one I’ve got. Please. I need you.” Lor was almost begging, now. He knew this was the right thing to do, no matter what pop culture thought of the idea.
Mal’s eyes softened, and his hand reached out to stroke Lor’s cheek. His fingers came away wet.
“You’re too trusting for your own good. Do you really think this will end well?”
“It has to. He’s my friend, Mal.”
“Ok, Lor. Ok.”
“What was all that about?” Ellie asked as Leo joined them at last. “Did you hear anything?”
“Not really. Those two are really good at whispering. All I got was the yelling and the occasional I love you. Then everything went pink so I came over here.”
“What do you think papa’s up to?”
Lyra looked over at them and turned back in disgust. “Currently? Kissing dad.”
“I know, right?”
Quick, outside! I have a plan!
Leo groaned and rolled over. What could possibly be so important? His phone buzzed again.
You’ll like it! :3
Grumbling to himself, Leo got out of bed and pulled a t-shirt over his head. This had better be good.
Lyra grinned at him, looking far too awake for such a ridiculous hour in the morning. “I have an idea.”
“Yes, you did say. What is it?”
“I’m not telling you.”
“Lyra,” he growled. “Did you seriously wake me up to not tell me something?”
“I don’t want anyone to overhear. Quick, read my mind.”
“I’m tired, sis.”
“It’s worth it, honest!”
He sighed. He was out of practice, but it wasn’t something you ever really forgot how to do.
“Well?” Lyra asked, watching a slow grin spread across her brother’s face.
“Brilliant, Ly. I’m in.”