Cooking wasn’t so hard. In fact, Altair thought, he could probably do it with his eyes shut.
He probably shouldn’t, he hastily amended as he flipped the bread back into the frying pan, but still. At least there was no way he could have inherited Grandma Morgan’s ability to set fire to everything.
“I hope you’re making enough for all of us,” Ellie said, peering over his shoulder.
“That depends, do you want half a sandwich or a whole one?”
“Do you really have to ask?”
“Then I’m afraid it’s everyone for themselves. I could only fit four in the pan.”
Ellie shook her head sadly. “Disappointed, I am.”
“Then bigger frying pan, you must buy,” he shot back, tapping her on the hand with the spatula. “You can have one, but at least wait until they’re done.”
She grinned. “Deal.”
“Are they edible?”
“Wow, Ellie, rude.”
“They’re really good,” Lyra said, spraying crumbs everywhere.
“And that’s why no one sits opposite you anymore, Ly,” Leo said, rubbing his hair with a towel as he dodged the flying food. “Any for me?”
“I just decided, why wait for something that may never happen, you know? I’m not getting any younger. Besides, single mothers can be great parents.”
“They can,” Lor said, smiling at her. “And I completely understand. I didn’t exactly wait until I had settled down with someone before getting pregnant, if you remember.”
“And look how well that turned out,” she grinned. “But yeah, I’m really happy, Lor. I’m going to be a mum!”
“You’re going to be a wonderful mother, Nylah.”
She sniffled and wiped her eyes. “Stupid hormones. Making me cry in front of my boss.”
“Well,” Lor said, sheepishly, “that would only be an issue if your boss wasn’t also crying.”
She looked up at him and burst out laughing. “You’re such a sap.”
“I know, I know.”
“Want to feel the baby?”
Lor bent down and gently rested his hands on her stomach, a delighted smile lighting up his face as he felt a soft kick underneath his fingers. “This almost makes me want another one…” he murmured.
She rolled her eyes and giggled, feeling the kick for herself. “Lor, you already have five children. What would your husband say?”
“You’re right,” he laughed. “Still, I miss having tiny little feet running all over the house. If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.”
“Mind control me into comfortable clothes?”
Lor reached into his pocket and clasped his hand around the SimRay. “Way ahead of you. Now, everyday wear or something else?”
They’re not staring at you. They’re not staring at you. They’re not-
“Hey, Al. Sorry I’m late. Dad couldn’t find his keys.” Yaritza sat down next to him. “Why do you look like you’ve swallowed a lemon?”
“Because I’ve eaten a lemon?” he suggested.
She leant forward and kissed him, and he melted.
“You don’t taste like lemons to me,” she said, smiling at him. “Was it that bad, waiting for me?”
“You’re worth it,” Al said, feeling a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I’m really glad you’re here.”
She was amazing.
“So then mum said ‘If you’re going to leave your shoes on the table they are going to get transformed.’ and dad was all ‘I didn’t expect you to bring that raygun home,’ and mum turned his shoes into a really nice armchair.”
“That sounds about right,” Al laughed. He liked Yaritza’s mother, and, whilst his own meetings with her father hadn’t exactly been friendly, he liked the version of him in her stories.
“It was so comfortable. He’s never getting those shoes back. I’ll fight him for them.”
She really was perfect. Altair stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, smiling against her hair. “I think we can say that nothing is safe in your house.”
“Why do you think I spend so much time at yours?” she grinned, pressing a kiss to his cheek.
“And here I thought it was to see me,” he said, pouting. He knew his eyes gave his amusement away, but he really didn’t care.
“That’s an added bonus.”
They broke apart, giggling. Al knew it was too soon to know for sure, but he couldn’t help thinking…
“Oh no! It’s dad, hide me!”
… he was in love.
She opened her eyes, a surprised smile on her face. She was still in his arms, dipped down like the heroine from one of those romance novels his dad pretended not to read.
“He won’t be able to see you from behind this bench,” he said, holding her steady.
“Well then,” she grinned, reaching up and pulling him back down, “carry on.”
He could definitely do that. They were, however, still in public. That was definitely the only reason he stopped in the end, not the fact that his arms were about to drop off. “I think he’s gone,” Al whispered, pressing a kiss to the tip of her nose. He looked through the metallic weave of the bench. “Yep, he’s gone.”
Yaritza started giggling. He would have been offended, had she not reached up and hugged him.
“Al, you idiot. You could see through those bars?”
She started laughing properly now, resting against him as her body shook. “Then it wouldn’t exactly have hidden us, would it?”
He bit his lip, feeling the blood rush to his cheeks, but her laughter was contagious and soon he joined her. He was so, so happy.
“You really are ridiculous, you know,” she sighed, wiping her eyes. “My cheeks are killing me.”
“Mine too,” he said, wincing as he grinned. That was going to hurt in the morning.
“You know, you could always kiss it better?” She fluttered her eyelashes, and he stepped forward once more.
“Oh, honey,” came a voice from behind him, “you could do so much better than him.”
He had been prepared for it, but that didn’t stop the words from cutting into him like a knife. He lowered his eyes.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Yaritza said, reaching out a hand and tilting his head up before glaring at the old woman, “but no one could do better.” She pressed a soft kiss to his lips before continuing. “He’s wonderful.”
He could here the woman tutting and muttering behind him, but he found that it didn’t matter anymore. He wouldn’t lie to himself and say that he didn’t care what they thought. He did. He just cared what Yaritza thought more. He kissed her again.
He snorted with laughter. “Sorry, I messed that up. I’ll try again. Will you be my girlfriend? I really, really like you.”
He wasn’t sure quite what reaction to expect, but it certainly hadn’t been her bouncing up and down, whooping and grinning.
“It’s about time!” she said, hugging him tightly. “Of course I will.”
Al grinned so widely he feared his face might split in two. He felt the now familiar rush of energy as it ran along his skin, and he knew that he was glowing. He looked at his hands and smiled. Pink.
“You know,” Yaritza said, looking him up and down, “I think I like your glowing. It’s kind of flattering, really. What does pink mean?”
He kissed her cheek. “It means this.”
“And you’re sure you’ve got enough fuel?”
“Yes, papa. You checked it with me, remember?”
“And the stabilizers-”
“-are online and fully calibrated. I’ll be fine, really.”
Leo looked around at his family. They were a bit weird, certainly, but no-one could say they didn’t care. They were all here, despite the cold temperature and the fact that it was one in the morning, to wish Ellie good luck.
“Dad, it’s only a couple of laps around the moon,” she said. “I’ll be back before you know it. Isn’t that right, papa?”
Lor sighed and grinned ruefully at his husband. “It’s true. I plotted the course myself.”
Leo hid a smile behind his hand as his dads bickered good-naturedly. He didn’t want anyone to see – his street cred would be dashed to pieces if they knew how much he loved them.
What street cred?
“Ly, get out of my head,” he said, turning to his twin. She raised her hands in submission, but he could still hear her giggling.
“Well, I’m off!” Ellie said, fastening her helmet. “Could I have a hot chocolate when I get back?”
“I’ll put the kettle on,” Lyra said, resting a hand on Shea’s shoulder. The young girl looked like she was torn between envy and terror. “You want one too, Shea?”
Shea nodded, and rested her head on Lyra’s hand.
“Take care, Ellie. Try not to start any wars while you’re up there,” Leo called out. Ellie turned, gave him a thumbs up and waved. The door closed behind her, and the countdown began.
5… 4… 3… 2…
Once it was out of sight, the garden fell silent.
“I’m going to go keep an eye on her. I’ll call out if anything changes,” Lor said, striding towards the observatory. “I mean, I’m sure it’ll be fine, but…”
“We get it,” Malik said, turning to go back inside. “I’ll tune into the space launch channels, keep an eye out for her that way.
Leo could read the emotions in the air. Sometimes he hated it, but at times like this he found it invaluable. It saved them from having to find the words.
“Will she be ok?” Shea asked, her voice trembling. Leo looked down at her and smiled.
“Of course she will. Right, Ly?”
“Ellie will be ok, right?” Leo narrowed his eyes slightly at his brother, who grinned sheepishly.
“Ellie will be fine. She’s invincible, you know.”
Laying it on a bit thick there, Al. The date went that well, eh?
Leo, stop it. But yes, it went well.
Leo grinned and turned back to Shea. “See, everything’s good.”
Lyra held out her hand. “Come on, lets go get that hot chocolate. I know where the marshmallows are, and i know for a fact we have more than we need.” She grinned wickedly. “Mmmmm marshmallows.”
“Bring me some, too?” Leo asked. To his surprise, Shea jumped up and hugged him, almost pulling him over.
“You can have two marshmallows,” she said, pulling away.
“Now you’re just spoiling me,” he grinned. “Off you go, you must be freezing in that dress.”
She looked pointedly at his bare arms before walking off, Lyra trailing behind her.
“So,” he said, turning back to his brother with a smile that was pure mischief, “about your date… I seem to remember a certain someone glowing when he got back. Care to comment?”
Al just thwacked him gently round the head and walked off.
Leo sat down by the observatory and watched the sky. Al was ok, Lyra was ok and Shea was ok. Now to wait for Ellie.
“She’s coming back!” Malik yelled, yanking the headphones off and legging it out towards the back garden. “She’s coming back!”
Lor ran out of the observatory, eyes shining. “I just saw her! She’s coming home, Mal!” Lor rushed over to him and grabbed his hands, pressing a frantic kiss to them before hugging him so tightly that Mal thought his ribs might crack.
When the door opened and Ellie stepped out, they ran forward.
“How was it?” Lor asked, hands clasped together and eyes wide.
“It was incredible!”
A/N Hey everyone! I’m so sorry for the long break, I’ve been really unwell. I’m hoping to get posting regularly again now, and thank you for being so patient 🙂