The first time Eddie sees Aaron Ekblad, he doesn’t think twice about him. He thinks, like, once and a half times, about how great Ekblad is at hockey and how he’s probably going to win a bunch of stuff. “Win a bunch of stuff” counts as half a thought.
Later, Eddie sees a photo of Eks with his beard grown in, looking a full decade older, and Eddie thinks a whole, real, new thought about the kid.
Eddie has been a person for years and years. He’s very careful.
Aaron Ekblad is disastrously bad at this. Eddie starts tracking his media appearances, his photo shoots and his Instagram, and it’s just, like, horribly obvious.
“What are you doing? Are you secretly stalking someone, Eddie?” Justin teases in the lockers, wrapping himself half around Eddie, and Eddie tosses his phone in his bag with a smile.
“No, no, I only stalk Lu,” Eddie tells him brightly, “and you all know about that.”
Justin laughs. Noah blinks at them from his stall, young and confused, so Eddie smiles at him too, letting the soft white of his teeth wash over the kid, letting what’s left of his old self do what it does so well.
Noah smiles back. Everyone does. The warm, pale enamel of his smile is one of the few things he kept from his old body when he made this choice; the smooth curve of his lips is pure fabrication, and the look in his eyes is invented out of the whole cloth, but Eddie kept a little of himself to carry on this journey.
Everyone does — every one of them does. Ekblad has kept something of his own and he’s brought it with him and at this rate he may not get to keep it for long.
Eddie is very, very, very careful. It pays to be careful. Or, on the contrary, the price of carelessness is slavery, and death.
Elias catches Eddie looking at his phone after practice.
“What’s got you so down?” he asks, in Swedish.
Elias likes to switch over, when he thinks he’s picking on something private. He thinks he knows what makes Eddie tick, and in a way, he does.
On some level, he does. On some level, Eddie is as much a person as he tries to be. On some level, Elias knows Eddie exceedingly well.
“Nothing,” Eddie says quickly. “Thinking too much.”
“We can fix that,” Elias says, dragging him up. Eddie lets him.
Eddie doesn’t stalk Lu, really. It was Lu who started it.
It was Lu who laughed in his face one too many times, Lu who had looked up at him too long and in too much of a way, and turned Eddie’s poor stupid human body and heart all around until one day when they were together outside the lockers after a game, alone, alone and Eddie was smiling without even trying and Lu had reached out and —
And pressed the pad of his index finger against Eddie’s left front incisor, his skin crackling with the ugly staticky heat of magic, and said, “What are those even made of?”
Eddie had sucked in a breath and tried, with all his might, to disappear.
“Whoa, whoa,” Lu had said as Eddie’s skin had melted away, gently translucent, and Eddie had felt him — felt the fizzing heat of Lu’s magic grasp onto something, oh my God.
“I have, I have to —” Eddie had said, frantic, trapped and horrified, held by a thread he couldn’t break.
“Stop it,” Lu had said in a voice that was so much more than static, in a voice that made Eddie’s skin hurt.
Eddie had stopped.
What was he doing? Disappearing was an insane reaction, the worst impulse, so careless.
I almost gave myself away, he’d thought, stepping back, as though Lu hadn’t just spoken a net around him, as though he had anything left to hide.
Eddie’s teeth are made of Eddie’s old antlers, and the next time Lu had touched them it wasn’t so terrifying or disastrous.
“Silver Hoof, huh?” Lu had asked, letting his hand drop to his lap. “They’re actually really nice like this. Looks good.”
“Um, thank you,” Eddie had said.
Lu had looked good. Lu had looked calm and at home in this tiny, hyper-traditional sushi restaurant, which Eddie was not. Eddie was at terrible, terrible risk. Lu could probably —
Eddie doesn’t like to think about it. Eddie doesn’t like to think of Lu as the one who might take even a chip of a tooth, who might take away his freedom. It would be so easy.
It’s not like humans went around stealing each other’s teeth on the regular, but for Lu, for someone like Lu, it would be so easy.
“You okay, Eddie?” Lu had said, looking him right in the eye.
Was he? Was he okay? Fuck, was he Eddie, now that Lu had found him out? Lu was a magician, and there were no good stories about the silver deer of the mountains and magicians, no happy endings to those legends.
God no. There was no story that Eddie wanted to remember.
He’d had one last stratagem. He had one last test: to rest his face in the hand of the virgin, to lay down before the sword. He'd never had to test the worth of a man’s soul before, and he’d never wanted to.
“I’m scared,” Eddie had said baldly, and watched.
Lu’s eyes had blinked, so human, just human, a flick of his eyelids. The skin between his eyebrows had creased, and he’d shifted back in his chair, less than an inch. His shoulders had tilted back and down, and Eddie’s heart had lifted in his chest.
“Of me?” Lu had asked, but he knew. He knew what Eddie meant; he knew the answer was yes.
“You could… catch me,” Eddie had said. The come-down off the adrenaline of the conversation was making him queasy.
“I’d stab anyone who tried to fucking poach you,” Lu had snapped. “Don’t even look at me like that,” he’d commanded, that hiss of magic back in his voice, and it had turned Eddie’s poor stupid human body and heart all around again.
have you talked to ekblad?? Eddie texts Lu the day after Elias forces him out to mini-golf. Eddie can’t be the only one who’s worried.
If he is, he can’t be the only one anymore.
Lu doesn’t text him back for ever, which Eddie hates.
luuuu, he sends.
have you talked to him???????
He thinks about sending the “!?” emoji a few times, but Lu is sneakily good at emoji and Eddie always loses their text battles.
I tried, Lu replies at last, three hours later. It didnt go well.
What?? Eddie texts.
Eddie calls him.
“I don’t know what the fuck he’s doing,” Lu says the instant he picks up. He sounds so sure, steely and faintly judgmental. Eddie’s poor stupid human heart skips a beat.
Eddie tells himself it’s just nice knowing someone who understands, that he misses Lu’s weird jokes about fancy deer and the look he would give Eddie when Eddie smiled at him. He does miss that.
That, and he misses Lu’s voice and the ten thousand things it contains. He tells himself to stop missing that.
“Does he seem worried?” Eddie asks, wandering out towards his patio. “Like, is he scared? Maybe it’s mistakes.”
“He doesn’t seem worried,” Lu says. “I don’t know. You didn’t seem worried either, though.”
“I wasn’t worried until you found out,” Eddie says. The sliding glass door screeches as he opens it, then sticks. “Ugh! Damn it.”
“Jesus fuck, are you murdering something over there?” Lu asks.
“It’s my door,” Eddie says, struggling.
“Your door to Hell?” Lu says.
“Shut up. It’s stuck,” Eddie says. Now it won’t close. “Shit.”
“What now?” Lu says. “Wait, let me guess.”
“No,” Eddie says. He jiggles the door in its frame.
“Is it stuck open now?” Lu says, like the asshole that he is.
“I hate you,” Eddie says. “No.” It’s rusty, is the problem. Fuck.
“Do you have any idea how to fix it?” Lu says.
“Yes,” Eddie says, “call a, a hantlangare, like a, you know.”
“Uh, no,” Lu says. “I don’t speak mythological deer.”
“It’s Swedish,” Eddie snaps, frustrated. The door is fucking immobile. He is either seven hundred years old or twenty-eight years old and whichever way he has it he’s still losing a battle to a goddamned patio door.
“Do you want me to open it?” Lu asks, just a touch, oh, just a touch of magic in the timbre of his words, just —
Eddie has power, the power of immortality and the candy-sweet call to joy. Eddie will live for a long, long time, longer than he can guess or imagine, and every time he smiles, someone will smile with him.
Lu will live for exactly as long as he wants to and not a minute more. Lu has power, power like the charge in a thundercloud; Lu’s voice can strip the bark from a tree. They are different, to say the least.
“Yes,” Eddie says, defeated.
“Okay,” Lu says, just that one word, and Eddie’s phone makes a desperate shrieking noise and turns off. His patio door slides all the way open and then shut again.
Aaron Ekblad is different from them both, even a third thing, and Eddie needs to find out what exactly that means for everyone.
“Hi,” Eddie says when his phone finishes rebooting. “Thanks.”
“Sure. Anyway, I can’t tell what Ekblad is, but it’s something to do with mountains, so maybe he’s losing some of his control out here,” Lu says.
“Oh,” Eddie says, suddenly sad. “Oh, maybe.”
“Don’t go getting all broken-hearted over him,” Lu says. “He’s doing fine on the ice, and I think he’s okay at home.”
“Can’t you tell?” Eddie asks.
“I’m not paying that much attention to him,” Lu says. “I made some noises about some stuff and the look he gave me when I mentioned magic, man, I don’t need to see that again.”
Eddie would wonder how Lu managed to bring up magic in a conversation in a locker room, but Lu, Lu can say anything. He can turn a conversation one way if he wants to, and Eddie doesn’t doubt that when Lu said magic, Ekblad knew just what he meant.
“Well, now what?” Eddie asks. He opens the patio door and goes outside.
“What do you mean, now what?” Lu says. “He can be dumb if he wants to.”
It’s sunny and clear and perfect, and Eddie wants it to snow. It’s October, October in North Carolina, and he wonders if he’ll ever see real, good snow again.
“Aren’t you curious?” Eddie says. “You like to know things. You followed me around and poked me in the teeth.”
“I was curious about you,” Lu says dismissively. “Eks can figure himself out.”
“Oh,” Eddie says again. He feels deflated, and still a little bit worried. Ekblad isn’t going to be able to keep it secret forever, and even if he is, he might find out about Lu for real, and God knows.
God knows, there aren’t good stories about any of them and magicians.
“Hey, I’ll keep an eye on him,” Lu says. “I’m just saying, I only need one imaginary cervid in my life. He can take care of his own problems.”
Eddie flushes, hot in the sunlight, warm and almost embarrassed at the familiar sound of Lu’s teasing, at the implication that Lu does take care of Eddie’s problems, which he does, he has. He just did.
“Okay,” Eddie says, breathing past the feeling. It does him no good, this poor stupid human heart. “Okay.”
They all go out that night after a win, and Eddie tries his damnedest not to be glued to his phone anymore. Elias is there, and Skinner and even Cam despite his extreme age and laziness, as they all helpfully remind him.
“Suck a dick,” Cam says, glaring down the rookies, but Skinner just laughs in his face.
“Nah,” he drawls. “I’m busy with my beer, you know?”
Cam turns a dusky pink and scowls even harder, like he does whenever anyone makes a particularly lewd joke right to his face, like he doesn’t want to know they even do sex, much less think about them doing it.
Eddie gets a round and feels the alcohol whisper through him in tiny bursts. It does something to him, but he doesn’t lie to himself: it doesn’t do anything remotely the same as what it does to them rest of them.
Eddie is a person and he does person things. His body is a person’s body; it can get hurt, if not fatally. It’s pretty normal-looking.
Still, it’s like he didn’t — it’s like when he made himself, he built himself a little bit wrong for the things he understands the least.
Alcohol makes him feel slow but sharp, able to catch sounds and words he never would have heard otherwise. If he drinks enough he can catch the individual noises of each blade of grass under his feet in the park. Once, he and Lu had gotten truly, staggeringly shitfaced together, and Eddie had laid on his back on Lu’s living room floor and listened to the subtle, bell-like sparkle of Lu’s magic as Lu let it move over his skin.
Sex doesn’t work at all, really. Eddie’s done it a few times, with women and men, and it’s like his body is waiting for something else. He feels it when people touch him, and he gets hard, but it has no direction, no orientation or command to it. It doesn’t work very well, and he’d stopped within a year or two of going to Manitoba. It was too weird.
Cam is done judging them and has moved on; Skinner is busy with Elias up at the bar. Eddie peeks at his phone.
He doesn’t know what he thinks he’ll see. He doesn’t know why any news outlet would break a story about Aaron Ekblad being some kind of inhuman mountain creature.
Elias drops a beer in front of Eddie and kisses him on the cheek, and Eddie sets his phone down and smiles back at him full force.
“Lindy,” he croons. “You’re so good to me.”
“Gotta keep you happy,” Elias tells him, and despite everything, Eddie really, really is.
Lu texts him four days later, a terse, threatened, call me as soon as you can. Eddie checks his phone just before he pulls his gloves on to hit the ice, and his heart briefly stops.
Practice take a hundred thousand years. Eddie can’t block anything. It’s only the subtle softening power of his smile that settles the suspicions of the coaches and smoothes the line between Elias’ brows.
He can’t strip his gear off fast enough; it hits the ground like raindrops. The equipment manager looks at Eddie, gently bewildered, and Eddie can’t even spare him the necessary grin to make him go away.
“Hi,” Lu says, clipped and crackling.
“What’s wrong?” Eddie blurts. Justin stops where he’s standing, shoving his skates into his hockey bag, and watches Eddie sit down.
“You need to talk to Aaron fucking Ekblad,” Lu says grimly. “Now, preferably.”
“Eddie?” Justin says softly.
“I don’t have his number,” Eddie says. Lu’s voice sounds worried, and hurried, and angry. Eddie can’t think of anything good that could possibly, possibly come from that.
“What?” Lu says, marginally gentler, and Eddie realizes how inane that was. The Hurricanes are playing in Sunrise in five days.
“I’m sorry,” Eddie says. “Of course. Why?” His pads are spread out in from of him like leaves on the forest floor; Justin leans down to pick one up, and Eddie meets his eyes.
Are you okay? Justin mouths.
Eddie smiles, pouring everything he has in him into this horrible facsimile of comfort, and Justin blinks once, twice.
I’m fine, Eddie doesn’t say, because Eddie doesn’t need to say anything. Justin lets the shin guard drop from his nerveless fingers.
“Well,” Lu says, “I’m hoping you can talk him out of killing me,” and Eddie sucks in a breath and freezes time.
Eddie will live for a long, long time, as long as the snow is in the tallest mountains. He will live for as long as the sun shines in the wintertime, and he will age only a very little bit. He will walk through the years unchanged, and if he tries, and if he loves someone very, very much, he can take them through time with him, take them unaged and beautiful, young and perfect, strong and silver and eternal into the unending future.
There is a reason people like Lu catch people like him. There is a reason the girls and boys of the north go out into the cold mountains to look for Silver Hoof, and Eddie is no fool. Eternal life is precious, but eternal youth is so much better.
“Motherfuck,” Eddie says.
“What?” Lu snaps.
“Nothing,” Eddie says. “Little, uh, fåt, mistake.” The shin guard Justin dropped is suspended in midair, a centimeter from the floor. It’s probably still falling, Eddie thinks, but it’s falling so slowly that the air is like wet concrete around it, pinning it in place.
Once Eddie metaphorically shakes himself, everyone will come back into the pace of the world; once Eddie throws the breaker, they’ll all blink and wonder if they missed something, if anyone else saw the lights flicker for a moment. If Eddie was standing up a second ago, or was he sitting?
“What did you do?” Lu asks, amused curiosity coiling through the tension in his voice. Eddie takes a breath and keeps himself from poking at the floating shin pad with his toe.
“I made things… a little slow,” Eddie admits. “It’s okay, it’s good. Now I can talk. What do you mean, kill you? Lu, this is — I don’t know what he can do.”
“‘A little slow’? Can you do that on purpose?” Lu says, thoroughly off-topic, and Eddie despairs of his complete lack of control of the conversation. “Wait, did you ever slow me down without telling me?”
“Lu,” Eddie says admonishingly, but he can’t help but add, “of course not. If I made you slow I would draw on your face or something.”
Lu laughs, low and sharp and short, and Eddie can feel the electricity of tension whisper over his skin again.
“I don’t know what Eks can do either,” Lu says. “I don’t want to find out.”
He doesn’t sound scared. Eddie has never heard Lu sound scared.
“What did he say to you?” Eddie says.
“He said, ‘if you come near me again, I’ll fucking kill you,’” Lu replies. The air in the locker room gets briefly, scorchingly hot, then cold; it’s not Eddie doing that. Eddie grips his phone like a lifeline, like it will stay alive if Lu gets too angry, like it can protect him here from anything.
“Why?” Eddie asks. The shin pad doesn’t look any closer to the floor than when they started talking.
“He’s scared,” Lu says. “I tried to talk to him again, he finally figured out what I could do, and now he’s shit-scared and not even trying to hide it, and Eddie,” Lu stops and breathes out.
“What?” Eddie says. “What are you going to do?”
“Nothing,” Lu says. “I’m not going to do anything to him, Eddie. Don’t worry about that.”
Eddie hadn’t thought to worry that far. He had only been worried; he hadn’t had the time to consider if he was worried for Lu, or about him.
He knows he would have realized, if only he had thought about it a little harder, but Eddie doesn’t like to think too hard about the things Lu could do to someone like them, if he had to.
The things he would do.
“What does he want, then?” Eddie says.
“I don’t fucking know,” Lu says. “I have no goddamn idea, and I don’t want him to come after me, so I’m gonna need you to figure it out, if you can.”
If you can. If Eddie can help: always an out, always an open door. Lu never tells Eddie how it’s going to be, just asks him if he wants to help, or if he wants a hand, or if he wants to talk. Like Eddie’s ever going to forget what Lu is? Anyway.
“Of course,” Eddie says immediately. “Sure, yes. Did he — is there anything I should be careful of?”
“No,” Lu says. “Eks is a nice guy at heart. He’s not going after you.”
Eddie’s not so sure, but then again his reaction when he thought Lu might being trying to catch him was to disappear. Clearly Eks prefers a more aggressive tack.
The shin pad’s definitely moved now. Eddie can see it.
“I should go,” Eddie says. He sits down again; he was sitting down before, right? He closes his eyes and licks his lips and reaches out until he can feel the way time is moving through the air, slow, slow, slow and speeding up just a little as it fights what Eddie’s done to it. All Eddie needs to do is let it go.
“Okay,” Lu says, “look, I’ll be in touch if anything happens, but I —”
Justin’s fingers finish grasping for the pad as it hits the ground. The room bursts to life again, noises from everywhere.
“Oh, nice,” Lu chuckles. “I felt that.”
“What?” Eddie says.
Justin shakes his head and looks around, and Eddie remembers what he’d done to him just before he’d stopped time.
“That,” Lu says. “Your magic always feels so peppy.”
Eddie stands up and turns around to face his locker. “I don’t have, have, you know,” he says. He can’t say I don’t have magic in a crowded locker room, no matter how charming his smile might be.
“Eddie, you are magic,” Lu says fondly.
“No,” Eddie retorts. He frowns into his locker at nothing. “I am not, not — trolleri.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Lu says, cackling. “Your mythical snow deer word for magic is ‘trollery’”?
“It’s not the same thing at all,” Eddie says, “and it’s not, like, troll things, you idiot. It’s not what you do anyway. And it’s Swedish,” he adds, in a last, desperate bid for coherence.
“No, I think I’m pretty good at trollery,” Lu says. “I think that’s a key skill of mine.”
“Ugh,” Eddie says, patently hopeless against the flip of his heart.
Lu laughs, no magic at all, not even any trolleri, any wicked troublesome sleight of hand, and Eddie leans his head against his locker door and tries to control himself, tries to make his stupid body obey him.
“You’re so mean,” Eddie says.
“Yes,” Lu agrees. “Every day, all the time. Don’t tell Eks that, okay?”
“Okay,” Eddie says foolishly. Lu hangs up. Eddie turns around; Justin has shaken off whatever lingering aftereffects there were of Eddie’s smile, and he’s back to stuffing gear into his bag.
“Was that Luongo?” he asks.
Eddie will live for a long, long time, but he thinks he would feel the same way about Lu no matter how long he tried to wait it out.
Five days passes as fast as five days can; Eddie is terrible at keeping track of those things anyway. Lu texts him once, to say, he’s doing a pretty good job pretending everythings fine, which is partially reassuring.
They touch down in Sunrise and Eddie tries to hide his nerves; he could go ahead and be nervous, he guesses. He could be worried about the game. Noah is worried about the game — he keeps picking at his nails, because he’s in a suit and his gloves are with Blake, the most possessive of the equipment guys, so Noah can’t worry little holes in them like a nesting squirrel like he usually does.
Eddie makes sure to get into the same cab as Noah, makes sure to laugh a little louder than he has to, makes sure to give him the best thing Eddie can give any human being short of eternal youth, which is peace of mind.
Eddie does not use his smile on the ice. He’s never, ever slowed down time while he’s playing; that would be unfair and outrageous. He didn’t make himself into a goddamned human being just to cheat at hockey, a sport that was made up several hundred years after Eddie started to exist.
He watches Ekblad come out and circle around to cheers. He’s in the starting lineup, out on the ice to defend Lu in a terrible parody of reality, if reality is the place where an ancient mountain creature has threatened a 36-year-old magician with murder, and not the one where they’re all playing hockey so they can win a very shiny giant goblet.
Whatever. That’s Eddie’s reality. The lights come up and the game is on, and no one thinks about anything in Eddie’s reality anymore.
Something is wrong, though; something is happening somewhere in the arena. Eddie can feel it. Lu is playing, but he’s not paying attention to the game. Ekblad is dropping passes; he can’t do what Eddie and Lu can, not yet. He can’t quite live two lives at the same time.
Eddie thinks he hears a voice, once. Later he hears a sharp, high-pitched cracking sound; no one else around him moves.
From the other end of the ice, Ekblad’s head comes up, startled.
Eddie stops fifteen shots before the end of the first period. Lu has to stop twenty-two because Eks is flailing so badly, which is unfair but which Eddie thinks really ought to impress upon Ekblad the gravity of the problem, the reason he needs to get himself together. Clearly Ekblad doesn’t think subtlety is necessary, but if he’s going to the trouble of making himself into a human being to screw around on an ice rink with a stick, he at least needs to be able to play some damn hockey.
At first intermission Eddie is slow to move off the ice. He takes his time getting his cage off and spraying water on his hair to make it look like he sweats. He can hear the voice again, a tiny susurrous whisper in his left ear, and when he looks around, Ekblad is standing at center ice, looking up at the rafters.
“What are you doing?” he calls, which is the kind of thing a normal person might say to another normal person who is drifting around the ice staring at the ceiling. Eks twists to look at him.
“What?” he says in the most unconvincing voice in the world. “Uh, nothing.”
The problem is that Eddie doesn’t know what Eks is, so he can’t make him understand; he can’t just say some mystical password to clue him in, and it looks like regular cluing him in might be kind of hard.
Eddie skates out to center ice and looks up, too, not that there’s anything to look at. The voice is louder here, but Eddie still can’t hear words. It’s certainly not reassuring.
“I can hear it too,” Eddie says.
Ekblad stops hunting for elves in the eaves and stares at Eddie, his mouth open.
“I don’t know what it is, though,” Eddie says. “I don’t like it, don’t you want to get off the ice?”
“Well then why can’t anyone else hear it?” Ekblad asks urgently. Eddie is honestly befuddled at how to approach this.
“I don’t think, uh,” he starts. Well, in for a penny, he guesses. “I don’t think human people can hear it,” he offers gently.
Ekblad makes that same stupid expression at him for a long second. Somebody yells at them from the bench, and Eddie regrets how immensely ridiculous they must look right now.
Eddie smiles, just a little tiny smile, the human face for shy and confused, so Eks can see it, see him.
“Oh, fuck,” Ekblad says. “Oh, fuck —”
What’s your problem? Eddie thinks, just before the ice cracks.
It sounds like a gunshot — it sounds like the tremble of a mountain just before an avalanche, briefly, beautifully familiar. The rink shivers and Eddie blinks and then there’s a ring around them, a crevasse in the ice twenty feet in diameter and filled with light, only light.
“Oh, fuck!” Ekblad yells, since this is apparently the only phrase he knows. Eddie’s now had a whole number of thoughts about Aaron Ekblad, but honestly not very many of them have been flattering.
The voice is whispering louder, now, and behind Ekblad Eddie can see a shape, a tall, dark green glow of a person, hazy and barely moving. Moving toward them, though.
Eddie opens his mouth to yell and finds himself yawning. He lifts his hands to his face and finds them naked, bound in green silk. The tails of the ties trail onto the ice in pools. Somewhere in front of him is Ekblad, but he can’t make himself focus enough to find him.
The shape reaches him, the voice rushing like a waterfall, its hands reaching for his shoulders. Eddies’ hands drop to his waist, knotted together and achingly heavy; everything in him is tired. The shape is a woman, as tall as Eddie, with green, green eyes and a wide mouth like the knot of a tree.
Her hands touch his bare shoulders and trail down to his hips, possessive and searching.
“What on earth are you?” she says in a normal voice, full volume. Eddie’s eyes slip closed.
When Eddie sleeps, at home in his own bed, like a person, he sleeps lightly. He sleeps because his body needs it, but he hasn’t learned to dream; he didn’t make it that far yet. He thinks he might eventually figure it out, but it’s never been a priority.
He sleeps lightly now, as though he is waiting to awaken, as though he is watching himself glide through the world, under a spell,
He is, of course. He can feel it on his skin, wrapping around him, twisted up in his hair and tucked under the silk on his wrists. He’s in some kind of a stasis, blank and floating as the woman-shaped person pulls him — and Ekblad, who is somewhere, who is in a similar state, probably — well, pulls them away.
He shakes himself awake once, forcing his eyes open as they are carried down flight after flight of stairs by unseen hands; Ekblad is beside him, slack-jawed and resolutely unconscious. The woman-shape is in front of them, dressed in a long green robe. The stairs descend into darkness, lit only by the glow of her existence, and Eddie can’t fight it anymore as his eyes close.
She touches him, and he wakes.
“Pretty easy on the eyes, aren’t you?” she says, with her green eyes glowing, with her hands on his chest. She still looks unreal, but she stinks of humanity this close up; plus, her magic smells like old wet wool. Eddie struggles to think, to sit up, to look around. Where’s — where is he, where are they, where’s Eks?
Eddie is lying on a slab of wood the size of a church door, dressed only in the ties around his hands. They’re definitely in a room and it’s definitely warm and there are for sure no windows and also a Bed Bath and Beyond’s worth of candles, and this lady is getting annoyed with Eddie’s vague thrashing around.
“Fine,” she says. “Look, then.”
Ekblad is to Eddie’s left; her hand shoves down on Eddie’s right cheek and pins him there, staring. Ekblad’s awake, gagged and naked, with his hands bound behind his back. His fingertips are caked with blood, or no — his fingernails are missing, Eddie realizes. All of them.
Eddie’s stomach churns. He presses his lips together and tries not to vomit.
It doesn’t matter where they are. It doesn’t matter what Eks is, what’s he’s capable of, not if she’s taken something, taken a little piece of what he brought with him, and Eddie cannot, he cannot let that happen to him.
He can’t leave Ekblad like this, either, but he doesn’t fucking know what he’s going to do to get them out of this.
Ekblad is — whatever, he’s an idiot sometimes and he’s too, too, obvious and he’s almost definitely the reason that this, this magician has caught the two of them, but no one of them has ever deserved the penance of being captured. Of being enslaved for what they are, and for that they can give.
Eddie’s the kind of person who tried to disappear when Lu found him out, but even he’s not enough of a coward to leave Eks like that.
Her fingers dig into the side of his face and the fantasy of escaping vanishes in a spike of pain.
She manhandles his head back to face her. She’s covered in some kind of a spell, thick and heavy and piled all around her in a way that Lu’s magic never does. Everyone’s different, Eddie guesses, even magicians. Diversity is important.
He thinks he may be getting kind of hysterical.
“Is he a close friend of yours?” she asks. Her voice is normal again.
She means: are you one of him? Eddie mutely shakes his head. Like hell he’s opening his mouth for this woman.
“No?” she asks lightly. “That’s too bad. I love a matched set, and giants are hard to come by.”
Eddie schools his face in perfect blankness. He doesn’t care what Eks is, or wants, or whatever; he doesn’t care what she wants.
He knows what she wants, of course, or what she would if she knew. He knows what humans want from him; there is no gift like the gift he can give, no more coveted addiction than the drug of agelessness.
She draws a finger sinuously down his stomach and he jumps, pulling his hands up to his chest. Fucking really? he thinks, baffled. Now? What?
“Why so jumpy?” she asks, frowning at him. “You think I won’t go looking for wherever you’re hiding yourself?” Her other hand pinches his earlobe playfully. From Eddie’s left, Ekblad makes a choked, helpless noise.
Eddie cuts his eyes over to Eks as her hands cover him, search him, dragging everywhere. Ekblad’s face is twisted in misery; his eyes are filled with tears.
Eddie clenches his jaw as her voice starts to whisper again. She’s trying to — to talk it out of him, to see into his flesh, and sooner or later she’s going to find what she wants.
Ekblad’s skin is marked up, tiny pink welts all over his arms in particular. Eddie can feel them raising on his own skin as she talks, stinging his stomach and thighs. It’s strangely sexual, despite the irrelevance of sex compared to what’s at stake. Her hands are coy and gentle, sometimes, like she’s trying to get him to care, to react, to want her.
He can’t tell what she wants; he knows what she wants. She wants power over him, and she wants to make him feel it any way she can.
He rubs his fingers together where they’re resting on his chest and wills his body to notice, to pay attention to what she’s trying to do. He’ll take what he can get to get her to think she’s winning; he can’t imagine the aimless overlay of arousal is going to do much to distract him.
He feels it, of course, when his human body reassigns its attention away from his basic motor functions. He knows what it’s like to get hard, to want — something. He just knows how it ends, too.
Also she’s a crazy, molesting, kidnapping magician, so he if he’s going to suddenly fully understand the all-consuming human need for copulation, he doesn’t think it’s going to be with her.
She laughs, delighted, when his cock starts to thicken. She gives him a terrible, terrible look and he closes his eyes and steels himself.
Sex is a weird, meaningless experience for Eddie at baseline, and now, here, it’s like playing pretend, a farce. His skin goes hot, blood struggling to the surface for a blush. His dick is fully hard and curving up toward his belly; it’s all like a scene in a painting, like a filthy story. Eddie can feel the throb of his own pulse, but his vague desire is pooled in him like a lake, going nowhere.
Eks is curled over himself when Eddie glances at him. Eddie hates that he’s doing this to Ekblad, that he’s putting him through this. Eks doesn’t deserve to watch this, and he really doesn’t deserve to think that Eddie’s suffering for it.
Ekblad’s eyes aren’t open, though, so Eddie can’t even spare him an ill-advised wink.
She knows what she’s doing, sort of; Eddie can’t blame her for what she can’t do. She seems to want to see Eddie want her, and he can fake that. His body wants her, kind of, and he throws himself into it as best he knows how, clumsily shuddering as her hands touch his inner thighs, his nipples, his dick.
He could probably make himself come if he focused hard enough, which is good, because at this rate, he might have to.
In the back of his mind, he can feel her magic getting sloppier. He can feel her attention waning, and he thinks that if he can hold onto her focus for another ten or fifteen minutes, he could probably surprise her enough to stop her in time entirely.
He begins to turn his thoughts inward, to muster what it would take —
She slaps him, hard, in the face, and then again, and then again, until he tastes blood.
“I’m not stupid,” she says, then whispers once more, thick with the hushing rustle of her magic, and Eddie is finally, really afraid.
To his left, Ekblad sobs into his gag.
He makes himself come as quickly as he can, but it’s not easy through the nauseating fear. She wipes her hand off on his stomach; the wet smear of semen burns where it touches the welts she’s made.
She presses her dirty palms to his cheeks and opens his eyes with her thumbs. “What are you?” she asks again, vicious. When he tries to blink, she spits on his face.
Actually, in the end, the whole sex thing kind of was an effective distraction: Eddie doubts she would’ve wasted that much effort on anything else. It just doesn’t matter since he doesn’t have an endgame anymore.
There’s a loud knocking sound, knuckles on a heavy door, and she pulls back from him with a start.
Eddie looks around, twisting up onto one shoulder. There are — no doors in this room.
Beside him, Ekblad is wide-eyed and openmouthed around the gag, staring a question at Eddie. The magician is whispering something to herself, fists clenched and brow furrowed, and Eddie sits the rest of the way up and hopes against hope.
The knock comes again, louder, and Eddie feels his heart start to pound.
The air crackles, hot. Eddie sees a burst of electricity spread across one of the walls like a spiderweb, then disappear. Her dark hair is frizzing, drifting away from her head in a wild tangle. The knocking sound is constant now; each one is as loud as a thunderclap.
Eddie licks his lips and pulls himself inward, ready, ready for when —
The whispering stops; the knocking stops. Everything is quiet. The walls are dancing with sparks, covered in a net of blue-white power.
She opens her mouth too late, too late, and Eddie watches as the electricity arcs out and comes together in the center of the room like one of those desktop plasma balls they sell at electronics stores.
Eddie touches his tongue to his teeth and stops time for everyone but him and Lu, who still coalesces nicely in the middle of his own personal electrical storm.
“Aaron? Eddie?” Lu calls wildly, spinning around. He’s in a dress shirt and slacks and his outrageous Italian leather shoes. The woman behind him is suspended in time, her lips parted on nothing. Ekblad is looking up at her forever, unmoving and silent.
“Hi,” Eddie says shakily. He’s proud of himself for not fucking that up; he’s really tired.
Lu meets his eyes. His shirt is sweat-stained. His shoes are scuffed.
“Oh, fuck, Eddie,” he says again, and it sounds shattered, the most human voice Eddie has ever heard from him. He’s in front of Eddie faster than Eddie can track.
“I’m okay,” Eddie tells him gamely, but he leans gratefully forward to rest his forehead on Lu’s chest.
Lu’s hands are much, much gentler than hers. All he’s willing to touch are Eddie’s wrists and his face. “Jesus, Eddie,” he says softly as his thumb strokes across Eddie’s upturned cheek; Eddie can feel the power in his voice, the sharp pop of Lu’s magic as it washes his skin clean. His hands are free again.
It’s amazing, Eddie thinks, the difference in the way Lu’s magic feels to him than hers. Diversity is important.
“I don’t know how long I can hold this,” Eddie admits. He can feel her pushing frantically back against him, not to mention the general dissent of everything else he’s forcing to stay still, pinned like a butterfly.
“Okay,” Lu breathes. “Okay. What the fuck did she do to you two?” Eddie lifts his head; he can’t really hold a conversation like this.
“She took — she took Ekblad’s fingernails,” he says, and is immediately gratified by Lu’s look of horrified disgust.
“What in the fuck,” Lu says, drenching the room in heat. A small fire starts in the corner, then promptly goes out.
“Yeah,” Eddie manages. “Then she tried to find my, uh, mine,” he struggles.
“She tried to take your teeth,” Lu says. “She ripped off Eks’ fucking fingernails and she tried to take your teeth.”
Eddie shakes his head. “She didn’t know it was teeth,” he says. “She was looking for it, and I, I let her — she made me — I wanted her to look at something else,” he finishes, exhausted. His come is dried and flaky on his stomach and chest, and he looks down at it in lieu of a more through explanation.
In the background, she’s moving, fighting his hold on her. Her lips twist, only a little, but a little too much.
“She — she what?” Lu says softly, and now Eddie knows what he sounds like when he sounds scared.
Lu’s eyes are dark and helpless; his mouth is held motionless in the beginnings of a word. Nothing is coming out.
“I’m okay,” Eddie promises him.
“Well I’m fucking not,” Lu says, quiet and — and something. Eddie’s too tired to think about it; he can’t do this alone. He was only ever waiting for Lu anyway, even if it took him this long to clue in.
At least he’s marginally sharper than Ekblad is, most days.
“Can you just,” Eddie says. “Can you take care of this?”
“Yes,” Lu promises him, thick with magic, and in the space of a moment, Eddie is home.
If this is half of how Lu felt when Eddie was gone, then Eddie truly feels bad for him. Eddie bites his lip and turns his phone off and curls up on his sofa in his pajama pants and waits.
His phone rings from where it’s sitting on the coffee table, the dead, black screen suddenly dancing with a little green receiver icon.
“Hi,” Eddie says.
“Hey,” Lu says. He’s breathing hard. “I’m back, and I’ve got Eks, and his fucking fingernails in a bag, Jesus. Are you all right?”
“Yes,” Eddie whispers, losing whatever it was that had been keeping him going, keeping him wound up and tense while he waited for Lu to tell him things were okay again.
“Eddie,” Lu says, cautious, “are you sure?”
Eddie closes his eyes and leans back into the sofa cushions and thinks about it.
“Yes,” he says firmly. He hated it because he hated her, but he would do it again to get out of that; he wouldn’t call it traumatizing. It isn’t the same as if he was human, if it had been a violation of the very purpose to his existence. It was like being forced to piss on command. He had been more horrified at the threat of being caught, a worse feeling by a thousand times over.
Lu is silent.
“It really isn’t the same for me,” Eddie says. “Sex.”
“I didn’t know you could even do that,” Lu says. Eddie sits up a little, rubbing at his eyes.
“What?” he says, incredulous. “You didn’t know I could have sex?” His body looks perfectly normal; he knows that. He was careful of that. There’s no reason to think it wouldn’t work like any human’s might.
“Fuck, how would I?” Lu says emphatically. “You never went home with anyone.”
“That’s because it’s sort of — pointless,” Eddie says. “I can do it if I try, but it’s strange, and it doesn’t really feel like anything. But it doesn’t bother me, either,” he adds.
Lu pulls in a breath loud enough for Eddie to hear, then sighs it out.
“All right,” he says finally. “All right.”
Eddie smiles for the first time in what feels like months. “Are you okay?” he asks.
“I’m glad it doesn’t bother you, but it fucking bothers me, Eddie,” Lu says.
“That’s because you’re human people,” Eddie says. “It’s not like that for —”
“No,” Lu says, angry. “It’s because she was trying to hurt you like that. She fucking thought she was.”
Eddie thinks about if someone tried to catch Lu, if someone tried to hold him against his will and pull his power out of him to their own end, and he thinks he can understand.
“What happened to her?” Eddie says.
“What?” Lu says.
“Where — what did you do?” Eddie asks. “Do magicians have police?”
“She’s dead,” Lu says flatly. “We don’t have police, but we do have rules.”
Eddie would have fought her with everything he had, but he doesn’t think he would have won. He’s not made for war; he is made to live alone in the cold northern woods, and he’s never felt it more keenly than he does now.
“Oh,” he says.
“I promise you, there will be no questions about this decision from anyone with any power over me,” Lu says.
Eddie doesn’t ask if that’s because Lu is acting in accord with whoever makes the rules for magicians, or because no one has any power over him. “Thanks,” Eddie says.
“Sure,” Lu says, his voice full, full of magic and emotion, and Eddie puts his head down on the sofa and lets himself sleep.
It turns out that there are people with more power than Lu; per NBC, yesterday’s Panthers-Canes game was canceled due to a power outage. Eddie Lack has the flu, and Aaron Ekblad is out with a wrist injury.
Eddie wonders what Ekblad’s teammates think. His own are blithely unaware of anything unusual: Elias has already texted him fourteen times, telling him to get better or else. Noah calls him and offers to bring him soup.
“It’s my mom’s recipe,” he says shyly, and Eddie can’t crush him with a no. He fakes a cough and accepts.
He splashes hot water on his face before Noah shows up; he thinks he does an okay job of convincing Noah that he’s feeling under the weather. The soup is very good.
Lu keeps his distance. He’s texted Eddie all of four times in two days, three about nothing and one that says Eks is recovering well. Eddie knows he’s probably very busy helping with bleaching humans’ memories or something, but Eddie is bored with pretending to be sick. Lu ought to know that.
They have to make up the game on Tuesday, so Eddie comes back to practice on Saturday, entirely healthy and well-recovered. He’s greeted with hugs and high fives and a few joking sprays of kitchen-grade disinfectant from Jordan Staal. He looks at them and wonders what it would be like, to never know what was happening in Eddie’s reality.
To be only human, to feel every hit and hug and touch completely.
They don’t get to feel the static in Lu’s voice, though. They don’t feel the way his words burn in the air when he’s angry, or the playful snap of his power when he’s doing Eddie a favor, and Eddie would give up a lot for that.
we’re goin to dinner tonite, Eddie texts the minute they land in Sunrise. It’s an early game and they’re staying overnight. He will not be avoided.
demanding, Lu texts back.
come onnnnn, Eddie sends. take me somewhere nice
Lu sends him the pizza emoji and a dollar bill with wings.
i’m worth more than that, Eddie texts. Elias gets up and starts pulling their bags down from the overhead and throwing them onto his seat.
“Thanks,” Eddie says in Swedish. “Sorry, I’m coming.”
“It’s okay, you’re still an invalid,” Elias says cheerfully. Eddie’s phone buzzes.
youre worth yr weight in gold and were getting pizza, Lu’s texted back.
The Panthers win, 2-1. Eddie plays hard, but he really is a little wrung out. Lu doesn’t seem to be having any problems, even with the hole in his defense where Ekblad’s supposed to be. Eddie does some surreptitious investigation which reveals that Ekblad is fine; the Panthers’ equipment guy had apparently been over to his house yesterday and hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary.
Eddie had barely restrained himself from asking how Ekblad’s hands looked; he'll have to take Lu’s word for it.
Cam refuses to go to a bar and day-drink after the game and instead decides to harass everyone, even the rookies, into agreeing to meet at a barbecue place at seven.
“Sure, absolutely,” Eddie says. Cam eyes him with deep suspicion.
“You’d better show up,” Cam says.
“Where else would I go?” Eddie asks guilelessly.
Eddie goes to Lu’s house, which has a terrace and a swimming pool in the back yard. It’s only five o’clock and the sun’s still shining, bright and warm despite the month, despite the season. Eddie despairs of ever being cold again.
“What are you staring at?” Lu says when he opens the door.
“The sun,” Eddie says. Lu makes a quizzical face. “The sunlight,” Eddie corrects.
“Why?” Lu says, ushering him inside. “You have sunshine in North Carolina.”
“I know,” Eddie says mulishly.
“Are you complaining about sunlight?” Lu says. “Do you not need vitamin D like the rest of us?” There’s an opened, half-drunk bottle of wine on the counter beside the refrigerator where Lu always keeps it. There’s an empty glass on the kitchen island.
“I miss snow,” Eddie says. “Where’s my pizza? Did you come home and drink a bottle of wine and forget my dinner?”
Lu doesn’t look drunk, not even slightly; he looks good, relaxed and easy in gray sweatpants a zip-up blue hoodie with a maple leaf on the shoulder. Eddie pulls up a stool and leans on his elbows on the island.
“What? No,” Lu says. “That’s from last night, and it’s not dinnertime yet. Why don’t you go on vacation to somewhere cold?”
“I don’t have the time,” Eddie says.
“Ain’t that the truth,” Lu agrees. “You want to order?”
Eddie always gets ham and olives on his pizza, which Lu thinks is disgusting. The pizza place doesn’t question him. It’s stunningly good, and Eddie wonders at the flying dollar bill emoji; Lu hadn’t let him see the menu online.
“Is this fancy pizza?” Eddie asks between mouthfuls. They’ve already drunk the rest of the wine and moved on to water: Eddie has a flight tomorrow and Lu has a game.
“I said I’d take you someplace nice,” Lu says, though in fact he had not.
“You took me to your house,” Eddie says, instead of correcting him.
“Which is a nice place,” Lu says, putting his glass in the sink. “What, did you want me to redecorate?”
Eddie looks around. The sun has almost set, but it’s still Florida, stuck under a year-round blanket of warmth. “No, I guess this is okay,” he says.
“High praises,” Lu says dryly. He pulls the hood of his sweatshirt over his head. “Hang on, let me get some shoes, and I’ll gussy the place up for you.”
He vanishes into the foyer; Eddie stares at the door with his pizza crust in his hand until Lu comes back.
“What was that?” Eddie asks. Lu smiles, toothy and devious.
“What was what?” he asks, and the firecracker burst of magic can’t quite drown out the smirk in his voice.
It’s interesting, Eddie thinks in the moment before Lu’s words take effect, how the magician from last week had had to say specific words, had had to change the way she spoke to imbue the world with her magic. Lu can say anything and make the words do what he wants.
Eddie goes to put his crust down and loses sight of his hand in a sudden swirl of white.
It blizzards aggressively in the kitchen for ten minutes, then settles to a nice, respectable snowfall onto the accumulated two feet of powder.
The air is crisp and perfect; Eddie shakes snowflakes out of his hair and smiles, not caring what it can do. Lu can take care of himself.
“Isn’t this better?” Eddie teases. Lu thinks that being cold is humanity’s punishment for its many evils, and his hoodie doesn’t look like it’s all that well-insulated.
“I’m going in the living room where it’s nice and warm in a minute,” Lu says. “You can stay here and make a snowman.”
“I love snowmen,” Eddie retorts. He feels giddy; it’s been so long. “If you leave me I’ll build a snow castle and I’ll never let you back in.”
“I’ll live on takeout,” Lu says, laughing. “I’ll sleep in the laundry room.”
Eddie throws snow at him. He aims too well and most of it goes in Lu’s collar, which even Eddie recognizes is cruel, but Lu just yells and unzips his hoodie to dig it out.
“I’ll bring a snowman army to find you,” Eddie threatens while Lu tries to bundle himself back up. He hops from his stool to sit on the kitchen island and starts working on a pile of snowball munitions.
“They’ll melt. I’ll turn the living room into a sauna and you’ll never be able to leave,” Lu says, advancing on him; he’s floundering a little in the snowdrifts by the sink, which Eddie finds suddenly, overwhelmingly endearing.
“What is wrong with you?” Eddie laughs. “You can just move it out of your way. It’s your snow.”
Lu arrives in front of him, his hands shoved into his pockets and his hood up. He’s covered in snow, head to toe. Eddie can’t even see his ankles. Lu has always been shorter than him, but from up on the island Eddie has almost a head on him.
“I don’t know,” Lu says, still smiling up at him, his face soft with — with something, and Eddie, oh.
Oh Eddie’s poor, foolish, helpless, desperate human heart.
“I distracted you,” Eddie says, trying for triumphant and missing very badly. He feels hot and cold at the same time, the strange sensation of his heartbeat combining with a intense wave of longing, of desire for — for this, for more than this. For everything.
“Yes,” Lu says, heartbreakingly honest. “Every day, all the time.”
“I think about you more than anything,” Eddie says. It’s all he can think to say; it’s true. He doesn’t know how to do this.
He’s taken people on dates and he’s taken people home. He’s tried to be human and he’s done a decent job of it, but there’s a vast chasm of difference between smiling and opening the door for someone he met at a bar and trying to tell Lu what he means. Trying to tell Lu anything about this feeling.
Lu’s eyebrows go up.
“I don’t know how to say it,” Eddie says stupidly. Lu steps forward until he’s between Eddie’s knees. He extracts his hands from his pockets and watches himself rest them on Eddie’s thighs, press them into the dusting of snow.
“I do,” Lu says, looking up. “But that doesn’t mean we’re talking about the same thing.”
Oh. Are they? Eddie hadn’t thought to wonder that far. He had only wanted; he hadn’t had the time to consider if Lu wanted something else, if Lu could even want whatever Eddie does.
“What do you want?” Eddie says. He would try, for Lu; he would try, unless what Lu wants is something less than Eddie, something that will leave Eddie with this feeling in his chest for the rest of his life, and never let him let it out.
“What?” Lu says. “Eddie, I’m not —”
“All I want is you,” Eddie says. Lu’s fingers tighten on his legs. His eyes are wide.
“Eddie,” Lu says, low and thick and so human. Snow falls in his hair where the hood has slipped back.
“I don’t know what you want,” Eddie says. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You don’t have to,” Lu says, then goes silent. He reaches up and brushes the snow off of Eddie’s nose and cheeks.
It feels familiar, although the last time Lu touched his face was very, very different.
“So,” Eddie says resolutely, gathering himself. “Now what do I do?”
Lu’s mouth quirks. “How would I know?” he says. “I’m not the expert on mythical deer romance. What do you like to do with the people who love you?”
What does — Eddie doesn’t, he — Eddie closes his eyes and feels Lu’s fingers against his skin, feels time dilate gently around them. The snow keeps falling, because when Eddie takes his liberties with time, he takes Lu with him.
Eddie will live for a long, long time, and he thinks he will feel the same way about Lu no matter how long that is.
What does he do with the people who love him? He only knows what he can do, what the stories say.
“You can kiss me,” Eddie says, not opening his eyes. Lu’s hand is chilled but steady on his face.
Lu’s lips are warm against Eddie’s, a bright spark in the perfect cold of the kitchen, and Eddie feels the sensation he can’t name well up out of him and spill into the world.
“Holy shit,” Lu whispers against his mouth.
“What?” Eddie mumbles back. Lu keeps kissing him, keeps chasing after something inside Eddie, a flicker of heat that Eddie can’t control. Eddie can’t quite catch his breath; he doesn’t know, is this —
“You can’t feel that?” Lu says. He’s tucked between Eddie’s legs now, both his hands on Eddie’s face. Eddie can’t feel anything beyond the rush of Lu’s mouth, Lu’s attention, beyond Lu.
Lu tips him back into the kitchen island and kisses his neck, runs his hands over Eddie’s ribs, blistering heat against the soft homey cold of snow at Eddie’s back. Eddie can’t breathe; he can’t think.
Lu’s skin is drenched in magic, crackling with it.
Lu pulls back, breathing hard, leaning his hands on Eddie’s chest.
“Lu,” Eddie whines.
“Oh, come — whoa, Jesus,” Lu says, looking just past Eddie’s head. “What the hell did you do?”
“Me? I didn’t do anything,” Eddie says. Lu is looking at, at snow and not kissing Eddie any —
The snow was beautiful to start with. Now its surface is decorated in tiny green gemstones and lines of silver, delicate ornate tracings that climb up into the air like vines, catching the snowflakes as they fall.
“Oh really,” Lu says, his voice wicked and entirely disbelieving, shot through with fire and magic, and Eddie feels it go through him in a way he really, really hadn’t — oh, fuck.
He’s hot, suddenly, so hot he sees the silver patterns around him shimmer; his blood feels tangled in his veins. His body has no idea what to do, and he can’t blame it.
“Eddie,” Lu says hoarsely. “Eddie, what —”
“I want, I want that,” Eddie tells him. “Lu, please.”
“That?” Lu asks, pushing the static into his voice, onto his skin, through his hands where they burn against Eddie’s sides, and Eddie throws his head back and tries to hold on.
It’s — he’s not hard, or maybe he is, maybe his body knows what to do with this, maybe it can take the writhing, desperate heat in Eddie’s chest and channel it somewhere. He feels like Lu is the only thing tethering him, the only thing touching him.
Lu kisses him, wraps his hands around Eddie’s biceps and pins him down and kisses him with electricity on his lips.
It’s so good. Eddie can’t breathe; something is twisting inside him, wild and frantic. He’s making soft, needy noises. The snow is melting where it touches his skin.
“Jesus fucking — Eddie,” Lu gasps against his lips. “Oh my God.”
“Lu, please,” Eddie begs. There’s something coming; there’s something here. He wants it, so badly, so much more than he could have imagined — he needs, he needs, he needs Lu to touch him, to push him over.
Lu leans up and shoves his hands under Eddie’s shirt. Oh, fuck.
Eddie can feel it in his lungs, the way Lu’s magic spreads over his skin and sinks into him, the way it gathers in the pit of his stomach, sliding up and down his spine. He turns his head to the side and clenches his legs around Lu’s hips and feels Lu’s magic flare in response.
“Shit. Oh shit,” Lu grits out, like he’s the one struggling to hold on, like it’s not Eddie who’s losing his mind — Eddie who’s almost there, definitely hard now, fuck, drowning in it.
Eddie tightens his thighs and rolls his hips just as Lu reaches up to drag his thumb across Eddie’s nipple, and the burst of sensation from Lu’s skin to his is too much, too much, oh fuck —
It hits his body like a wave, so much harder than he thought. Lu’s hips are jerking against him in time with his choked-off groans, and Eddie pulls him down and kisses him and tries to ride it out without burning up completely.
Lu shudders in his arms and drops his head on Eddie’s chest, panting.
The snow is gone; the kitchen looks the same as it had when Eddie had walked in. There’s a breeze blowing in through the window to the terrace.
Eddie thinks about moving, and then thinks again. He pushes the hood back off of Lu’s head and threads his fingers into Lu’s curls and lets the air wash over them.
“I have to move,” Lu says eventually, extracting himself. “My hip is not up for making a night of this.” His back makes a popping noise as he straightens up, and he grimaces.
“Did I break you?” Eddie asks. He’s not bothering to get up yet. The view is nice from here, all the way up the long line of Lu’s hips and torso, to the sleepy, satisfied grin on his face.
“Don’t joke, you could,” Lu says. “I’m incredibly old.”
Eddie laughs and sits up. “I can’t make you any younger,” he says. “Sorry.”
“You don’t have to make me anything,” Lu says seriously, his smile fading. Eddie sucks in a breath.
“Oh,” Eddie says. It hadn’t occurred to him that Lu might want to keep aging, might want to die on the normal schedule.
No one ever does, in the stories.
“Wait,” Lu says. “What is that look? Are you secretly fucking with me already?”
“What, no,” Eddie says. Lu’s hands are on his waist and his legs are still around Lu’s hips. Lu’s magic is in there, somewhere, under his human, human skin.
“Okay, you’re the one who plans to draw on my face,” Lu says.
“I said that if I slowed you down I would do that,” Eddie protests. “I never have.”
“You’re a better man than me then,” Lu says. “I’ve got it coming. What were you sulking about?”
Eddie had always assumed that Lu would live for as long as he would, and if that was the case —
“Do you want to get old?” Eddie asks.
“Fuck no, nobody wants to get old,” Lu says. “Are you fucking kidding me? I know you’re very precocious and naïve, but that’s —”
“Are you going to live forever?” Eddie says, licking his lips.
“Uh,” Lu says, staring at Eddie’s mouth. “What? No, not forever. A while, I think.” He looks up. “Why?”
“You don’t have to get old,” Eddie tells him. “Not with me.” He runs his hands down the back of Lu’s hoodie, straightens it at the hem. He looks down at the zipper pull.
“That’s for people who, you know,” Lu says to Eddie’s forehead. “That’s for poachers, Eddie.”
“It’s for anyone I like,” Eddie says quietly. He slides off the counter, pushing Lu back as he goes. The smooth slate of Lu’s kitchen tile is warm under his feet.
“Oh,” Lu says. “Well, shit, in that case.”
Face to face, Eddie can see the fine lines around his eyes, the gray hairs in his stubble.
“You can get old again if you want to. Or you can leave, and I won’t stop,” Eddie tells him truthfully. He would never want Lu to feel trapped himself, never want Lu to think he had to stay with him just to stay young, just to stay like this.
“In what universe?” Lu says. He leans in, forcing Eddie to tilt his chin down a little to meet Lu’s eyes.
“I don’t know,” Eddie says. Lu could want something more than Eddie, Eddie doesn’t know. Eddie doesn’t know how any of this works, in the end, at the end.
Eddie has been a person for years and years, but it’s becoming clear to him that Aaron Ekblad isn’t the only one who’s disastrously bad at it.
“I do,” Lu says, warm like a flame, hissing with the low, slow burn of his magic, and Eddie lets it do to his heart whatever it wants.
Eddie’s poor stupid human heart still skips a beat, more days than not.
Lu emails him advertisements for cheap airfares to Norway; Lu still makes fun of him for speaking Swedish like a regular person. Lu curls up next to him on the sofa and turns the lights off with his voice just to feel Eddie shiver, and Eddie thinks that if this is all there is to it, he’s almost got the hang of it already.