Do you want me to stay?
Do you want me to go?
Do you think I recognise
The look on your face when you think that I know?
– The Academy Is...
The thing about Luke is that he’s like a star.
He shines and he’s brilliant and he’s wonderful and he’s beautiful and he’s so far out of reach that there’s no point in ever trying to get there.
“I’m glad he’s going, you know,” he says to Rani, a vicious whisper. He doesn’t even mean it but maybe if he says it enough times it might become true.
Rani studies his expression for a while, and then she sighs.
“Fuck you, Clyde.”
Clyde goes back to staring at their lunch table, empty without Luke and his textbooks and endless reams of notes.
He’ll get over it. Luke wasn’t ever his to lose, after all.
Clyde’s not actually stupid, frequent insecurities and occasional attempted use of K-9 to cheat in exams aside, so it’s not like he really thinks he’s going to be stuck here in a Mcjob while Luke goes on to light the world up. He knows he has a proper career of some description ahead of him, he really does.
(Also, there was that really surreal dream he had that time where he and Luke lived in this kind of awesome central London flat and Luke worked for UNIT and Clyde wrote a cult graphic novel, and he was mostly under the impression that they lived together as best mates until Dream Luke stopped him halfway through making dinner and then proceeded to try and kiss the life out of him up against the fridge and it was basically the best thing ever. Not that Clyde’s thought about it since, of course.)
“Need a hand packing?” he asks. Most of Luke’s bedroom is in boxes and Clyde’s chest feels too tight, even though he told himself that all this would be ok and anyway he’s only here because Rani punched him awkwardly hard and told him to stop being a dick. For the record, he’s not being a dick, he just doesn’t care that much. It’s not the end of the world; Maria lives across the Atlantic and they all still talk. It’s not like Luke’s going to get to Oxford and suddenly stop being his friend.
Although Oxford is going to be full of clever people who won’t mock Luke for knowing things and who will actually be able to keep up with him in a conversation and who will know things like the square root of random obscure numbers and seriously, why would Luke want to know Clyde anymore?
Luke’s smile is crooked. “I’m ok,” he says. “Nearly done, actually. I don’t want to take too much, you know, apparently the rooms are pretty tiny.”
Clyde nods, tucking his hands into his pockets because they feel useless. “All right then, I suppose... I’d better leave you to it, yeah?”
“No!” Luke says too quickly, ducking his head to look at the box by his feet. “I mean, you should stay for dinner, you know?”
“All right,” Clyde says before the ‘no’ he actually means can spill out. He should stop trying to keep his distance, anyway; they’ll have plenty of distance when Luke’s in bloody Oxford. And it really isn’t Luke’s fault that his best friend has a hugely inappropriate and aching crush on him, so Clyde should probably stop taking it out on him.
“Good,” Luke smiles, attention dropping back to the box he’s filling with DVDs.
Don’t go, Clyde wants to say, but he doesn’t. There’s no point.
When he works in the burger bar, Luke doesn’t talk to him anymore. Luke has half a dozen degrees and a shiny girlfriend with a handful of degrees too and Clyde only knows all of this because of facebook stalking. He has hardly any friends and he has meaningless one night stands with guys with dark hair and awkward smiles in the hope that one day he might get all of this out of his system.
He sketches on napkins behind the counter sometimes, smeared biro sketches of things that never happened, that might have happened if he’d been smarter or faster or taller or just better. His clothes smell like stale grease and ketchup and he lives in constant fear that Luke will come home to visit his mum and will somehow get a craving for a shitty undercooked burger and he’ll have to stand behind the counter in his ugly hat and smile and serve Luke like it doesn’t feel like his heart is being ripped out, and he can never work out if Luke will pity him or judge him and which would actually be worse.
(Later, Clyde inwardly marvels that the Nightmare Man managed to layer that many levels of nightmare into his dream, and then thinks that maybe he provided them himself, because they’re still there, just quieter and with less of the smell of chip fat.)
“You said I should call you when I got here.” Luke sounds very far away already, voice diminished through the phone line.
“Yeah,” Clyde says slowly, because his fingers are clenched too tight around his phone and he’s glad he’s alone in his room and no one’s here to see him.
“I’m here,” Luke almost whispers, and he sounds scared in a way that Clyde’s never heard him sound before, even when the world was collapsing around them and Luke was their only hope.
Clyde always knew Luke was leaving and he said goodbye to him this morning with a hug that was maybe a little bit too tight – though Luke was clinging equally tightly – so he doesn’t know why those two words should feel like a punch to the stomach.
“At least you didn’t crash the car,” he tells Luke, as bright as he can.
“I’m a very good driver,” Luke protests, sounding vaguely offended. He is, actually; he’s studied the textbook about ten billion times and knows all those things about icy roads and stuff that no one actually remembers once they’ve passed their driving test.
“Yeah yeah,” Clyde mutters, “shouldn’t you be going out and getting hammered along with all the other freshers?”
He leaves out the fact that Luke’s not legally old enough to drink yet; he doesn’t think that’s really going to be a problem during fresher’s week.
Luke makes a noise that could be nervous or excited or confused or some combination of all of the above.
“Have fun,” Clyde says, as light as he can when it feels like his stomach is strangling his throat and he might be sick any moment. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Luke laughs raggedly. “Take care of yourself, Clyde.”
Clyde hangs up before he can say something stupid like I already miss you or I think I might actually love you or fuck you, why did you have to leave? He scrubs his face with his hands and if his fingers come back a little wet, well, there’s no one to call him up on it.
University is scary. Not end-of-the-world-(again) scary, or nuns-who-can-turn-people-to-stone scary, or his-best-friend-being-possessed scary, or his-mum-being-eaten-by-a-painting scary, or anything like that, but: scary.
Luke managed to persuade most of his year at school to like him in the end, once everyone started their AS levels and everyone stopped being mean to people who were maybe a little odd. Besides, while some things still confuse the hell out of him, he’s mostly capable of acting like a normal teenager now. So it’s not like Luke is horribly socially inadequate anymore, and he’s probably not going to end up accidentally bullying a boy without meaning to again.
People are friendly and intelligent – not intelligent like Luke is intelligent because no one is intelligent like Luke is intelligent, but more capable of following complicated formulas than anyone who Luke knows who isn’t a computer – and his course is interesting (combined Physics and Philosophy, and yes, Clyde laughed for about ten minutes when Luke announced this, but it’s not like he wants to spend his entire life entangled in numbers) and he likes his college – Balliol; apparently getting in is something to be really rather proud of – and his room is not as tiny as he was lead to believe and the world hasn’t ended yet. So: university is scary, but it’s nice. It’s different, but it’s nice.
And if Luke is still feeling lonely, even with new friends and his metal dog for company, well, that’s clearly just his problem.
Kaitlin is very pretty and distractingly blonde and on Luke’s physics course. She’s fun to hang out with and she’s not anything like Rani or Maria but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Luke just isn’t used to girls who aren’t Rani or Maria talking to him with anything other than nervousness or awe.
They’re lying on Luke’s bed – and yes, Luke’s not so dense that he doesn’t know what this means, but it’s ok, Kaitlin has told him about her boyfriend back in Birmingham on thirteen separate occasions and waggled her engagement ring in his face on six. Luke has no idea how people only a couple of years older than him can be getting married – discussing the anomalies in the sets of data from their latest simulations for their next seminar. Luke’s willing to admit that he likes being able to have scientific discussions with people other than Mr Smith, but he’ll never say this aloud to anyone, because it sounds unfair to Clyde and Rani.
Kaitlin studies the corkboard on Luke’s wall for a while; he’s got a calendar there, dates carefully marked on in tidy black biro even though he already knows all of them and it’s almost definitely impossible for him to forget things anyway. Around the edges of the calendar he’s carefully pinned photographs from home that don’t have anything related to aliens at all; Rani and Maria and Clyde and Alan and his mum smile down at him on various occasions, and he smiles back almost unconsciously.
“Ooh, who’s he?” Kaitlin asks, moving to detach one of Clyde and Luke this summer, before Luke got his A-Level results and decided he was definitely leaving and Clyde started acting like he didn’t want to know Luke anymore. Rani took it when the three of them were out at the park, a picnic and a lazy hot afternoon; they’re both lying on the grass and laughing, Luke’s face pressed into Clyde’s shoulder. “He’s cute.”
Luke feels suddenly and strangely defensive for reasons he can’t exactly pinpoint.
“That’s Clyde,” he says.
Kaitlin studies the picture in her hands for a moment and then looks up at the other photos, something thoughtful in her expression.
“He looks nice,” she offers at last.
“He is nice,” Luke replies, because it’s true, taking the picture as she hands it over and sticking it back in its place.
When he looks back at Kaitlin she’s smiling like she does in the lab when she’s figured something out, but she doesn’t offer anything and, for some reason, he doesn’t want to ask.
Luke’s a little hazy about whose party this actually is, but a bunch of the people from his corridor were going and demanded that he come too, and he’d already finished his philosophy essay on the word ‘the’ (“you’re kidding me,” Clyde said when Luke told him that this was his assignment, laughing gleefully) so he agreed to come along. The music’s too loud but it’s still quite good – Luke likes it, anyway – and there’s a bathtub full of ice and cans of beer and warm shots in the free plastic shot glasses they got at the fresher’s fair being handed out.
Even though K-9 can’t actually move his face, Luke pictures a disapproving look on his dog’s face for when he finally stumbles back to his room. He hears oh, Luke in Mr Smith’s best condescending tone. He hates sambuca anyway.
He tips his head back and swallows the shot down whole, trying not to choke, gaining cheers and claps on the back from his friends. This is what this new world is about anyway; about doing things that aren’t necessarily sanctioned by computers or aliens or his mother.
The night blurs a little but there’s drinking and dancing and Kaitlin finds him later, gleefully shrieking: “Luke! I didn’t know you were gonna be here!” She drags him over to meet her friends, a group of fellow physics students as well as a couple of English Lit and Drama ones too. There’s more drinking and Luke thinks he should stop but he doesn’t, anyway, because you have to try out all angles of something before deciding that you don’t want it anymore.
Later on, he literally runs into a guy he thinks is one of Kaitlin’s friends, who steadies him with warm, firm hands and says: “Luke, right?”
Luke blinks a few times and decides that you wear the same brand of Lynx as my friend Clyde is one of those things that sounds better when you keep it inside your own head. And then he feels proud of himself for working that one out even when he’s clearly horribly and somewhat illegally drunk. “Yeah,” he manages, and: “you’re... Matt, right?” Because he told Clyde he couldn’t forget anything and that’s true and also Matt smells exactly like Clyde and all Luke really wants to do is bury his face in Matt’s shirt and breathe in and feel homesick but that’s probably... that’s probably not socially acceptable so Luke blinks a few times and looks Matt in the eye instead. He’s taller than Clyde and that’s weird but when Luke closes his eyes a moment later and inhales through his nose with Matt’s steady hands still wrapped around his elbows, it’s nearly good enough.
And that’s honestly the last thing about the party that Luke can remember the next morning.
It’s the text from Maria – who’s he????? – that makes Luke think he should probably check his facebook. He has a horrible, horrible hangover and he woke up fully dressed on his own bed halfway through the morning with a post-it from John down the hall on his forehead telling him to drink a fuckload of water.
Luke is almost definitely certain that a fuckload is not actually a unit of measurement.
Anyway, he takes some painkillers with some water while K-9 makes disapproving electronic noises that Luke is fairly sure his mum intentionally programmed in for this very eventuality, and turns on his laptop. And then sits there in wide-eyed horror as facebook’s photographs helpfully inform him that he apparently spent a significant proportion of last night attached to some guy’s mouth.
“Fuck,” Luke says quietly, because there doesn’t seem to be anything else to say in this situation.
“Language, Master Luke,” K-9 admonishes. Luke contemplates showing K-9 the screen so he can see that Luke is perfectly justified in an expletive, but he has the horrible suspicion that if he tells K-9 then he’ll tell Mr Smith and, to quote Clyde, Mr Smith has always been kind of a gossipy bitch.
The tags tell him that the guy’s name is Matt Gregson, and actually, he has a friend request from him. Luke clicks ‘accept’ on automatic, because he doesn’t want to be rude to the person he kissed a lot last night, and then goes through carefully de-tagging himself from the photos.
Kaitlin calls later, all apologies and that she had no idea that Emily even had a camera last night, and she hopes that everything’s going to be ok. Luke’s head is pounding so he just mumbles a handful of words at her until she seems less guilty, and then hangs up.
I see you’re having fun at uni, Rani writes on his wall.
Luke smiles, even though he doesn’t really want to.
A few days later, Matt manages to track him down, biting awkwardly at his lip. “Look,” he says quietly, “I was looking at your profile pictures and everything and, well... I had no idea. I hope I haven’t messed anything up for you. Sorry, we’re ok, yeah?”
“We’re ok,” Luke says blankly, no idea what’s going on.
Later, he looks at his profile pictures and still can’t work out what Matt’s talking about; the pictures are either of him or of him and Clyde, and that’s about it.
It’s around then that he realises he hasn’t spoken to Clyde in about a week.
“Clyde isn’t talking to me,” Luke informs Rani. “Is he ok?”
He can hear her biting her lip. “He’s really busy,” she says at last. “He’s got this huge coursework art project, it’s keeping him really distracted, you know?”
It’s plausible and probably partly true but Luke knows Rani really well so he also knows when she’s lying to him.
“Ok,” he says, and: “how’s your coursework going?”
Luke tries to respect Clyde’s space but it’s hard; life without his best friend on the other end of the phone feels suddenly very cold and empty. He tries calling him again but Clyde doesn’t pick up, even though Clyde’s out of school and it’s after dinner time and he’ll definitely be near his phone.
I know you’re there, he texts, I’m calling back in five minutes and I want you to pick up.
He does call back in exactly five minutes, but Clyde doesn’t answer.
Luke only gets a 2-2 on the next essay he hands in, and he’s losing the ability to sleep. He discovers that K-9, despite basically being a robot dog, can somehow manage to tut. His tutor keeps him aside after one of his philosophy seminars and tells him he thinks the pressure is getting to Luke, that he should ask for extra support since he came to university so young.
He wants to say it’s not the pressure; my best friend won’t talk to me and I have no idea why but he doesn’t.
It’s three a.m. when he next tries, simply sending a text saying: hello.
Fifteen minutes later, he gets: hey.
Three letters shouldn’t make him feel physically sick and shaky, should they? Luke actually drops the phone, fingers suddenly clumsy and weak for no logical reason.
Why are you still awake? he asks.
Clyde’s reply is quicker this time. Art project. It’s due in next week and I want it to be perfect. Luke’s just trying to formulate a response that won’t sound desperately clingy when he gets another text: what about you? Turning into a party animal now? ;)
Luke smiles a little too wide at the smiley because despite the fact he doesn’t really get them, even now, if Clyde is sending him smiling faces then he can’t hate Luke for eternity for no logical reason. Probably.
Just can’t sleep, he says. Which is bad, I’ve got a lecture in six hours.
I’ve got school in five, Clyde tells him, I win.
Luke feels weak with relief, because even the most mundane of conversations is more than he’s had and he needs Clyde. He didn’t realise quite how much until he didn’t have him anymore.
You do win, he says, I don’t miss the early starts. Or the uniform...
Clyde’s response takes a while; Luke drums his fingers against his thigh, jerky and nervous even though talking to Clyde has never made him this uncomfortable or anxious before. He didn’t want things to change when he left and now they have and he isn’t even sure why.
Doesn’t look like you miss us at all, Clyde’s message says. Luke stares at the words until they go blurry, trying to work out the tone. He can picture Clyde saying it, deadly serious, and he can picture Clyde saying it with a teasing laugh, and he doesn’t know which of them it is.
Of course I miss you guys, he texts quickly. Don’t you all miss me? :)
He slips on the smiley face so he won’t seem needy, even though he never uses them. His heart is thudding uncomfortably against his ribs and he can hear himself breathing, too fast and erratic.
We miss you, Clyde tells him, and then just as Luke is breathing out he gets another message: It’s easier without you here.
Luke turns his phone off immediately before he can try to think of something to say, and rolls into his side, stomach churning.
“Master Luke, you should try to sleep,” K-9 says softly, and he sounds almost sympathetic.
“Yeah,” Luke mumbles, and turns his face into his pillow so K-9 won’t hear him crying.
“You look like shit,” Rani informs him bluntly when she meets him at the school gate in the morning.
“I was up late,” Clyde says, “painting, you know?”
He didn’t sleep at all. He couldn’t. Not after-
“You look guilty,” Rani adds, and, well, yeah, she knows him really well and is planning on being nosy for a living in the future so she probably has spotted that.
“I’ll tell you later,” Clyde says, shrugging her hand off his shoulder and heading for his locker.
He spends most of maths thinking about how he wanted Luke to text back or call him or say something so that Clyde could take it back, could explain, but Luke didn’t say anything and when Clyde finally manned up and called him at five, Luke’s phone was switched off.
Luke doesn’t get to not want to talk to him. Luke’s the one snogging random guys all over facebook, no matter how quickly he untagged himself from the pictures. And maybe Clyde has spent unhealthy amounts of time stalking Matt Gregson on facebook, but he can’t tell if Luke has a boyfriend or not and if Luke has a boyfriend or is thinking about having one then he should fucking tell his best friend so that Clyde can feign being supportive and then go throw himself off a bridge. Or play Halo in a dark room, whatever. The point is: Luke didn’t tell him and little pieces of Clyde keep feeling like they’re shattering at unexpected moments and he’s stressed and not sleeping well and he said something he meant but which was never supposed to come out aloud.
“Talk to me,” Rani says at lunch, and she has her scary determined eyes on so Clyde doesn’t even try and back out of it.
“You know when you’re tired and you write texts to someone that you never ever intend to send?” he begins carefully.
Rani’s expression becomes a little bit murderous. “What did you accidentally send to Luke?” she demands.
Clyde just hands over his phone. Rani stares at the screen for a while and then hits him on the arm. It actually hurts. “You stupid, stupid boy,” she snaps. “You are so emotionally retarded, oh my God.”
“I am not emotionally retarded,” Clyde snaps. He is very in touch with his emotions, actually. He really wishes that he wasn’t.
“You told him that we’re glad he doesn’t live here anymore,” Rani practically shouts at him, with flaily expressive hands and everything. Clyde is really glad they’re in a corner of the sixth form common room and no one is really paying attention. “Luke was terrified of that before he left and you basically just confirmed all his worst nightmares! How the hell could you do that to him?”
When she says nightmare Clyde’s stomach turns over and he gets a brief flash of Luke shining somewhere painfully far out of his orbit, too far away to see, let alone touch.
“Because he’s already done it to me!” Clyde shouts loud enough to have half the sixth form turn around and stare at him.
Rani just sighs and puts an arm around him. “Do you want to punch yourself in the face or shall I?”
Mr Smith is technically a computer and everything and he’s pretty all right – ok, so he ate Clyde that time, but he can forgive – and he doesn’t have a face so he should not be capable of glaring significantly at Clyde.
He’s managing it anyway. Clyde would be impressed if it didn’t make him feel so horrible.
Sarah Jane isn’t giving him a significant glare but that’s only because Luke has almost definitely not told her that Clyde is a dick. He sort of wishes that Luke had; at least getting banned from Bannerman Road would make him feel like he’s getting what he deserves.
It isn’t really even true, what he said. It isn’t easier without Luke. Sure, he doesn’t spend his entire time thinking about their distances and how many times it’s ok to touch Luke and whether anyone’s going to ask him if he spends another week not making out with that girl from his maths class, but somehow not being around him all the time makes Clyde feel like he’s missing a body part. And a good body part, like a limb or something, because Clyde feels lopsided without Luke around and even pining in close proximity was better than pining apart.
“I’m a pathetic excuse for a person,” he mumbles to himself when Sarah Jane is making them tea and Clyde is alone on the sofa in the attic.
“I won’t disagree,” Mr Smith says placidly.
Clyde thinks about snapping hey, you ate me that time, you don’t get to say mean things to me but he doesn’t because he’s so totally and completely in the wrong here.
“Any ideas?” he asks. He doesn’t hold out much hope because Mr Smith is a computer – and one with a deeply disturbing relationship of some description with an equally robotic dog – but right now he’s kind of desperate.
“You could try not being a pathetic excuse for a person,” Mr Smith suggests blandly.
“I actually hate you,” Clyde says. “And I’m going to accidentally spill diet coke in your circuitry again sometime, just you wait. Sleep with one eye open, Mr Smith.”
Mr Smith gives a very tired sigh.
“Yeah,” Clyde mumbles. “I hear you.”
“So,” Rani says cheerfully, “guess who’s going to visit Luke next week?”
“You?” Clyde responds. His head is aching and now Luke is the one not talking to him and this whole thing is so ridiculous he just wants to bang his head against a wall because it’s not like it can make this worse.
“Wrong,” Rani singsongs. “We’re both going.”
Rani rolls her eyes. “Luke has a reading week next week so we’re going to go and stay with him.”
“Shouldn’t he be using his reading week for reading?” Clyde asks. It’s a rubbish excuse, but he’ll cling to what he can get.
“Please,” Rani scoffs, “you know he’s read everything he needs to read for the entire year already.”
When he’s not hooking up at parties, Clyde’s mind says bitterly, but he keeps the thought to himself. He’s bored of Rani rolling her eyes at him, and he thinks she is too.
“Why are we going to see him?” he enquires, trying not to sound interested.
“To sort this shit out,” Rani replies. “Partly because I’m bored of watching you mope around and partly because Maria called me and asked me to fix this.”
“You’ve never met Maria,” Clyde can’t help pointing out.
“Yes, but for some strange reason we both care about you stupid boys,” Rani replies. “I don’t know why right now...”
“Ok,” Clyde says. “Ok.”
If the bottom drops out of Luke’s stomach when he goes down to the station to pick Rani up and he finds that Clyde is there too, well, he hides it as best he can. He hugs Rani close and then pulls together a smile for Clyde, who looks nervous. Luke doesn’t know why he’s even here and nearly says this, and then remembers that he’s not here to make a scene in front of the AMT coffee kiosk and instead leads them both out to his car.
Rani asks him so many questions about the city and university life that Luke feels a little like he’s being interviewed, but he knows how excited and nervous about her own Oxford application she is so he answers with as many details as he can. Clyde sits in the back seat and listens intently to the conversation, at least as far as Luke can tell; whenever he glances back Clyde is staring studiously out of the window. Oxford is a beautiful city so Luke doesn’t blame him for admiring the scenery, but he’s not stupid enough to think Clyde isn’t just trying to avoid looking at him.
Luke calms down a little when they get to his room and Clyde and Rani are distracted by K-9, who is delighted to see them again. Luke mainly gets away with having a giant strange metal dog in his room by pretending he’s a prop from an obscure 1970s science-fiction film that he got on ebay. It’s slightly strange how many boys are impressed by this, but Luke is coming around to realising that all people are strange and irrational even when you’ve got over the being-grown-by-aliens thing. K-9 likes all the intention and never speaks when other people are around, and Luke is always immensely grateful for him.
“So,” Rani says after a while, “I remember where the JCR is from when you gave us the tour, so I’m going to sit in there and look pretty and try and find someone who can talk to me about English Literature and Politics, and when I get back in around half an hour you will both have talked. Ok?”
“Ok,” Luke echoes numbly, hearing Clyde do the same, and they both watch her walk out. Luke wants to say don’t leave but he can’t because Rani is right. Whatever the result, they need to talk.
“I didn’t mean it,” Clyde says.
Now Luke is actually looking at him, he can see how tired Clyde looks, stressed and exhausted and just less cheerful. Luke’s seen Clyde in some of the worst circumstances ever and he’s never seen Clyde look like this, and it makes something wrench inside him.
He worked out sometime in the last fortnight of not talking to Clyde that he’s been crazily in love with him for at least a year and a half, so he doesn’t have an epiphany while he’s studying him, but the need to try and make Clyde stop looking like that is almost physical.
“I don’t understand,” Luke replies, because he doesn’t.
Clyde sighs and rubs a hand across his face. “That text. It was one of those things you write when you’re sleep-deprived and it’s the early hours of the morning and it’s easier than just saying I miss you.”
Something in Luke’s stomach twists then, desperate and needy and wanting. Clyde doesn’t mean what Luke wants him to mean but it’s better than nothing, it’s better than thinking that Clyde had given up on him entirely.
“Ok,” he says.
Clyde frowns, uncertainty spreading across his face. “Ok?”
Maybe Luke’s letting him off too easy, but he doesn’t want an argument, he doesn’t want to pick through their various feelings and have to lie. Clyde’s his best friend, and he may not have anything else but he can damn well have that and he will cling to it until it’s torn away. And it probably will be, because everything and everyone leaves in the end.
“We’re ok,” he tells Clyde.
The relief that breaks over Clyde’s expression is beautiful and wonderful and he doesn’t even spend a moment pretending that he doesn’t want to hug Luke, or that boys don’t touch each other, because he reaches out and drags Luke in close and Luke wraps his arms around him and breathes in deep.
It’s actually really cool having Clyde and Rani here; Luke takes them to meet his friends and shows them around the city and they spend stupid amounts of time in his room recounting the various times they’ve saved the world and talking to Maria on Skype. She and Rani keep exchanging significant looks and Luke wants to ask but his girls are scary, so he doesn’t.
Luke likes his new friends and his new life so he’s not exactly desperate to run back to Bannerman Road with them, but the tug of his old life stings as the day of their departure gets closer. He wants Clyde and Rani with him all the time, crushed in sleeping bags on his floor, not going back to school to still take their A-Levels.
He has a few library books to return before next week so Clyde and Rani are out with Kaitlin and a few of her friends and Luke is meeting them later. At least, that’s what’s meant to be happening, but Clyde practically kicks the door to Luke’s room down.
“Why are you here?” Luke asks, but Clyde looks angry, genuinely angry, angry in a way that Luke has never seen before.
“Why the fuck have you told all your friends that I’m your boyfriend?” Clyde demands.
Luke feels his stomach disappear. “What?” he asks faintly but Clyde isn’t listening to him.
“I mean, seriously, what the fuck? Am I just an excuse so you can concentrate on being a superbrain instead of dating or something? Because a heads-up would’ve been nice.”
Clyde is literally shaking and Luke feels like Clyde should be capable of seeing the funny side, even if his own insides are shrivelling and dying because if Clyde is this angry at the idea of them dating...
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Luke offers. His voice sounds croaky, inadequate.
Clyde takes a step forward and Luke takes one back, because even if he’s taller than Clyde now there’s something scary about this, something uncontrollable.
“Just tell me why, Luke, ok?” Clyde’s voice is uneven and his eyes are dark, darker than usual. He sounds less angry now, more like something inside him is breaking. “Because, why would you even-”
“I didn’t,” Luke tries again, but Clyde’s clearly had enough because he steps closer again and Luke is just waiting to get punched or shaken or something but Clyde pushes him against his wardrobe – which wobbles alarmingly – and then kisses him, fierce and hot and sudden. Their teeth clash, and Clyde’s hands are too tight on his shoulders and it’s entirely possible his wardrobe is going to collapse at any moment and Luke doesn’t care. He slides his hands down Clyde’s back, fisting his hands in his t-shirt and dragging him closer.
“I can’t,” Clyde mumbles between kisses, breathless, “Luke, you can’t just...”
“Shut up,” Luke hisses back, tightening his arms around him in case Clyde decides to try and put distance between them, because that isn’t ok, that won’t ever be ok, smearing kisses together, mouths wet and lips sore and Luke wishes they’d sorted this out months ago but then he wouldn’t ever have left and it’s probably for the best that he actually did.
They part simultaneously, foreheads tipping together, laughing wildly.
“Oh my God,” Clyde breathes, “oh my God, Luke.” He’s probably stretched Luke’s shirt all out of shape, given how tight his fingers are twisted in the fabric, but it doesn’t matter. “Why would you even want this?”
Luke kisses him again, quick and hard. “Because it’s always been you, Clyde. Because there’s a chance that it won’t ever not be you, ok?”
Clyde pulls back just a little, and Luke can see all the places in his eyes where he’s entirely overwhelmed. Then he blinks and smirks and says: “well, of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”
Luke isn’t fooled for a second, but that’s ok too. He glances sideways and while K-9 is doing a good job of pretending to be inert and switched-off, he’s not particularly convincing.
“He’s watching us,” he warns softly, but he’s smiling. Clyde leans in and kisses the curved corner of his mouth.
“Let him,” he says, “it’ll give him something to do other than uncomfortably flirt with Mr Smith next time he calls home.”
Now that’s a horrific thought and Luke is about to try and discuss it in further detail when Clyde starts pulling him forwards, all but dragging Luke over to his single bed that possibly can’t even fit two people in it.
“Come on,” he says, “we’ve probably got about twenty minutes until Rani freaks out and comes to find us.”
“Wow,” Luke replies, aiming for sarcastic, “this is really romantic.”
Clyde just laughs and pulls him down.
They have a group project for their next piece of philosophy work, and one of the girls Luke is working with comes back to his room to figure out what they should do for their presentation.
Sophie also ends up looking at the photos on Luke’s corkboard while he’s turning on his laptop.
“Who’s this?” she asks, tapping the photo Kaitlin picked out, the two of them laughing on a warm afternoon.
Luke feels that happy little twist in his stomach that he gets whenever he thinks about it, but he keeps himself outwardly calm as he says: “oh, that’s Clyde. He’s my boyfriend.”