Thirty

Teddy felt an intense wave of relief when Julian’s face appeared in his screen; he knew it was illogical, that of course Julian hadn’t gone anywhere, but after the week he’d had, he couldn’t be too sure. After all, the one person he expected to never disappear had done just that: Grey. And with her, Alex. After what had happened with Shepherd and Malik, Teddy had been frantic. He’d looked for her everywhere, even tried to contact Steph to see what they had to say on the matter, but nothing turned up.

And then, finally, earlier that evening, he got a call from Grey. She seemed genuinely confused when he started yelling at her, wondering where she’d been all this time. She seemed downright shocked when he told her she’d been gone nearly a week. Then she told him that she’d been in a fairy club and had lost track of time, as one does, but that she had a potential lead in the form of a very angry fairy whose brother had been killed. She seemed to think that Shepherd was in on it to some extent and wanted to talk about it. She would be coming over soon, but for now, he wanted to take a minute and catch up with his other best friend.

His relief at seeing Jules was somewhat short-lived, however, because it meant he had to come face to face with the ghost of his best friend; his skin was pale, almost green, sweat creating a light sheen across his forehead. His cheekbones looked more angular than ever, giving his face a gaunt appearance, almost hollow. Dark eyes, usually full of life, were dulled but for the fever brightness in them and every breath Julian made seemed to rattle in his chest. Of course he’s not doing well, he scolded himself, he’s got cancer, remember? Teddy forced himself to smile anyway. “Jules,” he said, and the name was almost a prayer.

Julian gave him a sharp smile in return. “In the flesh…kinda,” he rasped. “Where the hell have you been? I kept thinking you’d call.”

Teddy winced at the hurt in his voice. “Something came up. Grey went AWOL.”

“Grey did?” Julian asked, eyebrows drawing together. “That’s not like her.”

“Tell me about it,” Teddy said. “I’ve been frantic.”

“Is she okay? Where did she go?”

This was where he’d have to lie, but simply leaving out details wasn’t really lying, was it? “She decided to go on an impromptu vacation with her new boyfriend, didn’t even tell me about it. Must be love on her brain.”

Julian shook his head. “Damn,” he said. “I leave for one week and Grey is already becoming a rebellious wild child. I should have known you guys couldn’t function without me.”

Teddy laughed. “You’re right, we’re at a loss. Everything seems different now. I wish you could come home already.”

“Me too,” Julian said. “But there’s still three weeks left on my sentence—and that’s only if this first round goes to plan.”

Teddy didn’t want to think what it would mean if the first round didn’t go to plan. Survival rate decreased a great deal if the doctors couldn’t get the cancer down to unnoticeable levels during the first induction. There would be follow up for months after, even if the first round did go to plan, but at least the worst would be over and Julian could have a normal life despite it all. “I miss you,” Teddy said, and he knew he sounded needy, but he didn’t care.

Julian’s smile wasn’t sharp this time; it was soft and comfortable. Genuine. “I miss you, too,” he said. “It’s so hard to sleep here. Cold all the time, and they never really turn out the lights. Plus, they’re always coming in as soon as I start to sleep. I hate it.”

“I wish there was something I could to help,” Teddy said, meaning every word.

“Sing to me?” Julian asked, and his voice was so small and plaintiff that Teddy knew he couldn’t deny him; he sounded like a child again.

“You’re the one with the pretty angel voice,” Teddy tried despite knowing this, smiling lightly at a remembered time when their show director couldn’t stop singing—literally—Julian’s praises.

Julian made a face. “Not right now. It’s so scratchy and low.”

“I’ll sing to you, but you have to try and get some sleep. Deal?” Teddy said.

“I’ve been trying,” Julian said, but it wasn’t really an argument and he settled down into his pillow with a sigh, eyes drifting shut.

And Teddy sang. He started out with a hum, not sure what song he should sing, but before long the song started to take shape and he was singing a song that he wrote with Jules the year before for a class project. When that song ended, he went through their favorite numbers from musicals, pop songs, whatever came to mind. By the time it ended, his voice was tired and almost as scratchy as Julian’s, but when he opened his eyes he saw that Julian was asleep; the pain Teddy had noticed was gone from his face, banished to wherever pain went whenever the brain checked out, and his breathing soft if a bit uneven. He smiled. “Night, Jules,” he muttered, then ended the call and set it to the side.

Almost as if sensing that the time was now, there was a knock on his door. Teddy didn’t ask who was there; he already knew. “Come on in,” he called.

Grey stepped into the apartment, looking sheepish. “You still mad?”

Teddy pinned her with a stare.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Grey said, then sighed. “But I do suppose I deserve it. I swear, though, we were only going to stay for a few hours. I never dreamed…”

“That you’d get sucked into the fairy magic and lose track of time? Whoever would have thought that?” Teddy said acerbically.

Grey winced. “Sorry,” she said, for perhaps the hundredth time.

Teddy held the stare a moment longer before finally relenting, scooting over and patting the seat next to him on the couch in invitation.

She flopped down into the couch right next to him, immediately nestling into his side and resting a head on his shoulder, arm thrown across his middle. Teddy moved to put his arms around her, just holding onto her as if he were afraid she’d vanish again. “This has been the hardest week of my life,” Teddy said. “Jules in the hospital, Shepherd still clinging to life—he looks truly dreadful, Grey, you should have seen him—and then you vanishing like that…I thought for sure you’d been taken like he had. That the next time I saw you, you’d either be dead or, worse, like him.

“I’m so sorry, Teddy,” Grey said with feeling this time, nestling down into his shoulder and sighing heavily. “I never meant to put you through that. But…it’s not for nothing.”

“What did you find out?” Teddy said, knowing this was what she’d really come for even if the comforting snuggles were a major plus.

Grey extricated herself from Teddy’s arms and leaned forward to pick up the thing she’d deposited there. He hadn’t even really noticed it at first, but now that he was looking at it, he could see that it was clearly a weapon of some kind. When she tugged the wrapping off, he saw that it wasn’t just any weapon: it was Shepherd’s cane sword. He’d always carried the thing with him. Teddy thought it looked ridiculous. Shepherd was someone who took himself very seriously and it was almost embarrassing the way he completely unironically used things like this.

“Where did you get this again?” Teddy asked.

“Apparently, Shepherd is the one who killed that fairy we found when we were running last full-moon. His—the dead fairy’s—brother was furious and said that this was the weapon that he’d been killed with. Do you think there’s even a slight possibility that Shepherd could have done that?”

“If he had,” Teddy began, chewing his cheek. “I’d think it would be against his will. After all, he was poisoned too. Maybe they threatened him? Or maybe they just wanted it to look like Shepherd’s fault—easy enough to frame someone if you have them in your custody and therefore nobody else can contest his whereabouts.”

“Either way, it’s our responsibility,” Grey said.

“What do you mean?”

“The fairy almost killed me and Alex right there,” Grey said with a sigh. “It was only when we promised to get revenge for him that he let us go. He said we have three months to get justice to his satisfaction or else he’d take the blood price from us all.”

Teddy ran a hand over his face. “So justice or war,” he said.

“Basically. But, I mean, he’s dying anyway, right?”

“He should have been dead days ago,” Teddy said. “I don’t know why he’s clinging to life so hard. It’s like his spite is keeping him alive.”

Grey snorted. “That’s not even a surprise. Either way, that should suffice for justice, right?”

Teddy shook his head. “Maybe, but that’s only if he’s solely responsible for that fairy’s death. If it was someone else—whoever took Shepherd, for instance—it might be that we have to get them too, in order to satisfy the price.”

“I want to get them anyways,” Grey admitted. “I don’t like Shepherd, but torture like that…it’s awful. And Malik didn’t deserve it, whatever the case.”

“It’s kind of funny,” Teddy said, smiling a bit.

“What?” Grey asked, sounding confused and unhappy about that fact.

“Hearing you get all bothered by the death of a witch,” Teddy said. “If your parents could hear you now…”

“Oh boy,” Grey said, shaking her head. “I don’t even want to know what they’d do if they found out about my relationship with Alex.”

Teddy chuckled and the two settled into a companionable silence. “It’s almost time, isn’t it?”

“Hm?” Grey asked, sounding as if she were inclined towards sleep herself. It had been a long week for her, too, no doubt, even if she couldn’t remember it because of the fairy magic. Dancing for a week straight can take a hell of a lot out of a person.

“Our marriage,” Teddy said. “Or did you forget?”

“Two weeks,” Grey said. “And then we’ll be married. I’m kind of excited.”

“Only kind of?” Teddy teased.

She laughed. “Okay, a lot excited. Could it really be happening? Just like that, everything sorted out?”

“Well, not everything,” Teddy said, thinking about Julian. “But most of it.”

Grey nodded. “Mind if I stay the night here?”

“Mind? I’d prefer it, actually. I don’t want to let you out of my sight at all if I can help it. But what about your parents?”

“Didn’t even notice I was gone,” Grey said, and he could hear the slight hurt in her voice.

Rather than try and comfort her with words, however, Teddy just pulled her back down to their previous snuggle pile. “Let’s not worry about that for now,” he said. “For now, let’s just get some rest.”

 

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