“Hey, does anyone want popcorn,” Regulus called from the kitchen.
“Ooo, throw some M&M’s in there!” Leo shouted back from the couch.
“Shh, baby it’s starting,” Finn hushed into his ear, making Leo laugh and turn into him for a kiss.
“Sorry, I’ll be quiet,” he mumbled against his lips.
“Did it start yet? I didn’t miss the beginning did I?” Logan asked, emerging from his room clad in a soft worn pair of leggings and one of Leo’s massive hoodies that could have passed as a dress on him. He hummed and pressed a kiss into soft blond curls before hopping over the back of the sofa to plop into the spot on Leo’s other side.
“Na, still in commercials,” Regulus said, wandering in from the kitchen and curling up in the plush recliner kitty corner to the TV. He flicked a piece of popcorn at Finn and Leo who were still preoccupied with each other’s lips, they broke apart when the popcorn hit Finn in the cheek. Leo glanced over and winked at Regulus who simply scoffed and rolled his eyes at them.
“You disgust me,” he said with a grin.
“Mmm, I want an M&M,” he said opening his mouth and tilting his head back. Regulus scoffed again but reached into the bowl and snagged a piece of chocolate, he tossed it at Leo’s open mouth but somehow hit him in the forehead making the candy bounce onto the floor.
Leo didn’t have a chance to whine before Logan was shushing him, “It actually is starting guys,” he said tucking his feet under Leo’s thigh.
The four of them turned to the TV where the opening music for a talk show had begun to play, for a few moments the host waffled on about one thing or another the audience laughing at the corny jokes before they introduced the guest for the episode.
“You know his talent, you know his looks, and occasionally you even get to know his wit, please welcome to the show: the Gryffindor Lions captain Sirius Black.” There were massive cheers from the audience as Sirius walked onto the set clad in a simple navy blue suit, he gave a little wave and sat in the seat next to the host.
“Well, Sirius thank you for being here tonight. It’s an honor, not gunna lie I was a bit shocked when my producer told me you had agreed to be here. It’s pretty rare to get you in the spotlight willingly.”
“Yeah, well I pulled the short straw,” Sirius said with a cheeky wink, “I’m kidding. Honestly it’s great to be here.”
“Little does the host know that he really isn’t joking,” Logan said with a snicker, “he actually did make us draw straws and still had to do it.”
“Oh my god, he hates this,” Finn said trying to stifle his laughter against Leo’s neck, “you can see it in his eyes.”
“Is it bad that I am finding immense pleasure in his discomfort?” Regulus asked, tossing a piece of popcorn in his mouth.
“Mmm, maybe a bit sadistic,” Logan teased from his end of the couch.
“Shh,” Leo shushed with a grin, “now who's talking too much?” the other three stifled their laughter and turned back to the TV.
“So, Sirius it seems like it was just yesterday that the world found out about you and your relationship. It’s weird to think that it was nearly a year ago that you came out.”
“Oh, here we go again,” Regulus mumbled under his breath. It seemed like no matter how much time had passed since Sirius and Remus had been outed that the media still loved to talk about it, and evidently this wasn’t going to be an exception.
Sirius had a somewhat tight smile plastered on his face, “Yeah, I guess it does seem like time has flown by. But on the other hand so much has happened this past year that the hockey world is dramatically different than the one I was forced to come out in.” Sirius paused crossing his legs, “You know I hate the fact that the right to tell people was taken not only from myself but also from Remus, my partner and that’s never going to change. But I will say that I am proud we were able to be a part of making the NHL and hockey in general a more inclusive place, for all the people that love this sport, both players and fans alike,” there was a cheer from the audience at Sirius’s heartfelt words.
“As a hockey fan myself it was definitely something to see how the people reacted after you were outed.”
“Yeah, all I can really say is that I am endlessly grateful for the outpouring of love and support that Remus and I received; it was amazing to see how many people were there for us when it felt like the world had turned upside down.”
“You know just the fact that you embraced yourself and your relationship in such a public way, was a massive driving force in encouraging others to do the same. As of now there are people all across the LGBT+ spectrum on not only the Lions but on nearly every team in the NHL, how does it make you feel that you aren’t alone in this anymore?”
“Well, to put it frank I never really was alone. I had my partner, and I had my teammates my chosen family who were always there to support me whether I realized it or not. But as for all of the other players that are finally comfortable in sharing such a personal part of their lives, I am so proud of them. If that choice hadn’t been taken from me, I’m not sure when or if I ever would have had the courage to be open about it. So, all of these people, the players, the fans, who chose to be open in a world that though changing is still vicious towards people who are different they are infinitely stronger than I am and I am proud to call many of them my friends.”
“Well, thank you Sirius. I’m sure your words mean a lot and resonate with so many people out there watching tonight. Anyway, do you wanna tell us about this event that the Lions will be hosting at the end of the month?”
Sirius’s grinned and nodded before speaking again, “Certainly, the Lions are organizing a fundraiser this year. At the end of October, we will be having a horror corn maze that I have been promised will scare the daylights out of you, this will be running every night in the week leading up to Halloween. Then on the last night the 31 st we will be having a fall carnival complete with apple cider, a Farris wheel, and booths with pretty much anything you can think of. Costumes are highly encouraged, it's gunna be a great time for people to come out and meet the team, and have some spooky fun. Tickets for the carnival are limited but some are still available online, all of the proceeds from this event are being donated directly to the Trevor Project.”
The host had been nodding along as Sirius spoke and once he had finished the man gave him a friendly smile, “Well that sounds like it will be a fun night, I look forward to seeing it. But, unfortunately that looks like all the time we have for tonight.” The host turned back to address the audience, “If anyone is interested in this event the details are on our website and a link to purchase tickets. Thank you again Sirius for coming out here and chatting tonight. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are excited to see what you have in store for us for the rest of the season.”
“It was a pleasure to be here,” Sirius said before standing and shaking the host’s hand, he waved to the audience and made his way off the set.
Logan raised the remote and clicked off the TV just as the host finished his end of show spiel. He groaned and chucked it to the floor before bending backwards to pop his back over the arm of the couch.
“Alright,” Regulus said with a sigh before standing and setting his bowl of popcorn on the coffee table, “I should probably get going.”
“Booo,” Leo whined, sticking his tongue out at him.
“You should stay tonight,” Logan spoke softly, his voice almost sleepy.
“Yeah, it's late. You shouldn’t be out driving,” Finn said from where he was tucked against Leo more or less fully in his lap.
“Nah, I’ll be fine. ‘Sides Sirius will get all mother hen on me if I don’t come home. But I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“Fine,” Logan sighed dramatically, “be that way, leave us here all alone.”
Regulus grinned as he watched the three of them untangle themselves on the couch, “On what earth are you alone?” he asked. Logan was the first to pull himself free and make his way over to Regulus.
“You know what I mean. It’s not the same without you,” he pulled Regulus into a warm hug, hands tangling in the soft fabric of Leo’s hoodie at the small of Logan's back.
Regulus pulled back only to be ushered into another set of strong waiting arms, “Just drive safe ok?” Finn whispered low in his ear. His voice was deeper than normal, Regulus could feel the rumble of his words reverberate through his own body. He shivered at the sensation despite the heat of Finn's arms around him.
“Don’t worry, I’m not Sirius. I actually follow the rules of the road,” he scoffed.
Finn chuckled and loosened his grip only for Regulus to be pulled into yet another hug. Unconsciously, Regulus burrowed his face against Leo’s chest as his long arms wrapped around him securely.
“Text us when you get home?” Leo asked, letting one of his hands slide up to massage the back of Regulus’s neck, his fingers tangling in fluffy black hair.
“I will,” he said softly, letting the moment linger just a bit longer before pulling away.
Once Regulus was buckled into his car, he finally let his mind wander back to Logan’s words, ‘ You know what I mean, it’s not the same without you ’. Regulus mulled those words over and over in his mind and in the end, he wasn’t sure if he did know what Logan meant. They would always be the same without him, because ultimately, he wasn’t a part of them. Regulus sighed as he pulled into the garage and turned his car off, lingering in the warmth of the heater while his mind tried to fit together the puzzle pieces that were Finn, Leo, and Logan.
When Regulus had first come to Gryffindor after that All Stars game, he wasn’t sure what he would find. His brother, an escape from his parents and the Snakes; that was already more than he thought he could even hope for. But he also found them.
Leo was first, they were the same age; it was easy to spend time with this man, who had the polar opposite experience for his rookie year. It was easy to talk and joke and relax in his presence while Regulus’s entire world turned on its head. As he decided to step away from the NHL and go to school, figure out what he wanted to do with his life, not what his parents expected him to do with it.
Finn and Logan almost came in tandem; Regulus never thought they would become such important parts of his life, but now nearly a year later he couldn’t even imagine what his life would be like without them. Without Finn and his long-winded analysis of Regulus’s reading assignments, how he would lay out each point in a bulleted list at the kitchen table. Without Logan pulling him to the couch the moment Regulus walked through the door, shoving a controller into his hands only to shout French obscenities at the screen as they played video games together, his whole body moving as if that would make his character move where he wanted it. Without Leo's warm southern drawl that seemed to slip out when he was sleepy and affectionate, his octopus limbs curled around whoever was closest to him.
Regulus sighed, finally climbing out of the car and making his way into his brother’s home. It was dark but warm as he wandered through the living room; Sirius and Remus must have gone to bed already, he thought to himself as he began ascending the stairs to his room. Pushing through the door, Regulus kicked off his shoes and flopped down on the bed fully dressed. He sighed again as he was suddenly struck by the stark contrast between the happy warmth that surrounded him at the cub’s apartment and the loneliness that seemed to be trying to creep under his skin now that he was in his own bed. He closed his eyes and let a smile pull at his lips as the evening played out again behind his eyelids, he could still feel the ghost of each of them holding him close, their strong arms pulling him in until he was surrounded by their heat.
For just a moment Regulus let himself indulge in the fantasy; where he didn’t leave, where he stayed right there in their warmth, held close and safe and loved. This was all new to him, wanting that. Wanting them. These three men seemed to be appearing more and more in his mind, in his dreams. Honestly, more than he should ever let himself admit. The first time he felt them creep into his thoughts Regulus was so caught off guard he nearly gasped aloud. They had been at the cub’s apartment watching some ridiculous noir movie Finn had picked, the three of them tangled together in a pile of blankets and limbs. Regulus just remembered seeing it, the three of them imperfect but complete together, he felt a warm happiness bubble up in his chest at the sight and wanted nothing more than to find his place and curl into them.
Huffing a breath, Regulus shook the thought from his head. This was all just a fantasy, a dream that would never come to fruition; no matter how much he ached for them. He had to stop torturing himself. He had to stop longing for the ghost of each embrace, pretending he could still feel the heat of their arms warm and strong around him. Pretending the press of a large palm against his back was a scar, scorched into his skin.
Regulus sighed and pulled his phone from the pocket of his jeans. He shot a quick message to the cubs to let them know he was home safe, before throwing it to the foot of his bed and sliding off the sheets. Quietly, he pulled some night clothes from his dresser, and only moments later he was crawling under the covers, now in a pair of soft sweatpants and old t-shirt that had definitely seen better days. As he snagged his phone to put on the charger, he was greeted by several messages:
Lindsay Lohan: Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite
Fish stix: string of zzz emojis
ButterKnut Squash: gif of a cat in bed
Lindsay Lohan: attached
Regulus clicked on the image Logan had sent and he felt a smile pull at his lips, the three of them had piled into Finn's king size bed. Logan was in the center, his eyes hooded and sleepy in the dim lit room, with Finn lying face down tucked into one side; Leo was on the other, his long arms wrapping around them both and his face pushed into the crook of Logan’s neck.
Saving the image into his phone, Regulus fell asleep that night imagining what it would be like to fit like a jigsaw piece into that warmth.
“Ok, how are you so good at that?” Regulus asked just as Logan finished applying a flawless winged eyeliner on Finn’s lilac dusted lids.
“Reg, I have three older sisters. It kinda comes with the territory,” Logan replied, glancing over at Regulus, who was in front of the bathroom mirror painting on a goatee. He was already wearing his green t-shirt and brown suede bell bottoms, his hair fluffed out and he was certainly achieving that ‘stoner vibe’ Shaggy always seemed to have.
“Oh my god!” Finn said, blinking open his long false lashes, “Have we never shown you the pictures of Logan when he was a kid!”
“Hey! I made an excellent Cinderella, thank you very much! And hold still, I’m not done with you yet,” Logan reached out to hold Finn's face steady as he applied a soft pink lipstick to his mouth. Finn was currently sitting on the closed toilet, clad in a clingy purple dress and wavy ginger wig, waiting for Logan to do the last finishing touches on his face.
“Close your eyes,” he said, then spritzed setting spray over Finn's face. Logan reached over to the bathroom counter and snagged the silky green scarf and purple headband sitting there. When he was done, he tilted Finn’s chin up with a finger and pecked a light kiss against his lips, “there you are mon amour. A perfect Daphne Blake.”
Finn grinned up at Logan still standing in front of him, “Thanks babe,” he said before standing and making his way over to the mirror. Regulus jumped when he felt arms wrap around his middle, but he quickly relaxed back against Finn's warm chest as his chin came to rest on his shoulder. “What do you think Reg? Lo, do a good job on my face?” he asked with a cheeky grin.
“Um… yeah, looks great,” Regulus struggled to get the words out, distracted by Finn's body pressed against his back.
“D’accord d’accord, if you two are done staring at yourselves I need to get ready now. Allez,” Logan said, making shooing motions at them.
Finn simply tightened his arms around Regulus’s waist and winked one of his false lashes at his reflection, before pulling back and making his way out of the bathroom. Regulus shook his head as if trying to shake off the tingling feeling of Finn's arms before following after him to let Logan get dressed.
Out in the living room Leo -the only one who didn’t have to put on some form of makeup, considering his costume consisted of a pair of bell bottom jeans, a white long-sleeved shirt and a bright orange ascot- was lounging on the couch munching on kale chips. His hand froze halfway to his mouth when his eyes landed on Finn.
“You like, Nutty?” Finn asked, turning in a slow circle in front of Leo who hastily pushed away the bag of chips. Leo reached out and pulled Finn close by the hips, until he was standing between Leo's open knees. “Mmm, I’ll take that as a yes,” Finn said, leaning down to press a kiss to Leo’s lips, leaving behind just a bit of light pink lipstick.
Regulus stood leaning against the counter watching, he knew he should look away from the two of them but somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to do so.
Slowly, Leo blinked away the haze from Finn's kiss and glanced up, meeting Regulus’s eyes over Finn's shoulder. He grinned as he broke away from his lips.
“You look good Reg; I’m digging the goatee.”
Regulus flushed but didn’t have a chance to reply before a shout pulled their attention away.
“Hey!” Logan cried indignantly from the entrance to the hallway, “don’t smudge my masterpiece before we even get there!”
Finn chuckled but pulled away from Leo anyway, or at least Regulus assumed he did, he couldn’t be entirely sure because his eyes had become glued to Logan. Regulus wasn’t sure if it was him that made the strangled noise he heard, but in that moment he wasn’t entirely sure he cared either as he took in the sight before him.
Logan stood at the entrance of the hallway leading to the bedrooms with his hip cocked against the wall. He was clad in an orange chunky knit sweater that looked very soft, which was cropped short and left his strong stomach muscles exposed. A short pleated skirt swished around his thighs as he pushed away from the wall, and a pair of orange knee high socks stretched up his legs.
“Quoi?” Logan asked walking towards Regulus, “You don’t think the glasses make me look too nerdy, do you?”
Apparently Regulus had lost all ability to speak, because all he could do was shake his head as he stared down at Logan in large square framed glasses, now standing close in front of him. He had shaded his eyes in a soft smoky brown and gold that made the green of his eyes stand in striking contrast. His cheeks and nose were highlighted in a gold dust that made his entire face glow like he had a personal sun lighting him. His lips were a soft creamy chocolate color that made Regulus want to lean forward and taste if they were sweet.
“Tremz, babe. You look hot,” Leo’s voice snapped Regulus out of whatever trance he was in. When Logan glanced over at his boyfriends still on the couch, Reguls breathed in shakily before slipping away into the kitchen.
Regulus used the brief moment of silence to recover his breathing before shaking his head and striding over to one of the cabinets to grab a glass. Standing in front of the sink, Regulus tensed as he suddenly felt a large warm hand cup the back of his neck just before Leo settled at his side.
“Hey,” Leo's voice was soft as his hand kneaded the tense muscles in his neck, “everything all right? You seem kinda jumpy.”
Regulus sighed, his eyes slipped closed and his head rolled back into Leo’s palm before he realized it, “M’fine,” he said quietly.
“You sure?” Leo’s voice was soothing, just a hint of his southern drawl coming through, “You know you can talk to me, right? To any of us really, about anything. You’re our best friend Reg, we’re here for you.”
Friend ,the word felt like ice water down his spine as Regulus was snapped back to reality. That’s all he was, a friend . These seemingly intimate moments with the three of them were borrowed, not meant for him. Regulus straightened and ducked out from under Leo’s hand, leaving his glass behind in the sink.
“You know, we should probably head out, it’s starting to get late,” he said, turning his back to Leo.
Leo sighed softly, “Ok yeah, you’re right. Oh and Reg,” he called just before Regulus left the kitchen, “you almost forgot this.”
Turning back, Regulus saw that Leo was holding out the silly finishing piece to his costume, a fanny pack that had a stuffed Scooby Doo sewn to the front of it. Regulus cracked a small smile at the bag, but as he took it from Leo's hand it almost seemed like there was something sad in his baby blue eyes.
The Lions management had gone all out for this fundraiser, renting an old farm to create a massive haunted corn maze and autumn carnival in the empty field across from it.
The road onto the farm was bumpy and dusty, Regulus and the Cubs held tight to the hand holds in Finns Jeep as he drove too fast over washboard dirt riddled with potholes. Cars had parked all the way down the dirt road, their drivers just walking the rest of the way in their costumes.
“Holy shit!” Logan said looking out the window as they pulled into the small parking lot. The line of people waiting to enter the maze nearly wrapped around the entire parking area, on the opposite side another line to enter the brightly lit field that housed the carnival wrapped in the other direction.
“How the hell are there so many people here?” Leo asked leaning forward over the center console to see better out the windshield.
“Oh, fuck yeah!” Finn shouted, quickly pulling into a spot that another car just vacated.
“Ooo, I’m so excited!” Leo said bounding a little as the four of them piled out of the car and began making their way towards the entrance. They stopped several times to take pictures and sign autographs with fans, but eventually made it to the front of the line.
Regulus felt butterflies of excitement fluttering around in his stomach as they approached the entrance. In all his life,Regulus had never been allowed to participate in anything like this, his parents said it was a waste of time and smacked him on the back of the head whenever he asked to go before. He had never been one to scare easily, so he wasn’t sure what the fear factor was going to be like. Nonetheless, Regulus felt jittery with excitement as they waited to be let into the maze.
From the outside all they could see was tall corn, the browning leaves rustling in the cool October breeze; however they could hear the distant screams of others already far inside. In front of the opening into the maze, a man stood in a powdered suit looking like he just stepped out of a coffin; his face, neck, and hands had been made to look like the flesh was rotting off.
“There will be no running within the maze,” the man said with a thick dramatic British accent, “no horseplay, or roughhousing. Be aware that the spirits inside may approach you with ill intent; however, under no circumstances are you to react with violence. Otherwise it may be the last thing you ever do. Be prepared to wander and lose yourself inside the maze, but step not off the path and into the corn, for if you do you will never be seen again.” As he explained the rules, Regulus couldn’t help but get the impression that the man was a posh butler scolding school children running through the halls of a distinguished manor, and after a moment he nodded solemnly then stepped aside letting the four of them into the maze.
As they passed the man Regulus snagged one of the guide maps and shoved it in the Scooby fanny pack still clipped around his waist. Before they had gotten there, Finn had scoffed saying they wouldn’t need a map because he had an excellent sense of direction, but Regulus had his doubts: he had been on enough road trips with the three of them to know that not one of them could find their way out of a paper bag. Not that he was any better himself, but at least he had the self-awareness to know it, besides that’s what the map was for.
The path ahead of them was dark and eerie; the sounds of the crowd were quickly dampened as they became surrounded by the sea of endless stalks of corn taller even than Leo. There were safety lights that ran along the edges of the narrow path, but their light did little to illuminate much as they were mostly obscured by a swirling fog around their ankles.
Leo and Logan led the group farther down the path and around a corner or two, until the light from the entrance was completely out of sight. Regulus could feel a smile creep onto his face at the sight of their hands clasped between them, fingers laced together as they walked.
“Pst, Reg?” Finn whispered from his left, “Are you scared yet?” he asked with a grin.
Regulus chuckled and glanced over at Finn in his purple ensemble, “Nah,” he said softly before wrapping an arm around Finn's shoulders and pulling him in against his side, “how can I be scared with you by my side?”
“Awe,” Finn replied with a laugh, “you big sap,” he said, settling his arm around Regulus’s waist and squeezing lightly as they continued through the maze.
There was a rustling behind them, Regulus looked over his shoulder and at first he didn’t see anything, but then his eyes caught hold of her.
The woman was just peeking out from between the cornstalks, most of her body still hidden within them, however even in the dark Regulus could make out occult symbols that had been made to look as though they were carved into her face. Her eyes were completely black with little trails of blood running from the corners. They bore into him, intense and focused, daring him to look away. Regulus shivered and turned back to look forward as he and Finn continued following after Leo and Logan. Chancing a glance back, Regulus looked over his shoulder only to find that she was gone hidden once more amongst the corn.
The four of them continued wandering through the maze, occasionally stumbling across bloody and grotesque people tied up to wooden posts like twisted scarecrows or old rusted up farm equipment splattered with blood. Turning one corner they came across an actor in dirty ripped clothes, screaming that “it” was after him, that he had been in the maze for days and there was no escape from “it” and that they were all going to die, before running off in the opposite direction. Actors dressed as werewolves, vampires, zombies and everything in between wandered the twisting paths, waiting in wake to scare unsuspecting people as they turned a corner.
The four of them walked in circles taking turns at random, only to jump as an actor screamed in front of them. They laughed as they got hopelessly lost amongst the stalks, but all the while Regulus couldn’t help but keep glancing over his shoulder, keeping an eye out for the woman he had seen at the beginning of the maze. Every once in a while he would spot her, her eyes locked directly on his as if she were waiting for him to see her. Finn never saw her though, even when Regulus tried to point her out,by the time he could tell Finn where to look she had disappeared again, like she was teasing him.
Leo and Logan eventually lead them down a path that seemed to have a soft yellow light glowing at the end of it, the four of them made their way towards it. As they grew closer to the light, they began to notice that the path had become lined with bones, until it finally opened wide enough to fit a rickety old shed that looked like it might fall down if you sneezed hard enough at it. A single lantern hung from the front and the words ‘KEEP OUT’ were painted in dripping red across the door.
“What do you think guys, should we go in?” Logan asked, glancing back at Finn and Regulus then back up at Leo.
“Yeah, what the hell,” Finn said ducking out from under Regulus’s arm to stride up to the door and pull it open, the rest falling into step behind him. It was dark inside the shed, but around them they could see cages hanging from the ceiling with decaying skeletons in them, the walls were covered in rusty tools splattered in blood. In the corner of the shed, a girl was curled up in dirty ripped clothes, her hair matted with blood. None of them noticed her though, or maybe they simply thought she was just another prop, but suddenly she was screaming.
“HELP ME! PLEASE! HE’S GUNNA KILL ME!” she made to run at them but was held back by the chains around her ankles and wrists. All four of them jumped but laughed it off, until suddenly a door at the opposite side of the shed opened and a man covered in blood wielding a machete began running towards them, screaming.
“Oh Fuck!” Leo shouted as they all stumbled over each other trying to exit the shed first, the man chased them back into the maze. Eventually though they lost him, pausing for a moment to laugh and catch their breath. Regulus felt the hair on the back of his neck rise, a feeling he was becoming all too familiar with in this maze,he looked down the path in the direction they had just run and caught sight of the woman with the symbols once again, watching him. Shaking off the unease that her presence seemed to instill in him, Regulus turned his back to her and continued with the others farther into the maze.
This time Finn had taken the front with Leo, the two of them bickering over whether they should go right or continue left. Regulus laughed at their antics as Logan fell into step beside him, his soft orange sweater bright in his peripherals.
“Alors, vous amusez-vous?” Logan asked bumping his shoulder against Regulus’s.
Are you having fun? Regulus smiled softly before replying, “Je m'amuse toujours avec vous les gars,” I always have fun with you guys .
“Mmm, I’m glad. Qui me rend heureux,” Logan said.
“Are you having fun though?” Regulus asked, bumping his shoulder back.
Logan chuckled, “Well I can’t say I’m a huge fan of scary, but it hasn’t been too bad. Honestly, the thing that scares me the most is that we’ll likely be stuck in this maze for the entire night because none of us can navigate for shit.”
“You wanna know a little secret?” Regulus asked in a whisper.
Logan raised an eyebrow at him, “Hit me.”
“Don’t tell Finn but, I snagged a map when we started.”
Logan grinned brightly and wrapped him in a one-armed hug, “Ah you’re being sneaky in here, J'aime cela.”
Continuing through the maze, they stumbled across several more areas where the path opened up into a clearing big enough to allow a gruesome scene to be set up.
First was the “Butcher Shop” where actors were strapped down onto large metal tables, screaming and writhing against the restraints, some of them were made to look like their internal organs had been pulled out and were hanging from their bodies. Large plastic sheets splattered in blood covered others as if they had been packaged alive. A man in a leather pig mask and blood splattered apron wielding a cleaver chased them from the scene threatening to chop them into pieces.
Next, they wandered into the torture chamber, the actors shouted and pleaded to be freed from their various fates. Regulus looked around and recognized the obligatory electric chair and iron maiden, but there were also mannequins on pikes, made to look like they had been rotting there for who knows how long. There was a person being stretched and another being waterboarded.
Finally, they reached what had to be the center of the maze. For the last few minutes they had been walking, eerie carousel music began creeping through the rustling stalks of corn, until the path had opened up into the largest clearing they had found as of yet. At the end of the path, just before it fed into the open area, stood a large structure that looked almost like a massive lantern. Once they were closer, Regulus realized it was meant to be a life-sized music box. However, rather than turning in circles,the dancer inside hung limply, their body suspended by thick ropes attached to their wrists and a noose around their neck. The figure moved slowly to the music as if the corpse were a puppet.
The large clearing was set up like a carnival with red and white stripes painted everywhere, cobwebs and blood splatter covered every booth and flashing light. All around them, it looked like all the things you would normally find at a carnival had been darkly twisted. There was a clown with a massive hammer hoisted over his head, getting ready to play the test your strength game. However, at the base there was a man tied up, screaming and pleading, his head was directly where the hammer was set to land.
Another clown was shooting what looked like bloody dismembered heads into a basketball hoop. Across from the basketball, a different clown was aiming to hit bottles off of another person’s head, who was tied up and covered in fake blood. The four of them made their way through the clearing, cringing as actors in clown costumes would run up to them and shriek laughter into their faces, or sneak up behind them only to pop a balloon making them jump.
Regulus certainly breathed a sigh of relief once they made it back into the narrow aisles of corn, now truly looking to make their way out of the maze. He and Logan were still following Leo and Finn’s lead as they continued through turn after turn with no end in sight. Regulus couldn’t help but continue shooting looks over his shoulder, now completely paranoid by the woman following them that apparently only he had seen. Each time he’d spot her he would glare, making her smile somewhat manically and wave teasingly at him before disappearing again. Honestly, he wasn’t sure how much longer he wanted to be lost in this labyrinth.
The four of them wandered aimlessly around the maze for another fifteen minutes, occasionally stumbling across actors covered in fake blood screaming. At one point Finn complained that his heels were hurting his feet and without missing a beat, Leo hoisted him up to carry him like a backpack.
“Ahhh, we’re gunna be lost in here forever,” Finn whined.
“What happened to ‘I have an excellent sense of direction’” Logan asked teasingly.
“Well logically if we turn left enough times we should get there, it’s not my fault this place runs in circles.”
“Babe, it’s a maze, that’s kinda the point,” Leo said before kissing Finn's arm where it wrapped around his chest.
“Pst,” Logan whispered, “should we tell him that you snagged a map on the way in?”
“We could,” Regulus whispered back with a mischievous grin, “or we continue to let him wallow while we take the lead, convincing him and Leo that we have the superior navigational skills.”
Logan tried to suppress his laughter, “that’s mean,” he said still in a hushed voice, “but also kind of hilarious, I’m in.”
Quietly, Regulus pulled the map out of his fanny pack and looked around to get his bearings. H scoffed realizing they had been walking in circles for the last five minutes and were only a couple turns away from the exit.
“Tremz,” he whispered, repressing an exasperated laugh, “we’re literally so close.”
Logan shook his head, trying not to laugh too loudly as Regulus returned the map into its hiding spot.
“And what are you two laughing at?” Leo asked turning to walk backwards, his arms hooked under Finn's legs; the redhead had tucked his face into the crook of Leo’s neck and looked perfectly content despite his earlier whining.
“Ah, nothing,” Regulus said offhandedly, “Tremzy was just saying that if we don’t make it out of here soon, we will have to resort to cannibalism. You know, go all Donner Party on each other.”
“Lo, you can eat my ass anytime, just say the word,” Leo replied with a saucy wink.
“Perv,” Logan rolled his eyes, “but I might just take you up on that.”
Leo chuckled, “I’m sorry you’re hungry babe, but once we get to the festival we can stuff our faces with caramel corn and apple cider,” he smiled widely before turning back around.
Regulus rolled his eyes fondly at his back, “Hey Nutty, why don’t we go right at this turn up here instead?”
“What! You want to change methods?” Finn asked looking back over his shoulder at Logan and Regulus.
“Yeah, why not,” Logan said, “what can it hurt,” he winked at Regulus conspiratorially.
“All right, lead the way oh great pathfinder,” Leo teased before stepping aside to let Regulus take the lead.
Regulus chuckled, glancing behind him again before moving up front. The sound nearly died in his throat when he saw that the woman was still there following them, her black eyes boring into him.
“Ok, what is up with you, you’ve been looking over your shoulder like every five minutes the entire time?” Logan asked as Regulus moved forward.
“Hmm, apparently there’s someone following us,” Finn said, tucking his face back into Leo’s neck, “I never saw them so I kinda think Reg is just losing his mind.”
“Really? How have I not noticed someone following us?” Leo asked, turning back around as Regulus led them around another turn.
“I don’t know, maybe Fish is right; maybe it’s all in my mind,” Regulus said, knowing one hundred percent that the woman was real but somehow always disappearing just before the others saw her. Logically he knew that she was simply an actor in the maze, but still her presence was unsettling to Regulus; it was starting to get under his skin.
By the time Regulus finally navigated their way out of the maze, they had been in it for nearly two hours wandering aimlessly. The moment they stepped through the archway labeled ‘EXIT’, Finn dramatically slid from where he had been perched on Leo’s back and fell to his knees on the ground.
“Freedom!” he shouted, raising his hands in the air before spinning to face Regulus, “My hero! Oh brave Theseus! Thou hast led us out of this cursed labyrinth, how shall I repay my savior?”
“So fucking extra,” Logan said, his shoulders shaking with laughter.
“Babe, get up you’re gunna trash your knees,” Leo said, trying to haul Finn up by the armpits.
“Oof, guess I didn’t think that one through all the way,” Finn winced slightly as he brushed off dirt and gravel, his knees bare below the hem of his purple dress.
Regulus rolled his eyes but grinned at his antics, “Come on guys, let’s head over to the carnival. I believe someone promised caramel corn upon our exit,” he winked up at a still chuckling Leo, who wrapped an arm around his shoulders.
Regulus glanced over to the field across from the maze, it was aglow with yellow lights strung from booth to booth, creating a canopy over the area. The smell of caramel corn, and apple cider was carried on the soft October breeze while the gentle sound of music filtered into the air. At the far end of the field, a high Ferris Wheel turned in a lazy loop, the lights blinking in the darkness.
The four of them ambled over to the ticket booth, letting the girl in the small stand scan their wrist bands before merging into the flow of the crowd. Countless people moved around them in every direction, children ran past their legs running toward the cotton candy vendor, cash clenched tight in their fists, couples strolled by hands clasped between them sipping apple cider from steaming cups, groups of laughing teenagers strolled from booth to booth playing games and snagging candy from the bowls set out. Everyone had costumes, some people went full spooky dressing as monsters or demons, others went spoopy: Regulus saw at least one person dressed as ‘Serial Killer’ with small boxes of cereal attached to them, plastic knives stabbed through the cardboard and fake blood everywhere, and there were countless renditions of superheroes.
Overall the effect was a dizzying display of people and colors and movement. Regulus felt Leo tighten his arm around his shoulders, keeping him close so they wouldn’t get separated in the throng. Leo had his other hand clasped with Logan’s, who was in turn dragging Finn. He steered them through the crowd to a free picnic table near the dance floor that had been set up, where the crowd seemed to thin a bit.
“So, what first? Food or games?” Regulus asked over the din of the people around them as Leo’s arm finally slipped from his shoulder.
“Fooooood!” Logan groaned, dramatically wrapping his arms around his stomach, “I thought I was going to starve in that maze.”
“Now look who’s being extra,” Finn teased, wrapping his arms around Logan’s smaller frame, “but I’ll second that I’ve been craving a churro since this morning,” he said, pressing a kiss to Logan’s temple.
“Alright, what’s the plan then?” Leo asked, “Divide and conquer? Reg can go get drinks and the three of us can spread out and hit the different food vendors then meet back here?”
“Works for me,” Regulus said with a soft grin as Finn and Logan nodded their agreement.
“You want anything specific to eat?” Leo asked, brushing his hand up Regulus’s arm, making him shiver slightly under the touch. Regulus hoped that they would assume it was from the chilly breeze rather than the warmth of Leo’s fingers against his skin.
“Nah, whatever’s fine, what do you guys want? Cider?” he asked, looking over at Finn who still had his arms wrapped around Logan but now also had his face buried in the crook of his neck, pressing soft kisses to the skin there.
“Oui, sounds good,” Logan replied, Finn hummed in acknowledgement.
“Hot chocolate?” Regulus asked, turning to Leo, his breath catching at the warmth in his baby blue eyes and the soft smile playing at his lips.
“You know us so well,” Leo said, reaching out like he wanted to cup Regulus' face but shifted at the last minute to let his hand land on his shoulder instead, “hot chocolate is perfect. See you in a bit?”
“See ya,” Regulus said waving the three of them off as they wandered away in search of food. Regulus took a deep steadying breath, trying desperately not to read too much into it before he shouldered his way back out into the crowd.
Wandering down the fairway, Regulus took in the sights around him, making a mental note of the booths and games that he thought the others might like so they would come back. Occasionally he would spot one of the Lions on the rides, taking pictures with fans, and overall just having a blast. Spotting his brother getting into one of the bumper cars, Regulus paused to watch as Sirius and James proceeded to get their cars, going full speed then ramming into each other head first. They continued to ram into each other until Sirius had pinned James against the wall. Suddenly, Sirius squawked indignantly as his car was bumped hard into the adjacent wall, looking up Sirius realized that it was Remus who had hit him.
“Traitre! Je t'aurai!” Sirius cried before maneuvering his bumper car to chase after Remus who was laughing his ass off.
Regulus chuckled at their silliness before continuing on his way. It wasn’t long before he spotted another group of Lions, Talker had his arm wrapped over Noelle’s shoulders; they stood with Kasey and Natalie waiting their turn at the Strength Tester game. Kasey and Talker made a whole show of flexing before they actually swung the hammer, but neither of them actually hit the top. When Natalie stepped up and hit the target, she surprisingly made it higher than either of the boys; but all three of them and the Carny running the game blinked in shock when Noelle swung and hit the bell. She simply looked at their slack faces and shrugged.
“You know I’m a hockey player too right,” she rolled her eyes as the Carny finally snapped back to it and handed her a large stuffed pumpkin from the rack of prizes. Regulus could practically see the hearts in Talkers eyes when she handed it to him.
Continuing farther down the fairway, Regulus spotted Dumo and Celeste managing the pie judging contest. For a moment Leo had thought about entering his delicious apple pie, but had ultimately decided it was too much hassle. Regulus grinned at the memory of Leo baking, flower dusting his hands all the way up his arms, Tremzy’s stolen snapback holding his blond curls off his face, the warmth of their kitchen and the flex of his forearms as he rolled out pie crust. The way Finn and Logan seemed to orbit around him as he worked, neither straying too far from Leo’s baby blue gaze.
Shaking his head trying to clear the memory away, Regulus resumed his search for the drink vendor that made the best apple cider he had ever tasted.
“Reg!” a woman’s voice shouted over the constant noise of the crowd.
Regulus’s head snapped up at the sound of his name looking around for the source.
“Regulus! Over here!” The voice called again, this time Regulus spotted her, Lily Potter was waving him over to where she was secluded in her own booth. Once he had elbowed passed the people lingering at the front of her area he took in the sight of her booth, it seemed she had gone all out on the witchy aesthetic. The area was decorated with crystals, candles, and dried flowers hanging from the ceiling, pumpkins both carved and not were dotted around the space along with other unique looking gourds. She had bottles of all shapes and sizes with mysterious liquids corked and hanging from twine with the flowers. Her table was set up with a dark midnight blue cloth, made of crushed velvet embroidered with moons, stars, and eyes; there were more candles atop the table framing the area she had her stack of tarot cards placed.
Lily pulled him into a tight hug then motioned for him to sit in the seat opposite her “Enjoying the carnival?”
“Definitely,” Regulus nodded, “you guys have outdone yourselves,” he said with a soft smile. Lily and some of the other wives or partners had been pivotal in organizing the fundraiser for the Lions.
“Awe, thanks,” she grinned brightly, snagging the deck of cards and beginning to shuffle, “where are your boys at? I’m surprised you aren’t on the rides yet.”
“Mmm, they went to find food. I was tasked with getting drinks- oh by the way do you know where Madam Rosmerta set up? I've been looking for ages?” he asked.
Lily quirked an eyebrow at him before replying, “You walked right passed her stand, she’s right next to Dumo and Celeste.”
“Oh, I guess I was a bit distracted,” as he spoke Lily began laying out cards in front of her, “what are you doing?”
“Giving you a reading, what does it look like?” she replied with a soft laugh.
“You don’t have to, I mean I don’t really believe in that stuff anyway.”
“Come on it’ll be fun, and if you don’t believe then what’s the harm?” she said flipping the last card.
“Oh, alright fine. What do the spirits have to say about me?” he teased, rolling his eyes.
“Hmm, let’s see.The first card is The Wheel of Fortune: this card is generally just a reminder that life is in constant motion, always changing, but it can also indicate that you’re about to reach a turning point in your life and you should be open to the opportunities that lay ahead of you.”
“Alright I’ll keep that in mind, what’s next?” Regulus asked, still thinking the whole concept of a tarot reading was silly.
“Next up, ooo! The Lovers,” Lily said excitedly, Regulus felt a flush on his neck at the middle card depicting two people standing naked. “The Lovers,” Lily continued, “represents meaningful relationships. This can be in the traditional romantic way or in an important friend or family. You’re well-loved Reg, and I’m sure you know much better than I do who this card might be referring to. Anyway, The Lovers is also a sign of vulnerability that both you and whomever it might refer to are willing to be open with each other. Ultimately though, this card is about the way you decide to connect with them. It’s calling you to look inside yourself, understand what you find, and decide when and how you want to share it with the special people in your life.”
Regulus was at a loss for words at that, the moment Lily had begun her explanation of the card he couldn’t deny which faces had immediately appeared in his mind, he simply nodded for her to continue with the last card she had drawn.
“The Reversed Tower,” Lily said running a finger down the edge of the card, “this card signifies change and that maybe you’ve been resisting it for a while. I know change can be scary Reg, I know that it seems like taking that first step will cast everything into chaos or destroy the things you’ve worked so hard to build. But, sometimes that chaos is necessary and who knows it might not destroy anything, just help you build it stronger.”
Both Regulus and Lily’s heads snapped up just as James came barring into the booth, Harry riding atop his shoulders.
“Oh, hey Reg,” James greeted as he pulled Harry off his back and leaned down to kiss his wife’s cheek, “you ready to head to the pumpkin carving contest?”
“Pumpkin!” Harry shouted, climbing into his mother’s lap.
“Yeah, let me just put my cards away,” she said softly, gathering the cards in front of them back into a pile and tucking them into a cloth pouch.
“I should get going,” Regulus said standing from the table, “I’ll see you guys later though, I’m sure.”
The Potters waved him off as Regulus made his way back out into the crowd, this time spotting the beverage stand next to the pie table and making a beeline there to place his order. It wasn’t long before he was wending his way back through the sea of people, now laden down with a drink carrier steaming with apple cider, hot chocolate, and his own black coffee. By the time he made it back to the table, all three of the others were there with an assortment of food that would give Remus an aneurism if he knew that’s what they were eating.
Finn was sitting with his back to the table, the edge pressing into his lower back while Logan straddled his lap and pressed warm lazy kisses to his lips. Leo sat on the opposite side of the table fiddling with his phone, occasionally looking up and getting a soft look in his eyes as he watched them.
Regulus felt a warmth inside him bloom at the sight of the three of them, but he chose to shake it off, “You know, I always thought Daphne and Velma were gay for each other.”
All three men looked up as Regulus made his way up to the table, settling down in the open spot next to Leo.
“What happened to you? Get lost out there?” Finn asked, looking a little dazed from Logan’s mouth.
“Hmm, Nah. Sorry it took so long, Lily pulled me aside and wanted to do a tarot reading and we kinda lost track of time,” he said, pulling cups from the drink carrier and handing them out.
“S’ok,” Leo said, bumping his shoulder and taking the hot chocolate Regulus handed him.
“She have anything interesting to say about your future?” Logan asked, quirking an eyebrow as he pulled a massive soft pretzel towards him, taking a bite he let out a moan that was probably inappropriate for such a public place. “Oh my god! Try this!” Logan said leaning across the picnic table to shove the pretzel into his face, holding it in front of his mouth before Regulus could reply to his question.
Regulus tried to suppress an amused grin as he took a bite, “Jeez, that is good,” he said leaning back slightly. The four of them dissolved into chatter as they ate,talking about the various games and rides they wanted to do later. It wasn’t until they were all nearly in sugar comas that Leo turned and asked.
“You wanna dance with me Reg?” his big blue eyes were bright and shining with the reflected lights above them.
Regulus’s eyes flicked up to Finn and Logan but neither seemed in the least perturbed that Leo was asking him to dance. Looking back up at Leo, Regulus was suddenly struck by the realization that no matter what this man asked of him he wouldn’t be able to find it within himself to say no.
“Umm, sure. Yeah, that would be fun,” Regulus said nodding and letting Leo pull him onto the dancefloor not too far away from their table. Leo settled them together with ease, pulling Regulus close by the waist and swaying them to the music.
“You dance really well,” Regulus said with a hint of surprise in his voice.
“So do you,” Leo replied grinning down at him.
Regulus chuckled humorlessly, “Yeah, I suppose. My parents made me learn, hired a professional instructor and everything. Said it would help me skate to have a sense of rhythm. Never really had any other use for the skill though. But what about you?”
Leo’s large warm palm pressed to the small of Regulus’s back felt like it was scorching through the thin material of his t-shirt and burning into his skin, the sensation made him shiver.
“My mamma taught me,” Leo said softly, “when I was little I used to watch her cook, she always had music playing when she was in the kitchen. And some days she would pull me from my stool and we would dance, surrounded by warm afternoon sunlight and the smell of food,” Leo’s smile was soft, full of warmth and love as he spoke, “those are some of my favorite memories from back home.”
“Do you miss it, being home?”
“Mmm, sometimes,” Leo replied, “but I have a lot of good things for me here.”
Regulus wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he simply nodded and continued moving with the smooth music as Leo led them around the dancefloor.
“I love dancing,” Leo continued, voice low and honeyed, “it makes me happy, being able to hold the people I care about close,” his palm pressed firmly against his back until there wasn’t any space between them, “to know that they’re safe in my hands.”
“Leo-“ Regulus said but cut off as he looked up, realizing that Leo was leaned in close. His breath caught in his throat as Leo leaned closer still, until his lips were pressed to the very corner of Regulus’s mouth; all he had to do was turn a fraction of an inch and they would be kissing.
For just a moment Regulus let his eyes flutter closed, but then his mind snapped him back to the harsh reality of what was happening and it felt like ice had been poured down his spine. With a sharp gasp he pulled out of Leo’s arms and was met with his sweet blue eyes watching him questioningly.
“I can’t do this,” he said breathlessly, hurt suddenly filled Leo’s face, “ you shouldn’t be doing this! What about Finn and Logan?”
“Reg, please,” Leo said, reaching out towards him.
“I should go,” Regulus said, taking a step back. “Tell everyone goodbye for me.”
“Wait!” Leo cried out, his hand grabbing Regulus’s bicep just as he was turning to walk away, “Please, we should talk. The four of us,” he tilted his head back towards where they had left Finn and Logan. Looking up Regulus realized they were both standing, their eyes trained on himself and Leo. Regulus felt his anxiety clench in his stomach as it occurred to him that they must have seen what happened. “Please, let’s just talk. If you still want to leave after then that’s your prerogative, but don’t just walk away from us Reg.”
Regulus took a deep breath and pressed his eyes closed for a moment, and when he exhaled he tried to breathe out the anxiety coiled inside him, “Alright.”
“Alright?” Leo asked, eyes hopeful.
“Alright, let’s talk,” Regulus confirmed his answer solid and unwavering. Leo let a tiny smile pull at his lips as he let his hand fall from Regulus’s arm to grab his hand and lead them off the dancefloor, nodding slightly at Finn and Logan for them to follow. Leo brought them to a quiet place away from the crowd; several hay bales had been set around as a makeshift seating area, Regulus sighed as he took a seat on the hay, his hands instantly pulling a piece of straw out to fiddle with.
“Hey, n'a pas l'air si inquiet,” don’t look so worried Logan said, settling down next to him and bumping his shoulder against Regulus’s.
“I should be worried though,” he said, not looking up from the straw in his hands, “you should be mad at me. Why aren’t you mad at me?”
“Do you want us to be mad at you Reg?” Finn asked, sitting next to Leo who wrapped his arm over his shoulders and pulled him in close to his side.
“No,” he said with a somewhat exasperated scoff, “of course not. You guys are my best friends, you mean everything to me so of course I don’t want you to be mad. But that doesn’t change the fact that the boundary lines here seem to be getting fuzzier and fuzzier and I don’t understand where we stand anymore. I know sometimes I’m not the greatest at reading people, but for a moment it feels like there’s something here but then I remember that’s not my place and I’m just left more confused than before.”
“It could be though,” Leo said, his voice soft and sweet.
“What?” Regulus asked, all the anxiety bleeding out of his body as he finally looked up to see they were all watching his reaction.
“It could be. Your place, it could be right here with us. Reg we care about you so much. And not just me but Fish and Lo too,” Regulus flicked his eyes to glance at the other who, smiled and nodded their agreement as Leo spoke.
“You’ve become such a part of our lives,” Logan said softly, the heat of his body warm against Regulus’s side, “when you’re not here everything feels so different and I just want to reach out and pull you back home with us.”
“It’s like you’ve filled the holes that we didn’t even realize were there. But, when you’re gone it’s glaringly obvious something is missing. That you’re missing,” Finn said pulling his lip between his teeth. “Look, I know this is complicated and difficult but we want you to be with us Reg, not as a friend. And I don’t know, I guess we kinda got the vibe that you might want that too?”
A small grin pulled at his lips and a light breathy chuckle bubbled up from his chest, Regulus didn’t know how to process that. It felt like he had done nothing but think about this moment for the past few months, but he had simultaneously forced himself not to entertain the idea that he could actually have them and obsessed over nothing else. Thus now that the three of them- now that Finn and Leo and Logan were here in front of him waiting to hear if he wanted them, he wasn’t entirely sure what to say.
“Ah, yeah,” Regulus said softly, “I think I do want that, want you. But, not gunna lie I don’t have a clue what I’m doing here. I never really let myself believe that I would ever get to be a part of this, I feel so out of my element here. And I know there are gunna be some important conversations we need to have before things get too far, and I’m not good at that. The whole communication thing.”
“That’s ok,” Leo said, leaning forward slightly, Finn still tucked under his arm, “I mean everything in life has a learning curve. And we’ll learn how to communicate with each other. It just takes time and trust. You trust us right?”
Regulus grinned at that, the answer easy falling off his lips without a thought, “Yeah, I do.”
“See, there you go communicating already,” Finn said with a soft smile, “And honestly, we really didn’t know how to do this to start with either, but the more we worked at it the more we learned about each other, about ourselves. And I know I for one am really excited to learn more about you Reg,” Finn’s bambi brown eyes were warm and crinkled at the corners.
“Are you scared?” Logan asked, his words echoing Finn’s from earlier that night, “To try this? With us,” he shrugged towards where Leo and Finn sat across from them.
Regulus paused for a beat the words resounding in his mind, he took a deep breath and tried to find even a trace of fear inside himself but it seemed that no matter what theoreticals his brain could come up with in that moment, he couldn’t see himself turning away from these men that meant the world to him.
“You know, I should be.” He said and huffed out the breath he had been holding, “But oddly enough I’m not, really.” Regulus let his lips pull into a smile and his eyes flick from Logan, to Finn, to Leo before he spoke again, “I mean how could I be scared with you guys by my side?”