“I need you to do me a favor.” Echo says as they walk up to Grand. He’s sitting on the floor outside of his house, back resting on the wall behind him and furiously sketching on his pad. When they see that Grand isn't actually responding they let out a frustrated huff and lightly kick him in the shin. That certainly gets his attention.
“Ow! Wait a second, I need to finish this!” He rubs his leg with a hand, but continues his sketching with the other. Echo considers their options and decides not to interrupt him, choosing to sit beside him and wait instead.
They know how he gets, or at least they're pretty sure they do- after spending weeks at at time at his home, these little things have become an usual sight. They know that if Grand is focused on something, really focused on something, they won't get his full attention until he's done with it.
It's peaceful here , they think, looking outside. Even with Arbit’s weird noises coming from the distance. Maybe they've just gotten used to it.
Despite visiting the whole sector, going through all of Quire’s planets, to Even’s new dinner, spending time at the school, even staying with Gig for a while... they keep coming back here. Grand’s insufferable personality is comfortable, in a way.
After a few minutes Grand puts down his pad and finally looks up at them. “What's up?”
“Um….okay.” they start, trying to ignore the nervous ball sitting on their stomach. “God, this is so embarrassing. So, my family kinda thinks that I'm bringing someone home this weekend. Like… a partner. Which I definitely don't have. So, what I need you to do is- I need you to, uh, pretend. To be my boyfriend.”
They study Grand from the corner of their eye. He looks a little surprised, but there's clear amusement on his face too, the asshole .
“You need me… to pretend to be your boyfriend. In front of your family.”
“ Yeah” Echo mutters, ignoring the blush making its way to their cheeks.
“Why me? Not that I wouldn't do an amazing job but- why not Gig? He's certainly more… friendly.”
“Yeah, and he can't hold a lie for his life.” They answer “He’s busy with a project right now, anyways.” Last time they’d talked, Gig was in the middle of organizing some kind of big event for the Brightons involving… jelly juice? He sounded really excited about it.
“Fair. Hm...” he rests his head on his hands, thoughtful. “What about Fourteen? Or Morning’s?”
“Not that Fourteen and Morning’s aren't great but I don't trust them like that,” Echo hugs their legs to their chest and rest their head on their arms. They don't want to think about the implications of that sentence. That they actually do trust Grand, somehow.
“I- sure. Wait, how did your parents even get that idea?”
“I told them that lie ages ago 'cause I wanted them to get off my back.” Echo answers. “Now they want to have a family meet-up or something, and they asked me to bring this non-existent person… I could tell them we broke up or something, I just don't want to deal with them and their awkward questions for a whole day and a half, y'know?”
They can't help but frown at the thought. Even if the relationship with their parents is way better than when they were younger, its still strained, to say the least. The thing is, they're trying their best to be not-awful. And sometimes their attempts can be a little… overwhelming.
Grand only hums in response. “And Ballad will be there. This is going to be… awkward, huh?” He turns his head to look at them, lips pressed together
“Yep.” Echo replies, letting out a long breath. They had already considered just how awful it could get, with Ballad and Grand and them, and these wounds that despite having been closed for a long time, definitely still hurt.
“So… will you do it?” Echo asks after a moment, hugging their knees closer to their chest.
“Do I get to call you pet names?”
Echo feels their muscles relax, grin spreading through their face. “No way.”
“What? No ‘darling’? ‘Honey’?” Grand nudges their shoulder, returning their smile. “Sweetstuff’? ‘ Pumpking ’?”
“Fuck off,” Echo answers, but their shoulders are shaking with contained laughter. Grand is laughing too, softly, and their heart does a flip inside their chest at the sound.
Their nerves don't go away completely, but the thought of next weekend isn't so imposing anymore. Grand goes back to sketching, and they feel themself relaxing, bit by bit. Mixing Grand and their family and Ballad, goddamnit, is probably the worst idea they've ever had, but with Grand's presence besides them, it doesn't seem completely horrible.
And if they can get Grand to start rambling about weird art stuff while they're in there… well, annoying their parents had always been their specialty.
Echo shuffles on their feet as they approach their parents’ house. They look up to the still unfamiliar building stuck next to the much larger structure of the Reverie School, the fresh paint of the walls, a new wooden chair resting on the porch. They recognize the signs of their mom’s carpentry on the swirls that go through its sides.
Grand is clearly trying to contain his nerves as they walk up the stairs to the porch, tugging at the strap of his bag and running his fingers through his hair.
“What if they don't like me? Do you even want them to like me? God I- I don't even know what I should do.”
“Just act naturally.” Echo answers, going up the stairs to the porch “I don't really care if they like you or don't, so- just do whatever you're comfortable with doing.”
Before they even raise a hand to knock the door opens, and Echo comes face to face with their not-so-little sister.
“Echo,” she says. She looks… better than the last time they'd seen her. Less stressed, at least. Her hair is longer, dark brown curls almost reaching her shoulders, and she greets them with a small smile.
“Hey.” They stand there awkwardly for a few seconds before Legato huffs and pulls them into a warm hug.
“I've missed you.” She says softly. When she pulls back, her gaze sets on Grand, and her smile turns mischievous. “Are you the boyfriend?”
“I- yes…? Grand Magnificent” Grand introduces himself. Legato sends Echo a look, and they have a hard time containing their laughter at her incredulous face.
“Hm...” she runs her gaze over Grand, studying him, and Echos not sure if she's messing with him or if she truly wants to make him break a sweat. Either way, Grand visibly swallows. “It's nice to meet you. Come on, let's go inside.”
They step into the house and immediately hear the sound of rushing steps, and seconds later their father appears in front of them. He hasn't changed much, not really. His long dark hair has some new grey streaks, and there are more wrinkles around his eyes, but the freckled cheeks and grinning voice that greets them is the same that the one from their childhood .
“Echo!” Litany says, leaning in for a hug. He stops just before touching them, and instead holds his arms open in invitation. Echo sighs, resigned, but they lean into his arms. The hug almost gets them off the ground, and they have to get on their tiptoes to even get their arms around his neck. They feel a pang on their chest.
I've really missed this , they think.
“We’re really glad you're here.” Litany murmurs softly against their ear.
“I- yeah. Me too” Echo replies, and it's not a lie. They're actually glad to be here.
After a moment they push away from their dad and look back at Grand, who’s standing besides Legato, clearly not sure about what to do. He steps closer to Echo and puts a hand on their back, warmth slipping through the material of their jacket.
“I'm Grand, Echo’s... partner” Grand introduces himself. He extends a hand to Litany, but he waves him off and moves to give him a quick hug. If Grand’s uncomfortable, he doesn't let it show.
“It's so nice to finally meet you!” Their father grins, releasing his hold on Grand.
“It's great to meet you too, Mr. Reverie.”
“Oh come on, no one calls me that anymore, not even my students.” He laughs, moving further inside the house. “Litany is fine. Now, I’d like to say Echo’s talked a lot about you, but they really haven't.”
“No, it's okay! I don't really mind, I'm just glad you're both here now.” His face softens, and he continues, “Now come on, go settle down your things. Echo, do you remember which room’s yours?”
“Yeah, don't worry. Come on.” They take Grand’s hand and start pulling him up the stairs.
“Dinner will be ready soon,” their dad calls from the entrance, “Your mom’s finishing up some stuff at the school, and Ballad’s on his way here, so you can have some time alone, to rest.” Echo notices him sending Legato a very obvious wink out the corner of their eye. They make an embarrassed noise and almost drag Grand up the stairs.
Echo points out every room on the top floor before opening the door to their supposed bedroom. It's pretty much just a guest room, bare walls and pale colored bed sheets set to accommodate whoever has to sleep here, but it's the room they use whenever they have to stay the night, so their parents insist on calling it theirs.
They don't really mind. There's probably nothing left of their old bedroom, anyways.
“Well, that wasn't a total disaster.” Grand says, lowering their bags to the floor. Echo walks past him and collapses directly into the bed, letting out a long, tired sigh. They feel the weight of Grand sitting down next to them on the bed. “Your sister is scary, and I don't think she likes me,” he adds after a moment.
“Yeah, I'm sorry about that.” Echo says. “She has a... strong personality. She’s probably just messing with you.”
“As long as she doesn't try to murder me in my sleep, I think I can manage.”
They huff out a laugh and roll their eyes. “Don't worry, I'll protect you if she does.”
“Aw babe, you're so romantic- ow!” He stops when Echo lightly kicks him in the side, and mutters under his breath, “You're so lucky I like you.”
“Yep, luckiest person alive” They reply, smile playing on their lips.
Ballad’s standing on the entrance when they come back down, chatting with Leagato as he shrugs his jacket- their jacket- off. He smiles when he spots Echo, a sight they've slowly been getting used to seeing again, but the smile falls off of his face when he notices Grand behind them. Here we go.
“What's he doing here?” Ballad asks, frown on his face.
“Nice to see you too.” Grand mutters under his breath, quiet enough for just Echo to hear. They squeeze his hand lightly. Grand exhales.
“Well, mom and dad wanted to meet my partner, so I brought him here.” Echo holds their brother's gaze, keeping their face expressionless, even if inside they're definitely wearing a smug smile.
“I- Echo. ”
“What, Ballad? What do you want to say?”
Legato is switching her gaze back and forth between them, expression getting more and more frustrated with each sentence.
Ballad narrows his eyes “Oh, you know what I want to say, don't you-”
“Okay, stop it, I'm not doing this again.” Legato’s sharp words cut Ballad off “You two behave yourselves, I don't care how. And you,” she turns to Grand “I'm clearly missing something here, but I don't want any weird stuff, okay?” Grand nods, eyes wide. “Come on Ballad, help me set the table.”
Ballad huffs in frustration but ultimately decides to follow after her, sending Echo a look on his way that makes it clear this conversation isn't over.
Dinner is… not as bad as they thought it’d be.
Grand and Echo sit together while Ballad and Legato rush around them, setting everything down. Minutes later their dad walks from the kitchen carrying a big pot on his hands, which he lays on the table, pushing off the lid. Echo immediately recognizes the scent of their dad’s spicy vegetable pot roast. It's one of their favorite dishes.
They're all about to start eating when the front door opens and their mom rushes to the room.
“Sorry, sorry, I know I'm late, had to finish up some stuff for next class.” Fugue says as she goes around the table, greeting everyone. When she gets to Echo she puts a warm hand on their cheek and leans down to lay a kiss on their forehead.
Grand observes with interested eyes.
Once Fugue is seated, everyone digs in. Conversation flows easily. With Litany talking about the school and Legato catching them up on what's been happening over the last few months, even Ballad seems to loosen up after a while. Their parents ask Grand all the ‘Hey, we want to get to know you’ questions- where is he from, what does he do, where is he living - and he easily goes through most of them, maybe glazing over some stuff.
“So… how did you two meet?” Ballad asks. Echo sends him a surprised look, not expecting him to actually join in the conversation, and he just shrugs “What? Everyone asks that, it felt like I should too.”
“We worked together for a long time.” Echo says.
“We were sent down to Quire, first group from the Fleet to go down there.” Grand adds “We had to set up the Mesh, remember?”
Echo grins. “Yeah, I remember. I had to keep saving your ass from dying.”
“Excuse me?” Grand sends them a mock hurt look. “Weren't you the one who didn't want to wait for Gig and got lost in the canyon? ”
“At least I wasn't scared of shadow people.”
Grand huffs.“I- they were scary! They didn't have faces!”
Echo rolls their eyes “Yeah, of course.”
“You wouldve been scared too if you had seen them.” He grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest, but there's fondness in his eyes.
“When did you get together then?” Legato asks curiously.
“Um-” Echo’s mind turns blank, and they shoot Grand a panicked look.
“Well, um...” He starts, “I didn't realize how I felt for them for a long time, I guess? After Quire we didn't get to see each other much, even though we technically worked together for Cascara... And then, uh- well, a bunch of stuff happened, with… Advent.” Echo notices Ballad squirm in his seat, and Grand continues, “Long story short, Echo saved my life, again . I think that's when I finally understood just how much I cared about them.” Grand’s voice sounds sincere.
They expect more questions from their family, but after some cooing and awwing their mom is pulled into telling the story of how she met their dad, and the focus of the table shifts from them. Echo tries to make eye contact with Grand, but he doesn't meet their eye. Huh.
Echo offers to do the dishes after dinner. Grand tries to follow them to the kitchen, but Legato insists that he joins them on the living room, grabbing his arm and dragging him out of the room, dangerous glint in her eye. He sends Echo a panicked look before disappearing behind the door.
They quickly finish cleaning up and head to the living room. Their parents are sitting on the couch, their dad’s arms curled around their mom in a way that wouldve made them gag when they were younger, and Grand’s sitting on an armchair in front of them. Surprisingly, seem actually interested on whatever he’s saying.
Grand seems a little bit… tenser than before. They notice the looks Legato and Ballad are sending each other, and sigh to themself, making a mental note to talk to them about shitty protective impulses later.
Echo walks towards Grand and joins him on the armchair, resting their head on his shoulder and taking one of his hands on theirs. They smile to themself when Grand stutters mid-sentence, cheeks tinted pink.
This is nice , Echo thinks. Maybe they should feel awkward, with their parents snuggling in front of them, and Grand’s warm weight at their side, and Legato and Ballad shooting each other furtive looks, but it's comforting, in a way. It reminds them of the better parts of their childhood. Of their father teaching them how to cook, and their mom training with them, and Legato’s joyful shriek as a younger Ballad runs around the house with her on his shoulders.
Echo yawns. They tune out of the conversation, the constant murmur of the room lulling their eyes closed together.
“Hey” Grand’s voice startles them awake. His hand is on their arm, he was clearly trying to wake them up.
“Uh… sorry. Guess I'm more tired than I thought.” Echo says, pulling away from Grand’s shoulder. They look around, noticing that they're now alone in the room “Did they give you any trouble?”
“Your parents? No, it was fine. Your mom is very interested in how Arbit works”
“Damn, I thought your rambling would annoy her. Guess my plan didn't work.”
Grand makes a face “Asshole.”
“Whatever” Echo’s chuckle is cut off by a yawn. “Come on, let's go to bed.”
Grand takes the bathroom while Echo changes into their pajamas, trying to keep their eyes open. They feel exhausted , for some reason. Being with their family took more energy out of them than they'd imagined it would.
Grand comes back to the room and they switch places. They expect Grand to be settled by the time they come back,maybe even asleep, but he's awkwardly sitting on the edge of the bed instead.
“I didn't know which side you wanted.”
“Hm, both are fine, I don't really care” Echo says, already climbing under the left side of the comforter and closing their eyes. When they notice that Grand isn't moving they open their eyes and send him a look “You gonna sleep there?”
“Uh- no, I guess not.” Echo watches him climb to bed and switch off the lights, shoulders tense.
“Mag, I can sleep on the floor if this makes you uncomfortable-”
“Like you could go lie down on the floor right now” Grand says, huffing out a laugh. “Don't worry, this is fine. Go to sleep” He exhales and lays back, looking more relaxed.
“If you say so,” They mumble sleepily, burrowing further under the blankets, eyes already drifting closed. “G‘night”
Despite falling asleep almost as soon as their head hits the pillow, they have trouble sleeping.
Their dreams are filled with bittersweet memories from their childhood, probably roused by the time spent with their family, in this new place they're trying to call home. They remember the vague figures of their parent’s faces, joy in their eyes, then clear, painful disappointment, then just plain fury. The last time they talked before they were caught.
Echo knows it's way too early in the morning before they even open their eyes.
It takes a moment for their eyes to adjust to the unfamiliar space, with barely any light coming from the windows. They feel warm. Grand’s body is almost completely flushed against their back, one arm wrapped around Echo’s side, legs tangled together under the sheets. They feel Grand’s soft breathing on the nape of their neck.
Slowly, as to not wake Grand up, they shift around to their side, facing him. Grand moves in his sleep, and for a second Echo thinks the movement woke him up, but he only exhales and tightens his arm around them. Echo pushes their head further into the crook of Grand’s neck, letting themself enjoy the moment, and before they let themself even think about what they're doing, they press a kiss to Grand’s shoulder.
It's not a big deal , is their first thought afterwards. That thought is immediately followed by, Oh, fuck.
They need to run, running will clear their head. Running, then breakfast.
The run does not help clear their head, but it does help them avoid thinking about their feelings. After going through the entire campus, running some blocks around the neighborhood, and even going down to the beach, they come back home feeling exhausted, and gross, and really, really hungry, which only gives them another excuse to keep their hands occupied, their mind out of ‘ oh shit, I like Grand’ thoughts.
They're halfway through making the most sickly sweet pancakes they can manage (that they know their mom hates and Legato pretends to hate) when they hear the clear sounds of someone walking down the stairs. They turn around, expecting to find Grand, or their parents, but instead find Ballad awkwardly standing on the doorway, hands deep in the pockets of a hoodie.
“I didn't expect you to be up this early. You looked pretty tired last night.” Ballad says. Echo only hums in response “Listen, can- can we talk?”
“Well, I'm making breakfast, so I can't really go anywhere.” Echo answers, not taking their eyes away from the stove. Ballad doesn't say anything, so after a moment they add, “Yeah, we can talk.”
“Uh, okay. I just wanted to say- I know I overreacted a little yesterday-”
Echo snorts. “Yeah, right.”
Ballad narrows his eyes “Grow up, I'm trying to apologize here.”
“Sorry.” Echo mutters, trying to relax. They know he’s trying his best.
“It's fine,” he lets out a deep breath, and continues, “It's just- I care about you. You know that, right? When I saw Grand yesterday I couldn't help but remember... Advent and all the shitty things we both did. It's not a good excuse but- if I was given a second chance, he probably deserves one too. If you think he deserves a second chance… that's all I should’ve considered, really. I'm sorry.”
“God, you're an idiot.” Echo sighs. All this trouble and they're not even dating for real. Echo turns around and drags Ballad into a tight hug, putting their arms around his middle and squeezing tightly. He immediately hugs them back, tension running off his shoulders. “Don't worry about it. And I love you too.” Echo murmurs against his shoulder, quietly, before stepping away.
“Don't think I don't know about the chat you and Legato had with Grand last night though, I'm still kinda pissed about that,” they add.
Ballad barks out a laugh. “I can't apologize for that, it was pretty fun. I swear it was Legato’s idea, though!”
“I'm blaming the both of you if that scares him off.”
“Oh believe me, that's not gonna be enough to scare him off.”
Echo stops and sends him a look “What do you mean?”
“He looks at you like a love-struck puppy. I've never seen him look at anything like that.” Ballad says, resting his weight on the counter behind him “It's... kinda cute, to be honest.”
“Yeah?” Echo says. Their throat feels tight
“Definitely. I'm glad you got someone like that, even if it's him.”
“Hm. If you say so.” They don't really know what else to say, emotions heavy on their chest, so instead they ask, “Wanna help me make breakfast?”
“Yeah, sure. My pancakes were always better anyways.”
Echo grins “Keep telling yourself that, if it makes you feel better.”
Their dad is the first one to wake up, after them. Echo scrunches their nose when he lays a kiss on their forehead, and Ballad chuckles until Litany walks up to him and kisses his forehead too. His eyes widen when he sees the huge pile of pancakes in the middle of the table, waiting for everyone to wake up.
“Oh, you made pancakes! Glad to see you both haven't forgotten what I taught you.”
Ballad pours a cup of coffee and hands it to Litany “Dad, you used to make them like, every weekend. There's no way we could forget these.”
“Did I hear pancakes?” Legato asks as she enters the kitchen, their mom close behind her.
“Yeah, your siblings made them. They're good!”
“Hm. Probably not as good as yours dad, but good enough,” she says, pulling a plate out of the cabinet and serving herself.
When Grand comes down the stairs, Echo has to stifle their laughter. He looks dead to the world, his eyes are still half closed, his shirt is crumpled and he has the worst bedhead they've ever seen. Echo just pours a cup of steaming coffee and hands it to him.
“Thank you” He mumbles, leaning down and pressing a kiss to the side of their head before sitting down next to them.
“You look like you need it.” Echo says teasingly, and Grand rolls his eyes.
Echo looks around the table, noticing their parents are staring at them, twin smiles on their faces. They have to fight the blush going through their cheeks. Grand doesn't seem to notice, quietly sipping at his coffee.
“Are there any plans for today?” Grand asks after drinking several cups of coffee and eating
Echo looks expectantly at their parents, waiting to see if they have anything planned. Fugue shrugs.
“Not really.” she answers “I know you two wanna head back after lunch, so maybe you could give Grand a tour of the school till then. You both could go with them, show them around.” she makes a head gesture to Ballad and Legato.
“I wouldn't mind” she says, and Ballad nods in agreement. Legato lights up “Oh Echo, we could train! We haven't trained together in such a long time. We could even show your boyfriend some of the basics.”
Grand looks visibly alarmed at the idea.
Echo chuckles “You just want an excuse to show off.”
“Well, don't you?” Legato smirks “I'm going to beat your ass this time.”
Echo snorts “Yeah, right.”
Legato leads them through the school, being the one who spends the most time in here, Ballad right beside her. While she points out the different structures and what they're used for, talks about the classes and disciplines being taught, Ballad keeps mostly quiet, adding something about the old school every now and then. Grand looks at everything with interested eyes.
Echo tenses when they feel a touch on their hand.
“Uh- sorry” Grand says quietly, just loud enough for them to hear “I thought this was okay?”
Echo shoots a glance at Ballad and Legato in front of them, but they seem to be bickering about who’s gonna win their supposed ‘friendly competition’. “Yeah, yeah I'm- I don't know why I'm so jumpy. Sorry.”
“It's fine if you don't wanna, I just- I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“It's okay, don't worry.” As if to prove a point, Echo slips their hand into Grand’s. Their heart jumps in their chest.
“I- okay.” Grand says, looking down at their joined hands. “If you say so.”
“So, you wanna do this inside or outside?”
They're standing on the entrance to the school, having already gone through every building that is part of the Academy. Legato has her arms on her hips, and there's a dangerous glint in her eyes. Ballad is standing next to her, clearly trying not to smile.
“I don't really mind either way.” Echo answers. They feel their muscles start to tense in anticipation. Grand looks worriedly between the three of them.
They used to do this, before Echo was sent down to Quire, these little training sessions that tended to turn into full blown fights, 'cause sibling rivalry is a bitch, and the three of them were- still are- competitive assholes. Now that they're all adults and they don't really want to tear each others’ hair off, their fights aren't as brutal, just a really good way of keeping themselves sharp.
They end up settling on a small patch of grass by the entrance, the trees around it giving the place a nice shade. Echo shrugs off their jacket and starts stretching.
“Should I… do anything?” Grand asks.
“Just go sit over there, we’ll be done soon enough.”
“You don't have to sound so smug about it, you know?” Ballad calls from wherever he's sitting.
Echo just chuckles and keeps stretching.
Ballad and Legato decide they want to go first. Echo sits next to Grand, resting their back the trunk of a tree as their siblings circle each other, smile on their faces, clearly waiting for a moment to strike. The tension is thick in the air, but it's tinged with the light feeling of excitement .
They're having fun .
The fight is quick, once it starts. Ballad is good, but he’s rusty, and Legato isn't a kid anymore. She's been teaching people how to fight for over a year now. Echo grins when they see Ballad’s surprised face as he tumbles to the ground, tripping over one of Legato’s legs.
“Ow. You're getting better” Ballad says from the ground, rubbing his head and breathing heavily. “Where’d you learn that, anyways? That's not one of our moves.” He accepts Legato’s hand and pushes himself off of the ground.
“Been hanging around some people here, they're teaching me stuff.” She answers, smug smile on her face. Her gaze shifts to Echo “Wanna go?”
They're up before she even finishes speaking “Hell yeah.”
Echo considers their options as they slowly approach Legato, careful of every single step they take. They make sure not to underestimate her, not after watching her take Ballad down.
Legato moves first. She certainly puts up a fight, restlessly charging against them, one swing after the other. She’s quick. At first they easily evade her blows, but after a while they feel the exhaustion settling on their body.
Echo can't help but smirk as they finally take her down, seeing an opening and quickly striking. Legato rises to block, but her arms fail her, and she barely catches herself before falling backwards.
Legato sighs “Damn. I really thought I had you this time.”
Echo huffs out a laugh, chest heaving as they struggle to control their breathing “You’ll get there, don't worry.”
“Well, at least I got Ballad.” she says, pressing a hand to her forehead.
Echo turns around to where Grand and Ballad are sitting, watching them. Grand is staring wide eyed at them, blush high on his cheeks. He looks away when Echo tries to catch his eye.
“Ugh, everything hurts.”Legato says “I'm gonna lie down and never get up” she walks towards Ballad, collapsing on the ground next to him.
“Hey, Mag.” Echo calls out, walking towards him.
“Wanna show me what you got?”
He makes a face. “No, not really.”
Echo grins and offers a hand to him “Come on, it'll be fun.”
He sighs, resigned, and takes their hand. “I'm going to regret this, aren't I?”
Echo just laughs in response
They pull him a little farther away from the other two, then releases him and gets into a ready stance. They smirk when Grand copies their position, focused look on his face.
Grand swings first. He yelps when Echo dodges his punch, swiftly moving to the side and pushing a leg between his, letting him drop to the ground. They offer a hand to him. He huffs, but lets Echo help him up.
“You're doing it wrong” Echo says, hands on their hips.
“You know I don't actually know how to fight, right?”
Echo rolls their eyes, choosing to ignore him “Here, look” They stop before touching Grand, only moving when they're sure he's not pulling back. They shift their positions, pressing their body against Grand’s back and grabbing his arms from behind.
“Your arms are too low. Get them closer to your forehead” They do exactly that, and Grand easily follows their lead. “Your legs are too open, and that makes you lose balance” They use a foot to push Grand’s feet closer together. They can feel him breath where they're pressed together.
Suddenly Grand pushes back, almost catching them on the chest with an elbow, but Echo quickly darts to the side to avoid it. They squeal in surprise, and he uses that moment of hesitation to turn around and throw a fast kick at their leg.They're knocked backwards a few steps.
Grand has the smuggest smile on his face. Oh, that’s is how you wanna do this, huh? Two can play this game.
Echo steps towards Grand, expressionless. He visibly swallows. They lower themself to the floor, giving of the impression they're going to sit down, and just before touching the ground they lunge at Grand, wrapping their arms around his middle and throwing all of their weight forward. Grand makes a soft oof when he hits the ground, and before he can react Echo swings a leg over his stomach and pushes their hands on his chest, trapping him under their weight.
“Ah-ha!” They smirk down at him. The victorious remark dies on their lips.
Grand’s eyes are incredibly fond as he looks up at them. He’s wide eyed, and flustered, and Echo can feel his rabbit-fast heart beat from where their hands are pressing on his chest, but his expression is soft.
He slowly brings a hand to their face and pushes the hair out of their eyes, gently. Echo notices how close together their faces are and swallows.
“Get a room!” Legato’s laughing voice comes from behind them.
Echo almost leaps up from the ground. They send their sister an angry look, blushing furiously, but she just keeps laughing and nudging Ballad with her shoulder. He eventually joins her and huffs out a laugh.
Grand pushes himself off the ground and awkwardly stands besides them.
“Come on, we should head back, dad’s already started making lunch” Ballad calls, putting his jacket on and throwing Echo their own.
Echo spends all the walk home thinking about and Ballad’s words from that morning, and Grand’s warm expression, and their own twisting heart as their fingers graze each other.
Lunch is loud. The awkwardness of dinner is gone, everyone’s talking over each other, and Ballad is goofing around with their sister- like he used to do when they were younger- and their dad’s loud laughter fills the room.
“I'm going to miss you so much” Litany says on a sad tone once everyone’s done with their food.
Ballad rolls his eyes “Dad, don't be ridiculous, we visit almost every month.”
“That's not enough!” He dramatically clutches a hand over his heart “We’re getting old, you never know when it’ll be the last time”
Fugue covers her smile at her husband’s antics with a hand.
Echo sighs “Dad, you're not going to die anytime soon, don't worry.”
“You two are going to kill me. You're going to kill your father.”
“ Oh my god dad- ”
They don't talk much as they get their stuff ready to head out. During lunch Grand had kept mostly silent, and he doesn't seem to have anything to say afterwards either. He sits on the bed, slowly going through something on his pad as Echo puts the stuff they brought back into their bag. Awkward silence fills the room.
When there's nothing left to do, Echo turns to Grand.
“Hey” Echo says, sitting besides him on the bed, “Can we talk?”
“Um- sure" He drops the pad on the bed, but doesn't look up, staring at his hands instead.
“I just- I realized I never thanked you for this.” Echo sighs and runs a hand through their hair “I can be a real ass sometimes, huh?”
“You have your moments.” Grand answers, small smile playing on his lips.
Echo huffs out a laugh and turns to face him “Thank you. For doing this.”
“Uh- it's nothing, really” His hands flutter nervously in front of him as he speaks. “You must be glad it's over.”
“I- not really.” Echo shrugs. “Not like I’d like to stay here for longer but... I had a good time, Mag. I'm kinda going to miss this.”
“I- me too, I think. I mean, your siblings are still scary but… it was fun.”
Echo chuckles, but they feel their stomach squirm anxiously inside them. They take a deep breath and say, “I think- I think part of why it was so good is because you were here. Because of this.” In an impulsive fit they reach out and cover one of Grand’s hands with theirs. His cheeks are tinted pink.
“Yeah?” Grand says, voice barely audible.
“ Yeah.” Grand doesn't say anything, doesn't move, and Echo is hit by the sudden impulse to strangle him, he and his thick head that doesn't understand what they're trying to tell him.
“ Oh my god-” Echo mutters under their breath, frustrated. They put a hand on Grand’s cheek and tilt his head until he's looking directly at them, “Grand, can kiss you?”
“ Please” Grand manages to squeak out before Echo grabs him by the collar and pushes their lips together. Grand tangles a hand on their hair, deepening the kiss, and rests the other one on their waist. Echo can't contain the sigh that escapes them.
Echo pulls apart, breathing heavily, but they don't go far. They rest their head on his shoulder, Grand’s hands warm where they're resting on their body, and they laugh. Grand makes an inquisitive, confused noise at Echo’s burst of laughter.
“You're an idiot” Echo says once they've stopped laughing, grin wide on their face. They pull away from Grand’s shoulder to look at him. “We could have been doing this for such a long time!”
Grand huffs, offended “If I'm an idiot because of that, I think you are one too.”
“Hm.” They smile and lean forward, pressing their lips to Grand’s neck, his jaw, his cheek. “Maybe you're right.”
“We should-” Grand sighs when Echo kisses the corner of his lips, before continuing, “We should probably go.”
Echo presses one last chaste kiss on Grand’s lips before pulling away and standing up. There's still a lot to talk about, a lot to figure out, a lot to do , but all that can wait until they're not literal meters away from their family. It can wait until they're home.
“Ready to head back?” they say, offering a hand.
Grand eyes are warm when they take their hand. “Definitely”
“Hey Echo? Your family is so tall . How are you so small, where did you get the shortness from?”
“Grand I don't care that you're cute, I'm going to kick your ass if you keep talking.”