The life lesson that hits Lucas the hardest comes when he’s 11 years old and his dad walks out for the first time. Love isn’t meant to last . His dad said it when he was mad at his mom, and it stuck in Lucas’s brain like a magnet, always drawn to the forefront of his thoughts. He dated a girl named Clare and broke up with her a week later with the words ringing in his brain, and when he’d cried to his mom, she’d told him that when he found the one, it would be forever.
(He’d asked her, later, if her and his dad were forever, and she’d smoothed his hair back and kissed his forehead and told him her love for him was forever.)
He was 14 when he thought Yann and Ingrid were in love, and then he’d realized that no, they weren’t, it wasn’t real, just like his relationship with Clare. And then Yann and Emma had started dating and Lucas had thought, ah, this is love .
And then Lucas fell in love with Yann, too. The life lesson he’d learned left his brain just as quickly as it had arrived, opting instead to occupy the part of his brain he was pushing down on, burying deep in his subconscious. He ruined Yann and Emma to ease his own pain, and then his dad left, and then Emma was mad, angry, yelling at him, and he knew he fucked up and then he remembered: love isn’t meant to last .
There were other girls, too, like Sara, and some girl named Jeanne, briefly, but they were all flings, nothing real, though he’d pretend it was. Even with himself. He’d tell himself this was it, it would work with her, and then it didn’t. And when he hooked up with Chloe, he thought to himself that maybe love wasn’t meant to last at all with him, if a girl like Chloe did nothing for him.
And then there was Eliott.
Three years fly by and he and Eliott are sharing an apartment, buying groceries, cooking dinner, doing laundry...all together, like couples do. Like married couples do , his mind unhelpfully supplies, and he pushes it down. Eliott’s sitting on the couch, folding a shirt with intense concentration as an episode of Peaky Blinders plays on their TV, and Lucas looks at him, the way his hair flops in his eyes and he has to push it back, the way he smiles at himself with pride when the shirt folds without wrinkles, the way he wiggles his nose and then sneezes twice, and Lucas laughs.
“Why do you always laugh at me when I sneeze?” Eliott grumbles, mostly to himself, which makes Lucas laugh more. Eliott rolls his eyes, but a smile graces his lips, so Lucas knows it’s okay. “Stop it.”
“Because it’s cute,” he says before he can think better of it, and Eliott shakes his head, pulling a pair of pants out of the laundry basket. “Those are mine, and they go in the closet.”
“Okay,” Eliott says easily, and he drapes them over the arm of the couch, leaning back, closing his eyes. “I’m tired.”
“You should sleep.”
“I would if I could.” Lucas frowns, but Eliott shakes his head, as if he knows what Lucas is thinking. “It’s okay. Just a little too early to sleep, I think. Don’t worry.” Eliott runs his hands through his hair, and Lucas pats the sheet in front of him and walks over, placing a hand on Eliott’s knee. Eliott smiles, though he doesn’t open his eyes. “Hi.”
“Hey.” Lucas leans down, pressing a kiss to Eliott’s shoulder, and rubs his thumb over the rip in Eliott’s jeans. He drums his fingers over the tattoo, and Eliott huffs out a quiet laugh. “Do you think it’s weird that we do laundry together?”
“Um.” Eliott frowns, then, opening his eyes. He shifts, sitting up, and Lucas moves with him. His mouth twists, and he exhales, long and loud. “I don’t think so. Before Charles and Manon broke up we used to run into them at the laundromat all the time.”
Lucas remembers. Charles and Manon, just another reminder that love isn’t meant to last, broke up over the smallest, least dramatic thing, it seemed, because they both just fell out of love. (Lucas didn’t mind, though, because Charles stressed him out and Manon was definitely better without him. Like, one hundred percent.) Lucas doesn’t know that Charles and Manon are the epitome of what a relationship should be, though, so he says as much, and Eliott snorts.
“Isn’t that the truth.” He picks up his phone to answer a text, and Lucas burrows his face further in Eliott’s neck, pushing down on the deep insecurity that he and Eliott are becoming complacent , and presses another kiss to Eliott’s shoulder. “Are you tired, too, love?”
“Maybe we should call it quits on folding,” Lucas mumbles into Eliott’s shirt, and Eliott laughs.
“But then we’ll have to do it tomorrow, and I know how much you hate that,” Eliott points out, and Lucas groans, and Eliott pushes at him, tickling him, laughing as Lucas yells “stop!” over and over. Eliott jumps on him, and Lucas lets out a loud breath of air, cackling, and Eliott leans down, grinning wide, and kisses him. Letting out a noise of surprise, Lucas lets his hands run up and down Eliott’s back, deepening the kiss. They lay there, kissing and kissing until Lucas’s lips tingle, and he swears he could do this forever.
Pulling back, finally, he breathes. “I don’t wanna fold,” he whispers into Eliott’s mouth, and Eliott snorts.
“Too bad.” He rolls over onto the floor, landing unceremoniously on his tailbone, yelping, and Lucas laughs, slapping a hand over his mouth. “I can’t believe you care so little to laugh at my pain,” Eliott says, groaning, and Lucas leans over, giving his forehead a peck.
“It’s definitely not that, you big baby.” He sighs, sitting up slowly, and goes back to his perch on the floor, resuming his folding of the fitted sheet that’s supposed to go on their bed, but Eliott had already put new sheets on when Emma had thrown up on their bed the night before, so he has to put this in the linen closet. He feels old. He has a linen closet. He’s almost 20 and he has a linen closet . He pulls the elastic around, the sheet in a perfect square, and smiles to himself. “I think this is my superpower.” He sighs, then, frowning at the fact that he’s excited over folding a fitted sheet.
“What, sitting?” Eliott asks, not looking up from placing a folded pair of jeans back in the laundry basket.
“No, folding fitted sheets, dick.” He presents the square to Eliott, who nods, impressed. “See?”
“It’s the little things, baby.” Eliott smiles, and Lucas smiles back, and the phrase enters his mind. Love isn’t meant to last . He pushes it away just as soon as it enters, but his smile falls anyway. Eliott’s still looking at his phone. Lucas is fine.
Lucas opens the door to his mom’s place, kicking off his shoes. “Mom, it’s me!” he yells, nudging them into a neat little square next to the door. His mom hurries around the corner, and he smiles, big and bright, when he sees her. She opens her arms and he steps into them, hugging her tightly.
“Hi, sweetie,” she says, pulling back, still holding him. “You get older every day, I swear.”
“That’s kind of how aging works,” he says, and she shakes her head, laughing. A dog rounds the corner, tail wagging, and he drops to his knees. “Hi, Moose! Hi, baby.” He gives Moose a kiss on the top of his head, and he looks up at his mom. “What’s for dinner?”
“Lasagna,” his mom says. Lucas’s eyes light up, and his mom smiles. “I made enough for you to take home to Eliott. How is he? Is he doing okay?” Lucas laughs.
“He’s good, Mom. I’ll let him know you asked. He had a family dinner tonight, too.” He says it without thinking, and when he remembers that his family dinners are just him and his mom, he frowns a little. He shakes the thought from his head, smiling again. “He’s okay, though.”
“Good,” she says, leading them to the kitchen. She starts to talk about her last failed date, something of a tradition whenever they see each other, now, and she goes on and on about this divorced businessman who was looking for a wife, not to get to know anyone, and he’d insulted her throughout the whole date and Lucas says, just as he always tells her—
“Mom, you don’t need to date anyone though, that’s what you always say.” And she says, just as she always does—
“Yeah, but I want to feel appreciated sometimes.” And she shrugs, just like she always does, and turns to get the lasagna out of the oven. Lucas frowns at his empty plate, hating that he can’t make this feeling going away for her no matter how hard he tries. She takes his plate, kissing the top of his head, and Lucas watches her, his heart hurting for his sweet mother. He loves her so much.
It was hard to reconcile the mom who couldn’t do anything for him with the mom who wanted to, who loved him with every fiber of her being and stayed alive for him, worked through all her shit for him. To him, it was almost like they weren’t the same person, and for a while, he resented the fact that his mom had missed some of the most formative years of his life while she couldn’t get out of bed for his soccer games because she was afraid someone was going to kill her or when she’d skipped his commencement from middle school because she had to tell the priest at their church that the apocalypse was coming.
But he looks at her, now, and she’s lucid, clear, stable, and even happy, and he knows she’s strong and capable and amazing and if she could’ve been there, she would have. And she feels remorseful enough without him making her feel bad about it. And he doesn’t resent her anymore. He’s proud of how far she’s come.
She sets the plate in front of him, and sits down with her own. They eat in silence for a bit, only broken by the occasional tales from university, and she listens with rapt attention, fascinated by his stories. When he finishes, he takes a sip of water, swallowing audibly.
“How are you doing in school?” his mom asks, and he fidgets. When his dad asked, the last time, it didn’t go so well.
“I have all As at the moment,” he says quietly. His mom beams, and the anxious feeling in his chest fades away. She’s not his father. She’s proud of him. “I really like my medicine class.”
“You think that’s what you want to do?” she asks, and she doesn’t sound judgmental, just curious. It’s a welcome change from his dinner with his father last week.
He shrugs. “I want to help people. If that allows me to help people, then yes.”
“My sweet boy,” she says, and Lucas flushes, not used to the praise of a parent. “Your heart has always been so big, even when you were tiny. I wasn’t sure you’d ever grow into it.”
Lucas laughs awkwardly, rolling his eyes. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” His mom moves closer to him, and he looks at her, her eyes dancing with mirth, and he loves that she’s happy. “I’m so happy you’re happy,” he blurts before he can stop himself, and she smiles.
“That’s what I mean, baby.” She leans forward, brushing his hair out of his face. He blinks. “You’ve always had a big heart, given so much of yourself. I’m glad you found someone who loves all of you.”
He smiles at the mention of Eliott, and she grabs his plate, running the hot water over the dishes. He takes them, putting them in the dishwasher, and he thinks about her words, turning them over and over in his head. Someone who loves all of you . He remembers her saying she’d love him forever, and now she’s happy to split that with Eliott. Is that what parents do, he wonders? Love their children wholly and unconditionally until someone else comes along and then they have to split that love with this intruder in their family, basically, until that person doesn’t become a stranger but just joins in and becomes the family? And then the parents die and the children grow old and repeat the same fucking cycle—
Maybe Lucas won’t ever have children.
Maybe Eliott doesn’t love all of him anyway, so he doesn’t even need to worry about this. Does his mom love all of him? Does anyone? He sets the plate down with such force that a little bit splinters off, and his mom looks over at him. “Are you okay, honey?”
His chest constricts, his breathing shallow and thin and too fast, and he nods, or he tries to, and his mom takes the plate from his vice grip, setting it on the counter. “I don’t...this isn’t…”
“Okay, come here,” she says, firm and soft, and she folds him in her arms, squeezing him. He starts to cry, and she sits him down on the floor, sitting with him, rocking him back and forth.
“M-mom,” he starts, and she shushes him. He can’t feel anything other than her cold hands on his face, forcing him to look at her. Her mouth is moving, but between his hyperventilation and the rushing in his ears, he can’t hear a thing. She wipes the tears from his cheek, kissing his forehead, and she holds him a little tighter.
“Breathe, sweetheart, breathe with me,” she commands, exaggerating her breaths so he can follow. He does, and she rubs his back, kissing his forehead. They sit there, silent, as he slows his breathing down, all the while his mom holds him. He feels like he’s a small child, the way she’s holding him, but he doesn’t care, it doesn’t matter. She’s grounding, steadying, exactly what he needs.
After what could be hours, days, who knows, he clears his throat. “It’s been a while.”
“I was going to ask,” she says, smoothing his hair back. He sighs. “I mean, I guess I don’t know. But I felt like you might have mentioned it.”
He shrugs. “The last time was when I was 15,” he says. “Right after… well, the clinic and all that.”
“It’s just… I was pretty much homeless, or whatever—”
“—and a lot was happening. I didn’t really… not after Eliott, you know?” Lucas shrugs, and his mom fixes him with a look. “What?”
“Let’s go back to the homeless situation,” she says, and he rolls his eyes. “No, seriously.”
“Mom, it was four years ago.”
“And anyway, it’s fine now. Eliott and I are managing perfectly fine. We both have jobs, we live in an apartment.” He leans his head on her shoulder, and she kisses the top of his head. “I’m tired, now.”
“That makes sense, after a panic attack.” She runs her hand up and down his back, slowly, and he breathes in, out, in, out. He looks up at her, and she cups his face. “Do you know what brought it on?”
Yes . “Not really,” he says, and she nods. “Just kind of happened.” She nods, taking that at face value, and gets up, leaving him alone to process. He’s grateful. He wanders to her couch, sitting, knees folded into his chest as he scrolls through his phone.
He shoots off a text to Eliott, in an attempt to slow his heart rate.
be home soon, how was dinner?
It was nice
My parents missed you
So did Molly
i missed molly too, the sweet baby
my mom says hi and asked how you were doing
tell ur parents hi from me
Mom feels abandoned, she said it was as bad as Sophie not coming to dinner
I told her she’s just being dramatic
we should coordinate these things better
when will you be home
I’m on the bus now
ok, see you soon x
He pokes his head into the kitchen. “Mom, I think I’m gonna head out,” he says, and she frowns, rushing over, holding him tight. He relaxes minutely in her embrace, and he’s grateful. “Love you.”
“I love you, too.” She kisses both of his cheeks, smiling at him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Good as ever, I promise.” He salutes her, and she rolls her eyes, pushing him toward the doorway, and waves him off as he closes the door to her apartment. The cool April air hits his lungs, and finally, he breathes deeply.
(When he crawls into bed that night, wet hair flopping in his eyes, Eliott is already asleep. Lucas watches his chest rise and fall, and lets his breathing sync with Eliott’s. He wraps an arm around Eliott’s waist and presses his face into the cotton shirt. It smells like laundry detergent and cucumber and aloe soap and home. He falls asleep more easily than he has in weeks.)
Navigating the cluttered streets of Paris feels almost impossible when it gets warmer as the tourists begin to flock in droves. Foot traffic moves slowly, and while Lucas has never been the most patient guy, this feels like some sort of test, and he’s failing miserably . He dodges around a family of four, the German rolling off their tongue expertly. Lucas barely catches a word, and he makes it to the cafe just in time to see Imane walking toward him. She smiles, gesturing broadly to the crowds of people, and he laughs, rolling his eyes.
“Salut, meuf,” he says, kissing her cheeks. “How’s it going?”
“It’s going,” she says, shrugging. She looks around, spotting their usual table. “Aha! It’s open.”
“Well, let’s take it before someone else does,” he says. Lucas sits down immediately, curling into the comfortable armchair. Imane runs a hand over the table, brushing crumbs onto the floor. He watches her silently and pulls out his textbooks and highlighters. “I can’t decide if I want coffee.”
“You always want coffee,” she points out, and Lucas shrugs, noncommittal. “I’ll buy.” He grins, and she shakes her head, already off to order. He leans his head on the armrest, pulling out his phone, looking at his texts with Eliott. He was the last one to respond, and he wants to text Eliott again, tell him he loves him and misses him, but it feels like it’s too much, so he pockets his phone instead, opting to watch Imane order their coffee. He pulls out his phone again and sends her €4.
(He’s had this conversation with Eliott before, feeling like he’s too much. Lucas oscillates between too much and not enough and he knows it, and he’s tried to talk to Eliott about it before. He’s always come up short: every single time. Like the last time, they’d had two different conversations.
“I just feel like sometimes I don’t show my appreciation enough for you, you know?” Lucas had asked, to which Eliott shook his head.
“I feel like I don’t do enough for you , Lucas,” he’d said, and Lucas had rolled his eyes, because this wasn’t an airing of grievances, it was a legitimate concern, and Eliott wasn’t taking him seriously, it felt like. He’d dropped it, after that.)
He pulls out his phone again, for the third time since sitting down, and texts Eliott anyway.
what are you up to? i miss you
I’m just at work, nothing special
Miss you too, my love
The small amount of validation settles something in chest, and he sends a heart emoji back before he lets himself actually look at his homework. He reads over some of the questions, frowning, and Imane sits back down, a number for their table in hand.
“Why are you frowning at the textbook?” she asks, pulling her legs to her chest. Lucas shrugs.
“I don’t wanna do homework right now.” He sighs and marks something in his notes. Imane raises an eyebrow at him, her stare hard, and Lucas rolls his eyes. A waiter sets down two drinks and takes their number, and Lucas takes a sip. “I don’t know. I’m feeling unmotivated.”
Imane flips through the book, looking for the chapter they’re on. “Aren’t you always feeling unmotivated?” she asks absentmindedly. Though he knows she doesn’t mean it, it stings anyway. Her words are harsh, though he’s quite clear on the fact that she’s technically right, and she’s not trying to be mean. It just...hits differently, right now, even though he knows it shouldn’t.
He stays silent, opting to open his texts to Eliott again before locking it again. He puts it face down on the table and shakes out the tension (or tries to) in his body. He takes a deep breath and lets his eyes skim the textbook. He sighs again.
“Lucas.” Imane taps her pencil on the page in front of Lucas, and he jumps. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing! Honestly, nothing.” He makes a point of reading over his notes with great exaggeration, and when he looks back up, Imane is still giving him a look. He sighs. “It’s nothing. I’m just distracted.”
“Same,” she says, shutting her textbook. She reaches for her coffee, taking a sip, and Lucas watches her, the graceful nature of her movements, her deliberate sip. He’s struck by how composed she is, how smart, mature. He’s lucky to have her. She sets her cup down, and smooths out a wrinkle on her shirt. “Sofiane and I got in a fight.”
He narrows his eyes at her, suspicious. “You and Sofiane got in a fight? Over what, peeling carrots?” She flicks a torn piece of paper at him, and he laughs. “But honestly, Imane. I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Oh, it absolutely is. We talked about it.” She squirms in her seat, reaching for her cup again, and he can sense how the air has shifted between them. She bites her lip, taking a deep breath. “But I can’t stop thinking about it, you know? I said something I didn’t mean, like I always do, and we talked about it. It wasn’t even a fight, I guess. Just a talk about how I don’t think before I speak, sometimes.”
“You, not thinking before you speak? Unheard of.” Lucas smiles at her, and she rolls her eyes.
“I said sometimes , asshole.” She picks at the coffee sleeve in favor of looking up at Lucas. “He’s so perfect, you know? He always says the right thing, always does the right thing. He’s patient, understanding, kind…”
“He dated Manon after you rejected him,” Lucas interrupts, and Imane frowns.
“We were both younger, then.” She purses her lips, frowning, then releases the tension. “And we always talk about everything. Our communication is unparalleled, I swear. Like, the girls ask me for advice all the time.” She sniffs, taking a drink, and Lucas motions for her to go on. “I just. Feel like he’s settling with me, sometimes. Like there’s someone better out there for him, and instead he’s stuck with me, who makes a big deal out of how to peel a carrot.”
“I knew it was about carrots!” Lucas exclaims, and Imane laughs, throwing her balled up napkin at him. He catches it, tossing it in the garbage behind them, and looks back at her. “Honestly, I understand, but it’s his decision, right?”
“It is.” She pauses, and Lucas narrows his eyes at her again. She sighs. “Every time I try and talk to him about it, it’s like he shuts down. Like he won’t even talk with me about it. We talk about everything under the sun, the tiniest little conflicts, but I say how I feel like I’m not good enough for him and he just. Ignores it. Says a little comment. Doesn’t take it seriously.”
Lucas blinks, and he’s struck by how similar their situations are, for a moment. He shakes his head. “Still his decision, Imane,” he starts, and she rolls her eyes.
“No, I know—”
“I know you do.” He holds a hand up, and runs it through his hair, exhaling loudly as he lets some of the tension seep out of his shoulders. “I just mean… I know what you mean. How you feel. But I think you should say that to him, right? That you feel like he’s not taking you seriously when you express this fear to him, right?” He shrugs, biting his lip. If only he could take his own advice . “I feel this with Eliott sometimes, too. I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing the mark.”
“You’re not,” Imane says softly, and her hardened expression has melted away. They’re on equal footing, now, and he closes his eyes. “You’re right. It’s just…”
“Hard to say.” They smile at each other, and he laughs a little, the uncomfortable feeling gone from his chest a bit. “It’s weird, isn’t it? I never want to tell Eliott he’s not taking me seriously.”
“Ugh, yes! Exactly. It’d break Sofiane’s giant heart.” Imane laughs. Lucas gets it. His boyfriend and his best friend are one and the same. “But nothing will change if I don’t.”
“Exactly.” Lucas takes a sip of his drink again, and it’s lukewarm already, he swears, and he sighs. “I think I’m ready to work now.”
Imane holds her hand out, and they fist bump, looking back to their respective notebooks, and Lucas shakes his head. Imane sighs. “We’re not getting any work done, are we?”
Lucas grins. “Definitely not,” he says, and they sit back instead, enjoying their coffee, opting to talk about stupid random shit instead. He’s grateful for her, that they’ve stuck through school together, that they’re as close as they are. He’s glad she’s stayed in his life, as all his friends have, but especially her. People think she’s rough around the edges, he knows, but she’s so soft when you get to the heart of it. And he loves her for it.
They sit and talk about nothing and everything and whatever’s in between, and it’s a good reprieve from the stress he’s been feeling. During a lull, he looks out the window and watches a sudden rainstorm start, and he feels like this is only the beginning.
(There’s a little ball of anxiety in Lucas’s chest. It’s sat there for days, never growing, never shrinking. He feels it constantly, tries to push at it physically and mentally to make it disappear, and it never works. It never fucking works. Eliott is there, barely, it feels like, and Lucas is doing the dishes and washing the clothes and folding them and Eliott is coming home later and later each night and Lucas can’t fucking do this, not if Eliott’s going to keep coming home later and later til Lucas is sure he won’t come home at all.
He leaves a note on the counter, saying he’s gone to stay with his mom, and he sleeps on her couch for one night, badly. He tosses and turns and rolls off the couch and stares at the ceiling. He gives up at 4:47 in the morning, leaving her a note this time, and he steps into the cool air, an immediate shiver running up his whole body. He decides to walk home—the bus would take too long—and walks along the Seine, watching the reflections change as the water moves in the night. He makes it home half an hour later, and Eliott is awake, making eggs, and Lucas hugs him from behind, hugging his torso, letting all his apologies and love and insecurities and worries and admiration and awe seep into it, and Eliott turns around and gives him a kiss, a deep one, and Lucas feels okay again.)
Lucas flickers between tv channels, vacant expression on his face as he lies on the couch. He’s so goddamn tired , and Eliott’s late again , and his dinner’s wrapped in the fridge per usual , and Lucas hates it. He knows, logically, that there’s a big case and Eliott needs to be there to take notes on the case so that the realtors or whatever company he works for can present it in full, and that of course this would take a long time, but the tiny nagging part of his brain just tells him that Eliott is working up the courage to leave him. He blinks, his right eye watering, and he wipes the moisture away, shutting his eyes. The bright light from the TV burns his eyelids, even as they’re closed. He misses Manon. His thoughts are jumbled.
when are you coming home
Soon, sorry baby :(
Did you eat already
Lucas sighs, leaning his head back against the arm of the couch. Soon , Eliott says. Could Eliott maybe give a fucking time frame? Anger floods his body for a brief second, and he throws his phone away from him, so he doesn’t say the wrong thing. He pauses. Taking several deep breaths, he picks his phone back up.
i did but your dinners wrapped
its just basic pasta
Better than my basic pasta <3
Lucas sends a heart react in response, and his body feels like he’s been holding in all these emotions for far too long, like he’s going to break. He doesn’t want to break, is the thing. If he breaks, it’ll be in front of Eliott, and that’s the last thing he wants, because then Eliott will really—
No , he thinks, stopping that line of thought before it reaches his brain fully. Eliott loves him, Eliott won’t leave. Maybe love isn’t meant to last but Eliott could be an exception. But Eliott’s not an exception, his brain says. Eliott doesn’t need someone so fucked up . He throws his phone and sits up, grabbing the throw pillow he’d been leaning on and hugging it to his chest. He squeezes it like a lifeline; if he doesn’t, he might drown in his own misery. Before he knows it, the tears are falling, fast and hot and hard, and he can’t breathe and nothing is working and he can’t feel his lungs and it’s all too much and everythingishappeningsofast —
He needs air.
He throws the pillow to the ground and slams their apartment door open, stalking down the stairs. He sits against the brick wall in front of their building, knees to his chest. The air fills his lungs, and it’s stabilizing, for a moment, before it’s not enough and he still can barely breathe. Every inhale brings a pang in his heart, and he thinks, belatedly, he should’ve brought his phone so maybe he could call an ambulance. Is this what a heart attack feels like?
Is he just as fucked up as his mom is? Is this how it started?
He takes a gasping breath, and then another, trying to prevent the inevitable hyperventilation, and he leans against the wall, his breathing slowing. He shuts his eyes, and he hears a bird call, horns honking, the sound of tires on wet pavement. His eyes stay closed. He sits there for what could be minutes, hours, days. Hunger pangs in his stomach, and he belatedly realizes his dinner is sitting on their end table next to the couch. There’s footsteps, after that; they’re light and bouncy, as if they’re barely there, and if he listens hard enough, he could think they’re Eliott’s. He keeps his eyes shut.
His eyes fly open, and there’s Eliott, staring at him. Lucas immediately averts his gaze, staring at the ground. He finds a piece of grass, picking at it. He can see Eliott move from the corner of his eye, and then Eliott has his hands, rubbing his thumb over the back of Lucas’s hand. Lucas tips his head toward the sky, and he can feel a gentle sprinkle of rain on his face. It’s jarring.
“Why are you sitting out here? It’s cold,” Eliott says, and Lucas thinks for a moment he should just lie, say it’s something with his dad. Eliott never pries about that subject, and he’d never make Lucas tell him anything he didn’t want to. It’d be perfect. He can keep up the ruse a little longer.
He shifts, leaning his head against Eliott’s arm. He can’t lie to Eliott. “I felt suffocated in the apartment,” he whispers, kissing Eliott’s shoulder. “I was restless, I don’t know. I…” he trails off, not finishing the sentence, because what can he say? I miss you, I feel like our relationship is static, like we’re falling out of love, like you’re finding every excuse to be away from me?
Eliott presses a soft kiss to the top of his head, and Lucas curls into him further. “I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry,” Eliott says, and Lucas nods. “And as much as I love your pasta...how do you feel about pizza?”
“Great.” Lucas smiles, though it’s tight around the edges, and Eliott pulls them both up so they’re standing face to face. He brushes a strand of hair away from Lucas’s face, and Lucas feels his cheeks warm. He looks away from Eliott again. “Can we go inside?”
“Are you okay?” Eliott asks instead. His mouth is twisted into a frown, and Lucas swallows, clears his mind, and smiles, nodding.
“Of course, much better now that you’re here,” he says, and Eliott nods back, though his eyes betray him. Lucas can see everything in his eyes; they’re crystal clear. Why are you lying to me, why won’t you tell me what’s bothering you, I can’t push it but I’m worried, so what aren’t you telling me? “Please, it’s fine, I swear.”
“Okay.” Eliott shakes his head a little, sighs, and shuts his eyes for a long moment. Eventually, he turns around and walks toward the door. “Are you coming?” he calls out, and when Lucas doesn’t immediately answer, he turns around, holding his hand out. Lucas is taken back to the first time they met, the first time they went to La Petite Ceinture, Eliott always asking him are you coming? and really meaning do you trust me?
“I’m coming,” he says, and Eliott smiles, lacing their fingers. As they walk up to their apartment, Lucas lags behind a bit, watching Eliott walk further up the stairs, and he’s grateful, all of a sudden, that they’re going to the same apartment, because he’s not sure if he could handle Eliott actually walking away from him.
Lucas really never meant to fall in love.
All those girls it never worked with...he thought that was it. And he was grateful, because that way he’d never have to feel the heartbreak that comes with it.
But there Eliott was, and the moment Lucas saw him, it’s like he gave Eliott his entire heart and said, “I hope you don’t break it.”
And Eliott had handed Lucas his and said, “I hope you don’t break mine, either.”
And they’d gone through their fair shares of ups and downs, and he’d taken good care of Eliott’s heart, never pushing it too much or squeezing it too hard or putting it through too much stress, and if he had, he’d mended it, with loving words and soft kisses and good apologies, and in return, Eliott had taken good care of Lucas’s heart. Lucas couldn’t think of one time Eliott had accidentally hurt or bruised anything after they’d officially gotten together.
But right now, at this exact moment, where Eliott is late for the seventh consecutive day this week, his heart feels a little beat up.
hey i made dinner
are you gonna be home soon? i miss you
He sets his phone on the counter, looking at the lasagna in the pan and serves himself a slice. He picks up his phone again and sends a snapchat to the boys. Eating dinner alone again , it says, and his phone buzzes. He looks at it, and slides to answer.
“Where’s Eliott?” Yann demands, and Lucas snorts.
“Chill, bro, it’s fine. You wanna come over? I made lasagna.” Lucas shovels a bite into his mouth and swallows. He can hear Yann sigh, and he rolls his eyes. “He’s at work.”
“And don’t you think that’s a little late to be at work?” Yann asks, and Lucas sighs. He puts Yann on speaker, and checks his notifications.
Sorry baby at least a half hour more xx
Lucas inhales deeply, groaning far too loud. He sets down his fork hard. “Of course it’s a little late to be at work, Yann, but he works as a secretary to a really important businessman who makes him work odd hours sometimes, I can’t just say ‘be home by 6, dear, you know my blood pressure rises when I don’t hear from you, thanks,’” he mocks, and he looks at his plate of lasagna, pushing it away from him. “Shame you don’t want to come over, Yann, this lasagna is fire.”
“First of all, never say that again.” Lucas rolls his eyes. “Second, you literally can say that, he’s your boyfriend, that you’re living with. You can and should tell him that.” Lucas sighs, rubbing his forehead. He knows Yann is right, knows that he’s making sense and that Lucas should say all these things to Eliott. It’s just.
Lucas has to be the stable one. For everyone. For his mom, for his step-siblings, for his friends, for his boyfriend, for himself. If he’s not stable, then everyone’s off-kilter. They would tell him this isn’t true, but if Lucas isn’t cooking dinner for Eliott, who is? Eliott? He has to laugh. If Lucas isn’t the one telling his mom she’s allowed to say what his dad did to her when they were married, if Lucas was instead mourning the fact that he’ll never have a real relationship with him, who would be holding her together? Everyone relies on him for everything and it feels like he never has a moment to himself but even if he wanted one he’d get rid of it because all he wants is for everyone to be happy, and right now, no one’s happy, it seems.
“Is that really how you feel?” he hears Yann say, and Lucas exhales shakily, shutting his eyes. “Fuck. Lucas, I’m coming over, okay?” Lucas wants to tell him no, but his chest feels like it’s caving in, and he’s definitely starting to cry, and he can hear Chloe in the background asking if he’s okay, and he wants to laugh at how absurd his life is, but he’s frozen in one spot. “Lucas, you’re breathing right?”
Lucas takes a deep breath, then. “Yes,” he chokes out, and he hangs up, a sob escaping his throat. His phone buzzes. Even in his panic addled haze, his brows furrow. Yann is so used to him hanging up abruptly that he wouldn’t text back, so he picks up his phone.
I’m so sorry, love, it’s gonna be late tonight again. Later than already
I’m taking more notes on this stupid case, I’m sorry
It’ll be like 10 or something
Lucas can’t even bring himself to answer.
(When Eliott crawls into bed that night, Lucas’s vacant stare is what greets him. Lucas knows it’s scary, but he can’t bring himself to care. “You’re awake?” Eliott whispers, and Lucas closes his eyes, burrowing into the pillow. The bed shifts as Eliott lays down, puts his hand on Lucas’s shoulder. “Baby?” Lucas debates shrugging him off, but he lets the hand stay there. Eliott pulls him flush against his chest. “I’m sorry, baby.”
Lucas swears he hasn’t heard “I love you” in weeks.)
He’s running from one place to another, trying to find this housewarming gift for Daphné and Manon. The website said it’d be one place, but he can’t find it there, so he keeps running and running. He checks his phone, and he runs smack into someone’s chest.
“Oh, sorry,” he starts, and then he’s looking into Eliott’s face.
“Hi, baby,” Eliott says. Lucas gapes at him. “I saw you running across the street and I was...a little confused?”
“Are you off work?” Lucas asks, brows furrowed. Eliott giggles, and Lucas sighs, shaking his head. “Eliott, come on. I need to find the gift we said we’d get for Daphné and Manon—”
“I have it right here,” Eliott says, holding up a bag. “I thought I told you I was—”
“Well you didn’t,” Lucas snaps. “You didn’t tell me.” Eliott rolls his eyes, and Lucas scoffs. “Don’t roll your eyes at me.”
“What is wrong with you?” Eliott hisses. “You have been acting strange for a really long time now.”
“Let’s just go to Daphné and Manon’s party and we’ll talk about it later, hm?” Lucas grabs the bag from him and stalks off in the direction of the bus stop. He doesn’t see Eliott’s shadow, and when he turns around, Eliott’s standing in the same spot as before, and he’s looking at Lucas like he doesn’t even know him anymore, and his dad’s words float to the top of his brain. Love isn’t meant to last . He takes a shaky breath, motion for Eliott to follow him, and Eliott shakes his head. Love isn’t meant to last. Lucas walks back over to him, takes his hand. Eliott lets him. “Please?”
“What’s going on with you?” Eliott whispers, and, though it’s more to himself than to Lucas, Lucas still hears it and rolls his eyes.
“I don’t want to get into it, okay? Please? We have a party to go to.”
“Are we that couple now? Who doesn’t speak and just goes to parties and pretends to be happy when we’re crumbling from the inside out?” Eliott bites out, and Lucas blinks, tearing his hand away. Eliott’s face softens immediately, but Lucas shakes his head. “Lucas—”
“Please, Eliott? I just wanna go see our friends. Please.” His voice is low and rough, and he’s trying not to cry, and he knows Eliott can tell, but he can’t hash this out right now, it was hard enough when Yann had to come over on Monday, and now it’s Friday and Lucas is still reeling from the hurt of Eliott coming home later than he ever should, and Eliott nods.
“Okay, Luc. Okay.” He kisses Lucas’s forehead, and leads him to the bus stop, and if Lucas closes his eyes, he can pretend they’re 16 again and that their love isn’t falling apart sooner than he ever thought it would. Love isn’t meant to last . Maybe it is, for some, but for him? Love doesn’t care.
The entire bus ride home is silent .
Lucas can hear an American family talking to each other, two people arguing passionately about literature, the man next to his is mumbling into his phone in Spanish about how much he misses whoever’s on the other end of the line, and Lucas and Eliott are silent.
The party was fine, all things considered. They played couple extremely well, but the minute they sat down on the bus, it was silent. By the time they make it into their apartment, Lucas can hear his own thoughts echoing around in his head, and it’s coming at him on all sides, raining down on him. Love isn’t meant to last. You’re not worthy of it. He’s going to leave you. It’s all over and it’s all your fault. Love can’t ever last with you.
The voice sounds like his father.
“God, SHUT UP!” he roars, and Eliott jumps, turning around. Lucas tries to breathe but it’s too short, too shallow, and Eliott blinks, and it’s like everything is slow-motion. Eliott’s running to him but he’s leaning against the wall, his head in his hands, tugging at his hair, and the edges of his vision are blurry. Eliott’s speaking to him, he knows it, but he’s underwater and he can’t see anything and he can’t swim so this is very bad, really bad news for him, he’s drowning. His hands are pried from his hair involuntarily, and he watches some strands fall to the ground. He feels cool hands on his face, and he looks up to see Eliott’s face directly next to his.
“Sweetheart, listen to me,” he hears, but it’s like there’s a filter; Eliott sounds too far away. He shakes his head. “What, baby? What is it?”
“I c-can’t hear...you,” he chokes out, breathing still too shallow.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Eliott says. It’s clearer. “Can you breathe?” Lucas shakes his head. “Okay, I’ll help you.”
“You’re doing great,” he hears, and he wants to laugh, but he focuses on the breathing instead.
“Good job, I’m so proud of you, okay? You’re doing so well.” His hand is put on Eliott’s chest, and he feels Eliott’s heartbeat through his nice dress shirt. “Can you feel that? You’re here, with me. You’re safe. I’m here.”
You’re safe. I’m here. In. Out.
“I love you, Lucas. I’m here. I love you.”
I love you.
And the dam breaks.
Lucas is laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, his phone unlocked and laying on his chest. It buzzes. He locks it. Eliott walks in, trying to balance two tea cups and what looks like a cookie in his two hands. Lucas sits up, holding his hands out for one of them, and he gets a head shake in return.
“Let me do it,” Eliott says, a small smile on his lips, and Lucas rolls his eyes. “Please? I wanted to make you tea.”
“I didn’t want you to in case you steeped it too long,” Lucas teases, and Eliott rolls his eyes, mimicking a “ha, ha” at him. “I’m kidding. Thank you.”
“I know.” Eliott sits on the bed and hands him a mug. Lucas takes a sip; it’s steeped perfectly. Eliott smiles, smug and happy, and Lucas leans in, cupping his face. Eliott pulls back, and Lucas’s face falls. “No, no, it’s...I just wanna talk, okay?”
“Not like that.” Eliott fiddles with the hem of his shirt, and Lucas turns, setting his mug down, and grabs Eliott’s hand. Eliott smiles, though it falls quickly. “I’ve been a shitty boyfriend and house partner as of late, and I wanted to apologize for that.” He looks at Lucas automatically as if to tell him to be quiet, but Lucas is. Eliott interlaces their fingers. “I got caught up at work. I don’t even like working there. But it was consuming everything. And I didn’t know how to prioritize two things. And I let us fall by the wayside because I knew we’d be okay.”
Lucas frowns. “Eliott…”
“No, please let me finish.” Lucas nods. Eliott takes a deep breath, looking toward the ceiling. He bites his trembling lip, and Lucas’s heart starts to break. “And then I was watching you slip away from me and I didn’t know what to do so I started staying later?” His voice begins to shake and Lucas wants to cry, too. He blinks fast, not wanting the tears to fall. “And then you were upset and I didn’t know what to do and I thought maybe...I don’t know. Maybe if I just pretended everything was normal you wouldn’t be upset. It was stupid. And I don’t know what caused your...panic attack—”
“I do.” Lucas’s voice is rough around the edges, from the two hours of straight sobbing he’d done, but it cuts through Eliott’s tirade. “I know. And I let it build up instead of talking it out, and I forgot to take our own advice that I made up and I let myself get insecure.” Eliott furrows his brows, tilting his head, and Lucas sighs. “It’s…”
“Do not say unimportant.” Eliott’s gaze is so serious it makes Lucas sit up straighter. “We’re talking about this right now.”
“Okay,” Lucas says, but it comes out like a whisper. He takes a deep breath, and closes his eyes. “Have I ever told you about my father?”
There’s a long pause. It’s like Eliott’s stopped working, for a moment. Eliott shakes his head. “No.”
“Then let me.”
Lucas was 3 the first time his dad ever said something mean. It wasn’t terrible, wasn’t horrible, just mean .
“God, Anne, you have no idea how annoying it is when you correct me,” he’d said, and his mom’s face had dropped, and Lucas didn’t know what to do so he’d toddled toward her and hugged her legs. Her hand dropped to his head, smoothing his little tufts of hair back. She crouched down, and he’d looked up into her watery eyes and frowned. His dad huffed, and she looked up at him.
“He’s young, Paul, he doesn’t know any better.” She kissed the top of his head, and winked at him. “You’re my sweet boy, aren’t you?” He smiled at the praise, nodding vigorously, almost toppling over with the excitement. She’d laughed and scooped him up, taking him upstairs, tickling his tummy and laughing with him. She’d sat him on his bed and said, “Lucas, sweetheart, I want you to stay here for a little bit, okay? Mommy has to talk to Daddy.” He’d nodded.
She didn’t tuck him in that night.
Lucas was 7 the first time he saw his dad hit his mom. They’d both recoiled like they’d been burned, and Lucas was still sitting at the kitchen table, mouth agape. His mom had turned to him, blinking rapidly, and his dad walked over, and Lucas shook his head, and his breathing had gotten shallower, and his dad touched his shoulder softly. Lucas flinched. “Why don’t you go upstairs, bud? Mommy and I have to talk.”
He nodded, but he hugged his mom’s legs before he left.
Lucas was 10 when his mom first broke from reality, and his dad had tried to handle it until he couldn’t, and Lucas was 11 the first time his dad walked out.
(“I love you, Paul,” he could hear through his door. His mom was sobbing, and his heart was breaking, and his dad was leaving . “Why won’t you stay when I love you?”
“Love isn’t meant to last, Anne,” he’d snarled, and the door slammed.
It was two weeks before they saw him again.)
Lucas was 13 when he realized he wasn’t normal. He was 13 and a half when his dad said the f-slur in front of him for the first time.
Lucas was 14 when neither of his parents came to graduation because his mom wouldn’t leave the house and his dad was out with some other woman, he’d later found out.
Lucas was 15 when his mom broke from reality again, and his dad left.
(“Dad, what are you doing?!” he’d screamed as his mom rocked back and forth, sobbing. He held onto her like she was a baby, shushing her. “You can’t just leave .”
“She’s crazy, I can’t put up with this!” his dad had said, stuffing his scarves and his ties into a duffle bag.
He gaped at his father. “What about me?!” he’d asked incredulously. His dad left, anyway.)
Lucas was 15 when his mom was taken from him. He was 15 when he ended up homeless. He was 15 when Mika took him in. He was 15 when he realized he was gay.
Lucas was 17 when his dad stopped talking to him.
Lucas was 18 when his mom filed for divorce.
Lucas was 19 when he realized maybe his daddy issues stemmed farther than self-deprecating jokes.
Lucas was just a few months from being 20 when it all hit him.
The silence is deafening. “Please say something,” he says, and Eliott looks at him and grabs his hand. “I know that’s a lot.”
“You’re crying,” Eliott says, and his voice is thick. Lucas blinks, reaching up to his face. Eliott gets there first, thumbing a tear away. “My love.”
“If you apologize, I’m gonna make you dinner,” Eliott threatens, and Lucas barks out a laugh. Eliott smiles, big and bold and bright, and the ever persistent ache in Lucas’s chest eases, a bit. “Your dad’s a dick.”
Lucas shrugs. “Yeah.”
“Your mom is an angel.”
“She misses you, you know.” Lucas squeezes Eliott’s hand, and Eliott pulls him to his chest, holding him close. “You should come over for dinner this week.”
“You’re still crying,” Eliott points out. Lucas sniffs. “I love you.”
Lucas shakes his head. “Do you ever think… no, I don’t know. I don’t know.” If he says it, it’ll make it real, and he doesn’t want to make it real.
“I love you,” Eliott repeats, and Lucas rolls his eyes. “I’m going to say it until you say it back, love.”
“I love you, too.” Lucas grasps at Eliott’s shirt, and Eliott presses a kiss to the top of his head. “I really do.”
“And I really love you,” Eliott says, slowly and deliberately, and Lucas sits up, blinking. “Do you get what I’m saying?”
The words were so entangled in his thought process, in his brain, in every fiber of his being, that he didn’t even recognize it. Love isn’t meant to last , his dad said. But Eliott’s looking at him like he’s got all the time in the world, all the patience, all the love that Lucas thought he would never receive. And Eliott’s sitting right here, in front of him, saying I love you. Eliott’s heard about his father and how fucked up he is and he’s saying I love you .
The little ball of anxiety loosens.
“Yeah, I do.” Lucas does get what he’s saying. And if he’d been listening to his mom, to Imane, to Eliott, to Yann, to himself , he might’ve gotten there sooner. Because his mom is still here, and she’s happy, and she loves him. His conversation with Imane was a subtle way of her letting him know she was there, and she’s happy, and she loves him. And Yann was always there and always will be, and Eliott is sitting here now and is still here and Eliott loves him.
But do you love yourself?
The voice sounds like his mother.
“I don’t know,” he says, and Eliott jumps, the sound breaking the silence that had fallen.
“You don’t know what?” Eliott presses a kiss to Lucas’s shoulder, his big, blue eyes boring into his. Eliott smiles, softly, and Lucas takes a deep breath.
“If I love myself,” he says, honestly and truly. “I think I should go to therapy.”
Eliott laughs. “That might be a good idea.” He hums, then, cupping Lucas’s face. Lucas swallows, and Eliott leans in, kissing him, long and hard and sweet and passionate and everywhere in between. He pulls back, and Lucas blinks, dazed. “Well, I’ll tell you what.”
“What?” Lucas mumbles against his lips.
“I love you. Does that help?”
Lucas thinks about his father. His father never loved his mom, never loved him. You don’t love a person, truly love a person, and become that cruel, that cold. His father was the antithesis of love; the way he’d treated Lucas and his mom left them broken and wanting and sad, thinking it was their fault. Lucas had spent so many years convincing his mom it wasn’t her fault. He’s starting to think it wasn’t his either.
He thinks about all the people in his life who had shown him what love was. Yann, Emma, Mika, Manon, Arthur, Basile, Imane, Daphne, Alexia...and Eliott. All of them had shown him love, unconditionally, whether it be Mika taking him in, Manon’s support, Yann and Emma’s inclusion of him when he’d had no one else, the girls and their wholehearted acceptance of him, the boys and their bumbling yet sweet ways of showing him support through his rough times. Eliott, who has stayed, even when Lucas surely wouldn’t. Eliott, who’s still sitting here, now, holding him close, whispering love love love in every kiss, every touch.
And himself, he thinks, finally, for staying alive, for taking care of himself.
Your heart was always so big, I was afraid you’d never grow into it, his mom once said. Maybe there’s room in his heart for one more person.
“I think it does help.”
When he wakes the next morning, Eliott is curled around him, and Lucas blinks against the harsh light coming through the blinds. He checks his phone, and there’s a text from his boss.
Sorry you’re not feeling well! See you Monday.
Lucas blinks, and looks at Eliott, who’s still snoring softly into Lucas’s hip, and he smiles, shaking his head. He lets out a long, solid exhale, and his feet hit the cool floor. He smiles. Eliott always did sleep better when it’s cold.
He turns on the coffee maker, rolling his neck and shoulders. Everything pops, and it makes him chuckle. The coffee maker whirrs to life, and he hops up on the counter, legs dangling as he checks his phone.
Hey, is everything okay with you and Eliott?
Just because it seemed strained
I’m not trying to pry, honestly, I’m just worried about you
lol don’t worry it’s all good
just had to talk it out
Breakfast after classes on Tuesday?
wouldn’t miss it <3
He scrolls through Instagram, Facebook, and then goes to his contacts. He clicks on the one he hadn’t in a while, and opens it up, thinking maybe he’ll just read them over. The last text was from over a year ago, and Lucas had yet to delete it.
You just have to accept that I can’t accept you. I don’t care that you passed your bac, I don’t care about Eliott. And your mom? She’s confused, if she wasn’t mentally ill she’d know what a sinner you really are. I can’t believe you’d string her along like this. I’m not sending you money anymore.
He exits the chat, and swipes left, deleting it. He blinks, a tear falling. He locks his phone, and the coffee machine beeps. He hops off the counter and hears footsteps as he pours the coffee into two identical mugs. He turns around, and Eliott’s rubbing his eyes, walking toward him.
“You’re up so early,” he mumbles, and Lucas laughs.
“It’s 9 am, it’s not that early.” Lucas presses a kiss to his cheek, handing him a mug. Eliott accepts it gratefully. Lucas climbs back on the counter again and pulls Eliott into his chest, kissing the top of his head. He can feel the gentle curve of Eliott’s lips against his skin, and he kisses him more, all over his face, until he finally presses a chaste one to his lips. “I love you. I’m sorry I didn’t talk before.”
“It’s okay,” Eliott mumbles. “We got here anyway.”
“We did,” Lucas confirms, and he pulls Eliott back into his chest. They stand, silently, and watch the city come to life.
Maybe love can last.