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I'm a wolf howling, in the moonlight, calling out

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Philip kisses like he’s given up on air. He moves his body into him like Lukas is the next best thing, hands clutching his arms, encouraging and responsive.

They’re on his bed and this time Philip isn’t going anywhere, not when he helps push Lukas’ shirt up over his chest to get to the skin underneath.

Lukas is hard already, rolling his hips down and feeling the shock of Philip’s hips jerking up to meet him. He’s panting into Philip’s mouth, skin hot, even exposed to the air like this as he's shoving his hands under Philip’s t-shirt, touching bare skin, feeling the width of his ribs as his body moves.

He thinks he could worship all of it. If Philip let him.

But Philip pulls back instead in order to get his own shirt off and then they’re half naked, kissing furiously as Lukas grinds him into the mattress. Their shared groans sound loud in the room but the friction between their bodies and the need swirling in Lukas' gut feels louder.

Philip’s skin is warm and sensitive and Lukas touches wherever he can, feeling his shape, the outline of his body, the way he moves under his hands as if he wants more. Lukas feels lightheaded with it.

And then Philip leans up, craning his neck to grip his shoulder, sensing he’s overwhelmed before drawing him down again until they’re flush against each other. Their bodies begin to move in a tight rhythm that makes Lukas feel like he’s about to come already. Philip’s mouth skates across his neck and Lukas jolts at the heat of it, gasping and gripping Philip’s hair to keep him there longer.

He's never gonna have enough of this.

“You’re into me,” Philip whispers into his ear, kissing along his jaw and finding all the places on Lukas’ skin where he’s shivery and aching for it.

“Yeah,” he promises, claiming his mouth again, tasting and pressing deeper.

Philip arches his hips, pushing his crotch into Lukas’ erection like he needs the proof of it, of how hot Lukas is for this. He didn’t think he could be. Not after he started dating Rose. But Lukas had no idea that it could actually feel like this.

He tries to kiss Philip’s chin but misses and mouths at his chest instead, getting distracted by the way Philip moves into it rather than away.

Lukas can’t think right now. From the heat of Philip underneath him and the way he’s managed to get his hand between their bodies to start unbuttoning Lukas’ jeans.

His chest feels like it’s expanding, heat burning through the both of them and he curls his toes when Philip lets him drag his pants off. Anticipation makes him overly reactive to the touch even as Philip kicks out of his clothes, tossing them to the floor.

Lukas fumbles with his own jeans, desperate to feel Philip without the rough barrier between them.

They’re in their underwear when Lukas rolls on top of him again, bracketing Philip’s head between his arms as he jerks his hips forward. The press of their bodies feels like too much and not enough at all but Philip gasps at the sensation and Lukas can’t speak with how good it feels, so close to skin on skin.

Philip’s leg curls around his hip, tangling with Lukas’ calf as he shifts the angle between them, aligning their dicks in a perfect slide. Lukas groans and hisses, moving faster and gripping Philip’s naked thigh to keep him in that intimate arch.

He wants to get his hand in Philip’s briefs. He wants to touch every part of him. He wants to look at all of him laid bare and see the heat waiting in his eyes.

Philip catches the back of his neck and pulls him down, capturing him easily, kissing him deep and hard like he wants. Lukas crowds him in, thrusting harder as his body starts to tighten up with pleasure, knowing he’ll come if Philip keeps moving against him like that.

The bedroom door bangs open and Lukas curses and twists, still hot and overcome by the shock of the interruption.

The killer is standing over the bed. Gun in hand, shirtless and barefoot as he stares at them. Lukas’ body locks with fear and terror as Philip stiffens underneath him in alarm. Lukas is frozen. Unable to do anything but stare at the man who’s about to kill him.

Kill them both.

The killer’s expressionless face ripples with unconcealed disgust before he aims and pulls the trigger.

 



 

Lukas wakes with a strangled yell, tangled in sheets as his harsh pants ring through the quiet house. His body is confused for a moment, torn between leftover arousal and terror, covered in sweat and pumped full of adrenaline.

He feels sluggish and stupid when he rolls over to check his cell phone. It’s half past midnight.

When his father staggers into the room a minute later, shirtless but still in his favourite sweatpants, Lukas ducks his head in shame, still panting and struggling to get it under control. There’s no way he’s hard anymore. Not after how that dream ended.

“What the hell is going on?” his dad mutters in the dark.

Lukas squints through the dim light coming from the moon outside in order to see the real concern on his father’s face.

“Sorry,” he gasps, breathing still uneven. “I had a nightmare.”

“You were screaming.”

Lukas wipes some of the sweat from his forehead. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’m fine.”

Irritation settles over his father’s expression instead. “Then if you’re so fine you can be the one to go and check on the hens. You probably scared them half to death with your hollering.”

“Sure, Dad,” he agrees, sighing as he crawls free of the sheets, wincing when it sticks to his slick skin.

It’s a good thing his father didn’t turn on the light. Lukas passes him a second later and hears his retreating footsteps as he heads down the staircase.

Lukas is only wearing pants as well but they’re soaked with sweat in a lot of uncomfortable places. And he’s not so sure that all of it is sweat. He had been having a wet dream before it turned into a living nightmare.

He reaches the foyer and jams his bare feet into a pair of boots that always sit there in case they need them for nights like this. He grabs a flannel jacket off the hook and a torch off the rack and lets himself outside.

Of all the animals on the farm, the hens probably spook the worst. It might take him half an hour to get them settled again.

Lukas curses and takes off towards the coop, body still warm from the curling heat of the dream while his skin flushes.

 



 

His dad isn’t home tonight. He's working out of town and Lukas doesn’t get how Rose figured it out.

When she knocks he has this stupid expectation that it’s Philip but after everything that’s happened there’s no way he’d turn up here.

Not anymore.

“Hey,” she says, a little breathlessly, before she’s pushing past the door and heading straight for his bedroom.

Rose,” he says, real panic setting in when she starts unbuttoning her shirt. “What are you doing?”

“C’mon this is perfect,” she says, turning to smile at him as she takes the stairs. “Your dad’s not home right?”

“Wait,” he calls, jogging up after her.

She’s already on his bed by then, grinning like they’re about to share a secret but Lukas already has plenty of those to last a lifetime. “We should- uh- take things slow.”

Rose ignores him and catches at his hand, tugging him down onto the bed with her. He goes with it, just because it’s easier to and then she’s leaning up to kiss him. He kisses back and remembers a second later that his eyes should be closed so he shuts them. Kissing Rose requires all of his focus, trying to make it seem good, like he’s not faking it entirely.

It’s not- easy.

His thoughts get louder when he’s kissing her, worrying about too many things at once: where’s the right place to put his hands, how long until he can pull away and whether she's actually enjoying it. Rose doesn’t really distract him, get him caught up in the moment and forget himself.

But that’s probably because he’s not into her.

Her hands go straight for his jeans but Lukas is expecting that and he catches them first, just holding them for a while as if it’s intimate rather than stalling.

Kissing Philip feels like breathing, all instinct, a natural inbuilt response of his body. He doesn’t think about his hands, they end up where he wants them, he’s not thinking of how long the kiss has been, he’s hoping Philip won’t ever stop. And his eyes definitely aren’t open.

He didn’t get it at first. The kind of frenzy of hooking up with someone to the point of actually getting lost in it. Lukas didn’t think that would ever be real for him.

Until Philip.

Rose’s hands flex in his, trying to break free and he’s got no real excuse for holding them for so long. So he lets go. She’s pulled him down on top of her but Lukas doesn’t really know what his body is supposed to be doing, or how he wouldn’t crush her if he stopped holding his weight back.

He leans back to breathe and Rose looks like she’s going to reach into his pants and touch him. The problem is he’s not hard and he knows Rose isn’t stupid. When she realises, she’s going to ask him why.

Lukas doesn’t know if he’s ready for that answer yet. He’s already been lying for so long.

He remembers Philip being in this bed a few weeks ago. How he’d curled around him, legs across his hips like they fit together. His body knew what it was doing then. Lukas didn’t think he was confident with any of this intimate stuff until he finally got Philip under him.

Heat rushes into his blood, his body stirring not because of the girl before him but from a guy he's got no business thinking of right now.

Rose’s hand brushes against his crotch and he can’t. He can't. He pushes her hand away and rocks back.

“I can’t do this,” he admits. “I’m not into you.”

He doesn’t say ‘anymore’ because there’s no point lying any further. But Rose only smiles at him like she thinks he’s kidding, like he’s trying to make some joke to lighten the mood or something.

Lukas almost wishes he was.

“I mean it, Rose,” he says and her smile falters when he stands up and buttons his pants. “I think we should break up.”

She sits up against the pillows, holding her unbuttoned shirt together with her hands even though he never touched her there, never even looked. Her face is hard, struggling to hide all of her emotions at once.

“There’s someone else isn’t there?” she guesses and the air rushes from his lungs. “You’ve been distracted lately, edgy, like you’re hiding something. That’s why you don’t want to have sex.”

He bites his lip and glances down the hall where his father’s bedroom sits empty. He still hesitates, as if his dad can somehow hear him anyway. “Yeah, there is.”

She’s angry now. But he knows he deserves it. Rose is re-buttoning her shirt again, not looking at him until she’s finished.

“Did you cheat on me?” she demands, rolling off the bed and getting in his face.

She’s so much shorter than him but Lukas still backs away from the fury in her eyes.

“Yeah,” he says truthfully, and she’s pushing past him for the door, not waiting for any other bullshit excuses. “I’m sorry.”

Rose laughs but it sounds hysterical, choked by disbelief and rage. “Oh you’re sorry that you’ve been cheating on me. You’re a bastard Lukas Waldenbeck.”

She storms towards the stairs, boots loud on the wooden floors and he just knows it’s gonna spread around the entire town by morning if he leaves it like this.

“I’m sorry,” he shouts, following after her. “I promise I wasn’t looking for- him.”

He regrets it as soon as the words are out of his mouth, but Rose stops on the staircase and turns back to stare at him, shocked. His face is red and he glances around the house again like there’s a chance somebody else could have possibly heard him.

He’s never said it out loud to anyone else but Philip before.

“It’s a guy?” she repeats, faintly, and the anger in her gets replaced by something else. “You’re- you’re-“

“Yeah,” he admits, pushing his hair out of his eyes.

Rose’s eyes narrow and she storms back up the steps again and returns to his bedroom. Lukas watches her move past him with an open mouth. He doesn't know what to say when she takes a seat on the bed and watches him expectantly.

“Alright I’m listening.”

Lukas falters before sitting beside her. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a jackass.”

“Have you always known?”

He looks down at his hands. “Yeah, I think so. I just didn’t want to believe it. That’s why it was just easier to say yes when you asked me out.”

“You never liked me,” she accuses and he winces at the hurt in her voice.

This is the part he's been avoiding so much. He never wanted to make her feel this way.

“I do like you,” he promises. “Just not like that. I’m sorry. It’s just been easier not to think about it, you know, but then- he tried to kiss me and I-“

“It’s Philip isn’t it?” Rose says and Lukas flinches at the name.

“I figured,” she continues. “Every since he moved here you’ve been all over the place. And you hardly ever get into fights with people unless you have to.”

He ducks his head, ashamed at the reminder.

“Wait- hold up. Did you hit him because of- because he’s gay and he likes you? What the fuck Lukas, that’s messed up. Even for you.”

Lukas buries his face into his hands. “I told him to leave. People were starting to stare. I panicked. I just wanted him to leave.”

“That’s no excuse,” Rose says and her voice is colder than it was a second ago.

“I know it’s no excuse. I’ve treated him like shit. All cause I couldn’t deal with the truth- any of it.”

Rose is quiet for a second. “Would you have hit me?” she wonders.

“What?” he demands, springing away from her. “God. No! What are you even talking about? Of course not.”

“But I was you girlfriend,” she says. “And you didn’t even like me.”

“That’s- I would never-“

“Then why would you hit Philip? You actually like him. The idea of hurting him should be as horrible as the idea of hurting me.”

“It’s different.”

“Because he’s a guy?” she demands. “No, it’s really not, Lukas. Because you can’t be abusing the guy you-“

“I’d never do it again,” he shouts. “You think I’m really a piece of shit like that? I was being a coward. Philip didn’t deserve any of it. Why do you think he’s barely talking to me?”

Rose frowns at him but her eyebrows are disappearing into her hair which never bodes well. “Did you apologise? Explain that you freaked out?”

He shuffles his feet a little. “Not- exactly. You don’t know, okay, there’s other stuff going on. Stuff that would stop you sleeping at night.”

Rose gives him a looks that makes him feel like something lower than shit. Like he’s bad dirt that even the worms won’t feed on. Why hadn’t he apologised after? He’d just kissed Philip like it didn’t matter. God, he even tried to get him naked after-

What had he been thinking?

“Then tell me,” she says. “What else is happening?”

“I can’t,” he says. “It’s safer if I don’t. Not when- not when he’s still out there somewhere.”

“Who?”

“Forget it,” he mutters, turning away from her. “You don’t understand. You don’t get it. This is life and death.”

Rose scowls at him. “I think I’ve been pretty understanding considering you just dumped me because you’d rather hook up with Philip than me.”

Lukas flushes. “Sorry. I haven’t handled this well.”

Rose rolls her eyes at him. “No shit.”

Lukas sighs and sinks back onto the mattress again. “Please,” he says. “I know I’ve been a dick to you but you can’t tell anyone about this. He’s been having a hard enough time as it is.”

“You want to protect him?” she says, suspicious. “Sure you’re not just worrying about yourself again?”

It hurts to hear that from her of all people. But she’s not wrong. He’s been so selfish. Fear of death will do that though.

“I haven’t- done a very good job of any of it,” he admits. “Because I was scared of anybody else knowing. But I can’t keep up anymore- it’s tearing me apart.”

“I get it,” she says. “I know what town we live in. Have you- have you told your dad?”

“No,” he laughs, because the idea is terrifying. “Can you imagine what he’d say? Listen here, boy, I didn’t raise no son to be a fa-“

“Don’t,” she insists, shutting him up. “You can’t know that for sure.”

“I’m never going to tell him,” Lukas says vehemently.

Rose squeezes him tighter. “You can’t say that. He’s going to figure it out eventually-“

“I know, okay,” he says, dropping his face into his hands in defeat. “I know.”

“Is it weird that I’m less mad because it’s a guy you cheated on me with? At least I know it has nothing to do with anything I did wrong.”

“You didn’t,” he promises. “I’m the liar.”

Rose knocks her shoulder gently against his. “Look, I understand why you did it. People are cruel. You were protecting yourself. I probably would’ve done the same if it was me. But if whatever else is happening is really life or death then you should go to the police.”

“No,” he insists, stubbornly. “Not yet.”

“Fine, that’s my advice. Take it or don’t.”

Lukas doesn’t respond.

Rose smacks her thighs decisively and jumps to her feet. “Well I think I’m gonna head home now since I just became single again.”

“Sorry,” he repeats though there’s nothing he can do to fix it anyway.

“You said that,” she mutters but she’s smiling a little so she must not hate him completely.

She rolls off the bed but the stiffness in her shoulders is gone now. Rose looks comfortable again, like she’s still his girlfriend and they’re just hanging out. No, not like that. Like they’re friends, like they’ve always been.

“I’m telling everyone I dumped you first,” Rose announces, with an arched brow though there's kindness in her eyes. “I’m too good for you anyway.”

He laughs a little, helplessly, because the situation is so strange. “You are.”

“We’re still friends,” she continues. “I don’t forgive you just yet, but you’re still my friend.”

“Okay,” he agrees, because that’s all he can do. “Thanks, Rose. For everything.”

Rose pokes him a couple times in the stomach like he’s done so many times to her. “You’re an idiot, Lukas Waldenbeck, but you’re not a bad person.”

He’s not so sure that he believes her. But Rose pokes him one last time and heads out of his bedroom with a wave. He listens to her let herself out the front door and waits before going down to lock it.

They’ve never worried about locking the front door before. Their property is pretty isolated.

But Lukas is locking the doors now.

He retreats back up to his bedroom, collapsing on the mattress and untangling the mess of headphones sitting on the bedside table. He could go for a ride, but he hasn’t been on his bike in the dark since the cabin, afraid somehow that the killer will find him. Will recognise him anyway.

Lukas plugs his headphones into his cell phone and plays some music, tipping onto his back and getting comfortable. He can’t seem to relax at all lately. Not knowing the killer is still out there somewhere.

He might not be looking for them anymore. Because he killed Tommy and Tracey but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped killing. He wonders if Rose would still be so forgiving if she knew their deaths were his fault too.

Ever since their supposed overdose, Lukas has been looking for the killer’s handiwork all over town. Any deaths sound suspicious now. Even the fifteen-year-old girl who hung herself from that rusted billboard beyond town a week ago.

Every death feels like the killer’s hands are in it.

He opens up his messages and finds Philip’s name.

I broke up with Rose, he writes. I’m sorry that I hit you. I’m sorry for everything.

He sends the text a second later, feeling stupid and confused and weak.

Philip doesn’t reply.

 



 

His phone rings an hour later, shocking him out of his doze. Lukas fumbles with his headphones which have torn free before locating his cell on the floor next to the bed.

It’s Philip.

He answers but can’t even hold it steady, he's so nervous.

Philip talks first.

“Lukas,” he says, and a jolt goes through him at the way his name sounds coming out of Philip’s mouth.

His stomach plummets like it does during the thrill of a good jump and he waits. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Rose knows,” he explains, quickly, just to the get the words out. “She knows about me. About what we’ve been doing.”

“What-“

“She knows I’m gay.”

Lukas can hear Philip let out a sharp breath. He waits him out, fiddling with the material of his pillow case, just for something to hold onto.

“I- I didn’t think you’d ever say it.”

Lukas clutches the phone harder, sitting upright on the bed. “Neither did I.”

“Are you okay?”

“Not really,” he admits. “Can you come over?”

“Look, I get this is a big deal for you but we’re not just gonna fool around because-“

“No, not for that,” Lukas promises, biting his lip. “My dad’s not here tonight. I just don’t want to be alone.”

There’s a pause while Philip thinks it over. “Helen’s working late. But Gabe is still here.”

“Oh," he says, trying to hide his disappointment. He's been under watch lately, since they skipped that counselling session and went to the city instead. "That’s okay. I’ll just- I’ll just see you in school tomorrow.”

Philip makes a strange noise. “You’ll see me in school tomorrow? Like what? You’re going to acknowledge I exist? No one knows we even talk remember?”

Lukas collapses back onto mattress, lying flat, distinctly aware that this isn’t going well at all. “I’ll see you in school,” he repeats, stubbornly.

But he knows Philip doesn’t believe him. He hangs up after that, tossing his cell onto the bed with a sigh.

He’s not going to be able to sleep. Hasn’t slept the night through in a while now. Every time he shuts his eyes, his head is full of nightmares. But most of the things he sees are real.

It’s gonna be a long night.

 



 

When Lukas finally sees Philip at school the next day it’s in the cafeteria during lunch when he’s already sitting down at their table with Eli, Rose and Hailey. He’s too far away to call him over, but he doesn’t want Philip to think he’s going back on his word, trying to ignore him again.

Rose catches him looking and sees the desperate, torn expression on his face before taking pity on him.

“Hey, Philip,” she shouts across the room, ignoring the heads that turn at the sound of her voice. “Come sit with us.”

Philip hesitates for a second before his gaze slides over toward Lukas. He's waiting to see what he thinks about it, whether or not he should just turn around and head right out that door.

Lukas stares back determinedly and waits for him to decide.

Philip shrugs and walks over towards them with all of the ease that Lukas doesn’t feel. Eli leans in towards the rest of the table.

“So we’re friends with the foster kid now?” he demands without bothering to lower his voice.

Lukas is close enough to shove him in the arm. “Shut up.”

“Yes we are,” Rose authorises firmly. “Philip’s cool.”

Philip reaches their table and Lukas moves towards Eli to give him room to sit. There’s no mistaking the space he leaves between himself and Rose. Philip glances at it like he’s unsure of what to think before finally sitting down. Lukas tries not to exhale in relief when he does.

Philip isn’t the only one to notice the distance. But Lukas is too distracted by the feel of Philip’s knee when he accidentally bumps into him to look at anybody else.

“What’s that all about?” Hailey wonders, gesturing between the two of them.

Lukas glances at Rose since she’s the one who wants to tell the story. One that's a hell of a lot different to the truth.

“I dumped him,” Rose announces, shrugging, before biting into an apple.

Philip actually turns his head to look at her like he didn’t quite believe it was true and hadn’t expected the confirmation. Lukas deserves that kind of doubt. He hasn't exactly proven he's somebody to be relied on for the truth.

“You’re shitting me,” Eli says, but he’s laughing a second later, enjoying himself.

He can be such a dick sometimes. Lukas doesn’t know how he’s meant to react but he can’t seem to focus on anything else but pretending all of his attention isn’t stuck on Philip.

“Why?” Philip wonders, completely unaware of his effect on Lukas as he stares at Rose.

Lukas has to stuff his hands into the pockets of his jacket just to make sure he doesn’t reach out and touch him.

“Because I wanna focus on me,” Rose says. “We’re better off as friends anyway.”

“Yeah,” Lukas mutters, because he knows he has to say something.

Philip talks a little before the bell rings for their next class and Eli isn’t a total jackass the entire time. Somebody drops a plate a few tables away and the sound of it breaking makes him flinch so hard he almost overturns his soda. There's a hand on his knee a second later, Philip, and he squeezes in understanding.

It shouldn’t comfort him but somehow it does.

Lukas doesn’t panic again.

 

 

 

Philip corners him at his locker at the end of the day.

“Did Rose really dump you?” he wonders, voice pitched low so that no one else can overhear.

“No,” he admits. “She showed up at my house. She wanted to have sex. I couldn’t do it.”

“So what- you just told her everything instead?”

Lukas glances around before answering. “Nothing about the cabin. Just about you and me.”

“Why would you do that?” he asks, frowning like he doesn't understand.

Lukas finishes stuffing his books into his backpack and slams the locker door shut. “Because you know I like you.”

“Do I?” Philip wonders, adjusting his bag against his hip as they walk outside together.

Lukas should have seen that coming. Since he’s never actually said it. “I do,” he repeats. “I do like you, Philip.”

Philip only stares at him for a moment, reading his face as if looking for a lie there. But he doesn’t find one. Philip’s mouth twitches a little like he’s fighting a smile. It’s a good look on him.

“Okay,” he says when they walk out the main doors together.

“Did- did you want a ride home?” he wonders, hesitant because he’s still not so sure where they stand. Even now.

Or if Philip even likes him back after everything that’s happened.

“You haven’t been sleeping at all, have you?” Philip observes instead and the comment is still surprising even if he’s not concealing it well.

His father has made more than one remark about the heavy shadows underneath his eyes lately.

“Not really,” he mutters. “I don’t like my dreams.”

“Nightmares you mean,” Philip says and actually reaches out to touch his forearm.

Lukas has to fight his instinct not to rip his hand back or to see whether the other students have seen. His pulse jumps under the touch. But he stays still and Philip pulls away a second later, expression thoughtful.

“You know,” he starts, following Lukas to the parking lot. “In the Projects there are a few homeless veterans who can’t really sleep either. You sound- you sound like you might have PTSD like they do.”

“What?” Lukas says, laughing as he reaches his motorbike. “No. I haven’t been at war, Philip.”

“Yeah but you did experience a traumatic event. We both did.”

Lukas stares at Philip’s face longer than necessary. “You’re actually serious. Are you insane?”

He picks up his helmet from the bike seat where he usually leaves it during the day. Everyone at school knows not to to touch it.

“I just think that what’s happened has really affected you. I know you don’t want to tell but I think not talking about it hasn’t been good. You know I’m here right? I can listen.”

Lukas feels trapped in his own head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay,” Philip agrees, backing off completely and that’s not what Lukas wants either.

But before he can say anything Philip is turning his head toward the approaching truck and waving at the person behind the wheel. “That’s Gabe. I gotta go. See you tomorrow?”

Lukas can hear more than one question in his voice. He wants to know if this was all a fluke. Whether Lukas will go back to ignoring him in school again.

“See you tomorrow,” he echoes resolutely and watches Philip smile at him, the way his expression is soft and approving before he walks over to Gabe’s truck.

And Lukas really wants to kiss him again.

“That looked like it went well.”

Lukas flinches so hard he almost drops his helmet. “God, Rose. Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“I wasn’t sneaking,” she says. “I was observing. It’s not my fault neither of you noticed me.”

Lukas might argue that it is but settles on glaring at her instead.

“You guys are actually kind of cute,” she admits, startling him out of his thoughts. “I didn’t think your face could go all soft and dazed like that.”

“Shut up,” he says, flushing and nudging her without any force.

It’s strange having her know about Philip. Lukas isn’t quite used to talking about it so openly yet.

“So did lunch go well or did you manage to fuck things up again?”

“Thanks for that,” he mutters, ducking his head. “And no. At least I don’t think so.”

Rose’s grin is smug. “Somehow, I think you’re right. He looked pretty into you from where I was standing.”

She squeezes his hand before spotting her mother’s truck waiting at the end of the line of cars picking up their kids. Rose hurries off towards her with a parting smirk.

Lukas thinks about what she said. That Philip is still into him.

He can’t stop grinning on the ride home.

 



 

Lukas sees the camera first in the window of the used goods store in town after his father leaves him to mind the truck. He’s off to gets some supplies from Home Depot. They need barbed wire to repair the fence around the hen’s coop since there have been foxes roaming about their property the past few nights.

Lukas glances back at the car before hurrying into the store. He moves over and reaches the camera sitting atop the pile of other mismatched items in the main window. The price isn’t so bad when he checks the tags and Lukas decides abruptly that he’s going to buy it.

He might not know much about cameras but he knows it’s a good one. Good quality.

“I wanna get this camera,” he announces to the shopkeeper and waits restlessly while he walks around the counter to grab it out for him.

Lukas follows him back to the register as he sets the camera down and rings it up.

“That’s fifty dollars.”

Lukas hands over the cash, glancing back at his dad’s truck. He’s not back yet. The shopkeeper doesn’t bother to wrap it and Lukas doesn’t ask him to, accepting the camera and the receipt and dashing outside again.

He stuffs it under the back seat and barely slams the door shut before his father is returning.

“What are you standing about for?” he wonders. “C’mon get in. We’ve got to move the car over to the loading dock.”

“Right. Sorry, dad,” he says and climbs into the passenger side.

He doesn’t turn to check on the camera but he can feel it sitting in the back of his mind the entire drive home.

 



 

He doesn’t give it to Philip straight away. There’s never a right time to do it even with Philip sitting with them during lunch all week. He and Rose actually get on surprisingly well. He wouldn't have guessed that was possible.

The camera itself is fairly bulky and he doesn't want to carry it around all day until he can get Philip alone so he leaves it under his bed, waiting for the right opportunity. Lukas especially doesn’t want to do it at school where someone could interrupt them.

He waits until Friday before putting it carefully in his backpack and bringing it with him. That afternoon when he’s out riding in the Quarry to practice for the upcoming race tomorrow he decides to stop chickening out and just go and give it to him.

He drives over to Helen’s house, worried the whole time that it’s gonna be the Sheriff who answers the door and she’ll take one look into his eyes and know everything. He might lie a lot but that doesn't mean that he's especially good at it. He's not at all convincing when he needs to be.

But thankfully Philip is outside, laying on the grass in their front yard when he finally pulls up behind Gabe’s truck. He sits up at the noise of the engine and Lukas doesn’t say anything, just waves the spare helmet in offering.

Philip rolls to his feet and walks down to meet him. “Shouldn’t you be practising for your big race?”

Lukas places the helmet into his outstretched hands. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. C’mon.”

Philip puts on the helmet and takes the seat behind him, gripping Lukas’ sides for balance. He kicks off once he’s sure Philip’s ready and drives on out to one of the nearby camping trails which is most likely to be empty this time of year.

There's no one in sight when they get there. Philip climbs off first when Lukas pulls up beside a park bench and walks over to sit down on it. He stands his bike and switches off the engine, tugging off his helmet and leaving it on the seat when he slides off to join him.

He pulls the camera out of his backpack. And tries not to feel nervous about it.

“Here,” he says, handing it to him.

Philip accepts the camera automatically before actually looking at it. “What’s this?” he wonders bemusedly.

“You like taking pictures don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Philip agrees, not sure where this is going.

“Then it’s yours.”

He pauses. Then starts to inspect the camera more closely. “How much-?“

“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “It’s not like some gift to make you forgive me or whatever. I just saw it and I thought you’d like it.”

Philip proves his point when he takes a photo of Lukas a second later. The photo emerges instantly and Lukas realises that it’s a Polaroid camera and that the shopkeeper must have thought to insert the film for him before he'd bought it.

“Reckon you’d still look like a goon?” Philip teases, holding the photo as it starts to develop.

Lukas grins at him and uses the bench as a step to reach the top of the table so he can sit beside him. “Probably.”

“Thank you for this,” Philip says eventually, not looking at him. “You didn’t have to.”

“Yeah I know that.”

Philip sets the camera down on the table before reaching out to touch his knee again and Lukas feels it burn through the fabric of his jeans. He doesn’t say anything else. Just touches him like he’s asking a silent question that Lukas doesn’t quite understand the answer to.

“I was thinking. Maybe you’d want to come to my race tomorrow?”

“You’re inviting me?” Philip repeats, surprised.

“Yeah,” he says. “Bring Gabe and Helen if you want.”

The photo is slowly coming into focus and Philip holds it up as his own face swims into view. It's not a bad photo. His expression is probably the most honest it's ever been.

“I was also thinking,” Lukas continues, looking at Philip’s hand which is still resting absentmindedly against his knee. “That maybe we should tell Helen. After the race is over.”

Philip puts the photo underneath the weight of the camera so it doesn’t blow away. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” he admits and Philip kisses him then, unrestrained.

Lukas feels the world fall away behind them as he surges forward. He has to touch him, so he does, cupping his neck and covering the hand still on his knee.

When Philip pulls away to breathe, his lips look a little swollen and his eyes are hot from the kisses. Lukas has to stop himself from leaning in again.

“I’ll be there,” Philip promises.

And the day seems a little brighter.

 



 

Lukas is nervous. He’s used to that jittery feeling before a race but it’s worse because he’s been scanning the crowd since people started trickling in ten minutes ago and he hasn’t seen Philip among them.

He said he’d be here. He promised.

Lukas has called Philip’s cell twice now and there’s still been no answer.

His father is rattling off last minute tips and advice as he always does, just to help get Lukas in the right head space but he’s not paying any attention. Searching for Philip is too distracting. He’s still eyeing the crowd, looking for that familiar face when Helen and Gabe finally walk up from the parking lot, Helen still dressed in her uniform.

And Philip isn’t with them.

Then he knows something’s wrong. Philip always keeps his word. He wouldn’t not be here unless something else had stopped him. Or someone.

Lukas abandons his helmet, his bike and his father and jogs over to them, watching the way Helen’s face lights up as she laughs at something Gabe has just said.

“Where’s Philip?” he demands, heart climbing with panic as the smile slips from her mouth.

Gabe is frowning. “Hello Lukas. He’s not here already?”

He doesn't sound concerned yet only mildly surprised. Helen is frowning at him but that's it. They don't get it.

“No,” Lukas says. “He’s not here. Why isn’t he with you?”

“Lukas,” Helen starts like she’s gonna lecture him for being rude or try to make him calm down.

But Gabe is already answering. “He said he wanted to ride his bike here but he left before us.”

Lukas takes a step back, staggering under the weight of the realisation. “Oh, God,” he whispers, pulling at his hair like he might tear it from his scalp. “It’s him.”

“Him?” Helen repeats. “Calm down, Lukas. Talk to me. What’s wrong?”

His father has reached him by then, wondering why Lukas isn’t waiting by his bike for the race.

“Lukas, what are you-?“ he starts.

“The killer,” Lukas shouts, fear and anger and confusion making his hands shake. “From the cabin. The one who walked out and killed Tommy and Tracey like it was nothing. He’s got Philip.”

Helen’s mouth is open. “How do you know about-?“

“We were there, okay?” Lukas says. “In the cabin. When they came in and then he got the gun and killed them all. I hit him over the head and we ran.”

Helen is putting the pieces together but she’s taking too long. If the killer has Philip- he might already be dead by now. This is all his fault.

“Why didn’t you say-?“

“Because we were fooling around, okay?” Lukas shouts, ignoring the way he turns a few heads at the declaration, how his father stiffens beside him.

He doesn’t turn to look at him. Lukas doesn’t want to see his face.

Gabe looks taken aback but Helen’s eyes narrow like she’s thinking. “So you're a witness? The murders? The-“

“Look, I’ll talk okay. I’ll tell you everything. I’ll give you a description of the guy’s face if that’s what you want, but we’ve got to find Philip first.”

“Lukas, you can’t possibly expect us to take this seriously when-“

“No, you’re not listening to me,” he snaps, getting angrier. “He killed Tommy and Tracey because he thought they were in the cabin instead of us and now he’s got Philip.”

“Okay so we’ll take you down to the station and-“

But Lukas is done listening to her excuses.

He pushes past Gabe, hard enough that he stumbles, ignoring his father calling him back as he sprints over to his bike. He jams his helmet on and floors the engine, taking off in the dirt as he wheels through the crowd and back out through the entryway.

He should never have kept the lie this long even if he’d been so terrified of everybody knowing.

But they all know now.

Lukas doesn’t care anymore.

He knows he’s right about this. The killer has Philip.

And he’s going to die if Lukas doesn’t finally do something about it.

 



 

He sees Philip’s bike first.

Overturned on an unusual angle like it’s been dropped out of the sky onto the side of the road. He sees the car next. Parked ahead of it and the man twisting into the driver seat as he goes to disappear inside.

Lukas revs the bike, loudly, raucously, enough that the man turns his head alertly at the sound. But Lukas doesn’t need to see his face in order to recognise him.

It’s him.

The killer.

His heart wrenches outside his chest, the all-consuming fear drowning out the sound of Helen’s siren as she follows after him.

Lukas pulls over inches away from Philip’s bike, killing the engine and doesn’t even bother to stand it. He just lurches off of the seat, hears the heavy machine crash into the dirt as he starts straight for the killer.

He’s out of the car by now, expression smooth and pretending surprise as he watches Helen pull up behind him. He's not even looking at Lukas.

That's fine with him. Lukas doesn’t wait for her to catch up. He tackles into him, shoving the killer up against his car, reaching for his gun.

The killer tries to stop him, but Lukas has surprise on his side and he’s still wearing his helmet when he head-butts him in the face as hard as he can. The killer collapses back against the car and he gets the gun free and tosses it into the woods behind them, kicking him in the balls when he tries to reach for him. His nose is already bleeding when Lukas forces him into the dirt, scrabbling for his car keys.

He gets them out of the killer’s fingers and his own hands are shaking when he stumbles over his prone form to reach the trunk.

There's no sound coming from it but that could mean anything. He can’t seem to get the key into the lock, he’s shaking so badly and the helmet isn’t really helping things. He can barely breathe when he finally manages to tug the thing off his head, tossing it over his shoulder as he gulps for air.

Helen’s authoritative voice floods over him in full force.

“Lukas!” she shouts, as she steps out of her jeep, lights still flashing, even as she hurries toward the killer. “What the hell are you doing?”

“It’s him,” he gasps, jerking the key into the lock, cursing in frustration before it finally slots into place. “He’s the killer.”

Helen stops but she's already drawn her gun. “No,” she protests, reaching out to grip Lukas’ shoulder but he throws her off. “He’s an FBI-“

The trunk pops, finally, and Lukas urgently hauls it open.

Philip is inside.

Helen trails off at the sight of him, shocked and speechless but Lukas is already clambering into the trunk to pull him out, harsh breaths and strangled sobs of fear and relief that he found him in time.

Philip is breathing, even if he is unconscious. He’s tied up too. Hands and feet which makes it harder to get him free.

Helen’s gone by then and Lukas doesn’t care what she’s doing or whether the killer is still breathing. He’s just got to get Philip out of the trunk.

His head is bleeding and Lukas slides his hands through the blood anyway because he needs to touch him. It’s in his hair, covering his left ear and along his jawline and his face is still slack.

Almost like he could be sleeping.

“Philip,” he says, cupping his cheek, his neck, his hip as he manages to tug him out of the trunk altogether. “Come on. Philip.”

Philip is lean and tall but he’s a dead weight and that makes him harder to move. Lukas lifts him a few paces before they collapse onto the dirt in a heap. He doesn’t bother to see what's happening with the killer or Helen.

He’s watching Philip. Praying he wasn’t too late.

Why didn’t he realise sooner?

He goes for the duct tape sealing Philip’s hands together next, tearing at them until it splits apart between his calloused fingers. He rips the rest of it off, tossing it to the ground and doesn’t bother with Philip’s feet.

Because Philip’s eyelashes are twitching now, his smooth face contorting into a frown. Lukas supports his head as it rests against his chest and carefully touches his cheek, watching as he slowly starts to come around. The following sharp inhale signals he’s becoming aware of how much pain he’s in. He’s probably concussed or something.

“Philip,” he shouts, louder now. “Philip. You asshole. Wake up!”

“Lukas!” Helen shouts and her voice is far away. “Is Philip-?”

“Ugh,” Philip groans, and he’s clutching Lukas’ shirt before his free hand reaches out to cradle his head in puzzlement.

“It’s okay,” Lukas promises, holding him tighter, trying to make him comfortable even as he’s crowding him, pulling him further in. “I got you, Philip. I got you.”

Lukas can feel his heart starting to beat faster against his chest, the adrenaline setting in now that he's fully conscious. “Lukas- he’s here. He saw me. Where-?”

“It’s fine,” he says, lying, since he doesn’t know for sure if the killer escaped. Again. “You’re gonna be fine.”

“Uhh,” Philip groans, low and pained and Lukas drops his face into his hair, not caring about the blood and the sweat.

“It’s okay,” he repeats like it’ll make it true. “You’re okay.”

“My head,” Philip says, faintly, like he’s in shock. “Fuck.”

Lukas laughs, because he can’t help it. It’s Philip. And he’s not dead. “Quit bitching. You’re probably not even concussed.”

Philip groans again but he doesn’t try to sit up, doesn’t push Lukas’ hands away like he would have before. “Whatever, tough guy.”

“Philip!” Helen shouts and all of a sudden she’s descending upon them both, turning his cheek to inspect the damage on his skull. “Are you alright?”

“I guess,” he says, wincing a little. “He knocked me out for a while, I think.”

Helen pulls out a knife and cuts Philip's feet free. She tries to haul him up next like she’s going to take him away and that’s never gonna happen. Lukas’ grip tightens, resisting.

She frowns. “It’s alright, Lukas. You can let him go. I can take it from here.”

“No,” he says. “No, I- I won’t.”

Her expression seems weird to him but he doesn’t care, he’s not going to do it. “I need to take him to the hospital, Lukas. He’s got a head injury.”

“I’m really-“ Philip starts to protest, trying to sit up and that’s not happening either.

Lukas holds him tighter. “I’m not letting go. This is all my fault. Cause I didn’t say anything when I should have.”

“This isn’t either of your faults. But Philip needs medical attention and I need you to cooperate with me right now.”

“What about… him?” Lukas asks, jerking his head in the direction that he last saw the killer.

Helen’s mouth narrows.

“You can’t do both,” he points out. “I’ll take Philip and you- you lock him up before he kills anybody else.”

“Philip is in no condition to ride right now-“

“Then I’ll take the killer’s car,” Lukas finishes. “Just. Don’t let him get away with this. Not now.”

Helen deliberates for only a second. “You take the jeep. Keep the sirens if you need to. I’ll take Mr Kane into custody and I’ll come find you.”

“Is he- is he dead?” Philip wonders, swallowing.

Helen’s back is rigid with unfurling anger. “He’s taken a blow to the head and I cuffed him to the steering wheel, but with his skills it shouldn’t hold him for long. You tossed his gun into the woods?”

“Yeah,” Lukas answers.

“I’ll call Tony in to come get it. What about your bike?”

Lukas is already moving, helping pull Philip up into a standing position but still keeping a steady hold on his waist. “Leave it. Whatever.”

Helen raises an eyebrow but turns back to the killer’s car and checks on him. He must still be there since she doesn’t pull out her gun again. There’s a part of him that just wishes she’d shoot him in the head and be done with it.

He’d deserve it.

Philip inhales sharply again which means he’s not handling the pain very well and Lukas encourages him over to Helen’s jeep, catching the keys as she tosses them to him. He helps haul Philip into the passenger seat and his movements are sluggish and uncoordinated.

“Don’t let him fall asleep!” Helen shouts before he climbs into the driver’s side.

“Got it.”

Philip is resting his head against the glass by then. “Can’t believe she’s letting you drive the Sheriff car,” he mumbles like it's some kind of prize.

“Yeah,” Lukas jokes, awkwardly, reaching out to grip his wrist, just to feel he’s there when he starts the ignition. “I’m a big deal.”

Lukas re-joins the highway so quickly that dirt scatters up around them as the tyres screech.

“Your race,” Philip remembers abruptly. “You’re missing it.”

“Forget about it,” he says, trying not to remember the look on his father’s face before he’d left.

Philip’s head lolls a little and Lukas grips his shoulder. “Hey. Hey. Don’t fall asleep.”

“I’m not,” he answers, though it’s clear he is.

“Dammit, Philip-“

“You saved me,” he says, abruptly, sounding alert. “Again.”

Lukas turns away from him for a moment, watches the road. He’s driven this highway on his bike so often that he’d know every turn, every bend even with his eyes closed.

“You said you’d be at my race,” he says simply. “I knew something was wrong.”

Philip covers the hand gripping his wrist, stroking Lukas’ fingers. “You saved me,” he repeats and he sounds so out of it, it's awful.

And Lukas’ jaw clenches. “You said that already.”

But Philip just laughs, short and amazed. “I did get hit over the head with a tyre iron.”

Lukas curses and pressed his foot harder onto the accelerator.

Red Hook doesn’t have it's own hospital. The town isn’t big enough for it. The closest one is Northern Duchess Hospital in Rhinebeck. More than a hundred miles away. It’s a two-hour drive. Without speeding. Lukas doesn’t think he can keep Philip awake for that long.

“Talk.”

“About what?”

“I don’t know,” Lukas admits, curling his knuckles around the wheel in frustration. “Just keep talking.”

The law is they’re only allowed to go 80mph but Lukas is driving a cop car and the lights are still flashing so nobody is gonna question him for breaking the speed limit. At least that's what he's betting on.

“Did you really just give up your race for me?” Philip asks.

Of course Philip wants to make Lukas talk instead.

“Yeah,” he admits. “And now my dad knows.”

Philip’s wrist twitches under his hand. “What?”

Lukas determinedly watches the road. “I told Helen about the cabin and what we were doing. He was standing there. He heard everything. Is your head still bleeding?”

Philip probes the tender area. “A little. Why- uh- you sound pretty calm about this. I didn’t think-“

“When you weren’t at my race but Helen and Gabe arrived I knew. I knew it was him.”

“So you told them about us.”

Lukas shrugs, but he hasn’t let go of Philip’s wrist. “It didn’t matter. I was- scared. Thinking he might have got you.”

“Well he did,” Philip says, like it’s a joke, like it’s funny.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“It’s not a joke.”

“I didn’t say it was.”

“It matters what happens to you,” Lukas says, and he’s cautiously loosening his grip on Philip’s wrist, sliding his fingers along his skin and into his open hand, holding him there. “You matter, okay? To a lot of people. Not- just me.”

Philip’s hand is warm and his grip is strong. “Thanks.”

“Do- do you want to call your mom?” Lukas wonders. “Tell her you’re alright?”

“Gabe and Helen got her into rehab,” Philip admits. “They don’t allow patients to use cell phones. Besides I don’t even know where mine is.”

“He has it,” Lukas says like a curse. “It’s probably still in his car. I tried calling you a few times before I ditched the race.”

“How did you know where to find me?”

“Helen said you left on your bike. The only way there is through Route 9.”

“Are you worried? About your dad?”

Lukas doesn’t want to talk about this right now. But then again he doesn’t want to talk about it at all. “Yeah,” he admits, anyway. “I didn’t even look at him. I knew how he’d react.”

“Has he tried to call you?”

“I turned my cell off when I left.”

“Turn it back on. What if the killer gets out or something and comes after us?”

Lukas smothers the ripple of fear that rises in him. “Helen took him away. I should’ve killed him.”

“You don’t mean that.”

But somehow, Lukas feels like he does. Philip’s head is still bleeding and Lukas can tell that he’s shaking. Being locked in that trunk really shook him up.

“Stop staring at me like that,” Philip says. “I’m fine.”

Lukas snorts. “Yeah you look it. Definitely not concussed.”

Philip shifts in the seat a little but he doesn’t take his hand back. Lukas isn’t so sure that he could let him go anyway. “And what, you’re the expert on concussions are you?”

“Yeah,” he says, snorting. “I grew up on a farm and I ride a motorbike for fun. What do you think?”

Philip only rolls his eyes. “Yeah, okay.”

“Are we good? I mean, you were coming to my race right?”

Philip laughs. “Yeah, we’re good. I was definitely coming to see you before the killer recognised me and stuffed me in his trunk.”

Lukas swallows his anger at the words. “How did he recognise you anyway? I hit him over the head pretty hard.”

“He surprised me,” Philip admits. “I didn’t expect it but my reaction must have been pretty obvious. Were you nervous?”

“About what?”

“The race.”

Lukas shrugs. “A little. Why? Were you gonna give me a kiss for good luck?”

“You would’ve wanted me too,” Philip says, unembarrassed.

He’s right though. He’s right about a lot of things.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “I always want you to.”

Philip’s cheeks redden before he turns his head to look out the window. But when Lukas carefully squeezes his hand, Philip squeezes back.

 

 

 

Gabe pulls up just as Lukas is helping Philip out of the jeep.

“Philip,” he shouts, taking him out of Lukas’ hands without asking and pulling him into a hug. “Are you alright?”

Lukas can see his face, see how overwhelmed he is by the comfort of a man who isn’t his father. Philip struggles to keep his expression under control, but his jaw clenches from holding all of his feelings back. They haven't really talked about his father before. He never bothered to ask.

Lukas wishes he’d thought to hug him in all the chaos.

“I’m not,” Philip finally admits, and Lukas can see that his eyes are glassy, like he wants to cry.

Gabe pulls away and seems to realise Philip is covered in blood. He slings an arm around his shoulders and starts moving him past the main doors. Lukas puts his hands in the pockets of his motocross jacket and walks in after them, staring at the floor. Philip glances back at him a couple times and Lukas doesn’t know what his expression means.

The waiting room isn’t full enough that they’ll be waiting for hours but when Philip stumbles and nearly collapses they jump him ahead of the line. Lukas watches a nurse lead him away and staggers over to an empty seat, feeling his last bit of energy leave him in a rush.

Gabe takes the spot next to him. He looks angry. Or at least the kind of anger he’s trying to push back below the surface. Lukas knows that type of angry.

“I’m sorry, Lukas,” he says, and his voice is surprisingly calm. “Helen should never have left you two to drive up here by yourselves.”

Oh. That’s why he’s pissed.

“Yes, she should have,” he says, staring at the space between his spread knees. “He needed to be put away. Otherwise he’d be coming for us right now. Nothing was ever gonna stop him. You don’t know- you don’t know what he’s capable of.”

Gabe is quiet for a moment, pondering the words. Lukas shuts his mouth. He knows it’s probably the most he’s ever said to the guy. He needs time to process all this shit too.

Lukas jimmies his leg while they wait, bobbing it up and down impatiently with left over nerves from everything that’s happened. He wishes that they let him into the room with Philip while the doctors check he’s okay.

Or at least let Gabe through as well.

“You’ve called her, right?” Lukas asks suddenly. “He’s definitely locked up?”

Gabe’s expression shifts. “He’s in police custody. Even a man like him can’t evade the law.”

“Good,” he says. “Good.”

“Have you spoken to your father? When I left he still hadn’t been able to get a hold of you.”

Lukas knots his fingers together in a nervous tangle. “I turned off my cell.”

Gabe pats his shoulder and the touch startles him for a second. Because Gabe was there, he knows. He knows about Lukas but the look on his face isn’t judgement. His face is welcome and understanding like he doesn’t see it as a bad thing, like it doesn’t matter.

“You two should talk,” he suggests. “I’m sure he’d want to know that you’re alright.”

Lukas nods and waits until Gabe walks up to talk to the lady at the front desk again before pulling out his cell phone.

Since he left his father has called sixteen times. At least once every ten minutes. Swallowing the sludge of fear simmering in his gut, Lukas finally rings him back.

He picks up immediately.

“Lukas,” he says and he sounds breathless like he’s been running around. “You better have a good explanation for all of this. You barely said anything before you took off. Helen only just called me to fill me in. Are you good?”

“I’m- okay, Dad,” he says. “I’m sorry. I’m at Northern Duchess.”

“The hospital? You said you were at the cabin when those bodies were found. You said you and- and Philip-“

“Yeah,” he agrees, breaths shaking as he swallows. “Yeah. Me and Philip.”

There’s a pause stretching out across the phone that lasts for a lifetime. “You always did have to be different,” he says gruffly and Lukas wishes more than anything in that moment that he wasn’t.

“Dad, I’m, I’m-“ sorry. But is he? Is he really? Because if he wasn’t different than he’d never have met Philip.

If he wasn’t different, he wouldn’t be Lukas.

“Look, I’ll admit it was unexpected,” his father admits. “And there are clearly a lot of things that I don’t understand about it, so I’m just gonna say the kind of thing your mother would have said if she’d have been here with us: there’s nothing wrong with different, kid.”

Lukas laughs because he can’t believe that this is happening.

“You and Philip- that’s why you went into the city together wasn’t it?”

“He was trying to get my mind off everything.”

“Are- are you being safe?” his dad wonders curtly, in that brusque way of his when he knows he's out of his depth. “Are you using protection?”

“Dad,” he protests, horrified. “We haven’t had sex. Why would you even ask that?”

“Right,” he continues gruffly. “Just because I don’t have to worry about any teen pregnancies anymore doesn’t mean you’ve got the excuse to be stupid.”

“Okay, Dad,” he says, flushing red at the conversation. “Can we stop talking about this now?”

“This is all new for me too,” his father continues. “But me and you are in this together. I want you to talk to me. No more lying, Lukas, about anything. You got it?”

“Yeah, Dad, I got it.”

“Is Philip alright? Helen said you found him in a trunk?”

Lukas glances at Gabe, still talking to the nurse and then down the hallway where they took Philip. “He’s being looked at now. The killer hit him with a tyre iron.”

His father whistles sharply, the same sound he makes when he’s commanding the dogs, pulling them in line. “Damn. Is he conscious?”

“He was.”

“He’ll be fine,” his father declares, surprisingly. “He’s a tough kid.”

Lukas tries not to snort. Because he’s not. Not in the ways that seem to count. Not physically at least. Lukas can move him around pretty easily. He’s not so bad in a fight though. He’s resilient. Nothing drags him down, not his mother, not all the shit Lukas dumped on him, not even the killer from the cabin.

Philip is tough in ways Lukas still doesn’t understand.

But he wants to.

“We’re gonna talk when you get home,” his father continues. “And I don’t think I need to tell you that you’re grounded until you’re dead.”

“What?” Lukas protests. “Is this because I’m-“

“It’s because you nearly got shot up by a bunch of guys and didn’t think to tell me about it. But we’re going to work on that when you get your ass back here. Helen still needs your statement.”

“Okay.”

“Call me when you’re on the road again,” his father says. “Helen said she’s on her way to you now.”

“Sure, Dad.”

“Take care of yourself now, boy.”

“Promise.”

Lukas hangs up, and pushes his hair off of his face, feeling like he needs to sit down even though he already is. His expression must say something because when Gabe returns to sit next to him again, he smiles.

“Not what you expected?” he guesses.

Lukas stares at the cell phone in his hands. “No. I guess not.”

Gabe seems to appreciate that Lukas has some stuff to think about because they don’t talk until Helen is finally joining them.

The tension between them tells Lukas they’re in the middle of a fight but don’t want to get into it in the middle of the waiting room. Helen tries to tell him Tony is outside waiting, like she’s trying to send Lukas back home but he plants his feet and refuses to budge.

She gives up trying to make him leave after that. They disappear outside for a while to argue, no doubt, and Lukas busies himself in watching the other people in the waiting room to pass the time. He probably stands out a little in his heavy boots and riding gear but he doesn’t look worse off than anyone else.

When Gabe and Helen return they’re somewhat more relaxed and Philip still hasn’t returned. Lukas realises abruptly that they might have been arguing about what to do with Philip now that all this has happened.

“You’re not going to send him away are you?” he demands, panicked, once they’ve sat down next to him. “It’s not his fault we didn’t tell you. I made him lie about it. It was me. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

Helen looks like she might want to reach out for him, only she doesn’t know how best to do it. “We’re not sending Philip anywhere, Lukas. I promise.”

Gabe glances at her, surprised by the edge of stubbornness in her voice but there's a doctor calling out Gabe’s name before he can respond.

They walk over to talk to her, but Lukas stays where he is, chewing on his nail and trying to read the doctor’s face for good news. When Gabe and Helen turn back to face him with relief in their eyes it draws out the tension of every muscle in his body.

Helen relay the news. “He’s fine. It’s a mild concussion and he needed six stitches but he doesn’t have to stay overnight.”

“Fuck,” he says, unthinkingly relieved.

“Lukas,” she says, disapprovingly, but he doesn’t care and she doesn’t seem to care that much either because she's smiling afterwards like she can't help it, leaning into Gabe's neck.

They bring Philip out five minutes later and his face is clean of blood, his skin a little less pale when he spots them. Lukas can’t see the stitches hidden beneath his hair but there’s still some matted blood in it.

Helen rushes forward and hugs him before anybody else can react. Lukas doesn’t think he’s ever seen her do that before. Philip is surprised but his eyes seem more alert when they land on Lukas’ a second later.

“Let’s get you home,” Helen says, putting her arm around him and leading him toward them. “I called the clinic. They’re going to let Anne know what happened and tell her you’re alright.”

Philip is startled, in the same way he always is whenever somebody does something nice for him. “Thank you.”

Lukas wants to touch him but Helen is intimidating enough so he draws back when they walk outside towards the jeep again.

“Do you want-“ Gabe starts but Helen cuts him off.

“Philip’s coming with me.”

Her tone is firm, without room for argument. Philip looks between them curiously but doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. Gabe is smiling a little like this is all he ever wanted and glances at Lukas instead.

“Lukas?”

“I go where he goes,” he shrugs.

Helen’s looking at him now too. “Are the two of you dating?” she asks, not accusing, not angry. Just interested.

Lukas doesn’t know how to answer that. “We’re-“

“Yeah,” Philip answers, looking at him. And the 'if you want' is implied.

And Lukas does want.

“We are,” he agrees, feeling a thrill work its way through him, actually being able to say it out loud.

“Okay,” Helen says, like that’s all she wanted to know. She turns to her husband. “See you at home?”

Gabe smiles at them. “See you at home.”

He moves in to kiss Helen’s cheek and squeezes Philip’s shoulder before he’s heading over toward his car. He disappears with an encouraging wave.

Helen moves towards the jeep before she realises Lukas still has the keys, then she holds her hand out.

“I could-“ he offers.

“Lukas,” she says, no nonsense, all cop and Philip grins at him behind her back.

Lukas sighs and tosses her the keys. “Worth a shot.”

Helen rolls her eyes and heads over to the driver’s side. Philip walks past the passenger door and climbs into the back. Lukas doesn’t even pause to follow after him.

She realises that she’s sitting alone pretty quickly. “So I’m a chauffeur now?” she wonders, switching the car on.

Philip settles into the middle seat but doesn’t move over to the opposite window and Lukas realises with a jolt that it's because he wants to stay close to him.

“I did just get six stitches in my head,” Philip points out, smiling wryly when Lukas puts his arm around him and draws him in.

Helen laughs unexpectedly. “Fair point.”

Philip doesn’t speak again until they’re back on the highway. “You know you could probably stay over,” he mutters, low, so Helen can’t hear. And the suggestion makes his skin warm. “I bet she’d let you if you asked.”

“I can’t,” he says, regretful. “I spoke to my dad. He grounded me.”

Lukas suddenly remembers to text him and pulls out his cell phone. He sends a message telling his father they’re on their way back and re-pockets his cell again.

“Did you talk?” Philip wonders carefully. “What did he say?”

“He’s okay with it,” Lukas admits. “More than I thought he would be.”

Philip sighs and sinks further against him, sounding tired. “I’m glad.”

He falls asleep when they’re halfway through the drive.

“Should he be sleeping?” he asks Helen worriedly. “Even with a mild concussion?”

“It’s the first four hours when you can’t sleep,” Helen says. “He’s fine. He’s just exhausted.”

Lukas fights the urge to push some of Philip’s hair out of his face because he knows that Helen is watching them through the revision mirror.

“Why didn’t you tell me Lukas?” she wonders, and he knows she’s been sitting on this question for a while now.

He hesitates. “I was scared. I’d never even- not before Philip.”

“I understand,” she says and he frowns, unconvinced

He’s not so sure that she does actually. Not like this.

“I’m bisexual,” she tells him and that’s the last thing he would have expected her to say. “I’ve been scared to tell people before, too. Until I met Gabe. He’s never made me feel like it’s something I shouldn’t talk about.”

“Oh,” Lukas says awkwardly. “I didn’t know.”

“Bo loves you, you know,” she says. “It might take a little time but he’s willing to listen.”

Lukas brushes Philip’s cheek absentmindedly. “I know.”

For once he’s not lying.

 



 

Helen drops him home and his father is standing there waiting for them by the front porch. Philip stirs a little when Lukas extracts himself but he smooths his hair from his face and rests his forehead against his for a second until his eyes fall shut again.

Lukas thanks her for the lift and Helen says she’ll be by tomorrow to get his statement. He nods and steps back to watch them drive away, break lights swallowed up by the dark before going to stand by his father.

“I got your bike,” his dad says first. “From Route 9. It’s not damaged.”

“Thanks.”

“You want to sleep or you want to talk?”

Lukas figures he may as well start being honest. “I can’t sleep.”

His father looks at him then, really looks at him. “For how long?”

The question makes his eyes feel hot like he’s about to start crying. “Since it happened.”

His dad hugs him then and Lukas loses it altogether. His tears have soaked into his father’s shirt when they finally pull apart and he's more embarrassed by that than anything else. His father grips him, firm and familiar comfort as he walks him into the house, moving him into the living room and sitting him down on the couch.

“You want a beer?” he asks, as Lukas wipes his face clean.

He sits up a little straighter, surprised at the offer. “Yeah?”

When his dad comes back he’s carrying two beers. He hands one to Lukas once he’s popped the bottle caps off. Lukas drinks first but not too much. The taste settles him a little.

“Start talking,” his dad says.

And he does.

He talks about Philip first, riding through the Quarry. The cabin. The kisses. The men. Then the guns. They both stop to drink when he explains how the killer shot them all up in cold blood, how he’d watched the whole thing from the closet.

He talks about how the killer found Philip under the bed. That he was gonna kill him too. Before Lukas knocked him over the head with a pan to stop him. Twice until he went down. How they’d run. That’d he’d fired the gun through the window until he shoved it into Philip’s shaking hands and grabbed the bike. How they’d driven off. How Lukas told Philip they weren’t gonna tell. Not letting him disagree with the decision.

That he’d tossed the gun into the lake. And then they tried to forget about it. He talks about the dreams that came after. The panic attacks. The flinching at loud noises. The fear when they’d found out that the killer wasn’t actually dead.

Philip’s jacket. That Tommy borrowed after. And how he and Tracey turned up dead next. He talks about all the lies he’s told.

He tells his father everything.

His dad, to his credit, doesn’t do much else but listen. And drink.

Lukas drinks too, when he can’t find the words. When his hands are shaking too much. When he starts to cry again.

But he talks.

He tells his father everything.

 




Helen returns on Sunday. Lukas actually managed to sleep two hours but he thinks that’s more to do with how exhausted he was. He doesn’t dream at all.

His father lets her into the house and she has a recorder this time when Lukas enters the living room and sits down. He knows she’s doing this out of politeness, not forcing him to come down to the station where the killer is being held.

His dad takes the seat next to him, an unwavering source of strength and relief and Lukas repeats every single thing that he said last night. From the beginning.

Helen has a better poker face than his dad and she doesn’t have to stop and drink when he gets to the more gruesome details. She’s alert in the parts that are the most pertinent to the case, the cabin, the jacket, Tommy and Tracey’s deaths but her eyes soften when he talks about Philip.

“Is he okay?” he wonders, once they’re finished and Helen is heading for the front door again. She’ll return once his statement has been written up because he needs to sign it.

“He’s fine. He’s taking it easy today after he gave his statement.”

Helen turns to his father next. “Philip told me he thinks Lukas might have PTSD from the cabin. I think it’s probably a good idea that you get him to talk to a professional.”

Lukas’ jaw drops. “You want me in therapy?”

His father only folds his arms. “What? You think after all that’s happened you don’t need it?”

“I-“

“Who hasn’t been sleeping for weeks?” he demands, eyes narrowed. “You’ve been so on edge you can’t think straight.”

He turns back to Helen. “Do you have anybody you could recommend?”

Lukas watches them with wide eyes but has to concede they have a point. “I know a few,” she says. “Let me send you through a few contacts, Bo.”

“That’d be greatly appreciated. Tell Philip I said thank you. You’ve got yourself one hell of a smart kid there.”

Helen smiles a little. “Don’t I know it.”

“Will he be back at school tomorrow?” Lukas asks, desperate to see him.

Helen stares at him closely before she seems to come to a decision. “Tell you what, if Bo here thinks it’s alright why don’t the two of you come over for dinner tonight?”

Lukas glances at his father, trying not to get his hopes up. He’s still grounded until he’s dead. However long that lasts.

“Jesus, kid,” his dad says. “Don’t look at me like that. We’ll go. Thanks, Helen.”

She laughs and Lukas tries not to smile though he’s probably failing. When Helen climbs into the jeep, driving off with the recorder, he can’t help but feel like a huge weight has finally been lifted.

It’s all out there now. He hopes it’s enough to lock the killer up for good.

“He’s not going anywhere,” his father promises, sensing where his mind is at. “Murderers like him don’t just walk away.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

His father pats him on the back and they head out to get started on repairing the fence for the hens together.

Lukas takes his phone with him in case Philip texts him but he doesn’t. They work mostly in silence like they usually do and Lukas can’t help but appreciate the routine.

Everything and nothing has changed.

 




Gabe greets them at the door at six pm. They came over in his dad’s truck together. Lukas suspects that his father's not ready to let him out of his sight just yet. He doesn’t mind that much. The next race is in a couple of months. Lukas has plenty of time later to ride his motorbike in order to get ready for it.

Hopefully he’ll actually race this time.

His father and Gabe shake hands before he leads them into the house and they meet Helen in the kitchen. She’s not cooking though, Lukas tries not to look too happy about that. Philip’s told him about her cooking.

Gabe returns to the stove and Helen continues setting up the table, dragging out the dishes and cutlery. “Did you wanna get Philip, Lukas?” she offers. “He’s in his room.”

Lukas is floored by the question. Since he doesn’t actually know where Philip’s room is. He’s never actually been inside before.

Helen seems to realise the dilemma and takes pity on him. “Down the hall, first left,” she explains, pointing.

Lukas nods and walks out to find him. Philip’s door is partially closed but not shut and when Lukas moves inside he realises it’s because he lying on the bed, sleeping. His face is relaxed, smoothed out and comfortable and Lukas swallows at the sight of him.

He can't help noticing that his hair is clean. There’s no dried blood in it.

Lukas glances about the place as he steps inside, taking it all in as he shuts the door quietly behind him. The room is practically bare, Philip clearly didn’t bring a lot of things with him from Queens. He spots the polaroid camera on the bedside table and there are a few polaroids photos already stuck to his wall.

Some of Gabe. Of Helen. Of the trees. Sunrise on the lake. There’s even a picture of Lukas’ motorbike that he doesn’t remember Philip taking.

Lukas can’t help but notice that his picture isn’t there.

He approaches the bed quietly because Philip still hasn’t stirred and cautiously kneels down beside him. He hesitates before touching, remembering opening his eyes to Philip hovering over him so long ago and gently strokes the side of his face, sliding down to cup his neck.

Philip’s eyelashes flutter open and he smiles.

“Hey,” he says, and his voice sounds different, rough with sleep. “Helen said you were coming.”

“How’s your head?” he wonders but he’s already leaning in and so is Philip and they’re kissing before either of them can answer.

Philip grips his shirt and yanks him closer and suddenly Lukas is on him and they’re rolling across the bed.

Heat bursts in his gut when Philip ends up on top and the change of positions is unexpected, but sets Lukas off just as quickly. He pulls Philip back down to kiss him, knowing they have to go back outside before one of their parents comes looking for them but he doesn’t care. He wants as much of this as he can. Lukas rolls his hips, hissing when Philip settles on top of his crotch, sliding into the friction with a sharp sigh.

Lukas grips his neck and feels Philip shift beneath him. He has to drag his mouth away in order to pant openly.

“Fuck,” he gasps, hard and desperate and just about to lose his head with how much he wants him.

“Yeah,” Philip groans, like he’s agreeing, like he knows, jerking his hips roughly as he leans in a bites down on Lukas’ neck.

He cries out and comes almost immediately, shocked and going still as Philip stops moving.

“Did you just-?” he wonders, eyes wide and heated.

“Yeah,” he moans, strung out and sensitive. “Shit.”

“No,” he says, kissing him when he flushes. “Fuck that’s so hot. Just let me-“

“Yeah,” Lukas says, gripping Philip’s hips to encourage him to keep going.

Philip does. He’s still overloaded by the sensation but somehow it still feels incredible: Philip moving against him like that, chasing his own pleasure. He thinks in a few minutes he’s gonna start getting hard again. But Philip goes rigid and comes before he does.

He kisses the sound from his mouth, amazed and astonished by what just happened. He didn’t think it could feel so good. Philip collapses on top of him afterward, laughing a little at their enthusiasm.

“Did you want to borrow some briefs?” he wonders, when Lukas shifts his hips a little, come slicking his underwear.

“Yeah,” he admits. “No way I’m facing my dad like this.”

Philip grins and leans in to kiss him again before rolling off him and heading over to his chest of drawers. He throws Lukas a fresh pair of clean underwear a second later and Lukas watches when he strips off his jeans, unembarrassed by the sudden nakedness.

He stares at Philip’s ass when he changes his underwear and watches him dump the dirty pair into his washing basket in the corner. Philip smirks when he sees him looking and Lukas turns away and kicks off his boots in order to start shimmying out of his jeans. He changes his underwear and Philip’s hips are only a little smaller than his own so the briefs aren’t too tight at least.

He tosses his own pair into the washing basket as well.

Philip catches his hipbones and kisses him again before he puts his jeans back on. Lukas has to push him away before he starts getting hard again and from the look on Philip’s face he knows exactly why.

“Shut up,” he says, even though Philip didn’t say anything.

Philip raises an eyebrow and steps back into his pants again with a grin, moving his hips until they're covering his legs completely. Then he zips himself up and does the top button. Lukas is staring the entire time.

“Are you worried about school tomorrow?” Philip wonders a moment later. “About everybody knowing?”

Lukas thinks about the question. Really thinks about it. His father knows and he didn’t disown him, didn’t do anything really that makes him regret telling the truth. Rose knows too and he cheated on her, but she’s still his friend. The people that matter most to him know and they don’t hate him for it.

Does it really matter what the rest think?

“No,” he says, surprised to realise that he means it. “I’m not.”

Philip doesn’t say anything else and Lukas moves about, getting his own pants back on. He’s barely shoving his boots back onto his feet before his neck twinges and he frowns. Lukas presses his hand to the area, remembering abruptly that it’s where Philip bit him. The skin there is sensitive and tender and Lukas turns to him with wide eyes, covering it with his palm.

“Dude, you gave me a hickey,” he protests, cheeks red. “My dad’s gonna see that.”

Philip steps forward to inspect it more closely and his flush is all the answer Lukas needs. “Maybe a little.”

“Screw you.”

He smirks. “I thought you just-“

“Philip, Lukas,” Helen’s voice travels down the hallway and reaches them. “You’ve got two minutes to get your asses out here or I’m coming in there and I’m sure you don’t want that.”

Philip actually looks embarrassed then and Lukas’ feels a little less annoyed at the sight. He's kind of amazing actually.

“Maybe,” Lukas starts, hesitantly. “Maybe next time we’ll get around to using that condom.”

Silence follows as Philip ducks his head, licking his lips in way of reply and what Lukas wants more than anything is to throw him back down onto the bed again. He could care less about dinner.

Helen knocks and opens the door quickly a second later like she’s intending to catch them in the middle of something. They turn to look at her in the doorway and she seems surprised to see them standing there. They’re not doing anything incriminating but she’s still suspicious.

Then her eyes zeroes in on Lukas’ neck.

“You know, if you wanted me to believe that you weren’t doing anything in here then you probably shouldn’t have left that hickey, Philip,” she offers reasonably.

“Oh my God,” Lukas groans, covering his neck in embarrassment. He can't look her in the eye so he stares determinedly at his feet instead. “Sorry, Helen.”

“Yeah, sorry,” Philip mutters not sounding really sorry at all.

Helen grins a little. “Do you want me to help cover it up? Or do you want Bo to see it too?”

What Lukas really wants is for the ground to swallow him up forever. “Please cover it up. He’s been good so far but if he sees this he’ll probably explode.”

Helen smiles and leads him upstairs. She shoos Philip back into the kitchen when he tries to follow, and he slinks away, arms folded. Helen leads Lukas into the main bathroom. “He’s not going to explode,” she says patiently. “He’s just going to feel as uncomfortable and embarrassed as you are right now.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” he says and balks when he realises she’s pulling out her makeup from under the sink.

“You’re gonna put that on me?” he demands, horrified.

Helen gives him a look. “How else do you expect to cover it up?”

Lukas stops protesting then and lets her match a powder to his skin type.

“Should be alright,” she mutters to herself and starts dabbing the powder on his neck.

He tries not to squirm and stares fixedly at the ceiling as if that will help him pretend this isn’t happening.

“It’s really not a big deal, Lukas,” she promises. “Just as long as you’re both being safe.”

He groans and covers his face with a hand. “Please don’t. I’ve already heard this from my dad.”

“You have?” she wonders, surprised as she finishes up and puts the powder back underneath the sink again. “That’s- progressive of him.”

Lukas turns to the mirror and sees that she’s managed to cover up the whole thing. Really well actually. He can’t see it if he doesn’t already know what to look for.

“Thank you,” he says, amazed as he stares at himself.

Helen only shrugs. “Come on. Food’s probably ready by now.”

Everyone else is sitting at the table when they come back down. His father raises an eyebrow at them but seems to know better than to ask any questions about it. Philip glances up from the food he’s dishing onto his plate. He stares blankly at the place where his hickey used to be and flushes.

Serves him right. Feeling slightly better, Lukas takes the seat next to him as Helen sits with Gabe.

Gabe has cooked some kind of casserole and it tastes really good. Helen definitely didn’t touch it. Lukas eats nearly as much as his father and when everybody is finished and just sitting around talking, he finally works up the nerve to take hold of Philip’s hand under the table.

Philip grins into the glass of water he’s drinking, pleased and soft with his happiness.

And squeezes his hand tighter.

Lukas smiles.