AN: At long last, here's the last chapter. I'd also like to give you guys a little something. I finally found someone that looks like Drystan! I don't have a clue who he is, but I saw the picture on Tumblr and had to show you all. The picture is my profile image, since I was having trouble posting the link on my profile page. It should show up within the next 24 hours.
As it turns out, Sebastian is gone. Really gone. Avery and Blaine can't find him, and Eben doesn't care to know where he is as long as he stays far away. They think he slipped away sometime during the fight with Quentin's pack, which would've been easy enough to do. They figure he was planning to run all along, and that was why he'd been so cooperative. Eben is begrudgingly grateful that he had been, as he helped clear his nephew's name before he vanished. It's a kindness Eben hadn't expected from the man who tried to kill him.
It takes weeks, but Eben finally cleans up the house. He rips up all the carpet in the living room and replaces it with laminate wood flooring, under his dad's careful supervision. He replaces the windows—also under the Chief's watchful eye—and repaints the living room, once it becomes clear that the bloodstains aren't going to come off the wall completely. After that, he does odds and ends around the house—mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, vacuuming, mopping, doing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning the bathrooms—until he finally, finally has enough to buy a ring. It's a simple thing, really: a thick, white gold band with a diamond set right into the metal. And he also gets a suit from the local men's store, which tailors it for free.
He still can't believe he let Madison talk him into going to the spring formal, but he thinks it's as good a time as any for a proposal.
Right now, he's standing in his bedroom, staring at his reflection. His shirt's laid out on the bed, and he's barefoot in his fancy tailored suit pants. He'd gone for a charcoal gray suit and maroon shirt, because Madison had warned him that he'd better not be so unimaginative as to wear plain black and white. She'd actually gone with him to pick out his suit, just to make sure he didn't try to sneak one by her.
The ink on his arms hasn't faded at all, despite all the scrubbing he can stand in the shower. He's worn long sleeves for two weeks now, because he can't just show up with full sleeve tattoos at school and not have to explain himself. He knows for a fact big tattoos like this take time. If he showed up with them already complete, people would know something weird was up. He hopes his time at the Consilium this summer will yield the answer to getting rid of them. He's realized that doing dark magic always has physical side effects, which, according to Avery—who stayed to finish teaching for the semester before he takes Eben away to community service—is because dark magic mutilates the user's body, marking it up and defiling it. There's a price to be paid for doing bad magic.
He taps his pocket nervously, where the small ring box hides. His heart pounds just thinking about it. He hopes this night is memorable for a better reason than the last time he'd gone to a spring formal.
"Nervous?" His dad asks, leaning against the doorframe.
"I might vomit," Eben admits.
"Don't vomit. Drystan won't appreciate puke breath when you propose."
"H'ohh, God, I'm going to propose," Eben says, throwing his head backwards and dancing nervously in place, wringing his hands. "I'm sweating just thinking about it. I don't think I can do this."
"Hey." His dad comes into the room, turns him around by his shoulders so he can stare into his eyes. Eben takes a deep breath at the sight of his dad's calm blue eyes, such a lighter shade than Drystan's. "You're going to be fine. That boy loves you. Maybe even as much as I do."
"He's in this for the long haul, just like you are. After everything you two have been through together, asking him to spend his life with you should be the simplest thing you've done in months."
"But it's just…there's always the chance he'll say no," Eben says. "For whatever reason."
"You don't doubt he loves you, do you?"
"No, of course not."
"Okay, are you having any doubts about him?"
"No! No, definitely not. He's the one I want. Him and only him."
His dad grins. "Okay. Then you don't have to worry. He won't say no."
Eben takes a deep breath and nods. "Okay. Okay, you're right. I'm freaking out about nothing."
"Do you know what you're going to say?"
"Sort of. I have an outline in my head."
"The kind of outline that's going to abandon you when you get down on one knee?"
Eben freezes. "Probably."
His dad chuckles. "Good. That'll make me feel better about my proposal to your mother."
Eben smiles. "How'd that go?"
"I forgot everything I wanted to say. I was down on one knee with the ring in hand, staring up into big brown eyes so much like yours—," his dad pets the side of his face and looks fondly into his son's dark eyes, "—and I completely froze up. I wanted to tell her how beautiful she was, and how much I cared about her, and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life waking up beside her and stealing bites of food while she cooks in the kitchen like I did on our third date. It was going to be perfect. Until we were right there at that moment."
"So, what did you say?"
His dad grins. "I managed to recover a little, although I did tell her I loved every bit of her, even her bad breath and frizzy hair in the morning. She teased me about that bit for weeks after she said yes."
Eben laughs. "As she should've, sounds like."
His dad nods, and when he meets Eben's eyes again, his expression goes soft and affectionate. "You remind me so much of her. She was so fiercely loyal to the people she cared about. She'd be so proud of you."
Eben flushes. "Dad, I'm a dark sorcerer. I've got the marks to show for it." He flaps his arms abashedly. "Permanently, I'm afraid." He cringes, because he doesn't want these marks like brands on his skin for the rest of his life.
His dad shakes his head. "I don't think she'd be any more upset than I was. You did what you thought you had to. I can't hold that against you, and I don't think she would, either."
Eben looks away sheepishly. "Thanks, Dad."
The doorbell rings, and they blink at each other in confusion.
"Did he just…?"
"He rang the doorbell," Eben says. He's a little awed that Drystan even knew they had a doorbell.
"Guess he's as serious about this night as you are," his dad quips. "I'll go let him in. You get dressed. Are the others coming here, too?"
"No, we're meeting them there."
Eben pulls on his undershirt, then the maroon shirt. Once he gets it buttoned and tucked in, he slips the jacket on and tugs nervously at his sleeves. The black tie goes on last. He considers buttoning the jacket and ultimately decides against it, taps the ring box in his pocket for good luck, and spins on his heel—then remembers he needs shoes.
When he finally gets downstairs, he sees Drystan standing with his hands in his pockets in the kitchen, wearing a perfectly tailored suit. Eben gives him a very thorough once-over, and he really can't decide if he likes Drystan better naked or in this suit. The shoes are so shiny he can almost see his reflection. The suit is black with pinstripes. His shirt is light blue, and the tie dark blue, which just seems to make the color of his eyes pop out even more. There's even a waistcoat, and is that a pocket watch chain across the front? Eben's going to come in his pants, right there before they even get out the door.
"Wow," Eben breathes. "You're never allowed to wear anything else ever again."
That startles a laugh out of Drystan—and his dad, who is leaned against the counter. Eben can't find it in himself to care. In a few hours, this man might be his fiancé. He's allowed to stare—and drool—a little.
"Thank you," Drystan says, then pulls Eben in close and gives him a short kiss, mindful of the Chief's watchful eye. "You look very nice, too. Did you have this tailored?"
"I did! It was an uncomfortable experience," he admits readily. Standing in his boxers in front of a strange man with a tape measure and needles is not how he wanted to spend that particular afternoon. Of course, it didn't help that Madison was there, too, making lewd comments about his two-thirds nudity just to see his blush. To change the subject, he gently tugs the chain on Drystan's waistcoat and says, "Is this a pocket watch? A genuine pocket watch?"
Drystan pulls it out and lets Eben play with it. It looks fairly old. The gold is a little tarnished, but it's got a beautifully intricate design, and the dial on the inside has been well cared for. It's not until he tilts it slightly that he realizes there's a photo on the other side. When he leans in to inspect it, he sees that it's a large group photo, cut into a round shape to fit into the space provided by the watch. Eben thinks he sees a tiny, younger version of Drystan himself sitting out front of the group, and he realizes with a tiny shiver of emotion what this must be.
"This is your family," Eben breathes. "All of them?"
Drystan nods. "Everyone. This was my dad's watch. He put the picture in a few years before we all split up."
Eben closes the watch very carefully and hands it back. "It's beautiful."
Eben has to break the moment by announcing, "Okay, we should probably go."
"Hold it!" His dad says, stepping in front of them before they can get to the door.
"Dad, I swear to God, if you lecture me about drinking and having sex in the backseat of my car—," which he'd finally gotten back last week, "—like some kind of slut on prom night, I will re-break all the windows in this house."
His dad quirks a brow and slowly says, like he's speaking to a retarded three year old, "I. Want. Pictures."
"Watch your language, and get your butt in there in the living room. You, too, Drystan."
Eben tromps into the living room and stops in front of a blank portion of the wall, so nothing behind him will reflect the flash. Drystan steps up beside him while his dad gets the camera ready. They put their arms around each other and turn to face the camera.
"Smile," his dad instructs, and the light flashes.
That's the only serious one Eben can allow. When his dad goes to take a second one, Eben gives Drystan bunny ears. When Drystan realizes what he did, the third picture is of Drystan tickling him, both arms wrapped around his waist while Eben squirms to get away, mouth open and eyes scrunched in a laugh. The fourth picture is taken right after Eben manages to pounce on Drystan's back, and they're both laughing openly. His dad gives up after the fifth, when Drystan unsaddles Eben and crowds into him, their foreheads touching and mischievous expressions in both their eyes.
"You two are hopeless," his dad says. "I'm developing all of those, just so you're aware."
"Deal," Eben says breathlessly, leaning into Drystan's side. "Now we can go?"
His dad nods. "Yeah. Have a good time. Be careful. Home by midnight and all that."
They take the Cobalt, because Eben has missed driving it, and Drystan complains that it doesn't smell like him anymore inside it. He's got to rectify that, after all. The ride to the school starts off in comfortable silence, but after a little while, Eben can't stand it anymore.
It's been two weeks, and while Drystan has touched his arms—bare and with sleeves—with no problems, Eben doesn't really know how his partner feels about his new…tattoos, for lack of a better word. He knows they're kind of odd. The symbols are jagged and strange looking. He still does a double take sometimes when he sees them. He'd never seen anything like them before Camilla handed him that book, and there are twisted lines between the individual symbols on his arms. It would look like intricate tribal art if he didn't know better. And to know what they stand for—and how he got them—sometimes makes him dislike looking at them. And if he hates looking at them, how does Drystan feel about them?
"Does it bother you?" Eben asks.
Drystan looks over at him. "What?"
"My…" He pulls the sleeves on his right arm back, so just the barest bit of black ink shows around his wrist. "These. Do they bother you?"
"No. Have I made you think that?"
Eben shakes his head. "No. I just…they bother me, so they must bother you, too?"
"Is that a question?"
Eben sighs. "I don't know. I just… I don't know how to get rid of them. I might never get rid of them. So, I guess my question is: how do you feel about tattoos?" He looks over at Drystan, who smiles.
"They don't bother me, Eben. I don't cringe when I have to touch them or look at them. They're a part of you now just like your new eyes. They don't define who you are—."
"They do, though," Eben interrupts. "Avery said so himself. The magic defiled me. Made me different on purpose, because it was dark magic. It marked me. All dark sorcerers are changed by their magic."
Drystan sighs through his nose. "I wish you wouldn't call yourself that."
"What? You mean what they labeled me?"
"Yes. Everything you've ever done is to protect your family and the pack. Maybe they can't understand that, but I can. Having these marks just proves to me how much you love the people around you. You're willing to sacrifice parts of yourself for us, just like we would do for you." Drystan sighs. "If I could've done something like that to get you back, I would've done it in a heartbeat. The only thing that bothers me is that you thought you had to do it alone."
Eben stares stubbornly at the road. They've had this conversation a lot. He thinks Drystan will probably hold this grudge for a long, long time. But he can't really blame him for it, and he knows it's probably less than he deserves.
"I'm a douche, I know," Eben says after a beat. "I can only apologize and suck your dick so many times before it stops meaning anything."
Drystan snorts. "Having you suck my dick will never not mean anything, darling," he says, leaning over to nuzzle Eben's neck.
"Stop it, you're giving me cavities," Eben drawls, twisting to kiss Drystan's forehead before the werewolf leans back.
There are already a lot of cars in the parking lot when they get there, and they end up having to park in the back. He has no idea where the others are, or if they're even here yet. He knows they're all coming, though.
Eben hands over their tickets at the door to the gymnasium. Inside, the lights are dim. White and blue streamers hang down from the rafters, and round tables are set up around the dance floor in the middle of the gym floor. When he realizes his classmates are dancing where he ripped the hearts out of werewolves, he feels a little sick.
"Oh," he says under his breath, wiping sweaty palms on his pants. His wrist bumps the square box in his pocket. Drystan puts an arm around his shoulders, and they descend the stairs to the open floor.
Madison intercepts them at the base of the stairs. "You're here!" She wraps them both up in a hug before either of them can attempt to escape. "You both look wonderful," she says when she pulls away, glancing them up and down.
"So do you," Eben replies, and it's true. She's wearing an emerald green dress with a slit up one leg and a plunging back with criss-crossing lines all the way down. She looks like a movie star, with her blonde hair spilling in perfect curls around her face and shoulders. "Where are the others?"
She leads them to a table where the others are standing. Camilla's wearing a silky black dress that stops at mid-thigh, her red hair piled atop her head and her hazel eyes highlighted by smoky make-up. Gunnar's in a classical black and white suit, and Caleb's in a navy blue one.
"You two clean up pretty well," Caleb greets.
"So do you," Eben says. "I didn't know you owned a suit that fit."
"Right back at ya, bitch," Caleb snarks.
Madison grins over at Drystan and asks, "How does it feel to be the only adult here who's a date instead of a chaperone?"
Drystan sighs. "Novel. I only went to high school for one year. Never made it to spring formal."
Five pairs of eyes turn to stare at him in shock, and Drystan rolls his eyes.
"Hunted for ten years, remember?" He reminds them, and Eben thinks he's come a really long way, to be able to mention it casually like that.
"Then…what did you do?" Eben asks. How doesn't he already know this? Why has he never asked this? He wants to marry this man. Is there really that much of his past that Eben doesn't know?
"Lina and I worked odd jobs to pay for hotel rooms. We pretty much lived out of suitcases for a decade. She had just graduated high school, and I was just finished with freshman year. I got my GED when I turned eighteen."
"I… That's…" Eben doesn't know what to say. He shakes himself. "Why didn't I ever know that before?"
Drystan shrugs. "Not exactly relevant for hunting down sorcerers and werewolf packs."
"I… You're my boyfriend!" Eben exclaims. "I don't just want to know the relevant stuff. I want to know everything!" Jesus, maybe he shouldn't propose tonight. Maybe they should date. Maybe he should take Drystan to dinner and talk to him about history and the obligatory exes talk and what his five year plan is.
Drystan must read something in his stricken expression, because he looks contrite. Around them, the others turn away uncomfortably and start up a conversation of their own, to grant the couple some semblance of privacy.
Eben, meanwhile, is wondering what else he doesn't know about his boyfriend. What's his favorite color? His favorite song? Does he prefer chinese or thai food? What kinds of movies does he like? Hell, what are his pet peeves? Maybe he doesn't like messy people. Maybe he doesn't even like marriage! Maybe he's a nontraditionalist. Maybe he'll think they're going too fast. And what kind of odd jobs did he do while they were on the run? Did he wait tables at restaurants? Did he work on cars? Maybe it was something more unsavory. Maybe he was a stripper! A werestripper. Oh God.
"What?" Drystan asks, watching the emotions play across Eben's face.
"You weren't a stripper, were you?"
Madison, who had been taking a sip of punch, spits it out across the table. The others are staring at him with varying levels of shock and/or amusement. Madison turns to glare at him, then says something about going to get more punch. She walks off, and Drystan grabs Eben by the back of his neck to drag him away from the others.
"First," Drystan says when they're a good distance away from eavesdroppers, "no, I was never a stripper. What would make you think that?"
"You said 'odd jobs' and my brain went…" He mimes going down some twisting path with both hands, "…places. I don't know. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. At least not in front of the others. Who are probably all picturing you as a stripper, like me." He gives Drystan an unintentional once-over.
Drystan throws his head back in despair. "Okay, what's going on?"
"What?" Eben squeaks.
"Why does what happened back then matter all of the sudden?"
Drystan just gives him a 'are you really going to try lying to me' look that Eben quickly wilts under.
"It's…I…" He's not going to propose right there in front of the whole school. He won't. "It's nothing. Really."
"Eben, come on. Talk to me. You're not good at that."
"Hey, buddy, neither are you!"
"Okay! I just… It just made me realize that there's still a lot I don't know about you. I didn't know you didn't graduate high school. I didn't know you got your GED. I don't know if you have a job right now, or how you paid for the motel room when you first got to town, or how you pay for the apartment now. I don't know what it was like for you growing up as a…what you are…and I want to. I want to know everything there is to know about you! God knows you know every time I have a passing thought, because I can't stop my mouth from going off about it."
"Life insurance," Drystan says hoarsely.
"That's where I get the money for the motel and the apartment. Everyone in my family left their assets to the remaining members of the family…until I was the only one left. I got everything."
Well, now Eben feels terrible. "Oh, God, I should've kept my mouth shut." He turns around to hide his face or run away or something to escape this conversation and the broken look in Drystan's eyes, but Drystan reaches out and catches his arm.
"No," Drystan pleads. "Don't turn away. I…I want you know everything, too."
"Shit, I'm sorry," Eben says as he turns back around. "I know you have a lot of painful stuff in the past. If you don't want to talk about it—."
"Not talking about it doesn't change anything, or make it hurt any less," Drystan says. He looks away and sighs. "But…it's still not easy to do."
Eben nods. He knows better than most that it's not always easy to talk about the people you've lost. He reaches out and slides his hand against the side of Drystan's neck, because they might be shit at talking about their feelings, but they understand touching—in the most innocent way possible. Werewolves are tactile, and Eben is like one-third werewolf, right? Right.
He gets his point across. Drystan's expression softens, and he nods gratefully. "I don't have a problem telling you anything you want to know. All you have to do is ask."
Eben nods. "Okay. And I'm glad you weren't a stripper. I take issue knowing others have seen you naked."
Drystan snorts. "How do you know anyone else has?" He asks loftily.
Eben's brain short-circuits at that possibility. Is Drystan a virgin? Is that possible? How could it be possible that someone with a body like this could be a virgin? Although…now that he thinks about it…if sex concretes a bond with someone…it stands to reason that having sex might accidentally mate Drystan with the first person he sleeps with. Right? Does that mean he can't have sex at all until he finds a mate?
Drystan grins when he realizes the direction Eben's thoughts are taking. "Let's go get some punch, shall we?"
He drags Eben away by the hand, which is a very good thing, or else Eben might stand there all night calculating the probability that his sinfully hot boyfriend is a virgin and holy shit, he might be the first person to ever tap that.
"Drystan…" He says as they walk. "You're…you can't…how could…I don't…are you…?"
"Don't hurt yourself," Drystan drawls.
"Did I break you?" Drystan asks with mock concern.
"Yes," Eben says matter-of-factly, because he knows that much, at least. "And I demand an explanation."
"You've already thought of the explanation," Drystan says, poking his forehead.
Eben swats his hand away. "You, sir, are a lot of things, but you're not a mind reader. So spill!"
Drystan sighs. "It's simple, really. I was fifteen when I left home. I was on the road with my sister for ten years, sharing motel rooms and avoiding other people. The mate issue aside, there wasn't much time for sleeping with people."
"And the mate thing?"
"It's dangerous to sleep with someone, doubly so if there's already an emotional attachment."
"So you could do one night stands, but not sleep with someone you care about?"
"Not unless I wanted to shackle myself to them for the rest of my life."
"Wow, way to be romantic, dude. Shackling yourself to me, that's how I want you think of it."
"Not to you. To anyone else, while we were on the road. It was just too risky. Why sleep with anyone at all when there's that chance?"
"Oh, my God." Eben flails, then pulls Drystan around, takes his chin in hand and yanks him into a kiss. They stay that way until a chaperone passes by and pries them apart with a warning.
"What was that for?" Drystan asks once the chaperone wanders off.
Eben just grins, leaning in as close as the watchful eyes will allow. "Hey, buddy, you're not the only one who's territorial around here."
Drystan throws his head back in a laugh, then takes Eben's hand again and leads him to the others, who are standing around the refreshments table now.
"Is the punch any good?" Eben asks Madison, who is holding a cup.
She nods, so Eben pours himself some. He doesn't catch the face Drystan makes, or the smirk on Madison's face. He takes a sip of the light pink liquid—and chokes. He only barely manages to force it down.
"Jesus Christ," he splutters, slapping a hand on the table. "Did they want a little punch with their vodka? Who the hell spiked this?"
"I think it was a few guys from the football team," she says.
"What did they use, five bottles?"
"How did they even manage that without being seen?"
Well, that's disheartening. He doesn't want to propose while he's drunk on spiked punch. He carefully sets the cup down on the table, aware of blue eyes following the movement. When he notices his friends' curious expressions, he defensively says, "I don't want to get drunk tonight, what? That a problem?"
They shake their heads, and Madison goes back to sipping her drink. She can't even get drunk, and that's just unfair. Eben could use something to do with his hands. An awkward silence descends on the group with everyone just staring at Eben twitching in place, and he's about to run to the bathroom to keep from shouting just why he doesn't want to drink tonight, when someone takes pity on him.
"I like this song," Camilla announces, grabbing his hand. She looks at Drystan and says, "Mind if I borrow your boyfriend?" She doesn't wait for Drystan to reply.
Once they're out on the dance floor and away from the others, swaying gently to the slow song playing from hidden speakers, she says, "Okay, spill. What's with you tonight? You're twitchier than usual."
He likes Camilla. He could trust her before, and he thinks he can trust her now. She's quickly becoming a confidant, and a close friend. But if he speaks it aloud, the werewolves will hear. They're not so far away that the super-hearing can't pick up their voices.
So, he takes her hand, glances around for chaperones, and eases her hand into his pocket. He lets her feel around for a second until her hands touch the velvet box, and then she breaks out into a grin.
"Really?" She squeals. "You're going to—!"
He yanks her forward, burying her words in his shoulder. When he glances over at their friends, Drystan is watching with a tilted head. He's not even trying to be subtle about eavesdropping. Camilla bounces up and down on her toes, abandoning their dance in favor of hugging him.
"Oh my God, why are you this excited?" He hisses in her ear, laughing.
She pulls back. "I like you, dumbass. You and your friends took care of my brother. Drystan is a great guy. You're all great. And I know how much you two mean to each other. You both deserve this."
Eben hugs her. "I can't believe I hated you earlier this year."
She giggles, and then the same chaperone that pried him and Drystan apart stops beside them and instructs them to stay at arm's length. She gives Eben the stink eye, and he know she must be thinking he's whoring his way through the entire class, gender be damned. When she walks away, Eben and Camilla laugh.
"So," Camilla says, getting them back on track, "just relax. You're not worried about…the answer, are you?" She asks, keeping it vague enough that the supernatural eavesdroppers probably won't guess exactly what they're talking about.
"I don't…think so?" At her questioning look, Eben sighs. "Everybody worries about that. I mean, come on."
She leans in close, now that none of the chaperones are looking, and whispers into his ear, "When are you going to do it?"
"After the dance," Eben replies, keeping his voice low and head turned away. "And now I have to avoid the punch, because if I do it drunk, I'll never forgive myself."
She giggles. "They have water, too, in case you get thirsty."
"Perfect. I doubt anyone would try to spike that."
The song changes, and it's an upbeat one that Eben recognizes. He remembers it playing at Madison's birthday party. When he and Camilla turn to leave the dance floor, Madison intercepts them, dragging Caleb by the hand.
"We're doing this one! I know you two can do it."
It's one of the line dance songs she had tried to teach them. They get into a line together, with Madison between Caleb and Eben, and Camilla on Eben's other side. They're facing Drystan and Gunnar, who have claimed a table not far from the dance floor. Camilla and Eben see them at the same time and share a panicked look. How long have they been there? What did they manage to overhear?
They don't have time to worry about it. The dance starts, and Eben spends all his time trying to remember the steps. A lot has happened since the last time he danced to this stupid song. Madison and Camilla help him and Caleb out, pointing in the direction they're supposed to go and mouthing the next move before they have to do it. Muscle memory takes over soon enough, though, and the combination of dancing and being in a crowd makes him warm. He slips out of his jacket, and he's in the process of unbuttoning his cuff when Drystan is suddenly there, grabbing his wrist roughly before he can start to roll his sleeve up.
Eben blinks up at him in surprise, and then his expression dissolves into one of dismay. "I forgot!" He exclaims.
Drystan nods. "It's okay. I was expecting it." He gently takes Eben's jacket from him and drapes it over his arm. "Don't worry about it. If you still have them by the fall semester, it'll probably be okay for people to see. Enough time will have passed."
The others have stopped dancing, creating a kind of buffer zone to keep others from seeing what's going on. Eben buttons his cuff back into place and sighs. "Guess I'll just have to die of heat exhaustion in the meantime."
Drystan kisses his forehead, takes his hand, and spins him around as the song changes yet again. "Keep dancing. Try to forget about it again. I'll be right there to stop you if I need to."
"My hero," Eben grouses. He's pleased to feel Drystan plaster himself along his back, rolling against him in time to the silky beat of the song.
Drystan leans in and says, "Gunnar says he wants to join the pack."
"That's great! I like them. They've grown on me."
"I don't like that Cam's become your co-conspirator," he says dryly.
Eben turns his head to grin at him. "I do!"
A chaperone comes by and gives them a look, and Eben whines when Drystan pulls away. Drystan gestures with a thumb over his shoulder at Gunnar, waves his fingers, and departs.
"Stupid chaperones," Eben grumbles as Madison pulls him into a dance with the others.
Drystan comes back after a few songs, sans jacket. They dance for a few hours, sometimes with each other, and sometimes with others. Camilla drags her brother out to dance after a while, and he winds up spending much of the time dancing with Madison. Eben wonders if he's harboring a little crush on the resident she-wolf. Eben spends a little too much time trying to grind with Drystan and getting rebuffed by the chaperones, and a whole lot more time trying to keep Drystan's hands from wandering too close to his pockets. Normally, he wouldn't mind being felt up, but this time he's got something to hide. He thinks Drystan knows it, too, with the way his hands keep straying. Either that or he's really horny. Eben is betting on the former though, because his luck. Drystan probably saw Camilla stick her hand in his pocket earlier.
When it's nearly eleven and a lot of people are starting to leave, Eben crushes his mouth against Drystan's and ignores the chaperones, because they're about to leave, anyway.
"Let's go," Eben says against Drystan's lips when they part.
The alpha nods. "Say bye to the others. I'll get our jackets."
Eben turns to face the others, and Camilla gives him a thumbs-up when Drystan turns his back. The others look confused, and Eben feels himself break out into a sweat. His heart is probably pounding, because the werewolves look concerned.
"Tell them after we leave," Eben says quietly. "Long after we leave, or else Drystan might hear."
She nods. "Okay! Will you text us and let us know?"
"Probably not. If I don't call one of you on the phone and whine about how my life is over, then you'll know it went well!"
Camilla hugs him. "Well, chill out, because I know you're nervous. He'll pick up on that."
Eben nods. "Okay. Wish me luck! We're headed out."
She grins broadly. "You don't need it. Knock him dead."
As he's walking away, he hears Madison ask, "What's he nervous about?"
Drystan is waiting for him at their table, both their jackets slung over one arm. Eben resists the urge to scratch the back of his neck and leads the way off the floor, up the stairs and outside. He breathes in deep when cool air hits him. When they get in the car, he rolls his up sleeves before they leave the parking lot.
They sit in companionable silence until Eben pointedly drives past the road he needs to take to get home. Drystan watches it go by with bemusement, then turns narrowed eyes and quirked lips on Eben.
"Where are we going?" He asks suspiciously.
"Somewhere special," Eben replies mysteriously.
"Ah. I take it it's supposed to be a surprise?"
"Something like that."
It doesn't take long to get to Night Point. It doesn't take long to get anywhere in Hollow Rock, really. They've got an hour until Eben has to be home for curfew—Jesus, he's proposing to his boyfriend and he still has to worry about curfew, his life is a bundle of contradictions and nonsense—and he fully intends to embrace every second of it.
Night Point is beautiful at night, which is how it got its name. It's the highest point in Hollow Rock, and at night the lights from the town look like stars, like the Earth has risen up to meet the sky and blended into nothing but points of light in endless darkness. The moon is nothing but a sliver in the sky; there's still a couple of weeks before it's full again.
"What are we doing here?" Drystan asks as they get out.
Eben leads him to the very same picnic table where they tried to convince Caleb he was going to become a werewolf. He and Drystan sit down on top of it, with their feet on the seat bench, and spend a long, peaceful moment staring out at the town. It's almost perfect.
Except this is the moment. Eben tries to remember all the great things he had wanted to say, but his mind is a complete blank. His heartbeat ratchets up when he realizes he's forgotten everything he wanted to tell Drystan, leading up to the big proposal, and isn't he just his father's son after all? But it's okay, he tells himself. It doesn't have to be perfect. Nothing about their relationship has been perfect, right? Their first meeting started with Drystan trying to kill him.
But he wants it to be perfect. That's why he picked this spot, where they first started working together. Where their pack first formed, sort of. Where Eben learned what Drystan is, and what his best friend was about to become. He should've brought music, and maybe a blanket. He should've done like all the movies, where he prepares a big speech. He should've practiced in front of the mirror, and maybe written note cards.
"Eben, what's wrong?" Drystan asks softly. "Your heart's pounding."
"I…" Eben laughs, but it's more self-deprecating than amused. Drystan looks sharply over at him. "I'm just stupid, sometimes."
"That was the idea." Eben gets up, because he's always worked best when he can move around. He takes up pacing, aware of blue eyes tracking the movement back and forth.
Eben shakes his head. "No, just give me a minute. I had this all planned out, and now it's ruined."
"What's ruined?" Drystan asks.
Eben sighs, and before he knows it, he's jumping right in with both feet, no life-jacket. "Okay, I know I'm screwed up, okay? I know I'm this post-traumatic wreck with the evidence of all his screw-ups right there out in the open." He gestures to his arms and eyes for emphasis. "I know I've done some really stupid things in the time we've known each other, and I'll probably do a lot more stupid things in the future, because that's just the kind of person I am. I'm always going to be a stubborn jerk who sets his mind on doing something and doesn't stop to ask what your opinion is—although I'm working on it. I'm always going to be a freak with dark magic tattoos and glowy eyes who talks too much and sometimes wakes up screaming and doesn't always like it when you hold me too tight."
Drystan looks confused, but doesn't try to interrupt.
"But there's one thing that I don't think is stupid. And that's you and me, together. I know there's an age gap, and I know I'm still in high school, and I know we've got the pack to think about, and my dad, and it became really clear tonight that there's still probably a lot I don't know about you. But none of that really matters in the long run, because I may not know who you were in the past, but I know who you are now. And you know who I am, dark magic aside. I don't know what the future has in store, but I know that I want us to face it together."
It's now or never. He steps forward, easing between Drystan's legs until their upper bodies are close, and Drystan's hands reflexively go to his sides. He's not going to get down on one knee, because Drystan isn't a girl, and they're never going to be anything but equals. No, he'll do this eye to eye. He thinks Drystan would like that better. He slips a hand into his pocket and pulls the box out in his fist. Drystan doesn't see it yet, because they're staring into each other's eyes.
"Drystan, I understand why you want us to wait until I'm eighteen to seal the bond on becoming mates. I don't have a problem waiting, because I want to spend the rest of my life with you. And I don't want just the supernatural world, or the werewolves, to know that we belong with each other. I want the human world to know it, too. So, Drystan…" He raises the box between their chests and opens it up, putting on his best hopeful face as Drystan spots the white gold band and takes a sharp breath. "Will you marry me?"
"Eben," Drystan gasps, tearing his eyes from the ring to Eben's face. His blue eyes are glowing, and Eben honestly has no idea how to interpret the emotion he sees there.
"We'd have to wait even longer to get married," Eben continues, because the silence is too much. "Until after I graduated, obviously. But you marked me a long time ago as yours, and now I want to give you something that will mark you as mine." He takes a breath to say more, but Drystan crushes their mouths together, trapping Eben's hands and the ring between their chests. Eben moans, goes pliant and leans in so Drystan can properly ravish him.
"Is that a yes?" Eben pants hopefully when they part.
"Yes," Drystan breathes.
Eben grins open-mouthed. "Really?!"
Drystan laughs. "Yes!"
Eben takes the ring from the box. Drystan leans in to scent him as Eben slides the ring onto his left ring finger. It fits well, and it looks freaking great resting there. Drystan pulls back to examine it himself.
"This looks expensive," Drystan says. "How did you…?"
"All the work on the house," Eben explains. "Dad paid me for it."
"You did it all on your own?"
Eben grins. "You're worth it, babe."
Drystan huffs and shakes his head. "God, I love you."
Eben's grin just gets wider, until he feels like he might split in two. "I love you, too."
After that, no words need to be said. Everything is as it should be. Everyone is alive and well. Gunnar is going to become pack, and Camilla by association. He'll finish this semester, then go spend three months at the Consilium paying for his crimes. And when he gets back, he'll have his dad, his pack, and his fiancé here waiting for him.