143 DAYS BEFORE
Jay hasn’t looked Luca directly in the eye for more than a week.
Since realizing his feelings, he’s been having a difficult time being around Luca. Before, when he was ignorant of his affection, it was much easier—he didn’t have to put conscious effort into his actions or thoughts. But now, that’s all he thinks about when he and Luca are in the same room together.
There have been exactly two things on his mind in the past week. One, hoping Luca doesn’t find out about his crush—and that’s all it is, it’s a crush, a dumb crush—and two, trying to find some way to get over it.
They’re sitting on the couch, watching a movie in silence. Jay isn’t even paying attention—he’s too busy making sure not to make a fucking move, because Luca is really close to him and Jay kinda wants to hold his hand.
But then, there’s a knock on the door.
Jay jumps at the sound, and Luca merely looks up, confused. He feels his face flushing in embarrassment. Hopefully Luca didn’t see Jay jump nearly out of his skin at the sound of a door being knocked on. Jesus Christ.
They haven’t had someone come to the door since Jay got here. Jay was pretty sure by this point that Luca doesn’t really have friends, considering how he never leaves his house except to run in the mornings, alone, or disappear for weeks at a time, which Jay never sees happen anyway. He’s figured that it’s a salesman of sorts and goes back to watching the movie while Luca stands up and pads over to the door in sock feet. When Jay hears him open the door, he immediately says, “Laura!” in the loudest, most excited voice Jay’s ever heard him speak with. Another voice answers, a woman’s voice.
Immediately, Jay perks up, leaning over the back if the couch to try to see to the hallway. When he can’t spot Luca and his guest, he stands, abandoning the movie and making his way to the hall.
He sees Luca there, smiling a huge grin, eyes lit up like it’s fucking Christmas, and a woman standing in the open doorway—the most gorgeous woman Jay’s ever seen. A brunette with a bright gleam in her chocolate brown eyes, hair falling over her shoulders in curls, lips painted bright red and a blue dress hugging her hourglass figure. She’s like a dream come true.
Jay hears a light buzzing sound in his head—resonance. This woman is a witch, which fills him with a strange sense of relief.
“Jay,” Luca says, smiling from ear to ear. Jay can barely tear his eyes away from the woman to make eye-contact with Luca as he speaks. “This is Laura Brand. She’s an old friend of mine. We work together.”
Old friend of mine. Work together. Part of Jay wants to be a little shit and ask Laura what the job is, but he knows that it’s a closed subject for Luca, so instead he looks to Laura as she approaches him.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” she says, stepping forward and offering her hand to shake. Jay takes it without a second thought and gives her a polite, if somewhat shy, smile.
“Likewise,” Jay says.
“We’ll be in the other room,” Luca says to Jay, putting his hand on the small of Laura’s back and guiding her into the living room.
“I’ll join you in a second, then,” he says.
“Yeah, uh—” Luca starts saying, eyes shifting back and forth between Jay and Laura, and that’s when Jay finally sees it.
Luca looks at her with fondness in his eyes. He looks at her like she’s the sun. How could Jay have missed that before? It’s obvious.
The two disappear into the living room, Luca’s sentence left unfinished as he starts talking animatedly with her. Lead fills the pit of Jay’s stomach.
Jay knows that he looks at Luca the same way he looks at her. Luca’s his sun. Jealousy and disappointment make his heart physically hurt. His fists open and close at his sides, and after another moment of standing there, Jay turns and grabs his jacket off the hook by the door. Luca doesn’t want him here. He wants to be alone with Laura. He’s not even paying attention to Jay.
“Wait. You going somewhere?” Luca asks as he hears the front door open. “I thought you were going to join us.”
Jay’s surprised that Luca has pulled his attention away from Laura long enough to notice that Jay even existed at all. He slaps fake cheer into his voice and says, “Changed my mind. Just wanted to go for a walk, is all.”
“Alright. We have a training session at eight, tonight, though, so remember that.”
Jay hums noncommittally. That’s in an hour. He’s not even going to be half finished with his night by that point in time.
There’s a pause before Luca calls, “You alright, Jay?” his voice sounding mildly concerned. Jay grits his teeth, tightens his hands into fists.
“I’m just peachy,” he calls back, voice losing warmth, as he pulls his arms into the sleeves of his coat. “I’ll be back.” He’s gone and out the door before Luca can open his mouth again.
It’s March in Brooklyn and he really wishes he had the sense to grab his scarf before he left the brownstone, but he doesn’t want to go back and face the potential of Luca asking him why he’s suddenly acting weird. So he keeps walking, down the block and to a street corner.
Walking through Brooklyn is one of the things that always has been able to clear his mind. The deafening sound of people talking, yelling, walking, arguing. Cars honking, revving, passing through the city streets. The smell of food vendors and exhaust. Some people may find it overwhelming, but to Jay, it’s the symphony song that he falls asleep listening to—has fallen asleep listening to for most of his life.
He walks without direction, because he knows this place like the back of his hand. He can get anywhere in this city to and still find his way back home. And even if he gets tired of walking, he can always take a cab.
The thought makes him smile and he wonders why he ever left New York. Sure, he was on the run. But why did he have to leave the place completely?
He keeps walking and shoves his hands into his pockets. He really should have taken a scarf, some gloves—it’s cold as shit. He huffs a breath that mists into the air and turns into the closest coffee shop so he can warm up.
Jay originally planned to find a bar to drink himself into a stupor, but he decides that that’s probably not the best idea right now, considering he doesn’t have enough money for a good drink right now. Luca insists on giving him money, so he’s got some cash, but not enough to get him properly drunk like he wants to be.
So he just stands in line while he waits to order.
He’s almost forgotten how quickly things move in New York. People are in a rush all the time to get from one place to another, they don’t have time to fuck around. If someone takes to long to order, a riot damn-near starts in the whole fucking restaurant. Jay missed this. Everywhere else, people seemed to move so damn slow, taking their time to get a job done that a New Yorker could’ve had finished a half an hour before.
He orders a latte of some sort—he doesn’t know what it is, he’s mostly getting it because he needs his hands warm and the drink is cheap. He sits down in the coffee shop for a while, but the place is crowded with people flocking in from the cold streets, so Jay takes off and continues his adventure around town.
Things are different from the last time he was in Brooklyn.
Jay walks down the street and he resonates with a few witches and familiars that he sees walking along. But the witches avert their eyes and walk now.
It wasn’t like that before. An unbonded familiar of his power scale and age—he was beating the witches off with a stick, last time he was here. Him being around Luca has had an impression on him, even if the two aren’t officially Bonded.
It’s nice, sometimes, to not be noticed.
He walks for a long time, turning at random places and trying to be spontaneous. He can always find his way home if he needs to, but for right now he just wants to walk someplace that he hasn’t been around a lot, perhaps. He just wants to get lost—as much as one can get lost in a city where the streets are numbered.
But when Jay finally realizes where he is, he’s in his old neighborhood, staring down the house that used to belong to him and his family.
Maybe it’s fate that he’s here now.
The house looks just like it always has—there’s a different car out front, of course, but that seems to be the only change. Jay watches the house for a long moment, his hands shoved into his pockets. He swallows the lump in his throat and takes a step forward unconsciously. When he realizes what he’s doing, he stops and turns away. He remembers why he left Brooklyn now.
It had been just a week before his father’s death. Jay lived in a large house in Brooklyn—his mother was a doctor before she left, his father a lawyer before he became a politician. His father was well-respected enough—for a politician, that is.
But his father has been diagnosed with a disease that even magic couldn’t help. Legal magic, that is.
“You need to protect yourself,” his father wheezed. “People will come after you. They know how powerful our line is. They know how powerful you are.”
Jay just shook his head. He didn’t see himself as anything special. He had already been suppressing his familiar form for years already.
A combination of riches, power, timing, and influence made for a perfect storm. Jay was going to be eligible for bonding, now. Before, any witches hoping to form bonds with Jay had to ask his father. But now his father was going to be out of the picture.
“You have no idea how many I turned away,” he told Jay gravely.
Jay swallowed the lump in his throat. “What do I do?”
Jay’s father looks at him solemnly and says, “You have to leave. If you have to leave before my funeral, do it. Just don’t stay here.”
“What about Lydia?” he asks, throat closing. With their mother gone and no close relatives, Jay wasn’t sure if he could keep Lydia safe.
Jay’s father shakes his head. “You have to leave her here. She’ll be in good hands.”
“Dad…” Jay pleaded.
“No,” his father commanded sharply. “You need to leave her here. I’ve arranged for her to be taken care of. Trust me.”
His father died just a few days after his talk with Jay. The funeral was short, and many people arrived that weren’t exactly family or even friends—such is the funeral of an old politician. Jay wanted them all to leave. He wanted the funeral to be between him, his family, and no one else. Half of these people didn’t even like his father, they’re just showing up so they don’t get bad publicity.
His father asked him to speak at the funeral. Jay wanted to say no, because he’d fuck it up. He wouldn’t speak the way his father deserved him to speak, wouldn’t say the things that he truly deserved to have spoken at his funeral. He does it anyway.
Jay thought, for a moment, that people would leave him be for at least a little while. His father had died, and he was in mourning—he had to figure out his and Lydia’s living situation, he had to figure out what the fuck he was going to do with his life. He thought people would have the common courtesy to wait to bombard him with their bond requests until at least a few weeks later.
He was dead fucking wrong.
In a week, Jay got twelve callers. Twelve. It came to the point that he stopped answering the door, because he didn’t want to deal with all the asshole witches that kept coming to his door and asking him for a moment of his time. He didn’t know those people, but they knew him—they memorized his family history, they knew how “pure” his bloodline is, a trait that some thought made familiars like him stronger. Jay told each and every one of them that everything they know is bullshit, and that they needed to leave before he calls the police.
Jay thought that perhaps he could get by himself. But with each passing day, he realized that these people weren’t going to leave him be. They were just going to get more impatient, more forward with their offers. Perhaps one day they would get tired of waiting and force a bond by themself.
So he started packing a bag. He took clothes, cash, credit cards, food—anything that would help him survive by himself. He’d leave the next morning, in the early hours, before anyone could stop by his house.
And Jay, for the first time in years, disobeyed his father’s orders. He took Lydia with him.
Jay gets back home at ten o’clock, two hours after Luca asked him to get home. He’ll deal with the fight that ensues in the morning.