Chapter Sixteen: A Dragon's Trial
Due to the severity of the crime, the case against Dagur was referred to the United States District Court located north of Berk, in Providence. The evidence of the bully's attempted rape of Hamish at Barry Cuda's, coupled with the incident reports from the first attempt at the school had presented a strong case.
The lawyer hired by Dagur's family had kept a brave face despite the evidence against his client, and he'd done his best to ensure that the bully received proper due process, but when the deranged teenager had collapsed under cross-examination and protested that Hamish had been leading him on, he didn't have any ground left to stand on.
The judge had only been in recess for ten minutes before she'd returned to give her verdict: sentencing Dagur to five years’ probation in the Rhode Island Juvenile Correctional system, as well as mandatory psychology evaluation to determine what future, if any, he might have.
A mid-October wind rustled the leaves surrounding the District Court on Exchange Street as the collected witnesses for the prosecution and trial observers stepped out of the building.
"He should've got more than five years." Stoick muttered as the group, consisting of himself, Hamish, Jack, Astrid, Fiske and Nicholas gathered beside one of the two statues sat in prominence in front of the courthouse.
"I'm just glad he's gone for now. He might be out in five years, but with the psych studies, they might decide to keep him indefinitely." Hamish noted.
Astrid shook her head, going back over the developments in the court room. "I knew he was sick... But that was... Unreal."
"The sad thing about all this is he probably was genuinely attracted to me." the green-eyed teen remarked, making the group turn to him.
"You don't feel sorry for him, do you?" Fiske asked incredulously.
"No." he affirmed. "But a lot of recent examples in the media have shown that some of the most virulently homophobic people, including those who've campaigned against the LGBT community are those who were secretly in the closet. Their lives became so poisoned and they became so full of self-revulsion that they turned into monsters who terrorise people just like them." he glanced amongst them as he elaborated. "I don't feel sorry for Dagur because of what he did to me, I just wonder what could've happened to him earlier in his life, and how different things could've been if he'd had more support."
Jack felt the compulsion to lace the fingers of his hand with those on Hamish's. The freckled boy glanced down for a moment, before looking back up at the ice-haired boy's face. The shorter teenager's mouth spread into a smile.
"Can we not talk about him any more for a while? It's been a long day and I don't know about you guys, but I'm starving." Jack gladly changed the subject.
"There's a pizza place not too far from here, how does that sound?" Stoick suggested, much to their enthusiasm.
"It'll be our treat." Nick added. Looking forward to having something to take their minds off of the past several days, the group walked away from the District Court.
A few days had passed since the final court hearing, and life in Berk was starting to return to something resembling normal.
The High School had been abuzz with talk over Dagur's arrest, and a new, more positive atmosphere had flowed through the building with the departure of the town's main delinquent. Stefan, who'd been efficiently removed from the bathroom door at Barry Cuda's before the Police had arrived; had been given sufficient a scare to consider his current choices in life. For the first time in a good while, he'd started to listen to what his father, Sven Jorgenson, was trying to tell him.
He made sure to avoid Astrid and Jack if he ever saw them, but it seemed clear that his cohort's arrest had put a scare into him.
Jack and Hamish had settled back into the routine of building a relationship, and it was the Haddock household that the white-haired boy was now driving to, following a request sent by text message asking him to meet the subject of his affection at his home.
Jack brought the red sedan to a stop on the curb outside of Hamish's house and stopped the engine. He briskly walked up to the front door and had waited only a few moments after pressing the bell before the door opened to reveal Stoick. The Police Chief greeted the tall teenager with a cheeful smile.
"Hey Mr. Haddock. Hamish said he wanted to meet me here for something."
"He's up in his room." Stoick nodded towards the stairs as he opened the door further. "Head on up."
"Thanks". the white-haired boy smiled and approached the stairs, pausing only briefly to sweep his hand along Toothless's back, the cat arching into the welcome contact of the teenager's hand. Climbing the stairs to the second story of the house, Jack found the door to Hamish's room was closed and a sheet of paper was taped to it. The sheet read:
His curiosity piqued, he rapped his knuckles against the woodwork and waited.
"Come in!" the younger boy's words were muffled by the door, but unmistakeable. Jack grasped the handled and pushed it open into Hamish's room, stepping into near darkness.
"Please close it behind you."
Jack did as he was instructed and he stepped further into the darkness.
"Hic... What's going on?"
"Just one second..." the voice requested, and Jack could hear the sounds of somebody moving near the far side of the room. The space was quickly awash with coloured light as multiple strands of multi-coloured fairy lights flared to life. Jack looked around, taking in the sight of the room under the different coloured glows.
Meanwhile, Hamish had stepped over to his computer and jiggled the mouse, waking the machine up from its state of dormancy. He then brought up what appeared to be a media player on his machine and pressed the PLAY button.
A moment later, stirring strings with a piano accompaniment began to filter out of the computer speakers. Jack froze for a moment as the music stirred his memory.
"Wait... I know this song." he glanced at the lights again as recognition dawned on his face. He then levelled his brown eyes back on Hamish. "You recreated our date at the ice rink."
"As best I could." the auburn-haired boy shrugged.
"I would've thought you'd have wanted to forget about it, seeing as it was arranged as part of Dagur's dare."
Hamish crossed the room to him. "I'm not completely convinced that was the only reason you did it." the freckled boy let out a chuckle at the confused expression on the taller teenager's face. "You went to a lot of trouble with the ice rink. You got the keys for it; you found those roller skates... And then there was dinner and the walk before it. That was a lot more effort than somebody on a dare would've gone to. I think that when you came up with the idea, a part of you had worked out by then that you had feelings for me... Probably something subconscious. It just took a few more hours for the rest of you to catch up."
As Hamish let his point sink in, he gently took Jack's left hand with his right, and he placed his free left hand on the older boy's waist.
"You really think so?"
"Yeah." Hamish smiled, and Jack smiled back. As the music continued to build, they began to sway as they slowly rotated on the spot.
After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Jack finally spoke in a low tone: "What is this song, anyway?"
"It's from a movie from the 1980s, called Ghost." the freckled teenager responded. "It's actually an orchestral version of an older song called Unchained Melody."
"Does this make it our song?"
"I think it can be. There wasn’t really anything we heard at Barry Cuda's that first night that would qualify."
An amused chuckle parted Jack's lips. "Thanks for this, Hiccup."
"No problem, Frosty." Hamish smirked, and the two of them shared a kiss as they continued to slow dance.
The warm sunlight filtering through the curtains over the bedroom window roused Hamish from his slumber. He rolled over on the mattress and stretched an arm out, only to find the space in the bed beside him empty. Blinking away the remainder of his sleep, he fully opened his eyes and scanned the room; his boyfriend was nowhere to be seen.
Pulling on his clothes from where he'd discarded them the previous night, he exited Jack's room and descended the stairs, finding the other teenager sat in the breakfast nook, staring without focus out of the kitchen window.
"Hey." the freckled boy greeted, making the oak-haired boy turn suddenly.
"Oh, hey." Jack returned. "You sleep okay?"
Hamish nodded. "Yeah, though I missed waking up next to you. Did you get any sleep?"
"Enough." the auburn-haired teen sat down opposite his partner.
"We can put this off if you'd like, nobody would think less of you... Not Nick, not me."
Jack shook his head, but his expression showed he was grateful for his boyfriend's presence. "I'll be okay. I nearly forgot about it last year, this year I want to make it up to them."
The emerald-eyed teenager gave his companion a half smile as he gently rubbed Jack's hands as they lay on the table. They remained there until they heard the sound of Nicholas's alarm clock going off, and the creak of the floorboards as the guardian rose from his bed.
Hamish held onto the bouquets of white Roses and Lilies as Nick's car slid into the parking lot at Raven Point Park. The sky was grey and threatened to rain, which under the circumstances hadn't seemed entirely inappropriate.
It was now a full fourteen months since Jack and Nick had first arrived in town, and with so much time having elapsed even the worst of the memories of the previous year were mercifully fading. In that time, Jack and Hamish's relationship had continued to blossom, and it was common knowledge now that they were each other's significant other.
With the growth of their relationship, Jack had filled in the rest of the details about the events revolving around why he'd left Pennsylvania with his guardian, and of what had happened to his mother and sister.
A year previous, Jack had been living with his mother Emily and his sister Olivia in Burgess. His father had died several years before, leaving Emily to take on the duties of both parents. Over time she and Nick had met and started to spend more and more time with each other, until the bearded man had become a common sight at the Overland house.
Every winter in Burgess there was a fair that brought out the townsfolk, giving them the chance to have a bit of fun despite the increasing cold. That year, Jack and Nick had gone off early to the fair, and would meet his mother and sister a little later into the evening.
The winter before Jack had moved to Berk had been turning into a bad one, and in such a rural community it wasn't uncommon for the roads to ice up. The salting operation to melt the ice was underfunded and undermanned, and some routes had to be prioritised over others. Whilst en route to the fair to meet with Jack and Nicholas, Emily's car had spun out on a patch of black ice, and skidded off into a ditch channel that ran parallel to the roadway.
The injuries to Jack's mother had been bad, and by the time the accident had been reported she'd already perished. Olivia was still alive, but in critical condition, and had been taken as quickly as possible to the nearest significant medical facility. It was late into the evening when Jack and Nick had finally been able to see and talk to her, and although she seemed in good spirits despite what had happened, the damage had already been done. By morning, Jack and his guardian had been notified that Olivia had drifted away during the night.
The news had devastated them both, and had left them to cope with the torrent of emotions they were going through in a house full of reminders of the two people they were no longer sharing their lives with. The Russian, feeling a combination of survivor's guilt and obligation to Emily and Olivia's memory had taken it upon himself to petition the system to become Jack's legal guardian.
The teenager had eventually returned to school, but he came back to a changed status quo amongst his fellow students. Although they weren't intentionally unkind, he couldn't help notice them whispering behind his back, and keeping their distance from him. He'd lost three members of his family in such a relatively short period of time, and as children were want to do, there were more than a few rumours about what could happen to them if they got close to the boy in the blue hoodie with messy brown hair.
Eventually, the response began to affect his grades.
For the two of them, Burgess was proving too much of a reminder, and too changed following Emily and Olivia's deaths. Nick had remarked that he felt they might benefit from a fresh start and new surroundings, and in conversation with Jack he'd proposed they relocate in order to put the bad memories behind them; and to find better opportunities for work, and friendship.
Jack had been reluctant to leave the last members of his family behind, but on his guardian's encouragement they'd developed their new method of memorial, on the belief that as long as they remembered those they'd lost, it didn't matter if there wasn't a physical grave to stand over.
The admission had given new context to what Hamish knew, and explained better why Jack had been so eager to grab any potential friendship with both hands. The freckled teenager had forgiven his partner long ago for what had happened between them, but it helped to know why some of the things had happened.
Hamish also felt it had helped Jack to finally open up and let somebody shoulder the burden of what had happened to his mother and sister, and the auburn-haired boy had been there for his companion when at the end of his account, his shoulders had started to shake and tears had started to roll down his face. As Jack had observed that previous year, there was nothing to be ashamed of in crying.
A little time after Nick had come down for breakfast; Hamish had excused himself so he could go home and change, and had dug out a dark suit from his closet. Showered and dressed, he'd returned to The Overland/Severnaya house to find the two main occupants going through the last preparations. Out on the porch, Hamish had wrapped his arms around Jack in an embracing hug, and had accepted the silent invitation to attend the personal memorial service with them. As they'd walked to the car, he'd given the oak-haired boy's hand a comforting squeeze, and it'd squeezed back in a sign of gratitude.
They'd exited the vehicle and were approaching the small strip of beach that lined the edge of the park, passing the Gazebo that would provide the only bit of shelter if the clouds did decide to open on them.
Hamish respectfully remained a few steps behind as Jack and Nicholas, holding the bouquets between them, began their service.
"This last year has been a difficult one. I wish you had been with us Emily; there were times I'd liked to have heard your guidance and your kindness. Olivia, there were moments I could've done with hearing that laugh of yours, it always brightened up any room." the large man set his bouquets into the water and stepped back to watch as they began to drift away.
Jack approached the water and knelt down. "Mom. Sis. I promised I'd try harder to keep you guys in my thoughts... I hope I've succeeded this time. I've met somebody here who's helped me with dealing with what happened to you, and I hope you guys don't mind, but I told him what happened." he set the bouquets floating and rose to his full height. "His name's Hamish... And I'd like you guys to know, wherever you are, that he's my best friend… And my boyfriend." despite the tears in the rakish teenager's eyes, there was a wide smile on his face.
Nicholas and Jack stepped back from the water's edge and watched as the flowers shrank into the distance. Beside him, Hamish looped his right arm through Jack's left, and slid his fingers between his companion’s. The auburn-haired teen didn't need to say anything, his presence there was more than enough.