01 Back to “Normal”

“How’s it going, guys? How was the rest of your vacation?” Chris asked as James and Sebastian tromped up from the basement.

“Nice!” James beamed. “A little more vamp, but what can you do?”

Sebastian rolled his eyes and grinned. “We kept to the shadows and recuperated! As great as it is to spend some time in the sun and allow oneself to be weak, one doesn’t live four thousand years by doing that too often.”

“We went to the Louvre, Notre Dame, Bordeaux,” James began telling Chris, dragging the boy to a couch. Sebastian laughed and took a few bags to their room, before visiting Richard’s quarters.

Knocking on the door, he called, “Richard?” The sound of scurrying preceded the door opening. “Bad time?” Sebastian asked with a grin.

“No, no,” Richard began, a little out of breath.

“Then why are you wearing Peter’s boxers?” Sebastian asked, smiling even more widely.

“What do you mean?” Richard started to ask, but looked down to see that, in his hurry, he had grabbed Peter’s cartoon boxer briefs

“You’re more of a white linen man, Richard,” Sebastian said, beginning to laugh. The ancient vampire, who had seen Richard naked a hundred thousand times, rolled his eyes when Richard closed the door in his face so they could change. ‘It’s funny what love will do to you,’ Sebastian thought to himself with a smile.

When Peter and Richard emerged, Sebastian almost gasped. “What?” Peter asked with a magnificent, boyish smile.

“What you looked like a month ago…. It seems like forever now! Happiness becomes you,” Sebastian said softly, putting a hand on his cheek. “Now, how was the Council in my absence?”

Richard shook his head and said, “Bickering, turf, you know! Since you effectively ended your reign as high consul, everyone’s been jockeying for position.”

“How’s Horatio faring?” Sebastian asked.

Richard grinned. “I lobbied to get him a position on the governance committee. He’s shrewd: He’ll do well.”

“I would have suggested you,” Sebastian said, not knowing what else to say.

Richard shook his head. “I don’t want to be away from Peter that much, and I couldn’t take him away from James and Chris. Besides, I like it here with you,” the man said, almost blushing.

Sebastian hugged his friend and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, grasping his shoulders. “Thank you, Richard. That means a great deal!”

While Richard and Sebastian went down to handle some Council business, Peter joined James and Chris to catch up. “Where’s Marcus?” James asked Chris after running through his trip highlights.

Chris laughed. “He’s working out with Lt. Spencer in the yard. You can take the boy out of the military, but you can’t take the military out of the boy!”

James corrected, “We didn’t so much take them out of the military as get them reassigned to the gayest barracks in the world….”

“Don’t forget about Fort Dicks,” Peter said, laughing.

James shook his head. “That’s D-I-X, and those guys would kick your ass,” he said with a laugh.

“One night, and it wouldn’t be kicking they’d want to be doing!” Peter said with a grin.

“When did you get so gay?” Chris asked with a laugh, and soon the boys were giggling like normal teenagers.

When the two military men entered, Lt. Spencer hurried off to shower and change, while Marcus sat and put an arm across Chris’s shoulder.

“So when do you start your training?” James asked Chris as the fit subsided.

“Soon,” Marcus said with a smile. “Chris is definitely not a born wizard, but we’ll test his capabilities and begin training.”

“Do you know where you’ll go?” James asked.

“No, I was hoping Sebastian would have an idea,” Marcus smiled.

“He does,” Sebastian smiled as he and Richard returned. “I know that you two would perhaps like to spend the time alone, but there’s another boy I’d like to have tested. Perhaps you could work with both, if he’s interested?” Sebastian asked.

“Of course,” Marcus nodded.

“Is it someone we know?” Chris asked and Sebastian smiled.

“As a matter of fact…. You remember Chase and William’s friend Carl? His boyfriend is Edward?” Sebastian asked.

“Oh, right! He’s a wizard?” Chris asked.

“Irish Druid by rite,” Sebastian nodded. “I don’t know what he’s practiced, but he is a born wizard, and druids sometimes possess special gifts—premonition, telekinesis, and the like. I understand his family has a cabin, so that would solve that problem.”

Shortly, James and Sebastian went to unpack, and James said, “It’s nice to be home….”

Sebastian hugged him and said, “It’s good to be wherever you are!”

“Mmmm,” James sighed at the feeling of the smaller body at his back.

“Let’s go out tonight?” Sebastian suggested.

James turned in his arms and smiled down at him. “Yeah?”

“Making up for lost time,” Sebastian said, resting his cheek on the boy’s chest. “All that time we should have been dating wasted saving the world!”

James laughed and stepped back, quickly stripping and leading the way to the big shower, which they shared. When they were changed and ready, James asked, “Where do you want to go?”

“I was thinking Richmond for dinner,” Sebastian said with a smile.

James shook his head with a knowing smile. “We should bring Chris and Marcus then!” They walked down to Chris’s room and knocked. Chris opened the door casually, and James smiled to see Marcus propped up in the bed, fully clothed, reading. “We’re going to Richmond,” James said. “Come with us? Maybe we can track down Carl and Edward?”

Marcus stood and stepped up behind Chris and wrapping his arms comfortably around the boy. “Sounds fun,” he said, and Chris nodded. Soon, Sam was greeting them at his end of the inter-dimensional portal they had established.

Sebastian hugged his old friend and introduced Marcus and Chris. “I think I recall meeting Chris at Chase’s birthday, but it’s nice to meet you Marcus! Wasn’t there another…?” Sam began to ask, but Chris nodded.

“Steve. We broke up during all the end-of-the-world stuff. Too much stress for him,” Chris smiled, squeezing Marcus’s hand.

Sam nodded thoughtfully. “So what brings you to our neck of the woods, gentlemen?”

“I thought we might check in with some of our friends,” Sebastian smiled.

“That package you’ve brought wouldn’t be for your ‘nephew’ would it?” Sam asked with a smile.

“Just a little something we picked up in Paris,” James winked.

“Well, William and Chase and his parents are still staying with Xavier and Aiden until the main house is ready,” Sam said. “Do you need a car?”

“I called for one,” Sebastian said, shaking Sam’s hand. “Thank you! Everything else is okay?”

“No worries,” Sam said. “For now all remains quiet, except….” The man smiled as he fell silent. “I’ll let Chase tell you about that!”

“You’re a mean old man, Sam,” Sebastian joked. “You know my curiosity is boundless!”

Sam nodded with a grin. “Come see me sometime, Sebastian,” the man said as he ushered them out to the waiting limo. As they climbed in, Sebastian gave the driver Aiden’s address.

At the gate, the driver pushed the button and asked, “Whom should I say is calling?” The man repeated Sebastian’s name into the box and the gate was buzzed open. By the time they pulled up in front of the house, Chase was on the front porch with Alex, waving.

“Hi, guys! What’s up?” Chase called.

“We’ve just returned from Paris, and thought we’d come down to visit,” Sebastian said, smiling as James reached for Alex and lifted him from Chase’s arms.

“And we brought Alex a present,” James added with a grin, passing Chase the heavy bag.

“Good Lord! What is this?” Chase asked with a laugh.

“Let’s just say, he probably won’t be able to use it for a while,” James said.

“Come inside, guys,” Chase said, leading them through the door. “William, Xavier! Company!”

William came downstairs and exclaimed, “Hey! What’s going on?”

“We just came down to see if you guys could go out tonight,” James said as he tickled Alex, causing the baby to giggle.

Xavier gave Sebastian a reserved look, and said, “You guys have some fun, I’ll watch Alex….”

James handed the boy to Xavier and encouraged Chase to open the present he and Sebastian had brought. Chase dug into the bag and found a hand-carved wooden train set from a famous Parisian toymaker. “It’s wonderful,” Chase said, beaming as he hugged them. “Thank you!”

“Shall we?” Sebastian at last suggested with a smile. “And where are Steve and Sarah?”

“They’re on their own little vacation,” Chase said. “Xavier’s in charge!”

“Well, then, if you don’t mind, we’ll grab a bite and wander around town?” Sebastian asked the man, once his friend, once his enemy.

“Be careful, and have fun,” Xavier said to his boys, but not breaking a smile for Sebastian.

William hung back as the others filed out. “Sometime, I want to hear what you have against him,” he said to his uncle.

“It’s not important, William,” Xavier responded firmly.

“If it’s not important, why haven’t you gotten over it?” William persisted.

“It’s complicated,” Xavier said pointedly. “Now go, don’t keep your friends waiting!”

William frowned and exited, hopping into the back of the limo. “Do you think Edward and Carl might join us?” Sebastian asked. “There is something we need to discuss.”

William pulled out his phone. He got no answer at Edward’s, so he called Carl’s cell. As he expected, the boys were together. “Hey, Carl! Sebastian and James are taking us out to dinner. Are you and Edward free?”

“Sure,” the tall boy replied in his deep, rich voice. “Where should we meet you?”

“We’ve got a car! Let us pick you up at your place,” William replied.

“No problem. See you in a few minutes,” Carl answered.

William lowered the privacy glass and gave the driver Carl’s address. The car got some stares in Carl’s decidedly middle-class neighborhood, especially when six casually dressed teenagers climbed out.

Carl and Edward came outside, and Carl did not invite them in. When he saw the car, he laughed and said, “This is going to be the talk of the neighborhood!”

Sebastian laughed and motioned for everyone to get back in the car. While they rode to the restaurant, he decided to get down to business. “Carl, Marcus is going to begin training Chris in the magickal arts. I know your background, and I thought, perhaps, if your parents aren’t training you in the old ways….”

“My parents still freak out if they hear me speak a word of Gaelige,” the boy laughed. “Everything I know I learned from my grandmother.”

“Well, Marcus is a world-class wizard warrior,” Sebastian explained. “If you’d like, he can begin teaching you, until we can find someone from your own tradition.”

“Wow,” Carl said, unsure. “I don’t know. Do you mind if I think about it for a bit? I need to talk to Edward too,” he added, and felt the boy squeeze his hand softly.

“Of course,” Sebastian smiled. “Either way, do you think Marcus and Chris could use your family’s cabin for the test and training retreat?”

“We only go out there in the summer, so it’ll be empty. Sure! Just put everything back the way it was,” Carl replied. “Assuming we’re not there too,” he added, smiling at Chris.

“If you decide you want to go, I could arrange it with your parents and school,” Sebastian replied with a wink. “Free passes all around!”

At the restaurant, a Council-friendly establishment, Sebastian’s group was without comment shown to a nice corner table a little apart from the rest. Shortly the restaurant owner, an older gentleman, emerged and approached their table. “Consul van der Meer! What a pleasant surprise!”

“Thank you,” Sebastian smiled. “We’re just in town to visit friends.”

The man nodded. “Please let us know if you require anything special this evening,” the man said, retreating as quickly as he’d come.

The waiter took their drink orders and left them with menus. After they ordered their food, Carl slipped away to the bathroom and soon Edward followed.

“So what do you want to do?” Edward asked Carl outside the bathroom before they returned.

“I’m not sure! That world killed my grandmother, and we’ve both seen it up close and personal. I don’t want to put you in danger. But it’s part of who I am,” Carl explained.

“You should do it,” Edward said, grabbing his hand. “I can tell you want to, and I don’t want to hold you back. I’m not afraid,” he smiled, “I’ll have you to protect me!” Carl leaned in to kiss Edward softly on one cheek, while softly stroking the other with his fingertips.

“Alright,” Carl whispered with a smile. “You’ll come?”

“Of course,” Edward smiled.

When they returned, the appetizers that had just arrived. Edward smiled across the table at Sebastian and said, “We’re in!”

Sebastian nodded with a happy smile. “Excellent! I’ll give you a call about the specifics.” After that, they caught up on the weeks that had passed since they had all been together on the island.

“We found a place,” William said after a while. “An old farmstead, with a big farmhouse and barn, on about forty acres. Once the farmhouse is renovated, we’ll move out there and start building a new, bigger place for mom, dad and the babies!”

“And get the barn fixed up for horses,” Chase added, as William rolled his eyes lovingly.

“And that,” William said, sighing, as they all laughed.

“How’s your mom?” James asked. “Babies okay?”

“Yeah! Mom’s showing, but she still feels pretty good. No way she’ll go to full term, with her age and them being triplets and all, so they’ll probably be born in July or maybe August if she’s doing okay,” Chase explained.

“That early?” James asked.

“It’s not that early,” Chase replied. “They should be able to come home.”

“How’s Matt?” James added.

“His parents got him a car, so he’s doing better, and we still see a lot of him. He’s been in a funk the last couple of weeks because Amy is thinking of going to Europe, and he can’t go….”

“So what are they going to do?” Sebastian asked. He’d gotten the impression that Amy liked Matt but not the same as he liked her.

“He wants to stick it out, but he doesn’t know about her,” Chase said, confirming Sebastian’s impression.

“There’s a new family on Matt’s block with a son a year older than us. Daniel,” William added, making Chase curl his nose to everyone’s amusement. “Matt’s been hanging out with him, brought him by Xavier’s once.”

“What’s he like?” James asked, trying not to smile.

“He’s cute,” Edward said, goading Chase a bit. “Nice, but a little weird. His family is pretty strict, so he never wears casual clothes or anything like that. And he’s got some kind of exemption from P.E. too.”

Chase just added, “I don’t see what’s so great, but everybody seems to like him….”

“You’re just jealous,” William teased. “You’re worried that now that we’re moving Matt’ll get a new best friend!”

Chase sort of scowled and shrugged. “Maybe!” The whole group laughed again as he smiled a little.

After dinner, they drove out to the farm to show it off, before dropping Edward and Carl off, as it was a school night. When Sebastian, James, Chris and Marcus were alone, Sebastian asked Marcus, “What do you think about Carl?”

“I’m not sure. He doesn’t ‘feel’ like any wizard I’ve ever met, but Druids are so different, not unlike the Kabbalists. Sam would be a better judge of that,” Marcus suggested.

Sebastian nodded, and called to ask Sam to meet them at the synagogue to let them back through the portal. When they arrived, Sebastian said, “Sam, I’m going to be back in the next day or two. I’d like you to meet with Carl, the young Druid. I’m thinking of having him trained.”

“Of course. You know, with all the training you’re arranging—James, William, Chase, now Chris and Carl—you ought to open a school,” Sam said with a laugh, nursing an idea already in his head.