04 Comfort of Friends

When Sebastian was gone, the men explained as gently as possible what William was facing.

“William will be fine,” Chase said with a determined look. “He thinks he needs to do this….” He shared again why he felt that was the case, this time for Aiden’s benefit.

Before Chase could walk away, Aiden grabbed his arm. “I’m sure you’re right, he’s training to be able to better protect his little family. I’m sure you are right, but there’s something else too, I think.” He looked over to see Xavier was out of earshot. “You joked about him wanting a higher rank, and you’re closer than you thought with that. If William’s anything like me—and I think he’s a lot like me—then he might be doing all this to feel worthy of you.”

“What?” Chase asked, almost laughing.

“Chase, you’re an amazing person, and you are one of the few people who aren’t overawed by you. I think William is striving to be better because he wants to be worthy of standing by you,” Aiden said.

“But that’s ridiculous!” Chase insisted. “I love him. Of course he’s worthy!”

“You know that. I know that. But because of how he feels about you, he doesn’t feel that way. It’s nothing you did: it’s just, when people love each other, they sometimes view each other in funny ways. Let him build himself up, and you build him up as best you can. Help him feel about himself how you feel about him. Let him be the strong one sometimes.”

“He’s always the strong one,” Chase said, sounding thoughtful.

“Let him know it,” Aiden suggested.

“How do you…? Why do you think…?” Chase tried to ask.

“I chased after William’s uncle for years; he was little more than a boy when I was a teen in love with him. For years he didn’t even notice I existed. You’d be amazed at what I did in those years to build myself up, to make myself feel worthy of even approaching him,” Aiden said with a laugh.

Chase nodded and gave the man a hug. Aiden whispered, chuckling, “Now there’s a way to make a man feel worthy, little one!” Then he kissed the boy on the head. “Go check on Alex, and I’ll check on dinner!”

Aiden found Xavier in the kitchen, and wrapped his arms around him from behind. “Chase okay?” Xavier asked.

“I think so. How about you?” Aiden asked.

“I’m alright,” Xavier said. “Angry at Avery for this!”

“No shit?” Aiden asked with a laugh. “Why did Sebastian say you were weak?”

“He hadn’t eaten in a while and he was on the verge of losing control a little. I took him into the study and gave him my arm,” Xavier said with a blush.

“I see,” Aiden said. “How was it?”

“You know damn well how it was; you’ve done it often enough!” Xavier huffed.

“But only for vampires I like,” Aiden teased.

“I apologized to him for … everything,” Xavier said.

Aiden kissed his cheek. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“It sure as shit was!” Xavier laughed. “But I am glad I did. I feel a lot better.”

Avery and William moved quietly. “The village is about a mile that way,” Avery indicated. “We’re not sure where they’re nesting, but best I can figure is that it’s this side of the village. We should detect movement toward the village just after nightfall….”

“But if we’re wrong, a lot of people will get hurt. Why don’t we just go into town and kick ass?” William asked.

“Remember the battles against Sammael? Think of the two of us facing a hundred or more vampires as strong as a hundred-year-old vampire! These animals avoid daylight, so if we can find their lair, we can get them without endangering ourselves!”

“So these things must be where that vampire myth comes from?” William wondered.

“Probably a lot of werewolf myths too. Now, cloak yourself against all the senses, even smell. These things have an acute sense of smell. We want our scent to dissipate before nightfall….”

“I’m gonna run to Matt’s,” Chase said. “Could you guys watch Alex?”

“No problem, buddy,” Aiden smiled.

“If I wanted to spend the night…?” Chase suggested.

“We’ll plan on it,” Xavier answered. “Just call if you decide to come home?”

Chase nodded. With his newly minted license, he had a bit of unaccustomed freedom, and he drove his dad’s car to travel faster. When he arrived at Matt’s, he did something he’d never done before: He knocked.

Matt’s mother, Norma, answered the door. “Goodness, child, why bother?”

“We don’t live next door anymore! I didn’t figure you’d be expecting me, Mrs. Stone!”

“We’re always expecting you, Chase! Matt’s upstairs. Can you stay for dinner?” Norma asked.

“If you don’t mind, I might sleep over,” Chase said with a smile.

“Is everything alright?” she asked. He’d not slept over since William arrived.

“Yeah, just home alone! William’s visiting friends,” Chase explained.

“You know your way around!” With that, she headed back to the kitchen and Chase ran upstairs. “Hey, Matt!” he called as he ran into the boy’s room. “Oh … hey, Daniel.”

“Chase!” Matt exclaimed, hugging his friend. “Everything okay!”

“Can’t a guy just come spend the night with his best friend?” Chase asked.

“Yeah, but you don’t anymore!” Matt teased.

Chase blushed. “William is out of town, and the uncles are watching the baby!” Chase swore he saw Daniel’s nose wrinkle at everything in that sentence: his boyfriend, his baby, and his gay uncles.

“Cool! Just like old times then!” Matt said. “Me and Daniel are about finished with this project…. You want to stay too, Daniel?” Now it was Chase’s turn to control his facial expressions.

“My parents won’t let me stay over, but I don’t have to be home ‘til nine,” the boy said softly.

“Great!” Matt said, slapping him on the back, not noticing the boy flinch. Chase did catch it, and his feelings for the boy immediately softened over his worry about that expression.

Now he watched the boy, and he had to admit that Daniel was downright cute—not beautiful like Sebastian, or handsome like James and William, but cute. He had a wonderful button nose on a perfect, symmetrical face, and his light brown hair hung boyishly in his face. His long pants and long sleeves obscured any revelations about his body but his clothes did fit intriguingly well.

Chase checked his email, then sat talking to them and tried to make an effort to get to know Daniel, who was very quiet.

“How do you guys know each other so well?” Daniel asked.

“Until a few months ago, I lived next door. Our house was condemned after some damage so we’ve moved. But for years, Matt was my guide at school and stuff!” When the boy looked confused, Chase smiled and said, “I was blind. Matt helped me get through years in school!”

“What happened? I mean, how did you get your sight back?” Daniel asked, now very interested.

“Well,” Chase hesitated. “It was sort of miraculous! One morning I woke up and I could see shadows, and gradually my sight just came back. Doctors never knew why I was blind, so they don’t know why my sight came back….”

“Aren’t you worried one day you’ll just go blind again?” the boy asked.

“No, I have faith that it won’t,” Chase said with an easy smile for the boy. Daniel smiled back at him then, as if they understood one another.

When they all stood to go to dinner, Daniel asked, “What happened to your leg?” noticing Chase hobble a little in the absence of his walking stick.

“Let’s just say that there are things the human body shouldn’t be made to do!” Chase said with a smile. As they walked down the steps, Daniel quietly and unassumingly placed a hand on his elbow to help steady him. When they reached the bottom, Chase smiled and nodded silently to him.

Matt’s dad was out of town, so it was just Norma with the three boys. Matt and Chase talked nearly incessantly, while Daniel smiled and listened. After dinner, the three boys cleaned up and ran back upstairs to play video games and talk.

Daniel got up to go promptly at 8:45. “Are you sure you can’t stay?” Chase asked.

Daniel smiled, embarrassed. “I’ve never been allowed to stay over with anyone,” the boy admitted.

“Why?” Chase asked.

“My parents are very … protective,” he murmured, embarrassed. “Our religion has a lot of things that most people find strange, so I don’t expect….”

“I understand,” Chase said, mostly to let the boy off the hook. Now he did truly feel sorry for the boy and vowed to himself to try and like the boy. It wasn’t that hard.

When the boy was gone, Matt said, “He’s a nice guy.”

“I guess,” Chase said.

“You know you’ll always be my best friend,” Matt said with a laugh, ragging on the boy for appearing jealous.

“I just wish you were closer! I mean, I know we’re going to need the extra room and all, but,” Chase began.

“Chase, it’s like a fifteen minute drive, and we’ll be in school together again next year,” Matt said, wrapping an arm around Chase’s shoulder like the old days. “Want to play video games or watch a movie?”

“Honestly,” Chase said, his voice breaking, “I want to sit just like this for a while!”

“What’s wrong, Chase?” Matt said, holding him tighter.

“William’s gone on this crazy training mission with Avery! They’re in some jungle fighting some weird vampire thing. They’ll be out of contact for a few days,” Chase said.

“WHAT?” Matt asked, unable to contain himself. “With you and Alex back here?”

“I know,” Chase said, tears in his eyes. “I know he can handle himself, but why does it have to be him? Haven’t we done enough? Can’t they handle this on their own?”

“Chase, you know William would do anything for you,” Matt said.

“That’s why I didn’t ask him to come home. He would have, but he feels like he needs to do this,” Chase said.

“Well, I kind of get it. In that world, you cast a big shadow! I mean, to me you’re just Chase, but I knew you when little bullies could reduce you to tears. You and William are in deep, but you haven’t known each other all that long, and most of that time, you’ve been this kind of prophet and holy vessel!” Matt said.

Chase laughed through his tears, laying his head on Matt’s shoulder, and said, “That’s sort of what Aiden said.”

Matt turned on a sitcom, and they sat watching it for a while. At last, Chase yawned and they crawled up into the bed together, shedding clothes, as they had so many times before. Before he fell asleep, Chase whispered, “Thanks, Matt. I love you….”

“Love you, too, bro,” Matt whispered back, smiling sleepily.

At last, William couldn’t help himself anymore. “It’s been dark for hours, Avery! They’re nowhere near here! What are we going to do?”

“Wait ‘til morning and track them away from the village and find out where they sleep,” Avery replied.


“Keep your voice down! What do you propose?” Avery asked.

“We go in there and protect as many tonight as we can. We capture one of the cryptovamps before sunrise, and we use it to find the lair,” William proposed.

“Terrible idea!” Avery said with a smile. “Just what your father would have done….”

William smiled at the man and nodded. “Let’s do it!”

Still cloaked, they made haste toward the little village. They were still far out when they began to hear solitary screams in the night—screams of terror and pain. William and Avery pulled out their wands, dropping their wards. Avery watched the left and William got the right as they moved even more quickly.