07 Isolation

Spencer sat up on his cot when the phone rang. “Lieutenant Spencer,” he answered.

“Percival,” the aristocratic British accent cut across the line.

“Mother,” he said with a smile, “you know I prefer Spencer….”

“Well, dear, it was my privilege to name you, so you’ll forgive me if I rather like it…. How are things there?” Dora asked.

“Wonderful, mother,” he answered. “We were just in Central America assisting Consul Salazar with the repression of a nest of cryptovamps.”

“Nasty creatures,” the woman said. “Were there many?”

“Over a hundred,” he reported.

“Good show!” she said with pride.

“Well, it was mostly Sebastian, mother,” he said with a smile.

“Of course it was dear! No shame in that! There’s a lot you can learn from him. If anyone else had asked for you, I would have refused,” she said.

“Christen Wheeler,” he began, but his mother cut him off.

“… is a witch, dear. One of our own. But Sebastian is an old friend. How are you, though?” she asked.

“I’m fine, mother! Really!” he replied in earnest.

“I just worry you’ll get lonely there,” Dora said.

“No more lonely than I am anywhere else. In fact, I’ve made a few good friends—James of course, and Sebastian, but also Marcus and Chris, and some others,” he assured he.

“Ah, yes, Captain Donaldson is a bright young man. I understand he’s going to be training some of Sebastian’s boys?” Dora asked.

“Yes. They start on Monday,” he reported.

“And have you met with the Grand Marshal recently?” Dora inquired.

“I haven’t seen Chase in a little while, mother. What’s this all about?” he asked suspiciously.

“Well, I was just hoping you’d have some time to get to know him better. The World Congress is not too far off, and it would be interesting to know where he stands on certain … issues,” Dora admitted.

“I’m not sure he has a ‘stand’ on most ‘issues;’ he’s a boy,” Spencer said loudly. “And I didn’t take this position to spy on my friends.”

“I’m not asking you to SPY Percival,” she said, urging calm. “That’s so … distasteful. But if you had the opportunity to talk with him and see if he’s amenable to our ways of thinking….”

“Mother!” Spencer exclaimed but caught his tongue before he said something unkind. “I’ll talk with him and explain our position. But I won’t pressure….”

“That’s all I can ask,” she said with a smile. “Now, have you met anyone … special?”

“No…. It’s hard for me, you know,” Percival said, a note of shame slipping into his voice.

“I know, dear,” Dora began, “I just hoped….”

“I know, mother. But … well, I don’t know! I don’t get out much and everyone around here seems to have someone,” Spencer replied.

“Well, you’re not that busy all the time. Go out! Ask James to show you around and maybe introduce you to some people…. Or, perhaps Chris?”

“Mother!” Then after a pause he smiled a little. “Anyway, Chris is busy with Marcus.”

“Alright dear! You know … it’s just I … love you and I hate to see you alone,” she said.

“Good night,” the man said with a sigh. “I love you too….”

“Good night,” Dora replied.

Spencer put the phone down and pulled on his pants and a t-shirt before stepping out of his room. The light was on under Marcus’s door, but Spencer decided to head out alone and think. He let himself out the gate and walked up toward town. It was late, but there were some bars open. He went inside one that looked nice enough. It was a pub-style sports bar, and he sat down. “Ale, please,” he said, and the young bartender smiled.

“English?” the man asked as he put a tall ale in front of the handsome young soldier.

Spencer smiled slightly and nodded. “Lieutenant Spencer, at your service….”

“Well, lieutenant, what seems to be bothering you on this beautiful evening?” the young man asked, leaning back against the counter opposite the bar.

“What makes you think anything’s wrong?” Spencer asked, taking a drink.

“It’s kinda late for a new customer. Most of the time, this time of night, it’s just regulars and guys who’re already drunk,” the bartender answered with a laugh.

“I’m just … I’ve been spending a lot of time alone and I thought I should at least get out of the house,” Spencer answered.

“Now what in the world is a man like you doing spending time alone? I’d think the ladies’d be all over you!” the bartender teased.

“I’m on special assignment, so I stay at my post. Doesn’t leave a lot of time for socializing, or dating,” he added with a laugh, taking a deep drink.

“I see….” The bartender smiled and put his hands on the counter behind him, causing his triceps to flex nicely. “Where’re my manners? I’m Dean!”

“My friends call me Spencer,” the lieutenant said, smiling.

“No first name?” the man smiled wickedly.

“Not one I like,” Spencer smiled. “My mom, and ONLY my mom, calls me Percival….”

“Oh, my,” Dean said, repressing a laugh. “Well, Spencer, I get off in an hour and I’d offer to show you around, but nothing will be open….”

Spencer drained his glass and said, “Would I seem desperate if I took you up on that anyway?”

“A little lonely, maybe,” the man smiled, refilling his glass. “But I’m glad to have the company. I never feel like hitting the sack after work. Takes me a while to wind down….” Seeing a customer at the end of the bar with an empty glass, Dean slipped away and returned after getting the man another whiskey sour. “So what do you do in the army, Spencer?”

The man took a drink to give himself time to think. He put his glass down and said, “I doubt you’d believe me if I told you….”

“Try me…. You don’t seem like a bullshit artist,” Dean smiled.

“Special forces, black ops,” Spencer said.

“I’ve heard that line before from guys across the bar, but since there’s no babe here waiting to get talked out of her panties, I’ll have to take your word for it,” Dean laughed.

“I’ll give you a demonstration some time,” Spencer smiled, beginning to feel the effect of the second ale. “I may not look like a lot, but I’ve got skills….”

Dean smiled and thought to himself, ‘May not look like a lot, my ass…. Mmmm mmmm….’ But what he said was, “I believe you!”

Before the bar closed, Spencer had a third drink and was feeling buzzed, but not drunk. Three in that amount of time was a lot but he was English: he could down as many at sixteen…. Once all the other patrons were shooed out, and the bar was cleaned, Dean led him out and locked up.

“Where’s your car?” Dean asked.

“I walked down,” Spencer said.

“Me, too,” Dean replied. “Feel like a walk?”

The night was cool and Spencer nodded, “Yeah….”

Dean led him around the downtown neighborhood, pointing out restaurants and shops he liked and the better hangouts. By the end, they had circled around to building of condos near the bar and Dean said, “This is me….”

“Dean, thanks a lot for showing me around and talking,” Spencer said.

“I enjoyed the company!” Before Spencer could turn to walk away, Dean hurried to add. “You know, I’m just going to have some dinner if you want to come up for a while….”

“You’re sure? I don’t want to overstay my welcome,” Spencer said.

“Come on. I’m starting to get hungry,” Dean said with a smile. Upstairs, he led Spencer into a small condo—one bedroom, one bath with an eat-in living space and a compact kitchen. “It’s small, but it’s just me,” Dean said. “Excuse the mess. I wasn’t expecting company.” Except for a shirt hanging over the back of a chair and a few open magazines, there wasn’t much in the way of a mess.

“It’s nice,” Spencer said. “Homey….”

“Yeah, it’s mine,” Dean smiled. He got a bag of salad mix out of the refrigerator and put some greens on a plate, before grabbing some grilled chicken and dressing. “Can I get something for you?” he called to Spencer.

“I’m great, thanks,” Spencer replied, sitting on the couch. Dean sat his salad on the coffee table and sat at the other end of the couch before grabbing a drink for each of them.

He was about to start eating when he saw Spencer’s eye flit to the open magazine on the coffee table. Thank God it’s open to an article, the man thought as he grabbed the magazines up carefully and said, “Let me get this mess out of your way.” He tossed the magazines into a rack at the end of the couch and out of sight.

“So what’s your assignment?” Dean asked as he ate a bite.

“Top secret, I’m afraid,” Spencer shrugged.

“In our little town,” Dean said, raising his eyebrows. “Hmmm….”

“Dean, I’ve already said too much as it is,” Spencer said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll drop it,” Dean said with a smile.

“This must sound like a real line,” Spencer said, looking at his hands.

“Yeah, kinda, but for some reason I do believe you,” Dean answered.

“I just keep wondering what I could show you to prove it,” Spencer laughed.

Dean thought to himself, “Take your clothes off and let me inspect your body,’ but he said, “Don’t worry about it man!”

Spencer got an impish smile on his face and stood up, walking over to an open patch of floor and bent over, placing his head and hands on the floor. Then he was standing on his head, his shirt falling and revealing his straining abs, and while Dean watched he extended his arms until he was standing on his hands. And then he lifted his left hand from the floor. With one extraordinary burst of energy, he was suddenly standing on his feed again.

Dean’s mouth was agape, and Spencer smiled. “So you’re either a special forces soldier or an Olympic gymnast,” Dean said at last, “and I’m guessing they are even rarer than you guys….”

Spencer shrugged and took a seat, exhaling deeply from the exertion. He had cheated a little at the end, giving himself a magickal boost, but then, he was showing off.

After a silence, Spencer asked, “So what do you do when you’re not tending bar?”

“Oh, I go to shows, listen to live music,” Dean said. “Sometimes I play a little with friends’ bands.”

“What do you play?” Spencer asked, interested.

“A little acoustic guitar…. But they keep me around because I write good songs for them,” Dean laughed.

“Anything I’ve heard?” Spencer asked again.

“Probably not, but one of my songs just got picked up by Bieber’s label. It’s a cheesy love song and it would be perfect for him, so I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Dean said.

“Waiting to hit it big?” Spencer asked.

“Nah! I like my life. Job keeps me out there meeting interesting people, like yourself,” he added with a smile. “Got to have new material to write songs! But a few extra dollars a month would be nice!”

Spencer smiled and yawned. “I’d really better be going!”

“Listen, some of my friends are playing Saturday night at the coffee shop I showed you on the square. They’re going to play some of my music and I’ll probably join them for a song or two…. My first Saturday off this month! Why don’t you come out?” Dean suggested.

Spencer smiled. “What time?”

“Starts at 9 p.m.! You could meet me here earlier if you like,” he added, writing his name, number, and email on a piece of paper he found on the side table.

Spencer looked at the paper and nodded. “Thanks, Dean. That sounds like loads of fun!”

Dean walked him to the door and locked it behind him, before leaning back against the door and sighing. “Wow!” he whispered to himself.

***

Friday morning, Chase rolled over on top of William and woke him with a passionate kiss. “Hey,” William grinned.

“Hey, yourself,” Chase smiled. “Last night was … a nice start,” he added with a wink.

“I was thinking, with Aiden here for a long weekend, why don’t we all pack up and head down to Virginia Beach? It’s not the greatest, but I bet it’s packed with cute sailors on shore leave,” William teased.

“I’m not enough for you, eh,” Chase smiled wickedly.

“Just because you’ve got filet mignon doesn’t mean cheeseburger doesn’t still smell good!” William laughed.

“Sounds like fun! I’ll feed Alex while you go talk to your uncles!” Chase said.

Chase warmed a bottle and grabbed the baby while William knocked on his uncles’ door. “Come in,” Xavier called. Both men were still cuddled in bed. William explained his plan and the men readily agreed. “When do you want to leave?”

“I should go see Sebastian and Avery at the normal time,” William said, “but I’ll come home by two. Traffic shouldn’t be bad on Thursday….”

The men agreed and shooed him out so they could start getting ready. As they started dressing, Aiden said, “So we never did get to have that conversation last night….”

“What are you thinking?” Xavier asked.

“I’m thinking you’d make almost as good a mom as Chase,” the man said with a laugh and felt a dirty t-shirt hit him in the back of the head. “Okay! As good!”

Xavier laughed. “It would mean a lot of changes in our lifestyle….”

“So does a move to Richmond! I’m realizing how much of the work I was doing could be done as well by someone else, now that I’m here more. I need to delegate better, and being this far from the office is good for me. In a few months, I’m not going to commute at all. I’m setting my office here up for teleconferencing, and I’m hiring some new minions! Then I’ll only have to travel when there’s trouble,” Aiden explained.

“Life is a little slower pace here,” Xavier nodded. “Being around Alex…. It’s not as scary as I thought it would be!”

“Scary?” Aiden asked.

“Being responsible for a helpless living being, raising him right, teaching him? It’s a huge responsibility,” Xavier said.

“I really think you’ll be an awesome parent,” Aiden said, smiling at the younger man.

“And you’re ready to be a dad?” Xavier asked.

“I really am,” Aiden said with a resolute nod.

“Well … let’s sit with it for a while, and then get in touch with our lawyers. Were you thinking of adoption, or a surrogate to carry a child for us?” Xavier asked.

“Let’s think on that for a while,” Aiden said. “No real hurry. We’ve got Alex, and Sarah’ll drop her litter soon enough.”

“I’ll tell her you said that,” Xavier said, laughing.

“And I’ll put that picture of you in Cancun on our holiday card this year,” Aiden countered.

“TRUCE!” Xavier declared, laughing.

Chase and William packed their bags and got Alex’s stuff together before William made a quick trip to Sebastian’s for his first joint training session. Chase informed her of their plans for the weekend—his parents weren’t due home until the middle of the following week.

***

“You came in late last night,” Marcus observed as Lt. Spencer finally emerged from his bunk.

“Sorry, I hope I didn’t wake you,” Spencer said.

“I was awake: Preparing to train the whipper-snappers. I’m putting together some old standbys to get things going. So what were you up to?” Marcus asked.

“Oh, had a little case of cabin fever. I went down to the pub and had a few drinks and chatted with the bartender. Nice guy. He invited me to a gig his friends are playing Saturday night at the coffee shop on the square,” Spencer said.

“Cute?” Marcus laughed.

“He’s a songwriter and a guitar player. Really nice. After he got off work, he showed me around downtown a little,” Spencer replied, ignoring him.

Chris entered the soldiers’ quarters and smiled at the men. “Hey Spencer,” he waved before wrapping an arm around Marcus and laying his head on the man’s shoulder.

“Hey, Chris,” Spencer replied.

“So what are you guys up to?” Chris asked.

“Just chatting,” Marcus replied. “Sleepyhead just got up…. He was out cruising the bars last night!”

“Was not!” Spencer protested, blushing.

“She must have been cute,” Chris said on seeing his expression.

Spencer looked at Marcus, surprised and thankful the man had kept his confidence, even with his boyfriend. “Indeed!” Marcus replied with a bright smile.

“So William and Avery are here and ready to train with Sebastian. You guys want to go watch, or join?” Chris asked.

The men looked at each other and nodded, following Chris.

“Hey, guys,” William called on seeing the three arrive in the basement.

“You mind if we tag along,” Chris asked.

“The more the merrier,” he replied, and they all entered William’s old training space through the existing portal in Sebastian’s basement. Sebastian and Avery were already there, talking quietly in the corner.

“William?” Spencer asked, drawing the boy away from the others. “I wonder if I could come to Richmond some time and have a talk with you and Chase about the World Congress of Wizards that’s coming up in the fall?”

William arched his eyes in interest. “Sure, sounds interesting…. Why don’t you and the guys come down to Virginia Beach this weekend? We’re going on a little mini-vacation.”

“That would be nice, but I already told a friend I’d come to a concert on Saturday,” Spencer replied.

“No problem…. Next week, then! Just give me a call?” William asked.

“Thanks, William,” Spencer smiled.

When Avery and Sebastian finished their conversation, Sebastian demonstrated a spell to call up a fog, and Chris watched while Marcus and Spencer, and Avery and Sebastian squared off to see who could maintain the most powerful veil. “It’s a simple but effective spell,” Sebastian explained. “Particularly useful if you need to make a covered retreat or retrenchment.” Then, turning his attention to Chris, he suggested, “I know you don’t start your training until Monday, but care to give it a go?”

The boy raised his hand and hurried through the incantation and managed to produce a very thin cloud just in front of him. “Not bad!” Sebastian said. “I can’t wait to see what you can do after a little training!”

“But mine sucked compared to everyone else’s,” Chris complained.

Sebastian laughed. “Chris, I was going to loan you my wand! We were all using them. Ritual tools such as these are foci through which we channel magick. Very advanced wizards can accomplish similar results without them, but with more difficulty. You did better without a wand than I expected you to do with one.” Sebastian patted the boy on the shoulder and looked at William. “Could you demonstrate without a wand, William?”

William raised his hand and managed to conjure a thick cloud, but relatively small, whereas before he had filled the room in front of him with an impenetrable fog. “William’s been training for years with world-class wizards, Chris, and he holds a rank higher than either of these two soldiers,” Avery explained.

Chris nodded appreciatively, and soon William and Avery departed to their homes. Chris and Marcus left to head into town to a bookstore, leaving Spencer and Sebastian momentarily alone.

“So, you’re going to talk to Chase?” Sebastian asked. When the young man looked surprised, Sebastian pointed to his ears and said, “Vampire hearing, remember?”

“Yeah, I just wanted to talk to him about the World Congress,” Spencer said.

“Smart move,” Sebastian frowned. “Be the first to get his ear, and you’re his friend. Shame! I thought better of you than to play on that friendship, your highness….”

“I promise you it’s not like that! Wait, you knew I was her son?” Spencer asked.

“I knew the first time I saw you at the base. I’ve known your mother since she was just a girl, Percival,” Sebastian said with a crooked smile. “And I saw you many times during your childhood! I once helped your mother clean up an indelicate situation….” Spencer looked at him like a deer in headlights. “So what is it like?”

“My mother did ask me to play on our relationship. I told her that all I’d do is explain to him very forthrightly our position, but that I would not pressure him for his support,” Spencer said.

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant Spencer,” Sebastian smiled. “I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions! You’re an honorable man.” Spencer turned to go and made it to the door before Sebastian called, “And if you ever want to talk, I’m just inside. I don’t need to add that Peter knows a little something about what you’ve been through as well, but … so does James,” Sebastian added, looking away in pain.

“I … don’t know if I’m ready to,” Spencer began. But then he stopped and said, “Thank you.”

Sebastian nodded, and the boy left him alone. So much hurt, he thought to himself. So much pain. Upstairs on the main floor, Sebastian ran into Peter in the kitchen. “Where’s Richard?” he asked.

“Out doing some shopping for the kitchen,” the boy answered as he made himself a sandwich. “I’m eating you out of house and home now that I’m just a growing boy again,” he added with a smile.

Sebastian laughed, and then took another look at the boy. He didn’t look at full strength. Sebastian put a hand on his arm and frowned. “Peter, you’re not taking care of yourself….”

“What?” Peter laughed. “I’m fine!”

“Peter,” Sebastian said, looking uncomfortable, “Richard had been biting you too often. You’re iron deficient.”

“Richard doesn’t feed on me,” Peter said, nervous.

“No, but … when you make love,” Sebastian began leadingly.

“Well, yeah, in the heat of it, I like for him to!” Peter said, blushing. “I beg him for it.”

Sebastian laughed. “It’s the death of a thousand cuts, my friend. Take some iron and lay off the biting for a few days!”

“Thanks,” Peter said, looking embarrassed. Sebastian nodded with a smile and winked.