3 A Normal Life

James woke with the rising sun and put his shorts and sweats on to go to practice. He kissed Sebastian passionately, and squeezed him tight before letting him go. “See you after practice?” Sebastian asked with a smile.

“Maybe,” James teased, causing Sebastian to kick off the covers. “Definitely,” James amended. Sebastian grinned and rolled over, baring his delectable ass. “I’m not skipping practice!” James laughed.

“Alright…. Well, I’ll have Richard drive you,” he said, picking up the phone and instructing the man to deliver James to the school.

James stepped out of the big black car at school just as Steve and Peter arrived.“Nice ride, James!” Peter teased. “Win the lotto?”

“That’s lover boy’s car,” Steve said, wagging his eyebrows.

In retaliation, James asked, “You guys have fun last night?”

Peter nodded and Steve blushed. Down at the weight room, Steve pulled James aside. “So I drove him home last night, like you said. I told him I thought he was cute, and asked him to go on a date tonight. We’re gonna go a few towns over and catch a movie and dinner! He kissed me on the cheek—he’s adorable!”

“I’m very happy for you,” James grinned.

“What about you? Sebastian is a hottie,” Steve said, smiling.

“You don’t know the half of it,” James said, ironically. “But yeah, he’s great!” Unable to contain himself and having no one else to tell, he said, quietly, “We made love, twice….”

“No shit?” Steve patted him on the shoulder.

“Yeah…. I’m definitely falling in love,” James confided.

“Wow! Really?” Steve asked. “Whoa!”

“Definitely…. No doubt about it,” James said.

“Cool! I’ll let you know how it goes with Chris…. You wanna hang out tomorrow?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, just give me a call in the morning?” James suggested.

“Sebastian too, if he wants,” Steve said.

James hesitated, but smiled. “We’ll see….”

Toward the end of practice, the coach came in with two of the suspended players. “Guys! These fellows have something they’d like to say….”

“James,” the spokesman said, stepping up, “we’re sorry for what happened at the game. We were assholes. You’ve never done anything to give us a reason to … shit. We’re sorry! Give us another chance?”

James stepped up and said, “You know … and I want all you guys to hear this … we’re just guys like you! We’re not out to convert you, we’re just looking for what everybody else is: somebody to love us back! We’ve got it hard; everybody makes it difficult! If you come out, people turn their backs on you, pick on you…. So we hide, we get lonely, and some of us end up doing stupid shit, like killing ourselves! You guys who turned on your teammate for no other reason than he might like someone you don’t approve of, well, you’re a big part of the problem! You aren’t assholes, you’re douche bags,” he said, stepping forward and making the boy flinch. But then he smiled, “But it takes a lot of balls to admit that! I always thought you guys were my friends, and I hope we can be again,” he said, holding out his hand.

The spokesman let out his breath and shook James’s hand, as did the other guy. “If you fellows are through with your speeches, hit the benches,” the coach said.

James did add, again to the whole team, “If I catch any of you picking on guys and calling them fags, though, I will kick your asses!”

“Or his boyfriend will,” Peter added with a laugh. “Little guy took down James’s dad with two fingers!” Most of the guys laughed and James blushed a little at the open reference to his boyfriend.

After practice, Peter dropped James by Sebastian’s house. “Holy fucking shit, dude! This place is awesome,” he said, staring through the gate. “His parents must be loaded!”

“You have no idea,” James said, shaking his head. “You wanna meet him?”

“You sure? I don’t want to…” Peter began.

“Come on, pull up to the gate!” Peter pushed the button, and James called, “It’s James. I’ve got a friend with me….”

“Pull around, sir,” Richard said as the gate swung open.

“He called you sir,” Peter said with a laugh. Pulling around to the open garage, they found Richard washing the big black car. “Shit,” Peter said, hopping out of his car, “is that a…?”

“Yes, sir,” the British gentleman declared, “it’s a Bentley limousine.”

“Can I look inside?” Peter asked, excited. He loved cars, especially foreign cars.

“Of course,” Richard smiled. He began talking about the car, suddenly animated, and put a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Let me show you the rest….” The other three garage doors opened, causing Peter’s jaw to drop. There was a red Porsche, a yellow Ferrari, and a black BMW convertible, which Richard announced was the master’s ‘everyday car.’

James became suspicious of the attention Richard was showing Peter, and how energetic the man had suddenly become. He was being very handsy, patting Peter on the back, arm, and shoulder.

Then Sebastian came outside, wearing his uniform of black pants and white shirt, but also dark glasses. In the light, his skin was unnaturally white, and James had a moment of horror before he remembered that the sun only weakened real vampires. Suddenly, Richard stiffened and became quiet, almost standing at attention.

Sebastian smiled at him and nodded. “Don’t mind me, Richard! By all means….” Richard loosened up somewhat, though not as much as before, and continued the car talk with Peter.

Finally, Peter turned, “Sorry! I’m just in love with cars! I didn’t mean to be rude…. I’m James’s friend Peter!”

“I’m Sebastian….”

“James’s boyfriend,” Peter mused, and Sebastian smiled volumes at James and nodded. “Well it’s good to meet you! Great place!”

“Thanks…. So you love cars? How’d you like to take one of these for a drive?” Sebastian asked.

“No fucking way,” Peter said, looking like he might hug Sebastian. “Won’t you get in trouble?” Seeing his confused look, Peter added, “You know, won’t your dad mind?”

James swallowed a laugh, and Sebastian shook his head, using a cover he had used many times. “I’m afraid this is all mine,” he said, looking around. “My parents passed a long time ago.”

Peter looked mortified, “I’m sorry dude! I didn’t….”

Sebastian smiled soothingly, and shook his head. “It was a long time ago, and I’m used to being asked. But the offer still stands, if you want to take one out for a spin?”

Peter looked torn between an offer he couldn’t refuse and feeling like he ought to, so Sebastian prodded. “Richard can ride with you!” At that, Richard lit up with an almost grateful smile, which Sebastian silently acknowledged.

“Thank you, thank you,” Peter said, almost bouncing. “Will you come?” he asked Richard, who nodded, hiding his smile.

“What’s your pleasure?” Sebastian asked.

Between the Porsche and the Ferrari, it was an impossible choice. Sebastian patted him on the shoulder and added, “One now, the other any time!”

Peter looked at Sebastian like he was his fairy godfather and said, “The Ferrari….”

“Excellent,” Sebastian said, nodding to Richard who grabbed the keys. “Take your time,” Sebastian said. “There’s no hurry. Take her for a real spin!”

As they pulled away, James said, “He’s going to love you forever!”

“Exactly,” Sebastian smiled. “I want your friends to like me! And he is a good friend. He looks up to you.”

“Can I ask you something? Richard?” James inquired hesitantly.

Sebastian smiled at him knowingly and appreciatively, stroking his cheek. “You keep surprising me. I don’t think I would have noticed if I hadn’t known him for many decades. Richard is quite charmed!”

“Peter is straight,” James stated.

“These things can be so complicated,” Sebastian sighed. “Peter does like girls, but he also appreciates men a little older, men like Richard. And Richard is a nice looking man.”

“You read his mind?” James asked.

“No, reading minds I reserve for necessary occasions,” Sebastian said. “But emotion conveys so much more.”

“Tell me about Richard,” James said.

“That is a story…. Come inside? I’m feeling a little drained,” Sebastian said with a smile.

Wrapping his arm around Sebastian, James walked toward the house. Inside they sat down, and Sebastian began, “You remember I told you I was something of a regional leader in the shadow community?”

“Shadow community?” James asked.

“The hidden world, the magical world if you will. In any case, Richard came here from England as a young man in 1821. He was human then, and he was following a girl, a girl he was madly in love with. He didn’t know she was a vampire, and wouldn’t admit that she was quite mad…. She turned him here, and then, one evening in the park she killed a man right in broad daylight…. I helped track them down, and sat on the tribunal settling her fate, and his.”

Sighing, Sebastian looked at the ceiling. “With her, we had no choice—she’d lost her mind and endangered us all. He was our problem: he was only madly in love and hadn’t revealed himself. But he wanted to die with her…. I pleaded with him, trying to convince him that his life didn’t have to end! I was on the verge of giving up when he relented, but by then the others were convinced Richard couldn’t be trusted. Only out of deference to me, they allowed him to live, on the condition that he remain with my house forever or until he found something he so devoted himself to that he would protect his own life. So for nearly two centuries he’s remained with me. And I’ve never seen him more alive than I saw him this morning….”

James smiled. “So you’re going to encourage him?”

Sebastian smiled. “What else could I do? He’s like a son to me, and I only want to see him happy!”

“But you spent so long doubting happiness was possible,” James said.

“I want better for others! I trained him, helped him control the urges. In his life, he’s only killed a handful, and none to be sorry over, I assure you. He is by nature a lover…. And the vampire never took that away!” Sebastian explained.

“Not from you, either,” James smiled, kissing him.

“Not even from me. Not even the long millennia have erased that,” Sebastian slipped.

James sat back, eyes wide, as it occurred to him. “Millennia?”

Sebastian swallowed, unsure, but the door opened and Richard and Peter entered laughing. Seeing the serious looks, they both fell silent. “How was it?” Sebastian asked Peter, a smile creeping onto his face.

“Awesome,” Peter said, Richard along with him. “Wow! This place is great….” Sebastian got up and showed him around the inside—Peter was particularly thrilled by the game room—then they all went out into the back yard, which James hadn’t seen yet. It was beautifully groomed, with a huge in-ground pool and a tennis court. “Holy shit! Too bad it’s too cold to swim!”

“I like to come out at night. With the high wall, I like skinny dipping,” Sebastian said as if it was nothing. Peter blushed a little at the honest and carefree admission. James smiled—it was a rare enough sight.

“We should have the team party here,” Peter mused half to himself.

“Peter,” James said. “Why in the world? You can’t just put that on Sebastian! Don’t feel pressure….”

Sebastian nodded with an even smile. “Why do you think that would be a good idea, Peter?”

“Well, first off, it’s a great place! The team party isn’t like a wild free-for-all…. It’s a member’s only sort of thing, plus girl-friends, or boy-friends of course…. It would be a nice way to bring the guys around, too. They’d be more comfortable if they got to know you, I bet!” Peter explained.

Sebastian cocked his head and smiled. “I like it… When would this party normally take place?”

“A Saturday next month,” Peter said.

“And, as luck would have it, Peter is in charge of putting it together! Running behind?” James teased.

Peter shrugged with a boyish smile. “Not much of a budget, either!”

Sebastian’s mind was already at work. “What kind of party is it?”

“Not formal, exactly, but the guys usually wear coats and ties to start, anyway. After the adults are gone, they let their hair down a bit. There is usually a dinner with awards and stuff, then when the coach and principal and stuff are gone, just music and … you know….”

“Indeed I do! Let me know how many people and I’ll make sure dinner is all set—maybe a big tent with heaters out here…. As for later, there’s a great sound system in the house, but if you want beer and stuff, you have to bring your own!”

This time, Peter did hug Sebastian. “You ARE the best!” Sebastian and Peter talked a little more about the party and they all went upstairs and played some games on the Wii. As it got dark, a still very excited Peter left, but not before talking to Richard alone.

Shortly, Richard drove Sebastian and James over to James’s house. “Mom! I’m home!” James called.

“Did you have fun?” she asked, coming from her room. “Oh! Hi, Sebastian….” James explained things about the team, which pleased her.

“Your father came by this morning to get his things,” she said. “It’s over…. Neither one of us is interested in trying anymore.”

“I’m sorry, mom,” James said, giving her a hug. Sebastian stood by uncomfortably.

“It was long overdue, hon. Sorry to be so heavy, Sebastian!”

“Don’t mind me,” he said. But over dinner, she did pay him a great deal of attention, and he answered her many questions as truthfully as he could, though giving his standard cover story—rich orphan.

After dinner she left them to their own devices, and they went upstairs to ‘watch television,’ mostly talking softly and making out. They did put a DVD in, just in case.

“You don’t have to host the stupid party, you know,” James said with a laugh.

“I know, but Peter’s right, it’ll help people … you know, understand better. Anyway, what else do I have to do? I have people for business, and mostly I read. Why not?” Sebastian asked with a smile.

“Well, it means a lot to me that you care enough to do this for me!” James smiled back at him.

“You’re very welcome. But I’m also doing it for Peter and, of course, Richard. Richard is going to help him with some of the planning….”

“You are a sneaky, sneaky old vamp,” James teased.

“You know it,” Sebastian said.

SO,” James sighed deeply, snaking his hand beneath the waist band of Sebastian’s pants, “millennia?”

Sebastian gasped and chuckled. “I like this interrogation technique better than most! Mmmm.”

“Tell me vat you know,” James said in a cheesy accent.

Between moans, Sebastian got it out in crude but romantic bursts. “I am … one of the oldest left who still come out … oh…. I saw Rome burn…. I once saw the high priest in Jerusalem from the Israel courtyard…. I saw slaves build pyramids, and I saw great famines…. We were the demon gods of the ancient near east, feared and revered. We held back the tides, sometimes protecting, sometimes decimating…. I was a young man, fair skinned for my people, born in the cradle of civilization in a vast city called Ur…. I was sought as a husband for many girls while I was a young boy, both for my beauty and my family’s wealth, but I had no desire for girls…. I never did, and I told my father so…. When I reached the age of 16, I was told I had to marry, but still I refused. Even drink did little….”

James, entranced by the story, ceased his rhythmic motion. “At that time, a dark pestilence was over the land and the dark lords would not be appeased, so my father sent me as an offering. I was sent into the desert to meet my end. The very first night, I came upon a man. He was young, perhaps twenty-five, tall, dark skinned and powerfully built. His eyes glowed like black fire, and he faced me with arrogance.”

“‘Who are you, boy?’ he asked. But I was not cowed. I faced him with straight back and stated proudly, ‘I am the son of Nahor the Chaldean, and my father has sent me into the desert as an offering to the dark gods to end this curse….’”

“His grin chilled me to the core. ‘Why would your father do such a thing with such a delicious morsel?’ And I answered, ‘Because I am proud, and desire only the company of a man, and have refused marriage, bringing shame on our clan….’”

“Oh how he laughed, then, transforming into a horrific visage, the figure that shaped the religious imaginings of my people. ‘Come then, little sacrifice, and meet your god….’ And I did: I walked to him, upright and showing no fear, though he could smell it on me. ‘My, you are beautiful…. And are you not afraid to die?’ he asked.”

“I nodded, and answered, ‘I am afraid, but not to die,’ and I reached out and touched him. Instantly, he reverted to his beautiful manly form and kissed me passionately. He dropped his robe and ripped my clothes off, and turned me around, taking me impatiently. But oh…. Just before we came, he sank his fangs into my shoulder and drained me to the point of death!”

“Only when I returned to consciousness days later did I discover that he had not killed me after all, but had transformed me…. Oh, James, the beings I have met! Only you know what I am. I never talk about this….”

As if lost in a trance, his eyes grew distant and he added, “I met a vampire so fierce she was a god in Egypt, Sekhmet. I was a young vampire then, and she terrified me! She delighted in her demonic form, never appearing fully human. God only knows how old she was then! Sometimes, when I dream, I still see her, and across the cold eons, I have occasionally felt her presence. Those very old ones, you see, they are still … out there. But long ago, they succumbed to the darkness. But they are only sleeping! James?”

James shook his head, “Hmmm? Oh, I was just … wow! I mean, my God! How long did you stay with him?”

Sebastian laid his head on James’s chest and said, “He taught me to get by, and a few tricks of the trade before he tired of me. A hundred years, perhaps?”

James nodded thoughtfully. “I can’t imagine tiring of you,” James said, stroking Sebastian’s smooth chest. “Is he one of the old ones who is still around?”

“No,” Sebastian said.

“Do you know?” James asked.

“Yes, and it’s truly not a story that I feel like telling,” Sebastian said, trying not to be too abrupt.

James let it be. “So, roughly how old does that make you?”

“Roughly? Shall we round and say four thousand years, give or take?” James was absolutely silent, stroking the hair of perhaps the closest thing to an immortal that still walked in the daylight among men.

“Ur? Are your ancestors famous for anything?” James asked numbly

“Oh, yes…. But I’ll leave that to you, a little treasure hunt if you will,” Sebastian said, smiling as he felt the boy kiss his head. “By the way, you have some unfinished business….”

Again in his silly accent, James said, “Since you have been a good boy and told me vat I need to know, I vill give you a little treat.” He rolled Sebastian onto his back and dragged his pants down, smiling up at the vampire from between his knees. When James finished, Sebastian pinned him, kissing him greedily.

“Mmmm,” Sebastian said with a smile. “I wish I could stay with you, but….”

“I wish I could come home with you,” James whispered.

“We don’t want to push it with your mom,” Sebastian answered. They kissed again, and James walked Sebastian to the door and watched him ride away.

Closing the door he found Maureen smiling. “Things going well?” she asked.

“Like a dream,” he said with a smile. “I just can’t describe….”

Later, as he got ready for bed, he logged on and jumped a little when his computer pinged, announcing an incoming email from Chris: “James! I went out with Steve tonight on a real date! He picked me up and took me to dinner and a movie…. We sat in the back row, and he held my hand! Can you believe it? I wanted to kiss him when we got to my house, but I was so nervous, I only could kiss him on the cheek again! It’s unreal! Thank you thank you thank you!” James could practically see the shy boy hopping up and down as he typed.

He answered, “I’m so happy for you…. But next time, kiss him for real! See you soon, James.”

Then he remembered and went to Google and typed in the name, Nahor. He read, shaking his head in utter disbelief:

Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran … in Ur of the Chaldees…. And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah … But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there…. Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing….

“No shit,” James whispered.

***

Just before lunch on Sunday, Steve called and asked, “Can I come by your place?”

“Sure,” James said, working on some homework. “When?”

The doorbell rang, James smiled at the heavy footfalls on the steps. Short of breath, Steve stuck his head in. “Hope you don’t mind?” James shook his head, smiling, and Steve began telling him about the previous night’s date. He went into far too much detail, but James just smiled and listened. Finally, Steve declared, “It was fantastic! I just wish that he had kissed me….”

“He’s shy! You might have to help him along, but he definitely wants it too,” James replied

“You’re sure?” Steve asked. James nodded and Steve nodded back with determination. Steve lay back on the bed and declared, “I’m bored, and Chris is busy….”

“I’ve got homework,” James declared with a smile.

“Yeah, Chris too, but you’ll blow it off. He won’t,” Steve replied. James laughed and shook his head.

“What do you want to do?” James asked.

“Let’s just get out! We could go walk around the mall: I always wanted to guy watch with someone! I couldn’t do that with Chris.” James laughed and grabbed his wallet.

At the mall they grabbed a bite in the food court and sat at a table. Steve would look at a guy and give him a rating from one to ten, while James just smiled and shook his head.

Finally, though, he followed Steve’s gaze to an ‘eight’ and exclaimed, “Steve, he’s like fourteen!”

“Sixteen, for sure, and I’m barely eighteen! Sheesh, man…. He’s cute! Look at the ass beneath those saggers, and that curly blond hair! Mmmmm,” Steve winked.

“It’s still weird…. He is kinda cute,” James admitted and Steve laughed. They talked about Chris and Sebastian a little, and Steve was floored when out of the blue, James declared, “Ten!” But when he turned to look, he punched James in the shoulder and said, “That’s cheating!”

“Boy watching?” Sebastian asked as he walked over with a grin. He was dressed a little differently, wearing blue jeans and a tight brown t-shirt, under his coat.

“We were trying,” Steve said with a false grumpiness. “How’re you doing? How did you know we were here?”

“Great! And I didn’t, just a happy coincidence,” he said, though James knew better. Then he frowned and said, “Zero! Let’s walk….” As the man, whose dirty t-shirt didn’t quite stretch over his belly, sat in their line of sight leering at them, they threw away their trash and walked around the mall. They spent the afternoon like normal teens, before they all went their own way, Steve and James to do homework, and Sebastian returning to his ‘lair’.

***

The next few weeks passed normally, with school, practice, and helping Peter plan the party. Steve and Chris were growing closer daily, and James and Sebastian spent most every evening together at one place or the other. Maureen had filed for divorce and the first hearing was scheduled for a Monday at the beginning of December, a couple of days after the team party.

Sebastian spent the day before the party making very special preparations, warding the doors to his bedroom and the basement so that only he or James or Richard could enter them. He also oversaw the erection of the elegant tent for dinner in the back yard. The caterer was his favorite and required no oversight. That evening, Steve, Peter and James came over to Sebastian’s and were amazed by the transformation at the house. Again, Peter thanked Sebastian heartily. They all helped with a few last-minute things and left James and Sebastian to themselves.

“Mom’s letting me spend the weekend,” he said, grabbing Sebastian around the waist, “and there is no practice tomorrow! So we can do whatever and still rest for the party!”

“Whatever?” Sebastian teased.

James kissed him softly and stroked his cheek, whispering, “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Sebastian smiled softly. “Which reminds me! It’s here….” He led James to the bedroom. In the middle of the bed sat a large package. “Open it!” James sat down, smiling confusedly, and opened the package, which was lighter than it looked. Out of the box slid a case, which he opened. Inside, he found an exquisite hand-carved violin, made by a master luthier in Boston. “Do you like it?”

James carefully sat it down and stood, his eyes misty, grabbing Sebastian. “It’s gorgeous! And more importantly, it’s from you….” James kissed him deeply and felt Sebastian’s hands on his back.

James grabbed him, and Sebastian wrapped his legs around James’s waist. After rescuing the violin, the boys stripped down and James pounced on the smiling Sebastian, who playfully manhandled the big quarterback, easily tossing him onto the bed. James laughed and said, “That was fun!” Sebastian straddled him as they made out, until James felt Sebastian pressing hot into his abs. James pulled him down to him and asked, “Make love to me tonight?”

Sebastian caressed his chest and smiled up at him — “Are you sure?”

“I want you to make me yours,” James whispered. In the throes of their lovemaking, James grasped at Sebastian’s smooth flesh, exciting Sebastian further. James saw the desire as Sebastian licked James’s inner thigh resting on his left shoulder. “Do it, baby,” James urged, and Sebastian, never opening his eyes, dug his fangs deep into the soft, hairy skin. Almost instantly, James came. Sebastian drew deeply on the first drink, but then suckled lightly, playfully, sending a surge of electricity from James’s stomach to his groin with every suck.

“Fucking fantastic,” James said, as Sebastian collapsed into him, kissing his chest. “But let’s get cleaned up….” After their shower, they got partially dressed—silk pajama bottoms all around—and had a snack in the kitchen. Then Sebastian fetched the violin and gave James a basic lesson in the living room. The big muscular boy, naked from the waist up and holding the fine instrument, was a huge turn-on, and Sebastian felt a familiar stirring as he watched.

When they finished, James gave him another hot kiss and a tight hug, before they camped out in front of the television to relax until James was ready for bed. Though it was really time for the sleepless ancient to be at his most active, Sebastian cuddled up with James so he could listen to the boy’s rhythmic heartbeat and bask in his warmth. Sebastian’s own body was room temperature, and his heart beat once or twice a minute. The fast thumping of James’s heart soothed him deeply.

Sebastian recalled Luca Morelli, a fourteenth century Italian boy. He was a young man from a noble family, tall, dark skinned, with a beautiful smile—a bit effeminate for Sebastian’s normal taste, but there was something about him… Sebastian spent a year with Luca, playing in the woods and rolling around in his bed at night. Oh how he had wanted the boy to love him, as he felt he did Luca. But the boy’s father had presented Luca with a bride and his inheritance, and the boy had chosen.

Coming as it did following the poet’s warning, the betrayal let Sebastian to stop looking, but he never stopped hoping. Now, in 2009, he looked at the handsome sleeping face of this blossoming man, and he knew—he had felt—this boy’s love! And James knew him for what he was, and desired him anyway. A single pink-tinted tear rolled down Sebastian’s face onto James’ tan chest.

Sebastian rolled over and sat up. He walked to the window and looked out into the darkness. What could he do? The thought of turning James, that beautiful creature, into a monster sickened him. But could he watch James slip away? Could he live a loveless life after James was gone? He smiled. Perhaps when James was through, he’d go for a long sleep, like the old ones. He smiled and thought to himself, ‘Who am I to speak of old ones?’

“Mmmm,” he heard, as James stretched, “Are you there?”

“I’m here, my love,” Sebastian said with a smile as he walked back to the bed, and James curled into him, kissing his neck. And, for a little while, Sebastian did sleep in his warm arms.

***

Morning came early, but James slept in for once. Around 10, he stretched, and Sebastian stirred next to him. They got ready and went down to grab a bite in the kitchen; then Sebastian watched James practice the violin, giving him encouragement and the occasional correction. Finally, they got ready and Sebastian drove them out to a fine men’s clothier, and Sebastian took James inside. He dispatched Richard to attend to Peter and to help him with the last few things.

“Monsieur van der Meer, how wonderful to see you,” the man said, beaming.

“You too, Jacques! It’s been too long….” The two talked for a moment, and Sebastian told him what he’d like, a navy suit for himself, and a navy blazer, along with a pair of khaki trousers, for James. “The thing is, Jacques, I need these for the evening, so we’ll need rush fitting service!”

Jacques picked up the phone and spoke to someone in a flurry of French. “My wife tells me that, for you, she can have the adjustments made by this afternoon! Send Richard around about four?”

“Perfect,” he said, and the man took his measurements.

“I don’t know why I bother,” the man said, shaking his head. “You never change….” Then he turned his attention to James and took detailed measurements. “That should be fine!”

Outside, James asked, “Do they … know about you?”

“Yes,” he said as they hopped in. “Jacques and his wife Marie came to America in the 1970s with a young child, Stefan.” As he said it, Sebastian shook his head and shivered. “Stefan disappeared from their yard one evening. There are some terrible things in my world, James, and one of those things was in our town that day! Jacques was absolutely certain that what he had glimpsed taking his son was a werewolf. When this was brought to my attention, I came, offering to investigate, in return for his public silence, for his own good and for ours. I knew immediately by scent that no werewolf had taken his son, however, but a demon!”

“Demons?” James asked.

Sebastian’s frown darkened, “Everything you’ve heard and worse! This particular kind of demon takes children to feed on. Foolishly, I allowed Jacques to accompany me into the woods. There are some caves behind his home, and it wasn’t long until we came across the being. I had no choice but to fight him immediately, to protect Jacques and save myself. It was a fierce beast! I was desperately wounded, but I did kill the physical form of the beast. Not as good as binding it to the pit, though, given my level of preparedness, I shouldn’t have even survived. Jacques knew what I was, then. He brought me to his home, and he and his wife each … fed me, freely and unasked. Afterwards, I was healed enough, and could call for Richard….”

“Why did they do it?” James asked.

 “I never asked. Perhaps they realized that evil is not all the same,” Sebastian mused. “In any case, Jacques watched me tear to pieces the beast that killed his only son.”

 “Did they ever have any more children?” James wondered out loud.

 Sebastian smiled brightly. “Yes, happily…. Two girls and a boy, all doing well….”

 “Good,” James said, looking out the window.

 They dropped by the caterer, who told them she planned to arrive around 5:30 to set up and assured them that everything was alright. Then Sebastian called Richard to ask him to stop by the tailor’s on the way home. He hung up, shaking his head.

 “What?” James asked, smiling.

 “Peter…. He really revs Richard’s engine,” Sebastian laughed.

 “Peter is a hunk,” James smiled.

 Then, more serious, Sebastian asked, “What if something happened between them? What if Richard wanted to turn him?”

 “Would Peter have a say in that?” James asked.

 “With Richard, he would,” Sebastian said with certainty.

 “If that’s what Peter wanted, I’d say … fine,” James replied.

 “Really? You’d be alright with him … turning your friend into that?” Sebastian asked, sounding surprised.

 “Being a vampire doesn’t mean being a monster,” James said softly.

 “I … am not as good as you think,” Sebastian said darkly.

 James just smiled and put a hand on his knee, shaking his head. Back at the house, they waited in the living room, where they greeted the caterer and her serving staff and Sebastian gave them their instructions. Her staff went about setting the tables, while Sebastian and James showered upstairs. Sebastian sat on the counter talking to James while he shaved, clearly fascinated by the ritual he was not burdened with. Richard soon arrived and brought their new clothes up and laid them on the bed, as Peter ran home to get ready.

 When James and Sebastian were dressed, Sebastian led him through one last check, and James observed, “You must have held a lot of parties….”

 “Too many to remember,” he laughed. “For emperors and kings and popes, socialites and artists! But this is definitely a first … for a high school football team,” he added, still laughing.

“Well, Peter appreciates it, though he won’t show his appreciation like I will,” James said in a sultry voice.

“He might,” Sebastian teased, finally adding, “but not to me….”

“You think?” James asked.

“I think Peter has developed his own affection for Richard,” Sebastian said with a nod. About that time the doorbell rang and the first few guests, including the coaches and their wives arrived, along with some of the school’s leadership. Sebastian walked to the door and met his guests with charm.

“My! I didn’t realize that our host was so young,” Mrs. Fields, the principal exclaimed, taking his hand.

“It is my pleasure,” he said, “as a friend of the school…. Let me show you around,” he said, taking her arm in one of his, and the coach’s wife’s arm in the other.

“Your friend’s a charmer, Barton,” the coach said, standing in the entryway with his junior staff and star quarterback. James nodded and led the men to the yard, where they were offered drinks. A few more of the guys arrived with their dates, and things started to pick up.

When Peter showed up, though, Richard answered the door with a smile that positively wilted at the sight of Peter’s clingy date. Sensing that Peter was not disinterested in her, Richard was crestfallen, and while he showed them to the yard, he was entirely muted. Peter smiled and tried to talk to him, but Richard withdrew quickly to the house.

Sebastian escorted the two women to the back yard, where Mrs. Fields exclaimed, “My this is beautiful…. We can’t thank you enough for providing all of this, Mr. van der Meer!”

“Sebastian, please! Excuse me, ladies,” he said with a smile, walking over to James.

“Way to go,” James said with a smile.

Before Sebastian could respond, Peter slipped away from his date and walked over. “What’s wrong with Richard? He seemed upset….” Sebastian looked over at Peter’s date and raised his eyebrows, nodding to James.

“Why don’t you go ask him? You’ll find him in the garage, probably,” Sebastian said.

Peter whispered to his date and walked into the house, finding hired servers were manning Richard’s post. Peter went out the kitchen door into the closed garage. Richard had hung his coat by the door and rolled up his sleeves, revealing muscular forearms which were streaked with grease from whatever he was working on. Whatever it was, he was intensely focused. “Richard?” Richard looked over, paused, then went back to work at the bench. “Did I do something?”

Richard sort of scowled, but then his faced softened. “No…. I’m being silly!”

 “What’s the matter?” Peter asked, drawing nearer, and Richard could feel his heat. He swallowed deeply and shook his head.

 “I’m just a silly old fool!” Richard exclaimed.

 “You aren’t old enough to be a silly old anything,” Peter said, putting a hand on Richard’s shoulder, causing the man to sort of slump forward on the counter. “What’s wrong?”

 Richard sighed, and then suddenly and with terrible speed rounded on Peter and moved in close, planting a soft kiss on his lips. At first, Peter tensed and pulled away, but Richard grabbed him tight and Peter grew limp beneath the passion of the kiss. Then Richard felt Peter’s hands on his hips and Peter kissing him back. The boy pulled away and grinned. “You were jealous!” Richard blushed as much as a vampire could and nodded. Peter ran a finger down Richard’s forearm and said, “I’ve got to get back to her, but once the party’s over, we’ll discuss this….”

 “You won’t…?” Richard asked.

 “No, I won’t,” Peter said.

 “She’ll try,” Richard said with a laugh.

 “And ten minutes ago, I would have let her…. See you around,” Peter said over his shoulder as he moved to return to the party. In the back yard, Sebastian had already smiled knowingly to James and nodded.

When Peter returned, he called things to order, and they all sat down to begin the annual program of awards and little speeches. But before they could begin, one last surprise was in order. The doorbell rang.

As Steve and his date walked into the yard, James’s back was to the door so he didn’t see, but he saw the mouths of all the guys on the other side of the table fall open. One guy mouthed, “No shit?!” Peter’s face was priceless, a mixture of surprise and absolute confusion, as he stood. James turned and saw Steve walking toward the table with his arm around Chris. James was on his feet in a flash as Peter walked over to Steve.

“You two?” Peter demanded. Chris looked terrified as his oldest friend walked toward him with an unreadable look. Peter frowned at the boy and said, “You should have told me,” as he embraced him, whispering “Steve’s a good guy.” Chris nodded teary-eyed. James shook hands with Steve and Chris and then had them sit so that Chris was between Steve and him.

Peter got things going again then to take the attention off of Chris, who was glowing red. James whispered something to Chris, making him smile and Peter felt better. The coaches said a few words and gave out letters to the active team members, as well as awards to players for their accomplishments. Then everybody ate and talked and had a generally good time, and a lot of the guys really did warm up to Sebastian and even Chris, whom they all knew either positively as Peter’s ‘little bro’ or negatively as his ‘pet’. Nobody would be messing with him. A little after nine, the meal and dessert were finished, and Sebastian escorted the adults to the front and thanked them all for coming.

Peter ushered everybody inside, and they turned up the music and brought out the beer. Some people were dancing, other people were socializing. Others played pool upstairs. James sort of milled around with Sebastian, and the guys thanked for him hosting.

By midnight the guys started to clear out, probably to spend some private time with their dates, and the hired servers started to clean up. Soon, Peter excused himself, saying he needed to get his date home but would come back to ‘help,’ leaving only Steve and Chris, and Sebastian and James. Rather than tell him not to bother, Sebastian nodded with a smile.

“So how did Steve convince you to come with him, Chris?” James asked.

Chris smiled, and said, “I’ve been made picked on for years, but nobody’s seriously going to mess with me because of Peter, so why hide, especially with all you big athletes coming out of the woodwork?”

James smiled and patted him on the shoulder. “How do your families feel about it all?”

Chris said, “It’s just me and mom, and she’s known since I was like eleven. She caught me in the bedroom with a … men’s catalogue!” They all giggled at that and James ruffled his shaggy brown hair.

“My dad was a hippie,” Steve said, “so when I told him, he just asked me if I had tried girls. I said they never did it for me, so he shrugged and went back to reading the paper…. My mom got a little weepy about not having any grandkids, so I told her I could always knock up a cheerleader if it would make her feel better. She just gave me a look and waved me off. So we’re okay….”

“I’m glad it was nothing like my dad,” James observed.

Peter soon returned, but he was out in the garage like a flash, leaving James and Sebastian smiling at one another.

“What’s that all about?” Chris asked, and James just shook his head.

“Let’s go see,” James suggested. Opening the garage, they caught Peter kissing Richard.

Peter looked mortified, but realized his audience was all close friends. “What?” he asked, shrugging exaggeratedly.

Chris, however, got a little snippy. “All those years I follow you around, and here?”

Peter looked at him apologetically. “I’m bi, Chris, and it’s not that you aren’t cute, but my taste in men runs a little … older.” Now it was Richard’s turn to look embarrassed. “Besides, you got Steve, and that’s a good catch!” Soon there was blushing all around.