2 Promise

When Chase awoke, he felt a strong arm around his chest and a big warm body behind him. Chase pressed himself back contentedly into the hard body.  The contact sparked little boyish experimentation.

“Good morning,” Chase said, giggling, pulling William up on top of him and kissing him passionately. “This is an amazing way to wake up!”

“I’m glad you liked it!” William said, and Chase kissed him again.

“I’ve got to get ready for school,” Chase said, grabbing his things and heading to the bathroom to get ready. William laid in the bed, thinking about Chase—he’d miss him during the day. He almost wished he could go to school. Almost! A self-starter, William learned better on his own, from books, from the computer, and by practice; school was very hard for him.

“So what are you doing today?” Chase asked as he returned, adorable in his school’s uniform of navy pants, white shirt, and blazer with school crest.

“My God, that’s sexy,” William said, coming up behind him and wrapping his arms around Chase.

“Glad you think so,” Chase said, turning around and standing on his tiptoes to kiss William softly on the lips. “Now get dressed and have some breakfast with me!”

William pulled on some gym shorts and a t-shirt, and followed Chase downstairs. “So what are you doing today?” Chase repeated.

“Well, I’m going to get my lab set up, and I guess I’ll get back to my studies. I also need to see if someone can take me to get a new computer,” William said.

“Steve works from home,” Sarah said, entering the room putting on her earrings, looking very professional in her navy skirt suit and heels. “Just tell him to forward the phone to his cell and get off his ass!”

“Hey!” Steve said, standing with mussed hair in his robe in front of the coffee pot. “Just because we don’t all have to navigate the corporate jungle to earn our keep, you don’t have to hate on us!”

“What do you do?” William asked the adults.

“Brunhilda is a corporate fat-cat,” Steve said with a laugh, as his wife tossed a hand towel in his face.

“I’m a scientist,” Sarah said with a little fire, “who doesn’t get to spend much time in the lab anymore. I’m the VP for development at a small pharmaceutical company.”

“I’m just a troubleshooter,” Steve added. Chase laughed, but didn’t say anything. “What, Chase?”

“Troubleshooter? Dad helps keep small, troubled companies in business!” Steve shrugged and sat down with his cereal next to the boys.

“William and I are men of leisure!” Mother and son made disapproving faces and quickly ate their breakfast. Shortly, Matt burst through the door.

“Come on! The bus is a block away.” Chase threw his bag over his shoulder, gave his mom and dad pecks on the cheek and William a peck on the lips before hurrying after Matt. Chase didn’t want to abuse the fact that the bus would wait for him. After Sarah left, William disappeared upstairs and returned with two books.

“What are you up to?” Steve asked.

“Well, I’m putting some notes together. When the building arrives, I’m going to turn it into a professional magical workshop. I’m just trying to figure out what all I’ll need, and what’s top priority. And, I’m trying to keep up with my school work, not that I plan on going back to school.”

“No?” Steve asked, surprised, “Not even when all this is sorted out?”

“No, I’ll take all the tests, but I just don’t see the need for it! I’ve got important things to do,” William said.

Steve laughed and nodded, “I’m sorry that you’ve had to grow up so fast. If you have the chance to enjoy life a little now, you should take it!”

“I never particularly enjoyed school! Let me learn about things in my own way, great…. Make me read boring texts and vomit it back and I suck,” William said.

“Well, I can’t say I agree, but it sounds like you’ve thought it out. Promise me you’ll at least let us show you around Chase’s school? They encourage individual learning,” Steve explained. 

“Alright! I’ll check it out,” William promised.

“Good man,” Steve said, patting William’s shoulder as he hurried to grab the phone. William sat working for a couple of solid hours, mostly reading a history of the Crusades he’d taken from his father’s shelf before the explosion. Occasionally he took a break to note a spell he needed to remember as it occurred to him.

When the building arrived, Steve explained where he wanted it and unlocked the side gate so they could back their truck in. Afterwards he and William had a sandwich and watched the men work. When it was in place, they inspected it for damage and Steve signed the work order. After he locked the gate behind the men, Steve said, “Now, let’s go check on that computer!”

William reinstated his glamour, and they headed for the local Best Buy. William settled on a high-powered laptop, with a big screen, a big hard drive and a lot of memory. It was the most expensive, but William meant for it to last. They also browsed the store. Steve picked up some movies, and William grabbed a CD.

Back at home, William laid his computer on the bed and grabbed his bag of magical implements and his wand before heading into the back yard.

William took a bottle of enchanted ink and a pen from the bag and began drawing symbols on and above the doors and windows of the structure. Each completed sigil would glow red and become quite invisible. He had just finished the last drawing when the back door of the house opened.

“Whatcha doing?” Matt called.

Looking to his hand, William said, “A little touch-up on the paint….”

“So what is that for?” Matt continued.

“I’ve got a lot of hobbies and plenty of time. Get’s me out of the house!” Throwing his bag inside the building, he walked toward the boys still in their uniforms. Noticing Matt’s casual way, his tie loosened, his reddish-brown hair carefully ruffled, William noticed for the first time how cute he was.

The three boys talked until Matt left. William wanted to get a little more work done. “Do you mind? I need to do a little more work to secure my lab, and there are a few other things I want to do,” William explained to Chase.

Chase smiled. “I’ve got homework! I’ll call you for dinner….”

“Thanks, sweetheart,” William said, leaning in to kiss Chase’s neck softly. “You don’t mind me calling you that?”

“No,” Chase whispered, burying his face in William’s chest. As Chase turned, William gave him a swift pat on the behind, lighting up Chase’s face.

Down at his shed, William took his wand, stood where he wouldn’t be seen, and began the complex incantations that would protect his space from detection and intrusion. He had mastered many of these protecting himself in the forest, but the process still took nearly two hours.

Then he focused on the inside. The building was well-designed, with shelves on the walls and hook-ups for power. He began taking magical items and potions ingredients from his bag and placing them on his shelves, taking stock of what he would need. He’d need a cauldron; his was a “travel” size, about one quart. He had a very nice mortar and pestle carved from a stone from the quarries that had supplied Stonehenge.

He had nearly two-hundred jars and vials of herbs, spices, and other biological material, and a set of books from his family’s magical library. The most powerful of these books magickally replicated the information from all the books it ever shared a shelf with. Then there was a portfolio full of loose papers, family trees and instructions for processes invented by members of his family, as well as photographs and sketches. He sorted the documents, keeping the photos and family stuff with him but leaving the spells and other notes with the books. Temporarily they’d be safe enough there. Then he unpacked a series of other instruments and implements, including a set of knives and daggers, cloaks, capes, cups and chalices, candles and candlesticks, and many other things.

When William heard Chase’s sweet voice calling his name, he stepped outside and locked the door with his wand. He approached the house carrying his portfolio, and wrapped his arm around the boy’s shoulder as they walked inside. Sarah looked at them and smiled, and William felt more secure.

“How’s the work coming?” Steve asked.

“It’s coming! The spells are tricky, but I practiced them in the woods to protect myself, so I know them. I was just going through my supplies, and I’ll need to go back to the forest soon and collect some specimens,” he said.

“Specimens?” Sarah asked, hesitantly, causing William to laugh.

“Herbs, fungi, and, in the spring, flowers and fruits … and insects! There are a few things that are less pleasant, but nothing sinister,” he chuckled. “Also, I was thinking of planting a little herb garden around the shed. It’ll look good and provide me, and the kitchen, with a steady supply!”

“Of course,” Sarah said with a laugh, before asking, “Why insects?” fairly certain she didn’t want to know.

“Some insects have properties necessary for some potions, but for my purposes, insects make very good surveillance,” William explained.

Chase laughed, “You’re going to use them as bugs?”

“Exactly! That’s our term! I’ll use them to watch my building and the outside of the house from a distance,” William said with a smile.

“Extraordinary,” Sarah proclaimed, pushing food around her plate.

“You’re nervous about tomorrow?” William finally asked, and the woman smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t be! I know everything will work out!”

“I just don’t want to get my hopes up,” she said.

“They’re doing some pretty amazing things, so unless you’ve been cursed by some powerful black magick or Steve’s been fixed, I can’t imagine it won’t work! There are a couple of things, though.” All eyes were on the boy, demanding explanation. “There are two risks, one common to all fertility treatments—multiples!”

“Oh, twins,” Chase exclaimed.

“Or octuplets,” Steve responded, drawing the smile from his son’s face.

“Oh, yeah!” Chase said.

“What’s the other?” Sarah asked.

“If they have to use magick, your babies will have been exposed to it at their very conception. Not unlike all magical beings,” William said.

“Ahhh,” Steve said, thoughtfully.

“What?” Sarah demanded.

“My little brothers and sisters might be wizards,” Chase mused.

“It’s hard to say, since your parents aren’t magical. Some might be full-fledged wizards. It happens to some children naturally. But you can expect them to have various kinds of psychic or other abilities,” William explained.

“I … I guess we’re lucky to have you here, then,” Sarah said, her desire to have children overcoming whatever concerns the news might have raised.

“You’ll be a good brother,” Chase said, happily. Steve and Sarah raised their eyebrows at William but said nothing, while Chase remained oblivious.

After dinner, Steve said, “I got some movies today. You guys want to watch one?”

“Sure,” Chase said, and William shrugged. William helped Steve with the dishes, and then they all went to the living room and sat around the big TV. Steve and Sarah sat on the couch, and William sat in the big armchair, which left Chase with a decision. Instead of sitting on the loveseat by himself, he sat on William’s lap, his soft blond curls tickling William’s shoulder.

“Would you be more comfortable on the loveseat?” William whispered while Steve started the movie, and Chase shook his head no. Instead, Chase cuddled and held him tight. When William had the sudden urge to go to the bathroom, he stood up with Chase in his arms and sat the boy down, running to the bathroom. When he returned, he dragged Chase over to the loveseat. William lay down, and Chase curled in next to him, wrapping William’s arm around him for security. Both boys had fallen asleep when the movie ended.

Sarah looked at the boys and sighed. “I wish….”

“Sarah,” Steve warned.

Giving Steve a hard look, the woman said, “… I had a camera!”

“Sorry, dear,” Steve said, and grabbed it for his wife. She took the picture of the boys cuddled together sleeping, and then Steve woke them, shaking their shoulders. “Boys! Run up to bed or you’ll be sore in the morning!” Groggily, they made their way upstairs, barely awake enough to strip and crawl beneath the covers. The last thing William remembered was Chase cuddling up beside him, hand on his chest and smooth leg draped over his own.

And it was Chase poking him in the side that woke William in the middle of the night. Chase’s beautiful face wore a look of ecstasy that spoke of pleasant dreams. William ducked beneath the sheets, and soon Chase’s moans and whispers made William thankful that the boy’s parents’ bedroom was on the other side of the house. In his turn, Chase would reduce William to putty.

Sticky and sweaty, William whispered, “That was so hot!”

The boys made out for a few minutes, until they got really sleepy again. As they cuddled up to fall asleep, though, Chase whispered, “You begging me was so hot!”

“I did not,” William said, blushing.

Chase mimicked William: “Oh, Chase, oh yeah! Please…. Oh yeah, do it!”

William laughed, and said, “Alright, so maybe I did! And it would have been wonderful! But I want to try to make it special, somehow, when we do that….” Chase nodded and kissed the boy on the shoulder. “Maybe, for your birthday,” William suggested, smiling and wiggling his eyebrows.

“Maybe! Now let’s go to sleep before I get hard again!” Chase said, wiggling his eyebrows. William smiled, hugging the boy close, and soon they were back to sleep.

The next morning, Chase woke early, so he got up and showered, letting William sleep in. After he dressed, Chase sat down at the desk and logged on to his computer, putting one hand on the Braille readout. He checked his email and answered a few from friends, some from the camp he attended in the summer for blind teens. He told some of his closest friends that he had met someone, though he didn’t yet come out to them.

Before leaving, Chase felt for William very gently until his hand touched the boy’s muscular bicep. Chase leaned in, using the arm as his guide, and kissed William on the cheek.

Downstairs, his parents were having their coffee and planning to meet at the doctor’s office. “Everything alright?” Steve asked, seeing his son come downstairs alone.

“William’s still asleep. I didn’t want to wake him,” Chase answered.

“William spent weeks in the forest alone and nearly sleepless. It’ll take a long time before he’s fully rested,” Steve mused. Chase nodded and sat down to eat a bite, before heading out to meet Matt. Sarah talked to the boys before driving to work. Steve went to his office to take care of his morning’s tasks. By ten, he’d still not heard William stir, so he went and got dressed for the doctor’s visit, then walked upstairs. William was sprawled out on the bed, exposing most of his sleek, tan body. Quietly Steve approached and pulled the covers over the boy before shaking his shoulder.

“William? William, it’s time to get up!” William groaned and looked up to see Steve looking very amused. “Looks like you’re catching up on lost sleep!”

William groaned and stretched and started to get out of bed until he remembered he was naked. Trying not to look embarrassed, William said, “I’ll be down in a minute,” and waited for the man to leave.

Alone, he pulled on a pair of light knit shorts and a t-shirt, and went downstairs to eat some cereal. As he sat to eat, Steve sat down next to him.

“What time is your appointment?” William asked.

“1, but I’m meeting Sarah at 12,” the man replied.

“Chase is very excited,” William said, but when the man raised his eyebrows, William blushed and said, exasperated, “about the possibility of a sibling!”

“He’s also very excited about you being a big brother,” the man said.

William sighed and shrugged. “Look, I….”

“William, chill,” the man said, laughing, and misunderstanding the source of William’s discomfort. “I know how you feel about my son! You put enough money in his name to cover him for life, and you look at him like…. Well, Chase is a very passionate boy, he loves very deeply! If I give you a hard time, it’s in fun!” William blushed again, at the man’s words and at his own overreaction. “Besides, who would I be to question the word of an angel?”

Changing subjects somewhat, William asked, “When is Chase’s birthday?”

“Two weeks from yesterday,” Steve said.

“Are you having a party for him?” William asked.

“Yeah, Sunday, the day before his birthday,” Steve said. William nodded. He had almost two weeks to figure out what to do for his boyfriend, but he already had an idea. He just hoped it wouldn’t kill him.

Before long, Steve got ready to go and William asked, “Can I keep the card for today? I want to order some things online for my lab.” The man dug in his wallet and pulled out the Visa debit card that drew on Chase’s account.

“Just print out the receipts for my records,” the man said, and before William asked, the man added, “Just do the shopping on my computer until you get yours set up with a printer!”

“Thanks, dad,” the boy said, and they both fell silent and still. “I,” the boy began, tears welling up in his eyes, and Steve hugged him tight.

“I’m sorry, William, for all that you are going through! I hope you know we’re all going to be here for you!” Steve whispered

The boy nodded, and sighed through light sobs. “You are a lot like him.”

“Thank you,” Steve said, taking the liberty of kissing William on the head. Then holding him by the shoulders, he said, “I have to go, now, but you have our cell phone numbers if you need us! I’m sorry, but….”

“Go!” William said, laughing off his last tears. “Your wife has been waiting about fifteen years, so I wouldn’t be late if I were you!” Before the man could turn to go, William gave him a hug and then waved him off.

Once he was alone, William sat down and tried to read, but he was too restless, so he went to the computer and ordered a large stainless steel table and bench for his lab, as well as set ups for a couple of Bunsen burners. Then he splurged and ordered a very expensive, top-of-the-line home weight machine. All this would be delivered within the week.

Still restless, he ran upstairs, put on his tennis shoes and grabbed his wand, which he slipped into the tight waistband of his briefs. Putting on his new standard glamour, William stepped out onto the front porch after leaving a note, and locked the door with his wand. Then he took off for a run. He remembered passing a park on the way to the Best Buy, so he followed the road they had taken, jogging through the large residential area. After nearly two miles, he ran veered into a large, grassy park, with big oak trees and the occasional picnic table, and ran on its trails. He passed the occasional walker, an older couple, and some stay-at-home moms, more than a few of whom openly admired William’s body.

Popping into the public restroom, William noticed that a man at the urinal two down from him was staring at him and rubbing himself. The man must have been Steve’s age, but was out of shape and generally creepy. As William finished and hurriedly started away, the man grabbed his ass, winking, and called after him, “Come back and play sometime!”

William was worse off emotionally than before and he took off at a dead heat, but his muscles were tiring quickly, as he had not had regular exercise in weeks. William was just getting into a downtown shopping area when he got a sharp cramp in his left leg that put him on the pavement, grasping at his leg in pain.

“Are you all right, young man?” an accented voice called out to him as he sat on the sidewalk.

“I pushed myself a little too hard and got a cramp…. I’ll be fine!” He looked up and saw and older gentleman, probably mid-sixties, in a tweed jacket leaning on a cane.

“Come on, let me help you inside. Rest a while, call someone if you need to,” the man said gently.

William was going to refuse but looked at the sign reading 5th Avenue Synagogue. Deciding it was safe enough, William struggled to his feet, and the man took his left arm and led him to the door, pushing the button on the intercom.

“How may I help you?” a woman asked.

“Irma, dear, it’s Rabbi Roth…. Buzz me in?” the man asked. The door buzzed, and the rabbi led William through the outer office into his own and sat him in a comfortable chair. A woman followed them. “Irma, be a dear and get the boy a soda! I found the poor lad sitting on the sidewalk in pain!” Irma soon returned with a Coca-Cola.

“Thank you,” William said, and the rabbi excused her.

Pulling a chair nearer the boy, the man held out his hand, “Sam Roth!”

“William … err … Abernathy. Nice to meet you, sir!” he answered.

“So, why don’t you tell me how you ended up on our sidewalk?” Rabbi Roth asked.

“Well, I was running,” William said.

“That’s not at all what I meant, William…. Of course, you know that! Why aren’t you in school today if you’re well enough to be running?” Roth asked.

“I’ve recently come to town because of family troubles … and school isn’t at the top of my list of priorities,” William answered.

“Education is very important,” the rabbi countered.

“Oh, I’m getting that! I was just reading a history of the Crusades,” William said.

“Oh,” the old man said, leaning back and grabbing a book from his shelf, “not this one?”

The boy nodded, and the man smiled approvingly. “So, these family problems?” Roth inquired.

“Rabbi, to tell you the truth, I’m in a dangerous situation, and I don’t know what I ought to tell you,” William said.

“Well, that’s honesty I can appreciate! But I’m just an old rabbi, and I can keep a confidence,” Sam said.

“My house was bombed, and my parents are dead…. Everyone, including my family, thinks I’m dead, but I’m in hiding!” William blurted.

The rabbi tilted his head, staring deep into the boy’s eyes. “William Jennings?”

The boy stood quickly and put too much weight on his leg, doubling over in excruciating pain. His hand flew automatically to his wand, but the words froze on his lips when he saw the smile on the man’s face.

“I’m sorry to startle you! I read about your tragedy in the papers,” the rabbi said. But then he admitted, “Truth be told, I know a little more than that! Put that away!” William lowered his wand but kept it in his lap. “I don’t blame you! My dear boy…. Your father, Alex, and I once served on a committee for the Society of Magick together….”

“Jewish wizards?” The thought brought a laugh to William, and the rabbi joined him.

“No, dear boy…. Well, in a manner of speaking, yes! As you may know, our tradition takes a dim view of magick, but the magick our founders encountered was based on blood and death and the manipulation of dark spirits. Practitioners of magick, like humankind in general, come from every world view. Judaism prohibits sorcery, but does allow a kind of mysticism. We practice mystical magick, very different from your own outwardly but based on quite the same principles. The Society of Magick has representatives and leaders from every school of magick, and its leadership represents us to the Shadow Council. Perhaps your father talked about his days in the Society, on the Council?”

“No, never,” William said.

“Then we have much to discuss…. You are right to stay out of school, at least for now. But you really shouldn’t be seen in public, either,” Roth said.

“I’m not. This form is a glamour,” William explained.

“Good show, young man! And I suppose I shouldn’t offer you a ride home…. I can’t expect your immediate trust,” Roth said, smiling.

“No,” William said, smiling. “But I’d like to talk with you about some things I’ve found in my family papers….”

“I’d welcome it! As you can imagine, I don’t often meet others like myself in Richmond!” William nodded and smiled. The man held up a hand and stepped behind his desk, pulling out a small book. “Let me show you this, before you go, however!” The fine leather cover was gilded with characters foreign to William. William took the book and opened it, finding more of the characters, and, intriguingly, a number of diagrams of sigils, amulets, and talismans.

“This is familiar,” William mused. “Hebrew?”

“Yes, a gift from your father, purchased in a little bookstore in Krakow, Poland! Look in the back….” At the end of the book William found two wallet-sized photographs—one of his father in his late teens standing next to the rabbi, much younger then, and William as a baby with his parents. William closed the book and handing it back to the man. “Your father was a great man! I was older than his father, but we became very good friends.” Sam handed the boy his card and said, “Please let me know what I can do?”

“Thank you, Rabbi,” William said, standing uneasily and taking the man’s hand. The leg was painful but it would support him, and he hobbled to the door. On his way out, he was sure to thank Irma.

As he walked slowly back toward the house, it occurred to him that Sarah and Steve would be a while, and that Chase would get home first and would not be able to read his note. William hobbled slightly faster, and, reaching the park, stopped to find a stick that would support his weight. He soon found one to suit his purpose, and seeing a nearby willow tree, he also collected a small limb to carve into a new wand. With the stick to lean on, he made better time, but he still arrived home to find the door unlocked. Inside Matt and Chase were arguing over what to do. Chase was telling Matt they should call someone when William walked through the door.

“William?” the boy called.

“Yes, he’s home!” Matt said.

“Chase, I’m sorry! I left a note, but I never thought you’d beat me home,” William explained.

Chase frowned toward Matt. “Did you look for a note?”

Matt looked embarrassed. “Sorry, Chase!”

“I was so worried,” Chase said. When he hugged William, he felt the boy wince. “Are you alright?”

“I overdid it on my run and got a bad cramp in my leg! I had gone so far, and I had to rest before I came back…. But I met an interesting fellow,” he said, telling about the old rabbi, except the magick parts.

Chase turned to Matt and said, “Thanks for coming over, but I’m going to help William with his leg, and….”

“And what?” Matt asked.

“Well, I don’t know how much you want to watch me massage my boyfriend’s leg,” Chase explained.

“Oh, yeah! You guys have fun,” Matt said, laughing, and let himself out with a wave.

“Now, you! Lay down on the couch and I’ll be right back….” William did as he was told, and Chase returned with a muscle cream. “Where’s the cramp?” William guided his hand to the place on the back of his thigh. “Roll, over, then!” William complied, and Chase began applying the cream to the area with a firm massage, working his fingers into the knotted flesh until he felt the muscles begin to relax. As the tension melted, William’s whole body relaxed. After Chase stopped massaging, he moved to cradle William’s head in his lap. When William fell asleep, Chase turned on the TV with low volume and sat there until his parents came home, running his fingers through the boy’s thick hair, occasionally stroking his cheek.

While Sarah changed into more comfortable clothes, Steve stopped and whispered, “What’s wrong?”

“Why, what do you mean?” Chase asked.

“I smell the cream,” Steve explained.

Chase smiled. “William went for a run and pushed himself too hard.” Steve nodded, figuring he knew what that was about, and followed his wife to the bedroom. Soon Chase slipped from beneath William and quietly knocked on the bedroom door.

“Just a sec…. Come on in,” his mother answered.

Chase entered and sat on the bed, demanding, “SO!?!”

“So, what?” Sarah teased.

MOM!” Chase protested.

Smiling, Sarah sat next to her son. “The doctor doesn’t think anything is physically wrong, based on his ‘special’ exams of us, but he gave us a month’s supply of a … potion or medicine or whatever, and told us to get to work….”

“Ewww!” Chase laughed.

“How did you think it was going to work?” she said with a laugh.

“I was hoping it would have something to do with lab coats and turkey basters!” Chase replied.

“Well, he thinks we can do it the old fashioned way with his potion.” Chase gave his parents big hugs, looking like he’d explode.

When a groggy William appeared in the doorway and asked, “How’d it go?” Chase ran into his arms and squeezed him tight.

“Soon, soon, soon!” Chase said, bouncing.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Chase,” his father warned. “But the doctor is hopeful that we could see a result soon….”

“That’s wonderful,” William said, flashing a brilliant, if sleepy, smile.

“Why don’t we go out for dinner?” Sarah suggested. “I don’t feel at all like cooking!” Though no one said it, it was to be something of a celebration.

“Casual or fancy?” Steve asked.

“Fancy,” Chase answered. William smiled, and they ran upstairs to get ready. William showered, while Chase changed into a navy suit with a cream shirt, which he identified by the color-coding label system on his hangers. William returned in his towel and said, “God, you’re beautiful!”

Chase smiled at him, and William dropped his towel to help straighten Chase’s tie. In return, Chase planted a finger in the middle of his chest and dragged it down his tight abs to his pubes and tickled William. Then he said, “Now, get ready!”

“Tease!” William said, reaching for his blue dress pants and a cream shirt to match Chase, but he skipped the jacket as the shirt hugged his form flatteringly. When they were ready, the boys walked downstairs together and presented themselves to Chase’s appreciative parents.

“You guys look great!” Sarah exclaimed. William blushed and Chase thanked his mother. “Let me get a picture,” she said, retrieving the camera. “Stand by the fireplace….” When she had her pictures, William reinstated his glamour, and they all piled into the SUV and rode to a little French restaurant Sarah liked.

William thought the place was great, and ordered some of his favorite dishes, things he’d learned he liked on his family’s trips to France. They really were enjoying themselves and desert was on order when two girls from Chase’s school came by their table.

“Hi, Chase,” the brunette said, “It’s Natalie Hall, from school, and Marjory Tate.” William noticed how tight-lipped Chase’s smile was.

“Hi, Natalie, Marjory,” he answered, remaining seated, which again surprised William, since he was usually so polite. “These are my parents, Steve and Sarah, and this is my friend, William….”

“Hi, William,” Natalie said in her syrupy voice. “Are you just visiting, or are you staying for a while?”

“Chase’s family has been kind enough to let me stay with them while my family is away for an extended business trip,” William explained.

“Well, come with Chase to the dance next month if you’re still here…. A lot of the girls would like to meet you!” With that, the girls waved and walked off, giggling, and William looked down to see Chase’s white-knuckled grip on the arms of his chair. Discreetly, William put his hand on Chase’s inner thigh and began stroking it with his fingers, until he saw a smile creep back into the boy’s face and Chase released his grip on the chair.

“I hate those girls,” Chase said to no one in particular.

“Honey,” Sarah said, but Chase cut her off.

“No, they’re popular and mean! They’ve made fun of me for years! They used to put things in my way to trip me until they got caught; they put signs on my back…. Matt has to go everywhere with me! And now they make fun of him, ask him about his boyfriend!” Chase burst out, fuming.

William took his hand, still hidden, and said, “I’ll go to that dance with you if you want!”

“Coming might not make my life any better, William,” Chase said with a laugh.

“Well, I could go and play a few tricks in return…. Or I could glamour the hottest babe in the world and get a dress!”

Chase giggled, and asked, “You’d do that for me?”

“Anything for you, sweetheart!” Chase leaned over, but remembered where he was at the last minute.

“Well, I’d prefer you didn’t return evil for evil,” Sarah said, “but if you’d like to go together, we would support you….”

“I understand if you think it would make life at school too hard,” William said. Chase smiled at him, and made an easy decision. He kissed William, who caressed Chase’s face and returned his kiss with passion. With a wicked grin, Chase said, “Now tell me what Natalie’s and Marjory’s faces look like!”

William laughed and said, “Well, it’s some kind of mix between, ‘Oh my God, it’s a ghost,’ and ‘Oh my God, the hot blond just killed my cat’!”

“Excellent!” Chase said.

“They’re both on their cell phones, and the parents look fit to be tied,” William said.

“Easier than coming out—I don’t even have to say anything this way, and now we can go to the dance together and you won’t have to wear a dress, unless you want to!” Chase teased.

They all chuckled a little until they noticed that Natalie’s parents were actually coming over. The severe looking couple stopped short and waited for the adults to acknowledge them, but neither Sarah nor Steve did. So Natalie’s father cleared his throat. Steve looked over at him casually, raising his eyebrows.

“It’s one thing to have the misfortune of having a gay son,” the man began, sounding mighty self-righteous, “but it’s quite another thing having him flaunt his sin in public. This is a family restaurant!”

Steve didn’t show the man the respect of standing, or even looking at him; rather he smiled at his son and said, “We are a family, and they make a rather handsome couple!”

“No wonder you have such iniquity under your roof,” the man replied. Sarah looked furious that these people were speaking about her sweet boy like this. Before she could stand. William rose and casually stepped around the table, holding his head high and his shoulders back.

“Mr. Hall,” he said with a sinister smile that drove the man back, “I don’t know anyone purer than Chase! But sin is a dragon that lurks by the way, waiting to devour….” Waving his hand in front of the man, William’s face darkened. “You hypocritical adulterer! Who is she? Your secretary? Your coworker? Or is it a he? Your boss, perhaps?” William turned and resumed his seat, taking Chase’s hand in his own.

The flustered and furious couple stormed off, shooting William nervous glances.

“Hall is cheating on his wife?” Steve asked, laughing.

“I don’t know,” William said, laughing, “I’m no mind-reader. Actually, the way he looked at me, the good money says he has a man or boy on the side….”

“So, did you do something, curse him or something?” Sarah asked.

“Well, no, and yes,” William said, again laughing. “Nothing magick! But they’re going to be paranoid of each other now! That spells self-fulfilling prophecy!” Everyone laughed, taking only self-congratulatory notice of the glares they were receiving from the dysfunctional table across the room.

When they arrived home, however, Matt was waiting on the front porch. “Jesus, Chase, what did you do?”

“What are you talking about?” Chase asked.

“Don’t give me that! I just got like ten phone calls asking me if it’s true…. Being a good friend, I said I don’t know,” Matt yelled.

“I kissed William in front of Natalie Hall and her lap-dog Marjory,” Chase said.

Matt put his hands on his head, and said, “Tomorrow’s going to be a shit-storm!”

“Maybe…. But I feel very free all of a sudden,” Chase smiled.

“Well, I’m going to have to get caught having sex with a girl at school if I’m going to make it out alive, socially,” Matt exclaimed, storming off.

“See you tomorrow!” Chase yelled after him.

“I’d shoot you a bird, but if you shoot a blind kid a bird, does anybody see it?” Matt asked, shooting the bird anyway.

“You did it anyway, didn’t you?” Chase laughed, knowing the answer.

Upstairs, William asked Chase if he thought Matt would really be alright. “Matt just rolls with the punches….”

“I’m just worried those might not be metaphorical punches! I mean, you’re mostly protected: who wants to be the guy who beat up the blind kid?” William suggested.

“I guess you’re right…. What should I do?” Chase asked.

“I don’t know…. Maybe it will go differently than expected?” William wondered.

“You never know,” Chase said, grinning.

The next morning, William rose early and climbed out of bed. After his shower, he pulled out his book. Failing to find something to help Matt, he ran outside in the yard and spread honey on a tree branch. After he ate, he found a couple of bugs flying around the honey and a few with their legs stuck in it.  First he stunned them then he enchanted them. He had six, so he assigned three each to follow Matt and Chase at a distance of between five and fifteen feet.

As he was releasing the bugs, Chase called from the house, “William?”

“I’m out in the yard, sweetheart,” William answered.

“Alright, I’m going to run,” Chase said, and William ran up for a hug and kiss.

“Be careful today, and tell Matt to do the same!” William cautioned.

“Alright,” Chase said. “See you at home.”

When Chase left, William went down to his shed and unlocked the mystic locks and went to work on his expansion of the inside, creating a trans-dimensional doorway. He drew a door in chalk on a bare wall, and then copied a complex series of sigils on the doorway. Then he knocked on the drawing with his wand three times. Suddenly, the door looked real. Opening the door, he stepped out into black, open space. With his wand, he traced out the space he wanted to claim, and walls appeared when he said an incantation. He created an additional room, perhaps 20 by 40, that he could use for practicing dangerous spells, as well as for his exercise equipment.

A few more spells lit the room and decorated the walls. Then, on one wall, he traced a slightly smaller safe door, and used similar spells to create a large, private, and unbreakable safe to keep his most prized possessions. Taking a break, he closed his eyes connected with his bugs: Chase and Matt were together in class and all looked relatively calm.

William walked up to the house and made himself a sandwich, before returning to work. Around two, Steve knocked at the door of the shed, and William invited him in. Steve looked around, peer into a few jars on the shelves.

“We’ll need to buy you a gas canister to go out here for your burners, William. We can’t run gas lines out here…. And what’s this?” Steve asked about the door, seemingly to nowhere. When Steve opened it, there was nothing on the other side. William laughed.

“Can I show you?” the boy asked, and the man nodded. William knocked on the door with his wand and turned the knob. “Come on!” William led Steve into the room.

“My goodness, no wonder you only wanted a small building!” the man said. “I take it this is where you’re setting up your exercise equipment?”

“Yes!” William said happily.

“Very nice,” Steve said, stopping when William got a little weak in the knees.

William caught a flash from one of his bugs, which had caught a conversation between three of the jocks. They were going to ambush Matt after school before the buses. “School, now!” William said, taking off at a run to the car with Steve a few steps behind.

When they arrived at the school, there was a crowd already gathering in the parking lot. There were no teachers nearby, so William jumped from the still-moving car. When he arrived at the closed circle of students he couldn’t get through, so with a soft burst of energy, he knocked the children aside and walked into the circle. Matt was on his knees, but William thanked God the boy wasn’t badly hurt.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” William yelled at the three boys, tossing his jacket onto the ground. ‘Chase! Where is Chase?’ William’s bugs revealed he was waiting on the bus; the boys had gotten separated.

“Who the hell are you?” the alpha-jock demanded, looking a little amused. William was athletic but lacked bulk, and he heard the crowd whispering.

“He’s the boy from last night,” a girl’s voice called, and the whispers intensified.

William’s face darkened, and he spoke with a deadly softness to the flunkies, “You two, you can walk away now, save yourselves. Surely your boss can take care of himself….”

“Ain’t nobody our boss,” one replied articulately.

“Afraid to take on one kid by yourself?” William taunted. “It took three of you to take Matt, so you’re going to need reinforcements!” The crowd was hushed as William walked over to Matt and helped him to his feet.

“What are you doing? They’re going to kill you!” Even as Matt said it, William knew the two goons were rushing him from behind.

“Get out of here!” he said to Matt. Concentrating on his foot, William brought a sharp magical force to bear as he rounded on the boys, kicking the first one square in the chest, laying him on his back. Then, he drove the base of his palm into the second boy’s sternum, doubling him over in pain. With unnatural calm, he walked between his attackers toward their leader, who stood four or five inches taller than him.

“My boyfriend’s blind, so you beat up his straight friends? Well, I’m here, I’m queer, so what are you going to do about it?” There was a nervous giggling in the audience at his adaptation of the gay rights mantra.

The pissed jock took a clumsy swing, and, like lightening, William grabbed his fist and spun around behind him. He drove his foot into the back of the ballplayer’s knee, driving him to his knees. William twisted his arm near breaking. “If you, or any of your friends, come after my friends, you’ll never play football again,” William announced, then leaned over and whispered, “And if you ever dream of hurting Chase, they’ll never find your fucking arm, you Neanderthal!” Then, he jerked the boy’s arm down and out, dislocating it with a sickening noise. “Something to remember me by,” he said, walking away from the three boys and helping Matt to Steve’s SUV. Steve had already found the bus and gotten Chase, so they drove off.

“Are you okay, William?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, no one even touched me,” he said, darkly. “Are you okay, Matt?”

“Bloody nose, bruised rib,” he grumbled. “It’s been worse….”

“What happened?” Chase asked, sadly.

“I dropped my bag on the way to the bus, and one of those goons grabbed my arm and dragged me out the back exit! A lot of kids must have known something was going down, because it was a big crowd! How’d you get here so fast?” Matt wondered.

“I thought something might happen at the end of school, and when we saw the crowd, I knew where to go,” William lied.

“How did you stop it?” Chase asked, and Matt laughed.

“He kicked their asses,” Matt proclaimed. “I mean, really. I think they’ll have to use the second string quarterback for the first few games! On the bright side, I don’t think anyone’s going to bother us any time soon!”

“I’m so sorry,” Chase said, his voice breaking. “I shouldn’t have been selfish….”

Matt reached over and took his friend’s hand, squeezing. “Wanting to be yourself isn’t selfish! The people who want you to hide are selfish! Besides, I got a date with Amy Roebuck on Friday….”

“What?” Chase asked with a laugh. “How did you land a date with your dream-girl?”

“Well, when William helped me up and I hobbled off, she helped keep me on my feet…. She said she thought I was brave to stand by my friends and pretty cute, so….”

“Wow,” Chase said.

“I know, definitely worth a beating,” Matt said.

“It really isn’t that bad, is it?” Chase asked.

“Chase, it’s okay, really!” Matt said, laughing.

“I mean, he’s definitely no me,” William said with a laugh, “but he’s still basically reasonable to look at!” Matt swatted the back of William’s head.

“Boys, today was really close, and if wasn’t for William, who knows. From here on out, take your cell phones with you. Keep them on vibrate and text me at the first sign of trouble! Understand?” Steve demanded

The boys agreed readily, and when the car stopped they ran upstairs to Chase’s room. William couldn’t help himself and gave Matt a hug and repeated his apologies.

“Alright, alright,” Matt said after a few minutes, “you’ve had your feel!” William laughed, and Chase snorted. They told William about their day. Actually, a number of people were really supportive, aside from the mean girls and jocks, who had always been against them. A number of moderately popular people had even joined them for lunch, and things had seemed to be coming up roses until the incident after school.

“Even some of the jocks were nice to us! Some swimmers, and some baseball players, and even a guy from the basketball team sat with us at lunchtime! Turns out his big brother was gay,” Chase went on at length.

“And don’t forget,” Matt added, “I got a date with Amy! That’ll definitely raise my social currency!” Pretty soon Matt left. Chase got to his homework, and William walked down to his shed.

Steve followed him out. “William, I don’t normally condone that kind of violence but … thank you!  I don’t believe you had many choices.” The boy nodded. “Do you think it’s safe at school for them? Chase is so damn positive, it’s hard to tell.”

“It sounds like they made a lot of friends, actually, and I think most everybody will be pretty wary of me. But just in case, I’ll be there with them, as soon as I can.” William’s look of hard determination sent the message.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” the man said with a smile and walked back toward the house. William entered the building, and grabbed a book from the shelf. He had to work on his present for Chase—he had less than two weeks, and it would be very difficult. He only emerged when he heard Chase call him up for dinner.

After dinner, Chase still had homework to attend to, so William went back to his building’s inner room and sat on the bare floor, placing his arms parallel to the ground, and chanted, “I call upon the great power of the earth, to grant me from your bounty a small token,” over and over until his mind was clear of all other intentions.

Suddenly a hulking figure rose up in front of him with a booming voice, “For what you ask, a price must be paid!”

William reached to his left and picked up a dagger. Holding his left hand palm up, he drew the blade across his hand. After the blood had flowed for over a minute, the voice announced, “Very well!” And with an explosion, he was gone. But in the dirt where blood had pooled a golden metal swirled with black appeared. William collected the metal and placed it into a black velvet bag, which he locked in his vault. There was precious little of this substance, sometimes called angelic gold, in existence, and to the few who knew of it, it was more valuable than the most perfect diamond.

When he came into the house, he found Sarah looking over some papers. He asked, “Sarah, could I get some bandage, please? I had a little accident and cut my hand.”

The woman grabbed her first aid kit. Holding a bottle over his hand, Sarah said, “I’m sorry, but this is going to hurt!” William cried out when the cold peroxide started bubbling in his wound. Then Sarah wiped the wound dry and bandaged it up. “You’ll be fine! Remarkably clean cut,” she observed suspiciously.

“I cut myself on one of my tools,” he said.

“Do be careful,” she said, giving him a pat, before he plodded up stairs.

Entering their room, he asked Chase, “How’s the work coming?”

“Nearly finished with my paper. It’s not due ‘til next week, but I was on a roll,” Chase said with a smile.

“Very good!” William put his hand on Chase’s shoulder, and Chase felt the bandage.

“What happened?!” Chase demanded.

“I cut myself—no big deal,” William said.

Chase stood and kissed him on the cheek. Then he stripped down, but before he could walk over to bed, William wrapped his arms around Chase’s naked body, running his hands across his smooth chest and abdomen, and whispered, “I love you,” into the boy’s ear.

Chase turned and embraced William, laying his head against his chest. “I love you too!” William slipped his clothes off, and the boys crawled under the covers, cuddling close.

“So, how do you think it’ll go tomorrow?” Chase asked, running his fingers through the light, soft hair of William’s lower abdomen.

“That feels good…. Tomorrow?” William asked.

“With your uncle X, silly?” Chase laughed.

“Oh, yeah! I think he’ll flip, and he’ll probably be pissed that I didn’t call him, or that your dad didn’t,” William said.

“He’ll get over it when he sees you’re okay!” William nodded, stroking Chase’s lower back until they both fell asleep.

Chase dreamed of a familiar room, where he found Gideon. “Hello, Chase….”

“Gideon!” the boy called.

“How are you?” the angel asked warmly.

“I feel bad about Matt…. He doesn’t deserve to get hurt for being my friend!” Chase said.

“I’m sorry, it couldn’t be avoided…. And some good will come of it, trust me! Don’t feel bad,” Gideon said.

“I can’t help it! Until William, he was the only person my age I could trust,” Chase pouted.

“Soon enough you’ll find that there are people you can trust. Follow your heart, trust your instincts! You’ll know whose intentions are good most of the time, and you’ll have William for the rest,” Gideon tried to comfort him.

Chase’s smile was infectious, even for Gideon, and he ruffled the boy’s hair. “Gideon … I know I shouldn’t ask, but … could I see him, just once?”

Gideon’s face fell and he turned away. Chase’s condition meant that the only face the boy knew by sight was Gideon’s, because the boy could see in his dreams. Gideon felt ashamed to deny the boy, given the secrets which bound them more closely than most guardians and their charges. “I’m sorry, Chase, but I am forbidden. It’s difficult for me because of my … affection for you!” He touched the boy’s cheek in his dream, leaning in and whispering, “But I swear this to you! One day, you shall see his face!” Gideon withdrew his hand and the room trembled, as Chase’s eyes snapped open, full of tears of happiness and confusion.