16 Into the Light of Day

Later in the afternoon, Matt came over and helped William put the crib and things together and talked to Chase. “It’s so weird,” Matt exclaimed as he looked over at Chase holding Alex.

“So how much trouble were you in?” Chase asked the boy, ignoring him.

“Your parents told my parents I refused to leave your bedside, and they bought it, of course…. So none,” Matt said.

When they finished putting the crib together, William took the tools downstairs and left Matt and Chase alone for a while.

Chase handed the baby to Matt, who sat next to him on the bed. Matt held him somewhat awkwardly and said, “He smells weird….”

“He smells like a baby,” Chase laughed. Then he put an arm across Matt’s shoulder. “I don’t guess anyone but us and our closest friends will ever know what you did….”

Matt looked down at Alex’s face and said, “I just followed you….”

“You brought me back from a prison I was locked in by one of the most powerful of the angels…. And then you followed me to Hell and back. Literally…. You saved the world. Without you, there would be nothing left here….”

Matt shrugged it off. “What else could I do?” he asked with a laugh.

Chase leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, before laying his head on the boy’s strong shoulder. “I love you, Matt,” Chase said.

“I love you, too, little bro,” Matt whispered. “And you too, little little bro,” he added, kissing Alex on the forehead.

***

That evening, Chris slipped out to the tent which was the temporary barracks for the battle wizards. The smallest of the men loomed over him, and he approached one of the younger looking ones. “Excuse me, sir…. I’m looking for Marcus?”

“Kid, my daddy’s sir. Call me Joe!” the young wizard, clearly a southerner, responded with a friendly smile. “Hey, you’re HIS friend, aren’t you?” the young soldier asked in awe.

“Sebastian? Yeah, and James…. My name’s Chris…. So Marcus?”

“Oh, yeah! Well, Marcus was injured in Budapest…. He’s in the infirmary….”

“Oh,” Chris said, his face falling, and he started to walk away.

“Where you going?” Joe called. “Infirmary’s through here,” he said, opening the flap into the barracks tent. Inside it seemed about fifty times bigger than it could possibly have been, a charm that stunned the boy and excited him with possibilities.

He followed the young man to a small ward of more comfortable beds, and nurses were flitting about. At the other end of the room, Chris saw the young man lying on top of his sheets, wearing formfitting boxers, his abdomen wrapped tightly and his left leg in a cast. But his smooth skin and firm body still looked delicious to Chris, who shuddered at the sight of him.

“Marcus, you got a visitor…. High Consul’s little buddy here to see you!”

Marcus looked up confused, but smiled brightly when he saw Chris. “Hey! Didn’t think I’d see you again!”

Chris thanked Joe and walked up to the edge of the bed and stood uncomfortably. “I didn’t want you to leave without saying goodbye…. I didn’t realize you’d been injured!”

“Yeah, I took a small fireball to the stomach,” he said with a shrug to say, it comes with the territory. “I’ll be here for a couple of more weeks at least!”

Chris put a soft hand on the wizard’s bare, muscular shoulder and said. “I’m glad you’re going to be okay, and that you’ll be around for a while….”

“Oh, yeah?” the young man asked with a smile.

“Steve and I … well, we’re after different things,” Chris shrugged. “And I thought … well, you seemed nice, and interested, and I didn’t want you to get away without … checking it out….”

“What makes you think I’m any different than him?” Marcus asked.

“I don’t know! You just seemed….” Chris got flustered and turned like we has leaving, but Marcus grabbed his wrist softly before it could leave his skin and tugged lightly.

“Sit … please?” the young man asked, suddenly looking soft and vulnerable. “So, I’m twenty-one,” Marcus began when Chris sat by him, and did not let go of Chris’s hand, “I’m about to go to college…. I just finished my first, maybe my only duty in the corps….” Chris sat, first stiffly, then sort of reclined by the young man, sharing his bed, while Marcus told him about himself, his hopes and his dreams, something that despite their physical intimacy, Steve had rarely done.

Chris found it easy to open up to the young man and they talked deep into the night. In fact, the night nurse had to wake Chris up at midnight and ask him to return in the morning. Chris resisted the urge to invoke his relationship to Sebastian to get an exception, and returned to the room he had formerly shared with Steve to spend the night.

***

Chase and William slept soundly until around one in the morning. Chase suddenly awakened in the silent room and sat up; he could sense the shadowy figure standing by the window though he could not see. Chase got up and self-consciously grabbed a long button-up shirt to put on to cover himself.

“So modest,” the angel said humorlessly when Chase drew near.

“Well, I’m blind, thanks to your boss, so it’s not like I knew who was here, now was it, Raziel?”

“Our boss, Chase,” the angel responded harshly. “So, that’s him?”

The angel moved forward to look into the crib and Chase raised his hand. “Stop! What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see for myself…. What have you done, boy?” Raziel demanded.

“Apparently, what our boss wanted, otherwise he would have toasted this place and started all over. You included. Now, stay away from my baby…. Stay away from me!” Chase said.

“You have much yet to learn, boy,” the angel said flatly taking one step forward.

“I have nothing more to learn from you, Raziel,” Chase answered with anger.

“I can restore your sight,” Raziel said with an arched eye. When Chase didn’t say anything, he continued, “Just go to the bathroom for a moment…. When you return, your sight will be restored….”

For a second, Chase stood frozen, and then his face contorted. “You trapped me once, demon, but you’ll not do so again! William! The baby! Get the baby out of here”

William’s eyes shot open and he hurried around to grab the sleeping infant. Chase raised his hand and conjured an angelic shield, the one Raziel himself had taught him, and fought off the angel while William slipped out with the baby to his interdimensional training room. He was torn between going back for Chase and keeping the baby safe, but he knew what Chase would want. He banged on the door that opened to Sebastian’s and hoped someone would be downstairs to hear him.

Sebastian was still at his desk when a ruckus in the basement drew his attention. He followed the noise and opened the door to William’s training area. He found the boy in his underwear holding an infant child. “We need help!” William shouted. “Chase is in the house…. He came for the baby…. He was behind everything!”

“JAMES!” Sebastian shouted, and the young man emerged from Sebastian’s office at a run. “Chase is in trouble.” They crossed the portal and Sebastian told William, “Stay here with the baby….”

***

Raziel laughed and said, “You think you can stop me? I taught you everything you know!” But when he stepped forward, sparks flew from the shield that repelled him. Chase slowly contorted the shield into a ball, imprisoning Heaven’s equivalent to Pursan. The angel screamed and began to strike out against the sphere. Chase knew he couldn’t hold him for long, so he began methodically circling the angel, casting magickal circle after magickal circle to keep him in place. “WHEN I GET OUT OF HERE, I’LL FIND THE ABOMINATION AND MAKE YOU WATCH AS I TEAR HIM TO PIECES, YOU FILTHY BEASTLY PRIMATE!”

MOM, DAD, GET OUTSIDE!” Chase yelled down in an unearthly voice. “Raziel, you taught me a great deal but you never understood the source of my power,” Chase said as he began to carve sigils into the space around the increasingly violent form. Each symbol seemed to weaken him further.

“You are no more than a vessel! A broken form! He needed you weak and blind so you could bear him…. You’re nothing!” Raziel exclaimed.

Chase’s eyes gleamed, not with the supernal light of the divine emanations but with an inner light. “Then why are you in a cage and I’ve got the key?” Chase asked with a smile. “I’ve been wondering why God ‘did all this to me’ and sometimes I might have agreed with you…. But you know what I’ve realized? He did it not to make me weak enough to receive Him, but to make me strong enough to bear Him! The source of my power is the converse of Sammael’s—it is the love of my friends, my family, William, and my love for them. And you’ve made yourself a threat to all of that!”

“I’ll,” the angel began but Chase just laughed at him as he kept working his spell.

“You’ll what? You’ll taunt me until you’re gone? You know what I’m doing! You can feel it sapping your strength, symbol by symbol, can’t you? Cutting you off from the Source?” Chase asked, menace seeping into his voice.

“Don’t! Please!” Raziel begged.

“Tell me why! Tell me why, and I’ll consider it,” Chase demanded.

“Why what?” Raziel asked.

“Why have you betrayed God?” Chase asked as James and Sebastian rushed into the room behind him.

“Good God,” Sebastian exclaimed. “What are you doing, Chase? That’s Raziel!”

“And he was just about to explain to us why he betrayed everything he holds dear, or I’m going to annihilate him!” Chase declared with fury.

“Chase,” James began, but the boy rounded on him with a fierce expression.

HE CAME HERE FOR THE BABY!” Chase exclaimed.

Sebastian turned to look at the angel and he saw it. He saw that demonic glint in the angel’s eyes. “Go ahead, Chase…. Do it. He’s guilty as sin!”

Chase went back to work on the matrix until he’d nearly finished six layers. Then Raziel cried out, “Alright, alright! I … I told Him eons ago, Sammael couldn’t be allowed to survive. He should have destroyed him then. So I’ve been watching him since then, watching the danger grow to nearly unimaginable proportions. And then there was you…. The timing was perfect! I knew you could beat him!”

“You let Sammael out! You helped him escape!” Chase exclaimed.

“Of course! It had to be done. HE wasn’t going to do it, and Sammael was bloody insane! If he ever got loose when there was no one to challenge him,” Raziel raged.

“So you put yourself in God’s place?” Chase demanded.

I DID WHAT GOD WAS TOO WEAK TO DO! I was going to destroy evil! And you were my instrument!” Raziel’s eyes gleamed as he spoke and Chase knew he was lost.

“You’ve fallen, Raziel!” Gabriel’s voice resonated through the room making Chase jump. “All this to destroy Sammael?”

“The fallen should never have been suffered all this time! Why couldn’t He begin again at the beginning? Why subject the world to their influence?” Raziel looked pointedly at Gabriel and asked, his tone more pathetic, “Why couldn’t YOU let him GO?”

“I love him,” Gabriel said, simple and sad.

WHY HIM?” Raziel asked.

“Everything that made him fall so hard made him so great when he was still good. You, Raziel, you were always a prissy, goody-two-shoes, know-it-all! You’re cold as ice! I could never love you!” Gabriel shouted. “Michael! Rafael! Uriel! Metatron!”

Soon the little room was filled with archangels. And Chase felt small. The one called Metatron turned and spoke to him in a familiar voice, the feminine Voice of the Presence. “Hello, my friend…. I’m sorry. We should have seen this!”

“Damn right,” Chase said, trying to stay angry.

Metatron laughed a sweet feminine laugh and said, “So much spirit! I need you to undo your spell and release Raziel, and then I need you to take your friends and your family and join your husband and child…. Do you understand?”

“What are you going to do with him?” Chase asked.

“Nothing,” Metatron said. “He’s done it to himself. An angel, a great angel from heaven is about to fall…. And then, he’ll be punished. He’ll never hurt you or yours again,” Metatron assured.

Chase nodded, then turned to James and said, “Go next door, get Matt and his family too?” James nodded. The adults would resist, but he would ‘persuade’ them.

Then Chase began to release the angel from his cage. By the time he had reversed his spell, Raziel had his power back and he lunged for Chase as soon as he was free and he nearly had his hands around the boy’s neck when Gabriel grabbed him and smashed him to the floor. The four archangels each held down one of his limbs while Metatron took out a knife. “You are the wisest of all angels and yet you know nothing of us,” he said softly in the Voice.

Sebastian took Chase by the arm and led him away as the angel began to carve patterns into Raziel’s back with his knife. All the way down to William’s building, he could hear the angel’s screams and his maddened yelling.

Sarah was cradling the baby, while Matt and William were pacing. Matt stood by as William threw his arms around the boy before taking his own turn. “What’s going on?” Matt asked.

Everyone gathered near as Chase collected himself. “This whole thing … happened because a … false friend did a very bad thing. Raziel … betrayed us all and let Sammael out of his cell and set this whole thing in motion. He came tonight to kill the baby….”

“Good God,” Matt said. “Are we safe?”

“We are now…. He’s being taken care of, but … I’m sorry, Mom, Dad…. I think there’ll be some damage to the house,” Chase said sadly.

“It’s okay,” Steve laughed. “We were going to move anyway,” he added, casting a glance at William. Sarah just raised her eyes at him and glared.

“I didn’t know how dangerous it would be, so that’s why James came for your family,” Chase added, looking at Matt.

“Don’t worry,” James laughed, nodded at the dazed couple sitting against the wall. “When I take you guys home, they’ll be fine and won’t remember any of this.”

They all jumped as two dark figures appeared a few feet away. “It is finished,” Metatron said easily. “Had you not uncovered our traitor … well, thank you, Chase! Again….”

“Metatron!” Gabriel said insistently. “We can’t do this! We owe him everything!”

“We owe him nothing,” Metatron said without a hint of anger. “He acts by the grace of our Master! You have served Him well, little one, but you have received your gift!”

As Metatron turned to walk away, Gabriel said, “I WON’T DO THIS!” With that, he knelt before Chase and grasped his shoulders.

Chase only then grasped the angel’s intention and said, “No, Gideon … Gabriel … don’t!” But the angel leaned in and kissed first his left eye, then his right, and as Chase collapsed, the angel eased him to the ground.

Metatron’s eyes flashed with fire as Gabriel began to scream, orbs of white light flying from his body and circling him in a growing vortex. “What have you done?” Metatron asked sadly in his own voice before the sweet feminine Presence spoke through him, raising his hand and smiling. Gabriel suffered great pain, but the Presence forced those orbs back inside him.

“You have disobeyed,” the Presence said with a smile that was hypnotic to all present.

Gabriel bowed to the ground and asked, “Why have I not fallen?”

“Disobedience was never the sin of the fallen, Gabriel! Pride was their sin. Your sin was nothing but love, just as this vampire,” she said, pointing to James, “was born in blood by love alone! There has been enough of destruction for my tastes,” she added, “and too many angels lost to give you up…. In any case, didn’t you think it was all a little unfair of us?”

“Well … to be honest….” Gabriel cut himself off. Then he added, “The boy was being tested?”

“Indeed,” the Presence smiled. “And so was his guardian….” Gabriel’s eyes widened. “That’s right! You’ve sat on the edge for too long, Gabriel! You didn’t hate humanity, but you didn’t love them either. So I gave you to Chase and William. I tested the limits of your love for them…. And just as Chase should have been willing to stand for William even against Us, so should you have been willing to stand up for Chase! Your love for him has redeemed you, my friend….” In the form of Metatron, the Presence reached out to him and said, “Rise! If you wish, you may return with me to the Highest Heaven and sit at our left hand, as you once did….”

Gabriel looked at William, and at Chase lying at his feet, and Alex in Sarah’s arms and said, “If I might … stay until my duty is fulfilled, Master?”

Metatron smiled and in a flash he was gone. Then Gabriel said, “Let the little one sleep….” And then he too was gone. If William didn’t know better, he would have sworn Gabriel had tears in his eyes.

James helped Matt and his family back to their house, which had suffered minor damage to upstairs windows. Sebastian and Steve determined that the structural integrity of Steve’s house had been disrupted, so Sebastian invited them all to stay at his place until morning. But Steve and Sarah agreed they should stay in town, so they called Xavier and Aiden up and took the boys and the baby to his place. Chase never woke that night, but before James and Sebastian left, they spoke privately with William.

“The baby?” Sebastian asked. “Whose is it?”

“Mine,” William responded, “and Chase’s….”

“The blood,” Sebastian nodded, suddenly understanding. Then his eyes widened. “SAM…”

But William cut him off. “Alexander Abernathy Jennings….”

Sebastian smiled and nodded. “A fitting name….” Sebastian leaned in and kissed William on the jaw and squeezed his shoulder. “We’ll see you soon….”

That night, William undressed Chase and crawled into be next to him, holding him tightly through the night.

***

The next morning, Steve and Sarah went to meet the investigators at their house. No one seemed hopeful that they would determine the cause of the damage, but the best guess seemed to be a gas main burst.

William woke around seven to the sound of Alex’s cries, but by the time he got to the baby he found Xavier popping a bottled into Alex’s waiting mouth. “You got it all under control?” William asked.

Xavier smile and nodded, before looking back down at Alex and talking to him about who knows what. William shook his head and went to shower, pulling on some old clothes Chase’s dad had packed into a backpack for him the previous night. Then he went and sat on the bed next to Chase and waited. And waited. And waited. Time slowed to a crawl, and it wasn’t until 10 a.m. that Chase began to stir.

“Chase,” William whispered. “Are you okay?”

The boy rubbed his eyes and groaned. Then he cried out and shut his eyes tight. “Ugh! Can you pull the curtains tight? It hurts my,” he began to exclaim, but stopped. After a moment, he said softly, his voice catching in his throat as a sob rose from his chest, “It … hurts … my eyes….”

William hurried to the window and drew the curtains tight. Slowly, tentatively, Chase opened his eyes, and felt pain. Gradually he came to be able to discern lighter and darker spaces. He could see William’s outline as the boy walked toward him, and as William sat down next to him Chase reached out and touched his face. There was none of the tentativeness in his touch this time. He could see where empty space ended and William began.

“Is it real?” Chase asked weakly.

“Yes,” William said, his smile clear in his voice. “Gabriel did it….” Chase began to remember what happened and William hurried to fill him in on what had happened after he had passed out. As William spoke, Chase’s eyes continued to adjust until the world appeared to him as through frosted glass.

Chase peered in close at William, frustrated at the fuzzy image he was getting, but growing more excited with every moment. Chase stood and William hurried to his side and helped him into his clothes. Together they walked downstairs and found Aiden and Xavier still fussing over the baby, or perhaps fussing over the baby again.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Aiden said, and both men caught the smooth way Chase looked back and forth between them. He still couldn’t really see them, but he knew where they were and he could discern major features. “My God,” Aiden said, coming round the counter and putting his hands on Chase’s shoulders. He put a finger in front of the boy’s face and watched his eyes follow it back and forth. “My God, it’s true! You can see?”

“A little,” Chase said, his voice airy behind his smile. “It’s really fuzzy, but I can pick out shapes….” Aiden hugged him and kissed his head as Xavier hurried over with the baby and threw yet another arm around him.

Chase took the baby and held him up and whispered, “I can almost see you!”

***

Chris waited as long as he could before making his way back out to the barracks infirmary. “Hey, Chris,” Marcus smiled brightly when he showed up. “I wondered when I’d see you again….”

Chris got pink in the cheeks and averted his eyes. “I didn’t want to seem too eager, so I was hanging around inside….”

Marcus smiled and added, “It’s only nine, Chris….”

“I waited as long as I could,” Chris replied as he turned redder.

“Chris,” Marcus said, patting the bed next to him.

Chris sat down and said, “I don’t like the sound of that….”

“Hush,” Marcus laughed. “It’s just, I know you just broke up…. I don’t want to be the rebound guy…. I….”

“You what?” Chris asked.

“I want to be the guy,” Marcus said with a laugh. “I know it sounds silly, and I know you’re young, but….”

“Take it easy, Marcus,” Chris smiled and put his head on the man’s chest. “I know what I want…. I’m not looking to play the field. I’m looking for something real, something to last….”

“You’re so young,” Marcus said, running a hand through Chris’s hair.

“I spent most of my life all alone, except for Peter. To this day, I don’t know why he, of all people, stuck with me…. But I always felt so alone! It makes you feel old, Marcus, I can tell you that…. And I can tell you that I have a good feeling about you.”

“Chris, they’re going to send me away when I get better, then I’ll go off to college,” Marcus warned.

“If you want to give it a try, Marcus, that doesn’t have to happen,” a voice said from the door. A pink-cheeked Sebastian winked and added. “Sorry to pry, but our dear Chris seems to have taken a liking to you…. He asked if I’d help him train in magick, and I thought perhaps you’d like to stay around and take on that project? You can go to college here….”

“High Consul,” Marcus began.

“Call me Sebastian,” the beautiful vampire smiled.

“Sebastian, I … thank you. I’d like that very much,” Marcus smiled down at the young man in his arms.

“Very good,” Sebastian smiled and retreated. “As you were, gentlemen!”

When they were alone, Marcus whispered, “Let’s see where this goes,” and squeezed Chris tightly.

***

By the evening, Chase’s vision had cleared to the point that he could see everything as if through a fog. His parents, William, and Xavier and Aiden sat around watching him like a television, waiting for something else to happen, but his sight was clearly returning at a slow, if steady, pace.

The next morning, Chase woke to find William propped up on his elbow staring down at him. “How is it this morning?”

“Blurry,” Chase replied with a widening smile. “But better….” William leaned in to kiss him and Chase whispered, “You’re cute even if you are blurry!” William laughed and tickled him, but before anything else could happen, Alex could be heard crying for a bottle.

Chase smiled and grabbed his robe, then ran downstairs to grab a bottle. He laughed when he realized he was keeping his eyes closed, but he knew he could do it faster without looking at this point. The visual stimulus was as confusing as it was helpful for useful tasks.

Back upstairs, he did open his eyes to watch the baby eat as best he could, smiling at being able to see as if his heart were about to burst. William smiled and said, “You need to call Matt to come over, and later, we need to go see Sam….”

Chase nodded and finished with the baby, burped him, and handed him to William, who laid him on the bed and tickled his belly while Chase picked up the phone. “Matt? Hey, could you come over here for a second?”

“Sure, be right there,” he heard. “Amy’s here…. Do you mind?”

“No,” Chase smiled, “we’re in our pj’s but if she doesn’t mind, come on over…. She knows about the baby?”

“Yeah, but I wasn’t sure how to explain,” Matt laughed. “I’ll leave that up to you….”

Moments later, the door downstairs opened without announcement and two sets of footsteps hurried upstairs. “Hey,” Amy smiled and went to sit next to William. “HE’S SO CUTE!”

William smiled and let her play with Alex. “So what did Matt tell you?”

“Just that you guys have a baby now? Who’s is it?” she asked, not looking up at him.

“Chase’s and mine,” William said.

“Who’s the mom, silly?” she said.

“He’s doesn’t have one,” Chase said. “We’re his biological parents….” He watched her for any sign that she thought he was crazy, but she just nodded and kept playing with the baby. Turning to Matt, he laughed and yelled, “YOU TOLD HER!”

Matt blushed and said, “She figured it out about you two a long time ago! What was I supposed to do, lie?”

YES!” Chase laughed. “But it’s okay I guess….”

“So, what was so urgent?” Matt asked.

“What the angel did to me…. It started to work. I can kinda see,” Chase said.

Matt hugged him tight and said, “That’s wonderful! What’s it like?” Chase explained how his vision was progressing as Matt and Amy listened in awe. When he finished, Matt said, “Wow!”

“I know! It’s kind of strange,” Chase said. “Hard to get used to, but it’s amazing to see things I’ve only imagined!”

Matt and Amy stayed and played with the baby for a while until it was time for a diaper change, then they made a quick, laughing exit.

In the afternoon, the Xavier took the boys to visit Sam and make arrangements for Alex’s bris. While William excused himself to the bathroom, Sam said quietly, “I think, given events of recent weeks, there will be no need for you to convert! After all, you are the HIGH PRIEST….” Chase blushed and nodded.

When William returned, they made all their arrangements and Sam had an announcement sent out to the community letting everyone know when the event would take place. “And you and your husband go buy yourselves tallitot for the service!”

***

A few days later, James was lying back on the bed in a pair of powder blue silk pajama bottoms, reading a book from Sebastian’s library. When Sebastian came in, James said, “Remember, no meetings on Sunday!”

“Hmmm?” Sebastian asked absentmindedly as he began to undress for a shower.

“Alex’s bris in Richmond,” James replied with a smile.

“Of course! No meetings! Shouldn’t be necessary, in any case…. The humans are hammering out some basic concords now! No world peace, no universal liberation, but it puts them on the right path….”

“So you can stop putting hits out on people now?” James teased.

“Not ‘til they’re finished,” Sebastian frowned and shook his head. “But the local consuls can take care of that from here on out….”         

“Well then, come to bed with me tonight!” James responded cheekily.

“I had every intention of doing just that,” Sebastian grinned, “but perhaps I’ll just go down to the barracks and sleep….”

“Fine…. I bet Spencer would be glad to have some company, and this bed is so comfortable,” James teased.

Sebastian winked, and said, “Be right back!”

When he returned, he was patting himself dry and crawled into bed. When they had exhausted themselves, Sebastian lay on top of James, his head on the soft skin of the boy’s chest.

“James?” Sebastian asked suddenly, after a long silence.

“Sebastian?” James teased.

“Can I ask you a question? I’ve been wanting to ask you for a long time, but what with everything else that’s been going on … it slipped my mind….”

“Sure,” James said, confused.

“That night when I brought the man here for you to feed and you … drained him….” He stopped, feeling James tense beneath him, but continued. “I think most everyone has a distaste for child-rapists, particularly one who could do that to his own child, but … you lost control completely….”

James shuddered. “I don’t want to talk about it…. Not right now, anyway….”

“Okay, sweetheart,” Sebastian said, stroking his chest. “But you can talk to me … when you’re ready…. Or if not me, maybe Sam?”

James nodded and kissed his head. “It wasn’t my father,” he whispered, his last word on the matter for the moment, and Sebastian nodded.

***

On Sunday, the boys arrived at the synagogue with the baby before morning prayers. Sarah and Steve, as well as Xavier and Aiden came along. Matt and Amy, Charles and Maria, and a bunch of their friends came too.

Edward and Carl came in just before the ceremony and sat in the back, waving a little, and James and Sebastian were just behind them. Chase held the baby during the service, and while the assisting rabbi prepared the cut, William made it. Alex cried for a minute, and then it was all over. After it was all over, there was a reception. Sarah held Alex and “introduced” him to all the guests, while Chase and William mingled with their friends.

Seth Stein brought Nathaniel with him, and the two of them held hands as they talked to Chase and William. When they had a moment alone, Chase and William cornered Edward and Carl. “Where have you guys been?”

Edward blushed, and Carl smiled and said, “I took him out to my family’s cabin when things got hairy, and we holed up out there to defend ourselves….”

“So you could defend me, you mean,” Edward said leaning into the boy.

“Let me guess,” William grinned. “Mostly you just had to find things to do to stay … busy?” Both boys blushed and nodded. William and Chase invited them to come by Xavier’s that evening so they could catch up in private.

James and Sebastian stayed long enough afterwards to greet those of Chase’s and William’s friends they knew, including Seth Stein, whom Sebastian had ‘introduced’ to his new boyfriend. William and Chase were very busy, but Sebastian caught them long enough to whisper, “James and I are going on vacation next week…. We’re going for two weeks to a private island in the South Pacific, and we’d like you guys to come with us….”

Chase smiled at William and nodded. “We’ll talk to mom and dad, but I don’t think we’re returning to school this year, so it should be fine…. Thank you!” With that, he gave them both kisses and added, “You look even more beautiful together than I imagined!”