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It was a bright cloudless morning and time for their first class. Pogue briefly relished the look of absolute shock first in Caleb’s and then Reid’s eyes as they spotted him in the back of the classroom. Truth was – Pogue had been sitting there in the same spot for the past two hours. He had a Starbucks glass full of bitter black coffee sitting on his desk that was happily stirring itself away. At Caleb’s sharp look of disapproval, he rolled his eyes but made it stop.
“You didn’t sleep at all last night, did you?” Caleb hissed soon as he was seated on one side of Pogue, with Reid on his other.
He chose to consider it a rhetoric and Reid butted in quickly. “Care to fill me in, anyone?”
Both Pogue and Caleb spoke at the same time, only, one of them said “No” and the other said “Parry’s having nightmares.”
He glared at the older boy but Caleb pressed on. “I take it they’ve happened again since that first night?”
“It’s not like you care, Danvers. Leave me alone.”
Pogue started to get up and walk away, as far as he could get from that look in Caleb’s eyes he couldn’t stand. But he wasn’t allowed to. A hand shot out and gripped his wrist before he could get away, gripped it so tight it induced a jolt of panic remembered from two nights ago. Pogue swallowed and turned to look into Caleb’s eyes.
“You know I care, Pogue. You should have come to me when it happened again.”
And submit to another full body cavity search by Mr. Cynical Pervert? No thanks. But Pogue didn’t say that out loud.
Tyler put in an appearance just then, plonking himself in the row just behind them. “What’s going on?”
Reid supplied the answer, “Tough guy here’s hiding something from us. Again.”
“It’s not like that…”
“Conference. Now.” Caleb ordered and without question the other two guys picked up their books and started following him out. Pogue was the only one who didn’t budge.
“Parry…” Caleb was using his commanding leader voice and Pogue huffed after a pause, knowing he had no choice but to obey.
They ducked out of the classroom just as Mr. Rosenberg appeared round the corner. By the time the teacher reached the door the four witches had vanished into thin air.
They drove up to the top of the cliff in Reid’s SUV – their usual spot for private meetings such as these. Not like Pogue actually wanted this to begin with, and he just kept his face turned away, sulking petulantly. He didn’t want his friends to know what had happened the night before, but the way Caleb had looked at him, he was certain the older boy was also thinking of the wet spot on his sheets and putting two and two together.
What did Caleb think of Pogue now that he knew how Pogue had come as a result of a sexual assault? What the hell kind of a sick man did that make him?
Caleb quickly summarized what happened two nights ago and stood back quietly, waiting for Reid and Tyler to react. After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence… Reid, as expected, burst out laughing. Pogue turned his murderous eyes at him only to spot Tyler also struggling to bite back a grin.
“Great. Thanks you guys.” His face was burning hot red and instinctively he started walking to get away as fast as possible.
“Pogue, wait. Shut up both of you, this is serious.” Caleb strode over and gripped Pogue’s arm, not letting him leave. “Come on back, Parry. Come on, it’s okay. They’re just being goofs.”
Pogue reluctantly allowed himself to be pulled in closer to the older boy and Caleb lowered his head to speak to him kindly. “Look, I’m sorry I dismissed it as just a bad dream. But now I can see this is really serious, that it’s happened again and it’s hurting you. And it’s clearly a supernatural problem. Which makes it our problem.”
“That’s right,” Tyler added as he approached them. “I should have guessed something was wrong when you came by my room the other night. I’m so sorry, bro.”
“I noticed something was up,” Reid admitted with his hands still dug in his pockets and looking contrite. “I should have followed through. I’m sorry too, Pogue.”
Pogue still couldn’t look up into anyone’s face. His body was shivering from head to toe and not just from the cold. And his friends didn’t (couldn’t) know the half of what was bothering him.
When it became clear Pogue wasn’t about to respond, Caleb straightened up and addressed everyone instead. “Okay, first things first – Tyler, get researching. Find out what spell or curse could do this and how to reverse it. I don’t think it’s an incubus but look it up anyway. Reid – your job is to do a little snooping around the families. See who could possibly be holding a grudge against our man. It’s possible someone’s found a way to use without alerting the rest of the covenant.”
That was the other big and scary question - who among the four Ipswich families that had been so tight and close-knit for the past four centuries, could possibly want to hurt him like this?
Reid grinned again. “Maybe it’s your mom, Danvers, maybe she’s pissed Pogue won’t sleep with her.”
It was a bad joke, but also utterly baseless since their mothers weren’t witches anyway (unless they were mixing spells and potions but they couldn’t be – could they?) Pogue knew what the jerk was trying to do and Caleb joined in on it. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s your mom, Garwin. She’s always calling us over for dinner without you.”
Pogue forced out a little snort, but spoke up at last. “The attacks aren’t violent.”
Somehow he thought this particular fact was important. Even though it felt like he was giving away more than he wanted to. Timidly he sighed and winced his eyes shut. “I’m still alive, that’s something, right?”
Caleb huffed back resolutely. “You’re sleeping with me tonight.”
Everyone’s eyes shot up at him together and he faltered. “Uh, I mean… in my room. Or I’ll stay with you in yours, whatever.”
Reid smirked again, Tyler giggled because yeah it was funny watching the mighty Caleb Danvers blush like a twelve-year old girl. But he wasn’t the only one blushing. Pogue felt his own face blaze up within the second. “It’s a-alright. I don’t plan on sleeping anyway.”
Caleb scoffed. “You look like shit after just two nights, Parry. You’re bound to crash sooner or later. Fine, whenever that happens, just let me know alright?”
Pogue grimaced in defeat but inside he was relieved. He’d never been the one being looked after in this bunch. It was kinda… nice… for a change, even if a little mortifying to an extent.
“Caleb?” Tyler asked meekly.
“What if… what if the reason we can’t sense it – is because it’s not someone from the Ipswich Covenant?”
Caleb didn’t answer for the longest time. “Then I guess we have a bigger problem at hand, gentlemen.”
Pogue looked up at the gathering black clouds in the early morning sky. Who could he have possibly wronged this bad to warrant such a heavy-duty bout of using? This guy wasn’t looking to just hurt him, or even kill him. That could be done just as easily by cutting his bike’s brakes or dropping shellfish in his cheerios.
Unless it wasn’t an act of vengeance at all… which was sort of worse, wasn’t it?
The next time they met was in the evening at the old Danvers estate. They gathered in the basement around the Book of Damnations and Tyler was the first one to start. “So, here’s why I don’t think it’s an incubus. For one, there is no known instance of an incubus ever attacking a guy.”
Pogue cut in. “Yes, but I looked it up earlier and the MO is exactly the same. And besides, the chances of a guy coming forward and admitting to having been, uh, attacked are slim to none.”
Reid nodded. “I agree. It’s also possible the historians were a bunch of homophobic dicks and just didn’t include such accounts in the books.”
Tyler frowned. “Okay, alright. But they say the primary purpose of an incubus is to create supernatural progeny, like Merlin. The demons thought it’d be a way to corrupt the bloodlines of humans, God’s much favored creation.”
“Merlin’s backstory was never proven.”
“Everything we got here is hearsay, Caleb. But we’ve trusted it so far, haven’t we?”
Caleb grimaced and let Tyler continue. “So like I was saying, the purpose was to impregnate women. And since it isn’t exactly possible to get Pogue pregnant, at least I think it isn’t…”
The three boys turned to smirk at Pogue and he scowled back in turn. “Shut up.”
Tyler chuckled and carried on. “Here’s why I don’t think it’s a simple nightmare curse either. This curse is changing, shifting in content and the effect it has on the victim.”
Pogue didn’t like being referred to as ‘victim’ and squirmed in his seat.
“The first time was not the same as the second, right Pogue?”
He blushed again, hiding his face behind his long bangs and quickly nodded. He hadn’t shared any specific details with Tyler, just his overall impression of the two experiences – the first was scary and disturbing where he thought he was going to be raped. The second one creepy and unsettling where he got the feeling he was being… seduced?.
“It’s almost like, someone was personally taking the time to script and control the hallucination. Like casting a new spell every night…”
“Like someone hell-bent on screwing with my head,” Pogue whispered.
“But obviously they don’t want to kill you. Maybe this is less about hate and more about, uh…”
Tyler couldn’t bring himself to complete, so Reid the anti-diplomat did. “Lust?”
Pogue gulped but didn’t look up to meet anyone’s eyes.
“Hey, far as I could see, there’s no one in the families psycho-blazin’ for Pogue.” Reid spoke up again to break the awkward silence. “I’ve exhausted all my covert operative skills on this assignment, brothers. Turns out our folks are all squeaky clean. Boring as hell.”
Caleb added. “And besides, I can always sense it when someone is using that heavily within the Covenant.”
Yeah, yeah. Friggin’ showoff. Caleb was the object of a lot of envy from the other three boys. His being only six months away from his Ascension had already started to give him a few extra magical perks still denied to the younger boys.
Caleb offered another suggestion. “Maybe it’s a girl. An ex? Jilted witch lover somewhere you haven’t told us about, tough guy?”
“Stop calling me that. And no. Nobody except Kate and last time I checked, she wasn’t a witch.”
“Maybe it’s hoodoo. Or voodoo, or whatever that other magic from Creole is.” Reid made a good point but it was alarming to say the least.
Caleb thought just as much. “If that were true we’d have no idea where to start and how to stop it, dude. I don’t like our prospects with that.”
“There is one way to find out.”
Everyone turned to look at Pogue, who still wouldn’t look up at anyone in the room. Not even Caleb, who in the past few minutes had managed to slide in closer to the younger boy and hesitantly put a hand on his nearest thigh. Pogue had thought about shifting away or at least shrugging the warm palm off, but strangely enough, he didn’t quite mind it so much.
“What is it, Pogue?”
He sighed. “The last time, I got the feeling that… the thing was in a chatty mood or something. I-I… could ask.”
Pin-drop silence descended over the basement.
“No.” Caleb’s voice echoed suddenly, startling everyone out of their private thoughts. “I don’t want you to have to… go through that again.”
God knew he didn’t want to either. But what choice did they have? Pogue grimaced, unconsciously curling up over himself and rubbing his eyes tiredly. “You said it yourself, Caleb. I will crash sooner or later, and if we can’t figure this out by then…”
Tyler stood up and started heading out. “I’ll see what I can dig up.”
He didn’t waste another second to look back at whether Caleb approved or not, and of course Caleb did. Reid rose as well and patted his pocket to check for his car keys. “I think I’ll go check my old colony house, there are still books and stuff in the crypt buried down there. Maybe I’ll find something to help us out.”
Us. Pogue blinked back tears, quietly cursing himself for his weakness.
Reid started walking out but paused and turned to look at Pogue. A milder version of his usual smirk was back in place. “If it happens again, just try and relax. You can’t tough this one out, Parry. So don’t try.”
And that was all he had to offer as advice. Pogue didn’t react, knowing Reid was bisexual and open to experimentations of the super duper extreme kind. Then again, Reid of all people was most likely to understand the mental conflicts he was going through.
Pogue swallowed, hard, and buried his face back in his hands. This time when Caleb’s hand returned at the small of his back, he numbly shirked it off.
Pogue was swimming again. All alone in the Olympic-sized pool, he immersed himself in the water with all his mind and body and soul, forcing himself to think of nothing but the precision of his strokes and the building strain in his toned muscles as he pushed them to their very limit. He took a breather at the end of his fortieth lap, stopping and leaning against the pool wall and pulling his goggles off. That was when he noticed Caleb sitting on the sidelines watching him keenly. Stealth was a bitch when it came to friggin’ witches.
“Jesus. How long have you been here?”
Caleb stood up, digging his hands into his jacket pockets again. “Long enough. Come on out, tough guy.”
“’Cause I’m afraid you’re about to pass out underwater any second now. That or shrivel up to half your size or something.”
Pogue scoffed, or at least tried to around his rapid panting. Caleb walked up to him, bent down and offered a hand which the younger boy took with much reluctance. To a third person (if there’d been one around) it would have looked like Caleb actually pulled Pogue clear out of the water with a single hand. They wouldn’t have seen the short surge of magic tingling from one hand to the other and the mildly mischievous glances exchanged between the two best friends.
“You think you’re ready to turn in?” Caleb asked as he handed Pogue his towel.
Pogue shivered. “Not really.”
“Okay. So what should we do now?”
The younger boy ran a hand through his wet locks and frowned. “What do you mean ‘we’?”
Caleb shrugged. “I got nothing better to do.”
“Danvers, really, you don’t have to…”
“Shut up and get yourself out of those speedos.”
Caleb grinned cheekily. “I mean go change, I’ll wait for you here.”
Suddenly acutely conscious of his nearly naked self, Pogue flushed. He turned and walked away to the showers fast as he could without actually running. He hadn’t missed the way Caleb’s eyes had skimmed over his body from head to toe, lingering at the slight bulge in his crotch a little too long. He also couldn’t ignore the sensation of an intense gaze fixed on his backside as he walked away from Caleb. Last week, he’d probably have thought nothing of it, hell he wouldn’t have even noticed it in the first place. But a lot had changed since then.
Pogue used to be a vain sonofabitch, used to be more than happy to show off his hot bod for the ladies. Nor was he blind or even in any way averse to the attention he’d get from some guys. But the attention Caleb was showering on him of late was something new and altogether strange. He felt lightheaded and more naked than he’d ever felt before.
They unanimously voted for a way-past midnight snack, got into Caleb’s car and headed downtown to their second favorite hangout place besides Nicky’s that stayed open all night. It didn’t serve any booze, which was just as well. Caleb wanted to be fully alert for anything that might come up during the course of the night. On their way, the car stereo blasted Stabbing Westward’s latest album and Pogue unconsciously drummed his fingers on his armrest, not in tune at all.
“Hey…” Caleb put his hand over his, stilling the fidgeting fingers. Pogue drew in a sharp breath.
“Fine.” His voice sounded squeaky to himself, and he cleared his throat roughly. “Fine.”
Caleb smiled at him and turned back to the road. And for some inexplicable reason that Pogue didn’t feel too inclined to question, Caleb didn’t take his hand away until they reached their destination.
At the café, Caleb drew the line when Pogue started to order himself a third caramel latte with three extra shots of espresso. “That’s enough coffee for one day, tough guy.”
Pogue flashed him a wide grin, his first in days - a pretty good indication that the caffeine was doing its job. “Told you not to call me that.”
Pogue chose to respond to that with another loud slurp of his drink.
“Pogue?” Caleb leaned forward from across their table and whispered coyly. “Are you admitting that you just might need someone to watch out for you after all?”
Pogue looked up at the other boy through a curtain of his long bangs. He’d never noticed how beautiful this man was before. “Nooo…”
Caleb narrowed his eyes.
“I’m admitting that, I just might need you to watch out for me after all.”
Caleb smiled and licked his lips, and it sent warm shivers down Pogue’s spine. He quickly looked away and gulped the rest of his coffee down at once.
They spent the night driving back and forth the state of Massachusetts. It was relaxing, just Pogue and his best friend in his best friend’s cool car, doing one-fifty on an open highway in the middle of a moonlit night, awesome music blasting from the stereo. A couple of times that Pogue started to nod off, Caleb would shake him awake and they’d change places so Pogue would drive for awhile. It was nine in the morning on Friday when they finally reached the gates of Spenser’s Academy.
“You don’t think it might get me in daylight, do you?”
Pogue waited expectantly for Caleb’s answer. The older boy just shrugged and led the way as they sneaked into their dorm.
“Honestly I don’t know. But you look really beat, Pogue. Let’s go to my room.”
Pogue followed him into his dorm room. Just then Caleb’s cell phone buzzed and he checked it to find a text from Tyler that simply said: “Where are you guys? Conference at twelve.”
“Tyler might have found something. We got three hours to kill. I say we try to get some sleep.”
Pogue started to frown but Caleb quickly answered his unspoken question. “I’ll be right here with you. And you know I’m a horribly light sleeper. I’ll douse you with cold water if that’s what you need.”
Pogue sighed and agreed. “Where will you sleep?”
“Here, on my bed.”
“Oh, okay. Where should I sleep?”
“Here, on my bed.”
Pogue stared at him, like he’d lost his mind. Caleb grinned again. “Relax, prude.”
And with a quick flick of his wrist accompanied by a very mild darkening of his eyes, Caleb expanded the bed from bunk size to queen size so it was now big enough for two without breaking through the walls of the tiny dorm room. The twelfth graders got rooms all to themselves, unlike Tyler who was one grade behind and still had to room with someone. It was a luxury the witches with their double lives couldn’t possibly treasure more.
“Okay, get in bed, sweetcakes.”
Aargh. “Fuck you, man.”
While Caleb was sniggering, Pogue drew a huge breath and decided to hell with it. He really was bone-tired and could do with a couple hours of rest before waking up, hopefully to some good news. He shrugged out of his jacket and sweater, then tugged off his boots and socks too. Decided to keep the t-shirt and jeans on and slid under the covers. He turned over to one side away from Caleb, leaving more than enough space on the bed for the other man.
“You can take ‘em off, Parry. I won’t jump you, I promise.”
“You’re really enjoying this aren’t you?”
Caleb smirked and Pogue gave him the dirtiest look he could find before turning back to face the window. He could sense the older boy standing quietly behind him, waiting for God knew what, and then he heard the soft rustling of clothes when Caleb started to strip. He didn’t have as many inhibitions though, and got under the covers behind Pogue in just his boxers. Pogue tensed up a little, and tried to stay as still as stone on his side.
“Keep your hands to yourself, tough guy, or else.”
Pogue had to bite back his grin. “Shut up and let me sleep.”
One last chuckle and then there was silence. And it wasn’t comfortable at all. Pogue heard the other man’s breaths behind him as it came and went with constant regularity. Even counted them for awhile until his eyes got heavy and his own breaths got longer and slower. Before he could get to one hundred like he planned, Pogue fell into a deep dark sleep.
There is a place between heaven and earth, a place both timeless and fleeting at once, a few moments of absolute peace between deep sleep and wakefulness that Pogue had never appreciated as much before as he did now. He felt like he was floating on water in a cool brook somewhere in the mountains with the warmth of a bright sunny day playing on his fluttering eyelids. Pogue smiled and hummed a deep sigh of contentment, but feeling too lazy to wake up just yet, he just clenched his eyes tighter and nestled into the broad naked chest beneath him.
Pogue blinked his eyes open and found himself lying practically on top of Caleb, his head buried in the crook of his best friend’s neck. One arm and one leg was draped across the other boy as if they belonged there. One of Caleb’s arms was pinned under Pogue’s body and casually wrapped around his narrow waist.
Pogue jumped apart as quickly as he could and sat up straight in bed… in Caleb’s magically stretched bed that was supposed to be big enough for two and yet here he was, cuddling into the man while the rest of the space lay unslept. And to make things worse – even though his face was turned away and he couldn’t see it but he knew it sure as day – Caleb was wide awake.
“At least you got some sleep.”
Pogue blushed hard and refused to look at Caleb. The older boy sighed softly, and put his hand on Pogue’s back rubbing it gently. “It’s okay, man. I didn’t mind. Really.”
Caleb was still grinning when Pogue got out of bed and grabbed the rest of his clothes and shoes. “Really, it’s cool Pogue. Remember when we were kids, and we'd snuggle together in one sleeping bag like a bunch of puppies. Summer camp in the mountains?”
Strange that Caleb should mention the same place Pogue was dreaming about just moments ago. “We’re not kids anymore, Danvers.”
“No.” Pogue finally turned to look into Caleb’s face. It was serene and amused, but not spiteful in any way. “We’re not.”
Pogue blushed anew, and quietly exited the room.
By lunchtime, Pogue had showered and changed and was (almost) ready to put his latest embarrassing episode behind him. The good news was, he did manage to catch a good couple hours of sleep without getting attacked. Maybe Tyler could help figure out why that was – was it because it was daytime? Or was it because he wasn’t sleeping alone? Maybe both?
Instead of taking the bike, he decided to walk to their secret meeting place up in the hills, so he got the chance to clear his head of stupid disturbing, conflicting thoughts (all revolving around Caleb but he wasn’t admitting it just yet). The others were already there waiting for him. Caleb stood with his arms crossed, dangerously close to the edge of the cliff, but that was his usual spot and Pogue was practically used to the rapid heart palpitations by now. Reid sat resting his butt at the edge of a rock. Tyler stood beside him with a heavy tome of Ancient Witchcraft Practices Before Christ tucked under one arm. And they both were smirking their faces off.
Fucking Danvers and his big fucking mouth.
“Someone looks rested. Looks like we might have a temporary solution to our problem at last!” Tyler mused.
Reid piped up. “Maybe even a permanent one?”
Pogue scowled predictably, and the younger boys laughed. Caleb was also smiling but trying hard not to. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t count on it. For one I didn’t get a blink of sleep myself.”
Pogue frowned, he hadn’t noticed. “Why’s that?”
Caleb shrugged and turned away without giving him a response.
“You didn’t have to do that, Danvers,” Pogue hissed. He wondered if Caleb heard the bewildered irritation in his voice that Pogue felt inside. And yet a tiny part of him also felt grateful (maybe even a little giddy) that his best friend actually stayed up to keep watch over him while he slept. But Caleb was right – this wasn’t exactly a permanent or even temporary solution to anyone’s problem. He knew what they all were thinking, but Pogue wasn’t going to be babysat by his pals taking turns or whatever while he slept. No fucking way.
“So the good news is – it is not Creole magic,” said Tyler. “Reid and I scanned the whole dorm for any hoodoo signs and symbols and the place is clean.”
Caleb narrowed his eyes. “What’s the bad news?”
“It could be any number of other classes of magic we don’t know about.”
Caleb heaved a huge sigh by way of response, and Pogue could see how exhausted he was. In fact, his other two friends didn’t look their usual selves either. His shoulders sagged and he had trouble meeting anyone’s eyes.
Caleb came away from the cliff’s edge. “So here’s the plan. Starting now until the sun goes down, we hit the libraries and dig up whatever we can.”
Tyler nodded. “I’ll go back to the old colony house, see if I can find something in the crypt.”
Reid straightened up as well, offering to research online while Pogue volunteered to hit the public library in the meantime.
“Great,” Caleb approved. “I’ll drive down to the Newbury wiccan parish, see if I can find something there.”
“And what happens when the sun goes down?” Reid’s usual smirk was back in business. “Who gets to bed Parry tonight?”
Sonofabitch! “You looking to get your ass kicked, just say so, Garwin.”
Reid snorted but before he could respond and cause the argument to escalate, Caleb shot Reid his patented shut-up-right-now-or-else look and answered his question anyway. “Tonight, we party. We drink and we dance and we find us some girls to keep us busy until dawn…”
“Alright!!” Reid looked happy enough, and in fact so did Pogue, until Caleb continued. “In Salem.”
Pogue groaned. “Dude. No…”
“So it’s a recon mission!” Tyler exclaimed. “But do you really think they’d mess with one of us? Don’t we have like a two-hundred year old peace pact or something?”
Caleb squinted. “It’s more like the fear of mutually assured destruction really. But you never know with them witches, maybe one of ‘em is PMSing or something.”
Amid the snorting and more verbal lynching that followed, Pogue wasn’t given a chance to remind everyone how bad an idea this was, considering what happened the last time they went to Salem. Witches didn’t like other strange witches wandering into their home turfs and especially those uptight Salem women. They pretty much hated the Ipswich clans to begin with because they only bore male heirs to inherit the powers of the bloodlines.
The boys started climbing down the cliff to head back to the school.
“Hey do you remember that tall, dark-haired one? She had a really weird name.”
“That’s it. Bet she’s the one having her wicked wiccan way with tough guy here…”
“No way, man, she was giving me the eye all night.”
“Poor Reid, you’re so jealous.”
“Of course I am!”
And on and on they went, chattering lightly and feigning a general air of casualness when inside, they clearly felt none. Pogue was quiet all the way, but even when he tried, he couldn’t find the gap in the three-way conversation to express how utterly grateful he was. Course he had a feeling his gratitude was only going to be laughed away by his best friends.
It is what he would have done.
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