Previous chapters: One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six
Reid lay sprawled on a big red couch (one he conjured up himself) in the ball room, out like a light. He’d only gone to sleep like two hours ago, so he really, really didn’t appreciate the phone ringing his butt off. Groaning, he dug it out of his jeans pocket after nine rings.
“’Lo? Anya… hey, what’s up?”
Tyler, who’d stretched out on top of the piano, woke up too. He rubbed his eyes with the back of one hand, looking all of six years old and sat up. That was when he noticed Reid’s face going from sleepy and annoyed to wide awake and concerned and finally shocked, all in a matter of a few seconds.
“Is she… I can be there in…. but… what… are you sure?”
Tyler frowned as he waited for the conversation to complete. Once Reid hung up, he fired. “What’s wrong?”
Reid looked up at Tyler and swallowed, hard. “I think we may have found proof this creature isn’t a figment of Pogue’s imagination.”
“What do you mean? What happened?”
Reid got to his feet and started gathering his stuff. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
Without further explanation, he stalked out of the Simms mansion and Tyler, feeling frustrated by the suspense as it is, followed fast as he could.
It was a cold, dark and dismally foggy day. One that Pogue would ordinarily make the most of by zipping his bike up and down the mountains. He hadn’t been nicknamed ‘tough guy’ for no reason, after all.
But today was different. This morning he felt tired, lethargic, wishing he could just go back to sleep and stay hidden under the covers forever. Hidden and possibly, although not likely, safe.
Sometime during the night, Caleb must have dragged the covers down from the bed and wrapped it around the two boys stretched out on the carpeted floor besides the fireplace. He’d also conjured up a little fire, keeping the room warm and cozy enough for Pogue to stop shivering and go to sleep. And slept he had, peacefully through the night.
Caleb hadn’t slept a wink.
Pogue yawned and stretched, breaking free of the last vestiges of a six hour long, well-deserved sleep. That’s when he realized there was something else wrapped around him besides the covers… a someone else. Pogue immediately tensed.
“Shhh, it’s just me, baby, relax.”
Caleb. Pogue relaxed, sinking back against the chest behind him and letting his best friend’s arms clasp his waist more snugly. A pair of lips pressed into his hair besides his ear and stayed there for awhile. Pogue scoffed softly.
“Aren’t sexual assault victims supposed to shun all physical contact with the gender that assaulted them?”
Pogue’s drawl was slow and sleepy, but clear enough to make Caleb nervous and withdraw a little. “I-I figured… since last night… you were…”
“Relax baby, I was kidding.”
Caleb was the one who scoffed this time. “Baby?”
“What? Only you get to say it then?”
Caleb bit his lip to keep the giddiness down. “Not at all. Sounds… nice, when you say it.”
Pogue stayed silent, acutely aware of his body practically nestled into Caleb’s and how he didn’t feel an ounce of hesitation or embarrassment because of it. He hadn’t forgotten the events from a few hours ago, but somehow the terrifying assault in his sleep seemed like a distant memory when compared to the soothing comfort he’d felt for the rest of night. Because even in his sleep, he knew Caleb was awake, watching over him.
“So, guess this makes it official.”
Pogue swallowed. “You and… and me?”
Thunder rolled somewhere in the distance, filling up the silence that Caleb maintained for the next ten seconds or so. Another storm was on its way, it seemed. Pogue twisted in Caleb’s arms and pulled his knees up to his chest so his right side was now pressed up into Caleb’s chest. That way he could look up at the older boy and Caleb adjusted his hold around the younger boy accordingly.
“Po…” Pogue shivered softly. Something about the way Caleb said his name, with such longing… and sadness…
“I know, far as timing goes, this is the worst ever. And the last time you brought this up, I practically bit your head off. I know I hurt you and you don’t wanna go there again. But, Cale…”
Caleb swallowed and kept looking into his eyes, almost hopefully. Pogue tugged at the first button on Caleb’s shirt absent-mindedly.
“I don’t know what’s going on with me. If I’m being targeted by someone or if I’m just going plain mad. Either way, I feel like… like maybe I don’t have much time left.”
Caleb’s expression shifted into something that was a cross between pissed off and scared. It almost made Pogue smile, almost.
“Dude, don’t say that. We’re going to figure this out…”
“Yeah, I’m sure we will,” Pogue lied smoothly. “But please just let me get this out okay? In the slight chance that we-we don’t, I want you to know, and remember…”
“What are you saying?”
It took near superhuman effort for Pogue to find the words and get them out. “I think I might be gay, after all.”
Caleb smirked, though he seemed to be trying real hard not to. “Yeah, I had that figured for awhile now.”
Pogue gathered all his courage and continued, the words flowing out relentlessly and he couldn’t have stopped them even if he wanted to.
“And I don’t care if it’s what that thing wants me to feel. Sure it’s gotten me curious but I’m making a conscious decision of my own here. All I know is, I feel nothing but used and disgusted by that thing, and nothing but safe and… loved when I’m with you. Caleb, I know it’s way too early and way too complicated at the moment but I don’t want to wait anymore. I think I… I’m falling in love with you.”
“Please say something,” Pogue pleaded nervously when the silence stretched longer than he expected it to.
Caleb heaved a huge, long drawn sigh but never took his eyes off Pogue’s. And then finally, he just clasped his arms tighter around Pogue, pulling him closer. He lowered his mouth seeking permission and Pogue raised his face, granting it. Their lips met, and pressed against each other hungrily for nothing more but comfort and relief, and absolute, intense love.
“I’ve loved you since I was thirteen years old, Pogue.”
His heart skipped a beat. “Really?”
Caleb smiled, stroking Pogue’s temple with a finger softly. “Actually, no, not really.”
Weirdly enough, Pogue’s heart sank at that. He couldn’t fathom or even understand the disappointment that filled him in that moment.
“Truth is, I’ve loved you ever since I can remember. Even when we were little kids, I knew I was always drawn to you. I needed you close to me. Never understood why, and I still don’t. I mean… look at you.”
Caleb laughed, kissing him again. “You’re about sixteen years too late, baby, but I forgive you. Because I love you too.”
And they kissed again.
Pogue closed his eyes and surrendered to the world of myriad sensations that he’d never known existed before. He couldn’t believe how natural, how perfectly normal this felt. He was kissing a guy, a man, as in not a girl. And it was okay. He was being held like he was a girl, like he used to hold Kate (and Caleb held Angela). Caleb was running the flat of his palms up and down the expanse of his back, comforting him, wrapped around him almost possessively. And yet it was all perfectly, awesomely, O.K.
Several minutes passed and Pogue was still deadweight in Caleb’s arms, his head thrown back, his mouth open, throat exposed to Caleb’s ministrations. But Caleb was amazingly gentle and careful. Pogue knew him well enough to know he was holding back. Hell, this one time he’d walked in on Caleb and some girl he couldn’t recall the name of, and for weeks after that Caleb had been teased by the boys for how he liked it kinky and manically rough.
“I’m not gonna break.”
And that, for some strange reason, was the wrong thing to say. Caleb suddenly stopped licking at the jugular on Pogue’s throat (almost as if he was just about to sink his teeth in) and looked up.
“We need to slow down.” Caleb started unwinding himself from around Pogue, and the younger boy panicked. He held on to Caleb’s shirt collar, refusing to let him go.
“Because this isn’t… you were right, Po. This is the worst timing possible. You’re feeling… you know, all screwed up in the head and vulnerable right now and I shouldn’t be taking advantage of you in this condition.”
Pogue opened his mouth to protest and but all that came out was a shocked gasp. Caleb threw the covers off and started to stand up.
“Wh-what… wait, please!”
He didn’t know what Caleb saw in his face, but it made him stop trying to leave. Instead he sat back on his haunches and huffed, rubbing his brows like he did when he was nervous. “Please don’t make this any harder for me than it already is, Parry.”
“For you? Damn it, what about me? I just poured my fucking heart out to you and you’re still convinced I’m losing my mind, aren’t you? Great, that’s just fucking great!”
“I’m the ‘tough guy‘, remember? I can handle this fucked up situation without driving off the edge, you know I can. And I really shouldn’t have to tell you this, damn it, you’re my best friend! I’m not crazy, and I sure as hell am not a fucking weakling, alright?”
“Pogue, come here, please stop that.”
“Fucking stop what?!?!”
At that, Caleb grabbed him and pulled him upwards until he was practically seating in Caleb‘s lap. Then Caleb roughly entangled one hand’s fingers in the back of Pogue’s long hair and proceeded to push Pogue’s face into his chest almost viciously. That’s when Pogue noticed the big fat traitorous drops of water rolling down his face.
Pogue hadn’t shed tears since he was ten years old. Since his mother died. The reality of it struck him hard the moment he tasted something wet and salty on his tongue. And then he just couldn’t stop.
So much for his fucking declaration of strength and sound-mindedness.
Reid and Tyler drove like madmen all the way to Salem. Never before had Reid rued the fact that he still couldn’t teleport more.
When they finally reached Salem General Hospital, they found Anyanca, the oldest Salem witch of her generation sitting outside Jasmine’s room. She was hunched over, resting her clasped hands on her knees, and she kept staring at an obscure point somewhere in the distance, lost deep in thought. Reid thought she’d never looked more beautiful.
They broke her out of her reverie and Anya stood up, suddenly all business, all devilish charm and serenity once again.
“How is she?”
“One broken leg that half the girl’s hostel is witness to so we can’t just put it back together.”
Tyler’s eyes widened. “You can do that?”
Reid could have kicked him. He didn’t like to admit the fact that the Salem witches were born more powerful than the Sons of Ipswich and even after Ascension, the boys never got as strong as these girls did. Anya just smirked knowingly and carried on.
“Isn’t it too much of a coincidence that the night you boys come snooping around in my town, investigating a possibly supernatural sexual predator haunting Pogue, is also the night Jasmine gets attacked by something supernatural?”
Reid nodded. “And Jasmine did spend the whole evening with Pogue, possibly making this damn thing envious and angry.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
Tyler looked back and forth between the two older witches before training his puppy dog eyes at Anyanca. “So you’ll help us figure this thing out, then? Make sure it doesn’t come back to hurt Jasmine again?”
Anya smirked. “Actually, my wiccan spider sense tells me whatever attacked her, is done with her. Jas and Pogue didn’t exactly part amicably, you know.”
The boys had no idea what she was on about but let it pass since it wasn’t helping their business case any.
“How can you be sure it‘s not vicious enough to come back anyway?” Reid asked. And Tyler piped in. “Yeah, and do you know what it is? Was?”
“Jasmine didn’t see it, it attacked her from behind. But if it were a ghost or a corporeal entity, she would have sensed it long before it got that close.”
Reid nodded. Three brains were definitely better than two. “Okay, I’m willing to trust Jasmine’s instincts. So by process of elimination, what have we got left?”
Tyler started listing whatever came to his mind and Anya started shooting them down.
“They don’t attack people and they leave signs or symbols behind to show others they were there.”
“They only strike in your sleep. And there was nothing remotely sexual about this attack.”
“Siren songs! They’re known to possess physical mass and force and strangle people to their deaths.”
Anya folder her arms and frowned. “Okay, that’s possible. Sirens are known to get insanely jealous.”
“But they can’t invoke hallucinations or nightmares, can they?” Tyler asked, which made all three pause.
“No,” Anya sighed. “Not that I know of. Okay what else. We‘re obviously looking for something that can walk both the spirit world and the corporeal world. Either that or…”
“Or this thing is getting stronger by the day. Started with the spirit world and now had grown big enough to cross over into the physical.”
Reid and Tyler paused. Yep, that was definitely possible. The way Pogue had screamed last night, it almost seemed his experience had been much more real, much more horrific this time. And didn’t Caleb mention something about how Pogue actually was physically in pain, something he didn’t feel before?
“Let’s start one possibility at a time,” Tyler suggested. “The only things that can walk both worlds are angels and demons and souped up ghosts. Anything else?”
The other two thought about it and shook their heads. So Tyler continued. “Ghost it’s not. Jasmine confirmed that. There’s nothing divine about these visitations so we can safely assume it’s not angels. Which leaves…”
Reid winced. “Demons. Damn it, Pogue’s just a kid! Why would a demon latch onto him like that? It’s almost like he’s toying with him.”
“Demons can be pretty sadistic, and also pretty obsessed with humans when they want to,” Anya said with a somber voice and the gravity of the words wasn’t lost on anyone. “You have to get Pogue to the Newbury parish. Father Kingston should be able to help keep him safe there.”
“Good idea,” Reid said. “Let’s also talk about the second possibility, just so we know we have covered all grounds.”
They all shut up abruptly as a couple of nurses walked past them. Once they were alone, they started fervently conferring again.
“Okay,” Anya narrowed her eyes. “What is essentially a spirit world walker - causing nightmares or hallucinations, but can grow stronger over time or fueled by something to cross over and gain physical form?”
Tyler jumped in. “I’ve been reading about this for awhile now. There is a class of dream-walkers that are still affected somehow by their once-human genesis and can grow stronger or weaker by the force of their emotions. But they’ve been extinct for eight hundred years at least. Besides, Pogue’s description doesn’t match any of the entities listed in the Book of Shadows. In fact, come to think of it…”
“What?” Both Reid and Anya asked at once. Tyler had this lost look on his face that Reid believe he was having some sort of a Eureka moment as he spoke.
“It’s almost like a combination of all those entities. Like someone conjured him, or basically sketched him out using all of those things as inspirations.”
“Like someone created a dream-walker out of thin air?”
They fell quiet for awhile again.
“It’s a witch, isn’t it?” No one responded to Tyler’s question, so he continued himself. “It makes sense. A witch could have just as easily attacked Jasmine, and he… she… it is also conjuring this monster to torment Parry.”
Anya raised her finely sculpted eyebrows. “None of the Salem witches are strong enough to conjure something up like that. And the covenant of Salem is -”
“- the strongest of all covenants, we know.” Reid rolled his eyes, brushing another reminder of their own inferiority away.
“I’m just saying it wasn’t us.”
Reid looked at Tyler. “And it’s not the Sons of Ipswich either. We were all in the mansion last night in clear view of each other all the time when Jasmine was attacked.”
A deafening silence followed again.
“I can’t fucking believe we’re back to square one,” Tyler muttered.
“No we’re not.” Reid squinted. “We know who not to blame. And we also know we have to take Pogue to the Newbury parish as soon as possible.”
Just then the doctor came over to Anyanca to discuss paperwork and Tyler and Reid stepped into Jasmine’s room for awhile. She was still out, but looked peaceful enough in her sleep. Reid wondered what had happened between her and Pogue that night. But fact was - she seemed to be out of the picture for good, which cleared the way for Caleb and Pogue to hook up and he was fine with that. He’d seen enough last night and this morning (he’d peered into the bedroom and seen Pogue wrapped and sleeping comfortably in Caleb’s arms) to know that Pogue was getting over his internal conflicts and warming up to the idea of being with Caleb as well.
“You’re not going to like this.”
Tyler frowned and turned towards him. “What is it?”
Reid didn’t like it one bit himself. “What if Pogue really is doing it to himself?”
“Dude, no, come on! I thought we went over this! I said that and you shot me down over and over again!”
“Hold on, listen up. We spend so much time poring over the Books. What if, Pogue somehow internalized those images and is using them to conjure up this nightmare for himself?”
“Why are you saying this? I thought you said Pogue wasn’t the kind to hurt himself?”
Reid winced. “Yes, but, what if - what if he is subconsciously doing this not to hurt himself but to - to draw Caleb toward himself?”
“Maybe he just doesn’t know he’s doing it and that‘s why it only happens when he sleeps - you know how repressed he can be. And you’ve also seen how close they’ve gotten since this whole thing started, haven’t you?”
Tyler just glared at him. “Dude, that’s a bit of a stretch, in my humble opinion.”
“Think about it. If you believe in a hallucination strongly enough it tends to manifest itself in physical forms. We’ve read about this before. Just like that movie - dude the one where the girl dreams up this ghost and is hurting herself but turns out it’s just a figment of her own imagination. That period Donald Sutherland movie? Based on a true American haunting and shit? And if regular humans can do it - bring their own imaginings to life then - imagine what us witches can do!”
“You lost me.”
“Fuck that. This entity doesn’t actually exist because it’s not real! Only, for Pogue it is and so the only one it keeps hurting is Pogue!”
“And what about Jasmine?”
“Anya just told us Jasmine and Pogue didn’t part on good terms. Maybe she pissed him off enough to… to…”
Tyler scoffed loudly. “To what? Hurt her? Come on, Reid, Parry would never do that. And even if he wanted to, exactly how could he do it when he was all the way over in the old colony fast asleep, with one of us watching him every second?”
Reid gulped and crossed his arms. “We forgot something, Tyler. Pogue is only six months away from Ascension. What if he’s started to show the signs already? I know it’s too early but it’s been known to happen. What if these are the signs but we‘ve been too busy focusing on Caleb‘s ascension instead to consider that?”
“Consider what exactly?” Tyler asked again impatiently.
“Think, baby boy! Think of the Parrys‘ family traits that Pogue stands to inherit, think of Pogue’s dad! Why is there so much tension between father and son? Because ever since Pogue’s mom died, his dad turned workaholic. He stays away from home and a son that looks way too much like his mom, on business way more than he needs to. In fact, if he wanted, he could do all his work without leaving the manor at all. But he doesn’t!”
Tyler’s eyes went wide with realization. “That‘s right because… Pogue’s dad can…”
It all fell into place then. And they both exclaimed together, forgetting the public setting they were in.
“… astral project!!”
“Shhh….” Caleb whispered softly, rubbing Pogue’s back in long, languid strokes that seemed to be working.
Pogue bit his lip, hid his brightly blushing face in Caleb’s chest. God, he was turning into such an emotional wreck.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, words muffled by the fabric of Caleb’s shirt but Caleb heard them anyway and chuckled deeply.
“Didn’t know you were even capable of such a royal class of tantrum, tough guy.”
“Yeah, well, they say turning gay is like letting your inner ‘little girl’ out so…”
Caleb laughed again. Pogue loved the soft reverberations under his face and hands as Caleb shook quietly. It gave him strength to forge ahead with what he needed to get done.
“I want you, Caleb.”
Caleb froze at that. And Pogue looked up into his face, licking his lips suggestively even though he didn’t know he was doing it.
“If you’re not ready that’s fine with me. Just want you to know that I am.”
Caleb pulled Pogue free of himself so he could gaze right into his eyes. They were still crouched on the floor beside the bed and the magical fire keeping them warm. Caleb’s eyes were narrowed with determination. There was something akin to adoration shining in those dark colored irises but it was nothing new, as Pogue just realized. It had always been there, for Pogue. Always.
“Nothing makes me happier than to hear you say that, Po. And just to prove it…”
Caleb bit his lip, then almost hesitatingly, he took one of Pogue’s hands. Pogue didn’t have to wonder too long what he was up to. His cold hand was pulled downwards until it rested on the warm, hard denim-covered mound between Caleb’s legs, one that rapidly rose even more under Pogue’s touch. The sensation took him aback, never having touched another guy’s package before. And for a moment, it sparked off a memory of the first time he’d had the nightmare - the long, hard shaft pressed up against his bare butt…
Pogue instinctively flinched.
Caleb immediately let go of his hand and shifted a few inches back. When Pogue finally focused back on his face, he could see a soft sadness and resignation coloring the smile on his chiseled face.
“I’m interested, babe. And Merlin knows I’m more than ready. I’ve been waiting for this for an eternity. But you are obviously not as ready as you think.”
Pogue lowered his gaze down into his lap. The fact that his erection from a few minutes ago had wilted was not lost on him.
“You’re not running out of time, Pogue, that thing is. Which means you and I will have all the time in the world for each other. This I promise you.”
Pogue looked up at Caleb at that, the words washing over him like a cool balm salving his wounds. “I just…”
“What? Go on.” Caleb urged, closing the distance once again, taking Pogue’s chin in one hand and raising his face so he could look into the brandy brown eyes. “What is it?”
Pogue sighed. “I just think, or maybe I’m hoping that if… if you… like, you know, cl-claim me first then he wouldn’t be able to, that maybe he wouldn’t be interested?”
Caleb didn’t laugh at him, even though Pogue very much expected him to. He didn’t even smirk.
“You can make him go away, Cale. I know you can. If you accept me.”
“Babe, I already have,” Cale whispered, his eyes watering. Pogue had never seen his best friend cry since… well, ever.
Caleb pulled Pogue back into a tight hug, and Pogue closed his eyes and let his face muscles relax into a contented little smile. It was all Pogue needed to hear. He just hoped he was right, that Caleb’s love really could, literally, drive his demons away.
“You’re mine now, Pogue Parry. He doesn’t get to have you. No one else does.”