Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Shermin Heights Short: Out Of My Mind: Part 1

Hey everyone!  I hope all of you are reading this because I'm going to switching the schedule up a bit this month.  For the next two weeks, I'm taking a break from Heart for Trade and Taming Fire.  Yes, they will be back!  Promise!  :D  While we're on our little series vacation, I'll be filling in with another Shermin Heights story.  I HAD to write this one.  The little purple haired boy from Read My Mind could not go unnoticed and I've been jonesing to write him a story since January.  Plus, I need to take a break from the other stuff for a minute.
I'll be posting a new schedule sometime this week.  Dang.  I need to update a lot of things.  lol Have no fear, updates are coming.  I take it you guys liked the whole schedule thing?  I did.  It helped me out tremendously.
Okay, well, I'll keep you guys posted on what's going to happen in March.  Until then I hope you like this.  :)
~xX Night
Passion Play - William Fitzsimmons
As Your Friend (Radio Edit) - Afrojack
Open Season - High Highs
Follow the Step (Kink Beat Mix) - Rachel Row
Casey looked out the window of his mom’s suburban.  The streets of New Orleans passed him by.  The French Quarter seemed extra spectacular in the afternoon, highlighting all the street performers and crowds of tourists in a brilliant light as if they were magical.  He tapped his fingers on his knee to the rhythm of a lazy country song blanketing the tense silence between him and his mom.  His day hadn’t been so great, pretty shitty on a scale of one to ten, possibly a negative ten.  And his mom wasn’t handling their situation any better.

His backpack jostled on the floorboard as they slowly went over a speed bump, heading out of the city.  It was the same backpack he’d had since he was seventeen and in it were all the material things he needed to get by.  But his mother had insisted he take some clothes.  Everyone needed clothes when they left home, even though right now, he felt as naked as he could be.

When they passed the sign heading out of the city, leaving New Orleans behind for good, Casey shut his eyes.  He turned away from the windshield, tucking his body against the door.

“Are you sure you want to do this, baby? You could always stay with Aunt Kim with me until things blow over.  She offered, you know.”  His mother’s hand rubbed his back.  “I don’t like it any more than you do, Casey, what your dad did.  But running away never solved anyone’s problems.”

“He hit me, mom, over and over.”  Casey sat up, cutting his dark eyes to her.  “Do you see this?”  He pointed to his black eye.  A small bandage covered his left temple where his dad had left a nasty cut with his old varsity ring.  “I’m not running away.  I’m surviving.”

Her hand fell away.  She bit her lip, overcome with emotion, and nodded.  “Well, we better not be late to the bus.”

“I’m not leaving you behind, mom.  You have to understand.  I just can’t be near him or New Orleans. Everything about the place will remind me of my old life, before I told anyone.  It’s just a bad idea,”   Casey whispered, sitting back against his seat.  “He’s my dad.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.  Losing my friends was bad enough, but my dad?  He’s supposed to love me no matter what, not like he really ever showed it.  But I didn’t do anything wrong.  Being gay is not wrong.”

“No, baby, it’s not.  Your father was raised in a different time, by stricter folks, and even stricter values.  He just doesn’t understand why you would want to give up…damn.  I didn’t mean it like that.  I don’t know what to say to make you feel better here, Case.  I can’t make any of this better and I can’t make excuses for him.  What he did was wrong.”  She started to cry.  “Damn it, Casey.  I’m so sorry he hurt you.  I’m just so sorry, baby.”

Casey sighed, frowning.  “Mom, pull over.  You can’t drive like this.  You’ll get into an accident.  Please.”

She complied, navigating the vehicle off the highway to park on the shoulder.  She placed her forehead on the steering wheel, and sobbed.  “You’re a good man, Casey.  This isn’t fair.  You’re my son, my kid, and I feel like my heart is breaking.  I don’t want you to leave me.  I’m not ready for this.”

“I’m not leaving you for good, mom.  I’ll always be there when you need me.”  He hugged her, running his hand over her hair.  “And I’ll be with Adam.  I won’t be alone, so don’t worry about me.”

“Easier said than done, what part about you being my baby did you not understand?”  She hugged him tighter.  “I’ll always worry about you.”

“I’ll be fine, mom.  Going to Shermin might be the best thing that will ever happen to me.  I just need to get away, find myself, and heal a little.  I think staying busy and being around a more…accepting crowd will do me some good.  I’m gonna be all right. I’ll keep in touch, I promise.”

“You’ll call me every week.  Scratch that, every day.”  She refused to let go.


“Every few days?”  She looked up hopefully, mascara running under her eyes.

He smiled softly.  “Every few days,” he agreed.

“And you’ll send pictures?  It looked like a pretty place on that website.  I want to see where you’ll be.” Her lip trembled.

“I’ll send pictures.”  He wiped her tears away.

“You’re leaving me.”  She rubbed his arm, and exhaled slowly, a futile attempt to ebb the pain in her chest.

He shook his head.  “I’m relocating, not leaving you.”

She hummed, turning away.  His mom grabbed a tissue from the middle console, dabbing her eyes. “Relocating…I can deal with that.”

“You sure?”  He squeezed her shoulder.

“Mm hmm.”  She put on her seatbelt and put the suburban into drive.  “I’ve gotten this far in life, I think I get through the next part just fine.  My mama raised me strong,” she squeezed his knee, “just like I raised you.”

“Are you going back to him, after he calms down?”  He buckled up, knowing it was best if he didn’t stare at her.  She’d only break down again.  He could see her fighting the tears again.

“No.  Any man who attacks my son is not worthy of a five p.m. dinner and clean underwear.”  She put her foot on the gas and pulled back onto the highway.  “I told him for better or worse.  I think this qualifies as worse than worse, freeing me of my obligation.”

Casey shook his head, grinning.  “I love you, mom.”

“And I’ll always my love my boy.”

The bus stop was almost an hour away.  Casey’s aunt had bought the ticket clear out of the city, so his dad didn’t get word he was trying to leave town.  Joe, his dad, was a cop, and cops had friends everywhere.  His dad’s friends were less than reputable behind the scenes.  So the less his dad knew the better.  Casey didn’t want any more trouble.

And now, for the first time in his life, Casey didn’t feel like a liar in his own skin.  He was out.  He was going to see the other side of life.  He was free to be who he was, out from under his dad’s thumb.  He’d lost friends when he came out a few weeks ago.  He’d lost family who didn’t understand.  But he had his mom, his mom’s sisters, and his older cousin Adam.  Adam had been the first person he’d called after his dad attacked him.  Adam immediately offered Casey work and a room at his place, a GLBTQ retreat and summer camp in Shermin Heights, Kentucky.  Casey accepted.  He couldn’t live his life in fear anymore.  He refused to.

Now standing outside the running Greyhound bus, he stared at his mom.  “I’ll call you at every stop.”

“And when you get there I want to talk to Adam.  He and his partner are going to pick you up in Cherry Creek.  I just want to know the details is all.”  She straightened his jacket, fussing over him.  “You look so grown up.”

“I am grown up.”  He smiled.

“You’re only twenty years old, boy, just a baby.”  She crossed her arms.  “Don’t make me feel old right now.  I’m already a mess as it is.”

“You aren’t old, mom.”  He winked and winced, forgetting for a second about his eye.

“Hold on.  I think I have some aspirin in my purse.”  Her hands trembled, rummaging through her simple over the shoulder bag, her motherly staple she’d worn since he was little. 

“Mom.”  He stilled her hands.  “I have some already.  I have everything I need.  They’ll leave me behind if I don’t get going.”

She produced a wad of cash from her purse, shoving it at him.  “I keep a separate account from your dad.  He won’t know, so don’t you worry.  Take it.”

He swallowed, looking at the hundred-dollar bills crumpled in his hands.  “Mom, I can’t take this.  You’ll need it.”

“Don’t argue with me, Casey.  I’ll be just fine with Kim.  She’ll take care of anything I need until I can get on my feet.  So you take this and buy yourself some of those fancy headphones.  I know your dad broke the other ones, found them in the trash.”

“Yeah.”  He pocketed the money, knowing she wasn’t backing down.  “He took everything.”

Her eyes widened.  “Oh heavens, I almost forgot.”  She grinned, running to the back of the suburban.  “Oh come on.”  She finally beeped the back door open after a few tries.  A large silver case gleamed on the floorboard and Casey held his breath.  She huffed, looking over her shoulder.  “Well, help me out here.  You’re going to be late.”

Casey went to her, taking his Numark Analog Deck housed in the protective case.  “I thought he…”

“I rescued it from the trash.  It was the only thing that wasn’t broken.” She beamed.  “I know how much you saved up for it.  The only thing you’ve ever wanted to do is make that loud booty music.”

“Mom, it’s not…” He laughed.  “It’s not booty music.”

“Whatever you call it, I know how much you love it.”

The bus driver whistled from the door.  “You coming or what, kid?”

“Yes, sir.”  He held up a hand.  “Thanks, mom. I love you.”  He put his free arm around her.  “Take care of yourself, please.”

“I will.”  She kissed his cheek, squeezing the life out of him.  “Get going before I fall apart.  I love you too, Casey.”

He pulled away, shuffling backwards.  “See you later, alligator.”

His mom bit her lip again, holding up a hand as the distance grew between them.  “In a while, crocodile.”

He turned around and boarded the bus, afraid to watch her cry.


Link bobbed his head to the latest Afrojack mix behind the front counter.  He did a little twirl, shaking it like no one was watching.  And no one was.  All the guests were settled down at the lake for the bonfire barbeque and only the cleaning guy was lurking around somewhere.  He checked his purple faux hawk in the mirror on the wall, popped his lips, and smiled.

“Still gorgeous,” he sang.

The front door chimed and he whipped around, turned down the music, and put on his business face.  “Welcome to the New Heights Haven.  My name is Link.  How may I assist you?”

Two women approached the counter, dragging a month’s worth of matching luggage with them.  The first, a tall brunette, let her bag drop to the ground.  She looked exhausted and a little more down to earth than the sandy haired woman behind her.  “We have a reservation under Foster.  I’m sorry we’re late for check-in.”  She cut her eyes to the other woman.  Someone had to stop at the salon because her polish chipped.”

“Honestly, Debra?  It took five minutes and I happen to want to look nice on my vacation.”  She pursed her lips, flicking her fingers.

“If by five minutes you mean two hours, including having your hair blown out, then sure.  This is supposed to be a vacation, not torture.  You know I hate salons.”  The brunette put her elbows on the counter.  “I’m sorry to keep you waiting.  Is our cabin still available by chance?”

Link looked at Debra, watching her push her designer shades onto her head.  She narrowed her eyes. He snorted and his brows quirked.  “Okay, let me have a little looksee here.”

“You do that.”  Debra rolled her eyes.

“Debra, cut it out.”

“Oh, excuse me for speaking, Sam.”

Sam grunted.  “You’re excused.”

Link grinned, looking up the reservation.  “Here it is.  Foster.  We have you in cabin three, just a short walk towards the lake.  It’ll be on your right.”  He pulled the keys from the wall and grabbed a welcome basket from under the desk.  “Here you go.”  He handed over the goods and Sam patted his hand, grateful.

Debra cooed, grabbing the champagne from the basket.  Without another word, she grabbed her rolling suitcase and high tailed it outside.

Sam shut her eyes for a second, exasperated.  “I’m so sorry.  She can be…”

“A bitch?”  Link leaned on the counter.  “I got that.”

Sam sniggered and squeezed his hand.  “If you weren’t so cute, I’d punch you for that.  However, you’re right and I’m sorry.  This was supposed to be one of those reconnecting with each other trips.  We haven’t been getting along lately, and despite her faults, I love her and want to make it work.”

“It’s all good, doll.”  He winked.  “Nothing I haven’t seen before.  After she has a few glasses of bubbly, I’m sure you know where to go from there.  When she wakes up with that breeze blowing through the windows, wrapped up in your arms, I don’t think she could be a bitch if she tried.”

Sam laughed so hard, she had to put her hands over her face.  “Oh, I like you.  I’ll see you around, sweetheart.”

“Count on it.”  He blew her a kiss and waved her out of the lobby.  “God, I love this job.”


Adam got out of Matt’s borrowed Jeep with Perry, catching Casey’s attention.  Casey was beat.  He could barely keep his eyes open and his legs hurt from sitting for so long.  He dusted off his jeans of peanut butter cracker crumbs, courtesy of the vending machine, and stood.  He looked over the country boy behind Adam and blew out a slow exhale.  Damn, he thought.  Adam was a lucky bastard.  Perry was a hell of lot finer in person.  Casey had only seen pictures.

“Sorry we’re running behind.  The guests were having a barbeque out at the lake and they’re a chatty bunch.”  Adam stopped in front of him.  He scowled, pushing Casey’s long blond bangs out of his face.  “Are you fucking kidding me?  He did this to you?”

Casey turned ten shades of red, pushing Adam’s hand away.  “It’s fine, doesn’t even hurt anymore.”

“The hell it doesn’t.”  Perry put his hands on his hips.  “That’s a true shiner if I ever saw one, and I’ve had my fair share of black eyes.  I bet it’ll hurt for another week.  That cut still coming together too?”

“Yes,” Casey admitted.  “I’m sorry.  Can we just go?  I’m really tired.”

“Shit, of course.  Can’t stand out here all night, can we?”  Adam gave Perry a look.

“You look exhausted.” Perry hauled Casey’s bag into the back of the jeep.

Casey rubbed his nose.  “A little.”

“Which is code for a very.”  Adam chuckled.  “Get in.”

“Is that a gun case?”  Perry’s brows shot up, seeing the silver case in Casey’s grip.  “I don’t know what kind of mess you was in back in New Orleans, but I don’t feel comfortable having that around.  I mean, I have a shotgun, but that’s different.  Hasn’t seen the light of day in years, only the last time I went duck hunting with pop.  I don’t mean to offend you or nothing, but…”

Casey smiled.  “None taken because it’s not a gun, it’s a deck.”

“I got a deck at home and it holds my gas grill and a table with chairs.  Not really sure how you can fit one in that there case.”  Perry got in the passenger’s seat after letting Casey in the back.

Adam laughed.  “No, baby, not a patio kind of deck, it’s to mix music with.”

“I’m lost.”  Perry threw up his hands.  He swore softly and lit up a cigarette.  “A musical patio.”

“Put that out.  You already had your limit for the day.  You’re supposed to be cutting back.”  Adam glared.

“Ah, come on, just this one.  I won’t have any more until tomorrow.  I promise.”  Perry pouted.

“No.”  Adam reached for the cigarette, but Casey got to it first.  He smiled and sat back, taking a hit.  “Not you to!”

“Only socially, and I think I deserve one after today.  Don’t you?”  Casey leaned his head back against the seat, letting the smoke drift off into the wind.

“Just the one, Casey, don’t let ashtray mouth here corrupt you.”  Adam smirked in the rearview mirror.

“We’ll just see if this ashtray mouth kisses you from now on.”  Perry crossed his arms.  “Maybe I’ll find someone who wants my mouth.”

The jeep swerved.  “What!”  Adam shrieked.

Perry howled with laughter.  “Ain’t no one gonna put up with me, but you, baby.”   Perry pushed the brim of his cap to the side to kiss Adam’s cheek.  “Just a joke, sugar.  You’re so uptight.”

“I’ll show you tight.”  Adam laughed, pushing Perry back into his seat.

“Ears back here who don’t want to hear.”  Casey snorted, inhaling a deep drag of smoke, settling his achy body into the bench seat. 

Adam and Perry busted up laughing.  Someone turned up the music.  Miles of country fields opened up on either side of them.  The jeep zoomed down the dirt road and Casey stared at the early evening stars peeking through the darkening sky.  Traveling had never seemed so relaxing to Casey.  Maybe he was tired, physically and emotionally, but he had a feeling that wasn’t it at all.  Something about the open southern country, the darkening sky with millions of glittering stars, and the smell of fresh air gave Casey hope.  Yeah, he thought, Shermin might be the best place to be after all.

He didn’t remember the rest of the drive.  He passed out somewhere after he finished his cigarette and a call to his mom.  A hand to his shoulder scared him awake.  He sat straight up, looking from side to side.  “What?  Where am I?”

“Hey,” Adam said softly.  “We’re here.  Perry’s got your stuff already.  You need to get to bed before end up out here all night.  Trust me, the mosquito bites aren’t worth it.”  He folded down the front seat, and held the seatbelt back.  “Come on, Case.”

Yawning, Casey slipped through the opening and hopped onto the gravel drive.  He stretched, shook off his comatose sleep, and looked around.  A small building with painted white wood siding sat in front of the jeep, the epicenter of the New Heights Haven.  Twinkling white lights guided the way in several directions, creating pretty, narrow paths through the trees.  As he looked up, he saw white globe lanterns, and smiled.  He’d never been anywhere like this before.

“This is nice, Adam, seriously.”  Casey smiled.  “I guess I pictured more of a camp, but this is…pretty.”

“Thanks.  It’s only a camp during the summer.”  Adam slung an arm around him, which was a little awkward since he was shorter, but Casey gladly welcomed the comforting touch.  “God, I was so nervous last year when those teens showed up.  Perry almost roped me to a tree to get me to calm down.”  Adam laughed.  “But that was one of the best summers of my life.  Those kids…we made a difference with them, Case.  There’s not a better feeling in the world than getting that hug at the end of the summer, knowing they really, truly had the best time of their life.”

“It’s good, what you do here for kids…like me.  I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”  Casey looked away.

Adam stopped, tugging his cousin close.  “You’re safe to be yourself here, Case.  And I want you to stay as long as you want.  I don’t care if you rot here with a gray hair in a rocker on the porch.  You have a home here.”

Wiping his eyes, Casey nodded.  “Thanks.  That means a lot.”

“No thanks needed.”  Adam gave him a squeeze.  “Now get up there before you get me crying.  I’m an ugly crier.  Just ask Perry.”

“Who’s crying?”  Perry pushed open the screen door of the main building, frowning under the porch light.  “Ah, shit, you crying again, Adam?  You know I can’t stand it.  You get all a mess, looking like a drowned cat high on bud.”

“See?”  Adam chuckled.  Ugly crier.”

“Come on, you two!”  Perry swatted his arm, already under attack by mosquitos.  “I’m gonna look like I got the pox in another five minutes.”

Casey and Adam shuffled up the drive, going into the empty lobby, and down a small hallway.  Perry and Adam showed him the last door on the left.  Perry knocked.  Loud music bumped on the other side of the door.

“Link, turn that shit down and come open the door.”  Perry pounded again.  He rolled his eyes then gasped as the door flew open.

Casey’s eyes went wide at the pixie of a man with purple hair, standing in the doorway in nothing but a pair of lime green briefs.  His summer tanned body shimmered with some kind of sparkly lotion and the scent of watermelon rolled into the hallway.

“Yes, your highness?”  Link leaned against the door, tapping his fingers to the beat of the music, which he promptly turned down by holding up a remote.

“Uh,” Perry cleared his throat, averting his eyes, “this is your new roommate, Casey.  He’s Adam’s little cousin.”

“There is nothing little about him.”  Link checked Casey over. 

Casey shook his bangs over his black eye, fearful of the petite man’s scrutiny.  He didn’t feel like answering any more questions tonight.  He was tired and a tad overwhelmed by Captain Green Undies.  “I’m Casey.”  He put his hand out.

A soft hand fit into his long enough to transfer shimmer onto his palm.  “Mm hmm, I already got that.  I’m Link, as in Lincoln, but I spell Link with a k. Link with a c reminds me of Zinc and no one wants to sound like a vitamin.”

“Oh brother.”   Adam sighed.  “Link, can you help Casey get settled and make sure he at least makes it to lunch tomorrow?  I have a feeling someone is pretty tired,” he hinted.

Link’s lips made a little o and he stepped aside.  “My bad, sorry for the hold up.  You can sleep right there.  Don’t worry, it’s clean.  I burned the bedding after Joey left.  Such a slut.”

“Link,” Adam warned softly.

“Well, he was.”  Link sighed.  “And like I said, the bed’s been decontaminated since whore-zilla moved out.  Sorry your side isn’t completely setup.  I wasn’t informed you were coming.”

Perry pushed by politely, bringing Casey’s things inside.  “Sorry about the last minute arrangements, Link.  I know you were hoping for your own room until the summer.  We just haven’t gotten around to the—”

“It’s cool.  I was going to have another roommate sometime.  Why not now, right?”  Link shrugged, completely comfortable prancing around in his underwear.  Casey was kind of flabbergasted neither Adam nor Perry commented on his state of undress.  If he was to make an assumption, he’d have to say this was normal for Link.  God, he hoped Link didn’t greet guests like that.  Was this that kind of place?

Casey swallowed, trying his hardest not to stare at Link’s half-naked body.  He wasn’t sure if it was Link’s flawless skin or the fact the guy was wearing glittery lotion that made him want to look, but he decided staring probably wasn’t the best first impression, no matter how crazy Link might be.  Casey set his backpack down on the simple twin bed, covered in a pinstripe quilt and looked at Adam and Perry.

“Thanks for everything,” he murmured.  “I’m sorry to put you out like this, and so late at night.  You guys must be beat.”

“Late?”  Link laughed.  “Honey, it’s only nine thirty.  This isn’t a retirement home.”

Adam cut Link a look.  He mouthed something that Casey couldn’t see before he faced him and smiled.  “It’s no problem.  Remember what I said.”  He pointed at Casey.  “This is your home now too.”

“Right.”  Casey sighed.  “Night guys.”

Perry gave him an awkward hug.  Adam melted, his eyes going a little too goo-goo gaga for Casey’s liking.  His cousin rubbed his arm.  “Night, Case.”

The couple retreated, shutting the door behind them.  Casey sat on his bed, and rubbed his face gently.  He kicked off his shoes, avoiding Link’s stare.

“Are you always this quiet?”  Link peered down, giving Casey a straight shot of the guy’s goods.

Casey turned away, peeling off his jacket.  “Sometimes.  Are you always…like this?”

“Like what?”  Link put his hands on his hips.

“And that’s why I don’t talk a lot.  There’s never a right thing to say for me.”  Casey flopped back on his bed.  “Sorry.  I didn’t mean to piss you off.  It’s been a long day.”

Link stayed way too silent for Casey’s liking.  He turned to see the shock on Link’s face.  “What?”

Link removed his hand from over his mouth, eyes softening.  “What happened to your face?”

“Shit.”  Casey messed with his bangs until his eye was covered again.  “It’s nothing.”

“Um, no it’s not.  Honey, what happened to you?”  Link sat on the bed and put a hand on Casey’s knee.  “I’d like to imagine you’re a sexy MMA fighter, total fantasy for me, but you don’t exactly have the build.  No offense.”

“Not offended, I just don’t want to talk about it.”  Casey rolled over.  “I only want to sleep.”

Link rubbed his leg, careful not to go too far.  “In your clothes?”

He was trying to be nice, so Casey didn’t jump down his throat.  “Not everyone is cool with walking around half-naked,” Casey mumbled.  He felt Link get up from the bed.  Hot breath hit his ear.

“Not everyone has tried it.  Don’t knock it til you know it.”  Link pressed a kiss to his temple.  “Whatever your story is, there’s no judgment here.  Night, roomie.”

Casey felt the husky goodnight course all the way through his body.  He stayed frozen, staring at the wall, listening to Link’s playlist switch to a softer remix, one he really liked.  His eyes began to close.  His toes still twitched to the music.  Slowly but surely, Casey fell asleep to the heavy scent of watermelon and Link’s humming.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Taming Fire: Week 5

Hey guys!!   A little warning before we get started...this post messed up half way through.  I've tried multiple times to redo the copy pasting into other posts, but the result is always the same.  I swear it's normal in my word doc.  But apparently on here, the formatting is crazy.  *shrugs*  I don't know what to do.  So if you can read the last half with all that insanity, great.  If not, I'm sorry.  I really, really am.  Sorry about the mishap.  I hope you guys still like it.  :)
~xX Night
This Week's Musical Inspiration:

Emile closed his laptop.  His hand trembled, sliding the device over his desk.  Attempting to put the computer in his bag proved to be a harder task than usual.  He couldn’t meet Lim’s eyes, let alone get his hands to stop shaking.  Going crazy had not been on his to do list for college, but he’d officially hit his limit, slowly sliding off the deep end.  The cup of coffee on the desk wobbled, almost spilling.  Lim snatched it up, leaning forward.

The angel’s fingers brushed over his.  “Let me help you with that.”

Emile smacked his hand away, hopping up from his seat with his bag in hand.  A cold shiver spread fear throughout his body. “Don’t touch me.  Get away.”  He looked around the lecture hall, scared someone would notice them.

“They can’t see or hear you right now.”  Lim dumped the cup of coffee in the trashcan, knowing Emile wouldn’t take it again.   “I figured you would be more comfortable talking about this with others around.  It’s why I came here right away.”

“This is supposed to be comfortable?  People ten feet away can’t see me?  That’s not comfortable.  That’s insane.”  Emile’s laugh turned hysterical.  “I am crazy.  I’ve lost my fucking mind.”  He sputtered for air when none of his classmates turned away from the professor.  They really couldn’t hear him.  His eyes shot to Lim, bewildered.  “Am I dreaming?  Or am I dead?  Don’t lie to me!”

“Oh heavens no.”  Lim put his hands up.  “You haven’t lost your mind.  This is very real, Emile, and you are very much awake and alive.  That’s exactly what they want you to think, that you’re crazy.  It’s how they get to you – through depression, hysteria, self-loathing, and heartache.  They find a way in, cater to your needs, and make it seem as though you have no other choice but to open up to them.  The time will come when you realize you had a way out all along, a better way.  Only by then…it’s too late.”

Lim came closer.  “You know what you saw last night was real.  You know you’re not losing it.  You know what I’m telling you is true.  You’ve been drawn to me since the moment we met face to face and you trust me, even if you’re scared to admit it.  And you can trust me, Emile.”

“You were just...I thought you were hot.  That’s it.”  Emile clutched his backpack to his chest.  “Don’t come any closer.  I can’t handle it.”

“Oh, Emile, if I could spare you all of this, I would.  However, I can’t.  This is the path created for you and this is the part where you trust me to help where I can.  That mark on your chest is only the beginning of your purpose.”  Lim stepped forward.  “They’re onto you now.  Giving you that cross was the only way I could protect you and I shouldn’t have done it.  It’s against the rules.  But I couldn’t let you go in there, vulnerable and scared, knowing what they could do.  I’m going to be in so much trouble and I should care more about the consequences, but for you, I will take all of them.”

“In trouble with who?”  Emile whispered.  He wanted to run.  The door was so close, but Lim’s body heat lured him in.  He wanted to fall into Lim’s arms and block out the rest of the world and be comforted for once.  That scared him the most.  He shouldn’t want to touch Lim at all.

“The Creator, the dark ones, you can take your pick.  They have eyes everywhere, both sides of the war.”

Emile sidestepped Lim.  “This just gets better and better.  War?”

“Yes, war.  The battle of angels and demons is an age old saga.”  Lim waved a hand.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to scare you.  I only hope the Creator will show me mercy for protecting you, because of what you were meant to do, but I know in my heart I’ve cheated, I’ve interfered with your free will.  The dark ones will be free to make the next move because of my decision to give you this.”  Lim fingered the chain around Emile’s neck.  “Now they may freely show themselves to you.  And I’m sorry you have to bear this burden.  I’ve watched you struggle so many times before, and I would say it’s unfair, but everyone was put here for a reason, and yours is to walk the fine line between the light and the dark.  It’s who you are and it’s why you were chosen to help him.”

“I don’t understand.  What’s happening to me, Lim?” Emile resisted the urge to let Lim embrace him and once again sidestepped around the angel towards the door.  “I’m not anything special.  I don’t want to die in someone else’s war.”

Lim’s nostrils flared.  He stood up straight and proud.  “You don’t have a choice, Emile.  They’re coming and you have to fight them with all that you are.  They want you to give up because you’re scared, don’t you see that?  No matter what they say or try to get you to do, however easy their path may seem, don’t give in.  Show him a better way.  Show him how to love, Emile, however far out of your comfort zone that may take you.  He is worth it and so are you.”

“Who are you talking about?  Who is he!”  Emile’s back bumped the swinging door.  He couldn’t look at Lim anymore.  He had to get out, get some fresh air to think and possibly find the nearest church to have himself exorcised.  “Fuck this.  I’m out of here.”

Lim took a deep breath, eyes going wide.  “Emile, don’t go out there!”

Pushing the door open, Emile came to a screeching halt just outside the lecture hall.  Leaning against a set of floor to ceiling windows was Bee.  A black velvet waistcoat wrapped around his lean torso, and long arms.  He brushed his high collar with a finger, a wicked smile crossing his lips.  The way the light hit his coat reminded Emile of the blue black of a raven’s wing, the very birds that symbolized death.  Bee was no different from those birds; everything about him reeked of death and destruction.

The corners of Bee’s eyes lifted.  His smile became more vicious.  “I thought I might find you here.”

Stuck in his own fear, Emile barely registered the gust of warm wind whooshing past until Lim’s broad shoulders blocked his view of Bee.  “Leave this place.  He won’t be touched by you.”

“Hmm,” Bee mused.  “Is that so, Erelim?”

Emile looked around Lim to find Bee’s golden eyes staring right at him.  “Lim,” Emile whispered.  “Is he one of them?”

“I knew it.”  Bee chuckled.  “You’ve shown yourself to him, haven’t you, Erelim?”  He clucked his tongue.  “Naughty angel, you know the rules.  Furthermore, you’ve broken several of them.”

“What I do is none of your business, Beelzebub.  I said leave, and I meant it.”  Lim reached behind and scratched the small of his back, heaving a deep breath.

Bee narrowed his eyes.  “It very well is my business.  An angel, who’s considered a sword of the Creator, suddenly takes to a human, reveals his true nature, and proceeds to give said human a disciple’s cross.”  Lim scratched his back furiously and Bee stomped his foot.  “One of mine nearly burnt to a crisp last night, touching that boy.  That is sure as shit my business.”

“She should burn for what she’s done,” Lim growled.  “You all should.”

“I happen to like fire, but I’m afraid I won’t tolerate attacks from a mere human.  Fighting with your kind is an eternal game, but putting up a fight against him…it will not do, Erelim.”  Bee moved closer.  “Tell me, Erelim, what are you hiding?  What does this boy mean to you and why allow him to be subjected to Raven House, knowing the game he was a part of?  You knew I meant to end him.  You knew he would fall into insanity and harm himself.  And we would take what was ours, his soul, just like the others.  What purpose does he serve to you, Erelim?”

Lim bared his teeth, leaning forward to greet Bee.  “Touch him and I will use my hand against you, and I won’t care what punishment awaits me.” 

“Lim, don’t.”  Emile grabbed the angel’s arm.  “Please.”

Bee looked between them.  “Is that it?  Do you love him, Erelim? Has the mighty hand of God fallen for a human?”

“He is not mine to claim, but I have loved him like my child since before he took his first breath.  I will protect him with everything I am.  Know he has a greater purpose, demon spawn, one which will shake your very core.”

Bee snarled, pushing Lim out of the way.  “I will know who you are, human!  You will not fight with me and mine.”

Gasping his way backwards, Emile found the wall.  He tried to make himself as small as possible when Bee approached.  “I didn’t do anything, I swear.  Please, don’t hurt me.”  He looked to Lim, begging for help with his eyes.

Lim put a hand over his chest, his eyes confident, but he moved closer just in case.  Baffled that Lim would serve him up to Bee, Emile dropped his pack, ready to run.

“You can run all you like, but me and mine are many, and you are just but one.  We will find you, your greatest weakness, and destroy you like you were nothing more than wisp of fog – here one second and gone the next.”  Bee’s eyes bled red, spiking Emile’s urge to run.

“Oh my God.” He clutched his chest, feeling the cross warm his skin.

Smoke rolled off of Bee’s coat.  The smell of sulfur assailed Emile, choking him.  Claws grew from Bee’s nails.  His chin elongated to a point, stretching his face into something out of a nightmare.  Horns bred above each ear, curling around his forehead until they twisted up into sharp tips.  In front of Emile stood a demon, and something told him not just any demon.  He cowered, sliding down the wall to escape Bee’s maddening red stare.  He brought the cross out from under his shirt and closed his eyes tight.

Closer to the ground, amid the rolling heat wafting off Bee, Emile sniffed the comforting scent of his grandmother’s perfume.  It blanketed him, bringing forth memories of her soft, tiny hands and close set brown eyes.  He remembered this kind of fear from long ago, when she would sit by his bed and hold his hand to keep the monsters in the closet at bay.  Her hushed voice would whisper a psalm while she stroked his hair.  And as if he was seven all over again, the words of her favorite psalm brewed at the back of his throat.  He knew them like the back of his hand, said so many times by his grandmother, how could he not?

He gripped the cross between both hands, holding it away from him, putting his faith in the object between his body and Bee.  He took a deep breath, seeing her eyes behind his closed lids.  His body burst with a heat so warm, Emile was sure his blood was made of liquid summer afternoons.  He relied exclusively on his belief the cross would work.  He was confident Lim was helping him.  By giving him the cross in the first place, Lim had given him all the protection he could.  Now it was up to Emile to fight off the evil leaning over him.

The sting of flames licking at his clothes made him wince.  The smoke made him cough, but nothing was scarier than Bee’s growl inches from his face.  “I will have your soul, Emile.  I will pocket your life and bank it in my father’s kingdom, where you will scream for the rest of eternity.  You wish to be special, but you know, as I do, that you’re nothing.  No one will ever want you.  Just like your parents kicked you aside, the others in your life will do the same, because you’re worthless.  You’re a poor, pathetic, excuse for a human being.”

Emile frowned, squeezing tears from the corners of his tightly shut eyes.  “I’m something to someone.”

“Yes, you’re trash.  You’re discarded, wasteful trash,” Bee hissed.  “And I intend to take you out.”

“I was meant to do something and this isn’t it.  I’ll take you out.”  Emile ground his teeth. Confidence settled in his gut.  Bee’s breath shied away.  “I won’t die this way.”

“Fight us?”  Bee roared and Emile opened his eyes.  Red eyes greeted him.  “I will have your head on a stick, human!”

Emile flicked his eyes to Lim. The angel met his stare with a simple nod.  “Say it, Emile.  You know the words by heart.”

“They weren’t just monsters, were they?” Emile’s palm was sweaty.  His grip on the cross was slipping.

Bee snapped his teeth.  “Every monster has a name and where there is one, there are many, and not just in a closet.”  The demon extended his hands, reaching for Emile.  “Do you doubt me now?” Flames engulfed the hallway, unseen by other human eyes.  “Do you, human?”
A ringing echoed in Emile’s ears, tempting him to let go of his cross.  Ghostly whispers swam in his head, turning to screams.  Emile screeched when the volume became too loud for comfort.  Bee wanted him to let go, and give up his protection to make the noise stop.  He came so close, Emile felt as if he was in the middle of a bonfire. Pain lit up his body.  The screaming wouldn’t stop.

He threw back his head and howled, putting all his effort into the psalm to make the monsters go away. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

He will not protect you from me!”  Bee lashed out, attempting to cut Emile with his claws.  Instead, his nails grazed over a protective layer of fire hotter than hell itself.  He bellowed in agony, infuriated.

Emile palmed the wall with one hand, holding up the cross.  “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

"Keep going!”  Lim shouted above the crackle of Bee’s flames.

 The painful fire seemed to slice through Emile, yet he didn’t have one burn over his exposed skin.  It was all an illusion, just as Lim had said.  Growing more courageous by the second, Emile pushed to his feet, and took a step towards Bee.  “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, not the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.  You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.  If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the LORD, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Emile limped forward, the imaginary pain almost too much to bear.  “And off the record, Bee, no one threatens me, especially not a stone.”

 He pulled the cross from around his neck and thrust his hand forward, bringing the cross to Bee’s face.  The demon roared again.  Red and orange cracks appeared over his ski n, glowing like embers in a fireplace.  His arms flailed.  The fire was so high, it rushed to the ceiling from every corner around them. Emile shielded his eyes, unable to handle the heat over his skin any longer.

“And that is the protection my Creator provides.  Rest assured, Beelzebub, we will claim Xavier as ours!”  Lim shouted as a white light burst from Bee’s chest.  Wings spanned between the fire and Emile, shielding him from an explosion of dust.  Bee’s resounding scream echoed throughout the halls, still audible to Emile, even in the cocoon of Lim’s wings.  Then all was silent and the heat was gone.

“Holy shit.”  Emile shook.  “Holy motherfucking shit.”

“There’s nothing holy about shit, Emile.”  Lim kissed his forehead before wrapping him up in a hug.  “I will never regret giving you that cross.  I did my job.  It protected you.”

Emile held on, scared to leave Lim’s wings.  He didn’t want to see the world anymore.  He wished he didn’t know what existed in plain sight.  Demons were real.  So were angels.  His life would never be the same again.


“Don’t make go back out there.  They’re out there, Lim.  They’re coming for me and I have no idea why.  What did I do?  Why is my life such a shithole?”

“Shh.”  Lim ran a hand over Emile’s hair.  “Your life is better than most.  I assure you of that.”

“But why did he want to kill me?”

“You’re precious to the Creator, and to me.  When he said I was a warrior, he meant I’m not one to take on human charges.  The Creator tasked me with your protection, making me a guardian angel for the first time in my existence.  The dark ones never knew I watched over you for a reason.  Now that you wear that cross, you act as a beacon to them, a challenge they wish to meet.”  Lim squeezed Emile tight.  “But you’re stronger than their seductions.  You have to be.  You have challenges of your own.”

“I still don’t understand.”  Emile lifted his head.  “Why me?  What am I supposed to do for the Creator?  Why did you mention Xavier?  Isn’t he…one of them?  He lives at the house…”

“His life is created of both sides.  His mother is an Archangel, the strongest of our kind under the Creator, and his father is a demon warlord, Bael, a real piece of work.  Both sides wish to stake their claim on him, permanently.  You’re meant to free Xavier of his darker half by showing him what you have here.”  Lim put a hand over Emile’s chest.  “But Bee is Xavier’s mentor, your opponent in the war for his soul.   And this fight has just begun. You see, Xavier is conflicted.  He’s unable to use his demon abilities on you as part of his mother’s punishment.  Using them on you causes him pain, but also leaves him open to accepting who you are.  Use that to your advantage.  Show him what it is to love, Emile.  He’s already starting to feel for you, and the first time Bee sees his possessiveness over you, Bee will turn against him.  Xavier will need you as support.  He just doesn’t realize it yet.”

“I barely know Xavier.  Why am I supposed to do this?”

Lim cupped Emile’s chin.  “Because you’ve been his since before you both were born.”

“His?”  Emile shook his head.  “I-I mean I feel for him, but maybe it’s just because he’s part demon or something.”

“You know it’s more than that.”  Lim smiled.  “Don’t you?”

Emile pushed him away.  “I’m just a broke college student.  I’m not the fucking exorcist, Lim.”

“An exorcist?”  Lim’s wings flew back before they curled into his body.  The sun sliced through the windows, bathing them both in warm light.  The angel laughed.  “This isn’t a movie, Emile.  There’s nothing possessing you or Xavier.  You are only meant to be each other’s perfect fit.  And if you don’t believe you were meant for Xavier, then look here for proof.”  Lim pointed to Emile’s chest.  “He has already left his mark.”

Emile looked down.  A giant hole was burned in his sweatshirt, exposing his chest.  The red splotch from earlier had grown into two red handprints on his skin.  “What are these!”

“The mark of a demon, you opened yourself to him, and he has left his signature on your body.  Bee had to have seen it.”

“I can’t deal with this, Lim.  I just popped a Demon into God knows where.  I’m going to have nightmares for the rest of my life over that zombie.  And now I have to save Xavier because he’s mine?  No…”  Emile rubbed his eyes.  “I’m not the bravest guy for the job.  Ask someone else.”

“It’s not that simple, Emile.  Will you chance the death of your soul mate because you’re scared?  Will you let him burn forever, even though you have the tools to secure his safety?  I’ve done what I can for you.  All men are free to decide for themselves, a curse and a gift all at the same time.  Whatever you decide, know you’re strong enough to do this.” Lim studied him.  His skin glowed a little, radiant as if he’d been in the sun all summer long.  The corners of his eyes crinkled with a beautiful smile.  “Have faith, Emile.  If you do, everything will be just fine.”

Emile hung his head, confused and scared.  “Have faith?  That’s all you’ve got for me?”

A warm breeze made him glance up.  Lim was gone.  Only floating specks of dust filtered through the light in his place.  Emile stood, whirling around.

“Lim?  Please come back.  Don’t leave me here.”  He grabbed his backpack from against the wall.  Ashes fell from the fabric.  One strap was burned away.  Something snapped in his head, staring at his backpack.  That could have been him that burned, not a stupid backpack.  Looking up, Emile narrowed his eyes.  “They want me dead.”

“Not just dead,” a deep voice made him turn around.  “They want your soul, which is a far worse fate than death.”

A tall black man with a bundle of long gray dreads smiled back at him.  His light blue eyes were soft and comforting.  He pushed up the sleeves of his simple white button up and ruffled through his battered messenger bag until he produced a paper wrapped sandwich.


“I don’t think I can eat right now.”  Emile looked down the hallway, judging how far away the exit was.

“Hmm, I though meatball subs were your favorite.  I must be mistaken.”  The man sighed, putting the sandwich back in his bag.

“How do you know that?  Oh shit, you’re one of them, aren’t you?”  Emile held up the cross still in his hand.  “Lim!  Come back!”

The man chuckled.  “One of them?  No, no, no.   I am one of a kind, Emile.”

“If you’re not of them, who are you?  And how do you know I like meatball subs, or my name for that matter?”  Emile kept the cross up.

Calloused hands closed around his fist.  The man’s blue eyes sparkled in the light and his smile was too kind to be evil.  “I am not one of them because I am them.  Without me, there would be no them, or you.”

Emile opened his mouth in realization.  The cross warmed in his hand, recognizing the man touching it.

“I am the Creator, and it’s very nice to meet you, Emile.”

Emile looked into the eyes of God, stunned.  “Uh huh.”

“Come.  Let us find a place to eat this sandwich.  It smells too good to pass up.”  The Creator gently plucked the cross from Emile’s hand and put it back around his neck.  “Much better.”  He patted Emile’s chest before putting an arm around his shoulders.  “Shall we?”

Emile could only nod as God led him down the hall for a picnic.

In a greasy spoon joint two blocks away from campus, Xavier browsed the menu with gloved hands, even though he’d known what he wanted before he came in.  He’d originally thought about going to Little Tony’s next door, his favorite dive, but they didn’t open until noon.  So, he settled for Shakey’s, the twenty-four seven, breakfast joint.

He frequented the place a few times a week.  They had the best stuffed French toast in town.  And they had Nicky, the scrawny blond waiting tables that could contort his legs in a bathroom stall like no one’s business.  But sadly, Xavier found he wasn’t in the mood to flirt his way to the bathroom this time.  He could only think of Emile and his supple lips.  He could only think of Emile’s warm body and tousled hair as he curled up in bed this morning before Xavier left.

Thinking of Emile only roused his confusion.  He still had no clue why he would feel so deeply for a human, or what Emile was hiding.  And then, there was the latest item to add to his drama...  He looked down.  Now he was left in the dark and he didn’t like it.  A funny place to hate, being half evil, he thought.  As Nicky attempted another slide of fingers over his, putting down his breakfast, Xavier looked up to turn the poor boy down.  He flinched at the person towering behind the helpless waiter.

His father, Bael, growled, fearless of being seen with red eyes.  He wore a black fedora, tilted down just a bit to accommodate his short ponytail at the nape of his neck.  Tattoos covered his knuckles in various symbols, in full view when Bael reached up.  “Move out of my way, boy.”  Bael grabbed the back of Nicky’s collar and jerked him to the side to join Xavier in the booth.  He lost the red eyes for Xavier’s benefit and cut Nicky his dark stare. 

“Hey!”  Nicky rubbed his neck.  “Fucker.  I’ll call the cops if you touch me again.”

Father and son stared at each other across the table.  Xaviern flicked his gloved fingers up at Nicky, holding out two crisp hundred dollar bills.  “Sorry about that, Nicky.”

“Cops,” Bael hissed at the waiter.  “They wouldn’t know what to do with me or my security.”  He sat back with a squeak of vinyl booth covering against his leather jacket, scratching the thick stubble along his jaw.

“Whatever, freak.”  Nicky poured a cup of coffee for Bael, snatching the money up.  “Don’t start trouble.”  He glanced at Xavier, shook his head, and sauntered off to another table.

Bael leaned forward.  “The only one in trouble is your mother.  To take me out of my son is a crime punishable by death.”

“Dad, please.”  Xavier tried to touch his father.

Bael looked Xavier up and down.  “You wish to forgive her for punishing you this way?  No.  You are ill.  She has brainwashed you somehow.”  He pounded a fist on the table, knocking over a bottle of syrup, and earning wide eyed stares from an elderly couple across the way.  Bael snarled at them.  “Mind your own business, you little bags of bones.”



Xavier rubbed his face and sighed.  “It’s not just about mom anymore.  Something else is happening to me.”

“Tell me everything.”  Bael looked ready to murder anything that moved for his son.

“How about we start with this.”  Xavier looked around before pulling off the first glove.  He flipped his hand palm side up.  “What is this?”

Bael studied the cherry red handprint covering his son’s skin.  He sighed.  “If you’re unable to use your powers on humans then I don’t understand.  This is impossible.”

“What is it, though?”

“Xavier, you have demon touched a human.”  Bael pulled the other glove off, astonished to find it was just as red.

“Emile,” Xavier gasped.

Bael cocked his head, getting right in Xavier’s face.  “Who is this Emile?”