That afternoon, it turned out that he was also interested in kissing me. Not that I minded; he put his heart into it, and I loved the affection. I only wished my mind wasn’t distracted by another worry.
“Don’t answer it,” he whispered when my phone rang. He was kissing down my neck, and I was finding it hard to decide whether to enjoy it and risk him leaving a mark, or making him stop before he took things further.
I let it ring out, but it only started ringing again a moment later. “Just let me see who it is,” I told him. having a hard time catching my breath. When I looked down at the screen of my phone, my veins turned to ice. “Little Moon…. I’m sorry… I have to answer this.”
Ever-so-gently, I laid him aside and kissed his forehead.
It rang out again, and then it went back to ringing. “He’s going to keep calling until I answer. I shouldn’t be long, Little Moon. Just rest here.” I hopped up and went to the far side of my car before hitting the answer button.
“Hello?” I said, hoping my voice didn’t sound nervous.
“You’re not in Portland anymore,” the voice on the other end of the line said. It was smooth and low, rich with nobility and pride. He sounded almost fascinated by the statement he’d made.
“Yeah…” I said. I opened the back door and sat on the edge of the seat.
“You know how I knew that, don’t you?”
I nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see me. “I know, Grandfather,” I replied. “I overdid it last night.”
“That’s only part of it,” he agreed, “but it’s also the most concerning part.”
“I did it for my best friend.”
“Oh, I know, Emory,” he said. Some might have said he had an arrogant tone, but I don’t think that’s exactly what it was. With his abilities, he really did know, and he had no false pride. “It’s the boy you’ve always treasured, isn’t it?”
“If you had a singular partner, maybe you’d understa–”
“That is beside the point,” he said with an air of finality. “I am not questioning the fact that you have feelings for him. Truthfully, it’s about time you let yourself feel passion. That is also why you must learn to control yourself properly.”
I sighed heavily. “Not right now, Grandfather. I have to focus on Justin.”
“Yes… you are clearly quite focused on him, Emory. So much so that you nearly revealed things that cannot be explained to… humans.”
That wasn’t exactly what he meant. I was human– at least in most senses of the word– but I knew things that most of the populace didn’t. They wouldn’t believe me if I tried explaining it, and if they did, they would either be panicking or flocking to us, wanting to join in. I wasn’t interested in that; I didn’t even want to deal with what I knew and could do.
“They were going to hurt him.”
“I understand,” he replied. “That is why all that I ask is that you let me teach you more.”
“He needs me, Grandfather. I can’t leave right now.”
“Listen carefully, Emory,” he said, his words weighing heavy. “You need not leave his side. I can come to you. When will you be home tonight?”
“I can’t tonight. He’s sleeping over again.”
“Emory,” he sighed, “the fact that you’re willing to argue with me about him makes me think that this will be the one to stay with. If that’s true, he’ll learn about me eventually.”
“I… It’s just too soon for him, Grandfather. He can’t handle more stress right now.”
“He doesn’t live with you. Tell me another night when I can come by.”
“He– wait, how did you know–” Then I remembered the strange dream I’d had before, the one in which the shadows seemed to be watching me. “Did you–“
“Emory,” he said, more insistent this time. “Tell me when I may come to your home, or I shall come tonight.”
“Grandfather,” I croaked out, “please…”
“You know better than to argue with me, Emory. You love him, and I know you’ll do anything to protect him, but I will not risk letting you lose control.”
“I won’t,” I insisted.
“Then you may prove that to me when I visit tonight.”
“No, Grandfather,” I replied. Then, before he could raise his voice, I added, “Tuesday night. I’ll make sure I’m alone then.”
There was a pause, and then he spoke again. “Very well, Emory. I think I will bring you a gift as well.”
“I don’t wa–”
“Enough with this cold tone, Emory. We need to make peace with one another. I shall see you soon; until then, be well.”
He hung up before I could say anything else; he always did have to be the one in control of the situation. I sighed and put my phone on the back seat, then wiped my hands over my face. Why did he have to be my father’s father? Maybe I should have seen the irony– or was it humor? Never mind the semantics– of having him in my family and enjoying the gothic aesthetic. Shouldn’t I have been loving this?
I decided to go back to Justin’s side before he got too worried; he did have a way of making me feel better.
“Who was that, anyway? Your dad? Are you keeping in touch with him?”
“My grandfather,” I told him as I sat down and let him slide onto my lap.
Justin knew that I had one particular grandparent whom I referred to as ‘grandfather,’ and that it was my father’s father; I had other terms for my mother’s father and my adoptive parents’ fathers. He knew that I was most formal with him, but not the exact reasons why, nor… well, things I would have been glad to not have to deal with myself.
“Oh. I hope he’s doing okay.” Justin nuzzled against my chest and made himself comfortable.
“He is,” I murmured. “Which means I can go back to focusing on you.”
It wasn’t long before Justin decided that he wanted more kisses. He was glad I’d left my phone in the car this time, so that we could kiss uninterrupted. He turned around to straddle my lap, wrapping his legs around my waist as his hands massaged my arms and shoulders. After a while, he pushed me onto my back and undid the top few buttons of my shirt to gain access to my collarbone. I could hardly resist him; my eyes closed, my body relaxed beneath him, and I let him feast on me for a while.
“Blackthorne,” he whispered.
His tongue licked along my collarbone. “You taste good.”
I gasped and grabbed his hips. “Little Moon,” I murmured. My eyes opened just a sliver, and it seemed as though the shade of the tree was much darker.
He licked the other one. “Very good.”
When his fingertips started to slip under my shirt, I grabbed his wrists.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered. “I can tell you’re excited.”
Heat filled my cheeks. “Yeah,” I gasped. “I know. I just… I need to slow down.”
Justin’s lips pursed, and I knew he was disappointed. After a moment of thought, he nodded. “Yeah… like you said last night. It’s okay.”
I smiled up at him. “Thank you.”
My fingers caressed his cheek, and he nuzzled into my palm. Justin moved to lie alongside me. His eyes closed contentedly as his body started to relax; he’d been eager and excited, too. No matter how badly he needed affection or desired pleasure, I had to be careful. There were reasons I hadn’t slept with many people. Justin thought he knew them, but the truth was a little deeper than what he believed.
“I like being out here with you,” Justin whispered after a while of relaxing. “I feel so safe with you.”
He was safe from the bullies, safe from the human world, yes– but could I keep him safe from what was beyond that? This was why I’d been so happy to see him with Killian: he kept Justin safe in mind and body, and was very affectionate with him. Killian was the light in his life, whereas I knew the shadows much more intimately. It was more than just goth culture; Justin might have been fascinated by it, but that would be like a moth drawn to a flame, and I didn’t want him to get hurt.
“Time seems to pass us by so fast…” Justin sighed. “It’s already past sunset.”
I turned my head and looked out across the hill and the land beyond. It was a little darker than before, but it didn’t seem entirely accurate I decided not to tell Justin, though.
“In that case, are you about ready for dinner?” I asked him.
“Are you going to tell me what you have planned?”
“Hmm… Well, I’d like to get you your favorite.”
He sat up, grinning. “Spaghetti and meatballs? Then we can we go back to your place and watch vampire movies?”
Another of his favorites. It was only too bad that admiring them was so easy when he thought somewhere deep down that they weren’t real.
“Whatever makes you happy, Little Moon,” I replied. I could tread this line a little longer, walking along the edge of darkness without pulling Justin into it; then my grandfather would guide me through the next stage.
“Mmmm… I hope they have garlic bread!” Justin hopped up, and I followed suit.
“I can’t imagine them not having any.” We shook out the blanket together, then folded it. “But you need more diverse nutrients, so there will be salad, too.”
Justin made a face, but he didn’t argue the point. There were a few things he refused to eat, but others that he would compromise with me on, and getting him to put down at least a basic salad was part of that.
Once we were in the car and on our way back into town, Justin busied himself with playing music for us. Had he been paying attention, he might have noticed that it wasn’t as late as he’d first thought; the darkness he’d perceived earlier wasn’t evening setting in, and it wasn’t clouds either. The sky was clear and bright, just like I wanted him to feel inside. I had to get my mind off the shadows and the things that lurked in them; that wasn’t going to be easy.
I pulled up to the Italian restaurant David had recommended and squeezed Justin’s hand before sliding out of the car. He was busy putting my phone on silent when I walked around to open the passenger-side door.
“I hope you’re hungry,” I told him as we walked inside. “David says the pasta here is made from scratch.”
Justin looked thrilled. He’d helped Mrs. Riordan make home-made noodles before, so he knew how much work it was, and how wonderful it tasted compared to the dried spaghetti and canned sauce his own mother sometimes got in her food box. He didn’t ever complain about the food box, though. I gave him a couple jars of dried herbs — and sometimes Killian brought some fresh from his mother’s garden– and even that was enough to make him happy. Spaghetti was his favorite thing to make that actually involved a stove, and he’d gotten good at it over the years. He’d eat just about any variety of tomato sauce, so when he didn’t have any on hand, Killian and I would give him something with meat or extra vegetables just to make sure he got the nutrition.
Dinner was wonderful. Justin tried just picking at his salad at first, but the idea of extra meatballs with his spaghetti was all the encouragement he needed. After we’d eaten, he offered to help pay using the bit he had left from working and the cash his mother had given him, but I insisted that it was my treat, and that he should save what he had for something for himself. I took him back to my place with a big smile and a full belly, and once we were settled in, I put on “Underworld” and let him snuggle me in the recliner.
My dreams that night were strange. At least, one of them was, as I couldn’t remember much about the others. I was meditating in a crypt when Killian found me. He seemed upset, but instead of trying to comfort him, my first reaction was anger. He was demanding to know where Justin was, but I wouldn’t tell him; I was too angry at him for not making sure Justin would be able to contact him after he moved.
“He needed you,” I hissed, trying not to raise my voice too much, “and you didn’t even give him closure.”
“Why are you putting all of this on my shoulders?” Killian asked me in the dream. “He’s been your friend longer than I’ve even lived in this country.”
“Because I–” No, I couldn’t tell him my secret. “You can do things for him that I can’t.”
“What do you mean, aside from letting him take my virginity?”
“You– Killian, he’s safer with you than he would be with me.”
“Howso? You’re goth, but you’re not dangerous.”
“There are things you don’t know,” I grumbled.
“Then tell us.”
“I can’t. You wouldn’t believe me, anyway. Just… just take him with you. Take him and keep him happy.”
Killian gazed past me, further into the crypt. “Why bring him down here in the first place? It’s pretty morbid.”
“I can’t escape it,” I told him. “It’s… It’s part of who I am.”
“Who,” Killian asked slowly, as though his mind raced to try and guess at what I meant, “or what?”
A bat screeched and flew out of a corner of the chamber, then through the passage leading deeper inside. I watched it go before looking back to Killian. Outside, thunder was crashing and rumbling.
“I can bring him to you if you promise to take care of him,” I said, hearing the desperation in my own voice. “Treasure him like I do, but get him out of this darkness.”
Killian’s expression turned to one of sadness. “I want children, Blackthorne. Light and life. Justin…” He shook his head. “You’re so much better at helping him get through life that he isn’t even scared of the shadows.”
I understood it a little more then: Justin was like a child in the way he needed tender care and guidance. Life had always been a struggle for him; his father rarely came to see him, and his mother was more often at work or with friends than she was with him. Justin couldn’t be expected to care for a baby, or to teach a toddler, or to help a kid after school. He… he needed someone devoted to him.
“He needs you,” Killian said.
It was like he’d been reading my mind. It was just a dream, after all, and this Killian was a construct of my mind.
“I’m not angry with you,” Killian added. “I will always remember the time I spent with Justin as fond memories. I’m sure he feels the same way about me. But you’ve always been the perfect one for him.”
I shook my head. “You wouldn’t say that if you knew about my family.”
“The mother who loved you with all her heart? The people who adopted you? They’re wonderful, Blackthorne.”
‘No,’ I thought, but couldn’t bring myself to say. ‘My grandfather.’
I woke from that dream to find my pillow wet. It was utterly black in the room. I sat up and realized that I couldn’t even see the light of the clock. It was raining outside. There was a flash of lightning, then thunder so loud and immediate that I thought the world was breaking apart. How had a storm like this come in so quickly?
“Do not worry.”
I could hardly keep from gasping; that wasn’t Justin’s voice. It was soft and low, and very rich. I tried reaching for my phone, which would have had plenty of battery power, but it was too far and I couldn’t risk waking Justin.
“It’s just after midnight,” the voice said. “Your city lost power from the storm. I only came to make sure you were safe.”
“But you said…” I whispered.
“Ssssshhh…. Careful, Emory, or you’ll wake him.”
My body trembled as I listened. I tried to get hold of myself to calm my breathing, but I could see nothing but the occasional clash of silver, and my head felt like it was in a fog.
“I know he is as precious to you as you are to me.”
“It’s all right, Emory,” the voice reassured me. It was like a velvety caress, and somehow the words were heavy with truth. “I am always watching over you. This storm will pass, and the power will be restored before dawn. You enjoy the sound of the rain, do you not? Let it relax you, and go back to sleep.”
“Sssshhh,” he said again. “We shall speak face-to-face in a few days. Just rest for now.”
And I did. The rest of that night– or morning– I slept so well that I woke to the daylight feeling more rested than I had in a long time.