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In Another Life - Part 1

Yes I write 40k fics for fandoms that no one cares about.  It's kind of my thing.

Title: In Another Life - Part I
Fandom: the Covenant
Pairings: Chase/Caleb, minor Caleb/Sarah, Pogue/Kate
Rating/Warnings: internalized homophobia
Word Count: 9707
Disclaimer: If I owned the Covenant, they would all be naked.
Summary: Caleb hates his life; he buries the truth in lies and secrets until Chase Collins blows into town and changes everything.


Caleb has always known that he can't have what he wants.

He's the responsible one, the one who reminds his friends that actions have consequences and even warlocks have to do their homework if they want to graduate. He's the one who sits with his mother when she's been drinking and pretends that he's actually the perfect son she wants. He nods and smiles and agrees that he needs to find some nice girl to marry when he’d rather find some nice boy instead.

Because the fact that Caleb is gay as fuck doesn't matter when the warlock has to carry on the Danvers' name, upholding the Covenant like every first born son before him since the founding of their town. He isn't allowed to be selfish; his father was selfish and he would rather die than live like that.

So however little the warlock actually wants the future that he sees stretching out before him, he's good at pretending and none of his friends have ever noticed the way he hesitates when they discuss the girls they like.

There’s no reason for anyone to guess the truth when he attends all the right parties; drinking, dancing, and kissing Kira Snider beneath the maple trees. But pretty as Kira is, Caleb couldn't bring himself to actually date her, not when the thought of sleeping with a woman leaves him cold inside. Maybe he'll be able to Use himself straight after his Ascension – long enough to consummate a wedding anyway – but the warlock isn't sure that he wants to cross that line.

So Caleb decides that he won't until he has to, telling his friends that he's waiting for the right girl even as Pogue falls madly in love with Kate Tunney and Reid hits on half of the town. However, the teen's excuses only seem to make him more attractive and by the time he turns seventeen, Caleb's gotten very good at rejecting girls diplomatically.

While “I need to focus on my schoolwork,” is a terrible cliché, it works quite well when coupled with the warlock's best apologetic grin. It even works on the few boys who try their luck, although the teen is rather more tempted by those offers when they come.

Still, he isn’t tempted enough to risk the fallout of admitting what he wants. Honestly, Caleb has pretty much resigned himself to being a virgin until college and while he’s dreamed about what he could do with that freedom, he might not get the chance. Given the way his mother talks about the future, Caleb will probably find himself railroaded to the altar by the time he’s twenty and the warlock isn’t the kind of guy who breaks his vows. He’ll be trapped by his own morals after that.

And no matter how much Caleb sometimes wants to run, to tell his mother to go fuck up someone else’s life, he can’t see that happening. Maybe the right guy would be worth it but Ipswich isn’t the kind of place where people find Prince Charming; it’s more horror flick than fairy tale.

If anything, Caleb is the one who’s supposed to be Prince Charming in the public’s eyes. So the teen will play his part like he always has, which means saying yes when Pogue invites him to the annual Spenser Academy Back to School Drunken Beach Party – known colloquially as the Bonfire – that makes the beginning of the term. The Sons of Ipswich always make an appearance at the Dells, it’s pretty much required, and Caleb does appreciate the chance to see everyone before school kicks into high gear.

Well, almost everyone since Kira Snider is as bitchy as ever. The queen bee of Spencer Academy is picking on a new transfer student when Caleb and his friends make their entrance, the warlock stepping in to defend the girl as any friend of Kate's deserves. Kate is practically a sister with the way Pogue talks about her and the Sons of Ipswich watch out for their own.

Besides, no one deserves to deal with both Kira and Aaron Abbott on their first week in Ipswich and Caleb has been looking for an excuse to punch Aaron in the face. However, before he can wipe off that douche-bag's smarmy smile, another student steps between them and the teen feels like someone punched him in the gut instead.

This new guy is, well, he's fucking beautiful – fit and friendly with blue eyes, dark hair and the kind of mouth that makes Caleb’s knees go weak. People shouldn’t be allowed to look like that and Caleb barely even registers the commotion when Reid makes one of Aaron’s minions puke.

While that sort of reckless Using would normally earn the blond a lecture, Caleb has more important things on his mind right now. Because he’s staring; he knows he’s staring but he can’t seem to help it. This new guy is everything that the teen finds attractive – things he didn’t even know he found attractive until those dimples grinned at him – and Caleb throws himself into conversation with Kate’s friend somewhat desperately. However, while this Sarah girl seems nice enough, it’s a losing battle from the start.

Thankfully the cops decide to show up before Caleb can do something stupid, the DJ’s announcement giving him the excuse he needs to leave. Everyone at the Bonfire scatters and that should have been the end of it. But on the way back to Tyler’s car, Caleb sees the new boy running through the trees and he’s calling out before he thinks.

“Hey!” the warlock shouts, changing direction so that he and the transfer student are jogging side by side. “Nice going back there.”

“You think so? I was pretty sure I was going to get punched in the face,” the other boy replies, his crooked grin making Caleb miss a step.

But he recovers quickly, all those years of denial coming in handy now. “Well, Aaron will probably be out to get you, but he's always been a dick. Just watch your back and you’ll be fine.”

Caleb pauses then, knowing that he should just say goodbye. This can’t go anywhere, it really can’t, but before the warlock walks away, he wants a taste of fantasy. The teen wants to pretend if only for a moment and so he holds out a hand instead. “I’m Caleb Danvers. Welcome to Ipswich. Did you move here recently?”

“Just last week. And the name’s Chase Collins,” the other teen answers, reaching out to shake the warlock’s hand.

When their palms touch, Caleb’s magic purrs beneath his skin and he needs to jerk off more or something if he’s already breathing hard. But Chase doesn’t seem to notice his distraction and the silence is going to get awkward if Caleb doesn’t break it soon. So he opens his mouth to say something – anything – when he’s interrupted by a hard slap on his back.

“Come on, bro; you can meet and greet later. We’ve got to go before the cops show up,” Reid says, knocking Caleb from his daze. The teen doesn’t do this; he doesn’t get so lost in someone else’s smile that he forgets his surroundings and he can’t blame his friends for looking at him quizzically.

“Right, so… We should probably get out of here,” Caleb says, shaking off the fog of lust as best he can. “Anyone need a ride?”

He means the question for Kate since she and Sarah have just run up through the trees and Pogue would never leave his girlfriend to be caught. But, of course, Kate drove to the Dells with Sarah and instead it's Chase who answers him.

“Actually… I could use a lift. It looks like my roommate bailed on me,” the other boy says with a sheepish smile and Caleb can hardly take back his offer now. That would be out of character since he's supposed to be the nice one and he needs to ensure that he acts normal after slipping earlier.

So the warlock just bites back a frustrated sigh and tries not to look at Chase while Pogue and Kate say their goodbyes. Watching those two is bad enough, their adoring kisses just reminding Caleb of his own loneliness. Though at least his irritation helps snuff out the last of his desire and the teen feels almost normal by the time Kate drives off.

“Come on, guys, let’s go. I’m not getting caught out here.”

Reid takes the wheel since he’s the best getaway driver while Tyler rides shotgun and the other three climb into the back. Caleb is planning on using Pogue as a buffer, a living wall to keep Chase at a distance. But it seems that the world really is conspiring against him tonight because somehow the warlock ends up in the middle instead, Chase’s leg a line of heat pressed tight along his thigh.

It’s distracting, far more distracting than it should be considering that Pogue is just as close on his other side. But while Caleb can’t deny that his friend is attractive, lusting after Pogue would be like lusting after his little brother and that’s just not his thing. That’s a little too far into creepy and maybe this is why Chase is twisting Caleb up so easily.

The hottest guys he knows have always been the same ones he grew up with, putting them well off limits even in his fantasies. But now there's Chase; Chase who's new and different and far too gorgeous for the warlock's peace of mind.

I think I'm fucked, Caleb muses. I think I'm more than fucked this time. He has to be when jumping out of the car is starting to seem like a good idea or, at least, a better one than sitting here and pretending that Chase's lips don't make him hard.

However, before the teen loses it completely – and he’s getting close – a police car suddenly crashes through the brush. Flashing red and blue lights nearly blind Caleb when he turns to look at their pursuers, a crackling voice shouting for the boys to stop. And the teen intends to; he prefers his Friday nights without high-speed chases and it’s not like anything will stick to the Sons of Ipswich in this town. Not when they’re all stone cold sober and could pay a dozen speeding tickets without running out of cash.

So Caleb opens his mouth to tell Reid to pull over when Chase grabs his arm and the words die in his throat.

“I can’t get arrested now; I’ve been drinking and I’ll get expelled,” the other boy says, obviously close to panic at the thought. He looks up at Caleb with pleading eyes and honestly, this just isn’t fair at all. Everything about Chase seems to be designed to drive the warlock mad. Because Caleb has never been able to resist a cry for help and he's positive that he’s never seen such blue eyes before.

I could kiss him, Caleb thinks, transfixed. Just lean forward and…

He jerks himself back, tearing his eyes away from the other boy before he can ruin everything. For one brief moment, Caleb wonders if he should just let Chase get expelled. Get him out of Ipswich where he can’t keep working at the warlock’s self control. But Caleb isn’t the type to mess with someone’s future to protect his secret; the teen’s own life is one thing but he doesn't want to be that kind of guy.

“Don’t worry, we can lose them,” Caleb says, giving Chase his most reassuring smile before telling Reid to leave the road and cut through Marblehead. “We might as well have some fun along the way.”

And it is fun, the sort that Caleb doesn't usually allow himself to have. With Reid driving, the car is on two wheels as much as it's on four, and he's seriously impressed when the policemen manage to keep up anyway. But they do even as Reid drives over what seems like every rock in Ipswich, Caleb wincing as his knees slam into the center console one more time.

He's going to have some serious bruises by the time this night is over and yet he can't bring himself to care. Because the bumpy ride keeps throwing Chase into his lap and while the other boy apologizes profusely every time, it has to be at least slightly intentional. There's no reason for Chase to sprawl all over Caleb when Pogue is managing to keep himself mostly upright and the warlock swears that he feels Chase's fingers in his hair more than once.

The teen's not sure whether the other boy noticed his attraction back at the Bonfire or if he's just taking advantage of the situation but after the fifth time that Chase slams into him, Caleb thinks to hell with it. He's never been one to back down from a challenge and Chase isn't the only one who can play this game.

So Caleb reaches across the other teen to grab the handle of the door, bracing him against the side of the car with his body and fighting back a smirk at his surprise. The teen has no intention of actually following through, but the blush creeping up Chase's neck is rather gratifying and the other boy should have known better than to play with fire if he wasn't willing to get burned.

Although, the longer that they sit pressed together, the more the warlock begins to think that he may have made an error. Because Chase smells fucking amazing and he feels even better and Caleb somehow managed to forget that fire burns both ways.

This is not good for his self-control, not at all, but it's much too late to move. That would be too obvious and the last thing he wants to do is draw attention given the way his pants are tightening. So the teen just sits there stiffly, trying not to think about how much closer he'd really like to get and the fact that Pogue is probably watching this.

Seriously, Caleb can't decide if he's horny or embarrassed – or maybe just a bit of both – and he's tempted to Use himself unconscious just to make it stop.

“Look alive, boys!” Reid shouts from the front seat, the teen looking up to see Marblehead gorge coming fast. “I'm gonna need a lift!”

Damn it, Reid, Caleb thinks, glaring at the back of the other warlock's head. He hates being forced into anything and it's just like Reid to manipulate him into Using by threatening all their lives. But the warlock's hardly going to let them crash and burn out of spite and at least the need for magic gives him the perfect justification for knocking Chase right out.

So Caleb lets go of the door handle and brushes his hand across Chase's forehead, the barest touch of magic leaving the other boy slumped against the glass. Then the teen turns back to his friends, the power thrumming in his blood as their eyes turn ink black one by one.

After he Ascends, the warlock won't need the others to work this kind of magic, but for now all four Sons of Ipswich are required to levitate Tyler's car. The power flows between them like a web of lightning and as the eldest, Caleb is the one who channels it. This is the ultimate thrill, better than racing or winning or even jerking off, and he can understand why his father Used until there was nothing left of him. But the warlock is stronger than his father – he has to be – so he fights back the urge to drain the others dry. Instead Caleb takes just enough magic to fuel the spell that glows within his mind, holding the working steady as the car's tires leave the ground.

The car floats into the fog when it should plummet down into the canyon and Reid lets out a gleeful cackle as the police car brakes frantically. He's always been the most affected by their power, the one who keeps pushing the limits of addiction, and Caleb is terrified that he'll go too far one day.

However, that worry is a distant thing tonight, the warlock's own grin as wide as Reid's as he swings the car around. Even with all four of them, they aren't strong enough to lift this much weight for long and so with a twist of his mind, Caleb drops them back to the ground.

Then Reid is gunning it, the policemen left gaping in their dust. Those men are going to have quite a story to tell their commanding officer and the teen almost wishes that he could be there when they try.

Almost because there’s been quite enough excitement already and now that the high is fading, responsible Caleb is rearing his ugly head again. School may be out tomorrow but they all have homework and it's long past time for them to sleep. So the warlock tells Reid to head back to the dorms and it really must be late since he doesn't even argue and that's rare as gold these days.

Some twenty minutes later, Reid screeches into the parking lot, the blond spilling out of the car almost before it's stopped. Pogue and Tyler are only a few seconds behind him, leaving Caleb alone to wake up their passenger.

“Did I doze off or something?” Chase asks in confusion when Caleb ends his sleep with another flash of power, the other teen frowning as he looks around the parking lot. “How’d we lose the cops?”

“Reid drives like a maniac, that’s how,” Caleb replies, nudging Chase out of the car before he can think too much about the time he’s lost. “You passed out just after we reached Marblehead and I was too busy holding on to wake you up.”

“Huh, that’s weird. I must have been way drunker than I thought,” the other teen says with a shrug and Caleb relaxes at the easy acceptance of his bad excuse. He's never been that great at lying – hiding his preferences is more a matter of omission – and their secret would have been discovered years ago if people weren't so quick to ignore things that messed with their beliefs.

It seems that Chase is just as oblivious as the rest of Ipswich, and really, that thought should not be so disappointing. You don't even know this guy; just say goodbye and leave.

Caleb really should leave now that he's done as promised: Chase delivered back to the dorms safe and sound. Reid and Tyler had disappeared into the building before Caleb even got out of the car and Pogue is already on his bike, waiting to give the other warlock a ride back to his house. His friend is starting to look rather impatient and so Caleb opens his mouth to say goodnight.

“Let me walk to your room; you still look a bit wobbly,” is what he says instead.

‘Dude, what the hell?!’ Pogue doesn't actually speak but his meaning comes through quite clearly, Caleb wincing beneath the other's glare. But he doesn't have an answer for him and it's too late to take it back. The teen's not sure he wants to when Chase is smiling like that.

“Oh, a gentleman, are we? Worried I'm gonna pass out on the stairs and break my pretty neck?” Chase says with a chuckle, seemingly oblivious to the subtext flying by.

Pogue is going to kill him for this. Seriously. But now that Caleb's gotten this far, he might as well continue since he’s not quite ready to walk away just yet. Once he does, he'll have to go back to reality and the warlock would rather admire the way that Chase’s whole face lights up when he grins.

“Well, I’m worried about you dying now,” Caleb retorts, determinedly ignoring his best friend's grumbling. “So just indulge me, will you? Otherwise it’ll be your fault when I have nightmares about drunken stair accidents.”

“Oh, all right then. That’s totally reasonable,” Chases replies sarcastically. But while his tone is mocking, he doesn’t really seem to mind.

Instead he just knocks his shoulder into Caleb’s when the other teen walks up beside him, the two boys falling silent once they go inside. It’s late enough that everyone else seems to be asleep and their footsteps echo loudly in the halls. But while Spenser Academy has always been a little creepy at night, the silence is strangely comfortable this time. Probably because Chase keeps smiling at Caleb whenever he glances over and the warlock feels a spark of disappointment when the other boy finally stops.

“Well, this is me delivered safely,” Chase says, unlocking the door to his room. He opens the door and starts to walk inside but he's barely across the threshold before he turns around and asks: “What next, Prince Charming? Back to the castle now?”

“Something like that,” Caleb replies even as he makes no move to leave.

“You could stay for a bit? My roommate seems to be AWOL so we'd have the place to ourselves,” Chase offers hesitantly when the silence drags too long. The words hang in the air between them and Caleb is almost certain that if he made a move right now, the other boy would welcome it. But after so long with nothing but his fantasies, the warlock also knows that if he starts something, he won’t be able to stop until he’s tasted every inch of Chase’s body and he’s not ready to take a walk of shame through the dorms on Saturday.

Besides, Pogue is waiting for him so no matter how much he wants to say yes, the teen shakes his head instead. “I can’t. I have to get back home. But you're nice... I mean, it was nice to meet you, and I'm sure I'll see you around?”

Caleb doesn't mean to turn that last sentence into a question; if anything he should be cutting all ties as fast as possible. He should be trying to convince himself that he likes Sarah as much as she seemed to like him, a whirlwind romance just the thing to celebrate his Ascension in case he starts to burn out fast. It would certainly make his mother happy and that’s a rare enough occurrence around this time of year.

But instead the warlock is breathlessly waiting for Chase’s answer and he can’t keep from grinning when the reply is: “Definitely.”

“Great. That's great. Really, really great. Only, I should probably be going now,” Caleb stammers, his face flushing with every awkward word. However, the warlock's babbling just makes Chase smile wider, the other teen giving him a little wave before stepping back into his room.

As soon as the door closes and Caleb isn't blinded by Chase's dimples any longer, it's like a switch flips within his mind and the teen turns to kick at the floor with a curse. He knows better than to get a crush on a handsome stranger, particularly when his birthday is right around the corner. The warlock is going to Ascend this year; he can't afford to act like an idiot and if this night has proved anything, it's that Chase makes him dumb as fuck.

Honestly, Caleb can hardly believe some of the things he said and his self-recrimination only grows stronger when he walks back outside and Pogue jumps down his throat.

“Seriously, dude. What is going on?” his friend asks. “You didn't get a weird vibe off the new kid, or something, did you? Because he seems normal enough, if too friendly with my girl.”

“What? No. Sorry. I think I'm just distracted with my birthday coming up,” Caleb deflects with an awkward laugh, sure that his every sordid thought must be written on his face.

Pogue isn't the most observant person and if he's already asking questions, then the warlock definitely needs to get himself under control again. He needs to be the responsible, helpful Caleb that everyone is used to, not the one who's totally regretting his cowardice tonight.

Fuck, I could have kissed him, the warlock thinks and if Pogue had pushed right then, he probably would have told him everything. To tell the truth, Caleb is almost disappointed when his friend just shrugs, taking his explanation at face value and handing over his spare helmet without another word. Pogue waits until Caleb has hopped up behind him before revving his motorcycle and roaring toward the road.

The drive to Caleb's house takes about twenty minutes and the teen uses this time to clear his head as best he can. No one's ever managed to ruin his composure so completely, but by the time Pogue pulls up in his driveway, the warlock's mask is back where it belongs. This was just a momentary aberration and he'll do better the next time around.

So the teen says goodnight to his friend before climbing the front steps of his family's ridiculously fancy mansion, every inch of it screaming ostentatious wealth. The gloomy, Gothic kind that makes Caleb feel like he should be standing in the rain and reciting poetry.

“Home, sweet home,” he mutters, steeling his shoulders before walking through the door. His mother is waiting for him in the living room just like the teen expected, well on her way through her second bottle of vermouth, and Caleb hasn't shown her his true face in years. As far as she knows, her son is strong and dependable and never resents taking care of her. He shoulders his responsibilities without complaining, paying the maid and balancing their books and trying not to admit that when he goes off to college, his mom might drink herself to death.

Maybe Caleb should have that conversation but his mother is the master of the guilt trip, always talking about the years that she wasted on his father and how she's counting on her son to make things right. Sometimes the teen thinks she's trying to live vicariously through him and while the idea makes his skin crawl, she's his mother. He can't help but love her anyway.

So tonight the warlock bites his tongue like usual, wincing when a particularly pointed accusation stabs beneath his skin. His mother harangues him about the power, his father, and his Ascension, and while Caleb tries not to listen, he feels guilty anyway. Mostly for how thankful he is when his mother finally runs out of bile and collapses back onto the couch. Caleb drapes a blanket around her shoulders and then makes his escape, heading up the stairs to his room before she can wake up again. His mother will be fine on the sofa – she’s certainly slept in much worse places – and moving her isn't worth the risk.

She's already said quite enough tonight. Indeed her ranting was in fine form and the teen has trouble putting her accusations from his mind. Usually Caleb's room is his sanctuary but he finds himself unsettled even after he's shut and locked the door.

Probably because grandchildren is his mother's new favorite topic and after meeting Chase, the teen wants that future even less than he did before. He doesn't want any of it, but he's still going to do it for his mother's sake.

“Fuck my fucking life,” Caleb growls, flopping down on his bed with a huff. “This fucking sucks.”

The teen doesn't want to think about his mother. He doesn't want to think about her picture perfect future or the poor girl who's going to get shoved into his marriage bed.

Caleb would rather think on much more pleasant things, like the way that Chase's cheeks dimpled every time he smiled and the hint of muscle when he stretched. The other boy is everything that he never knew he wanted and while the warlock really shouldn't be indulging his attraction, he's too pissed off to care. His mother may own his fucking life, but she doesn't own his thoughts. Not yet.

So Caleb can hardly be blamed when recollection turns to fantasy, his hand sliding down under the waistband of his boxers to grab hold of his cock. It feels a little sordid to jack off to someone he just met but Chase's lips deserve appreciation and Caleb can't resist the temptation anymore. If anything, the hint of sleaze just makes the warlock harder as he imagines what might have happened if he'd stayed with Chase tonight.

The teen may be a virgin but the internet has been a fantastic teacher and he knows what he wants. He wants someone who can overwhelm him, someone who can take some of the weight off his shoulders or at least make him forget his responsibilities. He wants to lose himself and Chase seemed like the type who knows something about debauchery. The other teen would have pressed Caleb back against the wall and kissed him until he was drowning in it, wrapped a warm hand around his cock and brought him to his knees.

The warlock moans at the thought, his eyes fluttering shut as he jerks himself harder and imagines Chase leaning over him. He's too worked up to last so it only takes a few more strokes before he's coming across his fingers with a muffled groan. Caleb takes a moment to catch his breath and then Uses a washcloth into his hand to wipe away the evidence.

He doesn’t usually draw on magic for something that frivolous, but he's feeling far too good to move and maybe Reid had a point every time he told Caleb to lighten up. The warlock hasn’t felt this relaxed in ages, pleasure wiping out the undercurrent of tension that's been plaguing him.

However, even though Caleb falls asleep smiling, his dreams are restless and he jerks awake only a few hours later with his heart pounding wildly. Someone was Using, strongly enough that the warlock can still feel the echoes of it thrumming through his skin.

Damn it, Reid, the teen snarls, his earlier good mood destroyed. No matter how many times he warns his friend that Using is addictive, the other warlock just won’t listen and Caleb is terrified that Reid is going to end up like his father down the line. Like all their fathers since Caleb’s is the only one who’s even still alive. The magic took them all too early and the warlock doesn’t know how to stop his friend from answering that call.

Of course, even if he did know, Caleb wouldn’t be able to do anything about Reid’s issues at two in the morning so he forces himself to stop thinking until he falls back asleep. He wakes again six hours later in no better disposition, the teen glaring at his clock for five minutes before dragging himself out of bed and pulling on his clothes with a scowl.

Thankfully his mother is still sleeping so he doesn’t have to fake a smile when he sneaks into the kitchen, pouring himself a bowl of cereal and then grabbing the newspaper off the porch. He's just taken his first bite when he glances at the front page and proceeds to spit cheerios all over the floor.

Because the headline reads: High School Boy Overdoses at the Dells and while he doesn’t recognize the picture, one of his classmates is still dead right now. The news sends the warlock right back into worrying about Reid and addiction and he knows that his mother will be even worse than usual if she gets wind of this. Although, seriously, Caleb doesn't know how the hell the paper managed to get this printed up so quickly considering how late the Bonfire ended, and these fucking reporters are making his life more difficult.

But there's nothing to be done about it now so the teen just grabs his car keys, taking the paper with him on his way out the door. He snags the grocery list as well since his mother won't go into town if she knows the errands are taken care of and she should be too busy nursing her hangover to turn on the TV.

At least, that's what the teen is hoping as he starts his car and drives toward downtown Ipswich, calling Pogue along the way. He tells the other warlock about the Use he felt last night and while his friend didn't notice any burst of power, Pogue believes that Caleb did.

Someone was Using and it must have been Reid because Tyler never defies their Covenant. Tyler is the sweet one while Pogue is protective and Reid is reckless and the warlock really doesn't know where their youngest gets it from. He follows Reid around like a puppy but at least he actually listens while the blond takes Caleb’s advice and does the opposite instead.

“Seriously, is Reid trying to throw his life away?!” Caleb growls, throwing up his hand in frustration. Just thinking about it makes him want to punch something, preferably Reid's smug reckless face.

“Come on, Caleb. He's hardly suicidal. You know he’s just using his powers to try and piss you off,” Pogue replies with a sigh. “He's jealous that you're Ascending first so he’s acting like a dick.”

Maybe the other teen is right and Reid will settle down once they’ve all Ascended, their circle matched equally again. But right now it seems more likely that the blond will go off the rails instead and Caleb can't shake the feeling that something is very wrong.

“I'm telling you, this isn’t jus- Jesus!!” the warlock shouts as a Darkling suddenly appears in his passenger seat, another wave of magic accompanying the spell. It’s the boy from the newspaper, his body contorted with the suffering that killed him, and Caleb can’t look away from the spirit's twisted grin.

The Darkling's eyes are angry and tortured all at once, cold hands reaching for the teen. He wants to flinch back but he can't seem to move, shock and horror freezing him in place. Caleb has heard of vengeful spirits but he's never seen one and while he knows there are spells of protection, his mind is blank right now.

All the warlock can do is watch as this broken thing moves closer, the ghost's chill fingers almost to Caleb's face when a blaring horn breaks his paralysis. The teen's eyes snap back to the road to see a semi-truck bearing down on him. He must have drifted into the other lane, the truck unable to see him around the curve. Now it's only a few feet from his bumper, much too close for him to swerve.

So the teen reacts on instinct instead, magic surging through his skin. With a single panicked thought, Caleb breaks his car into pieces, the metal splitting around the truck like a parting wave. His own body dissolves into atoms, passing the cab so closely that he can see the driver's panicked eyes. Then he's slamming back into his seat as his car reforms around him, wheels skidding across the road until he manages to stop.

Caleb can hear Pogue yelling over the phone, panic clear in his voice, but the teen can't think about answering him yet. Because he's never come so close to dying, one split second the difference between sitting here with his heart pounding and being a bloody smear instead.

So he sits and breathes, clutching his steering wheel so hard that his knuckles start to hurt. But eventually the warlock's hands stop trembling enough for him to pick up his phone, Caleb wincing when Pogue shouts directly in his ear.

“Caleb! Answer me, damn it! What is going on?!”

“I just saw a Darkling,” he explains shakily, his friend kind enough to ignore the tremble in his voice. “It was the dead kid that they found in the Dells.”

“Yeah, I saw his picture in the newspaper. But even if he was fucked up enough to commit suicide and turn into a vengeful spirit, he shouldn't have come after you. Someone must have sent the Darkling to you and even Reid isn’t stupid enough to do a thing like that,” Pogue says and the other warlock has a point.

Creating a Darkling is evil magic, the kind that had gotten their ancestors burned as witches in the past, and while Reid is an asshole sometimes, he’s never been the malicious sort. But if the Darkling wasn’t sent by one of his friends, then Caleb has no idea what’s going on here and he still needs to talk to Reid about his Use last night.

However, that can wait until later – the blond always ends up at Nicky's on Saturdays – since a few more hours shouldn’t make a difference and Caleb needs to run his errands first. His mother would never let him hear the end of it if he went home empty-handed and the teen really needs an ice-pack from the pharmacy. Using might have saved his life but he's still got one wicked case of whiplash and the beginnings of a headache building behind his eyes.

Caleb takes the rest of the drive into Ipswich very slowly, one wary eye on his passenger seat in case the Darkling reappears. But the seat remains almost infuriatingly empty and he pulls up in front of the pharmacy without seeing hide or hair of anything. Caleb could almost believe that he'd imagined it if not for the residual taint of magic on his skin.

But maybe I'm just going crazy or my Ascension caused it, the warlock thinks with a frustrated sigh, running one hand through his hair. There's no point worrying about the damn thing now.

So Caleb climbs out of his car and walks into the pharmacy. He doesn't have to wait long since Dr. Anderson knows the Danvers' usual order, the doctor throwing in an ice-pack when he asks. The teen still needs to stop by a few other stores before heading over to see Gorman but that's the first thing off his list and he can feel his headache easing once he slaps the ice-pack on his neck. Caleb gives the ice a second to do its work and then turns to go, stopping short when he sees Kate by the door.

“Hey, Caleb,” she greets cheerfully, giving him a smile that he can't help but return. Kate is truly one of the nicest people that he's ever met and if he liked girls, the teen would probably be insanely jealous of Pogue for going out with her.

As it is, he considers Kate a dear friend and talking to her helps him forget the awful morning that he’s had. At least until she mentions the dead student at the Dells and he’s reminded of the Darkling that he'd seen.

“Did you know him?” Caleb asks, figuring he might as well pick Kate’s brain for any details that could help.

“No, I think he kept to himself. I saw him in classes once in a while, but we never talked.” This is something of a surprise since the teen thought that Kate knew everyone – the other student must really have been the antisocial type.

Of course, Kate knowing everyone isn't always a good thing. Indeed, Caleb could have done without the blond who suddenly appears right next to him.

Sarah greets the warlock with an oddly friendly smile considering that they've only had one five minute conversation, Caleb jerking back when she tries to take his arm. But Sarah seems oblivious to his discomfort; the girl keeps trying to press closer while Caleb retreats slowly down the aisle of the pharmacy. While she seemed nice enough last night, Sarah has apparently decided that personal space doesn't matter and the teen would like to keep a good three feet between his body and the hungry gleam in the girl's eyes.

Caleb is seriously considering just running for it, but before he can, someone else tugs Sarah back. It’s Chase riding to the rescue and when he smiles at the warlock, the world suddenly seems like a much brighter place.

“Hey, man,” Caleb says, trying and failing not to blush. Because nothing has changed since last night; if anything Chase somehow looks more gorgeous in the sunshine, and the teen wipes sweaty palms on the legs of his jeans. He knows he’s staring again but he can't seem to help it, smiling at Chase like an idiot until Kate interrupts.

“I'm going to ask Pogue if he wants to see the new Brad Pitt movie later,” she says, looking back and forth between Caleb and Chase with obvious curiosity. “Anyone else want to go?”

“I will,” Sarah agrees before turning to Caleb with an expectant stare. She clearly thinks that this should be a date, the two of them snuggling together in the movie theater even though they've barely talked at all. But while the warlock probably should join them since Sarah seems like a nice girl and his best shot at something normal, Chase makes him want to be a freak instead.

So he tells Kate that he’ll have to take a rain check, paying no mind to Sarah’s disappointed huff. She’ll just have to get over him like every other girl before her and it’s not like he lied about having other things to do.

While “I have to run some errands for my mother” is a great excuse for getting out of anything, it’s also completely true and the way that Chase is watching him makes Caleb think the other boy might agree to come along.

Just because I shouldn't date him, doesn't mean we can't be friends, the warlock tells himself, ignoring the voice in the back of his mind that says it's a mistake. He's spent enough of his life trying to make his mother happy without throwing away new friends as well. I could use a friend who's not part of our bloody Covenant.

So Caleb asks Chase if he'd like a tour of Ipswich, ignoring the way that Sarah's expression twists into a glare. There might be trouble later if she takes rejection anything like Kira Snider, but right now the warlock doesn't care. Because Chase agrees to join him with another of those blinding smiles and his dimples are just ridiculous.

“Um, sure. That would be fantastic. As long as you don't mind dropping me off at the dorms afterward? I'm afraid Kate here was my ride.”

“Not a problem.” I'd drive you down to Jersey if it made you grin like that.

“Well then. Lead on Mac Duff,” Chase says and after a second, Caleb does. He waves goodbye to Kate and then walks out of the pharmacy, the other boy falling into step beside him as he heads toward the next store.

They walk in silence at first, mostly because Caleb's mind has gone completely blank and he can't think of a damn thing to say. At least, not anything that the warlock can admit to. Blurting out something stupid seems far too possible.

Come on, Caleb. It's just a conversation. You've talked to plenty of hot guys without admitting that you want to jump their bones; you're on the swim team after all.

It's a good pep talk. One of the warlock's better efforts actually. But, as it turns out, Caleb doesn't need to say anything because Chase breaks the silence first.

“So what's the deal with the statue?” he asks, pointing to the tall bronze monument in the main town square. It's honestly not much better than asking about the weather but it's enough to get Caleb talking and after that the conversation flows easily.

Caleb learns that Chase loves classic rock, comic books and truly awful horror movies, the two of them bonding over an unhealthy love of Ghost Ship’s bad hilarity. While the warlock usually wouldn’t admit to that guilty pleasure – his mother always says that a Danvers should be cultured – Chase has a way of making him forget about self-censorship.

Maybe it’s because Chase doesn’t seem to have any sense of shame, admitting that Aquaman is his favorite superhero in the same breath that he extols the virtues of deep-dish pizza, and the warlock has to admire the other boy’s unselfconsciousness. Caleb hasn’t been that comfortable in his own skin for years, his eyes tracking the easy curve of Chase’s smile jealously.

Though it’s hard to be too jealous when that same smile leaves Caleb breathless and it’s a good thing that he can run his errands on autopilot because he ends up back at his car with no memory of buying anything.

Caleb's brain has apparently decided that the light in Chase’s eyes is much more important to remember and there's nothing wrong with that. The teen is totally not perving on his brand new friend despite the way it sounds. He's just admiring the view is all and if his skin is still tingling where Chase grabbed his arm when he stumbled, that's just because no one hugs him anymore.

Everything is fine. Caleb's attraction is completely under his control. At least, that's what he tells himself before asking if Chase minds taking a detour on their way back to the dorms. The teen still needs to drop off his father’s medicine and since everything is definitely fine, there’s no reason that he has to say goodbye.

It's not like the warlock is actually going to introduce Chase to Gorman or his father; although, if he did, Caleb thinks the other boy could handle it. Because Chase mentioned the death of his adopted parents without any drama, just a sad smile that made Caleb want to talk about his own fucked up family in return. He wanted to tell the other teen the truth, the whole truth, and even though the warlock wasn’t stupid enough to cross that line in downtown Ipswich, the desire hasn’t gone away.

Which is why Caleb ends up giving Chase a tour of historical Ipswich on the way to his father’s house, telling him about Putnam Barn and the old mill to keep himself from talking about other things instead.

“You know, you’re lucky. This place really is beautiful,” the other boy says when the warlock pauses, looking out the car window at the autumn leaves. The trees have just started turning, their foliage bright green with a hint of fire around the edges, and Chase is watching them with open wonder on his face. “I grew up in Northern California and most of our trees are evergreens. I love redwoods, don’t get me wrong, but they don’t do anything like this. Although, if you’ve never driven the Avenue of Giants, that's something else entirely.”

“So why did you move here, anyway?” Caleb asks, voicing a question that’s been on his mind. He can’t imagine traveling across the entire country just to finish high school and Ipswich isn’t exactly number one on any list of exciting tourist spots.

“Why not?” Chase says with a shrug. “I couldn’t imagine staying in California after my parents died and they always said my birth mother grew up in New England so I thought I’d check it out. Besides, I’m thinking of going to Harvard and graduating from Spenser Academy pretty much guarantees acceptance from everything I’ve heard.”

“I don’t know about that but my father was class of '81,” Caleb replies a little smugly, grinning at the other teen’s surprise.

“Seriously? You should have told me earlier, you dick. I can’t believe you let me ramble on instead,” Chase groans, reaching over to smack Caleb on the shoulder before settling back in his seat again. “Anyway, I’m glad I came; I never would have met you otherwise.”

Which is a statement that Caleb has no idea how to answer, their easy conversation suddenly descending into awkward silence once again.

The teen is used to being hit on and he’s pretty sure that Chase is flirting with him now, but the fact that he actually likes the other boy changes everything. Caleb doesn’t want to brush Chase off and maybe lose a friend in the process and yet he also can’t quite bring himself to respond in kind. The best that the teen can manage is a barely audible murmur of agreement before he turns his gaze on the road, staring fixedly through the windshield until they get to his father’s house.

Although Caleb has always hated these visits, today he leaps out of the car as though it’s on fire and looks toward the old colony house with something like relief. The warlock can’t think of anything less sexy than what’s waiting for him and hopefully by the time he’s finished dealing with Gorman, he’ll have come up with a way to let Chase down gracefully.

Of course, first Caleb has to keep from getting shot by his family’s crotchety old caretaker, the teen flinching back toward his car when a spray of buckshot hits the ground near his feet.

“Gorman, it’s me; it's okay,” Caleb shouts, holding his hands up in the air.

While he might be able to block a bullet, the warlock doesn’t really want to test it and that sort of magic would be a bit difficult to explain to his audience. But thankfully, Gorman doesn’t shoot again, the old man calling back suspiciously, “If you’re Caleb, who’s that with you?”

“Just a friend. Can I please come up?” Caleb calls back, an edge of exasperation in the words.

“Fine. But walk slowly and keep your hands where I can see them.”

“Paranoid old bastard,” the warlock mutters under his breath, but there’s no point in arguing with Gorman. The old man knows all the Danvers’ secrets and he always gets his way. So Caleb just raises his hands up higher and starts walking toward the house.

“Caleb, wait!” Chase exclaims, reaching out of the car window to grab Caleb’s arm as he goes by. “Are you sure about this? That guy just tried to kill you!”

Chase’s eyes are wide when the warlock turns to look at him and Caleb has to wonder if he’s ever seen someone wave around a gun before. But while the worry is endearing, it’s also unnecessary, so the teen just gives Chase his best reassuring grin. “Everything is fine; I promise. Gorman is my family’s caretaker and while he’s getting a bit crazy in his old age, he’s not a murderer. Besides, his eyesight is so bad that he probably would have missed me anyway.”

“Well… if you’re sure.”

Chase doesn’t seem particularly convinced but he lets go of Caleb’s wrist, the echo of his grip lingering far longer than it should. The teen can still feel it even after he’s walked into the house and given his father’s medicines to Gorman, refusing the old man’s offer to come upstairs this time.

Although Caleb does visit with his father sometimes, mostly when he needs to talk to someone who doesn’t answer back, he prefers to spend as little time in this house as possible. His father's emaciated husk always makes him a little queasy, the old man too clearly representing everything wrong with Caleb’s family and the Danvers' legacy. Yet as much as the warlock hates this place, he’s also grateful for the lesson because this is what he thinks about when the magic starts to whisper underneath his skin.

Caleb wants to live his life not waste it and the price of Using just isn’t worth the cost. Only, the teen isn’t really living, is he? He’s too busy trying to be everything to everyone to actually be happy and he thinks that it might be time to follow Reid’s advice.

Not about Using, the warlock hasn’t gone completely crazy, but what’s the point of being young, rich, and attractive if he’s also celibate? Caleb is tired of waiting; waiting for high school, for college, for his mother to stop being such a mess. At this rate, he’ll be stuck forever and he'll go to his grave knowing that he never did a damn thing for himself. Which is total bullshit and Gorman probably thinks that the teen’s gone crazy when he suddenly dashes from the house.

Caleb doesn’t care because there’s a very attractive boy waiting in his car, one that he would dearly like to be kissing given half the chance. However, the warlock falters slightly once he’s opened his door and slid back into the driver’s seat.

“I think you’re gorgeous and I’d like to kiss you,” seems too forward, but he can hardly jump Chase without saying anything at all.

However, the other teen must see something in his face because he puts a hand on Caleb's shoulder and moves closer, looking him in the eye and murmuring, “Tell me you don’t want this or I’m gonna kiss you now. I can’t… Just tell me to back off and I will. I’ll be your friend, just a friend, and never try anything again.”

Chase keeps up this mantra even as he inches closer but the last thing Caleb wants is for the other teen to stop. If he could find his voice, Caleb would be begging, years of denial thrown away for the rush of heat beneath his skin.

“Last chance, Caleb,” Chase says, pausing just before their lips meet. He waits there, leaving the final decision up to Caleb until the warlock loses it.

He surges forward, cupping Chase’s face between his hands and kissing him hungrily. This may not be his first kiss, but it feels like it, Caleb's nerves singing as their lips slide together filthily. The other boy lets him take the lead for a minute before pushing back, tongue tracing a burning line along the edge of Caleb's lips. Chase steals the air from his lungs, strong hands slipping beneath his shirt to trace lazy circles on his back, and Caleb wants desperately.

He wants to feel the other teen pressed against him, wants those hands on his cock before he breaks his fucking zipper, but he can't stop kissing Chase long enough to ask. So Caleb just yanks him closer instead, trying to say with his body what he can't say aloud, and it might have worked if he hadn't forgotten about the stick shift of his car.

“Shit, sorry!” Caleb exclaims when Chase reels back with a groan, one hand holding his side. “Are you okay?”

It would be just his luck to seriously injure his first real crush and the teen is honestly worried until Chase starts to laugh. The other boy slumps back against the passenger door, giggling helplessly as Caleb mourns the ruined mood.

“Really, I'm fine. I don't bruise that easily,” the other boy says once he catches his breath, holding out a hand to forestall any more apologies. “I was probably getting a little handsy for a first date anyway.”

“It's okay; I liked it. I mean, I like you,” Caleb tells him, too turned on to be embarrassed by the slip. Besides, Chase seems to appreciate the warlock’s honesty, his eyes darkening with heat again.

“I like you too,” he purrs, giving Caleb one more lingering kiss before pulling back with a sigh. “But I just met you yesterday and I try not to jump into bed with total strangers anymore. You deserve a second date at least. Besides, I've kind of stolen your whole day now and I'm sure your friends are wondering where you’ve gone.”

“Well... I am supposed to meet Pogue at Nicky's in an hour,” Caleb admits after checking his watch. “But there's no reason you couldn't come along. Assuming you're not sick of me?”

“Trust me, that’s not an issue,” Chase replies before raising one sardonic brow. “Though it might be easier to make a decision if you told me who Nicky is.”

“Oh, right,” the warlock says, ducking his head sheepishly. “Nicky's is the main hangout for kids in Ipswich. There's pretty decent food, pool tables, music, Foosball, and the like so we usually end up there on Saturdays if nothing else is going on.”

“All right, count me in. I play a mean game of Foosball and I can think of a few ways to make things more interesting,” Chase replies, his wicked smirk telling Caleb exactly what kind of stakes he has in mind. But the thought of the other boy flirting like this at Nicky's reminds the warlock that he's forgotten to mention one important thing.

“I'd like that, but... the others don't know about me: liking guys, I mean,” he explains, hoping that Chase can accept the secrecy. “I haven't told anyone.”

“Really? This whole town must be blind because I thought your flirting was pretty obvious last night,” Chase says a little archly before his face softens at Caleb's obvious distress. “Don't worry. I'm not going to drag you out of the closet if you're not ready and I guess I can live with secrecy for now. Just don't keep me in the dark too long, okay?”

“I won't,” Caleb swears and while he's not sure how he'll keep that promise, it's not a total lie. The teen has been living by his mother’s rules for far too long and if his Ascension goes horribly wrong, he doesn't want to die with secrets left unsaid. He doesn't want to die a fucking virgin and Chase seems like his best shot.


Part II