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In Another Life - Part III

Title: In Another Life - Part III
Fandom: the Covenant
Pairings: Chase/Caleb, minor Caleb/Sarah, Pogue/Kate
Rating/Warnings: some violence; homophobic language; dysfunctional families
Word Count: 9042 (28,927 so far)
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.

Part I
Part II


What the fucking hell was that?! Caleb collapses to his knees on the pavement, this single question running through his mind.

None of them had suspected Sarah; why would they when the Sons were always male? However, that had clearly been a serious mistake. She may be a girl but she's also the most powerful warlock that Caleb has ever met and he needs to warn his friends as soon as possible. If he couldn't stand against Sarah then the others won't have a chance in hell.

So the teen picks up his keys and then scrambles to his feet, gathering his power to send a message to his friends.

'Meet me in the spell chamber. Now!'

The other warlocks might have ignored a text – especially Reid – but they won't ignore a Used command, not when Caleb so rarely demands obedience. Indeed, the teen has barely started his car before his friends send back three wordless acknowledgments, their magic tinged with worry and curiosity. So the warlock isn't particularly surprised when he reaches the spell chamber and finds the other Sons of Ipswich already waiting for him there.

“Caleb! What's going on?!” Pogue demands, rounding on the teen impatiently.

“Sarah is the warlock that we’ve been looking for. I mean the witch... whatever; it’s fucking her!”

“That doesn't make any sense,” Reid retorts, never one to accept Caleb at his word. “Only the first-born sons get power; that's the Covenant.”

“Well, maybe her power has a different source. I don't know and I don't care. If there are warlocks in our bloodline then there could be witches in another. You know most legends are based around a grain of truth and there are thousands of stories about witches in this area.”

“That still seems sketchy. What's your proof?” This time it's Tyler doubting, the youngest warlock preferring logic over gut feelings whenever possible.

Caleb could probably talk him around eventually without mentioning the fact that Sarah kissed him and why that’s weird as hell. But he doesn’t have time to do this slowly, not when he still doesn't know what Sarah wants. There's no time for the warlock to let his old fears rule him so he cuts to the point instead.

“I kissed her. She made me kiss her and her eyes were black as night.”

“And that means she's a witch? Just because you finally found a girl who could break through your frankly ridiculous self control doesn't mean she's evil. It just means you're horny and she's hot.”

“Except for the part where I'm gay as a fucking rainbow and I've been screwing Chase for weeks.”

His words echo in the chamber more loudly than they should and leave nothing but shocked silence in their wake. Caleb's friends – the guys that he grew up with; the guys who might as well be his younger brothers and have never hesitated to give him shit about every aspect of his life – suddenly have nothing to say. They just stand there gaping at him like they've never seen his face before.

The silence lasts long enough that Caleb actually starts to worry that he'd misjudged the other teens and he might lose their friendship over this. But before he can work himself into too much of a panic, the quiet is broken by an unexpected voice.

If the warlock had to guess, he wouldn’t have picked Reid as the one to recover from his news the fastest and yet, it’s the blond who throws an arm around his shoulders with a smirk.

“Dude, seriously? That’s awesome,” Reid says. “Sure your mother's probably gonna flip the fuck out but we’ll run interference for you and once you come out at school, I’ll get so many girls. Half the chicks in our grade have been mooning after you for years and as soon as they realize that it’s hopeless, I plan to be there to soothe their broken hearts. Only... you better not have been looking at my ass. I don’t swing that way.”

Honestly, Caleb couldn’t have hoped for a better speech from him than that. It’s rude and ridiculous and perfectly in character, and his crass response snaps Pogue and Tyler from their paralysis.

“Like you care where he’s been looking, Reid; you walk around the locker room naked all the time,” Pogue tells the blond with an exasperated sigh. “If you don’t want people staring at your ass then you shouldn’t parade around like that. You do know that Caleb’s not the only gay guy in our class?”

“That's right. I've seen more of your junk than I ever wanted to,” Tyler agrees. “Maybe you're the one who should be coming out right now.”

“Hey, now. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, baby boy. But only the ladies get to touch.”

“Right. Because so many girls have tried.”

“Don't worry, Reid. You're not my type. None of you are,” Caleb says, stepping in before his friends’ discussion can veer too far off course. He should probably be offended but the warlock actually finds their joking comforting. If his friends can still argue like this after finding out about him and Chase then everything is going to be fine – between the four of them at least.

“Can we please get back on topic?” Caleb asks. “I'm gay, that's great, I'm glad you're so accepting but we still need to deal with Sarah ‘cause she hasn’t gone away.”

“So we team up and make her leave. I'm sure Tyler can find some sort of spell for banishment,” Reid replies with a shrug. “The four of us should be able to counteract one witch; shouldn't we? She can't be that powerful.”

“That's just it; she is. Based on what I felt, she'd walk right over us.”

“Then we wait a week. Your birthday is next Friday and once you've Ascended that should level out the playing field,” Pogue suggests, sounding much less worried than he should. “I know you don't want a strange witch running around but it's not like Sarah has done anything too terrible. Making you kiss her isn't exactly murder and we still don't know if the Darkling was just coincidence. So a few more days shouldn’t make a difference either way.”

None of his friends are taking Sarah seriously, probably because they weren't there to feel her power and they’ve never actually faced a threat like this before. Caleb has to find the right words to convince them that the witch is dangerous. But before he can, Pogue's phone rings and the warlock's chance is lost.

Now I know how our teachers feel, the teen thinks with no small amount of irritation as his friend answers his phone and then proceeds to ignore him utterly. Although, to be fair, he's also kind of impressed that Pogue gets reception all the way down here.

However, both emotions are soon replaced by worry because Pogue's expression goes from questioning to pale to horrified and something is clearly very wrong. He looks like he's seen a ghost – or another Darkling – and when he finally hangs up, the other three warlocks quickly gather round.

“It's Kate,” Pogue whispers, staring down at his phone blankly. “She's sick and in the hospital. The doctors say it's bad. I have to go.”

“Shit, okay. I'll drive you,” Caleb starts to offer, but his friend disappears up the stairs before he can get the sentence out. The upper door slams behind Pogue and the warlock hears the roar of his bike seconds later, the sound disappearing down the hill as he guns it back to town.

“He's in no state to drive,” Tyler says, looking after the other teen worriedly. “He'll probably run right off the road.”

“I'll go after him,” Caleb replies. “You guys stay here and try to find a spell to deal with Sarah. I know you don't think she’s dangerous but this thing with Kate seems too convenient and I have a feeling I’m going to need an ace up my sleeve before we're done.”

Reid and Tyler agree, though the blond isn't happy, and so the warlock runs after Pogue. He starts his car and heads down the hill, hoping that his friend did the sensible thing and took the main road back to town. If Pogue took a back route, Caleb might never find him and the teen eyes the sky worriedly when he hears a rumble of thunder and it starts raining heavily. Under these conditions, one wrong move will send Pogue skidding across the pavement and the other warlock is unlikely to be careful with Kate in the hospital.

Caleb drives slowly for just this reason and he’s glad he did when he sees someone lying in the middle of the road. His headlights glint off blood and twisted metal even as his heart stops in his chest. Pogue can’t be dead – the warlock is sure he would have felt it – but he won’t be walking away from this crash easily.

So Caleb pulls over and dials 911 with shaking fingers, struggling to keep the panic from his voice when the dispatcher picks up. The teen stutters out his message quickly and as soon as the dispatcher says the ambulance is on its way, he scrambles out of the car to check on Pogue. The other warlock looks even worse when Caleb kneels down beside him and the teen wishes that he could heal as easily as he levitates.

But he can't. Caleb would do more harm than good trying to piece Pogue back together when he doesn’t know a damn thing about anatomy. So the warlock just nudges his friend on the shoulder gingerly, afraid to shake the other boy any harder in case he has internal injuries.

“Pogue! Can you hear me? Are you awake?” Please don’t die on me. “Pogue!”

“Ca…leb?” His name is faint, almost too quiet to hear above the rain, but the teen is overjoyed to hear anything at all.

“Yeah. It’s me, Pogue. The ambulance is on its way so just hold on. I’m not going anywhere. Just stay awake; help will be here soon and I’ll be with you every step of the way.” Caleb pats his pockets, vaguely aware that he should probably call Pogue's mother, but he seems to have left his phone in the car on accident. Which is probably a good thing since the teen’s clothes are already soaked through and his cell phone is hardly waterproof. The warlock would go grab it but he doesn't want to leave his friend and when Pogue starts to talk again, Caleb forgets about his phone entirely.

“Caleb. I need… to… tell you….” the other boy whispers, his hand clutching at the warlock's arm.

“Tell me what?”

“I did…n’t crash. It… was… Sarah.”

“What?!”

“You... were right. She's… too strong. She said this was a… message for... you.

“A message about what? What does she want?” Caleb asks, leaning in closer. But his friend has already lapsed back into unconsciousness and he won't wake again. The warlock is close to panicking by the time the ambulance finally arrives and Pogue's care is taken over by more experienced hands. He nearly faints with relief then, slumping on the wet asphalt until one of the medics pulls him to his feet. Both Pogue and Caleb are whisked away with sirens blaring; the teen wrapped in blankets and told to sit in the corner of the ambulance.

He spares one thought for his car and the phone still sitting in it but no one is likely to steal either at this time of night even if his keys are on the driver's seat. So Caleb puts it from his mind, focusing all his attention on keeping Pogue from moving whenever the ambulance hits a rough spot and for once, he doesn't begrudge the power Used.

Then they arrive and the teen is left standing in the lobby, a puddle forming underneath his feet and questions running through his mind.

None of this makes any sense. If Sarah wants to take over Ipswich then she should have killed Caleb when she had the chance. As the eldest, he's always been the unofficial leader of their coven and losing him would have left the others scrambling; Sarah could have taken out the strongest of her enemies before the Sons of Ipswich even knew that she was there. But instead the witch kissed Caleb and hurt Pogue and he can't imagine why. She gave up the element of surprise and for what? To fuck with Caleb's mind?

Maybe my Ascension was the trigger? Killing me before my birthday would be good strategy. But that still doesn't explain why she went after Pogue instead of me.

No matter how Caleb looks at it, Sarah's actions seem completely illogical and the teen eventually decides that he isn't going to come up with any answers now. To tell the truth, his head is starting to hurt from thinking too hard about this and maybe a fresh pair of eyes is what the problem needs. Besides, he should probably stop dripping in the lobby because the hospital receptionist is starting to look at him a little worriedly.

So the warlock pastes a smile on his face and talks the receptionist into loaning him her phone. He calls Pogue's mother and then his friends to tell them what’s going on and they promise to get to the hospital as soon as possible – Reid agreeing to pick up Caleb's car along the way.

Once his calls are made, the teen sits down to wait with an exhausted sigh, resting his head in his hands until his friends arrive. Reid and Tyler rush into the lobby barely ten minutes later when the trip usually takes twenty and if he were less tired, the warlock would chew them out for their recklessness. His friends must have been driving eighty the whole way and the last thing Caleb wants is another accident.

“You better not have crashed my car,” the warlock mumbles when Reid sits down beside him, too worn out for a proper lecture now. Not that the blond would have listened to a lecture since he just rolls his eyes at Caleb’s chiding before handing back his keys.

“Thanks,” the teen says, pocketing his keys as Tyler sits down on his other side. Once his friends are settled, Caleb fills them in on the details of Pogue's accident – he hadn't wanted to mention Sarah while the receptionist was listening – and the other warlocks’ expressions grow more horrified with every word he speaks. Caleb doesn't think that either of them truly believed in Sarah's power, not really, but they can't doubt it now. Not when she just left Pogue in pieces on the road.

“If Sarah told Pogue this was a message then it has to be a warning,” Reid says after Caleb has finished, coming up with an explanation just like the warlock hoped he would. “Something like – do what I want or I’ll kill everyone you care about – and she probably hurt Pogue to prove that she can back up that threat with blood.”

“But what does she want?!”

“How the hell should I know? I'm not a fucking mind reader. Kate might have known something since they were roommates but she's in the hospital too, remember? That’s what started this whole mess and I wouldn't be surprised if Sarah also had a hand in that.”

“But why now? Other than the Darkling, she's been ignoring us for weeks.”

“My Ascension?” Caleb offers with a helpless shrug. “She has to know she's stronger than us – trying to scry her proved that if nothing else. Maybe she's worried that we’ll be able to match her once I’ve Ascended too. We do have numbers on our side.”

“No, I don't think so,” Reid replies, shaking his head in denial. “If she wanted to avoid a fight then she would have continued hiding. It's not like we managed to find her on our own. She made herself known tonight and there must have been a reason. Something set her off. Come on, Caleb; you talked to Sarah last.”

“But she didn't say anything. Not abou-” Oh fuck, her face. That look on her face. “It's Chase. It has to be.”

“What are you talking about?”

“She caught me leaving his room this afternoon. I think she realized... you know. She made me kiss her after that.”

“That seems a bit far-fetched. Even if Sarah's obsessed with you for some reason – and I can't imagine why – putting Pogue in the hospital is a bit of an overreaction for a jilted love affair. There has to be something bigger at work here; something that we're missing.”

Reid has a point but Caleb can't seem to listen. Not when the thought of Chase in danger makes his heart pound wildly. The teen can’t bear to lose anyone else tonight, not after seeing his best friend broken, and while Reid and Tyler can watch out for each other, Chase is all alone. He’s all alone in the dorms and Sarah could do anything. Caleb’s imagination conjures up all manner of curses, each scenario bloodier than the last, and the teen has to make sure that his boyfriend is all right. He won’t rest otherwise.

The warlock makes Tyler promise to call him as soon as the doctors say anything about Pogue’s condition and then he runs back out into the rain. When Caleb gets to his car, his phone is lying right where he left it on the seat and he dials Chase a little frantically. But the phone just rings and rings without an answer and Caleb panic ratchets up another notch.

Something is definitely wrong. Chase always picks up unless he forgot his charger and if his phone were dead, it wouldn’t ring at all.

So Caleb peels out of the parking lot, ignoring half a dozen stop signs on his way back to the dorms. He barely even sees them as he dials and redials his boyfriend’s number – the call going to voicemail every time – and it’s a damn good thing that no one else is on the road.

The teen is so focused on his phone that he almost misses the entrance to Spenser Academy. The sign appears out of nowhere and Caleb instinctively swerves hard to make the turn. But it’s still raining so his tires lose all traction, the warlock dropping his phone as he skids into the parking lot. Caleb is hurtling straight toward the steps of Chase's dorm and only a frantic burst of power turns his car aside. He nearly hydroplanes again before coming to a halt across three parking spaces, his hands a little shaky when he takes them off the wheel.

That was close, much too close, and Caleb should have known better than to drive like that. But self-recrimination will have to wait until he knows that Chase is safe. So the warlock leaves his car where it is and runs into the building, taking the stairs two at a time until he reaches Chase's floor.

Only once Caleb is standing in front of the other boy's door does he pause, taking a moment to collect himself. If Chase truly is in danger then rushing in half-cocked won't help the situation and if his boyfriend is okay, there's no need to panic him. The news the warlock brings is bad enough. Smile, Caleb. Keep your frayed edges of sight.

He squares his shoulders and then knocks, calling through the door as loudly as he dares, “Chase? Are you there?”

His boyfriend doesn’t answer and Caleb is just about to knock again when the door swings open to reveal the last person that the warlock wants to see.

“Hello, Caleb. Do come in.”

Sarah turns and walks back into Chase's room, leaving Caleb frozen where he stands. For all his panic, he hadn’t expected the witch to be here – he'd expected a spell or another Darkling or to find Chase bleeding on his floor – and now he doesn’t know how to react.

Caleb is torn between rage and horror; he wants to strangle Sarah for what she's done to Pogue and yet he knows he doesn’t dare. The witch is still stronger than him and while his Ascension might put them on equal footing, Caleb has another week to go.

So the teen can't fight and he can't run either, not when he looks past Sarah to see Chase lying on his bed. His boyfriend could almost be sleeping if not for the sickly color of his skin and the poisonous magic that hangs across him like a shroud. It's blood magic; Caleb recognizes the description from the Book of Shadows but he never thought that he would ever see such a spell. Such curses sparked the witch hunts and while the inquisitors’ methods claimed more innocents than evildoers, the evil that they sought to fight was all too real.

“You're late, Caleb; I was starting to think you wouldn't show,” Sarah says, giving the warlock a fey smile as she settles next to Chase on the bed. She strokes one possessive hand down his face, the sight making bile rise in Caleb's throat. But he fights it down because he has to – listening is the only option that the teen has left.

One wrong word and she might actually kill him, Caleb thinks, the madness on Sarah’s face shattering any hope of mercy that the warlock might have had. He hadn’t realized how much the witch was hiding until she dropped her mask.

“I'm here now, Sarah,” the teen says, an effort of will keeping his voice from trembling. “Tell me what you want.”

“Isn't it obvious? I want you,” she replies, looking up at Caleb. “Or, at least, I want your power when it comes. You were supposed to do it out of love for me, but I supposed fear will do instead.”

“What are you talking about? I can't give you anything.”

“Has no one told you? Is there something that dear perfect Caleb Danvers doesn't know?” Sarah asks with a mocking laugh from her position on the bed. “Let me tell you what my father told me once I finally tracked the bastard down. Our power is tied to life and will so giving it away is easy; all you have to do is say the words with true intent. My father was all too happy to pass on his magic when I found him – sure it killed him but, of course, he was quite an old young man by then. I was quite unhappy to discover the consequences of our powers; no one had ever told me that our magic had a cost.”

Our magic?” Caleb asks, surprise momentarily overcoming his good sense. “You can't mean...? But the fifth family died in the witch hunts and our power is in the blood; it passes to first born sons alone. You can't be one of us.”

“Don't talk to me about first born sons,” the witch hisses in response. “Of course a worthless girl couldn’t share your precious power; that’s why my father ran off without leaving so much as a note to guide me when the magic came. I thought I was going mad at first and then I started to enjoy it and by the time dear old dad told me what was what, I'm afraid that I was hooked. I like Using, you know; there's absolutely nothing better in the world and after I took my father's power, I decided to track down the rest of my long lost brethren to steal their strength as well.”

“Why didn't you just tell us who you were? We could have helped.”

“I don't need your help. I came to get my vengeance against the Sons of Ipswich, the ones who couldn't be bothered with my great-great-great-great-granddaddy's bastard when it came. I'm going to take your power and you can't do a thing about it. I’m stronger than you are and if you fight me, I’ll bathe this town in blood.”

“You killed the kid in the Dells, didn't you?”

“Him? I'm afraid so. He refused to take no for an answer so I searched him out at the Bonfire and then I drained him dry. Of course, I probably could have made that kid do anything if I’d just agreed to date him, but I had no way of knowing this worthless pretty boy would be the one to draw your eye. You were supposed to fall head over heels for me instead.”

Sarah looks down at Chase with a sneer. The magic that binds the other teen tightens beneath her gaze until he starts to suffocate, the witch’s curse choking him on air.

“Stop it!”

Caleb can't watch this any longer. He can’t watch his boyfriend die while he stands by helplessly. So he attacks instead, his blast of power catching Sarah by surprise and throwing her from the bed. The warlock may not be able to beat her but maybe he can distract her long enough to get Chase out of here. However, while the spell on his boyfriend does loosen when Sarah hits the floor, the witch recovers quickly and Caleb has barely reached Chase’s side before Sarah throws him back with a blast of her own.

The warlock tries to block it but Sarah's magic cuts through his shields like they're not even there and slams him hard into the wall. The impact drives the air from his lungs and Sarah doesn’t give him any chance to counter after that. Instead she bounces Caleb around the room until he's bruised and bleeding and then a flick of her fingers sends him face first into the mirror above the sink. Although a reflexive Use protects his eyes, the warlock only manages to block the worst of the damage as a thousand tiny shards dig into his skin.

Caleb lands hard on the floor, unable to do anything but moan in agony. Every breath threatens to make him puke, his nausea as much from the foul touch of Sarah's power as from his injuries.

“Poor little Caleb. Not so mighty now, are you?” the witch gloats, stalking over and pressing one sharp heel into the warlock's chest. “It really is very simple, Caleb. If you fight me, your friends will die. If you refuse to give me your power, then your friends will die. Think of the next week as a grace period in which to say goodbye and when it’s over, you will give me what I want.”

“Taking my power won't change anything,” the teen gasps in reply, groaning when Sarah digs her shoe into his skin. “It's not your magic that's wearing out; it's your body. You'll be dead in five years at the rate you're Using now.”

It's the truth, every word meant to hurt Sarah the only way he can. Caleb may not be able to fight the witch but there are other sorts of power and he can see his words strike home. Perhaps a bit too well.

“Shut up!” Sarah screams, slamming the warlock's head against the floor. “You don't know anything! I'm Sarah fucking Wendham! I'm rich and young and powerful and I get everything I want! So you're going to shut your fucking mouth, you're going to give me your magic and then you're going to die like the useless worm you are. If you don't, I'll make you watch while I take your friends apart. I'll skin them alive in front of you and then make you fuck me while they bleed out on the floor.”

The witch has lost it completely, the last remnants of sanity disappearing from her eyes. She's beyond rage, beyond control, and Caleb is sure that he's about to die. But then Sarah pulls herself together somehow, her crazed snarl locked behind a smiling mask again.

She leans down and kisses his cheek, her tongue darting out to taste the blood upon his skin. “Don't worry, Caleb. I forgive you. Just do as you're told and your death won't be in vain.”

Then Sarah spins on her heel, walking away from Caleb without a backward glance. With every step, the room rights itself behind her, shattered glass and broken furniture suddenly made whole again. By the time the witch reaches the door, all evidence of her presence has disappeared; only Caleb's injuries and the spell holding Chase unconscious to prove that she was there. The spell that Sarah hasn’t yet released.

“Wait!” Caleb gasps, pushing himself to his feet. “You can't leave him like that; he'll die! Please!

“Oh right, him. I suppose I should give you a few more days with lover boy. You might do something stupid otherwise.”

The witch waves her hand, a twist of her fingers freeing Chase from the spell. Half a dozen spiders skitter away from the bed before dissolving into dust as Sarah takes back her power and then slips out the door.

Chase begins to stir almost immediately. He tosses his head back and forth, muttering to himself like he's having some kind of nightmare even as Caleb scrambles to his side. The warlock settles on the bed just as his boyfriend opens his eyes, a quick hand across his face hopefully wiping off any remaining drops of blood.

“Caleb? What are you doing here?” the other boy asks hazily. “I thought you had to write an essay.”

“I did. But something happened... Pogue’s in the hospital.”

“What? Why? How bad is it?” Chase exclaims, pushing himself upright. His expression is a mix of shock and worry and under better circumstances, Caleb would have been happy to know that his boyfriend really cares about his friends. “Will he be all right?”

“He crashed. It was raining and that damn motorcycle…” Caleb shakes his head. He’s not ready to tell Chase the truth about what happened, though he’s tempted, so weighty silences will have to do for now. It’s not like he’s lying outright; he’s just letting his boyfriend jump to the obvious conclusion and indeed, Chase does exactly that.

“Shit. My mother always said those things were death traps; I guess she was right. But shouldn’t you be there? Pogue will want to see you when he wakes up and I do have a phone.”

“You weren’t picking up. And, well...” Caleb shrugs a little sheepishly, realizing how insane his frantic drive will seem when Chase doesn't know what's going on. “I wanted to see you in person. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“Hey, babe, don’t worry about it. Your best friend is in the hospital; I think some freaking out is justified and I should have heard my phone go off. Do you want me to go back there with you? I can’t make Pogue heal any faster but I'll keep you company.”

“Would you really?” the warlock says, relieved that Chase has offered so he doesn't have to ask. Caleb doesn't want to leave his boyfriend when Sarah might come back and now he won't have to think of an excuse for dragging Chase with him to the hospital. Everyone that he cares about will be in one place where he can try to protect them if the witch breaks her promise and maybe then the teen won't drive himself mad with worrying.

“Of course I’ll come. Hospitals fucking suck. Just let me grab my coat.”

Chase puts word to action, shrugging into his jacket before pulling on his shoes. He grabs his keys, wallet, and phone off the desk and puts them in his pockets, though he does raise an eyebrow at the sheer number of missed calls from Caleb first.

Thankfully Chase doesn’t actually ask the warlock why he called so often – probably filing this under “hospital freak out weirdness” in his mind. However, the other teen does take one look at Caleb’s cock-eyed parking job and hold out his hand for the warlock's keys.

“There’s no way you’re driving,” he says firmly. “I plan to make it to the hospital alive. I may not have a car right now but I can drive and you don't need a ticket for this mess.”

Caleb almost wants to protest – his driving isn’t usually that bad – but at the same time, it’s kind of nice to let someone else be in charge. So he hands over his keys and gets into the passenger seat while his boyfriend starts the car. Chase lets him zone out, looking up directions on his phone instead of asking, and the teen is grateful for the rest. It’s been a damn long day, one awful revelation after another that he still needs to wrap his head around.

Chase takes the drive much slower than Caleb did and visiting hours are long over by the time he pulls up in front of the hospital. However, there are some benefits to being a Danvers in this town and the teen marches through the lobby without breaking stride. Instead of trying to stop him, the nurse just leads Caleb and Chase to the hallway where his friends are camping out.

“Any news?” the warlock asks, sitting down by Reid and Tyler while Chase pulls up another chair.

“No. He’s still in surgery,” Tyler replies. “But his mother just went to talk to the doctor so we should know more soon.”

“I hope so,” Caleb says, slumping down in his seat. Panicked adrenaline is the only thing that got him this far and now that he’s here, the teen is fading fast. All he wants to do now is fall asleep on Chase’s shoulder and it takes him far too long to remember that he can.

Oh right, I told them, the warlock thinks. His confession is over and done with and it barely made a ripple compared to the truths about Sarah and Pogue’s injuries. His friends are still his friends no matter whom he’s dating and Chase doesn’t have to be his dirty little secret anymore.

So Caleb leans over and rests his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder, curling into the other teen with a sigh. Chase pulls him closer, a warm and solid presence against his side, and while Reid does look up at the motion, he doesn’t say anything. The warlock dozes off there, not quite awake but not quite dreaming either until a shrill scream echoes through the hall.

“What is going on here?!”

Caleb jerks upright, nearly taking Chase to the floor when the other boy doesn't let go fast enough. The reaction is instinctual, eleven years of conditioning putting him on high alert. Because his mother is standing in the hallway, drunk enough to be swaying on her feet, and it's always fifty-fifty whether she's going to be maudlin or violent after that much alcohol.

“You should have called me, Caleb,” his mother says, her words remarkably clear despite the waver in her steps. That's what happens when someone drinks a bottle of gin after dinner every night for a decade and her enunciation does little to mask her spite.

“You should have called as soon as you knew that you would be missing dinner instead of leaving me alone and wondering. How was I supposed to know you weren't dead? How was I supposed to know that you hadn't ended up like your father? But no, you were too busy with your friends to call your mother or even pick up your damn phone. I had to learn that you were here from Pogue's mother; I had to speak with Catherine because I am apparently paying your phone bill so that you can ignore me utterly. And now I drive all the way down here to find you camping on the floor like some kind of vagabond!”

Caleb honestly can't tell whether his mother is angrier about her son missing dinner or the fact that she was forced to actually interact with another person and she's clearly working her way up to a nice hysteric rant.

“I'm sorry; I didn't mean to forget about you, mother,” the teen says when she finally stops for breath. It's not a lie. Caleb is very sorry about forgetting, mostly because she would have slept this off instead of freaking out. He's just thankful that she didn't hit someone on her way to the hospital; he doesn't need that on his conscience too. “I just wasn't thinking after Pogue's accident.”

“I don't want your apologies. I want you to come home where you belong. I've let you spend far too much time with these friends of yours,” his mother says before adding scornfully, “I'm sure that whatever injuries Pogue has gotten are entirely his fault.”

Caleb can't believe she actually said that. Thought it maybe, but his mother has never crossed a line like that before.

However, before the teen can decide whether he's more shocked or furious, Reid surges to his feet with a growl. “Look you drunken bitch, I have had about enough of this. You're a terrible mother; you're clearly a terrible person, and I won't stand by while you make Caleb miserable. So you need to leave right now before I do something you'll regret.”

“I don't have to listen to you,” Caleb's mother sneers. “You're a dirty little hooligan, trash just like your mother, and breeding always wins out in the end. I should have forbidden my son from ever seeing you and damn the Covenant. You're a punk, Tyler's a sniveling coward and you… Who the hell are you?”

She's looking at Chase, having apparently just realized that he's there, and the other teen glances over at Caleb to see what he should say. His arm is still around the warlock's waist but given how drunk his mother is, they could probably convince her that Chase is just a friend. Having finally met Caleb's mother, his boyfriend probably wouldn't even blame him for choosing secrecy.

But suddenly Caleb is tired. He's tired of trying to keep his mother happy and of always bending to her moods. His best friend may be dying, he's going to be dead in a week if Sarah gets her way, and the teen just doesn't have the strength to give a damn.

“This is Chase, mother. He's my boyfriend,” the warlock says, pulling the other boy closer. “I am gay – very, very gay – so I'm afraid you won't be able to marry me off like you've been hoping to.”

“You can't be gay," his mother shrieks. “No Danvers would ever be so perverted; what about your duty to your family? What about your duty to me?”

“Sorry, mom. But I doubt you're getting grandchildren unless I decide to adopt a kid someday,” Caleb says, taking perverse delight in his mother's shock. “I hear there are plenty of orphans in Africa who could use a loving home.”

“Adopt?! Africa?! Have you gone completely mad? I will not let you sully your father's name. If you persist in this ridiculous charade then you are no Danvers; you are no son of mine! Your friends may have the joy of you because you are no longer welcome in my house. I didn't raise you to be a fucking queer.”

“To be perfectly honest, mother, you barely raised me at all,” Caleb retorts bitterly. “I saw more of Gorman than I did of you and that's including all the nights I sat there and watched you pass out on the couch.”

It feels good to finally say it; to finally tell his mother exactly what he thinks of her brand of parenting. But the fact that the teen is defending himself for once only seems to make her angrier.

“You ungrateful cock-sucking little bastard; after everything I've done for you. I wasted the best years of my life on this family – on your father – and you don't even care. You were supposed to be my salvation and instead you're just another disappointment, a selfish, uncaring, stupid, snotty fagg-”

“That is quite enough of that!”

The shout takes everyone by surprise, Caleb's mother nearly falling when she spins around to see who dared to interrupt. Caleb looks past her to see Pogue's mother, Catherine, standing further down the hall, the other woman flanked by half a dozen orderlies. Mrs. Parry has always been the quiet sort, taking the worst of his mother's disrespect with quiet dignity. But now her eyes are burning and Caleb doesn't think that she's going to back down quietly this time.

“You are the disgrace, Evelyn. I have no idea how your son turned out so kindhearted when you are as cold and bitter a woman as has ever lived,” Mrs. Parry says. “I cannot make you a good parent, though lord knows I've tried to ease the damage, but I will not allow you to stand there and spew such hatred toward your son. If you don't leave now, I will have security drag you out and then where will your precious reputation be?”

Evelyn gives an impotent growl of anger but even drunk she's not crazy enough to challenge Mrs. Parry’s mood. Instead she looks back at her son and snarls, “You will find your clothing on the porch,” before stalking toward the exit, one of the orderlies running after her to make sure she gets home all right. Hopefully Caleb's mom will let the man call her a taxi and everyone breathes a sigh of relief as soon as she's out of sight.

“Are you all right?” Chase whispers when the warlock collapses back in his chair.

“Honestly, that went about as well as I expected,” Caleb says, not sure whether he wants to laugh or cry. “I admit I didn't think that she'd disown me but at least she didn't try to hurt you; sometimes she gets violent when she's drunk.”

“Shit man, I'm sorry. You know you can always crash with me or Tyler,” Reid tells him. “You've got a place with us even if your mom's a psycho bitch.”

“Do you have to call her that?” Caleb sighs. “I know she isn't the best parent but she's still my mom.”

“I just call things like I see them, bro. But I'll try to bite my tongue if it makes you happy. Seriously, though. You can crash on my mother's couch or in our dorm room if you want.”

“You can stay with me as well,” Mrs. Parry adds her own offer of shelter to Reid and Tyler's and it's good to know that Caleb has so many friends even if his own mother doesn't want him anymore. “Pogue would be furious if I didn't offer you our guest room, though I assume you want to stay in the hospital for now.”

“Will Pogue be all right? Tyler said you were talking to the doctor,” Caleb asks, changing the subject away from the ridiculous soap opera that his life has become. As much as he appreciates his friends' support, he doesn't want their pity and he's going to break down if he thinks about his mother now.

“Yes, thank god. He just came out of surgery and his doctors are optimistic. They said he should recover fully if he doesn't do anything stupid in the meantime. Once they get him settled, we'll be allowed to visit. I know Pogue will want to see you all when he wakes up.”

Good news at last and Caleb nearly collapses under the weight of his relief. Whatever else happens, at least he won't have Pogue's death on his shoulders, won't have to wonder if he could have done something different to keep Sarah from turning on his friends. Although, the girl is likely too far gone for anything to stop her; Caleb would have had to find her years ago, before the magic dug its claws into her soul. By now Using must be all she thinks about, more power, more magic, desperate for anything that could prolong her life a year or two. It's too late for Sarah; the Sons of Ipswich can only put her out of her misery.

Assuming that she doesn't swat me aside like a gnat again, the warlock thinks with a wince. But that's a problem for tomorrow; right now he just wants to see Pogue for himself.

The other teen still looks awful, wrapped in bandages and covered with bruises, and he's going to be pissed that they had to shave his head. But Pogue is breathing and that's the only thing that Caleb cares about. All five of them fall asleep there, sprawled across the hard hospital chairs and barely stirring when the nurses come in to check on Pogue throughout the night.

It's late morning by the time Caleb wakes up, the sun shining bright through the window and landing on his face. But it's the cold spot where Chase had been that stops him from falling back to sleep. The other boy is nowhere to be seen, though Reid and Tyler are still sprawled in the corner and Pogue's mother is sitting by his bed.

Maybe he changed his mind? My mother is crazy enough to put anyone off dating me.

The warlock could hardly blame Chase if he'd decided that Caleb was too much trouble after yesterday. The other teen signed on for some fun and sex, not hospitals and family drama, and while he's been remarkably patient, everyone has to have a breaking point.

However, before Caleb can work himself into a depression, the door to Pogue's room swings open and he turns his head to see Chase standing there.

“Morning, babe. How are you feeling?” the other teen asks, sitting back down next to Caleb and handing him one of the cups of coffee in his hands. “I hope you don't mind but I borrowed your car to go to Starbucks; the coffee here is terrible and I figured you'd need a pick-me-up.”

“Thank you, this is perfect,” Caleb says. He feels slightly at a loss now that Chase has come back, a combination of relief and guilt throwing him for a loop. Because the warlock immediately jumped to the worst possible conclusion even though Chase has been unfailingly supportive this whole time. Honestly the other teen is almost too good to be true and if he wasn't also stubborn, messy, and a snorer, Caleb might have thought he'd dreamed him up.

So the warlock takes a sip of coffee to cover his confusion and he only feels guiltier when it really is perfect, made exactly how he likes it. Caleb doesn't know how Chase takes his coffee and while he does know how the other teen likes his blow jobs, it doesn't seem quite the same.

Crap, I need to be a better boyfriend, Caleb thinks, the realization prompting him to add, “I’m sorry about my mother. You didn't need to hear that. I was hoping she'd take it better but I guess her prejudice won out.”

“Don't apologize for her,” Chase replies fiercely. “It’s not your fault that she's a bigot and it sounds like you've been putting up with her for far too long. You deserve better; you do know that you're amazing, right?"

“Uhh, I guess?” Caleb replies, pretty sure he's blushing now. “But like I told Reid, she's still my mother and I can't help wishing things were different even though I doubt she'll ever change. I'm not looking forward to going back home to grab my stuff.”

“She was serious?”

“My mother is always serious; I'll be lucky if she didn't burn my clothes last night. But hopefully she was too drunk to manage that. Although...” Caleb continues with a slightly unsteady giggle, “I suppose I'd have a good excuse for not finishing my homework. I still haven't written a damn thing on my essay for Mr. Hendricks' class.”

“Shouldn’t he give you some leeway, what with Pogue's accident?”

“Mr. Hendricks doesn't believe in second chances,” the warlock informs his boyfriend, running one hand through his hair. “Fuck; I should probably go now. It's still early enough that my mother might not have woken up yet and I'd rather not talk to her again. Do you need anything? I can stop by your dorm on my way back.”

“Don’t worry about me. Just bring me a book and I'll be fine. Anything off your shelf will do,” Chase says with a shrug, “But are you sure you don't want company? I don't mind being moral support and your mother wouldn't have found out if not for me.”

“Thanks but no. If she is awake, you'll just make things worse by being there and I'd rather not have the audience. Her insulting you once was bad enough. Besides, this has been a long time coming; you just gave me the motivation to actually see it through.”

“Well, in that case, good luck and I'll be here when you get back,” Chase says as he holds out the warlock's keys. “Try not to let her get to you.”

“I'll do my best,” Caleb promises before draining his coffee cup and walking out the door. His car is right near the hospital entrance and once he starts it up, it's a quick drive to his house. On the way the teen tries not to think about what he's going to find there, his mother's threats lingering in the back of his mind. But even if she's destroyed his stuff already, the warlock still has to try and the thought of his boyfriend waiting for him helps to steel his nerves once he arrives. However, there's courage and then there's courage and even Chase can't make Caleb brave enough to walk through the front door.

Instead the warlock sneaks around the side of the house and Uses himself up to his bedroom window so that he can slip inside. His mother must have passed out as soon as she got home because Caleb's room is just the way he left it yesterday.

The warlock locks the door and grabs the duffel bags out of his closet, starting to pack as quickly as he can. Other than his clothing and his stash of money, the warlock doesn't actually want much, a few books and movies tossed on top of the pile before he zips his bags. Everything else that he needs is on his laptop, which Caleb throws into his backpack with his schoolwork before taking one last look around the room.

It's hard to believe that eighteen years amounts to nothing more than two duffel bags and a backpack of stuff that he can't leave behind. But the teen has always been more comfortable with his friends than with his mother and while he may miss his mattress, he'll sleep much better out of this damn house.

“Caleb! I know you're in there; unlock this door right now!”

The warlock nearly jumps out of his skin when his mother starts pounding on the door. She must have woken up while he was packing and whatever slim hope Caleb had of reconciliation disappears at the fury in her voice. Truthfully, it had been a very slim hope since his mother has never been the type to regret her actions in the morning or say things she doesn't mean under influence of alcohol. Evelyn Danvers always means it; the gin just makes her tongue cut deeper and the teen really can't talk to her right now.

Because he knows himself and he knows his mother, and if she starts pleading with him, Caleb might give in. Making her happy is the habit of a lifetime after all.

So the warlock just shouts, “I’m not going to break up with my boyfriend,” through the door before picking up his bags and jumping out the window without another word. A touch of magic makes the landing gentle, though he can still hear his mother yelling as he books it to his car.

I should probably turn my phone off for a while, Caleb thinks with a wince. Although, I doubt I'll want to listen to my voicemails either; maybe Reid will screen them for me if I ask.

The warlock's phone starts ringing on his way back to the hospital, his mother calling again and again until he turns the damn thing off. Honestly, Caleb should probably just block her but there's still a chance that she'll say something that he actually needs to hear. The teen never learned any sort of protocol for how to get disowned and if his mother does cut him out of her will, he wants to know.

So when Caleb gets to the hospital, he tosses his phone in the glove compartment before exiting his car. He can check his messages later after his mother has run out of vitriol. The only thing the teen takes with him is his backpack since he might as well try to get some homework done while he waits for Pogue to wake. After all, Caleb doesn’t plan on dying if he can help it and it would be a shame to triumph over Sarah only to fail his English class.


Part IV