Fandom: the Covenant
Rating/Warnings: there will be sex in part 3. In this part there's a lot of angst, seriously bad parenting and insecurity.Word Count: 9156
Disclaimer: If I owned the Covenant, they would all be naked.
Summary: The dreams start two months before Caleb turns thirteen.
The dreams started two months before Caleb turned thirteen. Not every night but most of them and they were always the same. There was a boy sitting in a bedroom, dark-haired and roughly his age. He could never see the boy's face – when it wasn't buried in his knees, he was usually staring out the window – but Caleb could hear him crying. Deep wracking sobs that echoed through the room and made his shoulders shake.
The other boy was always crying as though his world was ending and all Caleb ever wanted was to make him stop. But when he tried to speak, he had no voice and when he tried to move, his feet stuck to the floor.
Caleb was a ghost in these dreams, present but unable to interact with anything. All he could do was try not to listen, giving the other boy some small bit of privacy. He wouldn't want anyone else to watch him crying and in the moment, he often forgot that this boy could not be real. Caleb only realized that he was dreaming once he woke up again, a hard knot of sorrow aching in his chest.
It was weird and it hurt and he hated it, but he didn't know how to make these visions stop. Caleb had never been able to control his dreams like some people and he didn’t feel like he could ask anyone else for advice.
His friends would probably just laugh at him for dreaming about another boy and Caleb didn’t want to bother his mother now. She’d been acting strange since the beginning of the summer. Evelyn Danvers had always drunk a lot of alcohol, but now she had started drinking herself to sleep most evenings, often not even making it off the couch. She had also started watching Caleb much more closely, staring at him like she’d blink and he would disappear. She hadn't looked at him like that since the time he'd caught pneumonia but when he asked her what was wrong, she wouldn’t tell him. His mother kept saying that everything was fine even though he knew that was a lie.
Caleb worried but there was nothing he could do about it. He just tried to keep her happy, making sure that he did well in school and met his friends out of the house. His mother had never had a problem with the other boys before – she’s the one who made sure they hung out in the first place – but now her face twisted strangely whenever Caleb mentioned them.
So he kept his silence and after the first few weeks, his nightly visitor became almost comforting. Sure the dreams were weird but they were also regular. They were something he could count on and at least Caleb knew that one other person was more miserable than him. He needed that reassurance when his mother began drinking even more and he started to find her passed out with a bottle when he got home from school.
Indeed, Evelyn Danvers was far from sober when she summoned Caleb into her study and finally told him what was wrong. He didn't believe her at first. Everyone knew that witches and wizards weren't real; his mother might as well have told him that he was a unicorn. Why should he believe that magic was not only real, but dangerous, addictive, and scary as all hell? Why would he believe that his father had been a wizard and the power stole his life?
However, when his mother sobered up, she told him the same story and then she showed him proof. She drove Caleb to an old house far past the edge of town, the sort of place where people got murdered on dark and stormy nights.
Honestly, the place looked ready to fall down and Caleb could barely believe it when his mother went inside. She walked into the building as though it was physically painful, every step deepening the grimace on her face. But his mother kept going and Caleb could only follow. He wasn’t going to leave her in this place alone.
She led him up to the second floor via a narrow stairway and then took a deep breath before opening the closest door. When he walked inside, Caleb saw a small bedroom, as dusty and rundown as the rest of the house. But what caught his eye and made him shiver was the gnarled old man sitting by the fireplace.
“Caleb, it’s time for you to meet your father,” his mother said with a voice like broken glass. “The two of you have much to talk about.”
The words made no sense. Caleb's father had died when he was still a baby - that's what she’d always told him - and the man by the fireplace looked nothing like the picture on their mantelpiece back home. This man was old, older than anyone Caleb had ever seen before. His body was twisted and broken and all Caleb wanted to do was run away. But he couldn't. His mother's hand was gripping his shoulder and keeping him in place.
“I told you that magic broke your father,” she said bitterly. “This is all that's left of him.”
“She is right, my son,” the old man told Caleb softly, a dry rasp like dying leaves. “I was young and foolish and I threw my life away.”
“But magic is impossible; it's just a fairy tale,” he protested. Caleb didn't want to believe this. If he accepted that magic was real then he had to accept the rest of it and this man was not his dad. His dad was dead and his mother had simply lost touch with reality from drinking too much alcohol. Caleb found it easier to believe that she had paid some nutcase to pretend to be his father than in magic and the rest.
However, before he could say anything else, the old man's eyes suddenly turned black. Caleb stood frozen beneath that inky gaze as something wrapped around his waist. It felt like a rope but when he looked down there was nothing and he could only watch in shock as his feet slowly left the ground.
“What the hell?!” Caleb stuttered, his legs kicking wildly.
This was real. This was insane and impossible but somehow it was real. Caleb couldn't deny it any longer; how could he deny the truth when he was levitating off the ground? It only lasted for a moment, his feet hitting the floor as the old man fell back gasping and Caleb watched in horror as new wrinkles appeared on the wizard's face. Because the old man must be a wizard and if his mother was telling the truth about magic, maybe this was really his father after all.
So Caleb looked at him, trying to feel some sort of connection, some inner knowledge that called from blood to blood.
But he didn’t know this man. Whatever her faults, Caleb's mother was the one who'd raised him and the boy felt a growing anger toward the man sitting before him now. If this unnatural aging was caused by using magic then his father must have decided that power was more important than being there for his family and that made him a dick in Caleb's mind. His father might be old and helpless but he wasn't the one who had to watch his mother drink herself to sleep and Caleb was pretty sure that he'd never forgive the bastard for choosing as he did.
“What's the point in having magic if it turns me into that?” he bit out scornfully.
“Power,” his mother answered. “Power calls and a Danvers always answers; the need is in your blood. On your thirteenth birthday, you will receive a taste of magic and you must learn to Use in moderation before you turn eighteen. You must learn to resist temptation before coming into your full powers; the lesson that your father never mastered. He grew too fond of power, too used to tilting the balance in his favor when a challenge came his way. I asked him to stop for our sake but he didn't have the strength. However, you will do better, darling. I am sure of it.”
And what could Caleb do but promise he would try? His mother was so hopeful, so confident that he was better than his father, and Caleb wanted to prove that she was right. Even if he still thought that this whole thing seemed insane.
Two weeks later, Caleb couldn't sleep. He didn’t know what was going to happen but his mother had promised something – some sign that he suddenly had magic powers like in the story books.
So far his birthday had been disappointing on that front – cake and presents but no magic – and Caleb was starting to wonder if he'd imagined the meeting with his father after all. He couldn’t go back there by himself – he wouldn’t – and when he’d tried asking his mother for more information, she’d just snorted bitterly.
Tonight hadn’t been much better. His mother had drunk a whole bottle of gin after dinner, looking at Caleb and crying the whole time. She hadn’t been sobbing loudly but the quiet tears were almost more disturbing and he'd honestly been grateful when she finally passed out.
Caleb had covered her with a blanket and then gone up to his room. He’d done some homework, read some comics, and gotten ready for bed, twitching every time the shadows moved in the corner of his eye. But now his birthday was almost over and he didn’t feel any different. The magic that his mother promised had yet to arrive.
I should have known she was just crazy, Caleb thought even as the clock ticked over to 10:15.
Between one breath and the next, the room lit up; a blinding flash of lightning slammed into his chest. Caleb's back arched in a silent scream as power arced through his body, a wild rushing wave that he could not control. The magic spilled out of him, shaking the house to its foundation and knocking books from the shelves. It poured through Caleb until he felt like he was bursting, overwhelming all his senses until he thought that he must drown.
But then, as quickly as it came, the power in his blood began to dissipate. The magic trickled away, leaving behind only a small spark within his chest. A small spark but more than Caleb had felt before this and he knew that the power would answer if he called.
In this moment, Caleb understood why his father had thrown away his life to chase the magic. Because that small spark was just a shadow, a tiny ember when he had felt the fire and part of Caleb wanted that power back again. Part of the teen wanted to shape the world at whim without thought to consequence.
But he had promised his mother that he would be careful. He had promised that he wouldn’t be like his father and the memory of that twisted visage would be his warning now.
Of course, Caleb’s mother hadn’t said that he couldn’t Use at all. All things in moderation as his PE teacher liked to say and while Mr. Franklin was usually talking about cross-training, the teen was pretty sure that the same principle applied. What was the point in having magic if he just ignored it? And he needed to know what he could do in order to know what was out of bounds.
I’ll just test it out a bit, Caleb told himself and proceeded to spend the next several hours juggling his furniture. As it turned out, levitation was easy. It didn’t seem to matter whether he was floating chairs or his own body and when he realized that, Caleb spent a good twenty minutes flying around like Superman just because he could.
Indeed, the teen could suddenly do a lot of things that had never occurred to him before. Although he’d been worried that he wouldn't know how to use his magic, that didn’t seem to be a problem. All Caleb had to do was think of something to know whether it was possible or whether it would require more power than he had. Levitation? Easy. Explosions? Not a problem. Caleb could curse people six ways to Sunday but mind control was out. Not that he wanted to do that anyway.
Honestly, a lot of the things that he could do now didn't seem very nice. He didn’t want to hurt people or summon crazy spiders; he just wanted to move some shit around. Hence the juggling. Caleb kept experimenting until he couldn’t keep his eyes open, whereupon he crashed and slept 'til two in the afternoon.
Caleb dragged himself downstairs a little later to find his mother waiting at the kitchen table. For once she was sober, her eyes clearer now than they'd been for weeks.
“So you've received your powers,” Evelyn said flatly. “I hope that I don't have to tell you to keep these gifts a secret. Your ancestors were burned as witches in this town and people still don't like things that they don't understand.”
“You will have to tell your friends, of course. Reid, Pogue, and Tyler all carry the same magic in their blood and their mothers were never informed about the Covenant. Sometimes I envy them and sometimes I pity them for not knowing why their husbands disappeared. But that means it falls to you to warn them of what's coming and keep those boys in line. Who knows what Pogue might do otherwise?”
Caleb wanted to protest. He got his powers yesterday; he wasn't exactly an expert and Pogue's thirteenth birthday was only a few months away. Shouldn’t someone with more experience step in?
And yet, if the teen didn't take responsibility, who else would? His mother? Most of his friends couldn't stand her these days and there was no guarantee that she'd stay sober long enough to tell them anything. Even if she did, the other boys would probably just think that she was crazy. His mother would need Caleb or his father there as proof and the thought of anyone else seeing the old man made his stomach twist unpleasantly. His friends didn't need to see that, not when their own fathers had probably looked the same.
“All right, I'll do it,” the teen sighed. “But my friends really aren't that reckless. I don't know why you’ve decided that Pogue is such a troublemaker but he's smarter than you think.”
That's actually a lie. Over the last few weeks, Caleb had realized exactly why his mother didn’t like the other Sons of Ipswich; he just hadn’t wanted to believe it until now. The truth was very simple. Evelyn Danvers was a snob. She looked down her nose at anyone who wasn't one hundred percent blue-blooded aristocracy and while she’d given Caleb’s friends a pass while they were children, her new drinking habit seemed to have removed the leash off of her tongue.
Indeed, she had made it very clear that she hated Pogue's mother for being a grocer's daughter, one from Jersey of all places. As though being an alcoholic housewife was so much better just because her blood was pure.
His mother wasn’t even ashamed of her opinions and she answered Caleb’s protest with a graceful shrug. “Pogue will prove me right someday. Blood like that runs true. Just remember what you need to do.”
“Yeah, fine. I'll tell them now, all right?”
“Good. Take these,” Evelyn said, holding out her hand. There were four keys lying in her palm and Caleb picked them up curiously. “These keys will open the building on the north edge of our property. The old shed that was off limits until now. You will find everything that you need to train yourself inside.”
Caleb's mother left him sitting in the kitchen, his head spinning and his mind full of unanswered questions. But eventually he tucked the keys into his pockets and went to grab his phone. He might as well tell his friends everything at once so that they didn't get pissed about him keeping secrets later on. Besides, Caleb seriously wanted to tell someone who would actually think this stuff was cool. Only his mother could suck the joy out of having magic powers and he wanted to enjoy himself a bit before he went back to being responsible again.
So he called his friends and told them to meet him at their usual spot in half an hour. Then Caleb grabbed his bicycle from the garage and headed into the woods behind his house. The ride usually took about twenty-five minutes but he did it in twenty with a few minor bits of magic to help him up the steepest parts.
Only a few to test whether or not the Use was possible and then Caleb went right back to peddling. He wasn't going to end up like his father and he wasn't going to allow any of his friends to end up like theirs either, not if he had a choice.
“There's something I need to tell you,” Caleb said when he reached the clearing and found the other boys there already. He had decided that bluntness was the better option – lay out the facts, prove his powers, and then explain everything.
Of course, his friends had to actually pay attention to him first and that didn’t exactly happen instantly. Pogue just waved at Caleb from his position on the grass while Reid and Tyler were busy arguing about who would win if Godzilla fought with dinosaurs. They ignored the other teen completely, their discussion growing more and more heated until Caleb finally snapped.
“Guys! Seriously!” he shouted. “Godzilla would totally win and I need to talk to you.”
“Okay, fine. So talk,” Reid said with a shrug, the other three boys looking up at him expectantly.
“Well...” Caleb started, already feeling awkward. “You know how we're all descended from the guys who founded Ipswich? And our history teachers like to talk about the witch trials way back when? Apparently those two things are connected. Because I'm a wizard. Actually, we're all wizards; you just don't have your powers yet.”
There was one moment of utter silence and then Reid burst into laughter, wrapping his arms around himself and cackling, “Don't you mean witches, Caleb?”
“Technically a male witch would be a warlock.”
“You are joking, right? Why do you even know that?”
“It's not that weird. You know I like to read.”
“Fine. Warlock, whatever. That sounds cooler than wizard anyway. This still sounds like a bad joke.”
“Fucking witches, man!”
Caleb let his friends laugh. Once they got the mocking out of their systems, he could get back to the point. But Reid just kept on laughing and the teen only had so much patience for the blond right now.
“Yes, fucking witches!” he shouted, drawing on his magic to lift the others off the ground.
“Do you believe me now?” Caleb asked as he spun his friends round and round. He kept it up until they begged for mercy and Tyler looked about to puke. “I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. Apparently witches in Ipswich go back to the beginning and you'll get powers like mine as soon as you guys turn thirteen. Speaking of which, my mother gave me keys to some kind of family spell chamber. Do you want to check it out?”
“Like a witch's lair? Hell, yeah!”
“Okay, let's go,” Caleb said, pulling the keys out of his pocket and handing them around. “Supposedly the chamber is inside that old shed on my family's property.”
So the four boys got back on their bicycles and headed off again. The shed was... really not impressive when they got there, missing shingles and rotted boards making it seem one strong breeze from falling down. But the inside was sturdier than the outside and when Caleb found the door that their keys belonged to, well, witch's lair was actually pretty accurate.
Rough stone stairs led down to a large chamber in the earth, every flat space covered with candles and pentagrams. Caleb lit the candles with a touch of magic so that he and his friends could see as they walked down the stairs. The teen picked up one to carry with him and the light revealed jam-packed bookshelves standing against each wall. Not only bookshelves but a stone pedestal standing like a sentinel in the center of the room and tables covered with bunches of old herbs. Although the plants should have been dried or rotted, they looked completely fresh and when Caleb picked up a green sprig, magic sizzled beneath his fingertips. Everything in here was coated with magic and maybe bringing his friends here before they got their powers hadn't been the greatest plan.
“Reid, wait!” Caleb warned, reaching out to stop the blond before he picked up a grinning skull. “Be careful. I think there are protections here.”
As though to prove his point, there was a cry behind them and Caleb spun around to see Tyler flying back across the room. The other teen landed in a heap on the floor and the warlock ran over to check on him immediately.
“Are you okay? What happened?”
“Apparently witches don't like it when you try to touch their books,” Tyler said, sitting up with a groan. “I just wanted to get some more information on these powers; what if they're dangerous or something? Or there are rules we shouldn't break?”
“You worry too much, baby boy,” Reid told the younger boy, pulling Tyler to his feet. “It's magic; what could be bad about a thing like that?”
“Oh, come on. Are you serious?”
“Nothing terrible,” Caleb reassured him. “We just have to use our gifts in moderation. Otherwise we'll get crazy and addicted and turn into wrinkled old men by the time we're thirty-five.”
“That sounds pretty terrible to me,” Pogue said flatly.
“That's why we're going to be careful. As long as we only use magic now and then, my mother says we should be fine. In fact, let me try something...”
Caleb sent a thread of power toward the bookshelf and while the protections there had rejected Tyler's touch, they let his magic through. The warlock lifted up the largest book and then laid it open on the pedestal in the center of the room.
“Have at it, Tyler. Just let me know when you want to turn the page.”
The next five minutes were full of Tyler's soft exclamations, ahs and wows and ewws, while the other three boys explored the chamber very carefully. Once Caleb got past the whole “witch's lair” idea, the room was actually kind of boring and he wasn't surprised when Reid threw up his hands.
“This is bullshit!” the other boy exclaimed. “If I can't actually touch anything then I'd rather watch a movie or something. Can we please get out of here?”
“Tyler? Are you done?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess so. This book is mostly rules and history but it's interesting. You guys should probably read it for yourselves.”
“Later, sure. For now can we just get the Cliff Notes?”
“Well, for rules, secrecy seems to be the big one,” the younger boy explained. “It's all: do what you want but if you get caught you're on your own. Although, I hope no one would actually try to burn us anymore. Witch trials are so last century. Anyway, your mom was right. If we use too much magic, we'll end up dying young. So we should probably save the tricks for special occasions. Seriously, though, this book has stuff about our families that I've never heard before. It goes all the way back to the founding of Ipswich...”
Tyler trailed off, scanning the pages for more information. But he continued when Reid tapped his foot and growled impatiently.
“All right, fine. Here's the summary. Apparently there were five bloodlines in the beginning. They built this town and things were great until the witch trials. One guy got burned at the stake and the surviving four went underground.”
“Got it. Secrecy, stupid limits, and witch burning,” Reid said. “Let's get out of here.”
“Fine, fine,” the other boy replied. “I don't know how you get such good grades when you refuse to read a thing.”
“What can I say? My teachers love me and I'm great at taking tests,” the blond told him with a smirk. “Now come on. Being a warlock is all well and good but I've got better things to do.”
Reid had a point. This place wasn't much fun with none of Caleb's friends having magic yet. So they left the chamber, the warlock careful to lock the door behind them even as he felt more protections snapping into place. The four boys spent the rest of the day together – playing games and watching films and just talking shit. Caleb's friends kept him from thinking about school or magic until he went home that evening and even then it was only to reflect on how little his new powers changed his life.
Caleb couldn't magic his way through his classes and his didn't want to hurt people; he was rich enough that he didn't need more money and he wasn't old enough to gamble anyway. Magic definitely couldn't fix his family's problems, not when this power was the source of all their pain.
So Caleb would be fine. His mother had no reason to be worried. He wasn't going to end up like his father. He wasn't even going to consider the idea. This was just a weird genetic quirk, like dark hair or dimples, and it wasn't gonna change his life. Caleb felt much better now than he had when his mother first explained the situation and he fell asleep easily that night.
At first Caleb didn't realize that he was dreaming. Everything felt so much sharper than it ever had before. The light was brighter and the air felt thicker when Caleb took a breath.
But when the warlock looked around, he recognized his surroundings. Caleb was standing in the same room as usual and the same dark-haired boy was curled up on the bed. He wasn't crying this time but he still wasn't happy. No one sat like that when they were happy and Caleb was starting to get really fucking sick of this.
Sure the dreams were regular but why couldn't he dream of space ships instead? Or flying? Flying sounded way better than this depressing shit.
“Who the hell are you anyway?” Caleb muttered, fully expecting the other boy to ignore him just like he always had before. But instead his head shot up like a startled animal. He turned to look right at the warlock before scrambling backward until he was pressed against the wall.
“Who are you?” the boy asked, staring at Caleb with wide eyes. “How did you get here?”
That seemed like a weird question. The warlock couldn’t remember anyone in his more normal dreams ever being terrified. But this was his dream. Wasn't it? Why should he apologize?
“I've been here for months,” Caleb told the other boy with a shrug. “You've just never seen me. And honestly, I think my imagination kind of sucks.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, I'm dreaming, aren't I?” the warlock asked. “And it’s always just this same stupid room with you in the corner looking sad. Let me tell you, two months of this is getting old.”
“Yeah well, at least you're not stuck here all the time,” the guy retorted, his expression more annoyed than frightened now. “But seriously, you can't be here. This is my house, my room... Fuck, I’m going mad. I've finally gotten so lonely that I'm inventing visitors.”
“Hey! I am definitely real!” Caleb protested. “My name is Caleb Danvers and I live in Ipswich, Massachusetts. You're the one that only shows up when I’m asleep.”
“Look, I probably shouldn't be arguing with a hallucination, but that's ridiculous. If anyone is dreaming here, it's me,” the other boy replied. “In fact...”
He climbed off the bed and walked over to the bedroom door, grabbing the doorknob in one hand. Then he took a deep breath, squaring his shoulders and then yanking the door open in one move. Caleb saw a quick flash of empty hallway before the other boy shut the door and turned back to him again.
“I am definitely the one that's dreaming,” he told the warlock with a slightly twisted smirk. It was a triumphant expression but not a happy one; there was too much bitterness.
“How do you know?”
“In real life that door is locked.”
“Okay, what?” Caleb asked, looking at the guy in shock. “This has to be the weirdest dream I've ever had.”
“I told you... You're not dreaming!” the other boy suddenly shouted, flipping instantly from depression into rage. “So just LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!”
He rounded on Caleb, his eyes gone black with fury. Or not with fury, but with magic as power built around his hands. The warlock didn’t have a chance to react before a blast of light slammed into his body and he snapped awake again.
For a second the teen just lay there panting, his mind racing as he tried to figure out what the hell was going on. Because his new powers were either giving him the strangest dreams ever or the other boy was right. Maybe he was a real person after all.
He could be like us, Caleb thought. Maybe that guy is another warlock and the magic somehow linked our dreams together. Though, fuck, I hope I don't start sharing dreams with everyone. That would get crowded really fast.
Of course, this was all just speculation and when Caleb finally managed to fall back asleep, he didn’t dream at all.
When the warlock woke up again, he decided to be proactive. He was going to make a plan for when the other guy came back. Maybe his dreams would return to normal now, but if not, there were some things that Caleb really wanted to find out. Even that brief conversation had given him a lot of questions and he’d like them answered as soon as possible. So he grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and starting scribbling.
Step 1: Figure out if the other boy is real. Ask his name and Google? Or his town?
Step 2: Check the spell books in the shed? If my dreams are caused by magic, maybe one of my ancestors had something similar. A curse?
Step 3: If the other guy is real, find out why he's locked inside his bedroom.
Step 4: Try to help?
Caleb wasn't sure what he could do but he knew all about having a shitty home life and he could be a sympathetic ear if nothing else. So he wrote a whole list of questions and answers for the next time, trying to think of something that would make his dream guy trust him. It seemed important even though he didn't know this boy, not really. But the teen had watched him cry for months now and if he could make the other guy feel better, he felt like he should try.
Besides, this was Caleb's best chance to talk to another warlock until his friends had their birthdays. If the other boy already had his powers, maybe they could help each other practice. At the very least, Caleb should make sure that he knew about the consequences. The teen didn’t want anyone dying on his watch.
However, when the warlock found himself back in the same room a few days later, he didn't need any of his carefully planned out arguments.
The other boy seemed to be waiting for him and when Caleb appeared, he started talking on his own, “I looked up Ipswich, you know, and there is a Caleb Danvers at the middle school. So either I'm psychic as well as crazy or you're actually a person. Which means the real question is: what are you doing here?”
“Honestly? I have no fucking clue,” the warlock replied. “I've been having this dream on and off since July but you could never see me. I don’t know why they started – nothing special happened to me this summer – but I think I know why you can finally see me now.”
“Oh? And why is that?” the guy asked, eyeing Caleb warily. Something that the warlock said had made him tense again. Which, in turn, made Caleb hesitate. He didn't want the other boy to flip out and shove him from the dream like he had before. But then again, that proved he had some kind of power and so maybe Caleb’s explanation wouldn't seem insane.
“Okay, it's like this,” Caleb said. “Apparently I'm a warlock, a male witch. It's some kind of family bloodline and I got my powers a few days ago. I think that's why we can talk now when you never seemed to notice me before.”
“This bloodline of yours... Are you the only one?”
“No. Supposedly three of my friends will get their magic soon,” the teen said, relieved that the other boy seemed willing to listen. “All of us are descended from the folks who founded Ipswich and I guess there's always one warlock in each family, that's what my mother says. We get our first taste of power at thirteen and that's how it was for me.”
The other guy didn't say anything for a long time, long enough that Caleb started to worry that he might have read him wrong. But then the boy ran a hand through his hair with a sigh. “In that case, I think I know why you've been dreaming since July.”
“So you are a warlock!” Caleb said triumphantly.
“Maybe. I don't know. But my thirteenth birthday is when my life went straight to Hell,” the other boy told him. “There was some kind of explosion and I could do things afterward. Things that weren't normal. I don't mean to but sometimes I just can't help it and my parents freaked. They're religious, you know; I grew up going to church every Sunday and while I'm not sure if I believe in God, my folks believe in the Devil. They think that I'm possessed.”
Caleb couldn’t believe that. That sounded completely crazy, and yeah, he knew he didn’t have much room to judge. But as drunk as his mother got sometimes, she’d never claimed that he was evil and his mouth dropped open in shock as this guy laughed bitterly.
“I've seen more priests and exorcists in the last few months than I ever knew existed and for a while there I thought I was gonna die inside this room. I only convinced my parents to let me go back to school about a week ago and they still lock me in here whenever I'm at home.”
“But can't you just open the door? With magic, I mean,” the teen said. He hadn’t been expecting this and now he was floundering for words, wanting to make it better but with no idea how. “You don't have to stay trapped here if you don't want to be.”
“Right, and once I've run away from home and my family disowns me, what exactly do you expect me to do? I'm not old enough to work, I'm not a thief and I can't make money appear out of thin air,” the boy said and Caleb got the impression that he'd thought this through a lot. “Besides, how do I know for sure that I'm not possessed? Maybe my parents are right and you're the Devil come to tempt me into sin.”
“I am not!” Caleb protested. “I may be a warlock but that doesn't make me evil. This isn't some kind of Disney fairy tale. Look. What's your name? Maybe I can find something on your family in our records. It sounds like no one has told you anything and if you do share my powers, then that's actually dangerous. There are some things that you should know. Honestly, I don't know how your parents can think that you're a demon. Your father should have the same magic in his blood.”
“Yeah, well. I'm adopted,” the other guy told him. “I may be Chase Collins now but I have no idea what name I was born with. So I doubt you'll have much luck.”
“Oh. I guess that would explain it,” the warlock said, momentarily deflated. But he wasn't going to give up that easily. “Okay, look, we seem to be stuck together dreaming and there must be a reason. So why don't you let me help you? If you learn to control your powers then maybe you can convince your parents that you're not evil and they might let you out. My family has lots of books stashed away and at least one of them should have something useful.”
Chase still seemed skeptical but Caleb gave the other boy his best pleading smile and eventually he just sighed wearily. “Yeah, sure. Why not? You could still be the Devil but it's not like I have much to lose these days. If you can stop me from blowing things up when I'm angry then that would be a start.”
“Great! It’s a deal,” Caleb told him before reaching out to shake the other warlock’s hand. He expected to wake up after that but nothing happened, leaving the two boys staring at each other somewhat awkwardly.
“So, um, do you want me to go?” the teen asked after a moment, pointing at the door. “I can totally just wander around this dream 'til I wake up.”
“I’m not gonna kick you out. That’s up to you,” Chase shrugged before standing up suddenly. “Actually, screw that. I'm sick of this damn room and I might as well enjoy the freedom while I can. You can do whatever you want but I'm leaving now.”
The other boy was out of the room before Caleb could reply and the warlock just stared at the empty doorway in surprise. He hadn’t been expecting Chase to just run out on him and he wasn't sure what he should do now. Sitting in someone else’s room without him felt a little weird. But then Chase stuck his head back through the doorway and asked, “You wanna come along? No one deserves to spend their nights locked up in here.”
“Sure, of course,” the warlock agreed, jogging over quickly before Chase could change his mind. Caleb wasn't sure why he cared about the other boy's opinion – beyond the fact that they were stuck together – but he was glad that Chase seemed to be softening. He wouldn't mind another friend; as much as he liked Pogue, Reid, and Tyler, they were more like his younger brothers and sometimes he just wanted to smack them upside their heads.
So Caleb followed Chase through the doorway and down the stairs, blinking a little when he found himself outside. He looked around curiously; their surroundings seemed to be a strange mix of Ipswich and a town that the warlock didn't recognize.
Probably the place where Chase lived since he didn’t seem to have any trouble picking a direction. He just turned left and started walking, pointing out a few landmarks as Caleb trailed after him. The other teen didn’t say much else but the silence was oddly companionable and the warlock was smiling when he finally woke up.
Caleb's life fell into a new rhythm after that. He still went to school, did his homework, and looked after his mother when she drank too much. But now the teen also spent hours poring through old manuscripts, looking for any mention of other bloodlines or shared dreaming in the past.
Although Caleb had never really enjoyed research, his family's history was far more interesting than he'd expected. It was full of scandals, secrets and strange magic and while the warlock didn’t find what he was looking for, he learned a great deal about the gift running through his blood. Enough that he thought he could teach Chase how to control his magic better and then do the same for each of his friends in turn.
The other boy was volatile at first, throwing Caleb from the dreams as often as he actually listened to his instructions and the teen got used to waking up suddenly. But dealing with Chase wasn’t any worse than dealing with his mother; better actually, since the other warlock always apologized to Caleb afterward.
So the teen learned to be patient with Chase when his doubts overtook him, the other boy sometimes wondering if his parents could be right. He obviously still cared about them and he struggled to reconcile his new gifts with their beliefs.
Caleb couldn’t help with that, not really. But the warlock discovered that telling Chase about his life and his friends often calmed him; sometimes he just needed a reminder that there were other people just like him. And things got better. Chase learned to control the magic instead of letting it rule him and Caleb was glad for the company when his friends finally joined their Covenant.
First Pogue, then Reid, and finally Tyler received their powers, the magic arriving on their thirteenth birthdays just Caleb’s mother promised. But the other Sons of Ipswich were all different individuals and none of them reacted to the magic quite the same. Pogue took his gifts in stride since he was far more interested in girls and motorcycles than in being any kind of warlock. Tyler treated his powers as one more way to be an overachiever – easily matching Caleb for time spent studying – and Reid went off the rails. He fluctuated between glee at having magic and fury at the consequences that came from over-Using and Caleb wasn't sure if he'd ever settle down.
“I just don't understand it,” the warlock told Chase one evening. They were dreaming again, their shared landscape having grown more wild and fantastical in the months since his birthday. Chase had a vivid imagination and he was rarely content to stay in Bakersfield or Ipswich anymore. “It's like Reid is trying to burn out before we even get to high school. He's gonna wreck his life and the magic isn’t worth that.”
“Come on, you can’t tell me that you've never been tempted,” the other teen replied. “The power is seductive, you know that, and it sucks that our magic is such a two-edged sword. Sometimes I still just want to cast a ton of spells and damn the consequences.”
“You wouldn't say that if you'd ever seen my father,” Caleb told him with a shudder. “I'd give up our powers in an instant to not end up like him.”
“So show them,” Chase said bluntly. “If seeing your father made the difference for you, then introduce him to your friends. Maybe solid proof of what will happen will make this Reid guy lay off the Using. You're a damn good teacher so I know that's not the problem. In fact, I'm happy to say that my parents are finally easing up. In fact, they seem to be going straight into denial now that I don't levitate when I'm distracted anymore.”
“Really? That’s great,” the teen said and he meant it. Caleb was happy to know that Chase’s life was getting better and even happier to let him change the subject. The other warlock probably had a point about introducing his friends to his father but Caleb didn’t feel prepared to think about that now. “I wasn’t sure if the lessons here would transfer over to the real world; you know changing our dreams doesn’t feel the same as Using when awake.”
“Apparently it’s close enough. And I definitely prefer denial to the exorcists.”
“I don’t blame you. Though I still think you should have let me call the cops. I mean, if you’d given me your address, I could have tipped them off.”
“I'll get my parents arrested the day you get your mother into rehab,” Chase retorted sharply. “Until then, leave it be. You’ve got no right to judge.”
Caleb winced at the other teen’s tone. He hadn’t meant to poke a sore spot and he knew that Chase was right. His mother was only getting worse, not better, and he probably should get help. But he didn’t know how and he didn’t want to lose what little family he had left. Truthfully, the warlock didn’t know why he'd told Chase about his mother's drinking problem in the first place. Somehow it was easier to talk about things when they were dreaming. Caleb didn’t have to worry about repercussions from his honesty and Chase's distance often gave him a more objective eye.
So the two of them had talked about anything and everything, from Reid's issues to the latest movies to their family problems and even though they'd never met in person, Chase already felt like one of the best friends he’d ever had.
“Come on, Danvers. Don't look so serious,” the other warlock told him, throwing an arm across his shoulders. “Your friend Reid will sort himself out eventually. Hell, I'm practically the poster boy for bad reactions to our magic and you managed to turn my life around. Even just knowing what the hell was happening was a damn big relief.”
“I get that,” Caleb said. “I thought my mother was delusional but at least she warned me first.”
“Yeah, there's nothing worse than not knowing. I was fucking terrified,” Chase admitted. “My parents had me half convinced that I actually was possessed and I probably would have hurt someone if you hadn't come along. One day I would have just snapped and started Using constantly.”
“I don’t think so,” the warlock replied. He honestly couldn't picture it. Although Chase had been a mess in the beginning, he’d still obeyed his parents and Caleb couldn’t see him hurting anyone. Not on purpose anyway. “You may be a jerk sometimes but you aren’t evil.”
“Thanks, I feel so reassured,” the other teen snorted. “Seriously, though. Enough of this feelings shit. Let's go do something fun.”
Chase dragged Caleb off, the dream world shifting around them until they were standing on the deck of an old sailing ship. The other warlock pulled him into some kind of pirate battle, Chase running around and shouting orders like he was born to this. Of course, the other teen threw himself into everything with abandon; on his bad days he was sure the world was ending and his good moods made Caleb smile helplessly. Thankfully there were more good days than bad at this point. Chase’s mood had improved along with his ability to control his powers and Caleb definitely looked forward to his dreams these days.
Maybe that's why the warlock still hadn't told anyone else about Chase. So much of his life seemed to belong to other people; he wanted to keep this one thing for himself. Chase was his friend – just his – and if he told the others then Pogue would get protective, Reid would get jealous and Tyler would probably want to know about every single conversation that they’d ever had.
Besides, none of the others had mentioned anything about shared dreaming and Caleb wasn't in the mood to be the freak. He was already the odd one out amongst the Sons of Ipswich, his responsibilities as the eldest sometimes weighing on him heavily.
Case in point, this mess with Reid. But Chase was probably right. If anything could put his friend back on the straight and narrow, it would be meeting Caleb's father and the warlock would consider setting up that meeting as soon as he woke up. Until then, well, he and Chase were in search of buried treasure and Caleb would be damned before he lost another game.
“Where are we going? I’ve got things to do today,” Tyler said. More like whined, actually, and Caleb bit back a sigh.
“I know you do but this won’t take long and it’s important,” the teen told him. He’d finally decided to take Chase’s advice about his father, mostly because he didn’t know what else to do. If this didn’t make Reid stop then the warlock was out of ideas and he might have to start researching binding spells instead.
Speaking of Reid, the other teen looked thoroughly pissed off when Caleb glanced in the rearview mirror. The warlock had used a combination of threats, cajoling, and outright bribery to get him in the car and Reid still hadn’t done it gracefully.
“Who made you the boss anyway?” the blond growled when he finally realized that Caleb was looking at him. “You may be the oldest but that doesn’t mean that you can tell us what to do.”
“Sure, Reid. I’m the bad guy because I don’t want to just sit back and watch while you Use yourself to death,” the older teen retorted. “But you know what? Fine. If you still want to waste your life after our visit today, then maybe I’ll just let you. You can gorge yourself on magic ‘til you choke because I’ll have tried absolutely everything.”
“So we’re visiting someone?” Pogue asked quietly. He put a hand on Reid’s arm and the blond thankfully subsided instead of arguing. “You have been a bit mysterious.”
“Not on purpose. It’s just complicated,” Caleb sighed. “Look, just stick with me for another fifteen minutes and things will make sense, all right? I need to introduce you to someone but you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you who right now.”
“It’s not some kind of long lost sibling, is it? Because that would just be weird,” Tyler said, his question close enough to the truth to make Caleb twitch a bit.
But he managed to keep his voice level when he replied, “No. It’s not that. Seriously, just be patient. It’s like another mile down the road.”
Right on cue, his family’s old mansion appeared in the distance, looking just as haunted as it had a year before. In fact, Caleb was pretty sure that he heard Tyler mutter, “So you think he’s gonna kill us? Because that house screams axe murderer.”
However, the words were quiet enough that the warlock could ignore him and his friends piled out of the car without complaining once Caleb pulled to a stop. The building loomed above them and the Sons of Ipswich huddled close instinctively. Even Reid looked more unsettled than irritated now and Caleb took a deep breath before opening the door. He led his friends to the top floor, waving off his family's servant, Gorman, when the man tried to stop him at the stairs.
“You want to know why I keep harping on you for Using, Reid?” Caleb asked as he opened the door and walked into the room. “This is why. Meet William Danvers III, my father. He turned forty just this year.”
There was a moment of absolute silence and then all of the warlock’s friends started talking simultaneously, Caleb only catching a few words here and there.
“What are you-?”
“-- kidding me!”
“You must be-”
“-- a sick joke, man!”
“It’s not a joke, Reid. This is what happens when you Use too much magic. The power eats your life away and turns you old before your time,” Caleb said. “This is why I worry and why my mother drinks.”
“Shit,” Pogue replied and that seemed to sum up his friends’ reactions quite succinctly. Tyler looked both curious and horrified while Reid was just staring at Caleb’s father like he’d seen a ghost. His face was pale and the warlock could only hope that the lesson was finally sinking in.
“Is there a cure? A way to stop this?” Tyler asked quietly. “Shouldn't there be some kind of spell?”
"You think you are the first to fear the price? The first to think of fighting?" Caleb's father suddenly cackled. The teen had thought that the old man was sleeping and he wasn't the only one to jump. “There is no running from the curse that's in our blood. You are doomed children, doomed to Use and fall just like every firstborn son before you, and trying to cast spells to stop the price will only hasten your reckoni-"
The old man broke off as he started coughing, his ravaged voice unused to speaking. He coughed and coughed until Gorman rushed into the room with a glass of water. He helped Caleb's father drink before turning to the teens.
“You need to go," Gorman said with a glare. “You should know better than to come here and rile up Mr. Danvers. He is not a sideshow for your entertainment. He is a man that’s suffering. Now get out."
Caleb didn't argue. He'd made his point and his friends looked shaken enough already; he didn't need to make it worse. So the teen waved the other warlocks toward the door, waiting until they had started down the stairs before following.
However, Caleb had only taken a few steps before he paused. The warlock couldn't let his father's last words stand.
"We're not going to end up like you," he said, turning back to the old man. "I won't allow it. You were weak, but we'll be better. Wait and see."
Then the teen went to join the others. His friends greeted him with loud cries of relief and a whole slew of questions so Caleb didn't hear his father's quiet whisper as it faded down the stairs.
"I truly hope so, son."