CHAPTER FIVE - EVERYTHING CHANGES
As he left the study, Alex cast one last backwards glance at Demetrius. The older man’s eyes were barely open. Just a sliver of his vibrant blue irises could be seen beneath his thick lashes, tracking Alex’s retreating form. Exhaustion was writ large as well in the rest of his body’s attitude as he curled against the chair with the blanket tucked around his waist. Alex hoped that he would rest.
Sleep well, Demetrius.
Hans shut the door behind them with a firm tug, cutting off Alex’s view of the older man. His imperious gaze alighted on Alex and the boy struggled not to shift under it. Hans was clearly protective of the older man. Alex could imagine that helping someone so beautiful yet sensitive would be a difficult job. He had a feeling that Demetrius could be willful and do things that would be harmful for him.
But he must feel so trapped. Who could blame him for wanting to be out in the world again even if it hurts him? I wish I could help him. If even a little.
Alex’s chin rose up as Hans continued to observe him silently out of cold, blue eyes. He gave as good as he got and stared at Hans, daring the other man to tell him he wasn’t worthy of Demetrius. Hans was the first to look away. He had won something even though he hadn’t been aware they were in a contest.
“I wanted to thank you for helping him,” Hans said softly. He placed one palm flat against the door as if he could feel Demetrius through it.
“Oh, well, sure. Of course,” Alex said, unarmed by Hans’ gentle tone. “I would never –never leave him out there like that.”
“You did not let anything stop you. I appreciate that – we all – appreciate that more than I can say.”
“It’s really no problem. I can tell – I mean I was only with him for a little bit, but I can tell he’s special,” Alex said.
“Yes, he is. And you must be, too.”
Alex blinked. “Me? Nah. Not really.”
“He has not ventured out in … in a long time. Nor has he spoken to anyone, but his family for even longer,” Hans said. “But he choose you to connect with. You are very lucky.”
“I – I feel lucky.” Alex shifted his feet. “He said something about his illness. About his nerves being hypersensitive.”
“Yes, it has been like this for some time.”
“Is he seeing a doctor? I mean, is he getting help for it?” Alex looked up at Hans. He could well imagine that Demetrius wouldn’t be amenable to a doctor’s orders.
Hans tilted his head to the side, considering Alex for a long moment. Alex shifted again from foot to foot.
“I know that sounds really forward – maybe it is really forward. But I’m just – he seems like he doesn’t let people help him,” Alex said.
Hans let out a huff of laughter. “No, he doesn’t. But … his condition is a hereditary one. There is nothing anyone can do. Time will heal it or … or it will not. But we will be with him.”
Alex didn’t think that Hans meant him and Hans, but it would be true. Ever since he had glimpsed Demetrius, he had felt something. He couldn’t quite explain it. It was more than just admiration for an intensely beautiful man. He was intent on staying close to Demetrius and helping him. His dad had almost given up on life many times, but Alex had bullied him into taking part until the end.
“I hope it was okay that I was there.” He shook his head. That sounded like he was asking for Hans’ permission to speak to Demetrius. “I mean, I hope my presence didn’t exhaust him too much.”
But the image of Demetrius sprawled on the chair, his breathing shallow, eyes half-shut told Alex that he had been exhausted. But the question was: had Demetrius regretted. The quick way he had offered Alex his number had said no.
Hans gave him a slight smile and confirmed, “I do not believe he would have missed it for anything.”
Alex pinked. “Oh! Well, it was … was really cool. Talking to him. He’s – he’s easy to talk to.”
The boy bit off any more words that wanted to tumble out of his mouth. Talking too much had been an issue that day. He had been slightly worried after he blurted out all those things about his family to Demetrius that the older man would recoil. So much personal information had just spilled out in a gush. Yet at the time he had not felt at all constrained. The older man was incredibly easy to talk to, even about painful things. Thankfully, Demetrius hadn’t seemed to mind. Further, Demetrius’ thoughts about his stepfather had put into things into sharp perspective. He had to watch the other man like a hawk and tell his mother about anything off. Even if she resisted what he said at first, he had to persevere. It wasn’t just his duty to protect Peter. It was hers, too.
“Make sure when you do call him that it is evening. He – we all – sleep during the day and don’t rise until after sun fall,” Hans explained.
Not sunset. Sun fall. Interesting way of phrasing it.
“You guys must stay up all night and sleep during the day. A vampire’s life is necessary for running a club, I guess,” Alex said.
Hans had let out a slight laugh. “Yes, it is. But we should go down. Your friend is waiting for you.”
“Yeah. Did Darin say what was wrong?” Alex hustled after Hans as the other man headed toward the stairs.
Hans had his phone out and was looking at a live video feed outside the secret door. “No, he did not. But he received a phone call that seemed to upset him.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
They clattered down the stairs. Hans put his hand on the door but kept his eyes on the video feed. It made sense that Hans did not wish people to see their exit. He slipped the phone into his pocket and opened the door. Hans made sure that the secret door was closed swiftly behind Alex.
“Your friend is awaiting you in the conservatory.” Hans pointed towards the room with the rounded glass ceiling.
“Thanks. Uhm, I guess I’ll talk to you later,” Alex said.
Hans gave a brief nod. “Undoubtedly.”
Alex quickly jogged into the conservatory and sure enough, Darin was sitting on one of the unoccupied couches, head down, expression sullen. As soon as he caught sight of Alex, he jumped to his feet.
“Thank God! I thought I was going to have to leave without you,” Darin said.
“Leave without me? Is it that dire?” Alex flushed as for a moment, he imagined bunking upstairs with Demetrius.
He needs to rest. Not have me lusting all over him.
“Yeah, its bad. Where were you, man?” Darin asked, jerking his head towards the room where Alex had emerged from.
Alex opened his mouth to explain, but he quickly shut it. He didn’t want to blab about how he had met Demetrius Black. Darin would hound him to meet the club owner, too, and he didn’t think Demetrius could handle Darin’s boisterousness. Besides, it felt like he had been let in on a secret about Demetrius’ illness. He didn’t want to expose Demetrius in any way.
“I was just –”
“Tell me in the car. We have to go.” Darin dug his car keys out of his pocket. “This sucks so royally.”
Alex ran after him as the other boy started striding through the club for the front door. “What happened? I thought it would take a crow bar to get you out of here.”
“It did. It came in the form of my parents,” Darin snarled. He swung his arms angrily as they crossed through the room with the bar.
The bartender’s eyes locked with Alex. He gave the boy a slight nod. Alex responded in kind.
They all know I helped Demetrius. I’m … one of them in some ways now. Weird. Cool, but weird.
Alex had never been on the inside of anything. He was never in one place long enough to be a part let alone one of the in-crowd. It felt rather good, especially considering how incredibly awesome the people there were.
“Aren’t your parents out of town?” Alex asked, interrupting Darin’s litany of curses.
“They decided to come home early. Found I wasn’t home and – well, the shit hit the fan. I’m sorry, dude, but you can’t stay the night. I’ll have to drop you off home,” Darin said.
“No worries.” The club had lost all interest for him now that he knew about Demetrius. Somehow it would feel wrong to be down here dancing when the other man was trapped upstairs.
They made it to the foyer.
“Did your folks know you were here?” Alex asked.
“No, but they sensed I was up to no good. They’re hitting the roof because it’s after one a.m. on a school night and I’m not at home, tucked in bed, like a good little teenager. They don’t seem to understand that good and teenager in the same sentence are like an oxymoron.” Darin mimicked his mother’s voice at the end. He paused just at the entrance to the club and looked pale and drawn. “I can’t believe we’re leaving. We just got here and we’re going.”
“It’s not like you’ll never see this place again.” Alex clasped his shoulder companionably.
“Are you sure about that? Because it was a goddamned miracle we got in tonight. I mean when else is Demetrius Black going to notice you and let us in again? Not very likely for lightning to strike twice.”
Thankfully, he didn’t seem to remember that Alex had called the stricken man ‘Demetrius’.
Alex just smiled. “Don’t worry about it, Darin. We will get in. But if we don’t get back home, your parents probably won’t let you out the house again to even try.”
Darin threw back his head and groaned. “You’re right. Less than two hours in paradise and I’m headed to Hell.”
Alex snorted. “Let’s go.”
They raced to the car. Darin had an ancient Honda Civic, but it still ran like a champ. The only annoying part was that the window on Alex’s side was stuck all the way up. Darin cranked his down and blasted some music. They both began to sing along to it like idiots as Darin pushed on the gas and drove them out of Arkham.
The twenty-minute trip back home flew as Darin spent most of the time talking about what he had seen at the club. All of it sexual, and all of it graphically detailed. Alex was happy to keep quiet and to picture Demetrius’ pale, muscular form in his mind while Darin prattled on.
The man has the most incredible eyes. So blue. Glowing. Alex would do anything when he looked into Demetrius’ eyes. A slight frown crossed Alex’s lips. That could sound like hyperbole, but there was some truth to it. In fact, Demetrius had seemed aware that Alex would do anything. He’d been worried about it. Warning Alex off. He said his condition caused it. But what kind of disease can cause others to do things for you?
“Do you need a royal invitation to leave the car or what?” Darin grinned at him.
“Shit, sorry.” Alex started as he realized that they were at his house. The ranch house with the wooden carport wasn’t exactly in the same class as the Victorian mansion that housed the club, but it was the nicest home that he’d ever lived in. Greg not only made a good living as a cop, but his father, Edwin Crocker, was a judge who was incredibly powerful in the little town. They were related to the Notting family that had founded it and somehow that still held sway hundreds of years later. Edwin Crocker had not approved of his son’s marriage. He had not come to the wedding nor had he showed up at the house. As far as Alex concerned, he was a non-person even as his presence seemed to hang over the town like some kind of deity.
“You’ve hardly been listening to me the whole time. Just smiling like a loon. Must be the Sanctuary effect on you.”
Alex reached into the back seat and fished out his black leather jacket and book bag. He figured if he zipped his jacket up to his neck, his mom or Greg wouldn’t ask what he was doing studying in an outfit designed for clubbing. He glanced over at the driveway and saw that Katie’s car was gone, but that Greg’s was back. His mom and stepfather had returned from their date.
“Where is your head? With that guy on the balcony?” Darin prodded, breaking his concentration. “Who was he by the say?”
Alex flushed. “Oh, well, uhm–”
“There was someone up there! Shit! I knew it! You couldn’t have been flying so high on anything that you hallucinated a person,” Darin groused. “So … did you get his number?”
Alex nodded as he unclipped his seatbelt and slid his jacket on.
“Excellent, my man. You worked quick. But you played the hero.” Darin’s brow furrowed. “So what was wrong with him? Was he drunk or something? And how did he get upstairs? I thought that was totally off limits.”
“Talk to you tomorrow at school?” Alex asked as he opened the car door instead of answering.
Darin leaned over into the passenger seat. “Aren’t you going to tell me anything? Are you going to leave me hanging? I mean who was he? You can tell me. Please?”
Alex looked at Darin’s hopeful face. “I’ll tell you one thing, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea.”
“You can trust me! After all, who convinced you to go to Sanctuary in the first place and meet this amazing, mysterious dude?”
“Okay, let’s just put it this way …” Alex waited until Darin was literally hanging onto the steering wheel, he was leaning over so far. “I don’t think we’ll have any problems getting into Sanctuary again.”
Darin’s mouth opened and closed like a goldfish’s. “You – you – wait – what? You have to explain this to me!”
“Goodnight, Darin. You can figure it out yourself. See you tomorrow.” Alex shut the door to the car, laughing, even as Darin was squawking inside. Once he got to the edge of the driveway, he turned around and waved to the other boy. Darin waved back and drove off.
I think I just made his night. I hope I’m right and Demetrius will let us back in. Hopefully, he won’t regret giving his number to me.
He hefted his backpack up on one shoulder while he fished for his keys with his free hand. He strode up the walk to the front door. He could see around the side that everyone’s lights were out. That meant he had a better chance of slipping in unseen. He’d just explain tomorrow that Darin’s parents had come home and wanted the house to themselves.
He slid the key in the lock and, as quietly as he could, unlocked the door. He stepped inside and pushed it closed slowly to minimize the noise. He then relocked it. The door opened directly into their living room. The shadowy shapes of Greg’s furniture looked back at him. The only light came from the kitchen at the back of the house down a short hall. They always left on the stove nightlight on. The bedrooms were down another hallway just off the kitchen.
Alex padded back to the kitchen. He put his backpack down on the counter and went over to the refrigerator. He was so thirsty. He opened it and stuck his head inside. Like most teenaged boys, he was hungry and thirsty all of the time. Before moving in with Greg, unless he did the shopping, there was normally never food in the house. Greg, though, seemed to keep his place pretty stocked. Alex hadn’t figured out yet what duties he could give up or that he needed to keep doing to keep him and Peter in food and clothing. It would take a few more months.
It was when he was dragging out a piece of grilled chicken and the heavy glass pitcher of lemonade that he heard the sound. He’d stuffed the cold chicken breast in his mouth and he stood up, ears alert to see if the sound repeated itself. He wasn’t sure exactly what the sound was. It was like a sighing breath. Or maybe a cry cut short. Alex kicked the door to the refrigerator shut and put the lemonade down. He chewed the piece of chicken in his mouth and swallowed. No other sounds came. The house was eerily quiet as if the person who had made the sound was holding their breath and listening, too.
Hopefully, that wasn’t Mom and Greg having sex. Yuck.
He realized that the sound he heard subconsciously reminded him of sex though he wasn’t sure exactly why. He poured himself a glass of lemonade and drank the whole thing off. He was just going to fill the glass again when he decided he might as well take the whole pitcher with him to his room. He stuck the chicken back in his mouth and took the pitcher and glass in his hands down the hall.
The bedrooms were in a row down the hallway. His Mom and Greg’s room was at the farthest end while Peter’s was first and his was in the middle. His brother’s door was closed, which he was glad about. That meant that Peter had listened to him and truly kept his door shut to keep out their stepfather. But then he heard the sound again. It was coming from Peter’s room and it was a cut off cry.
Alex jerked to a dead stop outside his little brother’s closed door. He yanked the chicken out of his mouth as he rapped his knuckles softly against the wood.
“Pete? Pete, are you okay?” he called softly. There was an ominous silence. “Pete? It’s Alex. I’m home. You okay, buddy?”
Still, there was no answer.
Alex didn’t know what he thought caused his brother to let out a stifled cry. Maybe it was a nightmare. He’d just open the door and see if Peter was all right. Maybe hearing his voice might cause his brother to wake up from whatever night terrors were chasing him. But some part of him knew that couldn’t be the explanation. Peter never had bad dreams.
And he would have answered me.
Alex shouldered open the door. The interior was darker than the hall and the glow of the kitchen light didn’t make it inside. He couldn’t see anything at first. His brother’s bedroom was shaped like an ‘L’ reversed with the closet kitty corner from the door. He knew that there was a desk directly opposite the door and then his brother’s bed was in the foot of the ‘L’ shape, hidden from the door.
“Peter?” he whispered again.
There was a moan. Was his brother sick? Why did the moan sound muffled? Were they being robbed? Was a burglar in the room with his brother, holding him down and placing a restraining hand over Peter’s mouth?
Alex felt like ice water were washing through his veins. He dropped the chicken on the ground, but kept a hold of the pitcher as a weapon. It’s heavy bulk felt almost comforting. His brother’s light switch was on his left. He flipped it on. The room flooded with stark yellow light from the main fixture on the ceiling. Alex rushed around the corner of the ‘L’ and saw his brother’s bed.
There wasn’t a burglar. His brother wasn’t having a nightmare either. At least, it wasn’t a nightmare he had while sleep, but perhaps it was a living one.
Peter was on his back on the bed. His top was missing and his pajama bottoms were pulled halfway off to his knees. He had no underwear on and his cock and balls were exposed. Greg was straddling his calves. Their stepfather had his shirt off. His chest was broader than Alex had guessed. His boxer shorts were still fully on though his heavy, masculine cock was jutting through the pee slit, erect and dripping onto Peter’s stomach. One of his hands was covering Peter’s mouth and nose. All Alex could see were his brother’s pleading eyes.
“What are you doing? Get off of him!” Alex yelled.
“This isn’t what you think,” Greg said, sounding oddly calm and reasonable for a man molesting his little brother.
“GET THE FUCK OFF OF HIM, YOU BASTARD!” Alex screamed.
Where was his mother? Had she taken one of her damn sleeping pills? Was she too drunk to wake up?
“Now, Alex, you have to calm down. I’m a police officer--”
“You’re a fucking pedophile pervert!” That he could call himself a cop at that moment with his cock out and a little boy beneath him was more than perverse.
“Don’t use those types of words with me. Not when you don’t understand--”
“I understand. I completely fucking understand. Get off of him!”
Peter was breathing hard. He was having trouble getting air. But Greg wasn’t moving. Somehow he still thought to explain this away even as he smothered Alex’s little brother.
Alex was moving before he consciously thought about it. The pitcher was raised in the air and aimed for Greg’s head. One of the older man’s hands rose up to block the pitcher while the other left Peter’s mouth and reached towards the nightstand.
Peter’s voice, shrill, rang out, “He’s got a gun!”
But the pitcher was already coming down. The heavy glass bottom smashed into Greg’s forearm. There was a meaty, smacking sound as the pitcher impacted Greg’s flesh. Their stepfather deflected the blow and the pitcher went flying out of Alex’s hands. It crashed off to the side. Then Greg was shoving Alex back. The boy’s arms pinwheeled as he fell onto his ass. Greg snapped up the gun from the nightstand.
He used that to make Pete submit. No!
Peter got up in bed and wrapped his thin arms around Greg’s neck, trying to stop him from using the gun on Alex. But the cop viciously bucked Peter off of him. Alex’s little brother slammed against the wall. The back of his skull whiplashed and hit the wall so hard the drywall was punched in. Peter sank down onto the bed unconscious. There was a red smear on the wall indicating that the skin on his head had split open.
Alex jumped to his feet and leaped towards his brother. But Greg was in the way. Greg and the gun. The cop must have thought that Alex was jumping on him. The muzzle rose up. They began to wrestle. His stepfather’s sweaty face was locked in a snarl. He was so close to the other man that he could see the pores in Greg’s nose. Their hands twisted. Something in the gun gave.
Then there was a deafening bang.