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X Universe - Book 3

I Promise Forever - Chapter 8

I smiled as I watched a tired, sleep deprived, dishevelled roommate wander into the kitchen. It was an injustice that Brian could look good at six in the morning. He blinked at me, rubbing his face, before smiling back. "Morning."

"The never-seen-roommate appears," I teased. "It's been three weeks, Brian. We were beginning to wonder if you were the 'Phantom of the Second Bedroom'."

Brian groaned. "I know. I know. I knew that being an intern was going to be crazy, but slavery wasn't in the job description."

I laughed. "This is what, your first day off?"

He nodded. "Yeah, I got home this morning at two."

Shaking my head, I picked up the tea kettle and poured some water into my cup. I loved British water kettles. Ours could heat up water almost as fast as I could. "Then why are you awake?"

"I caught Justin online when I logged in to check email. We've been talking on web cam. He didn't have any morning classes."

I laughed, took a paper towel, dampened it, and handed it to a perplexed Brian. "Talked huh?" I eyed his midriff, noting that his belly fur was a bit mussed and looked like it had been haphazardly wiped. "Might want to take a shower before you hit the sack; that stuff gets crusty."

Brain blushed, took the towel, and wiped his belly with a guilty smile on his lips. "I've missed him. We started talking about how we missed holding each other, which led to talking about other things," he explained, shrugging. "I love to watch him cum."

"With a monster like his, I bet it's quite a show."

Brian sighed, sitting down at the table. "I'm glad I've been running ragged with the theater company, or I'd be going nuts. I just wanted to go through the monitor and be with him, you know?"

"Yeah." I tapped the water kettle. "Coffee?"

"Yeah. Thanks. I don't want to go to sleep today."

I pulled out the beans from the freezer and looked at him. "Why?"

He stretched, yawning. "I have two whole days off. I don't want to lose most of the day sleeping."

"Why don't you go shower, and I'll start breakfast."

"Okay." He stood up, scratching at himself absently, which was distracting as hell. I wasn't interested in Brian, but I was only human and Brian was just that attractive. Like Jeff, he was sexy without having to work at it. He stopped at the corner, turned, and leaned against the wall. "What are you guys doing today?"

"I have morning classes. Jeff has afternoon classes. We usually meet for lunch so we won't go a whole day without seeing each other." I pulled out a skillet and went to get some eggs and bacon from the fridge. "Why don't you come in with him at lunch? You and I can hang this afternoon."

He smiled, pushing away from the wall, and walked to the stairs. "That'd be cool. We haven't spent any time together since I got here." Looking back at me, he winked. "I like to get to know the guys I dip in public."

"Asshole," I mumbled, grinning to myself as he climbed the stairs.

"Ignorant, small minded, book bound, bastard," I muttered as I dashed across the street to the cafe. Jeff and Brian were already at a table when I stalked in. I tossed my book bag at Jeff's and dropped into the seat beside him. Jeff and Brian looked at me for a moment before either of them said anything.

"Good afternoon, Sunshine," Jeff ventured, kissing me briefly on the side of my head.

"What's so good about it," I asked, wanting to conjure a storm cloud over my head that said, "The Witch Bitch is in!"

Brian made a face and sipped his water. "You're spending the afternoon with the second hottest guy in the house?"

"Hurray for small favors," I sniped.

"Okay, what happened?" Jeff was never one to beat around the bush when I was in one of my moods.

"Oh, nothing major. My Occultal Sciences professor is an idiot. He rejected my report and wants a new one tomorrow."

Jeff blinked. "Rejected it?"

I snorted, nodding as I sat up straight. "Yeah, rejected. He wouldn't even demean himself to grade it. He said that my theories were nothing but rubbish and hogwash, and I should spend my time researching knowledgeable resources instead of writing fantasies."

"Ouch," Brian grimaced as he replied, "that's harsh."

"The asshole is just a book learned scholar. He's studied the writings of the 'masters'. You know, Crowley, and Starhawk, and 'Buckland'." I wanted to spit. "Real masters they were. Grams could have cast rings around them."

"Is he one of your grandmother's ex-students?"

"No. I don't get to work with either of them until my second or third years. I have to do all the 'foundational classes' first." It was infuriating to me to have to listen to someone rattle off details about systems of magic that didn't work and never would, and having to accept the bullshit as fact. "Why the fuck would any real will-worker need to know this bullshit?"

"Because buried within every magical and spiritual belief system there is a kernel of truth waiting to be found." Professor McNamara smiled at me as she walked up to the table holding a small pastry filled plate and a cup of tea.

"Professor McNamara?" Why hadn't I sensed her come in? More importantly, how was it she had tea and pastries and we hadn't even placed our orders? I looked from her to my equally stunned roommates. "Professor McNamara, this is our roommate, Brian, and you've met my husband, Jeff."

She smiled. "It was a lovely wedding. I sent a note to your mother with my compliments."

"Would you like to sit down? We're about to order lunch."

"I would not want to intrude." Witch or not, she was lying through her teeth; polite, yes, good liar, no. "I simply heard you recounting your frustrations, and I felt compelled to provide an answer."

I looked at Jeff and Brian, and they shrugged. I extended my hand to the empty chair across from me. "We'd love to have you join us for lunch."

"That's most kind," she replied, setting her cup and dish down before sitting beside Brian. "I seldom have the opportunity to share a meal with three attractive young men."

"Two at least," I mumbled. "Ow!" I glared at Jeff, and resisted the urge to rub my ankle. He didn't have to kick me that hard.

"Don't talk bad about my husband," he insisted before looking back at an amused Professor McNamara. "He thinks he has a hump back, uneven length legs, and mismatched eyes."

Professor McNamara smiled. "Few of us see the beauty within ourselves." She took a sip of her tea as the waiter arrived.

"Hello, I'm Sam. I'll be your server today. Are you ready to place your order?" Sam took our orders, and left us to our conversation.

"I still don't understand why I've got to listen to some book worm blow hard try to tell me about things he has no first hand experience with. He couldn't even conjure enough magic to light a candle, let alone do a summoning or banishment." I think somewhere I mentioned I was a stubborn, redheaded Irishman.

"Wisdom is not obtained by knowing the answers, Daniel." She nibbled on her pastry before continuing. "It is the result of experiencing life and gleaning knowledge that has not been pre-digested for you. Kings kept fools in their courts because true insight comes from knowing what people believe and how they think, not from facts and figures."

"Why would learning stuff that's wrong give me insight?" Learning bad information only meant I had to unlearn it later.

"To be aware of the dogma of others' beliefs gives us the opportunity to become aware of the dogma in our own."

I grumbled, crossing my arms, and planted my feet like a petulant child. "He's still an idiot." Yeah, that was mature.

"I have culled many kernels of truth from the manure of Professor Kensington's ramblings," Professor McNamara replied, sipping at her tea. "It isn't important whether or not you can memorize the things he espouses as truths, Daniel. The true test is to recognize the real knowledge to be found amongst the rubbish and hogwash."

I sighed. "How'd you know I'd be here, ranting?"

She smiled. "Some people accuse me of being a witch, Daniel."

Brian laughed. "She probably has some spell on you to know when you're pissed."

I snorted. "Waste of time. The spell would go off more often than not."

"I used the most powerful magic I know," she smiled, raising an eyebrow at me as she sipped at her tea again, "I listened, and paid attention to what I heard." Setting down her tea, she picked up a biscuit, regarding it casually. "Professor Kensington came into my office yesterday, ranting that the 'yank' I had unloaded onto him was an imbecile and spent more time reading Fantasy novels than research materials."

"I could show him a few tidbits of hogwash that would curl his hair," I grumbled, staring at the table in disgust, "if he had any... the bald, old buzzard."

"I read over your report, and suggested that Matthew simply hand the report back and be more specific as to his requirements as it was obvious you had not understood his instructions." She smiled. "You aren't supposed to be enlightening your first year instructors as to the nature of the universe and everything, Daniel. You will have plenty of opportunities for that later."

I grinned, looking at her hopefully. "So my report wasn't all bad?"

"It was an insightful piece of work, Daniel. I advise that you save a copy of it for use in a later course. It was not, however, within the scope of 'An Introduction to the Occultal Sciences'. For now, write your reports from the materials available to your curriculum and leave the experiential knowledge at home."

I sighed. "Yes, ma'am."

Finishing her tea, Professor McNamara stood as Sam returned with our lunches. "Please excuse me, gentlemen, but I have a meeting to get to." She smiled at Jeff and Brian. "It was a pleasure to meet you again, Jeffrey. Good afternoon, Brian. I hope to get to know you all better as the semester matures."

"Thanks for clearing things up," Brian replied, grinning from the professor to me, "I wasn't looking forward to an afternoon with a flaming-hot head."

"My pleasure," she laughed, and then looked at me. "Be patient, Daniel. All things in due time."

"Yes, ma'am. Thank you." I felt like an idiot. I shot Brian a dark look after she'd left. "I'm going to hurt you."

"Promises, promises," he laughed, picking up his tuna and cucumber sandwich. "I should be so lucky."

Jeff smiled. "Hands off my husband, Brian. I'm not into sharing."

Brian sighed dramatically. "But what about my needs?"

"We'll get you a better web cam," I retorted, picking up my meat and cheese sandwich, "and a bigger box of tissues."

"Asshole," he grumbled around his sandwich.

"Don't you forget it."

Kate looked around the living room while Jeff took her bags to guest room/computer room. "This place is beautiful."

"Thanks." I smiled, looking at our living room. It really was well appointed. "You finished with your fashion stuff?" She had photo shoots, a fashion show, and something else modeling related that she'd done in London over the past couple weeks. I didn't understand it all.

"Yes, thank God." Kate flopped down on the couch. "I'm ready to go home."

I grinned. "Then why are you here?"

Kate stuck out her tongue. "I'm catching up with my two favorite married gay boys. And someone mentioned a hot new piece of eye candy lounging about his home. I want to meet the mythical Brian."

"Good luck," Jeff laughed as he came back down the stairs. "We got to spend a couple days with him last week, but normally we only know that he's been here because food and coffee keep disappearing and occasional loads of laundry show up in the washer or drier."

I grinned at her. "Also, aren't you dating a certain ex-baseball player turned personal trainer back in New York?"

Kate nearly glowed. "Yeah, a sexy, muscle bound, too scrumptious for his own good, mutant guy. I think one of his mutant powers is sexy sweat. Most guys smell like rotted gym socks after a workout. Ben..." she sighed, breathing in an imaginary aroma, "he just smells like well worked man."

"What do I smell like after a workout," Jeff asked as he slid his arm around my waist.

"Rotten gym socks," I replied, ready for the ass smack that followed.

"Hey." Jeff pouted at me, but I didn't relent.

"Some people find the funky smell of two day old gym clothes appealing."

Kate frowned. "Eeewww, not while I'm in the room."

I slipped out of Jeff's reach, dancing away from his attempt to swat me again as I added, "I dont' know anyone who likes that smell, but I'm sure someone does!"

"You are so not getting any tonight," he threatened, crossing his arms and frowning at me.

"Okay, I'll wait up for Brian."

"Don't you dare," Jeff warned, chasing me around the room. He caught me as I rounded the couch. We both knew I wasn't really trying to get away. "Who's your man?"

"Hmmm..." I waited too long to give him his answer. He flipped me onto the cushions, with Kate scurrying out of the way, and began tickling me mercilessly.

"Who's your man?"

I gasped for breath, holding out as long as I could before finally yelling, "You are!" I was in serious danger of peeing myself.

Jeff stopped his assault, and just pressed more of his body against mine while he whispered to my lips, "That's right, and I have the ring to prove it."

Kate coughed, interrupting the kiss we'd lost ourselves in. She was sitting on the arm of the couch, watching the show. "As much fun as it would be to watch you two do the dirty right here and now, I've been eating supplements and celery sticks for the last few weeks. I issue this warning only because I love you: Give the dangerous bitch her chocolate."

I looked at Jeff, and smiled. "Rain check?"

"Yeah." He got up, and put out his hand for me to do the same. "I don't want to face a starved, man less, chocolate deprived Kate."

"Good answer," Kate laughed, getting off the couch. As we went to get our coats, Kate pulled us into a group hug. "I love you guys."

We hugged her back, just letting the feeling of togetherness settle into us. A red headed Irish broomstick, a Hispanic hunk, and a black diva were an unlikely family. Anyone who'd been through what we had wouldn't be anything else.

I kissed Kate's hair as we let go. "We love you too, you dangerous bitch."

She grinned. "You guys have a workout room yet?"

"Yeah." Jeff smiled. "Tyler's stuff arrived the week after we came to visit. It took us over a week to install, but we've got our own paranormal training room in the basement."

"After real food and chocolate," Kate explained as she got her coat, "I want to try it out."

I raised an eyebrow as I zipped up my jacket. "Oh?"

"A girl has to test out the amenities before she commits to staying at a place." She slipped on her jacket. "Also," she winked, "I haven't had a good opportunity to kick ass in a few weeks."

Jeff laughed. "You think you can take us?"

"Who's the dangerous bitch here," Kate asked as we stepped out to locate food and chocolate; not necessarily in that order.

"Dan," Jeff quipped, "he's the most dangerous bitch around."

"I'm cancelling that rain check," I retorted.

Jeff slipped his hand in mine before I could pull it away, and squeezed. "Like you could hold out any longer than I could."

I sighed, knowing he was right. "Bastard."

Kate stepped up beside me. "You guys are too cute." I slid my arm about her waist as she did the same to me.

"Shut up, you chocolate deprived bitch." I squeezed her as we walked. I've missed you too.

Kate's thoughts came back, soft and satisfied, but she didn't actually say anything. She leaned in and rested her head on my shoulder as we wandered toward the shopping district. I was holding onto two of the people I loved most in the world. Life couldn't get any better than that.

"Hey, guys," Brian called down to the basement.

I hadn't been paying attention to how long we'd been playing in the training room. It was nearly two in the morning.

Jeff paused, caught off guard by the interruption, and Kate took full advantage of it. She landed her palm against his belly and hefted up. Her tactile telekinesis did the rest. Flipping him over, she WWF slammed him down on the floor. "Tag!" Kate leapt back, landing gracefully near the stairs, and crouched low.

Jeff groaned, "Foul!"

Brian came down the stairs. "What are you guys doing?" He wasn't really looking at us. He was pulling off his rain soaked sweatshirt. "I fucking hate English weather."

"Pause," I called out, "normal in the combat zone." I grinned at Brian as he looked up. "You here for a paranormal workout, Brian?"

Kate stood up, stretching, and turned to meet our mythical roommate. She let out a low, soft whistle as she hitched over and braced her hand on her hip. She looked back at us. "Damn guys, how'd you get so lucky?"

"We're irresistible," Jeff grumbled, getting up off the floor, "and that was still a foul, bitch."

"For a nearly indestructible muscle boy, you're a whiner Jeff." She brushed aside a stray lock of hair and turned back to Brian, extending her hand. "Hi, I'm the counter part for the two panting wimps back there, my name is Kate."

Brian's eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head. I looked at Kate, wondering if she had anything exposed. She was covered, mostly. Purple dance tights and sports bra, martial arts shoes, her hair pulled back in a pony tale, everything was definitely in place.

"Hi, I'm Brian." He shook her hand; his other hand holding his soaked sweatshirt uselessly at his side.

She frowned, letting go of his hand. "I thought you had a boyfriend."

Brian blinked, and looked guilty. "I do."

Oh shit. I kept forgetting that Brian wasn't a gay man. "Oh, sorry Kate. Brian's Bi."

"Oh." She tucked her hair back, her confused look dissolving as she smiled. "In that case, thanks."

Brian was blushing. "Uhm, did I miss something?"

Jeff started to laugh. "You were thinking something rude and socially unacceptable weren't you?"

Brian's blush went crimson. "She's a telepath isn't she?"

Kate smiled. "I didn't mean to read you, but your thoughts were blaring pretty loudly there."

"I think I'll go upstairs." Brian turned to leave.

"Hey, it's cool Brian." He looked at me and I shrugged. "If I had any interest in girls at all, I'd be so hot for Kate."

Kate laughed, putting her hands on her hips and taking a heroic stance. "Kate Brown, corruptor of gay men."

"In your dreams," I laughed, throwing a towel at her.

She shrugged. "What can I say? I'm a kinky girl."

"So," Brian asked as he tried to steer away from the uncomfortable topics, "what were you guys doing?"

"Paranormal combat training," I said, rubbing Jeff's neck.

"Can I watch?"

I raised an eyebrow at Kate, and Jeff shrugged. Kate grinned. "He has to stay shirtless. That way we can all be equally distracted."

Jeff shot her a hot look. "You're an evil woman, Kate."

Brian grinned. "I could change into something skimpy."

"Shut up, Brian," I snapped. "Score's 5 to 3, Kate's favor."

I wandered the perimeter of the training area as Jeff and Kate tried to one up each other. I stopped by Brian, and he nodded at Kate. "Her pictures don't do her justice."

I smiled. "Kate's one of a kind."

Brian leaned against the wall, crossing his arms, and whistled soft and low. "Yeah, you can say that again."

Poor Jeff. He was just too stuck on fair play. Kate kicked his ass.

Tossing and turning, I grumbled as I looked at the clock. I knew what time it was, but sometimes I liked to confirm it when I wasn't happy with the knowledge. Four in the morning, I thought to myself as I slid out of bed. There was a niggling at the back of my brain that wouldn't leave me alone. It wasn't the nothingness, or the void, or a residual nightmare. Something just didn't feel right. I extended my senses, but I could find nothing out of the ordinary. I stepped out of the bedroom, closing the door quietly, and noticed the light bleeding out from under Brian's door. I wanted to ignore what was going on, but enhanced senses that could go through walls made that impossible.

"Oh baby... yeah... ride me... you're so damn tight..." Brian was alone, in his computer chair, and I didn't need my senses to know what his hand was doing. I could hear the sound of Justin over the speakers. Poor guys, they seemed almost desperate.

I went down to the kitchen and tried to ignore what was going on above me. I made my tea, pretending I couldn't sense Brian's climax, and went out back. For a few moments I considered waking Jeff and enjoying a little late night play of my own. I'm definitely going to buy Brian that extra large box of tissues. The late October air was cool, and filled with a thin fog that clung to you like chilly, soft fingers. The niggling came back, but this time it wasn't at the back of my head. It was a soft, mournful, lonely mewing sound that repeated over and over. I set down my tea and followed the sound to the back corner of the yard.

Kneeling down, I looked under the bushes, and sensed the warmth of a small animal. Though my extra senses could perceive through the bush, all my regular sight could pick out were two large eyes looking at me from the darkness. I sat back on my haunches and regarded the little trembling thing. It'd stopped mewing, and I waited. "Hello," I whispered, trying to sound safe and encouraging, "I won't hurt you."

After a couple minutes, the little grey cat struggled to its feet, and limped out from under the bushes. She looked up at me with the most pitiful green eyes and mewed. Her front left paw was mangled, broken, and the fur was matted with dried, dirt clogged blood. I reached out, gently, and let her sniff my hand. She regarded it for a moment, sniffing tentatively, and then rubbed her head against my fingers. I picked the shivering little thing up and cradled her to me, careful not to bump the mangled foreleg. She purred.

"What are we going to do with a cat?" Jeff stared down at the sleeping little purring furry.

I hadn't woken him. I'd just put on my clothes and flew, at night, to the only all night animal clinic in the area. It cost a fortune, not that I cared, and I debated what to do while the vet worked on the injured cat. We were back home five hours later, two bottles of antibiotic, anti infection drops, and a surgery behind us. Jeff hadn't even been awake when she curled up on the towel I put on the couch and purred herself to sleep.

"I don't know, Jeff, but I couldn't just leave her to die." I looked at her poor, bandaged, stumpy foreleg. "A cat can't survive outdoors with a missing leg."

"I know," he grumbled, looking at the little grey furred cat like she was a rodent, "but do we really have to keep it?"

"Who's going to want to take a maimed cat, Jeff?" What was the big deal? Some cat litter, a couple dishes, and a cat bed... no sweat.

"Okay, fine, but it isn't sleeping with us." He went for the stairs. "I'm going for a run."

I sat down and petted the little girl for a while. Jeff didn't even give me a kiss on the way out the door. It's just a cat, I argued with him in my head. The early wakeup call caught up with me, and I stretched out on the couch. The purring next to my head put me to sleep almost immediately.

I woke to the sound of Jeff sniffling, and the feel of his fingers running through my hair. There was a warm, heavy, purring thing on my chest. I blinked slowly awake. Jeff looked down at me, his eyes red and bloodshot. "You okay?"

He nodded, smiling but looking miserable. "You look cute with a cat on your chest," he mumbled. It sounded like he had cotton stuffed in his mouth.

He was in sad shape. The last time he'd sounded like that was the fight about the apartment. He'd cried for a half hour while we alternated between fighting and making up. My big strong hunk had a really needy side at times. "Why are you crying?"

He shook his head, groaning. "Not crying. Allergies."

The little girl stretched, blinking awake with a long, lazy yawn. She purred, looking at us. Jeff put his fingers out, and she sniffed them. After a moment she rubbed them with her head. I looked back at him. "You're allergic to cats?"

"Uh huh."

I looked back at the sweet little cat as she rubbed at Jeff's fingers and did "flexy paw" on my chest. She didn't seem to think twice about her missing foreleg. "I guess we'll have to find her a home."

"Benedryl, Dan." He dropped his stuffed, aching head to mine. "I can always get a prescription."

"We can get some hepa filters too."

He snuffed, wiping his nose on his sweatshirt. "Okay."

"I love you." I didn't think there was anything he'd deny me, but as stupid as it was, the fact that he would suffer through allergies for me made my heart melt.

"I love you too." He kissed me, and then pulled away and sneezed into the arm of his sweatshirt.

"eeewwwww." That was a disgusting thing to watch.

"Sorry." He looked back at the green eyed little girl on my chest. "What are you going to name her?"

A name? That was something I was going to have to think about.

Misty kept to the "no cats in the bedroom" rule for all of a week. I looked about for her late All Hallows Eve, and finally found her, curled up on Jeff's chest, while my worn out husband snored away like a chainsaw on the bed. The Benedryl kept him breathing, but it was like he had a never ending case of the sniffles. I wasn't sure I'd survive his snoring.

"You're not supposed to be in here," I chastised the cat, scooping her up and taking her with me up the stairs. "Daddy Jeff can't breathe with you on his chest."

She just purred, totally oblivious to the situation. Sometimes I was as certain she understood everything I said, but most of the time she was in a world of her own. We climbed into the attic, and I closed the door, setting Misty down. She still hobbled, but it was amazing how quickly she adapted to 3 paw mobility.

"It's time for you to meet your great grandmother, little girl." I sat down in the center of the summoning circle, and pointed at the candles. East, South, West, North, each lit in order as I called the quarters. My powers made ritual preparations a hell of a lot easier. Misty settled down beside me as the walls of the celestial temple came down, and we waited.

After about fifteen minutes, the candle flames flickered. Misty perked up, looking at a spot in the air in front of us. Grams' presence was so clear that I could almost see the demarcation where she was. My summoning circles were getting better.

"Hi Grams."

Misty moved from me to a spot under where I imagined Grams to be. I swore the spirit was petting the cat. We talked about what had happened over the last year, about my dying, the marriage, school, the inheritance, and such. As the conversation came to a close, I scooped up Misty and scritched her. "I don't know if we'll be able to keep her. Jeff's trying, but his allergies are pretty bad."

I listened, cocking my head as Grams gave me her advice. She mussed my hair and stroked Misty before fading out. I waved, floating Grams' Book of Shadows to me. Flipping through the pages, I stopped about a third of the way through, and studied the page. "Allergy Ward." The spell looked pretty simple, but required a bunch of aroma therapy oils that I didn't have. I scratched Misty's head. "I think Daddy is going to have to go shopping." She just purred happily as I made the list.