Wayward Son

Chapter 4

My plan to surprise Gideon at home took a few days to come together. Firstly his guardian wouldn't have the same last name as Gideon, so I couldn't do a phone-book or internet search. I had tried a search string for Gideon Erebos, but that netted me a bunch of information that was useless to me. I tried searching on the family services page of foster kids and was surprised to find kids pictures along with efforts to get them adopted. Gideon's face was not among them, which was strange because the adoption page was nothing but foster kids. Curiouser and curiouser.

My ruminations finally led me down a different path. Seth worked in the school office from time to time, something he got some sort of credit for doing it but that wasn't what mattered to me. What mattered was that he could get me an address if I asked him for it. The question was really—do I want to ask him?

On the one hand I'm asking him to betray a confidence, but on the other hand it's the school's confidence he's betraying, right? Who wouldn't want to betray the school? But the more I thought about it, the less it felt good to me. Did I really want to bring anyone any deeper into this little issue I was going though? Then again, I told him I saw shadows eat a guy, guess he already knows.

Bottom line was I don't want to ask, seems like an imposition on our semi-friendship, so I needed another solution.

I brushed my hair with my fingers and leaned back in my chair. I felt something drag through my hair, caught between my fingers and I worked it free; pinching it between two fingers so I could examine it. Paper. Notebook paper to be precise. I turned and fixed Joel with a glare. Joel was looking forward, towards the blackboard, smiling and avoiding eye contact with me. I reached up and ran my fingers through my hair thoroughly, dislodging another wadded bit of paper. A chortle snuck out of his mouth.

"You," I hissed from the corner of my mouth, "are an asshole."

More chortling, and a small giggle escaped.

"Dickhead," I muttered.

He was red in the face and making a squeaking sort of sound as he tried to hold it in. I'm sure the paper wasn't what was so funny, it was my reaction, but two can play that game.

"Mr. Montcalm? Is something incredibly funny that I'm hitherto not privy to? If so please share with the class." That would be our teacher in this particular class, English Literature, Mr. Holcomb. He took the written word seriously.

"Uh, no sir. Uh nothing funny." This was belied by Joel continuing to giggle. You see once he started, he wasn't easy to stop. He had a giggling version of Tourette's I guess. He continued to smile at Mr. Holcomb involuntarily and tried to hold his giggles in his mouth.

"Out. Leave. We will discuss this later."

Joel stood quickly and made for the door like he had the runs, and he was laughing before the door closed entirely. That'll teach the little shit.

I had decided simply to talk to Gideon again, and headed for his locker after last bell. As I rounded the corner I spotted him closing his locker and turning away from me to head for the door. Quickening my pace to catch him I was surprised to see Aila reach out from a connecting hallway and stop Gideon's forward progress. I stopped in my tracks, not sure what I was seeing and how I should proceed. I decided to watch for a moment to try and get a handle on whatever was going on.

I leaned against the wall and observed them, Gideon first seeming to be curiously friendly, as he was with me until I breathed my killer garlic breath on him. He stiffened and Aila placed a hand on his upper arm and seemed to be speaking with purpose; she definitely had a message to get across and Gideon wasn't liking it. After only a few moments he shrugged her hand off and he headed for the door. I pushed off of the wall and headed towards the doors myself to catch Aila calling out to him.

"I mean it! Listen to me, dammit!"

"What was that?" I asked as I stepped up next to Aila. My stomach filled with cold dread as she turned to face me, her face seeming to shift through several expressions before settling on neutral. I realized that whatever explanation she was going to give me, at least some of it would be a lie.

"What was what?" she asked, then glanced down at her nails as if inspecting them.

"What did you say to Gideon? Why did you yell that you mean it?" I felt my body temperature rising as cold fear ran through me, afraid that she may have told him about me. Embarrassing that would be. Not the end of the world, but certainly embarrassing and meddlesome.

"Oh that? Oh nothing really," Aila began walking away from me and I matched her step for step.

"Aila..." I growled.

"Oh really Danny, I was just stopping disaster before it started," she placed a hand on my forearm, "He's just not right for you, Danny."

"Jesus, you fucking told him? Who do you think you are?" I threw my hands up and picked up my pace.

"Danny, come on..."

"It's not your call, Aila and my name is Daniel," I wasn't as angry as you might imagine others might be at this point. This was embarrassing, to be sure; this was more of an irritant than anything else. Aila had always been a bit pushy, but sticking her nose this far into my business was beyond the pale. "Just stay the fuck away from me, you bitch!" I pushed out through the double doors, thoroughly disgusted. I scanned the crowd, looking for Gideon but he was lost in the groundswell of humanity, a seething mass of flesh slowly locating and boarding the buses to take them home. Frustrated I moved out of the traffic flow and leaned against the building, looking up to the sky and wondering what to do now.

While his knowing that I found him attractive aggravated me, like I said before, it wasn't the end of the world; but if anyone was gong to say anything it should have been me, for one. For two my plan to just talk to him at school was screwed, I wasn't sure I could make it through another weekend with this hanging over my head. I wandered back inside and as I passed the school office, inspiration struck me. Ducking in the doorway I was confronted with Mrs. Waldbaum, rumored to have been named school secretary when the building first opened...in 1928.

"What?" Her granny glasses perched on the edge of her nose. Small silver chains ran from the joint where the arm met the frame and disappeared behind her neck.

"I have a project due Monday and I lost my partners phone number, we're supposed to work this weekend and I was hoping..." this was as far as I got.

"I can't hand out student information." Her jowls trembled and her jaw seemed set in place.

"Oh, I see," I said and cast my eyes down. "This project is a big part of our grade but..."

"Well, you should have been more careful." Her beady eyes bored right into me and I squirmed, almost feeling like I really did have a paper due. "However," she said as she hoisted her bulk from behind the desk and lumbered around the desk to the counter and slid a drawer out, "You could always check the student call list."

So saying she tossed a pamphlet on the counter. It listed all the people in the school by grade, and then broken down further by name. I mentally slapped myself, of course!

"Thanks Mrs. Waldbaum," I smiled at her gratefully as I took the pamphlet.

"Yeah, yeah. Don't lose it." She harrumphed and waddled back to her desk. I headed out of the office and down the hall to my locker. I dropped the booklet in my gym bag, closed my locker and headed to practice.

Practice felt awkward with Joel, and I could tell he knew something was off. Maybe he assumed it was his dipshit antics that afternoon; didn't matter, I really didn't want to get into the whole Aila thing or that I planned to go to Gideon's house. Last thing I needed was him running off and telling her anyway. So after practice I headed out without changing. At home I showered and changed into fresh clothes, and then pulled out the booklet to look up Gideon's information. I was waylaid by mom calling me down to dinner, so by the time I actually got to the booklet it was almost eight o'clock.

The down side was that I only had a phone number. The listing was plain as day Erebos, Gideon 555-1812. The problem was I felt like this had to be a face to face kind of meeting. Besides, my main reason for speaking to him wasn't about my libidinous feelings but about his being some sort of prince of darkness. The rest was superfluous at this point, but it would complicate things. After several minutes of these two facts rolling around in my head and creating a storm of indecision in my head I chose a course of action.

I reached for the phone and dialed the number before I could lose my nerve. The phone was answered on the second ring.


"Um," whatever I may have been prepared for, it wasn't this.

"Contrary to potentially popular opinion, 'um' isn't a word and therefore not speech. You may either enunciate in English, French, Italian, Spanish or Latin among commonly spoken languages or hang up. Unless of course you are a canine, in which case speak should cause you to bark; I however have no treats that can possibly be handed to you through a phone line."

"I..uh...I'm sorry, I wasn't expecting the phone to be answered like that," I finally responded.

"Yes, well, saying 'hello' as if it were a question is really asinine, if one thinks about it for just a moment. Granted a great many things are if one but thinks about them for a moment, but in this case 'hello' is a greeting, not a question. I don't believe it was ever intended to be used in the form of a question, unless this were 'Jeopardy!', which this is not.

"I used to answer the phone by saying 'Woolcott Residence' but residence has taken on a more modern meaning of an old folks home, and while I am indeed older I am not yet ready to be put out to pasture."

"Oh, I see."


"I'm sorry?"

"For what? Have you done something that requires an apology?"

"No...I mean, I didn't understand why you said 'what'."

"Well, I wanted to know what you saw." replied the voice, presumably Mr. Woolcott.

"What I saw?" I was mystified.

"Yes, I said I was not ready to be put out to pasture and you said 'I see'. I'd like to know what you see and how it applies to my statement. This is turning into a very long conversation, are you always this difficult to talk to?"

My head hurt.

"I meant that I understood you weren't ready to go to an old folks home." I replied.

"I should say I'm not."

"Well, ah..."

"Was there a reason for your call?" He prompted.

"Yes." I replied slowly.

"Are you going to keep it a secret? If so, you needn't have called, you could have sat in your room and had this conversation by yourself."

"I don't think I could have, but yes I had a reason for calling. I have a project due Monday and I was hoping to get your address so I could compare notes with Gideon," I was pleased with how smoothly the lie rolled off my tongue.

"Interesting, there is a lie in that statement. I can't see the harm though, we're the only Woolcott in the book and you could easily look up the information. 3366 Burnside Terrace.

"We'll be expecting you." The line disconnected and I stared at the phone for a moment. What was that all about?

I lay on my bed staring at the light until there was a bright spot in front of my eyes no matter where I looked. While my attempt to get the address had been successful, it was mixed. I planned to go in daylight, regardless, but the conversation with Mr. Woolcott had left me confused and uneasy. I was also bothered more than I thought I'd be by Aila telling Gideon. I was sort of boggled that she'd done it to start with. It seemed kind of out on the fringe for her, and she had to know it'd cause a rift. Unless that's what she wanted.

Aila was someone I tolerated more than liked. Previously I felt that, despite all her innuendo, she made Joel happy and I'd put up with her company. What also frightened me was that if I treated her poorly it would put Joel in a bad spot. Even though I was his best friend and girlfriends come and go, it wasn't right to put him in a spot where he felt he had to choose. Like most guys I think he'd choose the keeper of his nookie and try to work it out with me after they broke up. I was sure they would eventually. Who finds their other half in high school?

I half expected Joel to call that night or stop over, but it was Friday and he and Aila were probably out at the movies or something. It was just as well. I didn't feel like dealing with the issue but as I thought about it, waiting till tomorrow might prove less convenient than I had first thought. Joel would come over and he'd want to figure out how to patch things up, which was patently silly. He didn't do anything wrong after all, but it had to be dealt with eventually what with Aila being his loudmouthed girlfriend for now. Tomorrow would be harder to get away and accomplish what I wanted to; I also realized that shadows were everywhere so if Gideon were going to do something to me, the afternoon sunshine wouldn't help me at all.

Given all that, I decided to go now. I glanced at the clock and was shocked to see all my deliberating had only moved the clock to eight thirty. Although I had showered upon returning from practice, the clothes I had on just wouldn't do. Sweats are great around the house but not what I wanted Gideon to see me in before he threw me out for being hot for him, swallowed me whole in a shadow and sucked my life out through my eyeballs or something. I went to the closet and quickly chose a button up and comfortable jeans and threw on my sneakers.

This was at least normal looking for me.

I waved to my parents and said I was going to go out and would be back soon. My curfew was midnight and my folks just nodded as I headed out the front door. I set out down the street and then pulled up short. I had no idea where Burnside Terrace was. I headed back in, ran up to my room and googled the address. So armed I departed again at a steady pace. Streetlights were on but spring was clearly in the air, the night was brisk but not cold enough for a jacket. I ran my fingers through my hair and tried to figure out where to start my conversation with Gideon. I saw you kill a guy might not be the way to go. Of course I may not get that far anyway, depending on how freaked he was about Aila and her little revelation.

Burnside Terrace was a well lit group of houses with steep front yards which had a low brick wall, a row or six of flowers or other foliage, and then another low brick wall. The street wasn't large so it was kind of weird that the address number was so high, I thought. At the end of the street, actually in a very bright and welcoming home, was 3366 Burnside Terrace. I approached the house on a sloping gravel driveway, the round pebbles crunching underfoot. Small garden lights marked the area where the gravel turned into a concrete walk, taking a winding path through the lawn and to the front door. Before I could think of knocking or trying one last time to come up with something to say or to turn away and forget the whole mess, the door opened.

A middle aged man faced me, his hair disheveled and a walrus mustache hiding his upper lip. A large nose drooped over the top of the mustache and his cheeks drooped, small bags sagging from each side of his face. His eyes were bright and alert and he smiled at me and said:

"You're over thirty minutes, the pizza is free."

I stared at him. "Pizza?" I asked.

"Yes, pizza. Half artichoke and spinach for me, and half pepperoni and sausage for the little barbarian. Did you know that pepperoni is just sausage in Italy? I say that because as a pizza man, you may be interested. If you want a pepperoni pizza in Italy you have to ask for it with salami. To them Pepperoni is asking to have peppers put on it."

"That's...um...fascinating but," I shrugged at him, "I'm not a pizza delivery guy."

He had been stooping, leaning a bit closer to me as he had delivered his quick pizza fact, but now stood upright and looked down on me, "Then by your current speech, you must be my loquaciously challenged friend, master of the 'Um'."

His brow went up as he waited for me to respond.

"Um," I replied, and then felt like I should have slapped myself.

"Yes, those would be your credentials. Enter, but you'd have been much more welcome had you brought pizza. You're sure you don't have pizza?"

"I'm sure."

"More's the pity. Come in, come in before the neighbors begin to gossip."

I stepped into the house and was overwhelmed trying to take in the eclectic mix of items. The wall as you walked in was truly no indication of the rest of the house, in fact it was almost like it was to make the house appear 'normal' until you got deeper in, when its wild underbelly was revealed. Behind the door was a small wall with a mirror and half moon table. A dish rested on the table with coins and paper money but the mirror was what drew your attention. The edges were decorated in a sunburst pattern and alternated between red, green and yellow glass. The glass in the center was your average mirrored glass, with some crazing at the edges. It looked to be an antique, pretty but it gave no clue as to the rest of the house.

Just out of view of the door the house seemed to sprout every conceivable item in imagination; it looked like a wizards sanctum inhabited by a hoarder; this was way beyond pack rat. Something moved somewhere in the room, and shifted a pile of items in the process. I turned to look uncertainly at Mr. Woolcott and he smiled benignly and made a shooing motion. He spun suddenly and opened the door once more saying, "you're late, the pizza is free!"

I turned my back to him and began navigating left through the racks with small bottles and unidentifiable items placed haphazardly. Between the racks there would be a small oasis of semi-normality; a bare area with a statue or a suit of armor. One area was completely blank, its statuary missing from it's pedestal. Through a small arch I could see the kitchen, the counter alive with small potted herbs and the ceiling festooned with hanging plants that grew towards each other as though seeking solace in a fellow plant.

The kitchen was to my right, and I could only see through the archway into that room. To my left was a hallway that took a sharp right turn after maybe five or six feet. I hesitated to move down the hallway, unsure if that was where I was expected to go as well as wondering what had just moved under a pile of...stuff. The front door closed behind me and I turned to face Mr. Woolcott as he approached with a pizza box in hand.

"He wasn't happy, but I told him a policy is a policy." He stopped just in front of me, "But I'm no idiot, I gave him something anyway. Next time he'd spit on my food or something." He contemplated me for a moment before his brow furrowed.

"Do you speak?"

I looked at him dumbly for a moment and then replied, "Yes, but I wasn't sure what you said needed a response."

"Yes, yes that is a good position, silence is undervalued. But I thought you were here to see the little barbarian, eh? Something about a school project, which I am increasingly sure by the way is the part you were lying about."

I stared at him. "Um."

"Good lord," he said turning away from me, "I've rendered him speechless. Down the hall, second door on the right."

I stood rooted for a moment and my mind suddenly slipped back into gear and I realized he meant my destination was down the hall, second door on the right. I started to walk towards the entrance of the hallway and he called me back, handing me two paper plates with a few slices of pizza on each.

"Tell the him if he wants a drink, to come get it. It would be nice if he served one to his guest too," he said sarcastically.

I nodded and headed down the hall and as I reached the end, before it made it's right turn, I noted a faint drawing in something very light, maybe pencil. It was a design I couldn't interpret; a mix of symbols. I saw stars with five, six, eight and twelve points and others that I couldn't recognize at all. A moment later they were gone, and I closed my eyes and opened them again, as if that would somehow clear my vision; the wall was blank however as if I had imagined it all.

I moved down the hall, glancing back to see if the markings were back, but the wall remained blank. I reached the second door in the hall, and the hall was markedly different from the body of the house in that there were no signs of the clutter I had previously encountered. I thought I saw pencil markings here and there from the corner of my eye, but when I turned to look at them straight on there was nothing there.

Stopping in front of the door I took a deep breath and, balancing the two plates, knocked on the door. There was a rustling from behind the door and then it opened with a curious expression on Gideon's face. His curiosity slipped into a surprised look, and then into guarded neutrality.

"Hi," I said and then remembered I had pizza in my hand, "I have pizza."

His eyes narrowed. "Woolcott." He sighed and opened the door. "Did he say anything else when he gave you the food?"

"Um. He called you a little barbarian and said something about you getting drinks." I shifted on my feet and took stock of Gideon. His hair was hanging down across one eye and he was tossing his head to put it back in place, but it stubbornly kept sliding down. He was dressed down for being at home, tee shirt and sweats and in his socks.

Gideon rolled his eyes and stood aside, "Have a seat, I'll grab sodas." I entered his room and he stopped just as he was heading out of the door. "Do you drink soda?"

"Um, yeah, not much though."

"Okay, be right back. Oh and, don't leave the room, please." The timbre of his voice had changed and his face had no trace of humor.

I nodded at him as he headed out and I took stock of his room. A small bed sat along the left wall, a single. The room was neat, his school clothes from earlier in the day hung on pegs on the wall. The right hand side of the room was dominated with a large desk and flanking floor to ceiling bookcases that were crammed with books, bottles and other materials I didn't recognize. I set the plates down on his desk and sat in the accompanying chair. The headboard of his bed was tucked up against the wall opposite the door, in the corner. There was a door by the foot of the bed, which I assumed was his closet.

Raised voices reached my ears, but I couldn't make out any words. I realized I was breathing quickly, almost panting and I concentrated on slowing my breathing and settling my heart rate. Moments later I heard the soft sound of feet in socks coming down the hall and Gideon appeared in the door.

"Sorry I took so long, Woolcott can be a prick sometimes." Gideon smiled apologetically and handed me a glass. I accepted it and traded him a plate of pizza, and he retreated to his bed with the plate and drink. I set the pizza in my lap, but wasn't very hungry. Gideon, on the other hand, dug into his pizza like he hadn't eaten that day. After a few huge bites, and a satisfied grin appeared on his face, he blushed and swallowed before looking back at me.

"So, ah...Danny? This is kind of a surprise."

"Yeah, I guess it is," I smiled nervously. Now we were going to get down to it, and I'd either find out I was nuts or he was going to swallow me whole in shadows.

He bit into his pizza again and I realized he was eating the crust of hi second slice; he had wolfed two slices in under a minute I think! I handed him my plate, as I had eaten at home and wasn't hungry. Plus I was nervous as all hell.

He reached for my plate quizzically, "You don't like pizza?"

"I had dinner at home before coming over," I replied.

"Oh, well," He put the plate down on his bed, " I feel kinda weird eating in front of you."

"Please, eat. Lukewarm pizza sucks, and you can really only have cold pizza for breakfast." I replied.

"Thank you!" he raised his hands, palms up, and glanced heavenward before looking back at me, "I don't know how many times I've told Woolcott about cold pizza and he just doesn't believe me, won't even try it." He picked the plate back up and bit with gusto.

"I love cold pizza, I usually hide a slice or two when we get it just so I can have it in the morning. My parents think it's just weird, but I'd rather have that than cereal." I opined.

"Seriously," Gideon replied, "Most of the cereal Woolcott gets are way too sugary anyway. He has a ridiculous sweet tooth."

"You don't get a say in the food? Or is he just like, he gets what he wants?" I asked, leaning back in his chair.

"No, he's not a dick like that. About other things, yes, but not about that." He picked up a stray pepperoni and popped it in his mouth. "He orders out all the time though, he says he doesn't know how to cook and he won' t get married because some country song warned him about that."


"I don't know, some song where the guy got married cause he couldn't cook, then got screwed in the divorce. Sometimes what passes for reason with him would get other people tossed in jail I think."

"Oh, no, I mean everyone makes decisions based on country songs, right?"

"Sure, every time they want their wife to leave, their pickup truck to die and their dog to be their only friend." We both laughed at that, and for a moment I forgot why I was here; instead I was enjoying a moment of normalcy with Gideon.

"Hey, you know what happens if you play a country record backward?" Gideon smiled as he put the paper plates down and reached for his drink.

"No, what?"

"Your wife comes back, your truck works again..." he laughed and swigged some soda, then belched loudly.

"Awesome," I said.

"So..." Gideon scooted back on his bed and put his back against the wall. "Woolcott says you're here under false pretenses."

"Yeah," I sighed and glanced around his room once more before meeting his gaze. "I guess I am."

"No matter what happens, you can't tell him we have no science project due." Gideon said solemnly.

"What? Why?" I asked, thrown off and in confusion.

"He gets impossible to live with if he's right. He's convinced he has a touch of foretelling," Gideon rolled his eyes, "You know, seeing the future or something? Mind reading? He says that you're lying about that, so we have to make up a project or he'll drive me bonkers crowing about how he was right."

"Um." I sat and just absorbed that surreal tidbit.

"Yeah, you need to stop that too, he thinks you're practically a mute."

"Oh, yeah, he gave me some shit about that."

"So, not that some company is a bad thing but," Gideon fixed his brown eyes on me, "Why are you here Danny?"

Here it was. I decided to tackle the bit about what Aila told him first, because if I asked him about his Prince of Darkness act he might suck my soul out or something and I'd never even get to find out if he's freaked by what she said. Although, he did seem pretty damn calm.

"Well, first I kind of wanted to apologize for garlicking you to death the other day," I smiled sheepishly, "Trust me when I say that had some unintended consequences."

"I have to admit, I have never seen anyone eat raw garlic. And I love garlic, Italian food is awesome, but I can't imagine eating a whole clove raw," he tossed his head back and laughed. "You're eyes were running and your nose...it was so gross but so funny all at once."

"Yeah, I must have looked like shit," I smiled.

"You were a mess," He agreed and sipped his drink. I took a moment to do the same.

"I was going to apologize this afternoon, but I saw you talking with Aila and I kind of need to talk to you about that, I think."

His eyes narrowed a fraction, "You need to talk to me about what Aila said?"

"Yeah, I mean, she's totally out of line. I'm not embarrassed or anything, I am who I am but still I didn't appreciate what she did. I thought maybe you were a little pissed the way you reacted."

"You're right, she had no business, but I'm kind of surprised you two casually talk about things like that."

"Well, she kind of puts her nose in everything, you know?"

"Yes, I do," Gideon nodded for emphasis. "Ever since I got here she's been giving me friendly advice." He made a sour face.

"Yeah, she has a habit of doing that. Normally I can ignore her, but this just pissed me off."

"This is kind of liberating, talking about it and not, you know, hiding or whatever." Gideon smiled.

"Yeah, I have to admit this could have gone worse. Lots of guys kind of freak out when they find out another guy thinks they're hot," I smiled and felt my cheeks go a little red.

"Yeah...wait, what?" Gideon looked confused.

"Aila...you guys argued this afternoon."

"Yes we did, sort of, but not about...wait, what do you think she and I argued about?" Gideon asked.

"She..." I felt the happy mood slipping away and realized I may have made a mistake. "She told me that she warned you to stay away from me."

"Why would she do that? And what guy thinks I am..." Gideon's eyes widened. "You told her...and she told you that I wasn't...so this isn't about light and...oh, shit." Gideon's hands had moved with his words, and stopped during each pause, communication broken down into two parts.

I sighed. "She lied to me."

Gideon's face was schooled to neutrality and then slowly gave way to curiosity. "So, you think I'm hot?"

"I never said that exactly," I mumbled. I wasn't embarrassed to think he knew before, but now that I knew he hadn't known I felt embarrassed to have told him like that. There was no romance to it, no special moment just a clumsy...vomit. That's what it was, I had just ejected it by accident.

"Yes you did. You said 'lots of guys freak out when they find out another guy thinks they're hot'. Ergo, you think I'm hot." Gideon continued his curious study of me.

"Yes I said that, but it was just a figure of speech." I waved him off.

"Well, what did you mean exactly then?"

I looked up at him, into those deep chocolate bedroom eyes and decided I couldn't possibly be any more embarrassed, I may as well just tell him.

"She was bugging me the other day, asking me who I was interested in. I didn't want to say anything at all to her because of how she is. No matter who I told she'd find something wrong with them, some reason why that person wouldn't work for me. So I told her I was interested in you."

"Her reply was?"

I glanced away from his face, "That you weren't my type."

He snorted. "Go on."

"Well, I saw you two argue today and she told me afterward that she had warned you off of me, and I took that to mean she'd told you I was...interested." I glanced up at him and he continued to look at me with curiosity.

"And that's all?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"I mean, that's the only reason you're here? Because you thought she betrayed your confidence?"

"No, that was one reason. If anyone told you, it should have been me. Now I did tell you, so that's that."

"I see," He leaned back against the wall again bouncing his foot on the edge of the bed. "And the other reason? There are at least two."

I inhaled deeply. "I keep having this nightmare, I can't take it anymore. I saw you at the Spring Fling," I put a hand up to silence him as his mouth had opened in protest. "No use denying it, it's burned in my mind. Trust me when I say I'd recognize you anywhere."

He motioned for me to continue.

"I saw this guy get swallowed by shadows, and when I could see again he was dead, and you..." I looked at him, locked my gaze with his. "You were standing in a pool of light from a street lamp with shadows leaking from your eyes, like smoke. I walked towards you, but you stepped out of the light from the street lamp and disappeared."

Gideon remained silent, a thoughtful expression on his face. I was oddly calm, resigned that I would either be laughed out of his room or that the shadows would suddenly gobble up the room with me in it. Either way the spell would be broken, the fear and sleepless nights would come to an end.

Gideon slipped off his bed and reached a hand out to me. "You should go home now, Danny."

I trembled slightly. I wanted to take his hand, to know what it felt like. But overwhelmingly I couldn't walk away with no answer at all.

"I can't just go. I can't sleep. I'm afraid all the time; of nighttime, of shadows."

"Of me?" Gideon asked with his head tilted slightly.

"Sometimes," I nodded.

He pursed his lips and appeared to engage in internal debate. He moved towards me, raising his hand again and I flinched slightly, but other than that I was ready. His hand came down, and turned palm towards my face. I closed my eyes and hoped it would be painless, that I wouldn't scream like that man in the alley.

I felt his fingertips first along the back of my jaw, and then the palm of his hand coming to rest on my cheek; soft and warm, the kind of touch you want to lean into. I waited for the end, felt agony as the time dragged on with no change. I opened my eyes and stared right into his brown eyes, those soft bedroom eyes that held no leaking shadows, no malice.

"Danny you never have to fear the darkness, you will always be safe in it's embrace. I promise you." Gideon smiled, a warm smile. "But now you really do have to go, I still have work to do tonight."

I felt strangely calm. I wanted to ask what his work was, but I decided rather quickly that my attempt at suicide by darkness hadn't gone off the way I thought it could have. Maybe I would live to ask questions another day.

I stood and as I turned towards his door the house shook.

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