"What the fuck was that?" I asked in surprise.
"Um," Gideon stuttered. I reached for the doorhandle and he reached out to stop me, gripping my forearm. I already had the knob in my hand and his pulling on my arm only assisted in opening the door.
"Dude, let go of me. What the hell was that?" I strode out of the room with him snatching at my shirt as I headed down the hallway towards the living room.
"Daniel!" He said sharply as he laid a hand on my shoulder, gripping me enough to slow me down. I looked at him with a mix of fear and irritation. What the hell makes a whole house shudder?
"Gideon, what was that?" I asked him.
His mouth opened, I have no idea what he planned to say because Woolcott's voice rang out in a sing song from the direction of the living room.
"Light bomb! That was a fine test! Look at you, such a splendid job you did!" I looked at Gideon in confusion, and he simply closed his eyes and appeared to be muttering under his breath. I slipped from his grip and strode into the living room to see Woolcott standing in front of a pedestal. When I had passed it before it had been empty, but now there was a badly damaged stone statue. The statue was of a heavyset humanoid, completely wrapped in sculpted armor. In fact it sort of reminded me of an armored lawn gnome.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Light bomb!" Woolcott cried out again in a sing song voice as he turned and fixed me with a joyful smile. "And my defensive measures were a rousing success. I told you he was tall enough," Woolcott sniffed at a point behind me, which was Gideon of course.
"Light bomb?" I asked glancing from Woolcott to Gideon, who was now openly glaring at Woolcott.
"Yes, light bomb. Stop glaring at me." Woolcott sniffed at Gideon and turned back to the armored lawn gnome, "He's almost unscathed!" So saying his hand dropped on top of the statues head...which cracked from the top of it's helmeted head right to the middle of it's stomach.
"Woolcott, he didn't know about light bombs." Gideon hissed.
"Yes, I gathered that from his asking what the hell that was," Woolcott said absently. "This will be harder to repair than I thought. I may need to make a new one." His hand moved up and stroked his chin for a moment, then he threw his hands up in the air and walked to a suit of armor I had noticed on the way in. "Defensis Lucifis!" he stated loudly. The armor shuddered, shifted, and faded from view.
"What...the fuck...just happened?" I stared between Gideon and Woolcott. Woolcott was completely unconcerned, strolling away from me and muttering to himself, which left Gideon looking uncomfortable.
"Don't suppose you'd like to explain that?" Gideon yelled at Woolcott's retreating back. Woolcott stopped, half turned to face us and said, "I had a vision, he plays a part." So saying he turned away and resumed his departure.
I turned to face Gideon who looked pissed off, but at that point it may have been harder to tell which of us was angrier. My fear had completely dissipated and all I really wanted to know was what the holy hell was going on. Well that's not entirely true, I was still a little afraid I was gonna die or get seriously injured, but right then I was back to just wanting to know what was happening.
Gideon looked at me, grimaced and flashed me a disarming smile. "Mind if we go back to my room? I'd like to finish my pizza."
"You going to explain things there?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'll tell you what's up."
I nodded slowly and trailed behind him as he walked back through the house towards the hallway. Behind me something fell hard and as I whirled towards the startling sound I spotted the remains of the armored lawn gnome, shattered on the floor.
"What the hell is that thing?" I asked in frustration. Gideon's hand landed on my shoulder, turning me back towards the hall and his room. As we walked he spoke slowly.
"I don't know if you can believe this but, that's all that's left of a really powerful warding spell."
"Well, you heard him mention a light bomb?"
"Well, one drifted close to the house and that little defensive golem took the shot for us."
"For us? What? What is a light bomb?" We had reached his room and he pushed me in the direction of his bed, and he took a seat in the chair. He picked up his last half slice of pizza and bit into it. He regarded me, chewing slowly.
"It might look like I'm stalling, but I'm not really. This is hard to explain and I'm just trying to figure out how." He bit another piece off his slice and chewed slowly. I tried to be patient, I tried to calm down. I realized I had a small tremor in my hand, probably from the adrenaline of the situation. I let out a long breath and sat looking back at Gideon, really taking the time to study his face.
His hair was staying out of his face this time, apparently it decided when it was staying put and when it wasn't. His brown eyes were unfocused, looking at a point somewhere above and behind me. His gaze reminded me of a model or actor looking of into the middle distance, eyes open but not really seeing anything.
His lips were shiny with pizza grease, which was sort of gross, but sort of not. I watched his cheeks move while he chewed, and watched his adam's apple while he swallowed. I have never felt like more of a freak in my life at any other moment. He brought a napkin to his face and wiped his mouth before turning and setting the plate and crumpled napkin on the desk. He turned to face me and drew one leg up, resting his hands on his knee and peering at me.
"Before I get into everything, I need to ask you a question."
I stared back into his eyes.
"Do you believe in aliens? 'Cause Woolcott is one."
I stared at him, my mind wondering just what the hell he was talking about when he burst out laughing. I smirked at him, his laughing infectious.
"No, really, sometimes I just think he is." His expression slowly sobered. He glanced at my face, looked away and then held my gaze. "Okay, here's the deal. I'll answer some questions, but I can't guarantee I will or even can answer all of them."
"Why did Woolcott say I have a part to play? Part of what?"
"Not just gonna start me off with an easy one are you?" Gideon smiled sourly. "I mentioned to you earlier he thinks he has a touch of foretelling?"
"Well, he really does think that. He is right once in a while, but a stopped clock is right twice a day too."
"So why answer any questions at all, if you don't believe him?"
"Well, he really is impossible to live with if he thinks he's right about something like that. He would have done all he could to say things to you, like mentioning the light bomb," I opened my mouth and Gideon raised his hands, "I'll get to that in a minute.
I nodded and closed my mouth.
"It wouldn't just be tonight. You'd go to the mall and he'd show up, say something cryptic and then bugger off. He kind of makes things come true like that."
I tried to digest that. "Why?"
"Ego?" Gideon shrugged. "He's a strange guy. Good guy, I think, but just weird. He doesn't really tell me what he's thinking or planning, most times I find shit out just like you saw tonight – he makes some statement and I'm stuck with whatever the fallout is."
I scooted back on Gideon's bed, so my back was against the wall. "Light bomb?" I said.
He sighed. "Light bombs are kind of hard to explain without a lot more information. They are a form of, for lack of a better word, magic. They are attracted to the dark, like a mine on the ocean is attracted to metal. When it hits dark, it explodes."
"But it's dark outside, so it just randomly blew up?"
"No, not that kind of dark."
"There is more than one kind of dark?"
"Sure. Think about it, there are plenty of words to describe different types of dark. Twilight. Evening Shade. Sunset. Semi-dark. City dark and country dark. Pitch black. All various stages."
"Okay," I said slowly, "Then what type of dark is a light bomb attracted to?"
Gideon sighed and looked at the ceiling, "It's attracted to me. I'm human dark."
"I don't get it."
"I told you it wasn't simple."
I sat cogitating on that information. "So this bomb was attracted to you. It was trying to...what, kill you?" I looked up in alarm. I know I should have realized this, bombs are rarely sent because people so love and admire each other, but the full weight of the situation had settled on my conscious mind.
"That's a longer story." Gideon stood up.
"No, no, wait a minute," I said standing up to meet him. "That explanation you gave earlier wasn't an explanation." My mind whirled, dancing in incoherent patterns as data tossed itself around my noggin, looking for a way to be interpreted before this opportunity to get a few answers slipped away. "Aila! When I talked about her earlier you were surprised she'd said something to me. You didn't know what...I thought she'd said. What did you think she'd said? You were about to talk to me."
Gideon pushed his fingers through his hair and allowing it to guide his eyes back to the ceiling. He turned away from me to face his far bookcase. He stretched out a hand and shuffled over to it, placing his hand on the spine of one book, tracing it's title and then moving to the next.
"Who did you first tell you were gay? Was it hard for you?"
This I hadn't seen coming. I felt he wasn't dodging my question, entirely, but I wasn't sure where he was headed.
"I was a little nervous at first, like at school I guess. My parents didn't even really react. I think they joined PFLAG maybe, but they just accepted it was who I was. Joel actually," I stopped short. I can't believe I was just going to tell him Joel had kissed me. "Joel cared about it even less than my parents did. For me it was easy, I don' think I ever really came out. I just was."
"Weren't you nervous telling Joel?" His fingers traced their way to the spine of another book.
"Maybe a little. I don't think I ever thought he'd walk away or anything."
"So he's a good friend to you?"
"Yeah, Joel's the best. We've been friends forever, we always have each others back."
"I don't have that." Gideon turned his face, I saw maybe a quarter of it in profile. "I don't spend a lot of time in one place and little things like talking with you earlier like we did? About pizza? Just doesn't happen. I know it's a small thing but you have no idea how...achingly normal that is."
"I...liked that too. But I don't think I understand," I began but was silenced instantly when Gideon wheeled around to face me with shadows leaking from his eyes. I jumped, startled and felt fear clutch at my heart. I waited for the darkness to fall, for the shadows to extend their smoky embrace around me and silence my questions, but it didn't come.
"Because when I tell you that I am a member of a hunted race, a child of the shadows, how soon do you think you're going to talk to me like that again? I was relieved when you got here because I thought Aila had told you. I thought you already knew, that you understood! Not that you had some crush on whoever I am in your mind, but that you already knew who I was.
"Why are you even still here? Scared I'm going to eat your soul? I don't have the strength, so you can stop being scared." His body sagged and for the first time I realized that the shadows around his eyes looked more like weights dragging his eyes downward on either end, giving him a heartbreakingly sad appearance.
We were silent then, he turned away to face his bookshelves while I simply stood, feeling out of place and unsure of what to do next. Of all the possibilities I had entertained of how this night could go, it had never occurred to me that I might be in this position, that Gideon had simply enjoyed my company. How do you tell someone about his...shadowy side and expect them to believe you? Or be your friend?
"When I looked down that alley," I began. I hesitated as his shoulders twitched, and then seemed to slump even more. "I don' t know what I was thinking, chasing that guy. He'd hurt that woman, could have really hurt her; he had a knife you know. I just started to chase him. Like I said, I don't really know what I was thinking, if I caught him he had a knife and I had nothing.
"Then I saw these shadows, like a stormfront of inky night swirling out from the sides of the alleys, from the dark places behind crates and stretch out from sheltered doorways. It swirled out like an iris until it blocked out all the light from streetlamps and floods from the businesses. There was a scream, and then the dark started to blow away like smoke. There you were, at the end of the alley under the streetlamp, with those shadows leaking from your eyes. You looked like...I dunno, some avenging superhero or something."
Gideon barked a small laugh at that.
"I didn't know what to think." I moved over and sat on the corner of his bed. "I did some research, tried to explain what I saw. I admit I was afraid, afraid that because I saw what happened I could be next." I spread my arms out to his unseeing back, "I don't think you can blame me. It was scary to see someone die."
"Yes, it was." Gideon whispered.
"What happened?" I asked softly.
"I was just trying to stop him. I thought maybe if I scared him, he wouldn't do it again. I thought maybe if he saw something overwhelming to his senses that he'd never try to steal or hurt people like that. I guess maybe I did try to act kind of like a hero, but I wasn't really prepared and I wasn't thinking either." Gideon took a deep shuddering breath, and I realized that he was on the verge of crying; this death had been traumatic to him as well.
"I was just practicing traveling. I thought I'd take a quick trip downtown, hear some of the music, maybe walk with real people for a little while, just...get out for a bit I guess. I popped right in that alley and I heard the scream. I turned and saw the guy running down the alley, and I...I guess my adrenaline got going. I was nervous, so nervous I couldn't stop my hands from shaking as I called the shadows in to surround him. I knew the darkness was around my eyes, it always is when I work with the dark, I figured it would frighten him. That's when it went off."
I waited in silence, allowing him time to regroup. It seemed as though he may not continue and so I stood and crossed the room to him, laying a hand on his shoulder, "What went off, Gideon?"
"The light bomb." he whispered. "It was the first one I had ever seen, I'd only heard about them. They were attracted to the gathering I'd done, all those shadows groping in like that. It homed in on the dark and hit it, killing that man inside it. He was crushed in the shockwave."
"I didn't hear anything." I said in confusion.
"The dark and the light kind of cancel each other, you would only have heard regular voices. If the light bomb had hit dark outside it would have been silent."
"So you...you saw him die." I whispered.
He turned slowly to face me, his face in abject misery, " I saw him die. I saw the terror on his face when he saw me with my eyes and then the bomb hit him. Flash of light, you could see the agony on his face as his soul burned, and then he was dead. It was awful."
I reached out and hugged Gideon, and after a moment his arms tentatively wrapped around me, and then he squeezed as his body shuddered with tears and grief.
"You thought I killed him, that's why you were afraid," he whispered, his lips near my ear. I merely nodded.
"I didn't kill him, I swear."
"I believe you," I said. I didn't think there was anything else to really say. We stood like that for a few moments, I giving comfort and he gratefully accepting it. After a few minutes he pulled away from me slowly, first his grip on me loosening and then his eyes met mine, and I saw the dark moving through the whites of his eyes. I say whites, but what could be seen was red and his face puffy.
"I'm sorry, I don't ever cry." He turned from me to take a tissue from the box on his desk and blow his nose.
"It's cool." I replied and resumed my perch on the corner of his bed. His breath hitched a time or two, he blew his nose again and seemed to regain control in stages, finally sitting in his chair and facing me again.
"I still have a lot of questions." I said.
"Yeah, I guess you might." He looked down at his hands, folded in his lap.
"How about you come over for lunch tomorrow and we can just talk?" I asked. His head came up slowly, surprise written on his face.
"Come over for lunch?"
"Yeah, I mean...don't get me wrong I want to know. I am insanely curious but...we have time, right? Friends have lunch together, so we should do that."
"Friends?" He shook his head.
"Well, maybe we can work towards real friends." I stood and looked at him, feeling relaxed and calm for the first time in his room, "You told me a lot of stuff, personal stuff. We shared something that was...horrible to live through. Maybe we need each other a little bit, I don't know but...we started something here. Whatever it is, I'd like to give it a chance. I know how to be a good friend, and I think maybe you need one."
He nodded slowly, surprised maybe that all his words and actions hadn't scared me off. After weeks of being scared, I felt nothing but relief now, no matter how weird the situation was. We walked out of his room and headed back into the living room. Woolcott was sweeping the remains of the statue into a dustpan as we approached.
"You two have a nice talk?" He glanced at both of us, "Yes, no blood. Someone cried, who was it?"
"Shut up," Gideon growled.
"I suspected as much. His barbarous exterior belies a soft underbelly." The plastic dustpan in his hand cracked suddenly under the weght of the stone remains and snapped, dropping it all back to the floor.
"That," Gideon pointed to the mess, "was karma."
"Nonsense, it was cheap Chinese crap. Leaving now then," Woolcott looked pointedly at me, "get that history project done?"
"Yep," I said promptly with a large smile, pleased to recall Gideon's admonition to not let Woolcott think he had been right.
"I knew you were lying, it was a science project when you got here," he sniffed. I deflated and Gideon sighed, pushing me to the door.
"It's late, you little barbarian, you're not going to make him walk are you? I realize the chances of another light bomb are very low, but there are other dangers out there this time of night."
Gideon bit his lip and looked at me. "He's right."
"What are you going to do, walk me home? Then who walks you home?" I asked with a trace of sarcasm.
"Did you turn the lights off in your room before you left?" Gideon asked.
"Yeah," I replied.
Gideon asked me for directions to my house, asked what it looked like from the outside and what my room looked like. I felt like I was giving him a virtual tour and in a total state of confusion as to how this was going to get me home.
"Okay, I think I can find it. Now just relax, traveling requires some concentration and I don't usually travel with anyone."
"Like he never has, ever." Woolcott supplied cheerfully.
"Travel? I don't understand."
"Just relax," Gideon said as he stepped up to me and wrapped me in his arms, "here we go."
I stared into Gideon's brown eyes, saw the dark leaking from them and felt the silky caress of the shadows as they slowly encircled us. I watched them flow from crevices and air ducts, swirling about us. I felt a bump as Gideon and I shifted, and my grip on his tightened to keep my balance. Gideon was smiling serenely at me as the shadows blocked out all view beyond the two of us, hugging each other in a swirl of twisting darkness. Every few moments we'd shift; I felt my stomach lurch once or twice and I instinctively snuggled into Gideon's embrace. At some point the fact that I was holding him registered in my mind and thoroughly distracted me from wondering what the fuck we were doing.
I began to notice a slowing of the swirling intensity around me, a solid feeling that was somehow more 'there' than it had been moments before. I realized at some point the area under my feet had begun to feel insubstantial, and now it had returned to the solidness I expected. Slowly the darkness dissipated and I found myself standing in my room, with my arms still around Gideon.
I felt Gideon release his hold on me, and I regretfully relinquished mine. He glanced around my room and his gaze settled on an area behind me. I turned to see Joel asleep in my computer chair. Gideon raised an eyebrow at me and I shrugged.
"I guess you can explain that sometime," Gideon snickered.
"Yeah, I will. Tomorrow at lunch, 12:30 don't be late."
"Danny..." Shadows began to gather around Gideon again,
"No Gideon, you don't get to back out now, you be here or I'll come find you." The dark had enveloped him and I could tell he was gone, the slight breeze the whirling dark created was gone.
"Who you talking to?" Joel asked as he yawned behind me.
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