Callen maneuvered around the kitchen, humming a small tune. Wolf sat by the counter waiting for the “most awesome breakfast” that the older man promised them. “I heard you asked Harmony out,” Callen said, flipping an egg. “Did she say yes?”
“I want to talk to her dad,” Wolf answered, poking the counter with a thin black pen he had picked up. “Anyway, I didn’t ask her out. She asked me. I think she likes me.”
“Of course she does. The ladies love the mystery man. You came here out of nowhere,” Callen said. “You can’t blame her for wanting to know more about you. But you seem more interested in her father. Is there something I should know?” Callen leaned over the table and winked. “Are both of my sons playing for the same team as me?”
“I’m not your son,” Wolf nearly growled, lowering his eyes at the man. “You’re just the only idiot in town who would take in a weird green stranger.”
“Call me an idiot, but you have a roof over your head and someone who cares about whether or not you come home safe,” Callen said. “So I’m going to pretend like you didn’t disrespect me like that and in the future I won’t refer to you as my son. I apologize if I overstepped any boundaries.”
“I’m sorry…” Wolf mumbled, standing up quickly. “I’ll eat outside today.”
“You can stay,” Callen said. “I’d like to eat with you and Braylen this morning.”
“Wouldn’t want to step in the way of family time,” Wolf said, ducking his head before rushing for the door. In time Callen was sure,he’d come around. To him, Wolf wasn’t the burden he made himself out to be. He was just a misunderstood teen with no parents that hated talking about his life. It reminded him of himself when he was younger. He’d figure out sooner or later that not everyone was out to get him. There’d be that one or two who cared.
The sound of footsteps pounding on the stairs made Callen lift the spatula in the air. “Young man, I hope you’re eating here with me. Wolf booked it and I made a ton of extra bacon.”
“Oh…uh. Yeah,” Came Braylen’s subdues response. He shifted uncomfortable before taking a seat in front of his father.
“What is it, Bray?” Callen asked. “You know you can tell me anything.”
“You know I’m gay?” He asked, looking up at his dad with wonder in his eyes.
“Are you surprised?” Callen asked. “Making out with guys is kinda my thing. Besides, I saw you oggling Pax at Gracie’s birthday party.”
Braylen blushed. “It wasn’t like that. I’m not interested in him, I just thought he looked different in that suit.”
“It’s okay,” Callen replied. “You can look. But don’t get your hopes up. That boy is as straight as an arrow and he’s head over heels in love with Camilla.”
“I know,” Braylen mumbled. “It’s just…there’s no cute guys here that might even remotely be gay. It’s just the same people everywhere. I’m getting bored. It’s stifling.”
“I would have left a long time ago if the rules around Fortitude were more lax like they are today.” Callen took a sizzling piece of bacon from the pan. “But it’s a good thing I didn’t. Because the right guy came here.”
“Is Alistair the one this time?” Braylen asked. “Are you sure? What about Luke?”
“Luke is dead,” Callen said, placing food in a plate for his son. “I don’t think I can kill Alistair, so that’s promising.”
“Dad, I know you’re trying to joke but tell me there’s more substance to your relationship than that. I know how you get. I know what we are. Are you willing to let Alistair in on that? To bring him into our world?”
Callen nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been pushing him away forever, and he’s been pushing me away too. But somehow we can’t stay away from each other. It’s why I made you breakfast. I wanted to ask for your blessing. To ask Alistair to be my official boyfriend, and maybe move in with us…”
“Of course you have my blessing. I’ve been waiting for you to finally admit to yourself that you love him. Just, tell him about Luke. Be honest about who we are and what we do before telling him you want to make things official.”
“I can do that, kiddo. If he turns me down, you’ll still be here, right?” Callen asked in a half joking tone.
“Of course. You’re stuck with me for life, old man.”
When Braylen left to go to his weekend classes, Callen invited Alistair over. While Callen lived a long life, he wasn’t getting any younger and he wasn’t immortal. His and Braylen’s abilities were directly tied into Graciela’s struggle with the darkness. Alistair was finally ready to know about everything. But allowing Alistair in left Callen vulnerable and that scared the fairy more than anything in the world. “Cooking all day,” Callen murmured to himself as he went to get the doorbell that had just rang. A home cooked meal would be the first step to him pouring out his heart to the man. “Good morning, beautiful!” Callen grinned happily, swinging the door open.
With a look of someone hearing the worst news of their life, Alistair raised his hand in a small wave. “Uh…hi. Thanks for having me over.”
Callen straightened up, dusting some flour off of his shirt. Something he had purposefully left on his clothes to earn a flirty comment from the male. Something was wrong. “Al, are you feeling alright?”
“Uh, no. I’m not.” Alistair shook his head, worry creasing his forehead. “I just disappointed my grandchildren. I caused a rift between siblings. So, no I’m not alright. I’m a little frazzled, I guess.”
“Oh…” Callen took in a deep breath. Definitely not as planned but this was real life and he’d help out if he could. “Come on in then and talk about it with me. We can have dessert and then the lasagna.”
“I tell my grand kids not to do that. God, I really am getting old.” Alistair stretched his arms over his head and followed Callen inside. “Dessert first, do you think that’ll make me hip like the young kids?”
“It’s worth a shot, right?” Callen asked, trying to brighten the mood. Alistair sat in the dining room, watching Callen run in and out of the room with plates of food.
“Are you cooking for an army?” Alistair asked, eyes widening at the mass amount of food laid out for him. “You must have been cooking all morning.”
“Yeah, because I wanted you to see that I can totally be domestic,” Callen said.
Alistair looked up at the man and frowned. “Okay, what? What has gotten into you?”
Callen raised a brow. “Is that a trick question? You did, in more ways than one.” And he supplied his innuendo with a wink to seal the deal. Normally Alistair would chuckle, but he was wholly unimpressed. “Ok, so I take it you’re not really into this whole thing. I’m laying it on too thick, aren’t I?”
“No! No!” Alistair shook his head. ” I appreciate the effort, and I think what you’re trying to tell me. I just wish it came at a better time. Because I’m going to sound like an asshole when I tell you this.”
“Tell me what?” Callen frowned, sliding into the seat next to Alistair. “You’re scaring the hell out of me.”
“I uh…fuck.” Alistair frowned. “This is really hard for me to say. I don’t want to tell you this.”
“Just say it,” Callen pressed, reaching out for Alistair’s hand. “You can tell me anything. You do know that right?”
“Yeah, I do. But did you want to hear that I’m leaving Fortitude for Moonlight Falls and I don’t know when I’m coming back?”
Callen let out a shaky breath. “You…you want to leave?”
“That’s what Graciela said too,” Alistair mumbled. “I do want to leave. I was the Keeper of Magic and I just abandoned my mages. My family came first, but now that they’re safe and sound I can go back and see to it that the unjust ruler is out of power.”
“I can’t stop you, even if I tell you that I planned this whole thing to tell you that I wanted you to be my official boyfriend? And that I was going to come clean about who me and Braylen really are, about my past lover Luke and about my feelings for you?” Callen frowned. “This is really bad timing. I should have told you sooner.”
“No, you weren’t ready and neither was I. Maybe this is the perfect timing for the both of us. Because I…I care about you a lot. I really do.”
“There’s a but in there somewhere,” Callen said. “But you love Declan.”
“Don’t you still love Luke?” Alistair asked, grasping for straws.
“I love you,” Callen said clearly. “Luke is dead and in the past. I’ll always have a soft spot for him but he doesn’t make me feel like you do. You make my heart jump. I feel comfortable being around you and no matter how hard I push you away, you’re still here. You’re the smartest man I know with the biggest heart. For Watcher’s sake, Alistair you’re going back to a place that you know is dangerous because you want to save the people who looked up to you. Fuck man, tell me how I could love Luke over you.”
Callen shut his eyes tightly as he continued speaking. I can’t. Just because Luke was my first love doesn’t mean he’s the only thing I ever think about. I just…I hold onto his memory because he was the only one who saw me and didn’t run away. He was the only friend I ever had. He believed in me every step of the way, and I love him for it. But I’m not in love with him. Al, I can’t stop thinking about him because I’m the reason he’s dead.”
“I understand that the reason you’re so hung up on Declan is beyond my comprehension. I have never been married to someone I loved for so long and had them walk out on me and pop up again later. Luke and I were just young lovers and we didn’t even scratch the surface of hardship that you and Declan faced. So I can’t expect you to be over him. I just thought I had a shot.”
“You do have a shot,” Alistair said.
“That’s why you’re going to tell me that you’re leaving and I have to stay here!” Callen cried slamming his hand onto the table. “I can see it in your eyes.”
“Because you have a teenage son who I doubt you want to just grab and ship out of here!” Alistair argued back.
“We just talked about how stifling this place was! He would jump at the opportunity and I think Moonlight Falls would be an awesome place to hone his skills. If he’s going to help Graciela on her journey, then he needs to see what else is out there.”
“What do you mean?” Alistair asked, raising a brow. “He’s going to help Graciela?”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you!” Callen cried again. “Braylen and I are agents of death. Or so people like to call us. We can travel to the underworld, which is a place that connects all of the dead from every dimension before they cross over. That’s why people are afraid of me. Because when the time is right, we have to make a trip to the underworld and go through the trials set up for us. It’s our rite of passage. If we don’t, and we avoid it…people start dying.”
Callen pointed to the tattoo on his arm. “These started showing up after people died. These were people who talked to me for five seconds on the street. This one here,” He pointed to a small patch of blue on the left. “The paper boy who I said thank you to on my way to work every morning. The one here on my leg is the woman who took my card for a library book.”
Callen let out an angry sigh. “This was centuries ago, before I was even sent to mate with another fairy. I was banned from having anything to do with my fairy elders because of my ability. Rather, that’s what they called it. I always called it a curse. I always asked myself why the hell I had to go down to the underworld and speak to it’s keeper? Like, what the hell could I do that would be so important? That I was literally born to do. What?”
Alistair remained silent as Callen talked, taking in all of this information. “The deaths didn’t happen right away. They were random. After I got a call. Well, it was more of a voice in my head summoning me. It told me to come to the underworld and pretty much wrote it off as some hallucination. I didn’t go and the first person died, and I got this freaking tattoo. I didn’t put the pieces together until it was too late, because everything was random. I didn’t know who I talked to would be taken from me.”
“Until it was Luke,” Alistair concluded.
“Yeah, that was when it finally clicked. I fucking killed the only man who ever really loved all of me, because I didn’t want to help the fairies. That’s all this was for me. Revenge of being ostracized from the group I was supposed to belong in. Back then, centuries ago, people stuck to their groups. We didn’t venture out of our supernatural clans. But when even your own safe space isn’t open for you and being shunned by even my own freaking parents, Al….what more could I do? Support them? My freaking parents got rid of me, the moment they saw I had white wings.” Callen placed his head in his hands.
Alistair placed a comforting hand on the man’s back. “It sucks not being wanted. I know that.”
“You want to know more,” Callen began, tossing Alistair’s words of comfort to the side. “You want to know what I owed my people, and why I had to go to the underworld, right?”
Callen waved him off. “Save the comforting words. I don’t need them. I’ve made my peace a long time ago.” Callen took in a deep breath. “When I went to the underworld I asked the keeper why I had to do this and it’s because us agents of death keep the darkness away. The one killing off all these people was the darkness, because back then it had no host. I was the one who was supposed to keep it in check somehow, but I ignored the call so it ran rampant and took the lives of so many. One death per tattoo on my body. It marked me so I would never forget.”
“But now the darkness is inside of my granddaughter. How did that happen?” Alistair asked.
“I don’t know. I did what the keeper asked of me, which was confront the darkness head on. It made me challenge it to a duel of strength and wits. I literally had to crawl my way through seven tribulations to prove my worth. And then, it submitted to me. But I guess that time is over. I don’t know, maybe Graciela can ask what it wants. All I know now is that to keep the darkness at bay someone, whether it be Graciela, Braylen, or hell even Leon…” Callen recalled the mention of legend and wondered if the boy had anything to do with this journey that would need to be taken. “They have to take on the darkness head.”
“On their own?” Alistair asked.
“I had some help down there. An agent by the name of Asher, who is the gatekeeper of the underworld for our dimension. And I got to have Luke with me, because the keeper let me have one helper who had passed over. I figured he would be able to cover any spots I missed. So, together with some luck and skill we took on the darkness and it surrendered.”
“Something tells me it wasn’t that easy,” Alistair said.
“No, it wasn’t. It was tough for us to take on the darkness. Asher could guide us but not intervene. And with just Luke and I….we couldn’t finish the tribulations. I didn’t want to scare you…”
“But you opened your mouth so now you have to tell me everything!” Alistair exclaimed. “All of it.”
“I made a deal with the keeper of the underworld. That’s why Braylen has the white wings. I didn’t understand the magnitude of my actions then, but the keeper made me promise to send my first born to the underworld to try again. This time, with a more permanent solution then him having to put it to sleep for the time being. I thought I was screwing him over, because I’d never have a kid. The faeries didn’t want me, until they suddenly did and I had to do my duty. Bullshit.” Callen tried to smile to lighten the mood but the tension was too high already.
“So Leon is in school prepping for whatever this is?” Alistair asked, putting the pieces together.
“Maybe,” Callen surmised. “Or maybe it’s something else. I couldn’t tell you. It would make sense. He talked about a legend, and if it’s the legend I’m thinking of, it doesn’t look good.”
“These legends…could they be seer’s tales? We were brought here by deciphering one and then my nephew found one many years ago. If so, I’m a seer. I don’t know what that means for this, but I can help.”
“Not if those kids are here and we’re in Moonlight Falls,” Callen pointed out.
“We’re?” Alistair asked.
“You didn’t say no to me. Even if you don’t love me, I still value your friendship above all else. I don’t want to lose you. And I really think that Braylen could benefit.”
“I do love you,” Alistair said. “I just can’t ignore that I have feelings for Declan too. That’s something I have to figure out on my own.” Alistair frowned. “I thought time apart would help that.”
“If that’s what you want,” Callen said, his voice dropping. “I’ll respect it.”
“It’s not!” Alistair cried. “Don’t you see that? It’s not what I want, I’m just trying to get you the hell out of my mind.”
“You just…I’m a monster. You didn’t acknowledge that”
“I can’t stop thinking about that scumbag. Maybe I just love him. I’m not in love with him.” Alistair squeezed Callen’s arm. “Declan is a monster, not you. You didn’t ask for anything that happened to you. I respect you so much more knowing what you’ve been through was just as hard as what I had to go through, maybe even harder. I don’t want to walk away from this now, and being your boyfriend sounds freaking awesome.”
“There’s another but,” Callen said with a prominent frown. “There’s always a but with you.”
“But you made this ten times more complicated. I mean, everything you said makes sense but we have to do something about Graciela, Braylen and Leon. How do we know when Braylen will get the call? Why is the darkness within Graciela?”
“Braylen will most likely hear the call when I heard it, at age 18. Which is soon. That’s why I think we should train him and Gracie, and maybe Leon. Because if the legend is right and he’s her light, then those three kids were fated to meet. This journey can’ be stopped.”
“I should postpone my trip then,” Alistair said.
“No. Do you think that peace will be reached over there while you’re here? Do what you have to do. Leon is in school now and that might train him for what he has to do. But we can take Graciela and Braylen. Train them.”
“She won’t leave Leon,” Alistair mumbled.
“Explain this to her,” Callen said. “All of it. Then, let’s convene again.”
“Are you kciking me out?” Alistair mused.
“Absolutely not.” Callen winked. “We have a five course meal to finish. But you can bring the leftovers to Charlotte and Jeff to butter them up.”