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[personal profile] vanillafluffy
This is a classic case of "One thing leads to another". The original prompt was The Covenant, Caleb/Chase, Chase didn’t use at the pool . Which I filled. And did a follow up for. And got a request for more...so here it is:



Brunch


Not having a car can be really inconvenient. In this case, it means a three-mile cross-country hike out to the old Putnam barn through fields that are still mucky from last night’s rain.

Chase slogs through the mud. His backpack is loaded down with food. It’s hospitality, a show of goodwill, and it’s the good stuff. The joke will be on him if nobody shows, he thinks, clambering over a stone wall.

There’s a long string of ‘ifs’—if Caleb remembers about the meeting, if he’s told the others, if he doesn’t oversleep—which is entirely possible, given the gonzo amount of energy Ascending drains out of a guy—if they’re open-minded and not automatically hostile because of the whole John Putnam business—if things go right, he’ll finally have friends with some common ground.

He hitches the straps on his backpack a fraction. He’d been normal enough until he turned 13…then the advent of his early Power had set him apart. He’d gotten a grip on it eventually, but meanwhile word had gotten out—Stay away from Chase Collins! Weird shit happens when he’s around.

The barn is a distant presence, a dark silhouette across a field of autumn-bleached grass. It’s only twelve-thirty, and he’d suggested two as the meeting time, so he should be there well in advance of the others. Time enough to scope out the landscape, to review what he wants to say, although he keeps in mind that they’ll have questions.

There’s a knot in the pit of his stomach, because what if they decide they don’t want him to join their circle? There are four of them and only one of him; granted, Caleb’s the only one who’s Ascended, but if they decide to psychically dog-pile on him, he’s fucked.

Would they? He doesn’t think Caleb would, and he’s the strongest. Pogue is the jealous type, he’s seen that from the business with Kate. He and Caleb seem to be tight, but that could go either way. Will he accept Chase if Caleb does, or will he feel threatened?

Reid has a mouth on him—he remembers him cracking wise in Lit class when they were talking about Stephen King—and he likes Using: at least twice the night of the party at the Dells and again at Nicky’s. Chase doesn’t know the guy well enough to be sure which way he’ll jump.

Tyler is the youngest…he probably won’t start anything, but if the others do, he’ll follow their lead.

Think good thoughts, he counsels himself. Worst case scenario, I’ll Use Big and get the hell out of there. Losing a little time long term beats getting the crap beaten out of me in the short term.

The barn’s weathered timbers loom in front of him. He’s accustomed to historic structures, but this one seems particularly ominous—maybe because he knows its history. Its age is impressive—the massive beams were hewn more than a century before the colonies became a country, shaped with hand tools and raised with nothing more than a block and tackle and teams of horses…unless, of course, John Putnam and his then-friends had sped the process by extraordinary means.

Thinking of John Putnam makes him shudder. There’s an iron ring affixed to one of the support beams—was that where he was tied? And how had they subdued him enough to mete out his punishment?

There were four of them, he realizes. Four against one, just like today.

Easing the weight of the backpack from his shoulders, Chase arranges the edibles on an old packing crate. There’s more than food in there, but he’ll present that later. He climbs the ladder up to the hayloft, ready to catch himself if it falls apart. As he’d hoped, there’s a good view of the countryside, looking toward Ipswich along a road lively with autumnal color. Barely stirring, the leaves are a brilliant tapestry of yellow and crimson.

It’s a quarter of one. There’s no traffic on the two-lane road, and he leans against the frame of the loft door. He’s comfortable, not warm, not chilled. His eyelids droop, and he rouses with an effort. A vehicle glides down the road, just an old pickup truck, which keeps going….

At one thirty-eight, a convoy turns into the rutted track leading up to the barn. Caleb’s graphite-grey Mustang is in the lead—should he be driving?—followed by Tyler’s black Wagoneer. Pogue’s bright yellow crotch-rocket brings up the rear.

They probably think they’re here before him, since there’s no car. Car doors slam, and he can hear the low rumble of voices. Chase takes a deep breath, trying to ground himself. He’s committed to this, needs it…and he’s never been so scared before in his life.

“Somebody’s been here,” Reid says loudly from downstairs

Chase takes another lungful of air and responds, “I’m up here.” He walks to the edge of the loft, gazes down at the quartet looking up and eyeing him speculatively.

He might as well do it right…or wrong, as the case may be. He steps out into space, and Uses to lower himself upright to the ground.

“How did you do that?” Tyler asks.

“Who are you?” Reid wants to know.

“What are you?” Pogue demands. His tone is harsh, and Chase thinks Uh-oh.

Only Caleb says nothing. He’s standing tensely, as if braced for a blow. His dark eyes meet Chase’s and he doesn’t look like he’s slept at all.

“Caleb,” he says, “you need to take care of yourself.” Two steps toward his friend, when a wave of Power slams him against a beam.

“Stay away from him,” Pogue growls.

Power pins him there beneath the iron ring, and it takes massive amounts of willpower for Chase to resist the urge to overPower him. Staying calm is an effort, but so far, Pogue’s the only hostile; fighting back is liable to set off the others.

The next threat comes from a direction he doesn’t expect. The pressure holding him in place is suddenly gone, and Pogue is thrown violently backward. He careens into Reid and they both go down.

“Stop it!” Caleb roars. “Stop it! Make it stop!” The last comes out as a plea and he’s huddled in a crouching position holding his head.

Pogue and Reid are dragging themselves up from the floor. Tyler eases over to where Chase stands, staring at Caleb, who keeps repeating, “Make it stop….”

“What’s wrong with him?” Tyler says in a low voice.

“More Power than he knows what to do with,” Chase answers matter-of-factly.

“How do you know about Power?” Tyler then asks.

“Good question,” says Pogue, although he says it from where he’s dusting himself off. “How the hell do you know anything about anything?”

“Because I Ascended back in July. But that’s not important—“

“The hell it’s not!”

Chase holds up his hand. “Look, one thing at a time. In case you haven’t noticed, Caleb’s not having a real good day. Let’s worry about him first.”

Pogue steps forward. He’s conspicuously keeping his distance from Chase, approaching Caleb from the other side. Reid stands between the two of them, which is pretty gutsy, Chase thinks.

“Don’t Use,” Caleb says suddenly, breaking off his litany of pleas to stop. “Hurts…like a knife in my brain…I want to Use so bad…I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop…don’t want to start, but it hurts….” It’s almost a monotone.

“Okay, I understand,” Chase soothes him. “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.” He looks directly at Pogue.

“I didn’t know,” Pogue mumbles, glaring at Chase.

“Don’t look at me,” Chase says without heat. “I was solo when I Ascended. Caleb, nobody here wants to hurt you. We’re not going to let that happen, right, guys?”

A low murmur of assent, and Caleb lets go, sitting gracelessly on the rough plank floor. He still seems pretty spacey, and even Pogue is starting to look more concerned than pissed off.

“Eat something,” Chase urges him. “Your body needs fuel.”

Reid examines the spread. “Steak jerky…a whole smoked salmon…sardines? Yuck.”

“I like sardines,” Tyler says, scanning the foodstuffs. “And pate. Ooh, stuffed olives.” He starts loading up a disposable plate and grabs one of the cartons of shelf-stable milk before taking a seat on the floor.

“La-di-damn-dah,” Pogue mutters as Chase hands Caleb a pouch of tuna and a fork. “Looks like my mom’s idea of Sunday brunch without the scrambled eggs.”

Reid’s grabbed some of the steak jerky, a wedge of cheese and some fancy crackers. “Don’t knock it,” he says to Pogue around a mouthful of Gouda. “I’ve been to your mom’s brunches. That crabmeat quiche of hers is awesome. I’m lucky if my mother makes pancakes a couple times a year.”

“The point is, it’s quality protein.” Chase tells them. “All this energy we’re giving off has to come from somewhere, right? I think the right diet will help offset some of the side effects of Using.”

“You can’t know that,” Pogue shakes his head and hacks slices off a salami like he thinks it’s going to fight back.

“No, not unless one of you guys wants to go into pre-med and do research.” Chase spears an olive. “But I had a physical a few weeks after I Ascended—blood tests, bone density scan, the works. and now I’m being a lot more careful about what I eat and I’m popping vitamins like Tic-Tacs. Sardines aren’t my favorite thing in the world, but they’re loaded with calcium. In fact—”

“Okay, enough with the food police PSA,” Pogue snaps. “You were going to tell us how you know all of this stuff.”

“Right.” Chase reaches into his backpack and slowly pulls out the clipboard. He hands it to Reid, who starts scanning the pages. “To begin with, I’m adopted. My birth mom died when I was two, and I was adopted by my godmother and her husband. My mom’s a historian and amateur genealogist.” He pauses, realizing he just used the present tense again, and sighs. “She traced her family tree back to the Mayflower, and she was in the DAR. She decided to trace my family tree, and got kind of alarmed, because a lot of the men on my dad’s side died off before they hit forty. Fifty if they were lucky.”

There are nods from around the table, and then Reid yelps, “Holy shit!” He’s staring at a page on the clipboard, then he looks up at Chase, gob-smacked.

“What is that?” Caleb asks.

“It’s a genealogy,” Reid tells him, “going all the way back to Hagan Pope.”

“Who the hell is Hagan Pope?” Pogue asks impatiently. “What? I never heard of him!”

Caleb’s lost the dazed expression, Chase is pleased to see. His voice is strong as he answers, “Hagan Pope’s mother was one of the witnesses against John Putnam. Hagan was born almost eleven months after she was widowed.”

“So she was fooling around—“

“She said John Putnam came to her in her dreams as an incubus. There was a big scandal about a widow having a child that couldn’t possibly have been her husband’s,” Caleb continues, ”and for their protection, the Sons of Ipswich paid their passage to the Virginia colony. There, Goody Pope could present herself as a widow and Hagan as her husband’s posthumous child.”

“She married a widower, who raised the boy as his own,” Chase takes up the story, “and while there isn’t any direct evidence that they had Power, I did some research on that side of my family. Things like cross-checking census records and news stories of the day, and there were enough unexplained happenings in the vicinity that I’m pretty sure they did.”

“Okay,” Pogue challenges him, “but how did you put it all together? How did you find us?”

Chase smiles. Pogue’s not dumb; he’s asking the important questions, and he’s tenacious. Dude, he thinks, I want you on my side. “Let me back up a little. When I was 13, I got my first taste of my Powers. No warning, just pow! I had no idea what it was, it really freaked me out—“

“All alone? Tyler is horrified.

“I can’t even imagine,” Reid agrees.

“I was in my room---we’d just gotten back from taking a bunch of my friends out for pizza and laser tag, and it hit me. I didn’t know what was happening. My whole bed levitated and crashed down—Mom was downstairs, she thought it was a sonic boom or something—I was scared stiff and clueless.”

“No doubt!” Reid exclaims. “What did you do?”

“Nothing, at first. I didn’t know I could do anything. I just felt…strange. All kinds of freaky stuff kept happening…channels changing on the radio or the TV if I didn’t like what was on, kids who hassled me tripped or dropped things, dishes moved, lights went on and off—I didn’t even know it was me doing it, but people started to realize that it only happened when I was around, and pretty soon, I didn’t have any friends left.” Chase takes a couple swallows of milk, and tells them what he’s never told anyone. “For a while, before I found out the truth, I thought it was aliens.”

“Aliens?” Pogue is incredulous. “Seriously?”

“Hey, all I knew was, all of a sudden, I got super powers. I didn’t have any rational explanation for it, so I figured I got hit by some kind of alien mega-ray.”

Pogue and Reid are both chuckling, Caleb looks like he’s fighting the urge to join them, but Tyler says thoughtfully, “It’s really not that bad of an explanation, when you think about it. Wasn’t it Isaac Asimov who said ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’? And if you didn’t know there really is such a thing as Power, alien technology is a rational, scientific explanation.”

“It was either that, or a radioactive spider bite. Because I could climb walls….” Pogue’s mirth is infectious. Chase grins sheepishly, “Hey, I was 13.”

“He’s got no room to laugh,” Caleb interjects, reaching for the salmon. “Or have you forgotten that you wore Spiderman pajamas until your mom couldn’t find them in your size anymore?”

“Shut up,” says Pogue, flushing. He flicks a cracker at Caleb, who catches it in mid-air and flicks it back with a smirk.

“So how did you figure out what was going on?” Tyler wants to know.

“The next summer, my mom went down to Virginia for a few weeks to do some research, and I went with her, because by then, I didn’t really have any friends left. And while we were there, I came across this book…” He produces Exhibit B from the backpack and holds up Chronicles of Paganism. “I was going to give it to her for Christmas, because it was so old, but then I read the damn thing. There’s a chapter on the witches of Ipswich, and I recognized some of the names from the genealogy Mom did.”

“I’ve read that,” Pogue says. “It doesn’t tell about the Power, or Ascending, or any of that.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Chase agrees. “I learned about that from my great-grandfather.”

“No way in hell,” says Pogue. “Grandfather would be stretching it. Great-grandfather? One of us? I’m not buying it.”

“My sperm donor was born in 1960. His father was born in 1938. They both died before they were 40. My grandfather’s dad was born in 1917, and he died last December. I tracked him down the summer before last. He showed me a lot of old family pictures…and I look a hell of a lot like him when he was my age.”

“One of us made it to 90-something?” Caleb voices the disbelief they’re all feeling.

Chase nods. “He told me about it. He said he was young and crazy when he first Ascended, and when the war started, he was sure he could win it single-handed, so he enlisted. He got over there, said he aged about five years in ten minutes on D-Day, then he got hit with shrapnel and lost his arm. He told me he woke up in a hospital with nothing above his left elbow, and he said he never Used again, because if he couldn’t grow his arm back, what good was having Power? He got shipped home and went back to the family farm.

“When his son Ascended, Gramps tried to convince him not to abuse his Power, but he left for college, did his own thing and never came back. Gramps never even met my dad—he died at 35—and he said he hoped that wouldn’t happen to me, that I’d have a real life that wasn’t all about hocus-pocus.”

The barn is quiet for a moment, save for the squeaking of a nest of mice in a corner.

“How did you find us?” Reid asks, handing back the clipboard.

“Easiest part of the whole business,” Chase tells him. “I Googled Danvers+Garwin+Parry+Simms, and got last year’s Spencer Academy yearbook. It’s online, you know.”

“And your folks just let you change schools for your senior year?”

Here it is, the part he wishes he didn’t have to talk about. “I Ascended in July,” he says on a long shuddering breath. Late afternoon. I went for a walk in the woods, I figured it wouldn’t bother anybody that way. It was all I could do to get myself home afterward. We were going to go out to dinner to celebrate, but I told my mom I’d gotten too much sun and had a migraine. I told them to go without me…and on the way to the restaurant, their steering linkage failed and they went into oncoming traffic….” He can’t go on.

“It’s not your fault,” Caleb says.

“If I’d just gone with them, it never would have happened,” Chase says. “I’ll never forgive myself.”

“You’ve got to,” Pogue says unexpectedly. “Or it’ll age you more than Using ever will.” Pogue is the last person Chase would have expected sympathy and words of wisdom from, and he looks across to where Pogue’s running a hand through his dirty blond hair. “These guys have heard about this, but…when I was six, I was over at my aunt’s house, and I was playing with my four-year old cousin. We were bouncing on their trampoline, and we got tangled up and fell and he broke his neck and died. My aunt blamed me, and I believed her.”

Pogue meets Chase’s gaze, still hurting all these years later. “I felt really shitty about it for a long time, and I still feel awful when I think, ‘He’d be in high school now, he’d be getting his driver’s license, going out with girls’…. He should be. But he’s not. It’s not my fault, it was a stupid accident, but I can’t fix it. I just have to live with it.”

Chase has no words; they probably wouldn’t get past the lump in his throat, anyway. He just nods and extends his hand to Pogue, and it’s not a conscious decision on his part, but then they’re both standing and thumping each other on the back.

No one else says anything for a moment, then they both sit back down. Reid changes the subject to the swim team and sharing time is over.

The group finally disperses to dates and homework and dinner. Caleb offers Chase a ride, and they walk out of the barn together, Chase lugging the nearly empty backpack. Reid and Tyler wave as they drive off. Pogue is shrugging on his leathers by the Ducati and gives Chase a nod in passing.

“Take care of him,” he says quietly with a glance at Caleb.

“Will do,” Chase replies. “Ride safe.”

There were a few sticky moments, but they’re friends now. Chase finally has the circle of companions he’s longed for, and he looks forward to their future together. Hopefully, long, happy futures for them all….

“Gonna let me drive?” he asks Caleb. “I’d love to see what she can do.”

Caleb considers, then flips him the keys. “This has all been a ploy to get your hands on my car, right?” He smiles when he says it, though, and he doesn’t seem tormented by his new Power, at least not at the moment.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Chase banters back. “Don’t worry, if I scratch it, I’ll buy you a new one.” Sometimes there's an upside to not having a car, like getting to hang out a little longer. He steps on the gas, and they roar down the lane with a swirl of vivid leaves in their wake.





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