Casey was sitting in his office trying to do his paperwork. His twin had finally got fed up with his bad mood and decided to do some rounds in the clinic.
It had been a month since Casey had saved Jackson by giving him his blood and he had found out that it only worked because he was Jackson’s mate. Since then the two men had not spoken a word to each other.
At first Casey had been pissed off at Jackson. How could the man have known they were mates and not told him? Why would he keep such an important thing a secret?
But when he had calmed down he started to discuss things with Jamie. He now thought that Jackson most likely had not known how to approach Casey once he was old enough to understand. After all the man had raised him and Jamie when their mom died, he had been their father figure and the person who kept them in line. To go from that to lovers and mates was a bit of a leap for anyone. But Casey was now twenty six, he had been an adult for over eight years and he thought there must have been at least one or two opportunities in that time for Jackson to say something. He didn’t even have to come right out and say it, he could have built up to it. He could have hinted at it when Casey showed an interest in learning more about vampires, he could have offered to teach Casey himself and given himself more opportunities to get to know Casey as an adult. But had Jackson done any of that? Nooooo, he had just suffered in silence and left Casey to wonder why he could not connect with anyone he tried to date.
Casey knew enough about vampires and their mates, both from research and from talking to Jamie, to know that, once mates have met, they will not feel comfortable with anyone else. He had been on dates and even shared a few kisses but he had never felt right with any person. It always felt as though something was missing and he would always find an excuse to end the date. It usually involved a silent call to Jamie to please call the place he was at and request him to return to the clinic. Thank God for their twin mind-link.
Jamie told him that once he met Andrew, he just was not interested in anyone else, no matter how charming or beautiful they were. He only had eyes for Andrew, and even when Andrew was pretending to not be interested, he just couldn’t give up trying to get his attention.
Casey sighed and rubbed his eyes. He had been angry at Jackson for a long time now, since he was sixteen to be exact. The poor vampire didn’t know the reason why Casey was so angry with him all the time. He just had to keep Jackson at arm’s length and the best way to do that was to let the man think he hated him. He knew it was unfair but all those years ago he hadn’t seen another option. He also knew that was another reason that Jackson most likely had been wary of approaching him.
He was not going to get any work done tonight, not that he had gotten any done last night or the night before either. Frustrated, he threw his pen across the room.
Letting his mind go, he returned to when he was fifteen.
“Mom. Mom, are you here?” Casey called as he and Jamie entered the main house through the door that connected it to the clinic early one morning. A sense of unease swept through him and he knew Jamie felt it too.
“Go check the upstairs rooms,” Casey directed Jamie and waited till his brother was out of sight before heading for the kitchen. He hadn’t told his brother that his mental abilities had been developing a lot faster recently. Their mother had been helping by tutoring him when Jamie was round at friend’s houses. It seemed he had inherited some his mother’s foresight, whereas Jamie had inherited her ability to ensure anyone around him was at ease. The two abilities put together were what would make them good healers.
There he found their mother, Ellie, lying on the floor in a pool of blood. He could see without checking that she was long dead. The receptionist had said Ellie retired early the previous night complaining of a headache. She was wearing her nightdress but she still had her make up on, so he assumed she had to have been there all night.
“She’s not upstairs, bro,” Jamie’s voice sounded in his mind.
Casey took a deep breath and strengthened his mental barriers around his emotions before replying, “There’s a note here saying she’s gone to visit a sick patient. Why don’t you head straight to Rikki’s and I’ll wait for her here?”
He knew his brother had been itching to tell Rikki about the healing conference they had just attended and wasn’t surprised to hear his brother calling, “Okay.” After he heard the front door close he stood there counting slowly until he got to one hundred.
Then he released the emotions he had been holding in and ran from the house. He ran straight to the only place he could think of. Banging on the door he hoped the vampire would be up still.
The vampire Elder, Jackson, was the closest thing to a father Casey and Jamie had ever known. His mom often made special things, like homemade lemonade, whenever Jackson was visiting the clinic. He remembered growing up with the vampire taking him and his brother to the park as children. Playing on the swings in the moonlight and feeding the fish in the river. Mom had told them how Jackson had agreed to give her a job, even though she was a newly widowed, pregnant woman, whom he’d never met before.
“Who on earth is banging on the door in the middle of the day?” a voice from the door intercom said.
“Jackson, it’s not the middle of the day and I need you to let me in. Please, I need you!” Casey pleaded. He heard a click and the door swung open an inch.
Slipping in, Casey made his way up the stairs and to the second floor apartment. There waiting in the door ensuring he was well out the way of any daylight that might come through the small hallway window, was a rather dishevelled Jackson.
“What’s going on, Casey?” Jackson asked as he pushed his hair out his face. Jackson was tall at over six foot, which made him a foot taller than fifteen year old Casey.
Casey stopped and stared for a moment, Jackson was wearing sleep pants and nothing else, he had never seen the man out of his suits before. Jackson was lean but muscular, with a light dusting of dark hair on his chest. His long black hair was loose from its usual braid.
’Casey’s mind shut down. Then the sobs started, he felt his knees give out and he fell toward the floor. Jackson must have caught him because the next thing he knew he was being held in the man’s lap sitting on a couch. The height difference meant he seemed to fit well into the vampire’s arms, and he vaguely felt a hand brushing his hair as a soft voice whispered comfortingly in his ear.
Slowly the sobbing stopped and he looked up into Jackson’s very concerned face.
Taking a deep breath Casey said, “We need to call someone to see to mom. Jamie and I got home earlier from that conference you sent us on…” Casey felt his throat trying to close up, but he swallowed and continued, “She’s dead. Looks like she banged her head on something and couldn’t call for help.” With that he fell apart again. He vaguely heard swearing and felt himself being moved but then his vision went black.
Casey woke up in a soft bed, in a dark room. He turned over to find his twin curled up beside him, he could feel that Jamie was asleep but that his dreams weren’t good.
“Jay. Wake up, Bro.”
“What?” Jamie asked blearily, as he came awake. “Case. You’re awake. Jackson told me what happened. Why did you send me away? You didn’t have to deal with it on your own.”
Casey shrugged in the dark and sat up to loop his arms round his knees. “I know but I didn’t want you to see her like that. The memories you have will be unchanged and you can share them with me when I need you to.”
Jamie sent comforting thoughts through their bond and they both jumped slightly when the door opened.
Looking up Casey saw Jackson silhouetted against the light behind him.
“Good you’re both awake. It’s about 8pm. You’d better freshen up and join us in the main room. The bathroom is over there.” He pointed to a faintly outlined door on the other side of the room.
Casey and Jamie headed for the room and washed their faces while silently wondering what was happening.
“When did you get here?” Casey asked silently, as they dried their hands and faces.
“About 10am. Jackson called me at Rikki’s house and told me I needed to get to his apartment quickly. When I arrived he told me what had happened and I broke down. When I’d finished crying he carried me into the bedroom and I fell asleep as soon as I saw you were there. Who knew crying was so exhausting. How do women do it so much?”
The last comment got the desired laugh out of Casey and the brothers headed for the main room.
In the main room they found five people sitting on the various chairs and couches. Jackson of course they both knew. Elder Adam Rickman was there as well, but the other three Casey and Jamie weren’t too sure of. They recognized them from around the community and they knew they were important people but they didn’t know them by name.
Jackson saw them enter and rose from his seat.
“Ah, there you are. Let me go through introductions quickly. Elder Rickman you both know. Elders Morgana Geel, Gareth Berm and Elsie Roma are the rest of our little group.
“Everyone these young men are Ellie’s sons, Jamie and Casey. I’m sure you’ve seen them around.”
Casey and Jamie ended up sitting there while the five elders planned out the rest of their childhood, up to the age of eighteen. It turned out Morgana had been a witch healer before becoming an Elder and so she agreed to take on the management of the clinic. Gareth was also a witch and raised the issue of where the boys should live. Jackson had cut in smoothly that they should remain at home, if that’s what they wanted, and that he would make sure adequate supervision was provided.
Their mother’s body had already been removed and sent to the community funeral home. Apparently their mother had left a will and she wanted to be cremated. Her ashes were then to be spread in the forest, where she had loved to walk in the evenings. Her will had also left guardianship of the boys to Jackson, should she die while they were still minors.
After the boys had agreed they wanted to stay in their own home, things were arranged quickly and Jackson said he would stay with them for the rest of the night.
Back home both boys decided to stay in Casey’s room. They didn’t want to be separated and were soon curled up together fast asleep, dreaming of times gone by.
A year sped by and they settled into a routine. The boys had school during the day and training with Morgana during the afternoon and sometimes into the late evening. Jackson had basically moved in and stayed most days and nights unless he had to go out of town. Then a guard would stay instead to watch over them.
The problems for Casey started just after he turned sixteen. He and Jamie had both known for a long time that they weren’t interested in girls but although Jamie dated, Casey never did. It wasn’t from lack of offers, but he never felt right about saying yes to anyone, the connection just wasn’t there.
One evening Jamie was out on a date as usual and Casey was at a loose end, having been dismissed early by Morgana. Feeling restless he headed for the training room he and Jamie had designed and built with Jackson’s help.
What he saw when he opened the door had his jaw dropping in shock. Jackson was laying on a bench lifting weights above his head. He had on tight blue workout shorts and a matching t-shirt that were both stuck to him by sweat, leaving very little to the imagination. Casey was sure he could see the outline of every lean muscle on Jackson’s chest. As for his legs, there wasn’t an ounce of spare flesh, the skin was pulled tight over lean thighs.
Jackson had obviously heard him enter because he replaced the weights and sat up, pulling up the edge of his t-shirt to wipe his face. He also revealed a strip of flesh that had Casey’s mouth watering.
“Hi Casey, come to work out a bit?” Jackson asked with a friendly smile.
“Actually, I just remember some homework I have to do. See you later.” Casey ran from the room and slammed his bedroom door.
Idiot, idiot, idiot, he berated himself. That had to be the lamest excuse he had ever used, but seeing Jackson lying there with the sweat shining on his skin had sent desire streaking through Casey. He had never been as hard as he was at that moment, when he stood in that doorway. What was he going to do? Jackson was thousands of years old. He wouldn’t be interested in a sixteen year old boy.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door.
“Casey, are you okay?” ’Jackson’s voice came through the door.
“Yep, fine. Just busy with homework,” Casey called back, hoping the man couldn’t hear the lie in his voice.
“Okay, well you know where I am if you need to talk.”
“Yep, thanks, I’m fine.”
Casey breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Jackson moving back down the hallway.
It’s just a schoolboy crush on a hot man, I’ll get over it. Just wait. Casey tried to reassure himself as he got out his school books and tried to concentrate.
Two more years saw the boys turning eighteen. It had already been decided Morgana would continue their training as healers herself and that they would only travel to the City University for exams. That way they learnt on the job and the clinic wasn’t left without any cover.
Casey made a point of always trying to act normally around Jackson but also, he tried to never be alone with the man. He was worried about what he would say or do if they were alone for too long. After a while Jackson stopped offering to take him places when Jamie was on a date, or just not around, and he was home alone. He also stopped calling round as much, saying that he wasn’t needed now they were eighteen. This made Casey sad but he knew it was necessary, he knew there was no way that anything could come of his attraction to the older man.
Finally Jamie had enough and confronted Jackson when the three of them were eating a rare dinner together – well, Jackson was just sitting with them, but that’s just semantics.
“Where have you been lately? You’ve hardly spent any time with us,” Jamie asked between mouthfuls of steak and egg.
“You know I’m busy with Council business.” Jackson was looking anywhere but at the boys.
“Rubbish, you’re avoiding us. What gives?” Jamie demanded.
Jackson turned a stern glare on Jamie, “You watch your tone young man. I told you I’m busy.”
“Jamie, leave the man alone. You know the Council has a lot going on.” Casey tried to calm his twin. All the while, trying to avoid looking at Jackson.
Jamie must have noticed because he then turned on Casey, “Have you two had an argument? Is that what this is all about? Don’t think I haven’t noticed you always leave the room if he’s in it, or that you have refused all his invitations for meeting up when I’ve been busy.”
Casey refused to squirm like a child and after some very quick thinking he gave as good as he got, “Look Jamie, you may like having someone hanging around here that can tell you what happened over a thousand years ago. But I happen to like hanging around with people my own age. I have a life of my own and I don’t need him cramping my style. Did you know other people are actually afraid to approach me when he’s with me? I have almost no friends.” On the last comment Casey pushed back his chair and stormed out the room. He ignored all their attempts to get him to come back. He wasn’t going to tell anyone the real reason he didn’t want to be alone with Jackson.
That set the precedent for the next seven years. At first, Jackson did stop coming around, but Jamie wanted to spend time with him, so the vampire came round for dinner occasionally and they tried to make it nights when Casey wouldn’t be there. If he was there Casey always went out of his way to be rude. The desire he had felt for Jackson that night years ago had never waned. The feeling of comfort he had felt from Jackson’s presence was still there too. He had the feeling of wanting to get close to the guy and to never move away, but he knew that was a mistake. Jackson was a Senior Elder for heaven’s sake. Casey was just an orphan Jackson had taken in when his mother had died. If anything, Casey thought, Jackson probably looked at him like a son. But Casey definitely didn’t look at Jackson as a father figure. This made him angry, and made him lash out at Jackson. If he could just make the vampire hate him then maybe the unwanted feelings would disappear. Even then he knew it was a stupid idea, but once he was set on his course he couldn’t change his mind, he was just too stubborn and too afraid of what would happen if Jackson or Jamie realized the true reason behind his behaviour.
Casey tried to date, but no one measured up to what he wanted them to be. He wanted someone who would take charge sometimes and let him relax once in a while. People assumed because he was now a big muscular man, that he wanted to decide where they were going, what they were doing and of course he was expected to make all the compliments and pay for everything. If he did date any guys that were as big as he was, it turned into a competition about who could do what better. The last guy challenged him to an arm wrestling competition and when Casey refused, the man walked away calling him a coward. Casey just wanted someone to see him for who he was, not the front everyone else saw day in and day out.
The men he and Jamie dated complained about the clinic as well. Men always assumed they were being brushed off when either of them got a call to get to the clinic due to an emergency – okay so sometimes that may have been true – or of course, they would ask that the summoned twin ignore the call, after all, what could be more important than their date?
Casey was brought back to the present by the sound of his desk phone going off.
“Casey speaking,” He answered.
“Casey, it’s Thane here. I am on my way in and I have a patient for you. He’s unconscious at the moment, but I don’t think he hit his head or anything. I need to keep this quiet, so can I bring him straight to the main house?”
Casey frowned, Thane sounded panicked and almost afraid, “Of course that’s okay. I’ll meet you in the main living room. How far away are you? And what equipment will I need?”
“I’m about ten minutes out from your place. You’ll need cleaning stuff for partially open wounds, and actually you may want to call Craig. I think there will be some mental stuff going on that he could help with too.”
“Okay, see you in ten.”
Casey quickly placed the call to Craig and headed to the supply cupboard to get what he needed. He added some herbal painkillers to the pile and some antibacterial cream. If there was mental trouble he didn’t want to use magic to dull the pain, as that involved tricking the brain into thinking the pain wasn’t there.
Gathering all the things together, he concentrated and transported himself to his main living room. He placed the supplies on the coffee table and headed for the door to keep watch for his surprise patient.