The sun was still fairly high in the sky as the boys walked down the long drive towards the gatehouse, their bags with extra clothing and gear in them hanging from their shoulders. When they were partway along, Swift decided to take everyone on a detour. Before getting to the bridge he cut along a path that led further up the stream that crossed under the bridge at the drive. He thought it would be nice to show Eric and Jamie how they got power and water to the house; along with one surprise feature that he knew they could all use.
"Where are we heading?" Eric enquired.
"To the mill pond. I also think we'd enjoy something that's in the old mill house as well before we go and soak ourselves. You'll love it trust me," Swift replied.
Jamie looked at Kyle with a bit of suspicion in his eyes at the announcement of the detour. Kyle smiled back at him and said, "You'll love it. It's nothing dangerous."
Still not entirely sure, but Kyle's words calming him, Jamie smiled and said, "Okay, I got a feeling it'll be fine; just old habits."
"It's okay Sunshine, seriously you will like it. It's nothing bad," Kyle said reassuringly, placing an arm around Jamie's shoulder so he knew it was fine.
Jamie smiled and they kept walking. He reached his hand up and took Kyle's in his as they went along. Kyle looked at Jamie and smiled, Jamie returning one as well. Soon they arrived at a huge pond; a large long low dam stretched out in front, with water spilling over a channel and some more diverted to the side through a sluice moving a water wheel. They walked along the pond, Eric spotting a large rope hanging from a tree by a little hill behind the mill house. Jamie took in the beauty of the pond and noticed how the water flowed over one section of the dam while the rest was held back; all the while a waterwheel turned, churning the water that flowed along it and falling noisily into the creek below.
"We've been doing so much else I forgot to show you this. The rope swing is awesome, but we'll have to wait 'til it's a bit warmer for that – then again it might be fun now as well," said Swift. "The real special feature is the sauna; it's just as nice as the hot tub. It will warm even the coldest heart … well maybe not that warm."
"A sauna?" Jamie asked, feeling a bit shy at the prospect. He had come quite a ways but still had some issues over being self-conscious of his scars. Time had healed all the bruises and scrapes other than the recent ones that he had earned playing football and lacrosse with the Satyrs, but the deeper scars were permanent and would remain for the rest of his life. They were an ugly reminder of how he had been treated in the past.
"You'll like it, and I'll be there with you," Kyle whispered in his ear, sensing Jamie's reluctance. "You never have anything to be ashamed of when I am with you."
Swift opened the door on the main building and flipped the light on as they entered. They could hear the hum of the generator as it spun. Along one wall a large bank of batteries were hung, all connected to an inverter that converted the current from D.C. to A.C., after which it was sent on heavy-gauge wires to the main house. Eric and Jamie took it all in with a fascinated look on their faces. There was also an old-fashioned millstone that looked like it still worked, although it had not been used in quite some time. Beyond the generator was a door that led to another room, they crossed over to the door and entered. Inside this room there was a door leading out to the pond on the left, the door to the sauna was on the right, and along the back wall there were some benches and hooks for clothing, as well as two shower stalls.
Swift hung his bag on a hook, as did Kyle; Eric and Jamie then followed suit. Swift walked over by the sauna door and fiddled with the control knobs for a moment. He then opened a small cabinet next to the sauna, pulled out four large towels, and handed one to each of the boys, keeping one for himself. The boys then all started to get undressed. Jamie looked at the other boys and noted as their shirts came off a large assortment of bangs and bruises, even Swift had several welts from playing with the Satyrs. This made Jamie feel less self-conscious as he began to take his clothes off.
"The Brownies must really like you Jamie," Eric commented.
Jamie looked at Eric slightly puzzled, "What d'ya mean?"
"You got camo everything!" Eric said as he smiled at Jamie and pointed at his clothing.
"I think they figured out I really love camo," Jamie replied, as he peeled his camouflage-patterned underwear down to his feet, grabbing them, and then hanging them up.
"Yeah and all I get are coloured ones: red and blue, white, blue, red, and black," Eric said, although he loved what he had and was joking with Jamie as he said it.
Everyone laughed, Jamie had plenty of his favourite camouflage-style clothing from his underwear to the jacket he wore. He enjoyed wearing it all; he felt hidden somehow, as well as enjoying the contrast with how his parents had never let him have anything that had cost more than a few pennies from the thrift shops where they gotten his clothing from. Jamie loved the fact everything he had on were his clothes alone, and not some hand-me-down from a rich family who had worn them once and then thrown them away as fads changed.
Feeling more confident now, Jaime walked with his head held high into the sauna carrying the large fluffy towel in his hand. This was the first time in his life he finally felt comfortable enough to be naked in front of others. The sauna was well built; it had a double row of benches and backrests for lying against. Swift and Eric took the top benches, while Kyle and Jamie laid down on the lower set. The boys all got comfortable and began to enjoy the hot dry air.
After twenty minutes had passed Swift sat up and said, "Okay, now the fun part. Time to jump in the pond!"
"Are you nuts? We'll get sick!" said Eric, with shock in his voice. "You've gotta be out of your mind. We'll drown or some dumb thing!"
"No, it's fine. This is how the Swedes and Finns have done it for years, along with other Europeans," Swift replied, climbing off the bench and heading out the door.
Kyle followed behind; Eric and Jamie looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and said in unison, "Why not?"
Swift had already opened the door that over looked the pond, jumped out, and just as he was about to reach the surface of the pond let out a shout, "WOOO!"
Kyle followed right behind him, yelling 'Geronimo!' as he leapt off the small deck attached to the back door. A spray of water shot in the air as he fell into the pond. Surfacing Kyle shouted out, "AUUUGH! That's cold!"
Before actually jumping in, Eric shouted down to the others, "If we die it's your fault!" This only gained a laugh out of Swift and Kyle.
Eric and Jamie hesitated a moment, then Jamie said, "I guess when you gotta jump, you jump." As he ran for the door and leapt out, Eric followed right behind him, both boys plummeting down into the frigid water. They were both shouting and screaming as they hit the water and then finally rose and broke the surface.
After the initial shock it felt good swimming around in the water; the aches seemed to leave them as they swam around the pond. Splashing each other and playing in the water the boys were having a great time. Swift climbed out and grabbed a small string that was attached to a large rope that hung from a heavy branch on an old oak tree. Grabbing the big rope he ran forward and sprung into the air sailing high above the pond and then let go, landing with a huge splash as he tried for a cannonball. Kyle climbed out and followed, waiting a moment for Swift to clear the landing zone. Kyle swung out and let go of the rope, in complete control he managed to turn and dive as if he had just jumped off a diving board and gracefully entered the water. Eric deciding not to be outdone climbed out next and grabbed the rope, he swung far and high, letting the rope go and turning a flip in midair and smoothly slipping into the pond. Jamie watched and swam around rather more quietly, he was not quite as sure about the rope as the rest. He was also very much aware that they were all naked, and he somehow felt that someone was watching them.
Jamie's instincts soon proved correct. He looked at the other side of the pond, saw a clump of bushes starting to move, and shouted, "Someone is coming!"
Swift looked to where Jamie was pointing, and then he, Kyle, and Eric quickly swam over and positioned themselves in front of Jamie. The bushes then parted and out came the two Satyrs, Taaggin and Dohgyn, who waved at the boys. Swift and Kyle relaxed, and they both climbed out of the water. Eric stayed close by Jamie in the pond, both boys just a bit too shy to climb out in their birthday suits.
"What're you guys doing over here?" Swift asked.
"We heard some shouting and thought you might be in some trouble, so we came to check it out," Taaggin replied, putting a sling he was holding back on his belt.
Jamie looked on, noticing that while Taaggin wore a belt he had no pants. Considering everything from the waist down was nothing but fur, it did make sense. Then, as he thought about it some more, he realized it was a good way to keep a weapon handy in case you ever needed one.
"We were just relaxing. We decided our bruised bodies needed a good sauna, and a nice swim after," said Kyle, while pointing to a large bruise on the right side of his chest.
"Ouch! Sorry 'bout that Kyle. I didn't know I hit you that hard," said Taaggin.
"S'okay, we played a pretty rough game. Aunt Faervel says I've got a couple of cracked ribs, but I'll be fine," Kyle replied with a smile, knowing full well they did play far too rough.
"You all go back to your skinny dipping. We'll head out. Would you like some wine for the pain?" the Satyrs asked.
Swift chuckled a little, "No, I think we'll be fine. Thank you for your offer."
The Satyrs waved and headed back into the bushes, disappearing from sight. Swift looked at Eric and Jamie, noted that their lips were beginning to turn blue, and quickly said, "Let's go back and get warm again."
They climbed out of the pond up onto the small deck that was in front of the mill house's door, walked into the sauna room, and went back into the sauna. Jamie's teeth were chattering by the time they got in, but the warm air of the sauna started to warm him up quickly. They all sat for a little while longer in the sauna; this time when they got out they shared the two showers that were in the main room: Kyle and Jamie taking one, while Swift and Eric took the other. Getting dressed and grabbing their packs, they then headed out and walked toward the drive and walked in the direction of the gatehouse.
They crossed the bridge, and when they got to the other side, Jamie started to run; this time he wanted to really see if Swift could beat him. As he took off he shouted back, "Race ya! Last one there gets to carry me back to the house!"
Everyone took off running, following in Jamie's wake. Swift poured on everything he had and Jamie still pulled away from him. Kyle not really concerned with winning just walked along, while Eric was doing his best to keep pace with Swift. Looking at Jamie's back while trying to catch up to him, Swift had begun to realize there was much more to Jamie than met the eye. He was sure that earlier when they found out he was a Dragon's Son that it was why Jamie could run so fast. Swift had earned his name as a young child, being the fastest and lightest on his feet of all the Elven community— yet here he was being out-paced by a much younger boy. Swift redoubled his effort, finally just catching up with Jamie as they arrived at the gatehouse.
"Jamie, are you using your 'will' when you run?" Swift asked him, while they stood waiting for Kyle and Eric to arrive.
"I don't think so," Jamie replied, trying to think if he had been using his mind to help him.
"I guess, I've found my match then," Swift chuckled. "So now you can carry the title of fastest runner."
Jamie smiled at Swift, "I really don't know why I can run so fast. Is it possible it's the prophecy or me being a Dragon's Son is doing it? Like maybe it's controlling me?"
"It's a possibility, but let's not worry about it for now. Let's just enjoy the rest of the day here and we can talk about it with everyone together when we get back to the house," Swift replied. However, in spite of his words, in his mind Swift was certain that Jamie had hit upon the answer.
Eric arrived a moment later, "Wow, Jamie is faster than you!"
"Yeah he is. I'm surprised," said Swift.
A few minutes later, Kyle finally walked up to the gatehouse smiled at everyone, and said, "I know better than to take race challenges from you guys. It's also a bit hard to breath already due to my ribs, and if I ran I'd probably pass out."
Everyone laughed and they entered the gatehouse, stowing their gear and settling in to relax for the rest of the evening and until the next day. Jamie walked over to the shelf where all the games sat; he thought it would be fun to play a board game so he rummaged through the boxes to see what there was. Kyle walked over to the CD player, popped in a disc, and pressed 'play'. While looking through the discs for a second selection for later, the first song had completed and the opening strains of the second song could be heard. There were the faint sounds of a baby crying while an airplane flew overhead, which was then joined by a series of chords played on a piano, and Kyle reflected on the fact that while his own mother had never loved him, he now had a mom that did and the thought comforted him.
Warmed by the midday sun the gatehouse was now nice and cozy; it was wonderful after the sauna and swim. Jamie found a game he thought they all would like and set it in the centre of the coffee table by the couch. He walked over by the hooks and took his pants off; he even got brave and removed his T-shirt, which left him only in his underwear. He felt a little too warm after running hard, and needed to cool down. He walked over sat down on the sofa making himself comfortable, and began to set up the board game while the others decided to follow Jamie's example.
Following his lead, they all went and slipped out of their clothing, and then joined Jamie in sitting around in their underwear, getting comfortable and relaxing. They instinctively knew this was how it should be; boys should be allowed certain comforts on informal occasions, and not have to be stuck in an environment where they needed to fearful of a little bit of skin showing. In the background the music continued playing, and the boys could hear the voices of a children's choir crying out in rebellion against enforced conformity. They all felt as they sat there, that this was in their own way, a form of rebellion against the societal rules that said that they too needed to conform.
They sat around the small table as Jamie finished putting the last of the pieces out for the game Dragonology. He then handed the oddly shape twenty-sided die to Kyle to see who would begin. After rolling for first play, the game began in earnest.
As the sun slowly sank behind the treetops, Jamie's stomach suddenly made a loud protest about it not being fed on time. This gained a chorus of giggles from the others; the one thing they could always count on not forgetting were meal times – for some reason Jamie's stomach always rumbled around then. It was not a quiet rumble either; it was a loud deep rumble. They all figured it had to do with the long-term lack of food. Now with the change to a steady diet and regular meals, it meant that his stomach was adjusting to proper nutrition and predictable eating times, instead of the normal pangs of hunger, which actually hurt. This was more of a friendly reminder that he should eat.
They got up and broke out their goodies from their packs, setting everything out so that they could each do their own cooking. Jamie whispered into Kyle's ear, "It's my turn tonight."
Kyle looked at him puzzled, then seeing the two hotdogs in his hand, he understood what Jamie meant. Jamie stuck the skewer into the hotdogs and began slowly roasting them over the fire they had built when they had first arrived at the gatehouse. He had learnt to cook them slowly at first, then charring them slightly for that semi-burnt taste that makes a hotdog far better than being boiled in a pan or cooked in a microwave. The first time he had tried roasting one, the centre of his hotdog was cold and still partly frozen, while the outside was darkened. With Kyle and Swift's help however, Eric and Jamie were soon taught the finer points of roasting a wiener. Kyle lay down on a pile of pillows close to Jamie, while Swift and Eric got cozy on the other side of the fireplace.
Jamie tested the hotdog like Kyle had shown him, gently pinching the back side to feel if it was warm all the way through. He set one on a plate, then leaned over Kyle, smiling as he held the hotdog above Kyle's mouth; Kyle smiled back, closing his eyes, and opening his mouth to take a bite off the hotdog. As it passed his lips he closed down and lightly moaned, as he tasted the perfectly charred hotdog. Biting a small piece off and relishing the flavour of it; a slightly salty but sweet taste with just the right amount of crispness that meant it was cooked to perfection. Meanwhile Swift and Eric looked over, watching in fascination, as Kyle opened his mouth to receive the next bite from Jamie's hand.
Having the same reaction, Kyle moaned gently again, as Swift watched. "I see Kyle is enjoying his hotdog," Swift finally said with a grin on his face.
Jamie and Kyle looked over and saw both Swift and Eric grinning at them. Their faces turned beet red as they suddenly realized what had just happened. Jamie looked at Kyle, but even with his face red he smiled, and held the hotdog back over Kyle's mouth. Swift and Eric grinned, whereupon Eric decided he would like to be hand fed again, and laid down placing his head in Swift's lap. Swift obliged him, and held a hotdog over his mouth while Eric slowly bit pieces off and chewed them with the same relish he had just seen in Kyle's face.
After a lot of giggling and enjoyment of their meal, they packed the food away and sat around relaxing and listening to the stereo, as the fat old sun continued to set in the distance for the night, finally leaving everything in dark shadows. In the gatehouse it was warm with the glow of the fireplace and soft illumination of the candles that Swift had lit before it had become to dark to see. By the time the waxing moon started to appear in the nighttime sky, dinner had finally settled.
Swift got up, finished getting undressed, and looked at the others as he spoke, "Let's soak. I'm starting to feel achy again." He then hung his underwear next to his other clothes and walked over and slid into the hot tub.
Kyle, Eric, and Jamie got up and followed Swift's lead. Jamie was starting to realize after the sauna that all of his brothers had seen the scars on his body, but that they simply did not make any difference to them as to how they viewed their friend. He was sure now that his friends looked at him as just that: a friend, not caring how scary the welts looked on his body, but caring about him.
They sat in the warm water and the bubbles ran over their bodies, relaxing them, and taking away all of their aches and pains. Jamie sat close to Kyle; Swift and Eric sat close to each other on the opposite side of the hot tub. Sinking low in the water Jamie had rested his hand on Kyle's leg without realizing it. Kyle slipped his arm behind Jamie and allowed the smaller boy to rest his head on his upper arm. It looked like a mirrored image since Swift and Eric were positioned in the same manner.
The music continued to play and the next song made Jamie think as he heard the words: 'feel the warmth beside you'. He drifted away on the softness of the guitars and the mellowness of the melody, drifting through the night, the ebb and flow lulled him into a light doze. After a while Kyle softly shook Jamie's leg, the youngster then slowly opened his eyes and smiled up at Kyle.
"Hey Sunshine, not a good place to fall asleep. Maybe we should get out and go lie down now," Kyle suggested softly.
"Mmmm," Jamie said, nodding his head sleepily. "I didn't think I was that tired, but yeah, good idea."
They got out and dried off. Jamie walked over and pulled the sleeping mats out and laid down on one, with just a towel over him, in front of the fire to stay warm. Since it was not quite summer, and the temperatures at night while not as cold as in the earlier parts of spring, the air still had that damp chill to it. Kyle came over and laid next to Jamie, propping his head up on a pillow and looking over Jamie's shoulder to watch the flames of the fire leaping and dancing in the night.
Feeling Kyle next to him Jamie spooned up closer to him, hoping Kyle would not mind. Kyle placed his hand on Jamie's shoulder and started to trace his finger along and over a scar that Jamie had on his shoulder. He whispered into Jamie's ear, "You don't mind do you?"
Jamie turned his head and his smile gave Kyle all the reassurance he needed. They laid there, nice and comfortable, their bellies full, and not a care in the world; enjoying the warmth of the fireplace and lulled by the sounds of the music as it played in the background.
"Kyle, I noticed no one mentioned my scars today. Why is that? I would think they would be shocked," Jamie asked in a soft voice.
"Well Sunshine, we all love you for who you are, not what other people did to you," Kyle explained. "We all have scars, you just seem to have the most. They're a part of us. I guess you could say they are kinda a badge of honour, and when you can hold your head high and not worry about what others might think, it says a lot about you as a person. Proud and accepting of the fact you survived more than most people will have during their lifetime."
"Thanks, I've never thought of it that way. I just always thought how nasty they looked," Jamie replied.
Smiling Kyle said, "It's okay, we all have things we question. It's like I said a while ago to you, the only dumb question is the one you don't ask."
They smiled at each other, Jamie laid his head on Kyle's arm, and started to doze off while Kyle stayed propped up on his elbow looking at his friend. Jamie had been through hell, and yet he still could smile and had a special charm about him that seemed to gather everyone around him. Even as they explored the preserve, Kyle had noticed that all the beings of light would gather near Jamie, they would talk to him, and not shun him. He would talk back to them; ask them questions, gathering all the information he could. Jamie was like a sponge; he absorbed everything. Kyle felt that had Jamie been given the chance he could have been anything he wanted to be.
Swift and Eric got out of the hot tub a few minutes later. They dried off and then moved the couch and table over away from the area where Kyle and Jamie had laid the mats out. Swift grabbed a couple more mats and laid them down in front of the fire to the left of Kyle and Jamie. Then he wandered over to the cupboard and got a jar of popcorn and the makings for s'mores and brought them over by the fire.
Eric had settled onto the mat and Swift settled in close to Eric, asking, "Anyone got the munchies, or do ya wanna wait 'til a bit later?"
"I'm still good, I don't think I ever ate so many hotdogs in my life," Kyle said softly, in case Jamie was sleeping. His fingers were still tracing the patterns of the scars as well as just running up and down on Jamie's upper arm, and he could feel Jamie breathing shallow and steady.
"I'm good for now," Jamie said softly. "But a s'more does sound good for later."
"As long as everyone else is waiting I'm good too," said Eric, although being in a growth spurt he would happily eat every hour if given the choice; nevertheless, he decided to wait along with his friends.
Swift set everything aside and soon they were all curled up in front of the fire talking softly of the past few day's events.
"For as little as Taaggin and Dohgyn are, they sure hit hard," said Eric.
"You have to remember while they might look like they have no muscle and they cannot perform any magic, they're still magical beings. So they have the strength and power to do real damage," Swift replied.
"That's true. So even like the Brownies, they could be real nasty?" Eric asked.
"Well Brownies do work magic, while Satyrs are strong and mostly artisans," explained Swift. "Take Taaggin and Dohgyn; they do make some of the best wine that would put the top wine makers to shame. Yes, we joke about their wine, but it is the world's best. The Brownies on the other hand, while having the skills to fix anything, and to be able to sense your wants and needs, do use a certain amount of magic when they make or repair things. Like Jamie said a while back when we first got here, we know little of all the magic the Brownies can do since they live in an isolated community and are insulated against most of the other magical beings on the preserve."
In a dreamy voice Jamie added, "Yeah, like the Dryads; they have tons of magic, but they only use it when they really need to. Same with the Faeries, but they seem to always use their magic, from flying, to flowering, even replacing the grass after I yank an arrow out of the ground."
"Yup, they sure do. Then there are beings like the Fog Giants – they have no magic, but they are brutes and would kill you just as soon as look at you, and they live a very long time. Then there are the Swamp Crones, the Queen of which is named Sybil. She can kill a man stone dead at twenty paces with just her tongue. Her realm is made up of the world's evil wives and mothers, they are sent to her when they die," said Swift.
"Sounds a bit like the mother of my old friend Jeff," said Jamie. "Her name was Ma…"
"No don't say it!" said Swift cutting Jamie off quickly. "If you say their name it gives them more life force. They only die for good when no one has spoken of them for two decades. Anyway they use magic to trap wary strangers. I think Jamie might have a better knowledge of some of the more unruly beings than even I have. Of course I haven't made a study of them as much as he has, so he may actually have an advantage over me in that area."
"Why would he know more than you? You're what two hundred years old? Even though you don't look a day over fourteen," Eric asked.
"Because he lives so long Eric," Jamie began, still a hint of drowsiness in his voice. "When we're dead he'll probably look like a university graduate, and he has plenty of time to get to know and understand everything in the whole world. It's the same with the Satyrs; Taaggin told me they like doing other things since for the last four thousand years they have smelled all the flowers and know that Faeries fly. So while we take things like T.V. for granted, to those two it would be a novelty. Heaven help us if they got into that, look how they are when playing sports, they take every game to the next level.
"It's also why Dryads and Hamadryads are almost eternal as well. They're tied to their trees, but can pretty much live forever just by saving an acorn and replanting it as their old tree weakens and dies. It's the same with the Nyads, they can live forever as long as the water they are in never dries up. And unless a Dragon is killed their magic just goes on pretty much forever. I wonder if being a Dragon's Son means I'll live that long; Onas said I would live longer.
"There are many beings in the world and not everything is known about all of them. It's a lot like science, and every day they find a new bug or something they thought never existed," Jamie finished.
Swift looked over in awe at Jamie; Kyle and Eric did the same. The profoundness of what he had just said really hit them. While they were mere grains of sand in the hourglass of time, beings like the Satyrs and Faeries remained immortal; still a part of time, yet outside of time in their own way. Mortal beings would come and go for centuries before a Fay Being passed into the next realm.
"Wow, Jamie you really nailed that. I don't think I could have said it any better or with more elegance and meaning than you just did. That was very profound. You have been spending too much time with Grandpa Brúndaer and Onas. They speak a lot like the way you just did," Swift said, still impressed with what Jamie had said.
The topics changed from heavy to light as they lay by the fire, chatting the evening away, while the moon rose to its apex in the sky. The deep rumble that broke the silence during a slight pause in conversation got everyone's attention. Jamie grinned as he looked at his friends.
"I think I'll have a s'more and some popcorn now," he said.
Everyone started to laugh at Jamie's announcement. Swift got up and picked up the goodies he had set nearby for them to have. Kyle added some more wood to the fire, while Jamie went and grabbed some cold drinks for everyone. Eric wandered over and grabbed some paper plates so the mess would be contained on them, and not end up on the floor, or in their beds. They all started to gather back at the fire, and Kyle noticed the music had stopped playing. So he went to the CD changer and swapped out the discs for some fresh music.
While they sat around the fire enjoying their tasty treats, they chatted on about all the different beings on the preserve. Swift talked about most of them, while Jamie filled in the gaps. It was quite a mature and educational conversation; surprising for kids, whom one would normally expect to be chatting about the newest and latest gadget, or some trick they had done on their bicycles. No these boys were more serious, they still played and acted their age, but when it came time to talk it was not about trivial things that would be forgotten in twenty minutes. It was of course borne out of the fact that these children were in fact not children, in spite of their young age: they had lived and suffered and seen more of the reality of life than anyone should ever have to. They had seen the contrast between reality and rhetoric; the difference between unkept promises and cold dark hungry nights shivering in alleyways. Their conversation contained substance, something often sadly lacking in the world outside the gates and borders of Druhull.
Settling in for the rest of the night Eric was looking through the skylight that formed the cupola on top of the gatehouse as suddenly ribbons of green, blue, yellow, red and gold, started to form high in the sky above them.
"Woah!" Eric exclaimed, pointing up at the sky.
Soon the rest of the boys were rolling onto their backs, looking up, and the 'Oh's, Ah's, and Wow's', steadily poured out. Jamie had never seen the Aurora Borealis before, and he laid there, eyes wide with wonder. Swift, Kyle, and Eric, whilst having seen them before had never seen such a display as they were on this night. Somehow they all felt like there was magic in the air. Soon they would all find out they were correct.
After a while they started to drift off to sleep. Jamie nuzzled into Kyle spooning up against him. Kyle reached over and pulled the blanket they had grabbed earlier and covered them both up. Jamie looked over his shoulder, an impish smile on his face, as he felt Kyle's warm body lying against his. Kyle, his head propped on one arm, smiled back not quite sure what Jamie was thinking.
Jamie feeling every part of Kyle nestled up against his back whispered to him, "I can tell you're happy, if you need to, you can."
Kyle was stunned for a moment, uncertain if Jamie understood the full implications of what he had just said. Kyle looked at Jamie with an expression of surprise on his face; Jamie winked, and rubbed his bottom back against Kyle; there was no missing now what Jamie was suggesting. Kyle's mind raced for a moment. He really loved Jamie, but he also considered the situation; was this what Jamie really wanted, or was it just his conception of love. Kyle hesitated, part of him obviously wanted to go further, but part of him held back. He did not want to lose the love he felt for his Sunshine, and he knew that giving into a moment of lust could destroy everything. Kyle was trying to decide, to think of what to say; the song changed on the CD player, and then Kyle heard the words that gave him the answer. 'Knowing what love is' was something that was alien to Jamie. Kyle understood that all too well as he, Jamie, and Eric too had all been in that same boat. As the profound words of the ballad poured forth from the speakers, Kyle gently placed his hand on Jamie's shoulder and whispered in his ear, "No, that is not what love is. Yes, sometimes it's fun, but that is not for now. Let me show you what real love is," and he bent down, gently kissed Jamie's ear, and simply wrapped his arms around the young boy, holding him close to him.
Eric and Swift had been watching the exchange discretely. Eric was fascinated by it, since he was a lot like Jamie; to him love really was sex, submitting to those that wanted it, when they wanted it. So when Eric looked at Swift and whispered, "You mean sex isn't love? I always thought that's what it was."
Swift motioned to Eric that they should get up. They quietly grabbed their mats and moved them to the other side of the couch, so that it was then in between them and Kyle and Jamie, allowing the other two boys a bit of privacy. They sat down again; Swift took Eric's hands in his, and looked him in the eyes saying, "No, Kyle is right. That's not what real love is about. It's more, so much more. It's the way someone feels about you; the way they look at you; the warmth you feel whenever they are near."
"And it doesn't just happen with lovers, it can be a sibling you're especially close to. There can be something special just in the way they hold you, or something as simple as holding hands. I had a special bond with my brother once," Swift added, looking down at Eric's hands in his.
In awe at the mention of a brother, Eric asked, "You had a brother? I thought you were an only child."
"I had an older brother; we were very close. He used to hold me when I was scared, or just to comfort me. We used to do everything together … I miss that. I really enjoy being with you Eric; you, Kyle, and Jamie have brought something back to me I had lost," Swift continued.
"I don't know how you feel about me, but over the weeks and months we've all been together I have begun to feel something more for you. I have been feeling a lot like Jamie and Kyle are … I wasn't sure exactly what it was until tonight. I don't know if I am making any sense to you," he finished quietly, still looking down at the hands he held in his own.
Eric looked down too, looking at Swift's hands holding his. He did feel something; he still was not sure what it was but he felt it: almost a longing, a desire to be with someone forever. Then Eric said, "I think I know what you're saying. I don't know if it's possible … I mean our ages …"
"If what you're feeling is the same as I am, then our ages are irrelevant. It has been done before in the course of time, others of our race have been with those younger and human. There are no laws against it; if that is your fear," Swift replied.
"I'm not sure that it was. I think I was just trying to figure it out, I don't know. We've become much more than friends, that I feel in my heart. I feel it even deeper than that, I feel it in my very being," Eric said speaking low, as he heard Kyle and Jamie whispering together in the background.
Swift noticed the change in Eric; he felt that Eric wanted to say something more and so he said, "Eric, I'll understand if you don't feel the same things I am feeling for you. I love you … I want to be with you until the end of days. I care so deeply for you; you filled the void that I had in my heart when I lost Rhys thirty years ago. I didn't think I would ever feel love again."
Eric sat there, holding hands with what he thought was his best friend, but the more he thought about it the more he realized it was much, much more. He felt a burning in his heart, a desire to be with someone for a lifetime. He knew now that that someone was sitting in front of him, sitting there holding his hands. He looked up into Swift's eyes, he saw the kindness that was there, along with the one thing he never had before in his troubled life: he saw love.
"I want to be with you, Swift, 'til the end of our days. I didn't know what love was; I think I do now. I see it in your eyes; I feel it in your hands. I understand now. Swift, I love you, and I want to be with you forever. I have felt something for a while now; I did not understand it, but now I do. I see it in Kyle and Jamie, and it is what I want as long as I am allowed to live."
Back at the main house Gwinis and Thondir sat in the parlour drinking hot chocolate and talking about the events they had recently learned about. Suddenly they heard a bell ring, a singular happy note, followed by the voice saying, "Done!" It almost seemed to have a happy relieved tone to it.
"Is it my imagination or did the tone of Jamie's mysterious friend sound almost joyful?" Gwinis asked Thondir, taking his hand in hers.
"I think you are right, the bell tone sounded different too," he replied, looking into Gwinis' face and noting the tears that were welling up below her bright green eyes.
"I think our flowers have bloomed. They may never bear fruit, yet they will have very long and happy fun-filled lives. I have the sense that somehow we will win this event," said Gwinis, looking back at Thondir and noting he was trying his best to hide the tears that had begun to form in his own dark brown eyes.
They sat holding hands for a while, as the moon shone brightly through the parlour windows. The events over the past weeks had made them proud not only of their son Swift, but of their new sons, Kyle, Eric, and Jamie. All of whom had reached in and touched the hearts of everyone they met. Meanwhile, the boys back in the gatehouse slept soundly, completely unaware of the pronouncement that had taken place on their behalf.
As the night wore on, the sounds of steady breathing was all that could be heard as the boys dreamt of adventures yet to come. As the fire burnt low and only a few glowing coals remained the sound of soft music played. The moon was now waning; everything was quiet. Not even a cricket could be heard. The world was at peace, at least for a while.
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