“So, what school do you go to?” Adam takes a sip from his cup of coffee.
Henry smiles nervously. “Well, I do that whole cyber school thing… It’s pretty convenient, but I don’t get to meet a lot of people since I’m home all day. I try to get out there and meet people, though. I’ll usually head in to Oakland and do my school work at the Hive. That coffee shop on Forbes.”
“Oh, yeah,” Adam says. “I know that place. It’s weird, right? They have all that voodoo stuff upstairs, right?”
Henry manages to keep from rolling his eyes, but it’s a strain. “Yeah, that’s right. Voodoo stuff. Sure.” He didn’t have high hopes for this date, but the comment about “voodoo stuff” in the Hive is a bit more ignorant than he was expecting. I guess I shouldn’t have expected better from the kind of high school kid on internet dating sites.
“What do your parents do?”
A wave of sadness passes over Henry. He knows that Adam isn’t aware that his parents are dead, and he’s pretty sure that telling him would qualify as a major social faux pas. Still, he doesn’t want to lie to the kid.
“Well, my foster dad is a professor at–”
“Wait, foster dad? You’re a foster kid?”
“Yeah, I’m in foster care.”
“How did that happen? You seem like a good guy. I thought only kids with issues ended up in foster care.” Adam actually seems legitimately interested. He probably doesn’t even realize how insensitive his comment is. Still, Henry’s hope for the evening is rapidly dwindling.
“No offense, man, but I’d rather not talk about that right now.” Henry takes another sip from his breve. “Anyway, like I was saying, my foster dad is a professor at Duquesne. My foster mom is a nurse at Children’s. How about you?”
“My dad’s a lawyer for one of the big firms downtown. My mom’s a stay at home mom. Well, a stay at home wife. She’s usually a Chablis zombie by two o’clock.” Adam laughs.
He might be ignorant about “voodoo stuff,” Henry thinks to himself, but he’s hot and he has a great smile.
Henry takes a bite from his pastry. Starbucks isn’t as good as the Hive, and he doesn’t get the Blake Investigations employee discount here, but given Adam’s comments about the Hive, he is glad he didn’t suggest they meet there.
“So,” he says, washing down the scone with a swallow of coffee, “do you have any hobbies?”
“Well,” Adam says, “I like musicals, and I love music. Especially Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. they’re just so creative. How about you?”
Cue another internal eye roll from Henry. “I don’t really have a lot of time for hobbies,” Henry says. “But I like video games, and reading.”
“I love geeky boys. Especially hot ones.” Adam places his hand on Henry’s knee underneath the table. Henry isn’t sure how to process the move. Adam is hot, but he doesn’t really seem like the kind of guy Henry could actually spend much time with. “What kinds of books do you read?”
“Oh, mostly old books about sorcery, ghosts, and demons,” Henry blurts out without thinking. He immediately regrets it.
Adam seems to take it in stride. He doesn’t move his hand, anyway. “Oh, I guess that explains why you go to that place in Oakland. Do you believe in that stuff? Like, ghosts and magic and stuff, I mean?”
Henry tries to think of a diplomatic response. He settles on, “I think there’s stuff out there that people can’t explain.”
Adam nods. “I believe in ghosts. I’m pretty sure my house is haunted. My grandma died there a few years ago, and since then weird stuff happens. Doors opening and closing, things going missing, that kind of thing.” A sly smile crosses his face. “I can show you, if you want. I just live a few blocks from here.”
Henry is not oblivious to the implication of the invitation. A mental battle ensues between raging hormones and the general lack of interest in Adam’s personality. Unfortunately, Henry’s mental debate goes unfinished, as the door to the coffee shop blasts open with a hellish force, and a tall, armored figure enters the cafe. People run screaming, taking cover behind the counter and overturned tables. The figure is carrying his own head underneath one of his arms, wears black armor and carries what appears to be a human spine in the other hand, using it as a whip to strike down people who try to exit the cafe.
Henry throws over a table and pulls a now hysterical Adam down behind it. A horrifying, ethereal voice calls out, “Bring me the Protector and no one will be harmed.” The creature doesn’t seem to understand the intricacies of hostage situations, though, as he continues striking down anyone near him.
“What the hell is that thing?!” Adam whispers harshly.
Henry quickly peeks over the side of the table. “Dullahan,” he says. “They’re errand boys. They ride around, killing people who their masters mark.”
Adam says something, but Henry isn’t listening anymore. He walks out from behind the table.
“Hi there. I’m the one you’re looking for. Let these people go, and I’ll come with you wherever you want to take me.”
The Dullahan strikes down another cafe patron. Henry refuses to stand by while the creature harms innocent civilians, and fights back the only way he knows how. He lashes out at the creature with his magic, ducking and rolling to avoid it’s macabre weapon. After taking some punishment, Henry manages to incinerate the creature with magical fire.
He goes back to the table where Adam was hiding. Adam gives him a horrified look, and runs full tilt out of the cafe. Henry slumps a little bit, sighs, and walks home with a frown.
Arriving back home, Darrek immediately notices that Henry looks like he’s been in a fight.
He rushes over, true concern on his face. “God, Henry, are you alright? What happened?”
“I had a date. It didn’t go well. He was hot, but a little bit boring. Then a Dullahan barged into Starbucks and tried to kill me. Do you think he’ll call?”
“Ehm…I wouldn’t hold my breath. You do know you are allowed to have friends over, and our house is well warded.”
“Do you really think, ‘Hey, let’s hang out at my place’ is an appropriate first date? Because I’m totally down for that, but I think it might be a bit fast for some guys. And they might get a certain idea about what we would be doing on our date.”
Darrek raises an eyebrow. “Point taken. Well I suppose that means I need to teach you Warding, which is a rather useful spell for many situations. I’m sorry your date got snookered.” He pauses. “So…was there, ehm, property destruction involved during this Dullahan incursion at Starbucks?”
“A little. Not by me. A few people are in the hospital. Also not by me. I don’t know if they’ll make it or not. Not sure how they are going to spin it, but I’ve noticed that mundanes have a special talent for justifying the weirdness that happens to them, so I’m sure the papers will be calling it a terrorist attack or gang activity or something.”
Darrek bites the side of his lip. “No one saw you using your Gift, did they?”
Henry begins to shift uncomfortably. “Well… people were trying to hide… So I’m not sure… But there was a bit of cough green fire cough.”
Darrek’s eyes go wide and he takes a deep breath and slowly lets it out. “A bit of green fire???” He sighs. “I guess we’ll add ‘Affect the Psyche’ to our lesson plan too.”
Henry blushes and is clearly embarrassed. “Sorry! The only kind of fighting I know is magic and what I learned on the wrestling team before I was on the streets. I don’t know how to put a headless monster in a full nelson, so green fire seemed like the best way to keep people from dying!”
Darrek holds up his hand in reassurance. “It’s alright, Henry. I’m just trying to determine whether additional damage control is needed. I’m sure you handled the situation as well as anyone facing a…Dullahan…in a Starbucks would.” He pauses and then puts his hand on Henry’s shoulder. “I’m still very proud of you.” He goes over to the bar, pours himself a generous serving of scotch, and sits back down, loosening his tie.
Henry grabs a can of Pepsi from the fridge and sits down next to Darrek. “Yeah, damage control is probably a good idea. That thing was definitely there for me. But from what I read, those things are basically mercenaries. That means that someone summoned or hired it or whatever. I know my… position… comes with a lot of enemies. It didn’t know which person in the cafe was the Protector, but it definitely knew I was there, and called me out. So that leaves the question of who sicked it on me, and how they knew where I would be.”
Darrek sips his scotch. “Hmm. Yes, that is rather curious. So, are you hoping this boy will, ehm, call for another date? You said he was a bit dull.”
Henry smiles slyly. “Yeah, but I also said he was hot.”
Darrek also smiles. “Yes, I heard you. I’m sure there are other attractive lads out there you might fancy more, however. So, how did you meet?”
Henry shuffles a bit in his seat. “Well, ummm… I kind of signed up for an online dating site for LGBT teens. And before you say anything, yes, I know how dangerous that can be, and yes, I was prepared to get there and see a 40 year old man instead of a 16 year old kid.”
Darrek takes a larger sip of his scotch. “Well, I don’t really need to worry about you being victimized, do I? Just do be careful about what you do online, please. Especially while we still have CYF involvement.”
Henry chuckles a little bit. "I really wouldn’t like to see the hospital bills for someone who tried to victimize me. And I know. That’s why I went to one specifically for teens, and I haven’t been trading any dirty pictures with people. " He quickly adds, “Which is gross by the way, and I would never do it anyway.”
Darrek’s eyes widen a bit again and he continues to sip his drink. “It’s completely natural for you to be interested in dating…and, ehm, sex…at your age. Em was telling me that there’s a gay and lesbian community center Downtown that has several programs specifically for youth. If you’re interested we can get more information for you. We also live five minutes away from the mall, so there’s that, too.”
“Darrek, the nineties are over. No one hangs out at the mall anymore.”
“Really? I was just by there the other day to pick up something for Em and saw loads of teenagers hanging out.”
Henry shrugs. “Eh, maybe. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot! Highlights of the date? I mentioned the Hive, and he called it ‘that weird coffee shop with all the voodoo stuff,’ and he referred to Nicki Minaj as creative.”
Darrek gives Henry a confused look. “Sorry, who is Nicki Minaj?”
Henry smiles. “She’s a rapper. She looks kind of like the female Gremlin from that old movie. She mostly raps about her… womanly area.”
Darrek nods. “Rapping feminist gremlin. Right. Got it.”
“Anyway, I should probably get cleaned up before dinner. " Henry gives Darrek a hug, and then walks upstairs to his room. Darrek is clearly surprised, but pleased by the hug, and smiles.