“You’re not darkness.”
Julian, leaning in the doorway of Evan’s bedroom, straightened up, his sexy pout fading.
“But I’m -”
“You’re a shadow, yes,” Evan said, “but that’s not the same thing as the darkness.”
Julian sighed and crossed the room, flung himself dramatically across Evan’s bed, bent one knee and posed sexily some more. He’d materialized out of the shadows in the hallway - literally - and he was vying for attention.
The rest of the house was asleep. Mom and Nan and Tally wouldn’t even know he was there. They didn’t know about that door in the basement, the wooden one that was painted shut, that had once led to Grandpa’s laboratory, one not for magic but for science.
They thought the door was painted shut because there was nothing behind it.
Eight other worlds were behind it.
Evan, five years old and curious, had traced the runes carved in the door, the ones not quite hidden by the paint. A stray splinter and some blood and he had a new friend.
Julian, the shadow boy. Ageless, inhumanly beautiful. He’d first appeared to Evan as a child, appeared to grow with him. Now they were - Evan wasn’t sure what they were.
He glanced at Julian out of the corner of his eye. Julian was still posing. Evan was working on an art project.
Julian sighed, rolled onto his stomach, rested his chin in his hands. “I don’t get it. You’re not afraid of me. You’re not attracted to me.”
“Why should I be afraid of the darkness?” Evan asked. “When I always have light.”
He sketched a single rune in the air, kenaz, and fire blossomed above his palm.
Julian’s eyes narrowed. He snapped his fingers, and the little flame went out. He was on his feet and across the room, standing over Evan, hands on his hips.
“Why are you so mean to me?”
“Giving someone what they want all the time even if it’s not good for them isn’t the same as being mean,” Evan said.
Julian eyed him. “You sound like a boring grown-up.”
“One of us has to be grown-up in this relationship,” Evan said.
Julian’s too-blue eyes lit up. “So you admit we’re in a relationship?”
“We’re friends,” Evan said patiently. He turned to a blank page in his sketchbook, offered his pencil to Julian. “Want to give it a whirl? The old-fashioned way.”
Because Julian could create illusions with colors behind human comprehension.
Julian eyed him. “Just friends?”
“Sometimes,” Evan said, “it’s better than being lovers.”
Julian’s expression remained skeptical. Evan’s lights flickered. If his rooms went totally dark, Julian would be at full power, Evan at his mercy. Julian was beautiful, and it was hard to say no to him, but -
But Grandpa had told Evan about the door in the basement for a reason, told him about the realm of ice and shadows, warned him about the danger the darkness could be, if it spread.
He’s trusted Evan, who’d been very small at the time, to figure out how to build a light, one that would never go out.
“Really?” Julian asked.
Evan reached out, tugged the other chair close to his desk so Julian could sit beside him. “Really. And after this, you can teach me something you like.”
Julian nodded and sat down, reached for the pencil, and Evan thought of the power of darkness, how no matter how fast light traveled, the darkness was already there first, and it was waiting.
Maybe, when the moment counted, the face in the darkness would be a friend.