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Gabriel
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-309-1
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 129 Pages
Published: May 2016

From inside the flap

While in Faerie with his partner, Gaylord Silvertoes, Mortimer of Hamelyn is put under a sleep spell by Gaylord’s sister, Fiona. The spell causes him to relive events in the life of his uncle, Gabriel, whose abusive, homophobic behavior has estranged him from his nephew. Mortimer’s feelings are complicated by the fact that Gaylord was severely wounded protecting Gabriel from a shotgun blast. Mortimer gains new compassion for his uncle when he discovers that Gabriel has buried an ugly, painful secret from his own childhood, which warped his personality and blighted his relationships with all around him. Mortimer feels Gabriel’s childhood pain acutely and begins to understand his uncle’s behavior. Meanwhile, Fiona has placed Gabriel under the same spell, so he gets a first-hand understanding of Mortimer’s deep love for and attachment to Gaylord. He feels his nephew’s pain and bewilderment. Both men grow from the experience, reaching a place where they can begin to heal their estranged relationship.

Gabriel (Excerpt)


PROLOGUE - FAERIE

Mortimer stood at the window of Gaylord's room, gazing out at the rolling green hills and fields of Faerie in the moonlight (light of the setting sun?). During his many months there - which passed in normal "human" time thanks to the talisman Gaylord's sister Fiona had given him - he had grown quite familiar with his surroundings. Gaylord's recovery, from a grievous bullet wound to the chest that would have killed him had he not been something more than human, had been total, but even here in Faerie it had been a long, slow process, mostly due to the metal of the bullet itself. Even the brief presence of "cold iron" internally, before the fairy healers could extract it, had weakened Gaylord more than the physical injury.

Mortimer had been patient. He loved Gaylord more than he'd ever loved anyone, and even without the ersatz Goddess Star as a protective amulet, he was certain he'd have remained. Even if it had meant returning to a world a century in the future and utterly unrecognizable. Gaylord had wanted, needed, him close by, as companion on his "good" days and comfort on his "bad" ones. Mortimer had restrained the irrepressible fairy from exceeding his slow-to-return strength, and kept his temper when Gaylord was cranky and ill-tempered. The two had grown closer during Gaylord's healing process.

But now that process had finally come to a close. They would be returning to Ireland in the coming days. Mortimer had kept track of passing time as well as he'd been able, not easy in a land where it was always summer, and knew it must be sometime around the winter holiday season. As perfect as the weather always was here in Faerie, Mortimer was looking forward to feeling the crisp bite of cold air. It was just something familiar. He smiled to himself: Normally he disliked being cold. But the endless summer, with brief showers of rain occasionally overnight to keep the vegetation fresh and green, had grown dull after a time, and he was ready to return.

Gaylord had finished dressing and joined Mortimer at the window, taking his hand. His step was no longer hesitant, and his grip had regained its former firmness. Mortimer gave Gaylord's hand a light squeeze.

The Tuatha glanced at him, smiling. "Ready to go home?"

Mortimer nodded.

Gaylord's smile widened. "Me, too. I miss everyone." He laughed, the sound of wind chimes in a light breeze. "How have they ever gotten on without us?"

Even the usually serious Mortimer couldn't repress a smile at that observation. It was so classically Gaylord.

"Come on," said the fairy, tugging on Mortimer's hand. "Let us walk for a while this lovely evening. I wish to test my legs over a distance."

They walked in silence for some time, simply appreciating the wildflowers and birdsong. They occasionally passed other denizens of Faerie enjoying the clear moonlit night, who greeted them warmly and expressed their pleasure on Gaylord's recovery. (Gaylord pointed out the lack of sincerity in one or two of these, who he was quite certain would have been more than pleased to see him dead. Mortimer wasn't sure how seriously to take these comments; he still didn't fully understand fairy "politics.")

Eventually, when they sat to rest on a fallen tree within the clearing of a small forest, Gaylord tentatively began a conversation. They had walked a good two miles in companionable quiet, and he was not overly tired.

"You have been brooding a bit over the past few days," he suggested without any implied criticism.

"Have I?" said Mortimer, avoiding the Tuatha's keen green-eyed gaze.

Gaylord waved a hand impatiently. "You know you have. Something about our return weighs heavily upon you, and I am fairly certain I know what it is."

Mortimer continued staring into the distance.

Gaylord quirked an eyebrow. "All right, then. I shall tell you, since you do not wish to tell me. It is your uncle who is on your mind. Am I correct?"

Mortimer sighed. His uncle Gabriel was a thorny subject. His mother's brother, Gabriel had raised him after the deaths of his parents when he was very young. Gabriel had tried to mold Mortimer in his own image, but his abuse and all-around resentment of his nephew had eventually driven Mortimer to leave his underground home of Hamelyn and learn to make his way Above. The final break in their relationship had occurred when Mortimer fell in love with Gaylord. Gabriel had reacted with a raging homophobia.

That summer, however, uncle and nephew had been forced to work together against a common enemy, one who threatened both the long-secret underground enclave of Hamelyn and the Flynn family, who had semi-adopted Mortimer and his fellow Hamelyn "refugee," Fortescue. It was in the course of those events that Gaylord had been injured, while thrusting Gabriel out of the line of fire. There had been no time for Mortimer and Gabriel to discuss events, because Fiona had whisked them off to Faerie to save Gaylord's life. For Mortimer, there had been no decision: He had to stay with the man he loved.

Gaylord said quietly, "He may have returned to Hamelyn, you know."

Mortimer nodded. "I know. He probably has. But I will still need to speak with him." He faced Gaylord, finally meeting the steady green gaze with his own clear blue one. "He looked stricken, Will." (Gaylord's true Tuatha de Danann name was "Pussywillow," and the two had quickly become "Will" and "Tim" to each other.) Mortimer looked down at his hands, twisting them in his lap. Gaylord reached out a hand to still them. Mortimer sighed again. "He was holding you so gently, Will. He seemed genuinely stunned by what had happened." He shrugged. "I do not know. Maybe he has just reverted back to 'business as usual' by now. Everything happened so fast that night." He barked a humorless laugh. "Maybe I only imagined what I thought I saw in his face."

"You need not face him alone, Tim. You know I will always be with you. If you wish, I mean." Gaylord shrugged. "Perhaps he has changed, perhaps not. But you cannot let that deter you from returning to your home. We will worry about your uncle when the time comes. In the meantime, let us enjoy our last day or two here." He put an arm around Mortimer, and Mortimer leaned against him briefly before rising and holding out a hand to pull Gaylord to his feet.

When the two young men ("young" in appearance, but only in relative terms, in Gaylord's case) returned to Gaylord and Fiona's home, she greeted them warmly. Mortimer liked the formidable Tuatha woman, but he wasn't certain whether he entirely trusted her. She had taken it upon herself to dispatch their former foe, but she had also given Mortimer the talisman which protected him from the mystical effects of spending time in Faerie. She had also made no secret of the fact that she would prefer Gaylord to remain in Faerie, with their people, where she felt he belonged - with or without Mortimer. She took no exception to Mortimer's presence in her brother's life; she simply didn't want him to take Gaylord with him back to Ireland. She'd campaigned fiercely over the past several months to convince Gaylord to remain, but he'd proven resistant to her powers of persuasion. Lately, it had seemed as though Fiona had graciously conceded the issue, but Mortimer suspected she would never completely give up the fight. It had mostly been a friendly enough rivalry between the two of them, but Mortimer knew she saw his love for Gaylord - or rather, Gaylord's love for him - as a challenge to be overcome. Gaylord had remained steadfastly loyal to Mortimer beyond Fiona's comprehension.

"You will be leaving soon," Fiona remarked, a statement rather than a question. "You walked quite a distance today, did you not? You have recovered fully, brother."

"Yes, I believe I finally have. And yes, sister, I will be leaving with Mortimer." His wind chime laughter filled the dwelling. "After all, someone must be there to facilitate the meeting between uncle and nephew - who better than I?" Considering that the first meeting between Gaylord and Gabriel had ended in Gaylord clawing Gabriel's face while in his cat persona, the deliberate irony in Gaylord's comment wasn't lost on anyone.

"You know, Mortimer, there is a way that you could find out what is on your uncle's mind. I know of a spell, which, in combination with some plant essences, would allow you to 'observe' his feelings in your sleep, without having to leave your body. You could simply take a quick peek at his thoughts and set your mind at ease before even leaving Faerie."

Mortimer frowned. "I am not certain, Fiona. It is a very kind offer, but I do not think I would feel right about spying on someone's private thoughts. I admit it would relieve some of my anxiety, but... ."

"I understand. I merely thought perhaps it would prevent any strain between you and my brother which might arise from your ... 'anxiety.'"

"Oh, well played, sister," murmured Gaylord. "But you heard Tim. No spying." He bowed to Fiona, somewhat sardonically. "But we thank you for your deep concern over our relationship."

Fiona shrugged. "As you wish." She waved a hand dismissively. "Then, come, we must celebrate your recovery. As I may not see you again for many, many years, I must make certain to send you off with a proper party!"

Everyone was assured of Gaylord's full recovery when Mortimer began demonstrating signs of exhaustion well before the Tuatha did. Fiona kept a close eye on the pair of them, knowing that her exuberant brother wasn't as careful as the sharp Hamelyner. She'd already made certain that the small bottle of wine Gaylord kept by his bed had been adulterated, and she was merely biding her time until they retired. She knew their habits and knew they shared one final glass before retiring for the night. She just hoped Mortimer wasn't too tired to forego their regular ritual.

Fiona waited a few moments before slipping after them and stood just outside their door, adjusting her finely-tuned Tuatha hearing. Yes! They were indulging in their usual habit while changing into their nightclothes. She began quietly chanting the spell in the ancient Tuatha tongue. Tonight, in his sleep, Mortimer would be able to put his mind at rest, certain as to what his uncle thought of him. Honestly, Fiona thought, she didn't know why he'd been so stubborn! It wasn't spying; she was only giving him the merest peek into his uncle's thoughts. Hadn't he ever heard the saying "Forewarned is forearmed"? She refused to admit, even to herself, that what she was really hoping for was for Mortimer to discover that Gabriel would never be reconciled to his nephew's relationship with her brother. Maybe that would be the one final obstacle forcing them to go their separate ways. If Mortimer couldn't overcome his family issues, perhaps he and Gaylord would split for good, and Gaylord would finally move beyond this ridiculous obsession. She could only hope. It was why she'd made certain to use a good, strong dose of herbs. The spell wouldn't affect her brother, and he wouldn't even notice the plant essences. They would only affect Mortimer, but that would be enough to influence both of their lives. Or at least that was Fiona's plan... .