Through the Long Night

Southwest Portland 
Gregory lived alone in a house nearly thrice the medium size for a family in the U.S., which he considered cozy when compared with the family estate in Massachusetts where he had been raised. After all, his house in Portland had neither stables nor servants quarters, not that he required either. He paid a maid service to come by twice a week to clean the house, had a laundry service tend to his clothing complete with home pick-up and delivery, a gardener once a week for the grounds, subscribed to a home security service for what he considered a nominal fee, and had meals prepared and catered when he didn’t order takeout. To his knowledge, he had no children who required a nanny – the primary reason for a housekeeper, and after spending most of his life under the watchful eyes of domineering parents and their attentive servants, he preferred privacy.

As he had promised over text, the front door was unlocked, allowing his friend entrance without knocking to announce himself, searching for the spare key, or using his powers to pick the lock for himself. During those ten or so minutes – traffic permitting – Greg had climbed to his feet, popped a couple of painkillers, considered chasing them with a swig or three of brandy but decided against it, and hobbled into the master bathroom, followed by tottering down the hall and the wooden staircase, taking half a step at a time to maintain his balance.

By the time Jaime arrived, Greg had turned the lamps on in the living room, had settled atop a blanket on the sofa to act was a protective barrier between himself and the white upholstery. He wore a navy blue cashmere bathrobe, belt loosely tied, beneath it a pair of black satin pajama bottoms, with no matching top. Instead he was shirtless. A pair of navy blue sheepskin slippers protected his feet from the cold floors and the broken shards that littered the carpet upstairs.

“In here, Jaime!”

Jaime didn’t take long to arrive at his friends house. He was prompt. And with it being the middle of the night, there was no traffic or delays. His medical kit was throw into the seat beside him, his wallet in his front pocket of his sweats (because of course there were no back pockets) and a beanie on his head keeping his ears warm.

He pulled into the long, wrap-around driveway and parking to head around the house and into the front door. He didn’t knock, fearing it might have been a dire medical emergency. He was calm in the situation, though a sense of urgency pushed him into surgical mode. The door clicked shut behind him, the sound echoing in the overly large foyer.

Greg’s voice sounded and Jamie silently headed that way, thankful the lights were on as he would have gotten lost in such a house. He’d been there before, but never in a dimly lit fashion and never got an emergency. He saw Greg laying on the couch, his eyes quickly running over him to see what was wrong. "Get yourself in a bind there, bud?" he asked, setting his kit on the coffee table and opening it to have access to everything there. "What’s going on?"

The expression that settled across Greg’s features upon hearing his friend’s voice and seeing his form was fond – not quite a smile, but his blue eyes lit up with unmistakable relief. Seconds later, apologetic self-deprecation settled there instead, a protective measure lest he dwell too long on the humiliation of his current state.

“You could say that.” One hand twitched, and the globe in the corner of the room rolled closer, settling nearby; a second later, it popped open, revealing a complete mini-bar. The gesture wasn’t necessary to activate his powers, but physical cues provided a focal point during periods of pain or distress – a crutch, his parents had called it, when encouraging him to break the habit. “Are you thirsty? Help yourself. I don’t want to be a poor host.”

Perhaps his priorities were a tad askew.

Prompted by the question, one hand crept to the sash of his robe, unfastening the loose knot with little difficulty. The top parted, falling over his shoulders to reveal his bare chest, assorted scars – many long-faded – adorned his pale flesh, others concealed by a tangle of dark chest hair. These were a source of shame and one - albeit not the only reason - he avoided the hospital whenever he could. His concern in this moment was not these familiar reminders from his youth but instead the gash along his shoulder, red smeared from the blood that had erupted when breaking the skin.

“There’s something embedded in there; I can feel it, but I didn’t want to risk nerve damage.” His feet wiggled at the other end of the sofa, still clad in his slippers. “I know I stepped in shards too, but I didn’t bleed.”

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