“Where is Remy?” Eclipse asked when he stepped into his twin’s home office. Normally the other boy would be reading in the window seat, but today it was empty.
“He’s helping Mary Anne at the school,” Raenef said. The Mother Superior was the daughter of a dear friend of his, and when the man passed away he’d promised to look after his, then teenage, daughter. Now, the woman was in her sixties herself and was the priest of a small church in one of the worst neighborhoods in New York City. As if that didn’t keep her busy, she also ran an orphanage there, and a school for children who otherwise would most likely end up in street gangs and juvie.
Remy, still uncomfortable around other people, had taken an instant liking to the woman, and she was one of the few who got him to talk. The feeling was mutual, and Mary Anne had practically adopted him as her grandson.
Feilon couldn’t be happier with their bond. It stung a little that his fledgling felt safer with anyone other than him, but he was glad at least someone managed to get through to him. And the boy was in expert hands with Mary Anne. The woman had a lot of experience with children who didn’t have the best start in life.
“Again? Didn’t he help her out a few weeks ago as well?” Eclipse asked.
“Yes, Remy’s been helping her every week for two months now.” Raenef wasn’t quite sure what his fledgling was doing there, and both he and Mary Anne had been a little vague on the details, but as long as Remy was happy, so was he. Besides, he’d half a suspicion Mary Anne feigned she needed the help, to nudge the boy to come over and socialize a little with others.
With Christmas around the corner, Remy got more nervous than ever. However, when Raenef asked him about it, the boy only got more stressed, thus he’d dropped it. Perhaps the seasonal stress the whole country seemed to be under was affecting his fledgling as well.
“Mary Anne invited us to the Christmas performance upcoming week. Do you want to go?” Raenef asked Remy at breakfast that morning.
“Oui, Master. If that pleases Master.”
Raenef knew that was all he would get for an answer. The Christmas concert at the church had become a tradition the vampire never skipped. Like all Methuselah, he loved music. Last year, he’d brought Remy for the first time and the boy had treasured every second. This year, the date coincided with their birthday, but they hardly ever celebrated it, and he didn’t want to miss the concert.
“Eclipse and Silas will join us as well. In fact, they were quite eager to,” Raenef added a little suspicious. Eclipse had joined him before, but Silas wasn’t a huge fan of choirs. This year, though, he had even reminded him three times to get Eclipse and him tickets as well. “Perhaps it’s because we have our birthday?” he added as an afterthought.
“That would be nice, Master,” Remy said, not too surprised. Then again, it was hard to read Remy’s emotions.
The night of the concert, Remy looked a nervous wreck. He’d helped Mary Anne all week with decorating the church, but there was a nervousness about him that seemed to get worse by the hour.
“Are you sure you want to go? You look tired. We can skip this year if you’re not up for—”
Raenef was pretty sure he wasn’t ‘okay’. “Remy, it’s—“
“—Let him be, Ra’!” Eclipse said, clapping his twin on his shoulder. “He’s just a little nervous. He’s fine.”
Raenef let it slip. Perhaps his brother was right. If he’s still upset tomorrow we’ll talk then, he promised himself.
The church was packed as the entire neighborhood had gathered for the celebration. Remy stayed close to his Master, and Raenef tried to keep as far away from other people as possible. Mary Anne had reserved them a pew on the balcony, offering them a first-row seat on the make-shift stage.
When the lights dimmed, the Christmas lights and hundreds of candles gave the church an almost magical atmosphere. The choir was in the best shape ever; The music sounding beautiful in the church’s great acoustics, filling the space with their ethereal voices. Not a soul in that church wasn’t touched by the music, but to the four vampires on the balcony, it resonated deep within. Methuselah had only a few weaknesses—not Holy water or the sun, but music was one of them. It brought out their vampiric nature, entranced and captivated them, almost like hypnosis. They were at an age where their control was strong enough to fight off the effects, but it still moved them.
As captivated as Raenef was by the music, he couldn’t help but notice his fledgling shifting in his seat beside him. The boy kept fidgeting with his cuffs and appeared distracted.
“Excuse me, Master. Remy needs to go to the bathroom?” Remy asked during the intermission.
Raenef nodded and watched his fledgling almost run away.
“He’ll be fine. He’s been spending quite some time here, he’ll know his way around by now,” Eclipse said, noticing his brother’s worry.
Raenef nodded but wasn’t as sure. He didn’t have time to think about it much as his brother and Silas chatted away about the choir that really had upped their game this year.
When the bell rang for the second half, Remy still hadn’t returned.
“Give him a moment,” Eclipse shushed him when Raenef was about to get up and look for Remy.
The vampire kept an eye out for the stairs, almost willing his fledgling to return. When the lights dimmed, Raenef tried to slip out and go in search of Remy, but both Eclipse and Silas urged him to stay. Sandwiched between them, he had little choice to get out without being a hindrance to others.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mary Anne addressed the people as she stepped up the make-shift stage. “Thank you all for coming to our Christmas performance. It means the world to me to see us all united here, sharing the gift of music and peace. Without getting too mushy about it, none of this would be possible without the generous donations large and small. Monetary donations, but also people who devoted their time and effort to help around the church, the orphanage, and the school. I can’t thank those people enough. It is thanks to you we can keep this place running. Helping generations of children find their way in the world, giving them the best start of life we can offer them.”
A polite applause and the twins shared a knowing smile between them. They were the largest contributors, and had been ever since Raenef met Mary Anne’s father, who’d run the church before her.
“This year we had a lot of misfortune as our music teacher fell ill and had to resign. Luckily, the Lord smiled down upon us and sent an angel to help us out. Single-handedly he got the choir back in order—not an easy feat, believe me,” she added, making the audience laugh, “and got them back on track to get them ready for one of the best performances ever, if I may say so.”
Another round of agreeing applause followed.
“Apart from celebrating Christmas, there is someone here who is celebrating his birthday today. Not only is he a dear friend of mine, he is also a huge beneficiary of our community. Happy birthday, that there may follow many more.”
Another applause as people looked around the room to see who she was talking about, and Raenef almost felt the urge to hide.
Mary Anne laughed, knowing Raenef preferred to stay out of the spotlight. “I’m not the only one who wanted to wish him a happy birthday, though. So, without further ado, let me introduce to you all the angel who made this performance happen.”
As she stepped off the stage, the lights dimmed further and the first few lines of ‘You raise me up’ rose from the darkness.
Raenef, still distracted by Remy’s absence, turned to the stage the second the notes reached him. The voice, almost otherworldly with its purity, sounded familiar.
“Remy wishes you a ‘Happy birthday’, brother,” Eclipse whispered in his ear.
After the first verse, the spotlight bathed Mary Anne’s ‘angel’ in a sea of light. In the blinding lights, dressed in the same robes as the other choir members, Remy barely looked older than a teenager himself. To everyone else he may look okay, but Raenef felt the fear and anxiety roll off him over their Bond. From the tight lines around his eyes, to the even paler than normal skin tone, and the way Remy held tight to the hem of the robe’s sleeve, it was painfully clear the boy was at his limits. Next, the curtain behind him opened to show the full choir there, adding their voices to the song.
Raenef couldn’t breathe. All he could do was stare in disbelief as the love of his life, the shyest person he knew, was standing on a stage to sing the most beautiful song. The boy barely spoke, yet here he stood, singing his heart out. For him. The song wasn’t random either; it was Raenef’s favorite, and the lyrics seemed to come straight from Remy’s heart. The boy looked directly at him, though he couldn’t see him behind the bright spotlights, but the gesture wasn’t lost on Raenef.
He wasn’t even aware tears were making his way down his face until Eclipse brushed them away. Nothing, nothing, could have prepared him for this. It was the most precious gift he could ever have gotten. He wasn’t the only one who thought Remy had an amazing voice as the audience roared and gave him, and the choir, a standing ovation after the song.
“I can’t believe this… You knew about this?!” Raenef stammered at his brother.
Eclipse smiled. “Remy wanted it to be a surprise, but doing something behind your back without permission was still a step too far, I guess, so he asked me instead. I didn’t know he was this good, though. That boy really has the voice of an angel.”
Once the audience quieted again, the next song blew Raenef away. He was a huge fan of a Methuselan poet by the name of Caius Yuan, and Remy had taken one of his favorite poems and used it as the lyrics to a classical piece, also one of his favorites.
The already melodic sounding Methuselan language only added to the experience and when Raenef looked over, he wasn’t the only one with tears falling, as his brother too was touched by the words.
Remy truly had gone above and beyond to surprise him for his birthday. Not only the time he must have invested in this, or to sing his favorite songs, use his favorite poem and all that. But to stand in the spotlight in front of all these people, a place Raenef knew terrified him, was the biggest show of devotion he could ever receive.
“That’s my boy up there…” He wasn’t a parent, and he didn’t consider Remy his child either, but he couldn’t be more proud.
The remainder of the show was as brilliant as the first half, but this time Remy both directed them and sang along and the crowd loved it. When the final curtain fell, they got a standing ovation lasting several long minutes.
The moment the lights came back on, Raenef was out of his seat, followed by an amused Silas and Eclipse.
Knowing the grounds, Raenef had no trouble finding the backrooms and, as fast as he could without bulldozering over innocent humans, he made his way over.
A lanky teenager stopped him and told him he wasn’t allowed backstage. Raenef almost snarled at the boy who dared to come between him and his fledgling when Eclipse pulled him back.
“It’s okay, kid. We are looking for your new music teacher? We’re his family, you see. And you don’t want to mess with my brother.” He added the last past in a conspiratory way.
A little girl ran up to them and hugged Raenef. Raenef regularly visited the orphanage and knew most of the kids there. The girl whispered something to the teenager, and after giving Raenef the once over, he nodded and lead them through a hallway. Elated children were running around, still wound up by the performance, and they had to zigzag the corridor to avoid getting run over.
“Ah, there are no visi—Master!” Remy said in shock when he recognized the visitors. He flew to his feet, clearly uncomfortable again. “Remy’s really sorry for keeping all this a secret… He didn’t mean to—”
Raenef’s heart broke a little at the fear spiking over their Bond. He didn’t understand why Remy’d think he’d be angry with him, but here he was. “I’m not offended, Remy. I loved it! I… I can’t even put into words how happy this made me. To see you out there, to hear you sing…” He hugged his fledgling. He knew it might send the boy into a panic attack, but he couldn’t help himself.
Luckily, Remy let it happen, and only stiffened a little.
“Do you even know the meaning of the song you sang in Methuselan?” Eclipse asked in Methuselan. Expecting he had only learned enough of the language to pronounce the poem, he fully expected Remy to not understand him.
Remy frowned for a second as he tried to comprehend the words before answering in fluent Methuselan that he did understand, surprising not only Eclipse but Raenef as well.
“Toshiro taught him,” Remy explained.
The same girl that had greeted Raenef in the hallway tugged on Remy’s robe to draw his attention.
Remy bend over when she waved him over.
“Is he your Special Person? If he is, he looks really nice,” she whispered loud enough even Raenef heard her.
Remy flushed and bit his lip as he looked from the little girl to Raenef, who was looking every bit as eager for the answer as the girl was. When Remy looked up, the entire room had gone quiet, waiting for the answer.
“What’s a ‘Special Person’?” Eclipse asked smoothly.
“A ‘Special Person’ are the persons you love the most in all the world. It doesn’t have to be your mommy or daddy, it can be anyone you want. As long as they make you feel good and safe,” the girl recited as if it was the most sacred of texts.
“Yes, and you want to be with them forever and ever,” one of the older kids added. “Remy taught us that.”
“So, is he yours?” the girl repeated.
“Yes, Remy, is he?” Eclipse teased, earning him a jab in the side by Silas.
Remy looked mortified as he was being put on the spot, and Raenef almost felt sorry for him.
“Hmm, oui, he is,” Remy whispered, looking anywhere but at Raenef.
The kids cheered and started hugging Raenef, and it struck the vampire how they had bonded with his fledgling over such a short time. These children came from rough patches in life and trusting people did not come naturally to them anymore. Yet, as hard as socializing was for Remy himself, he had gained their trust.
After promising Remy they would wait for him in front of the church, they left him to change and help with the kids some more.
“Ah, Raenef dear. Happy birthday!” Mary Anne said as she located them in the dispersing crowds.
They hugged, and Raenef complimented her with the wonderful show.
“Were you surprised? I totally expected Remy would cave and fess up to you,” she added, smiling.
“No, he managed to keep it a secret. I was completely blindsided. And what an amazing surprise it was.”
“Yes, I can imagine. He has been a blessing. The last time you were here together, he saw me putting up a flyer that we needed a new music teacher to help the children rehearse. He came to me and offered his service. His only request was that he got to sing these two songs for you. And he truly has been our saving angel. Not only does he have the voice of one, but the way he handled the children was nothing short of a miracle. We had a lot of new kids in the choir this year, and bless their little souls, not the easiest ones to work with. They were already way behind because of the old teacher falling away, so I had little hope they’d be ready in time. But Remy came in, won them over, and not only got them ready to perform but elevated them to new heights.”
Raenef’s heart swelled. “I had no idea.”
Mary Anne smiled and elbowed him playfully. “That was the whole plan. He wanted to surprise you. He told me he wanted to give you the best present ever because you gave him everything.”
“He sure delivered. And I got the pictures to prove it!” Eclipse said, having secretly filmed his brother’s reaction. They all laughed and when Remy ran over to them, Mary Anne invited them all for warm drinks in the house.
They were all drinking gluhwein and hot chocolate in the cozy kitchen when one of the older kids ran in.
“There’s someone to see Remy,” the teenager said.
Remy frowned and Anne motioned the kid to bring the visitor in.
When Raenef looked at Remy, the boy hauled his shoulders, as dumbfounded as they were.
A few minutes later a man in an expensive suit stepped into the kitchen, apologizing for the intrusion. “My name is Stephenson, and I’m a talent scout for TNC records. I’ve heard rumors about your choir for a few years now. Last year I visited, and though they are good for an amateur children’s choir, the quality wasn’t there yet. This year, their performance blew my mind. Your addition to the choir lifted it to new heights,” the man started enthusiastically. “I believe that with a little guidance, you can make it really big in the industry and I would love for us to have a sit down with you to discuss things further.”
For a moment it was silent in the kitchen.
“You mean, you want to sign the choir?” Eclipse asked.
“My primary interest is Remy, as we’d like to match him with a professional choir we already have signed.”
“That’s really kind of you, but I don’t think he’s interested in a music career,” Raenef said when Remy looked horrified at the prospect.
The man looked surprised at the answer, as most would probably jump at the offer. “I see you drive a hard bargain. What if we signed the choir as well? Think about the doors that would open for you and the kids. And of course they will make a nice sum of money…”
“I don’t think money is an incentive in this, and as my brother said, he’s not looking for a career either, right Remy?” Eclipse asked.
Remy bit his lip as all eyes focused on him.
“Remy? You want to do this?” Raenef asked when the boy stayed quiet and kept fidgeting with the tablecloth.
“Remy don’t need the money, or the fame… but the kids do. During the rehearsals they were fantasizing about being on a big show, make a career out of this. It wouldn’t be fair of Remy to thwart their dreams and aspirations.”
“Exactly! We can have you guys on a tour of shows, maybe even a television appearance and an album?” Stephenson was quick to add.
“I think we got the gist of it, here’s my card. Call me for an appointment and we’ll talk,” Eclipse said, handing the man his business card.
“It’s okay, Remy, nothing is finalized yet. You can still change your mind,” Raenef said after the man had left. “And it’s not only you who needs to decide, Anne does too. If you want, we can at least have a talk with him and a lawyer to see what it is they want to offer to make sure you and the kids are protected.”
“Waaaahhh, this was without a doubt the best birthday ever!” Raenef said when they walked back to the car.
Remy looked up at the tall vampire, a soft smile on his face.
“He’s right. It was a glorious night, and the performance was great. I didn’t know you could sing like that!” Eclipse agreed.
“Remy is a brilliant singer! He used to sing a lot when we were still in NOLA, right mon frere?” Silas said.
Remy blushed. “Remy’s not that good. But he does enjoy it. Music brings people together, and he thinks the kids felt that too. Remy’ll miss them.”
“You won’t stay on as their teacher?” Raenef asked, surprised. After seeing how much it had lifted Remy’s spirits, he’d hoped Remy would stay on.
“Remy isn’t qualified to teach. The new teacher starts in January. But Mary Anne said Remy can still help with the choir as it will probably be too much work for the music teacher to handle and classes and rehearsals.”
“That would be nice, and I’m sure the kids would love to have you back as well,” Raenef said.
“Soooo… I’m your Special Person, hm?” Raenef said, smiling like a fool. “You taught the kids about that?”
Remy flushed. “Remy told them he didn’t have any parents either. Shanas, the little girl?, she asked if he was sad because of that. He told them he wasn’t anymore, because now he found people who loved him, and who he loved in return. They latched onto the idea. Remy didn’t know they took it this serious…”
Raenef smiled. “That was sweet of you to tell them. And I’m honored that I’m one of your Special Persons, as you are one of mine.”
Remy nodded and carefully smiled.
On the ride home, Remy fell asleep against Raenef’s shoulder. The poor thing had been exhausted from all the stress and excitement. He really had pushed himself to his limits. Kissing the top of his fledgling’s back, he leaned back in his seat and closed his own eyes in bliss. Life was good. And no matter how many obstacles Remy still had to overcome, they could do it. Together.