DR. DANNY, DR. STACEY AND DANNY'S PARENTS spent Christmas Eve at a party hosted by Stacey's parents, George and Betty Harrington. Stacey's brothers brought their families, and the house in Lexington, which always seemed huge, suddenly seemed small. Preschool children raced underfoot, slowing down only long enough to eat. Stacey's preteen niece Patty was the only one that did not appear to be having a good time. Caught in that awkward age between childhood and adolescence, she wandered off to be by herself. Stacey's family had not been let in on Danny and Stacey's secret life so the pixies and guard fairies partied with Diane, Damien and their grandparents in their apartment in Newton.
Diane and Damien gave thanks that evening for the way Danny and Stacey had changed their lives in the six months since their parents' deaths; Danny and Stacey had reached out to care for them, introducing them to the world that awaited them on the "other side" of the parallel universe. Damien was free of the drugs that had plagued him. Diane's healing powers had become stronger every day. Damien had found his mission as Diane's protector aided by Diane's boyfriend, a fairy named Eric. Their grandparents, Stan and Barbara, had interrupted their quiet retirement in Phoenix to return to Newton to care for the two teenagers. Although, truth be told, they did not need much caring for except that now that their powers had been discovered, they needed guidance in their application. Barbara gladly provided that guidance, although her powers were tiny compared to Diane's.
Danny spent Christmas Day on duty at the hospital in Boston, having volunteered for day shift in the emergency room so other doctors could spend time with their families. Stacey, likewise, spent Christmas Day at the hospital in Burlington where she worked in Paediatric Intensive Care. At the end of their shifts, they met their cloaking pixies and flew, undetectable thanks to the pixies' sphere of invisibility, to Danny's parents' place in a mountain valley in New Hampshire.
The party was in full swing when Stacey and Danny arrived. The entire gang was on the hillside behind the trailer park, sliding in the snow. Their laughter could be heard from the park's clubhouse. Arriving at the same time, Danny and Stacey walked hand in hand to join the others. A snowball fight quickly developed except that the pixies cheated. Since they could fly, not that the others couldn't, only that the pixies were more agile, they dumped huge handfuls of snow on the others' heads. Cold and wet, the group retired to the clubhouse to warm up by the fire.
For the first time in as long as he could remember, Danny enjoyed Christmas. Friends and family, , from whom he no longer had to keep deep, dark secrets gathered around him. His wife, who he loved with every fibre of his being, was pregnant with their first child. He watched as pixies played in the snow and thought how the guard fairies had loosened up enough that the recent war with the elves seemed like a distant memory. The teenagers whose powers he had helped discover, and their friends from the other side, hung together and did those silly things that teenagers do.
With schools out on break, Danny and Stacey's secret summer school for teenagers with magic shifted from only operating on weekends to running all day long. First thing in the morning the day after Christmas, the entire entourage flew back to Danny and Stacey's apartment in Boston. Mrs. Goldstein, Danny's landlady, had graciously given them permission to empty and remodel the basement room her late husband, now ten years gone, had used for his workshop and where he had built and repaired furniture for needy tenants. With Damien and Eric doing the heavy lifting, they had removed his equipment and donated it to a local charity. By Christmas, they had mostly completed the renovation. The renovation's progress was complicated by the fact that the room was pressed into service as a classroom before it was emptied.
Damien had completed his two-year degree, but had applied to college as a freshman so he could stay with his sister who was finishing her senior year of high school. Their test scores had been excellent. Their applications had been filed and they waited to find out if they had been accepted. The goal was for both to be accepted to the same school. In the interim, Damien had found a job at a fitness center near their apartment in Newton. As was his habit, he usually brought dinner for Diane and Eric when he arrived after work. The day after Christmas, not only did he bring dinner, but he was accompanied by a tall, awkward youth who appeared uncomfortable in Damien's very masculine company.
Damien deposited the food at the table where Diane and Eric were discussing diseases of the circulatory system with Stacey. He then dragged the young man to Danny where he was working on a chemistry equation with Richard and Brittany. Damien interrupted them. "Dr. Danny, this is Nathan. He's been hanging around outside watching us for the last couple of days."
Nathan scanned the room. The little school's enrollment had expanded from only Diane and Damien to two dozen students and half a dozen adults. Nathan paused briefly to look at Danny's father who was passionately arguing a point of medical ethics.
Danny stood and held out his hand. "Hello, Nathan, what can I do for you?"
"I've been seeing all these kids come in and I knew they didn't live here so I wanted to know if I could join whatever it is they were doing." Nathan said the words as if he had been coached.
Danny felt the warmth of power pass between them when he shook the boy's hand. "Nathan, are you good with electronics?"
"Eric, please come here and meet Nathan."
Eric rose and reached out to shake Nathan's hand. "Good grip!" Eric stated after they had released. "Nathan, is it? Glad to meet you."
The phrase "Good grip!" was Eric's code that he had met someone of moderate power. Eric could tell the strength of a stranger's access to power and generally what their power skills were merely by shaking their hand.
Danny turned to Nathan, "Eric can show you around. Then, if you don't mind, why don't you help Eric and Damien mount that flat screen on the wall and hook it to that computer."
The three boys made short work of the installation. When it was done, Nathan ran his hand along the deep scratch in the side panel. "Too bad we couldn't get that speaker to work," Nathan said.
"They told me it was bad at the scratch and dent place," Damien said. "What we paid for it, we can hook up external speakers. No big deal. Thanks for the help."
Danny had observed carefully how the three boys interacted, trusting their judgment more than his own. When they were finished, Danny said, "Nathan, now that you know what we do here, do you still want to join us?"
"Yes, sir, what you're doing sounds more interesting than what I am doing in school."
"We have rules of conduct."
"I won't cause any trouble," Nathan said a little too eagerly.
Danny smiled before continuing because he figured out what was going on. "Nathan, one of our rules is that we do not hide anything from our parents. They need to come here and tell me in person that you have permission to study with us."
My father works across the street. I can get him and he can talk to you."
Danny stifled a laugh. Nathan had played the game perfectly. "Bring your father. I will be happy to talk to him."
Nathan raced up the stairs and out the door. Ten minutes later he returned with a man in a City of Boston police uniform. "My son says you need my permission to join your study group."
"That is correct, although I like to think of it less as giving permission as being open with each other. As a parent you have a right to know what he is doing with his spare time."
The two men stared at each other for what seemed to the others like a very long time. It was as if they were competing in a high stakes poker match. "Dr. Levine, I have been watching you since the summer. This is not at all what I expected. I have misjudged you and I owe you an apology. My son has permission to join your study group. I hope you can bring his grades up. He needs all the help he can get."
Danny read the rank from the uniform and the name from the plate over the man's pocket, "Lt. Brown, I believe gentlemen seal a deal with a hand shake."
They shook hands and Danny said, "Excellent! Lt. Brown, allow me to introduce you to my father, Justin Levine." Not as sensitive as Eric, Danny could sense power only in the very strongest.
Danny's father and everyone else in the room knew from Danny's exclamation of "Excellent!" that Lt. Brown was strong with power. Justin took Lt. Brown's hand and said, "Oh, my! A truth seeker. We must chat. How appropriate for an officer of the law. Do you have time to visit me later?"
"I get off shift in an hour."
"Please come back after your shift. We have much to talk about."
"Official or unofficial?"
"Some of both."
"Can I stay?" Nathan asked.
"As long as you work," Danny replied.
"As long as you work," Lt. Brown echoed. "See you when I get off shift."
Damien put his arm around Nathan's shoulder and said, "Jason's been fighting with this problem for an hour. Maybe you can help him."