Chapter 12 - Part 1

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Desi returned to Casper's room with a piping hot coffee—black with a double shot of espresso that he thought Casper would appreciate—as well as two donuts. He really only had enough money for one, but the cashier was a classmate and a client, recognizing Desi when he walked in and doubling the order when he wasn't paying attention. Clearly the kid hadn't got wind of the rumors quite yet.

Casper was just as Desi had left him, although possibly slightly closer to his head slipping off of the desk entirely. Desi put the bag of donuts down, then removed the lid from the coffee, leaning closer to the sleeping boy to let the smell of it waft to his nose.

He got a reaction almost immediately, Casper's steady breathing swallowing a bit, then an inhale and a sleepy moan into the bend of arm. Desi gave a breathy laugh, easing a little closer with the coffee, like trying to hand over a peace offering to a wild animal. "Rise and shine, Creature of the Night. I come bearing gifts."

Casper attempted a grimace in his sleep but it failed to be as sharp as usual. Instead, he buried his head further into his arm with another groan, hiding away from Desi's gentle cohesion, reluctant to fully open his eyes yet.

Desi didn't push it, smirking and putting the coffee next to Casper on the desk before grabbing the donut bag again, plopping himself down at the end of the boy's bed for a sugary breakfast. Before he could take his first bit, Casper had already begun unravelling despite himself, a sleepy hand feeling blindly for the cup of warm liquid.

"There's dessert to go with that," Desi offered through the first bit of his donut, shaking the bag a bit when Casper finally clasped his hands around the coffee and took a first careful sip.

He received a look from over the boy's hunched shoulder, only one eye actually managed opened, but his expression was still somehow disgusted. "No thanks."

Desi rolled his eyes after Casper had turned back to his coffee. God forbid he ate something with sugar and risked becoming slightly less bitter. He didn't fight Casper on it though. Just meant more for him.

While Desi continued eating, Casper tried to keep himself awake by sitting up, rolling out his shoulders a bit, hovering over his drink like inhaling the stream would get the caffeine into his bloodstream faster. He fiddled in the meantime, grabbing the pen Desi left on the desk, then seeing the note he'd used it to write. Casper offered a hum when he read it.

"I didn't hear you go," he said, when Desi returned the hum but with a questioning tone.

Desi responded with a bit of a laugh. "You were out cold."

"I haven't been sleeping well," Casper explained, his head leaning into the palm of his hand in a moment of weakness that he tried to fed off with another sip of his drink.

Feeling facetious, Desi smirked and responded, "You should try not sleeping at your desk."

He got a genuine glare this time, Casper making the effort to turn his chair and open his other eye just enough to deliver it. "Difficult when it's stolen all night." Desi tried to argue but Casper had caught him with a mouth full of donut and before he could swallow the boy had turned back, clicking awake his computer and adding with a less sharp tone, "It doesn't matter, that's not the reason."

Desi thought to pry, but with a little extra thought he got a pretty good idea of what could possibly be keeping Casper up at night. He'd expressed his feelings of guilt more than once already, and with what Desi had been struggling with, he could only imagine Casper was experiencing a hint of it as well.

Instead of asking, Desi looked over Casper shoulder to get a glimpse of his computer screen, hoping to be able to change the subject. He recognized the page Casper had been on before he switched over to social media. "Did I trigger a fascination or something? With my logo request?"

Casper let the question sit, obviously trying to decipher it, but didn't manage. "What?"

Desi chuckled. "That webpage, with the owl types. I used it in junior high to do a report."

"Oh. Yeah... I found it when I was looking for references," Casper explained, sticking a fingernail between his teeth and dwelling on the moment, like he was trying to decide on sharing a secret or not. He continued after working up the will. "There's been this owl outside my window every night for the last week. I was trying to figure out what kind it was."

Desi gave a bit of a groan while chewing through the last bite of his first donut. After swallowing, he added, "That's a bad omen."

Casper snorted. "What do you know about omens?"

Pleased that he'd gotten the boy to laugh, Desi grinned cheekily. "Not much. I just know a stupid amount about owls."

Desi received another short exhale in response, though it was clear Casper was struggling to hold onto his previously perturbed state. He took another drink of his coffee, and continued with the conversation. A good sign. "You're only partly right. Their a bad omen in Christianity because of their connection to Lilith."

"Yeah, religious people really don't like confident women with pet owls, huh?" Desi responded, pleased when he managed another minute reaction for Casper, in the form of a raised eyebrow.

"You know about Lilith?"

Not a lot, but Desi nodded anyway, liking Casper's interest a little too much. While digging into the second donut, he muttered through the mouthful, "Where do you think I got 'Night Creatures' from?"

"Well, it's less pet owls and more like Lilith literally is the owl." Despite the correction, Casper seemed mildly impressed that Desi was keeping up. He continued, a particular tone that revealed his interest in the subject matter leaking into his voice as he recited remembered anecdotes. "They say she flies to the mortal realm from the underworld to deliver night terrors."

"I've had sleep paralysis before, that shit's fucking wild." Desi tried to acted spooked out, but he caved with a laugh when he saw Casper attempting to conceal a smirk. He added through the chuckle, "Maybe that's why you can't sleep. Bitch is hanging outside your window giving you nightmares?"

Casper shrugged while taking another drink from his coffee, his eyes laughing despite himself. "Maybe."

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