Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
--Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (1923)
Mike was loosening his tie, enjoying the excellent air conditioning in Henry's building, when the woman appeared in the middle of the room.
"What the--" Mike said, jumping to his feet and staring at the beautiful dark-haired woman, who looked entirely amused by his reaction.
From Henry's worktable, there came a low growl, and in an instant, Henry stood between Mike and the woman. "You're not welcome here, Sinead," Henry said, his voice all vampire. "Leave now."
"Oh lover, we had such good times. Can't we talk about it?" Her words were pleading, but her tone was anything but, containing arrogance strong enough to match Henry at his most royal.
"Well, you can't say I didn't give you a chance." Sinead smiled and waved a hand at Henry, who stiffened like he'd hit a live wire.
"Henry?" Mike said.
Sinead crooked a hand. "Come here."
For an instant he didn't move, then he was by her side, entwined with her.
But Henry didn't seem to hear Mike, nuzzling Sinead's neck with abandon. She sighed in pleasure, waving a hand at Mike as he took a step forward, and he found himself thrown against the front door.
"You may leave," she said.
Pulling himself to his feet, Mike tried to step forward, but ran up against an invisible barrier.
"I said you may leave," she said. "But this is your last chance."
"This isn't over," Mike said, backing up to the door and opening it. As he stepped into the hallway, the door slammed shut behind him. "Fuck," he said with great feeling, snatching his cell out of his pocket.
"Answer your phone," he muttered as he jogged toward the steps, dialing Vicki's cell.
Fortunately she did, and it only took a few sentences of explanation before she sucked in a breath. "This is bad. I'm on my way. Don't do anything until I get there."
"Just wait there and make sure she doesn't leave with him."
The ten minutes pacing back and forth in front of the building were some of the longest of Mike's life, up there with the time Vicki accidentally shot him. When she finally jumped out of the cab, the look on her face didn't make him feel any better.
"What the hell's going on?"
"Let's go. I don't want to give that bitch one second longer with Henry than I have to."
"Agreed." Mike patted his hip, wishing desperately for his gun.
When they reached the penthouse door, both of them reached for a key ring, but Mike waved Vicki ahead. She slid the key in and the door literally spat it back out, nearly impaling both of them in the process.
"Oookay," she said, turning to look at the key embedded a good inch into the opposite wall. "That's unusual."
"Kick it in?"
"Kick it in."
It took Mike a few solid hits, but at this point they weren't exactly going for subtlety anyway. Mike thanked heaven for shoddy workmanship as the door finally burst open with a resounding crash.
"Very impressive." Sinead clapped her hands from her seat on the couch, where Henry lay across her lap. "I can see why he kept you around. I'm almost tempted to keep you for myself."
"Hands off, Sinead," Vicki said. "They're mine."
"No. He's yours. Henry is mine, just as he was before."
"Henry," Mike said. "What's going on?"
But Henry didn't seem to notice them, just lay there looking half-asleep as Sinead stroked his hair.
"Henry? You need to fight this." Vicki had that frenetic edge in her voice that meant she was worried.
Henry's hand twitched once when Vicki spoke, but Sinead just smiled at them and Henry stopped moving.
"What's going on? What did you do to him?" Mike asked. That got another hand twitch from Henry but nothing more.
"He's mine. I told you. And I won't tell you again. Now leave."
Mike was about to say 'Not without Henry' when, to his shock, Vicki started backing away. "You just better hold on tight, because if you lose your grip on him...he'll rip your throat out."
Sinead's smile dimmed just bit, but came back soon. "Soon enough he'll understand that what I'm doing is for the best. You put him in great danger, but I'll protect him."
Vicki took Mike's arm. "But..." he began.
The look she gave him said that he had to trust her. So he did, and they left Henry behind. As they passed through the doorway, the door repaired itself. Mike swallowed the shame of leaving twice.
"Damn," Vicki said, smacking her hand on a wall. "He should be fighting it. We need to regroup."
Mike wanted to argue, but Vicki knew the situation and he didn't. Both of them cast concerned glances behind them as they headed toward the stairs.
"Who the hell is this Sinead woman?" Mike demanded.
"His ex," Vicki said, face tight with anger. "She's always been into magic. Black magic from what he said. And for whatever reason, she's decided that breaking up is too hard to do." She paused and they pushed through the doors onto the street.
Mike led the way to his car. "He broke up with her, I assume."
"Yeah." A deep breath and she went on. "She used magic to compel him before. The time I met her, it was the Magnus O'Connor case, remember?"
"I doubt I'd forget a case that involved a woman using her dead son's spirit to commit murder." Mike opened the car doors and they slid in. "Where to?"
"My office. Coreen's on her way. I called her from the cab on my way here."
"She magicked Henry somehow. He wouldn't tell me specifics. I know she tried to keep him with her, but he managed to break the compulsion to come help me."
"It looked to me like she had him locked up pretty tight."
"She's definitely gotten more powerful. And that worries me."
"Me too," Mike said.
Mike was thankful for their police background, because it enabled them to provide Coreen with a concise report of what had happened, despite their agitation.
As Vicki finished her description of the scene in Henry's apartment, Mike paced back and forth, trying to think of something they could have done differently.
Coreen's eyes were wide. "Wow."
"Yeah, wow," Vicki said. "The question is, what do we do now?"
"Did she look different?" Coreen asked, pulling the keyboard closer. "Any tattoos like yours? Aura of power? Was she wearing any jewelry? What did she--"
"Wait." Vicki held up a hand and closed her eyes. "She had something around her neck."
Mike closed his eyes as well and brought the scene up in his mind. "Leather cord."
"Oooh, animal product," Coreen said, "that's a possible."
"It was gold." Vicki said. "Well, gold-ish, at least."
"Gilded," Mike said. "The shape...I can't describe it. Vic, can you draw it? You were always better at that than me."
Vicki grabbed the paper Coreen handed her and started to sketch. "Damn it," she muttered. "I'm not the artist around here."
Mike put a hand on her back as he looked over her shoulder. "A little rounder at the bottom," he said.
They wrangled for a few minutes until they had a shape that looked like what they remembered and then Vicki handed it to Coreen.
"Okay, I'll see what I can find. But go away and think about whether there was anything else about her. I don't want you two looming over my shoulder." She waved a hand at Vicki's office.
Sighing, Mike took Vicki into her office and they shut the door. She sank down into one of the visitor chairs and Mike sat down next to her, dragging his chair up close.
"What if we don't get him back?" she asked.
"We will." Mike slumped in his chair, tapping fingers on Vicki's desk.
"But we're smart and stubborn and pissed as hell. Oh and sneaky. Sneaky beats powerful any day."
She huffed out a laugh. "I hate to admit it, but I can't imagine life without him now."
Mike breathed in and out a few times. "Neither can I."
"Never thought I'd hear you say that, you know. I mean, even now."
"He's a pain in the ass. Not to mention neck."
"But he's our pain in the ass."
"Sinead's going to regret this," Vicki said quietly.
"Okay," Coreen said an hour later when she called them into the outer office. "I think I know what she's got."
"What is it?"
"It's Egyptian magic."
Vicki groaned. "Again? I hate Egyptian magic."
"Sorry. It looks like a wooden ib, or heart, amulet, one of the most potent of Egyptian amulets. The heart was considered the most essential organ because they believed it was the center of intelligence, feelings, and actions, as well as where memories were stored." Coreen brought up a website showing a picture that looked almost exactly like what Sinead wore.
"That's it," Mike said.
"Okay, so what, we destroy this thing and we get Henry back?" Vicki was almost bouncing in place.
Coreen gave them both a nervous look.
"What? Out with it," Vicki said.
"It's not quite that easy."
"Why not?" Mike asked.
"The power isn't really in the amulet. I mean, yeah, some of it is, because she's focusing through the amulet and that's what's made her look more powerful, but the power is still in her mind. Even if you destroy it, she'd probably still be too dangerous. You need to break her hold over Henry first."
"Well, how do we do that?" Vicki demanded.
Coreen fiddled with her hair, avoiding their eyes.
"I swear, if you don't tell us right now, I'm going to--"
"Whoa!" Mike grabbed Vicki's shoulder.
Coreen took a deep breath and said very quickly, "The two of you need to break her hold on Henry with your love for him."
Mike stopped breathing for a long moment as they both stared at Coreen. "I'm going to pretend," he said slowly, "I didn't just hear you say that."
"I'm sorry," Coreen said, "but I can't think of another way to put it. You said that he responded when each of you spoke to him, so I think that even though you're not magic-users, if both of you can focus your feelings through similar amulets, you should have enough power to reach him. Egyptian amulets were made to be used by everyone, after all."
"Our feelings," Vicki said, rather ominously.
"I'm not blind." Coreen sighed. "I see how you three look at each other. Besides, why else was Mike there without you? And may I say, I'm very glad to see that you all finally came to your senses and--"
"Right. Anyway, if you can get through to Henry, he might be able to break the spell however he did it before."
"Might?" Mike asked.
"It's the best I can do." Coreen shrugged. "It's that or place a help wanted ad looking for another witch who's willing to fight her."
"I don't think more black magic is what we need." Vicki sighed. "What do we do?"
"Let me run out and get you guys some amulets." Grabbing her purse, Coreen headed for the door. "You guys, uh, think about your feelings."
Vicki leaned against the desk.
"Our feelings?" Mike asked, hating the whine in his voice.
"There's really no way for this to end well, is there?"
Mike sat down in a chair and shook his head. "Hell, I don't even know exactly what my feelings for him are."
"Join the club." She banged her fists against the desk edge. "Why couldn't this be a simple case of 'go in and beat the crap out of her'? That I could get behind."
"I could always shoot her," Mike said hopefully.
"You want to take a gun into the room with a witch who nearly killed us with a key?" Vicki stared at him. "Are you insane?"
"Good point." Mike closed his eyes. "So, instead we get to think about our feelings."
There was a pause. "Where did you say your gun was?"
Eventually, Mike went back to pacing, but it was warm enough in the office that he finally had to give that up. He wiped at a bead of sweat and sat down across the room from Vicki, telling himself it was now or never. "Vic..."
"What?" She turned, obviously startled out of her thoughts.
"I wanted to say that...I can't imagine life without you either. And if anything happens to you, I'm not sure Henry will forgive me."
"No!" She pointed a finger. "Don't go there. Don't tell me I need to stay behind. I don't run away. You know that. Besides, Coreen says this needs both of us."
"She's guessing. We don't know for sure."
"You're going to argue with the woman who saved our asses with silver bullets?"
Mike shrugged. "I had to try."
Vicki relaxed, leaning against the desk. "It just pisses me off when you guys try to protect me."
"I know." He looked at her small frame and thought about how helpless she looked splayed across Henry's bed, and how capable she looked while kicking supernatural ass. She was stubborn, cranky, incapable of compromise, a mass of contradictions, and damn, he wanted to wrap her up in cotton wool to keep her safe.
She crossed her arms, brows lowered in suspicion. "What?"
"Nothing." He was up and across the room before she could react, pulling her into a kiss. She tensed for a second, before relaxing against him, putting her hands behind his neck.
She tasted like soda and pizza, he thought as her tongue licked at his. He locked his arms, squeezing until she poked his shoulder with a finger. "Ow," she said as he loosened his grip.
"No, you're not." She kissed him gently on the lips.
"No, I'm not," he agreed.
She pulled back and let go. "I think," she said slowly, "that we should go home when Coreen gets back. Go home separately, I mean."
"If we're going to do this, I need," she waved a hand at the space between them, "I need some time alone. To think."
He nodded as Coreen burst through the door in a flurry of excitement. Yeah, he needed some time to think too.
Back home an hour later, Mike sat in his beat-up recliner, staring at the small piece of painted wood in his hand, hanging off a ratty piece of leather cord. This was utterly bizarre. He was holding an Egyptian amulet that he was going to use to free his vampire lover from a witch.
Every time he thought his life couldn't get more insane...it did.
Okay, Coreen said he needed to focus on Henry. Leaning his head back, Mike closed his eyes and remembered Henry's expression as he suggested they share Vicki.
He remembered Henry tortured and starved, kneeling on a filthy floor.
He remembered Henry forgiving him.
He remembered Henry describing the pain of being whipped.
He remembered Henry, burgundy shirt half-unbuttoned and a grin on his face as he pulled Vicki into a long kiss.
He remembered Henry arguing over paint colors.
He remembered Henry arching up from the bed in ecstasy, whispering their names.
He remembered Henry teaching Vicki sword-fighting.
He remembered waking up in the deepest night to find Henry watching him sleep.
Mike opened his eyes. "Sinead, watch out. We're coming for you."
In his hand, the amulet throbbed once, like a beating heart.
As the sun set, they rendezvoused outside the apartment building. Vicki was so worried that she went right into Mike's arms without even looking to see if anyone was watching. He held her tight, trying to remember when this was all he'd ever wanted.
After a long moment, Coreen coughed and they jumped apart. "Okay," Coreen said, rubbing her hands together, "don't hesitate, because that will give her a chance to consolidate her hold on Henry."
"Coreen..." Vicki paused. "If we don't come out or call you, get out of town, okay? She's not exactly a forgive and forget kind of girl. She may try and come for you too."
"Way to be optimistic." She waved a hand. "Go get 'em."
Mike managed a smile. "Thanks."
"Hey, it's what I get paid a measly salary to do, right?"
"Right," Vicki said.
As they walked toward the front door, Mike said, "Are we sure they're still there?"
"Well, the doorman says they haven't left and Henry's car is still here."
"But if she magicked herself in, couldn't she just magic out again?" Mike asked as they headed into the building, managing a friendly smile for the doorman as they went up in the elevator.
"Maybe, but she's gotta be using a lot of power to hold onto Henry. Besides, this is the safest place for Henry to spend the day."
"So you're saying you have no idea."
"Yeah." Vicki shrugged as the elevator doors opened at Henry's floor.
The amulet was damp in his clenched fist, feeling like a very small piece of armor against a very big gun. They stepped into the hallway, striding toward Henry's door.
On Coreen's advice, Vicki placed the amulet against the door as she put the key in the lock, and sure enough, the door swung open. In an instant, they were inside.
The living room was empty, so they kept going into the bedroom, instinctively standing to either side of the doors first, which was good, because the doors flew open on their own, and a blast of heat passed through them.
Vicki put up three fingers and on one, they came through the doors fast and low. "Time's up, Sinead," Vicki said, standing up and clutching her own amulet. "Henry, you need to concentrate on us."
Sinead lay on the bed, entwined in a nightgown, sheets, and Henry, the very picture of happy abandon. Tipping her head back, she laughed, the kind of laugh Mike might have found attractive under other circumstances. Now it made him see red.
"Get out," he said, clutching the amulet until it felt as if it were embedded in his palm.
"I don't think so," she said, lifting Henry's chin up for a kiss. "I don't know what got you through my wards, but neither of you is witch enough to defeat me."
Mike couldn't resist. "Oh you're a witch? And here I thought you were just a bitch."
Sinead waved a hand at him. Mike took a step backward, feeling a tide of power wash over him, but the amulet in his palm warmed and pulsed as it had in his apartment and he stayed up.
Eyes narrowing, she examined him. "Interesting. But not enough."
"Henry!" Vicki called. "We need you. Talk to me. Focus on me." Her knuckles were white with tension.
This time Henry's head turned slightly in her direction and Sinead looked alarmed. She stared at Henry and he turned back to her. "Don't listen to them," she said. "They don't love you the way I do. And I know you love me."
"She's lying," Vicki said. "You told me how you feel about her and her use of magic. She's controlling you, but you're strong."
Henry half sat up, head turning as if he was searching for something.
"Henry!" Vicki called him. "We're here. We came for you."
Sinead put a hand to her amulet and Henry lay back down. She smiled a vicious smile at Vicki. "I told you he's mine."
Vicki took a deep breath. "I love you, Henry. I've loved you all along, but I didn't want to admit it because I was scared."
Henry sat up and looked in Vicki's direction, expression vague and confused. "Vicki?" he said.
Sinead glared and waved her hand at Vicki, who staggered back a few feet, then at Henry, who put his hands to his head with a growl. "You can't win," Sinead said. "I'm stronger than you."
Vicki swayed on her feet and Mike took a deep breath, stepping forward to stand beside her. "But you're not stronger than both of us," Mike said. "Henry, listen to me."
Henry rolled out of the bed, still clutching his head. "Mike?"
"I'm here. We're both here. Concentrate on us. Fight her." The amulet was so warm it almost burned his hand, but Mike held on.
Henry stood and took several steps toward them, but when Sinead pointed at him, he jerked back as if she'd pulled a leash. She knelt on the bed, pulling him back on an imaginary string.
"No!" Mike reached out for him with the hand holding the amulet. "Damn it, I love you, okay? I love you, you royal bastard. Don't you dare give up. We need you."
Henry's eyes slowly came into focus and Sinead whimpered, trying to pull him further. But he stood in place, looking at Mike and Vicki.
"Don't leave us," Mike said. "Please."
"Please," Vicki echoed. She reached out and took Mike's hand and that contact seemed to galvanize Henry, who stood tall, his eyes darkening as he turned to face Sinead.
"You," he said, voice as dark as his eyes. "All your magic will not protect you from me now."
Sinead cowered against the pillows, doing her best to look helpless. "It was all for you. I didn't want you to get hurt doing their business."
Henry loomed. "Their business is mine because I wish it that way. You could never understand caring about someone like that."
"But I love you!"
"No." Henry shook his head. "You don't."
He reached out, grabbing her by the throat and squeezing, and Vicki and Mike rushed the bed, each grabbing an arm. "Wait!"
Henry growled as they tugged on him and for a long moment they'd reached an impasse, until he dropped the unconscious and barely-breathing Sinead back on the bed.
As they tried to pull him backward, Mike could feel Henry's full strength, and Mike knew that the only thing holding Henry back was his desire to not hurt them. "Don't do it," Mike said quietly, trying not to further provoke Henry.
Henry vibrated with tension. "Some people," he said, "deserve to die."
"She's not worth it," Vicki said, pulling on Henry's arm. "Can't you...do something about her?"
"That's what I'm trying to do," Henry said.
"Something less permanent, that we don't have to explain to Homicide," Mike said.
Henry's jaw was clenched as he stared at Sinead. "She's evil."
"I understand," Mike said.
Henry glanced at him. "I don't think you do." As Sinead began to stir, he pulled his arms out of their grip.
When Vicki started to grab him again, Mike stopped her. They watched as Henry grabbed Sinead's jaw and turned her to face him. Her eyes fluttered open and went wide with fear as she tried to struggle.
"Don't move," Henry said.
"You have no more magical ability than the average person. You couldn't light a candle with your magic."
Sinead repeated the words.
"You are afraid of the dark because you know that there are things more terrible than you lurking in it."
Sinead repeated that.
"Go away and never find me again or I will kill you." He lifted her off the bed, dropping her on the floor with a crash.
In a daze, Sinead crawled out of the room. They were silent, watching the doorway until they saw her stagger out the front door.
When Mike turned back, Henry stood stock still, still as only a vampire can manage, looking formal despite his barely-dressed state. "Thank you," he said. "I appreciate your assistance. I need to be alone now."
Mike and Vicki exchanged glances. He waved at her. "Thanks," she mouthed at him.
Vicki stomped up to Henry and punched him on the arm. Hard.
Startled, he stared at her. "What...?"
"We're not going anywhere, idiot. We didn't go through that embarrassing exercise in order to abandon you. Do you know how few people I'd be willing to do that for?"
Henry continued to stare.
Vicki rolled her eyes. "I'd have left my mom in an evil witch's clutches rather than say that stuff, okay? I'd only do that for you and Sparky over there." She waved at Mike.
Mike was about to sit on the bed when he changed his mind and stripped the sheets off. "Thanks, I'm touched," he said over his shoulder.
"You should be." Pausing, she stepped in front of Henry. "You went to a lot of trouble to get us in your bed, so don't think you'll get rid of us that easily."
Henry's voice wavered. "I...am not proud of what happened."
Tilting her head, Vicki examined Henry. "It wasn't your fault," she said softly. "She took advantage of you. You didn't do anything wrong."
Mike tossed the sheets in a pile and turned quickly, Vicki's tone catching his attention. She'd always been quick on the uptake concerning victims. "She's right," Mike said, his voice no louder than Vicki's. "It's not your fault."
"I know that." His chin came up.
"No, you don't. Not in your gut, you don't. Maybe you're afraid you secretly wanted this, or that you should have tried harder to get away."
"Don't presume to tell me how I feel," Henry said, hands clenching into fists.
Mike looked him in the eye. "You're not angry at me. You're angry at Sinead."
"Well," Vicki said, "he's probably angry we didn't let him kill her. But that's different."
Henry transferred his glare to her, but she was equally unmoved.
"Leave," he said with a growl. "This is your last warning."
Mike came closer. "We're not leaving," he said. "We wouldn't leave someone we love at a time like this." He was proud that he didn't stumble at all over the word.
There was a long pause and Henry slid slowly to his knees, holding onto Vicki. Mike knelt beside them, reaching out a hesitant hand, and Henry grabbed it, pulling Mike against him.
They wrapped their arms around Henry as he shook. "It's over," Mike said.
"We beat her," Vicki said.
Henry whispered. "She was too strong."
"Not too strong for the three of us."
Henry's grip was tight enough to be painful, but they didn't complain, kneeling in their awkward positions and holding onto him as he buried his face between them.
"You know," Henry said eventually, lifting his head, "there aren't many people I'm willing to look weak in front of."
"Really?" Vicki said, playing along.
His laugh was a shadow of normal, but it was genuine. "In fact, the list is composed of you and Sparky."
"Hey!" Mike said. "This Sparky thing needs to stop now."
"Would it be better if we called you Snookums?" Vicki asked, hiding her grin against Henry's shoulder.
"Only if I get to call you both my Pookie Bears."
"Mmm, I don't think so," Henry said. "No more Sparky, then."
"Glad to hear it."
"Royal bastard, though? That's the first time I've ever heard that used as an endearment. Maybe I should have that put on a t-shirt."
"God, I hate you so much."
"I love you too." This time, Henry's laugh was almost normal. "Both of you."
A few days later, Mike rolled over in bed, groggy, and noticed that the shutters were down, so dawn had to be close. Blinking bleary eyes, he saw that Vicki was still asleep curled up against Henry, but Henry was wide awake and watching him.
Suppressing a yawn, Mike said, "Everything okay?"
"Good." Mike gave in to the yawn, then lay there watching Henry and Vicki through half-closed eyes and considering what he'd thought his life would be like.
"Yes?" Henry said eventually.
"You seemed to have something on your mind."
"Not really." Mike reached out and traced the area around Henry's heart. It was unscarred now, but Mike would never forget the sun-shaped wound.
Henry captured his hand. "What's bothering you?"
"I was just wondering..." He paused, looking for the right words. "What do you get out of this?"
"Besides food and sex?" Henry asked with a small grin.
"Yes, besides food and sex, smartass." Mike shook his head. "I mean, we're nobody special, a cop and a PI. You're..." He trailed off.
"The wealthy bastard son of a king?"
"Among other things. So why us?"
Henry looked down at Vicki and then back at him. "Only a few have known who and what I really am. In that select group, Monsignor Mendoza tried to kill me, and Sinead tried to cage me. In you and Vicki, I have not one but two people who know my secrets and are still willing to risk their short and fragile lives in order to protect me."
Mike was silent.
Henry smiled. "In almost five centuries of life, I've never received a gift so valuable."