“He’s awake,” Kyle said, with distaste (and the slightest hint of curiosity) in his tone.
Mike hadn’t heard whatever sound had alerted Kyle to Henry’s rising, but he wasn’t surprised by the announcement. He didn’t sense the rising and setting of the sun bone deep, the way he expected that Henry did, but Mike had become conscious of it. Oddly enough, his awareness had developed only after Henry left Toronto, when the knowledge might have been of some use.
“He’s a guest,” Mike said gently, reminding Kyle to temper his tone. He handed Kyle another piece to the puzzle they were working on. “Where does this one go?” Mike said, hoping that his voice didn’t betray his nerves, and that Kyle was too entranced with the puzzle to notice the way his heart rate had sped up at the knowledge that Henry had wakened.
Mike was glad that he hadn’t gotten around to oiling the hinge on his bedroom door, as it was the only warning he got that Henry was approaching, so that when he stuck his head into the living room Mike wasn’t caught unaware.
“Good evening,” Henry said politely.
A product of his early years at court, Mike thought, but instead of taking the piss out of him for it, all Mike said was, “Evening,” as he tried not to notice the fact that Henry wore only the borrowed sweat pants. It was ridiculous that the sight of Henry’s bare feet would be the thing that made Mike’s body go tight as he remembered how Henry’d slid one foot up his leg the night before.
“Is it alright if I use your shower?”
“Of course,” Mike said, now trying to keep his mind from imagining Henry naked and wet. (A task at which he was less than successful.) “I hope you don’t mind,” Mike went on, mostly to cover his reaction, “but we brought in your bag from the car.” Mike pointed to where the bag sat in the hallway.
“I don’t mind at all,” Henry said. “It saves me the trip, thank you.”
“And we took your pants to the cleaner,” Kyle said as he slotted another puzzle piece into place. Deliberately not looking at Henry when he spoke, Mike thought. “They stunk,” he added, and this time Kyle did slide his eyes in Henry’s direction to gauge his reaction.
“I appreciate that,” Henry told Kyle gravely. “They did stink. I blame Michael for that entirely.”
Mike couldn’t tell if he was joking, or completely serious. Probably, knowing Henry’s contrariness, a little bit of both. Kyle, however, took exception to the comment and bristled – if he’d been in wolf form the hair on his back would’ve been standing straight up. Before he could retort, though, Mike spoke gently, “It’s fine, Kyle; that’s just Henry being Henry. You get used to it.”
Mike ignored the fact that he hadn’t gotten used to it at all until Henry had left, and then he’d missed it like hell. No sense letting either one of them know that little bit of trivia.
Kyle snorted, but he allowed Mike to ruffle his hair, and even pushed into the touch. No matter the form, Kyle loved to be petted. (Though he was quick to claim that he didn’t need to be brushed when Mike was of a different mind entirely about the matter, having had to sweep up the support for his point.)
Henry also snorted at the comment, and the sound of the twin snorts from the two people who were still feeling each other out nearly made Mike smile. Only the fact that he didn’t want to be the subject of twin stares of disapproval kept the smile off his lips.
“I left your keys and phone on the counter,” Mike said, changing the subject.
Mike had emptied Henry’s pockets before taking his trousers to the cleaner, who, to his credit, had barely grimaced at the smell. He was used to Mike bringing in items that reeked, though it was usually demon blood or some other bodily fluid, rather than sewer. And he’d gotten worse than that out of Mike’s clothes, so he didn’t have any concerns on that front.
“Thank you,” Henry said. “I’ll just go take that shower now.”
Mike nodded in response, but Henry had already left the living room to retrieve his bag and return to the bedroom. It seemed odd to Mike that Henry would sound as off-balance as Mike felt. Surely Henry, who’d been around for over 450 years, and who’d returned to Toronto for the exact purpose of seeing Mike would know what the hell he was doing.
“He’s weird,” Kyle said with all the tactlessness of youth.
Mike agreed, but he gave Kyle the ‘no name calling’ speech anyway.
They’d switched to a rousing game of Hungry Hippos by the time Henry returned to the living room. It wasn’t nearly as fun as hunting in the woods out back, Kyle had once informed Mike, but he did like the noise the game made. Dressed in pressed slacks and a button-down shirt that miraculously showed no signs of having spent any time packed into a traveling case, Henry looked once more like his old self and Mike could almost imagine that last night had been nothing more than a very vivid dream. (Parts of his body, however, were happy to disabuse him of that notion.)
Henry had stopped in the kitchen to retrieve his phone and he thoughtfully said, “Vicki called,” as he studied the screen.
Mike would’ve been surprised if she hadn’t called, since she’d been the one to contact Henry in the first place and she really didn’t like being left out of the loop. Especially of events that she’d set into motion.
“Need help figuring out that newfangled device?” Mike teased so he didn’t have to think about why he was less annoyed with Vicki for meddling in his affairs than he was that she wanted to speak with Henry now that she’d shoved him back into Mike’s life. Henry glared at him, but Mike wasn’t fazed – he’d seen worse, and usually from Henry himself.
“I should go see her,” Henry said, not looking away from Mike’s face.
Mike tamped down a surge of jealousy – Henry and Vicki had once been . . . well, what he and Vicki had once been. “You probably should,” Mike said, trying to keep all traces of *anything* out of his voice.
Henry sensed Mike’s discomfort anyway, if the small curve of his lips was any indication. Instead of commenting on it, though, as the old Henry would surely have done, he merely said, “I need to go out to feed, anyway.”
Mike tried to keep the notions of Henry seeing Vicki and Henry feeding out of the same thought. Luckily, Kyle was there to distract Mike from thinking of it, and Henry from whatever he might be seeing on Mike’s face right now.
“Drinking blood,” Kyle said, sounding disgusted.
“Hey,” Mike said evenly. “What’s the rule around this house?”
Kyle ducked his head sheepishly, staring at the game, rolling one of the marbles around with his finger. Mike nudged Kyle with his toe. Kyle sighed.
“No mocking other people’s eating habits,” Kyle recited dejectedly.
“That’s right,” Mike said, biting back a smile at the expression on Kyle’s face as he no doubt remembered the incident that had resulted in the institution of said rule after Mike had laughed at him when he’d gotten rabbit fur stuck in his teeth. (Though the laughter had stopped when Mike realized he now had the gross job of picking it out for him.) “And what do you owe Henry?”
Kyle ducked his head even lower and mumbled something. Before Mike could ask him to speak up, Kyle raised his head and bravely said, “Sorry. For mocking your eating habits.” He got the words out, but Mike could tell that he hated every second of it.
Henry inclined his head like the royal bastard he was and said imperiously, ”Your apology is accepted, Kyle. Thank you.” Henry then turned to Mike as he slipped the cell into his pocket. “Can I bring you back anything while I’m out?”
Before Mike could reply (he was a little bit flummoxed by the fact that Henry spoke as if it was no big deal that he was returning to Mike’s home, and his casual assumption that he’d be welcome), Kyle (apparently no longer moping) said, “Ice cream!”
Mike finally found his voice and reminded Kyle, “You’ll already be in bed when Henry gets back.”
“I could eat it tomorrow.” Kyle looked at him with big brown eyes that Mike had discovered he could rarely say no to.
“You haven’t been all that nice to Henry since he arrived,” Mike said instead of a direct no.
Kyle looked torn between wanting to dislike Henry and wanting ice cream. “I only said he smelled,” Kyle said, trying to minimize his transgression. “Which is true.”
Henry crossed the room and squatted beside Kyle, who preferred to sit on the rug rather than the furniture (unless he was in the mood to cuddle on Mike’s lap). Mike’s heart caught in his throat when Henry said, “Is it a smell you think you might be able to get used to?”
Kyle didn’t answer right away, instead studying Henry to see if the question posed some kind of trick or trap, and then he shrugged. “I guess. I mean, Mike smells sometimes, too,” he added with a sly glance at Mike.
“Hey!” Mike said exaggeratedly, like he knew he was supposed to, even though his throat still felt frozen.
Kyle giggled, and he and Henry shared a conspiratorial look. “What kind of ice cream do you like?” Henry said.
Mike opened his mouth to tell Henry that it wasn’t necessary for him to buy ice cream for Kyle, but Kyle beat him to it, answering immediately. “Chocolate!”
“Bribery, Henry?” Mike said as he watched Henry straighten. “I thought that was beneath you.”
“I think you’ll find,” Henry said, hesitating where he once would have called Mike ‘detective’, “Michael, that few things are beneath me.”
Somehow Mike didn’t think they were talking about bribery and ice cream anymore. His skin heated even though he wasn’t entirely sure what Henry was insinuating, but before he could form a retort Henry bent down and dropped a kiss on his lips, quite effectively keeping him silent.
“I’ll be back in a couple of hours,” Henry said, and then he was gone.
Mike didn’t know how long he sat there, stunned by the nonchalant manner in which Henry had kissed him goodbye. He didn’t come out of it until Kyle climbed onto his lap and it was clear that he’d been trying to get Mike’s attention for a while. Kyle placed both of his hands on either side of Mike’s face to make sure he had his full attention. Instead of asking why Henry had kissed him, as Mike feared, Kyle merely said, “Can we go outside now?”
Mike jogged along the trail they’d made through the woods in Benji’s wake as the small wolf scampered through the woods, reveling in the freedom of this form once more. Kyle had told Mike early on (after he’d become less wary of Mike, and even comfortable with him) that he had two names, a different one for each form. Mike guessed he could understand the necessity of it – it would probably seem strange for someone to have a ‘son’ and a ‘dog’ that both had the same name.
It was now second nature for Mike to distinguish between the two, but that hadn’t always been the case. While Mike had quickly mastered the task of calling him Benji when in wolf form (if only because Benji refused to respond when Mike mistakenly called him Kyle), it had taken him longer to stop thinking of him as Kyle.
Things between them had smoothed out, especially since they’d moved out here where Kyle (and more importantly, Benji) had access to a large yard to play in and the woods to run in, but they hadn’t always been easy. Kyle (and Benji) had tested Mike’s patience, and his determination, forcing Mike to prove over and over again that he could be trusted. That even though he wasn’t blood, he could be pack.
Mike’s fingers tightened on the leash and collar he carried for show, in case they ran into one of their neighbors, as he wondered now how Kyle would deal with the upheaval of having Henry come into both their lives. It was difficult for Mike to gauge because he didn’t even know how he was going to deal. Wasn’t even sure whether Henry was going to stay, much less what it would mean for the two of them if he did. Just because Henry had come back to Toronto to check on Mike, had spent the night with him . . . .
Mike heard sounds that indicated that Benji had caught something – from the squawking noises it made Mike guessed it was some type of bird. He didn’t quicken his pace – it was impossible for him to keep up with Benji unless Benji paced himself to Mike’s slower gait, and besides, the last thing he wanted was to watch Benji devour his catch. When Mike came upon Benji he’d finished his meal and feathers lay strewn about him (reminding Mike of the time he’d torn apart Mike’s down comforter in a fit of pique). He was still trying to get out one stubborn feather that had gotten stuck in his teeth.
Mike shook his head as he stood and watched Benji struggle with it for a few seconds. “Want me to get that for you?”
Benji ignored Mike and kept at it – if pure determination was enough, Benji would succeed. Finally Benji gave up. He gave Mike a pitiful look and Mike squatted down beside him.
“Let me see,” Mike said as he reached for Benji’s muzzle. He didn’t want to just yank the feather out and possibly take a tooth with it. If Benji hadn’t been able to get it out (he rarely turned to Mike for assistance if he could avoid it since the rabbit fur incident), it must really be stuck.
Mike carefully disengaged the feather and tossed it aside. “You’re welcome,” he said as he brushed off his hand onto his jeans.
Benji whined and licked Mike’s face in thanks. Mike grimaced and wiped the back of his hand across his face.
“Gross. You were just eating a bird,” Mike complained.
Benji laughed at him and raced off. Mike pushed to his feet and followed.
After his run, Benji was exhausted. He splayed out in front of the unlit fireplace and snoozed while Mike took a shower and changed into a pair of lounge pants and a t-shirt. Benji slitted open an eye when Mike returned to the living room, probably to check that he wasn’t dressed to go out again that night, and then closed it and relaxed back into sleep if the little huffing snore he gave was any indication.
Mike picked up the book he’d borrowed from Coreen when he’d been researching the dragon creature. He flipped through it, pausing to skim the text when a photograph or drawing captured his interest. But it wasn’t enough to hold his attention. He set the book down and pulled a law enforcement magazine he still subscribed to out from beneath one of Kyle’s coloring books. When even the latest in police weapons couldn’t hold his interest Mike gave it up as a lost cause.
Mike knew what the problem was, as much as he hated to admit it, even to himself. Or possibly especially to himself. Henry Fitzroy. Mike couldn’t relax, couldn’t settle into his usual nightly routine despite having tired his body out with the earlier run, and it was all Henry’s fault. As things usually were, in Mike’s estimation.
Mike had been doing just fine, thank you, before Vicki had stuck her nose in where it didn’t belong and brought Henry back into Mike’s life. Mike huffed a laugh that had Benji stirring before settling back into a sleep that made Mike just the slightest bit jealous. Back – Henry hadn’t ever really been a part of Mike’s life in the past. They’d both held the other at arm’s length, and only managed to not kill each other because of Vicki. And then Vicki had . . . done what she did and things between them all, as tenuous as they’d already been, had begun to unravel.
They saw each other less frequently, only when all three of them were needed to deal with some nasty that one of them had uncovered. Mike had tried to pull away altogether, but like he’d told Henry he couldn’t just let the bad guys have at his city, even if they were of the demonic variety rather than human. And then Henry had left Toronto.
Mike found out about it from Coreen. He figured that Vicki was too proud, and probably still pissed at Henry for abandoning her (though she’d never admit to that in a thousand years) to admit that he’d gone. Mike had been more upset than he’d thought possible, given his deep and abiding hatred of all things Henry Fitzroy. It took him a while to realize that there might have been more to the way that Henry had always been able to get under his skin than Mike had always believed.
Mike had been able to not think about it for the most part. He’d been too busy fudging his reports and making the decision to take an early retirement and follow Vicki’s footsteps into the demon hunting business. And then he’d found Kyle and Mike had been fully engaged with figuring out how to fit a child (not to mention, a werewolf) into his crazy life.
The strange thing was that Kyle, despite his fear and mistrust of Mike early on, had become the one thing in Mike’s insane life that made sense. It had made the decision to leave the city the easiest choice Mike had ever made. It also drove the wedge that had been created when Vicki had just up and left the police force (and which had made itself known once again when Vicki had chosen to save Coreen instead of banishing the demon), even deeper.
Vicki had taken it as a personal failure when Mike retired (though her feelings of guilt had neatly transformed into anger at Mike), but she’d become frustrated and cross when Mike took in Kyle and refused to tell her anything about the boy beyond the circumstances of finding him (leaving out the bit about him having been in wolf form at the time). She’d come out to visit once after they moved, though she’d shuddered at the large lawn and the woods encroaching on it.
It was just as well that Vicki didn’t like it out here because it had been clear to both of them that Kyle was uncomfortable around her. When asked he’d only said that he didn’t like the way she smelled. Mike could usually only smell the shampoo she used since Vicki was too busy to bother with anything as girly as perfume, but Kyle’s (and Benji’s) sense of smell was much better developed than Mike’s, so he took Kyle’s word for it.
Mike didn’t know if Vicki and Henry were still in contact – they never talked about it, even after Mike discovered that Henry had left town. Mike didn’t even know why Henry had left. It shouldn’t have been more difficult for Henry to pull away from Vicki than it had been for Mike, who’d known Vicki longer. Then again, Mike did have more practice at it. But the point was, Mike had managed to remain in Toronto, building a life separate from Vicki. Well, mostly separate. Mike didn’t know why Henry couldn’t have done the same. Unless Vicki hadn’t been the reason Henry left.
Mike refused to let his mind travel any further along that train of thought. Because that way lay madness. Instead he decided to put Kyle to bed – it was past his bedtime anyway. Mike knelt beside Benji and lay a gentle hand on his head. He stroked down Benji’s back, the fur soft beneath his hand, and the young wolf stretched under Mike’s touch.
“Time for bed,” Mike said, speaking softly.
Despite the fact that his eyes were still closed, a sound of protest issued from Benji’s throat, which Mike ignored. Mike slid his hands beneath Benji and lifted him. The young wolf hung limp in Mike’s arms, his dead weight a silent dissent to being put to bed. Suddenly Benji shifted and Kyle twisted, reaching up to entwine his skinny arms around Mike’s neck. Mike, now used to the maneuver (though he’d nearly dropped Kyle the first time it had happened), merely adjusted his hold and drew Kyle into his chest.
Mike buried his face in Kyle’s hair, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. He smelled like the leaves he’d been rolling around in earlier and there was actually a small twig still stuck in his hair. Mike plucked it out after placing Kyle on top of his bed, and then brushed his hair back off his face.
Mike left Kyle to go to the bathroom. He ran a washcloth under warm water and returned to find that Kyle was still out like a light and hadn’t moved an inch from where Mike had left him. Mike wiped off Kyle’s face, making sure to get all traces of his earlier meal from the corner of his lips, and then cleaned off his hands and feet, which seemed to get dirty no matter the form. Mike wrestled Kyle into a pair of pajama bottoms and got him under the covers.
Mike dropped another kiss to Kyle’s hair and turned off the light. He retrieved the washcloth and deposited it into the dirty clothes basket on his way back to the living room. Mike spent a few minutes picking up – folding the blanket Benji liked to lie on, carrying his coffee mug out to the kitchen. Mike started to set the mug into the sink, then ran the water to wash it out instead. As he dried his hands Mike realized that he was just killing time. Instead of going to bed (where he should be – no parent turned down sleep when he could get it), Mike was waiting for Henry to return.
The old Mike would’ve stomped off to bed in a huff just to prove a point. This Mike knew that that very bed would smell like Henry, and that it held memories of what they’d done in it the night before. Which reminded Mike that he should probably change the sheets. It was a task that was completed much too quickly, and once again he was left with time on his hands.
Mike checked on Kyle on his way to the laundry room to add the sheets to the growing pile. He poured himself a drink and turned out most of the lights so that the living room was left in a soft glow. Mike settled onto the couch and contemplated turning on the television, catching the news, or maybe a late night program. In the end he didn’t bother. Reaching for the remote seemed too much of an effort.
Mike sipped from the glass and tried to let his mind go blank. When that didn’t work he made a list of the things he needed to accomplish the next day – doing the laundry, stopping by the library to choose more books for Kyle, picking up Henry’s slacks from the dry cleaner while they were out. Mike’s breath caught when he saw the headlights shine through the windows just before he heard the sound of a car pulling into the driveway. His stomach gave a pleasant little flutter, as if an entire swarm of butterflies had been set free.
Mike’s muscles tensed, but he forced them to relax. He refused to rush to the front door, meeting Henry like some love sick puppy. That didn’t keep him from listening for the sound of the front door to open and close, from trying to discern Henry’s footsteps as he made his way through the house. Mike smiled to himself when he heard the freezer door open and shut and realized that Henry had detoured to the kitchen with the promised ice cream.
Mike shivered when Henry was suddenly there, leaning over the back of the couch and pressing his lips to Mike’s ear. “Waiting up for me, Michael?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mike managed to say, though his tongue felt too large for his mouth. His eyes sought out Henry as he rounded the couch, devouring the sight of him as if he’d been starved for it. “How was Vicki?” Mike said so that he didn’t say something stupid, like how much he’d missed Henry even though he’d only been gone for a couple of hours.
“Fine,” Henry said as he made himself comfortable on the couch beside Mike. He slipped the tumbler out of Mike’s hand and took a sip, then sighed. “She asked about Kyle,” Henry told Mike as he passed the tumbler back.
Mike wasn’t surprised – Vicki hated not knowing things. Still, his fingers tightened on the tumbler and he had to make a conscious effort to relax them. “What did you tell her?”
Henry raised an eyebrow but didn’t otherwise comment on Mike’s reaction. “I told her that he didn’t like me, either.” Henry shrugged. “It seemed to make her feel better.”
Mike shook his head. He drained the glass and set it on the coaster protecting the end table. When Mike turned back he shifted on the couch so that he faced Henry. Mike ignored the expression on Henry’s face as he slid his hand behind Henry’s head. Mike leaned forward as he drew Henry in, not stopping until their lips met. There was a puff of air, as if Henry (who didn’t even need to) had been holding his breath.
Mike licked into Henry’s mouth, surprising himself with how much he wanted it. Henry’s hand slid along Mike’s thigh, though he did nothing to wrest control of the kiss away from him. Mike finally had to break off the kiss because he did need to breathe. As Mike drew much needed air into his lungs, Henry smirked at him.
“You missed me.”
“Shut up, Henry,” Mike said as he dragged Henry into another kiss.
When Mike woke in the darkened bedroom his first instinct, even several years out of the department, was to reach for the phone. It took him a couple of seconds to realize that the ring of his cell wasn’t what had woken him. Mike pushed back the covers, blushing when he noticed that he was still naked. He found the lounge pants that Henry had taken off him earlier and slipped them back on. Mike peered into Kyle’s room as he padded to the living room, just to confirm his suspicion that Kyle slipping out of bed had been what woke him. It was.
Mike continued on to the living room and paused in the doorway. Henry sat on the couch, drawing. Kyle stood beside him, so enthralled with the movement of Henry’s fingers that he’d forgotten his dislike of the vampire and was actually leaning against his leg, straining his neck so he could better see what Henry was doing.
When Henry finished the figure he was sketching out he tipped the pad towards Kyle so he could see. Kyle reached out to touch it, glancing up at Henry to make sure it was alright before his finger met the paper.
“What is it?”
“A warrior,” Henry replied.
“It looks like Mike.”
“Mmm,” Henry said, and Mike could hear the smile in his voice. “I guess it does.”
“Why did you draw it?”
“I like to draw,” Henry said, not exactly answering the question. “And sometimes I even get paid for it.”
Henry flipped back a few pages and showed another drawing to Kyle. Mike took a step forward so he had a better view of it – a wolf pup baring its teeth at an unseen enemy.
“Is that me?” Kyle said, sounding excited at the prospect despite himself.
“It is,” Henry said.
Kyle touched the bared teeth in the drawing. “I look scary.”
“Indeed,” Henry said gravely.
Henry flipped to another page and showed Kyle a sketch of his human form being held on Mike’s lap. Mike’s breath caught at the tenderness clear in the drawing, the glint of mischief in Kyle’s eyes, all captured with a few strokes of Henry’s pencil.
“Is someone going to pay you for these?” Kyle asked, eyeing up the picture of himself and Mike as if he didn’t want anyone else to have it.
“Not these,” Henry said. “These are personal. But others, yes. I illustrate graphic novels.”
Kyle wrinkled up his nose. “What’s a graphic novel?”
“It’s . . . .” Henry paused, and Mike could sense the resignation and distaste before he spoke the next words. “. . . similar to a comic book.”
Mike grinned, but had to bite his lip on a laugh. Oh, how that must have hurt Henry to say.
“Can I read one?” Kyle said, excitedly turning pleading eyes on Henry.
Henry hesitated, and Mike knew that Kyle’s eyes were working their magic. “We’ll have to ask Michael,” Henry finally said, passing the buck. The coward.
Kyle’s eyes raised to Mike. He wasn’t even surprised that the two of them were aware of his presence. It was difficult to hide anything from a vampire and a werewolf. Mike stepped further into the room.
“We’ll see,” Mike told Kyle.
Kyle deflated dramatically across Henry’s lap. “That means no,” he lamented to Henry.
“That means ‘we’ll see’,” Mike said, fighting off a smile. “I’ll need to read them first to make sure they’re appropriate.”
“I don’t get scared,” Kyle informed Mike loftily.
“I know you don’t,” Mike agreed, even though the statement wasn’t entirely accurate. “You also aren’t sleeping.”
“I’m not tired,” Kyle insisted.
“Uh huh,” Mike said. He held out his hand.
Kyle rolled his eyes, but he dragged himself away from Henry and over to Mike. Mike resisted the eyes that begged him to allow Kyle to stay up later, but he couldn’t resist the request for a bedtime story, even though it was way past bedtime. Mike knew that Kyle would be asleep before he’d barely cracked the cover, anyway. He was right.
When Mike stepped into the hallway the light in the living room had been extinguished and a soft glow beckoned from the direction of his bedroom. Mike’s heart pounded against his rib cage as he took the first step towards where Henry (and perhaps his future, whatever it might hold) waited for him.