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the heart is a lonely hunter

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Henry hesitated, one hand on the doorknob. He could scent the person on the other side of the door and an encounter with him was never a good sign. Whatever it was that brought Michael Celucci to his door, it would no doubt turn out to be a nuisance at best and quite painful and potentially deadly at worst.

Celucci knocked again, this time more insistent.

Henry sighed. No doubt the doorman would have told Celucci he was in. And if Vicki had sent him--

Henry opened the door.

Celucci looked tired, the dark circles under his eyes and his dry skin giving him an air of exhaustion. The scent of smoke that Henry had detected before Celucci had even knocked was much stronger now with the door between them thrown open. Over one shoulder Celucci carried a duffel bag and he had a suitcase in his other hand.

"Off on vacation?" Henry asked, eyeing Celucci's luggage. Of course Celucci wasn't – if he showed up on Henry's doorstep with a suitcase, then things were sure to head more towards the 'painful and deadly' end of the scale. "I'm touched, Detective, that you've come to tell me of your absence in person. I'll make sure to be inconsolable for the duration."

Celucci glared, but didn't bite back.

Henry raised an eyebrow but kept the frown off his face. Celucci refusing to verbally spar with him? Something had to be truly wrong. Usually the detective was good for at least some biting comments and veiled (and not-so-veiled) insults before he got to the point.

"Detective?"

Celucci grit his teeth. "I need your help."

"You're asking for my help?" Henry's second eyebrow joined his first. "The world isn't ending, is it?"

Celucci's hand tightened around the handle of his suitcase and he took a step back.

"Detective."

Celucci shook his head. "No, this was a stupid idea to start with and it seems even more stupid now that I'm here." He headed back to the elevator.

"Celucci."

"I don't even know what I was thinking, coming here."

Henry knew. Celucci needed help and so he came to him. Because no matter how much they antagonized each other, no matter how much they complained and pretended to mistrust each other, they both knew they could count on the other. They might not be friends, but they could depend on each other when it counted.

"Michael."

Celucci stopped, his hand hovering over the elevator call button. Their eyes met across the hallway. Whatever it was that Celucci could read in his gaze made him slump his shoulders and turn back.

He stepped past Henry, bringing with him a fresh wave of smoke-scent and lingering traces of pain.

"What happened?"

Celucci dropped his suitcase and let the duffel slide to the floor next to it. "Do you remember that case with the incubus? Half-incubus? Pseudo-incubus? Whatever he was. That guy who used a talisman to gain incubus powers and then used them to kill people?

Celucci carefully didn't meet his eyes and Henry was oddly grateful for it. Of course he remembered the case. How could he not? It had involved some breaking and entering on his part, several passionate kisses between himself and Celucci and one excruciating evening spent at the police station, giving his statement to Celucci's partner while pretending to be absolutely besotted with the detective.

"Three weeks ago. I remember."

"He escaped."

"And set fire to…?"

"My house."

Henry narrowed his eyes, feeling a sudden flash of anger on Celucci's behalf. On a more primal note, he felt angry on his own behalf as well. Like it or not, Celucci was his, and he'd be damned if some wannabe-incubus could just attack what was his in his own territory.

"Calm down," Celucci said. "I need to get cleaned up and find a way to stay in this investigation, and I have a feeling it's not going to happen if you go and kill the guy."

Henry ran his tongue over his suddenly too-dry lips and called back the darkness inside of him. His vision returned to normal and he looked at Celucci with entirely human eyes.

"Better." Celucci nodded, pulling at his tie. "Can I use your shower?"

"Certainly. But, Detective? Why not--"

"Go to Vicki's? Yeah." He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face.

Henry felt a shiver down his back at the rasp of stubble he could hear clear across the room.

"First thing I did once I'd salvaged what I could was to tell my partner I'd take the rest of the night off to find a place to stay for now. She asked why I didn't just stay with 'the boyfriend'."

Henry blinked. Oh, right. Their ruse.

"Exactly." Celucci gave him a wry look. "So I pretended I was still reeling from narrowly escaping death. She sent me home – well, here – and told me she'd be by later with some preliminary questions."

Henry watched Celucci grab the duffel and disappear into his bedroom to use the attached bathroom.

The suitcase, when he lifted it a few minutes later, felt heavier than he expected. He carried it into the bedroom and set it on the floor to unzip it. It was filled, not with clothes as Henri had first thought, but a variety of things. Two file folders, three external hard drives, a laptop, some small knickknacks, a photo album and a handful of clothes.

He carefully sorted the contents, piling the clothing in one corner of the bedroom – they needed to be washed, and quickly. The fabric carried most of the fire-scent and Henry didn't relish trying to sleep with that in his nose.

The files and the photo album went on the small desk in the corner of the room. They also reeked of smoke, but a lot less strongly. The laptop and the hard drives joined the files on the desk.

The rest of the small items he gathered on the unused bedside table.

"What are you doing?"

Henry had centuries of practice in controlling himself every minute of every day and he still almost jumped at the unexpected question. He hadn't noticed the shower shut off, or when Celucci entered the bedroom.

"Unpacking." Celucci looked less than thrilled, so Henry took a step back. "My apologies for the invasion of privacy – I had assumed it to be clothes and wanted to get them laundered as quickly as possible."

Celucci's ire deflated. "Don't worry. I'm invading your home, and there's nothing in there that's worth hiding."

"Are you so certain of that?" Henry grinned and held up the picture of Celucci at his graduation ceremony, fresh-faced and looking infinitely younger and more innocent than Henry had ever seen him.

Celucci rolled his eyes and blushed. Since Celucci was wearing nothing but one of Henry's towels, Henry could see that the blush extended past Celucci's face down to his chest. He could also see the scrapes and bruises on Celucci's arms and legs.

Henry's smile faded as Celucci bent down to unzip the duffel bag and rifled through the contents, his nose wrinkling at the smell.

Henry crossed the room and opened his closet. Moments later, he handed Celucci his selection. "The shirt should fit – it's too large for me. The sweat pants might be a little short in the leg, but they're clean. I'll make you some coffee and sent your laundry to get taken care of."

While Celucci got dressed, Henry called the doorman – concierge services included laundry drop off and pick up – and managed to get his coffee maker running. He had a steaming mug of coffee waiting for Celucci when he emerged from the bedroom.

"Have you alerted Vicki that we have a problem?"

Celucci shook his head, taking the mug of coffee with a content sigh. "No time. I--"

A knock at the door interrupted him. He passed the mug to Henry and headed for the door.

The number of people it could be was small. The only one the doorman would let through without question was Vicki. Anyone else and he would have called ahead. Unless that someone had a badge.

"Kate." Celucci glanced at Henry. "Come in. You remember Henry?"

Detective Lam nodded and moved into the room, taking a seat in the armchair when Henry offered.

"Coffee? I just made a fresh pot."

"I won't say no to that, Mr. Fitzroy. Black, please."

Henry poured a second mug and carried both of them to the sofa, handing the detective hers.

Celucci had claimed a seat on the sofa, leaning back against the cushions in a slouched position. Henry hesitated for a split second but then sat down directly next to him, close enough for their legs to touch. Celucci turned his head to look at him, his gaze incredulous as Henry pushed the mug into Celucci's hands and slung his own arm around Celucci's shoulders.

"Don't look at me like that, Michael. It's not like the Detective doesn't know."

Emotions flickered in Celucci's eyes, too fast for Henry to process. Then Celucci went practically boneless, letting himself slump into Henry's side. "Sorry. Sometimes I forget."

"You've had a trying evening."

Lam cleared her throat. "Speaking of this evening, Mike, what can you tell me?"

Celucci downed half his mug of coffee and then set it down on the table. He returned to his earlier position against Henry's side. "I don't know much, really. I was on my way back to the station when I heard the call about a fire at my own address. I was only a few streets away, so I told dispatch and headed home. There were flames on the roof and smoke coming out of every window."

"But you went inside, according to the fire department."

Celucci nodded. "I saw someone inside, in the living room. I kicked in the front door and entered."

"That was an unnecessarily dangerous move," Henry said, more for Lam's sake than Celucci's, even though it was the truth.

Celucci shrugged. "Fire department wasn't there yet and there was someone in a burning building. They could have been in distress."

"What happened next?"

"I entered the living room and someone pushed at me from behind – I guess he was hiding next to the doorway."

"Did you see his face?"

Celucci nodded. "I did, when he tried to… choke me."

Lam's eyes narrowed, having caught the same lie Henry did.

"Mike?"

Celucci sighed. "All right. He tried to kiss me."

Henry tightened his grip on Celucci's shoulder and told himself it was all for Lam's benefit.

"For the record, Mike. Who was it?"

"It was Tobias Barnes." Celucci looked at Lam. "How did he get out?"

Lam winced. "They were transporting him to Clearview for an evaluation this afternoon. We're not sure how, but he caused an accident and escaped in the chaos. He must have gone straight to your house."

"Great," Celucci muttered.

"What happened next?"

"We fought. Then somewhere in the house something crashed and he ran off."

"And you?"

"I gathered a few valuables and left the house. At this point the fire department was there and started dousing the flames."

"All right." Lam's eyes flickered over to him and then back to Celucci. "Will we be able to reach you here outside of work?"

Celucci nodded. "And on my cell."

Lam nodded. "I don't have to tell you that you're not investigating this case, do I, Mike?"

Off Lam's look, Henry decided that Celucci had tried to look innocent – and failed miserably.

"He's going to do nothing of the sort," Henry assured her. "How likely do you think it is that Barnes will come after us, though?"

"He's tried stalking Mike, and now he's escaped and gone straight to burning down his house. So, very likely, I'd say. Which is why I brought…" She stood up and opened the door, revealing two uniformed officers in the hallway. "…your very own protection detail."

Henry met Celucci's eyes, seeing his own feelings mirrored in them. The protection detail was an inconvenience that could very well turn into a real problem.

"I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this," Henry said. "This is a secure building."

"And yet the doorman didn't even check my badge thoroughly."

Henry glanced at Celucci. "I often have police visitors."

"So Barnes will only need a uniform or a fake badge and he's right outside your door. Considering he's set one fire already, I'm not taking any chances."

"Maybe this isn't such a bad idea," Celucci muttered, low enough to be for Henry's ears only. "At least during the daytime."

Henry had to concede the point. He stayed seated when Mike got up to show Detective Lam outside and then came back to the sofa, sitting down with a little distance between them.

"Tell me what you didn't tell Lam."

"He's definitely gonna come after us, possibly Vicki, but he seems fixated on us."

"Vicki falls outside his usual type of victim preference."

"But she's the one who destroyed his talisman."

"First chance he got, he went to your house, not Vicki's."

Celucci nodded. "True. And he tried his mojo on me."

Henry could see red seeping into his vision and he took a deep breath to suppress it. His voice still came out a little more gravelly than intended. "What did he do, exactly?"

Celucci picked at a piece of lint on the knee of his borrowed sweat pants, a blush spreading on his face. "He… he kissed me and he said --he said 'you like this more than your pretty lover, don't you? You'll forget all about him if you get to be with me instead.' It felt like… like walking through quicksand. Like someone's trying to hold on to you and keep you still." Celucci shrugged. "He was pretty confused when I kept trying to fight him. It was enough that I could throw him off me and get back on my feet, and then he ran."

Henry frowned, tapping his finger against his lips in contemplation. He'd always thought that this… connection between them was one-sided. Ever since Mendoza – ever since he'd gorged himself on Michael Celucci's blood – he'd felt… possessive of the detective. It wasn't a true bond and the feelings behind it were a mix of emotions – hunger and anger and hurt and rage, but tempered with forgiveness and lust and satisfaction. It was a heady mix and most days Henry succeeded in suppressing the urge to claim Celucci completely. Other days some of the possessiveness seeped out. Henry usually channeled those emotions into their antagonistic bickering and ignored the rest.

But if Barnes had tried to use his incubus charm on Celucci and it hadn't worked, then Celucci's mind was protected. And that could only happen with a particularly strong-willed and stubborn individual or when a mortal was bound to another creature. And since Henry had been able to influence Celucci even before Mendoza… But Celucci didn't seem aware of any bond and Henry was loath to tell him.

"How did Barnes try to charm you? We destroyed his talisman."

"His mojo was definitely there." Celucci shrugged. "He must have gotten a new one."

"He's been in custody for the last three weeks. How would he have gotten a talisman?"

"Either he had a second one stashed somewhere," Celucci said, meeting his eyes, "or he has a partner."

#

Once Vicki had stopped laughing about the revival of his and Fitzroy's 'romance', she agreed to set Coreen to research about incubi and magical artifacts that granted powers and to check out Barnes' life as much as she could without landing on anyone's radar. As much as Mike appreciated the help, he didn't need another weird Vicki Nelson note in his file.

Mike hung up the phone and found himself standing in silence, watching Fitzroy page through a book. Quietly, he grabbed the two files he'd saved from his house – one a copy file of his current case, the other his ongoing file on 'weird stuff' that he kept adding to practically every time he talked to Vicki these days – and retreated back to the sofa.

"It's useless," Fitzroy finally said, pushing the book away. "I have no relevant books here and we can't exactly visit my usual sources if your two friends outside will insist on accompanying us."

Mike yawned and closed the file in front of him. "I've got nothing useful either." He suppressed another yawn, his eyes falling on the empty coffee mug on the table. He picked it up – only to have it plucked out of his hands by Fitzroy.

"Hey!"

"Perhaps it's time for you to catch up on some sleep."

Mike opened his mouth to protest, but it turned into another yawn.

"You have work in the morning, Detective."

Mike nodded.

"And you need to be awake to keep an eye out on Barnes. If he's after you, he might try to watch you during the day tomorrow."

"Good point," Mike said, hating the fact that Fitzroy was talking sense.

"Take the bed," Fitzroy said.

A bed sounded heavenly, especially since his own was nothing but a pile of ash and smoldering wood by now. It sounded good enough that Mike didn't even protest, not even out of long habit to be contradictory to whatever Fitzroy had said.

At the door to the bedroom, Mike hesitated. He looked back at Fitzroy and found him rinsing out the two coffee mugs. There was no need for Fitzroy to put him up. He could have slept on Vicki's couch, or even at a hotel somewhere. But the thought of fabricating a breakup with his fake boyfriend hadn't even crossed Mike's mind, and now Fitzroy was stuck with him however long it took to close the case and recapture Barnes.

"Henry?"

Fitzroy – Henry – looked up.

"Thank you."

An odd expression crossed Henry's face before it settled in to one of pleasant surprise. Mike wanted to take offense at that – of course he was going to say thank you – but he couldn't really fault Henry for his surprise.

"You're welcome… Michael."

#

Celucci – Michael – got up early and had more coffee for breakfast due to an absence of any kind of food in Henry's kitchen.

"I'll call a delivery service; have some food sent in."

"I can buy groceries."

Henry shook his head. "Don't make unnecessary journeys while Barnes is out there. He could be waiting for a chance to get you alone."

Michael shot him an annoyed look. "I'm armed."

"And he's… something supernatural."

"All right, all right," Michael grumbled, opening the door.

He spotted the two officers outside and froze. Obviously he'd forgotten about their protection detail. Without his senses constantly reminding him of the two men loitering in the hallway Henry might have done the same.

"I'm just worried about you," Henry said, smoothly stepping up to the door. He put his hand over Michael's and leaned in to kiss Michael's cheek. "Don't worry about it," he whispered. Louder, he asked, "Will you be back for dinner?"

"Late dinner, possibly. I was going to meet an informant."

"Of course, I remember." Michael wanted to stop by Vicki's office, see if she had any results yet. "In that case, you're on your own for dinner."

Michael nodded, seemingly at a loss for words. "This is just like high school," he muttered with an annoyed glint in his eyes. "Having your parents wait right behind the door while you're trying to say goodbye to your date in peace."

Henry grinned. He hadn't had the dubious pleasure of experiencing that particular scenario, but the concept was familiar.

Michael leaned in and kissed him, softly and sweetly. "I'll see you tonight."

"Be careful today," Henry called after him. He wasn't all that surprised to realize he meant it.

#

"I'm honestly surprised you haven't killed each other yet," Vicki said as they sat together eating Chinese food straight out of the containers.

"I think we've come to an understanding. A truce. Possibly a friendship." At Vicki's incredulous look, Mike nodded. "Seriously. We're trying out first names for a change."

Vicki grinned. "Aww, I'm going to miss all the angry 'Fitzroy!'s and 'Celucci!'s."

"Don't worry, we're not best friends or anything. But maybe Henry's not so bad."

"I've only been telling you this for a year, but I'm glad you've finally come to the same conclusion as the rest of us."

Mike rolled his eyes and stuffed an entire egg roll into his mouth to keep himself from snapping back at her. So maybe it had taken him a while to get over the vampire thing. And the arrogant rich guy thing. And the potential rival thing. Although that last one had faded to near nothingness after he'd gained some distance from Vicki. Things between them had been good while they lasted, but with Vicki he'd never felt like she needed him, specifically. Like he was replaceable – something that Henry's sudden appearance had certainly proved to be true. But he couldn't blame Henry for the fact that Vicki found him appealing, and he couldn't blame Vicki for the fact that her feelings had changed. His own, in retrospect, had shifted quite a lot as well over the last year of being dragged into Vicki's crazy supernatural shenanigans.

Finally Vicki stuck her chopsticks into the rest of her noodles and put the container down. "All right, back to work. I think your theory that Barnes has or had a partner might be true. The police think that Barnes was already stalking you before his arrest – but we know that we're the ones who smuggled a few photos of you in among his victims. So he probably didn't know your address before he was arrested. So how come he went straight to your house?"

Mike swallowed his last bite of food and sat up a little straighter. "Good point. Plus he had his mojo back – how would he get another talisman in prison? Even if he did have a second one at home, it would either still be there or in evidence lock-up. Someone must have brought it to him."

"I couldn't get into the visitor logs or the shift schedule," Vicki said. "You're gonna have to look it up yourself."

"Can I…?" Mike gestured to the office computer.

"Be my guest. I'm sure Coreen won't mind."

Mike wasn't sure about that at all, but he booted up the computer and called up the police website. He logged in and searched for the visitor logs to the holding cells.

"No visitors."

Vicki met his eyes. "You know what that means."

Mike nodded. Barnes' partner was likely a cop. "I can't view other departments' shift schedules online; I'll have to get back to the station – the schedules are up in the breakroom."

"I remember."

Mike grabbed his coat. "No time like the present."

Vicki nodded. "I'll see if I can dig up anything else helpful."

#

Mike took a look at the schedules in the break room and then wandered down to holding, trying to see if he could find any clues there. The officer who'd been on night shift desk duty the entire week was sitting right where he should be, ostensibly doing paperwork but really watching the sports channel on the miniature TV on his desk.

"Yeah?" he asked when Mike approached. His glance slid over the shield at Mike's belt before it traveled up to his face.

"Celucci, I work in Homicide."

"Yeah, I know," the officer said. The half-hidden nameplate on his desk said Mueller.

The hardly-veiled dislike in the man's voice startled Mike – had his reputation preceded him this far into the bowels of the precinct? Could he expect this sort of welcome the next time he had to work with someone from another department? Maybe Lam was right and he should distance himself from Vicki, at least officially. He'd still help her, of course – her work was too important not to. But if it closed doors for him with his colleagues, then he would have to do some thinking.

"I wanted to ask about Barnes. You know he tried to set fire to my house?"

Mueller grunted. "I heard."

"Well, was something different in the last few days? Did Barnes talk to anyone? Did he have a visitor?"

"You know, your partner was already here asking me that. Why don't you talk to her?"

Mike stared down at Mueller. Mueller stared back at him.

#

"Detective. Please come in."

Detective Lam smiled politely and stepped inside, her eyes scanning the furniture.

"If you're looking for Michael, he isn't home yet."

Lam frowned. "Do you know where he is?"

"He went back to work. Something his informant said that made him want to check it immediately." At least that's what Vicki had said on the phone – visitor logs and shift schedules.

"Damn," Lam cursed quietly. She turned on her heel, but Henry blocked the door.

"What is it?"

Lam shook her head.

"Detective. Please tell me."

Lam sighed. "We have reason to suspect that someone from within the department helped Barnes escape. Even if Mike really has dropped this case, the station isn't the safest place for him right now."

"Do you know who it is?"

"Not yet. I'm waiting on warrants for bank statements to see if anyone of my suspects made a large deposit recently. Mr. Fitzroy, I need to go."

"I'm coming with you."

"No, you--"

Henry grabbed Lam's arm and met her enraged eyes with his own black eyes. "Take me with you."

Lam blinked and then nodded.

Henry stepped back and let her open the door.

"Mr. Fitzroy is coming to the station with us," Lam announced to the two officers outside.

Lam's car smelled faintly of Michael and Henry turned his face to the headrest of the seat where the scent was the strongest. Michael and Vicki had already reached the same conclusion – he wouldn't be sitting at his desk, unaware that one of his colleagues might be responsible for the loss of his home. He'd be alert and careful. Henry was still worried, and not a little annoyed that he was so obvious about it.

Michael's desk was deserted, but it only took Henry a minute to find and pinpoint Michael's heartbeat in the building. Their bond, weak as it was, had been thrumming between them ever since they had acknowledged each other as something other than enemies and rivals. Perhaps, in agreeing to be on more friendly terms, he and Michael had opened the bond, allowing it to grow where before it had merely subsisted on the rare moments of accord between them.

"Have you checked the holding cells? If I know Michael – and I do – then he has not let the matter drop. It's where he would start investigating."

Lam led the way towards the back of the building and down a short flight of stairs. There was an elevator bank as well, but Lam seemed to prefer the stairs and Henry followed without hesitation.

They found Michael and an officer glaring at each other in the small office space wedged in between the elevators and the holding cells. Henry shifted, subtly assuming a better stance. The office on duty was giving off a mix of unpleasant feelings and they all seemed to be directed at Michael.

"Mike." Lam sounded annoyed and relieved at the same time, and Henry could emphasize.

"Kate. I was just--"

Lam shot him a look. "Yeah, I know."

Michael gave her an apologetic smile and then turned to Henry, eyebrows raised.

"The detective was so good to give me a ride. I think I've changed my mind about dinner. Let's go out."

Michael nodded. "Sure. If that's what you want." He looked down at the officer. "See you around, Mueller."

Mueller grunted in reply and watched suspiciously as Lam turned to push the elevator call button.

Michael joined Henry, standing close enough that Henry could feel his body heat. With a quick glance at Mueller, Michael leaned in and gave him a small, chaste kiss on the lips.

Behind them, Mueller made a quiet noise that neither of the humans seemed to have heard. Henry resisted the urge to turn around and scare the living daylights out of Mueller. If he was the one who'd helped Barnes – and Henry's gut and every single one of his senses told him it was very likely that he was – then they didn't need to antagonize him further.

Lam used the short elevator ride to tell Michael to stay out of her case and then headed up another floor while they exited elevator. The two officers who'd been posted outside his door all day had been replaced by new ones.

Michael pointed at them. "You two, give me a minute at my desk. I need to finish something. Ten minutes, tops." He pointed at Henry. "You're coming with me."

Henry followed Michael to his desk and took a seat – not in the visitor chair but on the desk itself. He relished the annoyed look that earned him, even if the bite behind the look was missing. "What did you want to discuss?"

"If someone in the department helped Barnes escape, then Lam is going to find him."

"I feel like you've already found him."

Mike grinned. "Noticed that, huh? Yeah, Mueller doesn't seem to be my biggest fan. Not sure he's the one who helped Barnes, but he seems like a good candidate."

"I'd say. He disliked our kiss."

Michael looked down at his desk, a blush staining his cheeks. His fast heartbeat sounded extremely loud in Henry's ears.

"I, however, quite enjoyed it."

Michael's eyes shot up. "You…?"

"I did," Henry confirmed. "I wouldn't mind repeating the experience – if that's something you want?"

Michael tilted his head back, giving Henry a contemplating look. Henry couldn't help it; his eyes dipped down to Michael's neck. When he raised his eyes again, he saw Michael smirk.

"So does that offer include certain other activities?"

Henry couldn't deny that he wanted it. He wanted to sink his fangs into Michael's smooth skin, wanted to drink him in and have that exquisite taste fill his mouth again. The last time he'd taken blood from Michael, neither of them had been in a state of mind – or body – to truly appreciate it.

"Only if you want to, Michael. I would never--"

"I know," Michael interrupted him. "I believe you." He stood up and closed the distance between them. "And yes, I do want to repeat the experience."

With that, Michael leaned down and kissed him, a little less chaste than before. Henry savored the taste, letting out a small, satisfied sigh when Michael pulled back.

"As much as I would love to continue this right now, this is hardly the place for it," Henry said. "Besides, we have an incubus – or as near as – to catch."

Michael nodded. "I have a plan about that. We'll have to pick up dinner somewhere without CCTV or any other cameras in the area. Do you think you can, uh, charm our two shadows?"

"Shouldn't be a problem."

"Good. Then let's get Barnes."

#

"Park on the far side."

Mike glanced at Henry. He'd caught a glimpse of Barnes outside the station and had been concentrating throughout the drive, trying to make sure they didn't lose Barnes along the way.

He pulled into a parking space in the back corner of the lot. The police car with their two bodyguards pulled in across the way.

Mike ambled over and leaned into the open window. "You guys want a curry, too? I can order extra."

The officers declined, so Mike joined Henry across the street in the small Indian restaurant. He smiled when Henry caught his hand and didn't let go until they sat at a small two-person table and waited for their takeout to be ready.

Moments after they sat down, Mike's cell phone rang. He glanced around, but the bored-looking woman behind the counter was immersed in the TV in the corner and the cook was busy in the kitchen.

"Vicki."

"Hi, Mike. Is Henry is with you?"

"Sitting across from me."

"So he can hear me?"

"I can," Henry said, loud enough for Vicki to pick up. "What did you find out?"

"I couldn't get anywhere on the police side of things, so I looked into the talisman instead. I already had a bunch of research from the last time, so I reviewed all of that again and started a new search into talismans that give power in general."

There was the sound of rustling papers as Vicki shuffled things around on her desk. "Okay, so there are several types of talisman: some enhance powers that are already there, others give powers."

"Barnes has the second type?"

Vicki tutted. "Wrong! He's using the first type of talisman, which means he must be some kind of creature. Or, more likely according to my texts, one of his parents was. He's probably half-incubus. The way Coreen explained it to me, half-breeds sometimes have the full powers from their supernatural parents, and sometimes they have none. But the power that comes with being, say, an incubus doesn't simply vanish just because someone is half-human. In most cases the powers stay dormant and then resurface a generation or two later."

"But he can call on them with the help of the talisman."

"Exactly. Destroy the talisman and he'll be human-powered again."

"Don't worry, we're on it," Mike said.

"What? Mike! Don't tell me you're out playing bait. Mike!"

Mike ended the call and stowed his phone back in his pocket.

"She's going to yell at you for that," Henry pointed out.

Mike shrugged. "She's going to yell at you for letting us play bait."

Henry gave him a rueful smile and Mike felt his heartbeat tick up. Henry's smile widened; obviously he'd heard the change. It was a good look on Henry, so Mike didn't complain.

"Do you think this will work?"

"He's attacked you before. He set your house on fire. I'd say he's so fixated on you that he will jump at the chance."

"Food's ready!"

Mike looked up. "Showtime."

They collected the food and left the shop the way they'd entered it: holding hands. Henry paused at the edge of the building and cast a glance at the two officers in the parking lot across the street. They were idly watching them, talking about something Mike couldn't possibly hear.

Henry tugged at Mike's hand and suddenly Mike felt himself pressed against the wall, the rough bricks digging into his back. Henry kissed him, sliding his cool tongue between Mike's lips.

Mike moaned and nearly dropped their takeout. He reached for Henry with his free hand and hooked his fingers into belt loops of Henry's jeans.

Henry broke the kiss. "Get ready," he said, his voice barely audible.

Mike nodded and let go of Henry.

Barnes' attack came, as expected, from the alley right beside them. Barnes ran out of the shadows with a sharp cry, a piece of wood raised above his head, ready to swing.

Henry pushed away from Mike and the wall and tackled Barnes into the shadows, hopefully hiding them both from the eyes of the officers across the street. Mike followed, kicking the makeshift club that Barnes had dropped out of the alley.

"Michael!"

Henry tossed him a shiny metal object – the talisman. Mike caught it and placed it on the ground before sprinkling it with the dried mixture they had used the last time to destroy the talisman. He pulled out his lighter and set the powder on fire, jumping back when it started burning with a flash and a bright flame. Within seconds the talisman was reduced to nothing but a half-melted bit of metal.

"No! No, you can't do that, you can't--"

Rid of his incubus powers, Henry had little trouble holding Barnes by the scruff of his neck. He roughly grabbed Barnes' chin and forced the man to look him in the eyes. "You will remember none of this. You are not and have never been in any way supernatural. You stalked and killed seven men and you intended to kill Detective Celucci, but you have seen the error of your ways. You will accept the punishment and be peaceful for the rest of your life."

Barnes sagged in Henry's grip and Henry let go of him, watching as Barnes sank to the floor.

"Is it going to stick?"

"Hopefully," Henry said. "It will for long enough to get through the trial."

"What the actual fuck is going on?"

Henry and Mike turned to look at the two officers who, with their weapons drawn, were standing at the mouth of the alley, gaping at the scene in front of them.

"You will not remember any of this. You waited for Detective Celucci and I to collect dinner. As we were leaving, Barnes jumped us from this alley. Detective Celucci fought him off and you two arrived to arrest Barnes."

The two blinked in confusion and then slowly holstered their weapons and cuffed Barnes.

#

Mike and Henry made their way to the station to give their statements – better do it late at night than have someone try to talk to Henry the next morning.

Kate found them at his desk a while later. "I heard you had an exciting dinner."

Mike's stomach rumbled. "Didn't get around to the dinner part yet, but yes."

"I've been productive as well."

Mike raised his eyebrows. "Mueller?"

Kate nodded. "Said he gave Barnes a necklace out of lockup, but it must have been more of a weapon." She shrugged. "His name is on the sheet and he doesn't deny it."

"Did he say why?"

Kate pursed her lips but stayed silent.

"Ah." Mike looked at Henry. "I guess you were right. He didn't like the kiss at all."

"Then he is a close-minded and stupid individual." Henry reached out to take Mike's hand and squeezed it comfortingly.

"Agreed," Kate said. "Either way, he can kiss his job goodbye. Criminal charges are still pending and depend on the logs of what, exactly, Barnes had in his effects and what we seized from his apartment. If it was a weapon, Mueller goes down. If it was a necklace or whatever, we might not be able to get him as an accessory."

Mike shrugged. "I'm just glad Barnes is behind bars again."

Kate suppressed a yawn. "All right, I'm heading home. You should get some sleep as well, Mike."

#

By the time they got home it was three hours until dawn. They had stopped on the way for Henry to grab a quick bite to eat and then updated Vicki (who had indeed yelled at both of them).

"I'm exhausted, but I don't want to go to sleep yet," Michael said, draping his coat over the back of the sofa.

Henry met Michael's eyes and slowly closed the distance between them. "Perhaps I can help you relax enough for you to fall asleep."

He reached out and tugged on Michael's tie, loosening the knot until he could slip it over Michael's head. He eased the suit jacket over Michael's shoulders and then started unbuttoning his shirt.

Michael gasped whenever Henry's fingers brushed his skin, so Henry did it more than necessary, enjoying the warm skin under his fingertips and the hard muscles at play underneath.

When he reached for Michael's belt, Michael shook his head., "Turnabout's fair play," he said, reaching for Henry's shirt to return the favor. Soon they were both bare-chested.

"Still too many clothes," Michael muttered. He kicked off his shoes and then gave Henry an expectant look. Amused, Henry bent down to unlace his boots and take off his socks while he was at it. Michael startled when Henry touched his ankle, but obediently lifted his feet so Henry could take his socks off as well.

"Shall we take this to the bedroom?"

Michael nodded. He let Henry lead him into the bedroom and then watched with hooded eyes as Henry undid his belt buckle and slid his belt out of its loops. He let the belt fall to the floor and unzipped his pants, sliding them down his legs along with his underwear.

Completely naked, he stepped up to Michael. "May I?"

"Yes." Michael's chest heaved and Henry could feel his stirring arousal as he took off his new lover's pants and underwear.

"Gorgeous," he whispered.

Michael's lip twisted with wry amusement. "You're not so bad yourself."

Henry grinned and used a bit of his extra strength and speed to get Michael horizontal within seconds.

"Whoa! I almost hate to say this, but I kinda like the manhandling."

"You do?" Henry was surprised. Michael had often played the submissive partner to Vicki's more assertive personality, but Henry hadn't thought that translated to any enjoyment from being dominated in a more physical way.

"I-I like seeing evidence how strong you are. It makes me feel… safe." Michael blushed at the admission, averting his eyes.

"Michael." Henry waited until Michael met his eyes. "There is no need to be ashamed. Not here, not between us. Not when it's about anything you enjoy. I want you to talk to me. I want us to be honest about what we like and don't like. Can we agree to that? No lies in the bedroom?"

"I guess I can agree to that." Michael nodded. "In the interest of honesty, I should probably mention that I have slept with men before, but never on the receiving end."

"All right, if that's not something you enjoy we can--"

"No! I want to try. I just never had a partner that I felt I could… trust. With that."

Henry took a moment to breathe before he answered. "I shall do my best not to disappoint you."

"I doubt you could."

Henry smiled and then turned his attention to Michael's body. He kissed and caressed every bit of exposed skin until Michael was writhing with pleasure and need.

"Please. Please, Henry."

"Please what?"

"Please take me. I need you, Henry. Please."

"Shh," Henry soothed. "Just relax and enjoy."

Michael watched as he coated his fingers in lubricant and set about preparing his lover.

"Gorgeous," Henry breathed because Michael was beautiful like this. Michael's breath hitched and Henry smiled. If Michael liked hearing about the way he looked, then who was Henry to deny him?

"You look amazing like this, spread out for me to look at and enjoy. So beautiful, all flush and alive with passion. If I were to drink your blood right now it would be the richest ambrosia I've ever tasted."

Henry twisted his fingers and Michael moaned in response, squirming on the spot.

"Please, Henry. Hurry up."

Henry complied. He gathered some more lubricant and slicked up his own sorely neglected erection. With his own hand around his shaft and Michael spread out before him, Henry felt ready to burst. He took a few calming breaths to get himself back under control and moaned at their combined scents in the air, sweat and precum mixed into an enticing cocktail of pheromones.

Michael hissed when Henry slowly pushed inside him. He bit his lip and Henry couldn't help himself. He closed his own lips around Michael's bottom lip and sucked. A single drop of blood spilled from Michael's lips and Henry jerked and pushed his hips forward.

They both groaned.

"My apologies."

"No need." Michael's pupils were blown so wide his blue eyes seemed black in the half-light of the bedroom. "I really liked that."

Henry still gave Michael a few more seconds to adjust before he started to move, keeping his thrusts slow and even.

"More, Henry," Michael urged, "please, bite me."

Their eyes met and Michael nodded at the unspoken question in Henry's eyes.

Henry leaned forward, letting Michael take more of his weight. He ran his tongue over Michael's neck, tasting the salty skin over his pulsing vein.

In one smooth movement, Henry's fangs descended and sank into Michael's neck, piercing the skin and releasing the sweet nectar of life. Henry gulped down a mouthful and then slowed down to prolong the experience and savor the taste, taking only small sips with each thrum of Michael's heart, sucking gently.

Michael bucked up, his hands scrambling for purchase on Henry's back. He moaned, mumbling something Henry didn't catch in his distraction, and came untouched, whimpering at the intensity of his orgasm.

Henry followed him over the edge, his senses overwhelmed by his lover. Joined like this, he could feel every tremor of Michael's muscles, every breath, every beat of his heart. He could see the light glinting off his blond hair, hear the hitch of his breath, smell the bitter tang of his release. But most of all he could taste his lover; taste his arousal, his excitement.

Taste his love.

#

When Mike came back to himself, he was clean and warm, so he must have been out for a few minutes at least.

Henry was lying beside him, one arm slung around Mike's chest. He was idly running his tongue over the skin of Mike's neck, sending shivers up and down his spine.

"I don't think I'm up for round two just yet," Mike said, surprising himself with how husky his voice sounded.

Henry smiled against his skin. "It's almost sunrise, so we'll have to postpone round two until tonight. That should give you enough time to recover."

"I'm not so sure. I don't think I've ever has sex like that."

"I can't recall an instance where it was quite so… intense, either." Henry propped himself up on one elbow. "I'm glad you're here."

"Got nowhere I'd rather be either."

Henry glanced at the shuttered windows. "Two more minutes," he murmured, leaning in to kiss Mike.

Mike kissed him back with desperation, a couple of minutes suddenly not enough before he had to let go of Henry for the day. He wasn't ready for this night to be over already. He made a sound of protest when Henry pulled away.

"Relax, Michael. Sleep, eat, go to work. We'll have tonight, and every night after that, for as long as you'll have me."

Henry grew heavy and lifeless in his arms and Mike sighed. He shivered and closed his eyes, running his hand through Henry's locks as he contemplated the last few days.

Everything had seemed to happen so fast, but the changes in their relationship had started weeks ago, when they first kissed. Or perhaps, if Mike was really honest with himself, they'd started even before that, months ago.

With a sigh, Mike turned on his side and rested his head on Henry's shoulder. He'd sleep, eat and go to work, and when he got home in the evening, Henry would be waiting for him. Tonight, and every night after that.