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“Courting? There is no courting. Nobody’s courting any – Vicki stop laughing.”

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The fuckery would not end.

Mike stared in mild horror at Coreen. "Wait," he held up a hand. "You mean to tell me, that if a vampire or a human exchange gifts with each other, it is a sign of courtship?"

Coreen rolled her eyes so hard, Mike thought she would hurt herself. "Yes, Mike." She was exasperated with having to repeat herself. "It does not matter which of the two makes the first exchange. All that matters is that once a gift is given and accepted, then a courtship has begun."

"’Courtship’, as in the period in which a couple develops a romantic relationship before getting married." Mike was having an internal freak-out as he recalled gifting Henry, who is a vampire with a new rosary. 

"That is the basic idea, yes." Coreen tilted her head, trying to figure out what his problem was. She was about to ask when Mike suddenly stood, grabbing his coat and making his way to the front door of Vicki's office. "Where are you going?! Vicki said to wait here for her and Henry to return."

"That is precisely why I am leaving." Mike tore open the door and almost knocked over both Henry and Vicki. 

"Whoa!" Vicki took a step back, "where's the fire Mike?" 

Mike averted his eyes, "got a call from the station. Excuse me." He didn't wait for an answer, making his way quickly down the stairs, ignoring Vicki calling out to him. The cold fresh air was like a slap to the face when he finally stepped outside of the building. Mike shuddered, not from the cold, but at the revelation that he might have unintentionally started a courtship, with a vampire no less; one whom he first fought for Vicki's attention and then reluctantly accepted that he knew things and could protect Vicki where and when Mike could not. 

Choosing to ignore anything having to do with gifts, courting and a specific vampire, Mike made his way home. That lasted for all of three weeks.

"Give me back the rosary."

Henry raised an elegant eyebrow and placed his right arm, with the rosary wrapped around his wrist behind his back. "Good evening to you too Mike and no."

Mike's face fell. "It's cursed." He deadpanned. 

"No, it is not. Why don’t you come on in Detective."

Mike eyed the apartment beyond the threshold warily, something Henry picked up on. Thinking the detective was still a little uneasy about being in the presence of a supernatural predator, Henry teased him.

"I don't bite." His smile beautiful, albeit a bit sharp. "Unless you want me to." His voice low and seductive, like a siren’s song.

"That's not funny." Mike entered, managing not to jump when the apartment door closed quietly. However, his heartbeat gave him away and he cursed himself.

"Now," Henry's voice sounded behind him. "Care to explain what's going?" He came to stand in front of Mike. "Neither myself, Coreen or Vicki have seen you for three weeks and you suddenly show up at my door, asking back for something that you gifted me with."

Mike had done everything in his power to avoid them all. Giving Vicki one call to inform her that he was still alive. It also helped that he was asked to assist with a white-collar case that became a murder investigation. It gave him the perfect excuse of avoiding going home in case anyone was waiting there for him. 

"Is it true that if a human or vampire exchange gifts with each other, it is a sign of courtship?" He asked, not bothering to stall or beat around the bush any longer with the vampire.

Henry's eyebrows almost flew off his face from how fast they rose at his question, then slowly, a boyish grin appeared on his face once he had processed the question. 

"Why, Detective Celluci, I had no idea you thought of me that way. I must admit, I am surprised, but extremely flattered." Blue eyes twinkled with amusement and Mike rolled his eyes.

"I am being serious Henry."

"So am I Detective."

At Mike's unamused look, Henry sighed. "It is true. Courtship between the two species, begins with either one gifting the other with a present." He explained.

Mike knew all that from Coreen. However, Henry took it a step further. "In most cases, it is usually the human of the two who begins the courtship."

Mike screamed in his head.

Henry, unaware of Mike's internal strife, walked away, back to his worktable, took a seat, and continued speaking. "The first gift is usually a piece...of...jewellery" Henry looked from his wrist to Mike and if this were a cartoon, a light bulb would have turned on over Henry's head. The look of glee on his face was absolutely terrifying. 

Mike swore Henry's posture changed from relaxed to cocky. 

"And," pleasure emanated from Henry as he spoke, "the vampire gives a piece of art in exchange, if the courtship has been accepted."

"If? If?" Mike latched onto that. "Meaning, a rosary can just be given because the human fucked up, almost got the vampire killed and felt horrible that his previous rosary was destroyed in the process." He was breathing a sigh of relief for the first time in three weeks.

"Then it's not a sign of courtship."

Henry nodded. "Unless." His voice and smile dangerously wicked, stopping Mike's breath. "Unless the vampire accepted the courtship. Which he does."

"I am not courting you Henry." Mike did not miss a beat.

"But you gave me this lovely piece of jewellery." He held up his hand for all the world to see. 

"I gave that to you because your other one was broken because of me. And it is not a piece of jewellery." Mike snapped. "It is a rosary for praying because you are religious."

Henry's smile was infuriating, and Mike knew he was fighting a losing battle. 

"There is no courtship Henry." He said, his tone one of finality. Henry nodded and Mike knew he was not taking his words seriously. "I mean it Henry."

"Yes, I get it Mike. No courtship, whatsoever."



The two men stood there, looking at each other until the silence and Henry's little smile got to him. 

"Then, um-I'll leave you to it."

Ever the gracious host, Henry was holding open the door before Mike could blink or even turn to leave the penthouse.

"Thank you for the visit Mike." Henry beamed at him. "Do come again. I am always up for a visit from you."

Mike cautiously said his goodbyes, knowing that Henry was up to something. Something he would find out about two weeks later.

"I said there was no courting Fitzroy." Mike bit out, his blood-pressure rising each time he looked from the bright smile on Henry's face to the 22x32" watercolour painting that Henry had done of a sunrise on a lake for Mike. 

"I lied." Henry was shameless. "I told you that I had accepted the courtship."

Mike’s left eye twitched with annoyance. "And I told you that there was no courtship."

He looked again at the painting that Henry had propped up on the couch. Henry was a magnificent and meticulous artist; capturing the smallest detail of what was probably one of his last sunrises and recreating it on a canvas. Mike would admit that the painting was beautiful and looking at it, he felt a sense of calm. However, none of that mattered considering Mike was one step away from attempting to murder the former Duke of Richmond and Somerset. He told Henry that there was no courtship whatsoever, and Henry still went ahead and did what he wanted, he also presented the portrait to Mike in front of both Vicki and Coreen.

Coreen meanwhile was looked between the two men with wide eyes, her hands clasped as she bounced on the balls of her feet in undisguised excitement. "So, this is why you were asking so many questions the other night about vampires and human courtship practices."

"What?" Vicki finally spoke. Coreen launched into a detailed play by play of what occurred three weeks ago. Vicki's expression changed from confused, to downright amused. She began giggling, which turned into full blown cackling. 

"Vicki stop laughing." Mike's tone was flatter than a pancake.

Vicki was cracking up where she sat at her desk, tears streaming down her face from how hard she was laughing. "Oh my God! This is the best thing I have ever heard." She was a few laughs away from falling out of her chair. 

Mike close his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, a headache building behind his eyes. "Henry," he could feel the vampire smiling at him with even having to open his eyes. "I do not accept your gift." He opened his eyes to see that Henry's face was unreadable. "I told you that the rosary I gave you was because your other one was broken due to my actions. It was not an indication that I wanted to court you."

The two women in the room were suddenly quiet, looking between both men. It was Vicki who spoke up.

"We will give you two some privacy to talk this out." She got up pulling Coreen out the door with her. Mike paid them no mind, knowing that on the other side, they both will have their ears pressed against the door.

Suddenly tired, Mike took a seat in one of the visitor's chair causing his back to be turned to the vampire. The room was tense, and Mike knew Henry was waiting for him to say something.

"It is truly a beautiful painting Henry." 

"Thank you." 

"It would be a great gift for anyone." He continued, "except me. I do not accept it, because I am not courting you." The room was too quiet that Mike turned just to make sure Henry had not left. He was still standing there, staring at Mike.

"I made it for you Mike. You do not have to accept it as a 'courtship' gift; you can accept it as a sign of friendship."

Mike gave him a flat look. "And is that what you want? 'Friendship'?" The look Henry gave him said it all.

"I want a lot more than 'friendship' from you Detective Celluci." At least Henry was honest. "But I will take whatever you are willing to give me and if it is just being friends, then I can't argue with that."

"Since when?"

Henry looked adorably confused. "Since when what?"

Mike stood up, feeling more comfortable now that he wasn't looking up at Henry. "Since when have you wanted more than a friendship with me? Hell, since when have you even wanted to be friends? We didn't exactly start off on the right foot."

Henry's smile was wry, "that we did not." Mike waited for him to continue. "The first time I heard your voice, it was on Vicki’s cell phone while she was speaking with you." Mike was not expecting that. 

"You sounded angry, but under all that was worry for your friend. That means a lot in today's world, especially to someone like me." Henry's sincere expression soon turned predatory and Mike felt a shiver of something that was not fear run down his spine. "Not to mention, I wanted to know if the voice on the phone matched the person,” his eyes looked Mike up and down. “I was not disappointed."

Mike wondered at which point he had stepped into the twilight zone. "Christ almighty. Friends don't say something like that to each other." Henry simply shrugged. Mike bit back a curse. "Friends." He finally conceded. “And nothing else.”

"Friends who exchange gifts with each other." Henry pushed.

"Fine." Mike rolled his eyes. "For a 450-year-old vampire, you sure so act like a child sometimes."

"I have been told that before. So, you're accepting my gift?"

"It's a gift from a friend, I have to."

Henry's smile was brilliant and Mike thought that if they had met under different circumstances, he would have fallen in love with the vampire.