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Long Ways to Go Yet

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In the end, it’s all a matter of grab what you can, and run. For Peter, this has never been a hardship (indeed, he usually welcomes the notion), but Roman hesitates. Peter isn’t famed for his oratory skills―is more likely to get himself into trouble by speaking, considering how that entire vargulf business began―so he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he raises Nadia’s sleeping form to his chest and just looks at Roman.

Faintly, he recalls that moment in the nursery, the surreal impression of home he felt when he finally saw Roman and thought, Yes, okay. This is how it should be. Peter doesn't know what his own face looked like then, but the distressed expression of wonder brings a small smile to his face.

Destiny has long since legged it, taking Andreas with her, but Shelley remains at the Godfrey Institute (or, what’s left of it, anyway). Peter trails after Roman when he visits her, using his sincere wish to see her to hide the fact that he starts panicking whenever Roman is out of his sight. It’s irrational, and he knows it, but for all the close calls they’ve had recently, he doesn’t think he should be blamed for it.

(And he isn’t the only one. Just this morning, Peter had gone downstairs to start scrounging up a breakfast when he heard a too-quick shuffle on the landing. Glancing up and seeing Roman’s stricken face, he half-expected to be grabbed from behind by an attacker, but the moment passed and the boy on the stairs quickly flickered back into the Godfrey heir. Peter didn’t mention the misstep, and Roman silently thanked him with a touch to his shoulder.)

Shelley has, compared to the two of them, flourished. She stands taller now and keeps her hair pulled away from her face―if she chooses to wear it in the first place. Peter isn’t sure how to approach the topic with Roman, but he knows it’s because she’s the reason why they never had to deal with Olivia. He remembers the shy girl he met in their high school’s corridors and finds it unnerving to associate her with the messy remains they had found. At the time, they had been too distracted by the clusterfuck that was the Dragon to look a gift horse in the mouth, but now it’s like an elephant in the room.

Despite the unspoken tension, Roman automatically assumes that she’s joining them, vocally compiling a list of items she should pack. Ignoring Roman’s monologue, Shelley takes one look at Peter’s face and the way he crowds her brother, and then shakes her head with a shy smile.

Haltingly, she says, “I’ll catch up...to you,” and Peter doesn’t miss the mischievous glint in her eye. “But you...you two need...to get a room.”

Surprised, Roman gives off a choked laugh, but he doesn’t deny anything. Grinning, Peter sharply elbows Roman in the side, “How about it, Godfrey? What do you say to a honeymoon with a werewolf?” Scowling, Roman pushes Peter’s face away in disgust, but Peter latches onto his waist and bites into what was once an impeccable designer suit jacket. The young man puts up a front of annoyance, but he isn’t that convincing, and his eyes soon crinkle to the tune of Shelley’s laugh.

Blessed with Shelley’s approval, the two men choose the most nondescript car in Roman’s arsenal, strap a car seat in the back, grab as much cash as they have secreted away, and get the hell out of Hemlock Grove.

 

 

Roman isn’t generally paranoid, but after the Dragon had kidnapped Nadia, he had gone through a stashing phase, for lack of a better word. Ever since he and Peter started sharing a bed, the dreams had become worse, jarring enough that he would wake up in a cold sweat, clinging to the werewolf. (And yet, it had never occurred to either of them to try sleeping separately again.) If he and Peter wanted to keep ahold of their respective sanities, he realized that they would have to likely leave Hemlock Grove as soon as Nadia was recovered (he didn’t dare imagine any other outcome). Convinced they were sleeping on cursed ground, Roman had quietly begun to withdraw his savings, keeping it in a briefcase in the side table. 

He hasn’t counted, but considering the amount of withdrawals he managed to make, there must be tens of thousands of dollars in that case. Still, for all that people assume that he’s the sort that throws money at his problems to make them go away, Roman knows that the stash won’t last them for as long as they’d like. (Of course, there’s always the option of returning to the Godfrey Institute, but, as far as he’s concerned, that Roman Godfrey no longer exists.)

They might not be criminals (on paper, anyway), but he’s loathe to leave a paper trail. He’s aware that security cameras and facial recognition systems would do a better job of picking them out if someone really wanted to find them, but using a credit card paid for by the Institute isn’t the best way to go about cutting off a past life.

And so, this is how Roman ends up stood in front of a cashier with a bag of disposable diapers under one arm and a pile of jars of baby food on the counter, nose bleeding and looking a little worse for wear. (Forgoing his usual attire, he had eventually settled for a bomber jacket and jeans, and he likes the rugged edge it gives him.) Peter is busy juggling the groceries while holding Nadia, but he still manages to hand Roman a tissue for his bloody nose (a trait which Roman seems to have adopted from his half-Upir days). Blissfully ignorant, the store clerk files the dollar bill into the register without suspicion, then finishes bagging the jars.

For the most part, Roman has never felt remorse for using his mind trick to get what he wants, and this time is no different. Nadia is thankfully grown enough that breast milk is no longer necessary, but that also means that feeding her is becoming increasingly expensive. Or, that is, it would be, if Roman didn’t cheat. The first time he had avoided paying, Peter had sent him a sideways glance but said nothing. When they had settled back in the car, he looked thoughtful, fiddling with one of his rings.

“What, don’t tell me you found that ‘morally repugnant’?” Roman had muttered, scoffing.

Peter made a face, grabbing Roman’s seat as he backed out of the parking spot. “I’m not one to talk. All I’m thinking is that we shouldn’t be so careless in public.”

They compromise, which is why Roman always hands over one or two folded bills, in case the store’s security camera is actually functioning or if there’s a guard on duty. He doubts that anyone keeps such a close watch on those screens, but Peter feels better for it and Roman can spare a dollar every now and then for his sake. He supposes that they both have to deal with paranoia in their own way.

Grabbing the last bag with his diaper-burdened arm, Roman places his other hand on Peter’s back and steers them out. A scant year ago it would have been a mocking gesture, but now it comes naturally and each accepts it as just one of those things they do.

 

 

Instinctively, Peter knows that he should be afraid of Roman. (After all, he has listened to Nicolae’s cautionary tales about Upirs since he was a child.) Looking back, he can’t help but feel guilty for being so supportive of Roman trying to become human again, because he had done so for mainly selfish reasons. Whereas his friend had wanted the change because he was suffering, Peter was blinded by the prejudice he’d grown up with. All he could think was that Upirs could not be trusted―and it was only a matter of time before they turned on you.

Then, said Upir had not only fought off Nadia’s would-be murderers, but had literally ripped Peter out of his feral state. If Roman had been a human, they would have all been dead by now. The irony is not lost on Peter. So really, after knowing what the Upir can do to him, he should definitely be afraid, but now all he can feel is fear for him.

As it is so with werewolves, being an Upir comes with its own set of inconveniences. Roman always starts to fidget and goes quiet if Peter brings up anything from the time after he left Hemlock Grove up until their reconciliation, but one night they had neglected sleep and Roman had spoken until dawn and his voice turned hoarse. In a weak moment, he had confessed that losing Peter, Nadia, and Shelley were his foremost fears (after a second he had warily admitted that he liked Peter’s family too, but bluntly added that it wasn’t the same, to which Peter cuffed him), but that which haunted him at every moment was the possibility that he would regress to the desperation that plagued him in those days.

Though he hadn’t wanted to concede to it when they first met, Peter knows that they share a connection―has known since the shared dreams (but suspects that he was doomed the moment he saw that self-entitled face). Then Miranda had come along, all smiles and coy glances, and Peter followed her up the stairs because he didn’t know how else to ask for it, how to apologize to Roman. It wasn’t ideal―if Peter hadn’t been such a coward then Miranda would not have even been there―but as soon as he’d heard Roman shuffling off the couch, the stone in his chest had dissipated.

Peter remembers the anger of the days after and the days before and, comparing the two, can’t help but marvel. As they eventually learned, it became even easier once they finally fell into bed together, just the two of them. (Peter still beats himself up over how long it took them.) These days he barely feels the rage, doesn’t give in to the desire to turn whenever he pleases. And just as Roman anchors Peter’s wolf, Peter anchors Roman’s Upir.

After Nadia’s kidnapping and the stricken grief that followed, Peter silently vowed that he would do whatever it took to keep Roman happy, whether that be something as banal as making him coffee in the mornings or something as dire as helping him feed. He didn’t bring up the subject for fear of manipulating Roman’s choices, but, in due course, the man himself approached the werewolf, informing him of his decision to keep from feeding on innocents.

One downside to leaving Hemlock Grove is the loss of Pryce’s Upir-tailored vending machine, so they have to be attentive as they travel. Although Roman eats like a human, he cannot go without blood for a few days; still, ever since Peter started anchoring him, the previously violent urges had instead begun to manifest as lethargy and weakness. So Peter is careful, keeping tabs on the butcher shops he sees and mentally calibrating whether they seem shady enough to sell you a tub of blood without question.  

Sometimes he sees hospitals or blood banks, but he never points them out to Roman. The argument that had arisen when he’d mentioned their existence culminated in a three-day-long standoff when neither had spoken to each other except to give directions. It was only with gentle cajoling that Peter managed to get Roman to open up, explain why he was so opposed to the idea. Beyond the guilt of stealing blood from people who truly needed it (because you could only feel so much guilt as an Upir), somewhere along the way Roman had grown a martyr complex and believed that he didn’t deserve human blood.

Peter barely kept himself from launching into yet another argument, holding back only for his friend’s sake, and accepted that some things Roman just had to decide for himself, even if he personally didn’t agree with his conclusions. In the end, it doesn’t matter as long as the Upir drinks the animal blood at regular intervals―but it is the dark days that Peter quickly understands he has to watch out for. Sometimes, during long stretches of road with no blood in sight, Peter takes a knife to his skin and helps Roman take the edge off, but during those days Roman refuses to drink any and all blood, even Peter’s.

It’s funny, in a morbid way, that Peter feels offended when the Upir doesn’t want his blood, but he expects stranger things after deciding to start a family with one, so he shrugs it off. The longer Roman waits to feed, the weaker he gets, the vampiric cravings dulled by Peter’s presence. In some instances the Upir bounces back on his own, but oftentimes Peter has learned to wait until he doesn’t have the energy to argue with Peter’s badgering.

Unlocking the door to their motel room, Peter wonders whether Roman’s mood has improved, only to find him in the same position Peter left him in―prone on top of the covers with a pillow hiding his head. Kicking off his shoes, Peter reaches over to the bed and grabs Roman’s ankle, shaking it briefly. “Up and at ‘em, Dracula.”

An annoyed grunt travels from the general direction of the pillow, but the Upir makes no other sound. On the other twin bed, Nadia rouses quietly from her nap and thoughtfully regards Peter with otherworldly eyes. Apparently seeing nothing amiss, she settles back down, ignoring Peter’s attempts to make silly faces at her. Undiscouraged by Roman’s silence, the werewolf settles his paper bag on the cramped counter, fishing out the carton of blood and grabbing a mug from the sink.

Roman still hasn’t moved, so Peter takes the now full mug and places it on the side table, perching next to Roman’s hip. Gently rubbing a circle into his back produces a soft sound, so Peter keeps at it. “Come on, Roman. I’m not going to leave until you drink it.”

“Who said I wanted you to leave?” Roman mutters from underneath the pillow. Still, he sighs and ducks his head out, plopping back on top of it. He eyes the mug mulishly.

“Don’t make me force you.”

A genuine grin lights up at the corner of his lips, so either Roman isn’t as low as Peter previously assumed or the proximity of the blood is helping. “I’d like to you see you try.”

Peter raises an eyebrow, poking at Roman’s raised cheek. “I’ve heard that mouth-to-mouth is pretty effective.”

Closing his eyes, Roman shakes his head, hiding his smile in the pillow. “Like some demented bird feeding her babies.”

“Stupid bird,” Peter chides, petting Roman’s head.

 

 

Peter’s memory of The Incident, as they’ve taken to calling it, is spotty at best; he remembers it like a lucid dream, not quite certain if it actually happened or if he was ever there. What he does retain are his backseat thoughts of too loud, fast, impersonal, and an obscure feeling of reaching out for Roman and only finding a wall. A Roman-shaped wall, but a wall nonetheless. It put a slightly awkward damper to their morning-after, but it had been nothing compared to the moment when Miranda walked in and Roman closed up again.

Whether due to Nadia-related grief or cowardice on both their parts, neither initiated anything remotely sexual after that first time. They kept to casual touches, chose to sit too-close together even when there was plenty of room, and made certain to stay within earshot of each other at all times. Beyond that, they never discussed what they had shared, not even on the night when Peter jolted from a nightmare so suddenly that he had fallen off the couch. For a few self-wallowing moments, he remained on the floor, counting his breaths until his pulse went down.

This is ridiculous, he thought, then had raised his hand in a brief approximation of fuck it and picked himself up and plodded up the stairs. Roman’s door was open a crack, so he didn’t bother knocking, just quietly strode in and hauled himself under the covers. If the Upir had any qualms, he didn’t voice them, so Peter carefully grabbed Roman’s arm and curled it around himself, pulling Roman’s hand towards his chest. Feeling the tense body behind him, the werewolf thought to give it a few more seconds before letting go, but then it was as though Roman’s puppet strings were cut. Relaxing all in one go, he buried into the embrace, tightening his arm. With the steady cadence of Roman’s warm breath on his neck, Peter fell back asleep.

The dreams didn’t recede―technically, they worsened―but waking up to solace was a whole lot better than waking up alone on a cold carpet. In an unspoken agreement, the two men began to sleep in the same bed, not waiting until one or the other woke up from a nightmare to climb under the covers. They switched positions depending on that day’s mood, and Peter was pleased to find how easily he wound around Roman despite their height difference.

For all that, they continued circling around the intimacy of the gesture, too embroiled in strategies for recovering Nadia to experience any physical frustration. It all came to a head the night before the final confrontation, when they had solidified their plans enough to have an actual chance of saving her. All of a sudden, it individually occurred to both that this might be their last night together, and that they had little left to lose at this point.

Looking back, Peter wouldn’t be able to say who started what, but knows that they had somehow gone from standing at opposite ends of the room to not being able to keep their hands off of each other. It was desperate and wracked with fear, but the wall that had been there before was missing, and Peter just wanted to look and look and look. With Miranda out of the way, he could kiss Roman as much as he dared, and the Upir didn’t shrink away.

Peter likes to think that that had been their first time.

Whether they have to sleep in the car or have the opportunity to “rent” a motel room (since, thanks to Roman, no transaction actually takes place), Nadia is forever close by. Taking into account the events of the past several months, both men prefer knowing that they would hear if anything went wrong, but it does mean that they must be quiet so as to not wake her.

Before, when the idea of Roman as Roman had still been nebulous, Peter imagined that any sex with him would be violent and half-crazed, interspersed with bloodplay. As a werewolf, he is no stranger to pain or blood, but he has never associated it with getting off, seeing as the pain he feels on a monthly basis has a crippling effect rather than a satisfying one (and he may have gotten close to becoming one, but he is no vargulf). In the moments between lying to himself and the reality of a Roman unwilling to forgive him, Peter had tried to picture it in his head, wondering if he would enjoy it. The results were inconclusive, save that he could only envision them initiating an unhealthy hate-hate relationship. The thought left a sour taste at the back of his throat, so Peter would always roll over in bed and forget he ever considered it.

Rather than being helpful, The Incident left his questions unanswered; Roman was distant throughout and also unlikely to reveal any Upir traits with Miranda in the vicinity. In retrospect, Peter wonders whether that niggling bias against Upirs was why he later refrained from making a move. (That, and the worry that it would only bring out the wolfish anger simmering in his veins, with the fear that he would hurt Roman beyond repair.) Each time he thinks about it he wants to punch himself in the face.

Sex with Roman is nothing he could have anticipated. Peter’s closet romantic calls it making love, but he’ll be damned if he says that out loud. It is calming, edged with desperation, sweet and―dare he say it―nigh-on reverent. With respect to Nadia, any sounds they make are usually cut off or lowly breathy. Hidden by the sheets, Peter likes to run his hands all over Roman, searching for his sensitive spots and reveling in each soft gasp as he finds them, swallowing the sound with his mouth if he’s near enough.

At every breath and every point of contact between them, his wolf feels soothed, internally shouting a litany of my mate, protect, love. Beyond that, however, he is ever-aware of just being happy. For all the despair they’ve suffered, Peter feels no guilt in taking this for himself―definitely feels no guilt in giving this to Roman. Sometimes, usually due to enthusiasm and a badly-calculated move, one of Roman’s long limbs gets in the way or the bed decides that there just isn’t enough room for two. The resulting awkward sprawl usually dissolves into a stifled giggle fest, and Peter has to hide his face in Roman’s neck so the world doesn’t see his smile. If no one sees, then no one can think to take it away from him.

Then there are the times when Peter will look up into Roman’s eyes and see that he is terrified, and all he can do is push in deeper, get close enough to take Roman’s face into his hands and pepper it with kisses, anything to take that expression off his face and remind him that I am here, I’m not going anywhere.

 

 

Slowly and aimlessly, they head west, camping out in motel rooms for a week or two and then moving on before anyone’s suspicions are piqued. They are careful to keep their respective supernatural statuses a secret, but Peter never wants to settle for too long, gets a frightened flicker in his eye if they linger. Roman figures that Hemlock Grove’s treatment of his rumored wolfishness has traumatized him for life, but then he’ll notice the way Peter stares at him when he holds Nadia and Roman wonders whether that’s all it is. 

They make certain to keep to areas close to forests, constantly prepared for when the full moon creeps up on them. In between towns they spend the night in the car. It’s a tight fit, but they take turns sleeping in the backseat, keeping Nadia warm in the crook of an arm. The other keeps watch, either lounging in the front seat or sitting up on the hood and leaning against the windshield. Sometimes the moment calls for a smoke, but both men have taken to cutting back because of Nadia, and the gesture is more perfunctory these days than necessary.

Roman makes a point of sleeping in the car on full moons, wanting to both show solidarity and also feeling wary of Peter spending the night on his own. Compared to how he’d been before they reunited, the werewolf is a long ways away from the vargulf he would have likely become. Still, Roman has had practice reading Peter’s body language and silent gestures, so he notices how Peter begins to fidget on the nights leading up to the full moon.

He wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as anger―though the encroaching moon does tend to make him a little tetchy―but it’s obvious that the werewolf is unnerved. Initially Roman assumed that it was a natural reaction, and that he should let him be, but the longer it goes on, the more worried he becomes.

Without Peter, Roman is lost. It is a dangerous position, even unhealthy, to be so dependent on another for emotional stability, and Roman’s only consolation is the knowledge that Peter depends on him just as much. Still, that only further emphasizes the ever-present fact that, if Roman doesn’t anchor Peter, then Peter cannot keep Roman in check.

Therefore, each time that Roman notices that certain darkness in Peter’s eyes, he hesitantly reaches out, trying to be casual but probably missing by a long shot. He keeps it simple and variable, stroking a hand along his back, scratching at the nape of his neck, or, on more serious occasions, takes a hold of his hand and runs his thumb along the skin.

Sometimes all the man needs is a distraction; Roman has noticed that Peter’s gaze tends to follow in his wake, so he takes to moving around the motel room, making a show of considering an outside stroll or a trip down to the vending machines. The prospect of Roman leaving is enough to snap Peter out of whatever pit he has fallen into, and the Upir would be lying if he said that he didn’t enjoy the power trip. Still, he knows that he would do anything for Peter, so he doesn’t feel too ashamed for it.

Each time when Roman initiates contact, Peter leans into the touch, and each time he feels a little thrill travel down his spine, a part of his mind still reeling that he gets to have this. It is only thanks to coincidence that they were given a second chance in the first place, so Roman doesn’t know if it will last, but he has been a hedonist far longer than whatever he is now. He grabs everything that Peter can give him and tries not to think about how easily it can come crumbling down.

 

 

Roman grew up spoiled and smug, seeing no need to act like he gave a damn about anyone else. Everyone knew who he was, but he avoided actually making any friends, preferring to be alone rather than enlist a posse of sycophants only attracted to his surname and the smell of money. (Decent people, after all, would not have bothered to put up with him.) Peter was the first person to truly catch his attention, even if it was morbid curiosity that propelled his interest. Roman eventually found himself trying to impress the young man, quickly realizing that, though amused, he was unimpressed. In the end, Roman had to try and strip away his outer shell, show that he had the capacity to be a good friend. It was only after his introspective coma that it became second-nature.

And yet, becoming a better person couldn’t prepare him for Letha’s death, or the shitstorm that hit after Peter abandoned him. It was difficult enough adjusting to a new not-life as an Upir, but it was made ever the more worse with a baby to take care of. Roman doesn’t like to linger on that time, prefers to block it out and instead cherish the moment when his friend finally returned to him.

Peter is good with Nadia; whether he has experience with babies or it just comes naturally, Roman can always trust him to know what to do. The old Roman would probably have been jealous, but now it just comes as a relief. He may be the biological father, but Peter saw Nadia as his own even before Roman did. She’s lucky, Roman thinks, to have two parents who would do anything for her.

“Do you think that we should have different names, so that Nadia can tell us apart?”

Roman shakes out of his reverie, furrowing his eyebrows at Peter. “The hell? I didn’t know we were both named Peter.”

The werewolf grins, aiming a light kick at Roman’s shin (which he dodges). “I mean that she can’t call us both ‘dad’. It’d be confusing.”

“Oh,” Roman says, while quelling the butterflies in his stomach. “If we’re deciding, then I vote for you to be ‘mom’.”

“Prick.” This time, Roman doesn’t manage to dodge. “Really though. ‘Cause we should start sooner than later. And we should probably be making more of an effort to get her to talk,” Peter adds as an afterthought.

Involuntarily nervous, Roman looks down at his hand, picks at the edge of the table. “Well, you have Romanian roots, right? What’s Romanian for ‘father’?”

“Tată, or tătic for ‘daddy’.”

Roman tries the foreign words on his tongue, testing the pronunciation. “It’s not bad.” He pauses, giving Peter a sideways look. “I thought that you didn’t know Romanian?”

Now it’s Peter’s turn to look down, pretend to be impassive. “Looked up a bunch of words once, when I was bored.” Roman isn’t fooled in the least, but he doesn’t say that out loud.

The truth of the matter is that Peter’s influence has made Roman into a better father, and not only emotionally―he has had an upgrade in basic child care as well. The Upir would pay good money to see his past self attempt to change a full diaper, and he imagines Peter would too.

As it were, Roman can now change a diaper in his sleep with minimum fuss, and he actually enjoys the daily battles of trying to convince his too-intelligent progeny that food out of a jar is, in fact, edible. Still, his favorite routine is reading aloud to Nadia from one of their picture books. She isn’t speaking yet, but she eyes the pages with an unwavering focus, so he hopes that it’s only a matter of time. An endless road trip perhaps does not offer the best cognitive development for a baby, but Roman is damned if he doesn’t try, so he fills the car with as many books and toys as he can fit.

Meanwhile, Peter has adopted a habit of buying disposable cameras and taking photos whenever Roman least expects. He’s careful not to incriminate them (but if the developers occasionally see film of a large, black dog, they never care enough to mention it). The constant flash is somewhat annoying, but Peter’s reasoning is that, despite them being on the road, they should still keep a record (and that an older Nadia would appreciate knowing that they cared enough to document her infancy).

Flipping through the album that Peter has put together, Roman forgets why he was ever annoyed.

 

 

A little lost, Peter encircles Roman’s torso with his arms. “Still, do you think there might be some Upir...packs? Or societies? ...Upirs Anonymous?”

Roman huffs at the joke, leaning his head back against Peter’s shoulder. “There’s probably something, but I wouldn’t know. I don’t think Upirs would want to live in groups anyway. Too much competition, you know? And harder to hide the body count.” He sighs, squeezing at Peter’s hand. Behind him, the werewolf nudges at his neck with his nose.

“Anyway, can you imagine Nadia being raised by a pack of Olivias? She’s only a quarter-Upir, but she’d be full-Upir before the age of five.” Peter doesn’t bother hiding his shudder, reacting to the vision of multiple Olivias rather than an Upir child. Commiserating, Roman pats his hand. “It’s okay. Now that I think about it, I really don’t want to meet any other Upirs. I was raised by one and look how that turned out.”

“You seem to be doing okay on your own,” Peter adds. He doesn’t need to see Roman to know that he’s smiling when he says, “I’m not on my own.”

After a moment of silence in the darkened room, Roman asks, “What about werewolf packs? If we could find one, that might be a safer place to settle. I bet they’re territorial, but we could probably claim, I don’t know, refugee status or something.”

Peter runs a hand down the Upir’s waist, considering. “Destiny might know where to find some. Still, I―” he pauses, fidgeting. At a lower register, he says, “I’m not sure if they would welcome an Upir and a part-Upir child, even if she is a baby.”

“Oh,” Roman eventually replies, “Yeah. I guess Upirs wouldn’t be big on a werewolf either.” He quiets, burrowing further into Peter’s chest and lets him pet his side. Peter is close to drifting off when Roman speaks up, a cautious note in his voice, “If you ever want to check it out, a pack, I mean―”

Before the Upir can continue, Peter bites into his shoulder, making him flinch. “Enough of that, Godfrey. You can stuff your self-sacrificing bullshit up your ass.” He settles back down, closing his eyes and leaning his forehead against Roman’s nape.

Of course, he should have figured that he wouldn’t get the last word.

“You know what else I can stuff up my ass?”

Peter takes it upon himself to exert the energy to actually facepalm, because the situation requires it. “That was terrible and you should be ashamed.”

“Effective though,” Roman grins, pushing his hips back against Peter’s.

 

 

If Roman has learned anything from his various dalliances, it’s that he enjoys going down on people, loves the way they lose control and can’t concentrate on anything but the neurons firing in their brain and chemicals filling their blood. Still, none of those times can compare to what it’s like to go down on someone you actually care about―love, if he’s honest. (Roman suspects that has been the state of affairs from since before Peter’s leaving, but fears telling Peter that―fears telling him anything and so tries to convey it with his touches and his glances.)

Peter likes to pretend that he isn’t as affected as he truly is. He props himself up on his elbows (or leans down, depending on how they’re situated) and struggles to watch every second. On his part, Roman keeps his eyes resolutely aimed at Peter’s, watching his eyelids flutter and his breath catch. It’s a heady feeling, knowing that the werewolf trusts him not to bite off any important bits, so he tries to make it as good as possible, competing each time to see how quickly he can force Peter to fall back and start muttering incoherently.

Sometimes, there are moments when he has lapses in time, and he needs the reminder that this isn’t just another hook-up in the bathroom stalls. He is never disappointed. If he reaches for Peter, Peter always reaches back and intertwines their fingers.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what position they end up in. Roman likes everything. Back in high school he had assumed that bottoming would somehow make him less of a person (Roman’s not particularly fond of his past self), but now can only feel relief that he can share this with Peter―that Peter would even desire to. He loves the way Peter latches onto him and covers as much of his body as he can, mouthing at his neck as he pushes in. (Roman enjoys that especially; doesn’t know if it’s an Upir thing or a personal quirk, but is just glad that Peter’s more than willing to provide.)

For all that, Roman cannot wrap his head around how effectively Peter’s presence anchors him. When he slept with Miranda, he had made sure to keep his need for blood a secret because he needed her to stay for Nadia’s sake. Despite that awareness, it did not prevent him from fantasizing about eviscerating her and sucking her dry. With Peter however…

If he looks back on all the times he has had sex, it was because he either had an ulterior motive or had to satisfy his bloodlust (even if he hadn’t known that at the time), and he could never achieve orgasm if there was no blood involved. In other words, Roman never had sex for the sake of just having it―has never wanted to. With Peter it’s different (Peter has always been different). The Upir had long since presumed that fucking a werewolf would only bolster his darker desires, so he almost has a breakdown (right in the middle of it) when he realizes that it’s having an opposite effect. (And Peter reacting to his watery eyes with quiet aplomb breaks down Roman’s walls even more.)

There are moments when he forgets himself or Peter’s shoulder ends up being closer than he’d calculated, and he absentmindedly bites down, breaking the skin. The werewolf never seems to mind, and Roman doesn’t want to make mountains out of molehills, so he carefully laps away the blood. He never draws it out―doesn’t even want to―and Peter usually makes an acknowledging nip at Roman’s own shoulder. (Roman tries to hide how much he appreciates that, but he’s fooling no one.)

And Roman is...happy. For the first time in years he is honestly happy―and it’s scaring the shit out of him. There is no denying that he is Upir, and the only other Upir he has encountered has been Olivia―a cold, heartless, selfish wretch of a woman. He wonders if she could still feel love and empathy when first she became an Upir―wonders if years of being alone have made her into what she is, and if that’s what he has to look forward to.

Here is what Roman knows: Roman is immortal, and Peter is mortal. Peter anchors Roman. When Peter is gone, Roman has nothing to hold onto.

On nights like these, he steels his heart and turns to Peter, grabs on like a limpet and stops counting the days.

 

 

It will be a cold day in Hell when Roman stops loving Nadia, but even he wishes that they could find a babysitter to take her off their hands for a night or two. The problem is that there is no one he trusts to keep her safe, save for Shelley or Destiny, perhaps, but they aren’t available. Destiny and Peter make a point of keeping in touch but she’s currently traveling in the south. And as much as she loves her cousin, she wouldn’t drive hundreds of miles just so that the couple could have some time to themselves.

Actually, that isn’t even the issue, since Nadia is a heavy sleeper so they manage just fine. What Roman truly wants is to be able to join Peter on his “wolfscapades”―as he’s taken to calling them, much to Peter’s annoyance―but it’s too cold for Nadia to be out for the entire night and he can’t leave her alone. It’s not ideal, but camping out in the car is better than waiting in a motel room and biting his nails. Moreover, when Roman and Nadia are there, Peter never goes far, takes to circling a territory around his family. Roman is an Upir, so he doubts there’s anything he can’t handle in these woods, but a protective Peter makes him warm inside.

There’s also the matter of Peter’s condition. Since the almost-vargulf debacle, the dawn change takes more out of him, so it’s safer if Peter has someone keeping an eye out. (Paranoid, Roman also monitors each time to check that Peter isn’t having trouble shifting back.) And Roman enjoys taking care of Peter, doesn’t perceive it as a chore; he holds him while he naps and prepares breakfast for when he wakes. It’s a natural consequence of being each other’s anchors―Peter helps him to feed, and Roman protects him at his weakest.

And it doesn’t hurt that he gets to watch the transformations, because they are beautiful. (Peter is beautiful, Roman quietly adds.)

This night, the temperature is actually pleasant enough that Roman doesn’t worry about Nadia catching a chill. Notwithstanding, he bundles her up before following in Peter’s wake, figures that he can get an hour or two of rambling in before her bedtime. Peter hasn’t gone far―is heard clambering through the underbrush, running circles around them as they pace through the forest. (Naturally stealthy, Peter actually has to make an effort to be noisy, and Roman appreciates the thoughtfulness.)

Nadia listens to the sounds with an expression of concentration only ever found on babies, moving her head depending on Peter’s position. “Don’t worry about that, pup.” (Nadia lost her chance for a normal pet name the moment Peter found out that baby bats are called pups.) “It’s just your tată being a clumsy idiot.” A miffed bark echoes through the trees, but the Upir just laughs and flips the finger in its general direction.

After that, Roman zones out, listens to the occasional calls of nocturnal beasts and the soft plodding of paws in the background. Inattentive as he is, it takes him a moment to parse through the odd series of yips and growls, freezing in his tracks as soon as he registers a potential threat. Slowly and silently, Roman transfers his daughter to one arm, keeping the other free in case he needs to defend them.   

“Peter?” Roman whispers, concerned.

Roman hears a rustling sound of something heavy being dragged. He’s still deliberating between standing his ground and running off to hide Nadia when Peter pushes through the bushes, hauling a deer.

“You fucker!” Roman yells, “I thought you were being attacked!” Still towing his load in his jaw, Peter wags his tail twice, indicating amusement. “Shut up.” Derailed, Roman kneels down, side-eyeing the fresh kill. On her part, Nadia looks ecstatic, making grabby gestures at Peter’s fur. Mockingly, he quips, “Aw, look at how well your tătic provides for us!”

Not expecting the tail flopping against his face, Roman sputters, brushing off the fur stuck to his tongue. “Eugh, gross. I don’t know where that tail’s been.” Peter sits by the deer, watching expectantly (Roman isn’t sure for what). “Right." He waits another moment, but the wolf only gives a patronizing look. "Well, it’s getting late, I should take Nadia back. Enjoy your,” Roman waves a hand, “supper.”

As soon as he makes to stand, Peter clamps into his sleeve and pulls him back down. Long used to Peter’s brand of sign language, Roman raises an eyebrow but follows the instruction. The werewolf bends down to the gouge at the deer’s neck, applying a fresh layer of blood to his muzzle. He then leans toward Roman and leaves a swath of red on his mouth. Licking his lips, the Upir can only think, oh.

Feigning nonchalance, Roman smirks, lifting Nadia from his lap. “So this is some wolf mate thing, isn’t it? You really do want to provide for me,” he teases, ignoring the tightness in his chest. Peter bites the air playfully in retaliation, but doesn’t look put out. “Here, keep Nadia warm.”

Once situated on top of Peter’s fur, Nadia grabs Peter’s face, patting at the blood she finds there. Languidly, Peter pulls out of her grip and plops his head on top of hers, much to her giggling delight. Child distracted, Roman latches onto the deer’s neck, drawing out the blood in long gulps. It’s still warm, and they’ve avoided towns for the past two days, so Roman is a little desperate for it and finishes the meal within a few minutes. Sated, he leans back on his palms, tossing his head back while catching his breath. Roman only looks down when he feels a nudge at his side, sees Peter indicating a dozing Nadia.

Gently, Roman whispers, “It’s warmer in the car.”

Moving at a steady stride, they make their way back, Peter staying by Roman’s side instead of scouting. He’s close enough that his flank occasionally brushes against Roman’s legs, inspiring the Upir to run his hand down the wolf’s head each time. Once they reach the car, Roman fetches the blankets, making Nadia a nest before tucking her in. He can’t leave her here alone, so he settles for crouching at Peter’s level and taking hold of his face in both palms.

Leaning his forehead against Peter’s, Roman sighs, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

 

Roman is sore. Sure, it’s the happy kind of sore, but it takes effort to keep from visibly limping, and he doesn’t know if he feels comfortable with anyone connecting the dots and singling them out as a couple. It’s not that he’s ashamed―he just doesn’t feel up to dealing with any bored homophobes itching for entertainment. (The last thing he wants is for someone to trigger Peter’s rage. He’s not keen on spending a night in jail when they have a baby to take care of. Funny how quickly priorities change.) Peter, on the other hand, is radiating contentment. Roman wants to punch the smug bastard in the face, but he relents since he’s technically the one responsible for that expression in the first place.

Wiping the blood from his nose, Roman turns at the sound of Peter yipping, half-concerned that he’ll find a wolf in his place. Nadia is sat in her baby carrier, laughing, as Peter crouches on the store’s tiles before her. He has managed to unearth a threadbare, stuffed wolf from the neglected plushie stall, entertaining the girl by bouncing it around and giving it a voice. When he notices Roman watching, he shoots a grin, and Roman’s heart just about stops.

Half-choked, he says, “We’ll take that too.”

The woman behind the register offers a genuine smile―the hypnosis has worn off already―and shakes her head. “We’ve been trying to sell that toy for months. Your kid can have it for free.”

Pleased despite himself, Roman mutters his thanks and continues watching his family, belatedly remembering to pick up the bag of groceries from the counter.

“You are so lucky,” the woman eventually sighs, appreciating the view. “My boyfriend doesn’t want kids. He says that he ‘doesn’t understand them’.” Roman turns back quickly enough to see her make a face. “Your partner seems like he’s a natural though.” Despite the envy, her eyes are warm, so he returns to his observations.

“Yeah,” he agrees absently, “He’s kind of perfect.”

Feeling generous―and maybe a touch guilty―Roman stuffs ten dollars into the tip jar.

 

 

It’s true that Peter has never been hit by a bus, but he remains steadfast to the metaphor. The full moon shift hurts like hell. And the transformation back into being human is usually even more painful, leaving him jerking in spasms and gasping into the ground. It was worse when he turned on the wrong moon, but it still knocks him out for the count. It’s high summer, so Peter is a wolf for a shorter amount of time, but it also means that the changes are closer together, so he has less time in between to recover. Peter would give almost anything to just stay prone and fall asleep among the bracken, but Roman would worry―scratch that, Roman would be hysterical―so he lifts himself in increments, watching for raw patches of skin.

One upside to being a werewolf is having a great sense of direction, so he thankfully doesn’t have trouble finding his way back to base. Stumbling, he trudges through the trees, probably making enough noise to wake up the entire forest. At least Roman’ll have plenty of warning, Peter thinks as he lifts a hand against the sun, seeing their car in the distance.

Peter’s pleased to find his jeans folded on a low-hanging branch. Roman had begged off joining him for a full moon stroll, claiming fatigue, but he must’ve cleaned up before bed. (Peter usually never finds his clothes, and although Roman doesn’t mind a naked werewolf plopping on top of him, it’s a bit awkward if Nadia’s awake.) Pulling on his jeans, Peter forgoes looking for his shirt for the sake of opening the back seat’s car door. He’s about ready to start a tirade about keeping doors unlocked when he comes to a grinding halt.

“Roman?”

Roman looks like he’s still wearing his clothes from yesterday, face slack and gray. Nadia’s patting ineffectually at his cheek, but the Upir doesn’t even flinch. Vaulting into the car, Peter grabs a hold of him, shaking his shoulders and lightly slapping his face. “You fucker, wake up!” Petrified, Peter raises a trembling hand to Roman’s neck, feeling under his jaw. After a heart wrenching moment in which he doesn’t dare breathe, he feels a pulse. It’s weak, but it’s there.

“Get out of the car and raise your hands.”

Peter stops breathing once again, gradually turning his head to look out of the open door. A man with a hunting rifle is stood within close range, barrel aimed at Peter. Momentarily he considers lunging for the door and shutting it, but the car windows aren’t bulletproof―and Peter’s life isn’t the only one on the line. Making a show of lifting his hands and moving slowly, the werewolf edges out of the car, kicking the door closed the second he’s between the danger and his family.

As soon as the man pulls the rifle away from his face, Peter recognizes him.

 

 

Peter doesn’t like the idea of dining out on the evening of the full moon, but Roman argues that they have hours before sunset, and that a birthday is as good a reason as any to put up with appearing in public.

“Despite my inability to age, apparently,” Roman mutters, strangely irked.

In the end, Peter can’t pass on Roman’s promise for a steak that isn’t cooked on a Foreman grill. Besides, he doesn’t even have a gift prepared―because someone didn’t think a birthday was worth mentioning―so it’s not like he has any moral high ground. Grudgingly, he gives in to the idea. Peter is far from amused, however, when the waiter places a glass of wine in front of Roman with a “from the gentleman at the bar,” and an inclination of the head.

Said gentleman toasts their table from his stool, while Peter’s fork bends in his hand. “What the hell? There is a baby with us. How did he not notice―. What are you doing?”

Roman pauses from tossing back the wine. “Drinking,” he grins.

“Are you serious?”

“Hey,” Roman shrugs, polishing off the glass, “Free hooch and it’s my birthday.”  

Angry despite himself, Peter glares at his half-eaten steak, considering sacrificing it to the greater good and stuffing it down that man’s windpipe. “Hey.” Unwittingly, Peter looks up. “You’re an idiot.” With that, Roman plants a kiss at the corner of his mouth, in plain view of everyone, then returns to his steak with a tiny smirk in his face.

Peter hopes that his blush isn’t too obvious.

 

 

“What did you do to him?” Peter demands, growling.

“Nothing that a bloodsucker like him doesn’t deserve.” This gives Peter pause, and he runs a quick eye over the man’s not strictly legal arsenal of hunting knives and cartridges. It’s possible that he’s part of the Order, or perhaps an independent branch of supernatural hunters. “That’s right, we know what you are.”

Peter doesn’t understand―they’re always careful. He hesitates. If they get out of this, he needs to know what he did wrong, for future reference. “How?”

Luckily for Peter, the hunter jumps at the chance to gloat, grinning with the rifle still aimed at Peter’s chest. “Keep a couple of witches around and you always know exactly what steps into your territory.”

Peter screws his mouth, partly satisfied that it wasn’t something he could have foreseen, but mostly incensed that this is happening, period. “Are you going to shoot me?”

Lazily, the hunter gestures with the gun, “Nah, you’re in luck. My friends and I are in need of some test subjects. A werewolf and a vampire would do just fine.”

Testily, Peter can’t help but say, “He’s not a vampire. Do you see him burning in the sunlight?” The werewolf knows that he isn’t in the position to sass anyone right now―and the man gives him an incredulous look which speaks the same―but after the night he has had, he’s not willing to be patient. “He’s dying,” Peter continues, struggling to keep the waver out of his voice, “At this rate he isn’t going to make much of a test subject. I doubt that would please your friends.”

Just as Peter had hoped, the man fidgets, glancing to the side for a second. “There’s an antidote. Come quietly and I’ll help your friend.”

Stubborn, the werewolf shakes his head. “Show me the antidote first.” Derisively, the man rolls his eyes heavenward and handles his rifle in one arm, placing his finger on the trigger as he rummages in his coat. Damn, Peter thinks.

Wryly, the hunter flashes a clear vial of liquid, shaking it before putting it back in his pocket. “I swear that it’s real blah blah blah, you wanna save your fag boyfriend or not?”

Peter stares at the end of the barrel and thinks, I don’t know what to do.

The man doesn’t seem to mind his silence, laughs at Peter’s shaking hands hovering in the air. “Where’d you get that kid, anyway? Did you steal it so you can pretend to be a ‘normal’ family?” Despite everything, the man actually seems perplexed about this. Unable to help himself, Peter tosses a wide-eyed look over his shoulder. Roman hasn’t moved an inch, although Nadia stares up at him expectantly. It suddenly occurs to him that this is the point when people should be exploding. His daughter, however, is calm as ever, looking at Peter like she doesn’t understand what the big deal is.

Frowning, Peter flips his gaze back, reaches past his weariness, and actually studies the image before him. The man is not a grizzled hunter; underneath the beard he barely looks eighteen. It is yet dawn, and, if he focuses, Peter’s senses remain wolf-sharp. The boy smells of fear and his blood pulses erratically. He’s not even aiming the rifle correctly. For all Peter knows, this might be his first mission―an initiation rite.

You knew what you signed up for, Peter thinks. Out loud, he says, “Okay, I’ll come quietly,” before dodging harshly to the left and charging. The boy scarcely has an opportunity to swing his rifle before Peter has snapped his neck. Not giving himself a moment of regret, the werewolf searches his pockets, snatching up the vial and running to the car. He has no reason to trust this, but Roman will die if he does nothing, and there is no time to phone for help.

Nadia looks up at him when he crams into the backseat, raising her arms in a plea to be picked up. Carefully depositing her in the shotgun seat, Peter opens the vial and props Roman’s head up so he doesn’t choke. Peter feels a spark of hope when he sees Roman’s throat bob, swallowing the medicine. Anxious, he places his hands on Roman’s face, stroking his thumbs along his cheekbones. “Come on,” he whispers.

All at once, Roman’s body arches up with a loud, stuttering inhale, knocking into Peter. Instead of falling back, the werewolf catches him, wrapping his arms behind his back. “What’s?” Roman manages to cough out. His eyes are bloodshot.

“You’re okay, it’s okay, you’re fine,” Peter soothes, rubbing a hand against the small of his back.

Clutching at Peter’s coat, Roman groans, “Feel like shee-it,” then giggles hysterically.

Still holding the Upir, Peter spares a moment to check on Nadia; she has settled in her car seat, apparently deciding that a nap is in order now that the excitement has passed. “Roman, I need you to do something for me. You’re weak, you need human blood.”

“P’ter,” he mumbles.

“Shh, listen. This guy could have killed us. He poisoned you and he almost shot me.” Roman’s hand on his shoulder tightens. “He’s already dead, so the blood would just go to waste. Okay?” After a moment, he nods, and Peter exhales deeply.

Roman isn’t weightless and Peter is at his weakest, so he’s thankful for the kick of fear-fueled adrenaline. In lieu of dragging a nearly-unconscious Roman along the ground, he manages to carry him over to the corpse. Bracing the Upir against his side, Peter reaches for one of the man’s knives and rolls back a sleeve, grimacing as he cuts through the wrist. After that, it’s just a matter of pulling it up to Roman’s face. Reacting to the scent of blood, he claws into the flesh, putting his mouth against the gash.

Holding back tears of relief, Peter closes his eyes. Once Roman finishes, he’ll have to bury the husk. Then they have to put as many miles between them and this town as they can, especially if there’s a chance of being chased by vengeful hunters. Roman won’t be able to drive for a while yet, and Peter needs rest.

Sighing, Peter scratches at his stubble. He thinks there might be a couple of energy drinks in the glove compartment.

 

 

Peter doesn’t regain consciousness immediately―he experiences a tidal ebb between sleep and wakefulness before he’s able to figure out his whereabouts. He’s almost certainly on a bed, uncomfortable enough that Peter suspects he must be in a motel. In the distance he hears the occasional car driving past, but it doesn’t sound busy enough to be a city street. Memories slowly coming together, Peter remembers driving until dusk, stopping only when he had more chance of driving into a ditch than in a straight line. Fortunately, Roman had mostly recovered by then, pouring the werewolf into the backseat before taking over.

Sensing the dip in the mattress beside him, Peter turns his head, opening his eyes a crack against the―he thinks what must be―pre-dawn light. Eyes half-lidded, Roman lies on top of the sheets, stare fixed to the ceiling. He hasn’t noticed the change in Peter’s breathing, so Peter lifts a careful hand and cups the cheek furthest away, turning the Upir’s face towards him.

“Hey.”

Elegantly flipping to his side, Roman edges closer, nuzzling into Peter’s palm. “Hey.”

“Are you feeling okay? No after-effects?” Peter asks, whispering into the semi-darkness. On his end, he’s a little groggy, but he no longer aches with the deep-set exhaustion of a moonlit run.

Spreading his fingers along Peter’s wrist, Roman looks down, nodding, “Yeah, I’m good. Listen, Peter. I’m sorry. If I just hadn’t had that wine then―”

“Then they could have figured out another way to get at us,” Peter interrupts. “They already knew what we are. Be grateful that they didn’t, I don’t know, hold Nadia hostage.” He pauses, considering. “That would have been a huge mistake on their part.”

Roman shakes his head, tightening his hold on Peter’s wrist, “Yeah, but I still―”

“Shut up, Godfrey,” Peter mutters against Roman’s lips, effectively shutting him up. As far as he’s concerned, it doesn’t matter who is to blame. All he knows is that, twenty-four hours ago, he almost lost his friend―partner, mate, love, whatever. If Peter doesn’t do something he will rip this place to shreds.

Thankfully Roman stops his undue apology as soon as Peter gets his lips against the skin of his neck. Experience has taught him that it’s a foolproof place to start if they need to finish quickly, but this morning he tastes the urgent longing to run his hands over everything, remove every piece of clothing one by one, and mouth at every sensitive spot he can find. By the time Peter slides downward, Roman is gasping, stifling the sounds behind a hand.

Grinning sharply, Peter leans down, making Roman groan in frustration when he completely ignores his dick. Teasingly, he nips at his inner thighs, running his nose against the fine hairs there and breathing in Roman’s scent. Taking pity when Roman lets out a strained “fuck,” he grabs ahold of his dick at its base and gives the head a lingering lick. Peter takes his time, determined to drag this out as long as he can, watching the line of Roman’s neck as they both cling to stubbornness. Finally, the Upir gives in, grabbing the back of Peter’s neck and squeezing. Obligingly, Peter opens his mouth and lets him in, counting the seconds before he’s pulling back and catching Roman’s come in his palm.

Relaxing to a melody of Roman’s heavy pants and quickly beating pulse, Peter rests his head against Roman’s thigh for several moments, smiling into the skin. Absently wiping his hand against the sheets, the werewolf languidly uses Roman as a ladder, leaving kisses on his torso as he ascends.

Still breathy, Roman kneads his forehead against Peter’s, muttering, “Just give me a minute.”

“I’m fine,” Peter replies, meaning it. With a furrowed brow, Roman edges his hip against Peter’s bulge, obviously disagreeing. “No, really. That was as much for me as it was for you.”

Roman still looks unimpressed, staring downwards as though he’s already making plans. “Maybe later,” Peter gently concedes. Satisfied, the Upir plops down against his chest, throwing a leg over both of Peter’s, silently daring him to even attempt going anywhere.

Within moments, Roman conks out, leading Peter to worry whether he had stayed up all night keeping an eye on him. Shaking his head, Peter strokes through his friend’s hair, trying to decipher what they actually are to each other. “Hey, are we boyfriends?” sounds downright moronic at this stage, but it’s not as though they’re married, and Peter dreads that he’ll only be laughed at if he uses “mate” seriously. Is there a word for people who have sex and occasionally save each other’s lives? Peter wonders.

In her nest on the room’s only armchair, Nadia makes a waking snuffle, shortly popping her head out from under the covers and zeroing in on Peter. “Hey, pup,” he whispers. “You hungry?”

“Tătic,” she solemnly agrees.

 

 

For once, it appears that they have emerged unscathed from this latest disaster. Roman isn’t a complete fool―he knows when something goes wrong because he fucked up somehow, but Peter doesn’t stand to hear talk of it. (The part of his brain not mired in self-hatred screams at him to grab onto Peter and never let him go.) Regardless of blame, the near-death experience serves as a reality check for the both of them. A road trip is all well and good when it’s just the two of them, but they have no right to drag Nadia along for the ride.

Disregarding the apparent dangers it brings to people like them, Nadia is barely an infant―she needs stability. When Roman brings it up, he tries to be circumspect about it, unwilling to offend Peter and his undoubtedly nomadic childhood. Instead of being insulted, the werewolf just nods gravely, admitting that, because he moved so much, he never made any true friends.

(“And then I befriended you, so I was obviously desperate,” Peter jokes. Roman isn’t impressed.)  

Neither wish for Nadia to grow up as lonely as they had, and although they’ll always be there for her, they cannot be her sole points of “human” contact. If Roman has learned anything, it’s that Upirs are possessive of their Upir offspring. He does not want to turn into Olivia. (Roman still gets nightmares where he dreams that she rips either Nadia or Peter or both to shreds and forces him to drink their blood. The worst ones are where she orders him to kill them and he does.)

Destiny snickers about “nesting” when they mention it to her, but she good-naturedly runs down the list of her few contacts. As it turns out, there are apparently numbers of werewolf packs spread throughout the country, but they’re so small and insignificant that no one can name them all, let alone pinpoint them on a map. Through countless calls and even some bribery, Destiny eventually has a solid―if scant―list of well-established packs.

As Peter suspected, although they are open to accepting packless werewolves into their fold, they balk at the concept of having an Upir in their family. With much negotiation on both Destiny’s and Peter’s parts, they eventually strike an accord with a highly-respected Canadian pack residing just east of Vancouver. Roman admits that it’s a fair compromise: their family can live on their territory and have their protection from hunters so long as he doesn’t go on any murderous rampages. That, and Peter cannot officially join their pack.

When Roman broaches the subject, the werewolf grins and gets a certain glint in his eye, looking at Nadia and Roman in succession. He doesn’t have to say it, but the Upir knows that he’s thinking something corny like, “I already have a pack.” (Roman pretends to be unaffected.)

Once they put their documents to rights (with a healthy bit of finagling), they cross the border, moving into a cabin situated within driving distance of a slaughterhouse. (As part of the deal, Peter had asked for access to animal blood, and they had obligingly provided the number of a werewolf working there.) The day after they take root, a contingent of two werewolves visit their new home under the guise of a welcome committee. No one makes an effort to hide the fact that they are there as interrogators, but Roman figures he might as well be polite and offer food (sharing meals seems like a pack activity, after all).

Roman fears opening up to his family, let alone strangers, but Roman knows that he has repressed his own emotions for far too long. If they need to see evidence that he isn’t just exploiting Peter for protection, he’ll give it to them the only way he can think to: by being honest. So he takes a deep breath and tries to relax. The ambassadors take a particular interest in Roman’s history as an Upir, which brings back unpleasant memories. His voice must broadcast his discomfort because Peter interlaces their fingers, squeezing tightly.

He ends up retelling far more than he’d planned, taking pains to emphasize Peter’s effectiveness as an anchor, holding Peter’s hand throughout. Roman barely remembers what he ends up saying, probably rambles like an idiot. Still, he must do something right, because once they wrap up, the werewolves are doing a poor job of hiding their smiles. Before they leave, they tell Peter that he can run with them on full moons as long as he defers to their alpha and doesn’t attempt to marry into the pack. This last is said with a laugh, but Roman is still too emotionally wrecked to hear it with anything but indignation.

Still, they pass the test with flying colors, so Roman finally calms down and turns his attention to domestic concerns. Their stash of money won’t last forever and it’s too risky to keep using his mind tricks now that they can’t run away―especially since so many werewolves inhabit the town (and he doesn’t wish to cheat them). After discussion, they decide to split the workload; Peter finds a part-time job in town as a mechanic and Roman looks into working from home, potentially as a business consultant, so that he can take care of Nadia while Peter isn’t home. Before his eyes, their lives are slowly coming together.

Shelley is the last loose end, so Roman gets in touch, eager to offer her a place among them. He has already cleared it with the pack, and they were magnanimous enough to offer the wrongly-convicted girl refuge. It will take some string-pulling on Pryce’s part to arrange for safe transport, but Shelley is excited and more than ready to leave Hemlock Grove. While they were gallivanting across the country, she had channeled her energy and time into writing, producing what eventually formed into an anthology of supernatural stories. Working through a discrete agent, she has already had a few offers from publishers, but for understandable reasons she doesn’t plan on making any public appearances. Shelley tells Roman that she’d much rather join her family in hiding and let her agent manage that side of the process.

“There isn’t much room in the house, but we could probably spring for another room, maybe a 2nd floor?” Roman offers, watching Shelley shake her head over the webcam.

“I’d love to, but I stand by what I said. You two need your room,” Shelley giggles. “I should get my own place.” Self-conscious, Roman giggles along with her, looks behind him to make sure that Peter isn’t within hearing distance. “Roman?” The Upir turns back after pushing the door mostly-closed. Conspiringly, Shelley leans in towards the screen and whispers, “Have you considered getting married? You can there, you know. I checked.”

Coughing, Roman replies, “Yeah, I checked too.” Clearing his throat further, he shrugs. When he speaks, his voice is unsteady. “I don’t know. I’d like to think he’d say yes, but it seems like it’s too early.” He pauses, scratching at some beard burn Peter kindly left on his cheek. “It would make it easier for Peter to officially adopt Nadia, but we don’t need to rush it. Maybe someday.”

Shelley nods, smiling sweetly, “What matters is that you’re happy.”

 

 

Sat on their front porch, Peter keeps his eyes half-closed against the evening sun, leaning into its gentle warmth. He’s in a wonderful mood. They had finally succeeded in arranging a video chat with his mom, who has, as it turns out, taken to Romania with great gusto (though that may be attributed to the man she’s currently carrying on with). Roman and Nadia said hello and spoke for the first several minutes, but then Roman left to give him some privacy. He ended up talking for hours, telling her everything that has happened, glossing over the Dragon and focusing on their recent travels.

By the point when his narrative reached Canada and their various DIY construction attempts around the cabin, Lynda was crying joyful tears. “Oh baby, I’m so happy for you,” she had finally admitted.

Not doing much in particular, Roman lies flat along the porch, leaning his head on Peter’s lap. Since it’s within reach, Peter shifts between running his fingers through Roman’s hair and petting it. Destiny had called earlier to say that they should be there within an hour, and Peter’s looking forward to their first familial gathering in their new home. For now though, all he sees is Roman and thinks about how far they’ve come and how everything is peaceful.

“I love you,” Peter says, not finding it strange it admit.

Momentarily, Roman jerks his head up, mouth falling open. “Shee-it,” he says, in awe.

“Shee-it,” Peter can only agree.

Laughing, albeit a little frantically, Roman scrambles to sit up, stopping only when he gets his legs on either side of Peter’s hips and his hands against Peter’s neck. “I love you.”

(An hour later, Destiny and Andreas drive up at the worst possible time, accuse them of breaking public decency laws, kidnap Nadia for a night of babysitting, and then get the hell out of there.)