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Try on a Trial Marriage This Lughnasadh

The deadline for Lughnasadh handfasting licensure is Wednesday at dawn. Lughnasadh handfastings are identified under the Clan Code as trial marriages only and expire in one year and one day if the contract is not renewed. Clan officials are suspended from performing marriages for two days before and two days after Lughnasadh to limit confusion between trial and permanent marriage contracts.

 

Pete’s not stalking Mikey. He’s following Mikey when Mikey doesn’t know about it, which doesn’t make it stalking. It doesn’t even make it anything creepy, it’s simply that Mikey's not fully informed. Which makes it ok that Pete’s ducking behind trees and shrubs, lantern posts and the occasional parked carriage.

Pete knows he shouldn’t be following Mikey at all, and he definitely shouldn’t be following him now, and he’d tell Mikey, he would, but Mikey can’t know that Pete’s outside, not because he’s following Mikey, but because - well, because it’s noon.

Pete’s out in the daylight. And that’s kind of a new thing. A thing he hasn’t talked to Mikey about yet. A thing he hasn't talked to anyone about yet.

Mikey goes briefly out of Pete’s sight when he crosses the water-based transit meridian. When he doesn’t reappear, Pete moves so the ornamental fountain isn’t in his sight line.

“Mikey?” Pete calls out. “Mikeyway?” He doesn’t want to jump to conclusions or whatever, but his panic levels were already pretty high. He isn't not-stalking Mikey in the daylight just for fun, Travie had a vision.

And ok, Pete will admit he's been acting irrationally. But Mikey's just disappeared, and so he feels a modicum of justification, even if Travie's vision had been full of exploding flower bombs, and not disappearances.

“I’m right here, Pete,” Mikey says.

“I can’t see you,” Pete says.

“That’s because I’m invisible,” Mikey says.

“You’re - what?” Pete says

“Not invisible,” a voice Pete recognizes says, and it’s only his panic that stops him from understanding it right away. “It’s fairy magic.”

“Gabe,” Pete says, “What the fuck.”

“I’m kidnapping Mikey for a bit,” Gabe says. “Ow,” Gabe says, and Pete has a pretty clear picture of Mikey elbowing Gabe in the ribs. “It’s tradition.”

“Whose tradition?” Pete says. “Would you fucking show yourself, I look like I’m insane talking to thin air.”

“That’s not all that makes you look insane,” Mikey says, appearing suddenly in front of Pete. Pete rushes forward and then stops when Gabe appears, holding out a hand. Whatever the magic is, Pete doesn’t want to test it.

“Are you ok?” Pete asks.

“Am I ok?” Mikey says. “I think you should be telling me why you’re ok.”

“Why - “ Pete says. Mikey crosses his arms.

“I think he means the - “ Gabe waves his hand around, and Pete remembers why he’s been sneaking around in the first place.

“Shit,” Pete says.

“Yeah,” Mikey says. “What the fuck, Pete.”

“Do you want me to let you guys talk this out or do you think I can continue with my kidnapping plan?” Gabe asks.

Alicia appears at that moment, stepping out from behind a carriage like she's just gotten out of a taxi, grabs some sort of invisible string near Mikey and snaps it like a twig.

“Hey, you can’t interfere!” Gabe protests.

“I most certainly can,” Alicia says.

“But this is a traditional kidnapping!” Gabe says.

Pete tries to approach Mikey but Mikey just turns so that wherever Pete moves, Mikey's back is to him.

“What tradition are we talking about?” Pete asks, and Gabe seems delighted to answer him this time.

“It is tradition,” Gabe declares in an ostentatious tone, “That the Unseelie Court attempt a kidnapping on Lughnasadh of the Seelie’s beloved.”

“Hardly,” Alicia says.

“Hey, why don’t I get kidnapped?” Pete says.

“I object to the term ‘beloved’” Mikey says.

“I was wondering if I might inject some reason into this fiasco,” Alicia says. “And suggest that, as we are in the presence of a high profile Midnighter in the middle of one of the Daylighter border neighborhoods in the middle of the day, we might attempt to be a little more discreet as we reconcile this matter?”

Gabe takes out his phone and snaps a picture of Pete, and then vanishes. Alicia sighs hugely.

“Hey, Mikey, so, kidnapping, that's - “ Pete starts, but without a second glance, Mikey walks off toward the Way Mansion, the opposite direction of wherever he'd been going. “Mikey!” Pete calls out.

“Don't,” Alicia says firmly. “Let me try to mitigate some of the damage.”

“Damage is kind of a harsh word,” Pete says.

Alicia shrugs and says, “A shade rose by any other name....” she says, and walks off. “I'll know if you follow,” she casts back over her shoulder.

A bike messenger has to swerve to avoid Pete in the middle of the road. “Damn Daylighter,” the messenger curses as he speeds off.

 

 

Memo from the Governor's Office:

Please remember that all persons/creatures using divining or dowsing rods must have the accompanying permits when crossing over into Daylighter zones or primarily Daylighter populations. Not everyone will be able to quickly distinguish your rod from a weapon or a lewd act.

All garlands must meet fire-resistance rating standards without exception. Even if you do plan to burn them on Beltane; you don't want them spontaneously combusting or overheating in a carriage in full daylight before Lughnasadh is over. And neither do we.

 

Pete has an appointment with Brendon to discuss his ideas about making the pamphlet about mortal death living wills more accessible to Daylighters, and he's hoping to use it as an excuse to bring up any possible legal ramifications of anyone else finding out he can now go out in the sun and not catch on fire.

He remembers it’s custody week when he finds John laying across the front steps of Brendon’s office. The term 'custody week' is only funny to him; he knows enough from the looks Patrick and Travie and pretty much everyone else give him when he refers to Ryan and Brendon’s break-up as a divorce. It’s complicated and it’s partially his fault, and so it’s easier to make it into a joke.

“Hey Pete,” John says, idly waving a hand up at the sky.

“Uh, hey,” Pete says.

“It’s bad luck to walk over a demon,” John says as Pete climbs the stairs.

“I think that’s under a ladder,” Pete says.

“That too,” John says.

“I’ll take my chances,” Pete says, and steps over John, who does not reach up and try to grab Pete’s ankle like he’d been expecting.

Ryan’s standing in the middle of the foyer like he was just about to leave, and he freezes when he sees Pete. He wonders if this is John’s prediction coming true.

“Hey Ryan,” Pete says, because Ryan’s not going to say hello first.

“Hey,” Ryan shrugs, and then continues out toward John. He stops, though, just as he’s about to pass Pete and says, “You turned anyone recently?”

Pete grabs Ryan’s elbow hard and holds him in place. “What the fuck does that mean?” He’s uncomfortably reminded of the taste of Mikey’s blood in his mouth.

“Hey, hey, I didn’t mean it like that,” Ryan says, hands up in surrender, though the one in Pete’s grip gets tugged back down. “Look, I know it’s a sore spot and I suck at hugging things out or whatever but, I was just - I was just trying to say that not everyone you turn will end up like I did” Ryan says.

“I - “ Pete says, flummoxed. “You turned out fine. Except for the radical politics and the murder attempt.”

“Don’t use me as your only example, ok?” Ryan says. “You make enough mistakes on your own without having to claim anyone else’s.”

“Thanks?” Pete says, and he’s saved from having to spend any longer puzzling out the backhanded compliment by Spencer, who arrives to show him into Brendon’s office.

“Pete, hi, I’m just bringing Brendon coffee, you want anything?” Spencer says.

“Nah, I’m good,” Pete says. “Wait, I thought you quit.”

“Oh, I did. This is not valet coffee, it's just boyfriend coffee.”

“Then I certainly don’t want any,” Pete says. Spencer is torn between snickering and rolling his eyes.

Brendon is underlining something in the Midnighter Journal of Jurisprudence and then flipping through the spiral-bound Almanac of Lughnasadh from the Governor’s office. It makes Pete feel like a slacker because it's been a couple of weeks since he went over any of the Lughnasadh protocols. The holidays always sneak up on him.

Pete's trying to remember whether this is one of the four holidays that begin at noon and not midnight, and so he doesn't notice at first that Spencer, standing just in front of him, is glowing. Or more like, his aura's kind of sparking, like he rolled around in metaphysical glitter. When Pete does notice, though, is when Brendon knocks his book to the floor.

“Were you just - ” Brendon stutters.

“Yes,” Spencer says immediately.

“So what I saw was - ” Brendon says.

“Yes,” Spencer says, and Pete's kind of impressed how Spencer's able to finish Brendon's sentences like that.

“Did you see that?” Brendon asks, turning to Pete. Pete looks at Spencer, who nods that it's ok.

“Yeah,” Pete says. “Sparkle motion.”

Brendon turns back to Spencer. “And how long has that been happening?”

There’s a longer pause this time before Spencer answers.

“Pretty much forever?” he says. “Though probably because we’re leading up to Lughnasadh. Sometimes I just get caught up in - “

“Oh,” Brendon says and sits down hard in his chair.

“I should maybe go?” Pete says, though in all honestly he wants to stay and find out what's going on and how Spencer's a secret fairy.

“Are you freaking out?” Spencer goes over behind the desk and touches Brendon's shoulder. Pete watches as some of the glitter spreads over Brendon.

“I'm gonna go,” Pete says, because Brendon looks kind of white, and he's absently tracing his fingers over the demon-binding tattoo on his arm. Pete's inevitably not-so-secret not-so-afflicted-by-sunlight issue can wait.

Before he heads out the door, though, he stops by the bookcase, and scans the spines quickly. He pulls the Creature Identification Code Addendum on Intercultural Misunderstandings down and sets it on Brendon's desk. “Chapter 8,” Pete says. “Dating a Fairy.”

 

It occurs to Pete, though he probably should have thought of it way sooner, that there’s someone who might know more about this whole vampire in the sun than he does. He has never gotten the whole story about the disappearing scars, just some hand-waved explanation from the sorcerer and then, of course, things were distracting with the whole Fairy Blockade, and then Gerard being sacrificed in a sinister ritual kind of prevented Pete from following through on the subject. Even now Gerard has come back from the dead, he seems more inclined to pretend Pete doesn't exist than answer questions about Pete’s Midnighter nature.

Frank, though, Frank’s a safer bet. Pete does have some legitimate things he can ask Frank as a representative of the detective agency, especially about the investigative law clauses in the transitional zones. But for all the Way Mansion is concerned, Pete could just waltz in with a stake sticking out of his chest.

“Don't put the contracts under the green hydrangea, they'll get pollen all over them and be invalidated,” Dewees says to two Pencey messengers, one carrying a stack of files, one carrying two large vases of hydrangea.

“Is that the purified water?” Schechter’s disembodied voice booms.

“Hydrangeas,” Greta says. “And it's calla lilies next.”

“Damn the calla lilies,” Schechter says. Greta just shakes her head.

“What's all the commotion?” Pete asks.

“The Way Mansion is a Lughnasadh cultural information zone,” Dewees says.

“Oh, yeah, I think Decaydance is, too,” Pete says. “I'm not in charge of planning this sort of thing,”

“Thank God,” the zombie says. “Put the flowers down, what are you, a zombie?” Dewees says to the Pencey messenger on his right.

“Are you looking for Mikey?” Greta asks.

Pete shakes his head; he can already feel that Mikey isn't here.

“Nah, I'm here to see Frank. On business,” Pete says, hoping that in all the commotion Gerard won’t notice he’s here.

“Oh, you are a zombie, my apologies,” Dewees says and points exactly where he wants the messenger to place the flowers.

“Lughnasadh business? Someone getting handfasted?” Greta asks.

“Uhhh, no,” Pete says.

“I've got a great master, if you're looking for placement,” Dewees says.

“Oh, that's very sweet, James,” Greta says.

“I'll just go find Frank,” Pete says before anyone else can mention handfasting.

Frank’s sitting on the couch in one of the sitting rooms, a clipboard balanced on his knees, when Pete finds him.

“Hi Pete,” Frank says. “Did we have an appointment? Are you here about Lughnasadh?”

“No,” Pete says. “Other Clan business.”

“Well good, because if you needed plant cuttings, I was going to have to ask you to go on the waiting list. Or I was going to have to throw myself into the east fountain, I can't decide,” Frank says, checking something off on a clip board. “So should I get out my copy of the clan code,” Frank asks, “You sure you don’t want Gerard?”

“No, no, I’m sure - “ Pete halts.

Frank snickers.

“So,” Pete says, and then just decides to come out with it. “There's this thing that's happening,” Pete starts. “Where I can go out in the daylight.”

“You too, huh?” Frank says thoughtfully.

“You – what?” Pete says.

“Pretty wild, man, right?” Frank says.

“Yeah,” Pete says, though he’s not sure he’s at the wild stage yet. He’s still more in the 'years of going against ancient vampire instinct' stage.

“It’s about the blood,” Frank says. Frank arches his eyebrows, and oh. Gerard’s blood. Or in Pete’s case, Mikey’s blood.“Have you told Mikey?”

Pete shakes his head. He’s still not feeling all that good about exactly how Mikey’s blood enters into the equation. Pete hasn’t drunk from Mikey since Gerard did his whole transformation into a new kind of magical creature.

“You should tell him,” Frank says.

“I – what?” Pete says. It’s exactly the opposite of what he was expecting Frank to say.

“Mikey knows he’s not a Daylighter now,” Frank says. “He probably has known for a while, he’s a smart kid. Relationship choices excepted.”

Pete laughs, feeling more at ease when Frank is acting slightly hostile, and more on the same page with Gerard. Frank laughs, too.

“You should tell him before he finds you outside one morning and thinks you’re suiciding,” Frank says. “Dewees was pretty upset that morning. Just because he tried to kill me a few weeks before - “

“Wait, what?” Pete says, feeling like he's lost control of the conversation. “Your zombie tried to kill you?”

“He’s not my zombie, he’s Greta’s,” Frank says. “And it was just a complication of the previous outbreak of villainy.”

“Fun,” Pete says because it doesn't seem like he can ask for further elaboration on something like that. “So, is there anything I need to know about the daylight exposure thing?”

Frank shrugs.

“Just be careful who sees you,” Frank says. “Especially with Lughnasadh approaching.”

“What does Lughnasadh have to do with it?”

“You know how it is, Lughnasadh has to do with everything.”

“Not my style,” Pete says. “The being careful part.”

“Really?” Frank says. “I had no idea.” Frank scribbles another something on his clipboard. “You can ask me, if other things start to happen.” Frank says. “Not that I'll have the answers. Most of the time, even I'm not sure.”

“Yeah,” Pete says. “Sounds familiar.”

And that's the thing that keeps Pete from worrying too much or talking too much about it. He's been a trailblazer before. He knows what its like to have no one have the answers and to have to piece things together himself.

“Hey, are you guys getting trial-married?” Pete says.

“Fuck you,” Frank says. “I have enough trials.”

As Pete’s leaving, he sees more flowers being put up in the courtyard and he remembers that he still hasn’t mentioned the flower bomb threats to Mikey. He's wondering if he should go back and tell Frank when Gerard knocks the thoughts and such out of his head. Literally.

Pete's never been slammed up against a wall without anyone actually taking his pants off him, but there's no other word that could more accurately describe what happened when he walks into the North courtyard of the Way Mansion. And he had actually started to believe he might get out of the Mansion grounds without running into Gerard. Gerard seems to have appeared out of thin air and come at Pete with a running start, or possibly Gerard is just a whole lot stronger than Pete ever realized. Must be the whole nature god thing. Also, the wall Pete's been slammed up against is made of glass. Greenhouse glass. Shit.

Pete’s also never been slammed up against a wall without actually seeing it coming, but that’s the only way to accurately describe what happens when Gerard seems to appear out of thin air and come at Pete already running.

"Uh," Pete says.

"It's not your turn to talk, Pete," Gerard says.

"Ok," Pete says. "Fair enough. But I thought maybe I'd snuck up on you or you thought I was someone else or - "

Gerard's grip tightens on Pete's shoulder and Pete trails off.

"I know why you're here," Gerard says. "There's no more sneaking around."

"Mikey and I don't sneak - "

Gerard shoves him so hard Pete's head bounces on the glass pane with a dull thud. "I would like you to consider what you've just said."

"The sneaking?"

"You," Gerard says slowly. "And my brother."

"Oh, hey, is this you threatening me if I hurt him? Shit, Gerard, you don't need to actually say it aloud, it's pretty clear."

"I'm not threatening you, if you hurt him," Gerard says. "I'm threatening you."

"Oh," Pete says, and then, because he's just that kind of asshole, “Excellent threat technique."

Gerard gives him one last shove and turns and walks away.

 

Excerpt from “Lughnasadh: Tradition versus Modern Practice”

While it may be a part of your tradition to walk naked through gardens on Lughnasadh, please be advised that those not aware of or celebrating the holiday may find spontaneous displays of nudity alarming.

Please keep in mind you may have need of your Clan Card or other papers with you, so plan ahead if you usually keep them in your pockets.

 

Pete wakes up to the sound of raised voices. He's fallen asleep again at his desk, face pressed into volume 4 of Midnighter Overlaps of Daylighter Heating and Cooling Codes. His re-writes for the next edition of the Clan Code - the one meant to be published concurrently with the second edition of the Mindless Act - are due in 6 nights, and if he is actually planning to keep Patrick as a friend, he should probably have something to hand over to him by Thursday.

“I'm so sorry, Mikey. The security system obviously thought you were an intruder.” Patrick sounds unnecessarily sarcastic.

“I keep telling Pete he should use wards like everyone else. Then he could just write me into the magic.”

“Pete's a traditionalist about some things,” Patrick says. “And after the recent – he likes locks. You could ask him for a key, you know,” Patrick says.

“I much prefer sneaking in,” Mikey says.

A moment later, Mikey’s opening the door to Pete’s study.

“Are we gonna talk about how you were stalking me?” Mikey says, leaning in the doorway, arms crossed.

“I’ve been stalking you since I met you, Mikeyway.”

“Yeah, but there’s an obvious new development.”

“The sun thing, yeah, I talked to Frank about that,” Pete knows it’s the wrong thing to say as soon as its out of his mouth. “I mean - “

“I know what you mean,” Mikey says. He’s shut down, and Pete knows this expression well enough to know he might not get him back at all. “I don't know what this is about, ok, Pete? But you stopped talking about turning me the day I came back from my captive vacation in Fairy, so maybe we can talk about what that is about.”

Pete's speechless.

They stare at each other, and Pete's about to break the silence with something physical, he's good at least at that, to show Mikey with a kiss that he's ok with being changed by Mikey, that he always wants to change and be changed but Mikey cuts him off before he gets the chance.

“I promised Gerard I'd help him get the chalice table set-up. Later, ok?” Mikey says, and Pete thinks he hears some hesitancy in it, but it's a dismissal either way.

 

“Wentz,” Bob says, and Pete doesn't even bother asking how he got in. “Here,” he says, handing Pete a folder.

“The week's death threats?”

“No, those are just from last Sunday,” Bob says. “We're emailing you the invalidated contracts from the week. Wasting paper to print it all out.”

“Great,” Pete says. “Glad to know I'm still so popular. Has Ray joined the Order yet?”

“Don't ask questions about Ray.”

“Wow, are you gonna be next to file a contract?”

Bob just rolls his eyes.

“Speaking of....well, I don't really know how to segue into this. Speaking of nothing at all, did you happen to notice if there are any contracts in there from Gerard?”

“You mean against Gerard?”

“No, I mean - ”

“What did you do to Mikey?” Bob demands.

“Nothing!” Pete says, fast as he can. “Nothing. He just – mentioned Mikey and I ought to go our separate ways. Ways!”

Bob doesn't laugh at the pun. He doesn't even crack a smile.

“No,” Bob says after so long that Pete's getting jittery under his gaze. “Gerard has not filed a contract against you.”

“Good?” Pete says.

“Though he really wouldn't have to,” Bob says. “The law's in his favor where you're concerned.”

“Which law?”

“All of them,” Bob says and disappears the same mysterious way he appeared.

 

Pete decides he really does need to talk to Brendon about legal ramifications, though more the ones that have to do with Gerard killing him than the lack of the sun doing the same. He invites Brendon over to Decaydance because Pete really can't handle another encounter with Ryan or a demon hanging out vertically.

“You ok, man?” Pete says, looking Brendon over. He looks like he’s lost a fight with a mattress.

“It’s not anything Ryan did,” Brendon says, and then, “Sorry, that was rude.”

“No, fair point,” Pete says. “So, your boyfriend?”

“Spencer glows,” Brendon says finally.

“Yeah, I saw that. Hey, did you try and see if he glowed all over?”

“Sometimes I hate you.”

“Yeah, but not all the time!”

“I need a drink,” Brendon says.

“Liquor cabinet’s over -”

“Oh, believe me, I know where your liquor cabinet is,” Brendon says, proceeds to open it and root around for the right bottle.

“Ryan said something to me last time I was there,” Pete says, as Brendon hands him a glass of scotch while knocking back his own.

“Ryan says a lot of things,” Brendon says.

“About how I hadn’t turned anyone else.”

“You’re thinking about turning Mikey?” Brendon says with a good dose of incredulity. “Still?”

“He wants it,” Pete says, though it feels a little too much like self-justification.

“He thinks he does,” Brendon says. “Look, I’m all for informed consent, but, it’s hard to be fully aware of what you’re consenting to until you’re on the other side.”

“You didn’t consent, though,” Pete says.

Brendon glares at him. “Really? I forgot that part.”

“Sorry, I’m being an asshole today,” Pete says.

“Today,” Brendon says dryly. “I’m just saying maybe it’s not the best idea right now. You could wait a little while longer.”

“For what?”

“Until you figure out whatever's going on with you, maybe.”

“There’s nothing - “ Pete says.

“Pete, can we talk?” Mikey says, appearing at the door. Brendon’s clearly known Mikey was there for more than a few minutes and Pete's not sure how he missed it at all. He's usually more together than this and he thinks maybe Brendon has a point.

“Hey Mikeyway,” Pete says.

“Hi Brendon,” Mikey says, ignoring Pete's greeting. “Outside,” Mikey says to Pete, like he'd already said it a few times too many.

“I’m drinking the rest of your scotch,” Brendon says.

“Is something wrong?” Pete asks, as Mikey fast-walks out to the Decaydance courtyard. Several of the Alexes are hanging cow print Lughnasadh garlands around the bat gargoyles.

“Is something - “ Mikey says and stops. “Are you being deliberately stupid?”

“No, I'm naturally this way,” Pete says.

It's then that Pete hears it. It sounds like firecrackers. Not firecrackers, though, something more like -

He makes the connection too late. A flower bomb goes off in the courtyard, sending Pete crashing hard into an unforgiving cloud of smoke and cracked stone statues. The last thing he sees before he falls unconscious is Mikey sprawled across the courtyard.

 

Updated Notice Concerning Holy Wells

While the Code 87 Zoning Laws of Personal Ritual Property ultimately cancel out the Code 102 Section B In-Season Ritual Property and Public Safety Hazards, heavy drinking of ceremonial wine by you or your guests is not recommended while your holy well's safety covering has been removed. If you need to have the connection made for you in the form of a cautionary tale, please read The Story of Nee Rein and the Alabaster Arena in the Young Midnighter's Introduction to Responsible Rituals.

 

It turns out that Travie's visions are crossing right over into premonitions, and after the clean-up of the courtyard, Pete's totally going to send him to the Clan Office to get certified. Most of the debris is already gone by the time Pete gets his ears to stop ringing. They can't let an explosion take Decaydance off the Lughnasadh schedule; it would be a PR nightmare, which was probably the goal of whoever sent the flower bomb in the first place. Patrick's sure it's still the werewolf factions, but Pete's not sure of anything except that he has to write a comment for the news, and finish the revisions of the Clan Code, and make things right, and just – not think about Mikey, because Mikey's fine. Brendon's fine, and the Alexes are fine, and maybe a few of the bat statues bit it, but Pete has things to do.

He startles at the sound at his door.

“Patrick says you haven't eaten,” Mikey says. Mikeymikeymikey, Pete thinks, and shakes his head. Mikey is just standing there, staring at him.

“I'm fixing things,” Pete says.

“I'm sure you are,” Mikey says. He sits down in the chair where Pete has piled the law books. Mikey doesn't even move them, just sits down next to them.

Mikeymikeymikey, he thinks, as he finds the wording he was looking for about the legacy of the Clan Code's founding principles and he scribbles it down.

“You know you're saying that aloud,” Mikey says.

“What?” Pete says, looking up.

“My name.”

“Oh,” Pete says. He scribbles for a moment more and the puts down his pen and scrubs a hand over his face. “Sorry, I'm tired.”

“Yeah, well it's not easy to sleep at the Way Mansion the way Gerard is carrying on, so I thought I'd try my luck here.”

Mikey takes off his coat and winces and before Pete realizes it, he's on his feet, helping Mikey off with his coat. He sees the red of the slice on Mikey's neck, can smell how it goes down his shoulder.

“You're still hurt,” Pete says.

“Yeah, well, not all of us heal as fast as vampires,” Mikey says.

“Show me,” Pete says.

“It's not - “

“Show me,” Pete says, and he knows how scary he must sound but he has to see what they've done, what he missed. Mikey slips off his t-shirt, the knobs of his spine visible across his back, the cut red and deep, laced through the with magic.

“Patrick patched me up,” he says, “And Brian when I got back home.”

Pete means to say Mikey ought to see a doctor, they are leaving right now for a Clan Clinic but what happens is he grabs Mikey's arms tight, pulls him close. He feels Mikey's soft exhale brush past his ear, presses his nose into Mikey's throat and whispers, “I'm turning you,” except it's not much of a whisper because Mikey makes a noise, somewhere between a gasp and something else. “I'm going to turn you and then no one can hurt you.”

“Doesn't seem to stop them hurting you,” Mikey says softly, but then he turns and kisses Pete before Pete can find the words to say he's not the one who matters. “Also, Patrick drugged your coffee,” Mikey says and Pete looks for his empty cup and kind of stumbles into the desk. “He sent me in to see if you were passed out yet.”

“Fucker,” Pete says, and then everything's kind of a sleepy, drugged out blur.

 

 

“Hi,” Mikey says unhelpfully when Pete comes downstairs the next morning. He can feel Mikey’s hesitance from upstairs, and immediately knows that Mikey thinks he doesn’t remember. He can smell coffee, and Duke Chocofang cereal. He’s been out of it way worse than he was last night, but of course Mikey hasn’t seen him like that before. Pete’s been better at keeping it to himself, and the Midnighter community has been more stable, but, big changes mean big ups and downs. He wants to apologize but he already knows the face Mikey will make at him, so he goes right to the point.

“I remember what we talked about, Mikeyway,” Pete says.

Mikey says, neutrally, “Ok.”

He’s saying even less than usual, and Pete wonders if it’s to make up for all the words Pete was spewing last night, the rants and mumbling that might not have made any sense even if he could have heard himself.

“I meant what I said,” Pete says.

“Which part?” Mikey asks and smirks. Pete laughs. “You said a lot. Some really scary stuff about decorating too, what was that about,” Mikey says. He looks down at his hands. “You were out of your head,” Mikey adds, and it’s an out.

“You send me there,” Pete says, pressing a kiss to the corner of Mikey’s mouth. Mikey sighs. “But I meant it, Mikey, I didn’t say it ‘cause I was out of my head, or maybe that’s why I said it but that’s not why I meant it.”

“For someone who supposedly has a way with words,” Mikey says. His expression is still carefully schooled.

“Let’s start the paperwork,” Pete says. Mikey blinks, once, twice, three times.

“Really?”

“Yeah, Mikey,” Pete says, “And if you want to do it before dawn, we’d better get started, there are new sub-forms that got added this week about blood transfer and dental health.”

“Such a romantic,” Mikey says, but there’s the first sign of ease in his expression, softening almost towards happiness.

 

 

Patrick corners Pete in his office where Pete's starting on his half of the paperwork.

“You’re sure he understands,” Patrick asks.

“He’s not Ryan,” Pete says.

“No,” Patrick says. “He’s not.”

“It’s not political,” Pete says.

“You mean it’s not political for you. You’re already who you’re going to be.”

“That’s poetry, Trick, man, I gotta write that shit down.”

“Pete.”

“He understands,” Pete says. “He’s wanted this. He’s not new. Not like Ryan.”

“He’s also Gerard Way’s younger brother,” Patrick says. “Shouldn’t you, like, ask for his permission?”

“I’m not marrying the last Way virgin,” Pete says. Patrick winces.

“No, you’re just turning him into a vampire.” Patrick says.

“But he’s not a virgin,” Pete says. Patrick sighs and walks off.

 

 

Pete hasn't put a lot of thought into where they're going to do the Turning, which is evident when Mikey refuses to do anything until they've created adequate space amidst the chaos of dirty clothes and empty coffee cups and folded-open notebooks to sit on the floor in Pete's bedroom.

“Ok, quick recap. I drink from you,” Pete says, not meeting Mikey's eyes and then meeting them. Mikey tilts his chin up just a little bit, in the way Pete thinks maybe Mikey doesn't even know he does, intimate and a little defiant. “And then you drink some of your blood from my mouth.”

Mikey doesn't flinch, even though it's one of the more vivid parts.

“And that's it?”

Pete shakes his head. “No, that's not it. You read the triplicate guide, right? Listen, Mikey, are you sure - ”

“Pete, stop trying to talk me out of it. I thought you'd agreed.”

“This is a bigger deal than you think. I'm not being pedantic, before you throw some big words at me, I speak from experience. It's a bigger deal than you can realize, that's the only reason it ever works. You can't expect it.”

“I drink my blood from you mouth,” Mikey says, ignoring everything else Pete has said. “And then?”

“And then I drink you almost dry.” Pete says. “Then comes the hard part, and it's all you, ok? You're going to be almost gone, and you need to find that spark of magic, that space between breathing in and out that's all Midnighter. You need to follow that. You have to follow your bright new instinct and you have to drink from me.”

“And if I can't?”

“You go into a stasis that only ritual sacrifice can free you from,” Pete says, “And I die.”

“Why do you die?” Mikey asks.

“Because your brother will have killed me!”

Mikey crosses his arms and taps his foot.

“So,” Pete says, because he should have known better than to bring up Gerard. “This is the point where you ask me anything you’ve wanted to know but thought better of asking. This is not the time for tact.”

“You realize you always borrow my eyeliner and never sharpen it,” Mikey says. “And that you always try to blame Alicia, and she doesn’t use eyeliner. Midnighter or Daylighter.”

“Mikey,” Pete says. “I need you to be serious here.”

“And I need you to understand that not everything I do is determined by what my brother wants. Ok?”

“Ok,” Pete says. “You wanna stand maybe?”

“Just fucking bite me,” Mikey says. He pulls back the collar of his t-shirt.

Pete kisses him first, and then tilts his head and bites Mikey’s neck. He thinks about pulling back at the first taste, asking Mikey if he’s sure, one more time, but Mikey presses his hand to the back of Pete’s neck.

Pete has never been able to separate out individual flavors from blood, the way he knows they’re supposed to do when they're drinking from bags, not people, but Pete always connects taste with personality. It’s why he drinks from Mikey’s wrist, why he tasted Ryan before he turned him. It’s why he writes codes for how to do this, because if it’s guided by gut instinct, the vampire community would turn into a bunch of emo fuckers who drank their friends dry because they were lonely.

Mikey sighs, like this is comfortable for him, like he’s had people drinking from him before and Pete knows, Pete knows he hasn’t, but the surge of jealousy makes him break off.

“Here,” Mikey says, and brings his mouth to Pete’s before Pete can remember that this is what’s next. It’s like a kiss at first, as Mikey works up to it, but then, yeah, he’s drinking the blood that’s in Pete’s mouth.

Mikey kisses him again, and says, quietly, “Is that enough?”

Pete says, “Sorry, but, no,” and Mikey grins and nods, solemnly. They do it three more times, Pete drinking, Mikey drinking from his mouth, and then Pete says, “Ok, this is it.”

“That’s what you’ve got to say?” Mikey says. “This is it?”

“This is your chance to shine, Mikeyway.”

Mikey sighs. “I hope I forget this part.”

Pete laughs as he bites him, and then his whole focus becomes finding the place in between Mikey’s heartbeat and potential for the magical transformation.

Pete doesn’t doubt Mikey’s ability to do his part of this bargain, but it’s still a surprise and a relief when Mikey reaches for Pete’s wrist, firsta sharp bite, and then as Pete guides him upward, Mikey’s teeth find Pete’s neck.

Mikey eventually closes his eyes, thirst slaked and tired, and Pete guides him, Mikey sleep-blind and magic-blind, into Pete’s coffin. Pete collapses in the chair he’s pretty sure wasn’t there before, and Patrick put there. He probably argued aloud with himself which chair and where to put it. It’s Pete’s last thought before he falls asleep, amused and grateful, a hand on the lid of the coffin where Mikey Way, vampire, now sleeps.

 

Notice posted on all Blind Order Drop Boxes

As Lughnasadh approaches, we find it prudent to remind you that the Blind Order does not involve itself in marriage contracts of any sort - trial, arranged, or otherwise. If you have been married without consent*, you should visit your local Clan Office for a referral and the Blind Order may be brought in to consult on the breach of consent. We cannot invalidate** any marriage contract.

*It should be noted that 'married without consent' in this context does not mean 'unhappily married.'

**It should also be noted that 'invalidate' in this context does not mean 'assassinate.' Assassination is always on the table, but marriage contracts can extend to cover certain forms of death, so do your research first, because we won't do that part for you.

 

Pete hears Mikey wake and startles to his feet. Mikey’s groggy and stumbles getting out of the coffin, and Pete tries to give him his wrist to drink from, but Mikey refuses. He stands, and he looks like he’s going to say something, and then he bends over and starts throwing up blood.

“Patrick!” Pete shouts. “Help! Help!”

Mikey’s coughing and still throwing up mouthfuls of blood.

“Mikey, hey, Mikeyway, hang on, it’s ok.”

It’s not Patrick or Travie or even one of the Alexes who comes up the main staircase and into Pete’s bedroom, but Alicia, moving steady and sure like she’s on some other plane, where rugs and furniture and doorways don’t slow the progress of her movement.

“You should have told me what you were doing,” Alicia says.

Pete doesn’t have time to be scolded, even if she’s right. “Can you help him?”

“I am helping him,” Alicia says. She’s just standing there, her hand on Mikey’s back, but Pete realizes through his haze of panic that Mikey’s stopped throwing up and is standing upright now. His eyes are closed, his breathing steady.

“Oh, Mikey, what did the bad vampire do to you?” Alicia coos. “Here, honey, sit down and drink this.” Mikey just stands there, eyes still closed, and Pete looks up at Alicia to realize she was talking to him.

“What is it?” Pete asks, looking into the vial Alicia hands him.

“Something to help ease the transition.”

“What transition?” Pete asks, but Alicia’s speaking something close to Mikey’s ear and he nods, and Alicia lifts his right hand into hers and studies it, like she’s reading his palm. Pete drinks the vial. It tastes like 7-Up.

“You’re both idiots,” Alicia says. “I want a good answer for why neither of you talked to me first.” She’s looking at Mikey, which Pete feels like he should take as an insult but he’s still too relieved to see that Mikey has his eyes open now and is looking alert and responsive. “But first, you should answer your door,” she says.

A second later, there’s a series of dull thuds on the front door that Pete assumes could be considered knocking, if it was a troll knocking on the door with a rock in his hand.

“Wentz, I will vaporize your door if you don’t let me in right now,” the disembodied voice says. It’s Brian Schechter, the sorcerer.

“Shit,” Pete says, and then, “Be right there!”

“Will he be ok?” Pete asks Alicia. “I’ll come right back.” Mikey is well enough to scowl at Pete.

“Oh, we’ll follow you down,” Alicia says. “I want to see this.”

Pete doesn’t like the sound of that, but the sorcerer’s threat to his door - and the implied threat to his person - is unavoidable.

Pete thunders down the stairs and rushes to open the door. He wonders where all of the rest of Decaydance’s staff went - whether Alicia sent them away, or whether Travie had another of his psychic visions, saw this coming, and benevolently gave everyone the day off.

The sorcerer is standing with his hands on his hips, and he would look more like an impatient parent having been called to pick up his kid early from a play date if it weren’t for the magic Pete can feel crackling all around him.

“Where is he?” Schechter calls. He swings the door shut behind him with a wave of his hand, but it bounces back open and Schechter turns, fast, like he’s about to take a swing at something. “I thought I told you to stay at the Way Mansion,” Schechter seems to shout at no one. A moment later and there’s a shimmer, and a tall cloaked figure appears behind Schechter, holding the door open. The dude doesn’t say anything, and Schechter just shakes his head and turns back to Pete. “Mikey. Where is he.”

“I’m right here, Brian, seriously, quit shouting, I have a headache.”

“A headache,” Schechter says, “You have a - ”

“I’ve reset four of his core energy channels,” Alicia says. Pete’s about to ask what energy channels are, he’s never heard of them but he decides he’d better keep his mouth shut.

“Thankfully, someone who knows how magic works!” Schechter says. “Is he transforming?”

Alicia nods.

“I’m right here,” Mikey says.

“Are we still balanced?” Schechter asks.

“We will be, once Pete finishes,” Alicia says.

“Finishes what?”

There’s a knock on the door, which Pete hasn’t realized has closed again behind the cloaked figure, who Schechter is still pointedly ignoring.

“Announcing Ms. Salpeter,” the zombie says when Pete opens the door. Greta is elbowing him gently.

“Introduce yourself, too,” she says quietly.

“And the zombie, Dewees,” he says.

“Mr. Dewees will be fine next time,” Greta corrects.”You don’t need to use your Midnighter type as a title, that would be like introducing me as the Apprentice Sorcerer Salpeter. Kind of has a nice ring to it, Brian, don’t you think?”

“No,” Schechter says.

“Come in?” Pete says, and though it’s more of an observation, Greta and Dewees come in.

“If you’d have waited just a minute,” Greta says, “I could have told you about the sweetbriar.”

“The sweetbriar?” Schechter says. “What about it.”

“It’s blooming,” she says.

“Sweetbriar doesn’t bloom this time of year,” Schechter says.

“It does now,” Greta says. She looks at Mikey.

“Get over here and let me look at your mouth,” Schechter says and Mikey steps forward and opens his mouth.

“I haven’t had a chance to do any of the tests,” Pete says.

“Tests!” Schechter scoffs.

“You don’t need to do the tests. It didn't work,” Mikey says. “I'm not a vampire.”

“Of course you're not a vampire!” Schechter bellows. “Pete isn't even a vampire!”

“What?” Pete says.

“You’re not a vampire,” Schechter says. “Especially not now that you’ve had that much of Mikey’s blood.”

“You’re kidding me,” Mikey says.

“What kind of vampire can go out in sunlight?” Schechter says.

“A complicated one?” Pete ventures. “And Frank!”

“Frank's not a vampire, either. And It’s not complicated. It’s actually fairly straightforward and simple, if you’d just used your heads,” Schechter shouts the last part.

“I’m only part Daylighter,” Mikey says. “That’s why, right?”

“You couldn’t have been turned into a vampire in the first place. And once Pete drank enough of your blood in a short period of time, your magic began to change him. Do you have something to add?” Schechter turns and asks sharply of the cloaked figure, who slips off his hood to reveal himself to be a bald man with a stony expression. “Or are you just going to stand there and look menacing?”

Pete thinks the answer seems to be the latter, because kind of glares at the room in general.

“Who is that?” Pete whispers to Mikey.

“5th Grand Sorcerer of the Ancient Order of Magic,” Mikey says.

“Really? I have to ask him about the subclause in section B about the - “

“Not now, Wentz,” Schechter snaps.

“Have you told my brother?” Mikey asks.

“You think he doesn't already know?” Schechter says. Mikey winces, and Pete realizes that of course Gerard knows. Alicia knew, before they'd even done it.

There’s a knock on the door.

“I’ll get it,” Alicia says. She doesn’t move and the door creaks slowly open.

“Hi,” Frank says, scrambling in through the door before it’s all the way open and quickly taking stock of the room. “Everyone still alive or their Midnighter classification’s respective equivalent?”

“Did Gerard come with you?“ Mikey asks.

“I locked him in the greenhouse,” Frank says. Mikey starts to laugh and then seems to think better of it. “You probably have an hour before he manages to get out.”

“He was making some pretty creative death threats against Mr. Wentz,” Dewees says.

“He doesn’t mean it,” Mikey says to Pete.

“I’m pretty sure he does,” Frank says.

“Pete didn’t turn me,” Mikey says.

“Not for lack of trying,” Pete says.

Frank shrugs. “See? I'll throw myself under the carriage for you on this one, ok? You’ve got an hour to get your affairs in order.”

“Longer if he files a contract,” Greta says.

“He won’t file a contract,” Frank says with finality.

“He did seem fond of the ‘bare hands’ method in his descriptions,” Dewees says.

“I need to put you in a rune paradigm,” Schechter says.

“Will that hold up against Gerard?” Pete asks.

“Not you, Wentz. Mikey. I need to see what damage you caused to his system.”

“I didn’t cause any - ” Pete says, but Schechter just holds up his hand.

“You two created a new magical species, do you have any idea what that means for the ENTIRE MAGICAL WORLD?”

“There’s a shaded spot on the east anabatic magnetic line,” Alicia says. “I’ll show you.”

“Just don’t do anything permanent to the gazebo,” Pete says.

“I will burn down your gazebo if I want to,” Schechter says, and sweeps out the front door, the cloaked figure following behind him.

“Don’t worry, we won’t need that much fire,” Greta says, following after them both. “Come on, Dewees, you remember the runic alphabet?” She asks, and the zombie follows.

“See you later, Pete,” Mikey says. “Good luck with my brother.” Mikey doesn’t sound all that worried and Pete can’t tell if that’s a good, or if Mikey’s mad enough at him to want to give his brother a good chance at murder.

“So,” Pete says, looking at Frank. “I’m not a vampire?”

“Nope,” Frank says.

“So what am I?”

Frank shrugs. “I don’t know, man, I’m still figuring out what the hell I am.”

“So Gerard doesn’t know?”

“We’re apparently the first of a new species,” Frank says.

“You’ll be the sole survivor soon,” Pete says.

“Probably,” Frank says.

Three things happen at once. The first thing that happens is that Brendon, Spencer, Ryan and Jon appear in the middle of the room, in a tableau that implies that moments before their magical teleportation, they were in the middle of a chase scene.

“Jon,” Brendon protests, his feet skidding on the rug, as he looks around at where he is.

“I didn’t do it,” Jon says calmly.

“Don’t look at me,” Ryan says.

“Maybe it was me?” Spencer offers kindly, and Brendon shakes his head at him.

“I do have wards against this kind of thing,” Pete says.

The second thing that happens is that Bob Bryar comes through the window with a crash, with Ray Toro following close behind him.

“What’s going on?” Bob says to the room at large.

“That’s a good question,” Frank says.

“You left the stove on,” Ray says, when Bob realizes Ray has followed him.

“The window?” Pete says, as Bob brushes broken glass shards from his shoulder. “Really? The window?”

“I thought something was happening,” Bob says.

The third thing that happens is that the door slams open and Gerard Way appears.

“Where is he?” Gerard asks, in a voice that sounds like a shout that began districts away and the echo is still catching up.

“Ok, ok, that was faster than I’d hoped,” Frank says.

“So that’s what’s happening,” Bob says.

“What?” Brendon asks.

“Where is he, Pete?” Gerard growls.

“He’s fine, Gerard, he’s - ” Pete says.

“You didn’t,” Brendon says, realization dawning on his face. “You turned Mikey?”

“You what?” Ray says.

“Maybe we can have a few less people here before the murdering starts?” Frank offers.

“I can't help you, Pete,” Bob says. “I'm pretty sure Gerard's in the right.”

“Why are you wearing a Lughnasadh surplice?” Pete asks.

Gerard tugs at it and glares at Pete. “I've been working. I'm one of the officials who can grant handfastings during the holiday, and the ceremonies started about an hour ago. But I'm a little busy right now.”

Mikey, Alicia, Schechter, his Ancient Order of Magic shadow, Greta , and her zombie come back in through the still-open door.

“You look ridiculous in that thing, Gee,” Mikey says.

There’s a tense moment in the room where magic crackles uncomfortably around, and then Gerard rushes forward and squeezes Mikey in a smothering hug.

Mikey halfheartedly pushes him away, but Pete can see the moment Mikey relaxes into it. Everyone is quiet.

“So,” Pete says, “I’m not getting murdered?”

“Don’t push your luck,” Frank mock-whispers.

“I thought you'd died again,” Gerard says.

The room goes still. Pete hadn't known Mikey had ever died.

“Again?” Mikey says, and ok, clearly Mikey hadn't known either.

“Mikey - ” Gerard says.

“When did I die, Gerard? How could you not tell me? Why don't I remember?”

“It was complicated – you – it was a family thing!”

“Are you kidding me? You put me in the tomb?”

“Mikey, it's not really a tomb, it's - ”

“You knew!” Mikey says, pointing at Schechter.

“Of course I knew, I helped make sure you came back!” Schechter shouts, and then he turns to the bald sorcerer behind him. “See? I've done it twice now!”

“Did you know?” Mikey asks Alicia, who doesn't answer except with a smile. Mikey sighs and shakes his head. “I get to be mad about this for a while,” Mikey says to Gerard.

“Well, I get to be mad that you went and got yourself turned into a vampire.”

“He's not a vampire,” Schechter says.

“He's not?” Gerard says. “Not even a little?”

“Since when are there levels of vampirism?” Pete asks.

“Since you!” Schechter booms. “Decided to screw! With the magical rules of the universe!”

“Hey, I'm not the only one!” Pete says. “What about Frank?”

“What about Frank?” Gerard says combatively.

“Hey, no, it's cool,” Frank says, “You're right, I'm a rule-breaker, but only because Gerard's a nature god and he saved my life.”

“Because he took a poisoned arrow for you,” Bob points out to Pete.

“Ok, ok, I get it, I'm just the dude who drank from my boyfriend - “

“Don't call me that,” Mikey explains.

“Fuck!” Pete shouts. “I'm just the vampire who drank enough from Michael James Way over here that his weirdo family blood magic took away my defining Midnighter identification and so when I so cavalierly tried to turn him into a vampire, which he asked for - ”

Gerard makes a disgusted sound. “Did you?”

“No, Gerard, it was a complete misunderstanding,” Mikey says.

“I guess whatever I did or didn't do to him fucked up his magic, too, and I didn't know what kind of magic he had and if he knew, he didn't tell me, and can we go around the room and have everyone who's died at least once raise their hands?”

Pete raises his own hand, and so does Mikey, Frank, Ryan, Dewees, and reluctantly, Gerard.

“I don't know, am I technically considered alive?” Jon asks. Brendon sighs hugely.

“It's not the same thing, but I guess you could say I die once a season,” Alicia says.

“I'm a necromancer,” Greta says.

Bob raises his hand, and Ray turns and gapes at him.

“You died?” Ray demands.

“Not for very long,” Bob says. “Half a day. It was for a contract.”

“What?” Ray says.

“I can't really talk about it.”

“Like hell you can't,” Ray says, and with a sharp tug at Bob's elbow that Pete thinks would have ended up with anyone else being punched out.

“Your point?” Gerard says and Pete's attention snaps back to the matter at hand.

“Yeah, Pete,” Mikey says. “Your point?”

“Wait, why are you pissed at me?” Pete asks Mikey.

“Because you're being a dick?”

Bells peal through the air from the square, marking the official start of Lughnasadh. Pete can hear the bodhrán drums stirring the dancers.

“You're supposed to be giving a garden tour in fifteen minutes,” Frank says.

Gerard scowls at him.

“Hey, I'm just trying to keep you on schedule,” Frank says. “And, you know, maybe avoid some bloodshed.”

“No, it's ok, I clearly deserve whatever is coming to me,” Pete says.

“Gerard, don't you dare - ” Mikey says.

Three sharp raps on the front door startle everyone.

“Who is it now, I'm about to be murdered!” Pete shouts. He flings open the door and a masked assassin strikes Pete in the chest. The blow's so hard he's falling backwards, and it's not until he hits the floor that he realizes what's happened – there's a stake protruding from his chest. He lets his head fall back and closes his eyes. “Sorry,” he says, before he runs out of words.

But it's not as easy as that. Pete should know death is never like that, not mortal death, not any death.

He hears the thunder of feet, too loud, across the threshold of his door, shouting and the even more alarming steady calm of Gerard's voice as Gerard presses his fingers to the spot just below the wound. It's like pressing on a splinter, where a little pressure means you can feel the whole thing like it's part of you.

“Don't save me, asshole,” Pete says. “You were just going to murder me.”

“Shut up, Pete,” Gerard says, and between blinks, he sees the sorcerer and the sorcerer's creepy bald grimacing arch-mage, the gold glitter of Brendon's valet-turned-boyfriend, and somewhere in there, Mikey and Alicia holding hands over his still surprisingly not dead body.

He wakes, not in his coffin, or on a bed or anything poetic, but still on the floor, when Schechter yanks out the stake.

“Motherfucker,” Pete gurgles at no one in particular and then he tries to touch the wound. Gerard swats his hand away, and out of the very edge of his vision, Pete sees Gerard plucking a lily from his Lughnasadh garland and placing it over the wound.

“Did we just get married?” Pete asks.

“I believe I told you to shut up,” Gerard says.

“No, really, though, did I die?” Pete asks. “Because then I'd win, right?”

“It's not some stupid contest,” Mikey says.

“You didn't die,” Gerard says.

“Damn,” Pete says. Pete opens his eyes enough to see Gerard cover his face with his hands, and then Frank helps Gerard up and handing him something to drink.

“I'm really ok with you killing him now, Gee,” Mikey says.

Pete tries to sit up, and feels the force of several people's magic holding him down.

“Hey, you guys might want to tone that down, you're probably breaking a few Clan code regs using that much magic in a domestic residence without a permit.”

The bald guy from the Ancient Order of magic reaches into his cloak, pulls out a small folded piece of paper and then holds it close to Pete’s face, close enough and long enough for him to read.

“A permit,” Pete says, “I'm impressed. Do I want to ask about whoever staked me?”

“The Blind Order's taking care of it,” Gerard, says as he comes back over and squats down beside Pete. “Also, we found the rest of Decaydance in the cellar. Seems like someone did a lot of legwork just to murder you.”

“Patrick's gonna be pissed,” Pete says.

“I’m going to be - that’s what you’re worried about, that I’m going to be angry that someone broke in and I got locked in the basement? That’s hardly - ” Patrick stops, and Pete tries to sit up, but there’s still the force of magic holding him down. Gerard is doing something that in other circumstances Pete would call fiddling with the flower over the wound on his chest. “Pete, why are you on the floor?”

“I got staked,” Pete says.

“You - ” Patrick seems to take in all of the people standing around Pete, finally settling on Gerard, the blood on Gerard’s hands and the. “Gerard, is he - ”

“He’ll be fine,” Gerard says.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” Pete says.

“Shut up, Pete.” Patrick says.

“Everyone keeps saying that to me today,” Pete says.

“Seriously, Pete, I can’t even- ” Patrick drops to his knees to examine Pete’s chest, and then the stake which Schechter hands to Patrick like he’s more in charge of Pete than Pete is, which, well. Ok, fine. Pete tugs against the magic to slide his hand up Patrick’s arm, over his elbow and squeezes his bicep under the crisp white shirt.

“I’m fine, ‘Trick,” Pete says.

Patrick makes a sound that usually proceeds a lecture, but then Patrick leans right up close to Pete’s face and says, “One day you are going to break yourself into so many pieces, you won’t be able to find all of them again.”

“All the kings horses and all the kings men,” Pete says, and then Patrick presses his mouth to Pete’s and Pete’s mind goes so completely blank that he can’t even think of the word 'kiss.'

It lasts long enough that Pete can hear Patrick’s heartbeat echoing in his chest like it’s his own from so long ago, and everything else is quiet. Patrick pulls back, bites his lip and stares at Pete, looking angry and scared.

“I quit,” Patrick says. He walks out the wide open front door before Pete can do a thing.

“Shit,” Pete says to no one, and scrambles to sit up. The magic previously holding him down is gone, but Pete knows the thing that’s stopping him from getting to his feet isn’t magic.

“You see, that's what happens when people don't talk about their feelings,” Alicia says in an eerie sing-song voice.

“I'm not people. I'm not even a vampire,” Pete says.

“Yeah, well, neither am I, but you don't see me complaining,” Mikey says.

“Can you kill me now?” Pete asks Gerard, and he and his brother sigh in exactly the same exasperated way.

“Own your life, man,” Frank says. “However fucked.”

“If you want something else to worry about instead,” Dewees says, poking his head around the corner of the open door from behind one of the butterfly bushes, “Now might be a good time to mention your gazebo’s on fire.”

 

Pete gives everybody at Decaydance mandatory paid vacation. Or sick leave, if they preferred, for anyone who had spent yesterday locked in the basement or putting out a gazebo fire.

“I”m sorry,” Mikey says, leaning into Pete's office door like the door jam is the only thing holding him up.

“What do you have to be sorry for?” Pete asks.

“Don't do that. Don't make it seem like you're the only one with a burden on your shoulders.”

Pete wipes something invisible off his shoulders and Mikey sighs. Mikey might never do anything but sigh at him again.

“Did you ever watch that show, with the duck who was a vampire? Had a traveling castle? We should make Decaydance portable. Maybe just the south wing. No one would miss the south wing.”

“You heard anything from Patrick?”

Pete doesn't answer. He hasn't heard anything because he hasn't tried to hear anything.

“So, I guess, I'll see you tomorrow,” Mikey says. “For the rally?”

“I gave everyone a week's paid vacation. That means 6 business days, I don't want to see you before.”

“I don't work here, I only come here recreationally,” Mikey says on his way out.

“I forget there's a difference. Forgive and forget,” Pete says, but Mikey's already gone.

“I can make that happen,” a booming voice declares from somewhere underneath him. Before Pete can make it to the stairs to look for another assassin lurking in his foyer, he forgets there was anyone to look for at all.