After the honeymoon–three nights of a lot of passion and fun–Noah and I returned to Midnight Hollow to pick Reeny up and take her to our new house. Once a barn then turned into a house. The previous owners got into too much debt so the bank took the house, and we got it for a really good price. The furniture had cost us quite a bit though we didn’t furnish every room–just most of them. There were a couple rooms on the upstairs that we hadn’t decided on yet. Possibly future kid rooms…
Reeny gasped when we went inside and shrieked for joy when she saw her room. She scrambled over to her big girl bed and began jumping on it immediately. “My room my room my room!” she sang. “I loves it, Daddy!”
It took her a lot less time to settle in than it did me and Noah. It felt weird being in a new house but we had made the right choice–living in my previous house would have just been odd with so many memories. This gave us the new, fresh start we both wanted in our lives. A new home. Large. Roomy. And a hot tub.
“Yeah this is great,” Noah sighed as we climbed in one evening.
“Even if it’s outside?” I teased, since he hated being outside. I really had no idea how he survived our wedding, to be honest, or why he agreed to it.
“Oh. Oh, uh-huh,” I laughed. “This must be absolute torture for you, forced to be outside in a nice hot tub with your husband in your arms…” I grinned. “Speaking of which, how’re you enjoying the married life, Mr. Danevbie?”
“It’s nice. Hot husband, and an adorable stepdaughter to help take care of…” He bent in close. “Lovely home, good job. Did I mention my husband? He’s kinda amazing. And you, Mr. Danevbie?”
“I’m loving it though my husband is a bit of a dork,” I said, kissing his chin then lips. He kissed back and soon we had a bit of, er, fun in the hot tub, glad of the very tall fencing to hide us from prying eyes.
It took a while to get our new lives on track. Thankfully there wasn’t much weirdness between me and Noah since we lived together before, and sharing a bed felt… so natural and right. I enjoyed waking up in his arms feeling safe and content, or waking up with him in my arms so warm and…. nice… and… oh I hated getting out of bed and pretty much every single morning I wanted to stay in bed all day long. Unfortunately we both had work. Me to the spa for sim fu classes, and him to one of the big businesses in town as head of the IT department. The mornings we didn’t need to work were the mornings Reeny decided to be up at ungodly hours in the a.m. She’d crawl up into bed with us and jump until we got out to fix her breakfast.
She accepted Noah as the new person living with us. Maybe all the exchanging of men in the old house helped with that, or maybe it was because she and Noah were both super chill about things. She called him ‘Uncle Noah’ and neither he nor I felt any reason for her to call him anything else unless she wanted to. Though she much preferred me to do things for her. Sometimes when Noah tried to read her a bedtime story she’d throw a temper tantrum until I pulled myself away from whatever I had been doing to attend to her. I knew I shouldn’t give in to her so easily but every time I looked in her face I saw Eirene, my beautiful daughter with Goose, and wanted to give her the world. I couldn’t tell her ‘no’. It just wasn’t right.
She took advantage of this. I knew she did. “Daddy can I have this?” usually resulted in a yes, as long as it wasn’t too expensive–but she rarely asked for anything more than a couple simoleons. Noah suggested we put her on an allowance.
“Isn’t she a bit young for that?” I asked absentmindedly.
“She’ll be five soon. You can just do a monthly allowance for now and then after she turns five change it to a weekly thing. She’s a very bright girl,” Noah said, bending down to rub my shoulders. I closed my book and leaned back against his hands, smiling. “Maybe she won’t ask for things every time we go to the store if she has to pay for the candy necklace herself…”
I snorted and looked up. “Oh yeah? And who is it who bought her those gummy worms last time?” I kissed his chin with a bit of a laugh. “And the balloon animal last time we were at the park? Annnnnd promised her the trip to the circus…?”
“Mhm.” I poked his nose and then stretched out in his lap, opening my book again. “An allowance, though, doesn’t sound too terrible. She does keep her toys cleaned up and helps out a lot more than I remember doing at her age. All right, that’s not so bad an idea.”
When school started up I felt a pang of anxiety since this would be my last year with Reeny not being in school. Next year she’d be going to kindergarten and then first grade then second grade then before I knew it I’d have to teach her to drive! My baby was growing up. I felt rather old for it which was silly since I wasn’t even twenty-nine. However, it made me think a lot about the future and possibilities of kids between me and Noah. Not for a while, naturally. I puzzled how we’d have kids though. Maybe adoption. Maybe we’d take my dads’ route and adopt some supernatural kids…
We’re just a couple weeks in, it’s too early to be thinking of that, I told myself and focused instead on my classes–agreeing to add on teaching another class since one of the other teachers was moving. There had been three of us and I wasn’t sure if the spa would hire a third one back on… actually, sometimes I worried about my own job. The classes were full enough for the bosses to be all right with however some people had issues with me. Some of the bad publicity and all that.
“I don’t think they’ll fire me though,” I told Noah one day at the park. We had all gone out for the day. The three of us as well as Max and Royce. It felt nice to be hanging out again with them; the two of them lived together which seemed to be going well. Royce had told me earlier that they were learning not to fight as much but I figured they still argued more than they let on. Currently Reeny, Royce, and Max were playing in the sandbox and Reeny and Royce were teasing Max about it–about a cat playing in the sand. Max didn’t seem put off though, at least. He laughed at their teasing.
Noah reached down, taking my hand. “Just cause of that bit in the paper?”
I made a face. A couple days ago one of the national papers ran a P.A.S.-influenced article and there had been a line about me and my ‘pro-supernatural’ agenda. “No, just… in general I think they worry some people will have problems with me. Maybe I’m just–“
“Mr. Danevbie!” Royce ran over, looking slightly panicked about something or other. He skid to a halt in front of us. “M-Mr. Danevbie, um, there’s–there’s…” He trailed off. His skin had gone super pale, his eyes huge, and his entire body shook.
I got up, very concerned. “What’s wrong?”
It felt like the entire world froze. I stared at the man then back at Royce who looked ready to cry. “Are you positive?” I asked even though I could tell that he was going through some serious issues from seeing that guy.
He swallowed and nodded. “I’m sure,” he whispered. “It’s him.”
“What’s up?” Max asked, coming over with Reeny on his back.
Royce grabbed Max’s arm after Max swung Reeny onto the ground. “Maxie–” Maxie? I thought, confused, “–that’s the guy that bit me, he turned me–that’s him.”
My stomach twisted around as dread began creeping into me. Like something terrible was about to happen. “Perhaps we should go,” I started but Max walked towards the two people purposefully. Royce and I both looked horrified. I hissed at Max but he couldn’t hear, or wouldn’t hear. More likely the latter. Royce grabbed hold of my arm while Noah picked Reeny up, looking ready to take off if need be.
We watched as Max approached the couple and said something to the man. The man shrugged and waved his hand. Max said something else and walked off. The couple watched him go in the opposite direction of us. He disappeared around a corner and I began leading the rest of the our group to the parking lot, my heart pounding. What had Max done?! Why had he just… if that person… why had he…
“Daddy what’s wrong?” Reeny asked as I got her into her car seat. “I wanna play at the park some more!”
“Daddy’s feeling sick,” I said honestly then screamed as a black cat shot past me and jumped onto the seat next to the car seat. “Damn it, Max!”
“Daddy, that’s a bad word,” Reeny admonished me.
I got in the driver’s seat since Max didn’t seem interested in turning back human anytime soon. None of us spoke on the car ride back, even Reeny kept quiet. I did turn on the CD for her so she had something to do instead of worry. I felt like I might vomit. Not really from fear (which Royce had etched on his face) but more of… something wicked this way comes, so to speak. Did this mean things would… No, I thought, shaking my head a bit. No, the threat is over, this is something else and not to do with you, Zaid, stop being so egotistical and concentrate on driving.
We got back to our house and I let Reeny play in the backyard while the rest of us milled in the dining room where I could keep my eye on her. I didn’t want to let her out of my sight. Royce bounced from foot to foot, staring intently into Max’s face, waiting for him to talk about what had happened. We all waited. Max just yawned and stretched his arms, seemingly oblivious to the tension.
Max shifted, rubbing his chin. “Cause… that guy? He’s not a werewolf.”
Royce’s jaw dropped while Noah and I stared at Max. Royce had seemed so terrified that I knew he couldn’t have made a mistake… or could he have? Maybe they just looked alike? But Royce’s face was going red from anger and the muscles in his cheek twitched. He folded his arms tight, breathing heavily. “That’s impossible,” he hissed, sounding more furious than he looked. “He bit me. I know he did, Maxie. I remember that night clearly. He even wore the same shirt, that awful, ugly thing. He smelled like stale fries and beer. And those eyes, I still have nightmares of him looking at me and biting me and–” His face crumpled. “He b-b-bit me!”
Max edged over and put an arm around him. “It wasn’t him, Roy. That guy’s not a werewolf. He didn’t smell like one and he didn’t seem perturbed by me. Most werewolves sense me being a cat and have some sort of reaction. His eyes didn’t glow either… did they the night he bit you? You said you still had nightmares?”
Royce blinked a few times then his face got very wrinkled from frowning. “N-no. Now that you mention it, I don’t remember his eyes glowing. But I know it was him!” He looked up into Max’s face, all anxious. “I know… I can remember him so clearly. You believe me, don’t you Mr. Danevbie?”
“Yes,” I said and Max raised an eyebrow. “Look at him. He’s terrified. Seeing that man really triggered something in him.” I stepped closer to Royce but kept my eye on Reeny, as if expecting the man to jump over the fence and hurt her. Oh Watcher, I hated feeling this sick, panicked, bundly feeling. It’s something I didn’t miss from my days of being hunted.
“He. Bit. Me.” Royce glowered at Max. “I’ll swear on anything you make me swear on! He’s got to be a werewolf because he bit me.”
“Maybe someone else–“
I started to go after him but Noah grabbed my wrist, shaking his head. I hesitated then watched as Max went after Royce. “It’s something they need to work out,” Noah said. “So, you think that creep’s the dude who bit Royce?”
“I do! I mean, I could see the fear in his eyes, it wasn’t just a mistaken identity! That was absolute terror, that was without-shadow-of-doubt fear, that was–“
Noah put a finger against my lip. “Babe, I agree with you. That guy triggered Royce in some way. I also agree with Max. If Max says that guy wasn’t a were, I believe him too. And Royce even said the dude’s eyes didn’t glow.”
“So, what was it?” I asked and Noah shrugged. “Royce was bit and he woke up a werewolf. But the guy wasn’t a werewolf. So… how?”
After half an hour–and a phone call to my father–I went to find them. I called their names and Royce exited the laundry room, face still red. “Max says he believes me,” he mumbled as Max in cat form trotted out behind him. “I don’t get it though. Maybe some werewolves don’t smell wolfy or–have glowing eyes?”
“I have an idea,” I said, sensing something else had happened but not knowing what. “I called my dad about this and he says he’s not sure how else this could happen. But he said that the man he used to work for knows a lot more about this sort of thing than he does so if you’re okay with it, I could call him to come over?” I asked and Royce nodded, looking even more flushed than when he had been angry.
Uncle Kay came over that Saturday. His sister dropped him off and made rather threatening remarks towards me if I let anything happen to him. I wanted to sim fu her in the face but managed not to lose my temper. Royce told Uncle Kay his story and submitted to having some blood drawn. Uncle Kay promised to look into this and try to figure out what might have happened.
“I WAS!” Royce shrieked, looking quite indignant.
Uncle Kay winced a bit, putting up his hand. “I’m n-not denying s-something t-t-turned you into a w-werewolf but it w-wasn’t by bite.” He pulled some papers out of a folder and shuffled them, clearing his throat. “In m-my studies of w-w-werewolves I discovered th-there were three t-types of werewolves. One, b-bitten werewolves. Two, ch-children of b-bitten werewolves. And th-three, weres b-born to a line of w-werewolves. Like your b-brother,” he added to me.
“Am I not a bitten were then?” Royce asked, his voice rather shaky.
Uncle Kay shook his head. “You’re n-none of these.”
“I th-thought so too. B-but the levels of lyc-canthropy in your b-blood is… abnormally h-high.” Uncle Kay held up a sheet of paper and showed us a bar chart. “As you c-can see, bitten w-werewolves have the st-strongest levels of lycanthropy in th-them. This makes them h-hardier and age s-slower and all that. C-children of bitten w-werewolves have less, they’re easily halfw-way between the other two. Bloodline w-werewolves have th-the least amount. Th-this doesn’t mean they’re w-weak or anything, it j-just reacts d-differently. They age like h-humans do for a while and start s-slowing down, on average, in their middle ages. The l-level of lycanthropy is what determines the strength.”
All our eyes were on the fourth line. The blue line indicating blooded werewolves was at a ten. The purple indicating those born to bitten ones were at a fifteen. The red indicating bitten ones were at a twenty. And the green line which we all knew had to be Royce was at a fifty.
“That’s me,” Royce whispered.
Uncle Kay lowered the graph. “Yes. Wh-which explains why you st-still look seventeen. I d-don’t know when you’ll l-look older. You’ve two p-point five times more l-lycanthropic genes in you th-than bitten werewolves. N-no way you w-were bitten. What I th-think happened is this m-man faked biting you f-for some reason, knocked you out, and injected you with pure lycanthropy.”
“It’s n-not something I’ve heard of b-before but in theory it is p-possible to isolate the lycanthropic genes and use them as–as an injection.” Uncle Kay rubbed the back of his head. “S-someone seems to have taken the g-genes out of m-multiples werewolves and turned it into enough l-liquid to fill a syringe and… inject you.”
Royce rubbed his arms, looking like he might vomit. Max turned into a cat and jumped into his lap, nuzzling under his chin, meowing loudly. Royce clung to him and began crying. “I don’t understand!” he sobbed into Max’s fur. “I don’t understand! Why?!”
“I d-don’t know. I’m s-so sorry.”
“WHY WOULD SOMEONE DO THAT?!” Royce screamed. “Over twice the amount of–am I going to die?!”
“Actually, q-quite the reverse,” Uncle Kay mumbled. “You’ll p-probably look s-seventeen for a while l-longer then for the r-rest of your l-life look… m-maybe nineteen or t-twenty. I doubt you’ll ever age up m-more than that. You’ll develop even m-more of a sensitivity to silver. Your hearing and sense of sm-smell will increase. P-probably not for a year or t-two more. And…” He trailed off as Royce cried more.
Max licked at Royce’s tears and bumped his head multiple times, meowing rather pitifully. Royce sniffled and got up, looked around, then slowly sat back down. “You can go lay down on the couch in the hall,” I suggested, making a mental note of turning one of the empty rooms into a guest room. Royce got up and carried Max out. Once they were gone I moved closer to Uncle Kay. “How the hell can something like this happen?!”
“I d-don’t know!” He looked very distressed. “My sister and I m-might have b-been able to do th-that with a full l-lab and lots of technology at h-hand. It w-would take someone with m-medical, sc-science, and supernatural knowledge.”
I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to say out loud that all those those pointed very strongly towards his sister who wasn’t exactly the nicest and had a grudge against the supernaturals. “Hopefully we can get this figured out,” I said, looking at the archway that led into the hallway; we could all hear Royce’s muffled crying. “Is having that much in him… I mean, it’s–I mean…”
“I d-don’t know,” Uncle Kay said, twisting his hands. “But wh-whatever it is, it seems l-like it’s p-probably an experiment which m-means they might try to t-take Royce back. So you g-guys sh-should keep an eye on him.”
We talked a bit more then I relayed the last warning to Max after Royce fell asleep. Max agreed with the idea and then returned to Royce’s side, curling up on the couch all snuggled against him. I got a strange feeling and then began wondering if their friendship was just a friendship. Course, Max didn’t really seem to be acting any different with Royce than he did with me but he had thought he loved me so… Well, in any case it wasn’t any of my business.
As autumn progressed we did keep a close eye on Royce. Max and I began training him in fighting–with archery, and swords, and daggers. He really picked up the daggers though despised the sword and bow. I trained him with the daggers (and sim fu of course) and he became almost as good an eye as me. For every three bulls eyes I made with throwing daggers he made one which was pretty good for someone who had just started.
But no one came after him. September turned into October, October into November, and finally we got to December. Then again it had been over two years since he had been bitten. Maybe they were just waiting for something but most likely it wasn’t the type of experiment that made them want to kidnap him. Maybe they were just seeing if they could do such a thing and get away with it. Frankly, that sounded just as scary as anything else…
When everyone came in for Christmas it felt so strange. My first Christmas as a proper husband, since Davy and I never made it that far. Lumie also announced her pregnancy which I already knew about; I had known about it since she first found out which had just been a week ago. She and Adan weren’t really trying but they also weren’t avoiding it. While everyone congratulated her I thought about Reeny, and about me and Noah, and the fact having kids with him wouldn’t be quite easy.
I sighed, pressing against him. “I was thinking about kids, honestly. Vilkas has two and Lumie’s expecting. I love Reeny to pieces and it just… she’s going to be five soon.” I gave him a wide-eyed looked. “Five, Noah! My baby girl is growing up. I don’t–I can’t–“
“You want more kids,” he said, not sounding very interested in the subject but not sounding disgusting by it at least.
I nodded. “I do.” I pressed my face into his chest and nuzzled a bit. I loved the feel of his muscles against my cheek. Watcher… I sorta had a thing for Noah’s chest. It was just so broad and muscled and glorious. I could spend hours rubbing my face or hands against those muscles. One day I had. Not like, just straight up worshiping his chest. We had marathoned a TV series and most of my time watching had also been spent idly running my fingers over his chest.
I ran my hand down to his belly. “I do want to give our marriage a few more months before having another kid but not too much longer if that’s all right?”
“That’s fine, bro. Why don’t we say we have this conversation again in February? Unless you want it sooner, of course.”
“February is fine,” I agreed and then grinned as he pulled me on top of him for some Christmas night canoodling.
Author’s note: just so I wouldn’t stick a ton of pictures in here, or only get a couple shots, I posted a full tour of the new house here! There’s quite a lot of pictures in the post.