Cupid's bow lips parted in a snarl to reveal teeth a little too white and preternaturally sharp. Red-gold brows drew together, the handsome face filled with dark rage. "You will let him go, and you will walk away, if you want to live."
Across from the vampire, a woman held her sharp-nailed fingers tight against the other man's throat, her mouth near the vein that could clearly be seen fluttering in fear. She smiled, and if her expression was also dangerous-- predatory --there was no one else there to notice. "Watch his face. See his terror as he dies and know that you were powerless to save your human pet. Say good-bye, Raymond!"
"Cut!" a voice called from behind the almost blinding edge of lights. Peter stood up, glancing briefly at the screen he'd been watching the action through. "I'm still not sure I like the angle. Don't we have higher heels we can put her in?"
The actress who was portraying this week's villain/evil seductress was almost half a foot shorter than Lee. She had to stand behind the taller man to let the clichéd body shield move work, but she was already in three inch heels with Lee leaning back into her a bit, and it still didn't give Peter the look he wanted. Tina, script supervisor for Darkest Night, barely glanced at the heels in question. "Allison said they were the highest heels she could find that were sturdy enough to allow Lee to lean against her."
Peter turned around but noticed the co-star of his show, Lee Nicholas, gently holding his throat and rubbing the edges. As James Taylor Grant, Raymond Dark's human partner, Lee often found himself beaten, clawed at, and tied down by any number of things that went bump in the night. Occasionally, it wasn't even the show's fault. Whether on screen or off, Lee often had his own starring role as the damsel in distress. This time, however, the abduction merely resulted in red scratches around his throat from the big bad's sharp and doubly clichéd nails.
"You all right?" Peter asked him. Lee nodded as the actress looked abashed for scratching him yet again.
"Yeah," Lee replied. "Though if we do too many takes, there's going to be a pound of makeup on my neck."
"The shots look good. I just want her to be taller." Peter turned as Everett came forward to once again touch up the concealer around Lee's neck. When he looked, the third assistant director presented him with a wood crate that would add a few inches to the actress' height.
Technically, it was no longer Tony's responsibility to run such errands. He was still very far down the totem pole, but he wasn't at the bottom. The job of the set border collie belonged to the production assistant. It used to be his job, but after certain events pertaining to invasions from shadows, demons, and a certain waxy buildup of evil, he'd been promoted. The beginning of the second season of Darkest Night saw with it the addition of a new set PA, but considering Nancy had just stood there at Peter's rather vague order for a box, Tony didn't have much hope of the reprieve lasting.
"That crate won't work," Adam said thoughtfully. "Her heels will go through the slats."
"Not if we put a sheet of plywood over it," Tony said. "It's the only one I could find."
"Too much time to build a box." Peter waved a hand. "Nancy, get me a piece of plywood. Tony, take that out for the villainess and wait with her so she doesn't prematurely off herself."
Tony took the box back and shooed Nancy off with a wave of his hands. The woman jumped and ran off to get the plywood, eyes wide. He sighed, wondering how long it would take to get her resignation. He stepped up behind the villainess and set down the box on her mark. The blaze of lights and, more pointedly, the camera focused right at them made him sweat, but Lee flashed him a warm smile, so it was all okay. He offered his hand to the small, dark-haired "vampire", and supported her with careful hands on her waist as Peter decided if he liked her new height compared to Lee's.
Not for the first time, Tony's mind wandered over this week's script. A vampire with a grudge comes into town and starts making Raymond Dark's life a living hell, culminating in the ultimate threat to Raymond's human partner, James Taylor Grant. He couldn't decide if he wanted to shake his head or snicker at the story. They definitely knew nothing about vampires, though that was a fact that Tony was, more often than not, rather glad of. After all, when the shit hit the fan, Vancouver's own member of the walking undead and Tony's ex, Henry Fitzroy, stood alongside the cast in battle, and Tony really didn't want them to know Henry was a vampire. Being a vampire required a certain amount of secrecy, and if there was one thing he knew about his co-workers, it was that they couldn't always keep a secret.
What amused Tony so much about this week's script, as opposed to the show in general, was Raymond's reaction to another vampire in his territory. Popular myth had vampires as secretive and unfriendly, even hostile, toward their own kind. Popular myth hadn't, however, gotten the insane territorialism of vampires right. Tony was one of the few, the proud, the terrified to have seen two vampires in one territory. Even though Vicki and Henry had been working together and the fact that Vicki had no intentions for Henry's territory was well known, the two had trembled with the effort not to rip each other's throat out. Henry and Tony had moved out of Toronto to give the city to Vicki, and it wasn't long after she had firmly claimed it that she'd burned a vampire many times her age with UV lights for trying to take over. If another vampire came into Henry's territory, there wouldn't have been enough action to create an hour-long show. They would fight, and one would die.
Tony was just as glad that it wasn't real. The knowledge of what Henry and Vicki would have done, even though they were very fond of each other, just for being in the same room was rather frightening. Even more was the knowledge of what would have happened had either vampire so much as touched the other's human. Vicki's partner, Detective Sergeant Mike Celluci, had accompanied her from Toronto, and both Tony and Mike knew their respective lovers considered them territory as much as the city in which they resided. The idea that such inhuman violence could have occurred from something as simple as standing too close to the wrong vampire was discomforting, to say the least. Real vampires were nothing if not possessive.
Nancy finally ran up, interrupting Tony's musings. He helped the actress down as everyone readjusted the shot and Peter gave some last minute notes. He centered the plywood, helped her back up, then quickly moved back and out of the scene. Random limbs aside, Tony didn't want to be caught for a single moment on tape, not even by accident.
The scene was shot, the sightlines to Peter's approval, and the crew started wrapping up. The expected fight seen that would occur next was scheduled for two days later while Daniel worked the last few kinks out of it. As Tony recalled, he was actually working on the choreography with Leah, a stuntwoman Tony knew who was also an immortal Demongate. He'd met some radical people lately. Chester Bane, the CB of CB Productions that housed Darkest Night, hadn't objected, much to everyone's surprise. The reason became clear when Leah had snarked about volunteering her time. So, the standoff between hero and villain was the last shot of the day, and everyone cheerfully packed up after a measly twelve hours. Tony had just finished a small conference with Adam and Nancy, to say that Adam talked, Tony listened, and Nancy tried to act cool and competent and failed, when he saw Lee approaching. The actor had changed out of his costume and makeup and was dressed in blue jeans, a black t-shirt, a black leather jacket and chaps on top of those. One would assume that after a year or so of seeing Lee like that, not to mention in various states of torment or, more recently, undress, would numb Tony to the chaps, or at least prepare him for them. You couldn't prove that theory by him, though.
"Hey," Lee said, smiling at his lover as he walked up. They had decided that there was to be no relationship-like actions at work, soundstage or location-shoot. The anticipation of going home to quite possibly the man of his dreams was bad enough. If Tony suspected there would be touching at work, he wouldn't be able to function, and it seemed Lee felt the same way. "Meet you at the theatre for the 10:15 show?"
Tony nodded. "Yeah. I have to swing over to Henry's and drop off his book, but then I'll head over."
Lee nodded and favored him with a smile that Tony knew from experience to mean, if they weren't at work, he'd be getting a kiss that would warm him to his toes. Tony smiled back, trying to avoid looking too dopey, and finished up quickly so he could make that kiss a reality. Fortunately, Henry was on deadline and didn't have time to chat very much, so Tony left him with the book and a promise to get together after the writer's deadline. In a relatively short amount of time, Tony was waiting for his partner outside the theatre.
Tony wouldn't dream of giving up his relationship with Lee. He was bordering far too close to love for him to consider it, but watching heads turn and the whispers start as his partner arrived and headed toward him made him mentally sigh. There had been a picture or two in the tabloids of them together already. Fortunately, the media hadn't started thoroughly digging into Tony's background. He and Lee had only been seeing each other since the new season had started, since Lee had managed the Amazons in Space gig and hadn't been around during hiatus, but Tony knew certain conversations about his past were inevitable. However, he didn't want to have to explain said past to the rest of his co-workers, so he was doing as much as he could to be low-key and not attract too much media attention. It made for interesting tensions between him and Lee when Lee wanted to give him his support and all Tony wanted to do was hide in the background, but so far, Lee had been very understanding.
As expected, the whispering increased when Lee came up and gave him a kiss. As self-conscious as Tony felt, the kiss did as expected, and he felt much better about the entire thing.
"I liked the character development," Lee said, stepping out into the cool night. His eyes sparkled as he looked back at Tony in the midst of their lively debate. Movie going was always an intriguing sport between them.
"Oh, sure, the characters were great, but there were way too much artsy moments that could have been sliced out."
"It added depth, Tony."
"It was masturbatory. You could have shaved those and added valuable plot development time. They bogged down the action." He was going to continue, but paused as his skin suddenly tried to crawl off and run away. He looked around, frowning slightly.
Since they spent so much time in the theatre, immediately dissecting the movie and watching the credits for familiar names, there was no one around as they stood outside. The moon was out, the pale light fighting against the fluorescent streetlights for dominion of the night. He felt eyes on them, like someone was watching, but from exactly where, he couldn't say. Last time he'd felt that, the feeling had been a demon that had later snacked on a construction worker. This didn't feel like a demon. It felt worse.
Lee had stopped at the sudden change in mood and was watching his lover's face. As Tony looked around, he did so as well. "What's wrong?" he said, freeing his hands of his coat pockets.
"Someone's watching us."
"Paparazzi?" the actor asked weakly, though he was fairly sure that wasn't it. Cameras didn't cause that expression on Tony.
"No," he said slowly, looking around. Close to them was the back alley of the theatre. It seemed like as good a place as any to look. And do I really want to go looking for something that gives me bigger chills than demons? Ignoring the rational part of his brain, he looked down the alley.
At first, nothing caught his attention except that the nagging feeling got worse. He slowly started walking down, carefully stepping around the scatterings of trash. He didn't get far down the alley before he saw the bottom of hiking shoes.
"Is that what I think it is?" Tony nearly jumped out of his skin as the velvet voice so close to his ear. He looked over his shoulder, heart pounding, to see Lee almost on his heels. "Did I scare you?" Lee asked.
Since Tony's jump had been very obvious, he chose not to answer. Instead, he moved a bit farther down the alley.
The body was laid out on the ground like a starfish. His face looked surprised, ghastly pale as he stared up with unseeing eyes into the cool night. Tony looked up at Lee. "I think you'd better call 911," he said. Lee, eyes wide, nodded and pulled out his cell phone, stepping back down the alley.
Tony turned back to the body, frowning. The feel of eyes on him was intense now, but he still couldn't find who was watching. He glanced at Lee, making sure he hadn't gone far, but studied the figure on the floor. In Tony's experience, people didn't die posed. The posing was usually after the fact, and he was a little too artfully arranged to have died that way. That meant the eyes were probably the killer, and most definitely not a demon. He turned to head back down the alley toward Lee, wanting to be by the actor. Things that went bump in the night tended to be rather fond of Lee in a way that was bad for the man's health, so he wanted to be by him in case the killer tried something. A shadow over the boy's throat caught he attention, though. He cocked his head, leaning closer without getting within five feet of the body. On the right side of the man's throat there were two slashes covering about a quarter of his throat, side to near center. They didn't look very deep at the top, but it didn't take much. Previous experiences with dead wardrobe assistants showed him how easy it was to slash someone's throat. It also had showed him that it was a very bloody, messy way to die, but he didn't see any blood, not on the body, and not on the ground. The pallor of the corpse suggested it wasn't still inside the body either. He frowned, thinking about what he was seeing. Dead body, two slashes, perfectly arranged, no blood. There was a significance to that which seemed to indicate a job for Wizardman, but he couldn't put his finger on what it all meant.
"Tony," Lee said from down the alley, drawing his attention. "The police are on the way. They said to stay away from it."
"Did you mention Jack?" Tony asked, heading over.
"No," he said, frowning. "Why?"
He shook his head. "There's something wrong here." He frowned, then looked up to the edge of the buildings. He didn't see anyone, but after a moment, the uncomfortable regard disappeared.
The police seemed just as uncomfortable with the body as Tony did. He thanked whatever powers that were watching over him that Jack hadn't been on shift that day. He hadn't been looking forward to the constable’s reaction when Tony told him he didn't know what had done this. Jack, however, wouldn't have suspected Tony. The police seemed inclined to do so, but since the staff of the theatre could vouch for their late exit and they didn't have liters of blood anywhere on them, they had nothing to pin on Tony and Lee. After hours of questioning, the two were finally released.
"Do you think they were right? Was the body really drained of blood?" Lee asked him softly as they got into Tony's car. They needed to go back to the theatre for Lee's bike and Tony didn't want to go back there.
"Sure looked that way."
"What could have done that?" he asked.
Tony rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, a few years back, there had been a demon killing people like that, but he didn't take the care to arrange the bodies." After a moment, the intense regard of verdant eyes made him bring his head around. "What?"
"Uh... yeah," he said, not sure what the problem was. They'd done demons before. Well, not done demons but... man, Leah was a bad influence on him.
"A few years ago? October hadn't been your first demons?"
Crap. Tony had forgotten he hadn't told anyone about his supernatural experiences pre-television. "It was in Toronto about... maybe four or five years ago."
"You fought demons five years ago?"
"Hell no. I didn't fight anything. I just happened to patch up one of the people who were fighting them. My involvement was a cameo at best." He didn't want to go more into that, considering the person he'd patched up was a vampire and the bastard son of Henry VIII. That Lee knew Henry and didn't know he was a vampire made Tony even more uncomfortable discussing it. He hoped Lee would drop it.
He wasn't that lucky. "I remember that," Lee said. "I was in Toronto at the time, trying to get started in the business. Didn't the tabloids blame the murders on vampires?"
"Yeah, but it wasn't a vampire. It was a demon."
"Are you sure?" Lee asked.
Oh, yeah. "Pretty damn sure, yeah."
They both fell silent, considering the problem. After a few minutes, Lee finally spoke up. "Could this have been a vampire?"
Tony blinked at the question. "No," he said, frowning.
Lee turned to watch him again. "Why not?"
Tony focused on his driving, his mind working rapidly. There was no real reason that it couldn't be a vampire, from what he'd seen. A vampire could have laid out the body, and there were two slashes in the throat. They could have been put there to cover the punctures. It made a great deal of sense, but he knew that Henry wouldn't have done this. That meant there was another vampire in Henry's territory and he had a little trouble believing Henry didn't know that. "It's not... impossible," Tony said slowly, mind racing. "It's just highly improbable."
"Why?" Lee asked. "The slashes could have covered fang marks and the man was drained of his blood. That sounds like a vampire to me." He studied Tony's face. "Unless you know something about vampires I don't."
"You spend your time studying vampires?" Tony asked, trying to make it a joke.
"It's called Darkest Night. Ever hear of it?"
Tony looked at him. Even in the unreliable light of passing lamps, he looked close to rolling his eyes. "Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that the writers know nothing about real vampires. They're not like that."
Lee's gaze was heavy in the sudden silence. He seemed to be trying to narrow himself down to one question. "You've met vampires? Was this before or after you fought demons five years ago?"
"I didn't fight the demons!" he said. "I didn't even see one!"
"But you have met vampires."
Crap. He gripped the steering wheel tightly, trying to decide what to say. "Okay, yes, I know a vampire or two."
"Know? Present tense?" he asked, surprised.
"Yes, know. Look, Lee, vampires are pretty fanatical about a few things and their safety is high on that list. I don't want to talk about them because I don't want something to accidentally slip. The two I know won't kill you for knowing, but it's best that you don't know anything that might even remotely hint as to who they are."
"This isn't some attempt to keep me out of the loop again, is it?" the older man asked, sounding like he wasn't sure if he should be upset or not.
"No! Well, in a manner, yes, but... I'm not trying to keep you out of this. I'm trying to keep them out of this. I don't care that you know there are vampires. Hell, werewolves are real too and I could tell you where to find them, not that I would," he said quickly. "A lot of things that we think are beyond ridiculous are real."
Tony shuddered, the terror very real. "You have no idea."
"None of this is new to you, is it?" Lee asked, staring at him. "You've been doing this, the protecting the world bit, for years."
"I really haven't," Tony said. "I just knew a person who knew a person and saw a lot because of it that year. Trust me, I was not in the position to do any kind of fighting. The wizard thing is a new development, like last year new. Please, Lee, believe me. I'm not trying to lie about this. I just don't want to accidentally say something I shouldn't."
"Had it occurred to you," Lee asked, his voice staying even and cool, "that maybe your vampire buddies did this?"
"They didn't," he said. "You have to trust me on this."
"Why can't it have been a vampire, Tony?"
Tony couldn't do this. He jerked the steering wheel to the right, pulling into an empty parking lot quickly enough that Lee grabbed the dashboard to stop from being thrown into the window. Tony stopped the car and turned it off, unbuckling his belt and turning to his partner.
"Listen to me," he said clearly, "because we're only discussing this once. The vampires I know would not do this. I know this with every fiber of my being."
"You didn't have to stop the car to tell me that," Lee said, looking uncomfortable.
"I'm not done," he said firmly. Tony rubbed his face. Henry was going to kill him. "There are several things, very important things, one needs to know about vampires. The most pertinent one, though, is that they are vastly, painfully, insanely territorial. Two vampires cannot Hunt the same territory. They will kill each other. Friends, lovers, family, it doesn't matter who they were to each other. One of them will destroy the other."
Lee's eyes were a bit wide as he nodded.
"I know the vampire who Hunts Vancouver, and the one in Toronto. Toronto's vampire would never had invaded the territory, and Vancouver's vampire would never have killed, let alone left the body in a place where it could be found."
Lee's voice, when he spoke up, was soft and sounded worried. "But another vampire could invade, could try to take Vancouver."
Tony sat back in his seat, head against the chair as he stared up blankly. "It's possible," he said softly. He looked at Lee suddenly. "The killer was there," he said. "I felt him. If it was a vampire, you might be in danger."
"Oh, of course. Always me, never you."
"Me too," he said. Actually, if this was a vampire and they found out he belonged to Henry, he was probably in more danger than Lee. "Definitely me too. I just know what I'm looking for. I'm going to take you to your bike. Please go home. Lock your door and don't answer for anybody. Don't even look through the peephole."
"Why?" Lee asked, worried.
"Because if it is a vampire, if you catch his gaze, he could make you open the door."
The actor shivered. "They have that power?"
"It's not exactly power," Tony said. "It's... it's hard to explain. I will, though, but not right now. I have to talk to my friend."
Lee studied his face, as if trying to decide if Tony's grimness was real or not. Tony didn't feel grim. He felt terrified. He didn't want to fight a vampire. Past experience with them would make him really bad at it. He knew first hand the kind of power a vampire had, especially over him. He so didn't want this to be a vampire. But Lee seemed to believe his grave sincerity and nodded. "Alright."
Relieved, Tony started the car again and kept driving.
"Later, Tony," Lee said slowly, "I want to know. I know you have to talk to your vampire, but later... we're going to talk about vampires. I don't want to know who the vampire is, but I want to know what to look for and how to protect myself."
Tony fought with himself. If there was a vampire, he could bet that it would be Lee that was in danger. Things that went bump in the night found him the perfect damsel in distress, much to both Tony and Lee's irritation. Lee would have to know about vampires, but if Lee knew, he would be better able to recognize Henry for what he was. That didn't sit well with him at all. "Sure," he said slowly.
"I mean it," Lee said with heat. He sounded angry. "I'm tired of every supernatural boogieman trying to use me as leverage. If you don't tell me, I'll find someone who will."
That made Tony stiffen. He didn't doubt Lee could find out. In Lee's position, the moment he was alone he would call Leah. The stuntwoman was several thousand years old and probably had run across a vampire or two in that time. There was also Kevin Groves, a tabloid journalist who knew the truth when he heard it. Kevin was too afraid or in awe of Henry to talk, but Lee was a professional actor, and a very good one. He believed Lee could find out what he wanted, and Tony didn't like such a threatening ultimatum. "I'll keep that in mind," he said stiffly. As much as he didn't like the idea, it might be necessary to tell him, then let Henry 'encourage' him to forget. He didn't want to do that, though. He really liked Lee, and didn't want Henry messing with his head.
Tony had barely dropped Lee off at his bike (neither of them expecting or receiving so much as a good night kiss) when he was on the phone calling Henry. The phone wasn't answered and Tony cursed until he remembered Henry was on deadline. When the machine picked up, he began talking. "Henry, it's Tony. If you're there, pick up. It's important, Henry. Henry?"
The line cut off and Henry picked it up. "Important?" he asked. "Is the studio in trouble again? Because you handled that last time and I'm on a deadline."
"No," Tony said. "There may be another vampire in town."
The silence that stretched after that statement was dreadful. Tony could actually feel Henry's surprise, then the growl over the line made his heart start hammering in his chest. "Go home. Now." For the first time since they'd met, the words were not a request, but a command.
Tony's reaction was almost instantaneous. Not only did his body react in uncomfortable and highly inappropriate ways, but he immediately hit his turn signal did a u-turn, going home. He had no choice but to obey. His heart was pounding so hard it almost hurt. "Yes," he said, breathless with terror and excitement.
"I'll be there in fifteen minutes. Let no one else in." Then Henry hung up.
Tony did exactly as ordered, going directly home and up to his apartment and locking the door when he got there. He didn't go near the door. As the adrenaline rush of Henry's command died down, Tony found he was pissed. He trusted Henry with his life, with everything he had, but he did not like being ordered around. What was the point of it? He did his best to rein in his temper, though, wanting to see what happened when Henry got there.
Tony sat on his couch, staring with crossed arms at the door. He was waiting for Henry to knock, so when the Darkest Night theme started playing on the couch beside him, he jumped probably a foot in the air. With a sigh, he glanced at the phone, and his heart sped up. "Yeah?"
"I'm at your door. Let me in."
This wasn't a command, but what was he going to do, petulantly refuse? Henry would make it a command. He closed the phone and went to the door, opening it. Henry stepped in and closed the door, locking it without taking his eyes off Tony. "You're unharmed."
Tony blinked and mentally reviewed their conversation. Vampire. Go home. Nope, no fighting mentioned. "Uh... yeah?" he said nervously.
"How do you know there is a vampire?" Henry asked him. His Prince of Darkness mask was firmly in place, and Tony found himself having trouble thinking.
"Uh... I don't. I suspect, but I'm not really sure." Those dark eyes stared at him and, even without the compulsion, he kept talking. "Lee and I saw a movie and there was the feel of being watched. I checked down the alley and saw a body. It was arranged on the floor, drained of blood, with two slashes in his throat."
Henry reached behind him, unlocking the door. "Where was this?" He listened as Tony told him. "Stay here and don't answer the door." Then he was gone.
Tony leaned against the wall, his heart thundering in his chest. The angry Prince of Darkness routine was going to kill him. "Damn it, Henry," he snarled. He looked around, but didn't seem to have anything to do but to sleep. He sighed, fixing up the pullout and putting the sheets and such on it. The ringing of the phone made him frown and he picked it up without even looking at who it was. "What?" he snapped.
There was silence at the other end. "I can tell you're busy," Lee said, his crushed velvet tone stiff. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"No, wait, Lee..." he said, trying to get the man to stay on the line. "I'm sorry. I didn't check the caller ID."
"Who did you think it was?"
He considered, then shrugged. Why not? "Henry. I just finished talking to him and he wasn't entirely civil. He's on a deadline."
"Henry?" Lee said, surprised. "I thought you were talking to your vampire."
"I did. Earlier," he said. "Nothing to do but wait and see."
"You're not going out looking for the vampire?" he asked.
What was it that made Lee think that he wanted to wrestle with supernatural baddies? Sure, he would, but he didn't want to. "Hell no. Those guys are dangerous."
"More dangerous than a demon?"
Considering said demons had been wrapped up in rope with little injury by said vampire... "Those kinds of demons, yes. They don't think and plan. They don't Hunt."
They were quiet a moment. "Okay, you're kind of creeping me out."
"But you're all right?" Lee continued. "You seemed edgy about it all, and I... well, just wanted to check."
The calm tone couldn't quite hide the edge of vulnerability. It made Tony smile. "I'm fine. I was just getting ready for bed, actually."
"My bed is more comfortable."
Tony nearly swallowed his tongue. He had the irrational urge to curse Henry's name and demand the vampire release his command. When this was said and done, Tony and Henry were going to have a long talk about giving orders, and he didn't expect it to be very pleasant. "I can't," he said almost painfully. He tried to think of a really good reason why. "There's some worry that the vampire might have followed me home. While the wards will protect me inside, there might be trouble if I stepped out."
"That's understandable," Lee said slowly. "So, your place is safer?" Maybe you should invite me over to, you know, protect me.
Tony wondered if the subtext was really there, or if he just wished it was. The problem was that, if the vampire was watching, he didn't want Lee anywhere near here. There was a chance that the vampire hadn't noticed him. There was, however, a chance Lee would be at home and defenseless. The chance wasn't as big, though.
"It's warded," he said lamely. "I'd invite you to share my wards, but I'm worried the vampire might be watching." Man, a clear sign that the story was going downhill when the hero couldn't even get laid.
"Yeah," Lee replied. "Be careful. I'll see you at work tomorrow."
Tony hung up with Lee and crawled into bed. Henry had better give him a good explanation.
At first, the incessant, continuous rolling of the Darkest Night theme seemed part of his dream. It would just figure he couldn't have an original theme song. But when the song became punctuated by hard knocking, Tony finally came awake, blinking groggily in the darkness of his apartment. He fumbled, grabbing the phone. "Hello?" he mumbled.
"It's me," Henry said. "I'm at your door. Let me in." Again, it wasn't an order, but it was close. There was a tension in Henry's tone. The vampire hung up before he could reply.
Tony cursed, but got up and pulled on a pair of pants, going to the door and letting him in. "Henry, it's four in the morning. I've had about two hours of sleep. What now?"
"You were right," Henry said. Tony had seen him prickly around Vicki when she came to town, but this was worse. He radiated cold rage, and his eyes were dark. "It was another vampire. Someone is trying to take over my territory."
Tony wasn't sure what he was supposed to do about that. "I'm kind of surprised you're not out there hunting him down."
"Her. I intend to, but I needed to make sure that she didn't follow you here. That's why I wanted to meet you here. I didn't want her following you to my sanctuary."
"Thanks," Tony said dryly.
Henry gave him a level look. "You have wards in your apartment to protect you from harm. I do not have such protections. As long as you are not outside of your apartment after dark, you'll be fine."
Tony sighed. "I don't exactly have a normal schedule, Henry. I can't control whether I'll be out after night, and what about Lee? He doesn't have wards in his apartment either. She could just as easily have followed him home."
The vampire frowned, studying the wizard. "I'm not expecting this to take very long," he said finally. "Still, perhaps you should ward Lee's apartment as well. You tend not to think clearly when he's in trouble and as much as the idea of facing her with a wizard by my side interests me, I don't want you in danger."
"He asked questions," said wizard mentioned. "Lee, I mean. He wants to know what I know about vampires. I'm afraid that telling him might allow him to connect a few dots, but not telling him means he'll go to someone else to find out. Kevin would probably keep quiet, but Leah might tell him things just to pull your nose."
"That would be unwise of her," Henry growled.
"Yeah," Tony replied with a shrug, "but she's immortal. What should she be afraid of?"
"You're not immortal," Tony pointed out. "In a fight between you and her, she wins by default. Besides," he added, not wanting Henry to focus his aggression on Leah, "if the vampire is actually after Lee, then he really should know what to do to protect himself."
Henry considered for a moment, staring off out the window of the apartment into the fluorescent night. "Then tell him."
"I trust your discretion," he replied. "Hopefully, he'll never have a chance to find out what's happening. Don't forget to put the wards on his apartment."
Tony snorted. "Yeah. Just a little cherry cough syrup to remember me by."
Tony stumbled into the office, half asleep and clutching a coffee in his hand. He tried to make it past Amy, the office assistant, before she got off the phone, not prepared to deal with her. By the time he managed to get back to sleep after Henry left, it had been nearly time to get up again. All in all, he only managed about four hours of sleep, and it wasn't consecutive.
Apparently, however, the fates were not on his side. Amy hung up and called him over, her tone suggesting he might want to listen if he wanted to keep his health. He may have faced down demons, but he wasn't willing to piss Amy off by ignoring her. He wandered back over.
"Hot night last night?" she asked him, her grin distinctly salacious. So far, Tony had managed to resist giving her too many details, unsure how much Lee would appreciate that, but Amy didn't take subtle hints very well.
"Weight of the world," he mumbled, studying her. She was, he noted with something akin to terror, wearing black and bubblegum pink. He really hadn't thought of her as that kind of Goth. "Pink?"
"I'm trying something new," she said with a shrug. "Let's get back to 'weight of the world.' What could be going on that our resident wizard would be saying such dire things, hmm?" She rested her chin on her clasped hands, giving him a look that suggested he'd better talk quickly.
"It's nothing," Tony said. "Just, you know, Henry was on a deadline and needed someone to rant at."
"Vampire," came a crushed, velvet voice from behind him. Tony had to wonder how badly he'd miss Lee if he ashed the man.
"Lee, I've had a lot of practice with Notice Me Not. Want me to show you?" he growled, looking over his shoulder. Somehow, he didn't expect the actor would enjoy the experience of being unnoticed all day long.
Verdant eyes widened slightly, then he flashed Amy a grin. "I'll be in my dressing room," he said over his shoulder, making his exit.
"Vampire, huh?" Amy purred.
"No, you're not getting involved," Tony said firmly. Amy opened her mouth to protest, but Tony raised his hand to cut her off. He was pissed. "Vampires are dangerous, and it's being handled."
"Like demons aren't dangerous," she said, snorting.
"The demons we went up against? No, not like this. Vampires are stronger, faster, better, and more cunning, and you could be standing by one and never know it," and he knew that for a fact. "Lee is only involved because he was there. In fact, the only reason why I'm involved is because I found the body. I'm not doing anything about it. The local vampire is. Stay out of it."
She stared at him, looking rather surprised. "You're serious, aren't you?"
"Very," he said. "As unsolicited as your help has been in the past, it was timely, but I am so not getting involved in this and I don't want anyone else, either. Lee shouldn't have told you. If the vampires thought you knew something dangerous, they would take steps." He was sure Henry would work around it, but it was hard to say, judging by the fact that Jack, Amy's boyfriend and their local police presence, knew and Henry made him forget. He was more worried about any vampires Amy might run into in other cities. Even Vicki would bite first and ask questions later.
"Alright," she said reluctantly. "But if you do get involved, I want to help. If Lee gets to play damsel, then you definitely need your sidekick."
He raised an eyebrow. "You admit to being a sidekick?"
"I'm sucking up in hopes of a promotion."
He snorted. "Of course you are. Sure, fine, if I need you, I'll make sure you know."
"Yeah, that was almost convincing," she said with a snort of her own. She snatched up the ringing phone. "CB Productions."
Tony wandered off toward the soundstage to finish the errand he had been sent on, only just noticing Lee before he had to wade into the sea of costumes. "You so should not have said that."
"I'm sorry," Lee said, "but you always keep everything from everyone. Amy knows and she can help if we need it."
"And if we need it, I'll tell her."
"Would you?" he asked, looking at Tony from the shadows. "Would you really? You seem to do everything in your power... well, almost anything, to try to avoid telling us anything ever. You don't want us hurt, but you can't do everything yourself."
A part of Tony wanted to ask just what it was Lee thought he could do to help, but he bit his tongue. That wouldn't be fair to the actor, and he had helped when the half dozen demons had invaded the soundstage last October. He rubbed his face. "Look, let's just forget about this and talk some more later, but don't go announcing things like that to anyone else. No one needs to worry about it just now. So far, the likelihood of anyone else needing to become involved is very, very slim."
Lee hesitated, but the man seemed to feel that Tony was being very sincere, or as sincere as he could be on the random collection of a meager four hours of sleep, then nodded. Tony suspected it was more to stay on his wizard-boyfriend's good side. "Alright, but you will tell me about them later, right?" He didn't need to say what 'them' was.
Lee nodded, then headed off to his dressing room.
"Tony!" Adam's voice crackled surprisingly loud in his headset and rang in his ears for a few moments. "Where are those sides?"
Tony sighed. No rest for the wicked, or the wizard, it seemed. "On my way, Adam."
The day progressed as days normally do. Tony crashed on Raymond's couch during lunch and Lee appeared as if there wasn't a vampire possibly considering his throat as a light evening snack. Well, at least not any real vampire. Tony looked at the two actors and wondered when the writers would really dive off the deep end and have Raymond feed from James. It hadn't happened yet. Tony actually suspected it would be rather hot until he considered that this meant Mason's mouth would end up on Lee's neck. Tony wasn't exactly possessive... okay, yes he was, and the idea was still not an attractive one. He was rather fond of that neck and didn't want to think about Mason's mouth anywhere near it.
They actually managed to wrap up work in and around sunset. Tony considered staying on the soundstage to talk since the residual power of the gate might possibly hide them for a little while, but that might get CB involved. CB knew a little about vampires, but he didn't want the boss thinking he needed to take one on. Not only that, but the gate destroyed cell reception, and Tony would rather face a demon than Henry if the bastard son of Henry VIII couldn't immediately get a hold of what was his once the sun went down. Since he wanted to ward Lee's apartment anyways, they stopped at a drug store for cherry cough syrup then headed there.
Lee was rather quiet as he watched Tony paint the wards, looking rather resigned at the idea of the red runes on his pale blue walls. Periwinkle, Tony noted. He'd have to talk to Leah about that.
"So... vampires," Lee said, not at all going for subtle.
Tony sighed, painting on another swirl. "Alright. As I told you, vampires are insanely--" he was cut off by the ringing of his cell phone. He glanced at it, and Lee picked it up. "It's Henry," he said, and flipped open the phone. "Hi, Henry. This is Lee. Tony's painting wards," he said, wrinkling his nose. He then passed the phone over to Tony.
"Tony. You're at Lee's apartment?"
"Yeah. Painting wards and talking, like I said." The concern in Henry's voice couldn't mask the possessive quality there. Tony knew that Henry was checking on him so that he knew exactly where he was, like one might check in the yard to make sure the dog was still there. It wasn't exactly flattering, but it was for his own protection. It rankled, but he hadn't lied to Amy. He so didn't want to go against the invading vampire.
"Call me before you leave."
"Are you sure that's a good idea? What if you're disturbed at a bad time?"
"I know better to have my phone on then. If I don't answer, wait for me."
Tony almost refused, but Henry was tense enough to make it a command, and that had the potential to be difficult to explain. He grit his teeth. "You and I are going to have a long talk when this is over," he said.
"Perhaps," Henry replied in his most irritating Prince of Man voice. Then he hung up.
"Trouble?" Lee asked.
"Henry has this really bad habit of commanding when he's stressed. This deadline of his is making him rather unpleasant." He finished the wards, then stepped back, eyeing it critically.
"Is it working?" Lee asked.
Tony checked, then nodded. "Yup," he said, putting the syrup away.
"Shouldn't you do the windows and such? The vampire could get in."
"No," he said. "The door is the portal to the home, and once that's warded, the entire place is shielded. Theoretically, I could ward the entire building if I scrawled the runes over all the exterior doors."
Lee nodded. "So, vampires are insanely...?"
Tony sighed. "Territorial. And predatory. The stories of vampires being able to enchant their victims aren’t entirely accurate. Your best way to tell if you're near a vampire is to follow your instinct. If you suddenly feel like a lamb before a lion, you might want to hide. And don't look a vampire in the eyes."
"That actually works?" He sounded surprised.
"Again, it's the predatory thing. Looking a person in the eye shows your dominance, and it will make a weaker creature submissive and obedient. If a vampire looks you in the eye and allows the Hunter out, you'll do anything they tell you out of sheer terror, and could easily be told to forget having done it. Everything a vampire can do is based rather strongly on their prey's survival instinct. Humans will do almost anything to survive an encounter with a stronger predator, and then will happily forget to protect themselves from the terror they experienced."
Lee shuddered. "Sounds horrible, actually."
"Moderately horrible, yeah. When a vampire lets the Hunter loose, it's not very pleasant."
"What do you mean by 'letting the hunter loose'?"
"Well, they can't wander around looking like a predator all the time or we'd know they were there. They hide what they are by keeping the predator instinct under careful control, some more than others. It's very possible you've met a vampire and never realized."
"You'd think you'd know."
"You'd think so, but you really don't. Trust me. I know two, and you'd never know. Sure, I can tell, but I've been around them a bit, and I have even known a vampire before and after she became one. You know if you knew what to look for."
"What do I look for?" Lee asked.
Tony sighed, sitting on the couch. "Well, that's the tough part. I know it when I see it, but I don't think I could tell you how I know."
"A wizard thing then?"
"Maybe. People have a tendency to explain things in logical terms when they can't understand it. Take Caulfield House. There was the ghost of Richard Caulfield in Mason's bathroom. Mason actually saw him, heard him crying long before the house closed down for the night. I went in and told him it was water in the pipes and the shadow of a tree. He believed me, even sneered at me, and didn't think twice about it. Most people look for reasonable explanations for the things they see. I don't."
"Why?" Lee asked curiously, sitting down next to him.
Tony shrugged. "I don't know exactly. Maybe it's because of drugs; I did some shooting up in my youth. I also didn't have a very comfortable childhood, so I had opportunity to see more things in unsafe circumstances than most. I don't really think it's either of those, though. Of course, my first real interaction with the more unusual side of life wasn't something that was easily explained away. It was rather bluntly shoved into my face, and I haven't been able to look back."
"What was it?" Lee asked.
"Remember the demons in Toronto?" Tony asked. "A vampire was fighting them and got severely injured. A friend of mine at the time was friends with the vampire, and she fetched me to play meal so he could heal from his wounds. It's not easy to lie about letting a vampire bite your wrist and suck your blood."
Lee was studying his face, and Tony could practically see the wheels in his head turning. That set off a truly uncomfortable amount of alarms in his head. "Uh oh," Tony said. "I can see you thinking."
"It's nothing important," Lee said. "I certainly wouldn't want to get on the bad side of a vampire."
Fuck. "Lee, whatever you're thinking--"
"I can think, Tony. I just won't say. I'm not going to ask you to reveal any of your vampire's secrets, and I'm not going to get myself in trouble."
"Getting in trouble is what you do best."
Lee gave him an innocent look. "Really? I thought you said it was--"
"Never mind," Tony said, feeling his ears grow hot. He had to admit, though, that was putting some wicked little thoughts in his head and he probably should discourage that in case Henry decided to grace them with his presence. Somehow, he didn't think he wanted Henry interrupting that. He looked around. "Alright, you should be safe enough here. I should go home while it's still early. She should be out searching for food, but she won't be later."
"She? The invading vampire?"
Tony nodded, getting up and grabbing his cough syrup and bag. "Yeah." He turned around and Lee was quite suddenly there, pressing him into the door and giving him a good night kiss to remember.
"When this is over, and Henry's finished with his book, you and I need to spend some time with the phone off and a firm 'Do Not Disturb' sign," the actor murmured. Tony could only swallow and nod, his knees feeling a bit weak. Lee smiled, looking a bit smug, and stepped back. "Good night, Tony."
"Good night." Tony walked out, impressed by his even tone and steady legs. He went to the elevator, pulling out his cell to call Henry.
Lee ran long fingers through his hair and smirked, feeling rather pleased with himself. He hated being the damsel in distress, but it was always fun to make the big bad wizard weak in the knees. He went to the window, looking out into the rainy night to watch Tony leave. A small frown creased his brow when he saw Tony walk out to his car with a woman by his side. He was holding the umbrella for her and went around to open the passenger door of his car for her.
Lee may be the designated damsel, but he was far from stupid. Tony had said she. The new vampire was a woman. He had been able to put the pieces of Tony's vampire friend together, and now he could put this together. He grabbed his cell phone, hoping he wasn't about to make a huge ass of himself.
"Lee?" Leah's voice came over the phone.
"Leah, I need Henry Fitzroy's cell number."
She snorted. "Why don't you ask your man? He probably has it."
He could suddenly see why Tony found her irritating. "Leah, I'm not kidding here. I need to talk to Henry and Tony's not available."
"Is Tony in trouble?" she asked suddenly. It made him blink.
"Why do you say that?" he asked suspiciously.
"Why else would you want to talk to Henry?"
"Maybe it's Tony's birthday," he said, a bit defensively.
She snorted, but she got him the number. "Don't go riding to his rescue without backup," she told him. "If you need me, I can be there."
"I'll let you know," Lee said, then hung up. He took a breath, then called Henry. The writer didn't pick up, so he called again, then again, then again. He was going for number five when the phone picked up.
"What?" Henry snarled, and Lee's heart was suddenly racing. Oh, yeah, based on what Tony said, he had his vampire.
"I... It's Lee."
There was a pause, then Henry's voice was suddenly far more urbane. Lee almost thought he'd imagined the snarl, then caught himself. Isn't that what other people did? "Lee. You caught me in the middle of something."
Lee took a deep breath, throwing caution to the wind. "Are you the vampire?"
Another long pause. "What vampire?" he asked mildly.
"Don't give me shit, Henry," Lee said. "I'm dead serious. If you're not the vampire, tell me who is. I think Tony's in trouble."
"Why do you think that?"
"He just left my place, and he walked out of the building with a woman and drove off with her in his car."
Henry nearly snarled again. "He was supposed to call me."
"I might have distracted him," Lee said, feeling bad.
"Don't leave your apartment. Stay within the wards. Give me your address."
Lee nearly shrank under the commanding tone. It was rather intimidating. He wondered how he'd never noticed this quality in Henry before. He gave the writer his address and a description of the location, then Henry hung up. The actor looked at the door, considering stepping outside just to prove to himself that he could defy Henry if he wanted to, but he decided not to chance it. If Henry was the vampire, and everything was pointing in that direction, Lee really didn't want to anger him more than he had to.
The knock on his door made him jump. He hadn't been expecting it. He looked out the peephole and, seeing Henry, opened it. Henry brushed him aside, throwing the whole invite-them-in theory right out the door. The man looked at him, and suddenly Lee understood. There was an expression there, a confidence that clearly spoke louder than words that Henry expected to have his commands obeyed. However, Lee could see the edge of something darker in his eyes, something he was trying hard to suppress. It made his heart start pounding and he became highly aware that he was alone with the man with no real way to protect himself. He didn't get around to asking Tony how to do that. Looking at Henry, he didn't know how he'd missed the predator that he could so clearly see now. Henry turned, his eyes locking on Lee, and he could see that the man knew that he could see it, and knew he was afraid. Unconsciously, Lee squared his shoulders, trying to gather himself, to not be so obviously quaking.
"She caught him in the elevator," Henry said. "She must have either known he was here, or knew he wasn't at home and was on her way for you."
"What do we do?" Lee asked. One of Henry's red-gold brows rose in question. "Look, Tony's wait and see attitude was fine when she wasn't after us. Now she has him, and I'm not going to sit around while he's in trouble."
"What are you going to do about it?" Henry asked. His tone was too mild to be condescending, but Lee caught the undertone. How was a human actor supposed to save a wizard from a vampire?
"That's why you're here," Lee said. He obviously surprised Henry with his answer. "I don't know what to do, but I can be there to help Tony while you take her on."
"She might use you against me."
"She will use Tony against you."
"She'll know you're there."
Lee shrugged. "I wasn't exactly planning on hiding, unless you were. Then we can think of something else."
"I can make you stay home," Henry said, his eyes darkening.
Lee tried to swallow around his heart, which seemed to have jumped to the vicinity of his throat. "Yes," he said slowly. "You could, but I'd rather you didn't. I want to help Tony. I know I'm not a wizard or a vampire or anything like that, but he's my partner and he's in trouble and I want to help."
Henry considered Lee for a moment. The man had been the victim often enough that it was only natural he'd want to prove that he could be useful as well. He had said quite clearly that he understood Henry was in charge. There were just a few eventualities that Henry worried about.
"You understand there is a chance she will hurt you, even kill you?" Henry asked.
"Is that any different than demons eating me?" Lee asked.
It was a fair point.
"Are you willing to be bitten?" Henry asked, fairly sure the man wouldn't volunteer for that. An enemy biting him was one thing, but an ally doing it was something else.
Lee frowned at him. "Why? In case you're hurt?" Henry looked surprised, so he quickly explained. "Tony had mentioned he was introduced to the supernatural, I guess, by being dinner for a vampire because he was hurt. Once I figured out you were the vampire, it wasn't hard to figure why you'd need the snack, but why me?"
"Because it's possible she's already bitten Tony." Just saying it made the Hunter see red. The thundering beat in the room made him realize that his possessive jealousy had allowed the mask on the Hunter to slip. He looked at Lee. The man looked like he was trying very hard to not only take this in stride, but to hide how frightened he was of Henry. He forced himself to pull the Hunter under control. "If that's the case," he continued, "then Tony won't be able to feed me much when we retrieve him."
"Much?" Lee asked. His voice was completely under control. The man was a far better actor than people gave him credit for.
"If she has bitten him," he said slowly to keep his rage in check, "I can't allow her mark to remain."
"Ah. Insanely possessive. Under the circumstances, I'd say your control is astounding."
"You have no idea," Henry said darkly.
Lee swallowed a bit convulsively. "Well, then yes. If you need to, I'll let you bite me. We should get going, though. The longer Tony's with her, the more time she'll have to mark him."
Henry nodded shortly. "You drive."
Lee looked around the neighborhood, rather surprised. "This isn't the better part of town," he murmured. "It's not where I would have expected to find a vampire."
"Which is probably the reason why she chose it. I managed to track her sanctuary down this evening. I know she's here, and she probably knows I know."
"It just seems like a let down," he continued. "Vampires just have this reputation of egotism. No offense," he said, glancing at the vampire sitting next to him. Henry just looked amused. "I would have expected her to set up a nicer headquarters."
"Most vampires are not Raymond Dark," Henry pointed out. "Some do take pains to stand out, but you can only do so much without humans noticing. I think my sanctuary’d disappoint you. It's aggressively normal. Besides, she probably intends to move into my sanctuary once she has destroyed me." His eyes darkened.
Lee decided it was probably best to drop the conversation at that point.
Henry directed him to a run-down apartment building and Lee parked, starting to unbuckle his seatbelt. Henry caught his hand, making Lee look up at him and freeze when faced with dark eyes. "She won't expect me to have brought you, but she'll know you're there. She's on the top floor. Give me five minutes, then start making your way inside. Be extremely careful. It's not very probable, but it is possible that she has enough command over Tony to use him against us, and he has a lot more power at his disposal than he lets on. I'd really rather not have to hurt him."
"Well, about the only offensive thing he can do is a Powershot, right? And she wouldn't want to make that kind of noise."
"Don't be trapped in that idea. Tony is resourceful, and he'd touched the Shadowlord's mind. He would never do it or even admit it, but I suspect he knows how to command shadow, and that is very dangerous."
Lee nodded slowly. He still didn't remember the details about the Shadowlord, though he remembered the man himself. He had no idea what a wizard commanding shadow could do, but Henry was right. Tony was very resourceful. It wouldn't be difficult to think of new and interesting ways to manipulate the spells he already knew. "Wouldn't it be difficult for a vampire to command him to attack us? I mean, you're his ex and I'm his partner. He cares about us."
"I could order him to kill you and he would never hesitate," Henry said. He looked darkly at the building, his obvious possessive rage making Lee's heart pound harder. "Five minutes." Then he was suddenly gone, the door open.
Lee blinked at the empty seat. It was a cool spring evening, but he could feel himself sweating from the strain of being around the angry vampire. He looked at his watch and waited, giving Henry his five minutes. Then he got out of the car and walked into the apartment building like he belonged there.
He'd half expected to see some grumpy henchmen waiting for him inside, but all that was there was a dark staircase leading up. The place had a distinctly deserted feel to it. Lee carefully started up the stairs, trying to be alert to his surroundings. As he climbed, though, he had to wonder what he was doing. Sure, he'd been there for the shadow invasion, and the haunted house, and then the demon invasion, but what had he done? He didn't remember the shadows, he'd been possessed by the house, and maybe he'd smacked around one demon with copious help from Zev and Amy, but he wasn't Tony. He didn't have powers to use, or resources to avail upon. All he really had, in this particular place and time, was a vampire at his back somewhere in the building, and his acting. Somehow, he didn't expect their villainess to be impressed by a well-performed monologue.
He considered, as he climbed, what James Taylor Grant would do in this situation, but hell. If he was really James Taylor Grant, then it would be him up there, and that was the problem. As much as he really hated being the designated victim, it's what the man in his position did. This was Tony's show. He was the damsel, Amy the sidekick, Henry the muscle. The hero didn't get abducted like this. The damsel never rescued the hero. What was he supposed to do?
It felt like it took a painfully long time to climb to the top floor, but it had only been a couple of floors. When he reached the top floor, he looked around, slowly moving down the hall. There was nothing remarkable about any of the doors, but there was a distinct smell in the air. He sniffed, frowning, then nearly groaned. Cherry cough syrup. Tony probably warded the sanctuary, and if he did that, it meant Henry wouldn't be able to get in. As if conjured by thought, Henry appeared at the end of the hall, and he looked disturbingly pissed. Lee nodded to him, moving down the hall. They couldn't talk, he knew. She would hear them, so he looked for the right door. He stopped where the cherry expectorant was strongest, then glanced at Henry. The vampire nodded, confirming the location.
Lee studied the door a moment. Tony was in there, and working for the vampire. The only way to defeat her was to have Tony on their side. Otherwise, Henry couldn't get in. Lee wouldn't be able to help with her, but he might be able to help with Tony.
A brief touch at his shoulder was the only warning he got before the door opened. Henry was gone, and Tony stood in the door. He looked ghastly, almost painfully pale with two healing punctures in his throat. She hadn't left enough blood to raise a decent bruise. There was a look in Tony's eyes that tugged at Lee's heart. He looked haunted, even horrified, but his face was bland. His eyes widened, however, when he saw Lee. "Lee, what are you doing here?" he whispered fiercely.
"Don't be rude, Anthony," a cool, feminine voice said from deeper in the room. "Let our guest in."
Tony's face flickered through several expressions. There were strong hints of hatred and anger, but there was an even stronger fear there, and he moved aside almost woodenly. He obviously didn't want to let Lee in, but that survival mechanism he'd spoke of earlier was driving him to protect himself in the presence of this predator that owned him. Lee went to the door and stepped in. The wards around the door glowed briefly, but he was an actor. What danger could he be? They flared, but they let him pass.
The room was a bit more luxurious than he'd have expected. There was an area in the back curtained off with heavy red drapes, so he assumed her actual sanctuary was back there. The room looked open, lush and comfortable, damn near close to a throne room. The vampire herself lounged on a chaise just before those blood-red curtains. Lee glanced at her long enough to get the impression of a pale and beautiful body before he looked away. Tony had said that the predator could dominate its prey by staring them down. If he didn't look her in the eyes, he didn't think it would work as easily.
"I knew he sent a human to me, but I hadn't expected you to be so handsome," she purred. "Are you supposed to be a payment so that he can have his pet wizard back? I hardly think you're that handsome."
"No, ma'am," Lee answered, keeping his eyes down. Tony had closed the door and moved forward between Lee and his mistress, though whom he was trying to protect was kind of hard to say. "I just want to help Tony."
The vampire rose from the divan, moving to circle around Lee. His heart started pounding, the hairs on the back of his neck standing at attention, but he didn't look up at her. "And what of Henry Fitzroy? You came here with him to destroy me. How do you intend to let him into the room, human?"
"I don't know," he said honestly. "And, frankly, I don't really care. I'm more than happy to let you two tear each other apart. I'm here for Tony."
"Anthony won't be going anywhere," she purred. "You want to stay with me, don't you, pet?" She reached out, running her fingers through his light brown hair. Tony flinched from her touch, cowering slightly. It wasn't like him at all, and Lee nearly frowned. Tony had faced down demon lords, evil wizards, and a variety of other things he hadn't told Lee about. He may have been terrified as he did it, but he did it unflinchingly. To have him react so poorly to a simple touch from this vampire frankly scared Lee. It meant that Tony had been hurt worse than he'd thought, and dozens of possible torments flitted through the actor’s head, each more horrifying than the other. Without thinking, he reached out to take Tony's hand.
"Tony, it's going to be fine," he said softly. The younger man looked at him with blue eyes far older than Lee had expected. He looked on the verge of giving up. Lee's mind raced as he tried to consider what to do, then he nearly sighed. What else should he do, but what he did best. "You can't bite him anymore," he told the vampire.
Lee could feel the weight of that gaze as it shifted to his back. "Excuse me?" she purred dangerously.
"You're killing him. He needs energy to do his magic, and you're taking it from him when you bite him. He's more valuable to you as a wizard than a snack, am I right?"
Her elegant fingers played with a lock of hair, the nails painted the same red as the curtains. "Are you volunteering to take his place, human?"
"If that's what it takes," Lee said. He'd do it, too. He had told Henry he'd allow himself to be bitten if he needed to be.
"No," Tony said, not really surprising Lee. In fact, it was kind of what the actor had hoped.
"No?" she said, and her tone was soft with menace. Lee was watching Tony's face, and he saw when she caught his eyes. He couldn't be paler, but he recoiled slightly from the vampire.
Lee took the vampire's hand, pulling it from Tony's hair. "Please don't hurt him," Lee said softly.
"Why shouldn't I? Perhaps it would teach him his place."
"It might also kill him, and if he dies, the wards will fall. Henry Fitzroy is out there waiting for you. Do you want to risk it?"
Lee could feel her tension as she considered his words. She was afraid of Henry, he suspected. She might not have been to begin with, but she'd stolen Henry's favorite human, and she had to know how wild that would drive the other vampire. "If you truly intend to protect your lover, human," she said slowly. "You should prove it. You avoid my gaze. If you intend to be mine, you should not be so fearful."
This dialogue was as thick as anything the writers of the show could have come up with. Lee had a strange feeling of déjà vu with the vampire standing at his back. Instead of scripted defiance, however, he went for vulnerable. He turned, but backed away, trying to put space between himself and the vampire. He looked up at her and had the quick impression of blond hair before dark eyes trapped him. He nearly whimpered, taking another step back. She, however, smirked and started forward, but she was jerked to a stop by Tony's hand on her arm.
"Don't touch him," Tony said, getting angry himself. Lee wasn't supposed to be here, and he certainly wasn't supposed to be baring his neck to the vampire. He didn't know what kind of plan this was, but as far as rescues went, it sucked.
Her eyes narrowed, then stars exploded before Tony's eyes. He hit the floor then had to blink, shaking his head slowly from being backhanded. She had, of course, been gentle; else he would have been dead. She wouldn't kill him, though. Lee had been right when he'd said Tony's death meant there was nothing between her and Henry. He blinked, watching her stalk toward Lee, who kept backing away, eyes wide and terrified.
Tony's own eyes narrowed. He was suffering under orders given to him by her. He'd tried to wriggle out of warding the room, but she'd held him firm, making him do it. Her orders to him were not on level with Henry's. When Henry had commanded, Tony had obeyed almost unthinkingly. He hadn't even tried to resist. He'd been able to resist his new mistress enough that she'd had to stand over him to make him write the runes. She'd forbidden him from using his magic to hurt her, or against her in any way. He couldn't call Lee to him, because that would be in direct defiance of what she wanted. His inability to do anything was frustrating, but he had to do something. He glanced at the door. It would be an easy thing to wipe away the runes, but again, he was forbidden to do that. Knowing Henry was so close to them but unable to step into the room drove Tony nuts. Then he blinked. He glanced quickly toward the chaise and saw that she'd managed to back Lee onto it, the actor almost trembling. The song of Lee's blood had to be ringing in her ears about then. She wouldn't be paying attention to Tony. He got up and went to the door and opened it. He couldn't step out, and he couldn't wipe away the wards, so she hadn't ordered him to keep it closed. As he expected, when he opened the door, Henry was there waiting for him.
The dark gaze that swallowed him wasn't even frightening. Some part of him, deep beyond anything the other vampire could reach, knew that this was his master, that he belonged to Henry, and that no other predator could ever have command until Henry had said so. Henry didn't even have to say anything. Tony reached up and wiped away the cherry runes with one hand, destroying the ward.
Henry walked in, putting himself between Tony and the vampire. Tony's defection hadn't completely escaped her notice. She sat upon the divan with Lee kneeling on the floor in front of her. His throat was unmarked, but her hand was in his hair. It would be an easy thing for her to snap his neck, and they all knew it. She gave them a thin smile. "Good evening, your Grace," she purred to Henry.
"Elsbeth," Henry said, sounding bland. "I should have known. You always did like to play games."
"You know me, but not my scent," Elsbeth remarked.
"I know of you. I'd heard of the trouble you gave Christina for her territory. I'm almost impressed you escaped her with your life. I will not make that mistake."
"No?" she said, smiling slightly. "If I can escape both you and she who made you, then your pet in Toronto shouldn't be much of a problem. What was her name again? Victoria?"
Tony glanced at Lee. It was possible he was going to have to have Henry take care of a few things. It was up to Henry if Lee knew about him, but Vicki wasn't there to give her input. Lee didn't seem to acknowledge what was being said, kneeling there calmly, his face expressionless.
"I'll make sure she knows you send your regard. It's unfortunate you won't be meeting her. It would be entertaining to hear how she would kill you," Henry said blandly. "Release the human, Elsbeth."
"I think not," she said. "You look a bit piqued, and I think I'll keep my advantage."
That was Tony's cue. If he did anything, she would break Lee's neck before he finished the spell. He was still in the door, just behind Henry, so hopefully all of her attention was on Henry. He carefully slid his hand into his pocket and fingered the ball bearing in his pocket, thinking the words to Notice-Me-Not.
Elsbeth's attention seemed to wander for a fraction of a second, a small frown creasing her features at the sudden lack of a second human heartbeat. Her attention quickly slid back to Henry, though. Henry, of course, knew what that meant. He wished he knew what Tony had planned. "You're threatening the loved one of a wizard, Elsbeth. That is trouble you are not prepared to deal with." He was exaggerating slightly, although he did tend to find Tony to court trouble of epic proportions. Even Vicki hadn't tried to save the world more than once.
"I see no trouble. Even a wizard will find it difficult to save his lover before I can kill him."
The brilliant flash took them all by surprise. Henry shook his head, stunned. He knew what that light was. Tony had fired a Powershot, and Elsbeth's screams of pain confirmed it. The other vampire looked rather crispy around the edges, but in the next moment, Lee suddenly went flying across the room. Henry saw him knock the suddenly noticeable Tony down, the wizard falling to the floor with the actor in his arms. Then Henry turned and focused all his energy on the vampire.
Elsbeth seemed to realize her situation at about the same time, and she rose onto her feet, snarling. Henry shifted and they met in the center of the room, lashing at each other. Lee noticed and blinked, trying to actually keep track of what was happening, but the blurring speeds made his head hurt. Instead, he focused on Tony, helping the exhausted young man into a corner. "You did a Powershot, didn't you?" he said, helping Tony to sit upright.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Tony said weakly.
"Yeah, well, you were wrong. You looked horrible the last time you pushed yourself this hard."
"I did it for days then, and this was an emergency." Tony frowned at him, ignoring the battling vampires for the moment. "Why did you turn around? You were doing just fine without giving in to her."
Lee shrugged. "You were the one controlling the wards. I figured as long as I was safe, you wouldn't find a way to let Henry in. You seem to do your best fighting when I'm in trouble."
Tony scowled at him. "'Victim' is not a tool, Lee."
"You're just mad because it worked." He turned to check out the vampires. They were still going at it which concerned Lee. Elsbeth had been injured. Henry should have been able to handle her. Then, of course, there was a soft shriek, then she was down, and Henry was the only one standing. He looked bloody and rather injured. He moved toward them after a moment, then hit the floor next to them, his hand reaching for Tony.
"Tony, are you alright?"
Tony shrugged. "Nothing several liters of fluids and a few days of rest won't cure," he said. "And maybe an ice pack. She was careful, but that backhand still hurt."
Henry reached out to gently touch bloody fingers to the red side of Tony's face. He was still low on blood, but the bruise was trying to make its appearance already.
"What about you?" Lee asked Henry. "You don't look so good. Do you need... I mean..." He sighed, running a hand through his hair. He'd never been bitten by a vampire, fake or otherwise. Not that he was aware of, anyways. "Do you need blood?"
Henry glanced at Tony, specifically the marks on Tony's neck. Lee saw where his eyes were and his own gaze hardened. "Oh, no. If you have to mark your territory, you'll have to do it later. He's way too low on blood."
"I know," Henry said softly. "I do think, however, that some help healing might be in order. I want to be ready in case we have further trouble."
"You're not hurt that badly," Tony protested. Both men looked at him, and he sank against the wall. "Well, you're not."
"He saved our bacon, Tony. He can have a snack, on one condition of course."
It was time for Tony and Henry to gang up on him. They both looked rather surprised he was ballsy enough to insist on a condition. "What's that?" Tony asked.
Lee looked at Henry. "You don't make me forget. I'm not going to go shouting what you are about, and it's kind of easier to understand your relationship knowing what it really is. I think I'm within my right to insist."
Tony looked at Henry, but the vampire looked thoughtful. After a moment, he nodded. "Alright. You've handled everything so far with grace. I think I can give you the benefit of the doubt."
Lee nodded, watching the vampire nervously. "Alright. How should we do this?" He had, after all, never fed a vampire before.
"You should take Tony home," Henry said. "Get some fluids in him and let him sleep. I'll be by to check on him after I take care of this." He gestured to the body.
Lee glanced over. He was surprised at how well he was taking all of this. "We'll go to my place. Will you be all right getting there?"
Henry nodded. "Tony, where is your car?"
"Around the corner, really," Tony said. He pulled out his keys and handed them to Henry without being asked. He didn't look very happy, though. He didn't like the idea of Henry biting Lee. It wasn't quite the same possessiveness that had caused his and Henry's blowup months back, but Lee was his partner. Letting Henry do something that was so sexual to him made him kind of nervous. There was no way Henry would ever dream of stealing Lee from him, and Henry did look like he could use the top up, but it still made him nervous. It was sort of his fault that things had come out this way, though. If he had called before leaving the safety of the wards at Lee's apartment, it wouldn't have had to happen this way. He was too tired and too shocky from being drained and commanded by the strange vampire to want to think it through too much. When it all came down to it, he trusted Henry and Lee. He gestured for Lee to help him up. "Be careful," he told Henry, then headed out.
Lee insisted on keeping an arm around him, not a bad idea considering the way the floor kept trying to slide out from under him. He ended up in Lee's car, staring blankly out at the passing lights. Perhaps the Powershot had been a bit too much. Fortunately, Lee didn't try to question him. Instead, the actor quietly took him to his place, stopping only briefly at a drive-thru for food, then helped him clean up in a shower. It wasn't until Lee had him tucked into bed with a glass of orange juice that the questions started.
"Are you all right?" Lee asked him softly.
Tony drank probably half the glass before responding. "Getting there. I just need to refuel, is all. Your hovering is making me nervous, though. I haven't been tucked into bed since I was thirteen."
"Liar," Lee said. "Amy told me Henry tucked you in a couple of times during the demon mess."
He scowled. "Amy talks too much."
The actor smiled slightly. "By all right, I was more referring to anything that... um... might have happened." He looked uncomfortable, but concerned. "She didn't hurt you badly, did she?" He kept seeing Tony flinch from her touch and was terrified by the thought of just how much touching she may have done.
Tony, for his part, didn't seem to get that. "She bit me. That was fairly unpleasant. Then she made me put up the wards." He yawned, his jaw opening painfully wide around the bruise on his face. "That was about all that happened, really. She didn't have the time to be really creative."
Lee wasn't sure. Tony seemed very unconcerned, but Lee remembered the flinch and didn't know how to bring it up. He looked at his hands. "It's... it's just that... I mean, you seemed to be really afraid of her. I just wanted to make sure..."
Tony blinked at him, his eyes heavy with sleep. "She's a vampire. Predator, remember? I'm not immune to them." The biting had bothered him, but it hadn't been as sexual as he'd thought it might. It probably had to do with the fact that he was very gay and that she wasn't trying to seduce him. She had been very focused on making him afraid.
"Good," Lee said, visibly relieved. "I mean, still sucks, no pun intended, but... yeah. Could have been worse."
Tony nodded. "Definitely. Listen," he said trying to sit up. Lee's hand on his shoulder rather effectively prevented that. "When Henry gets here, send him in."
"I don't think so," Lee said firmly. "He seems really possessive, and from what I've noticed, possessive makes a vampire's fangs itch. You don't have the blood to spare."
"He needs to bite someone and I don't want it to be you."
"I agreed already, before we even left in fact," he said. "I knew it was possible. You don't have the blood to spare, Tony. I'm sure he'll have to mark his property or whatever eventually, but not tonight."
"I don't want him to bite you," Tony said stubbornly.
"Why?" Lee asked.
Tony looked around a moment, then picked absently at the quilt. "Because vampires consider those who feed them as theirs and you're not his."
Lee raised an eyebrow. "Really? Because, from my understanding, I'm yours, and you're his, so anything that's yours is his, at least to his thinking."
"Yeah, well, he'd be wrong."
"Tony," Lee said. "I promise you, I'm not going to suddenly think I can't live without him, and he's not going to decide to keep me. He could try, but I doubt it, and I won't let him anyways."
Tony snorted. "Let him?"
"Yes, let him. Do you really think he'd be interested in keeping someone prisoner? I can't believe you really think so little of Henry."
Tony almost managed to flush. "No, I don't."
"Then trust us," Lee said softly.
He looked uneasy and young, sitting in the middle of that big bed with his huge glass of orange juice. In the end, though, he really had nothing to say to that. He trusted Henry with his life, so why not with Lee's? And if he wanted this relationship with Lee to work, he needed to trust him as well. It was his ex and his partner. They both cared, right? So they wouldn't hurt him. If nothing else, he believed Henry wouldn't, so that prevented Lee from doing so.
Tony sighed. "Fine, but this is definitely an emergency last resort thing. I don't care how much you like it."
Lee raised an eyebrow. "Like it?"
He received a snort in reply. "You'll see."
As if he'd been waiting for them to sort it out, and he'd quite probably had, there was a knock at the door. At this time, it had better be Henry. Lee closed the bedroom door, leaving Tony to finally pass out, and answered the door, letting Henry in. He looked at the man critically. "You know, maybe we should have gone to Tony's. The paparazzi are less likely to haunt his home." Somehow, he thought pictures of bloody romance writers coming into his apartment might be bad.
"There was no one. I would have known."
Yeah, there was that.
Henry rather politely sat down on one of the wooden chairs at the dining room table, his look pained. Lee had no idea how to help him. "Do you need me to get you something?" he asked.
Henry wasn't in the mood to be subtle. He was hurt, and he wanted to check on Tony. Lee had already offered, so pleasantries were just a formality. He caught the man's eyes, watching that green gaze widen. "Lee, come here," he called softly. Lee moved forward, still aware of what was happening. Henry didn't want to terrify the man into forgetting, letting the Hunger out just enough to make Lee a bit more malleable. He took the actor's hand and turned it, his teeth closing through Lee's wrist. He focused on feeding, to gather his strength, and not at the reactions Lee was having.
He took more than he would have normally. Lee might be a bit pale at work tomorrow, but he was sure they could work around it. Finally, he released Lee, watching the man. Henry needed to know if he was going to panic. If Lee was, he'd have to take steps.
Lee's eyes were a bit dark as he lifted his hand, thumb tracing over the punctures on his wrist. They were the only marks, and mostly unnoticeable. He swallowed, then looked at Henry. "Tony's in the bedroom," he said calmly. "There's a bathroom, if you need to clean up a bit." Then he turned into the kitchen, getting himself some juice.
Henry nodded, watching the man. His heartbeat was rapid, and he looked a little unsteady, but he seemed to be accepting it calmly enough. Henry nodded and got up, moving into the bedroom. He could hear Tony from the couch, knew him to be asleep, but he couldn't help the need to touch him, to reclaim what was his. Before he could decide what to do about his anger over the mark on Tony's throat, however, Lee was behind him. "No biting," he said firmly. "I mean it. He's not well enough."
Henry looked at him, making sure the human knew he agreed and was not acquiescing to his demands, then brushed a light brown lock out of Tony's eyes. "Later," he murmured, then went to clean up and leave.
The next day both Tony and Lee arrived to work at the same time. Lee was a few hours too early, since the talent almost never needed to arrive at the same time as the crew, but Tony still hadn't looked good, so he hadn't wanted the man behind the wheel of a car. They'd stopped for a large breakfast, lots of fluids and protein, then walked in. Amy was just taking off her jacket in the production office and paused, looking at them both under neon blue fringe.
"You look like hell," she said. "Mostly Tony, but both of you."
"It was a long night," Lee replied. Tony, however, had better ideas. Lee had gotten Amy involved, Lee could explain it to her. He took off with a wave of his hand, leaving the actor to fend for himself. He knew when to cut and run, most of the time anyways.
Amy looked like she'd added two and two and somehow got five. She frowned at Lee. "You look pale," she said, then suddenly her eyes widened. "No!"
"No?" he said, desperate to crash in his dressing room. She waved him closer and, suddenly missing his wizard shield, he moved up to her desk.
"You two played with vampires, didn't you?" she hissed at him.
"Now, Amy," he said, giving her a brilliant smile. "Would we do that without you?"
She appeared unimpressed. "You did! You totally went after the vampire without me."
He sighed, giving up the act. "Technically, she came after us, and we didn't do a damn thing. They fought, we hid."
"Then why are you two shades whiter than yesterday?" she asked suspiciously. "Maybe you slipped and your neck accidentally fell into the vampire's mouth?"
"I swear no fangs pierced my neck," he added, sounding incredibly sincere. It was even true.
"Then where did they pierce?" she asked, arching an eyebrow rather salaciously.
Lee gave up. Tony had the right idea. There was no winning with Amy. "I'm going to my dressing room now," he said, heading out.
"Lee! We're not finished with this!"
Lee shot her a grin over his shoulder that his partner would curse for the rest of his life. "Ask Tony. He's the hero," he said, leaving the wizard to clean up the mess.