CHAPTER 15

In the quiet cocoon of Rayne’s bedroom, he and Xavier clung to the momentary calm following the storm of Carlsen’s hijack and ultimate dispatch and savoured the brief peace for as long as they were able, which wasn’t nearly long enough. There would be more cops and officials here soon, no matter how quiet Jamie Halliday tried to keep things. Matt could probably deal with most of it but Rayne was going to have to go talk with them as well. So would Clint, eventually. With this in mind they both rose, coming to the same conclusions at almost the same time.

The shower was still running and Rayne dug out some clothes to give to Clint. They were a similar build and he figured the boy would get into a pair of his black jeans and a matching skinny-fit t-shirt.

Why don’t you go help Matt. I’ll take care of Clint,” Xavier said.

He needs to tell us everything that happened, and he’s got to be warned to keep his mouth shut if the cops ask him about…” Rayne closed his own mouth at the look on Xavier’s face.

I know,” Xavier reassured him gently. “Let me talk to him first, he might open up if it’s just me and him. If he won’t play ball I’ll call you.”

Xav, he needs to know how much danger he’s in,” Rayne whispered, coming to kneel on the edge of the bed where he could look his lover in the eye, making sure that Xavier understood his fears. They had been through so much since San Francisco but still he worried.

I know that too,” Xav said softly. “Believe me, I think I can convince him.”

They heard the water turn off and Rayne made up his mind, kissing him once before he left to go talk to Jamie and Matt and wait for the next wave of police investigators.

Clint came out of the bathroom wrapped in towels like he did not want to show off any more of his skin than he needed to. His wrists didn’t look quite so raw but were still bruised and abraded. His pale face was bruised down one side as well.

Here,” Xav said, handing him the clothes Rayne had left out and politely turning his back whilst the younger man attempted to squirm into them without dropping the towels. “Listen Clint,” he said, keeping his eyes away from the mirror on the wardrobe door whilst the boy was dressing. “The cops are gonna want to talk to you. This is difficult but I really need you to tell me what happened first.”

Clint looked up at him, hair tousled from the neckline of the little black t-shirt he had just pulled on. He perched on the edge of the bed and wriggled his bare feet into the narrow legs of the borrowed black jeans without unwrapping the towel around his waist.

“Nothing to tell,” he said evasively. “The cunt was trying to use me to get to Rayne. He got what was coming to him, yeah?”

Xav sighed wearily, thinking that Rayne might well have been right about this not being easy.

Yeah, I know that. You think the cops are going to let you get away with that for an explanation though? He’s dead. They’re going to question you, and if your story isn’t air tight they’re going to keep questioning you until they get what they want to hear. You think being the victim here matters? You trust the cops that much?”

Clint gave him a sharper look, confusion and a little anxiety creeping into his expression now. He pulled the tight black denims up to his hips and tucked in, tugging up the zipper so that he could finally lose the damp bath towel. All in black he was dangerously thin, the snug garments not even properly tight on him, Xavier thought protectively.

I’m trying to help you, believe it or not,” he said. “Haven’t I treated you decent? Haven’t I stuck up for you right and left? Well, trust me kiddo, you are in a lot more trouble than you think. You start spouting off about vampire hunters and how that guy was trying to kill your dad because he’s a vampire and the least of your worries will be that they won’t believe you. If they reckon you’re lying they might think you were actually working with that guy, then what?”

I wasn’t!” Clint immediately shot back. “I didn’t want to do anything he wanted! I know that skinny cunt thinks I just want his money but I’d never hurt Rayne, not on purpose.”

Xav raised his hand in a soothing gesture. “I know. I know that, I’m just trying to make you see that others might not see it that way. You and your dad are alike in a lot of ways, you both can’t lie for shit. So, tell me everything so I can help you get your story straight. ”

Clint’s mouth seemed to tremble for a moment. He looked at the door as if he was worried now. Xavier had done a good job of sowing seeds of doubt. If the cops didn’t believe him they just might lock him up, or think he was crazy; or even send him back to his grandparents.

I noticed the guy following me a couple of days before he grabbed me…” he said tremulously. “He was hanging around the house. He… I got the feeling he knew who I was and that’s… weird. I mean, I don’t go round telling everyone that Rayne’s my dad. Most of the people I have told think I’m making it up anyway. He must have been asking questions and finding out about us for ages; a proper nutter.”

To his relief Xavier listened, with very few interruptions and only a little prodding as Clint told him about how he’d been grabbed off the street and knocked out, then woke up hanging with his wrists tied above his head in what he thought was a garage, but he couldn’t be sure. Clint told him about the threats that the freak had made and how he said he was going to kill Rayne because he was a vampire and they had unfinished business. He carefully avoided telling the older man about how Carlsen had molested and raped him. That memory was stored in a little compartment somewhere deeper inside. He didn’t plan to tell the cops about it either if he could help it. Maybe if he pretended it hadn’t happened he would be able to forget about it and put it completely behind him.

Xavier seemed content with what he’d heard and instructed him that he should tell the cops the same story he had just spilled, only where Carlsen had raved about vampires and killing the undead, they turned the story around a bit and Clint would tell them he was ranting about hidden messages in song lyrics and how he seemed like he was a deranged fan. Xav warned him sternly not to make too much shit up, not to embellish the story and stick to exactly what they discussed.

They will ask you to repeat this more than once. The closer to the truth you are, the better. You start making stuff up and changing the story ’cause you don’t remember what you said the first time and you are fucked. Okay?”

Clint nodded; “I have been arrested before, you know!”

“They’re not going to arrest you. You haven’t done anything wrong.” Xav put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Clint looked so serious all of a sudden that he just wanted to hide the boy and protect him from this.

There is something else I need to tell you about.” Xavier said now, taking a steadying breath. “Clint, it’s not just the cops you can’t tell about this, and it’s not only that people might think you’re crazy talking about vampires. You know as well as I do that there are a lot of really bad people out there. If no one believes you about vampires and they all think you’re nuts, that would be the best to hope for. But, if the wrong type of people heard you talking, and believed you…”

Xav paused for a second and looked very seriously at Clint. “You heard what Rayne was telling Matt, about your blood being richer. If another vampire suspects what you are, they are going to be interested, and trust me you do not want a vampire interested in you. If another vampire knows what you are, it’s like hanging a sign around your neck saying you’ve got something better then coke running in your veins.”

Xav stopped again; he was pretty sure Clint was seeing the big picture now, realising the danger, but he had to be certain the kid didn’t think it would be fun to go bragging to his friends. Clint had to know that he couldn’t trust anyone.

If another vampire finds out about you, they will take you and make what happened with Carlsen look like a day at the park, alright. If you’re lucky you might be imprisoned for one greedy vampire to use. More likely you’d be treated like a slave and served up to any vamp willing to pay for you. You think it felt gross when Matt bit you? Well he was being pretty damn careful. Vamps can make a bite feel good or they can make it hurt, a lot. They can do worse things than just bite you too.” Xavier’s eyes were dark with shadows and he hoped beyond hope that Clint understood all this and took him seriously. “You believe what I’m telling you?”

The boy was eyeing him warily now, but he nodded once. “I’m not a little kid, Xavier. I know that if I tell people there’s real vampires, they’ll think I’m mental. And I knew what Rayne was before that freak came along anyway. If he’s so fuckin’ worried about it, I don’t see why he doesn’t just wipe my mind or whatever freaky shit it is they do to people.”

Clint wriggled his fingers at Xavier as if he could make the other man vanish just by doing so. He wished he could do the same for his problems though. The way this was going he’d never get closer to his father. All Rayne was interested in right now was damage limitation, that was becoming patently obvious.

“I know you’re not a little kid Clint.” Xavier said. “You’re the same age I was when…” He shook his head. “Never mind. I’m not trying to treat you like a kid. I’m sorry if it sounded that way. I just wanted to make sure you understood how much trouble you could really get into.

“As for why Rayne doesn’t just…” He wiggled his own fingers back at Clint as he’d just done. “…wipe your memory, well, maybe he doesn’t really want you to forget about him.” Clint looked at him sceptically and Xavier shrugged. “He already told you, he knows he hasn’t been the best father, he wants to try and do better. Whether you want to give him that chance or not is up to you.”

Clint just looked at him sullenly and Xav suddenly got where the attitude was coming from.

“I asked him if I could talk to you first, he didn’t just leave you for me to take care of. I knew… we both knew, that you might not trust him all that much. He’s not out there only trying to save his own ass, he’s doing his best to protect you too.”

Clint sat down on the edge of the bed, running his hands over the worn denim of his new wardrobe self-consciously. He would not look at Xavier now.

“Who am I tryin’ to kid?” he muttered at last. “He’s never been interested in me. All these years I was just trying to get close to him and he never once came round or asked how I was or if I needed anything. Gran and Grandad always got money to look after me, but he’s never really wanted to be my dad. Not properly. When this is all sorted and the police have gone, I’ll get out of his hair. Neither of you need to worry then.”

Xav snorted. “You are some piece of work, you know that? You spend years trying to get his attention and once he’s finally got his head on straight enough to give it to you, now you want to give up and disappear.”

Clint’s eyes came up to glare at him and Xav glared right back.

“He didn’t have to come running back here. He could have let you die, if he really wanted to be rid of you, if he really didn’t give a shit about you.” Xavier’s expression softened a little then. “Maybe I’m being too hard on you though, asking you to be too grown up and give him a chance to make some changes.”

Several emotions warred for supremacy on Clint’s face but he turned away before any of them won out. For a moment he was completely silent then his shoulders trembled and he put his face in his hands, shuddering softly, and folded down into the softness of the duvet, trying to hide the tears that he could not keep in check any more. He was aching and he was tired and he had tried so hard to be tough and not let it show but now he just wanted to be held. Now he wanted to be anywhere but here, getting another lecture.

Xavier almost went to him, and it just about broke his heart not to go and soothe the hurt he’d just caused, quite deliberately. Sometimes he really did hate himself for how coldly calculating he could be when it was necessary. He’d got what he wanted though, Clint would keep his shit together and his story straight for the cops and he wouldn’t go running around telling any tales of vampires. He also now appeared young and vulnerable and properly distraught instead of closed off and coolly distant. The cops would question he then leave him alone. Now all that was left was for Rayne to come in and start mending some bridges, if he could.

Silently he slipped out of the room, leaving Clint sobbing quietly on Rayne’s bed. He didn’t even get all the way down the hall to the lounge before Rayne was headed his way. Xav didn’t even want to look at him he felt so bad, but Rayne was looking a little lost himself.

“Well, now what?” his lover asked him anxiously.

Xavier kissed him lightly.

“Now you go put your arms around him and tell him everything is going to be alright,” he said very softly in Rayne’s ear.

Rayne’s hands slid either side of Xavier’s face, drawing his head down so that he could kiss the younger man’s blond curls.

“You are truly awesome, did anyone ever tell you that?” he whispered as he let him back up. Before Xavier could say anything, he added; “There are cops all over the living room, Matty’s dealing with them. They’ll probably want to talk to you as well though.”

Xav nodded and gave him another kiss and a smile before letting him go. He stopped him again though as he thought of something else, putting a hand on Rayne’s arm for a moment and speaking very quietly.

Ray, when Clint was telling me what happened I could tell he was…” Xav paused, shook his head sadly. “There are things he wouldn’t tell me, you know? But I could feel it. I don’t think he’s ready to talk about that, might not ever be…I didn’t push him on it. Just thought you should know.”

Rayne nodded his understanding and looking solemn he went off down the hall. Xavier watched him go until he slipped into the bedroom, then took a deep breath.

The front door of was open and cops were milling around, coming in and out. Xavier didn’t really want to get any closer but he felt almost drawn toward the controlled chaos. He could hear Matt Greening before he even turned into the lounge. Standing in the midst of a slew of cops he was alternately barking orders and giving directions as if they were his personal servants, in between answering questions smoothly and deftly buttering up the pair of plain clothes detectives doing the asking.

Xavier couldn’t help a small smile as he came into the room and watched him for a moment. He could see very well why Matt Greening had been such a good manager for so many years, he did do well in a crisis.

His smile vanished though when his eyes fell on Carlsen’s body. It was the first time he’d really looked at the man, although he almost felt he knew him, he’d been in his dreams so often. The tall powerfully built body was familiar, as was the long coat and his short cropped hair. Only his face had remained a question mark. He had feared this man that haunted his nightmares like a child fears monsters under the bed, and in the end he was a monster after all. He had thought he might feel something seeing his face finally, but he didn’t feel anything looking at his dead staring eyes. Nothing.

‘ey, who are you?”

One of the cops had finally noticed Xavier and he was swiftly ushered away from the body and over to where Matt stood with the detectives for his own round of questioning. Fortunately he didn’t have much to tell them, only that he had heard the crazy guy screaming that he was going to kill Clint; break his neck; before he was shot. Xavier liked cops even less than he liked doctors and that was saying something. He behaved though, and stayed polite while they asked him the same question three different ways before letting him off the hook.

Matt was giving him a satisfied look, like he’d passed some kind of test. He had in a way. He’d deftly answered all their questions without revealing anything important, without slipping up, and most importantly without seeming like he was avoiding anything. Well, what did he expect? How exactly would Xav have been able to explain how he had pulled an arrow from Matt’s chest when he was standing right there looking whole and just fine?

“Good show,” Matty said under his breath once the police had grown bored of quizzing him. He was still watching impassively as the SOCO team strapped Carlsen’s body onto a waiting gurney and covered his face with a green tarpaulin sheet. “I think the Oscar is yours, lover! In fact we all deserve an award after this.”

He flashed a patently false smile at Halliday who was talking to one of the uniformed officers over by the door. Moments later the Inspector wandered over to speak to them.

“I think the lab rats are done, Greening,” he said in a grim tone. “Uniform wants to see the boy and someone from the watchdog will probably want to talk to you all again at some point but we’ll let you clear up now.” He lowered his voice; “Thanks again for… well, you know.”

“Always happy to help, D.I. Halliday,” Matty murmured with a little bat of his eyelashes. “It’s nice to know that there’s always a well-armed, tame copper parked up not too far from the house. I think we owe you.”

“Yeah… well…” Halliday said again, clearing his throat and letting his eyes wander speculatively to Xavier once again. “Is Rayne all right?”

Xavier’s head tilted slightly, his expression just as speculative as the other man’s as he gazed back at him.

Yeah, he’s okay,” he answered. At least, he felt Rayne was holding up pretty well at the moment. He wouldn’t vouch for later.

The detective held his gaze for a few moments more, as if he might want to ask something else. Xav kept his mouth shut and it was fairly obvious his guard was up, although that could just be the tension of seeing a man shot and killed.

His ‘blank’ face was not helped by the fact that Matty had slipped behind the detective and started making kissy faces when he asked about Rayne, adding fuel to his earlier feeling that there was some history to their relationship. It was something else to add to the running tally of things he needed to discuss with his lover once they were finally alone together.

RAY & CLINT

When Rayne slipped quietly back into the bedroom, Clint had managed to control his tears but he was still scrubbing at his wet cheeks to try and hide the evidence as he sat up at the sound of the door. He kept his head lowered as Rayne came to sit on the edge of the mattress beside him but the little sniffs he tried to keep quiet were still enough of a give-away. Even without vampiric senses Rayne was sure he would have felt that the boy was desperately unhappy.

In that instant he thought he maybe understood a little how difficult it had been for his own father to reach out to him. He could feel that Clint was trying to be brave and that he was putting up his own walls to keep him at arms’ reach. As a boy Rayne had not even known he was doing it but with some 30 years’ hindsight he figured he’d probably been a bit hard to reach himself.

He took Xavier’s advice to heart though. His mate had been the one to click with Clint since they came back to London, but it was not Xavier’s job to be a comfort to the kid. That burden fell to him alone. Tentatively he reached out and put a hand on the boy’s shoulder then, when it was not shrugged off automatically, let it slip across to the other shoulder so that he could draw Clint a bit nearer.

“Hey?” he said softly, when the lad still would not meet his eyes. “What’s the matter? You’ve got through the tough bit. You’re safe now. It’s okay. It’s all over.”

Red-rimmed, golden eyes slid up to meet his own almost shyly now, then darted away. Clint rubbed his nose on the back of his hand and Rayne wished briefly that he was the kind of organised parent that came armed with a pocket full of tissues.

“Should I get you some loo roll or something?” he asked warily.

Clint shook his head. “No… don’t go. I’ll be okay. I’m just… I’m just being stupid, aren’t I?”

“No.” Rayne let the smile creep into his words. “We all need to let it go sometimes. You had a bad experience. It’s kind of understandable.”

“I bet you wouldn’t have cried like a girl though,” Clint sniffed, running his hands anxiously through his damp hair.

“You’d be surprised,” Rayne chuckled. “No one’s that tough, kiddo. He freaked me out a bit too. When I thought he might have hurt you…”

He stopped and drew his lower lip between his teeth as Clint looked up at him, suddenly curious. The boy did not look away this time.

“You were worried about me?” He did not sound too certain. “Xavier said you were. I thought he was just trying to make me feel better.”

That was kind of a kick in the shin, but Rayne tried not to let it show on his face. He shrugged a little.

“I’ve not been the greatest dad to you, Clint,” he admitted now. “Let’s face it, I’ve not really been any kind of dad to you, have I?”

Clint shrugged awkwardly; “You were busy, I guess I understand. I know you never meant it to be nasty, but it would have been nice to be able to tell people who my dad was when I was growing up. To tell them without having them laugh in my face about it anyway.”

“Yeah, but it would have been hard for you anyway, having me for a dad. I struggle to put up with the crap I have to take sometimes. I’m glad you’ve never had to, but don’t think that means I’m glad I never had to be there for you. I did try, at first.” Rayne shifted around to face him, pulling one foot up underneath him and keeping his balance with his right hand still on Clint’s shoulder.

“Did you?” The boy looked sceptical now.

“Yeah.” Rayne managed a crooked smile. “I didn’t find out Chloe was pregnant until you were almost due. We’d been in Australia and the Far East for a couple of months promoting the last album and when I got back her friend, Angel came to see me. She told me all about it, said that your grandad had gone ballistic about it, ‘specially when he found out it was too late for her to get rid.”

Clint’s expression darkened and Rayne held his hands up right away. “No! Look, she never wanted to get rid of you, Clint. That was just her mum and dad talking. She always wanted you, right from the first moment she knew.”

Rayne put both hands on his son’s shoulders now, squeezing gently there. Clint was looking down at his hands, biting his lips again, fighting tears.

“I know Angel,” Clint said quietly at last. “I went looking for her. Mum had pictures of her and I knew she lived near my gran and grandad. She’s got a place near here now. Angel always said that mum loved me more than anything. She never said much about you though, just that mum was really hung up on you.”

Rayne nodded slowly. “Chloe and Angel were always on the doorstep. Me and Matty lived up in Kilburn when the band was first getting going and they must have been little girls then, but they knew we’d lived up there and they were always asking why didn’t we move back to Kilburn then they’d not have to come so far to stalk me.”

He laughed quietly at that memory. A lot of young girls, and boys, camped out on the steps of the flat he had once inhabited up near Westbourne Grove. After Clint accidentally torched the place he had moved out and they had been more careful about the new address but the faithful still managed to trace him.

“Are you calling my mum a stalker?” Clint asked him icily.

“No, sweetheart. It was a joke. She wasn’t… like some of them. Her and Angel were a good laugh, we didn’t mind hanging out with them sometimes.” Rayne held his eyes, refusing to look away. If he was evasive now Clint would never believe anything he said.

“Did you know she was only fifteen?” Clint asked him, more seriously.

Rayne hesitated just for a moment, then he nodded, opting for the truth. “She was nearly sixteen the first time we did anything serious. And I never forced her into anything she didn’t want, Clint. That’s not my style. I really liked her, but I’d have been just as happy to wait for a few more months.”

“Why didn’t you then?” Clint looked at him suspiciously.

“Because it wouldn’t have made any difference,” Rayne told him honestly. “Clint, if we’d gone away before I got your mum pregnant the likelihood is that you’d probably never have happened. I’m not gonna pretend that we had some big romance, your mum and me. I liked her a lot but I never had any plans to settle down. What happened… well, it just happened. And I wanted to make sure that she was alright, but your grandad didn’t like the idea of me being around. Once they found out that I was your dad, well… things got a bit nasty to be honest. Your grandad started playing hardball and SOLD, my record label brought the solicitors in. They hashed out a deal and basically it meant I paid for your upbringing but I stayed the fuck away.”

He lowered his eyes now, jaw set. The memory was not a fond one and he took no pride in admitting it, but it was the truth, at the end of the day.

“They told you to fuck off and so you just did?” Clint shook his head. “Why?”

Rayne’s eyes closed. He bit down on his lips for a moment then took a deep breath. “Your grandad could have made a fuss about… about Chloe being underage. I could have gone down for it. Neither of us wanted it to happen that way but it got taken out of our hands.”

“Bollocks!” Clint interjected forcefully. “That’s just bollocks, and you know it. You were rich, you could have just taken her and gone off somewhere…”

“I couldn’t do that,” Rayne’s head came up and his pale eyes glistened dangerously. “Clint, the fucking press camped out on my doorstep. I couldn’t take a shit without it being in the fucking tabloids the next morning! They’d have a field day with me abducting an underage girl. A pregnant underage girl at that! And some fucker with a grudge would have taken it out on me if the police didn’t knock on my door first. I was scared!”

“You were a coward,” Clint flashed back at him.

“Yeah!” Rayne half-laughed, half-choked. “Yeah, I was a fuckin’ coward, but I learned before I was your age that keeping your mouth shut and your head down keeps you alive. And all my life I’ve been surrounded by people telling me what was best for me. I had no idea how to be with someone, to get a normal job, bring up a kid. I let them tell me what was best and I went with it because I didn’t have any smarter ideas. But I never said I liked any of it.”

“Oh well… that’s all right then!” Clint retaliated, sitting back with a totally incredulous sneer.

For a second they faced off in absolute silence. Then Rayne held his hands up.

“Okay… I fucked this up, just like I always manage to fuck up everything. I wanted to try and make amends but if all you want is a fight…”

“You don’t want to make amends, you just want to feel sorry for yourself!” Clint tried to stay cool but the words were shaking in his mouth. He put a hand to his lips, checking the rising sob.

“Tell me what you want!” Rayne could feel his temper rising and he struggled to contain it. This was not how he had planned for things to go but there was no putting the genie back in the bottle now. “Just tell me!”

“I don’t want anything from you,” Clint flashed back, defensively. He moved to his feet suddenly as there was a tap at the door.

They both turned towards it at once. As Matty put his head around the door Rayne said; “Not now!”

“The police want to talk to Clint,” his Fledge ventured apologetically.

“Tell them to wait!”

“Matt, it doesn’t matter. I’m ready,” Clint said at the same time.

“No… we’re not done here yet,” Rayne stood up, confronting him.

“Yeah, we are.” The boy glowered at him determinedly. “I’m not gonna drop you in it. I’ll stick to Xav’s story because I like him, even if he’s stupid enough to put up with you, but once this is sorted out I don’t want nothing more from you. Okay?”

“No. That’s not okay,” Rayne caught his arms as he tried to push past and shoved him back into the room. “You can’t just barge back into my life and turn everything on its head then walk away. You came here for something…”

“I came here to try and find out if I had a dad. I found out I don’t. You killed my mum, just as much as if you’d stuck a knife in her yourself. She loved you and you didn’t do fuck all for her! And you’re not even sorry!” Clint was crying, even as he shouted this last. “I wish you’d died. I wish she was still here and I fuckin’ hate all of you!”

He shoved back and this time Rayne didn’t try to stop him. Matt caught Clint’s arm as he pushed his way out of the room, exerting a subtle soothing influence even as they disappeared back down the corridor. The look on his face as he departed said; I told you this would happen.

Rayne kicked the door shut and dropped to the floor with his head in his hands, fighting the furious tears that streamed between his fingers. By the time he heard Xavier’s hand on the doorknob he was almost composed enough to lie.

XAV & RAY

When Matt Greening returned from the bedroom with Clinton, he and the boy were taken through into Rayne’s music room to be questioned by a pair of the uniformed policemen, as Xavier had been earlier. When Rayne did not join them, Xavier went back to the bedroom in search of him.

He found his mate still sitting on the edge of the bed wearing a pensive expression.

Xav slid down next to him and put his chin on Rayne’s shoulder. “So, how did it go?”

His mate turned to kiss his nose softly. “Not sure. He was kind of quiet. We talked about his mum, more than anything. He didn’t say much about what that cunt did to him but… yeah. I think you might be right. There’s something there, just behind his eyes. And I don’t wanna think about it too much because then I’ll want to kill the fucker all over again.”

He was physically calm but the anger simmered in his pale gaze and he was digging his fingernails into his palms irritably.

Xavier didn’t try and stop him hurting himself, he knew it was his way of keeping a lid on his control right now. He did place a comforting arm around him and kissed his cheek though.

I know what you mean. That’s why I was wishing he wasn’t already dead earlier. He didn’t deserve quick and clean, he should have died slow and painful for what he did to Clint… and to you.”

Rayne fixed him with a quizzical  look, as if he wasn’t quite sure his lover was serious about being that vindictive, not that it wasn’t understandable. The soft sound of a throat being cleared brought Xavier’s attention up to the door where Jamie Halliday was now standing looking in at them.

“Wylde,” the detective said in an undertone that he knew the little vampire would hear. “Please tell me that I did not just walk into some vampire-feud-type execution situation back there. I am not a private eliminator for you guys and your internecine problems.”

Rayne did not pull away from Xavier’s embrace but he rolled his eyes a little at the comment.

“That’s not what happened, Jamie.”

“You knew who that fucker was, didn’t you?” Halliday looked narrowly at him.

Rayne nodded just the once.

“And you didn’t tell the uniform boys that story?”

“Do you tell the blues & twos all your secrets, Jamie?” Rayne asked him sarcastically. “Believe me, the less they actually know about this, the better it is for us and for them.”

“Just tell me there won’t be repercussions? No one is going to come looking for that guy?” Halliday was serious now.

“Not in the way that you’re worried about,” Rayne said with a shake of his head. He pulled Xavier against him as much for his own comfort as his lover’s. “There’s no anti-vampire death squad on my trail as far as I can tell. Carlsen worked on his own.”

“You’re sure about that?” The detective moved into the room now and closed the door but he did not come closer.

“As sure as I can be, yeah,” Rayne answered.

Jamie’s eyes moved from Rayne to his companion. Xav thought he gave pretty good cop stare, but Xavier just stared back coolly.

“And where does he fit in?” Halliday asked.

“Right now? Wherever he feels most comfortable,” Rayne answered with a little shrug of his shoulders. “Why don’t you ask him?”

Jamie Halliday sighed and raised an enquiring eyebrow in Xavier’s direction.

Xavier didn’t say anything for a few moments and then carefully asked, “What do you want to know?”

You’re American?”

A small smile flicked across Xav’s lips. “How’d you guess?”

Jamie ignored that. “Did you know the Hunter?”

Are you asking as a cop, or are you just curious?”

Are you going to answer every question with a question?”

Am I being interrogated, again?”

Halliday wiped a quick frustrated hand over his eyes. “Just answer the question. Did you know him?”

Xavier hesitated, then finally answered. “Not personally, no. I only knew him as someone who’d done some fucked up shit. And before you ask, no, I didn’t know he was trying to hunt down Rayne.” Which was true, he hadn’t exactly known…although he had been sort of forewarned, hadn’t he?

When and where did you meet Rayne?”

Is that relevant?”

Halliday’s frustration with him was starting to edge over slightly into anger. “If I ask it, yeah, it’s relevant. Why are you avoiding my questions?”

I don’t like cops.” Xavier answer flatly.

When and where did you meet Rayne?” Jamie asked again, taking another couple steps into the room.

Xavier became very still. The cop wasn’t exactly looming and Xav wasn’t exactly standing off with him but there was a sudden tension in the air.

In San Francisco… um, a few months ago.” Xav was a little startled because he wasn’t sure exactly how long ago it had been. It felt like ages ago.

He didn’t have anything to do with this Jamie.” Rayne finally broke in. “I wasn’t with Xavier when I met Carlsen, he wasn’t even in the same country.”

“Am I asking you questions, Wylde?” The detective narrowed his eyes warily at Rayne, who shook his head at once.

“No, but you’re putting my better half under pressure when he’s really got nothing to do with this aside from being here when it all kicked off,” he said defiantly. “You’re blowing all those brownie points you got for saving my kid’s life, Jamie.”

“And that’s another thing, I thought he was under a supervision order and not supposed to come within half a mile of you?” Halliday was clearly not about to let go.

“I think that’s my problem, not yours,” Rayne answered carefully. His arm stayed around Xavier’s shoulders quite firmly though.

Some of the stiffness went out of Xavier’s back and he suddenly felt ridiculously warm and melty inside from Rayne calling him his better half. He would have rolled his eyes and laughed at himself if he didn’t think Halliday would have taken it wrong. Instead he put a bit of effort into diffusing the situation.

“Clint didn’t exactly have a choice coming here. He was scared shitless and didn’t know what else to do. I’d say that should give him a by.”

“Heheh!” Halliday chuckled, his demeanour suddenly mellowing in the face of their united front. “So it’s finally happened has it? Rayne Wylde’s found a mate to melt his granite heart and decided to settle down and play happy families! Now I’ve heard it all.”

“Don’t feel too bad, you never stood a chance in that horserace!” Rayne reminded him coolly. “And I’ve got a bit of flint left to chisel away at, don’t you worry!”

Now Xavier did roll his eyes at the two of them. He wondered how many more times he was going to have to go through a similar scene of shock and exclamations of the impossible finally happening.

“Oh, well, you know it was a struggle to get those shackles on him and it took just forever for him to write off his wicked ways, but now we’re planning a June wedding and already have the china pattern picked and everything.” Xav said in a swishy simper that somehow captured a bit of Dominic’s cultured tones.

Rayne’s hand slid up his back to the nape of his neck then lifted and clipped him smartly around the back of the head.

Ow!” Xav grumbled.

“Enough, already!” Rayne proclaimed in a bored tone. “Jamie, I know someone was shot dead about an hour ago but can you get all these cops the fuck out of my house, please?”

“We’re nearly done,” Halliday nodded, turning towards the doorway into the hall. “They’re talking to the boy now and then we can go. Nothing else to do.”

“They’re done with him.” That was Matty who came in from the hallway now with a weary little smile. “Thank you Detective Halliday! Thank you for helping to save my life again!”

He wrapped his arms around Jamie and gave the startled copper a massively shameless kiss. Halliday wormed free, his face turning scarlet.

“Jesus, Greening! You get worse!”

True to his word within the next few minutes the last of the cops and clean up crew were packing it in and heading out. A very short time after that Jamie and his partner were gone as well and finally they were left to themselves.

CLINTON

In spite of his misgivings, Clint stuck to the script when the cops took him into the little music room across the hallway and gave him the tenth degree. He knew well enough without all the lectures what would happen if he started spouting off about vampires and all that crap. The police had ordered a psychiatric evaluation last time they removed him from one of Rayne’s houses. They’d shut him away if they thought he believed in the Undead into the bargain.

He answered the questions as straightforwardly as he knew how. One of the uniforms asked about the restraining order and wanted to know where he was going next so he told them he was staying with his Auntie, a lie that always seemed to scope out without arousing too much suspicion. As they were grilling him he spotted his hoodie and Matt Greening’s mobile phone sitting on top of the piano. When Greening rose to get the door for the cops at the end of his interview, he slid the black top on over his borrowed t shirt and jeans and stuffed the expensive little phone into one of the pockets. He was just about to slip out unchecked when he also caught sight of something small and pink and slightly scruffy sticking up from behind the polished black wood of the upright Bosendorfer. He snaked his fingers over the top of the piano and retrieved Cleo discreetly with a soft purr of relief. He pushed the little plush hippo into the other pocket and vanished down the hallway whilst Matt was still teasing the policemen.

Once he was out into the slightly damp, autumn night, he felt better. Another argument was more than he could stand right now. He’d been stupid to even imagine that Rayne wanted anything more out of him than an alibi. It hurt to think that Xavier might have just been playing him as well though. Clint had thought better of the American. He seemed genuinely decent.

Huddling in a doorway on Portobello Road, he pulled Cleo out of his pocket and pressed her soft, pink plush to his nose. She had gotten a bit grubby since Rayne shoved her into his hands but he could still just about feel the slight traces of his biological father on her man-made fur. Clint closed his eyes on the tears that trickled down his pale face anyway. The light pressure of Rayne’s arm around his shoulders was still a physical memory and he sank down until he was crouching in the shadows, alone and unnoticed, and finally able to cry out the sudden, shocking emptiness in his heart where all his dreams had lived.

Back at the apartment his absence was just being discovered.

“Where’s Clint?” Xavier asked, pulling his head back out of the empty music room.

“He was in there,” Matty said, with a little shake of his head. “Did he go back through to the bedroom. He seemed a bit… quiet. I dunno, when the cops were talking to him, he just wasn’t… He behaved himself.”

“Shit!” Rayne exhaled under his breath. He did a quick circuit of the apartment but his face when he returned to the living room said he wasn’t expecting to find anyone.”

“He can’t have gone far. Let’s see if we can find him.” Xav suggested, pulling a jacket on.

Matt didn’t look thrilled with that idea but he kept his mouth shut for once. Unfortunately none of them were expecting what awaited them outside the building.

Somehow the media had got wind of the fact that there had been a shooting, and that it had happened in a rather famous singer’s living room. Xav was out the door first with Rayne just behind him and Matt bringing up the rear. Xav stopped dead at the unexpected flash of camera lights going off in his face and an excited barrage of questions all coming at once.

“Awwww… Christ!” Rayne exhaled, almost pulling a 360 at the ballistic display of flashlights. “No… not now!”

Someone shoved a microphone in his face and a skinny peroxide blonde in a tight, lime green skirt suit bellowed; “Rayne! Rayne! Can you confirm that a man was shot dead in your apartment this evening?”

He shook his head incredulously. Then Matt shimmied into the camera range and gave him a little push that sent him into Xavier’s orbit. Rayne caught hold of Xav so they both didn’t fall down the steps and a million cameras snapped into life.

Xav blinked as the evening gloom was suddenly lit up with strobing flashes and Rayne put his arm around him to try and steer him back inside as Matt started fielding questions with curt ‘no comment’s and assurances that nothing was amiss.

Sensing that they weren’t about to get much before their quarry made an escape a few of the reporters tried to redirect their line of questioning.

What’s your name?” asked one reporter, snaking an arm behind Matt and shoving a mic in Xav’s face.

Rayne! Rayne, who’s that with you?” another asked suddenly from the other side.

The singer hesitated, caught between the desire to get out of the press pack scrum and protect Xavier from it and the irritable urge to just push them all out of the way and find his son. His arm tightened a little around his mate’s shoulders.

“Come on, guys. Give us a bit of space, please,” he shouted to be heard above the chaos. “It’s been a long night and it’s not over yet.”

He spotted a cab on the far side of the street and gently nudged Xav towards it, sticking close to him and leaning forward to murmur in his ear; “Hasn’t been this mad for years, sorry! The press in this country can smell trouble a mile away!”

Xav seemed to come out of his bemusement then and moved forward, heading toward the cab at Rayne’s urging. Xavier didn’t quite know how to deal with all the reporters and cameras, he was trying to be polite and not shove but that tactic wasn’t getting them very far and finally he realised he just needed to put his head down and push his way through which is what he did with Rayne nearly wrapped around him.

They managed to clamber into the back together and slam the door, shutting out some of the noise.

“Jesus!” Xavier exhaled. “How are we going to find him through this mess?”

“Awright mate,” the driver chirped, slamming his cab into gear and accelerating his way out of the scrum of pressmen. “This is what you was worried about when you got ‘ere, I take it? Where to now, ladies?”

“Have you been waiting for the last couple of hours?” Rayne asked incredulously, still peering over his shoulder at the retreating gaggle of reporters and photographers engulfing Matt’s shrinking form.

“I popped back a couple of times, figured things might get int’resting,” the cabbie remarked. “Looks like I was right. Press turned up about five minutes after the cops and the ambulance.”

Xavier asked him; “Did you see a kid come out, about my height, all in black?”

“No, mate. Sorry,” the driver shook his head. “You was the first ones I spotted leaving the house.”

“Damn it!” Xav muttered, wondering how they were ever going to find the kid. “He couldn’t have gone far.” He finally said, looking over at Rayne and lowering his voice. “Can you feel him like you can me? Could you track him?”

“I could have tracked him from the house,” Rayne said, a shade of annoyance creeping into his voice now as he settled beside Xavier on the back seat. “We don’t know which direction he headed in, though. I can feel him in my blood I know he’s still around. That’s all.”

“You want me to drive around a little and see if you can’t spot him? He can’t have got far, yeah?” the cabbie asked helpfully.

“This is London. he could be halfway across the fuckin’ city by now!” Rayne grumbled, but he nodded at last. “Yeah, okay… I’ll give it a try if no one’s got a better idea.”

As Xav seemed to be out of ideas that’s just what they did, driving in a widening rambling circle that didn’t find them any traces of Clint, but did increase their frustration.

At last Rayne tapped on the glass, pulling the cab driver to a halt when they had come around in a virtual circle for the third time with no trace of Clint anywhere. His pale face was as serious as Xavier had ever seen it.

“This is hopeless. I think we’re going to have to divide and conquer. When I was talking to him, Clint mentioned one of his mum’s friends. I know she still lives locally. I’m gonna try and find her, see if she’s seen him,” he declared. “I’m hiring you for the night, mate. You know where I live, send me a bill. Take Xav up to Kilburn, to the old State cinema. He knows the place where Clint used to hang out. Are you okay checking out the squat, sweetheart?” Rayne turned to face Xavier now, touching his cheek with a brave little smile.

Xav nodded and gave him a smile he hoped was reassuring. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. I met some of the guys Clint hangs with there, if I don’t find him they might be able to tell me where else he might have gone.”

Rayne nodded slowly.

“Okay… yeah, that’s good.” He looked up at the cabbie and said; “Stay with him, right. Wait for him and bring him home. I’ll make sure you get paid double.”

“What about you, mate?” the driver asked with a little frown.

“We’ve lost the tabloid element. I’m old and mean enough to look after myself,” Rayne flashed a feral grin. “Besides, I’m closer to home here. I can make my own way back.”

They shared a quick kiss, and then another longer one when neither of them was satisfied with that brief brush of lips, and then Rayne got out and the driver headed up toward Kilburn.

XAVIER

Xav asked the cabbie to stop a few blocks from the old theatre and wait for him there as it would look kind of funny to have the cab hanging around right in front of the place. He slipped up the alleyway to the rear of the building, through the cut in the fencing, and in the back door without any problems.

Once inside he paused, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness before he made his way down the hall. It was quiet here but he could hear music from deeper in the building and he followed it toward the main auditorium where Clint had stayed to party with his friends the first time he’d brought Xavier here.

He hung back in the shadows as he got closer, the stale smell of cigarettes, spilled alcohol and reefer hung heavy in the air. A small group of mostly younger people were sitting around in the seats, talking, laughing and drinking. Xavier was trying to unobtrusively look at faces, hoping he recognised someone from his last visit when he heard a step behind him and turned. He knew the boy’s face and searched his memory for the name that went with it, but the boy beat him too it.

Spence,” he supplied, guessing Xav’s problem. “An’ you’re Clint’s mate, yeah?”

Xav gave him a relieved little smile. “Yeah. You seen him? I was hoping I’d find him here.”

The lad shook his head ruefully. “‘aven’t seen him for a few days come to think of it. He goes walkabout sometimes but not normally for more than a day or so. He’s a bit OCD, you know what I mean? Likes his routines, does Easter.”

“Yeah, I know. Look, he got himself in a bit of trouble, and I’m pretty sure it’s taken care of now but I’m worried about him, you know? You don’t know where he might have gone off to do you?”

Spence shrugged cautiously, looking around as if he was wary of being overheard. “Does he owe you money, man? He ain’t got no money, no matter what kind of stories he spins you ’bout his old man being loaded and him being able to pay you back. Don’t pay that no matter, man.”

Xav cracked a grin in spite of himself. “I look like a need to shake down a kid dude? I ain’t gonna cause him any grief, I swear. He’s a little messed up in the head, but he’s a good kid. I’m just trying to look out for him.”

The boy looked him up and down suspiciously like he’d heard men say stuff like that before and had a good idea what the subtext might be. Xav seemed like a cool enough guy on the surface of it but Spence knew better than to trust first impressions.

“He didn’t say nothin’ ’bout clearing out,” he ventured warily at last. “His gear’s still up the stairs where he normally dosses down, right. But I ain’t seen him here for at least three days. He usually goes down Leicester Square to work the movie crowds and scrounge off the restaurants. Somebody there might have seen him.”

Xav debated for a silent moment whether he should ask the guy to give Clint a message or not. “Look, I know what it looks like, and I know nothing I say is going to make you trust me ’cause if I was you I wouldn’t trust me… but, I really am worried about him. If you see him, tell him…” He stopped for a second, changing what he was going to say. “Tell him his dad’s looking for him and wants to talk to him, okay?”

Spence squinted at him curiously now. Clearly he was one of the gang who had been privy to Clint’s secret and viewed it with the same level of scepticism the revelation met elsewhere.

“You know his dad?” he said carefully. “Like, the bloke exists?”

“What, you think he hatched outta an egg or somethin’?” Xav said, and shook his head. “Just tell him ok? You don’t have to believe nothin’, Clint knows the truth and so do I.”

“Whatever,” Spence managed a half smile. “So, you gonna come back and give us some more lessons in tha dance moves then, man?”

Xav lifted a shoulder and gave him a little smile back. “Maybe. Gotta see how things turn out,” he said, not keen on making any promises. “I gotta go, see ya.”

Xav slipped away from Spence and headed back toward the rear exit, but he stopped before he got there, wondering if he should go upstairs instead and collect Clint’s stuff. If they didn’t find him tonight it might force him to come back when he discovered it was gone. Two things decided him against it.. One was that if someone else saw him taking Clint’s stuff they might not see it the same as Xav, and two, Clint might be stubborn enough not to come get it back and then he might get desperate. There was nothing worse then being desperate on the street.

No, Xav decided, he’d leave it alone and if Clint did come back they could pick his shit up later.

Funny how stopping to think about something could sometimes change the whole course of a night. Xavier had paused for just a few moments before turning down the hall that led to the back door, and while he stood there in the darkness two people came walking up that same hall, laughing and horsing around. He would have walked straight into them had he not stopped for a second.. No big deal to run into someone coming in on his way out, except he recognised these men from his last outing with Clint too. One of them was still wearing his jacket.

Xav stood there, frozen to the spot, as they passed him by without seeing him. His heart was thumping in his chest. Not with fear, but an adrenaline fuelled anger that demanded he jump out there and give back some of what he’d got from them. Fortunately preservation instinct kicked in before he could actually act on this.

The wound to his pride went pretty deep as he waited until they were gone and he felt more than a little cowardly as he slunk back down the hall and out of the building. He was still burning with it when he got back into the cab and told the driver he wanted to go to Leicester Square before heading home.

The cab parked up again and Xavier got out. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped as the evening got later and Xavier stuffed his hands in his pockets and wished he had dressed a bit warmer as he walked past the benches on the brightly lit walkways. For a few moments he almost forgot about Clint as he passed restaurants with delicious smells wafting from warm interiors and his belly reminded him it had been some time since he’d put anything in it.

He ignored the hunger pangs resolutely and continued on, although he really didn’t have much hope of simply running into Clint. Even a few trips down narrow side alleys toward the back of the restaurants yielded no results. He’d caught sight of one skinny dark haired teen and had a brief flare of hope only to find it wasn’t Clint after all.

After wandering around freezing his balls off for a few hours it started to drizzle then seriously rain. After resolutely pressing on and getting soaked to the bone, his mounting frustration, empty stomach, and shivering cold finally forced him to give up on any hope of spotting Clint.

By the time he got back to the car he was drenched and numb with cold, grateful for the heat of the cab. It was the first time he’d missed the warmth of his California home, and it was only early fall!

No luck, mate?” the cabbie asked as Xav slid into the backseat shivering and teeth chattering.

Fuckin’ kid isn’t anywhere.” Xav grumbled. “Little shit has probably found somewhere nice and dry and warm to hole up while I’m out here gettin soaked and freezing my ass off. I give up, just take me home.”

Xav brooded all the way back to the flat. Despite the heat in the cab he still felt wet, cold, and miserable and his mood was not improved by the realisation that a few determined reporters were still lingering outside even given the less than pleasant weather. He supposed they were used to it.

It felt weird not to hand over any cash to the driver as he got out but the cabbie waved him off, knowing Rayne would take care of him.

Xav kept his head down and hustled through the small gaggle of reporters and got as quickly as possible into the flat, wanting nothing more than to get a hot shower and dry clothes.

The living room was refreshingly empty of dead maniacs and cops but there was still an atmosphere that lingered and wouldn’t quite stop making his skin prickle. Matt Greening looked up from the edge of the lounger as he walked into the room, though he must have heard the door. The younger vampire looked uncharacteristically downbeat too and smiled wanly when he saw that Xav was alone.

“Ah… it’s you. You okay?” he asked in a dull monotone, hugging himself a little.

“I’m spectacular.” Xavier said, peeling off his sodden hoodie and toeing off his squishy shoes. He walked through into the kitchen without stopping, not really in the mood for conversation.

One saving grace was that the chicken soup Dominic had made before they had left had been neatly stored away in the freezer and only required Xav to dump it into a pan to heat on the stove.

He went back into the lounge and saw Matt hadn’t moved. He also took more notice of something he’d only been aware of on the periphery since he’d walked in. There was a faint coppery-iron odor in the room, and Xav saw there was a dark stain on the floor boards.

“Jesus, Matt. You couldn’t wipe that up?” Xav grumbled, turning back around to the kitchen to look for cleaning supplies in the cabinet and trying not to think of how he’d rather be doing just about anything than scrubbing blood off the floor. At least, he hoped it was just blood. Eww!

His mood plummeting by the moment he filled a pail half full of water and lemony disinfectant and returned to the lounge with some old rags he’d found. Without a word he angrily started mopping up, still dressed in his saturated clothes.

Matt’s dark chocolate eyes never left him. The ruby gleam was gone now but he watched Xavier and licked his fangs slowly as the young man knelt down to try and expunge the dark seepage from the pale wood grain in the middle of the floor. A slow shudder ran through him and he wrapped long, thin, pale fingers around his skinny upper arms, rocking slowly as he stared at the boy.

“Ray’s not with you?” he whispered, though he knew the answer as well as Xavier did.

“Do you fuckin’ see him? No!” he snapped peevishly. “He went to look one way and I went another to check out one of Clint’s hang outs and, before you come up with another brilliantly obvious question, no. Clint wasn’t there. I’ll tell you who was there though, two of the motherfuckers who jumped me in that goddamned alley.” Xav seethed, throwing the now dirty rags into the wash water and getting up.

“I’m going to take a fuckin’ shower,” he growled as he pulled off his wet tee shirt and stomped angrily out of the room.

Almost as soon as he was past the doorway he was sorry he was taking his anger out on Matt, but he was fuming and felt sick inside and couldn’t seem to stop himself from letting it spill over onto the nearest target.

He sensed Matt before he felt the vampire’s hands on his skin through the prickle of the blazingly hot water that cascaded from the shower rose. His lover’s Fledge came to him, naked and with a fire in his dark eyes that was not entirely bloodlust and not entirely passion. His fingers locked around Xavier’s wrists and slammed him back against the wall of the shower cubicle in Rayne’s en-suite. Cold lips caressed his throat and he felt the prick of Matt’s extended fangs on his skin, but no more.

“Share blood with me,” Matty whispered, his voice hot with anger. “Right now that’s all it’ll take, isn’t it? I can feel his blood in your veins. I know he’s shared with you more than once and less than three times or you’d be like we are now. You could go back there and they would not fuck with you. You and I could drain them both. Just say the word and I will let you drink from me.”

Xav stood very still except for the way his chest rose and fell with his quickened breath and his heart beat frantically inside his chest. His head was in such a swirl he didn’t trust himself to speak. A low moan of desire sighed from his lips. It wasn’t exactly a physical desire, although he was a little turned on from the way the tall vamp had pinned him so suddenly, this desire was darker and had more to do with ego than lust. He closed his eyes and bit his bottom lip in an agony of confusion and frustration. There was no denying part of him wanted it, part of him wanted to fall into that siren song of strength and power. He could be Rayne’s equal then, his lover wouldn’t be saddled with worry over him any more…

“Why?” Xavier suddenly asked in a husky whisper. “Why would you want to Turn me?”

Matt’s cool, pierced lips slid along his jawline, up across his cheek. His tongue traced a slow, wet line along Xavier’s lower lip as he whispered; “Who wouldn’t want to be immortal? Powerful? Beautiful like this forever? Do you want other people to fight your battles for you all the time, lover?”

The searching tongue slid into his mouth and Matty kissed him roughly, biting his lips and rubbing against him with undisguised eagerness. Their wet bodies surged together fiercely under the jets of steaming water.

Matt’s words seared into Xavier like a slow acid, churning the seething cauldron of rage and humiliation just below the surface.

A savage and immensely wounded part of him screamed, yes! This was his chance. Matt was right, he didn’t want anyone else fighting his battles. He could go back there and make them pay…not only for what they had done, but for all the times he had been made to feel powerless in the face of someone bigger and stronger who had beaten him or forced him to do things he did not want to do.

He wanted it. The words trembled just behind his lips even as Matt kissed him. Yes! Do it! Give me that power!

He was panting with the fierce desire burning through him that had nothing to do with his stiffening cock. This was seduction of a different sort. And yet… yet he held back as other words came to him, words whispered but no less fierce in their intensity. The only time Rayne had ever said he loved him was to tell him he didn’t think he would love him as much if Xav was like him.

Being a vampire would make him strong and powerful, yes. He would be able to go back there and exact a brutal vengeance all by himself, but once done he could never take it back. Once done he would be changed forever, and only have traded one set of problems for another. Being a vampire did not make one immune to even more powerful creatures, he was well aware, and he might lose something he held even more dear than his mortality.

Matt’s mouth lifted from his own for a moment.

No…” It barely came out as more than a hoarse whisper. “No, don’t.”

Matt stopped kissing him, his lips poised only just above Xavier’s, his hand’s still wrapped tightly around the boy’s wrists.

You want it, I can tell,” he whispered back.

Xavier’s head nodded ever so slightly and he swallowed hard. “I do, but then… he won’t want me any more.”

Matty laughed then, though it was more the kind of sound a person makes when he can’t get enough air into his lungs, a gasping, huffing kind of laughter, one step between mirth and tears. Some of the fierce light faded from his eyes as he touched his mouth to Xavier’s neck, just below the earlobe, whispering; “A time will come when he won’t want you, anyway. Full stop. Get used to that.”

Xavier tensed for the bite but it never came. Matt just pushed him away and when he opened his eyes the cubicle door was open but the vampire had gone.

Xav stood shuddering with one hand against the shower wall and he pressed the other to his mouth to stifle the hurt cry that wanted out. His throat felt choked and his eyes were burning but he forced the emotion down. Matt had hurt him, cut him deeper than he ever wanted the other man to know. The few footholds of happiness and security he’d gained with Rayne out in the country now seemed like just a fantasy, a dream like the ones he used to play out in his head when he was little and he’d imagine he was someone else and didn’t have to go home to a nightmare.

He stood there for a few moments longer under the hot spray of the water and finally turned it off, feeling no more warm than he had when he’d come in the front door. He pulled himself together though, dried off and got dressed.

RAYNE

Rayne had lived in this part of town long enough to know his way around and when the cabbie dropped him at the bottom end of Ladbroke Grove and headed north towards Kilburn with Xavier, he went eastward, winding his way back towards Portobello Road. Angel Harper’s sister Charlotte had a flat over an antique shop there, he remembered. If anyone would know where to find her it was Charlie. They had been a tight knit group of like minded souls back in the 90s, no one had much cash to flash but when someone threw a party or had some largesse to share, the word always got around quickly.

Charlie had been older than Angel and her friend Chloe Radley but the two younger girls liked the kudos of hanging out with Charlie’s boho friends. There were always artists and musicians sitting around and shooting the breeze in the cafes on and around Portobello Road and the famous market drew the hipsters and wannabees like a magnet. Rayne had always loved the laid back environment and as the band grew steadily more and more successful he inched ever closer to actually living in the area.

Charlie Harper was another Kilburn girl who had moved down here around the same time Rayne and Matty did. They hadn’t known one another back in the High Road days but somehow they still gravitated into the same social network. When she opened the door he was taken aback by how little she had changed over the intervening years. Her curves were more pronounced and the thick, oiled, black “bedsprings” of her waist-length hair were even more lush. And that white as a snowstorm smile split the darkness of her handsome face right away at the sight of him.

“Well lookit dis! Miz Rayne Wylde, as I live and breathe. You lookin’ good baby, What brings you to my doorstep this fine night?”

“You look amazing, Charlie. Gorgeous as ever,” he grinned back at her. “I’m looking for your pretty cousin, Angel. I’d heard she still lives around here.”

“She does indeed. And there we was thinkin’ that you was too good to talk to the likes of us no more.” Charlie was teasing him now, he knew.

Rayne shook his head. “I’ve been away.”

“I heared about dat. Some dark and nasty rumours ’bout you being locked up in a hospital in de north. I hope dey was not true.” Her smile waned a little and there was curiosity in those dark, clever eyes now.

“Just rumours,” he lied evenly. “I’ve been in the States, Charlie. Working.”

“I am glad to hear it. My Angelina isn’t in no trouble, is she?”

“Not that I know of.” Rayne hesitated. He knew that there was little on the local grapevine that Charlie wouldn’t hear, especially not when it concerned her sisters, so he decided to get to the point. “I wondered if she’d heard from Chloe’s son. I’d heard they were close… that he sometimes went to see her.”

Charlie leaned in the doorway looking him slowly up and down.

“You taken your time getting around to askin’ ’bout the boy,” she said at last. “He practically a man now, chile. Maybe he don’t want to see you.”

“Maybe not,” Rayne said tersely. “But he’s still my son, I’ve never denied that, Charlie. If I don’t try, then…”

He shrugged and looked at his feet awkwardly, feeling her mellow. Charlie sighed, then stepped back inside and scribbled down a couple of lines of address on her jotter by the door. She pressed the scrap of paper into his hand and said; “is up near the old salesrooms, you know the flats there?”

He nodded his head with a grateful smile. “Thanks Charlie, I owe you.”

“You do,” she agreed. Then leaned forward to kiss his cheek. “Now we even. You go find your boy.”

~-~

Angel lived in a third floor flat off Colville Road. It looked inward over an open square and had a little balcony that was always strewn with flowers and plants, even in winter time. Clint liked coming here, he always felt at home with aunt Angel. She wasn’t really his auntie but she knew his mum better than anyone and he knew that he could always ask her anything about Chloe.

She hadn’t been home when he pressed the buzzer for her flat but he pushed some more buttons until someone buzzed him into the foyer and curled up on the steps leading up to her landing to wait. He was half-asleep when she came back from work and fussing softly over him she roused the boy and hustled him into the apartment. Soon he was snuggled up in a soft, jade and purple throw on her sofa with one of Angel’s many cats warming his cold feet and his nose in a cup of hot chocolate.

“Long time no see,” Angel said, coming to sit at the other end of the sofa with a big mug of tea cupped in her hands. “I thought you went back to the seaside with your gran and gran’pa.”

“I did. Police took me back, but I came home again, soon as I could,” he mumbled into his cup.

“They mus’be worried ’bout you,” she chided gently.

“They don’t care really. They got what they wanted. I was just in their way.” His pretty topaz eyes slid back to meet hers over the rim of the mug and he breathed in the delicious, heady scent of chocolate slowly.

“Is that what you think, Clinton Radley? They got what they wanted, huh? Their little girl… my best friend, dead at 19 and her baby boy left to remind them what they had!” Angel sighed. “Oh, sweet child, you think you were in their way? You were all they had left of her. They must be breaking their hearts over you.”

“Yeah? Well they ‘ad a funny way of showing it,” Clint said grimly. “I didn’t come home for a lecture, Angel.”

“This is not your home, Clinton,” she reminded him, tenderly but with a hint of steel. “I told you that I would be a friend to you, I owe your mum that much. But sometimes it takes a friend to tell you the truth. So, what are you doing back here looking like you’ve shed a thousand tears on my doorstep?”

He lowered the mug, pressing his lips against his cold fingers; still so cold even after the chocolate. He felt chilled to his heart.

“Angel,” he whispered. “Is it true that there’s a gene that makes you want to die?”

“What are you saying, baby?” she exclaimed, shaking her head. “Don’t say things like that to me. Where does that come from?”

“I… I dunno.” Clint could not look at her, he could feel his eyes filling with tears again and it was too hard to look her in the face. “It was something on telly I guess. Something about suicide being… y’know, something you get from your parents and grandparents. And I just wanted to know because… right now I just wanna die, Angel.”

She came to him then and held him in her arms and she was still holding him when the doorbell rang again. For a little while she debated ignoring it. Whoever it was would try again later, for sure. Or just go away.

It was Clint who pushed her towards the hallway. “Go. I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have. It might be important.”

When she pressed the intercom button the voice that crackled up from the pavement was like something from a distant dream; a childhood memory like an old photo, faded and put away in a tin. It brought back some of the things she had been holding at arms length as Clint spoke of his mum; Chloe’s laughter and her own; a more innocent time.

“Angel. It’s Rayne, I really need to talk to you if you’re there.”

She pushed the button and let him in, reluctant to believe that this was a coincidence, yet still half thinking that she was maybe dreaming it. Almost thirteen years had passed since she last spoke to Rayne Wylde, yet here he was on her doorstep. She opened the door and waited for him to come up the stairs.

“You look amazing,” he said as his tired green eyes raked her appreciatively.

“You look… just the same,” she answered, shaking her head. “Fuck! You don’t look no older, not a day. How can you look so good when you did such a…”

Angel turned away and he came to put his arms around her at once. His hands felt cold from the street and she wriggled out of his embrace at once. Maybe when she was a girl, maybe all those years ago she’d have let him comfort her like that but not now.

“You’ve come for him, haven’t you?” she said, looking him squarely in the eye now. “You took your time.”

“That’s what Charlie said,” Rayne answered her with a humourless smile.

Angel rolled her dark eyes incredulously. “You went and bothered my big sister with this?”

“I knew she’d tell me where you lived,” he responded at once, leaning in her hallway as if he was meant to be there. “I take it Clinton’s here then?”

“How did you know?”

He tapped the side of his upturned nose; so like Clint’s little pixie snout that no one could have denied they shared blood. Those eyes were the colour of fresh limes though, not the tarnished golden gaze Clint got from his mum.

“I’m psychic.”

“You’re the reason he was crying on my stairs when I got home?” Angel glared at him, wanting to feel angrier, not understanding why she couldn’t get so mad at him that she shoved him right back down into the hall again.

“Maybe. But he’s the reason I’m here in your hallway, so that evens it up, don’t it?” Rayne said with that infuriating logic that drove them mad, her and Chloe, when they were girls. “May I talk to him, please? Can I speak to my son?”

“Maybe he doesn’t want to speak to you,” Angel told him defensively.

“Maybe he does though.”

Rayne looked up, past her. Angel turned and they both stared at the skinny, shivering figure in the doorway leading into her living room. Clint ran a hand through his tangled hair and took a deep breath. “You came looking for me?”

Rayne nodded just the once.

“Why?” Clint’s eyes glittered with tears again. Rayne bit his lip and looked down.

“Because you were right.”

“About what?” Clint was staring at him, determined not to blink, not to miss a moment.

“I… I’m a coward. I always was. I’ve always been scared,” Rayne said quietly, still unable to lift his head. “I’ve always run away. All my life. When I couldn’t face something I ran away. You were right.”

“So why are you here?” The boy’s lip curled in a half sneer. He was struggling to contain the inevitable disappointment. When Rayne finally admitted the truth, that he wasn’t wanted or even thought of all that much, he would not cry. Clint was adamant about that.

“Because…” Rayne lifted a hand, pushing it into his dark hair and looking up at the same time. His eyes shimmered too, full of emotion, something Clint had never seen in him before. “Because I was wrong. I should have told you I was sorry. I was so sorry, Clinton. I tried to come to her funeral but your grandad wouldn’t have me there. So I went as far away as I could and I tried to pretend that it didn’t matter. And I let other people deal with the situation. And that was wrong. And I’m sorry, I need you to forgive me. If I’m going to be your dad, I need you to forgive me, Clint.”

For a moment Clint forgot to breathe. His hands slid into the pockets of his thin, worn jacket and the fingers of his right hand curled around the softness of Cleo’s little furry body. He squeezed hard and closed his eyes on the tears that came then. He couldn’t talk; just couldn’t.

“Maybe you should give him some time,” Angel said softly at last.

Clint looked up then and they were both staring at her, Rayne a little hopelessly. His own eyes felt like they were burning.

“No,” he said huskily, his gaze moving back to the small, pale, familiar figure that had haunted his dreams since he was a child. “Wait. Just… just… am I getting this right? Do you want to be my dad?”

Rayne stood up straighter now. That sharpness was back in his gaze as he said; “I want to try. I want to be there for you if you need me. I’m not promising that I’ll be any good at it. But I’m willing to give it a go, if you are.”

Angel looked from Rayne to the ashen, tear-streaked face of the little boy she had loved since he was born. She prayed silently for the pair of them that, for Chloe’s sake, they would mend the tear in the fabric of their own broken lives. Maybe they could be good for one another.

Clint deliberated for so long that she almost went to him and shook him. Her hands were reaching up towards his face as he looked back at Rayne and nodded. Instead she pulled him into her arms and kissed his wet cheek, feeling a sudden wash of relief. Rayne came to them as well then, folding his arms around them both and touching his forehead to Clint’s.

“I am so, so sorry,” he said again.

“Sorry never fixes anything,” Clint pointed out sagely for one so young.

“No,” Angel murmured against his cheek. “But it’s a start, baby. It’s a start.”

XAVIER

The reason for Matt’s disappearance was quickly evident when Xavier returned to the living room, following the sound of familiar voices. The tall, blond vamp had his arms around Rayne and was making a fuss of him, expressing relief that he was safe. Clint was leaning in the doorway trying to pretend that he wasn’t phased by the sight of his father getting kissed and pawed by another man, and one who was naked except for a small towel around his midriff.

Xavier was not exactly happy to see it either, and had Clint appeared a half hour ago he might have got the raw side of his temper for making him trudge through the cold and rain looking for him. As it was, Clint got lucky because Xav had far too tight a lid on his emotions right now for anything other than a hint of melancholy to show through.

“You look like you’ve calmed down a bit.” Xav murmured quietly to the boy. “Hungry? I got something on the stove. Don’t worry, I didn’t make it.”

Rayne disentangled himself from Matt firmly and came to him straight away, conscious that something was wrong but not sure of the cause. He put a hand against the small of Xavier’s back and kissed his hair.

“Sorry I was gone so long,” he whispered. “Were you searching for ages?”

“Not that long.” Xav lied. “I poked around at the State a bit,” he said, addressing this to both Rayne and Clint, who had followed them into the kitchen. “And then I had a look around Leicester Square for you,” he continued, giving the youngster a not altogether delighted look.

Clint perched awkwardly on one of the barstools while Xav stirred the soup.

“Who told you to look there?” he wanted to know.

“Spence.”

A small frown appeared on Clint’s face. “I should go grab my gear.”

Xavier’s shoulders went taut with tension but all he said was; “You can go tomorrow, take Rayne with you.”

The boy looked a question at his father. “Is that okay?”

“Sure.” Rayne volunteered a smile and Clint’s expression mirrored it, relief in his eyes. “It’s been a long day. I think maybe we ought to take it easy tonight. You guys need to have something to eat. We could get a film in, maybe? Order a takeaway later?”

Matt was leaning against one of the kitchen units watching this and he added; “Or we could go out. Hit the clubs. I don’t know about you, but – no offence, Clint – I’m still pretty hungry. I’m sure your daddy is too.”

He managed to keep the sarcasm out of his tone but there was a look in his eye that made Clint bristle defensively. Xavier seemed on edge too, but he was unusually quiet, offering no opinion one way or another on that option. If they went out though he doubted he would go with them. He didn’t think it would be a good idea to leave Clint alone tonight for one thing.

Rayne seemed to be mulling it over and Matt grinned at him.

I know the perfect place to go hunting. Right in our old stomping ground actually,” he coaxed.

Rayne looked at him curiously.

Xavier gave Matt a sharp, angry warning glare but Matty just looked back at him with a perfectly benign little smile. Irritation prickled up the back of Xav’s neck. He hadn’t intended to tell Rayne about running into his attackers this evening and he didn’t want Matt bringing it up either.

“‘s all right, sweet cheeks, your secret’s safe with me,” Matt purred, blowing Xav a kiss. Which was as good as saying right out what he wanted to say anyhow. And he knew it.

“What’s going on with you two?” Rayne said with a little frown. “Cos whatever it is, I’m really not in the mood for it tonight.”

Xavier jaw was set so hard you could see the fine muscles there begin to twitch. He almost wished he had left that fucking arrow in Matt’s chest now. He had tried to be nice, tried to overlook some of the mean shit Matt had said because Xav wasn’t the jealous type and he knew Matt had been in Rayne’s life for a long time. It always made things harder if your friends didn’t like your lover, and Xavier hadn’t wanted it to be like that. So, he’d kept silent, and let Matt push and push; but vampire or no, Matthew was about to find out that Xav would only be pushed so far.

It had been a mistake not to stand up for himself with Matt, he realised that now. Some people you just couldn’t be that nice to, or they took it for weakness.

“When I was looking for Clint, up at the State, I saw two of the guys who jumped me,” Xav confessed, furious that he had to; forced into it by Matt’s not so subtle insinuations. “They didn’t see me, and I left before they did,” he went on, and had he still been under the delusion that he might somehow befriend Matt Greening he would have left it right there, but since Matt wanted him to spill his secrets tonight…

“Matt was kind enough to offer to Turn me while he was trying to seduce me in shower.” Xav said with a cynical twist of his lips. “So that I could take care of them myself, and wouldn’t have to keep asking others to fight my battles for me. Isn’t that right, Matt?” Xav got just a tiny bit of satisfaction watching Matt’s brittle smile falter. “Of course, when I said no, he very politely pointed out that it didn’t really matter if he did Turn me because the days are just ticking down until you don’t want me any more anyway,” he spat out.

Rayne listened to all of this in silence, a quietness so very still and profound that if no one in that room had known him well they might have mistaken it for a kind of apathy. His pale face was unreadable as he turned to look at his Fledgling. Matty had ridden his optimism until that final barb but when Xavier opened up about their exchange in the shower his own face fell. He did not need to try and deny it, Rayne knew from his expression that it was true.

Rayne almost wished that it hadn’t been in his heart to believe it before he saw the corroboration in his former lover’s dark eyes but the way that he struggled not to look away, the wilting of his perpetually upbeat smile, it all franked the words that spilled from Xavier’s mouth now. Rayne felt sick and more than that he felt betrayed. The anger in his heart was more than he could deal with right now.

He was not unaware of how much Matty needed and relied on him. The younger vampire was strong willed but he was also a natural submissive and he had to have a dominant partner in his life or his equilibrium was blown. For the past ten years Rayne and he had managed a strangely semi-platonic relationship although he would have denied that they were still lovers. Matty, perhaps, did not yet understand that.

Not yet.

“I think you should go,” Rayne said quietly at last, when Matt offered no denials and no excuses for his behaviour. He did not want to fight, not tonight. He did not have the spirit for it.

“Ray… I didn’t mean it like that,” Matt protested then, comprehending that this placid dismissal was more than it seemed. He knew Rayne better than anyone in this room and had he not realised then and there that their friendship was irretrievably over, Rayne would actually have been disappointed in him.

“I don’t care how you meant it. You had no right to say something like that. You have no fucking right to put words into my mouth and presume that I will or will not do a thing. Certainly not when it involves someone that I care about. Do you understand me?”

He did not shout; did not even raise his voice because he did not have to. Matty dwarfed him physically but in that moment he seemed small. The fear in his eyes was very real now.

“You can’t cut me off,” he protested tremulously. “I’m yours… you Turned me, you Made me. You can’t just cut me off. I was trying to look out for you; for you both.”

He reached out and that was the last indignity Rayne would tolerate tonight. The smaller man did not seem to move but even Clint and Xavier felt him ‘push’ Matt away because they both winced openly.

“Go,” he said grimly, turning his back on his Fledgling. “We will talk about this, but tonight I don’t want to see you, hear you or even think about you. Just get out of my house!”

“I… I need to get my clothes,” Matt faltered, perhaps just then remembering that he was only wearing a towel.

GET OUT!” Rayne screamed at him, turning on the younger vamp in such a fury that Matt simply fled, clothing or no clothing.

At the same time, Clint ran for the corridor to the bedroom and the shock in his young face was palpable even to Xavier, who could not feel the way his heart raced.

“I’ll get his things,” the boy quavered but it was plainly an excuse, any excuse to be out of that room.

Xavier had remained stock still throughout the exchange, he took no satisfaction in it and felt no urge to gloat, he was just sad. He wished in a way that he could take it back, change his mind and keep quiet again just to save the peace and his lover from looking so heartbroken. But even had he been able to, it really wouldn’t have changed much. Matty Greening couldn’t help his jealousy, Xav understood that. He had tried to tolerate the subtle and the not so subtle pokes, but when Matt used him to punish Rayne that was the last straw.

Matt could tell himself all he wanted that his motives were more pure, and that all he’d wanted  to do was help Xav, but Xavier wasn’t stupid. He knew it wouldn’t have made Matty unhappy at all had Xav accepted his advances or if that choice had driven a wedge between him and Rayne, maybe a permanent one.

He moved now to put his arms around Rayne very gently, braced for a violent rebuff that never came.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have told you like that.”

Rayne was impassive but he murmured; “If you hadn’t, he’d have taken great enough pleasure in doing it for you. One way or another we’d have had words, wouldn’t we?”

“I’m still sorry about it.” Xav murmured, moving his hands soothingly over Rayne’s shoulders. “I didn’t want to get between you and him like that, I know you’ve been friends a long time.”

Rayne turned in the circle of his arms, resting his own hands gently on Xavier’s hips as he smiled sadly at the younger man. He seemed unusually tired and even a little bit defeated which he’d never been – not even after Dominic brought him back from Paris with his mind in tatters.

“I’ve known Matt since he was little more than Clint’s age,” he said huskily. “And he’s always needed rescuing. We’ve had a pretty volatile relationship but I guess the simple truth is that I love him; not like a partner, more like a little brother or something. Every time we try and take it further, it gets messy and we wind up having the mother and father of all fights. I feel responsible for him though. I shouldn’t have Turned him but I let him nag me about it until he got his own way, which he’s bloody good at. And now he’s making me pay for it.”

He stretched up to kiss Xavier’s nose consolingly. “Don’t worry. He’s as tough as you are, and he’ll be back for more. I swear to you.”

Xavier slid his arms around Rayne’s slender body more firmly, pulling him closer and holding him tight for a few moments as if he wanted to protect him or absorb some of his weary sadness so he didn’t have to carry it all on his own. He buried his face at the crook of Rayne’s neck and shoulder and felt some of the tight coils of tension in his own chest loosen slightly.

He let go when he heard Clint poke his head hesitantly back in the room.

“He’s gone.”

Clint bit his lip unhappily.

“I know he was a cunt, but even I felt a bit sorry for him,” he said at last. “He shouldn’t have done that though. Me and Xav saved his life today and you’d think he’d be grateful.”

“Let it go,” Rayne said, keeping Xavier in the crook of one arm but holding out the other to the boy. “I don’t want to deal with it tonight. Matty can hunt and screw and cool his heels for a couple of days. It’s not gonna hurt him.”

“He looked hurt,” Clint said stubbornly. “I didn’t think he felt. I thought he was just… concrete or something.”

He came to Rayne though and curled into the offered half-embrace, snuggling against him. “Don’t ever get mental at me like that. I’ll be off!”

“I’ll remember that,” Rayne said, only half-teasing, though there was a faint twinkle in his eye.

Xav could have added in more but he let it go because it wouldn’t do any good to talk about Matt now, and he wanted a rest from it as well.

Instead he made Clint sit and slid a bowl of hot soup in front of him, and one for himself. Rayne even stayed and talked while they ate. Afterwards, while Rayne was getting Clint set up with blankets and pillows and talking about a movie, Xav took care of the dishes and called Dominic to fill him in. It seemed utterly bizarre that he had just seen Dom that morning. With all that had happened in the intervening hours it seemed like days.

“You poor boy,” Dominic sympathised, utterly horrified by his young friend’s news. “Are you alright? Did your shields hold? I can come right down and put extra warding on the house if you don’t feel safe there. Or you could come straight back up and stay with us for a little longer. We’d love to have you.”

Xav chuckled softly into the phone. He felt loads better having Dominic’s sympathetic ear and it lifted his dark mood some.

“No, that’s okay Dom, but thank you. I think we’ve got a handle on it here. Clint’s safe, the bastard is dead, and for now things are quiet,” Xavier said, feeling somewhat relieved that it was the truth. “And, my shielding worked just fine. I walked all over London and being close to people didn’t effect me at all. Even when Matt bit me I know he didn’t get a look in my head.” He smiled at that. “I’m sure I’ll see you soon though.”

As soon as things settled down properly, Xav planned on asking Dom if he would teach him more. The ritual had worked so well, he wouldn’t mind spending some time learning a few new tricks from Dominic. He could feel magic, and he knew now that he could work with it, so why not?

When he returned to the living room, Rayne was perched on the edge of the futon whilst Clint huddled over his father’s laptop playing some online game and apparently immersed in it.

“I only logged on to see if I could find a take away,” he smiled, looking up at Xav apologetically. “We’ve still no dinner. Do you fancy some fresh air? The rain’s stopped, and I think the paps have practically all fucked off now.”

Xav smiled back at him.

“Sure, I’m gonna have to borrow a jacket though, my hoodie got soaked earlier.” Which reminded him that he really needed to do some shopping soon for warmer clothes. His shopping spree in Naples netted him some nice stuff, but it was mid summer then and he had a feeling silk shirts and tee’s weren’t going to cut it through a London winter.

“I’ve probably got something broad enough to fit you,” Rayne chuckled, running his hands across Xavier’s shoulders appreciatively. “Help yourself.”

He cast a glance at Clint whose unblinking eyes had barely strayed from the screen. “Are you going to be okay if we leave you alone here for ten minutes, or do I have to find you a lead?”

The boy just grunted incoherently and waved a dismissive hand at him, clearly too preoccupied for words.

“Don’t go snooping either.” Xavier added, which made Clint roll his eyes at him, but Xavier had caught him more than once into things he shouldn’t be. He had a bit of a fascination with Rayne’s stuff.

Xav had no problems fitting into one of Rayne’s coats, they weren’t that dissimilar in size, although it was another reminder that he’d earlier seen the very nice leather jacket he’d once owned on the thug that had stolen it.

“That looks good on you,” Rayne commented, with a look on his face that suggested he would have been taking it right off again if they didn’t have a teenage house guest in the next room.

He snared a long, black thing that flowed like water to his ankles when he shimmied into it and slipped an arm through Xavier’s as they moved towards the door. Catching a glimpse of the pair of them in the full length mirror, he added; “In fact we look pretty hot together, don’t you think?”

Xav gave a husky little laugh and kissed his cheek.

“Always!” he grinned; Xav certainly couldn’t complain about Rayne’s taste. The knee length Alexander McQueen coat was a dark, almost black, charcoal with chased silver buttons that fit like it was meant for him. Xav did like to look sharp.

After confirming with Clint that he definitely wanted an 18″ pizza with just about every topping going, and cheesy garlic bread, and large fries, and coke, and Italian cherry dumplings with maraschino dipping sauce (quite definitely the latter!) they headed out to a nearby deli to pick up dinner.

…and walked straight into a blizzard of flashlights and excited voices, all asking variations on the same question. When Rayne’s ears tuned in to the cacophony he realised it was not the one he had been anticipating.

“Rayne! Who’s your boyfriend?”

“Are you going to introduce us?”

“What’s his name?”

Xavier was not quite as stunned as he’d been the first time walking into the media circus, although the direction of their interest this time surprised him. He had no clue that his wide-eyed bemusement played beautifully to the cameras but he was adorable, and looked very hot on Rayne’s arm. The paparazzi loved it and even if Xavier didn’t realise it at the time, they were going to be all over the gossip pages for the next few days.

Just as before, Xavier wasn’t exactly sure how to deal with the barrage of questions being slung their way. From nowhere a sort of self conscious sinking feeling settled into the pit of his stomach and he was almost certain Rayne was going to tell them they’d got the wrong idea, he was only a friend or something like that.

Rayne typically, did neither.

“If you want to know his name, you should ask him,” he pointed out sagely. Which only prompted another barrage of enquiries, this time directed at Xav.

“What’s your name, gorgeous?”

“Are you dating?”

“How long have you known Rayne?”

Xavier could have kicked Rayne. What was he supposed to say? He was so used to evading interrogation, he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to tell the truth or not, and now without Rayne’s lead he was lost. Well, fuck it. If Rayne didn’t like his answers, he’d had plenty of opportunity to speak up or tell him to keep quiet.

“Um, I’m Xavier Gavrilov,” he answered finally. He wasn’t sure if you’d call fucking each other’s brains out at every given opportunity ‘dating’ or not though. “We’ve been seeing each other for a few months.”

Of course, as soon as he opened his mouth a new ripple went through the gossip hungry masses.

“Where are you from, Xavier?” was shouted a dozen times, by different voices, and before Xav could answer another round of more personal questions were volleyed. They wanted to know how old he was and what he did and where they were going, amongst other things.

These questions Xavier was even more hesitant to answer but as he and Rayne started to wade through the photographers they got enough out of him to put a nice caption under their photos proclaiming Rayne Wylde’s current romantic interest was a 22 year old dancer from California.

“Okay… okay… that’s enough now!” Rayne pitched his voice determinedly and Xavier was pretty sure that he used a little vampiric persuasion too, because the tide quelled slightly and a ripple of disappointed “aaahhh” s ran through the reporters outside. “Me n Xav are a bit hungry and not just for pizza, if you get my meaning?”

And then he turned and slid his arms around his mate and kissed him. Not just a delicate, reassuring peck on the lips… but a full on, long, slow, definitely ravenous devouring. Xav melted into the kiss, the people around them simply ceasing to exist. It barely even registered that the night lit up with a thousand flashes, along with a chorus of catcalls. Whilst he was still melting from the touch of his mate’s lips. Rayne broke the kiss softly and turned towards the press pack with a wry smile.

“Okay folks, show’s over,” he said casually and, taking Xavier’s arm, moved through the mob like a shark through a shoal of minnows.

A few stray flash bulbs still popped around them but mercifully they were not followed. Xavier tried to remove the bemused smile from his face but it wouldn’t stay off.

“Wanted to make a point did you?” he asked, knowing that kiss was meant to give them something more interesting to print.

Rayne gave him a smug little smile. “Well now that you’ve been seen with me your reputation’s ruined. I won’t have to worry about anyone else chasing after you.”

Xavier shook his head. “Just marking your territory. I see.” He laughed, and it was a comfortable happy sound as they walked with their arms around one another.

They picked up the food and hauled it all back, fortunately without running into any further packs of flashbulbs. Clint had the sound system up when they came in the door and was still engrossed in his game. He looked up as Xav carried the box of absolutely delicious smelling pizza through the room, a big smile blooming on his face.

“I was hungry on the way home,” Xav said apologetically. “Had to eat all the cherry dumplings, sorry.”

Clint’s face was priceless as he whined; “All of them!?”

Xav laughed; “I’m just teasing. They’re here.”

They carried the boxes into the kitchen, then Rayne sprawled on the day bed and closed his eyes as his two young house mates dove enthusiastically into the food. Their contentment spilled over into his thoughts and emotions and he was happy enough but he could not help feeling a little unsettled too. The memory of Carlsen’s glare as he turned around to face him in this very room, where he had thought himself secure; coupled with the shock and sadness he had seen in Matty’s eyes as they argued, left him subdued and quiet, immune to his son and his lover teasing one another and scrapping lightheartedly over morsels of food.

One thing Clint did not inherit from his father was a lack of appetite for food. The boy could put it away just as well as Xavier and they were both soon stuffed and content. After eating and a bit of half-hearted clean up Clint returned to gaming and Xav slid next to Rayne. He had not been unaware of his lover’s down trodden mood, but he’d felt Clint needed a bit of normalcy before Xav tackled the task of getting Rayne to face what he so clearly did not want to deal with.

He put his arms lightly around him and kissed the top of his head. “So, you really going to make him wait days before you talk to him?”

Rayne heaved an infinitely irritable sigh.

“I don’t want to think about it tonight,” he said in his this-conversation-is-over tone.

Xav was quiet for a moment, his fingers drawing light soothing circles over his lover’s back and neck.

“Ah, well… I can see how it would be much better to brood and lose sleep over it instead,” he said lightly.

I don’t sleep,” Rayne said flatly. “And I’m not ringing him.”

Again Xav was quiet for a moment or two. “Alright, maybe I should.”

Rayne snorted. “He won’t answer.”

Xav shrugged and sighed wearily. “Maybe. I dunno Ray. What he said pissed me off, but… now I’ve cooled off a bit I think he’s just trying to push my buttons out of jealousy.”

Rayne turned his head to look him in the eye.

“No,” he said flatly. “You know that’s precisely what he’s doing. And so do I. It’ll do him good to stew, Xav. He’s more than used to having us running after him and he knows damn well how to make it happen.”

When Xavier still just stared back at him with that not-buying-it half smile, he sighed and added; “See… he’s making it happen already!”

Xav fished around on the table and handed Rayne his cell like it was a challenge. “Here.”

Rayne took it but leaned over him, kissing him soundly on the mouth.

“He won’t answer it,” he whispered as their lips parted. “Trust me.”

Xav shrugged. “So. If he don’t answer, you could go over there.”

Rayne gave him an incredulous look.

“Not on your life!”

He shook his head, but he also scrolled through the list of names and hit the send button when he got to Matty’s number. After three rings the call went straight to voicemail. No cheery message, just a coldly clinical beep.

“Matthew, ring me when you pick this up,” Rayne said testily and hung up. He flashed a humourless smile at his mate. “Okay?”

Xavier rolled his eyes.

“Give it to me,” he said, holding out his hand and taking the phone from Rayne’s reluctant fingers when he didn’t hand it over right away.

He rang Matty again, hung up when he got the voicemail beep, and pushed send again… and again… and again. On the seventh or eighth try he finally left a message. Pitching his voice toward slightly hysterical he yelled into the phone; “MATT! PICK UP! Hurry! It’s extremely important! Rayne needs you!”

He hung up with a decisive push of the button.

“What are you doing?” Rayne barked at him and made a grab for the phone but Xav held it quickly out of his reach and then rolled to his stomach with the phone protectively under him while Rayne tried to get it back.

“I’m crying wolf,” Xavier explained, his words slightly muffled by the cushions. “It’s okay if you only do it in an emergency.”

“This is hardly an emergency!” Rayne complained.

“Maybe not to you. But personally I’d rather not have to try and cheer you out of a mope for the next few days!” Xavier said, still keeping the phone away, although it was a losing battle. Fortunately it rang just then. “Ah-ha! See!”

Xavier grinned and handed the phone back to the irascible vampire and blowing him a kiss.

For a second that felt minutes long, Rayne Wylde glowered at Xavier dangerously, then he reached out and snatched the phone from his hand, rolling over to talk with his back to the mortal pair. Even Clint was prompted to look up from his game now, putting it into pause in order to earwig.

The boy looked a silent question at Xavier as Rayne muttered into the miniscule slice of technology cupped to his cheek.

“You took your sweet time deciding to answer.” There was a brief silence, then he added; “It’s not an emergency. Xav seems to think it’s an emergency that’s all. If that counts!”

The pensive silence was slightly longer this time. They could both hear the gnat’s buzzing of Matty’s tirade on the other end of the line. Rayne rolled onto his back eventually, staring at the ceiling as he bore it in absolute silence for as long as he could. Which was not long.

“Matt… Matthew… shut the fuck up for a minute, will you?” he interjected at last. “No… no I know that, but don’t you think under the circumstances that it’s you that’s got the apologising to do?”

He tilted his head to look narrowly at Xavier again, clearly dwelling on any number of ways to make the younger man pay for this. Xavier just smiled sweetly back at him. The thought crossed his mind that he could have made this conversation more pleasant for Rayne if they’d been alone and the slightly naughty expression that crossed his face briefly told Rayne what he was thinking.

Rayne still hadn’t spoken again, and his look told Xav clear enough that Matty was not exactly offering an apology on the other end of the line. Xav rolled his eyes again and stuck out his hand.

“Gimme that,” he said, exasperated.

Rayne pretended to consider, then handed him the mobile with a bored look. Xav put it to his own ear and listened to the ongoing tirade for a moment.

“Jesus, Matt… do you never stop?” he growled into the first available pause. “Just say you’re fuckin’ sorry already. Getting kicked out was the very least you deserved.”

Rayne was making a little circling gesture with his finger now, a universal signal for; wind it up, will you? The vampire had tried very hard not to yield to a grin at Xavier’s outburst and the faux serious look was beginning to hurt his face.

Clint whispered; “Fuck! He’s scary when he gets pissed off. You two make a good pair.”

Xavier ignored them both.

Would you stop being such a drama queen? Just for five minutes? I know that’s like asking you not to breathe, but you are a vampire, you don’t actually have to,” he said into the phone.

Xav winced then and held the small device a few inches from his ear from a moment as Matt shouted unintelligibly from the other end, but when he put it back to his ear he was using a more reasonable tone.

“Alright, alright, calm down, I won’t make you beg. I accept your apology.” Which was very big of him since Matt hadn’t exactly given an apology yet. Xavier grinned at whatever Matt was saying to him now. “You wish. Tell you what, I’ll even let you come over tomorrow and you can make it up to Rayne. Bye Matt,” he said, making a kissy noise, and then snapped the phone closed.

“There. He’s fine now. Probably he’ll go right back to being a total bitch,” he added, with a sigh.

“That’s his default mode,” Rayne observed dryly.

Clint nodded agreement, but looked less than gleeful about it. He asked; “Are you really gonna forgive him, just like that? He was horrible to you, and after you helped him, too.”

Xavier got quiet, the teasing laughing twinkle in his eyes going out like a snuffed candle to be replaced by something more pensive. He wasn’t sure how to answer. He wasn’t sure how to say that Matty’s cutting remarks bothered him less than Rayne’s unhappiness. That just sounded so pathetic.

It was a bit more complicated than that, of course. Matt was entwined through Rayne’s life like a strangler fig on a tree, whether Rayne wanted it or not. For him to cut Matt out completely would inevitably cost Rayne something, and Xav just didn’t want to see that happen.. Even if Rayne just put distance between them it would be a battle, and the strain of keeping Matt at arm’s length and away from Xavier would eventually wear on him. He would never ask Rayne to choose like that, not over a stupid argument, a few stupid words. So, that didn’t leave him with much choice other than to try and patch things up with Matty.

He finally breathed out a small sigh.

Holding on to resentment and dragging it out when you know you’re going to forgive someone eventually anyway is a waste of time and energy. Might as well get it over with,” he said, sounding very sage, and feeling anything but.

What kind of idiot did it make him to accept another man’s abuse solely so that his lover didn’t have to be upset about kicking him out of his life? He would just have to hold on to the hope that Matt would eventually stop treating him like some cheap trick Ray had picked up in a club and hadn’t gotten tired of yet. Maybe he would even stop trying to get rid of him.

“I’m starting to see why you and Dom get on so well,” Rayne murmured sardonically, but he allowed himself the smile now so that Xavier could see he wasn’t really that pissed off about it. “C’mere.”

He reached out and pulled Xavier closer to him, touching his lips to his lover’s soft mouth appreciatively. A little taste was all he wanted but it was always harder to let go than it was to begin and he was quickly kissing Xavier harder and deeper, hands running searchingly all over his body and through his hair. Touching like this, he could feel Xavier’s anxiety though he was not sure if it was because he was afraid of having upset Rayne, first by arguing with Matt, then by making them bury the hatchet, or if he wondered whether letting Matt back into their lives was a good move on his part.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he whispered as their lips parted briefly. “I’m not sure why you would, but thank you anyway. I would have worried about him, and I guess I’ll worry less now. So that’s a good thing.”

Xav touched his forehead to Rayne’s, a little smile coming back to his lips.

“You’re welcome,” he said softly. “If I thought he was really an evil bastard I wouldn’t have, but I think he’s just spoiled.” His smiled widened a bit and he bumped his nose lightly against the tip of Rayne’s. “Besides, I can win over anybody!”

“Getting cocky now, are we?” Rayne chuckled softly and kissed the tip of his nose, prior to reclaiming his lips for a second kiss that pressed their bodies together intimately from their mouths to their knees.

Clint sank back down behind the laptop with a shudder. “Get a room!”

Xavier laughed lightly as Rayne broke the kiss. “Here five minutes and he’s giving orders like he owns the place!”

Clint flicked his eyes up from the screen for a second and then right back down. Xav grinned.

“I will try and respect your prudish nature, Clinton, and not make out with your dad in front of you,” he teased.

I’m not a prude,” Clint said, eyes determinedly forward. “I just don’t wanna… y’know, watch.”

“I’m an atrocious father!” Rayne rolled his eyes. He peeled away from Xavier and moved across the open futon to kiss the top of Clint’s head. “Will you be okay if we… go next door?”

“Your place,” Clint said atonally. He glanced up at his dad though and there was a little sliver of hurt in his golden eyes. A look that said he knew his father needed to be with Xavier but at the same time was sad that Rayne didn’t want to be with him for longer.

And Rayne felt it, because he knelt back a little, taking a quick, tremulous breath as if it was suddenly difficult to get air into his lungs. (Or even necessary!). Xavier sensed the mood shift again with a sinking heart. This was just the beginning, he realised. If it was not Matt, then it would be Clint drawing on his lover’s emotions, tearing him into slow strips and dividing him up. And Rayne couldn’t handle it; already he was wondering how fast and how far he could run. It had taken everything he had to let Xavier inside his walls and it was just too much too soon to be able to handle other people’s emotional demands. He’d simply never learned to put up the right boundaries to deal with any of this.

Xav shook his head slightly. Some things you just couldn’t fix right away. Clint learning to trust that Rayne actually did want him, and Rayne figuring out how Clint would now fit into his life, were problems that were not going to be solved overnight.

Helping them out was not going to be easy for Xavier either; he had no real point of reference. He’d never known his own father, never had any desire to seek him out, and every man that had even vaguely fit into a fatherly role while he was growing up was at best apathetic and more often than not abusive. Not good examples of what a father should be to his kid.

Xav shifted around and sat on Clint’s other side. It would not kill either of them to spend a couple hours giving the boy some attention rather than indulging their libido. No matter how cool Clint was trying to play it, the fact was he’d been tied up and violated for days, scared out his mind that he was going to be killed; and then watched a man die only a few short hours ago. That was something Xav could relate to.

He was not stupid enough to bring this all up though. After surviving that kind of trauma the last thing he’d wanted was to talk about it. He’d just wanted some normalcy, and to feel safe.

“Bet’cha Spence and those others are gonna trip when you go pick up your stuff tomorrow.” Xavier said, knowing that Clint had to be happy about finally getting some vindication that he hadn’t been lying all this time about who his dad was.

The boy looked from Rayne’s face to his earnestly and back again.

“You’re gonna come with me?” he hazarded optimistically, though the tone of his voice was already guarded against Rayne telling him that actually he was too busy to trail around London after his kid, who was perfectly capable anyway of picking up his own stuff.

Rayne just smiled and said; “Sure, if you want us to.”

He didn’t bother to add that he had a couple of issues of his own to tie up at the State, but his eyes moved briefly to Xavier’s face as he said it. The look in them was fond and protective.

“Cool,” Clint murmured in a wondering tone.

For the next hour or so Xavier made small talk, because he knew it was difficult for Rayne and also it was what Clint needed. He did not intentionally cast himself as the buffer between the two, but it wasn’t as much of a headache as he thought it might be either. It did feel slightly strange at first, as if he were introducing the pair of them to each other for the first time, but after a bit of ice breaking Rayne seemed to actually relax a little and ask a few of his own questions and Clint positively glowed that he seemed genuinely interested in him.

By the time Xav and Rayne got up to head off to bed Clint was obviously feeling a little more secure and slightly less defensive. Xav could live with that as the best possible outcome for the evening. Besides, he was feeling the emotional drain himself by then. He wanted to fall into bed and have Rayne cuddle up around him more than anything.

Rayne bent to kiss Clint’s hair again as the boy settled down, still mostly dressed, and wrapped himself in the crisp white duvet that had been draped over the low, double day bed. He stroked the boy’s head with a gentle hand, murmuring; “Sleep tight, sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“You too,” Clint murmured drowsily. He turned over and put his arms around Rayne briefly though before the vampire could sit up straight. “Thank you,” he whispered into the softness of his father’s shirt.

“Shhh…” Rayne said huskily, still stroking his tangled mane. “Get some rest. I’ll still be here tomorrow.”

At last, Clint relinquished his hold and curled up under the fluffy white quilt again. He fished in his pocket for Cleo and snuggled her against his nose, almost out of sight, beneath the bedclothes. Finally his heart began to beat more regularly and within moments he was sinking into much needed sleep.

Rayne finally moved away from the bed when his son’s breathing grew steadier and he stopped fidgeting and drifted off. He wore a strange, uneasy little smile as he followed Xavier towards the passageway leading to his own bedroom, pausing to pull the folding doors partway over between the lounge and the kitchen so that Clint would have some privacy in the morning.

Privacy! That would be a good thing right now, he thought wickedly.

Xavier was thinking much the same thing as he glided into the bedroom and pulled his shirt off. It was a little weird to have a teenager around, a straight teenager no less. He supposed they would just have to learn how to be quiet, he thought with a gleam in his eye as he pulled Rayne into his arms and kissed him hungrily.

“Ohh you have no idea how hard it has been for me to keep my fuckin’ hands off you tonight,” Rayne whispered huskily into his mouth. “This is a candidate for the longest day of my fuckin’ life!”

He kissed Xavier’s soft, warm lips hungrily, then roamed across his cheek to the lobe of his ear, touching his mouth to the younger man’s neck, licking along the delicious line of his exposed jugular. Rayne was hard for him even before they had got their pants off and though he was struggling to balance his need for Xavier with his parental responsibility toward Clint, the latter was shamefully losing out.

Rayne rubbed up against him slowly, planting slow, sensual kisses on his neck and throat as he eased a caressing hand down Xavier’s heaving belly. His thumb teased the roused buds of his lover’s sensitive nipples as his hand moved lower.

“Tell me about it!” Xavier agreed with a soft husky laugh. His own hands were roaming steadily over Rayne’s back, kneading the taut muscles there. His breath caught slightly as Rayne teased his nipples and he swayed a bit when his cool fingers brushed lightly over the swell of his crotch. He was practically quivering with need and they’d done no more than kiss and stroke a bit. It was amazing how Rayne could turn him on so thoroughly and so quickly.

He closed his eyes and tipped his head back as Rayne’s plush lips moved over his throat, gliding ever so lightly over his marks there. A shiver went down his spine and turned to molten heat in his pelvis, twin throbs coming up in his throat and his hard cock.

“Mmm…god, I want you…” he whispered more urgently.

“Glad to hear it,” Rayne chuckled wickedly, between leisurely kisses along the line of Xavier’s neck and shoulder. “I’d hate to think I was pushing you into anything.” He bent his head and let his soft, dark hair tickle his lover’s bared chest as he touched the tip of his tongue to one nipple, flicking it deftly. “Though I’d love to push something into you right now!” he added, his words spilling gentle heat over the wetness of Xavier’s breast.

Xavier flashed him a grin, his hands still gliding lightly over his skin.

“Well, come over to the bed and let’s see what we can do about that,” he suggested, popping the button on his pants and sliding out of them before taking a couple of steps backwards and pulling Rayne along with him until the back of his legs came up against the edge of the mattress and he fell back with a little bounce. He looked very comfortable as he sprawled there naked and held his arms out to Rayne.

“You are amazing,” Xav murmured sweetly. “I don’t tell you that enough, do I? Or you try and laugh it off; but you are. You handled everything so well today.” It was on the tip of his tongue to say more, tell him how much he loved him, but he held back.

His lover stood over him with a small, self-satisfied smile on his sharp little face. His shirt was unbuttoned and as he looked down at Xavier’s deliciously nude body his fingers wandered to the button of his fly and he unfastened his tight jeans, finally freeing the persistent semi that had been nudging up against his zipper for last couple of hours.

“You were fairly amazing, yourself,” he said slyly now, coming to kneel on the edge of the bed and spreading Xavier’s legs easily to move between them. “On the go since the small hours; ritually enhanced and then put through a mercy flight and a traumatizing siege. And then you handled Matty and babysitting my kid. You didn’t freak out on me once. I’m astounded, and impressed. And nothing much impresses me.”

He prowled over the sexy blond now, kissing his slow way up that rhythmically rising and falling belly and the smooth skin of his torso again, licking and inhaling his sweet flavour. It seemed like rather more than just fourteen hours since he was making urgent love to Xavier on the cushions in Dominic’s ritual room. So much had happened to them today that he would need a week to process it all.

The bedside clock told him it was gone half past three in the morning but he didn’t care. Xavier was all but begging for it under him and he felt his dick stiffen and swell in response as he lay down on the beautiful boy, savouring the heat of his bared flesh rising up through his own cooler skin. He began to kiss Xavier’s neck and throat again, hungrily, reaching beyond his lover for the bedside cabinet where he kept his lube and toys.

Xavier’s hands glided more firmly over Rayne’s skin, pushing down his back and under the waist of his jeans to slide them down his narrow hips.

Their hard cocks pressed together and Xav moved his hand around them both, stroking slowly up and down. They were well matched in a lot of ways and this was one, being of similar length and thickness, except Xav was circumcised and Rayne was not.

It felt so good the way they rubbed together, silk on silk. A small needy little moan rose to Xavier’s lips and his hand pumped them faster as they both grew hard.

“You are adorable,” Rayne breathed against his ear, reaching down to stroke a good lick of sweet smelling lubricant over both their erections and letting Xavier’s stroking hand work it into the silken skin deftly. His tongue caressed the shell of his lover’s ear seductively and he nuzzled Xav’s golden curls, breathing in his delicious almond and vanilla scent reverently. “You make me feel so good. I am really glad you’ve been here with me the last few days, sweetheart. I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”

His fingertips caressed the little hollow in the small of his mate’s naked back, just above his firm, pert buttocks, then stroked down ever so lightly between the peaches of his cheeks, circling his rosebud teasingly with slippery fingers.

Xavier lifted his left leg higher, sliding it up over Rayne’s hip and giving him better access. He turned his head slightly, rubbing his cheek against Rayne’s with a little nuzzle. Despite the extremely long day and his earlier exhaustion, he was certainly up and ready for a session of searing seduction. His breath came a little quicker in Rayne’s ear as his lover’s fingers circled around his ring and he nipped at the lobe, sucking it gently between his teeth.

“I’d be more than happy to let you repay me in sexual favours,” he purred teasingly, his hips rolling in short, smooth motions that alternately thrust their cocks together then pushed back invitingly on Rayne’s searching digits.

“I was ‘oping you’d say that,” Rayne chuckled appreciatively.

He kissed a slow line down Xavier’s neck now, sucking on the wing of his collarbone as he rubbed the lube in gentle circles around the tight ring of muscle between his clenching cheeks. A little moan of need rumbled in his chest as he felt Xav buck and grind against him in response. So much heat! Almost enough to melt him! He rubbed himself against the line of his lover’s contorting body, kissing his ear again, whispering huskily; “Get me ready. I don’t wanna rush things but I wanna be inside you so bad, sweetheart.”

Xavier was hot to have Rayne inside him too. He reached over and tipped a little more lube into his palm, warming it up before slicking it over Rayne’s turgid shaft in long firm strokes designed to edge him up and get him moaning for more. He caught his lips in a hungry kiss and when Rayne’s fingers pushed inside him he thrust his tongue into his lovers mouth and tangled his tongue with his, a heated moan vibrating up from his chest.

“Ohhh god! Mmmhhhh… uhhhh!”

Rayne plunged into the kiss and thrust through the tangle of their hands and legs to push against his mate eagerly. In his desperation it was a less than elegant entrance but Xavier managed to still his wriggling for a moment in order for him to gain purchase and then he was sinking into that delicious heat, pushing deeper and deeper with a little cry of amazement.

“Oh christ! Ohhh my good god… I love you!

Caught in the swirling rush of heat and pleasure flowing through his body Xavier almost missed the words that he’d pretty much resigned himself to never actually hearing from Rayne’s lips. When they did permeate through the haze of hot desire washing over him he was so surprised he went still.

Panting slightly and looking up into Rayne’s face with the dark fronds of his hair hanging down, close enough they could feel each others breath, Xavier’s lips trembled slightly.

“You do?” The question slipped from his lips in a soft whisper that was full of hopeful wonder. He knew Rayne cared deeply for him, he wouldn’t have gone through all he had for him if he didn’t, but there were still places deep inside Xavier that could not believe he’d ever actually be worthy of love.

Rayne’s eyes bored down into his own through the hanging tendrils, so many shades of green that Xav could have studied them forever and still kept on finding new ones. He did not even blink.

“I thought you knew. Everyone else can see it, I thought surely you…” An incredulous smile tugged at his lips moments before they touched Xavier’s again.

Xavier’s arms slid around Rayne as the kiss deepened and he let the rising tide of pleasure sweep back over him. His hand moved over Rayne’s back and roamed up into his hair as they kissed passionately and their bodies picked up an undulating rhythm once more.

Rayne spread his knees further, urging Xav’s thighs wider.

“Uuuuhhhh! Oh, yesss…” Xav panted as his lover drove into him again and again.

As he pushed deeper, both physically and emotionally, Rayne could feel the warm glow of happiness that enveloped Xavier not just from the sex but from those brief, simple words. It bewildered him but he was not about to fight it, not now when it felt so good to be wrapped up in his scent and his heat, surging against him and inside him, so stimulated by the whole beautiful package. And then it hit him. Once upon a time he would have been so afraid of having this and losing it that he’d never have risked opening himself up and letting someone through his barriers. Somehow Xavier had wriggled inside without him even being properly conscious of it.

And right now he was glad.

His hands slid down to his lover’s slim hips and he gripped tightly, practically pulling Xav onto him as he thrust. He just wanted to bury himself inside his beautiful mate, to sink into him, to be one with him.

Xavier wrapped his legs around Rayne, moving in perfect tandem with his mate. One hand still moved in encouraging caresses up and down Rayne’s back and the other cupping the nape of his neck as they kissed and sucked at each other’s mouths and the tender skin of each other’s throats. Somewhere inside he was still floating in a bewildered cloud that wrapped warmly around his heart. It pulsed inside like a living thing and lent a certain intensity to his lovemaking. The pleasure built as they writhed together on the sheets, twined so tightly they almost moved as one.

Xavier hadn’t had time to wonder since the ritual if his newly formed emotional psychic shielding might affect the link he shared with Rayne. Now as he felt the urgent coupling of their bodies glow with heat and pleasure he felt that curious connection open wider, almost merging them in a way that usually only happened when Rayne drank from him, and he knew not only was the link still there, it was stronger than ever. It was as if some small, final barrier he hadn’t even known about creaked open; like a tiny iron door that had been welded shut with years of mistrust and rusted tight from the hurt of so much abuse, had finally given way and he could give himself fully in a way he’d never really done before.

His fingers tightened in Rayne’s sleek, sable hair and on the smooth skin of his back. The muscles of Xavier’s rippling torso hardened and his panting breath came faster. Each thrust of Rayne’s deliciously hard cock inside him sent him higher and higher.

“Ohhhhhhhh…’m gonna cummmm…’m gonna…..uuuuhhhh!” Xav got out in a breathless frantic rush as the feeling burst over him and he was spurting in ecstasy as he writhed under his beautiful lover.

Rayne, slowly riding the rising tide of pleasure and heat came with Xavier into the peak of his climax, almost clambering his hands up his lover’s undulating back as he felt Xav begin to buck and thrash harder. The sensations his mate was experiencing were bounced back to him and amplified via the delicious bond they shared but there was more to it than that. It seemed that when they had spoken their feelings out loud something happened that he could never have anticipated. It actually made their connection stronger.

The sense of shock he got from it was almost as powerful as the tidal wave of ecstasy that burst over him when Xavier came in his arms and he plunged into the younger man without hesitation, giving in to the explosion that rocked his senses to the core.

I love him…

The words swam around in his dizzied senses as he collapsed into Xavier’s arms, swallowed by that sweet, hot, vigorous body and the beautiful mind that was housed within it. Rayne shook his head, wondering if he was maybe dreaming but when he moved, he felt Xavier move beneath him and knew that it was real.

I love him… Jesus! What am I doing?

He swallowed hard and looked up into those incandescent blue eyes, caught somewhere between laughter and tears for all the things he could not change and everything he had no desire to.

“I love you so much,” he whispered. And meant it.

A slow sexy smile, full of utter contentment and sweet bliss, crept across Xavier’s face. His hand came up to touch the side of Rayne’s face, one finger tracing lightly over the wing of his brow and the curve of his cheek. If he had been asked yesterday whether it mattered if Rayne ever said those three little words to him,  Xavier would have said no; and yet, they had just made him indescribably happy.

“I love you too,” he whispered back. For once there was no sense of fear holding him back and it was such a relief that it was almost overwhelming.

“You think you can put up with me and all my baggage then?” Rayne teased lightly, touching his lips to the tip of his mate’s nose.

He was still smiling and it felt unbelievable. Somehow it was almost indecent to feel this happy but he couldn’t help it. There was a warmth growing inside him and it was only partly to do with Xavier’s searingly hot body pressed up against his own. Xav kissed him back and pulled him down to snuggle in his arms.

“I think I can stand it,” he said with a dramatic sigh. Rayne poked him in the ribs and Xav giggled.

Xavier was sleepy now, his eyelids felt like a million pounds of weight, the long day finally catching up with him. Rayne eased out of him slowly and reluctantly then cuddled up more comfortably in the tangle of his mate’s arms and legs, just rubbing and nuzzling against him as he felt Xav drifting off to sleep in his embrace.

“I feel alive,” he whispered into the net of golden curls in which he buried his face. He breathed in the warm, sweet, inimitable fragrance of his precious lover and softly exhaled; “Alive!”

The End

 

 

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