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Author's Notes: For translations, hold mouse over the highlighted text.

Dean's POV:

On the drive back to my place, I let my mind wander and the main thought that keeps circling my brain is how much the world has changed while staying exactly the same. I mean, there will always be people willing to take advantage of others, just like there will always be people who fall for even the most obvious of scams.

When I pass one of my favorite vampire bars, I actually contemplate stopping for a drink. I decide against it for two reasons: 1) it's getting late and 2) I can feel exhaustion pulling at my limbs. With that decided, I continue on toward home and when I get there, I find to my relief that no one's around. Climbing from the truck, I swear I actually feel every single one of my one thousand, one hundred thirty-two years.

Slamming the door shut, I open the back door and pull out the camera bag and the costume I rented for Jonathan's pictures. Shutting it wearily, I begin the long trek across the parking garage to the elevator. The trip up to my floor seems to take an eternity and I slump against the wall of the car and close my eyes.

Stepping out into my apartment, I dump the camera bag next to the bar and drape the garment bag over my steam dryer so I don't forget to toss the costume in it to try and get the worst of the wrinkles out before having to return it. "Those wrinkles had better come out or I swear, Jonathan won't be able to sit for a very long time," I mutter, making my way slowly to my room, stripping and letting my clothes fall where they may.

Once behind the frosted glass brick wall, and clad only in a pair of boxer briefs, I climb up onto the bed feeling like an old man. "What the hell's wrong with me?" I sprawl face first on the mattress and clutch my pillow tight to my chest.

With a deep, world weary sigh, I close my eyes, let myself go boneless and order my mind to go blank so I can maybe, just maybe, get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

My subconscious, however, has other ideas and the darkness behind my lids is replaced by the colorful landscape of Constantinople in the year of our Lord 1124.

I had been with Ardeth when I received a missive from Arthur. It read 'I would consider it a favor if you were to fight this Crusade in my stead.' And while it was politely worded, and phrased as a request, it was still an order. And so I find myself in this foreign country, fighting a battle I don't consider mine.

Constantinople is a beautiful city. I'm surprised that it looks nothing like I thought it would. Where I was expecting it to look more like the little village Ardeth has created in the desert, it doesn't. It's an eclectic yet visually pleasing mix of the Middle Eastern and European cities I have visited in the past two hundred years.

During my travels I've discovered to my utter enjoyment that all women fall into two categories: those who are willing to accept advances from just about any man and those who will only accept advances from their husband. In Europe, those in the former group are easy to spot; they wear their dresses with a lower neckline, higher hem and looser sleeves while those in the latter group cover up everything. In the Middle East they're not as easy to spot, unless you know what to look for. Women in the Middle East are covered from head to toe, with only their eyes showing. Since becoming a vampire I've discovered an obsession with people's eyes, which helps me find the women who like to have their skirts tossed on a regular basis and don't care who does the tossing.

While walking down the street in the local market, I make eye contact with several women. Those who like what they see don't look away when I lock gazes with them and I take note of what color their outer robe is so I can find them again, should I desire to accept the invitation.

My attention is caught by a man shuffling along the wall on the other side of the street from me. Despite how dirty he is and the tattered clothes he's dressed in, it's obvious he's a noble. It's also obvious that the man is in distress and if someone doesn't do something, he will fall victim to thieves. A quick glance around shows the man has no friends rushing to his aide, so I cross the street to offer my assistance. Before I can even speak, however, he stumbles and falls into my arms.

"Unhand me! How dare you touch me? Do you have any idea who I am?" Despite looking like a strong breeze would knock him over, he manages to shove me hard enough that I take a couple of steps back.

"You appear to be someone who needs assistance. Please forgive me, sir, for overstepping some invisible boundary." I step aside to let him pass.

"No one gets away with picking the pocket of Antonio Crisafi, Knight Templar," he states, his nose firmly in the air which makes him sway alarmingly.

"I beg your pardon, sir." Deciding he's not worth the hassle, I go to step around him when suddenly he loses his tenuous grasp on wakefulness and collapses into my arms. "Bloody hell!" I know there's no way he'll ever thank me for making sure he doesn't get killed but for some reason I can't walk away. Something forces me to sweep him up into my arms and turn to carry him back to my rooms.

Before I can even take one step, though, a man approaches. My eyes widen when I don't hear a heartbeat. In the months I've been here I have yet to encounter another vampire before now.

"Is there a problem, friend?" he asks, planting both feet and fingering his sword hilt.

"I'm not your friend," I snarl, shifting the unconscious body of Antonio Crisafi so that I have a better grip.

The newcomer chuckles. "Fair enough and yet we're not enemies, either."

"Says you. I've never laid eyes on you before."

He holds out one hand, as if I have a free hand to shake his with. "Nicholas Dupre. Is he a friend of yours?" He waves that hand at the body in my arms.


"Your dinner, then?"


"My, aren't you the talkative one? Who is he then?"

"He said his name is Antonio Crisafi, Knight Templar. I've never met him before today. I saw him stumbling along and was afraid someone might take advantage of him in his weakened state."

Nicholas' face lights up at the name. "Can it be?" he whispers, lifting Antonio's head so he can lift one eyelid. "Meus Deus!" His voice is heavy with shock.

"You know him?"

Nicholas looks up at me. "Yes, he has a soul I once knew."

"Excellent." I all but throw Antonio at him and turn to continue on my way to my original destination. "You can take care of him, then."

"You never told me your name," Nicholas calls.

I look at him over my shoulder. What harm could there be in giving him my name? "Dean McGillis." I've been holed up in Ardeth's village long enough that I feel comfortable not picking an alias.

"You're Scottish?" He seems surprised.

"That a problem?"

"Not at all. Just didn't realize that there were any Scots involved in this fight."

"My master is English." Nicholas finds this extremely humorous for some reason, and I tilt my head at him. "What's so funny?"

"Last I heard, the Scots hate the English almost as much as the Irish do."

I shrug a shoulder. "He's the only one I trust."

"Ah. He's your Sire. I understand."

Well, not really, but I’m not about to give my life story to a complete stranger so the answer will suffice. "Now, if you'll excuse me…" I again turn my back and begin walking away.

"I'd like the opportunity to talk later." He just will not give up.

I shake my head and don’t even bother turning around. "You and I have nothing to talk about."

"You're not alone, Master McGillis." I pause at that. I know I'm not alone but I prefer to be. If I can't have Adair by my side, then I don't want anyone.

Wakefulness comes slowly until I'm blinking at the ceiling, mulling over my dream. With a deep sigh, I decide I might as well get a start on the day. I still have to see about getting the wrinkles out of Jonathan's costume as well as picking out which pictures to use as bait.

Rolling to the edge of the bed, I sit up with my arms braced on my knees, my hands hanging loose between them and my head bowed while I continue thinking about what that dream could possibly mean.

Suddenly, like a bolt outta the blue, I have an epiphany and just like that, I know why I feel like I'm over a thousand years old instead of the age I appear to be: I've gone nearly eleven hundred years without my Mate. How stupid can I be that I didn't realize that the fact that I've gone so long unbonded is my problem? I feel old and world-weary. I feel like I'm having a harder and harder time giving a damn about much of anything anymore. The only reason I'm not getting sloppy on the job was because Ardeth beat some pretty strict personal standards into me all those centuries ago. But it's like I can almost feel myself getting weaker instead of stronger. It's like I've hit my peak, like I can only go so high and without my Mate to help me balance then I’m just going to burn out.

Put it like that, the choice instantly becomes clear. I make my decision to tell Carter as soon as this case is over and get to my feet, suddenly feeling energized. After a quick shower, I wrap a towel around my waist and pad out to the main area to toss the rented school uniform in the dryer and fix myself a bag of cloned blood.

"God! Even warm, this stuff is awful," I mutter, wiping my mouth with the back of one hand. A smirk crosses my face when I realize that I won't have to exist on this nasty ass stuff quite as often, not for too much longer, anyway. Once I Turn Carter and we Bond, I can feed from him as often as I like.

The thought of finally sinking my fangs into Carter's neck has my mouth watering and it's all I can do to not take myself over to his house right the fuck now and inform him of my true nature and then make him mine. But that would be a Turning Without Consent, as well as a Force Bond, and both would land me in major hot water with not only Nico but The Council, and I don't need that kind of heat coming down on me at this time. Not when Carter is so close.

Walking to my closet, I start planning how I'm going to get some face time with the target. And of course one of the most important pieces to that puzzle is how I sell my character. Pulling the closet doors open, I stare at all the clothes I've collected from my jobs. Since I'm going in as an assistant groundskeeper, I settle on the mechanic's uniform from a couple of cases back.

The buzzer on the dryer sounds just as I finish dressing. Pulling the blazer, shirt and slacks out, I'm pleased to see that I won't have to go tan Jonathan's hide. Well, at least not for this. Tucking the costume back in its bag, I sling it over one shoulder and the camera bag strap over the other, then head down the stairs and out to my truck. Expecting to see Carter's truck parked nearby, I'm quite surprised, though still pleased, to see that only Jaimie is here. Depositing the garment bag in the backseat, I turn and head for the elevator.

Entering the loft, I revel in the fact that I don't have to hide anything since it's just Jaimie and me. The walk across the sunlit space, while not having to play the role I put on for those not in the know, is enough to show me just how tired I am of pretending. I'm a powerful man in my own right with the third largest bank account in Sylum.

Being alive for several centuries gives one a unique perspective on things, and Nick always keeps his eye on investment opportunities. He strongly suggests that his Clan members invest the same way as him and most do, just not with as much money. I, on the other hand, go my own way. Most of my choices have paid off as well, and I pride myself on the fact that I don't rub it in Nick's face that I did just as well with my own picks.

I can see Jaimie out of the corner of my eye in the kitchen making herself something to eat. She turns at the clanging of the door, and I bite back a smirk at the way her eyes widen when she sees my expression. I probably look like a grumpy bastard with a gun… and hey, I am a grumpy bastard with a gun. Well, maybe not quite: I did know my parents, after all. But that thought only starts to make me even grumpier when Jaimie interrupts my thoughts. "Did something happen, Dean?" Her voice cracks on the last word and she clears her throat nervously.

"Not a damn thing, other than me realizing that I'm fucking tired of pretending to be someone I'm not." I stalk over to my desk and throw myself into my chair before angrily stabbing the 'on' button for my computer.

"So you're going to tell Carter soon?" I can tell that my current mood is scaring her but I can't find it in me to care.

"Yeah." She really shouldn't expect more than one or two word answers. I'm seriously not in the mood for any kind of conversation beyond maybe telling Carter my secret and charming him into my bed.

I pull the camera out of its bag and plug it into the USB port of my computer's tower. It hums while thinking about what it needs to do. Just as my patience reaches its end, the computer pings that it has found the pictures in the camera's memory.

I open the first picture and begin looking it over to see if anything needs to be done to make it better. Jaimie cautiously approaches and stands just behind me and slightly to the right, in a spot that won't get her toes run over by the wheels of my chair if I should stand up quicker than she can react, and whistles when she gets her first look at Jonathan.

"Damn, Dean. How old did you say he is?"


"I'm not gonna get anything but grunts from you today, am I?" She takes a step closer and is now in my peripheral vision.

"Yep." She sighs in frustration and I have to bite back a smile.

Ty comes in and puts his stuff down on his desk before joining Jaimie in staring over my shoulder at the pictures. "Tell me you didn't enjoy watching him take his clothes off."

Suddenly I decide that this isn’t a conversation I want to have with my back turned. I need to see his eyes, read his face so I know where he really stands. "Is it a problem if I did?" I spin my chair around so I can look at Ty.

He frowns at me, and I can almost see him thinking about his answer. Being a homosexual cop is still pretty much taboo but when compared with my other secret, it's not that big a deal. But Ty is the type of guy who might object just because it's expected. Finally he replies with, "Since you've never hit on me and it's never interfered with the job, I'd have to say no, it's not a problem."

With a smile and a nod, I turn back to the computer. "Good to know. And for the record, Ty, I've never hit on you because you're not my type."

The sound Ty makes is more of a girly squawk than he'd probably like, so I ignore it. "What'd ya mean I'm not your type?"

"You really want me to answer that?" The bantering with Ty has gone a long way to lightening my mood.

"Yeah, no. I think I'll let that one pass." He walks back to his desk and sits down, shuffling papers in an effort to end that topic of conversation.

Jaimie crouches down next to me. "Is he-?" she asks, nodding toward the monitor where the picture of a completely naked Jonathan stretched out on the desk is visible.

Chuckling softly, I shake my head. "No."

"Then why-?"

I don't let her finish that question. "I'm afraid I can't tell you, James. Sorry." Before she can respond, I smell Carter coming up the elevator. "Carter's coming. I suggest you get back to work," I say just as the door clangs shut.

"Talk to me, people," Carter orders, striding across the floor to his desk.

I have to force myself to keep looking at the computer screen because I'm sure if I was to look up at him I'd have the Devil's own time not jumping up and dragging him off somewhere where I can fuck his brains out.

"I found out that most of the clubs where the kids end up are invitation only," Ty says, standing up with a file in his hand which he hands off to Carter, who flips it open to read the contents. "I've got an invite for night after tomorrow but I have a feeling I won't be allowed anywhere near them at first."

"Of course not," Carter confirms. "They want to know they can trust you before they let you near the merchandise." He turns his head and pins me with his crystal blue gaze. "And you?"

"I got some pictures and an appointment later today with my contact."

Carter nods, slipping his glasses on while stepping over to my desk so he can look at the pictures over my shoulder. I grit my teeth at having him so close and yet so far away. He smells so damn good, all I want to do is turn around and – I savagely cut off that line of thought.

"You sure this kid will do the trick?"

"Yeah. He's the complete opposite of all the other boys that have been taken."

"And that means the target will want to see this one in person?"

"My CIs all say that he only examines the boys in person but has yet to keep one. They think that maybe a pretty blond boy will peak his interest enough."

Carter makes a noise of agreement in the back of his throat and goes over to his desk. After several minutes Carter's voice suddenly breaks the silence. "You still here, Bendis?"

"Of course not, Boss," I say, jumping up and stepping around my desk.

"Don't disappoint me, Dean," Carter whispers when I pass his desk.

Turning to face him, I narrow my eyes. "Or what?"

Dammit, it was going so well, too. All I had to do was just keep my fucking mouth shut and let the remark pass, but no. He pulls his glasses off and tosses them down on his desk, meeting my gaze like the alpha-type he is. "Or you'll regret it."

And naturally, I’ve never backed down from a challenge even if it’s for my own good. "Is that so?" My voice hardens as anger flares white hot in the back of my brain. A sharply indrawn breath from Jaimie warns me that I'm very close to stepping over the line, as if Carter's angrily narrowed eyes weren't enough.

"Watch yourself, there, Bendis," Carter growls, hunching forward over his desk.

I am so fucking tired of pretending to be Human around those closest to me. I want nothing more than to vamp out and take what's mine. Clenching my jaw tightly while grinding my teeth, I spin on my heel and stomp from the loft, taking the stairs instead of the elevator to try and work off some of the anger that's slowly building in the pit of my stomach. I do not want to be angry with Carter. I have to keep reminding myself of that. It’s just… even once I do tell him, I know he’s going to protest and ask way too many damn questions, and that’ll take forever. Well, logically he should ask questions since any reasonably intelligent person would ask questions, but… God, I just want this to be over.

Arriving at the bar where I'm to meet my contact a full hour early has the added benefit of allowing me to calm the fuck down before being introduced to the man who will decide whether or not I get to have a face to face with the target. I'm sitting at the bar nursing a scotch when Vinnie 'The Rat' Ratazonie enters with a man known only as 'The Crusher'. One look at the guy and anyone would know instantly that it's a fitting nickname for the mountain of a man who appears to be able to crush a person with very little effort.

"Let's take this somewhere less public," Vinnie hisses in my ear as he passes my stool.

With a shrug, I slip off the stool and follow them to the back where there's a booth tucked into a corner. I hate sitting with my back to the room, but there's no way I'm going to allow myself to get trapped in the booth if anything should go down during this meeting, so I grab a chair from a nearby table and swing it around in order to straddle it, facing Vinnie and his 'friend'.

"So, Vinnie says you have something for sale." Crusher sure does like to get right to the point.

"Yeah. Found this-" I toss Jonathan's pictures down on the table. "-being ignored by his fellow classmates at the private school where I work."

Vinnie and Crusher both whistle at just the pictures of Jonathan with his clothes still on. Once they get to the ones where he's begun to undress, let's just say that their eyes damn near pop straight outta their heads.

"What's his story?" Crusher asks, fingering the photo of a naked Jonathan stretched out on top of the desk.

I give a one-shouldered shrug. "His father's a workaholic, and his mother's a socialite that sees him as just another fashion accessory that she pulls out whenever she wants to impress someone. He's had trouble making friends due to having to switch schools in the middle of the year. His parents pulled him from his last one because he got into too many fights. I think he was trying to get his parents' attention. Of course with them being so self-centered, they just shoveled him off to a new school instead."

"Have you touched him?"

Shaking my head, I take a sip of my scotch. "Nope."

"Why not? The kid's got one hell of a tasty looking ass on him."

"Don't I know it," I mutter. "I prefer to just have pics to beat off to. Possession of child porn carries a much lower penalty than actual molestation. Plus the guys in GP tend to leave you alone if all you've done is jerk off to some pictures. Not to mention my old lady would kick my ass from one end of the state to the other, and she's a great lay so I'd prefer to keep in her good graces if you know what I mean."

"If all you want is some pics and the kid's willing to let you take them, why're you so hot to sell him to someone who's going to be doing a hell of a lot more than looking?"

I glance around to make sure no one's close enough to hear, then lean forward with my arms braced on the table. "The kid's become a nuisance. He follows me everywhere and has started showing up in my office before, during and after school. I told him he has to stop but he won't. If something doesn't change soon, he's gonna end up losing me my job and my old lady gives it up more willingly if I'm not sitting on her fucking couch all fucking day. And like I said, she's one fucking hell of a lay."

"Boss'll wanna see a full frontal on the kid, here." Crusher taps the picture he's been fondling the whole time.

"Not a problem. Like I said, kid worships the ground I walk on."

"Excellent. When do you think you'll have it?"

"I can have the picture, and the kid, ready for your boss Friday. His parents are going outta town for a month so no one will miss him until Monday when he doesn't show for school, and I can find a way to deflect that for a week or longer."

"Perfect." Crusher starts to slide out from behind the table. "I'll call with the time and location." And with that, and a stinging slap to my shoulder, Vinnie and The Crusher leave the bar.

I drain my glass, then slam it down on the table before getting up and making my way to my car.

The drive to Jonathan's house does nothing to distill the anger roiling in the pit of my stomach. An anger that I blame for the way I shove him back against a wall the second I enter the kitchen. I also blame it for attacking his mouth a bit energetically before coming to my senses and remembering I have to take some more pictures.

I pull back and run my thumb over his lips in apology. "Is there something you can do to diminish the swelling? Or should I try and fix it in Photoshop?"

"You need more pictures?" Apparently my kisses have the ability to addle his brains. Well, either that or I just caught him totally off guard.

I smile gently at the way he stands there blinking at me. "Yeah. He wants some full frontal."

He frowns as if that doesn't make any sense. He flicks his tongue over his lips and I have to fight the urge to follow it back into his mouth. "You can't do that." His voice is all breathy and it goes straight to my dick.

At least I still have my wits about me. "Don't worry about your tat. I can remove it with Photoshop."

"Oh, okay, then." He pushes on my shoulders until I step back and he can lead the way into the garage. Suddenly he spins on his heel. "Wait! Your camera."

"Fuck!" I slap my hand against my forehead. "You got a digital camera, don'tcha?"

"Sure. Give me a second to get it." He disappears into the house and I take the time to rearrange the area to better suit what we're about to do.

When Jonathan returns, he's sucking on a cherry popsicle, holding his camera high in the other hand. I roll my eyes and chuckle. "You are such a fucking tease."

"But you love me anyway, right?" He dips his head so he can look at me through his lashes.

"Brat," I mutter, taking the camera from him and beginning to familiarize myself with it.

He grins widely at me. "Want me to put on the costume again?"

"Nah. We'll just take the naked pictures. He's seen you do your strip tease. Don't need it again." He deep throats the popsicle and when he pulls the stick out, I see it's missing the frozen treat. I just glare at him. "If you don't stop, you won't be able to sit for weeks," I growl.

His grin turns into a smirk, and he saunters over to the desk where he drops his sweatpants. I remember why I'm here just in time to snap a couple of pictures of his naked ass. He turns to face me and pulls himself up onto the desk with me taking pictures the whole time.

This photo shoot goes pretty much like the last one, with the only difference being that he's completely naked the whole time.

He starts out with simple, yet sexy, poses just sitting on the desk and ends sprawled on his side, lazily stroking his erect dick.

"I think that's enough, don't you?" he purrs, turning until his ass is at the edge of the desk, giving me an excellent view of his hole. "Fuck me, Dean. I know you wanna," he taunts, his voice a sultry rumble, while tracing one finger around his entrance.

I approach the desk and the sexy body draped over the top of it, but unlike the last time, I don't just slam home in his ass. This time I have to go slow, have to make sure he's ready for me. I slip two fingers inside and discover that he's nice and lubed.

"Damn, Jon. What'd'ya do? Prep yourself every morning?"

He wraps his legs around my hips and urges me to enter him quicker. "Does it bother you that you're not the only one?"

Leaning down with my hands braced on either side of his head, I nibble on his neck. "Not at all. Just so long as he treats you right."

"Oh, yeah. She treats me just right." His voice has gone all breathy again.

The image of Jonathan being pegged by a woman has my hips stuttering which causes his eyes to roll back in his head. And of course he notices that his words have gone straight to my dick.

"You should try it sometime, Dean," he says between grunts that punctuate my thrusts. "Looking up and seeing a pair of tits bouncing in your face and knowing it's because she's thrusting inside of you instead of riding your cock…" He trails off as he climaxes, his dick shooting thin pearly streams of come all over his chest.

The sight of Jonathan tumbling over the edge into ecstasy usually has me following, but not tonight. I grab onto the reins of my control with both hands and ride out his climax. I manage to prolong his orgasm, causing his back to arch and his hands to clutch at my shoulders.

After a minute or two, his breathing begins to slow and the flush of sexual pleasure begins to fade from his skin. I use this as my cue that now's the time for me to let go.

Before I can, however, he says the one thing guaranteed to put a damper on my libido. "While having a woman fuck you is an experience not to be missed, it most definitely comes in a distance second to having a flesh and blood cock pumping away inside you. I mean, after we started hooking up, it was so nice to give my toys a break. And let me tell you how frustrating it was to look this young and try to replace what he’s got hidden in a trunk under the bed for whenever he gets a dry streak."

While I have no allusions that I'm the only man Jonathan fucks, it's the first time he's hinted that Jack ever had sex with men, something that hurts deep inside because I wasn't able to be one of them due to my not being out as a Vampire. DADT may say that Jack can't have a sexual relationship with another man but it does allow a Vampire to fuck him while feeding. For the first time ever, I regret not registering as a Vampire. Although, wanting to take Jack's virginity is not the proper reason to register.

I’d always been there for Jack, but he’d never taken me up on it, couldn't really. I can’t even articulate the kind of feelings that provokes. But even if I could, the mood is pretty much ruined so I pull out, grab the camera and, without a backward glance, leave the garage. I know it looks bad but I’m doing the one thing I know will stop the conversation from getting any more uncomfortable: walking away and ignoring his attempts to call me back.

He gives me my space, thankfully, and finds me later in the kitchen, polishing off a bottle of whiskey. One thing that sucks about being a vampire is that I can’t really get drunk, but I can sure as hell try. Jonathan doesn’t say anything, just sits beside me until I feel like being sociable again.

The sun has set and the moon is high in the sky by the time I return to the warehouse I call home. Seeing the parking area full of my team's cars just amps up my irritation level and I do my best to keep it from showing on my face. It doesn’t take long for me to realize I’m not successful, but at that point I just don't fucking care anymore.

The loft is full of the sounds of Ty and Jaimie debating something inane and pointless, but important to their mortal hearts nonetheless. As soon as they see me, however, they stop talking; Jaimie in mid-sentence, Ty in mid-word. The expressions on their faces would be hilarious if not for the fact that the last several hours, and the drive from Jonathan's in rush hour traffic, have done nothing but exasperate my anger exponentially.

Carter's attention has been focused on the papers on his desk but when Jaimie and Ty stop talking he shows that he did have one ear on their conversation. His head snaps up and he opens his mouth, presumably to ask why they've stop talking, only to shut it with a click of his teeth that I'm sure even Humans can hear. His brows lower over his nose and I can see storm clouds building behind his eyes. I'm in a shitload of trouble and I really couldn't care less.

Carter whips off his glasses, tosses them onto the desk and stands so swiftly his chair rolls backward several feet, spinning wildly from the force of the backs of his knees hitting the edge. "Just where the fuck have you been?"

"I told you I had a meeting with my CI," I snarl, not even pausing on my way to my desk. Until Carter steps into my path, that is.

"That meeting was hours ago." He sniffs loudly. "You smell like sex." Well, of course I do. Jonathan and I had sex in the backseat of my truck just before I left. "I'm not paying you to go fuck some bimbo."

"Not a bimbo," I reply, trying to step around Carter.

Carter moves to stay right in front of me, obviously pissed. "Fuck it, Dean! What have you been up to?"

"I assure you he's well above legal," I reply flatly.

Carter sets his jaw. "And yet he looks like jailbait. Why's that?"

I settle back on my heels, giving up on getting around Carter at the moment. "Good genes," I answer with a shrug. And it's true. When Sally was forty she could have easily passed for under thirty and I'm sure that was part of why David fell for her; he always did like them young, although not young enough to get himself into legal trouble.

Carter draws himself up to his full height and if I was thinking right at this moment, I'd just agree with whatever it is he's about to say and get on with doing my job. But I think we've established that I'm not thinking right at this moment. "You were supposed to have your meeting and then return here, to fill me in on what happened!" His voice starts out soft and by the time he's done, he's yelling and leaning forward so that our noses are almost touching.

"They asked for a full frontal," I say through gritted teeth, my hands tight fists at my sides.

"How could you possibly have gotten one when your camera is right. Over. There!?" He flings his right arm out and points at my camera sitting on my desk, still plugged into my computer.

"Believe it or not, Carter, I'm not the only person in the world who owns a digital camera." I pull a flash drive from my pocket. "I got the photos right here and if they weren't of a nature that would land my ass behind bars, I'd find somewhere else to print them so I could have avoided all this bullshit!" I test my boundaries by bumping Carter's chest with my own. I bite back a smirk when I manage to force him back a step.

"Dean!" Jaimie's gasp is supposed to be a warning but I'm not in the mood to heed it right now.

I can almost feel something inside me snap. Seeing Riddick, my crazier counterpart in the world, settled and happy with his Bonded Mate, not to mention seeing John with his Mate, has me realizing just how sorry my life has become and how much I crave the same with Carter. I want that. I want to be with somebody, mine forever. I don’t want to be on my own anymore; I want to be one half of an us. And the fact that my other half is this stubborn, sexy, pig-headed, rule-abiding, meticulous, do-gooder asshole who won’t let me forget that I work for him in this lifetime is the final straw.

"Watch yourself, there, Bendis. You are this close-" He holds up one hand with his thumb and forefinger almost touching, "-to stepping over the line."

"I don't give a fuck about your fucking line!" I shout, stepping closer until the toes of our boots are touching.

"Dean!" Jaimie calls out, sounding so much like my mother that I have to stop and wonder if I've been wrong about whose soul I see in her eyes.

When I turn at look at her, I see she has her mouth slightly open, something that can be blamed on her panting with her own adrenaline rush, and her tongue is toying with one of her canines. I raise my eyes to hers and see that they're open impossibly wide and the look in them is similar to what I saw the first time she ever saw me vamp out. It takes me a second to figure out what she's trying to tell me but once I do, I become instantly aware that my fangs are extended.

With a sharp shake of my head, I return my teeth to their normal appearance and turn back to Carter. "If you don't mind, I think I'll print out these pictures and then go home to get some much needed sleep."

Staring into Carter's eyes, I can tell he saw me vamp out but doesn't quite believe what he saw and so is going to dismiss it. At least he doesn’t look afraid of it; more like he’s convinced that his mind is playing tricks on him. I can also see him fighting with himself about whether or not he should let this go.

"Carter," Jaimie says softly, and it's like she's the mother of the team or something because her soft tone has the ability to defuse Carter's anger.

He deflates like a balloon, his shoulders slumping the slightest bit, and steps aside. "Do your job, Dean. We'll discuss this later."

With a nod of thanks at Jaimie, I continue to my desk and make quick work of removing Jonathan's tattoo and printing out the pictures I feel are the best. My argument with Carter has shattered the peaceful atmosphere of the room and we all work the rest of the night in complete silence. Slowly, quietly, Ty and Jaimie slip away when they've finished their work for the day and eventually I stand up to follow their lead. Unfortunately, I’m just not that lucky.

"Just a moment, Dean," Carter says in the softest voice he's ever used when talking to me.

With a sigh, I settle my weight on one hip, keeping my back turned. "Not now, Carter, please. I'm exhausted and hungry."

"Yeah, well, fucking a twink all afternoon will do that to a person."

I clench my jaw to keep from saying something I know I'll regret. "Please, Carter. Just let it go."

"I seem to remember you promising it wouldn't affect you doing your job."

"And it hasn't." I turn to look at him and instantly wish I hadn't. He's still wearing his glasses and his hair is mused from him running his fingers through it. "I can't do anything until I get a call about when and where."

"So you thought it would be okay if you made a pit stop to get you some." Carter makes it a statement, not a question.

"I was there and horny and he was naked and willing." I shrug. "What do you want me to say? I've known this kid his whole life. We became friends with benefits six years ago. I currently see no reason to not take him up on what he was offering." And I don't. Until Carter and I get our shit together, I don't feel bad about fucking other people. But once I tell him…

For the second time today I have an epiphany. This conversation, and the argument earlier, is because Carter is jealous. I can smell it just like I can smell his other emotions. I didn't recognize it because I've never smelt it from him concerning me before.

Of course the feeling's mutual. I was never jealous over Adair, but I find the thought of Carter being with anyone, not just another man, has me fighting a jealous fit. Once he knows about me and we have a discussion about what he is to me, he won't be allowed to even look at another person. Unless they're a donor, that is.

Carter wearily removes his glasses and rubs his eyes, his exhaustion evident in every line of his body. "Go home, Dean. It's late and we're both tired. We can discuss this once the case is over."

"You planning on going home anytime soon?"

"Soon. Don't worry about me." If he only knew that I can't help but worry, what with him being my Mate and all.

"Carter…" I start to scold.

"Please, Dean. Just go."

I nod slowly, grab my jacket off the back of my chair and head out. With the way the day has gone, I decide against going upstairs and instead head to the house that is my official address. Since I don't actually live there, the master bedroom is full of exercise equipment including a heavy bag and a speed bag.

I change into a pair of sweat shorts and pull on my sparring gloves, walking into the room and over to the corner where the bags are. I spend a few minutes doing a warm up and stretches, then move in front of the heavy bag. I begin slowly and build up to a full on attack of the bag, pouring all my frustration out on the leather hanging in front of me.

This is one time I'm glad I no longer sweat because I'm sure it would be dripping into my eyes and that's a fucking distraction that I don't need right now. After several minutes of abusing the heavy bag, I move on to the speed bag. This one's my favorite because I can let loose and give my Vampire enhanced speed a real workout. I keep at the speed bag until I can't ignore my hunger anymore.

Not even bothering to clean up, I slip next door and charm the pretty single woman into bed. For the first time in hundreds of years, I feel guilty for feeding without the Human being aware of it and yet not guilty enough to not sneak out while she's still sleeping and the sun is just starting to peek over the horizon.

I blame what I do next on the guilt I feel over the neighbor woman. Why else would I drive over to Jonathan's house reeking of some woman, when what I really want to do is confide in Carter?

Jonathan, God bless him, does exactly what I need him to do; when he opens the door and finds me standing there looking like someone just killed my best friend, he just takes my hand and leads me upstairs. I get from Jonathan what I never got from my wife: compassion, understanding and comfort and for the first time since he showed up at my door six years ago, I feel a deep sadness that he's not my Soul Mate.

I've never been one for cuddling, not even with the women I take to my bed, but today I need that closeness and Jonathan seems to know that.

I'm lying on my back with Jonathan draped over my chest, his head on my right shoulder, one arm and leg thrown over me. He's drawing circles around my left nipple. "I can hear you thinking." He turns his head to look up at me, resting his chin on my chest.

I tuck my left hand behind my head and run the thumb of my right hand up his spine. The kid puts up with a lot from me, so I decide that maybe he’s earned himself a little reward. "Just thinking about the last time I knew you."

He sits up quickly, excitement shining in his eyes. "You've never even mentioned that you knew me before."

"Yeah, I was kinda hoping you'd remember on your own, but apparently you're not gonna, so…" I shrug.

"So, who was I?" He gives a little bounce.

I can't stop the chuckle at his antics. Scratching at my belly, I try and figure out how to tell him just who he was in the past. "I don't think you'll like it."

He hits me in the face with a pillow. "I want to know! I've been wondering about it. You know that. So spill, McGillis or so help me I'll-"

"Alright, alright." I sit up, still laughing at his childish antics. Right here and now he reminds me so much of his past life that I feel a twinge of homesickness. "Your name was Myra."

His eyes just about pop out of his head and his mouth gaps open. "I was a woman!?"

"Not just any woman, Jon. The McKinnon's favorite and my first." Suddenly he doesn’t seem so excited, or at least not so happy to know.

"I was a whore!?" His voice has risen to a pitch that can only be called feminine and which I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate me pointing out.

"Told you, you wouldn't like it." And I'm proud of myself for not doing anything except give a faint smirk that I just can't keep down.

"But, but, but… a whore!?"

I hold up a hand in a plea for peace. "Calm down, Jonathan. Remember when you showed up at my door six years ago?"

He throws me an irritated look. "You try calming down after being told you were the castle whore." He sniffs and turns so that he's leaning against the headboard next to me, a pillow clutched in his lap. "Of course I remember. Best night of my life. Of course I'd only been alive four months at that point."

"Then you remember me telling you that while you might not be Daniel's Mate anymore, you are still someone special?"

Jonathan rolls his eyes. "You're not gonna go all girly on me, are you?"

"No." I shift a bit so I can see his face better. "Myra was someone I considered a very good friend. She was someone I could talk to about just about everything. I learned a lot from her."

"But a whore, Dean. I. Was. A. Whore." He can't seem to get past that point. But honestly I don’t know why he’s making such a big deal out of it; God knows this kid dives into sex like he’s found his true calling, and he enjoys it more than anyone I know.

"I know, Jon. But she had a gentle heart and did what she had to, to survive in difficult times. Back then women had three choices; get married and have children, become a nun or become a whore. Our village was so far north that we didn't have a kirk nearby which meant the priest came very rarely and so becoming a nun wasn't really an option for the women in our village. As for getting married, Myra wasn't the prettiest girl around and her father was almost as poor as mine. Back then if a woman had expectations she usually had to leave home to find them. And to do that, you need money, which she didn't have. So when she caught the eye of whoever was her first, she chose the only option left to her."

"What do you mean she had expectations?" Finally he's gotten past the fact that his primary occupation was spreading his legs for any man who wanted him.

"I mean she needed to marry a rich man. Of course any woman not of noble birth had expectations. Well, and some who were of noble birth. Most people don't know it but the majority of Scotland was poor, even the nobility. Highlanders seemed to be the poorest. Must have been because of how far from England we were. Lowlanders had better access to England and its riches so they tended to have fuller coffers."

"So when you say you were the poorest in your clan?"

"I mean we were the last in line to get food. Most people had two, maybe three léinte, I had one. My mother had to scrimp and save to buy material for each léine when I outgrew the old one. She was always working on the next one for me. A few times she didn't get it finished in time. In fact, once I split my léine down the back while cutting wood because I'd outgrown it and she hadn't finished the new one. She finished it just hours before she died." I didn't mean to go there but once I got on the subject, I couldn't stop.

"I'm sorry, Dean."

I nod. "Her and my Da passed in their sleep from starvation." And I don’t really like to talk about it. Waking up one morning and suddenly realizing I was an orphan is not one of my more treasured memories.

"Dean." His voice is full of compassion and it almost breaks me. Before I can guess what he's about, he's straddling my lap and is placing tiny kisses on my face. It takes me a few seconds to realize that I've begun to cry and he's kissing my tears away. "You still miss them."

I hate when people can read me this well. Nodding slowly so as to not dislodge where he has his head tucked under my chin, I answer him. "Yeah, I do. They died so that I could have more to eat. I was growing like a weed." I swallow thickly and gear myself up to tell the rest of my story.

He surprises me by leaning up and placing a chaste kiss to the corner of my mouth. "I don't need to know."

"You don't want to know how you taught me how to fuck a woman so well that she forgets her own name?"

"Nah. I'd rather you show me." Bless you, Jonathan, for knowing how to pull me out of my funk.

"Of course you would," I purr, rolling him over and showing him just what I learned from Myra, and a few tricks I learned from Adair as well.

Just as I'm drifting off with Jonathan once again curled around me like a large housecat, my cell rings. He stirs enough to roll over so I can lean over and snag my shorts off the floor and dig my phone out.

Caller ID says it's Vinnie. "Speak."

"5:30. Warehouse 36 down by the docks." The voice on the other end of the phone is not Vinnie; I'm guessing it belongs to The Crusher. "Bring the kid."

"Was planning on it."

"Bring no one other than the kid."

I roll my eyes. Does this guy think I'm stupid? "Wasn't planning on telling anyone."

"Smart boy," he says, then hangs up.

Twisting my upper body around, I deliver a stinging slap to Jonathan's bare ass. "Get up. It's time to sell your ass into prostitution."

"Wha'?" He raises his head and blinks sleepily at me. "Feels like we just went to sleep." He yawns wide enough for me to see that while Jack had his tonsils removed, Loki gave them back when he made Jonathan.

"Maybe because we did."

He rubs his eyes like a little boy. "What time's it?"

"Little before noon. Maybe you shouldn't have invested in those blackout curtains."

"Bite me," he grumbles, rolling from the bed and heading for the shower. He pauses in the doorway and turns to look at me over his shoulder. "Care to join me?"

"If I do that we'll be late and you won't be able to play the part of a virgin." He pouts at me and tries to get me to change my mind with one of his sexier looks. "None of that now." I make shooing motions with my hands. "Go. I want to leave in ten."

He pauses, and for some reason he becomes very solemn, like he's sensed something. "This is the last time we'll be like this, isn't it?"

I can't help but nod. "I'm gonna be telling Carter once this case is over, yes."

"I both admire and hate you for your faithfulness."

I chuckle at the petulant tone of his voice. "If Carter ever even hints at wanting to do a threesome, I'll be sure to call you first."

He nods and reluctantly turns to enter the bathroom. A couple of seconds later, I hear the water turn on and get out of bed, hesitant to do this.

I always carry a go-bag in my car, so I slip my shorts on so I can run out and grab it before heading to the guest bath in order to wash the stink of sex off me. While bathing, I plan my script for the coming meeting, making a mental note to remind Jonathan to follow my lead.

It isn't until I'm drying myself that I remember I need to call Carter. I enter Jonathan's room to find him standing with a towel loosely wrapped around his hips, contemplating the contents of his closet. He turns when I clear my throat. "The costume is still in the car. Since I'm supposedly bringing you straight from school, you might want to go put it on."

When he leaves the room, I grab my phone off the bedside table where I dropped it after the call from The Crusher. Pressing the speed dial for Carter, I pull the clean uniform out of my bag.

"Carter," he barks after three rings.

"It's me. I got the call." Tucking the phone between my shoulder and ear, I begin pulling on my boxer briefs. "5:30 at warehouse 36 down by the docks."

"Got it."

"He warned me to not bring anyone other than the kid."

"Good to know." There's a pause and I can hear Carter breathing and I'm fairly certain he's trying to decide if he should say whatever it is he has to say or not. "I want you both in vests."

"That'll kinda tip the target off to who I am, Boss," I say, slipping my shirt on and beginning to button it.

"Under your shirt, Dean."

"I don't have one and I'm nearly positive he doesn't either."

"Then I guess you'll have to bring him to the loft."

"Should I blindfold him first?"

Carter growls low in his throat. "Don't get smart, Dean."

"Just checking because of how you reacted to the last person I brought over." I can hear Carter grinding his teeth, then silence when he hangs up without saying anything else.

I must admit that annoying Carter is way more fun than it probably should be, and I have a feeling it'll just get even more entertaining once we've Bonded.

Jonathan comes back in just as I finish dressing and without another word he quickly dons the rented uniform. You'd think after spending his entire adult life in the Air Force, he'd know how to tie a tie but it seems to get away from him today. "Nervous?" I ask, stepping up to him and batting his hands away before he can make an even bigger mess, then tying a perfect Windsor knot, leaving it slightly undone along with the top two buttons.

"Just a little. Always happens. It'll go away once the op is officially underway." He slips into the jacket, then turns and heads downstairs with me following tight on his heels.

The drive to the loft is made in silence and I can see him getting into character, mentally preparing himself for what's coming. It's been a while since I've seen this side of him, the last time he still had the right to be called 'Jack', and it ended in a way that I'd rather not remember.

We arrive at the loft and head upstairs. In the elevator, I turn to him. "Only Jaimie knows I'm a Vampire so watch what you say." For once he just nods without an argument. "Carter and Jaimie both know that I've slept with you. Ty only knows I'm not picky about the gender of my bed partners but I don't think he really likes it, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't throw out any innuendos while we're here."

"Spoil all my fun, why don't ya." He pouts so very prettily but I can't let it change my mind about this.

I grab his shoulder and turn him to look at me. "This is my job, Jon. I have to work with these people so I'd really like it if you would act your age."

He looks at me through his lashes. "And which age would that be?"

I narrow my eyes as anger begins to build. "I'm asking for a favor here. Don't make me beg."

He closes his eyes and sighs deeply. "You're right. I'm sorry. I'll be on my best behavior." His eyes snap open and bore into mine. "But if you haven't told Carter by this time next week, I'll come back and tell him myself. Am I clear?"

"What are you, my da?"

His lips twist in a wry grin. "If I am then what we've been doing is illegal."

"Jon," I growl just as the elevator comes to a stop.

"Right. Sorry." He steps forward and opens the doors, entering the tiny hall between the elevator and the door to the loft as if he belongs there.

Jaimie, Ty and Carter are clustered around Jaimie's desk, checking out weapons, making sure they're clean and loaded, and all three look up at the sound of the door clanging shut behind Jonathan and I.

"Everyone, this is Jonathan. Jon, this is Jaimie, Ty and Carter." I make the introductions, doing my level best to not look Carter in the eye.

Jonathan tucks his hands in his pockets and rocks back on his heels in a classic Jack O'Neill 'I'm gonna let the natives think I'm an idiot' pose. Until his gaze locks with Jaimie's that is. "Hello," he says, his voice taking on a seductive note, one that Jaimie, thankfully, seems to be immune to. Well, immune for now at any rate.

When Jonathan approaches where she's standing, one hand extended, I warn him, "She has a boyfriend." He just shrugs. Of course that doesn't matter to him. Once he figured out that he's no longer constrained by the rules that governed his life for so long, he became everything Jack always wanted to be and refused to acknowledge. And that includes sleeping with whoever catches his fancy, whether or not they have a significant other.

"It's alright, Dean," Jaimie says, waving one hand in an off-hand manner.

"Oh, so you and Scott are on the outs, again?"

Jaimie glares at me out of the corner of her eye while taking Jonathan's hand, which he turns over to brush a kiss across her knuckles. My eyes narrow at the shiver that trips down Jaimie's spine, a shiver that I'm fairly certain only Jonathan, Jaimie and I are aware of. I tilt my head when Jonathan leans in toward Jaimie and whispers something in her ear that has her stifling a giggle. Could it possibly be? No, surely not.

"Dean." Carter's voice draws my attention from where Jonathan is trying to charm the pants off Jaimie.

Turning reluctantly, I face Carter, eyebrows raised. "Yeah?"

"What's the script?"

I glance over at Ty, who appears to be absorbed in checking his weapon. "I told my contact that the kid's gotten to be a nuisance and I need him gone before he loses me my job at the school he attends. So when we arrive at the warehouse, I'll basically drag him from the car and over to the target."

"Will he be able to follow your lead?" Carter nods at where Jonathan is still flirting with Jaimie.

My attention is once again snagged by the scene being played out just feet from me, and Carter has to actually poke my shoulder to get me to respond. "What? Oh, yeah. Like I said, we've done ops together before. He knows his role and he won't diverge from it."

"You better get him and yourself into vests," Carter says, once more pulling my attention from Jonathan and Jaimie.

I slip up and look Carter in the eye, instantly wishing I hadn't. Adair is staring back at me as if he was actually standing in front of me and not Carter. It'll be just my luck that this case will take more than just this afternoon. I need to tell Carter and start getting him used to the idea of becoming a Vampire, like yesterday. The need is thrumming through me, making me feel like I'm touching a livewire.

Clenching my hands into fists, lest I reach out and grab Carter so I can drag him off somewhere private, I let the pain of my nails digging into my palms ground me in the here and now. I turn away from Carter to find Jonathan still charming Jaimie. Growling low in my throat, I grab Jonathan's collar and drag him out of the main area toward the room where we store all our gear.

To give Jonathan his due, he picks up on my mood. "Look, Dean, I'm sorry if I stepped on your toes by flirting with Jaimie –" He trails off when I spin on my heel to glare at him.

"That has nothing to do with anything. If you want to pant after some skirt that's currently dating a lawyer, it's no skin off my nose." With a slight shove, I release his collar, then turn and stalk over to the cabinet where the Kevlar vests are kept.

Opening it up, I pull out two vests. Turning back to where he's still standing, looking like I just kicked his puppy, I'm instantly sorry for taking my frustration out on him. Dropping one vest on a nearby table, I carry the other over to him. Reaching out slowly with one hand, I'm encouraged when he doesn't flinch from my touch. I cup his cheek and rub my thumb across his cheekbone. "I'm sorry, Jon. My instincts are in high gear right now and everything makes me jumpy. Nick says this means the time's right, so trust me when I say that I'll be telling Carter just as soon as this case is over."

Jonathan brings one hand up to cover mine and he turns his head to brush a kiss to my palm. "You had better. Even though it means I'll lose you, you deserve to finally be Mated, Bonded and happy."

I smile sadly and tap his cheek. "Take your shirt off." He raises one eyebrow. "Please, Neilson. We don't have time for that. Carter wants you in a vest, that's all."

Holding my gaze, he begins to loosen his tie so he can slip it off over his head. Instead of dropping it on the floor, or handing it to me, he slips it over my head. Then he takes off his jacket and hands it to me before unbuttoning his shirt, which he also hands to me. When he reaches for the vest, I tuck his shirt and jacket under my arm and assist him into it. Once the straps are tight enough, I wrap one hand around the back of his head and pull him into one last kiss.

"Sometimes I still wish that you were my Mate, Jonathan. It'd make my life so much easier, ya know?" I rest my forehead against his, his breath warm against my face.

"Yeah, I know. But life's not supposed to be easy."

"I guess not." I've never been the type to pay attention to my feelings beyond anger, hunger and the need to fuck, but here, now, with Jonathan, it feels too much like a good-bye and since I've known him his whole life, I can't help but feel a profound sadness that I'll never have the right to touch him again.

"You about to go all girly on me, Bendis?" Jonathan snaps me out of my funk.

I totally ignore his question and assist him back into his shirt and jacket, replacing his tie and tightening it a little. Jonathan can read me in a way that no one else can, for now, and he just grins at my attempt to pretend I hadn't just gone all emotional on him.

Turning my back, I pull off my jacket and shirt, then pick up the vest and put it on. Once the straps are tightened properly, I put my shirt and jacket back on with jerky movements that give voice to my mood. Hoping that Jonathan continues to read me correctly and realizes he needs to keep his trap shut for now, I turn back around and head back to the main area where my team is waiting for us.

Jaimie all but pounces on Jonathan the instant she sees us, pulling him off to the side where the two of them once more begin to flirt with each other. Their body language snags my attention. I shove my hands in my pockets and tilt my head trying to figure out if what I'm thinking is true, or if it's just Jonathan sniffing around a pretty girl who's almost as sexual as he is.

"Dean." Carter's voice breaks through my contemplation of the pair and reminds me why we're really here.

"Carter," I reply, approaching where he's standing.

"We've got the perimeter covered." He points to a map of the docks that's laid out on the desk in front of him. "Ty wants to put eyes inside but I figure guys like this don't avoid capture as long as they have without taking the precaution of searching for that kind of stuff."

"Speaking of Ty, what's going on with his plan to get the main guy?" My question has Ty growling softly. "Did they make you?"

"Yeah. The second I entered the place, they were on me like stink on shit." He shifts his weight and I can smell his barely contained anger. "I did, however, discover that these clubs aren't your everyday sex clubs."

My eyebrows climb my forehead upon hearing that. "Oh?" I prompt when he doesn't continue right away.

"Yeah, they're vampire clubs. Saw a shit load of the fuckers crawling all over the kids, some adults and each other. Disgusting bastards."

I just barely refrain from letting him know what my opinion of his opinion of Vampires is. A quick glance over my shoulder shows that neither Jaimie nor Jonathan heard what Ty had to say about my species, or maybe they just decided to let me handle it. Whatever the case is, I have to let it go. It's not like it's the first time I've had to ignore an insult delivered to my face by someone not in the know.

"You don't like Vampires, Ty?" I tempt fate by asking the one question I really need the answer to. Since I'll be coming out to Carter soon, and Turning him not much longer after that (gods willing), I really need to know just where Ty stands on the whole Vampire thing.

He shrugs. "Never really thought about them as a whole. Just know that the bunch in that particular club are disgusting. To think they used to be human." A shudder of revulsion skates down his spine.

"I'm surprised they let you leave without some kind of parting gift." And I am. While I'm not sure which club he managed to get an invite to, not all Vampires are Human friendly, nor are all the Vampires in America members of Sylum.

"There were several that wanted to ugly up my pretty face but the bossman said something about not wanting to anger someone named Nico. I don't know anyone named Nico so I have no idea what was meant by that." I know exactly what the main guy meant. He made Ty as one of mine, and by default one of Sylum's. If he's worried about angering Nick then he's most likely someone who tries to stay on Nick's good side whether or not he's allied with him. "Carter and Jaimie both have already confirmed they don't know anyone by that name. What about you? You ever heard it before?"

I pretend to think about it for a minute or two before shaking my head. "Nope. Can't say as I have. Why don't we just be thankful to this unknown man since he saved you from a serious beat down?"

"Sure, let's do that," Carter interrupts, annoyance heavy in his voice. "Now, can we get back on topic? And let's try and not stray again, please." Ty and I share a look and it goes a long way to making me forget my loneliness, at least for the moment. "If I could have your attention for just a moment, ladies, you can get lost and maybe, just maybe, actually earn your paycheck."

"Sorry about that, Carter," Ty apologizes.

"Dean, what's the signal gonna be?" Carter ignores Ty's apology, doing his best to keep us on topic.

"Well, it doesn't really matter since you won't have ears inside."

Carter reaches into his pocket and pulls out a box about the size of a ring box. "This is state of the art. Can't be detected by anything currently on the market and looks just like a hearing aide. You'll be able to hear everything I say, and I'll be able to hear everything going on around you." He flips the box open and hands it to me.

Nestled inside on a bed of cotton, is a tiny earwig that does indeed resemble a hearing aide. And it is state if the art, or it was, nearly thirty years ago. It was invented by one of Nick's spy scientists and only just last year was made available for use by Humans.

I pick it up and put it in my ear, making eye contact with Carter at the same time. Carter's eyebrows have climbed his forehead to almost disappear in his hair line. It takes me a moment to realize he's waiting for me to tell him what the signal will be. Flicking my eyes to Ty, I lick my lips and try to come up with something that won't sound stupid when dropped into the middle of a conversation. "How about… 'See ya around, kid'?"

"Got it." Carter begins to fold up the map. "Dean," he calls me back when I start to follow Ty and Jaimie from the room.

I decide it's in my best interest to remain silent for the moment so I just turn and look at him, one brow raised. "Make sure you use it before everything goes south. Last thing I need is to pull your sorry ass outta some fire that could have been prevented."

I don't want to agree and then end up making myself a liar, but then again, if I don't he won't let me leave until I do. Shoving my hands in my pockets, I settle my weight on one foot. "If I feel that things are getting beyond my control, I'll give the signal." It's the best I can give him because it's not a lie and yet not agreement to give the signal when he thinks I should. And he knows exactly what I mean.

His eyes narrow on my face but he seems to realize that it's all the concession he's going to get and nods his acceptance. "See that you do."

I give a nod of assent, then turn once more and amble over to where Jonathan's hovering by the door. He gives me a look similar to the one I got from John several days ago. "You're not going to use the signal, are you?" Kid's too damn perceptive, as usual.

"Just do the job I require of you and stay the fuck outta my personal life." I instantly feel bad for snapping like that when all expression falls from his face.

He turns to face the door of the elevator and shoves his hands in his pockets. "So fucking sorry. Won't happen again. Ever."

"Jon…" I try and apologize only to have him shoot me down.

"Don't, Dean. Just…don't." He reaches out and hits the stop button before turning to face me. "I get that you're not sure what to feel right now. Trust me, I. Get. It. But-" he holds up one finger when I try to interrupt. "But that does not give you the right to treat those of us who know who you truly are like we're an annoyance you can't fucking wait to get rid of." He lowers his head and stares at the floor. "You've finally found Adair again after over a thousand years, bully for you. But for me-" he raises his head and looks me dead in the eye. "After over a decade of trying to get Daniel to see me-" he pounds one fist on his chest twice. "I have to start over and since I can't go anywhere near Sylum or any of the local vamp bars, I have no clue how I'm going to go about finding my new Mate. So don't stand there and expect me to feel sorry for you because I can't. Not at this time. But I meant what I said earlier. If you don't tell Carter by this time next week, he'll be getting an anonymous letter telling him the truth and then you'll get in trouble for being unregistered."

Jonathan's impassioned speech is like a slap in the face. I've been so preoccupied with figuring out how to tell Carter that I haven't even once thought about how all this is affecting those who know I'm a Vampire in general, and Jonathan in particular. The one thing that sticks with me is that he's not sure how he'll find his new Mate and it has me wondering if I should let him in on my suspicions about him and Jaimie but then I decide I won't get anything good out of him if I do. "You're right, Jon. I'm sorry. I guess after all this time and pretending in front of those who don't know, that I thought… hell, I don't know what the fuck I was thinking. There's never a good reason to take a bad mood out on a friend." I reach out and put one hand on his shoulder. "Forgive me?"

He sighs, reaches up and wraps the fingers of one hand around my wrist. "Nothing to forgive, old friend. We're both frustrated with the state of our sex lives." He shrugs, dislodging my hand. "It's all good."

One corner of my mouth quirks in a tiny humorless smile. "No, it's not."

"You're right, it's not." He flips the switch and the elevator starts moving again with a lurch. "But it will be."

"It had fucking well better be," I mutter, drawing a laugh from him.

When the car stops, Jonathan slaps me on the back and steps out, heading for my truck. I follow and climb behind the wheel and fitting the key in the ignition, give it a sharp twist to turn over the engine. Putting it in gear, I head in the direction of the docks and the warehouse where I'll be 'selling' Jonathan into sexual slavery.

With one elbow propped on the door and my other hand draped over the steering wheel, I take little peeks at Jonathan's profile out of the corner of my eye. I can actually see him settling into his character, finding the mindset of a prep school student who thinks he's in love with an employee at his school. Rubbing my chin on my shoulder, I open my mouth and ruin Jonathan's concentration. "When this is over, you and I need to sit down and talk."

"You practicing for how you're gonna tell Carter?"

Never thought he'd go there. "No. You and I need to talk when this is over."

His brows lower in a frown of confusion. "Why? I already know you're a vamp."

I chuckle a little. "Not about that."

"Then what?" He's starting to get annoyed.

I shake my head. "Not gonna say because you won't focus on the case if I tell you now."

He growls low in his throat. "You know I can't stand not knowing something. Give me a hint?"

"Sorry, buddy."

"I hate you," he mutters, flopping back in his seat and thumping his head against the headrest a couple of times.

"I know." I reach over and push against his temple causing his head to flop a bit to the side, almost hitting the window. "I hate you, too."

The rest of the drive is made in silence. When the docks come into view I decide it's time to give him some instructions. Luckily, he knows exactly what I need from him and he nods his understanding of everything I say.

I turn a corner and the warehouse comes into view. Jonathan takes this as his cue to begin playing his role. "Why are we here, Dean? You said you were taking me somewhere we could be alone. Somewhere special."

We decided to begin playing our roles in the car before we even get near the warehouse in case they have someone watching who can read lips. "Shut up, kid."

He looks at me, fear making his eyes bug out and his mouth hanging open. "Whatever it is you're planning, I… look, I'm sorry, okay? I promise I'll stop hanging around. I swear! I'll even beg my parents to send me to another school. Just please, don't do this! Please!" His voice breaks on the last word, a pitiful sob escaping.

Oh, he's good. I duck my head to hide my smile. "Shoulda thought of that sooner." I come to a stop in front of warehouse 36 with a squeal of the brakes and a cloud of dust.

When he scrambles for the door handle, I flick the lock and he whines low in his throat. "Dean, please!" he begs again. "I'm sorry, Dean!"

I ignore him and climb from the truck, making sure my door is locked behind me. I stalk around the front of the truck. When I reach the passenger door, we spend several minutes fighting over whether or not the door remains locked; I eventually win and pull the door open to drag him kicking and screaming from the cab by his collar. As soon as his feet hit the ground, I shift my grip to his arm and begin force marching him across the open expanse to the door of the warehouse.

He digs in his heels and turns his face toward me, tears running down his cheeks. "Please, Dean! Don't do this! I love you." Another sob escapes.

"No, you just think you love me because I'm the first man to show you any amount of attention. But that's over now. You'll get all the attention you could ever want real soon."

Just before we enter the warehouse, I purposely pull Jonathan off-balance so that he falls into me and I can whisper in his ear, "Please ignore anything hurtful that I might say." He glances up sharply at me and I can see understanding shining in his eyes.

With a firm shove between his shoulder blades, I push him ahead of me into the warehouse. He stumbles several steps and just barely manages to correct his balance by cartwheeling his arms.

"You have impeccable timing, Brown." The Crusher steps out of the shadows.

"Yeah, well, your call came at the perfect time. Little brat was trying to crawl onto my lap despite the fact that anyone could have seen it."

"I was not!" Jonathan argues.

"Shut up, you!" I snap, raising my left arm over my right shoulder in preparation of backhanding him.

"Nakamura would not be pleased were you to damage your own merchandise." A petite Japanese man steps up next to Crusher.

"It's really all these rich bastards understand. Their parents are way too lenient on them."

"Still, we would be most appreciative if you refrained from striking the child." I lower my arm and get a nod of thanks along with a relieved sigh from Jonathan. I know he could have, and most certainly would have, taken the hit but he'd rather not have to.

"You were instructed to bring a picture of the child completely naked," the Japanese man says, stepping toward me, one hand out-stretched, palm open and facing the ceiling. I pull the edited photos of a completely naked Jonathan from my pocket and place them in his palm. He quickly flips through them, stopping when he comes upon one that catches his attention more than the others. With the way he looks up at Jonathan, I can only guess it's one of the ones where Jonathan's stroking his dick. "If you are so intent on getting rid of him, why did you let him do this while you watched?"

I give a one shouldered shrug and grab a hold of Jonathan's collar when he tries to slip away. "I didn't tell him to do that and I didn't stop it because I figured your boss might just like seeing it." Pulling Jonathan closer, I lean in to hiss in his ear, "Just where do you think you're going?"

He gulps and looks up at me with his eyes open impossibly wide. "Please, Dean." His voice is tiny and it goes straight through my heart. I can't let his performance get to me and I blame that on what I do next.

With a low growl, I release Jonathan's collar with a shove using more force than necessary. Jonathan has one of the most stable stances I've ever seen and it takes a lot to push him off-balance. Even though I'm fairly certain he's still playing, I'm slightly surprised when he falls to the ground but his small cry of pain reassures me that he took a pratfall and isn't truly injured. "Stop begging. You're making me look bad in front of the clients."

"He had better not be injured." The Japanese man brings my attention back to him. He's standing looking down his nose at where Jonathan's sprawled in an inelegant heap on the floor at my feet. I reach down and pull him upright and he winces at how tight my grip on his bicep is. When I release it, I give a surreptitious caress of my fingers in apology. "Do not leave," Japan says before spinning around on his heel with military precision and going through a door that most likely leads to some kind of office.

"Not planning on going anywhere, Boss," I reply, shifting my grip to the back of Jonathan's shirt. "Haven't been given any bank for the kid," I confirm when Crusher and Japan just look at me.

Japan is gone for just a couple of minutes. When he returns all he does is hold the door open. I pull Jonathan along behind me and when we get to the door I put my hand between his shoulder blades and shove, causing him to stumble into the room. For some reason he doesn't catch himself before he falls to the floor and his hiss of pain tells me he didn't fall on purpose.

I step up next to him and put one hand on his shoulder to keep him from rising, hoping that him kneeling will please the target since the Japanese culture is so reliant on one person being subservient.

My first look at the target has me forgetting to breathe. He's the spitting image of Motohito, who was the Emperor of Japan when I was living there in the early 1400s. I was unaware his line had survived to this day. The back of my neck starts to prickle so I count the number of heartbeats and subtract that from the number of known Vampires (me) in the room, and come up with one less heartbeat than there should be. So, not a descendant, but the honest-to-Buddha Emperor. Wonder who was stupid enough to Turn his sorry ass? And then I realize it must have been after he was officially pronounced dead and another Emperor named in his place. How in hell did they convince him to not try and regain his throne? The man I remember as Emperor of Japan in 1400 never would have allowed someone else to rule his empire. Especially when he is more than capable of ruling himself.

My samurai training takes over and I bow deeply from the waist, my eyes respectfully lowered. "Nakamura-sama, kono kyuu douzo." The atmosphere in the room gets heavy with Japan and Nakamura's surprise. Guess no one expects some dumb blue collar worker to know Japanese.

"Okiru." The tone of Nakamura's voice shows that he's used to always being instantly obeyed. I stand tall, with my shoulders back and eyes locked on his chin.

"If the boy is a token of devotion, what do you suggest I do with the payment?" I flick my eyes over to where Japan is standing next to the desk and an open briefcase full of money.

"A token he may be, but I still have bills and a girlfriend who prefers the finer things in life. So I think I'll take that." I step closer to the desk and pick up a stack of hundreds.

Flipping quickly through it, I take note that the entire stack is actual hundred dollar bills. Setting it aside, I pick up the one under it and repeat the process, followed by a third stack. Since most people will only check maybe the top two stacks it's a common trick to have the top stacks full of actual money while the bottom layers only have a real bill on the top and bottom with pieces of paper between. The term 'paper money' is very much misleading because bills are actually printed on a linen blend with the recipe being a very highly guarded secret. This makes it easy to determine if paper is used to round out the stacks or not.

Once satisfied that the money is all real, I close the case with a snap, pick it up and step back to stand next to where Jonathan is till kneeling. "Thanks for the cash, Boss," I say to Japan. "But I really must be going now."

"Not yet," Nakamura says. "The boy will disrobe before I allow you to leave with my money."

So over the centuries Motohito lost his arrogance and learned how to act like a regular Human. Sort-of. Japanese Emperors are told they’re divine from the minute they’re old enough to learn speech, so apparently even six hundred years isn’t enough time for one to learn how to say please. I can’t help a smirk, but I do bow again slightly to pacify him. "Yeah, not gonna happen. I gave you pictures. Besides, I'd rather not be present while you do your thing with him. I refuse to be named as an accessory to statutory rape."

"I really must insist." He pulls a WWII German pistol from his pocket, and ain't that just fuckin' ironic? "Have him disrobe, now."

"Easy, now, Boss." I drop the case and put both hands up, palms out, to show I'm unarmed and to signal my surrender. "Is there really a need to see the kid naked with me present?"

"If you want to walk out that door with my money, you will do as I say."

"Is the gun necessary?" I reach down to help Jonathan stand up.

"If it makes you do as ordered, then yes."

"We're coming in Dean," Carter informs me and I can hear a rustling that I take to mean Carter, Jaimie and Ty are running from the command center toward where we are.

I continue to try and get Nakamura to put the gun down and when I hear a struggle in the other room, I push Jonathan to the floor. And just in time, too, since Carter bursts through the door in the exact second I hear the thud of Jonathan's body hitting the floor.

"LAPD! Put down your weapons!" Carter demands from right behind me just as Nakamura pulls the trigger.

The force of the bullet slamming into my Kevlar covered chest spins me around like a top, Carter's enraged eyes just a blur before I drop to the floor with enough force to bounce my head off the old wooden planks, twice, and then my world goes dark.

part four

Or read it on my website.


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