Bounty

Part 1 – The Hunt

The second he sees the wanted bulletin on the board, Knox knows he wants it. The reward is enough to make anyone salivate. Hell, he could take a long vacation after this one. How long has it been since he’s had a vacation? Oh yeah, he’s never had a vacation. And maybe he’s a little bitter about it. Maybe.

He tears the paper from the board before anyone can even get the idea in their heads. He skims over it as he saunters up to Serafina at the claims table, then slaps it down in front of her. She doesn’t even flinch, too used to him (and other hunters who are significantly less savory).

“This one’s mine,” he says, leaning against the counter.

“Good to see you too,” Serafina smiles up at him, sarcastic as always, even as her fingers start tapping quickly on the keyboard.

“Pleasure as usual,” Knox quips, drumming his fingers on the countertop.

“The details have been sent to your phone,” she says, taking the bulletin and filing it away. On cue, his phone vibrates in his pocket.

“Thanks Sera,” he replies, hoisting himself from the counter and making his way toward the exit. “See ya around.” He gives a little wave over his shoulder and is out the door.

He reads over the details as he makes his way back to his apartment to prepare for a longer hunt. It’s a high ranking target. Double S. Alive preferred, but the reward will still be paid in full for a body. Well, that does make this a little easier. He can go at it with all he’s got without having to be afraid of killing the thing.

Oh, now, but this complicates things. It’s a high-level magic user. So that’s why the reward is so high. Bounty hunters come in all races and many specialties from hand-to-hand to weapons. But not many of them are magic users, and none are this advanced. Magic users usually find other, cleaner ways of making money. That’s how the damn thing has managed to stay hidden for so long. Even if a hunter could manage to find it (which would more than likely be them stumbling onto it accidentally), they probably couldn’t even get near the damn thing.

Alright, alright. Think logically about this Knox. The reward is so high, you could afford to split it, right? Could still get a nice long vacation, even with only half the earnings. It’ll have to be someone strong though. A very high class mage, and those he doesn’t know.

Ah, but Eris will. Eris knows everyone, everything. Or, at least, it sure as hell seems that way. She’ll probably already be expecting his call, he thinks, amused. As he climbs the stairs to his apartment he pulls up her contact info and presses call.

The phone rings exactly once before a cheery, familiar voice answers. “I knew you’d be calling soon,” the redhead says, like little tinkling bells.

“And I knew you’d say that,” Knox retorts, chuckling softly as he lets himself into his home and locks the door solidly behind him.

She giggles, delighted. “Oh you know me so well. Well, out with it, to what do I owe the pleasure Knox?” she asks, amused. He can just imagine the way she’s probably leaning back in her chair, arms crossed over her chest and that grin on her lips, the one that screams innocence to the unsuspecting, but hides sharp teeth like wolves teeth.

“I need a favor.” Eris lets out a pleased little trill. “You owe me this time, remember? I need a high class mage for a hunt. I need the best. I’m willing to split the earnings fifty-fifty.”

“Oh, the stakes must be high if you’re willing to go that far,” she laughs. “And how much is that, exactly? Fifty-fifty? You know it will be much easier to convince someone if I can offer them a figure.”

“Call in a favor of your own if you have to,” Knox tells her, starting to pick carefully through his large stock of weapons. “I won’t be able to do this otherwise. I’m not fucking around. I need the best. They’re a shifter, very old, very powerful. No one’s even been able to track this damn thing.” Er lets out a knowing, impatient little hum. She wants that number. Knox huffs out a frustrated sigh to match, rolling his eyes as he adds, “If you must know, their half will be fifty million univs.”

“No shit!” Eris guffaws, slipping right out of all of her usual faerie grace. “You could fuckin’ retire after that Knox!”

Even Knox himself has only seen her open and bared quite to that extent a handful of times, and always in the privacy of one of their homes. Instinctively, she wears the characteristics of her race like a mask, so it’s always amusing (and, frankly, an honor) when she trusts you enough to drop the act.

He can’t really blame her, though. He does the same with his title. It keeps him safe, keeps him protected. He remembers what happened the last time he let himself be vulnerable.

“See? It’ll be nice and easy,” he chuckles, zipping up his bag and laying out the blades he plans to have on his person when he leaves.

He prefers blades to guns – easier to conceal, lighter, and varying widely in size and shape, so he can have more on him at once. And they can’t be hacked or magicked as easily into turning against you. Especially now that they’ve mostly done away with those damn smoke and powder guns they used to use. A ray gun of any kind is easy to hack. Even he can do it, and computers are not exactly his specialty. Still, though, he does almost always carry at least one gun on him. Just in case.

“What kind of timeline am I on?” Eris asks finally, regaining her composure.

“I’m leaving first thing in the morning, right at sunrise,” he informs her, moving to the bedroom to pack some spare clothes, the bare necessities. It’s his usual routine, he could do it with his eyes closed.

“Well then,” she huffs a little, though Knox knows she’s not actually upset with him, “I am on a short leash this time. Alright, let me let you go then. I know who to call, but he might take some convincing.”

“They’re the best, though, right Er? You wouldn’t let me down, right babe?” he flirts, grinning wide though he knows she won’t see it. She’ll know.

“The best in the world darling,” she laughs. This is the game they play. “I would never steer you wrong. He’ll be at your place for breakfast. Promise.”

“Thanks gorgeous. You’re the best.”

She lets out a pleased little hum and it sounds like the wind through chimes. “I know,” she muses, and Knox pictures that grin again. Wolf teeth. “You’re very welcome.”

They hang up and Knox goes about his night as he would any other pre-hunt night. His bag packed – weapons, clothes, supplies for nights he can’t find a hotel or lodge – he makes himself dinner and tries to go to bed early. The whole time, though, he’s wondering about this magic user Eris’s lining up for him. To his knowledge, women are, generally speaking, more powerful with magic, more intuitive. But she’d insisted he was the best, and Knox trusts Eris with his life.

Curious or not, he knows he’ll need rest, knows what a track and hunt like this entails, so he forces himself to sleep.

 

*

 

Eris approaches the magic shop just after eight o’clock. The owners are outside, chatting animatedly as the smaller one locks the front door.

“Hey fellas,” she calls, her voice tinkling lightly as she leans against the wall next to them.

Both men start briefly, but they settle as soon as they see who it is. A grin spreads across the blond’s face and he practically bounces over to hug her.

“Er!” he says, kissing her cheek as he pulls back. “I didn’t forget a date or something did I?” he jokes.

“Of course not darling,” she giggles, light like bells.

“’Sup?” Tarek asks with a smirk and a nod in her direction.

“Hello Tarek,” she says once her and Micah part. “How are you on this fine night?”

“Better now,” he winks at her.

She giggles again, sounding delicate and demure as she allows a light blush to creep up on her cheeks. “Well, not to let you down dear, but do you mind if I steal him away?”

“Of course not,” Tarek smiles. “I’ll talk to you later Stevie.” He nods to each of them, his grin growing as he lets his eyes trail along Eris’s body briefly. “See ya around beautiful.” And then he’s off, heading in the other direction toward his apartment.

“You’re so full of shit,” Micah snorts the second Tarek is out of earshot, nudging the redhead playfully as they start making their way to his place.

Eris fake gasps, fighting back giggles as she links her arm with his. “Who?” she asks, all melodrama. “Moi? Never! How dare you!” And now she’s giggling and Micah is laughing, both of them stumbling just a little as they try to walk in such close proximity.

“Yeah, okay, whatever you say,” Micah mumbles, snickering. “So did you just wanna hang out or did you have a specific reason for this visit?” he asks.

“I actually did have a reason” Er replies as they make their way up the stairs.

“I could have guessed,” Micah chuckles, letting them in. “You usually call before a social visit.”

Eris looks around, smiling fondly as she takes in the familiar sight of Micah’s apartment. “I suppose I’m going to have to change it up a bit. I’m becoming too predictable,” she jokes.

“Maybe I just know you really well,” he suggests, wandering into the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink?” he asks, grabbing himself a water.

“No thank you dear,” Er replies, settling on his couch. As the blond makes his way back out into the living room she starts, “So, I’m here for another friend of mine.”

“A friend like me, or a friend like Tony Stark?” he asks, quirking an eyebrow as he settles next to her on the couch.

The redhead smiles fondly, crossing one leg over the other as she rests a hand on his knee. “A friend like you, of course. He’s calling in a favor from me. He’s a bounty hunter-“ Micah groans and rolls his eyes. He is not super fond of hunters. Generally they’re brutish and crass and not too bright. Eris ignores him. “-and he needs a powerful mage for a high ranking target. They’ve been using powerful magic to keep themselves hidden and protected.”

The blond sighs a little, slouching in his seat. It wouldn’t be his first tracking mission. He’s helped hunters before. But, because most of them live up to their stereotypes, he’s never particularly fond of it. They usually end up pushing him around and pushing him too far and then he ends up sick in bed for weeks. If he does agree, Tarek’s never going to let him hear the end of it. But… Eris had called him a friend – a real friend, no less. That’s not a term she uses lightly, so he must not be too bad. Right?

“I don’t know,” he says finally, lightly chewing on the skin at the corner of his thumb.

“Would you like to know your half of the reward?” she asks him, mouth in that predatory smirk that has such a tendency to creep up on her face. It must be good to be warranting that look. Fuck.

He sighs again, eyes rolling so hard he thinks they’re going to get stuck one of these times. If it’s that good, he knows he’s probably going to say yes. That much money could really help him (and Tarek, and the shop, for that matter).

“Alright, fine,” he mumbles. “I’ll bite. How much is my half?” He mocks her tone.

Er’s smirk widens and she pats his knee sympathetically. She knows exactly what’s running through his head. “Fifty million univs.”

Micah balks, bolting upright and eyes wide as he looks at her. “Are you fucking serious?” he asks, his heart starting to race a little.

“As the dead,” she replies with a matter-of-fact nod. “But you have to leave in the morning. Crack of dawn.”

The blond sighs one last time as he runs a hand through his hair. “Alright, I’ll do it,” he mutters. “Just let me call Tarek and then I’ll start packing. Stay right here.” He gives her a look, pointing an accusing finger at her, before hauling himself off the couch, already dialing Tarek’s number.

 

*

 

Knox’s up before the sun, pulling on layers of thick leather over flexible vibranium weave, his favorite boots, tucking blades and a single pistol away, hidden but easily accessible. He’s not really anticipating facing much trouble today, or for the first couple of days at all, really. It’s all dependent on how far the bastard has gotten, how long the mage takes to track him, and how fast they can move.

Regardless, you have to be prepared. He’d learned that the hard way, back in his early days. Bounty hunters may have a code of morals, most of them even stick to it, but your target is still not the only trouble you may run into.

He’s almost done with breakfast for two when there’s a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” he calls loudly as he makes his way through the apartment.

“Eris sent me,” comes the reply.

When Knox gets to the peephole he’s… well, he’s surprised by what he sees, to say the least. And that’s the nice way of putting it, frankly.

Sure, the guy’s a gorgeous little thing; small and lithe, shaggy blond hair and blue eyes to die for gazing up at him, as if he can see right through the door. But the same things that draw Knox to him physically make him nervous about bringing him along on a hunt. How can this be the most powerful mage Eris knows? He looks like a strong wind would knock him over for fuck’s sake. And does he know what he’s signed up for, anyway? His pack is tiny. Can he even fit a night’s worth of things in there? Geez, what did she get him into?

“Um, hello?”

Knox lets out a sigh and reminds himself that he trusts Eris with his life. With your life. She wouldn’t betray you.

He lets out another little sigh and throws the door open, fixing his “I’m a Big Bad Hunter” mask firmly in place. “Food’s almost done, then we’re out of here,” he says, a little impersonal but not necessarily unkindly, locking the door behind the skinny mage. “You can call me Knox,” he adds, making his way back to the kitchen.

“I’m Micah,” the blond replies, dropping his bag next to Knox’s in the hallway. It thunks, loud and heavy, like an ogre hitting the ground, and confuses the hell out of Knox.

Micah flops into a chair at the small dining table in the corner of his kitchen, crossing his arms over his chest as he watches the brunet dish out the food and set a plate down in front of him. His eyes follow his every move, don’t miss a single breath or twitch of muscle. It’s like having Eris around, back before they became close, and suddenly he understands why she’s apparently so fond of this mage. The blond mutters a quiet thanks and digs in.

They eat in silence, and once they’re done Micah insists on cleaning up, his magic making quick work of the dirty dishes. It’s not until the smaller man is hauling his pack over his shoulders again that Knox finally can’t stop himself and he says something.

“Eris did explain what you’re in for, right?” he asks, almost hesitantly.

“It’s not my preferred method of income, but it certainly isn’t my first rodeo Knox,” Micah assures him, hands on his hips now.

So Eris had told him more than he’d initially let on. Alright. He makes a mental note to call the fae the next chance he gets and have a few choice words with her.

“Alright, alright,” Knox says, holding his hands up in defense. He lets his mask slip just slightly, flashes a small smile. “If Eris trusts you, I trust you,” he tries to assure him, tries to assure himself.

Micah narrows his eyes a little, tracing his figure up and down as if to determine if he believes Knox’s words or not. After a moment he must decide he does, because his posture relaxes and he shifts his bag on his shoulders. “You ready?” he asks, tone softer now.

“Yeah, let’s go.”

Knox locks the door behind them and pulls out his phone, skimming the information for the millionth time as they make their way out of the building.

“Okay,” he says after a couple beats of silence, “So the last place he was seen, yesterday morning, was a couple miles outta town, northeast. I figured we’d head there-“

“And then I can do a tracking spell from there,” Micah cuts him off. “Hopefully the trail is still strong and he didn’t take any measures to erase it that I can’t counter.” Then he snickers a little, a smirk curling at the corner of his mouth. “That I can’t counter,” he repeats under his breath. “Yeah right.”

Knox can’t help but smirk as he glances over at his new companion. He’s got spunk, that’s for damn sure.

 

*

 

They’ve been walking for hours since their last break when they finally burst into a clearing. Knox lets out an excited little whoop and pumps his fist. He hasn’t had to track someone on foot in a while and he’s starting to get tired, let his mask drop just a little.

“This is it,” he says, grinning as he turns to Micah. “Home sweet home for the night. We’re a day from the closest town, at least, so this is it.” He slips his pack from his shoulders and lets it drop to the ground, followed quickly by his leather jacket and the vibranium weave over-shirt he’d had on. It leaves him in nothing but his tight black jeans and a tank top.

“Here?” Micah asks, surveying the clearing they’ve stopped in. But he’s got to admit, Knox’s right. The sun is setting fast. He hadn’t realized how dark it was already getting.

“And anyway,” Knox goes on, “we’re lucky to’ve found this place. You know how dangerous it is to set up a fire in woods as thick as it was back there?”

“Alright, alright,” the blond says, holding his hands up in surrender. He drops his pack to the forest floor and there’s that thump again.

“What’ve you got in that thing?” Knox teases. “A whole town?”

Micah lowers himself to his knees and undoes the leather buckles, flipping it open and starting to dig through it. “I don’t think I could fit a whole town,” he says, nonchalant and, well, almost teasing.

And then half his fucking torso disappears into that bag that looked like it could barely fit the guy’s head and Knox’s mind is blown. His eyes go wide and he takes a couple long, quick strides, closing the distance between them quickly and peering to where Micah’s lower half is sticking out of the bag.

“A small village maybe,” the blond’s voice calls loudly, jokingly from…. from inside the bag? Okay, there is definitely more to this kid than meets the eye.

He pops out suddenly, making Knox jump back nearly two feet. He stumbles and falls flat on his ass. Smooth, he scolds himself.

Wrapped in Micah’s arms is half of what must be a huge tent. At least by Knox’s standards. You know, for a hunt and all. Okay, so maybe that’s not saying much. Maybe it’s not really that big. Maybe his standards are low. Either way, here all Knox had brought was a sleeping bag. He almost laughs out loud, still in shock and complete disbelief.

“Can I get a hand over here?” Micah asks, quirking an eyebrow at him. He notices the look on Knox’s face and his lips curl up into a smirk, thoroughly amused. “If you help me set it up, I’ll sha-are,” he sing-songs, teasing.

Knox takes another minute to process exactly what’s going on, still wide-eyed as he commits the scene in front of him to memory. Finally, though, he shakes his head and hauls himself to his feet.

“How about I find us some food instead and you share anyway,” he jokes, walking over to Micah and shooing him away before grabbing what he can of the tent and tugging.

“Already got plenty,” Micah shoots back, arms crossed over his chest now. He’s getting a little defensive again. “But you could find us some firewood Mister Man, and I guess the offer still stands. Wouldn’t want you to freeze to death or something. That would be a bitch to explain to Eris.” He snickers, holds his hand up to his ear like he’s got a phone in it. “Yeah, no, no, the shifter didn’t get him or anything, he just froze to death cuz all his dumbass packed was a sleeping bag.”

“I’ll have you know that that sleeping bag is made of dragon hide,” Knox shoots back, glancing over his shoulder with an amused smirk on his lips. “I don’t need you to keep warm.” He gives a final tug and finally the tent is out, too focused on the task at hand to realize how his words had sounded. He drops the tent on the ground with a little grunt, dusting his hands off.

“Well, if you don’t need my tent…” Micah teases, mischief in his eyes as he circles around Knox.

“Hey, hey!” Knox holds up his hands defensively, laughing. “I didn’t say I didn’t want it.”

Micah giggles as he squats down, organizing the pieces he’ll need to put the tent up.

“Can’t you just magic that thing together anyway?” Knox asks, hands on his hips now as he watches the smaller man work.

“Of course I can,” Micah says, glancing up at him briefly. He’s back to delicately grouping poles together when he asks, “So are you gonna go get firewood or not?”

The brunet lets out a little snort and rolls his eyes fondly, holding his hands up in surrender as he turns wordlessly and starts back into the forest. He really is starting to like this little firecracker.

He doesn’t get very far before he thinks he should probably take this opportunity to call Eris. He slips his phone out of his pocket, unsure if he’ll even get any service here at all. Thankfully, he does have a couple bars. Shouldn’t be too bad.

“How’s it going darling?” she answers on the second ring. The line is crackling a little, but at least he can hear her. “Isn’t he simply delicious? Couldn’t you eat him all up? I just knew you’d love him,” she gushes without waiting for a response.

“It’s going fine,” Knox replies, chuckling. “Delicious is one word for him, that’s for sure. A word I think a lot of creatures would choose when they’re using his ribs as toothpicks. Though I do see why you like him so much. He’s just as sassy as you.”

Eris snorts on the other end of the line. “You underestimate him Knox,” she says. “Not very wise. I thought you, of all people, would know better than that.”

Knox huffs a little and runs a hand through his hair. “Yeah, yeah. He’s already showing me, trust me. I know there’s a reason you sent him, of all the millions of people you know.” So maybe he lays the sarcasm on a little thick. “And I can’t believe you told him my name!” he adds as an afterthought.

She lets out a little snicker, but ultimately mostly just ignores his complaining. “He’s the best,” she says matter-of-factly, cutting off anything else he might have said.

“Alright Er, I trust you. But look, I gotta go. I’m just off gathering firewood. Don’t wanna be gone too long.”

“Okay dearest,” Eris coos. “Stay safe. Love you sweetheart.”

“Love you too,” Knox replies, chuckling, before hanging up. And that’s when he sees it.

 

*

 

Knox’s dragging two huge, long logs behind him as he makes it back to the camp. Micah is sitting on a large rock near where he’s set up the tent. He looks up instantly, eyes widening just slightly as they lock onto the brunet’s bulging muscles.

Knox can see him gulp visibly and lick his lips and it makes a little smirk quirk up on his own. Still got it Buck, he thinks to himself, just a little smugly. He kind of can’t wait to see what reaction actually chopping it all up gets him.

Okay, so maybe he’s been a little lonely lately. Maybe he’s been preoccupying himself with work a little too much since everything with Brock. Maybe he’d noticed a little too much just how gorgeous Micah is. Not his usual type, but stunning all the same. He doesn’t even have a word to properly describe it, to really do it justice. And maybe guys like Micah should be his type. His usual type has gotten him nothing but trouble, after all.

“Do you really think we’ll need all that in one night?” Micah asks, expertly schooling his expression the second Knox drops the trunks to the ground.

“Probably not,” Knox shrugs, slipping his axe from its sling on the side of his pack. “But I figured with your magic bag over there we could save some in case we get stuck camping out again.”

“And what makes you think I have room?” he asks, but Knox can tell it’s all for show. He’s starting to be able to read the mage with relative ease. It got easier when he started approaching it like he does reading Eris.

Knox swings the axe into open air a few times to warm up his arm and get reaccustomed to the heft of it. “If not, we just leave it here. No harm, no foul,” he gives a little shrug before stepping up to the first log and making his first chop. A small strangled noise escapes Micah’s lips and Knox can’t stop the slight grin that makes its way back to his face.

By the time Knox’s done, though, his smugness is gone, replaced with pure exhaustion. Okay, so maybe all that extra wood had been a better idea in theory.

“You got a match?” he asks the blond, slumping in front of the heap of wood he’d built up for the fire. It doesn’t escape him the way the other man is shivering, and there’s a part of him that wants nothing more than to wrap him in his arms and warm him up.

“Got a better idea,” Micah replies with a chittering little hum. He snaps his fingers and the small pile ignites instantly.

“’M really starting to love magic users,” Knox muses, flopping onto his back. “Gonna bring one on every mission from here on out.” Eris’s words briefly flash through his mind. You could fuckin’ retire after all that. But he pushes them from his mind. Can’t dream about things like that, especially not now.

“if you say so,” Micah replies, amused, as he riffles some food from his bag and starts cooking over the open flame.

The food is great (Micah is a much better cook than Knox had anticipated. The mage just keeps surprising him.) and as they settle in inside the tent, Knox’s suddenly realizing just how small it really is. When they’re both on their backs, they’re almost pressed side to side. He finds himself wishing for nothing more than to roll over and wrap his arms around the smaller man, to hold him close, maybe press a couple of chaste kisses to the back of his neck, his shoulder. To –

Okay, so maybe he’d been really lonely lately.

His fingers twitch a little with the want and he mentally scolds himself. Just because Micah had reacted to the sight of him doesn’t mean he’s interested, and it certainly doesn’t mean he’s interested in things like cuddling. Still, though, as he feels himself slipping into sweet sleep, all he can think about is how Micah would feel in his arms.

 

*

 

Knox wakes up at the crack of dawn, as he always tends to do when he’s stuck out camping. Immediately he registers the weight of a lithe little body pressed right up against him. Micah must have rolled over in the night and snuggled right into his arms. The blond’s back is flush against his chest, nestled right up against him, and he’s got his arm wrapped around his thin waist. Then he registers the unceremonious morning wood he’s sporting. Great. Thanks body, he thinks. Betrayed again.

Knox can feel a blush creeping up on his cheeks and he vaguely thinks that if he wasn’t so mortified, this would have been a really nice way to wake up. Maybe, he thinks again, I’m starting to develop a new type. Or maybe it’s just an exception, it’s just Micah.

Moving as slow as his well-trained muscles can manage, he slips his arm from Micah’s waist and rolls over enough to be able to get up without bothering the other man. When he crawls from the tent it’s just as slowly, dragging his pack along behind him.

Finally outside, he lets himself groan as he stretches. He looks around and the sun is barely visible at all through the canopy of trees. Knox generally considers himself a city dweller, in love with the steel and the glass, the skylines and the bustle of it all. But even he can’t deny how damn gorgeous this is.

He tugs his vibranium shirt back on and slips a blade into his boot. First things first, food. Maybe he can scrounge something up and have it cooked before Micah wakes up. But then again… Maybe he should wait. Micah did seem to have a lot in that crazy ass magic pack of his. Maybe he’s got eggs and even some bacon. That would be nice. His stomach grumbles.

As if on cue, there’s rustling in the tent and then Micah’s blond head emerges, rubbing a sleepy eye as he blinks up at Knox.

“Morning,” the brunet says, stretching again.

“What time is it?” Micah asks, voice rough with sleep. “How long’ve you been up?”

Knox pulls his phone out and glances at it, scrunching up his face a little. “Early,” he says. “You got any eggs and bacon in that pack of yours?”

Micah snorts, head disappearing back into the tent before he clambers out, pack in hand.

“No bacon,” he starts. He waves a hand and the tent starts disassembling itself. “Maybe some ham though.” He sets the bag down and dives into it, disappearing from the waist up again. Knox doesn’t think he’s ever going to get used to that.

While Micah digs, Knox gets a fire going. It’s the least he can do, he figures. So when Micah emerges with a pan full of eggs and some thick slices of ham, there’s a small fire, crackling and growing in the pit he’d set up the night before. Micah hands the pan and a spatula over to Knox and gets back to work packing up the tent and leftover wood.

“You think you can track him from here?” the brunet asks as he cracks the eggs into the pan. The ham sizzles on the other side and he lets out a pleased little hum.

“Maybe,” Micah says with a little shrug. “Do you have a picture of him?” The last piece of wood disappears into his bag and it snaps shut with a definitive little click.

“I have a couple,” Knox says, glancing over his shoulder. “But he’s a shifter, so he’s hardly in the same form twice.”

“That’s fine,” Micah replies, settling next to the hunter. “It would help if you had a picture of his original form, but I can still do it if not.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve got one,” Knox mutters, nodding a little as he does.

Over breakfast Knox pulls out his phone and covers the case a little more thoroughly with Micah, flicking through the pictures. While he thinks of it, he takes a selfie with Micah and sends it to Eris with the caption, ‘We’re still safe and sound :)’.

After breakfast is all cleaned up and everything is packed away, the two get changed for their day of walking through the woods.

“Are you ready?” Micah asks Knox as they slip their packs on. He holds his hand out and Knox pulls the pictures of the shifter up again before he hands his phone over.

“If you are,” the hunter replies, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

Micah gives a definitive nod before focusing on the picture. He mumbles under his breath and Knox wonders what language it is as a small blue orb starts forming above his outstretched palm, above the phone. It grows until it’s the size of a grapefruit, then what looks like a tail or something drips down and wraps itself around Micah’s wrist. How cute, a leash.

The blond grins proudly as he hands the phone back. “Alright,” he says, “we’re all set.”

Knox pockets the phone, watching as the orb moves forward, gently tugging at Micah’s wrist. It’s not enough to actually move him forward, but his arm definitely gets pulled just a little bit each time.

“So, that thing’s just gonna lead us to him?” Knox asks, watching the orb’s movement with fasciErion.

“Yep,” the blond’s grin grows. “Like a good little hound. Let’s go,” he says, and then he treks on, the blue orb showing him the way.

The hunter shakes his head a little, impressed and mystified, and follows.

 

*

 

It’s still mid-afternoon when they reach the edge of the little suburban town on the third day of their excursion. Knox glances to Micah and the mage looks exhausted. Well, good, he thinks. This could be a good excuse to stop for the night. The hunter knows this area particularly well and he knows that if they keep going, they’re going to end up camping again. And he doesn’t really think his heart or his dick can handle another night of that.

“I think we should find the closest hotel and settle in for the night,” Knox says, tugging out his phone and turning his GPS on.

“It’s still early,” Micah argues. The blue orb hoovering in front of him spins and twirls, tugging at his arm and urging him forward even as his shoulders sag.

“Yeah, but there aren’t any more towns within a couple hours and then we’d have to camp again,” Knox says with a little shrug. “Besides, you’re clearly exhausted. It’s better for us to stop early and get a good night’s sleep, rest up and start again fresh in the morning.”

“The tent wasn’t that bad,” Micah insists, but even as he does he gives a wave of his hand and the orb disappears. “And, anyway, I could keep going.”

Knox notices he doesn’t disagree on being exhausted and his mind drifts to Brock and the cruelty he’d endured while with him. He wonders if Micah has suffered something similar.

“No, it wasn’t,” he says, “and I’m sure you could. But whether you should or not is a totally different issue. And whether the tent was bad or not, a hotel bed is still going to be better,” Knox reminds him. He stops and spins around in place a little bit. After a second he lets out a victorious “whoop!” and pumps a fist, tucking his phone back in his pocket and pointing off into the distance. “That way,” he says.

They get to the hotel quickly and Knox gets a room in his name. A nice room, one that makes Micah question just how much money the brunet has. And, just maybe (though not actually seriously at all), contemplate a career change.

Once they’ve showered (a luxury Knox had already started to miss, though he would never admit it) and changed, Knox lets out a soft hum as he studies his companion.

“You’re hungry, right? Wanna just go down to the hotel restaurant? I hear they get excellent reviews,” he chuckles.

Micah runs a hand through his still-damp hair and gives a little shrug. “Yeah, sure, that sounds fine,” he says, only slightly hesitant.

They make it down to the restaurant and get settled in a booth at the back corner of the restaurant – at Knox’s request. He doesn’t let on to the other man that he’s got a few blades tucked away on his person, even now in his street clothes. Instead he pulls the steak knife from where it’s wrapped up with the other utensils in the napkin, twirling it mindlessly in his fidgety fingers as he reads over the menu. Micah eyes him warily, but doesn’t say anything about it as he picks up his own menu.

When the server comes over Knox orders a house cocktail, something fruity with lots of cherry flavored booze that sounds absolutely delicious. “Do you want a drink too?” he asks Micah.

The blond visibly bristles a little at the way Knox takes the lead (typical alpha male, he can just imagine him thinking), but he doesn’t seem to hold it against him too much, at least. “Uh, yeah. I’ll have the same,” he says, shooting Knox a look before smiling up at the server.

They order their food and when the server asks if it will be one bill or two, Knox cuts Micah off with a charming smile and a definitive, “Just one please,” still twirling that knife between his fingers. He knows the way he cut the blond off will probably lose him some more points, but it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Micah says, scowling and sounding just a little petulant, the second the server walks away. “Pay for the room all on your own, for my dinner,” he specifies.

Knox looks surprised, tilting his head a little and stilling the knife, blade clutched delicately in his palm. He hadn’t expected Micah to take issue with that part, though in retrospect he guesses he probably should have.

“I know I don’t have to,” he says, furrowing his brow. “I just wanted to. Is that a problem?”

Micah huffs and blushes a little. “Most of your kind push me around, too far as a matter of fact, like I’m nothing more than an object, a tool. One that can’t break, at that. Like I’m their property. Now you’re babying me, like I’m some dainty damsel you’ve got to protect and take care of and… and woo or something. And I’m starting to wonder which is worse. I really can’t decide.”

Knox snorts and roll his eyes, letting Micah finish his rant. “Look, whatever you think of my kind and what’s going on in my head, that’s not me and you’re wrong,” he says, managing to keep his voice low.

The server comes and drops off their drinks and some bread and then disappears again.

“I’ll gladly admit I had my doubts when I first saw you,” Knox goes on the second they have their privacy again, “but Eris says you’re the best and I trust her. Not to mention, I’ve only seen a fraction of what you can do, barely above parlor tricks I bet, and you’ve already blown my mind. Just because I can see that you’re tired and stupidly willing to push yourself beyond your limits and I don’t want you to hurt your damn self, that’s me babying you? Just because I know you’re doing me a huge favor, something you clearly don’t like to do, and I’m deciding to treat you to dinner and drinks?” He scoffs again, quieter this time.

Micah has the decency to look a little sheepish at least, his blush deepening and spreading down his neck and what Knox can see of his chest as he looks down at his hands fidgeting against the surface of the table.

There’s an awkward silence where Knox’s aware he’s gripping the blade in his hand too tight, that it’s just a slight twitch away from slicing him. He forces his shoulders to relax, lets the knife slide out of his hand and onto the table, and takes a sip of his drink.

The silence stretches out another long moment, one where the brunet can see that Micah’s lost way deep in his own thoughts. He lets his own mind wander too, if briefly.

Until finally Micah looks up at him, forcing a little smile as he says, “Just so you know, I don’t put out on the first date.”

Knox looks at him surprised and barks out a laugh. Even Micah can’t help himself and lets out a little giggle.

“Well I do,” the brunet shoots back playfully, taking another sip of his drink. “In case you change your mind on that.”

 

*

 

Knox is the best bounty hunter in the area. Probably the best in the whole country, really, and he was not wrong when he’d said that their target wouldn’t be the only danger they had to watch out for on this mission. This proves true when, two days later, they’re ambushed by a small pack of trolls.

Trolls are greedy little bastards and, while they are pretty small, they pack a hell of a punch and travel in groups. They’re at least as strong as a full grown man, with all the cunning and finesse of a toddler who wants your shiny, jingly keys. If you say you’ve never been taken down and robbed by a pack of trolls at least once when you were traveling alone, you’re probably a liar.

“Fuck!” Knox shouts as two jump on him, one around his knees and the other on his back. He slides the blade from where it’s strapped to the outside of his thigh and jabs, managing to get the one on his back hard enough for it to jump off, scratching his neck and drawing just a little bit of blood in the process.

Micah is about fifteen feet away and the damn things can’t even get near him. Knox’s never seen anything like it. A softly glowing blue energy pulses and flows all around the blond’s body. Every time a troll makes a dash for him, he blasts it back with that energy. It’s amazing.

The smart ones are starting to scurry off into the forest, back to where they came from. There’s just one left staring Micah down, running and jumping at him and getting knocked back each time. Oh, and the idiot currently wrapped around Knox’s legs. He’s half-heartedly swinging at it, stumbling as he tries to get it off. Okay, so he’s mostly just watching Micah.

But then the damn thing bites him.

“Get offa me!” Knox growls, finally refocusing his attention to the nuisance seated on his feet, little arms and legs wrapped around both of his legs. “Motherfucker,” he mumbles under his breath.

He slices down with his knife and finally nicks the thing, but that proves to only make it even more troublesome. Wounded now, but still determined, it climbs to its feet, shrieking, and starts racing around between Knox’s legs.

Knox tries to get away from the thing, to kick it, anything, and ends up stumbling and falling. He knows instantly that his ankle is fucked and he hears the all-too familiar crunch of bone snapping as he lands on his left arm wrong.

He must have screamed, because from where he’s lying on the ground clutching his injured arm, he can see Micah’s gaze shoot over to him, eyes wide in worry and fear.

“Alright, enough fucking around,” the blond mumbles, and this time, when he blasts the troll, the thing is blown to smithereens.

The last little motherfucker shrieks at the sight and quickly scurries off to find his companions.

“Knox!” Micah calls out, running over to him now.

“What the fuck was that?!” Knox practically shouts as the mage falls to his knees next to him.

Micah ignores him. “Let me see your arm,” he insists, holding his hands out. They’re the only things still glowing, and the energy has changed from blue to green. Knox eyes fix on it, fasciEred, as he continues to clutch his arm to his chest. “Buck!” Micah snaps him out of his thoughts. “Your bone is sticking out of your fucking arm!”

Knox’s head snaps up to look Micah in the eyes, even as he obediently holds out his arm.

“This is going to hurt at first, but then it’ll get better,” Micah says. Knox nods dumbly, glancing down at his arm and then back up at the smaller man. The pain alone is making him a little woozy.

Micah places his hands just above and below the wound and the energy starts to flow around it, making it tingle. Without warning, though, Micah grabs Knox’s arm roughly, forcing the bone back into its proper place.

“Ow! Shit! What the fuck?!” Knox shouts. But even as the words leave his lips, the pain is fading. It doesn’t even take a full minute before it’s totally gone and the blond removes his hands. You wouldn’t even have any idea he’d been injured at all if it wasn’t for the fresh, wicked scar now in its place.

“I had to reset it,” Micah snaps, “unless you wanted it to heal that way. Are you hurt anywhere else?” he asks, eyes traveling over Knox’s body slowly, analyzing, looking for any other injuries.

“I twisted my ankle, but I’m fine.” Micah’s hands fly there instantly and that pain disappears too. Knox bats at his arms gently, ushering him away. “I’m fine, I’m fine. Stop babying me. You didn’t answer my question. What the fuck was that?” he rambles, crossing his arms over his chest and staring at the other man.

“I told you, I had to set the-“

“Not that!” Knox quirks an eyebrow, thoroughly unamused. Micah just flushes, looking down as his hands as the glow fades and disappears. “Well, that too. But we’ll circle back to that. I was talking about when you totally destroyed that troll!”

“You asked for the best and you got the best!” Micah retorts, defensive and indignant again now. He stands up and glances around, taking in their surroundings. “Sun’s going down,” he changes the subject, his tone calmer now, but also colder. “We should set up camp. The closest village is too far off to make it by dark. Fuckin’ trolls,” he grumbles.

Knox looks around from where he’s still lying on the ground, propped up on an elbow. “We might be able to,” he says lazily. “If we jog a little.”

“You shouldn’t push that ankle,” Micah says, glancing down just briefly before his eyes drift back to the tree line. He huffs out a little sigh and drops his pack. “It was worse than you thought. Not much, but still. And now it’s just freshly healed, still vulnerable. I don’t mind sharing the tent again, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Not even bothering with pretense or subtlety anymore, he gives a little wave of his hand and the tent is tugging itself from the bag and setting itself up. Another wave and a fire is building itself, wood flowing out from the confines of the bag, from where they’d stored it that first night. But afterwards, Micah looks exhausted, his cheeks starting to flush as his shoulders sag.

So Knox was right, he thinks. He hadn’t even seen a fraction of Micah’s power before now.

“No, that wasn’t it,” Knox shakes his head, amazed at the scene playing out in front of him. “Hey, are you sure you should-“ he cuts off at the glare Micah shoots him. Still prickly then. Okay. “Sorry,” he says instead. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Nothin’ bad, anyway.”

“We’re getting close,” Micah changes the subject again, flopping down surprisingly close to where Knox’s stretched out. He’s practically in the older man’s lap. “Another day of travel or so. Then I’ll just have to break down whatever enchantments he’s got up, and then it’s all you.”

“’M tired,” Knox mumbles, a long yawn dragging itself from his throat.

Micah echoes the yawn, sliding down in the dirt and mimicking Knox’s posture. They’re almost flush back to chest now and the proximity speeds up the brunet’s heartrate.

“We should eat,” Micah argues. Then, “But yeah, I am too.”

“I’ve got some jerky in my pack.” Knox says. “C’mon, let’s crawl into the tent and just eat some junk real quick and then we’ll have an extra good breakfast to make up for it. Once we’re rested.”

Micah hesitates, like he wants to argue. But in the end he gives a little nod and manages to push himself up. “Yeah, okay, let’s go,” he says, holding a hand out to help the other man up.

They grab their packs and throw down sleeping bags and all but collapse onto them. Knox barely pushes himself up when he digs through his pack for said jerky, and Micah’s already using his for a pillow. The brunet grabs a couple of pieces when he finally finds the bag, resting his own head back on his pack now, and then passes it over to Micah.

“So how’re we getting this guy to… well, whoever’s paying, anyway?” Micah asks, setting the bag between them.

“We’re gonna call the guy when we get him contained and he’s gonna send one of his local partners in the area to pick him up,” Knox explains. He closes his eyes as he munches.

He had almost forgotten how small the inside of the tent felt, how close they would be. They chat a little as they snack. But when Knox finds himself drifting off to sleep, all he can think about is the way he woke up last time they camped out. He really hopes he has a better morning tomorrow.

 

*

 

After eleven long days, they finally come upon a cave. The entrance to it looks like something straight out of an anime or something and the orb in Micah’s hand starts spinning and bouncing around like an over-excited puppy. A little film of a wall covers the entrance, translucent and shimmering in the sun, and floating all around it are dark red sigils and glyphs. The protections, no doubt.

Knox drops his pack next to the entrance before stepping up to it, eyeing it warily. “I wonder how strong these are,” he muses aloud.

Micah drops his pack next to the brunet’s and covers them in a glamor. “Strong,” he supplies, sounding unamused, if a little impressed. “Don’t –“

And Knox can only imagine the blond was about to warn him not to touch the damn thing, but he’ll never know for sure because before he can get more than that one word out Knox’s already pressing a hand against it and promptly being thrown back five or six feet, right onto his back on the hard ground, knocking the wind out of him.

The brunet coughs and sputters as he gets his breath back. “Fuck,” he groans as he finally manages to push himself up into a seated position.

“Idiot,” Micah mumbles, an amused grin on his lips and shaking his head as he approaches the wall. The tracking orb has vanished now and the mage starts muttering under his breath, his hands hovering just above the barrier, that distinct blue glow surrounding them. Knox finds he’s started to become fond of it.

Knox, still sitting on the ground spread eagle like a child, pulls his gun from the holster at his ankle and fires a shot at the wall, just to the left of Micah’s head. He did say he wanted to check how strong it was, right? And if he was showing off a bit? Well, who would blame him?

“What the fuck was that?!” Micah shouts, craning his neck to glare at the hunter.

But Knox misses the expression because he’s too busy scrambling to his right. The shot, having bounced off the barrier, is now flying right back at him. It creates a crater where it impacts (right where Knox had been sitting, no less) and dirt flies everywhere. The brunet sputters to get the dirt out of his mouth, scowling as he brushes it out of his hair and stands up finally.

Micah snorts. “Serves you right,” he mutters under his breath, refocusing his attention on the barrier in front of them.

“I just wanted to test it,” Knox says with a little shrug, a shit-eating grin on his face now as he wanders over to stand next to Micah.

“Well,” Micah huffs, “if he didn’t know we were here before, he sure as hell does now.”

Knox gives a little shrug, settling down on the ground in front of the barrier. “He’s probably a cocky son of a bitch who thinks we won’t get in anyway,” he says.

The blond gives Knox a look but ultimately flops down next to him. “You make a good point,” he says eventually.

Micah’s fingers are moving quickly, forming shapes and making gestures that create sigils and glyphs out of thin air. Slowly but surely, one by one the shifter’s own symbols start disappearing from where they float in front of the barrier. Micah’s brow is creased, eyes narrowed in concentration and a light sheen breaks out across his forehead.

All Knox can do is stare in awe. He watches the mage’s nimble fingers, all the intricate movements, listens to the whispered words in that language he still can’t quite place (if it’s even really a proper language, so to speak, at all). And he’s amazed. He’s been more and more amazed by Micah every single day they’ve been on this journey together and he’s realizing now that maybe, just maybe, somewhere along there that admiration and the little crush has bloomed into love.

It’s a thought that shakes Knox to his core. He hasn’t let anyone in like that since Brock, hasn’t even dated, not once, in the three years since he finally worked up the courage to leave him. And then this silly, crazy, powerful, beautiful little mage just swoops in and steals his heart like this. He barely even knows him, really. How can he trust his heart with him? But even as he’s asking himself that, he knows the answer. Of course he can trust him. Of course. And he’s sure Eris would agree. Hell, Knox has half a mind to think she planned this. He makes a mental note to ask her, when this is all over.

The last sigil starts to fade and Knox’s pulled from his thoughts. He stands and pulls his daggers from their holsters on each outer thigh, his gun back at his ankle and more daggers tucked precariously amongst his clothing if he happens to lose his first two. These are special, though. Two nights ago, when they knew they were getting close, Micah had charmed them to deflect magic, to slice through attacks (almost anything, really) if need be.

Knox plants his feet and bares his teeth, getting his head in the game as the wall begins to fall, sparkling like glitter as it goes. He slips easily back into the comfortable skin of the most feared hunter in all of America. It’s a mask he wears often and wears well. He’s the best, he reminds himself. Once he’s put a target on someone’s head, they’re his. End of story.

“Wait until it’s gone completely,” Micah warns him, fear in his eyes for the first time as he slowly stands and takes a step back. Whether that fear is of Knox or what lies ahead, the hunter isn’t sure.

Still, Knox gives him a curt nod, taking one last deep breath to steady himself. And then the wall is down, glitter all but forgotten, and Knox takes off like a sprinter at a starting shot. Micah is trailing behind him, but the brunet’s not particularly worried for him. Their biggest, and hopefully only, threat is at the end of the tunnel. He’s safe back there. And anyway, he can take care of himself. He’s proved that much.

The tunnel opens up into a single room, decorated surprisingly well for being in a fucking cave. Inside, leaning over a pot on a fire, Knox sees his target. He only knows for sure because he recognizes the creature in its original human form.

Yes!

He picks up speed, despite knowing it will alert the shifter to his presence. He doesn’t care. He’s too fast and too close now to care.

The shifter’s head snaps up in his direction. “Oh no you don’t!” he shouts, his voice like fifty voices all at once, like a hundred, and then his hands are flying and he’s shouting an incantation.

Another translucent wall begins to form like the one that had protected the mouth of the cave and Knox lets out a string of curses as he makes a leap for it. He makes it inside the room just as the barrier seals itself with a little pop (one that he’d find hilarious if he wasn’t skidding across gravel, scraping up every exposed inch of skin).

“Fuck!” he hears Micah shout as he approaches the new barrier, and, to Knox’s amazement, begins pounding on it in frustration.

Hmph. Why didn’t he get tossed back on his ass?

He can’t think about that now, though. Micah will get it down just like he got the other one. And maybe it’s better if he’s behind it anyway. Knox can handle this part on his own. He has, what feels like a million times before.

He scrambles to his feet, teeth bared again and gripping the daggers in his hands tighter as he faces the shifter.

“Lucky boy,” he coos, condescending as he paces the length of the room. “Didn’t expect anyone to actually be able to find me. Must be a very powerful young man you’ve got over there.” As he speaks, he shifts forms until he looks like a bear. “Are you afraid yet, Knox?”

“So you know my name,” Knox scoffs. “Like you’re the first asshole who’s ever done some research on who might be hunting him.”

He lunges forward and a fight breaks out. Now, Knox’s fought guys bigger than him before. He’s fought ogre’s, and won at that, so he’s not particularly worried. Micah is frantically working to get the barrier down, but this one must be stronger than the other. It makes sense. It doesn’t help that Micah’s obviously distracted, eyes frequently darting up to check on Knox.

“Don’t worry about me!” the hunter shouts, successfully dodging most of the swipes the shifter is taking at him.

He gets tossed around the room a few times and is pretty sure he’s got a broken rib, among other injuries, but all in all he’s not doing so bad. He’s managed to get the asshole back plenty for it.

He gets knocked down again and scrambles up again just as quickly, back to his fighting stance. Micah is working frantically to break down the second barrier so he can help, but he’s just looking more and more frustrated by the second.

The shifter changes again, into a dragon this time. “How about this? Are you afraid of dragons little boy?” he chuckles, and when he does little flames lick out at the corners of his mouth.

“If you know who I am, then you know you can’t scare me!” Knox shouts.

The shifter’s laughter gets louder, echoing in his ears. It is really starting to piss him off. Knox dashes forward again, but by the time he reaches him he’s in a human form again. Big mistake! Knox thinks.

But by the time he gets his blade pressed to the shifter’s throat, it’s Brock’s eyes he’s staring up into. Knox’s eyes go huge as he gets stuck, frozen to the spot, swallowing hard. He can’t make himself move, and he knows it’s not magic keeping him there.

“What about now?” the shifter coos, that laughter still bubbling up from deep in his chest. And, fuck, he even sounds like Brock. “Are you afraid of me now?”

Alright, that does it. Fuck it. He was going to try and bring him in alive, but he’s killing this motherfucker now.

Knox lets out a feral growl and pulls the blade back, ready to plunge it right into the side of the shifter’s head – Walking Dead style. But he’s too slow. The older man changes just his hand to a dragon claw and it punctures his layers of armor like a hot knife through butter.

He barely even feels it as the claw digs right into his stomach, up his chest, slicing him open in one quick movement. But then the pain slams into him all at once, hot and searing and he’s not sure if it’s him or Micah, but someone’s screaming. Someone’s screaming and he’s dying and the last thing he’s going to see is Brock’s fucking face. Goddammit.

“Goodnight sweet prince,” the shifter says teasingly, leaning over him where he’s collapsed onto his back on the cave floor. He’s still got Brock’s voice and Brock’s face and dammit he does not want this to be the last thing he sees. Dammit! The shifter laughs and it’s low and it’s cruel, and then he’s gone.

“Stay with me Knox!” he can hear Micah shouting from where he’s stuck behind that wall. But the noise is fading now. It sounds so far away. The room is spinning even as it grows dark. “Knox I swear to god you can’t die on me!” The brunet lets his eyes slip shut. “How am I going to break it to Eris?” Micah tries to tease, but his voice is too scared, too frantic for it to land. Still, Knox’s sure his lips must twitch up into some semblance of a grin. The blond’s voice sounds so muffled. Is that because of the barrier, or because he’s dying?

“Knox!” Micah shouts, and it sounds wet this time, like he’s crying, sounds just a little bit closer than before. “You cannot fucking die on me before I tell you I love you!” And Knox swears he feels teardrops on his face and a vague tingling in his chest just before everything fades away completely.

 

*

 

Knox has a dream.

Well, it’s probably a dream. If not, he’s in heaven or something, and this does not seem like heaven.

“Wow, good job idiot,” his little sister Cress is saying to him, face scrunched up in disapproval.

She’s leaning over him where he’s lying on… well, he doesn’t know. It feels like a bed, but it looks like a cloud, and it’s low enough to the ground that he’s not really sure what to make of it. Yeah, this better be a fucking dream.

“What?” he asks her, but he doesn’t really feel his lips move. His voice sounds foreign to him.

“You could have been a pianist,” she goes on, gesturing wildly as she paces around him. “Could have been a writer. Could have been a lot of things. And now you’re dead. Congrats!” She snorts bitterly and finally wanders away. Not far though, she stops just a couple feet from where he’s lying.

“I’m not dead!” Knox shoots back, pushing himself up to a seat. “If I was dead, that would mean you are too. And considering you’ve got the single most boring job in the world, I’m pretty sure you’re not dead.”

“What if I got hit by a car or something?” she replies, eyebrows raised. “You don’t know. You haven’t called in two weeks.”

“Then you’d be as big of an idiot as me.”

Cress – or, his mind’s construction of her anyway, laughs at that, head thrown back and shoulders shaking. The scene in front of him starts fading to black. Dream Cress opens her mouth to say something, but he can’t hear her, and soon it’s all darkness and silence again.

He lets out a huff and flops onto his back, closing his eyes again. In his… dream. Okay, this is too weird for him. He makes a mental note to never lucid dream again.

It seems like forever, but finally noise starts filtering into the darkness. It’s Micah’s voice.

Yeah Er,” he’s saying, “I healed him before I even got him out of the cave. It was the first fucking thing I did. We’ve been over this.” He lets out a heavy sigh and Knox can hear his bare feet padding on carpeting as he paces. “He’s breathing, brain activity is normal from what my limited healthcare skills can tell – I’m not a doctor y’know – he just… hasn’t woken up. I don’t know.”

Knox lets his eyes blink open and it is too bright when he does. He lets out a heavy sigh and tries to shift to shield his eyes, but his limbs feel like lead. He tries opening them again anyway, and when his eyes finally adjust Micah is stopped in front of the window, staring out at (from what Knox can see) nothing. Where the fuck are they?

His lips are chapped and his mouth is dry and his throat hurts, on top of feeling like he’d been hit by a train. “Stevie,” he croaks. It’s barely above a whisper, and even so it sounds awful in his ears.

But Micah’s head snaps around to him, eyes wide. “Er,” he says into the phone, head turning back to the window briefly. “Speak of the devil,” he tries to force a lightness to his voice and falls short, “he just woke up. I gotta go.” There’s a beat, then, “I will. Love you too,” and then he hangs up.

Knox swallows and clears his throat weakly, then tries again. “Stevie,” he mumbles, and it’s a little better this time at least.

“How are you feeling?” Micah asks, sitting on the edge of the bed and handing Knox a glass of water. “Eris says she loves you and not to scare her like that again.”

The brunet manages to push himself up to take a sip. He notices there’s only one bed in the room – king sized. He’s on the left side, and the right is still made up. So either Micah remade just his side of the bed, or he slept in one of those ridiculous chairs across the room.

Or he didn’t sleep at all. Shit.

“Like shit,” Knox says, and this time he actually sounds mostly alive. He takes another sip and clears his throat again. “How long have I been out?”

“Three days,” the blond replies, chewing on his lip as he takes the glass from Knox and sets it on the nightstand.

Knox groans, flopping back against the pillows. That’s one hell of a head start. “Please tell me you blew the shifter up like that fucking troll,” he growls.

“No,” Micah starts, and Knox groans again. “But listen! Listen!” he urges him, waving his hands around defensively. “I tagged him! As he was getting away! This time we’ll be able to teleport right to him!”

A grin breaks out on the hunter’s face and he looks up at him. “Seriously? What if he puts up protections again?”

“It won’t matter. We’ll end up right in the room with him. No warning or anything. He might be older than me, but he’s not better than me. When you’re feeling up to it, he’s ours.” And he looks proud of himself, smiling from ear to ear.

“God I love you,” Knox mumbles, letting his eyes drift closed again, but that grin doesn’t leave his face.

He hadn’t meant it like that, at least not consciously. But he feels Micah’s body go tense next to him and it’s only then that Micah’s final words in the cave before he’d passed out come back to him.

You cannot fucking die on me before I tell you I love you!

“Micah…” he starts timidly, blinking up at the blond, “did… In the… Back in the cave… did you…?”

A blush blooms on Micah’s cheeks instantly and he hops up from the bed, wrapping his arms tightly around himself as he strides across the room to the table on the other side. He doesn’t sit down, though, only leans heavily against it, one hand supporting him as the other unlocks his phone and mindlessly flicks through it.

“Did I what?” he asks, trying to play dumb. But he is way too obvious. Knox sees right through him and he knows it. “How… uh,” he glances over his shoulder at Knox, then back to his phone as the hunter pushes himself upright once more, “how much did you hear?”

Knox looks down now, at his hands fidgeting in his lap. Suddenly he’s feeling shy too. “I… uh…” he chews on his lip a little, glancing up a couple of times but never letting his eyes linger on Micah. “I heard you say you love me,” he says finally, just above a whisper.

The blond’s movements freeze and his shoulders visibly tense.

“You, uh, you were probably just- It was probably just because you thought I was going to die or something… Don’t worry about it,” Knox tries to sound nonchalant but he knows it doesn’t work. “I, um, I didn’t-“

“I meant it.” The words are whispered, so quiet the hunter’s not even sure he heard him right. “I didn’t mean to blurt it out like that,” Micah goes on a moment later, “but I thought you were unconscious already and everything. But I still… I meant it.”

Knox’s smiling from ear to ear now – Micah would see it if only he’d look over. But the brunet doesn’t blame him, he’s not looking up either. His hands are shaking in his lap and his heart is racing and he kind of feels like he’s going to puke. He hasn’t felt like this is a long, long time and it’s scary and wonderful and so so horrifyingly scary. Like, he really feels like he might pass out or throw up or both.

But instead, still not pulling his gaze from his lap, he whispers, “I love you too.”

Micah’s head snaps in his direction and it’s only then that the brunet gathers up the courage to look up at him, smiling sheepishly.

“What?” the blond asks, grinning and looking damn near hysterical if Knox says so himself.

“You heard me,” he chuckles, running a hand through his long hair, pushing it out of his face.

Micah races over and jumps onto the bed, that grin still on his lips as he crawls right into Knox’s lap, straddling his hips and bringing a hand up to cup his cheek.

“You fucking oaf,” he teases, giggles, tilting the hunter’s chin up so he looks into his eyes. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”

“I had just figured it out myself!” Knox laughs, resting his hands on the blond’s slim hips. It feels nice, he thinks. It feels right. “Now are you going to kiss me or what?”

Micah lets out a little snort, rolling his eyes fondly. But then he’s slipping his fingers into Knox’s hair and pressing their lips together and that’s all that matters in the world. The kiss is soft and sweet and better than Knox could have ever imagined, better than he remembers any kiss ever being. He never wants it to end.

When they do finally part, they’re both grinning like fools. Micah snuggles in closer to Knox’s chest and rests his head on his shoulder, wrapping his legs around his waist now so he’s at the hunter’s level again.

“Can I ask you a question?” he asks after a moment of contented silence.

“You just did,” the older man teases, letting his fingers trail up and down along Micah’s spine.

“Oh my god!” Micah laughs. “You’re one of those people! You’re the worst!” he teases, pressing gentle kisses along Knox’s neck.

Knox laughs deep in his chest and tips his head, allowing Micah easier access to the expanse of skin. “Yeah, yeah,” he mumbles. “You had a question?”

Micah frowns and nuzzles into the crook of Knox’s neck, wrapping his arms around his chest and holding the other man tightly. “Who was that guy that the shifter changed into?” he asks quietly. The way you just stopped scared me, he doesn’t say. You were so ferocious… before, he doesn’t say.

Knox hesitates, the smile falling from his lips and he swallows hard. “His name was Brock Rumlow,” he says, and his voice sounds strained. His hands are still on Micah’s back, drumming against the skin lightly. “He was my ex and he was shit and I was head over heels for him and he took advantage of that.”

Micah lets out a little hum and presses a soft kiss to Knox’s neck before sitting up to look at him. He gives a soft smile and cups the brunet’s cheeks in his hands. “I would never do that to you,” he assures him. Those blue eyes look so earnest as they peer into Knox’s, he looks so sure of himself.

Knox blushes a little as he leans into the touch, letting his eyes drift shut. “I believe you,” he says. And he does.

 

*

 

A few days later Knox is almost back to full strength. Micah argues they should wait, Knox did almost die after all. But the hunter whines about being bored and wanting to get this hunt the fuck over with. He argues that with Micah’s tag on him, they’ll be able to sneak up on him and take him down quickly. Knox isn’t even going to fuck around. He’s going for the kill and he’s going to do it fast. So, after an hour of arguing, Micah finally gives in.

And it goes just like Knox said it would. They wait until it’s late, until the shifter should be asleep, and then teleports them right into his newest lair. He wakes up and tries to fight them off, but there’s a rage in Knox now and it’s personal. The shifter is dead before he can even throw the magic blast. Micah watches him with wary eyes as he sends out the email and they wait for their employer to show up and collect the body.

“So, what do we do now?” Micah asks as they settle into their private room on the train home. “Where do we stand and all that?”

It’s just started moving and they’re glad for the ride home. Knox would have rented them a car or something if their employer hadn’t done this. There was no way they were walking back home when they didn’t have to.

“What do you mean?” Knox asks, stretching out across one row of seats. He props himself up on an elbow and looks up at where the blond’s standing above him, a fond smirk on his lips.

“I mean… us, you know? What are we gonna do?” Micah asks, settling into a seat across from the brunet.

Knox gives one shoulder a little shrug. “Probably get to know each other a little more, right?” he asks. “I mean, we know all these weird intimate things like how you brush your teeth, but I don’t even know what you read before bed or what you normally do for a job or anything,” he chuckles.

“You paid attention to how I brush my teeth?” Micah snickers, quirking an eyebrow at him.

“Duh,” Knox jokes, sticking his tongue out.

Micah giggles, shaking his head at the other man. “I run a magic shop with my best friend,” he says, drumming his fingers against his thigh.

“A magic shop?” Knox snickers, but his smile widens. “Like fake magic tricks or like you do spells and make potions and shit for people?”

The blond busts out laughing. “Oh man, do those kind of magic shops even exist anymore? That’s hilarious,” he mutters around giggles, doubled over his lap. “We do spells and stuff. And sell some supplies, too,” he manages once he settles down a little.

“So what’s this friend of yours like?” Knox asks, letting his head drop back to the cushions.

Micah’s smile softens and he tilts his head just a little. “His name is Tarek,” he says. “He’s a shifter, but he doesn’t really use it much. Sometimes to entertain little kid.” He laughs at a memory and shifts onto his side, stretching across the seats. “I don’t really know how to explain him. He’s funny and caring and awesome. Maybe you can stop by the shop and meet him?” And when Knox looks into those blue eyes, they look hopeful and a little nervous.

“I would love to,” Knox replies, reaching across the small gap between them and tangling Micah’s fingers with his loosely.

“Oh! You should bring Er, too!” the blond laughs, curling his fingers just a little tighter around the other man’s. “Tarek’s got a huge crush on her! It’s hilarious,” he snickers.

“Oh my god!” Knox laughs. “Does he really? That’s great!”

“Oh yeah, and she totally plays it up.”

“Of course she does.”

Knox looks across the car to Micah and a warmth fills his chest, the two of them just lying there, fingers intertwined, giggling and gossiping like schoolgirls. He can’t remember the last time he was this happy. And, god, how did he get so attached to this gorgeous man this fast?

“Does she do that thing with him?” he asks, still laughing. “Where she plays all coy like she is the most faerie of faerie to ever be a faerie?”

“Oh my god yes! It’s hilarious!” Micah’s face scrunches up when he laughs like this and Knox thinks it might be the most adorable thing he’s ever seen.

There’s a beat where he’s just watching the blond smile and laugh, swinging their arms just slightly as he does. Then he tugs gently on Micah’s hand and asks, “Hey Stevie?”

“Yeah Buck?” The younger man looks up at him, smile soft and eyes curious.

“When we get back, would you want to go on a date with me?”

 

 

 

Part 2 – The Aftermath

When they get off the train, Knox insists on walking him all the way back to his place.

“You don’t have to do that you know,” Micah argues, a slight blush blooming on his cheeks.

“I know,” the hunter says with a smile. “I just want to.” He’s well aware by now that the mage can take care of himself, especially now that they’re back home in the city and not on some crazy mission, but he’s been with Micah 24/7 for what feels like so long that he’s not quite ready to go back to his empty apartment just yet. If Micah will let him walk him home, he’s going to cherish every last second he can get.

“Well,” Micah huffs playfully, “if you insist then.” He bats his lashes and holds a hand out for the older man.

Knox laces their fingers together, a grin playing on his lips, and they walk in a comfortable silence, enjoying the company and the nice day. It isn’t long, though, before Micah’s tugging him to a stop, smiling shyly up at him.

“This is it?” Knox asks, surveying the building. It’s a pretty nice building with beautiful architecture. Definitely nicer to look at than his own. It’s not that Knox’s building is crummy or anything, it just wasn’t exactly designed to stop passers-by with its beauty.

“Yeah,” Micah says, pulling his keys from his pocket and twirling them a little. “Did you, uh- did you want to come up?” he asks. “We can have some coffee or something, you can judge my movie collection,” he jokes, laughing, and gives a little shrug.

The brunet chuckles softly, smiling wide as he gives a little nod. “Yeah,” he says, squeezing Micah’s hand gently. “That sounds great. I’d love to.”

“Alright then, c’mon.” The blond is grinning from ear to ear as he leads Knox up the stairs and into his apartment.

They kick off their shoes at the door and Knox thinks this has got to be the cutest little loft apartment he’s ever seen. Micah’s bed is tucked into the corner of the living room instead of up where it’s supposed to be. In its place up on the loft itself there’s a whole art studio set up. He’s trying hard not to be too blown away by it, while also absorbing this new tidbit of information about the blond. Suddenly the building choice makes sense.

“So you’re an artist?” he asks, taking long, slow steps as he surveys the lower level of the apartment.

Tidy kitchen with a nice little island, huge windows letting in so much Erural light, modern furniture in the living room area, all the current gaming systems and a stack of shortboxes next to a very full bookshelf. On the other side of the room another bookshelf holds DVDs and knick knacks. He loves how all you have to do to delve into Micah’s soul is look around his apartment. Knox thinks he could spend days on end here exploring.

“Yeah,” the blond replies from where he’s already in the kitchen, making coffee. At some point while Knox was admiring the view, he’d dropped his backpack and jacket next to the couch. Knox follows suit, letting the weight drop from his shoulders. “Don’t go up to the studio, though,” Micah says, tone nervous and bashful and more serious now. “That’s definitely, like, third date material at least.”

Knox chuckles, shaking his head as he opts for the bookshelf instead then. “So you’re saying there will be a third date?” he teases over his shoulder. “Does this get to count as number one?”

“No this does not count as one,” Micah laughs, leaning against his kitchen counter.

“Too late, I’m counting it.” He’s skimming the books now, a grin on his face.

Lots of art books, aEromy, some young adult, sci-fi, fantasy. There’s a couple cookbooks and some manga mixed in too. It looks similar to his own collection. Minus the weapons and fighting books, of course. But in their place are books on magic and spell books, so it’s even, he supposes.

“That’s not even fair,” Micah argues playfully. “I was ambushed!”

“I’ll show you ambushed,” Knox shoots back, winking as he turns back to face the blond. “If you want.”

Micah’s cheeks light up pink again and he laughs, shaking his head and rolling his eyes fondly. “I don’t think either of us have had enough sleep for that right now,” he teases.

“You make a compelling argument,” Knox agrees, laughing. And it’s true. Neither of them exactly got much sleep on the train. He makes his way around the room, inspecting the other bookshelf now. “So if you’re planning to go on at least three dates with me, does that mean I get to call you my boyfriend?” he half-jokes.

Micah’s laughter peals into all-out giggles as he gives Knox a look. “I gotta ask permission from my mom first,” he teases.

The brunet cracks up at that, practically doubling over. “Alright, give me a better name for it then,” he challenges.

The blond opens his mouth a couple of times, but all that comes out are more giggles.

“You give up?” Knox asks after a couple moments of that, still laughing as he makes his way into the kitchen. He stands in front of the mage, hands on the counter on either side of his waist and leans in so their hips are a mere couple inches apart.

“Yeah, yeah, I guess,” Micah replies, laughter dying down. He reaches up and wraps his arms around the other man’s neck loosely, looking up into those steel blue eyes. “Boyfriend it is,” he says, voice softer now.

 

*

 

It’s been an entire twenty-four hours since he got home and Knox is just now, finally, finally dragging his bag up and tossing it onto the bed to unpack. He starts, as he always does, by picking it up and unceremoniously dumping everything out on top of his comforter. He watches the contents spill out with a satisfied grin on his face, carefully hanging the pack up in its place once it’s empty.

He’s back in front of the bed surveying the damage when there’s a knock on his door, quiet and hesitant. He scrunches up in his face in confusion and makes his way back through the living room, curious as to who would be showing up without calling.

It can’t be Er, he thinks. She’d just magic herself in. He hasn’t even bothered to give her a key. She’s never needed one before. And anyway, if she ever did knock it would not be that quiet. She’d wake the whole damn building and not feel bad about it for one second.

He’s pleasantly surprised when he peeks through the peephole and finds a bashful-looking blond, those piercing blue eyes staring up at him like he can see him through the door and a bag of what looks like takeout clutched in both hands.

Knox can’t help the little excited noise that escapes his lips as he steps back and pulls the door open. “Hey beautiful,” he says, composure gathered, stepping aside and letting the younger man in. “Wasn’t expecting to see you today.”

He wraps an arm around Micah’s waist and pulls him close, kissing him soft and slow as the door clicks shut behind them.

“I was in the neighborhood,” Micah explains when they part. “Thought I’d stop by and drop off some food.”

“Hope you brought enough for both of us,” Knox says, grinning from ear to ear.

“I didn’t want to presume or anything,” he gives a little shrug, looking totally coy, “but, yeah, I did. Just in case.”

“I’m counting this as two, just so you know,” Knox teases, chuckling, as he makes his way into the kitchen.

“Not fair!” Micah calls after him, but he’s laughing. He kicks off his shoes and takes the couple steps forward into the living room. He stops and surveys the room, the corner of his mouth quirking up into a smirk as he takes in the sight of Knox’s living space.

The brunet grabs plates and utensils and makes his way back to the living room. “So,” he starts as he settles in on the couch and lays out the dishes, “what kinda TV do you like?” He pats the seat next to him and Micah finally pulls his attention from the room itself to sit down next to his boyfriend.

It’s kind of weird to him (and probably to Micah, too), getting to know all these cute, less intimate details second. They call each other boyfriend, have already kissed, lived in extremely close quarters for a little while even. But now he’s having to ask about Micah’s favorite TV. It’s kind of bizarre, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he dislikes it.

Micah notices that Knox has a computer hooked up to his TV so instead of watching any particular shows, they end up browsing Ted Talks and other random videos. As they’re pushing their plates away, warm and full and content, Micah turns to Knox and pokes him gently in the side.

“What?” Knox asks with a little squeak that makes Micah giggle.

“You should give me the royal tour,” he says, pressing a kiss to his cheek before burrowing under the older man’s chin. “I didn’t really stop to look much the first time I was here.”

“Yeah?” the brunet asks, kissing the top of the smaller man’s head. “You wanna see all my weapons?” he snickers. “Might take a while, but we could do it.”

“How many do you have?” Micah asks, incredulous, as he looks up at the older man.

“A lot,” Knox laughs, kissing the blond’s forehead this time. He gets up and holds his hands out, offering them to the mage.

“I’m super excited,” Micah teases, taking his boyfriend’s hands and letting him pull him to his feet. “So when did you want to go on our third date?” he asks casually.

“How about tomorrow?” Knox suggests as he leads the blond around.

“Tomorrow sounds great,” Micah replies. “Though, I’m afraid you’re gonna get sick of me at this rate,” he jokes.

Micah stops at his bookshelf, reading over the titles quickly. Knox had mentioned they had similar tastes, and boy do they. The self-help books and books on writing don’t go unnoticed, however. “So you’re a space nerd, huh?” the blond teases. Now’s not the time to bring those up, so he stashes the information away for later.

“Wait until you get to the comic books stashed under my bed,” the brunet laughs. “You’re about to see a whole new side to me,” he jokes.

“Sounds like a side I’ll like very much,” Micah replies, batting his eyelashes playfully. “Show me what you got Mister Man.”

Knox laughs at the nickname and rolls his eyes fondly. “You know you meant that in the worst way the first time you called me that,” he points out, tugging Micah behind him as he makes his way to the bedroom.

“I did, I did,” Micah admits, giggling. “To be fair,” he says, pointing an accusing finger at his boyfriend, “from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know you-“

“Someone with an extreme bias against hunters,” Knox teases, glancing over his shoulder.

“Extreme might be laying it on a little thick,” the blond mutters, chuckling. They step through the threshold of the room and he grins as he takes it in. It’s simple and modern, but also distinctly Knox – both in the ways Micah knows him, and the ways he’s getting to know him very quickly. “But yeah, maybe a little biased.” He smirks as he stretches out on the bed, feet on the brunet’s pillow and head hanging over to get a peek at his boyfriend’s comic book collection. Without looking up he goes on, “To someone like that, you were coming off as kind of a jerk. Cocky. Arrogant. A douchebag.” He flips his head up, grinning at his boyfriend. “You know, stuff like that.”

“Alright, alright, enough of that,” Knox teases, laughing, as he climbs onto the bed. He rolls Micah over easily and tugs him by his ankles so he’s higher up on the bed, head and arms no longer hanging off the edge of the mattress.

Micah’s giggling, his shirt pushed up from getting dragged up the bed. “What do you think you’re doing sir?” he asks, feigning innocence and batting his lashes again.

Knox smirks, crawling up the blond’s body and pining his arms above his head. He slips between his thighs and the smaller man wraps his legs around his waist instinctively. “Like it when you call me that” the brunet practically growls, looking down into those blue eyes.

They turn dark as they gaze back up at him, a coy smirk playing on his lips. “What’s that?” he asks, squirming just a little.

“You’re such a little brat,” Knox chuckles, leaning down and brushing a feather-light kiss to his lips.

“Mmm, you love it sir,” the blond breathes, pressing his ass back into his boyfriend’s lap.

Knox does let out a growl this time, dipping his head and crushing the smaller man’s lips in a fierce kiss. Looks like he’s going to have to teach this little brat a lesson or two.

 

*

 

“You what now?” Tarek asks him, leaning against the counter.

Micah’s been back in town for a couple of days, but this is his first day back to work. He didn’t really see or talk to anyone besides Knox much in those first few days. He mostly spent that time unpacking and putting everything away (he might have over-packed just a little). Though, Eris had called him a couple of times.

It’s a slow day at the shop and the place is empty. Micah’s taking the opportunity to give their small garden in the back of the shop some much needed TLC. Tarek is mostly just watching him, drilling him about the hunt he’d been on.

Micah has mostly just deflected his questions and changed the subject. He’s going to talk to Tarek about it – soon even, he swears! But right now he’s happy and he doesn’t want to think about how Knox almost died or listen to his friend lecture him about how dangerous that stuff is. He knows the first words out of the shifter’s mouth are going to be, “You’re never going on another hunt again so help me!” So, for now, yeah, he’s deflecting.

“I’ve got a date,” Micah repeats, a shy smile on his lips. He doesn’t look up from the flowers he’s watering.

“With who?” Tarek’s voice pitches up in disbelief. “Oh man, is it Eris?” he asks, tipping his head back in obvious pain. “Please tell me it’s not Eris. I will be so jealous.”

The blond snickers, glancing up at his friend as his fingers move delicately over the plants. “It’s not Eris.” He doesn’t miss the quick little cross Tarek makes over his chest or the mouthed thank you at the ceiling.

“Then who is it?”

Micah blushes now, focusing full-force on his flowers, and doesn’t answer.  That’s how Tarek knows it’s bad.

“Awh come on,” he urges him, a crooked grin on his lips as he looks down at his friend. “I’m not gonna judge you or nothin’. I wanna know.”

“You’re totally going to judge me.” Micah laughs, but it’s got a nervous edge to it.

“Try me.”

The blond hesitates for a minute. He can feel the blush spreading down his chest. But finally he stands, brushing the dirt off on his jeans, and gives Tarek a challenging look.

“It’s the hunter,” he says finally. “Knox. We’re meeting at this place called Cent’Anni. It’s in Crown Heights.”

Tarek’s eyebrows shoot for his hairline. Totally judging.

“Don’t give me that look,” Micah warns, holding a hand up.

“Dude is a hunter, his name is Knox, and you don’t want me to worry? You still haven’t even really told me what the fuck happened. You were gone for, what, two weeks? Not a single call, not a text. I thought you died, man. And then suddenly you’re home and you’re going on dates with this guy?” Tarek rants, still giving Micah that look. “Knox? Really?” he asks, throwing his hands up. He turns back to the front of the store, muttering under his breath, “White people man. What the hell kind of a name is Knox?”

The younger man lets out a little sigh and hops up onto the counter next to where his friend is standing. “His real name is Knox,” he says, shooting Tarek an answering look. “He just doesn’t like it. Knox’s a nickname his little sister gave him and it’s adorable.” That, at least, draws a smile from him. “And I get that you’re worried, but he’s not a hunter hunter. He’s really great.” Micah knows he’s got this dopey grin on his face now as he rests his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands.

Tarek rolls his eyes fondly, his own smile not leaving his face. “Yeah, yeah, shut up already,” he laughs. “All I know is, if he hurts you I’m gonna fuck him up.” He looks up at Micah. “And I better be meeting him. Soon.” He quirks an eyebrow up at the blond.

“Yeah, I’ll bring him by, I promise,” Micah replies with a smile, patting his friend on the shoulder before hopping down from the counter.

“Soon,” Tarek adds, poking him in the side.

Micah lets out a little yelp and jumps, laughing. “Soon,” he promises through his giggles.

 

*

 

He’s got Eris on speaker phone as he’s getting ready for his date later that night.

“I don’t know what to wear,” he whines a little, riffling through the clothes in his closet.  “All my clothes suck.”

“Your clothes are great,” Eris chuckles. “Wear that little pink number,” she teases.

“I am not wearing a dress,” he laughs, rolling his eyes. “Not this time, at least.”

“I bet he’d like it,” the redhead snickers. Micah rolls his eyes again but there’s a smile on his face as he picks out a pair of skinny jeans and starts flicking through his shirts. “I bet he’d put a dress on for you,  if you’re into that sorta thing,” she muses after a beat.

The thought puts a smile on his face and sends a little shiver down his spine, but he doesn’t say anything about it. Instead he just asks, “Definitely not a flannel, right?”

Eris lets out a knowing little hum like she’s filing that particular bit of the conversation away for later. “Where are you going to eat?” she asks.

“Cent’Anni,” Micah says, and even as the name leaves his mouth he knows flannels are definitely out. Er only verifies that thought with a peal of laughter.

“No flannel,” she confirms when her laughter dies down. “Definitely not. I already know what Buck’s gonna be wearing.” She lets out a little hum that sounds more like wind chimes as she thinks.

That comment piques Micah’s interest though. “What does that mean? Is this some sort of routine for him or something?”

“Oh no, no, nothing like that dear,” she assures him quickly. “I just know his closest and I know the place and I know his brain, so I know exactly what he’ll pick. If he’s smart, anyway.”

“Oh yeah? What do you think he’s gonna wear?” he asks, totally forgetting his own clothes for the moment. He knows it’s a bad idea but Er’s the one distracting him, so it’s her fault.

“What and spoil all the fun?” she asks, giggling. “Oh no. You’ll get to see when you get there.”

“That’s not fair,” Micah whines playfully. “You’re the worst,” he mumbles, pouting, as he turns back to his closet. “If you’re just gonna tease me like that at least help me look as good as him.”

Er’s laughter continues as she concedes. “Fine, fine. Dark skinny jeans and your boots – the fashion ones, not the combat boots – then a nice button up shirt – not a white one, go for a pastel blue or a lightly patterned one or something – and a simple cardigan over it in a coordiEring color.”

The blond digs through his closet as she talks, putting together a ravishing outfit now that he’s got some direction to go in. Without her he swears he’d always be a disaster. He would never be able to go to fancy places, at least, that’s for sure.

“Wear a nice long necklace or two, too,” she adds. “Like your crystals or something.” Micah can practically see her face twisted up as she pictures it. “Maybe a corded bracelet and some rings if you’re feeling frisky.”

He laughs and shakes his head, admiring the outfit in front of him. “You’re a lifesaver,” he says. “I gotta get ready and go, though, kay? Love you!”

“Love you too babe,” she chimes. “Keep me updated.”

“Will do,” he replies, and then they hang up.

He gets dressed quickly and throws on the accessories Eris suggests. He even goes so far as to throw on a little eyeliner, a shade that matches his cardigan perfectly. After a mad scramble to find his phone, wallet, and keys he’s out the door.

He makes it to the restaurant a couple minutes early and is kind of surprised to find Knox already waiting at a table for him. The restaurant is beautiful, lights strung up and twinkling across the ceiling. It sets his heart fluttering. But not as much as Knox, dressed in dark blue jeans (not quite as tight as Micah’s, but tight enough) and dress shoes, a white button-up under a very fashionable blazer, only the top button done up. His hair is up in a messy bun and he can see just the slightest hint of stubble from the older man’s profile when he glances up to talk to the server.

The brunet hasn’t noticed him yet and he allows himself a moment to appreciate the sheer beauty that is his boyfriend. He vaguely thinks that he would probably do anything Knox asked of him tonight, even letting him see all the art in his entire studio. He’s never fallen so hard so fast, and it doesn’t scare him one bit.

He makes his way to the table and smiles as he rests his hands on the back of the empty chair across from the brunet. “Is this seat taken?” he asks playfully. He knows it’s old and tired and cliché, but he doesn’t care. It’s adorable as far as he’s concerned.

Knox chuckles low in his throat and nods as he looks up at him, gesturing toward the chair with a hand. “Just waiting for the perfect person to sit in it,” he says with a wink.

Micah swoons a little, feels the blush already creeping its way into his cheeks. Okay, he thinks, so he’s just as cheesy as me. A match made in heaven or whatever.

“Well I don’t know about all that,” he jokes, waving a dismissive hand, “but I have been told I have a pretty nice ass.”

Knox guffaws, tossing his head back and everything, shaking his head as he settles down. “It is very nice,” he assures the blond through the last of his laughter. “I hope the chair fully appreciates it.”

“As long as you do,” Micah says, batting his lashes at the other man just a little dramatically, hoping to draw more of that intoxicating laughter from the brunet.

And it works. He nearly chokes he’s laughing so hard, which gets Micah laughing just as much. Half the restaurant is staring at them by now, scowling or giving them confused looks. It’s only when the server comes back with Knox’s drink that they’re finally able to settle themselves down.

The drink looks fruity and sweet and full of liquor, so Micah orders one for himself too. When the server brings his drink back, they’ve finally managed to settle down enough to look over the menu and they order their food.

“So,” Micah says, suddenly serious (or at least pretending to be), once the server disappears with their orders and their menus.

“So,” Knox repeats, cocking an eyebrow and fighting off a smirk.

“I have received a formal request for you to come visit the store from Tarek,” the blond goes on, biting back laughter.

“Oh have you now?” Knox snickers, letting the smirk spread across his face.

“Yep,” Micah replies, letting the p pop. “He wants to ‘get to know you’,” he does the air quotes and everything. “And by get to know you he means give you the shovel talk.”

“Oh shit,” Knox teases, sipping his drink. “Already? Damn, is he your friend or your dad?” he jokes, laughing.

“He’s… very protective,” Micah cringes a little at the thought, but he’s laughing as he does it. “Though, to be fair, I get the same way about him.”

“I bet that’s fun,” the older man says with a snort. “Everyone underestimates you and then you bust out your crazy mage shit and they’re like ‘fuuuuuck!’” He gestures animatedly as he talks. “I bet that’s so much fun,” he laughs. “Like when people think I’m just some dumbass hunter. It’s great.” He flashes Micah (who is nearly doubled over laughing again by now) this shit-eating grin and waggles his eyebrows.

The conversation settles and moves to more superficial things as their food arrives (along with a second drink for each of them). How many times has Er called you today? That’s it? She keeps checking up on me or something. Catching up on your TV at all? How are you settling in? My bed is so nice.

“It feels kind of weird,” Micah says with a soft laugh as they’re finishing up dinner and starting on their third round of drinks. “Being back home, ya know? Back to work. After camping around and living out of hotels and all that shit.”

Something like sadness flashes in Knox’s eyes and he lets his gaze drop to the table, to his hands fidgeting slightly against his glass. “I mean, that is work for me,” he says, forcing a chuckle. “So I’m used to it. This is like a weekend for me, or like a little vacation.”

Micah hadn’t really thought about it like that before and it makes his heart sink a little. “That sucks,” he says quietly.

There’s another thing he realizes he hadn’t thought about, hadn’t really wanted to- What Knox’s job will mean for their relationship. They got paid a lot of money, sure, but Knox’s already been talking about putting a good chunk of it away, about taking a month or so vacation and then getting back to work. Less, sure, but still.

And that means traveling, and that means time away from Micah. It’s not like that’s a deal breaker for him, he’s sure they can make it work. He just doesn’t want to think about not seeing Knox whenever he wants, about worrying himself senseless whenever he’s out on a mission.

Micah’s not really sure how long the silence has stretched on for, but he’s sure it’s too long. Their server has picked up their plates and brought their bill, probably thinking the date was going badly with how somber they both look right now. He’s about  to open his mouth (probably to put his foot in it, if he’s honest with himself. He doesn’t even know what to say), but Knox looks up at him, face scrunched up just slightly in thought.

“I’ve been thinking about something,” he says, still just as serious, but clearly more nervous now. His jaw is tight and his shoulders are tense. “For a long time now, if I’m totally honest with myself.”

The blond tilts his head a little and gives a soft smile, hopes his eyes and expression look as inviting as he’s trying to make them. “What’s that?” he asks quietly, reaching a hand out to rest over Knox’s.

“I’ve been thinking…” he forces a smile and it looks almost pained. He takes a deep breath and laces their fingers together. “Maybe it’s time for a career change,” he says finally.

Micah gives his hand a gentle squeeze and offers a reassuring smile. The relief he feels is undeniable, tucked in under the surprise. “Sure Buck,” he says, just as quietly as before. “If you’ve been wanting to, I think that’s a great idea. I support whatever you want to do.”

And he does, really. They may not have been together long, but Micah knows he’s never felt this way about anyone else. It’s pure and intoxicating and he’s hoping beyond hope that it never fades, not even a little bit.

“I just…” Knox starts, “now that I’ve got something worth sticking around for,” he smiles at the blond and it’s more genuine this time, “I don’t want to put myself in that kind of danger anymore. I mean, think about it, if you hadn’t been with me, I would have fucking died in that cave.” He gives a nonchalant little shrug, but Micah can see the tension still held in his shoulders. “Now that I’ve got all that money, I can afford to, really. It never really made me happy anyway,” he mumbles as an afterthought. “It was just something I was good at, something I got sucked into when I was young and desperate to make a buck.”

“Then I say go for it,” Micah says, tugging at their hands so he can press a soft kiss to the brunet’s knuckles.

“Thanks,” Knox says, laughing softly, and the relief in his eyes mimics the relief Micah feels in his chest. “For supporting me.” There’s a beat and Micah can see the tension slowly melting off of him. “You wanna get out of here?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” the blond chimes. “My place is closer, I think, if you wanna go back there.”

As he speaks he moves to grab the check, but Knox slaps his hand over it quickly, narrowing his eyes at his boyfriend playfully.

“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asks, chuckling.

“Paying?” Micah suggests, feigning innocence.

“Hell no,” Knox laughs, pointing an accusing finger at the younger man. “I asked you on this date, so I’m paying.” And then he even goes so far as to let out a little “hmph”.

Micah snorts and rolls his eyes fondly, silently thanking whoever that he was able to ease his boyfriend’s mind, even if just a little.

“You asked me on a date,” he argues half-heartedly. “Not necessarily this date. And since you counted those other times as dates too, I could pay just as much as you could.”

Knox groans a little, but he’s still got the bill clutched in his hand. He knew the blond would find some way to use that against him. “But this is the really nice date,” he argues back, half-whining. “And I picked the place, so I think it still counts, anyway.” Then a thought occurs to him and his face lights up. “Aaaaaaand,” he drags the word out until Micah’s rolling his eyes again, “this is our third date. You remember what that means?”

It’s Micah’s turn to groan playfully and he regrets bringing it up, regrets his thought earlier that he’d even show Knox his paintings (whether it’s true or not is irrelevant, so there). “Yeah, yeah,” he mumbles, pouting and slouching in his chair a little, though he’s not actually upset. “I remember.”

Knox lets out a victorious little giggle as he counts out the cash for the bill and a generous tip. “And you already invited me to your place and everything,” he adds gleefully.

Micah can’t help the grin that breaks out across his face, he just can’t. “You’re lucky you’re so cute,” he mumbles, nudging Knox playfully under the table with the toe of his boot.

 

*

 

Knox shows up to Micah and Tarek’s shop the next afternoon. He knows sooner or later there’s probably going to be a day where they don’t see each other, but after living on the road together like that, they’re both pretty reluctant for that day to come. He’s content with how it is.

He’s in casual clothes today, and he’d even managed to leave all of his knives at home. That is one habit he’s decided to try and break. Especially if he’s planning a career change.

When he walks into the shop Micah is nowhere to be found. He had mentioned a garden in a room in the back, though. That’s probably where he is. A few creatures and humans are browsing supplies and at the counter a man is helping a naga in a low voice. That must be Tarek. There’s a smile on his lips, though, so Knox figures it can’t be anything too bad. Maybe he’s just Erurally quiet.

The brunet browses the shelves while he waits, looking at pre-made potions and herb mixes. He considers getting a few made specifically for use in a bath or shower to help you relax. Maybe a few crystals or a charm for things like luck.

Tarek approaches him, that smile still on his face and a hand outstretched. “Hey,” he says as Knox takes his hand and they shake. “I’m Tarek. I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.”

Knox smiles softly as he drops his hand back to his side. There are a couple of ways to go about this and he’s trying to figure out which path to go down. He could play dumb and call himself Kay and not mention Micah, get a good read of who Tarek is as a stranger. Or he could introduce himself as Micah’s boyfriend and get the protective bit over with.

In a split-second decision he settles somewhere in the middle with a soft smile and a, “I’m Knox. Is Micah around?” He figures Tarek can put the pieces together.

The realization settles over the other man’s face instantly and he fixes the brunet with an unreadable expression. “He’s on a coffee run, actually,” he says. “Should be back any time though, if you wanna wait around.”

Knox can see the cogs turning in his mind as he watches him carefully, analyzing every move and word. He’s reminded of Eris early in their friendship, of Micah the morning they left on their hunt. Then he thinks to his friends who probably won’t even bat an eye about the blond, at least not this noticeably. It’s sweet, really, that Tarek cares so much. And it’s not that Knox’s friends don’t. They just show it differently, worry about different things.

“Yeah,” he says, flashing his most charming grin. “If you’re not too busy- I mean, if you don’t have any other customers waiting, maybe you could show me around.”

Tarek eyes him slowly, a curious glint in his eye. He stops only to glance quickly around the room, and when he seems satisfied that no one is going to need his help before Micah can get back, he flashes an equally as charming smile of his own.

“I’d love to,” he says. “Then you and me can chat a little. Get to know each other and all that.”

“Sounds perfect,” Knox replies, gesturing for the other man to lead the way.

“So you’re a hunter?” Tarek asks as he starts to lead the brunet around the shop. Knox doesn’t miss the judgmental tone he gets.

“Yep,” he replies, popping the p just to be contrary. “But, to be honest, I’ve been thinking about a career change lately. Stevie and I talked about it a little bit last night.”

“Really?” Tarek asks, eyebrows raised. “To what? If you don’t mind my asking.”

“Not at all,” Knox replies, flashing that charming grin again. “I’ve always loved writing, so maybe that. I play piano, and I’ve enjoyed that, too. So maybe that. Maybe something totally new. I really haven’t decided yet.”

Tarek glances at him from the corner of his eye and he gives an approving little nod. “So what are your intentions with Micah?” he asks after a beat.

Knox takes a minute to think long and hard about what to say and exactly the best way to say it. Finally, he turns to the other man and lets his smile soften, become more genuine. “I love him,” he says simply.

Tarek lets out a little snort, but it seems to have been involuntary because he quickly schools his expression. “Isn’t it a little early to be saying things like that?” he asks. “You guys aren’t fuckin’ teenagers you know.”

The brunet laughs, shaking his head a little. “Yeah, well, the shit we went through… it bonds you. You know what I mean?”

Tarek gets defensive suddenly, crossing his arms over his chest. “No,” he says, “as a matter of fact I don’t because Micah won’t fucking talk to me about it.” His eyes trail up and down Knox slowly, analyzing again, then he asks, “What exactly happened out there?”

Knox’s smile falls and he grips the back of his neck with one hand. “Geez,” he says. “I didn’t know. No wonder you’re all… judgey.” He gestures with his free hand toward the other man. “I almost died, that’s all. He was safe the whole time. Saved my ass. Kinda twice, actually.”

Tarek snorts, and this time he meant it. “Career change is sounding like a better and better idea,” he mumbles. “Must not be a very good hunter if you almost died twice.”

Knox rolls his eyes and shoves his left arm out toward Tarek so he can see the big ugly scar there. “Almost died once. The other time I broke my arm real bad. Fuckin’ trolls.”

“Still,” the other man mutters, face still hard, though his eyes grow slightly more sympathetic as they take in the angry red scar.

“The mission was double S rank – the highest there is, for your information.” Knox keeps his voice low and his movements as subtle as possible, but he’s starting to get angry now being put down like this. He lifts his shirt so the other man can see the worse scar permanently dancing up his torso. “And the shifter we were tracking turned into my shitty fucking ex out of nowhere. Kind of startles a guy. So sue me.” He huffs a little and pushes his shirt back down, ready to go on.

But Tarek holds up his hands in surrender just as the bell above the shop door chimes. “Hey, hey,” he says, looking genuinely sympathetic now. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I just… don’t trust hunters. Especially not ones that are dating my best friend. It’s gonna take a little bit.”

“I see you two have met,” Micah interjects, voice monotone, as he hands a coffee cup over to Tarek.

“Hey you,” Knox says, his whole body relaxing and a smile tugging at the corners of his lips now. He slips an arm around the blond’s waist and pulls him close to kiss his cheek.

Micah turns his head at the last second and steals a quick peck on the lips. “Hey,” he replies with a little victorious giggle. “If I’d known you were coming now I would have gotten you one too.”

“That’s okay,” the older man replies, grin widening at the sneaky kiss and the sound of his boyfriend’s laughter. “I’ll just have to drink all of yours,” he jokes.

When Micah glances over to Tarek, the other man’s expression has softened, a little smile playing on his lips. He knows instantly that he’s won this one and he mentally pumps a fist.

“So, if you two are done making horrible first impressions on each other, I’d like to actually show Knox around the shop.”

 

*

 

They’re on his couch, Micah curled into his side with Doctor Who reruns playing on the TV, when Knox’s phone starts ringing. The blond lets out a little hum as he leans forward and grabs it for him.

“It’s someone named Cress,” he says, handing it over as he snuggles back into Knox’s side. “And that is not a flattering picture,” he adds, muffling his laughter.

“My sister,” Knox explains with a smirk, answering the call and quickly putting it on speaker.

“Hey loser,” Cress chimes before he even gets a chance to greet her.

“Hey ya little shit,” Knox replies, but his tone is light and teasing in the way a person gets with their siblings. “What’s up?”

“What are you doing right now?” she asks. Knox can tell she’s outside somewhere from all the background noise.

“I’m hanging out with my boyfriend.” He regrets it the second it comes out of his mouth and he lets his face twist up into a cringe. “Why?”

“Oooou,” she coos. “They mysterious boyfriend you won’t tell me about?”

“I don’t need you Facebook stalking and or harassing him,” Knox shoots back. Micah muffles a laugh, turning just a little bit pink. “What do you need?”

“I was just wondering if you were home,” she says, sounding slightly petulant but not actually upset at all. “I’m a block away from your building and I was gonna stop by, since I, ya know, haven’t seen you since you almost died and all.”

Knox lets out a snort, but Micah gives him a look that says ‘she has a point’.

“Weeeell, I am at home,” the brunet says, looking to his boyfriend, “but it’s up to Micah if you can stop by or not.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” Micah says, looking at Knox surprised.

“Oh my god!” Cress chimes, giggling. “His name’s Micah? Do you call him Stevie? That’s adorable. Am I on speaker? He sounds so cute!” she rambles on at about a mile a minute.

The blond’s eyes widen as he glances toward the phone, muffling more giggles with his hands as he shoots Knox an apologetic look. But the brunet just cracks up, shaking his head fondly.

“Just shut up and get over here before I change my mind,” he says, and just like that he hangs up. “Now you’ve done it,” he teases his boyfriend as he lightly tosses his phone back onto the coffee table. “You’re in for it now.”

It’s barely five minutes before the knob is turning and Cress is letting herself in, mischief in her eyes and a smirk on her lips as she kicks off her shoes and locks the door behind her.

“Oh my god,” she says with a giggle the second she sees them, Micah still tucked under Knox’s arm, still curled into his side. “You guys are so fucking cute oh my god.”

“Look what you got yourself into,” Knox teases the blond. “Shut up,” he says to his sister, laughing. He doesn’t even bother to pull his attention from the TV to look her way. “Cress, this is Micah. Micah, this is my obnoxious baby sister.” He vaguely gestures toward her with the arm he’s got draped over his boyfriend’s shoulder.

“You’re so mean to me!” Cress fakes a pout as she settles on the arm of the couch, facing them and feet on the cushions. “Being a jerk won’t impress your boyfriend.”

Knox finally glances over (though he doesn’t have to to know how she’s sitting) and scrunches up his face at her. “What a heathen,” he teases. “Sit on the couch like a normal human being.”

Cress lets out a little snort and rolls her eyes. “I started doing this because you used to,” she quips. “Back when I was young and stupid and thought you were cool and I wanted to be just like you.”

Micah’s watching the exchange with a thoroughly amused grin and a quirked eyebrow.

“Now who’s being mean?” Knox shoots back. “You haven’t even said hi or introduced yourself to Micah. How rude.” He snickers as he finally turns to grin at her. He knows that’ll be her weakness.

“Oh my god you’re right,” she gasps, slipping to her knees on the cushions next to them and holding a hand out. “It’s very nice to meet you. I’m the best of our siblings.” As she crosses her legs beneath her she grins too and it matches Knox’s almost exactly. It is a-dorable, if Micah says so himself.

“It’s very nice to meet you.” The blond laughs as he turns just enough to shake her hand. “How many siblings do you have?” he asks his boyfriend over his shoulder.

Knox, smirking, gives a little shrug. “Two or three,” he jokes. “I lost track.”

“We’ve got one more sister,” Cress tells him with a grin, reaching over him to swat at her brother’s knee. “I’m the baaa-byyy,” she sing-songs. “Knox’s the oldest.” She rests her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands as she looks at Micah, eyes curious and amused and just a little happy. “Do you have any siblings?” she asks him.

“Nope,” he replies, resting his head against Knox’s shoulder. “It’s just me.”

“Lucky,” Knox mumbles, sticking his tongue out at Cress.

“Oh you love me,” she insists, flipping him off.

“And you called us adorable,” Micah teases, tugging his boyfriend’s arm around him tighter.

Cress waves a dismissive hand, absolutely beaming as she takes in the sight of her brother looking genuinely happy for the first time in she doesn’t even know how long.

“So how did you guys meet?” she asks, gaze flicking between her brother and his boyfriend.

“Eris,” Knox replies. The “of course” goes unsaid. His eyes are back on the television but she knows better than to think he’s not paying attention. She’s known him her whole life and she knows he’s just letting her lead the conversation, letting them get acquainted.

“Of course,” Cress says what her brother doesn’t, laughing and rolling her eyes fondly. “At a party, or what?”

“Buck needed my help on a mission,” Micah explains. He turns so he’s cross-legged on the couch too, facing her, and the brunet’s arm drops to wrap around his waist instead, tugging him closer so his back is pressed against the older man’s side.

“No way you’re a hunter!” Cress balks, though she doesn’t mean it to be rude. She laughs a little, realizing how that sounded, and shakes her head. “Not, like- I just mean, you seem way too smart to be a hunter.”

“Thanks,” Knox chimes, glancing her way just long enough to shoot her a quick glare.

Micah’s giggling as he pats his boyfriend’s knee sympathetically. “No, I’m not a hunter,” he confirms. “I’m a mage. I actually co-own the shop in Williamsburg, Urban Magic Co., with my best friend Tarek.”

Cress’s face is scrunched up in confusion, her head tilted to the side. “So how in the fuck did you get mixed up with this loser?”

Knox snorts and flips her off again, but Micah laughs and smiles sweetly. “He needed a powerful mage,” he says with a little shrug. “I’m the best in Brooklyn.”

“You’re the best in the world,” the brunet chimes, pressing a kiss to the back of his head. Micah absolutely melts.

“So Eris called in a favor,” he finishes.

“The money didn’t hurt,” Knox adds.

“How much, how much!?” his sister asks, eyes lighting up and mischief in her smile.

“Oh no!” the older man shuts her down immediately. “That is not a number for your ears,” he goes on, wagging his finger at her. “I’m never gonna hear the end of it. And then you’re gonna want me to buy you all kinds of ridiculous shit. Nuh uh. No way.”

Cress pouts, face scrunching up and eyes narrowing. She’s quiet for a long moment, glaring at him like that while Micah just watches on, thoroughly amused. Finally she purses her lips, eyes still narrowed, and says, “I’ll stop asking if you take us out for ice cream.”

“What?” Knox guffaws, finally turning to look at her again. “Ice cream? What are you? Six?” But she just blinks up at him expectantly.

“I dunno,” Micah chimes in, a smirk growing on his lips. “Ice cream sounds fun to me.”

Knox chuckles as he shakes his head, narrowing his eyes and looking back and forth between his sister and his traitorous boyfriend. Finally he huffs out a sigh, his lips still curled up in an unamused grin, and pats Micah’s stomach lightly.

“Fine, fine,” he mumbles. “Let’s go get ice cream.”

 

 

*

 

It was Micah’s idea to celebrate their two month anniversary with their friends.

“It’s not actually a big deal or anything,” he’d said with that smile of his. “We won’t even tell them. It’ll just be an excuse to have a fun little party, that’s all.”

Knox had blushed a little and asked a million times if the other man was sure.

“Of course I am,” Micah would respond. “And anyway, I haven’t even met any of your friends besides Eris yet.”

And Knox would chuckle and shake his head and mumble, “Exactly.”

It wasn’t that he didn’t want Micah to meet his friends. He loves them and really enjoys the rare times they get to hang out. But Knox’s friends are all hunters like him and Micah’s friends all sound so much more…refined. Or something. Er and Tarek definitely are, at the very least. Whatever you want to call it, though, he would rather never know than have his boyfriend not get along with them.

But when it really comes down to it, Knox does love his friends, and he would love for Micah to meet them. So in the end, he knows he’ll give Micah whatever he wants, knows the answer he’s going to give.

And that’s how Knox ends up at his and Micah’s favorite bar, nursing a second drink as he waits for his boyfriend and a couple of his friends to show up. Quill and Rocket are arguing over DnD classes and stats while Wade films them, trying his damnedest to muffle laughter as he gives colorful commentary.

Knox’s snickering himself and every once in a while Wade will flash the camera toward him. Whenever he does, the brunet plays up his bored face, rolling his eyes melodramatically, trying and failing to muffle his own laughter. He’ll occasionally nod emphatically or give a thumbs down and pout melodramatically and Wade just shakes his head at him behind the camera.

“What do you know you stupid raccoon?” Peter is teasing, not actually as upset as he sounds, as Micah makes his way to the table with Tarek, Eris, and someone he doesn’t recognize (they look like another faerie, though. Or maybe an elvish race) in tow.

“Why are you guys always calling me that? What the fuck is a raccoon?!” Rocket half-shouts, pounding a fist on the table while the three of them laugh. Wade is still filming.

“Why don’t you just fucking google it?” Knox laughs, nudging Rocket with his foot just enough to shove him almost completely out of his seat.

He notices Micah and his friends approaching and a blush creeps up on his cheeks. He knows he can turn into a little bit of a frat boy when he’s around these guys. He doesn’t want to hide this side of himself from his boyfriend, this part of himself that only comes out when he’s relaxed and maybe just a little drunk. But he’s nervous of what Micah will think. He did have quite the bias against hunters, after all.

He knows he’s probably working himself up over nothing. He doesn’t really get that bad. It’s not like he puts on an entirely different persona or anything, it’s not like he becomes his father. He just lets loose a little more, really. And anyway, Micah loves him. All of him. So he really shouldn’t worry so much. After all, during the hunt Micah saw him at his most feral. If that didn’t disgust the blond, a little fun with his friends will be a piece of cake.

And anyway, Micah and his friends are snickering as they take seats around the table. Tarek sits closest to Knox and Eris takes the seat closest to Peter. Micah goes so far as to climb into Knox’s lap, kissing his cheek as he wraps an arm around the larger man’s shoulders to steady himself.

“Awwwh,” Wade coos, focusing the camera on them again (he had been filming Rocket googling raccoons, which is not going well at all). “You guys are so fucking cute,” he half-teases.

“Thanks,” Micah blushes, smiling sweetly as he runs his fingers through Knox’s hair. Knox just flips him off, a shit-eating grin on his face.

“Babe, this is Wade,” Knox says, pressing a soft kiss to his boyfriend’s cheek. “And those two are Peter Quill and Rocket.”

“Did you guys catch that?” Micah asks his friends, chuckling. He points out each one as he names them, “Wade, Peter, and Rocket. And this is Tarek and Clint. I think you all know Eris already.”

“I know everyone,” Er’s got that wolf grin and Knox’s curious to see if she’s going to keep her usual mask up tonight or not.

“Hey assholes!” Knox calls to get his friends’ attention and they all grin up at him, feigning innocence. “Introduce yourselves,” he goes on. “And try to be civil, for fuck’s sake,” he teases, mumbled as an afterthought.

“Well I don’t know about all that,” Rocket jokes, scowling melodramatically, “seeing as apparently I’m a forest-dwelling-“

“Rodent,” Quill cuts in, a smirk on his face.

“That’s it! I’m kicking your ass!” Rocket shouts, standing up on his chair and pointing an accusing finger at Peter. “First you’re talking shit about my rogue, now I’m a rodent. C’mon buddy, let’s take this outside.”

Knox groans, thunking his forehead down onto his boyfriend’s shoulder and muttering, “I need another drink.”

“You’re not even done with that one yet,” Micah notes, chuckling.

“Rocket act like you’re a goddamn sentient, civilized being for a change would you?” Wade teases him, kicking his chair so he wobbles and has to catch himself on the table to not fall over.

“And now you see why I didn’t want you to meet my friends,” Knox mutters, nuzzling into Micah’s neck and pressing little kisses there.

“Oh hush,” Micah whispers into his ear, laughing quietly. “They’re great, just like you. Stop worrying.”

As the night goes on Knox is surprised to find Micah’s friends get along with his really well actually. He also finds (though less surprisingly) that as the night goes on (and he gets more drunk), he doesn’t really worry about it as much, either.

Tarek and Eris play pool against Wade and Peter and that is a big mistake on the hunters’ part. Wade’s got a specialty with snipers for fuck’s sake and he still manages to get his ass handed to him.   Rocket and Clint end up hunched over Clint’s phone half the night, watching ridiculous YouTube videos.

Micah and Knox alterEre between relaxing, sharing a chair as they steal kisses and sips of the other’s drinks, and mingling with their friends, dancing and trying to fuck up everyone’s shots at the pool table and chatting. A tournament-style pool game breaks out and everyone accuses Knox and Micah of cheating when they take everyone down with ease.

Over all, Knox considers the night a huge success. Definitely better than he had anticipated. His old friends and his new friends and his boyfriend are all having a blast and everyone’s getting pleasantly buzzed as time ticks by.

Eventually everyone’s buzz turns into fatigue and they all part ways. Knox and Micah end up at the brunet’s place, draped over each other on his bed, half-naked and giggling as they recount the night.

“So you had fun then?” Knox asks as they’re finally settling down a little. He shifts into a more comfortable position, pulling the blond so he’s half on top of him and tugging the blanket up over them.

“Mmmmmmhmm,” Micah hums, dragging it out as long as he can before he bursts into giggles again.

“You’re so fucking cute,” the older man laughs, running his fingers through his boyfriend’s hair and gently pushing it out of his face.

Micah looks at him with pure adoration in his eyes, wiggling up so he can press a soft kiss to his lips. “I love you,” he mumbles, flopping back down onto the larger man’s chest.

“I love you too,” Knox replies, rubbing small circles into the other man’s back and kissing the top of his head. “’M so lucky to have you,” he muses.

There’s a long beat where Micah just lays there listening to Knox’s heartbeat in his chest. Finally, though, he lets his eyes drift shut, nuzzling up under his chin as he asks, “D’you think Er planned all this?”

Knox lets out a snort, his hands slowing to a stop on the blond’s back as he lets his own eyes flutter closed. “Probably,” he mumbles. “You know how she is.”

Micah lets out a thoughtful little hum of agreement, nodding just slightly as his fingers curl up against his boyfriend’s chest. “If so, I’m glad she did,” he says after another moment of silence.

Knox’s lips curl up into a smile and he yawns, cuddling the man in his arms tighter to him. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever imagine being this content. His mind is quiet and his heart is full and he is so, so grateful. “Me too,” he says finally.

“G’night,” Micah says through a yawn, already half asleep as he sprawls his leg out across Knox’s hips.

“Night baby.”

 

*

 

They’re sitting on Micah’s couch, the blond’s legs draped over Knox’s as they watch TV.  A small, fond smile creeps up on the brunet’s face as he gazes over at his boyfriend. He can’t help but think about how much he loves this man, how great the past six months have been with him since they got home. He’s made a lot of changes in his life (including working on a career change for himself), but he thinks they’ve all been for the better. And, as these thoughts pass through his mind, he can’t help but think about another change it’s about time to be making.

Micah must feel his eyes on him, because he turns, his brows scrunching in curiosity even as a smirk curls up the corners of his lips. “What?” he asks with a little chuckle. “Do I have something on my face or something?”

Knox laughs, fingers trailing along the smaller man’s knee lightly as he shakes his head. ‘No, nothing like that,” he says. “I was just thinking about something.”

“Oh, well, you know that’s dangerous,” Micah teases with a giggle.

Knox laughs loudly, rolling his eyes as he shoves the blond’s legs lightly. “Rude,” he says, sticking his tongue out.

Micah, still laughing, crawls into Knox’s lap, pressing soft kisses to his face and neck. “So what were you thinking about?” he asks, running his fingers through the older man’s hair.

Knox lets out a little purr, tipping his head into his boyfriend’s hands and letting his eyes slip shut. “Mmmm I was just thinking – if you want to that is – maybe it’s time we move in together.”

Micah fingers stop moving through Knox’s hair as he freezes and lets out a little noise, almost like a whimper. Or, at least, that’s how it sounds to Knox.

The brunet opens his eyes, searching Micah’s face. “We don’t have to,” he says, trepidation in his voice. “If you don’t think we’re ready for it yet or something. It was just a thought.”

Micah blushes just a little and schools his face into a small smile, his fingers starting their ministrations on his boyfriend’s scalp again. “No, it’s not that. You just… surprised me is all, I guess,” he laughs quietly. “I just didn’t think that was something you’d want.”

“Of course I do,” Knox coos, leaning forward to nuzzle his nose against his boyfriend’s cheek. The action draws a little giggle from Micah, who scrunches up his face and nuzzles back against the brunet.

“Who’s place would we move into?” the blond asks. He rests his head on Knox’s shoulder, playing with the hem of his shirt mindlessly. “Or we can look for an entirely new place.”

“We can move into yours if you want,” Knox suggests. “Since you’ve already got your studio set up here, and it’s closer to the shop than mine.”

Micah nuzzles into his neck more, pressing kisses to the exposed skin and nipping at it gently. It sends a shiver down the older man’s spine and he lets out a soft growl.

“Mmm so considerate sir… Actually… Maybe we can get one… in the same building… with more square footage,” Micah murmurs between kisses, mostly just thinking aloud.

“That would be nice,” the brunet mumbles around a soft moan. And god does this boy know how to rile him up. He can’t help but press his hips up against the smaller man’s ass and Micah grinds down into his lap, breathing out soft little moans into his ear. “Baby,” Knox warns, hands firm on the smaller man’s hips now, “if you keep this up we’re not even gonna make it to the bedroom.”

“You promise sir?,” Micah purrs.

 

*

 

There’s an apartment available on the top floor of Micah’s building. It’s basically the exact same as the one he’s in now, but it’s almost twice the size and it has sky lights built into the ceiling. The first thing they move is Micah’s art studio, setting it up along with a workspace for Knox at the other end.

Knox had been working on his writing and had found a couple of artists who liked his style enough to start working on a comic with him. It had started with a little webcomic and now they’re working on their second official issue – self-publishing of course. It’s made him feel lighter, more free. Between the new job and Micah, he didn’t think he could ever be this happy. And yet, here he is.

What really surprises Knox (but he guesses probably shouldn’t have), is that the longest part of the move isn’t the moving part. It’s not even the packing part, oh no. It’s the unpacking that’s the real pain in the ass. “Worse than any fucking monster I’ve ever faced,” the brunet insists. Especially, they discover, when said unpacking involves combining two households that had been almost entirely separate up until that point.

Before they packed they’d already gone through and picked whose furniture was bigger and/or more comfortable to decide whose they were going to keep and what was getting sold or thrown out, so at least that part is over. The real problem is that, through the excited rush of adrenaline and giddy playfulness they’d had while packing, neither of them had been particularly focused on labeling boxes. Not that they really could have, Knox thinks as he digs through the third box, because they also weren’t particularly focused on making sure things got placed in boxes with other, similar things. You know, like, from the same room. Oh no, that would have made this whole endeavor way too easy.

“I found some more pots and pans,” Micah calls from where he’s seated on the kitchen floor surrounded by little mountains of boxes. He sounds a little amused, but mostly just on the verge of hysterics.

“I found a box half full of DVDs and half full of spices,” Knox calls back from the couch. He sounds nearly as manic as his boyfriend. “Oh! And a single pillow case!” His voice goes up nearly an octave in excitement and Micah lets out a pained laugh.

This is the second day they’ve been at this and they haven’t even managed to put together one complete room since the studio. Of course they were careful with that, Knox thinks bitterly, mentally scolding his past self. It’s like some horrible, sick, real life puzzle and it is not fun.

“I need a drink,” the blond mumbles, flopping onto his back on the cool tile of the kitchen floor. He knocks a couple of boxes over in the process and lets out a pathetic little whine as one lands on his face. It wasn’t a heavy one, so he doesn’t really have the energy to care much beyond that. “I think I found the washcloths,” he mumbles, mostly to himself.

“I think it’s time for a break,” Knox says, hoisting himself up off the couch with a groan. He whole-heartedly agrees with the comment about needing a drink. “You make the cocktails, I’ll order the pizza,” he says around a yawn, stretching as he turns toward the kitchen.

When he catches sight of his boyfriend he barks out a laugh, pulling his phone from his pocket and hitting record as he makes his way over to him.

“What happened baby?” he asks, trying and failing to muffle his laughter.

“Box fell,” Micah mumbles, pouting and crossing his arms over his chest. The mumbling is made worse by the fact that he still hasn’t moved the box off the half of his face it’s covering.

“You need help?” Knox tries, pursing his lips to silence his giggles. Before Micah can answer he’s already bending down and gently lifting the box off his boyfriend.

“Phanks,” the blond mumbles again (though it is, at least, a little better this time). He whines quietly and reaches his hands up toward the brunet as he stands back up.

“I love you baby,” the older man coos, leaning over him to get a better shot of his face.

Micah’s expression softens instantly and he smiles, still reaching his arms up to his boyfriend. “I love you too sir,” he replies.

Satisfied, Knox gives a little nod and hits stop. He tucks his phone back in his pocket quickly before grabbing Micah’s hands and gently pulling him to his feet. “So,” he says, tugging the smaller man to him and wrapping his arms around his waist. “Pizza? Drinks? Sound good?” he asks.

Micah leans up on his tip-toes to press a kiss to his boyfriend’s lips. “Sounds great,” he says, stealing one more quick kiss before pulling away to start making the drinks. Something fruity with a lot of alcohol.

Knox takes one gratefully as he hangs up with the pizza place, tucking his phone back in his pocket once again. He takes a sip and chokes a little, giving Micah a look as he takes his hand and tugs him toward the couch.

“What the fuck did you put in this?” he asks, teasing.

Micah’s got a shit-eating grin on his face as he gives a little shrug. “I dunno,” he says, taking a sip from his own glass without even so much as flinching. “But I really needed it.”

Knox snorts and flops down onto the couch, tugging his boyfriend into his lap. He goes to turn the TV on and lets out a groan when it doesn’t do anything. “I knew there was something I forgot to do,” he grumbles.

“Did we really spend the entire day in here yesterday without having the television on once?” Micah marvels.

“We had music on and then we just kind of passed out on top of the pile of clothes on our bed,” Knox reminds him. He takes a sip of his drink and this time, being more prepared and all, he tolerates it. It almost tastes good, even.

“Oh yeah,” the blond snickers, sliding off his boyfriend’s lap and scooting to the other side of the couch. “You were blaring opera for half the day. It was adorable.”

Knox whines and reaches a hand out for the other man, but Micah just motions toward the TV.

“Awh come on,” the brunet pouts. “Just use your magic,” he jokes.

“Were you always this lazy?” Micah teases him right back, giggling at the petulant look Knox shoots him.

“Fine, fine,” Knox sighs melodramatically. He sets his drink on the coffee table and pushes himself up off the couch.

By the time he’s done setting up the TV and speakers, the cable, gaming systems, the computer he uses specifically for streaming media, his face is red from the effort and he’s in a tangle of cords. Micah’s been recording from the couch the whole time, chuckling and giving colorful commentary. The brunet is just finally flopping back onto the couch when there’s a knock at the door.

“I’ve got it,” Micah says, clambering up from the cushions. “You’ve done enough work,” he teases, pressing a kiss to the top of his boyfriend’s head. “My big strong man.”

Knox snorts and flips him off, taking a sip of his drink. He chokes on it again, forgetting just how potent it had been, and hears the blond snickering behind him. Geez, how is Micah not flat on his ass right now? He’s already working on a second.

Well, unpacking drunk could be fun, right? Maybe make it more bearable, at least.

“Yeah, you know,” Knox says, returning to the conversation the second the door shuts behind the pizza guy, “I thought this was supposed to be a break we were taking here. Now I think I get to sit around while you do some work.” He smirks as Micah sits down next to him, setting the pizza box on the coffee table. He’s only kidding, of course. But the blond knows that.

“Awh come on babe,” Micah whines playfully. “It’ll go faster if we work together.” He flashes his boyfriend a cheesy grin, but then it becomes all mischief and he says, “Besides, if you don’t help I’ll just use my magic instead.”

“Why aren’t you already doing that?” he teases, nudging the younger man as he takes a slice of pizza. “We probably could have had the place done yesterday.”

“For the experience!” Micah nudges him back, lets out a sigh of fake indigErion. Really he’s fighting back giggles. “It’s like a bonding exercise or something.”

Knox’s smile softens and he wraps an arm around Micah’s waist. “You know, you make a good point, actually,” he says, pressing kiss to the blond’s temple. “Love you,” he says.

Micah beams up at him, love and adoration in his eyes, before leaning in to press a kiss to his lips. “Love you too.”

 

*

 

Knox wakes up to the sound of a million text alerts going off on Micah’s phone. Of course it hasn’t woken the mage up at all. He rolls his eyes fondly and presses light kisses to his boyfriend’s face.

“Hey sleepyhead, wake up,” he murmurs against his skin. “Something’s going on. Your phone is going off like crazy.”

Micah finally lets out a little sleepy noise and rolls over into Knox’s chest, his fingers curling against the other man’s hard muscles as he catches his boyfriend’s lips in a kiss. “Know what it’s about,” he mumbles against his lips. “Don’t care. Kiss me more.”

Knox chuckles as he slips an arm under the blond’s waist, resting his weight on him just a little as he kisses him, slow and deep. He pulls away, too soon in his opinion, when the text alerts stop, but the damn thing starts ringing. Tarek’s tone.

Micah groans, reaching his hands up and tangling his fingers in Knox’s long hair. “Let it ring,” he says, hooking a leg around his boyfriend’s waist.

Knox’s smirking, but he’s giving him a chastising look when the phone finally sends Tarek to voicemail. Not five seconds later it starts up again, Er’s tone this time. Immediately followed by Knox’s phone going off now.

“Jesus christ,” the older man mutters, disentangling himself from his boyfriend. “Did the shop burn down or what? Oh shit, I’m gonna feel horrible if something actually happened. I take it back,” he rambles as he crawls to the edge of the bed and grabs for his phone. Yep, just as he suspected. It’s Tarek.

“How can I help you?” he answers, trying not to sound annoyed. You know, just in case something actually did happen.

Micah hits ignore on his phone and comes to kneel behind him, wrapping his arms around Knox’s waist and brushing his fingers along his abs as he presses light kisses to his shoulders and the back of his neck.

“Where’s Micah? He’s not answering his phone,” Tarek asks, and he sounds more worried than anything else.

“He’s right here trying to get into my pants,” Knox’s lips quirk up into a smirk that he’s sure Tarek can hear through the phone. Micah lets out a snort as his hands dip lower on cue, rubbing at his hipbones gently. “Why? What’s up?”

Tarek lets out a relieved sigh, then a little disgusted noise. “First off,” he says, “TMI dude. Thanks for that mental image. Not.”

But Knox just chuckles, tipping his head to give Micah easier access to his neck. “Oh come on, you know that is one hot mental image no matter how you picture it,” he teases. “Me on my back, Micah riding my nice, big-“ Micah moans quietly into the skin of his shoulder.

“Oh my god stop!” Tarek shouts, cutting him off, his voice suddenly distant now as he’s clearly holding the phone away from his head. “La la la I’m not listening!”

Knox’s cackling now, taking one of Micah’s hands in his free one and lacing their fingers together. “Alright, alright, sorry, sorry,” he says.

“No you’re not,” Tarek shoots back and Knox can just imagine the look on his face. Totally judging.

Knox’s laughter dies down into chuckles and he squeezes Micah’s hand gently. “Okay, no I’m not. But for the sake of keeping the conversation going, let’s pretend I am.”

Tarek snorts and the brunet can hear his melodramatic eyeroll. “Alright, fine, we’ll go with that,” he says. “Anyway, I just wanted to make sure he was with you and not off drinking himself half to death.”

Knox scrunches up his face in confusion but Micah just groans, leaning over his boyfriend’s shoulder to shout into the phone, “I’m fine Tarek! Tell Er too!”

“Oh yeah cuz trying to bury your feelings in sex is super healthy!” Tarek shoots back and it’s Knox’s turn to hold the phone away from his ear.

“Jesus,” he mumbles, slowly, carefully, putting it back to the side of his head. “Why would he be doing something like that?” he asks Tarek, with a confused chuckle. “It’s not like he’s an alcoholic or anything.”

Tarek groans and Micah pulls away suddenly, climbing off the bed and calling, “I’m taking a shower!” over his shoulder.

Knox glances over his shoulder, brow furrowed in confusion, and mutters, “Today is the weirdest day of my life. And that’s saying something.”

“Look man,” Tarek starts, sighing heavily, “if he hasn’t told you, it’s not my place.”

The brunet nods a little even though Tarek can’t see him and heaves a sigh himself. “I’ll ask him about it,” he says. “Thanks for looking out for him.”

“Always man,” the other man replies. “Anyway, just make sure he keeps in touch today. Just a little, at least. He’s obviously not coming into the shop.”

“Will do,” Knox agrees. They say their goodbyes and hang up and the brunet makes his way into the bathroom, stripping as he goes. He slips into the shower with his boyfriend and wraps his arms around the blond from behind. “What’s going on?” he whispers into the younger man’s ear. “And don’t say nothin’,” he adds, starting to press soft, chaste kisses to his neck and shoulders, “cuz if it was nothin’ Tarek and Er wouldn’t be worked into a tizzy over it.”

Micah sighs, leaning into the soft touches, but doesn’t say anything.

“C’mon,” Knox teases, squeezing the smaller man gently and chuckling. “The jig is up. Out with it.”

Micah huffs out a breath and tips his head to glance at his boyfriend. “It’s the anniversary of my mom’s death,” he says. “Two years today.”

A wave of sympathy washes over Knox and he feels like he’s been hit in the gut. He thinks of his own mom and wishes he’d brought Micah to meet her at some point. He’ll have to. Soon, he thinks.

Why didn’t he tell him something huge this? Maybe he just doesn’t like talking about it? If Tarek had been worried about him drinking himself into a stupor today, it must have hit him pretty hard. He probably wouldn’t want to talk about it either, he guesses. He sure as hell doesn’t like talking about his dad or that bastard’s death, though that’s for entirely different reasons.

“D’you wanna do something for it?” Knox asks, barely above a whisper. “We can pack a picnic, go get some flowers, have lunch with her?” he suggests.

Micah flushes and lets his head drop, wrapping his arms over Knox’s around his waist and squeezing. “You don’t gotta do that,” he insists. “I’ll be fine. I can go by myself, or we can just hang out here. It’s just another day, right?”

“No baby, it’s not just another day, not if it’s hitting you this hard,” Knox says, pressing more kisses to his skin. “I would love to go with you, if you want me there.”

Micah hesitates, his whole body tense in the larger man’s arms. “I mean…” he starts finally, “you don’t gotta, if you don’t want to… It would be nice, having you there, but you don’t have to.”

“I would love to go,” Knox repeats, turning Micah gently so he can give him a proper kiss. He feels the tension slip from the blond’s shoulders, wash right down the drain.

They finish the shower quickly and get dressed. Knox had even insisted on wearing a nice button up, saying, “Well I gotta impress her, don’t I?”

They pack a little lunch and stop by a flower shop on the way to the cemetery. Micah argues that they don’t have to, and there’s that hesitation in his voice again. Fear. But Knox insists he’s gotta buy flowers for her. “Didn’t we already have this conversation?” he teases. “I gotta impress her.”

He picks out a beautiful bouquet of peonies, carErions, and gladiolas, explaining the meaning behind each flower as he goes. He catches Micah looking a little starry-eyed as he talks and he blushes just a little, laughing and shrugging off his boyfriend’s wonder.

They get to the grave wilsand Knox smiles as he walks right up to it. “Hello ma’am,” he says, crouching down so he can talk to the stone. Micah starts setting up the picnic, just listening as he half-drifts in his own thoughts. The older man sets the flowers delicately against the stone and continues. “My name’s Knox and I’m dating your son. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for raising such an amazing man. I love him with all my heart and I promise I’ll take care of him for as long as he lets me.” He’s got a dopey grin on his face now as he runs a hand through his hair. “We thought it might be nice to have lunch with you today.”

When he turns back to his boyfriend, silent tears are streaming down his cheeks. The picnic is set up with a third place for Sarah and he’s just sitting on the blanket crying.

“Hey, hey,” Knox coos, scooping him up into his arms and pulling him into his lap as he takes a seat next to him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you baby.”

But Micah just shakes his head and finally a smile works its way onto his face. “No,” he says. “No, that was beautiful.” He laughs around a little sob and buries his face in his boyfriend’s chest. “You’re amazing,” he mutters. “She would have loved you.”

 

*

 

Micah comes home from work and in the nine months they’ve been together now, Knox has never seen him look like this.

[Tarek: is he home safe?]

[Tarek: dude wouldn’t let me walk him]

[Tarek: you know how he is]

[Knox: He’s home, but he looks like hell]

“Hey baby,” Knox says, jumping up from the couch. “You okay Stevie?” He’s swaying on the spot a little, face and chest red and splotchy.

“’M fine,” he mumbles, falling back against the wall as he kicks off his shoes. Thankfully he hadn’t exactly been very far from it. Thankfully he doesn’t hit his head.

[Tarek: don’t let him come to work for the next couple of days]

[Tarek: i’ve got it covered]

“You’re clearly not,” the brunet chuckles as he approaches his boyfriend, wrapping an arm around his waist to steady him. No wonder he’s red and splotchy, he’s burning up. “You sick sweetheart?” he asks, pressing a soft kiss to the blond’s forehead as he picks him up bridal style and carries him over to the couch.

“Not sick. Just somethin’ that happens sometimes,” Micah mumbles, curling up tightly into the corner of the couch and resting his head on his knees as he turns the TV on and flicks through the channels. “I’ll be fine in a coupl’a days.”

“Well you’re not going to work until you feel better,” Knox informs him, already making his way back to the kitchen to make dinner. The blond lets out a little whine but the older man cuts him off with, “Tarek’s orders.”

Micah pouts and turns to watch him cook. “Tarek’s a jerk,” he grumbles.

“Well I won’t argue with that,” Knox teases, chuckling. “But that’s beside the point. What’s got you feeling like this, anyway?” he murmurs, pulling out a couple pots and pans. “Soup sound good?”

Micah is still pouting as he nods, cross-legged and resting his chin on the back of the couch. “I told ya,” he mumbles, slurring just a little. “I’s just somethin’ that happens once in a while.”

“Anything in particular bring it on?” Knox asks, leaning against the island as he waits for the water to boil. “Y’know, so I can know what to look out for.”

Micah looks bashful as he folds his arms across the back of the couch, resting his head on top of them. He doesn’t say anything though, just bats his lashes up at his boyfriend.

Knox chuckles, walking over to press a kiss to his forehead before making his way back to the stove to dump in the noodles. He can’t help but think about the incident a couple months ago and how hesitant Micah is to tell him these things. It’s like he’s afraid that at any little inconvenience or sign of weakness Knox will just change his mind and leave. It really pisses him off. Not at Micah, of course, but at whoever hurt him enough to put those kinds of fears in his head.

“Awh c’mon kitten,” he urges gently, playfully. “Be good for me, huh? How’m I gonna take care of your for the rest of our lives if I don’t even know what makes you sick?” He doesn’t even realize he’s said it until Micah lets out a strangled little noise. “Oh! I didn’t-! Not like-!” His eyes widen as he looks to his boyfriend, but the blond just has this adorable shy smile on his face now.

“For the rest of our lives?” he purrs.

And now it’s Knox’s turn to blush, a dopey grin pulling at the corners of his lips. “I mean, I like to think so,” he says.

“Does that include marriage sir?” the blond asks.

“I like to think so,” Knox repeats his answer, his smile growing as he tends to the food. “Eventually, I mean. If you want it to.”

“Eventually,” Micah agrees. He pushes himself up, tries to be sexy as he climbs over the back of the couch. Instead his head swims and he gets dizzy and falls flat on his face.

Knox looks over just in time to catch the tail end of it and he can’t help the laughter that bubbles up from his throat. “Oh my god,” he laughs, rushing over to help his boyfriend up. “Jesus Stevie.” He scoops the blond up in his arms and carries him over to the kitchen. He sets him down on the island and presses a kiss to the smaller man’s lips. “I hope you’re not contagious,” he says, giving him a little eskimo kiss before turning back to the food once again.

“Not contagious,” Micah replies, pouting just a little.

“I bet Tarek knows,” Knox muses, glancing over his shoulder briefly. “And I bet he’d tell me, if I texted him,” he gives a nod and waggles his eyebrows at his boyfriend. “Ooooouu boy, can you imagine what he’ll say when he finds out you won’t tell me?” he teases.

Micah lets out a little squeak, eyes widening as he slips into one of the island’s stools. “Well you don’t gotta be mean about it,” he jokes, resting his chin in his hands.

“So you gonna talk to me kitten? Or am I gonna call Tarek?” Knox teases as he sets a bowl down in front of the younger man.

Micah pouts some more, arms crossing over his chest as he eyes his boyfriend, tries to determine if he’s bluffing or not. Knox gets his own bowl and leans against the island as he sets it down. He raises his eyebrows at the smaller man and takes a bite.

The blond lets out a little huff and stuffs a spoonful in his mouth. He purses his lips, trying to think of a way to explain it, opens his mouth a few times before he finally sighs.

“It’s my magic,” he says, leaning back in his seat. “It’s almost like it feeds off of me, kinda. You get what I’m trying to say? Especially when I heal.” He reaches out and takes his boyfriends has in his own. “If I push myself too many days in a row, or really overdo it, I get sick like this for a couple days.”

“What happened today?” Knox asks, moving around the island and slipping into the seat next to the blond. He scoots his chair closer and wraps an arm around his waist.

“A kitsune girl got caught in a trap. It hit a major artery and she almost bled out,” he recalls the event with a little yawn, letting himself rest his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder as he drifts back into the waves of the sickness. “She was almost dead by the time I got to her, but I saved her.”

“Like you did with me,” Knox says and when Micah gives a little nod the lightbulb clicks on in his head. “So… did this happen when you saved me?” he asks.

The blond nods again around another spoonful. “You slept through it all. Remember? You were out for three whole days.”

The brunet frowns as he leans his head against the smaller man’s.  “Then, you didn’t have anyone to take care of you.” He sounds guilty when he says it, but Micah just shrugs.

“I’m used to it. It’s normal for me to have to nurse myself through it,” he thinks aloud. “Tarek tries to help when it happens, but I usually don’t let him.”

Another lightbulb clicks on in Knox’s head and he glances down at his boyfriend. “Is that why you don’t use it around the house most of the time?”

Micah lets out a little hum as he nods. “After using it all day at work, I’m usually pretty drained. Depending on how the day goes, obviously. I mean, I really probably could use it more than I do, but why push it, right? It’s better than spending the weekends sick, I figure.”

Knox kisses his forehead. “Yeah, that makes sense,” he agrees. “Why didn’t you just tell me that silly?”

They finish their food and Knox scoops the younger man up again, carrying him to their bed and laying him down gently. “What pjs do you wanna wear baby?” he asks. “Are you cold, or hot? Is it something like a cold where you have to sweat it out? Talk me through it. Teach me how to take care of you when this happens.”

Micah knows he’d be blushing if he wasn’t already so flushed with the fever. He’s never been so happy in his entire life. Most of the people he’d tried to date didn’t make it through one fever. Not one. They’d freak out or get annoyed and that would be the end of it. Peggy had stayed. For a long time, really. But it felt more platonic, like his relationship with Tarek, and eventually they’d ended things on good terms. She had moved back to London recently if he remembers right.

So for Knox to not only be so calm about it, but also to be asking how to take care of him? Saying he wants to know so he can take care of them the rest of their lives? That’s beyond what Micah would have hoped for (and definitely not something he would have expected out of a hunter, for that matter). He feels the ache behind his eyes that threatens tears, but wills them away. He has a fever, that doesn’t mean he has to get sappy and emotional. Geez.

“Kitten?” Knox’s asking him, a hand on his cheek and concern in his eyes. Oh shit, he must have spaced out a little… Or a lot. “You okay?”

Micah shakes his head and gives a weak smile. “Oh, yeah, sorry sir,” he chuckles quietly, leaning into the other man’s touch. “I just got lost in my head, that’s all.”

Knox’s face softens with relief, smiling and leaning down to press a kiss to his forehead. “It’s okay baby. So what kind of pjs do you need?” he asks again. “Warm, cold, somewhere in the middle?”

“Just regular pj pants and a t-shirt will be fine,” the blond replies, leaning up to give his boyfriend a little peck on the lips.

Knox’s smile widens as he turns to pick something out for his boyfriend. He even helps him wiggle out of his work clothes and into the pajamas, despite the blond’s weak protests of “I swear I’m fine”. The TV is still on in the background as the brunet climbs into bed with him, wrapping him up in his arms.

“I love you,” Knox murmurs, leaving soft kisses all over the smaller man’s face.

Micah giggles weakly under his ministrations, fingers fisted in the other man’s shirt. “I love you too.”

 

*

 

Knox spends weeks setting up the party. He gets everyone involved – all of their friends, the staff at their favorite bar, everyone. It’s rough keeping a secret this big from Micah, but he knows it will be worth it. He’s extra grateful for Tarek, who keeps him distracted at work for at least a couple hours most days. He knows he wouldn’t be able to do it without him and he promises him a huge favor in return.

When the night finally arrives, Micah’s laughing as they walk down city streets arm in arm. “We don’t have to do anything fancy like this,” he insists. “Really, it’s not a big deal.”

“It’s a year and a half,” Knox argues playfully. Normally, he’d agree with the blond. After the first twelve months it’s not really necessary to celebrate every single month. Once a year will do. But tonight it’s a little different. “And anyway, it’s a night at the bar together. Not exactly what I’d call fancy,” he teases, holding the door to their favorite bar open for his boyfriend. “Just an excuse to go on a date, right?”

“Well, when you put it like that.” The blond smiles widely and bats his eyelashes, brushing his fingers across his boyfriend’s stomach as he walks past him and into the bar.

Except when he turns his head, the giant booth in the back corner is filled with all of their friends, already laughing and drinking and just generally enjoying themselves. The booth is decorated with balloons and streamers and little fake flowers all over the place and he can’t help but burst into giggles.

“What the fuck is this?” he asks though his laughter, his cheeks turning pink instantly. “So much for nothing fancy,” he teases.

Knox slips an arm around the blond’s waist and tugs him into his side, chuckling as he leads them back to the booth. He’d texted Er on the way over so there’s already drinks sitting there waiting for each of them and Wade has his phone out, recording.

“Well I couldn’t just be like, ‘actually honey, there’s a surprise party waiting for us! It’s gonna be a blast!’ Duh,” he laughs, pressing a kiss to his boyfriend’s temple.

“What a weird anniversary to throw a party for,” Micah continues to tease him. “A year and a half? Didn’t know you were that kinda guy.”

“Well, this is a special one,” Knox says sweetly, his own cheeks flushing, his heart starting to race.

They stop in front of the table and everyone gets their hellos in quickly. Micah is just about to take his seat when Knox grabs his hand to stop him. Micah turns and looks at him, smiling and confused but the brunet has just got the biggest, dumbest grin on his face.

“Hey baby?” he asks, pressing a kiss to the younger man’s knuckles.

“What’s up?” Micah asks, chuckling softly.

Knox pulls him close, wrapping an arm around the small of his back and kissing him softly, right there with all of their friends watching and Wade still recording. Tarek hands him the ring he’d helped him pick out and he can see the pieces all clicking into place in the blond’s head.

“Will you marry me?” he asks, gazing down into those summer sky eyes and holding the ring up between them.

And Micah’s lucky Knox’s got that arm around him because the second the words leave his mouth his knees give out on him. Their hearts are both racing now and they can feel it at every point of contact. Their friends are silent around them, watching on excited and overjoyed. They all know what his answer is going to be.

“Yes,” Micah breathes, because he can’t get enough air in his lungs to do much else. Tears are pooling up in the corners of their eyes and their friends all let out a cheer, the whole bar does really.

Knox’s lips come crashing down on his like a wave on the shore, intense and beautiful, and he kisses him long and slow and sweet, their friends hooting and hollering and cat-calling behind them.

When they finally come up for air the group rushes forward, engulfing them in hugs and congratulations.

“How long have you been planning this?” Micah asks him, still teary-eyed and laughing as everything calms down and they’re settling in the booth with their drinks. He’s got his legs draped over the other man’s lap and an arm around his shoulders.

“A long time,” Knox replies, chuckling. He rubs a hand over the smaller man’s knee and presses a kiss to his cheek. “I love you,” he says quietly.

“I love you too.”

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