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She and Taako have crashed in the Burnsides household enough times that they don’t even bat an eye when Lup shows up at their door with a duffel bag thrown over her shoulder. It’s packed full of clothes, mostly, some from both her and Taako’s closets. A few other essentials were tossed in before she fled — toiletries and an extra blanket and Taako’s personal cookbook.

She’d nearly left her stuffed shark, a near-constant companion in her bed since she’d first bought it, now a reminder of the one who put her here. Then she’d shaken her head and snagged it on her way out. Barry Bluejeans could go fuck himself, but this is hers.

Lup had called ahead, her tone strained as she says, “I need a place to lay low.” I, not we, and she thinks Magnus realized that, because he’s not surprised when he opens the door to find her alone.

“So what happened?”

Julia Burnsides is barely shorter than her husband and just as strong. Her long hair is tied up in a bun and out of the way every time Lup sees her, usually accompanied by some amount of dust or dirt on her face from another day’s work. They built their own cottage well outside of town, plenty of privacy from the city and safety on the full moon.

Recounting the story is difficult. One idiotic mistake after another, falling for Barry’s sweet little act and toting him right into their home, going to him for help when her brother went missing. Who knew how long the game would have been played if she hadn’t caught him, purely by accident, by coincidence .

She’s met with a wave of fury tempered by pity, Magnus sweeping her up into a bone-crushing hug, shaking promises that they’ll find Taako and they’ll tear the one who hurt them into little bloody shreds.

In another case, Lup would be vindicated by this. She’d want to tear his throat open herself. But the idea of seeing Barry, hurting Barry, killing Barry, it has her stomach turning.

He really got her good. A bitter laugh hacks out of her.

“My question,” Lup mutters, as she slumps into their couch, grateful for their warmth as they flank her. “Is why he waited this long. He could have — any old night, he could have killed me.”

“Information, maybe,” Julia murmurs. “Seeing if you can lead him to others.” Her face is grim. She’s dealt with this before, lost her father to a hunter with a vendetta against weres.

“Or he’s just a monster,” Lup mutters, nails digging into her knees. Julia and Magnus immediately shift into her, warmth and pressure at her sides helping ground her.

Probably just a monster, but she’s the one who invited him in.

 




For the drive it took them to get here, this lead had better follow through. It’s the benefit of partnering up with the Queen’s right hand — Kravitz asks a favor and they have a new target thrown at their feet. Barry might feel a little bad, swooping in when he knows some other hunter has been tracking this mark for a good while, but right now? It’s hard to care.

It’s a newer vampire they’re after. Impressive restraint, he only feeds out of necessity, staving off hunger with blood bags. There’s a reason he’s still alive, hunters aren’t meant to bother with non-offenders. Some still do, of course. Some, Barry knows, are here cause they like to kill, and they like to get away with it.

They’re parked outside an apartment building, waiting. This one has a schedule, head out every third Tuesday to find a fresh meal, hide the memory and then head home. Barry has a knife in his belt that he idly hopes he won’t have to use. He’s never been a violent man.

The radio pipes some tinny orchestral music that Kravitz doesn’t actually seem to care about, though he glares every time Barry makes to change the station. He sighs, settles back in his seat, gazes idly out the window. They’re just a duo waiting to pick someone up, to an onlooker.

It’s been two days since he found out. Kravitz gave him one to mope, checking in to make sure he ate, pushing him into the shower, even sitting down beside him, hand at his back, silent but grounding while Barry sobbed. Heartbreak had always been a distant thing, something to tug at his chest when he saw it in movies but little more than a fantastical exaggeration in his mind. Then he met Lup, and by the time he realized he loved her, he was pretty sure she felt the same. The possibility that he could lose her just never occurred.

And then he did, and it ached, he craved her touch and her voice and her smile and was met with emptiness. The memory of her snarling mouth, heavy with fangs, had etched itself into his brain.

Kravitz gave him one day of this, and on the next he dragged Barry out on their new lead.

Lights flash down the street. Barry’s eyes lift from the monotony, sharpening when he recognizes the car pulling up. He nudges Kravitz, the two of them holding position as the car comes to a stop, a figure hopping out almost in the same moment. He heads towards the apartment complex, and after a beat, Kravitz and Barry follow suit.

They follow close enough to catch the door before it closes. Their mark doesn’t turn his head to look, just continues on towards the elevator. Third floor, five doors down, they already know where he lives, but they trail along behind him with a scripted conversation so they can step into the elevator as well. The doors slide shut.

“What floor?” He asks. Polite fellow. Louis Dyer is his name, turned within the year. They’ve never found a vampire that could survive on bagged blood, but it staves off hunger enough that they’re no longer dangerous.

“Same as yours,” Kravitz answers, with an amicable amount of cheer. The elevator begins to rise and with that same casual air, Kravitz slips his knife out of its holster and levels it with the man’s throat.

“Now, we don’t plan to hurt you, just so long as you answer a couple of questions. I’m going to put this away and the three of us are going to head to your apartment to have a chat. How does that sound?”

His eyes are wide, face pale, chin craning away from the toxic edge of the blade, and Barry sighs and says, “Just, uh, just give a thumbs-up-thumbs-down.”

Thumbs-up. Kravitz sheaths the knife and resumes his casual lean against the elevator railing. A beat later they whirr to a stop and the doors slide open.

Louis is smarter than to try running, at least. He leads them with shaky legs, fumbling with his keys to open the door, flinching when Barry takes them from his hand to do it himself. “Seriously, kid, my partner likes to be dramatic but, so long as this goes smoothly, you really are gonna be just fine.”

They step inside, they sit down. It’s a pretty sparse place, and he and Kravitz end up standing as they sit Louis down. Kravitz keeps his knife in his hand, spinning the heavy iron.

“Right…” Barry rubs the back of his neck. “So, we need to get in contact with Magic Brian.”