“So can you like arrest people again now?” Daniel tilted his head at Stephan.
“No. I can however, turn over information to the police and let them arrest people.” Stephan shook his head as he looked over the paperwork.
“I want one.” Daniel pulled the private investigator’s license closer to him.
“Excuse me…” Stephan raised an eyebrow at him. “Raise your hand if you aren’t a wanted fugitive.”
“Arf.” Ash raised his hand.
“You’re wanted…” Stephan reached over and petted him. “Just not a fugitive.” Ash leaned into the petting. “So I get to be the legit one.”
“We need a case.” Daniel budged over on the couch to make room for Matthias, then immediately snuggled back into him. Matthias draped an arm over his shoulders before taking a sip of his coffee. “Oh, and a logo and catch phrase and —”
“And capes.” Anna piped up. Ash immediately woofed in agreement.
“No capes.” Matthias shook his head.
“Oh come on…” Anna put her hands on her hips, a pose that made her belly protrude even more.
Only Stephan still used his real name, though he had a second identity set up as well, just in case. The ID in Daniel’s wallet made him, Ash, and Anna all siblings with the last name of McNamara. There was enough resemblance that they could pull it off pretty convincingly. At least, when Ash was being a human. Magda and Matthias remained mother and son, but they were now using the last name Savatier. A set of already prepared IDs was going to make Anna’s child the child of a sadly diseased mother and Ash’s real identity. That way, in a worst-case scenario, the child would be insulated from the cabal and hopefully end up in the custody of Ash’s maternal aunt. It wasn’t a good plan, but if things actually did get to the plan Z point it was the best they could do.
“Capes are impractical.” Magda brought Stephan a cup of the coffee. “They hamper, catch on things, get grabbed by opponents, and can off balance you at a critical moment.”
“You sound like you’re speaking from experience.” Daniel grinned up at her, then when she just gave him a look, he blinked. “You’ve fought somebody while wearing a cape?”
“I was born in sixteenth century France, Daniel.” She chuckled. “The only thing worse than fighting in a cape is fighting in a corset and petticoats.”
“So I guess adding a corset to the ensemble is out of the question?” Daniel raised an eyebrow at Stephan.
“Depends on how drunk I am.” Stephan chuckled.
“We still need a case.” Matthias finished his coffee. “Not a lot of call for private dicks way out here.”
“Hoping Anna will flash something, get us a lead.”
“Okay, the words ‘flash’ and ‘private dick’ are never again to be uttered in the same conversation.” Magda shook her head.
“I did already.” Anna rolled her eyes.
“A slightly less metaphorical lead.” Stephan glanced at her.
She made a vexed noise. “Not my fault none of you know where to find an angel.”
Magda finished the last braid, then gave Anna a critical look to inspect her work. The style was one she’d worn as a girl, with flowers and ribbons woven in to make a sort of crown. They’d left out the flowers, but pink sparkled ribbons made their presence very loudly known.
“What was her name?” Anna looked up at her.
“Hmmm?” Magda blinked. “What was that?”
“Your daughter. I didn’t mean to peek, but…” Anna shrugged. “You were thinking of her really loud just then.”
“I was thinking of when I taught her to braid hair.” Magda swallowed past the lump that had risen in her throat. “Her name was also Anna.”
“Oh.” Anna’s voice was small. She shifted a little in the chair, then put a hand on her belly. “Is it hard?” She looked up at Magda. “Being a momma?”
“It…” Magda sat down across from her. “Yes. And it’s easy.” She put her hand atop Anna’s. “You’ll have us to help you.”
“How old were you when…” Anna clutched her hand.
“Seventeen.” Magda smiled. “My Elias.”
“Elias, Anna, Benjamin, and Matthias.” She squeezed Anna’s hand.
“Matthias never got to meet any of them. He doesn’t even know what they look like, because you don’t have pictures.” Anna sighed. “I thought about taking the pictures from your head and putting them in his, but I don’t know how.”
“You are a sweet girl, Anna.” Magda blinked back tears. Then she stood and went to a shelf. She took an album, and came back over. “This is his father, here.” She turned to a photo of a man that bore a lot of resemblance to her son despite the streaks of gray in his hair. In the photo, he looked a man of sixty, though one still powerfully built. Jarl had dwarfed her, something few men could do.
“What was he like?” Anna leaned on the table, looking at the photos. There were a few, including some that contained Matthias himself as a small child. Anna smiled at those.
“He was born in Norway, in the 7th century.” Magda put her hand on Anna’s shoulder. “He used to raid the coasts, when he was a young man. Fighting the English before they were the English.”
“Like a…” Anna’s eyes widened when she looked up at Magda. “Matthias’s dad was a Viking?”
“Yes.” Magda grinned.
“That is so cool.”
Matthias turned to look at Daniel. “About what?”
“Well, I thought your mom was with Stephan, but apparently they overslept and got a late start this morning and I’m pretty sure your mom showered with Ash.”
“Considering Ash is currently playing fetch with your sister…” Matthias glanced over, then shrugged. “Or rather tug of war, and thinks he’s a dog, I wouldn’t really worry too much over it. Guy’s nice, but he’s got issues.” Ash had a tendency to crawl into people’s laps. Having a very handsome young man who wasn’t always so good about remembering to put clothes on crawl into his lap had been a rather awkward experience, especially with his mother in the same room. Daniel had found it hilarious.
“How weird would it be to have a stepdad like a hundred years younger than you?” Daniel tilted his head.
“I’m not that…” Matthias swatted Daniel across the ass, making Daniel yelp and then laugh. “Hand me the screwdriver there.”
Daniel handed him the tool. Matthias was adding features to the campers, both his and the one his mother had purchased. If they were going to start after the cabal, they’d need to stay mobile. On paper, they were working for Stephan, though it was pretty clear Magda was the one actually in charge. It was kind of strange, taking orders from his mother again.
“What if it’s breech?” Daniel shifted nervously. He was fretting over the birth again.
“Then we take her to a hospital.” Matthias growled as the screws failed to line up properly. “We let them do a C-section.” He recited the words, as he did every time Daniel worried. “Then we break her out, you heal everybody up, and we get the fuck out of Dodge.”
“But what if the nearest hospital is too far —”
“Boss, you’re a healer. We have Stephan drive fifty feet up the road, and your magic hands make everything okay.”
“But what if —”
“What if you don’t stop what ifing and I put you over my knee?” He managed to get the metal to stay put long enough to get the screws in.
“Ugh.” Daniel rolled his eyes before going back to the medical textbook they’d picked up for him. “Where do your internal organs go when you shapeshift into a wolf?”
“What?” He nearly dropped the next piece.
“You weight almost two hundred pounds. Big as that wolf you turn into is, it still only weighs about half that. So where does the rest of you go?”
“I…” Matthias set the screwdriver down. “Well I…” He exhaled, then made a frustrating sound. “You realize now that’s going to be driving me nuts from now on, right?”
“No.” Matthias and Magda said in unison. Ash barked as if agreeing.
“Come on.” Anna bounced a little.
“The logo is kind of cute.” Stephan held up the picture.
“You’ve got it upside down.” Anna glared.
He turned it the other way, then shrugged. “Yeah, I’m going to have to say no.”
“Well you have to name the detective agency something!” Anna spread her hands. “Bad Dog Detectives is perfect.” She turned toward her brother. “Help me out here.” When Daniel didn’t immediately leap to her aid, she narrowed her eyes.
“Anna…” He started shaking his head.
“Your junior high homecoming.” She glared.
“Bad Dog Detectives does have some potential.” Daniel switched to nodding.
“Arf.” Ash shook his head.
“Good point.” Stephan nodded to him before glancing at Anna. “Plus I don’t want that bounty hunter guy suing over trademarks.”
“What’s this about a homecoming?” Matthias raised an eyebrow.
“That’s fine. Bad Wolf fits better anyway.” Anna folded her arms.
“Woof.” Ash glanced at Stephan.
“You can’t have a fez.”
Ash whimpered, then gave an inquisitive whine.
“Oh, yeah, right, that was…” Stephan shook his head. “Eleven.”
“Homecoming is a dance, right?” Matthias glanced at Daniel.
“We are trying to hide from the cabal. Can we not pick something that screams werewolf?” Magda sighed.
“So, what, is it an embarrassing suit or…” Matthias was still staring at Daniel.
Daniel sighed and turned to his sister. “See what you did.”
“Well it needs a cool name.” Anna stamped her foot.
“I’m the detective, shouldn’t it be entirely my decision?” Stephan leaned back in the chair. A low growl came from Ash. “If you bite me I’m not sharing my chocolate.” Ash whimpered and pawed at Stephan’s leg. “Puppy eyes are cheating.”
Ash lay with his head on Stephan’s belly, enjoying the warm sun. He’d thought about spending their last day here fishing, then decided he’d rather just take a final nap in the sun. It hadn’t taken much effort to convince Stephan to join him. Stephan had done what he could to help, but his leg had given out on the eighth or so trip down the stairs.
And the prospect of moving out of the place that had been his shelter for the past few months was making him want to crawl under a bed and hide. He couldn’t get under the beds in the camper, and the cabinets were too small to hide in. A few months ago, he didn’t think he’d have been able to bring himself to agree to leave.
The fact that they would have stayed with him if he’d said he couldn’t handle it was the part that made him sure he could. Stephan and Magda had both assured him they didn’t mind if he needed to be a dog still, and they hadn’t taken his collar away. And now they had a bigger pack. Matthias was scary, but if he’d been with them before he could have torn Lisa in half.
If they stayed on the move, they could hunt the cabal and the cabal couldn’t hunt them. The cabal didn’t even know about him and Stephan and Magda, so they could help stop the bad guys from getting Anna’s baby. He wasn’t a cop anymore. He couldn’t be a cop anymore. But he was still one of the good guys. Protecting people. And that was the part of being a cop he’d wanted.
“I’m going to miss the quiet.” Stephan rubbed Ash’s hair.
He sighed, tilting his head into the petting. “Woof.”
“But not the fish.”
“Fishies are good for you.” Ash continued leaning into Stephan’s hand as Stephan began scratching his head.
“You going to be okay, Ash?” Stephan sat up a little to look at him.
“I think…” Ash turned to look at him. “I think I am.”
It being the last night they could play freely, Matthias had brought Daniel out to the barn. Daniel’s hands were bound together above his head, suspending him a few inches from the floor. Or they would have, if he hadn’t had his knees braced against Matthias’s legs as Matthias took him from behind.
Fortunately, at this point Daniel’d had plenty of practice healing his own bruises. Matthias never used more than his hands the times he spanked Daniel, as much because he liked the feel of skin against skin as it was a safety measure. Even helpless like this, Daniel felt safe. His lover never forgot his own strength.
By the time Matthias came, he’d wrung two orgasms from Daniel and Daniel could no longer support his own weight. Matthias had no problem holding him up, and when he’d finished he gently lifted Daniel down. Daniel spun on wobbly legs and put his still bound wrists over Matthias’s head and tugging the bigger man down for a kiss. Matthias obliged him. “Gonna untie me?” Daniel grinned up at him.
“Nope.” Matthias picked him up and carried him over to where they’d put a blanket down over some straw. “Not for a while yet.”
She held Ash to her, listening to him sleep. The red dog collar was too much, so they’d found him a leather one. It looked like something a biker might wear, but it had satisfied Ash. At least, it had after she’d written her name on the inside. He didn’t care what the rest of the world saw, as long as he knew he belonged to her.
Ash’s breathing changed, and he stirred in her arms. Then he raised his head to look at her. He tilted his head, and she patted his shoulder. “You’re a good boy, Ash. Go back to sleep.”
“You’re not sleeping.” He frowned. “I can help.”
“Ash…” She kissed his forehead. “You don’t need to —”
“You take care of me.” Ash bent his head and kissed her breast. “I like making you happy.” He began trailing kisses down her belly.
Magda let out a gasp as his kisses found more sensitive areas. “That’s my good boy.” She moaned softly. “Oh, that’s my good boy.”
Stephan put a hand on Magda’s shoulder as she sighed at the house. Everything was sealed up again, as safe as they could make it. And everything that was really important they were bringing with them. Still, it was always hard to leave. She rubbed Ash’s head as he leaned into her on the other side. “Alright, boys.” She smiled. “Ready?”
“Shotgun.” Stephan immediately started to turn around.
Ash barked in protest and immediately launched to his own feet before heading toward the truck. He outdistanced Stephan within a few steps. “Hey,” Stephan protested as Ash began climbing into the passenger seat.
“Because I called it first.”
“Woof.” Ash shook his head.
“We are so calling it.”
“Woof.” Ash narrowed his eyes.
“It does so work that way.”
“Woof.” Ash lowered his head.
“Because I’m older than you and I said so.”
“Woof.” Ash gave Stephan an indignant look.
“That is not age discrimination.”
“Woof.” Ash folded his arms.
“Magda isn’t going to let you stick your head out the window anyway.”
“Woof?” Ash frowned.
“He’s right.” Magda went around to the driver’s seat. “I’m not.”
“Woof.” Ash sighed and crawled into the back.
Matthias ran a hand down his face, then looked at Daniel. Daniel shrugged. “Come on, let’s get this circus moving.” Daniel pointed at where Anna was already in the backseat of their truck, waving.
“Whatever you say, Boss.” Matthias just shook his head.