Light steps rushed over the marble floor of the upper balcony overseeing the entrance hall, resonating through empty corridors and down the stairs. In the almost perfect silence the young voice cut through it as if he had shouted, but in reality, his voice was only near tears.
At the sound from above Dylan looked up, spotting Jude at the same moment the other saw him. The look in the young vampire’s face fit his voice and Dylan even at this distance was positive he had indeed cried probably moments ago. He was not surprised to see Jude awake this early in the afternoon as most of them were waking up around this time but it was definitely too early for this kind of emotion.
“What is going on? Are you alright?” he asked putting down the bags he had carried from the garage. In the meanwhile, his snow-covered shoes formed a small puddle on the polished stone.
“Have you seen Michael?” Jude asked coming halfway down the stairs, but the closer he came the lower got his voice and his eyes that no longer meet Dylans.
“No. I just came back. Why? What has he done?” as much as Dylan loved his brother, to assume that he had done something to ruffle some feathers was always a safe bet.
Jude had stopped now on the stairs, his hand uncomfortably playing with the black curls in his neck while she still avoided eye contact, maybe even ashamed that whatever it was, cause him this much distress and that he had to explain it.
“I had opened the window front in the atelier after I woke up - to air the oil scent.” Jude explained as quietly as a human voice could. “ When I came back both doors stood open and everything was full with snow and water - there is such a mess.” his voice broke as the memories drew new tears into his eyes.
Dylan took off his gloves and pushed them into his pockets while he frowned slightly “And you think Michael did that?”
“Who else?” Jude looked up with watery eyes behind which lay a surprisingly clear frustration. This had hurt Jude at the place he cared the most about.
“I’m sure he didn’t mean it.” Dylan sighed knowing that it wasn’t making anything better “It’s that time of the month, he’s getting all jumpy. But I’ll find him and we will clean it up for you, alright?”
“Okay. Thank you.” Jude sighed deeply. He looked very tired as resignation overcame him, the acceptance that he couldn’t change anything about this. “He should be over this. He’s not a child anymore.”
“I know. He tries.” Dylan assured him. Jude usually refrained from casting judgment this blatantly, what only made it clear to Dylan how hurt the young vampire was. And of course, he knew very well that Michael could be a bit difficult to handle at times, especially this close to full moon. Not all residences in the mansion where too happy about his inclusion in their family but Dylan wouldn’t want it any other way. He was his brother after all.
“I’ll bring these things in the kitchen and go look for him outside,” he said and Jude only nodded tiredly before he turned around and went back up the stairs and disappeared into the east wings corridor.
After putting the groceries away he went to the atelier to asses the damage. The double-winged french window stood still open, the cold had flooded the room. But it was a calm day, no wind or new snowfall that could have caused the puddles of water on the floor. While it sure wasn’t as bad as Dylan had feared, Michael sure and caused a mess.
Stepping through the double door outside the veranda he buried his hands in his pockets as the cold war by now biting into his fingers. The sun hadn't set yet but there was no warmth in the dim last sunrays and beyond the forest lines it was pitch black, so that he couldn’t see anything moving in the forest behind the mansion. The snow gave away recent movement towards and back from this place and Dylan was very sure Michael was out there. Or at least he was sure he would have heard him by now should he be still inside.
“Michael?” he shouted into the silence. The cold crept further into any opening and he pressed his teeth together as he waited. In the distance, he heard several dogs bark.
“Michael!” a lot more firm he called his brother again and this time his call was answered by a long howl from inside the woods. “Move your ass over here already,” Dylan mumbled, wanting to go back inside and close all doors and windows while turning up the heating to the max.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait long. With once a whole pack of dogs appeared between the threes, all running towards him. Huskies, an Australian shepherd, a wolfhound and Leonberger and others he couldn’t recall. He could swear there were even a few that weren’t theirs, to begin with. And the idea of potentially wild dogs now heading straight towards him made him step back a bit and go into a safer stance.
While there sure were several really big dogs between them, none of them came even close to the beast of a wolf that appeared with a big leap from between the threes. Within moments he was in front of all of them and with a few wide leaps he had reached Dylan who instinctively backed off even more as he almost feared the wolf would crash into him. But he didn’t.
The wolves rich brown fur was covered in snow and dirt, his tail waving lazily as he looked directly at him, the hot breath of quick panting condensed in the ice cold air. With a height of almost five feet, the wolf didn’t need to raise the head much while now a questioning look lay in the almost glowing yellow eyes.
Some of the other dogs barked, jumping around, but the wolf only looked at them and they went silent.
“Listen, Mike…” Dylan sighed when he got Michael’s attention back. “Please don’t go inside when you’re all soaked wet like this. We talked about this.”
As if just reminded Michael shook his body and fur, snow and water splattered all around him, then he looked down, ears pressed back and tail hanging down.
“Oh come one, don’t give me that look now. You know who’s got to clean it. Me.” he would not get weak of this puppy look, especially not coming from an almost 400 kilo heavy fully grown werewolf. “But, you are going to help me.”
With a nod of determination Michael looked up to him again. Some kind of communication took place between the wolf and the rest of the dogs as they suddenly turned and ran off, some heading back to the kennel others just starting to chase each other in play.
“Alright, wait here I’ll - okay nevermind.” he had only half turned to get some clothes as the form of the wolf changed already. A pain filled guttural growl came from his throat and in an unnatural transition, it changed from the bestial sound to a breathless human groan. Seeing the face flatten, turning back into the pain marked human shape was still looking unnerving to him, but Dylan had gotten used to it by now.
Michael now kneeled completely naked in front of him, sweat glistering over muscles and his body heat steaming against the cold. While his fur had kept him warm before and even in his human form he was less sensitive to cold, he really shouldn’t stay out here for long now.
“Come, get yourself some clothes.”
Michael stood up, his breathing still heavy by the now fading pain. “And something to eat.”
Dylan chuckled “Okay, let’s take care of that too.”
After getting some clothes from their flat Michael met Dylan again in the large kitchen where the later was already roasting some burgers. This was the main shared kitchen but since the rest of the household rarely to never cooked the freezer and fridge were mostly filled up with meat. Mostly red meats from the store, plus ground beef, chicken and gain from their hunts in the woods. With Michael as the dedicated carnivore he was they spend often about 200$ per week on meat. While Dylan did enjoy cooking, he found rarely the time to treat himself to a well-cooked meal if it was just for himself, so he often added just some veggies or spaghetti to whatever Michael had.
“Here we go.” Dylan shoved the plate of finished burgers in the middle of the counter. Neither of them bothered with a fork and just took them in the hand to eat them. He had already eaten earlier but a top up couldn't hurt so he took one as well. Both knew very well to behave themselves in higher company but when they were alone together they really didn’t care.
“Thanks!” Michael grinned, “I was about to go hunting, but this is good too.”
Dylan grinned back and after he had finished his one burger, waited for Michael to finish his meal - what shouldn’t take too long considering that he didn’t really chew anything for more than two seconds - in the meanwhile he watched him, thoughtful.
Michael looked happy enough, but Dylan couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off again. As if this happiness was only a front he put on. And suspecting that already for a long time now, it worried him with every day more, because they used to tell each other everything. But during the last years, Michael had grown tenser. It was nothing visible, he looked healthy enough, the still from summer tanned cheeks now that he was eating coloured with a rosy touch strengthened by the previous cold, the brown hair wild and full as usual. He was in good shape, even gained some muscles over the last years, now the black shit he wore stretched a bit too tight around Michaels chest and arms. Besides the shirt, he only wore sweatpants and no shoes despite the cold floor.
As far as he could judge, Michael was as healthy as a young lycan could be. But then again, he wasn't exactly a specialist in that field. Neither of them in the house was. Michael lived in this house since 24 years - and they all had surely learned a lot about him at that time, and not all of these things had been pleasant to learn. But by now Dylan thought he knew pretty well why Michael did the things he did and how his mental state was at most times - but he seemed to close off further and further.
Dylan could only hope that Michael was at least talking with Gabriel about these things if he was no longer sharing it with him. Even though the thought made him feel like he was doing something wrong.
“Have you seen Gabriel?”
“I’d assume he is awake, but I haven’t seen him. Actually not since..” Dylan tilts his head as he searched his memories. It had been a couple of days actually. “Even before you ran off into the lost woods I think. What’s he up to?”
The question caused a sigh of Michael. “He’s in the lab most of the time.”
“Ah.” Dylan nodded, realizing that Michael had finished eating. “Okay, come, hurry up tyke, we have to clean an atelier.”
“Aye!” Michael jumped up and halted for a moment, holding his hand against his chest.
“Don’t throw up now!” Dylan chuckled and as an answer, he got a hearty burp from Michael who then grinned.
“Sorry. Ate a bit too quick. All fine.”
“Say, say,” Dylan laughed but abstained from giving Michael a friendly clap on the back, better safe than sorry. “Come.”