Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Fix Your Best Abode

Fix Your Best Abode

by Mara

Summary: Mike does handyman therapy. Vicki and Henry wonder if he needs the old-fashioned kind. Sequel to “Heal But By Degrees.”

Author’s Chapter Notes:

This is *so* Cereta’s fault, since part of the idea was hers. Someday I’ll learn not to read Grading Hell Theater when I’m supposed to be working. ::sigh::

Continuity: Some indeterminate time after my fic “Heal But By Degrees.”

There was something deeply satisfying about spackling small holes in drywall, Mike thought as he carefully scraped away the excess. Nodding, he decided it was as flat as it was going to get without sanding, and moved on to a dent he’d noticed a few feet away, one that looked like it could also be solved with spackle.

Matching the paint would require some work, but he was sure it was doable. He was fairly sure he could find a beige paint just a bit darker and lighten it to the right color.

When the holes were spackled, he could move on to that drip in the sink, the kind of task that was too small to ever get a repairman in to fix. Mike hoped he had a seat wrench somewhere in his car, since he was sure Henry didn’t have one anywhere in the penthouse.

It was nice to do something that wasn’t life or death for once, Mike mused, pulling a little more spackle out of the can and inspecting it to make sure it wasn’t drying too quickly. Nice to have a tangible result too.

Mike sighed, wishing he could do something about that mitred molding that should have been coped, but that would have required a lot of time and tools that would wake up Vicki, sleeping in the bedroom. And he didn’t want to do that. If she woke up, she’d just ask–

“What are you doing?” Henry asked over his shoulder.

Mike sighed, annoyed he hadn’t even heard the front door open. “What does it look like?”

“It looks,” Henry said slowly, tilting his head to examine the wall, “as if you’re doing something that I pay the building maintenance fund many thousands of dollars to deal with.”

“Well, they haven’t dealt with it. Besides, building maintenance guys never do this kind of thing right. It’d be a crime to let them ruin these walls.”

“Then you can arrest them,” Henry said, plucking the can of spackle out of his hand. “Meanwhile–”

“Hey!” Mike grabbed the spackle back. “Working here. I don’t interrupt you when you’re drawing, so don’t interrupt me.”

“You’re…” Henry shook his head. “Fine. I’ll work and you can continue the menial chores.”

Mike glared at him as he walked away, then sighed. “Did you…?”

Henry slowed, but didn’t turn. “I’ve fed, yes.”

“Okay.” Mike turned back to the wall and took a steadying breath so he didn’t gouge the wall further in his attempts to create a flat surface.

Henry’s silence was full of meaning, but Mike chose to ignore it, and after a few minutes, he heard the tiny scratches of Henry hard at work at the table.

The silence eventually became relaxed again and they worked like that for half an hour, Mike scraping and filling and hand-sanding the high spots until he was satisfied that the walls were perfect again.

Finally he sat on the floor and looked at the walls, with their neat circles of white amid the beige, and felt a deep satisfaction. He realized that the scratching of Henry’s pen had stopped and glanced over his shoulder to find Henry looking at him. “What?”

“You really enjoyed that.”

Mike shrugged. “I used to do things like this for my mom after my dad died, but then she moved into assisted living.” He finished cleaning off the putty knife and put it down on the paper towels he’d been using to wipe up excess spackle.

Henry still watched him. “Fascinating,” he said. “This isn’t a side of you I’ve seen before.”

“What side?” Mike hadn’t meant to sound so combative.

Henry smirked. “Nesting. It’s rather cute.”

Standing, Mike put the spackle and putty knife by the door. “Forget it. I can’t talk to you when you’re in this mood.”

“That’s what I was going to say.” Henry leaned back in his seat.

“Children.” Vicki sighed from the doorway to the bedroom. “I can’t leave you two alone for a minute before you start bickering.”

“We’re not bickering!” Mike and Henry said at the same time.

“Uh-huh.” She yawned, rolling her neck until it cracked. “Henry, go back to work. The answering machine message from your editor sounded like he was coming for you with a stake. Mike, c’mere.”

“Hey!” Henry said.

“To talk,” Vicki said firmly.

Mike dragged his feet until he realized he *was* acting like a child, and he followed Vicki into the bedroom. She shut the door with a pointed glance at Henry that said, ‘I know you *can* listen, but don’t.’

Sinking down on the bed, Mike waited, staring down at the blue-gray sheets.

“So, what’s up? And don’t give me a smartass answer, or I’ll leave you to the tender mercies of the sarcastic vampire.”

“I’m fine.”

“Right.” Crossing her arms, Vicki leaned against the door. “Try that one on someone who wasn’t your partner for years. This,” she pointed at the door behind her, “is what you do when you’re freaked. You look jumpy enough to run, but since I think we’ve established that Henry and I won’t let you do that, why don’t we talk instead?”

“Vic…” He waved a helpless hand.

“Yeah yeah, you’re a guy, whatever. Let’s just assume we’ve already had that discussion and now you tell me what’s bugging you.” She pushed away from the door and sat down next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder.

Automatically, Mike put an arm around her, relishing his ability to do it without her tensing up.

“What’s got you freaked?”

“I…” Words and thoughts that he’d been suppressing all evening churned in his mind. “It’s everything.”

Her sigh ghosted across his neck. “You’ll have to be more specific.”

“Jesus Christ, I don’t know. It’s like, one day I was a homicide cop trying to catch a killer and missing my old partner and now…” He looked helplessly around the room, with its large bed, soft sheets, and mood lighting.

“At least you’re still a cop.” The words were quiet and spoken into his shoulder, but he still heard them.

Mike squeezed her tight, then let go so he could look her in the eyes. “I don’t know if I can handle this.”

Her jaw clenched. “Mike–”

“How am I supposed to deal with this life? I’m just an ordinary guy. It’s not like I have a precedent. ‘Oh I know, it’s just like Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and their vampire lover, who lived down the street when I was growing up.'”

Vicki snickered.

“It’s not funny.”

She sobered. “I know, but I couldn’t help it.”

“It’s just…you’re asking me to deal with a lot here. First there’s the matter of the woman I love hanging out with a vampire. Oh, and by the way, we’d like you to join us in bed. But you know, every couple of days he’s going to go off and neck–if you’ll excuse the pun–with someone else in a club.”

Vicki was totally serious as she looked up at him. “I love you too.”

He ran a hand through his hair. “Okay, that’s not how I meant to say that.”

“I know.” She patted his arm. “But getting back to the point…are you telling me you’re jealous because Henry is getting blood someplace else?”

He threw his hands in the air. “I don’t know. I told you I have no idea how to deal with this.”

“He may use sexual attraction, but he’s only sleeping with us.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” It was the same tone she’d used when he asked if she was sure Henry wasn’t killing women.

“Okay, but…”

“But what?”

“I have no idea.” He stared down at his hands, picking at a bit of spackle on his thumb. “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know what I want.”

Vicki took his hand and tugged him forward until she could kiss him gently on the mouth. “Let us know when you figure that out.”

And she stood and left the bedroom. Mike wanted to call out after her, but he didn’t know what to say, so instead he watched her close the door behind her.

Then he put his head in his hands and waited for the shaking to stop.

* * * * *

Mike lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling for a while, trying to decide what to do. He did need to get some sleep at some point, if he wasn’t going to fall asleep at his desk. Maybe he should just head back to his apartment for the rest of the night.

Of course, Henry would probably point out that he was taking the coward’s way out of this. But to hell with that…Henry could get whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. And he had Vicki.

With a groan, Mike sat up, but before he could get off the bed, the doors opened and Vicki and Henry came to sit on either side of him. “Going somewhere?” Henry asked.

“I was–”

“Don’t tease him,” Vicki said, leaning across to swat Henry on the chest. “Mike, didn’t I just say we weren’t going to let you run? Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?”

“What?” Henry and Mike responded instantly. Mike grinned at Henry before he remembered that he was supposed to be freaking out.

Henry sobered as well, looking Mike in the eye. “I’m sorry I didn’t thank you for your care of my home. That was inexcusably rude. As Vicki pointed out to me. At length.”

“That’s okay.” Mike shrugged. “I just…needed something to do, and fixing things always helps me.”

“Helps you what?” Henry asked, sounding honestly curious.

“Relax.” Mike avoided his eyes.

After a moment, Henry spoke slowly. “You were worrying about me.”

Mike shrugged again, feeling utterly ridiculous.

Vicki leaned against his shoulder. “Oh my god, I can’t believe I didn’t see it. You *weren’t* worrying that he was feeding on someone else.”

“Well, maybe a little,” Mike mumbled, feeling something beyond ridiculous that he didn’t have a word for.

Henry let out a breath. “Worrying about my safety is rather romantic of you. I think I’ll choose to be flattered rather than offended that you’ve forgotten what I am.”

“Oh, I haven’t forgotten at all.” Mike looked up, not turning at Vicki’s intake of breath. “How could I?”

Henry nodded, watching him. “I see.” And he actually did seem to understand, which was unexpected.

Vicki turned her head back and forth, looking at both of them, obviously hoping for an explanation. “Okay…”

Mike looked for words to explain it to her. “I need…to feel needed.”

She tensed up. “This better not be some macho thing where you want me to be a helpless female.”

Henry twitched and Mike’s thought processes came to a sputtering halt as he tried to imagine Vicki as a helpless female. “Uh, no. That’s definitely not what I meant.” Shaking his head, he tried to remember what he was going to say. “I mean that I need to feel like I’ve got a purpose here. In this…” he waved his hand, “whatever we have.”

“Some people might say relationship,” Henry said.

“Is that what this is?” Mike looked him in the eye.

“I don’t know. Several hundred years of practice hasn’t made this kind of thing any less confusing.” Henry held his gaze.

“Great. That’s encouraging,” Vicki said with a sigh, swatting both of them. “Now, if you’re done with the staring contest, can we go back to the part where you’ve figured out that it’s okay to deal with a little uncertainty while having really great sex?”

Mike’s brain was well and truly derailed and Henry was in no better shape, if the way he was breathing against Mike’s neck was any indication. Taking a deep breath, Mike marshaled his scattered mind. “I can’t help worrying. That’s who I am.”

“We know,” Henry said softly.

“And this is still weird.”

“Mm-hmm,” Vicki said, running her hand under his shirt.

“We can’t solve *everything* with sex, you know.” Mike did his best to not gasp as Henry’s hand moved down his stomach.

“Of course not,” Henry said, pushing Mike back on the bed.

* * * * *

Tempting as it was to stay in bed, where everything was simpler, Mike and Vicki both had to work, and they left shortly after dawn, when Henry slept. Vicki gave Mike a kiss on the cheek as he dropped her off at her office. “We’re good?” she asked.

“We’re good.” He stifled a yawn. “Take care.”

“See you tonight?”

“Depends on work,” he said with a shrug. “I’ll let you know.”

In fact, both he and Vicki were hit by cases that kept them almost continuously busy, and it was 72 hours before Mike found himself parking a few blocks from Henry’s building again.

The sun had set a few hours before, and Mike was tired, sore from chasing a suspect through back alleys, and ready to relax.

When he opened the door, Henry had a light pointed directly at one wall. He turned. “There you are. Come take a look.” He held up a small pile of paper.

Grinning, Mike held up a matching stack of paint samples. “I should have known you wouldn’t let me pick a color by myself.”

“Are you kidding?” Henry flicked a card at him. “A Neanderthal like you? This is a job for a real artist.”

“Really?” Mike looked around the room. “Too bad we don’t have one of those to help us.”

“Funny.”

“Hey, good thing Home Hardware has late hours. Wouldn’t want you turning into dust for the sake of paint matching.”

“Well, I’m just glad they have all the colors laid out on a rack, because what if you’d had to *read* something?” Henry grinned.

Mike made a face at him, pulling a chair up close to the wall. “Hey, blood boy, just start picking a color.”

When Vicki came in an hour later, the floor was littered with shades of beige, and the two of them were waving paint chips at each other.

“Forget it,” Henry said, “by the time you’ve added enough cream to it, you might as well start with Antiquity.”

“Are you kidding? Sconce Gold is the only way to go. It’s too easy to go too far with the Antiquity and then you’ve got a wasted tin of paint.”

“You know,” she said, standing between them, “this is getting old pretty fast.”

“This is important,” Mike said, shaking his head. “Do it wrong and you ruin the wall.”

Vicki shook her head. “The lights are so dim that nobody will ever notice the difference. Besides, these days it’s usually only us.”

“That’s not the point,” Mike said, waving a paint chip at Vicki. “It’s a matter of principle.”

She turned to Henry. “What about you? Are you insane also?”

“You just don’t understand.”

Sighing, Vicki flopped down onto the couch. “Fine. I’ll just…sit here while you argue about paint.”

“Great,” Mike said absently, staring at the chip in his hand. “Hey!” He looked up. “I just realized something that will make this easier.”

“Hmm?” Henry asked.

“We don’t need to worry about how the touchup paint color looks in sunlight.” Mike grinned, ducking the hail of sofa cushions and paint chips.

–end–

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