"I really appreciate this Reggie."
"It's no trouble Vinnie." The werewolf took off his glasses and wiped them. "I'm actually quite interested to meet your parents."
"Huh," Vinnie scoffed. "Not my parents, my father and his latest bride."
The two monsters were waiting together outside a restaurant however they couldn't have looked more mismatched. Vinnie was hunched in his usual black leather jacket, every inch the rebellious teen, while Reggie was wearing a shirt and bowtie, looking ready for a job interview.
Vinnie's father had sent a telegram earlier that afternoon to say he would be in town and commanding his son's presence for dinner. Ordinarily Vinnie got on well with his father but whenever he had a new bride, all that changed. This one was apparently called Harmony yet Vinnie expected tonight to be anything but. So he'd cornered his best friend after class and invited him along.
Reggie knew well enough how troubled Vinnie's family life could be. There had been countless new women after Vinnie's mother and they all seemed to share the same negative qualities, namely being airheaded vamps. Though he'd never say as much to his vampiric friend, he actually felt quite sorry for him. Reggie was brought up as part of a large pack and couldn't imagine life without his family around.
"Ooh! You must be Vinnie!"
Vinnie winced at the excited squeal and turned reluctantly to meet his step-mom. She was pretty much exactly as he expected. Blonde and far too young.
"Yeah, that's me," he drawled. He was suddenly engulfed in a tight embrace.
"Oh we're going to be such friends! I just know it!"
Vinnie shifted himself away and coughed. "Ah, yeah, Speaking of, let me introduce my friend – Reggie Moonshroud."
"Ooh!" Harmony squealed again. "Are you a werewolf?"
Reggie glanced briefly at Vinnie. Was she really asking whether he was a werewolf?
"Urm, yes?" Reggie hazarded nervously.
"You can sorta tell by the fur and tail," Vinnie put in.
A new voice spoke from behind Harmony.
"Your step mother is new to our world, Vinnie." Vinnie's father looked severely at his son. "You must make allowances."
Vinnie's father loomed over the boys and it took Reggie a moment to realise it was only a psychological effect.
"It's okay hunny," Harmony smiled. "I know I've got a lot to learn."
Vinnie's father smiled tightly.
"Shall we go in?" He gestured at the door and glared at Vinnie. Vinnie resisted rolling his eyes as he politely held the door open.
"After you Harmony," he smiled.
"Aren't you just the sweetest?" she gushed as she swept past. Once his father had gone in as well Vinnie turned back to Reggie.
"Is it possible to die from sugar overload?"
Reggie smiled at him. "It won't be that bad Vinnie. It's only dinner."
Two hours later and Reggie was beginning to reconsider his assessment. This was without doubt the most excruciating night of his life.
It wasn't that Harmony was in any way unkind, but she seemed to have a knack for picking the wrong thing to say. Her curiosity about werewolves had been understandable but highly embarrassing. On his own he could have dealt with it better but Vinnie and his father were clearly taking sides. Vinnie kept trying to block Harmony's questions about Reggie's life while his father kept accusing him of being rude to his new mother.
Then the conversation had drifted to school. Harmony was full of her own school days which were fun filled as she was apparently the most popular girl in class. Reggie felt ostracised as he was well aware he was the school nerd yet Vinnie kept bringing him into the conversation with praise about his projects. But this only led to his father questioning his own son's academic achievements. Vinnie Stoker had many good qualities but tests and school work weren't high on his list.
The worst part however came when Harmony hit on the subject of girlfriends.
"Now you must tell me," she insisted to Vinnie. "There must be a girl you like. Or are you already dating?" She practically squealed in excitement at the thought.
Vinnie shrugged. "Nah. There isn't any girl."
Reggie looked sideways at him.
"Don't be modest," his father insisted. "No woman, alive or dead, can resist the Stoker charm."
"That's as maybe but I ain't tried it out yet," Vinnie replied casually.
"Isn't there any girl you've got your eye on?" Harmony leant forward conspiratorially. "I promise I won't tell a soul."
"I believe you but there isn't a girl to tell," Vinnie insisted. Harmony sat back with a disappointed pout.
"I don't believe there are no suitable girls at your school," his father contended.
Eager to avoid another argument, Reggie intervened, "There's plenty of nice girls Mr Stoker Sir. Blanche and Duzer in our class are both…"
"There?" Vinnie's father interrupted. "Two suitable girls in your very class!"
Vinnie shot Reggie a venomous look.
"I didn't say there weren't any pretty girls," he replied stonily, "I just said I wasn't interested."
"Not interested? Why not?" his father demanded.
They were distracted by a sudden giggle from Harmony.
"Oh I get it!" she laughed. "You're not interested in girls!"
"What?" both Vinnie and his father chorused.
"I should have realised when you invited your friend here," Harmony continued, gesturing to Reggie. "My bad."
Vinnie stared at her. His father turned his gaze firmly onto Reggie.
"You?" he sneered.
Reggie opened his mouth to protest but Vinnie beat him to it.
"Hey! Leave Reggie out of this!"
His father's granite stare turned back to him but Harmony was oblivious to the sudden climate change.
"Aw that's so sweet!"
"No it's not," Vinnie insisted. "Reggie and I aren't dating. We're just friends."
"But is there a boy you like?" Harmony asked eagerly.
"There is NO boy." Vinnie's father suddenly stood and stared down at Vinnie. "You will marry a suitable monster girl."
Vinnie glared up at his father. "Hey! Who says you get to control my life forever?"
"I am your father!"
"Yeah, father not jailer!"
"You will NOT disobey me!"
"I'll do whatever I please!"
"I won't have you bring shame on the family name!"
"Oh 'cause you haven't already done that." Vinnie pushed his chair back and grabbed Reggie's arm. "Come on, we're leaving."
"You aren't going anywhere with that boy!" Vinnie's father made to grab Reggie but Vinnie quickly pulled him out of the way.
"Touch him and I'll never forgive you," Vinnie hissed.
"You'd choose some wolf boy over your own father?" He laughed. Vinnie remained unfazed.
"I already said, we aren't dating. But yeah, I'd choose him over you and you know why? 'Cause unlike you, he cares about me."
With that, Vinnie turned and left.
"You sure you're okay?" Reggie asked again.
Vinnie shrugged. "We've fallen out lots of times. It's no big deal."
They were in Reggie's room. Vinnie was lazing back against the headboard while Reggie was laid out with a selection of papers in front of him. Mr Schneider had given him a selection of past test papers to help him prepare for their exams and Reggie had got them out to help him relax.
Whenever he felt stressed he knew he could rely on study to help him calm down.
Vinnie meanwhile sat staring at nothing. He couldn't forget the argument as easily as he'd claimed.
"He was being a total jerk," he declared suddenly.
Reggie said nothing but continued with his work.
"I mean I'm used t' him complaining about my work ethic and we argue about his wives but he crossed a line today."
Reggie nodded vaguely but his attention was focused on the page before him.
"He shouldn't have brought you into it."
"That was Harmony," Reggie replied vaguely.
Vinnie scoffed. "Like, what would she know? My father oughta know better."
"You could have just denied it all," Reggie said with a sigh. "Instead of arguing about him controlling your life."
Vinnie sat up suddenly. "But that's the whole point!" he insisted. "I shouldn't have t' deny anything. He's my father. He's meant to stick by me no matter what! Even if I did like guys! I mean would you like me any less if I liked guys?"
"No," Reggie replied simply, his attention still focused on his work.
Vinnie, momentarily surprised, stopped in his diatribe. "You wouldn't?" he asked.
Reggie began filling in another answer as he explained, "Our friendship isn't based on a rational explanation - after all we're not exactly alike - but on a basic, primal level we get on. It stands to reason then that any intellectual details wouldn't change my feelings toward you."
Vinnie studied Reggie carefully. The other boy was completely unconcerned with this line of questioning and Vinnie decided he could risk things a little more.
"Have you ever thought about kissing a guy?" he spoke musingly, as though not really bothered.
Reggie didn't bat an eyelid. "I've never really thought about kissing anyone."
Vinnie stared at the wolf boy. He considered the long line of his back, the curl of his neck up under his hair…
"Would you consider kissing me?"
Reggie finally looked up. His face registered surprise, Vinnie noted, but not disgust. Carefully the vampire leant closer, curled one hand across Reggie's warm neck, and pulled him into a very deliberate, very thorough kiss.
Reggie responded keenly enough but broke away a few moments later, panting slightly and averting his eyes. Vinnie leant back a little to give him space while Reggie caught his breath and got his mind round what had just happened. As the seconds ticked by Vinnie began to feel a tendril of worry.
"Reggie? You okay?" he asked cautiously.
Reggie hesitated before saying quietly, "I was thinking about vampire lore."
Vinnie waited, knowing Reggie would come round to his point as soon as he felt able.
"Did you know vampires are said to have power over wolves?" Reggie finally said.
Vinnie stayed silent a second while he digested this statement.
"You think I'm using some power over you?" he suggested at last.
Reggie shrugged, his gaze still averted from Vinnie's, even though the vampire still had his hand resting on the nape of his neck.
"That'd imply I could make you do anything, regardless of how you felt about it," Vinnie replied thoughtfully. "So tell me, how d'you feel about kissing me?"
Reggie looked back at him, eyes searching, then without hesitation he caught Vinnie's lips in his once again.