i.

we have a breakfast of egg whites and turkey sausage (mine); coffee and tomato soup (yours); and discomfort (shared). you are unthinkingly deferential and a touch antipathetic, speaking over your bottom lip to the cherrywood table; i bought this table last week. last week, you asked me why we didn't have a table, and i said it was because we ate at the granite island. you said you would prefer a table, and we are sitting at a table now because it's the small things that make our lives normal, but the table does not make a difference when you will not look at me. you say, "we need to talk."

"about what?"

"about retirement. you're bored. and you miss him."

"viggo, why would i be bored? this is what we wanted."

"this is what i wanted." you are looking at your nails instead, and when you finally look at me, you look at the wall behind me. you ask, "what was he like?"

and i answer, "not you."


ii.

i owned this house before i met you; i owned this house before i knew i would leave it for months at a time; i owned this house before a creature made of Grace and light energy found gavin's soulless body and donned it like a suit; and i owned this house before i knew that was possible, but that's not to say i didn't grow up knowing that there is more to our world than what we can see.

my family specialized in culling the powerful creatures that meant to do civilians harm, as well as the creatures attempting to go about their lives like we do ours. my older brother was taken with the profession, just as he was taken with our father and idealized the man as a gruff hero, the quintessential protagonist with dark hair and blue eyes and rough hands, who raised his sons to follow in his footsteps like any decent man would. maybe i was sensitive boy, but i classified him as distant and emotionally abusive, especially after the death of mine and michael's mother; you can only poke so many hornets' nests before you get stung, and that was the career of my family: we poked hornets' nests, and michael still pokes hornets' nest. that is what my brother does with his lover, your cousin: they travel the country in that damned old truck and kill the monsters under the bed, the shadows in the closet, the ghouls who left the graveyard.

it sounds romantic when i say it like that; it sounds less romantic if i cut the bullshit and call them bohemian sociopaths, broke vigilante thieves that comb cities and suburbs and countrysides for supernatural disturbances, at least keener to the idea not every unknown means to disturb the populace and some can be left to their idea of perfunctory. once upon a time, you and i traveled with them in that damned truck, but i wanted to retire and so did you, both for the memory of lovers lost and for the comfort of a home we lost (or you never had). for the comfort of knowing that we will wake without a swarm of hornets at the door (or that the swarm will not be so angry).

you are the only one i could say this to without accusations of insanity.


iii.

the thing about this profession is that when you try to leave it, it will find you. it will smell your fearful cold sweat and remember the nights you spent finding bullets cast in rare metals and laugh at you when you're lining doorways with fae blood and blessed crosses. it will peer into your windows, and it will drag you from your bed after midnight. it will smile at you, and it will not be wholly unattractive. you never escaped it until you met me, so you might be unaware of its sultry lips and white teeth, which is why i feel i must explain that's why i chose to return after i evaded it for almost fifteen years.

my brother knocked on my door and told me our father had died peeling larvae from a queen vampire; he skinned them in an unnecessarily brutal way that michael said made him thorough rather than psychopathic, and she skinned our father in an unnecessarily brutal way that made her psychopathic rather than thorough because justice is beautifully and terribly symmetrical. we all hold delusions about the ones we love, but i digress; michael said i need a new partner, and i said go alone, and he said i can't hunt alone, it's dangerous. i agreed it was dangerous and shut the door on him, but he called me and told me he needed me because it was a family business and family is more important than anything in the world and i was betraying family.

two days later, gavin was dead; three months later, i met his skin with another being in it, a docile and helpful Angel whom i could not despise; and two months before that, i was already riding shotgun in michael's damned truck. you might say that i needed to go, but i didn't need to. gavin's death was an incentive, but i could have stayed home and handled my vitriol and grief without ever pulling a trigger.

you are the only one who accepts that ugly choices are inevitable.


iv.

when we married, we held a wedding for show and acquired a civil union later that afternoon. you said to me, "lucas, i want to marry you properly, but i hate all the states that allow it. maybe new york?"

i laughed and told you about a demon i hunted in new york, an ugly thing occupying the visage of a preteen girl. you knew i killed the demon, and you knew i killed the girl, but you still laughed and said, "not new york, then. did you make it your business to never hunt in chicago?"

"i've hunted in chicago. i just walked away without any exceedingly traumatic experiences."

"but the house—"

"is just a house, and you'll be in it." i smiled, and maybe you're the only one who would be naive enough to believe that, but i think you are the only one who understands you have to forget the past if you want to make a future.


v.

gavin was not like you. gavin did not know about my family's business, and if asked about things that go bump in the night, he would have cited campfire stories children tell to scare each other when the bonfire grows dim. he thought i kept crosses because i was catholic, and he never questioned the collection of antique jewelry he knew as pretty and i knew as rat poison. he believed i kept guns because i was afraid of hoodlums, and he teased me when he found my brown coat, the torn and stained and roughhewn artifact that will always smell of sulfur. when he asked, i told gavin i left home because my dad beat me, but i was the one he never laid a hand on.

i watched my father hurt michael because he cried over a dead werewolf, and before our mother died, i watched him grab her face and spit that she needed to be tougher when she sobbed about her sons being in the line of fire, but he loved her because she was delicate. she died because she was delicate, and i loved gavin because he was delicate, but he died because he was delicate. we all become our fathers, don't we? that's the moral of any good bildungsroman: you become your father because you are trying not to be him, and the easiest way to become someone is to strive to be the opposite.

before gavin died, i lost my temper with him once, and it was because he found the fae blood i kept in my desk drawer. he asked me what it was and why it smelled sweet; i tried to lie, and he didn't believe me, and i was terrified. you understand that: i was terrified i was going to lose my semblance of normality. i was going to steal his innocence, and i lost my temper for a reason he never understood.

when he asked later, i said it was personal and could never explain, and he suggested we break up. he slept on the couch, and he died the next morning. that's what i never tell people about him, and now i've told you because i know you won't blame me, entirely. you didn't know your father well, but you became your cousin when the moment called for it.


vi.

"lucas, you're copping out. not me? what do you mean by not me? that doesn't mean anything. luke. lucas. look at me! why are you not talking to me?"

you are tall and slim and blond. you are not my type, but i fell in love with the way you walk and the width of your shoulders. you are a perfect v-shape, and you are a perfect mind. i watch the cogs reeling behind your eyes, and your knuckles become paler when you clench your fists like that. you're the kind of milk-white i thought was ugly until i saw it painted on you, and i repeat, "he wasn't you. viggo, he wasn't you."

you understand this time, and i know you're afraid of ghosts because you've seen them.


vii.

jasmine is coming over to talk to us about surrogacy. she wants to be our surrogate because she has dark hair and dark eyes and olive tones like mine. she smiles and says, "it'll look like your baby."

i don't care if he or she looks like our baby; i want him or her to look like you, and i want you to say to me, "i know this is wildly irresponsible and dangerous, and i know there are only so many years we can shelter this child, and i don't know whether it's more dangerous to tell him or her what is happening or to keep him or her in the dark, but i want to be happy more than i care about safety and reason. happiness is fleeting, anyway, and i've found a lot of fleeting happiness with you, and happiness is all there is in this world that's worth sacrifice."

because then you would understand why i think we should stay together. then you would understand why i want to paint the nursery pink or blue. then you would understand why i don't lock the front door when we're home in the evening. then you would understand why i bought us platinum rings rather than a metal with mystical use. then you would understand why i don't like to go on road trips but why i love to fly. then you would understand why i find you most irresistible when you're half-awake and half-dressed and making breakfast. then you would understand why i want nothing more than to watch television with you on that couch we bought off ebay. then you would understand why, when you asked for a five thousand dollar table, i bought it without question, and i will eat every meal there if you want me to.

viggo, it's the small things that make our lives normal.