In the Middle of the Night
Aside from the obvious, everything is just a little bit different now.
I sat up that night and watched him sleep.
No, that wasn’t me being creepy, and I haven’t switched teams. But it’s weird now, to see Danny sleep. Because before…he’s always been so self-contained, you know? I mean, even in college, none of us knew he literally didn’t have anywhere to be except college until our dorm caught on fire. Because his parents had not only kicked him out, they’d legally disowned him. Legally. As in with a lawyer the day he turned eighteen legally.
We looked them up once, the guys and I. Danny doesn’t talk about it so we’ve never asked…but we got curious, especially since the always-intrusive media seemed to be ignoring them, so we had someone very carefully look into it for us. Carefully because Danny’s father is still lawyer-happy, as it turns out, which is how he’s kept the media from mentioning he and his wife in conjunction with Danny ever, at all. Rick says Mr. Darling’s lawyer is a bastard but still really, really good at his job. But in spite of the investigator needing to be extremely careful, we did find some things out.
Danny grew up in a middling sized town that’s just a little too far out to be a suburb of Boston – he’s never completely lost the accent – in a middle-class family that none of the neighbors really had anything to say about except that they were quiet and kept the house and yard up nicely and that their son was such a polite little boy and it was such a shame about his brother. His baby brother, who’d been born almost exactly four years after him and died at three months old. Crib death, which according to Grandpa is a doctor’s way of saying ‘I have no idea why this happened.’ The family never recovered; they probably hadn’t had the greatest marriage to begin with, but Danny’s mother blamed herself and his father doubled down on that and blamed her too. My dad thinks that Danny probably learned to blend way back then, to hide in plain sight with that perfect balance of being where someone won’t worry that you’re not there but where you aren’t drawing attention to yourself either. Which is why he’s so good at it, of course – even in his sleep he was unobtrusive.
Before, that is. Now…well, he twitches in his sleep now, little wolf whines coming from deep in his throat. We haven’t told him, and we aren’t going to. He’d be upset.
It’s upsetting to watch. Because now that I can see it – and smell it, too, with the lovely new mini-mod additions I have, which are also wolf – I know it was probably always there and just invisible. I can smell so much of that now, and it hurts to know we missed it. Can’t dwell too much, though, because he can really smell and then he gets upset because we’re upset. So kind of a vicious cycle.
It’s weird, though. Usually not in a bad way, just weird that now things that were always unsaid might as well be shouted. The way his scent changes around Hana – he’s definitely the parent in that relationship, and now that we can smell Hana we know the feeling is mutual. We’re his brothers, and he is just savagely protective; nobody was more surprised than me when a plumber we had in to unclog a drain got a little short with me and Danny actually bristled at him and growled deep in his throat. Well, Joey wasn’t surprised. Sometimes I think Joey understands Danny better than the rest of us do. And Joey is the only person so far that I’ve seen him submit to – no, not some weird thing, get your mind out of the fucking gutter. It’s an instinct thing, he didn’t even realize he did it, just a little twitch when the two of them disagreed about something that was basically him baring his throat when he conceded Joey’s point. Joey didn’t realize he’d done it either until I pointed it out to him, and he was quiet for a while after that, absorbing it. Because we all know it looks to people on the outside like Danny runs the show around here, but it only looks that way because he’s the one who usually takes point – and we let him do that because one, he’s the geneticist and our company is called GenoMod, and two, he’s got a very non-threatening, no-nonsense way of interacting with people most of the time and that saves us a lot of trouble.
Most of the time. I hear the last time Ada Jones from ZipLab in Florida ran into him at a conference she almost tripped trying to get away from him – goddamn high heels, man, you’d think she would have learned by now. And I’ve seen him shift into ass-kicking gear before, but that’s usually because it’s part of Something That Needs To Be Done and Danny is all about getting shit done. Even now. He’ll put aside the fact that he really doesn’t want anyone to see him if he’s convinced he needs to come out of the lab and do something.
Of course, people seeing him is kind of a problem, just not the one he thinks it is. He was cute before – he didn’t think of himself that way, and I’d never once seen him milk it, but he was just this cute little curly-haired guy with big brown eyes all the way through college, and it fucked his professors up at first because they thought he wasn’t going to be serious. And then they found out he was always serious and that fucked them up even more because then they felt guilty for shortchanging him. Now, though…
Doc may be a supervillain we all want to kill, but he’s also a fucking artist. Danny’s mod is perfect the way a sculpture by Michaelangelo is perfect, you can tell that a lot of thought went into every single detail, it’s custom all the way. And unfortunately pre-zipped with Danny’s DNA, which is what made it irreversible – yeah, that’s the trick, if you pre-zip it with your subject’s DNA before doing the mod, you effectively ‘lock’ the zippers – you basically melt the zipper’s teeth shut so it’s fused. But the mod itself…he looks like a fucking cartoon character, and I don’t mean the weird or cutesy kind you see on kids’ shows, I mean the kind you see in the really beautifully drawn not-for-kids manga that come from Japan. His mod is mostly wolf with touches of fox and he’s not cute anymore, he’s fucking adorable – and when he gets serious or mad, he goes from adorable to fucking beautiful. Which of course means he doesn’t – can’t – blend anymore. He can’t, it’s just not possible. No one is ever, ever going to be able to overlook Danny again as long as he lives…and he knows it, and so he tries to hide instead because he just doesn’t know how to deal with that.
Or with people like that bitch from earlier whose mouth was calling him names while the rest of her was saying she wanted to own him. Kind of wish I didn’t know that her crusade against modding is mostly about her projecting her own issues onto everyone else and then trying to ‘protect’ everyone from them. I’ll have to call up my cousin Rudy, see if he can talk to Rick about how or if we can communicate that to her boss, because now we know her issue has a whole lot to do with sex and perceived morality rather than human or animal rights.
On a side note, I hate that bitch and I wish a truck would hit her. His body language and the look on his face when she called him a monster, the scent he put off…that bitch doesn’t deserve to live, with that shitty little scent-flag of self-congratulation wafting behind her as she walked out. If Danny hadn’t stopped Joey, if we all three hadn’t known we had to take care of him first because his scent had so clearly said he’d agreed with her…well, I’m not sure what we would have done other than scare the shit out of her or chase her into traffic, but it probably would have still been enough to get us all locked up. Which is the other reason we stopped, because wolf or not he’s really fucking tiny now – the mod knocked him down to just barely five-five – and leaving him alone with nobody else here but Hana is just not going to happen.
He twitches and wakes up all at once; his eyes dilate in the dim light, because wolves have night vision like nobody’s business, and he frowns at me, sniffing. “Dave, what…”
Okay, a half-awake anime wolf-person being worried about me in the middle of the night is so cute I want to grab one of Hana’s stuffed animals and cuddle it to death. “It’s okay, I just couldn’t sleep. Sorry I woke you.”
He sits up, rubbing his eyes; his tail wraps around his waist, the tip of it tapping against the quilt Amy the Tree Person’s grandmother made for him a few years back. I think if I try to cuddle him he’d probably murder me – or Ivor would, once we finally get him over here. “Don’t be, I was having a really shitty dream. Are you okay, do you want to talk?”
“We are talking.”
“Cute.” He’s more awake now. “I smelled…I mean, you…”
“You mean you smelled me thinking about something that made me feel protective and a little angry.” We’d all agreed already, no more letting him dance around the fact that he’s different now – we’ve got to help him own it, accept it, or he’s going to go nuts. I sigh. “I started thinking about that bitch from earlier and how much I wish Pete and Joey and I could have chased her into traffic so a truck would hit her. And then I remembered that if we do stupid shit like that, you and Hana would be here by yourselves with no one to protect you.”
He huffs, offended – it’s adorable. “I can…”
“Only if you’re planning to cute them to death, Danny. Claws and teeth aside, the only advantage you or Hana have in a fight is surprise – and if someone were to come after either of you here, surprise is an advantage you’re not going to have.” I run a hand through my hair – it’s a habit, so sue me – and shake my head at him. “The guys and I are just going to have to be careful not to kill anyone, that’s all.”
He blinks at me. Come on, Danny, come back…and then he grins, and then he laughs. Jesus, Hana is so losing a stuffed animal after this.