Dwayne sauntered back downstairs to the open foyer, bee-lining towards the massive, makeshift bookshelf near the giant poster of Jim Morrison's timeless face. Strumming a careful finger over the spines of a line of books, he carefully plucked one out and dropped himself onto the worn couch lining the staircase. Before long, he was engrossed within the pages, perusing carefully and slow, with the precision of a tactful scholar.

He thought it best that Paul and Laddie enjoy their domestic moment in peace, without intrusion, even from him. Besides, he knew Laddie would be asleep again by the end of Paul's story, and so too would Star return. Paul would descend to him shortly and then they would resume their evening together, but in the meantime, Dwayne reveled in his oldest hobby.

"Hey… Dwayne."

Michael's lurking presence came as no surprise to him, but a minor annoyance.

His eyes never left the novel. "What is it you want?"

He could sense the way Michael stiffened at his cold response.

"N-nothing… Just, hey."

To that declaration, Dwayne chose not to respond, preoccupied with the printed text in his hands.

Michael shuffled his feet, wriggling his hands a bit, uncomfortably. Dwayne was such an impossible brick wall—but he couldn't just give up. Sucking up obviously wasn't working, so maybe it was time to fight fire with fire.

"Look—Dwayne. I'm cool with everyone else here but you. What gives?" The question wasn't quite spat, but delivered in a less-than-gentle tone, befitting of Dwayne himself.

At that little outburst, Dwayne casually raised his head, glare reaching Michael's eyes. He still said nothing, spurning Michael's offensive attack further.

"Even Paul is fine with me." He muttered, offering the statement as a small stab.

A small taste of disgust found Dwayne's tongue as the halfling attempted to use his Paul as leverage for argument. At the same time, he knew the comment was petty and deliberate, but not malicious. It was true, after all, that Paul was sweet to a fault.

To Michael's surprise, he coolly responded, "One of his few flaws," before returning to his book.

A choked groan later and Mike tried again, patience lost: "What the fuck have I ever done to you?!"

And quicker than lightning, Dwayne was upon him, glowering over the halfbreed who stood only an inch or two shorter. "You stole Laddie and Star, and tried to kill us." He growled in a voice so low, it could have been Lucifer himself. "Who's to say you wouldn't betray us again?" He scoffed, cold as ice. "The others may have forgiven you, but I will not soon forget that you almost destroyed us. And before you attempt to use Paul as a means to rectify why I should like you, let me remind you that not long ago, you would not have thought twice about killing him in cold blood."

Though he was genuinely terrified, Michael stood his ground, unwavering. He wanted to resolve this. "Y-you're right—and I'm sorry! But that was before I really knew how things would pan out!" With his right hand he grasped at his hair, exasperated, nervous. "I wanted to protect my mom and Sam—I thought you guys were gonna kill them and I couldn't let that happen, okay?" He sighed, feeling defeated. "Wouldn't you have done the same?" For Paul and Laddie? The implication needed no words.

Dwayne had long since withdrawn, standing firmly a few feet away. He knew, and hated to admit, that there was truth behind Michael's accusation; he would not hesitate destroy anyone that ever threatened his family. But he could not so simply welcome Michael with open arms. He had not yet proven himself trustworthy, but Dwayne decided to relent a little bit, cautiously.

Michael sighed, lowering his head slightly. "I'm sorry, alright? And I'll admit that now that I know you guys better, I like you. You guys treat me better than anyone else in Santa Carla has."

"You have David to thank for that." Dwayne muttered, satisfied by the pained look on the younger fellow's face.

"I know…"

Resuming his lounging position on the couch, Dwayne retrieved the fallen book, seemingly unphased by the brief conflict.

"The others may be quick to call you their friend," he said, tonelessly, "but you'll find I am more reserved with my judgment." He said no more.

Coulda fooled me. Michael thought sarcastically. He took the statement as his cue to leave, and so he trudged away without another word. So he and Dwayne weren't friends, which was okay. Michael hadn't exactly gotten his hopes up, and he wasn't sure if he truly wanted to be Dwayne's friend. He really just wanted to be on okay terms so there was less tension all the time. And from what he could tell, the confrontation actually went very well. Dwayne never actually said so, but Mike was pretty sure his apology was at least accepted, even though he doubted he was forgiven. That was good enough, he decided.

Once he was far enough away, Michael let a long breath of relief out. He knew the dark-haired vampire was scary, but damn. Dwayne hadn't raised his voice once during that entire conversation, but still managed to scare Michael shitless. He shivered a little but, reliving the moment.

At least he doesn't have a death wish for me anymore. I hope.