~a few weeks later~

"Who all were you wanting to invite to the lodge this year? Did you want Quinn to come? Your aunt Zoe? They haven't seen you in some time. They miss you."

"Yeah! Yeah... Of course they can come."

"What about your new... Friends?"

What was that about? Dillon crossed one arm over himself, the other still holding the phone. "You can call them my boyfriends..."

Casper gave a small chuckle. "I will, then. Somehow I just didn't think you'd want to hear me say it."

"Why would-" He abandoned the question. There were plenty of things in that ballpark he didn't want to hear from Casper. "Yeah. I want them to come. Cain, too."

"Anybody else?"

Dillon considered the question. "I think that's everybody. Simon's coming, right? Is Walden coming?"

"Walden will be taking my place while I'm gone."

That seemed to be happening more and more lately. Was it because Casper needed the time elsewhere or was there more to it?

"As for Simon-" There was a change to his tone Dillon couldn't quite identify. "-He's met someone."

Dillon was stunned. He'd been half expecting Casper to tell him something horrible had happened. "He- what?" Somehow Dillon had never been able to imagine Simon with any kind of personal life.


*knock knock knock*

He knew she was home. He knew she was awake. He stood outside her apartment door and straightened his tie. Dressing casually simply wasn't his thing, but he had dressed down somewhat to try and appear less intimidating. He leaned on his cane, almost apprehensive.

Caroline lazily looked around her living room. She was met with a disaster zone. Alcohol bottles and wadded up packs of cigarettes made up most of the debris, which she kicked into a corner.
It had been a few weeks since Matthew had revoked his agreement to train her, leaving her wondering what she was doing anymore. Others in the Hunters had come to check on her, fearing she had been killed, and had tried to comfort her. SHe told them she was out.
She didn’t feel the same being around them, where before she was cocky and full of “team spirit”, now she wondered what they would do if she told them what had really happened.
Her gloom was interrupted by a knock on the door, making her jump and trip over her coffee table.
Cursing everything for the umpteenth time she went to the door and looked through the peephole, nearly passing out at the sight of the man on the other side.
“What do you want? The dumbass isn’t here.”

Casper gave a careful friendly smile. “I'm here for you, actually,” he said. “Considering your recent, uh, disassociation, I've come to extend an… invitation.”

Raising an eyebrow at the man...thing, Caroline opened the door and leaned on the frame.
“Invitation? I don’t know what you’re talking about, but last time I knew, I was still wanting to kill you guys.”

Casper shrugged, his cautious smile still in place. “Well, I'm hoping to change that. I want to offer you an opportunity to see us in… shall we call it our 'wild habitat’. Nobody tries to harm you, you don't try to harm us. In fact, what I have in mind will involve you being able to do so anonymously.”

Caroline’s tired eyes glared at Casper. She was not sure whether or not she could trust him.
“And if I go along with this, what would stop you from just dumping me in the middle of a bunch of bloodthirsty monsters? I need more info.”

Casper sighed, his smile shrinking until it was gone. “Nothing. There's no way for me to get you to trust me to do this until it's done. I say 'invitation’ and ‘opportunity’ but what I mean is 'notice’. You're coming. What happens after, is up to you. I'd tell you you'll be alive and well for it, but my word doesn't mean anything yet.”

Usually, someone having this amount of cocky attitude would make Caroline slam the door. Casper was an exception, since he had shown her already that he could do what he wanted. Taking a few moments to think it over, but knew she didn’t have a choice.
“Fine. What do I need to take and where are we going?”

The smile came back. “We have a lovely winter lodge up in Alaska. We go every Christmas, and this year, you're one of our extra guests. All you'll need is anything you'd want to pack for a two week vacation. I ask, of course, that you leave any weapons behind…. Alaskan winters can get quite chilly, so pack warm clothes if you have them. There is a Jacuzzi, so you may want to bring a swimsuit….” He was off, almost like the head of a fancy hotel. “You're being compensated for your time, of course, and I've assured that your job will still be securely in place when you return.”

The list Casper gave made Caroline raise the other eyebrow. Alaska?
“Alright. Give me a few minutes and I’ll be ready.”
As she rummaged through her things, she felt herself in auto drive. She didn’t know why, but she felt like she could believe Casper. If he had wanted her dead, she knew he wouldn’t be taking the time to offer a trip.
She couldn’t believe the luck of having parents that constantly thought where she lived was cold, they kept sending sweaters and coats, no matter how many times she corrected them.
“That should be it…. And thank you. For not killing me about kidnapping your son.”

Casper, a more genuine grin on his face, nodded. “Death is too final. People have too much potential to be cut short for mistakes. Besides, It wasn't your idea, was it?” He said it like he knew the answer.

He lead the way down to his pricey, but not too pricey, black car. “What I'm going to do to keep you able to observe without bias from the other side, is that I can use magic to disguise you. A different face, a different voice, even a different smell for those sensitive to it.”

“This is normally a private family gathering, so to get you in without suspicion is the difficult part.” They reached the car where a handsome man in his late thirties stood beside it waiting. “For the next few weeks, this is your boyfriend, Simon.”

Stopping as soon as she heard boyfriend, Caroline took a moment to compose herself.
“Do I really need a boyfriend? Not saying the guy isn’t half bad to look at, but I can’t even get a guy in the real world.”

Casper shrugged. “Unless you have a better idea for a believable cover story. There aren't exactly many leaves in our sparse family tree.”

It seemed Simon couldn't help but turn just a shade redder at Caroline's comment, but he stayed quiet until Casper popped the trunk and nodded at Simon.

Simon stepped forward, a light grin on his face. “Were these all of your bags?”

Handing over her suitcase and travel bag, she nodded and moved to get in the vehicle.
“Why the car, I figured you would teleport everywhere.”

“A reasonable question,” Casper admitted. “But we're in no hurry. Besides, you two need some time to get to know each other if this is going to be anywhere near believable. Craft a new identity if you'd like.”

Simon loaded Caroline's bags into the trunk and opened a door for her like a gentleman. He extended a hand and a smile. “Doctor Simon Merchante,” he said simply.

Nodding at Caspers response again, she gave Simon a nervous smile and accepted his hand.
“Caroline Fisher. Hunter. I guess we have to learn to like eachother or something?”
Taking her seat, she was glad for the distraction, but still felt a knot of nervousness in her gut.

Simon joined Caroline in the back seat and Casper began driving.

Simon was grinning. “If it helps, I'm completely human.”

This news made Caroline laugh. She wasn’t sure why though.
“So do you owe this guy your life or something? He do a favor for you?”

Simon laughed. “No, nothing like that. I work for him professionally. I'm Dillon's personal doctor, and I'm a medical researcher at his company.”

“Ah… Is he doing ok?”
She wasn’t sure how to feel about That incident. She had performed interrogations many times, but they had always been...not human looking.

“I can't go into details- patient confidentiality- but the short answer is not really. What about you, then? What are you doing when you're not doing things like kidnapping my patient?” He said it casually enough.

She tried to laugh it off, but it died quickly.
“I hunt mon-, non-humans? People like your boss…”

“Any good money in it?” Simon laughed lightly. Clearly he didn't take her profession personally.

Caroline couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable, mostly from talking about this near Casper, but also from how easily Simon was taking this.
“Not really. Any money made from it from their belongings if they have them.”
She turned and looked out the window, not wanting to talk about this anymore. What if she had killed Theo? Would she be rifling through his stuff too? She knew she couldn’t do it now, but that was only because he had saved her life...right? Was this how Matthew felt about it?
“Casper, do you know anything about Matthew?”

It was clear those real details made Simon think twice about it all, but he stayed fairly light hearted in attitude.

Casper answered her question. “He comes from a long line of hunters. As the Lebins family business, it seems once upon a time there was good money in it. As for his apparent non-human qualities I've found no evidence of where they may have come from.

“Not all in-human qualities are passed along genetically. You don't have to be born with them. I was born human. So was Dillon.”

“Really? Why did- How did you two become...what you are?”

“I chose it,” he said. “Humans can only do so much. With what I am now, I'm capable of infinitely more. I own the world's largest medical company. I've helped bring medical science to where it is today. Most of the advancements of the last three decades likely wouldn't have happened if I didn't exist or if I was only human. In a nutshell, what I am now allows me to think differently.

“As for what I am exactly and where it came from, it isn't important. In Dillon's case, it isn't for any of us but him to divulge.”

Caroline had begun to fidget as Casper spoke. To change who one was, it didn’t sit right with her. If they had both been human though, did that make her hunting them bad? How many others had been human before?
“Why did you really ask me to come? If it had been a regular day, I would have tried to kill you, so what made today different?”

Casper shrugged. “The nice version is, people can change. Maybe if you can simply see us as people you'll be able to think about us differently. The not so nice version is either I let you be a threat to my son and his friends, or I don't.”

Liking his honesty, Caroline tucked her gloom into the corner of her mind for now and turned to Simon.
“Alright, who goes first?”

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