Noah stared at the man named Royce, the gears in his mind turning.
No. Not man. Animal.
Briefly, he glanced at Charlie, who was watching the both of them carefully. She had come inside looking happy and elated, but simmered down to being cautious and concerned.
The happiness was easy enough to figure out. Not only did he hear most of the conversation that took place outside (one of the few perks, in his opinion, of being among the undead), but he could still smell the eau du beast emanating from Charlie's skin and clothes. Not to mention the fact that the man-animal was still holding onto her hand. And yet, even despite her evidence easiness with the intimate gesture, Noah was still watching her for the slightest evidence that the contact was unpleasant.
Geez, there was that protective thing again. It wasn't as if Noah actually believed the man-animal to harm his Charlie. It was clear, if not from direct verbal communication, then certainly from reading the body language of the two, that the man-animal cared for the human, just as the human did for the man-animal. All this he read and understood instantaneously, despite the fact that 9-year-old Noah didn't understand how or why he knew this. He just did. And he knew he wasn't wrong. But still...
Noah was sitting on the couch. Though the scent was fading, he could still smell the tears. He didn't know why she had been crying that afternoon, but the sight and smell of the tears pulled out of him the insane desire to make her happy again. To turn her back into the happy, nice lady that he met at the vet clinic. The happy lady that shined on him the first real smile he had seen in years.
And the real kicker here was that, for whatever reason, she also wanted to make him happy. Him. Noah. The vampire.
He had heard her words to the man-animal, the ones saying that she wanted to be nice to him. That she wanted to take care of him. Amusing, really, because even though he was still young, he figured he could take care of her better than she could him. He wasn't as young and weak as she probably assumed. And yet... there was the temptation. She wasn't wrong in guessing that he was lonely, and maybe a little afraid (although there was no way she could actually guess the source of his fears), and he realized at once that his attraction to his nice and sweet Charlie was that, during that brief moment yesterday afternoon, she smiled at him and he completely forgot to be miserable.
Huh. So that was it. All that stuff about wanting to thank her and wanting to protect her... well, true though it was, it all stemmed from the simple fact that he just wanted to lay his head in her lap and let her pet his hair, because he was almost positive that such a moment would make him happier than he could ever remember being since becoming a vampire. Mother, sister, random kind stranger, whatever role she filled, she was just a woman that exuded happiness. Happiness that felt like sunshine on his cold skin.
Happiness that he never wanted to run away from.
Noah blinked, and returned his focus to the man-animal. Royce. The one who was staring daggers at him, undoubtedly just as unconsciously frustrated by the other's presence as he was.
All his wondering passed by in nothing more than a few seconds, but it was a few seconds that left Noah a different boy. For the first time, Noah found something that he wanted. Something that his mostly hated but suddenly useful vampire skills could help him achieve.
Even if that meant being next to the man-ani... Royce, that smelled like a wet animal. His Charlie clearly liked this Royce, so if he made her happy, Noah was just going to have to get over the smell.