"You a brand new member of the family, boy?" One of them said to me, stepping closer. Taryn was quick to step back, taking me with him. "Jumpy, aren't we? I ain't gonna bite ya...yet." He grinned.

"Who or WHAT the hell are you supposed to be?" I asked. I was hoping that the words would cover my nervous jitters, but my voice betrayed me. It shook and cracked, letting them know that I was just as scared of this whole situation as they wanted me to be.

Taryn slid his foot back another step, his instincts preparing him for whatever they had in store for us, while still trying to protect me. "They're 'Scavengers', Justin...they feed off of other vampires instead of human beings. They might as well be cannibals." He said, never taking his eyes off of a single one of them.

"Cannibals??? Awww...now is that nice? You're going to mess around and hurt my feelings, kid." The first one stepped forward again, and the other three followed him as he advanced towards us slowly. He knew we didn't really have anywhere to run to, but he kept advancing anyway. They were physically bigger than we were, but not by much. Just enough to intimidate. They continued to move menacingly as we backed away from them. Then suddenly...out of nowhere...I 'felt' something. A small nudge in the back of my mind. It was involuntary, working totally on its own with no warning at all. And yet, the message it sent was crystal clear. I looked at the scavenger right in front of me, and singled out his thoughts effortlessly. There were MORE of them! And they were behind us! We were being 'herded' into a corner!

"TARYN!" I grabbed him and spun around just as three more scavengers jumped out from behind a pillar! There was an order given, and we found ourselves suddenly being chased as we both bolted down the subway platform. They were fast, DAMN fast! The others were shrieking and laughing, hooting and whistling, sporting wicked grins as they hunted us. It was frightening. Taryn and I got split up while weaving and dodging around whatever corners we could, and before I could blink, I felt a sharp blow to my stomach that floored me instantly. All of the wind rushed out of my lungs, and I couldn't refill them. I fell over in a huff and gasped for oxygen as one of our attackers used his foot to push me over onto my back. What the hell was going on? How did we go from a blissful high to this agony so quickly? What happened to vampires helping each other?

I felt hands grabbing my arms, lifting me up to my feet. I still couldn't breathe, and it hurt to stand up, my legs almost limp as they practically held me hovering off of the floor. One of them lifted my head by tightly grabbing a handful of my hair, and forced me to look him in the eyes. Those glowing, red, eyes. "I'm going to really enjoy this, blondie!"

I saw two more of them bring Taryn around the corner to watch, a few cuts and scrapes decorating that once flawless face. He called out to me, and I was too weak to struggle, too 'well contained' to help him. One of the scavengers sharply pulled my head to the side, his fangs dripping wildly with long strings of saliva. Then, before I could brace myself, he sunk his teeth DEEPLY into the side of my neck! GOD it hurt! Hardly the sweet and merciful bite that Taryn had given me. This one was brutal! A vicious, animalistic stab into my flesh that wracked my entire body with an explosion of unbelievable pain! My knees buckled from the agony, but the others still held me upright. When he bit me, I heard this sickening 'squish', like he had just bitten into a ripe melon. Then I felt streams of warm blood run down my back and chest as it gushed from the sides of his mouth. I screamed out, but my cries were cut short when another scavenger covered my mouth with his hand. The life was being drained from me in giant sickening gulps. I could hear him swallowing loudly, his mouth overflowing with blood. I couldn't move! I felt my neck's muscles trying desperately to contract and force out the invading fangs, but that only made it hurt even worse. He began to get into it, seemingly overcome with the lust for nourishment, and he bit down even harder! I yelped outloud, and he moaned from the pleasure of knowing he was hurting me. I felt his hand reach out and rub the front of my crotch lewdly, his tongue reaching out to lick the wounds in my throat as he sucked me dry. My eyes fluttered open to look over at Taryn. He was crying, unable to do anything to save me. When we made eye contact, he struggled valiantly, thrashing about wildly in desperation. But they were too strong for him. They began to hit and beat him, spinning him to the floor!

"Don't worry, pretty boy! You'll get your turn next!" They said, stepping on his chest and holding him down. This CAN'T be happening! It CAN'T be! I didn't even have the strength to fight it anymore. I was almost paralyzed, my limbs going numb and cold as I felt my life essence leaving me one pint at a time. I was getting light headed, his tongue still lapping at my neck in a frenzy, his hand now reaching into my pants to tightly grip my testicles and squeezing them until my knees gave way. The others figured that I was too weak to get away now, and they let me drop to the ground. The scavenger went down with me, climbing on top to finish me off. I tried to reach up and helplessly claw and scratch at his back, but my hands wouldn't obey me anymore. My whole body was falling asleep. I heard them kicking Taryn, his attempts to fight them off only causing them more amusement. Why couldn't I stop this? WHY COULDN'T I HELP HIM??? TARYN!!! OH GOD...TARYN!!!

Just as my eyelids were beginning to get too heavy to hold open anymore, I saw one of the scavengers, who was watching me get drained...suddenly get pulled behind a pillar. I heard the snapping of bone, and saw him fall to the ground with his arm bending the wrong way! Then I felt the fangs being savagely ripped from my throat as my attacker was yanked off of me! I tried to focus, but everything was happening so fast. What the hell was going on? I rolled over onto my side, my body instinctively returning to the fetal position on the ice cold platform, and I felt the loose rivers of blood pouring out of the gaping holes in my neck and rolling over my shoulder and down to the ground. I put my hand up to the wound on my neck, and felt the damaged and jagged pieces of flesh dangling from it. I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn't human anymore. It was the only way to keep from panicking. I heard sounds, lots of them, coming from behind me. A fight. Punches, kicks, broken limbs...someone had come for us. I saw one of the scavengers' unconscious body fall down about a foot in front of me, his arm laying in a funny position behind his back and blood coming out of his nose. I had to know what was going on, I HAD to. I used all of the strength that I could muster, to rise up onto my hands and knees and look towards the noises echoing throughout the tunnel. That's when I saw Dion! Moving like something right out of Kung Fu Theater! He had already dropped three of them, and didn't look like he'd have too much trouble dropping the rest.

My body was beginning to regain some feeling as it attempted to heal itself. But the blood was gone, and I could already feel a rumbling inside to tell me that I was hungry again. SHIT! It was hard enough to drink that stuff the FIRST time! And now it was gone! Sitting in the belly of that asshole who stole it from me! I heard some more struggling, and turned to see Taryn with his back against the wall. There were two guys on him, and they were getting ready to drain him quickly and run. Dion was too preoccupied to help him, and I could hardly remain up on my hands and knees, much less get to my feet.

"T-T-Taryn..." I whispered. My voice wouldn't work, my body was under the spell of sleep at the moment. "Leave...leave him....a....alone..." I stumbled as I tried to stand up. The floor looked so inviting. Just...needed to pass out...just...sleep. NO! No...I had to get up. Get up Justin! GET...UP! "Leave....him....alone..." My voice was returning to me. But it was still so soft, that they couldn't hear me. Not that they would care if they could.

Dion was so fast, his arms and legs moving at the speed of light. They were helpless against him. I was wondering how the hell he even balanced himself through half of the shit he was pulling off. Just as he sent one of them spinning over the edge of the platform and onto the train tracks, I heard Taryn cry out in pain! A pair of fangs had been stabbed into his neck, and they had begun their depletion of his blood supply. He couldn't fight them off anymore.

Something inside of me changed at that moment. An anxiety that built up deep in the pit of my stomach, swirling faster and faster, moving up into my chest, and then into my head. It was dizzying at first, but not for long. I looked at my boyfriend, the boy who I loved more than life itself, being hurt, tears streaming from his eyes, and the energy inside of me begged for release! I took all of my anger, all of my helplessness, all of my depression, every memory of my dad's abuse, every cold sting of laughter from the kids at my school, all of the pent up frustration and tension from my life, and balled it all up in that swirling surge of energy. Rage that spawned from not being able to help Richie, from my mom's drinking, from not being fast enough to catch Chad, from dealing with Trevor, from the scene at the convenience store...ALL OF IT! And when I simply couldn't take anymore, I exploded!

"LEAVE HIM ALONE!!!!!" I screamed, my voice blasting throughout the tunnel like a sonic boom! The energy inside of me blasted forward in all directions! It was uncontrollable! I felt every inch of my being rocket forward and empty itself into the air around me. Suddenly, everyone within my eyes sight, Taryn included, tightly grasped the sides of their heads and dropped to the floor screaming! Taryn was in pain, but not in as much as the others. It was almost as if I saved him from the full blast of it. As if I consciously singled out the others as my target. I saw blood run out of the scavengers noses and their eyes turn bloodshot instantly. Dion, thankfully was far enough away to be out of range. He was as surprised as I was to see what had happened.

The rush of energy had completely exhausted all of the energy that I had left, and I crashed down to the floor, too tired to even break the fall with my hands. The surge had completely wiped me out, but nothing had ever felt better. For once, if only for a little while, it felt like all of my 'demons' had been exorcised. In that one moment, all of my pain, my grief, my anger...it was gone. Directed outward at the people who deserved it, instead of keeping it bottled up inside. It felt good...SO good. And I was happy to watch them bleed, to cry out in misery. If I hadn't done it, they would have killed us all.

Dion rushed over to my aid. All of the enemies that he didn't take out singlehandedly, were whimpering like wounded puppies on he floor, doing whatever they could to stop the pain in their heads. From the looks of it, it must have made a migrane look like a walk in the park. "Justin! You ok?"

I was too far gone to answer, but I was able to nod my head and raise a lazy finger to point over to Taryn. Dion, ripped some cloth from his shirt, and told me to hold it over the wound on my neck. "Jesus...Justin, you've lost a lot of blood, I'm going to get us some help. Hold this as tight as you can! I'm going to go check on Taryn." But before he could even finish saying it, Taryn was crawling his way over to me as fast as he could.

"Justin??? Justin!!!" He was crying, kissing me on the forehead and grabbing my hand tenderly. "No no no no no! Justin? Oh God! Stay with me baby! Please? Don't leave me! Don't leave me...I can't go back to being alone...I love you..." Then I felt my body shiver, and Taryn cried out, "DION! He's getting worse! We've gotta get him some help! Stay with me baby! Don't go...don't go..." They were the last words I could understand before I began to phase in and out of consciousness. He was sobbing uncontrollably, his tears falling onto my lips, as I passed out. I heard him screaming out my name, his hands caressed me tightly in a hug, and I could feel him rocking me back and forth in his arms. Please God...I don't want to go. Not like this. Let me stay....please? Let me stay in his arms. I love you Taryn...I...Love...I...














My eyes sprung open as the first painful rush of air passed through my lungs! My entire body hurt, from head to toe, but it was repairing itself quickly. I could feel it, like having a billion little ants working at the speed of light to fix my body and make it exactly the way it was before all this happened. There was a bright light in my face, blinding me until I was able to sit up and push it away. Where the hell was I?

I looked around at my surroundings. I was laying on an ice cold table with no shirt on, just a pair of jeans, and the holes in my neck were just small grooves where the brutal teeth marks had pierced through my flesh. I ran my fingers over it, feeling the small craters and remembering how much it hurt. Is THAT what it's going to feel like if I bite somebody?

Just then, I looked at the table next to me...and saw a CORPSE laying on it!!! "SHIT!!!" I screamed as I jumped off the table and slammed my back against the nearest wall! I stared at the corpse with my hand over my mouth, then I looked elsewhere and saw another one, and another! The room was FULL of them! Then I recognized the place! I was back at Jeremy's little blood factory!

"Looks like Sleeping Beauty here finally decided to open his eyes." Came a voice from out of the dark. It was Jeremy, sitting in a chair in a pitch black corner of the room, filling out some kind of weird paperwork.

"What am I doing here?" I asked, still startled by the whole thing.

"What do you think, nimrod? You lose blood, you have to get more. So your friends came to me. Supply and demand, buddy boy." Just then, Taryn and Dion both came into the room. As soon as he saw me on my feet, Taryn ran over to me and hugged me as hard as his arms would allow.

"Thank God! I was SO worried about you! I love you soooo much! I'm sorry! I'm so so sorry!" Taryn mumbled between kisses and tears.

"No...it's not your fault! Don't you dare think it's your fault! I love you too, Taryn. More than anything." I held him tight against me, and felt his warm body melt into mine as I placed a delicate kiss on his lips. His very existence made the world beautiful, no matter how bad things got. It never ceased to amaze me.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's all very sweet. I'm sure you two are meant for each other, good to see you feeling better, yadda yadda yadda." Jeremy said matter of factly. He wasn't the least bit touched from the looks of it.

Dion walked over to him and said, "We can't thank you enough, Jeremy. Honestly. How can we ever repay you?"

"MONEY would be nice!" He said. "Now, I gave you 4 pints of some of my finest, adrenaline packed, and extra healthy to help heal your friend up pretty quick. This usually goes for about 30 dollars a pint, but I'll shave off a little bit and just ask for an even hundred."

Dion and Taryn looked at one another, then Dion replied, "Whatever happened to you giving out of the kindness of your heart?"

"I DID give out of the kindness of my heart.....when he was a rookie. This is visit numero dos, and you only get ONE favor."

"Can't you shave off a little bit more?" Taryn asked.

"No can do, cutie. Prices are high. I need my reserves to supply the Ice Zone's big bash coming up. The only reason you got any blood at all is because Taryn here happens to be one of Trevor's favorites." Jeremy said, taking a puff of his cigarette.

I wasn't quite sure at first what he meant by 'one of Trevor's favorites', or why that would matter to him, but it wasn't hard to figure out that Trevor and Jeremy, and possibly Taryn, must have had some kind of history together. A crush? An affair? A friendship with privalleges? Who knows? But there was something there. Definitely.

"I'll see how much we can scrounge up for you, Jer." Dion said, helping me off the table and handing me my shirt.

"See to it that you 'scrounge up' 100 dollars, Dion. No more negotiations. I'm not running a soup kitchen here." Jeremy put out his cigarette and handed Dion the bill. "Oh, and one word of advice...if you really want the kid to survive...teach him to hunt. Not that I don't enjoy the financial gain from his apparent hesitation." And with that said, Jeremy closed his little briefcase, and 'dismissed' us. The two of them carried my sore body out to the street again. The moonlight was a welcome sight, seeing as I figured myself for dead...again. I was feeling better, but my body wasn't necessarily healed yet. It was out of my direct control, my legs occassionally buckling at the knees. It was like being drunk, and yet with perfect clarity. They got me back to the lot, and I felt the eyes of the others on me as Taryn took me back to the van.

He laid me down on the bed and began to undress me, starting with my shoes and socks. My shirt was the next to go, and I propped myself up on my elbows to kiss Taryn on the tip of his nose. He wasn't expecting it, and when I smiled weakly at him, he blushed and giggled bashfully. I loved it when he did that. He put his hand on my thigh, squeezing it gently. Then he began to knead it as he looked into my eyes, his hand moving ever so slowly up the inside of my leg. The moment got more intense, and he leaned in for a kiss.

A loud knocking at the door startled us both, and Bryson stuck his head in the door intrusively. "I heard what happened. How's he doing?"

"Fine. A little bruised and battered, but he'll be alright in a few days." Taryn answered.

"A few days? Right." The look on Bryson's face was not a happy one, and both Taryn and I could see that instantly.

"A few days isn't bad Bryson." Taryn said.

"Bad? No...but it could be a lot better. You know what I mean?" Taryn sighed to himself, and simply ignored Bryson's last comment, giving his attention back to me and wiping a few strands of hair out of my eyes. There was a pause, then Bryson said, "Taryn...I need to talk to Justin a for a few minutes...alone." Taryn's eyes began to glow a bit as they filled with a glossy coating of tears that refused to fall. It almost seemed like he didn't want to leave my side, but Bryson didn't have to ask twice. He was our 'father' afterall. Taryn brought my hand to his lips, and kissed it lovingly before standing up and walking outside, closing the door behind him. Bryson took his place at my side, and felt the top of my head as if looking for a fever.

"Had a little run in with the undesirables, I see. You should really take better care of yourself. We're just getting used to you, kid."

"It was an accident, Bryson. Honestly. They came out of NOWHERE! And they just attacked us and...." I was babbling, almost rising to an upright position, before Bryson lightly pushed me back down to the bed.

"Shhhhh...relax. You'll need some rest and a little time to patch yourself up." Then, his face got a little more serious, and I knew he had more to tell me. "Justin....we need to talk."

"Talk about what?"

"About you. About your responsibilities as a part of the group. And....about your reluctance to hunt." He was dead serious when he said it, and that frightened me.

"I'm just not ready for something like that, Bryson. I can't do it. I can't just kill someone in cold blood and..."

"No...you CAN do it. This isn't like deciding whether or not you want to get on a roller coaster, Justin. You're already on it. You can either make the best of your situation, or you can allow yourself to slowly die from starvation. We can't keep feeding you. You MUST learn how to hunt for yourself, and you must learn soon."

I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to picture myself looking down on my 'prey' and seeing the fear in their eyes as I murdered them. Their limbs flailing helplessly, their screams falling silently to the cold concrete beneath them. It was a horrific image that I could do without. "Isn't...isn't there any other way?" I asked, my voice trembling.

He looked at me and rose slowly to his feet. "....No." Then he walked over to the door and opened it to leave. "I'm going to talk to Taryn tonight. Your training begins as soon as you are able to walk again. By the end of this week, you will have 'quenched' your thirst."

He closed the door, and his words echoed in my mind. Was I angry? Scared? Depressed? Maybe a combination of all three. No matter what, I was helpless to stop this. It was my destiny now. That...or death. If it weren't for Taryn, I would have chosen death without a second thought. What was I going to do? I rolled over onto my side, and cried into my pillow. Smashing my fist into the mattress as the anger built inside me. Someone please tell me that this all just a nightmare. That I'm just fabricating this whole thing in my mind and I'll wake up to my old problems, which now didn't seem so bad.

I stayed in the trailor for most of the night, not coming out to talk to anyone. But soon I heard another knock at the door, and it was Dylan. "Hey..." He said, just above a whisper. "Um...Doc...he wants to talk to you."

"I'm not really in the mood tonight." I said sadly.

"It's kinda important...he says." I flashed Dylan a nasty look, and he almost seemed like he was ready to run away. But after thinking about it, I really had no reason to cause him any stress. It wasn't his fault. I'm the one who made the choice.

I got up and came outside to see Doc waiting on me, his pattented smile decorating his face. "What's up J-man? Good to see you so..." He took a look at my frowned up face and said, "...perky!"

"What do you want?"

"And so pleasant too. Wow!" He giggled, but when he didn't even see me crack a smile, he went on, "I just thought you'd like to come out and chit chat a bit. You've been stuck in there all night. It's not healthy."

I walked down the steps of the van, and right past him. I just kept going, blinded by my own sense of helplessness. I was a zombie. I heard the soft whirring of a motor as Doc followed me in his wheelchair, Dylan right behind him. I kept going, walking around corners, hoping that they'd get the message and just leave me alone. But they kept following me, and finally I spun around and yelled, "WHAT??? Is there a fucking REASON that you guys are following me all over the place?"

They looked hurt, but Doc wasn't about to be scared off by my little tantrum. "This is the hard part of the crossover, Justin. I know. We all do. Physically, it only takes a few weeks. But mentally, it could be YEARS before you're able to accept it all. It's not easy."

I turned my back on them, and looked up at the sky. With all of its brilliance, its shining stars, its silver moon...it felt different somehow. As though I realized that for the first time I was staring up into the heavens, and God wasn't looking back at me. In fact, I doubt he could even find me. I had thrown my religion away long ago, with the idea that God either didn't exist, or that he hated me. My life was proof of that, either way. But, for as long as I lived without saying his name...I never really felt his absence until that very moment. A tear fell from my eye, followed by more, and I fell to my knees as my emotions ran out of control. "Why?" It was the only word I could say. Repeated over and over in my head until it drove me mad.

Dylan walked over to put his hand on my shoulder. "It...it'll get easier. Really." Doc rolled over next to me, and I put my head on his leg, crying my eyes out as he petted the top of my head. "Don't cry Justin. Don't cry." Dylan whispered, tearing up himself. But I couldn't stop. I was infected with an incurable disease, there was no reason to even think of finding another way out. To fight it would be absolutely useless. It's a matter of 'do it, or die trying'. Those were my only options, and it made me weep even harder. We stayed there for what seemed like an hour, and it felt good to let it all out. I was going to have to do this, I was going to kill someone, someone I didn't even know...it was just a matter of time.

The tears on my face had been running non stop for a while, and they were just beginning to dry up as I stared off into space, my head still leaning on Doc's leg. Dylan and Doc had gotten themselves into a small conversation while I silently listened, and Doc petted my head softly. After a while, I heard him mention the wheelchair, and I spoke for the first time since my little breakdown. "How did it happen?"

"Oh wow, it TALKS!" He smiled. "Actually, it was kind of quick. I had already been bitten, but I guess I had waken up a bit earlier than I should have. The accident happened before the crossover had completely taken effect. One car accident, a midnight escape mission from the hospital, thanks to Jun and Dylan here, and voila! I'm stuck like this."

"I'm sorry." I said.

"Don't be. It's not so bad. I wasn't any good at soccer anyway." It confused me as to how this boy could be so incredibly happy all the time. But it was quite refreshing. "Listen, I'm going to head out for a while, why don't you two get to know each other a little better?" Then, with a jerk, he started his chair up and rolled away, throwing my head out of his lap. Before I could say anything else, he was gone.

I looked back at Dylan, who had both of his eyes pointed shyly downwards. He didn't say a word. Just looked up at me timidly to see if I was watching him. Dylan was maybe a year or so younger than me, and still frozen in that insecure stage where nothing seemed right. But if anything was making him feel that way, it certainly wasn't his reflection. He was beautiful. In a cute, boyish way. His medium length, light brown/sandy blond hair and hazel eyes made him incredibly attractive. But he would never say a word unless you struggled it out of him. This was no exception. And when I didn't say anything for too long, he stood up to leave.

"Wait...where are you going?" I asked.

"You...you don't need to talk to me."

"Yes, yes I do. Come on. Sit down, well talk. I want to get to know you a bit."

"It's ok, really." He said, still trying his best to politely back away from me.

"No. I'm serious. Please? Come here." I said, and his face seemed to change. Still scared, but with the determination to beat it. And he slowly walked back over to sit next to me on the ground, leaning back against some twisted hunk of metal. We didn't make eye contact, and I was afraid that too long a silence would only scare him off again. "So....how long have you been here?"

"Um...not long, really. I kinda...lost track of time." I could still hear his voice shaking, but he was kinda cute being so shy about a simple conversation.

There was a pause where he was too scared to say anything, so I tried to get him talking again. "Has it been more than a year?"

"No. At least, I don't think so. When I crossed over, it was like February. Or was it March? Oh shit...I think I slept through my birthday." He said it with a straight face, but I couldn't help but giggle a little bit anyway. At first he didn't get it, but seeing my smile all of the sudden loosened him up a bit, and he grinned too. Now we were getting somewhere.

"Well...hehehe...I DID! I think..." He said. Dylan's smile was the second most kissable smile I had ever seen. Taryn's being the first, of course. Dylan laughed a bit more and then told me, "Hehehe, you're cool Justin. I'm glad Taryn brought you here. I don't think I fit in much with most of the others."

"Yeah, well...I'm not so sure I do either. Maybe we can 'not fit in' together." And Dylan beamed at me as though he had been hiding out from everybody the whole time and just found his very first best friend. But he wasn't a bad guy at all. I liked him.

"Heya kid." Came a voice from in front of us, and I looked up to see Dion coming over to join us. Dylan suddenly got a look of fear on his face, and he emotionally crawled so far back into his shell that it was near impossible to think he was smiling a second ago. "Hey Dylan."

"H-h-hi...Dion." Then he looked down at his feet again, and the second he saw Dion sit down, he stood up. "Well, I've got some stuff to do. See you later." And before I knew what the heck was going on, he was high tailing it around the corner.

Dion and I kind of looked at each other strangely, before laughing it off. "That Dylan is a sweet kid, but a bit on the odd side when he wants to be." He said. "So how you feeling, tiger?"

"Better I s'pose. Not great. I've still got a bit of a headache. Who were those guys anyway?"

"Scavengers. Lowlifes in our little world. Basically, their philosophy is that they appreciate human life and protect it by not feeding off of them. However, they seem to have no problem killing other vampires to stay well fed. I never did quite understand how that worked."

"Is that possible? I mean, to feed off of another vampire and never kill anybody?" I asked, hoping for yet another solution to my predicament.

"No, Justin. It's not that easy. YOU happened to get lucky because we stopped them in time, other vampires aren't that fortunate. It's either you kill humans, or you kill vampires. And trust me, you want to have the vampires on your side."

"What about animals, like cows, or birds or something?"

"Sure, that'll keep you from going over the edge for a little while, but it's the same as the cold blood you had from Jeremy's. It won't last long. You need blood that's somewhat compatible to your own if you want it to work with your internal system. Otherwise, you could go through an entire herd of cattle in a month, a month and a half if you stretch it. And it still wouldn't do you much good." I slumped back against the wreckage and let myself slide down further to the ground. "Sigh...I know what you're trying to do Justin, but believe me, if there was a way around it, SOMEBODY would have found it by now."

"Can I ask you something, Dion?" I scooted over closer to him, and once he gave me a nod, I said, "How many people have you...you know...'fed' on?"

He looked over at me, and then he stared off into space. "I don't know. I haven't been keeping score."

"Take a wild guess or something."

"I don't know, Justin."

"It doesn't bother you?"

"Of COURSE it bothers me! It bothers all of us to some degree. But it isn't our choice, it's what we do to survive." I wanted to ask more, but he seemed irritated by my questions, and I let it drop. It did bother him, I could tell. Maybe they weren't as heartless as I thought. They've merely come to accept what they are, no matter what the consequence. I'm sure that didn't make it any easier, but it helped them look at it as more of a 'routine' than an act of murder. I suppose if you try hard enough, you can convince yourself to justify ANY action.

Just as I was thinking of another topic of conversation, we saw Max leaving the lot. I guess it was his time to feed, he had been awfully cranky lately. The Kid was right behind him like the cute little tin soldier he had always been, carrying a ball with both hands. But Max stopped him. "No no Kid. I'm going out alone tonight." He started walking forward again, and naturally, Kid followed him. Max turned around again, pointing a finger in his face. "What did I just say? I said NO! Now go play or something, I'll be back home later. Got it?" Then he took the ball out of the Kid's hands and threw it across the lot. "Fetch!" We watched as the Kid's eyes drooped and a slightly hurt look appeared on his face. Max began walking forward, and the Kid stood still for a few seconds. But, almost as if he had lost the struggle against the love for his friend and his sense of obedience, he couldn't help but run to the front gate to catch up to him again. He hugged Max around the waist tightly, and I saw Max get angry. He turned around quickly, savagely prying the boy's hands from his body, and pushed him back into the lot with a growl. The Kid fell backwards from the shove, enveloped in a small cloud of dust when he hit the ground, and a tear fell from his eye. It was heartbreaking to watch. "Did you fucking hear me?!?!?! I said STAY HERE!!! Next time I have to tell you, it's your ASS!!!" He shouted.

Jenna came out and put an arm on the Kid's shoulder. "For God's sakes Max. He's just a little boy!"

"A freakin' pain in the ass is what he is..." Max mumbled, and with that said, he stormed off into the streets, never once looking back. Jenna tried to hug the boy, but he just pulled himself away from her and sadly pouted his way back into a corner of the lot. He sat down in a huff, picked up a rock, and threw it down at his feet. Over and over again. He just tuned everything out and sat by himself. I couldn't stand it.

I stood up. "Where are you going?" Dion asked.

"I'm going to talk to him."

"He doesn't talk back, you know."

"Then he'll have more time to listen." I said, and I walked over to the Kid and sat next to him. It was like he didn't even know I was there. "Hey..." I didn't get an answer, not even the acknowledgement that I was there.

I reached out to put a hand on his shoulder, "Look, if you ever need..." But the second I touched him, he jumped back and scooted over like I was about to hurt him. "Kid...I'm just trying..." But when I scooted over, he scooted even more, and then turned his back to me. After that, he just went back to playing with his rock, and he shut me out completely. "...just trying to be a friend." I said to myself. No point in going on with this. He obviously wasn't interested. Or at least that's what I thought until Jenna squatted down in front of him.

"He's coming back babe. No worries. He knows you're a good boy." She said, smiling.

He put up the same defenses with her, but her smile seemed to find a way to cut through them, and he hugged her around the neck, sobbing silently on her shoulder. It was the first time I had seen him even remotely be interested in someone else besides Max. It looked almost unnatural. Jenna sat on the ground and the Kid lovingly cuddled up in her arms. "He's scared of strangers. I'm sure he'll get used to you eventually." She said.

"I didn't mean to scare him, I was just trying to be nice." I reached out a hand to pet him, but he buried himself further in Jenna's arms. You would have thought my hands were on FIRE the way he scampered away from them.

"Well, you see...he doesn't KNOW 'nice'." Jenna saw the confusion on my face and continued, "MAX he understands. But 'nice'? 'Nice' hasn't been so good to him in the past. With Max, even with all the yelling and the shoving and the nasty little comments, the Kid knows exactly where he stands with him. No masks, no sugar coated toppings, no false friendships. When Max wants you to get away from him, he'll say 'Get away from me', plain and simple. It's something the Kid can trust."

I sat on the ground next to them, and basically stopped trying to comfort the Kid. I was only making things worse. "I guess I can understand that. But, you know, it's a pretty sick thing to feel that the only way someone can show you any love is to push you down in the dirt and treat you like shit."

"It reminds him of home. You see, Justin...he's been abused all his life. It's all he knows. He had a mother who didn't care, and a father who basically had a lot of frustration to toss his way. He grew up with that kind of 'attention' and it's the only thing he's learn to trust. He actually recognizes being hit, beaten, and yelled at, as love." Jenna kissed the top of his forehead, and he took comfort in her arms. "He tortures himself, I know. And Max has never laid a finger on him, but I doubt it would matter if he did. Pain and suffering has been his whole life, he's uncomfortable without it. It's what he expects from people. Nothing more." Jenna patted the young boy's mouse brown hair, smoothing it gently. The boy didn't even seem to be listening, he was too busy keeping one eye on me to make sure that I wasn't making any more 'frightening' attempts to touch him or anything.

"That's so sad..."

"He has good reason not to trust anyone. It took us forever to get him to stay with us, he kept to himself a lot in the beginning. He hasn't been here for too long, and if it weren't for Max's neverending bad mood, he probably would have run away a long time ago." The Kid really loved Max. The two of them were an odd pair of friends, but somehow, they fit together perfectly.

"You guys turned him into one of you?" I asked.

"Unfortunately, no. The Kid ran away from home. He was only 11 years old, and he had to leave. He couldn't take anymore of his emotional and physical battering from his parents, so he left. We're not exactly sure how long he stayed on the streets on his own, but he seemed to get by just fine stealing what he could to survive." I looked back down at the child, and he still had his untrusting eyes staring dead into mine from under Jenna's embrace. "Then...he met up with someone. An older gentleman, seemingly nice enough, and he offered the boy some food and a place to stay. The man was 'nice' to him, made him feel special and loved and appreciated. The Kid was 11, he had no idea what kind of person this man was. All he knew was that after all of his years of being spit on, he had finally found someone who could take him in and treat him like a human being for once. As far as he was concerned, a smile should be taken at face value, even from a stranger."

"The man...he was one of us?" I asked.

"I'm sorry to say he was. I'm ashamed to even be put in the same species as someone who would physically harm a child. He's one of the reasons that I wonder if there is any hope at all for peace in this world of ours. He took the boy in, treated him nice, and by the time the Kid figured out his intentions, it was too late. He was raped. And then bitten against his will, with the intention of being this sickos love toy throughout all of eternity. This poor boy, who had never done anything to anybody." Jenna began to tear up, holding the boy even closer as he snuggled deeply into her arms. "So when I say that he doesn't take kindly to being treated 'nice'...it's for a damn good reason. At least his parents weren't awful enough to go that far."

It was such a tragic occurrence. The kind of thing you read about in the paper or see in tv movies of the week, but never really believe could happen to somebody. They're the stories we can distance ourselves from and pretend that it doesn't happen every day, every hour, every few minutes. This boy has gone through so much, it's a wonder he has any sanity left at all. "What happened to him?"

"The vampire?" Jenna took a deep breath and said, "After his crossover, the Kid here woke up to find the man lying next to him in bed...naked. I guess he finished his transformation early enough in the day while the other man was still sleeping. He got out of the bed, still limping from the obvious assault that had continued even as he was crossing over, and got some ropes from the man's kitchen. They were out in the middle of nowhere, the man made sure of that, and the boy used it to his advantage. When he finally did wake up, he was unable to move, tied down to the bed. And then...the Kid proceeded take his life back...rather brutally, I might add."

"My God, I had no idea."

"It gets worse. The Kid spent the next night, walking miles and miles to find his way home again. His mother and father didn't greet him so nicely...and once the first slap hit his face, he merely reacted on impulse. And that night, his parents became his first feed. The Kid murdered them both, and as soon as the sunset again the next day, he went back to the streets. He hasn't spoken a word since. Not one."