** The following tale is fiction. It contains graphic descriptions, intense situations, and consenting sexual material involving
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Stages: Part Two

    I'm not sure how long it took me to notice it, but once I did, I wondered how long it had been there.  I was again surrounded by darkness, but I was pretty sure it was of the unconscious kind this time around.  At the very back of the darkness was a small, solitary white speck. The second I realized it was there, it was like it realized I was there, and I started moving toward it.  Slowly at first, then faster and faster.  The closer I got to it, the brighter and more defined it became, and the more I could tell what it really was.  It wasn't white at all.  It was yellow mixed in with stripes of orange.  It was fire.

    When I was close enough to it to where it looked like I could reach out and touch it, it zoomed away from me and a room seemed to materialize out of thin air.  The flame was now atop a wick, which was in a candle that sat on a wooden table about five feet away from where I was lying.  I stared at it for a moment, watching the flame as it danced hypnotically before me.

    I felt my brain kick start back into action and the memory of what had happened between me and Johnson came crashing back to the surface.  I was lying down. The return of the memory caused me to sit straight up in shock.
"Hey!  Whoa!  It's okay! You're cool.  You're safe." a female voice said to me from the left, getting my immediate attention.

    My mind had no part in the action. It was like I heard the voice and my body reacted. I found myself backed into a corner of the room as far as I could go, eyes searching for whoever it was that was speaking to me.

    The person speaking to me was in fact female and was sitting (actually standing now) in front of a chair near the end of the bed I was lying on.  She was a darker skinned white girl with wavy, almost curly black hair that came down to her shoulders.  She had a face that looked naturally beautiful, instead of one that could come off with a little warm water and some soap, and two brown eyes that were looking at me with concern. Her clothes were a dark red top that fitted kind of tight and had an Asian style look to it, and a sleek looking black dress.  There was a black necklace around her neck a little looser than a choker and a small jewel in the shape of a tear hung from it.

    The type of jewel in the necklace caught my attention for a second. I'd only seen one (well, actually two) more like it. It was the same shade as the one Michael had in his stud. My attention went fully back to her after that second passed.
"Who are you?" was the first question I asked, after seeing that she wasn't making any moves toward me.
"I'm Faith." she introduced herself, "And you're Evan, right?"

    And I told her my name when?
"How do you know my name?"
"Mike told me.  He asked me to keep an eye on you until he came back.  So....here I am."

    That got my paranoia to let up a little bit, since we had a person in common, but that left room for confusion to move in and take up that space. When exactly did Michael come into the picture, and if he'd been the one to bring me to wherever it is I was, did that mean he was okay?
"Is he okay?  You know...like he's not hurt or anything?" I worded the question carefully. I didn't know if she knew about what had happened in the park, and/or if she should know.
"Aw, he's fine. Take a lot to put that boy down." Faith answered, easing my concern about that.

     That's the answer I was hoping to hear. Now, though, because of the way she'd said that, I wondered if she did know what had happened.
"So, he brought me here?" I went on with the second part of my question.

     Faith nodded,
"Yeah. Took us awhile to finally track you down. Showed up just in time, though." she replied.
"I'm guessing you're talking about the coroners?" I inquired, wanting to be sure I hadn't been anywhere else during my unexpected nap.
"How'd I even get there?"
"Somebody in the condo complex heard the commotion in the park and called the police. Eric and those little bastard maniacs he calls his friends bailed. Mike tried to get both of you out of there, but he barely had enough strength to get himself to safety. We knew where you would wind up. It was just a matter of finding which coroners office they'd sent you to and getting to you before it was too late."

     I felt a flashback about the coroners office trying to claw its way to the surface. I smacked it back down, wondering now if she or Michael had seen what I'd done.
"Too late for what exactly." I inquired.
"Before they tried to open you up. See, unless a person knows what things to look out for, the stage you were in looks a lot like death." she responded.

"What do you mean `stage'?" I asked.

    The look on her face told me that she'd slipped up and said something she realized she shouldn't have. I hoped that wasn't going to keep her from telling me.  She'd already gotten me started wondering and everything.  She couldn't just leave me hanging.
"You know, I think I've said too much already.  I'd better just shut up and let Michael cross that bridge with you." she said, leaving me hanging like I was hoping she wouldn't.

    For a couple of seconds I thought about pushing it.  Seeing if I could get her to finish telling me what she'd already started telling me.  So what if she didn't think it was her place.  I thought it was and I wanted to know.  But I didn't know this girl that well and I didn't want it to turn into a fight.  I'd had plenty of those to last me a freakin' lifetime. I figured best to leave it alone.
"I'm gonna have a seat now.  You can do the same, or you can stay where you are." she said to me, moving back toward the chair she'd been sitting in and taking a seat.

    I'd completely forgotten I was standing in the corner! I figured if there was anything to be worried about I'd probably know by now. I made my way back to the bed and sat down on it.  She smiled at me and shook her head.
"Confused, huh?"

     I shrugged.
"Oh, just a lot."

     She nodded seemingly knowingly.
"Been there. Done that."

    Her smile mellowed out almost completely before she said,
 "Trust me when I say it's probably about to get a lot more crazy."

     I was starting to think she hadn't seen what I'd done in the coroners office. Because personally, there was no WAY things could get any crazier than that.
"I don't see how." I whispered, saying it more to myself.

     Before she even had the chance to bring it up, if she was even thinking about it, I decided to change the conversation to something a lot less traumatizing.
"So...uh...thanks for being here with me.  I'm not sure how I would've acted if I would've woke up and been by myself." I said.
"No problem. Glad to do it." she accepted. "So, are you new to town or is this home?"
"No on both of those. Been here for almost a year now." I replied.
"Ah.  Family relocation or something else?"

     Yeah. I wish it was a family relocation. It was more like a family dislocation.
"Something else." I answered.

     I don't know if it was my tone of voice or the way I waited a couple of seconds before I answered.  Whatever it was Faith picked up on it.
"I'm getting a little too nosy, aren't I?"

     I felt myself smile a little, but I didn't really have an answer. Even though some time had passed, talking about the fact that my parents were dead wasn't exactly a good topic of conversation with me. But I didn't want to be rude and tell her "yes, you are". She'd been cool enough to stay with me so that I wouldn't be alone when I woke up. I'm sure she could've said no just as easily.
"I'm sorry.  We barely even know each other and I'm tryin' to be all in your business."  Faith excused herself, and I couldn't help but feel a little guilty.
"I got placed here actually in a foster home. My parents died in a car wreck last January." I went ahead and told her. I figured I'd give her just that little bit, but anymore and I was going to have to let her know that I didn't want to talk about it.

     A look of shock came over her face and she put her hand up to her mouth.
"Oh my god. I'm so sorry."

     I nodded.
"So am I."

     That expression stayed with her for a couple more moments before she shook her head.
"Okay, now I feel really bad for letting my curiosity get the better of me."
"Was it too much to ask for you to wait at least a couple of hours before you started interrogating him?" a familiar voice came from off to the left, taking my attention to one of two doors in the room. Michael was there in the doorway.

    He'd changed his clothes. Other than that, he looked just as well as he had the first time we laid eyes on each other. I felt relief and happiness go through me. It wasn't that I hadn't trusted Faith's word. It was just that seeing it for myself removed all doubt.

    Faith looked over her shoulder at him.
"Hey, don't come in here starting anything with that mouth of yours. I feel bad enough already."
"Don't worry, it's cool." I told her. And it was. It was kind of nice to have someone who was actually interested in trying to get to know something about me. Almost forgot what that felt like. Just wish she hadn't started off with asking about my family, though.

     Michael looked over at me. That slight smile came to his lips.
"Glad to see you awake. How are you?"
"Okay, for the most part." I answered.

     He nodded, and his slight smile almost spread into a full on smile.
"Good to hear."
"What's up with the bag?" Faith asked, looking back over shoulder at Michael.

    I don't know why I hadn't noticed it before, but Michael was holding a medium sized brown bag in his right hand.  It looked like a normal paper bag somebody would get from a store.  Whatever was in it, the bag looked full of it.
"Just a little something Miss E sent over for Evan to help until he gets adjusted to things, but she said we could help ourselves to a few too." he responded, coming into the room and handing the bag to her.

    She took the bag and opened it. She took out a nice sized orange and looked it over slowly, like she was examining it for something.
 "She's always got our backs.  Sometimes, I don't know what we'd do without her." Faith said.
"Me either." Michael agreed.

    She handed the bag back to Michael, keeping the orange she'd taken out with her, and stood up.
"You back, or did you need me to chill for a little bit longer?" she asked him.
"I'm back." Michael said. "What's up?"
"Just got some things I gotta take care of."

    She turned back to me with that smile again.
"Well I hope you're gonna stay around.  You seem like a really nice guy." she said, before she lightly tossed the orange up into the air with her left hand and started walking toward the door.  She never broke stride, and had somehow planned the toss just right so that it went up into the air just long enough for her to walk under it, before it came back down and landed in her right hand, which was positioned behind her back just above her waist to catch it. And without anything after that, she left the room, leaving me wondering how she'd done it so flawlessly.

     Michael took Faith's seat, sitting the bag down off to the right of him.
"I'm sure you've got a lot of questions bouncing around in your head right now." he stated the obvious.
"Like you wouldn't believe." I said.
"I'll do my best to answer them...but some of the answers I'm going to give you are not going to be easy to digest at first."

    To say that didn't put a bit of concern on my mind would mean I was lying to myself. And for some reason I felt that was the best thing to do for now, and shrugged the feeling off as it tried to hit my stomach and start twisting it into uncomfortable positions.
"What do you mean?" I inquired.
"Do you remember what happened at the coroners office?"

     Let's see...um...YES! And I'm probably going to remember it detail by graphic detail for the rest of my life!
"Barely." I lied, not really sure what to say. I didn't know if he'd seen what had happened.

     The more it weighed on my mind, the more something inside me told me he had seen. He'd seen it all in all its horrific glory. And as much as I was trying to drive it out of my mind and ignore it, the fact still remained. What had happened between me and Johnson wasn't some bad dream created by my overactive (and obviously pissed off for some reason at me) imagination. I wasn't going to be waking up from that or this, because I wasn't asleep. From Widow's Peak to now, everything that had happened had really happened.
"Did I really...did you see?" I went back on my lie, pretty sure he could see right through it by now anyway.
 Michael nodded slowly.
"Yes and yes."

     Part of me was still holding onto the dashed hope that all of this was somehow not really happening. I didn't know it was still holding on until Michael spoke those words and I felt them sting. My stomach felt like a huge weight was settling into it and my mouth felt like it was drying out.
"I...killed that man?" my voice almost came out as a whisper.

     Michael didn't answer right away. He must've known what I was going through and was trying to spare me as much shock as he could. But he wouldn't have much room to work with.
"Yes." he finally said. "We tried to find you before that could happen but...well, we didn't. And I'm sorry for that."

     Now I was silent, letting all of this attempt to make sense in my head. But my brain couldn't handle it. I could literally feel my mind rejecting the truth, trying to look for another answer.
"What happened to me, Michael?  Why did I do that? Something made me attack that man and...and..." I was starting to loose control. I was starting to freak out. My brain couldn't make sense of things and it was starting to panic.

     Michael got up out of the chair and came to the edge of the bed and took a seat. He reached out with his hand and put it on my shoulder
"I know.  I know." he tried to get me to calm down, and strangely it began to work. I don't know exactly what it was, but whatever it was, I could feel my mind fighting against the panic and try to remain stable.

     His eyes met mine and they seemed to finish whatever spell that had come over me and gave my mind back full control.
"But I need you to buckle down for a minute and be strong, okay? `Cause I'm about to tell you why you did it."

     I know that should've scared me and sent my mind back into another bout with insanity. But it didn't. My mind remained strong and stable, functioning at top grade. I couldn't help but be nervous, though, hoping what he had to say wouldn't be enough to shatter whatever crutch my mind was leaning on.
"Okay." I let him know I was ready.
"What happened in the park between you, me, Eric and the others was my fault." he said, throwing me completely.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Maybe if I would've...maybe if I hadn't..." he took his hand of my shoulder and looked away from me. He took a minute to get his thoughts together before he looked back at me and went on. "Well, can't worry about it now. It's done and over with. So if you're looking for someone to blame, blame me."

     Okay, that still wasn't helping.
"For what?" I hoped he would give me a less cryptic answer.
"For bringing it out of you. If you hadn't drank my blood, none of this would've ever happened."

     What! For bringing WHAT out of me! A lot of shit had happened before and after I drank his blood. How far back was he talking wouldn't have happened?
"What exactly?" I know I sounded impatient, but I couldn't help it. I wanted to know what he was getting at, and I wanted him to quit beating around the bush.
"Evan...when Eric had you against the tree, you saw him change, didn't you?"

    My stomach felt like two strong hands grabbed a hold of it and molded that son-of-a-gun into a double twist pretzel. My throat began to dry out again, and I started to hope this wasn't the part where my mind's crutch was going to break.
"...Yes" I nodded slowly, remembering in full living detail how Eric's eyes had changed right before me. How when he smiled his canine teeth were long, sharp, and pointed.

    I'd known then just like I knew now what I was looking at. But it was another one of those things my mind wouldn't accept. It was sticking by the rules it knew and had been brought up on. And what it knew was that what my eyes were seeing did not and could not exist in the real world.
"So then you know what I'm about to say, huh?" Michael must've been able to sense my mind was acting like a stubborn five year old who doesn't want to give up their security blanket because mom and dad have decided they're too old for it.

     Swallowing to try and wet my throat, which was close to desert now, I answered him truthfully.
"You're gonna tell me he's a vampire, aren't you?"

     He nodded.
"And...I'm gonna tell you that I'm a vampire too...and so are you. You always were."

     My pretzel woven stomach suddenly tightened painfully as the shock hit me.
"What?" I hiccupped. The tightening felt like I'd been punched in my stomach.
"You're what we call a Sleeper. It means that at one point in time one person in your family was a vampire and the vampiric blood was put into your family's bloodline.  No other members in your family that led to your existence ever came in contact with a vampire, so as time went on, the vampiric blood thinned out to the point that it became completely dormant.  That's why you were able to live as a human."

     My mind was struggling to keep going, but the crutch it was leaning on was cracking and splintering. Panic was starting to surrounded it and at this rate it wasn't going to be able to fight much longer.
"But when you drank my blood, it was like jumping a car battery. It gave your dormant side the power it needed to become dominant again. That's why I tried to stop you from drinking it. But once he made you taste it, I should've know it was already too late."

     I could literally hear my mind screaming, "Pilot to co-pilot I'm going down in flames!" The crutch was damn near broken and I knew I only had seconds before I might realistically loose myself. So I started to fight. I willed my mind to believe what it wouldn't believe. I willed it to try and understand that despite the fact that both of us were confused as hell and had no fuckin' clue as to how it was even possible that something that defied ALL logic was now as real as the air I was currently breathing.
"Please excuse the silence. I'm trying really hard right now not to have a nervous breakdown." my voice actually cracked for the first time since I was 13.
"Like I said. The answers are gonna be hard to digest."
"Hard? Try damn near impossible!" my mind spoke through me and at him almost hysterically.

     My breathing was starting to get a little crazy and I could feel my heart beat speeding up. The panic was moving in on my mind and in a matter of seconds it was going to swallow it whole.

    Right when I though I was a goner, something in my mind broke free and chased off the panic like one pissed off guard dog. Bit by bit I felt my mind gain more and more control until it was back in full form again. My heart quit running the relay it had entered and my breathing mellowed out.

     Unlike before, this didn't feel like a quick fix. This felt permanent, like my mind had finally come to terms with what I'd seen and what had happened and was beginning to accept it all as fact. Thank goodness. Because I really didn't want to know what it would've been like had I been allowed to go over the edge.
"Okay, let me get this straight. You're saying that Eric is a vampire, and so are you, and so am I, but it was dormant in me. Now, because Eric made me drink your blood, it's dominant again?" I wanted to make sure I understood correctly, now that I didn't have possible insanity dangling over me.
"Yes." Michael nodded.
"Is there any way to reverse it?"
"No, I'm afraid not. Once it becomes dominant again, it's that way until you die."

     My mind must've felt the need to prove to me it was accepting things and began to bridge the gap with some of the questions currently wanting answers. Me drinking Michael's blood was like jumping a car battery, giving the dormant vampire in me the power it needed to become dominant again. Had that been the thing that had taken over me and made me drink more and more of his blood, and then came back for seconds in the coroners office and made me do what I did to Johnson?
"That's why I killed that poor man, isn't it? I wanted his blood." I asked.
"Yeah.  Like I said, we were trying to get to you before any of that happened. I'm sorry that we didn't. The first kill is always the hardest. It's even harder when you don't know what's going on." I could hear the sincerity in Michael's voice. He really hadn't wanted me to experience that on my on.
"I saw that man's life. I saw his memories. It's like I lived it all the way up to the point to where I...ended it."
"Blood is the essence of life. One drop contains everything about a person within it. Tapping into it is like tapping into a live wire. That person's entire existence passes into you when you drink. So for awhile their life becomes yours."

     Never learned about that in biology. What a freakin' trip! I mean I actually got to see what it was like to be someone else. But it hadn't come without a VERY big price tag. The person was now dead as the result. Which reminded me. Right before I'd passed out I saw that shadow thing. Had that been Michael?
"It was you I saw before I passed out, wasn't it?" I asked.
"It was." Michael responded with what I figured he would, which put my mind at ease. If he'd said no, then it would've opened all kinds of avenues I didn't want to walk down.

     Another question came to my mind. I didn't know how big that office was, so it could've been easy for him to slip in, get me out of there, then slip out all before the woman, Carol, had come back. But what if it wasn't? What if he had to...I had to ask.
"Did you...I mean...was the woman okay?" I didn't want to accuse him of anything. Like I said, I didn't know how big the place was.
"She was fine. Never even knew I was there. Her friend's body was acquired and dealt with appropriately." he put my wandering mind to rest again, but gave it a new thing to question.
"How so?"
"I guess you can call them a kind of `clean up' crew. They handle a lot of different situations. One of them being a situation like yours, where The Lust took full control and made you do what you did. They can do anything from making the body to look like it died naturally, to wiping it off the face of the Earth if they have to."
"So The Lust was the thing that took over me and made me kill?" I remembered what happened to me mentally and physically after I'd tasted Johnson's blood.
"Yeah. It's called The Bloodlust, actually. It's the beast that lives in every vampire, and it would turn us all into monsters if it could. I've seen best friends get turned against each other because of it, and innocent people die because of it. So you gotta always keep it in check and keep yourself fed."
"That means I'll have to..." I have no idea why that didn't dawn on me before now.
"It's how we survive, Evan. It's not pretty. I know its not. But it's the way it is." Michael told me matter of factly.

     Okay, experiencing that shit once was hard enough. I didn't know if I had it in me mentally to do it again.
"But why? I mean, isn't there some other way?" I hoped the answer was yes, but Michael shook his head `no'.
"It would be nice if it was, but no. Vampires are made up differently from humans. Our brains work differently, our bodies work differently, and our blood works differently. It has a fatal flaw in it in that it can't sustain its hemoglobin. So after awhile, a fresh blood supply is needed, or the cells break down and the body begins to die. Our bodies get their sustenance from blood and that's what it operates on, like humans needing food and water."

     Well, there went that concept out the window. I really didn't want to have to take someone's life again. That's a threat a person my throw around sometimes that they'll kill somebody. For the most part, though, it's all talk. They're just really pissed at the moment and that's the way it comes out. But actually killing another person? It's not like killing a bug. It's not like killing a cat or dog. It changes a person. It gives them a memory that will more than likely haunt them until they're dead. At least that was my experience. And now I was going to have to make that a routine in my life. It was either that or let The Lust take me over again. I'd seen what it could do. I NEVER wanted to see what it could do again.
"So what now? Where do I go from here?" was my next question. I was sure going back to my foster parents' place was not going to be an option now.
"You've got two choices. Our society is made up of three different types. Roamers, Loners, and Families. Roamers are vampires who don't call one place home and might stay in one town for a couple of months, then move on to another one. You have to be at least 21 in order to be a Loner, so it's not going to be one of the two choices.  The third type is your second choice. That's a Family. That's when a group of vampires hook up and stay in the same place, or the same area. They watch each other's backs. They support each other. They function like a family would. That's what me, Faith, and the six of the rest of us are. You're more than welcome to join our Family if you want to. If you want to keep your options open, you can become a Roamer and then settle down when you find a Family you click with."

    Personally, I was looking to stay with some familiarity. What was the point in becoming a Roamer if I didn't have any place to go, or know anybody else who was what I was? I thought Michael and Faith were cool.  Neither of them seemed to have a problem with me and it seemed to me like that feeling from them was genuine.  Both of them seemed like people I could get along with and be around.  If the others, or at least the majority of, were the same way then I wouldn't mind staying where I am now...wherever that was.
"If it's cool, I'd like to become a part of this Family."
"You'll have to get everyone else's approval first" Michael informed me "But I don't think you've got anything to worry about. They've really been wanting to meet you."

    Hmmm.  About that.  Approval wasn't something I'd been that great at earning since I'd left the shelter.  Okay, so they were excited to meet me. That was because I had "newness factor", so they were bound to be curious. What was it going to be like once that newness wore off though? Michael and Faith didn't know that just being friendly toward me and doing everything they'd done for me up until this point meant a lot to me and was completely unexpected.  What if they turned out to be the only ones?  What if the others didn't take too kindly to me after finally meeting me and the curiosity about me was gone?  Even at school there were a few kids who didn't mind associating themselves with me.  They weren't friends, but they didn't care what anybody would say if they acknowledged my existence.  What if it was going to be the same thing here?  What if the majority voted me out and I found myself on my own?  Where would I go then? I barely knew the first thing about myself.  I wouldn't be able to last FIVE MINUTES on my own.
"How long have they known about me?" I figured I could pry a little bit, and eventually lead into finding out if anything positive or negative had been said by the others concerning me.
"For the week it took us to track you down, and then for the three weeks you were out after I found you. Four weeks."

    Four weeks?
"I've been here for four, I mean, three weeks?" I asked, making sure I'd heard right. `Cause unless I was out of it for most of that time, I only remember being at the coroners, and then waking up here.
"Funny how time flies when you're asleep, huh?"
"You're telling me that I was asleep for three weeks?"
"That's what I'm telling you."

    Okay, that couldn't have been possible.  A person can not sleep that long.  An entire day maybe.  But almost an entire month?  Not unless that person was in a coma or something.
"You're kidding, right?" I remarked. "I mean, how is that possible? How did I sleep for so long and not wake up once?"
"Old fashioned mind magic, I guess. Your body goes through a lot of changes after the vampire side becomes dominant again.  Guess asleep is the best place for you to be during that time."

     I shook my head, still in a surprised haze.
"That's insane."

    While I was thinking about that, Michael reached for the paper bag and took out two of the oranges that were inside.
"Heads up." he said, getting my attention, before he tossed one my way and I caught it.

    A few moments after the orange was in my hand I started to smell something.  I sniffed a couple of times, looking around the room first to try and see if maybe something in the room was giving off the smell, like a candle or something.  When I didn't find anything, I looked back down at the orange in my hands.
"Do these things have a smell?" I asked, bringing it up to my nose and inhaling, only to get a stronger whiff of the odor and answer my own question.  "It smells good."
"Yeah, they do."

    I took another longer sniff.
"I don't remember an orange ever smelling like this." I remarked.
"That's because it's not an orange.  It's called a Bludorange.  It's sort of like a vampire delicacy."
"What do you mean?"
"Are you sure you can handle it if I tell you?"

"Yeah." I half lied.
"Well, I'm not exactly sure how it works, but I know it involves implanting a seed into the body a person who's recently died and it grows into a small tree.  The roots draw their nutrients from the person's blood and the fruit they bear looks like an orange on the outside, but if you open it, the inside is red like blood instead of orange like an orange.  What you're smelling is the blood inside the orange."

    All right, I felt like I handled what he told me pretty well, aside from the fact that now I was almost sick to my stomach to know I was smelling blood and that it didn't smell a thing like it, and that a big part of me couldn't wait to tear into it.
"Oh." was all I could say.
 "It's been three weeks since your last meal, and your body is gonna start wanting a fresh supply soon. That's what these are for. They'll buy us at least a couple more weeks before you'll have to do the deed."

     And I was just so looking forward to that. But if these Bludorange things would by me a couple of more weeks, then right on. The more time I had until I had to go out and kill someone, the better.
"Ready to give it a try?" Michael asked, probably looking for an opportunity to change the subject, to keep me from thinking about `the deed'.
"I think so." I said, looking the Bludorange over in my hand slowly. Damn it smelled good.
"All right. Just bite into it and act like you're drinking the juice out of it. You may have to bite it in a couple of different places before you get a good spot." he explained.
"Okay." I nodded.
"Now your body is going to react to this. It's going react the same way as if you were out there filling it with real blood instead of filler blood. It's going to make you Shift." he explained.
"You mean like with the fangs and the eyes?" I figured that's what he meant by `Shift', since it's another word for change.
"Yes. And it's going to make me Shift too. So, if you're not ready to see it, or experience it yet, we can hold off for one more day, then go for it again. For a first timer, I'd rather you not try to do it alone."

     I looked at the Bludorange again, trying to figure out what to do. I knew what it was like last time I'd Shifted. Control had not been an option. But that was because The Lust had taken over me. I knew now what I had to do in order to prevent it. Yeah it was going to be a trip to feel myself Shift again, and it was going to be even more of a trip to see Michael do it. I honestly couldn't imagine him looking like a monster. Not like Eric had, and probably not like I had. Right now I didn't know my limits. I didn't know how long I could go between feedings. Another day might give The Lust enough time to gather itself and start fucking with me again. And that was NOT about to happen again.
"Let's do it now and get it over with." I said.
"You're sure?" he checked.

     I nodded.
"I'm sure."
"Okay. Dig in."

     So I did.  I took in a deep breath.  Let it out. Then bit into the Bludorange.
Not even bothering with peeling the orange, I just bit into it. For the first couple of seconds the juice of the Bludorange tasted like blood.  Warm, salty, and nasty as hell.  Then, like before, it changed.  It became sweet, then it switched and became sour like lemon style sour. Right when it was getting too sweet, the taste would alternate and become sour. Right when it was getting too sour, the taste would reverse back to sweet. The blood was warm, but not hot like it was last time, and smooth as it went down.

    I scored a pretty good bite my first time, so I didn't have to do a second. I drank, and then sucked as much of the blood out of that thing as I could. The Bludorange withered and wilted as it was drained, like a normal orange would. I was about to take another suck when the blood suddenly turned cold, and the taste went from an orgasmic experience for my mouth to a "spit this shit out right now" reaction. I took the Bludorange away from my mouth, looking at it and wondering if maybe I had to find another place to bite it. Before I could start looking for another place, the Bludorange turned brown and crumbled like burnt paper in my hands. It surprised me and my hand immediately tried to move away. The remains of the Bludorange fell down toward the ground, vanishing into thin air before it reached the floor below.

    I looked over at Michael, who was watching my reaction. He was just finishing his Bludorange. Both of us watched as it too turned brown, disintegrated, and then evaporated.
"What was that all about?" I wondered, starting to think it was actually kind of cool.
"Not quite sure what causes them to do that. All I know is that when they're completely drained they'll do it." he told me.
"That's crazy."
"Saves on cleanup, though. One more?"

     My hand was reaching out for it before I even noticed it was doing it. Guess that was a fat "yes!" Michael took another one out of the bag and handed it to me, then took one out for himself.

    I bit into that one just like the other one, and scored another good bite. As soon as the blood poured into my mouth, a quick sensation of lightheadedness came over me. I didn't get a second to wonder what it was before it was gone. Then I felt it. My eyes were starting to tingle.
"Okay, here we go." I thought to myself, knowing what was about to happen.

    The tingle got bad enough to make me blink a couple of times in an attempt to rub my eyes. That seemed to make it go away and right as that happened, I felt the sharp pain in my gums where my canines are and the sliding sensation of something down over them. Instinctively I took my teeth out of the orange when the sting hit my gums. When all the sliding was done, I bit back down into the Bludorange and scored a bite that was ten times better than my previous one without fangs. My Shift was complete.

    Biting in with fangs made it a lot easier getting the blood out this time around. I was expecting the blood to taste like it did in the first Bludorange. This Bludorange's taste was a bit harsher than the one before and...well, a little bit spicy somehow.

    I have no idea why my eyes felt like they had to look up suddenly. When they did, they caught sight of Michael and saw that he had also Shifted. His light brown eyes were gone. The pupil had changed from black to a bright yellow, and the iris had changed to the same icy shade of blue as Eric's had back in the park.

    Michael must've felt me staring, because his eyes looked up from his Bludorange and over at me. Without having to think it, my eyes shot back down, and I tried to pretend like I hadn't been looking.

    The whole time I'd done that, I'd still been drinking the Bludorange. Again the blood turned cold and I knew to stop. Again it disintegrated and I let it form into a pile in my hand and watched it evaporate.

    Internally, it felt like I'd eaten a good sized meal. My stomach felt full and was very happy to be that way. Still I had this feeling like something wasn't quite right, like something was missing. I started wondering if it was something I should be worried about, or if it was the way I was supposed to feel. I hadn't been able to hang around long after The Lust had beat me down and put me in a headlock, so I couldn't compare what I was feeling right now with how I'd felt then after getting blood. I did notice that I didn't get the same feelings this time around. The only thing there that was the same as before was the way the blood's taste changed from nasty to near irresistible. The effects it had had on my body before (both mentally and physically) hadn't been present this time around.

    I wanted to ask Michael why there was a difference this time around...but I didn't want to look up. Something inside me wouldn't let me. It kept my eyes down, looking at the bed and floor. Whatever it was obviously didn't want to see him in the way it had seen him just a few moments ago.
"Evan? You okay, man?" he asked.

     I nodded, but didn't answer verbally. I made an attempt to look up at him, but my eyes still wouldn't cooperate.
"Look at me, please." he requested, knowing by now that I couldn't.

     Whatever it was that was keeping me from looking put up a little resistance as I tried to do what he asked. I was able to slowly wear it down and eventually I was able to look at him again.

     He was still Shifted, and my eyes immediately wanted to look away. I forced them to stay.
"It freaks you out, doesn't it?" he was inside my head again, able to read my emotions without me having to say anything.

     Again I nodded.
"Don't let it fool you. It is what I am, but it's not who I am. Look closer and you'll still see it's me underneath."

     So I did. Slowly my eyes moved up and down his face, scanning for any trace of the person I'd met on Widow's Peak. As I looked at his face, all I could see was a monster. All I could remember was the cold wickedness I'd seen in those eyes before, and the sharp tips of a pair of fangs that one could literally feel their itch of wanting to tear angrily into soft flesh and strike blood.

    I felt my eyes starting to drop again. Nothing was there to see or to find as far as they were concerned. That's when something caught them. It was in Michael's eyes. I squinted a little, on instinct of trying to see something closer, and I noticed that his eyes didn't have that same wickedness and coldness in them. Yeah, they were unnerving to look at, but there was something else just beneath that. There wasn't flat out darkness or evil or no disregard for the person they were looking at. I felt a sense of goodness, kindness, and caring.

    These kinds of feelings were new coming from these kinds of eyes, but they weren't new coming from the person. These were the same things I'd felt from him before...when his eyes were light brown. Whoa! He was right. It was still him underneath.
"I see." I told him. "You were right."

    All of a sudden I started to feel strange.  I got ready to ask Michael what was happening when whatever it was hit me full blast.  It made me gasp out loud and suck my breath back in a shuddery, raspy gulp.

    At first I thought it was my imagination, but the warmer it got, the more I realized my chest was heating up. The second I realized what it was doing, the heating feeling spread out like a bullet through the rest of my body, covering it completely. My vision hazed up to the point that I couldn't see and my ears started to ring to the point of not being able to hear anymore. I asked Michael what was happening to me.  At least, I think I did.  My ears were too tore up to hear my own voice.

    Colors began flashing like a strobe before my eyes. Some colors I don't think I've ever even seen before. Sounds came in through my ears, but they were all garbled and messed up. It started off as separate sounds at first. Then it combined into one single sound.  Then everything went black and silent.
"Great! Now what?" I was almost tired of shit just "happening" unexpectedly.

    The room around me returned right after the thought was finished, only it was like my eyes were cycling through every individual color that existed in the world.  It happened so fast that by the time I realized it was happening, it was already over and I was seeing regularly again.

    While my eyes were doing that, my ears were doing the same thing.  They cycled through all the different ways an ear interprets sounds.  When my eyes stopped doing their thing so did my ears, and for a second I didn't move a muscle, afraid of what might happen if I did.  But then I realized something I hadn't noticed before.  The entire room was different.

    It wasn't different in a way that it was a completely different room.  I mean different like it looked much more defined than normal.  Every thing, every color looked more sharp and more radiant than I remembered it looking before.  It was like before the world looked like a top of the line Polaroid quality picture and now it looked like it was one hundred years beyond even a top of the line digital quality picture.
"Sorry about that.  I should've warned you that..." Michael stared before,
"Whoa!" I cut him off by accident.
"Your voice."

     He knew what I was talking about, as he nodded and gave me a bit of a smile.
"Pretty cool, huh?"

     Cool?  It was waaaaaay beyond that!  It was like before now, I `d only been able to hear in monaural.  Now I could hear in something that would make digitally mastered THX look like one of those olden day record players that had the one horn looking speaker.  His voice was like a symphony.  Like how the instruments all make a different sound on their own, but combine to make one singular sound, which is the song.  That was how I was hearing now.
"This goes so far beyond cool." I answered him, noticing I could hear my voice the same way I'd just heard his.  "What happened to me?   How come I can see and hear like this?"
"You got new blood in your system, so your body is finishing up the last changes it needed to make.  Your senses are upping themselves to their vampiric levels.  Your body is taking the nourishment it needs."

    My body must've taken a serious amount of nourishment from the blood.  I felt good.  I'm talking really, REALLY good!  My body felt supercharged.
"What was in that blood?" I asked.
"Nothing.  Just regular, normal blood.  It's just your body bringing itself up to speed.  This is what it feels like to be a vampire."

     And boy did it feel good! I felt like Superman.  No, skip that. I felt like Neo during that scene in The Matrix Reloaded where he fights all those Agent Smith clones. Only instead of not being able to stop them and flying away, I'd be able beat each and every one of them until they couldn't stand anymore, and still have more than enough energy to hit a spin, jump up on top of one of the fallen bodies, grab my crotch and yell out "Hoooooooo!" and shatter every window in the nearby complex.
"This is weird.  Are you sure it's legal?" I said, imitating something I'd heard on the radio one time.

     Michael must've known what I was talking about because he laughed. It was the first time I'd seen him do more than just make an attempt at a smile. It made me wonder how come he didn't smile more often. Maybe he just had no idea how nice of a smile he had.  The way his face and his eyes lit up when he did it.  I bet it was enough to turn girls into crazy, giggly messes if he whipped it out on them, and enough to make dudes jealous that their smile wasn't nearly as good.
"Good one, man." he said to me, still smiling. I didn't notice until now that his eyes were normal again and his fangs were gone. I ran my tongue across the front of my teeth and neither of my canines felt longer than they usually did. I must've Shifted back too. Probably during the time when my body was doing the last of its changes.
"Thanks.  I'll be here all week." I said, smiling myself.

     He stood up, grabbing the bag of Bludoranges before he did so, and rolled the top down on the bag to close it.
"Well, better introduce you to everyone else." he said, making me feel a little uneasy.

     Here we go.  These next moments were going to be the moments of truth for me.  I was going to be meeting the people that would determine whether I got to become a part of this family, or whether my black ass was going to find itself out there all alone in a world I didn't know nothing about.  I was hoping this wasn't going to be like high school.  Please don't let this shit be like high school.

     I got up off the bed to join Michael.
"Lead the way." I said.

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