Valentine

Pulse

14 posts in this topic

OOC: Private RP between myself and Kyo


 

 

PULSE

 

 

The morning started like any other for Rose Walker. She woke up, feeling groggy and tired. It took a shower, two cups of coffee and a cigarette before she'd woken up enough to realise she was late for school. She pulled on a pair of plain black jeans and a white tank top, over which she wore a black leather jacket. She grabbed her bag, brushing her long red hair out of her pale-skinned face and slung a pair of headphones around her neck as she left the apartment. The walk to school was quiet, the rain kept most people indoors. She could hear the thrum of the downpour as a distant background noise next to the music blasting from her headphones. She walked in, and the first person she saw was the headmaster. He tapped his watch and shook his head at her, and she shrugged with a smile and quickly put on her aviator sunglasses. The corridors of the school were quiet, except for the sound of her boots clacking off the linoleum. Then at last, she turned into the classroom and silence fell over the entire room.
"Good morning, Miss Walker!" The class called.
"Mm, morning." She muttered back, falling into her chair and wiping the sleep from her eyes. "Okay, so, I want everyone to turn to page three hundred and ninety four, we're picking up from where we last left off, on the ancient history of the Romans..."

 

After the morning classes were through, she'd perked up a little. The bell rang for lunch and she dismissed the class. She heard the doors of a dozen different classrooms down the hall opening, and suddenly there was a cacophony of noise. It was soon muted however, as the last student in her class left the room and she was alone at last. Rose let out a sigh and rubbed her temples, then she pulled out a key and unlocked her desk drawer. Inside there was a small cooler, she pulled out one of a dozen small Thermos just as the door to her classroom opened.
"Hey!" A woman in her mid-thirties with long blonde hair stepped into the room, "Oh, another packed lunch, I see." 

"Yep." Rose replied, smiling politely at the blonde. Her name was Kate Jones. She was a maths teacher, and had an obsessive nature. Everything had to be 'just right'. Kate opened a small lunch box and pulled out a sandwich - cut diagonally, with the crusts cut off. It looked like some kind of Bologna with cheese. She had a packet of crisps - plain. She once explained she'd seen the factory where they apply flavours to crisps and it disgusted her, and a chocolate biscuit. Not any chocolate biscuit. It was a Royals chocolate biscuit. It had to be, or she wouldn't eat it.

"Juice?" Rose asked, after taking a large gulp from her Thermos, offering the container to Kate who eyed it warily. 
"What is it?" Kate asked, trying to see the contents.
"Beetroot." Rose replied, with a smile to show her bloody teeth, "Stains everything, but it's delicious."
"Stains?" Kate parroted the word nervously, "Oh, no no." She shook her head.
"Didn't think so," Rose replied, grinning. "Hows your class?"
"It's alright." Kate lied. Rose could tell when Kate was lying. She could tell when anyone was lying. It was a gift. 
"That bad, huh?" She raised an eyebrow with a smile as she took another swig of her beetroot juice.

"It's Shaun Meyer." Kate said the name with a hint of frustration in her voice.
"Shaun again, huh?" Rose took another swig of juice and studied Kate through the tint of her sunglasses.

This wasn't the first time she'd heard Shaun's name mentioned. There were a number of students in Kate's class that were struggling with maths. This wasn't uncommon. Rose had to admit, she wasn't a fan of maths either. However, sometimes students are just matched to the wrong teacher. She pondered this thought for a little while, trying to listen to the bare bones of Kate's afternoon gossip session, until the bell rang once again. Afternoon lessons. The rest of the day was uneventful. There was a fight outside school between two seniors, she had no idea what it had been over, but it was usually about a girl. She spent the rest of her last lesson reading a newspaper while the class watched an instructional video. Blessed relief! She was reading in silence, listening with one ear to the video, while the other was trained on her class. She could hear their whispers even at the very back of the class, despite the volume of the video. Then something caught her eye, and all her other senses became dull, as her eyes flew over the article. 

 

Rose whispered the article aloud, "Police are searching for a man in his mid-thirties, he is believed to have been witness to a stabbing that took place on the thirteenth of January." That was just two days ago, "The victim, a homeless woman known only by her friends as 'Doris' was found dead, her neck was covered in puncture wounds." Any colour that might have been on Rose's chalky skin, soon drained. "Officers present believed it was an animal attack, but one officer, Malcolm Kind, was quoted as saying, 'In twenty years, i've never seen anything like it. I don't know anything that leaves a bite like that'." Rose heard a whisper in the class and she looked up, pulling her sunglasses off she picked up a piece of chalk and held it between her thumb and middle finger, then casually flicked it across the class where it smacked the young man in the side of his head. He promptly faced the front once more. Slowly, hoping it was just a dream, Rose looked back at the article. Sure enough, it was still there. The article finished by saying that the victim had died of severe anaemia. "Shit..." 

There was a quiet gasp and for a moment Rose looked up in confusion, then realised it was because of her. "Alright, like you haven't heard that word before, eyes on the video, boys and girls." She growled, then leant back in her chair. So, there goes the neighbourhood, she thought. It seemed there was a dangerous beast on the prowl, and in a place as small as Willow Creek, it was only a matter of time before the entire town would be talking about the 'animal attack'. It was time to move on. That didn't really bother her, Rose was always moving from one place to another, but she'd grown accustomed to Willow Creek. Even if it was only a podunk Maine town surrounded by forest, she'd grown to love it. Now she was going to have to move again, and the thought left a bitter taste in her mouth. That story would bring them, and then it was game over. She'd pack up tonight, and be gone in the morning. If she stayed any later than that, she'd be putting herself in danger. Rose had to remind herself to act normal. Go through your day as usual, she told herself, work until sundown, pack up your things and get out. Before it was too late.

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Shaun Meyer was not having the best of years. In fact, it was fair to say that Shaun was not having the best of decades. Not that he had any particular reason to complain, mind you. He had been a pretty average kid his whole life. When you're eight years old, there's nothing particularly wrong with being average, in fact it's probably the best thing to be. But for Shaun, things started to go down hill when he hit his teens. Suddenly everybody had to be somebody, everyone had something they were good at, even if that something was having a really rich father. In High School the popular kids were the athletes, the cheerleaders. Even being a smart kid got you far, after all it wasn't the nineties any more. Although it was still important that you weren't nerdy smart. Although, Shaun often thought that even nerdy kids had it better than him. At least they had something to be passionate about, and friends to share it with. 

 

The worst thing you can do in high school is be average. Not too dumb, not too smart, not unhealthy enough to be a pariah, not fit enough to be an athlete. No matter what you are, there are always people to share it with. Unless, that is, you're a 17 year old, short sighted, averagely intelligent, lanky, awkward kid with ADD. And when you're mother is a slightly controlling, god-fearing, anti-vaccine advocate, well, you can forget medication. He didn't necessarily blame his ADD for the fact he was failing Math, but it certainly didn't help. In truth the reason he was failing was because he didn't care. He didn't care about, well, anything.

 

So he sat on his second-hand, beaten up, old Vespa, staring at the note Miss Jones had written him, which required a signature from his parents. 'Shaun is struggling to engage with the coursework' - Yeah, no shit. He pulled his helmet over his short, brown hair and adjusted his glasses. He stuffed the slip of paper in his denim jacket pocket, and turned the ignition on the scooter. To say it roared to life would be a gross exaggeration. The engine whined like a particularly upset cat, and he took off out of the school parking lot, passing by all the other students, hanging out in their various cliques. Nobody paid any notice of him. He might as well have been invisible, which he supposed was better to being actively bullied. If only he could make himself visible at home. 

 

--- --- ---

 

"I just don't understand." Avery Meyer said to her son. "How many times have we had this conversation already?"

"Too many, I guess." Shaun replied moodily, leaning against the wall of his mother's kitchen. 

"And yet here we are again." She said with a sigh. "You'll father won't be pleased."

"Well I guess he can give me a piece of his mind when he get's back from Seattle." Shaun bit back with a scowl, "Whenever that'll be." He added. 

"Young man do not bring your father's work schedule in to this!" His mother snapped back. "This is about you not  doing well in school. This is on you, dear."

"Well I don't know what you want me to tell you." Shaun said with a shrug. "I suck at math."

"Your teacher says you aren't applying yourself." His mother replied. "She says here that you have potential, Shaun."

"That's what they say about all the dumb kids, mom." Shaun said. "It's not like they can just call us retards and be done with it."

"Watch you mouth!" His mother shrieked at a pitch that could shatter glass. "We don't use that word for people."

"Yeah, whatever." Shaun said, shaking his head. "Just sign the paper please, Mom. I need to hand it back tomorrow."

 

"I will, but in the meantime you're grounded." She said flatly. 

"Oh, no, anything but that." Shaun replied sarcastically. "What with my active social life, and all."

"Keep it up and I'll have you clean out the garage as well." His mother snapped. "You know this attitude won't fly when you go to college."

"Yeah, college, right." Shaun said, rolling his eyes, and he turned around and left the kitchen, passing through the living room and up the stairs. When he reached his room he slammed the door shut behind him. 

 

He threw his things on his single bed, and followed them, slumping down at the edge. Shaun's room was about as ordinary as he was. Blue walls, a couple of posters of rock bands, a desk and a laptop. In the corner there was a surprisingly pristine Fender Stratocaster his father had bought him for his birthday a few years ago. Like any teenager, Shaun loved music, but not to the extent that he had any drive to play. His father had latched on to any interests Shaun had and had tried in vain to turn them in to skillsets. Not that Shaun was ungrateful. He loved the guitar, and he had tried to learn. It just seemed like a lot more work than he had first anticipated. Even if it just sat in the corner of his room collecting dust, it was still one of the few possessions he had that he valued. He lay down on his bed and reached for his phone in his pocket. However he found his pocket empty. 

 

"Shit..." He cursed quietly, remembering that he had left it in his locker at school. Not having many friends, Shaun wasn't one of those kids who had his phone glued to his hand 24/7. So it wasn't the first time he had left it somewhere. He supposed he could have gone without it, but he had been using it to record a few of his lessons. It was something he often did, in the hope he might pick up a little more on a second or third listen. He supposed he had better go get it, and try to do some of his math homework before school the next day. It wouldn't have been an issue if he hadn't been grounded. He'd have to wait until his mother had went to bed before he could sneak out. The school would be locked up, but there was a busted door at one of the side entrances. He knew because it had been busted for about 3 years. Like anyone would want to be in school after 5pm anyway. 

 

--- --- ---

 

The hallway was dark when Shaun reached his locker. He put in his combination and opened it up. Sure enough his phone was sitting on top of a small pile of books. He picked it up and checked it. It was dead. "Great..." He said with a sigh. He put the phone in his pocket and closed his locker, ready to make the trip back home. As he wandered down the hall in the dark, he noticed a light coming from the door of one of the classrooms. Curious he walked over to it. Inside there was a teacher at her desk. What was her name? Miss...Walker. That was it. He looked at his watch, it was after 11PM. What was she doing here this late?

 

"Are you going to stand there all night, or are you going to come in?" Miss Walker asked, as she rummaged in her desk, sorting out the notes she'd kept filed away.

"Uh..." Shaun stammered, he hadn't realized she'd noticed him. "Sorry...I came to get my phone...and..."

"It took you half the day to realize you didn't have your phone?" Miss Walker shrugged with a smile, "I thought kids these days were chained to them."

"Uh..." Shaun scratched his head. What the hell, it's not like she could get him in more trouble. "...Grounded. Had to sneak out when my mom went to bed."

"You're such a rebel." Miss Walker replied with a tone of mock sarcasm, "Even so, Shaun, you shouldn't be out this time of night." She held up the local newspaper without looking up from her work, "The streets are a dangerous place to be after dark, it's not worth it to see if your girlfriend has sent you a text."

 

"Yeah, right." Shaun said, rolling his eyes. "Some crazy lunatic coming to get me just might be the most interesting thing that would ever happen to me in this town."

"Do you know why I teach history, Shaun?" Miss Walker asked, stopping for a moment to look at him through her tinted shades.

"Not a clue." Shaun said with a shrug. "Because it interests you, I guess."

"I suppose that's a fair answer." Miss Walker nodded, with a toothy grin, "History is a chronicle of our choices as a species. We need history to remind ourselves of where we've gone wrong, in the hopes that we don't repeat those mistakes. Now," She stood up, packed the last files into her bag and slung it over her shoulder, "Your mistake was going to school for a dead phone in the middle of the night, when you're grounded, and you let a teacher stop you." She crossed the classroom and put her hand around his shoulder, "Come on, i'll give you a lift back to your house."

 

"Uh, thanks?" Shaun said uncertainly. He'd left his Vespa at home, the noise would have woken his mother. A ride home sounded good, but equally, if it meant Miss Walker was going to knock on his door and wake his mother up then the prospect didn't sound quite as appealing. "Y'know my mom will pitch a fit if we wake her up."

"Then you should probably be quiet when you go in." Miss Walker replied, chuckling. "Quieter than stomping around here, anyway." She pushed him out of the class, "Come on, we're getting you home."

"Okay, thanks." Shaun said with a nod. He followed Miss Walker out of the school and they walked along the parking lot towards her car. They walked in silence side by side, until Miss Walker stopped in her tracks. Shaun turned to her, raising his eyebrow. "Everything okay?"

"Everything's fine, Shaun." She replied, then stepped in front of him. A few moments later a man emerged from behind her car. She could smell the booze on his breath, and saw he was holding something. He was holding a pistol, and raised it to her chest.
"Gimme your wallet, lady." The man wore an old dark blue tracksuit, and had short scruffy brown hair, "You too, kid. Now."
 
"Whoa." Shaun said shakily as he held his hands up. "What the fuck, dude!?"
"It's alright, Shaun. Just give him your wallet," She pulled out her own, and offered it to the man. She glanced down at the pistol. "You don't need that, just take the wallets and go."
"Wait, what!?" Shaun spat. He couldn't quite believe he was saying it, really. He was scared, scared out of his mind. He wasn't a brave kid, or anything like that. However, amidst all the fear he was feeling, the adrenaline seemed to trigger a sense of bubbling indignation about the situation. He didn't have the faculties at present to really consider it, the words just came out. "No way, I'm not giving him my wallet!"
"Shaun, give him your wallet. Remember our conversation about mistakes? Well this isn't one you get to make twice."
"Give me your god-damn wallet, now!!" The man levelled the pistol on Shaun and pulled the trigger back. He was serious.
 
"Ah...fuck!" Shaun cursed. "Just take it easy man, alright?" He sighed. He went to reach for his wallet, fear beating down the anger that he felt. Just another in a long line of ordinary, cowardly things for him. He wondered if Miss Jones ever found it, maybe she'd tell him he should have just applied himself. The thought of it gave his anger another jolt. Before he could think, his feet were moving. Suddenly he wasn't reaching for his wallet, he was rushing the gunman, his hands outstretched to take his gun. 
Miss Walker held her breath and tensed, launching forwards. She was between them in a second, and stretched out her hand as the gun fired off twice. She was like a blur, and with her free hand she struck the man in the chest with her palm and he flew across the car park like a rag doll. A superhuman strength, speed and reflex hidden beneath a small, unassuming frame. She came to a stop a few feet away and grimaced, holding up a clenched fist. Slowly, her fingers unclenched, revealing her bruised fingers which were healing even as she realised the terrible reality. A single bullet lay in her palm. She turned back to see a little red dot in the centre of Shaun's chest. The red began to spread outwards in a circle, then it began to pour down his shirt.
"Shaun!!" Miss Walker ran to Shaun, dropping the bullet as she caught him just before his legs buckled. "Shaun?!" She patted him on the cheek, he looked like he was about to pass out. "Shaun, you have to stay awake!!" She scrambled for her phone.
 
Shaun, for his part, wasn't quite sure what he had saw. Everything had happened so quickly. Now, though, everything seemed to have slowed to a crawl. His head felt light, his body numb. He tried to remember where he was, what he was doing. Miss Walker looked worried, but he wasn't sure why. Right now, all he wanted to do was sleep. It occurred to him, quite suddenly, but without alarm, that he was dying. He couldn't bring himself to be upset about it, though. He just felt like he was slowly slipping away, and that didn't seem so bad. The last thing he could remember was thinking that, as morbid as it might seem, he had found the whole situation quite exciting. He'd never felt a rush like that before. Moments before his death, he had never felt so alive. And then, with less fuss than he expected, he was gone. 

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The ringing in her ears was finally beginning to abate. She had to compartmentalize the pain, and deal with what was laid out in front of her. Shaun Meyer was lying on the ground, bleeding out onto the school car park. The blood lapped at her knees as she pulled her leather jacket off and threw it to one side, then pressed one hand firmly against his wound to staunch the bleeding. Rose didn't have a mobile phone, but she had to admit this was the one time she wished she did. Shaun's phone was dead. She couldn't contact anyone. There would be a phone in the office, but she couldn't leave him to get it. She'd have to do what she could and rush him to hospital. 

First, she had to treat the wound. Rose reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of water and placed it on the ground. She grabbed the bottom of her tank top and tore a band of cloth away. She tore Shaun's shirt open, then she held her thumb over the cap of the water bottle - her nails were more like claws - and pressed her claw into the top, easily creating a small hole. Then she slowly pulled her other hand off Shaun's wound. A pool of blood gurgled up, creating bubbles. 
"Oh, no..." Rose's face became pained as she realised. The bullet had pierced Shaun's lung. He was drowning in his own blood.

Grabbing the water bottle, Rose angled the cap just above the wound, "Sorry, kid." She muttered, and squeezed the bottle. Water shot out under pressure and cleaned the entry wound, and Shaun released a low, pained moan. 

Tearing the cloth into two separate pieces, Rose used one as a bundle to help slow the bleeding, and then used the second as a band to secure the first. With the wound cleaned and bandaged, she pulled Shaun to his feet and then lifted him from the ground and carried him to her car. She reached the crimson Mini and then struggled to get her keys out of her jeans pocket. It was like trying to put your key in the front door when you're carrying four bags of shopping in each hand. When she finally got Shaun into the back seat, Rose swiftly got into the driver's seat and started the car. She looked in the mirror and saw Shaun looked almost as pale as she did. That was bad.

 

The ride in the car was nerve-racking. She kept checking her mirror to see how Shaun was holding up. He was muttering and shivering, but the thing that worried her most was the sound of his slowing heartbeat. She could hear it's dull, irregular thumps, and at times she held her breath, waiting for the next beat. It only took ten minutes to reach the hospital, and when she brought Shaun in it only took a minute or so for a team of doctors and nurses to swarm them. They took Shaun from her and while the main team took him away to work on him, she was assaulted with a barrage of questions that seemed to stretch on forever, along with a never-ending supply of paperwork.

"Are you a blood relative?" Rose read the question aloud while she sat in the waiting room with a styrofoam cup of tea that was slowly going cold. If she said no to the question, she might not be able to see him, but if she said yes that might cause problems down the line. She didn't care. "Yes." She wrote down a list of fake details. 

"Relative's Blood type?" She frowned at that question, then realised she was still matted with his blood. She didn't look up from the clip board on her lap, she could tell there was nobody in the room, or in the hall outside. She pulled her tattered, blood-stained tank top up to her lips and sucked it for a moment. She licked her lips and surprise flecked her face, "AB Negative? Well, you're just full of surprises, aren't you, Mr. Meyer?" She wrote it down, then thought for a moment, and scratched it out. She put 'O' Negative instead. She didn't want to risk them asking her for a blood donation, she had to give an alternate blood type to Shaun's. "There..." She filled out the last few fields and brought them back to the counter. 
"Hey, when can I see him?" Rose asked, handing the clip board to the nurse. 
The nurse studied the information for a moment, "Oh, S. Meyer?" She checked the records on her computer, "You're lucky, he's in the recovery room right now. I can't say any more than that, you should ask the doctor."

The hall that led into the recovery ward was dead at this time of night. Rose walked in and saw a front desk with a tired-looking receptionist sat behind it, reading a newspaper. When she heard Rose approaching, she looked up and tried to smile.
"Hi, i'm related to Shaun Meyer, is he okay?" 
"He's in the next room. He's sleeping right now, but you can come back in the morning. Okay?" 
"Sure." Rose nodded, "Thanks. Hey, did you read that story about the animal attack?"
The nurse shook her head and then licked her thumb and started flicking through pages trying to find this juicy bit of information she'd somehow missed. A moment later, she looked up to ask the woman what page it was on, but she was gone.

Rose closed the curtains surrounding Shaun's bed. As advertised, the young man was asleep. He looked like he had a little more colour in his cheeks. That was something, at least. She sat down in the chair next to his bed and watched him for a while.
"Stupid boy..." She whispered, shaking her head. "You're lucky to be alive..." She sucked on her lips and let out a long sigh, letting her shoulders drop with relief. Then she relaxed into the chair and kept vigil over him until about twenty minutes later, she heard hurried footsteps from a group of people. She could hear a hysterical woman asking rapid-fire questions. That had to be Shaun's mother, it was time to leave.
"Alright, Shaun, i'm going now. You're going to be just fine, kid." And then she was gone.

 

 


 

 

"Let us commend Shaun Meyer to the mercy of God, a promising young man for whom life was cut short, but--"
Rose rolled her eyes at the priest. She didn't need to be near the service to hear him spouting about religion. What a load of rubbish, she thought. He's talking about the mercy of God, and then he's going to bury a child. How merciful. As one can imagine, things had not entirely gone to plan. It had been a week since the shooting had happened. Although the surgery had gone smoothly, Shaun had contracted an infection and died during the night.
A quiet pop as Rose blew a bubble with strawberry bubblegum. She was sat up in the high branches of an oak, just a stone's throw from the outdoor service, her legs dangling over one of the highest branches. She let out a long sigh and decided it was probably about time to introduce herself to his mother. She dropped silently to the ground and landed without issue despite the extreme height, threw her gum into a distant trash can and sauntered over.
 
"We therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life." The priest finished, and the coffin began to lower into the ground. Slowly, quietly, the small crowd began to disperse and Rose caught sight of Shaun's mother. She walked up to her and offered a hand on the woman's shoulder, "I'm so sorry, Mrs. Meyer." 
"Hmm?" She replied, she had been lost in her thoughts. "Oh... you..."   She covered her mouth as she gave a feint cough. "My boy was taken too young, but... I suppose he is with the Lord now. Perhaps that is best."
 
"Right..." Rose licked her lips and then slowly reformed her thoughts, "Your son was a hero. He saved my life. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. I just wanted you to know that." She gave a small, weak smile and turned to leave.
"He isn't here because God chose it, dear." She replied. "Always a troubled boy. Not his fault, it was the way God made him. But we loved him, gave him what he needed. It was never enough, though. Perhaps that is why God took him from us, lifted our burden, you know?"
Rose stopped and took a deep breath, slowly blinking once in disbelief. It wasn't worth it, she wasn't going to get pulled into this kind of conversation. She wished her well and left the cemetery. 
 
 

 
 
An owl screeched in the distance, Rose checked her watch. It was an ancient-looking pocket watch. She clicked it open and checked the time. It was well past midnight. She was leant up against the trunk of a tree, watching a house with a single light in it. The grounds keeper.
She'd come early, hoping to sort everything out in advance, but she found that the cemetery was surprisingly busy until around 10 O'clock, but even then she was unable to really do anything while the grounds keeper was still awake. She had been watching the lights in that little house switch on and off, moving from one room to the next, for the past two hours. Suffice to say, she was bored. She heard the screech of the owl once more, and she bent down to pick up a little pebble. 

A shadow swept over the cemetery and Rose flicked the pebble into the night sky, a moment later there was a sharp screech and a furious flapping before the owl returned to it's roost. "You've had three mice tonight already," She muttered, "You're just being greedy now..." She scowled at the bird, which seemed to sense it was being watched as it turned it's enormous yellow eyes back on Rose and watched her quizzically. Just then, Rose saw something out of her peripheral vision. The light in the grounds keepers house had just switched off. It was now in total darkness.
"Oh, at last." She let out a sigh of relief, then leant over and picked up a shovel and trudged over to Shaun Meyer's grave. "Right, rise and shine, Mr. Meyer..." She thrust the shovel into the ground, and began digging. 

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The sound of the shovel cutting through dirt rang through Shaun's ears like a gunshot. He awoke so suddenly, as if he had just had a shot of adrenaline injected in to his heart. He leaned forward to sit up, and immediately smacked his head against something hard. He winced at the throbbing pain in his head, and felt around the container he was in. It was lined with a soft fabric. He didn't know where he was, or how he had got there. He tried pushing on the surface that was only a few inches above his body. He tried pushing it, but it appeared to be sealed up tight. There was another sudden and close scraping noise above him, followed by a more distant drumming, like heavy rain drops, or when someone drums their fingers along a table. "H-help!" He screamed, hoping someone could hear him. "Is anyone there!?"

"Shut up!" Rose whispered, knowing the boy would likely still hear her despite being under several feet of dirt. "This is the last time I'm digging something up. I am so over this." 

 

Shaun froze as he heard the voice, a little in disbelief. "Miss....Miss Walker!?" He yelled. 

Rose winced at the boy yelling, and in response, she stamped her foot on the ground. "Keep your voice down!" She said as loudly as a whisper would allow. "Relax, you're in a coffin."

"How is that supposed to relax me!?" Shaun snapped, although he'd lowered his voice to a hiss. "What's going on!?"

"You remember getting shot?" Rose asked, "Well, you're in a coffin. You do the math." She heaved another shovel full of dirt over her shoulder. She was almost there now.

"I..." Shaun went to argue but he paused, as memories of the shooting flashed through his head with a sudden, piercing clarity. "I...I died." It wasn't a question. He knew it now. He moved his hand up his chest, feeling for any sign of a heartbeat, but he already knew there wasn't one. All so suddenly he realised how still his body was. No heartbeat, no breathing. Just what was going on?

 

"Well the bad news is, you're dead." Rose set the shovel to one side and started clawing the dirt away from the top half of the coffin, "The good news is, you're undead."

"So, like...I'm a zombie?" Shaun asked. The sound of the dirt being scraped away was deafening from inside the coffin. 

"No. That's stupid. But you might be a Ghast or Ghoul. That would be bad though. You would be horrifically disfigured for one thing. Hopefully you're a Vampire, but to be honest I've never sired before and I might have fluffed the process. Let's see..." Rose grabbed hold of the coffin lid and yanked it open. "Oh...  Oh no...  It's awful." Rose stared down at Shaun, "I'm so sorry Shaun... your face..."

"Wh-what!?" Shaun sat up, finally, and his hands instantly went to his face. It didn't feel any different. "What's wrong with my face?"

"It's completely the same. I'm so sorry." Rose flashed a toothy grin and grabbed Shaun, pulling him out of the coffin. "Rise and shine, kid."

 

Shaun emerged from the hole in the ground and, as he looked around the graveyard, he looked a little surprised. "This...is..." He turned his head suddenly, hearing something. It was like a rustling noise, quick. He was struggling trying to process it in his head. It was as if the noise was close enough to be only a few inches from his ear, but somehow he could tell that it's source was much further away. "I feel a little..." He looked skywards. "Whoa..." The night sky was more alive than he had ever seen it before. It was an explosion of colour and light, each star bright and clear, and there were more of them than he had ever imagined. 

"Not bad, huh?" Rose smiled. "How do you feel?"

 

"Cold, mostly." Shaun replied, his gaze still pointed skywards. "Although it doesn't really feel bad, you know?"

"Yes," A lop-sided grin spread across her face, "I know." Rose chuckled and for a few moments she studied Shaun in silence, "Well, I've heard of violence, disbelief, begging, confusion, but I've never heard a fledgling quietly accept their situation.

"Maybe give it a minute." Shaun said, and he couldn't help but smile. "Part of me still thinks this is a dream. I mean...I'm dead, and that seems like a scary thought. But I feel..." Shaun took a deep breath and closed his eyes, savoring his silence, listening to the cacophony of sounds that made his dull little town feel more alive than he had ever known before. "...I feel clear. Like...my whole life there's been this fog in front of me. I've struggled to concentrate, to really even care about anything very strongly." He touched his face where his glasses normally sat. "To see like this, it's pretty exhilarating for a kid who can't see anything but blurred shapes three feet in front of him without glasses."

 

"You think that's something, you should have seen me." Rose got lost in her thoughts for a moment, "So, congratulations on becoming a Vampire." She smiled at Shaun, then bent over and picked up the shovel and threw it to him, "Close that hole."

"Uh...why?" Shaun asked after catching the shovel. "I mean, I have no idea how I'm going to explain this to my mom, but she's going to have to find out somehow."

"Shaun, you were in a grave. You were a corpse. You had a funeral. Is any of this sinking in?" Rose frowned at him, "Everyone you know, including your mother, believe you're dead. That's the way it has to be."

 

"Wait..." Shaun frowned. "But...where the hell am I supposed to go now? I'm 17 years old, I'm still in school." He shook his head. "Look I know this is hard to explain but, if I show them, they'll see...I just..." He sighed.

"There it is." Rose nodded, smiling. She put her hand on Shaun's shoulder, "Everyone thinks their friends, their family, will accept them for who and what they are, no matter what. Often because, those people have been telling you this all your life. But words are easy, Shaun. Actions speak for themselves. It's always the same. Believe me, I know." Rose paused for a moment, "You're not in school, that doesn't matter right now. What's important is teaching you how to be a good Vampire. Without that, you won't live very long."

 

"But I'm already dead, right?" Shaun said a little heatedly. "What, did you think we'd just skip off wherever you want, that I'd just nod my head and go with it? What about what I want?"

"Alright, Shaun." Rose sighed, "What do you want? Do you want to stay in this town? Do you want to live with your mother? Do you want to watch your friends age and die around you, while you live on? How long before people around you start to wonder?" Rose paused, letting it sink in, "That man that lives up the road, he's what, 60 now? He doesn't look a day over 20. Nothing strange there."

"I don't know!" Shaun said angrily. "I never asked for this! But it doesn't matter, because you basically just said it. I don't have a choice, I never did." Shaun went over to the pile of dirt by the grave and started shoveling it back in to the hole. "Just forget it. I've been doing what my mom wants my whole life, guess this isn't any different."

 

"The difference, Shaun, is that without me, you'll die. I tell you what to do now, so you can survive. I'll help you, so that you can thrive. Life isn't easy for Vampires, but we like it like that. You'll come to understand that one day, I think. It was difficult for me to understand, to come to terms with abandoning my family and friends, but it was for the best..." Rose rummaged around in her leather jacket pocket and pulled out a small, clear bag, full of red liquid. It was, of course, a blood pack. "Here, drink this." She threw the bag to Shaun. He caught it and examined it. The thought of drinking blood repulsed him, but holding the bag seemed to bring forward a slumbering thirst he hadn't quite been aware of until that moment. Angrily, he threw the bag back at Rose. 

"If life's so hard for vampires, why didn't you just leave me dead?" He threw the shovel on the ground and stormed off, turning his back on Rose. 

 
Rose snatched the blood pack from the air and spoke, but her voice was different. It was a command, one that couldn't be refused, "Stop." She watched as Shaun came to an abrupt halt, she sauntered over to him and opened the blood pack. The sweet, metallic scent of blood filled the air. She took a long gulp from the blood pack and swallowed it.
"Smell that?" Rose asked, holding the bag up to the static boy's nose, "Rule No.1 - You need to drink blood. Not just to survive, but to protect those around you. I'm not going to command you to drink it, I forced you to become a Vampire because I wanted to offer you a second chance at life, but if you choose to die, I won't stop it." She pushed the bag into his hands and stepped back. "You can move now." She said finally.
 
Shaun stepped back from Rose, for the first time a little fearful of her. "H-how did you do that?" He asked. 
"It's the bond." Rose replied simply, "As your Sire, you are bound to me as much as I am to you. If I give you a direct command, you will be forced to follow it or suffer the consequences." Rose curled her lips in distaste, "I don't like doing it, so when I ask you to do something, it is out of your own benefit. I would ask you listen. I am not your teacher any more, and you are not my student. We are so much more."
"Yeah, master and slave springs to mind." Shaun said, shaking his head. "Fine, since there's clearly no point in arguing, we'll do it your way." Shaun took the blood bag from her and poured it in to his mouth, holding his fingers over his nose. He swallowed it's contents hungrily, and to his surprise, found it to be not just bearable, but actually delicious. He tried to hide his enjoyment of it as he handed the bag back to Rose. "I hope you know what you're doing. I'm a 17 year old who hasn't even finished high school. I'm not sure if a career in Taco Bell is really befitting of the glamorous vampire lifestyle you see in the movies."
 
"Alright, you obviously have a lot of questions, and you think that because you won't live a human life, that you won't live a good, happy life. I want to dispel that, so we'll talk about it." Rose looked over Shaun's shoulder as she saw a light come on in the grounds keepers house, "But we'll do it somewhere else, fill that in quickly, and we'll talk after." Shaun did as he was told, and after a short time, he tossed the shovel on the ground and wiped the dirt from his hands on to his trousers. He was wearing a suit that clearly the undertakers had dressed him in. It was now quite filthy, he'd need to change. For the time being though, they left the graveyard and made their way back to Rose's car and got inside. 
"So where are we going?" Shaun asked, "Hopefully somewhere with an Urban Outfitters." He said, looking down at his dirty funeral attire. 
 
"Here," Rose reached into the back seat and handed him a small bag, "It has a couple of things to keep you going until we stop. They're your clothes." Rose started the engine and pulled out of the cemetery. After they'd been driving for a while, she noticed a small roadside diner and pulled in. "Come on, i'm hungry. We can talk more inside."
"I don't think they serve blood." Shaun said.
Rose laughed with a snort, "I guess i'll just have to make do with a slice of pie." She then got out of the car and walked into the diner and up to the front counter.
"Hey," The waiter smiled, "What can I get you?" 
"Can I get a piece of apple pie, and some coffee." Rose thanked the waiter and then went down and sat in the far corner booth.
 
"Uh...coffee, please." Shaun added. He had changed in to a pair of jeans and a dark grey t-shirt. Once he had stepped in to the diner, he had been hit with a wall of smells, none of them particularly pleasant, and most far more overpowering than he had experienced before. Not to mention the light. It was so bright inside the diner that he was squinting his eyes. 
"Come on, sit." Rose nodded at the other side of the booth, "You'll get used to it." She added, seeing him squint, "But it's difficult to get used to very loud noises, just one of the downsides i'm afraid." She smiled and thanked the waiter as he brought the pie and coffee over to their booth before leaving them in peace. Rose studied the pie for a few seconds, twisting the deep dish plate around to examine it from different angles, then she jabbed the end of it with her fork and ate it slowly, savouring the flavour. After a few minutes of eating in silence, she emptied several packets of sugar into her black coffee, took a sip, and cleared her throat. 
"So, you have questions..." She said at last, "Go ahead." She continued eating her pie, watching him intently as she did so.
 
"Let's start with the basics." Shaun said. "Sunlight, garlic, wooden stakes, silver bullets, and turning in to bats. What's true, what isn't?"
"Alright." Rose took a deep breath and then exhaled, "Most of the things you've seen or read about Vampires comes from facts being passed from one person to another until they became misinformation. We don't burn up in sunlight, but as you've noticed," She nodded at the artificial lights overhead, "Our eyes are very sensitive, so without eye protection, we're at a great disadvantage. Garlic is not something I wholly understand. Unless maybe a hunter found a Vampire with an allergy. It's not unheard of..." She drifted off in thought for a moment, "Anyway... wooden stakes won't do us any more or less harm than anything else, but if our heart is pierced or our head removed from our body, that's it. Lights out." Rose licked her lips and had another sip of coffee, "Now, about silver. If you were wearing any right now, you'd know. Vampires are severely allergic to silver. It burns us terribly, and weakens us. A silver bullet, if not removed, would eventually kill us. As for turning into bats, most Vampires have secondary abilities. I don't know any Vampires that can turn into a bat, however, I know Vampires who can shift into certain animals. I, myself, can do so, and because I Sired you, it is likely you will have my power."
 
"Wait." Shaun rubbed his forehead, still squinting under the light. "You can turn in to an animal?"
At this, Rose grinned wildly, "Yes, I can turn into a wolf. And in time, so shall you. Which..." Rose held a piece of pie on the end of her fork, "... you will come to appreciate a great deal." She then stuffed the pie into her mouth and chewed with a hungry appreciation.
"Great, vampire and a werewolf." Shaun said, smirking a little. "Alright so, next question, tell me about you. Who are you? How...how old are you?"
"No." Rose pointed a finger at him, "But... well, maybe that's a conversation for another day. Who am I? You know who I am, Shaun. My name is Rose Walker, i'm a teacher of History, i'm a Vampire, and i'm over 400 years old." She ate the last piece of her pie and then leant back with a satisfied smile.
 
"Super." Shaun said. "I guess teaching history is pretty easy when you've lived it." Shaun looked around the diner. Everything was just turned up to ten. The noise, the smell, the light. It was starting to get overwhelming. "Okay so, a more immediate question." Shaun continued. "How can you eat that pie? It smells like vomit."
"It smells lovely to me," Rose replied, "Contrary to popular belief, Vampires can eat human food. But most of it smells and tastes like rot. Mostly because it is, but humans don't have a very strong sense of taste or smell, and its important that they aren't as picky, else they would starve. However, some Vampires acquire tastes for certain things, its usually only one taste, and its usually quite strong. Not every Vampire enjoys human food, but if you do, there's no reason not to. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so..." She grinned, shrugging.
"This whole place smells awful." Shaun said as he slumped over the table. 
 
"You learn to tune it out." Rose replied, "Do you smell everything in your house? Everything in your room? What about all the smells on the street? No, only the strongest of smells will grab your attention. In time, you'll adjust. Eventually, you'll be able to tune most of it out until you need it."
"Yeah, great. But what about now?" Shaun held his head in his hands. "...I want to go home." He said quietly. He noticed Rose's expression and added, "I know...I just mean...one last time. My mom will be sleeping...she won't know i'm there." He looked at her in the eyes, his own filled with pleading. "...Please."
After a long, brooding silence, Rose nodded, "I have conditions."
"Which are?" Shaun asked. 
 
"First, you are not to wake your mother, or speak to her." Rose licked her lips and considered, "Before we go, I want you to drink another blood pack. It might not seem like it, but you're only recently turned, you need a lot of blood right now, and I will not let you harm anyone because of a misconceived notion of disgust or morality." She paused again, thinking carefully, "Thirdly, you will do as I say, if you do not, I will be forced to command you to do so for your benefit, as well as for your mother's." Rose took a long sip of her coffee and nodded to the waiter for the bill, "The rest is common sense. Don't make me regret this, Shaun." She paid their bill and they left.
 
--- --- 
 
The front door to Shaun's house opened quietly. Fortunately his mother had left the spare key under the stupid fake rock they had on the porch. He stepped inside, allowing Rose to come in with him. The living room was deathly quiet and still. He could hear his mother breathing heavily from somewhere upstairs. Her steady, rhythmic breathing, and her slow heart rate were crystal clear to him. "She's asleep." he whispered quietly. He walked over to the sofa and sat down, running his hands over the leather. "...She's going to be all alone here."
"Yes, she will." Rose crossed the room and sat on the sofa beside him.
"She won't cope well with that." He said. "My dad...his office is in Seattle, but he's mostly overseas. He's basically never home. He did that so my mom could take care of me and not work."
"I'm sorry, Shaun. If I could have given you another option, I would have." Rose crossed her arms and looked around the quiet room, she could hear the gentle ticking of a clock, and the clear, steady breathing of the woman upstairs. Her heartbeat was slow, but regular. "It's not a life I would have chosen. It's not an easy life, as i've told you."
 
"I'm not worried about that." Shaun said. "I know I struggled at school but...I just found it boring. Willow Creek is nice, but I don't think I want nice."
"What /do/ you want?" Rose asked. "If you had all the time in the world, what would you do with it?" She turned to look at Shaun and then chuckled, "Hypothetically speaking." Her grin widened.
"I don't know." Shaun said, shrugging. "But I guess I have time to find out." He stood up from the sofa and walked over to the stairs. "I'll only be a minute, then we can go." He walked up the stairs and through the hall. He stopped as he passed his mother's room. For a moment he was tempted to go in, but he shook his head and kept going, stepping in to his room. 
 
It didn't look any different to how he left it. Even his bed was still unmade. He opened the door to his closet and removed a single, black jacket and put it on. Then he picked up the electric guitar in the corner, and looked around his room one last time. Then he went back downstairs, guitar in hand, and met with Rose again. "Okay." He said. "We can go now."
"Alright. Go out to the car," Rose followed Shaun outside, and once the door was closed and locked, the key returned to it's hiding place, and all was left as it was. She looked over her shoulder to see Shaun getting into the car, and then turned back to face the front door. With a sudden strike, Rose smashed her hand through the glass in the door and opened it from the inside, then swung the door open. She could hear a startled cry from upstairs, a quickening of a heartbeat, and then a second later, Rose was inside the car and starting the engine. They drove away moments later.
"I'm going to put the radio on..." She said, leaning forwards to turn it on and tune it to the local station. "How are you feeling?" She asked, keeping one eye on the road.
 
"Better." Shaun said, "Thanks." They drove along listening to the radio. Shaun really did feel better. He was a little scared, and he was pretty sure he still had a long way to go in processing everything. Yet, much like he felt at the shooting, this whole thing made him feel alive. Perhaps things were going to turn out okay. 

 

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The music on the car radio kept the silence comfortable. Rose had been driving for an hour or so now, occasionally glancing over to look at Shaun who seemed more interested with the scenery passing them by. She kept to herself for a little while, content to let things settle for a little while. She was driving down an old road, framed by pine trees on either side. She could smell the pine, even with the windows rolled up. A little light rain danced across the windscreen and she turned on the wipers as a light shower started. Then something caught her eye. She looked up to her rear view mirror, and beyond the rain-speckled glass, she saw a dazzling white light. A car was driving up behind them, at speed. It's engine roared as it closed the gap between them. Rose checked the mirror again, this time she made note of the details of the vehicle. It was black, the plates were either missing or obscured and the windows were heavily tinted.

"We've got company." Rose said, through clenched teeth.

"Company?" Shaun frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I mean we're--" As Rose tried to speak the car shunted forwards, the black car behind them knocking their rear bumper. Rose quickly increased their speed, but the car behind them was matching pace and gaining ground. "Dammit..." She checked her rear view mirror once again, she saw an arm holding something emerge from the driver's side window. A loud crack made them jump and they looked back to see a bolt with a deadly-looking tip stuck mid-way through the rear window. 

 

"What the fuck!" Shaun yelled as he recoiled in his seat. "They shot at us! Who the fuck are they!?"

"Come on, Shaun," Rose growled, a touch of irritation in her voice, "Use your head! What do you think is chasing a couple of vampires, and shooting god-damn crossbow bolts at us!?" She shook her head, and pushed the car to over 90mph. She could feel the wheels of her little car skidding against the wet road, she had to be extremely careful or they would be in a ditch in seconds.

"Oh well sorry, clearly I should have watched more Buffy the Vampire Slayer!" Shaun bit back, but then his temper quickly subdued as fear gripped him. "What do we do?"

"Okay, we're going to have to come back to that Buffy comment, but for now..." She looked ahead and saw a large truck coming towards them, "Take the wheel." Rose wound down her window and leant out the side of her car as Shaun took the wheel. The car swerved erratically as they were hit once more and the hunter aimed the crossbow and fired once more. The bolt cut through the air and made a sickening thuck as it embedded in the back of Rose's left shoulder. "Argh!!" She growled in pain, turning to look back at the driver behind them. She bared her fangs and then as the truck passed, she leant over the side and swept her claws across it's wheels. 

Loud pops, followed by the flopping sound of rubber whirling around the wheels, heralded the truck driver losing control of his vehicle. Moments later the truck swerved to try and correct itself, but the rain-slick road made him over-compensate and suddenly the truck turned onto it's side and screeched across the road behind them. The hunter was forced to break suddenly and found themselves on the other side of the truck, blocked by the large overturned vehicle. Slowly, Rose pulled herself back inside her car and gingerly rested her shoulder against the seat, "We're going to have to stop soon, i've got to take this out..." She took a deep breath and tried to focus on the road but the pain was mind-numbing. Silver-plated, no doubt. 

"Uh... Where?" Shaun asked. "It's not like I know where we are..." He cautiously glanced at Rose, taking his eyes off the road momentarily. "You're okay... right?
"That's a stupid question to ask anyone with a crossbow bolt stickin' out their shoulder," Rose muttered, and gingerly raised her other arm and took the wheel. "Okay. We're a few miles from Oakfield. You know Oakfield, its that little town with the dinosaur diner? We'll stop, i'll get this frickin' thing out my shoulder, and then we'll move on. Hopefully we can lose them from there. Don't know how they found us so quick..."

"Okay..." Shaun said with a sigh, and then he fell in to silence. Rose shook her head but glanced at Shaun for a moment and let out a long breath. Now wasn't the time for an apology, though he might have deserved one. They drove in silence, as she had turned the radio off.

After what seemed like an eternity, they pulled into a motel parking lot and Rose leant forwards, wincing as the bolt shifted in her shoulder. She opened the glove box and pulled out a thick stack of notes, "Here," She pulled a couple of fifties out, "Pay for a room, and get me some food. Like chocolate or something, and a cola. I better wait in the car..." She inclined her head to her injury. It wasn't exactly the easiest thing to explain away. A few minutes passed, Rose checked her shoulder and cautiously touched the barbed point of the crossbow. She suppressed a howl and immediately withdrew her finger. Yep, definitely silver. To a vampire, touching silver was like holding your skin to a focused flame. It was excruciating. The driver side door opened and Shaun gave her the key and her food in the bag. Then she carefully pulled herself out of the car, and they walked to the motel room. 

 

Inside, the room was dark and grotty. She could hear the sound of cockroaches scuttling under the floorboards and in the walls, but that didn't matter much. She hobbled over to the bed and sat down and opened a can of cola and drained the contents with a ravenous thirst. "So, I hate to do this to you, Shaun. But the other end of the bolt fans out, so the only way I can take this out, is if I pull the head of the bolt out. Only problem is, it's covered in silver. So i'm probably going to pass out when I do." She leant over and opened a chocolate bar with one hand and then took a large bite and started chewing, "So... I need you... to move the car to somewhere nearby... out of sight. And keep watch over me. I'm going to need a few hours..."

"Great." Shaun replied, sounding less than enthused by the idea. He took the keys off the dresser and went for the door. "See you when you wake up, I guess." He said as he opened the door.
"Hey," Rose nodded at him, "You okay?" 

"Yeah, just peaches." Shaun said, and he left, slamming the door behind him.

Sighing, Rose pulled herself up from the bed and paced the room. For a few minutes she contemplated everything that had happened. Trying not to focus on what she was about to do. Then she walked into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. She looked tired, though she did not sleep. Blood had caked her clothes, but that didn't matter. She tore off the corner of her shirt, exposing her bare shoulder. Then gently touched the tip of the barb against the wall and took a couple of deep, bracing breaths. Suddenly Rose smashed her shoulder into the wall and let out a scream as the crossbow bolt's barb plunged back into her wound, opening it once more and planting the silver-plated object within her flesh. She then scrambled to grab hold of the shaft at her back with her other arm. It took a few seconds, and the pain was making her see spots, she felt like someone had set a blow torch to her insides. She managed a claw to catch the shaft of the bolt, and then pulled it into her hand and swiftly she yanked the entire thing free from her shoulder. Blood flowed freely, and she could feel the wound trying to heal, but she knew that with it being caused by silver, it would be hours before it was healed entirely. She staggered over to the bed and collapsed into it, not caring about the trail of blood she led to it. Her head hit the pillow, and she drifted into a dreamless unconscious state. 

 

On his return Shaun took stock of the mess that lay before him. He sat on the old armchair by the bed for a while, contemplating what had just happened. He couldn't speak to Rose about it for now, and he wasn't even sure if that would help. About an hour passed by and he had almost finished cleaning up the blood. The sheets Rose lay on were a lost cause, though. He sat back on the armchair and gave a long sigh. "What the hell am I doing?" He said quietly to himself.
"Cleaning, I hope." Rose muttered, rousing from her unconsciousness. She turned over in bed and pulled herself up until she was comfortable. "That's a little better." She sighed, and looked down at her wound. It had stopped bleeding and the muscle and tissue were knitting together nicely, but it would be a while longer before she was healed. "Well done out there, Shaun. Not everyone can deal with something like that. Especially not one so... well," She trailed off with a smile, "Well done." 

"I didn't do anything." Shaun replied. "Except panic."
"Oh, did you?" Rose raised an eyebrow, "See I thought I saw a young vampire hold a wheel steady, while we were driving at a frankly insane speed, in the rain, while we were being shot at. Then you got me supplies, hid the car, and cleaned up the blood." She looked down at the sheets, "Well, most of the blood." She grinned, "You're not so bad." 

 

"Yeah? Great." Shaun said sarcastically. "I don't think I'm wrong in thinking that I don't want to be good at that. I don't want to deal with anything like that ever again, if I can help it."
"I keep forgetting... you're such a human..." Rose sighed, rubbing her temples.
"You expecting me to apologise for that?" Shaun said with a scowl.
"No," Rose replied, shaking her head, "You should never apologise for what you are. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to be something more." She gave him a little smile and then looked down the end of the bed, but saw there was nothing left of her small horde of food. "Well how are you feeling?" She asked, looking him up and down, "You must be getting... thirsty?" She chose the word delicately.
"A little." Shaun replied, looking down at his feet.
"Well, we can't be letting you get weak. Much as i'd like to leave this, we can't put this off. Plus, I don't have any blood packs left."
"Leave what off?" Shaun asked.
A wry smile spread across Rose's face, "Your first feeding of course. On a living human." 

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Shaun sank back in the armchair. Silence fell over the room, and with it his heightened senses began to focus more clearly on the ambient sensations that had previously hid in the back of his head, in the corner of his eye. A gentle rumbling reverberated through the cheap motel walls, a man snoring. He felt the wetness of the man's mouth as he smacked his lips, as if the man was doing so right by his head. Shaun shifted uncomfortably at the sensation, his arms gently wrapping around each other, a self-soothing gesture he and so many others often did subconsciously. He looked at a blank area of the wall intently, as if it had suddenly become the most interesting part of the room. In truth, doing so allowed him to avoid Rose's haze. He let his tongue roll over the roof of his mouth. It was dry, perhaps telling of his thirst, which had begun as a dull sensation at the back of his mind, but was now becoming a little harder to ignore. "I can wait." He said finally. "I...I can hold out a bit longer, until....until you get more blood packs, or something."

 

"Yeah, that's a great idea." Rose replied sarcastically, licking her lips. "No, I think we can just take what we need from the man in the next room..." She paused, listening in silence for a moment, "He's in his thirties, and he's in good health. There's no reason not to drink from him. Come on." She pulled herself off the bed and cleaned herself up best she could. She changed shirts in the next room and came back in, "Ready to go?" She asked, smiling. Shaun didn't reply, he simply stood up and waited on the spot, nervously scratching his elbow. He still couldn't look at her. He didn't really get Rose. How could someone be both wise, and understanding, yet also come off completely cold and soulless. Maybe that was just what she was. What he was now. 

 

"I've never seen a child sulk after being told they're going to McDonald's." Rose laughed at Shaun, "Come on, kid. Let's get you something to drink." She patted Shaun on the back, opened the door to the apartment and led him outside. The cool night air touched her skin and she sighed pleasantly, looking up at the stars and drinking in the view. "Much better." She stretched and worked her shoulder, it was stiff and still stung but it was much better. Rose turned and walked a few steps until she stood in front of their neighbour's door and then examined it for a moment. "Okay kid, here's your first lesson about feeding: Act natural." She rapped her knuckles on the door and heard a startled coughing as the man inside woke up. Suppressed grumbling, as he made his way to the door and looked through the peep hole. Rose could see the shadow of the man as he enveloped the peep hole, and she smiled pleasantly to him with a pained expression. After a moment, the door unlocked and swung open a couple of inches until the chain on the door stopped it.
"Hey, what do you want?" The man asked, he was indeed in his thirties, with short brown hair, a slight gut, and dressed in a robe. He had obviously been watching television and fallen asleep.
 
"Hi!" Rose replied, "D'you mind, I can't seem to get my TV working...?" 
"Oh... Bill... hey, it happens all the time." Bill closed his door, removed the chain and opened it fully, "Super doesn't care. Get what you pay for, he says. I'll take a look." 
"Thanks!" She smiled at him and they walked back to Shaun, "This is my son, don't mind him, he just wants to watch his cartoons and whatnot." 
"Right..." Bill frowned at Shaun as he passed and walked into their apartment. Rose turned around and mouthed, 'Close his door!' and then followed Bill into their room. Bill turned the television on and of course, it came on without an issue. "Uh... your TV works fine?" Rose walked up to Bill and came within inches of his face. Bill froze and tightened up, and then Rose leant in and breathed heavily on him. Bill's eyes rolled into the back of his head as his eyelids closed and he collapsed. Rose caught him as he fell and then delicately laid him on her bed as Shaun entered the room once more.
 
"Wh...what did-" Shaun quickly closed the door behind him. "Did you just kill him!?"
"Why would I kill him?" Rose frowned, circling the bed. "He's just sleeping. Besides, you might be a fledgling but if you can't hear that," Rose held her hand up and snapped her fingers to a rhythmic, steady beat. The sound of the man's heart, pumping blood, "Then you're fighting your senses." She smiled and let out a deep breath, looking the man up and down, "So, go ahead..." She grinned and nodded at the man. Once Rose had brought it up it all seemed so clear. The man's heartbeat was thumping away quite normally. However, this didn't overly affect his reservations. He looked at the man, lying there in just a robe, and the thought of sucking blood from him like a juice box was just...
"..Gross." Shaun said. 
 
"Gross...?" Rose frowned at Shaun, she was getting a little exasperated. "Let me put this in perspective. Which is more gross... drinking blood directly from a living creature, something that animals the world over do as part of a natural predatory instinct, or..." She held up her hands as an unbalanced set of scales, "Processed turkey drummers." She weighed her hands and shook her head, "Yeah, would you just drink from him, please." She shuddered, thinking about processed human food and then sat beside Bill, waiting for Shaun.
"He's not a fucking cheeseburger." Shaun said bitterly, his fists clenching. "Just.." He turned around, pacing the short length of the motel room. "...just stop being so god damn casual about this..."
"Well how else am I supposed to be about it?" Rose asked, "It's just food. Drink up, and then we can wait it out here for a little while, hopefully the hunters will pass us and then we can be on our way."
 
"It's not  just food!" Shaun snapped, and he thumped the wall in anger as he passed it, and recoiled as he watched the weak drywall crumble, leaving a large dent in the wall. He stared at the wall, and then his hand, which was now coated in powdered drywall. He let out a heavy sigh and bit his lip, trying to calm down. "He's not just food...not to me." He said quietly. He had only been a vampire for, how long had it been? Five hours? Six? Rose was substantially older. He wondered how long it had taken before she had learned that cold separation. Before she had apparently forgotten that she was just human once. Just food.
 
Rose sighed, leant down and licked the wound on Bill's neck, the flesh quickly knitted together and he was good as new. "Alright then." Rose picked Bill up and put him to the head of the bed, and then sat on the end beside Shaun. "Talk to me, Shaun. Do you think it's right that people should eat meat from a packet? Not knowing where the meat came from, or how it was harvested? Have you ever given a pig a moment's thought for what it wanted to do with it's life. Even if that life was to eat slop and roll around in mud, doesn't it have a right to do that? But you want to eat bacon, so you rationalise it's death. I drink blood. I don't kill anything for it. I don't hurt anyone for it. It's tasty, it's responsibly-sourced..." She shrugged her shoulders.
 
Shaun sighed and leaned forward, holding his head in his hands. "I know..." he sighed. "I'm not...I'm not saying it's wrong, or immoral...it doesn't make it any easier, though." He sat up and shrugged. "I'd be just as pissed off if you'd expected me to start suddenly speaking fluent Japanese." He said. "...I need time, okay? I thought that was one of the advantages of being a vampire, y'know? Lot's of time to work things out."
"Sure, but we're being chased by hunters, so it's baptism by fire right now." Rose replied, then took a deep breath, "And you haven't had anything to drink in a while, and you're a fledgling, you need a lot of blood right now to help your body process and fuel the change. Besides, hunger makes a sane man do crazy things. Vampires more so. I don't want you hurting yourself, or someone else, because it feels like your entire body is on fire." She paused, studying Shaun's face, "Your body is already tingling? Feels itchy? Give it a little while, you're going to do anything to satiate that hunger. I won't let you go that far, Shaun..."
 
Shaun sighed. He didn't like it at all. All he wanted was a little more time to adjust. Everything was happening so quickly, and he already felt suffocated by it. Like he was drowning. For some reason that prospect felt more terrifying to him than it ever had before. He fidgeted with his hands, examining his nails which, he had only just noticed, had become black, much like Rose's. He lifted his right hand and examined it for a moment. Then, as he flexed his fingers, his nails suddenly popped out, longer and sharper. He flinched a little, like he had expected it to hurt, but it hadn't. He looked at his claws, and then he looked at Rose. He sighed, and then with a great deal of resignation, he leant over to Bill, and gently pressed his index finger on his neck, piercing it just as he had watched Rose do. He took a deep breath, and leant down, and pressed his lips against the man's neck. 
 
He fought the momentary sensation of disgust at putting his lips to a chubby, middle-aged man's neck, and he instead focused on the warm liquid that was now dripping in to his mouth. He let it slide down his neck, gulping slowly every few moments. And with each gulp he felt like he was drinking a hot cup of coffee on a cold day. As he drank, he felt the tension in his shoulders subside, and the hot prickling sensation began to slowly fade. And before long, he felt much more calm. He released to man's throat and sat up, holding his finger over the hole. He wasn't quite sure how to deal with that, just yet, and so he turned to Rose expectantly. 
 
"Lick the wound." Rose nodded at Bill, "Two things you won't read about Vampires in modern fiction - we have a natural anaesthesia in our breath, and our saliva can heal wounds."
"I am not licking him." Shaun said, raising his brow in amusement. "That's where I draw the line, teach." Then he licked his finger and pressed it against the man's wound. "There...that'll do, pig."
"That'll do." Rose repeated, ruffling Shaun's hair. Then she stood up and stretched, "Now, you can take Bill, and put him back in the chair in his room." She walked over to the TV and changed the channel and then sat back down on the end of the bed. Shaun went to lift Bill up, and found him surprisingly light. 
"Super strength..." He said with a smile. "Well, I can't complain about that."
 
Shaun opened the door, carrying Bill quite easily with one arm. He stepped outside and walked down to the next room. He opened the door and stepped inside. He propped Bill in to the armchair and then took a moment to adjust his robe. Nothing flattering about a man with his bits hanging out. He turned around and opened the door to leave. "Later Bill." He said with a smirk. "And go easy on yourself, didn't anyone ever tell you? You'll go blind..." He chuckled to himself as he closed the door. He turned to head back to the room, when quite suddenly, his senses turned right up to ten. His eyes became sharp and focused, the distant sound of tires crunching over gravel was crystal clear in his ears. 
 
Before he even knew what he was doing, Shaun suddenly dropped to a crouch, pressing himself against the wall of the motel. Instinctively he kept to the shadows, and watched the roadside. The crunching of gravel grey louder and louder in his ears. Then he saw it, a black car pulling in to the motel. It's headlight's were out, but Shaun could see the light and heat emanating from them, from when they had been lit only a few minutes before. Fear gripped him, and adrenaline took over, forcing him in to action. He moved fast, even though it was only a few feet to the door, he cleared it in an instant, and the door to their motel room opened and quickly snapped shut, and suddenly he was on the inside again with Rose. He pressed his back up against the door. "...They're here." He whispered. 

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"I know." Rose replied, sitting on the end of the bed. She had turned the television off, and then she stood up, crossed the room and turned the lights off. "Be quiet." Rose instructed, and sat back on the bed. She turned her head and listened. There was two of them. They walked quickly and quietly, saying nothing to one another. They knew what they were doing. They had to be using signals, aware of the acute hearing of a vampire. "Shaun, I want you to go into the bathroom and lock the door." 

Shaun thought to protest, but as he opened his mouth he stopped himself. They might have heard him. Slowly he rose up and walked to the bathroom, gently closing the door behind him, and there was a soft click of the lock a moment later.

 

Taking a deep breath, Rose stood up and waited. She heard footsteps passing along the front of the motel rooms. At each doorway, they paused for a moment. Then they moved on, and so it went. Getting closer and closer. She could hear their hearts beating, and to her dismay, they seemed calm. At least, calm for what they were getting ready to do. She could smell cigarette smoke from one of them. Lucky 8's, a local brand with a distinctive smell she knew well as one of her colleagues used to smoke them until she decided to quit. One was a man, the other a woman. The pace of their movement and the difference in their gait gave it away. Rose walked up to the door and waited patiently. The footsteps of the hunters moved onto the room beside their own, and they paused once again.
"Reading is a little low..." A woman whispered. 

The man's heart began beating slightly faster, there was silence, but Rose could tell he was likely chastising her for speaking. It seemed the woman wasn't as experienced a hunter as he was. Maybe an apprentice? Either way, taking some of Bill's blood had rattled them, made her second guess. They had to be using something to detect heat signatures.

Quick as a flash, Rose ran to the little kitchen segment of their motel room. Though it was little more than a counter with a microwave and a kettle on it. She turned the kettle on and listened, but the two hunters weren't moving. They had to be assessing the likelihood that Bill was their vampire. Rose looked at the kettle, as it began to hiss into action.
"Come on..." Rose muttered, listening for signs of movement. Suddenly an almighty crash sounded as the door was caved in. But as luck had it, it was not theirs. Bill yelped in surprise as the hunters charged in, weapons readied. They got into a heated argument with Bill, and then suddenly Rose jumped as though she'd been struck. A near-silent thwip petrified her to the spot. Some kind of silenced weapon. The hunters had killed Bill.

 

It was far worse than she'd thought. Hunters, like anyone, human or vampire, came from many different backgrounds and held many different views. Some would only hunt the creatures of the night that killed humans. Some would hunt them all regardless. Then there were those that killed anything that got in their way or risked their way of life. They were the worst kind. The sort that would kill their own without a second thought. These were the people they were dealing with. She heard the pair of hunters leave Bill's motel room and then start walking towards their own. 

Click.

The kettle! Rose ran to it and grabbed it from it's holster, and not sparing a moment, she poured the kettle of boiling water over her head and body, suppressing a scream as she did so, then she cast the empty kettle aside and waited. The footsteps tracked across to the front of their door, and she turned and walked over to the bed as best she could, and sat down, staring at the television. Shivering with pain and dripping wet, steam coming off her body. There was a long pause, and she could hear their hearts beating on the other side of the door. Then moments later, they moved on down to the next apartment. Her skin was pink, but healing quickly before the blisters could set in. Her limbs felt numb as she stood and ran to the bathroom, she quietly knocked on the door and waited, the moment the door opened, Rose grabbed Shaun by the hand and ran for the front door.
"Come on, we have to go..." She whispered, then waited behind their front door, listening for the hunters moving down the line of rooms.

"Wait- what just happened?" Shaun asked, staring at Rose. "What did you do to yourself?"

"What I had to," Rose wiped her mop of red hair out of her eyes and pressed the side of her head to the door. She heard the hunters moving down, further and further, and finally they were far enough away that she felt safe in opening the door. As she did so, she instructed Shaun to walk slowly, not to panic. They would likely see them as they left, but as long as they were calm, they would likely assume after the little stunt she'd just pulled, that they were just residents going out for the night. As the door opened, Rose put Shaun's arm around her shoulder as though they were a couple, and then they walked out and closed the door behind them. Taking the time to lock the door as they should, and then slowly they began to cross the car park. Rose could feel the eyes of the hunters on them, or at least it felt that way.

 

"Are you alright?" Rose asked.

"...Terrfied." Shaun only just managed to say. His hand was trembling at her waist.

"Fear will keep you focused." She muttered back to him. They were almost out of the car park when Rose heard something.
"How many signatures were in that room?" The female hunter asked. 
"One." The male hunter replied. 
 

Rose grabbed Shaun tightly, "Hold onto your butt!" She yelled. She tensed the muscles in her legs and burst forwards, within seconds the world around them turned to a blur, the thwock of a crossbow bolt, followed by the howl of it's approach was drowned out by the wind screeching past them. Buildings and objects flicked by as little more than indistinct blurs and then suddenly Rose came to a screeching halt and dropped Shaun in front of her. "Alright, we're about a mile from the motel..." She looked around and considered their situation for a moment, "Okay. Forget the car, we can't go back for it. We're going to have to find some other means of travel."

Shaun froze on the spot. For a moment he looked fine, and as he stood still, he felt fine. But as he went to step forward he felt a sudden wave of inertia and fell to his knees. He felt like the word was spinning around him uncontrollably. His body swayed from side to side like he was trying to balance himself, and then he fell on to his side and lay on the ground, hoping it would steady him, but the world kept spinning on.

 

"Pull yourself together, kid." Rose looked down at him, "Come on, ain't nobody gonna help you but yourself." 

"I think I might throw up." Shaun replied, staring dead-eyed in to the dirt.
"What do you think you're gonna throw up?" Rose asked, a slight grin spreading across her face, "I suggest you re-think that."

"Just once..." Shaun said as he pushed himself up off the ground. "Just once It'd be nice if you didn't have an answer for every little thing I say."
"If I did that, I wouldn't be much of a teacher." Rose replied, "Nevermind much of a Maker. Come on, get up. We're wasting time. I'd rather not have to go through that again. What's the point in having beautiful, pale skin if you keep pouring boiling water over it." She studied the back of her arm and saw the redness was almost gone. "Feeling better yet?" She asked expectantly.

"Better is a stretch." Shaun replied. "But I'm good to go, if that's what you mean."

"I'll take it." She nodded with a smile. "Come on, i've got an idea."

 

They had been walking for a while now. Rose chose to remain quiet, instead focusing on keeping her eye out. Eventually, she saw a bus stop and walked up to it, and read a number of the pamphlets. She spoke to Shaun, but kept her gaze on her reading material.
"So, I want to apologise, Shaun. This isn't exactly the easiest transition for you. I don't know if i'd have been able to survive if I had gone through what you are now, hunters can be... well, they're hunters. But usually they're not that bad. These people are... they're not right. I'm sorry you've had to lose so much in so short a space of time." 

"Yeah, we're a couple of undead blood suckers, and it turns out the humans are the evil ones." Shaun said with a smirk. "Not exactly worthyn of Shyamalan, but I guess it'll do." But after a moment his smirk softened. "Thanks, though. It's...better, just knowing you acknowledge how weird this is for me, you know?"

"There are bad vampires, too. I don't want to claim we're better just because we're vampires, but I guess hunting attracts certain types... Aha!" She exclaimed, and pulled one of the pamphlets out from the rest. "This will do nicely." She held the pamphlet up and read it aloud, "Come live in an idyllic logging town, with it's own prestigious college, access to fishing on a beautiful lake, with festivals all year round. A hidden gem, with a big community..." 

"Sounds...boring." Shaun said, crossing his arms. "Can we go to L.A? Or New York?"
Rose outright laughed, "You haven't been here before, you're going to wish for somewhere like New York. Besides, I have contacts there, they can set us up right, and help us lose those hunters hopefully, plus it's kind of a magnet for people like us." 

"Great." Shaun grumbled.
"Chin up." Rose smirked.

Ten minutes later they were queued for the bus to take them on the long journey. They were the last on the stop. Rose stepped up the stairs and the driver gave her a quick look up and down and frowned.
"Going quite a ways, no luggage?" He asked.
"No, not this time. Just what we have on us. Here, can I get two tickets please. Here." She pointed at the pamphlet and the driver nodded, accepted payment and Rose and Shaun got on board. The bus began to fill the remaining free seats as they sat down together. Rose took the window seat and sighed as she sat down, feeling relaxed for the first time in days.
"Evening ladies and gents..." The driver's voice came over a tannoy system, "This coach service is going through Boulder, Fort Collins, Aurora, Durango, Lakewood, Breckenridge and final stop..." He closed the doors of the coach and started the engine, "Darkpine Valley." 

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The bus took Shaun and Rose through the night, and then through the next day, and through the night once more. They had stopped several times at roadside services, and had spent about 6 hours total just waiting at various bus stations. They had travelled through New Hampshire, Massachusets, then up through New York and Ohio. They had not long passed the State line for Indiana when they pulled in to another depot. As soon as the bus doors opened Shaun was out of there without a second's hesitation. He whinced at the bright light that the buses tinted windows had somewhat shielded him from. Rose came out after him and stood next to him on the sidewalk. "Oh, god...." Shaun sighed. "Nothing like 8 hours of collected farts to make you really hate having super senses."

Rose grinned, "Y'know, as a vampire, you don't need to breathe, so there's no reason you couldn't have held your breath, like me. Maybe I forgot to tell you that..." Rose mused, then shrugged it off with a chuckle.

"Yeah, well, I'm just glad to stretch my legs." Shaun said as he walked away from the bus. "There's a little travel store over there, let's have a look."

 

The store was mostly stocked with overpriced candy bars and the kind of processed junk food normally reserved for gas stations. There were also a couple of shelves of books and magazines, as well as a bunch of cheap travel junk, thermos flasks, travel pillows and various other things. Shaun stopped by a small counter stand of sunglasses and inspected them. He picked up a few off the rack and turned to Rose. "What do you think?" He said as he placed the classic, black Ray Bans over his eyes, "Suit me? Or maybe..." He replaced them with a pair of aviators. "Or these." He said with a grin. "Or..." He took them off and placed on a pair of white, plastic shades that had no lenses, and instead had a series of plastic lines over the eyes. "...Kanye made these cool, right?"

"I have no idea." Rose replied, "But I suggest you pick up a pair or you could easily get dazed." She tapped the rim of her sunglasses and then moved over to the sweets aisle.

"Can't go wrong with a classic I guess." Shaun said as he put the black ones back on. He walked over to the sweets counter and looked at all the chocolate bars. "I used to love Reece's cups." He said. "But the thought of eating peanut butter now...eugh."

 

"Well, if you're lucky, you'll find a food your new taste buds still enjoy. Thankfully, being a vampire," Rose picked up a large bag of bon bons, "I don't have to worry about my weight." She grinned to herself, then grabbed a large chocolate bar on the way to the cashier. Shaun went to follow her but took a quick detour by the magazines. He flicked through a few of them but grew quickly disinterested. He was about to leave when a book on the next shelf over caught his eye. It was a black covered paperback of Animal Farm by George Orwell. He thought about the fact that they were only just approaching the halfway point of their journey, and the crippling boredom had been driving him crazy, not to mention how hungry he was getting. He picked up the book and took it to Rose at the counter. "Mind if I get this?" He asked as he handed her the book. 

"Well at least you picked something worth reading." Rose muttered, looking at the cover of the book. "A great allegory for capitalism and humanity as a whole. It doesnt really apply to us but a fantastic tale, Shaun."

 

"Never really liked books." Shaun said. "But unless you've got a gameboy handy it's the best I'm going to get."

"A gameboy is a poor substitute for imagination. Even the most bloodthirsty and nomadic of our people enjoy books. I think a great many humans struggle with books because of their attention span. After all, they're rather short-lived. I know I never read books before I turned." Rose walked up to the counter and paid for everything.

"Clearly you've never played Skyrim." Shaun said rolling his eyes. "Look I have ADD, okay? I tried books, but it's like...it's like a mental fog. I get bored." He waved the book in front of him. "But hey, worth another shot I guess."

"You don't have ADD, Shaun. That's a human condition, and you do not suffer from the... Well, human condition."

"Well I used to, okay" Shaun said. "But I take your point. Speaking of which. I'm getting a little hungry, and I don't think it's for Cheetos."

 

"I'm feeling a little peckish myself, why don't you select someone? But before you do, what do you think you should take into consideration?" She pocketed her sweets and opened her chocolate bar and took a large bite, waiting patiently. Shaun paused for a moment. "Well..." He said. "...We need to do it somewhere quiet. Somewhere that we won't be interrupted. Maybe in the bathroom? We could knock someone out, take what we need, and then leave them in a stall to sleep it off?"

"Well that protects us, but what else?" She raised an eyebrow expectantly.

"Well...I don't know." Shaun said with a shrug. "I mean...try...not to kill them?"

 

"Obviously." Rose shook her head, "You also need to detect things like silver, disease, alcohol and you also need to take into account if the person might drive. Y'know, like in a service station," She held her arms up to indicate their surroundings, "No point in being careful if they end up hurting themselves or others ten minutes later on the road."

She then started counting things off on her fingers, "They can't be pregnant, too old, too young, have a weak heart, the list goes on but you get the idea." Rose smiled at Shaun and put her hand on his shoulder, "It might seem like a chore but you can't ever break those rules. Never take a life unless you absolutely have to, Shaun. Killing is wrong and never let any vampire tell you otherwise."

"All right..." Shaun said, putting his hands in his pockets. "So who do you suggest then, Miyagi-san?"

"You tell me." Rose replied with a grin.

 

"Yay, I love a pop quiz that has someone's life on the line." Shaun said, rolling his eyes. He scanned the service station, looking at the various people working there, and other travelers who were stopping by. After a moment he nodded his head towards the automatic doors. Outside another busload of passengers had just gotten off and were ambling inside. "They won't be driving." He said as the small group came through the doors. "One's an old lady, might be dangerous, plus...gross." He stopped and tried to focus on his other senses. "...Guy in the NASCAR shirt heading for the bathroom. No jewellery, heart's beating fine, I think. Couldn't tell you his blood alcohol limit, you haven't showed me that trick."

"You can smell his breath. Not exactly rocket science. But yes, as far as I can tell, he'll do fine."

 

"Great...so I take it I just breath on the guy, like you did before?" Shaun asked. 

"Yeah, like a breathalyser. Don't just blow air on his face. Unless he's into that." Rose laughed and then followed Shaun, "Don't worry, I'll be nearby." Shaun nodded, and waited for a moment, trying to get himself ready. Then he walked off to the bathroom and stepped inside. The man in question was standing at one of the urinals. Shaun walked over to one nearby him and pretended to pee, since he didn't need to. The two stood in silence as Shaun tried to think about how to go about this. If he just approached the man, then he'd probably be, quite naturally, alarmed. But if he left the bathroom then Shaun would have lost his chance. 

"Heading far?" He asked, and he continued to stare at the wall in front of him. 

 

"Kentucky." The man replied. "You?"

"Uh...Minnesota." Shaun said. "Hey so...uh....your shoelace is undone..."

"What?" The man replied, and he gave his shoe a cursory glance, "No it ain't." He said as he zipped himself up and went to walk away. Shaun turned around, and felt a slight wave of dizziness. He was more hungry than he thought. But the dizziness had given him an idea. He allowed himself to fall over, hitting the floor with a crash. The man turned back around and walked over to him. He knelt down and grabbed Shaun's arm. 

"You okay, kid?" The man asked. Shaun looked up and grabbed the man by the collar of his shirt, pulling him down so his face was level with Shaun's. Then he breathed out as hard as he could, and for a moment the man just stared at him. He thought he'd messed it up, until finally the man stopped fighting his grip, and slumped forward. Shaun caught him and lifted him up easily, moving him in to one of the cubicles and sitting him on the toilet. "Uh...I'm done." He said quietly, knowing Rose would likely hear him. 

 

Rose walked into the men's bathroom and stared at the unconscious man in the cubicle, "'Your shoes are untied'?" She frowned at Shaun then stepped into the cubicle with him, shut and locked the door behind her. "So, your fangs have yet to come in, but do you know why we don't bite, Shaun?"

"Um..." Shaun thought for a moment. "Is that how you, well, turn people?"

"That takes a fair bit more than a bite. No, because these--" Rose opened her mouth and suddenly her teeth elongated, each one turning into a fang with particularly prominent canines, "--are not designed for precision surgery. They are killing tools." She retracted her fangs and then held out her thumb, pointing to the black nail which extended into a sharp claw. "This on the other hand," She pierced the man's vein like an expert surgeon, leant over and drank for a long minute. "Mm, refreshing. Very sweet, he's diabetic."

 

"Oh...okay." Shaun said. He switched places with Rose and took a much needed drink. He still wasn't used to it. It felt strange to do, but he couldn't ignore how satisfying it was to drink blood. He pulled away after a minute and wiped his mouth. He licked his hand and then placed it over the man's neck to seal the wound. "Is that it then?" He asked. 

"Pretty much. Like some general anaesthetics, it has an effect on short term memory, so as long as you're quick about it they won't remember. He'll wake up, a little tired, but fine."

 

"Great, let's get going then." Shaun replied. They left and Shaun closed the stall door behind him and they made their way back to the bus. When they got on Shaun sat down on a seat by the window and put his feet up across the other one. After a short time the bus got going again and Shaun opened up his book and began to read. He didn't stop reading until the sky outside had gone dark. He put the book down on his lap. He had read it from cover to cover in one sitting. "That...really was a good book." He said, as the bus passed a sign outside that read: Welcome To Colorado.

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The coach drove past a large sign partially covered by alpine spruce, which simply read, 'Welcome to Darkpine Valley'. Rose let out a long sigh and rubbed her eyes from under her sunglasses. Vampires didn't exactly need sleep, but being cramped in a coach-load of humans for an extended time, she certainly felt like she needed a rest. For the latter half of their journey a young child had been kicking the back of her head rest. If she had been in a foul mood, she might have given the child a scare when the parent wasn't looking. But with a fresh start, came fresh possibilities. There was something quite satisfying about starting over anew. She had done it many, many times. Lived many lives. She wondered what kind of life she might lead this time around. 

Darkpine looked like the kind of town that was big enough to attract business, a prestigious college, and plenty of jobs, and yet just small enough so that most folks knew one another. No doubt, news would travel fast. Rose looked over at Shaun for a moment. She'd have to keep an eye on that kid. But she smiled despite her concern, as whatever he thought of himself, he seemed made of stronger stuff than most, which gave her a certain satisfaction.
"Alright ladies and gents," The driver called out over the tannoy - only Rose, Shaun, and two others remained on the coach at this point, however - then he cleared his throat and nodded at the town as they passed through it, "Welcome to Darkpine Valley, I hope you have a wonderful time, thank you for choosing our coach service, we'll be stopping in just a moment, please stay seated until the coach has completely come to a stop."
"How you feelin'?" Rose asked, looking over to Shaun. She pulled off her aviators and looked at Shaun. Her bright green eyes studied him for signs of fatigue, or more importantly, hunger.

"Not as bad as last time." Shaun said. "But we'll probably need to eat soon."
"We'll get situated first, and then we'll see about food. I have a house here, but I haven't lived there for nearly two hundred years... should bring back a lot of memories." She mused, as the coach pulled in and everyone got off. Rose looked around with a degree of confusion, "Gimme a minute, everything's changed..." 
"Couple of centuries will do that." Shaun said, rolling his eyes.
"Do me a favour," Rose pulled out a key chain with at least a dozen keys on it, rifled through them and then selected one and freed it from it's ring, "Take this. Ask the locals where Oak Place is, they'll be able to point you in the right direction. Big old house, top of town, nestled on the north edge of the forest. Go in, have a shower, relax, read some books, listen to some music, don't worry it should be in good condition. Well, if not then i'll be asking for a refund for 40 years of cleaning bills..." She grinned.
"Sure..." Shaun replied without much enthusiasm. Darkpine might have been a sleepy town, but it wasn't exactly small. "Guess I'm going for a hike." He sighed.
"That's the spirit." Rose grinned at Shaun as she watched him leave. Teenagers. Human or vampire, it didn't make a difference. She replaced her aviators. 

Rose crossed the street and walked down the road until she came to the corner where she had spotted the shop front for a mechanic. The name of the shop read, 'Archer Auto Repair'. She walked up to the shop, but as she did so, something became apparent to her. Humans were not it's only occupants. Rose grinned, it seemed that Darkpine hadn't changed a lot since last she'd been here. She opened the door, hearing the little jingle of a bell, and stepped inside. The front office was clean and well-managed and she could see a door leading out back to the auto repair section, but she decided to wait. She walked up to the front desk and brushed her hair out of her face and pulled her aviators off, her eyes locked on the door, as she could hear footsteps approaching. 
"Hi" Said a male voice as he stepped through from the back. He was wearing a blue mechanics jumpsuit stained with engine oil, and had a baseball cap on his head facing backwards. He was tall and skinny, and his hair was dark, long, curly and untamed, and looked a little ridiculous sticking out from under his cap. "Welcome to Archer Auto Repair. I'm Danny. If you've got an appointment Justin's on his break right now but he'll be back in an hour. Or is there something I can help you with?"
"Hi Danny, i'm Rose, do you sell cars as well as fix them?" She asked, smiling, "Only, i'm new in town and I need one for myself and my younger brother." 
"Oh, right." Danny said with a nod. "Well I'm just an apprentice, actually." He said, and his awkward shrug showed that he was acutely aware of how odd it was for an apprentice to be about 30. "We do loaners, and we've got a couple of used but the selection is quite small. My boss needs to sign off on them though. Can you hang on?"
"Sure, go ahead." Rose nodded, and turned to look around the shop while she waited. 

Danny went back in to the back area. "Yo, Curtis!" He yelled, "There's a hot girl up front who wants to buy a car!" There was a long pause after that, and the sound of someone else talking quietly. Then footsteps drew closer again and another man emerged from the back. He was in his early thirties, dressed in blue jeans and a black T-shirt, and a pair of brown boots. He had a refined, muscular physique and carried himself confidently. His dark brown hair was down to his shoulders, straight but a little shaggy at the ends, and he had a thick dark stubble. His hazel eyes locked on Rose, and there was a wariness about his expression. 
"Good day, Miss." He said as he approached the desk. "Name's Curtis Archer. My tactless friend tells me you're here to buy a car, is that right?"
"That's alright," Rose replied with a lop-sided smile, "So, I need a couple of cars. Think you can hook me up? My name's Rose, by the way," She held out her hand for Curtis to shake.
Curtis took her hand without hesitation, but relinquished it quite quickly. "Follow me." He said and he pulled up the partition that led behind the desk. He led Rose in to the garage, where several cars were waiting for their service. Danny and another man were busy working on one but Curtis led her outside through another door, to an outdoor lot in the back. "Anything in particular you're looking for?" He asked. "We've got a limited stock right now, but I can narrow it down for you."

Rose's gaze glanced over a number of cars and then drifted back to Curtis, "Well, i'd like something sporty for myself, money isn't a big issue. Something for the kid, too. Nothing too pricey, if he wants something like that he can work for it himself." She flashed Curtis a toothy grin.
"We don't get a lot of high end vehicles." Curtis said. "We've got a blue MX-5 if you're looking for a convertible. Or there's a silver Mercedes SLK we just got in. As for the kid, well, we've got a whole assortment of cheap cars to be honest. There's a Wrangler in the back. Jeep's a good choice in this neck of the woods."
"Yeah, that SLK convertible will do nicely, and whatever gives good mileage in the four-wheeler category is fine." Rose took a deep breath and looked around, "Nice place, wasn't here when I was round this way last. Towns gone from strength to strength, nice to see." Rose smiled and looked around Curtis' establishment with a keen eye.
"You might want to be careful who you say that to." Curtis said. "My grandfather opened this shop. It's been here for 45 years. Either that or you better consider dying your hair grey and investing in some liver spots."
Rose outright laughed and licked the inside of her cheek, "Yeah, well," She chuckled again, still caught with the idea of passing herself off as a senior, "I'll be sure and do that. Though, it wasn't something I had to keep from you now, was it?" Her smile softened as she pulled out her wallet, "So, i'll take both those cars." She held out a credit card.

"Right." Curtis said, and he took the card from her. "I'll need you to sign off a few forms, and then I'll get you the keys." He led her back in to the garage and in to a small office room that was filled with filing cabinets, and computer and printer. He sat down at the desk and typed away at the computer for a minute. "I'll need some I.D and your current address."
"Oh, here," Rose held out her driver's license, "The house is called Oak Place." She sat down in the chair opposite his desk and looked around the room, "So, a lot of people like us come through this town, then?" She asked, twiddling her thumbs.
Curtis took the I.D and checked it, then went back to typing on the computer. "Like us? Sometimes. Like you? Not so much. About 8 years ago there was one who lived here. Not a happy time, to say the least." A couple of pages came off the printer and he picked them up and placed them on the desk and handed rose a pen. "Sign here."
Rose signed the papers after checking them and handed them back, "Well, I can't speak for others of my race, but we won't have any issues."
"He said the same thing." Curtis replied. He got up and picked up two sets of keys from hooks on the wall behind him and handed them to Rose. "Look, Miss Walker. The two guys out there, they know about our world, but I don't like to involve them. Regardless you can speak freely here. I don't like beating around the bush. If you drive out of here today and I never see you again, then that will be that. But clearly you know what this place is, and you know that it's protected. You may not want trouble, but trouble has a way of finding your kind. Keep it out of my sight, and we won't have a problem."

"If trouble finds me, that doesn't make it my fault. I'll try not to seek it out, though." Rose took the two sets of keys and jingled them in her palm, "I'm as much a guardian of this town as your clan might be. I'm glad you're here..." She paused for a moment, content to sit in silence for a while. "Have you ever heard the old tales of what connects us?"
"Yes." Curtis said. "I don't much care, to be honest. The past is the past. I've had enough of sacred bonds and curses and senseless, age-long feuds to last me my short lifetime. You're the second vampire I've met that has been keen to inform me of what is and isn't their fault. I don't care about blame, I never blamed him, and I'm not blaming you. I don't care about you, or your life. The people in this town are what matters, and they don't need another guardian. Just keep your head down, there's nothing more to discuss than that."
"Alright. I'll skip the history lesson then, and give you the facts." Rose nodded, taking a deep breath as she reigned in her frustration, "I live here, Curtis. I have a great many reasons to protect it, as much as or maybe even more than you. I'm a reasonable person, but nobody dictates to me what I can and cannot do." She stood up and pocketed the keys, "Oh and one last thing," She jerked her head back towards the front room, "I can hear someone opening your till." 
"Hm, that's too bad." Curtis said. "Because I just heard my cousin's truck pull up." There was a sudden loud crash, followed by the sound of someone yelling angrily. Curtis left the office and made his way to the front desk again. An equally broad shouldered man in ages with Curtis, who had short, blonde hair, was currently holding someone by the scruff of their shirt, up against the wall. 
"Can't even mind the place for an hour while I have my lunch, eh Curtis?" Justin said, but his eyes were locked on the thief. "Not a bright kid, are you? How many of our customers do you think actually pay in cash these days, hm?"

"I don't know what you're talking about!" The young girl growled. She had a clear Japanese heritage, speaking with a slight accent, implying she had likely come to America within the last few years. She was petite and attractive, with dark-brown almond-shaped eyes and long straight hair, but her face had a severity to it. She was dressed in black with a hooded coat and fingerless gloves. Her clothes looked a little tatty and she looked a little under-fed, although that wasn't abnormal for a lot of teenage girls.
"Let me go, you big freak!" She yelled, kicking and punching the large man that held her against the wall. Rose followed Curtis through to the front room and went for the exit.
"Hey!" The girl yelled, "They're--"
"Don't even try." Rose laughed, and glanced back at Curtis one last time before leaving them with the girl.

"If you don't let go of me, i'm gonna scream..." She hissed.
"Let her go." Curtis said. Justin sighed but released his grip without question, and the girl fell to the floor. Curtis crossed his arms over his chest. "Got something to say?" Curtis asked, folding his arms over his chest. "Like, oh, I don't know... sorry, perhaps?"
"Yeah," She nodded at Curtis, then turned her attention to Justin, "You got lucky." She added sassily, a triumphant grin appearing on her face. Then she pushed past Justin and made for the door, as her back hit the door and started to push it open, she flashed Justin the double bird and then left.
"Kid's got an attitude." Justin growled. "Should've taught her a lesson, it's clear her parents don't."
"It's not our place to discipline someone else's kid." Curtis said. "Besides...did you get a look at her? Looked like she's been sleeping rough."
"I'd throw her out on her ass too if she was my kid." Justin said, shaking his head. "I mean, seriously? No excuse for being a thief."
"You've been on a students gym membership since you were 18. And you dropped out of college after three months. That's technically theft as well."
"That's not the same and you know it." Justin replied. "Anyway, more importantly, you going to tell me who that vampire chick was? Hm?"
"A customer." Curtis replied. 
"Uhuh..." Justin said with a nod. "...hot, though. Easier to look at than Lex, at least."
"Shut up, idiot." Curtis said and he punched Justin in the arm. "Put that libido to good use and get yourself a wife for crying out loud. Can't turn a vampire, that ship has sailed for them."
"Yeah, look who's talking." Justin said with a grin. "Mister six year dry spell."
"Get back to work." Curtis said rolling his eyes. He shoved Justin and the pair went back in to the garage.

The young girl turned a corner and disappeared into an alley and pulled out a couple of crumbled notes and some change. It came to less than five dollars. She sighed and held the money in her hand for a few moments, considering it, and then pocketed it once more and walked down the alley through to the other side. She walked with her hood up and her head down until she walked into a sandwich shop and asked for a couple of sandwiches. The moment the clerk turned his back, she pocketed a couple of iced buns and tried to lean over the counter to the till, but she couldn't make it before he turned back. 
"That's uh, let's see... call it four dollars." The old man rang it through and she reluctantly handed over the money, before taking everything and leaving quickly before he noticed anything was amiss. She walked back down the alleyway she'd come, and then turned to a length of wire mesh fencing and found a gap underneath it. She squeezed through and found herself on the grounds of an old abandoned lumber mill. She quickly ran inside and as she went through the shadow-soaked mill, a couple dozen footsteps joined her. She kept walking, making her way to the far end where there was an old mattress and a barrel producing a warm orange light. Looking into the barrel, she realised the fire was almost out, and added a couple of small logs and then threw herself onto the mattress with a sigh, and pulled out the food. 

The figures that had followed her through the mill waited patiently, watching, their eyes peering at her from the shadows. She pulled out one of the iced buns and gripped it with her mouth while she opened both packets of sandwiches. "Okay!" She called, and then suddenly a half dozen dogs burst forwards from the shadows and swamped her. She laughed and collapsed as a large German shepherd knocked her to the mattress, "Easy, easy!" She screamed with laughter, and pushed the shepherd away as it licked her. "Here, alright, it's not much..." She gave each of the dogs half a sandwich, and then finished off her bun and put the other one up out of the way of the dogs on a table. The dogs finished the food in a matter of seconds and crowded around her. There was the large German shepherd, a couple of small mutts, a cross-eyed pug and an old golden retriever.
"Look after 'em, Austin." She scratched the shepherd under the chin and then addressed the others. "Columbus, go lie down. You need a rest." And the old retriever dutifully obeyed. "Dallas, Houston, sit." Both the mutts obeyed after playing with each other for a moment. "Stay. Good boys..." She turned her attention to the cross-eyed pug, "Boston?" The pug turned it's attention on her, it's little tongue sticking out one corner of it's closed mouth, "Stay beautiful." She clicked her fingers at the dog and it stared blankly back at her, letting out a short burp a moment after. "I'll see what else I can get..." Then she left.

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Shaun had walked about a mile along a road through the forest, with barely a building in sight. He noted that not many cars were driving along the road, but he supposed that was just the kind of town Darkpine was. After a while he finally spotted a dirty old posted sign that was covered in moss. He wiped some of it away to reveal a wood burned etching that read: 'Oak Place'. There was a gravel path leading in to the forest and he followed it until he reached a short, wide gate. He hopped over it and kept walking up the gravel path until he finally found himself outside an old house. The wood had been white at some point, but was badly in need of a paint job. He walked up the two steps on to the porch, where there was a little bench that faced out in to the garden. He retrieved the key from his pocket and put it in the door's lock, and opened it up. 

Inside the house looked quite different. The cleaners had clearly kept the place in good condition. The hardwood floors were spotless, and every shelf and counter was clean and dust free. He walked down the hall and turned right in to what looked like a large study. The back wall was a giant book case, and every inch of it was filled with old books. There was an armchair and a two seated sofa nearby, and an old oak desk in the corner. The other side of the room had one of those built-in benches under the window, so that people could sit and look outside. Curtis left the room and entered the one on the opposite side of the hallway. This room had two sofas and an armchair, all sat around a coffee table. There was a large fireplace, with some ornaments sitting above it. The walls were decorated with paintings that looked old and quite expensive, and in the corner was an old record player, with a large chest next to it. 

Shaun went over and opened the chest, to find it filled with a bunch of old records. Lots of music from the 40's, right through to the 80's. Despite their age, the records looked unused, like they had only been put here for the sake of appearances. Perhaps this was the case, since Rose had claimed she hadn't been here in two centuries. He closed the lid of the chest and went further in to the house. The back of the house was a large kitchen and dining room area, and a door that led to the back garden. Upstairs there was a bathroom, three bedrooms, the master bedroom having it's own en suite. Rose's room, of course. He left and went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. Fortunately the plumbing all seemed to be working. He stripped down and got in to the shower, and let out a sigh of relief. 

He hadn't showered properly in days now. Finally cleaning off all the dirt and grease felt rejuvenating. All the stress he was feeling was washed away along with everything else. Well, almost everything. As the stress of everything else was relieved, his hunger became a more primary irritation. He turned the hot water off and gasped at the sudden change in temperature, but it was necessary. His skin was starting to feel hot and prickly, and even in the cold water he could still feel it nipping at him, like tiny little mosquito bites. After ten minutes or so he got out of the shower and wrapped himself in a towel. He considered putting his clothes back on, but he'd been wearing them for days, and so he picked them up and took them downstairs. He found the washing machine and put them in, and fortunately there was some washing detergent nearby. He put them on a quick rinse and then went back to the study and sat down on the armchair. He closed his eyes for a moment, and almost felt like he could go to sleep for while. But every time he began to drift off, the prickling need roused him like someone was occasionally jabbing him with a hot poker. Hopefully Rose would return soon. 

 


Not an hour or so after Rose had left, Curtis Archer heard a knock at the door of his office. "Come in." He said. The door opened and a woman in her early 40's came in. She was attractive, with dirty blonde hair that fell down her shoulder, and a wild grin on her face. "Hey, kiddo." She said with a smile. 
"Hey Claire." Curtis replied. Claire was his aunt, the wife of his uncle Dominic. While she wasn't a great deal older than him, she had a habit of calling him 'kiddo'. "Dom with you?" Curtis asked. 
"Just clearing up a few things, he'll be in shortly." She said. "How's things?"
"Same old, same old." Curtis replied. "What about you? How's the kids?"
"Elijah's doing fine." Claire said, "and Jonah is...well he's 13 so you know how that is?"

"Moody, quiet and prone to temper tantrums?" Curtis asked. 
"Yup." Claire said with a smile. "He's getting very hot tempered lately. I'd say he's got about another year."
"14?" Curtis said. "That's way too early. The change didn't hit me until I was 16."
"A mother knows, dear." Claire said. "Anyway I'll leave you be for now, oh, here's Dominic now." Claire left, and Dominic took her place in the door of the office. He was a dark haired man with tanned skin and tired but gentle eyes. 

"Come in, close the door." Curtis said. Dominic did, and then leaned against one of the filing cabinets. 
"How are you doing, Curtis?" He asked. 
"Pretty good." Curtis said. "Sold a couple of cars today. Full amount in advance."
"Really?" Dominic said. "Didn't know we had any high rollers in town."
"Vampire." Curtis said. "Gotta be a fair age to be throwing money around like that, too."

"Should I be worried?" Dominic asked. 
"No." Curtis said. "At least I don't think so. She's a nice lady. Very...I can't describe it. Very vampire if you know what I mean."
"Oh, yeah." Dominic nodded. "Talk at you in that way your grandma does?"
"Yeah, kind of." Curtis said. "But she's harmless, I think." 
"Well, if you're sure." Dominic said. "Anything else I should know?"

"Nah." Curtis said. "It's been pretty quiet otherwise. Oh, some homeless girl tried to steal cash out of the register, but Justin stopped her."
"Homeless?" Dominic said. "Don't get a lot of homeless people here. That's kind of odd."
"Mm, she's young." Curtis said. "Runaway perhaps, or she got kicked out."
"Damn..." Dominic sighed. "What kind of parent does that?"
"A shitty one." Curtis said. "Feel bad for the girl, really. Hope she doesn't get in to any more trouble."

"Hm, yeah I hope so too." Dominic said. "Anyway I need to get going. Need to feed the kids."
"Okay, Dom." Curtis said with a nod. "I'll see you in a couple of days."
"Ah, yes." Dominic said. "Full Moon, my favorite time of the month."
"Just don't forget the beer this time." Curtis said. "You know how much of a bitch Justin is without alcohol to calm him down."
"Total bitch." Dominic said with a grin. "Don't worry, I won't forget." And then he left and Curtis got back to work. 

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It didn't take long to get the cars back to the house. After parking her car in the driveway, she took a leisurely stroll back into town, enjoying the scenery as she went. She picked up Shaun's car and drove back, and all in the space of less than a half hour. Rose opened the front door to her old home, Rose walked in and took a deep breath, smelling the air. She smiled to herself and then let out the air with a sigh and closed the door behind her. She could hear movement inside and knew Shaun was about, but she also knew he would have heard her open the door. After all, she wasn't trying to hide from him. She put her coat to one side and walked into her study. She noticed Shaun sat in her armchair in nothing but a towel, then she looked at the wall of books laid out before her. Her eyes scanned over them and she picked one out. It was more a personal favourite, than a classic. A novel called Shogun, by James Clavell. Historical fiction. Strangely, one of her favourite genres, despite working to further the advancement of factual historical information.

"So, thinking of putting some clothes on?" Rose asked, opening her book. Then she started to walk towards the nearest wall, as she reached it, she put one foot out and touched it to the wall and began walking up it horizontally, then she reached the ceiling, and walked across it until at last she sat down upon it and continued to read.
"I..." Shaun paused with his mouth slightly agape for a moment. "I... uh... can I do that?"
"Eventually. Give or take a few hundred years." Rose replied, turning a page. "I think the first time I was able to control my centre of gravity was around the 80's."
"Which 80's?" Shaun said, rolling his eyes.
"The only one that mattered, obviously." Rose shook her head, turning another page and letting out a wistful sigh, "The 1880's." 

"Right." Shaun said. "So, speaking of clothes, I might be able to put some on if you actually brought any with you? If you'll recall my clothes are in an overnight bag, in the back of your mini.... four states away."
"Duffel bag in the hall," Rose replied, her eyes not leaving her book. "Oh, I got you a car..." She muttered, semi-distracted.
"Really?" Shaun said, brightening up a little. "Where is it?"
"On the moon," Rose replied sarcastically, pulling the keys from her back pocket. "Where do you think it is?" She threw the keys to Shaun.
Shaun grabbed the keys and got up from the chair quickly. He went for the door, but stopped short of it and backed off down the haul and grabbed the duffle bag. He took a moment to change in to a fresh pair of jeans and a slim fitted grey hooded sweater. He went back to the door and opened it, and he marvelled at the silver Mercedes sitting in the driveway. "Are you kidding me!?" He yelled back in to the house. "You bought me a merc!?"

Rose bookmarked her page and pushed off from the ceiling and she drifted down to the bottom, and with a soft tap she landed on the floor. Putting her book to one side, she walked outside and studied the Mercedes for a moment, then smiled at Shaun. "Just let me..." She leant forwards and grabbed his head between her hands and gently redirected it a little to the right. "There." 
Shaun looked at the other car, further back in the driveway. The blue Jeep Wrangler might not have looked like much to most people, but Shaun stepped out in to the garden and walked towards it. He ran his hand over the hood and inspected the interior, and then he turned to Rose with a smile on his face. "This is.... so cool!" He said, grinning from ear to ear. "Thank you... like, seriously. Thank you so much."

"Well you can make it up to me by behaving yourself." Rose replied with a frustrated sigh, "I probably could have told you this sooner, but Darkpine is something of a magnet for the supernatural. A witch once told me why, but it was so long ago, I don't entirely remember..." She trailed off for a moment, lost in thought, "Anyway, there's a pack of werewolves in town, and despite what the movies say, we don't really have any issues with werewolves, as a whole. That being said, the alpha seemed to have a problem with vampires, it happens, so don't go doing anything you shouldn't. In general. Anywhere." She paused, trying to think, "At all. Ever." She pointed an accusing finger at him.
"What do you mean by that?" Shaun asked, "I mean I've never so much as- wait, werewolves are real too!?"
"Among other things." Rose muttered, a touch of annoyance in her tone. "But that's not important. What is important is that you behave yourself. I'm not saying you don't, i'm just saying you have to, because you're my responsibility."

"Right, I get what you mean." Shaun said. "But I wasn't exactly planning to kill people or, I dunno, steal or something. I mean clearly I don't need to worry about finances. What else is there? Like, do these werewolves have a freaking rulebook or something?"
"You're better off avoiding them, is all." Rose replied, and walked back inside the house, "I'd be happy for you to interact with them, enthusiastic, even. However, their alpha has a chip on his shoulder about vampires, and i'd like to avoid worsening that if possible. I'll be honest, werewolves and vampires are considered pretty close, at least for us. Its frustrating and upsetting that I can't open a line of dialogue with him..." Rose rubbed her temples and then shook it off, "So, what do you think of the house?"
"It's nice." Shaun said. "Guess those cleaners really earned their pay."
"I guess so..." Rose muttered, looking around with a frown on her face.
"What's the matter?" Shaun asked.
"I don't know..." Rose continued looking for a few moments, "I mean, I just thought there'd be more... I sent a lot of boxes and I don't see a whole lot of clutter."
"Well they are cleaners." Shaun said. "It's kind of their job to avoid clutter. Maybe they put most of your stuff in the attic?"
"Right..." Rose nodded, that made a lot of sense. She shook her head, it wasn't important right now.

"How are you feeling?" Rose asked, looking him up and down, "You look like you could use a meal."
Shaun shifted uncomfortably. "Starving, actually." He said. "I...I thought I should wait for you. Sorry...I know you want me to do this on my own I just thought I better not, you know...it's a new place, I was worried I'd get caught."
"If you really don't feel comfortable, Shaun, it's alright. You've been through a lot, i've seen a lot of fledglings over the years," She reached into her back pocket and pulled out her keys, "You've nothing to be ashamed of." She walked into the hall and put the keys on the table in front of the front door, "I'm going to get a shower, can you keep an eye out for the cleaner? I'm going to have a word with them once they're done with the house. After they're through, we can get something to eat."

"Well, she'd be too tired to clean if we did it before, and too sweaty and covered in dirt after. I'm not keen on either of those situations to be honest." Rose laughed, "Just hold on alright?" She smiled at him and then started up the stairs. Rose got into the shower, and sure enough, within a couple of minutes, she heard the doorbell ring. "Can you get that, Shaun?" She called down to him, letting the hot water run over her head. She wasn't getting out of the shower for anything right now.
"Just a minute!" Shaun called. He was in the study, reading one of Rose's books - 1984 by George Orwell. He figured he'd enjoyed Animal Farm, so why not try another by the same author. He put the book down and made his way to the door and opened it.

"Oh, okay..." The girl looked at Shaun with mild surprise, yet indifference, "Thought you'd be a bit older, and, y'know... a woman." She picked up a bucket full of cleaning supplies and raised her eyebrow at him, "Well, are you going to let me in?" She asked, speaking with a slight accent. The girl was around the same age as Shaun, maybe a little younger. She had long, dark brown hair and pretty dark-brown almond-shaped eyes, a sign of her Japanese ancestry. Her skin was slightly tan, and though her face had a severity to it, she was very pretty. She zipped up her tattered black hoodie over her plain black t-shirt and then pushed past Shaun.
"You're the cleaner?" Shaun asked, raising his brow. "...you don't look like a cleaner."
"You don't look like a woman, but, y'know," She shrugged, and then placed the bucket on the table and looked around the house, "Y'know, i've never seen the owner before, who are you, his daughter?" She turned around and stuck a piece of bubblegum in her mouth and started chewing.

"Actually, she is my sister, and she's upstairs." Shaun replied. "So... uniform in the wash or something?" He said, eyeing her tattered clothes. "Or did you just mug a homeless person on the way here?"
"Sure, I put my uniform in the wash, and mugged a homeless person on the way over." She replied with a deadpan voice. She walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge, pulling out a half-eaten loaf of bread. Placing her gum on the kitchen counter, she pulled out a chunk of the bread's interior and ate it like she was eating from a bowl of popcorn. Then she sat on one of the stools in front of the kitchen counter and studied Shaun, "Never seen you before. You're not from around here, then." She stuffed another bite of bread into her mouth.

Shaun followed her, his brow furrowed into a frown. "Yeah, probably a good idea." Shaun said. "She wants to speak with you anyway." He walked further in to the kitchen and leaned on the counter, staring out of the back window. After a moment he turned, and glanced at her briefly. He could hear her heartbeat, slow and steady, completely unafraid. He thought to himself that this was a good thing, because frightened prey runs. Then he thought about how disturbing that previous thought was. The prickling on his skin was becoming quite intense.
"You're weird." She muttered, frowning. She couldn't quite tell why, but something was really 'off' about this boy.
"Someone sure likes to get their opinions out." Shaun said, rolling his eyes, but he kept facing the window. He wondered how fast she was. Did it even matter? If what Rose had told him was true, then he should be more than fast enough. Stronger? Most definitely, he thought. He shook his head and kept staring out of the window. But it did little good. He could hear the bread being ground by her teeth, her heart beating, every subtle little gesture or fidget that she made. Not looking only made his other senses more prominent. He wondered why he was even worrying about it. It's not like he would hurt her. She wouldn't even remember, and he'd certainly feel better. 
"Hey... there was an envelope on the table by the bookcase, in the other room." He said, feeling strangely confident in his lie. "Maybe that's your pay cheque."

"Oh, okay." She hopped off the stool and blew a large bubble, popping it with her tongue. She walked into the next room and looked around, then spotted the only table in the room and walked over. There was a lot of things on the table, and her eyes scanned back and forth over it. After a moment, she started moving newspapers and records and a bunch of other things she considered a load of old rubbish. "Where?!" She called back over her shoulder, "I don't see anything!!" She let out a long, audible sigh as she rooted around.
"Hang on." Shaun said, walking in to the room and standing next to her, scanning the room with his eyes. A quick movement, that was all it would take. "I swear I saw it here somewhere. Sometimes stuff falls under the armchair, can you have a quick look?" He asked, trying to sound as casual as possible.
"Why would you even--" She began to complain, but she wanted to be out of here before the owner came down. She got down on her knees, and pushed her hand under the armchair and started to feel around, "Ugh, it's all dusty under here..." She groaned, feeling blindly.

Shaun bit back the urge to point out the irony of the girl's comment. At that point all that mattered was his need. He began to lean down over her, ready to yank her up close, and breath on her, so he could feed. He reached out with his hand, but just as he was about to grab her, he felt a quick but sharp pain in his mouth. He stepped back, and he went to touch his mouth, but then he caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the window. His mouth was filled with a set of razor sharp fangs. Without another word, he fled the room quietly, and turned to go up the stairs, only to see Rose coming down them.
Casually, Rose walked down the stairs and raised an eyebrow at Shaun, "So, we had a conversation, just minutes before, in which you assured me that you were going to behave yourself," She whispered to him in a harsh tone.
"I..." Shaun said, but then he just hung his head in shame. "...I'm sorry. I just...I'm hungry and...and then this..." He pointed at his fangs. "It just happened."
"Well, you wouldn't be the first vampire to say that... or boy." She chuckled to herself and then held his chin up with her fingers and studied his mouth for a moment, "Yeah, they're all set. Just relax the muscles in your jaw." She sighed and looked over his shoulder at the girl currently searching under the armchair.

Shaun nodded nervously and then took a deep breath. He tried to relax, letting the tension fall away from his jaw. After a brief moment his fangs receded as quickly as they had appeared. He let out a sigh of relief, and looked down at his feet. "...Thank you." He said quietly.
"Mm-hm," Rose nodded, and as she passed him, she gave Shaun a light slap on the back of his head. Rose walked into the room and cleared her throat so that the girl would hear her enter. She pulled herself up off the floor, dusting off her jeans and turned around. "Why the hell are you in my house?!" Rose growled, "She's not the cleaner, Shaun." 
"Yes I am!" The girl argued.
"No, you're the little degenerate that stole from the mechanic." Rose turned and started to leave, "Changed my mind, go ahead." She muttered to Shaun.
"Hey!" The girl chased after Rose, "I started coming here when the last cleaner left, if it wasn't for me this place--"
"--wait." Rose frowned but then suddenly her expression shifted as realisation dawned, "You've been stealing from me, that's why there aren't any boxes out!" The young girl huffed and made an indignant 'how could you say that' face, but then a second later, she bolted for the door.

When the girl ran something instinctual flared up in his mind. His impulse to give chase sent him moving before he could think. She was in front of him when he started running, but he closed in on her as she got her hand on the door handle, and just as she pulled it open he reached her and slammed the door shut again, holding his hand firmly against the door.
"Shaun..." Rose cautioned, walking up to them.
"What?!" The girl mouthed off, "You gonna call the cops on me? You don't have any proof I took anything, so what?" She stood there defiant. Despite the situation, Rose grinned. She could feel the girl's heartbeat had barely changed. She wasn't afraid in the least. In fact, she was convinced that if Shaun as much as touched her, that she'd likely bite and claw like a wildcat.
"Rose..." Shaun said in a very controlled and measured tone that suggested he was trying his hardest to restrain himself. "...make a decision...quickly, please." Rose walked up to the girl, kept her gaze for a few seconds, then stepped back, forcing Shaun to take a step out of the way. Then she opened the door. For a few fleeting seconds, the girl wasn't sure what had just happened, but then she smirked and ran off. Rose closed the door behind her and let out a long sigh.

"What the hell was that about?" Shaun asked, holding his hands up in disbelief. Then he shook his head and dropped his arms again. "Forget it, I don't even care." He said as he walked away from the door. "I want to go lie down. I don't feel so good." Rose grabbed him by the collar to stop him leaving.
"No, you need to eat, come on, we're gonna find a bar." Rose pulled him around and patted him on the back, "You ever heard the phrase 'Don't shit where you eat'?" She smirked with a tired expression, "Well its a little like that." Then she picked up her car keys and they stepped outside. Rose locked the door behind them and together they left to find a meal ticket.

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The Old Major was the bar of choice for Darkpine's working class. Unlike the plethora of preppy student bars that had popped up as the local College's popularity grew, the Old Major had been around for 3 generations. It was small, and furnished with a warm timber finish, it's walls decorated with old photographs, neon beer logos, a stuffed stag's head and various other oddities. Three older men sat on stools at the bar, nursing their drinks and watching a football game on the small television behind the bar. A few groups were sat at the tables, and three men still dressed in their overalls were playing pool, talking quietly among themselves. When Shaun entered the bar he received little more than a few cursory glances before people went back to their business, entirely disinterested in him. When Rose entered behind him, a few of the male patrons started paying closer attention, but once again went back to their drinks, but continued glancing over at her when they thought she wasn't looking. 

"Nice little dive bar you picked..." Shaun muttered under his breath to Rose. 
"Where did you picture us going when I said we were going to a bar?" Rose smirked, "Why don't you get a feel for the room, and pick someone out, while I order a drink." Then Rose left and walked up to the bar counter. "Hi, can I get a sweet sherry, please."
The barman looked her over and held his hand out, "I.D. Miss?" 
"Oh, right." Rose shook her head, getting a little embarrassed. She started to take out her wallet when the man next to her cleared his throat. He had a large beer belly, was in his fifties and had a beard that had seen better days. 
"What you need that'fer, when you're so sweet already." He grinned at Rose, showcasing a missing front tooth.
"Well you have to admire moxie - and one for him." She put the money on the counter and watched Shaun in silence, thanking the barman for the small glass of sherry, she discreetly pierced her thumb and let a few drops of blood into her glass, giving the drink a pink hue. Then licked her thumb to heal it and took a sip, waiting for Shaun to return to her.

After a brief survey of the bar Shaun went over to Rose and sat on a stool by the bar. "So." He said quietly. "The guys over at the pool table. Their eyes are glazed, and they aren't sweating very much. That's uh...dehydration, right? I remember learning that in school. So I'm guessing they're pretty far gone. Easy pickings, probably, but safe? I guess not." He turned his gaze to a couple who looked to be in their 30's who were sitting at a table chatting with each other over drinks and a bowl of fries. 
"They're basically sober." He said. "The guy smells...sick. I can't quite explain that."

"If they're dehydrated, it's probably because of alcohol. Better to leave them be. And yes, he's sick. A lot of human disease won't transfer, but if he's compromised it would be better to leave him be." Rose opened her mouth to say something further but was forced to stop when a man walked up to the bar right next to her and ordered a pint. He took one look at Rose, then glanced at Shaun, and his eyes lingered. He was tall and slim, with short dark-brown hair, wire-frame glasses and a scar that ran vertically through his lips, though he was otherwise a handsome man in his early thirties.
"Are you old enough to drink?" He had a deep voice, but his tone was more curious than accusatory.
"Do you see a drink in my hand?" Shaun replied sarcastically, holding his empty hands up and wiggling his fingers.

"You should respect your elders." The man replied with a smirk.
"You should respect anyone, provided they earn it." Shaun replied, rolling his eyes. 
"I like this one." The man replied, nodding and pointing at Rose.
"Do you want him?" Rose grinned and then they both erupted into laughter and hugged one another.
"Think I might have missed something here..." Shaun said, folding his arms. "But hey, I'm just property, apparently, so what do I know." He frowned at Rose. 

"Oh cheer up, would you." Rose muttered. 
"Give the kid a break." He patted Rose on the shoulder and extended his hand, "My name's Jacob, by the way. As you can probably tell, Rose is an old friend." Shaun took his hand, and frowned slightly as he felt a small glass vial in the space between their hands. When Jacob removed his hand he left the vial in Shaun's, who quickly pocketed it. 
"Sure, nice to meet you." Shaun said. "I'm...I'm Shaun. When you say old friend...just how old would that be?"
"Uh, well, i'm thirty-four, as you ask." Jacob raised an eyebrow with an amused grin.
"Not exactly what I meant." Shaun said. "So...I take it you didn't just happen to be in the neighborhood, then."

"He's thirty-four." Rose repeated, chuckling as she took a sip of sherry.
"I'm not..." Jacob frowned with a smile as he searched for a discreet word, "I'm not like you guys. This face," He indicated it, "Ain't gonna be pretty forever." 
"I've known Jacob since he was a baby." Rose explained, "I've known a great many of his family over the years, actually. No, it wasn't a chance encounter, I wanted you to meet him, because he's the President of Darkpine Valley college, and I wanted to get you enrolled." 
"It's a tough job." Jacob mused.
"No, it's not." Rose laughed.
"No, not so much, no." Jacob admitted, joining her. "You should drink that, by the way, you're looking a little peaky." Jacob nodded at Shaun's pocket.

"Uh, right." Shaun said with a nod. He leaned on the counter and tried his best to casually down the contents of the vial without anyone noticing. When he was finished no one seemed to be staring at him in horror, so he assumed he must have succeeded in being discrete. Even the small dose had him feeling instantly better. He sighed a breath of relief and sat up straight again. "Wait..." He frowned. "Did you say enrol? Me!?"
"You." Rose nodded, her grin spreading from ear-to-ear. 
"Would you rather work?" Jacob looked to Rose, "Did you ask him what he wanted to do?" 
"I figured he could get a better education, while I put him through his paces. Seemed like a good idea at the time, and as we're here and you kind of owe me a dozen times over..." 
"Right..." Jacob nodded, "Well, Shaun?"

"I...are you kidding?" Shaun said, frowning. "I mean, I appreciate the offer but..." He turned to Rose. "I haven't even graduated High School. And you know how bad my grades were. How do you think I'm going to handle College?"
"Because you're not human." Rose put her drink to one side, "Because you've got a lot more free time on your hands. Because you have my support, and Jacob's, and because you no longer suffer from ADD." Rose picked her drink up, took a sip as though it were a little victory and then replaced it on the bar counter. "Good enough?"
"Look I might have a bit more focus but that doesn't mean I've turned in to a genius overnight." Shaun said, slumping over the bar. "I don't even know what I'd do. I wasn't any good at anything. Nothing interested me."
"Exactly. Past-tense." Rose downed the last of her sherry and focused on Shaun. "Nothing interested you, but you finished Animal Farm in hours. When I came home, you were already pouring over books. Did you ever do that before? Did you ever retain that knowledge?"
"You might find an interest in literature then?" Jacob nodded in agreement.

Shaun knew they were making good points, but he still didn't feel confident. "Neither of you get it, you're both old. You have no idea what it's like these days. Academics aside, do you know how hard it is to fit in? Even worse if you're a new kid. Plus school semesters started weeks ago. I'd already be behind on my work." Shaun stood up from his bar stool. "You know...I get you probably think this was a nice surprise, and I get it's a big gesture, really, I do. But you need to stop springing stuff on me in the moment! This isn't a fucking pop quiz, it's my life." He stormed out of the bar before Rose could say anything. When he got outside he didn't get very far before he stopped, and just sat down on the kerb of the street. He held his head in his hands, just trying to process everything. He felt like he hadn't slept in days, and really he hadn't all that much. Physically, he didn't need it, but mentally? He just wanted to curl up under a thick duvet and hide away for a few weeks. 

"Well..." Rose sighed.
"Come on, give him some time." Jacob smiled at her. "Don't you remember being like that?" 
"I don't remember..." Rose muttered.
"You can be a terrible liar sometimes." Jacob laughed and took a sip of his pint. "He's trying to understand a hundred things at once, and you're not making it easy on him."
"That's the life, Jacob. You know that." Rose growled at him.
"He's not there yet." Jacob patted her on the shoulder, "Look, i'm gonna stay for another, if he changes his mind, you can give me a call. You should go talk to him."
"Yeah I know, i'm just giving him a moment." Rose let out a long sigh, "How is everyone?" She turned to Jacob.
"They're fine, I imagine. It's not like i'm keeping track of everybody." 
"Now who's a bad liar?" Rose nodded to him, hugged him goodbye and stepped outside.

Shaun turned to look at Rose as she came out, but only shook his head and turned it away again, sitting in silence. 
"Hey," Rose said simply, and sat down beside him.
"...Hey." Shaun replied eventually. 
"Want to talk?" Rose asked, staring off into space.
"No." Shaun said. "I want to listen. We've been on the move since you dug me up but, well, we're here now. You keep telling me this is a hard life, so tell me about it. College, well, I'm sure I'll probably want to do that, at some point. Maybe even soon. But right now I want you to tell me everything I need to know. If...if those assholes come looking for us again, then I want to know how to deal with them. I don't want to be some scared kid you need to hide in the bathroom every time trouble comes our way."
Rose drew her legs up to her body and hugged them, "I'm sorry." She said sullenly, "Your inability to help is my fault, I wanted to protect you because you're so young, and I didn't know the extent of the abilities of our enemy. If you want to know everything you need to know, then let's find somewhere nicer to talk about it than on the curb. Because my backside is getting cold."

"Home, then." Shaun said, and he stood up. "Nobody will bother us there."
"That's a pleasant fiction." Rose replied, laughing. Then stood up and dusted herself off. "Y'know, there's one good thing that came from today..."
"And that is?" Shaun asked. 
"You called it 'home'." She smiled at Shaun and then pulled her car keys out and walked back to the car with a little skip in her step.

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The drive home was in silence. Usually, Rose was fine with silence. Relished it, even. But this evening was a different case. She pulled into their driveway, they got out and walked inside. It was only when Rose closed the door behind her and locked it that she felt a measure of peace settle over her. She took a deep breath - which she reminded herself she no longer needed to do, yet was satisfying all the same - and walked into the kitchen. She opened her jacket pocket and pulled out a dozen or so small vials of blood, placing them in the fridge behind the remnants of the food that the young thief had stashed.
"So, what do you want to know?" Rose said at last, then changed her mind and re-opened the fridge to pull one of the vials out. She took a sip and then held it between her fingers like the neck of a wine glass and collapsed into her chair in the main living room. 
"I don't know." Shaun said, as he took a seat opposite her. "You tell me. I don't even know enough about this life to know what questions to ask."

"Alright." Rose sat up in her chair, drained the vial of it's contents and placed it to one side and then focused on Shaun, "You wanted to know everything, so that's what you'll get." She thought for a long moment, considering what to first impart. The most important piece of information she could give him. "Vampires are just people, Shaun." She shrugged, smiling, "We're not bloodthirsty monsters, and-- well... we're not monsters. We have morals. Killing unnecessarily is wrong. Vampires have a code of ethics that we don't cross."
"Oh good, glad I'm not a monster, I was worried for a minute there." Shaun replied, rolling his eyes. "So I get it, vampires can be nice, I think I've gathered as much by now. So if we're all just stand up citizens, then why are we hunted? I'm not saying those guys are right, but I know that groups like that don't rise up against people who just have a little sip and move on quietly."

"Don't they?" Rose asked, frowning. "Do you think the innocent men and women of Salem deserved being drowned and hung? Some of them were witches, yes. But they were good people. They healed the sick, protected the town and saw to it that nobody would go hungry. Do you think they were to blame for their attackers?"
"Yeah, it's just the humans that are bad." Shaun said sarcastically. "I don't believe for a second that every vampire is a saint. Like I said, I'm not saying what these hunters do is right, but are you honestly telling me there aren't some vampires that deserve that?" Shaun shrugged. "If you're saying vampires are just people, then they have to share some of the blame, some of the responsibility, just like humans do. Maybe a lot of those witches were doing good, and..." Shaun stopped to hold his hand up, "We'll save the talk about witches being real for another time I think. But I'm pretty sure some of them were bad people too, just like anyone can be bad."

"You asked to know everything. So be patient." Rose shifted in her chair to alleviate her irritation, "Now, I never said that vampires weren't saints. No, I said most vampires are just like people. They have hopes and dreams, they suffer and they push on. Most." That word left her lips like it was rotten. "Hunters are a mixed bag, Shaun. Some are people who have been wronged and they take matters into their own hands when human laws fail them. You might think it understandable, I would even applaud them for having the bravery to do such a thing. But some of those hunters don't see the distinction. They simply want to kill all vampires. However..." Rose shifted in her chair once more, but this was more from her own discomfort on the subject at hand. "A number of them are turned to that way of life because of the Umbra."
"Ah, yeah, the Umbra." Shaun said, nodding enthusiastically. "Are you gonna elaborate on that there, teach?"
"I asked for your patience. I won't ask again!" Rose snapped uncharacteristically. After a long minute's silence, Rose straightened up in her chair and apologised, "I'm sorry, Shaun. But you have to understand something..." She thought for a moment, trying to draw a comparison. "Groups throughout history have tortured, maimed and killed... all because of their beliefs. They feel they are justified in doing so. They don't consider themselves to be morally wrong, unfair or unjust. They believe it is simply the way of things. The Umbra are vampires who believe that the act of feeding is sacred. That in killing someone during the process of feeding, they absorb a part of who that person was, and so they become stronger. They kill humans and vampires for any reason they see fit and there's nothing we can do to interfere. So I ask you to forgive me for my outburst, as this is a sore subject for most vampires."

"...Okay." Shaun said after a moment. "Maybe save the heavy topics for another time. Let's talk about something more close to home." He leaned forward in his chair. "Me and you. That's all that matters right? You said we're bound, because you made me. So what do we do, Rose? How can I make sure I'm doing the best thing to keep us safe and happy?"
Rose watched Shaun as he spoke, listening quietly and expressionlessly. She let out a long sigh when he asked her a question she felt like she could finally answer. Some of the tension in her shoulders left as she answered, "I'm going to do for you, what my Maker did for me." She paused, a grin spreading across her face, "I'm going to train you."
"Now we're talking." Shaun said with a soft smile. He leaned back in his chair. "So what first? You going to have me paint a fence and that'll somehow, inexplicably, make me a kung fu master?"

"I think we'll try for something a little more... direct." Rose stood up and walked towards the back of the house, "Come on!" She called, and slid open the glass back door which led out into a large garage. There were no cars, no tools or indeed anything that you might normally find in a garage. However, aligning every wall, there were hundreds of different weapons. From short swords, to pole-arms. Katanas to clubs. It was a veritable armoury of melee combat. Rose watched Shaun walk into the garage and grinned at his expression, then turned around and picked up a katana with a black sheath and then took a side door out into the back garden. The garden had a high fence, enough to keep nosy passers-by from peering in. "Well choose something, then." She walked out into the middle of the garden and turned back to face the house and waited.

Shaun examined the wall of deadly weapons and let out a short whistle. He'd never handled a weapon before, and he reached out to a few different ones, but hesitated each time. Weapons required training, and finesse to varied and entirely different degrees. He'd only seen katana wielded in TV shows and martial arts movies, and from what he knew of them, they were especially good at dismemberment. Fearing for his limbs, he opted for the long spear. He took it off the wall and carried it outside. 
"I thought you said these were our weapons." Shaun said as he wiggled his fingers to indicate his sharp claws.
"Vampires have an uncanny ability to adapt better than most other creatures. Maybe it's because we challenge ourselves constantly and weed out the weak of us..." Rose considered this for a moment, then held her katana horizontally in front of her, displaying it to Shaun, "Claws and fangs are weapons, of course. But they are used for duels between vampires, as a mark of honour. Or as a way to hinder yourself in a challenge that with a martial weapon you would overwhelm your opponents. However, I need to train you to win at any cost, with any weapon. Think of it less as weapons training, and more of endurance. You are going to fight me, and you are going to experience pain. Some vampires learn to manipulate their instincts and adapt to any weapon, any situation, in years. Some in months. Some learn in days. A few have even been born with it. I would like to see which bracket you fall under..." 

"I'm... suddenly not so sure about this." Shaun said a little nervously. "You sure you wouldn't rather I paint a fence?"
"Maybe later." Rose replied, walking towards him, "I want you to stop me from striking you. Don't worry, i'll keep the blade sheathed. Remember that a blade should never be drawn from it's sheath unless you intend to use it. If a vampire sees you draw a blade on them, they will kill you. There will be no discussion, no misunderstanding and apology. You will be dead. Now guard yourself!" Rose took a sudden step forwards, closing the gap between them dramatically. She raised her sheathed katana and brought it down towards Shaun's shoulder.
Shaun had barely made a move by the time Rose's saya connected with his shoulder. As she drew it back he backed off, pacing with his jaw tightened as he fought the pain pulsing through his arm and upper chest from the point where she had struck him. "Son of a..." He growled through clenched teeth as he flexed his shoulder, moving it to ease away the pain. "All right.... all right." He said as he continued pacing. "All right.... again." He said finally, and nodded at Rose.

"Traditionally, a saya is made from wood." Rose held up the weapon and rested it on her shoulder, "But this one is made from metal. So you might want to be a little faster there, kiddo. Broken bones take more than a few seconds to heal." With that, she darted forwards a second time and jabbed forwards so quickly that she smashed the end of the katana into Shaun's stomach and then quickly brought the hilt up to uppercut him.
Shaun gasped reflexively as the first hit caught his stomach and he fought the urge to lean forward. The pain spread across his body, and it took every ounce of his will not to fall to his knees and double over in pain. Then something in the back of his head, something that operated above his pain, told him to move, no, it demanded that he move. His hands clenched the pole of the spear. He brought it up in front of him, holding it horizontally, and pushed out, connecting with Rose's katana and forcing it back, and he pushed himself away from her and his form changed to a wide footed crouch, as he swung the spear in his right hand so that it's length was at his back. He snarled and gnashed at the air, his fangs popping out with an audible 'snikt' sound. He let out a frustrated growl and unhinged his jaw, and the fangs disappeared again. "Again." He said angrily.
"I'm sure that looks scary to a human, Shaun. But to a vampire its simply telling me you're not in control." Rose studied Shaun for a few seconds, "Your opponent will be in control, will you?" She raised her katana once more, "Well come on then," She grinned, "If you're coming."
Shaun sprinted forward, swinging the spear in a wide arc back to his front, before gripping it in both hands and bringing it down from left to right in a diagonal slash at Rose's shoulder.

Shaun's training went on for several hours in silence until Rose twirled around and effortlessly deflected Shaun's next attack, striking him in the elbow as he passed her.
"Don't let your opponent dictate the flow of the battle." She said at last, breaking the silence, "Force them to make a move you can anticipate, and then you've won. Would you like to stop?" Rose asked, raising an eyebrow with a smile. She saw a number of nasty looking bruises that were slowly healing, but there were so many of them now that he was struggling to heal. He was coming to his limit. 
"Why?" Shaun asked, his voice trembling slightly. He was standing in a poised position, ready to move, but his posture was off, he was tiring. He looked at Rose, his eyes filled with fire, the only spark of life in his otherwise failing body. "Getting tired?" He said with a toothy grin. Rose lowered her sword and started walking back into the house. 
"Yeah, let's get a drink." Rose replied. She was content with how far she'd pushed him, yet a memory from her past reminded her that he would have disagreed. 

"Well, what'cha starin' at girl? Ah ain't done wit' yeh. Pick up yer blade."

Rose shook her head, shaking off the fog of her past. She opened the fridge and pulled out a couple of vials. "So, you wanted to know how we can be happy, Shaun." She handed him one of the vials and then sat back down in her chair, she seemed untouched by their training. "We have to fit in, become a part of the town, become valued. I might take a job... something that would give me a greater degree of freedom..." She mused on this for a while, "What about yourself? What would make you happy?"
"I don't even know any more." Shaun replied, opening the vial and draining it's contents ravenously. He licked his lips and sat down next to Rose. "The old me would have been happy with a car and a girlfriend." He said. "Well, I have the car, and the girlfriend thing doesn't seem quite so important any more. My mother organised my whole life, I had no idea where I wanted to go, or who I wanted to be." He shrugged his shoulders and inspected the bruises on his arms. "But a lot of stuff that didn't interest me before is interesting me now. Never thought I'd actually enjoy fighting, or books."

"That's just the start." Rose smirked, "But look, I know i've been hard on you, but you gotta bear with it. I'm pushing you and guiding you right now because I won't always be with you. Things happen, so you gotta look after yourself. But for now, you do as I say when I ask it, and i'll train you up right and soon enough, well..." Rose trailed off as a wry smile spread across her face, "Anyway, take another vial and drain it. You need to sort those out," She nodded at his bruises, "You're starting to look like an eggplant." Rose let her thoughts carry her away, as she drained her vial in one gulp. Eventually, she pulled herself out of her thoughts, she'd been absent-mindedly clicking her claw off the edge of the vial.
"Law enforcement..." She nodded to herself. "Yeah."

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Shaun was sat at a fixed desk in a large lecture theater. It had been a couple of days since he had trained with Rose. That night had been a welcome catharsis for him, and the next day he felt decidedly more calm about his situation. He agreed to attend college, and Rose made a few calls, and before he knew it he was enrolled in his junior year of the Bachelor of Arts English Literature major in Darkpine College. And so now he sat in the lecture theater for his first class, and stared down at the sheet of paper in front of him. It was a list of all his classes for the year. Introduction to Literature, Creative Writing, History of the English Language, Shakespeare, Medieval Literature, History of the English Novel, The American Novel, and the list just went on. Granted, these were lessons he would learn over the course of a few years, but it all seemed incredibly daunting to him. 

Being in a classroom environment again began to make him feel a little sick and anxious. A sea of faces were sat all around him, quietly chatting among each other, and yet despite being surrounded by people, he felt incredibly alone. He had read through the syllabus for this particular class and realized that he was already behind by three books. Reading a book a week seemed to be the standard, which he supposed seemed an easy thing for him to catch up on. After all, not requiring sleep made the days that much longer, and he had already burned through another two books the day before. When he had first received the syllabus he was also pleased to see that the vast majority of the books were already in Rose's bookshelf. 

He leaned back on his chair and sighed. Rose had taken him to get new clothes the day before. He was wearing a pair of black, skinny jeans and a pair of black, pointed toe boots, with a strap and silver buckle around the ankle. He also wore a long-sleeved T-shirt with black and white horizontal stripes, and a black denim jacket. He had accessorized with a white gold chain, as silver was a no-go, and a leather belt with a black and yellow Batman buckle. The new look was refreshing, but when he'd put on some new clothes he had suddenly became acutely aware of his hair, which was badly in need of a change. The door to the lecture theater opened and a man in his early 40's entered. 

"All right, settle down." He said, projecting his voice clearly across the room. "Books open. We'll be picking up where we left off last week. We're covering Othello today. Please look over the exercise sheet, remember that everything you argue should have it's basis in the language of the play." The Professor sat down at his desk for a moment while everyone in the class began to scan over their notes. Shaun's fingers clenched, panicked and overwhelmed already, and the class had only just began. He opened up his copy of Othello and began reading through it hurriedly, hoping he could at least understand some of what was going to be talked about. 

"All right so I expect most of you will be more familiar with Othello than other plays we have covered so far. As a play it's considered somewhat of a great one, and no doubt some of you have seen it performed. Othello has had a profound effect on culture and institutions across the globe." The Professor said after a moment, and he stood up from his desk and began to pace. He was dressed in blue jeans, brown boots and a brown leather jacket, his hair the color of hay, medium length and scruffy. "So let's open the floor. What sort of themes do we see in Othello?" As soon as he had asked, a few hands shot up. He pointed at a girl. 

"Race." She called out, and the Professor nodded. 
"Good, yes." He said. "Anything else?" He pointed to another girl. 
"Evil." Came the response. He nodded again.
"Another?" He pointed to a boy sitting two seats away from Shaun. 
"Order and chaos." The boy said. 
"Yes, excellent." The Professor replied, although there was no enthusiasm in his tone. 

The lecture went on, and Shaun made a point of keeping his hand down when questions were asked. He scribbled down notes based on what people were saying, but they made little sense to him, as he had not read the book. By the two hour mark Shaun felt utterly defeated as the class and the Professor talked about the play, to which he understood very little. "It's a tragedy about love." The Professor said to the class as he began to wind down. "But it's a tragedy that is disabled and enabled by notions of oneself in various public arenas, including the marshal world, but also this world. This complicated world that we were talking about how race, or colour, or otherness is valued and devalued. At how you take yourself at other people's valuation. That's one of the things that functions very powerfully in this play. That any sense of self that any character has, except perhaps Desdemona, almost everybody else gets their sense of self from another discourse."

The Professor went to his desk and started to gather his things. "Many of these same things will return when we cover King Lear next week. We'll see, again, the father and the daughter, and we'll see again the public, and the private. And we'll see, again, the impossibility of full knowledge of someone that you love. So, until next time." The class suddenly got loud as everyone got up en masse and began to leave the room. Shaun grabbed his things and left his desk, descending down the stairs in the center and making a sharp right for the door. "Mister Meyer, a moment of your time, please." The Professor called to him. Shaun froze on the spot. How did the Professor know who he was? He turned slowly and walked back to the Professor, and waited. 

"Shaun." The Professor said. "I received a notice that you'd be joining this class. A little late in the semester, I have to say I'm quite surprised. They tell me your parents died suddenly in an accident, and you had to move here with your sister, is that right?"
"Uh, yes." Shaun said with a nod. He and Rose had planned this lie together. 
"Well I'm very sorry for your loss, but I'm a little concerned about your academic path. This is a very intense course, and a late start is just going to add to the pressure."
"Uh...yeah." Shaun said with a nod. "I'm sorry I didn't contribute much. I've been trying to catch up on the syllabus."
"Right, well while I admire the effort, make sure you are up to speed on what we're currently covering before you start reading through what we've already covered."

"Right, sorry." Shaun said with a nod. "King Lear, for next week, right?"
"Right." The Professor nodded. "I'm going to be picking you out during discussions as of next week, to make sure you're keeping up. So be prepared."
"I will." Shaun said. "Oh, um...sorry I..."
"Professor Shanks." Came the response with a knowing look. "David Shanks. Nice to meet you, Shaun."
"And you." Shaun said, smiling weakly. "I'll see you next week." He added, and then he turned and left. 


As the early evening approached, three cars were parked outside an old house in the forest. Curtis Archer stepped out of the front door holding two crates of beer in his arms. Dominic followed closely behind him with another two crates and they both began putting them in the trunk of the cars. Finally Justin emerged carrying 6 large bottles of whisky which he placed in the trunk with the rest. "Claire should be back with the groceries soon." Dominic said with a soft smile that did little to hide the tension he was obviously experiencing. "Kid's are with the sitter. I yelled at Elijah this morning for taking too long with his breakfast." Dominic sighed, a look of guilt on his face. 
"He'll understand in a few years." Curtis said, patting his uncle on the shoulder. "It doesn't get much easier, even when you get old, huh?"
"Yeah, well you'll never have to go through that." Dominic said to Curtis. "Mr Alpha." 

"True." Curtis said with a nod. "But that just means I bear the responsibility of reigning you all in. I never envied dad for that. I always thought he was lucky for not having to go through the change like we did. For being able to control himself like that."
"Well he had it harder than you." Justin said. "He had seven wolves to keep watch over, you only have three."
"...Yeah." Curtis said with a sigh. A few years ago he had lost several members of his family. His cousin, Justin's older brother, had killed Curtis' father in order to take his place as the Alpha of the pack. Justin's father and mother had sided with their eldest son, but Justin sided with Curtis and Dominic. In the end they had all been killed in the fight that ensued. Curtis' cousin, Marcus, had died at Curtis' hand. But it had almost went the other way, if it hadn't been for Lex, the vampire he quite literally owed his life to. 

"Hey, you okay?" Justin asked. 
"Yeah, fine." Curtis said. "Just...bad memories."
"Sorry..." Justin said, shifting nervously. "It wasn't your fault, man."
"If I'd done things differently...maybe they'd still be alive." Curtis said. 
"Curtis, you were just a kid." Justin said. "Trust me, we're better off without my old man and my brother."
"And Rowan?" Curtis asked. Justin looked uncomfortable at hearing his mother's name, and he turned away from Curtis. 
"Yeah...okay, you're right on that." He said. "I miss her."

"She always put the pack first." Dominic said. "If she were here now she'd be telling you to make some babies on the double."
"Well, maybe once they figure out male pregnancy." Curtis said with a smirk. 
"You could just start dating, you know." Justin said with a grin. "Have you seen the girls on Tinder? Like, seriously..."
"Shut up." Curtis said, rolling his eyes. "Get the rest of the beer. We're leaving for the cabin when Claire get's back."
"Yes boss." Justin said with a smirk, and he disappeared back in to the house. 

"Do you think he'll ever grow up?" Dominic asked. 
"Nope." Curtis replied. "But I'm okay with that."
"Mm...he is right though." Dominic said. "I mean, not about Tinder, but you should get out there. It's been 5 years."
"Maybe." Curtis said, but his lips tightened after he spoke. "...it's not that easy. Do you think you could ever move on from Claire?"
"Ah...I take your point." Dominic said. "Come on, let's get inside and help him." Curtis nodded and he went with his uncle back inside the house. 

 

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