GFD Among the Hidden: Chapter 3: Whole Other You

 by Echo23

Colin Williams. He HATED his name. It sounded like the name of someone famous, rich, sexy and important. And Colin, well, he was anything but. Whenever he looked in the mirror at his mousy brown hair and blue eyes, the only word that came to mind was “average.” But he didn’t really mind being average. It left him unnoticed, a little lonely sure, but at least no one had hassled him in high school. He was thankful for that, seeing the torture other kids had been put through for being smart, or fat, or gay. He had escaped unnoticed, and once he was in college, he’d realized just how much nicer it was not to have to deal with the constant threat of bullying. College was a godsend, he’d decided. Now, coming home for the first time in several years, he realized it had been a godsend for more that one reason. To get to his room, he had to weave through empty bottles of beer and vodka, while trying to avoid the smell of marijuana coming from the ashtray next to his mother’s unconscious body. At least that was all it was today.

He knew he should pick up the bottles and take them to the recycling, since his dad was never around and his mom was always passed out on the couch, but he was too tired from his drive back from school. He wasn’t even sure either of his parents had known he was coming home. He probably wouldn’t have, had his car not needed repairs. But he loved his uncle Jim, who happened to be an auto mechanic, too much to pass up a visit and his free repairs. After dropping off his bags at the house, he’d gone straight to the shop to visit, and got a huge bear hug from his uncle the second he walked through the door. At least there was one good man in the family, Colin thought, as he watched his uncle disappear beneath the belly of his car.

Later that night, Colin came home to find the house slightly cleaner than when he left it. A few of the bottles in the living room had been picked up, the dishes on the table had been moved into the sink, and his mother’s unconscious body had disappeared. To where, he wasn’t sure, but he also wasn’t sure whether he even cared. Unfortunately for Colin, he was about to find out anyway.

The front door burst open, and Colin watched from the kitchen as his mother and some man he didn’t recognize entered the house. They started kissing, passionately. When they moved to the couch, and his mother’s moans become more apparent, Colin realized his mother was having an affair. By the looks of him, with one of her dealers. Colin also realized that if he was going to keep from throwing up, he needed to get out of that house. Now. So he left.

It had been like a ritual during high school. Most boys spent their afternoons outside, but Colin spent his nights. The trees and grass, the fields of cotton and corn and wheat, the rain and sleet and snow, it was all an escape to him. A sort of peaceful tranquility he craved whenever he was home for too long. He would wander aimlessly, never pointing himself in any particular direction, until he found some new wonder of the universe to appreciate. The world really could be beautiful, he thought. His world just wasn’t meant to be.

Tonight, Colin came across a tall hill unobstructed by buildings or trees, where he could lie down and just enjoy looking at the stars. They were fascinating, the number of shapes you could find just by lying on your back and connecting the dots. Tonight was one of those peaceful nights that made the chaos at home just seem to fade away into nothing. But it wasn’t meant to last. It was never meant to last.

The feeling started about he had been lying in the grass for about an hour. That creepy feeling, like he was being watched. The hairs stood up on the back of his neck, and he looked around suspiciously. But there was no one. With every rustle of wind through the grass, Colin would search, but he had no luck. Maybe he was just being paranoid. Or maybe someone was stalking him. It was time, he felt, to return home. At least he was aware of what dangers awaited him there.

But he’d barely made it to his knees when he was grabbed from behind in a vice grip so powerful he could hardly even struggle. The man—at least, he assumed it was a man because of the figure’s towering presence and upper-body strength—had an arm around his throat, choking off his air supply and any chance of calling for help.

“Mmm…” the man moaned gruffly in Colin’s ear, “you look so tasty… I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’m going to enjoy this.” Before Colin knew what was happening, the man’s teeth sunk into his neck and his world was filled with white-hot pain. He struggled against his captor, but only succeeding in ripping more of his flesh away. It was agony, and he felt the life slowly being drained from him, even as he tried fighting back. But it was useless. The world went black, and Colin’s barely conscious body was allowed to drop to the earth with an unceremonious thud. He wasn’t dead; no, he was still in excruciating pain, but too weak to call for help or even keep his eyes open.

From behind him, he heard a voice say his name.

“Colin… I can see it in your head you know you’re dying. But I can offer you an escape. Eternal life. So tell me… do you want to die?”

Colin attempted to say no, but only succeeded in making a small sputtering sound in the back of his throat. He tried shaking his head, but was far too weak for his tiny movements to be seen. It didn’t matter, though. The stranger had obviously understood his answer, and kneeled down to bite him on the other side of his neck.

“Sleep well, my childe,” the voice said, and Colin caught a glimpse of long silvery hair before he was left helplessly staring up at the stars. It wasn’t long until his universe faded into blackness.

 

***

Twelve years. That’s how long he had been searching for his sire. He had all but lost hope, but still he trudged on in the hopes that one day he would be able to thank the older vampire for saving his life. It wasn’t really his main goal anymore, though. It was more something to keep his mind occupied, as he went through life. Or death. He wasn’t really sure.

He’d woken up one night to find he was no longer on a hill looking up at the stars, but rather on the floor of an abandoned warehouse. His body ached, a result of his struggles no doubt, and the only clue he’d been taken here by anyone was a short note he found lying next to him that contained only three words:

“Don’t go home.”

He got up, and stretched, noticing his body felt agile, limber, strong. It was a feeling he had never experienced before, and he rather liked it, even though it still confused him to no end. His watch, which he was a bit surprised was still in his possession, read 7pm. Even though the office he had woken up in was dark, the rest of the warehouse was still brightly lit from the setting sun. He must have been in bad shape, he thought, to have been dragged here without even noticing.

A step out of the office told him something was very wrong. Where the sun hit his skin, it sizzled and burned, and the smell of burnt flesh invaded Colin’s nostrils as he jumped back. His hand instinctively went to the bite marks on the back of his neck… but it couldn’t be. That was childish. To believe he’d had an encounter with not one, but two vampires, and joined their ranks. Absolutely absurd. And yet… his extreme sunburn said otherwise. As much as the rational part of his brain wanted to believe this was all a hoax, the universe had other plans.

And so he had to come to accept his new lifestyle. He developed the ability to distinguish humans from other vampires, which allowed him to learn more about the Darkness. He learned about the vampire language, Verzpertillio, and vowed to master it. He even learned how to feed on human donors, though this was the hardest of all. At first, Colin tried to assuage his hunger by buying a delicious looking greasy hamburger, the kind of thing he was never allowed to have at home. Within minutes, though, he had thrown up the hamburger behind some bushes. It wasn’t the meat he craved; it was the blood. He knew what he had to do, but he tried to put it off as long as possible. Colin’s first human feeding, not having had anyone to guide him through it, was the messiest, bloodiest affair he had ever seen. He had been taken over by bloodlust he was so hungry, and only remembered waking up with a man struggling in his arms and blood splattered EVERYWHERE. He’d even managed to get some in his HAIR! He had NO idea how that had happened.

His second feeding was even harder. Because this time, there was no denying what he had to do. He tried to put it off by stealing raw bloody steaks from a butcher shop, but the owner caught him and chased him away. Hungry, scared, and crying, Colin curled up in an alley as rain began to fall, the thunder and lightning of the start of a rainstorm downing out his sobs in the darkness. He did end up feeding, on a sleezy drug dealer who happened to have been his mother’s main supplier and lover, but the guilt was still there. Even twelve years later, it was still there.

At first, he had stayed near his hometown, both because he wanted to learn if the vampire who had turned him was still in the area, and also because the sense of familiarity gave him comfort. As he searched, though, he realized his sire had long moved on. And his memories piled up, the beatings and abuse, the school plays and recitals that had been skipped, the loneliness… and he realized this change had been exactly what he needed. He could start over, now. Anywhere. The rumors he’d collected told of a wandering vampire who had passed through town on his way to Dallas, so Colin decided that sounded like as good a place as any to start his new life.

He had met with disappointment in Dallas, however. A vampire with silver-grey hair had indeed passed through, but had moved on to the south. Waco, Temple, Austin, it was the same story everywhere. A wizened, elderly vampire with grey hair had spent the day sleeping in whatever darkened warehouse he could get his hands on, before continuing his journey southward. Colin was disappointed, but had yet to give up hope.

Until San Antonio, that is. His sire, it seemed, had not yet made it that far south. Whether he had come into contact with a lethal hunter, changed direction and headed for one of the many other nearby cities, or decided he was very old and his time should come to an end and had therefore gone sunbathing, Colin wasn’t sure. The one thing Colin WAS sure of, though, was that he was NOT in San Antonio. For the last 12 years, Colin had made excursions to every nearby city, in hopes of picking up his sire’s trail again. He doubted there was any hope in finding him, though. After all, a trail gone dead for so long would hardly be easy to pick up again. He doubted if anyone would even remember who they saw 12 years ago. But that didn’t stop him from looking. He was counting on the fact that a lone vampire passing through town would attract attention, and someone would remember him.

What he hadn’t been counting on was the fact that a lone vampire passing through town would attract attention. A LOT of attention, in fact, from vampire gangs, from raiders, from anyone who thought they could take Colin down. During one of his earliest trips, to Houston, he had camped out in an abandoned auto mechanic’s shop one night. The perfect place, he’d thought, since no one in their right mind would want to go near the intense smell of oil and gasoline that filled the building. Unfortunately for him, a band of raiders had thought the same thing.

Colin had unwittingly stumbled into their nest, and all the sudden he found his body shoved hard against a nearby wall. Angry vampires leered at him from all sides; he was terrified. He cried out in pain, but his shouts were lost in thunder that boomed overhead as rain began to pound the rooftop. The vampire who had him pinned against the wall spat in Colin’s face in disgust. Big mistake: now all Colin could see was his mother, the mental abuse, and hatred coursed through him like wildfire. He brought his knees to his chest, and kicked against the raider’s chest hard, using the wall as leverage. Colin sunk a fist furiously into the raider’s face, as a bolt of lightning overhead lit up the room. He saw four more angry raiders quickly advancing on him, so he turned and ran out of the shop as quickly as possible.

Footsteps pounded behind Colin; his fear returned, and the rain became a torrential downpour. He ran block after block, taking random turns, hoping to lose his pursuers in the maze of a city. Left, right, left again, up a fire escape, off a balcony. His fear intensified with every step, until he stopped dead in his tracks as he faced a brick wall in front of him, a dead-end that was sure to get him killed.

“Fuck!” he cried, as he saw shadows fill the entrance to the alley. His only hope now was a miracle. The raiders came closer, and he backed further and further toward the wall until his back collided with brick and he could go no further. And still they approached. The leader of the pack, now sporting a broken nose that wouldn’t heal for at least three sleep cycles, towered over him as Colin sank to the ground. His fear and anger raged inside him, and as the vampire pulled his fist back to prepare a punch that would surely knock his head clean off his shoulders, Colin raised his hands, shut his eyes, and cried out in fear.

But the punch never came. He heard what sounded like an explosion, a scream of agony, and footsteps running as quickly and far away as possible. Colin opened his eyes and saw the charred body of the raider leader lying at his feet. He was dead. But how!? Colin’s fear rushed to the surface again, and he saw bolt after bolt of lightning rain down upon the city. Hitting the fleeing raiders, no less.

Am I doing this? Colin’s mind raced. He had heard about vampire extras, but his had never shown. Maybe, he thought, just maybe, I have some sort of… lightning power? He giggled at the thought, but just then, the rain stopped. Colin’s extra had manifested. It made him feel stronger, more powerful, like a real vampire. And a real vampire, he thought, needed a better name than Colin. Cole, he’d decided. His name would be Cole from now on.

Today, Cole was planning a trip a little further than usual. He was going to go east, until he hit the beach. At least if he wasn’t able to find his sire, he thought, he would be able to enjoy a moonlight walk on the beach and a swim. But as always, the universe had other plans.

It started as a tickle. A slight cramp, a little tug. Cole scratched his stomach and went back to consulting his maps. But then he felt it. A low rumbling, and his stomach seemed to cave into itself. He was hungry.

Twelve years, one victim a month, meant 144 murders. One hundred and forty-four. He still wasn’t used to the bloodshed. Tonight, he knew, would be his 145th meal. Even though he always chose scum for donors, it didn’t get any easier. This would be no exception.

Abandoning his maps, Cole set out in search of tonight’s meal. If he didn’t take care of this soon, he’d maul the first person he saw whether there were any witnesses or not, and he knew that would be a very bad idea. His stomach rumbled again… this time the hunger had come on quickly, and very strong. It felt like his insides were literally crumpling into a black hole inside his body. He had to find food faster than he expected.

Cole sprinted his way to a more unfavorable part of town, and rounded one last corner before nearly passing out in exhaustion. There, a block away, he spotted a man grabbing a young boy by the arm and roughly pulling him into an alley. He knew he had found dinner.

With the scent of his donor in the air, Cole felt a new energy coursing through him. He strode down the block toward the alley, picking up his pace as he heard the sickening thud of bone colliding with brick. He jogged around the corner and silently grabbed the man by the collar, lifting him from the ground and shoving him against the wall of the alley roughly enough to cause blood to trickle from the back of the man’s skull. Cole’s eyes glowed as he effortlessly skimmed through the man’s memories.

“Well, well, well, you’ve had quite the rough week,” he smirked. “A journalist who can’t even get a descent story gets his livelihood taken away by a man with money and a need to protect his family’s secrets.” Cole scanned the poor boy, who lay broken and bleeding on the ground. The gay son of a politician; no wonder his father had worked so hard to keep him buried. “But that’s not all, is it… no… your family, your wife and three children, they left you didn’t they? Couldn’t handle your anger at losing your job. And now you’re left with nothing so you prey on the innocent boy you blame for your failures.” Cole’s fist connected with the man’s stomach. “Pathetic…” he sneered as the man’s ribs cracked easily and he started wheezing. “But don’t worry…” he scanned the man again, “…Dan. No… I’ll give you a story you won’t forget. A gripping tale about the seedy underbelly of this city. Rich, plenty of proof to back it up, and such a shocking conclusion the public would be in complete awe of your journalistic abilities. You’ll win the Pulitzer for this piece of history, for sure.” Cole’s hand dug into Dan’s shoulder, cutting off circulation to his arm, as the man winced in pain. “Too bad you won’t live to see it published…” Cole’s eyes gleamed red, his fangs descended, and after enjoying the terrified look on Dan’s face for another second, he sunk his fangs into the man’s neck, rolling his eyes back and sighing as the warm liquid gave him new life.

“H—help me…” a small voice pleaded from the ground. Cole dropped the lifeless body of his donor with a thud, and he turned to face the poor boy hearing his pleas. A wave of despair washed over him, and it began to rain as he realized it was too late, there was nothing he could do to save the boy’s life. The rainwater splashed around them, washing away the blood covering his face and the boy’s body. He knelt next to the boy, pulled him into his lap and embraced him, and ran his fingers comfortingly through the poor boy’s hair.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry. There’s nothing anyone could do, it’s too late. Nobody can help you now. I’m afraid you’re going to die. But if you’re not ready, I can offer you an alternative. An afterlife, but here, in this world. You’d be completely isolated from everyone you ever knew, but you’d still be able to experience the world. The choice is yours.” Rain soaked through their clothes and the dying boy began to shiver violently. “So…” Cole asked through his tears, “are you ready to die?”

The boy moaned softly in pain as he struggled to understand Cole’s offer. “D-do anything… just make the pain go away.” He weakly raised his hand, gripping Cole’s wrist softly. “Just don’t leave me,” he begged. “I-I trust you… thank you for saving me. I thought I was a total goner.” A rough cough escaped the boy’s lips and Cole knew his time was running short. “I-I’m ready…” the boy said, and Cole prepared himself for what he was about to do.

“Alright…Jake,” Cole’s voice broke as thunder boomed overhead. “Close your eyes, it’ll all be over soon.” He lowered his head and kissed the boy’s shoulder before sinking his fangs deeply into the skin of his neck, now wet with blood, rain, and his own tears. As the final poisons seeped through the boy’s body, Cole raised his head, took the boy into his arms, and carried him out of the alley to find shelter from the storm he knew would rage for weeks.

It was four weeks later when the boy finally woke up. Cole was ecstatic; he’d been so worried over the poor boy for weeks.

“Jake, thank god you’re okay, how are you feeling?” he asked, hovering over his childe like a newborn’s mother.

“What… where am I? Who are you? What the hell happened?” Jake asked, looking scared and confused. It wasn’t easy to explain. Cole did his best, explaining the change, Jake’s new body, his need to feed… even the beating in the alley.

“Jake, I—” he started, but Jake cut him off.

“Jake is dead,” he replied. “Call me…” he thought for a minute. “…Dodger. Yeah, Dodger. I like that name.”

It took Dodger awhile to get accustomed to his new lifestyle. Cole didn’t dare share with him everything he’d learned about vampires yet, it was too soon, he was too new. If he knew everything about their race, the lies and secrecy, the Elders, it would probably just remind him of being at home. Cole decided it was best to wait, to let Dodger enjoy his new-found freedom, for just a little while. This, unfortunately, was a mistake.

A month after Dodger had woken up, Cole took him out on one of his sire hunts. He could tell Dodge was unhappy about the idea, because he’d been pouting the entire trip. Suddenly, Dodger stopped, holding his stomach in agony.

“Dodge?” Cole asked, as his companion stopped short. “Dodger, what is it? Are you okay?”

“I think I’m having a vampire heart attack,” Dodge said as he took a deep breath. “Is that possible?” he asked, closing his eyes and biting his lip.

Cole cleared his throat, slightly concerned. “What do you mean, heart attack? Where does it hurt? What kind of pain is it?” He looked at Dodge holding his stomach, and feared that he already knew the answer to those questions.

Dodger stood up, furrowing his eyebrows together. “It was my stomach,” he explained sheepishly. “I think it’s gone now.”

“Your stomach?” Cole visibly paled. “Are you hungry? It has been almost a month since you were in darkness…. shit. Shit. Fuck. Okay. We’re going to the bad part of town, and we’re going now.”

“No,” Dodger said, shaking his head at his sire. “I know where I want to go.” He grabbed Cole’s hand, tugging him in the opposite direction. They walked for a while, with Dodger having to stop every once in a while to hold his stomach until the pain left. Finally, Dodge stopped at a large, older house.

Cole looked between Dodger and the looming house in front of them. “This is a house. A nice house, granted, but a house. Dodge, really, we shouldn’t be around normal people right now, you’re going to need to feed soon and it makes it a little easier if you feed on a nice lowlife scumbag. We shouldn’t be here…” Cole tried to pull Dodger away. “Why did you pick this house, anyway?”

“Nice lowlife scumbags do live here, Cole,” Dodge explained as he walked up the front steps. “Believe me, if anyone deserves it, it’s the people in here.” Dodger walked around to the side of the house, waving Cole to come with him. “Everyone is gone anyway, so we won’t get caught,” he said softly as he hoisted himself up onto the trellis that was under the window. “I hope it’s still unlocked…” He mumbled to himself as he started to climb up carefully.

“Dodge where are we?” Cole whispered, following closely behind Dodger. “We really shouldn’t go back to anywhere familiar, if they see that you’re still alive it just confuses everything. And if they knew what happened to you, if humans find out about our existence, the elders will kill us. Dodger, seriously, we shouldn’t be here.” Cole was beginning to panic now; he had a bad feeling about this.

Dodger just rolled his eyes, ignoring Cole. Once he came to face the window, Dodger jiggled it, using his other hand to push it in. The window popped opened, and he crawled in, stopping dead in just inside the windowsill. He was, it appeared, standing in some sort of craft room. “They threw out my stuff…” he whispered.

“YOUR stuff?” Cole said sharply as he realized exactly where they were. “Dodge, no, we’re leaving. Now.” He made a grab at the back of Dodge’s shirt, missing by less than inch as he disappeared through the window in front of them.

Dodger turned towards the window, blocking Cole from slipping in. “I’m really sorry,” he said softly, leaning out and kissing his sire softly on the lips before he pushed him back. Dodger quickly closed the window, locking it this time, before making his way out of his old room and into the hallway.

Cole fell to the ground with a loud thud. He was so furious at Dodger for coming here, to his old home that he didn’t even feel the fall. And he knew he had to stop Dodger at all costs. Making contact with anyone from his human life could only lead to trouble. With a couple of jumps, he broke through Dodge’s window, glass shattering everywhere, and pounded out into the hallway in pursuit. Cole sprinted after Dodger, skidding to a stop as he passed a portrait on the wall. It was of a family. Not just any family, though, it was the GOVERNOR’S family. The murder of  high-ranking public figure? The Elders would kill Dodger for sure. Cole knew he had to move faster, pushing himself to stop Dodge before he got himself killed.

Cole burst into the bedroom Dodge had just entered, not stopping until he had wedged himself firmly between Dodge and his father. He grabbed Dodger by the collar of his shirt and physically lifted him out of the room, growling furiously under his breath. “You do NOT get to kill the governor. Public killings mean execution. You’d be dead by tomorrow. I’m not joking here, Dodge, you could be killed just for coming back here.” He lifted Dodger and threw him out the window, jumping down silently behind him. As police sirens approached the front of the house, he pulled Dodger along trying to escape.

The walk away from Dodger’s old home was a silent one. Both Cole and Dodger were mad, and neither even wanted to look at the other. Cole steered Dodge into an abandoned auto mechanic shop, realizing it was time he had a serious talk with his childe and let him in on all the vampire lore he had learned during his twelve years in darkness. Dodger just sat on the hood of an old car, looking at Cole, no doubt already forming another plan to get back into that house.

“Vampires are an old, old race,” Cole began. “To protect us from discovery, the Elders, the oldest of the vampires, keep a close eye on anything that could get us noticed. And they kill, instantly. Contact with your old life, letting anyone know you’re still alive but haven’t aged, feeding on anyone important, or especially anyone who’s paid them for protection… not only will you be killed, instantly and painfully, but the human governments will come down on all of us. I should have told you about the Elders before tonight, should have explained everything. I’m sorry, Dodge,” he finished sadly. “I know you must have questions about all this… I did too, when I first woke up, and I didn’t have anyone to ask. What do you want to know?”

Dodge bit in the inside of his cheek, shaking his head before looking at his knees. “You threw me out a window,” he said softly, kicking a rock away from his feet. “And I’m still hungry.”

“You threw me out a window first,” Cole pointed out.

“And I felt bad about it, but now I’m happy I did,” Dodger said. Cole just sighed.

“Do you even care, Cole? You haven’t asked me why that house…why them. This is important to me, ok? It’s something I have to do, I was turned this way TO do this. I’m not walking with you unless it is back to that house.”

“I don’t have to ask why that house.” Cole shot back. “I know who it was in that house who you were trying to kill. The governor. Your FATHER. Because he used to beat you when you weren’t his perfect little straight red-blooded American boy. I’m not blind, you know. Thing is, you’re probably now on the Elder’s watch list. I’m honestly surprised they haven’t come here to warn you themselves. If you step foot near that house again, they’re going to kill you. Immediately. Don’t you see that? You won’t get to touch the skin on that man’s neck no matter what you do. I’m trying to save you, Dodge. This is the only way.”

Dodger remained silent, his head bowed so Cole couldn’t see him. He sniffled, looking up at his sire finally while big tears welled up in his green eyes, but refused to let them fall. “It’s not fair,” he whispered, his voice cracking harshly.

Cole put his hands on Dodge’s shoulders, rubbing up and down his arms comfortingly before pulling him into a tight hug. “I wanted to go back too, you know? After I was turned… well, I knew things were different, and I went searching for my sire for a while, but about a year later I almost came back. I wanted to see the look on my mother’s face. See if she even remembered I’d been gone. See if they’d even noticed. But in the end…” he trailed off.

“They threw all of my stuff out and I haven’t even been gone for more than a m—” Dodger was cut off as another pain went through his body, but he held back, needing one thing from Cole. “I get the feeling you’ve been checking up on my past life. D-did my parents even look for me?”

Cole sighed, and removed his backpack from his back. Two weeks ago, he’d found an announcement in the local paper that the governor had sent his son to a prestigious boarding school. He looked at Dodger sadly. “I… I don’t know. Your father is a very wealthy man, he could have… I mean, it’s possible. I-I did find this… um… there was this thing, in the newspaper. Are-I don’t-I don’t know if I should show you…”

Dodger pulled away, already knowing without seeing. “How’d he cover me up?” He asked, sitting back down on the shook, his hair falling in his face and he didn’t bother to brush it away.

“Boarding school,” Cole responded timidly. He hated having to do this to Dodger.

“He’s been waiting all of my life for this,” Dodger scoffed. “I’m out of the way and he can have another kid…a GOOD kid.” Cole could feel Dodge’s body tense up. “Fuck this. I’m over it. Teach me how to hunt.”

Cole grinned at Dodge, trying to lighten his mood. “I know, I know, you’re probably starving, let’s go eat a nice drug dealer okay? Get your mind off things. Hey, maybe you’ll even catch a high!” he joked half-heartedly, though nothing he said made Dodge even crack a smile. “You were the good kid, you know,” he said in a low voice. “There’s no one out there who could compare to you. If he can’t see that… it’s his loss. His problem. There’s nothing wrong with you, not ever.”

Dodger stood up, attempting a smile, but it was an awkward grimace instead. “Yeah but you actually like me whereas they didn’t even know my name.” He shrugged, taking Cole’s hand in his own. “Really think I can get a high? I’ve never been high before.”

Cole grinned at his newfound companion as he led him out for his first hunt. The two would share a lot over the next few years. Not even they knew how much, just yet. There was no way they could have foreseen what was about to come.

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