GFD Among The Hidden Chapter 7: Save or Sacrifice

by Echo23

The walk back from the gas station where they’d bought their candy was uncomfortable. Dodger was being quiet; he was never quiet, and Cole knew that meant the ordeal with Andrew had taken a toll on him. Dodge wasn’t used to this like he was, to fighting for survival, for his very life, no matter what the cost. He hadn’t become nearly as desensitized to the horrors they had to perform to survive. They’d had to kill him, though. Hadn’t they? They had no money, no place to sleep, only the clothes they were wearing, and he was already worried about their one newborn. A second would make things infinitely more complicated: he’d have to be trained, watched for his extra, and hunt, all without arousing any more suspicion from humans than they already were. Cole was worried enough as it was, with the extra responsibilities for Corey. If they hadn’t just taken on another newborn, maybe they would be able to… but…they just couldn’t afford the risk.

 

“We need to see if we can come up with some more money for the hotel,” Cole said, pulling open the door to their room for Dodger.

 

“We’ll find a way, we always do,” Dodge replied softly, not once making eye contact. “You know, if we have to ditch the newborn to save money, I’m okay with that too,” he added.

 

Even though he knew Dodge wasn’t joking, Cole couldn’t help but give him a small smile. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said, shaking his head. “You know, Dodge, you’re gonna have to soften up to him sometime soon. Orphan and Corey are pretty serious.” He was going to add that it looked like Corey would be around for awhile, but stopped short at the glare Dodge shot across their room at him.

 

Cole stripped his shirt off, wiping the blood off his face as much as possible, and sunk onto their bed staring up at the ceiling, still lost in his thoughts. Dodge followed behind him, but instead of lying in bed with Cole, went straight for the second bed in their room, which always went untouched.

 

“What are you doing, Dodge?” Cole asked lightly. If Dodge was planning on sleeping in the other bed, it meant trouble. Dodge NEVER slept apart from Cole. When he did, his already vivid nightmares got ten times worse.

 

“I’m going to bed, what does it look like I’m doing?” Dodger snapped, keeping his back squarely facing Cole.

 

Cole sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. “You know what I mean,” he responded, even more quietly than before, as he reached a hand out to lightly touch Dodge’s wrist.

 

“Get away from my bed or I’ll find another room,” Dodger said, moving his hand out of Cole’s reach. He was obviously avoiding looking anywhere near Cole, as he stripped off his shirt and Cole’s hoodie, and along with them, the last traces of blood from Andrew and the old man. Cole saw him shiver slightly as he saw the remains of what they had done stained into the shirt.

 

A black hole opened in Cole’s chest as his childe shied away from him; he suddenly felt alone. Even more alone than he had when he’d woken up to find himself alone, changed, broken and clueless, a newblood vampire with no idea who or what he was.  He was used to Dodge being mad at him, sure; hell, he was usually mad about something or another. But that was still normal. They’d still kiss, and cuddle, they’d still sleep in each other’s arms. This time was different… Dodge was pulling away from him, for whatever reason, and the thought of not only losing his childe, but also his lover, the thought of returning to wandering the streets of San Antonio aimlessly, alone, it destroyed him.

 

“What’s the problem, Dodge?” Cole asked, unable to keep the sadness and fear out of his voice.

 

Dodger turned around, studying the look on Cole’s face with a frown before shaking his head. “The problem?” he spat, as he walked around the bed toward his sire’s clothes on the floor. He picked up the bloodstained t-shirt and waved it angrily in Cole’s face. “THIS is the problem, Cole!”

 

Realization hit Cole, along with a fresh batch of frustration. “And what if we’d let him go, Clark!?” Cole spat angrily. “Would you rather a hunter caught up with him and he ended up with a shiv to the chest? Would that agonizingly slow and painful death be better as long as we don’t have to do it ourselves? What we did, that was a piece of mercy, Dodger.”

 

“MERCY would have been to change him. He had NOTHING, Cole!” Dodge screamed. “Even though I only knew him for twenty minutes, he was depending on me! And instead of helping him, you come around and start bossing everyone around and making decisions all on your own. If we’re all a ‘family’ we should have all decided, not just you. You killed an innocent boy, and you made me help you.”

 

Cole’s eyes narrowed at Dodger as he lowered his voice to a dangerous whisper. “We’re trying to survive, here, Dodger. We’re homeless, we barely have enough money to get a place to sleep for ourselves, we’re already attracting attention… we can’t afford to take anyone else with us. We can’t pay for him, we can’t draw any more attention to us with another dead body every month, and the bigger our group gets the more people notice us. In case you haven’t noticed, vampires who get attention aren’t exactly on good terms with the elders. They have a tendency to get dead.”

 

Dodger met Cole’s glare with an equally frightening one of his own. “Oh real mature, Cole. Make up excuses for what you put us through tonight. He wouldn’t have told anybody about us. He trusted me… he trusted me and I let you kill him.”

 

“Yeah, he trusted you, and you knew as well as I did there wasn’t a chance we’d be able to take him with us. Don’t blame me for what we had to do. We don’t know he would have been safe if we’d just left him there.” Cole looked at Dodge sternly, tears welling up in his eyes. “It’s not an excuse, Dodge. I’m not putting us into danger over some kid who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the elders didn’t like him knowing, he’d be dead anyway and so would we. But you can be sure they wouldn’t have been as quick as we were, or as kind.”

 

“No!” Dodger yelled, pointing at Cole. “Don’t start crying. That’s not fair at all,” he said, this time softer. Dodge always had a weak spot for his sire’s tears, and Cole knew that. “We could have kept him, you just didn’t want to. We could have dumped Corey instead.”

 

Cole’s mouth twitched into a half-smile. Whenever Dodger started talking about abandoning Corey, Cole knew things were getting back to normal. “The way Orphan looks at him, we’re gonna be stuck with him around for awhile. He’s part of the family whether we like it or not.” Cole hesitantly stepped over to Dodge’s side, putting an arm on his shoulder. “We’re not monsters, Dodge, but sometimes we have to do these things to survive. It sucks, and I regret it every time, you know that. But we can’t take in every stray just because we want to. We have to think about what’s best for us.”

 

Cole could feel Dodger’s body tense at his touch, but as he spoke, Dodge seemed to relax, at least a little. “I just bonded with him, I guess.” Dodge replied sadly. “I knew what we were going to have to do, but he was talking and I read his mind and he was happy…I feel horrible.”

 

Cole sat down on the bed next to Dodger, hugging him tight around the waist. “Good,” he said simply. “You should, I do, we all should. If we don’t that just makes us soulless monsters. I don’t think we’ll ever feel good about it, but… it’s this or death. I wish there were another choice. I spent years looking for one.”

 

Dodge finally met Cole’s eyes for the first time since their angry glares earlier. Tears welled up in his eyes, but refused to spill out. “I know,” he whispered softly as his arms found Cole’s body.

 

“I’m so sorry,” Cole replied, his voice full of sadness. “You know, there’s something else that’s been bothering me, Dodge,” he continued after a few minutes. “We really need to figure out a more permanent living situation here. I think we’d better talk to the dynamic duo next door, and see if they have any ideas.”

 

Dodge sighed and rolled his eyes, with a look that clearly said he’d rather make Corey sleep in the sewers if it meant he had a warm hotel bed to sleep in during the day, but begrudgingly followed Cole next door anyway.

 

“I…um, I have enough money if… if we wanna stay at the hotel a little longer…” Corey offered in a small voice when Cole told them what he was thinking.

 

Dodger rolled his eyes, stepping toward Corey. “Let’s see what you got,” he said softly, reaching out a hand for the money. “I still say we should start looking for a warehouse type place anyway even if we plan on staying here.”

 

Corey took a few quick steps back, to distance himself from the older vampire as quickly as possible. He put his suitcase down, opened it, and pulled out a few fistfuls of cash. “I…I-I took it from duh-Dad’s safe, be-be-before I left…” Corey stuttered out, his hand shaking the closer it got to Dodger. “I… I mean… this is my new family right? And… I wanna help.”

 

“No, we’re not using Corey’s money,” Orphan said firmly, stepping between the two. “I think… somewhere else than the hotel would be good, but if we have to stay here, I can always… uh… scrounge up some cash, I guess…” he said.

 

“I don’t mind, Orphie—” Corey started softly, making Cole roll his eyes and nearly gag out loud, but he was quickly cut off by Dodger.

 

“Yeah so can I, but I don’t want to. He’s offering. We ARE family. God knows how much we spent on your room while he was in his crossover,” Dodger said as he flipped through the money. Just in his hands alone was well over five hundred dollars, and there was far more piled in the bag Corey had taken it from. “Wow, your dad must be shitting his pants right now,” Dodger said, glancing up at Corey. “I’m proud of you, newbie.”

 

Corey shook his head, shrugging dismissively. “He probably just misses his fucking punching bag.” His voice was soft, but Cole couldn’t help but notice the acid that flooded his tone whenever his father was the topic of conversation. Clearly he and Dodger weren’t the only ones with bad parents.

 

“Yeah, well, Dads in general just suck. MINE barely even knew my nam—“ Dodger spat out, but was abruptly cut off when Orphan snatched Corey’s money back out of his hands. “HEY!” he shouted at Orphan, before turning impatiently toward Cole. “Can’t you shoot him with lighting or something?” he demanded, his hands automatically finding his hips.

 

Cole just sent a smirk his way before dropping an arm around Corey’s shoulder. Turning to Orphan, he said, “Lucas, Corey’s right. Don’t treat him like a little kid; if he wants to contribute to the family’s wellbeing, then we’ll let him until we find something more permanent. This will buy us a little time,” he added, snatching the money back out of Orphan’s hand, “and you can give your little sweetie back any money you snatch on your own. I don’t care. But for now, this is ours.” Cole and Dodge both turned their backs on the younger vampires and headed for the door. “And don’t worry, I won’t hit him with lightning,” Cole said over his shoulder at a very worried-looking Corey. “…yet.”

 

“Um….” A small voice stopped them before they could get to the door. Judging by how meek and unsure it sounded, it could only have belonged to Corey. “When… when I first got to the, uh, the city… I-I slept in a warehouse, um… out… far away from everything. There weren’t any windows, and it was… um… I don’t remember any sun during the day… would that work?” he asked, his voice trembling as much as his body.

 

Dodge and Cole looked at each other briefly, seemingly having a silent conversation with their eyes. After a few moments, Cole turned to look at Corey. “You remember where it is?”

 

Corey nodded. “It’s um… past the park, and… and the train station. It’s like… it took me like an hour to get there walking, but, um… I was… bleeding, and stuff…” he trailed off.

 

Cole could tell that Dodge was having a hard time restraining himself from rolling his eyes as he turned to Cole. “We’ll check it out, see if it’s any good or not.”

 

Cole nodded his agreement to Dodge. “We’ll try to find it tomorrow night,” he said, before taking Dodge’s hand and heading back to their hotel room. Sunrise was drawing nearer, tearing them further from consciousness, so the two crawled into their bed, meeting at the center before wrapping their arms around one another for one last embrace before the Sleep took hold.

 

***

 

Cole’s muscles ached and he wasn’t sure why. His eyes fluttered open as he looked to the side and found his answer: Dodger was laying awkwardly halfway underneath him, causing his left side to twist into an uncomfortable position. He yawned and stretched, not wanting to move too far from Dodge’s side as long as he was still asleep. He felt Dodge yawn softly, and cuddle closer to him. “Nooo,” Dodge whined softly, his bottom lip sticking out in a pout. “More sleep.”

 

Cole wrapped an arm over Dodge’s back and sank further into the bed. “Okay, but just for a bit. We promised to find a new place to live today. If we don’t go explore soon, it’ll be too light to make it back here in time. And anyway mother Orphan will be pissed if we use any more of Corey’s cash.”

 

Dodger let out a grunt, deciding not to comment on the subject, but to bury his face in his sire’s neck instead. Cole sighed and stroked Dodger’s head for a few minutes before finally turning and getting out of bed reluctantly. He dressed, and zipped up his hoodie before tossing a shirt and a pair of jeans onto Dodger’s head, which Dodge promptly ignored.

 

“Fine…” Dodger said after a few minutes of silence. “But only if I can push Corey off of a building,” he mumbled into the pillow. A big sigh of frustration followed, and Dodger’s messy bed hair head popped out from under the shirt that had previously covered him from view. “At least let me THINK about it. Deal?”

 

“How about you think of today as scouting for the perfect building to fulfill your fantasy?” Cole smirked, sitting on the bed to poke at Dodge’s side. “Now come on, before the newbloods skip out on us and we have to hunt them down for half our night. The earlier we find this place, the sooner we can start practicing your extra.”

 

Dodger pouted, tugging the shirt on over his head. “No fair,” he said as he stood up on the bed and pulled the tight jeans over his legs. “You can’t use my extra against me.” He buttoned them up and hopped off of the bed, walking over to the mirror and attempting to tame his brown hair. “Alright sweetstuff, I guess I’m ready,” he said, furrowing his eyebrows together. “Except he better not whine all night!”

 

Cole took Dodge’s wrist and led him to the others’ room, and knocked loudly. After a few seconds with no answer, he knocked again, shouting, “WAKE UP, LAZIES, IT’S TIME TO GO FIND US A HOME!”

 

Dodger leaned against the wall, hands on his hips as he waited. “Are you sure they’re even in there?” he asked, trying hard not to roll his eyes. “Break down the door and see.”

 

Cole muttered back, “if they are and they’re… otherwise occupied… I don’t think my stomach could take it. I’d rather just wait and find out.”

 

Dodge took in a deep breath, tapping his foot now. “Coooole, come on!” he whined. “I’m not waiting out here for them to finish playing hide the middle finger. We have to find this warehouse. Break…door…now…please?” he asked his sire, putting on his best innocent expression to sway Cole’s decision.

 

Cole sighed and nodded at Dodge, before pounding on the door again loudly. “Corey! Orphan! Get your asses out here so we can—”

 

Cole thought he heard a voice that sounded like Corey’s yelling, but that couldn’t be; Corey never raised his voice above a whisper. “…did you hear something, Dodge?” he asked. “I think they’re in there.” The thought of what they could be doing other than answering them made him blanch, and he almost gagged. “Oh god, maybe they are having sex….” Deciding he’d rather not think about that, Cole continued shouting. “OY! Get your asses out here before I have to break down there door, we’re burning moonlight here!”

 

Dodger, whose gaze had wandered while he was waiting, glared playfully at Cole. “And you call yourself a vampire?” he asked while grabbing his sire’s shoulders and spinning him around to face the lobby where Corey and Orphan were sitting waiting, grinning at Cole’s red face and hoarse voice. “Let’s go. I want to get some candy before we go.”

 

Cole turned around bewildered. “I…. but… HEY! Didn’t you guys hear me yelling? You could have stopped me looking like a fool in front of the entire hotel if you’d just spoken up earlier!” he said angrily. “Come on, are we going to your warehouse now? I want to be there with enough time to get back here if it turns out we can’t stay there. And we’re making a pit stop for candy before we go, too.”

 

Orphan nodded, standing up and helping Corey to his feet as well. “Corey says it’s probably only about a half hour walk or so,” he informed them as Corey nodded shyly behind him.

 

“Half hour?” Dodge grinned mischievously. “That’s not bad at all. Think we can stop by the club for a dance or two? Sneak some money out of drunk’s hands?” he asked, turning his gaze to Cole. “We could really use it as backup.”

 

Cole nodded and grinning at Dodge, grabbing his hand on the way out the door. “Yeah, I like that plan. That way we don’t have to use any more of Corey’s money and Lucas will get off our asses. And you know I love the way you dance,” he added with a wink.

 

“I like when we double-team them,” Dodge replied with a wicked grin, nudging Cole with his shoulder.

 

Cole giggled with an evil smirk of his own. “You boys get to watch the masters at work tonight! See how a real con is pulled.”

 

Corey, however, did not look quite so amused. Rather than following the others out of the lobby and toward the club, he slowly shuffled along, looking pitifully at Orphan before asking, “Um…Orphie and I… um…can we wait out by the riverwalk? I… don’t…wanna go….”

 

Dodger narrowed his eyes, letting go of his sire’s hand and walking up to Corey’s side. “No,” he said flatly, turning to stand in front of him. “You’re in this family. You have to learn things and this happens to be one of them. Besides, even though he won’t admit to it, Orphie likes watching this,” Dodger said just above a whisper so only Corey could hear.

 

Corey lowered his eyes and nodded, finally falling in step with the rest of the group. Cole saw Orphan lean in to comfort him, but couldn’t bother concerning himself with what they were saying. Right now, what he cared about was having a drink to allow him the patience to deal with Corey, swiping some money to keep his family clothed and sheltered, and finding their way to a safe place they could call their home. He hoped this warehouse of Corey’s would pan out… especially if it was an older warehouse, it was likely to be made almost entirely of brick, with very few windows to provide deathly rays of sun while they were unconscious during the day. It would probably even be fairly easy to secure, too, so no one could disturb them while they were sleeping, or worse, rob or attack them. The hotel was great and all, but… there was no way they could keep staying there. A group of four young boys was already attracting quite a bit of suspicion, not to mention if they were still there for Corey’s first feeding, it could turn into a massacre. A nice abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere, where they could lie low and keep off everyone’s radar, was definitely their safest bet.

 

Cole and the others made their way to the front of the club, and gave the bouncer a slight nod before heading to the side door where they could enter unnoticed by the people standing around the front entrance. Cole knocked once, and the bouncer who had made his way around the side opened the door with a frown. “There’s MORE of you? Jesus, two underage kids is suspicious enough, but this one doesn’t look a day over 10! What do you think I’m running here?!” Cole and Dodge put on their best innocent smiles, and the bouncer just sighed. “You better not make any trouble. And remember, you pull any cons and I get twenty percent for letting you in here.”

 

Cole glared at the bouncer. “TWENTY percent? You know full well your cut is ten,” he said, acting offended as they pushed their way past him and into the club.

 

Dodger stuck his tongue out at the bouncer as they passed. “Seems like a busy night,” he mumbled to Cole as he scanned the room. “Have you found our first victim?”

 

Cole nodded, pointing to a man slouched at the bar with a drink in his hand and at least four empty glasses at his side. He glanced behind him at Corey and Orphan. “You two go find a table or dance or something, have some fun, relax, grab a drink, sit in the corner, whatever you want. Just make sure you have a good view of the bar, you’ll want to see this.”

 

Orphan nodded, lightly squeezing Corey’s heavily shaking arm. “Relax, Corey. Cole and Dodger, even if they don’t show it, will rip apart anyone who tried to hurt us, kay? Just relax… I’m right here…” he said, as he led his childe to a vacant corner.

 

As the younger two got comfortable in the corner, Dodger surveyed Cole’s first mark. “Perfect,” he said, scanning the drunk’s mind. “Ugly wife… hates his job… likes to watch his stepson shower,” Dodge mumbled, a smirk gracing his lips. “I think we have a winner. Follow my lead?”

 

Cole nodded, and Dodger walked up to the sloppy man, slipping in the booth next to him. It didn’t take long for the man to notice him. “I was wondering if you could… um… show me where the bathrooms are?” he asked, looking shyly down at the ground before glancing back up at the man. His voice was innocent, but the grin and wink he gave the man were anything but. “To be honest with you… I’m not supposed to be here.” The man gave Dodge a crooked grin, his eyebrow raising up while his hand slid up the vampire’s thigh. Cole closed his eyes for a second, trying to suppress the urge to make the man his dinner for laying a hand on his childe.

 

“Yeahhhh let’s go,” the man slurred, barely understandable. With that, the older man grabbed Dodge’s hand, pulling him roughly towards the bathroom. Dodge threw a glance over to Cole, nodding at him to follow.

 

Cole followed quietly behind them, entering the bathroom just seconds after Dodger and the man, and winked at Dodge in the mirror to signal him to turn on his extra. Dodger nodded, tilting his head to the side to crack his neck so he could get down to business. He tried to ignore the man’s grabby hands and focus on getting his extra up and running. He focused on the man’s breath, on the feel of his fingertips. Dodger tried to get into his mind—not a difficult feat, given how uninhibited he was—and before he knew it, the man was blindly trying to grab for him, his mouth opened in silent screams. Dodger grinned, and quickly starting reaching into pockets. “Come on, Cole. I got him.”

 

After Dodge took the cash and placed the man’s wallet back in his jeans, Cole positioned the man facedown in one of the stalls. As soon as he was ready, he nodded at Dodge to release his extra, and started shaking the man’s body. “Hey, dude, heyyyy are you okay? You don’t look so good… mister? Are you alive? Do you need me to call an ambulance?” he asked innocently. The man’s confused stare was enough to convince Cole he was drunk enough that he’d never remember Dodger or his missing money.

 

Cole left the bathroom, meeting up with a grinning Dodger on the other side of the door. “Come on. Let’s go make sure Corey isn’t crying in the corner,” Dodge giggled, grabbing his sire’s hand and walking over to the table Corey and Orphan had grabbed, when he saw… a vampire, quite a bit older, dancing on the table. The two newbloods had looks of surprise, confusion, and fear plastered on their faces, as the stranger looked down on them. “I didn’t break anything up by coming over here, did I?” he asked with a wink.

 

“I think you did,” Dodge said, narrowing his eyes as he slid into the booth next to Corey and took out the money, counting it quickly under the table, out of view from the older vampire. “Hey,” he said, turning his head towards the newborn and slipping their money in his hand. “There is $300 here. You want to prove yourself? I want you to keep our money safe until we get to the warehouse. If you lose a single dollar… well… you don’t want me to go there,” Dodger whispered, playfully ruffling Corey’s mop of hair. “By the way, go get us all drinks. Except for him,” Dodge said with a smirk, pointing at the invading vampire.

 

Corey looked at Dodger with alarm. “Buh-buh-but… but it… we’re… I’m… I can’t… I’m only thirteen! I can’t buy drinks!” he stuttered nervously.

 

Cole grinned at Corey. “They know us here. Trust me. Just point over here at us, they’ll know what we want. Get something for yourself, too. It’ll put a little hair on your chest,” he said, purposely ignoring the older vampire’s invasion as well. It worked, and the intruder glared at them with a growl before stomping off in a huff.

 

Dodger shook his head, and quickly shushed his sire. “No, Corey. You’re a vampire. Make THEM give YOU a drink. I better not see you pointing over here at us either.”

 

Corey swallowed nervously, his body shaking yet again. “How do I make them? Look at me!” he whined, pointing to his 4’10” body. “I’m…no one would be scared of me!” He sighed under Dodger’s glare, and stammered out, “If…. if… if I do this… will you stop being mean to me?”

 

Cole rolled his eyes. “He probably would have if you hadn’t just asked that question,” he said playfully.

 

Dodge just shook his head, knowing someday Corey would be thankful for this lesson. “I’ll stop being mean to you when you make me, and probably not even after that,” he said with a shrug, cuddling closer to Cole. “But seriously, you’re making me want to eat someone. Go get us drinks.”

 

They all watched in amusement as Corey slowly and shakily stood up from the booth and stumbled over to the bar, giving even the weakest of humans a wide berth. “He might just be an ok vampire after all,” Dodger said to the table, before narrowing his eyes at all of them. “If anyone tells him I said that, they’ll find themselves sunbathing.”

 

“Hm, we’ll just have to wait and see,” Cole replied, wrapping an arm around Dodge. He saw Corey steal a glance at the bartender’s turned back, before looking hard at Dodger with a look of determination on his face. With a deep breath, Corey hopped over the bar, grabbed a few bottles, and hopped the bar again before dashing through the crowd back to their table. Cole stared at Corey, wide-eyed and slackjawed. “Wow…” he said, barely above a whisper. “That,” he started, putting his hand on Corey’s shoulder, “was awesome. You might just be a vampire after all.” He and Dodge grabbed a bottle each, passing the remaining to the newbloods to share.

 

Corey shook his head, grabbing a bottle and guzzling down a few gulps. “That was scary,” he said with a sigh.

 

Dodger looked from the bar to Corey and back then, shaking his head. “Who the fuck are you?” he asked, extremely puzzled. Orphan stared back with wide eyes, shaking his head slowly in disbelief before reaching over and grabbing the already half-empty bottle from Corey’s hand.

 

After several drinks, and countless retellings of Corey’s daring adventure, Cole decided it was time to go. Corey had become incoherent, releasing a stream of gibberish from which he could only make out the words “dad” and “beat.” Whatever it was, he doubted Corey was reliving pleasant memories. He did, however, keep reaching for the bottle that Orphan had thankfully kept out of his reach. Cole swatted Corey’s hand down. “Nuh uh,” he scolded. “You’ve gotta be able to remember where that warehouse is. In fact, we should get going so the cold air outside can sober you up. C’mon boys, let’s head out.”

 

“I’m not carrying him home,” Dodger said, taking one final gulp from his bottle as they stood up to leave. “Seriously, I will push him off a bridge.”

 

Corey screwed up his face in what looked like anger, or perhaps constipation, before exploding at Dodger. “I don’t need your help!” he spat out, fueled by the alcohol. “I was all alone from the time they started beating me to the time I ran away.”

 

“And drinking helps?” Dodger asked angrily. Cole could tell that memories of Dodge’s human life had flooded his head, memories he knew were unpleasant and painful. “That makes you as low as your father. At least your father knew your name when he was beating you.” Dodger turned to Cole, motioning for him to slide out of the booth. “I need air now.” Dodger squeezed past Cole out of the booth, only turning around to flip off Corey.

 

Cole snatched the bottle Corey had just managed to get his hands on, saying “you’ve had enough, kid,” as he followed Dodge out the door. He wrapped his arms around Dodger from behind when he caught up to him.

 

“I thought I was over it,” Dodge mumbled softly, making sure only Cole could make out what he was saying. “I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive them.” He shook his head, turning around in his sire’s arms and nuzzling his shoulder, his whole body tensing up once Corey came out after them. “You might be feeling confident and cocky now, but I will kill you if I have to,” he spat furiously. “You aren’t even close to being a vampire yet, don’t forget that.”

 

Cole pulled Dodger in closer, and spoke softly into his ear. “You don’t have to forgive them. You just have to forgive yourself for believing them.” He ran his fingers through Dodger’s hair comfortingly as Corey released a string of obscenities so slurred Cole could barely make out what he was saying. He gave Dodge one lingering squeeze before releasing him and putting a hand on Corey’s shoulder. “I think it’s time we find that warehouse now,” he said, giving Corey a hard look before turning to Orphan. “If he leads us into a dead end because he’s drunk, then I’m letting Dodge here have his way and push Corey off a building. You better be sure, kid. If I end up frying because of your drunk ass, I won’t be happy. So, think real hard, and make SURE we’re going in the right direction, mmkay?”

 

Corey returned Cole’s look, and said firmly, “it’s past the park, and the shelter, and the train station, and I remember I was bleeding from THIS—” he lifted up his shirt, revealing a large scar on his chest, “—so you can just follow my blood!”

 

“So dramatic…” Dodger whispered under his breath, shaking his head as he turned away from Corey. He and Cole walked hand in hand from the side of the club, pointing themselves in the direction of the park.

 

Suddenly, however, Cole got the feeling that someone was watching them, and he didn’t like it one bit. A glance at Dodger told him he wasn’t the only one feeling uneasy. His face tensed up slightly, but he didn’t want to worry Corey, especially in his altered state. Instinctively, he made his way to the other side of Corey and Lucas, so as to not leave them unguarded.

 

Corey looked between Dodger and Cole. His intoxicated brain was sluggish, but he’d obviously picked up on the change in their demeanor. “Someone’s watching us,” he said before Cole could shush him, a little too loudly for Cole’s comfort.

 

“Wow, thanks captain obvious. We had no idea!” Dodger hissed as he shoved Corey back towards Orphan. “Stand still and shut up. Don’t draw attention to us, idiot.”

 

Orphan tensed up on hearing Corey’s words. He looked around, a slightly fearful expression appearing on his face. “What?” he asked Corey, before looking at Dodger and Cole for confirmation.

 

Corey nodded, as he held a finger to his lips “Shhhhhhhhh… don’t worry! The great Dodger will save us all!” he exclaimed in an exaggerated whisper. Apparently, some part of the instructions “stand still and shut up” was too complicated for him to handle.

 

“Lucas, get him to shut the fuck up,” Cole whispered sharply to Orphan. “We don’t need any more trouble.”

 

Orphan nodded quickly, before stepping closer to Corey. “But… Uh… Nothing’s gonna happen right? What’re you hearing? What’s happening?” he asked.

 

Cole gave him a reassuring look. “Yeah… nothing’s happening. I promise. You guys are gonna be fine,” Cole said, sounding far more confident than he felt.

 

Dodger was studying the roof of a nearby building, his head tilted. Cole followed his gaze; he thought he saw movement, but he wasn’t entirely sure. “No, actually we’re all going to die,” Dodger said with a smirk.

 

Corey simply stared at Dodger, replying, “I wouldn’t have cared if dad killed me.”

 

“Lucas!” Cole hissed furiously. “Shut him up! Now is NOT the time, Corey. Let us fucking focus, here,” Cole sighed in frustration, as Dodger nudged his side, pointing to the roof.

 

“Watch up there, I’m going to go try and see if I can get my extra to work,” Dodger said as he walked towards the side of the club. He leaned against it, closing his eyes as he tried to focus on whoever was watching them.

 

“Do it, Dodge,” Cole said tensely. Dodger rubbed his fingertips against his temples, trying to feel what their stalker felt. He took in the scent of the night, imagining whoever was watching them do the same. It took Dodge a minute, but he felt the slight “switch” in his mind, which hopefully meant their stalker couldn’t smell anything.

 

As if realizing he’d lost the element of surprise, a dark figure jumped down from the roof of the club, landing lightly on the pavement in front of them. It was, Cole recognized, the same vampire who’d been dancing on their table earlier in the evening. His gaze was unnervingly serene, but when he spoke there was no mistaking the acid in his tone.

 

“Well, well, well… what do we have here? Looks like a bunch of trespassers up to no good at MY bar.”

 

“YOUR bar!?” Cole said coldly, stepping between the newbloods and this new vampire. “I believe it’s open to everyone. We haven’t done anything wrong, so back off.” As he spoke, Dodge slipped into the shadows. Cole was hoping he would be able to activate his extra more strongly now that he had eye contact with their assailant.

 

“Yes MY bar smartass. You came here without invitation, and then you disrespected me. On MY territory. Looks like I’m going to have to teach you a little respect, tough guy.” The man kept a fair distance between them, but just close enough to be threatening, his eyes locked on Cole’s.

 

“Any luck there, Dodge?” Cole asked quietly under his breath. “We came here to have some fun,” Cole added loudly, this time addressing the man in front of him, much more boldly than he felt. “And now you’ve gone and ruined that. I don’t like having my evening ruined.” He managed to keep the tremble out of his voice for the Corey’s sake; he was already a basket case, and there was no telling what he would do in his drunken state. They didn’t need anything else to add to their trouble.

 

Cole heard Dodger mumble “fuck” under his breath. It sounded like shutting the man down wasn’t going well. Cole would fight if he had to, but he hadn’t been in a real fight since he was human. He really didn’t have any clue what he was doing. He could only hope the man was bluffing.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before tough guy. You see, me and the boys here, we really don’t give a fuck.” At his words, three other men entered the alley.  This was not good. They were outnumbered, and Corey and Lucas were both far too new to be of any use. “If you have a problem with us, you take it up with me, not the newbloods,” he said coldly to their assailant, who was staring at Corey, his lips curled into a smirk.

 

“You’re volunteering to be the first to get his ass kicked, tough guy?” the man asked, brushing off the collar of his jacket like he was suddenly bored. Cole narrowed his eyes at the insult, and squared off to fight, but was stopped from a voice in the shadows. It was Dodger, who, it appeared, had given up on his extra, opting instead for a small rusty metal pole.

 

“No,” he said as he stepped out of the darkness. “I’m volunteering.” He twirled the pole in his hand, raising his eyebrow.

 

Cole smirked as Dodge stood by his side. “Two on four. How’s that sound, eh? Might even be a fair fight if you had a couple more friends.” He wasn’t sure why he was making this worse, but at least he wasn’t coming off as weak. “So come on then. Whatcha waiting for?” he asked, cracking his neck.

 

The man just smirked at Dodge with a look that clearly said, “you can’t be serious.” Drawing a tire iron from his coat, he nodded to his crew, who all took a step forward, effectively blockading off the street. “It’ll be such a shame to bust up that pretty face of yours…” He stalked closer toward Cole and Dodge, brandishing his tire iron expertly.

 

“Good thing you won’t get close to it,” Dodger snapped back, now stepping next to Cole. “I think it would be a good time to make it rain, Cole,” he added under his breath, gripping the pole in his hand tightly. “I’m really going to enjoy driving this into your heart.” He stepped closer to the other vampire, blowing him a kiss before raising the pole to strike. On cue, Cole’s emotions began to well up – they’d already started, when the man threatened his childe’s face. Lightning cracked above them and a torrential downpour soaked the alley in just a few seconds.

 

“You wish, sweetheart.” The man’s voice sounded excited as he brought the tire iron up hard on the pole, sending heavy vibrations through them both. “Boys, do it,” he called and his crew closed in on them.

 

Cole’s head whipped around as he heard one of the thugs sneaking up on the other side of the newbloods. He scrambled to the other side of their party, ramming the man behind them full-on in the chest. The two traded punches, both landing far fewer than they threw. Cole took a punch to the side, which winded him, sending him reeling into Corey’s body and nearly knocking him to the ground. His anger flared up even stronger, and lightning struck the dumpsters on the far end of the alley as he ran forward, sending a punch to the goon’s chest that knocked him back against the brick wall, before he fell unconscious to the ground. On the other side of the alley, he saw Dodge land a kick hard to the leader’s crotch, sending him reeling.

 

“JOEY!” he shouted, stumbling slightly in pain. “Get the newbloods already you fat fuck! Henry, come back me up. Nice tricks,” he added to Cole and Dodge, before taking a swing with his tire iron at Cole’s head as if it were a baseball. Cole managed to catch a glimpse of “Joey” being headed off by Orphan before Dodge streaked by him, jumping onto the leader. Cole ducked quickly, and between Dodger’s distraction and his reflexes, narrowly avoided getting his skull fractured. Since the newbloods seemed to have Joey occupied, and Dodge clearly had their leader distracted, Cole weaved behind his companion and headed straight for Henry, landing a few blows before being knocked painfully to the ground. He had an excellent view of the group’s leader slamming Dodger hard into a brick wall, and knew he had to act fast before the man killed him. He jumped painfully onto his feet as Dodge went down, running across the alley and brutally kicking the leader in the gut, hoping to get him away from Dodge before he delivered a fatal blow. Before he could get another hit in, though, “Henry” grabbed him in a tight bear hug from behind.

 

“I don’t think so, tough guy,” Henry said, as he moved his arms up to Cole’s neck, cutting off his air supply. Cole flailed and struggled, trying to send elbows into the man’s stomach and any other soft parts he could reach, eventually landing a foot in the man’s crotch, sending both of them tumbling to the ground in agony. Both Cole and his attacker lay on the ground for a few seconds, long enough to watch Dodge activate his extra against the leader of the gang attacking them. By the way he was suddenly off balance and couldn’t seem to find Dodge, it appeared Dodger had removed his sense of sight.

 

“So that was you, eh pretty boy?” Cole heard the man ask as he staggered to stand up again. He wasn’t standing for long, though, as Dodge had managed to recover his metal pipe, and take a hard swing at the back of the man’s head. Cole could practically hear the smirk in Dodge’s voice as he replied, “That was me too.”

 

Cole heard Henry starting to get up, though, so he stopped watching Dodger, and managed to stumble to his feet just before the man next to him. He landed a punch to the man’s face, laying him out again, and then stomped on his stomach heavily, hoping to wind him so he would stay down. Unfortunately, Henry used this as an opportunity to roll over, tripping Cole who landed back on the ground next to the man. He landed on his back next to Henry, winded from the blow but not quite beaten. They both rolled on their sides, grappling on the ground as Cole struggled to win the advantage. Henry landed a fist in Cole’s stomach, winding him yet again, and sending him reeling off to the side. Now he was pissed, in excruciating pain, and almost out of energy. He summoned what little strength he had left, his rage welling up inside him, and sent a bolt of lightning straight for the man’s chest, missing by inches but causing a small explosion that knocked Henry into a wall, where he dropped unconscious.

 

Cole was still on the ground as the unthinkable happened. The leader had somehow managed to regain his sight, and was brandishing his tire iron menacingly. He took a swing that was sure to kill Dodger; there was no time to react. Cole shut his eyes. He couldn’t bear to watch his childe, his lover, his only friend in darkness reduced to a corpse and a splatter of blood and brains on the sidewalk. He waited for the sickening sound of metal on bone; but it never came. Cole opened his eyes slowly, taking in the unexpected scene in the alleyway. Two of the thugs lay unconscious where he left them, one was being pinned to the ground by Orphan but still fighting—apparently Lucas didn’t know how to throw a punch or a kick—Corey lay on the ground hacking, having obviously just taken the tire iron blow for Dodge, and Dodger was helping Corey up, with the gang leader stumbling backward from a particularly painful punch from Dodger. He’d have to remember to thank Corey later for saving his childe’s life. Especially since Dodge would be too pissed about having to have his life saved to do it himself, at least for a few days.

 

Cole staggered over to Orphan, who looked like he could use the most help. “Do I have to do everything myself?” he sighed, before walking over and kicking Joey in the face, breaking his nose and knocking him unconscious. “There. That’s how you fight, Orphan. We’re going to have to teach you these things some day…” Cole then slumped to the ground, exhausted, hoping to regain his strength in case Dodge needed his help. He didn’t, it turned out, as he managed to land a series of blows that knocked the man to the ground in a matter of a few more seconds, before he himself keeled over from exhaustion. The four of them remained on the ground for a few minutes, before Cole slowly got to his feet.

 

“Corey,” he said softly, as he helped Dodger to his feet and put Dodge’s arm around his shoulders, “I think it’s time you took us to that warehouse. Maybe we can make ourselves safe there.”

 

“Corey better know where the fuck he’s taking us or we’re throwing him in the sun,” Dodge said under his breath to Cole as they began limping away from the alleyway and the bodies of the four unconscious men.

 

Cole stopped for a second to shake his head like a dog, trying to get the debris off his face and out of his hair. “After what he did for you tonight,” Cole whispered back, “I trust him with my life.”

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