GFD Battle of Gods: Chapter 7

Thabit had been ‘home’ for a while. And Aiden had been more than home for an eternity. Both of them were dead. Both killed by those I had trusted.

I gave in to Joshua’s suggestion to go back to his house. Here was nothing left for me but hurting memories. I stood up and Joshua followed my example. I looked around to say goodbye to all of this. Like I had done it before in the past. The memory I had told Joshua about was still vivid in my head. I had run away that night like the first night of my existence to this life… and I had run away years later. And tonight I had run away again. What was more shame for me, it were humans that made me do that. I felt anger rising up inside of me. I was weak. A weak mortal that was afraid of his own shadow by now, but I didn’t want them to win this war this easily. I maybe had lost a fight, but the war isn’t over yet. This was only an interlude, a mere ceasefire for the time being. I took a step forward and suddenly felt a bit dizzy, almost stumbling over my own feet. Joshua was immediately at my side to hold me upright.

“Adrian are you alright?” the concern in his voice made me feel even worse, because I didn’t want him to worry about me. I felt my neck. Somehow the wounds had closed themselves and there was only some dry blood left. I looked down at the shirt he had borrowed me and there were stains of blood on the collar and some on the chest.

“Yeah, I’m ok. Just felt a bit dizzy. Maybe from the attack. I’m sorry for the shirt, though.”

Joshua gave me a puzzled look until he saw what I was referring to. “Ah, that doesn’t matter. We can wash it. Thank God, you’re okay, that’s what matters.” I smiled weakly. “You’ll need something else to wear, though. You can have another of mine if you like, because yours seem to be gone.” I nodded and then suddenly something came to my mind. Maybe it’s still there! I turned around and walked back to the staircase. I went down on my knees. Aiden and me used to have a secret place for important things and maybe they hadn’t found it. I tried to loosen the third step from the bottom, but it didn’t move. Am I really this weak? Damn it! I turned my head and looked back at Joshua who observed me with interest.

“Can you give me some help over here, please?” I asked him. He walked over and knelt next to me.

“What’s this about?” He didn’t know what to make of my efforts, but nevertheless laid his hands on the step next to mine.

“We have to pull it up.” He did what I asked him to do. Together it wasn’t as hard as it had been alone. The wood struggled with us, but finally gave in. The wooden plate of the step came off and the small compartment under it came into view.

Thank you, it’s still there! There was the small box Aiden and me had put there for safekeeping. I looked at Joshua and smiled at him. He still couldn’t imagine what this was all about. I took the box and laid it on the step below. When I opened it Joshua’s face came close to mine to get a better look. His mouth fell open in disbelief when he saw its content.

“Wow, how much is that?”

“That my friend,” I began smiling widely to his comment, “are about five thousand dollars in different currencies. US and Canadian dollars, British pound, Euro and I think we even have some Yen deep down there.”

“Bloody heel, that’s like in some James Bond movie,” he burst out. My eyes got wide as well, because I really was surprised by his reaction. After all it wasn’t much for me, but for him it must have been a fortune. “You even have some passports, how cool is that?” He reached for the documents and something metallic fell to the ground.

“It’s good to be prepared. Normally we used the private jet to go overseas, but you never know,” I said looking for the object that had made the noise.

“You have a private jet?” Damn, he wasn’t that excited when I told him that I’m a vampire. Was. My look fell on a small golden object on the floor. I reached out for it with my hand. I sighed when I saw what it was.

“What is that?” Joshua had turned his head around and also looked at the small tiny thing that lay on the palm of my hand.

“It’s Aiden’s ring. Well, it was the ring of his father but he inherited it.

“It must be really old.”

“Yes it is,” I said laughing a bit to myself, because it wasn’t half as old as I was. I tried to put the ring onto my right hand’s ring finger, but it glided off. Middle finger… same outcome. Apparently the ring was too wide for this teenager’s body. Aiden had kept this precious treasure well hidden, so that no one else would find it except for him or me. I sighed again and then put it into my pocket. I sniffed. I looked up and met Joshua’s gaze.

“You’re ready?” I answered with a nod. We both stood up and Joshua gave me the box.

“So… about the private jet.” I couldn’t help myself but I had to grin because of this silly comment. Joshua grinned, too. He really was cute when he tried to soothe me. The emerald color of his eyes was sparkling and it was fascinating to see.

“Actually it’s the private jet of the elders with special blackened windows. And it’s quite comfortable. You know, like every government has some of those, so did we.”

“That must be such a cool life. You must tell me more about it.”

“It was.” I didn’t want to say that but it just came out. Joshua put a hand on his mouth and then said, “I’m sorry, Adrian. I didn’t mean…”

“Hey, it’s ok.” I put my arm around him. This embrace somehow felt really good. “You don’t have to apologize for everything that happened to me. It’s not your fault, you know. If it wasn’t for you and your family I sure would already be dead by now.” We moved on down to the hall.

“Is everything ok, Adrian?” Frank gave me a concerned look. “I didn’t do something wrong, did I. I thought it was all right to let them go and pack your things. They had your signature and one of your keys…” I knew they had taken the key!

“No Frank, everything is ok.” I didn’t want him to blame himself. “I thank you for your help.” I held out my hand to him. “I will miss our talks as well.” He shook it. “Would you give my love to Emily? I’m sorry I can’t say goodbye to her myself, but I think there’s no time.”

“Sure, I’ll do that. And say goodbye to Aiden from us, as well, would you?” That did really hurt. It was like the wound of my heart reopened from the words. I struggled with the emotions. I suddenly could feel a hand on mine and knew Joshua was again trying to help me with this. I gave Frank a last nod and a fake smile that gave off confidence and then walked to the exit. Joshua let go of my hand and we both left the apartment complex. It was quite late now, the street lights were the only thing that forced back the dark. I followed Joshua. Apparently he knew a way back to his house from here. Frank words were running through my head ‘say goodbye to Aiden from us’. If I only could do that, but I had nothing from him left, except his ring and my memories. No body to mourn. They will pay, Aiden. They will pay!

 

 

We walked down the streets for several minutes. I could see Joshua turning his head from time to time. He was looking for something, but I couldn’t tell what it was.

“What’s on your mind, Joshua?” I asked him.

“Huh? Oh, I just thought maybe there’s a shop that’s still open where we can by some.”

“Buy some what?” I looked at him with a puzzled expression on my face.

He raised one of his brows and then said, “Oh sorry… some clothes, of course.” He actually got a point there. Him lending me some clothes of his didn’t need to be an option anymore. We could really buy new ones for me, like I had intended in the first place when he had told me his mother had put my things in the laundry.

“That’s a good idea.”

When we found a store that sold clothes as well Joshua held me back before I could enter. “What is it?” He looked at me and gave me a smirk.

“No offense, but I think they wouldn’t appreciate if you walked in there like this.” He pointed at the shirt where the stains of blood had changed into some dark brown spots on the green fabric. Nevertheless you could clearly identify their origin especially since there was still the dried blood on my neck. I should have used the bathroom in the apartment. Now it was too late. I knew Joshua was right. I looked like a kid that meant trouble and I was sure they would have thrown me out of the shop immediately.

“I can buy the things for you. You don’t mind, do you?” He bit his bottom lip and it was this shy gesture that gave me another warm feeling of acceptance and care.

“Not at all.” I reached for the box I had carried under my arm. I didn’t want somebody to see the amount of money that was in there. We didn’t need to be raided tonight as well. I looked up and down the street but couldn’t see anybody who was interested in two young boys. I handed Joshua some hundred-dollar bills and his eyes got wide again. Looking at the money he said, “I’m sure that is too much, Adrian.” He took a peek at the few pedestrians on his own.

“Maybe you can buy something for yourself, too then. You don’t need to… but I would feel better if I can give you something in return.” I looked him in the eyes. “And I only have this money left to do something for you. So, you would make me happy if you accepted this as a thank-you and a compensation for the shirt from me.” He was touched I could tell that.

“But you already did so much.” What the hell does that mean? In fact, I only got him hurt, even almost killed, I maybe ruined his belief in the world forever and I bled on his shirt. What did I do for him that wasn’t a bad thing?

“Anyway…,” he went on. “Erm… what do you prefer…to wear?” He blushed a bit.

“What do you mean? I think jeans and shirts are ok.” I shrugged my shoulders.

“No, I mean,” he blushed even more, “briefs or boxers?” My mouth fell open. He wants to buy my underwear? That’s some awkward moment.

“Erm…,” I hesitated. Then… Ok, that’s a mean thought, Adrian! I grinned to myself and Joshua gave me a look. “You see, as you already have undressed me before, I’m sure you already know.” That was some red face of his you don’t see every day. Bad Adrian. I began to laugh, I couldn’t help myself but he looked so funny with his cheeks covered in the blush. I burst out “Hehe, you should see your face.” He gave me a fierce look.

“I’m sorry, Joshua,” I said still laughing.

He threw his arms into the air to show his surrender. “Ok. You know what, you’re right. I already know. But as you said before I shall not apologize for everything that happens to you… so I’m not sorry that I took your clothes off.” He turned around and stamped into the store. I snickered and my glance fell on an elder woman that looked appalled back at me.

“Good evening, ma’am.” I lightly bowed my head and the old lady hurried away as fast as her legs allowed it. Again I grinned to myself. I think we gave her a pretty shock. To me it felt comfortable. The talks with Joshua were helpful. You would have liked him, Aiden. He’s a good friend. I sighed and had to wipe my nose, because the pain of his loss came back to me. I looked around.

I remembered how I had walked down these streets with Aiden. Countless times to be exact. Or not. It was always a nice moment we shared together. Just walking, sometimes even holding hands. Although it wasn’t a normal sight for many other people when there were two teenage boys holding hands, but we didn’t care. All of them were inferior to us. Of course I had cared for the humans, otherwise I wouldn’t have made the Treaties of Annapolis in the Maryland State House in 1911 to bring order into the almost running-out-of-hand feedings. The humans shouldn’t know about our species and we couldn’t deal with all these bodies on our own. So we reinsured the balance of power between out both worlds, because there shouldn’t be another war. Now Lucas had made his own alliance, for what purpose I still had to find out, and I was one of the ‘inferior’ humans.

I heard laughter from a group of young grown-ups that came walking down the street and giving me some faces. It was then when I felt something. It was as if my former senses had returned. But humans sometimes also had this feeling. They could tell when they were observed and now there was this feeling for me. As if there was something or somebody that was observing me. I let my eyes wander around. There wasn’t much traffic and even less pedestrians in the streets, but I was sure that somewhere close to me there was someone. My eyes followed the street up and down. I could see nothing and I almost got angry with myself. Don’t be a fool, there’s nothing there. I looked back at the shop’s entrance and hoped Joshua would return soon. When I turned my head again towards the street my view fell on an alley that lay in the dark on the other side. It was only for a moment but I could have sworn there was a figure observing me. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed. Though I haven’t seen it completely I got the hint of some faint glow in the dark.

My breathing increased. Not twice in one night, I thought to myself. Suddenly the door behind me opened and I span around. I was relieved when I saw Joshua coming out of the store, in both of his hands tote bags. He seemed to be content with himself. I looked back again at the alley. I concentrated on the spot I had seen the figure and the glow before but no one was there. It was hard to calm myself. My heart was still beating at high rate and my breathing came irregular. Joshua looked at me when I faced him again.

“S’up? You seem like you’ve seen a ghost.” He cocked his head and then bit his bottom lip.

“No, not a ghost but maybe a monster.” His eyes got wide immediately. Too vivid was the memory of the attacker in the park and he surely didn’t want to have another encounter of that sort in one night either.

“You’re sure?” He asked his voice a mere whisper.

“No, but let’s go to your home quickly.” We started walking and I took a last peek at the alley but still there was nothing. I didn’t even know if I had imagined the whole thing. But the feeling had been too real for just my imagination. I took one of the bags from his hand. “We’ll be safe there.”

“Yeah I remember, vampires can’t come through the door, when they’re not invited.”

I looked at him from the side. “Where did you hear that?”

“Why? They say it in the movies.”

“Oh, I understand. Like the mirror… and the crucifixes… and the garlic.” I didn’t want to sound so harshly, but right now I couldn’t understand the human stupidity. What they show you on TV must be right, right? Sigh.

“Does that mean…?” he was scared now. His eyes were full of fear and I already regretted what I had said… and thought.

“It’s ok, Joshua.” I tried to lay a soothing tone into my voice. After all, he was all new to this. I couldn’t blame him for his lack of knowledge. “I think no one is following us. We’re safe now. And maybe I just imagined the whole thing.” It wasn’t only for him that I said that. It was as well to reassure myself.

 

 

When we finally reached Joshua’s house I felt relieved. No one had passed our way, well no one that would have posed a threat to us.

“Now we have to sneak you in, so my mom doesn’t see the blood. She would freak out on us and I probably wouldn’t be allowed to leave the house until I’m… like thirty?” Joshua grinned.

He moved the key in the lock and silently opened the door. There was light in the living room but I couldn’t see anybody. Joshua waved at me and I made sure to follow him quickly into the house. He closed the door and then took my arm to pull me to the staircase. We hurried up to reach the first floor unnoticed.

“Joshua is that you?” I could hear his mother shouting from downstairs.

“Yes mom.”

“Where’ve you been? Your father and I got worried!”

“Sorry mom, took longer than we thought.”

“Ok, but next time when I ask you to take you cell with you, would you please make sure it’s turned on?” I could hear the slight reproach in her voice.

“Oh, it was on when I left. Maybe it’s the battery.” After a short pause he added, “We’re going to bed now. See you in the morning. G’night.”

He pushed me into his bedroom. “That was close,” he said, grinning at me. I stood in the middle of the room, the tote bag still in my hand. There was a slight regret in the back of my mind. I had put Joshua into danger and his parents didn’t even know about it. What if their son had died out there? His mother would try to call him but would only get the mailbox to answer her, probably with his nice voice telling her to leave a message. This would have been the only thing left for her; to listen to his voice over and over again, not knowing what happened to her son, if he ran away or if he was dead. That sure would be an awful situation for a mother. Not knowing. Not having certainty about the whereabouts of her own son. I bit my bottom lip. How could I do that? How could I allow him to lead such a life with the knowledge of the best-kept secret in the world? But, you know, he always was in danger, his whole family always was. It could happen every random day when they were out in the streets. I somehow felt guilty about the mere existence of my former species. What would I do now with my mortal life? Living every day as if it were my last? Growing up? The last one really frightened me, not because of the fact to look older, I was used to that. But because of the fact to ‘grow old’ and then… someday to die. If my life shouldn’t end as a ‘donor’ before. But that wouldn’t be a problem, would it? I am poisonous. Joshua looked at me. Am I ‘poisonous’ for him, too? Have I condemned him to death for just knowing me? I put the bag on the couch. He came closer.

“You wanna see?” he asked excitedly.

“Huh?”

“What I bought for you, of course.” He shook his head as though as it was obvious what he meant.

I wasn’t too anxious to see the new clothes, but it would make him happy and so I tried to put a look of expectancy on my face.

He laid his bag to its twin on the couch and hurried back to the bedroom door to get rid of his shoes. When he came back he hopped onto the couch, taking the bags into his lap. The now free space next to him was sure an invitation for me to sit down as well and so I did.

“Ok, here we go. But be honest! I tried to find something you would like.” He put his hands into the bag on top. I didn’t know how or why, but as soon as I sat next to him his childlike excitement infected me somehow. His mere presence next to me soothed the emotions I had before. I began again to bite my bottom lip, now really feeling ‘the urge to know’. I just observed him.

The first things he pulled out were… socks. White sport socks. I raised my brows when he handed them over to me. “Erm… thanks, I think.” What else should I say?

He laughed. “Wait until you get the rest.” I was prepared for the boxers to be next but instead he gave me two blue jeans. I saw the used look when I unfolded them. Laying the socks next to me I stood up and held one of the jeans to my hips. “Yes, they will fit,” Joshua said. Somehow I felt like a child that was clothed by his mother. I never had such a moment in my existence. I had seen it on TV… and in real life when Aiden and me went to some retail store to buy something for ourselves. It felt kinda strange to be cared for like this.

Next there were three sweatshirts. One red, one blue and to my astonishment one green. “I preferred the blue one, but you said you liked green, so…”

I couldn’t help myself; I leaned over and hugged him. I just felt like doing so. It weren’t only the clothes but everything he had done for me. “Thank you, Joshua,” I said loosening the embrace.

“You’re welcome, Adrian. You know,” he smiled, “it was your money.” There was a slight tone of pink on his cheeks.

“Yes I know, but thanks anyway.” I looked down at the new clothes; clothes for a normal teenage boy. But he wasn’t finished, yet. He finally gave me the boxers and giggled when he saw the look on my face. I smiled, too, when the old lady came back to my mind. Then there was an all black pajama… I should have expected something like that… and lastly he gave me a toothbrush. Who would have thought of that? Something so trivial? He really is good at this.

Joshua stood up and put the now empty bags into the trash basket. When he turned around again he looked at me from head to toe, especially head, and then grimaced. “You know, you’ve got new clothes now, but you still look like a mess and you’re dirty.” He got a point there. I was a mess with the dry blood on my neck and his shirt.

“Maybe you should take a shower to wash off the blood and all and clean yourself. You can use Sarah’s and my bathroom for that if you like.”

“You’re right.” I heaved myself up and turned for the door.

“Towels and stuff are there.”

“Thanks.”

“No prob.” He gave me a grin and I opened the door of his bedroom, stepping into the hall.

I remembered the bathroom from the last time I went there. When I found out about my fate… and blacked out, I thought. I looked again into the mirror and my young familiar face was reflected back at me. In fact it didn’t look completely familiar. Sure, the ear long black hair was still the same, my soft cheeks, my nose, my mouth, everything was just the same. Only my eyes were different. Not the blue color that is, but their shine, their sparkle was gone. Not only caused by my mortality; they must have lost their shine when the only thing that made them sparkle was gone: Aiden. And the slight bruise under my left eye remembered me even more of the loss and the fact that I couldn’t do anything to safe him.

I kept staring at the familiar and likewise unknown person. I sighed and began to take off the borrowed clothes holding the shirt by the collar. Hopefully the blood would wash out. I looked at my naked body. I wasn’t to skinny in this appearance but maybe a pound or two more wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Am I actually thinking this? Adapting to the new life?

I stepped into the glassy shower stall. I winced a little when the first jet of cold water hit me but soon the it got warmer. I closed my eyes and held my face into the warm jet, feeling the sensation it was giving my skin. I moved forward until it completely covered my body. My muscles immediately began to relax when they felt the stimulation. I couldn’t imagine something feeling so good on my naked skin; except for Aiden’s hands. I shivered. A cool chill was running down my back. I tried hard to think of something else, something different, something less… arousing, but it was already too late to evade my erection.

I rubbed my neck, trying to clean it from the blood with some shower gel. I hardly could concentrate on this task because every time I closed my eyes again I saw Aiden’s face, his smile on the adorable lips, the little wrinkle it created in the corner of his mouth, his soft chin and cheeks, his perfectly cute nose and the marvelous, outshining, transcendent emerald eyes of his. I felt my own hands wandering down on my body, gliding over my chest, then over my stomach until they found what they were looking for. I stroked my hard-on, trying to hold onto the image in my mind. I moaned. The emerald eyes were all I could see. When I tried to take a mental step back to see the whole picture, Aiden’s face was gone. But in its place was another face now. “Joshua,” I whispered. I was appalled by myself. I opened my eyes in an instant and turned off the water. I had to calm myself, to steady my breathing.

I turned around and nearly jumped out of my skin. Jumpy now, too, huh? I narrowed my eyes to get a better view through the steamed up glass. “Joshua, what are you doing here?” I opened the shower door and stepped out of the stall. How long had he been standing there? “Where you watching me?” I gave him a puzzled look. I reached for a towel that hung down from a towel rack, allowing small droplets of water to fall to the ground.

“What? Hell, no!” he said aloud and his eyes widened. “I just thought… you might need another towel.” I could see him blushing, holding another bath towel in his hand. I took a quick peek at the front of his jeans. He did watch me! Then, Did he hear me as well?

I tried to play it down. “Thanks, but this one will be sufficient.” I wrapped the towel around my hips, covering my still semi hard erection. Joshua tried to look straight into another direction.

“Ok… I think I will let you finish then.” He looked at me again and I got the feeling he wanted to say something else, but all there was, was a shy, “Erm… ok,” and he turned around and left the bathroom, taking the towel with him.

I stood there for about a minute without moving. Did I scare him? I didn’t know if I should be concerned or relieved. His physical reaction showed he might have been ‘interested’, but wouldn’t every teenage boy react like that? Damn, how shall I know?

I sighed, taking another towel to dry off my hair. When I stepped back in front of the mirror I was more pleased with my appearance. My cheeks had a more vital color. I used a brush to style my hair, although I didn’t need to for the night, but I did it anyway. I smiled to my twin in the mirror. When my gaze fell on my neck I had to do a double take. This can’t be. The wound the other vampire had caused was still there, but it already had begun to heal. For a human, normally, this would have taken more time to gain this state. Then re-thinking, if ever he had survived a bite like that at all. I raised my hand; there was no pain when I touched it. There was fresh skin enclosing the greater part of it and preventing the wound from bleeding, which normally would have required several stitches at least. This really gave me an irritation. I had to think about it.

I toweled down completely and then wrapped it again around my hips. I didn’t need someone else to see me naked, too, when walking through the house. That would give them a shock. I grinned to myself. Well, Joshua’s bedroom was next door, but you never knew.

I grabbed the dirty clothes and took one last peek in the mirror before I left the bathroom, heading towards Joshua’s little realm. I heard a door shut when I exited to the hall. I knew it must have been the opposite door to Joshua’s room and although I didn’t know it for sure I guessed it might be Sarah’s. Is she late, too?

Shrugging my shoulders I entered my sleeping accommodation for the night. It had changed quite a lot. The couch was gone. Well, actually it was a sleeper and Joshua had prepared it with a blanket and a pillow.

Turning around to me he said, “I thought you could sleep in my bed.” I put the clothes down to the floor and raised my brows. “What? Absolutely out of the question? I won’t let you sleep on this while I cuddle up in your bed.” I pointed at the sleeper. “I’ve occupied your bed long enough. The sleeper is fine for me and I won’t argue about that Joshua.” I gave him a serious look that made him grin. There was no sign of discomfort or unease. Maybe he didn’t hear. Teasing him was one thing – he knew how I felt about love and same gender relations – but getting a hard-on from his picture was something completely different. Not to mention that I didn’t know why it had happened anyway. I felt guilty about it. It wasn’t right. I couldn’t just move on and forget about Aiden. Great, now I’m feeling even worse. What was I thinking?

He shrugged his shoulders. “Ok, if you insist.” What was that supposed to mean? “Let’s go to bed. I feel tired and tonight was the opposite of recreation.” I went over to the sleeper but looked back at him when he began to take off his sweater. For a moment I just stared at this perfect figure, how it stood there only wearing its tight jeans. Adrian! Trying to gain my self-control back my gaze fell on the lower left of his ribcage. My eyes widened when I saw the bruise that had begun to spread there.

“Oh no, Joshua!” I hurried over to his side. “Let me see.”

He looked down at himself. From the look on his face he mustn’t have known it was there either, but he tried to play it down by saying, “It’s nothing.”

“Nothing? You’re hurt…” I gently laid my hand on his side, trying to examine the bruise as far as I could. I had to rely on my knowledge about human physiology without my vampire senses. I touched his skin and could hear him inhale a bit. I looked up and our eyes met, blue met green. I felt a shiver running through my whole body. Or was it his? His bare skin felt so warm and soft under my hand. He parted his lips a bit.

I didn’t know how long I had stared into hi eyes, but when I snapped out of the trance-like state I continued my examination.

“Ouch!” he winced.

“Sorry. It seems no rip is broken, but I think the bruise will be there for some days.”

He giggled, “Then we have something in common,” and pointed with his index finger at my left eye.

“I think so.” I smiled at him, retreating my hand. The warm feeling vanished.

I went back to the sleeper to put on the pajamas and Joshua continued his unclothing as well. I didn’t look at, though I could hear him unbuttoning and unzipping his jeans. A small part of me wanted to look at him… to observe him, but I didn’t give into this other half of me. I loosened the towel and hurried to get into the pajamas. When I was ready and took a peek over my shoulder Joshua already sat on his bed… looking in my direction.

“You’re ready?”

“Yeah,” was all I answered. Pulling the blanked aside I lay down and rested my head on the pillow. Joshua hopped off of the bed and walked through the room to switch off the light. I could hear him walking back. The fabric rustled when he climbed into the comfortable bed. I looked up at the dark ceiling. The light from outside the window wasn’t enough to actually let you distinguish more than a few different shadows. This was new to me, too. Being surrounded by so much darkness wasn’t what I remembered from my first life as a mortal. But maybe it had just been a too long time since then. 5000 years! In the past I never really thought about my age, it was something that you forgot about after the first millennium or two. I rolled on my side and listened to my own breathing.

“Adrian?” Joshua asked into the dark.

“Huh?”

“What was it like?”

“You mean being a vampire? Actually it’s hard to describe. Everything is just different for you.” I paused. “You know, when you’re more aware of everything around you there is a completely different way of ‘looking’ at things. The sound of the wind, the touch of the rain on you skin, it’s all a new experience. But sooner or later even a vampire gets used to these sensations and they don’t give you the aww-moment anymore like they always did. Then you might think there’s nothing special left in your existence, nothing left to learn. But that’s not true. It took me ages to find that out. You know, there’s no such thing as perfection. There always is, indeed, something you haven’t encountered before. A new challenge. Take my actual state for example. I sure haven’t had such a situation before. But then, there are aspects of a vampire life where you might think they just sound cool, like drinking blood. Sure, in the movies they do it quite good and the vampires are some nice guys, that are also good looking by the way…” Joshua snickered but didn’t interrupt me. “But in reality it’s not like that. You’ve seen the vampire in the park. How he went into hunting mode. No talking could have brought him out of that, could make him stop. Only when he got what he lacks for, when he’s satisfied he would go back to normal. Well, he was a young-one, though. The older vampires, the far more experienced ones can better control their instincts. But after all there’s only one answer to the equation. Blood. Without it, no survival. And the only way to survive is to hunt. I remember the first ones I’ve killed. I was in a blood rage then. It was awful and afterwards I felt terrible. I have seen other vampires, too, from a little child to grown-up, referred to their physical appearance, that went berserk on blood.” I sighed. “I even killed some of them, because they couldn’t be controlled. Our secret has to stay that… a secret.” I rolled onto my back again. My eyes had adapted a bit to the dark. “Does that answer your question?”

He didn’t respond immediately. In fact I began to believe that he already had faded away to dreamland when he answered, “Erm… to be honest… I meant, what was it like to have someone you care about?” His voice had a shy tone.

Now it was me who didn’t respond immediately. How was it like? How shall I explain that?

“Did you ever have a crush on someone?”

He cleared his throat and then whispered a small “Yes.”

“And did you think you would do anything to put this person out of harm’s way? To do whatever it might cost to ensure this person’s safety?”

Another “Yes.”

“Then you know the answer. And if this feeling is mutual and if you can’t be without each other, that’s the best experience in the world.” I sighed again and felt one single tear emerging from my right eye. Stick to you promise!

Joshua was silent. I was eager to know his thoughts but this wasn’t possible anymore, unless he told them to me willingly. But it seemed as if he didn’t want to share them right now.

“Thank you Adrian for your honesty. I think we should sleep now. G’night.”

I didn’t know why he said that or what I might have said to end this conversation like this. I really would have given anything to know his thought in that moment, but instead I just bit my bottom lip, sucking my question down and then said, “G’night, Joshua.”

I stared at the ceiling for several more minutes. My thoughts were doing a footrace in my head. Increasing their pace one after the other, overtaking each other. It was fatiguing. I felt my eyelids growing heavy and finally dropping down. I drifted off to sleep.

 

 

Someone shook my shoulder. I had to force my eyes open because they wouldn’t do it willingly. I yawned and looked into two beautiful emerald eyes.

“Good morning sleepy head!” I heard Joshua’s voice calling out to me. I felt so worn out and wanted to sleep for an eternity. “You don’t wanna sleep away the whole day, do you? Had a nice dream?”

I shook my head to get rid of the remaining drowsiness. “To the first one, of course not and to the second, I think it was a dreamless sleep.” I threw my legs from under the blanket. Did I cover myself last night?

I stood up and looked at Joshua who was fully dressed. He raised one of his brose and gave me a grin.

“What is it? I asked him, not knowing why he reacted like that.”

“Instead of just saying ‘good morning’ you give me two full responses to two different questions although you’re still half asleep? My mother will so like this habit when I tell her.” His mother? Why is he talking about his mother now?

“By the way, what did you mean when you said ‘a dreamless night’?” He cocked his head a little.

I scratched my head. “Vampires don’t have dreams every night.”

“Ok, but humans do!” he answered. I knew that, too, but I couldn’t think about that right now. “Anyway. Adrian, if you like you can use the bathroom again to wash yourself. When you’re finished come down for breakfast, ok?”

Right on cue there was rumbling of my stomach. I looked down at the source. Joshua must have heard it as well.

“Hurry up! You haven’t eaten yesterday. So you must be pretty hungry.” He turned around and left the bedroom. I heard his footsteps on the staircase when he went downstairs.

I was a bit irritated, because the feeling was so different from the other hunger. I have eaten normal food, but it never had given me the satisfaction like blood had done. And my body never had craved for normal food until some moments ago. I tried to remember some aspects of my life before my ‘life’. But it was clear, our community had had enough food and we never had starved. So this was a really new experience for me.

I looked at a small pile of clothes. My clothes. Joshua had put them next to the sleeper… and on top of them the toothbrush. I bent down and grabbed the toothbrush and a boxer up from the pile, putting it on the edge of the sleeper. I took off the pajamas and slipped into the boxer shorts. With a last glimpse at the lingering toothbrush I headed over to the bathroom. The mirror welcomed me again. My twin was already waiting for me to stare back into my eyes. There were some dark circles underneath them, but the bruise almost had vanished. And, narrowing my eyes, as did the wound. I shook my head in disbelief. My hand went all on its own to the spot on my neck, fumbling on its edges and circling around it. This was impossible, wasn’t it?

I tried to bring my hair into order and smiled when I found some hair wax I could use for this task. The door to the bathroom opened… and Joshua’s sister Sarah entered.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll come back later,” she said already turning around.

“There’s no need for you to wait. I’m finished anyway.” I gave her a smile. She hesitated and then decided to stay. She stepped next to me and her reflection in the mirror looked back at me. She wore a blue jeans and some opal top.

“How did you sleep?” she asked politely.

“Good, thank you.”

“I’m glad you feel better. You gave us a good worry. Well, Joshi was worried most.”

I raised one of my brows and looked irritated at the Sarah-reflection “Joshi?”

“Come on, you know who I mean. It’s my nickname for him, dummy.”

I didn’t want to be rude, especially ‘Joshi’ wasn’t there to defend himself, but I had to grin anyway. The grin faded into a snicker.

“What is so funny, huh?” she grinned back at me.

“Nothing,” I cleared my throat and tried to get back my self-control. My last snicker escaped nevertheless.

She turned to face me. “I think you’re not just one random boy. And you behave a bit strange, too.” Strange? How can she say that? She can’t know about me, can she?

“Strange? What do you mean?” I gave her a puzzled look that should express my irritation.

“Well, normal boys your age wouldn’t stay in a bathroom with a girl while they’re only wearing boxers,” she pointed at the black cotton underwear and put an amused grin onto her face. I looked down at my self. They wouldn’t?

“Not that I don’t like the sight of it,” now she giggled. My mouth fell open to say something, but I didn’t know what to respond to that.

“Maybe I’m not the one who should tell you, but I think my brother likes you, Adrian.”

“Yes, he’s a nice guy.”

“No, I mean really likes you.”

I didn’t know why but my heart increased its beating when she told me that. I cocked my head a bit. Narrowing my eyes I asked, “How do you know that?”

Her first response was an amused grin. Damn it, this not being able to read their thoughts is going on my nerves! “I’m not supposed to tell you,” came then as her answer.

Was she serious? First she began to talk about it and then she couldn’t go on.

“Come on.”

“We talked. Yesterday. When you were still in here.” These small three sentences of hers made my eyes grow wide. What did he tell her about me?

My worries stormed into my face, they must have done that, because she laid her hand on my shoulder. I looked at it. “It’s ok Adrian. Well, he shouldn’t have either, but he told me about your… boyfriend.” More worries. “And I’m sorry you two split up.” Split up?

“He told you he liked me?” I was still confused about the fact she had unveiled before. Well, actually the made up fact.

“I can’t tell you what he said. It’s his choice whether or not he talks to you. So… I hope you recover soon. I wish you a nice day.” With a last look into the mirror and a stroke through her hair to put a strand behind her ear she left. I was left behind. Irritated from what she just said.

Girls! Who can understand them? Wait… did I just think that? That’s so… human!

I went back to Joshua’s bedroom. I had chosen what to wear before I entered the room. I put on one of the jeans, slipped into the white sport socks and then took the sweatshirt I wanted to wear. The blue one. It matched my eyes. And Joshua had said he preferred the blue one.

My stomach growled again. I sighed to myself and went downstairs to have some breakfast.

 

 

I heard voices and tried to find my way through the first floor. I passed the living room in which I had met Joshua’s parents and his sister the evening before and walked on until I found the kitchen. Sarah had beaten me there, because she was already present. I listened to our conversation in my head once more. Was there something I didn’t see? I remembered what had happened in the bathroom yesterday. Did I see something in him? Or maybe, was there something Joshua saw in me? He was already spooning up a bowl of cereal, but looked up when I entered the room and grinned at me. Joshua’s mother welcomed me with a wide smile on her own. “Good morning. How did you sleep, Adrian?”

How did I sleep? “Fine.” I think. I walked to the other side of the table and sat down next to Joshua. I looked around and ‘examined’ the food on the breakfast table. Was this what I had to eat again to survive? I saw the said cereal, the relevant milk for it, some toast, jelly, other sugar-containing spreads and fruits as well. I smiled when I noticed the latter.

“If you prefer something else don’t hesitate to ask. I could make you some scrambled eggs and bacon. Or maybe pancakes?” Michelle was really kind. That made me feel comfortable, but I didn’t want to be a burden.

“Please, don’t bother. This is perfect,” I said and she nodded and smiled at me again.

Joshua looked up from his bowl. “Mom, when was the last time you asked us if we wanted pancakes?” He observed his mother’s reaction. Did I say something wrong?

“You have your cereal so stick to those, honey. Adrian is our guest and I just want him to feel comfortable,” she responded and then looked at me again. “And it’s no bother at all, dear.” Did she just call me ‘dear’?

I smiled weakly. “Really, this is enough for me. Thank you for being so kind, Michelle.”

“You’re welcome, dear.”

She did call me ‘dear’. Joshua giggled next to me and I looked at him a bit puzzled. He leaned over and whispered, “Dear!” and then snickered again. Then I heard footsteps coming towards us and turned my head. I saw Joshua’s father enter the kitchen.

“Oh, am I late?” He walked over to his wife and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“As always,” was the answer he got. But it sounded somehow rehearsed, as if this was an everyday play for them. Chris sat down across from me and cocked his head when he looked at me. That by now made me feel a bit uncomfortable. What was he looking at?

“No offense, Adrian, but did you miss something there?” He pointed at my sleeve. I knew that the others turned their heads to me as well and I looked down at the sleeve he was pointing at. I noticed a small bit of paper hanging down from it, now resting on the table. I saw several numbers and then realized that this small piece of paper was a price tag. My eyes got wide.

“Erm… yes, thank you. I guess I missed that.” I bit my bottom lip, because Joshua’s parents believed we had been to my place to grab some of my clothes. I couldn’t tell them that their son had bought my clothes only yesterday. “It’s still new. I think I just grabbed it at random from my wardrobe.” I didn’t know if they believed me, again this not being able to read their minds was really annoying, but no one tried to broach the subject again and I just hid the tag in my sleeve.

Joshua handed me another bowl, it was followed by the package of cereal. I didn’t even know if I liked cereal. I had never tried it, not once in my existence. When those little ‘thingies’ rolled into the dish in front of me, I doubted they would taste good. I put the package back on the table and looked for the milk, but Sarah was again faster than me. She reached over to take the bottle and then handed it to me from across the table.

“Thank you,” I said.

“You’re welcome.”

I didn’t know why everybody was so nice to me. It was as if they were dealing with something fragile that should be treated carefully to not break it to pieces. I poured the milk onto the still ‘taking-a-little-getting-used-to-cereal’, wow, will I ever? And then took the first spoon of the mixture. The spoon entered my mouth and from the corner of my eye I could see Joshua observing me. I chewed on the crunchy cereal and… I liked it! My eyes widened when I realized that. I chewed faster.

“Ya like ‘em, dude?” Joshua asked next to me.

I swallowed, nodding my head simultaneously. “Oh yeah, those are really good. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like this.” Oh oh. Quickly I added, “I mean, of course I’ve had cereal before, but never this kind.” Nice save, Adrian. Stupid!

My eyes met Sarah’s and she cocked her head a bit. The look on her face was something I couldn’t read at all. I had had so much insight into the psyche of humans, but now I wasn’t able to read a simple facial expression? How deep did I sink? Then, suddenly, she smirked and that was even more irritating. I took another spoon and chewed again. The taste was even better this time, because the milk had begun to soak into the cereal and this somehow increased the flavor. Amazing. How could something so normal be so fascinating at the same time?

“So, what have you boys planned for today?” Joshua’s mother asked over my meal. I gave her a casual glance and then looked at my neighbor. I hadn’t talked to him yet about my plans and I didn’t know how he would react. I had stayed for the night, but I had to get out of their home… their life, as soon as possible. Although I had trusted Joshua with my secret, he was not ready for a life like this. Especially with me being just a shadow of my former being. I couldn’t protect them like this, so it was inevitable for our ways to part again. Despite owing my life to them, no… because I owed my life to them, I had to leave. I thought so, but…

“Well, we could go to the arcade for a while. It would be fun,” Joshua said. Why did he do this? Why did he have to be so nice… and caring? “May we go there, Mom?”

“Sure, why not?” After she had said that I immediately felt a shaking on my left arm.

“Isn’t that awesome, Adrian? What ya think?”

Did I really have to answer that? I took a deep breath, struggling with my response. My mouth opened and closed and then I finally said, “Sure, why not?” Yeah, as if those words were your own, Adrian. Dammit!

“Cool,” he said, giving me a smirk and then we both continued with our breakfast. I sighed inwardly. Teenagers.

“Maybe I can accompany you a bit,” Sarah spoke and Joshua’s head rose in an instant.

“You wanna come with us?” he asked, with an irritated expression on his face. One of his brows slowly moved up and when it reached its highest position he added, “Since when are you into computer games?”

“Hello? Can’t I spend time with my brother and his friend,” the word ‘friend’ had such a weird intonation in it. “I only met him yesterday, so we could come to know each other better.” It was a lie and Sarah and I both knew it when her eyes met mine for a second and then looked back at her brother. I observed their exchange of glances; even I could feel the vibes Joshua sent out and after Sarah’s and my talk in the bathroom, I could imagine what its content was. “Anyway, you don’t need to worry, Joshi, Karen and I are meeting Lori at her place and it’s on the way. I won’t go with you to the arcade. I bet you will destroy more vampires and zombies in that nasty game there. Ugh!”

Joshua cringed a bit when she said ‘vampires’ and I didn’t feel comfortable with it either, although I imagined we had different reasons. I spooned up the last remains of my cereal. How could I avoid all of this? Maybe I should just stand up, go upstairs and take my new clothes and leave. And then what? Where should I go? I knew so many places, but I wasn’t part of the happening there anymore. Let alone that I would hurt Joshua really bad by just leaving. I was in a dilemma.

“Are you finished?” Joshua’s voice brought me back from my thoughts to the present.

“Huh?”

“If you’re finished, let’s go. It’s almost noon and we don’t want the best games to be taken. It’s a battle out there, you know.” He grinned. “Those kids can be real pests.”

“Joshua!” Michelle said.

“What Mom? It’s true! They will play the whole afternoon and you can’t discuss it with them.” He stood up. “They are evil.” He adjusted his clothes and picked up a piece of lint from his shirt’s sleeve. I grinned to myself, because it was fun to observe him.

“I’m ready,” Sarah noted, and I had no other choice than giving in to both of them.

“Thank you for the breakfast, Michelle. I really liked it.”

The smile I got warmed my heart. It was so honest and her words made me feel even more comfortable and welcome. “Awww, I appreciate that you liked it, dear. Maybe Joshua should follow your example sometimes.” She grinned at her son and was rewarded with the rolling of his eyes.

“Have fun, you three,” Chris added and I stood up as well and followed the twins.

“Cell phone, Joshua!” his mother called behind him.

“Of course, Mom,” he answered, but I saw how he rolled his eyes once more. Again I had to grin to myself.

 

 

“What was that in there?” Joshua asked Sarah with a serious look on his face while we walked down the street.

“Aww, Joshy…”

“Don’t call me Joshy! Why did you have to tell them you would come with us? I know you’re not meeting Karen. You didn’t yesterday either. Where were you anyway?”

“It’s none of your concern.”

“None of my concern?” He stopped in his tracks. “I’m your brother. I have the right to know when I cover up for ya!” Joshua got angry.

“No you don’t. And as far as I’m concerned, I cover up for you all the time, remember?”

Her last statement must have hit a nerve, because Joshua didn’t respond, but only bit his bottom lip. Sarah waited for several seconds and then sighed and shook her head in disapproval. This was so weird. This morning it seemed as if they were of one mind, judging by the feelings Joshua had shared with his twin sister, but now they became more like oil and water. Were all fraternal twins like that when you came to know them better? I stayed behind them and observed their silent arguing.

“Oh and besides, I am meeting up with Karen and Lori today,” she said. She turned around to me and pulled me behind her when she walked on. I could only take a brief look at Joshua, not knowing what was happening to me. He stared ahead and then trotted in behind.

“Don’t look at him,” Sarah whispered. “He will follow us… or, should I say, he will follow you?”

“Why are you doing this?” I looked at her when she finally let go of my arm and allowed me to keep a steady pace on my own.

“Joshua is just too stubborn and frightened to ever admit any of his feelings to someone else. So, I’m trying to make him admit it.”

“Wait a minute… you’re not trying to… to, you know, hook us up or something?” I stopped at a street corner and looked at her, a bit scared now myself. Not scared of Sarah that is, but I didn’t want to hurt Joshua’s feelings and if she was trying to do something like that, then I didn’t know how I should explain to Joshua that I couldn’t be with him. Another dilemma. Why did this have to be so hard? Only one day! I just knew them for one day and everything seemed to be so difficult.

“Hey, wait!” We looked at the boy with the brown hair and the emerald eyes. Those eyes I had seen before my own in the shower. Was it difficult at all? Of course it was. So, why didn’t I just turn round on my heel and run away from them? The thought came once more, Because I have no other place to go!

Joshua caught up with us, he first looked at me and then at his sister. “I’m sorry Sarah. You’re right. It’s none of my business what you do. I just want you to be safe. Ok?” His facial expression was so cute. That apologetic look of his would have softened anybody’s heart.

“I know, Joshy.” She leaned forward and the twins reunited in a hug. “I’m sorry, too. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable. You’ll know when you’re ready.” She retreated and I could see the smile on her face. “Ok boys, I’m leaving you now.” She pointed down another road that led off from the corner, “I have to go that way. See you tonight.” Saying that, she began to walk. When she was several feet away she looked back over her shoulder and waved at us once more before she moved on.

“She’s so stubborn,” Joshua sighed.

My eyes got wide when he said that and I didn’t know why, but I burst out in laughter. I got a puzzled look from my friend. “What is it, Adrian? Could you please tell me what is so funny?”

“Nothing.” I wiped a stray tear of joy from the corner of my eye. “It’s just… she used the same description for you… hehe.”

“Huh? What did she say about me?”

“Well, that you were stubborn. I think now I see the resemblance in you two. Anyway, didn’t we want to go to the arcade?”

He still looked a bit puzzled at me when I said that, but, nevertheless, nodded his head. “Good, lead the way.” I raised my hand to invite him, but then immediately withdrew it when I realized what this gesture would mean. Not saying anything to this, Joshua took the lead and we walked on… Ok, we walked next to each other.

 

 

The arcade, it wasn’t all that big, was already crowded with kids when we finally made our way there. Before we entered, I looked around and could see that it was called ‘Dennises’… and that it was located near a dance club across the street. From the advertising on the outside, I figured that it must have been a gay dance club. And it was called ‘Berlin’, according to the neon sign that was already shining in different rainbow colors, although it was a bright day. Berlin. I’ve only been there once before in my existence, but it had been darker times back then and the world had been on the brink of war.

I looked back at Joshua and when he cocked his head, I just shrugged my shoulders and followed him inside. Although my ears could have blocked out loud noise before, now the full load of jeering and shouting hit me. There was laughter all around us, underlain with a staccato of different beeps and bangs. The ice cream machine in the corner behind the counter was operating at full stretch to satisfy the customers at hand. Joshua walked over to a big token machine and exchanged some money for plastic coins. First metal, then paper and now plastic. Money was money. For humans, that is… on all accounts. I grinned to myself at my own play on words and waited for Joshua to return.

Suddenly someone ran into me and I turned my head. There was a group of four boys, all of them older than me, according their appearance. One of the boys planted himself in front of me and he didn’t look like a nice guy. He looked strong, although I assumed that he was more body fat than actual muscle. His ash blond hair was cut really short and his dark eyes gazed at me. “Don’t you want to apologize?” came his deep voice.

Apologize? Is he kidding? “Erm… for what?” I said.

“That you ran into me, of course. Apologize for that!” was what I got as a response. He must have been kidding.

“Well, I think you ran into me. So it would be appropriate if you apologized.” He even came closer when I had said that. I had to look up at him now, because he was about a head taller than me. Anyway I didn’t give him the satisfaction to see fright in my eyes. He couldn’t intimidate me; after all, he should have been the one who was intimidated. But, due to him being taller than me and his friends in his back, he felt so superior.

“You gotta be kidding me, kiddo.”

I ignored the insult and from the corner of my eye I could see Joshua coming back from the token machine. He approached us slowly, surely feeling the tension in the air, although the rumble around us didn’t decrease, not by a decibel.

“Come on, Adrian, let’s go.” He pulled me by my arm to come with him. My gaze was still locked with that of the other boy, but then I gave in and followed my friend.

“Aww, is that your boyfriend, sissy?” The tall boy said.

I could have ignored him again… but this time I didn’t. I turned around and walked back to now plant myself just in front of the boy. He didn’t expect that, I could tell even without my immortal senses. “What did you say?” My tone was really polite.

Encouraged by his friends in his back the boy spoke again, “I said, ‘Is that your boyfriend… sissy?'” This time he inserted a slight pause before he spoke out the last word.

“Adrian,” I heard a voice behind me and in that moment I was struck by a déjà-vu, because Aiden had always been the steady and soothing pole in our relationship, always trying to control some of my temper. But he was dead and although Joshua was there… or maybe due to Joshua being there, I didn’t want to tolerate this insult.

“HAHA, you see guys,” Bad-boy laughed and looked to his friends. “Told you they were some queers.” His head turned to me again. I wasn’t immortal anymore, I had no fangs at all and I wasn’t stronger than this bully… but instead I had millennia of experience in fighting.

I had been faster before, but when my fist struck out and finally met the boy’s nose bone I had Aiden’s picture in my mind and all my hatred and bitterness for what had happened to my angel discharged in that one blow. The nasal bone broke in an instant and as fast as my fist retreated the blood poured out of the boy’s nostrils in a river. I was content and then felt the terrible pain in my right fist. Damn, did that hurt! The boy in front of me cried out in pain… I didn’t. I grabbed Joshua with my left hand and hurried out of the arcade before the friends of broken-nose could come out of their state of shock and charge at us. Joshua tossed some of his tokens and like piranhas that have tasted blood, the sort of blood that was still flooding from the boy’s nose, many of the other kids around, now fully aware of what had just happened, darted for the tokens on the floor and allowed us to flee from the scene.

We ran down the street to make sure they couldn’t follow us. “Why did you do that?” Joshua asked breathless and leaned against a house wall when we finally stopped at another street corner. “You didn’t need to beat him like that.” I was holding my fist and his gaze fell upon it. “Are you hurt?”

“No, I’m fine.” I said, but he came over anyway and took my hand into his. The touch, although supposed to be gentle, made me wince.

“You’re sure? Maybe it’s broken.”

“No it’s not. It’s ok. Honestly, Joshua… However, I’m sorry you lost some of the tokens. I’ll pay you for them.”

“Huh? Seriously? You’re worried about those damn tokens?” He looked at me as if I was out of my mind. “He could have beaten you to death.” He suddenly leaned forward and hugged me tight. “Promise me you’ll never do that again, Adrian. You scared the hell out of me,” he said and then retreated. Deep down inside of me I was a bit disappointed by him loosening the hug. But I struggled this feeling back to where it came from, into my stomach where it could fly around. “Why didn’t you just leave it at that?”

I looked at him seriously. “I just couldn’t allow him to say such things. His words were insulting and he got what he deserved.”

“Well, he seemed to be a bit surprised when your fist hit his nose.” Joshua began to laugh and I couldn’t help myself but to laugh as well and then sighed, because I was relieved he wasn’t mad at me. Joshua still giggled a bit, but then managed to say “So, that was it with the arcade then.”

“Yeah I think so, too, except you wanna go back there and try your luck?”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I think I can never go there again… like in my whole life.” He grinned at me. “But I think it was worth it.”

“Is there something else you’d like to do?” Well, if I had ruined his initial plans for good, at least I could do him the favor to find something else to do.

“Maybe we could go to the pier. I like it there.” I gave him a smirk and nodded to his proposal.

We headed for the next train station and took the line that brought us close to the pier. When we arrived there, the whole place was full of people. Due to the nice day, many families had taken the opportunity to stroll on the pier with their children. It was as if the sight of the arcade was brought back to us, only exponentially, so much laughter and shouting was out there. I observed how a little boy was pulling at his father’s hand to be allowed to buy some cotton candy. Next to that booth was another one that attracted my interest.

“Would you like to have a chili dog?” I turned to Joshua.

He looked back at me from his wide emerald eyes. “Chili dog?”

“Yes, I would like to buy you one… if you have a thing for them that is.” His mouth opened a bit and he gave me the cutest smile. And when he bit his bottom lip I added, “Just allow me to buy you this one, ok? Because you did so much for me, your whole family did… and I want to give something back.” He nodded in approval. I smiled and walked over to the vendor to order one special chili dog. For a special friend, ran through my head.

Joshua was a bit irritated when I came back with just one chili dog, but he didn’t say anything, instead he took a big bite of the fast food and chewed happily on it. I just observed him. “What?” he said with his mouth half full. I giggled because it sounded funny.

“Nothing.” I shook my head and he continued with his ‘feast’. “Wanna walk?” I asked and he nodded while taking another bite. It felt nice to just walk. All those humans around us were having fun, no worries at all in their lives… well, at least not in that specific moment. It was as if they could flee from their everyday lives for just a bit and were trying to squeeze every little ounce of joyousness out of it. Human lives were so short and so they had to hurry up to live them. Tempus fugit, and then my memory even brought the rest of the sentence back to me, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore. Yes, ‘while we wander around being prisoners of our love of detail’. I let my eyes wander around again. Humans wasted their time… their lives, with so many little things with no importance. I shook my head and looked back at the boy next to me. Joshua slugged down the last piece of the chili dog and smiled his wide smile anew. Being somehow out of my mind, I raised my left hand to wipe a small crumb of bun away from the corner of his mouth… in order to retreat it immediately afterwards.

“Thank you,” he said and his emerald eyes widened a bit.

“Anytime,” was my answer, while I observed how his hazel brown hair reflected the sunlight. My heart beat increased. Why did I do that? I must have been out of my mind. What will he think now? Damn, you only make it harder for him.

We walked over to a bench and sat down on its backrest with our feet planted on the seat. Joshua sighed while he threw the paper of his chili dog into the trash bin next to it.

Now it was my turn to ask, “What is it?”

And his turn, of course, to say, “Nothing.”

I observed him. “May I ask you a question, Joshua?”

“Sure, go ahead, dude.”

While he looked at me, I let my view travel up and down the pier. “What do you expect from life?” and with the last word turned my head back at him, meeting his eyes. He didn’t expect that question, I could tell. His mouth opened a bit and his tongue began to travel right and left on his bottom lip, a gesture he hadn’t done before, from what I could remember. I didn’t push; I wanted him to take all the time he needed to think about his answer. When he looked up at the sky he began, “You know, when I was little I wanted to become an astronaut. I thought it would be cool to be out there… hehe, seeking new life and new existence, like in Star Trek.” He sighed and I accepted the short pause. “Then when you grow older, you realize that there are so many things on this planet you haven’t encountered or haven’t even known they existed.” He looked at me and grinned. “Like supernatural beings, for example.” I cocked my head. “Now I know that this world is even bigger than I thought, so why should I leave it? Regarding yesterday’s happenings, I think you can seek the new life and new existence in your own neighborhood.”

“But I hope that’s not what you wanna do with your life now. Those ‘supernatural beings’ can bite.”

“Ha, you’re telling the right one.” Then he shook his head, “No, honestly, I don’t know right now what I want my life to be. What job I would like to do. My parents say I should try out some things and maybe I’ll find something I like.” He shrugged his shoulders. “So far, no luck.”

Although I didn’t know how he would react, I asked the next question. “And what about family? You want your own some day?”

He didn’t answer directly. His eyes stared down at the space between my right and his left foot. “You mean… like children… and a wife?”

I put the most comforting tone in my voice when I spoke again, “Something like that, yeah.”

“I don’t know.”

I pushed a bit further. “Why not?” Come on, Joshua, you can tell me. Trust me! Like I trusted you.

But this was a bit too far. “I said, I don’t know.” His answer was harsh. It seemed it was harsher than he wanted it to be because I could see how he bit his bottom lip afterwards. “I’m sorry, Adrian. I really don’t know. I’m fourteen. Why should I worry about the distant future when I probably should be worried about my next English test, huh?” He laughed again and I didn’t broach the subject again.

“Yeah, English is hard, hehe. You should try Mandarin, it’s the main Chinese dialect, that one is really tricky.”

“Huh? How many languages do you speak?”

“Erm… I don’t know to be honest. You see, I could read the mind of my counterpart and so it was always easy to learn a new language.”

“Mind reading? You mean you actually could read every human’s mind?”

“Yes, every vampire can.” I looked at him and his facial expression showed some worry. “Listen Joshua, you must understand that vampires are not those cool creatures you might think they are. You saw what the one yesterday did. Vampires are perfect predators; they read every thought of escape of their prey before those have thought it through themselves.”

“So you’re saying the vampire… has read every thought I had… like every,” his eyes were wide as saucers now. What did he think, that he was so terrified now?

“Certainly.” Joshua stood up when I said that. “Joshua?” He looked around. “What is it? Are you ok?” I could see his unease.

“Huh? What? Oh… do you know if there are vampires present? I mean here at the pier?”

I looked puzzled at him and shook my head. “No.” What’s up with him? “You know they only come out when the sun has set,” I pointed out, then said, “It will be more than an hour until that will happen. Don’t be afraid, we’re safe here. No vampire would risk an attack in such a crowd.”

“Yeah stupid me. I’m sorry… Adrian, do you mind if we go home?” I stood up myself when he asked that. His eyes showed fear. I didn’t know where it came from all of the sudden, but I would do him this favor to make him feel comfortable again. How could I not? He had cared for me and now he asked me one favor in return. After all, I had been surprised how well he had dealt with my revelations. Not every human would have stood his ground like my Joshua had done. MY Joshua? What are you thinking now, Adrian?

“Ok, I’ll accompany you home.”

“You’ll accompany me? And then? Where’re you going then? I thought you would stay with me… I mean at my home,” he corrected himself. I didn’t want to bring this topic up like this. It was even more difficult now, due to his unease, but I had to tell him the truth. “I need to visit… a friend… at least I thought she was my friend… for the last hundred years or so.”

“You wanna visit a vampire?” Joshua again looked a bit troubled.

“Yes… I need to find out what happened to me. Joshua, it’s important for me… Can you understand that?”

He nodded and then said “But you’re not going alone.” I raised one of my eyebrows. Where did this courage come from now? “I will… go with you… and then we will go home… together.” His expression was serious as if he wouldn’t allow me to dissuade him from his point.”I know that you’re not comfortable with it, so I respect your decision even more. Caroline is an early riser, which means she will be up before sun set, but you must know that her place is on the other side of the city.” I left the rest unspoken, because he surely knew that it would be dark by then. And that would mean that there would be several vampires walking in the streets… and for me it meant that Caroline’s guards would be awake, too. Joshua just nodded. Again.

 

 

I had been to her place several times before and Aiden had always been there at my side. I looked to my left, now… there was another boy standing next to me, looking at the domicile in front of us with wide eyes. I didn’t know what made me do it, but I took Joshua’s hand and squeezed it a bit. He turned his head and looked down at his hand in mine.

“Don’t worry! Everything will be fine.” When he looked up again, I nodded encouragingly at him and got a weak smile in response. It had taken us even more time than expected because there had been a broken train on the track. Now the sun had set for good and only the street lamps were giving us the comfort of some light. Darkness and humans didn’t fit together, that I knew for certain, because it was annoying to not see in the dark anymore. There could have been all kinds of things around us, but we wouldn’t have seen them until it would have been too late. That was the hardest part. Anyway, I let go of Joshua’s hand and passed the low metal gate that opened to the front lawn. Caroline’s domicile was an old two-story house with high windows. Nobody who walked by would have noticed that all of them were darkened. The most interesting part of the front side was the beautiful wooden canopy with little stylizations and ornaments. Although the former color was hardly visible anymore, you got a guess as to what it had looked like during its best times.

The canopy lay in shadow when I slowly approached, Joshua on my heels. But I knew that there was not only shadow that welcomed us. When I climbed the small steps to the front porch, the shadow began to stir. As I had expected, we had been expected… or better, had been observed, for some time now. The dark clothes of the figure in front of us were a perfect cover for him and from the upper step I could see the glowing eyes of the hunter in front of me. But he wasn’t the only one; I was sure about that. Due to her position as an elder council member, Caroline was guarded by several hunters during the night and human guards during the day. I had had some of those as well for several years, but I knew hunters were not as trustworthy as the council proclaimed them to be. They were loyal, yes, but to whom? That was a completely different question.

“Stay close,” I said to Joshua in my normal voice, because whispering wouldn’t have been efficient at all. We walked on towards the front door, not looking at the vampire. At least I wasn’t, but I was sure that Joshua risked one glance at him. or two. When we had almost reached the door, the shadow was suddenly in front of us, blocking our way. “Let us in,” I said to the vampire, but he didn’t move. He surely knew who I was, because I had seen him before… before I had lost everything that meant something to me.

“I said, let… us… in!” He was fast. Faster than my mortal eyes could see and the next thing I knew I was lying on the floor of the porch. I heard a scream from Joshua, but I couldn’t look at him, because the hunter’s left hand held on to my throat, almost cutting off the air and his right hand was holding a metal shiv that, to my utter surprise, aimed directly at my chest. There, where my heart was. Was I scared? I didn’t know. I couldn’t think at all. I just stared into his eyes that had a shade of crimson in them.

Joshua was whimpering behind me, but I still couldn’t look at him. I was afraid that something could happen to him… that I never would have forgiven myself. Still, I kept my stare, not even blinking and with a smirk on his face the vampire increased the pressure on my throat, cutting me off from the oxygen I craved. What was harder? To die from a pierced heart or from suffocation? Stars began to appear before my eyes. My vision blurred.

“Let him go,” I heard a voice saying. I knew that voice well. I coughed when his left hand released my throat and the air filled my lungs again. That feeling was incredible. It was a feeling of being alive. There was a rattle in my throat when I inhaled deeply. I tried to look up and saw Caroline’s figure on the threshold, but she wasn’t important now. I hurried up to my feet and spun around to Joshua. There was another hunter who restrained him… with the same grip on his throat as the first vampire had used on me. The only difference was that he held the boy from behind. I could see the fear in Joshua’s eyes, even more severe than it had been on the pier. A small stray tear was running down his cheek and I became angry. I looked back at Caroline with a stern expression in my face. I knew she had read my thoughts because she said, “The other boy, too.” Looking back to the front I could see the smirk on the other hunter’s face when he pushed Joshua hard into my arms. I held him close, my eyes filled with mortal anger that seemingly amused the hunter even more.

“Come in.” I heard the command of the female voice behind me. She was kinda impolite for being my friend. And although I owed her my life I wasn’t thankful at all… and I didn’t care if she read that thought, too. Turning around I brought Joshua in front of me so that my body would cover his from the hunters. You never know.

“You stay here and guard the door. I can cope with those two humans on my own,” she said and I definitely noticed the emphasis when she enunciated the word ‘humans’. When she had closed the door behind us, I wanted to speak up, but she laid one finger on her lips and the other one on her temple. That was irritating. Then I understood and built up a mental wall so that the vampires on the outside wouldn’t be able to read my thoughts anymore. I didn’t know if it worked with them, but it had worked with the vampire in the park, so I was trying my luck.

Caroline led us from the hall into a comfortable living room, still keeping quiet. There was a small fire burning in the fireplace that was on the same wall that hosted Caroline’s big collection of historical books in four large shelves. Everything in the room was neat and tidy. Caroline pointed at the red lounges that stood at right angles next to each other. We sat down and I could see that Joshua’s eyes were swaying around as if he expected some more evil in here. I was thankful that he didn’t say a word; I knew how he must have felt. I wanted to hug him… to tell him that everything was alright, but I didn’t knew if I would be lying then. Caroline took a book from the transparent coffee table and put it back into its place in one of the shelves and then came back to be seated herself.

She looked at me for several seconds. “You look good, Adrian.”

That was too obvious. “I don’t need your gift, Caroline, to say that you’re not telling the truth.”

“It’s called ‘extra’ nowadays, you know that?” I glanced at her. The little small talk of hers was ridiculous. She observed me and ‘mustered’ my appearance.

“I’m sorry that I don’t match your expectation, but I’ve been in a little trouble lately.” My voice was cold.

“I know, Adrian, and I’m really, really sorry. I never should have agreed to it.”

That was enough for me. I blurted out, “Aiden’s dead!” My eyes followed the example of my voice. She looked down at the black carpet. I was proud of myself, because this time there were no tears that accentuated my true emotion. I didn’t need them right now. “You know that they left him in the park like some ‘slag’? I will never see him again. Probably he’s decomposed by now.” I heard the boy next to me inhaling, but didn’t look at Joshua. I couldn’t bear to look into those emerald eyes of his right now. “Those humans who brought us there nearly killed me for good, too. If Joshua here hadn’t found me I surely would be dead. And on the first night that I go out again we get nearly killed by another vampire, but instead of draining my blood completely I have to observe how he gets killed by the contact with it.” I paused. “So… now would you please explain all this to me?”

Caroline looked back to the hall as if she expected something or someone to appear there. When she didn’t rise to speak I added, “Your precious antidote, or whatsoever you used to make me mortal, is poisonous.”

Her head spun around to me and finally she said, “It’s not a complete antidote to vampirism, yet. It doesn’t work properly.”

“What do you mean?” I looked at Joshua, irritated by what Caroline had told me. He was sitting still next to me… also listening, with his palms pressed solidly onto his thighs.

“It shouldn’t kill the vampire who feeds on the ‘carrier’. It should make him a ‘carrier’, too.”

“You made it contagious?”

“It’s only transmitted by feeding, Adrian, it’s not airborne.”

Realizing what she had said, I responded, “That’s somehow like… an immunization. How does it work?” She shook her head. “Tell me, Caroline!” She sighed.

“You know how the process of crossing over takes place.” It was no question.

“Of course I do.”

She cocked her head a bit, making her long blond hair move likewise, and then stood up to walk over to the bookshelves. I could see how she let her fingers slide over her most ancient copies. “Human scientists can do wonders.” She pulled out a book and opened it carefully. “This one is really old.” She came back to us and handed it to me. “You know about the Hebrew word al-khimia?” I looked at the binding.

“This is not Hebrew, this is Persian… Old Persian to be exact.” I didn’t know where she was heading.

“Yes… and please, would you mind explaining the word to your friend here? … He doesn’t understand it.” Joshua looked up at her from wide eyes.

“Please don’t read his mind, Caroline. He’s not comfortable with it.” Nevertheless, I turned to Joshua and began to explain. “As I mentioned, ‘al-khimia’ is of Hebrew origin, however it was adopted into English. Have you ever heard the word ‘alchemy’ before?”

He knitted his brow and said, “Yes, I have, wasn’t that about turning lead into gold?”

“Not alone,” Caroline went on, “It was also a philosophy, but most humans only remember the ancient practice, probably due to their greed for gold. Anyway, you’re almost right my child.” It was amusing to observe Joshua’s brows wondering up when he was addressed as ‘child’. Despite her years in darkness, Caroline still didn’t look older than sixteen years old and her blue sparkling eyes met those of Joshua. My own view alternated between both of them. It seemed as if Caroline’s calm personality soothed Joshua somehow, maybe almost forgetting that she was a vampire, like the hunter who had held him in a stranglehold.

 

My thoughts were racing, but I still wasn’t able to see the picture she was painting. “Would you enlighten us, please?”

“You know that humans believe there never had been a success in this process, but we know better, don’t we?” She smirked. “Turning lead into gold is easy, but the hard part is to turn gold back into lead.” She came closer to me, “That one never had been successful…” and looked into my eyes “Until now that is.” Gold into lead? … Vampire into human!

The normal crossover of the children took weeks. The toxins that were injected into the system had to rearrange base proteins of the DNA to perform the changes. The body somehow ‘died’ during this process, well actually, it renewed itself over and over again, but the natural ‘life flow’ stopped for good. It had actually been human science as well that had given us a better understanding of ourselves. According to the biochemical process of the toxins that flushed through the veins, all cells in the body were renewed entirely during the crossover. Well, almost.

After that procedure, you could compare them with stem cells, although they still had their destined purpose. But the cells couldn’t die anymore, because the telomeres at the chromosomes ending, which were normally shortened during every cell division and lead into the inevitable cell death and the death of the body, instead were renewed by the toxins every time they divided. This was the explanation for the fast healing of vampires without a getting-out-of-hand cell growth and also for the immortality. If cells didn’t die anymore so didn’t the body.

The problem for our children was that they had no protection from the sunlight. Somehow the toxins my siblings and I had inside of us were weaker in those who descended from us. Although the cell renewal was still intact the control of free radicals that exponentially occurred when being exposed to intense sunlight wasn’t. Normally those wouldn’t affect the body in a matter of life-threat, for example, if you kept nourishing yourself with antioxidants. But the usage of antioxidants had ceased when they stopped eating normal food and the blood they took from other humans couldn’t be used due to some genetic defect, if you could say that… a defect that affected the whole vampire population. So being exposed to sunlight, the exponentially increasing numbers of free radicals with their craving for electrons, initiated a torrent of even more radicals that literally burnt the vampire. I had seen those deaths several times myself and I always had felt so much regret and pity for them.

Then there was another problem… the blood. Due to the lack of cell nuclei and therefore DNA the toxins couldn’t affect the original red blood cells and so they just stayed ‘mortal’. This meant they had a normal lifespan of almost a month and then died. Unfortunately during crossover the body lost its natural capability to produce more red blood cells in the red bone marrow, because their mother stem cells were no longer able to specialize in the way they had to to become oxygen-carrying erythrocytes. For a vampire there was only one way to ‘supply’ his body with new blood. Feeding. The vampiric fangs absorbed the blood of the prey to replenish the supplies of the own system.

Summarized the lead into gold process meant you had to take something away, namely the cell’s ability to die, but for the reversal of that process you had to make them mortal again. That would mean get rid of, or suppress, the toxins that were responsible for the cell renewal and that the vampire body produced all the time instead of its own blood. Caroline’s eyes widened when I had come to this conclusion and she nodded at me.

“Am I human?” I could feel my heartbeat increasing.

“Not yet entirely, from what I can tell. It takes some time to adjust to you specifically. But…” she touched the spot on my neck where the vampire had bitten me. “There’s not much stolen blood left in you now. Neither are the toxins. I don’t know how your body will react then. It did what it had to do to keep you alive, that is to say, seal the life-threatening wound. When there’s no blood left maybe you will become a full-blooded human when your body starts creating its own blood again, or you might even die because it can’t deal with the reversal. You are too different, Adrian. Lucas didn’t want to wait for further test results. He wanted to act.” She dropped her gaze and walked back to the lounge to sit down again.

Then I said, “Tell me, what is the purpose of this?”

Caroline hesitated. “Adrian, you know how much danger I am in just for talking here with you.” She looked towards the hall once more. “And I already told you too much.”

“Don’t you tell me… I did everything in my power to support you after your crossover. You owe me one, Caroline. Hell you owe me your whole ‘life’!” Still, I didn’t want to admit that she had saved my life as well when she had recalled her guards. “I taught you how you could stick to your sanity when you grew ‘older’. So, tell me, for what purpose did they design it?”

Caroline closed her eyes for a long moment. When she opened them again I could see something different in them. Was it fear? “They’ve been experimenting on it for a long time now. Lucas and some humans from the government, I mean. They’ve made some progress with ordinary vampires, but it didn’t work as they hoped it would.”

“What purpose?” Damn it, is this question so hard to answer?

She must have read that last thought, too, because she sighed and then said, “Well, at first it was another way to make sure our ‘protégés’ are really safe, you know accidents happen and they pay a lot of money for not being a part of the food chain, but then…,” she hesitated again, “but then, some thought it might be a way to…” She stopped.

“What? I need to know! They thought what?”

“They thought they could defeat Kirwen with it.” She just stared at me. My mouth fell open and my breathing got faster.

“Kirwen? They want to get rid of Kirwen? That’s why they came after me? Because of my brother?” I couldn’t believe what she just told me. It was insane. Kirwen was no threat – well, no real threat at the moment – as long as he wasn’t pissed off. And they are trying to do that right now, piss him off when he finds out what they’re up to! “That is another ‘brilliant’ idea of Lucas,” I glanced at her, “like the one when he convinced me to negotiate with the wolves. That didn’t go so well, from what I recall. And messing around with Kirwen…”

 

“We have hard times, you know that. There are so many things going on right now. A next war is inevitable. And then there are those rumors about a mimic…”

“A mimic? Where? Who?”

“We don’t know, yet. He suddenly appeared at the pier yesterday. There were many vampires who saw him, even knelt before him. Can you believe that? The humans there were really irritated, but don’t worry, we’ll deal with it! We’ve got other things happening right now.”

“‘Deal with it’, of course. Like we always have, huh? And what other things?” My voice was dripping with sarcasm.

“Nothing of your concern.” She gave me a serious expression. “Anyway, Lucas didn’t know which side you would take this time. So…”

“What, am I still on probation? That was more than six hundred years ago now.” I shook my head in disbelief, because back then it hadn’t been my fault at all, well partially. “And you did this to me,” I looked down at my body and then back into her sparkling blue eyes, “After all that I’ve done for the vampire community, how could you?” I was upset. They had no right at all to do something like that. They were children and they opposed their parents, so to speak. I didn’t know what to say anymore. It was essential to stop Lucas… for the sake of our whole race!

“Is there a way to reverse it?” I heard Joshua asking and was astonished at his foresight. Why didn’t I think of that myself? He was right and I could feel how a ray of hope was igniting in the depths of my sub consciousness, literally pushing hard to be recognized… and to not be extinguished anew. Turn the lead into gold again. I looked at Caroline when she ran her fingers through her long blond hair. There was no emotion in her face at all, but I had known her for too long now. Maybe I couldn’t read every facial expression from the humans around me, however I was dead certain of this. “You made an antidote to the antidote, isn’t that right? The council would never endanger its own existence like that! So there has to be one.”

Caroline opened her mouth to speak, but then held. She looked at Joshua and cocked her head. A faint smile appeared on her lips. I didn’t know what she had read in his mind and I wasn’t interested in it at all in that moment. All that mattered was that she answer my question. “Caroline!”

“You better go now, Adrian,” she said, still staring at the boy next to me. “I won’t tell you anything more. I can’t!” Her eyes finally moved on to me and there was a single tear in them, which made them glow even more. The blue color was so lucid now. “Go!”

“Caro…”

“No, Adrian! I told you more than is good for me. You should forget about this… and lead a good life.” She looked at Joshua again. “He cares so much about you. Even if he’s only human; it’s hard for me so see such pure love in somebo…” She stopped abruptly and covered her gaping mouth with her hand. “He didn’t know? I’m sorry… I didn’t want to…” The single tear rolled down her cheek. I looked at Joshua. He just sat there with his mouth as wide as his eyes were and it seemed as if he wasn’t breathing at all. If I hadn’t known better I would have said that he suffered from a heart attack, but the increasing red color of his face told me otherwise. Every beat of his heart pumped more and more blood into his cheeks and his lips moved a little, without any word coming over them. Then suddenly out of nowhere he sprang up and rushed out of the living room into the hall. “Joshua?” I called out for him, but he didn’t react, disappearing out of my sight.

Caroline and I stood up in unison and I wanted to follow him, but before I could leave, Caroline held me back and whispered, “You knew how much he cares about you, right?” I tried to see Joshua in the hall and just nodded my head. ‘Don’t worry, Caroline, I knew it,’ I thought when I looked back at her. “Goodbye.” I turned to go.

“Adrian?” I stopped and looked over my shoulder. “There is an antidote to it. Lucas has it.”

“Thank you.” I gave her a weak smile and walked into the hall. Joshua didn’t dare to look me in the eyes; his cheeks were still scarlet red and so I just opened the front door and let him walk out, always on my watch due to hunters waiting on the outside. They didn’t engage us this time; instead they just let us pass by. I followed Joshua down the steps to the front lawn and then once more looked back at the hunter who had attacked me. There was a smirk on his face again, but now it gave me an uneasy feeling. My eyes wandered to the door and I could see Caroline closing it. I was wrong, she IS my friend, I thought and hurried after Joshua.

 

 

This time the journey wasn’t as long as it had been on the way there. The ride on the train had been pure silence and when we finally headed down the street on which Joshua lived, he was walking next to me, but still didn’t say a word. I had tried to talk to him, but he had hung to his own thoughts the whole time and I slowly began to miss his voice. I didn’t want him to feel so uncomfortable about it. Caroline hadn’t said that on purpose… at least I believed she hadn’t.

When we arrived at his home Joshua turned his key in the lock and opened the door. He walked straight upstairs and left me behind. I sighed and closed the doors. When I turned around I could see Sarah coming towards me from the living room.

“What happened?” She looked puzzled at me when her gaze fell on the last glimpse of her brother disappearing into his room. “Did you do something wrong?” I gave her a serious expression. Yeah, as if it is all my fault. I did nothing.

“I did nothing at all.” I searched for the twins’ parents, but couldn’t see them nearby. “He was just ‘outed’ somehow.” I couldn’t tell her the truth, though. “I think he didn’t take that very well.”

“I’m gonna talk to him.” She began to walk towards the staircase, but I held her back at her arm.

“No… I mean, I know he’s your brother and you are honest with each other, but this is my fault.” Not entirely! “I wanna make it right, ok?” She studied me for several seconds and then just nodded her head. I gave her a weak smile and followed the boy upstairs. I knocked on his closed bedroom door and entered, leaving the door open behind me. Joshua sat silently on his bed, his gaze directed to the floor. He didn’t look up either when I came closer and sat down next to him.

“Joshua?” I reached out for his hand but he pulled it back before mine could come in contact with his. I sighed. “Joshua, listen… this is ridiculous. Talk to me!” He turned away. Sarah was right, he was stubborn. Stubborn like a child, pouting about his own misery in a corner. Like this he wouldn’t talk to me… so I had to make him talk to me.

I stood up from the bed and faced the sleeper I had rested on last night. My gaze fell on the clothes he had bought for me and my mind was creating a tactic all on its own, like it always did. “Fine. If you don’t wanna talk to me I’ll leave you be. I’m just gonna grab my things and then I’ll be out.” My right foot began to move and…

“NO!” His voice was so desperate when he said that. I turned around to look at him.

“So you want me to stay?” He didn’t answer that question so I turned around to the sleeper once more.

“Yes. I want you to stay.” Pause. “Please, don’t go.” Another pause. “Please don’t leave me.” This was more than I wanted to hear from him, but anyway, I positioned myself in front of him and looked down at his brown shock of hair. I reached out with my index finger, laying it under his soft chin to make him look up at me with his beautiful eyes. His stare was full of sadness and to see him like that almost broke my heart. He didn’t deserve to feel so miserable. He was a good boy and I wanted him to be happy, but I didn’t believe I could or should be the one to make him happy. What he deserved was someone who would return his affection and I couldn’t give him that right now.

“Wanna talk about it?” I tried to soothe him with a soft voice and a smile on my lips. He thought it through for some seconds and then stood up as well. The emeralds of his now shone back at me at eye level. He’s so perfect! I tried to blink this distracting thought aside.

Joshua sighed and then somehow plucked up the courage to speak his mind. “You know, I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you in the park. I just couldn’t leave you there. I felt as if you were someone special for me… and now I know that you really are special. Not the vampire thing, though, but… you know…” He sighed. “I still can’t believe that Caroline told you what I feel… Argh, this so embarrassing!” He buried his face in both of his hands.

I intervened and gently took both of his hands in mine to remove them from his face, making him look at me again. “Why is it embarrassing when you admit your true feelings? … Besides, Sarah already told me about your talk this morning.”

“She did WHAT?” His mouth fell open. I knew I shouldn’t tell him that! He wanted to storm out of the room, but I held him back by his hands… pulling him back to me. We stood really close together now. I saw his eyes meeting mine, those beautiful emerald eyes of his, and I could feel his breath on my face. His anger had almost vanished when we both looked down at our hands holding each other, not realizing the full meaning of it until then. My heart was racing and my thoughts stopped dead in their tracks, just observing the scene, bearing witness to it. I couldn’t think straight anymore, because all of my senses only craved for this now, longed for it. I looked up again and Joshua slightly cocked his head and leaned forward… really slow. His breathing increased and finally…

HE KISSED ME!

 

His lips felt so good. They were so warm and soft. I gave myself over to this sensual feeling. Lips on lips. He was so wonderful. Our hands lost contact and I felt how his hands wandered to my back, stroking it and I followed his example. I pulled him so tightly into me that we were almost one. One true being of love. I opened my mouth and let my tongue explore his. When it met its counterpart, it was as if they had craved for each other as well, like our bodies had. Our tongue play increased in intensity, as did the stroking of each other’s backs. I could feel Joshua’s erection pressing hard against mine and between his gasps for air I could hear him moan. I wanted our kiss to last forever. Time was nothing again. I even could have died in that moment… And with that I ruined it all. Suddenly a picture of a golden haired boy appeared before my eyes, with those same emerald eyes the boy that I was kissing at that moment had. I couldn’t stop it; the tears came all by themselves and… I backed off.

“I’m sorry, I can’t.” I almost cried and looked him in the eyes. I felt like an emotional wreck now. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I did, I must have hurt him. He would never forgive me for this. It was breaking my heart to repel him. I wanted him so badly, but I couldn’t do that right now. “Please don’t be mad at me, it’s not you! It’s just…” I sobbed. As if this would help!

“I know.” He said softly and then sighed. What? How could he know? I ruined the whole moment. “I have to be sorry, Adrian. I shouldn’t have done that!” HE has to be sorry? He hugged me again and I sobbed on his shoulder. When I felt his hand stroking over my ear-length black hair, I felt cared for. It was always like this with him. Joshua cared so much for me. And I realized that I cared for him, too. All my fear that he could get hurt, it was all about that. He wanted me to feel comfortable and he just held me steadily in his arms. Why does he have to be so wonderful? I don’t deserve such a friend now. That was quite odd, because a few moments ago I had been the one trying to soothe him and now the world was upside down.

 

I lost track of time, but several minutes must have passed while I held onto his shoulders and soaked the collar of his shirt. When I finally retreated from his embrace I couldn’t bear to look in his eyes and just turned around and walked over to the sleeper. The sheets were still a bit messed up from my last night on it, but I didn’t care. I just sat down… and Joshua followed me. He still was that caring boy and I hated myself, because I was the one who made him feel like that. But still I allowed him to take my left hand.

“It’s ok, dear.” He said soothingly.

I sniffed. “Don’t call me ‘dear’. Your mother already does that.” Suddenly I felt his hand retreating from mine and I turned my head to see him holding his stomach with his right arm and his left hand was covering his own mouth. He was shaking and trying desperately to suppress his laughter. “Hey, don’t you laugh at me,” I pouted, but I didn’t mean it. I wiped away the last remnants of my tears, still observing Joshua, how he suffered a terrible pain from not giving into his amusement. I gave him a serious look.

“I’m sorry,” he said between two snickers, “I shouldn’t laugh, but I can’t help myself, dude. That was the best… ‘don’t call me dear. Your mother already does that’.” He leaned forward and suppressed another laugh, looking away from me. As if I couldn’t see him laughing. I just shook my head in disbelief.

“That’s really nice, you know, laughing at me.”

“I’m sorry, Adrian.” He chuckled one last time and then took my hand again, which, to my own surprise, I allowed. “I won’t laugh at you. Promise. Cross my heart.” Then he added, “Feeling better?”

“A little.” I slightly nodded.

“You know, maybe I shouldn’t tell you that, because I don’t wanna make you feel uncomfortable again… but… you know… that was my first.” Blimey! “And it felt sooo good.” Still feeling guilty, now even more so after he had given me that last information, I nevertheless smiled at him through my tear-swollen eyes and said, “So you’re, like, ‘gay’, or what?”

He smiled back at me “Well, you know, someone once told me that when I find the true love, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a boy or a girl.” He paused. “But it’s ok for me if you’re not ready. I’ll just wait.”

I snickered, “Says the mortal boy.”

“Hey, no fair, as far as I’m concerned, you’re as mortal as I am now.”

I wasn’t so sure about that after my talk to Caroline, but anyway, I leaned sideward and hugged Joshua again. “Thank you, Joshy… for being such a good friend.”

He leaned back and knitted his brow, “Joshy?”

“Hey, if you can call me ‘dear’ I certainly can call you ‘Joshy’… Or maybe ‘honey’?” I grinned at him when his eyes wanted to kill me, but they turned back to their normal beautiful sparkle as fast as they had gone wild.

“May I ask you something?” Joshua asked.

“Sure, go ahead.”

“What did Caroline mean, when she said ‘a next war is inevitable’? What war?” How can he remember all those things? He’s human!

I sighed. “There was a battle in the region of Bulgaria several hundred years ago. I’m sure you haven’t heard about it because no one survived to talk about it. Well, except those who didn’t need to talk about it.” I paused for a moment. “During that night, thousands died!” Tens of thousands!

Joshua gave me a serious look. It was then that we heard a loud knock on the front door.

Seconds later: “Coming!” Chris’ voice called out from the first floor. Then there was a sudden ‘crack’ and I heard many feet running and several voices shouting.

“Hey, who are you? What do you want?” Chris was shouting now, too. What’s going on down there? I looked at Joshua, his face suddenly filled with fear. We stood up and I took his hand. Then one voice stood out from the others. It was a man speaking. I had heard that voice before and the last time I had seen the person the voice belonged to, he was kicking into my face.

“I’m asking you this just once: Where is he?”

“Do you know who I am? I’m a Chicago police officer. You can’t storm into my house like that.” That was Chris again. Joshua and I didn’t move. There was a muffled noise and Chris groaned in pain.

“Next try. Where is he?”

“Who?” It was as though as I could feel the pain Chris was suffering.

“The one you know as Adrian.”

My breathing got faster. Were they here to end what they had started?

We heard other screams, Michelle and Sarah, and then there were footsteps on the steps of the staircase. Two shadows appeared in the hall outside of Joshua’s bedroom and the bodies that followed where clothed all black. Those men meant nothing good and when I saw their rifles I positioned myself in front of Joshua. They were not wearing masks and so my eyes met those of the first soldier, there was no other word to describe them.

“THAT’S HIM!” The man looking at me shouted and pointed me out to his comrade. Both stormed forward simultaneously and I reached behind me to pull Joshua out of harm’s way. I tried to strike at the first soldier when he reached me, but he grabbed my right hand in midair. A terrible pain shot through my whole arm, because it was the hand I had punched the boy in the arcade with. The man extended his grip on my whole arm, trying to bring it to my back.

“Leave him alone.” I heard Joshua shouting, but the other man, who had filled the gap between me and the angelic boy, hit him in the face and he fell to the ground. I looked at Joshua in shock. They were not allowed to do that. They could hurt me, but not him. He had been nice to me, not expecting anything in return. You didn’t find that often nowadays. Joshua shook his head and looked up at me. I could see some blood on his bottom lip. It had split open from the man’s stroke. I got angry. Really angry. I may not have the strength anymore to fight a vampire hunter, but these creatures were mortals, like me, and I had definitely learned some tricks during my immortality. I had shown that to the bully in the arcade today.

My left leg kicked backwards and it hit the knee of the asshole behind me. He screamed out in pain and from the sound of it, it must have really hurt. Good! The man lost his balance and let go of me. I spun around and kicked him so hard in his left side that he crashed to the ground, hitting his head badly on the wooden floor. There were more footsteps on the stairs now, but I had to concentrate on the task at hand first. The second soldier seemed to weigh his chances to fight a teenage boy and after that he charged at me. I ducked from his first punch and then with the same movement I unbent to strike my forearm against the side of his face. He groaned in pain. I kicked him in his side with my right foot.

When I saw blur of black color from the corner of my eye I wanted to spin around, but I was too slow. The butt of a rifle was struck against the back of my head. Now it was me who groaned in pain and I fell to the floor. I heard a distant scream. It was a scream that broke my heart. I tried to raise my head again, but the only thing I could make out was ‘Joker’ laughing at me from the wall. Then… darkness.

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