After four days in the hospital; after two months in a cast; after another month of having aloe vera rubbed over his burned skin; after watching his festering cuts turn to stiff scabs and, finally, to puce-colored scars; after all this, Asa was better. He came out of it with a bad limp, dark brown spots over his hands and face, the aforementioned puce-colored scars on his torso, face and arms, and an increased sensitivity to light. He also knew, with a horrible certainty, that animal blood wouldn't cut it any more. He walked with a cane and he constantly wore a pair of green-tinted glasses that Audrey had found for him.

Audrey. Bless her, she was with him the entire time. In return, he helped her settle, as much as she could, into her new world of vampirism. It was she who stayed with him and listened when he talked about his nightmares and it was she who rubbed the aloe vera into his skin and helped keep his cuts nice and clean. She let him drink her nightly when he was too weak to get out of bed and he taught her how to control herself if she absolutely had to drink from a human.

Beale let them stay together at his house and helped Asa land a job at a nearby music store. Asa bandaged him when he came home beat up after running with the 'wolves.

But Asa knew, with the same sick certainty that made him so sure he couldn't live on animal blood any more, that he wouldn't be able to stay with them for long. The demon, he was sure, would not permit it. He tried to talk to Audrey about it, but she wouldn't listen.

"I'll be here for you," she said, "whether you like it or not. I expect you to write to me, if you do leave."

He realized that he really loved her and it that, no matter how much he tried to distance himself from her, it would hurt like hell when he left.

"She's a nice girl," said Beale, during one of their late-night talks. Asa didn't like sleep any more. His nights were haunted. "You'd do well to stay with her."

"I can't," said Asa. "She'd be hurt."

"Well," Beale reflected pragmatically, after a few moments of silence, "at least she'll keep."

As he lay in bed that night, Asa knew that he would have to do something soon. Either face off against the demon blatantly yet again, or leave behind the girl loved again. He realized, with a dull ache of loneliness (in spite of Audrey's warmth as she curled up next to him), that there could be no resolution for him. There was no proper cadence for the ending of his song. If he was lucky, it would someday stop suddenly, without anyone expecting it. But more than likely, it would simply wind on, meandering away until some higher power than any on this earth decided it was time for everything to end. He would have to make a decision. He wouldn't relish the task.

And Mel Atreus?

She almost did herself some serious damage after her suicide attempt, but quickly recovered. She was outwardly unchanged except for the two new scars, one across each wrist. She carried on in her work for a while, but during a lull in cases, disappeared. She left no forwarding address. However, the custodian of this story wishes to note that one Melisande de l'Aa, a huntress of vampires, appeared in Paris not long after Mel Atreus' abrupt disappearance.

Mr. Ash is going about his business as we speak. He is the only one unchanged by the events in this narrative. He will always be the same. In fact, you may have met him yourself.

The End.