A/N: Once again, this is a chapter in a longer story that I have ideas for, but have not yet written. You know the drill: leave a review, even if you hate it, and I'll read and review a story of yours. Enjoy.


He could smell blood. Blood and fear. It was a scent unmistakable to any hunter. Fen's muscles tensed automatically as his senses sharpened and he dropped into a crouch. With his enhanced night vision, the thick darkness under the towering trees was no burden, and he peered around himself, only the imperceptible movement that of his eyes.

On a night like this, without a moon and too far from town to see the lights or hear the cars, Fen could almost believe that he was in one of the ancient forests of centuries past. As the smell of fresh blood triggered his hunter's instincts and forbidden longings, his breath quickened in anticipation of the chase. He felt like he could do anything.

Fen finally traced the direction of his prey and smiled to himself as he raced off through the trees. Finally, some action. Nothing ever happened around this place. Which was, of course, one of the reasons he had chosen to come here. He sped through the darkness, barely seeming to touch the ground and never hesitating as he leaped over twisted roots and nimbly ducked under and around low branches. As he approached his destination, he slowed, getting a better grasp on the sweet, bloody scent that had lured him blindly until now.

Fen's sense of smell was so finely tuned that it was practically infallible. If a person passed him on the street, he could tell you what they'd had for breakfast, what brand of soap they used, and even if they were about to fall ill. He could detect poison in food, an infected wound, and could smell something pungent like formaldehyde from a mile away. It was a very informative trait.

What his sense of smell now informed him of was shocking enough to stop Fen mid-stride, though he was now close enough to hear what his nose had already told him. There was a wounded creature in the small glade just through the trees ahead--a wounded girl. Only when he had gotten closer had Fen been able to distinguish that it was in fact human blood that he smelled. His need to hunt, to kill was still present, but his human side was disgusted enough at the thought that those needs retreated. Now he was wary and careful rather than eager, for the injured girl was not the only creature in the clearing--there was also the thing that had injured her.

Fen bared his teeth and suppressed a low growl as he recognized the creature as one of his own kind. Relief mingled with disappointment when he realized that it was someone he didn't know. Anger replaced those conflicting emotions as he got over his initial shock. Silent and deadly, Fen covered the remaining yards, his belly almost touching the ground.

What the hell does this idiot think he's doing? There were rules after all. Rules that were ingrained in all of them as deeply as the knowledge that a full moon meant that it was time to run. Attacking a human unprovoked was a big no-no. And killing a human (without a very good reason), as this stranger obviously intended to do, was absolutely forbidden, taboo, unspeakable. It was the number two rule. Fen severely doubted that this poor girl had done anything to deserve a painful death.

At the moment, she was on the ground in a pitiable, broken heap. Her rasping breath was ragged and uneven, blood oozed from multiple scratches and gashes all over her face and body, and she wasn't moving--probably unconscious. Fen wrinkled his nose; from the smell of things, she'd lost a lot of blood. Rage newly bloomed as he thought of how this monster had played with her, drawing out his killing game to cause the most possible pain, the most terror.

A snarl ripped from Fen's throat as he leaped out of the trees to face the stranger, down into a fighting crouch, his hackles up. The creature wheeled around to face, dropping low to the ground in turn. Now that he was face to face with the monster, Fen could see and smell that something was not right. The thing was slavering uncontrollably at the mouth, it would give a violent twitch every few seconds, and its eyes were wild and unfocused. It was literally out of its mind.

No wonder he attacked her. The thing had lost its rational mind--which meant that the animal half of its brain, the part where its baser instincts and needs and hungers were housed, had taken over. Fen hesitated, unsure whether bringing down a creature who--to all intents and purposes--didn't know any better was right.

The stranger chose that moment to attack.

Fen was ready for him. He snarled and darted in under his opponent's lunge, going for the throat. The stranger realized Fen's tactic at the last second and jerked away, causing Fen to lose his hold. They circled each other, occasionally feinting to the side, each testing the other's reflexes. The creature's mad eyes rolled in his head.

Suddenly, the girl, left lying outside the circle of their confrontation, stirred and moaned softly. That quiet sound pushed the wild stranger over the brink of his self-control, and he turned his back on Fen to finish off his victim, the fight forgotten in his bloodlust. This could not be allowed to happen.

Fen launched himself over the small space between them and landed on his opponent's back, gripping with his teeth and ripping with his razor sharp nails. They rolled in a dangerous tumble of flying limbs and tearing flesh. Fen was the more powerful fighter and his grip was like a steel trap, but the stranger had the unpredictable strength of insanity on his side. Somehow, he was able to get his nails hooked into Fen's back, and he proceeded to shred any available skin. In that first moment of pain, Fen loosened his hold enough that the stranger was able to shake him off. Fen jumped up and away, preparing for the stranger's next move; his wound had barely registered--had already begun to heal. The crazy stranger panted as he watched him with wide, unblinking eyes. Then he once again turned his back…

…and ran away.

Fen was stunned; it was the last thing he had expected. Before he could think about the stranger's odd behavior, the smell of human blood once again registered, and he remembered that the night's work was not yet finished.

Slowly, he approached the prostrate figure on the ground. She was in bad shape. Her breathing was shallow and she was pale from blood-loss, the evidence of which created darker spots around her on the shadowy forest floor. She had a nice face, even twisted in pain and covered in a sheen of sweat as it was, he could see sweetness there. His pity began to intensify until it began to resemble something more like protectiveness and sorrow for her sad and broken state. Why were innocents always the ones to get hurt? Just for once, why couldn't God or Fate or whomever bring down those who actually deserved it? He could see that she was going to die and, not knowing what else to do, he began to lick her wounds, cleaning the blood and dirt from her face and arms.

Finally, all traces of blood were gone and he could more clearly see her wounds in the darkness. Actually, they weren't at all as bad as he had thought. In fact, they weren't nearly severe enough to account for all of the blood staining the ground around them. Strange…

The girl opened her eyes.


A/N: Review please!