Number 17 – Blood

"Good girl."

He smiled to himself, tongue slowly running over his bottom lip, tasting the last flecks of the precious liquid as he lowered her down onto the grass. Gently, so gently that he might be handling a lover, he closed her eyes. Blake, crouching low, moved backwards, away from the bushes he had taken her in. His feet found the path and he straightened himself, glancing around.

No one was around.

The silence reigned as it had since he'd stepped into the park.

No birds fluttered their wings in the trees, no insects scuttled on the floor beneath his feet. They were too clever for that. Not like his prey. No, they came all too easily.

Whistling to himself, Blake reached into the pocket of his jeans, pulling out a packet of fags and quickly lighting one. He inhaled slowly, eyes closed in pure bliss. A cigarette after a feed, nothing could have been closer to heaven for him.

In fact, he thought with a slight smile, it was properly the closest he ever would get to heaven. After all, his kind could not be too welcome up there. He could just picture himself, standing in front of those pearly gates, watching as men were let in, waiting for his chance...

Chuckling to himself, Blake moved off down the path, whistling the tune of 'Sympathy for the Devil' as he strolled along, unaware that he wasn't, in fact, the only other person in the park.

- - -

"This is stupid, Poison." A small boy hissed, hands stuffed in the pair of ripped jeans he wore, head bowed forward, his blond hair ruffled. He glanced towards his companion, whose clear blue eyes shone in the darkness of the park. "He is clearly a rogue; what makes you think he will come to us?"

"Because he is lonely," Poison replied, glancing down towards the boy. "Despite his tough exterior, he is lonely William."

"Yeah?" William scoffed. "And how can you tell that?"

"Can you imagine having been abandoned to the night as soon as you were made?" Poison sighed, putting a hand on the boy's shoulder and turning him around, leading him deeper into the park, away from the retreating figure with the ripped denim jacket and the tall, spiked Mohican. "Just imagine if you did not have Raven, when you were first created."

"I would have been dead within days," William shrugged.

"Only because of the age you were created," Poison rolled his eyes. "Clearly, neither myself nor Stanger died within days. We survived, but it's a terrible survival William. Do you remember when Raven found me?"

"You were savage," William chuckled. "Older than me but you acted so primitive."

"Exactly!" Poison stopped walking, glancing over his shoulder. "He seeks out women to control, to manipulate. He's looking for something to stop the pain. I was close to losing my mind when I was found."

"I pitied you." William, for a brief second, looked thoughtfully at his companion. "To be left by your maker like that..." He sighed. "At least I had the adventure I'd heard about as a mortal."

"Ah yes," Poison rubbed his forehead. "The boy stolen from his father, made into a vampire and joining a band of pirates. A warped version of Peter Pan."

William chuckled. "Why do you think I give mortals my name as Peter?"

Poison nodded, running a hand through his mop of dark hair. "We need to find a good time to approach him. He's been living wild for two years now. He may be weary of our presence."

"Do you think he has sensed us?"

"He may have sensed something." Something akin to sorrow flittered across Poison's face. "But I doubt he knows what we are. We should return to Raven and Calista. They will be expecting us."

- - -

Blake knew something wasn't right. He lounged back in the booth, eyes roaming over the small club at the people gathered there. The girl beside him had her arms draped across his shoulders and chest, paying him compliments, admiring both his liberty spikes and his customised jacket.

There was a feeling deep in his stomach that something had changed, though he couldn't identify exactly what it was. His eyes fell on newest addition to the bar; a barman in his early thirties with eyes that shone through the darkness. Across the room, he watched Blake, and Blake didn't like it.

He curled his lips back, anger flooding through him for no other reason than the barman gave him an odd feeling.

"Stay here," he hissed to the girl, pushing himself upwards and crossing the room, past the pulsating bodies of the dancers, past the chairs and tables with people leaning over them, lips locked together and hands groping.

The barman disappeared.

Blake stood in front of the bar, wondering how the hell he could have moved so fast. Feeling the anger returning, Blake stepped backwards, eyes scanning the area, searching.

He spun around, tongue running along his teeth.

He was not going to let anyone mess with him.

- - -

Poison and William stood opposite the club, a pair of matching blue eyes fixed on the entrance.

"I can feel his anger."

Poison nodded, agreeing with his short friend. He closed his eyes, focusing on the club in front of them. The sound of music slowly entered his ears, but buried beneath this he could hear two very different voices. One was old, graceful and slow. The second was young, rash and angry.

I don't think he's leaving anytime soon Poison.

Bloody fucker...where the hell did he go? He has to be around here somewhere no one can move that fast why the hell was he staring at me....

Poison's eyes snapped open as he chuckled. "You stay out here. I will be back shortly."

The boy nodded as Poison moved forward, quickly approaching the men stationed at the door. He whispered a few words into their ears and they swept him inside.

This really wasn't his kind of place. His eyes scanned over the mortals dancing to the punk music, the angry lyrics filling his ears as he made his way down a set of steps, smiling to himself at the way they looked at him. He, in his simple white t-shirt and blue jeans, with a fairly conventional hair cut, must have seemed so out of place to them. These mortals, with their wild haircuts dyed in a variety of colours, in an array of styles. Their clothes, customised, cut up, patched up. Badges winked at him from every direction.

A generation crying out for help.

Poison had to admit, he admired the way the punk movement had taken over, both here and back in the UK. These teenagers who rallied against their governments the only way they knew how, these children who had so much anger and hatred inside of them.

And Blake Stanger, he knew, was one of them.

His eyes caught him standing near the bar, looking around, confused and weary.

Poor little rich kid, in over his head.

Poison smirked as Blake spun around, eyes wide. Now, he just looked scared. Terrified, in fact.

"Oh this is going to be fun," Poison muttered to himself, moving so he was closer to the bar. Over the other side of the club, his eyes caught sight of the barman collecting glasses. He glanced upwards, looked once at Blake before locking his gaze on Poison. The barman nodded.

Lost, Stanger?

Blake staggered towards the bar, eyes still gazing around fearfully. Poison focused, honing in on the fledgling.

Who are you?

A friend, Poison replied, running a hand through his hair as he watched the punk get a couple of drinks. On his way back, he lit a cigarette, hands shaking.

You can...hear my thoughts?

Poison laughed. Poor boy, he thought. He really does need us. Yes. It's one of our gifts...for some.

Our?

You know what you are, right?

Of course.

He was getting defensive now, as he sat back down at the booth, placing the drinks on the table. Poison watched, amused, as the girl put her arms around him.

I'm a vampire. Does that mean you are, too?

Blake's eyes searched the area, before locking on Poison. He frowned as Poison lifted a hand in greeting, winking a hazel eye at him.

Yes. May I interrupt you and your lady friend?

Blake's face became still, blank, almost. He nodded.

Poison crossed the room, eyes locked on the punk as he approached. Eventually, he made it to the table and sat down, giving the slightest of nods to the girl before fixing his full attention on Blake. The fledgling gazed at Poison with awe, taking in every detail of his appearance. This, Poison knew, was a man who hadn't felt scared or intimidated by anyone – or anything – in a long time. But, like a dog who senses he is no longer the alpha male, he knew to be intimidated by the new arrival.

"Blake, right?" Poison asked, folding his arms on the table and leaning forward ever so slightly. He smiled, lips curling back just enough so that Blake could see his fangs.

"Yes."

"Pleasure. Name's Poison."

"Your eyes..." Blake glanced towards the girl, who was staring at Poison was hungry lust in her eyes. "Go," Blake whispered, voice low and commanding. The girl's eyes went blank, glazed, and slowly she moved out of the booth and away from the pair.

"They change colour, yes," Poison lifted a hand, resting his head against it. "But that, my friend, is nowhere near as impressive as what you just did."

Surprise appeared on Blake's face, as he leant back, crossing his arms. "Can you...can you not do that, too?"

"No," Poison chuckled. "Though I know one or two others who can."

"Other vampires?"

"Of course. We all have varying abilities Blake. For example, my eyes," he lifted a finger, pointing at his right eye, "change colour depending on my mood. I can also read minds and, as you have seen, inject my thoughts into the heads of others. You are able to control humans to a certain extent, am I right?"

"Yeah." Blake nodded slowly, absorbing the older vampire's words. "And some animals. What about the speed thing? Is that different for all of us?"

He was getting excited now, leaning towards Poison, eyes wide and eager. Poison chuckled.

"No, my friend. It's not. We can all move fast. As you have seen our friend behind the bar do."

Blake looked stunned as he glanced around. "They employed a vampire?"

"They don't know what he is," Poison shrugged. "And...you'd be surprised how many of our kind take up work in places like this. It makes hunting easier."

Blake glanced around, licking his lips. "I bet."

"Not that you need a job." Poison reached into his jacket, pulling out an envelope and placing it on the table between them. "Read that."

Frowning, Blake opened the envelope and scanned its contents. He frowned, bit his lip and glanced upwards at Poison. "My parents died."

"Two months ago. I'm sorry."

"No. Don't be. I'm not." He sighed, dropping the envelope back onto the table. "How did you track me down?"

"We have eyes and ears everywhere," Poison flashed him a sly grin. "You have a lot to learn, Blake, not just about us but about yourself and the society you belong to, the world you've been brought into."

"And you can teach me?"

"Not by myself, no."

Blake reached into his pocket, took out a cigarette and offered one to Poison. Poison shook his head.

"But I can take you to the Coven. As you haven't been created by us, and we have no idea who your maker is, you'll have to bring a present."

"What sort of present?"

Poison's lips curled back, his eyes shifting to glance around the club. Blake followed his gaze, and together their eyes roamed over the people dancing and drinking, unaware of the monsters in their midst.

"Ah," Blake smiled. "That kind of present."

- - -

Blake could not hold back his surprise when they left the club and were joined by William. The boy's eyes roamed hungrily over the two girls they'd brought with them. A blonde hung of Blake's arm, a girl with bright red spiky hair clung onto Poison.

"You are going to give them to the Coven?" William asked, chest heaving as he leered at the pair.

Blake took a step back. "How old are you?"

"A lot older than you, Stanger," William snapped, moving forward faster than a blink, so he stood toe to toe with Blake. He tilted his head back, fangs on full view. "Respect your elders. Or you may find yourself dead, permanently."

William turned, stalking off down the sidewalk. Poison chuckled.

"Don't judge a book by its cover. William has had to put up with preconceptions about his age for the last century and a half. He gets very fed up of it."

Blake, shaking, nodded. He tugged on the blonde, moving after the small boy, Poison keeping up with him, an arm wrapped around the red head.

After what seemed like forever, the five found themselves in a graveyard that overlooked the city. Blake's eyes scanned the skyscrapers, taking in the sight of what he considered his home from this height.

"Isn't a graveyard a bit cliché?" he muttered dryly, causing another chuckle from Poison.

"Why are we here?" The blonde, who had been quiet up until then, whispered. Blake glanced at her, eyes locking on hers, and grinned.

"To show you a good time, baby. Now be quiet."

She hung her head, staring at the floor as her and her friend were dragged between the graves by the two vampires. William darted ahead of them, stopping only when they came to a large mausoleum, a group standing around it and talking quietly. As they approached, everyone went silent, turning their gazes onto Blake.

"You found him then." A woman grinned, stepping out of the shadows. Blake found his breath catching in his throat at the sight of her. He caught sight of another woman, and couldn't help but stare openly at the pair of them.

They were beautiful, more so than any women he had seen before. Standing next to each other, they were complete opposites. Ebony and ivy, black and white, the first with jet black hair falling down in ringlets, framing her dark face. The second had hair so blonde that, to Blake, it was like seeing the sun once again. Her skin was, not pale, not like his or Poison's, but as white as a cloud. Her red lips curled up in a smile as she tilted her head to once side, staying at Blake with a pair of piercing blue eyes.

"Aw look Raven; he's never seen female vampires before."

"You're beautiful!" The red head at Poison's side spoke loudly, and like Blake, she couldn't take her eyes away from either woman. "

"Who are you?" Blake asked, as Poison roughly pushed the red head forward, causing her to stumble and then fall.

Do the same, Poison silently told the fledgling. Blake nodded, pushing the blonde after her friend. The two girls inched towards each other, grabbing on, whimpering as they suddenly realised they were in danger.

"We are one of many Covens, Blake Stanger," Raven smiled gently at him, and it felt as though, to Blake, nothing could go wrong in the world ever again. "You have already met William and Poison, of course. This is Calista," she gestured towards the blonde. "Eddie and Marcus."

He glanced over to the right, where two men stood. One was covered from head to toe in leather, his build muscular and his hair a tangled mess of brown. He flashed a fanged smile at Blake. The other had locks of blond tied back from a pallid face, his mouth carved into a sneer.

"Tommy," Raven continued, and Blake whirled around to see a tall, handsome man step out from behind one of the graves. He walked past the fledgling, glancing hungrily at the two girls. He wore a pinstriped suit, his movements graceful as he came to stand beside Raven.

Blake's eyes darted from one member of the Coven to the next, taking each of them in. Uncertain, he looked at Poison.

The other vampire raised his head, his posture rigid and his face serious. "Raven, I bring Blake Stanger to the Coven as he seeks help. With an unknown maker, Blake was left to learn our ways on his own. He brings blood as a gift."

"Whoa," Blake couldn't resist the smirk that came on his face. "Formal."

We're not usually this formal, Poison explained, mouth completely still. But certain rituals need to be followed. Especially with new members.

Blake nodded, turning to Raven.

"Blake Stanger, make your case." She grinned at him.

It's OK, Poison's voice once more filled his head. Just repeat after me...

Blake nodded, repeating Poison's words like a translator. "Raven, I come seeking the company of other vampires. I was cruelly abandoned into the night when I was created, and before now have not met another of my kind. My desire is to learn about our world and to find the family I should have had with..."

The person who created you, was it a man or woman?

"....with the person who creat...sorry, sorry. A man."

His mistake caused a chorus of chuckles to rise from those gathered.

"It is no problem," Raven waved a hand in the air, and the vampires fell silent. "Please, Blake, continue."

"...with he who created me. I bring blood as a gift for the Coven."

"Nicely done," Raven's eyes flashed to Poison. "Thank you, Poison. Blake, do you promise to uphold the best interests of the Coven, to follow the orders of your elders and endeavour to return to our flock, wherever in the world we are, when you are called?"

I can't help you here, Poison bowed his head, keeping his gaze fixed on the floor. Only you can answer that.

Blake glanced at the two girls, whose eyes darted around the graveyard, staring with fear at each of the vampires.

He'd been alone for so long, and he knew he had a lot to learn. These, clearly, were the people to teach him. He nodded.

"Yes," he spoke loudly, eyes locking with Raven's. "Yes."

"Good." Her lips curled up into a smile as she walked towards Blake. "Come here."

He took the few remaining steps towards her, hearing Poison's voice in his head. Bow. Blake fell to his knees, feeling the wet grass beneath him he tilted his head back, staring up at Raven.

"Your wrist, please, Blake."

He held his arm upwards, watching as she reached out and, holding his wrist, bit into it. He could feel her heartbeat as she drank, could feel the blood leaving him and entering her. When she was finished, Blake fell back onto the grass, a groan escaping from him. His eyelids half closed, he watched as Raven tore open her own wrist and held it above his mouth.

"Drink."

He did as she commanded, feeling droplets of blood splatter around his mouth. His tongue lashed out, licking up the droplets before reaching out for more. Raven squeezed her wrist, and Blake's mouth opened wider, allowing it to fill his mouth. His eyes rolled upwards, seeing, not the graveyard, but something else entirely.

He saw a woman walking towards a large house; saw her bending down over a young boy and feeding him as she now fed Blake. He watched as the boy changed from mortal to vampire, as they stalked through the house and found the boy's father...

Suddenly his body jerked and he saw the woman again, sitting at the back of a club, eyes fixed on the man on stage, a glass of wine untouched in front of her...

Other moments flashed before him, Raven in each one, until finally his eyes snapped open and he was back in the graveyard, Raven's hand pressed over her wound, eyes fixed on Blake. His own wrist was still bleeding.

"Tied by blood," Poison muttered, stepping forward and laying a hand on Blake's shoulder. "You cannot leave the Coven until she gives you permission."

Blake nodded, as Poison helped him to his feet. The punk gazed around, eyes bright as his tongue ran around his mouth, drinking the last few drops. He stared at the girls, realising that everyone was now watching them. Hunger filled the graveyard, hunger and longing and desire and the need, the need for the blood....

Blake had never felt it like this before.

The craving filled his body, stretched across every fibre of his being. It consumed him, and suddenly he ached for blood; he didn't know how much longer he could just look at those girls. He wanted them, he wanted to sink his fangs in and drain them, more than a want, he needed it. So badly.

Heel, boy. Poison's voice once again filled his head, and he glanced towards the other vampire. Poison was chuckling as he watched Blake, the punk's eyes glazed now as he tried to focus. Everything was swimming in front of him as Raven approached one of the girls and yanked her to her feet.

Both girls screamed.

Raven opened her mouth, pulled the girl towards her and sank her teeth into her neck. When she'd drank for a few minutes, she pulled away, holding the girl's wrist up in the air.

"We welcome Blake Stanger to the Coven, may he prove to be a valuable member of our family."

The vampires roared, a sound full of energy and desire.

"Now," Raven dropped the girl's wrist, smiling as the body fell to the floor. "Drink," she hissed, turning away from the girls as the other vampires pounced forward, teeth sinking into skin and blood flowing from the wounds.