As promised, here is a Seph chapter ;) Sorry it's so short. Thanks for reading! Please review! After this chapter is where the story really starts to change, mostly due to the fact that I made the previous injections mean something, which also means something for Seph, hehe, but probably not until later. Anyway, read on!


Chapter Eight:

Burned

SEPH

The fire crackled as I stared at the flames. The evening brought with it a chilling wind and I wrapped my arms around myself, longing for a thicker jacket. Unfortunately, I did not have one. No one did. We made due with what we had, really. And we didn't have much. Sighing heavily, glanced up at the evening sky, growing dark as the sun disappeared into the earth off on the horizon. Stars were beginning to glimmer, staring down at us. I wondered if my brother was up there somewhere, watching me, keeping an eye on things. It comforted me to think that, but then it wound up saddening me further to think about how he was dead and I would never see him again. My last words to him had been angry ones. I had never gotten to apologize or say goodbye, and that still tore at me.

A hand landed on my shoulder and I flinched, glancing up to see the worried eyes of my father watching me. We'd had our rough patches, I'll admit, but we had gotten rather close these past few years, being all each other had. Until we met up with others, anyway, but still. The others weren't family, they were just people who didn't have anywhere else to go either. Like us.

"Are you all right?" my father asked, frowning at me in concern.

"I'm fine," I sighed, "just thinking."

"I think I know those thoughts," he murmured, looking away, toward the fire. I nodded at him. "Thinking about your brother, huh?"

"Yeah..." I told him. I thought about Nick a lot lately. I wondered how he'd handle things, how he'd look at the world these days. He'd probably be able to make it seem like everything was okay--he'd often done that for me, let me think it was okay when really, things were anything but. Now, though, things really weren't okay. Back then, it had just been family problems. Those seemed so small and insignificant compared to the world now, and the problems we faced these days. Still, Nick probably would have been able to make it easer, or at least make it seem that way.

But he was gone. Dead. Caught in a fire in Maine five years ago. Nothing but ash left afterward.

My brother.

I hoped he'd gone quick. I didn't want to think of him having suffered, screaming as the flames licked at his body. That was a horrible way to die and I prayed it had been fast. I prayed the explosion had done him in quickly so he didn't have to feel the pain.

"I miss him," I murmured to my father. It was true. I missed Nick so much. At first, I had cried and blamed Dad for his death. I had screamed at him and shouted at him, and even locked myself in my room. Dad hadn't left, though. I'd thought he would because that was what he always used to do, right? He used to always leave and Nick was the one who always stayed, who was always there. But Nick had been gone and Dad had been there, and I hadn't been used to the switch. My girlfriend at the time had not been able to stand my random mood swings and the way I growled at everyone, so she'd soon left. At the time, I hadn't really been upset about it. She was nothing compared to my brother. I hadn't even really loved her, just liked her enough that I wanted to wake up next to her for a while. But then...after Nick's death, I hadn't wanted to see anyone in the morning. I had wanted to be alone.

But Dad had stayed.

I was grateful.

"I miss him too," Dad sighed, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. "I wish he was here. But then, sometimes, I find myself thanking God that he's not."

I nodded. I could relate to that thinking. It hurt to be thanking someone for my brother's untimely death, but maybe it was best that he wasn't alive right now. Not with the way the world was at the moment. I didn't want Nick to see the kind of horror that was here now.

"What the hell was that?" someone asked suddenly from around the fire. I looked up, frowning, to see Jem jumping to his feet, his sharp blue eyes narrowed as he stared into the encompassing darkness around us.

"What is it?" I asked, getting to my feet. An uneasy feeling swarmed through my stomach. Dad stood next to me, his body stiff and alert.

"I don't know, I think he's just hearing things," commented Blaine with a snort as he warmed his hands in front of the fire, his brown eyes narrowed on the flames.

"I heard something," Jem said uneasily.

Jem was my best friend. I trusted him completely, and if he said there was something out there, then I believed him. I clutched tightly at my knife, even though it really wasn't much of a weapon. We'd had a few pistols but we'd lost them last week when one of those creatures had attacked. I didn't know what they were called or if they even had a name, and I honestly didn't care. They were all trying to kill us and so far, nothing we had really stopped them, not permanently. Temporarily, yes, but not forever. They always somehow managed to get back up and come after us.

A twig snapped from somewhere in the darkness around us. Swallowing, I glanced at Jem to see him gritting his teeth. Blaire got to his feet and narrowed his eyes into the darkness. Dad shifted nervously next to me and clamped a hand down on my arm.

"Wake the others," Jem murmured to me.

I nodded and moved closer to the fire, kneeling next to the two sleeping forms on the ground. "Angel, wake up. Jas. C'mon, wake up." I shook the two of them. Angel's gray eyes opened slowly and focused on me in confusion. Jas took longer to wake, giving into a wide yawn. He saw the look on my face and went rigid.

"What is it?" Jas asked with a frown, cocking his head to the side. His gaze wander toward Jem, his brother.

Angel swallowed and sat up, slowly rising to her feet. "Shh," she told him.

Jas swallowed and got to his feet as well, his blue eyes narrowed.

The sound of growling sparked through the area.

Something jumped out of the trees. I saw luminous yellow eyes and an angry snarl before I was tackled, my head slamming backward and into the ground. Claws started to slash toward me and I threw an arm over my face as though that would help protect me. The pain never came, though, and I flinched when there was movement over me. The creature, the monster, was knocked away from me by Jem, who was stabbing at it mercilessly with his sharp, long knife. Jas helped me to my feet and Dad grabbed me by the arm, tugging me away from the monster and Jem.

"Run!" Jem snarled at everyone.

"I'm not leaving you," Jas growled at his brother, moving toward him and the monster. Dad reached out and grabbed Jas's arm, forcing him back. Then he shoved Jas away, toward the trees, where we were supposed to run.

Jem cried out in pain. I spun around to see him get knocked to the side, where he hit the ground and lay still. The monster loomed over him. "No!" I cried, lunging forward with my knife. Dad tried to reach out for me but was too slow, and I raced toward the monster, ignoring my fear. Jem was my friend and I couldn't let this thing hurt him more than it already had. The creature turned toward me and I froze. Snarling, it lunged at me. I dove toward the side at the last moment and the thing barely missed me with its claws. Dad shouted at the creature and it hurried toward him. My eyes went wide. "Dad, no!"

Dad didn't even have a weapon. What was he doing?

I raced after the monster but I knew I would be too late. The thing was too fast, Dad too far away for me to do anything.

Blaire jumped toward the monster at the last minute and stabbed the knife into its face. It lashed out at him blindly and caught him in the stomach, throwing him through the air. To my utter horror, he landed right in the fire and went up in flames right in front of us.

"No!" I screamed again. The smell of burning flesh clogged my nose.

Jas tackled Blaire out of the fire as the monster ran off, blinded by Blaire's knife, at leas for the time being. Blaire rolled limply to the ground, breathing heavily, his body burned and red, bloody and broken. Claw marks raked his stomach and blood pooled in the wounds, coating the ground.

"Oh God," I breathed, feeling sick to my stomach.

There was movement behind me and I spun to see Jem limping toward us. He was bloody too. My eyes went wide.

"Jem?" I whispered dreadfully.

"I'm okay," he murmured, wincing as he walked. "Just got scratched. Not that deep. How's Blaire?"

"Bad," Angel sobbed as she crashed to her knees. She was only sixteen. "Oh, God!"

"Blaire? Can you hear me?" Jas asked frantically, trying to pat out the flames, tearing Blaire's jacket away from him.

Blaire screamed with pain at the movement.

"Stop the bleeding," Jem said quickly. "Do whatever you have to do to stop the bleeding. I'm going to go to the creek and get water."

The creek was only a few yards away. He disappeared from view and I swallowed, looking down at Blaire.

Poor Blaire. He didn't deserve this.

Was this what had happened to Nick? I felt sick to my stomach and turned away as I heaved up what I'd had for dinner. Dad patted my back and I spit out the leftover taste of bile in my mouth.

Jas dealt with the wounds as best he could. Blaire cried and sobbed. Jem returned and took of his jacket, tucking it into the cool water for a moment before he took it out and started to sooth it over the burns on Blaire's body. Blaire flinched and then sighed in relief, tears racing down his scarred cheeks.

"Take it easy, man," Jem said, lightly moving the jacket along Blaire's skin.

I swallowed thickly.

How could anything ever be okay?