A/N: I just got a smart phone with which I can go on google drive and edit my writing (which I recently put there). Now whether that'll make updates faster or slower is hard to say, but I suspect it won't matter since I don't go out much, so I'll still be using my computer.
"You want me to go camping?" I asked with some degree of astonishment.
"You could bring that boy," my mother suggested, as ever unable to keep a name in her mind. "We want to meet him."
I had, in a manner of speaking, been going out with Nick for close to five months by then and my parents had only my very, very, vague description of him to go on. I did not want to go camping, I really didn't, and I didn't want to introduce Nick to my parents.
I was fairly sure at that point that we weren't going to last much longer. He was starting to grate on me, I had never minded the way he liked to talk before, but then I met Kane and suddenly I was less interested. Whether the timing was coincidence or not I knew it had started when she arrived.
I was fairly sure that it was because I had met someone interesting, who was interested in me. Not only was Kane interested in me, but she seemed quite intuitive about me, she sometimes appeared about to tell me something and then stopped and I knew it was because she knew I didn't want to have to reciprocate.
If her night life was any indication I didn't have much to share with her. I wasn't interesting, but still she was interested in me, I didn't get it but I appreciated it. Nick said, more than once, that there weren't many interesting girls in the school, he was lucky to have gotten one. Maybe, I sometimes thought, that meant he was interested in an ideal he had that I happened to be adjacent to.
Odd equated to interesting so maybe he liked me because I was odd. I was sure I was odd, happy to be so, but it wasn't a defining feature and since meeting Kane I felt like settling for being adjacent to an ideal was not something I should let myself be doing. Kane liked me because she had talked to me enough, she had met me because she had saved my life but I doubted that just that was what interested her.
Maybe I was giving her a benefit of the doubt that I should have given my boyfriend, but I felt like I had known him for too long for that. I felt like I knew too much to ignore it, but I didn't know anything, I was just being paranoid, again.
But she had said, maybe I am not paranoid, maybe I just sense things about people, maybe I sensed something about Nick. Or maybe I was just destroying something again. I had done it before, destroyed things that I liked. I had ruined most of my friendships because I just didn't understand what it was that people saw in me.
I wasn't interesting, I was sure of it, and I didn't want to argue about that.
But it had been requested of me, by my parents no less. I didn't want to go camping but it seemed to have been planned already, so I could just bring a book and pretend I was in a small and partly see through room. That was what I had done the last time.
I had a slightly bad feeling about Nick meeting my parents, but this was only because I was concerned that they would get along well and then when we broke up they would take it badly as well and the last thing I wanted, ever, was to be responsible for something like that.
Perhaps I could think of worse things, but I was having trouble with it at school, anticipating broaching the subject to Nick. I couldn't really get it straight in my head, inviting Nick to go camping with my family in the woods was not the same as claiming that our relationship would last. Was it?
I wasn't quite sure how I'd managed to spill all of this to Kane. Or not all so much as a tiny little bit, I was going camping, my parents had instructed that I invite Nick and I didn't much want to. It felt like I had told her everything I could have about the situation, but of course I had not.
"Camping..." she seemed like she was about to say something, but then decided not to. "I wouldn't have ever gone camping, no matter what anyone said, at least not unless I had to. If you don't want to invite Nick then don't, you don't have to tell him about it, and then you could lie to your parents. On the other hand you could invite him and it might improve... things. Maybe it isn't my place to advise on such a thing. Never had a boyfriend after all."
I gave myself no points for guessing what she meant by the last. "Thanks," I said. "I don't usually tell people... things, or ask for advice. Thank you for listening to me."
She smiled that smile that turned her into a person. "You are very welcome," she told me. "I am not often called upon for advice. You can tell me anything you want, I will not judge you, and I won't use anything against you."
I think it was the first time in my life that I actually wanted to hug someone, which was odd, for the two obvious reasons. I managed to restrain myself, I didn't want to... I couldn't think of a good reason not to hug her but still I did not. I wasn't one for physical contact, I really wasn't. It was one of the many social issues I had.
Nick had actually helped a little in that respect, I was slightly less likely to run away if someone tried to touch me. It depended on the person though, there was one girl who just made my skin crawl and I suspected it had something to do with the crazy talk that Kane had been spewing the second time she had talked to me at school. It was something I just couldn't work out.
I didn't think the girl was crazy, but she certainly had sounded it, and I hadn't pried because I didn't want to have to share anything in return. Maybe that made this a good time to pry, I had told her about myself, if only a small amount, maybe she could tell me about herself.
"What is a candidate?" I asked her. "I remember you saying that I must be at least a candidate, some time ago, what did you mean?"
"I am a hunter," she said. "Hunters start as candidates, or as wolves, sometimes. A candidate is someone like you, who can tell who you should be afraid of. You ran when you couldn't see anything because you knew it was there. So you are a candidate."
"You are a hunter?" I asked, forgetting myself. Hunter sounded interesting so I wanted to know what it meant. It should have been obvious.
"I hunt," she said, a brow raised. "I am surprised that isn't obvious, I've saved you twice from the things I hunt."
I wanted to ask more questions but we were interrupted by the sound of the school's bell, warning us that classes were resuming. As I left I felt her gaze on me, I felt her watch me leave and I felt good about it. The feeling of someone watching should be creepy, I was sure. I'd never enjoyed being watched, not even like that, but of course I didn't mind it from her.
I couldn't help it, I enjoyed her presence, she made me feel better, safe, and that was odd, she didn't look safe. She was really quite tall, she was well muscled and she was intimidating, she had short hair and she looked strong, she wasn't someone you could ignore. She wasn't like me.
So why was she interested in me?
"You want me to come camping with you?" Nick asked almost as soon as I broached the subject.
"I don't want to go camping at all," I told him. "My parents suggested I invite you."
I wondered a moment if I was too obviously saying that it hadn't been my idea but either he didn't notice or he didn't care. "It sounds good," he informed me. "I do want to meet your parents. When?"
"Next weekend, not the one coming but the one following that," I told him. Almost asked if he would be free but stopped myself, concerned that my hope that he wouldn't be free might come across.
"Camping under the full moon," he said with a smile. "Should be interesting."
Full moon, maybe it would be interesting. I liked full moons, they always seemed to empty the city a little bit, like there were less harmful people walking the streets. Which wasn't quite the case, but there were less people who seemed harmful.
Maybe they were all out in the woods, that wouldn't be good, I was going to the woods, maybe that was where all the crazy people were. I didn't want to go camping, but it didn't have anything to do with woods full of crazy people.
I didn't want to forgo my work for so long. I didn't want to forgo my computer for that long, I didn't want to have to spend so much time with my parents. I didn't want to spend so much time with Nick. There was nothing about it that I was looking forward to.
It was a couple of days before Kane and I talked about it again. We didn't always talk when we spent time together, it was something I liked about her.
"When are you going?" she asked me.
"Not this coming weekend, the one after," I told her.
Her reaction to this seemed, at the time, rather extreme. "The night of the full moon?" she demanded. "You are going to spend the full moon in the forest?" She was at least very concerned by this news, more like frightened.
"Yeah, what about it?" I asked, infected by her fear. She was afraid of something, Kane was afraid. The girl who hunted shadows in the night was afraid of the forest at the full moon. This was a great source of concern for me.
"There are wolves in that forest," she told me, I knew she was talking about something worse than regular wolves. "And their hunter has cracked, by all accounts. The man who keeps them in line is going to go mad this moon."
"Can't you do something?" I asked. If anyone could stop a killer wolf it would be her.
"I called a friend of mine, a wolf hunter, but she won't be able to make it in time," she told me. "I wasn't going to spend the moon in the forest but I may have to if there is a camping ground there. I'm not a wolf hunter."
She sighed. "I can't get anyone to help in time, except the wolves," Kane complained. Then she seemed to realise she was talking to a civilian, someone who had no idea what she was talking about. "Don't worry about it, I have it under control. I have to go and find the wolf."
She got up and hurried out of the library. I hadn't ever seen her hurry before, I had seen her move at an incredible speed but I hadn't ever seen her hurry before. She had to go find the wolf, what did that mean?
I believed her when she said it was under control. I believed in her ability to control anything. She was strong, she was confident. She had saved my life twice, so I trusted her. But it was what she had saved me from that gave me confidence in her.
It felt like a long time since I had had confidence.
I think it was noticed, I tried to avoid interacting with people, anyone, including my family, but I think they noticed. My parents had known me my entire life, they could tell when something was good or when something was bad.
I don't think that Nick noticed at all, he just went right on, the way he had always been and my patience wore thinner. When I finally saw Kane again – she had been gone for almost three days after telling me that she needed to find the wolf – she noticed it.
"There is something about you," she said the moment she saw me. "I wonder what it is that makes you feel better."
She smiled at me the way she did, the way I had seen others smile at me. We hadn't known each other long but she could tell about me that something was better, the same way I could tell about her that something was worse.
It was my confidence that made me speak. "Tell me what is wrong and I will tell you what is right," I said. I was offering information, more than that I wanted to know. I wanted her to tell me about herself.
"I just spent three days straight tracking... something," she told me. "And when I finally cornered him, he vanished. So I have to start looking again."
I didn't know how to sympathise, I barely had to work for anything, I didn't have to give up what sleep I could get, I chose to. It wasn't because I needed the time it was because I wanted it, I didn't want my dreams so I stayed awake.
"You don't have to tell me," she said. "I just miss having people to talk to about this stuff, people to help me."
I liked her and I felt good about myself and... I must have been insane. "I could help you," I offered before I could stop myself.
The way she looked at me then, I didn't immediately want to take it back. She was grateful for the offer, it was in her face, she thought I was insane, it was in her face, she was happy to have me offer her anything. I felt a little odd, but I didn't regret offering.
"You could help me," she said. "But I couldn't guarantee that you would go uninjured. I can only guarantee that you would come out of it alive. I can't even promise that you won't have to become a little bit like me to make it through."
"Like you?" I asked. It wasn't seeming like a good deal to me. I knew she didn't mean anything superficial.
"I am a vampire hunter," she said. "Feel free to laugh, we only call them that because they drink the blood of the living and die before becoming like that. When I was young, ten years old, a vampire killed my whole family and almost got me and I tore out its throat with my teeth. In the process I ingested a fair amount of vampire blood.
"The way a vampire hunter becomes strong enough to fight vampires is by drinking their blood, this is why I lick the knife clean," she continued. I didn't want her to tell me so much, my reservations about being told anything were coming back and I wasn't hearing anything I liked. "So if you help me you may, either accidentally or because you are in the process of dying, ingest vampire blood. And you will become a little bit like me."
"I don't know that I would mind being a little bit like you," I told her. "You seem so..." but I stopped myself, of course I did. I wasn't going to tell her that, it was mine. My opinion on her was the only part of her that was mine.
She grinned at me and looked like she was about to say something. But she was stopped when the bell chimed. "Time for class," she said instead. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, if I can't find him we may need to use you as bait."
"I get to be bait girl?" I tried to sound excited and I suspect came across as sarcastic.
She smiled again. "You do," she replied. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."
She left before I could point out that the next day was Saturday. It occurred to me some time later in the day that she did know where I lived so she could come and talk to me there if she wanted to. I found that I didn't mind the idea.
I never wanted anyone to see my home, never wanted anyone to meet my parents. I didn't mind Kane meeting my parents, I didn't mind her seeing my home. It should have seemed odd to me that I didn't mind this girl doing all the things I had always minded.
But it wasn't odd, I loved that girl...
I liked that girl. I hadn't known her long enough for love, surely I hadn't. She had just suggested using my as bait to find a nocturnal super powered murderer, I didn't love. But I had agreed, hadn't I? I had agreed to be bait girl.
This was no good, this was what bothered me. I hadn't been bothered by anything else, not really, but this bothered me. This was odd, it was out of character and it was... true. It was true, I was one of those people who mistake infatuation for love. And I was happy about it.
This was all wrong, it was all very wrong.
But I was in love.