For some reason, I expected to be elsewhere when I regained consciousness. Not sure why, but at any rate, I woke with my face pressed against the dirt I had fallen in upon fainting, two maniac murderers hovering above me. I groaned as my memory pieced itself together.

"Welcome back, Lionheart," Cyrus said, lazily fanning my face with the bandana from his head.

"...Wha?" was all I could get out at the moment, my head fogged by something that put even my cold to shame. The fanning picked up pace.

"There's more to this one than meets the eye, Mac. Isn't there, little man?" Cyrus nudged me with his knuckles at that last bit. "I think we need some explanation, here."

"I think... you... should call a- an ambulance..." Each word tightened the vice around my senses, but speech started to come easier. "I feel like... I've just died for a f- few days..."

"You've been out for-" Cyrus flipped his coat sleeve up to glance at a watch, "Four minutes. Which is surprising for a vampire bite, you should be soundly paralyzed by now. How're you feeling?" I swiped his bandana-waving limb out of my face as I sat up, only to teeter back to the dirt.

"I feel... Like shit. As I have all night." The look passed between Croft and his younger accomplice was subtle, but I caught the tail-end of it. "What the heck is going on?" I breathed, exasperated. Cyrus gripped my baggy shirt at the shoulder to hoist me to a sitting position.

"We're not entirely sure ourselves, little guy. What did the vampires want with someone like you?"

"What is everyone on tonight? Do you know how friggin crazy you people are...?" I fumed, my tone diminishing slowly as I subconsciously reached to touch a finger to the puncture wounds in my neck.

"As crazy as you are stupid," he grunted, watching my hand.

"I... I'm just confused..." I closed my eyes against the mind-splitting pain in my head, which had been accumulating since I came to. A hand rested on my shoulder.

"We are too..." Mac assured me, his tone much more gentle than Cyrus'. I cracked an eye open to measure his sincerity. "I think you should come with us. Back to The Academy."

"What academy?"

"It's... Where we all learn and live the trade. Our trade. It's a much safer place to talk, and we could give you stuff for that vamp bite," Mac said. I had had about enough of all this crap. My friends were inside, and I just wanted to lay down and hug something soft.

"No... No, I'm not leaving my house. Thanks, uh, for the help? I think.." Mac looked alarmed, and moved toward me as I began my great ascent to uprighted-ness.


"Do me a solid and hold still," I mumbled, grabbing onto a holster strap and using Mac as a climbing-post. Cyrus shot him a look that halted whatever protestation he was about to throw at me as he awkwardly tried to help me stand.

"Whatever you say, kiddo. Mac," he grabbed Nutjob Jr. by the scruff of his coat, hauling him back down the side of the house. I didn't stop to question their flight, but headed my own way around the other side of the house, my bed calling to me from the second floor like Juliet. I didn't spot the two gun-slingin' crooks once I emerged from behind my abode, and hopefully they actually did leave. I did run into Cara before I made it to the door, though.

"JJ!" she gasped, placing her hands on my shoulders as we practically run into each other. I hunkered my head down into my brother's hoodie, bringing up my shoulders to engulf my neck in nonexistence. "We were wondering when you were gonna come back inside! Feeling better after some air?" I nodded, hat falling down over my eyes, bite on my neck stinging.

"But I'm getting tired. Meds are wearing off. What time is it, anyway?" Cara fished her phone out as we made our way toward the house.

"It's... almost 10. Can you take another dose? I can't really remember what time it was when you did before..." I made a face at her.

"Cara, I really just wanna go to bed." She returned my face with a stern one of her own, but it ended up just looking cute.

"Just another hour or two? For me and Vinnie, pweeeeeaase?" The minute we stepped inside, I made a beeline for the staircase. "Jayden, at least say bye to me and Vinnie!" Cara scolded behind me with a laugh at my haste. I knew there'd be puppy eyes involved when I turned around. I stopped half-way up the stairs, mumbling as I slithered back down.

"Thank yoooou, come here, sickie!" She pulled me into a big hug, and Vincent showed up beside us as she clung to me.

"Retiring for the night, are we?" I cringed at the accent, but patted him roughly on the cheek a few times as Cara released me.

"Indeed, 'old chap, roight-O, posh posh!" He mirrored my cringe while I screeched. "Well anyway, goodnight guys, thanks for coming, it was a lovely evening, come again, come again..." I said as I made a big showy exit with some regal waves of my hand as I backed up the steps.

"Goodnight, Jayden Jo."

"Night-night, JJ!"

I entered my room with caution, checking it for sneak-aways from the party come to use my bed, and after deeming it clear, flopped face-down. My senses were still fuzzy, and my head had felt weird ever since the behind-the-house incident. None of that really mattered once I closed my eyes, though. I only paused to kick off my brother's shoes before snuggling underneath my covers.

From the deepest depths of dreamless sleep, a huge crash brought me jolting awake. My heart was pounding like crazy from the noise, and I immediately thought some dancing party goers had knocked something over downstairs. But when I gathered my senses back from the land of unconsciousness and was able to take everything in, the house was completely quiet. I sat there in my bed, heart threatening to crack a rib, staring toward my closed door. I was surrounded by silence and darkness, left to wonder if the sound I heard had even occurred or not.

It was probably Alex. Maybe... maybe Alex. Checking his room was probably a good idea, I figured. Sliding out of bed, I stumbled out into the hallway, pausing to listen toward the stairs at one end of the hall. Shuffling steps greeted me from downstairs, out of my sight. I crept down the hall toward the stairs, taking a peep into Alex's room on my way.

Empty... so it was probably him. I went toward the stairs with a bit more confidence, wanting to yell at the little brat for scaring me half to hell. After I reached the staircase, I searched around downstairs, still on edge. Ever since I woke up, I felt that odd sense of being watched.

Not finding much in the kitchen, I rounded toward the dining room window that faced our front yard. The space on the street behind the mailbox, where Alex usually parked his car, was empty. My stomach dropped just before a hand fell onto my shoulder.


"Sweet MERCY, mom! I almost freakin' decked you!"

"Woah, woah, woah, retract your claws from my ceiling and come on down, baby..." she said with a grin, plopping an arm over my shoulder and leaning into me. "Mama's druuuuuuunk."

"Yeah, I see that, you responsible woman, you," I said as I supported her, still freaked out about almost simultaneously having a heart attack and sucker-punching my mother.

"I'm totally responsible... I got dropped off, I didn't driiiive. Make me some hot pockets pleeeeease, Jaydie baby..." she giggled as I got her to the couch in the living room. "I just want a hot pocket sooooo bad."

"Sit tight, how many do you want?"


"So two?"


"I'm making you two, if you fall asleep before they're done, I'm eating them.

"Best daughter of the galaxy award goes to... yooooou..." I snickered on my way to the kitchen, and promised frozen snacks. My mom was a silly drunk.

When I returned to the living room with the plate of food, mom was snoring away on the couch. I kept my promise and ate her midnight drunk-craving.

"Night, mom!" I called on my way up the steps after I was done. She snorted, mumbling something in her sleep as she rolled over.

I was quite awake after all of that, but still feeling crappy when I laid down. Back to my well known mode of just-wanting-to-friggin-sleep, I rolled over in bed after getting up to swap my brother's jeans, belt, and boxers for some shorts. A bit more comfortable, I tried to relax. After a bit of tossing, I finally settled on an odd yet comfortable position.

I hadn't asked my mom what she broke downstairs, I remembered as I started to get sleepy. Then, I noticed the breeze from my window when a strong gust made my blinds clatter against the wall. That made me notice the broken glass surrounding the base of the window. Then, I noticed the pair of eyes in the corner.