Johnny hunted humans. He led his father and Crystal down a winding path through the woods to one of the newer developments in Lockwood. Lisa wouldn't be pleased, if she knew, but Johnny had no intention of letting her find out. It had been years—years—since Crystal had been able to partake in an actual hunt. Not since the early days of their marriage.
"This one." He chose a house which bordered the woods. He touched the door and it opened silently, letting out a breath of warm air.
Four people slept upstairs, and two in the largest bedroom on the main floor. Johnny grinned, and went to see to the parents. He spared a moment to watch as Fred followed Crystal up the stairs.
Johnny didn't want to be gentle. He didn't want to be discreet. He wanted to rip and tear and destroy. Johnny didn't want to be human—he wasn't human, hadn't been for a very long time. Johnny stilled the horrified scream that came from the woman's throat. Her eyes rolled back and her scream turned into a sigh. Johnny could make her forget what she'd seen tonight. He left her for a moment while he tore the throat out of her sleeping husband, only to mend it again with a thought. Could humans do that? The man would be weak and sore in the morning, and might wonder how he'd gotten such a severe rash, but there would be no puncture wounds, no jagged edges of flesh to indicate he'd been attacked.
Johnny turned his attentions back on the woman. Her momentary fear still showed on her slack features, but she was sound asleep. He drank almost delicately, no longer needing her blood, but relishing the taste. Could humans do that? He put Kevin and Ian out of his mind. They weren't—quite—ordinary humans, either.
Leaving the parents to sleep off his visit, Johnny made his way upstairs, half-expecting to find a bloodbath. But Crystal wiped a stray droplet of blood off her lips before stretching up to kiss his. "That was fun, lover," she murmured softly.
Beyond her lay two sleeping children, younger than her brothers, but not babies, either. They both had slight red rashes on their necks. Johnny drew Crystal to him, relieved beyond words that she had regained control.
Fred stood in the third bedroom staring down at an infant who slept, arms flung out, in his tiny crib. Another child, a few years older, tossed and whimpered in his bed by the window. Fred hadn't taken blood from either of them. Crystal walked over to the baby's crib. Johnny wondered if she was going to taste the child. It was possible, with very young ones, if you were careful. But Crystal just pulled a blanket up and over the baby's tiny arms.
"What's his deal?" Johnny indicated the toddler squirming around in his bed, occasionally crying out as if he were having a nightmare.
Fred shrugged. He walked over to the little boy and casually yanked him out of the bed and to his open mouth. The child woke up right before Fred bit his belly. He sank into a stupor immediately. Fred laid him back on his bed. Sharp puncture wounds made a complete circle on the child's belly, but they faded even as Johnny and Crystal watched, turning into a bright red rash instead.
"Sometimes the young or the foolish can sense what I am," Fred murmured. He left the boy uncovered, but his sleep seemed to have evened out. That might have simply been due to blood loss.
Fred left them to go back under the lake. Johnny was just as glad, because he wanted some time alone with Crystal, and their log house had only one bedroom. He felt no desire to go back under the water himself and wondered if that was another side-effect of his father's potent blood.
He and Crystal made love, then slept, then woke and made love again in Crystal's garden with the early morning sun shining down on them. "You all right?" Johnny asked. The sun was warm on their bare skin but not painful. "Do you need blood?"
Crystal laughed. "No, I don't," she said wonderingly.
"Me, either," Johnny admitted, more than a little disturbed by the fact.
"Let's go shopping!" Crystal jumped up with total disregard for her state of undress. "I'll drive!"
Johnny pulled her back down beside him on the sweet grass. "Later," he said. "We've got all day."
One day became several, then a week, then a month, then three. Summer began and still neither Johnny nor Crystal felt the need to return to their lake to rest. They indulged themselves by hunting at the local shopping malls, predators in plain sight.
Fred, who seemed to have no intention of leaving Lockwood any time soon, was at first baffled by their hunting games, but soon he took to it with enthusiasm. "I had no idea you could do this," he said, as he accompanied Johnny and Crystal down a crowded aisle and watched them single out a solitary shopper.
Johnny didn't know if any of his brothers or sisters hunted in plain sight, but it was a favorite game of his and Crystal's. He maneuvered his target into a corner near the men's jeans by pretending to browse closer and closer to the man, who kept backing up to keep a reasonable distance, casting annoyed glances at Johnny all the while. Crystal then swept in between the two men, bumping the target as she reached for a folded pair of jeans on a shelf above his head. "Oh, sorry!" she said, catching the man's eye. "Would you be able to get those for me?" She pointed to the jeans.
The man was not nearly as annoyed with Crystal as he had been with Johnny, who still lingered a few feet away. "Sure," he said, all smiles for the pretty young lady. Crystal took the jeans he held out, touching his hands in the process. Meanwhile, Johnny moved closer behind their target until he was sandwiched nicely in between them.
"Excuse me," Johnny muttered as the man careened into Crystal, who caught him with an ease not at all in line with her slight frame. As his head lurched forward, she went for his neck, covering what she was doing with her long hair. The man slumped even further, allowing Johnny to comment, "Are you all right?" while kneeling beside him. He bent to hear what the man might have been saying, and instead pressed his mouth to the wound Crystal had made.
It was over in a few seconds, ending with the man sitting shakily in the jeans aisle, with Crystal and Johnny effectively blocking him from any onlookers. They glanced at each other and grinned. "You should probably drink some water, man," Johnny said, before moving off down the aisle with Crystal.
Their target shook his head and got to his feet, placing one hand on the jeans shelf to help steady himself. He rubbed at an itchy spot on his neck, shook his head again, and decided he'd had enough shopping for one day. The last Johnny saw of him was when he exited the jeans section and went to join his wife over by the women's bathing suits.
Fred chuckled. He'd watched the whole thing unfold from the doorway of the men's changing room. It would have been a simple matter to do this out of sight in one of the changing rooms, but no, his children had to do it in plain view, the risk being part of the game. He ought to be outraged, for their behavior endangered them all. But damned if they didn't make it look easy!
He walked behind them as they linked hands. Crystal still had the jeans she'd asked the man they'd taken blood from to get for her. She paid for them and then handed the bag to Johnny with a big smile. "For you."
Fred didn't need or desire blood the way his offspring did. They required it because they were partly human. The other part of them was his essence—water. With enough blood, they could remain above the water. If they went below the water, they needed less human blood but then again they would be separated from their human brethren. It was how his offspring had survived all those centuries ago, coming to the surface only with an offer of blood, and then only to avenge and protect the human branch they'd come from. He'd been feeding Eoin and Crystal his blood these last few months. It contained enough of his essence that it removed their need to go under the waters of their lake. Fred sighed. He'd hoped they would want to return to the lake anyway. It also removed their need for fresh blood, but that didn't stop them from desiring it. They were his children, but they were not like him.
Lisa's cousin Cara hosted a Fourth of July picnic at her house in Lockwood. Naturally, Fred was invited. He was introduced as Johnny's father, which he was. Since the family was marginally aware of what Johnny and now Crystal were, there were some concerned glances cast his way at the party. Only a handful actually knew they were blood-drinkers, however.
"Crystal! It's been so long since I've seen you and . . . Johnny." Cara's daughter and Ellie's mom, Ellen, gushed as insincerely as ever. "You haven't aged a bit!" She looked her age, as she should. Her daughter Ellie was Crystal's age, with two children already.
Johnny smiled unpleasantly. He remembered Ellie's mother, too, from when he used to feed from her. He hadn't done that in a lot of years, but that could change. Trust Ellen to bring up his and Crystal's ages.
"How's Ellie?" Crystal asked. "Have you been to see her?" Crystal's voice turned wistful. She and Ellie had once been best friends, before she'd nearly killed Ellie in a fit of bloodlust. Ellie had long forgiven her, but Crystal still felt guilty about it. Of course, Ellie's mother knew nothing of that incident, or of vampires, either.
"I don't like to travel," Ellen said. "But she sends me lots of pictures." She excused herself and went to talk to some of the other relatives, her duty done.
One of those relatives, an older cousin named Betty, kept staring at Johnny in particular, but every time he met her gaze, she'd quickly drop hers. Oh, Betty remembered Johnny too. She knew what he was, and what Crystal had become, and she was terrified. At least someone was.
"I can't believe you're both out here in the sun!" Lisa whispered as she passed by with a large bowl of potato salad. "Are you sure you don't want to try some of this? We've got hot dogs and hamburgers on the barbecue out back."
"I'll pass," said Crystal. The one thing she hadn't been able to do since the start of their faux human life was eat regular food. Johnny knew she could, if she had to, because he could. He also knew it wasn't pleasant. Their bodies were too changed.
They found a picnic table with an umbrella and sat under it as the party swirled around them. Johnny opened two soft drinks for them, since neither one of them looked old enough to drink beer. Neither one of them wanted soft drinks, either, but to do otherwise would be impolite.
"When will all this end?" Crystal asked. Johnny and Crystal had been careful about not showing their faces too much around Lockwood, but this was family. It felt funny to be among them in broad daylight.
Johnny gestured towards his father, who was conversing with Cara, Kenny and some others. "When he leaves, I guess. Why? Are you tired of the daylight already?"
"It's not that." Crystal frowned. "I love being with my family and not having the urge to rip them all to pieces. But what will happen to us if we stay? Will we age, too? Will we start wanting to eat food again?" She shuddered, and Johnny couldn't help smiling.
They left Fred at the party and excused themselves early. Ian noticed them sneaking away. "Hey," he whispered, catching up to them at the bottom of Cara's driveway. "Are you going to hunt? Can I come?"
They were going to hunt, the desire for blood having grown as they watched everybody else enjoying their summer feast, but they didn't want Crystal's kid brother to slow them down. "You're not supposed to have blood too often," Crystal reminded him.
"Why not?" Ian stubbornly crossed his arms. "You do."
"We're—" Johnny sputtered. "We're vampires," he said, using the word to shock the teenager.
Ian grinned. "That's not what Grandpa Fred says you are," he countered.
"Oh?" Johnny's face darkened into a scowl.
Ian's smile faltered. He knew not to push Johnny too far. "I mean, he says as long as we don't take blood from you or him, it's all right."
"Not today." Johnny jerked open the car door and got inside, leaving Crystal to get in on the passenger side. He opened the window. "Don't listen to that old man so much. He doesn't know what he's talking about."
The old man ambled up beside Ian as Johnny sped away. "Brushed you off, did they?"
Ian nodded glumly.
"Come, let's enjoy the picnic," Fred said, leading the boy back to Cara's yard. "They need time to figure out what they want."
Ian glanced at him questioningly, but he didn't comment.
Fred continued to return to the lake periodically for the rest of the summer, and he only took blood when Johnny or Crystal brought him along on their hunts. He was intrigued and mystified by the family life they had in this town.
Crystal waited by the shore of the little beach one early autumn morning as Fred rose from the misty water. "Grandfather," she said softly, reverently.
"Child," he replied, coming to sit beside her on the damp sand. She accepted the wrist he offered her.
"I miss the water, I think," Crystal said, after she had finished drinking.
"Where is Eoin?" Fred had a hard time thinking of his youngest son as Johnny.
"Asleep." Crystal moved to the water and dipped her toes. Over by the road she had set up her easel and paints. Fred wondered what would show on her canvas.
"You could become one, you know. A spirit of the lake. Leave all this behind."
Crystal smiled, half-turning to face him. "Like you did?" she teased. Johnny and his siblings existed because Grandfather could not leave the mortals who so intrigued him alone. "No, I love your Eoin. We belong here, in this half-world. I wouldn't give that up."
"Without my blood, you'll both need to go under the lake again. And when you come out, you will be consumed by the need for blood."
"It's not so bad," Crystal said.
"Isn't it? Watching your family grow old and die? Worse, killing them slowly yourself? Would you see your brothers follow your footsteps?"
Crystal shrugged. "Ian will. Kevin won't." She came and sat down next to Fred again.
"Your body is changing," Fred said.
"I know." Crystal laid her head down on her arms. "How long will I have to stay?"
"That's up to you. Does your Johnny know?"
"Not yet. I'll tell him today. Did you know this would happen?"
"I suspected it might. Are you upset?"
"I'm overjoyed. But how is it even possible?"
Fred pressed a gentle kiss on Crystal's forehead. "You are both as human as you are one of mine." He stood, and reached out a hand to help Crystal to her feet. He walked with her to the road where her easel was set up so he could get a good look at the picture she was painting.
"And the child?"
Fred pursed his lips, thinking of how to phrase it. "He has much of me in him," he commented, gazing at the canvas which showed a young woman holding an infant with blond fuzzy hair and black, flat black, eyes. His grandson.