FULL CIRCLE

The car wove slowly across the road before coming to a stop. Its driver squinted against the harsh glare of sunset, trying to see if she had imagined something in the road or-

Her car door was wrenched open. Not. Lisa sighed. "Johnny."

The young man slid in, angling the visor down as he took the passenger seat. He glanced at her with eyes red from the sun, scowled and pulled on a pair of sunglasses. "Are you supposed to be driving?" he asked, as Lisa started up the car again.

She didn't answer.

"Lisa."

"You too, Johnny? I thought at least you would understand."

"What? That you're trying to kill yourself faster than the cancer can kill you? I understand. Your family might not, though."

"You're my family too, Johnny." She hissed as a wave of pain swept over her and Johnny grabbed the wheel before they ended up off the road and into the trees. The pain wasn't the worst; it was the weakness, the feeling that she couldn't do anything anymore. She didn't want to go out that way, stuck in a bed, locked away from the rest of the world.

"Pull over." Johnny guided her to an area off the main road. It was shaded from the unforgiving summer sun but not enough. Johnny's skin was redder than usual. "Can you walk?" he asked her, as he opened her door for her, taking her arm when she nodded, as if she were an old woman.

"I can walk," Lisa said, though she let him support her up the rocky path. "Here? Really?"

Johnny smirked. "Why not?" He led her to his grave, or the one that had his name on it, at any rate. It was old, and empty, but it had meaning for both of them. Gently he lowered her to the ground so that her back rested against his headstone. He sat next to her, and they both watched the sun set on the small sliver of lake that they could see through the trees.

"This is where we first met." Lisa smiled. "When you told me you were a vampire. You told me then you were going to kill me one day."

Johnny's lips curved upward. "I remember," he said.

"But you never did," Lisa replied softly.

Johnny turned to look at her. "Things changed. You said it yourself—we're family now."

"Would you? If I asked?"

Johnny chuckled. "Yeah, that would go over well with the family."

"I mean it. I'm tired, Johnny. I remember too. You were the disease that took out entire families, a little at a time, so no one knew what really happened to them. I'd rather it be you than the cancer, Johnny." Lisa kept her eyes on the distant lake as the last of the light faded. If she didn't know Johnny was right there beside her, she might have thought she was alone up here, he was that still.

"Let's get you home," he said at last, reaching down to easily lift her to her feet.

He had to practically carry her to the car, and he drove the short distance back to her house. Lights were on; the aide Ken had hired to care for Lisa was in the kitchen preparing supper. She hadn't even noticed that her charge had escaped. "Where's Kenny?" he asked. It wasn't like the man to leave Lisa alone for long.

"I sent him to work," Lisa said. "Today was a good day and he's been spending too much time taking care of me. He needed to take a break."

"And you needed to run away," Johnny said, giving her a long look. "Where were you going, anyway?"

Lisa shrugged, smiling wanly. "Away. I don't know."

Johnny helped her upstairs and into her bed, which was propped high with pillows. "Go to sleep, Lisa," he said gravely, leaning over to give her a kiss on the cheek. But he didn't do that. The last thing Lisa remembered was the sensation of falling, and a blessed lack of pain. Thank you, Johnny, she thought before everything faded.

That wasn't the end. Lisa got progressively weaker, but she had time to say her good-bye's. Every night Johnny came to her, a wraith who took a little bit of her life each time until there was almost nothing left. It was their secret.

The last night, Johnny laid her limp form gently on the pillows. She weighed next to nothing. He closed her eyes, then stood to make room for the others. Kenny had his arms around Crystal, and tears streamed down both their faces. Ian and Kevin knelt by their mother's bed. They all had known her last wish. Ian smoothed his mother's hair back from her face. There was no mark, nothing to show Johnny had taken her blood.

Crystal came to Johnny then, wrapping her arms around him while Kenny knelt beside his sons to say his final farewell. "It's what she wanted."

"I know," Johnny whispered. He swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat. "I know."

They held Lisa's funeral in the bright light of summer, and according to her wishes, buried her in the old cemetery overlooking the lake. No one had been buried there for years, but it was appropriate. It's where everything had begun.

Two hooded figures stood with the family. The sun burned, but the lake would heal. Kenny nodded to the hooded figures, and smiled down at the little boy who solemnly held his hand, a little boy as fair as his mother but with his father's curls. Crystal's son. Johnny's. His to raise until he was ready to choose who he would become. Kenny wiped a tear from his eye. Funny how life turned out.