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Part 4: In the Dark

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Chapter 15

"He's slipping in and out of consciousness."

"All things considered, that might be a mercy."

"This is a nightmare. Who would believe that this could happen in the year 2013? This is something out of the frontier days... or the middle ages. I can't imagine what kind of monster did that to him and his mom."

"I just hope they can find it and kill it, before we have more patients like this."

"I'd better get back out there; I have a feeling that it's going to be a busy night."

"For us, too."

* * * * *

The boy drifted back to consciousness, feeling like he was somehow floating above it all.

Memories meandered before his mind's eye. Although he knew that some of the images were horrifying and held incredible pain, he looked upon them now like someone watching a horror movie on DVD for the tenth time.

Watching the insane man attack his mother and literally rip her throat out with his teeth. Then watching as the same man chased and stalked, and eventually caught up to him.

He recalled the moment of acceptance he had felt, when he knew that he was going to die. But the moment didn't come, or, at least, it hadn't yet.

Just as the insane beast of a man bit into his flesh, there were two other people there, fighting off his attacker and pulling him away.

The next thing he remembered was the ambulance arriving and being transported to the hospital, where he was, now... whenever now was, since any concept of time had left him, the first time that he had passed out.

* * * * *

"Hold still." A feminine voice, close to his ear, said.

Although Evan heard the words, somehow they didn't seem to have any meaning to him. He still felt distant and more like an observer than a participant in the events that were going on around him.

"Your ID says that your name is Evan. Is that the name that you go by?" The feminine voice asked gently.

Again, the words slid by him. He barely grasped their meaning and felt no desire to respond.

"The doctor is fixing your shoulder right now. So there's nothing for you to worry about. Just hold on for a few more minutes and he'll be finished." The voice said, then a woman moved into his field of vision.

She was mostly hidden behind a surgical mask, but her kind eyes relayed her concern for him.

Evan felt an involuntary smile cross his face for an instant.

"Good. You're going to be fine." The woman said with relief when she saw his reaction.

Once again, the nightmarish scene from earlier in the evening filled his mind's eye. His mother's howl of pain, then the hideous silence that followed. The monstrous man/thing that stalked him and the searing pain as the sharp teeth invaded his flesh.

His thoughts were little more than a blurry haze at that moment, but one thing seemed to be certain to him. No matter what happened next, he knew without a doubt that he would NOT be fine.

The world began to spin around him and his eyes fell closed as he felt consciousness once again slip away.

* * * * *

"I need to evaluate the patient, Evan Delgado." a man in a very nice business suit said authoritatively, as he walked into the emergency room and directly to the desk.

"And you would be...?" the nurse asked in an impatient tone as she spared him a glance.

"Dr. Killian, on special assignment from the CDC. I need to see the patient, NOW. Time is an issue." Dr. Killian said firmly as he held out his ID.

"Dr. Willoughby! I think you need to speak to this man!" The nurse said, as she ushered Dr. Killian past the desk and through a curtain, then quickly added, "He says he's from the CDC."

"Molly..." the ER doctor said, then froze at the expression on Dr. Killian's face.

"I need to evaluate Evan Delgado immediately. This may be quite a bit more serious than you realize." Dr. Killian said firmly.

"He's right here, we're still trying to sort out who or what it was that attacked him, but we just finished patching him up." Dr. Willoughby said cautiously.

Dr. Killian looked at the young teenage boy on the bed and seemed to take in every detail with just a glance.

"Not good." Dr. Killian said grimly, more to himself than those around him.

"Is something wrong?" Dr. Willoughby asked with confusion.

"I'm getting ahead of myself. It may be nothing." Dr. Killian said thoughtfully, then turned to Dr. Willoughby and said, "I need for you to draw some blood for me. There's a chance that when your patient was attacked, that he was exposed to a new strain of an extremely infectious virus."

"Claire? Would you get a blood sample?" Dr. Willoughby asked immediately.

The nurse nodded and gathered what she would need.

When she approached the boy's bedside, she noticed that he was awake and quietly asked, "How are you feeling, now?"

Evan felt more aware than earlier and opened his mouth to answer, but no sound came out. It seemed to him that he had just, all of a sudden, forgotten how to talk. He didn't feel any sense of panic or even the slightest worry about the new development. But for whatever reason, he simply couldn't recall how to form words.

"We need to get a listing of everyone who has had even the briefest physical contact with the patient. That includes police, paramedics, and any civilian who might have tried to help." Dr. Killian said firmly, drawing both Evan and the nurse's attention.

Evan puzzled over the sensation of tears falling down his cheeks. His detached mind reasoned that crying was a perfectly reasonable response to what had just happened to him, but at the same time, he just felt emotionally numb. He wasn't exactly feeling anything, but he reasoned that maybe some deeper part of him, that he wasn't aware of, needed to cry to deal with things.

"Doctor!" The nurse called in panic as she scrambled back from the bed.

Both doctors turned to the nurse and followed her horrified gaze to find the teenage boy with tears of blood running down his cheeks.

"Damn!" Dr. Killian muttered to himself, then said to the people around him, "I've seen all that I need to. I'm making the call. He doesn't have time to wait for a blood test. We need to get him to where he can receive proper treatment."

"What do you think he has?" Dr. Willoughby asked in a whisper.

Dr. Killian shook his head as he pulled a cell phone from his pocket. He pressed one button and waited just a moment before saying, "I need med-evac from Women's and Children's, immediately. I'm confirming Bolivian Hemorrhagic Ebola. Bring in a team for full decontamination and follow-up."

The ER doctor's eyes went wide at the pronouncement.

"I also need a full team brought in to track down the carrier. If you don't have enough manpower to do it yourselves, then get the locals involved. Just make sure that they are aware that they're dealing with an extremely contagious strain... no, make that an INSANELY contagious strain of the virus."

The ER doctor seemed to be pale and was nearly speechless.

"Right." Dr. Killian said into the phone, then flipped it shut.

"I need to speak to the patient's parent or guardian." Dr. Killian said to the stunned ER doctor and nurse standing before him.

"I, um... We can't find any next of kin for him. His mother was killed in the attack." The nurse stammered with distraction.

Dr. Killian flashed a look of sympathy at the boy on the bed, then turned with renewed dedication and said, "Let's get him up to the helipad. Every second counts, right now."

The ER doctor immediately raced away to arrange transport.

Evan looked with wide terrified eyes at Dr. Killian, leaning over his bed.

"Hang on for just a few more minutes, and we'll get you taken care of. I promise." Dr. Killian whispered with a tender smile.

Evan was strangely assured, not so much by the words, but by the absolute self-confidence of the man.

It wasn't like he was saying the empty words just to be kind. The tone of his voice was more like he was telling a secret, something that no one else knew and that he was absolutely certain was true.

"Thanks." Evan whispered, then marveled that his ability to speak had returned.

"Just hang in there." Dr. Killian whispered gently as he patted Evan on his uninjured shoulder.

"Your helicopter just signaled that they'll be ready to land in two minutes." Dr. Willoughby said as he raced into the room with two orderlies.

"Let's get him up there. I have a team on the way to deal with the quarantine and decontamination. Please, keep anyone who has had contact with this patient isolated until they get here and have cleared you."

"Yes. Of course." Dr. Willoughby stammered.

Evan winced as he was shifted from his bed onto a gurney.

* * * * *

"He's locked in." One of the orderlies said as he withdrew from the helicopter.

"Then we're gone." Dr. Killian said as he climbed into the helicopter and sat in the seat beside the gurney. As soon as the door of the helicopter had been closed, he made a hand motion toward the pilot to lift off.

Evan was surprised by the look of concern on Dr. Killian's face, then his attention was diverted by the sound and sensation of the helicopter lifting into the air.

"Bruce, help me sit him up." Dr. Killian said as he reached into a small ice chest and pulled out a plastic bag, like the type they use for IVs.

Evan turned to see who Dr. Killian was talking to and found another man, probably about thirty years old, belted into a seat on the other side of the bed.

"Seriously?" Bruce asked as he looked at the bag.

"There's no time for second guessing. Sit him up." Dr. Killian said as he snipped the top off the IV bag.

Evan winced from the pain that the movement caused. The wounds in his neck and shoulder were deep and complained at the disturbance.

"Are you going to want me to call Leila?" Bruce asked cautiously.

"No. Call Dodger. Have him meet us in my office." Dr. Killian said, as he poured the contents of the IV bag into a large plastic cup.

Evan looked at the man, Bruce, to find a disbelieving look frozen on his face.

"I need for you to drink this, Evan. It's going to make you feel better." Dr. Killian said gently, as he held the cup to Evan's lips.

Evan hesitated for a moment, feeling that something really strange was going on around him. But one look into Dr. Killian's eyes convinced him that no matter what else was going on, Dr. Killian was going to try to help him.

Bruce and Dr. Killian watched as Evan drank down the entire cup of yellow-orange liquid.

"Good." Dr. Killian said with relief.

"You're sure about this, Rafe? I mean about Dodger." Bruce asked cautiously.

"Absolutely." Dr. Killian said as he looked into Bruce's eyes.

"Right, then." Bruce said with resignation, then continued, "I'd better make that call. We should be landing in about five minutes."

Dr. Killian scooted over in his chair a little and started to look at Evan's wounds.

"Am I going to die?" Evan asked in a whisper.

Dr. Killian looked up with surprise at the question, then his look softened.

"Earlier tonight, when you were attacked, there was a very good chance that you would die. In the hospital, before I arrived, there was still a better than average chance that you would die. Now... let's just say that things are improving for you, and leave it at that." Dr. Killian said gently.

Evan nodded slowly, then realized that the movement didn't cause him pain. In fact, the wound in his neck wasn't hurting at all.

As he reached to investigate, Dr. Killian caught his hand and prevented him.

"You need to leave it alone for a few more minutes." Dr. Killian said quietly.

"Okay." Evan responded, then noticed that Dr. Killian was still holding his hand.

As Evan looked into Dr. Killian's eyes, he saw a look of tenderness there that he couldn't account for, but also noticed that Dr. Killian's hand was unusually cold..

"Evan, in the next few days things may be a little bit strange for you." Dr. Killian said with concern.

"A little bit?" Evan asked cautiously.

Dr. Killian reluctantly smiled, then mock whispered, "Maybe more than a little bit."

Evan slowly nodded that he understood.

Dr. Killian started undoing the straps that held Evan on the gurney.

"You should be able to walk by the time we've landed."

* * * * *

Evan got down off the gurney with Dr. Killian's help. He felt slightly lightheaded but not so much that he was unable to walk.

"How can I even be..." Evan began to ask, then lost the thread of his thought when he noticed his surroundings.

There were trees and rolling hills as far as the eye could see in every direction. But before Evan could get over the surprise, Dr. Killian ushered him into an elevator.

"Evan, I really wish I could explain everything to you. But there just isn't time right now." Dr. Killian said regretfully. "But if you'll trust me for just a little bit longer, I'm going to introduce you to someone who can, and will, answer all your questions."

After a moment to consider, Evan looked into Dr. Killian's eyes and nodded his agreement.

Dr. Killian smiled and placed his hand on Evan's uninjured shoulder in a way that seemed more personal than professional. Evan got the sense that Dr. Killian really cared not only about his physical state, but also about how he was dealing with things.

"There's someone I want you to meet." Dr. Killian said, as they walked off the elevator.

Evan looked around and was amazed by the enormous room they were in. This wasn't like any medical facility he had seen or ever heard about. If he had to compare it to something, it would be a movie set from the 1930's. He almost expected Fred and Ginger to come waltzing into the room at any moment. The curved staircase drew his attention upward, where he could see a walkway surrounding the room. And above them was an astoundingly beautiful crystal chandelier. Evan had to wonder even more about what strange thing he had gotten into.

Before he could think too much about it, Dr. Killian ushered him through a door.

* * * * *

"Morgan." A teenage boy said as he held out a phone.

Dr. Killian winced, then looked at Evan with equal measures of frustration and regret before accepting the phone.

"Hey, I'm Dodger." The boy said as he walked past Dr. Killian and extended his hand to shake.

"Dodger?" Evan asked dubiously as he shook the offered hand.

"Well, Desmond, actually. But everyone calls me Dodger." The older teenager said timidly.

Evan smiled, then responded, "It's nice to meet you Dodger, my name is Evan Delgado."

"Como estas usted?" Dodger asked pleasantly.

"Um... gesundheit?" Evan ventured weakly.

Dodger chuckled and asked, "You don't speak Spanish, huh?"

"Not a word. I got the look, I got the name, but I never learned to speak the language." Evan said regretfully.

"Let's sit down. It looks like Rafe may be a few minutes." Dodger said as he gestured to the other side of the room where there was a coffee table and some low cushioned chairs.

As Evan walked toward the lounge area, he suddenly realized that he was only wearing a hospital gown.

"I, um..." Evan said as he looked down at himself.

"Sorry Evan, I should have thought of that. Hang on for a second and I'll be right back." Dodger said, then dashed away, not waiting for Evan's response.

Evan turned his attention to Dr. Killian who was still talking on the phone.

"I need five minutes to get Dodger squared away, then I'll be on my way to handle it personally." Dr. Killian was saying firmly.

He seemed to wince a little, then said, "I'll make it two. Just consider me on my way."

There was a pause, then Dr. Killian said, "Right." then hung up the phone.

After a moment to gather himself, Dr. Killian looked around the room, then asked, "Where's Dodger?"

"I think he went to get me some clothes." Evan said shyly.

Dr. Killian nodded, then said, "I'm going to have to leave. Listen to what Dodger tells you, and I'll see you again as soon as I can."

Before Evan could answer, Dodger dashed back into the room.

"These should fit you." Dodger said quickly, then noticed that Dr. Killian was off the phone.

Dodger immediately went to Dr. Killian and hugged him firmly.

"I have to go and try to sort out this mess. I haven't explained anything to Evan." Dr. Killian said with regret.

"I'll handle it. Go do what you need to do." Dodger said with assurance.

"Are you okay with this? We can still call Leila to do it." Dr. Killian said gently.

"If you're okay, then I'm okay. This is what I've been training for. Don't worry about me, just go make the world safe." Dodger finished with a smile.

"I love you." Dr. Killian whispered.

"I love you, too." Dodger said quietly, then moved in for a full, deep kiss.

Evan knew that what he was seeing was a very personal and private moment, yet he couldn't seem to force himself to look away.

"If I don't get out of here right now, Morgan is going to have my balls for breakfast." Dr. Killian said with weak humor.

"Well, we can't have that. I have plans for them later." Dodger said with a grin, then gave Dr. Killian one little peck of a kiss before saying, "Go."

* * * * *

Evan followed Dodger's gaze toward the door that Dr. Killian had just passed through.

Finally, Dodger gave a resigned sigh and turned his attention to Evan.

"I hope this will be okay for now. We'll get you something better later on." Dodger said as he walked to Evan and handed him a pair of navy blue sweatpants and a plain white t shirt.

"This will be fine." Evan said, then quickly stepped into the sweatpants.

"Before you put on the t shirt, let me take care of those bandages." Dodger said as he stepped closer.

Evan finished taking off the hospital gown, then held still as Dodger slowly peeled back the pieces of tape that were holding an assortment of gauze pads in place.

Dodger made a little wince at the sight, then said, "Hold on, I need to deal with these stitches."

Evan watched as Dodger walked to the large dark wood desk that dominated the room and retrieved a small pair of scissors.

"If I can get these things out now, it'll save you some discomfort later." Dodger said as he walked to Evan again.

"Didn't they put the stitches there for a reason?" Evan asked hesitantly as he held perfectly still.

"Yes. And under normal circumstances, that would have been the right thing to do." Dodger said in a voice of deep concentration. Then Evan felt as well as heard a little 'snip'.

"But if everything goes right, your whole concept of 'normal circumstances' is about to be drastically changed." Dodger said, then made a couple more little snips.

"This is going to feel a little bit weird, but it shouldn't hurt." Dodger said as he looked Evan in the eyes.

Evan waited for a moment, but Dodger didn't do anything but continue to look at him expectantly.

"Okay." Evan said cautiously. "Just do what you need to do."

Dodger smiled at the response, then began to pull on one of the small pieces of thread.

Evan felt the pulling sensation, and felt when the thread came free but, as Dodger had said, there wasn't any pain.

He held perfectly still as Dodger pulled more of the little pieces of thread free.

"That should be good enough for now." Dodger said happily. "You can put that t shirt on if you want, and I'll take you downstairs where we can be more comfortable. I bet you have about a million questions."

"At least." Evan said, then hesitantly reached up to feel his neck and shoulder.

For a moment he couldn't believe what he was feeling, he ran his fingertips over smooth, undamaged skin.

"Yeah. I know." Dodger said with a grin, then cocked his head in a motion to indicate the door.

Evan quickly pulled the t shirt on over his head, then hurried to Dodger's side, catching up with him just as he was leaving the office.

* * * * *

Dodger had led him through a door under the curved staircase and led him down to the basement.

When Evan arrived at the bottom of the stairs, he looked around curiously.

The room was large. Huge, in fact.

One corner of the cavernous space was furnished very modestly with what looked like comfortable furniture.

"Are you thirsty?" Dodger asked as he walked across the room at a casual pace.

"Yeah, a little." Evan said uncertainly.

"I know just the thing." Dodger said, then walked to a small refrigerator.

Evan watched curiously as Dodger poured two glasses of what seemed to be the same yellow-orange liquid that he had been given on the helicopter.

"I bet this will hit the spot." Dodger said as he handed one of the drinks to Evan, then gestured to a low vinyl couch.

Evan took the offered seat, then hesitantly took a drink. Even though it had a somewhat metallic taste, the drink had a certain mild sweetness that Evan found satisfying.

When he looked up, Dodger seemed to be waiting for his reaction.

"It's good. Thank you." Evan said quietly.

Dodger smiled, then took a sip of his own drink before saying, "Well, how would you like to do this? I can either answer your questions as you ask them, or I can give you the story and you can ask about whatever you don't understand as we go."

"I guess you'd better tell me the story. There's so much weird stuff going on right now, I don't think I know enough about what's going on to know which questions to ask." Evan said frankly.

Dodger smiled and said, "I think that that will be easier. Some people are just such control freaks that they have an emotional need to do it the other way."

Evan nodded slowly, then looked at Dodger with imploring eyes, willing him to start the story.

"Let's see... Have you ever wondered where all the stories about angels and demons and vampires came from?" Dodger asked carefully.

"Not really." Evan said weakly.

"Oh. Um... Well, you see, there's this thing. I guess brightsiders would� call it a disease." Dodger said slowly.

"What's a brightsider?" Evan asked quickly, feeling that he wasn't going to be able to follow Dodger's explanation unless he understood the basic terminology.

"What you were when you woke up this morning. That's a brightsider." Dodger said frankly.

"Does that mean that now I'm something else?" Evan asked slowly.

"Yes. At least, you're in the process of becoming something else." Dodger said� carefully.

"What?" Evan asked hesitantly.

"Angel. Demon. Vampire. Something like that." Dodger said with an apologetic look.

After a moment to consider what Dodger was telling him, Evan finally said, "Okay. I think I'm ready for that story now."

* * * * *

"In the old times, everything that couldn't be explained was attributed to magic. So the darksiders and shadesiders were considered to be either holy or damned. Now we have a better understanding of how things work on a cellular level, so we tend to look at the transformative bio-organism as something more like a disease."

"Dr. Killian said something about, um... I forget what he called it, but I remember it sounded like that disease that causes you to bleed out really fast and really bad." Evan said hesitantly.

"Hemorrhagic Fever or Ebola." Dodger said with a nod. "Rafe uses that as a cover story when things look like they might go totally out of control. Most people will just back off and leave him to do whatever he needs to do after that. But you don't have it, so you don't need to worry about that at all."

Evan huffed a sigh of relief, then thought to ask, "So what's going to happen to me?"

"That's kind of hard to say at this point. It could go a few different ways." Dodger said hesitantly.

"Um, my mom was killed right in front of me tonight. Then some insane guy tried to chew through my throat. If you're about to tell me something worse than that, could you just say it so I can try to deal with it before everything else catches up to me?" Evan asked hopefully.

"I'm sorry to hear about your mom." Dodger said quietly, "I didn't know about that part."

Evan nodded, then looked at Dodger expectantly.

"Okay. Your body could reject the changes that are happening and you could just die."

"Please tell me you're not giving me the good news first." Evan said with a weak attempt at humor.

"No. I'm just telling you the possible outcomes that I know of. And I think if that was going to happen, you'd probably be writhing in pain on the floor right now." Dodger said frankly

"Okay. Death. That I understand." Evan said seriously. "What else have you got?"

"Well, there's a chance that the transformative will change you into what we call a darksider." Dodger said slowly.

"Which, I assume, is a bad thing." Evan said slowly.

"Yes. Because if that were to happen, only one of us would be leaving this room." Dodger said seriously.

"Which one?" Evan asked hesitantly.

"The one who survives. I'm kind of hoping it will be me." Dodger said honestly.

"I don't understand... Does that mean that I'd try to kill you?" Evan asked slowly.

"Yes. And you would do it with cruelty and delight." Dodger said regretfully.

"Why?" Evan asked slowly.

"We're not really sure exactly how everything works, but the popular belief is that it has something to do with the stimulation of certain centers in the brain during transformation. If you go through the transformation while you're in pain or mental anguish, then you're more likely to lose your 'humanity'. That's why vampires and demons were thought to have lost their souls."

"Okay. I think I've got that." Evan said slowly.

"Good. That leaves us with the preferred outcome, which is that you might become a shadesider, like me." Dodger finished with a smile.

"Okay. By process of elimination, I'm guessing that you're talking about an angel." Evan said slowly.

Dodger giggled, then said, "Yes. But don't expect to get any big fluffy wings out of the deal. None of these terms are exactly right, they're just close enough for you to get the idea. Physically, Shadesiders aren't any different from Darksiders. We were just able to retain our humanity through the transformation."

"So... to be a Shadesider, you do what? Feel happy when you're being transformed?" Evan asked cautiously.

"You have good reasoning skills." Dodger said with a smile, then said more seriously, "Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. Some people who are in horrible pain and anguish end up becoming Shadesiders and, sometimes, there are people who are comforted through the change who end up becoming Darksiders. We don't know why it works that way. We've just noticed that, in many cases, those who were helped through the change seem to have a better chance of retaining their humanity."

"So what do we have to do to make that happen?" Evan asked slowly.

"Well, when the second stage of transformation starts, I'm going to do my best to keep your mind off the discomfort of your body changing and maybe even make it a pleasant experience for you." Dodger said hesitantly.

"How?" Evan asked cautiously, feeling that Dodger was withholding some important fact.

"That's going to depend on you, and what you'll let me do." Dodger said, looking a little bit anxious.

"Such as." Evan said in a leading tone.

"Evan, I know you saw me with Rafe and have already realized what our relationship is." Dodger said seriously.

A nod was Evan's only answer.

"So please trust me when I say that I'll do whatever it takes to comfort you. I'll do whatever you want to make you feel safe and secure and to give you pleasure as you go through the transformation."

"But what about Dr... Um, Rafe? I mean, you love him, don't you?" Evan asked cautiously.

"Yes. More than I can say." Dodger answered immediately. "But if something were to happen between us, it wouldn't be a problem. I could love you too. It wouldn't be the same as what I feel for Rafe, but it would be real and forever. I would always look upon you as a dear and special friend."

"But is Rafe really okay with you doing this?" Evan asked uncertainly.

"That's why you're here. Rafe wants me to do this for you." Dodger said firmly. "I wouldn't even think about doing this with anyone unless Rafe approved."

"Okay. But why me, then? I mean, he only saw me in the hospital. He doesn't even know me." Evan said slowly.

"That, I don't know. You'll have to ask Rafe when he gets back." Dodger said frankly.

Evan nodded, then seemed to be lost in thought.

Dodger waited patiently as he watched Evan's expression carefully.

"So, let me see if I've got this straight." Evan said in prelude.

"The guy who attacked me and my mom, he was a darksider." Evan said slowly.

"Yes. I think that's reasonable to assume." Dodger said carefully.

"And somehow Rafe found out about me being attacked and went to the hospital so he could bring me here." Evan said thoughtfully.

"Rafe has people in place in the emergency services who will let him know if there's a suspicious attack so he can check it out and deal with it, if need be." Dodger said with a nod.

"And Rafe got me out of there so I wouldn't turn into a darksider right there in front of the doctors?" Evan asked cautiously.

"Yes and no. Just so you know, it would have been much easier for him to kill you there. There are about a dozen ways he could have done it and they never would have found out. He must have thought highly of you to go to all the effort to take you out of the hospital."

Evan slowly nodded, then reached over to the coffee table and picked up his glass. "What is this? Rafe gave me some of this in the helicopter on the way here and it seemed to start healing me within a few minutes."

"I think you'll be happier if I don't answer that question." Dodger said reluctantly.

Evan sniffed the drink, then took a small taste.

"It really isn't going to help you to be thinking about this while you're in transition." Dodger said anxiously.

"Before, you said vampires... it's blood, isn't it?" Evan asked slowly.

"No. At least, not really." Dodger said quickly.

"Then what is it. Really?" Evan asked slowly.

"It's a synthetic juice that contains the nutrition that we need." Dodger said desperately.

"Am I going to have to drink blood?"

After a moment of thought, Dodger quietly asked, "Do you like steak?"


"You know, a big fat juicy steak. Is that something that you enjoy?" Dodger asked curiously.

"Yeah. Sure." Evan said slowly.

"What do you think would happen if you had steak for every meal, every day?" Dodger asked carefully.

"I'd probably get sick of it."

"You'd probably just get sick, period. Steak doesn't provide all the things your body needs to grow and thrive." Dodger said, sounding a bit calmer.

Evan considered for a moment, then nodded his agreement.

"So to answer your question. You'll probably have a taste for blood, I think most of us do. But if you have a moral problem with it, you don't ever have to drink blood at all. We have synthetic alternatives that are much healthier. While it's possible to feed exclusively on blood, it's not good for you. By the way, how are you feeling?"

"A little bit hungry. We were going home to have supper when..." Evan trailed off sadly.

"I'm really sorry about your mom, Evan." Dodger said quietly, then in a more detached voice he continued, "I could get you something to eat if you're really starving, but you're probably going to be throwing up in a little while, so the fewer solids you have now, the better."

"I'm going to throw up?" Evan asked uncomfortably.

"Probably." Dodger said, then got up and walked to the small refrigerator again.

After refilling both their glasses, he put away the juice and returned to the couch.

"You're in transition. That means that the transformative is working it's way through your body. Of course, your body is going to fight the change, so you're going to feel sick. Drinking this will help ease the discomfort, some. Other than hungry, how are you feeling?"

"I'm starting to feel a little bit hot." Evan said, only just noticing it.

"Let me see your hand." Dodger said and laid his hand out, open palm.

Evan laid his hand in Dodger's and noticed that it was cooler than his own.

He watched curiously as Dodger started to trace a pattern in his palm with his index finger.

"That tickles." Evan giggled.

Dodger smiled as he continued to trace the patterns.

"What are you doing?" Evan asked cautiously as he shifted in his seat. He was starting to get aroused.

"I'm stimulating you." Dodger said frankly.

"Oh?" Evan asked nervously as he tried to think of some way he could discretely adjust his erection.

"Like I said before, some people who come into contact with the transformative turn into monsters, like the one who attacked you and your mother." Dodger said carefully, then added, "If you get positively stimulated while you're in transition, you have a better chance of retaining your humanity."

"I don't see why." Evan said uncomfortably, not sure if he wanted to jerk his hand away from Dodger, or move closer so Dodger could stimulate more of him.

"Well, the transformative is working it's way through your body right now, permeating your tissues. When it really starts working on your nervous system, it's going to restructure the cells and change how they work." Dodger said carefully.

Evan nodded as he absently licked his dry lips.

"If we can keep you positively stimulated through the transition, you'll be more likely to retain your humanity. Your 'soul' for lack of a better term. It's like, in your new configuration, you'll be hardwired for pleasure and happiness." Dodger said carefully.

"So you just have to do that, what you're doing to my hand, for the next few hours, and I'll be fine?" Evan asked weakly.

"No Evan, this is to help you deal with the side effects. But this type of stimulation wouldn't be enough to get you through the whole transformation."

"Okay. I didn't think so, but I thought maybe I had gotten the wrong idea at first." Evan said shyly.

"I think you understood correctly." Dodger said as he continued to draw the intricate patterns in Evan's palm.

Evan took a deep breath, then slowly released it. "Okay. But could you just tell me one more time, so I'm completely sure. Are you and Rafe really sure that this is okay with both of you?"

"Love isn't possession. I love Rafe first, best and always, but that doesn't mean that I can never love anyone else. That would be only one step removed from being alone." Dodger said seriously. "Evan. I want to help you. Rafe wants me to help you. All that's left is for you to accept my help." Dodger said frankly.

"What are we going to do? I mean... how far do we go?" Evan asked nervously.

"As far as you want to go. The whole point is to flood you with pleasant sensations and benevolent emotions while your nervous system is transformed. We won't do anything that you would find uncomfortable, immoral or painful." Dodger said seriously.

Evan felt a slight nausea beginning in his stomach and said, "Something's happening, so I guess we'd better get to stimulating."

"Where would you be most comfortable? This folds out into a bed, if you like." Dodger asked gently.

"No. At least, not now." Evan said slowly.

"What would you like to do, Evan? Tell me what would make you feel good right now." Dodger said soothingly.

"Right now, I think I'd just like for you to hold me." Evan said timidly.

"Then scoot around here. I love giving hugs." Dodger said with a grin.

* * * * *

As Evan lay back against Dodger's chest, he felt contentment as cool strong arms wrapped around him.

He felt safe.

Even his stomach settled.

"What's going to happen to me?" Evan asked as he reached up to pet one of Dodger's hands on his chest.

"You mean, after the transformation?" Dodger asked curiously.

"Yeah. My mom is dead. I don't have any other relatives. Where will I go? How will I live?" Evan asked thoughtfully.

"I don't know, exactly. But Rafe will make sure that you end up someplace safe where you can be happy." Dodger said assuringly.

"Are you sure?" Evan asked as he sat up a little and turned to look Dodger in the eyes.

"Completely sure." Dodger said sincerely.

Evan nodded, then rested back against Dodger's chest again.

"You know that you won't be able to go back to your old life, right?" Dodger asked hesitantly.

Evan let out a sigh, then said, "Yeah."

"Is there anyone you're going to miss?" Dodger asked casually.

"Not really. I mean, there was this one guy, but..."

"But what?" Dodger asked curiously.

"I met him a few weeks ago in the park. I really liked him. I've gone back a few times since and 'accidentally' ran into him so we could talk some more. But I don't even know his last name." Evan said regretfully.

Dodger leaned down a little bit and gave Evan a gentle kiss on the tip of his ear. "I'm sorry to hear that."


"Well, maybe you'll meet someone in Shadeside that you'll like." Dodger said hopefully.

"Is Shadeside a place?" Evan asked curiously.

"Not exactly. It's more of a community. When you're among Shadesiders, you don't have to hide who and what you are. You don't have to be careful about what you say or how you behave." Dodger said absently.

"So I'm going to be locked away from the rest of the world... from the Brightside?" Evan asked cautiously.

"Oh no, nothing like that. You'll be free to walk among the brightsiders all you want, as long as you don't reveal what you've become. I'm just saying that after a while, living the lie wears on you."

"I'm not feeling anything, you know, like sick or anything, right now, but would it be okay if I kissed you?" Evan asked shyly.

"Sure. All you have to do is turn over." Dodger said with a smile that could be heard in his voice.

Evan carefully sat up, then turned and lay back down, chest to chest with Dodger.

"Thanks for doing this for me, and for being so nice about it." Evan said, then moved in to give Dodger the gentlest of kisses.

Dodger closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensation of Evan's lips barely ghosting against his.

"That was sweet." Dodger said as he opened his eyes.

Evan smiled, then scooted down a little to rest his head against Dodger's shoulder.

"How long is this going to take?" Evan asked quietly.

"I wouldn't expect it to go on for more than twelve hours." Dodger said simply.

"How will you know when it's finished?" Evan asked curiously.

"You'll have fangs." Dodger said gently.

Evan pulled back with surprise to look Dodger in the eyes.

"Only when you want them." Dodger added quietly.

"Do you have fangs?" Evan asked curiously.

"Yes. Do you want to see?" Dodger asked with a gentle smile.

"Yeah." Evan said immediately.

Dodger bared his teeth and to Evan's surprise, they looked perfectly normal.

Before he could ask about it, Evan noticed Dodger's canines start to push out from his gums and become more pronounced.

They continued to drop down until they were, indeed, a set of fangs.

"Wow!" Evan said with astonishment.

"Not really of much use in the modern world. More of a parlor trick than anything else." Dodger said as his fangs receded.

"So what else can you do? I mean, how are you different from how I am... was?"

"It's mostly little stuff that you'd expect. The transformation makes the whole body work better. Super efficient. Healing happens almost instantly, we live a really long time, and we're stronger than we look."

"Sounds great." Evan said as he wriggled a little to get more comfortable against Dodger's chest.

"It can be. But there's a downside, too. Our senses are more acute, so things like bright light, shrill sounds and strong odors will bother us to the point of being painful." Dodger said as he absently rubbed Evan's back in small circles.

"So is that why vampires can't go out in sunlight?" Evan asked curiously.

"Yes. But under certain circumstances we can go out in sunlight very briefly. On overcast days we can go out longer. Direct sunlight on our super sensitive skin is... you'll just have to experience it to know what I mean. Sunburn doesn't even begin to describe it. Plus any bright light hurts our eyes." Dodger said distantly.

"Can you use sunscreen or sunglasses?" Evan asked curiously.

"Sure, those things help a little. But they aren't an answer. They're just temporary means to get around the problem." Dodger said frankly.

Silence fell between the pair until Dodger asked, "What about you? What's your life like?"

"What do you want to know?" Evan asked quietly.

"You mentioned your mom, but what about your dad?" Dodger asked curiously.

"I never met him. I don't know anything about him." Evan said immediately.

"Was his last name Delgado?" Dodger asked as he began rubbing Evan's back again.

"No. That is... was my mom's name. I don't know anything about my father. My mom wouldn't talk about him at all. Whenever I'd ask, she'd just get all sad and depressed, so I stopped asking."

"Sorry. I didn't mean to bring up any painful memories. I'd just like to get to know you." Dodger said gently.

"There's not much to know. I do okay in school. I don't have any hobbies or anything like that. I'm just an average guy." Evan said quietly.

"I doubt that." Dodger said with a smile, then leaned down to give Evan a kiss on the forehead.

Evan smiled at the move, then continued, "It's true. I've always felt like I should be doing something more. Like there was this destiny waiting for me, if I could just open my eyes and see it. I felt like I had all this passion and drive to do something great... but until I knew what it was, all I could do is wait and get through each day until it finally arrived."

"Well, maybe that's what's happening, now." Dodger said frankly.

"Maybe." Evan said uncertainly.

"How old are you, Evan?"

"I just turned fifteen." Evan said quietly, then hesitantly asked, "Are you going to want to stop holding me now?"

Dodger chuckled with delight, then said, "No, Evan. One thing you'll learn pretty quick, on the Shadeside, is that people see age as an arbitrary number. It really doesn't mean anything."

"Why not?" Evan asked curiously.

"How old do you think I am?" Dodger asked casually.

"I don't know. Seventeen or eighteen?"

"I was born fifty-six years ago." Dodger said quietly.

"No way!" Evan said as he pulled back to look Dodger in the eyes.

"Yes way." Dodger said with a grin. "I was born in 1955 on a little farm in West Virginia. I was the youngest of eleven children."

"Eleven?" Evan asked with surprise.

"That was more common back then." Dodger said with a smile at Evan's reaction. "Let's just say that my home life was 'not good'."

Evan nodded that he didn't need further explanation.

"So I ran away." Dodger said simply. "I was sixteen."

"Did you get attacked by a Darksider?" Evan asked hesitantly.

"No. I found myself on the streets of Columbus with twenty three cents to my name. It was as bad as it had ever been for me. I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't met someone that night, I would have either frozen to death or starved to death." Dodger said quietly.

"He talked to me and listened to me. He gave me food and a safe place to stay." Dodger said joyfully. "I couldn't believe that anyone could be so wonderful and loving."

"Did he... I mean, what did you have to do?" Evan asked slowly.

"Nothing. He just loved me. He never asked for anything from me except for my company. He seemed to be so alone." Dodger said distantly. "In fact, that was the thing that I just couldn't seem to accept. He loved me. Not my body or what I could do for him. He just loved me for being me."

"So what happened?" Evan asked cautiously.

"He got a phone call and said that he was going to have to move away... to New Mexico." Dodger said quietly as he looked into the past. Finally, he continued, "He said that I couldn't go with him. But I said that if he'd commit to me, I'd wait for him for as long as it took. I think that's what did it. He said that before I could decide something like that, that there were some things about him that I should know."

"So he told you he was a Shadesider." Evan guessed.

"Yes. Of course, I didn't know what that was, but he basically explained to me all the things that I just told you." Dodger said carefully.

"How did you handle it?" Evan asked curiously.

"Not nearly as well as you're handling it." Dodger said frankly, then leaned down to give Evan a quick kiss on the top of his head.

"But I eventually understood and believed what he was telling me."

"So, if you didn't get attacked by a Darksider, does that mean that he changed you himself?" Evan asked slowly.

"He offered to change me. You see, the thing is, that he was going to New Mexico to work with some other Shadesiders. There was no way a Brightsider would be allowed to be there with him." Dodger said quietly.

"So you had to choose to be changed, or to go on without him." Evan said distantly, knowing how difficult that decision must have been.

"Yes. And even though I was scared to give up who I was... what I was. I loved him enough to take the chance." Dodger said quietly.

"Even though it might have killed you." Evan added in a whisper.

Dodger nodded and held Evan a little bit tighter in his arms.

"That night was the first time we ever kissed." Dodger said with a smile.

"It sounds wonderful." Evan said distantly.

"At the time, it was the most terrifying thing I had ever done. But looking back on it now. It was perfect." Dodger said gently.

"It was Rafe, wasn't it?" Evan asked slowly.


"And now you're trying to do for me what he did for you." Evan said thoughtfully.

"As much as I can." Dodger said, then put his hands on Evan's arms and guided him to lean away slightly. "I don't know if it's because of the change, or if being around Rafe all these years has caused me to have a greater capacity for love. But for whatever reason. I love you, Evan Delgado. I want you to come through the change into a wonderful new world of possibilities that you couldn't imagine before. And when the change is complete. I will continue to love you."

Evan heard the sincerity in Dodger's voice and could see it in his eyes. The intensity and absolute conviction behind Dodger's words caused the last vestiges of disbelief to leave Evan.

He leaned forward and initiated a kiss. Firmer and more self assured than the one before.

Dodger held Evan tight as the kiss deepened and became more intense.

Every touch seemed to burn like fire on Evan's suddenly sensitive skin.

He became aware of Dodger's erection pressing into is hip as he began to writhe.

"I love you, too, Dodger." Evan whispered against Dodger's lips.

"How do you feel?" Dodger asked as his hands drifted lower to cup Evan's butt.

"Hot." Evan said before diving in to plunder Dodger's mouth.

A groan erupted from Dodger's throat, giving added evidence that he was enjoying what Evan was doing to him.

Evan finally pulled out of the kiss long enough to take a much needed breath, and whispered, "You taste so good."

"Are you ready for the bed?" Dodger asked gently.

"No, but I'm ready for this." Evan said as he worked a hand between their bodies and felt along Dodger's confined erection.

"Whatever you want, Evan. Tonight is for you."

* * * * *

Evan reluctantly got off the couch, then knelt before Dodger and unbuckled his pants.

Dodger undid the fly and they worked together to get the pants down and off of him.

As Dodger was about to pull down his boxer shorts, Evan took gentle hold of his hand to stop him.

"I want to feel everything." Evan said in a whisper.

Dodger withdrew his hands and watched as Evan traced the outline of his erection in the fabric of the boxers.

He took in a sharp hitch of breath as Evan brought his cheek to the side of his erection and began to nuzzle it like a friendly cat.

By this time Dodger was clutching the cushions of the couch to keep himself from grabbing onto Evan and guiding him to bring him pleasure.

Evan turned his head, and through the fabric of the boxer shorts, he slowly moved up the length of Dodger's erection, experiencing it entirely with his overly sensitive lips.

"Evan. That's..." Dodger gasped, not knowing what the next word was going to be, or even if there was one.

Finally, Dodger felt Evan's fingers grip the waistband, and pull it out from his body ever so slightly.

"I want to taste you." Evan whispered, then brought the elastic down just enough to reveal the sheathed head of Dodger's erection.

"Beautiful." Evan said in a breathy whisper, then reached out with just the tip of his tongue to explore the tiny glistening bit of the glans that was just barely exposed.

"Oh, Evan!" Dodger gasped at the minuscule stimulation.

The sensation stopped, and Dodger looked down to find Evan with a considering look on his face.

"Sweet." Evan said with a smile.

"Anything you want." Dodger whispered, willing Evan to do something, anything, to provide him more stimulation.

Evan smiled, feeling inordinately pleased that he was able to bring this pleasure to Dodger who had not only helped ease his fears, but had even professed to love him.

Using his thumb and forefinger, Evan gently pinched some of the loose foreskin, just below the head and pulled down slightly, causing more of the head to be exposed.

Dodger inhaled deeply at the sensation.

Then Evan stuck out his tongue, and with just the tip, gathered up the pearly drop that was waiting for him.

Still using only the little bit of loose skin gathered between his thumb and forefinger, Evan began to ease the hood of foreskin up and down, achingly slowly.

"More." Dodger gasped.

If anything, Evan moved even more slowly than before.

Dodger was about to ask, no, beg for more when he felt Evan start to lick one of his balls.

"Evan... that's... Oh, Evan." Dodger whispered as he writhed under the myriad of delicate sensations.

As he was working on giving Dodger's other ball equal attention, Evan noticed them beginning to pull up and knew what that meant.

Without warning, Evan moved to Dodger's cock and engulfed the head, while swirling his tongue around the tip.

"Ahhh!" Dodger screamed as his fingers dug into the vinyl of the couch.

Evan felt the pulse and twitch just a moment before the cool seed gushed into his mouth.

He sucked and swallowed as quickly as he could, trying to keep up with the flow.

Dodger arched his hips as the second wave of his orgasm hit with surprising force.

Evan held on to Dodger's hips, determined not to lose even one drop of his seed.

Spasm upon spasm of release coursed through Dodger until he was finally spent.

Evan continued to suckle until he was sure that he had been given the last little bit. Then he released the deflating cock and crawled back up onto the couch, until he was once again chest to chest with Dodger.

"Evan. That was..." Dodger seemed to be lost, but Evan waited for him patiently. Finally, Dodger was able to come back to himself enough to continue, "...amazing."

"I've always wanted to do that." Evan said, sounding very pleased with himself.

"You've never done that before?" Dodger asked with surprise.

"No. I've read about it and seen pictures and even a few movies on the Internet. But this is my first time actually doing it." Evan said shyly.

"It was incredible." Dodger said, then leaned forward to give Evan a quick kiss. "Perfect." Dodger said, followed by another kiss. "Awesome."

Evan giggled, then said, "I'm glad you liked it."

"I did." Dodger said, feeling sated and peaceful and absolutely wonderful, "Would you like me to do that to you?"

"No." Evan said slowly. "I think I'd rather you do what you like. You know, what you're used to."

"I'd really like that. But you'll have to let me know if I'm doing something you don't like. Not everyone likes the same things." Dodger said carefully.

"Dodger, I'm fifteen. I'm pretty sure that whatever you want to do will work for me." Evan said frankly.

"Finish your juice, then help me pull the bed out. I think we're going to need a little more room to maneuver for what I have in mind." Dodger said happily.

Evan got up and felt slightly embarrassed by the tent that his erection was making in his sweatpants.

Dodger noticed the reaction and thought it was incredibly sweet.

After taking a drink of his juice, Evan looked back to where Dodger had been reclined on the couch and noticed the torn vinyl.

"Don't worry about it. That's why we're down here instead of upstairs." Dodger said with a grin as he pulled up his pants.

"So we can trash the place?" Evan asked curiously.

"Things sometimes get a little bit out of control during transition. If we break some furniture or tear up some sheets, it's not a problem down here." Dodger said before taking a long drink of juice.

"Did you do anything like that during your transition?" Evan asked curiously.

"I tore a hole in Rafe's mattress." Dodger said with a chuckle.

"Was he upset?" Evan asked curiously.

"No. I felt a little bit bad about it, but he said that he took it as a compliment." Dodger said with a broad smile at the memory.

"Okay." Evan said with an answering smile as he looked at the torn vinyl again. "I'll do that too."

"Good." Dodger said happily, then in a more serious tone, he continued, "Now help me scoot out the coffee table and fold out the bed."

Evan was only too happy to comply.

His erection hadn't gone down, and, if anything, had gotten even harder.

* * * * *

As soon as the bed was unfolded, Dodger walked to Evan and knelt before him.

"May I?" Dodger asked as he brought his hands up to the waistband of Evan's sweatpants.

"Please." Evan said in a nervous whisper.

Dodger slowly pulled down the pants, and smiled when Evan's erection came free and stood at attention.

"Take off your shirt." Dodger whispered as he surveyed the stiff member before him.

Evan quickly skinned off the shirt, then looked down at Dodger with question. "How is it?"

"Beautiful." Dodger whispered, then moved in to give the erection a gentle kiss, just below the head.

Evan let out a shuddering breath at the sensation.

Dodger then stood and, taking Evan into his arms, proceeded to give him a long, lingering kiss.

"Thanks for making my first time wonderful." Dodger said against Evan's lips.

"Your first time?" Evan asked curiously.

"This will be the first time that I've ever helped someone through transition. I was a little bit nervous." Dodger admitted shyly.

"Are you nervous now?" Evan asked curiously.

"No. Not at all." Dodger said happily. "I was afraid that this would feel wrong, like I was betraying Rafe. But it isn't like that at all. I'm doing this with love. Love for him and love for you. I couldn't be happier."

"I didn't know what love... I mean real love, felt like before. But I do love you, Dodger." Evan said, then moved in for another kiss.

Dodger slowly guided Evan to sit on the bed, only breaking the kiss when he was seated.

Evan scooted himself onto the bed, then watched as Dodger quickly shed his clothes.

"You're beautiful." Evan said in a husky voice.

"So are you." Dodger said as he climbed onto the bed beside Evan.

"What do we do first?" Evan asked nervously.

"I thought we could start with a kiss and see what comes up." Dodger said with a devilish grin.

Evan chuckled, then said, "I don't think it's going to get any more 'up' than it already is."

"I see what you mean." Dodger said, then lazily stroked his fingertips across Evan's straining erection.

Evan's whole body tensed at the sensation.

"I just want you to keep one thing in mind while we do this." Dodger said as his gaze fixed on Evan's eyes.

"That you love me." Evan said in a whisper.

"Right." Dodger said, then moved in to give Evan a long, lingering kiss.

As the kiss became more passionate, Evan worked his hand down to find Dodger's erection and began working it at a slow, deliberate pace.

"You don't need to do that, it's your turn." Dodger said against his lips.

"I lost my scorecard." Evan said playfully, then began to kiss Dodger again.

Dodger dragged his hand down Evan's side and came to rest on his hip, his fingers just grazing the cleft of Evan's buttocks.

The reaction from Evan was unexpected.

At the feeling of the fingers near his most private opening, Evan became even more excited and began to slowly thrust against Dodger's thigh.

Dodger noticed his increased interest, and slowly began to work his fingers lower, deeper.

"Yes." Evan whispered between feverish kisses.

Guided only by touch, Dodger found the puckered opening and carefully allowed one finger to graze along it.

"Yes Dodger. Yes." Evan moaned into Dodger's mouth.

"Lay on your stomach, I'm going to need to prepare you if we're going to do this without pain." Dodger said gently.

Evan seemed to have stopped and had a contemplative look on his face.

"Is something wrong?" Dodger asked with concern.

Evan's gaze slowly moved to Dodger, then he quietly said, "What do you think is the most unromantic thing I could possibly say right now?"

Dodger looked at Evan with surprise at the question and couldn't think of any way to answer.

"I need to use the toilet." Evan said regretfully.

"Oh." Dodger said with realization, then asked, "Would you let me feel your stomach for a moment?"

"Um... sure." Evan said and rolled onto his back.

Dodger gently placed one of his hands on Evan's lower belly, then closed his eyes in concentration.

"Is something wrong?" Evan asked curiously.

Dodger opened his eyes and broke into a smile. "No. Actually, I can feel the activity. This is a very good sign."

"How's that?" Evan asked curiously.

"This means that your intestines have nearly completed the transformation. And now that they're working more efficiently... let's just say that when you're finished, you'll like the difference." Dodger said with a smile.

"I'm sorry that we had to stop." Evan mumbled as he stood at the side of the bed, then pulled on his sweat pants.

"We've got all night. Go do what you need to do." Dodger said casually, then added, "While you're doing that, I'm going to see if I can find some duct tape for the couch cushions."

"Where's the bathroom?" Evan asked shyly.

"Right over there."

* * * * *

"How do you feel?" Dodger asked as Evan walked back into the room.

"Ten pounds lighter." Evan said frankly.

Dodger nodded that he understood, then patted the bed beside him.

Evan pulled down his sweat pants without hesitation, then hopped into the bed beside Dodger.

"How are you feeling now?" Dodger asked curiously.

"Wonderful!" Evan said with a grand smile. "I feel like I could run like the wind, like I could fly!"

"Once you're finished with your transition, we'll need to go for a night run in the woods." Dodger said peacefully. "There's nothing else like it."

Evan looked at Dodger curiously.

"You'll be stronger, faster and more agile than you were before. All your senses will be heightened. It's such a feeling of freedom. You'll just have to experience it for yourself." Dodger said dreamily. "I've spent so many nights running naked through these woods."

"I can't wait." Evan said with a smile at the thought, then brought a hand up at a strange feeling in his mouth.

"Is something wrong?" Dodger asked cautiously.

"You know those fangs you were talking about, I think they're here." Evan said slowly.

"It's too soon." Dodger said with concern, then asked, "May I see?"

Evan turned to face Dodger, then bared his teeth.

"Look at that..." Dodger said in wonder.

"Does that mean that I'm done? That I'm through the transition?" Evan asked slowly, finding it difficult to talk around the fangs.

"Yes. From everything I've heard, that's the last sign. But you went through it too fast and skipped over several steps." Dodger said with concern.

"Is that bad?" Evan asked curiously.

"Um... no. I don't think so." Dodger said slowly, then cautiously asked, "Tell me, you don't have a desire to peel my face off and eat my eyes, just for the sheer pleasure of it, do you?"

"No. Not that I'm aware of." Evan said slowly.

"Well, good."

"The only desire I'm feeling right this minute is that I'd kind of like for you to hold me again... and maybe another kiss." Evan said timidly.

Dodger broke into a smile and said, "Evan, you can have a hug or a kiss whenever you want."

"What about Rafe?" Evan asked cautiously.

"You can hug and kiss him, too." Dodger said with a smile.

"How do I make the fangs go away? I don't want to accidentally bite you." Evan asked slowly.

"It's hard to describe. You have these muscles that you've never used before." Dodger said with difficulty. "It's kind of a trial and error thing that you'll have to figure out."

Dodger watched as Evan made a few facial contortions.

"I need to remember to bring a movie camera the next time I do this." Dodger chuckled.

Evan looked at him with question.

"Never mind."

Evan continued to try different things until something finally seemed to work.

"It looks like you've got it!" Dodger said with excitement.

Evan concentrated on working the weak muscle to constrict and pull back his fangs.

"That was hard." Evan finally said.

"It gets easier." Dodger said, then opened his arms.

Evan gladly climbed on top of Dodger and noticed that his body didn't seem chilly, like it did before.

"Are you getting warmer or am I getting colder?" Evan asked curiously.

"You're getting colder. Now that your body is working more efficiently, you don't need to generate as much body heat. Your regular temperature will probably level off at about seventy degrees." Dodger said frankly.

Evan nodded as he laid his head against Dodger's shoulder.

"Is something wrong?" Dodger asked with concern.

"Well, it's over, isn't it? I'm through it." Evan said quietly.

"Yes. It seems so." Dodger said gently, concerned by Evan's quiet tone.

"So there's no reason that you have to hold me or kiss me now." Evan said reluctantly.

"There's a very good reason." Dodger said seriously.

Evan raised himself up slightly to look Dodger in the eyes, then hesitantly asked, "What?"

"Because we both want to." Dodger said seriously.

Evan thought about it for a moment, then slowly shook his head.

"What's bothering you?" Dodger asked with concern, "Is it Rafe?"

"Yes." Evan said immediately.

Dodger nodded, then asked, "What would you think about it if he were here, right now, telling you it was okay?"

"You mean here, naked, in bed with us?" Evan asked cautiously.

Dodger smiled and said, "Well, I wasn't thinking of that. But, sure, I mean, we've never invited anyone into our bed before. But I don't think he would be upset by the suggestion."

Evan thought about it for a moment, then shook his head.

"Too much?" Dodger asked quietly.

"No. I just don't want to take the chance of messing up what you guys have. You need to be with Rafe and he needs to be with you. I'm just going to have to find someone who needs to be with me." Evan said slowly.

"I can respect that, Evan." Dodger said with a gentle smile, then quietly added, "Thank you."

"I think we should get dressed." Evan said regretfully.

"One kiss?" Dodger asked hopefully.

Evan smiled, then moved in to give Dodger a full, deep kiss.

When it was finished, Dodger smiled and said, "One thing hasn't changed. I'll always love you."

Evan smiled and said, "I'll always love you, too, Dodger."

* * * * *

As soon as Dodger and Evan came to the top of the stairs, they could hear a heavy-handed knocking on the front door.

"That's strange. We don't get many visitors." Dodger said as he finally crested the stairs and made his way to the front door.

Evan followed along anxiously as the knocking repeated and seemed to be even more urgent.

Given all the twists and turns of the day so far, Evan couldn't help but think that this might be something dangerous.

Dodger slowly opened the door, then stood back and held it open as he said, "Duncan! What a surprise! Come in!"

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

First of all, let me say that it is really great that this new section is ready to go.

Thank you, MultiMapper for getting this segment ready to go. I really love this story, and this "new" one is certainly exciting already.

I really am glad that we got to meet Evan.

I have been working with MultiMapper on this story since he first started writing it, and the very interesting thing about the story was that it actually began with the beginning of this segment.

It began as Even's story. We first met him as he lay in bed in the hospital. We didn't know who Dr. Killian was, and we didn't find out much about him right away. We did meet Dodger, and learned a little bit about him, and saw the way he helped Evan get through his transformation.

Well, it didn't take long before MM and I were discussing the fact that we needed to know more about Rafe and Dodger, so began the work on the back story that, hopefully, you have all read.

Now, of course, we know a lot about them and about a lot of other people, as well.

There are definitely more people to meet, though, and I am not going to mention who they are. you will just have to wait and see.

The thing that is pretty important to remember, here, is that this part is really Evan's story. We will still see a lot of Rafe and Dodger and

the others, but they are not the stars of this particular section.

He has been through quite a trauma, that is for sure. It is definitely no fun to see your mother killed right in front of you, and then to wind up in the hospital, practically torn to pieces. It can be a bit annoying, that's for sure.

And then having someone pounding on the door, practically pounding a hole in it, well, that can be a bit off-putting, as well.

What is happening, and why was Duncan so upset?

I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens in the next exciting chapter of this wonderful saga.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher