GFD: Lost In Shadow

Lost In Shadow 2

The door closed behind ‘Dr. Colby’, and Rachael came to sit at my side on the hospital bed. "How are you feeling, bruiser?" She asked.

"Like shit. But believe me, it's a step up from how I felt a few hours ago." I answered.

"Well, relax for a bit, and I'll have Dutch take you to your quarters in a couple of minutes. Ok? Maybe something in there will help to jog your memory."

"Sure. Thanks." I said, laying back to rest my head against the wall for a while longer. I felt Rachael take my hand for a moment, and opened my eyes. She looked at me as though...as though she were waiting for me to protest. As though she were testing me to see if I'd object to her affection. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing." She said, and she let go of my hand as she stood on her feet. "Get well soon, ok? I'll see you tomorrow night." And I watched as she got up and left the room. Looking back over her shoulder one last time before disappearing on me. Strange. What, exactly, do I mean to her? What does she mean to me? I just wish any of this made sense. The pieces of the puzzle just aren't fitting together like they're supposed to. At least not yet. All I've got are a jumble of mixed up emotions with no rhyme or reason to their existence...and strange visions of a past that, for all I can tell, might not be real. I just wish I had some kind of 'center' again. Just something to let me know what I'm doing here.

The throbbing ache in my head was comforted by the stable feel of the wall behind me. My feet hung over the side of the bed, and my eyes closed softly to enjoy the silence. I might have lost focus for a moment or two, but I soon heard a light knocking at the door. I don't know if I had been resting for a few minutes, or a few hours. Time seemed so strangely unimportant right now.

"Come in." I said, and I saw the man with the mustache walk in. "Dutch, right?"

"You got it. The doctor check you out?" He asked, his voice a bit gruff and hazy, a nearly vanished Houston accent lacing his every word.

"Yeah. It appears that I'm a-ok....with the exception of the fact that I have no idea who I am right now." I grunted, leaning forward.

"Don't worry, we'll take care of that in time. Right now, I wanna get you out of here and back to your quarters. We're going to keep this little 'illness' of yours quiet for as long as we can. Got it?"

"Is there any particular reason why?"

"Let's just say that we're not exactly a pack of cub scouts in this place. The people we work for aren't too forgiving when it comes to one of their 'products' being temporarily disabled." He said. "We do a lot of dirt around here...some of it on record, and some of it below the radar. The secrets that we have access to could do a lot of damage if they got out. There really isn't room for any of us to make a mistake. So, if they think for a second that you can't be effective, useful, or trustworthy, they'll have to get rid of you. And I'm NOT talking 'pink slips', kid."

He helped me up to my feet, and offered me his shoulder. "That's alright, I can walk on my own."

"Suit yourself. Follow me, I'll get you settled in for the night."

Dutch led me outside into the rest of the complex, and it looked even bigger than it did before. There were small trucks moving back and forth, carrying boxes marked with numeric code, and workers of all sorts moving back and forth like elves in a toy shop before the Christmas rush. A few folks turned to look at me, their eyes connecting with mine as though they knew me. But I didn't stare for too long. I merely tried to straighten up and walk as though I belonged there. As though everything was just fine. I could only hope that it was working, because deep down, the paranoia that I felt in this place was eating me alive. That's when, Dutch's hand reached out and touched my shoulder. Walking toward us were three other vampires, much more well dressed than anyone else in this place, and they were approaching fast with their determined stroll. The first two were in front, but the third...hidden in back. I felt my emotions tense up immediately, my breath catching in my throat, my back straightening itself like a soldier. But beyond that....there was something else. Something that made me weak in the stomach. A slight jittery sensation washed over me, and despite my obedient posture, I could tell that I was an unstable mess on the inside. What could possibly cause such a conflict of emotion in such a short period of time?

"Remember, kid, as far as they know...you're right as rain. If they ask you how everything went, just tell them that the mission was successful, and the target has been silenced." Dutch whispered to me as we got closer to them. "And always refer to her as 'Mistress'. Got it?"

"I think so." I said nervously.

"Don't think. Just relax." He warned me. "Keep it short and sweet. You're not usually one for a lot of talking."

The first two vampires approached me. One was a Asian female vampire, dressed in a long black dress, with black hair down to her shoulders, and dark lashes that gave her eyes a wicked gleam with her first smile in my direction. She was slim, but shapely, about 25 years of age, wearing dark red lipstick and obsidian earrings. Her pale skin was smooth and rich, unblemished. But the vibe that I got from her was so cold....ice cold. Katrina. Mistress Katrina.

The man at her side was maybe a few years younger, but his features were a bit more aged than hers. He was skinny to the point of almost being cartoonish in his emaciated appearance, with a slightly elongated face. It looked as though his hair might have been thinning when he crossed over, but he made it just in time. His arms and legs looked unnaturally long, and his ribs seemed wider than his waistline. He had bags under his eyes, and a deep voice that rattled in his chest when he spoke, a dark English accent evident in his speech. He was wearing, what looked like a black robe. The 'male' version of the attire the lady next to him was sporting. And fingernails painted black, at the end of long skinny fingers that more closely resembled 'talons' than anything else. When they stopped to talk, I felt a strange, angry, sensation roll through me, and fought to keep it from showing on my face.

"Exile...my finest, up and coming, hunter...I see that you made it back safely." Katrina said, an insultingly fake smile on her lips.

"Yes." I said stoically, but thought about what Dutch told me in the awkward pause following my reply. "Yes, Mistress."

"I trust that you didn't run into any...'problems', during your assignment this evening." She asked, and I felt my stomach muscles begin to constrict even worse. Whoever she was, this woman really rubbed me the wrong way.

"No, Mistress. Nothing that couldn’t be dealt with."

The man next to her was looking me over, suspiciously analyzing me without any shame at all. "Have you been damaged?" He asked, his deep voice weasel-like in its delivery.

"It's just a nasty bump on the head. He's taken a few lumps before, it's no big deal." Dutch answered. "I'm going to get him to his quarters, and let him get some peace before the big sleep takes him for the night."

"And Kristoff?" She asked, looking deep into my eyes. It was almost as if she could tell that something was wrong. That I wasn't myself.

There was a silence, and I looked over to see Dutch waiting for me to deliver my 'line'. "Kristoff...yes. The uh...the mission was successful. The target has been silenced." I said.

She kept her eye on me for a moment longer, a slow nod following. "Good. Very good." She 'scanned' me for a few seconds longer before turning her attention to Dutch. "The report?"

Thankfully Dutch took over from there, handing her the folder. "The target was located about a week ago at this location. Information was given to us through our contacts on the street in that area. Kristoff was seen coming and going in many of the underground clubs out South, but had no identifiable vampires with him. I believe that we were able to stop him before he was able to spread any classified information to the outside." Dutch delivered his report while handing the blood samples and evidence of our attack over to the woman in black. Meanwhile, my attention was suddenly pulled away from the discussion to see the third vampire that had approached us in their company. The other two had dominated their position so immediately that I didn't even have a chance to see him at first. He was different...this third vampire among them. Very different indeed.

His eyes met mine briefly, with an eagerness, mixed with a touch of caution. He couldn't have been more than 14 from the looks of him. Then again, judging by looks, I wouldn't be more than 15or 16 years old either. The difference, however, was in his very scent. New. Fresh. A sapling halflife, just crossed over. Wow...you could almost taste his humanity. He still had the scent of 'life' all over him, many of his original blood cells were still there, containing that magical essence that made a young vampire so incredibly unique. My senses were drawn to him first, but it was my eyesight that held my gaze. He was BEYOND beautiful, in every sense of the word. He was stunning to behold, almost intimidating. He had the shiniest golden blond hair, that would glimmer with brilliance, even in this darkened corridor. And it hung sweetly down just below his soft blue eyes in thin silky bangs that gently grazed his long eyelashes as he blinked bashfully in my direction. Those few seconds of peeking out from behind the other two vampires, were the most exciting of my life as I could recall.

"Is that to be taken as a 'no', Exile?" The weasel-like man on the left asked me, and I realized that I wasn't paying attention.

"I'm sorry?" I asked, hoping he would repeat the question without asking why I was so distracted.

"I said...your wound looks severe. Are we to think that you will be ‘out of play' for a while?" He sneered.

"No. No, I'm ok. Dr....Colby, says that I should be healing rather quickly. A few sleep cycles, not much more." I told them.

"You see? The boy is fine. He's a trooper, this kid. I told ya." Dutch assured them, trying to drag me away from them before any more questions were asked.

"I see." Said Katrina. Then she traced my line of sight back to the beautiful boy behind her. "Orion...why don't you go back to our quarters and draw me a bath? I would like to celebrate Exile's victory this evening before bed." She smiled, and the boy answered her.

"Yes, Mistress." His voice was as angelic as the rest of him. I couldn't understand why, but the 'pull' I felt in his direction was stronger than anything I've ever known. It was this emotional yank that kept me fixated on his every move, and thoughts of kissing his delicate lips flooded my mind. Effectively drowning out everything else.

"Mmmmm, that's a good boy." She said, and then leaned over to give him a long wet lick on his cheek. He attempted not to cringe, but his recoil was difficult to hide. Did he...'belong' to her? Their blood signatures, from the smell of it, were very similar indeed. Was she....his sire? "I trust that you have other things to do, so I'll leave you to it." Katrina told me. "I DO hope you will be taking good care of that bump on the head, Exile. Field work can be very dangerous, even for you. I would hate for something to...happen to you that we couldn't fix." I saw the most mischievous smile spread slowly across her face, and felt my fist clench up secretly behind my back, my teeth gritted together in response. The comment angered and disgusted me. Something about it moved me to the point of wanting to leap forward and rip that smug grin right off of her! But what was it? Was it because of the boy? No...more than that. Something sinister. She set me up. I can FEEL it. In fact, I was pretty certain that she didn't expect me to come back from tonight's mission at all.

"We'll take good care of him, Mistress. By the weekend, he'll be good as new." Dutch assured her. And patted me on the back, giving me the signal to move forward.

"Bye..." The boy said to me, his adorably charming face still peeking out from the dominant forces in front of him. His beauty was paralyzing, but as Katrina and her right hand servant watched me closely...especially when it came to my interaction with the boy...I kept my emotions hidden.

I nodded at the boy, not showing any real affection, and walked forward with Dutch. "Good night, Mistress." I said, and we began to walk our separate ways.

As I turned to look back, the boy was trailing behind the other two, catching a few infatuated glances back at me. I couldn't keep my eyes forward. I had to keep looking back. Meeting his eyes. Feeling his youthful life essence filling whatever unknown void I had in the center of my heart. He enchanted me without hardly saying anything at all, and I could easily feel the closeness, and the distance, that existed between us. The boy looked back at me, his gorgeous blue eyes containing a hint of sadness, even when the rest of his face didn't, and I almost stopped in midstep to go back for him.

"Orion!" Katrina called out, and she waited for the boy to catch up, roughly taking his arm the moment he stood at her side. I'm really going to have to get a grip on myself at some point before I end up making trouble that I don't need.

Dutch and I continued to walk side by side for a while, and a grin broke out on his face. "Heh...it's good to see that your little head wasn't damaged in the fight."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, come on, buddy boy. Who do you think you're fooling? If you ask me, the few things that you NEED to forget about seem to be right there in the front of your brain." He said, but when he saw the confused look on my face, he decided to elaborate. "The BOY, stupid. Orion."

"Him? Oh...I was just..."

"Save it. Ok? I know. Widow knows, Freak knows, we ALL know. What you need to worry about is Katrina finding out. It's no secret that Orion is her prize possession. She turned him herself, and she's not known for her patience in situations that deal with anybody else putting their hands on him."

I straightened up and cleared my throat. "I wasn't doing anything..."

"You were LOOKING. And to someone like her, that's an insult of the worst kind." Dutch told me, and then pulled me aside. "Look, I know you're having problems with remembering certain things, but if you need to keep just ONE thing in mind, it's this...the boy is off limits. Got it?" I didn't answer at first, sighing at how ridiculous it sounded for him to even be warning me. It's not like I lacked self control. Still, he persisted. "GOT IT???"

"Ok. Alright. Off limits, I got it. Geez..." I said.

"I'm not playing here, kid. You promised me a long time ago that it would be ‘business only’ in this place, and that you'd stay away from anything that would get Katrina's claws out concerning the rest of us. But ever since that boy has been here for the past month or so, you've been doing emotional backflips over him, and don't think we haven't noticed." Dutch's voice softened a bit, and he put a hand on my shoulder. "There are other boys out there for you, Exile. Just as cute and sweet as Orion...but 'available'. You get my meaning? If you start anything up with Katrina's golden boy, she'll have both you AND him murdered without even blinking an eye. She's a goddamn Mafia PRINCESS for crying out loud! There won't be ANYWHERE for you to hide, even if you run!"

"It was a mistake! That's all. I don't even know who that boy IS!" I replied.

"GOOD! And that's how it's going to stay!"

"Fine, whatever. I was just...he's cute...I was taking a peek."

"Don't even do THAT much! Just pretend he's not even there! If he looks at you, you turn away. If he speaks to you, you keep it to a nod and you don’t speak back. Do you understand?" He stopped walking and turned me to look him in the eye. "TELL ME you understand!" "OK!!! I said I would ignore him already, what do you want from me?" I replied.

"I want you to stay alive. These aren't forgiving people that we work for. I don't want to have be the one to get the order to put you down if she decides that you're a threat to her nightly comfort. Make no mistake...even though the Elders are looking out for your best interests, she WILL put out an underground licensed contract on you. And once you're dead, she can make up any story she likes about how it happened. So you leave her pretty little golden boy alone and stick to what you do best. You got me?"

"Yeah. I got you." I said the words, but although I couldn't remember that boy at all, it hurt my feelings to agree to such a restriction. Keep myself away from him? I didn't even know where to find him if I WANTED to be close to him. And yet...the emotion was there. It was THERE. I could feel it, lingering like an echo in a hollow drum in my chest, waiting to be filled up with something special. A liquid sensation so powerful, that it turned the night into day, and healed my every wound with no further effort than it took to dreamily gaze at his smile.

"Good. Now these are your private quarters here. Lay down for the night and rest that noggin' of yours. Tomorrow evening, we'll see if we can expand on what you know...and what you NEED to know." Dutch said, and opened a sliding door for me. Then he came close and gave me a tight hug. "It's good to see that you're still kicking, boy."

"Thanks, Dutch...for all this." I said. And he let me go, giving me a casual salute before leaving me to spend some time alone with my thoughts. What little I had left. I hope that something comes back to me soon. This place is so damn strange without the needed reference to the faces and knowledge I need to know where I am, who to talk to, or even who I could trust. Something feels so wrong here, and I can't tell what it is. It's like every alarm in my body is going off at once, and I can't associate the bells and whistles with anything concrete enough to react accordingly. Maybe I just needed some sleep. The ‘doctor’...I can’t believe I’m calling him that...said that I might have a complete recall of everything tomorrow, right? Maybe I'll get lucky. Maybe tomorrow...this confusion will be forgotten, and I'll be back to my old self again. Only time will tell.

I turned to look around at the room I was standing in. My room. You would think that the very sight of my own possessions would spark some kind of connection to the world I had recently lost sight of. But it didn't. In fact, everything looked just as alien in that room as the rest of the facility. There was a bed in the corner, just a mattress and a dirty old pillow, along with a ratty looking blanket that appeared to have been kicked off onto the floor. There was a desk covered in papers and old photographs, and I moved closer to investigate. But there was nothing 'personal' about the contents. It was just...work. Photographs of vampires that I didn't recognize, old buildings and possible vampire habitats, and pages on top of pages of stats and calculations. Data printouts. Where to find the targets, where to find their friends and family, suspected crimes, possible weaknesses...all wrapped up with this ice cold vampire hunter protocol, meant to make their very existence as flat and as unimportant as possible when matched up with the Elder's order. Whatever it was that I thought I could find out about myself here...i was beginning to think that I'd rather not know.

I continued to look around, and saw a collection of DVDs sitting on a shelf above a flat screen color TV attached to the wall. I looked closer at the titles, and they all appeared to be pornography. Young boys, all of them. Jesus...there had to be, like, 50 of them. With names like 'Little Sailor Boys', 'Little Boy Blew', 'Johnny Appleseed', and 'Locker Room Cock Jockey'. The pics on the outside of the box were about as explicit as they possibly could be, and most of the videos were actual vampire porn. Gorgeous boys my age, but well into their crossover with the experience of a veteran porn star. Probably three times older than I was,. I didn't know I was so into this stuff. Maybe later I'll...um...'review' a couple of these. Just to see if they bring anything back, of course.

My closet was nearly empty, with just enough clothes to get through the week, and three pair of shoes. Everything looked to be more functional than stylish, however. I guess I wasn't really one for showing off my sense of fashion either. Sighhh...what does any of this mean? How could I be so damn lost in my own life?

I felt a yawn building in the back of my throat, and stretched my arms up as it left me. The dawn must be approaching, and the big sleep was coming to claim me for the rest of the day. I peeled off my clothes and kicked off my shoes, climbing into bed and pulling the old blanket over on top of me before turning off the light. It was when I lay on my back, my hands behind my head, that I noticed something written in bright red glow-in-the-dark paint on the ceiling. I let my eyes focus on it briefly, and saw that it was a quote. It said...

"I fear if my demons leave me, then my angels may take flight as well."

The idea rattled around in my head for a short time, the concept attempting to take hold as the irrational thoughts of sleep swept in to take me over. And soon, my eyes closed, and my body went cold. I suppose I'll have to think about it more tomorrow.

What I had that night might have just been a dream, but it felt more like a memory. It had become so hard to distinguish between the two all of a sudden. But I remember standing in a room with twelve other vampires, hunters like myself, and a large man with an eye patch apparently training us. "Exile!" He barked at me. "Step forward!" I did as I was told, and he called out another one of my 'classmates'. "Primo! Front and center!" We stood at opposite ends of the mat, and our eyes connected tightly from across the room. We were both dressed in tight black spandex, with black gloves and boots. But he was bigger than me. Older. He looked to have been in his early 30's when he crossed over. I can still feel the tremble in my chest. The uncertainty. But not a single one of those doubts were allowed to reach the surface. My face was fixed, my eyes locked, my fists balled up tight and firm, my feet positioned perfectly beneath me. I was ready. Then, the man with the eye patch told us, "The fight is not over until your opponent is unable to continue. Begin!"

With that command, we moved in slowly. Every step, calculated and measured. Every movement giving way to over 100 different strikes, blocks, and dodges, if the need presented itself. And then, in between, our hands touched...and the sparring began. Primo's fist reached out with a flash, and struck me right across the face. If my reflexes weren't fast enough to let it roll off to the side, he could have easily broken my jaw! Without having time to think, I struck out with both fists blazing, attempting to get a shot in somewhere, ANYWHERE! Primo was fast! DAMN fast! Somewhere in my attack, I left my legs unprotected, and he was quick to take advantage of the opening. He spun down low to kick my legs from under me, sending me falling back on my shoulders. He kicked out a leg to hurt me while I was down, but I was quick enough to catch his foot and toss him to the ground. We both popped up onto our feet again and took our stances, our stare locking onto one another again. I could feel the pain in my back, legs, and face already...but tried to ignore it. Mentally trying to numb it until I had completed my objective. That is what they teach us here, after all.

I saw Primo's feet swivel around in my direction, but by the time I had caught sight of his motion, it was already too late. His swift roundhouse kick connected to my face and sent me spinning back to the floor. I rolled out of the way the second I touched down, and flipped to my feet again. He charged me from the right, and my feet left the floor, jumping high enough step down on his shoulder and flip over him. I then moved in to elbow him in the back and flipped him over my shoulder. But much to my surprise, Primo landed on his feet. He struck out at me again, and our arms and legs twisted and banged against each other with a fury. I took small hits off of him here and there, occasionally hitting an arm, or a shoulder, or a leg. Sometimes I could get a small shot in at his chest, or his neck, but none of it did any real damage. The shots that HE was able to get in, however...were downright brutal. My ribs ached, my stomach muscles cramped, my back, my arms, my face...it was getting hard to ignore the pain. It was taking over. I needed to get out of this deadlock and get some space before I tired out.

I spun inward to avoid one of Primo's kicks and jumped up to land both of my feet square in the center of his chest. The blow knocked him backwards, and it was the first time his feet had left the mat the entire time. When he got back up, he was pissed. "Fucking halflife TRASH!!!" Before I knew it, he was attacking me with more strength than I was prepared for. Trying to block one of his kicks was like banging my forearms against the edge of a brick! And I couldn't keep it up for much longer. The strikes happened so fast and so hard that I found myself nearly turtling up to protect myself from the assault. I caught punches to my back, my side, my collarbone...and just when I was reaching the end of my ability to defend myself, Primo set his foot in the middle of my chest, and flipped up and backwards with his other foot making a crash collision with my chin! My teeth rattled, and a splash of blood came rushing out of my mouth as my neck snapped back and the force of the blow arched my back on my way to the ground. It felt like I'd never stop falling, until at last, I hit the mat with a thud, and Primo landed gracefully on his feet.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, Primo jumped into the air, raising his feet high, and then brought them down on BOTH of my kneecaps! Breaking them instantly! I cried out in horror as my young body was overwhelmed with pain, and I rolled onto my stomach, crying uncontrollably loud into the mat.

"MATCH!" The man with the eye patch said. "Winner...PRIMO!" The cheers and applause of the others were drowned out by the sound of my own tears as I used every mental technique that I could think of to try to take away some of the pain of what was done to me. But there was no ignoring the damage. My legs were cracked and broken, I couldn't even move. It hurt soooo much that I was trembling beyond control, and I felt my body begin to go into shock. The trainer stood over me for a moment, and said, "Very disappointing for your first sparring match, Exile. I expected more from you, boy." Then he signaled two men with a stretcher to come and get me off of the floor to carry me to the infirmary. The last thing I remembered was Primo's smiling face as my vision blurred with tears of agony. He was so satisfied at having beaten me. The others hardly paid me any attention at all. They already had their hero.

I was slowly waking up from my dream the next evening, but as I began to regain consciousness, I sensed another presence in the room around me. I didn't open my eyes yet, and pretended to stay asleep. It was more an instinct than a willing action, but my training had kicked in automatically, and continued to follow the intruder's slow movements towards me. I could hear them, feel them, sense them. And when they got close enough to touch me, whoever it was stopped in his tracks. As though they were watching me. It was then that I decided to speak first before reaching out a hand to choke the life from the person next to me. If it turned out to be Dr. Colby again, I doubt he'd tolerate another misplaced outburst.

"I know you're in here." I said calmly. "Should I be worried?" I heard a light gasp, and the other presence covered his mouth. "I'll take that as a no."

"I'm sorry..." That voice. I remembered that voice. And while it was soothing to the ear, it caused chaos in my heart.

I sat up and opened both of my eyes. There he was. The boy I had seen with Katrina the night before. This time, he was close, and I was able to let my gaze linger on his perfection for a much more satisfying glance than I had been given before. His skin was like warm buttermilk, creamy and soft, with an almost invisibly natural blush. His lips were full, but small. kissable in a way that tugged at your soul just from looking at them. And his eyes, while curtained on both sides by blond hair that would shine like spun gold, even in the dark, were definitely my favorite feature. They were the purest shade of blue. As close to the real thing as vampire optrix could ever hope to produce. And even though the specs were of the highest quality, some of his glow would penetrate anyway. Then again, maybe it was just his total aura that made him shine so brightly. He was so young in his crossover, a newblood. I doubt his fangs had even dropped yet, and if they had, it would have only been for a week or two. I doubted he had even had his first hunt. The teen was almost as tall as I was, maybe an inch or two shorter, but his slim frame made his arms and legs appear longer than they were. And his shoulders were broad, but thin, joining in the middle at the nape of a smooth and slender neck. The boy defined an innocent sexuality that radiated from his every pore whether he wanted it to or not, and despite my loss of memory, my emotions knew exactly who he was, and what he meant to me. I know...because it made me weak inside just to be near him.

"What are you doing?" I asked. It was one of the few words that I'd be able to say while having him approach me like that.

"I was....watching you sleep." He said, gently biting his bottom lip. "I hope that doesn't sound creepy."

"No...I mean, what are you doing HERE?"

"I snuk in." He said, with a little crooked smile sliding up his left cheek. "I KNOW you're gonna be mad and all...but don't worry. She doesn't know that I'm here."

I paused, and remembered Dutch's warning. I had to peel my eyes away from him to concentrate clearly. "You shouldn't be here."

But the boy didn't leave. His facial expression wrinkled up for a moment, but he didn't let that scare him off. "I heard you got him. Kristoff, I mean. Did you kick his ass?" He asked excitedly. Even the most tame of profanities sounded sweet when breathed through his lips.

"We silenced the threat." I said, coldly. I was hoping he would leave. Something about being this close to him really bothered me. I was short of breath, and afraid to look him in the eye. "I'm not supposed to be talking to you."

"You're never supposed to be talking to me. But that's never stopped you before." He smiled. God...his smile was enchanting. It brightened up his features and created an almost irresistible burst of boyish charm. "C'mon, I wanna know! What was it like?"

I looked at him briefly out of the corner of my eye, wondering what kind of relationship it was that I had with this boy. And whether or not I was supposed to remember it well enough to engage him in any kind of detailed conversation. "It was...dark." I answered.

“It was dark? That’s all you’ve got for me?”

“It was dark. What else were you looking to hear?”

“I dunno. SOMETHING, maybe?” He gave me a layful pout, but then said, "Fine. You don't have to tell me. I'll just snatch the report when the others aren’t looking and read it for myself later." He grinned. Then he hopped up on the bed to sit next to me. "SO...what's up?"

His exuberance glowed from inside him, and having him shoulder to shoulder with me on the bed made me sooooo nervous. I stood up right away, and walked over to my closet to put on a shirt. "Nothing. What time is it?"

"It's almost eight o'clock. You overslept by a couple of hours." He stood up to walk across the room and lean against the wall next to me. He gazed for a moment, and then gave me a bashful grin.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing. Geez, you're always so paranoid." He told me. "I just...you know..." He stopped, and then thought about what he wanted to say next. "...I thought that maybe we could sit down again tonight and maybe...talk some more. You know? Like last week. You really helped me work some things out in my head. You know?"

"No. I'm afraid I don't remember." I said, pulling on a pair of pants and fitting them to my waist with a belt. The longer I could avoid his beautiful eyes and his pleasant conversation, the better. "Listen...I've got a lot of stuff to take care of tonight. So...."

He was silent for a second or two, and I watched his cute little brow wrinkle up again. But he let it go, and his smile returned as he ignored my subtle gesture for him to leave. "So...I heard Sneed saying that he's already got another target waiting for ya somewhere on the North side of town. That was pretty fast, huh? They must be working you awfully hard." He walked over to my desk, and picked up one of the pornographic videos that I had pulled off of the shelf the night before.

I walked over and quickly took it from him, putting it back on the shelf. "Sneed, who?"

"Sneed..." He said, a slight confused look on his face. When I didn't respond right away, he added, "Elias Sneed? Mistress Katrina's advisor? Helloooo?"

"Oh...right." I said, vaguely remembering the waifish little weasel at Katrina's right side from the night before.

"Anyway, he says it's gonna be an easy one. And then he might give you a break for a week or two. Won't that be great? Then we can talk more."

"You and I...we talk?"

"Of COURSE! Well...we do now." He giggled. "And I think it does me a lot of good, you know? To get it all out at last. I never told anybody before." But just as I was beginning to think that maybe we were just friends with something in common...he blushed slightly and smiled. "I like talking to you, Adam. You're the only person here who ever really listens to me. You're the only person who ever really cares. You told me that if I took a chance and just said what I was feeling instead of keeping it all to myself all the time and being too afraid to talk to anybody, then I could find some of the joy I was looking for. And you were right! Now...I feel like I can tell you anything."

The sentiment was beginning to invade me from every angle, and my emotions were rushing to the surface. I held it in as best as I could, and then moved further away from him. "Thanks. But...um...Orion..." I was sure that was his name. That's what she called him, right? "I think...I think it would be best if you just...."

But he made sure to interrupt me before I had a chance to kick him out of my quarters. "Hey! I heard that you hurt your head. I brought you some ice." He said, and walked over to where he was standing when I first woke up. He pulled out a bag that was mostly water, and it was dripping all over the floor. "Oops...well, it was ice when I brought it. What can I say? You sleep late."

"Thanks anyway." I said, feeling myself drawn to him with even greater intensity. I was shaking. Literally shaking. I couldn't stop.

"So, are you gonna tell me who it was you used to be in love with now, or is that still a secret?" He asked, and I gave him a funny look. "I like it. It suits you...being all lovey dovey over somebody. It's like this big contrast to everything else I've heard about you around here." That's when Orion touched my arm, and as he raised the sleeve a bit, I saw the markings clear as day. An eternity band had been fused into my arm, signifying....a vampire born out of love. How can that be? It HAS to be true. It doesn't work if the vampire isn't born out of love. I....I was in love...and I don't even remember it? "I wish I had one." Orion grinned.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. It startled me, and I nearly jumped out of my skin, feeling my heartbeat ramp up from 0 to 60 in a half second. Dutch's voice came from the other side of the door. "You awake in there, Exile?"

"Um...YEAH! I'm getting dressed now." I answered back, hoping the kid would be silent until he left.

"It ain't nothing that I haven't seen before. You mind if I step in for a minute?"

"Uhhh....hold on..." I said, and took the boy by the arm to quickly shove him in the closet and close the door. To me, it was a safety precaution. But to him, it seemed more like a game. He smiled the entire time. "Ok, come in."

Dutch opened the door, and walked into the room, adjusting the lights to a higher brightness. "You alright in here?"

"I'm fine."

"How's the old noggin?"

"Still a bit sore and dysfunctional, but I'll manage."

"Good thing to hear. Because Dixon is here on base tonight. He wants to talk to you. He knows about your condition, and he wants to help get you up to speed on certain things. Alright?" He said.

"Sure. Sure thing. I hope it helps."

"Alright." Dutch said. "Oh, and before you leave...get that damn kid out of the closet and send him back to Katrina where he belongs before she starts sending her kronies out to search for him." He saw the look on my face, and smirked. "I may not be as good as you are with my intuition, Exile...but I'm no idiot either." Then on his way out, he called back to say, "Evening, Orion."

"Hey, Dutch." Came a muffled voice from behind the closet door. When I opened it up, he stuck out his tongue just as Dutch was closing it behind him. "How does he always know?"

"He's paid to know. We all are." I answered. "You should go."

"Can I come back later?"

"No."

This time, the flash of emotion on his face was almost a hurt expression. "I didn't mean to annoy you or anything."

"You're not annoying me."

"If I'm annoying, you can tell me. Just say it, and I'll leave you alone."

"Ok...NOW you're being annoying." I said. It just came out of nowhere, like some kind of mental defense against his glorious smile. "I don't need this right now, ok? Can you just get out of here and leave me the hell alone? Please?" It might have sounded a bit mean, but keeping him at arm's length was the only comfort I could find around him. It was the only emotion that didn't totally confuse me.

The hurt in his heart increased, and I saw his bottom lip poke out ever so slightly, as the sadness in his eyes felt as though it were choking the life out of me. "Why are you always so mean to me?" He said softly.

"I...I have to go."

"You weren't like this the other night." He whined. "You actually talked to me. You said you cared."

"I can't remember. I shouldn't have."

"Well *I* remember, and you DID!" He said, his voice shaking slightly. "I know you're supposed to be this great big badass out in the field...but sometimes.....sometimes you're really nice to me. And sweet. And I just...." It looked like he was fighting back tears, and I couldn't bear to look at him anymore. "...I just don't understand how someone so cool can just vanish into thin air every couple of days, just to come back and treat me like shit again."

Dammit!!! I don't remember ANY of this! What did I say to this boy, anyway? Who was I? And why is my heart beating so fast? I shouldn't be doing this. He shouldn't be here. This is forbidden. He's hands off. COMPLETELY hands off! I've got to get out of here. "You've got to leave. You are putting me in danger by just being here. Do you understand that?"

"I LIKE being here with you!"

"Katrina won't allow it...."

"I don't CARE about her!" He shouted, and I was sure that someone outside could have heard him if they were listening. Making me even more nervous. "I tried to like her, and make myself...want her....but..." He fidgeted, rocking on his heels, his hands making frustrated gestures as he tried to find the words to say what he felt had to be said. "...All I can think about....is you. And how awesome it felt when you told me you cared about me."

I didn't know what to say, or where to go with my thoughts so screwed up. And with this boy being so close under Katrina's wing, I couldn't necessarily tell him that I had lost my memory. So...I did the only thing that I could do. "I'm sorry, kid. I think you've got me mixed up with somebody else." I lowered my eyes when I said it, and my voice mumbled the words under my breath. But he knew that I was hiding. He could tell. I think that knowledge made it worse, and he stared at me in silence, his eyes watery with tears.

"You're such a liar. And you KNOW you're lying!" When the first few tears began to fall, he violently swung the door open to storm out of my quarters. "Fuck you,Exile!" And he slammed it shut. Did it hurt? God, yes, it hurt! But I didn't have a choice. According to Dutch's warning, my LIFE could be on the line here. Maybe...maybe when I get my memory back, I'll be able to back up whatever it is I told him afew nights ago or whatever. But for now, the most important thing for me to focus on is keeping myself from getting into any trouble here. Not until I know what I'm doing. Not until I know who I can trust. But...all that aside....yeah, it hurt.

It hurt both of us...