“Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it.– Sai Baba
Life is a challenge – meet it.
Life is a dream – realize it.
Life is a sacrifice – offer it.
Life is love – enjoy it.”
University of Britchester On-Campus House Cameron / Vatore / Hanson
Yawning, still drowsy from having hibernated briefly himself next to Hailey as she slept, Chase opened the door to the shared bathroom directly across the hall from their bedroom, when he was met by a young woman exiting.
“Bye babe, I better get home, call me, k?” she slurred, clearly still hungover from the night before, as she kissed Chase.
Taken aback he pushed her off, when she was also pulled away from him, roughly, from the other side.
“Oops … you’re not .. ahem … what was your name again?” she giggled, looking between Chase and Colton.
“Name’s Santa Claus if you couldn’t tell by my big sack, chica. Here, lemme help you leave, so I know you’re actually gone. Sorry about that man. Guess I literally fucked the brains out of this one. If I were you, I’d wash my face real good, cos you don’t know where her lips have been all night, but I do.”
Chase frowned, vicariously wiping his face with his hands while Colton dragged the girl with him down the hall direction of the front door. Chase entered the bathroom, instantly turned on the hot water of the shower, then scrubbed his face with vast amounts of soap and Hailey’s loofa sponge, followed by brushing his teeth so hard, he was about to push them out of his mouth.
When he joined his best friend in the kitchen a little later, the smell of fresh, strong coffee lingering in the air like a warm welcome, Chase told Colton
“Look, I get it, you are having fun and all, but seriously? I get how that started out for ya, hurt pride, break up, enjoying the chase and the nookie, but by now it’s getting boring. Let alone that it does nothing for your reputation, man, remember we have a band, that is on the verge to become something really big. You cannot precede the fame with that behavior, they will make up enough stories for you without some of them being true. Plus, the entertainment industry is not very forgiving to the misbehavior of nobodies like we still kinda are. That comes once we’re established, not before. You’re wearing my nerves out with that crap you have been pulling and I really don’t appreciate your last night’s entertainment ambushing me by sucking my face when I just want to go take a leak. Snap out of whatever this is you are doing. What’s the idea here anyway? Screw every girl on campus?”
“Nah, only the pretty ones. I’ll make sure the next ones don’t end up tickling your tonsils with their tongues again.”
“Excuse me?” Hailey said, eyebrows arched, as she joined them.
“It’s nothing. His chick from last night thought I was him, and kissed me before I could react. No worries, I scrubbed myself off. Nasty.” Chase said as he kissed Hailey good morning.
“Okay, Colton, I got an issue with that. You do you, but make sure to keep whomever you do off my man. If I ever catch one of your hussies with her hands on my Chase, it won’t be pretty! Ever considered dating girls with a brain and some class for a change?” Hailey laid into Colton.
“They all have brains, they’re enrolled at college, and classy chicks are too complicated. I need loose ones, too drunk to realize what an asshole I am, and when they sober up, they do, meaning they won’t come find me. Last I want is some clingy bitch thinking us screwing means more than it did when it didn’t.” Colton smirked.
“Clingy bitch? You mean, a woman interested in a relationship rather than being someone’s living, breathing temporary mattress pad? So, by that logic, would I be a clingy bitch?” Hailey’s tone was challenging and testy, a fact even Colton realized, so he gave Hailey a peck on the cheek and said
“Nope. You are my bestie’s girl and therefore awesome and perfect by default.”
With those words he winked at her, then walked off down the hallway.
“I’d wash my face, if I were you. I don’t want to know where those lips have been all night, nor do I really want to imagine, but he and his latest conquest never stopped since they got started last night.” Chase grumbled.
“EEEEEW! Gross!” Hailey exclaimed and ran off to the bathroom.
“Yeah, I agree. I don’t want my girl with that in her face either. I’ll get her some coffee to gargle the bad aftertaste that thought will have left her with out of her mouth, and me a refill, wishing I had some of that strong bourbon dad likes. If Colton doesn’t change his ways soon, I’m gonna need it. I’ll drink till nothing’s left, then hit Colton over the head with the empty bottle. Should fix both of us.” Chase chuckled at his sarcasm.
This was just one of many incidents like it, never too terrible, but also far from scenic.
Until one day, well into the friends’ third semester, a Friday after class, when Nadia had come by to pay Chase back some smaller installment of the money he had loaned her, but she wasn’t alone. Her girlfriend was with her, they were obviously very much in love and Colton couldn’t take it. He took off without a word and remained gone all night and most of Saturday. Unsure what to do about that, but aware that he hated being checked up on too much, Chase and Hailey walked around campus, trying to find him, asking if anyone had seen him. When he was still not home Sunday morning, they intensified their efforts and finally found him, looking terrible and very weak, barely conscious behind some building where he had collapsed an undetermined amount of time prior. Later they would find that he had consumed contaminated blood, possibly that of a junkie or an alcoholic, and along with him drinking too much liquor, partying for days straight without resting, as well as prolonged exposure to daylight, it had drained him severely.
They got him home, placed him on his bed, both of them deeply concerned.
“He’s not gonna die, right Chase? He can’t, right? I mean, what are we gonna do? I know you guys can’t go to hospitals, but … I don’t know how to help him now. He looks bad.” Hailey said softly, worry in her voice, as she gently stroked Colton’s hair and cheek
“We can absolutely die, just not of old age and diseases like humans, but there are many ways my kind can expire, though he won’t, I won’t let that happen. He needs blood. Not the artificial shit. The real deal. I am gonna have to port home and get some from my parents, but they keep it under lock for emergencies, and there will be questions. I am not sure I can keep him out of trouble now. Once Riordan and Layla hear about this, they’re gonna pull the plug and want him back home. And you know him these days. That won’t be pretty. Riordan is second in command to my grandpa, and he won’t and can’t tolerate this behavior from his son. He won’t have a choice. And it will be serious drama and I can’t do anything about it. Shit! Shit, shit SHIT!”
“I can think of another way … one to avoid anybody else knowing but us three.” Hailey said softly.
It took Chase a moment to realize what she meant, but then his head snapped around to her.
“No! No way! I can’t let you do this. I WON’T let you do this. I am still scared out of my mind whenever you let me feed on you, so scared to hurt you, no matter what you say … but … him. Especially how uncontrolled he is these days. No.”
“Chase, it’s our only option. And he’s messed up enough, no need to have him start fighting with his family now too. You know he is not in a place where he would get his dad’s concerns, right? I know Colton is a douche sometimes, but he would never hurt me. That I am certain of.” Hailey’s beautiful blue eyes were pleading with Chase’s light green ones.
“Well, maybe not on purpose, but what if he loses control. When a vampire gets to this stage, they are not always in full control of themselves. I wouldn’t dare feed on you if that were me.”
“But I trust you, Chasey. Cos you love me, and I love you. And I also somehow love that dumbass there, and know he cares about me a lot too. His parents and lil sister are so sweet, I don’t want them to have drama like that. And you’ll be here. Should he lose control, you can stop it. He’s already weakened and you said yourself that you are a level ahead of him in that whatever meter how you vamps measure your skills and ranks.”
“All right, fine then, let me get him in position. But under protest, I want to make that clear.”
“Doesn’t he have to be awake for this?”
“He will be, but doesn’t have to be, feeding is a subconscious reflex for us, especially if we are in a state like this. Hold a wrist up to his face and he’d go for it. But I am gonna make sure his ass is awake so I can hammer into his brain to be gentle. Hey, Cole! Colton. Hey buddy, wake up. Nap time’s over for now.”
Chase slapped Colton’s face gently until he moaned, groaned, hissed and his eyes fluttered open, only to close again, his face a grimace of discomfort and pain.
“Bright …” he lamented, his voice not his own, cracking and faint.
“Colton, I need you to listen to me, brother, and listen really carefully. You need to feed. Patches is gonna let you feed off her, so I need you to restrain yourself. Be the most gentle you can be, or I will punch your fangs into the back of your head. Copy that?”
Colton stirred, his eyes flew open and remained that way, as they focused on Hailey, who was still sitting on the bed next to him, gently petting his hair, his gaze slightly glazed over like that of an intoxicated person.
“What?” he mumbled, sounding a mix between drunk and terminally ill.
“Can you handle that? I need you to be controlled, or I am gonna fling you across this room and I don’t even care, got it?” Chase continued his threat-laced instructions.
“You would do that? For me?” Colton ignored Chase, his eyes firmly on Hailey, as she gently continued to stroke his face and hair, breaking a tentative smile.
“Of course. We’re friends, you need help and I wanna help, cos I care about you, a lot. But as soon as you are better, you will get a tongue-lashing from me that you’ll need a diaper change! What were you thinking?! You scared us half to death!” Hailey told him, generating a weak smirk from Colton.
Seconds later he was positioned to drink, Hailey had taken off her long-sleeved shirt, donning only the tank beneath and was positioned to allow him easy access to her wrist and Chase was tense as a bow.
He winced when Hailey winced at the initial pain of the bite, then Chase was left fighting his mostly suppressed jealousy at what usually felt like an almost intimate moment between him and Hailey, now he watched his best friend share it with her. Part of him wanted to rip his face away from her, tasting her sweet, delicious life substance himself, but seeing how incredibly gentle he was with Hailey, also gave Chase hope that whatever was going on with Colton to be so defiant and rakish, was only temporary after all and the kind, caring guy he knew was still somewhere in there.
Once he finished feeding, he fell backwards on the bed with a moan, that again did nothing for Chase’s jealous pangs, as it sounded like someone after sex.
“Come on Patches, let’s get you cleaned up and let him rest. You’re okay, right, baby?” Chase sounded concerned.
“I am fine. He was very gentle. Just like you.” Hailey smiled, kissing his cheek.
What was intended to keep Chase from worrying, as vampire bites always hurt and left a severe burning sensation for hours, along with dizziness or even nausea from the blood loss, didn’t have the effect she had hoped. Her words stung, Chase tried to ignore it, while thinking to himself that Colton was nothing like him. Whenever they shared a moment like this is was unique and special, Colton’s moment was only out of necessity, utilitarian, an unavoidable exception, a necessary evil. A once in a lifetime thing.
“Thank you.” Colton mumbled from the bed, sounding drowsy, but his voice sounded more like his own already.
“Get better.” Hailey told him, while Chase said nothing as he ushered his fiancée out of the room, into their own, to shower her with gentle caress, while she rested, her head on Chase’s chest as he listened to her soft breathing. She was weakened from Colton’s feeding, once the jealousy dissipated and the realization set in of the generous sacrifice of what Hailey had done for his best friend for no other reason but to help them as only a mortal could help two vampires, it left Chase with mad respect and even more love than before, something he barely had thought possible.
The next morning Colton looked the way he used to, for the first time in months he was up on time for class without Chase having to drag him out of bed with near brute force, he was even shaved, showered and dressed as he joined Chase in the kitchen for coffee. Hailey had already left for her early shift at the café.
“Thank you so much again. And thanks for keeping this low profile, Chase. Really decent of you. I owe you and Hailz big.” he said, serious and almost a little sheepish. Very unlike him.
“You look better.” Chase told him.
He was relieved his best friend was better, but still upset with him for making the emergency feeding necessary in the first place. His behavior really could have gone sideways in a big way, had Chase and Hailey not looked all over for him or found him too late, what he had told Hailey could have become a sad reality.
Vampires could absolutely die, there were plenty of ways. A lot of newly turned ones never made it to their first anniversary of being turned, which is why their master, the vampire who turned them, was by vampire law required to be their guardian and mentor until they were fully self-sufficient, but alas, that did not always happen. More than once had abandoned recent turns ended up on the Regents’ of any given vampire region’s doorstep to deal with, like even Colton’s mother once had with Caleb Vatore. But sometimes even seasoned vampires ended up in some sort of bad situation they couldn’t rescue themselves from and perished, the vampire version of a lethal accident maybe. And some vampires just wanted to end it. Taking into account that vampires didn’t leave behind a body after death like mortals, only a pile of ashes, and they didn’t possess a DNA footprint the way mortals did, it made many a vampires’ deaths guesswork at best, as had been the case with Heath’s father. Unless someone saw it happening, the death of any vampire was only ever ‘circumstantially presumed dead’. And then there were still some who wanted vampires dead, and who hunted them. Not many of those left, but they were still out there, luckily none in this region, which is one of the many reasons Caleb was so adamant on keeping a low profile. Nobody hunts what they think doesn’t exist.
“I feel MUCH better. Thanks again for allowing this. I realize it couldn’t have been easy for you to let her do it.” Colton said, still sounding a little strange, weaker than before, and humbled.
“It wasn’t. I am thrilled it worked, I am ecstatic that you are better, but just so we’re clear, this was a one off. Won’t happen again. Hailey is mine, and mine alone. I don’t like sharing her, with no one, not even you. Last night was an emergency, she was kind enough to offer, cos I would have never asked her to do this, but I didn’t see any other option to save your ass without getting some parents involved and we both know there’s no way you’d have gotten away unscathed from that. Anyway, disaster was averted, realize there won’t be repeats. Make this your come to Jesus moment.”
“Message received and I will. I am sorry for putting you and her through this, I realize what all this must have looked like to you and want you to know that I never meant to off myself, if that crossed your mind, just a series of bad judgments. I was scared laying there and seriously thought you and Hailz were angels or something when you suddenly appeared in front of me and you picked me up. I think I still thought that in my bedroom, maybe you both ARE my real life guardian angels. I do have to say though, she tastes as beautiful as she looks and she impressed me immensely by stepping up the way she did, when she didn’t have to. She’s the real deal. I get now why you put a ring on that already. Knowing all that now, I probably would have as well. You are a lucky man, dude.” Colton said, his voice sincere and quiet.
“You’re not telling me anything new here, Cole. You and I will never know for sure how being bitten by our kind really feels to a mortal, but I can tell you it hurts and has lasting effects. I don’t like my girl hurting, I like drinking from her, I know she is delicious, but I only ever allow myself a few tiny sips and only very rarely, as I don’t want her to pay for my indulgence. She was very weakened last night and I can tell she was still in discomfort this morning, no matter what she says. Make her sacrifice count. And always remember, Hailey and her blood are mine and mine alone. Clean up your act, and don’t make me regret saving your ass.” Chase told his friend.
“Chill out, Chase. It was meant as a compliment.”
“You do not need to be complimenting MY girl. I KNOW she is amazing. Quit wasting everyone’s time and focus your effort on finding your own Hailey. Or hope she finds you, like mine did me. Or at least date like a normal person, quit screwing around and being a douche. Doesn’t suit you, especially knowing you all your life and knowing your parents. You grew up every bit as pampered and loved as I have, so you have no excuse for that behavior. You have so many people in your life who care, including my Hailey, one measly break-up is a lame excuse that has already run it’s course. Take the hint to grab both sides of your head and pull really hard till you hear a ‘plop'”
“It’s too early for Blainisms. Or Chasisms. But I get it, pull head out of ass. Working on it.”
“You better …”