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I opened the door a bit too hard and it rattled as it banged against the wall. Mike looked up from where he was in the kitchen, wearing an apron and stirring something that smelled tasty in a pot on the stove.

“You good?” he asked. “You look pale.” He frowned at me.

“Yeah,” I sighed dismissively. “It’s just a bit chilly out there, so I wanted to get home.”

I did my best to casually walk to my room as he looked back down at whatever he was cooking, which was releasing quite a lot of steam and required his attention.

My room was silent when I first entered and I looked around, throwing my bag onto the bed.

“Scarlet?” I whispered.

A quiet creak sounded immediately after as the closet door opened. It reminded me of the first time I’d seen her as that pink eye shine flashed a moment before her light brown eye came fully into the light. She gave me a shy smile and stepped out of the closet.

“I missed you,” I whispered and held out my arms for a hug.

She huddled into my arms and we hugged. She was cold as always, but I didn’t mind. More noticeably she smelled strongly of soil and the woods. For once, after coming back she didn’t reek of blood and organ meat.

When we finally stopped our long embrace, I looked down into her eyes, and took her face in my hands.

“I’m sorry if my brother and I scared you,” I told her. “Everything's gonna be okay.”

Without meaning to, I felt the tears welling up again. She buried her face against my chest.

“I don’t want to leave you,” she said. “But there isn’t much choice.”

“I know. That isn’t your fault.” My hands clamped against her skin until she finally gave me a gentle push, leading me to the bed where we sat side by side, holding hands. She buried her face against my shoulder. There were no tears from her, but she was unnaturally still and quiet as she stayed there. I gently stroked some of her hair, pulling a couple stray tangles free and kissed her on the forehead.

“I’m sorry I ran off,” she breathed. “If I’d known our time was limited…”

I stroked her hair again, trying to comfort her. “It’s okay,” I said. “We’re together now and we’ll face this together.”

She was quiet again, rubbing her face on my jacket sleeve.

“Maybe we’ll be able to find a solution but in the meantime… Let’s spend some time together.”

I shifted to settle on the bed further back and patted the bed next to me. She crawled and then curled up next to me, her head on my lap and I took to resting my head on top of her hair.

“I love you so much,” she whispered. “I don’t want to leave.”

“I know. I love you, too.” Why did she have to be a vampire? A creature that needed to kill to survive. Almost everything else would’ve been able to go under the radar with some precautions, but missing people wasn’t going to go unnoticed.

She needed more blood than what I could give her. But… maybe I could supplement her diet at least, so she could limit her hunts.

I tugged at my hair again, pulling the length straight before letting it fall limply. Her brother murdered people to provide her with food. Were those at least bad people? Guiltily, I thought of the glaring hole that had been left in my own family. Even bad people had families, and who was to say who was really a bad person anyways? The security guard was mean—did that mean he deserved to die?  On the other hand, looking down at Scarlet adorably nestled against me, I just couldn't make myself think some random stranger's life was more important than hers. As long as I stayed removed from the situation, it felt more like a nature documentary—sure, it's sad when the wolf eats the bunny, but the world has plenty of bunnies, and the wolf still has to eat something.

She shifted in my arms, eyes closed. Mike called from the kitchen that dinner was gonna be ready in just a couple minutes and she blinked, sleepily.

“I’ll be back in a little while, okay?” I whispered. I didn’t want to leave her, but I also didn’t want Mike to suspect anything was strange about my room.

I went out to dinner, avoiding Mike’s curious, probing looks as he tried to work out what had happened today, but I felt a lot better after spending some time with Scarlet and while I was sure there was still sadness on my face, it wasn’t new. So he ended up leaving me be, slopping some chicken and rice on my plate before serving himself and setting a portion aside for Mom whenever she’d be awake.

We then ate in silence. My appetite was coming back so I ate some food, but it wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. I found my thoughts wandering, thinking about what it would be like if I had to worry about packs of chickens hunting me down for a lifetime of eating their kind. When we were done I cleared my plate, washed it, dried it, and even put it away before silently wandering off to my room.

“Love you, sis,” Mike called after me.

I gave him a wave and shut my door, locking it behind me.

Scarlet wasn’t on the bed anymore, instead having taken her usual spot underneath.

“Can we…. Cuddle?” I asked.

Her eyes blinked open and she pulled herself out from the dark crevice, brushing any dust off before getting on the bed and taking up the same position as before.

I shook my head. “N-no, I want…” I laid on the bed, spreading myself along the full length as she squished herself out of my way. I held my arm out , showing her the empty space next to me. Her eyes lit up with realization and she slid right into the spot, pressing against my warmth as I fought with the blanket to cover up both of us. She was cool to the touch, but over time she absorbed my body heat and was warm enough not to send the chill into me.

I held her close, worrying about my meds but didn’t have the energy to get up and take them.

And then, I was asleep, Scarlet comfortably nestled against my body.

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