Part 1: For the Night >> Chapter 6

After starting the fire in the fireplace, Rafe settled into his chair and looked at the Christmas tree.

He had to admit that it really was beautiful.

In past years, when he had bothered to think about it at all, he had thought that the strange custom was gaudy and pointless.

But sitting here, he couldn't help but appreciate the joy that it had brought to Dodger... and to him too.

Since the moment that they had dragged the tree into the house and stood it in it's stand, Dodger had been like a young child, delighting in the challenge of making the plain pine tree into something special that they could share.

Everything that adorned the tree was made by them. Every folded paper shape, carefully and lovingly covered with fancy patterns of glue that had been doused in glitter. Every shiny foil star, every bow that had been lovingly tied to the branches.

Popcorn and cranberries had been strung and draped across branches to make happy little trails of contrasting color behind the myriad of whimsical shapes of handmade ornaments.

They had worked together, talking and laughing as they made the decorations for their tree. For the first time, Rafe appreciated why Christmas was considered such a special time.

He was almost disappointed when, the previous night, Dodger had announced that the tree was finished.

Rafe wanted to protest, to plead his case that they could still make more decorations. But he knew that yesterday was Christmas Eve and now was the time for them to enjoy the fruits of their labor. And he WAS enjoying it.

A sound drew Rafe's attention and he smiled to see Dodger happily scurrying down the stairs, wearing his pajamas.

The smile on his face and the disheveled look of his hair gave evidence to the fact that Dodger had tumbled out of bed and came directly downstairs to enjoy Christmas morning with him.

"Merry Christmas." Dodger said happily as he walked to join Rafe by the fire.

"Merry Christmas, Dodger." Rafe responded with a warm smile.

"It's really beautiful, isn't it?" Dodger asked as he settled into his chair.

"Yes. I can't even imagine a more perfect Christmas tree." Rafe said gently.

"The store bought lights and decorations might have been easier, but they wouldn't mean as much." Dodger said as he looked at the tree with admiration.

"Yes." Rafe whispered as he enjoyed the look of joy in Dodger's eyes.

"What's in the box?" Dodger asked when he noticed a package wrapped in plain brown shipping paper, sitting beside, almost under, the tree.

"Why don't you open it and find out?" Rafe asked with a smile.

"You weren't supposed to buy presents! Rafe, I didn't get you anything!" Dodger said anxiously.

"Relax Dodger. This isn't exactly a present, it was delivered to my office day before yesterday and I just thought that this would be the right time to give it to you."

"And how is that NOT a present?" Dodger asked carefully.

"Just open it." Rafe said with a grin.

Dodger got out of the chair, then crawled across the floor to the tree and carefully started to unwrap the box.

Rafe watched closely for Dodger's reaction.

"Books?" Dodger asked curiously.

"Yes." Rafe said gently.

"But what..." Dodger trailed off as he took one book after another out of the box and looked at them. "These look like school books."

"That's right." Rafe said with a smile.

Dodger looked at Rafe with surprise as he realized what this might mean. "Did you find a way for me to go back to school?"

"Yes and no." Rafe said with a smile. "Come over here and sit down and I'll explain what I found."

Dodger quickly got up off the floor, then took his usual seat in his wing backed chair in front of the fire.

"I realize that it would have been difficult for you to go back to school and start seventh grade with a group of children much younger than yourself." Rafe said in prelude, "So I inquired about alternatives and found that there is a test that you can take, it's called the High School Equivalency Exam. If you can pass that test, you will be awarded the equivalent of a high school diploma."

Dodger thought for a moment, then looked at the box by the tree.

"If you're willing, I was planning to hire a tutor, a retired school teacher, to come here on weekdays and help you prepare for that exam." Rafe said carefully.

"So while you're working, I'll be studying?" Dodger asked thoughtfully.

"Yes. If that's what you want to do." Rafe said expectantly, waiting for Dodger's full reaction.

"Yes! Of course I want to!" Dodger said with unrestrained glee.

Rafe smiled at the reaction, glad that he had decided to wait to tell Dodger about it on this special day.

"Then after Christmas, I'll tell Mr. Verner that he has a willing student who needs his services." Rafe said happily.

Dodger seemed to be so filled with energy that he might just bounce out of his chair, but then he suddenly became still as a look of regret crossed his face.

"What's wrong?" Rafe asked with concern.

"This is so wonderful..." Dodger said quietly, "But I couldn't get you anything."

"You gave me a gift that money couldn't buy." Rafe said seriously.

At Dodger's worried gaze, Rafe continued, "You gave me Christmas."

"But it doesn't seem like enough." Dodger said quietly.

"Dodger, without you, I wouldn't have had a Christmas this year." Rafe said firmly. "Finding the tree, making the ornaments, all of it never would have happened without you. And this has been very special for me. Please trust me when I tell you that this is more of a gift than I ever expected... ever imagined."

Dodger thought about the words, then quietly said, "I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I didn't know if you would."

"I didn't know if I would either. But spending this time with you, decorating our tree... it's been magical." Rafe said as he looked into Dodger's eyes.

"For me too." Dodger said with a smile.

* * * * *

New years day came and went. Winter seemed like it wanted to keep it's icy grasp firmly on them, but finally it reluctantly gave way to spring.

Rafe had gone back to his normal work schedule, helping patients and other doctors to get through the cold and flu season as smoothly as possible.

Dodger spent every day studying with Mr. Verner, preparing for the biggest test of his life.

At first, Dodger worried that he might not be smart enough to do all that was being asked of him, but both Rafe and Mr. Verner had encouraged him and proclaimed their faith in his intelligence and dedication to his task.

Dodger bolted up out of his chair at the kitchen table when he heard the garage door opening.

Before Rafe could even bring his car to a complete stop in the garage, Dodger was there, anxiously waiting for him.

"You seemed to be excited about something." Rafe said casually as he got out of the car.

"I took my test today!" Dodger said quickly.

"Oh? That was today?" Rafe asked as he walked past Dodger into the laundry room.

"Yes. I've been talking about it for a week. How could you forget?" Dodger asked in a voice that ended with a squeak.

Rafe chuckled, then said, "I didn't forget. How do you think you did?"

"I don't know." Dodger said quickly. "I mean, I think I did okay, but there was just so much of it... I could have screwed something up."

"Well, it's done now, so there's no use in worrying about it." Rafe said soothingly, then asked, "When will you know how you did?"

"They said that I could call for the results on Monday." Dodger said anxiously and seemed to be one step away from bursting out in tears of frustration.

Rafe nodded, then asked, "Did you make dinner?"

"No. I thought you were saying something about us going to the club tonight." Dodger said seriously, temporarily derailed from his anxiety.

"Yes. It's been a while since we've gone out, and I thought it would be nice to spend the evening relaxing in the company of friends." Rafe said quietly.

Dodger nodded, then said, "Maybe that's what I need. I'm kind of a basket case right now."

Rafe chuckled at the statement, then said, "Kind of?"

Dodger smiled and nodded.

"Let's go get ready and I'll meet you back here in a few minutes." Rafe said with a smile.

"Yeah. I've got everything laid out and ready to go." Dodger said quickly, then raced out of the room.

Rafe smiled as he walked more slowly to go and prepare for their evening.

* * * * *

Dodger was actually able to settle down and relax through dinner.

Both he and Rafe had ordered the chef's special, roast goose with walnut stuffing. And both men agreed that it was one of the chef's best meals to date.

As they both sat and relaxed, just enjoying the casual and free atmosphere, the dining room lights started to dim and the light on the stage became brighter.

"Is there a show tonight?" Dodger asked curiously.

"Not that I've heard of." Rafe said as he directed his attention toward the man walking onto the stage.

"Good evening everyone." The man said seriously. "Tonight we're here to celebrate a very special occasion."

Dodger looked at Rafe curiously to receive a shrug in response.

"I'm going to need one of you to help me... you there." The man said as he looked at the audience, then asked, "Dodger, is it? Could you come up here and help me?"

After a moment of hesitation, Dodger reluctantly stood then walked to the stage.

"This will just take a minute. Would you put this on?" the man asked hopefully as he handed Dodger a long silky black robe.

"Um, sure." Dodger said uncertainly, then quickly slipped the robe on.

"You don't have to do anything but stand there." The man whispered, then walked behind Dodger and said, "Hold still."

Dodger felt a hat being placed on his head, then something made him jump as it swung close to his face.

It took a moment for him to focus on it and realize that what he was looking at was a tassel, hanging inches from his cheek.

"Now, I would like to present Mr. Aaron Kershaw, the superintendent of schools." the announcer said happily, then took a step back.

Dodger turned slowly to see the man in a gray business suit approaching.

"It is with great pride that I stand before you tonight to honor this young man who, against all odds, chose to pursue his dream of receiving an education." Mr. Kershaw said in a booming voice.

"So, without further adieu, I present this diploma to Desmond Matthew Tribodeaux, certifying that he has met all the conditions and qualifications required to receive his high school equivalency." Mr. Kershaw said proudly, then offered the rolled piece of paper to Dodger.

Slowly, Dodger took the offered paper, then held still as Mr. Kershaw moved the tassel on his hat to the other side.

Applause filled Dodger's ears as the significance of what was happening started to sink in.

Dodger looked out at the people of the club, and felt that they expected him to say something.

"The day I met Rafe, I said that I was an ignorant hoopie who didn't have the sense to stay where he belonged. Since then, I've discovered a few things. I'm a hoopie, that's a hill person for those of you not familiar with the term. I was born a hoopie and that's what I'll always be. But as far as having the sense to stay where I belonged... that wasn't true. I had the good luck to find where I belonged. That's here, with all of you."

"And as far as being ignorant... well, maybe I was. But the good thing about ignorance is that it can be fixed." Dodger finished happily as he held up his diploma.

A round of applause spread through the room, then Dodger stood back, letting the announcer take over.

"Thank you for your time. Enjoy the rest of your evening." The announcer said, then the lights on stage dimmed as the house lights in the dining room went up again.

"I hope you realize that you have some very good friends who care about you to arrange all of this." Mr. Kershaw said quietly.

"Yes. I really do, and I'm thankful for them." Dodger said with a smile.

"Good. That's important." Mr. Kershaw said, then stepped away as two identical men approached.

"I don't think we've spoken before..." One of the men began.

"...but we've seen you around." The other finished. "I'm Blake, he's Ernie."

"Yes. I've seen you, too." Dodger said quietly, then quickly added, "I'm Dodger."

"When we got invited, Manna told us about how things used to be for you." Ernie said frankly.

"How did she know?" Dodger asked curiously.

"Rafe told her." Blake said simply.

"Rafe knows about us and I think he thought that we'd understand better than most, about what you went through." Ernie said slowly.

"Our mom always called us stupid." Blake said quietly.

"She used to say that between us, we still only had half a brain." Ernie said in a pained voice.

"When we accomplished anything, she would ignore or belittle it." Blake said darkly.

"She'd say that even a broken clock is right twice a day." Ernie said sadly.

"But if we screwed up, she'd be there to hold it up for all to see as evidence that we were failures." Blake said bitterly.

"We were a real mess when Manna found us." Ernie said distantly.

"But somehow she was able to get past the insecurities and defenses that we had built up." Blake said in wonder.

"She loved us." Ernie said with a small smile.

"That's right. Before anything else, she loved us." Blake said firmly.

"Since then, she's always encouraged us. She believes in us." Ernie said as his smile got bigger.

"She was there to urge us forward and celebrate our achievements." Blake said with a grin at his brother.

"And she was also there to share in our failures." Ernie said seriously.

Dodger nodded that he understood what they were saying.

"So, we know how it is when you grow up with a bad self image." Blake said softly.

"And if you ever need to talk to someone about things like that. We'll be here for you." Ernie said, matching his twin's gentle tone.

"Thank you." Dodger said with a sincere smile, then thought to add, "And if you ever want to, you can talk to me too."

Both men broke into identical smiles at the offer.

Dodger then noticed that Ernie's smile curved up a little more on the right, and Blake's more on the left. Their smiles were identical, but mirrored.

"You two can't hog the guest of honor all night." A womans voice said from behind the twins.

"Dodger, this is Manna." Ernie said as he draped an arm around her.

"She made us the man we are today." Blake said with a teasing grin.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Manna." Dodger said sincerely.

"For me, too." Manna said happily as she held a husband in each arm.

"Do you mind if I steal Dodger away from you?" Rafe asked as he approached Dodger's side.

"You'd better do it quick." Manna said playfully, "I've just about worn these two out."

Ernie and Blake got matching looks of surprise, then moved as one to cuddle and snuggle with Manna, reducing her to giggles.

* * * * *

"I hope you're not upset that I arranged this." Rafe said as he led Dodger back to their table.

"No Rafe, it was wonderful." Dodger said warmly.

"Good." Rafe said with relief. "I knew that since you weren't going through a regular high school program, that you wouldn't get to have a graduation ceremony, so I wanted to provide you the next best thing."

"Rafe, it was perfect. Thank you." Dodger said happily.

"Rene took some pictures while you were on stage." Rafe said casually. "In case you wanted to send one to your family."

"I don't think it will matter to them." Dodger said honestly.

"This isn't about them. It's about you letting them be part of your life." Rafe said simply.

Dodger smiled, then said, "You're right, Rafe. It felt good to send them that Christmas card, so I know it's the right thing to do."

* * * * *

Through the course of the evening, nearly everyone in the club came to their table to offer Dodger their congratulations. Mr. Verner, Leila, Lily and Portia, and even George was there.

Dodger had never known such contentment, such love. Having a friend like Rafe was more than he ever dreamed possible, but having these people, their community, fulfilled a need within him that he never knew he had.

As they got into the car to begin the drive back to the house, Rafe pulled an envelope from his pocket and handed it to Dodger.

"What's this?" Dodger asked curiously.

"A graduation present." Rafe said gently as he started the car.

Dodger opened the envelope and looked at the first piece of paper carefully.

After a moment, he looked up at Rafe with confusion and asked, "You're giving me a business machine?"

"No, I'm giving you stock in a company that makes them." Rafe said gently. "Now that you're a high school graduate, I thought that you should have� something that you can call your own. Just keep these stocks, and if you ever need them, they might be worth something."

"Thanks Rafe." Dodger whispered as his eyes filled with tears.

"Is something wrong?" Rafe asked cautiously.

"No. It's just... you've done it again." Dodger said with a chuckle through his tears.

"What did I do?" Rafe asked slowly as he turned at an intersection.

"Just when I think I know what to expect, you come up with something that I never imagined." Dodger said distantly. "Who would have ever thought that a runaway hoopie kid could own stock?"

"What about a responsible young man who is a high school graduate?" Rafe asked quietly.

"Me?" Dodger asked incredulously.

"Who else?" Rafe said with a chuckle. "You're almost seventeen years old. In a matter of months, you were able to make up for missing six years of your education... Think about that, Dodger, *six years*."

Dodger slowly nodded.

"So, yes. You might have been a runaway at one particularly low point in your life, but don't let that define who you are." Rafe said imploringly.

Dodger thought for a moment, then slowly said, "It's hard for me to see myself as anything else."

"Then you need to look in the mirror more often, because that's not who you are anymore," Rafe said seriously. "You are a young man, who is hardworking, responsible, and, a high school graduate."

"A high school graduate." Dodger repeated, with a smile at the sound of the words.

"And I bet that if you put your mind to it, that you could be a college graduate." Rafe said with a grin.

Dodger's eyes went wide at the suggestion.

"Classes don't start until the fall, so take the time to think about what you'd like to do." Rafe said seriously.

"Me." Dodger whispered, "In college."

Rafe smiled at the expression of awe, then quietly said, "Please don't feel like I'm pushing you to do this. I'm just saying that after graduating high school, for some, this is the next step."

Dodger looked at Rafe curiously, trying to understand what he was *not* saying.

Rafe took Dodger's curious expression to be confusion, so he continued, "I just don't want you to think I'm telling you what to do. I just wanted to mention the possibility so you could be thinking about it if that's something you're interested in."

"I don't feel like you're trying to control me." Dodger said seriously.

Rafe blinked with surprise at the response.

"I guess I can understand why you'd be worried about it, but I've never felt like you were telling me what to do." Dodger said frankly.

Rafe chuckled, then said, "You know, you're pretty insightful."

"Yeah, well I guess it comes with the diploma." Dodger said with a smile.

* * * * *

A ringing phone greeted them as they walked into the kitchen from the laundry room.

"It must be important for anyone to be calling this late." Rafe said with concern. "I'll pick it up in the study."

Dodger nodded, then watched as Rafe hurried away.

After taking off his coat and putting it in the coat closet, Dodger went into the living room and started a fire.

He didn't build it up very much, since it was so late, but it seemed to be a perfect night to relax by the fire for a while before bed.

Dodger sat down in the wing backed chair that he had adopted as his own and took out his diploma, so that he could read it.

Movement drew his attention and he saw Rafe walking out of the study.

One look was all it took for Dodger to know that something was seriously wrong.

The expression on Rafe's face was nothing less than 'devistated'.

"What is it, Rafe? What's wrong?" Dodger asked as he ran to Rafe's side, letting the diploma fall to the floor.

"I... I'm going to have to leave." Rafe said distantly, like he was barely aware of where he was.

"What's wrong? Why do you have to leave?" Dodger asked urgently.

Rafe blinked, then seemed to come back to himself a little. "That call was from a man in New Mexico. From what he told me, he may have an extraordinary immunity case... it could change everything."

"Okay. So you have to go to New Mexico. That's not a problem, is it?" Dodger asked carefully, knowing that something had shaken Rafe to the core.

"Dodger, there's no telling how long I'll have to be gone. It's possible that this could take *years*." Rafe said in anguish.

"Years? You'll be gone for years?" Dodger muttered absently, then quickly said, "I could go with you."

Rafe looked Dodger in the eyes, then reluctantly shook his head.

"Why not? Is it military? Is it because we're not related?" Dodger asked carefully.

"It's not military." Rafe said cautiously.

Dodger waited for a moment, but Rafe didn't continue.

"Rafe. I'm ready to talk about it." Dodger said firmly.

After a moment of puzzled silence, Rafe hesitantly asked, "Talk about what?"

"Right after we first met, the first time we ever went to the club, Clayton asked if we were a couple." Dodger said carefully. "On the way home, we talked about some things and decided that we'd talk about it again later."

Rafe looked at Dodger with confusion, then asked, "You want to talk about that now?"

"If you have to leave, even if it's for years, I want you to know that I'll be here when you get back." Dodger said seriously.

"You don't need to..." Rafe began to say, but was interrupted.

"Yes I do. Not for you, for me." Dodger said firmly. "I love you Dr. Raphael Killian. I don't want to imagine what it would be like to ever be without you. And I know that if you decide that you feel the same way, then no matter how far away you have to go or how long you have to stay away, that someday you'll come home and be with me. And I'll be here, waiting."

"I couldn't ask you to..." Rafe began to say, but was interrupted again.

"You're not asking. I am. You once said that you didn't know if you could love a man in the context of a committed relationship. We've had months to think about it since then. I'm offering to commit to you and asking if you'll commit to me." Dodger said firmly.

Rafe seemed to be frozen in thought. He didn't move, didn't blink, he didn't even seem to be breathing.

Dodger watched carefully, looking for any sign of reaction.

"Do you remember the morning that you almost asked me about the juice that I drink?" Rafe asked hesitantly.

Dodger slowly nodded.

"You said that you knew that I'd tell you when I thought you needed to know." Rafe said in a flat voice that almost sounded like he was reading the words from a page.

Dodger nodded again.

"Before I..." Rafe stopped, then shook his head. "You need to know."

"Whatever it is, you can tell me, Rafe." Dodger said gently.

"Sit down... and get your diploma off the floor. I'm planning on framing that." Rafe said in a forced, playful tone.

Dodger picked up the diploma and sat it carefully on the table between their chairs, then sat down and waited.

"A lot of the people that I've introduced you to since we've met are like me. We have a... condition." Rafe said slowly.

"Are you sick?" Dodger asked with immediate worry.

"No. Not at all." Rafe said quickly, then continued more slowly, "But... this is really difficult to explain."

"Go ahead. Take as long as you need." Dodger said gently.

Rafe nodded, then carefully said, "What I have is something like a virus in some ways, but it's more... thorough. It doesn't attack the host so much as it changes him."

"How?" Dodger asked quietly, not wanting to interrupt, but feeling that Rafe needed the prompting.

"If you think of each cell of the human body as a tiny machine, the organism that I'm talking about rebuilds the machine to be faster and more efficient." Rafe said slowly.

"That sounds like a good thing." Dodger said hesitantly.

"It can be." Rafe said quickly. "We have uncommon strength, speed and agility."

Dodger's eyes went wide, then he said, "Like in the alley behind Lily's salon."

Rafe slowly nodded.

"So I'm guessing that you can't have something that good without getting something bad to go with it." Dodger said cautiously.

Rafe reluctantly nodded, then said, "We also have enhanced senses, which sounds good on the surface, but turns out to be very debilitating."

"How?" Dodger asked slowly.

"With greatly enhanced eyesight comes a sensitivity to bright lights." Rafe said quietly.

"Which is why you have to wear sunglasses inside the department store." Dodger said in realization.

"Enhanced hearing makes going near anything that's loud... painful. That includes movies, concerts or even crowds of excited people." Rafe said as he looked into Dodger's eyes.

"Which is why you spend so much of your time at home." Dodger said knowingly.

"An enhanced sense of smell makes certain scents almost unbearable." Rafe said, then waited for Dodger to make the association.

"Which is why you don't keep garlic or onions in your kitchen." Dodger said with a nod.

"And the worst is having an enhanced sense of touch." Rafe said and finished with a sigh.

"Is that why, in all the time that I've known you, you've never touched me, even once?" Dodger asked suddenly.

Rafe blinked at the question, then stammered, "No. No. But I'll tell you about that, next."

Dodger nodded then slowly asked, "So what is it about super sensitive skin that's so bad?"

"I can't go out in direct sunlight." Rafe admitted cautiously.

Dodger sat and thought about what Rafe was saying, and not saying.

Rafe watched and felt his heart sink as Dodger seemed to fit the pieces together in his mind.

"What is the juice that you're always drinking?" Dodger asked slowly.

"A synthetic supplement, tailored to meet our nutritional needs." Rafe said carefully.

"And if you don't drink that, you drink blood. Right?" Dodger asked cautiously.

Rafe reluctantly nodded.

Dodger was staring at him and seemed to be teetering on the razor thin edge dividing incredulity and belief.

Rafe decided that, no matter what the result, there was only one thing he could do.

He bared his teeth, then his canines dropped down and became more pronounced.

Dodger's eyes went wide and he tried to back away at the sight of the fangs.

Since he was sitting, that involved him scrambling over the arm of the chair, then crab-walking backward for a few feet before he could manage a standing position.

"That's what I've been hiding. I'm sure you can understand why." Rafe said as his heart broke at the terrified look in Dodger's eyes.

"Is that it? I mean, if there's more, you'd better tell me now." Dodger said past his nervous breathing.

"And... I love you." Rafe said quietly as regret carried under the words.

Dodger froze, then looked at Rafe appraisingly for a moment.

He wasn't doing anything the least bit threatening, nor had he ever.

Dodger realized that if Rafe wanted to hurt him, he could have done so at any time over the past three months. He could have easily done it the first time they spoke, right there in the park. He would have just looked like a kid who had frozen to death on the street.

Dodger forced himself to take a long, slow breath, then quietly said, "Okay. I'm sorry. I'm better, now."

Rafe looked at him uncertainly for a moment, then gestured toward Dodger's chair, inviting him to retake his seat.

"So..." Dodger said, as he went back to his chair, never taking his cautious gaze off Rafe. "Why didn't you ever touch me?"

"This is why." Rafe said as he took a step closer to Dodger, then offered his hand.

Dodger flinched back at first, but slowly got up his nerve and took the offered hand.

"It's as cold as ice." Dodger said, then looked at Rafe disbelievingly.

"Not quite that cold, closer to room temperature. My body maintains a temperature of about seventy two degrees." Rafe said quietly.

"Do you have a heartbeat?" Dodger asked cautiously.

"Of course, but it beats slower and fainter than yours. Resting, it's about ten beats per minute, faster when I'm excited, slower when I'm sleeping." Rafe said clinically.

"What about breathing?" Dodger asked thoughtfully.

"My respiration is less than yours unless I'm talking, then it's about the same." Rafe said gently.

"So that's why they would think that vampires are dead. If you're room temperature, and your heart beats so slowly... garlic, sunlight." Dodger said as he thought aloud.

"Among those of us who have been... changed... the term vampire has a somewhat different meaning." Rafe said cautiously.

"What does it mean?" Dodger asked curiously.

"Well, as I was telling you, when the transformative organism is introduced into our bodies, it completely changes us, cell by cell. It makes everything more efficient. Along with the physical changes, there are also mental changes." Rafe said carefully.

Dodger nodded that he understood what Rafe was saying, although he couldn't imagine what point he was working toward.

"There are different ways that it can go. Some will be exposed to the transformative agent and simply die, because their bodies can't endure the change. A long time ago, there was a great danger that an exposed person would lose all thought and become nothing more than an animal in a human body. We believe that was the origin of the werewolf myth. They lost any sense of self and didn't even remember about clothing or personal hygiene. Since that hasn't happened in hundreds of years, I suspect it has something to do with some specific vitamin deficiency."

Dodger smiled when he realized that Rafe had slipped into his doctor persona.

"The next outcome has different stages, and again, we're not sure what makes one person turn out differently from another. But if a person retains his ability to reason, but loses his compassion, empathy... basically, his soul. That's what we call a vampire."

"So when he goes through the change, his ability to care for others is lost?" Dodger asked carefully.

"Exactly. He... or she... remembers their former life, but they feel no attachment to anyone. They are driven by their hunger and kill for the sheer pleasure of it." Rafe said seriously.

"And you said that it comes in stages." Dodger said carefully.

"Yes. There are some that are low functioning, like some of their intelligence was lost in the change. Some come through with pretty much the same intelligence they had before, and there are a rare few who are smarter as a result of the change. Those are the most dangerous. We call them demons." Rafe said frankly.

"Werewolves, vampires, demons... where does that leave you?" Dodger asked cautiously.

"Those of us who made the change and retained our souls are sometimes called... um... angels."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes: Well, that turned out pretty well, so far. Dodger seems to be taking the news pretty well, considering all the horror stories he has probably read. It is obvious that he and Rafe love each other, and, I am sure that it is written somewhere, that love conquers all. Of course there is the dilemma of Rafe having to go away. I suspect that he can't take Dodger with him, because Dodger is human.

We will have to wait for the next chapter, to see what they decide to do, won't we?

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher