It was a long time before Abe and Henry found you - wandering dusty back roads and hitchhiking from one side of America to the next. Abe was the one who changed you; and Henry the one who brought you to New York.
They settled you in a little apartment and taught you all the things that you needed to know. They taught you how to control your hunger ((never go hungry, always feed - also, your name is Colin now)), how to protect your eyes and skin from the sun ((you are still so young and Henry has promised that it won’t be long before you don’t have to worry about it - My line is a powerful one and it only took Abe a few years before he could go out without any protection)).
For the longest time Abe sleeps with you, wrapping his taller body around your broader one – effectively warding off nightmares of screaming children and bullets and blood and betrayal. You don’t know it surprises you when Henry doesn’t protest Abe leaving their bed at your slightest whimper, but Henry just quietly stands at the door and keeps watch.
You call Pooch, sometimes; Aisha, too, if you’re feeling brave enough.
You don’t tell either one what’s happened to you. Instead, you listen to Pooch talk about Jolene and how fast Junior is growing and how they’re already thinking about having another one. He tells you about how he’s opened his own garage and how good business his. Neither of you talk about being a Loser, neither of you talk about the nightmares or Bolivia or Max.
Aisha stays close to your niece and sister, keeping an eye on them, letting them believe that you were dead and gone. She tried talking you out of it at first, but when you had made the decision you had still been so broken. And now so much time had passed you had no idea if you would ever be able to look you little sister in the eye ever again.
When the time comes, Abe and Henry are loathe to leave you alone. Eventually, you chase them off with the assurance that no, no you’re not hearing Cougar’s voice or seeing him from the corner of your eye.
In the months that follow, Abe calls every few weeks – all loving protectiveness and consistently showing an uncanny ability to sense your moods.
“Abe can sense your emotions since he was the one who turned you,” Henry explains, “it’s quite annoying since I can feel what he’s feeling which is what you’re feeling. What a mess we all are.”
It is months until you can finally touch a computer again, and another few before you actually buy one. And soon, with your hacker muscles flexed and warmed again, you’re hunting down information for cash.
You spend your days at your computer and your nights looking for a body to warm your bed. You hunt quietly, taking only a little here and a little more there, keeping yourself sated.
And, nearly a decade after Max, you meet little Ally Darling.
She reminds you of Cougar in all the ways that hurt. She reminds you of how he was before Bolivia and the screamingburning children, when he smiled and joked and would talk with you for hours on end about everything and nothing. So you stay with her, fighting to forget.
But, it’s not long before she asks you about the nightmares that you get sometimes.
“Nothing, just a wreck I was in,” you tell her.
“But who’s Cougar? Or Clay or Roque?” you recognize the look in her eyes – it’s the look that lets you know that this conversation won’t be over until you’ve answered all her questions.
But you can’t. You can never say anything. To do so would bring back the ghosts and make them real and just before you tell her to leave it, your phone rings.
“I have to take this,” you say shortly, reading Abe’s name.
Ally mutters angrily under her breath as she storms into the bedroom.
“Hey, Abe,” you say.
“Colin, I’ve a surprise for you,” and, bless that vampire, his voice is soft and soothing as he tells you that he and Henry are coming up to New York to celebrate his birthday.
“And,” suddenly Henry is on the phone, “we would very much like to have you to ourselves. It’s time.”
And then there’s a cold spike of fear and you realize everything what he’s not saying.
You’ve been in New York too long.
It’s time to move.
You glance at Ally, her back still to you as she fiddles with one of her statues and intently not listening.
“Are you still there?” Abe is back and there’s a note of sadness in his voice.
“Yeah,” you find yourself nodding, you’re still watching Ally’s back. “I’ll see you guys in a couple of weeks?”
“Yes,” he says and then he’s gone.
That night, you lie to Ally about Cougar and Pooch, Clay and Roque and Aisha and how you all grew up together.
You tell her how when you were teenagers, you and the guys and Aisha would wander your neighborhoods. You told her how you used to call yourselves “The Losers” because you all were always getting into trouble.
Then you tell her about how one night, a man named Max was driving home drunk. You tell her how he took a corner too fast and how none of you ever even saw him coming ((his headlights weren’t on and he was driving so, so fast)) and all you remember from that night was Aisha’s screaming and Cougar’s hat flying off his head and the smell of blood and gasoline and Clay’s cologne.
“I woke up in the hospital a week later,” you say, looking carefully at the floor as the lies fly from your tongue, “I was the only one that survived.”
You hear Ally whispering soft apologies as she wraps her tiny body around you, she thanks you for telling her your secrets, for loving her enough, for trusting her.
You let her believe it.
You spend the next couple of weeks making sure everything is perfect – no fighting, just reveling in all that Ally is and all that she has to offer.
Then you finally get the call from Abe when he and Henry are in town.
“Okay, I’ll see you guys soon,” you say as you hang up the phone.
You look at Ally sleeping on the couch, clay on her hands and pain on her face, before you scribble a quick note and hang it on the fridge.
Old friends in town, I’ll see you tonight. Love you!
“Are you ready?” Abe asks, sitting with you in the taxi.
Then your world goes sideways and the cab driver screams.
“Ally!” Daisy screams as she bangs on the door. “Ally, it’s Colin!”