The Accomplice

By Nin

Romance / Drama

Trials and Tribulations

The gang stared at Kitefang, at a loss for words. Not only were they surprised at meeting yet another werewolf… but the fact that this one had some resemblance to Fangface, looking exactly like him- but with two fangs, and hazel eyes. "I can tell you weren't expecting meeting another werewolf, and I'm not one to show off my identity- though it was the only way I could prove I'm not associated with that 'Fondane' psychopath." he told them. "I suppose you have a few questions, now."

Fangface raised his hand.

"Yes?"

"…Are you my cousin?" Fangface asked.

Kitefang chuckled. "I'll run a DNA test later… right now, shall we discuss the matter at hand? I'd like to swap information."

"Sure. It started when-" Hunter began.

Kitefang raised his paw. "Not here, somewhere more private."

The gang agreed, climbing into the Wolf Buggy while Kitefang climbed onto a motorcycle, and they followed him off the bridge and away from the scene, stopping on the side of the road as the werewolf guided them down to the bay, towards several sets of footprints. "The coastguard checked the shores, figuring these were all foot-prints of some fishermen who claimed to have stopped near the edge due to engine troubles. …What they failed to notice was that not many fishermen wear a size '7' sneaker, or- if one looks closely enough- a couple body-imprints that had been tried to be smudged out."

They looked, seeing that a few footprints, apparently, had tried to hide a couple body imprints, one of them being so deep it was hard to cover up and easy to spot… though from the position, whoever it was must have been lying stiff, a clenching-hand position over the chest.

"Also, further investigation showed that no one was really 'fishing' in this area, and no one at the docks claimed that any fishermen were sailing through the bay… Long story short, I have reason to believe your friends survived their dive, made it to shore, but were abducted- no doubt by some more accomplices associated with the Veni-Con-Yei,"

"The whatty-what-what?" Hunter questioned, arching an eyebrow.

"Veni-Con-Yei. It's an old language meaning, 'Hunters of Darkness'. The group was founded by a man named Marlow Bellington, who dedicated his life to hunting werewolves, vampires, zombies, and anything else supernatural. However, he is so intent on killing that he'll destroy anyone associated with any kind of creature, good or evil, and will stop at nothing until every creature and its allies are slaughtered- he's killed several families over the past 20 years already."

"That's horrible! I mean, I can understand why he'd want to hunt the evil ones, but he should know they're not all evil!" Kim replied.

"Heh, he doesn't care, considering he's quite evil himself. He abandoned all morals and innocence after starting the group- he doesn't even care that he puts his own son in danger. They say he even killed his own mother."

"What an asshole," Hunter sneered. "And Vincent works with this guy?"

"He's practically his right-hand man, and even more skilled than the leader. …Luckily, we have our own little group ourselves: The Thorns, dedicated in bringing down the Veni-Con-Yei and going after the real villains, and we happen to have more skills… particularly because half our team happens to be werewolves,"

"(grr) Can't beat that," Fangface agreed.

"And you'll help us get our friend back?" Biff asked.

"Of course, especially since they've got a Shereba in their hands," Kitefang replied, grinning.

"What's that got to do with it?" Hunter questioned.

"I believe you'll have to ask the family yourself. I'm restricted from sharing too much information- in case we're being spied on, y'know," Kitefang looked around suspiciously… even dunking his head in the water, pulling it up and shaking it dry.

"Hey… Brielle's parents said they were going to meet us!" Biff spoke up.

"You think they'll tell us?" Kim asked.

"We'll see once they arrive. Right now, I'd like you guys to and tell me your side of the story," Kitefang said.

"Well, it started two weeks ago, when Puggsy- our missing friend- told us about this girl he saved, Astrid Southerland…" Hunter began to explain.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Chance was twenty miles out of town, walking into a hotel where a stranger awaited him. "Any particular reason you called me here, Hossy?" the stranger asked. "I'm on a tight schedule,"

"Right, a schedule consisting of goofing off during your trips," Chance scoffed. "You know why I'm here… it involves my brother. A bit of investigation shows that you may have a part in the search for this 'Fondane' nut-job who's been harassing my werewolf friends,"

The figure smirked a bit, showing pointed teeth. "Maybe I do… but you know it's classified information,"

Chance arched an eyebrow. "…You mean as classified as Lt. Ryan finding out you were putting the moves on his daughter?"

He received a sharp glare. "That's not classified information, that's a lie! I was tackling her because she was getting on my nerves, and you know it!"

"Eh, everyone else on campus thought otherwise…" Chance smirked.

"…Don't make me kill you."

"Ah, shut up. I just want to know what you know about Vincent Fondane, his accomplice Keith… and a girl named Brielle Shereba,"

The figure clenched-unclenched their fists at the way Chance said the word Shereba, knowing the hansom teen was just acting sly. "I don't know anything," he replied, keeping a poker face and hiding his irritation.

"Don't play dumb, I've already figured out a few things- she's been missing for years, her parents set up a reward, and she was working with the same creeps who tried to kill my brother and friends-"

"She wasn't working with them! They manipulated her! She ditched them the moment she found out the truth-" The figure stopped himself, scolding himself for letting his anger force him to reveal too much- let alone allowed Chance to draw it out.

Chance smiled, showing a bit of victory. "So… you know her, after all. I figured you did,"

"Nice job, Sherlock- but don't think that, just because you learned a couple things, I'll let you join in on our investigation,"

"Why not? I'd be a good agent,"

The figure sneered. "They don't just let a pretty face join in,"

Chance crossed his arms. "Ain't that how YOU got in? Gack!" The figure reached and grabbed him by the shirt-collar.

"This ain't some secret-agent kiddy-game, Murphy! It's bad enough Brielle is involved, I don't need my best friend getting in danger next!"

"I may be in danger already just by being friends with you. …I know it's happened to my brother already. He's friends with Fangface, and now they're targets. Haven't you've considered that, if I were on your team, there would be a less chance of me getting captured and a greater chance that you could catch Marlow with another recruit?"

"Just because you're named 'Chance' doesn't mean you should take chances,"

"And just because you're called 'Twiggy' doesn't mean you're a weakling. …My brother's been shot. My friends are in danger. I already know about the agency. I've been involved since the day we met."

The figure released him, growling a bit. "Are you willing to take a bullet just because of a little determination?"

"If it means my brother won't get shot a third time, yes."

The figure sighed. "(geez you're an ass) Fine. We'll head out in the morning- I have to head to the docks for a lookout assignment. Better tell the university you're taking a few more weeks leave,"

"Eh, we're going to be on break next week. Nothing to worry about,"

"With an attitude like that, I can see why people think you're just a pretty-face."

"Yeah? Which one of us got straight 'A's on last year's final exam?"

The figure rolled their eyes. "Just c'mon, Hossy."

"After you, Nightclaw." He followed him into the hotel to book a room, secretly boasting about getting his friend to crack, knowing he would sooner or later.

After all, all Thorn agents are required to help out many friends of werewolves against the Veni-Con-Yei.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"…and then he just took off. That's when we came searching for him by the bridge," Hunter finished telling Kitefang.

"So Astrid- who is really Brielle- was an accomplice to Vincent, yet after spending a day with you, seemingly turned the tables. Well, that would explain why she planned on meeting up with me," Kitefang replied, rubbing his chin.

"Yes," Hunter sighed with relief. So she wasn't pulling another act to help out Vincent, she thought, though cringed. …Unless, she was trying to lure a Thorn agent into a trap…

"But we're still upset that she ran away from us rather than telling us ways that could help us catch Vincent," Biff added.

"…let alone didn't face us when my buddy got shot," Fangface muttered bitterly.

"Well, I can assure you, once we find them- alive and well- everything will be settled; Brielle will be sent home, Puggsy will be safe with you again, Vincent will be in jail (if he's that lucky to live), and we'll be one step closer to taking out Marlow." Kitefang said, optimistically. "Anyone up for a few sodas and a movie, afterwards?"

"After we find our friend," Hunter replied.

"Well, lets not dawdle, then. The search continues!" Kitefang lead them back to their vehicles.

"I hope that, wherever they are, they're alright…" Kim sighed, worried.

0o0o0o0o0o0

'Alright' was the understatement of the year.

Brielle came to first, hearing a soft pounding in her ear.

ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump

Once her focus cleared, she realized it was a heart-beat… and she was lying against Puggsy's abdomen. She quickly pushed away, gasping. Well, at least I know he's alive. she told herself. She rubbed her head, as it still ached from their heads colliding, and she began to wish they weren't crammed inside such a tight space. They couldn't have just locked us in a cell, or chained us to a wall, or even tied us up, gagged us, and thrown us overboard- instead, they decided to play FedEx.

She saw a hole in the side of the crate, and peeked out, seeing that there was a gruesome-looking man sitting on a chair, picking his teeth. No use trying to bust this thing open without some asshole hearing us. she figured.

There was more groaning to be heard, as Puggsy came to. "Anyone get the number of that cranium that hit me?" he muttered, rubbing his head. "Where are we?"

"Still in the crate, where else?" Brielle scoffed, then pointed at the hole. "And apparently they've got some goon standing by, so breaking out ain't going to be easy."

Puggsy looked through the hole. "I've seen goons like that before- they're normally stupid enough to trickify into opening the lid. If we're convincing enough, we can fool him and make a break for it,"

Brielle rolled her eyes. "Looks can be deceiving,"

He rolled his eyes. "Watch and learn," he then raised his voice, loud enough for the guard to hear yet kept his tone casual. "Well, Brie, I guess this is it- we're doomified now. Not only have we've been captivated, but we're going to die as well. On the bright side, they'll never get THIS from us," he gave her a look, that said 'Play Along'.

Brielle shook her head, but obeyed. "Wow, where did you find THAT?" she feigned as convincingly as she could.

"Had it with me- it's worth millions. I've been keeping it hidden in my jacket this whole time. It's a good thing we're in this crate, where no one can see it, or get their hands on it. They can kill us and throw our bodies out to rot, but they'll never know that they were close to the ticket to fame and fortune."

Dear Lord, where does this guy come up with these lines? Brielle groaned mentally.

"Yep, if someone were out there right now, I'll bet they'd break open this crate just to get their hands on this."

The dialogue… it hurts… she thought, but added, "Oh, yeah… we'll be the richest dead-people alive."

"Shh, he's coming," Puggsy whispered. "Get ready, we'll have to tackle him before he tries to-"

"If you think I'm dumb enough to fall for that poor act, you're sadly mistaken." The goon said… in a sophisticated tone. "First of all, we checked you both for any weapons or valuables before throwing you in the crates, and there was nothing in your jacket; second, even if you did have something we didn't notice, that could be valuable, we tend to rob the bodies of their material items before leaving them to rot- it's easier than having to fight against the victim or hear them sniveling about not wanting to part with it; third, your lines were atrocious and made about as much sense as dialogue from a bad 1980's movie; and finally, I'll have you know that many of us on this ship graduated from Harvard, having chosen the criminal life due to the faults of society. Apparently, you've bonked your head harder than you thought, if you believed your juvenile plan would work."

Puggsy sat there blinking, stunned.

"Told you so," Brielle scoffed.

"Shut up!" he snapped. "I doubt you could do better…"

"Yeah? Just wait until they open the crate later on- they won't know what hit them."

Puggsy crossed his arms. "Well, until then, could you move over? You're hogging my side of the crate."

"Your side? My feet have been planted there since we were stuffed in here!"

"Well my whole body has been shoved against this side at the same time, therefore it's more MY side,"

"Well, there's no room to move anyway, so you're going to deal with it!"

"It'll be easier to deal with if you weren't digging your heels into my thighs!"

"Would you rather have me dig them into your face?"

"Ah, just shut up and angle yourself a little better so you're not crowding me,"

"Hey, you can angle yourself too, wise-guy… and while you're at it, shut your own mouth, your breath is going to kill us both!"

"MY breath? Listen up, you little…!"

The goon rubbed his face, irritated, then walked over and kicked the crate hard enough to make the twosome inside rock and hit their heads. "Shut up in there, will you?! I swear if I hear any more arguing, I'll kill you both and toss your bodies in the bay!" he snapped.

"Well, he started it!" Brielle snapped.

"You got me started!" Puggsy retorted.

"I don't care who started it, I'll finish it! Now, pipe down!" the goon snapped, giving the crate one more kick before sitting back in his position. "Damn brats…"

A moment passed in silence.

"Are we there yet?" Brielle said.

"GAAAH!" The goon bellowed, then stormed over to the stairs. "GINNY! COME DOWN HERE AND TAKE OVER!"

Brielle nudged Puggsy. "Okay, here's a plan- we keep irritating all the guards until one of them gets pissed enough to open the crate to throttle us. The moment they do, we attack 'em, steal their weapons, and get off this ship," she whispered.

"Oh, good plan- except that they may kill us the moment they open the crate, or just toss us overboard to sink and drown; And even if we did manage to get their weapons, how would getting off the ship work? We don't know where we are, we could be clear from land!" Puggsy criticized.

She gave him a glare. "Then what were YOU planning on doing once we broke out?"

"Hiding out somewhere until we reached a port,"

"Oh, like that's any more brilliant- there's goons all over this ship, where could we hide?! Let alone HOW could we hide once they discovered we've escaped?! They know this ship well. They'd search everywhere and would find us in seconds! That's a terrible plan!"

"Well your plan was no better!"

"Better than yours, dumbass…"

"Watch your mouth, you stupid-"

*tap tap tap*

"Um, excuse me… I believe I have a plan that could help you out," came a voice.

Puggsy peeked out of the crate, seeing a familiar face… "KIM?" he exclaimed.

"What?!" Brielle gasped, shoving him over to get a better look.

"Um, my name's not Kim," the girl replied.

Puggsy pushed Brielle away, getting a better look, realizing his mistake. Facial-wise, the girl looked like Kim, but her hair was longer and tied back, she wore a bandana, a baggy shirt, pants, and sandals, and also sported a ruby-necklace. "Sorry… you look like a friend of mine," he muttered.

"Why do you want to help us out?" Brielle questioned, shoving Puggsy aside to keep eye-contact with the girl.

"Because, I want to." the girl replied, keeping her voice low. "I don't want to be here, either. I was forced to be here, and have been looking for a way out. I want to work a deal- if I help you guys get away, will you help me escape too?"

"What makes you think we can trust you?"

"How many strangers would offer you help? At least give me a chance,"

"No thanks…"

"Are you crazified? She's willing to help!" Puggsy hissed.

"It could be another trap,"

"Another trap?! We're already trappified, and so's she. Why shouldn't we trust her?"

"Because the last person I trusted ended up stabbing me in the back. They pretend to be helping you out, when really they're just helping themselves…"

He sneered. "Like with you and Vincent?"

*BAM!*

The girl leaned back from the crate after it rocked. "Is everything okay?" she asked.

"Justh a frang extchange ob ideash…" Puggsy replied, holding his nose. "…comblede wid a noshe mbleed!"

"Hey, it's your own damn fault for not watching your mouth," Brielle sneered.

"Listen… I really want to help." the girl said, though paused when she heard the steps creak. "I wasn't speaking to you, got it?" She rushed over to a barrel, sitting down casually.

"Ah, Gin, I see you've taken over watching over our prisoners… make sure they don't escape," came the voice of Dark Crow.

"Yes, sir. I haven't had any problems with them so far,"

"Hmph, lets hope it stays that way, you've already fouled up enough times since I've taken you in. …Keep in mind, if those prisoners escape under your guard, you'll be joining your mother,"

Dark Crow left, and Puggsy and Brielle listened, hearing Gin trying to keep her breathing steady, as if holding back tears. They looked at each other, silently agreeing to give her a chance.

0o0o0o0o0o0

It was roughly 5 AM by the time the gang returned to the hotel, Kitefang with them, yet no one was willing to sleep until they found some sort of trace. The new-found werewolf told them that he contacted some allies of his to stand guard at every port and keep an eye out for their friends, let alone any sign of Keith, who he knew was somewhere in the area, still.

The sun began to rise, transforming the werewolves back human. "Man, that gets irritating," Kite said, shaking his head a bit after his spin. "Ever wish you could just choose one identity and stick with it?"

"Sometimes," Fangs replied, still depressed as he lied his face in his arms.

Kite put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, don't worry. We'll find your pals- there's never been a victim the Thorn's couldn't save from the VCY. Just ask my friend, Edwin Smith. He-"

"Edwin?" Fangs snapped up and grabbed Kite by the shirt. "How do you know him?! Where is he?!"

"Augh! He's just a good friend of mine, I met him back in England when I was eleven! He was going to meet me in New York two weeks ago but got called in for something important! …Why? Have you've met him?"

"No… but… m-my friend did. Edwin said he was a doctor, and performed surgery on his heart after he was shot." Fangs calmed down. "The doctors were freaking out because no one knew him, and we were worried he was working with Vincent and did something to harm my friend…"

"Nah, Edwin would never harm others without a good reason- pull quite a few pranks, perhaps, but when it comes to medical business, he's serious about helping others. Plus, I doubt he would be allowed to work with Vincent even if he wanted to- the VCY has a thing against vampires."

"Oh, good. I'm glad to hear tha- VAMPIRES?! Like the blood-sucking, lurking in the night, pale-skinned kind of vampires?"

"Yes… though don't worry, he's never tasted blood so your neck is safe. And, like I said before, he's a good friend of mine. Heh, funny. For a kid who can turn into a werewolf, you seem pretty shocked about learning your friend met a vampire."

"Well, it's not the first time any of us met a vampire… well, except this one is good. Sorry, it's just my nerves are shot, I'm worried sick, I can't eat or sleep without thinking about Puggsy, and I'm just really scared…"

Kite patted him on the back. "There's nothing wrong with being scared, as long as you don't give up."

Fangs looked at him, eyes watering. "You sure there was no one the Thorn's couldn't save?"

"Trust me. Before Vincent plans his next move, we'll have your friends back."

Fangs nodded, and suddenly Kasandra came walking into the room. "I just got a text from my uncle Kiff- their flight got delayed because of a storm in their area. I told him Brielle will be with us shortly, and he wants us to keep an eye on her." she said, clenching her fist. "I told him we'd have no problem on that matter."

"I'll say… just wait until I see that girl," Fangs growled, though no one could tell whether it was really Fangface speaking or not.

Kite looked at the two of them, seeing how tense they became every time Brielle's name was brought up, and he knew one thing- the girl was going to be in hot water even after her rescue.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Outside the boat, the air was cold as half the crew had to put on coats.

Though when you're stuffed inside a crate, it's a whole different story. It had grown muggy inside the cramped wooden box, forcing Brielle and Puggsy to take off their jackets. Gin, in an act of generosity, allowed them to drink some water through a straw so not to get dehydrated, while using a hand-held saw to cut through the edges of the lid, sweeping away the saw-dust and pushing down on the top so that no one would notice the cracks when they came down.

Over the last few hours, they learned how mistreated Gin was- Dark Crow doubted her every second, a few crew-members would either insult her or pretend she didn't exist, and when she would ask if there was something she could help out with on board, they would tell her to stay put, claiming 'this was the first job she didn't screw up' and should stick with it. However, once everyone was out of sight, Gin continued her work on freeing their captives. When night came around and everyone was asleep except for the helmsman, she didn't hesitate to work a little faster, even using a hack-saw after two hours went by and the hand-saw ran dull.

While Gin sawed through the wood, Puggsy and Brielle would duck their heads down to avoid the blades as they poked through. "Alright, I've got the three edges sawed through." she told them quietly. "Just one more to go, but you'll have to stay ducked down- the crew will be up in a few minutes and I'll be sawing pretty fast, I might stick it too far in… just to give you a warning."

"It's alright, Gin, we're doing fine." Brielle assured her.

"We can move to the opposite side just to help ease down the pressure," Puggsy added.

"Alright," Gin agreed.

Puggsy turned to Brielle. "You go first,"

Brielle nodded, swinging her legs over his, and turning herself to the other side of the crate. Once she got herself adjusted, Puggsy angled himself more diagonally, so that he was next to her but not crowding her too much. "Alright, Gin, have at it," Brielle said.

Gin began sawing away. With the hack-saw, it would normally take her at least an hour to get the job done all at once- yet the reason why they weren't out now was because most of the men on the ship didn't fall asleep until roughly 1 AM, and working while they were awake wasn't so simple as she had to quickly hide the tools and cover up the evidence when someone came down.

As she worked, Brielle and Puggsy tried their hardest not to shove each other or argue so not to ruin her concentration, let alone cause a ruckus that would wake the ship. It was much easier to bare with their jackets off as stuffy as it was inside the crate… yet it also caused tension for Brielle, thus the reason she remained silent the moment Puggsy removed his jacket. Seeing the bandages wrapped around his abdomen reminded her of the reason they were in this situation in the first place, and it didn't help that the teen was having heart-problems and could only stand so much aggravation until he had an attack. If she had known about it before, she wouldn't have irritated him so much- let alone made him swim 30 feet in the bay carrying her on his back- then maybe they could have climbed back up to the street before Dark Crow arrived, and located the gang. With every moment of silence that passed, the deeper her guilt became.

The tension had the same weight on Puggsy as well. Seeing the bandages around Brielle's neck, he was reminded of the night everything turned out wrong. He had blamed her for everything once she took off, yet over time he knew it wasn't all her fault- she only wanted to do something right and prove she was capable of handling herself, only to end up in trouble just by trying to help someone out. To him, it seemed as if, every time she was about to achieve that goal, something would happen and cause it to blow up in her face- Trying to help her 'teacher' track down some villains, and it turns out he was the villain the whole time; Trying to make it up to the people she hurt by going after him, and one of his lackeys pops up and tries to kill her. And just hours ago, she made a promise to go back with him and not run off… and suddenly they both get kidnapped. He wanted to believe she was just ignorant and didn't think her plans through- though, considering he could relate to her with the mistakes he's made in the last 24 hours, he wouldn't bring himself to even think it without the insult being thrown back at him.

"Alright, I've got it," Gin finally said, and slid the lid off as quietly as possible and letting them climb out. "Go hide in one of the barrels over there-the crew has to roll them out onto the deck when we reach port." she grabbed two heavy gunny-sacks, throwing them in the crate so to make it feel as if their captives were still in it, then grabbed a jar of wood-paste and smeared it on the edges to seal the top back on. "Once we're at the docks, you two can jump out and make a break for it,"

"What about you, though?" Brielle asked. "How are you going to escape?"

Gin shrugged. "I figured I'd make a run for it with you guys,"

"Heh, no offense, Gin, but that's not quite a good idea," Puggsy replied.

Brielle gave him a look. "And why not?" she questioned.

"Well, suppose we get spotted- Dark Crow would find out Gin betrayed him and she'd be dead like us. Not to mention, we've still got a bunch of creepos on our tail, and once they find out we've escaped, they'll be on the hunt for us again. And believe me, Gin, you do NOT want to get involved in this. I think we should set up a distraction long enough for us to sneak off with Gin, and get her to a safe place, then scrammify before any more of Vincent's cronies know we gave them the slip."

Gin rubbed her chin. "That is a better plan," she said. "But, what kind of distraction can we use to stall them for that long?"

Brielle looked around at the rest of the cargo, when her eyes fell upon a crate. "I think I have an idea…" she said.

From the way she was grinning, Puggsy felt an ache in his abdomen, knowing it only meant more trouble.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

The ship reached its destination roughly around a quarter till 6, the crew awake and loading/unloading cargo. Two men walked down to the hold, where Gin was sitting on the crate that [previously] held their captives. "Alright, Gin, you're relieved of your duties… mark it as the first time you didn't mess things up," one of them sneered.

"Are those babbling brats still alive?" the other, who was the first to guard them, asked.

"If they are, they've been roughly quiet," Gin said, then tapped the side where she had plugged the hole. "I suppose they didn't want to waste any of the air they had left."

The two goons laughed. "Well, what do you know? Ginny's finally found her dark side,"

"And to think, it only took one night of watch duty," the other replied, then turned to Gin. "Well, don't just stand around! We're not going to praise you over one little thing! Get to work hauling this junk out!"

Gin nodded, walking over and tipping a barrel over, rolling it over to the stairs, stopping for a beat and slouching. "Ah, my back." she said, rubbing her spine. "I think I slept on it wrong,"

"Oh for Lord's sake! Move aside you little weakling, we'll take care of it," The other goon sneered, shoving her aside and hoisting up the barrel. "Oof! Geez, this cargo gets heavier every morning…"

"Ah don't be a sissy and keep moving," The first goon scoffed, carrying another barrel.

While they were climbing up the stairs, Gin snuck over to a corner, taking out a lighter and kneeling down, igniting a long fuse. I sure hope this works, she thought, then ran on deck, where she stood by the two barrels, watching the crew work. She then feigned a gasp. "Hey, stowaway!" she shouted, running over to the stairs that led to the cargo-hold.

"I didn't see any stowaway," Dark Crow questioned, walking over with a few other men.

"I swear I saw one sneaking across the deck, they ran down there!"

While Gin was putting on her performance, Puggsy and Brielle poked their heads out of the barrels, ducking back down as she snuck back over.

"Two of you men go down and look around," Dark Crow ordered, then turned to Gin, who leaned against the barrels, hiding her nervousness. "You'd better not be pulling anything," with that, he walked off.

Two of the pirates walked down, looking around. "I don't see anyone… go look behind those crates," the first one said.

*ssssssssssssssss…*

"What's that noise?" The second wondered, scratching his head.

"Probably just the engine blowing off some steam," the first one answered, though wasn't so sure himself. "I think Gin was only seeing things. There's no one down here,"

The second looked behind the crates, his eyes widening. "Uh oh."

"What?" the first ran over, his eyes widening next when he saw the fuse… that lead to a crate that held dynamite. "Gah! Put it out!"

The second ran to do so, but the fuse disappeared behind several more crates, out of reach. The two looked at each other. "Oh, shit!" they both cried, then ran on deck.

"Captain!" The first one cried. "Someone ignited a fuse, and it's heading for the dynamite!"

"What the…?! WELL DO SOMETHING, YOU IDIOTS!" Dark Crow shouted.

"We can't, we lost a trace on the fuse behind the rest of the cargo! She's gonna BLOW!"

"Everyone, abandon ship!" The second one bellowed, and frantically the whole crew ran down the gangplank or leaped over the edge.

Dark Crow looked, seeing that Gin had rolled the barrels down to the dock, acting much too calm. He raced down, grabbing her arm. "What are you trying to pull?!" he growled.

"Nothing! I didn't do anything!" Gin lied, stammering.

"Liar!" Dark Crow raised his knife…

*BAM!*

Brielle had popped out of the barrel and socked Dark Crow in the jaw. "Don't just stand there, RUN!" she yelled at Gin, who quickly took her advice. She opened up the top of the other barrel. "Time to go!"

Puggsy climbed out, and they raced off. "I sure hope your plan works this time!" he cried.

"Hey, it was your plan too!"

Dark Crow stood up, taking out his gun and aiming at Gin as she ran up the pier. "Say hello to your mother for me-" he growled.

*KA-BOOM!*

Before he could pull the trigger, the dynamite was set off, and the ship exploded behind him, blasting him forward and sprawling him out on the ground.

Gin ran alongside Brielle and Puggsy when they came her way. "Where do we go, now?" Brielle asked.

"As clear away from here as possible," Puggsy advised, looking over his shoulder, seeing that Dark Crow was beginning to get his wind back. "Gin, you head to the police, tell them your story. Brielle and I will distract Dark Crow,"

"I really appreciate all this, guys," Gin confessed, tears rolling down her face.

"Don't thank us just yet. Now go, hurry!" Brielle told her.

Gin nodded, then ran off. "Thank you!" she called to them, before disappearing around the corner.

Brielle looked back, seeing that Dark Crow was coming their way, gun in hand and firing. "Tell me, why are we trying to distract him?"

"Because if we can captivate him, he can tell us where to find Vincent," Puggsy told her as they ran, then pointed down the pier. "We'll split up- I'll lure him over to that boat over there, then you drop that fishing net on him,"

"Well, the plan's working so far…" With that, they split up, and Brielle ran towards the boat.

Puggsy, meanwhile, looked back at Dark Crow. "Hey, Crow-Brain! Over here!"

"What?!" Dark Crow shouted.

The explosion must've rendered him deaf at such a close range, he figured, wondering how to irk him without his words… then flipped him the bird while sticking his tongue out.

That got him running at him, firing his gun and he narrowly dodged the bullets, running over and around crates, him in pursuit. Finally, he reached the boat, and looked around. Damn it, Brie, where are you? he thought, not seeing her in position.

*Bang!*

He gasped, jumping back as he literately heard a bullet shoot by his ear, turning and seeing Dark Crow approaching him. "Crap," he hissed.

"You blew up my ship, and had my daughter betray me," Dark Crow growled, taking aim at the teen's head. "Since she's not here to face her punishment, you and your friend can take her place…"

*CRASH!*

A stack of crates fell on him just then, and at the top stood Brielle. "Sorry, the fishing net was stuck," she said, leaping down in front of him, looking at the crushed villain. "Boy, he's going to be feeling that in the morning,"

"No kidding. Lets hope Gin gets back here with the cops, quick," Puggsy added, leaning against a stack of crates. As soon as he did, an unsteady crate at the top shook, tipping over…

"Look out!" Brielle tackled him out of the way.

"Oof!"

*CRASH!*

They looked over at the smashed crate. "That was close," Brielle said, as they sat up.

Puggsy gripped his chest, all the shock starting to get to him, but he forced himself to calm down. "Yeah… thanks," he replied.

"Geez, you'd think people would take more pride in their work- what kind of idiot would stack a crate that close to the edge?!"

Puggsy looked up, seeing a glimpse of someone leaping down from where the crate had been. "I don't think it was an accident… someone is still around and just tried to bump us off," he stood up. "C'mon, we'd better get out of here…" he hissed a bit in pain, feeling that- when Brielle tackled him- his ankle twisted.

Brielle noticed right away. "Give me your arm, I'll help you walk,"

"I'm fine! I've been through worse-"

She sneered. "Worse than getting shot, jumping off a bridge, getting locked inside a crate, running from an exploding ship, pursued by another maniac, and nearly crushed by a crate?"

"Believe it or not, that's how most of my vacations were spent," He tried walking, straining a bit as he limped.

She rolled her eyes. "You're not getting anywhere fast on a sprained ankle, kid. Let me help you out," Without waiting for an answer, she grabbed his arm, draped it around her shoulders, and wrapped her other arm underneath his other arm.

"Hey! I said I was fine!"

"If that were true, you'd be in perfect health, not pale, injured, and limping along,"

He scowled. "Like you're the picture of health, yourself- you've been through as much as I have,"

"Yeah, well apparently, you've gotten the worst of it. Quit complaining, and just cooperate- the sooner we get out of here, the better."

Puggsy muttered something vulgar under his breath, but shifted his weight onto Brielle, allowing her to help him out. As they walked, they kept their eyes peeled for any other suspicion, so not to get ambushed again. "I wonder where Gin is… you'd think after an explosion like that, the cops would be surrounding the place by now,"

"I was thinking the same thing… You don't think someone caught her, do you?"

"Lets hope not- we've had enough rotten luck as it is, we don't need her suffercating too."

Once they reached the streets, the commotion began to rise. They looked back down at the docks, seeing that the burning ship had sunk, while some dock guards swarmed the area, a few other fishers and sailors gathering to see what was going on. Seconds later, they heard police sirens coming down the street.

"About time," Brielle scoffed. "You'd think explosions would get attention right away."

A squad car pulled up, and an officer stepped out, Gin with him. "Here they are, officer. These are the kidnapped teens I told you about," she said.

"We've had a couple reports filed about you two since yesterday evening," the police officer said. "You've got a group of friends looking for you uptown. Mind telling me what exactly happened?"

"It's a pretty long story, but we'll give it to you straight." Puggsy replied. "We were on the bridge yesterday afternoon, and this creepo named Keith attacked us and threw us in the bay."

"We managed to reach the shore, but that's when Dark Crow arrived and kidnapped us." Brielle added, then nodded to Gin. "If it wasn't for Gin, here, we wouldn't have gotten out alive. Dark Crow should still be down there, a crate dropped on him."

"Did you say our friends are looking for us?"

"Yes, I can have someone take you to them, if you'd like. Some special agents were called in for your search- claimed you had a horrifying experience with a madman they're after."

"'Horrifyable' doesn't begin to describe it,"

"I'll be heading to the police department," Gin told them. "There's a lot of matters I need to take care of. Thanks again for your help,"

"Thank you for the help," Brielle said, giving her a hug.

"Those agents I told you about are right over there," The officer told them, pointing them over to a dark-moss-green SUV. "They'll take you back to your friends,"

Waving goodbye to Gin, they walked towards the SUV, Puggsy insisting he was well enough to walk on his own- though Brielle guessed he only said that so not to look like a weakling in front of the agents they were about to meet. "So… I guess your friends contacted my parents already," Brielle said, awkwardly.

"Yeah, Kassy's been trying to contact them since we got your message," Puggsy replied. "The gang wanted to head to Omaha to meet them, but changed plans when the doctors wanted to pull more tests on me,"

"Tests? What for?"

"My heart. Your pal, Edwin, wasn't a qualified doctor, and got everyone suspicious,"

"Well, he's not a doctor- not by license standards, at least, but he is good with medicine, especially when it comes to hearts." she looked down at the ground. "After you were in surgery for the first 24 hours, the doctors said there wasn't much hope for you, and I panicked and called him, since he said he was going to be in the area last time I contacted him three weeks ago, and he agreed to help out when I told him about the situation."

"If you were so confident that I'd be alright, why did you still leave?"

"I… I didn't think you would. Edwin told me the bullet went clear to your heart after he performed the surgery, and said it was in God's hands now. I was worried you wouldn't make it, and felt guilty… so I just left, figuring I caused enough trouble."

"I think it would've been better if you stuck around…"

She turned to him. "Look, I'm sorry for my mistakes, alright?! Lets just get back to your friends. Where are those agents?"

"You rang?" came a voice, and they turned around… seeing a tall, hansom, familiar face.

"Chance?! What are you still doing here… and why did you dye your hair?" Puggsy questioned.

"I didn't dye my hair," came another voice, and they turned, seeing Chance there.

"What the…?!" Brielle sputtered. She and Puggsy looked back and forth at Chance and Matthew, puzzled. "Matt, please don't tell me you cloned yourself…"

"Not this time. This is my old college-friend, Chance." Matthew replied. "Chance, this is my sister, Brielle."

"And this is Matthew." Chance told Puggsy. "Matt, this is my brother, Pugs."

"I think we've been stuck in that crate too long… I'm starting to get delusional," Puggsy groaned, rubbing his eyes.

"Join the club," Brielle added.

"Jump in the car. We'll tell you everything," Matthew told them. He and Chance climbed in the front seat, while Puggsy and Brielle sat in the back. "It all started back in my freshman year in college, when this lunkhead hit me with a Frisbee…"

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Meannwhile, on the more 'ghetto' side of the city, Vincent and Keith sat at a table where a cell-phone lied in the middle, on speaker-phone. "I just received word, Keith, that Dark Crow let that meddler and your backstabbing comrade get away, and has been underhanded by the police," a menacing voice replied. "I thought you said that you had disposed of them!"

"Hey, I threw them into the bay, I figured they drowned first." Keith scoffed, crossing his arms. "They would have been dead sooner if Fondane would've just let me kill them two weeks ago,"

"Ah, yes, Fondane… You haven't been after those werewolves for a few days. Care to explain why?"

"I'm waiting for the heat to die down," Vincent muttered. "It's not easy keeping to my assignments with my face all over the news,"

"You had better get back out there, Fondane… especially since you've gotten that Shereba girl involved."

"I did not know she was a Shereba! I only knew her first name until after a trained her, but by then I learned she had cut ties with her family, and felt that she could be of use to us-"

"Yeah, before the plan blew up in our faces the first time you called her in. I told you to just let me handle it- just sneak into their hotel and slit their throats while they sleep, that's all I suggested. But, nope, you wanted to use that girl to gain their trust, draw them into a sense of security, pull the 'emotional' card-" Keith was criticizing.

"That's enough, Keith! …Vincent, I want you to dispose of those kids and werewolves the next time you see them, no hesitation this time!"

"Yes sir," Vincent replied, hanging up the phone. "Lets move out, Keith."

"About time," Keith said, smirking.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"…and before you know it, smart-mouth here is talking me into letting him join the team," Matthew finished.

"Mom is going to blow her top when she finds out," Puggsy sneered, giving Chance a disapproving look.

"What? Because her youngest son is skipping college to hunt after senile madmen?" Chance guessed. "It's not like it's any different than what you do,"

"Actually… you can't contact your family," Matthew told him, and looked in his rearview mirror at Brielle. "Once you become an agent on the Thorn team, you have to cut a few ties unless they're involved. When I ran away, I told my parents about my decision, and they understood and never contacted me again."

"What about me? I'm family…" Brielle spoke up.

"Yeah, well… you got involved with Vincent. I had to keep in touch with you after your lessons ended, in case he ever tried to recruit you."

"You could've warned me about him…"

"I didn't know he was part of the VCY until AFTER I met you, and his name came up on our files. I wanted to warn you, but everyone thought that you were an accomplice to him and would possibly lure us into a trap. I knew you weren't, but I couldn't convince anyone else, so I had to keep an eye on you in order to prove it."

"And you still want to join in on this?" Puggsy asked Chance, sternly.

"If it means I can stop the maniacs who are trying to kill my brother and his friends, I'm willing to handle it," Chance replied. "Just don't tell mom,"

"Right. You're the only family member he can contact, Puggsy- but only because you've gotten involved," Matthew pointed out.

"Am I the only one who things all this is messed up?!" Puggsy sneered.

"No." Brielle replied quietly.

"Messed up or not, it's the way it is." Matthew replied, then pulled over beside a café. "Lets stop here. I'll call up Kite and tell him I located you, Brielle."

"I'll call up the gang, and tell them you're alright, too." Chance told Puggsy. "You guys look like you could use a bite to eat, anyway. C'mon,"

They climbed out of the vehicle, entering the café. Chance and Matthew stepped outside after placing their orders and contacted their friends, while their siblings sat at the table in silence. "So… your brother seems nice," Brielle said, awkwardly.

"Yeah… yours too." Puggsy replied. "Weird that they both look alike, huh?"

"Tell me about it. …Well, I've seen weirder."

"Ditto."

They both sighed. "Lets hope the fiasco is over with… for a while."

"Mm-hmm…" Puggsy rested his face in his arms.

"You alright?"

"Just tired…"

Brielle nodded, understanding. The ordeal they just lived through was enough to drain one's energy, and it was even worse considering his heart-condition… It amazed her that, from jumping off bridges, being stuck inside a cramped box, handling explosions, nearly getting killed twice in the same minute, and finding out his brother was joining an elite agency (let alone had a twin), he hadn't collapsed earlier. As she looked at him, guilt once again preyed on her mind- she wanted to apologize, go as far as to promise she wouldn't leave his side for a second and make sure no one, not even Fangface, hurt him again and make up for all her mistakes… but after finding out what a tough guy he was, let alone didn't seem like one to swap feelings, she didn't want him to think of her as an emotional weakling.

I want to apologize and make up for what I did to him, but I can't just pour out my feelings unless I wanted to risk him seeing me as a wimp. she told herself. Besides, if I said how sorry I was and wanted to be at his side to watch over him—geez, even in my head that sounds like a line from a lame romance story! He'd get the wrong message and would probably have a heart-attack! I'll just have to use my actions to show it, and help bring down Vincent and Keith.

"Zzzzzzz…" came a soft snore, and she noticed he had fallen asleep.

She shook her head. The tough guy probably had all he could take. she figured. Better wake him up, before our food arrives.

Reaching over, she tussled his hair. "Hey, wake up." she whispered.

Puggsy shot up like a rocket. "Agh! Huh?! What?" he gasped, taking deep breaths.

"Relax, Pugs. It's just me,"

He gave her a look. "If it's just you, relaxation ain't happening. What do you want?"

"Just had to wake you- I don't think the waitress would enjoy mopping your drool off the table,"

"I wasn't drooling…" He looked away, wiping his mouth a bit, then turned back to her. "I'm surprised you ain't tired from our grimmified experience,"

"I just prefer to sleep on a bed, not a table, and I don't tire out that easily."

He rolled his eyes. "Bravo, you have stamina. Where's our brothers?"

"Here they come,"

Chance and Matthew walked in, sitting next to their siblings. "Well, you're not going to believe this… but Kite happened to meet your friends, Puggsy." Matthew said, grinning. "He's been helping them search for you,"

"I spoke with Fangs, too, Brielle. He said your parents are flying out here soon, ready to take you home the moment they find you." Chance added.

Brielle slouched a bit. "Great," she muttered.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

With Kite and the gang, there was a lot of excitement in the air. "Oh thank God they're alright!" Kim exclaimed, practically in tears, after Kite and Fangs told them that Chance and Matthew found Brielle and Puggsy and were bringing them back soon. Without thinking, she hugged Kite. "Thank you so much for your help!"

Kite blushed a bit. "Heh heh… well, it's actually Matt who did the helping…" he said, awkwardly. He cleared his throat. "They said they were going to meet us here at the hotel in about two hours."

"Ooh, ooh, I can't wait to see Puggsy- The moment I see him, I'm going to hold him tight, no matter HOW many times he snaps at me!" Fangs exclaimed, happy to know his best friend was alright.

"Right- you hold him, and I'll punch." Kasandra quipped.

"It's a good thing they escaped, too…" Biff said. "Maybe they can give us a lead on how to catch Vincent,"

"Lets hope so- I want to put my judo skills to use," Kite said, smirking.

"Hopefully by that time, Brielle's parents will be on their way," Kim added.

"Yeah- the sooner they take her home, the better," Kasandra sneered.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

It was safe to say Brielle wasn't looking forward to her reunion with her parents, and it didn't help that Matthew had no contact with them for years, making her wonder how they would react to seeing their only son was around- or if they would even recognize him. Truth be told, she now understood why they never tried to contact him, yet wondered why they would never bring him up after he had left, acting as if they never even had a son. How would they act around him if he was around now?

After they had eaten, they drove down the road, heading back into the city. The drive felt long, considering the traffic- even longer considering Puggsy, Chance and Matthew were arguing about the directions, ending up lost twice now. While the men bickered about which street to take, Brielle looked out the window. "Hey!" she spoke up, quieting them down. "Over there."

She pointed at a street sign that read: 'San Francisco Bay Bridge- 65 miles'.

"The bridge is eastern that way- the hotel is located eight blocks from it, if I remember correctly. Head that way,"

The guys looked at each other. "I told you so," Puggsy told them, and Matthew shoved him back.

"I knew it," Matthew scoffed.

"You did not- you wanted to drive further north," Chance sneered.

"At least I was heading in the right direction—"

"Yeah, only because I lead you in the right direction-"

"You mean I did," Puggsy huffed, crossing his arms.

"Lets just get there, before-" Matthew began… then the engine sputtered. "Ah, damn it! We're out of gas!"

"I thought you filled it up this morning!" Chance snapped.

"I did, but keep in mind we've been driving all over the city since 5 AM," Matthew sighed, climbing out and grabbing the gas-can from the trunk, then walked over to Chance's window and handed it to him. "Here, go fill this up. There's a gas station two blocks down that way,"

"Why do I have to go? It's your car!"

"Precisely why I'm not going to leave you alone in it,"

Chance rolled his eyes, climbing out. "You owe me."

"You owe me," he looked in the back seat. "You two want to get out and stretch your legs a bit?"

"I'm good," Puggsy replied.

"Same here," Brielle added.

"Alright," Matthew said with a shrug, leaning against the car.

"For someone who's cautious about his vehicle, he seems to enjoy staying out of it," Puggsy commented, seeing how relaxed Matthew became in seconds, shutting his eyes and enjoying the fresh air it seemed.

"He actually hates driving cars." Brielle told him. "He said he wanted a motorcycle, but ended up with an SUV instead for long trips."

"Ah. Gotcha."

Silence overcame them after that, and it was barely a minute before Brielle began to dose off, her thoughts locked on the consequences she was going to face upon meeting her parents. Puggsy, ironically, didn't dose off this time, despite he had zonked out back in a café just a half hour ago. He stared out the window, seeing they were close to another park, this one located by some sort of abandoned building. It was a nice sight, seeing the leaves fall from the trees while a few ducks waded across the pond, and for a moment he forgot about the situation they were in.

Something pressed against his shoulder just then, and he turned, seeing that- during her snooze- Brielle leaned to the side and rested her head on him. He blinked, looking out to make sure Matthew wasn't looking in- certainly he would get the wrong message and would want to pummel him for putting the moves on his sister, and if Chance found out he would never hear the end of it. He wanted to push her away, though she would probably immediately wake up and freak out as he had done in the café, let alone start another argument.

Might as well just let her sleep. he told himself. She needs all the rest she can get after what we've been through- and our problems ain't over yet.

He folded his arm on the edge of the window, resting his head on it, figuring he might as well rest too…

Neither of them slept for even two minutes when the song, "Whispers in the Dark" by Skillet came blaring from the stereo, and they snapped awake with a couple yelps. "Sorry! Forgot I had the volume jacked up," Matthew told them, now sitting in the front seat, turning the volume down. "Didn't know you two were asleep,"

"Well… we're wide awake now," Brielle remarked, rubbing her ears. "Is Chance back yet?"

Matthew looked down the block. "He should be back any…" he paused just then. "Hold on a minute,"

"What is it?" Puggsy asked, looking out… though Matthew ducked their heads down.

"Stay here, I think I saw someone. Wait here," Matthew got out of the car, looking around.

"Do you see anything?" Brielle asked after a minute or so.

"No, but I'm pretty sure someone's out there,"

*BANG!*

A bullet-hole suddenly appeared in the roof of the car, inches from Matthew's face. "And, I was right! Stay down!" He then took out a gun from his jacket and began firing in the direction where the shot at come from, though another shot zinged by from another angle, and he ran to the other side of the car to have more of a shield.

"Shit, where's Chance?" Puggsy asked, peeking out the back window, but didn't see his brother anywhere.

"Wherever he is, he'd better steer clear of the firing squad," Brielle said, cringing as Matthew shot again.

Puggsy's door swung open just then, and Matthew poked his head in. "I saw the shooter, he ducked inside an alley, but I couldn't make out his face. I think there's another one somewhere in that parking lot across the street." he said, flinching when two more shots were fired in their direction, one of them shattering the window. "Pugs, I want you and Brielle to run through the park and get out of here! Go get Chance and find the others!"

Brielle cringed when another bullet shattered the other window. "What about you?"

"I'll be fine- trust me, I've been through worse situations. Just be careful!"

"I will if you will," They climbed out and- keeping low and ducking behind benches, trash cans, trees and other obstacles, ran through the park.

"Hey, Pugs!"

Puggsy paused, looking back at Matthew when he ducked behind a tree.

"Take care of my sister,"

"Right," Puggsy replied, then ran off with Brielle, both of them cutting through the park.

People in the streets and park screamed, running for cover, and there was the sound of police sirens. A semi drove by and Matthew ran alongside it, ducking behind another vehicle. He sniffed the air, and he gritted his teeth… suddenly baring fangs. "Veni-Con-Yei…" he groused, then got in a crouching position, watching as two men clad in black ran by, and he leaped at them from behind-

*Skish!*

"AGH!" he shouted as an arrow was shot into his shoulder after Vincent had spun around, clearly ready for his attack. Keith then kicked him upside the jaw, knocking him into a vehicle and making a dent.

"I'll go after Brielle… you handle this brat," Vincent ordered, and ran in the direction Puggsy and Brielle had gone.

Keith took out a knife, grinning darkly. "With pleasure… I've always wanted to kill one of Thorn's best agents," he said, chuckling.

*THWACK!*

Before he could stab Matthew, he was struck in the face by a gas-can. "You can't always get what you want," Chance sneered, then splashed the gasoline on Keith.

"Augh, my eyes! You son of a bitch!" Keith screamed, lunging blindly with his knives, only to get tripped by Chance as he stepped aside, then caught him in a headlock.

Matthew, in the meantime, took out his cell phone. "Kite, we're at the park by 55th Ave., you gotta get here quick- we've got an ambush!" he said, then hung up, digging in his pocket until he found a lighter.

Keith flipped Chance over his shoulders, then held up his knife. "Get ready to die-" he growled as he gripped his throat.

*POW!*

Chance punched him in the face, then kicked him in the stomach, making him sprawl out on his back. Keith then took out a gun, taking aim. "One more move, and I'll pump you full of lead!" he growled, aiming it at both him and Matthew.

"You're going to shoot me anyway- why should I go down without a fight?" Chance scoffed.

"Good point. Any last words, pretty boys?"

"Yeah. Your shoes on fire," Matthew said, then used his lighter and ignited Keith's shoe… while he was still soaked in gasoline.

*FWOOSH!*

"GAAAHHHHH!" Keith shrieked as he burst into flames, running across the park. "HELP! SOMEONE HELP!"

Chance quickly rushed to Matthew's aid, helping him over to the SUV where he grabbed a First Aid kit out of the back, tending to his wound. "You owe me for that gas," he quipped.

"Hey, I saved you from getting shot, we're even." Matthew replied.

*SPLASH!*

They looked, seeing that Keith had jumped into a pond, putting out the fire… then crawled out, charred and burned. "Screw you guys! Just wait until we kill your friends!" he shouted, then ran across the park, stumbling a bit.

Matthew growled, and Chance noticed his eyes were yellow. "C'mon! We've got to go after them!" he snarled.

"In a moment! That arrow really did a number on you," Chance replied.

"We don't have a moment! Vincent could kill your brother- he probably already has!"

Chance gave him a dark glare. "You… don't know my brother." he bandaged his shoulder. "There, now we can go,"

With that, the two took off to go find their siblings.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Brielle and Puggsy kept running, keeping an eye out for Chance, yet didn't see him anywhere amongst the crowd of panicking citizens. "I don't see him anywhere," Puggsy said, breathing heavily as they paused for a beat. "I swear to God, if any of those creeps got to him…"

Brielle gripped his arm just then. "Bad news: we've got company!" she said, pointing across the field, where Vincent was ducking behind a tree.

"Jumping ignorpotomases, I thought this guy laid low!" Puggsy said, then grabbed her hand, running towards the old building. "C'mon, we're going to have to lose him in here!"

As they ran through the park, avoiding gunshots Vincent fired at them, the pain in Puggsy's chest increased and he stumbled a bit. Ignore it, don't let it slow you down! he told himself, forcing himself to keep up the pace. He and Brielle soon reached the building, running around the corner until they came across a rusty fire escape, seeing an open window at the top.

He pushed her forward. "You first,"

Brielle climbed up, the ladder wobbling and she kept her grip tight until she reached the top. She looked over the edge at Puggsy, who was climbing, then over where she saw Vincent closing in. "Hurry!" she cried.

"What else can I do? …agh!" he gripped his chest, the pain growing severe. A bar he stood on busted just then, and he was left hanging by one hand. "Whoa!"

"Puggsy!" Brielle leaned over, trying to reach for his hand. He quickly swung his free hand up and grabbed hold of it, and she helped pull him up.

Unfortunately, Vincent had reached them, standing at the end of the alley and taking aim up at them. "You two were better off stuck on that ship," he said, grinning darkly. "Farewell you meddling-"

There was a snarl just then, and a large, muscular, black-furred werewolf with a blonde mane attacked Vincent, tackling him to the ground and ripping the gun out of his hands. The hunter cried out, then took out his knife, slicing the werewolf on the arm, making it howl out in pain, though it smacked him hard enough to make him slam into the wall.

"Where'd that wolf come from?!" Puggsy asked, surprised at seeing another werewolf.

"I don't know, I'm just glad it came here- c'mon, while Vincent's busy!" Brielle told him, and they climbed through the window, entering the abandoned building.

It appeared to be an old auditorium, as they walked across a balcony, crouching low behind some seats to catch their breath. Puggsy had a grip on his chest, his heart aching with every beat, much to Brielle's concern. "You stay here," she whispered to him. "I'll go scout ahead,"

He grabbed her wrist as she stood up. "Oh no you don't…" he said between breaths. "You've already gotten yourself in enough trouble as it is. I'll go scout ahead!"

"You're on the verge of a heart-attack! …And I'm not the only one who got myself in trouble- I figured it out. You weren't supposed to leave the hospital- you took off and left your friends behind, even though you knew about your condition!"

"I do NOT have a condition! And you have no right to talk- you ran away from home, you ran away from us, and you've got a scar on your neck that could re-open at any second!"

"I ran away to keep you guys safe- you're the one who decided to get involved, you dumbass. Stay put for once, before you get shot again," She stood up-

He grabbed her arm tightly. "I ain't staying behind. You think you can handle this kind of saturation but… you can't, Brielle! You don't think things through, you put your life on the line too much, and you find more trouble than you find help! I may have screwed up the past couple days by leaving my friends, but that doesn't mean I'm going to try and find them, and let them help me out! Unlike you, I actually THINK about the mistakes I've made and try to fix them!"

"You think I never thought about my mistakes?!" Brielle yelled so loudly, a few pigeons in the rafters scattered. "I've been trying to make up for them since the moment you ended up in the hospital, struggling for your life! I didn't want any of you involved because I didn't want anyone else getting hurt- I knew it was going to be dangerous, even suicidal, but I was still going to risk it because it was my fault, and my fight. I just wanted to lift this guilt, and make it up to you guys."

"By nearly getting yourself killed?"

"I'm not afraid to die… I'm afraid of getting others killed." She winced. "Please, just let go. I want to make sure nothing else happens to you,"

Puggsy gave her a look, but loosened his grip, grabbing onto her hand. "Well, Brie, I appreciate the offer, but I don't need looking after. …Besides, I told your brother I'd look after you." he looked down at the stairway. "We'll scout ahead together, alright? There's safety in numbers."

Brielle gave him a look, but nodded, and they advanced down the stairs. It grew dark, and she gripped his hand as a stair creaked. They made it to the bottom, and they looked around the dark room, making out the shape of an old stage, stacked up metal chairs collecting dust against the walls, a musty floor with chipped paint, and hundreds of cobwebs all over the place. It was the quiet that was the most startling though… and she realized it was too quiet.

"I don't hear Vincent or that werewolf outside anymore." she whispered to him.

"I noticed that… which means one of them is probably dead, and the other is looking for us," Puggsy replied, keeping a firm grip on her hand. "There's got to be an exit around here, somewhere… we can sneakify out and go find our brothers, and get to the others before some other calamity happens,"

*CLANG!*

A metal chair fell off the wall, startling them both. They looked around the shadows, trying to make out any other figures. Puggsy looked over, seeing a shadow cross over a spot of light that shined through a window, and he pulled Brielle towards the stage, hiding behind the curtains. They heard footsteps just then, coming their way. Brielle tapped Puggsy's shoulder, pointing over at an old 'Exit' sign hanging diagonally over a doorway, and he nodded. Quietly as they could, they lightly stepped across the stage towards their escape.

A floorboard creaked under their weight just then, and suddenly someone stepped through the curtains…

The floorboards groaned, then crackled…

*Crash!*

Puggsy and Brielle cried out as they fell through the worn-out stage, landing ten feet underground on an old mattress, rolling off as dust shot into the air after their impact. Brielle sat up, looking around. "Puggsy?" she whispered, and saw that he had landed next to her. Crawling over, she turned him on his back… he wasn't moving. "Oh no…"

"Guys! Are you alright?" came a voice, and she looked up, seeing Chance looking down through the hole, and it was easy to figure out he was the one looking for them in the dark.

"Puggsy's not moving!"

"Shit- hold on! I'll be on my way down! Stay with him!"

What else can I do? she thought critically, then leaned over Puggsy, lying her ear to his chest, thinking the worse…

*ba-bump… ba-bump… ba-bump*

She sighed with relief, hearing the slow beating of his heart. Maybe he's right- his heart is fine. she thought, yet couldn't quite believe it. Every time they were on the run, or went through a near-death experience, or those times she got on his nerves, he would be in pain. Yet why, after they had experienced so much shock, did his heart keep on beating, especially after falling ten feet into darkness?

She thought to the day they had spent together when they first met, the stories he told her about facing various maniacs that either hung him above fire-pits or trapped him in a flooding room, getting involved in dangerous stunts from rafting over a water-fall to riding a rhino, being chased by ferocious creatures from giant cobras to lizard-men… not to mention, had a werewolf for a best friend who liked to eat him or stuff him in strange objects like fish-bowls or tree-trunks. And during the past two weeks, he had survived being shot (a second time), leaped off a bridge a thousand feet high into freezing water, outwitted a band of pirates, and was now on the run from a homicidal hunter.

Maybe, since he's had so many thrills his entire life, his heart can handle it. Brielle figured, helping him sit up, his head limply lying against her shoulder. As she tried to sit it up, she felt a bump on the side, figuring he must have hit his head after their fall. If I were in his position… I would've been dead days ago.

"You're right, I do keep finding trouble," she whispered to him. "I thought I had enough experience, after traveling on my own for so many years- learning new things after traveling to museums and landmarks, making a good friend here and there… I even took some cooking classes, and often looked around for an apartment. I managed to afford it all, because- before I left- I took some at least half a million dollars out of my family's account. My father gave us all special bank cards so that whenever I went shopping I could take out some money. He was really generous that way…"

She looked down at him, hoping that- perhaps by talking to him- she could draw him out of his state of unconsciousness, as if her words could make their way to his subconscious and guide his mind back to reality.

"I planned on paying my parents back, once I found my own job and settled down somewhere. I actually wanted to get into photography and make my own magazine- nothing sleazy like those gossip magazines or homey stuff like Good Housekeeping. I figured, with all my traveling, I could interview different people who traveled the world, explored new areas, and things like that, and let them share their own stories. …If I manage to, maybe I could write a few issues about you and your friends- if you guys aren't pissed about all the trouble I've caused."

She heard footsteps just then, and looked over, making out a shape in the dark. "Sorry it took so long, I had to find a trap-door." Chance said. "There's a ladder that leads up it."

"Alright… but what about Pugs?"

"I can carry him. You make your way up, then you can pull him up once I'm close enough."

She agreed, letting the younger sibling grab Puggsy and followed him through the dark towards a metal ladder, climbing up first until she found the edge of the stage, pulling herself up. Chance had difficulty, trying to balance the ladder while carrying his older brother over his shoulder. Brielle looked around, her eyes having adjusted to the shadows, and found a rope. She tied a large loop in it, and lowered it down as the younger brother stepped off the ladder, trying to figure out how to get his brother up there.

"Here, hook this underneath his arms. I can pull him up, and you can support him around the waist," Brielle told him.

"It'll have to work," Chance sighed, doing as she directed. "Are you sure you can lift him, though?"

"Dude, I had to hang on to him while we were dangling over the edge of a bridge, and let him step on me as he climbed up to stable ground. I think I can manage pulling him up,"

Chance shrugged. "Okay, I'll still help lift, though."

Brielle began to pull, and realized there was a difference between pulling Puggsy up than compared to hanging on to him- for one thing, he was unconscious, thereby couldn't use his own energy to help support himself. Thankfully, Chance managed to climb beside him, having a hold on his waist as he made his way up the ladder. After a couple minutes, Puggsy was finally close enough so she could reach down and grab him by the jacket, Chance now beneath him and pushing up underneath his legs, both of them finally getting him back on the surface.

"Now lets get out of here," Chance said after taking a quick breath, and lifted his brother back up, both of them making their way out of the building.

"Where have you been, by the way?" Brielle asked as they made their way around the corner, back through the park. "We were looking for you before Vincent showed up,"

"I was with Matthew, helping him get rid of Keith… the creep managed to get away after jumping into the pond to extinguish the flames,"

Brielle's eyes widened, and she had to laugh a bit. "You set him on fire?! Man, I wish I could have seen that, must've been hilarious."

"Oh, sure, REAL funny!" came a snap, and Keith stepped in front of them, holding his knife. "You know what'll be even funnier? Your bodies rotting six feet underground! …And I see your little secret-agent friend isn't around. That's a shame- but I suppose disposing of you bastards will be satisfying enough," He lunged-

Brielle intercepted, shooting her elbow up and blocking his arm has he stabbed down, then kicked him in the groin as hard as she could. It was enough to cause Keith to drop his knife (as well as utter a high-pitched whimper) and hunch over, and she took the opportunity to kick him in the face, knocking him into a light-post. When he leaned forward, she punched him in the face, his nose leaking blood, then grabbed him by the collar and slammed him into a wall.

"You should really see this!" Chance said to his unconscious brother, amazed.

Keith, however, wasn't down for the count yet. "You think you can beat me so easily?" he growled, grabbing her by the arm and flipping/slamming her onto the ground, then grabbed her by the hair and yanked her back up, then punched her in the face, giving her a black eye.

Chance set Puggsy off to the side, running at Keith, then punched him in the face, then caught him in a choke-hold. "Didn't your parents tell you to never hit a lady?"

"Yeah… but I'm going to hit you anyway!" Keith bit down on his arm, making him cry out as he pried out of his grip, then struck him across the face, then leaped and air-kicked him in the side of the head, making him slam into the wall.

Brielle then tackled Keith from behind, trying to catch him in a choke-hold, but he rolled over onto his back, leaped back onto his feet, and slammed her into the wall hard enough to knock the air out of her, then spun around and gripped her by the throat, strangling her. She kicked him in the crotch once more, then in the stomach, grabbing him by the head and swinging her left leg behind his, making them buckle and fall back, but he grabbed her by the hair and yanked her down with him, and they were at each other's throats, rolling around and trying to pin the other. When Keith was back on top, he lifted her head and slammed it to the ground repeatedly, then held it down as he managed to reclaim his knife next to them, and sliced off her bandages.

"Hope you like that scar… because you're about to get a matching set!" he raised his knife and stabbed downward.

He was suddenly yanked off Brielle just then, and Matthew decked him, grabbing him by the jacket and swinging him into the wall, knocking him out. He turned to his sister, breathing heavily- and she noticed his shoulder was bandaged, yet he sported some fresh bruises and scrapes on his face and abdomen. "Where have you been? You missed half the fun," Brielle remarked.

"I came across Vincent in an alley… he had a bit of trouble with a werewolf." Matthew replied, and appeared to be wincing, his eyes red. "Used pepper-spray on the wolf and took off running- apparently, he was out of ammo and was forced to make a break for it. I was going to go after him, but heard your scramble going on,"

Brielle nodded, standing up as they looked at Puggsy and Chance, the two brothers on the ground, still unconscious, then at the bruised and bloodied Keith, who groaned but did not get up. "Well… things can only improve from here,"

"You'd better hope so… because you're still in a world of trouble," came a voice, and they spun around…

Seeing Biff, Kim, Kasandra, Fangs, and Kite standing there, Kasandra being the one who spoke.

"Nice job, Twiggy. You managed to bring down Keith- why does he smell like a burnt fish, though?" Kite said to Matthew, arching an eyebrow.

"Hossy and I set him on fire, and he jumped in the pond. Brielle did a number on him after that," Matthew replied.

"Twiggy?" Brielle questioned.

"Hossy?" Kim added.

"Those are their nicknames for each other- Hossy got his considering girls always describe him as a 'hotsie', while Twiggy actually got his from a 'spell' mishap… it's a long story." Kite explained, somewhat, then grabbed Keith, stripping him of his weapons and slapping a pair of handcuffs on him.

"How'd you guys get here so quick, anyhow? It's normally an hour-long drive," Matthew replied.

"We got a police escort- and broke the speed-limit by a good 100 miles,"

"I've never felt so car-sick in my life…" Fangs said, still feeling dizzy.

"Heh, you should see it when Kitefang drives,"

Matthew grabbed Chance, folding his arm around his shoulders and supporting him underneath his other arm, then turned to Brielle and Kasandra. "Well, I suppose you two have got a few things to wrap up, so we'll take care of things here." he told them. "We'll be nearby, though- Vincent may be back after he gets his wind back."

Kasandra nodded. "…I'll tell your parents you said 'hi'," she said, and Brielle gave her a wide-eyed look that she would say such a thing.

Matthew paused, giving her a look. "Don't bother."

"Thanks again for your help- if you guys need anything, feel free to contact us. We've got an agent everywhere." Kite said, handing Kim a card with his number on it, then gave her a wink and walked off with Matthew, dragging Keith behind him.

They waved them farewell, then Brielle faced the gang, as Biff and Fangs walked over and lifted up Puggsy by the arms, and Kim and Kasandra gave her cold looks. "C'mon, 'cousin'… we need to talk," Kasandra said, sharply.

0o0o0o0o0o0

The drive back to the hotel was filled with silence. Brielle sat in the middle of the backseat between Kasandra and Fangs- who sat close to Puggsy, giving Brielle a glare every time she looked over at the unconscious teen. Biff and Kim were the only ones who spoke to her, asking what all had happened, yet their tones made it perfectly clear that she had dragged their friend into danger, despite his heart condition. After she had told them everything, they scolded her for running off, and ended the conversation there… and she figured their statements were the 'softer' kinds, considering- after seeing the furious look that remained in Kasandra and Fangs' eyes- she was going to be in for a rough ride.

They made it to the hotel at last, and Biff carried Puggsy to the room he and Kim shared, that linked to Fangs and Kasandra's, and the lanky teen followed them in, wanting to make sure his best buddy was going to be alright… let alone knew that Kasandra wanted to chew out Brielle in private.

"First of all, you should have told us about Vincent sooner, especially after knowing he was hunting a member of your own family," Kasandra said, bitterly. "Second, you shouldn't have run off on your own like some coward!"

"First, I couldn't just tell you about Vincent without you guys ganging up on me, and I tried to shake him off your backs!" Brielle retorted, sharply. "Second, I didn't run off on my own, I was with Matthew, and I was going to meet Kite- I happen to have contact with trustworthy people, not just homicidal maniacs!"

"Why didn't you stick with Matthew, then, until Kite came along? And furthermore, how could you let Puggsy get involved after seeing the condition he was in?"

"Matthew has more tasks at hand outside of helping his sister- and I didn't want to get him to fight my battles for me! I only asked for his help, he set me up to rendezvous with Kite, and to keep in touch in case anything else happened. As for Puggsy, I didn't know about his heart-condition until after we fell off the bridge- I thought you guys had split up to search for me, until I figured out he took off on his own! And I didn't want him involved in the first place- I didn't want any of you involved! That's why I ran away- to keep you guys out of trouble while I went to get back at Vincent for you!"

"'Get back at Vincent'? What, do you think this is some sort of game?! We've been involved before he even called you out here, you dipstick! And if you wanted to help, you should have just faced us and-"

"And given you info on how to catch Vincent and everything', Puggsy already read me that riot act several times! I've learned my mistake, and I'm willing to help out-"

"I don't think so. You've done enough damage already- I'm not sure I can even trust you after the mess you've made! Running off, having Puggsy run off with you, both of you getting kidnapped, and beaten… You're not going to be any help to us the way you've acted! Lord above… Puggsy's got the worse of it- you're lucky he's still alive! The sooner your parents get here, the better!" Kasandra then stormed out onto the balcony, taking in a deep breath.

Brielle could only glare. She knew her cousin couldn't trust her… but she didn't even give her a chance to share her testimony. She wanted to go out onto the balcony and ask for another chance, but dismissed the idea- after the stunts she's pulled, no one would want to listen to her. She sat on the bed, her hang hanging low, just wanting to sit in silence.

In the other room, Fangs sat beside Puggsy, while Biff took off his jacket to examine his abdomen, then studied his heart-beats and pulse. "Everything seems to be okay. He's still in bad shape, though," Biff replied. "We may have to take him back to the hospital. He might have a concussion from that bump on his head, and his stitches might need replaced and sterilized after falling into the bay, and his breathing is still a little unsteady."

"Poor Puggsy… it's a miracle he's still alive," Kim said quietly.

Fangs stood up, looking at his friend once more, then walked towards the door. "I'll be right back," he said, solemnly.

He felt rage towards Brielle, wanting to chew her out- just for causing all the trouble that lead to Puggsy's condition. Granted, the loudmouth had ran off on his own… but if that girl had just warned them about Vincent, he wouldn't have gotten shot and gone through so much pain. What made it worse was how Fangs promised to look after his best friend, yet after being around Brielle, he once again fell into danger and would be taken back to the hospital, probably hooked back up to more tubes and forced to go through more tests and surgery… All because of her.

He entered the room, seeing that Kasandra was out on the balcony and Brielle was on the bed, looking down at the ground. "Hey, Brielle, I want to talk to y-" he began to say, firmly.

"For the love of God, how many times do I have to get chewed out?!" Brielle shouted at him, tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry, alright?! I'm sorry I screwed up! I didn't know Vincent was a dangerous man until it was too late! I tried to shake him for you, to make up for what I did! I didn't want anyone else to get hurt- I was willing to sacrifice my own life just to make up for what I did to Puggsy. I knew how bad he was hurt, I could tell how severe his pain became with every situation we were in, and wanted him to stay behind somewhere just so it wouldn't get worse, but he kept following me! He wanted to make sure I stayed out of trouble… because I'm always getting into trouble, even when I'm trying to do the right thing, or think I am! The whole reason I took off to go after Vincent on my own was because of him- he got shot because of me, and I knew that, if he died, I could never forgive myself, and wanted that hunter bastard to pay for it! I know I keep making mistakes, and because of it he kept getting hurt, so you don't have to remind me!… I'm sorry already, alright?! I've always been sorry! Just lay off already!"

After that, she broke down in sobs.

Fangs could only stand there, in mid-rant, his finger still raised though it limply fell, and he blinked.

Kasandra, hearing Brielle snapping, walked into the room, giving her a look. "Despite all that, you're still…" she began to say.

"Oh for crying out loud, guys, back off already! She's said her apology, just accept it and give her a break!"

They turned, seeing Puggsy standing in the doorway, pulling on a new shirt and placing his fedora back on his head, walking over and standing beside Brielle. "Puggsy- you're alright!" Fangs exclaimed.

"'Course I am, I've been through worser. …Geez, guys, what's gotten into you? Normally I'm the one who holds a grudge, and I managed to forgive her before you did!" he looked at Brielle, smirking. "And they call me a hot-head,"

"But she-"

"I know what she did- she made a mistake, but learned from it. She's agreed to stick with us until we've captivated Vincent…Which shouldn't be hard, since the last time we saw him, he was getting mangled by a werewolf."

"Remind me to thank whoever it was, if we ever come across them." Kasandra said, then turned to Brielle and sighed. "I suppose I should apologize for blowing up at you. It's just… knowing my own cousin was in cahoots with Vincent, and one of my friends getting shot, and you disappearing- sheesh, I thought you were still working with him!"

"If I was, you'd think I'd be sporting this 'beauty mark'?" Brielle tilted her head, showing the scar on her neck. "Perfect proof that I betrayed Vincent… and STILL lived, heh heh."

"You think that's impressive? How about this?" Puggsy scoffed, holding his shirt up and undoing his bandages, showing the scar over his heart, right next to his other scar. "Try surviving a bullet to the heart,"

"Ouch," Fangs said, observing the scar.

"Alright, you two, this isn't a competition on who got it worse," Kasandra said, rolling her eyes.

"…if it was, I won." Puggsy said, tucking his shirt back in.

Brielle rolled her eyes. "Congratulations, you got maimed. Here's your award," she quipped, holding up an imaginary trophy.

"So… want to give us the details about how you escaped from those pirates?" Fangs asked, eagerly. "I heard about the explosion down at the bay,"

Brielle shrugged. "Yeah… it was my idea. We needed a good distraction. Though we wouldn't have gotten far without Gin,"

"Gin?" Kasandra asked.

"Apparently, she was Dark Crow's daughter- if I heard him right, while he was trying to shoot me." Puggsy answered. "She's at the police station- they're going to pull up her records, then she's going to try to start a new life, I suppose."

"And I noticed you guys met Kite, too." Brielle added.

"Yeah, he's a pretty cool kid and- watch your heart-rate Puggsy- he's a werewolf too!" Fangs replied.

"Great, more werewolves." Puggsy said, rolling his eyes.

"Well, I don't find it surprising- most of the Thorn's best agents are werewolves," Brielle said.

"Yeah… he also said something about your family, the Sherebas- apparently, they must be really important." Kasandra said. "Any ideas on why?"

Brielle shook her head. "I wouldn't know… my parents always kept me in the dark about everything, just kept me at home and didn't let me go anywhere on my own."

"Why not?" Fangs asked.

"I was sick when I was born, I nearly died at birth they said. They kept an eye on me at all times, and didn't think I was capable of doing anything on my own and always had it done for me- didn't let me go to public school, or look for a job after I turned 14… heck, they even set up 'play dates' for me to find friends, which didn't work for me. I kept trying to tell them I could handle myself and they should at least give me a chance, but they wouldn't hear of it."

"I can understand they'd be protective of you after your birth… but not so much to just keep you locked up. Parents need to let their kids get out on their own and learn things," Kasandra replied.

"Yeah… if you ask me, I think they're hiding something," Puggsy said, rubbing his chin.

"Would be great if we knew what," Brielle muttered.

"Maybe we can get some answers once they get here," Fangs suggested.

"If they're willing to talk. If they broke ties with Kassy's family, had no contact with Matthew, and keep their daughter locked up for reasons unknown, I doubt they'd say anything to a bunch of strangers," Puggsy replied.

"You've got a point there," Brielle muttered.

"I think, after the experience we've had, they'd be willing to give us answers- keeping us in the dark won't help us handle this matter." Kasandra pointed out. "And if they start to hesitate, we'll just have to be more persuasive,"

"Persuasion isn't going to do it. I spent three years trying to get them to tell me everything, yet they kept saying 'there's nothing wrong' and how I was 'too young to do things on my own' and shit like that. If you strapped them to chairs, turned into werewolves, and threatened them, they still wouldn't say anything! I even told them two years ago that, if they told me why they were so over-protective and what they were hiding, I would come home… and that didn't even do it. They just told me I wouldn't understand, and to come home before I got myself killed,"

"Boy, they're going to be hard to crack," Fangs said, scratching the side of his face. "You'd have to be a mind-reader to get answers out of them,"

"We're still going to try. If they care about their families at all, they'll have to cooperate," Kasandra said, sternly.

Biff and Kim walked into the room just then. "Pugs, your mom just called. She's worried sick about you- again," Kim said, holding up her cell phone.

Puggsy took the phone. "Hello?" he said.

"What were you thinking running off after getting shot, are you insane?! And what's this I hear about you falling off bridges and getting kidnapped?! What have you've been getting yourself into?!" Came Barbara's voice, loud enough for everyone to hear… without it being on speaker-phone.

Puggsy covered the mouth-piece. "I… need to take this outside," he then stepped out onto the balcony.

"I'd better call my parents too, and fill them in on everything," Kasandra said, taking out her cell phone and walking into the bathroom.

"Ooh, ooh, I'm going to call Sam and tell her everything's alright," Fangs added, taking out his cell phone… and holding it up at different angles. "I really need to get a phone with better service."

"I'm going to call up Stutz, and tell him and Luca to keep an eye out for Vincent, just in case." Biff said, walking into his room with his cell phone.

Brielle looked at the four teens on cell phones, blinking. "Apparently, we're the only ones who don't have to make a call." she said to Kim.

"Yeah, though I should call up Kite and see how Chance and Matthew are doing," Kim replied, then looked at Brielle. "I also want to be the first to say thank you,"

She arched an eyebrow. "For what?"

"For sticking by Puggsy's side the past two days, and helping each other out."

"Eh, don't thank me too much. I didn't have much of a choice- we were stuck inside a crate together, and the loudmouth wouldn't leave me alone for a minute, except when we had to lure one of our kidnappers into a trap. Back in that abandoned building, he wouldn't even let me scout ahead, thinking I'd get into more trouble. …I mean, this whole mess is my fault."

"Not entirely- Vincent dragged you into it and deceived you. You didn't tell us about him when you first met us, but still told us the truth,"

"Yeah- AFTER Puggsy ended up in the hospital,"

"Not really…" Fangs said, from across the room, texting his sister. "Puggsy told us what happened after he woke up, and said you told him everything first, after you tried to lead Vincent away. ...We still wish you would have stuck around, but at least you're here now, so it's okay."

Brielle nodded, smiling a bit. "Thanks… Trust me guys, next time I'll be more help." she slouched a bit. "…that is, if there'll BE a next time…"

Puggsy walked back in just then. "Yes, Mom, I'll be home in a couple days- yes I promise. …(sigh) Tell Toni she can't have my computer," he said, rolling his eyes. "Love you too. See ya." He then hung up, turning to his friends. "Boy, am I going to be in hot water when I get home,"

"You think that's bad, just wait until MY parents show up. …When are they going to be here, anyway?"

"They were flying in from California, but their flight got delayed in a storm. They might be here tomorrow," Kim replied.

"So I've only got just a little freedom left…"

"Well… since Vincent is probably still massacrated, Keith is out of commission, and we're all still alive, why not make the most of it?" Puggsy suggested. "We've had a rough trip, I think it's time we all relaxed,"

"I like that plan," Fangs agreed.

"I'll talk to Biff about it," Kim said with a nod, going into the other room.

Kasandra walked out. "Well, Brie, believe it or not, my parents actually took your side," she told her, chuckling. "They said that, the way your parents acted, they weren't surprised you ran away- they were shocked that you were with Vincent, but they're just relieved you chose the right side and are alright. They even said that, if you ever wanted to run away again, they'd let you live with 'em, heh."

Brielle snickered. "Makes me wish they were the ones taking me home," she replied.

"We're all planning on spending the evening going out and having fun, sound good to you?" Fangs asked, putting his arm around her.

She rested her head on his shoulder. "Sounds good as long as I'm with you, babe," she said, giving him a peck on the cheek.

Puggsy grimaced, and Brielle leaned over to him. "I'm bringing a bucket of cold water along if they get all lovey-dovey," she whispered.

"Good thinking," he replied, cracking a smirk.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

The gang decided to go to the mall, hanging out around the food-court. "By the way, what's Martin been up to?" Brielle asked Kasandra.

"He's going to college with Fangs' sister, Sam." Kasandra replied, grinning. "They're going out, too."

"And I'm still uneasy about it," Fangs muttered. "No offense, Kassy, I trust your brother and all, but my brotherly-instinct keeps kicking in,"

Kasandra chuckled. "It's alright, Fangs- my dad feels the same way towards you,"

Fangs paled a bit, and Brielle had to chuckle a little.

"What about the rest of you guys? What are your families like?" Brielle asked Biff, Kim, and Puggsy.

"I have a younger sister and brother," Biff replied. "Shane just likes to hang out in his room playing videogames or riding his bike around the neighborhood, and started middle school; and Laura is a Junior in high-school, and has been begging me to let her come on our trips- mom says not until after she graduates,"

"I don't have any siblings, but my dad is a retired army sergeant and my mom has her own cooking class. They call me every week just to make sure I'm alright," Kim told her. "One time my dad called the Red Cross when I didn't call for two weeks,"

"My parents want me to call every other day, and my dad keeps newspaper articles of us pinned to the wall at the police station- he's the chief of police in our hometown." Puggsy added. "You've already met Chance- then there's my cousin, Toni. You'll be lucky if you never have to meet her. She tends to be a pain in the neck."

"She must get it from you," Brielle quipped.

Puggsy rolled his eyes. "Ha ha, haven't heard THAT before…"

"What about you, Brie? What all did you do before you ran away?" Fangs asked.

Brielle shrugged. "Just hung around the mansion, going shopping with my mom, looking for stuff to do…" she replied.

"Mansion? Are your parents rich?" Puggsy roughly nudged him. "Ow! What?"

"Yeah… though it's not like the mansion you'd see on The Fresh Price of Bel-Air. It's more of a two-story house, though my parents added on to it since we moved there, and expanded the yard, built a brick wall with a gate around it, gravel drive-way… classy stuff like that."

Fangs let out a descending whistle. "Think your parents have a room for rent?"

"Shut up and eat your fries, pinhead." Puggsy sneered, giving Fangs a glare.

"What? I was only joking,"

"I think he's trying to say it's not a good time to have Brielle bring up her home," Kasandra whispered to him.

"Oh…"

"Anyone feel like walking around?" Kim suggested.

"Sure," Biff replied, and the others agreed.

They walked around the mall, and after a couple minutes Fangs and Kasandra passed a store that sold Native American jewels, decorations, and other items. "Oh, I love this stuff!" Kasandra gasped with delight. "Lets go browse around!"

"You guys go ahead, I'm going to head in the book store- Laura's birthday is coming up, and she loves to read," Biff said.

"I'll go in with you. I want to find a new book too," Kim added, following him inside.

Brielle looked at Biff and Kim, then turned to Puggsy. "Hey… are they going out?" she asked, quietly.

Puggsy thought about it, remembering how Kim had scolded him when he brought it up. "Nah, I think they're just close," he said. "If they were, though, I think they're denying it."

Brielle nodded. "So… where do you want to go?"

Puggsy looked down the lane. "…Arcade?"

She smirked. "I figured so."

They walked back to the arcade. It was nearly empty save for a couple younger teenagers, and they browsed around until they came to the Dance Dance Revolution machine. "Hey, my old score is still up," she pointed out, then gave Puggsy a sly look. "Think you can beat it?"

Puggsy shook his head, rolling his eyes. "No thanks. I ain't stepping on another DDR machine," he scoffed.

"Why? Worried you'll fall on your ass again?"

He sneered. "No, I just don't want to look like an idiot again,"

"…in other words, falling on your ass- and unable to beat my score,"

Puggsy crossed his arms. "If you're trying to persuade me to get on that thing, it ain't happening."

"Alright, if you say so… can't-beat-my-score."

"That's it!" Puggsy stepped on, putting in his quarters. "I'll show you…"

"They've got songs for two-players- difficulty level. Think you can handle it?"

"Compared to what I've gone through- no problem. I pick though,"

She shrugged. "Be my guest."

Puggsy browsed through the songs, until he found one that might not give him a headache: "Runaway" by DJ Dynasty and DJ Photik.

Brielle arched an eyebrow. "Are you trying to crack a joke or something?"

He rolled his eyes. "Just dance."

She scoffed. "Don't roll your eyes so much, they might fall out of your head,"

The song started, and they stepped on the arrows to try and match them up on the screen, until they started to move with the rhythm. Just like the first time, they got into it, forgetting the world around them. As the numbers got higher, the beat picked up. Puggsy looked over at her every few seconds, grinning a bit- it was like they were reliving the first day they spent together, the trouble from the past few days feeling like only a dream, that they were just continuing hanging out...

"Hey, you've almost got the score beat!" Brielle exclaimed. "And you haven't landed on your ass yet,"

"Don't psych me out, Shereba- and do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" Puggsy retorted.

Suddenly the game shut down, the score only three digits from being beat. "What the…?!" They both snapped.

The manager walked over just then. "Ah, this game's always shorting out. We're having it repaired next week," he said, unplugging it and placing an 'Out Of Order' sign on it. "Sorry, kids."

Puggsy and Brielle stepped off the machine, shrugging…

…noticing Fangs, Kasandra, Biff, and Kim standing there- Fangs holding up his cell phone. "Boy, Sam will never believe this!" he chuckled.

Puggsy clenched his fists, ready to pummel him, though Brielle stepped in front. "Yeah, good thing you've got proof that Puggsy's got more skills than you ever will, pin-head." she retorted.

Fangs sneered. "Oh yeah? I bet I could beat the high score on that game with my eyes closed!"

"Well, too bad it's shut down, so you'll never get to try." she nudged Puggsy. "C'mon, lets blow this joint,"

She shoved past Fangs, Puggsy following. "I think she's been stuck in a crate too long with him," Kasandra scoffed.

"Ah, don't worry about them, Kassy. They're just jealous that-" Fangs began to say, but paused, feeling his pocket. "Where's my phone?"

Puggsy and Brielle walked out, as she held up the phone and deleted the video Fangs took of them, both of them smirking.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

In the center of the mall, there was an outdoor park area, with a small pool with double-fountains at each end, and a small stone bridge that lead over it; a mosaic-pattern walkway that lead through some flowerbeds; and a tall tree with a bench sitting underneath it. The sun had set into the sky already, and the stars came out, making the scenery look twice as beautiful.

Fangs and Kasandra walked down the path, holding hands and looking around; Puggsy and Brielle stood on the bridge; and Biff and Kim sat on the bench, watching their friends. "You know… Brielle isn't that bad," Biff said to her. "She made a few mistakes, but she's been good to us,"

"Puggsy, especially," Kim said, smiling a bit. "I really think she likes him… and maybe he likes her too."

Biff chuckled. "…Even if they deny it,"

Kim nodded.

On the bridge, Puggsy and Brielle stood in silence, the girl staring into the water at her reflection until his appeared next to it. She looked at him, smiled a bit, but didn't say anything. It was a quiet evening, with no problems at hand- they might as well enjoy it.

"Arrrooooooo!"

It was the best two minutes they had, before Fangs and Kasandra saw the moon, and soon the red-capped werewolf came running at Puggsy. "I gotcha now, Pugs!" he exclaimed, grabbing the teen and preparing to toss him into the fountain.

"Excuse me!" Brielle snapped. "Need I remind you that's your best friend- who not only got shot, but also fell off a bridge, got stuffed in a crate, and survived another attack from Vincent? …Oh, and he told me about the time he took a bullet for you. Just in case you forgot."

Fangface paused, then set Puggsy down. "(grr) Sheesh, Brielle, you didn't have to go that deep," he said, patting Puggsy on the back. "Sorry Pugs, (grr) I'll try to control myself,"

Hunter walked up, putting an arm around him. "Glad to hear it, hon. Then you and I can spend more time together," she said, stroking underneath his chin.

Puggsy sneered. "Yeah, because you haven't spent enough time together already," he commented.

"I suppose 24 hours just isn't enough," Brielle sighed, rolling her eyes, then nudged Puggsy. "C'mon, lets head back inside so the wolves can have some 'alone time',"

They walked off, and Hunter shook her head. "I'm telling you, Fangsy, if those two were any more alike, they'd be twins." the she-wolf remarked.

"Well… actually, Hunter, they do have a point," Fangface said, sheepishly. "You and I have been hanging out a lot, lately, (grr)"

Hunter looked at him. "Yeah, but we're in a relationship- Pugs needs to understand that's what couples do with each other, instead of thinking I'm stealing his friend away…"

"It's not that Hunter. He understands," Fangface linked his arm with hers, and they walked down the path. "See, you and I have each other, Biff and Kim have each other… but Pugs doesn't have anyone. (grr) We've traveled together since we got out of Highschool, and never dealt with romance before, not the kind you and I have found. One of these days, we may all move on with our lives, maybe to settle down, get married, have kids- years from now of course, just so I don't sound like I'm rushing anything (snort). Someday, we'll go our separate ways to be with our lovers… I think Puggsy's just afraid of being alone, especially since he's been hurt so much in the past by a few girls."

"He's dated before, huh?"

"Sort of. Some girls wouldn't give him the time of day- one even pepper-sprayed him once! Then there was another who was a real snob- didn't really like him, she only wanted to make her parents mad; and another who only wanted him for…" he paused, looking around. "…well, something I shouldn't mention since there's kids around, and when he didn't give it to her, she cheated on him. And this other girl stood him up, just so she and her friends could have a laugh."

Hunter gawked. "Geez… who were these bitches?"

"I don't know. He always mentioned them by the term 'that dumb brood', then turned on an action flick and said he wanted to forget about it. (grr) …He had some good dates, though, don't get me wrong, but they just said it wasn't working out or he wasn't their type or just wanted to be friends, and after a while he just stopped looking for love and focused on the gang,"

The she-wolf shook her head. "Well, we've all had dates like that… poor guy, though."

Fangface put his arm around her, smiling. "But don't worry… (grr) I don't think he'll be alone with Brielle around," he bounced his eyebrows. "If you know what I mean (chk-chk-chk)."

She rolled her eyes. "Fangface, call me pessimistic, but I don't think there's going to be anything going on between Pugs and Brie."

"(grr) Okay, Hunter, but uh, two things: First, why not? And second… what does pessimistic mean?"

"Well… for one thing, neither of them seem into romance, and they've only known each other for a few short days- granted they were stuck in a box for a while- and… Brielle's parents will be taking her home, and probably won't let her go anywhere again," she sighed, looking at the left fountain. "Which makes me hope they don't fall in love, especially since Pugs has been dumped so much. Finding possibly the right girl, only to know that she'll be taken from him… it just sounds so heartbreaking,"

"(grr) You don't know Pugs like I do, Hunter- even if Brielle is never allowed to leave again, that won't stop Puggsy from seeing her. He doesn't give up THAT easily (grr)"

Hunter smiled, a determined look on her face. "You know, Fangsy, we ought to do something to try and convince my aunt and uncle that Brielle should stay with us- I mean, if they try locking her up like before, chances are she'll just become rebellious and be driven down the wrong path. If she travels with us, not only will she have a little more freedom, but her parents will know she'll be in good hands and won't worry as much."

"Ooh, ooh, that's a great plan, Hunter! But, uh… how will we convince them?"

"Trust me, we'll think of something,"

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

After a while, the gang decided to return to their hotel, worn out. Kim offered to let Brielle share a room with her and Biff, to which she accepted. Puggsy hit the mattress the moment he and the werewolves entered their room, while Fangface and Hunter snuggled down in each other's arms once more, drifting to sleep.

After a couple hours, however, sleep failed to come to Brielle. In just a matter of hours, she would be getting hauled back home and placed under lockdown just like before, and she had doubts her parents would give a different reason outside of her running away for four years. She thought that, maybe after telling them about the perils she's faced and overcome, they would realize she was more capable of handling herself than they thought… But thinking about said perils only reminded her of her mistakes, and she had reason to believe her parents would only think of her as a screw-up.

With such thoughts weighing on her mind, she crawled off the couch and walked out onto the balcony for some fresh air, and to clear her head, looking up at the dark-blue sky filled with bright stars and a round moon. She took a deep breath, letting it out, and hung her head low. What am I going to do? she thought, hoping to find a solution.

"Hey, you alright?" came a whisper, and she looked and saw Puggsy standing on the neighboring balcony.

"Just can't sleep. What are you doing up?" she replied, quietly.

"Same reason. Fangface started snoring loud enough to wake the dead, interrupting my sleep just in time for me to see you walk out here. …What's on your mind?"

She looked back up at the sky. "My parents. I should have kept in better contact with them, then maybe facing them would be easier,"

"Maybe… though, it's a good thing you didn't. Otherwise, Vincent would probably know where to find 'em and use that as a threat against ya. Probably the same reason our brothers can't contact our families,"

"Yeah, I guess… but, why did my parents have to hide so much from me, acting as if I wouldn't understand and treating me like some fragile object?"

Puggsy shrugged. "Some parents are weird like that. They're super-protective of their kids, especially when there's danger out in the world. …But, they can't keep them from it, but prepare them, just so when the time comes for them to encounter trouble, they'll know how to handle it. Don't keep blaming yourself, Brielle- your parents ought to share the blame, too, for not giving you a heads up."

Brielle nodded. "You can bet that, when I have kids, I'll teach them that." she looked at him. "You all have pretty trusting parents- they know you encounter danger, but believe you can get out of it. 'Wish my parents were more like that,"

"Y'know, maybe they'll change their minds and let you stay with us, once we convince them you've got enough potential to be on your own,"

"You really believe that?"

"Hey, if you believe you can blow up a pirate ship and take on a few creeps, then you can handle hanging with us,"

She smiled, then stuck her hand out. "Thanks, Pugs,"

He reached over and shook it. "Anytime,"

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Morning came quicker than expected for the gang. Brielle, typically, was the last to get up, finding Hunter was waiting for her. "Everyone went downstairs to have breakfast, shall we join them?" the she-wolf asked, in a phony sophisticated tone.

Brielle chuckled. "Sure… I don't have too much of an appetite, though." she replied.

"Kinda nervous about seeing your parents, eh? Don't worry about it. We'll back you up,"

She only nodded, and they entered the café, where Fangface- to Brielle's surprise and amusement- had turned Puggsy into a sandwich. "I thought you said you were going to cut down on the junk food," Hunter told him, crossing her arms.

"I can't help it, it's hard to fight these cravings." Fangface replied. "Besides, I've controlled myself this long, I think I deserve a—OW!" he dropped Puggsy, rubbing his foot. "BRIELLE!"

"Sorry, didn't mean to," Brielle said, innocently.

Fangface gave her a look. "Why do I get the feeling you're doing this on purpose? (grr)"

"Lets just get something to eat," she held up a menu. "And keep in mind- Puggsy's not on the menu."

The werewolf rolled his eyes, then noticed Puggsy was chuckling. "(grr) What's so funny?!"

"Nothing," Puggsy said quickly, keeping a smirk on his face as they sat down. He looked over at Brielle, who gave him a wink, as she had done the first time she stepped on the werewolf's foot.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

While the gang was enjoying themselves, their foe was doing otherwise.

After being attacked by a stray werewolf, Vincent Fondane found himself in bad condition, bruised and scraped all over, half if not all his weapons broken, and his leg had been sprained. He had spent the last several hours tending to his wounds then- after a shower- decided to take a walk.

Having always worn a wide-rimmed hat and clad in black, no one would recognize the villain in a casual blue button-up shirt, jeans, and brown boots. He walked along until he came across a middle school, where he saw the young boy Keith had encountered in the alley, Luca. How happy the boy seemed to be, playing basketball with a few friends before having to head to his classes. How nice it was to see the young lad enjoying his life without any cares… never having to pick up a gun to defend himself against some beast.

At least, Vincent hoped not.

Every time he saw Luca, he sighed. The boy reminded him of himself- black hair, slightly long face, and eyes that always lit up, as his once did. He had been brave back in that alley, when Keith pointed his gun at him, looking defiant as if death didn't scare him, as long as he was stopping his foes from harming more of his friends.

"You're a good lad, Luca," Vincent said to himself. "Strong and brave like those friends of yours… Lets just hope you never get involved in the danger they're in. Any further than you are now…"

He paused, letting out a heavy breath, shaking his head.

"Hey, look out!" a kid shouted, and a basketball rolled across the street from the court next to the school, landing by his feet.

"Nice going, pea-brain!" another kid sneered.

"I'll go get it," Luca called, running across the street and picking it up, oblivious that he was back in Vincent's presence. "Excuse me, sir."

"Quite alright," Vincent replied, turning away in case the boy did, in fact, recognize him. He heard retreating footsteps, watching as the boy ran back to the court, just as the bell rang.

The hunter went on his way after that, knowing he had a task at hand and couldn't afford to get distracted.

0o0o0o0o0o0

After breakfast, everyone went back to their rooms, where they found a suitcase sitting by the door, with a note attached:

'Forgot to check out of your last hotel, so I brought your stuff back- your welcome,' –Kite

"I knew I forgot something," Brielle said, picking up her suitcase.

"You left a few things at the hospital too, Pugs." Biff added, being reminded.

"Eh, I'll pick 'em up before we head home," Puggsy replied with a shrug.

"We'd better start packing up, too. We've been in San Francisco long enough," Kim said, and they walked into their rooms, taking out their suitcases.

Hunter's cell phone buzzed just then. "Your dad just texted me, Brielle. He said they're on their way here, and should be here in a couple hours," she said, then paused a bit. "Do… you want to talk to them? It might help lighten the tension,"

Brielle looked at her phone, then sighed, taking it. "I guess I might as well get the argument out of the way," she said, then stepped out onto the balcony to call them.

Puggsy took out his suitcase, checking to make sure he had everything, looking out the corner of his eye, seeing Hunter had been looking at him but quickly turned her head. "What?" he asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Nothing, just… been thinking about the last couple days." the she-wolf replied, casually. "It would be nice if Brielle could stick around with us. She's not so bad, don't you think?"

"She's okay- manages to help keep you weird-wolves under control,"

Hunter rolled her eyes. "That would explain why you two get along so well. Seriously, though, if we could convince her parents how well she can do on her own, they might let her stay around,"

They looked outside, seeing Brielle was arguing into the phone, apparently wincing.

"I hope you've got a plan on how, then." Puggsy told her, closing his suitcase.

"Well, it all has to do with reasoning- they're angry because Brielle ran away for so long and barely contacted them, though in her defense her parents wouldn't let her do anything on her own and kept secrets from her. They'll have to agree on some sort of compromise if they want to fix anything and prevent future disasters,"

"Don't count on it," Brielle groused as she stormed back in, handing Hunter back her cell phone, tears in her eyes as she headed for the front door.

Biff and Kim entered the room as Brielle ran out. "What's wrong with Brielle? What happened?" Kim asked, concerned.

"She talked to her parents," Puggsy replied, scowling a bit as he walked out. "I'll go talk with her,"

Hunter looked at her cell phone, sighing as she put it back in her pocket, Fangface stepping beside her. "Something tells me this is going to be a rough family reunion, (grr)" he said, pointing out the obvious.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Brielle sat on the bench down the block from the hotel, having wiped the tears from her eyes so not to look emotional in front of the strangers around her, yet it was hard to contain them after the talk she had with her mother…

"Mom? It's me, Brielle," she had said.

"Brielle! Are you alright? What have you've gotten yourself into?!" came her mother's frantic yet scolding reply.

"I'm fine mom, and it's a long story. You see, after I took off, I began taking these self defense lessons with a man named Vincent Fondane- I didn't know he was a dangerous man until two weeks ago, and right now we're in the process of catching him. We've already brought down his accomplice, Keith, and everything is fine now…"

"Fine for now you mean. Have you any idea what kind of trouble you're in because of all this?!"

"I've already figured out a few things… Apparently, our family is a big deal to this Veni-Con-Yei group. Care to explain that?"

"It's nothing you should know about- the less you know, the better!"

"That's not a good answer! I'm already involved enough as it is- just as much as Matthew! If you don't tell me what you're trying to keep from me, nothing is going to get solved!"

"That group has been out to kill our family for years, before you were even born… The reason why we didn't tell you anything was because you didn't need to know about it!"

"I didn't need to know that my family was in danger? Seriously?!"

"If you didn't know about it, there was a chance that you'd stay safe, and no one would come after you- we were only trying to keep you safe!"

"By keeping me smothered in that mansion, keeping me from the world or learning to do things on my own, and driving Matthew away?!"

"We did not-"

"You gave more attention to me than you did to him, and he took off thinking you guys wouldn't miss him! Now he can't contact you anymore… you should have told me everything!"

"You were too young to understand!"

"Why do you keep saying that?! I was smart enough to understand knowing you guys couldn't depend on me for anything, so I would have known it was clear that we were being threatened! I'm surprised you weren't trying to keep Matt locked up… why only me? Because I didn't have the same gift he had?!"

"We'll talk about it when we get there. Until then, stay put with your cousin, and don't run off again!"

"Mom-"

But she had hung up, and that's when Brielle stormed out, sitting on the bench. So she won't tell me anything, or even listen to me… why am I going back to them? she thought, clenching her jaw as she tried to force tears back.

"You okay?"

"Gah!" She cried, looking over and seeing that Puggsy was suddenly sitting beside her. "How long have you've been…?! Ah, never mind." she let out a heavy sigh. "I got into another argument with my mom- she's pissed, of course, but she wouldn't give me a decent answer, she just kept chewing me out. And get this- she said I didn't need to know our family was in danger."

Puggsy arched an eyebrow. "What did your dad have to say?"

"I didn't get a chance to talk to him. She hung up before I could say another word," she looked at him. "Better clear the area when they show up, because I'm pretty sure all hell is going to break loose,"

He rested a hand on her shoulder. "Trust me, we're going to back you up on this. You screwed up a long time ago… but they can't hang on to the past. Heck, we've all done stupid things- Fangface and I made a career out of it! Remember what I said last night? It's not entirely your fault… everybody made a big mistake. You've learned how to face it and try to make things right… They need to learn to do the same, and locking you up ain't going to be the answer," he shrugged, smirking. "It would do humanity some good, but it ain't the answer."

Brielle rolled her eyes, but smiled. "Very funny. …well, we've only got a couple hours until Armageddon starts. Any ideas on how to spend our final hours?"

"Ah, how about something that doesn't involve us moping on a bench?"

She nodded, and they stood up, walking back to the hotel where they saw the gang had checked out already, the werewolves carrying the luggage to the Wolf Buggy. "There's a walkway across the street from the airport, it's supposed to give a great view of the bay, we can meet your parents there." Biff said as they climbed in.

"Lets swing by the hospital first and grab Puggsy's things, before we forget," Kim spoke up.

"Right," Biff replied, and turned down the street to the hospital, parking at the curb while Fangface and Puggsy went inside.

"Hey, miss, I checked out of here a couple days ago, but I left a few things behind." Puggsy said to the nurse at the desk.

"Name?"

"Puggsy Murphy,"

The nurse looked at him. "Oh, yeah, I remember. You were that patient that survived a bullet to the heart. One moment,"

Puggsy waited, though Fangface wandered around a bit, looking at a poster of the anatomy of the abdomen, cocking his head while trying to make it out. "Quite amazing how it functions, isn't it?" someone said beside him, and he looked to see a man be somewhere between 18 and 21, with black hair and glasses, wearing a long coat and glasses. "The heart is the strongest muscle in the body, you know- it supports life, helps one feel, and gives one determination to achieve or overcome anything. Yet it can also be very fragile if not handled carefully- it can only give so much strength, until it grows weary, and can only deal with so much pain until it finally breaks… yet even then, it still gives one strength, as long as they know things will get better."

"(grr) That's pretty good. Are you a poet?" Fangface asked.

He chuckled. "No, I'm just saying what I believe in, and happen to know quite a bit about how the heart works, and how powerful it can be."

"Oh, I know. My buddy was shot in the heart, and he still managed to…"

"Fangface, lets go." Puggsy called, walking over with a bag of his stuff. "Who are you talking to?"

"Oh, I was just-" Fangface turned… but the man had disappeared. "Huh?" he rubbed his eyes. "I could have sworn I was talking to someone…"

Puggsy shook his head. "C'mon, lets get out of here, before you have to be checked into a hospital next- a mental hospital, that is."

They got back inside the Wolf Buggy, and drove off to the airport. The closer they got, the more tense Brielle felt, though remained calm every time she looked over at Puggsy… who, apparently, didn't mind having Fangface ride on his shoulders. "Any particular reason you're up there?" she asked the werewolf after a few minutes.

"It has a great view, (grr) plus, Puggsy's a pretty good cushion when it comes to long car trips," Fangface replied.

"Yeah, but don't you think it's a little dangerous? I mean, what if Biff hit a pot-hole or something?"

"She's right, babe. Better sit in the seat, before a cop busts us or something," Hunter agreed.

Fangface sneered, then bent over to look at Puggsy. "Girls never let guys have fun," he muttered, then climbed down, sitting next to Hunter.

Puggsy shifted his shoulders a bit, while stretching his neck. "Well, that's one pain in the neck I won't have to deal with," he quipped, and Brielle chuckled while the werewolves only rolled their eyes.

Kim and Biff only looked at each other, silently agreeing that the two really had a bond going on.

They reached the airport after a while, parking their vehicle and heading to the walkway, looking out at the water as the sunlight reflected off it, and out in the distance they could make out the bridge. Brielle and Puggsy found it funny that, after leaping off it, the large landmark seemed so small and felt as if jumping off it looked easy.

Seeing the sun reflecting in the water, Hunter and Fangface changed back to Fangs and Kasandra. "Boy, Kite wasn't kidding- that really does get you dizzy," Fangs commented, holding his head.

"As if you weren't dizzy enough," Brielle joked. "You know, I really have to ask you guys… what's it like being werewolves? Must be pretty cool having super-strength and keen senses and being intimidating and all that,"

"To you, maybe, but it freaks me out. …Actually, I didn't know I was a werewolf until just a couple years ago. Turning into something that I'm afraid of, not having much control…" he looked at Puggsy. "Knowing no mouth-wash will help get the taste of 'Puggsy' out of my mouth… Heck, I'm pretty much the only one in my family who's bothered by it. Sam thinks being a werewolf is the coolest thing ever, as well as our cousins Baby Fangs and Little Sammie, but they didn't really live half their lives in a blank."

"But you've managed to get over it after meeting me, right?" Kasandra asked him, soothingly.

He smiled. "Well… yeah, but you help me keep Fangface in control pretty good,"

"…sometimes," Puggsy muttered under his breath.

"There's a hot-dog vendor down the street. You guys hungry?" Biff asked, and the others nodded.

"I don't have much of an appetite. Thanks, though." Brielle replied, looking over the edge.

"We'll be right back, then," Kim said, as she and Biff walked off.

Brielle watched them go, then turned to the others. "Are you two sure they're not a couple?" she asked. "They seem to go everywhere with each other,"

"It's hard to say. We think they both might like each other secretly, or just decided to be friends. Some people have relationships like that- building up a bond so strong that you never want to leave their side." Kasandra replied.

"Sounds like something from a romance flick. Excuse me while I throw up,"

"It's not just romance, it also takes place in friendships and families. …I mean, take Fangs and Pugs for example- they're best friends, and you hardly see them apart."

"Why did we have to be the example?" Puggsy groused.

"You got me," Fangs replied with a shrug.

"Thing is, when you find that one friend, or lover, who will always have your back, be there to help you out, and want to be at your side whenever trouble comes around… well, you've got a bond for life." Kasandra told Brielle. "With Biff and Kim, they share a great bond, whether it's romance or friendship remains a mystery, but as long as they're there to look out for each other, it doesn't really matter."

Brielle nodded. I think my stomach just lurched, she wanted to say, but held her tongue so not to criticize the description of someone's relationship. "Anyone want to take a walk further down the path?" she asked instead.

"Eh, why not- in an hour we're both going to be cramped in some seats for a long trip home, so we might as well enjoy the space while we can," Puggsy replied, walking with her.

"Don't go off too far, stay close to the airport," Fangs told them.

Puggsy gave him a sarcastic look. "Yes, 'mother'."

Fangs watched them walk off, his fingers tapping rapidly on his lap the farther they went. "Fangs, honey, is there something wrong?" Kasandra asked.

"Huh? Oh, no, I'm fine." Fangs replied, looking at her real quick before back at Puggsy and Brielle.

Kasandra put her hands on her hips, arching an eyebrow. "Then why do you keep watching our best friend so nervous-"

Fangs faced her before she could finish her sentence. "I'm not concerned for his safety, stop saying that!"

"…ly?" Kasandra paused. "Is that it? You're concerned about Puggsy?"

"What?! No! Of course not! Far from it! Waaaay off-topic… er…"

Kasandra was giving him a firm 'Yeah Right' look.

He unleashed a heavy sigh. "Alright, I am… but can you blame me? So much has happened, and we nearly lost him so many times… I just can't get over it. Plus, I promised I would watch out for him- like what you just told Brielle, we've always been at each other's side and watched each other's backs… him watching mine more than I did his…" he hung his head low.

Kasandra patted him on the back. "Oh c'mon, Fangs, you've been there for him just as much. It's alright to worry about him after all that's happened, and we all want to always be there for him and each other… but someday, hopefully ages from now, you'll both have to move on and let each other watch out for themselves- though you'll always be there when you need each other. Just because everyone may go their separate ways someday, doesn't mean we won't come together once again."

"Okay… But until then, I'm going to look out for him- and the rest of you," he put his arm around her. "Especially you." he gave her a peck on the cheek.

She smiled, blushing a bit. "I'll do the same thing," She then kissed him on the lips.

Biff and Kim walked back over with some hotdogs. "Hey, where's Pugs and Brie?" Biff asked.

"They're over there," Fangs replied, as Kim handed him and Kasandra their hotdogs.

"I guess he wasn't that hungry," Kim said, looking at the spare hotdog.

"…can I have his hotdog, then?"

The others laughed, shaking their heads.

Down the walk, Puggsy and Brielle stood silently, watching a few ships pass by in the bay. She leaned on the edge, resting her chin on her arms, while he folded his elbows on it, staying upright. Some planes flew overhead, a few gulls called out on the bank, and a cool wind blew. It wasn't much of a pretty sight, but it was peaceful, and considering they were only an hour from a stressful situation, it was best to enjoy the solitude while it lasted.

Puggsy looked at her, quietly wishing she would share her thoughts on the situation, though over the past few days and nights she already told him everything- she didn't believe her parents understood her, hid secrets from her, and her mother chewed her out rather than explaining anything, not to mention just hung up on her rather than wanting to work things out after two years of zero contact. If her mom couldn't even stay on the line with her, then we're going to have some real communication issues. he thought. Hopefully the rest of us can get through to them.

0o0o0o0o0o0

After the hour went by, they stood in front of the airport's entrance, watching as a plane landed. As they stood and waited, both Kasandra and Brielle were tense. Kasandra never told anyone yet, but the first time she messaged her aunt and uncle, things started out a little awkward- she had to remind them she was their niece, and it was difficult since she had to refrain from bringing up her parents too much, as well as keep from asking what their fight had been about. Seeing them in person was sure to be a lot more uncomfortable.

Soon, they saw the parents exiting the building. Brielle father, Kiff, appeared to be a more mature version of Matthew, but with a mustache and small goatee, his hair dirty-blond, and blue eyes that matched his children's; her mother, Tanya, looked closer to Brielle, but her hair was auburn-brown and cut in a short style, her eyes were hazel, and she had a perfect shape for a woman in her 40's.

"Well… lets head over there," Biff said, and they walked over…

Brielle, however, was frozen in place. "Uh, you coming, Brie?" Fangs asked.

"I can't do this…" Brielle groaned, nervously. "I feel like I'm going to- *gasp*"

She looked, seeing that Puggsy had taken hold of her hand. "You'll have to face them sooner or later… and right now, you've got us with you. You can do this." he told her, and walked with her over.

She blushed a bit, but shook her head, focusing on the matter at hand- not who held her hand.

"Aunt Tanya, Uncle Kiff!" Kasandra exclaimed, waving to them as she ran over first. "It's nice to see you both again,"

"It's great to see you too, Kassy- wow, you've certainly grown," Kiff said, smiling as he gave her a hug. "Now then, where's my daughter?" he looked over at Brielle. "There she is! Honey, what all have you've been up to?"

"Besides getting yourself in constant danger?" Tanya cut in, disapprovingly.

"I believe she's got a lot to share with you guys," Kim replied first, after seeing the glare that developed in Brielle's eyes. "She's already told us so much about her travels-"

Tanya gave her a look. "And who might you all be?"

"Aunt Tanya, this is my boyfriend, Sherman Fangsworth, and these are his friends- Biff, Kim, and Puggsy," Kasandra said, introducing the gang. "I've been traveling with them for a year now. Puggsy here has been with Brielle during their mishap the past two days-"

"I'm glad someone was supervising her at last,"

"Excusify me, ma'am, but I wasn't quite superiormizing her- we helped each other out," Puggsy spoke up.

"Yeah, I actually managed to handle something on my own too," Brielle added, sharply.

"Really? Because the way I heard it, you brought trouble upon your cousin and her friends, and ran off into danger," Tanya huffed.

"Actually, we were already in trouble before we met Brielle. Vincent Fondane attacked my parents last year," Kasandra spoke up quickly, when Brielle began to fume.

"Fondane?! How did he find you?" Kiff asked, concerned.

"We don't know, but he's been trying to hunt us down since. He's still out there, but from what we heard he's wounded pretty bad so he might not show his face for a while,"

"Hmm, I wouldn't let your guard down Kasandra- from what I've heard, Vincent is the most skilled hunter in the league, and can't be stopped that easily."

"How do you know about him and his 'league'?" Biff asked.

"Does it have to do with why you kept me trapped at home?" Brielle questioned.

"Brielle, that's enough!" Tanya snapped.

"Tanya, please… I believe it's time she knew the truth." Kiff said, sternly. He turned to his daughter. "I wanted to tell you a long time ago, especially around the time your brother ran away and joined the Thorns… but your mother didn't want you involved and thought it would be best if you knew nothing about it, hoping that would keep you out of harm's way," he gave his wife a firm glance. "Despite her good intentions, it wasn't a good plan, and I tried to convince her- but she tends to be too stubborn to listen."

"I am not!" Tanya crossed her arms, fuming.

"You see, Brielle, long ago, when I was roughly around your age, a couple friends and I learned about Marlow and his group, how he was targeting families with a supernatural trait. Well, we each were or had a family member with such traits- after learning about the madman, I became concerned for my sister's (your mother, Kassy) safety, as well as my friend Lucy- who is a werewolf- and Ryan Thorn, an old friend of mine. Ryan happened to be skilled in combat, Lucy had the brains, and I happened to be quite skilled at tracking- it was a trait passed down from my grandfather to my sister and I. Combining our skills and recruiting a few other supernaturals, we created the Thorn Agency- Ryan was actually the one to begin it with a few relatives, so we felt it would be fair to name it after him. Having spread agents everywhere, it wasn't long before Marlow's accomplices were captured, with only he and Vincent left."

"Your father believed they could all finally settle down- everyone went home and started their own families, and everything was going well for a while," Tanya let out a heavy sigh. "Unfortunately, eight years ago, Marlow managed to get some new recruits, and was back in business after years of laying low. Ryan found out first and alerted Kiff and Lucy, and we had to cut ties with our families and move."

"That's how a fight began between us and your parents, Kassy. Your mother was so distraught about the whole thing and didn't want me to get back out there, even though I told her I wouldn't be working as a field agent, but more undercover, and thought it was unfair how we couldn't see them again, despite it would be for her own safety. …However, I suppose after meeting Fondane, I think it would be alright to call her up."

"Maybe you all should have kept in contact with your families, just to warn them. Then they could have called you in case something happened," Kim spoke up.

"I did mention that idea, but Lucy was convinced that by keeping in contact, the VCY would go after our families… and wouldn't hesitate to kill them if they were related to a Shereba, Silver, or Thorn."

"I wish I could have known all this… I could have helped bring down Vincent the moment I met him," Brielle said.

"Even if we did tell you, we wouldn't allow you to go out there. You're not capable of this sort of fight, and the events of the past two weeks prove-" Tanya began.

"Otherwise," Puggsy interrupted. "Ma'am, I've seen your daughter in action. She made a few mistakes, but she's capable of more than you think,"

"I agree with his judgement," Kiff added. "In fact, I'd like to know about all your travels, Brielle."

"Be as it may, she's still coming home with us," Tanya scoffed.

"Actually, Aunt Tanya… we were hoping that Brielle could stay with us." Kasandra said, meekly. "She's been a great help to us, and we love hanging out with her-"

"I think she's been away from home and facing peril enough, Kasandra- don't provoke her further. …Come to think of it, I don't know why your parents let you take off with a few strangers, with a madman on the loose."

"Tanya-" Kiff began.

"I'm not changing my mind, Kiff! She's coming home with us, before she gets into any more danger," she looked at her watch. "Our flight isn't supposed to take off until around 7, so I suggest we should go somewhere and talk things over- particularly your obedience, Brielle."

Brielle scowled at her.

"Please excuse my wife's behavior- she tends to be quite the loudmouth, at times." Kiff whispered to them, then turned to Brielle. "We'll give you a few minutes to say goodbye, Brie. Thank you all again for looking out for her,"

Brielle sighed bitterly, turning to the gang. "Well, so much for trying to persuade them," she muttered. "Well, if you guys are ever in Nebraska, look me up."

"We sure will." Kim said, hugging her.

"And we'll be sure to let you come along with us again," Biff added.

"Yeah, your mom can't keep you cooped up forever," Puggsy said, then whispered. "I'd call up Matt, and see if he could sneakify you out,"

She chuckled. "I'm going to miss you guys, and I promise to keep in touch,"

"Brielle, lets go." Tanya called.

Brielle gave Kasandra a hug. "Take care, Kassy- if you see Vincent again, give him a good kick in the face for me,"

"Will do," Kasandra replied with a grin.

Brielle then walked off with her parents, a sullen look on her face as they entered a taxi.

"Ooh, ooh, she needs to come back," Fangs said.

"Yeah… she was a great addition to the team, wasn't she?" Biff said in agreement.

Fangs was digging in his pockets. "No, I mean she really NEEDS to come back- she's still got my cell phone!" he took off down the street. "HEY BRIELLE! WAIT UP!"

Puggsy rolled his eyes. "I'll go with him," he said, following Fangs, while the others laughed.

Suddenly, Kim's cell phone rang. "Hello?" she answered between a laugh.

"Kim? It's Kite… we've got a problem," came Kite's voice on the other line. "Keith escaped."

She gasped. "What?! How?!"

"The bastard stabbed Matthew with a tranquilizer dart,"

"But, I thought you searched him and took all his weapons!"

"…apparently, he had this one hidden good- don't think about it too much, Matthew is still sterilizing his neck."

Kim cringed. "Yeeew…."

"I told you not to think about it! …Look, we're going to meet with you guys at the airport. Stay together until we get there! I have a feeling he'll be hunting down you guys first,"

"Alright, well hurry." Kim replied before the call ended.

"What is it?" Biff asked.

"That was Kite… Keith escaped!"

"Shit!" Kasandra yelped, and looked down the street, seeing that Fangs and Puggsy were already out of sight. "We've got to find the guys! We have to warn my aunt and uncle! We've got to do something!"

"Kite said he's going to meet us here, and wants us to stay together," Kim told her.

"I'll call Puggsy. Kassy, you call Fangs' phone- since Brielle still has it, you can warn her," Biff said.

Kim clutched her phone, nervous that everything had gone downhill so quickly once more.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"…and he showed me around London afterwards. It's a good thing we became good friends, too, since he's skilled in medicine and managed to be nearby for Puggsy's heart surgery," Brielle was telling her father, who nodded, very impressed.

Her mother, however, only looked out the window, apparently not listening.

Brielle looked at her, hoping she would at least say something that would show she was fascinated, but only seemed to remain angry at the fact that her daughter had taken money and traveled so far away.

"By the way, I'm planning on making my own magazine, about people who explore the world, and even some war heroes. I plan on using the money I earn from it to pay you both back for the money I… took."

"I think it's a wonderful idea, Brielle- and glad to know how responsible you've become," Kiff replied.

"If your 'career' didn't involve spending more money. If you want to pay us back, we will find a job for you to work at until you've paid us back every penny… and we're taking away your bank card so that you won't pull this act again," Tanya sneered. "Once you've learned your lesson completely, then you can get to work on your little dream."

"Oh my gosh, are you going to be negative about everything I do?! This is why I ran away- you never thought I could do anything… yet here I am, telling you about all the things I've done, the places I've seen, the friends I've made, and you don't even give a damn! The others back there managed to give me another chance after I fouled up, but here you are acting like… like Dark Crow!"

"Who?" Kiff asked.

"He's an accomplice to the VCY, who kidnapped Puggsy and I-" she gave her mother a hard glance. "Before I took him out! …He had a daughter, Gin, who helped us escape- she ran away from him, because he had no respect for her and criticized everything she did, thinking she was nothing but a screw-up, just like you always do!"

"That is ENOUGH!" Tanya snapped. "The reason I don't praise you is because you were irresponsible in your actions, and I'm surprised those teens didn't have you jailed after what you've put them through by joining Vincent! You, young lady, have done nothing to earn any trust, and it will be a long time before you earn ours back!"

"Well I've got news for you- you lost my trust and respect too, and I won't be showing it to you until you've given me a chance to prove myself!"

"Enough! I am not having this conversation with you any longer."

"Fine by me!"

After that, there was silence, and Kiff only sat there, uncomfortably. There isn't a counselor in the world… he thought.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Puggsy and Fangs had run out of breath after two blocks, having lost sight of the taxi. "I think my lungs popped," Fangs wheezed, and noticed Puggsy was clutching his chest. "How's the heart?"

"Still beating," Puggsy replied. "Need to cut down on the exercise for a while, though. We'll head back to the airport and meet up with them later-"

A dark-green SUV sped up to them just then, the back door opened, and they were yanked in! "WHOA!" they both cried, and the vehicle sped off.

"What the jumping ignorpoto—" Puggsy began to sputter.

"Sorry for the unexpected pick-up, Pugs, but we're in a hurry!" Chance said, driving the car.

"What the…?! Chance?! What are you doing here?!" Fangs gasped.

"Long story, Fangs, right now we've got to get to the others- where are they?"

"At the airport-"

"Perfect, just where we were supposed to meet! You guys have great timing!"

"Chance, what the heck is going on?!" Puggsy demanded.

"Keith escaped, you're back in danger, and we need to track him down!"

"Alright, alright, slow down!"

"I can't- I don't drive easy under suspense! Just buckle up!"

Fangs did so, with two seat belts.

In a matter of moments, they were back at the airport, just as Kite rode up with Matthew. "Where's Brielle?" Matthew asked.

"She left with your parents, but we don't know where they went. Their flight doesn't take off until 7, so they should be back here in a couple hours," Biff answered.

"Shit, we've got to find them! Keith is more likely to go after Brielle than the rest of you, since she's a Shereba."

"Yeah, we know the whole 'vengeance' story now," Puggsy said.

"I've been trying to call her, but I keep getting voicemail," Kasandra told them.

"Agh, it's my phone- it can't find good reception so it won't receive any calls!" Fangs cried.

"I'll call my uncle, then. I still have his number," Kasandra began to dial.

"The moment I see that kid, I'm going to kick his ass clear to Australia!" Matthew snarled, scrubbing his neck with soap. "Next time, we're doing a cavity search!"

"TMI, Twiggy," Chance sneered.

"Uncle Kiff? It's me. Look, you guys have to come back here right now!" Kasandra said into her phone, frantically.

"What's wrong?" Kiff asked.

"It's Keith- he's an accomplice of Vincent's- he managed to escape, and he's out to get us all, and your guys may be his number one targets!"

"What?! Don't worry, we're turning back n-"

There was a crash on the other line just then, followed by Tanya's scream, until the call suddenly ended. "Hello?! Hello?! Oh no…" she turned to the others. "Something happened to them!"

"Give me the phone, I can trace the call," Kite said, grabbing the cell, then pulled out a wire… and hooked it onto his bracelet, and shut his eyes.

"What is he doing?" Kim asked, having seen Kite do this before.

"Getting a trace- it's a special ability his gadget has, it can help him find anything," Matthew answered.

"Got it- they're five blocks north of here, lets go!" Kite said suddenly.

"Wow, that was quick," Fangs said, as they all climbed into their vehicles, and sped off down the street.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

They reached the site, where they saw to their disturbance the taxi-cab had crashed into a bus, two police cars already at the scene. The driver was pulled out, unconscious and having a dart in his neck, while Tanya was kneeling by a wounded Kiff, who's shoulder was bleeding. "Aunt Tanya! Uncle Kiff!" Kasandra cried, rushing over first. "What happened?!"

"It was horrible! The driver was shot, and the vehicle swerved into that bus! After we crashed, the door was pried open and these two horrible men grabbed Brielle! Kiff tried to stop them, but the younger man stabbed him in the shoulder!" Tanya sobbed, hanging on to her husband's hand. "He was about to stab me next, but these two teens managed to knock him out of the way, and had the crowd throw anything they could grab at him… *sniff* but the older one managed to drag Brielle away, and the other disappeared down the alley."

"Don't worry, ma'am, we'll track them down and get her back, I promise." Kite assured her.

"G-Guys!" came a familiar shout, and Stutz ran up to them… with a familiar face at his side.

"Puggsy!" Gin gasped.

"Gin! Didn't think I'd see you again, soon." Puggsy said. "What are you doing here?"

"I-I was on the bus to the airport, when that taxi cab crashed into it. I saw Brielle putting up a fight afterwards, and Stutz and I ran out, and I knocked one of their attackers away while Stutz pulled a wounded man out of the way."

"W-W-We t-tried t-to s-save B-Brielle t-t-too, b-but..." Stutz tried to say, then shook his head. "Gah! I-I'm t-too u-upset t-to t-t-talk!"

"The man who grabbed her disappeared while we were handling the other one,"

"You're the girl who saved our friends from their kidnappers, aren't you?" Kim guessed.

Gin gave a nod. "Yes… you must be their friend Puggsy mistook me for,"

"C'mon, we need to get a track on Brielle," Matthew said.

"She's still got Fangs' phone," Biff spoke up. "If we call it, maybe Kite can get a trace on it!"

"Worth a try," Kasandra said, then allowed Kite to hook up his bracelet to it, then called her beau's phone.

After a minute, Kite gave a nod. "Got it, they're heading to the park," he said.

"We'll go after Vincent and Brielle, you see if you can get a trace on Keith," Matthew said, climbing into the car with Fangs, Puggsy, and Chance.

"Matthew!" Tanya called, and he looked at her. She winced. "Please… be careful,"

Matthew nodded, then drove off with the others.

Kite tapped his bracelet, concentrating. "I know where Keith is heading," he said.

"But… how? You didn't hook up anything to the bracelet." Kim questioned.

Kite smirked. "I didn't have to… You see, this isn't an ordinary bracelet," he said. "It's a long story, I'll share details once we're out of a drastic situation. Now, lets go!"

Kite hopped on his motorcycle while the others piled into the Wolf Buggy, driving off down the street.

Tanya sighed, turning to Kiff. "It's a good thing our kids have so many friends," she said.

"Yeah… and it was our daughter who brought them together," Kiff pointed out, grunting a bit but still smiling. An ambulance pulled up, and the parents went to the hospital.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Puggsy and Chance sat up front while Matthew and Fangs took the backseat. "Step on it, Chance! We may be too late!" Puggsy told him.

"Hey, I'm going as fast as I can!" Chance snapped, navigating through traffic like a marble in a pinball machine. "Fangs, why don't you change into Fangface, we're going to need him. Matt, you can do the same!"

"On it- wait, what was that last part?" Fangs asked, taking out a picture of the moon.

"Allow me to explain…" Matthew said, then transformed into a werewolf- the same werewolf who attacked Vincent yesterday!

"You're a WEREWOLF?!" Puggsy cried out, then turned to Chance. "Nice of you guys to tell me that!"

"I think it's cool," said a now-transformed Fangface, popping up and startling Puggsy.

"Well, we couldn't say it around Keith- he'd know that Matthew could turn into Nightclaw and tell the rest of the hunters. They don't know he's one in the same," Chance explained.

"Yeah, it's kind of the whole Supermna/Clark Kent scenario," Nightclaw explained.

"(grr) I'm just glad to be meeting another werewolf, ooh ooh!" Fangface said, shaking his paw.

"Wait… does this mean… Brielle's a werewolf too?!" Puggsy asked, stunned.

"Well, it's hard to say. You see, I didn't transform until I was two," Nightclaw explained. "In our family, it takes a while for our werewolf halves to awaken, normally they don't until they're 13. I haven't sensed a dormant wolf within Brielle, so either it hasn't awakened yet or she's human. Normally they awaken at the presence of a threat, and after all you've gone through, I'm supposing she's human."

"Oh, thank God…"

Chance gave his brother a look. "Why were you concerned on whether she was a werewolf or not?" he asked, slyly.

"Well… for one thing, I'm constantly surrounded by them, so I don't think I could handle hanging around another- no offense Fangface,"

"None taken," Fangface said with a shrug, then turned to Chance. "It's also because he likes her a lot."

"Whaaat?/What?!/What?!" Chance, Puggsy, and Nightclaw all questioned, snapped, and cried.

"I had no idea you liked-/I don't like her, don't listen to him/You're hitting on my sister?!/Don't deny it, you do!" They all spoke at once.

"Alright, alright, ALRIGHT! We've got no time for this! We need to FOCUS!" Puggsy shouted. "This is no time for games!"

"Who says love is a game?" Chance asked.

"I'm NOT in love! For crying out… Just drive!"

"Turn on the radio, Hossy, it might ease the tension," Nightclaw said.

Chance did so, and a song began to play…

~I want to know what love is…

I want you to show me~

Puggsy changed the station.

~What is love?

Baby don't hurt me

Don't hurt me, no more~

He scowled, changing it again.

~I need love, you need love

We all really need love~

He clenched his teeth, changing it again.

~And I-I-I

Will always love yo-o-ou~

He then hit his head on the dashboard, turning off the radio. Chance, Nightclaw, and Fangface all held their breaths, trying not to laugh.

"Lets. Just. Find. Them." Puggsy groaned through clenched teeth.

0o0o0o0o0o0

Keith was running through a construction lot, breathing heavily while snickering. His body ached, his eyes still stung, and his scars had re-opened… but he was still euphoric- insanely ecstatic even. Vincent had gotten away with Brielle, he stabbed her father, and was the first to escape from those Thorn agents, and soon those meddlers would be dead too. "Dad's going to be so proud," Keith chuckled to himself. "We'll have killed that Shereba's daughter, and outwitted those agents! It'll be the highlight of my life!"

"That's what you think," came a voice, and he looked up…

Seeing Kitefang standing on a beam, his eyes glowing as he bared his fangs.

Keith backed away. "Ooh, if it isn't Thorn's 'best agent'… How's your mama doing- oh, wait, I forgot. She ain't around anymore!"

The werewolf snarled, leaping down at him. Keith backed away, grinning as he drew his knife… but sensed something behind him and turned, seeing Hunter standing there.

"Well, well, well, it appears you've made a new friend," he snickered. "Killing two werewolves in one night, this shall be an awesome experience,"

"Not if we have anything to say about it!" Biff shouted, as he, Kim, and Gin stepped out, and they surrounded him.

Keith only laughed. "Oh, geez… I thought Thorn recruited only the best—here I've got two werewolves… yet their backup consists of some pretty-boy, and a couple bimbos!" he looked at Kim. "Hey, look, babe. Why don't you step aside and let the tough guys handle this, alright? I doubt anything will get solved with you just standing there looking pretty,"

Kim clenched her fists. "You're asking for it, aren't you?" she sneered.

"Hey, all I'm asking is for you ladies to back away… maybe after I kill your friends, I can book a hotel room, and let you do to me what women are supposed to do with men. Basically, what you were made to do- I mean, you can't let that hot body go to waste, can you?"

Kim began to fume. "You sexist jerk! We're going to kick your ass for that, AND what you did to our friends!" Gin snarled.

"Ooh, I'm so scared!" Keith then began to mockingly prance around, raising his voice to a higher pinch. "I'm going to get beat up by a couple of bimbos, what ever am I going to do?" he then gave them a glare. "Please, the best thing you girls are good for is getting kidnapped and raped." he took out a gun, aiming it at Kitefang when he came closer. "(Stop right there, wolf-boy) Look, I'm just going to do my job, so you don't get blood on your pretty little-"

*THWACK!*

Kim charged and kicked him in the side of the face. She then kicked him in the stomach, kicked his legs out from underneath him, stomped on his stomach, grabbed him by the shirt and flipped him over, then body-slammed him on the abdomen, knocking the wind out of him and making him cough up blood, then swung him into a pile of bricks.

"I'd learn how to treat women with some respect, if I were you, you prick!" Kim shouted.

Biff and Hunter gawked. "Geez, Kim, I knew you got rough when you were pissed but… damn!" Hunter exclaimed.

"Boy, you just keep getting your ass kicked left and right, don't you?" Kitefang said to Keith as he lied on the ground, letting out a weak whimper. "And I thought they said you were Marlow's best recruit… I wonder what their worst one is like," He pulled the accomplice onto his feet, stripping him of his weapons, then locking some cuffs on him. "And I have some friends at the station who can check you everywhere for any other weapons you may have- I'd do it myself, but I don't like to get my paws that dirty,"

Keith paled, but scowled. "Yeah? Well, it'll take more than some dumb werewolf and some bitch to-" he began to sneer.

*CRACK!*

Hunter broke a brick over his head, knocking him out cold. "There. That ought to shut him up for a few hours," she sneered.

"C'mon, lets turn him in, and catch up to the others," Biff said, and they dragged Keith to the car to drop him off at prison, then search for their friends, hoping they were alright.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

In the park, Brielle was struggling against Vincent, who kept a tight grip on her arms as he pushed her through the trees, keeping her blindfolded and gagged. "Oh stop struggling already- I don't want to kill you, but considering you betrayed me, let alone deserted the Veni-Con-Yei in doing so, it must be done."

I wasn't part of that damned hunting group! she wanted to shout, but her voice was muffled under her gag.

"You may think you weren't, but you were my accomplice, that automatically drew you in, whether you knew about it before or not, and no one can really leave it behind- the only way out is death." he threw her to the ground, taking out a knife.

As he spoke, Brielle wriggled her wrists in her bonds, her wrists thin enough to slip through, and hoped he hadn't noticed.

"So, in a way, I'm actually doing you a favor. …I want you to know, you truly were my best student, regardless of what your parents may think of you. Perhaps if you stayed on our side, you'd have more achievements and less failures. Farewell, Brielle."

When he grabbed her shoulder, she acted quick and punched him in the eye. She quickly stood up, pulling off the blindfold, then kicked him in the face, untying her gag while he was sprawled back. "Killing people isn't considered an achievement… unless you're killing someone who deserves it!" she snarled, and picked up the knife he dropped, running over to stab him.

Vincent acted quick, drawing another knife and blocking her attack, their blades clashing and causing a spark, and they stood face-to-face, circling each other. "Hmph. Apparently, I taught you too well," the hunter said, smirking.

Brielle only continued to glare. "Less talk, more fight,"

"Gladly," he lunged first, but she dodged his attack, taking a swipe at his ribs, missing.

Vincent tried slashing her eye, but she leaned back dodging, while turning her body for a side-kick, hitting his elbow and striking his funny-bone, making him drop his knife, and she caught it, now holding both knives and swinging at his head. Vincent ducked, grabbing a pair of knives he kept in a holster on his boots, and standing up quick, slicing her arm, making her hiss in pain, but she clung onto her knives and cut downward on his arm while it was in mid-slice, both of them having gashes. She then tried to slice up at his face to psych him out while her other hand tried to stab his abdomen, but he jumped back and swung a kick at her legs, though she managed to jump over it. He swung his knife, aiming for her temple after she jumped, but she tilted her head away, the knife slicing off an inch of her hair instead.

They paused a beat, then went at each other again. This time, Brielle watched for his moves. He stabbed at her, she dodged and sliced his arm, blocking the other one when it was swung at her. He growled in pain, then kicked her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her, then sliced her on the shoulder, elbowing her in the face and knocking her into a tree.

"You have quite a few skills- you'd think that after I taught them to you, you would do a little bet—" Vincent began to taunt.

Brielle kicked up-

*crunch*

Vincent's eyes bugged out, and he bit his bottom lip, grabbing his crotch and falling on his knees. "Didn't teach me THAT, now did ya?" Brielle retorted, then stood up and took off running while the villain was stuck in a crouch. She knew she couldn't take Vincent on her own- no matter how much she told herself she could. It was common sense- he had taught her the moves she had. Unless she learned how to enhance them or learned something new, there was a slim chance she could beat him.

She hid behind a tree, hearing him cursing, and heart sounds of footprints running in her direction. She crouched low, then when a shadow passed over her, she leaped, catching them from behind in a headlock. "Gotcha, you creep!"

"*Gack!* Brielle, wait! It's me, Puggsy!" Puggsy choked out, trying to pry her arms off his neck. "Oxygenery! Oxygenery!"

"Pugs?" she gasped, letting him go. "Oh, thank God you're here,"

He rubbed his throat, taking in deep breaths. "Yeah, we managed to trace Vincent here… where is he?"

"Not too far off, we'd better get going. Where are the others?"

"Chance, Nightclaw, and Fangface are out here- we split up to search for you. …Oh, by the way, thanks for telling me your brother was a werewolf!"

"Yeah, well, it's nothing I consider bragging about. We'd better find them, quick!"

They took off through the park, looking for any sign of the werewolves, coming close to the pond.

*Bang!*

The two froze, hearing the gunshot coming from the left, and dove behind a large tree. Upon instinct, Puggsy held Brielle close. "Shh, keep quiet," he whispered, listening for any sound of the shooter.

"Come out, Brielle… I know where you're hiding," Vincent called, tauntingly. "Do you honestly believe running away will solve all your problems, that your little friend will come and save you every time you get into trouble?"

Puggsy held her tighter, scowling as he listened to the villain. Brielle hardly paid attention- she could only feel his heart racing, she was so close. She wanted to pull away, to face Vincent as she knew he was getting closer, before he could harm him again, yet at the same time she wanted him to keep holding her, hoping the hunter would go in another direction- or that Fangface or Nightclaw were nearby to attack him.

"Don't you see, Brielle? You've only dragged him into deeper trouble. You think the rest of the hunters won't come after you if you escape me? They're everywhere, and they enjoy hunting down traitors as much as they do those beasts. You're only putting his life in further danger if you keep going back to him- wasn't a bullet to his heart enough to convince you of that? I know about it- how fragile it is now, how if he gets too upset he could die… and it's all thanks to you. Perhaps I could kill both of you- having him watch as I stab you in your heart, again and again, until his stops beating."

"Don't listen to him," Puggsy whispered to her. "He doesn't know what he's talking about,"

"Don't I?" Vincent asked casually, leaning against the other side of the tree, looking over at them.

They stumbled back, Puggsy keeping in front of Brielle. "Back off, Fondane! Come any closer, and you're going to get a one-way ticket to heaven- though I doubt you'll get in,"

Vincent laughed. "Well, look at this- the tough guy is trying to be a hero for the girl. How swee-"

Puggsy ran and punched him square in the jaw, knocking out a couple teeth. "Are you Vinny-Con-Yuts required to talk more than you fight?"

Vincent rubbed his jaw, standing up and taking out his pistol. "I think I'll just stick to that promise I made and kill you," he growled, aiming it at him.

There was a snarl, and Fangface leaped out of a tree, landing on top of him. The pistol went off, shooting a tree Puggsy stood beside, nearly blasting his head off, and he gripped his chest, his heart at a rapid pace. The werewolf grabbed the hunter by the shirt and swung him into a tree. "You leave my best buddy alone! (grr) I'm not going to let you hurt him again!" he snarled, standing in front of Puggsy and Brielle.

"And I thought I had taught you a lesson- apparently, you weren't paying attention," Nightclaw growled, grabbing Vincent by the throat as he stepped out of the shadows. "Any last words?"

"Yes…" Vincent said, then kicked the werewolf in the stomach, digging his heel into him while pulling free, and flipped out of his grasp. He then took out a dart-gun and took aim. "Sweet dreams!" He shot several darts at the werewolves, but they managed to dodge, as he kept shooting.

Nightclaw had rolled and stood up on the right side of Vincent. "Ha, missed!"

Vincent pointed down. "Did I?"

Nightclaw looked, seeing a dart in his tail. "Ah, crap," he said, feeling his body going numb.

Vincent punched him with two more darts, watching as he dropped to the ground. He then turned to Fangface. "I won't bother wasting any darts on you…" he said, then took out a sun-jewel. "I managed to learn about your little 'Achilles heel', Fangface. You may be a strong, fierce werewolf, but deep down…"

Fangface gasped, turning into Fangs, and Vincent grabbed and flipped him onto the ground.

"You're nothing but a weakling,"

Puggsy ran and shoulder-slammed the hunter away from Fangs. "No one calls my friend a weakling unless it's me," he sneered.

"Thanks Pugs… I think…" Fangs said, groaning as he tried to get up, but only fell back on the ground, his body still aching.

Vincent glowered. "I won't waste my breath with you," he sneered, then lunged, striking Puggsy across the face, catching him in a choke-hold and punching his face. Puggsy punched upward, getting him in the jaw, then swung his elbow into his ribcage.

The ache in his chest was turning into sheer agony, but that didn't keep him from fighting against Vincent. Brielle looked, seeing the hunter's pistol on the ground, and picked it up, looking back at them. Vincent had swung a kick, but Puggsy caught him by the leg and yanked him to the ground, then kicked him in the ribs. Vincent caught his foot and swung him onto the ground, then took out his knives, crawling over him to stab his abdomen, but Puggsy caught both his hands, and wrapped his leg around the hunter's, managing to roll over so that he was on top, yet Vincent threw him off.

*Bang! Bang! Bang!*

Before Vincent could make another move, Brielle had begun shooting at him, missing. "Nice try… but you're a horrible shot," the hunter sneered, then threw one of his knives, knocking the gun out of her hand. He then ran, stomped on Puggsy's back as he was getting up, and flipped through the air over head, landing beside Brielle and grabbing the gun, aiming it at her.

Puggsy ran at him, and the hunter turned the aim on him.

"Psych!" Vincent pulled the trigger-

"Puggsy!" Brielle cried out, leaping at Vincent-

*BANG!*

Everything appeared to happen in slow motion. Brielle had leaped at the hunter, and he quickly reacted and turned the gun back on her, firing. Puggsy watched as they both hit the ground, the hunter having been knocked over while Brielle lied on the ground on her back, blood seeping through her shirt. "BRIELLE!" Puggsy screamed.

He saw red just then, as he looked back at Vincent as he sat up. Seeing the teen glaring at him, he grabbed his gun and tried firing… but realized it was out of bullets. Puggsy picked up one of his discarded knives and pinned him to the ground, pressing the blade to his throat. "W-Wait…" the hunter gulped.

Puggsy said nothing, but instead made a gash on the side of his face. "That's for all the hell you've given us," he said, tears forming in his eyes. He raised the knife ready to stab the hunter in the eye-

"Puggsy!" came a cry, and Fangs stumbled over, grabbing his shoulder with one hand while the other grabbed his wrist, tears gushing out of his eyes. "No… please don't! Don't be like him… you're not a killer,"

Puggsy glared at Vincent, who held his bleeding face, a horrified look in his face. He looked back at Fangs, seeing the scared look on his face. They shared the same horrified looks he always saw on his friend's faces whenever the hunter was nearby… only this time, they were afraid of him. He stood up, pointing the knife at Vincent. "Get out," he whispered darkly.

"Pugs…" came a moan, and they looked over, seeing that Brielle was still alive.

Puggsy and Fangs rushed to her aid. "Brielle…?"

"Tell my mom… I'm sorry… I just wanted her… to be proud of me for once…" she shut her eyes.

Puggsy breathed shortly, the ache in his chest severe, the pounding of his heart agonizing. "No, please… you're stronger than this! You can handle anything!" he sat her up, holding her close. "If I can survive a bullet to the heart, so can you! You managed to make it through so much… please…" he began to sob, the pain in his chest increasing. "Don't go… we want you to stay with us… I want you to stay… please stay,"

Vincent stood up, approaching the teens as Puggsy sobbed over Brielle, while Fangs stood next to him, a hand on his shoulder. The hunter drew a knife, taking this chance…

Fangs saw his shadow, clenched his fist, then turned and decked the hunter. "I'd stay down if I were you!" he snapped, kicking the villain in the face.

Chance suddenly ran over just then. "They're over here, hurry!" he called over his shoulder, rushing over to his brother, the rest of the gang following. They all gasped, seeing what had happened to Brielle.

"Someone call 9-1-1!" Biff shouted, and Kite quickly dialed on his cell phone.

Puggsy breathed rapidly, his breaths becoming shorter and shorter as he held Brielle. Suddenly, everything grew dark as he slipped out of consciousness, feeling nothing but pain… not in his chest, but in his heart. The last thing he remembered was falling beside Brielle, but didn't feel like he hit the ground. It felt as if they had fallen off the bridge again, only this time… they kept falling…

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

All he saw was white, as he had the first time he had a near-death experience, once again seeing Brielle's face, both of them reaching for each other… this time, they managed to grab hands. 'I thought I lost you,' he said.

'I guess you found me again- like you always do,' she replied.

He stared into her bright blue eyes, smiling as she did, realizing how beautiful she looked. She looked into his deep brown eyes, admiring his smile as she noticed how hansom he appeared.

'You have a nice smile, I wish I could have seen it more,'

'Same with you.' They pulled each other closer, their lips inches apart.

Suddenly, they began to pull away, an unknown force prying them apart. 'Puggsy?' Brielle reached out for him.

'Brielle!' he did the same, straining to get back to her, but they were drifting farther way. 'Brielle! BRIELLE!'

He continued to reach out for her, even as he was yanked into a void of darkness.

His eyes shot open and he sat up, looking around. "Brielle?!" he gasped. He was back in the hospital, hooked back up to a heart-monitor, which beeped rapidly.

"Didn't I tell you to watch your heart-rate?" came a familiar voice, and he looked over, seeing Edwin sitting at the end of his bed, only rather than dressed as a doctor this time, he wore a black T-shirt and black pants.

"You! What are you doing back here? Where's Brielle?!"

The vampire chuckled a bit. "Brielle is the reason I'm back here. She's right over there," he pointed over, where the teenage girl lied, also hooked up to a heart-monitor.

Puggsy breathed rapidly. "Is she going to be alright?"

Edwin nodded. "Oh yes… but, however, there was a mix up in surgery, but I believe the sex-change won't affect her too much."

He stared at him, gawking. "What?!"

Edwin busted out laughing. "I'm kidding! …Hey, you ought to share a little humor in places like this, you know. But, to be serious, there was a slim chance of her survival- she lost a lot of blood, though luckily you had your arms wrapped so tightly around her wound during your state of suspended animation that it managed to apply enough pressure and slow down the bleeding. And it's a good thing that bullet missed her heart, too- only hit beneath it in her ribs. You must have thought she had been shot in the heart as you had been, eh? But nope, it missed it, and you should be glad- her heart, though having lots of strength, appears to be quite fragile. In fact, it was amazing it was still beating, as if something just kept it going…"

Puggsy looked over at Brielle, noticing she was holding something in her hand. "What's in her hand?"

"Ah, yes, that." the vampire walked over, holding up her hand. "It's a bullet… the same bullet that you were shot with nights ago. I came back yesterday to retrieve it, planning on giving it to Brielle as a little memoir of your adventures, so she could have a piece of you with her when she left."

Puggsy sneered at him. "Sounds a little cryptic- she blamed herself for that night. Keeping that bullet would be like salt in the wound."

"It would be, but there's something special about it. It came straight from your heart," he walked back over. "Speaking of such, it amazed everyone that you survived as well. You had a heart attack and was once again on the verge of death… and yet it started beating again, all on its own. Either something helped it continue beating too- or you're more stubborn than I believed."

The teen rolled his eyes.

"Well, I'd like to stick around and chat, but I'm due back in England. I can't leave my magic shop in Wolfbane's care forever- she's my assistant, and tends to have a little 'too' much fun with our merchandise." he dug into his pocket, pulling out a cloth. "I have something else for you, before I go."

He handed it to the teen, and he unwrapped it, seeing it was another bullet. "Is this from her?"

"Yes, and I'd keep it with you. It may have not come from her heart… yet she took it for you, so I suppose it would be close enough."

Puggsy looked at the bullet, wincing. He turned to the vampire, yet he was gone. Sighing, he looked over at Brielle, the sounds of their heart monitors echoing in the now-quiet room. He grasped the bullet tightly, then unhooked the wires off of him, heading over to her, sitting down next to her, placing his hand over hers. "Thank you," he whispered, wincing.

"Don't… mention… it." came a quiet reply, and he lightly gasped, looking to see she opened her eyes, smiling at him.

He smiled back, letting out a laugh of relief, and without thinking, hugged her. "I'm so glad you're okay,"

"I'm glad you are too… but… are you crying?"

He leaned back, wiping his eyes. "Y-Yeah, sort of. I was just worried that… you wouldn't make it."

"Oh come on… you can't get rid of me that easily." she looked at her hand just then, noticing the bullet, and saw Puggsy was holding one too. "What's with the matching bullets?"

Puggsy looked at his. "Your pal, Edwin, dropped by again… he said that's the bullet from my heart, and this is the one you took for me." he held it. "He said we ought to keep 'em… and I don't know about you, but I'm going to take his advice,"

Brielle looked at the bullet in her hand, remembering that fateful night. "I will too… it'll remind me to be more careful… and remember how strong your heart really is,"

He smiled, and she smiled back. "You know… you've got a beautiful smile,"

"You too… wish I could have seen it more often,"

"You will, as long as I can see yours,"

She chuckled, blushing. "Alright, lets stop there, before we sound like something out of a romance flick."

"Heh, glad you caught me. I'm not one for romance,"

"Same here,"

They sat in silence for a while, and Puggsy looked out the window, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Though… I'd like to give it a try, with the right person,"

His eyes widened a bit, and he looked at her, his eyes locking with hers, causing his heart to race once more, and he couldn't help but smile. "Yeah… me too." He said, putting his arm around her. "I think it'll work out,"

They turned on the television… and a music video of "I Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum appeared.

"Do you believe in subliminal messages?" Brielle asked.

"I find them annoying, actually," Puggsy replied.

She shrugged, resting her head on his shoulder. "Well, that makes two of us, then."

They both chuckled, and Puggsy changed the channel.

*BAM!*

The door shot open just then, and Fangs ran in. "PUGGSY! BRIELLE! YOU'RE BOTH ALI- WHOA!" he cried, slipping across the floor and crashing into a waste-bin, then stumbled back over. "Alive!"

The others ran in, exclaiming how happy they were that their friends had once again survived another brush with death. Tension entered the room just then when Brielle's parents came in. Tanya walked up to her daughter, her hands clenched tightly together. "Honey… are you alright?" she asked, sheer concern in her voice.

Brielle nodded, nervously.

"How… how did it happen?"

Puggsy held her close, looking at Brielle, then at her mother. "She saved my life." he said.

"So I've heard. You must get into a lot of trouble if you keep winding up in the hospital,"

Brielle's heart rate began to increase in speed, as she clenched her hands tightly.

"Yet… you manage to handle it quite well, and I see a bit of your influence rubbed off on my daughter, from the stories your friends have told me while we awaited your recovery. Which is why, we've decided… she should learn a little more from you. Not to mention, after what happened last night, someone needs to look after you, too, and she knows how to handle the job."

"Trust me, it's not easy," Fangs quipped.

"Mom… are you saying I can stay with Puggsy? …er, and his friends?" Brielle asked, surprised.

Tanya sighed, but smiled. "Well, locking you up isn't really going to help your attitude problem, and if your brother can handle it, I suppose you deserve a chance,"

Brielle smiled, then reached over and hugged her mother. "Thank you!"

Kiff turned to Puggsy. "Better take good care of my daughter, Puggsy- she's the only one I have," he said sternly, yet smiled.

Kasandra leaned over to Fangs. "Looks like we may have another loudmouth in the group," she whispered, kiddingly.

"Ooh, ooh, don't worry- we outnumber them by a couple werewolves," Fangs replied with a wink.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Two Weeks Later, On The Road…

After their friends checked out of the hospital, the Fangface Gang was back on the road. "By the way, whatever happened to Vincent?" Brielle asked.

"The Thorn's took him into custody- from what I heard, this 'Nightclaw' werewolf said he was going to keep watch on him, and didn't have a merciful tone when he said it either," Kasandra replied.

"I hope we meet them again someday," Kim said. "Kite looks like he'd be fun to hang out with,"

"Same with Gin- I'm glad Kite decided to recruit her and put her through some training," Biff agreed.

"Well, I'm just glad the whole scenario is finally over," Puggsy said, leaning back.

"Ditto," Brielle said.

They stopped in Florida, staying at a hotel by the beach, as the sun began to set. Biff had gone to lie down after a long drive, Kim sat in a chair reading a new book she had bought, Fangs and Kasandra sat on the other bed watching television, and Puggsy and Brielle stood on the balcony, looking out at the sunset across the ocean.

"Sure is a beautiful sight," Puggsy said. "Kinda gives you a weird feeling inside, huh?"

"You mean outside of my urge to push you over the balcony?" Brielle replied, jokingly.

He turned to her, grabbing her by the jacket, raising his fist. "If I have to deal with any more of your cracks, I'll sock you back to Omaha,"

She only smirked. "What can I say? I like getting on your nerves,"

He lowered his fist. "Yeah, well, if this is going to work out, we'll have to do something to keep your mouth shut,"

"Yeah? I'd like to see you-"

He then kissed her on the lips, before she could finish.

*Slap!*

He rubbed his face. "Ow! What was that for?!" he sneered.

"I couldn't help it, you caught me by surprise! I mean, I've never really been kissed before, so… it's kind of new for me," she said, rubbing the back of her neck.

"Yeah, but was the slapping really necessary? Geez…"

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Is that better?"

He gave her a look, but grinned. "A little… but, ah, I think you struck my mouth, too."

She rolled her eyes. "Well, come here then…"

He pulled her close, and their lips made contact.

Inside, Kim looked out the window, seeing their embrace, and smiled to herself. "Way to go, Puggsy," she said, proud for her friend.

They pulled away after a few seconds. "How was that?" Puggsy asked her.

"I don't know… I keep seeing fireworks," Brielle said, blinking a bit. "…and I think I just blurted out the cheesiest line in history,"

Puggsy chuckled, resting his head against hers. "Don't worry about it. I think we'll both get used to this 'romance' stuff,"

"I hope so… I like it,"

"Same here,"

There came howling from inside just then, and they looked to see the moon was shown on TV, and the werewolves were looking around for them.

They turned to each other. "You got my back?" Puggsy asked.

"Only if you've got mine," Brielle replied with a shrug, and they walked inside.

After the experience they've been through, they could take on anything together, and would never have to face the world alone.

THE END


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