I stood there, looking down at my brother with pity. His face was badly bruised and his lip was bleeding. I held a hand out to him, to help him up, but he shuffled away from me.
"Come on, you silly reprobate," I said.
"Mike, I'm a criminal, not a reprobate. I burnt the house down, I killed Mum and Dad," he whispered hoarsely.
"It wasn't your fault."
"But it was though. I couldn't control myself."
I rolled my eyes and dragged him up. I smacked his cheek gently and walked away.
"Come on, Nat," I said to him.
He paused for a moment and slowly followed me, reluctant to follow his big brother. Well, I was only older than him by a few minutes.
"I would ask what you've been up to, but I already know," I said to him. He didn't respond. "Nat, this is real now, get a grip."
"Sorry," he whispered.
"Don't apologise to me," I said to him.
"I thought you didn't like me, Mike."
"Since when?" I asked.
"I guess Lacey never told you, like she said she would."
"Told me what?" he asked cautiously.
"That I was defending you from the bullies."
"It was you?"
"Yeah. You're my brother, Nat, I've always loved you. Just never been able to tell you."
We walked in silence. I meant what I'd said. I did love him. I used to blame him for the fire, but then everything went downhill. After I was adopted, I got involved in alcohol and drugs and violence. I was dragged into a gang, and I enjoyed it. I liked hurting people. I liked the attention I got from girls. That was my downfall.
I was getting too much attention from... unwanted sources. After I'd been with my new parents for a year, I was walking home one night. I'd noticed their presences far too late. Alcohol sent my powers into disarray. I was the one being attacked. By vampires, no less. They left me to die. But they hadn't realised they'd left some venom behind. I became one of them. When the need became too much, I killed my adopted parents. I drained them dry. I was 15 at the time.
In the guilt and the horror, I'd run away from everyone and everything. I spent my time hiding in forests, down disused alleys, anywhere I wouldn't be found. Not long after I was 16, I ran into a small coven and they asked me to join them.
That's where I was taking Nat. To the house the five of us shared. I didn't want him to be alone. He was fragile, he always had been. He was broken and unprepared for the shit life was waiting to throw at him, even though he'd had enough of it already. I wanted to help him get his life back. I just wasn't sure how I was supposed to do that, me being half-vampire, half-Phoenix and all.