"Dale, Cutie, do you mind if I come in? I have something I need to tell you."
Dale looked up, startled, from the comic book he'd been reading (re-reading actually, for the fourteenth time). He had been so engrossed in the adventures of Captain Spiff, he hadn't even noiced the young bat standing in his doorway. He didn't even think anyone else was up. "Sure, Foxy. Come on in." He sat up and patted the bed, gesturing for her to come sit by him.
Foxglove smiled to herself for a moment. It hadn't been too long since he'd fidgeted every time she sat next to him. Now he was inviting her to come close. Little things like that helped her see how much their relationship had grown since their first meeting. As much as her secret burned up her insides, she knew she had to be honest with Dale if they were to go any further. She gracefully fluttered across the small room to him and sat.
The bedroom Chip and Dale shared was mostly dark, illuminated only by the miniature white christmas tree light bulb that served as Dale's book lamp. Even so, Foxglove could clearly see where Dale's half of the room ended and Chip's began. Dale's half was, in essence, a pig sty. Posters of comic book heroes, movies and band members of "Iron Goose" festooned the walls. The floor was swamped with all manner of stuff, gunk, odds, ends, doodads and month-old candy wrappers. Dale claimed to know exactly where everything was, but Foxglove doubted that was possible. Chip's half was the complete and total opposite. Everything was fastidiously organized, floor to ceiling. The bookshelf atop two sets of matchbox dresser drawers held all his case logs and his Sureluck Jones novels. Across the room, Foxy could see into their shared closet: one fedora, one bomber jacket and fourteen red and yellow Hawaiian shirts.
Dale could tell something was wrong. As oblivious as he usually was, when it came to Foxglove he was a bit more perceptive. The breezy smile that usually graced Foxy's face was gone. In it's place was an expression he couldn't fully read. She was very sad about something, that was for sure.
For a few moments, Foxglove was silent. The blue moonlight illuminated her features as Dale watched her mouth open and close several times. She needed to tell him something, but was having trouble saying it. Dale was beginning to get worried. They were always so open with each other. She hadn't even put her wing around him like she usually did. Finally, he put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle shake. "What is it? You can tell me."
Foxglove looked up at him as if breaking out of a trance. She'd been as deeply into her thoughts as Dale had been in his comic book moments before. "Hmm? Oh, yeah." She felt unable to do anything but gaze into his eyes, wishing he could just read her mind and have it all be over.
She was still holding back and Dale couldn't figure out why. "Come on, Foxy. What was it you wanted to tell me? You look pretty sad. Is it something I can help you with?" He tried to smile reassuringly.
His eagerness to ease her pain made her feel worse somehow. "No, I don't think you can help..."
"So why don't you just tell me?!" He wailed, desperation and impatience in his voice. "You're driving me crazy, Foxy. I can't stand to see you so unhappy. Tell me what's bugging you. I know I can't help if you won't even let me know what the problem is!" His expression was now even more worried and sad than hers had been.
Below them, in the lower bunk, Chip grunted softly and rolled over. Foxglove pressed her wingtip to Dale's lips. "Shh. I don't want to wake him. Let's go into the living room." She hopped down and walked out, Dale following. He shut the door quietly behind him as his best friend began to lightly snore. 'Good', he thought, 'now maybe we can get to the bottom of this. Why is Foxy so sad?' It was gnawing him up inside, wondering what was making his girlfriend feel so bad she felt she couldn't tell him.
Foxglove would have suggested they go into her room, it was small and nicely intimate, but there wasn't any place for them to sit together. She slept on a perch hanging from the ceiling so she didn't need a bed, and the room was small enough that she only needed one chair. In the living room they could stretch out on the couch together.
At the end of the hall, Dale turned towards the kitchen. "I was going to get a cola anyway. Do you want anything?"
"Do we have any chips left over from last night?"
Dale nodded. "You oughtta know I'd never let myself run out of junk food!"
Foxglove chuckled for the first time that evening. She watched Dale walk into the kitchen, sneaking a glance at his cute little furry rump. She giggled again and stepped over to the couch. The main room of Ranger HQ was as dimly lit as Dale's room had been: just enough light to make it cozy, but without having to squint to see. Across from the squashy blue couch were two chairs and the TV. The rest of the room was covered in darkness. She could only see the shapes of the rest of the room's furniture. The window across from her opened out into the park. Through the tree's leaves she could see the half-full moon shining. One lamp was on near the window, casting it's amber light over Foxglove's features. The Rangers always kept it on so that anyone with an emergency case for them would know they were home.
She was surprised she was smiling now, but then again, Dale was always able to cheer her up. That was one of the things she loved most about him and one of the things that made them such a perfect match. Whenever they felt gloomy, the other was always able to bring them sunshine.
Behind her, she overheard the sounds of cans and jars falling on the floor and a harshly muttered "Darnit!". She muffled a giggle with her wing. She laid back on the plush cushions and took in a deep, calming breath. 'It's going to be okay, Foxy,' she told herself. 'Dale will understand. He may be a little goofy, but he's got a big heart and he loves me. He'll accept me for who I am, I know it.'
"Catch!" Dale called to her. Her sensitive ears heard the whistling of a can of soda coming towards her. she held up her wings and snagged it easily. "Good hands, er, wings!" Dale clicked on another, smaller lamp, hopped onto the couch, and sat the half a ping pong ball full of potato chip crumbs down on his lap. He skootched closer to Foxy and felt greatly relieved as her wing slipped around him.
Looking deep into her yellow eyes with their emerald irises, he asked "Now, what was it you needed to tell me? I'm all ears." He wiggled his own pair for emphasis.
Smiling sweetly, and now over her own feelings enough that she felt ready to talk, Foxglove responded with another question. "Dale, do you love me?"
Dale felt a little shocked that she would even ask. "Of course I do, sweetie!" He reached up to stroke the fur on her ears, something he knew she liked a lot. "I love you more than anything else. You know that. More than comic books, more than TV, more than chocolate even!"
Knowing Dale as well as she did, Foxglove knew how big of a compliment he had just given her. It was tantamount to Monterey Jack saying he loved someone more than cheese. She leaned over to softly kiss him on the cheek. "Thank you, Dale. It helps to hear that every now and then." Indeed, in her short life, love was something she hadn't found much of.
"Why did you ask then?" Dale could feel his concerns rising again. Whatever this was, it was not to be taken lightly. This was something very serious; he could see it in her eyes.
"Well, what I really wanted to ask was... if you'd still love me as much if you knew something bad about me. Something really bad." She felt a tear beginning to nudge it's way from her eye.
"I don't think anything would make me love you any less. I mean, when we first met you were working for Freddie and I got over that pretty quick when I got to know the real you. Sure, I was kinda uncomfortable at first with you being so, y'know, lovey-dovey, but I think that was just 'cuz I didn't think a nice girl like you would really be in love with a goofball like me."
It was a little ironic, really. They were both so inwardly shy and non-commital at first because they both though they weren't good enouth for each other. She could empathize so much with what he had said. "You are a goofball, cute stuff, but you're my goofball and I love you with all my heart!" Foxy hugged him tight.
Enjoying the feel of her blanket-like wings around him, Dale chirred softly to himself and rubbed Foxglove's back. "Bats were made for hugs." he whispered in her ear, making both of them smile.
She gave him a quick kiss on his neck. The hug ended and she leaned back, still holding Dale's paws. She steeled her nerves. "Okay Dale, I'm going to tell you my secret now. It's going to be a shock, I know. Just try to keep in mind that I'm the same bat I always was."
Dale steeled his nerves. He knew he loved Foxy, but from the look in her eyes, he could tell that what she was about to say was going to be something that would take more than a little getting used to. He tried to think of a worst case scenario, but couldn't even imagine his sweet-natured Foxy doing anything so terrible he couldn't get over it. He took a deep breath. "I'm ready, Foxy. Tell me."
She looked deep into his eyes, all the way to his heart.
"Dale, I'm a vampire."
A lop-sided grin popped up on Dale's face. "Come on, Foxy. Don't kid around." But seeing the sincerity in her dark green eyes made him realize she was telling the truth. He gasped involuntarily and drew back as every vampire movie and comic book he'd ever seen seemed to replay themselves through his head. No, it couldn't be true! She was so shy and honest and kindhearted. A bloodthirsty spawn of evil? Foxglove?!? Impossible! "Foxy, please tell me you're joking," he said, his voice trembling.
Tears flowed like rain from the young bat's eyes. She watched the chipmunk she loved showing the one reaction she dreaded the most: cowering, shuddering terror. She couldn't even speak. She was barely able to nod.
"No..." Dale breathed out.
Foxglove looked up again, tears streaming down her face. "Dale, please don't be scared of me! I'm not like the vampires in the movies, I promise! I won't try to bite you, I don't sleep in a coffin, I, I... It's not like that!!"
Dale watched her suddenly crumble into nothing. She shied away from him, curling herself up in a tight ball of fur on the other end of the couch. She hid her face with her wings. He watched her cry so hard she was shaking.
Her words came to him again: 'Just keep in mind that I'm still the same bat I always was'. If she truly was a vampire then she most likely would have been ever since he'd known her. He hadn't noticed any bite marks on her neck recently. He thought back, trying to remember any time that she'd shown any typically vampiric behavior. He couldn't think of even one. She had always only been the caring, joyful girl he loved. "And she still is now, no matter what." he said to reassure himself.
Foxglove looked up from her weeping as she felt two furry arms close around her, holding her gently. She heard his voice, soft and loving. "It's okay, sweetie. Don't cry. I'm not mad or scared or anything. I still love you."
She gasped in happiness and hugged him back with all the love she could give. "Oh Dale, thank you, thank you, thank you! I was so worried that this would break us up. I kept it back so for long because I didn't want to lose you." She sniffed back a sob and nuzzled the chipmunk tenderly. "I didn't want to lie to you, but I was just so worried. Do you understand? Can you forgive me?"
"Of course," he said softly. "It's all right. Dale's not going anywhere. I love you no matter what you are."
Her smile widened and her heart leaped. "Thank you, Cutie. Thank you so much." She brought her head up to look in his eyes again. "And just so you know, it's not even that bad of a case, really. I'm only one fourth vampire."
Dale and Foxglove both settled back into their previous positions on the couch. "Yeah, please Foxy, tell me all you can about this. I mean, this is kind of unexpected and all. Not that I don't trust you, but I don't want to have to worry about you sucking my blood all the time. You know how all those Dracula movies have brainwashed me. Set me straight."
Chuckling lightly, she gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. She was glad to see that he didn't flinch or shrink back at all. It filled a hole inside her to know he still trusted and loved her. "Okay, I'll tell you all I know, and that isn't too much. I didn't even know until I was sixteen. I had to look through a lot of Freddie's magic books before I knew what I was."
She scratched her head trying to figure out where to start. "Well, like I said, I'm only one fourth vampire. I checked the symptoms in the book and I figured out that much. I think one of my grandparents was a full-blooded vampire. Anyway, when I turned sixteen, I started feeling these strange cravings. At first it was just a kind of a weird feeling inside me. Later though, I realized that I only felt it when I was looking at someone's neck."
Dale began to absent-mindedly rub his own neck, not even aware he was doing it.
Foxglove continued her story. "I didn't want to believe what my body was telling me. I talked to Freddie, who wasn't even that mean back then, and she told me I might be a vampire bat. Not species-wise, but a real honest-to-goodness vampire. She showed me some books on it and everything was there. The craving, the dizziness I was starting to feel, even some smaller things, too. It all added up and I had to admit to myself what I was."
"So what does it mean to be a vampire?" Dale asked, all fear gone now from his voice. "Or a quarter of one anyway. You don't have red eyes and big fangs or anything like that. I don't think I ever would have guessed unless you told me."
"Yeah, it is pretty subtle. I can tell you what I don't do right off the bat, no pun intended." Dale grinned. She did too. Foxy thought back to the few vampire movies she'd actually sat and watched with Dale, trying to remember all of the dumb movie clich s. She counted them off on her wingtips as she talked. "Let's see... I don't sleep in a coffin, sunlight doesn't bother me, crosses and holy water don't bother me, and, as you can tell from how much of Monty's pasta I ate yesterday, garlic doesn't bother me either. And I definitely don't have an accent like that Bela Lugosi guy."
Dale couln't help but giggle a little at the thought of Foxy floating around the house in a tux and a long black cape saying 'I vant to suck your blood!'
"Vampirism isn't some kind of undead demonic state," she said authoritatively. "It's more like a medical condition,"
"Golly, now I know why you can't stand those Dracula movies I watch. It probably hurts a lot to see them make being a vampire seem so evil."
"It does make me feel really bad about myself. I'm glad you stopped watching them."
Another question struck Dale. "Say, what about silver bullets or a stake through the heart? Would that kill you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Dale, that would kill anyone!"
"Oh yeah, right." He grinned foolishly. His expression quickly turned serious though. "You do have to drink blood, right?" Dale asked.
She sighed. "Yes, I do."
Dale nodded solemnly, saying to her 'Okay, I can deal with that'. "How often?"
"About twice a month. I only really need just a little bit. A few spoonfuls is all."
"What would happen if you didn't get any?"
Foxglove shuddered suddenly, remembering an incident in her life she would rather have forgotten. Dale watched her expression harden. Her tone lowered as well. "After I found out, I was okay with it for a while. Freddie would let me lick the butcher paper when she got meat at the supermarket. But then I met you and the other Rangers and I realized how mean a person Freddie really was inside. When I moved in with you guys, it was just a few days after my feeding, so I wasn't even thinking about it really. But one day my cravings came back."
She took a deep breath. Memories of a time she had blocked out until now skittered through her head. "I tried to ignore them for as long as I could. I lasted almost a week. Near the end, I was really on edge. My eyes and mouth felt dry. My joints hurt and I noticed some of my fur falling out."
With a deeply concerned look in his eyes, Dale held her wing and squeezed it softly. "I remember that, Foxy. We were all so worried about you. We didn't know what was wrong."
Foxglove closed her eyes and nodded. She thanked whatever gods watched over her for helping her find such caring friends. "I wanted to tell you guys, but I just couldn't. I was already feeling bad enough about working for Freddie and what she had tried to do to all of you. I really thought that if I held out long enough, it would just go away and I'd be normal. It never did though. It just got worse. And one night while I was out hunting, I couldn't take it anymore."
"Why didn't it help for you to eat bugs?" Dale interrupted.
"They don't have the same type of blood that we do," Foxglove stated matter-of-factly. "I need to drink mammalian blood. Anyway, something in me snapped. I saw a little girl mouse playing in the grass and I swooped down on her. She screamed so loud. She just passed out, right in my wings as I... as I..." She struggled with the words, not wanting to admit to herself more than Dale, what she had done. "I bit her. I bit her neck and drank her blood, Dale." Foxglove caught herself beginning to cry again. It seemed her tears of shame would never really end.
Dale snuggled closer and put a comforting arm across her shoulders. "It's okay, Foxy. I remember how much you were in pain that week. If it was half as bad as it looked, I'd probably bite someone too. I don't blame you." He gave her a little kiss on her cheek. "Was she okay, the little mouse? Did she turn into a vampire, too?" he asked quietly.
"I didn't know if she would or not. I was so worried that I had passed on my curse to this little innocent girl that I stayed with her until she woke up. I lied to her. I told her I had seen someone about to attack her and I chased them away. I was really relieved, though. I could tell nothing had changed. She was okay."
"That's good, at least. I always thought you'd turn into a vampire yourself if you got bit."
Foxy shook her head. "Nope. I was thinking that too at first because the book didn't say whether it was true or not, but then I realized that that would be pretty much impossible."
"Well, think about it this way; considering that about a tenth of all bats have at least a little bit of natural vampirism in them, and most other species can become vampiric too, if everyone who got bit became one as well, everyone on this whole planet would be one in a few years!"
Dale had never thought of it like that before. He laughed a little, thinking of an entire planet full of vampires, all of them trying to find someone who wasn't. An excellent idea came to him then. It would take a lot of courage to let it happen, but it would help out Foxy a lot, and that was much more important to him. He wanted to make sure that it was safe, though. "So, what do you do now to get blood?" he asked.
"I have to fly back to the old neighborhood to the butcher shop there. It's a long flight there and back, but I can't think of any other place where they just leave blood lying around. I tried the supermarket first, but they throw it all out at night and lock up the meat in the freezer."
"What does happen to someone that gets bit?"
"Um, not much, actually. The bite itches for a while, but it's pretty much like any other cut."
"And would you rather have that cow blood at the butchers, or drink from someone living. If you could choose, I mean." If the answer to this question was what he'd expected, Dale felt he would be able to tell Foxglove his idea.
"I don't want to bite anyone, you know that. But I guess I would like to have some fresh blood once in a while. The other stuff makes me feel kind of sick after I drink it. That one time I bit the little mouse girl, it tasted a lot better. I felt really good afterwards. Not good like I was happy, but I felt really fit and healthy." Foxglove had begun to notice Dale's expression. It was a lot more serious than usual, one he reserved for when he was really thinking hard about something. "Why do you ask, Cute stuff?"
Dale gulped, not believing he was really about to say what he was about to say. "Foxy, I want you to know that, the next time you need to, you know..."
"It's just called feeding."
"Whatever. If you ever need to (gulp) feed, I'll let you have some of mine. You shouldn't have to fly all that way for second-rate blood. If you make it quick and painless, you can bite me."
The little bat's heart did a double take. She couldn't believe Dale would be so willing to do something that she could tell scared him silly. And he had asked her first, not the other way around as she feared she might have to do. She hugged her chipmunk love tight and kissed him all over. "Thank you so much Dale. Thank you." They started to rock slowly back and forth. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear.
"Aw, it's no big deal," he said casually.
She touched noses with him and stroked the side of his head and his ears. "Yes, it is a big deal to me. You don't know how much I've hated myself and my situation. You don't know how depressed I get sometimes. You don't know how many nights I haven't been able to sleep because of this. I'll just hang there, thinking everything over and over in my mind, trying to find a better solution. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep because I can never think of anything."
"Foxy, I'd do anything to make you happy. I'd even let you bite me if it did mean I'd become one too."
Unable to put into words just how much joy she felt at hearing him say that, she pulled him close and kissed him as passionately as she could. Dale's fur stood up on end for a moment. He was swept into the emotion of the kiss and smooched back with all the love he could give. He licked playfully at her lips. He felt her giggle and her mouth opened, his tongue slipping inside. Her tongue danced with his. His tongue slid across her sharp little fangs. He wondered how it would feel when they sank into his throat.
Their lips still touching, Foxglove said "Dale, I'm hungry."
"I could go get some more chips."
She smiled at his cute naivet . "No, Cutie, it's a different type of hunger." She glanced at his neck.
Dale shuddered just a little bit. "All right. Be gentle with me, it's my first time."
"Dale!" They both giggled into each other's fur. Foxglove slowly made her way to his neck, giving him small kisses on his furry face as she drew nearer. The chipmunk tensed up as her lips touched his neck. "Just relax, honey. It won't hurt as much then." She felt as if she was acting completely out of instinct, as if her body knew exactly what to do. As gently as she could, she pinched a little flap of skin between her teeth:
Dale immediately stiffened and clutched at her backfur. As the pain faded, he relaxed more. It hadn't felt any worse than getting a shot at the doctors. It even felt a little tickly as Foxy's tongue lapped at the bite.
It was delicious. The taste zinged through Foxglove's mouth, making her close her eyes in pleasure. This was just what she needed. Her body tingled all over. She felt like a battery being recharged. Gone was the dizzy sickness she'd felt before when she drank the cold butcher's blood. Now, as she lapped at the tiny bite on Dale's neck, her body cried out it's thanks.
Dale was getting a serious case of the mega-willies, though. It was starting to feel just a bit too creepy for him, despite Foxy's promises that he would be alright. He tried to keep in mind how honest she had always been with him. His rational mind told him he was perfectly safe. His emotions however, were screaming 'A VAMPIRE IS DRINKING MY BLOOD! AAAAAAAHHH!!!!' Fortunately, just as he was about to scream at the top of his lungs and leap off the sofa, Foxy gave the wound a final lick and pulled away.
She licked her lips and wiped off her mouth, very pleased with her meal. "Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"Nope, not at all!" Dale lied blatantly. His knocking knees and trembling paws told a different story.
Foxglove gave her beau a quick, reassuring hug. She could hear his heart beating twice as fast as usual. Looking into his eyes, it was even more obvious how shaken he was. "I'm sorry, Cutie. I really didn't mean to scare you so much."
"I didn't think it was going to creep me out so bad either. I guess talking about it and actually doing it are two completely different things."
"I guess so. Listen, if it feels too weird, you could think of another way of giving me your blood. I don't have to bite you, you know."
"That's okay. I think it was just the shock of doing it for the first time. In a way, it felt good because I knew how much I was helping you." He reached up to touch the bite. It was a lot smaller than it had seemed to him. A tiny trickle of blood got on his fingers.
Foxglove gave him a glowing smile for his unending compassion towards her. She pointed briefly at the bite. "Here, let me get you a band aid for that." She hopped up off the couch then, noticing the blood on Dale's fingers, took his hand and licked it off with a kiss. She gave him a sexy little grin. Both of them giggled.
As Foxy walked to the bathroom for a bandage, Dale looked over the couch at her, watching her little tail swing to and fro. He liked it when she tried acting sexy for him. It never really worked the way she'd intended, she always ended up just looking incredibly cute. Not that he minded, of course. Their love affair had never been the passionate soap-opera type. It felt more like a game of Twister: fun, close, full of laughs and an occasional awkwardness that only brought them closer together. It was just what they both wanted. Neither of them was really into "mushy" love and it always made them nervous to even try it that way. As it was, their love was uncomplicated and relaxed, running mostly on instinct, with a certain innocence surrounding it as well. Just two critters who enjoyed being together more than anything else in the whole world.
Bat fur brushed against chipmunk fur as Foxglove slipped the band aid over Dale's bite. She patted it down and climbed back onto the couch from behind. "Say Foxy," Dale asked as she settled down at his side, "I was just wondering why you decided to tell me about this now. Was it just because you needed to feed again and you were worried you might spaz out like before?"
Her smile faded, a look of sadness and concern filling her eyes now. "No, it wasn't just that. You see..." She sighed and took a deep breath. "One good thing about being a vampire is it increases your lifespan a lot. I'll probably live twice as long as I normally would."
"I bet that's where they got all that stuff about vampires being immortal," Dale noted.
"Probably," Foxy agreed.
"Actually, being immortal would be really bad, you know why?" Foxy shook her head. "I was reading this one sci-fi comic a few days ago and in it this guy found a genie and wished that he could live forever, but it turned out that he actually outlived the whole planet! The sun went kablooey about a billion years later and the earth got blown up and he had to float around in space forever and ever. Weird, huh?"
"I'd never thought about it like that, Dale," Foxy said, pondering what that would be like, floating in outer space until the end of time. She doubted there'd be any bugs to eat out there.
Dale grinned, a bit of smugness in his smile. He loved those rare moments when he knew something the other Rangers didn't. "And Chip keeps telling me comic books'll made me dumber. Hah! Oh, sorry I interrupted you Foxy. Go on, I'm listening."
The sadness returned again. She could feel it growing within her. She reached over to caress his cheek lovingly. "I realized that if I did live a whole other lifetime, I'd outlive you, Dale." She felt her eyes begin to moisten. "I don't want that to happen, sweetheart. I don't want you to die someday and know that I'll still have half of my life left."
Dale gasped, thinking of how hard it would hurt him to know Foxy would die long before he would if the situation were reversed. He pulled her into a hug and gently wiped away her tears. "Oh Foxy..." He didn't know what else to say.
Once more salty tears trickled down the emotional bat's cheeks. "Out of everything, I think knowing that makes me saddest. Knowing that as I grow older, I'll watch you and all the other Rangers die. You, Gadget, Chip, Monty, Zipper, Tammy, I'll even live longer than Bink. I can't get the image out of my head of me one day standing in front of a line of graves of all my friends. Sometimes seeing that in my head makes me just suddenly start crying." She held Dale close, trying to fathom what it would be like to know someday that she would never feel his touch again.
Dale was silent. Every ounce of his normally carefree attitude was gone now. Regardless of how often his goofiness would interfere with a case, there were some times when seriousness was a necessity, not merely an option. Jokes and comic books were for later. Right now, he had to concentrate as hard as possible on helping his lover through these crushing emotions.
Underneath all his other racing thoughts, he had been wondering why exactly Foxglove had felt so sad about what she was. He thought at first it was shame for herself. But she had only bitten once, and then had stayed to make sure her victim would be okay. And he had already assured her that he didn't love her any less now that he knew. It didn't seem to make sense that just the shame alone would be enough to completely eradicate the joyous, rainbow-filled personality of the bat he loved so much. This new matter of death filled in the missing piece, however. This was why she had cried so hard. Not that her condition forced her to do such macabre things, but that it would eventually rob her of everyone she'd ever loved and cared for. "My poor Foxy..."
Again, the idea Foxglove had been unable to say came to Dale first. "But what if I was a vampire, too?"
Foxglove paled. "No, Dale! Oh no! You don't know how... how horrible it's made me feel to be this way!"
She was shaking like a leaf. Dale held her tight, petting her little tuft of headfur and speaking to her in the softest, most caring voice he could. "But that was because you were afraid of losing me, and you were ashamed that you bit the little mouse. Aside from that, you haven't told me anything that's all that bad about just being a vampire. And now you don't even have to worry about getting blood anymore. I'll always be there to help you out with that. I mean, there must be SOME good things about being a vampire, aren't there?"
Foxy sniffed back a tear, but didn't look up at him. "Well, yeah, I guess there's a few good things about it. If I get hurt, I heal faster. All my senses are heightened a little. But I..." The more she thought about it, the more she realized Dale had a valid point. Being a vampire didn't hurt her at all. In fact it made her body a lot stronger and kept her healthy. The hurt came from how she felt about it. "It hurts to know that a lot of people would hate me and be afraid of me if they knew."
Dale knew how deeply that affected her. As rational as she tried to be, her emotions ruled her, and they were often more fragile than glass. Her self-esteem had once been much lower than his had ever been. There had been times when he'd hated his clumsiness more than anything else, had worried incessantly about doing anything at all, for fear he'd mess it up and hurt his friends in the process. What he'd needed then was confidence and reassurance. That was what Foxy needed now. "Do you think the rest of the rangers would be afraid of you, Foxy?"
"If they knew? ...I'm not sure."
"I know they wouldn't. You're one of us. You're like family. We'd never turn our backs on you." Without even having to ask the others, he knew in his heart this was the absolute truth.
"But what about everyone else?" she moaned, her voice trembling. Her fear of being shunned was so strong. It had a stranglehold on her and would not let go, even in the face of reason.
His voice was strong, firm and caring. "Foxglove, sweetie, I promise never to tell anyone your secret. Not even Chip and the guys. It's your choice who knows. And if I couldn't even tell until now, I don't think anyone else would ever figure it out." He looked deep in her eyes and spoke with the deepest sincerity he could muster. "I will never let anyone hurt you because of what you are."
All she could do for a while was stare into his beautiful eyes. He was right. She said it over and over in her mind. Dale is right. Everything he had said was true. Dale is right. She used that phrase to beat back her stubborn fear. Dale is right. She attacked her fear mercilessly until it finally let go completely. Dale was right. She was free.
Foxglove threw herself at Dale, knocking them both over on the couch. She cuddled him with every ounce of love in her heart. It was so clear now. All she had had to do was see her condition as it truly was; somewhat bad, somewhat good, and something she just had to accept. Until now, it was something she had feared much more than anyone else around her ever had. She did everything she could to escape it, deny it, fight it. She saw it as her curse. But now Dale had let her see that it wasn't an enemy she had to fight. It wasn't a separate entity. It was a part of her. She was a vampire. 'I am a vampire,' she silently said to herself. Being a vampire didn't seem so bad now. She wasn't evil just because her body was different from most other animals'. She was the same bat she always had been. 'How ironic,' she thought, 'that I could say that to Dale to comfort him, but I wasn't able to believe it myself until now.'
For a long time the two laid there, cuddling happily, enjoying one another's warmth. Foxy nestled her head on Dale's chest and he petted her fur softly. He began to hum softly to her. Foxglove recognized the tune as "I Will" by the Beatles, a sweet, short love ballad that they both liked. She hugged him like a big furry teddy bear. Dale looked to see that a broad, peaceful smile graced his love's face. The old Foxy had returned to him.
Several minutes passed as they held each other. Dale realized that an important question had been left unanswered. He checked to make sure Foxglove hadn't fallen asleep and gently broke the silence. "Foxy-pie?"
She looked up at him. "Yes, Cutie?"
"Um, if I did become a vampire like you, what would you have to do to me?" He hoped this question wouldn't do anything to lessen her peaceful mood.
To his relief, Foxglove's sweet smile never wavered. "All you'd have to do is drink some of my blood, Darling."
She nodded. "That's all. Do you want to do it now? I guess I could bite myself and you..."
He shook his head just a little. "No. I still want to think about it. Maybe sometime later, but not tonight."
"Okay." She nuzzled back into his soft fur, enjoying the special scent of his fur and the sounds of his body working that only her sensitive ears could hear.
They held each other in silence for a little while longer. Then Dale began to notice the dark through the window slowly starting to lighten. "Hey Foxy, look. The sun's coming up."
She raised her head to look. "Gosh, we've been up a long time."
"This isn't that bad. I once stayed up for two full days for an X-files marathon."
She didn't doubt that. As she gazed out the window, she began to see glimmers of orange flickering. "Oh Dale, let's go watch it together."
"Okay, sweetie." Foxglove slid off the couch and helped Dale up after her. They both stretched and could hear their joints pop and snap. They'd been sitting on the couch together for a long time.
Dale began to limp to the door. "Dale!" Foxglove called out. "Are you okay?"
"What do you mean?"
"Your foot." She pointed to it with her wingtip. "You're limping." Her eyes were wide with concern.
Dale chuckled. "Oh that's nothin'. It just fell asleep 'cause you were laying on it."
He smiled and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "That's okay. It was definitely worth it." She smiled back. Together they walked paw in wing out of Ranger headquarters and sat on the branch outside. On the horizon, the sun was just beginning to poke it's way up through the darkness. The two lovers held each other close as the morning sky became a symphony of rich, warm color. Streaks of violet, white and orange spread across the sky as if being painted by giant, unseen artists. It was a brand new day, in more ways than one.
"You know Foxy, there's one real big reason I'm glad you're not like all the vampires in the movies," Dale whispered to her.
"Why's that, Cutie?"
"'Cause then I wouldn't be able to watch the sunrise with the most beautiful girl in the whole world."
Their eyes were closed as they savored a tender kiss. Consequently, they both missed the apex of the sunrise. Neither one cared a bit.