I believe that the overall emotional drain of the visions I was experiencing during my dream had caused me to oversleep a little bit the next night. I was usually the first one to rise, but I could already sense the activity of the others in the lot around me before I even opened my eyes that evening. Especially the scribblings of the boy laying in the bed beside me. I could hear his ink pen, swiftly scratching against the pages of his diary as he translated his thoughts into words, and his hand tried desperately to keep up. Just listening to it, I could almost tell the pressure he was using to write with, the amount of ink left in the pen, and how many pages he had left until his diary was full again. It was a sweet song for my ears to take in all at once.

I opened my eyes slowly, and smiled to myself as I was graced with the beauty of his smooth and flawless skin, contrasted heavily by the dark reddish brown color of his silken locks. And the profile of those kissably pink lips, partially open, as he concentrated on what he was doing. I almost didn't want to stop him. It would have been as much of disgrace as scaring away a butterfly by getting too close. He was laying on his stomach, propped up on his elbows, as he continued to write passionately about what was on his mind. Sometimes his little tongue would peek out, and lick his bottom lip, as he scribed nonstop into the booklet. I think I just lay there, watching him for a few seconds as the warmth returned to my body, and I recovered from my sleep cycle. Everything about him was magic. Everything about him was pure. How could I have ever expected to wake up one day in an old abandoned junkyard and say to myself...I truly have it all?

I think Taryn saw me blink out of the corner of his eye, and he turned to smile warmly in my direction. That grin could truly lift your spirits beyond belief if it caught you unaware. I smiled back at him, and he leaned over to kiss me gently on the lips. "Hey, sweetie." He said. "You slept late today. I was almost ready to assume that you were faking it to keep from talking to me. Hehehe!"

I couldn't help myself for one moment longer, and I reached over to put my arm around him and pull him over to lay on his back next to me. He didn't give any resistance, and tenderly rolled into my embrace with a grin. His body felt so warm and soft to the touch sometimes. Especially when he was just waking up. Taryn giggled shyly as I pulled him tight against me, feeling that lovable 'smoosh' as I gave him a squeeze. We both stared at the ceiling for a moment, me feeling the warmth of him bathing me in his light, and I couldn't stop myself from kissing him again, this time on the forehead.

"Do you feel better?" He asked.

"Much." The headache was gone, the dizzyness was gone, that 'fullness' was gone. Somehow, it had all balanced out during the day while I 'healed'. But there was a bit of that foreign awareness left. The knowledge that the power was there, inside of me, and growing stronger every minute. I felt as though I was consciously holding back armaggeddon itself with my own limited restraints. As though everything and everyone around me had become this easily destructible 'target' for me to govern at will. Fragile pieces of meat that could be crushed, torn apart, or blown to smithereens, with the simplest of thoughts. It's a strange feeling to experience. Because you don't know exactly what to do with thoughts like that. Nor do you want to, for fear of what you might do with the knowledge that you're pretty much blessed with the infinite ability to destroy everyhing you put your hands on. Still...it's just a theory. Probably a case of me being delusional after last night's dream. "I'm still a bit weirded out by it all, but I do feel better than last night." I said.

"I'm glad." Taryn smiled. He rolled in tighter and kissed me on the neck, letting his soft lips linger there as he lightly ran his fingers up under my shirt. "Bryson already stopped by once tonight, you know? He told me to remind you not to sneak off anywhere." I felt his index finger dip into the small oval pit of my navel, and I giggled from the sensation.

"So, what did you tell him?"

"I told him that you were still sleeping...and that I'd smack him silly if he tried to wake you up. Hehehe!"

"No you didn't..."

"Yes, I did. My baby wasn't feeling well and he needed his rest. Besides, the time I spend with you is never enough. So he can wait. The whole world can wait. They can only sink their claws into you after I'm finished giving you your good morning kiss."

Taryn's hand moved up to my chest, and he let his palm glide over my nipples in small warm circles. "Mmmm...that feels good." I told him. And I closed my eyes as I felt him lean forward and connect his lips to mine. So softly. So lovingly. I never tire of the emotional rush. None of the excitement has faded these past months, and every kiss feels like the first one all over again.

I felt his knee bend as his leg crawled up over mine, and he stared at me with a sensual grin. "You're so cute when you first wake up. You know that?"

"Oh please, hehehe...I look like shit. My hair is a mess..."

"I know. But I kinda like that. It's natural. It's so...'you'."

He kissed me once again, and he lightly used his fingertips to play with my blond hair before brushing it out of my eyes. And with one last peck on the lips, he playfully rubbed his nose against mine, and we both sighed with a grin. "God, I love you." I said, breathlessly giving my heart the chance to speak without my permission.

"You'd better." He replied. "You're the number one star in my diary now."

"Yeah? Are you writing about me again?"

"As though I could write about anybody else."

"You could write about how much you like Trevor, and how cute he is." I said, and Taryn grabbed a playfully tight hold of my right nipple and pinched it, twisting it upwards until I gasped from the sudden shock of it. "OWWW!"

"Hehehe, don't be a smartass! Besides, that was years ago. I was 14 years old, give me a break." He giggled.

"So what does that make me? I'm 14 years old too, ya know."

"It makes you perfect, trust me."

"But not as perfect as Trevor, I'll bet." I teased him, but as I felt his hand move towards my nipple again, I twitched away from him. I pushed his hand out from under my shirt. "Okay, you just lost your nipple privalleges for the evening."

"Oh darn, and I didn't even get my teeth involved yet." He chuckled.

I reached down and let my hand travel up and down his side, every inch of his smooth torso was a delight to the touch. "So what were you writing about me?" I asked.

"It's private. Why?"

"How can it be 'private' when it's about me?"

His smile broadened, "It's nothing you need to worry about, geez. It's just my thoughts and feelings, that's all."

"Well, can I read it?"

"NO!" He grinned.

"Why not?"


"Because what?" He quickly moved in to give me another peck on the lips, but I wasn't taking that for an answer. "Well?"

"Hehehe, why do you want to know?"

"BECAUSE...." I said back to him. "C'mon. Let me read it."


"Well, can you read it TO me instead?"

"That kinda defeats the purpose of me keeping it secret, doofus."

"Come on." I moaned, and let my hand travel down to gently rub the semi hard rod in his boxers. He didn't want me to hear it, but he instantly whimpered in the back of his throat when I touched it. I took a hold of it through the thin material, feeling the length harden and increase in temperature as I massaged the tube up and down. I could feel the pouch of his balls underneath, I could feel the ridge of the sensitive tip at the top, and I tried to use my influence to manipulate him into giving me the answer I wanted. "Let me see it. Please?" I gave him a firm squeeze, and his hips pushed out as the feeling took hold of him.

He trembled a bit, and closed his eyes, and that's when I leaned forward...ready to kiss him deeply on the lips. But before we connected, he whispered, "I'm not letting you read it."

"Aw, you SUCK!" I said, releasing my hold on his privates and rolling on my back with a pout.

"Hehehehe! Maybe someday. But not today. OK?" He was amused at my facial expression, and kissed me on the cheek as he cuddled close and we both stared at the ceiling again. He made sure to reach for my arm and wrap it around his shoulder as he laid his head back gently on my chest. "Honestly, Justin....most of it was just me...remembering things. Or at least...trying to remember things." His voice faded a bit, and with a single breath, I almost caught a glimpse of that melancholy boy that I met at the end of the Pier that gloomy night.

"From your life? Your human life, I mean?" I asked.

He paused for a moment, and then nodded silently. He was holding back, even while he was talking to me, I could feel it. He reached up to hold the hand that he had draped over him. "You know...the further I get away from life, the harder it is to remember what it was like...being in daylight. And the harder it is to remember...the darker this whole world seems to become." He said it more for himself, I think, than for me. An expression of thoughts that needed no comment or confirmation from me to be real. But I snuggled up closer to give him some added comfort where he needed it. "It all seems like some kinda....weird dream, you know? Like it never really happened, and I just....made the whole thing up. My life, my family, my friends...everything. I haven't seen them in soooo long. I find myself forgetting little details here and there, and having to fill in the holes with some fairy tale element that just makes me miss it all the more." Taryn's voice dropped down a bit, but I gave him another soft squeeze to let him know that I was still listening. "Heh...you wanna know something? I can hardly even remember my own birthday anymore."

I thought about it a second, and said, "You can always celebrate it on my birthday if you want." I smirked.

"When IS your birthday, anyway?"

"Next month. The seventeenth."

Taryn raised his head a bit to look at me. "Are you serious?"


"Awww sweety, that's awesome! Don't let me forget, ok? We'll do something special for it then! I don't know, we'll take you to Showbiz Pizza or something, hehehe!"

I gave him a confused look? "What the hell is a Showbiz Pizza?"

Now it was his turn to be confused. "What? They don't have Showbiz Pizza anymore? You know...the place with the video games and the kids running all over the place screaming..."

"You mean Chuckie Cheese?" I giggled.

"What the hell is a Chuckie Cheese?"

"Hahaha! Nevermind, OLD man! It's after your time." I felt his hand move up to grab my nipple again, but I covered it up wih my free hand just in time. "Hey now! No more of that! I'm trying to enjoy some quiet time with my boyfriend, here!" Taryn laid back, and we were quiet for a moment, but the talk of home sparked some memories of my own. It made me wonder. It made me question. It seems as though everytime I dare to look back at the life I once thought was so horrible...the more I realize what I left behind. There was soooo much that I just...sighhh...wish I had been thankful for...

...Back when I had the chance.

"You know...when I left my life behind...everything seemed all wrong. Nothing seemed to fit, nothing seemed to work...I was all alone." I said wistfully. "But....sometimes I look back, and it doesn't seem all that bad." Taryn was silent beside me, but there was a worry, a gentle insecurity, in his stillness. "NOT that I have any regrets being here with you, because I don't. Ok?"

I kissed his cheek, but he didn't respond. Then he said, "It was hard to let go. I suppose it's hard for anyone to let go. It's just...so weird, not having a sense of time anymore. It's, like...gone. Vanished. Completely irrelevant to almost everything I do now. It changes your perception on so many things after a few years, Justin. It really does." He turned to look at me, his green eyes hypnotizing me from the inside out. "Please tell me you don't hate me...for making you this way?"

"Aww, baby....no. Never. Without you, I would have been some gay teen statistic in somebody's notebook. I love you, Taryn. You freed me." It almost hurt to see him even consider the thought that I'd rather be somewhere else than in his arms. But my relief came when I saw my love reflected in his eyes.

He sighed quietly, and said, "I just worry about it sometimes. Because, even after all this time, I wonder what life would be like for me...if I had made a different choice. Sometimes that question kills me more than you'll ever know."

"I can imagine. Because sometimes...it kills me too." I took a moment to think about my mom, and found the memory to inspire more pain than pleasure. More misery than peace of mind. I can't even imagine what she must have been going through when she noticed that I was gone. I can't imagine the horrible feelings of guilt and horror at the idea of her only little boy suddenly disappearing off of the face of the Earth one day while she was at work. Crossing over literally destroys lives....and not just the ones of the vampires being turned. "I'd really like to see my mom again, though. Just...so she could know that I was alright. I hate not being able to tell her." I told him. "I remember coming home from school sometimes, and she'd be making spaghetti, and the smell of freshly baked garlic bread would greet me at the door. And, if I was lucky, I'd open the fridge, and she'd have this bowl of hardening jello inside, and some spray whipped cream for dessert. It was always like some kind of 'holiday' when I came home to that."

Taryn smiled to himself, and asked, "What was it like? Seeing Richie again?"


"Yeah. I mean...what was it like...to go back and just...find some closure with someone you cared about so much?"

I didn't really know how to respond. Honestly, I don't really know how I felt about it. But I knew what to say to answer the question. "It was....amazing. Just amazing."

Taryn didn't push for details. He just wiggled a bit closer to me and thought to himself for a moment. Then he said, "I'd love to see my little brother again. That would truly make me happy." He smiled dreamily, and added, "Alec would be pretty big by now. Hehehe, I'd hardly be able to bounce him on my lap anymore. Or make him giggle from the threat of the 'tickle monster'. But...just knowing that he was ok...that he was happy...that would mean everything to me."

A sadness washed over him, and I had to ask, "Did you ever...you know...go back? Home, I mean?"

I can't even begin to describe the look in his eyes. A facial expression that he tried to hide by looking the other way. Then, after a long pause, he told me, "....Only once...."

Just then, there was a knock at our habitat door. "What?" I hollered out.

I heard Max's voice on the other side saying, "Tell Taryn that it's his turn to do laundry tonight."

Taryn yelled back, "What? No it isn't. I'm not doing laundry after the Ice Zone party!"

"Come on, Taryn. You've gotta do it."

"It's NOT my turn. I thought it was Rain's turn to do laundry?"

Max replied, "Well, Rain just slit her own throat with a rusted chunk of metal and she's outta commission at the moment. Frankly, I don't want that chick taking MY clothes anywhere!" Taryn huffed in frustration. "Come on, you're next in line. Let's go! I wanna get outta here before dawn and I ain't got shit else to wear!"

"Fine." Taryn mumbled.


"I said FINE! Geez! But she's taking my next rotation on laundry duty!"

"Whatever, cupcake! Just put your panties on and get to the laundromat before the bars close. I need a drink." And with that, Max walked away from the door.

Taryn rolled his eyes a bit, but was happy to move over on top of me for a moment and plant a deep sensual kiss on my lips before getting out of bed. Looking up at his smile, my hands tenderly gripping the softness of the round globes behind him, I gave him one last grin before letting him get up to get dressed.

I figured that I might as well join him. Afterall, it's not like Brysn was going to catch site of Taryn leaving the lot and come 'retrieve' me the second he knew I was awake. Doc said it was important that I speak to him, and I was hoping that it didn't mean bad news. But...when has Bryson ever had anything 'important' to tell me that wasn't bad news? All I could do was hope for the best. "If you've got anything you wanna throw in with the load, give it to me now. Because I'm not coming back for extras." Taryn said, and I reached over to rub his ass playfully as he tried to pull up his pants. "Hehehe....do you MIND, loverboy?" I let go, but as soon as he had his pants on and reached for a shirt, I moved closer again. We both giggled as I hugged my arms around his slim waist and pressed my lips to the back of his neck. "Hehehe, dude...you are SO not helping right now! But you do give me ideas on what to do when I get back from the laundromat tonight." He moaned. It took a few wiggles on his part, but I eventually let him go and he finished getting dressed. He teased his hair with his hands for a bit, and gave me a quick kiss as he grabbed our bag of dirty clothes and went out into the yard to collect the rest.

Alright...time to find out what Bryson needs, and what it's gonna mean for me in the near future.

I got dressed and tried to make myself look somewhat presentable, and I opened the door to look out into the lot. It felt good to have my senses back under some kind of control again. But as I looked over at Bryson's truck and saw him and Doc looking through papers and notebooks and whispering back and forth amongst themselves, that old 'lab rat' feeling came flooding into my mind full force all over again. Why put it off any longer, right? It's time.

I made my way to the center of the lot where Kid was quietly playing marbles by himself, his new teddy bear at his side in the dirt. He gave me a quick look, I thought probably just to make sure that I didn't do something blasphemous like 'TOUCH' him or anything. But instead, he gave me a boyish little smirk, his big brown eyes gleaming happily in my direction. I almost couldn't believe it. It's not often you catch Kid in a good enough mood to not jump at the very sight of anybody except Max and Jenna. I took a chance, and actually reached down to mess up his hair a little, and he gave a silent giggle before moving back to stop me from making it worse. I have to admit, the reaction made me smile too. I think I needed that at the moment. I winked at him and Kid went back to his little game in the sand. It was the only thing to sorta set me at ease.

Bryson was the first to look up as I approached, and Doc expertly hid the bundle of papers from me underneath a folder or two. When I was close enough to speak, I tried to ignore the tension in their shoulders, and the concern in their speech. But I knew they were worried about what my reaction was going to be to whatever it is that they had to tell me. There was no doubt about it. "I take it that this is 'bad news' time?" I asked.

"No, not really. But there are some things that you need to know about." Bryson told me, and he hopped up into the seat of his truck as Doc wheeled himself over and handed me a sheet of paper. A chart.

"What's this?" I asked.

"It's a blood chart, Justin. Your blood chart." Bryson said. "It's easy to lose track of time out here, so it's important to keep an eye on suggested feeding schedules and the like. According to your chart, you probably could have gone another week, maybe two, before getting the thirst again. But...because of the fight in the club and your recent blood loss...Doc had to make some adjustments." They looked at one another briefly, then back at me. "You've got two...possibly three days, tops."

"Heh...kill or starve..." I said sarcastically, looking down at the ground.

"You HAVE to feed, Justin. It's the only way to survive."

"Right." I felt a shiver run through me as I tried to once again prepare myself for the worst. I didn't look forward to going through that agony again. The first two times, I had the haze of my animal instincts to help shut out my common sense. Somehow, I don't think they're gonna do me much good this time.

Bryson took a pause, and then said, "Justin...I want to talk to you about last night. About what happened between you and Trevor..."

"Trevor was being an asshole." I said abruptly. "He doesn't know when to quit, so I scared him a little bit. That's all." I saw Doc and Bryson look at each other again. "I didn't hurt anybody. It was just something to get him to leave me alone..."

"You have to understand, Justin...I'm worried more about your intentions than your results. Control is going to be key in your development from now on."

"I didn't lose control! I just...he pissed me off. I'm sorry, ok?"

"It's not about being sorry, Justin. That's not what I'm talking about here."

"Well, what is it then?"

"It's the idea that you, whether you know it or not, have become a very 'dangerous' individual since your crossover. We've only seen a HINT of what you can do, and honestly, we don't know if we're prepared for what's to come. Trevor can be a handfull, and situations can be dark, but feeding off of your emotions is putting us all at risk. All of us." He said the words, but my mind translated it into a sensation that truly hurt me to the very core. It was like having a giant lead weight tied around my heart with barbwire pulling it slowly down into my stomach. Bryson....did he really think I'd hurt them? My family?

"You don't...you don't trust me?" I asked. They could see the pain in my eyes, and Doc quickly spoke up.

"No, Justin, that's not what we're saying at all..."

"Yes, it is." Bryson added. He blocked Doc's attempt to sugarcoat it, and instead went for a more direct approach. "Your thirst is about to become more severe than ever before. The pain will get worse, the bloodlust will grow quickly, and I don't want to turn my back on those impulses that are instructing you to satisfy your appetites, not even for a second." Bryson saw a tear drip from my eye. I hadn't expected it to fall really. The emotion had numbed me pretty fast once the blow of being told that I was basically a loaded gun to everyone around me. Even though I loved them with all my heart...I was putting them in jeopardy. Just by being in their presence. More now than ever before. I felt as though I had been forced right back to square one. Bryson stood back up on his feet, and put his hand on my shoulder. I don't know why I took comfort in that, but a part of me just needed his approval so badly. I didn't want to be different anymore. I wanted to be free of the stigma that being an outcast can put on you. I wanted him to trust me. I NEEDED him to trust me. "I'm not telling you this to hurt your feelings, kid. I want you to be prepared for what comes next. Because if you think that you've even come close to knowing what a life in darkness is all about...you're wrong. It takes years of practice, of patience, of study, of experience...." He rubbed another loose tear from my cheek with his thumb as he caressed my chin. "...You're so young. Your abilities are growing so fast. I wish we had more time to break you in slowly. But time is critical right now, and you're developing faster than we could have ever anticipated. When the thirst hits you...you can't delay it this time, ok? Not even for a little bit. We need you alert, and aware. We can't risk your hesitation any longer. It poses a threat...to you, to us, to everyone. Ok?" I didn't say anything, but tried to stand strong for him. I nodded silently, and lifted my head slightly to look him in the eye, as I wiped the rest of my tears away.

Doc seemed to have more to say on the issue, and he rolled forward a bit. "Justin...when you get the urge to hunt this time...things are going to feel a little bit 'different' than the last two times."

I didn't understand. "What do you mean by different?"

"I'm saying that.....this will officially be your third feeding. Do you...understand what that means?" I looked back at Bryson, who seemed to be waiting for me to come my own conclusion. I shook my head, and Doc told me, "It will be the end of your crossover. You birth into darkness will be complete."

"Wait...I don't get it. I thought..."

"Three feedings, that's what it takes." Bryson added. "When you're first turned, you lose a lot of blood, but the toxins in your system allow you to regenerate a limited new supply while you sleep and go through the change. You're still pretty much full of the same blood that you had when you were alive. Your body needs time to ween itself off of the blood that it's used to, even though the vampire rules still apply."

Doc said, "After the first feeding, you still have a lot of your original human blood left. Your body is still attempting to adjust to having an entirely new circulation. It's still trying to get your heart to produce its original supply. But your transformation is still very personal at that stage. That's when your extra begins to assert itself a bit more, and you start to get your glow. Even though you got yours much earlier than most vampires do."

Bryson took it from there. "Your second feeding is a bit more effective in your transformation. Your body is beginning to act and react like a vampire. It adapts better to things like absorbing new blood types into your system, running long distances or enduring physical strain without your muscles cramping up on you, sleeping for extremely long hibernation periods during the day. The second feeding makes a vampire stronger, faster, and gives them more control over their extras, as I'm sure you've experienced so far. You also begin to take on more of your donor's characteristics when you hunt, attributes and flaws alike. This is when your abilities start to bloom fully...and your body finally begins to let go of the desire to produce its own blood, and starts searching more intensely for the blood of others. You have very little of your original blood left at this point, and your body begins to think more like a parasite." There was a pause between them, and Doc didn't volunteer the next bit of information. "The third feeding...however...."

He stumbled over his words for a moment, as though he was looking for an easy way to say it. "Please..." I said softly. "...Just tell me?" Bryson looked me in the eye, and I straightened up as best as I could. "I can take it."

Bryson nodded, and he said, "After the third feeding, all traces of your original human blood cells are gone. The body has completely given itself over to darkness. You'll be a full blooded vampire. Not a newblood, but truly a new member of the species....forever."

"So....you're telling me that this is literally the end of my humanity. Is that right?" I asked. "That there won't be anything left of what I used to be?"

"Physically speaking, yes. But who you are doesn't have anything to do with blood cells and biological mumbo jumbo. Who you are is locked away in your spirit, and that's not gonna change. Not unless you want it to." I think Bryson meant it as a sentimental way of telling me not to worry. But to me, at that moment, I felt as though I was saying goodbye to my life....for the second time. "Now....what IS going to change is how your body reacts to certain things, and that is what you need to be ready for. Sunlight will burn you hotter and faster than ever before, your sleep cycles will get deeper, and you may find it a harder to wake up in the evening for a short while. Also, the donor's affects on your behavior will be slightly stronger than before, and it will take some getting used to as your body tries to adjust." He told me. "And then...there's the thirst. There isn't anything left for your body to 'fall back' on anymore, Justin. Your reserves are gone. You won't have anything but the blood of your donor to survive off of from now on. Which means that the hunger pains are going to hit you harder and be much more ferocious than they ever were before. Your natural instinct to survive will be at an all time high, and you need to be prepared for that. Because when you get hungry...hesitation is not an option. The bloodlust will come quickly, it will blindside your senses and your rational thoughts, and switch you over to permanent hunting mode until it gets what it wants. Believe me...you don't want that. You want to go out there and feed before any of that takes hold of you, replenish your supply, and get back to normal before it even becomes an issue. Do you understand?"

"Yeah, I got it." I said, but Bryson wouldn't let my eyes drop, not for a moment.

"Please tell me that you really DO understand, Justin. Because there isn't any room for games, tricks, or mistakes here. Someone with your abilities needs to be able to focus at all times..."

"ALRIGHT already. I get it. I understand." What else could I do? I had to submit. I had to surrender. I've already learned that my choices were extremely limited when it came to actually hunting another human being and killing them in cold blood. I can't believe that it's already time for another taste. Here I am, fighting to survive, only to take the lives of others instead. Forcing them to die in my place, as though their pointless sacrifice would somehow contribute to my 'happy' life in darkness. And to the possibility of love everlasting...with a boy I was destined to lose.

"Let's hope so." He said. "I want you to spend some time with Jun tonight. We can start you on some meditation techniques that might help you straighten out all of that excess energy you picked up in the club over the last few days. Some abilities can be suppressed, others used in small practical ways, some can be ignored completely. But the bigger ones? I want to find out what they are long before they show themselves on their own." I nodded again. The only real answer there is for someone who is being brought down on his knees by his own future. But what Bryson did next caught me by surprise. He raised his arms up, and gave me a slightly awkward hug. I mean...it was nice and all...I just, didn't expect it, is all. The strange thing is...I believe I actually experienced a very subtle tingle as he touched me. As though I had absorbed a piece of him through contact alone. But I don't think that he noticed, so I tried not to let it show on my face. I guess he could tell the feeling of helplessness in my expression. It was hard to hide. "I wish there was another way. I can't change this, I can only help you deal with it. And no matter what you need, or when you need it, we'll BE here, ok?" I allowed my arms to hug him back, and found comfort in his embrace. He really was trying to help me. And I'm sure that it wasn't easy for him to be a substitute father to everybody at once, all night, every night. Even though he was in the same position and hardly felt that he was any more advanced or more elevated than the rest of us, he never let it show when it mattered. When we needed to imagine that he was on a higher level, when we needed someone to look up to. For what it's worth, I appreciated the effort.

I held him for a moment, and said, "Thank you, Bryson."

He let me go and straightened up immediately. I felt this strange emotion in his gesture. A foreign combination of sadness, joy, and pride...satisfied with bring me some level of comfort in all this. It made me smile, but he quickly tried to numb the emotion and get back to business. "I'll go get Jun for you, and you guys can get started, ok? He's gonna help you find balance." I nodded, and he walked off to retrieve my 'professor' for the evening.

I looked back at Doc, who was grinning from ear to ear. "What?" I giggled.

"It feels good, doesn't it?" He said. "Being able to temporarily place your problems in the hands of someone you can trust." I didn't really know how to answer that, but Doc didn't really need any answer at all. "I'm gonna talk to Pan and see what else he can offer in the way of Mimic legend. I'll get back to you with whatever we can find out, alright?"

Just then, Taryn came around the corner and hugged me from behind. "Hopefully it wasn't as bad as you were expecting." He said.

"Nah, not really. Bryson just needed to explain a few things." I smiled, leaning back to kiss him on the cheek.

Taryn put his chin on my shoulder, and looked over at Doc. "Hey, I need you to open up the treasury for me and grab me quarters for the laundry. About ten dollars worth, I guess."

"I thought it was Rain's turn tonight?" Doc asked, and Taryn gave him a look. "Ahhh, let me guess...she's currently 'unavailable', probably due to some painful, self inflicted, injury?"


"Anything to get out of weekly chores." Doc sighed. "Come on, I'll get you what you need. I think we're low on detergent though, you might have to get some more." He wheeled himself towards his home, and Taryn gave me a tender kiss on the lips.

"Do you want me to come with?" I asked.

"No, I'll be fine. You stay and work with Jun on your meditations. Besides, Dion and Dylan are both coming with me." He cupped his hand and leaned forward to whisper, "I think they have some 'messy' sheets and pillow cases to add to the load. Hehehe, I don't think they want anybody to know how much they've been...uh.."

"Bouncing the mattress fantastic?" I grinned.

"Hahaha! Yes, that's exactly what I mean." He said. "Where the hell do you come up with this stuff?"

"Gyro...where else?"

"Well, don't you spend too much time around him, he's a naughty influence on you." Taryn saw Doc waving from the other side of the lot, and knew that he had to go. "Hey...if you go out or anything tonight, come home early, k?" He smiled. "I wanna actually enjoy some quiet time with you without trying to hurry up before the sun rises."

"Does 'quiet time' include hot passionate sex?" I smirked.

"Maaayyyybe. It depends on how good you look naked." He winked. "I'll see ya soon. Love you."

"I love you too."

"And take a SHOWER!" He giggled. I watched him disappear, and made sure to make a mental note to come back as early as possible. I doubt I could find a better activity than staring into that boy's eyes for an evening.

"You guys seriously need to have your own series of greeting cards, you know that?" I heard Jun's voice behind me, and turned around to see a gentle smile on his thin lips. "Are you ready to go?"

"Go? Where are we going?"

"Just 'out'. Don't worry about it. I wanna get your mind right for the excercises I'm going to be teaching you. That's all. I've learned that it isn't always easy to concentrate on this stuff in familiar settings. Sometimes you've got to get away from what defines you...in order to define yourself further. You know what I mean?"

"Hehehe, no. Not really."

"Good. Honesty. I like that." He said. "Come on. Grab your optrix and let's get out of here."

We walked the city streets for a while that night. Jun didn't really care for back alleys and dark corridors. He liked to walk out in the open with the rest of humanity. He liked to be a part of the world again. And I have to admit...I think I did too. He didn't really take notice of the smiling faces around us, nor did he really seem to take any interest in the fact that we were surrounded by a race of beings who would either run in terror or attempt to kill us where we stand if they had any idea that we were more than your average 14 year old teenager. He talked about stuff at the lot, and about how much fun he had at the IceZone. I felt so at home around him. Jun had a really inviting personality and a wicked sense of humor that could keep you entertained every minute that you were with him. This hardly felt like 'training' at all.

"So...what do you want to work on first?" He asked me.

"Oh....ummm...I don't know. Hehehe, I was kinda hoping you would tell me."

"Well, you remember the focus thing I showed you beore, right?"

"Heh, yeah, don't remind me."

"Well, now it's time to take that focus, and turn it inside out. You've got to look at yourself, and figure out what needs balancing and what doesn't. Basically, you've gotta be able to separate and combine all of your abilities simultaneously."

I gave Jun a sideways look. "Okaaaay, this already sounds like a pain in the ass."

"It's not. Trust me...with practice, you'll end up doing it automatically without even thinking about it." He said. "Meditation is just a way of clearing your mind of all the excess and concentrating on one issue at a time. It's a deep concentration that will let you think clearly. Now...I'm assuming you've got God KNOWS how many extras rumbling around inside of you right now, and they're probably all trying to get your immediate attention at once. What you've gotta do is separate them, concentrate on things one at time, and hope that those extras are patient enough to wait while you sort things out."

"Easier said than done." I answered.

"I'm sure it is. But none of those powers are gonna do ya much good until you learn to use them properly. If anything, they're only gonna confuse you more." He said as he led me forward. "Extras need a point of focus. Everything does. It's like wind, water, or sunlight. Alone they seem pretty harmless, but when you force them forward with focus and purpose, they can be very powerful weapons indeed. You just have to learn what abilities you've got available to you and when to use them. We'll work on that a bit later." I followed Jun pretty closely the entire time we were together. But...as we were getting ready to cross the street, waiting for some of the traffic to pass...I stopped dead in my tracks. My feet wouldn't move, and Jun looked back at me as I saw him heading towards the gate of a large graveyard on the other side of the street. "What's wrong?"

"Where are we going?" I asked, remaining still.

"To the graveyard. Come on, it'll be quiet."

I didn't move. "I....I don't like graveyards much. Ok? I don't really like death period."

Jun came back and took a hold of my hand. "It'll be ok. I'm right here with you."

"That's not the point, Jun..."

"I NEED you to come with me. Alright? Just for tonight. We won't be long, I promise." He said. "I'm right here with you, ok?" I didn't like this. Not one bit. But as he held my hand tight, I tried to force myself forward anyway.

The place seemed to loom over me with this impending sense of doom, gray walls, black iron gate, sullen tombstones and faded mortuaries decorating the well tendered grassy hills of the old place. I always had such an uneasy feeling in these places, but Jun kept his word, and never let go of my hand and he guided me into the center of the yard. I could hear myself breathing hard, my heart beating rapidly in my chest, but I kept moving. Finally, Jun stopped me in front of a single grave, marked with a large stone cross. I relly couldn't wait to get out of there, but took notice when Jun reached in his pocket, and pulled out two silver dollars, which he put on their side on top of the ground. Then I watched as he pushed them down into the dirt, until they were gone, and stood up again. He closed his eyes and bowed his head for a moment, and then opened them again.

"This is my father." He said, referring to the tombstone. "He passed about...six years ago, I guess. I always come here to visit him when I can."

"Oh...well....that's cool." I said, still getting chills from even being there.

I think Jun could tell my discomfort, but he kept talking to put my mind at ease. "The silver dollar thing...it's sort of a tradition of mine. My father always said that no matter how bad things get, no matter how desperate your situation, as long as you can keep two dollars in your pocket, and have the courage to give those two dollars away without receiving anything in return...then you will always know that you have the heart and the passion to survive." He smiled. "Technically, I should be adding this to the group treasury with the others so Doc can keep track of it for clothes, laundry, and neccessities. But every month I keep enough money in change to get myself two silver dollars from the bank. And I bring them here. So my father can see that I have not forgotten his teachings."

"Really? How long have you been doing this?" I said, looking at he two, almost invisible, slits in the ground where he pushed the money in.

Jun shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. A while, I guess. Hehehe, there's probably a pretty good fortune down there by now."

"Don't you worry that somebody will take it?"

"Hehehe, I don't care. Let them have it. Putting the silver dollars in there was my part. I don't care about anything after that. It's not a matter of 'protecting' it, or knowing that it's safe. It's the act of having it and giving it up that is supposed to free your mind."

I looked a bit closer, but didn't dare step forward. Graves are always best seen from a distance. "Well...I guess I know where to come when I want to buy a new cd player, huh?" I joked. But Jun just shrugged his shoulders again.

"If you want one, go for it."

I looked back at him, and asked, "Why did you show me this? Why did you bring me here?"

He looked backdown at the tombstone, and he told me, "The first step at finding balance is realizing what kind of foundation you're standing on. And that means...finding peace in the path that brought you to where you are." I felt a bit apprehensive at the mention of my past, but Jun was quick to put a hand on my shoulder. "A lot of your past experiences stick to you. Sometimes, a lot harder than you think. Things like heartbreak, humiliation, self image, lost friendships...whatever your memories are of those things, they still affect your behavior today. It governs how you interact with the world. If you never make peace with your past, you can't have any peace in your present. Do you understand?" He asked. "It's just like the silver dollars. You keep the lessons you learned with you, you give it its own level of importance...and when it's time...you give it away. You let it go. And you start all over again from scratch."

I was silent for a moment, and then replied, "I don't think my past is going to be very 'balanced' for a long long time."

"This is darkness, Justin. Time is all we have." He grinned. Then he looked back at the grave before us. "You know...my father...he could be a real bastard sometimes. There were days when he kept me so busy that I thought I'd faint from the exhaustion of it. It was like...he wanted me to excell in everything. Art, school, music, math...I felt like such a machine. Do this, do that, hurry up, that's not good enough, stop wasting time. I can still hear his voice loud and clear when I think about him. Sometimes....he pushed so hard that I thought I would break." He said. "But...I didn't. Oh, I had some punishments, believe me. Hehehe, and they hurt something awful. But...even though he was never satisfied with anything that I did...I knew he loved me. And I loved him back. The emotion went deeper than what was happening on the surface. And I miss him. I really do. I really wish I could just hear him yell at me, just one more time. I think it would mke him laugh to see me standing here right now, giving him the opportunity to rip into me again."

I was a little confused about the way he was remembering it all. Maybe I just didn't understand him. "Didn't you hate him? Didn't you hate the fact that he was yelling at you all the time, telling you that you weren't good enough?"

"Nah, I loved my father. He was a hard man to get along with sometimes, but, at the end of the day, I knew that he was proud of me. Like it or not, he's a part of my experience. A pivotal character in my own personal history book. And I'm ok with that. All bullshit aside, I'm happy where I am right now. And that was the path that brought me here."

"I'm afraid that the 'pivotal characters' in my history book aren't quite as nice as yours are." I said. "If anything, I wish they were never there to begin with."

Jun turned to me and said, "They say that the proof of gold is fire. That the most horrible circumstances can sometimes breed the most beautiful people."

"I doubt that's very comforting when they go to bed crying every night." In my mind, flashes of my father's anger zipped back and forth behind my eyes. And I gritted my teeth a bit as I tried to force them out of my head. "There's really nothing in my past that I'm looking to forgive."

"That's because you're holding on to the anger. And the pain of it all. You're not seeing what those trials and tribulations gave you in the long run. A good heart, an inner strength, patience, sympathy for the suffering of others. You don't have to 'forgive' your past, just make peace with it...and let it go."

"Can we not...talk about this right now?"

"This is going to be your first meditation. Just want you to know ahead of time. There's no skipping to step two. So if you'd rather keep it to yourself until tomorrow night, it's up to you."

"Why this? Why can't I concentrate on something that I need to focus on now?"

"Because right now, you're building your life around everything that happened to you back then. Your present is being guided by your past, and the only way to find the balance you need to control your extras safely is by dealing with it. Your emotional attachments can be very unpredictable, especially where painful memories are concerned." He told me.

While the idea of picking at old wounds didn't really appeal to me at all, I nodded silently at Jun's request. I was trying to trust them all enough to guide me in the right direction...but it wasn't always easy to agree to something that I knew was going to hurt later. Jun giggled a bit, and said, "Don't look so SAD! You'll be fine! It's easier to let go than you think. It's finding out what to let go of that's the hard part."

"I'll take your word for it."

Jun said a short prayer over his father's tombstone, and then leaned forward to kiss the stone slab gently. Then he said, "You know...what your father did to you, Justin...it wasn't your fault."

"Sighhh...I know."

"No. I don't think you do. It's NOT your fault." He made me look him in the eye. "There was nothing that you could have done. You were a child, he was your father, and you looked for him to take care of you. You trusted him, and he betrayed that trust by hurting you in the worst way. But you've got to let what happened be his demon, his cross to bear, not yours. It wasn't your fault, it was his." His stare penetrated my own, and I was afraid to let him in. He touched a nerve deep inside of me, and it was hard to swallow back whatever turbulent emotion he had suddenly inspired to rush to the surface. "Ok?" He asked.

"Yeah." I said quietly. "Thank you."

Finally, he stepped away from the grave and headed back towards the gate. I was anxious to get out of there, that's for sure. "You know, for what it's worth, I'm still extremely excited to be here with you. The very idea of a vampire Mimic, like, pretty much makes you the biggest celebrity since the 15th century. Hehehe, that's some claim to make."

"Sure. It's an all day party. It gets more and more 'fun' every day." I said sarcastically. "As if I needed more shit in my life."

"Whatever it was that you've suffered through, you chose the right way out of it. Somehow you managed to use it to your advantage, and come out an angel on the other side of the storm. I'm sure this won't be any different. Some of the greatest heroes ever to walk this Earth were born of fire. Maybe you'll be one of them."

"I hardly think I'm the one you want to depend on to be much of a hero, Jun. When it comes to the big stuff...I never know what to do. I don't even know if I've got the audacity to claim myself as some kind of 'prophet'. How can everyone just expect me to take care of everything and make it all better? What happens if it gets too big, and I let everybody down?" I sulked. "I can't be a hero when I'm afraid all the time."

"Courage without caution is just plain arrogance. Not to mention stupid. So don't go thinking that you can't be afraid sometimes." He put an arm over my shoulder as we walked out of the graveyard. He grinned happily, and told me, "A hero isn't judged by giving himself over to something bigger than himself. A hero is judged by giving himself over to something other than himself. That's all that's expected of you. That's all that's expected of anybody."

I looked back at him, and smiled myself. "Since when did YOU get to be so wise, butterfingers?"

He giggled and replied, "You didn't think I was just hanging around the lot all those years without picking up a few philosophies of my own, now did ya?"

Jun was ready to walk me back to the lot, but I told him that I needed to stop by the old church and take a shower first, even if I had to put the same clothes back on to walk home in. Hehehe, Taryn and I had some very sexy plans made for tonight, and I wanted to make sure that I was fresh for him. Jun was happy for the time that we got to spend together, just talking, like brothers do from time to time. But he did remind me that tonight was just a warm up for tomorrow's excercise, and that I'd need to focus much harder in a trance state before I could move any further. I trusted him to teach me what I needed to know, but rummaging around in my past isn't my idea of a pleasant evening, believe me. Still, he gave me a hug and let me go my separate way.

The church wasn't really that far off, and I went in through the side door as always. The other tenants in the basement and small misson style rooms just looked at me s another familiar face. A teenage runaway, just looking to wipe the dirt off of his face before returning to the cold world outside. Somehow, they just understood. Even though they were human...they understood. If I had to choose the first human beings that would actually listen to the concept of the Vampire Dawn, to see the beauty of it, and be open enough to accept it...I'd start right here. In these humble places. With these warm, forgiving, people. If anyone could help me get the word out...it would be a group of people who needed the message most. Those who were different. Maybe even outcasts. Just like me.

I went into the showers and stripped down, happy to feel the warm water splash down over my shoulders. The soap suds and shampoo never felt so soothing than they did at that moment. I lathered up twice, and felt the texture of my wash cloth glide slowly up and down my arms and legs. By the time I had cleaned up all the way and started drying myself off, my whole body was relaxed beyond belief. But...as I was getting dressed...

I felt a harsh bolt of energy flow through me! It was like a sudden flash of electricity that hit me like a fucking BUS! My head reeled back for a moment, and I moved back to lean up aginst the wall. I didn't know what it was, but this frightening feeling of dread just sparked up inside of me, and it was hard for me to shake it. I felt a warm trickle of blood run out of my nose and crawl over my lips as I quickly used my hnd to wipe it away. I walked over to grab some paper towels and sponge up as much of the blood s I could until it stopped. I had no idea what had just happened...but whatever it was, I hope it gives me some warning next time.

"You alright, kid?" Said an older gentleman, standing in the doorway. I nodded, and he went on about his business, but I don't think I had ever felt anything like that before. Not a day in my life.

I walked home to the lot from there, and as soon as I got back, I pretty much avoided the others and went back to our habitat for the evening. I didn't want to get involved with anybody else tonight...it's just me and Taryn, all the way.

I waited...

And I waited...

And I waited some more...

Something was wrong. It was almost 4:30 AM and Taryn still wasn't back yet from the laundromat. Dawn wasn't far away, and he told me specifically to come back early tonight if I went anywhere. I got a bit frantic and walked out into the lot just as everybody else was getting ready for bed. I asked Jenna, "Have you seen Taryn? Do you know where he is?"

"No, hon. I'm sorry. Last I saw, he was taking the laundry out to get washed."

"Yeah...I know that part, but...it's late. He should have been back hours ago." I said, but Jenna couldn't really tell me anything more. I went over to Max, who was trying to dettach Kid from his left arm as he started to get sleepy eyed. "Max, have either of you guys run into Taryn?"

"No!" He growled. "But when you see him, tell him thanks a lot for bringing my clothes back on time. I appreciate it." He was upset at not beng able to go out that night, but that only worried me even more. Because everyone was expecting him to come back...and he didn't. Neither did Dion or Dylan.

It began as a gentle flutter in my stomach, then it spread to my chest, and now, the panic was completely taking over every inch of my body. WHERE IS HE??? What if he's hurt? What if he can't make it home before dawn? What if something happened to them??? I was supposed to PROTECT him! I was supposed to be looking out for his well being!!! Oh God...Oh GOD...what do I do to find him???

I felt a hand on my shoulder and quickly spun around to see Bryson standing behind me. "Justin...why don't you go in and try to get some sleep, ok?" I started to tremble and was began babbling almost incoherently when he said, "I know you're worried. I know. But I'm sure Taryn is fine, ok? Sometimes the others run home at the last minute, and sometimes they end up finding shelter elsewhere. There are plenty of small sanctuaries in that area if they get caught out late, and Taryn knows where all of them are. So don't panic, ok?"

"He told me to come home early, Bryson. He told me HE'D be home early. He's never been absent. Never." I said, my voice shaking as I felt the powerful sleep begining to take over. "I've gotta go out and find him."

"Justin, no. Ok? The sun is coming up, and you're going to be unable to remain conscious for more than another ten minutes or so."

"But he's not HOME where he should be!"

"I'm going to wait up for him as long as I can, and mke sure that he's alright. Ok?" He looked into my fearful eyes, scanning the lot's every entrance to see if I could see my boyfriend approaching in the distance. "Justin...look at me." He said. "Taryn is the last person to ever get himself into unnecessary trouble. And even if he did, Dion's tough enough to ever let someone lay a finger on his family. They'll make it home. Do you understand?" I whined a bit, still madly looking for him to show up from around a corner somewhere, but Bryson merely said, "Go. Get some sleep. Just remember, Taryn and I had to go through this too the first couple of nights that you didn't come home right away."

I guess....I guess he was right. Maybe he's just...out there somewhere...safe and sound, and thinking of me. I felt a yawn coming on, and my body began to stiffen up at the legs. I was feeling the drowsiness weighing heavy on my shoulders, and backed away from Bryson so that I could get back to the van while I was still able to walk on my own. But I didn't stop looking for him. I need him to be ok. I need him to be safe.

As I closed up the doors tight, and lay back in the bed all alone in the dark, I tried to keep the worst of my thoughts at bay. I tried to push them dawn far enough to keep my heart from racing this way. At last, the sun came up, and I found myself fighting for just another few minutes. Just to see if my baby comes home. But I had to succumb sooner than later. And my eyes closed, sealing me in a coffin of sleep for the next 13 to 14 hours. I can only pray that Taryn will be there when I wake up again.