I felt as though I had run into another unbreakable barricade in this world. As though the path I was walking had just become even smaller than before, and I was finding it hard to keep moving. "I'm so....lost, Bryson. I'm lost...and I'm tired....and I'm scared. I'm just...I'm trying to deal with everything as fast as I can, and this life just keeps throwing things at me from so many angles at once that I can hardly think anymore."

"I know, kid. I know." He said. "Justin....there are soooo many things that you have to learn, so much that you need to know. And unfortunately, most of that knowledge can't be taught to you by anyone else. It's something you'll have to figure out all on your own. And I know how frightening that can be." Bryson seemed to be pleading with his eyes, wanting me to finally give him the break he had been waiting for. "But you don't have to go through this alone. We are here for you to help out where we can. Do you understand that? If you'll just have some faith in the rest of us...if you can just...'trust' us a little bit more with your development, then maybe we can guide you in the right direction. We can help you avoid some of those nasty pitfalls that you're sure to come across along the way to truly finding yourself. But you've got to help me help you."

"I don't know how to trust anybody. I never did. My mom, my dad, my classmates....I don't think I ever learned to trust a single one of them. All they ever do is hurt me and let me down. All I know how to do is run and hide and try to avoid the pain for as long as possible before it gets me." I said. "And I keep....I keep running...and no matter what I do to try to be happy, the pain is always two steps behind me. It's always chasing me, and it keeps painting me further and further into a corner." My eyes watered as I fought to understand. "I'm running out of places to hide, Bryson. I don't know how to avoid this constant cycle of misery anymore."

"You can't evade the pain forever, Justin. But you can use the love and the strength we give you to stand against it. To get through it. We're trying, but you wanna know something? You're not just running away from the pain. You're running away from US too." Bryson took me by the hand and sat down on the curb against the tree, and I sat down with him. "I've given you all the space that I can give you. I've turned my head as many times as I could manage so you could run around town and get into all kinds of trouble. But you've fed for the second time now, and you're not going to have the luxury of being a novice at this lifestyle for much longer. Your little 'expeditions' outside of the lot have been lucky for you so far. I don't want things to get more serious than you can handle." I looked at him with a pinch of confusion, and he knew what question I was going to ask him. "Yes, Justin. I know about a lot of the stuff you've been doing outside of the lot."

"You....you knew?"

"What am I, an idiot? You think I didn't notice the traces of spice in Gyro's blood when you brought him back to camp? You think I don't know about the fighting arena, or visits to see Comicality, or the fact that you were somehow able to take on five armed raiders in the rain without getting cut into a million pieces? I may have learned about a lot of things too late to do anything about it, and there's still a lot of stuff the little bastards get away with that I'll never catch onto...but I'm not half as stupid as you guys think I am."

"But...why didn't you ever say anything?"

"Because if I attempted to lock the others down any harder, they'd only find slicker ways to get around me. The only way to keep them close is by allowing a certain amount of 'neccessary mischief' every now and then. Otherwise, they feel like the lot is a prison, and they fight even harder to rebel blindly to every rule I make. I can't control them. Any of them. But I'd give my life to protect them. You can believe that."

I felt so badly about trying to put one over on him so many times. He must have thought of me as a real problem child. "I'm sorr..." But he stopped me.

"Don't. It's not needed." He said. "What I need from you now, Justin...is the truth. Ok?"

"The truth?"

"Yes. The truth. No more games here." I fidgeted a little bit, and he reached out to take my hand. "I'm not here to hurt or to judge you, Justin. Whatever it is, no matter how badly you may feel about it yourself, I guarantee you that I will do my best to understand you. Are you listening to me? I WILL be here....for you. Please, don't let this secret allow you to keep putting up these mile high walls between you and the rest of us."

The truth. The truth. It itched along the top of my tongue. It twitched on the insides of my fingers. It boiled and bubbled in the pit of my stomach. I could sense such a high level of worry in Bryson's emotions. What's worse...I could also sense a bit of hurtful rejection thrown in. An ache, caused by the fact that I was still keeping him so distant from my true self. Almost identical to the feeling I get when I reach out to touch Kid and he runs away from me to hide behind someone else. I had kept Bryson in the dark for so long, and deep down, I knew that it wasn't fair. "I.......I...." I wanted to tell him, and he was willing to wait patiently for me to find the courage. But I had buried the secret so far down in the center of me that I literally had to dig it up to find it again. It almost hurt to say it. I nearly choked on the words themselves. But when the secret could no longer be contained, and Bryson had given me the widest emotional 'open door' that he could...I told him. In a voice barely higher than a whisper, I softly mumbled, "I'm....a mimic."

I felt the grip of his hands loosen on me, as though the shock had almost created an instant repulsion, unexpected to us both. There was a long pause. He was speechless, and his eyes gazed at me as his bedazzled mind struggled to comprehend the news. But he fought the initial surprise, and then constricted his fingers on my hand again. Determined not to let on that he was completely lost for words. "Um....uh...." He stammered for a moment, his eyes no longer looking up at me. Had I made the final mistake? Was I stupid enough to believe that a secret THIS big could just be 'blurted' out without severe consequences? That was it, wasn't it? He's gonna kick me out of the lot! I'm not gonna be welcome there, not anymore. It's OVER! It's done with! I fucked up worse than EVER this time! "Well....um..."

I gently pulled back on my hand, attempting to get him to let go and have it slide through his grasp. I didn't want to touch him anymore. I wanted to disconnect completely, and just get myself prepared for another existence spent alone. "Forget it. I should have kept my mouth shut.."

"No!" Bryson said, alarmingly. "No...Justin...don't be sorry. Ok? Don't. Um...I'm just...I'm a little overwhelmed here. I uhhh....wow. Oh wow. Shit." He said, talking more to his own thoughts than he was to me. "Jesus....ok. Um...ok. We're going to.....get you some...help with this....or something." The way he was breathing, I thought he was having a panic attack.

"Bryson? Are...are you ok?" I asked.

"Ok? SURE! Sure...I'm ok. Why wouldn't I be ok? You're....a mimic. You're....um...THE mimic. The only one to be born into darkness....for centuries. One of the biggest vampire prophecies in existence. And....I'm supposed to help you through your crossover. Me. Yeah...I'm ok. I'm just fine." He said, and he let go of my hand. "I think....I think I need to sit....no...LAY down for a second, ok? Just....just to get the blood flowing back to my brain again." He did look a little pale all of the sudden. If I thought Bryson was a worrier BEFORE...he was practically hysterical after hearing the news. Despite his attempts to remain calm for my sake, it was clear that he was not expecting this at all.

"I'm sorry if...I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"No, it's alright. You couldn't help it. No way you could help it." He said, laying back and staring up at the sky. "You're um...you're SURE about this, right? I mean, there couldn't be some kind of mistake....or...?"

"No, I'm pretty sure. Tim was the one that told me about it. Plus...I've kinda been...absorbing extras from the others without even knowing it really."

His breathing got even heavier. "Yeah...that's a good sign alright. Okaaaay...um...I think....I think we need to do some more research on this. A LOT more research! Which isn't easy because most of the information about mimics is wrapped up in...prophecy and theory and secret texts that we don't have access to..." He had so much to think about and I could see the wheels turning. But the shock was taking over, and he had no immediate answers. "Ok. Alright. Justin is a mimic. Ok." He sat up slowly, his eyes still half bugged out, and it almost made me smile to see him so frantic. "So...that means you can 'read' too. Right?" And that....was the one question I was truly ashamed to answer.

I nodded my head very slowly, afraid to look him in the eye. "But I didn't 'steal' ANYTHING! I swear! All the extras I learned through some kind of accidental contact or something. I wouldn't 'mind thieve' from you guys, I promise!" I blurted out at top speed.

"Justin, Justin...whoah, slow down! I believe you." He saw the shame on my face, and thought about my reaction. "What's wrong?"

"I just...I know how much you hate readers, Bryson. I know you think they're dangerous, and you don't want them around because they're all crooks and bandits...and I didn't want..." I stopped for a second, but he waited to see what I was going to say. "...I didn't want you to kick me out of the lot."

"Aww, dude...no." He said, and he stood up on his feet, offering me a hand to join him. Then he moved in to give me a tight hug. "Justin, I'm NOT going to kick you out of the lot. Ok? You're a part of our family, you dork. It's going to take a lot more than...." He thought about it a second. "...than the biggest fucking revelation in vampire HISTORY...to make me change my mind about you. Ok?"

"But...I thought you DESPISED readers? I thought you wanted nothing to do with them." I said. Just then, we saw the lights of a siren, and were passed up by an ambulance on its way to the hospital emergency doors. We were still pretty close to 'civilization' here, so he decided to get some distance between us and the other species. Just in case.

"Walk with me, Justin." He said, and began walking down one of the dark alleys next to us. We moved without saying a word for a few minutes until I heard him let out a deep sigh, and look over at me with eyes that reflected a deep level of concern for what I was about to hear. He evidently had a story to tell me. "You know...many years ago, the lot was pretty much an open space for anyone to wander through if they wanted sanctuary. It was a safehaven for any young vampire that needed shelter. I was there, Trevor, Rain, Dennis, Taryn...a bunch of vampires who simply found companionship amongst one another. It was basically Amanda's colony. She started it all by linking up with other vampires in the area that shared a certain moral mindset, playing den mother to any stray that came strolling into our midst."

"Amanda....the one that turned you?" I asked.

"That's the one. The most beautiful girl on Earth. My better half. God...thinking back...I was so in love. I was CRAZY about her. And for the first time in my life, I got to experience the love of someone who was crazy about ME too. And that's something special, Justin. That puts so much 'fire' in your life." He said. "Some people fall in love, others have people fall in love with them. But to truly share a two way connection with someone...where you can honestly say that you love and care about them...and have them say it back with the same sincerity....that's a rare find indeed. Nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find more than a few times in your lifespan. Even as a vampire. God forbid if I had thrown my chance to be with her away over something as stupid as pride. Hehehe!" Bryson slowed down his walking speed, and continued. "I was just busy having fun, just like the rest of them. It was an eternal reccess from the rest of the world. I wanted to go out to clubs and party and live carefree. I learned how to hunt, learned how to practice with my extra, was surrounded by good friends that I trusted and cared about...that lot was a paradise for us. It may not look like much more than an abandoned old junkyard, but to us...it was the garden of Eden." I could tell that Bryson had fond memories of the place. It showed in the glistening joy in his eyes. "Amanda and I were in love. Much like you and Taryn are now. She completed me in every possible way. She was my shining light in a world of darkness, and for two or three years, we were blissfully happy together at that lot. I don't think I had ever loved another girl like I loved her."

"So....what happened? Where is she now?" I asked carefully. I vaguely remembered Trevor mentioning an Amanda to me during one of his mean spirited threats, and I naturally assumed that the outcome of this fairy tale was not going to be a good one.

"There was a wandering vampire...that came into our camp one night while it was raining buckets outside. Her name was Kaitlin, she was quite a bit older than the rest of us, and she was looking for a place to stay. A place where she could find love and support amongst friends. Her sire had gone missing, and she was left alone to fend for herself. Amanda had such an open heart...she let her stay. She was a drifter. We were ALL drifters at that point, what was the harm, you know?" I saw Bryson's face wrinkle up slightly, and a look of distaste covered his face. "This vampire, Kaitlin, was a reader, and none of us knew it at the time. She was alone in this world. Trapped and unhappy with her dismal loveless life and the lack of true happiness that existed inside of it. She had no intention of spending the rest of eternity searching for another mate to suit her. So she chose one out of our camp. One that she wanted more than anything. She chose me." He said, and his eyes focused downward to his shoes. "I didn't feel the same way about her. I was already in love with someone beautiful...but she wanted me. She didn't WANT to see me happy with someone else, she'd rather see me as alone as she was before allowing me to be with another woman. That way she could work on flirting with me constantly until I gave in to her charms and gave her what she wanted. She approached me with a few lewd propositions, and I turned her down. I knew what I wanted, I knew what I had, and I was HAPPY." He said, now clenching his fists. "I had someone who really cared about me and was willing to tell me that every chance she got. Someone who could lift my spirits with her smile, and would listen to me when I was hurt. Amanda thought I was perfection. I could do no wrong in her book, and she made me feel like a king every time she smiled in my direction. Why the FUCK would I give all of that up for some stupid bitch with a sinister plot to take me away from everything that made me whole?"

I could feel a chill coming from Bryson, and the emotional broadcast that was emanating from his body got stronger. "She tried to take you from Amanda?"

"Not directly at first. She was actually pretty sneaky about it. She used her mind reading ability to sink into certain aspects of our personality. She pretended to be a loyal friend, but she was secretly stabbing us all in the back with a smile. She took our hopes and our dreams, our fears and our insecurities, and used them against us. She tried repeatedly to get Amanda to cheat or go searching for a newblood. She tried repeatedly to do the same to me. She kept secrets from the both of us, but was able to get deep into our private lives and lean on certain emotional pressure points to wedge herself further and further between us. Then using sympathy and fake sentiments to keep us on her side. As time went on, she had found ways to twist and manipulate our every emotion to suit whatever it was that she wanted." I saw Bryson look away from me, and I wondered if...for the first time...he had become emotional about what he was telling me. "But she made a mistake. She kept a notebook of her progress. Notes on what our thoughts were, what horrors and problems we had in our pasts, what she could exploit and what she could feed off of. She had already stolen half of the extras in the lot, and was looking to steal ours next. She had even found a way to play on Amanda's sympathy to keep her distracted while she secretly made pass after pass at me almost every night. When I continued to reject her advances, she became angry, and her game became much more strategic."

"Did you find the book?"

"Amanda found it one night by accident. She saw every written note about us all, and we told her to get out and never come back. She was USING us! We exiled her from the lot, and swore that we would hurt her if she ever tried to come back! Her so-called love for me was a fraud, but she was willing to do whatever it took to get her way. Even if it meant hurting me more than I had ever been hurt before." Bryson turned a corner, and we began heading in the direction of the lot again. Even though we still had a long way to go. "A month or two had passed...things returned to normal. We made it a rule that strays and wanderers were to be screened a little bit more carefully from now on. But I didn't think much of it after Kaitlin was gone, really. I was too busy going out, and having fun, and dealing with Dennis' rapidly growing abilities...I wasn't thinking. But Kaitlin wasn't finished with us. Not by a long shot." He paused, and this time I definitely saw him wipe a stray tear from his eye as he went on. "One night...while being overcome by the darkness of this world, I decided to go out for a while. Kaitlin knew I would be going out that Friday night. I had to. She had read my thoughts, she knew about my pain, about my parents. She knew that I needed to keep busy, that I needed to surround myself with people to keep the horrors of my own thoughts at bay. I was always running off somewhere, always keeping myself submerged in a mass of strangers in order to keep my thoughts from devouring me alive. She knew I would be away from Amanda that night. That I wouldn't have time. That I'd be out trying to find myself among the forever accepting herd of people at the clubs while she was open and vulnerable to anyone who wanted to find her. So...while I was gone...Kaitlin came back to the lot. She came in with a small army of scavengers that she had been staying with to get her revenge. The lot was attacked, and when I got back...Kaitlin had Amanda tied up and gagged waiting for me."

"Omigod...." I gasped.

"She waited for me to come home. She held an iron spike to her heart.....I begged, I screamed, I PLEADED with her to let Amanda go! But....there was no bargaining with her at that point. I watched as she shoved an iron spike through the heart of the only girl I've ever truly loved. And there was nothing I could do to help her. She was gone." Bryson sniffled. "I had only left that lot for a little while. I was only trying to keep my mind occuppied with activities so I could keep the pain of my existence away from me. And Kaitlin used my absence as a weapon against me. To steal my love away from me. To take EVERYTHING from me!!!!!" He grunted, hitting his palm with his fist in anger. "Everything pretty much collapsed after that."

"Collapsed? What do you mean?"

"Amanda survived the injury, but her heart was damaged beyond repair. She was going to starve to death without a working heart to pump blood to the rest of her body. No matter how much she fed...it wouldn't have done any good. And I would have to stand by....and watch her waste away to nothing right in front of my eyes...in pain. So we both decided that she would to go out on a sun quest. It beat falling prey to the unmerciful effects of starvation, I suppose. So I went with her...out to the beach, and we spent our last moments together in each others arms." He said, tears now crawling down his face. "I wanted to sit and burn there with her. I wanted to hold her until the very end and let the sunlight consume us both in flames. What use was it to go on living forever, when the one you loved more than anything wasn't going to be there to share it with you. I wasn't afraid of death after that. I welcomed it. I wanted to sit beside her and let the sun take us both to a better place. But I couldn't. She wouldn't let me." He said. "She had built a home out of that abandoned junkyard. A family. She considered every living vampire there as one of her children. And the place had grown into something worth saving. She made me promise not to leave them without leadership. She made me promise to always look out for her 'children', no matter how dark this hellish existence had gotten for them." He told me. "So I had to leave her there alone. I had to leave her behind. And...with one last kiss to say that I loved her....I returned to that lot to make it work right again. I had to try...for her. But everything was crumbling right before my eyes. Amanda was gone, Dion and Jenna had just moved in to join us, Rain was constantly hurting herself and disappearing for days at a time, Trevor had somehow smuggled Michael in under my watch, and now Taryn was becoming gloomy and depressed and hanging out at the lake all night...I couldn't hold them together the way she could. And when Dennis left us...my only true friend, my one shot at regaining some kind of order in that place...I nearly let the pain swallow me whole. Kaitln...she almost murdered us all. She took my love away from me. She murdered Amanda....because of me."

"So that's why you don't like readers. Because of Kaitlin and what she did."

"I promised Amanda with my final kiss, that I would be there to guide and assist any vampire that became a part of our family there. That I would be right there to make sure that they were safe. I didn't want to ever make another mistake with a 'stray'. I didn't ever want to make another mistake with one of us learning their extras too fast and running off into the night like Dennis did. I didn't want to ever lose another member of our group. I swore that I wouldn't. And I've kept that promise for the last 10 years. I don't intend to break my word now. They are all depending on me."

"You know...they really do love you, Bryson. Despite all the secrets and all, we look at you as our father. And I...I never really had a father before. Not one I could be proud of."

"Whatever." He said, wiping his eyes clean and straightening up. "I've tried to be strict on letting drifters into that place. They're not SAFE. I don't know how many times I try to tell them that, they just don't listen. But what can I do? They're....lonely. I'M lonely! I can't necessarily ask them to live like I do, without ever finding someone special for them to share their hearts with. I can't ask them to cast aside everything they are and everything they desire for 'safety's sake' like I do. They want love, and companionship, and friends, and purpose. And so...the family keeps growing." Bryson looked over at me, a slight grin on his face as though he were amused by the hopelessness of trying to keep the family small and contained among just a few stray vampires. "Gyro showed up one day looking for his sister, already crossedover. Rain nearly whipped the shit out of the little kid! Hehehe! Jenna and Max found Kid cold and huddled up under a fire escape in some south side alley. They decided to adopt him once they took him to Tim's where Char and Becca told us what had happened to his family. He hasn't spoken a word since. Jun, not long ago, found Dylan near starving in Grant Park one night after his crossover. He was trying to eat 'garbage' to see if it could keep the hunger pains from eating him alive. And Trevor...." Bryson rolled his eyes. "I don't know WHAT to do with that boy! He fell in love with Gyro, and when that didn't work, he brought Taryn, and when THAT didn't work, he brought Michael. I had pretty much told them that enough was enough."

"So what happened after that?" I asked.

"They obeyed me for a few months....and the next thing I knew...YOU showed up at our front gate. And we nearly had to make room for Darren too, thanks to Rain. It just never stops. No matter how much I warn them, even after they've SEEN what bringing in strangers can do to our family...they can't be persuaded not to. I guess....I guess they didn't lose out as badly as I did. So how could they fully understand?"

"I'm...I'm sorry, Bryson. I didn't know. I wouldn't have come if I knew..."

"Listen. I'm not going to lie to you, Justin...I DON'T like readers! At ALL! I haven't for a decade now. I don't like them, I don't trust them, and I DON'T want them near me or anybody that I care about!" He said sternly, and my head drooped a little bit before he put his fingertips to my chin and lifted my eyes to meet his own. "But....I suppose that's going to have to change now. Isn't it?" He gave me a brotherly smile as I struggled to catch on, and he reached up to mess up my hair a bit.

"So.....so I can stay?"

"Of course you can stay. Besides, I'd have to spend the rest of eternity hiding out from Taryn if I ever did anything to hurt the apple of his eye." He giggled, and then gave me a somewhat serious smile. One of concern. One of encouragement, and sincerity. And he put his hand on my cheek as he looked me in the eye. "You're one of us, Justin. You're a part of our family. And I'd be 'honored' to stand with you through anything that you might have to face in the future. Anything." He said. "I'd give my life for you...just like I would for anyone else in that lot. You can believe that."

I wasn't quite sure how to respond, but was touched by the sentiment. So I merely blushed a bit, and with a bashful smile, I softly said, "Thanks, Bryson."

"You can thank me by keeping yourself out of trouble. Ok?"

"Ok." I said, and he put his arm over my shoulder to draw me in for a quick brotherly hug as we trotted along happily back to the lot. I told him. I can't believe I told him. And even though I wasn't aware of how badly my guts had twisted up over keeping it a secret for so long...it was painfully obvious once they began to release and untangle themselves from the tight knot I had woven into them. It was such an unihibited feeling of freedom, of truth, of relief. He knew! And he didn't care! He was going to be there for me anyway. I don't think I had ever taken a more purified breath of fresh air than I did after saying that single truthful phrase about who I was. I felt like I could FLY!

Bryson and I had shared about as normal a conversation as we've ever had since I've been a part of that lot. By the time we got home, I felt like I actually understood some things about his personality that never struck me as being 'relevant' before. It's funny...how suddenly the person who's been right in front of you all this time can transform into someone completely different...without really changing at all. It's hard to explain, but I'm glad we had that long walk home to spend some time together. Not as a rookie and an older vampire, not as a teacher and student, not as a stern father and a rebellious son...but as friends. Or, as he would put it...brothers.

We walked through the gates of the lot, and Taryn was the first to charge at me top speed! His arms wrapped tightly around my neck, and I was nearly knocked backwards. "Omigod, Justin, you had us worried SICK! We went all over the city looking for you!"

"I'm sorry, Taryn....I...I had to go." I said, and Taryn looked up at Bryson.

"So...he went to visit his friend?" He asked, and Bryson nodded in response. "Oh Justin....." Taryn hugged me tighter, and I was lost in the moment, lost in his arms as I was reminded of why this darkness was so appealing to me to begin with. However, Bryson wasn't going to stand still for too long. Instead, he had other issues to attend to.

"Dion...Max...gather everybody up in the center of the lot. We're going to have a meeting. Now." Bryson said, and I released some of my hold on Taryn to connect eyes with him.

"What is this about?" Taryn asked.

"Our friend Justin here has an announcement to make. Don't you Justin?"

"NO!" I said, surprised. "No...not really." I gritted my teeth and whispered, "What are you DOING?"

"Justin...what you have inside of you is not going to be a secret for much longer. You've fed twice now, and you're body is going to begin going haywire if you don't at least get some basic idea of what's going on with it."

"Wait, wait...Bryson...this wasn't part of the DEAL, dude! You didn't say that I was gonna have to tell everybody in the whole lot what was going on with me."

"You told him?" Taryn asked. "Bryson....Bryson, listen! He didn't do it on purpose! He'll be good, I promise! I know what happened before was tough on you, and you said NO MORE READERS...but...if you just let him stay..."

"I'm NOT kicking him out of the lot, Taryn. Rest easy. Geez, you guys must think I'm an ogre or something." Bryson turned to watch everybody gathering up in the center of the lot as he asked, and started walking that way. "C'mon, you two."

"Bryson....please? I really don't know if this is the time to do this. I mean, I don't even know what to say."

"Say it to them exactly the same way you said it to me. They'll understand."

"Can't we....can't we just SLOW THIS DOWN a little bit???"

"No, I'm afraid not."

"Taryn...TALK to him." I whined.

"Bryson..." He said, "Maybe...maybe this IS moving a bit fast. I mean, maybe Justin isn't ready yet"

"By the time Justin is ready, it will be too late. His body is going to mature and start seeking out what it desires whether Justin is willing to 'accept' it or not." Bryson said, still marching forward.

"Why are you DOING this?"

"Normally, Justin, I wouldn't. But this is serious, and we're already way behind on teaching you what you need to know about this." He stopped walking and turned to me. "Your body is going to start absorbing every extra that it has any extended contact with. Extras that you haven't learned, can't understand, nor have any control over. That can be extremely dangerous, for both you and for us."

"But....what if they....take it badly?" I asked, slowing my pace down with Taryn at my side. Bryson then turned around and walked back over to me to put his hands on my shoulders.

"You're not giving them anything other than truth. Right? There's nothing TO be taken badly." I looked away from him, but he was trying so hard to set my mind at ease. "Do you remember the first night, when I told you that you had to hunt in order to stay alive? Do you remember how frightened you were, and the consequences for waiting as long as you did?" I nodded softly, Taryn's hand tenderly rubbing my back. "We can help you get a jump on this before it becomes a problem for you, Justin. We're not here to judge you, we just want to help." He stepped aside, and pointed out to the crowd of boys and girls in front of us, looking at us with great interest as to what was going on. "Look at them, Justin. That's your 'family' over there. They love you. And they don't wanna see you hurt anymore than I do." I looked over at my boyfriend, his bright green eyes twinkling with all the affection he could give me.

"He's right, Justin. They'll understand. I did."

I took another deep breath, and with a very shakey first step, I allowed Bryson and Taryn to guide me to the center of the lot. Everybody was staring at me, and I could feel those guts of mine twisting and constricting up again like before. Even worse than before. Every eye was on me. This was MORE than shame, MORE than fear. I didn't know what it was....but I was nearly paralyzed with this awful stroke of small scale 'stagefright'. I kept my eyes focused on my feet, and refused to look up. Gyro was watching, Dion was watching, Rain, Jenna, Doc....even Trevor and Michael were waiting for me to speak. It felt like the air had turned to mud around me, and I was drowning in it fast.

"Ok people...as you know, Justin has been with us for some time now, and he has been an amazing addition to this group. He has been...our friend." Bryson began, making sure to make eye contact with everybody watching. Even though they were mostly watching me. They knew that whatever it was...it had to do with me being there. "Tonight...Justin has a very important announcement to make. And I need you all to listen carefully, as it concerns you as well." Bryson then stepped aside, and gave me the floor. It was so quiet that the silence covered my shoulders like a thick blanket of ice. My mouth went dry, and I had to fight to look up from the ground.

"Um....I...I haven't been....completely 'honest' with you guys...about my extra." I stumbled around with words, trying to make this sound right. Trying to soften the blow of what I was about to tell them. I hope they understand. "When....when I went to visit Tim....and Char and Becca, a while back...they told me..." I struggled for breath. Come on Justin, you can say it. "They um.....they told me...that I wasn't going to be like....other vampires."

Max and Rain looked at one another, and Max spoke up. "Um, ok...does anybody else know what the hell blondie's talking about? Because I'm lost here."

"Justin?" Jenna asked, no doubt feeling the tension inside of me doubling more and more by the second. "Sweetie, what's wrong?"

I stuttered on and on, trying to get to the point, and involuntarily dancing around it in a confusing pattern of bewildering hints and clues. The looks on their faces let me know that I wasn't anywhere NEAR making an actual connection with my 'audience'. But Bryson stood back and let me 'baby step' my way through it. "I'm....I am....that is...six hundred years ago...."

"Okaaaay! This is just plain weird. I'm going back to the van. You guys call me when you find out what's going on with this kid. I'd rather listen to the 'abridged' version of this." Max said outloud, and started to leave the circle.

"MAX!" Bryson said abruptly. "Chill out for a minute, alright? Sit down." Then he turned to me and gave me the nod to continue.

There was no 'safe' way to go about saying this. Not anymore. "......I'm a mimic. A vampire mimic." I said, trying to just let it roll off of my tongue before my teeth smashed down to stop the words from coming out at all.

There was DEAD silence! I mean DEAD! I had my eyes buried so deep in the sand at that point that I was afraid I'd never find the courage to look them in the eyes ever again. But the pause was too much, too long. My heart was beating fast, and finally, I looked up from under the strands of my blond hair to take a peek at their reaction. Every jaw had dropped. Every eyebrow was raised. And nobody said a word for a full minute. I began to wonder if maybe I had said anything at all. If maybe I had imagined saying the words, and they were still waiting for my answer. I felt Taryn walk up behind me and rub me softly on my back again, hoping to give me enough support to help me stand on my trembling legs. My knees were weak with fright. It took a long time for the news to circle around the lot and sink in for them, and finally...Jun said something.

"You...you're joking, right?"

I shook my head slowly, feeling humiliated by my own secret, and Taryn held me close to place a tender kiss on my cheek. Max piped in. "Wait....hold on...you're a what? Did he just say what I think he just said?"

"No fucking way...." Doc gasped, lifting his glasses up to look me over from head to toe. I looked over at Trevor and Michael, who were leaning against a car...and the look on their faces was one of such...I dunno...'horror' almost. As though they had been playing this stupid mindgame with me...and yet, never had any IDEA what kind of fire they were playing with.

"I KNEW IT!!!" Gyro shouted out of nowhere, shattering the once surprised silence like a sheet of glass. "I KNEW YOU WERE SUPERMAN, JUSTIN!!! I KNEW IT!!!" He jumped up and skipped his way over to me, hugging me so tightly around the waist that Taryn was practically pushed off of me. "You're SO awesome!!! I should've known you were the shit when I saw you beat the hell out of those cops that one time...." YIKES!

Bryson lifted his ears instantly. "Cops? WHAT cops?"

I covered Gyro's mouth and held him against me to shut him up! "Hehehe, don't listen to him. Damn kids and their...wild imagination...." Bryson squinted his eyes accusingly at me for a moment, but thankfully he had more important matters to tend to.

"Alright people, listen up. What we have here, is a certified vampire mimic, already past his second feeding. Now I'm sure you all remember your limited teachings on this part of our history but I suggest you guys sit down with Doc at some point and update everything that you know about it. As you know, the hard facts on this legend are difficult to find and difficult to understand, so ask questions. As of right now, they will be extremely relevant to what's going on here." Bryson said, as though lining up the troops in his platoon. "I'm also gonna need each and every one of you to start teaching Justin the basics of your extras as soon as possible. Particularly when it comes to control and deactivation. This is important. Chances are he's already absorbed some of our abilities, and we can't have them running wild on him. Especially you, Max. You convert anger into physical strength, and I don't want that getting out of hand for him. You guys know your extras better than anybody, and Justin here is going to need your help dealing with them as he adopts them into his system."

There was a slight moment where I felt as though they were hesitant to teach me all of their secrets. But it didn't seem to be a problem for most. A lot of that uncomfortable shame seemed to fade away the moment I looked over at Dion, and saw a genuine smile spread across his face. A true smile. Without holding back at all. It was then, looking around at the others, that I saw these looks of amazement on everyone's faces. But in a good way. It was still a little bit embarrassing being so 'naked' in front of everybody, but...once that weight was once again lifted off of my chest...I was free again. My God...I was actually free. One hundred percent, totally free. "Alright everybody, let's break it up. We've only got an hour or two before dawn. Get your heads together and start thinking about how you're gonna teach our newblood here some of your tricks. Got it?" Bryson dismissed everyone, and I got a few bashful stares from the rest of them, but felt no rejection whatsoever. Things might be kinda weird for a while, but honestly....I think it's going to be ok. I ACTUALLY think it's gonna be ok!

Trevor and Michael were the last ones to leave the circle, both of them still in shock over the announcement, but hiding it behind an uncaring sneer. Not only was I free from the secret itself, but free of their bullying tactics as well. It's done, they know now. And whatever it was they were threatening me with, whatever they were using to keep me silent for so long....it was useless now. Their power over me was just a weak memory in the back of my mind. As I looked over at them, I found myself able to stare Trevor and Michael directly in their eyes. A smug confidence washed over me, and I smiled mischeviously in their direction. So I put my hand to my lips, blew them a kiss, and simply said..."Checkmate." And turned my back on the both of them, Taryn faithfully at my side, Gyro still gripping me tightly. I had love, I had friends, I had family, I had acceptance. I guess they'll have to get their jollies off of somebody else now, won't they? Because I'm just not playing their game anymore.

I couldn't have pried Gyro off of my waist if I wanted to. He was holding on so tight that it was hindering my ability to breathe. He had his eyes closed and was just clutched to my side like a Siamese twin. So I simply had to walk with him holding me. I saw Dion and Jenna waiting for me, and sorta lowered my eyes with a grin when I met up with them. "Um....you guys...." I started, but Jenna just stepped over and kissed me on the cheek.

"I can't wait to teach you, Justin. You're gonna be great." She said, and gave me a pat on the shoulder as she walked away. This is going a lot easier than I thought it would.

Dion was still standing in front of me, and when I looked into his eyes, his smile beamed back at me. I felt kinda bad for keeping the truth from him for so long. "I'm sorry, Dion. You know....for not telling you sooner. I was just....I was scared, you know?"

"Don't sweat it, man. Don't even think about it." He said, and he moved around Gyro to my other side to give me a strong hug. One that lasted a bit longer than usual for him. And when he let go, his eyes were almost watered up. He reached up to ruffle my hair a bit. "I'm proud of you, kid." He said, looking me over. "Hot damn. A real life mimic. You definitely caught me off guard with this one."

"It's kinda freaky, I know." I said.

"Oh, you have no idea, my friend." He grinned. "I'm actually kinda glad. After sparring with you I was starting to think my skills were getting rusty." He gave me a playful punch in the shoulder. "Now I know you were just 'cheating'." And with a smile, he started walking back to his truck, with Napolean trotting right beside him. "Maybe now you can teach ME some tricks, rookie."

Just then, out of nowhere, Dylan scared the hell out of me by practically appearing over my shoulder. "G'night Justin." He said, making me jump a bit. And he walked behind Dion to stay with him for the night.

Rain came to retrieve her baby brother from around my middle. Thank goodness. "Gyro! Come on, let him breathe! Besides, he's probably sucking up your extra even worse right now!" She said, physically pulling his hands apart. Once she got him to let me go, a slight smirk appeared on her face. "Sighhh...you've always got to get one up on me, don't ya? Exactly how am I supposed to compete with THIS one, huh?"

"Nah, you're still one in a million, Rain." I said.

"Yeah, and dont you forget it." She turned to walk away with a smile, pulling Gyro behind her.

"So....does this mean we're cool?" I asked. But her smile seemed to disappear, and her pattented scowl returned to her face.

"Don't get ahead of yourself, junior. I'm not THAT fond of you."

She turned and walked off, with Gyro waving and going back to his own car for the night. "G'night, Superman!"

Taryn was standing at my right side, giggling to himself, and I couldn't help but smile. "I really wish he'd stop calling me that." I said.

"What if I called you that instead, hmm?" He said, leaning in to give me a peck on the lips.

"Hehehe, you can call me anything you want, as long as you follow it up with a kiss." I said, kissing him back. I then felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Bryson behind me.

"Take it inside, you two. Bedtime." He said. And I turned around to give him a hug.

"Thanks, Bryson. For everything."

I could feel him enjoying the affection for a split second or two. Amost as if he had opened up, and let a little bit of that love seep in through the cracks in the emotional walls he had built for himself. But he gently brushed it off by awkwardly patting me on the back and backing away from the hug with a step or two. "Sure. That's good. Ok now..." He said, breaking the embrace. "You just make sure that you're ready to start advanced training soon. Ok?"

"I have to see someone tomorrow night. But after that, I'll be ready. K?" He frowned a bit. "I PROMISE! NO running out while everybody is asleep this time."

"Sighhh....fine. But I want to get a move on this, you hear me?" Bryson told me. "You've had more...'contact'...with Taryn than anybody else. So I want you to start out with him."

Then Doc rolled up next to me. "Yep, then you get ME next!" He smiled cheerfully. "I can't wait to see what you can DO! This is going to be incredible! I can't wait to test you out!"

I smiled. "I guess you knew this was going to happen all along, didn't you?"

"No, not really. I couldn't have guessed this one in a million years. It's not necessarily a phenomena that's 'common' around here."

"Weren't you the one that told me I was gonna be some kinda great vampire or something?" I said.

"Nope. We were all on the rooftop, and my exact words were, 'If your mind is absorbing all this info and manifesting your extras this rapidly, chances are you're gonna be one special son of a bitch when your own powers come to the surface.'" Doc grinned. "And then YOU said, 'I am?', and DION said, 'Probably. No guarantees though. Like I said, we've never seen this before.' And I told you that if it was something really special, you had better teach it to me first. But you didn't know how to teach anybody anything at the time. Then BRYSON said..."

"Doc...please. You're making my head hurt." Bryson said, putting a gentle stop to his scientific rambling.

"Sorry. He asked. I'm just pointing out that I never ever, not once, not even in a BILLION years..." Bryson gave him a look. "Ok....shutting up now."

"Hehehe, geez, you remember all that?" I asked.

Taryn answered, "Doc remembers EVERYTHING. That's his extra. Perfect, crystal clear memory. Every word, every detail, every motion....everything. Why do you think he's our teacher and treasurer?"

Doc smiled up at me, "Yessiree! And once you learn MY extra, you'll have an easier time remembering everybody else's lessons. It's mostly just focusing and filing stuff away in a hexagon like pattern in the back of your mind, and visualizing it there all the time, even when you sleep, then bring those thoughts to the front by erasing the fog that covers them up over time, which you can lose once your mind redefines its concept of the passage of time between the event and the MEMORY of the event...now...once THAT part is done..."

"DOC!" Taryn and Bryson said simultaneously.

"Ok, ok, ok! Not now. Later. We'll work on all this later. Soon! It'll be fun!" He said, and Bryson wheeled him off to help him into his habitat for the night. I could always tell when Doc was excited for information. It was so cute.

"You ready for bed?" Taryn asked, lightly kissing me on the lips again.

"And with a wicked smile, I replied, "Hehehe....no."

"Good boy." He said, and took me by the hand back to our trailer for a few hours of 'fun' before the sleep took a hold of us. There's nothing more satisfying than his kiss. Nothing more sensual than the feel of his naked skin sliding warmly against my own. Nothing more arousing than the taste of his flesh, or the sweetened scent of his hair. Nothing more relaxing than the feel of his breath giving me life with every embrace of his lips. Nothing more exciting than the shared orgasms that rumbled through our young bodies at the moment of climax. A moment that seemed to build from the moment we first locked eyes as we woke up every evening. A moment we looked forward to every minute of the night. And once that moment was reached, our kisses, shared in afterglow, began a countdown to the next miraculous explosion. And the next. And the next.

This is love. And no pain can exist here. None.

When I awoke the next evening at sunset, I actually waited a few minutes in bed to wait for Taryn to wake up next to me. It was comforting, not having to sneak out and run around as though I was being chased by the boogie man every second of the night. I just lay there, lightly using my finger to brush the reddish brown locks of hair from his eyes, the corner gently landing on the edge of his lips. I could watch him sleep forever. His eyes closed, his mouth partly open, his beauty blessing me with every moment that I looked upon it. It's incredible, you know? Staring at the boy next to you, and having your heart beating so strong when your soul was so weak in his presence. To be drawn to him so strongly that it ached to be even inches away from him. Sometimes....it literally brought the beginnings of tears to my eyes.

I put my hand on his cheek, and felt his skin begin to warm up under my gentle touch. I leaned forward, and gave him a sweet kiss on his lips as he woke up. His smile brightened up before he even opened his eyes, and he returned the kiss lovingly. "Mmmmm...I had a dream about you." He said.


He nodded, and kissed me again. "I think it ended a little prematurely though." He said, rubbing himself under the blanket. He bit his bottom lip and shyly giggled to himself. "I think maybe you should pick up where you left off."

He kissed me, and I wanted so badly to stay, but I couldn't. "Awww, baby, I want to. But I've gotta go. I really do." He kissed me again, and I nearly gave in when he rolled over on top of me, his hardness pushing into my own. When you first wake up, it's like that part of you is more sexually activated, full of more tingles and sensitive little spasms, than it is at any other time during the day. And feeling his slim hips grinding into me with small adorable little circles, my hands on the small of his back, just above the rise of his squeezable ass, his kiss driving me wild, his hands trying to worm their way between my body and the mattress....I wanted nothing more than to collapse and let him take me. "Hehehe...Taryn?" His kiss moved to my neck, and he tickled me there with his tongue. "Hahaha! C'mon..c'mon...no fair!"

He stopped, and propped himself up on his elbows above me. "Are you sure you have to leave so soon?" He smiled so seductively at me, that I was forced forward into another kiss before answering him.

"Yeah. It's Comicality this time. I kinda have to go. I've got...'training' and stuff to do." I said.

Taryn pushed his hardness against me again with a slow flex of his hips. "Are you...SUUUUURE?" I whimpered out in desperation, and it made him laugh.

"I love you." I said.

"Hehehe, but you have to go. Am I right?"

"Yeah. I do." I told him. "But when I come back...you can have me. You can have ALL of me."

"You promise?"

"I promise." And we rubbed noses before he rolled his gentle weight off of me and gave me a chance to get up and get dressed. I got up and put my boxers back on, but looked back at Taryn who was laying there, stretched out on the mattress behind me. "Hehehe, stop it." I said.

"Stop what?" He teased, pulling the blanket off of him completely. And there he was, without a single article of clothing on his sexually stimulated body. His skin was so flawlessly smooth, his body only decorated with the most neccessary patches of hair. His tan line still bright and creamy from his former days in the sun. His chest and smooth tummy looking so lickable that it made you want to get down on both knees and bury your tongue in his cute little oval belly button. And at the root of it all, his hardness was standing up at full attention, pulsing with every beat of his heart. His balls hanging down below, his body looking so untouched, so clean, soooo sexy. He reached down, not to stroke himself, but to bend it slightly downward in my direction. GOD...he was making me crazy! He let out a playful giggle, and so did I, as I fought not to look. "It's not working." I grinned, my own hardness tenting out my boxers in front of me.

"I know...I just wanna....lay here for a bit. You don't mind, do you?" He said, his bright green eyes enhancing the wickedness of his smile.

"Go ahead. Doesn't bother me." I said as I put on my shirt and pulled on a pair of pants.

"Ok then." He said, and then gave himself stroke or two, his body slowly squirming in a sensual rhythm. Then he purposely let a high pitched little whine escape from his lips.

"Hahaha! STOP!!! It's NOT gonna work!" I laughed. And he gave me the most adorable pout face, as he rolled over onto his stomach to slowly hump the mattress while moaning softly in the back of his throat. He looked over his shoulder at me, his tight bulbous melons just crying out to me, and flexed until I could see the cute little dimples forming on the sides. He wiggled it a bit at me, and I simply gave up! "Damn you!" I said. "Just....don't get any 'fluids' on my shirt! I've gotta wear this tonight!" I said, and dived back on the bed with my boyfriend for a hot 'quickie' that seemed to last for an eternity. Fast, but oh so satisfying.