I took a moment to just listen to the world around me. The waves, the music, the chit chat of every person to walk by. It was hypnotic in a way that I can't explain. I felt as though I was experiencing it all for the first time. Dion was standing next to me, almost unnoticeable grin, seemingly doing the same. "You know...I really miss this stuff, now that I think about it." I said. Dion didn't comment, just smiled softly in my direction. He looked up at the giant ferris wheel above us with such a passionate gaze, almost in wonder. Not 'joy', mind you. Just...this childlike sense of awe. "It looks like you miss it too." I said, and Dion pulled himself away from his stare. "The simplicity of it all."

He grinned at me, but it didn't really seem real. It wasn't the kind of grin that I was used to getting from Dion. He usually smiled out of genuine feeling or he didn't smile at all. This was some weird no-man's land in between. "Yeah..." He said. "I suppose I do.......from time to time." He let his eyes wander around him, and admired the folks walking back and forth along the pier. They all seemed so blissfully happy. "There was a time...before all of this 'insight' and 'philosophy'...when music was just music. When a laugh was just a laugh. And life took no real effort to understand. No real struggle to enjoy." I could feel this splash of...despair enter his voice as he said it. It caught my attention as I looked at him from the side. "I was a lot happier when I could trust 'life' to take care of me. When....everything seemed fair and there was this sense of real 'potential' in the world around me. Not only that, but I could actually REACH out and 'touch' that level of joy...if only I had the strength to be a good person." He sighed quietly. "That magic leaves you after a while. Especially in darkness. If anything, I really miss believing in my ability to be happy someday."

I waited for a few seconds, not knowing if I should really ask the question or not. But seeing him like that, feeling gentle waves of a dimly lit emotion pass from him into me as my extra remained aware of his state of mind...I thought I should. If for no other reason than to get him to let it go a little. "Dion? Can I ask you an honest question?"

"Shoot..." He replied, not even thinking about what the question might be. He had so little to hide from me at this point.

"Do you ever..." I paused to make sure I phrased it correctly. "Do you ever regret making this choice? I mean.....do you wish you weren't....like us." He didn't answer. Instead, he kept his focus on the upper level of the pier, and the ferris wheel, and the playing children. He remained quiet, but I know he heard me. I could feel his inner tensions tightening, almost turning cold. It was brief, but there was no mistaking that it was there. "Dion?"

"You know...when you're fifteen years old...the smallest things feel like they affect the whole world. Sometimes, the circumstances of your life make you feel like a superstar. Invinceable, miraculous....it's an awesome feeling, Justin. But....there are those 'other' times too. They seem to last forever. Times when you...you try...but..." He trailed off into nothingness. And for the first time since I had met him, I saw Dion's eyes glow as he reached in his pocket for his sunglasses. Not a single tear fell. He wouldn't allow it to. In fact, he suddenly shut off the emotion as if it didn't exist anymore. I could feel this increasing level of agony rising up in him...but once it reached a certain level...it shut down. And I felt nothing. Not a single trace of it at all. "...There's only so much faith you can have in the people around you before you realize that you're living in vain, Justin. In the end...the only thing you can believe in is the deception provided to you by the ones you love and care about. As long as you believe in the lie, then you're ok. And when it gets shattered..." Dion looked away from me, taking a breath in order to hide his emotion even further from me. "...You do your best to seek out another believable lie to wrap yourself up in and keep you safe."

"But...what if they're telling the truth this time? What if someone really cares?" I asked.

"Truth is only temporary, Justin. Things change." He said simply. "I learned that the hard way. A lot of choices became simple after that. Including the decision to die."

"That's why you became a vampire?" I asked, a concerned hand reaching up to rest on his shoulder.

His emotion shut down again, I could feel the cut off in my mind. It was like being dropped out of tree. Then he smiled jokingly. "Heh! Actually....I thought he was bluffing! The son of a bitch. I didn't believe in vampires, are you crazy? I just...wanted to die. To not come back, to not 'wake up' anymore, and be done with this whole painful existence. I was willing to follow whatever story he came up with, just so long as he ended the pain in my heart. Go figure, he was telling the truth." I saw Dion wipe his right eye. But he did it so smoothly, so nonchalantly. As though he were scratching an itch. But I could clearly see a small wet patch on his cheek where he had wiped a single tear away. It was showing. Even through his flawless smile. "If I had to do over again...I might have taken the idea more seriously. One more day might have made all the difference, you know?"

"So you do regret it?"

He stayed silent for a minute, but knew that I would ask again. "If you're asking whether or not I'm happy with the experiences I've had since, or the wonderful family I've made out of the others at the lot...then I can assure you, I am. If everything I've done, everything I've been through, has made it possible for me to be here with you and the rest...then I'm glad." I felt that tension begin to rise up in him again, and there seemed to be some kind of inner energy cancelling it out just as fast. Almost with a purpose. It was like Dion was mentally countering the emotion's potency to keep it from reaching full strength. "But...if you want to know whether or not I wished I was back here...like one of 'them'....laughing and dancing and enjoying my life again...then yeah. I do." It surprised me. It never struck me that Dion might not be happy with his crossing over into darkness. With the exception of Trevor, he was the one who seemed most in control of his true feelings at the lot. Never once did he give me any reason to believe that he would be unhappy. Maybe I never looked close enough.

"I'm sorry." I said, feeling as though I might have pushed too far.

"Don't be. I'm not. Despite it all, I'm thankful for the gifts I was given. And I make the best out of what I have left. I've been given opprtunities that most people could only dream of." He told me. "I just...I know that if I had the chance to grow up 'normal'......like everybody else...I could have really been 'worth something' to somebody. You know? I really could have been someone....special." I could sense him fighting harder to keep that emotion down, and in an instant, it was numb again. Just like before. "I would have liked to have been able to see age 30." He said, with a weak, but emotional grin. "Maybe...learn how to drive a car. Have my mom and dad take pictures of me right before prom. Graduate high school. Experience college. Maybe find a nice young boy or girl to settle down with. Have kids of my own. It just...it would have been nice. You know?" He looked downward. "Instead, I traded it all in. For another 'lie' to wrap myself up in for the time being."

"You know, you may not have had all the chances that you wanted to have in life...but...that doesn't mean that you're worthless, Dion. There's a possibility that, maybe THIS time...it's not really a lie. Maybe this time...you can believe in something real." I said, and made sure to look him in the eyes, even though I could hardly see them through his sunglasses. "I mean...you mean a lot to me. You're extremely special to me, and I would never do anything to hurt you."

My senses picked up on his emotions once again, and it felt like he was really honored, almost touched. But before he said anything in response, I felt the emotion evaporate instantly. Completely severed, even worse than before. As though he didn't want it there. As though he were trying to trash it entirely in order to 'protect' himself and think clearly about what he was doing. And then...without flinching, he said..."I know you wouldn't. Thank you, Justin." And he gave me a brotherly hug that felt as genuine as any other that he had given me in the past. Easily, without a trace of fraudulence. But my senses told me it wasn't real. I didn't know what to think, or what to feel. If Jenna's extra hadn't tapped in to what he was really feeling inside, I never would have known how dead his statement was. And yet, while I could STILL feel this strange sense of sincerity in the comment itself, he had emotionally blocked out my affections completely. Deflecting them as though they were fiction...without the possibility of ever being anything more.

"Dion...? You DO believe me, don't you?" I asked, and he smiled warmly. Not a word was spoken. "DON'T you?"

"Your boyfriend is back." He said with a nod, and I looked to see Taryn and Jenna coming towards us.

"Ok, I gave it back. No need to...." Jenna said, and then looked around to find two members of our little crew missing. "Where did Max and Kid run off to?" We all must have had the guiltiest look on our faces when we shrugged our shoulders in unison. She put her hands on her hips, still beautiful, even with those accusing eyes staring us down. "Goddammit, you guys..." She sighed. "Taryn...you were IN on this weren't you?"

Trying to get out of the situation, Taryn took me by the hand before she could finish. "C'mon, Justin. Let's get on the ferris wheel." He pulled gently, and I felt my feet start to follow.

But I looked back at Dion, and could see the sad expression in his eyes, even through the shades he used to disguise himself. "Dion....I..."

He put his finger up to his lips to softly tell me to keep quiet. "Go. Have fun." He said with a lopsided grin. I didn't want to leave him there, I didn't want our conversation to be over yet. But he emotionally sent me off anyway. "...Go..." He whispered, and with a caring stare, watched Tarn and I climb the steps to the upper level. Looking back from the top, I saw Jenna walk close to Dion, and lay her head on his shoulder in the most lovable way. It was almost like looking at a picture, two friends who would be together for all eternity, whether Dion was willing to believe in it or not. But as we walked away, I saw Dion whisper something in Jenna's ear to make her giggle, and he distanced himself from her too. Walking further down the pier to be alone. It was an emotional 'dismount' reserved for a master, and she never suspected a thing.

Taryn and I walked over to the ferris wheel and got on, side by side, in a two person car. Looking over at him, I remembered how much Taryn's jubilant smile could truly warm my heart from the inside out. He wasn't even looking at me at the time, his green eyes gazing out into the night as he got ready to ride up to the top. It took me a few seconds before I even realized that I was smiling right along with him. Such a strange line to walk on...knowing that the only thing that makes life bearable for you exists in a world that you almost wish you could leave behind. If I thought for one second that I could return to my life and take him with me. I would.

He looked back at me, and his smile softened as he noticed my infatuation with him burning as brightly as it had the first day I met him on the other end of this pier. He brushed his hand softly against my cheek, his fingertips touching the locks of my hair. I loved the sensation, but secretly hoped no one was watching. "You know...it always amazed me how your eyes could still be so blue, even in the dark of night. Sometimes...it's like I can see your soul staring right back at me." He sighed. "It's soooo beautiful." I took his hand in my lap, holding it softly, and smiling back at him with all the love I could muster.

We felt the giant wheel begin to raise us higher and higher off of the ground slowly, and we could see the magnificent Chicago skyline in front of us, with what looked like a planet's population of people below us. It was a peaceful moment that gave me such a warm feeling inside. "You know...I had forgotten just how cool this place could be when there are actual 'people' here." I said, looking over to the side.

"Yeah, me too. It's different, somehow."

"Kinda makes me think, you know? What if?" I said.

"What if what?"

"What if we had met under different circumstances, you know? Without all this...death and...darkness. Without the desperation and the suicide, and..." I let myself trail off, thinking back to Dion's comments, and wondering if I, myself, would one day grow to regret the choice I've made to be here. "...What if we were just two happy, normal, teenagers down there, laughing over a soda and a ball of cotton candy?"

"It wouldn't have worked." He smiled. His answer kinda took me by surprise, and I leaned over to playfully butt him with my shoulder.

"Why not?"

"I was a different person back then, Justin. If we had met under those circumstances...I would have been too scared to talk to you."

I chuckled a bit at the thought, and so did he as we took turns building the scenario. "Yeah, you're right. I would have stared at you out of the corner of my eye, but I'd never say anything either."

"I'd fantasize about kissing you, holding you...I would have followed you around this whole dock for every minute that I could keep sight of you."

"I'd get all self conscious. Is my hair right? Are my clothes ok?" I said. "I'd feel SO awkward in front of a cutie like you."

"All the time, never knowing that you could have been covered in mud and still have been the most beautiful boy on this Earth in my eyes." We giggled about it for a moment, and then felt this heavy sentiment suddenly reach into our conversation, coating it with a thick emotional gravy. Taryn spoke first, "I don't even want to imagine what my life would have been like...had I not found you. It's terrifying to think that we might have missed each other by just a hair if everything hadn't worked out the way it did."

I blushed, and felt myself get choked up from the look in Taryn's eyes. He meant every word with ten times more truth than he could convey with words alone. I squeezed his hand tighter, and he reached over another to hold mine as well. Our eye contact was unshakable at first, but I could still feel myself pulling back, only slightly. I looked away from him, only because I was too shy to say what needed to be said while staring him in the eye. "You know, as good as I feel right now, as much as I'm loving this feeling inside...I'm still not really use to this whole idea of having a boyfriend. Sometimes I look at you, and I'm afraid if I touch you or look for too long, you'll evaporate right before my eyes....and the dream will be over." I said. "I don't know if I could bare that, Taryn."

Taryn leaned his head on my shoulder, and while my instincts told me to look around to see who was watching the two 'homos' on the ferris wheel...I didn't dare shy away from the affection. In fact, after the first few seconds, I ceased to care at all.

"When I was alive..." I said, "...I never thought I'd ever get the chance to be this happy. Or happy at ALL for that matter. Until meeting you, at the very end of my rope, I didn't have much to live for at all." I turned to Taryn, and he lifted his head for a moment. "You saved my life, Taryn."

He grinned. "Wellll....technically, I'm the one that TOOK your life..." But I gave him a gentle smack on the head as I brought it back down to rest comfortably on my chest.

"You know what I mean." I giggled. I felt this nostalgic wave of energy sweep over me, and I mentally sifted through old pictures and images of my life. The good and the bad. As strange as it sounds...those wonderful sunlit memories of playing in the park and walking along the lake...they were starting to distance themselves from me more and more every night. I couldn't tell you why. It almost seemed like an artificial occurrence. As though the memory belonged to someone else entirely. In the short time that I've lived in darkness, I've become a completely different person. If you had told me a year ago that I'd be sitting here on a ferris wheel with the most enchanting boy ever created laying his head on my shoulder...my boyfriend, my lover...I would laughed in your face. If anyone had mentioned vampires, or being able to fight with people bigger than me...meeting important folks, hanging out at clubs, and having sex almost every single night with a boy who physically reverts back to a virgin everytime he goes to sleep...I would have thought they were nuts. To be honest, I didn't even expect to be alive right now. I looked forward to taking that last breath and letting this whole painful world fade to black. I never knew what was in store for me. I had no idea. But I liked it. I appreciated it. And I never wanted it to end, not for anything.

I thought back to Dion's regret, and it mirrored some of my own. Not in 'this' world, so much, but in the last. I remembered vividly what it was like...that empty feeling inside. That hollow shell of an existence, where every morning you wake up and it aches just a ittle bit worse than it did the day before. Looking back at the feeling...I'm surprised that I lasted as long as I did before Taryn gave me the answer to make it all go away.

I put my arm around Taryn's shoulder and held him close to me, as we rode higher and higher. Almost to the top now. "When I was human...I used to think...that I could protect myself from the pain. I didn't want anyone to know me, didn't want anyone to care. I figured...if I could JUST keep them at arm's length long enough...if I could only keep them far enough away from my heart...then they couldn't get close enough to hurt me. They couldn't steal away what little life I had left. I guess I just shut down until none of the other kids took any interest. I was 'safe' for a while. Lonely...but 'safe'." I told him, and he hugged me tighter.

"They never knew you, Justin. They missed out. They may not realize it now...they may not realize it ever...but they missed out." He said.

"That's easy to say when you're happy, Taryn." I could still feel it, the same agony that I felt that night, taking what I thought would be my last walk on Earth. "But when you're not...the whole world seems to collapse in on you. Everything is a disappointment, every hour is a waste, every friend is a betrayal waiting to happen. Life just isn't fun anymore. And eventually you don't even see the point in crying about it, because there's nothing you can do to stop the pain. You might as well be trying to light a match in the pouring rain." I looked down at the waves of the lake, hearing them lick the sides of the pier as though they were still calling to me, despite my newfound happiness with the boy of my dreams. "You...you understand, don't you? Why I felt I had to do it?" I said, wondering if Taryn still thought that throwing my life away would be such a waste.

He thought for a second, answering with, "From your point of view.....yes. But from mine? I can't allow myself to understand. I wouldn't want to."

"I kinda figured that would be your answer." I said softly. "It's not always as simple as it seems. Nobody wants to die...they just...don't wanna 'live' anymore. A world without some kind of true love and affection...from SOMEWHERE...it's a black void. What kind of life is that to defend?"

I felt Taryn squeeze me again around the waist. "Having someone love you, and believing that they love you....are two completely different things." Taryn replied, his eyes now glowing with the beginning of tears. "Sometimes...the pain clouds the mind, and we confuse the two."

"I didn't believe. I didn't have a reason to. I always thought....if my own father didn't love me, why would anyone else? And no one did, believe me. I had just been through too many situations that reinforced that theory completely. Somehow...I think I just got lost." If only I could wipe the memory clean from my mind, I would. You'd be surprised how much emotion certain painful memories can bring with them. "I was so used to people saying such awful things to me...that I was almost thankful for the ones who didn't bother to speak to me at all. It wasn't like I was invisible. No...they made a real effort not to care. Not to talk to me, not to notice me...even people I considered my friends before. But as long as those kids and teachers all hated me...at least they knew I was there. At least I had some kind of 'presence' in their lives." I felt Taryn get uncomfortable, fidgeting slightly, wishing he could stop me from talking about this. I could feel him pulling away from opportunities to further the conversation. But I was overflowing, and it was the first time I ever had the chance to really explain how I felt inside all those years. The first time I ever thought someone would care enough to listen. And I just had to keep going. "Even now...now that I'm officially 'missing'....maybe even DEAD, as far as they know...I wonder if they've lost one night of sleep since I've been gone. Or if they threw a party in my absence. As much as I tried, I don't think I could have ever hated them as much as they hated me."

Taryn gritted his teeth, angry that anyone could have treated another person so wickedly. And the frustration appeared visibly on his face. "I love you, Justin, you KNOW I do. Fuck them! You're here with me now. That's all that matters." He sobbed softly.

"That's just it, Taryn...I AM here with you. And that's how I know that I finally made the right choice." I looked at his eyes, wanting to wipe his tears away, but letting them run free down his cheeks in driplets of pure silver. "Taryn...when everyone else was down on me, you made me feel special again. You were the only one who ever truly 'listened' to me. You were the only one who could give me a new perspective that I couldn't see for myself." My own eyes began to glow brightly as two small streams of tears rolled down to the corners of my lips. I could see the reflection of my dim glow against the rail of the ferris wheel compartment, but didn't reach for my sunglasses. We were at the top now, and didn't have to hide. Not now. It felt as though my throat were closing up from the stirring confession inside. But this HAD to be said. I had to get it out. "You took time, Taryn. You were there when I needed you most, and you were honest, and....I'm ashamed to say it...but you're the first person I've ever trusted to be there. To always be there. You're the only one with the power to truly make me believe that someone could ever care....about someone like me."

"I care more than you know. I've loved you ever since that first night that I saw you walk out here on this Pier." He said. "I didn't let you jump that night...and I'm not gonna let you jump any other night." Taryn then sat up, taking a hold of both of my hands, looking directly at me with his eyes watered down and a quiver in his bottom lip. "I don't care what happens, Justin....but I can promise you this with all my heart...I will never leave you. I will never go anywhere without you by my side. And I'm never gonna let you go anywhere without me by your side." He said. "Even if it's through the fires of Hell itself...I'll be there. You have my word."

I felt more tears crawl down to my chin, and I hugged him tightly against me as my face wrinkled up with emotion. I held him sooo tight. I held him as though he were my only anchor to life itself. "I...I love you, Taryn." I cried.

"I love you too." He said, rocking me back and forth softly as he patted me on the shoulder to comfort me. His embrace never felt so complete. Not like it did at that moment. I let the feelings go, and a flood of emotion poured out of me, soaking into the fabric of his shirt. He just let me cry, holding me with arms that felt as though they could protect me from the whole world. "Shhhh...don't worry, Justin....I won't let you 'jump', baby..." He said, "...I won't let you jump..." And we shared that moment together, at the top of the world. Two souls connected...for all eternity and beyond.

We spent a long time in that small compartment, just holding each other, until the love we felt moved in to balance out all the pain we have ever known. Until the tears had stopped for the both of us, and all that remained was the comforting realization that someone I loved with all my heart...was there to help me carry the burden. Just as I was there to help him carry his. As we felt the car slowly begin its travel back down towards civilation, Taryn leaned over to give me a lover's kiss on the lips. I enjoyed it for a few seconds before realizing that we were a bit closer to the ground than we were before. I pulled back a bit, and smiled bashfully as I looked around us. "Wait...can anybody see us up here?" I blushed.

Taryn just smiled sensually in my direction. "Do you care?"

"You make a good point..." I said, and even though it took a LOT more courage and struggle than I thought it would...I just...'let go'. I allowed the world to melt away, and indulged in the feeling that my heart was feeding me. I leaned forward, his soft green eyes becoming a blur as our lips connected, and our eyes naturally closed on their own. Our lips touched with increasing pressure until they were locked together with an almost air tight seal. My mind was spinning out of control. I could feel the eyes of people possibly watching us, I could practically hear them chanting the word 'fag' in the back of my mind as they tried to invade our paradise with their judgement. But I didn't stop. I fought the paranoia and the secrets with everything that I had...and soon...the only thing that mattered was the kiss. The feel of his tender lips touching mine. The taste of his tongue as it slid so very slowly into my mouth. And the softness of his breath on my cheek. I didn't care anymore. Let the masses talk. They only wish they could experience a love this pure, this honest.

There was a time when I didn't believe in love. A time when I thought it was a word created to send all of humanity on a wild goose chase for something that didn't have enough stable logic to possibly exist. I was wrong. I was so wrong.

Coming back down to the ground level, I expected a few dirty looks or giggles from the people around us. But once we stepped out of the compartment and our feet touched the ground, I didn't take notice of any. That doesn't mean there WEREN'T any...I just didn't take notice. The gleam of Taryn's smile kept me preoccupied.

We walked down the steps to see Jenna waiting on us with a heartfelt smile. She seemed to get more and more mushy as we approached her, and then it was 'instant' waterworks as she came over and gave us a hug. "Omigod...you too are soooo cute! Oh wow...this is just incredible." I think Jenna let her extra get away from her again, hehehe, but we accepted the hug anyway. We heard an announcement for the pier to be closing soon, and I saw Dion already en route to come and join us again from further down the dock. It wasn't long before Max showed up as well, with a very satisfied little boy trailing behind him. AND...he was hugging a brand new, freshly made, teddy bear. His smile just seemed to sweep through all of us, and we couldn't help but smile with him. Even Jenna, who shook her finger briefly at Max for undermining her authority in the decision. But Kid was happy, and while Jenna was definitely a responsible girl, she never pretended to be anyone's mother. 'Older sister', maybe...but not a mother. Somehow, I think Bryson would have had a lot more to say about it if he were here.

We slowly strolled our way off of the pier and back towards the city. This time, I did my best to not really look into the eyes of any other vampires in the area. Not after the reaction that I got from some of them last time. But no matter how much I kept my eyes down, or tried to blend in with the crowd, there were still some that seemed a bit skittish towards me. Their tensions tightening every time I came close to them. Even leaving the lawn and getting back onto the street, I could still hear the inner voices of those who knew....and they all called out the name 'Rage'. However, it was the next action that TRULY caught me off guard. It seems my mind reading ability was becoming much stronger as time went on, and it caused occassional 'flare ups' that I couldn't control. Like a tremor before the quake. It switched itself on again, so fast that I wasn't even aware of it until it was too late. And it targeted Kid all on its own. For some odd reason, it seemed obsessed with breaking into his thoghts. I couldn't understand why, other than the fact that they put up the most resistance. Naturally, Kid's inner defenses involuntarily swirled up to protect his thoughts from me instantly, and all I could read was intense static. I couldn't turn it off...it was trying to press into the boy's mind and I couldn't STOP it. Suddenly, Kid became aware of the invasion. But this time, his head snapped around and he looked directly at ME! His face wrinkled up, suspicions burning brightly in his innocent eyes. Our eyes connected, and he swiftly detoured again to walk on the other side of Max, peeking around him to keep his eyes focused on me. He was watching me.

The static in my head got louder and louder, and I tried desperately to focus on something else while Kid was still able to have some doubt that it was me. I concentrated hard, attempting to slowly pull the energy back in and calm it down. It took a minute or so, but I think it was working. The static quieted down, and then, suddenly got cut off as everything went back to normal. I breathed a quiet sigh of relief, but Kid still kept his distance. His pouted lips and frowned brow remained staring at me from the other side of his 'bodyguard', Max. I could only hope that he'd let it go. This was getting dangerous. This is the second time his extra seemed to grab my reading ability and force it to show itself. It was almost like the two defenses automatically clashed somehow. One to reach out with energy, one to push the energy back. Staying around him for too long might expose me before its time. I needed some space, and soon.

"Taryn...why don't you and me...take the scenic route?" I said. The others stopped. It was sudden for me to suggest it, but it wasn't too out of the ordinary for me and Taryn to be off in a world of our own anyway. "Might be romantic." I smiled.

"An amazing offer..." Taryn smiled. "We'll catch up with you guys later?"

"No problem. We're just going back to the lot, so we'll see you there." Jenna said. Then she turned to me, "Not TOO scenic, ok? We were 'supposed' to be keeping an eye on you."

Dion gave me a wave, and the rest of them walked off. Even though Kid took a couple of glances at me over his shoulder, I didn't think he'd alert anybody to what happened. At least I hope not. "Feel like walking along the lake?" Taryn asked, and I smiled warmly in his direction.

"You bet." We took our time walking, enjoying the closeness that we had, even with the simplest of conversations. We saw a few late night joggers, a couple of people on rollerblades, constantly whizzing by us on the path by the lake. It was a beautifully calm time of night, and the most gentle of breezes seemed to breathe life into my very being. "It's so nice out here tonight." I said, tugging tenderly on Taryn's hand to pull him closer to me. "Or maybe it's just the company."

"Hehehe, what are you up to?"

"Kiss me." I let my hands slide slowly down to Taryn's slim waist, and hooked my fingers into a beltloop on either side to pull his hips against mine. Our noses bumped lightly, and he giggled playfully as I held him there, face to face. So close that my eyes could hardly focus on his.

"I thought you didn't like kissing in public?" He grinned.

"Well, it takes a true prince to change my mind."

His eyes widened along with his grin. "Hehehe, aren't WE smooth tonight?" He said in mild surprise.

"C'mon...kiss me."

"Anytime." He let his head lean to the right, and his lips searched for mine as we kissed softly, but passionately, there in the middle of the path. The same joggers went past, the same rollebladers, same bicyclists...and we just kept going. It was finally happening...I was finally beginning to let some of thoe old walls crumble inside of my mind. Those huge barricades that I had set up to keep all manner of man or beast from every seeing the truth about me or my sexuality. Finally...my true spirit was able to live here, RIGHT here, in the real world beside me. Without restriction, wthout shame, without paranoid delusions or 'worst case scenarios'. Just the love in my heart, and the intense expression of it being shared with the boy I loved. If only I could explain the incredible freedom of it all.

I'm not sure how long we stood there, making out for all the world to see, but by the time we had started walking again we were both on wobbly legs. The eyes of the world ceased to affect me, and I let my fingers reach out to take a hold of his hand while we strolled along. It was so damn cool, being this way. "You're growing so fast..." Taryn said, almost in a whisper.

"How so?"

"This.." He said, holding our clasped hands up. "It took me a long long time before I was able to talk about...you know...how I felt about other boys."

"I don't know, I guess I just feel safe with you."

"Maybe..." He smiled. There was a slight pause, and he confessed, "There was this boy once...a long time ago, before my crossover...I thought he was the whole world." He said. "I would just....stare at him, you know? At that time I thought I'd just DIE if I couldn't have him someday."

"You were in love?" I asked.

"I thought was. He stayed on my mind all day long, and he did the sweetest things for me sometimes. He was so cute. I let myself get so wrapped up in what I 'wanted' him to be. I kept thinking, 'he HAD to be gay. He just HAD to be.' Hehehe! I just KNEW that if I could get him alone, I'd be able to get him to kiss me. In my heart I just believed it totally."

"So, what happened?" I asked with a smile...but Taryn's face lost some of its brightness, and a sad vibration seemed to take over as he paused before he answered. Evidently, whatever memory that brought back to him, must have been awful.

".....I was wrong." He told me, and left it at that. In the back of my mind, I heard faint screams, feeling my adrenaline rushing in desperation. Taryn...and a little boy...being tormented. Hurt. Thrown out into the street. I could see it clear as day. All it took was a squeeze of his hand to bring his smile back, and he seemed to let the memory go. If only for my sake. "That was the first person to ever know about me. It didn't go well. So I tried to keep it to myself from then on. Even though...Trevor kinda forced a confession out of me and the others embraced the knowledge of what I was. I don't think I ever wanted to openly admit it to anyody else. Ever." Taryn looked over at me, his eyes filling me with a comfort that only lover's know. "Not until the day you kissed me on that overpass. After all these years and all that I've been through...it took you to let me know it was ok." He said. "Like I said...you've been growing so fast."

"What can I say? You're the motivation I've never had."

He didn't look like he was willing to get all sentimental again. He wiped one of his eyes and changed the subject slightly. "Speaking of growth, I think Bryson is going to start letting Dion and Jun give you combat training. THAT'LL be cool. It takes time to pick it up though."

I had to laugh at the idea. "Don't worry...I think I'll be a really fast learner in that respect." I giggled. "What I really wanna learn is everybody's extra and how they use them. I mean, the ones I've seen so far are really cool."

"It'll come, in time. Bryson always makes sure a vampire is comfortable in his own extra before getting lessons from anyone else. I know it seems like it takes forever, but believe me, it's important. It's a lot harder than it looks. Hell, I still haven't mastered mine yet, and I've been doing it a lot longer than you have."

"It takes that long, huh?" I sighed.

"Sometimes. Some extras are a lot more subtle than others. You have to develop them much more slowly, or you end up really causing a lot of damage to yourself and to others. Internal extras are the hardest ones to control. I don't really even practice all that often because I'm worried I'll screw something up."

"How do you train yourself to get it right?"

"Well...it's kinda hard to say. It kinda settles in on its own, it's not like you have much choice. You have to experiment a lot. You've gotta learn it...and kinda let it learn you." He said. "Then, the second stage is when you try to learn how to manipulate it better. That's the hardest part. You're gonna make a LOT of mistakes."

"I've already made a lot of mistakes."

"Not like you will once it gets a firm hold on you." He grinned. "You know, when I first found out that I could send mental messages to people...it was the coolest thing on Earth. It was like being a super hero, you know? Then...sometime around my second feeding...it really began to get stronger. And since I had NO idea what I was doing yet, it was ALWAYS going haywire on me."

"Hehehe, really?"

"Oh GOD yes! I was accidentally sending messages out all over the place! I don't think I had a private thought to myself for a whole three weeks!" He laughed. "I was basically 'broadcasting' the most embarrassing thoughts to people! It pretty much outed me in front of everybody. Max even threatened to beat me up one night if I didn't start keeping it to myself. It was humiliating to say the least. I was scared to think at all until I got a better handle on it."

"Doesn't sound like a lot of fun."

"It wasn't. Trust me, I'm only laughing NOW because it was so long ago. But back then, I just wanted to die." Taryn looked up at the sky for a moment, a nostalgic smirk on his face. "The people in that lot know some really 'revealing' things about me. But you know what? Once the secrets were out of the way...I really felt better...about everything. I trust them with my life." He said. "Family isn't always blood related, Justin. It's whoever you keep closest to your heart."

With a grin, I poked him playfully in the side. "Does that make you my brother? Because that would be just plain gross!"

"SHUT UP!!! Ruin the moment, why don't ya?" He grinned, and we took a turn to head back home.

"So.....you gonna teach me, or what?" I asked with a nudge.

"Justin...it's not...it's not ready to be taught yet." He smiled bashfully.

"What? Come on, you've had 10 years already. Certainly you've learned SOMETHING by now!"

"I've learned a LOT of things, thank you very much." He said. "But it reaches further than just sending messages and images. There's more to it than that. And I'm not sure what else it can do really. That's why it's so hard for me to practice. I tried a few times, but sending bad images isn't easy to control. Especially when I haven't learned to pull them back fully. It could get 'locked' into someone else's head, or in mine, or it could spread throughout the whole camp and have us ALL thinking bad thoughts. It's just...it's a dangerous thing to play with. So whatever I do...I try to keep it small."

I put an arm over his shoulder. "That's ok. You'll get it eventually. But you better not be holding back on me." I said.

"Psh! YOU'RE one to talk!" He elbowed me in the side, making me jerk a bit. But then crossed his arm under mine to put it on my shoulder as well. From there, is was a playful and loving walk home. God, I love him. Soooo much.

Getting back to the lot was a breeze, and everyone was spread out in their own individual spaces. I guess it was about 2 AM at the time, and we all still had a few hours left before sunrise. We figured we'd just use it to relax for a bit. Dylan came over and actually said hello, which was a bit weird because you usually had to drag Dylan into ANY type of conversation most of the time. I guess he's growing too. Afterall, he's pretty much just as new to this as I am. "You should have come with us tonight, it was fun." I said.

"Nah...I would have...slowed you guys down or something." He said.

"I'm gonna go see Jun for a sec. I'll be back, ok?" Taryn said, kissing me on the cheek.

"Sure thing." I held onto his hand until he was too many steps away from me to connect anymore. Dylan could see me watching him, and seemed touched.

"You guys...you're so in love. You almost make it look easy."

"The only hard part is admiting it. Once you're on the ride, it IS easy." I said. "So what's new?"

"Nothing. I was kinda bored. Me and Doc played a few games of chess, but he beats me every time. It stops being fun after a while." Dylan's eyes never looked directly into mine for more than a few split seconds at a time. His voice never really raising to a completely audible level. Almost...but not quite. His bashfulness could be so undescribably cute sometimes. You just wanted to eat him up when he was struggling to not be so shy. "I was...kinda thinking about going to the old church again to take a shower before bed. But...I don't like to go alone...you know?"

"Awww, sorry bud. Me and Taryn...we kinda made plans to 'stay in' for the rest of the night, if you know what I mean." I said with a wink. He blushed in response.

"Oh...right. Hehehe!" His boyish giggle was barely enough to make his slim shoulders shake. But the giggles stopped as I saw Dion coming over to greet me.

"Hey Justin, I'm going out to the old church for a shower. You feel like going?" He asked.

What are the odds? "Nah, me and Taryn wanna stay 'dirty' for a bit longer." I grinned. "BUT...you know what? DYLAN here was just talking about...." But as I looked over my shoulder to point him out, he was already gone. 'Blanked out', and probably all the way on the other side of the lot by now. He could be a SNEAKY little brat when he wanted to be. "Or...maybe he wasn't. Nevermind, I guess."

Dion gave me a strange look with a smile. "Don't get weird on me, kiddo. Ok?" He said, and slung a towel over his shoulder. "Don't forget, tomorrow, first thing, we need to get 'you know who' before Bryson sends out a search party." He said, referring to Gyro, who I'm sure was stil sweating out the heavy toxins in his bloodstream back at the sanctuary. Hopefully Dash had strong enough methods to heal him up so he could get back here quick. He'd been 'missing' for a while now. I gave Dion a nod, and he gave me a friendly wink in response as he headed off for his shower.

After he had left, I looked around me to see if a trace of Dylan remained. A movement, a footprint, SOMETHING! But I couldn't see anything. If he was around, he wasn't letting me notice him. "Chicken!!!" I shouted out loud with a grin, hoping he was close enough to hear me. And then walked over to Jun's car to see him and Taryn sitting down having a chat.

I had just joined in and gotten comfortable when we noticed two people entering the center of the lot. Everyone froze. Bryson, Jenna, Max and the Kid...everyone. I stood up on my feet, and Taryn and Jun stood up as well, all of us trying to see exactly what was going on here. Looking closely, we could see Rain returning from one of her many excursions...and she brought a....friend.

"...And this is where we hang out." She said, probably being nicer to the boy she was with than I've ever seen her with anybody. Like....EVER. She turned to see us all watching in silence, and we could tell by the look in her eyes that she was hoping we'd at least pretend to be a decent welcome committee for her friend. "Hey everybody....this...is Darren." No one answered at first.

This 'Darren' character was around our age, give or take a year. A cute little 'indie rock' boy wearing a faded black tshirt that was so snug on his waifish frame that it almost looked uncomfortable. He had very short brown hair, almost shaved, and light blue eyes. He was really slim, and had these faded jeans on with big holes over the knees. He smiled and sorta gave everyone at the lot a single friendly wave to say hello, but it was easy to see that he felt uncomfortable with us staring at him this way. I wasn't quite sure how to react to him, nor was anybody else at that moment. It was indeed a surprise to see Rain bring him into our camp all of the sudden. What shocked us most wasn't the fact that she had a friend outside of our little family. What really got to us was the fact that he was...HUMAN!

"Hey guys." He said, but we remained silent. It was a strange feeling, seeing a human being as such an alien presence in our midst. All of the sudden, everything was different. Our whole environment seemd to change. We would have to watch what we said, whatch what we did, hide any and all evidence of what we were. The cloud of paranoia came crashing down on us all at once, and we were stuck wondering exactly what he knew about th rest of us and how long it would be until he was gone so we could get back to normal. All this, in the first few seconds of him stepping a foot on our turf. It only made me think...is this what they felt when *I* first walked through that gate? When Taryn let me invade their home this way?

As always, Doc was the first to send the new kid a smile. But Bryson was NOT happy. In fact...I don't think I had ever seen such an angry look on his face. It was almost as if he had been betrayed, defied on purpose. The very energy coming from his emotions was intense, and I was puzzled as to why this would bother him as much as it did. Rain spoke up, "Darren's gonna stay with us for a little while. You guys gotta problem with that?"

"I'VE got a problem with that! What the hell do you think you're doing?" Bryson said through gritted teeth, and yanked her arm to talk to her privately in the corner.

Jun looked at me and Taryn and whispered, "Dude, this is major! I've gotta go see what's up. Come on." And we followed him over, hesitantly, to see this new stranger in our midst.

As we approached, Rain gave us a protective look, subtly letting us know that there would be severe 'consequences' for doing anything to make Darren feel out of place. "Hey, I'm Jun. This is Taryn and his boyfriend, Justin." He said shaking his hand.

I could see the word 'boyfriend' triggered a somewhat shocked reaction in Darren. But it wasn't necessarily a bad one. Not at all. "Boyfriend?" He asked. "Ohhhh.....so like...you two are...ohhhh, ok." He grinned nervously and shook both of our hands. I don't think he had ever met an actual gay person before. Not that he knew of.

"Hey..." I said. And in the background, we suddenly heard the sounds of a heated argument between Rain and Bryson. Growing hotter and hotter by the minute. With Bryson trying to set the law and Rain trying to bend and break it at every opportunity. We couldn't hear the whole conversation, but it was mostly curse words. Those we could easily pick out.

Darren looked a bit worried, but tried to cover it with a smile. "Geez, I hope I didn't get her in any kind of trouble or anything."

"Don't worry. That's just how they relate to one another, that's all." Taryn said, and it was then that I felt a tingle in my mind. Coming from Darren himself.

His mind was so easy to read that it didn't even really take an extra to get inside. Humans were like that. Not nearly as complex. Nowhere near the amount of information to sort through. The first thing I read was, "Wow...they're HOT! I hope they'll let me stay! I'll fuck any ONE of them! Especially this 'Taryn' kid! My GOD, he's gorgeous!" Hahaha! He was BISEXUAL! He was looking at Taryn like he was a beef sandwich! I know both Taryn and Jun had to have heard the same thoughts, because they looked at me with a surprised smirk. We all burst out giggling and it was nearly impossible to hold back. Not to mention that I was suddenly so ashamed for what I was thinking when I first arrived! I now know how awful I looked once they were reading my mind.

Taryn blushed furiously, not knowing exactly how to take the unspoken compliment. "Um...hehehe...soooo....you and Rain, huh?" He said, hoping to get the focus off of himself.

"Yeah. She's...she's great." Darren said, but was still infatuated with Taryn at first sight. If I wasn't so busy snickering to myself, I might have taken a moment to poke fun.

Just then, Rain stomped her way back to the center of the lot and roughly took Darren by the hand. "Come on, Darren! You're sleeping with me in my car tonight." She said.

"Cool. I'll be right there, babe." He answered, pulling back a bit for a few more seconds with the rest of us. "I still got some weed left. You guys wanna smoke up?" He asked us, but we were still trying not to giggle out loud as he tried to be extra nice to us. Instead, we all stood there with an uncontrollable smile on our faces.

"No no...that's alright. You two have fun." Taryn said, and as we walked by them, Taryn let his hand reach out and squeeze Darren's ass in fun. I smacked his hand away, and we both giggled our way back to our 'habitat'. It would be better for us to stay inside tonight anyway. Bryson was already angry, and being in his line of vision would not be a good idea right now. Just as well...Taryn and I had...'things' to do before bed. FUN 'things' that we had been building up to all night long. I couldn't wait to feel the smooth softness of his warm body against me again. Being totally naked with the one you love...there's nothing like it. Virgin sex, again and again, until the sleep came to take us for the day lit hours. I felt so good.

The first thing I remember seeing in my dreams that night...was Taryn and I on a sunlit day. Sitting beneath a tree in the park and feeling the warmth of the afternoon hour. I think my mind was enraptured with his beauty, focusing on it as though the rest of the details didn't matter. I remember us just laying there in silence, kissing each other with a smile, and rolling back and forth on blades of soft cool grass. His body was miraculously perfect, and I wanted to cover him completely. I laid back and actually got a chance to enjoy it. It was the first peaceful dream that I had experienced since the Beast had first invaded my subconcious world.

It was not meant to last.

Almost as though the mere thought of him had triggered the change, I became aware of dark clouds rolling in to fill the sky at top speed. The dream version of Taryn never lost his smile, but I knew that things weren't right. It was trying to break through again. It was trying to penetrate through the very fabric of this reality, and tear into me once again. After our last battle, I thought that I would have fended it off for good. But this creature knew how to come back stronger than ever. Running from it only made it chase faster. I couldn't see an end to its persuit of me, and my once vivid fantasy turned, yet again, into a nightmare.

I could see all of time stop in the dream, the wind, the leaves, everything froze into a single frame of living animation. The air was so still. So quiet. I stood on my feet, looking down to see that Taryn too had been frozen in place. I looked around me, positioning myself in case it came for me. My heart was beating fast, and I heard a low rumble in the storm clouds above me. Then, in front of me...almost invisible to the eye, I saw the air itself warp and twist into the creatures face. I saw it's massive claws attempting to rip and tear at whatever dimensional wall was keeping him from me...but it couldn't get through. It suddenly pulled back, rushing around me and trying to charge in from behind! But it was held back.

I remained steady, my fists prepared to strike out if it got through. I stayed silent, listening for ANY indication that it might succeed. But thankfully....it was held BACK! I defied the beast with my stare, and it growled and roared in frustration, but it couldn't pass through the gates. Control was maintained, and I felt the fear melt away. The more confident I became, the less power it had to try to enter the dream. The storm above roared and raged with growing intensity! Throwing a full blown tantrum that shook the ground beneath my feet. But I did not budge, and I refused to let the creature frighten me into allowing him in. The images began to fade, and the Beast's efforts began to dull. And soon....it was gone.

My eyes opened up slowly, and I found myself lying in bed next to Taryn. It was over. Despite the demon's attempts to break through, I was ok. I let out a sigh of relief and then rolled over onto my side. Taryn was still in the nude from last night, and I scooted over to snuggle up behind him as he slept. Feeling my hardness spooned up against his naked form was driving me crazy, and I heard a small whimper leave my throat. Mmmm...he smells so good. I wondered if he would be up soon and we could have another interlude before going out tonight. But looking at the clock next to our mattress...it wasn't time yet. In fact, he probably wouldn't be up for another hour or so.

Sighhh....I'm early again. It's beginning to be a problem for me I think. I don't get it. I've been waking up from the sleep early a LOT lately. Especially in the last week since Bryson started my training. And not just by a few minutes, I mean by at LEAST an hour. Plus Taryn always went to sleep before I did, and woke up after. I didn't understand. Was there something wrong with me where I couldn't sleep? I guess it's something else I'll have to tell Bryson about soon. He's gonna end up thinking I'm such a freak by the time he figures out all that's wrong with me.

I leaned forward to kiss Taryn on the cheek. He was still cold, and would stay that way until the daytime sleep released him. But he still smelled good, and he still felt good against me. It looks like I'll have to wait awhile to enjoy him any more than this, though. So I might as well get up. Maybe it's for the best. I can sneak out of here easy and pick Gyro up without any questions. So it all works out. I sat up in bed, and reached for a pair of boxers. It was then that I noticed it...peeking out from under a few tshirts. A picture. One of the only pictures that I had brought from home.

I lifted it up and looked at it closely. It seemed so...weird. So 'distant'. It was me and Richie, standing outside in front of Buckingham Fountain. He was so healthy, so happy, so carefree. I remember that day as though it were yesterday. I remember the feel of the sun's warmth on my skin, and the coolness of the misted spray of the fountain on the back of my neck. His mom was the one who took the picture. It was one of the last times I ever truly saw her smile. Richie was diagnosed a few months later. He.....he was sooo happy in this picture. He wasn't thinking about cancer, or hospitals, or medications. He was just....a good kid that got dealt a bad hand. The only comfort I had was knowing that..for this one particular sunny day...Richie, his mom, and me, were truly happy. I swear...I can still hear Richie's laugh if I concentrate hard enough. Sighhh....how could I have let him get so sick? Looking at this picture...I didn't even know if he was still alive. I didn't even know....if I should 'mourn' him yet or not. Such a sweet boy. I know I'm not around anymore Richie...but you meant the world to me. Believe that.

Sadly, I put the picture back where it was, and finished getting dressed. I felt bad for ever letting my best friend leave my thoughts, even temporarily. It's a sobering moment to know that you let someone down. Even worse that you might have let them die alone and did nothing to help him. It was no different than me turning my back on that man in the alley as Kid bled him dry. But...you can't go back, right? That's what Bryson said. That's what Taryn warned me of. You...you can never go back.

I did my best to shake the feeling and keep my mind from punishing me endlessly for old regrets. In my lessons here, Doc and Bryson said that 'dettachment' is the most difficult part of any vampire's life. So I'll just have to be strong this time. Now fully dressed, I covered Taryn's body and face with the blanket as I grabbed a mirror to test the daylight. It was something else I had learned. In case any vampire wakes up early, he can open the door a crack, and use a mirror to deflect whatever light may be outside to the ceiling of the car. That's why I covered Taryn, just in case. The slightest exposure to sunlight could burn him if it crossed his sleeping body. I used the mirror to reflect the light and it appeared that the sun had set sufficiently enough for me to go outside. Even though some slight traces of it remained on the horizon. Good, I can get out of here.

I opened the doors and closed them back quietly. The sky still had some of its original brightness to it, and my skin felt hot and flushed from the last traces of sunlight. I began to dry out almost instantly, and began to cough a bit. I guess there was more sunlight left than I thought. My eyes felt hot and irritated, and I had to close them for a second to keep them from drying up completely. I felt dizzy, almost naseous, and felt my head start to ache. Small wisps of steam and smoke began rising from my arm, but it didn't really hurt as much by the time it got to that point. The sun was dipping further below the horizon, and the pain was fading fast. Next time, I should probably wait another few minutes before going outside. No need to test the elements, that could be dangerous.

I walked all the way out to the old church where I was sure Gyro would be waiting. Almost two weeks without a single party? He'll be going through withdrawal symptoms soon, if he hasn't already. Especially with all of the alcohol drained out of his system, he'll be eager to start fresh as soon as he can pick up a shot glass. I knocked on the church door, expecting the theatrics that I had to go through last time. But this time, it was Twilight that answered the door. And she did NOT look happy at all. "This way..." She said coldly, and turned her back to lead me downstairs. With her, were seven staff weilding monks and a vampire male that towered over me at almost 7 feet tall! What was going on here? Something was obviously wrong.

"Is Gyro...is he ok?" I asked, but she didn't answer. She just quickly walked down the corridors and had people locking the doors tightly behind me. I didn't say anything more. It was clear that she wasn't going to answer any of my questions anyway just yet. Not until she was done 'military marching' me down the hall.

As we got further towards the center of the complex, I heard crying, groaning, wailing...the sounds of many wounded people all at once. Twilight didn't even look at me, she just led me into one of the rooms, and what I saw amazed me. Vampires...LOTS of them! Men, women, children...wounded, bruised, battered, and broken. Like they had been tossed into some kind of giant machine. There were medics attempting to help them, but they were hurt BADLY! Like...beyond reason, some of them. I was astonished at the amount of damage. "What happened?" I asked.

"They were attacked recently." Twilight said angrily.

"Attacked by WHAT?"

"Well that's exactly what we're trying to figure out." She turned to me, and the 7 monks stood between me and the door. "Where have you been for the last ten days or so, Justin?" She asked with a determined stare.

"What?" What was this all about???

"The last ten days...where were you? In fact, what have you been doing since your stay here?"

"I've...I've been training. I wasn't allowed to leave the lot..." I said, feeling the tensing limbs of the monks behind me as though they suddenly expected me to be dangerous.

"Training, huh?" Twilight asked. "Training for what?"

"My extras....my crossover...you know, 'training'."

"And you're telling me that you never left the lot? Not once since you left the walls of this sanctuary."

"NO! Not ONCE! What are you getting at?" I asked, but she just stared back at me. "I swear! I haven't been going ANYWHERE!"

"You sure about that?"

"Of COURSE I'm sure!"

"So you don't know anything about the wounded vampires in this room?" She questioned me efficiently, hoping that one of my answers would conflict with another and she'd catch me in a lie.

"No....why would I?" I asked, but she just tightened her lips.

"Ok...we'll see..." She said, and walked over to a corner to pull a very young boy from a corner of the room. He seemed terrified, and was dirty with dried blood that had been spattered across his face. She brought him over to me, and knelt down behind him to speak softly into his ear. "Is this him?" She asked. Was she talking about....about...ME???

"Wait a minute..." I started, but she interrupted me.

"Quiet!" And he monks moved closer together to block the entrance and assume a fighting stance. "Now don't be scared, hon. You can tell me the truth. He won't hurt you." Is she for REAL? "Look at him and tell me....is this the man? Is this the man that hurt your daddy?" The little boy looked me over closely, and then shook his head. But Twilight had to press him anyway, just in case. "Take a good look, now. Now tell me...is this him?" The boy shook his head again. "You're SURE?" He nodded, and she let him go. It was then that the tension level dropped in the room, and I was able to breathe again. Twilight gave the monks a nod, letting them know it was ok to stand down. Then she stood up and looked me dead in the eye. "There is something very strange going on here."

"You're accusing ME??? Of THIS???" I said.

"I'm making accusations logically based on the facts I was given. Nothing more."

"But...but...I'm not even CAPABLE of doing something like this!" I was offended that she would even think to blame such carnage on me!

"On the contrary, Justin...you're one of the only people I know who IS capable of something like this." She said, and led the way out of the room. I had no choice but to follow.

"What are you talking about?"

"Those people in there were attacked in a small speakeasy vampire hang out on the west side of town. NO motive. They said that the attacker just came in, smiled at everyone in the room, and began to tear into them one by one." Twilight told me. "All of the victims give basically the same report. A boy, about your age, extremely skilled fighter, still young in his crossover. They said he fought as well as any trained Hunter, if not better. Boys so early in their crossover don't usually possess that level of skill. In fact, so far, in all my years here the only one I've ever met that even came close....was you. Now...do you care to explain to me exactly how this could have happened?"

"I...I don't know..." I stumbled over my words, knowing how utterly guilty I must have looked. "But it wasn't me, you HAVE to believe me!"

"I don't have to believe much of anything until I get to the bottom of this. Because from the looks of it, this person is going to be sending many more 'customers' to our medical ward if he isn't stopped and soon."

Twilight led me around a corner, and there was Gyro, bag packed, actually standing on his own two feet again. Even if he still looked a bit hungover. "Hey there, party boy." I said, and Gyro smiled weakly before shuffling over to give me a hug around the neck.

"I don't think I've ever been happier to see you 'Superman'." He said softly, his voice still a bit hazy. He was better than he was the last time I'd seen him, but it was clear that he wasn't going to be back to 100% for a day or two.

"How do you feel?"

"I feel like I've been hit by a truck and dragged for about 120 blocks of rough pavement...other than that, I'm swell." He said, and I grabbed his bag to take him back home.

"Maybe next time you'll leave that 'spice' shit alone then, won't you?" I said, and helped him to the door. Twilight stopped me before letting me leave though, pulling me to the side.

"You realize...that although a part of me is glad to hear that you weren't the one responsible for what happened at the speakeasy...it doesn't succeed in easing my mind any." She said. "Because if you didn't do all this...then the question is...who did?"

It was the last set of words that I heard from her as I walked out with Gyro on my arm. I still don't think she believed me, but Twilight wasn't known for being all too trusting anyway. The last thing I saw, was little Kyra watching me leave. She let a piece of paper fall to the floor in silence, and walked away from it. All that was on it, were five little stick figures, and a bolt of lightning coming from the clouds. I took it in for a moment, but didn't understand her prophetic drawings. I never could really. So I just kept going towards the front door, with Twilight and my seven 'escorts' walking with me the entire way.

"Make sure you stay out of trouble, Justin. People are watching. Bet on it." She said, and the giant church door closed abruptly behind us, locking itself tight. Whatever caused all of that carnage in that room downstairs...it couldn't in any way be related to ME!

.....Could it?

Gyro stumbled along with me down the sidewalk a bit at first on our way home. But his posture and his stability seemed to improve rather quickly, his body's enhanced ability to heal itself kicking in as he woke up a bit more from his extended sleep. Soon, he was walking on his own, and the color was beginning to return to his face. Thank goodness he was alright.

It had only taken him maybe ten minutes to regain that youthful exuberance again, and looking over at him, he was practically skipping at my side. Tainted only slightly by a small haze of grogginess. "Soooooo...." He said with a smile, "...I hear that I missed another 'performance' the other night!"

"What do you mean?"

"C'mon...you know." He grinned slyly at me, "They say you took on a heap of human soldiers and a fully trained Hunter! Face to face! And you lived to tell the tale! Hehehe!" He giggled. "Wicked!"

I turned to him quickly, "Where did you hear that?"

"Where did I HEAR it? It's all over the sanctuary! You were GREAT!"

"They're....they're still talking about me?" There was no time to be flattered. This was NOT good. They knew! They KNEW!

"Why shouldn't they be? You certainly gave them a show to talk about." Gyro was smiling from ear to ear, but could clearly see that I was more worried than honored to be discussed like this. "They really appreciate what you did for..."

"Can we just talk about something else?" I interrupted.

"Something 'else' like what?"

"I dunno! Just not...this!"

"Justin, you're being really weird, you know that?"

"Just DROP it!" I said, a bit louder than I wanted to, trying to get him to stop talking about it. I know he didn't see it as any big deal, and I know he was just expressing his amazement over the things that I can do. But I needed time to think. I needed time to remove myself from all this exposure. Whispers. All kinds of whispers. Going on behind my back while I was helpless to stop them.

Gyro walked by my side, completely quiet, for a few minutes. I didn't know if I had hurt his feelings, or if he was just trying to 'be good'. Either way, I was wondering if he was actually going to be willing to let it go this time. It didn't take long for him to answer THAT question. "You're like a 'celebrity' to them, you know?" Gyro said, absolutely refusing to keep quiet.


"WHAT??? You ARE! You're all they talk about. When I woke up, I had like twenty people rush in to ask me all kinds of questions about you. The young ones especially. They think you're a real life super hero." I could only sigh to myself, wishing I could take so many of my actions back now that my abilities were being revealed one by one to people I didn't even KNOW, much less trust fully. It was all happening so fast, spreading like wildfire. I couldn't stop it if I wanted to. "The guards asked me a ton of questions too. About...who you were, where you came from, how long it's been since your crossover...weird stuff. It got even 'more' strange when they started asking me if you had any 'violent tendencies' or 'blackouts' recently." I perked my head up instantly. "I think it had something to do with...you know...the people that were so hurt in the infirmiry."

"They interrogated you about me?" I asked.

"Yeah...kinda. But don't you worry! I told them that MY friend, Justin, didn't have ANYTHING to do with that big slaughter up at the speakeasy." He walked forward a little to look at me sideways while we walked. "Cause...you didn't...right?"

"Of COURSE I didn't!"

"Of COURSE you didn't! And that's exactly what I told them!" He said proudly, erasing whatever doubt he may have had when he asked. Gyro was easily taking me at my word, but Twilight and the others at the sanctuary had absolutely no reason to believe in my innocence. They wouldn't be so easy to convince. "It's just because of the damage that was done, that's all. Those people were pretty torn up when they brought them in. Whoever did that to them wasn't pulling any punches, that's for sure. I think it spooked them out a bit. That's why they were asking all the questions."

"You didn't tell them anything, did you?" I asked him. "About me...and about what I can do?"

"How could I? I don't KNOW anything! I couldn't have explained it if I 'wanted' to." He said. And then his voice softened a bit as I silently started wrestling with my demons and feeling stupid for risking my secrets like that. Even if it was to help other people. Gyro looked me in the eye as he spoke, "But I did let them know you were an awesome and caring person..." He had the most sincere look in his eyes as he put a hand on my shoulder. "...and that you were the kind of guy who would put himself in danger, GRAVE danger...just to help a friend. Even when he's doing something stupid."

It wasn't like I was mad at him. Gyro wasn't a bad kid, not by any means. He just got into mischief from time to time while trying to live the party boy lifstyle. What happened at the spice shack.....it's not like he did it on purpose. He wasn't being 'stupid', and I didn't blame him for what happened. He needed help...and he's family. That's all there was to it. "Thanks, Gyro."

"It's not EVEN neccessary, bro." He grinned.

It was just that easy for us to approach the issue without having to really 'talk' about it, and that was fine. But as far as my secret was concerned, I knew at this point that I had gone way too far to hide out now. That alone was bugging the hell out of me. This was too huge to hold on to. Too many people knew about me, too many had seen me use my skills out in the open...I could NEVER contain them all. "I was trying sooo hard, you know? I was warned to keep quiet...and I'm messing up everytime I get a chance."

"I told you, Justin...this thing is much too big to keep a secret for very long. I don't know how or why you can do all these things without even thinking about it and without any training...but what you did for them back at that sanctuary was a 'miracle'. They're gonna be talking about that night for decades to come. You're practically an old folk tale to be passed down from vampire to vampire until the end of time. They're not gonna just 'forget' because you want them to."

"I don't WANT them to forget, I NEED them to forget!" I said angrily. More at myself than at him. "This wasn't supposed to happen. I was supposed to keep to myself. I was supposed to keep this a secret!"

"But...why?" Gyro asked, innocently enough.

"Sighhh..." Even for such a simple question, I had no answers that I could give him. "...I was told that it was for my protection."

"By who?"

"Don't worry about it. Just believe me when I say that I believe him. And I might be in for some serious trouble soon." I said, kicking myself for being so stupid. "I fucked up. Big time."

"If you call what you did a 'fuck up', then I wish more people could make the kind of mistakes that you do." I didn't answer at first, but Gyro was determined to make some kind of dent in my despair. "Why would you need to hide this anyway? Who do YOU need protection from? Have you SEEN yourself out there, kicking ass? You're AMAZING! You're like the most amazing person I've ever SEEN! You're literally one hundred percent 'unbeatable'."

"Nobody's 'unbeatable', Gyro."

"YOU are!" He said, a slight boyish whine entering his voice as though he were desperate to make me believe it. "Does Taryn know?"

"No...I haven't told him yet." I mumbled under my breath.

He paused for a moment. "Well THAT'S pretty shitty." I shot Gyro a dirty look. It was bad enough that I already felt bad about it, now he's making it worse. "OK! Ok! I'm sorry. I'm just saying...." He paused again. "I just...I thought he would have been the first to know. Ya know?" I didn't say anything to defend the concept. He was right. Absolutely right. "You can help a lot of people, Justin. You can really make a difference if you just..."

"You don't GET it, alright? I don't WANT to make a difference! I don't WANT to 'save' anybody! Why should I? Where were THEY when I was getting MY ass kicked around everyday by my dad, or some high school bully? Where was MY salvation when I needed someone to give a fuck about me???" I shouted. "Nowhere. So why should I sacrifice anything that makes me happy for 'them'? Or for anybody?" Gyro didn't answer, he just sort of looked at me. "Look...I just wanna be happy. Just like everybody else. I don't wanna....end up...fighting for my life everyday while people like you sit from the sidelines and watch me do it. Applause doesn't help when you're struggling just to keep from being killed all the time."

It was then that I could see Gyro's stubborness rise up inside him, aggrivated with the fact that he didn't seem to be getting his point across. And while he pouted for a few seconds in silence, he wasn't about to let me get away with the last comment. "We're NOT just watching, you know?" He frowned. "I may not be able to do all the fancy shit you can do...but I'd stick my neck out for you TOO, if you ever gave me half a chance."

"I don't need you to stick your neck out for me, I can take care of myself." I said coldly. Maybe too fast to realize what kind of affect it would have on him. I think he took the comment pretty hard. Walking side by side, Gyro didn't speak another word to me....for the next half hour. He didn't even look in my direction. I didn't mean to hurt him, but I guess intent and effect are two different things entirely.

We were about 8 city blocks away from the lot when Gyro even thought of resuming some sort of conversation with me. I think most of that was from the fact that he was happy to be home. It was a time that I was glad he had that childish ability to let go of past offenses so easily. It never took long to get his smile back, even when your words cut him deeper than you wanted them to. "I've gotta change out of these clothes. I look like shit. Not to mention they smell like I've been rolling around on a dirty floor."

"When we found you, you HAD been rolling around on a dirty floor."

"Ah...that explains it then." He said. "Well, I gotta change anyway. I've missed so much at the clubs, they probably think I'm dead."

"CLUBS?" I asked. "Don't you think you've partied ENOUGH for a little while?"

"Heyyyy...the party never stops, you know that."

"It almost stopped for you permanently."

"New night, new moon, new me." He giggled. He really didn't miss a beat. "Besides, YOU got to party while I was gone. I didn't. You know they don't even have a drop of liquor in that sanctuary? What was I supposed to do for fun in that place?"

"You were SUPPOSED to be getting better and learning your lesson about partying too hard, Gyro." I told him. "Besides...I didn't get to go much of anywhere up until last night. I've been training at the lot."

Gyro's eyes popped wide open. "TRAINING? Like TRAINING training???" I nodded, and he nearly jumped a foot in the air. "SWEET!!! You're actually in training now! You're gonna be such a badass once you've settled down into everything. Bryson must really think the world of you to let you start off so early."

"Psh! Whatever." I said.

"It's true! He made the rest of us wait at least another month before he started us off." Gyro had this ability to take his pride in you and make you proud of yourself. It was one of those rare gifts that you wish you could ignore, but you can't. Not even if you tried. He could charm you into believing just about anything. "Wow...you're really gonna be a part of the family. That's so awesome." We turned a corner, and that's when he said, "Justin...in training. Geez, you miss a day or two, and the whole world has gotten turned upside down."

I gave him a strange look. "A day or two? Um...try more like TEN."

He wrinkled up his forehead a bit. "What are you talking about? I couldn't have been out for THAT long." He said.

"Uhhh, yeah...you kinda were."

The confusion melted as he tried to adjust himself into an appropiate time frame. That's when this look of horror crossed his face. "SHIT!!! Awwww man!!!" He shouted!

"What? What's the matter?"

"What DAY is it?" He asked. "SHIT!" He held up his fingers, trying to calculate the days he missed while asleep. Then, a huge sigh of relief. "Whewww....thank GOD!"

"WHAT?" I asked again.

"I thought we had missed the IceZone party. The tickets are for one visit only."

"Are you still talking about clubs and partying? Jesus, Gyro, you were almost KILLED last time, do you realize that?"

"That was DAYS ago, Justin! TEN actually, by your count. You can't keep dwelling on the negative." He grinned, disregarding the concern completely. "Besides, this isn't just any old 'party', this is the ICEZONE we're talking about here! It's the biggest underground vampire celebration in the country! People from all over the WORLD are gonna be there! And I plan to be one of them."

"Sighhhh...you're hopeless, you know that?" I didn't even know if he heard me.

"You know, I hear they got arcades and sports betting and casinos and concerts and dancers and strippers and...."

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. 'Biggest underground vampire celebration in the country'. Gotchya." He looked up at me and giggled.

"Say what you want, but once you step through the door, I'll bet you understand just what I'm talking about. Hehehe!"

We made it to the lot, but before getting too close to the front gate, Gyro tugged at my shirt. Saying, "Wait...Bryson's already up. And he's going to be asking a billion questions about where I've been the last few days. I know a way where we can sneak in the back. At least I'll have a chance to get settled before the 'inquisition' begins." Knowing that he'd probably start in on me too, I agreed, and followed him around the entire lot to the back fence. Gyro crawled under first, and I came right after him. "So where did you tell them I went to anyway?"

"We didn't tell them anything. We just said that you were gone." I answered as we climbed over a few wrecks.

"And they BOUGHT that? Geez, you guys gotta learn to come up with better stuff than that. Now you're leaving the whole thing in MY hands!" He grinned. "Did my sister buy it?"

"Actually..." I started, "It seems your sister has found herself a 'friend'."

"A 'friend'?"

"Yeahhhh..." I said with a smile. "But I'll wait until you see that for yourself."

"Great. This ought to be interesting." He giggled and I laughed right along with him. That's when we suddenly heard a calm voice come from one of the dark corners of Gyro's 'secret' way into the lot. A familiar voice, that simply said...

"Back so soon?"

Gyro and I stopped chuckling and looked over to see Michael standing there not far from us. It looks like the problem child has returned afterall. "You..." I said, locking eyes with him as a wicked smirk appeared on his lips.

"Did you miss me?" He asked. "You know, it's funny, I expected you two to be out of commission for just a little bit longer." He then looked over at Gyro. "Especially you, kiddo."

I don't think Gyro understood, or had any idea that Michael was behind what had happened at the club, but he knew a nasty vibe when he got one. So I said, "Gyro? Why don't you go on ahead..." I was feeling a burning surge of anger rising up quickly inside me. Enough to almost make my fists crack. "I'm gonna have a little 'chat' here with our friend." He looked back to see if I was serious, but didn't question it. Gyro then left us to...'talk things out'.