As to be expected, Dylan froze up. His smile....gone n an instant. He was literally petrified. "Th-th-thanks...thanks..." Was all he could get to stutter out from his sweet pink lips. He was so goofy over Dion.

"Come here..." He gave Dylan a hug, and I could see the tension in his body shoot up to a ten on the richter scale. He gasped the second Dion made contact, and held that breath until he let Dylan go. I thought he was gonna break any minute. Dion released the scared little boy and said, "I'm glad you found your control. I'm proud of you too."

Unable to register any other emotion in his suddenly confused mindstate, Dylan began to giggle almost hysterically. I don't think he could stop himself. I figured it would be a good idea for these two to talk for a little bit. "Say, why don't we all go out for a while? Just kick it out on the town or something." I suggested.

"Sure, I'm down if you guys are." Dion was always willing to get away from the confines of the lot, but Dylan's refusal to go was pretty predictable.

"No...I can't. I shouldn't. I think...I'm just gonna..."

"You're coming with us. That's that." I grabbed a hold of his arm as we headed out to the front gate, the three of us practically side by side. Dylan's obsessive crush kept him dead silent as we walked, only speaking when spoken to. And believe me, I did my best to try to keep him talking. But I think he was too entranced to say much of anything.

I was keeping my eye on him, but I think we had only made it one city block, maybe two, before the little bastard ran out on us. One moment all three of us were there, and the next, I had looked over to ask him a question...and Dylan was gone. Nowhere to be seen. He's a lot better at this invisibility thing than he puts on, I think. He must have blanked out while I wasn't looking and took off down some alleyway or something. "You think it was something I said?" Dion said with a grin.

"He's such a big chicken! I thought he would at least TRY to hang out for a while."

"Nah, it's ok. Dylan doesn't hang around me too much. Actually, except for Doc, you're one of the only people he's really opened up to in the year that he's been with us. Not even Taryn and Jenna could do much to coax him out of his shell."

"He's really just shy, especially around the boys he likes." I said.

"Sigh...there you go with 'that' again."

"What? Is it so hard to believe that he might just have a LITTLE bit of a crush on you? C'mon, I know you see it."

"What I see, is a boy who barely even looks in my direction, must less talks to me."

"You're extremely stubborn, you know that?" I giggled.

"Well aware, thanks." Changing the subject, Dion said, "Look, as long as we aren't hanging out as a trio, I'm gonna head back to the lot. I might as well head out with Gyro tonight and make sure that wad of money finds its way back to Jeremy instead of ending up in the G-string of some stripper at a club. We got lucky this time, but I doubt we'd be able to do it again." He stopped walking to turn back around. "You don't mind if I don't join you, do you?"

"S'ok, go ahead. I'll keep myself busy with something. I feel good...I just wanna...I dunno...'move around' or something. Enjoy the big city lights and a couple of cool breezes."

"Well, you be careful out there, k?" Dion warned me.

"I can take care of myself, remember?"

"Yeah, I know. But be careful anyway." He leaned closer to me as though he were hugging me, but instead whispered, "Remember, Trevor's 'chasing' you tonight. So whatever you do tonight, make sure you keep it 'Bryson-Friendly'. Got it?"

"I will. Thanks." And with that, he started walking back to the lot by himself. And me? Well, I figured I'd see a little bit of downtown while it still had some night life left in it. Every now and then, blending back in with human kind is good for the soul. Although, some of that frustration came back as I started walking amongst the living again. It was a dangerous cross between feeling superior to them, and envying them. An inexplainable mixture, that brought about feelings that resembled disgust when I passed them. But...remembering Dion's words on the train, I knew it wasn't my place to judge them. Who's to say someone isn't looking at me with the same disgust? A respect for their point of view. It's not always easy, but I can see why it is neccessary.

I found myself eventually ending up at Buckingham Fountain, walking over the gravel to get closer to the colorful jets of water. The fountain was huge, you could see it from blocks away, shooting water up as high as the moon above from the looks of it. And the people around were happy to simply gawk at it, it's hypnotic appeal bringing smiles to everyone surrounding it. There were the usual breed of visitors that night, a few college kids drinking alcahol on the sly, tourists occassionally brightening up the area with the flashes of memorable photos in the making, a couple of vendors selling neon rings, jewelery, and gadgets, for much more than they were worth. I took a deep breath and walked to the center to absorb it all. It felt a little awkward at first, knowing that I didn't really fit in anymore, but I was able to shrug it off after a few minutes.

The people around the fountain...people in general...they didn't seem real anymore. I wonder if they know how 'rehearsed' they look to us. How they've been consolidated into this giant mass of sameness, from which there is no escape. They're all just as different and unique as we are...I just don't think a majority of them use it in their everyday lives like we do. They don't 'try' to be different all that often. But I guess I was the same way before all of this happened. So who am I to say they're wrong. All that time in school, all those tears, all that misery, just because I couldn't be like the rest of the herd. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be proud not to be.

"That sounds like the birth of a grand philosophy, honey." I heard the voice coming from a bench off to the side of the park.

"Excuse me?"

"The whole, 'I wanna be free' idea. I like that." It, and I say 'it' because it was a bit hard to tell, was wearing a trashy looking blond wig and even from a sitting position, looked to be about 6'1". It was one of those drag queens that was so obviously a man that you wonder what the point is. She had on too much lipstick, too much eye shadow, too much blush, and arms muscular enough to intimidate a prison inmate. The legs were shaved clean, but were too long and strong to even resemble a woman's legs. I don't care WHAT kind of high heels he was wearing, it wasn't gonna work out for him. I swear, if I wasn't frozen by the surprise of seeing her there, I would have burst out laughing for sure. "Well come on over, golden boy, I won't bite ya." She said in her disguised 'man-voice'.

" scanned me." I said as I walked over to join her.

"No disrespect. It was more an accident than anything else. Most of the time when I see one of 'our kind' around here, it's to hunt. They usually come out here to pick whatever scraggly looking human prey they can find and follow them off into a dark end of the park. They make a pretty high class buffet out here." She extended a hand to me, "What's your name, cutie?"


"How you doin'? My name is Divinity James, but all my friends just call me 'Diva'. Pleased to meet you, hon." She said it with such pride, such confidence, that her clown like appearance was almost made normal by her apparent comfort with it. "What brings you out here all by your lonesome?"

"I was just...getting away from things, you know? Taking a breather."

"Mmm-hmm, I hear you loud and clear, honey. We ALL need a breather every now and then. Especially in this world." Diva took a nail file out of her dainty little purse and began scratching away at her nails.

I smiled over at her, still not wanting to say anything, but you couldn't help but look at this amazon-built thing and wonder 'what the hell' in the back of your mind. "Nice wardrobe." I joked.

"Oooooh, oh no you didn't start in on me talking about my clothes. Think what you want to think, I'm comfortable." She didn't miss a beat with that nail file, and her reaction made me snicker to myself. "Yeah, yeah, ha ha ha. You laugh it up all you want, but you WISH you looked this good. And don't think I didnt see a little sugar in your pants when you walked over here. Diva's got the key to your closet door, cutie. Don't THINK you foolin' me." I laughed a bit harder at her 'outing' me so easily, and leaned back on the bench next to her. The way she talked, the way she looked, hehehe it was different. Entertaining, even. That's the kind of stand-out individuality that I was looking for.

"I guess you caught me." I smiled.

"Mmmm-hmm. 'Nice wardrobe' my ass. You need to get you some pumps and fishnets and sit right here next to me on this bench. Watch some of these habits, catch some of this gossip." She finished with the file and snapped it back up in her purse, which looked almost microscopic in her monstrous hands.

"That's why you're out here? The gossip?"

"Yes yes. You read a few minds, catch a few stories, and find out what's going on in the world. It's better than the ten o'clock news, I'll tell you that much. Sometimes I see the same people come back a few times a week, and I can catch up on whatever stories I missed while they were gone. Like that fella over there. He been cheatin' on his wife with a college boy, a CUTE one too, and I'm just WAITIN' for her to find out and kick his sorry ass right out of that new house they just bought. I'm watching out for that one."

"What about the other vampires out here? They don't mind know? Reading their thoughts?"

"Pfft! They don't MIND because they don't come around me. No no, they stay AWAY from Diva 'cause they know I'm about to get all up in they business. That's fine with me though. I'm living, just the same." She turned to look at me through that hideous make up, some sparkled glitter on her cheeks, "So why are you out here catching a 'breather' anyway? You're just a baby, you ain't been in your crossover for that long, newblood. You shouldn't need a breather until you get to be my age."

"How do you know I'm a newblood? I could be much older than I look." I said.

"No, you can't fool me boy. You're still fresh."

"How can you tell? Just cause you can read my mind?"

"Don't have to. Everything about you screams it, honey. Other vampires can tell too, don't think they can't. I can still smell the 'life' on you. You still got some of your original blood left in you. You ain't been around long." She lit up a cigarette using a lighter which, surprisingly had a picture of her face on the side. It brought another grin to my face, but I held it back. "Now, you see that vampire over there?"


"Right there." She pointed over to a group of people, as though I'd be able to distinguish one from the other.

"How do I know which one is the vampire?"

A look of mild surprise crossed her face. "You mean to tell me that nobody taught you how to tell the difference yet?"

"Not really. I mean...sometimes I can sorta guess, but..."

"Uh-uh, ain't no guessing involved, baby. Just LOOK." I tried, but I wasn't seeing anything. "The vampire moves different, acts different, looks different. You see?"

Peering into the crowd, I did notice one guy who seemed to stand out a little bit, but it was such a subtle thing. I don't know if it was real or not. "The guy in the blue jacket?"

"Bingo. You got it. did you know?"

"Hehehe, I have no idea."

"Yes you do, baby, you just ain't been taught to recognize it yet. The vampire is the one who isn't a part of the scenery. Vampires don't have that concept of 'time' in their lives anymore, that constant threat of aging and death. So their perception of life is different. You can tell in the little things. Vampires don't have nowhere else to be until sunrise. Vampires don't worry about getting mugged. Vampires don't fight to fit into the moment. They're different, you see? You can see it in their eyes."

"I'll take your word for it."

"Mmm-hmm, you do that." She took a long drag from the cigarette and blew the smoke up over her head. "Now HIM...he's been around for a while. I'd say about 30 years into his crossover, give or take. He's relaxed, you know what I'm saying? You can tell how comfortable someone is with their situation. After some years of living with it, you just accept it. Then, it's just another way of life. Him? He's been a vampire for some time now, he knows what he's doing." She put the cigarette out on the concrete with the toe of her red pumps. "You, on the other hand, are still a youngster. You walk fast, you smile more, you still feel the pull of all these humans around here. They got you wishing they could understand you. That's young vampire behavior."

"To want to be understood? That's young?"

"It is for us. Don't nobody have to understand Diva BUT Diva. I am who I want to be. Some people take it, some people leave it, everybody has to deal with it, and nobody gets to change it. THAT'S livin'." She said. "You'll get it. You got a long long time to find yourself, honey. But once you get a hold on who you are'll realize that can't nobody take it away from you. Not now, not ever. That's when you get to relax."

"Wisdom for the ages as always, Diva." I turned and saw Trevor walking up behind me. Seems as though he wasn't going to be so inconspicuous about chasing tonight. I was kind of hoping he would so I wouldn't have to deal with him. So much for THAT plan.

"Blondes of a feather flock together, hmm? I didn't know this was one of your boys, Trevor." She said. "He's cute. You better keep him a secret, girlfriend."

"Of course." Trevor looked at me with a grin, "Come...I want to talk to you."

As he started to pull me away, I said goodnight to my new friend on the bench. She replied with, "Bye bye, baby. You ever need to take another breather, you come back and see me, you hear?"

"I will. G'night." I said. Trevor led me away quickly, with Diva still talking.

"I see Gyro came back to visit." She said. "You still crazy about that boy?"

"Stay out of my head, Diva." Trevor replied.

"Ooh, now you know you didn't have to snap me off like that."

"Good NIGHT, Diva." Trevor repeated, dragging me away.

"You give Bryson a big kiss for me, honey. You tell him Diva's waiting if he ever wants to bring that cute little ass over here and try something new." Trevor pulled harder on my arm as I started laughing.

"He's straight, Diva."

"Straight ain't nothin' but 'giving' instead of 'receiving' honey...and I don't have ANY problems with that situation! I'll make him FORGET 'straight', you hear me?" She shouted, but Trevor didn't answer. Instead, he took me across the street and closer to the lake. I liked her. If nothing else, it was a refreshing change.

"Problems tonight, Trevor?" He didn't release his hold on my arm until we were at the edge of the lake. He was a bit more agitated than usual.

"You think you're pretty smart, don't you?" He reached to give me a light shove by pressing his fingers to my chest. "You sent Gyro to set me up last night, didn't you? Huh? And Dion?"

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about..." I said, starting to walk away. But he grabbed me by the arm again and harshly spun me around.

"Don't you turn your back on me!" I felt it, surging through my arm....'readying' itself. My body's defenses were preparing to protect me at all costs, and I could feel it itching to reach out and strike. But with a little concentration, I sent a message down to my arm to quiet the tremors and relax a little. "You're NOTHING, newblood! You hear me? NOTHING! You want to play games? We can play games."

"GET...your hands off of me." I said through gritted teeth.

"You know what happens if you don't play nice, Justin." "NOW!" I shouted, ready to let my instincts take over and do what they were meant to do.

"Well, well, well...looks like Taryn's golden angel has finally got some balls on him. Believe me when I say that I'm the wrong person to use them on." I snatched my hand away from him, and it only brought a sinister smile to his face. "Don't think you're getting out of this, because you're NOT. You ARE going to teach me what you know, and you're gonna make sure I know it all. If you don't, Bryson finds out what you're really hiding behind those virgin blue eyes of yours."

"The same fucking threat, over and over again. You're getting tired, Trevor." I said, the anger in my mind building me up to stand toe to toe with him if I had to. He has NO idea who he's fucking with! "YOU wanna know what's behind these eyes, Trevor? Huh? I've got an idea, why don't we find out what's behind yours for a change?" I said, stepping closer. I peered into him, not gently like I had with the others, not at all. I reached into his mind, 'invaded' it, and plucked from it whatever memories I wanted. But I wasn't polite about it this time, no way. I brutally ripped a hole in him and FORCED my way in! It was EASY! He had no defense whatsoever, and I saw a swirl of emotions, thoughts, and distant memories come to a sudden stop!

"What are you doing?" He said with a scowl.

"What do you think I'm doing, Trevor? I'm 'playing nice'." And I began sifting through the most clouded images he had, the ones he supressed most, the ones he tried to keep from us all. I felt a slight tingle of static as he tried his best to block me out, but I was already too deep inside to be evicted from his subconscious now. Ahhhh, there it is. "Awwww, look at little Trevor. You were such a cute little boy."


"Two older brothers, huh? Not bad looking either. You have a very handsome family, Trevor. Not YOUR family, though, are they? I never would have guessed that you were adopted. What's the matter? Mommy didn't want you? It looks like your brothers didn't take too much of a liking to you EITHER. In fact, it looks to me like you were bullied six days out of the week. Isn't that right, angel?"

"Justin...I'm warning you..."

"Is that them smearing DOG SHIT all over your chest? Locking you in a closet for a day? Ooh ooh....look, can you see that? That's YOU! And you're CRYING! I don't think I've EVER seen you cry, Trevor! You're like a whole new person!" It must have been what those kids from my school felt like when they were pushing me down so low into depression. How it felt for them to push me so close to the edge, and laugh at my pain and anguish. At the time, I wondered how anyone could be so inexcuseably cruel. Now? I think I'm starting to see the joy in it. The power in it. "My my, who is THIS? Kevin? Who's Kevin? He's a sweet piece of ass if I ever saw one." Trevor's emotions swirled up tightly to protect that particular memory from me, and I felt his tension increase more and more, a pressure cooker waiting to explode as he tried to mask it. Go ahead Trevor, keep pushing it down, keep trying to regain control by hiding it from me. It's only going to make the images stronger.

"You don't know a damn thng about me!"

"I know you made a pass at this Kevin character. I know you were both 'high' at the time...alone...sharing what you thought was a 'tender moment'."

"Shut up..."

"But that was a big mistake, wasn't it? You kissed a straight boy on the lips, and he beat the living SHIT out of you for it!"

"SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!!" Trevor shouted, losing his cool for the first time since I had known him.

"Did I touch a nerve this time? Is that why you're so angry? Because the boy you supposedly loved with all your heart in life betrayed you? He was kicking the snot out of you...and you loved him too much to even fight back. You know...that's an awfully sweet sentiment."

"SON OF A..." Trevor charged forward, but I felt this ultimate moment of total control with that 'blast' of mine, and gave him just a little taste of it. A slight shot that was enough to knock him backwards onto the concrete. The expertise of it, the manipulation of this unexplained extra of was magnificent. I WAS growing into my new abilities and fast. It was getting to the point where it took no effort at all.

"So this 'Kevin' spread it allllll around the school. To everyone and anyone who would listen. And they took turns knocking the stuffing out of you, didn't they? Even your teachers turned their heads to it. Must have been hard. Especially once your brothers found out."

"You won't get away with this!" Trevor shouted, angrier than ever. Maybe now he's seeing just how incredibly powerful something like this could be.

"No wonder you ran away from home. Your life was just as bad as mine...maybe worse."

"FUCK YOU!!!" He shouted, standing up and pushing me back. Now it was MY turn to grin.

"Then BACK off! If you keep bothering me OR Taryn, I'll bring your every worst nightmare straight to the fucking surface!"

"You do that, rookie...and I'll see to it that Bryson boosts you so far from the lot that you won't even be able to FIND your way back home!"

"Go ahead! TELL HIM! See if I give a shit!"

Without a pause, Trevor's attitude mellowed again all of the sudden, and he stared through me as though he was quickly regaining the upper hand. "Ohhh...I see. You're still under the impression that what you are doesn't matter. That it won't outweigh what they know and love about you." He began to grin to himself. "You have no idea how wrong you are."

"We'll see about that."

"What? You think that you can stick around for a while, make some friends, show 'em you're a good guy...and then when you spring the news on them that it'll be a-ok? Do you REALLY mean to tell me that you HONESTLY believe that Bryson, Dion, Jenna, even your little fag boyfriend are going to toss the rules aside for you? You're fooling yourself, Justin." He leaned closer, "You see...Bryson didn't just come up with his 'no readers allowed' rule out of thin air. He had a REASON, Justin. A very clear, very distinct...very tragic, reason. He won't let this slide. Not for anybody. Don't believe me? Just ask him." Trevor smiled. "Ask him what happened to his darling, Amanda."

I felt Trevor's tension melt away from him, and a warm sense of satisfaction slip back into his emotional pool. This wasn't like the easy going lies he had told me before, this was different. This was real. And as much as I tried to ignore it, I knew it was something that I would have to keep in mind. It looked like we both had one another over a barrel, and despite my attempts to get enough ammo to fight back with...something tells me that my consequences were going to be a bit more severe than his humiliation. So I'll consider this a standoff....for NOW! "Whatever." I said to him. "I was thinking of going to the club tonight. I'm sure I'll see you there. That IS your 'job' afterall, isn't it?"

With nothing more than a smirk and a wave of his hand, he stepped aside. "You lead the way...pretty boy."