Lead I did...walking WAY ahead of Trevor without another word spoken between us. I didn't care anymore. Does he have any IDEA what I'm capable of? The amazing things that I can do? Even 'I' haven't learned all the tricks yet, and it's getting stronger and stronger every minute of the day. And he thinks he can come here a muscle me into doing what what HE wants? FUCK him! It felt GOOD, being able to torture him! Seeing into his mind, and exposing his fears and painful memories, twisting them to use against him. It feels GOOD to be in control for a change! All my life I've been abused, pushed, pulled, and bullied....it's *MY* time now! YOU HEAR ME??? *MY* TIME!!! Everybody wants something from you, they USE you to get what they want, they drain you dry, and God forbid if you were to have the 'audacity' to fight back and defend yourself. Then it's all like, 'Justin, how could you be such an asshole?' Was I supposed to sit here and take all the bullshit that people dish out when they're angry, or hurt, or selfish? Just sit here and take whatever they give me, and wait for them to come back and say they're sorry MUCH later so I can let them set me up to use me again? No...those days are over. Long over. And if anybody thinks they can make me implode with thoughts of guilt and sorrow for THEIR wants and needs...if Trevor or anybody ELSE thinks they can push me around, they're in for one HELL a rough time! The bank is closed as far as Trevor's concerned. Threat, or no threat.

I crossed the city to our usual hot spot, and knocked on the back door of the club to see if Bernie would let me in with as little fuss as possible. Looking behind me, I saw that Trevor had drifted off from tailing so close behind me. But deep down, I knew he wasn't far away. He'd probably be keeping an extra close eye on me now that he knew I was up to something. But like I said, fuck him. He can watch all he likes. Tonight I'm free as a bird.

Bernie opened up the rusty iron door with his predictable frown and deflated sigh, knowing it would be one of us youngsters coming in to partake of the festivities inside. But what surprised me was that he actually let me get away with a few whispered curse words and a dirty look or two before letting me in. "Thanks, Bernie." I said, and squeezed past his beer gut to get into the hallway leading to the club's jam packed dancefloor. The music was pumping even harder than normal that night, and when I opened the doors I saw a house that was literally packed to capacity. Maybe even beyond. Everyone was jumping with a thunderous boom on the dancefloor, which was blacklit specially for tonight's occassion. The white shirts gleamed so brightly that it appeared to dim the rest of the room. Even the glow sticks they were holding and flailing about seemed to be lost the brilliance of the radiant shirts, headbands, tattoos, and everything else that caught the blacklight's rays. The dance floor was so full that you couldn't go near it without getting sucked in and trapped there until the swarm of dancers 'released' you. To even STAND on the dancefloor, you'd be touching a minimum of three people on all sides of you at all times. I'd seen the club pretty full before, but not like this.

The strange thing was, I could sense a huge attendance of 'real' vampires there that night also. Five TIMES the amount of vampire presences as I've ever felt in the club before. It's hard to explain, but with all of them there together in one huddled mass, the humans stuck out like a sore thumb. The normal men and women dancing, wearing their goth makeup and their black leather get-ups...they were different. VERY different. And I was almost worried that one of them were going to end up as somebody's dinner if they weren't careful of who they bumped into. Diva was right, it isn't hard to tell if you look closely enough.

"JUSTIN!!! DUDE! Glad you could make it!" Gyro had evidently made his rather predictable appearance at the party, and was already using what was left of his coordination to fight off the liquor swimming in his bloodstream. He had a blond vampire girl on his arm with huge silicone breasts and only looked to have been 17 when she crossed over. Her eyes, covered with white contacts, were glowing intensely under the lights and she licked her lips as she smiled at me. "So you gonna dance or what??? C'mon!" Gyro shouted.

"I think I'm gonna get a drink first." I told him, and he immediately started reaching into his 'lady's' pocket for some leftover cash. She didn't resist, which meant that Gyro was using some of that irresistable magic of his. I swear, that boy could charm the bark off of a TREE if he smiled at it!

"Here! Get me one too! And TWO sunburn shots! One for my lady friend here!" He basically tossed the money at me and went right back to bouncing with the crowd. He never missed a beat. Our playful little adrenaline junkie...you gotta love him.

I had to push forward to the bar, and it took so much work to get there that I was in NO hurry to have to work my way back to Gyro with his drinks. I'd rather drink them myself. "Your habits are beyond predictable, you know that kid?" Came a voice from next to me at the bar. I looked over to see Jeremy from the 'blood bank' sitting on the stool, guzzling back a few drinks of his own. Naturally, I froze.

"Dion came to pay you! I SWEAR he did! We sent the money tonight! He wanted to get it to you early and...."

Jeremy lazily put his hand up to stop me from babbling. "RELAX, rookie. I got the payment." He said as he put the drink back down to the bar. "You and me? We're squared away, so don't sweat it." My heart had leapt up into my throat so fast that it was hard to swallow it back down. Even after he assured my...um...'safety'. Still seeing the tension in my eyes, he repeated, "I said RELAX, kid! Jesus, you're gonna blow my buzz here." He leaned over to shove me a bit, and then ordered another drink from the bar.

"Believe me...I'm trying to relax."

"Hey...you know it was just business, right? It's nothing against you personally. But out here, you've gotta run a tight ship, or you get shut down. And blood isn't necessarily the easiest commoddity to come across, you know? If one of you runs over me, they all will. And some of them aren't even a LITTLE bit as innocent as you are." The bartender gave Jeremy his drink, and he took a sip before looking over at the extra drink and two shots in front of me. "Taken to alcaholism, have we?"

"Huh? OH...no...these aren't for me."

"You gonna finish them?"

"Nah, go ahead." I said, pushing all three over in his direction. But Jeremy pushed one of the sunburn shots back at me.

"I never do a shot alone." He said.

"When it comes to THAT shit...I never do a shot at ALL!"

"Come on, don't be a pussy. It'll put hair on your chest." He smiled. "Of course, you'll lose it again overnight when you go back to the big sleep, but for tonight, you'll feel pretty damn good." Then, he physically took a hold of my hand and wrapped it around my shot glass. Then, taking his to the air, he clinked the two of them together. "Consider it my apology for last evening, kiddo. To business and prosperity."

He raised the glass to his lips, and I was a bit shaken, but...what the hell? Why not? It only stings for the first...ten or twenty minutes! I raised the glass to my lips as well and we both threw our heads back to accept the burning sensation of hard liquor into our systems. My eyes clenched up tight enough for tears to squirt out to the sides, and my face scrunched up its every muscle, as the bitter tang of the drink began punching at my tonsils and every inch of me on the way down. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't open up my eyes, I was in PAIN here! Geez...how they could make a 'sunburn' shot even STRONGER than they did the last time is beyond me! "Oh...oh...oh my GOD!!!" I gasped, fanning my face feverishly.

"WOOOOO! Hot DAMN! That was a good one! Let's get another shot!"

"FUCK NO!!!"

"Hehehe, sissy!" Jeremy was actually enjoying being that 'hurt on the inside'. Me, on the hand, was fidgeting in my seat as the drink moved slowly through my intestnes like liquid lava. At that moment, two guys, about age 18, approached Jeremy at the bar and tapped him on the shoulder.

"You 'dealing' tonight, man?" The taller of the two asked.

"Tonight and every other. You got an order for me?" Jeremy put down his drink and switched right over into 'blood business' mode. "What are thirsty for?"

"We want something young, man. You got something in our age, fresh?" The second one asked.

"I think I can work that out. Why don't you two come by my shack tomorrow night and take a look at my selection. I'm sure I can find you boys a satisfying meal for the right amount of money." I saw the boys squirm a little, uncomfortably trying to fix their hands in a way where they wouldn't look so awkward. And after a slight pause in silence, Jeremy asked, "Is there more to discuss here, gentlemen?"

They looked at each other, and one of them came up with the bravery to speak first. "Um...ahem...yeah, actually. There is." He stopped talking while both Jeremy AND me waited for an answer. "Well...we wanted to know if you could...you know...'specialize' it for us. You know?"

Jeremy's smile faded a bit, then disappeared completely. Still, he asked anyway, "No...I DON'T know. Exactly what are you asking here?" But I think he already knew...whatever it was.

It was then that the second boy said, "We wanted to know if you could 'spice' it up for us. Make it sing. We'll pay you extra. LOTS extra, we've got the money..."

But Jeremy cut them off cold as he spun back around and returned to his drink. "Later!"

"C'mon, I KNOW you've got some! Help us out. I told you we'll pay extra."

"I don't deal in 'spice'. You know that."

The other one spoke up, hoping to be a better negotiator than his friend, "I know Jeremy, I know. But we were thinking...you know...just this one time. A little pizazz added, just between us...you get paid, we get 'twisted'...everyboy is happy." Jeremy didn't say a word, his back still turned up in their faces. The boy continued, "All the dealers are doing it now..."

"I'M not doing it now! And I DON'T deal in 'SPICE'! You got it slaghead?" Jeremy glanced angrily at them over his shoulder as he shouted it out, and then took another healthy gulp of his drink.

They knew that they weren't going to get what they wanted from him, so...in defeat, they asked, "Well..do you know another dealer that DOES?"

"Yeah, sure I do. His name is 'Fuck You'...and he has a sidekick named 'Get The Hell Out Of My Face'. I think their phone number is written in really small print on that wall waaaaay over there on the other side of the fucking club! Why don't you go fetch it?" And with that, they got the hint and walked away with a scoff. Jeremy didn't look shaken or angry so much, but he wasn't wearing that grin that he had on his face a second ago. He sat there silently, drinking away and ignoring me entirely until I spoke to him.

"So...what was that all about?"

"They wanted 'Spice', I don't deal in 'Spice', I told them to fuck off. Were you not paying attention?"

"What is spice?"

"Sighhh....rookies..." He put his drink down, and then looked over at me to meet eyes again. "...'spice' is blood that's been altered to hold narcotic elements in it for an extended length of time. Heroin, Cocaine, Acid, whatever. You get some lab equipment, mix the elements together with adrenaline packed blood samples, and a vampire can mantain a powerful high for days, even weeks at a time. It spreads out to your nervous system, affects your brain, and keeps you well intoxicated for a very long period. They call it getting 'twisted'."

"It's like...a drug then?"

"It's SHIT! That's what it is. On top of everything else, it's fucking illegal for us to be doing. And I don't need the Elders sending any 'visitors' to come see me, if you know what I mean. Take my advice kid, stay away from that shit. It's no good for you. It makes you stupid. And it stimulates bloodthirsty rages after a while if you're not careful. Your mind shuts down and your instincts take over like nothing you've ever seen. The next thing you know, you'll be out exposing your true form in the middle of some 24 hour deli and THAT'S when the shit hits the fan. You don't need that. *I* don't need that." He said.

"Sounds like a bad thing to get into." I replied.

"Ha! You think THAT'S bad? Just wait until that stuff makes your heart stop beating and you're left to starve to death without any working parts. I'm telling you, it's practically suicide."

"So vampires actually request this? To be high for that long?"

"It's an escape from the darkness, Justin. Half of us never really adjust fully to the idea of it. And half of everyone that's left ends up dying of some very 'unnatural' causes out here. It's a double edged sword, kid. You get to finally appreciate the beauty of a life that you're not a part of anymore...and become a part of a life where there's hardly any beauty left to appreciate. Welcome to your crossover, blondie." He took another sip of his drink and almost finished it off.

"But they said other dealers do it. Is that...?"

"I'm not 'other dealers'." The last gulp went down his throat, and he let out another frustrated sigh. "We dealers are going through...a bit of a rough time right now. New technologies are coming, we may become obsolete soon. So a lot of people in my profession are doing a lot of truly underhanded shit in order to keep things running smoothly."

I saw Jeremy order yet another drink, with mine not even half empty. Not that the sunburn shot had finished chewing on my liver just yet. I wasn't quite sure what to say. There was still a lot I didn't know about this new world, and it's taking much more time to learn it all than I thought. Jeremy continued, after taking a sip of his newly refreshed beverage. "I deal in blood, Justin. Dead blood. It was a great business some years ago. Never went a single night without a clientele of loyal customers and a pocket full of money. But...things are changing."

"Dead blood isn't selling anymore?"

"A little here, a little there. But these fucks from the west coast are moving in and taking over everything. They got these new things called 'hemoslugs', and it's gonna put us ALL out of business once they perfect it. It's LIVING blood, Justin. Food, an almost endless supply."

"How can they manage that?" I asked, more interested than ever, considering my current position with hunting and all.

"There are habitats, Justin. Where human beings are being genetically produced, grossly overfed, fattened up...one hemoslug could provide you with a healthy blood supply for almost a year or more. You suck out what you need, the slug 'painfully' lives through it, and by the time it heals up and replinishes the blood it lost...you just drain it again. The human is never taught to walk, or talk, or even understand pain fully. It remains in the mindstate of a toddler until it is full grown, and then it is sent off to be sucked dry until it can no longer take the drain. The only thing left is for them to develop a powerful growth hormone to make the slugs mature quickly enough to be marketable. And yet, weak enough to not be a harm to us as a 'consumer'."

Was it conflict I felt? I can't really tell. Maybe it's a sense of salvation that I felt inside. A year's worth of blood, from one....'animal'. Just one. Much better than 12 lives a year. It would keep me from wandering the streets at night, it would save me from the screams, from the struggling, from the...the night when I took down that innocent clerk and filled my belly with his life essence. All it would take was the sacrifice of a few...humans. But, it's a FEW! Right? Not as many as it would be without the technology. Maybe it's a good thing. "M-m-maybe...it would help....not having to kill so often." I suggested.

Jeremy shook his head. "Riiiight..." He finished his drink. "Listen, kid. I know you're still pretty new to all of this, but let me break this down for you as simply as I can. Our existence here, the reason we're even allowed to 'live', if you can call it that, is based heavily on our sense of diplomacy with the human race. The few that know about us, and the vast majority that don't. If that balance gets thrown out of whack, and we get exposed...we're talking a series of unstoppable witch hunts the likes that you have never even imagined. Forget what you saw in the movies, kid. When they're done with us, it'll make the Holocaust look like a freakin' picnic. This 'technology' may sound like a blessing to you...but just you wait until people find out we're making livestock out of 'Buffy' and 'Brad'. That's when the gloves come off." Jeremy turned to look at me with a half smirk on his face. "There's three things mankind is good at, Justin. Hatred, stupidity, and destruction. You combine all three? And...'Boom'." With that he stood up from the bar and left some money for his tab. "Now, if you don't mind...you're officially blowing my buzz. Have a nice night." And he left to melt into the gyrating crowd around us. It was hard to tell if he was worried more about 'mankind' or the loss of a rather profitable business. But whatever it was, it bugged him. I guess this 'balance' of ours was even more fragile than I believed it to be. What kind of massacre would it be...two intelligent species fighting to be at the top of the food chain? I hope we never have to find out.

Then I felt it, inside I could sense it. Trevor was close, and he was watching me. I didn't have to see him with my own eyes...his distinct individual 'vibe' was present in the room near me. With just a tiny bit of focus, I was able to mentally pull his existence out of a crowd of hundreds, and pinpoint his exact location without even turning around. There he is, bold as ever. Mentally, I could see him, every hair on his head, every wrinkle in his clothes. And shortly after noticing him, I felt a mental link reach out to him, as though we were the only two in the room...and I was able to send him a message. "I thought I told you to back off." I whispered to myself. And I know he heard me. Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he heard me, and he came up to the bar next to me.

"You caught me, blondie. Red handed. It seems that you're learning an awful lot of new tricks these days." He said. "Suppose you teach me a few?"

"I gave you my answer."

"I don't remember giving you question TO answer." He said. "You CAN'T hide it, Justin. I know that you are supposedly good at keeping much of your life a secret, but you can't just bury this where no one will find it. It's too big." Trevor moved closer to me, "We already know that your crossover is anything but normal, Justin. We've been living in darkness for a long time now, and we have a pretty good idea of how things are supposed to work. But you...you seem to be somewhat of a phenomenon. You're keeping all kinds of nasty little secrets in that pretty little head of yours. I'm only asking for one of them. You can keep the rest to yourself, if you like."

"Why? Why do you want to know so bad?" I asked. "I thought Bryson didn't LIKE readers. Wouldn't that exclude you too?"

"Let's just say I'll keep your secrets if you will keep mine." He smiled. "Besides...once you tell me what I want to know, I'll be able to venture out on my own. No more lot, no more sleeping in the backseat of some rusted, broken down car, no more duct tape covering my windows so I don't burn to death in the suns rays. Justin...we can LEAVE!" He told me. "No more of this pick pocketing tourists for money bullshit. No more chores, no more taking care of the core group with Bryson's rules and regulations. We can be free of that place and travel the whole WORLD if we wanted to. With the knowledge we gain from other vampires, we could spend the next century adopting every vampire extra around us into making us stronger, wiser, COMPLETE! We'd be untouchable."

Instead of answering him, I simply said, "At age 12, you learned how to mastubate for the first time. You were in your room, and you were thinking of a friend of your cousins when you did it. His name was Sean." His thoughts were so open to me, so unbelievably open.

Trevor's smile faded almost instanty. "Your tricks are only going to anger me, Justin. I don't think you want that."

"The only time you've ever kissed a girl was at a party in the 7th grade. And you only did it to impress your friends." I said, ignoring him and digging deeper.

"Fine..." He mumbled through grittd teeth. "Have your fun. Play your little mind games if you want. But mock my words...I'll win this in the end. I always do." With that, he got a few more drinks from the bar, and vanished into the swarming crowd around us. There wasn't much more to say to each other at the moment. But my instincts...my defenses...they said otherwise. It was like having this burning sensation inside of you at all times. This confidence that builds itself up without any effort at all. I could put an end to his meddling. I could FEEL it. Battling Trevor over this was much easier to me in my mind than it was before. It was like the difference between fighting someone twice your size...and swatting a fly. He was NOTHING in comparison. NOTHING! I had to struggle a bit inside to keep my wits about me. But the question is...why? Why play this game with him when I can teach him the much deserved 'lesson' he's been asking for since the first night Taryn brought me to meet everybody in the lot? I simply don't have to DO this anymore. If push came to shove, I knew that I could push and shove a HELL of a lot harder than he could. I mean, I just won money in an underground fighting arena for crying outloud! My skills are so in tune with what's going on around me that I don't even have to THINK about it anymore. It made me wonder what else I'd be capable of in the nights to come. How incredibly strong I could get. How fast, how agile, how smart...in time, I'd be better than ALL of them!

"Looks like you're starting to like this place." I turned a saw Max standing next to me at the bar. I hadn't even noticed that he had walked over to me. And what struck me as even more odd was that he had chosen tonight to be one of those rare occassions when he opted to come out and actually spend time with the rest of us. It wsn't as common an occurrence as you would think for someone living with a few select people in the same abandoned car lot.

"Didn't expect to see YOU here anytime soon." I said.


"I thought you didn't like this place a whole lot."

"I don't." He said, and ordered some drinks for himself. "I'm here for Rain. She's having issues again. Let's just say that I'm keeping her out of trouble. As much as inhumanly possible, anyway."

"I knew you were a softee deep down, Max."

"Don't flatter your sense of intuition, kid. When Rain is home with us and safe, that makes Bryson happy. When Bryson's happy, he's a lot easier on the rest of us. Nuff' said." He continued, "She doesn't want to admit it, but I know why she's here."

"Why is that?"

"Her brother." He said, and he pointed out Gyro, who was bouncing around on the dancefloor with his newfound lady friends. "She's looking out for him pretty much the same way I'm looking out for her. They're getting to that point where I know they'll start talking again. Well...yelling at each other, anyway. But it DOES constitute a conversation, just at a higher volume."

I thought about it a bit, and asked, "What happens then?"

"Well....they get to a point where they finally get along again. Then Gyro will get homesick, leave, and go back to his buddies on the other side of town..." Max took a gulp of his drink, "...and then they won't have any contact for a long period of time until they're mad at each other again and the whole cycle starts over. Crazy, isn't it?"

Suddenly, my arm was bumped and a drag queen dressed in some weird wig and Colonial style clothing apologized for the mistake. Joining him were two more, dressed almost exactly like him. They were wearing make-up to make them look extremely pale, and they had drips of fake blood on their lips and faces. Looking around the club surroundings, I noticed how much harder the music was pumping than usual, how much harder people were drinking and partying and stomping to every beat of high energy rave music. More people dressed up as some kind of woman drenched in blood, some with more attention to gore than others. What the hell was going on with this club? When the drag queens left the bar, I turned to Max and asked, "What the hell is going on in here tonight, anyway? I can hardly MOVE in this place!"

"It's a vampire holiday, Justin."