I was practically skipping up every other step, still feeling exhilirated over the events that had just taken place. The old building was so run down that I was usually careful so as not to fall through a broken step or lean on a faulty railing. But not tonight. Tonight...I was invinceable. What did I have to worry about?

"Jussstin..." Came a whispered hiss from a darkened room to the side of me. I stopped climbing the stairs and stood still, hoping to hear it again, and yet not sure that I had heard it in the first place. It was so faint, almost as though it only existed in the back of my mind...and then it was gone. I listened carefully, straining to hear something, anything. But all I could hear was the wind rustling gently through boarded up windows of the shabby old place.

I was going to ignore it, and begin my ascent of the stairs again, when I heard something move. The quiet crackle of dirt and dust underneath someone's feet. "Hello?" I said, not much louder than a whisper. But I got no answer. Was it just Gyro playing a joke? Or someone else from the lot? Had Comicality found me way out here? Maybe some homeless guy looking for a place to sleep? They often came searching for some kind of shelter in this part of town. My mind couldn't exactly figure out what was going on, but the curiousity pushed me forward. I walked slowly to the doorway of the room, trying to peer inside. It was pitch black except for the beams of light coming through the windows from the streetlamp outside. There was a certain eerie stillness in the room, an unnatural stillness. "Hello....?" I said once again, this time even more quiet so I could hear anything if it took a single step towards me. I took a step or two inside the room, making sure that the small amount of illumination from the hallway was still touching down on my shoulders. Just in case. "Is anyone in here?" I looked around, hoping some of my enhanced night vision would allow me to see some form of movement. But....nothing. Still, something wasn't right...I was not alone. I could 'sense' it.

So dark. My eyes not even knowing whether they were opened or closed. And, with some hesitation, I took another few steps into the abyss in front of me. I looked around me, carefully scanning the room, and suddenly I heard something...like someone taking a deep, silent breath. The lungs filling up with air, the muscles in the chest expanding, and I suddenly had the idea that I was being watched. Stared at. I peered further into the darkness in front of me, and froze when I heard breathing coming from behind me. I spun around quickly to see only the door back to the hallway in front of me. Okaaaay...this is getting creepy. I think I've had my fill of playing the 'dumb blond in the horror movie' role, I'm out of here.

I kept a keen eye out as I slowly backed out of the room, my footsteps as quiet as I could make them, and yet sounding like thunder in the silence surrounding me. I was standing in the doorway again when I noticed something in the darkness. Or at least...I THOUGHT I had. It seemed like there was some kind of motion taking place, but it was much too dark to see. I rubbed my eyes to see what it was, then all of the sudden a huge black mass seperated itself from the blackness around it! Whatever it was, it was HUGE! The darkness slithered like a thick black liquid and swiftly dissappeared through one of the windows with a loud internal growl! The instant shock of it was enough to nearly give me a heart attack, and I stumbled back into the hallway, falling back against the wall.

"Justin!" A hand landed on my shoulder and I screamed, throwing myself down on the floor. "Whoah, whoah....what's the matter???" It was Gyro, looking almost as worried as I was.

"Jesus! You scared the living SHIT out of me!"

"HOW? I already told you I was up here. When it took you so long to reach the roof, I figured something must have happened to you or something. That's all." Gyro helped me up to my feet, and I looked back into the room. It was still dark inside, but a much more 'normal' darkness than it was a few moments ago. 'Normal' stillness. Whatever the hell that thing was...it had basically taken possession of that entire room and everything in it...including me. I certainly hope that wasn't one of US with the ability to do that. "You ok?" I didn't answer, my eyes still fixed on the window and trying to make some kind of sense of what I had just witnessed. "Justin...?"

I finally looked over at Gyro's concerned face. "Huh?"

"Are you ok?"

"Uh...yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."

"Good. Now get your ass up here to the roof, I wanna talk to you!" He giggled, and walked away to run up the last few flights of steps to the top. But as I stepped on the first stair, I looked back once again at the room, and wondered if that was the last time I'd be seeing that thing. Considering it might have called me by name...I don't think so.

I got to the roof and saw Gyro near the edge watching the glistening skyline of Chicago. He looked over his shoulder and then turned around, crossing his arms and giving me a sweet grin. "What?" I said.

"What? What do you MEAN 'what'?" He answered, his grin getting even bigger. "YOU, my friend, are some piece of work! The way you just handled yourself, the fighting, the running...I've NEVER seen anything like it! It was AWESOME!"

"Gyro...look...I know that you're a little surprised with what you saw tonight..."

"A little surprised??? Will you LISTEN to yourself? You were the fucking MAN out there!" Gyro shouted, unable to speak anymore without jumping around himself. He then began pretending that he was fighting off an invisible army all by himself, flailing his arms and kicking into the air. "You have GOT to show me some of that shit!"

He was playing around and grinning to himself, but stopped once I grabbed a hold of him to keep him still. "Listen, you can't tell ANYBODY about this, ok?"

Gyro's smile morphed into a look of confusion for a moment, and he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Say what?"

"I MEAN it! I'm supposed to be keeping this thing under wraps for right now."

"You're supposed to keep THAT under wraps??? What, are you fucking kidding me?" He exclaimed. I let him go and took a step away from him. "Dude...you're serious, aren't you?"

"None of this was supposed to happen. I was supposed to keep everything secret until I knew how to get a better grip on what was happening to me." I said.

"Justin...I'm not exactly sure if you were really paying attention, but what happened out there tonight...that was NOT something that could just be tucked away and kept secret. I mean...I know vampires three times your age that would WET THEIR PANTS if they saw what you did tonight! Trying to hide that is like trying to hide an elephant by throwing a blanket over it."

"Gyro, please? I'm asking you as a friend...please don't tell anyone what happened tonight. Ok? Promise me?"

"Justin...c'mon! This is something BIG! You can't just...." He started, but I interrupted him.

"JUST promise me, ok?" I said. The little boy in Gyro came to the surface again and pouted a bit as he wrestled with the idea of not being able to say anything to anybody. Then, he gave up.

"SIGHHH...fine! I promise. Geez, this is a really sucky thing to do to me. I was practically gonna through you a party over the whole event. You're asking an awful lot of me, you know that, right?"

"Yes." I smiled. "You just make sure that you don't open your mouth and everything will be fine."

"Whatever. C'mon, the sky's brightening up." He said, and began heading back for the door. Then, as he opened it, he stopped me, "It WAS pretty kick ass though!"

"Yeah....it was." I couldn't help it, I was still kind of proud of the whole thing. "Oh, what am I supposed to do about these?" I said, holding up my wrists to show that the silver cuffs were still attached.

"I'll grab some tools from Max's tomorrow night and get rid of them. Whatever you do, PLEASE don't let Bryson see 'em. He'll throw a fit."

"Trust me, I don't need the lecture anymore than you do." I replied. Then, out of nowhere, Gyro gave me a hug.

"Thanks...for coming back for me."

"Hey, you're 'family'. Right?" I broke the hug, and I saw a mischevious little gleam in his eye.

"So...does this mean you're gonna tell me the big secret now?" I gave him a look. "JUST me! I'm not going to say anything. Just tell me, ok? Really, it'll be our secret. Scout's honor."

"You're not a boy scout."

"But I could've been. You know, if it weren't for the whole 'kill people and drink their blood' thing."

"I don't think so, Gyro." And I squeezed passed him to get through the door.

"Come on, that's not fair! I told you about the whole 'chaser' thing. I was honest."

"YOU were drunk."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah...drunk, honest...what's the difference? The point is, I told you, right?" But I didn't answer. He'll just have to ponder that one for a while longer. He followed me down the stairs, his boyish voice cracking as he tried to convince me to tell. "Aw come on, Justin! Just a hint? A clue? Write it on a piece of paper...in CODE if you want....I'm good at codes. Justin? You SUCK man!"

As we walked the last few blocks to the lot, Gyro's constant chattering fading out of my current focus, I began to feel a bit of hesitation inside of me. My pace was getting slower and slower with every step it seemed. The fact is, I didn't know what I was going to find once I walked through that gate again. I didn't know how I was going to react when I looked into their eyes and thought about the lie that lived behind them. I was probably more hurt than I was angry, but make no mistake...the anger was definitely present. And as I saw my 'home' in the distance, it grew more intense. Subtley, but surely.

This close to dawn, everyone was getting ready to turn in, and I saw everyone moving to their respective areas of the lot. Dylan saying his prayers as usual, Kid climbing in to sleep next to Max, Dion calling for Napolean to hop into the truck and cuddle up on the floor of the passenger side seat. It was all so routine, so normal. It was like nothing had changed. But there was a stubborn part of me that refused to let go of the pain of being betrayed. A small chunk of emotional shrapnel that refused to unhook itself from my back.

As we came in, I saw Bryson looking on to make sure everyone got to bed and no one was left outside to burn in the morning sun, just in case the 'big sleep' had gotten a hold of them early. As our adopted father, it was his job to make sure Dylan's car light was always running so his fear of the dark didn't consume him before the sleep took hold of him. To make sure Jun's doors were locked so that he didn't sleepwalk out into the harsh UV rays the following day. To make certain Rain hadn't either run off, or left herself hanging someplace where she couldn't get down. He double and triple checked everything before going to bed himself. And I could see the sleep in his eyes, begging him to climb into his vehicle and pass out. But...through all of the yawns, the shuffled steps, the long stretches of his arms and back...Bryson never allowed himself to fall asleep before the lot was empty and everyone was accounted for. He was basically a camp counselor for the rest of us, and there was no question that he cared a great deal about our well-being.

But it wasn't until I saw him walking over to the van that I saw Taryn sitting outside waiting for me to come home. Jenna was sitting at his side, and the two of them were about to get Bryson's infamous 'lights out' warning any second. "Ok you two, inside. Dawn is upon us."

"I just need a few minutes, Bryson. Please? Justin should be back soon. I'm worried about him." Taryn replied. "He never stays out all night long. Not like this."

"He's with Gyro tonight, he'll be fine." Bryson said, extending a hand and helping Jenna to her feet. Which was practically a 'kind' way of saying 'get the hell out of here and go to bed'. "He knows the way home. They both do."

It was then that Jenna saw me and smiled, her face brightening up with the charm of a teen beauty pageant contestant. But this time, my reaction was different. For the first time since I had met her, I didn't smile back. I thought back to seeing her in front of the chilli dog place, sitting there with her, talking to her...and allowing her to keep that ever watchful eye on me. Just like Bryson and Taryn instructed her to do. As sweet as she seemed, she was just as bad as the rest. At that moment, all three of them looked like complete strangers to me, and that alone was enough to keep me from even pretending that everything was ok. Jenna must have noticed something off about me, because I saw her mood change to match my own, and I think it surprised her to experience what I was feeling. I wondered if she had a name for THIS emotion, if she had felt it before, or if this was something new. With a strange look, Jenna slowly leaned over to kiss Taryn on the cheek and walked off to go to sleep, occassionally looking back at me to see if she could figure out what was wrong. When she closed the door to her car, she passed out almost instantly.

Bryson was trying his best to stay awake for JUST a few minutes longer, and I saw him go back to his truck to sit on the hood until we were all out of sight and 'safe' from the daylight. Gyro and I walked in, and Taryn got up to greet us with a smile.

"So, did you guys have a good time?" His smile was flawless, his hair was perfect, his body was a slim and sexy example of teenage splendor...but it wasn't enough to mask the lie. The LIE! He reached up to touch my hair affectionately, but I pushed his hand away.

"DON'T..." I said sternly, and he looked both hurt and surprised simultaneously.

"What's wrong?" He asked, and Gyro stepped out of the picture, not wanting to get in the way of it all.

"What's wrong? You mean you don't know? Funny...I thought you guys knew 'everything' about me." I said coldly, staring him down.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Think about it." I turned to Gyro and asked, "Do you think I can stay with you tonight dude? I need a place to sleep." I don't think any other words I have ever spoken could have hurt Taryn more. I could almost feel his heart being hollowed out from the sour look of his eyes alone. It was a dig into his soul that he wasn't expecting that night, and it hurt. But GOOD for him! Now he knows how it feels.

Gyro was still trying hard not to stand in the middle between me and Taryn, and Bryson was a bit surprised himself at the notion. But with the sun rapidly approaching and our bodies shutting down into a state of involuntary hibernation, we didn't have much time left for arguments. I saw Bryson reluctantly nod his head in Gyro's direction, letting him know that it was ok. Probably the quickest way to solve the problem for right now, but I knew there would be questions later. Questions that I, technically, SHOULDN'T know the answers to. But for now, I just didn't think I'd be able to sleep next to someone who could so easily lie to me about what was going on in that place.

"Yeah...I suppose it's alright. Just for one night." Gyro said, and started off to the place Bryson had set up for his visit. Taryn looked over at me, with a genuine look of misery in those dazzling green eyes of his. And as the wind softly blew a few reddish brown strands of hair out of his eyes, I saw water welling up inside of them. Making them sparkle with an eerie beauty that had almost gotten lost in the storm of my internal temper tantrum.

Taryn looked sadly over at Bryson, hoping for some kind of answer. Some kind of absolution that would tell him whether this was all real or not. But Bryson could only nod knowingly, and cue him to turn around and just try to get some sleep. There was nothing else he could do. I think Taryn was a bit lost as to what to think or what to do or what to say, but he dropped his head and went inside the van, quietly closing the door behind him. I didn't want to feel guilty, not at all. And my angry mind didn't regret it at all. My heart, on the other hand, was ready to beat the shit out of me for causing Taryn a moment's pain. And knowing that he was hurting made me want to give up this stubborn pride of mine and forget the whole thing. It made me want to forget that Gyro had ever mentioned this whole situation and just go back to the way things were just yesterday.

There was no denying it...Taryn was the other half of me. And not because I loved him. Not because he loved me. But because our love for each other existed in such a perfect harmony that it had no choice but to grow with each passing day. His love was everything to me, my savior from the life I was so ready to leave behind. It was enough to make me give up half of my soul just to make him happy. Now...that half of me was gone, from both his life and mine. And I knew that I was going to be desperate to piece it back together again in no time. Even if I didn't let on right away.

Gyro's place was a bit cramped for two people, but it would do. As long as the windows were blacked out and the doors closed tightly, we should be safe. "You can't hate him forever. You know that right?" Gyro said, stripping down to his boxer briefs and getting into a sleeping bag on the back seat. I wasn't really attracted to him, nor would I have a chance if I was...but he had a reaaallly cute ass for such a young little brat. Hey, I'm GAY! I look at these things whether I want to admit it or not.

"Yeah...I know."

He snuggled into his makeshift bed pretty deeply, ready to lose consciousness. "If you ask me, I think you should talk to him."

"I didn't." I mumbled.

"Alright...ok...my bad. I'm just trying to make a point. Don't mind me."

There was a short silence, and then I sighed, letting the honest answer shine through. "I guess I just need to be mad at him for a while, you know?" I pouted.

"Well, just make sure that it's not a long while. Taryn loves you, Justin. I'll be honest, I don't think I've ever seen him happier than I have on this particular visit back to the lot. He's actually 'smiling' again. There was a time when I thought he'd be sitting out on that pier and crying his eyes out for the rest of eternity." I tried to block Gyro's voice out long enough to get to sleep, not wanting to cave in so easily. I didn't WANT to let this slide, damnit! I wanted to...to...I don't know! I wanted to do 'something'! Punish him and the others somehow for making me feel so...left out...and alone. I thought they were my friends. I shouldn't have been so damn gullable. "Listen..." He continued, "...I've had my share of the ladies, from one club to another. From one bed to another. Tall, short, skinny, fat, older, richer...whatever. But you only have maybe one or two 'Taryns' that come along in your lifetime. Someone who truly loves you inside and out and tells you outloud, even when he's shaking inside. Someone who will do anything for you, help you to grow, let you lean on his shoulder when you need to cry, make you laugh even harder when you've already started laughing on your own. There aren't as many quality fish in the sea as the world would like you to believe. It's a rare gift, being in love. Don't just give it up. Not for any reason. If you let your stubborn attitude come between you and you just throw away what you have, then I dare you to find better. Either one of you."

"I...I love him too." I whispered to myself.

"Good. Beautiful. Then stop holding that all inside and let him know that. That mark on your arm means something...something special. It represents a level of magic and wonder that some people spend their whole LIVES looking for. Remember that. Ok?"

"Yeah...I will." I looked over, possibly hoping to explain myself a bit more to Gyro so he'd understand. But those were the last words that was going to say for the night. The sleep took a hold of him instantaneously, and I watched as his body went cold and pale in front of my very eyes. The sun was obviously rising fast, and I noticed my feet going numb. Numb and cold. Then it spread up my calves to my knees, my thighs, and further. The frost of a vampire slumber began to crawl over my chest and quickly shoot down through my arms. My lips got cold, my eyelids so heavy that they slammed themselves closed, almost painfully. And in the last moments of my waking consciousness...I felt my mind slip away from me. As if it were falling into a void of total blackness and infinite cold. I knew that life wouldn't exist for me in any way, shape, or form, until the next evening when the life returned to my body and I became alert again. Such a peaceful sleep...a long...peaceful sleep.

How did it begin? I couldn't tell you. Dreams often seem to initiate themselves somewhere in the middle of a scenario, and yet appear to have an infinite history of events both before and after the point at which you become aware of it. This was no different. I found myself waking up in the middle of the lot, staring up at the night sky and noticing the beauty of a million stars looking down on me. As I sat up to check out my surroundings, I noticed the slightly artificial reality existing around me. As my head turned slowly from one side to another, I noticed small details changing around me. Nothing was stable, nothing was concrete. Was this a dream? A 'normal' dream?

It was so quiet, hardly a sound emanating from anywhere around me, not even my own footsteps as I walked forward. It didn't take long to realize that this entire world was somehow out of place. It was then that I heard a thunderous rumble bearing down on me from above. The sky was twisting itself turbulently, the stars swirling, the darkness trying to take some kind of shape. I stared at the swirling illusion above me, and a few moments later, it stopped. Everything was calm once again. Definitely a dream.

I walked past the van where Taryn and I usually slept, and saw an indented face in the side of it. A monsterous face, huge, looking almost like some kind of nightmarish metallic mask of some sort. The eyes seemed burned into the image, and the mouth was open in a horrific howl, jagged teeth looking sharp enough to bite through a solid diamond with little to no effort at all. I reached out a hand to trace my fingertips along the indentations, feeling the exquisite detail of it, every line traced out in metal. Then, as my finger glided its way down towards the mouth of the creature's imprint...a hand reached out and GRABBED me!!! Suddenly, ferociously, the face in the side of the van came to life, and five or six hands reached out from the metallic surface to grab a tight hold on me! The clawed fingers held me still, and they were attached to arms of bronze, swollen with muscles, tightened and molded into an almost animalistic shape. The face came alive and growled at me, it's strength overpowering me no matter what I did to fight it off and get free of its powerful grasp. I couldn't scream! The creature had somehow taken my voice away from me. And shortly after that, it had taken away my very WILL to scream for help at all. It felt like a venom was seeping into my very soul from the mere touch of this things, and it pulled me closer to it's sharpened fangs!

Then...all at once, as quickly as it had accosted me, it let go. First with one hand, then with two or three more. The creature howled, still trying to maintain its grip on my arms and legs, but it seemed to be losing its hold on reality somehow. As though it were becoming intangible despite its attempts to devour me whole. And I watched in silence as the creature's twisted visage vanished from the side of the van entirely, fighting to remain consistent with everything around me. Then...it was gone. As though it had never been there at all. I backed away from the van, fearful that it might make another attempt at getting its claws on me again, but I doubted that I would be able to stop it if it did. The sky above me rattled again, the stars swirling and repositioning themselves to display the creatures face once again. But it didn't hold. None of it would hold. The ground began to shake, the windows in the broken down cars around me began to explode, showering me with shards of glass...and the creauture's abominable shriek was coming from every corner. The sound was possessing the very wind around me. Someone....someTHING....was trying to force its way into my dreams! Something big!

I ran forward, avoiding the shockwave in close persuit behind me. And it was then that the very ground beneath my feet caved in, and the edges of the sunken Earth turned into fangs as the land transformed into the creature's mouth, attempting to swallow me up without a trace. A loud roar came from it's belly, and the world around me shook with violent tremors as I fell into it's gaping mouth. It was then that I saw the jaws begin to close up, with me inside, and I was consumed by complete...absolute...darkness...

My eyes sprung open quickly, and I sat up to allow reality to wrap itself around me again. This time, it wasn't some hysterical fit of tears and shouting taking control as I awoke. Just a slight tremble, and a disturbing realization. It was obvious now...there WAS something attacking me in my dreams, using my fears against me. The tapes that Tim had given me to ward it off were working just fine, but without being in the van with Taryn tonight I didn't have access to them. So whoever or whatever it was, it was trying to lock onto my mental frequency again. Trying to force it's way into my mind and send me spinning into another horrible nightmare. But it seemed to have some difficulty this time...as though it hadn't found the right entrance this time. It didn't have the control over my thoughts like it did the last few times. I couldn't really think of a reason why it couldn't break the barriers into my dreams, but whatever it was that held it back, it wouldn't delay this creature for long. I needed some more help with this, and fast.

At least I had gotten almost a full day's sleep this time around. Usually the nightmares wake me up HOURS before the sunset and I'm stuck trying to find something to occuppy my time for the long hours ahead. Even when I was being creative, it was a hard task to keep from being bored whle stuck inside of the van. In Gyro's cramped little space...I imagine it would have been 100 times worse. But it was only an hour, maybe less, before his body began to come to life again for the night. The color returned to his cheeks, the stiffness of his body melted away, and his arms began to move as he took a long cat-like stretch in the back seat. He cracked his neck a bit before opening his eyes and greeting me with a dizzy grin. "Hey..." he said, voice still a bit hazy. "I hope you weren't too uncomfortable up there. I know this isn't neccessarily the Hilton penthouse suite."

"Don't sweat it. I slept just fine." I sat further forward, and tried to peek through the opaque paint covering the windows, trying to make sure that no traces of sunlight remained before trying to open the car door. "What time is it?"

"About 7, I guess. I don't know for sure though." Gyro started rummaging through his little duffle bag to find a 'fashionably ragged' pair of jeans, and he slipped them on over his completely hairless legs. Sometimes, you really couldn't tell if he was the boy he appeared to be, or the adult he resembled most of the time. He almost didn't fit into his own body. It was like he had outgrown it mentally, but could still use it to have a little childish fun when he needed to. The look was extremely deceiving 90 percent of the time.

I decided to take a chance and just open the door. My legs were tired of being curled up underneath me all night anyway. The slight chill of the evening wind blew throughout the car the second I opened the door, and I took a shaky step or two outside. I felt my back crack a little as I stood up straight, and I twisted back and forth a bit to get rid of the kinks my muscles had developed during the day. Gyro followed me out shortly after, dressed for what looked like another endless night at the club. That kid was always looking for SOME kind of excitement. Something tells me that 50 years from now, nothing will have changed.

I saw Doc roll by in his wheelchair, and he approached me with his usual sweet smile and neverending cheerful mood. "What's up? You sleeping around now?" He joked, but I didn't break a smile.

"No...just considering changing address. That's all." I said bitterly, and walked away. It was weird how quickly the anger returned once I realized that I was going to have to see Taryn and the rest again tonight. But what was even more strange was the fact that I no longer knew what was holding onto that anger anymore. Pride? Stubborness? A need to make him feel bad, for just a little while? Teach them all a lesson about all this? I don't know. But no matter what I felt and what I knew was right...the aggravation of it all held it's grond, and firmly dug its claws deeper into me with every step I took towards the clearing in the center of the yard.

Sure enough, Taryn was waiting anxiously to talk to me as soon as I came around the corner. No smile this time, no attempt to touch me or give me his angelic good morning kiss. In fact, he seemed to approach me with a certain amount of caution. Looking to see if I was still acting as strange as I was the night before. "Hi..." He said, just above a whisper.

I hardly made eye contact at all, "Hello." I watched as Taryn took a step closer, not quite sure how to talk to me at that moment. But then again, how COULD he be. I wasn't sure myself. All I knew was that somewhere deep inside, underneath the need to make him regret keeping secrets from me...was a voice screaming for him to say whatever beautiful words it would take to make me fall for him all over again.

"I...uh...I brought you some clothes to wear out of the van." He was searching, waiting. Waiting for me to give him a hug and tell him it's ok. Waiting for me to explode and tell him I hate him. Who knows what it was it exactly? But after I didn't say anything other than an emotionless 'thanks' for the clothes, he decided to give me another mental nudge. "I figured...you'd probably need them...you know, after sleeping over at Gyro's and all..."

I didn't give him much satisfaction as far as an answer or explanation were concerned. "Thanks. That's nice of you." And I walked around him to go off and sit somewhere alone for a while. I just needed time to think.

"Justin...I need to talk to you." Bryson said, but I didn't even stop walking. Afterall, he WAS the 'ringleader' of the whole offense.

"Not now." I passed Jun and Max on my way to a corner of the clearing, and just sat there on the ground, leaning up against an old rusted engine. I sighed to myself, doing everything I could to block out the madness around me. But just as I would start to feel like I could maybe just finish the rest of my probation time being chased around town and living under Bryson's microscope...I would lift my head to see them all sneaking glances over at me. All of them wondering exactly what the hell was going on with me all of the sudden. Wondering why I wasn't going out or anything. Wondering why I wasn't talking to anybody. Then, the fury would re-ignite itself inside of me, and I'd shut their concern for me out completely. Then....the circle would start all over again.

"You seem down tonight." JESUS! The voice came from RIGHT next to me and I nearly jumped out of my skin! I shot my head over to the right of me, and there was Dylan sitting next to me. "I'm...I'm sorry. Did I scare you?" He trembled slightly, his voice shaking as he shyly mumbled the words.

"Yeah, actually, you did." How the hell did he manage to sit down next to me without me knowing? I swear, I'll never figure these people out.

"I didn't mean to. It just turns on by itself sometimes." Whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.

"Look...I came ove here to be by myself, ok? Why don't you go over and bug somebody else for a while?" I don't know if he took the hurtful comment to heart, or if he was just respecting my wish for privacy, but when I looked over at him he just looked down at his feet. Not saying another word. I turned my head to look in the opposite direction so I wouldn't have to look him in the eye. But something made me feel guilty about being so rude. So I turned to apologize. "I'm sorry, Dylan, ok? I just need..." But he was already gone. As though he had vanished into thin air. I guess the damage had already been done. Sigh...if I actually do decide to keep my mouth shut and just let them go on thinking I'm oblivious to what's going on..this is going to be a VERY long few weeks indeed.

I sat alone in that corner for the next twenty minutes without anyone bothering me. I guess Dylan had spread the word that I was going to be somewhat untouchable for a while. At some point, Gyro had managed to sneak off to whatever rave was burning the brightest that evening. He had just as much of a knack for dodging troublesome situations as he did personal questions. I'm pretty sure he knew that Bryson would be giving him the third degree about my behavior, and I don't think he wanted to deal with it just yet. My guess was that he was going to be gone until bedtime again, just to avoid the inevitable verbal lashing he was sure to get for letting certain secrets slip out. I didn't blame him. If I wasn't being 'watched' every second of the evening, I'd probably slip away myself. Hell...if I decided to just hop up and dart into the city at top speed, there would be no way that they could keep up with me anyway. It would be easy to 'escape' from under their radar. But where would I go? What would I do? What would my ultimate freedom be worth if I'm just now realizing that I never had any to begin with? I guess the best thing for me right now would be to pout it out in this corner and just try not to make things any worse. Otherwise, Bryson would put me on an ever tighter leash and my whole existence would be on lockdown. I can't believe how much this sucks.

Another few moments went by in silence, as I preoccupied myself with watching a beetle courageously marching back and forth in a wave like pattern. It was better than looking at the other members of our little group. Especially Trevor, who has taken to making every deep french kiss with Michael a very public exhibition. I assume in an attempt to show everyone that he was happy and in love. But the emotions I read from him were cold, and I knew that it wasn't true. Still, it got to be irritating after a while. I knew that it would either keep happening or get even worse as long as Gyro's presence was there. The show was for him afterall. Then again, I guess it's better for that conflict to keep Trevor distracted and focused on other things. Because once he remembers that he's supposed to be basically blackmailing me into teaching him what I know...he'll be breathing down my neck all over again. That was a problem I REALLY didn't need.

It was Dion who walked over to talk to me next. I suppose that they were taking turns trying to figure me out now. Whatever, I just didn't care at this point. "It's not like you to stay all locked up in this dingy place all night. No big plans? No parties?" He asked. I looked up at his face, the friend who first opened up to me, the one to make me feel like I belonged. His eyes captured mine with a gaze that gave away his concern for how I was acting, but I just looked away.

"No. I don't." I said under my breath, and looked back down at the ground.

"You sure? Lots of stuff to get into out there." His fake smile looked genune enough, but the emotion behind it, much like Trevor's display of affection, was missing.

"I just want to sit here, ok?" I said, and he looked down at me to see if he could get me to talk. "ALONE..." It wasn't that he didn't get the hint, he just ignored it. He wasn't about to run off as easily as Dylan had. Dion was always a bit more thick skinned.

"Listen, I don't know what's bothering you or why you've suddenly decided to put up a force shield around yourself tonight. Frankly, I'm hoping that you'll just talk to me about it whenever you feel like getting that big chip off of your shoulder." He squatted down to look me in the eye, "But a few of us are going out tonight for something important...I think you should come."


"It's a part of our culture, of who we are as a society. It's a part of this life that I think you need to learn at some point. I figure there's no better time than the present. You should go. Even if you don't wanna talk to any of us the whole time."

I can't deny it. The idea intrigued me a bit. "Well...what is it?" I tried to keep my voice low and monotone, so as not to let on that I was interested in what he was offering.

"There's a bunch of names for it, really. A 'Release', an 'Awakening', a 'Sun Quest'...it depends on where you're from and who you talk to. But basically it's a vampire funeral." Dion said, still perched up on his knees in front of me.

"Gee...THAT sounds like a real fun time."

"Actually it is. Consider it a 'living' wake. It's a small celebration...something so we can get the chance to say goodbye in person."

I was a bit confused. "I don't...I don't think I understand. This person, they're still alive?"

"Most definitely. There's only two ways for a vampire to die, Justin. Starvation...and sunlight. Now starvation is a pretty painful process and believe me, nobody actually WANTS to go that way. But...when you go on a Sun Quest...you're basically giving yourself over into another world. It can be a beautiful thing for some...a not so beautiful thing for others. But it is a part of who you are now, and I think you might learn a few things if you go." Dion stood up, and I kept my eyes down on the ground, relocating the beetle and going back to my silent supervision of its journey. "I can't force you to go, Justin. But if you WANT to join us...we'll be leaving in a few minutes. Be at the gate, or stay here by yourself and sulk. It's up to you." And with that, Dion walked away.

Not even my once impenetrable attitude could keep me from at least being curious about such a thing. I tapped my foot a little, sighed to myself, and looked up to see a few of us gathering at the front gate. Taryn included. I could have resisted and kept my defensive position right there in the corner of the lot, but I have to admit...I wanted to see whatever it was Dion was talking about. So, after a long pause and wrestling with my thoughts a bit more, I got up on my feet and brushed the dirt off of myself. Then I marched over to the gate in silence like a five year old who was denied his dessert. It made Dion smile a bit to see me join the rest of the group, but the look on my face let him know right off the bat that this was not breaking my mood. Just postponing it momentarily. Besides, anger is quite portable and I can carry it anywhere.