Almost instantly, from the second my head hit the pillow and my eyes closed, I fell int somewhat of a trance. An instant dream state, that sapped the remaining energy out of my body and rendering me unconscious in every possible way. I saw myself standing on the edge of a mountain, overlooking a deep valley of trees and lakes. There was no sound except for the wind around me. None. Not even my own heartbeat. I stood motionless in that silence, wrapped in a thick fog, feeling the cool crisp air raising goosebumps on my arms and legs. And somehow, I noticed that the others were there with me. All of them. Sebastian, Kristin, Scout, Dexter, Kriegar, John Boy, and the twins. And in that silence, I felt Cyrus walk up silently behind me. And with a slightly tilted grin, he lightly stepped forward, and rested his hands on my shoulders. He just held me still, not moving, not speaking. And I felt a unity and a level of peace that I had never known before. It was like being a single brick in the sturdy structure of an immovable wall. Together...we were strong. And I never wanted to leave that comfort again.

Suddenly...that silence was shattered by the increasingly loud sound of screaming in the background. I could hear it, clear as day. And my body began to tremble, then shake, then shake violently...and I was ripped out of my comfort completely.

"WAKE UP!!!" I heard, and a hard slap hit my face as I was jerked out of my dream with someone shaking me and shouting. My instincts struggled to get free and my arms began flailing wildly at my attacker, my eyes not yet fully adjusted to the light. Something held my arms down at my sides, and shouted my name. "WESLEY!!!"

I came to my senses, and took a moment or two to focus. My breathing was heavy and labored, but I tried to regain my grip on reality. My eyes looked forward, and I was still laying on my bed. But it was night time. How could it be night time? I had only been laying here for a few minutes. I could have sworn...I mean...I thought I might sleep for an hour, maybe an hour and a half tops. But looking at the clock, over seven hours had passed in a single blink, and I didn't even know it. My father was holding me down, his giant hands pinning my arms to the mattress. And behind him, I saw my mother, worried and nearly in tears, a phone in her hand. "'s ok. He's awake. He just woke up..." She said into the phone. "Yes, thank you. We'll keep an eye on him. Thank you so much."

Nick was standing in the room, holding the puppy, looking just as worried as the rest of them. Then, much to my surprise, my father lifted me up and gave me a tight hug. It was almost...affectonate. And then he let me go as I looked over my 'audience' and tried to figure out what happened. "What's going on?" I said groggily.

"What's going on?" My father said. "We've been trying to wake you up for fifteen minutes now. You scared us half to death."

"Fifteen minutes? What are you talking about?" My body hadn't fully recovered from being yanked out of its peace so viciously, my arms and legs still numb from the shock of it all.

"Wesley...Wes, look at me." He demanded. I saw him searching my eyes for a moment. "Are you on drugs? Is that what this is?"

I laughed at the idea. "Oh man, you have GOT to be kidding me..." I gave a sarcastic chuckle, but he grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me again.

"I'm not playing a GAME here, boy! Are you on DRUGS?"

I felt an intense anger build up in me. A strength. A defiance. What the hell have I ever done to this man to think that I'd do something as stupid as using drugs in the middle of a freaking Bible Camp? Do I seem like the kind of person who would do that? Huh? Do I go stealing money out of Mom's purse? Do I stay out all night partying with potheads and alcoholics? What exactly makes him think that I somehow found a drug dealer out here in the middle of the goddamn woods?

"ANSWER ME!!!" He shouted. I looked him directly in the eye, and with my teeth gritted, I answered him.

"No....I'm NOT on drugs." And after a harsh stare at one another, he let me go.

Did he even believe me? Who knows? I found myself caring less and less if he believed me or not. Afterall, he was impossible to impress at any level. So why try? "Ok, he's alright. Nick, you get your shoes on and get ready." My dad began to usher Nick and the puppy out of the room, and my mother came in to give me a hug.

"Are you sure you're alright, sweety?"

I had to calm down. But my blood felt like it was running hotter than ever. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I just...I don't know what happened." I told her. "I remember being out on the hiking trail, and I came home to take a shower...and then...I sorta remember layng down, but..."

"We're going to get you in to see the camp nurse tomorrow. Ok? I want her to take a look at you."

I honestly didn't think all of that was necessary. But I could tell from the look in her eyes that I really didn't have much choice in the matter. I don't think I've ever seen her so worried. Her cheeks even retained some of their crimson blush from the tears that were starting just moments ago. My father had been shaking me for fifteen minutes and I felt nothing. I heard nothing. What the hell is going on with me? God, I hope this isn't some kinda STD or something from Cyrus and the others. Jesus...the way they get around, it probably is. STUPID! I never should have done it! I should KNOW better than to go off and start screwing around 'unprotected' with somebody I hardly knew! What if I go to the nurse and she finds it? Then what? What do I tell my parents?

"Helen?" My father peeked his head in. "We should get ready." My mom smoothed my hair out a bit, and gave me a loving kiss on the forehead before getting up to leave. My father gave me a suspicious look, before saying, "Splash some water on your face and get yourself together."

"Where are we going?"

"Evening prayer. We're all going. There was an accident at a diner nearby. We're going to pray for their family's comfort in their time of need." He said, and looked me over once again. I thought maybe he was going to say something nice. Like, 'I'm glad you're ok', or 'I'm sorry I hit you'. But the most I could get out of him was, "We'll be waiting out in the car." Somehow, that didn't do the trick in making me feel better.

I got out of bed, and took a big long stretch, feeling my body pop and crack from the extended hibernation. I rubbed my eyes a few times, and patted my hair down a bit. It only took a couple of minutes to get dressed, but as I walked to the bathroom to wash my face and check the mirror, I stopped in midstep. I remembered that horrible monster in my reflection, and wondered...would it still be there? I moved slowly into the bathroom, reaching out as far as my arm would allow to turn the lights on before stepping a single foot inside. I crept closer to the mirror, and peeked around the edge of it. Just enough to look my reflection in the eye, and I reached out to touch it again, just to make sure. It was ok. Everything was ok.

I heard the honking of a horn outside, my father trying to rush me, so I washed my face with cool water and fixed my hair so I could go out. I wonder if my dad saw the scratch marks on my back while I was asleep. I didn't have a t-shirt on or anything. I hope not. I really don't have the enrgy to deal with that nonsense. Besides, I haven't thought up a good excuse for that yet. I hope the nurse doesn't see it. I'll do my best to keep my shirt 'on' the whole time if I go in for a check up. I guess I should be happy to see her though. I haven't been feeling like myself lately.

More honks of the horn, and I turned off the bathroom light and left, trotting outside to meet up with the rest of the family and head out. The car ride was a short one, but uncomfortably quiet. Even Nick, who was usually chattering away with his little boy voice and swinging his feet, was just content to look out of the side window and keep silent. Were they STILL worried about me not waking up? I mean, geez, let it go. I'm fine already. My dad blows so much stuff out of proportion. Fifteen minutes? Psh! Probably a gross exaggeration if I know him.

We went in to the small Cathedral that they had there, and there were flowers and candles lit around two framed photos up at the front. I couldn't really see them from where we were sitting, but I was almost afraid to look too closely. I didn't wanna see them. I didn't want to recognize the faces in those pictures. Because if I would place me right at the scene of a situation that I wanted NO part of whatsoever.

I felt a tingling in my senses, and felt myself being watched. I turned my head to the left to see Freddy glancing over at me from across the room. He gave me a small bashful wave, knowing that he would never be able to get close to me with my father right next to me. But I didn't look away from him. I held the eye contact for a bit longer, and felt the building tension in his heart as he struggled to make sense of it. It was like...he was afraid to stare back at me. Afraid to give away any of that emotion for fear that I would catch on. He wanted me, but didn't want me to know. And something about that growing fear inside him...aroused me. It made me think about something that Cyrus once said to me, about the restrictions and the suppression giving him a rush. I think I know what he means. I excited him, and it made me feel...elevated. Sexy. And it gave me a thrill to think that I could tease him with just a taste...until he was too wild for it to hold back anymore.

I smiled at him. It was unlike any smile that I had ever given another human being. It felt wicked. Sinful. But alive. And I could almost inhale the scent of his desire. His skin looked so soft, so feminine, so clean, so warm. To just drag my tongue across the inside of his thigh would be orgasmic. Travelling slowly, further and further up those long smooth quivering legs, feeling the increase in temperature as I reached the nexus where they come together, and licked the underside of that soft sweet sack....

The sound of a piano and Mrs. Henstridge's piercing voice is what brought me back into focus as she started off a hymn. Just as well, I was losing myself in one of those weird fantasies again. Anyway, this is Freddy we're talking about. He never really 'did it' for me before. So why now? I've gotten weird in the last few days. Seriously weird.

Finally, before leaving the memorial service, they had everyone come up to the front to pay their respects in a single file line before leaving the church. As my parents stood up and started walking, I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I didn't want to go up there. I didn't want to look. But as the crowd began to line up and walk closer and closer to the front, I was swept along with them. Why are we even doing this? I didn't know them. Hardly anybody here knew them. I don't want to look at their picture. Besides...if I did look, and it was them, what's that gonna prove? Huh? It doesn't mean that they killed them. It doesn't mean that I helped. Does it? So what am I worried about? It's probably not even the same father and daughter. It's probably somebody else entirely. I'm sure of it. I'm not worried. I'm fine. Yeah....I'm fine.

My mind was racing the entire walk to the front, and when we finally got there, I looked down at the ground. I didn't focus on the picture frames at all. But as we passed by them, the scent of candle wax heavy in the air, my curiosity got the better of me. So....I took a glance. A little one. And sure was them. The man from the diner and his daughter. Instead of a greasy t-shirt and a pot belly, he was dressed in a US Navy uniform, and he was much younger in the picture. But I could tell it was him. And his daughter was dressed in a long pink nightgown in her pic, holding a single rose, and smiling for the camera. My eyes were fixed on them, and that nauseating feeling in my stomach got worse. Much worse. I was glad that we were moving the line towards the door, because I seriously needed some air. What if they did it? What if they killed those people? What if Cyrus.....? Wait....wait, that doesn't make any sense. I mean, they're kids. Cyrus was probably the oldest, and he was maybe 16 tops. They may be a little spoiled, perhaps even a bit unruly...but murderers? Actual murderers? That doesn't seem likely. That's fiction. Besides, everybody says that they died in a fire. None of us set a fire. It just happened. It was just some crazy coincidence that happened, and now it's over. So I can officially let it go and start thinking logically again. Right? Right. Good. Consider it done with.

As we left the building, I took a deep breath and let the cool evening air calm and relieve me. My father, with mom at his side, went to speak to some of the family members that came to the service that night. And Nick wandered off somewhere to playfully chat with some of the other camp kids. Leaving me alone for a bit with my thoughts. Heh...murderers. Psh...monsters. Ridiculous. I think I let my imagination run away from me sometimes.

But then...just as soon as I was feeling comfortable with my own vision of what 'sanity' was again...I felt a familiar pull on my senses. Ever so gentle, but it demanded my attention. It was a feeling like walking out of the house and suddenly realizing that you left your keys on the kitchen counter. A giant bubble that expands in your mind as the realization hits you, and the idea becomes concrete enough for you to ponder it. That mental pull caused me to look over to my left, away from the crowd of campers and mourners, and out into the darkness behind the next lodge. There, sitting on a log, were four dark figures. I couldn't make out their features, but I could tell exactly who they were, where they were sitting, and how long they had been there. I could just feel it in my gut. And they never said a word.

Kristin and John Boy sat on a large fallen tree in the middle, Shank and Razor as their living book ends. I noticed them instantly. And they knew I had seen them. I could practically see John Boy's smirk from where I was standing. Razor lit up a match, and watched it slowly burn before putting the small flame in his mouth and extinguishing it...blowing the smoke out with a gleeful shiver. They were doing more than just watching me. They were waiting.

I looked behind me at the rest of the crowd, and saw my family not paying me any attention as usual. My father played his role as the trusted minister, my mom played his loyal wife, and my brother was engaged in his happy little 'Leave It To Beaver' spotlight at the moment. The rest of the crowd seemed to just blend into this bland picture of familiarity. The same old faded garbage. What is it about Cyrus and his crew that made everyone else so insanely mediocre?

I looked back to the four shadows ahead of me, and quietly walked away from the rest of the people in front of the church. As I got closer and closer to them, I could feel a strange new sensation inside of me. It was as if their very presence energized me. Made me whole and complete again. With every step, our auras seemed to mix into this stronger substance that blanketed us all with this increased confidence and strength. Apart from them, I felt divided. Alone. But not now. Right now, I felt as though I had a small army in my presence. And while my mind hadn't learned exactly what that meant just felt good. It felt really good.

I stood in front of them as Razor lit up another match, and tossed it down at my feet. I didn't give him the satisfaction of even giving him a dirty look, I merely stepped down and snuffed out the flame while he was still watching it. "What do you want?" I mumbled.

"Funny, I was going to ask you the same thing." John Boy smiled.

"What are you even doing here?"

"We heard there was an 'accident'..." Kristin answered. "...We came to pay our respects."

The twins giggled in unison from either side of them, and John Boy stood up and stepped forward. "How have you been feeling lately? When we last saw you, you were struggling with a bit of a fever. I take it that it's getting better?"

"I just want you to know that I'm going to the nurse tomorrow. And if I find out that you guys gave me an STD or something, I'm ratting you out!"

All four of them burst out laughing, jolting me a bit, but then making me angry. John Boy had to reach out and hold onto my shoulder to keep from doubling over. "Hahahaha! Oh...oh Wesley...I promise you...what we gave you was FAR from an STD, boy!" He had to lift his sunglasses for a moment to wipe a few tears from his eyes. " certainly ARE entertaining!"

"You know what? Fuck you. Fuck you all. And stop following me. I don't wanna see you again." I turned my back on them and started walking.

But by the time I looked up, the twins were already standing there in front of me, still smiling. I looked back, and saw John Boy and Kristin back by the log by themselves. What the...? How the hell did they...? "Wesley, come on, babe. Why don't you come back over and talk to us for a minute or two. It'll make you feel better, trust me." Kristin called to me, her eyes sparkling dimly with a light all their own, and she leaned back on her hands to flash me a supermodel smile. The twins were guarding my 'escape route', and they watched and waited for me to move even an inch in their direction. Just looking at them I could feel their tension, their feet digging into the earth beneath them. Ready to run and maneuver as fast as they had to in order to catch me if I made a break for it. Something tells me, I wouldn't get far. I looked back at John Boy, and he gave me a nod, patting the space on the log beside him. Reluctantly, I moved closer to them, feeling that energy envelope me again. Flooding my insides and invading my secrets with ease. Are they doing this on purpose? Or is it just something they radiate subconsciously? Who knows?

As I sat down on the log, I looked to see both Shank and Razor sitting in their appropriate positions once again, without any sound or notice of movement. I should have felt extremely uncomfortable with them, especially after the incident at the diner, the escape at Rainbow's End, and the threat that Cyrus made to me on the front porch of the cabin last night. But the truth is...I didn't. I didn't fidget, I didn't squirm, nothing. These four were my...dare I say it...'family'. I know that sounds crazy. It was crazy to even think it at the time. But the truth of the matter is, whatever warm feeling I got inside when Nick was being adorable, or when my mother kissed me good night and tucked me in...I felt that same connection with them. But it was stronger somehow. My mother and brother's love, while unconditional and sweet...there was no real 'protection' in it. No real freedom. I couldn't even be sure if they loved ME...or if it was some strange picture they had of who I was. But Cyrus and the their presence, I was untouchable. I knew it. I felt it. I had no doubt that they would battle the angels themselves if they tried to take me away. I felt like they 'knew' me, and they 'wanted' me, and they encouraged me to do new things. Things I never would have thought of before. They challenged me, and trusted me to be myself without worrying if I was suddenly going to fly off the handle and become some kind of degenerate. I don't know what it was...but I don't think I've ever had a family that I could feel more connected with.

"You realize....the more you fight, the more miserable you're going to feel?" John Boy said, leaning over to sing it softly into my ear.

"You guys just can't seem to take no for an answer, can you?"

"Oh come on, Wesley. Don't play that stubborn game with me." He smiled. "Be honest with us. Be honest with yourself. Your situation is suffocating you and the beautiful person that you are. All it does numb your natural instincts and cause you to be ashamed for what you already know is right. At least for you." John Boy's voice was quiet, it was calm, but he was pushing harder than ever before. It was a gentle, but constant, pressure that created a fire in your belly and made you want to believe him. But...this was just crazy. He was literally asking me to abandon my life and run away with Cyrus and the others to live in a run down shack in the middle of the woods. Does he have any idea how insane that sounds?

"This....just....none of this makes any sense anymore." I sighed.

"It doesn't HAVE to make sense. It never made any sense in the first place. Be didn't have any answers, did you?"

"I had a FEW...maybe."

"Bullshit." He grinned. "What exactly where you gonna do for the rest of your natural life? Huh? Hide out in your room? Never date anybody? Never have sex? Work as a volunteer altar boy until you were 75 years old? Exactly what big revelation were you going to have that was going to free you from a life of being your father's second best child?"

I have to admit, it kinda stung when he said it. My heart felt the impact, and I was left wondering....what WAS I going to do in the long run?

Kristin spoke up, "He's got a point, you know? You're hardly the kinda guy to suddenly join the church." And the twins chuckled again in stereo.

John Boy moved closer to me, putting an arm on my shoulder. "You know...after you live with sacrifice and agony for so long, you become a victim of your own emotional addictions. Sooner or later, you'll be just like the rest of them. Justifying their own hypocrisy. Giving reason to the pain and suffering in their own lives. Letting the power of original thought and inspiration get overwhelmed by the power of routine and comfort. Over and over again. Until they're too old and tired to change their minds about it anymore. And then you'll sit on the front step of that same cabin and put your dentures in a napkin while gumming mushed corn and wondering what your life could have been like if you ever had the guts to live it the way you WANTED to live it."

I turned my head to look at John Boy, and as if he could see the smirk on my face, he began to giggle playfully while patting me on the back. I couldn't help but snicker myself. "You paint a pretty picture, John Boy, you know that? Hehehe!"

"Must be my inner vision." He joked. I watched as Razor lit up two or three matches at once and dreamily gazed at it as it burned brightly. Then, as if beyond his control...he slowly stretched his arm out a bit and let the flames lick gently at a near branch of the log that we were sitting on. The wood blackened slightly as it caught fire, and John Boy turned his head to the side to address him with a serious tone. "Razor...." I watched the twin snap out of his daze and pout slightly as he used his hand to pat out the flame. "...Thank you." He said softly, turning his head in my direction and letting the smile return to his face. "Some quirks can not go unchecked." Quirks and all, at least they were comfortable in their own skin. The way I wish I was. I looked back out at the crowd in front of me, with my father still chatting away, not even noticing that I was gone. Thank goodness that it was too far and too dark for him to see me sitting here with my friends. I doubt he'd understand. John Boy could feel my discomfort, rubbing a circle on my back to break my silence. "It wouldn't be as hard as you think it would, Wes. Just walking away from it all. It will be soooooo easy once you discover that they can't provide you with the respect and love that you deserve."

"And you can?" I asked.

"All that and more. All you have to do is say yes." He traced his fingers down the center of my back, and I felt those few chosen scratch marks flare up slightly, reacting to his sensual touch. "Come on, Wes...what is it that's so special about your life that you aren't willing to change or lose it?"

Looking at that crowd of people, not having a single thing in common with any one of them...I answered with the truth. "Nothing."

There was a pause between us all while I pondered what I had just said. Outloud, no less. And that warmth, that inspiring aura of energy seemed to sink even deeper into my soul. Settling into my emotions like a parasite, but feeding me instead of stealing the nourishment away from me. I never felt so open. Why should I feel like this...around THEM especially? Then John Boy said, "Why don't we go back to the house? Cyrus would love to see you again."

"I'll bet." I scoffed.

"Cyrus can seem cruel and mean from time to time, and he will do what needs to be done to keep order among the rest of us...but he doesn't want to hurt you, Wes. None of us do. We need you." He told me. I kept staring forward, and he slid into another approach. "Dex misses you. You're all he talks about...and that boy talks a LOT." He giggled. "Even Sebastian misses you. I've never seen him miss anybody before. It's quite frightening if you ask me."

"I'll tell you what? If you can get Scout to miss me, I'll think about coming back." I smiled.

"How about I walk across the surface of the lake in a thunderstorm without geting wet? It might be just as easy." He smiled back.

Another silence fell between us, and I kept my eyes forward...watching my little brother laughing and playing as if the rest of the world didn't matter. He hadn't really reached the point yet of confusion, or searching for an identity that may or may not be 'socially acceptable'. He wasn't old enough to be worried about the 'why' of his existence, nor did he have to face it with every moral fork in the road ahead of him. It was pure. Still untouched...even at eleven...where that purity was almost at its end. I envied that boy. I really did. I stared out at that field, and it gave me a level of focus that reminded me of myself. And kept my sanity in tact. That's when I stood up from the log, brushed myself off, and told them, "Listen...I appreciate the offer and all. guys can be a lot of fun. But I've got a family. And responsibilities. I've got a life, you know?"

"You can have another one." Shank said.

"A better one." Razor added.

"Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that I've got to find happiness with what I've got for right now. Ok?" I said, and the others sighed with a smirk. As though I still didn't get it. But I stood my ground regardless. "I don't think I'm gonna fit in with you guys like you think I will."

"Oh, I don't know about that, Wesley..." John Boy grinned. "...I think you might just fit in better than you think. In fact, in the next day or so...this 'life' of yours that you're so protective of? It's gonna look a whole lot different. Trust me." John Boy stood up as well, and the others joined him in unison. It was always so eerie the way that they all seemed to share the same basic train of thought without speaking a word to each other. John Boy walked up to me, and leaned forward to place a kiss on my cheek. I instinctively jerked away from him, hoping to God that nobody in the camp saw that. And that only made his demonic smile brighten. "Did you do that for yourself....or for them?" He whispered. And backed up a step or two. "I think you're really going to LIKE being 'better' than average."

"Hey Wes!" I heard the voice coming from behind me, and looked over my shoulder to see my brother Nick running over with his hands cupped together. "Mark and Jeffrey found a baby frog. Check it out!" He stood beside me, and looked up at the others with his angelic smile almost bright enough to reflect off of their faces. "What's up?" He said. His cheerfulness was contagious, especially when he was trying to look 'cool' in front of new faces. But as I looked back at the others, I felt a chill run through me. They eyed him with smirks on their faces, resembling the grin of a hungry hyena near an unguarded piece of meat. And as I remembered who they were...I suddenly didn't want Nick anywhere near them.

"And who might you be?" John Boy asked, leaning forward a bit.

"Nick. Wes is my brother." I don't know what it was, but some inner instinct told me to protect him. I stuck out my arm and secretly kept Nick from getting too close. He was the kind of boy that treats every stranger like a long lost uncle, and these weren't the kind of people I wanted trying to get into his head. Funny...all these years, and I don't think I've ever felt so protective of him before.

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you Nick."

"Indeed." The twins said.

I looked over at Kristin, and she looked my young brother up and down, licking her lips. I could almost see a seductive sway in her stance from her arousal. And I felt my arm gently touch Nick to push him a half step behind me. It was subtle, but I know that they noticed. "Hey cutie." She said.

"Hi." Nick had the tiniest flutter in his voice, and he smiled. This connection only caused me to push him back a half step further. "Hey, do you wanna see the baby frog?" He offered to John Boy.

"Hehehe, I'm afraid I can't, Nick." He lifted his glasses to show the mirrored contacts in his eyes.

"Cooooool!" Nick said, stepping out from behind me again while I moved to catch him. "Where'd you get em?"

"I had someone make them. Just for me." Then he smiled. "Do you want a closer look?"

"SURE!" Before I could stop him, Nick had sped his way around me and out of my arm's reach. I looked back over at Kristin, who was now almost in a fever, standing with her arms folded and using two fingers to gently rub circles around her left nipple. She smiled at me when I noticed, and tilted her head to the side as if daring me to object. Nick's hands were twitching as he fought the urge to actually 'touch' John Boy's eyes with his finger. But John Boy simply held his eyes open wide enough for Nick to see his reflection. "That is so sweet!"

"Why, thank you." He grinned. Then stood up straight again. "I like your brother, Wes. He's definitely got your enthusiasm for life." He truned Nick around to face me, and put his hands on the boy's small shoulders. I felt a surge of insult rise up in me, and the four of them silently taunted me with my brother in their arms. "You know, Nick...your brother here is a really cool guy. He knows how to have fun."

"Psh! Whatever!" Nick giggled.

", it's true. You'd be surprised just how 'fun' he could be." John Boy smiled. "In fact...if there's ever a time you want to see for yourself, you feel free to come join us."

Kristin ran her fingers through Nick's hair. "Your hair is so soft. So blond. You got a girlfriend?"

Nick blushed and shrugged his shoulders. ""

"No? I'm surprised. You must be torturing those girls at your school." She said, and I stepped forward, that insult turning to anger. But Shank and Razor swiftly closed in on me from both sides, always alert, and ready to defend with their strategic position.

They looked me directly in my eye, their identical smirks blocking Nick from my view. Instead of challenging them and making a mess that I'd have to explain later to anyone who noticed, I looked around the two of them and called out, "Hey Nick, let's take that baby frog back where you got him, and go see if there are some more before Mom and Dad make us leave for the night."

"You think there might be more?" Nick's eyes widened.

"You don't think a baby frog would be out by itself, do you?" I told him. And while Nick knew that I loved him, it was a rare opportunity that I actually offered to indulge in one of his happy-go-lucky activities. So he was all for it. I was relieved to see him step out of John Boy's grip and away from Kristin. The twins separated to give him some room so he could reach me, and I put my hand out to push Nick completely behind me. "We have to go. My parents will be looking for us."

"Of course. Well, have fun you two. And remember...we'll be watching." John Boy said as we backed away from them. "Nice meeting you, Nick."

"Bye!" He yelled back as I pushed him further. "Wesley..." John Boy said as I was walking away. I turned around for a moment, and they stared at me with an intimidating glare. All of them. "...Only two days left. Don't waste them."

I didn't say anything in response, just pushed Nick forward and made sure to get him back into the crowd where he'd be safe. Where we'd BOTH be safe, honestly. I wasn't sure what those maniacs were planning, but I wasn't about to get caught up in it anymore than I already was. It was time to put this craziness behind me once and for all. I only had a little over a week shouldn't be too hard to avoid them for a few more days. Right?

Let's hope so.