As we walked out of the house to pile into the truck, I was prepared to take my usual seat in the back. I had grown accustomed to my placement on that old tire. Probably with Dexter hugged up tightly against me while I tried to discourage his sudden urges to sniff my neck or playfully lick my face. But today...Cyrus had other plans for his chosen son.

"Wesley...come here." He said with a smile. "I want you to sit up front with me today. I want you at my right side." Not only did this turn of events surprise me, but Scout nearly lost it when he heard that.

"WHAT?!?!?! HIM??? Why him???" He shrieked in his boyish little voice, his angry expression almost enough to melt the paint off the truck.

"Scout...take your place." Cyrus replied calmly, and without losing his smile, he opened the truck door for me to slide in next to Kristin and Sebastian.

"FUCK!!!!" Scout pouted, and as he walked passed me, he viciously bumped my shoulder, kicking dust up on my shoes. I heard him mumble, "I fucking HATE him!!!" to the others as he climbed in back, but I really didn't care! Just being able to get a shot at his pride was like candy to me. I'm GLAD Cyrus chose me! Hehehe, take THAT, ya little punk!

"Thank you." I said, and made sure to smile back at Scout as I climbed right into his spot. It was a tight fit, as Kristin usually held Scout in her lap during the rides, but for some reason, Cyrus wanted me there. And I settled in as best as I could. It's hard to really explain the effect, but the energy was different. I could feel it coursing through me, and at first, I thought it was just the tightness of the front seat crowding us together that had me feeling so incredibly uncomfortable. But it wasn't that at all. It was something more. I'out of place'. I wish I could put it into better words. It's like...I didn't know what 'purpose' I had with these other kids, or if I had some kind of 'job' to do here. I just knew that whatever that job or that purpose was...I couldn't do it effectively from where I was seated. And something about that fact bothered me internally. It plagued my mind, and suddenly, just sitting there was like trying to sleep on a bed of nails.

The strange thing is, I think my body was attempting to adjust to this new energy anyway. My senses were feeling their way around, the electric current running through all of us in a different pattern, and with a little bit of shifting in my seat I found some small level of comfort in my position. As Cyrus pulled out of our driveway, I saw him smile. As though he could feel me adapting to what was going on. And again, he was pleased.

He stayed silent for most of the ride. Not even offering to turn on the radio. The quiet was killing me. It reminded me of the boredom I felt on the trip up here with my family. Where I'd do anything to get out of that vehicle. Or at least break a window or something...just to inspire some kind of interesting reaction, and get back to my life in a hurry. . life.

I hadn't thought about it much, but now that the idea had entered my mind, it stuck there like a splinter under the skin. How was I ever going to get back to my life again? My father would never forget what I did. He'd never forgive me. My mom would be hysterical, and Nick would never let me rest peacefully ever again. Not to mention the fact that my father's plans to send me away were pretty much set in stone, especially after the cabin was destroyed. Hell, at this point, I don't even know if Kyla is even talking to me anymore. There was no way to gracefully slide back into the life that I once had without everyone elses new opinion of me blocking me out of it. And yet...I knew that I couldn't just...'stay' here with Cyrus. I mean...I AM going to go home eventually, right? Cyrus was always quick to use words like 'forever' and 'the rest of your life', a not so subtle hint that I was expected to be one of them for good. As though I could just wander the forest with them and never go home. What teenager commits to 'forever' with anybody except for their parents and siblings? I'm surprised that they even stay this tightly knit. I mean, they've got to have parents SOMEWHERE. They've got to have individual brothers and sisters and friends and family. So where are they? Do they live in the area? Are they just visiting for the summer? Exactly what is the deal with these kids that I've suddenly aligned myself with?

And exactly how long have they been here?

The truck eased its way into town, travelling slowly towards the main street. Everyone in the truck made eye contact with everyone who stared at us from the sidewalk. They easily picked us out as being 'different' right away. Strange. And abnormal. And wrong. They could feel our disturbing presence in the air, and judged us upon their first glance. I could feel it, and was disgusted by the sensation. Who are THEY to look down on us when they don't even KNOW us? But even though they instantly took a pompous position of thinking they were better than us for not being as 'disturbing' or as 'weird' as we were...we noticed something. When our eyes connected with theirs, they felt overpowered. Intimidated. And were forced to look away. Even though they outnumbered us in their collective beliefs of normality...we stood united against their silent criticism. And THEY proved to be the weak ones in the end.

If it was one thing that I had to admit to myself, it was that Cyrus and his gang made you feel strong. Unique. I couldn't tell if it was a feeling that we got despite the fact that we were so different, or because of it. But after such a long time of hiding in the closet....being so afraid, so alone...having a group of people who are willing to surround you and stand at your side no matter was an incredible release. A sense of acceptance that you couldn't possibly hope to understand. Not unless you experienced it for yourself. The more time I spent with them, the more time I wanted to spend with them. It was so easy to be swept along in their idea of 'fun' sometimes, and even though I was trying soooo hard to hold on to my brainwashed values...I found myself wanting to let go. Give in, and give over. Just like he told me I would. Just like Cyrus promised me.

I suppose you can assimilate yourself into any crowd as long as they make the effort to accept you. Even if it's the wrong crowd.

The truck stopped in a slanted parking space on the main street in front of a convenience store, and we all got out together. Scout, the rude little imp that he was, harshly bumped my shoulder again as he walked past me to get his arms around Cyrus' waist. It was as if I had stolen his safety blanket or something! Geez! I swear, I don't care HOW young he is, the next time he pushes me I'm punching him in the fucking chest! Cyrus petted his hair as he snuggled up next to him, so content to be next to his leader again. The level of idolatry that Scout showed for Cyrus was unprecedented. And Cyrus soaked it up like a sponge. Not so much to enhance his ego, but to reward Scout's devotion with the affectionate response he was looking for. It was an odd dynamic sometimes. Scout glared at me, holding on to Cyrus like a giant teddy bear, waiting for me to say something. DARING me to say something. There was no doubting his message. Cyrus was hands off, and that was that. Screw him. If he hates me, I hate him too. End of story. I didn't ask for his position, but I'll take it just the same if Cyrus offers it to me. His feelings are of no concern to me.

We all walked in through the door of the old store in a single file line. It, naturally, made the old shopkeep a bit nervous, seeing so many teenagers walk into his business at once. He immediately pretended to start straightening shelves and sweeping the floor, just so he could keep a close eye on us. Supposedly without us knowing about it. The dimly lit place carried some small snacks and groceries, mostly just for necessities and not much else, some gardening and home repair stuff in the front by the windows, and a rack of magazines and comic books. Not to mention a fairly large selection of brand name cigarettes. It wasn't all that big a place, but we were all able to spread out a little bit inside. I was given the chance to wander off on my own for a moment or two, just to get a little breathing room, but the energy between us remained strong. It was constantly reaching out to channel right through the center of me. Anytime that we were together, it got stronger. Anytime that we were apart, it pulled on my mindstate in an attempt to be back with the pack once again. It made any kind of existence without the others 'awkward'...and 'restless'. I don't think I've ever had thoughts like this before. I saw something move out of the corner of my eye, and found myself looking at a cat sitting lazily in one of the front windows, and my attention zeroed in on it in an instant. Not for any particular reason, I don't think, but I stared at it as though it were the most insteresting thing in the world at that moment. It stared back at me, however, as though it was getting ready to defend itself if I came any closer. I couldn't understand why it was so on edge, but I was compelled to move closer. The cat hunched its back up, and then crouched down with an intense gaze. I heard a long, drawn out, growl from the pit of its stomach, which initially made me stop. But again, I was tempted to inch closer. I took another step in its direction, and it hissed loudly at me, backing away, claws ready. Why the hell would they have an evil ass cat like this sitting up in a window in a public convenience store in the center of town? That damn thing could hurt somebody. Suddenly, the cat sprung from its position and took off running behind the counter like it had seen a ghost. Crazy fucker! It was so wild to behold such a thing.

"Hey..." Came a soft voice over my shoulder, and Sebastian leaned forward to rest his chin on me as he gave me a hug from behind. "You harrassing the wildlife around here now?"

It was a surprisingly affectionate embrace that he held me in. And I wondered if I'd ever really get used to this 'loves me, loves me not' game he liked to play so frequently. Afterall, wanting someone, having someone, and sharing true emotions with someone...are three completely different things. Still, for the time being, it felt good. And it made me smile, so I leaned my head back to kiss his cheek. "I suppose he just didn't like the look of me."

"He's missing out." Sebastian whispered.

"What brought this on all of the sudden?"

"I had an urge."

I grinned. "You had an urge?" He nodded. "And what kind of 'urge' was that?"

"The urge that told me that I want to slowly suck you off and have you do the same to me. I was thinking about it, licking my lips. I figured I'd let you know." He kissed me lewdly on the side of the neck, his tongue dragging softly over the surface. It gave me a chill to know that he was being so...'public' about this. Even if we were in a row by ourselves.

"Maybe when we get home, we'll work something out to fix that." I replied as his hands roamed over my flat tummy in small circles.

"Maybe I can't wait that long."

"Hehehe, what do you suggest we do?"

"There's nobody watching now, is there?" He said. And I blushed a deep shade of red, a shocked laugh leaving my lips before I could stop it.

"We're in a public place, dude!"

"What's the worst they could do? Tell us to 'stop' before I cum in your sweet mouth? At least you'd get taste."

I pulled myself slowly out of his embrace as I felt myself getting hard, and tried to tuck it downward where it wouldn't be so visible. He had to have been kidding, but his pokerface was pretty damn good. "Maybe later. I'm not quite that much of a daredevil yet." I told him, and walked around the corner to keep shopping. Sebastian raised an eyebrow, and gave me a smile, his almond brown locks sliding forward to cover half of his face as the sunlight poured in through the window behind him. Damn he was gorgeous when he wanted to be! And the rest of the time he was just plain beautiful. It wasn't enough to suck him off in the middle of a convenience store, but he was pretty damn cute.

As I turned another corner, I saw Razor standing by himself in front of the barbecuing equipment. He had recently found these big boxes of matches, and had the most amazingly mischevious glimmer in his eyes. I saw him hold one of the open match boxes, and take out a single match. I swore that I could hear his heartbeat speed up as the rush of his own neurotic thoughts began to overpower him. His impulse was almost causing his fingers to twitch, and with just a short look to the left and right, he struck the match on the side of the shelf, and obsessively watched it burn for a few seconds. He took such pleasure in watching the slow flicker of the flame. It calmed him, much like the first drag of a long awaited cigarette does to a smoker on a stressful day. And then, his hand...the one holding the lit match...slowly inched closer to the rest of the boxes on the shelf. And then...poof. Luckily for all of us, John Boy was there to blow it out. He reached out a hand, and with a bit of a sulk, Razor handed him the burnt matchstick, and walked away.

It was then that John Boy turned in my direction, and walked over to me. He said, "Next time...take the fire from him, Wesley. We don't want to draw more attention to ourselves than we need to. Understood?" Dammit! How does that boy ALWAYS know where I am?

"Sorry." I said.

"Don't worry. You'll learn your duties in time. Just remember to stay alert. Freedom outside of a corrupt society is a long as we share a few common laws between ourselves." He smiled. "Do you know what I'm talking about?"

"If you say so." I was confused. I pretty much maintained a level of confusion with these kids at all times. But it didn't matter much at the time. Not really. I felt too good to let it bug me.

"Dex?" I heard Cyrus call out to him from a few aisles over, and went to join him and Kristin as Dexter approached. "Hold this." He said, and handed Dex a piece of rope. "Can you break this?"

"" Dexter replied, his eyes glancing down at the floor as he shifted from one foot to the other. Already he looked guilty.

"Dex?" Cyrus said again, and Dex lifted his eyes. "Try to break the rope." He tugged on it halfheartedly, and didn't seem to give it much effort. Then his eyes dropped again and he shook his head. "I certainly hope that you're not lying to me, Dex. Lying will not be tolerated. You know that." A sad pout washed over Dex's face, and Cyrus asked again, "Now then...can you break this rope? Show me." This time, Dex didn't pretend. In fact, he suddenly stretched it out and gave it a hard tug at both ends. Then a harder tug, then an even harder tug, and he seemed to instantly get angry! He growled and he grunted, and he pulled on that rope as though tearing through it was his only purpose on this planet! I stood back as his insane thrashing finally caused the rope to fray and then split in two, with him holding a piece in each hand.

"ARRRGH!!! FINE!!!" He shouted, and he stomped off to another part of the store, throwing the rope to the floor in a rage!

I stood amazed at his sudden change in attitude, and I saw Cyrus whisper to Kristin, "Rope may not be enough this time. Perhaps we should invest in chains instead. We don't want any more accidents."

Kristin nodded, "We can hit up the megamart, they have them there, cheap. We'll get enough to last us through the summer."

Cyrus nodded his approval, and then turned to look directly at me. "Wesley, we're going to the megamart. Kindly go retrieve Dexter for me, and bring him out to the truck. I want to get this done by nightfall."

"Yes, fath...." I started to say 'father'. The word was on the tip of my tongue, and I almost didn't have a chance to stop myself from saying it. "Sure thing, Cyrus." I said, correcting myself. Kristin and Cyrus shared a suspicious giggle, and began to walk out of the store, the others coming to follow behind them without even being called. Leaving only me and Dexter inside.

I walked around some of the desolate aisles, searching for him. "Dex? Where you at, buddy? We're getting ready to leave." I got no answer. "Dex?" I walked up and down the maze like shelves of the place, and finally saw Dex standing by himself at the end of the hardware aisle by the store window. He had his back turned to me, and his shoulders were moving up and down, up and down, as though he were panting with really deep breaths. If it weren't for his pattented tangle of blond curls, I might have thought that he was somebody else completely. Was he still upset about the rope? God, I hope he doesn't get the urge to bite me again. I could never figure out what to expect from him when he was being 'crazy'.

I could hear his heavy breathing clearly, his huffing and puffing causing his lithe boyish frame to rise and fall in an almost cartoonish way. I approached with a bit of caution, but he never turned around. "Dex? It's me...ok? It's Wesley." I was hoping that would get him to loosen up a bit. I'd give anything to just have him suddenly jump up on my back and start licking me and giggling like he was before. That's the Dex I know and love, but I think be might be tucked away somewhere 'else' right now. "Dex? Cyrus wants us to go now, ok?" Not even mentioning Cyrus' order did the trick. "Dex?" I reached out a hand, and very lightly placed it on his shoulder, my fingers trembling slightly, my mind trying to ready itself for anything.

Dexter angrily JERKED away from me when I touched him! His back turned, still hiding his face from my eyes, he snatched his shoulder out of my grip! I gasped, trying not to encourage him by letting any of my fear show. But trying to hide it only seemed to frustrate him, and a very low, very deep, guttural growl rumbled thunderously in his throat. It was so deep that I could even feel it in my stomach, and I took a step back. It was inhuman, the sound that came out of him. Much more animalistic than that of the cat in the window sill. This was primal. A sound more savage than any 'sane' individual could produce. It caused me to keep my distance.

Suddenly, without warning, Dexter swiftly shot his arm out, with his palm up, his hand open. I didn't know what it meant, but he held his hand out as though he were waiting for me to hand him something. His breathing got deeper, and I thought that I could faintly hear the sound of...'popping' coming from him. Similar to the sound of someone cracking their knuckles up to your ear, but louder. And then another barbaric rumbling rolled through his vocal chords, and his hand shook with impatience. I was lost as to what to do, but heard Cyrus honk the horn outside, wondering what was taking me so long. I reached up on the shelf, and handed him a tapemeasure. Just to see what would happen.

He never looked at me, but he seemed to 'weigh' it in his hands, and then he tossed it to the floor, and held his hand out again. His breathing increased to a pant, and I could have almost sworn that he was just....a little bit 'taller' than he was before. I mean, Dex's head came just up over my shoulder before. But now? He looked like he was nearly an inch taller than me. His hand got impatient again, and I handed him a small monkey wrench. He gripped it tightly around the middle, weighing it again, and then threw it down in aggravation. I handed him a flashlight, and he threw that to the floor almost instantly. So...I figured he wanted something...heavier.

I backed up a few steps, and grabbed a small can of paint. This time, when I set it down in his hand...he held onto it for a moment or two. He seemed...satisfied. His breathing calmed a bit, and the grumbling stopped. He held the can of paint out in his palm, balancing it with his fingers. I think, maybe he's getting his senses back. "Dex? Are we done here? Because Cyrus is..."

But before I could finish my senses, Dex viciously WHIPPED the can of paint at the store window, and it SHATTERED into a million fucking pieces!

"DEXTER??? What the FUCK dude?!?!?!" I shouted. "JESUS!!!"

It was SOOOO loud! There was broken glass EVERYWHERE, and there was NO way that the shopkeep didn't hear that! I think I froze, not knowing what to do in this situation. I never expected him to just....DO that! Shit!!! The window was totally wrecked, and we were standing there in the midst of it all! With NO excuse whatsoever!!! What's worse, Dexter's insane impulses seemed to calm down as soon as the window broke! And he looked at ME with his eyes wide!

"Wesley? What did you do???" He said, his innocent face basically making me out to be the culprit!

"ME??? Dude...YOU did this!!!"

"I DID???" He said, completely shocked at the notion.

"YES!!!! Don't you fucking remember???"

"Uhhh...well, YEAH! Of COURSE I remember! Sweet!" He said, then turned sideways to look at the damage. "Um...exactly why did I do that?"

"SHIT! I don't fucking KNOW!!!"

"Oh....well, then I don't know either." He smiled. "It's pretty cool, huh?"

Just then, the guy behind the counter ran around the corner and grabbed two handfulls of his own hair! "You goddamn KIDS!!!!" He yelled at the top of his lungs. "I'm calling the COPS!!!"

I panicked and didn't know what the hell to do! So, I just grabbed a hold of Dexter's wrist, and jumped through the broken window onto the sidewalk, dragging him behind me! "Bye, Mister!" Dexter waved with a grin, still proud of the mess he made.

I saw Cyrus' truck waiting, and started screaming for him to take off! Everyone looked back at us as we ran to the back of the vehicle and just sloppily flopped ourselves over the side and shouted for him to escape this place before we got into anymore trouble! "GO!!! GO GO GO!!! DRIVE!!!"

I heard the others erupt with laughter as the truck suddenly pulled out of its spot, and we kicked it into high gear, pulling forward and screeching the tires as the shopkeep and some of his employees jumped out into the street and shook their fists at us, screaming loudly at us for the damage!

My heart was racing, and I was just hoping that we didn't get pulled over by the cops for destroying public property! Omigod, I can just see me now...locked up in some local hick jail, and having to call my dad for help! FUCK!!! Why did I even get INVOLVED with this shit??? I was so worried that I could hardly breathe, thinking that we were gonna get caught any second. But, as we sped down the main street at full speed, the vehicle tossing us back and forth with every turn, I noticed how much fun everyone else was having at the time. I opened my eyes, and saw everyone laughing their asses off. And when I sat up, I saw the fat shopkeep running behind our truck as though he could actually CATCH us! And occassionally, Cyrus would slam on the breaks, and let him get a bit closer, before taking off again and leaving him with a face full of dirt and dust. Everyone was laughing until they almost couldn't stand it any longer, and to be honest...I started to laugh too. I felt bad for doing it at first, but the idea of this poor pathetic guy, chasing behind a freakin' TRUCK in this small town to...I don't know...'avenge' his broken just struck me as hilarious! There's something about having your adrenaline pumping so hard, and relieving it with laughter, that makes you feel truly alive. I never thought I would enjoy being in so much trouble. Cyrus kept teasing the old man for as long as he could, keeping just enough of a distance to keep him running and discouraging him at the same time. We went for about eight blocks before he finally gave up, gave us the finger, and doubled over onto the ground to catch his breath. Awwww....I would have thought that he would have given us more of a champion effort. An even ten blocks at least. I guess not, huh?

Hehehe! I don't think I've ever been one to take pleasure in someone elses misery, but this time was a very cool exception! How could you NOT find his wobbling and huffing and pointless persuit of a machine in motion HYSTERICAL? Hahaha! Awww, dude, that's so wrong! I'm totally going to hell for laughing at that guy, but I couldn't help it! Especially with everyone else laughing so hard. It was, the very first highlight of my day.

"Nice hustle, there, Wes." Kriegar said, making fun of me for being so scared. "Go! Go! Drive! Hahahaha! You should have seen the look on your face!"

"Why didn't you guys TELL me Dex was gonna break the fucking window?" I said, feelng my chest heaving still, but with a smile plastered on my face.

"We didn't know he was gonna flip out!" Kriegar answered. "We never know!"

"Yeah, we NEVER know!" Dexter added with a giggle, forgetting that he was the topic of conversation. "Oops, I mean...they NEVER know!"

"Yeah," Kriegar added. "Out of all of us, he's the wild one. Can you believe it? He's completely crazy."

"I'm NOT crazy. I did it on purpose! Tell them, Wes." Dex whined, crawling over to lay his head on my chest.

"Sure you did, dude." I grinned. And Dex stuck his tongue out at Kriegar as if that were the end of the conversation. I propped myself up against the old tire, feeling comfortable in my old familiar position, and just stared up at the sky for a moment. Just....breathing in the good air and relishing the 'flavor' of it. It was a rush. More than a tingle, it was like...having my whole spirit 'awakened' by what had just happened. The adrenaline was still surging through my veins, even though I wasn't really scared anymore, and it electrified me. I just...leaned back, and enjoyed the sensation. My arms were trembling, my heart was pounding, and I couldn't have stopped smiling if I wanted to. As Cyrus sped out of town and back onto the road, I rode out the rush in my system and just tried to keep from giggling out loud to myself.

I don't know why, but I hugged Dexter close to me, and kissed the top of his forehead. He frightened the shit out of me sometimes, but I'm beginning to see why his unpredictable behavior was such an amazing thing to be around all day. I looked forward, and saw John Boy staring in my direction. A subtle smirk on his face as he seemed to be analyzing my reactions. Perhaps making mental notes for later. Something about his calmness made it seem like he was always collecting information from the rest of the world around us. Seeing what we couldn't see, sensing what we couldn't sense. Something about being the willing target of that perception was kinda cool. Maybe even flattering. His smile widened a bit, and he said only one word. "Intriguing."

"Here." Kriegar grunted, and he reached down to toss me a small handheld bottle of liquor. "Drink! Calm your nerves down."

I looked at the bottle for a second and started to shake my head to refuse. But then..."Ahh, what the hell? Fuck it!" I said, and twisted off the cap to take a healthy swig of the warm liquid. I think I took in a little bit much, but it went down easier this time than it did last night. I coughed a bit, and had to wipe my mouth off on my sleeve, but I liked it. Even more...I liked the idea of not refusing it. Now that I had tasted the forbidden drink and survived it all...what was there left to be afrad of, right? The taboo was gone, and I was still standing strong. GOD, it felt good! Everyone in the back of the truck smiled at me, and their instant acceptance washed over me. Their willingness to 'adopt' me as I am was like a drug, and I was getting hungrier for it all the time. The more attention they gave me for my actions, the more I wanted. They made me a part of something. Something bigger than what I was used to. It made me feel...complete.

Kriegar reached out for the bottle again, and I pulled it back into my lap. Saying, with a subtle slur, "Psh! Get your own!" That comment got an outburst of laughter and a hearty cheer from the others as I took another gulp or two. This is awesome! This is where I want to be!

Cyrus drove us a safe distnce away from civilization, and then took us to some small park in the middle of nowhere. There were a few picnic tables and garbage cans around, but mostly it was just a clearing in the trees that led to a field of brown grass that hadn't been cared for. He turned off the truck and stepped out of it. "I wanted to get off the main roads, just in case the old man sends the fuzz out to look for us. But we can camp out here until it's safe to go back into town to visit the megamart."

Everyone got out of the truck, and we crowded around one of the picnic tables in the center of the field. Cyrus made sure to sit across from me, staring direcly into my eyes with a smile. I didn't look away this time, not even when I started to blush, and I think that he was impressed by that. He liked to throw me into a storm of inner conflict and then inspire me to overcome it. That was his 'thing', I suppose. But his attention was focused on me at the moment, and for now that's all that mattered. I didn't even mind when Scout cuddled up under his arm to make sure that he got some of Cyrus' glorious spotlight as well.

And then I noticed something strange. Dexter's fingers reached out to lightly take a hold of my hand under the table as he sat next to me. And when I let him hold it, he leaned his head over to rest on my shoulder. Looking across the table at Cyrus and Scout...we were almost a matching pair. Dex was beginning to satellite himself around me in the same fashion, and I started to wonder if maybe it was more than just some weird infatuation that was spawned out of his frenzied mindstate. I think I might have actually picked up a personal shadow myself.

"You still feeling those playful little chills run up and down your spine, Wes?" Cyrus asked me with a grin.

"A little bit, I guess. Yeah." I answered. "I'm starting to think you guys are corrupting me something awful."

"You were born corrupted. We all were. It was our habit of trying to assimilate into one solid reality, with one group of laws for all of humanity, that was the true invasion of our true nature." He said. "All I did was bring you back to your roots."

I giggled a bit. The alcohol in my system already beginning to take a stronger effect. "So does that mean I'm 'home' now?"

"Not yet. Not even close. But at least you've been given the map to find your way. Maybe now you can get there twice as fast."

"I don't feels like you guys are leading me into dangerous territory. I don't know if I can trust you." I was just joking when I said it, but I think Cyrus took it seriously, even though his smile remained strong.

He leaned forward a bit, tenderly shrugging Scout off of his shoulder. And he asked me, "What if I could promise you a life free of consequences? One hundred percent free of guilt? What if I told you, that you could almost become immortal...just by standing at my side? Sharing yourself with us the way we're willing to share ourselves with you. Would you follow me then?"

Our eyes connected as he waited for an answer. And everyone else at the table seemed to be waiting as well. "I....I don't know."

"So figure it out." He said. "Right here, right now. Look into your heart, your true feelings, and ask yourself....would you follow me?" Cyrus stared me down, and I knew that I couldn't lie, but I didn't want to give him a negative answer either.

"I honestly don't know, Cyrus. I guess I'll figure that out as we go along." I hoped that would be a satisfying answer. But I don't think it was.

"You won't follow me, but you'll blindly follow those who support the rules that dont fit you in your everyday life. Rules made for the beautiful, the powerful, the heterosexual, the let them set the standards instead. And when their self righteous standards don't apply to what you want and who you try to figure out where YOU went wrong. Instead of realizing the simple fact that they were wrong to try to force that life upon your shoulders in the first place. Is that right?"

Did he mean it as an insult? I don't know. I couldn't tell with him smirking like that. But something about this new confidence and energy that I felt inside kept me from clamming up like I usually do. "I don't think that 'blindly following' anybody is a good idea. Not without at least taking the opportunity to think for myself about what I'm doing. Choosing a leader, and choosing to be led, aren't the same thing."

I noticed that the others at the table, John Boy especially, took a keen interest in me even debating the point with our...'father'. They looked back at him as his smile widened even further. "Leaders are important, but it is the support of their followers, their devoted disciples, that give the movement its power. Its focus. Their united voices are strongest, and yet they still require a leader, a 'center', to be their guide towards the truth." Cyrus replied. "When you look back at history, it was a strong blind following that created the greatest progressive movements we have in the world we live in today. It was that kind of supreme loyalty that gave us great leaders like Ghandi...Martin Luther King...even Jesus Christ, Bible boy."

All eyes turned back to me, and I responded with, "That's true. You're right." He smiled, then I added. "But sometimes, blindly following someone without considering the consequences of your actions can be dangerous if you don't think for yourself...or keep to your own personal values. If you don't know who you're being led by...the changes you make can be bad ones. It was THAT kind of supreme loyalty that gave us great leaders like Charles Manson...David Duke...and Adolf Hitler. So don't take it personally if I decide to keep my eyes open around you. Hehehe..." I could have sworn that the others were holding their breath at that moment. The air around us became still, and even the birds in the distance stopped their song. I froze up, wondering if I had offended him by even making a mention of it. That invisible leash around my throat seemed to tighten until it almost choked me, and I forced my eyes down to the table, lowering my head a little bit so as to submit to is next response. I wanted to apologize for my comments. I shouldn't have said anything. It was downright blasphemous to even make a suggestion against Cyrus' thoughts and ideas...but even though the others were tense from my minor challenge to his authority, Cyrus seemed to truly get a kick out of the whole thing.

His smile turned into a hearty chuckle, and the tension broke as he reached across the table and playfully messed up my blond hair with his hand. "Touche, Wesley! Touche! I knew there was a reason I kept an eye on you." He...he wasn't mad? He wasn't MAD! Oh dear God, thank you! I was almost sure that I had blown it! I've gotta learn to keep my mouth shut from now on. Everyone else relaxed, and Cyrus gave them the signal to 'leave us'. I don't know what I did, but I think I amazed him, yet again. Geez, scary as the whole thing was, he really took it pretty well. If it had been MY father, he would have raised his voice and forced me to shut up without even considering my point of view valid. No matter what I did to upset him, Cyrus stood by me. He made me WANT to be completely honest with him. He inspired me to be myself and not be afraid. Not of anything. He wanted me to have 'fun', and be a kid. To enjoy my individuality to the fullest, and possibly teach him something new that he didn't know before. He remined on a golden pedestal above everything I had ever known, and yet...he talked to me like an actual person. Not like he was preaching down to me from some sacred altar, but as though some divine entity had stepped down to my level to see me eye to eye without shame. Without pride, or ego, or vanity...just truth. All Cyrus did was force me into seeing things as they truly were behind the mask of 'reality'. Truth. About myself and about the world. He chose me. And that made me special. As he stood up and put his arm over my shoulder, I felt the warmth of his body mingling with mine. "Come on. Let's take a walk. I'd like to talk to you some more." He was there for me. He protected me and made me feel safe. Made me feel wanted. He'd never send me away. He LIKED having me around! And he didn't try make me stack up to anybody else. He didn't doubt my word, or ignore me, or blame me for things that I didn't do. I should be honored to call him 'father'.

"Yes....father." I said, and his grin brightened up like you wouldn't believe. We began to walk towards the trees at the edge of the field, and I knew right then and there...that I would soon be worthy of all he had to show me. All he had to teach me. I was ready. I could feel it. All I had to do.....was close my eyes....

....And follow his lead.