Blend In

The more I saw of humans, the more complicated I realised they were.

Especially compared to us.

We were, for the most part, simple. Well, some of us were. Like with any species, we were different from each other, unique, individual, and that was just the demons. But all you really needed to know was what type of demon we were and you could pretty much predict how we would act.

But humans?

I didn't think I'd ever understand humans, no matter how many lifetimes I spent around them.

For starters – and this, well, I kind of understood – most of them hated us. Of course they did. They were scared, terrified, when the gates opened and we began to pour through. Not just demons, either, but shifters and were-creatures and vampires and angels and so many others.

They called us 'supernaturals'.

Another thing I didn't understand.

If we were 'supernatural', didn't that just make us more, well, natural?

But the barriers between the planes had been broken, and we came through. Some were stopped, border patrols were set up, but they couldn't send us back. They couldn't send anyone back. So they just had to put up with us.

Some of them accepted us. Some of them fell in love with us. Some of us got jobs and tried to make a life for ourselves. I did. Luckily, I was one of the few who could really blend in. I could do anything I wanted, and make those around me think I was one of them.

My sister – not in a human-sister sense, mind you – and I got jobs running deliveries and packages around the city we had ended up in.

It was handy. The company paid us, even put us up in a small ground-floor flat in a nice, big, Victorian house. They were some of the few humans who accepted us. The night-shift was run by a human and a vampire. The day-shift was run by a human and a demon. And, well, we got on.

They liked us.

They accepted us.

And me and my sister, well, we did all right for ourselves.

X X X

Supernaturals. Gates. The terms were interchangeable.

And the politics of our world had shifted, had changed. The hierarchy was gone. I took orders from a werewolf and a vampire. I took orders from two men who, back on the other side, would have cowered in my presence. I knew others who would be disgusted at the thought but, to be honest, I didn't mind.

If I could have found Jay, in this world, then we could have been together. No one would care anymore.

And I'd always hated seeing them flinch when they came into sight of us.

My sister, one evening as I came in from work, asked me a strange question.

She was sitting on the sofa, hand dipping in and out of a bag of crisps, her eyes fixed on the television we had brought the week previously.

Television.

The things these humans came up with were amazing.

Over the weekend, we had completely devoured the first three seasons of True Blood. Rack had told me Eric reminded her of Jay.

"Why can't we go to school?" she said, as I slipped in from work. I dumped my bag beside the door before turning to her.

"What's brought this on?"

I crossed to the sofa, dropping down and glancing at the TV. On it, I watched as a girl in a dress stood in front of two older humans taking photographs. "What's this?"

"Awkward. Another American one. It's good. Do you think school is really like this?"

She was transfixed, eyes fixed on the set. I shrugged.

"I don't know, Rack. I haven't seen it." I sighed, running a hand through my hair before turning to her. "They're not letting us in schools, Rack. And, anyway, they'd say we're too old."

"But we look their age!" she cried, shaking her head. "Alys, we look the same age! And...and if this show has taught me anything, it's...well, to humans, perceptions matter, don't they?"

I nodded. The only reason we were out delivering was because we could pass for humans. We didn't stand out.

"We'd still stand out, though," I whispered, placing a hand on her shoulder and squeezing gently. She bowed her head, closing her eyes. "Rack, we'd stand out," I repeated, wishing she would understand that, in a school, there was no way our powers would not be revealed.

Anyway, I had bigger problems to worry about.

Carol, the woman who had hired us, had pulled me aside earlier that day to tell me the Government were beginning to mark those who were not obvious Gates. Garth, my werewolf boss, had stood beside her, looking downcast and solemn.

"How?" I asked, thinking of the application forms we'd filled in when applying for the job. Already, it was law that our species be listed on application forms, revealing whether we were human or supernatural.

"Tattoos," Garth muttered, voice dark as his eyes locked on me. "They're going to tattoo us, Alys. All of us."

X X X

"How's your sister enjoying her couple of days off?"

I slammed my locker shut, letting out a sigh as I turned to Kate, one of the few girls who worked in the place, and possibly my best friend, except for Rack.

"Whoa, what's got you in a bad mood?" she asked, as I slung my backpack off and stalked towards the area where we'd wait to hear about our deliveries. I sighed.

"They're going to tattoo us," I muttered, closing my eyes as I sank onto the bench. "Mark us out as different. And, well, Rack's been sitting watching some stupid American show and now she's asking why we can't go to school."

Kate winced. "That sucks. School sucks, actually. It gets better after...tell her she's better off not going."

"I don't think it's the education side," I replied. "It's...Kate, it's the boys," I admitted. Even I, after Rack explained it to me, had been taken by the idea.

It wasn't my fault. I was a Temptation Demon; I thrived on attention and sex. Since coming here, I'd barely thought about it, but once Rack had told me about the boys in school, sex-starved and craving, I'd almost wished we could go. Not just that, but it would have vastly opened up my own world.

Kate began to laugh. "Aw, honey, you need to snap her mind out of that American way of living. Remind her she's living in Great Britain." She tilted her head, a thoughtful look sparking to life on her face. We all have Sunday off, and I have an idea."

"Yeah?"

"Alys!" Carol called from the office, making me wonder where Garth was. I stood, adjusting my backpack and getting ready to make the delivery.

"A friend of mine – a guy – is having a party Saturday night. Bring your sister. Tell her there will be guys there, plenty of them."

I frowned. "Wouldn't they freak if you invited 'Gates'?"

"Alys! Come on, darling, you've got deliveries to make."

Kate shrugged. "Listen, I don't care. And they'll have me to answer to if they do." She stood, too, stuffing her hands into her pockets. "I won't tell them, okay? As far as I'm concerned, if you want them to know, then they'll know. If you don't..." She grinned, her hand landing on my shoulder as we made our way over to the pick-up station. "Well, it's not like they'll know, is it?"

I nodded, reached the station and grabbed the packages. "Okay, sounds good," I said, smiling. "We'll be there."

X X X

Six packages later, and I was back.

"That was quick," Garth commented, glancing up from the station. He double-checked the time log Carol had left on the desk. "Even for you."

"Thanks," I chirped, leaning on the station and eyeing the next set of packages to go out. I was fast – whereas the others took bikes or vans with them to deliver whatever needed to be delivered, me and Rack did it on foot. We could do it on foot. And the thought of the party – of boys – had spurred me on. "Where were you this morning?"

Garth flinched. He glanced down at the floor before sighing and lifting the bottom of his shirt up. I groaned. The skin around the full-moon tattoo was red-raw, and looked sore.

"Did it hurt?"

"No," he whispered, dropping the shirt. "Actually, no. But it's..."

"Degrading," I finished, inching closer. "Oh, Garth, I'm sorry. Are we all going to have moon tattoos?"

On Earth, the moon was our biggest ally. Something about it enhanced our powers, made us better, stronger. Some of us – me, included – did fine in the sunshine, but others needed the moon, needed what it gave us. When it was in the sky, uncovered by cloud, we could do amazing things.

The humans hated it.

"No. Just the were-creatures, I think. I have no idea what they'll give you, Alys."

I nodded, slowly, feeling my happiness about the party begin to disappear. "When will I have to get mine?"

"Next month," he muttered, thinking about it. "I had a letter about it three weeks ago, so if you haven't got one yet, you'll be fine."

"Okay, thanks. You got packages for me, Garth?"

"Sure."

X X X

As I expected, Rack was more than up for the party. When I told her, she squealed, leaping around the room as she began to talk about dresses and make-up.

"Are you sure it's a party and not a kick-back?" she asked, as I dropped down on the sofa and began to flick through the channels.

"What's a kick-back?"

She frowned. "Never mind. Watch Awkward. It's good. Do you reckon the guys will be hot?"

"I have no idea, Rack."

She fell onto the sofa beside me, as I wondered whether or not to tell her about the tattoos. She hated the fact that she wasn't human, hated the fact that we couldn't really fit in properly, no matter how hard we tried.

"Alys? Something wrong?"

I smiled, shaking my head. "Nah, it's fine." I didn't want to upset her, not now, not when she was so looking forward to Saturday.

Which, by the way, came so very quickly.

I was completely clueless as to what to wear. It was brand new territory, an area I had never traversed before. Standing in front of my wardrobe, I flicked through the clothes I had before pulling out a low cut top with no sleeves and a broken heart design across the front. Below, I wore a pair of skinny, black denim jeans, before setting about and doing my make-up. Heavy on the eyeliner, with deep red lipstick.

I just hoped it would be all right.

In the living room, I waited for Rack. She had spent the whole afternoon getting ready, saying she wanted to look amazing for our first human party.

And, well, she did.

Rack stepped into the room wearing a short, red dress, her hair done in curls and her make-up expertly applied. She looked cute and sexy all at the same time.

"You look hot," she cooed, moving further into the room.

"So do you."

As if we could help that, being, well, what we were.

"When's Kate picking us up?" she asked, glancing sideways at me.

I checked the clock. "In a minute. Want a drink first?"

"Please!" she cried, grinning as I went into the kitchen, returning with two vodka and cokes. Alcohol didn't have that much impact on us; we had to drink a lot to get really tipsy, but keeping up appearances were vital. As we drank, I kept glancing out the window, growing impatient as I waited for Kate to pick us up.

Around half nine, she turned up.

"Hey!" she said, grinning as she studied me and my sister. "Wow...I would say you were too dressed up, Rack, but I don't think the guys will mind."

Rack shifted. "Are you sure?" she muttered, glancing in the mirror. "I don't want to stand out."

"You would if you were in a bin bag," Kate sighed, shaking her head before she took my hand and dragged me out. "Come on, girls, it's party time!" At the end of the path she stopped, turning to me as Rack locked up. "I am so jealous of you two. You barely even have to try." Her eyes darted to look at my sister. "Do you think we should call her Rach, for tonight? Rack is an...unusual name."

"You know what, I really don't think she'd mind." When Rack did join us, we told her the suggestion. She was, of course, more than happy at it. With a smile, Kate pointed to the taxi waiting for us. We climbed in, and were soon heading to the party.

X X X

Yes, attention and sex were look food to me. That didn't mean I was a cold, heartless bitch. As much as the next person, I wanted to find love, I wanted to find 'the one'. And, with the whole demon-being-able-to-seduce-whoever thing, plus the idea that, well, like Kate had pointed out, it was hard for guys not to like us, sometimes, (mostly at night, when the moon was up) we had our own, biological signals for detecting whether something with a male could be 'real' or not.

I'd felt it before. Of course I had; I was over a thousand years old. I'd felt it with Jay, I'd felt it for a werewolf in the past, not to mention a fair few demons. And those were the memories I treasured. The feel of love, real, true love, was amazing.

Even for a Temptation Demon.

The door opened.

"Hey, Damon. This is Rach, and Alys." Kate introduced us before pushing past the guy and sliding her way into the house.

"Hey," he said, smiling as Rack held her hand out. He shook it, she winked before disappearing inside the house. I stepped forward, clutching my bottle of vodka as he turned to me.

The moment his hand touched mine, that was it. Electricity shot through me, my heart stilled for just a second because, believe or not, we do have hearts, much as the propaganda liked to act like we didn't. Time, for me, literally stood still.

His hand fell away and he stepped back, gesturing me inside. Damon. What a freaking name,

Nerves fluttered through me, causing me to dip my head as I smiled and went in.

Thousand years of practice, and my first human love turned me back into, well, a four hundred year old.

Short, red-blond hair stuck up from his hair, serving to emphasise his dark blue eyes. Behind me, I sensed him following, as I moved through to the kitchen. As soon as we came in, Rack cast a smile over my shoulder.

Fuck.

Kate's eyes fell on me, before she turned to the guy sitting at the kitchen table, currently engaging her in conversation.

Just because I'd felt it, didn't mean he had.

Rack held out a glass to me, grinning as I poured out some of the vodka for her. Her eyes followed Damon as he moved towards the group of guys at the other end of the room.

I was screwed.

Having him around meant, without a doubt, I would be unable to concentrate on anyone else. And, unfortunately, unrequited love was not just a human concept. I'd spent a decade chasing after a demon once, had ended up hurt and broken hearted.

For a human, it would have been like chasing after the same guy for a year, maybe two, only to have them tell you in completely plain terms that they just weren't interested.

The eyes of the other men in the room, gazing at me and Rack, didn't offer me any consolation.

"What do you think?" Rack whispered, leaning in towards me as she poured herself out a dose of coke. "That Damon guy is cute, don't you think?"

"Sure," I muttered, concentrating on my own drink. Rack giggled.

"Fancy a little competition?"

My hand shook and, before I could stop myself, I'd knocked my cup, spilling the drink over the floor. "Oh, bugger," I hissed, stepping back to avoid getting it on my shoes. Rack squealed, leaping backwards as she focused her eyes on me.

"Alys!" she whined. "You spilled it on my dress."

"Shit, sorry," I mumbled, eyes darting around the kitchen to look for a cloth or kitchen roll or something to tidy up. Behind me, I could hear the guys laughing.

"Don't worry," Damon said, sliding in behind me, clutching a cloth in his hands. He winked at me. "I got this."

"Thanks," I muttered, grabbing Rack's hand. "Where's your bathroom? My sister needs to clean up, I think."

"Upstairs," he replied, "first door on your left."

"Cheers. Kate?"

She nodded, looking worried before following me and Rack upstairs. As soon as we were in the bathroom, Kate shut the door, locking it behind her as Rack sat on the closed toilet, pouting at me.

"What was all that about?" she drawled, eyes fixed on me as I ran a flannel under the tap. Kate grabbed a towel, passing it to my sister as I kept my back to both of them.

"Nothing," I said, turning and passing her the flannel. "It was..nothing. Sorry, Rack. Really."

She sighed. "It's okay." Dabbing the flannel against the spill, she kept her eyes fixed on me. "Seriously, though, are you all right? You seem all...flustered."

I forced myself to smile. "Just...well, you know, we're not used to being around this many humans not knowing...what we can do," I said, finally. "At least in work the guys know we're...different."

Rack rolled her eyes, passed back the flannel and grabbed the towel, using it to dry the spot on her dress. "It's a good thing, Alys." My sister winked at me before dropping the towel on the floor. "Enjoy it, yeah?" With that, she left, a happy smile on her pretty face.

I turned to the sink, gripping the sides of it and staring down into the bowl.

"Alys? What's wrong?"

To my surprise, when I looked into the mirror, it was to see tears swimming in the bottom of my eyes. They began to fall and I turned to face Kate.

"I like Damon."

"Jesus, he's what this is about?" she laughed, stepping forward. "So, well, go for it."

"There's a problem."

"Your sister?"

I nodded. Kate frowned.

"So what? Alys, Damon's just...well, just a guy. It doesn't matter if something happens with you two, really. I mean you barely know the guy and it's not like..."

"Listen to me," I said, reaching out and grabbing her hands in mine. "I don't know if this happens to you but...do you ever get it when you meet a guy and you just know that he's..."

"The one?" she whispered, raising an eyebrow.

"Not the one, exactly." I thought about it, comparing the lifespan of a human to my own experiences on the other side of the gate. "Okay, well, the one for you, maybe. I mean, you'd spend, what, forty, fifty years with someone you love? Like, really, love."

She nodded. "If you get married or...or make a commitment to each other, yeah. But even that...it's not like you just an electric spark and know you're soul mates, Alys."

I couldn't help myself. I grinned. "We do."

"Serious?"

I nodded, before explaining it to her, explaining the whole thing about just knowing you were meant to be with someone, even if, sometimes, that someone didn't respond.

"But if he goes for Rack..." I sighed, shaking my head. "She's...sort of stronger than me, Kate. In a way. Her allure is more powerful and I guess I'm scared that if something happens between them, then I won't stand a chance. Which will leave me with another thirty or whatever years before I feel it again."

"Serious?" she muttered. "Wow, that...that really sucks, Al." She glanced at the door. "Can't you tell Rack?"

"It might encourage her. She...doesn't always think things through."

A sly grin crossed Kate's face. "All right. Well then, I'll help. Listen, I'll distract her..." She grabbed her phone from her pocket, glancing down at it. "And I know just the person to help me. Come on." Gently, she pulled me towards the door. "Oh, and one more thing."

"Yeah?"

"Don't mention the whole soul-mates, electric shock thing to Damon...to any guy, Al. It'll just...well, human guys, they tend to get freaked out by things like that."

X X X

Even with her intervention on my sister, he still barely paid me any attention. Damon remained fixed at the side of his friends, dipping in and out of conversation with them or playing drinking games. Not long after the conversation in the toilet, another guy had turned up. Kate had introduced him to everyone before sliding him into conversation with my sister.

Now, both girls kept glancing at me.

I was standing on my own, leaning against the wall with a cup in one hand. My free arm was resting just above my flat stomach, my eyes drifting around the room and all too often landing on Damon.

"Come on," Kate said, approaching me and gently grabbing my hand. "Let's go into the living room, yeah?"

To my surprise, Rack and Jimmy – Kate's friend – followed.

The living room was pretty nice, with a flat screen TV, a sofa and a couple of arm chairs. My sister and Jimmy took one of the armchairs, while me and Kate sat on the sofa.

"So what do you do, Alys?" Jimmy asked, his arm wrapped casually around my sister's waist. She glanced at me, smiling gently.

She looked different, somehow.

"Oh, I work at the same place as these two," I muttered, before taking a sip of my drink. From the kitchen, I heard laughter. I wanted to be in there. I wanted to be the one making Damon laugh.

In a cool way.

Or the one laughing with him, at least.

Kate glanced nervously at me.

"She's one of our quickest," she said, nudging me. "Aren't you, Alys?"

"Oh, yeah."

We drifted into silence. Finally, Kate suggested turning the TV on. As soon as we did, I wished we didn't. An important news message was showing up, informing all of us in the room that a riot had broken out in London. The cause? Gates. Protesting against the new tattoo law.

"So, Jim," my sister began, drawing the name out and adding her own light tone to it. "What do you...do you have any strong feelings on..." She stopped, rolling her eyes before they snapped to me, practically begging me to say something.

"What do you think about all this?" I said, turning my head to look at him. "The whole thing with the Gates and that, I mean."

Her eyes said it all, a silent thank you, and suddenly I realised what had happened.

Holy shit.

I wasn't the only one in love at the party.

Jimmy grumbled something before speaking louder. "I just think, well, it's right, isn't it? You should be able to tell if they're from here or not." He frowned, staring at the TV. "And just look at them. Bloody violent lot. It's not right, you know. I think we should send them all back where they came from."

"Bit harsh, don't you think?"

Mine, Rack's and Kate's heads all turned to the door, to see Damon standing there and staring at Jimmy with a look of pure pity in his eyes.

"Nah, man, it's a human world. We don't need freaking demons and shit here. Ain't you ever seen Supernatural?"

"Yeah, big fan." To my surprise, Damon came and sat beside me. "But even Sam and Dean could see the good in some of them. And if you look at the videos online, the fighting wasn't instigated by them."

"What do you mean?" I whispered, glancing nervously at Rack. She looked upset, and I really couldn't blame her.

Damon frowned, glancing down at the glass bottle of Stella in his hand. "The police hit a demon. She looked pretty young, too."

"They age differently," Rack muttered. "She could have been a thousand."

"Yeah, but that's not the point," he continued, shaking his head. "She looked like a kid. A cute one, too. Bright blonde hair and huge blue eyes. She only stood out because her skin was this pink shade."

"Did she survive?" I asked, biting my bottom lip. Lier. He'd just described Lier. And Rack recognised the description, too.

"She's in a critical condition," Damon sighed. He fixed his gaze on Jimmy. "What gives us the right to dictate who lives here and who doesn't? It's wrong, the way we're treating them. Tattoos, badges. What next? Fucking concentration camps?"

"Wow," I muttered, staring at him. "You really like the Gates, don't you?" Unable to help myself, I felt a smile grow on my lips. He glanced at me, the gaze in his eyes softening and his mouth turning just slightly up. He shrugged.

"I just don't like seeing anyone treated like that. It's disgraceful."

"Yeah, but at the end of the day," Jimmy said, lifting his head and staring hard at Damon. "would you really date one?" A sly smile crossed his face, and my sister, once more, shifted awkwardly. "Or let your daughter date one?"

Damon stood, finished his beer and gripped it tightly. "Maybe. Who am I to say what I would or wouldn't do? And everyone deserves a chance. Human or not." With that, he turned, slipping from the room.

Jimmy scoffed. "They don't deserve anything."

"You're a dick," Rack snapped, leaping from the chair and whirling around to face him. "You know that, right? You're a complete arsehole. What Damon said was true. Everyone deserves a chance."

She left, her footsteps crashing on the stairs. Moments later I heard a door slam. Jimmy's mouth opened and closed, before he shook his head and left, too.

"I should go after her." Kate nodded at my suggestion, following me upstairs. We found Rack in the bathroom; her sobs were audible even through the locked door. Gently, I knocked. "Rack? Let me in, girl."

"I don't want to talk," she wailed.

"Fine," I hissed, lifting my hand and placing it on the doorknob. "If you're going to be like that..."

"What are you going to do?" Kate whispered. I winked.

"Just watch." I closed my eyes, concentrating, and moments later heard the lock click I grinned at Kate before both of us moved into the bathroom.

Rack was sitting on the end of the bathtub, her head in her hands, shoulders shaking.

"Aw, Rack," I sighed, moving quickly towards her and putting my arms around her shoulders. She wailed as she turned, burying her head into my shoulder.

"I don't get it," she sobbed. "Aren't we meant to be?"

"I know," I whispered, kissing the top of her head. "I know, darling." I glanced at Kate, my eyes saying all that needed to be said. She slid from the room, closing the door gently behind her. "But sometimes it just...it just happens like that. And it sucks. Big time. But you know, it doesn't matter. Because he's a prick, and you're better off without him."

"But I love him!" she cried, fingers clutching tightly at my top, eyes squeezed shut. "I know I do, Alys."

"Yeah, well...hey, how unusual is this, though." Softly I pulled her away, hands remaining on her shoulders as I fixed my eyes on hers. "I felt it, too. Not for Jimmy."

"Damon, right?" she whispered, a small smile cracking her lips. "Yeah, okay, that's pretty weird."

"Listen, Rack." I tightened my grip. "You can still...maybe, if you want to, who says you can't change his mind? Or try to, at least."

"You think I could?"

I shrugged. "I don't see why not. It's a strong feeling, and if I've learnt anything, it's that sometimes, it takes work. It doesn't always come easy."

"It has before."

I nodded, stroking back a strand of her hair. "For you, yeah. But you...you've only felt it with demons before. And trust me, it's a lot easier with our own kind."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Well, you know, they feel it too. They're on the same page as us."

She nodded, and we talked, for just a minute or two, as she asked me about my past experiences, about the difficulties I had with those who weren't demons. Finally, she stood in front of the sink, glancing in the mirror as she wiped away her tears and tidied her make-up.

"Go on," I said, smiling softly at her, "go get him."

She nodded, flashed me a quick smile and left. Seconds later, Kate returned to the room, a wicked sly grin on her face. "Come here."

With a shrug, I did as she said, following her down the upstairs hall until we reached a door at the end. Kate winked at me, before opening it and gently pushing me inside. I glanced around, eyeing the walls covered in posters of bands and girls. A desk sat against a window, a bookshelf taking up the space beside it.

I glanced at Kate. "Kate, is this Damon's room?" I whispered. She grinned, nodded. "We shouldn't be in here."

"Wait," she replied, moving to the bed and grabbing a wallet off it. She handed it to me. "Gives you an excuse to talk to him. Say you found it on the bathroom floor."

"Kate..."

"Just do it!" she laughed, clapping me on the shoulder before pushing me out. "Come on! I am not sitting back all night watching you and your sister mope around."

"Rack's going to...to try, with Jimmy."

"Seriously?" Kate sighed. "Look, I know he said he was a mate but he's more an acquaintance, really. I don't know the guy, and he seems like a dick."

I shrugged. "She loves him."

Her hands fell on my shoulders, squeezing them. "She doesn't know the guy."

"You're right. And I don't know Damon. But it's like I said, we just know, Kate. And it was going to be difficult, anyway, even if he hadn't said all that stuff. It always is when they're not, well, like us." I lowered my voice for the last part, as we came down the stairs and ended up in the hallway. "She's never had to work at a relationship. It's about time she tried, don't you think?"

"Fine," she grumbled. "Fine! But you know we'll be the ones wiping her tears. Anyway, I'm going to go see if she's all right. Go talk to Damon!"

She turned, moving quickly into the living room. Rolling my eyes, I headed for the kitchen, clutching the wallet in my hand.

Well, I thought. It's worth a shot. Taking a deep breath, I pushed the door open.

A/N: One of the longest, if not the longest, short stories I've done, I think. Anyway, this is just a glimpse into a couple of characters I've been thinking about, as well as a chance to flesh out this world. It's set in the same world as Dark and, if you want to see more of these characters, and find out what happens to Rack and Alys, I would suggest looking at the poll on my profile page. As always, reviews and feedback are very much appreciated. Thanks!