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Mitena Strongbow, Jade Taylor, Mordechai Boaz, Penelope James, Natalia Belmonte


“I don’t even know where to start.”

Tena nervously laughed as she professed her trepidation. Her doe eyes looked around the picnic bench, assorted breakfast snacks such as fry bread, breakfast burritos and clustered granola cakes sat on paper plates having freshly cooked by the one and only Forrest Proudstar. She glanced at the collected group from Edenridge, Massachusetts that had travelled to the rolling fields of the Blue Hill Reservation in order to protect her. Each person sat at that table meant something to a very particular boy that was no longer of this plain and Earth. He was a boy of deep trouble and hard times, broken promises and words. He was an urban poet bequeathed the soul of a wordsmith by a higher power. He was a troubled boy.

Charlie Decker; they were all pieces of the heart of Charlie Decker.

Mitena reached beneath the table for Natalia’s hand. She hadn’t known the Italian girl any longer than a day but the comfort she felt in her presence was soothing; borderline intoxicating, like the rest of her had been during their night together. It was telling of her brother's choice in friends that these kids journeyed all the way to the Rez to try and help a girl they didn’t even know existed. Charlie seemed to choose the people in his life well.

“I guess I should just start from the beginning?” The raven haired singer picked up her iced tea and had a quick sip before continuing. She could feel her heart racing. Why was she so nervous? “I didn’t know Charlie even existed until he sent me a letter when I was….fourteen? Maybe fifteen? Apparently he found me during some class project you guys had about family trees. We share a father, James, but I gather you already know that. Charlie and I only ever met in person once. Everything else was through the letters.”

"I remember that project." Jade found herself saying out loud, almost like it was an impulse or something like that. She could remember that project clearly because she remembered where her head was at during that time. Her uncle had helped her fill in her own tree to make up for the gaps that were left because she refused to add her parents to it.

But as she looked around the table, her gaze went in a circle from Tena and Natalia to the two that sat opposite of her: Key and Poppy. She wondered what was going through their minds. What could they be thinking? Even more importantly, was it right for Jade to be the first one to speak? She didn't feel like she had any. For the last month, she was a ghost to those closest to her and she still felt like a grim cold chill even as she sat nestled between them. Yesterday she felt like she took a lot of the right steps forward, but there was still this underlying feeling deep inside her, like the ripple effect of what she did not just last month, but on that night.

Now that she was face to face with Tena, Charlie’s long lost sister, she couldn’t help but have that one night on her mind. Those thoughts never went away. They were never resolved nor addressed. Jade ran away, sank herself in pills, whiskey, and whatever she could to not feel for a whole month. She knew she couldn’t do that anymore. Her moment with Natalia and again with Key, knowing just how much she truly missed out on (either by her design or the design of her pain), there was a clarity moment she was having right now and it was staring her into the face with the same features Charlie had. “So…in the letters he sent you, did he ever mention a night at a Carlisle house party. December of 2016, did he ever say anything about that night?” As she asked, her blue-green eyes side-glanced at Poppy and Key. She understood what this potentially could bring up but she needed to ask. She needed to know and it was the only way she knew at this moment to even start to address what she tried to leave behind her.

“You mean the night that Allison Davies died? Yeah he mentioned it a lot.” Mitena’s eyes fell upon the packed table of food. Indeed Charlie had talked about that evening as the night that everything went wrong. That was the night that he was labelled a murderer and his descent into the embrace of the withered hands of the craven tribe truly began. “Especially towards the end.” Seeking comfort, the indigenous singer moved the hand of Natalia’s she was holding under the table into her lap. She exhaled, trying to keep her composure. “I think that night created in Charlie a well of guilt. But not just for what happened to Allison, even though he most certainly blamed himself for that. He was sad because he had made promises to all of you and he failed to keep them.”

The faces staring back at her were somewhat terrifying despite their sincere and understanding looks. “Though that’s as much detail as he goes into in his letters. You sort of put more pieces of the puzzle together when you read his book. Like how he really just wanted to spend the day with you, Poppy.” Mitena looked towards the ethereal girl on the edge of the bench before drifting her gaze to Decky. “Or about how he let you down Mordechai because he was taking care of your patch.” The girl turned to face Jade, who had started off the line of questioning. “He especially held a lot of guilt for you and how you were forced to see something you shouldn’t. That one really hurt him-- or at least that’s what I took from his words. I don’t know how true it is.”

While Mitena spoke, it took everything in Jade to not show just how high her emotions were. Tena didn’t know it, but when she mentioned how jade witnessed something she shouldn’t have, that made her heart swell. The whole time she was blaming herself for it. Blaming herself for how this weight lingered on her shoulder because of that night, she never knew how Charlie felt about it. “I…never knew he felt that way about it.” She couldn’t bring herself to mention it specifically. It was too painful to speak about it, but she felt she had some form of closure.

She looked down at the picnic table, looking at the food but not reaching for any of it. “I don’t think you have any reason to not believe it. It seems he trusted you a lot, Tena. And I can see why. To find out you have a sister, maybe he just wanted to know what that felt like.” As she spoke, Jade’s gaze went to Poppy and gave her sister a soft smile before returning it to Tena. “I like to think that he found safety in you in whatever way he could.”

The letters. The book. The broken promises. Penelope James held onto her fork as she stared at her plate of fruit and some biscuits. Untouched, as expected of her. Only a couple hours ago she and Mordechai had talked to one another about being kinder to themselves and keeping each other afloat. They were just kids. They all were just kids. She was grateful Jade took the lead. Without her, this table’s silence would cut like an excruciating sharp knife.

Poppy had thought she was prepared for this, she really convinced herself for a moment that she was ready. After hearing everything, she knew she didn’t want to hear any of this. She didn’t want to hear any of this from Mitena Strongbow. She wanted to hear this from Charlie Strongbow-Decker. It was all infuriating and to add salt to her wounds that she keeps trying to close up, Jade gave her a tender look, emphasising that the people at this table here were family. Their family. Jade, her sister. Mordechai, her brother. Charlie…

The last thing Poppy wanted to do was offend her. Instead, she bit her tongue and kept quiet. Her eyes searched the table only to catch the sight of Tena and Natalia holding hands under the table. It was subtle but Poppy could tell. That was fast. She was starting to think she’d need to up her dosage with her antidepressants and anxiety meds. The sensations were overwhelming her and she could feel a ball in her throat everytime she swallowed. Trying to keep her mind off the raging storm within her, she brought her fork to a cut piece of strawberry and pierced it. She nibbled on it as she sat in silence. It wasn’t her time to talk. This was Jade’s moment.

“I appreciate that.” Mitena said sweetly as Jade mentioned Charlie’s wish to be safe. It dawned on her that she had been her brother's keeper without even realising it. She had been a stranger to carry his secrets so that he didn’t have to burden his friends, at least in his mind she imagined. It was sad to think that the Charlie she knew through their letters could not share parts of himself with the people he was closest to. If she was a betting girl, Tena would say that this inability to communicate, to carry a load and not share it, was her big brother's downfall. “I guess my next question is…well, what do you guys need from me? I wanna help you in any way I can.”

‘What a loaded question,’ Mordechai thought as the conversation came to a gentle pause. What did they need from her? Mordechai didn’t even know she existed until this trip was already set in motion by Poppy. On top of that, finding out that this whole thing wouldn’t have even happened if it weren’t for that fucking project had him stewing in his own emotions. He remembered it of course because of how it made him feel not being able to complete it. He’d spent hours staring at the blank page of the assignment, not even feeling comfortable putting Benjamin and Alana’s names down and graphing his and Danny’s branches back onto the tree that they had fallen out of so willingly and with feverish haste. He'd gone to Mr. Beau with far more attitude than the kind and patient man deserved and asked if the report was some sick joke for those that didn't get to know anything about their roots, and instead of failing him or giving him detention, Beau had just told him to write about his real family. The one he and Danny chose. While it helped for the assignment and his mental well-being at the time, Mordechai had never lost that bitter feeling in his chest when he thinks about the fact that he knows absolutely nothing about his blood relatives, or whether or not they were just like his parents.

And here Charlie had found a sister before he'd taken Danny away. A sister who he'd confided in in a way unlike he had with anyone else. 'With any of us…' he finally shifted his gaze from where it had been looking over Tena's shoulder instead of at her, and took in his two best friends. How were they feeling about what Charlie had told Tena? He'd just wanted Poppy that day, he'd wished Jade never had to see him and ReyRey that night, those were both understandable statements when it came to Charlie, but what Tena seemed to learn about Mordechai sounded more like his own words to Charlie all those years ago. He'd said he was disappointed, and while he never once thought that Charlie had laced the shit Allison took on purpose, it didn't stop him from treating the tall native boy like he had. He never called him a murderer, never said anything to him that he didn't believe, but he literally greeted Charlie physically for the first time in a year and a half with a right hook to his jaw.

He made promises to all of you and he failed to keep them. Mordechai and Danny never made promises, even when asked to. The word was too strong of a contract that was far too easily broken in the world they lived in. Charlie hadn't had such reservations over the term, and more often than not he absolutely followed through on his promises, especially within their little group. But what about all the shit Mordechai did that had him failing at being a good friend? All the punishments at ReyRey's command, not even asking for Charlie's side before going off on him, and all the snarky comments he could have kept to himself. All the things that slowly broke Charlie until he returned the favor tenfold by tearing asunder the lives of those that wronged him, and even those that never did.

And Decky threw the first punch, every time.

Well, they're already here and Tena somehow has the most answers out of all of them, might as well ask the important questions while he still had a will to do so, right?

"Did he hate me?" Mordechai finally asked as his dark eyes dropped to the ground beneath his feet while he hung his head, hands clasping each other tightly and arms resting on his legs. His hair covered the shame on his face as he asked the questions he knew he had to, even when he'd convinced himself of his own answers just so that he could keep moving every day, keep living. "I treated him like shit and nothin' was even his fault, and I knew that. But I always followed ReyRey's orders and punishments, no questions asked. I had ta start his jump out junior year or ReyRey would've withheld my own. Once I'd focused on gettin' me and Danny out it's like nothin' else much mattered at the time, even my friendships," he admitted in a small yet harsh voice, not daring to look beside him at two of the people he loved as he spoke, and all his anger in his tone very clearly directed inwards. "So, did he hate me? Did he ever talk about my little brother Danny? Did I make him hate us both?"

“I don’t think I’m the one to answer that, Decky.” This was a lot more sombre than Tena expected. It seemed her words were doing more harm than good to the people Charlie cherished more than anything. Who was her brother? Really? The words on his pages seemed either to not represent the man at all or the part of him that he offered to these people was so hidden…or even perhaps lost. “All I can answer is that I think you all meant something different and special to him. You were all a piece of him but I don’t really know. I knew Charlie through letters over a brief time. You knew him up until the day he did what he did. You knew him.” Mitena could feel her eyes slightly begin to water. She really thought she had made peace with everything that the beautiful departed was and could’ve been. Yet the more she talked with people, the more she realised she didn’t know him at all. Who was he? “Tell me about him? Who was Charlie Jay to you guys? Who was my brother?”

“A stranger, apparently,” Penelope muttered under her breath as she carried a heavy weight on her shoulders. Dejected and lost, she gazed at her plate with empty eyes. She knew Tena was an innocent party to everything that was Charlie but this whole experience was like being repeatedly stabbed in the heart. Over and over again. She could barely see beyond her pain. She could barely see those around her. She could barely see.

“I don’t understand,” Poppy shook her head in disbelief, not making eye contact with anyone. “I don’t understand why I know so little.” Balling her fists until they turn white, Poppy could feel her teeth jittering, knowing a panic attack was not too far off from happening. She swallowed hard, holding back any tears she felt like shedding. Tired of crying. “Yesterday alone I found out Charlie knew the most popular girl in our grade and he also has a sister. I… I don’t understand why he didn’t trust me enough…” She hated this. Why was she the one forced to save the day? Keep her friends together? To help others heal and be happy? She could barely save herself. Poppy was no hero. She was no one. She was nothing. Everything she ever did, it was all for nought because clearly at the end of the day she could never be enough for him. She was never enough for Charlie. She would never be enough.

“All I’m hearing is,” Penelope glanced up at her friends and the two girls she barely knew, a single tear trailing down her cheek. All her pain hit its peak in her tone, yet it was nothing more than a whisper. “I was a waste of space,” she uttered, her pale fists hitting her lap in frustration, “I’m nothing to him. I never was anything to him. I don’t want to hear this from you. I want to hear this from Charlie. I’m sorry,” Poppy pushed her chair back and stood up, covering her mouth with the back of her wrist, clear signs of her breathing drastically picking up, “I need to take a walk.” Before anyone could stop her, making sure if someone tried to grab her she’d slip out of their reach, Poppy was rushing away, “D-don’t follow me, please.” And in seconds, she was gone.

Natalia had remained a silent spectator for the entirety of the conversation, listening closely and taking in everything that was being said. The conversation began with the night of Allison Davies' death: one of the many events that had negatively impacted their lives in different ways, and the one that marked the beginning of Charlie’s downward spiral. Contrary to her peers, her experience at the party had been a positive one. She'd spent most of that December night messing around and getting to know the new boy at the time, Mika. It was what happened after, though unrelated to Charlie Decker at the time, what led the Queen Bee and the Native gentleman to cross paths for the first time. Looking back on it, Tal never would've imagined that losing her virginity to her former best friend Niles Sinclair that night would snowball into her sitting at this kitchen table at the Blue Hill Reservation, surrounded by Charlie's friends and sister and carrying a secret in danger of being exposed.

By the time she zoned back into the conversation, Mitena was asking the visitors to share who was Charlie to them. As Natalia would have expected, Poppy James was the first to speak up. But instead of elaborating on the many things Tal knew she could say about her forever love, she watched the distraught Penelope crumble to pieces in front of them before storming away from the table in tears.

Immediately, Natalia felt her body tense up, but Mitena's hold on her hand and the presence of Mordechai and Jade meant she was forced to suppress her own rising panic. All of her doubts and fears about coming clean or sharing her secret were confirmed by Penelope with this display of emotions. If the knowledge of Charlie having a secret sister and the fact that he and Tal acknowledged each other’s existence had elicited this gut-wrenching, visceral reaction from Poppy, she couldn’t imagine what would happen if the true nature of their relationship came out. There was no way in hell that she would be opening her mouth anytime soon.

Tena was frozen and in tears. She didn’t want to hurt anyone. These kids came to her looking for something, looking for someone lost to them and all she could offer were words on old yellow pages that probably weren’t even true. She watched with her soft doe eyes as Poppy ran off. It was just like Charlie had said in his book; the girl with the flowered name was as precious as any jewel or great work of art.

She looked up at Natalia for reassurance but could see that she was hurting just as much as the others but in a different way. Poppy’s words rang out in her head. They didn’t know Natalia but Charlie did. She wasn’t part of their world but she was in his. God that must sting. He had hurt them all in so many ways and seeing her, hearing her talk, they probably thought Tena was his ghost come from wherever to torment them further. “I’m really sorry,” She tried to say assuringly but her confidence was an awful mask that wasn’t doing its job. “Maybe I should just leave and let you go back home? The storm should be over now and the roads clear. You can leave the memory of me behind and the pain I’m causing.”

Jade felt almost completely helpless. Not particularly frozen, but her gaze was on her soul sister as her pain was shared with everyone. She wanted to defy her when she left and follow her, but that would only do more harm than not. The month that left a gap in her communication with the two closest to her had more ripples than she thought there’d be. Even if she did go, how much worse would that make things?

As much as it hurt her to stay, there was something else Jade felt she was needed for - maybe even more than part of her hear wanting to get up after Poppy. She looked at Mitena. Throughout all of this, she was the most removed from the effects of Charlie’s life and actions on that day. “You have nothing to apologize for, Mitena.” Jade finally spoke up, focusing her undivided attention on the Native girl. Maybe for the first time, she was seeing the raw pain on her face. “This isn’t easy for any of us. Charlie was our world. I’m sure if you were to ask any of us, we’d have different answers as to what that meant. For me, he was someone I could be myself around. He could be an idiot sometimes, but that’s what I loved about him.” As she thought about Charlie, in that moment, she remembered back to that night of the game. Before everything went to hell, she remembered their conversation and she smiled. “You meant enough to Charlie that maybe he wanted to keep that for himself. Or maybe if things had gone differently, he would have told us about you, or introduced you to us at some point. Whatever the case, that means you’re family. So there’s no way in hell I or anyone at this table wants to forget about you.”

"She's right, we’re not ditchin’ ya," Mordechai spoke lowly while still glaring at the ground, voice gruff with his swirling turmoil. He'd stayed silent and tried to hide his flinch when Tena addressed him so casually by the name his brother had given him. He knew she didn't know anything else, he used to hate his full name and would demand anyone he didn't know well call him Boaz or Boa. He couldn't blame her for not knowing that that name died with Danny. His hands had gone from grasping each other to gripping tightly high on his forearms, fingernails digging into the scarred skin there as he desperately tried to hold himself together. 'Still no answers,' he thought dejectedly as his tears hit the carpet. 'Honestly, the fuck was I expectin'?' He had answers for her, though. He couldn't get his but he could make sure she doesn't leave this conversation without some of her own. Who was Charlie to him?

"When I first started school, the only other person I knew was Sonny, my neighbour and…well aside from Danny, my everythin' at the time. Poppy and Charlie were the first ones ta talk ta me, and me and Jade connected a little later. He…he was like my brother. We were all so aware of reality while also tryin'a escape it. Most'a the good literature I know is thanks ta him, and all the fuckin' quotes," he tried to finish that with a laugh, but it seemed to come out as more of a choked off sob as he shoved the palms of his hands against his eyes to try and stave off the breakdown he knew was on it's way faster than Poppy’s exit from the room. "Fuck man, I liked comics and poems but Charlie opened so many new worlds for me an- and for Danny. He was the strongest and softest guy I knew at the same time. He helped me raise my little bro just like Pops and J and I just fuckin' betrayed him. I put my shit above him time after time and I just-" the sobs finally broke his sentence off and he quickly bit his tongue to make them stop.

With sharp and jerky movements, Mordechai shot to his feet and managed to choke out, "I'm sorry, I can't, I can't," before making a beeline for the stairs and his room. The second he closed the door the tears began burning his face again as a cry like a wounded animal clawed its way out of his torn throat.

"FUCK!"

He turned around and put his fist through the wall right beside the door, leaving it there as he dropped his forehead to the door and let himself truly cry out of the sight of others. When he was done, he'd grab the patch and repair kit that he’d brought to Adora’s one year, half as an apology and half as a gag gift- and honestly, it's seen so much use that it's less of a gag now- and fix the wall like he always did. But for now, for now he was actually going to let it all out. He was going to cry for himself and what he lost, but also for those that can't cry anymore. He cried for Danny, but he also cried for Charlie.

"I'm sorry man, I'm so fuckin' sorry."








“Dearest Ronnie,

I don’t know if this letter will find you before or after…but it is my sincerest hope that whenever it finds you that you are well. The last time we spoke you said your eyes were bothering you a bit? Hopefully that has passed now and those beautiful forests of green are shining with the first rainfall of spring,

Where to begin, where to begin. I guess the trouble started before I was even born. My father Arthur wasn’t a superstitious man; he never really believed in much of our tribal traditions. When the Coldwind brothers Christian and Bear teased him that the Strongow name was cursed from Aponi herself down; he paid it no mind at all. Side note: I hear that they’re making Christian Chief soon, which is amazing! Anyway, that was likely why my dad sought a life outside the reservation: to prove the superstitions wrong. Sometimes I think he was more of a cowboy than a Native.

When I was just a boy he loved to entertain me with tales of my great grandfather, the first of us ever to use the name Strong-Bow. He was an outlaw by all accounts though I’ve never found proof in my own travels which is likely due to his birth name being lost to time. The way my father would tell it, the man spent an entire night and day protecting the tribe from soldiers looking to take the reservation land with only a bow and a handful of arrows. Personally I just think that’s a tall tale of the forgotten West but I’ll never deny that it might be a fact. We all have the potential to do amazing things under duress.

After he left Blue Hill, my Dad made his way across the US, just working on farms, getting himself into some mischief and then moving on until he found himself in New Mexico. I think being around the Apache and Mescalero reservations made him miss home. He met my mother, Susan Winters in Albuquerque, working on a ranch there. She was deeply religious, my Mom, catholic to a fault but something about the exotic stranger throwing around bales of hay just did something to her I guess. They ran away together real fast, they often joked that my grandfather was always chasing them, outlaws until the end. They settled back in Blue Hill about three months before I was born.

That outlaw spirit they held so dear was probably why I picked up that guitar on my twelfth birthday. It was likely why I dropped out of school in Salem and decided to go to Edneridge of all places, even though I was warned to stay away because of our family history. It was that outlaw spirit that led me to join up with the boys in Gallows and play that end of summer gig where I first saw you. You were with the Clovers and they were all in their little outfits but you, you just wore jeans and a leather jacket and I thought you looked so badass, so beautiful. I know that the Gallows gig would keep me away but on those long nights listening to Sean and Rusty argue and Will spouting his philosophical stoner crap, thinking about you helped me get through it.

After Rusty passed and the band was done; finding God was not on my to-do list. Yet there he was, to embrace me in the darkest of times when I’d lost something and someone I held so dear. I gave myself to the church, even adopted my mothers surname so that they wouldn’t look unkindly upon my origin. I was at peace.

I remember that day. Every second of it. I remember popping into Dolly’s before choir practice and you were working. I always thought you looked cute in that little outfit. Shannon was in the corner, pouring over textbooks with baby Reagan in her lap. April had passed out already from day drinking, lord knows where her son was and Sly had popped in for a swift coffee before his shift. You got me a coffee and some Eggs Benedict. Before we could really talk you had to go and serve Edie and John. I waved at them and left. Practice was normal. The choir sang beautifully and the Grimm’s were helping me pack away when we got the first whiff of smoke. I called for Gabby to go get the kids from the rectory whilst Hank and I tried to open the door. It wouldn’t budge. Being smaller, I decided to smash the window and climb out and try from the other side. By the time I got to the front of St Paul’s, the place was an inferno. That was when I noticed my car blocking the door. Someone had done this on purpose. I didn’t have my keys because I had left them at the pulpit. I tried and I tried but I couldn’t move the car. By the time the police and fire departments had arrived, the church and the people inside, the Grimm’s, those kids, were gone.

Craven is a word we use in my culture when someone is blacklisted and forgotten about. It seemed after the fire, both Edenridge and Blue Hill made me craven….but not you. You gave me warmth and gave yourself to me in a perfect moment, breaking my vows with an outlaw spirit. As much as I would have loved to move forward after our time together, I just couldn’t. My world grew darker by the second. I thought going back to the reservation would help. All it did was add silence to the blackness of an encroaching night. There was one person I could talk to, Dakota, a med student. She reminded me of you. She didn’t judge, she only listened.

Which I suppose brings me back to how I started this letter. I said my father was not a superstitious man but now, as I sit here illuminated by only the desk light, looking out across the Southside of Edneridge and towards the Elder Tree from which my ancestor was hung, I wonder. I wonder if he had been, would he have left Blue Hill? Would he have met my mother and had me? Would he have stopped me from moving to Edenridge and causing nothing but death?

I wonder.

I found my great grandfather's gun and note at the family ranch. Remember I said his name was lost to time? According to this, his English name was Charles Jay.

When you read this, do not weep for me and what I’ve done. This is my choice. I don’t know what awaits me beyond what is to come but I go forth and onwards unafraid of the Shepherd that calls me to eternity. Outlaws go out on their own terms and these are mine.

Yours Always
James Strongbow Winters
September 1st 2001”





”Always yours.”

Rhonda had gone over this letter a thousand times when she could see it clearly. It was now completely ingrained into her memory, she could recite it word for word without much provocation. As her eyesight failed her, she continued to read it daily in the hopes of finding something, anything that could help her understand. It had been twenty years since James shot himself, nearly three since her beloved son Charlie’s life had also been snatched away by a bullet. Ronnie had pondered in ifs, buts and maybes.

Both of them had undertaken actions that she did not and would never condone but that didn’t change the fact that Rhonda loved them both so very dearly. Maybe that was shy she sent Poppy and her friends to go look for Mitena, James and Dakota’s daughter. Maybe this girl who shared their blood would be the key to unlocking the secrets that James and Charlie held in their spirit. Then again, maybe inviting another Strongbow into her life was like opening up Pandora’s box.

”Outlaws to the end, huh boys?” Ronnie folded up James' note and placed it into the small box of memories on her nightstand, next to the small photograph of a then five year old Charlie, dressed up like a cowboy. She pushed up from her bed and used the wall to guide herself towards the curtains. She spread them wide to let in the cold light of day. The sudden illumination would burn the retinas of anybody else but Rhonda, well her eyes were dull now to even the most blessed of sights.

As she moved, guided by her hand on the walls, past her sons room, she smiled. ”Good morning, Charlie Jay.” She couldn’t hear the muffled sounds of music coming from his record player, a telltale sign that Charlie was still gone and today so was Poppy. Ronnie had gotten used to the girl's presence. It brought her back to a happier time. Descending down the kitchen staircase, the older woman called out. ”VAL. Play Love, the Hard Way Around by Gallows.” The AI assistant repeated the dark haired woman’s words before playing the soft melancholic country notes of her former belovedes band.

Ronnie moved towards the counter top and turned on the kettle. On a good day, she could see things with a blurred vision, like someone who neglected to put on their glasses. On the bad days, the world was on fire. All she could see was hues of orange and red and sparks of white hot flame. Today had yet decided what sort of day it would be. ”Lonesome dove, I’m just looking for love, the hard way around” She sang along as she poured herself a cup of tea. Before she could bring it to her lips however, the woman was disturbed by a knock at the door.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

Manoeuvring herself with the use of the counter and dining table, Rhonda moved forward towards the front door and unshackled the multiple locks she had in place. She told herself she took such precautions because she was a blind woman living alone on the Southside. The reality was that she didn’t know when someone with a grudge against her Charlie Jay would come looking for revenge. At this point in her life, Ronnie expected it to come one day. She swung open the door and had enough of her vision in the moment to recognise the face beaming back at her.

“Morning Miss Decker! I brought some records!”

Topanga was a sweet girl. She started coming round after what Charlie did. At first Ronnie was weary but she soon came to realise that the young girl was seeking something; what she wasn’t sure and had yet to really figure out. She did really enjoy the young indigenous girls' company though. ”Well get your little butt in here and let’s play ‘em Pang!” As the teen gingerly walked by to take her handful of old vinyls towards the table, Rhonda couldn’t help but become lost in wonder again. This time she wondered about the girl entering her house, she wondered about her life and her friends, her generation of Edenridge.

What was next for them?
TW: Hit & Run
End of Day 1: Timeskip post

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____________________________________________________________________

Well the Southside lead had been a bust.

There were really two major issues with the core of this case being David O’Hara.

One was the fact that a lot of people had done to Davey what they eventually did to Charlie Decker; they had erased him. They had cut him from photos, torn out pages from books where his name was written. Anything they could possibly do to make it so that John and Lizette’s oldest child ceases to exist in the hearts and minds of Edenridge, they could and would do it.

The second was that those that did want to remember, those that did want to help, had nothing they could offer. Clay had spent the entire day and night talking to parents, old friends, former girlfriends, he even spoke to some people in Pinehurst and still, nothing substantial that he could use. Even Clayton’s own memory was failing him. He tried and tried to think back, to see if there was another clue he had missed that he might’ve seen or heard. Something, anything that could help him find out what really happened to his best friend. He wasn’t going to give up though, he couldn’t. He had promised Jamie.

David and Jamie had just always been in Clay’s life. He couldn’t remember a time up until the day that David died that they weren’t. He remembered how cute the town thought it was that there were two sets of twins on Scott Street at the same time. He remembered all the old gossiping ladies salivating at the potential that David and Lamb might be a couple and that Clay and Jamie could be too, especially considering how close they were and would become. He remembered Duke’s first basketball game and he relented Jamie’s first breakdown. They were more than friends, they were more than Elite, they were family. He had to do this for them.

It seemed like the storm was at its apex now. The wind was furious, the rain was hitting the ground harder than a punch from Tyson and the thunder and lightning flashes were near constant. Why on Earth was God's favourite idiot still out in it? There was very little chance at this point Clay was going to make it home that night. He tried to think of whether he knew anyone on the Southside where he could stay until the morning. The reality of the situation though was that anyone he could stay with was someone he shouldn’t stay with due to a very specific type of history and he wasn’t going to put Cat through that. Clayton just wanted to be with her but at least he knew she was safe.

He wondered if he could chance a run to the Afterlife? It wasn’t that far from Southie. He was stuck on Terrace Place but he could make a dash through the woods to Lyon and then it was a straight shot to the former St Paul’s Cathedral. He knew Lamby was there considering he had interviewed her not too long ago in the evening. He knew at least then that he had some company to wait out the storm with and well…. he could spend some time with her. This whole situation of dredging up old memories had really gotten under Clay’s skin. Whispered thoughts from faces from his past had gotten him to really think about and take stock of his life and where he was in it. Laura was his twin; they were born two minutes apart. They were raised together and they were raised well; things should be better between them.

“Fuck it,” Clay wiped away some of the rain from his face as he shot off into the woods. The trees were a good shelter for the most part but the ground was soaked right through to the roots. Anyone looking at the scene unfold would think this was the beginning of a douchey Halloween horror movie where the preppy rich boy gets gutted by the psycho clown that was secretly his girlfriend's sister the entire time. Edenridge had too many horror stories and Clayton didn’t want to end up being one of them. Luckily for the police officer, he had grown up in that wood and pretty much knew it like the back of his hand. Clay remembered playing with David and Jamie, camping out and building forts. He had taken so many girls to a certain make out spot that it wasn’t even funny how many of the trees had his initials in them. Clay Costigan; fool for love.

Emerging onto the corner of Lyon and Carlisle, the former basketball star was really starting to struggle to see through the rain. It was eerie how the sun had been shining over Edenridge town when he finished his late shift earlier that day, when he bumped into Jamie and this whole maelstrom of horror began. As if it mirrored his own sanity, the weather transformed as the day went on; the sun replaced by black clouds, followed by a light drizzle that evolved into a hurricane. Amongst it all, standing on the edge of town, Clay with three pieces of a five piece puzzle.

In the distance, a lone car came towards him from down Lyon. ”What’s this prick doing?” He muttered through the drops of rain filling his mouth. Besides interrogating half of his childhood friends, Clay had also spent the day trying to keep people off the roads. The irony that he now stood on the side of one looking like a drowned rat was not lost on him. He was still in his uniform and had his badge so stopping this guy should be a piece of cake. Reaching into his back pocket, Clayton took out his gold shield and began flashing the torch in his shoulder, signaling for the car to pull over. ”PLEASE PULL OVER THE VEHICLE!” He called out through the wind, hoping that the driver would take note.

The car turned on its indicator and drifted off to the side, pulling up just in front of Clay. There was a moment of silence as the young officer tried to peer into the driving seat but could not see anything through tinted windows and rain soaked eyes. He couldn’t see the licence plate but recognised the model. ”I’M GOING TO APPROACH THE DRIVER WINDOW! KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL!" Clay had no intention of arresting this lesson so he didn’t draw his gun. He simply wanted to warn them of washed out roads ahead and that they might need to seek shelter back Pinehurst way. He brushed a hand through his hair to get rid of the hair blocking his vision as he got to the door. He rapped on the window and waited for the driver to bring it down.

Without warning, the door pushed open as Clay leaned forward, hitting him with force square in the head. Stumbling back, he tried to correct himself only to be tackled into the centre of the drowning road. The ferocious downpour of fists completely took him by surprise that he could barely defend himself and the sheer volume prevented him from opening his eyes to get a good look at the person assaulting him. Unable to use his eyes, Clay tore the torch off of his shoulder and used it as a hammer, cracking the assailant in the side of the head. Rolling onto his stomach, blood pouring from beneath his hair and under his left eye, the Foundling glanced to his side to see a very large and tall male. He tried to absorb the details of the man but between the blood, swelling and rain, Clay couldn’t make anything defining out about the attacker.

Before he could react again, the shadow man took another run, leaping to his feet he penalty kicked Clay right in the face: knocking him down to the ground once more. He used his size to pin Clay to the floor and began to throttle him, squeezing his hands around the police officer's throat. In that moment, a thousand things sailed through Clayton’s mind. He thought of Cat, Laura, his parents, David and Jamie. He thought of the life he had led up to that moment and just how much business he hadn’t finished yet. This was everything that everyone had always warned him about. The life of a cop. He wasn’t going out like this, not a chance. With as much might as he could muster, the Scott Street boy flung his knee up, hitting the shadow in the stomach and causing him to let go. He fell upwards to his feet and took off back towards his car.

Clay dragged himself to his feet, coughing and spluttering as the headlights illuminated him. He didn’t even feel it when the car struck him. As if floating in mid air, time slowed down. He knew that if he struck his head then that would be game over. He tucked his chin against his chest as he slid over the roof of the car and off the trunk, hitting the ground spine first whilst the suspect vehicle sped off towards Edenridge.

Face down on the ground, barely conscious with water filling his mouth, Clay tried to pull himself up. His eyes were getting heavy, in the distance a light coming towards him fast and a woman’s voice.

He didn’t want to go yet.

He wasn’t done.

@LovelyComplex@BrutalBx@metanoia
Timestamp: After Go Go Swerve Arcana PT III: Nerdgasm
FT: Sal Montero, Aves Kaine, Rosie Drake, and Anthony "Oz" Osso
Bron Milligan, Stacy Čapek, Marco Brady, Katie Čapek



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Bronagh had created a makeshift throne in the counter of Swerve Arcana. Like a Queen overlooking her subjects, she peered out across the room at the assembled members of the so-called Midnight Society and some stray wanderers like herself who had found their way into the bosom of the comic book store. The blonde sat crossed legged on the high top, with her arms leaned back. At first glance, this was what the Dungeon Master had warned the weary travellers of; a seductive, sensual Druid woman whose siren song lured one into her Woods of Temptation, to play her wicked game of challenges.

“Welcome,” Bron purred, using her best attempt at an old mediaeval accent. If she was going to be stuck with the dweebs all night, she might as well embrace it. “Pray tell, who shall be thy first to play with me?”

Oz nodded his head. It wasn’t a bad performance by any means. In another life, Bronagh Milligan, the once and former Supreme of Edenridge high could’ve been a good midnighter. “We elect The Staff as our first tribute, Mistress Dimitrescu.” The metal Lord pushed Marco forward, forgetting for a moment about his damaged leg.

“Dude really? You’re naming her after the woman from Village?” Salvador interjected.

“Shut up Goober before I kick your ass.”

“Not thicc mommy enough,” Avery muttered under her breath as she sat on one of the beanie bags reading an old volume of Langley’s The Amazing Adventures of El Mariachi. As much as she wanted to completely check out, not a huge fan of games like these, games that had more regrets than not, she kept her eyes and ears peeled so that she could read the room and make sure no one felt like shit at the end of this.

“She’s plenty thicc enough to me,” Rosie absentmindedly added, looking up at her dream mistress. She was smirking but only partially, then she immediately glanced down. She had just realized what she had said and Rosie was redder than her namesake, heart tha-thumping in her chest.

“ENOUGH!” Bron waved her hands to make the silence fall. She climbed off of the counter and softly licked the tips of her fingers. The seductress made her way to Marco and draped her hand across his body as she circled him, her green eyes drinking in his nervousness and fear. “I shall make your first challenge easy sir,” The blonde stopped back in front of the boy and pointed her finger at him. “I dare you, to kiss the person you find the most attractive and I don’t mean a friend kiss. Deep, meaningful, pure.”

“Oh okay…wait what!?” Marco breathed in response. His delayed reaction to the dare given to him had taken only a moment to sink in, but when he did, The Staff’s (a name that he was still confused about) relaxed expression had been immediately wiped off his face and replaced with one of panic and an immense uncertainty.

She wants me to do what now?

Marco looked around the group. He had to kiss one of them, but not just anyone. It had to be someone whom he found the most attractive. If this was a month ago, maybe Marco wouldn’t have had such a difficult time processing, let alone choosing someone to kiss. As much as he knew he could do it if he just swallowed whatever batch of nerves had developed in the last seven seconds, his stomach turned and twisted, stemming from so much guilt that he couldn’t stop but think about Danny. Even though he knew it was a game and maybe Marco knew that his boyfriend would understand if he just explained what happened, but then that meant he had to explain all of his thoughts going into it.

He had to explain to his boyfriend that he had to kiss the person he found the most attractive and give them not just a peck on the cheek, but a kiss that satisfied Mistress Dimitrescu enough for the torment to end.

He couldn’t. Marco just couldn’t.

“I-” Before Marco could stutter-speak the rest out, he felt a gentle nudge against his right shoulder. Katie, who sat next to him, had bumped her shoulder against his and he side-glanced her, seeing how she was…possibly suggesting herself? He didn’t quite understand and then she nudged him again. Still in a subtle way but this time a little harder.

Okay okay, Marco understood now.

“Katie. I choose Katie.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere.”

Katie could play up the role. In all honesty, she felt bad for Marco. She didn’t know what his problem with it, but she couldn’t let him suffer any longer. Bright blue eyes watched Marco awkwardly shake his shoulders. Really? She thought it was cute but was patient as Marco faced her. Smiling at him, she puckered her lips and, as awkwardly as it was, Marco tried his best to put his all into it. Katie could sense something was up, so she played it up a bit. She cupped his face with both hands and leaned forward. She faked certain sounds that might give the impression of something different happening. Katie could act and she had faked kisses (and other things) before, but at least this time it was for a good cause.

After a minute - literally a minute - Katie let Marco go, wiping the peach-colored lipstick off of his lips, looking to the…Mistress. “Satisfied?” Katie smirked at the T&D Mistress.

“It’ll do, for now.” Bronagh’s lips curled into a smile as she felt total dominance over the nerds. It was the same feeling she got when she posted her pictures and videos pan OnlyFans and Tiktok. It was liberating to have control over one’s body and how people see it and being able to Lord over these kids had a similar feeling, mostly because she did not have to try. They were all just as awkward as each other which made them far more interesting playthings than a lot of other people.

She wasn’t going to force the Midnights into doing anything they didn’t want to do. As fun as the game could be, there were boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed and despite appearances, Bron really did care about other people. “Avery.”

“Butterscotch,” Ozzy chimes in with the befreckled comic book worker’s DnD name.

“Whatever,” Bron took a sip from Mr. Kaine’s whiskey before letting her forest greens wander over Avery’s face. She knew that the other girl wasn’t as invested as the kids in the room and she knew this was likely because Avery was in love with Jamie O’Hara and these sorts of games always led to complications in that department. Then again, that was pretty much what truth or dare was designed for. “Seeing as you’re the oldest and wisest in your party, you will be the only one I give a choice; Truth or dare?”

Looking up from her comic, Avery surveyed the room and all eyes were on her. Was she a bad vibe? They were young and having fun, and while she didn’t necessarily agree with this type of fun, she shouldn’t ruin it for everyone else that looked up to her. She wasn’t going to do a dare though. If anything, her saying a truth could get people to be more comfortable in their skin, make Swerve a safe place where whatever is said here, stays here. Sighing like Andy from Wet Hot American Summer, Aves closed her book, locked her blue eyes with the kittenish gaze of Lady D and grumbled, “Truth.” What was the worst that could happen? Avery was an open book. Nothing Bron could say or do could catch her off guard.

“Very well,” Bronagh smoothly danced her way through the group of players until she reached Avery. Earlier she had basically offered herself up on a silver platter and Aves had turned her down. She didn’t have any hard feelings because she knew exactly why and respected the comic book girl for it. Yet that didn’t mean that Bron couldn’t have a little fun with her. “Considering the fact that earlier tonight I offered you my body and you declined, I have to ask, who is your perfect partner? Who can you, Butterscotch give your entire being to?”

She didn’t have to blast that in front of everyone. Rosie was likely going to give her daggers for having a chance with Bron and not telling her. “Let’s see,” Aves leaned back in the beanie bag, looking at everyone in the room as she spoke, “For those who don’t know, I’m gay. So I like people who identify as woman. As for my perfect partner,” The pillar of Swerve Arcana took a moment to think of the best way to describe the person she found as ideal. The woman of her dreams. The one she’d likely wait her entire life for. Placing the comic book down, she smiled when an obvious face came to mind. Ready to embark on her tangent, she passionately painted a picture for her friends, “The woman my heart desires is a dream chaser. She believes in the beauty of her dreams and knows if she doesn’t just go for it, nothing will change. Her heart might feel heavy most days but god, she has the brightest, most ethereal smile.”

Aves was moving her hands as she talked, completely engrossed in her explanation of her dream woman, “She keeps to a routine because if she doesn’t, she’ll feel lost and come undone. Like morning runs. Everyday, at the same time, she has to have her morning run. For her health, but also to clear her mind.” Nodding to herself, in complete agreement with what she was saying so far, Aves thoughtfully leaned forward, resting her chin in the palm of her hand like the Le Penseur statue. That didn’t last long because she was back at listing all the things she wanted in her woman and moving her hands to her words, like Taz Belmonte.

“She has cute habits like brushing her hair behind her ear like this,” Avery mimicked Jamie’s mannerism, her own smile turning into a big grin, gushing at the thought of how adorable the O’Hara girl was, “She doesn’t notice it, but it’s something that‘s so her and so cute. She does it all the time. Oh!” And another one. “Everytime she sees a flower,” Avery excitedly said as she pretended to find a rose bush, cupping the flower with her hand, “She stops and smells it, taking a moment to breathe and appreciate what’s around her. All the time. Doesn’t matter. If she sees it, she needs to smell it. Like clockwork.”

What else? What else could she say about her ideal person? The one she’d give every fiber of her being to? “My dream girl is a hard worker. People might not know she helped orchestrate a community event because she keeps quiet, stays backstage, but she’s there. She’s always been there. People just never noticed. She’d rather have others get credit for her ideas then have her name written all over an event and that makes total sense! Makes her humble, not seeking validation. A woman who takes pride in her ideas. Like, just seeing people happy makes her happy, which brings me to the next one.”

Hopefully her friends didn’t mind her talking their ears off but Bron asked a loaded fucking question. “She cares deeply for everyone and everything. And when she sets her mind on something, no matter how hard it is to attain, she puts all of her into it. Plus Ultra or bust!” Snapping her fingers in thought, finding a million and one reasons why she loved Jamie, Avery continued, “Most girls when you first meet them, analyze the shit out of you and see where you fit in their hierarchy. Not my dream girl. She sees you, like really sees you. Sure maybe not in the way you want her to, but that’s just your own selfishness getting in the way. But like, she’s not perfect and that’s okay! I don’t want perfect. Who the fuck ever wants perfect? My dream girl is like…”

Aves took a moment to really think about this one before musing, “A glass ballerina. Elegant, lovely. Classy as fuck, but oh so delicate. You have to handle her with care or she’ll shatter and that’s okay. Being sensitive is okay. Not being able to carry the weight of the world by yourself is okay. It’s okay not to be okay. Because at the end of it all, she’ll make you feel oh so needed. And wanted. I got two arms, two hands, and ten strong boys,” Aves lightly chuckled and playfully showcased her ten fingers before resting them on her knees. “Always ready to pick her up and carry her home. I don’t want someone that’s always strong or has to play pretend so the world can accept this perfect princess they always expected her to be. My dream girl is real, like a page of a book,” she holds the Langley comic in her hand and turns to the next page, “She makes you close your eyes and want to dream. And every page of her story you read, you never grow tired of it because you find her to be the most courage, outrageous, free spirited person you ever fucking met. You can’t help but get lost in the words on the page. A book you want to read over and over and over again and the moment the next edition is out, you’re quick to grab it because she’s what makes sense. She’s always just… made sense to you. And what she is, and always will be, to you is beautiful.” Finally, Avery caught her breath, realizing how hard she went. She cleared her throat, a little embarrassed, and brought her eyes back to her comic book, avoiding all those that were gawking at her, “I hope that answers your question.”

“Well fuck,” Bron shook her head. “I was just expecting you to say a brunette with thick thighs and big tits.” She placed her hands on her hips as she gave Avery a knowing smile. Despite what people might think, Bronagh was not an airhead. She knew exactly who the girl was that the obviously besotted Aves was describing. She knew even before the girl opened her mouth. Clay had told her because of course he did. They were cousins after all and shared a lot. “So you got it bad for Jamie bad huh? That’s ok, I can work with that.”

After taking her phone from the back pocket of her shorts, the influencer tossed it to Katie. “Film this for me would you hon?” Sashaying directly over to Avery, Bronagh climbed on top of the freckled girl and began to grind her hips in a way that would make any lady of the night jealous. She forced Aves hands into her butt before cupping the queen of the nerds face in her hands and kissing her with a fervent passion. Once she was done, she climbed off and blew Avery a kiss. “Do me a favour Katie.” Bron’s green eyes never left the bewildered Avery. “Go in my contacts and send that video to Jamie Lord.”

“You kidding me? I got you, girl!” By the end of this, Katie could just add director’s assistant to her resume.

Katya was feeling a level of excitement she hadn’t in a few years. The kiss with Marco, no matter how staged it was, had brought something out in her. It was like she had her own storm brewing inside her. It was fire. It was electric. It was dangerous. While the full story of why she and Stacy were meant to stay in Pinehurst remained a mystery to her, the blonde was feeling this natural pull to want to be here more. As she filmed Bron straddle Avery like it was the VIP section of a sketchy cam model website. And she couldn’t lie…

It was HOT! Her palms were sweaty watching it, but Katie kept the camera steady. She heard a few sounds from behind her. Most of them were from Marco and…Rosie (she thought that was the small blonde’s name) in how they didn’t know what to say to it. When it was done, Katie did her duty. She saved, named it Surprise - FYEO, and sent it to whoever the hell Jaime Lord was. “The deed is done!” Katie announced almost too officially. God she loved hanging with these people. No wonder Adam decided to move back here.

With that Bron turned on her heel and returned to her position at the front of the crowd. “Whilst I’m in the mood, might as well keep this going.” She glanced over at Oz and tried to remember the names that he had bestowed upon all of these weirdos. “You’ve been staring at me all night Quill,” Bron darted her stare into Rosie. “I dare you to come and do whatever you want to me for one minute. Hurry baby, mama is waiting.”

Pretending like she didn’t know who the Quill was (of course she knew), Rosalie had looked around. Maybe the new girl that Sal was sweet on was deemed the quill. Yeah totally, that’s obviously her. Rosie talked big and made comments, but when pushed came to shove into Mistress Dimitrescu’s monster thighs, Rosie was a bit of a coward. Impulsive or not (she was), Quill’s hesitation spoke volumes. In her mind, she could justify by making all of the comments that she could think of because it was from a safe bubble. The bubble that she had no problem dipping out of for moments at a time. And it's because people just...expected it from Rosalie Drake. That's just who she was.

But now? Now, she was put on the spot. Her bubble popped and now she was exposed. Dangerous as it was, perhaps there was a certain brand of excitement that came with it. Dreams didn't come true often for her. Only in her fiction was she able to live out some fantasies (and yes she did self-insert in some scenarios), but now she could self-insert herself into a scenario that, like Bron had pointed out, she'd been thinking about all night.

Man up, Rosie! Just ask yourself 'what would Dirty-Era Christina Aguilera do?'

Rosie admired that particular era of CA and she'd be lying if Bron didn't embody that same energy. Seductive. Intoxicating. Unreasonably Hot but didn't brag. Avery talked about how, apparently, Jaime Lord was her dream girl, but Rosie liked commanding women. Femme Fatales that had the right mix of danger and purity and there was a balance of both in those beautiful green eyes staring back into Quill's soul. Piercing it without damaging it. "God was a woman. God was a woman. God was a woman..." She kept muttering to herself, behind closed lips as she approached Bron.

No matter how slow she was, when she was right in front of the blonde bombshell, Rosie felt something consume her. For that minute, Rosie followed where that moment took her. As inexperienced as she was, for the first time in her life, she took control of the many thoughts and feelings that swirled up inside her. She started at the neck, tender lips pressing against Bron's skin. She paid no mind to anyone else but the golden goddess who was hers for a minute. Seconds later and as her confidence grew, so did Rosie's boldness. She was a Drake, after all, but she was also a Hawthorne. Sensual and direct, she had cupped Bron's face, staring into those eyes. What was I doing again? For that moment, Rosie had nearly forgotten, but she snapped back into reality.

And as she leaned forward, brushing against Bron's chest only slightly, Rosie went for it. An inexperienced set of lips met hers. And for those final seconds, Rosie swore she was on an unmatched, untouched high that not even Oz's annoying hollar nor anything that could put this cloud out. By God's grace, she had touched heaven and embraced it for as long as she was able to.

She was a cute kid so Bronagh gave her a few seconds longer than a minute. She let their tongues do a dangerous dance of lust. The OnlyFans mode wrapped her arms around the brazen young woman and embraced her as they kissed, pressing her firm breasts deep into the other girl's chest. Showcasing her dominating spirit, Bron moved with Rosie in her arms towards the bean bag chair and once the timer was up, she dropped the young girl with ease into the seat. “Mmm,” The blonde licked her lips as she drank on the taste of the Quill’s lips. “You got a future kid, keep practising.”

Oz placed both his hands behind his head and tried to process the events that had transpired over the last few minutes. Bronagh Milligan, former Supreme and tried and true popular girl, had found herself in the midst of an outcast harbour and somehow turned it into a softcore porn shoot. This was insane. “Whoever said nerds didn’t know how to party?” The heavy metal man raised his hands in victory as he laughed.

Bron wiped her lips clean before her eyes fell upon the wild haired former leader of the Midnight Society. “Ozzy the Bard,” She began. She would not force Oz to do something like the girls. As much as it would be fun, Bronagh respected the sanctity of marriage which might come as a surprise to some. Oz was married to sweet little Vi and the Milligan girl had no intention of ruining anything. “Your dare; strip off naked and run into the storm…”

“Done!” Oz blurted before the former Supreme could even finish. Tearing off his monkey suit, which he hated wearing anyway, the dungeon master sprinted out through the front door and onto the street. He was completely sans any clothing and was singing at the top of his lungs.

“That leaves you two,” Bronagh playfully pointed at Sal and Stacy. “Oh what will I do with you?” She stroked her chin as she surveyed the young potential maybe future lovers and a sinister smile crossed her face. “How about…Stacy, I dare you to give Sal your phone so he can read your last few texts out to the group?”

After the quite enjoyable, if not captivating games, Stacy didn’t register what Bron had said to both her and Sal until it was played back. Her delayed reaction robbed her of her smile and she frowned, panic in her eyes as she stuttered: “What?” She wanted to die. She wanted to shake her head, deny this dare. She felt that way because she remembered looking at her phone before this game started. The last few texts…they were all from Dylan.

But what could she really say. Say no and that would draw more attention to her than she wanted. Stacy feared a lot but most of all, she didn’t want Katie to know just how bad her relationship with Dylan was. Reading them out loud would expose that very thing.

Swallowing a rather tense breath, her throat in knots, she pulled her phone out of her back jean pocket. She unlocked it by pressing her thumb against the fingerprint scanner. Her phone background wasn’t anything special - a shot of her in the red and white Monarch’s cheer uniform from last semester. Her eyes zoomed in on something that just made her frozen in place.

seven missed calls - Dylan

Her stomach sank so low and her ability to keep on a brave face dwindled, but she persisted. Hopefully they just thought it was a hard ask and they couldn’t read what was on her face. Extending her hand, the brunette handed her phone to Sal, her eyes almost twitching with panic. She forced herself to smile. God oh god! Please, let it not be bad. Truth was, Stacy didn’t read the last message Dylan sent her nor any of the voicemails she knew he left. She knew how he could be. He was mad. She knew that because she willingly ignored his texts because she didn’t feel like…she didn’t want to be sad because she knew she would be if she talked to him when she was having fun with Salvadore. He made her smile, made her feel butterflies in her stomach and she didn’t want that to be ruined by Dylan’s overreactions. But if he read them out loud…

This was all very exciting and Salvador was shocked to find this sort of thing happening in a place like Swerve. Despite his boyish good looks, Sal had been to many parties where games like this were the norm but that was Miami, it was a different world to Edenridge. The Magic City was sun drenched, filled to the brim with Latino people living, loving and dancing. It had its issues, mostly caused by his grandfather and the other cartel bosses. Sal would love to take Stacy to Little Havana, that was always his favourite neighbourhood back home. The nightlife and the street food were to die for.

Taking her phone from her, the youngest Montero smiled when he saw Stacy’s home page in her Monarch gear. God, she looked beautiful. It wasn’t until he saw a very distinct look in her eyes. She didn’t want this. He glanced down at the phone and saw multiple missed messages and calls from some guy named Dylan and based on the previews he could partially read, these were not good messages. The poor girl. The fact she gave him her phone meant that she was worried what people might think of her, what her friends might think of her. Sal was in the same boat, he’d been trying to prove himself to these people all day. Though now he had to ask the question, what mattered more, being a Midnight or making Stacy happy?

“I’m sorry Mistress D,” Salvador passed Stacy back her phone. He looked to the dominatrix-like Bronagh, standing there with her hands on her hips eyeing the two young ones. “I think everyone is entitled to their own privacy. Kissing and streaking and all that is one thing but texts and messages, no that is a line I won’t cross,” He gingerly moved his hand onto the brunette's shoulder. “Raoul de los Fantasmas nunca traiciona a una mujer.”

A brief half smile flashed up across Bron’s lips. Well done Sal. She couldn’t have planned it any better. “‘Kaaaaaay, I don’t know what you just said but that’s fine, I’m getting bored anyway.” The blonde waved her hand towards a store cupboard. “Why don’t you two just go do seven minutes in heaven and we’ll call it a night yeah?”

A wave of relief passed through the brunette’s face, something that was so clearly like a weight lifted off of her shoulders and that hadn’t gone unnoticed by her sister. She was rusty in spanish, with only a couple of semesters under her belt, but she made out the last part - ‘never betrays a woman.” She smiled at Salvadore, almost on the edge of crying but she forced herself to not go that far in how obvious her gratitude was. Deep in her heart, which weighed heavy still by the shadow cast by Dylan, she was more than just grateful for Sal. Bron accepting this change of plans didn’t go unnoticed.

High on a mix of emotions, she nodded. It was about all the girl could muster right now.

Sal let his hand move down Stacy’s arm from her shoulder until it reached her own palm which he took a hold of reassuringly, “Guess we better get going.” He smiled softly. Any other time, the Montero would be ecstatic to be playing such a game with such a gorgeous girl but he knew that her heart was not in it. Hence his plan to simply take her into the store room and let her breathe. He wasn’t going to do anything, she needed time and space because it was obvious that right now, Stacy was massively overwhelmed. He led her by her hand into the cupboard where Bronagh proceeded to close the door behind them and block it with a chair.

“Well I’m hungry, let’s see what snacks we have!”

At this point, Avery’s soul had left her body. She wasn’t even paying attention to the chaos ensuing due to Bron's audacity. After Katie sent the video, the comic girl was not able to process it fast enough before she realized it was sent. Avery, who was usually cool as a cucumber, was stuck in an absolute state of shock. Her life was over. Jamie would watch it and think her confession meant nothing today. When Bron’s attention was on Stacy and Sal, Marco and Katie were looking at Oz’s naked ass running outside, and Rosie was acting like a kid who just got a life supply of candy, Avery knew this was her chance. Her chance to leave. Taking this as her opportunity to disappear, Aves quietly shifted her body on and off the beanie bag chair. Getting up, grabbing the master keys, Avery left the room and locked herself in her father’s office. Dropping on the futon, keys on the floor, face planted in pillow, Avery screamed. Her scream was covered and muffled so no one could hear it from the outside. Not really. Closing her eyes, she tried to think about anything other than the events that transpired tonight. Somebody kill her please. Her chances of even being Jamie’s friend were fucking over. What the fuck was wrong with her? Avery should be happy that she could still share a fire kiss with a hot girl, and it felt good, but she wasn’t. Why couldn’t she just move on?

Fuck me.

Avery was not doing okay and she hated that.
TIMESTAMP: Late Monday Night






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Home at last, Anya was dripping wet as she found herself back in her room in the basement of the library. She had quite the day, from having moments with both of her brothers to scouting Lost Souls to see if Jade was safe. After gathering intel from a couple of people, she found out that Jade had left town with her two friends and a Belmonte. This Belmonte, Natalia, spent more time on the southside than at home so it didn’t come across as weird to Anya that Jade knew her. As for the other two, Mordechai and Penelope, Anya knew those were Harley’s closest confidants. Her best friends.

The fact of the matter was the blonde bombshell wasn’t alone which allowed relief to wash over the Russian woman. Jade was with people and that’s all that mattered. In addition to that, Anya was comforted that Toast girl wouldn’t be around during this storm. Where she was going, she hoped that there was no rain, only stars in the sky. Now it was up to the spirits of this world to watch over the green Gem that captured Anya’s heart. She really did hope Jade was somewhere safe.

Partly unbuttoning her blouse, having gone through three outfit changes in one day, Anya went to her record player gifted by the Librarian. Grabbing one of her Tchaikovsky records, she began playing Waltz of the flowers from the Nutcracker. While some people might find it weird, the Russian Doll that was Anya Kamensky found peace in ending her work day with classical music, usually that of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. It was likely because when she was a little girl, she and her mother would sneak into shows at Silverlight Theater and watch the Boston Ballet company perform for their little town. They’d dance to spectacular stories like Swan Lake, Cinderella, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and so much more. It was thanks to Madame that the theater was even able to afford performance events from companies that toured in and around the New England area.

Her wet shirt partly unbuttoned and with little to no rhyme or reason with how she decompressed, Anya went into the small kitchenette area to heat up some Chef Boyardee mini raviolis. This was the best part of her day. Just her, some microwavable food because she didn’t have an oven, and sweet, sweet Tchaikovsky, which allowed her to recall better days before she was forced to make her Father proud. As hard as her childhood was, being lucky enough to get a roll of bread some days, she still recalled it as the most magical time because it was her, it was her mother, and together, they had each other. Before Ivan, before her Father, and before Madame showed her true colors, life was beautiful.

Life was like a waltz.

“Well well.”

The words were followed by a playful almost childlike giggle that reverberated through Anya’s small home. The door to the tiny bathroom opened up and a hooded figure emerged, holding a small but very sharp blade. A flash of lightning followed with a crack of thunder illuminated the mysterious entrant into the basement lair of the Basilisk. The figure raised their hand into the air, spinning the knife by its handle on their finger like one might spin a basketball. They stood perfectly still and resolute as the weapon turned like the hands of a ticking clock.

The intruder was the same height as Anya, roughly the same build too; compact but obviously very lethal.

“Look at you eating like a Queen. Save me a ravioli, would you babe?”

Not in the mood to play games, Anya pulled out one of many weapons planted in this room. Holding a sidekick .22 caliber revolver, cocking the gun western style, Anya pointed it toward the direction of the dark shadow whose identity was revealed because of lightning and her voice. She continued to eat with her free hand, and as she ate, she asked, “What you want, Faye?” If her sister was in town that meant one of two things, their Father had given the Asian Fox a job or she was bored out of her mind and wanted to come and play. That meant she would go out of her way, out of her territory, just to piss Anya off, since there was always something happening in Edenridge. “You know better to come here. My home.” Cooly and unbothered, the Basilisk continued to eat her raviolis, as she steadily held the gun toward the silhouette standing in the dark. The only lit part of the basement was the kitchenette area with Anya leaning against the counter. With the added classical music, those who had no idea who these two were would think this scene came straight out of a horror movie. She wasn’t going to lose her peace because her sister decided to pay her a visit.

The being now identified as Faye giggled again as she tossed the knife, hard and fast, straight by Anya’s blonde hair until it embedded itself in the wall behind her. Like a bullet from a gun, with a flash from the lightning, the Asian woman shot off across the room. She swiftly jumped into the little dining table set up in the middle of the basement and landed in a crouched position. “SURPRISE!” Faye laughed as she took off her hood to reveal her beautiful round face which was covered her the largest Fox’s grin possible. She wrapped her arms around her shins and tilted her head, pressing it against the barrel of Anya’s revolver. “Why so pouty Annie Wannie?” Faye said cutely. “Why you not wanna play with me? I came all this way.”

Having not flinched when the knife flew by her face, Anya uncocked the revolver, pulled it away from her sister, and slipped it back into the drawer. For once, Faye had read the room and didn’t beg for a sparring match that had a 50/50 chance of one of them dying. Pushing herself off the counter, building distance, the Basilisk went to her mini fridge, opened it, and offered, “Want drink?” Ignoring Faye’s childish banter that aimed to get a rise out of her prey, Anya grabbed a can of cherry coke for herself, pulled the tab off with her pointer finger, and took a big chug as she waited for Faye’s answer. One does not simply rile up the Basilisk. It took tomfoolery, dedication, and consistency. Something that Faye was great at, seeing how she knew Anya since they both were six. While it wasn’t working right now, the Fox knew with time, she’d get under Anya’s skin. She always did.

In an instant, Faye’s demeanor changed and she jumped from the table. “Yeah, sure why not?” Her tone was much more adult and less child-like. Her posture changed, she became much more relaxed as she walked to the small window that looked up towards the flooded streets above. Why her sister chose to live in such squalor was beyond Faye. All Anya had to do was ask Daddy and he would give her a penthouse or a mansion or anything she really desired. “You look uncomfortable Anya, want help getting out of those clothes?” Faye loved to tease, it was the best part of her job. She unzipped her hoodie and let it fall to the floor, revealing her own slightly damp body in a black crop top. “I don’t miss the days of walking around in body armor all day I will say that.”

Faye was rewarded with an eye roll when Anya pulled out a Fanta grape can and held it out for her sister to grab. This was how things were with them for years. Faye would tease and Anya would be far too serious to ever entertain. Though, Faye knew what brought the child out of Anya and that was: breakfast. The Basilisk loved her breakfast. Best way to her heart was through pancakes. Or just taking her to Dolly’s. Some people, like Cameron, could not cook for the life of them.

Making her way to her sister, Faye drank in just how beautiful she was as she took the offered drink. Despite their self-referential way of calling each other sister, Anya and Faye were not biologically related. They had been raised together with many other girls to be the weapons they were. Faye had never hidden the fact that she had wanted Anya, sexually but the Basilisk was the first and so far only person to ever turned down the Kitsune. “You know, your Mom upstairs is looking great. What sort of diet is she on?”

“You think I know?” Anya placed her can down the counter beside her almost fully eaten supper and walked past the other woman, her arm brushing against Faye’s skin. There wasn’t much room in this kitchenette and here Faye was, giving her no space. “Maybe tears. This library collects sad people. She loves it.” Going to her dresser she opened it and pulled out sweats and a tank, “Need clothes?”

Faye cocked her eyebrow at the sight of Anya holding sweats. As someone who prided herself on being fashion forward, even when she was lifting throats and cutting out hearts, the Kitsune would not be caught dead in public wearing anything of the sort but if her training for all those years had taught her anything, it was adaptability. Taking the clothes from Anya, Faye began to strip off there and then. She slowly peeled off her top and bottoms, revealing the fact she was not wearing any underwear. Her body was thick but incredibly toned, she did not miss gym day and there were scars from blades and bullets and other devices of torture that were as regular at their father’s place as a tv commercial during the super bowl.

After slipping into a pair of black shorts and a fresh tank, Faye returned to the kitchen and grabbed her Fanta Grape, hopping on the counter, she watched gleefully as Anya undressed. Catching a glimpse of her eyes in the mirror, the Fox thought back to days gone by when they were children who shared a room. Whenever Anya was frightened, the two would jump into bed and Faye would hold her, protect her, which usually meant that when Daddy came in the room, it was Faye that took the beating but back then, she would’ve done anything for her sister.

“I should probably tell you that you’re going to be seeing a lot more of me and I don’t just mean my fantastic ass, although that’s yours when you want it, I got a job here! Gonna be coaching at the high school!”

Instead of jumping in glee, Anya unamusingly examined her sister. With gray sweats and an army green tank on, the Basilisk approached Faye in a guarded manner. To add to her suspicions and distrust, she crossed her arms, her snake eyes cold and calculated. When she reached the counter that Faye was crouched on, the blonde woman carefully looked up and observed her counterpart. “Why? Edenridge is not your place. It’s mine.” She hissed, with displeasure written all over her face. If there was one thing Anya hated the most it was people, especially her sisters, trying to take over after she earned her place at the top of the pyramid with their father. She didn’t like people touching her belongings, nor taking credit for her efforts, especially not the Kitsune. Edenridge was her home. Her birthplace. Her place of solace. Her territory. “I only ask once - why you here?”

“Because I know something you don’t know,” Faye spoke in sing-song before giggling once again, her face twisting into a fox-like grin as she kicked her legs playfully. Anya hadn’t always been like this. There were times when she was sweet and naive and that was the girl that Faye had loved for nearly twenty years or least, her version of love. It was no secret amongst the sisters that Anya had been their father’s favorite. She was always given the best assignments, she was given more training time, she was placed at his right hand in Edenridge. None of it made sense, especially not to Faye. “Daddy has something planned, something big. He’s going to need all hands on deck and I want to make sure I’m readily available.” The Asian woman took a very loud slurp from her can, holding it with two hands. “Plus it’s just so much fun spending time with my favorite sister.”

Something was being planned. Their Father was always planning something. This wasn’t something new. The fact that he hadn’t told her yet though, that was new. Was Hyde right? Was she slipping? Losing her touch? Even if she was, this was Faye and Faye was the embodiment of try hard. “That so,” Anya snorted, not being able to take the other woman seriously. Grabbing her can of coke, the Basilisk brought it to her lips as sarcasm oozed from her tone, “H’okay. You come, you wait, he give you approval like you want. It’ll come.” Faye was so desperate sometimes. It was sad. Anya barely tried and Father still preferred her over the rest of them.

She knew he was aware of her full potential and the fact that she wasn’t going to waste her energy on every little thing he wanted. Sometimes he needed to be challenged and that’s exactly what Anya did. Challenge him. She wasn’t his doting daughter who would jump when he said how high. No, she was his daughter that found her greatest strengths through her pain and chose to use that as her motivation. So far it’s only benefited him in the end.

Strength wasn’t obedience. To her, strength was courage.

Courage to have grace under pressure. To resist fear, master it. Courage wasn’t the absence of fear but the triumph over it. Courage was action in the face of fear, ultimately making her a weapon that had a better read on humans and their emotions. A weapon who took deliberate risks and understood the implications and the consequences that would inevitably come from taking them. A weapon whose heart matched her gun. The best weapons were those who understood others' motives and that’s why their Father preferred her.

Anya was the Basilisk who saw everything, knew more about people then they knew about themselves. Anya knew the people of Edenridge while Faye only knew herself, seeking pleasure and power in other’s pain. A true sadist. But to hurt someone, really hurt them, not just dangle their life by a thread, you needed to understand their heart. Something Faye would never learn. As good of a killer her sister was, amazing actually, extremely heartless, Faye was still too selfish to be exactly what their Father needed. She loved the game of blood too much to be more than just a tool. At the end of the day, Faye was replaceable. Anya was not.

Walking away from her sister, Anya found herself slumped on her sofa, finishing her soda (placing it on the coffee table when she was done) and going back to enjoying her music. She no longer was interested in entertaining the Kitsune. It wasn’t her job. It never would be. The truth of the matter was their bond wasn’t real. It was all superficial. Two girls forced together, growing in trauma. How romantic. In time they went their separate ways in their pursuits and now everytime Anya saw her sister it felt like they were playing house. All pretend. What she had with Faye wasn’t anything like what she had with Mika. One tried to convince herself that she cared, while the other cared with all his heart. Anya was too tired for this shit. Leaning her head back, staring up at the ceiling, the Russian woman yawned, “Hope it works out. All you want in the palm of hands. Sounds like perfect dream.”

Faye scrunched up her face; she was not getting the reaction out of Anya that she had hoped. But that was ok. It had always been like this. The blonde had always been the most natural of her sisters. It had taken Anya a lot longer to lose what a normal person would call their humanity but once she did, she was unstoppable. Everything became effortless whilst Faye and the rest had to fight and claw and torture each other to even get Daddy to look at them. It was infuriating.

What Anya didn’t know was that Faye had done her research. She loved history and learning about it. Imagine her surprise when she figured out that Anya, unlike most of her siblings, still had family left, real family. Unlike Faye who had tried to track down her family once only to find she was born to be a slave, a debt passed around like a blank cheque until somebody cashed it in. Imagine her surprise when she saw the petite assassin having a cute breakfast with a beautiful girl and looking at her in the way that Faye had always dreamed that Anya would look at her. That was the moment that she knew how all this would end. Maybe not today or tomorrow but one day, it would end with the Basilisk versus the Kitsune.

After polishing off her drink, Faye made her way over to the couch that her sister had placed herself on and climbed onto it. She pulled the blanket off the floor and covered both of their legs with it before she snuggled up to Anya, wrapping her arms around her and holding her close, like they were children once again. “Remember what Matron used to say. Dreams are simply there to ease us into death. I don’t dream anymore.” She leaned forward and kissed the assassin's cheek softly before stroking her straw coloured hair. “Rest my little treacle, you’ve had a busy day. I’ll make you breakfast in the morning before I leave.”

As frustrating as Faye could be, she was here and even if what they had wasn’t a real bond, not like real sisters, it was nice to not be alone for once. There were no words left for Anya to say so instead she held Faye close, shut her eyes, and traced gentle circles on the other woman’s soft skin. She didn’t trust Faye. Then again, she doubted Faye trusted her. That was the unfortunate reality of being born in darkness and made for it. They weren’t meant to be trusted. They weren’t meant to be loved. They weren’t meant to love.

Faye. Her. They were creatures of the night. Mika was not. He could walk into the light if he wanted to. It was clear he wanted to. They couldn’t because the dark was all they knew and would ever know. Perhaps that part of their bond was real. They understood each other better than they understood anyone else. They understood the world they lived in. They understood both the little girl and the woman in their beloved counterpart. They understood each other. That’s just how it was when you were a child of the Garden and the daughter of a King in a chess game no one knew existed.

The Invisible Hand. Their Father. The Shark.

Intertwined together and fated to know one another. Tied by trauma. Tied by obligation. Tied by… love?

The Basilisk and The Kitsune.

Not all stories had a happy ending.
TIMESTAMP: During Aponi's Heart
FT: Poppy & the Reservation Dog


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____________________________________________________________________


The moment she was alone her legs began to shake. Her body felt like it could collapse any second now. She needed to get a grip. Like The Little Engine That Could, Penelope thought she could, she thought she could, she thought she could… but could she? Now here she was, the moment of truth, the moment she could turn the page in her story, the moment a secret wouldn’t feel like a lie, the moment she could stop blaming herself for Charlie’s demise, and all Penelope-fucking-James could do was doubt herself. She was absolutely terrified to meet Mitena but why?

Stumbling, Poppy shuffled to the nearest seat which was a log by a campfire. After placing her backpack down beside her, not realizing it was open the entire time, she closed her eyes, and placed her hands on the bark, grasping at it for stability. Breathe, Poppy, breathe. All this progress and for what? For her to fall back into her old routine of crippling anxiety, panic attacks, and depressive episodes? These were things she thought she was healing from. These were things she had convinced herself were no longer an issue. These were things she wanted to leave behind. There were always things on her goddamn mind.

What the hell was she doing?

Throughout her day, throughout her week, throughout her month, she had told herself that she was strong. It was her who led the charge. It was her who took the first steps to meet people that Charlie hurt to provide them with some sort of closure. It was her who got all his broken friends together. It was her who so desperately wanted to seek out this piece of his heart so they could all move on. It was all her and she was so strong. That’s what she kept telling herself. That’s what she wanted to believe.

Was she just lying to herself? This wasn’t going to fix her problems. All this was going to do was show her that Charlie wasn’t the man she loved. He was a complete stranger. She couldn’t do this. What would she even say when she met Mitena? How would she feel? Charlie didn’t trust her enough to tell her about his sister. That has to mean something, right? For all she knew, Charlie had nothing good to say about her. For all she knew, Mitena hated her. For all she knew, this was the beginning of the end for her.

Penelope wanted to so desperately believe that the love she and Charlie had was true. That they didn’t need to say the words they both needed to hear. She wanted to believe that if he were still alive he would kiss her on the forehead and slip post-it notes everywhere to tell her how much she meant to him, using book quotes. Stupid book quotes. He loved quoting books. She missed him so fucking much and she wished this meeting with his sister was under different circumstances. She wished he didn’t shoot up a school. She wished she was the strength he needed when he truly lost himself junior year. She wished they had more time together so that she could say the words she should’ve said freshman year.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.


There was no use in wishing though. He was dead. He could never come back. And his deeds were unforgivable. He killed so many people. How do you redeem a person from committing such a crime? You don’t. She loved who he was, not who he became. She wasn’t here because Rhonda asked her to. No, Penelope knew she needed to let go of him. She needed to move on.

All she could see was Charlie and it made living life so fucking hard because he was supposed to be her future. He was supposed to be her forever. He was supposed to be with her. He always came back. He promised he’d come back. Why didn’t he come back?

Fuck, she hated herself.

To learn to walk again. That’s why she was here. But why was she so scared? Why did she feel so dizzy?

Breathe, Poppy, breathe.

“You know, there’s a lot better seating inside if you’re here to see the band. Red Wolf Road rocks!”

A figure sat down on the other end of Poppy’s log, his wild black hair framed his dark face but the flickering embers of the log fire danced in his eyes. He placed a rucksack between him and the doe eyed brunette, if anything it would make her feel comfortable that this random guy had decided to share her seat with her. The stranger leaned forward and locked his fingers together in front of him. He turned to face the woman and his full, handsome face was revealed. Sharp strong angles, a light tan, and a few battle scars, in some ways, he looked a lot like Charlie. In other ways, he looked like just another reservation dog, just doing his part to survive.

“Not often we get outsiders in town for a gig, you and your gang must be big fans?”

Lazily opening her eyes, Penelope turned to see this boy, who looked around her age, maybe a little older, and silently scanned his facial features. If she was the dramatic type, she would do a double take but instead she sat there and stared. She could see Charlie in him but he was also different enough, especially with those cheekbones, for her to tell him apart and not get lost in her head. Briefly, she wondered if all the residents here looked like this. If that were the case, she was in for a trip. She didn’t know how her heart could handle this. How her heart could handle seeing Charlie’s ghost everywhere she turned. “No, not really, but I’ll take your word for it,” she faintly smiled.

His presence alone gradually eased her nerves and worry. Instead of being alone, she was alone with a stranger. Maybe that’s what she needed. Someone who came to her with kindness but no knowledge of her past, seeing how her friends could be emotionally charged at this very moment, which would only make things worse. Maybe she needed a stranger. Someone who didn’t know anything about her at all or her situation. Someone where she and them had a blank slate. Someone she could have a fresh start with. Someone new!

“I’m looking for a person. I was told she lives here.”

The boy cocked his eyebrow. “So you’re on a quest? Nice,” He took a hold of the bag that sat between them and pulled open the zip before reaching inside. “You’ll probably need some good food then if you’re going to be searching for this mystery girl.” He pulled a bundled up something or other covered in grease or off paper from the carrier and held out his palm towards Poppy. Steam was lightly flowing off of the ball in his hand. “You look like you could do with a munch. It’s good food, honest. Teriyaki Bao Bun. Homemade. Take it.”

Tilting her head, eyes glinting with curiosity, Penelope reached for the bun and asked, “Is this what you do? Offer food to sad, skinny girls?” Surprised at herself, with how lighthearted she suddenly felt, she examined the contents and chuckled, “I’m kidding, by the way. Thank you… you really didn’t have to.” She paused for a moment, before deciding to introduce herself, “My name’s Penelope. Friends call me Poppy. If I’m going to eat your poison, you might as well tell me your name too.”

“Well actually, I kind of do just give food away,” He motioned with his head to a food truck, Resi on the Rez, parked just across the car park. “That’s mine, I’m catering this entire thing,” The boy grinned brightly as he watched her take the bun. He didn’t want to invade her space and something was telling him that she wasn’t overly fond of being in close quarters with anyone, let alone a stranger, so he leaned back ever so slightly. “Forrest, they call me Forrest. Some people Resi. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Poppy.” The man they call Resi reached into his bag again and pulled out a bun for himself, unwrapping the piping hot Asian delicacy, he took a small bite and enjoyed the wonderful flavor before speaking again. “You said you’re looking for someone? You’re not like some badass hitwoman about to murder our chief are you? If you are, I might need that bao back.”

“That would be pretty fucked up if I came in to kill your people like my ancestor, huh?” Penelope nervously laughed, thinking back at her own history that both she and Charlie discovered sophomore year. “No. My dad’s a cop so he’s taught me how to shoot out of self defense but I promise you, all I have is a slingshot.” Rather than answer him immediately about who she was looking for, Poppy took a small bite out of the bun and in complete shock, she cussed, “Fuck, this is good. You made this?”

Forrest nodded his shaggy head in compliance. “Yeah. I always like to try new recipes. Try and theme my food every week to mix it up. This week is Japanese week!” He said excitedly. It was very obvious that Resi loved food, the way his face lit up at its mention and how he worked on the recipes. It was his passion. “Bit weird to see a grown woman with a slingshot but who am I to judge?” The native boy took another bite from his bao before leaning fully back in a stretch. “Also your ancestor? Don’t pay it no mind. Every white person's ancestor has tried to kill us once or twice. Ain’t a thing,” Resi let out a little laugh. “So where is it you come from?”

If only he knew who she was related to. Penelope glanced at the longhouse named after the woman her ancestor killed, as she firmly held her bun. It wasn’t a big deal. He said it himself. “Edenridge,” She turned back at him, simultaneously taking another bite of the bun. This was a really good bun. She was surprised she could keep eating it in one sitting. In front of a stranger no less. “Oh,” she covered her mouth while chewing. “To answer your question from earlier, today I found out my dead friend has a sister and his sister lives here. So yay, fun stuff. Finding out answers and… yeah. Fun stuff,” she glanced away, peering down at her shoes.

“Heavy,” Forrest nodded his head ever so slightly before polishing off the rest of his food in one big bite. He looked into the flickering flame and began to do some quick mental maths before the light bulb went off in his head. This girl was from Edenridge. That hellhole was the birthplace of the tribe. He knew a few people down there from his dealings with Jalyn. Like that dude Oz, he was a sick guy in a good way. He knew of only one person on the reservation who had admitted to a relative down that way and that particular kin was no longer of this world and had joined the Great Spirit. “You mean Tena? Mitena Strongbow?”

Woof. The sudden mention of the girl’s name made this whole situation no longer a theory but actual reality. Poppy’s eyes began to well up. Diverting her attention from her feet to the bun, she saw her hands begin to shake. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Placing the food down, she jumped up and walked a short distance away to calm herself.

Breathe.

With her back facing him, she whispered, “Oh so it’s true. She does exist…”

He felt bad. This was obviously a lot for this poor girl and he had already made it ten times worse for her but honesty was always the correct way to go about things. No matter how much the truth hurts, a person would feel worse for not knowing. That’s what the chief said and he was the boss. He had been chosen to lead the tribe for a reason. “I’m sorry if that’s hard to hear, Poppy. She’s like the lead singer in the band. That’s her onstage right now, you can hear her.”

“She has a pretty voice…” Penelope softly acknowledged. She needed to get her shit together. She was doing so well up until today. The tears gradually went down her cheeks like raindrops on a window. She needed to be like her father. A man that could take all the punches, soak in all the pain, and still feel determined to protect people. She needed to protect Mitena. It didn’t matter if Charlie never told her about her. It hurt, it hurt a lot, but Tena’s life was endangered and no James would let something like that go.

Frustrated, she wiped her wet face with her sleeve, like Charlie brushing her tears away. She had put Charlie’s jacket on when day turned into night and the chill made her shiver. It wasn’t something she wanted to leave behind in Edenridge, when she needed Charlie now more than ever. His coat was huge but his coat was hers. Just like how Mordechai’s sweatshirt was huge but his sweatshirt was hers.

Turning back to Resi, Penelope pushed her hair back behind her ear and disclosed, “Someone has gotten ahold of her brother’s journal and has been bringing up the past. Mitena might be endangered… I was sent here because C—” saying his name when she needed to stung and she didn’t know why. “—Charlie’s mother is worried.”

She did it and the pain deeply sat in her chest. She was used to it though. Penelope should be used to the pain by now. It was becoming part of her new normal. “So what if my best friend never fucking told me he has a goddamn sister? That doesn’t matter right now. I need to get over myself and just see her.”

Wow. These white folk had some serious issues. Resi got to his feet to match Poppy and took out a few more buns. He put them down on the log before her and took a step back. “You know, it seems like you’ve got a lot going on. I don’t know this Charlie guy though by the sounds of it we’re probably related, Tena’s mom is my Mom’s sister… anyway… you better get in there if my little cousin is in trouble. She’s a bad bitch but if you’re here to help then no doubt she’ll need it.” Forrest placed his hands in his pockets before taking a step back and motioning with his head to the buns. “Take them with you when you go, they’ll last the trip.” He looked down at her bag and noticed a book sticking out of it: On the Road by Jack Kerouac. “That’s a good book.”

It was at that moment, Penelope pulled out her phone and found herself rushing to him. Intensely, she looked up at him with her big, green eyes, “You’re related to Charlie?” The tears kept coming but she wasn’t going to hold back from saying what was on her mind, not like she did in the past, “Can… can I have your number?” This was such a random occurrence but if she could make up for her past mistakes for not being there for Charlie, not in the way he needed her to, maybe just maybe she could make up for all the pain she caused him. Through Resi. Through Tena. Through his family on the Res. Through mama Rhonda. Through Charlie’s spirit. Maybe just maybe this was how she would turn her pain into something good. “Please?” She desperately begged her acquaintance, not really one to boldly ask for someone’s number like this. It was a new dawn, a new day, and a new life. It was time to start something new.

This was something else. When Resi sat down he did not expect for any of this to happen. The look on her eyes though, that was something he could understand. He had his fair share of pain, so did everyone but this girl, Poppy, her name, there was so much in her that it radiated from her being. She needed this. “Yeah of course,” he took a hold of her phone and input his digits for her before handing it back. “I usually head your way every few weeks so if I’m in town, I’ll be sure to hit you up ok? I don’t know what I can do to help but I’ll try.”

“Thank you, Resi,” Penelope, her face wet from tears, held her phone close and shyly glanced away, a little embarrassed at how emotional she got, “This really means a lot… um,” She heard the song nearing an end and cleared her throat, “I should get going now,” she goofily saluted before robotically making her way to her bag and all the buns, “Thanks again for these. You really didn’t have to.”

“It’s what I do,” Forrest picked up his own bag and turned on his heel, beginning to walk towards the darkness. He stopped in his tracks, half silhouetted in shadow and half lit by the flames. “I’ll be seeing you Poppy. Go give 'em hell,” He offered her one final smile before disappearing into the shrouded car park and heading back towards his truck.
TIMESTAMP: After Two Callahans, a Girl, & a Mystery
@BrutalBx & @LovelyComplex

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“It’ll all be mine someday.”

Those words had echoed in Teddy’s brain since he was a child. The Grimms never had much, they lived in a single bedroom house down on Haze Street. It was Teddy, his brother George and his parents Hank and Gabby.

Hank worked over in Boston down at the port and like any blue collar dad he spent most of his time at work or at the bar before he came home to the family that weighed him down. He had heard from some people that his father used to be a happy guy, a fun loving and quirky character but the massacre at Camp Eden had changed him. It was supposed that having your stomach slashed and your girlfriend murdered would do that to you.

Gabriella was an immigrant; could barely speak English and Hank out of the kindness of his heart, took her in and they fell in love; a storybook romance perpetuated by lies to withhold the truth. Both of them were abusive, violent and God fearing. George always wanted to escape, it was his thing. When Teddy was a boy, he remembered he and his brother running around Edenridge, looking for hideaways where their father couldn’t find them…but Hank always found them.

On one particular of those long ago days, the future mayor of Eden and his brother found themselves in the fabled Scott Street. Of course, the likes of the Clearys and the O’Haras looked down on these two scruffy boys as they meandered over Prairie Court, probably looking for somewhere to rob. It was then that Teddy and George found themselves at the big black gates of the Carlisle Estate. It had been built by hand by the Judge himself, Nathaniel Carlisle, back in the 17th century. The last known members of the forgotten founders family had moved out in the 50s after their progeny murdered a cheerleader by the lake. Teddy was enamored with its gothic beauty, to him, it looked like the grim reaper himself called the manor home. Then and there, the young boy decided; “It’ll all be mine someday.”

And it was. Upon his return to Edenridge, he bought the manor, lovingly restored it and now called it home. From the window in his bedroom he now stood looking out of, Teddy could see most of the town, including his former home on Haze Street, though now it was no longer a house. He made sure when he became mayor to raise that building to the ground. As the Reaper built his empire of the future, he saw fit to destroy everything that could remind him of his past and the hell he walked through. The future and everything in it was his.

Taking a seat at his bedroom desk, Teddy loosened up his tie and opened up his Mac just in time for a FaceTime with his youngest child.

“Hello Precious.”

Intentionally, Kylee placed herself in Adam’s kitchen, the one place there wasn’t decorations (thank GOD Adam had only recently moved in). The background? The fridge, the counter, and the cabinets, the same style that could be found in every Milligan Apartment suite. The frame gave a small glimpse of her setting but its focal point was her face, as she held her phone directly in front of her and made sure her gleaming face, the subject of the image, was in the center.

Her hair blow dried, her skin moisturized, and her lips glossed, she was ready for battle. While she was wearing Adam’s shorts, her top was her crop tank and cardigan (dried… okay it was a little damp but she had to make her dad believe what he saw, and what he saw was Kylee at her girlfriend’s apartment). She only had enough time to dry her clothes for five minutes so she had to wash it after this call, wearing damp clothes was icky. Still, presentation was key and she had to make sure she didn’t look like a Callahan boy just rocked her world.

She warned Adam already what she was going to do and she hoped her lover would stay quiet. She didn’t need him on her dad’s radar already. They were just starting to have fun and Adam knew how her daddy was. Not just the Mayor persona. No, Adam knew that Theodore Grimm liked things a certain way and when they weren’t… “Hi daddy! Sorry I missed your call, I had it in my bag because it’s pouring outside. But now I’m all comfy.”

Teddy immediately scanned the room behind his baby, she was obviously at the Milligan Apartments. There were no decorations on the walls behind her, which meant that either the place was empty, recently moved into or the home of a psychopath. He always knew when Kylee was lying to him, the same with Lincoln, Kennedy or Hailey. They had too much of their Mom in them. She could never lie to Teddy either. Of all of his children, Kylee had the most of Melody in her. The boys were a lot like his own father in a lot of ways and Hailey was a creature unto herself.

“I can see that. I am assuming, Kylee Rose, that you are at Miss Ramsey’s home?”

She could feel it. The pressure. He was looking at her calmly but that made this even more unnerving. Kylee had to keep her poker face on lest her father find out Adam is back from the grave. For years now, Adam became a ghost that Kylee never brought up. She was hurt and even hearing his name hurt. Truthfully, she had no idea how her father would react and whether or not he’d be proud of her or disappointed in her for moving on from Wes so fast. “Mhm!” She lied, keeping that smile ever so wide on her glowing face. “She’s in the shower right now but she gives her regards.”

Kylee wasn’t at Mei’s. That much was obvious. The weird heavy tattooed child that his little girl hung around with so often had a sticker on the top of her food cupboard, a pentagram with a deer's head sketched upon it. That was not situated above Kylee’s chocolate hair. She was lying to him. It would not take much to get her to confess, it never did. However, on this particular occasion he would allow her to get away with it, at least for now. He had made a decision earlier that day to rid her of the Silo boy, to unblock her path of obstacles and intrusions, especially one that kept dark secrets that could harm her. “I am happy to see you are safe. You can probably guess my announcement has been postponed. We hope to announce the new hotel tomorrow.”

“There’s no time yet?” Kylee asked, relieved on the inside that he did not inquire further about the apartment. Maybe her angle, her frame, her shot was believable! Future filmmaker here. The next Palm d’Or winner of the Cannes Film Festival. No, not really. She would never be as good as Adam but a girl could try.

“It is…weather dependent,” Teddy reached forward, taking a hold of his fine scotch crystal and admiring the gift from the motherland. He took a small sip, savoring the burning taste of the Highlands as he mulled over his words. “I will let you know of course.” When he had left Edenridge, the Mayor had spent years learning and honing his persona. One learned skill was to recover and process information in a way that almost felt slow motion. “Precious, I have just gotten off the phone with your Aunt Evelyn.”

At the mention of her aunt, Kylee frowned, leaning back on the counter and thinking back on her family’s short trip to the UK. In two days, Uncle George would be dead for exactly a month. She could only imagine how much her auntie was grieving. Looking beyond the camera, Kylee watched the back of Adam’s head. He wore his headsets and was going through his footage. Years ago, she tried to convince herself he had died when he left without notice. That didn’t work, of course, because she was never confirmed of his whereabouts or what happened. Whether he was dead or alive. There was still hope. Hope he’d come back, like he did, and swoop her off her feet, like he did. She had hope that there was a tomorrow but for her extended family…

Her uncle’s light was gone and that meant there was no hope. Only the harsh reality that he aunt’s soulmate would no longer be there to give her kisses in the morning. Her aunt’s soulmate would no longer hold her when she was incredibly sad. Her aunt’s soulmate would not be able to tell her how his day went and how he was so glad to be home with her. It was all very sad. To lose a soulmate like that.

Kylee couldn’t even imagine that kind of heartbreak. Losing someone because of rejection or because your paths were no longer aligning was one thing, but losing someone you saw the rest of your life with because of death. That was horrible and so, so very sad. “How’s she holding up?” Kylee looked away from Adam, bringing her gaze to the man calmly staring at her from the other side of her phone.

“Evelyn is tough.” Teddy was adept at hiding his true feelings and motives. It was a skill honed from over his forty two years walking the Earth. The truth of the matter was when Evelyn called him a month ago to tell him that his older brother was gone, the elation that Teddy felt in his heart could not be described. It was a wordless sensation akin to one’s skin being on fire. “My worry is more for your cousins Amaranth and Aster. To lose a parent is always terrible but to lose one in such horrific circumstances…” The manner in which his sibling met his end was joyous and it was harder for Teddy to hide his glee. “I have invited them to come stay here for as long as their mother wishes. Family must always come first and in times like these one must rely on family.”

Nodding in understanding, Kylee thought of her cousins, wondering what they were feeling. Her father was a constant in her life. Her mother, on the other hand… that was an entirely different experience. She grew up with Prue, and three years or so ago, her father got with Celine. Even if she loved Prue dearly something was off and Kylee knew, just knew that this woman was not her mother. This woman was playing a part that her father expected of her. That was what it was like to live in the Grimm household. Everyone had their parts to play. Kylee watched, listened, and saw things she likely wasn’t supposed to, all the while playing her part as daddy’s Precious. Edenridge was her father’s stage and even her, his beloved daughter, was a puppet in his show.

Prue was one of the most manipulated puppets her father had. As much as she loved her, she couldn’t properly grieve her because deep down she knew her mother was someone else. The way her siblings carried themselves in regards to the past led her to believe in such a theory, led her to have so many unanswered questions. In each of their eyes she saw secrets, secrets none of them were willing to tell. Was it the same for her cousins? Were things not as perfect as it seems? Were they ripping at the seams? Were they grieving or were they glad their father was dead? “We must plan a big dinner then daddy. Make them feel nice and welcomed. Is there anything you need me to do to prepare for them?”

She was such a good girl. Kylee almost always did what she was told. Almost. Like right now she was lying to his face about her whereabouts but he was letting that one slide. After all, not six hours ago he choked the life out of the scumbag that she called a boyfriend but he did so to protect her. Once he figured out who she was with now, they would be the next one for the Reaper to vet. He wasn’t one of those fathers who believed no one was good enough for his Precious, he just had high standards. “Just keep an eye on your siblings when they arrive. You know how your brothers can get a bit….full on shall we say?”

Lincoln and Kennedy had inherited much of Teddy in all aspects of their being. Hailey too. Ky was the most like her mother, which was probably why he treated her the way he did. “And just watch over them. With everything happening in town at the moment, there are many moving pieces in play and I do not want your cousins to get lost in the shuffle.”

“Do you really think they would?” Kylee raised an eyebrow, pushing herself off the counter. Based on how ice cold her cousins could be, they weren’t girls that could be easily trifled with. They protected themselves first and foremost before letting anyone in. “Mara’s always been focused on herself and her future. I don’t think her grief or this town will change her mind on her end goal. As for Aster, I would worry more for this town and her hurting people’s fragile egos. She loved Uncle George. I imagine she is not doing okay.” This did bring up a new set of questions. How did her cousins feel about this whole transition? Did they even want to come to America? Didn’t Mara have to go back to college? Didn’t Aster have to finish her senior year? “You said Auntie Eve is okay with this? She wants to be alone away from her children right now?”

“Do NOT challenge me, Kylee Rose,” Teddy raised his hand slightly, a sign that Ky would recognise instantly. It was the Mayor’s sign to end a conversation lest face his wrath. “Your Aunt Evelyn and I have discussed this, at length. Amaranth and Aster will be coming to live with us. Evelyn will be going on tour as she feels this is the best way for her to heal and she will be visiting as often as she can. This. Is. The plan.” Lowing his hand flat back on the desk and taking a breath through his nose. Always so inquisitive. Teddy’s dark eyes looked through the lens of the phone into the mirrored eyes that his child shared with him. “Do you understand what I am asking of you, Precious?”

Briefly, the corners of Kylee’s mouth turned down, as she tucked her lower lip between her teeth. She shifted her weight from one side to the other, her gaze downward, away from her father’s glare. Embarrassed for asking too many questions, she tried to get her mind back on track. Only recently Adam had taken her out of her dark place. She didn’t need to go back solely because she said something wrong to her dad. Playing with her hair with her free hand, she locked eyes with the main man in her life once more and nodded, “Yes, daddy.” There was a faint blush on her cheeks and obvious remorse in her brown eyes. She didn’t mean to offend. Kylee wanted to know how her cousins were feeling about this sudden decision to uproot their lives but it was clear as day regardless of how they felt, they would be coming. They were birds like her in their own locked cage. Freedom was a crime for girls like them. “Sorry…” a heap of sadness overwhelmed her soul. She just wanted to make him proud of her. “I’m sorry, daddy.”

“It is getting late,” Teddy looked at his custom Rolex and noted the time. It was a gift from Evelyn at Christmas. For a moment the image of him wearing it as he choked her during their first time giving in to passion flashed in his mind, followed swiftly by his earlier asphyxiation of Wesley Silo. “You are better off staying where you are tonight than trying to come back to the manor. At least I know you will be safe. I love you Kylee Rose.”

Adjusting her posture, trying to seem more perky, when reality was he had deflated the little ounce of happiness she had in her, Kylee beamed, “I love you too daddy!” Her heart was uneasy and part of her was worried when he did find out about Adam, he would not take it lightly. She knew she wouldn’t be able to keep this from him for too long. He was her father and he had the right to know of her affairs, even if she was afraid of how he’d take them. There was no lover she had that ever satisfied him. He barely acknowledged Natalia, he assumed Pierce was gay, he knew what she had with Mei was fleeting, and Wesley… he didn’t exist to him. Wesley Silo was nothing to her father. “I hope you have company tonight. Is Celine…I mean, mother, home?”

This was typical of Kylee. She always worried about everything, every small detail. She was just like her. “No, she was at a friend's house when the storm hit. She is safe. Your sister too, she’s out of town. So I am alone tonight but that is fine.” In many respects, Teddy preferred to be alone. Then he wouldn’t have to suffer any fools. Despite what the rumors might say, Grimm manor wasn’t full of ghosts and despite what the people around him might say, Teddy Grimm was not haunted by his misdeeds. “I have some paperwork to catch up on and then I will likely retire for the evening.” A flash of lightning was enough to shift Reaper's face into a cold glare. “You are the air I breathe, Precious. You are my heart. Please be safe but don’t EVER lie to me again. I do not ask twice.”

There it was. He knew. Kylee Rose Grimm should’ve known better. There was no way of fooling him. Father knew best. “I’m sorry. I won’t. I’ll explain tomorrow when I see you. It’s complicated.” She was running her fingers through her long hair profusely. She really couldn’t lie for the life of her. Especially not to him. “I promise.”

The mayor got to his feet, picking up his Mac with one hand and placing the other in the pocket of his custom suit from Osprey’s as he walked back towards the window. “I do not want promises, Kylee Rose, and I do not need explanations. Just do as you are told.” His eyes left the screen to look out across his empire of dirt before drifting back to his daughter. “Goodnight, Precious. You are my world. I love you.” With that, the screen cut to black.

Shaken, Kylee placed her phone on the counter. Interlocking her fingers together, she rested her hands on her mouth, cupping it, trying to regain her composure. She was an awful daughter for lying. She stood in the kitchen in complete silence unable to move.

She was a small bird being held tightly.

The person who entered her cage time and time again just to remind her who was in control, clutching her in a way that made it hard to breathe, to make sure her wings would never work in the way she wanted them to…

That person was her father.

Daddy really did know what was best for her.

Daddy always knew what was best.
TIMESTAMP: After Happy Reunion


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As if her mood wasn’t already sour, the rain decided now was the perfect time to downpour, soaking her burgundy tank, gray cardigan, and washed out jean shorts. Thank goodness she was wearing sneakers. Sure, her socks were all soggy now but at least she could keep up with this fucking energizer bunny.

Kylee thought she had timed the luncheon to beat the rain. She calculated it so she could still seek shelter if needed but she didn’t account for Marco being late, or her losing her shit in front of everyone. Due to a series of unfortunate events, they were now caught in the beginning of what was going to be an extremely bad storm.

In the past, something like this would make her laugh. Getting caught in the rain with someone she once considered a best friend. But instead, the rain coming down on her was exemplifying how she felt. Absolutely fucking miserable. She wanted to pull her hand out of Adam’s and just run away, all the while he led her and protected his camera, but his grip tightened and they were now running.

If he wasn’t holding onto her like he was, he could easily leave her in the dust but he made sure that wherever he went, she went. “Wait, Adam…” She could see his apartment approaching in the distance and her heart was racing. She could feel the pounding in her ears. It was like her heart could fall out any moment now. Both from the adrenaline of them racing and the anxiety of their future.

What was on the other side for Adam and her?

She was scared.

What would happen after they talked? Would he stop liking her? Was she being too insensitive? Too selfish? She shouldn’t have said what she said. He had no control over the abuse his father put him through and yet all she could think about was herself. All she ever did was think about herself.

She got him back and she was already pushing him away. Why? Because she couldn’t get over the fact that they had so much lost time? Because she was mad at herself for accepting he stopped caring instead of finding him? Kylee knew she was just as much at fault in this whole situation and yet time and time again, she threw the blame all on the other person.

It was her who gave up. Not him. He came back. He worked his ass off and came back. She gave up on him, on herself, on whatever they had and tried to move on, like she didn’t worry about him everyday and to this day. Even throughout all her relationships, she couldn’t help but wonder if he was happy. If he found people that would ghost hunt and solve mysteries with him. If he was thinking about her…

This all came to surface because a girl, a sweet one at that, saw Adam for the past four years and she didn’t. A girl that got to see him kickass, record beautiful things, and try to keep his kite on a line after dealing with constant bull from his dad. A girl who lived so close to him and got to be there for him, when she couldn’t. A girl that wasn’t her.

“Adam, I said wait!” With as much force as she could muster, she ripped her hand from his and held it with her other one. Holding her hands close to her chest, she steadied her breathing from all the running and tried to get her thoughts straight, “I can’t do this… I need to go home.” She stood there, in the drenching rain, looking away. She really wasn’t okay and she couldn’t put him through this. All she’d ever be was a burden and she knew nothing good came from knowing a Grimm.

She needed to go home.

Adam turned to look at the brunette as she stood in the pouring rain with a look he had seen before. Kylee didn’t want to go any further. In her eyes, that same fear albeit more mature, that she had when she, Adam and Roddy tried to find the bodies in Eden Lake in middle school. It was the same look she had when she refused to adventure into her fathers banned room in the west wing of Grimm Manor. Kylee was scared. Was she scared of him? He would never hurt her, never.

“You’re not running away from this, not this time!” Adam called out. “We’re not kids anymore. We’re gonna talk about this and get through it together. If you wanna do it out here that’s fine!” His words were followed by a flash of lightning above the pair.

“What does this even accomplish?!” Kylee yelled defeatedly. Releasing her hands, she wiped the endless water on her face with her already soggy cardigan sleeve. “You can’t just come out of nowhere and act like nothing has changed! Everything has changed.” She would probably die of pneumonia before she took another step forward.

Shaking her head profusely, she protested in typical Kylee manner, “No. I’m not going!” While Kylee knew he wouldn’t physically hurt her, she was emotional and vulnerable. This wouldn’t end well for either of them. He’d hurt her unintentionally but he would hurt her. She really couldn’t lose another person. It all ended the same. With her being alone in the end.

“I know everything has changed,” Adam responded. “You really think I don’t know that?” He placed his hands on his waist as the water rained heavier and heavier onto his shoulders. “Kylee, I was so terrified to come home, for so many reasons. Most of all, I was scared of seeing you and not knowing how best to go about it. Why? Because all that got me through that fucking torture was seeing you.” Dropping his skateboard onto the floor, Adam reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out his wallet. He tossed it to Ky. “Open it up.”

It was true. In all the time he had spent locked away in the Monarchy of Pinehurst, Massachusetts, Adam had one guiding light. In his wallet, there was a photo of Kylee. He had taken it a week before he was kidnapped. Whenever the beatings got too much, whenever the bullying became unbearable, he would look into her big brown eyes and weep. He just wanted to be home with her and now he was.

Kylee stumbled to catch his wallet and when she did, she subconsciously inched forward, closer to him. She was confused why he just gave it to her. With a deep stare, she looked at him, puzzled, before doing what he told her to do. She opened his wallet. When she saw exactly what he wanted her to see, a picture of her, doe eyed and a wide smile, her heart sank.

If she didn’t think she could get any lower, this would do the trick. She was trapped in a prison cell of despair, frustration, and guilt. This only made her realize how much she meant to him and in return, she tried to forget him. She tried to pretend he was dead so she could handle the pain better. How great of a friend she was. “W-what do you want from me?” Kylee’s eyes watered and her tears started to blend in with the rain. She didn’t want to be sad, she didn’t want him to see her sad.

Trying her best to turn her grief into anger, she marched to him (putting her stubbornness aside of not getting close to him, to be a brat) and shoved his wallet back at him, “This can’t make all the hurt go away! And… and..”

This was so hard. She really did hate him. He wasn’t supposed to come back. He wasn’t supposed to be okay. He wasn’t supposed to still care. He wasn’t supposed to look at her like that, like she meant the world to him and more.

I can’t lose you again.

She couldn’t say what she really wanted to say out loud. Her teeth were jittery from nervousness. The rain and her tears were blurring her vision. And she was cold and wet. Very cold. Very wet. So instead, she glanced up at him, letting her eyes express all the things she couldn’t say.

She was stuck.

While Adam had a picture to motivate him, all she ever had was herself. Maybe that’s why it was so easy to befriend Clay. They were two lonely souls and he understood what it felt like to have an estranged, elite family. Lonely souls always have a way of finding each other in the end it seems.

“… and this isn’t going to turn back time!” She protested. Nothing but word vomit at this point. Kylee was a stubborn girl now, and then. Some things never change.

Adam clenched his fists. He had to center himself. Remember Sensei’s teachings. He closed his eyes and breathed in the rain. He absorbed the thunder and lightning vibrations into his body and heart. Taking in the storm outside to temper the one within. “I’m not looking to turn back time, Kylee. I just want to push forward into the future. One where you are in my life.”

August 29th 2019. Adam remembered that day in infamy. Two days prior, he was competing in an exhibition match with Tommy Hartmann. It was simply meant to show new students of the Dojo what they could learn. Unfortunately, Tommy had a nasty habit of not knowing when to quit and Adam on that particular day had too much frustration poisoning his veins. He shattered Tommy’s knee into pieces. This was in front of children. Children! After the fight, Adam’s father locked him in the basement and left him there, no food, water or contact opportunities. This had always been the norm of their relationship. Then the door opened on that second day and the senior Callahan deafened the stairs, his face awash with pale. He talked of the massacre at Edenridge High that had been perpetuated that morning and that list of victims. Adam’s heart sank when Roddy and Marco’s names appeared on that list but was elated to hear they weren’t dead. Kylee’s name was also missing from that page and all he could do was thank a God he didn’t believe in for protecting her.

“I can’t pretend to know what you’ve gone through. I can’t pretend to understand. What I can say is that every day I could, I recorded you a video. Just a diary really, I wanted to send you them. To show you that there was never a day that I didn’t think about you. Every single tape is up there right now waiting for you,” He gestured to the nearby apartment. “I never stopped.”

Woof.

He was taking the air she breathed right from her lungs. Kylee couldn’t believe he recorded a video of himself, every day, for her and to her. Adam wasn’t one to be on the camera. He preferred staying behind the scenes. “I really don’t deserve this,” Kylee, downcast and heartbroken, glanced at the ground, fixing her gaze on his board. When he left Edenridge, she forced herself to get involved in the animal kingdom that was highschool. Or the Thunderdome. Depends on perspective. Regardless, highschool was ruthless. She went to the party that Allison died at. She dated and slept around. David O’Hara drowned in the lake from drinking too much, in hopes his sadness would go away. She started fires (not literally like the one during junior prom) and spread drama when people slighted or upset her, or when the truth was too good to keep to herself. And she watched people die and bleed out, wishing it was her instead.

There was so much that happened from when they were kids to now. Amongst all that assimilation, all that tragedy, her embracing the toxic environment that was her teenage dirtbag years, she had Roddy and it was him and her versus the world. He was Francis’ little brother, she was Hailey’s little sister. He was bullied for his stature, she was bullied for being a bitch that barks too much. In time, they both found their stride. Kylee and Pierce mutually ended things, seeing how Pierce was a closet gay like Francis, and Kylee got close to Mei, while Roddy found Lanie.

There were nights when she was alone, with no one to talk to or call, when all she wanted to do was look at the stars. Especially when Roddy wasn’t available, like when he was in physical therapy with Marco. She could even go back to when her dad grounded her throughout freshman year, because parties and boys were taking her focus away from her grades. All she wanted to do was look up at the stars and wonder if Adam was looking at the sky too. If he was thinking about her or someone else. If he found someone that helped him through his troubles. If he found someone that cared for him just as much as she cared for him.

“No matter what I do, someone gets hurt! You never stopped? Well guess what Adam? I did. I had to!” Kylee was backing away again, shaking her head, her body trembling, “This might be easy for you, to come back into my life after I tried so hard to fucking forget you, but it isn’t for me, okay?” Balling her hands into fists, she cried, “And I can’t be all happy when I’m scared you’re going to get shot right in front of me by some psycho that lives next door or for all I know, my dad himself. He doesn’t even have to chain me because his voice is in my head! I just, I can’t, Adam.” If she accepted his invite, this could be the biggest mistake she ever made. His father would come for her, her father would come for him. There was no way they could pretend everything was okay. Eventually his dad would find him, all the while her dad did what he could to protect his Precious. She wasn’t meant for a happily ever after and she’d be a fool if she thought she could ever have one, and have Adam too.

Kylee stood there before him, shivering or shaking, he couldn’t really tell whether it was her emotions, the rain or both. He looked at her drowned visage and still even then, at her most vulnerable, she was filling his heart. For those who walk in storm, the affairs of the heart are laid bare. “You think this is easy for me? I’m not some kind of fucking machine. I’m a man. A man with a heart that has always belonged with you. You want me to stand here and list off the reasons why I couldn’t come back? I can do that. You want me to count all the fucking reasons why even as we stand here like absolute idiots in a catagory whatever-the-fuck monsoon arguing that I’m still fucking in love with you then I’ll do that too!”

Shit. Fuck. Did he really just say that? Did he really drop the bomb on her? Oh Callahan you idiot. Should’ve stuck to being a robot like Roddy. Gets you in trouble less. Fuck it. He said it. Can’t turn back time. Might as well go all in.

“Yeah,” Adam took a step closer to the Grimm girl, his heart beating with the force of a bullet train. “I said it. Wanna fight about it?” He stepped toward her again, in the same motion cupping her face with both of his hands and bringing her lips to his in a kiss that he had desired for nearly ten years. Just like when riding a dangerous line, one had to commit.

Her eyes widened when their lips met, locked in passion, warmth, and tenderness. Now, quite literally, he stole her breath away. Their faces dripped and through the chill, she found comfort and a mutual need. Around them, they were surrounded by rain, but on the inside she felt sunshine, hope, and excitement. Resting her hands on his chest, she closed her eyes and leaned into the kiss. Being in his embrace, together in the rush of rain, washed away all her insecurities, all her doubts, and all her pain. It seemed like the world around them ceased to exist and all that was there was him and her.

How strange it all felt. To kiss someone you loved in the rain. When he pulled away, she was bewildered, but calm. Before he opened his mouth, she shook her head, signaling him to not say anything. To not ruin the moment. Instead, she grabbed his hand and kicked his board up, catching it in the air.

They really should get going.

Her nipples were seeping through her bra and tank. And she wanted a steamy shower and hot cocoa.

“Okay. You win.”

“I always do. Wait until you see my trophies.”

Adam really didn’t know what to make of what just happened. In the span of seconds, he had admitted love, kissed her and watched her kick his board into her hand effortlessly, which might’ve been the hottest thing he had ever seen. She was soaked and still looked absolutely radiant. He was trying to do the gentlemanly thing and not look at her chest which was very visible. Holding on to her hand, Adam paused for a moment, to soak in the moment. Without a word, he led his Ky through the storm towards the apartment complex.

They already went this far and where she was at emotionally, she knew that fighting her urges were a waste of time (and a lost battle). Going from Mei to Natalia kind of made Kylee a borderline nympho. When she felt it, she needed it. She needed it badly. Something Wes couldn’t keep up with, she had learned within the first week of them dating.

Morally right or not. Kylee was no angel. Mei was quick to make her realize that. Her gateway drug. Natalia, on the other hand, tempted her to do bad things, constantly. A hit she didn’t want to quit. That is until her ptsd got too bad, and not even Natalia could help her with that. Then again, she never did tell her ex about her trauma. Or even about her controlling father. Natalia had enough grief from being at the shooting that day too, but also Kylee was observant and knew Natalia still had lingering feelings for Niles Sinclair.

“There’s only one trophy I want to see,” she teasingly admitted, burying the thoughts of her boyfriend and her exes in the back of her mind. She was young and she was horny, and there weren’t opportunities like this when your first love confesses to you in the rain. She’ll deal with the consequences later. Worry about her problems tomorrow.

To add incentive, she went out of her way to look down at his package and smirk up at him. Yeah, this was one hell of a day. She didn’t know what was going on anymore but right now, she was happy and ready to be greedy for some Adam cake.

“I love you too, by the way. Stupidly so.”

Hearing the words turned Adam’s blood to piping hot magma. What the actual fuck was happening right now? It was intense and crazy and mad but it felt right. As he guided Kylee into the apartment block and towards his ground floor home, he couldn’t help but feel like his life in that present moment was reflective of the chaos raging outside. He was on the run. Working in a coffee shop to make ends meet so that he could run away again. He literally crashed into the girl he had longed for and now he was leading her to her apartment after interviewing their childhood friends about some suspicious times going on in town. What in the blue hell was Adam Callahan’s life right now?

He unlocked the door to his apartment and allowed Kylee to go in first before he closed the door behind them. “Everything you were expecting?”

Earlier that day, Adam had run into his apartment to drop off her bag of books and then they were off to the park. This being the first time she walked into his humble abode, she could finally look around and see the boy she adored through the things he owned. His apartment was exactly how she expected. With old skate decks for the skater boy, film reels and movie posters for the film nerd, and a large wall and case completely dedicated to trophies and medals for the killer martial artist. But none of that mattered right now as much as she loved to see it. Putting his board down in the entry room and slipping off her shoes and wet socks, she chuckled, “Some things never change.”

She was quick to leave his side, taking off her cardigan and tank top, revealing her black bra, “Do you have a washer here? Oh and where’s your bathroom?” She turned on her heel, holding her wet clothes, practically topless. It was just her in a bra and short shorts. “I could really use a shower,” she sensually invited.

Adam was almost speechless at the sight before him. At this point, based on tone of voice he had two options: tell her where the shower is and then go sit on the couch like the good boy he was or he could show her where the shower was and do everything that he had dreamed about in all the years he was away. Oh the humanity and hard decisions. “Washer is in the kitchen,” He motioned behind a corner wall behind the brunette as he placed his beloved camera down on a nearby table.

He had to pause for a second. It was taking a minute for his brain to compute everything that was happening. Adam was no genius. He was just a dude with a camera and a skateboard. He peeled off his wet t-shirt to reveal a body that legitimately could’ve been sculpted out of stone. His abs were sharp and his arms toned and muscled. He was lean but obviously had quite a strong workout routine. “The shower is in that room to your left. It’s a bit tricky to turn on.” He dropped his wet tee on the door and moved closer to Ky. “I better come help.”

Guess they were dealing with their clothes later. After placing her phone on the coffee table, near her backpack, and her cardigan and tank on a nearby wooden bar stool, Kylee found herself glancing at his body occasionally. Not realizing how much he grew, the Mayor’s daughter was quick and eager to return to him. She turned around and innocently asked, brushing her wet hair over her shoulder, “Before you do that, can you help me with my bra?” Kylee was a woman on a mission. By the time they hit that bathroom, both of them would be naked.

Well this was just insane but as he thought earlier, commit to the line right? Adam edged closer to her, his breath bouncing off of her neck as he began to unclasp her bra strap. Once it hung loose away from her back and dropped to the floor, he took his hands and ran them down Kylee’s shoulders and arms. Her skin was as soft as Adam had always dreamed. The thought and memory of the woman before him had really gotten him through the darkest of times and now she was here with him. Maybe they needed to walk in storms more often. He pressed a soft kiss to her neck, inhaling her scent in an act that caused his body to be struck by lightning.

His kiss gave her goosebumps. It was crazy how she went from jealousy to desperateness in the course of what? Thirty minutes? She didn’t wake up expecting to come across the first man she ever felt sparks with but here she was. About to give him everything. All of her. Body, heart, and soul. Turning around, Kylee trailed her nails up his built chest, admiring his chiseled physique before putting her pointer finger under his chin and beckoning him to her lips.

She wanted to taste him. He looked so good. His wet shoulders, his abs, and his face glistened under the lights of his apartment, only making him that more desirable. She wanted him. All of him. And she wanted to show him what he’s been missing. This wasn’t the virgin Kylee he knew before he moved to Pinehurst. No, this Kylee knew what she wanted and knew exactly how to show it. Glancing up at him with her sex kitten eyes, she bit her bottom lip, the storm outside only causing the tension between the two to rise.

Adam placed his hand beneath Kylee’s dark hair as she grabbed onto him with fierce strength. As their lips came together, a flash of lightning signified the chaos that enveloped their union. He pushed her forward against the wall of his apartment, dominating her with his superior size. He didn’t know what the cutie held. At this point he didn’t really care. Adam Callahan was kissing Kylee Grimm. He had loved her from the moment Roddy introduced them, through their ghost hunting days and his captivity in Pinehurst. He loved her still, to this day, Adam still loved Kylee.

As they ravished each other feverishly and the two became lost in each other, not too far from them, on the nearby coffee table, Kylee’s phone lit up with the Caller ID: Daddy.

They didn’t make it to the bathroom.
TIMESTAMP: After A Little Bit of Rain
FT: Clat
Small FT: Heartbreakers

____________________________________________________________________







____________________________________________________________________

At this point, the Heartbreakers were undertaking an impossible task of deciding what to do. Brooke wanted to watch reruns of the Bachelorette. Vanessa wanted to watch the Desperate Housewives. Harper wanted to play the game Kings like they were young again, ready to risk it all in one night. Lydia suggested the card game Rummy but the likelihood of getting the rest of the girls that weren’t Cat focused, would’ve been a challenge, and Cat simply wanted to sit there and drink, watching her friends enjoy themselves.

The squabble went on for a bit before Cat decided to put on the movie Stand By Me, per habit, since it was one of the films she and her kids watched together. It didn’t take long before the girls realized they wouldn’t have enough booze to last them the whole night. Cat simply shrugged at that but to her surprise, after Lydia received a text, she got up and offered to get them more booze, saying if they drank her whiskey she’d kill them. That’s all Lyds ever drank. Her whiskey. At least everyone else was less picky with their poison.

Cat raised her eyebrow as she watched her friend speed walk to the entrance. “Are you sure? It’s going to rain hard soon! I would hate you getting caught in it.”

Lydia looked over her shoulder to Cat and smiled, keeping to herself that the reason why she was leaving was because Sofi had texted her, “I’ll be fine, it’s just a little bit of rain. Don’t worry yourself too much.”

“Can you get us some margarita mixers?!” Brooke called out.

“No! Mojito stuff!” Vanessa protested.

“Whatever you get, get a shit ton,” Harper concluded.

Cat rolled her eyes at her soul sisters and waved her best friend goodbye, “You better be back soon or I’ll be VERY upset.” As much as she loved her friends, she felt the loneliness creep up. She had called her almost ex husband an hour ago and the report was good, so she had that to keep her happy. Her children were enjoying the City with their cousins. That soothed her motherly part of her heart but the other part, the part that wanted to feel loved, wanted, and needed, it ached for her boyfriend.

She hated how they left things. She should apologize. She should tell him she was sorry and that she…

Was this real? Did he really love her? Staring at her wine glass on the coffee table, her left hand covering her lips, Cat smiled, as she replayed his words: It’s not an expectation. It’s not a curse. It’s just how I feel. Clayton Costigan loved her. He really loved her.

When her girlfriends were focused on the film, Cat slipped out of her single sofa and went to her downstairs bathroom. Closing the door behind her, locking it, she pulled out her phone and dialed his number. Holding it to her ear, she looked at herself in the mirror and bit her thumb as she waited, praying he wasn’t mad at her for being childish this morning. She should’ve been more supportive. She should’ve been there for him. She should’ve ran after him, after he left the apartment. She should’ve done more…

He was going through a lot.

As it kept ringing, the anxiety built up. She hoped he was okay. He was a police officer, after all. She could lose him anyday! What would she do if she lost him? After finally getting someone that meant the world to her and made her feel like the world? What would she do?

When he didn’t pick up the call, she sat on the toilet, the lid down, and stared at her phone. A second call would make her seem too needy. She should wait. He probably was busy. He was a busy guy and today of all days was surely mentally and emotionally taxing. She should wait. The anxiety was unbearable right now but she was determined to give him a minute or two before she tried calling him back. She could keep the panic at bay just for a little long.

Please call me back...

Clayton had been running around all day, interviewing friends about long since past days. He wished it was for something better. He wished it was for something like a time capsule but the reality was far far worse. He had been interrogating his fellow Elite to see if any of them knew David’s secret. He hadn’t realised all those years ago when he decided that he wanted to be a small town cop that people he loved and cared for could end up in his firing line.

Jamie was a lot. Dramatic as always and with good reason as this had all to do with her brother, her soulmate. Rhett was much easier since he was solid as a rock and managed to stay on point. In their travels, Clay and Sly had even managed to get a hold of Francis who was currently somewhere on a mountain with his husband taking selfies with waterfalls. Fran wasn’t much help or at least he didn’t offer anything they didn’t already know. Russell for all intents and purposes was the hardest to track down. Despite trying Jamie multiple times to get a hold of him, he was a ghost today. Clay had even interviewed his baby sister. Lamb, God bless her, did what she could to help. They may not have been as close as they could be but the Costigan twins did love each other.

The lieutenant had dropped Clay off on the Southside. The young man’s shift was over and he had been told to go home by the Chief due to the severe weather rolling in. Yet the former Elite couldn’t stop just yet, he had to try and help his friends any way he could. He had a lead he wanted to check out in Southie, which was why he found himself standing in an old disused shop doorway, waiting for a break in the rain so he could make a run for it. Reaching into his pocket, Clayton noticed a miss call from Cat. God Cat. He had hoped to hear her voice all day but the way they left things earlier that morning led him to give her a little space. He loved her and wanted her to be happy and no doubt him being in his current state was not what she would want. Tapping his phone, the young officer redialled his girlfriend and out on his biggest smile when the line went live.

“Ma’am, do you need us to send you an officer? Specifically, one with amazing hair and who is absolute dynamite in the sack?”

Relieved. Cat was relieved when she heard his voice, joking too. She missed him, so very much, even though she had seen him this morning. How he’s changed her life and turned it upside down. It was unbelievable, really. Cat found her existence pointless without him and she owed it all to the Afterlife, oddly enough.

She didn’t think she’d ever find herself in a place where she felt whole, with no need to search for something that made her feel safe, warm, and fuzzy. When she was with Clay, everything made sense. He made sense and at times, she couldn’t believe that he was her sweetheart. The boy next door was all hers and he loved every ounce of her, every shattered piece. He loved her.

Cat was not in a teasing mood. She was tipsy, her buzz coming down, sure, but it wasn’t enough for her to match his jolly humor. Right now she just couldn’t pretend and joke. She wanted him to know that all she had been doing was thinking of him. “It’s so good to hear your voice,” she admitted, as she leaned forward in her seat, her elbow resting on her leg and her chin resting in the palm of her hand. “As much as I want to see you, Officer, I know you won’t stop at nothing until you crack this case. I just wanted to make sure you were safe…” she was turning into a needy girlfriend. It was awful and embarrassing. She hoped he didn’t mind. “…and to hear you,” she absentmindedly bounced her right leg, up and down, continuously, and softly purred, “I miss you, baby.”

“I miss you too,” Clay responded. He still could not believe his luck that the girl, nay the woman he had loved since he was twelve years old was actually his now and despite their disagreement earlier that day, if he could he would be wherever she was, holding her in his arms, happier than a pig in shit. “Define safe,” He mused. “I mean I'm standing in…” He poked his head from the doorway to look at the rusting sign above his head. “McMahon Woodwork? On Chestnut. Why I find myself here I have no idea but I’ll be home soon. One last thing I want to check out before I crash and I do mean crash.” He was exhausted. This day had sucked all the energy out of him and he just wanted it to be over, curled up in Cat’s arms and be the little spoon for a change. Still, he knew he couldn’t go home. Not yet. There was still work to be done. “I would say meet me at home but I don’t want you going out in this, it’s only gonna get worse. Are you somewhere safe?”

“My house. Left Palermo not too long ago. Now I have three drunk women watching a sad movie. But is it really that bad?” Cat had a sudden panic. Lydia had gone out to get them more booze. “I shouldn’t have let Lyds leave. She was so determined to beat the storm.” Now Cat had two people out and about in inclement weather. That meant tonight was going to be full of worries and no sleep. “I know she’s not dumb, she can take care of herself but I should’ve stopped her.” Honestly, if Lydia was still on the clock Cat could see her friend doing her job, in the rain. Some people just couldn’t help themselves. “Maybe I should text Bobby… no, I shouldn’t. They haven’t been a thing in years.”

“I really wouldn’t get Bobby involved. You know how he is. He’ll go all Batman and try to save her and we really don’t need any more people on the streets right now.” Clay narrowed his eyes as he saw figures moving in the distance. What kind of idiot would be out in this by choice?…Oh wait. “Besides, no storm is gonna fuck with Lyds. She’s too scary. The clouds will part to let her pass.” In reality Lydia didn’t live too far away, she should be ok as long as she took it slow. Clay on the other hand was on the completely wrong side of town. His journey home would be far more eventful, he thought. “Three drunk women eh?” The lothario took a step back and remembered what his lover had said. He had a pretty good idea who the lovely ladies were in Cat’s home. “Pics or didn’t happen. Kitty.”

Coincidentally, as if fates knew he wanted to see something, Avery sent a reminder text: dude, it’s wild outside. Hope you’re somewhere not in this rain. Did you even check your email yet?

Knowing Aves, she was growing impatient and wanted to know Clay’s reaction to the sexy content she sent him. You really don’t make this shit up. She and her work bestie, RoRo, witnessed a miracle, a once in a lifetime experience, a steamy, hot lesbian wet dream! Since Avery was cooped up at Swerve Arcana the least her friend could do was send her live reacts.

Clay checked the alert in his phone very briefly and his mouth dropped agape as he watched the footage that his friend had gained earlier. He can already imagine Avery salivating at the the sight with the only bad part being that none of the girl’s were Jamie O’Hara. At least that was one thing Clayton could rub in the comic book store therapist's face; he had seen all those women naked.

Hot: Save that one to your wank bank cloud Aves. He simply texted back with emoji’s.

“Okay, I’ll see what I can do,” Cat softly responded, smiling at the fact that he didn’t seem too frustrated. Not like he was this morning. Maybe he was getting closure. Slowly but surely, maybe Clay was finding out the answers to questions that he had ever since that year. He simply needed something this random and horrible to kickstart his engine in righting the wrong that was the death of his friend.

“Danny’s on mama duty today since I can’t get to Scott’s street, and neither can the nurse. I think tomorrow I’m going to tell the family how terminally ill mom actually is. Without my dad’s permission. It’s getting harder to hide. I mean the nurse visits at least five times a day. The only reason why Natalia hasn’t questioned it is because she never leaves her room.” Cat stood up and went back to the mirror, staring at herself and fixing her fly away hair. “I don’t want my family to fall apart but with Viv living with ReyRey and the amount of disconnect between all of us… my mom dying is just going to make that all worse.”

“That’s a big step babe,” Clay knew how hard all this was for Cat. He couldn’t fully understand since both his parents were still around and healthy. He just wanted to be there for her as best as he could. That’s all he could really do. “If you want me th…” A flash of lightning made the shaggy haired cop nearly jump out of his skin. “For fucks sake,” He growled at the sky. “If you want me to come, then I’ll be there without question but if it’s something you need to do alone, I get that too.”

“Focus on David, Clay,” Cat assured her boyfriend, knowing he had enough going on himself. When he was done with this journey, then he could help her but right now, they both needed to walk solo, “I’ll call you if I need you, I promise. But just FYI, Clayton, this isn’t a one way street. Please, pretty please call me if you need me. I want to be there for you just as much as—”

“CAT I GOT TO PEE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? SHITTING? ARE YOU TALKING TO SOMEONE?” Brooke yelled, necessarily so. It wasn’t like Cat couldn’t hear her, there was only a door in between them.

“Might be her casanova new boyfriend,” Harper whispered, curious who Cat’s new man was, just as much as the whole town would be. It didn’t take long to find out the hottest new gossip on Scott Street. Those ladies sure did love to talk.

Vannessa was quick to chime in, vicariously living through Cat, who was gradually getting to a place of being content and happy with herself. Something Vanessa was not, in her lonely marriage. “I heard he was young.”

“Shut up. The both of you,” Brooke sassed, before knocking on the door a lot, “We have no right to judge, we’ve fucked young pieces of meat all the goddamn time. Anyways, CATTTTTTTTTTTTTT!”

“...just call me if you need me, baby,” Cat finished up her bit, turning her head and glaring at the door that separated her and her friends.

He had to stifle a laugh. Clay could hear the drunken Heartbreakers musing over his identity and the funny thing was they all actually loved him anyway. It was almost a surprise Cat hadn’t told them. Then again he could already imagine Harper with a sharing is caring comment. “I will. Give the girls my love.”

“I will.”

Looking deeper into the rain, Clay could definitely see movement which was a massive no no right now. Nobody should be on the street. Figuring it could be someone in need of help, he checked to see if anyone else was around. Seeing no one, he knew he’d have to go back into cop mode. “I’m gonna have to go, Kitty but I’ll call you as soon as I get back to the apartment ok? I love you.”

“I love—” Cat immediately caught herself. Was she about to say it so nonchalantly? No! Not over the phone. That was so unclassy. Embarrassed, she was quick to dismiss herself, “I’ll see you first thing in the morning! Kisses.” And with that Cat hung up and was resting her hand on her chest. The fuck was that? When she heard more bickering on the outside, she rolled her eyes, “I HAVE A BATHROOM UPSTAIRS!” She swung the door open and focused on her friends and not the almost exposure of how deep she felt for Clayton Costigan.

Nearly there. She almost said it. He was getting closer. Placing his phone back in his inner pocket, Clay zipped up his jacket. This weather was going to do nothing good for his hair. He placed his hands into his pockets and looked out at the figure that was moving slightly closer to him. They were moving slow, something definitely wasn’t right. He wouldn’t grab his gun, in this weather not knowing for certain where a target was was incredibly dangerous and he didn’t want to risk friendly fire, even if this was the Southside. Clay stepped out into the torrent of rain and called out.

“Hey! Need any help?!”
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