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This is #23 of Endangered  and is titled Pain is the Alpha and Omega for Addiction. It is part 11 of Volume 2. In an issue centered around Vicky, we explore both the past and present of her life, which is more flawed than led to believe. In the past, following running away from her household, Vicky is slowly led into the world of heroin and her addiction turns her into a completely different person; while in the present, her addiction comes back to rip her down when a friend finds weed. All while this is going on, Ethan tries moving on with his life, while Daniel learns that now he's just another nobody.

Pain is the Alpha and Omega for AddictionEdit

9 Years Ago, 2004

“Sit down!” Lynn yells across the small living room, while she herself paces behind the couch, with a look of anger in her eyes. She is yelling at the very young teenager across the room, who unfortunately, was just dragged in by a man in his early thirties. The man wore a simple brown jacket, dark jeans, and had short brown hair, but the man certainly looked familiar. It was none other than Ethan, who stood silently with his head pouted, not really knowing what to do.

The teenager was obviously Vicky, but she was like a whole other person at this point. The only trait that looks the same about her is the eyes and skin color, besides that, one might not have been able to tell it was her. From a simple glance it could be assumed she was goth. She had darker brown hair with a wild blue streak that runs through, both a nose and mouth pearce, crystal earrings, and to top it off, had dark make up. Her choice of clothing was also very...interesting. Black low cut shirt, dark sleeveless jacket, medium-cut skirt above black leggings and ‘bad girl’ boots.

Vicky rolled her eyes at Lynn’s command and just kept walking, muttering the phrase that every teenager just loves to use: God, you’re the worst mom ever!

“Hey! Don’t you walk away from me!”

“Or what? I’m already grounded.” The arrogant Vicky keeps on walking, causing the already furious Lynn to hold herself back from not punching her right then and here.

“Don’t you dare walk away from me, young lady!” Lynn storms after her, cutting her off in the kitchen, where Vicky was grabbing a coke from the fridge. “I said you couldn’t go to that party.”

“So.”

“No means no.” Vicky still doesn’t get the point, or, she’s just being a bitch and not caring. Lynn didn’t know which one at the moment, and personally, she didn’t care. “You disobeyed me!’

“You said you didn’t want me going to that party. It wasn’t technically a no, so…”

Technically, I should beat some sense into you.” Lynn folds her arms, wondering what to do to her daughter. “And don’t you dare play smartass with me.”

“What’s the big deal? It was just a party!”

“Just a party? Just a party?! It was a college party, Victoria. College. They have alcohol and drugs at those things!”

“I didn’t take any of that stuff.” Vicky rolls her eyes, folding her arms to match her defensive stance against Lynn. “You honestly believe I would take any of that shit?”

“Language!”

“You honestly believe I would take any of that crap? Better now?”

“I don’t know, Victoria. I don’t even know anymore. I obviously can’t trust you!”

“Oh my God, you’re acting like I murdered someone! I just went to a party. It’s not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal?! You disobeyed me, did how knows what at some party, and now you’re back talking me. If I want to make a big deal out of this I have every damn right.” Lynn sighs, rubbing her template, while keeping her anger-filled eyes on her daughter. What happened to her? The sweet little girl is gone, instead she got replaced by this….brat. “What happened to you?”

“What?”

“What happened to you? You used to be so sweet and--”

“What happened to me?! Is that really what you’re gonna ask me? You know exactly what happened, and the way I see it, I think you should just let me go.” Vicky smiles, but no, it’s not a normal smile. It’s one of those smiles that bitchy princesses give when they want something, and the smile made Lynn angry down to the core. Normally, Lynn wasn’t like this. She was a nice, caring mother who normally wasn’t strict, but Vicky’s been pushing the line as of late. “Right, mommy?”

Vicky, expecting her mother to let her go, begins to walk toward the stairs, but stops in her tracks once Lynn speaks. “No.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said no.” Lynn grabs her arm with a fierce grip. “Yes, what happened to you was horrible, and no child should go through that. But it’s been four years, Victoria. It’s time you stop using it as an excuse because I let you get away with enough crap for it, but no more.”

“Really? Do you not remember what happened?” The incident that occurred four years ago truly was horrible. It was an incident that scars children for life, but Vicky is clearly over the incident, only using it as an excuse to get away with trouble. But what was this incident? Well, that’s a story for another day.

“I remember exactly.” Lynn corrects, much to the dismay of Vicky. The mother and daughter glare at each other, neither speaking a word. Lynn has been letting Vicky off the hook as of late, but as of now, she’s done.

“You…..ugh!” Vicky moans in anger instead of finishing her argument. “What do you want from me? An apology? I’m sorry, mom, please forgive me.”

“I don’t want anything from you. In fact, I don’t want anything from you for the next two months.” Vicky isn’t catching onto what she just said, although the phrase made perfect sense in her mind. “You’re grounded.”

“What?! You can’t ground me!”

“Just did. Two months. You go to school, then you come home, that’s it.” Vicky stares in disbelief at her mother, who never gives punishments. “I want your phone too.”

“Phone,” she holds out her hand, “now.”

“You--you can’t take my phone!” Vicky objects like every teenager would, but her mom is not giving up so easy. “I can’t believe you. God, you’re the worst mom ever!”

“Hey!”

“I fucking hate you.”

“Hey!” This time the shout doesn’t come from Lynn. No, this comes from a deeper voice. Both women turn to see Ethan standing at the doorway, leaning on the doorange. Ethan originally was just sitting in the living room, letting them fight, but after the fight got harsher, he made his way out there. “Who do you think you are? She gave birth to your ungrateful ass.”

“Ethan,” Lynn reaches her hand out to her husband in an effort to calm him.

“No.” He denies her attempts to calm him down in a whisper, before putting his attention back on Vicky. “I should have arrested you tonight, do you know that? You and your little friends.”

“For what?”

“Drug possession. Underaged drinking.”

“I didn’t do any of that!”

“But you were there and that’s enough to charge you.” Ethan counters. “Be lucky I was there as a father and not a cop.”

“Father? You’re nothing more than some cop who married my mom.”

“Vicky!” Lynn cuts in, but neither Vicky or Ethan here her.

“I’m also the reason you’re not dead right now.”

“Know what? Fuck this.” Vicky takes out her phone and tosses her phone onto the table. “Take the phone.” With that said Vicky turns around and marches up the stairs, completely ignoring anything that her parents had to say. Lynn and Ethan simply sigh, each rubbing their head in annoyance, but neither saying anything. The couple needed silence at the moment; a nice, peaceful silence.

“I don’t know what to do anymore.” She laments finally, keeping her position of leaning against the counter. “I thought it was just a stage, but it’s like a recurring thing now.”

“Just...keep doing what you’re doing.” Ethan tries to assure but truth be told parenting just wasn’t his thing. He tried his best but was often left clueless at situations like this. The relationship between Vicky and Ethan itself proves he isn’t the parenting type; while he initially tried being nice, the two were awkward around each other and barely interacted, due to his lack of parenting skills and Vicky’s rebellious attitude. “It will be fine.”

“Will it? This has been going on for years and it keeps getting worse. I’ve tried everything I could to help her through the incident. Therapist, spending extra time with her, spoiling her, the whole nine yards.”

“You’re a good parent.” Ethan gently wraps his arm around her in a comforting minor. “She’s just a teenager, relax. All of them are like that.” Ethan kisses her on the forehead, which she returns with a smile of gratitude. She couldn’t even imagine where she would be without him.

-----

Vicky sat slumped up against the wall in her room, her head repeating the phase of banging her head against the wall. Her foot tapped repeatedly against the floor in anger while her eyes stared out the window on her left, glaring into the streets.

Vicky hated her life. Absolutely hated. Everything always went wrong for her and everyone was always against her, but to make it worse, no one understands her. She didn’t know if there was a guy upstairs, buf if there was, he was probably laughing at her misery right now. She simply let out a sigh while forming her hand into a fist.

Getting up from against the wall Vicky just collapses onto her bed, letting herself rest up softly on the mattress. Who knows maybe she would fall asleep and never wake up, certainly wouldn’t be a problem for her.

However, before she could get some shut eye, she heard a faint knock. At first she simply assumed it was the door before realizing that her mom or Ethan would just come in after a few knocks, so she turns her attention toward her window. Immediately Vicky took notice of the smiling young man who flashed her a wave. Unlike most girls, who would be freaked out by a person at her window, Vicky waved back.

He could barely be any older than Vicky, maybe around 15, with a japanese background, dark hair and bright green eyes. To go with his shaggy hair are his clothes which are mostly full of holes and dirty. It was clear right from the get-go that this kid was a runaway. This runaway happened to be a friend of Vicky’s. She only knew him by the name of Neal, but he often alluded that it wasn’t his full name. They met almost a year ago and ever since then Neal stops by her house whenever he can, although he usually emails her when he’s coming.

Vicky silently hops off her bed and approaches her window where she is quick to pull it open. Once open Neal is quick to hop in, silently, and give her a hug. “I didn’t expect your for another week!” She exclaims, while keeping her voice low.

“Well I was around town and I figured I would check up on my favorite girl.”

“You’re too kind.” She slightly blushes, before releasing her grip, allowing him to sit down on her bed. “So what are you doing here? I thought you were in Harrisburg?”

“I was. Had to leave earlier than expected,” Neal puts down his bag, “people caught on to me.” Neal was a shoplifter, a good one too. With jobs out of the option (he never stays somewhere more than a week), shoplifting is how he survives.

“Sweet.” Vicky admires impressed. “So what you get?”

“Basic stuff. Food, clothes, and some tapes for the walkman.”

“So same old?”

“Actually, I got one more thing.” Neal pulls out a wrapped up poster from his bag and hands it to Vicky. “I got you a present.”

Vicky takes the rubber band off the poster and unravels it to find herself staring at a Harry Potter poster, this one detailing the latest movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. She let out a big smile. “Oh my God, I love it.” She was a big fan of the films and the books, having seen all three movies and has all five books. “Thank you.”

“You sure you like it? Best I could get.”

“Yes, I love it.” She assures him, to which he gives a smile. Neal saw her like a younger sister so he wanted to treat her good.

“So how are you?”

“Alright.”

“You’re a terrible liar.”

“What? I’m not lying, really. I’m fine.”

“When I got up here I saw you were mad.” Neal points out, causing Vicky to just go silent. “C’mon, tell your favorite friend what happened.”

“Parents. Just...you know.”

“Actually, I don’t.” Neal was raised in an orphanage from when he was six. He never liked to speak about his past to anyone, instead preferring to stick to the present. Still, unlike most, Neal wasn’t brought down by the past, not wanting his parent’s mistakes to defy his life.

“They’re just so...overbearing and annoying.” Vicky lament. “They’re so strict and they yell at me for everything. Like I went to this party, and my mom made my step-dad drive down there and drag me back, then they yelled at me!”

“Well did you sneak to the party?” He gives a devious smirk.

“Well...yeah, but still. They’re acting like I committed murder.”

“You know, Tori, they’re just being strict because they love you.” Unlike most others, Neal calls her Tori instead of Vicky. At his sentence, Vicky just rolls her eyes.

“You sound like one of the uncles from Full House.” She mocks, giggling while doing so. Neal lets out a smirk.

“Yeah, I’m Uncle Jesse all the way.”

“Except for...you know. The hair.”

“Whatever.” Neal gives her a slight push. “But I’m being serious here. You should be lucky they love you. I’d kill for that anyday.”

“They just...don’t understand me. They think I’m just some brat.” Vicky moans. “They know what happened to me, and they think I can just get over it. They don’t understand that I can’t.”

“I wouldn’t expect you too. I mean, being held by--” Before he can finish she gives him a quick slap, not hard, but definitely not in a joking matter.

“Don’t.” She stops him from saying his name, to which Neal simply nods. “But yeah, they don’t understand me.” She quickly changes the subject. “I mean, it’s gotta be great for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean, you can do whatever you want. You don’t got nobody tying you down.”

“Trust me, Tori, the life I live ain’t that great. I always gotta keep moving, I can almost never get a good sleep--”

“But you can do whatever you want. You can just travel around, go from place to place. Sounds like a dream to me. Did you ever leave the state?”

“Can’t say I have.”

“Why not? I woulda jumped at the chance.”

“I don’t know,” Neal shrugs, “I guess I couldn’t bare to go out there. New state, new people, new surroundings. I’d be even more alone.” He scratches his temple. “You got a good house, good family, real food that wasn’t pulled out of the dumpster.” The last one is a little joke in an attempt to lighten the mood.

“Trust me, it ain’t fun.” Vicky sighs, and for a moment, the two sit in silence. That is, until, Vicky has an idea. “Let’s leave.”

“What?”

“You said you didn’t want to leave the state alone, and I wanna leave.”

“Tori,”

“I’ll just grab my coat and we can run.”

“Tori!” Neal says louder, causing Vicky to go silent. “I can’t take you with me.”

“What? Why?”

“My life is not some ‘fun, adventure’ you’re making it out to be..”

“Looks it to me.”

“Looks can be deceiving.”

“Hey,” Vicky pats him on the shoulder, “you don’t gotta worry about me. If I wanna go, I should be able to go. Besides, you don’t wanna be alone forever, do you?”

“I guess not.”

“It will be good for both of us.” Vicky assures him, moving an inch closer to her friend. “I get you like to worry for me but you don’t have to. I wanna do this.”

Neal looks at her and can see the determination in her eyes, and from that moment, he knew she wasn’t gonna take no for an answer. He simply sighs and rubs his forehead, knowing there was only one answer to the situation. “Alright then.”

Vicky beams in a smile and claps her hands, before turning back at him. “You better not be kidding and end up ditching me.”

Looking at her in the eyes Neal reaches out his hand and brushes her cheek, not in a romantic way, but a in a joking, friendship way. “I promise. I won’t leave you.”


Vicky walks around the mall’s halls, once more, glancing around at the people. She was a curious girl, and from each look at a person, she tried to guess their story. Everyone and everything have a story just waiting to be discovered. Maybe every so often she would alternate with her phone, but mostly just looked around.

She had recently finished talking to Sarah Benjamin, a sort of friend. She was a nice, young teenager who Vicky bumped into only twice, but each time she took a liking to her. Unlike herself at age fifteen, Sarah was genuinely a good person, and Vicky had to give her some respect for that. The world today was prompting people her age to do activities and acts Vicky herself views horrible, but she didn’t do them. Sarah was better than her, that’s for sure.

Getting bored of just walking around, staring, and using her Iphone, Vicky finds herself making sound effects, like brushing her lips together like a horse. This place was a little more boring than she expected. Honestly, she didn’t know what to expect, but something more than this. Still, she was safe, and there was order. That’s really what mattered.

It was in that moment that Vicky thought she heard her name being called from down the hall. Cranking her head she sees none other than Lara walking up to her (Lara decided to put on real clothes, and is no longer in the pajamas she was not long before. Good for her.). Once close enough Lara gives Vicky a high-five. “What's up girl?”

“Not much. Just walking around.”

“Yeah, I noticed. I also noticed that when I got up up, you were gone. Did someone have a secret date?” She teases, elbowing her in the shoulder too. Vicky simply chuckles, but rolls her eyes.

“No. I just don’t sleep until noon.”

“For some odd reason.” Lara teases her like always. “However, I heard from a certain source that McCoy got up early too...and you two have been missing all morning.”

“Whose this certain source? Dre?”

“My lips are sealed.” Lara does a playful motion of locking her lips with a key, then tossing the ‘key’ across the room.

“Ha ha. Interesting but, no, I wasn’t off with McCoy. Sorry to ruin the gossip fun, Ms. Drake.”

“Uh huh, sure.” Lara teases once more, lightly punching Vicky’s shoulder. She manages to get a laugh out of Vicky before deciding to move on. “So what you been up to?”

“Just been looking around.”

“Again?”

“Hey, it’s a big ass place.” Vicky defends. “And there’s really nothing else to do.”

“True, true. This place is….pretty boring.”

“We’re safe here, though.”

“I’d rather be in danger and entertained than safe and bored.”

“Said no one ever.”

“Actually I’ve bet quite a few people said it.”

“Besides you?”

“Yep.”

“Name one.”

“Somebody…” Lara drags it out, trying to think of someone. Vicky simply smirks and laughs at her attempt, until finally, Lara gives up. “Fuck it. Somebody had to have said it.”

“Uh huh, sure.” Vicky turns the tables and lightly teases Lara, including jokingly punching her on the shoulder.

“Wow, you turned the tables, I see.”

“Yep. I’m just that smart.”

“I would make a comeback but you education freaks are weird about that shit.”

“Ha ha. Fuck you too.”

“You know you love me.” Lara opens her arms in a hugging matter, making a puppy dog face. Vicky just laughs and flips her off. Seeing the finger, Lara takes away her hug offer. “Wow. I feel offended.”

“That was the goal.” Vicky laughs and Lara can’t help but pretend to cry, just to continue on with their banter teasing. The people who witness their interaction probably think they’re stupid, or just plain retarded, but it’s not like Vicky or Lara care. “Alright so lets look around. See if we can find anyone to bother.”

“No, I don’t wanna go with you. You’re a big bully.”

“Grow up.” Vicky shoves her, to which Lara shoves back. The two women, like always, simple laugh before heading off on their way.


“Wow, that was hard.” Daniel moans to himself while standing there, rubbing his hands through his hair. He just had the “difficult” task of setting up his own task all by himself. Oh how difficult; oh wait, only Daniel thinks that. First off, he never even went camping, so he never saw a tent be made. Second off, he usually has people make stuff for him, so doing it himself was a new thing.

Sitting down in front of his tent, Daniel groans while simply sitting there. He still can’t believe the situation to be honest. All he has now is a crappy tent, a hard pillow, and a dirty blanket. What the fuck is this shit? His whole life he had a master bedroom, a warm, soft pillow, and a blanket that could have been made by God himself. “This is fucking shit.” He mutters to himself.

Sitting bored on the ground Daniel looks around the area while thinking. He was feeling pretty hungry right now, but how does he get food? There’s no room service so is there someone he has to order food from? There has to be help around here.

Looking to his left he can’t help but notice a young woman walk bye; and at such the perfect moment! He recognized her as Sasha, a pretty little white girl who was working the desk at the entrance (actually, the girl is Sam, he just once again forgot someone’s name). If anyone was to be help around here it was obviously her. “Hey,” Daniel jumps onto his feet while catching her attention, “Sasha..

“It’s Sam.” She cuts him off, not rude in anyway, but in a polite way. Like always Sam has a bright smile on her face while talking, and even brushes some of the hair out of her face.

“Same thing. Anyways, can I get some food.”

“Um, yeah. There is a restaurant a few halls down.”

“Great! Then get me a salad and--”

“Sir,” Sam cuts him off again, but still keeping her polite presentation despite the rudeness Daniel presents.

“No salad? Alright I’ll take some lobster, wait, do you have that?”

“Sir, I’m not a waitress.”

“Oh, then who is?”

“...Nobody.” Sam’s response makes Daniel double take before staring at her blankly.

“What? C’mon, you’re just messing with me. Seriously, where are the workers.”

“There are none.”

“Than how am I supposed to get food?”

“Yourself.” Sam’s smile disappeared every second this conversation with Daniel lasted.

“What? Aren’t you people supposed to be helping us? Because I think getting food sure as hell hopes.”

“Dude, it’s not our job to help you. We’re helping others on our free-will.”

“I don’t care if it’s a job or not. I just want some food here, Sasha--”

“Sam.”

“Whatever. I just--”

“I don’t work for you!” Sam finally says with no smile at all, now an annoyed expression filled with slight anger, also folding her arms to signify this. “Nobody here works for you.” Daniel looks at her dumbfounded. “Look, I don’t know who you were before this thing, and honestly, I don’t really care. Now, here in this place, everybody is on the same level. Face it, big shot, you’re just a normal person.”

With that said Sam walks off, leaving Daniel alone at his tent, where he simply watches her go with an annoyed glare in his eyes. Instead of thinking deeply about the words she just said he only scoffs her while muttering “Bitch”.

Paying no attention to her, Daniel simply heads back in his tent. If there truly is no help then it seems he’ll have to get food himself, but at the moment, he wasn’t in the mood. He could use a nice nap….in this uncomfortable tent that was definitely not his condo. However, while laying down, there was one word that had managed to work it’s way into Daniel’s conscious (which is buried deep inside him).

How he’s just another normal person.


“Excuse me, sir,” a woman in her mid-thirties ask the gentleman to her left, who was currently sitting down and smoking a cigarette. “Do you mind?”

The man at first doesn’t pay attention, instead continuing to blow the thin, gray smoke out of his mouth, while he holds the precious little thing in between his fingertips. It just so happens that this man is Ethan, who after blowing out some smoke, turns toward the lady. For a moment he just stares blankly before putting the cigarette in his mouth and takes one last, deep inhale. Then, once he feels good enough, exhales it and watches while the smoke exits his mouth and slowly goes up into the air, where just like that, it dissolves. With that done Ethan puts the cigarette out against the wall and faces the woman again. “Sorry.” He says, although it’s hard to tell if he’s being sarcastic or sincere. Not intentionally, just how he sounds is all.

The woman simply rolls her eyes at his response, following the event by standing to her feet and walking off to sit somewhere else. Ethan watches her go at first with a scoff before returning back to his box of cigarettes, where he takes out another addicting item, following by taking out a lighter. Just like that he smokes again without a single fuck given.

This was all there was to do for him. His wife was gone, step-daughter was missing, he has no idea where any of his friends are, and it looks like police work won’t do him any good. The only thing that he had to comfort him was a pack of cigarettes and his trusty lighter. Then again, looking back on it, it’s not like Vicky and him were ever close. They tended to be awkward around each other, thus, their relationship itself was ‘meh’ at best. He honestly tried but she could barely look at him, or Lynn, after she came back. Their relationship may not have been the best but he always hoped he could mend it with her one day, like Michael. Earlier that day he saw Michael, completly happy, with his estranged daughter; sure, Ethan should feel good for him, but instead felt a surge of jealousy.

Then there was Lynn. Growing up Ethan didn’t have many people he could honestly say he loved, but with Lynn, he could say it a hundred times over and still mean it. During the time in his life where Ethan thought he was nothing more than a cop Lynn proved him wrong. She made him feel again, something Ethan can never repay her for. He loved her so, so much. All he wanted to do was spend every last, aching breath with her, but fate had a twisted sense of humor. He had to hear her die over the phone. Some say it would be worse visually seeing her death but Ethan honestly wish he saw her die. All he heard were the sound effects so his imagination had to fill in the blanks; his imagination didn’t make it easy on him.

All the memories simply make Ethan rub his chin with a deep sigh. Why couldn’t life ever just be easy on him for once? Was happiness allergic to him or something? Ethan was never one to have faith, but if there was honestly someone out there, than he must really hate Ethan.

So what was Ethan supposed to do with life now? Maybe if this outbreak ever stopped than the world would need law officers, but Ethan wasn’t looking at the future now; he saw no point. Thinking in the present the only thing Ethan could think is talk to Walsh about the mall’s protection, but he simply lacked the motivation to speak to him. He lacked the motivation for almost everything now minus smoking and bashing heads.

Ethan was so deep in his thoughts that he didn’t realize how much of the cigarette he lost, with only half of it remaining. Without a care he put it out and went back for another.


9 Years Ago, 2004

Currently walking down the streets of New York City was the dynamic duo of Vicky and Neal. It’s been a few months since the big decision of running away, and unlike what Neal predicted, they seem to be doing pretty good. They aren’t sitting against some random wall moping, as Neal predicted; instead, they are walking down the the streets with bright faces. They even seem clean, well cleanish at least, although their clothes aren’t in the best shape, but also not the worst.

There are things off, however. First, Vicky looks about eighteenish with the make-up she has on, along with her fake glasses and a hat. Neal, despite only being fifteen, naturally looked older, looking about nineteen not counting his height. Then there was something else off about Vicky, something big. It was noticeable instantly by just giving a mere glance at her. Her stomach was….big, but she wasn’t fat. Was she pregnant? She sure looked late into pregnancy, but that’s impossible. It hasn’t been that long that she could be pregnant.

The ‘couple’ walk arm-and-arm into one of the many corner stores in the city, and once inside the small little store, Neal pats her stomach with a smile on his face before heading off to the counter. “Excuse me, sir,” Neal says while approaching the counter, pulling out a map while doing so.

“How may I help you?” The cashier asks, glancing between Neal whose in front of him and Vicky who is by the front door.

“I’m sorry to bother but I think my girlfriend and I are lost. Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” The cashier responds, allowing Neal to lay down the map on the counter. “So where are you trying to go?”

“The toy store. The famous one. Sorry, I don’t really know how to pronounce it.”

“FAO Schwarz?”

“Yep, that’s the one.”

“Alright so you wanna head down here,” the cashier starts pointing at the map, explaining the directions to Neal, while Vicky walks around the store. She makes her way down each aisle of the store, going from the candy aisle to the soda aisle then chips. After a mere minute the cashier shows Neal how to make his way to Schwarz.

“Okay, okay. Thanks, man.”

“No need to thank me.” The cashier puts on a friendly smile, and in return, Neal gives him a handshake. “Take care.’

“Same here.” Neal heads out of the shop and onto the streets with Vicky in his arms. They continue to walk like that, until they’re a block away, where Neal takes his arm off of Vicky and heads down an alley with her.

Once down the alley, Vicky pulls a rolled up sweatshirt out of her shirt with a smile on her face. “Can’t believe that got him.” She exclaims while scratching her still skinny and not pregnant stomach.

“Nothing puts more guard down then a lost couple,” Neal smirks with such a confident smug, “especially if the girl is ‘pregnant’.”

“Ain’t that the truth.”

“Damn right it is. Now let’s see what you got.” Vicky nods and quickly puts her purse on the ground before taking out the numerous stuff she took from the store. Her purse ranged from food, drinks, candy, even little toys like a laser pointer. “Didn’t have time to get a good luck. I just grabbed and bagged.”

“Don’t worry about it, girl.” Neal smiles while looking through the stuff. “Got some good stuff here. I mean,” he holds up the laser pointer, “look at this amazing thing.”

“I know right. Best thing I ever got.” She picks up two water bottles. “Want one?”

“Nah, I’ll take the iced tea.” She drops the battle and hands him the iced tea, to which he gratefully takes and sips from. While doing so, Vicky packs up her stuff before standing onto her feet, and once up, flashes Neal a smile. Neal, noticing her smile, smirks back and extends his hand. However, it’s not for holding her hand, it’s for doing their signature high-five. Vicky knew that perfectly well and the two of them did their little high five technique.

The two were not in a romantic relationship in any way shape or form, and to be totally honest, neither of them wanted to be. While people at their age had crushes on any friend of the opposite gender pretty much, they didn’t have any attraction toward each other. They heavily enjoyed their friendship and didn’t need anything like that to split it up. In short, their relationship was completely platonic.

“Alright well,” Neal finally says, “we should get going.”

“Where to today?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we can swing by and check out the Statue of Liberty. Always wanted to see it.”

“Works for me.”


Michael never thought he would be so happy to be in a video store. Nowadays it’s all about Netflix, Hulu, and even those illegal streaming sites; video stores have become almost endangered. Now, with the internet gone, video stores were back in business. Currently Michael roamed around the store, looking over the discs that he passed. There were all kinds of discs there, ranging from movies to tv shows, romance to horror, The Godfather to the unspeakable movies that is Twilight.

Taking a look in the TV section, Michael finally comes across the very show he was looking for. Arrow. According to Sarah, it was a great show about a former playboy who becomes a vigilante to fix the mistakes of his father. Seemed pretty boss. However, sadly, the show never finished it’s second season so both Sarah and Michael will have to use their imagination to figure out how it would have ended.

Picking up the DVD he looks over to the counter where a man sits. Is Michael supposed to pay for it? Does he just take it? He has no bloody clue.

While walking over there, he can’t help but notice a young man, maybe only nineteen years of age, picking up a DVD of the shelf. Michael instantly recognized it as one of his favorite, if not his favorite, shows of all time: The Wire. From what he could tell it was the complete series too. “Hey, dude,” Michael says, causing the man to look up, “that’s one hell of a show.”

The man just so happens to be McCoy, who simply holds the DVD up so Michael can get a better look. “This?”

“Hell yeah, man. Not even a fucking question.” Michael smirks. “Definitely one of my favorites.”

“Wow, ain’t that something. I haven’t seen a lot of fans of it.”

“I know right. It gets over looked by shows like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, but The Wire kicks both their ass.”

“Tell me about it.” McCoy admires before stretching out his hand. “Name’s McCoy by the way. McCoy Davis.”

“Michael Nicholson.” He grasps McCoy’s and gives it a firm handshake. While shaking his hand Michael can’t help but notice his resemblance to someone. At first he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but eventually, he recognizes it. “You know, you look a lot like Michael Lee.”

“Who?’

“Michael Lee. The kid on The Wire.” McCoy stares at him with a puzzled expression. “I thought you watched the show?”

“I’m only on season three.” McCoy admits, to which Michael nods in understatement. “He probably comes in later or something.”

“Yeah I think he comes on in season four. So who's you’re favorite character so far?”

“Omar. Dude’s so awesome.”

“Yeah, I love some Omar.”

“Is he your favorite?”

“No, man. He’s up there, definitely, but McNulty all the way.” He scratches his head. “Anyways do you know how this all works? Like do we have to pay him, or just walk out, or…”

“You gotta give him your name, I think. So he can keep track of who has it. That way no one steals anything, I suppose.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Anyways enjoy the rest of the show, mate.”

“I know I will.” McCoy acknowledges.

“Well, nice meeting you, mate.”

“Same here, Michael.” McCoy gives him a nod in the form of a goodbye, with Michael returning the nod, before heading off to the counter, while McCoy continues to look around.


“So what do you want?”

“Hm,” Anahi ponders while looking over the small menu. “I like the idea of a salad. I can really do a nice, caesar salad.” Anahi’s casually response forces a chuckle out of Lisette, causing a glance from Anahi, who casually smirks at her laugher. “What?”

“It’s just that….everytime I ask you about food, you always talk about stuff like salad.” Lisette smirks. “I’m beginning to think you’re a vegan or something.”

“So what’s the funny part?”

“It’s just that in Spain, we had lots of butchers, so I pretty much just grew up with meat. I can’t imagine life without it.” Lisette shrugs with a smirk, before going back to the menu. However, after receiving no response from Anahi, Lisette glances up to see Anahi staring at her with a blank face. Lisette instantly dropped the menu. “You’re not a vegan, right?”

“So what if I am?” Anahi’s question receives no response from Lisette, with still stares blankly. Eventually Anahi gives in and starts laughing, in turn Lisette giggles nervous. “I’m not vegan, don’t worry.” Anahi snickers once more. “I had you, though. You should've seen your face.”

Lisette finally chuckles in understatement. “Yeah, yeah. You got me there.” She goes back to her menu with a smirk. “So you do eat meat right?”

“I said I wasn’t a vegan.”

“That could mean you’re a vegetarian.”

“Relax, I’m not a vegetarian either.” Anahi chuckles. “In fact, maybe I’ll get the Chicken Caesar salad.”

“Sounds good to me.” Lisette says, and the next minute goes by quickly, with them ordering a chicken caesar salad and a BLT. With that done the two girls sit back down at their table and await their meal to be done.

Soon enough, whilst in their way, Anahi brings more conversation. “So….what now?”

“Excuse me?”

“What do we do now.” Anahi asks. “I mean we got here. We’re alive. What do we do now?”

“Hmph. I….don’t really know.” Lisette bites her lip while the thought ponders around her head. “I didn’t think that far ahead.”

“Yeah, same here.”

“Why you ask?”

Anahi shrugs. “I don’t know. Just wanted to start a conversation and that was the first thing to come to mind.”

“Well what do you wanna do? I mean, like, what comes to mind.” Lisette asks her, and once more, Anahi bites her lips and thinks.

“I don’t know.” She finally says. “Survive? Is that an option?” Lisette nods. “Then that. Seems like the best option. Just wait and until this thing is all over.”

“Seems like a good option.”

“And you?”

“I guess I wanna….try to help out. I don’t know what exactly there is to do but I think I wanna try to help the place out.”

“Damn look at you. Ms. Arroyo, the future hero of the Franklin Mills Mall.”

“I know right. I might as well get me a cape and a mask. Of course I would need a name…”

“How about N.L.O?” Anahi suggest, to which Lisette gives her a look of not understanding what that even means. “It means new latino order, by the way.”

“Where did you get that from?”

“No idea. I think I heard it from some mexican dude.” She shrugs.

“I’m gonna have to pass on the name, though. Its catchy, but sounds more like a cult.”

“Alright then, Ms. Hero.” Anahi chuckles, and while at it, simply twirls with her hair. Not out of boredom, though. “But why though?”

Instead of answering right away, like she usually did, Lisette was a little more reluctant this time. It was almost like she was trying to pick each and every word carefully. “I feel like it’s the right thing to do. I got some things I believe I should make up for and helping others seems like a good starting point.”

“Fair enough.” Anahi replies, but she was wondering about Lisette on the inside. From the few days Anahi spent with her, Lisette seemed like a good person who probably made no major mistakes in life. So, with Lisette claiming she has some things to make up for, Anahi can only wonder what she exactly does have to make up for.


Sarah makes her way down the mall, a smile on her face, and her finger twirling her hair around and around like a Miracle Round. She had just recently finished talking with Michael, and for once, the conversation ended on a high-note. She finally realized that she needed to stop blaming Michael for her mother’s death, and after having a personal talk with him, Sarah believes she managed to have Michael get over her. Maybe from here on out their relationship will get better.

However, that is not the only reason Sarah smiles. She also smiles because she defied James. For years she just followed his orders, but today, she just exploded. She yelled at him, ditched him, then broke his orders. She should probably feel bad, but instead she feels great. She feels like a rebel; yeah, she doesn’t want to be a full “rebel child”, but at least now she knows that she can battle with James and come out on top.

While walking down the halls, Sarah soon drifts off from her victories into her defeats. All of her friends were at other zone’s (They probably weren’t, but Sarah is not going to even think about that), so she’s pretty much alone here. Yes, there are Michael and James, but she can’t just always talk to them, she needs some normal friends. Of course there is Vicky, whom Sarah is probably going to meet up with again at some point. Who knows, maybe Vicky has some cool friends?

While Sarah was deep in her thoughts, unfortunately, she bumps into a young woman, knocking both of them down on the floor. “Crap,” Sarah can hear the other woman say.

Sarah instantly jumps onto her feet and reaches down her hand to help her up. “I’m--oh my God, I’m so sorry.”

“Its fine, don’t worry.” The woman says, and it becomes quickly apparent that this it’s Sam. Sam accepts Sarah’s hand and the young girl pulls her up. Once up Sam brushes some hair out of her face while Sarah still feels like a jerk.

“Once again, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”

“Like I said, it’s fine. Accidents happen, right?” Sam flashes her a smile like the lovely lady she is. Sarah smiles, happy that at least one person isn’t a total asshole, but can’t help but recognize her. She looked awfully familiar.

“Have we met?” Sarah asks.

“I believe so.” Sam extends out her hand for Sarah to shake. “I’m Sam. I believe I was the one who showed you around the mall.”

“Oh yeah. That was you.” Sarah acknowledges. “Now I feel even worse for hitting one of the workers here.”

“You should. I could kick you out in a heartbeat.” Sam crosses her arms, and the smile Sarah had instantly disappears, only for it to reappear once Sam chuckles. “Relax, just pulling your string.”

“Phew. Had me scared.” Sam holds out her hand again for a handshake, which was interrupted earlier for Sam crossing her arm, and this time Sarah takes it. “I’m Sarah.”

“Nice to meet you. Well, formally meet you.”

“Same here.” Their hands separate. “This may sound like a weird question but how old are you exactly?”

“Twenty-five.”

Twenty-five?”

“Yep. Do I look older or something?”

“No. You longer actually.”

“Really?” Sarah nods, giving Smile a gleeful look. “How old I look?”

“I thought you were about seventeen.”

“That is what I love to hear.” Sam cheers. “So how about you? Sixteen?”

“No, but close.”

“Fourteen?”

“Fifteen.”

“Damnit! So close.” Sam curses and groans, which of course forces young Sarah to chuckle. “So what are you doing?”

“Truth be told I don’t really know. I just came back from lunch with--a friend. Now I’m just walking.”

“Ooh a friend? A boy friend?” Sam teases.

“Yeah.” Sarah shrugs, to which Sam gives a wink. “But considering he’s almost thirty, I think what you’re thinking is illegal”

“Oh. Well, nevermind then.” Sam chuckles.

“So what were you doing?”

“Walking around like you. I’m trying to see if anyone needs any help with anything, you know?”

“Yeah, I get you. Dang though, you really are a helping person.”

“We all live on this planet together. I figure why not help each other?”

“Sounds like a good motto.”

“Never did me wrong. Of course there are some assholes, like some dude I ran in today.”

“How bad?”

“He thought I was one of the servants and demanded some food.”

“Wow. What an ass.”

“I know right.” Sam rolls her eyes at the thought of Daniel Valentine. Personally Sam never understood why people felt the urges to be assholes. People share so much in common. The same earth, the same air, the same sky. Maybe if people actually started looking at what’s the the same instead of always looking at what’s different...well, who knows?

It was in that moment that both Sam and Sarah heard their names called. Both turned to the direction and saw two girls approaching, both around the same age, with one calling their names while the other just tags along. “Sarah! Sam!”

It was none other than Vicky, who once close enough, put arms around Sarah and Sam respectively. “Sarah and Sam. The two S’s.” Vicky smiles, and once taking her arms back, she high-fives them both.

“Hey Vicky.” Sarah and Sam say, while Lara slightly pushes Vicky.

“I see you found yourself other best friends, bitch.” Lara jokes, and in turn, Vicky shoves her back.

“Shut up, girl.” Vicky turns back to Sam and Sarah, and points at Sam. “Sam Collins, meet Lara Drake.” She points to Sarah. “Sarah Benjamin, you also meet Lara Drake.” Vicky then points at Lara. “Lara, meet Sam and Sarah.”

“Hi.” Sam and Sarah both say, holding their hands to her. Instead of handshaking them, like some would, Lara high-fives them both.

“Whatup, whatup.” Lara introduces herself in a Lara Drake way. “Your lives just got, like, ten times better.”

“Yeah. Y’all are now friends with this…...okay, the more I think about it, your loves just got worse.” Vicky says.

“Wow. You really are a bully.”

“Love you too, sweatie.” Vicky makes a heart with her hands, with Lara soon returning it. “I didn’t know you guys knew each other.”

“Actually,” Sam says, “we just met.”

“Sweet, sweet. So what you two doing?”

“Just talking.” Sarah inputs. “What about you two?”

“Talkin’ and walkin’.” Lara says. While most usually speak slowly and are uncomfortable around new people, Lara could care less. She’s outgoing, like, really out going. Have a conversation with her for a mere ten seconds and she’ll treat you like a long-life friend. For the flaws Lara holds she does hold a lot of pros.

“Since we all were talking, how ‘bout we all talk together?” Vicky invites Sam and Sarah to join the dynamic duo of Vicky and Lara. “We’re on our way to the movies. We got two other friends there.”

“Yeah, sure.” Sarah accepts.

“I’m in.” Sam too accepts.

“Alright sweet. Lets head out.”

“Yeah,” Lara once again cuts in, “us four hot girls will knock this mall up.”


Dre sits against one of the inner-walls of the empty theater, silently singing to the song he’s listening on his Ipod. Dre had stopped in the theater early and surprisingly found that no one went in there, and suggested to Lara that they make their own little hang out there. She agreed and went off to get Vicky, while Dre had told McCoy, who said he’d be there; first he wanted to stop somewhere.

While silently swinging around Dre also tapping his foot in synch with the song, which was The Man by Aloe Blacc. “I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man.” Dre sings along, although not loudly, more like in a hushed town.

Dre soon glances down at his watch, wondering when everyone was gonna arrive. He had a little something to celebrate getting a hangout, and was anxious to use it. He had found it in one of the trash cans (someone tried to hide it in a hurry) and thought it would be a good idea. So there he sat waiting to try it out with his friends. “Girl you can tell everybody, girl you can tell everybody--” He begins to sing, before being interrupted by a voice.

“Tell them what?” McCoy walks over with his hands tucked in his jeans.

“That I’m the man.”

“Yeah right. I think I’m the man.”

“How so, huh?”

“I’m the black James Bond, remember?” McCoy smirks, and once next to Dre, takes out his tucked hand and gives him a man high-five (the type of one one that starts as a high-five then a small handshake). “Where are the girls?”

“Should be here any minute.” Dre takes out his headphones and wraps up his Ipod. “What took you so long?”

“Went to the video store.”

“Those things still exist?”

“Surprisingly.”

“So what you get?”

“Tv show called the Wire.”

“Cool, but uh, where you gonna watch it?” Dre smiles in a mocking way, hopping up onto his feet while doing so.

“I don’t know. I saw a few computers I can use to watch.” McCoy shugs. “Lets hope so anyways.”

“Hope what?” The men hear Lara’s voice behind them. “That you can get some of us?”

“Yeah, right.” Dre scoffs, turning around to face them, along with McCoy. Vicky and Lara came, like expected, but also brought along two friends. “I don’t go for no white girls.”

“Oh God, not this again.” Lara sighs with a smirk, before giving both Dre and McCoy high-fives. Vicky follows doing the same. “Anyways, we bought some friends.”

“We could tell.”

“This is Sam and that’s Sarah.” Vicky introduces them, and upon doing so, the boys and the new girls introduce themselves to each other. Once done Dre speaks up to the others.

“So, isn’t this something?” He asks. “Never thought I would see a theater empty.”

“Yeah, this is weird.” Vicky adds while looking around the small, but nice looking theater. “It’s nice, though. Quiet and it’s not as depressing in here.”

“True, true.” Dre shrugs while taking a glance at the door to theater three. He grabs the door and gives it a pull open. “Lets head in.”

“Why not just sit out here?” Sam asks.

“More privacy in here.” There was no argument there. “Now c’mon. Lets go.”

The six youngsters head inside the empty theater and look around. At first it was a little weird being inside a theater with nothing on the big-screen, but they quickly adapted to it. Now they could run down the aisles, talk loud, and pretty much do whatever without having to worry about getting kicked out.

Making their way down the aisles, the six soon arrive at the front of the theater, where there’s enough room for them to all stand together and not in a line. “Alright well, I got something for us to do.”

“Find out how to work the thing bob and put on a movie?” Lara asks.

“No, but nice guess.” Dre puts down a plastic bag, which he’s had this whole time, and takes out two items. It takes a moment for them to figure out what exactly he’s holding, but it soon becomes really clear what exactly it is: A bong, with some weed on the side.


9 Years Ago, 2004

Who knew a few months could change everything? It’s been maybe three, four months since leaving New York City, and now, everything has gone to shit. Know what, not even shit, it’s gone worse than shit.

Vicky currently finds herself sitting against a support beam of the train, her hood up and head back against the beam. The smile and brightness that sat on her face not long ago has been replaced by depression and desperation. Her eyes shift around the street in boredom while she herself chews a piece of gum. Looks like the life of being a runaway has finally caught up to him.

How is Vicky doing right now? Well, to be frank, she’s hungry, thirsty, tired (she hasn’t had a comfortable sleep for a while; the sidewalk sadly wasn’t comfortable), and cold. The life that she thought would be “so cool” and “amazing” finally became what it always was: the worst choice she ever could have made.

But she can’t just go crawling back to her parents. They would never let her forget about it and torture her with it forever. No, she had to be strong, and prove that she can handle her own life. She didn’t need them.

“Yo,” she heard a faint voice call from her left. She looks over and sees Neal walks over, a small grocery bag in hand. Neal doesn’t look any better than Vicky at the moment and he too feels all the symptoms like her. He was always used to taking care of himself while on the road, that was easy, but having to worry and care about someone else? Harder than he thought. “I got some grub.”

“What you get?” Vicky asks out-loud while taking the bag, scanning through the numerous items in the bag. He wasn’t able to get much, due to their obvious lack of money, but he got enough. Vicky takes out the small candy bar inside for food, while Neal himself takes the other candy bar. “Not bad.”

“Who can hate Crunch?”

“No one.”

“Alright, now eat up, we should get moving.” Neal informs her, having finished his own candy bar like a monster.

“Where to?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere.” He sighs, scratching his head while doing so.

“Somewhere as in..”

Anywhere. I don’t like this area.” He had reasons to not like the area. For one, they saw a few gang members walking around. Vicky, not having the energy to keep talking, gives a simple nod before heading back to her snack.

-----

The two young teenagers make their way down the streets of the city (they’re not even sure what city it is, to be honest). They’re hoods remain up while they walk down the streets, Vicky having her head down and hands deep in pockets. She was mostly trying to hide her dirty appearance, not having had a decent shower or bath in a while. Neal, on the other hand, was less self-conscious about his dirty appearance, as he walked with his head up high.

“You cold?” Neal finally asks her, noticing how Vicky snugs up her jacket.

“I’m good.” She was probably lying but Neal was in no position to call it out. Vicky lying to him was one of the last things on his mind. “You?”

“You know me, Tori. Since when do I get cold?”

“Never.” She smirks slightly, while looking around the street. “So where you wanna go?”

“I wish I could answer that for you.”

“Why can’t you?”

“Because I don’t even know where we are right now.” He reminds her.

“Oh yeah. There is that..small setback.”

“Yeah. Small.” He replies in a joking matter. “Just lost, you know.”

“Yeah. The usual.” Neal smirks at the comment.

He shrugs his shoulders back while taking a glance down an alleyway. “Down here.”

“Yeah rule number one when you're lost. Go down alleys.”

“I thought I saw something the next block over, like a bank. Should tell us where.” Neal heads down the alley with Vicky soon following. Halfway down the three way alley, the two teenagers spot a hooded man leaning against the brickwall, a giant duffle bag sitting gracefully next to him. He smokes a cigar while standing there, like he’s waiting for someone.

He soon, however, takes quick notice of them walking bye. “Hello there.” He speaks in an australian accent, putting out the cigar while doing so. He smiles at them, but the mere smile sends shivers down Vicky’s throat. “Aren’t you kids to young to be traveling around?”

“We’re fine.” Neal assures him, not making eye contact whilst doing so.

“Ah, I see. Couple of runaways.” The statement makes Neal weary, so he grabs Vicky by the arm as a sign of protection; the man notices this. “Don’t worry, kid. I mean you two no harm. I respect a couple of youngsters who take their own road.”

“Thanks.” Neal simply mutters. Although Neal doesn’t exactly like him, Vicky likes how he respects their decision. So, she goes on her instinct.

“Do you happen to know where we are?” Vicky asks.

“Boston, love.” He tells her with a charming smile.

“Oh, Boston.” Neal and her say together in a sigh. They’re guesses were way off. “Alright, thanks man.” Neal thanks him.

“Sure thing, it’s my job to help people.” It seems like he’s mocking, but on the other hand, it seems he is sincere.

“You just stand here and wait for people in need?” Vicky asks.

“No, love. I help them in a...entertainment matter.” While saying the word ‘entertainment’, the man uses his foot to give a light kick to the duffle bag next to him. “In fact, seems like two people like you could use some.”

“What kind of entertainment we talking about here?” Vicky asks, prompting the australian to almost laugh in response. Still, he sees how naive they are, and gets down to open his bag.

He quickly zips it open, revealing the insides of the duffle bag. Drugs. To be more specific; a lot of heroin. “This kind.”

Vicky backs up slightly from the man, never having seen drugs before. Yes, she obviously heard about them, but she never been exposed to them really (Ethan always accused her of having been, but she’s really only been exposed to alcoholic beverages). “Oh..I...um...don’t really do the whole...drug thing.”

“Everyone does the whole drug thing. Some are just more legal than others.” The man shifts glances between the two. Neal stares at them and the man can tell that he’s tempted to try some; Vicky, on the other hand is scared of them. “The illegal ones, though. They’re one hell of a ride.”

“Look man, we’re broke.” Neal informs him, trying not to sound like the kind of kid that will rat him out. “So we can’t, sorry bro.” The man looks between them, and smiles. The best way to get customers was to prove to them that the product is great; and the best customers to get are young, naive kids who will keep coming back for more. Once they get a taste, they’ll definitely start buying.

“I’ll tell you what, kids. I’ll give you two a taste.” The man takes out two syringes of heroin and holds them out. “Free tastes.” The word ‘free’ echoes into Neal’s mind as he finds himself staring at the syringes sitting in the man’s hand. All he had to do was take them. Neal didn’t want to become an addict, of course not; he just wanted to try them, see what it’s like. One and done.

Vicky, however, is more nervous. She had an aunt who died of drugs a while back so she definitely knew the risks. She may be headstrong but she had her limits, drugs being one. But what if Neal took them? She couldn’t just sit back and watch. He would think she was afraid, too scared to do them.

“Free?” Neal double checks.

“Free.” He confirms. “What do you say?”

“I’ll take them.” Neal smiles while taking the syringes of the man, while Vicky remains indifferent. “So...do I just inject them like a needle?”

“Exactly, mate.” The man pats him on the shoulder. “Now you have a good time.” The man zips up his bag and places it around his shoulder, but not before flashing a smile toward Vicky. “You too, love.”

As the man walks away, Neal smiles at the syringes in his hand, before finally looking up at Vicky. He notices her indifferent look. “You okay?”

“I just...don’t know about these...things.” Vicky nods toward them. “People die from those all the time, Neal.”

“Yeah, but those people are addicts. We’re not like them, Tori.” Neal tucks the syringes into his pockets, before patting her on the shoulder. “We’re smart, alright?”

“Yeah, but--”

“It’s a one time thing, alright? Just to say we can try it. One and done.” Neal notices her still indifferent face, like she obviously can’t choose. She wants to do what Neal does and prove she’s not a chicken, but drugs are still drugs. However, looking up into Neal’s eyes, seeing his charismatic smile, it blinds her.

“Alright, fine. One and done.” Neal smiles at her response and hands her one of the syringes from his pocket. Reluctantly Vicky grasps the small little syringe, before stuffing it into her purse.

-----

“Damn I feel great!” Neal exclaims while skipping down the halls of Wal-mart, his hands in the air and cheering like no tomorrow. “Up, up and away!” He makes a jump in between aisles, but sadly falls right down on his face, causing him to curse loudly.

“Oh my God….” Vicky exclaims near him, with herself in one of the aisles, holding a Superman figure, having taken the liberty to take it out of it’s box. “Since when was Superman this fucking sexy?”

“I can...I can beat his ass anyday.” Neal struggles to get up from the ground, where he lays with a giant small planted on his face.

“He’s so buff and handsome.” Vicky feels the Superman figure, and soon begins to rub her thumb up against the toy’s crotch. “He feels, like, so hard right now.” She continues to rub the crotch, and uses her other finger to rub his plastic hair.

Soon enough she kisses the toys face, and while doing so, Neal stands up to his feet. Seeing her make-out with the toy figure, at this point a degraded figure, he rips the toy from her hands and rips off his legs, before tossing it to the ground without a care. “Seeeeeee?” He drags on the ‘e’. “I just ripped his fucking legs off.”

“You bad, bad boy.” Vicky stutters, licking her fingers in a sexy pose, before pushing him with the same licked fingers. Neal, whose reflexe were so slow, is caught off guard and falls back. Falling down onto his ass, both simply laugh hysterically, with Vicky even slapping her knees.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, the two were high. Neal had convinced Vicky to take the dose of heroin in the abandoned warehouse behind the Wal-mart, and in their high state, they stumbled into this shopping place. Luckily, it being almost mid-night, the place was pretty much deserted, minus a few people up near the front.

In her heroin filled state, Vicky stumbles into the back aisle, with Neal following behind. The two spot a nice pair of speakers, plugged into a radio, but currently not on (they were plugged in so people could test them out, if wanted). “Yo, ch--check out these things.” Vicky speaks slowly, with a slight stur. “They look sooo coooooool.”

Neal moves up to them and sees that it’s plugged in. Laughing he turns on the speakers and a song plays on low volume. It was low, obviously, but they could tell the song was Move Ya Body by Nina Sky. Instantly Neal begins to dance, with putting his arms up and down and shaking. He cheers while doing so, and soon enough, Vicky runs around him in circles, laughing, before jumping in the air like a ballerina. She lands on her feet, she stumbles slightly, and begins to dance with Neal; cheering just like him.

Soon enough Neal turns up the volume more, now almost blasting, and the two pick up their dancing. Vicky does a twerk like move (of course it wasn’t a twerk, it’s only 2004) while Neal keeps jumping up and down, yelling stuff like “move dat booty” to Vicky. Their loud-blasting music doesn’t much longer, as soon enough, an employe arrives. The employe, whose nametag reads Al, shuts off the speaker in the middle of their dance. “Yo what the hell man,” Neal exclaims, “we were testing it out.”

“Don’t blast that thing, alright?” Al asks, shifting his eyes between them. “We got other shoppers here.”

“But….”

“And what the hell are you two doing dancing?”

“We were having some fun, man.” Vicky cuts in, and despite their being no music, still sort of dances by swaying her hips back and forth. “We….we weren’t nobody.”

Al takes notice of their strange behavior, and soon takes notice of their eyes, which are both pinpoint pupils and glazed eyes. “Are you two okay?”

“Noooooo.” Vicky moans. “I...I have a question.”

“What is it?” He asks, and almost immediately, Vicky grabs him by the shoulder and presses herself up against him, where she strokes his chest. He gulps.

“Are you single? Because I think you look sooooo cute.” She licks her lips. Al, already having a girlfriend and seeing how she’s under eighteen, lightly pushes her off him.

“I have a girlfriend.”

“Awww.”

“Yo Al, I have a question too.” Neal asks while rubbing his eyes.

“Yes.”

“Do you….have any c--ca--cars?”

“Cars?”

“Yeah, cars. Like, erraghhh” Neal tries making the sound effects of a car and puts his hands up, pretending to steer it. “Get what I’m saying?”

“No, we don’t sell cars….” Al has a feeling they’re either on something, really dumb, or just trying to pull a joke on them. Since it was already mid-night, he wasn’t in the mood for shit like this. “Look, I’m gonna have to ask you two to leave.”

“But baby,” Vicky pulls herself on him again, “we need you…” She kisses his cheek (although it was very close to his mouth), but Al pushes her off.

“You two need to go.” He tells them stern, now with a glare to go with it. Vicky buries her head in her hands, and makes crying noises. Neal shakes his head at Al and puts his arm around Vicky.

“Look what you’ve done. You made her cry!”

“Hey I didn’t mean to--”

“Shut!” He goes back to Vicky and pats her back. “Let’s go, baby, they don’t want us here.”

“But--”

“Don’t worry, I’ll stay with you.” Neal slaps her butt, and in turn, she giggles and smiles widely, now acting like Al never happened. “Lets gooo.” Neal puts his hand back around her and guides her away, with Al both watching them walk up the aisles, and eventually, walking out the front door.

Outside in the parking lot, the two high people make their way back to the abandoned warehouse, where they got high in the first place. “That place fu--fuck--fucking blows!” Neal shouts while going back, while Vicky begins to skip with glee.

-----

“Ugh…..” Vicky groans in pain upon opening her eyes. She had forgotten all about last night and the last thing she remembered was injecting herself with heroin. She had no idea what happened afterwards but she must of banged her head because it fucking hurts right now. “What the hell…”

Slowly she sits up on the cold, hard floor and rubs her eyes, attempting to fully wake up. She had no idea what time it was, nor did she care. She just wanted to get this splitting headache away. After rubbing her eyes for nearly a minute she looks down and finds she’s still dressed up in her clothes; a good sign that she didn’t do anything she would regret.

“You okay over there?” She heard Neal ask, and turns toward him, finding him sitting on a crate of boxes, reading some book.

“No.” She moans. “I got a...bad headache.”

“Get up and walk around. It goes away quickly.” She does as instructed and stands to her feet. “You look like shit.”

“Do I?” Vicky stumbles over to a metal tray and picks it up to inspect herself. Just like Neal said, she looked like shit. Her hair was everywhere, her face was full of sleep marks, and most noticeably, were her eyes. Her red eyes. “Shit.”

“Need a brush?”

“Please.” Neal picks up her brush, which he used earlier, and tosses it over to Vicky. It misses and hits her directly in the nose, and while Neal laughs, Vicky ignored it and simply picked it up to brush. “Why did you have my brush?” She asks while brushing.

“Needed to brush my hair.”

“And?”

“I don’t got a brush.” He smirks.

“Oh.” Is all she manages to say, not really in the mood for talking. She’s still yelling at herself in her head for taking the heroin. Why did she take it? She was better than that and she knows it, but yet she still fell in for what. Why? Because Neal wanted to take it? Probably. She knew that people who take drugs get addicted and either die or do something that ruins their life. Only a handful came back from it.

She couldn’t deny the adrenaline she after taking it, though. The adrenaline rushed through her veins like that of blood pouring out of a cut; it was fast, but instead of weakening her, made her feel like a superhero. She felt like she could do anything and be anyone. The feeling was so good; she wouldn’t mind feeling that again.

“You remember last night?” Neal finally asks, and with Vicky too concentrated with hair hair, doesn’t say a word and just shakes her head.

“Well I do. Don’t worry, we didn’t do anything to stupid.” He assures her. “We made fools of ourselves in Wal-mart, then came back here and pretty much did nothing until we passed out.”

“Thank God.” She mutters, and after another minute her hair was all good, so she gave it a toss to her other stuff.

“You remember the feeling?” He asks. “The adrenaline? The peace at mind?”

“I do.”

“And how’d you like it?”

“I thought it was..awesome. Made me feel great.”

“Awesome? Great?” Neal scoffs. “It was heaven!” He exclaims. “The best feeling I ever felt!”

“Yeah. It was good.”

“I felt like I could do anything, like I was fucking Superman!” Neal jumps up from the boxes and begins pacing with a giant ol’ smile. “I...I felt like a new person.”

“Yep.”

“Do you wanna…..do it again?” His question catches her off guard. Do it again? Yes, it felt great, but that’s no excuse for taking drugs.

She turns toward him. “What?”

“Take heroin again. Does that sound okay?”

“No.”

“What? C’mon.”

“No. We agreed to taking them once, and only once. Just to scratch it off a bucket list.”

“Yeah, but..they made us feel so good.”

“Does it matter? Drugs are--”

“Pathways to making us feel amazing.”

“Drugs are drugs. They’re bad for you!”

“All we got was a slight headache. Nothing bad!”

“And what about the major addicts, huh? They got a lot more than headaches.”

“Keyword: addict! I’m not saying we take them everyday, just take them a few more times. Just for fun.”

“That’s what everyone says, Neal! A few more times turns into a daily activity.”

“No but we’re smart.” Neal assures her. “We’ll know when it gets to much. We will know when to stop.”

Vicky doesn’t reply, instead just thinking. It was a great feeling and she would love to feel it again, but she knew what drugs were. They were like a witch that turned people into monsters. Neal, seeing that she’s in deep thoughts, approaches her and wraps his arms around her. “Just a few more times. Just for fun, I swear.”

She could see how much he wanted to do it again, and his enthusiasm melted her away. “Alright, alright. We’ll...do it again.” Neal smiles widely and quickly plants a kiss on her head in happiness.

-----

“So where was he?”

“He was around here somewhere.” Neal replies, although he’s paying almost no attention to him, instead putting his full attention on the area where he tries to find the man. The australian man. The man who gave them so much fun. “Fuck--fuck. Which alley was it?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugs while Neal continues to search. “Maybe he left.”

“We don’t know that!” Neal exclaims, while looking down every alley non-stop. Eventually his eyes ponder upon a certain alley that looks very familiar, and just like he hoped, he saw the australian man down the alleyway, leaning against the wall with the beautiful duffle bag. “There he is.” He nudges Vicky’s shoulder with a smile. “Lets go.”

Neal and Vicky make their way down the alley, where the man quickly notices them and smiles. Looks like his little plan worked; his plans always worked. He always was one of the smarter people in High School. At first he didn’t want in this business, but after his restaurant business fell through, he turned here. “Look who it is, my two favorite kids.” The australian man smirks, giving them both a nod. “How are you today?”

“Great, man. Just--great.” Neal smiles in excitement.

“I’m guessing that my product was good?”

“Good? It was--it was great!” Neal exclaims again, and his excitement makes the man smile. “We felt great.”

“We?” He glances at Vicky. “I see you enjoyed it too, huh?”

Vicky hesitates to answer. “I did.” She chokes out.

“Good. Good.” The man faces back to Neal. “So how can I help you today?”

“We wanted some more of it.” Neal cuts straight to the chase. “Could we have some?”

The man’s already smug smile gets smugger by the second. “Of course.” Neal beams while Vicky lightly smiles. “Just give me the money and you can be on your way.”

Neal’s smile disappears. “M--money?”

“Yes. Money. You know, moola.” He rubs his pointer finger and thumb together to make his point. “First round was free, now it’s paytime.” Vicky and Neal exchange nervous glances.

“But um….we’re broke.”

“Ouch.”

“Is there--anyway you can give us some for free?” Neal’s question gives the man a laugh, thinking Neal was joking. But as soon as he hoped his eyes again he saw Neal wasn’t laughing.

“You serious, kid?” Neal nods. “Kid, I got a business here, okay? Be lucky I gave you some for free.”

“We’re like really broke, though.”

“Sorry, kid. Not my problem. Once you get money, feel free to come back.”

“Well how much is it?”

“How much you want?”

“Four….each?”

“Six.”

“Only six bucks?!”

“No, kid. Six hundred.”

Hundred?”

“Yes, kid. Hundred.” The australian man mocks, and Neal’s smile is now completely replaced by a frown. “Feel free to come back when you got the money.”

Neal and Vicky go silent, and knowing there is no negotiating with this guy, just pout and solemnly nod, before walking off. The two walk out of the alleyway and down the street, where both remain silent, minus Neal’s sighs.

After they were a block away, Neal finally speaks. “We need money.”

“Face it, Neal. It’s over.” She tries to convince him.

“No, it’s not. We just need some money.”

“Some? Yeah, just some hundreds.” Vicky chuckles. “No big deal.” Neal groans, and simply looks away from her, instead looking out across the street. He couldn’t help but notice a scrawny girl walk by, wearing ‘rich people’ clothing with a designer purse.

A thought formed in his head. A thought that might just get them six hundred dollars.


8 Years Ago, 2005

Her eyes were blazed. Her pupils were pinpointed. Her eyes were bloodshot red. Currently, her eyes stared off into nothing, while she herself sat there on the edge of the bed, lost in her own messed up mind.

Her messed up, stringy fair was all over the place, running all down her face. Her pale, tired face, where her mouth hanged open, and she didn’t seem to notice. In fact her skin was all pale, having lost almost all it’s tan in the past year. But there was something else to her skin. While she was wearing all long clothing right now, underneath it were marks. Marks that ran all up and down her arm. Marks that were from the syringes she used to satisfy her needs. She used this long shirt and jeans to cover up the signs of her addiction, even though it was summer. She was hot, yes, but she couldn’t let anyone see.

Who knew a fifteen year old could be so fucked up? Back in the old days it was never imagined someone this young could be like this. But now, now in this fucked up society, it’s the conclusion people jump to. Hell, babies are born addicted to crack now. How did the world come to this? How did people become….become so screwed up? No one knows, and neither does Vicky.

Spitting some mucus down onto the cheap, ripped up motel floor, Vick then looks back up at the wall and wipes her mouth and nose. Normally, Vicky would wipe up up the mucus and be disgusted, but in her current state, she could care less. If it wasn’t about heroin she didn’t give a flying shit.

It was in that exact moment that Neal walked into the motel, and he certainly wasn’t looking any better than Vicky. In fact, he actually looked worse than her. His eyes were redder, his walk was slow it could be mistaken for a limp, and he could barely keep awake.

Closing the door behind him, Neal drops his duffle back to the ground and collapses on the bed next to it. “You…..got the stuff?” Vicky speaks slowly, like, really slow. Neal slowly looks at her with his sleepy, heavy eyes, but still manages to give a slow smile.

“Yeah.” He croaks out. “I got us a. Pack. Each.” He takes breaths through the sentence, before coughing. Instantly Vicky jumps out of her tranced state and hops next to the bag, where she rips out one of the packs. “Hand me..mine.” She can hear Neal mutter, and she tosses him the other pack, before jumping onto her bed.

She rips off her shirt, not even caring that Neal’s in the room, and takes out a syringe. She looks at it, like she’s mesmerized by it, before injecting herself with the beauty. Across from her on his bed Neal does the same, and as both inject themselves, both moan in happiness and can feel the surge of heaven coming on.

-----

A few hours later Vicky eyes slowly open; her eyes are worse than before. Hell, everything is worse than before. Eyes, skin, face, her beauty...it’s all worse; in fact, that beauty is pretty much all gone.

She lets out a deep, muffled cough that springs her onto the edge of the bed. Coughing up a storm she soon begins to punch her stomach, and not just a girly light punch, but a punch. Soon enough mucus comes flying out of her mouth, flying across the room, until crashing into the wall; Vicky watches as it slowly drips down the wall. “Fuck..” She paints, rubbing her head whilst doing so.

It takes a few minutes for her to regain her will to stand up, but once up, she stumbles her way over to the front desk. On it sits a small box, sort of like a lunchbox, that Vicky stares at for a minute. She sends a quick glance toward Neal, who's still passed out, before reluctantly opening up the box.

Inside the box piles of money, not a lot, but still a pile or two. Of course it was mostly full of smaller bills like ones, fives, and some tens. They only used this money for food and drinks when needed, to pay for a motel, and heroin, of course. At the moment she obviously needed a drink, with her mouth dry and full of mucus, so she slipped out a ten.

“Hey,” Neal calls from behind her, having just woke up, “what the hell you doing?”

“Nothing.” Vicky slips the ten into her pocket. Neal was very heavy about their money, having made it clear that only he decides when to use the money. Vicky was very reluctant when ever taking money. “Just walking.”

“Near the money box?!” Vicky silently shuts it while Neal forces himself off the table. Neal staggers onto his feet, making his way toward her. Vicky moves out of the box’s way.

“I didn’t touch it, Neal.” Vicky reasons, but the reasoning goes right through Neal’s ears, instead he scrambles through the box, counting every dollar with a rabid look in his eyes. “Did you hear me?”

“There’s ten missing.”

“What?”

“There’s ten dollars missing!” Neal snaps at her. “You took it, didn’t you?”

“Neal, I didn’t take anything.”

“We need that money, Tori! You can’t just take it without my say.”

“I didn’t take it.” She lies naturally, but it can’t fool Neal. Neal was never the one to fall for bullshit. “You probably just miscounted--”

A hard smack to the face interrupted Vicky from finishing her sentence. Neal, who hit her with his backhand, watches her fall to the ground with a disgusted look. Vicky was to shocked to say any words; her only response was to hold the red mark he implanted on her cheek. “Where is the money.” He asks. In his drug filled state he can’t realize the pain he just gave Vicky.

The two drug addicts enter a short stare off but eventually Vicky gives in. She crumbles up the mere ten dollar bill and throws at him without a word. He recorpates the silence after catching the money. He straightens up the bill and tucks it safely back in the box. “I’m gonna have to get a damn lock for…” He mutters at first, but upon catching a quick glance of Vicky, comes to the realization of what he did.

He puts the box down and rushes to his friend’s side, where he extends his hand down. “Tori, I’m sorry. I..don’t know what got over me.” She refuses it but nethertheless he keeps it there. “Victoria,” He calls out her full name, “please.”

It takes a minute but she soon accepts it, still she doesn’t look at him in the eyes. “I’m so sorry.” He pleads with her, his deepest friend.

“It’s...fine.” She quietly says. “I guess I had it coming. I did lie to you after all.”

“No, I was out of line. No woman deserves to be hit.” Neal strokes her cheek. “Do you need anything? Ice?”

“No, it’s fine.” She removes his hand from her face reluctantly. Neal looks at her with such pain in his eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” She walks past Neal and toward the duffle bag, where like routine, pulls out a small syringe. “Don’t mind me.”

Neal watches her, with a certain realization coming to his mind about the situation. “Remember how we always said we would stop...this once we’ve gone too far?” Vicky looks at him. She doesn’t respond. “Have we?”

“Have we what?”

“Have we gone too far with this?” His question echoes across the room.

“What? Of course not.” She puts the syringe down and jumps off the bed to reason with him. “We’re fine.”

“Are we? I mean look at us. Hell, look at what I just did.”

“Don’t be to heavy on yourself. I’m fine. You’re fine. The syringes are fine…”

“I’m just saying--”

“Look, I get what you’re trying to say, but it’s honestly bullshit. Besides, imagine our lives without these gifts from heaven.” She motions her hand toward the dufflebag. It’s ironic. Back when it all started, Neal was the one to jump into drugs and dragged Vicky to do so as well. Now, Neal is the one whose questioning it and Vicky is dragging him to stay.

Walking back to the table Vicky grabs her syringe and hands it to Neal. “Just take some and relax, alright?” Neal rubs his head.

“Yeah. Yeah, alright.” He takes the gift. “I guess it was the withdraw talking.”


“Nice ain’t it?” Dre states while placing the items down on the nearby seat. “Found them and figured why not?”

“It looks mighty fine.” Lara smirks, glancing down at it. “I could use some good ol’ weed.”

“Yeah, figured we could all use some.” Dre looks at everyone, doing a quick headcount while doing so. “Besides there’s six of us. Figured wee can go all ‘Breakfeast Club’ style, if you know what I mean. Or ‘That 70’s Show’ style, whatever suits your boat” Well, technically, an inverted Breakfast Club/70’s Show as the circle here has six girls and two boys. Still, the references are clear enough.

Vicky stares at the drug with a blank face. Drugs. Her first enemy, and also, one of her greatest friends, now sitting in front of her. She’s been clean for years, and never has she gotten this close to them again. But here they are sitting right in front of her, just waiting to be taken. It’s almost like they’re calling her name. “Vicky,” they call, “come to us.”

She would say “No. I will not come to you”. But they would beg and beg. “Please, Tori. We need you. You need us.” She hasn’t felt such an urge in a while.

But she remembers what drugs did to her. What happened to Neal and her…..how it ended. She can’t ever go near those damned things again, not after before.

“So what y’all say? In the mood for some good stuff?” Dre asks while Vicky remains in her thoughts.

“Hell yeah.” Lara smirks.

“Why not?” Sam shrugs. “Haven’t had any for a while. I think the last time I took weed I imagined pink elephants eating people.” Her out of place comments gain a few looks. “Just telling a fun fact here.”

“Pink elephants though.” Lara chuckles. “That’s weird as hell.”

“Blame the weed.” Sam chuckles back. Sam Collins, one of the nicest girls at the mall who dedicates her time to helping people even has a different side of her. Meanwhile, Dre puts his eyes on McCoy.

“You down, MC?” Dre asks his friend who just stares at it. Obviously, McCoy never had anything like that before. Wasn’t shcoking really, considering all the stuff McCoy missed out on in order to build a life for himself. Drugs weren’t exactly on his to-do list, but hell, it’s the end of the world. Why not the ‘fun’ life he never had?

“I don’t know man…” McCoy initially says, but seeing how almost everyone else, took it back. “Sure, I’m in.” Dre air fives him.

“Yo, Vics, you been quiet.” Lara nudges her friend’s arm. “You feeling alright?”

“Yeah. Fine.” Vicky gives a half-assed response, instead her full attention is on the drug. It’s been so long since she had any type of drug; she wanted it. No, she needed it.

“So you down?” Lara asks.

“I...I can’t.” Vicky blurts out, turning her eyes away from the drug. “Sorry.”

“What?” Lara asks shocked. “Why not, girl?”

“I just can’t.”

“Never take them before?” Vicky doesn’t respond. “Huh. I always thought you would be the kind of gal that did.”

“Lara--”

“You scared or something?”

“No, I’m not scared.”

“Then c’mon. You know you want to.” Lara was right, Vicky knew she wanted to. Vicky’s will finally breaks down and Vicky turns back to look at the weed. No, it wasn’t no heroin, but it could do.

“Alright, whatever. I’ll do it.” She is very reluctant to say so, but she couldn’t help but give in to her weakness. Lara flashes a smile and nudges her in a “good job” way, while Vicky keeps staring at the drugs.

She smiles.

Now, that left Sarah. Sarah didn’t know what to say here. Everyone was doing it and here she was with no answer. What was she supposed to do? Say no and be the third weel. She wanted to fit in with these older friends, not get left out. Still, she was only fifteen, and afterall, drugs were bad, right?

In that moment Sarah met Vicky’s eyes and suddenly recalled the conversation they had on that bus. The conversation that feels so long ago now.

"I ain't girl, I swear." Sarah chuckles. "There's a lot of smoking and drugs going too. Truth be told I'm on the fence on that stuff." Sarah expects Vicky to crack some sort of joke, maybe even tease her, but Vicky instead turns serious; something Sarah could tell watching by how Vicky's smile fades off her face.

“Keep behind the fence.” Vicky tells her, looking at the young girl in the eyes. “Who cares if they make fun of you, not worth throwing your life away. Especially not for shit like that”

Sarah silently sighs. Truth was she was the one who her friends considered a weirdo. She never did the smoking stuff or anything bad, yet the temptation was just to strong.

Sarah rubbed her temple and took a breath. At the moment she didn’t care what James, or even Michael, would say. She just wanted to fit in with the ‘cool’ kids for once. “Lets do it.” She puts on a smile.

“Alright sweet. So how ‘bout--” Before Dre can finish he is interrupted by Vicky.

“Woah, woah, woah.” She cuts in. “Isn’t Sarah a little to young for..this?” Vicky asks, full attention on Sarah, who looks away. “I mean, she’s not even eighteen.”

“Hey, if the girl wants to do it, she can do it.” Sam puts her input. “We can’t tell her no.”

“She’s got a point.” Dre nods to Sam. “Sarah can do what she wants.” As they discuss her, Sarah can’t help but feel awkward, but she didn’t know what to say.

“She’s only fifteen, though. Right?” McCoy asks, to which Vicky confirms it for him. “Then we can’t give her this shit.”

“Shit?” Lara asks. “I think it’s some pretty good stuff.”

“Shut up.” Vicky shoves her, in their friendship shove way, to shut up.

“Just lighting the mood, geez.” Lara shrugs.

“Back onto point,” Vicky puts her input back in, “we can’t give her this stuff. Imagine what her father would--”

“Hey! I’m right here, God.” Sarah finally steps in, crossing her arms. She just wanted to do what they were doing, why can’t Vicky and McCoy accept that? “If I want to do it, I’m gonna do it. End of story.”

Vicky, knowing she can’t say anything to stop her, just puts her hands up and nods, droping the discussion. McCoy soon follows. With all that done, Lara smiles at how Sarah told them off and leans in to Vicky. “I like this girl.” Lara states, before turning back to Dre, whose now picking up the bong and weed.


James wanders down the mall aimlessly. He isn’t looking at the others out of curiosity, checking out the mall, searching for people, or moping about his life. He’s just walking around, not really sure what to do. Today was one of the first times in a while that he had an argument with Sarah. They had such a bond and great relationship that they never argued about anything; sure, maybe minor stuff here and there, but nothing big.

But today, she not only told him off, but then she stormed off. Worse, he let her storm off. In his defense he didn’t really know what to do, but he should of tried chasing her. Even now, as he walks around the mall, he isn’t looking for her. If she is angry at him, and she probably is, then he knows best of all that the best thing to do is let her cool off. When she’s ready she will come to him.

Still, he doesn’t know what she was all angry about. Every word he said was true. Michael killed Zoey. Michael ran away. Michael became a fuck-up. Then he comes back and thinks he can just take Sarah back? He’s got to work for that right, and from what James has observed, he hasn’t earned it. Yes, James may have never given Sarah a choice on the matter, or always tell her the truth, or ask how she felt about certian stuff….but he always made the right calls. He was James Benjamin, the hotshot lawyer. James Benjamin, the man who protects people. He was the one who always made the right calls.

It was in that moment that he saw Jonathan Walsh sitting at one of the cafe’s tables, drinking a cup of tea. For a moment he thought back to his walk with that Mr. Brash fellow about getting security for the mall. James knew they needed security. Soon enough infected would come, or some whack job would come. Some people denied it but the world is full of evil sons of bitches, and some would think nothing of hurting them. James wasn’t one of them, he wasn’t naive. He knew it was bound to happen. It’s just how the world works. When one place has something good, another place wants it; or, just wish to see the world burn.

Making his way to the cafe, James soon finds himself at Walsh’s table. “Excuse me, Mr. Walsh?” He asks Walsh, who puts down his tea and smiles.

“Yes sir?”

“May I take a seat?”

“Absolutely.” Walsh motions the empty seat to James, who accepts the offer and sits.

“I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m James.” He stretches out his hand. “I came here yesterday.”

“Don’t think lowly of me, sir, but I don’t recall meeting you.” Walsh accepts the handshake. “You must forgive me. I meet a lot of people recently.”

“It’s perfectly fine.” James gives him a nice, warm smile. Even if he disagreed with his views, Walsh was the leader here, so James figured he should show some respect. “I was hoping to talk with you, actually. If that’s quite alright.”

“Perfectly fine. How may I help you?”

“I just wanted to talk to you about the fine establishment you have here.”

“Ah, thank you. It really is quite a place, no? I don’t mean to brag, but it keeps people safe. I feel honored to be the man responsible for that.”

“Yeah, I bet you are.” James leans back on his chair. “But for how long can you keep the people safe?”

“Excuse me?”

“I wanted to speak with you about the mall’s protection.”

“Protection? But from what?”

“Well, from the infected for one.”

“The walls will hold those beast back. I ensure you.”

“And what about people?”

“What about people?”

“What if a hostile person decides to attack? What then?”

“Mr…”

“Benjamin.”

“Well then, Mr. Benjamin, no person is going to attack us.”

“Really? Do you forgot the full scale riot that happened only yesterday?”

“From what I heard, it was all just a misunderstanding.”

“Some misunderstanding.” James scoffs. “Excuse my language, but there are some messed up fucks out there. We don’t exactly live in a good world.”

“I understand where you’re coming from, but I always believed that an incident like this would draw humankind together.”

“I respect your opinion, but I don’t believe as much. We live in a world full of rapist, murderers, and corrupt politicians, in case you haven’t noticed. I believe you need to have security.” James is making clear sense. It’s a crazy world now, but Walsh isn’t one to listen. He’s in charge of this place, not James.

“What do you mean by security?”

“We need to get some guns, have someone on guard, maybe have some rotations for it--”

“These people are here to be safe, not to work!” Walsh exclaims.

“If people want to be safe they gotta work for it! They can’t just sit on their ass and expect everything to be okay.” James sighs, not understanding while he can’t see the problem. “It isn’t just about the people, Walsh. Just earlier today infected came near the mall, me and another man had to deal with them ourselves.”

“There was no need for that. They would just wander off.”

“Would they? From what I’ve seen, they would barge in and rip us to shreds. Now, unless you want people to be ripped to shreds, we need weapons.”

“There will be no violence at my mall!” Walsh exclaims once more. “I wish I could say it was nice meeting you, Mr. Benjamin, but I must be going now."

“Where to? To walk around and get some smiles?”

“Don’t you disrespect me, boy. I will--I can kick you out of this mall!”

“But you won’t.” James smirks, now standing onto his feet. “What would the people say if you kick a man with a teenage daughter out? Imagine your reputation after that….”

Walsh doesn’t respond, instead glaring at his opponent that is James Benjamin. They were polar opposites, that’s for sure. Neither one of them will hurt the other but this rivalry will last for a while. “Good day, sir.” Is all Walsh says before walking off, leaving James alone, who only glares at him.


8 Years Ago, 2005

“Give me the money!” Neal screams to the cashier, his eyes spelling “no joking” in big bold letters. Of course, all she can see are his eyes. Currently he wears a black ski mask and all long, dark clothing to go with it. With an empty duffle bag that sits on the table, Neal currently holds the cashier at gunpoint, demanding she fill up the bag. “Fill it up!”

The cashier whimpers while shoving the money in the bag. Honest to God she was horrified right now. Besides herself and Neal, the store was alone, so no one could save her. She can’t die, she just can’t; she’s a single mother with a three year old boy back at their apartment. He needs her. Her parents won’t take the boy in, and she has no siblings; she is all he’s got.

“Hurry up or I will end you!” Neal screams at her in such anger, and yet at the same time, such desperation.

“I’m going as fast I can!” She shoves dollars in faster and faster. Neal doesn’t accept the answer and presses the gun to her head. The cold, metal gun pressed up against her head can’t help but force her to cry.

“Don’t fucking cry on me, bitch!”

“I’m sorry!” Her cry pierces the room, until finally, every dollar from the cashier was in the bag. “That’s all.”

“Give me your wallet!”

“I can’t.” She cries, but Neal doesn’t compromise.

“Do it!” He screams once more. “Give me the jewelry too!”

“I have a baby. I have a baby!”

“I don’t care!” Neal screams, and the already tearful woman, nods and shoves her wallet in the bag. Followed by her earrings, then her mother’s necklace, and then her watch. As she does this he can’t help but notice her shirt, a Harry Potter shirt. Vicky’s favorite series, she would love that. “Give me the shirt.”

“What?!”

“The shirt. Give me.”

“I--I can’t. I’m wearing nothing under--”

“Give me the damn shirt!” He demands, the gun still in hand, and she sheds another tear before gripping the bottom of her shirt. She takes off her shirt and throws it at Neal, who only shoves it in the bag.

“That’s all I have to--” Before she can finish her plead Neal smacks her across the head with his pistol, knocking her to the floor. This single mother is now unconscious on the floor shirtless, stripped of all her money, and a gashing bruise on her head. She will probably never get over this incident and live the rest of her life in fear, and thus in turn, her son growing up in fear. Why? All because Neal wanted money for drugs.

Instead of running out the front door, Neal makes a dash for the back exit and into the back alley. Once out back he takes off his mask and shoves it into the bag, along with his pistol. Then, just like that, makes his way into the streets and blends in with the crowd. It only takes a few minutes for Neal to arrive at his destination of a motel.

He heads up the stairs and into his room, 207. Once in he drops the bag onto the ground and plops onto his bed, moaning in tiredness. Not the kind that he can get from sleep, the kind he can only get from more heroin. “Shut up.” Vicky calls from the other end of the room, and he looks over to see Vicky laying on her bed, in a withdraw like Neal. “How much did you get?” She mutters.

“Got two hundred in cash from this bitch, then who knows how much in her jewelry.”

“Nice.” Vicky grabs a small paper bag off the table and holds it up. “I got about six wallets today. I think four hundred bucks.”

“That enough for a stash?”

“Should be.” This is their routine. Neal was the robber, often robbing small corner stores and maybe mugging people here or there. Vicky was the thief, often pickpocketing people or breaking into houses here or there. Why did they rob poor, innocent people? Well what else other than heroin, of course.

It’s been a few months since Neal almost stopped, and now, the pair are almost beyond return. Both are deep in addiction with this drug, their minds are warped, as are their appearances. They are even worse than before. Darker eyes, paler skin, and there whole upper region is full of syringe marks. Luckily they were smart and never overdosed; but still, so much for “we’ll know when to stop”.

-----

“Look at this!” Vicky exclaims while looking through the duffle bag full of all the heroin they just bought. “We hit the jackpot!”

“Hell yeah!” Neal’s so excited, and being barely able to contain his excitement, falls back on the bed of their motel room. With the money the two stole to buy their respective stashes, and now back at their motel, can’t wait to dig into their prize. “This is gonna be so damn good.” Neal gets back up and digs his hand into the syringes, where he pulls out two of his precious little babies. “Where would I be without you?” He doesn’t speak to Vicky, instead speaking to the syringes.

“We would be in hell right now.” Vicky pipes up, while taking off her shirt to clear some room for the syringes. With the syringes in hand she is quick to inject herself and moans in pleasure as the drug flies through her system, and with every second going by, Vicky feels more like an angel. Neal does the same, and as the heroin goes through his systems, he falls back on the bed and smiles in one of the biggest smiles he’s ever had.


“What was I saying again?”

“Something about….dogs I think.” Dre reminds her, and whilst doing so, blows some of his weed filled smoke into the air.

“Oh yeah. Dogs.” Lara chuckles. “I had one once. She was the cutest pet ever. God, I love cats.”

“I thought it was dogs.” Sam questions, before lifting up the bong and taking a deep inhale with a satisfied smile on her face.

“Oh yeah. Dogs.” Lara laughs out loud, while being handed the bong by Sam. Like everyone else she takes a deep inhale into the weed filled bong. “Oh my God. Dre you’re a...genius.”

“Hell yeah you are man.” McCoy agrees from his spot next to Dre, nudging his friend in the arm. This was McCoy’s first time taking weed, and he can certainly say that it’s just like people said: fun. “I feel just so free right now, man.”

“I am a genius, aren’t I?” Dre nods, at the same while rubbing his arm for some odd reason. “Why am I rubbing my arm?”

“I don’t even know.” Lara replies while taking an extra inhale. “But I think it’s….cute.”

“I bet you do.” Vicky mocks upon being handed the bong. “You find anything a turn on.”

“What? No I don’t, bitch.” Lara mocks while Vicky takes a long, love filled inhale of the item she is proud to call friend. Why did she ever stop taking these beautiful things? What was she even thinking? The last eight years have been pointless without the sense of getting high. This was what her life was made for. To spend her days and nights getting high. Fuck everything else.

“This is like awesomeness, but times fifty.” Vicky moans.

“It would be better with zombies.” Sam smiles.

“There are zombies, dumbass.” McCoy chuckles.

“There are?”

“Yeah, they’re outside.” McCoy chuckles, but then gets a thought. “Wait, are they outside?”

“I don’t know.”

“I hope there is.” Dre inputs. “That would be like...the coolest things ever.”

“Fuck zombies. I want a sharknado.” Lara rubs her eyes while speaking. “A mother fucking sharknado.”

“Wait, I just had the best idea!” Vicky exclaims. “A zombienado.”

“Or a zombie-sharknado.” Lara counters, and everyone (except Sarah) gasps in pure excitement at the mention. A zombie-sharknado?! Sounds awesome!

“You’re genius, Ms. Drake.” Sam punches her shoulder in a soft, high way.

All while this is going on, Sarah sits at her end of the circle (in between Vicky and McCoy), holding the bong in her hand. She already took about two inhales, she was reluctant about taking it the first two times, but now she is still reluctant. For a moment she sits there and fiddles with the bong, wondering what to do. Should she? Should she not? She has to admit it felt good but she doesn’t want to get seriously high.

Looking up she sees McCoy is itching to get another inhale, so she simply pulls it upward and takes another deep inhale. Upon holding it in for a few seconds Sarah exhales and watches as the smoke exits her mouth and slowly floats upwards, where eventually it transforms into mist, thus escaping her view and disappearing into the air.

With that done she hands the bong to McCoy, thus continuing the circle. The bong goes around for a few more times, with each member taking a nice, deep inhale that seems to wipe away all their problems. To hell with the outbreak, the family issues, or the deaths they may have suffered, right now they all felt at peace. It was a great feeling.

“You know, I never thought I would say this, but I love pot.” Sarah says while releasing some smoke, but as the smoke rises in the air, she attempts to catch it with her mouth, to no avail. The others simply laugh at this, well, everyone except Vicky that is.

Vicky, following taking yet another inhale, seems to be coming to her senses. Every inhale she begins to feel more at peace, more high under the influence, but now she sees what she is really doing. She’s relapsing. She can’t do this.

While being lost in her thoughts, she is suddenly tapped on the shoulder by Lara, who holds the bong in her hands in attempts to hand it to Vicky. “Take it, Vics.” She says, to which Vicky simply nods and grabs it, but doesn’t take it yet.

“Hurry up, Victoria.” Lara jokes by saying her full name. “Wait a second. Victoria. Toria. Tori.” Lara smiles. “I love Tori, oh my God.”

Tori.

Tori. The name rings a giant bell that echoes inside the head of Vicky. Quickly she tosses the bong on the ground, sending off a small echo noise around the room. “Fuck a gunshot!” Dre dives to the ground, followed by everyone who didn’t see Vicky throw it to the bong to the ground, which was everyone except for Lara and Sarah.

Vicky, after struggling onto her feet, dashes out of the theater without explanation. Lara and Sarah watch her go, while the others chuckle on the ground about the ‘gunshots’. Lara and Sarah exchange a glance, obviously about Vicky; luckily, Lara gives the stare that spells out “I got this”, thus standing to her feet and heading after her friend.


8 Years Ago, 2005

Vicky coughs, but not just a normal cough, not anymore it’s not. It’’s a deep, sour cough whose pain feels like her insides are being slowly pulled out. She continues to cough like this for almost five minutes and every time it just grows more painful, up until the point where Vicky wants to bash her head in. “Shit!” She croaks out slowly, feeling to weak to yell.

After struggling to stand up Vicky makes a dash for the bathroom, paper cup in hand. Once in she is quick to pour herself a cup of water, which she proceeds to down quickly. She didn’t stop there, however, instead she pours herself cup after cup. After a few minutes her insides finally felt okayish, so she tossed the useless cup on the floor and made her way out back to her bed.

It’s been maybe a month since they got the bag full of heroin, and once again, they simply got deeper into their addiction. With Neal half-passed out on the opposite bed, it’s completely clear that the two got high once again last night. They been getting high every day at this point, and like every other time, their appearance is worse. By this point just a quick glance of them of them off the street would tell someone that they’re drug addicts. Those two innocent, but rebellious nethertheless, kids are now gone, destroyed by the effects of drugs. Who ever thought their lives would turn out like this? In only a year too? If she’s fifteen right now and already a druggie, who knows what her future might be if she doesn’t pick herself back up.

“Hey,” the half-passed out Neal calls over to her, “you okay?”

“Fine.”

“Really?”

“No.” She coughs, rubbing her eyes whilst doing so. “I--I need more.”

“Damn.” He mutters under his breath. “I think I do too.” Neal tries to get up, but quickly collapses back down. “I can wait, though.”

“I can’t.” Vicky hops off his bed and stumbles over to her bag, where she kept her stash (Vicky and Neal started keeping separate stashes), ready to have more of the precious. However, upon zipping open the bag and expecting to see heroin like expected, she instead finds nothing. Nothing. Just an empty bag. “No, no, no!” Vicky panics while searching the bag, checking every corner and every side pocket.

“What?” Neal asks over, while Vicky begins to search beyond the bag, including the tables and bed. “What is it?”

“I..I...I can’t find it!” She panics like crazy, flipping over various items on the floor, ranging from clothes to bags. “I can’t find them!”

“You probably....ran out.” He yawns. “You been taking some every--”

“I DIDN’T RUN OUT!” She suddenly screams full lungs at him, her eyes spelling desperation, and once in desperation who knows what people will do. “I kept good track!” She rubs her hands through her hair. How could this of happened?

“Tori--”

“I keep track, you don’t! You ran out, not me!” Vicky stresses.

“I didn’t run out.” Neal assures her while scratching his head, however this casual comment puts the pieces together for Vicky, at least in her mind. He had to have run out, he’s reckless, not like her. In her mind, she’s the smart one.

Slowly she turns to face in, the desperation slowly turning to anger. Neal looks at her, puzzled. “What?”

“You.”

“What?”

“You--stole--my stash!” Vicky states darkly in between breaths as her hand turns into a fist. “You stole my stash!” She grabs the nearest item, in this case a pillow, and chucks it at him. The harmless pillow simply hits him in the face to no effect.

“Hey, calm down!” Neal gets onto his feet. “I didn’t steal your stash.”

“Yes you did.” Vicky storms toward his duffle bag and opens it, looking down at the seven syringes he has in there. “I’m taking them back!” She reaches in there to grab them, but Neal is quick to give her yet another slap to the face, knocking her down once more. However, this time, he doesn’t stop and regret his actions; he only grabs his bag defensively and puts it behind him.

“Don’t you fucking dare touch my stash!” Neal warns her, pointing his finger at her. He proceeds to turn around, but in her desperate-rage filled state, Vicky doesn’t stay down. She honestly believed his drugs were hers, and she was gonna get them back.

She springs onto her feet and leaps onto his bag, using one hand to grip onto his hair, while her other hand hits him around. “They’re mine!” She screams while on his back, but it doesn’t last long as Neal purposely falls back, landing back onto the bed with a thump, forcing a pained groan from Vicky.

Getting up onto his feet, Neal doesn’t just slap her, but punches her in the stomach. Vicky groans once more, but as Neal takes a breath, Vicky grabs the nearby glass bottle and swings at Neal, hitting him directly in the face. In that instance, as Neal grabs his face, Vicky gives him a good kick to the groin. Neal collapses back against the wall. “Crazy bitch!” He exclaims, watching while Vicky gets up and rushes at him.

He punches her to the ground, but while down, Vicky grabs ahold his ankle. With a firm tug she pulls Neal down to the ground, and he hits the floor with a thump. Vicky crawls at him, but Neal turns onto his back and delivers a kick to her face. Both, being in their withdrawn state, aren’t do much damage but they still keep fighting. Neal gives her another kick to the face, this time efficiently giving her a bloody nose.

Vicky’s rage lets her bounce back quickly, and this time she jumps onto him, scratching his face with her long nails, but Neal simply grabs her shoulders and tosses her away like a ragdoll. Vicky, having landed on her back, takes a breather but Neal suddenly sits on tops of her, and with his big hands he grips her neck. Both of their heroin sides have taken over, if not they wouldn’t have been doing this. Vicky thinks he has her drugs, Neal won’t allow Vicky to take his drugs; this isn’t going to end well. Neal, strangling Vicky with all his rage, is completely oblivious to the scissors sitting right in arms reach. Vicky isn’t so dumb and uses the last of her strength to reach for the scissors.

Once in her hand she uses the last of her power to sing the scissors upward into his neck. Like expected the scissors dig into his neck, forcing Neal to grip the scissors that now stick out of his neck. Neal goes into shock as the blood drips out of the cut, giving Vicky the perfect opportunity to kick him off her. He topples onto the ground, grabbing his bloody neck, while muttering things not understandable. Vicky, blinded by his pain, walks over to the bag and takes out a syringe, a grin on her face. “You don’t steal from me.” She says, taking off her shirt once again to inject, however before injecting she turns around to face Neal. In that moment their eyes met, the eyes of a dying man and his drug addicted friend, and that’s when Vick saw what she has just done.

Dropping the syringe to the ground Vicky runs to her friend’s side, where she pulls the scissors out of his neck. He flinches in pain. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay.” She manages to get out while holding in her tears, instead focusing on helping him. She uses the shirt she was wearing and presses it up against his neck, trying to contain the blood. “Just...don’t move, Neal. It’ll.. be okay.” She can’t contain the tears. “Don’t you die on me. C’mon.” She presses the shirt harder up against his neck.

Neal, with his left over strength, to hold his bloody hand up to her cheek. Looking at her in the face, their teary eyes meet once more, and he brushes her cheek, not in a romantic way, but in a friendship way.

“It will be good for both of us.” Vicky assures him, moving an inch closer to her friend. “I get you like to worry for me but you don’t have to. I wanna do this.”

Neal looks at her and can see the determination in her eyes, and from that moment, he knew she wasn’t gonna take no for an answer. He simply sighs and rubs his forehead, knowing there was only one answer to the situation. “Alright then.”

Vicky beams in a smile and claps her hands, before turning back at him. “You better not be kidding and end up ditching me.”

Looking at her in the eyes Neal reaches out his hand and brushes her cheek, not in a romantic way, but a in a joking, friendship way. “I promise. I won’t leave you.”

“Don’t you leave me. You promised.” She cries at him, but it proves no worth, because his bloody hand soon falls from her cheek, and his eyes soon close. Vicky doesn’t believe it at first, instead continuing to mutter pleas over and over again, but they prove worthless.

She murdered her only friend.

And, in a cruel twist of fate, Neal never stole her drugs.

-----

Vicky walks down the streets of the city, which she believes is New York, alone. For the first time in a year she was alone. Neal isn’t there to help her. Her parents...weren’t there to help her. She was just on her own. She didn’t know what her emotions were right now. She obviously felt depression, she felt anger toward herself, and she felt incomplete.

It’s been three days since Neal’s death. After cradling his body for a while she knew she needed to get rid of the body, no matter how much it hurt. Being in a bad motel all she had to do was bribe the man the rest of the heroin, and in return he dealt with the body. He promised her that no one will find his body; she didn’t even know want to know the awful things he would do to his body.

She didn’t know what to do now. Usually Neal would make the plans, all she had to do was follow. Where would she go? What would she do? How would she get food? There was one thing she knew, though.

She would never go back to drugs. They ruined her life to much, beyond the point of repair.

After walking a few more blocks, she couldn’t help but notice a payphone sitting nearby, no one in line to use it. She simply stared at it for a few moments, debating in her mind what to do, and at the same time feeling how much money she has on her. She definitely has enough for a phone call.

Taking a deep breath Vicky walks over to the payphone, injects the coins into the slot, and picks up the phone. She waits for the other end to pick up, and heard ringing for a moment, until finally she heard the other end pick up. “Hello?” She can hear a familiar voice on the other end, a voice she instantly recognizes. It was a light, sweet voice but she also heard another emotion in their: brokenness. It was Lynn.

Throughout the year she occasionally thought about them, wondering what they were doing, but it wasn’t until now she actually wondered how they felt. Imagine what it was like for them to go up there the next morning and see her gone. No note, no nothing. Vicky finally saw just how much of a bitch she was. “Is anyone there?” Lynn asks again, but Vicky doesn’t respond, instead taking panicked breaths. What does she?

“Mom.” Is the only word she can croak out, and just from her end of the phone, Vicky can hear Lynn go silent, like she’s at a loss of words to. This was gonna be it, there big emotional reunion, over the phone but reunion nethertheless.

But Vicky chickens out at the last minute and hangs up the phone without another word.


Exiting the room, Lara soon finds herself roaming around the theater, her eyes scanning for Vicky. Sure, Lara was still a little high, but she knew she couldn’t just let Vicky go after storming away at complete random. Lara may seem like all fun and games but even she knows when a friend needs her.

Exiting over to the other side of the theater, Lara is quick to spot Vicky standing by the side exit, her eyes staring outside the clear glass and into the parking lot. Her arms were crossed while her eyes seem like they were in a trace. Lara, taking a minute to watch her friend, begins to rub her head before heading over.

“Watchu lookin at?” Lara asks casually while walking over, leaning against the wall across from Vicky, while she keeps staring outside.

“I don’t know. Some boring parking lot.” She shrugs, keeping her eyes away from Lara. “What’s up with you?”

“I don’t know. Checking up on some random white girl.”

Vicky chuckles lightly. “Sounds boring.”

“Oh, trust me, it is.” Lara chuckles lightly in return. A brief silence ensures before Lara returns another question. “So what was that all about?”

“What?”

“Oh I don’t know. Maybe the thing with throwing the bong and storming out of the room.”

“Oh. That.” Vicky rubs her head with a deep sigh. “What about it?”

“What about it? I wanna make sure my girl’s okay.” Vicky remains silent. “So are you?”

“I’m fine.”

“Don’t lie to me.” Lara doesn’t come off as some concerned parent, instead as a caring friend. All her jokes are aside at the moment, and her full concern is Vicky. Maybe there was another side of Lara. “I’m gonna ask again. How are you?”

Vicky remains reluctant to answer. “Not good.”

“Well, you wanna talk about it?” Lara reaches out her hand and brushes some hair out of Vicky’s eyes, so she can see her friend eye-to-eye. “Because I’m all ears.”

“I’m good.”

“Why not?”

“You...just wouldn’t understand.” Vicky’s tone matches with a quick glance she gives Lara. It wasn’t a usual type of glance, instead seeming like an annoyed glance. Lara took notice of it, but said nothing.

“I doubt it.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“And why’s that.”

“You just wouldn’t. Okay?” Vicky groans, not in the mood for this type of conversation, so she turns in an attempt to leave. “Look I’m gonna go. I’ll catch up with--”

Before Vicky can finish her sentence and walk past, Lara grabs her arm, not harmful in any means, but not letting her out of her grip. Vicky turns and the two friends stare at each other silently, before finally Vicky gives up and shrugs off her arm to lean on the wall across from her. “So what’s the problem?”

Vicky prepares to say something but Lara gives a quick interrupt. “And don’t you damn say ‘You wouldn’t understand’.” Vicky once again remains reluctant. “Did it have to do with the pot?”

Lara can tell she struck a nerve by a change in Vicky’s body behavior. Like before Vicky doesn’t reply. “Damnit Vics, answer me.”

“Why?” Vicky’s tone changes to more annoyed, maybe even angered.

“Why what?”

“Why should I answer you? So you can pretend to sympathize with me? Pretend like you care?” Vicky scoffs her. “Sorry, but I’m not having that shit. People like...like you never understand.”

“Pretend like I care?” Lara asks, crossing her arms to match Vicky’s stern look. “People like me? Explain.”

Vicky seems to regret her choice of her words. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean--”

“Shut up.” Lara stops her. “You meant it and you know you did. Don’t bullshit me. So go on, tell me, what are people like me?”

Vicky doesn’t respond quick enough for Lara, so she goes on. “No, I get it. I know exactly what this is about.”

“Lara don’t--”

“No, I will.” Lara stops leaning on the wall and stands up onto her feet, an anger in her eyes. “You act like I don't see the way you look at me, like I'm some blind girl. But guess what, I ain't blind!” Vicky looks away from her. “You look at me like I'm just some 'care-free slut who doesn't give a fuck about life'. Not only that, but you act like you're the only one with problems, but news flash princess, we all got our own shit to deal with. Hell, you have no idea what I've been through. So if you wanna walk around acting like you got a horrible life, be my damn guest, but just remember that you ain't the only one.”

“I’m not the only one? You think this is about shit like ‘I’m nervous’, or ‘I don’t like drugs’? It’s beyond that, way beyond.”

“I bet it is, because in Vicky land, her problems are always worse.”

“No one has suffered more than me! No one!”

“Oh yeah, I bet. You’re just a popular, straight A student at a university with loving parents. Your life must suck.”

“Tell me, Lara, what shit did you have to deal with? Someone’s condom break when they were fucking you around like a horse?” Holy shit, that was a low blow. Lara keeps her anger inside instead of slapping her right then and there. “You don’t know what problems are, Lara!”

“You little bitch.” Lara mutters softly in anger, before turning her anger into a smug smile. “Oh, I forgot, you do have a problem. You got cheated on by a little punk, right? Sethy-seth break your heart?” She mocks.

“Tell me, how many dicks have you sucked.”

“Tell me, what was it like being fucked around like a horse when you were drunk? Better yet, what was it like losing your V-Card when you were drunk.”

“Who do you think you are?”

“A girl who doesn’t act better than anyone else, that’s for sure.” Lara knows she’s being an asshole, but Vicky started it. “No wonder they both left.”

In a quick instance Vicky slaps her across her the face. The slap echoes and leaves a red mark on Lara’s face, but Lara doesn’t hit back. She had many flaws, but she wasn’t gonna hit Vicky because she was mad. That’s just pathetic.

After lowering her hand, Vicky and Lara meet eyes, and Vicky is in shock when Lara doesn’t hit back. So many people would hit back, but Lara instead looked at her in the eyes with pity. “Done yet, princess?” Is her only reply.

“I’m--I’m sorry.” Is her reply. Vicky knew she was being a bitch, she knew she crossed the line. Lara was her closest friend and she just hit her. She doesn’t know why she did, but she finally drops her secret to Lara. “I was...a drug addict.”

Lara’s anger suddenly falls away completely, leaving her face at confused. “What?”

“I was a drug addict, heroin to be more specific.” Vicky slides down the wall until she was sitting down on the ground, where Lara soon joins her, but instead of sitting across from her, she sits next to her. “It was bad, like really bad.”

Lara stares at her friend with the most compassion she ever has. “I’m--so sorry, Vicky. I had no idea.” Lara soon realizes something. “And..I was just in there making you take drugs.” She says the words with such pain, such self-loathing, that Lara feels like the worst friend right now. “Then I come out here and treat you like shit…”

“Don’t feel bad. I deserved it. You were right, I’m a stuck-up bitch.” Vicky looks down, not being able to look at her friend right now. “It started back when I was fourteen when I ran away with my friend, Neal. He was sort of like you, in a way.” Vicky smiles lightly before going on. “It was hard, ya know. Going from place to place. Until we met some guy, and man he hooked us up. The drugs, the drugs were heaven. But then we always wanted more, and the withdrawals were agony, always looking for a fix. And when you lose your stash, when you think someone stole it from you..the drugs, the dealers, they make you do things that are beyond torture.”

Lara remains quiet, instead letting her friend vent. “Every night was the same. I would stab myself with those...those fucking demons. I would feel so good, like I was in paradise..and then I woke up. Some withdrawals were worse than others, but most of the time it felt like someone was slowly cutting me open. But I kept going back to them, every-single-damn-day.”

“I got over it, eventually, but it was to late by then. I fucked up my life to much by then.” Vicky finally looks at her friend, who stares at her, listening to every word with her full attention.

“But look at you now.” Lara finally says. “You...picked up your life. You got over your addiction. Do you know how many people never get over addictions?” For a moment there was a flash of pain in Lara’s eyes, like she could be referring to herself, but quickly goes back to Vicky. “You’re a strong woman, I can say that much.” Lara nudges her shoulder. “I can respect that.”

“I don’t deserve your respect, Lara.”

“Yeah, you do.”

Vicky looks at Lara once again and smiles at her. “You know why I didn’t want to travel around the states with you? Because Neal and I were going to do the same thing. We were so excited at first, but our plan didn’t work, obviously. He got into the drugs just like me. I watched him suffer, I watched his mind warp, and I watched him die. You remind me so much of him. You’re both funny, confident, and caring.” Vicky buries her head in her hands, not wanting Lara to see the tears she might produce. “I didn’t want to see that happen to you. I couldn’t. With all the shit out there now, it was only bound to happen.”

Lara stretches out her hand and puts it around Vicky’s shoulders, where she pulls her friend closer, allowing Vicky’s head to rest on her shoulder. “Do you know why I wanted to travel around?” She pats Vicky’s head. “Because I wanted to be with you. That’s the only reason why. You’re my bff, Vics. Probably one of the only real friends I have. If you don’t wanna go, then whatevs. I’ll go where you go, alright?”

In that moment Vicky quickly embraces her friend, and the embrace is deep. Lara soon returns it with an embrace just as deep. "Thank you." Vicky whispers to her friend.

"I should be thanking you. You somehow stuck around with me all these years." Lara chuckles, while they still embrace.

Once exiting their embrace Vicky stands to her feet, with Lara soon joining her. “I gotta go take a nap or something.” Vicky says, rubbing her head while doing so.

“Need company?”

“No, you go back and hang out with the others.” Lara hesitates but Vicky pushes her into the direction of the theater room. “Go.”

Lara smiles at Vicky one more time before giving her a quick hug. Just like that she reluctantly walks away, while Vicky heads back to her tent.


“How the--this is some bullcrap.” Ryker groans, putting down the Wii controller while doing so. “I was in first. How the hel--heck does a blue shell fly up and attack me?” Ryker laments, having just a lost a round of Mario Kart Wii. At first he was doing great, knocking out bitches left and right with some shells, but then some fucking shell exploded on him and got last. Last.

Next to him on the couch sits his son Kyle, who is laughing uncontrollably at his father’s defeat. Kyle was lucky enough to get first. “What’s so funny” Ryker asks.

“You’re a sore loser, daddy.” Kyle laughs in Ryker’s face, making the old man smirk slightly.

“I was in first for like the whole game.”

“But who plays as Wario? He’s slow.”

“He looked cooler than your guy.”

“I had Luigi, dad. You can’t beat Luigi.”

“Yeah? Well look at Wardo’s--”

“Wario.”

Wario’s muscles, and he’s got that biker look too.”

“That’s fat, dad, not muscles.”

“What? No way.”

“Yeah way.”

“Fine. Remath. Right here, right now.” Ryker challenges, to which his son puts on a bright smile, but beyond the wide smile of a child was a look of determination. Very much like his father Kyle loved a challenge. “I call dibs on that Yoshi thing.”

“He’s a dinosaur.”

“That thing is not a dinosaur.”

“Yes it is.”

“No, my son, it is not.” Ryker selects Yoshi, while Kyle does his favorite, Luigi, once more. However, before anyone of them can hit start, a voice calls Ryker out of his father-son fun time. It was a voice he instantly recognized as Gabriel Parker, a close friend of his and right-hand man. Gabriel only joined the empire about a year and a half ago but he quickly moved his up the ranks with his strength, determination, and above all, his loyalty. Ryker never judged a man by his size or intelligence, instead he judges a man by two things. One of them is loyalty.

Ryker turns his head around to see Gabriel entering the room with a smug look on his face. He was a fairly good looking man with dark hair and a fair build, and he always wore the same unzipped black leather jacket. “Mr. Ryker,” he calls again, putting his hands behind his back.

“Is everything okay?” Ryker puts down his Wii remote and stands to his feet, taking the time to adjust his shirt while at it. “Because I’m having a great time playing--Mario Kart here.”

“No problem at all, sir. But I got news.”

“News?” Gabriel nods. “Well spit it out.”

“I think we should discuss it..privately.” He does a quick nod toward Kyle, who sits ready to play the game with his father. Truth be told it wasn’t bad news it all but it wasn’t news that Ryker wanted talked about near his son. Believe it or not Ryker didn’t want his son to follow his vile footsteps.

“Okay. We’ll discuss in my office.”

“But dad,” Kyle turns around with a child pout on his face, “what about our game?”

“We’ll play later.” Ryker gives him an encouraging smile and rubs his head. “Sound good?”

No. It didn’t sound good at all. Kyle doesn’t get to play with his dad often so he was hoping this moment would last for awhile, but like always, Ryker had to work. There was nothing Kyle could do to persuade him to play more so he just pouted. “Okay.” He speaks with the voice of a sad little boy.

“Hey, don’t be like that. We’re gonna play more later.” Ryker gives him a pat on the back before departing with Gabriel, whom he quickly gives a mutter to about how important this better be. Once out of the room with Gabriel, Ryker puts on a more serious look, with the first step being putting on his glasses. “So what is this news that was so important that you needed to yank me away?” He asks with slight annoyance in his tone.

“We found a group of people holding out in Las Margaritas.” Las Margaritas was a Mexican restaurant that was personally one of his favorites, despite it’s owners. “They had a good amount of supplies. Food, water, some weapons.”

“What about the people?”

“Some of them put up a fight, so naturally we had to take them out. Some of them, on the other hand, surrendered and asked that we spare them.”

“Did you?”

“Take a look for yourself.” Gabriel guides Ryker to the auditorium, where he immediately spots a group of latino people sitting on the couch at gunpoint. The auditorium itself was like the guard room. It was stocked with weapons while chairs and tables were set up around the area, which acted like a recreation place for the guards. “They got a okay build and they’re fast. I don’t know about you but I say we recruit them.”

“Get rid of them.” He denies his opinion almost immediately and without a second thought.

“You sure? We could use some extra hands and some diversity. Not to be racist but there’s not a single non-white person here.” Gabriel smirks in a joking matter, trying to add some lighthearted humor for them to be recruited. Ryker’s blank face doesn’t falter.

“Get rid of them.” He commands, to which Gabriel simply shrugged and nodded toward the guard watching them, who got the message. Just like that they were taken care of, with both men without even the slightest flinch. It’s a sad thing really how both men show zero remorse at the act, but that’s just how the world raised them. The world treated them like shit so they became shit whose loved giving pain to others. In fact they have seen the worst in humanity so the act of watching a man beg for his life is like watching two black girls fight: It’s wrong, yes, but it’s something they can’t help but smile at. Good job world, you raised two psychopaths.

“So has there been any updates on any potential ‘safe-zones’ that can help us?”

“There is that mall place. What was it? Franklin Mills, right?”

“I believe so.”

“Well, there has to be some people there. I say we take a team, go in and take what we need.”

“Cute.” Ryker mocks, giving a chuckle at his suggestion. “No, no, Gabriel. We don’t strike, not yet anyways.”

“Why not?”

“You don’t kick a dog while it’s down, that would just be cruel. You let it get up, let the beast become strong, then kick it all you want.” Ryker begins to walk out of the room, signalling Gabriel to join him. Ryker always did enjoy to just walk. “Tell me. What’s a dog like when first purchased?”

“I don’t know.” Gabriel shrugs. He never had a dog, in fact, he never really had anything. “Untrained, weak, loud.”

“Exactly. Now you see that mall is just bringing in a bunch of strangers and makes them all bunk under the same roof. They don’t know each other, they don’t know how to work with each other, and they all have their own motivations.” Ryker sees that Gabriel does not understand. “Don’t you see what I’m getting at?”

“Can’t say that I am.”

“The mall, all together, is weak. They don’t know how to work together, they’re untrained. There’s so many people in there with their own lives, so they are loud. It’s a dog, and I’m not gonna kick it just yet. Yes, I may keep my foot, waiting to strike, but I don’t kick it just yet. We’re gonna sit back and wait until the place is strong, when there’s more people, more supplies. When they are most useful to us. It doesn’t just for the mall, it goes for all of those ‘safe’ zones. You’ll get your chance to kick the shit out of it, but you won’t kill it. Once you’ve taken them down like a man you bring it in and make them work for you.” Gabriel nods. “Do you understand now, Gabriel?”

“Yes, sir. We wait until they’re strong and useful to you, then we put them on their knees.”

“Correct. So for the next few months we’re gonna sit back and watch until,” Ryker kicks some dirt off the ground, “we give them a kick. You see I don’t just wanna take over the city by killing everyone, that would be boring. I wanna start an empire, Gabriel. An empire. The competition is gone, and now I swoop in and recruit people to join me. Either willingly or with methods.”

The duo walk past a window in the hallway where Ryker looks out of the glass and into the city. The once great city that is now full of death, debry, and countless other things. This ruined city is now open for the taking. “This city is out for the taking, Gabriel, and I intend to get it.”


He never knew what it was like, actually. To be truly alone. He always had people pretending to be his friend, and with the snap of his fingers he could have people with him. Daniel was always alone in his heart after Isabella’s death, but at least he could pretend to have friends. Now, he has no power. Now he can’t do anything like that. He can’t buy friends.

The two girls who tried be honest friends with him he pushed away. Why? Because of who he naturally was. Daniel was an asshole.

With his hands in his pockets, Daniel walks around the mall, more alone than ever. He didn’t know what to do now. No one to kill, no meetings to attend, no night clubs, just this mall. What was he supposed to do with his life? Lets say this outbreak ends at some point, could he go back to his power? Or would people come after him?

Then he began to think about it. He didn’t need friends. He didn’t need any of that fucking shit, why? Because he was Daniel Brown. One of the most powerful men in the city. He was better than these...these peasants. He didn’t need friends, he needed power. He quenched for his power back every moment. He needed it. He was nothing without his power. Nothing.

He began to think more. It’s because of people that he no longer holds his power. These peasants. His bodyguard crew were full of hired peasants and they fucking betrayed him. Betrayal was one of the most worst things ever, to him. The people in this mall are peasants who are just quenching for power like he had. Oh, but they were not gonna get it. If he couldn’t get his power back right now then he would make damn sure they didn’t get it; he’s gonna make their lives a living hell. He can’t harm any of them because that could get him killed, but he can put than below his feet. Because he is better than these people.

He is Daniel fucking Brown, and he will not be treated like a nobody. Still, he can’t reveal who he is, not just yet.


8 Years Ago, 2005

It’s been a day since the phone call, and even though she hanged up, she can’t bring herself from going to far from the payphone. Half of her wanted to call back and beg for forgiveness, but another half was scared. Would Lynn still love her? Will Ethan be a dick to her? There are so many possibilities, and at the moment, the cons are outweighing the pros.

“Shit..” She mutters to herself as her thoughts get cluttered. Why can’t things just go easy for her? Just for once?

Groaning, she decides to look around the area to clear her thoughts. New York City really was a crowded place full of lots of people, lots of different people. She first looks at a family walking happily down the street, consisting of two parents and their little girl. She used to be like that little girl. Her, Lynn and her father would walk around and explore the cities, like a happy old family. Then...he died. Cancer. Bone cancer, to be more specific. It was just one of the first tears at her.

She then looked over to a little girl riding her bike alone down the streets alone. She was sad, judging from the look on her face, but still hasn’t fully giving up. Vicky remembers being like that too. After her father died she would ride on her bike all day long hoping that the pain would just go away. It never did. Then one day her tire broke and she was stranded almost a mile or two away from her house. It was late. What was she to do? A man offered to bring her home, and being the naive girl she was, she accepted; he didn’t take her home. He abused her, tried to even murder her. Luckily, she was saved by Detective Ethan Brash. Still, that was the second tear at her.

Looking over an alleyway she sees a hooded man standing there, duffle bag in hand. She knew right away it was just another drug dealer, one of the people that caused her so much pain. Still, looking at that man, at the drugs he had, made her shake. She wanted some. It’s been so long since she had a taste. For a moment she thought about having a small taste, just a small little taste of the drugs. Luckily, she remembered what they did to her. What they did to Neal. Heroin was the third tear at her.

In an unexpected moment Vicky found herself bursting out in tears, right there in the middle of public. She sat there on the edge of the fountain crying her little eyes out. Why did life have to do this to her? She didn’t deserve this, right? Life was a bitch, that’s for sure, and she certainly doesn’t have any hope of picking it back up.

As she sat there crying, she soon sees a man sit down next to her. She doesn’t get a look at his face, but he’s dressed nicely. “You okay?” He asks her, but Vicky doesn’t respond at first, instead crying.

“I’m fine.” Is all she mutters out in her tears; she was also afraid of this stranger. She’s done trusting them, that’s for sure. “You can go, sir. I’m really okay.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Victoria.” The man says, and Vicky freezes in her place. How does this man know her name? Slowly she looks up at him and she recognizes him within a second. Not even a second, more like a milli-second.

“Ethan?” She asks to the man.

“Yeah, it’s me.” Ethan Brash confirms, smirking slightly while doing so. Vicky only stares shocked at him, not knowing what to say. Of course it wasn’t shocking that Ethan wouldn't give her a big hug and kiss, that’s not who he is. He’s a gruff man, and their relationship isn’t that good for him to reveal his passionate side.

“How did you find me?” Is the first thing she asks, not a hello or anything. Ethan points over to the payphone.

“Tracked the call.” Ethan sees the confusion in Vicky’s face. “I got friends in high places. I tracked it easily.”

“Oh.” Vicky looks down. “How is she?”

“Like you would expect when your missing kid calls. A wreck.” Vicky looks down in shame. “She misses you.”

“I missed her too.” She whimpers. “Where is she?”

“Around here somewhere. We split up to find you..”

“Oh.” She would be lying if she said she wasn’t scared. She didn’t even know what Ethan would say. He was always a silent man but he held in so much anger. Would he flip on her right there in public? “You’re not gonna ask why I ran away?”

“We both knew why you ran. No need to ask.” He shrugs in awkwardness. “”Did you do anything you regret?”

He takes Vicky’s silence as a yes. “Break any laws?” He notices her change in body expression, but instead of saying anything, just rubs his temple. It was in that moment that he thought something on Vicky’s sleeve. “Roll up your sleeve.”

“What?”

“Roll it up.” He repeats. Reluctantly she complies and rolls up her sleeve slightly, allowing Ethan to see the heroin injects. He doesn’t say anything but she can feel the disappointed look. “Jesus Christ…”

“I’m sorry.” Are the only words she can muster up in the moment. “I got scared and...felt so much pain. It seemed look a good option.”

“Of course it did.” He scoffs. “Pain is one of the factor that leads to addiction.” Vicky can’t help but feel awkward right now. She should be happy to see Ethan, but it just feels awkward talking personally with him. “I once had a cousin named Denise. She was a young, energetic woman. One of my closest friends actually. She started dating this punk, though, and she became obsessed with him. So naturally she felt so much pain when he dumped her. The only way out of the pain, in her mind, were drugs.” Ethan sighs. “One night she drove when high, and wanna know what happened?.”

“What?”

“She hit a mother crossing the street with her infant baby.” Ethan replies darkly. “The pain wrecked her, so she overdosed that night.” Ethan looks down in that moment, in slight pain thinking about the memory. Vicky doesn’t know what to say herself so instead opts to remain silent. “How did your addiction end?” He could tell her addiction was over. If not she would be looking around with a crazy eye, scared to see a cop like him.

Vicky doesn’t reply, and Ethan knows she won’t tell him. “You don’t gotta tell me. It’s fine.” Ethan, in a mixture of both nervousness and awkwardness, taps his foot on the ground. “Point is. Addiction never ends good, I hope you learned that.”

“I did.”

“Good. Pain is the alpha and omega for addiction, always has been and always will be.” Ethan ponders his next words. “I won’t tell Lynn.”

“What?!” She asks in complete shock. “Why not?”

“I did things I regretted as a teenager. Informing my parents did nothing, made it worse actually. You learned it was wrong and you’re sorry, that’s enough for me.”

The two sit there in silence for a moment, neither knowing what to say. Vicky is a silent person now and Ethan is a gruff man who doesn’t show emotion. “I’m sorry.” Vicky finally says, looking over at Ethan in the eyes. “For running away.”

“Don’t be. You’re safe now, that’s all that matters.”

“Thanks.”

“No need to thank me.” Ethan very reluctantly stretches out his hand and pats her back. “Youre life isn’t over, I hope you know that.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“But I do. Victoria, you’re young, you have plenty of time left in life, You’ll pick yourself back up, alright? I know you will.”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t.” Ethan sighs. “Look, I’m not a father, alright? I’m not good at this stuff. But just know that….I’m here for you.”

“I know. I know.” Vicky mutters, and just like that the two sit in silence again.

“Alright well, I’ll call up Lynn and tell her I found you.” Ethan gets up and takes out his phone, while Vicky watches him nervous.

Still, his words had her thinking. Could she pick up her life? Or was it truly over?


Ethan once again walks down the halls, fiddling with the lighter in his hands. Repeatedly he would flip it on and off, on and off, watching the flames appear and disappear. Sadly he had run out of cigarettes, but luckily, he had more back at his tent. So here he was going back to get more. Nothing better to do afterall.

He got some glances from bystanders due to this action, some concerned he might accidentally started a fire. Not like Ethan cared about that. He cared little for it, actually. He didn’t care about the looks others gave him, never did, never will.

Sighing out of boredom, Ethan soon finds himself walking by a nice indoor fountain. It was a place where kids would come to toss in coins and make a wish, it was nice, in a way. However, while looking at the fountain, he noticed a young girl standing near it, her eyes staring into the water. He watched as the woman flipped in a coin, where it splashed it’s way in, and slowly sunk to the bottom, with the woman watching it the full way down.

In that moment Ethan thought he recognized the woman. Brown hair, brown eyes, and a pretty face. It was Vicky. Ethan couldn’t believe it at first and watched her in shock. After a minute he concluded that it was indeed Vicky. His step-daughter was alive, he couldn’t believe it. He..he thought she was dead.

He made his way over there nervous, trying to find the right words to say. How would he tell her that Lynn is dead? He had no idea, so he just had to wing it. He makes his way up next to her, and she didn’t pay any attention to him, instead staring endlessly into the water. “Victoria.” He speaks, and this time she instantly recognizes his voice. She turns toward him.

“Ethan?” She asks both surprised and shocked, and he nods. This meeting instantly starts out different from last time as Vicky hugs him tightly, and in return he gives her a hug.

“I thought you were dead.” Ethan starts out while exiting the hug. Vicky only chuckles at the comment.

“It’s gonna take a lot more to kill me.” She chuckles slightly more. “It’s why I knew you had to be okay. Nothing can take down Ethan Brash.”

“Of course not.” Ethan smiles, delaying when to tell her about Lynn. “So how’d you get here?”

“You remember Lara?” She asks, prompting him to answer with a nod. “We came up here here together.”

“Good. Good.”

“So how about you?”

“I...got a ride up here with some people. Nice people.”

“Sweet. So where’s mom?” This was the moment where he had to come clean, he had no idea about Lynn’s death. He sighed, and grabbing Vicky’s hand he sat her down on the edge of the fountain. Vicky saw his body language and his nervousness, and knew something had to be up.

“Vicky, there’s something you gotta know.”

She bites her lip. She knew what he was going to say, it was obvious, but she could still hope otherwise. “What is it?”

“Lynn…..she didn’t make it. Not just to the mall, I mean--”

“I know.” She informs him, and Ethan notices how her body language changes to almost frozen. He didn’t expect otherwise. Still, she seems like she’s taking it well, like she’s not crying.

“I’m sorry. I--I wasn’t there for her. Those things just broke in and….”

“You don’t gotta explain.” Vicky stops him, and just like that their mood turns silent. They both silently grieve her. Ethan, already did most of his grieving with the head bashing of infected, but now’s Vicky’s time. Just like that she lets loose a few tears, and that soon turns into crying. Ethan, knowing that no words will fix this, simply extends his hand and puts it around her, allowing her to cry onto his shoulder. They sit there for a few minutes, with Vicky crying into his shoulder, with Ethan maybe patting her shoulder every now and then.

“She was a great woman.” He finally says in attempts to comfort him. “We should remember her for who she was, and be happy we knew her.”

“I know.” Vicky finally says. “I know. I just--I haven’t talked to her in such a long time. I forgot the last words I spoke to her.”

“She loved you, trust me I know.” Vicky finally stops her crying and exits the comfort of Ethan’s shoulder, but he still keeps his arm around her. “I know we haven’t exactly been close, Vicky, but I’m here for you.”

At first Vicky doesn’t reply, instead thinking inside that head of hers. After a minute she speaks. “My mom loved us both so much. We were the world to her.” Ethan nods. “So I think we need to change that.”

“Change what?”

“Our...relationship, I don’t know. She always wanted us to be closer, so, it’s either now or never, you know?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Ethan scratches his temple. “So how exactly do we..become closer?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugs. “By sharing personal feelings?” Her suggestion causes them to both chuckle slightly, knowing that isn’t the best option. “We’ll just talk more, go out for lunch maybe. We’ll take baby-steps. Sound good?”

“Sounds good.” Ethan says, and it is in that moment he begins to feel something. Lynn was the love of his life, and she’s gone. But here he has Vicky, her daughter, one of the people Lynn loved most. Ethan and Vicky are family. Vicky is Ethan’s last remaining family, and likewise. Ethan was always a family man, so with Vicky right here, he began to feel purpose again. Motivation again. He had to keep Vicky safe. “Sounds good.”

Issues of Endangered
Arc 1
Volume 1

1 - Ruined 2 - Father of the Year 3 - Party Girl 4 - It's Been Over 5 - One Wrong Move 6 - Lost 7 - Reporter 8 - Lost and Found 9 - Talk 10 - Brown 11 - Confront 12 - Calm Before the Storm

Arc 2
Volume 2

13 - Chaos 14 - Old Friends, New Enemies 15 - State of Emergency 16 - Just Watch the Sunset 17 - Trust is Weakness 18 - The Riots are the Worst 19 - The Riots are the Worst, Part 2 20 - Not Even the Apocalypse Can Stop Us from Shopping 21 - The Sixth Sense 22 - A Game of What If? 23 - Pain is the Alpha and Omega for Addiction 24 - You Can Never Change

Volume 3

25 - It Not a Small World After-All 26 - Ghosts From the Past and the Demons That Follow 27 - The Coward, The Opportunist, and the New World 28 - Surrounded by the Unseen Foe 29 - Lost Souls 30 - City of Brotherly Love 31 - The Truth Will Set You Free 32 - A Sacrifice of Blood 33 - This Isn't a Video Game 34 - P.T.S.D 35 - A Helping Hand 36 - No Mercy

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