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Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)
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Simon Toews
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon sat outside the highrise, waiting for his new client to come down and meet him. Some bigshot CEO, he'd been told. That world never really interested him, outside of the paycheck, but a gig was a gig. It had been weeks since the blow out with Tessa's parents. Corrine pulled some serious strings to get him here. Part of him considered taking the generous chunk of money Tahlia had kicked his way and live off that for a while...but two weeks without work and he was going stir crazy.

Simon wasn't a "sit around the house" kind of guy. Part of him missed life on Virgil's farm. The routine had done him a world of good when he'd needed it most. He rearranged the condo twice before Corrine got home and tore him a new one. He'd never admit it, but if we was honest, he spent most of that time looking for any information on Tessa. He saw that she had tour dates, so she must have healed up since that night. Simon couldn't get her off his mind. He felt responsible, as if he'd abandoned her. It ate at him every second he wasn't occupied with something else. The day Paige told him about the new job was a gift. The sentiment would not last.

The client exited the building. He was tall, in decent shape. Not a single salt and pepper colored hair was out of place. His impeccably tailored black suit accented with a red power tie. Simon could see him talking before he heard him, yacking away into the Bluetooth headset on his ear. On first sight, Simon could tell he didn't like this guy. Just the way he moved reeked of an excess of unearned confidence.

The client yanked open the door and slipped in without so much as a "Hello."

"Triton Corp.". He said. "123rd and Gale. Radio off."

Like he was a ****ing cab driver. Simon eyed him in the rearview with silent disdain, images playing through his head of dragging the man out of the car and beating him to a pulp, but he just reached over and turned to volume down to zero. The man went right back to talking way too loudly to the person on the other end. Simon summoned up every last bit of patience he had and put the car in drive.

For a half an hour he listened to every racist, misogynistic, homophobic and braggadocious thing this jerk off said, hating him more and more by the second. Simon was actually grateful the son of a bitch barely spared him a glance, let alone a word.

To say the rest of the ride was in silence would be inaccurate, with the client bragging to whoever was on the other end of that call about some hooker he'd ****ed. Simon couldn't help but notice the wedding band around his finger then, the bile rising again. Flashes of men he'd known in his past came in waves. Vicious, soulless men who never quite left his mind. Their faces forever etched upon his being, haunting his dreams. That he was now forced to protect one of them made him sick to his stomach. Suddenly, Tessa Bradley was a breath of fresh air in comparison.

The day went on, Simon playing chauffeur to his deplorable client. Running into convenience stores and getting his food for him, the urge to quit rising by the second. But he needed the work. Grin and bear it, he decided. And if all else fails...just lock him in the car and drive it in the river!

He was forced to escort the man to some meeting with other such bigwigs, but was not allowed in the room. He wound up sitting in the waiting room, alone with the secretary. Pretty girl with auburn hair done up in a professional, tight bun. Ice blue eyes kept flicking his way. Whether it was out of nervousness or intrigue, he couldn't tell. Simon was aware of the positives and negatives of his appearance and his effect on other people. Some women saw a tough, sexpot. Others saw a possible danger that was more likely to be escorted by cops than leave of his own volition. He just offered that mildly bemused little smile and nodded her way whenever he caught her.

The secretary forced a polite smile and went back to work, burying her head in her typing. Simon watched her out of the corner of his eye a moment.

"You like working here?" He asked her, disliking the silence.

She looked up, almost startled, her brows rising upwards. "Hm?"

"Working for these guys. You like it?"

"Oh..."She said, a bit awkwardly, glancing back toward the door. "Uh...yeah. It's got its moments."

That amused little smirk crossed his face. He could tell she was lying. "Does it?"

For a moment she looked unsure, almost offended. She went to speak, but the words didn't come. Instead, a little grin came over her features.

"I gotta tell ya," he said "If it's half as fun as my job, I'm thinkin' you and me should go halfsies on lobotomies."

A little chuckle left her, but she immediately tried to suppress it, lest they somehow magically were listening.

"Guy's a ****in' nightmare..." Simon chuckled. "What's your name?"

"Bridgette." She said, visibly relaxing a bit.

"Simon." He said, hand to his chest.

"What do you do, Simon? Personal assistant?"

"Bodyguard." He responded.

Those blue eyes of her's ran over him and she nodded. "Yeah. That makes sense."

"Yeah?" Simon said wryly. "Tell him that. ****er thinks I'm his goddamn go-fer."

Bridgette glanced back at the door a moment and leaned forward conspiratorially. "To be honest, they're all like that." She said with a roll of her eyes. "I swear, another one of them walks by and stares at my chest like they're the damn stock market, I think I'm going to scream."

Simon grinned and nodded. "What is this place? What do...uh...what do they do?"

"Oh. We oversee a lot of the trade coming into and out of the city. Or...they do, I suppose." She muttered.

"But not you?" He said.

"I fetch them coffee and bring them papers." She practically pouted.

"Not the dream job." He nodded.

"No. Not at all." she grimaced.

"Well, sister. I feel your pain." He said standing up from that Italian leather chair and started toward a cubby hole in one corner of the room, stopping and glancing her way. "Coffee?"

There was a moment of panic in Bridgette's face then. "Oh. Um...you-" she glanced back at the door. "I should really be getting that for you."

Simon made a face. "Come on. Old friends like us? I can do you a solid." he joked.

"No. I could get fired." She said firmly. It stopped Simon in his tracks. "I shouldn't even be talking to you like this."

Simon frowned. What a life they lead. Terrified of losing something they hated. Part of him thought he would have been better off if he did. As much as the world put forth the idea that people are all in control of their own destinies, he knew better. Men like his client, like her employer...they had real power. They had sway. Simon could take a life, end it quick, but these men could take a livelihood. Bleed people out until they had nothing. Make them wish they were dead.

The door opened and the businessmen filed out talking and laughing loudly, making sure everyone could hear how clever and hilarious they weren't. Bridgette immediately ducked down and went back to typing. The client didn't even address him upon exiting, just walked right past him. It was a nigh imperceptible glance, but he caught a look from her. Wordlessly, they said to each other "Good Luck."
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The road to recovery didn't last nearly long enough for Simon's liking. Before he knew it, he was on his feet again. Every Saturday, they would be loaded up into trucks and taken away to a new fight. Simon stuck on the sidelines, watching.

Anna had withdrawn from him in the weeks that followed his discussion with Falk. He tried to engage her, ask her what happened, but she just rolled over and turned her back to him, refusing to even speak. Eventually, he took the hint and backed off.

If they time did anything for him, it gave him perspective on the other kids and the way they fought. He analyzed their habits, their strengths, formulating plans should he face them. Because plans ALWAYS survived in combat, right?

He lay on the cold, dirty ground, asleep when he could manage. But even the whispers of the others woke him. He heard the name "Anna" and it piqued his interest. Slowly, cautiously, he peered over through slit eyelids. Two of the bigger boys stood over her sleeping form. She didn't work, didn't fight anymore. The head guard issued threats that they would all be punished if she continued her refusal, but it didn't seem to phase her.

"I think she's asleep." one of them said to the other.

"Good. It'll be easy, then." Simon knew the voice. Nicholas had put him out of commission for weeks and now it seemed he wanted to do the same to Anna. The taller boy reared back ready to stomp Anna's face in. But he wasn't paying attention to what was happening behind him.

Simon caught him from the side, the full weight of his body slamming into Nicholas' waist and taking him down. The older boy caught unaware, Simon managed to climb up and straddle his torso. He brought back that still-healing fist and just started punching. Something inside of him must have dulled the pain, because he hit and hit and hit as hard as he could while his opponent sputtered blood and flailed about in a panic.
The other kid's arms wrapped around his chest, pulling Simon off of Nicholas. His bloodied nemesis began to rise, but Simon kicked out both feet, connecting with the boy's face and sending him careening back, his head cracking loudly against the concrete.

His new attacker, threw an arm across his throat, Simon struggling and clawing to get some air. But the boy just gripped harder, Simon's eyes beginning to bulge as it started to get dark. He tried to jab backwards with a few thrown elbows, but they were inconsequential. His limbs weakened and his body began to sag. God knew what they'd do to him while he was out. Were he more present of mind, he might actually be able to worry about it.

Suddenly, the grip loosened. Anna kicked out the boy's knee from one side. She grabbed him by the head as he dropped, and kneed him hard in the face, knocking him onto his back. Simon coughed and struggled to regain his breath. His eyes widened as he saw Nicholas approach from behind. He tried to shout, but the words didn't come out.

Anna struggled against the stronger kid to little avail. She shrieked like a wild animal, so he tried to clamp a hand over her mouth. The girl immediately bit into his hand, hard as she possibly could, drawing blood along with a scream. As soon as his grip loosened, she threw her head back, cracking him in the face. Anna tore free from his grasp, whipped around and grabbed a handful of hair, holding his head in-place while she punched him in the face again and again and again. His blood ran down her chin and sprayed on her with every impact of her fist.

Finally, Nicholas was able to get his arms around her waist and tackle her to the ground, making use of his weight advantage. Anna clawed as best she could at his face, but he knocked her arms aside. Before he could do anything else Simon launched himself through the air and slammed into him, bringing him down to Anna's side. Simon beat on his face as hard as he could, hitting him over and over again. He was out for payback. He was out for blood.

"What the **** is *this*?!" A booming voice rang out. Stills lumbered into the cell, shoving the other kids aside. Simon didn't stop. He was going to get as many hits in as he could before the inevitable came. He cocked back his fist to throw another punch, but Stills grabbed him from behind and dragged him off of the unconscious, bloodied Nicholas.

"Goddammit, boy, you just don't ****in' learn, do ya?" Anna was on pure adrenaline, running over and trying to grab her friend out of the big man's grasp. She clawed and punched and kicked, doing little more than annoying him.

"Oh, you want to join him, sweetheart?"

Stills hauled off and back handed her to the ground, and threw Simon into the wall. Simon took the blow and turned ready to attack. Stills pointed at him, the boy stopping in his tracks. "You calm the **** down and don't ****in' move!"

Still looked over the mess Anna and Simon had left of the two boys, running a hand through his thinning hair. "Jesus Christ. Look at this ****." He muttered, shaking his head. "Vincent! Eddie! I need a hand here."

Simon and Anna watched as the two men came in dragging the unconscious boys from the room, a little grin offered to each other. Stills stopped at the cell door and turned to the two of them pointing. "You little pricks want to fight, you do it in the ****in' ring! I see this **** again, and I'm putting you both through the ****in' wall! Clean yourselves up!"

The door slammed shut with a clang.

Anna was a mess, covered in blood and sporting a fresh bruise where she'd been backhanded by Stills, but there was a big smile on her face.

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Simon Toews
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The client's assistant called Simon at 7 am, waking him from a dead sleep. He was to accompany the businessman to a gala event that evening. Great. He'd get to spend the evening with the obscenely wealthy and people just like or worse than his client. One was bad enough, this sounded like a wide-awake nightmare.

Still, he took in a breath and confirmed that he would be there. The phone hung up, he ran his hands down his face before brushing one through his short-cropped hair. With a deep cleansing breath, he pushed up off his bed. Living with Paige had him keeping the room damn near spotless. A far cry from his old place, an abandoned factory in the industrial district. That place was a bit of a hole. It looked better now that it was burned down, Simon often joked.

He shuffled out, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, making his way down the hall toward the main living area. Corrine sat at the table, flicking through the news on her iPad, giving him a glance as he entered. "Mornin'." she greeted him. "Coffee's on the pot."

"Thanks." Simon said, a bit groggy. "You need breakfast?"

"You makin' breakfast?" She smirked back. The months they'd lived together had developed an easy, mellow routine for the two of them. They were comfortable with each other, and Paige would never admit it, but she appreciated having the company.

"Yeah, what the hell?" He shrugged and started gathering the accoutrements for the meal. "That guy called."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Simon muttered unhappily. "Guess who gets to hang out with the rich and powerful tonight."

Paige snickered. "Oh, you'll love that."

"***' nightmare." Simon shook his head. "I swear. This gig lasts much longer, I'm going to boot this dude out the door in the middle of a bad neighborhood."

Corrine glanced up from her iPad, an unamused look in her eyes. "Toews. Don't you *** this up. I'm warning you."

"Come on." Simon complained. "He's a dick."

"He's a wealthy, powerful dick who can shut us down if you *** with him. So, for me...just deal for now. Please." She pleaded sternly. "Besides, you make more contacts tonight, and maybe we might be able to find you something better."

He didn't like it, but his options weren't exactly in abundance. "You're gonna owe me somethin' fierce for this." Simon told her.

Paige looked at him like he MUST have lost his mind, a derisive laugh leaving her. "Yeah, we'll take it out of the massive pile of debt you currently owe me, Toews."
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Simon Toews
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2018 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Cw: sexual assault)
Fighting became a way of life. Together, Anna and Simon would spar whenever they could, honing their skills, readying themselves for the inevitable call to the ring. Through the hell and misery of life under Falk's ownership, the sparring sessions became the highlight of their days. At least it was something to keep their minds off of the reality in which they lived, an escape where they had control over something.

Fight night came every week and week after painful, brutal week, Simon was on the losing end. He spent more time getting patched up than.any one person should. But he found, as time went on, he was getting in more and more hits, dealing more and more of his own punishment to his opponents. He was becoming stronger, more resilient. The bigger kids were slowly, but surely becoming less and less big.

Tonight, though...the losing streak came to an end.

His opponent was about his size. A tough-looking boy with his short hair shaved into a mohawk. He probably had a name, but Simon didn't care to learn it. He tried not to anymore. He was just "Mohawk". For 15 minutes the pair of them wrestled and grappled, punched and kicked, each trading the upper hand back and forth. Finally, in an exhausted moment between the lunges, Simon saw his opening. Through the blood,sweat and pain, he reached out, grabbed Mohawk by the shoulders and drove his knee into the boy's stomach. The air rushed out like a rapidly deflating balloon, but Simon never gave him a moment to recover. He immediately began a torrent of jabs to his opponent's face,pushing him back, back, back into the cage. Left followed right, then doubled up randomly so Mohawk couldn't see the pattern.

Finally, Simon drew himself low, and with every last bit he had threw a vicious uppercut, connecting with the kid's jaw. Mohawk's head snapped back and he went still. For a terrifying moment, Simon thought it had landed with no consequence. But then, he crumbled, hitting the ground with a resounding thud.

The boy lay on the ground, an unconscious heap of limp, broken meat.. Silence settled over the crowd for what felt like an eternity, and was then shattered when the crowd erupted in shouts and cheers. Simon stood stunned, staring at the results of his victory. As much as he hated these people, this whole situation...he found himself overcome with a rush of pride and adrenaline. The roar of the crowd filled him with something he would spend years trying to replicate. He'd tasted victory and he loved it.

He was ushered away by some of Falk's big goons, swept up in the idea that, for once, he wasn't being dragged in a beaten, bloody mess. The kids all waited in the cage, muttering to each other in surprised tones. They all looked excited and impressed...except for Anna. Simon's grin fell when they made eye contact as he was taken past the cages. There was something grim and forlorn there. Something knowing and painful. He kept his eyes on her as they moved onto the next room, the sad face of his only friend fading off into the distance as the joy and thrill of victory slowly drained from him.

The shower they let him take was heaven. Warm water, soap, even a clean towel when he was done. A fresh set of clothes lay in wait. If these were the perks of victory, he could get used to it. But the image of Anna's expression refused to leave.

He'd come to know Dr. Comstock well I'm all of his losses. The good doctor was never without a cigarette hanging from his lips. A craggy-faced man with white hair in his fifties, he had that raspy voice that stood at odds with a disarming, pleasant demeanor. He was one of the few people he didn't actively hate. The doctor patched him up, bandaging his wounds. "I saw your match." He said. "Very well done."

Simon couldn't help the smile that came. "Thanks."

The doctor glanced up at him, a little smirk forming. "Must feel good to walk out of there for a change, huh?" He chuckled.

"Yeah, pretty good." Simon sniffed a laugh despite himself. The doctor finished up with a butterfly bandage and moved to a cabinet, digging through its contents, removing a needle and vial. When he turned , there was something in his eyes that filled Simon with a vague sense of dread.

"What's that?" He asked.

"Just something to calm you." The doctor brushed away his concerns, forcing as convincing a smile as he could muster. "Your arm please?"

Something inside didn't sit right. Warning bells went off in his head, but still he offered his arm to the older man. The doctor tied him off, swabbed his forearm and stuck in the needle. Simon was surprised that the pain from the injection felt like nothing after all he'd been through. When he was finished, Comstock stood and disposed of everything.

"Now, I want you to just relax a bit. You need it, okay?"

Simon nodded as the man left the room. As the seconds ticked by, he found himself unable to focus his eyes, a faint dizziness suddenly rising up in him. The adrenaline wearing off, he thought. It was only when the room began to spin that he realized something was wrong. He attempted to push himself up off the examination table, but his legs immediately gave out and crumpled to the ground. Every sound seemed dulled, like he was hearing it from under water. Even his arms began to weaken and all he could do was lay there, conscious, but paralyzed.

The sound of the door opening reverberated in his head like a distant explosion, making him wince. He barely made out the shape that entered the room. From the low pitch, it had to be a man. The shade picked him up and lay him on the table, panic rushing through his entire body. The shape muttered something he couldn't make out and placed its hands upon him. Suddenly he knew what was about to happen.

The next hour would be a helpless nightmare. He was used, he was violated, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He now understood Anna's defeated, thousand yard stare. He knew where they took her those nights and what they'd done to her. He sank into despair trying to only focus on his empathy for her and not on the horror being inflicted upon him. They took his freedom. They took his innocence. And now, after everything...they had taken his hope. They had finally broken him.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2018 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He felt helpless. Weak. Dirty. Even victory now came at a price. The shame was unbearable. Everywhere he went, he was certain everyone knew and everyone was judging. They saw his weakness, his filthiness. He couldn't even look Anna in the eye.

She sat over him, watching as he withdrew into himself, refusing to eat or drink. Refusing even to sleep. She knew his pain all too well. The perverted rich and bored paid top dollar to bed the young "gladiators". Those first few times were soul shattering, but once the hope of salvation went, it became just a part of the whole, messy situation. Hatred filled you, not just for the abusers, but for yourself.

Some embraced it, just to cope. Some couldn't handle it and let it consume them until they just let themselves die. Others, like herself just learned to live with it. Somehow, they forced themselves to survive. To her, there were no other options.

Simon lay there night after night, a despondent lump. Even the slightest affectionate touch made the boy recoil and she withdrew. Letting him have his space.

Anna sat at his side, hugging her knees to her chest, just listening to him breathe. Finally, she stole a glance at his back. "I know it hurts." She said softly. "I know you feel like nothing will ever be good again."

Simon didn't respond.

"I know you want to give up and just let the end come. I wanted the same thing. I wanted to show them they could take everything, but my life would be my own to take." Her voice quivered. "But if I did that...if you do that...they'll just replace you with another. If you wither away...give up...they win. And *** them, Simon. You can't let them have this. You can't. You need to be strong. Even when you feel like you just can't be. If you want to beat them...you need to get back up, look them in the eye, and say 'Is that the best you can do, you cowards?'l

Simon didn't so much as stir.

"And if...". She paused, reconsidering her words. "WHEN you do...I'll be here. Right beside you. To the end. I promise." She said.

"Please, Simon." She whispered. "Don't leave me."

She leaned down and kissed the top of his head, going to move again and give him some space. The last thing she expected was for his hand to grab her's. He didn't look back, but pulled her toward him. Anna didn't fight it, she just slid in behind him, curling up against his back, and held him. His body shook as the tears left him, but she just held tighter, resting her forehead against the back of his. He would survive this, she decided. They both would.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The weeks since Simon's departure from her life were fraught with fear. After she recovered from the aftermath of Tony's abuse, she was assigned a new bodyguard. This one was much more loyal to her mother than Simon. He barely said a word, took her from place to place, and really didn't show much interest beyond collecting his paycheck. She'd tried to form some kind of bond with him, but damned if he ever listened or so much as responded beyond a single word.

When her mother arranged to get her to an invite to a party thrown by some of the most powerful and influential people in the city, it was almost a gift. Anything to get out of that penthouse for a night, even with her disinterested shadow in-tow. She was meant to go, network with some of the bigwigs, and generally do anything to further the Tessa Bradley brand. The attendees were all dressed to the nines, drinking exorbitantly expensive drinks and dining on finer foods than even she had ever had. A live band played quiet, mellow music over the chattering throng of suited old men and dolled up women of influence. Somehow, she got the feeling there wasn't a soul to be found among them.

Tessa had never felt more out of place. The people there largely ignored her, aside from some leering glances from some the old men. The looks that weren't leering were filled with disdain. How she was supposed to network with these people was beyond her. She glanced around the party, craving some manner of excitement or at least mild entertainment. Tessa picked at a plate of caviar, taking a quick taste and immediately wincing at the flavor. Not her kind of food.

"It's disgusting isn't it?" A male voice came from behind.

Tessa glanced over her shoulder finding a younger man standing there, a little older than herself. Something about him reminded her of Simon, be itthe blue eyes, the dark blonde hair, or his ruggedly handsome features. But mostly it was the fact that, though he wore a suit, he seemed like he wore it with a certain amount of disdain. She offered him that winning smile, washing down the caviar with a gulp of water. It was only slightly disingenuous, as she was glad to have SOMEONE around her age to talk to.

"Mm. I can't say I'm a fan." She responded.

He grinned and nodded. "You think they'd kick us out for ordering a pizza?"

"Maybe get a giant sub delivered?" She played along with a smirk.

"As long it's entirely bologna." He added.

Tessa laughed. "But not the good kind. The stuff that comes in the yellow container in the drug store."

The young man chuckled. "I think they'd riot."

Tessa laughed and looked around. "Can you imagine these stuffed suits in a riot? They'd knock over a glass and be all ‘Alright now, Penelope, let us not get carried away.'"

He laughed in response and offered a hand. The boy clearly worked for a living, from the shape of his hands. A rarity in a crowd like this. "Miles." He introduced himself.

Tessa gingerly took his hand. "Tessa. Tessa Bradley."

Miles sniffed out a little laugh. "Yeah, I know."

"You know?" she said feigning surprise.

"You're kind of a big deal, y'know?" He said.

Tessa's smile faded slightly. "I'm not, really. Not to these people anyway."

"These people still think Elvis is the epitome of popular entertainment." Miles countered, looking around with distaste.

Tessa couldn't help the smile that came to her lips. "Solid point." She was actually enjoying herself, and for once, her shadow was nowhere to be seen. If she didn't dislike him so much, and enjoy talking to miles so much, she might be upset at how *** her bodyguard was at his job.

"What do you do, Miles?" She asked, plucking a glass of champagne from a passing tray. Nobody was paying enough attention to care about the underage girl drinking.

"I'm in personal security." He responded, picking a jumbo shrimp from a platter at the table.

"You're a bodyguard?" She suddenly felt like a magnet for men in that line of work.

"Yeah, but Personal Security just sounds a lot fancier." He nodded.

She grinned, bringing the glass to her lips. "You don't strike me as the fancy type."

"I don't? Look at this suit. Probably cost...a hundred dollars!" He said with mock arrogance.

"Ooh-hoo-hoo….Fancy!" Tessa laughed.

"Damn right. Only the finest JC Penney menswear for this guy." Miles joked.

"Come on. Level with me. You got it off a dead guy." She quipped.

His smile faded as he looked around theatrically, as if he'd been found out. "Tell no one."

Tessa really laughed, that smile 100% genuine for the first time in weeks. She was about to respond when she saw a face, she was sure she'd seen the last of. Simon entered the room behind a man in his 50's. He looked equal parts bored and tired. He very clearly didn't want to be there. For some reason, that felt endearing. He wore his heart on his sleeve and she loved that about the man. Again, she looked around to find no bodyguard and turned to Miles. "Excuse me...I see a friend of mine I'd like to say hi to. You gonna be kicking around here a bit?"

"Unless I want to get fired, yes." He answered, offering that charming grin to her.

"I'll come find you." She promised, starting away.

"I'll make sure nobody takes any of your caviar." He said as if he were being noble.

"Oh, yeah, no. That's alright. Hey! Maybe feed it to the garbage?"

Miles chuckled. "I'll see what I can do."

Flirting had hardly seemed like a possibility for her in this crowd, but there it was. She made her way through the partygoers toward Simon. Her former bodyguard was at the bar, ordering two fingers of scotch. Despite the way everything had ended, she still held a warm place for him in her heart. He'd tried, and that was more than she could say for most people.

"Drinking on the job?" She said, a faux air of judgement in her tone. "Tsk tsk tsk. I expected better of the great Simon Toews."

He slowly turned, the look of annoyance on his face shifting to surprise. "Tessa? What are YOU doing here?" He exclaimed excitedly as she wrapped him in a big hug.

"Ugh. My mom." She rolled her eyes, stepping back. "Said it would be a good place to make ‘contacts'."

"What, are you starting a fortune 500 company or something now?" Simon asked.

"Oh yeah, you haven't heard? I'm making bad hair pieces for the ultra rich."


Simon looked around catching a few glimpses of bad rugs among the crowd and let out a little laugh. "Business must be booming."

"Hey, denial...river in Egypt and all that." She joked before her expression softened. "How are you?"

"I'm alright."

"Really?" She quirked an incredulous brow at him.

Simon took one look around, the grin fading. "Uh...no. No, I'm pretty miserable."

"New guy's not as fun as me?" She said with a little pride.

"No, he doesn't quite have your winning personality." Simon said with that mischievous little smirk. "How are you? Things get any better at home?"

Tessa frowned. "Not really. Tony hasn't hit me since that night, but, he's made more than a few threats. And mom isn't doing dick to stop him. They saddled me with this total flatliner. Might as well talk to a wall."

Simon let out a little chuckle. "Not a stimulating conversationalist, huh?"

She crinkled her nose and shook her head. "Not quite. And his taste in music sucks."

"Super into reggae?"

"No, has none. We listen to right wing radio. Very informative." She deadpanned.

Simon cringed. "Oooh...yeah. Not entertaining. He looking after you? I haven't seen a lot of Tessa related riots."

Tessa shook her head, "Word got out that I've got a badass bodyguard who doesn't tolerate that ***. They always give me a secluded exit now."

Simon couldn't help the swell of pride mixing with the sense of loss. If he couldn't protect her in person, at least he could by reputation. "Must piss your mom off."

A wicked little smile crossed her face then. "Livid."

"Good." Simon said. "That woman-"

Simon's face fell, something haunted and horrified in his eyes that she had never seen before. It scared her. "What?"

She glanced behind her, not seeing any obvious threat. When she turned again, he was trembling. Fear had turned to rage, his chest rising and falling rapidly. "Simon?"

He did not respond.

"Simon!" She yelled shaking him. The sound of her shout silenced the room around them. His eyes snapped to her, the ghosts of his past still in his eyes. "Simon, what is it?"

Before he could answer, a voice came from behind. "Hello, Simon." The voice of Jakob Falk uttered softly. "It's been a long time."
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Three years passed. Three years of fights and abuse. Three years of blood, broken bones and broken bodies at the hands of the wealthy. Simon learned to internalize it. To retreat within himself when it happened. To shut out the pain and degradation. After three long years, he began to accept that even victory had it's price, and that maybe, it was all he was truly good for.

All through it, Anna remained. When she started to develop, they began to doll her up a little more for the crowd, sexualizing her, even in the brutal violence of the fight. She was an object, a product they were selling. The perceived pampering drove a wedge between her and all of the other kids. All but Simon. It was Simon who cleaned her up after a loss and kept her sane through the victories, just as she had done for him time and again. The pair were a team in the ring and out, always protecting one another. The more they won, the more popular they became. Soon they were winning almost every fight, earning the ire of their peers and the vicious, lustful love of the crowd. The fights were their sanctuary. The one place they could let out their rage and have some manner of control. Everything before and after would be a nightmare, but in the ring, that time was theirs. They lived only for the fight and each other.

Rumors circulated about them amongst the other kids and some of the audience. Some romanticised pile of crap that it was an inspiring, heart-warming tale of young love. The kind of morbid delusion that could only be cooked up by the ignorance of privilege and extreme wealth. They ignored the brutal, vicious reality to attach some made-up narrative to kids who were, in reality their victims. THEY allowed this. This demanded it. Were it not for the crowd, Simon and Anna might be living in foster homes with families who cared for them. Their biggest concerns might be dealing with classes in school instead of worrying about dying in a ring surrounded by the soulless rich. But no. They were clinging to one another simply to survive the hell these people created and perpetuated for them.

The two of them paid it no mind. Rumors weren't exactly a concern for them. However, as time went on, the more desperate they became to escape. Their relative fame put targets on their backs. Some of the other kids made attempts on them in fits of misplaced jealousy. They were met with swift retribution from the two of them. During the day, they did what they were told, towing the line for Stills, but in the dark of night, they conspired. They would whisper their plans as they lay, wrapped close together for warmth as well as comfort. The illusion of safety was everything in those days. Were they wiser, they might have been quieter, or more selective of where they spoke. It was youthful naivete to think they couldn't get caught, and blind dumb luck that it hadn't happened already.

Anna lay on her left hand side, her leg draped across Simon's hip, her head resting on his slowly rising and falling chest. The sound of his breathing relaxed her and often sang her to sleep at night. Her green eyes turned up, glancing at him. He'd become lean, strong, and tough. Scars decorating his body liberally, his fists a busted mess that would never properly heal. A far cry from the boy she'd seen dragged into the cell 3 years ago. She had been certain he wouldn't last a week, let alone 3 years. He'd come in a wad of cookie dough. Now he was carved from granite. Simon was her rock, the one thing she could always count on. The girl didn't quite understand or even think she had the capacity for romantic love, but she felt in that moment that maybe she did love him. Maybe that's all love was, trusting someone and having them trust you through anything. Even through this nightmare life of theirs.

One day, they'd be free of this place. One day, their lives would be their own again. Maybe then, she'd begin to understand. Maybe then, she could figure out what she felt. Until then, Anna lay at his side, safe with Simon.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 4:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tonight was the night. Tonight it would all end. Before her fight he wished her luck and the two clasped hands and wished each other luck as they always did. But this time, she pulled him in, wrapping her arms around him and whispered. "If it goes bad. Don't forget me."

They dragged her off, before she shoved their arms off of her, giving them every bit of attitude a warrior of her stature had earned. "*** off me. I know how to walk, asshole."

With one last glance and a nod, she went off to the ring. As her fight went on, he could hear the crowd. Anna was dominating as she always did. The girl was relentless.

His nerves were on edge. So much rode on his fight. He'd have to end it quickly for it all to work as planned. The sound of cheers told him her fight was over. It wasn't long before they came for him, Stills himself pushing through the crowd for him.

"You ready, kid?" It wasn't a question, Simon knew.

"Point me to him." Simon said, full of bravado.

Stills grinned and nodded approvingly. "You know. You used to be a weak-ass little ***." He pointed at Simon like he was considering something. "But you...Nah....you are a goddamn pitbull, ain't ya."

Simon smirked. "Maybe one day you'll find out."

The burly man laughed and nodded. "Be the last day of your ***' life, kid."

Simon only rose his brows, as if he was playfully challenging him. A lopsided grin formed on Stills' face. "Let's go."

SImon walked out into the arena. He could have slept walked through the fight. The kid was all balls no brains. He almost felt bad for him, but when it came to tonight, he knew he could only think about himself and Anna. When the kid lay on the ground, battered and bloody, Stills came out and hoisted his arm up in victory, Simon barely sweating and not even breathing heavily.

He knew what would come next. It always did after a fight. An injection to weaken his resolve, though he'd learned to charm the men and women who bought his company. They wouldn't completely knock him out like that first night. Not that it would problem tonight. The sick *** who bought him would have to go home disappointed.

Guards led him down the hall to Comstock's examination room. The old doctor waiting for him with that ever-present cigarette between his lips. He put on that fake, friendly smile that had lured so many kids into a false sense of safety upon seeing the young fighter.

"Mr. Toews! Good to see you. How'd it go?"

Simon spread his arms out, showing nothing more than a red mark or a blossoming bruise here and there. "Answer your question, Doc?"

Comstock grinned and stubbed out the cig. "Atta boy."

He patted the table beside him. This was business as usual. He had a lot of people fooled, but not Simon. SImon knew exactly what he was. He barely managed the friendly smile in response and walked up, settling in as the doctor went to work with the syringe.

"Tell you what, kiddo. You keep that up, you're gonna be too big a deal for us to keep around here." The doctor said. "I hear 'em talkin' about ya. Got yourself quite a following."

"Yeah?" Simon nodded. "Wouldn't know, myself."

Comstock acted as if he was boosting his confidence. "I'm tellin' ya! You're all the rage out there, so I hear."

SImon eyed that needle a moment, glancing up at that *** smiling old face. He hated him. Every smile, every stupid joke and ego stroking line of *** he'd offered before sending Anna and himself and God knew how many kids off to get raped and ruined. Comstock was as bad, if not worse than all of them. He'd once heard Mulcahy say that the greatest evil is perpetrated by those who could stop it and do nothing. Comstock most certainly fit that bill.

"Arm please?" he requested.

Simon's eyes were dangerous even as he looked up to him. If the doctor had been paying attention, he might have noticed it and avoided what came next. He swabbed the injection site with alcohol and tied him off. It seemed like an eternity as the needle came nearer and nearer. Adrenaline flowed wild through the boy's body like a raging river. His heart pounding rapidly beneath his breast.

Before it could touch his skin, Simon lashed out, quick as lightning, grabbing him by the wrist and redirecting the old man's arm. The needle plunged into his jugular and Simon hit the plunger. Shock registered in the old man's eyes as Simon glared into them with blind, vengeful rage.

"You look tired, Doc." Simon snarled at him.

Confusion turned to rage, something he'd never seen in the old man's eyes. "You...little...***!"

SImon kicked him in the chest, knocking him onto the ground. That cocktail was fast working, but SImon grabbed two syringes of it, and straddled his chest. The doc fought back weakly, but the boy managed to knock his attempts aside before jamming them in his neck and injecting him. He stayed there until those eyes went blank and the old man's heart stopped.

FInally, he rose up and moved over to the medical equipment, digging for a weapon before his eyes set upon a scalpel. Outside, the guards waited for the signal to come get him. It was taking longer than usual, but then again, the doctor did like to gab. Finally that knock came. They turned and opened the door, stepping inside.

"Jesus, Doc, you havin' a heart to heart with the-" The guard froze, seeing the doctor laying dead on the floor with two needles in the his neck. "What the fu-"

Before he could finish the sentence, Simon slashed his throat, sending a splatter of crimson against that pristine, white-painted wall. The second guard's eyes widened. This was not supposed to be able to happen. Simon planted his forearm in the man's throat, driving him back into the hallway and stabbing wildly into his belly. When the big guy dropped, he made one last stab and pulled, cutting his jugular.

SImon pulled a collapsible baton and pistol from the dead man's hip. He'd never used a firearm, but...then again it wasn't rocket science. Time was wasting, he had to move quickly. Carefully and quickly, he moved down the corridor to one of the suites he'd spent so much time in post fight.

He knew her room would have men outside. Someone to keep track of the client's time and make sure it never got out of control. He almost got himself caught as he rounded the corner to find them halfway down the hall. Quickly, he ducked back to safety. Going loud was not an option at the moment. He tucked the gun in the back of his pants and gripped the baton and scalpel.

What the guards saw was a dazed, drugged fighter stumbling around the corner. It wouldn't be the first time a kid had gotten out and bumbled around like an idiot. The pair of guards glanced to each other and chuckled. "Look at this ***' guy. Hey. Kid. Who let you off the shortbus?"

The boy tried to speak but all that came out was numb gibberish. He stumbled before them, falling at their feet. It just made them laugh harder. "Alright, alright, ***. Come on, let's get you back where you belong." One of them said, approaching.

As he reached down, Simon flicked out the baton and hit him behind the knee, dropping him to the floor. The boy pushed up with one leg, swiping with the baton, catching the other guard across the face. He switched quickly to the scalpel, whirling it into a reverse grip, jamming it in the first guard's throat, and ripping it out roughly. He was thankful the room were soundproof at the moment.

The second guard came around, just in time for Simon to drive the blade up through his jaw, cutting through his tongue and into the roof of his mouth. With his spare arm, he covered the guard's mouth, muffling his gurgling attempts at screams, before shoving him to the ground.

The guards disposed of, he fished out a set of keys and turned to the door. Anna was in there, and God knew what he'd find when he went in there. He tried to convince her to get out first and meet with him later., but she refuse. They would get out together or not at all.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The world was a dull, hazy blur. Everything that moved trailed, all sound was muffled. Thank *** for that, she thought. She could tell even then that his weak, nasally voice would have turned her stomach more than his paunchy, hairy gut hanging out from the robe. The "client" was a cherub-esque man with a bad toupee. He was pouring them wine, really trying to romance the thing up. He whispered something to her she couldn't make out and offered her the wine.

Hurry the *** up, Simon. She thought, weakly smiling for him. Her hands shook, reaching out. One doughy fist wrapped around her's, holding the glass steady and raising it to her lips slowly, a skin-crawlingly creepy smile on his fat, mustachioed face.

Suddenly, he whipped around in surprise, the glass falling from his hamfisted grip. Her distorted vision took a moment to make sense of what she was seeing, but eventually, the out of sync figure melded into the visage of SImon, and he was carrying a pistol. The fat man rose a fuss until Simon pointed it at him, then he cowered and shrunk into a corner of the room.

Simon moved to her and checked to make sure she was okay as best he could. The fat man was shouting, this was not what he was promised. Her friend helped her to her feet, tucking away the gun, and helping her toward the door. Her hearing was just good enough to hear the disgusting client screaming and getting closer to her. The entitled son of a bitch was actually running for them. Well, she decided. *** that.

She grabbed the pistol from the back of Simon's pants and turned it on her would be assaulter. The barrel leveled at his forehead, his eyes going wide with shock just one moment before she pulled the trigger.

That stunned look remained as the back of his head burst against the expensive mahogany woodwork. She thought she would feel something, some regret or remorse from it...but there was nothing. Just a cold indifference as he crumbled lifeless to the ground.

Simon stared in silence, slowly taking the weapon from her. "Come on." She barely made out.

The adrenaline was pumping, and the drugs wearing off but she was barely able to keep up as they rushed down the hallway, head pounding. They just had to make it to the stairwell and they'd be home free...and then who the hell knew what would happen?

Anna allowed herself to hope for once in her life. That was when she felt it. SImon was ripped from her arms, her legs giving out, sending her to the cold marble tile of the hallway. She shook off the daze from the fall and looked to see Simon being thrown against a wall by Stills. The larger man grabbed him by the throat and lifted him from the ground.

She should have known better.

Simon pounded on the stronger adult's arms, trying in vain to pry them from his neck. Stills' muscles bulged, straining against the weight of a 15 year old boy. Her friend's eyes bulged with panic and anger. She willed her limbs to move, crawling toward them, but completely unsure of what she could possibly do.

The boy tried kicking, but it just made Stills angrier and squeeze harder. Anna was almost certain he'd break Simon's neck before he could even fully strangle him. She knew it was because of her. They had to have heard the gunshot. She grit her teeth, willing herself to crawl faster on those trembling, weakened limbs.

Simon was weakening by the second....and then she saw it. The scalpel gleamed upon the ground, the light reflecting red with the blood staining its blade. Go. Go, Anna! Move your *** ass!

Stills grinned, watching the light begin to fade behind the boy's eyes. "I've wanted to do this since the moment they dragged your sorry ass in here, you little ***!" He shouted moistly in Simon's choking, strained face.

Anna plunged the blade into his spine with every last bit of her energy, the big bruiser's body going ramrod straight as he yelled in agony, her ears clearing just in time to hear it. Simon fell coughing and gasping as Stills dropped to his knees. She struggled to her feet and reached for him, Simon propping an arm on the wall as she helped him up. The two of them hobbled away, but then Stills grabbed him by the ankle and Simon almost fell, but she kept hold of him. Stills was filled with rage, roaring at them both in what seemed like a different tongue. He pulled Simon toward him, but she wrapped her arms around his chest, trying to pull him back. Simon clenched his jaw, seeing red and kicked him in the face with the heel of his boot.

Stills' head snapped back and slammed onto the tile. Simon pulled free from her grasp and put two arms upon the wall, propping himself up as he stomped on the back of Stills' head again and again and again and again. He poured every ounce of pain and suffering he'd been put through in the past 4 years into it. Every touch, every punch, every bit of despair. He stomped as hard as he could, as viciously as he could. He stomped on him until the resistance gave way and his foot met bone and floor. The sight left her queasy. Somehow it gave her comfort to know that there were still things that could disturb her.

Finally, she wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him back. "SIMON!" She managed to say. "Please..." It was all she could manage.

Simon panted, staring down at his big kill. It wasn't enough. He deserved worse. They all did. But it was time to go. It was time to run and leave this place in the rearview. He looked to the weak, sickly-looking Anna and took her in his arm, both hobbling to the stairwell.

They were free. They were finally free.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It didn't seem real. For a moment, he thought he was seeing a ghost or having a terrible nightmare, but there he was. Jakob Falk. The years had brought grey creeping into his hair and more wrinkles to his face, but it was him. Still impeccably tailored and well put together. That same calm, unassuming voice that belied the rot and evil within. Every fight, every perverted rich *** who'd treated him like an object for their own sick desires came rushing back to the forefront of his memory. Suddenly, deep down, something terrible began to claw its way out.

"Tessa." Simon said, barely keeping the seething rage out of his voice. "You need to leave. Now."

Falk politely passed off the glass of champagne to the suited, short haired woman beside him. She eyed SImon as if just waiting for him to make a move., The older man took a step forward, that smile fading into disappointment.. "What? Have you no words for an old friend." he asked with that put-on charm. Like he hadn't been responsible for every horrible, nightmarish thing that happened in Simon's youth.

Tessa looked confused, but the look in Simon's eyes told her that they were anything but "friends". This was a man about to explode, and knowing Simon, she had an idea of how, exactly that might go down.

"...Simon..." she said, a hint of fear in her voice.

"Now!" He growled through clenched teeth, the girl recoiling from him. He started slowly, walking toward him, every fantasy he'd ever had of tearing Falk limb from limb playing out in his head. That warm, sadistic smile drove the blood up into SImon's ears. He'd swore to himself that one day, Jakob Falk would pay. Today would be that day.

"You look good." Falk nodded to him. "Age has been kind to you, eh? Unlike..." The older man gestured to his aged face, the scar Simon had given him decades ago still visible. "Time, though. It gets the best of all of us, does it not?"

Simon suddenly and quickly grabbed him by the jacket, Tessa and Falk's companions gasping with a start. The glaring woman moved just slightly, but Falk just waved two fingers, halting her. She would not be needed, apparently. Simon's eyes were aflame, burning with a rage most of the world could never fathom. "You stole my *** life. I'm gonna rip your *** heart out of your chest, you sick ***." Simon snarled,

Falk looked almost disappointed in him, his voice taking on a tone of reproach. "Come now, Simon. We needn't resort to such uncivilized behavior."

"I'm not feeling very *** civilized right now." Simon said, his voice hoarse and trembling.

Falk's voice lowered, an edge that was not there. "Look around you, boy. Do you see the men upon the balcony with weapons? Do you see the fellows near the doors, reaching into their jackets right now? Who do you think these men work for, Simon?"

Simon spared them only a flick of his eyes. He'd only really noticed Falk's companion, who looked like she was a hair's breadth from attacking.

"Who do you think is throwing this little soiree?" Falk grinned.

"You know what I'm capable of. You think they can draw on me, land a bead before I snap your *** neck?" Simon challenged. He didn't care about them. He'd happily die in a hail of gunfire if it meant he could send Falk screaming to Hell.

The older man laughed. "No. No, I suppose not. But...your friend...Ms. Bradley...I'd hate for her to be caught in the crossfire. Wouldn't you?"

Tessa stood behind him, frozen in fear. She'd only seen him like this once and it wasn't nearly this bad. He's almost forgotten she was there. Falk was enough of a bastard to see to it that she was taken out to punish him. They probably wouldn't even shoot for him before they took the girl down.

"That's it." Falk said, soothingly, easing Simon's hands from his jackets. "Now. Let us talk as gentlemen, yes?

Those mangled fists clenched white knuckle tight, his body shaking with restraint. "You took everything from me." He rumbled.

"I made you strong, boy." Falk said, as if the man was being unreasonable. "I made you a fighter. A warrior. I made you tough."

"You made me a *thing*! To be used and discarded by your perverted *** friends! You made me a killer!" Simon insisted.

"*I* made you a killer." Falk said, in disbelief. "I made you kill those boys in the ring? I made you kill Cameron Cotter? I made you kill all of his men? I assume you blame me for you killing the Viscellis as well. I suppose your foster father being beaten damn near to death was also my fault. *You* did all that. You chose to. I merely made you strong enough to do it. I made you a survivor, Simon."

He couldn't believe it. Falk had completely squared everything that had happened with himself. He even saw it as a good thing.

"You want to play the big hero, Simon? The good guy. But you aren't. You're a killer because you choose to be. Because that's what's always been inside of you. I didn't make you a killer. You've always been one. Don't pretend that you're some bastion of honor and decency. You are a blood thirsty beast." Falk set his jaw, firm in his assessment of the younger man.

"You're a sick *** who deserves to be put down like a *** rabid dog.." SImon spat back. "You prey on people. Turn them into your slaves. Sell them to your friends to beat and *** whenever they want."

"I merely provided a service." Falk said, "No questions asked, because that is what was required of me. Did I ever lay a hand upon you? Did I ever hurt you or touch you in any way? I think not."

"I was passed around like a *** party favor!" Simon fired back.

"I was grooming you for greatness. To stand at my side. To remove the frivolous, romantic ideas from your head. I taught you the value of sacrifice and how to manipulate those around you. And how did you repay me? You...and Anna?"

"Don't you EVER say her name!" Simon was on the razor's edge.

"She spoke about you." Falk said. Immediately, he saw the look on the bodyguard's face, a grin spreading across his own. "When she came back to me."

That was it. Simon grabbed him by the throat with one hand, the other cocking back to stove his face in. Now, he didn't care who else suffered for it. He was going to kill this man. He was going to have his revenge.

Before he could throw the punch, he felt a hand grab his wrist. Simon's head snapped in the stranger's direction to find another fist rocketing at his face. It wasn't the girl. No, this was a man. The world flashed before his eyes, pain blooming across his face. Whoever it was had a DAMN good punch.

"MILES!" Tessa shrieked.

Simon's vision was slow to unblur, but he could just make out Tessa's new friend before her hit him three times, fast as lightning, the entire party grinding to sudden, decisive halt. He stumbled back, trying to regain his composure. Falk's companion immediately pulled the older man aside to safety, a wall of armed guards filling in around them. Finally, he managed to block the next attack and threw a haymaker, but the younger boy leaned out of the way, jabbed him in the throat and then threw and uppercut that had him seeing stars. Simon was vaguely aware of Tessa begging his attacker to stop, but Miles was not listening. Simon squared off on the kid, moving in and threw some easily blocked punches. Miles was quick, blocking, ducking and hitting him in the ribs with quick shots. The kid was measured, precise and calm. Simon was just sloppy, running on pure, unadulterated rage.

The kid came at him, and Simon ducked a punch, landing a solid hit to his face that would have dropped any other opponent. But the kid shook it off almost immediately and followed up with a rock hard crack to Simon's mouth, his teeth biting into his lips hard enough to draw blood. He stumbled backwards, hand to his bleeding mouth, but keeping his eyes on Miles. With his free hand he threw another punch, too slow, too sloppy. The boy dodged, hit him under the arm and quickly threw a few punches to his abdomen. Breathing became difficult, but the kid didn't let up. His fist slammed into SImon's face again and again, but he didn't fall. Finally, Simon landed another hit, connecting with Miles' face and putting him on the defensive. The older fighter drove him back, keeping his aim on the head until the boy fell against a table, knocking glasses and plates shattering to the ground.

Simon was on him in a second, but the kid grabbed a plate and bashed it across Simon's temple in an explosion of porcelain. While he was dazed, Mile's kicked him in the chest, knocking him back before getting on his feet. He grabbed Simon by the lapels of his suit jacket, wheeled him around, and threw him into a table. As Miles approached, Simon grabbed a glass and quickly winged it at his attacker. Miles protected his face with a forearm, the glass shattering on his suit jacket. His older opponent smashed a wine glass on the table, and came for him. Slashing with his makeshift knife. God damn the kid was quick. He dodged, ducked and weaved away until finally getting a hold of Simon's wrist with one hand, keeping the older man's arm extended as he popped him once in the throat, the glass dropping to the ground.

Simon gasped for air just before being thrown to the ground, glass and shattered porcelain cutting into the skin of his hands as he tried brace his fall. Pushing through the pain he tried to rise. Blood obscured his vision, but he could see Miles coming toward him. The kid grabbed him by the hair and readied to drive his knee into the man's face. Simon's arms crossed in front of him, blocking the attack. His arms spread quick and hard, knocking Miles' hands away. With his wounded palms, he hit the boy hard in the solar plexus, shoving him back, and rose to his feet.

Miles looked pissed. He stormed toward Simon, but the older fighter was quick, slipping around the younger fighter's attack and putting him in a chokehold. Miles drove his elbow back into Simon's ribs again and again and again until that grip loosened. He threw his head back, connecting with SImon's face, dazing him for a moment before flipping him over his shoulder and onto the tile below. The kid threw himself on top of his opponent and wailed on his face like he was tenderizing meat, every punch landing like a goddamn mack truck.

"ENOUGH." Falk said firmly, his voice echoing throughout the room. Miles froze, his arm cocked back to deliver a crushing blow. SImon lay there, wheezing, his face a bloody mess. He'd been completely taken off-guard and been quickly put down. His vision was blurred red from the blood, the coppery taste of it leaking down his throat. The room around them just watched. Tessa just stood by, horrified.

Falk broke through the guards and hovered over him, hands stuffed casually in his pockets. "As I said. I wanted you and Anna to stand by my side. To serve as my right and left hand." Falk said forlornly. "Well...as you can see...I found others."

Miles stared down at him just waiting for the order to kill him, the woman directly behind him. It became clear that they were exactly like Simon. Only, they hadn't escaped. Even now, there was a slight swell of pity for them both.

"I didn't want this. I truly did not. My friends here were supposed to have an easy, fun night. They deserved it. Damn you for forcing them into this position."

Simon tried to move, to grab at the man, but Miles forced a taught, muscular forearm to his throat, pinning him down. Falk shook his head and nodded to the woman. "Get him out of here."

She moved on him quickly, he was too weak and too dazed to even fight back. He muttered "I'm gonna kill you" over and over and over again. Falk turned to the partygoers and rose his hands. "It's alright, everyone. Show's over! Let's not allow this unpleasantness to upset our festivities! Please! Enjoy your drinks, the night is young!"


Tessa stood stock still, watching in terror as he was dragged off by Miles and the woman. The music started again and the people began conversing as if nothing had happened. Her bodyguard approached her, placing a hand upon her shoulder, startling her in the process.

"Ms. Bradley." he said. "It's time to go."
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The world was so big outside of that place. Simon had almost completely forgotten. Anna, it seemed had never known. She never talked much about her past. It made him wonder if she'd ever truly seen anything outside of Falk's little kingdom. She looked around with wide eyes. It was all so beautiful, so overwhelming in scope. People went about their days, no fear of death or punishment constantly weighing them down. They were completely unencumbered.

A chill had settled into the air around the city. Winter was fast approaching, and the filthy, ill fitting clothes they wore made them stand out like a sore thumb. Anna's old tanktop and ripped up old jeans weren't going to cut it. Simon lead her to a thrift store, securing them a new wardrobe.

Anna stood in front of the mirror, staring for a long time. It had been a long while since she was able to for more than just a passing glance. Often Falk's people would doll her up for the clients, never really giving her a chance to look. She didn't quite recognize the girl in front of her. Her red hair had faded slightly, her fair skin marred by scars. The girl in the mirror was skinny, but muscular. She skated the edge between thin and malnourished, probably by design. They would often deprive her of meals, marketing her for a specific kind of clientele, she was sure. She, of course knew about the curves, Falk's people weren't exactly shy about how they'd sought to highlight those. But Anna, herself, hadn't truly appreciated just how much her body had changed in all that time.

What she saw in that mirror wasn't a victim. What she saw was strong and beautiful, and not for what they'd done to make her look a certain way. She saw a survivor who refused to back down. For that, she was proud.

Anna pulled a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of someone called "The Ramones" over a long-sleeved, white waffle knit and pulled on a pair of clean jeans. Immediately, she felt better. Amazing what a clean set of clothing could do. Aside from being outfitted for one of Falk's clients, the kids she'd grown up with were issued new clothing as they grew out of the old ones. New clothes were a luxury seldom afforded. She left the booth, stepping out to find Simon, dressed in a pair of cargo pants and a green and black flannel. An old, black peacoat missing some buttons thrown over it all. He reached out, handing her a jacket himself, a maroon, thigh-length wool coat with black accents. It, too was missing a few buttons and had some light staining, but it was might as well have been a ball gown to Anna.

"You look good." Simon said, eyes tracing over her. For some reason, it sent a warm feeling through her belly.

"You too." She said, a bit sheepishly. And he did. The boy cleaned up nicely. Anna cleared her throat and looked around. Back to real life. "So...what now? We just run out of here with this stuff on?"

Simon grinned and shook his head. "Nope. Already paid for."

Anna balked a moment, staring at him suspiciously. "And where did you get money?"

The boy pulled out a wad of money he had pinched from Stills' wallet. "Compliments of Stills."

She couldn't help the laugh that escaped her. "You took it from him?!" She said, trying to keep it quiet.

"Not like that piece of *** has any use for it anymore." Simon shrugged.

She couldn't shake the image of what Simon had done to him. Stills got the least of what was coming to him, but it was such a vicious, relentless attack that she couldn't quite shake it. Anna shook it off, trying a smile on. After everything he'd put them through, having his money fund their little shopping spree was a pretty sweet slice of karmic justice, she supposed. She'd killed before, but, though it was always about survival, it never sat well with her. Even shooting that fat pervert in the face made her queasy, and she didn't even want to think about what he would have done to her. All the planning and the fantasies didn't matter when she was confronted with the real thing.

The pair stepped back out into the approaching cold. They would need a place to bed down for the night, but first, Simon had a stop he was dying to make. Simon lead her to a diner, holding the door as she passed. An old Elvis song blared over the radio as waitresses in vintage uniforms made the rounds. The smells and lively nature of the place absolutely enchanted Anna. People sitting, chatting, laughing over plates of REAL food. God, she couldn't remember the last time she'd had a real meal that wasn't the disgusting, gloppy gruel they'd slopped onto styrofoam plates for them.

Even then, she couldn't relax. Every smiling face was one that could turn on them, get them put back in Falk's hands. She couldn't do that again. She'd rather kill herself than go back to all of that. Her eyes darted around as they slid into the red, vinyl booth, glittery sparkles twinkling in the fluorescent lights above.

The menu was just so expansive. She didn't know what half the foods listed even were, let alone if she'd like them. Her brows knit with concern as she read it over, glancing up to find Simon grinning.

"What?" she demanded.

"Troubles?" He asked.

Anna let out a frustrated sigh. "I don't know what any of this is. What's good?"

"Oh." He said. "Burgers. You gotta get a burger."

"Burger? That's meat, right?" She asked, legitimately unsure.

Simon breathed out a little laugh and nodded. "Yeah, that's meat."

The waitress arrived, and took their orders. Anna couldn't be sure if the brassy, gum-smacking attitude was at all put on or just her personality.

"When I was out on the streets, I used to steal food from the back of this place all the time. Really good stuff. You'd be amazed at the things people just throw away."

Anna shifted in her seat a bit. There wasn't usually much conversation between them, beyond their plans and what came next. They NEVER talked about their pasts. This was uncharted territory.

"How long were you on your own?" she asked.

"About a month and a half." He said.

"Really?" To her that sounded like freedom. She didn't have much concept of homelessness and not having a roof over your head.

"Ran into this guy. A priest."

That just sent off warning bells in her head. She'd dealt with men of the cloth, and it was never pleasant. The desires of repressed men were terrifying.

"Good guy." Simon continued. "Took me in, fed me. Gave me a place to sleep. Then...well." He opened his hands and gestured to her and then himself. She could guess what that meant.

"I'm sorry." She said.

Simon shrugged. "Sooner or later...everything ends."

That sent a chill through her she did NOT like. It made a scary amount of sense.

"Yeah." She agreed. "I suppose it does."

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The first bit of snow fell that night. Winter had come, finally. The chill of a flake landing upon his face brought him to consciousness. Those blue eyes red, puffy from the beating he'd been dealt. It took him a moment to even realize where he was. Simon lay in the gutter, surrounded by trash. Every inch of his body ached, dried blood cold upon his face. Sitting up was an endeavour, a pained groan leaving him as he tried.

His breath came out in a wheeze, his hands shaking as he clutched his ribs, certain at least one was broken. The fresh, searing sensation of an open cut on his face had him sucking in air through grit teeth.

"***." He hissed, wincing. Slowly, he rose to his feet, finding a hitch in his step. The suit he wore did little to block out the cold, his wool coat left behind at the party. The sounds of the city pounded in his eardrums, the lights seeming almost blinding as different colored suns. His eyes clenched shut as he made his way out onto the sidewalk. What the hell had happened? How did he get taken so completely by surprise? He needed to get the hell out of there. Simon reached in his pocket for the keys to his car, but they were long gone. God knew where they'd ended up.

Okay. Okay, SImon. Easy. What next?

His phone. He could always call a cab or something. The battered bodyguard reached into his pocket and pulled the phone out...to find it busted. The screen was cracked and dead. Because tonight NEEDED to get worse, apparently.

At least he still had a wallet. Thank god for small miracles.

He hobbled down the street, every step producing a fresh pain reverberating through his left leg. "Now what?" he asked himself.

Home. He had to get home and get patched up. Surely Paige would understand. He hadn't gone out to get into a fight, and given the circumstances, how could she blame him? His eyes searched the passing traffic for a cab, flagging down the first available, and climbing carefully in. Those injured ribs hurt like hell, but he managed.

"Jesus, you look like you've had a rough night." The cabbie said into the rearview.

"Yeah, you think?" Simon said wearily.

"Where ya headed, slugger?"

"234 Ventura." he gave Paige's address, settling in as comfortably as he could.

"You got it."

Simon's head lolled to one side, his eyes staring out into the cold winter's night, as they began the long drive home. How quickly everything had changed. He always knew Falk had to be out there somewhere. It was only a matter of time. He'd clung to the fruitless hope that maybe someone had taken the son of a bitch out without him knowing or hearing about it. The man had clearly moved up in the world. No longer just the low-level purveyor of entertainment for the rich, bored and vicious, he was rubbing elbows with some serious power players. The thought scared him more than anything.

And who in the hell was that kid? No doubt one of the unlucky ones who'd survived. Couldn't have been past his early twenties, the poor bastard. *** had a mean right hook. Suddenly Simon was aware of how his opponents felt over the years. That kid hadn't just beaten him, he'd demolished him. He'd lost fights in the past, but never that badly, and never so soundly.

Before he knew it, a half-hour had passed and the cab rolled to a stop in front of Paige's house. He paid the driver and gingerly rose from the vehicle. He knew the cars parked out front. Piper and Coleman. What the hell were THEY doing here? Well...at least there were witnesses if Paige tried to kill him, right?

He limped to the front door, realizing again that the keys were gone. With a deep, hoarse breath, he knocked. The door opened to reveal Coleman. The large man's face fell when he saw the mess of a man in front of him. Somehow, though, Simon got the gut feeling that it wasn't entirely his state that caused the detective's dismay.

"Jesus, kid. You look like ***."

"Thanks." Simon said, hobbling on in, leaving Coleman behind, watching after him.

Piper sat on the couch, leaning forward with his arms propped upon his legs. He looked exhausted. No...not exhausted...this was something else. Paige had her back to him, her arm wrapped around her waist.

"Corrine...I have to-" he began. She whipped around and on her face was not concern. No, this was rage.

"What the *** did you do?" Paige said, her voice practically a growl.

"I'm sorry." Simon managed, shame settling in. He knew he'd broke the rules. He'd have to own it. "I-"

"You tell me, Toews!" She said, storming over to him. "You tell me why I just got a call that we're being *** shut down!"

Simon blinked. Paige waited for an answer.

"I'm...wait what?"

"Your client *** dropped us and I get a call that our license is being revoked, and we're getting evicted from our *** office because YOU created a scene at some party!"

*** Jakob Falk. It wasn't enough that he'd beaten the *** out him, he was taking down those around him.

"Corrine, I swear to God, it's not like that."

"No, I'll tell you what it's like." she said, fueled by a rage he'd never seen in her. "You show up, you get cozy and then *** goes sideways. You're a *** albatross, Toews! Everything you touch turns to absolute ***!"

He couldn't find the words to respond. Honestly...he couldn't even argue against it. She was right.

"You fancy yourself a knight in shining armor? Tell you what. You wanna save someone? Then stay the *** away from them!" Paige glared up at him. "Get your *** out of my house. Now."

"Corrine...I'm-"

"Go!"

Simon stared at her, more pain added onto the mountain he already had. He'd never meant to bring this down on her head. But then...he never did. Not to Lyla, not to Cici, not to Tahlia....but it always did.

Sam looked up at him, pain in his own eyes mixing with pity. There wasn't accusation there, but it didn't matter. He was just another casualty of Simon Toews. "I'm sorry." he managed, moving to the room and struggling to pack a bag. Everything he owned fit into one duffle. Kind of sad, when he thought about it.

Simon caught a glimpse of the damage done in the mirror. What a mess. The worst part was that he felt he deserved it. Paige was right. The best thing he could do now was get as far from her as possible. He'd done enough damage.

They were still there when he came out, the weight of his bag hurting his ribs. Paige refused to even look at him. Piper offered a sympathetic glance and a nod. Simon managed half a smile and nodded back. "I'm sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen."

Nothing was left to say, so he started toward the front door. Coleman leaned against the wall, eyeing him a moment before following him outside. "Where you gonna go, kid?"

"I don't know. Away."

"Not a very specific plan." Coleman said with a lopsided grin.

"I've caused enough damage."

"Yeah. Yeah, you stepped in it big, boy. But ain't nobody beyond redemption." Cole smiled to him.

"Yeah, well you don't know me, pal." Simon grumbled.

Coleman gave him that knowing, sympathetic look. "Get yourself patched up, kid. Give her some time to cool off and...we'll see what we can do."

"No." Simon responded with a shake of his head. "I'm not taking anyone else with me. But thanks."

Coleman nodded. "You gonna be alright?"

Simon started limping down the sidewalk. "No. Probably not."
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The door to a room at the Deckard Discount Motel creaked open, Simon stepping in with a bag full full of medical supplies from the drugstore and his duffle strapped over a shoulder. He limped in, setting the bags down on the bed and headed into the bathroom, turning on the shower.

He turned and looked at himself in the mirror. The dried blood had been washed away, but the bruising was beginning to set in and those cuts and gashes remained. He could see red blooming at the bottom of his white dress shirt. One by one, he undid the buttons of his shirt, exposing the damage the boy had done. The brown and red spreading beneath the skin over his ribcage told him all he needed to know. At least two broken ribs. A cut at the right side of his stomach had slowed bleeding, but was still fresh. He'd definitely need stitches.

Worst of all, though, he was alone. Completely and utterly alone. For a moment, he considered getting a burner and calling Tahlia...but that was swept aside.

"Everything you touch turns to absolute ***!" he heard Corrine's voice in his head. "You wanna save someone? Then stay the *** away from them!"

No. Calling Tahlia was out of the question. He wouldn't drag her into his mess, not again.

Falk would probably have people looking for him. He was on the run once again. He couldn't help but remember the last time he was here. But that was a long ago...when he wasn't alone.

~~

Simon stood nervously in a sleazy motel reception office. Tom Deckard, the too-thin scraggly old man behind the counter regarded him dubiously. One so young didn't exactly come asking for a room very often, but he had money. Anna waited outside, ready to run at a moment's notice. For a moment, he thought they were pinched. The clerk would call the authorities and they'd end up in lock up until Falk dragged them back into that hellhole.

But finally, the man slid the key across the desk. "Room 4."

Suddenly a weight lifted from his shoulders. They weren't exactly out of the woods, but they were both exhausted and this seemed like the best plan at the moment. He snatched the key and nodded. "Thanks."

"Behave." The man said to him pointedly. SImon merely nodded and walked outside.

"Come on." he said to Anna.

"Wait." Anna ordered, eyeing the clerk as best she could through the curtains. Only when she saw him settle back down to watch TV did she join him, walking toward the room. A bed, two night stands, and a small couch decorated the room in front of a TV on a dresser. In the back was the bathroom. The accommodations weren't exactly the lap of luxury, but to them, it might as well have been a 5 star hotel.

Anna checked outside the window again, making sure nobody had followed. Falk would no doubt be looking for them now. They couldn't stay more than the night. Simon gently placed a hand on her arm. "It's okay. We're alright." he assured her with a slight smile.

Anna eyed the boy a moment before she seemed to ease up, a smile crossing her lips as she eyed the bed, those green eyes flicking back to him. He smirked and both of them rushed over, sinking down onto the mattress side by side, letting out a long drawn out "ahhhhhhhh". The pair of them giggled at one another,. It was the first time he'd truly heard that come out of her. In that moment, he decided it was the most beautiful sound he'd ever heard.

"This is amazing." She said, not only referring to the bed, but the day they'd had..

"Right?" he responded blissfully.

"People actually live like this?" she asked as if it were a revelation.

Simon rolled onto his side, facing her. "Well, get used to it, sister. It's real beds from here on out. No more concrete floors and folded up, ratty clothes for pillows."

Anna grinned. She couldn't help but appreciate his optimism, even if she knew better. She turned her head, looking to him. "I never said thank you. For saving me."

Simon's eyes lowered a bit, a hint of bashfulness there. "Part of the plan, right?" he tried to play it off cool.

"Yeah." She said, smiling warmly at him. "Part of the plan."

Simon's blue eyes flicked back up to her, catching the look in her's. She wasn't at all buying it.

"If it weren't for you...I don't think I would have made it. I'd have probably just...given up. Let them kill me and end it all a long time ago."

Simon blushed. He wasn't sure he deserved such a compliment. "I don't think that's true.." he said. "You're the strongest person I know. And...and if I didn't have you, I wouldn't have lasted more than a week."

Anna shifted onto her side facing him, propping herself up on one arm. "I don't know how much I helped. I was cold. Mean, even. I still think about the things I said that one night." her voice was quiet. "You needed a friend and I was-"

"You were exactly what I needed." Simon said. "At all times. You made me stronger. What they did to us...it was...." his eyes shut, trying to push away those images.

She reached over and brushed her fingers across his cheek. "No." She said. "We're not thinking about that. Not now. Not ever again." Her fingers ran through his hair gently, a thumb running over his eyebrow. Simon's eyes closing, grateful for the distraction. "We're free."

It was all so overwhelming, the thought that they'd never have to go back to that place, to have to fight to survive as they had. It had been a pipe dream for so long and now it was real. Tears welled in her eyes and he couldn't help but join her. Anna wrapped her arms around him and pulled him to her, the two of them clinging tightly to one another for dear life, all the pain of the past years melting away into something else. Something warm, comfortable and intoxicating.

Their foreheads pressed together, as they slowly calmed. His eyes opened, finding her's staring back, a sudden tightness in his chest. Anna looked at him, as if for the first time seeing him, those green eyes darting back and forth over his face. She was memorizing that moment, just as he was. The person she trusted most. The ONLY person she trusted, here with her in the world outside. This was perfect. This was their's.

He saw something new in her eyes. A decisiveness mixed with nervousness. Anna leaned in, her lips lightly pressing to his. For a moment, he panicked inside, but eventually, he melted into that kiss. Those lips were soft, gentle, a bit moist...they were the most wonderful things he'd ever felt. But then the images flowed in. Lips on his, rough, chapped and stubbled. Rough hands upon his body. The dull, numbed ache in his body when they did what they did. His heart began to pound, those flashing images becoming more and more intense.

Simon pulled away suddenly, gasping and rolling onto his back. He lay there a moment catching his breath. It was all too much. He just wasn't prepared at all. Anna stared at him, her face flushed red.

"What is it? What's wrong?" She asked in a concerned, breathless little voice. She propped herself up on one arm.

Simon's brow furrowed as he searched for the words to explain. "It's just...I can't...." He just turned those eyes up to her. "What are we doing?"

Anna couldn't deny that she understood his fear. Neither had been allowed to choose such intimacies. But here and now, she wanted something they had power over. To take back what had been taken. Her fingertips ran along his cheek softly. "Whatever we want. Nothing we don't."

Something was reassuring in that, Simon decided. A warmth seemed to fill his body, an electric charge he'd never known before running through him. Once again, Anna was comforting him, making him feel safe. He wanted exactly what she did. He turned onto his side, facing her.

"Slow." he said, voice shaking with nerves.

"Are you sure?" she asked, fingers returning to his cheek.

"Are you?"

Anna smiled then, those emerald colored eyes locking on him. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life. All my life, I've never had a choice, Simon. In anything except you. I choose this. With you. But only if you want."

The smile remained, but a hint of worry and need crept into her eyes. He had his fears, of course. It wasn't like his experiences had been at all pleasant. But this wasn't one of them. This wasn't someone using him. This was Anna. He couldn't imagine anyone he trusted more. Anyone he'd ever cared for more. He reached up, fingers moving along the scar at her cheek. Finally, he gave in, their lips connecting once again.

The kiss deepened, that desperate desire creeping in more and more. Hands wandered and clothes were shed, exposing their bruised and scarred bodies to one another. That night they saw each other in a way they never had before. Passion mounting as they came together. It wasn't out of obligation or against their will. It was pure, unadulterated desire. A desperate need to feel something good, something theirs and theirs alone. To feel some semblance of love where they had only known pain, shame and degradation. Simon and Anna found solace in one another once again. They would fall asleep in each other's arms, as they had so many nights before, but this time, there was no fear. This time they were safe.

~~
The memory of that night lingered in his mind. He'd give anything to have her here now. Reassuring him, comforting him, wiping away all of his fears. But Anna was gone. How Falk had gotten his hands on her, he didn't know, but the thought made him sick to his stomach.

Simon shut his eyes and pushed it away a best he could. He wondered if she was still alive out there. If she was, he hoped she was happy. He hoped she was safe.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tessa lit up on stage, it was where she felt most at home. The rush of a crowd cheering for her, feeling every word of her songs, singing the words along with her. It was amazing, fulfilling, even though she would know it'd go away once the show ended. She finished that second encore, thanked the screaming crowd, and walked backstage, waving both hands. Those people loved her...or at least the persona she put on for them. If they knew the REAL her, she was certain they wouldn't be quite so thrilled.

Her bodyguard waited there in the wings, texting away on his phone, looking bored to death. "Go get that *** off your face." He muttered.

"You're a hell of a conversationalist." She said, brushing past him. He suddenly grabbed her by the arm, just hard enough to hurt but not hard enough to leave a mark.

"Hey. How about you watch your ***' mouth, kid."

Tessa glanced down at his hand, a dangerous look in her eye for a moment. She tried to pull out of his grasp, but he didn't let go.

"'Sorry' is the word you're looking for." the guy said.

The girl glared up at him. "I'm sorry." she spat at him sarcastically. "Can you get your hand off me now?"

He let go of her roughly and went back to his phone. "Go."

Tessa was absolutely fuming, storming her way through the busy crew. She got to the dressing room door and slammed it behind her, immediately letting out a primal, frustrated scream. She was trapped, surrounded by people who didn't give a *** about her beyond what she could provide for them. There was just no way out.

"You've got a helluva set of pipes."

She screamed, startled and backed away from it, bumping into the wall. Miles sat on the sofa, clad in street clothes. She stared in wide-eyed terror at the man she'd seen demolish the one person who was ever decent to her. Part of her was certain he was here to do the same to her.

"You!" She said. "Get the *** out of here!"

He winced and stood up, holding his hands out. "Wait. Please. I want to explain."

"If you even come NEAR me, I'll have my bodyguard down here in a second to take your ass out." She said.

Miles suppressed the urge to chuckle at that. She knew damn well that dude wouldn't last a second against him. "Don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you. Okay? I'll just...I'll stay over here."

She calmed just slightly, but grabbed a bottle just in case. "How did you get in here?"

He smirked, his brow furrowing. "Do you know who I work for?" he asked as if her question were ridiculous. "I can get in anywhere. Listen...the other night...I didn't want you to have to see that."

"See what? You beating the *** out of my friend?" She asked.

"He attacked my boss." Miles said defensively. "It's my job to protect Mr. Falk. So...I did."

"Yeah, well I've heard rumors about your 'boss', and he sounds like a sick ***." She said.

"Mr. Falk gave me a home when I had nothing. Gave me purpose. You can't believe everything you hear." he said calmly.

He was so calm, so genuine that she wasn't sure what to believe. He certainly had a natural charm to him. "Why are you here?"

"Because...I liked talking to you." he said. "It's been a while since I've had that. I hate that it was ruined by that fight and I wanted to apologize."

Tessa's grip on the bottle loosened, confusion setting in and taking hold. What the hell was his game? Why was he doing this? And, most importantly...why was she so completely buying it? He was apologetic...somewhat meek even. It was in complete defiance of the guy she'd seen turn Simon into a bloodied mess.

"Hey." He said. "You wanna get outta here?"

The girl blinked, her hands going to her eyes and rubbing. "I...I can't. I've got this bodyguard, and he's-"

He could tell it was an excuse. She could see it in his eyes, in that charming little smirk.

"Don't worry about him." Miles told her. "What do you say?"

"What, I'm just supposed to go with you and...what? You gonna take me to somewhere and try to-"

"No." He said firmly. "I was thinking...maybe we get a bite to eat. Then I take you home."

Her head was swimming. What the hell was this?

"You mean...you want to go out on a date with me?"

"You just seem like you could use a night out." he explained. "So...what do you say? Wanna come?"

She shouldn't trust him. She knew that. He was a wolf in sheep's clothing if she'd ever seen one. So, when she nodded, it came as a complete surprise. Miles grinned and stood up. He seemed taller than she remembered, but every bit the ruggedly handsome young man from the party.

"Alright." He said. "Get ready and I'll wait out in the hall, yeah?"

Again, she nodded numbly and watched as he walked out the door, letting it close behind him.
~~
When she came out, clad in a pair of form-fitting dark blue jeans and a white, loose grey turtleneck., he was waiting. She pulled on her navy blue wool overcoat and went to work tugging her long, blonde hair into a ponytail. Miles smiled, giving her a once over.

"You clean up nicely." He said.

"This is cleaning up?" she said with a quirked eyebrow. "I believe this is what they call dressing down."

His head bounced from one side to the other as if considering. "Ehhhh...I think I prefer this. Seems more...you."

"Oh," she chuckled. "You can tell what's 'me' from two conversations?"

"Yup." He answered plainly. ***, but that boy was confident. She couldn't stop that little flutter inside of her, a grin forming on her lips.

"Alright, smart guy. So. How we getting out of here without my shadow getting in the way?" She asked, trying to take some semblance of control back in the situation.

Miles reached out and took her hand. "Follow me."

He lead her down the corridor, away from the stairs that lead to her planned exit and the bodyguard no doubt impatiently awaiting her. They approached door labeled "Authorized Personnel Only" in big, white stencilled letters. He reached out and turned the knob, but it didn't budge.

Tessa snorted a laugh. "Good call, Houdini."

"I told you." He said, reaching into a pocket and producing a tool. "I can get in anywhere."

As he started on the lock, she heard the bodyguard's voice echoing down the hall from atop the stair. "Hey! Let's go! I don't have all *** night!"

Oh ***, she thought. "Hurry. He's coming."

"I hear him." Miles said calmly, focused on the task at hand.

"YO!" The guard's voice rang out again. "Bradley! You deaf?! Let's go!"

Footsteps on metal stairs now echoed through the hall.

"Miles. Now would be a good time!" She said as quietly and urgently as possible.

"Don't. Rush...."The door clicked. "Art." He smirked over his shoulder and pushed the door open. His hand closed around hers, ushering her inside just seconds before the guard would be able to see them. Tessa's heart was pounding as they hustled through the pipe-laden utility tunnels, Miles leading her the whole way through. She had no idea where he was taking her, but, despite herself, she found it exhilarating. They ran down bend after bend, taking turns through labyrinthine maze of tunnels until he reached a ladder. Miles went up first, pushing aside a manhole cover. After a peek around, he glanced down to her. "Alright. Come on."

Rung by rung, she climbed up, part of her still dreading what she might find. When she felt the cold, wintery air hit her face, she found him standing beside a pristine, black Audi RS7. Her eyebrows rose a the sight of it. Apparently, there were a few perks to his position.

"This is your's?" She asked.

"Mine-ish." He responded with a smirk, moving around to the driver's door and sliding in. Well, she'd come this far. What the hell? She slipped into the car, settling in beside him and shut the door. It even still had that new-car smell, the rich leather interior cool to the touch. The lights came to life as the engine roared with the push of a button.

"Might want to buckle up." He said, glancing to her with a smirk. She pulled the belt on as Miles threw the car in-gear and took off out of the alley, merging into traffic and heading out into lights of the city.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Three months. They had Three months together. Three months of passionate nights, exciting days and unbridled joy where they answered to no one and apologized for nothing. Those three months were theirs, spent in hotels, diners, and bars, performing little odd-jobs and the occasional pickpocket here and there to provide when Stills' money ran out. For three months they were happy and free. Anna had never known anything like it. Certainly, she'd never experienced such a blissful state of being as she did with Simon at her side. Slowly, nightmares dissipated and became dreams. Eventually, when she closed her eyes, she no longer saw terrors. And always right beside her was Simon. Clutching her, keeping her safe and warm, chasing away all of those fears and doubts. They were happy, truly happy for the first time in their lives. But still...in every moment of joy, there remained that lingering, faceless fear. How long could they live like this? How long before they slipped up? How long before, as Simon put it, everything ends?

They stepped off a train, into the hustle and bustle of the mid-day crowd. Something about being lost in a sea of people was a rush as well as a comfort. She was a part of the ebb and flow of society for the first time, a normal...ish girl. The people staring at her were reduced to those just seeing a pretty girl or noticing the scar upon her cheek. She'd had enough time in the spotlight. Here, she could just blend into the crowd.

They moved through the station, the smell of exhaust in the cold air mingling with the scent of various food kiosks and a kaleidoscope of different perfumes and colognes as they entered they entered the warmth of the building. Simon insisted they stop for a couple slices of pizza. It had taken their stomachs a little while to adjust to actual, substantial food, but now she was able to truly enjoy it. It was piping hot when they arrived, too hot to eat. The pair of them stepped through the front doors and out into the chill of the city. The buildings didn't help the cold, creating a huge wind tunnel that blasted them right in the face upon exiting the station. Anna's hair whipped wildly in her face, her eyes and nose scrunching up as she froze his face, loudly trying to blow them aside. When she finally cleared it, tucking the offending strands back with her knit cap, she caught Simon grinning

"Don't you DARE laugh." She said.

"I didn't!" He protested with a chuckle.

"There! You're doing it right now!" She said with a put-on anger.

"I am not!" He was. He so was.

Anna grumbled something and walked on ahead. At least the snow had stopped, she thought. Nothing worse than getting sandblasted with ice. She was about to take a bite out of her pizza when she saw a pair of figures, huddled against a building. One adult and a one smaller. The boy was young, younger than them. He couldn't have been more than seven. Both wer bundled in several filthy coats of varying states of disrepair. Something in her heart broke for them.

"What's up?" Simon asked, noting that she had stopped in her tracks. Anna looked back at him with a sorrowful look in her eyes. She turned from him and walked up to the two of them, crouching down low. Simon tilted his head, just watching he a moment.

"Hey, there." She said in a soft, soothing voice. The pair of them looked up, cold and hungry. "You look like you could use this more than me."

She offered her slice of sausage pizza to the boy. The boy's mother beamed up at her, and turned to her son and nodded. He happily took it from her and immediately took a big bite out of it, the thick cheese pulling in strings. Simon glanced down at his own food. He'd been craving that damn thing all morning. Just giving it up was not exactly the plan he had in mind. He blinked then, flashbacks of Mulcahy running through his mind. No way could he just walk away. He sighed and walked over to the mother. "Yeah. You can have mine."

The woman seemed stunned, overwhelmed by what he'd done. "Thank you." She said in a shakey, meek little voice. Suddenly, something inside of him warmed. It was the best feeling he'd ever felt in his entire life. No pleasure before or after would ever feel so sweet.

Anna stayed crouched, smiling at the boy. "What's your name?" She asked him in between bites.

"Christofuh." he said with that little kid mangling of vowels.

"Christopher? I like that name. Nice to meet you, Christopher." Anna grinned brightly and held out a gloved hand. "I'm Anna."

The boy glanced to his mother again, and she nodded approval. Anna took his small hand and shook. "You take care of your momma, now. Okay?"

His dirty little face lit up and he nodded. Anna turned to the mother. "I wish the best to both of you. Sorry we can't give more."

"Bless you." The mother said and looked to Simon. "Bless you both."

Anna nodded to her and mussed her hand over the boy's cap before standing up. "Be good, Christopher."

She wrapped her arms around Simon's arm and walked on down the street. It wasn't enough for her, but it was what she could do. Something deep inside called to her, "Do it again."

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They spent the day in museums, shops, and seeing the sights. They visited sights Simon had told her about over the intervening months. Anna took it all in with wide-eyed wonder, learning just how big and storied the world around them truly was. Through it all, it became clear that she just wanted to know more. Things he'd taken for granted were astounding to the girl. He found it all incredibly endearing. They stood a pier overlooking the breeze blowing in from the sea. Anna huddled close to him, staring out onto the horizon.

"I want to go out there some day." She said.

"Where?" Simon asked.

She gestured outward. "There. I want to see all of it."

"You going to become an explorer?" He asked with a grin.

Anna shrugged. "Why not?"

He thought a moment, looking out there among an entire world of possibilities. Mulcahy had told him about the men and women who sailed the high seas, coming to Rhy'din from all manner of places. It was a romantic image, he'd built up. He couldn't deny that, someday...he might like to see it himself.

"Can't think of a single reason why not." He turned to her with a smile. Anna looked up to him and leaned up, planting a lingering, soft kiss upon his lips, her gloved fingers running through the shaggy, sandy blonde of his hair. He'd let it grow out, longer than usual. She had teased him about it, but really...she liked it on him.

"Food." She said, parting from him. "I need food."

They moved back into the city proper and found themselves a little diner. People of every station were gathered in the place. Men in suits or simple clothes, women in dresses or jeans and sweaters, The young and old alike. Simon secured them a table. They settled in and ordered, awaiting their meal. Anna looked a little uncomfortable sitting there, a paleness to her he'd begun to notice in the past few days.

"You okay?" He asked.

"Hm?" she looked up to him, the smile returning. "Oh. Yeah. Just been dealing with some stomach issues lately."

"Yeah..."he said, looking a little concerned. "I heard you this morning."

"It's just a bug or something." She said confidently. "I'm sure it'll pass."

The last thing he wanted was for her to get sick. They'd dealt with a fair bit of it under Falk's watch, and it was never pleasant.

"So." she said. "After this, what do you say we catch a train...go back to the motel...and...um...get warm?"

That was an offer he'd never turn down. He never thought he'd find physical intimacy quite as alluring as she made it, given their pasts, but they'd worked through it. They were almost like two normal teenagers these days...without any supervision. Their burgers and fries were set before them before the waiter departed.

"I think I can get behind that. Yeah." He smirked to her. Anna grinned up at him, chowing down on a fry, her brows raising teasingly. Simon's teeth sunk down into the bun, cheese and meat. Their new diet had left him less skinny and lean, and he found himself far less cold all the time. They could no longer count their ribs beneath their skin at any time.

He looked up, catching a look in Anna's eyes. She wasn't looking at him...and she seemed suspicious. .

"What is it?" He asked in a whisper.

"There's a man...he's looking at you." She said, matching his volume. "Don't look."

Warning bells sounded in Simon's head, suddenly concerned. His eyes flicked up, trying to see in the decorative reflective surface of a wall mirror, but he couldn't spot the figure she was seeing.

"It's alright." She said calmly, eyes returning to him. "I think we'll be safe here until we leave...but I suggest we make a quick getaway once we're out."

Simon nodded slowly. The rest of the meal was spent in tense silence. Simon swore he could almost feel the man's eyes on him. Slowly and cautiously, he hid the serrated steak knife up his sleeve. They cordially paid the bill and looked to each other.

"Ready?" she asked him. Simon nodded, and the pair rose, quickly, but casually making their way to the door, the man rising as well. There was no doubt as to his intent. They tried to go quicker, pushing through the door and out into the crowd on the sidewalk.

"Simon!" the voice called out, Simon grinding to a halt. He knew that voice. It haunted his dreams. He could still hear it...whispering. Telling him to relax. That he was going to be alright. That he wouldn't hurt him. He could feel the dulled sensation of man's hands upon him. His lips upon him. He could feel everything he did to him. That first night when he'd tasted victory and the Comstock drugged him and allowed the man to have his way.

"Simon..." Anna said, fear creeping into her voice.

Simon turned slowly, murder in his eyes as he beheld the man who'd taken his innocence. He'd never caught the man's name, and nor did he care to. He'd gotten fatter, grayer, but there was no mistaking him. The old man smiled at him with those crooked teeth and suddenly Simon could almost smell the bourbon on his breath from that night.

It suddenly dawned on Anna...there would be no running for him. She grabbed his arm and pulled. "Simon, please..." she begged.

"It's been a while, eh, kiddo?" The man asked as if greeting an old friend. "You look good."

It made his skin crawl, his blood boil, and his sight turn red. Simon found himself striding toward him, and the man's face fell. Again, Anna pulled on his arm, but he wrenched free, breaking into a sprint. Simon leapt at him, the crowd on the sidewalk, suddenly alert and aware of them. Simon tackled him to the ground, his grayed head bouncing off the concrete. Pure rage fueled the boy as he knocked the man's hands aside and hit him with every ounce of hatred in his body, breaking his abuser's nose with those mangled fists of his, blood coating the misshapen knuckles. How he'd thought this would end for him was not reality. Simon wailed on him as people screamed and scattered. The older man wriggled and struggled in vain, gurgling blood as he was beaten to a pulp.

Anna screamed for him to stop, but he just wouldn't, couldn't. She again tried to pull him off of the man, but Simon pulled free and reached in his sleeve. The man gasped for air, his eyes opening wide in terror....just before Simon sank the serrated blade into one of them with a vicious, feral roar. He buried it to the hilt, screams of the bystanders filling the air. The boy glared down into the man's one good eye and watched the light leave it.

He panted heavily, his body shaking with the adrenaline coursing through him...but slowly, he came down. He was covered in blood and people were staring in horror. They scattered, screaming as he stood, looking back to Anna. The look in her eyes brought him back to reality...and broke his heart.

"Anna..."He said, reaching out, but she shied away. They'd been free. They had a chance...and he'd just taken it away from her.

"We need to go." She said in a sickened little voice. "Come on."

Simon looked down at the ruin of a man. He didn't regret what he'd done to him...only the consequences they would now be facing. He'd killed him in broad daylight in front of a crowd of onlookers.

"Come on!" Anna screamed, turning and running. It was a second or two before he joined her, leaving the corpse he'd just made behind him. They ran as fast as they could, making their way toward the train station, Simon shedding his blood-soaked jacket and leaving it in a trashcan. What they did from there was still up in the air, any plans they'd had were shot. They ducked through alleys and side streets, keeping away from any authorities until finally the doors to the station were in sight.

Simon shoved through the door with his shoulder, throwing it open, Anna right behind him. They looked around at the schedule for a train. Any train that would carry them away from there. The rush hour crowd was in full effect as they pushed their way through the sea of bodies, tickets secured and Simon clutching her hand all the way.

The train was in-sight, but it was going to be close. Simon had almost reached the doors when he felt her hand rip from his. Anna screamed. He wheeled around to find her being pulled at by two men. He'd seen them before, back in the cells. He knew who they worked for. He lunged forth and gripped her hands trying to pull her away. "LET HER GO!" He shouted.

Tears streamed down Anna's face as he struggled in vain. "Simon." She said, all time seeming to stop. Seconds felt like an eternity.

"I love you." She said.

Her boot connected with his chest and kicked him backwards, his hands leaving her's. He stumbled back, through the doors and into the train, watching her disappear into the throng of bodies...and the doors slid shut.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They'd gone all over the city, until he stopped at a high-class whiskey bar. Tessa had worried about getting in, but the bouncer seemed to know Miles and let them right in. She had to admit...she was impressed. A woman, impeccably made-up like a 1940's singer, but for the tattoos on her arms. She had a voice like silk, crooning out a swaying, melancolie tune. The men were all in suits and ties, and she could see in their coats that they were all armed. Likewise, the women were impeccably dressed, Something about them said they were every bit as dangerous as the men.

Tessa could feel her phone vibrate in her pocket and knew exactly who it was without looking. Her mother must have been losing her mind. She reached in and silenced the device. As they moved into the dimly lit, vintage tavern, she became aware that there were many sets of eyes upon her. She felt super underdressed.

Miles found them a table toward the back, pulling her chair out for her. She smiled up at him and took a seat. "Gentleman. I like it." she said.

"If I had a hat, I'd doff it." he joked, sliding into his own seat. A candle flickered beneath a maroon colored shade in the middle of the table.

"So. You can get anywhere, huh?" She said, leaning back in her chair.

"That's the rumor." he said with a shrug.

"How's that work?"

"Incredibly well." He said, nodding with a playful sincerity.

Tessa grinned, stifling a laugh. "No, I mean-"

"I know what you mean." Miles chuckled. "Mr. Falk has a lot of pull in this city. He does business with a lot of folks in power. Means we earn certain privileges."

"Like the layouts of concert venues?" she quirked a brow.

"Among others." A waitress in a form-fitting 40's style cocktail dress stepped up to them.

"Good Evening." She said, a hint of French in her accent.. "Welcome back to the Atlantis, sir. May I get you a drink?"

Miles smiled up to her, a familiar vibe between them. "Sophie. Good to be back. We'll take two glasses of Glenfiddich 1937. Please."

"Oui, Monsieur. A splendid choice. Right away." She said with a bow of her head.

Tessa was completely out of her element, but Miles was right at home. "Mercie." he responded before the woman left. Tessa watched her sway away from them. That woman knew exactly what she was doing and how to do it. She turned to her new friend, quirking a brow.

"And you speak French now?" She asked him.

Miles scrunched up his face and held up his thumb and forefinger a tiny bit apart. "Un petit peu."

She couldn't help the laugh that left her. "Man. If you were going for impressing me, you coulda stopped at the door."

"Hey, nothin' wrong with swingin' for the fences, right?" He asked, that little smirk on his face.

"So...how did YOU end up working for Jakob Falk?" She asked.

Miles seemed to consider that. It wasn't that he had to think about the answer...more with how much to say. In the end he decided to trust her. "I've always known him."

"Always?" She asked.

"Since I can remember." Miles nodded.

"So...you just slid on into this...position?" The waitress returned, sliding a pair of glasses before them. Tessa smiled up to her, but the woman, had a hint of something...disapproving in her own smile. She did not belong. Not yet.

Miles nodded to Sophie and took up his glass, taking a sip of the exorbitantly priced whiskey. His gaze again fell on Tessa. "I earned it."

There was something dark in his voice. A sort of harsh pride, that was borderline insulted by her insinuation. "With Mr. Falk, you are handed nothing. It took a lot, but...I convinced him of my worth."

Tessa's smile fell, then, feeling she'd crossed the line. "Sorry."

Again, that charm returned, Miles looking apologetic. "No, I'm sorry. It's, uh...I get a little...defensive about it. He took me in, made me the man I am today. I owe him everything."

Tessa forced a smile and took a sip of the scotch, her eyes widening as it burned down her throat. She was certainly not used to that, and started coughing. Miles laughed.

"Not a big scotch girl, huh?" He asked with a grin.

Tessa finished her coughing fit and chuckled. "Mm. No. Not exactly."

"It's an acquired taste." He nodded. Tessa blew out a lungful of air and took another sip, this time taking it a bit better, her eyes narrowing just slightly. "So. How'd you get into the music biz?"

Tessa shrugged. "My mom. As soon as I could talk, she had me in voice lessons. Entered me into competitions and school plays and all that stuff...."

Miles lifted his chin, getting a read on her. "Oh...so let me guess. Wanted to be a singer herself, but-"

"Never had the talent?" Tessa finished for him. "Bullseye."

"And she saddled you with the career she wanted. Class." He scoffed with a shake of his head.

"I mean, don't get me wrong...I love singing. I love creating music...but..."

"Sometimes you just want to be a normal girl?" he tilted his head.

Tessa was stunned by how observant he was. He read her like a book. She nodded slowly. His eyes flicked to one side and then back. It was so quick, she almost didn't notice. Almost. She looked where he had, the short-haired woman from the other night standing at the bar, glancing their way. Unlike the other women in attendance, she wore an impeccably tailored suit, those sharp features regarding her like a flea.

"Ruby." Miles said, calling her attention back. "She trained me. Only other person to sit at his side. Not big on conversation, but a good person to have backing you in a fight."

"You get in a lot of those?" Tessa asked.

"My fair share."

"You know, most people's fair share of fist fights generally sits around...zero." Tessa snickered.

"Yeah, I guess." He responded with a grin. "But you learn a lot about yourself in a fight. Ever been?"

"You inviting me?" She asked with a quirked brow.

Miles laughed and held up his hands. "Nonono. Wouldn't ever dream of it."

"You think I couldn't handle myself?" She asked, feigning offense.

"I think you're a decent person." He eyed her intently.

"I'm not. I'm really, really not."

"Who told you that?" He asked.

Tessa wasn't entirely sure how to respond, her lips parting and eyes dropping. She knew exactly who told her. Her mother, Tony...it wasn't until Simon that she actually felt she could be better.

"They hit you?" Miles asked gently.

Now, this was getting freaky, she thought.For a moment, she was certain he had to have been spying. He could see it in her body language, the way she suddenly seemed wary.

"Okay." She said, narrowing her eyes. "What is this?"

"What?" Miles asked, genuine confusion in his eyes.

"Are you *** with me or something?" Tessa asked.

"What? Tessa, no."

"Then how do you know all this *** about me? You can't possibly." She insisted. "Are you watching me? Are you spying on me?"

Miles shook his head slowly. "Tessa...I don't need to. I can read it in your eyes. I see it in the way you carry yourself. You've been through...something awful. And I'm willing to bet it was because of them. It doesn't take a mind reader or a spy."

"You swear to me." She demanded.

"Tessa, it's my job to figure people out on the spot..."

"Swear!" She said, standing. "Or I'm leaving."

"I swear." He said, holding his hands out placatingly. "Please. Just sit. Stay."

The girl wasn't sure how to handle it all, but there was no lie in his eyes. She sighed and slumped down into her chair. "I'm sorry. It's just...it's not something I like to talk about."

Miles regarded her compassionately, quiet a moment. "Step dad?"

She nodded.

"I'm sorry." He said. Silence settled over the table until she looked up to him.

"Can we go?" She asked.

"Of course." He said, rising and calling to the waitress. "Sophie?"

The Frenchwoman nodded to him. "On Mr. Falk's tab. Absolument."

The pair grabbed their coats and headed out, Ruby's hawk-like eyes following them until the door shut behind them The ride home was silent. He seemed to know when conversation wasn't called for. They'd touched on an uncomfortable subject, and instead of trying to fix it, he let her have her space. The Audi rolled to a stop in the guest drop-off area. They sat there a moment, quiet.

"I'm sorry if I ruined the evening." Miles said, sparing her only a glance.

"No. It was...I actually really enjoyed myself. I'm sorry I'm a bit of a mess." She said.

"You were great." He assured her. Again that silence settled in. "Can I walk you to your door?"

Tessa couldn't help the grin that crossed her lips. "Walk me to my door? Am I going to get jumped on the way or something?"

Miles sniffed out a laugh and turned to her. "I'd just...feel better if I did. Can I?"

Tessa opened her mouth to say something sharp...but it didn't come out. "Yeah. Sure." she agreed.

They rode the elevator up to her floor and walked down the hall to the double doors of the penthouse. She turned to him, a hint of bashfulness suddenly taking her. "Well...I really did have a nice time. Thank you."

"You're welcome." Miles said. "Thank you for a nice evening. I promise, if we get to do it again, I'll keep the conversation a little lighter."

She laughed quietly and nodded.

"There will be a next time, yeah?" Miles asked hopefully.

"Oh...Definitely." She nodded sincerely.

Before another word could be said, the door was whipped open. Mary Bradley stood on the other side, haggard without her make up.

"Where the HELL have you been?!" She demanded of her daughter. "I have been CALLING you for the past two hours! Your bodyguard said you ran off on him at the concert! What the hell is wrong with you?!"

Tessa glared and walked in right past her. "Mom, not now."

"No, God damn it! I want to know! You're not to be on your own and you know it! You're not running around with that guttertrash Toews anymore. I'm not having you end up on some *** tabloid, ruining this for me!"

"Ruining it for YOU?!" Tessa shouted back in disbelief. "You think this is about you?!"

Tony came swaggering out of their room. "Oh, here we go. Let's hear it. Run your ***' mouth again you little tramp. Come on."

"*** you, Tony." Tessa muttered under her breath.

"What was that?" He asked, hands going to his belt buckle.

Miles stepped in then. "Mrs. Bradley. Hi." He turned to Tony. "Hello, there."

The adults turned to him. Why was he addressing them? Probably another redneck piece of *** like SImon, they thought.

"Who the *** are you?" Tony asked.

Miles played it aloof, smiling to the man. "Oh. My manners. I apologize. My name is Miles. Tessa and I went out for a bit tonight. Just to blow off some steam. I assure you, I took good care of her and, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know, made certain she was never in any danger."

Tessa gave him a pleading look, but he just gestured, saying he had it well in hand.

"So you're the little son of a bitch who helped her get outta there?"

Miles tilted his head to one side, eyeing the man curiously. "Sir. There's no need for that kind of talk."

"Listen, you little needle dick, you have exactly five seconds-"

"I'm sure Mr. Falk will be happy to confirm the strength of my character." Miles said, with a smile, looking Tony right in the eye.

"Mr. Falk?" Tony said, stopping in his tracks, a shadow of fear creeping across his face. "Jakob Falk?"

"Yes." Miles said amiably. "My employer."

A wave of realization came over Mary and Tony. This was not Simon Toews coming in guns blazing and cowing to their daughter's demands. This man could see them ruined beyond the physical.

"Now...Tessa just needed a night out to relax. I assure you there was nothing untoward going on, and as you can see, she has arrived safely. Farbeit for me to...intrude upon your parenting, but I believe you should just let her get some rest. Wouldn't you agree?" He looked from one to the other, that fear set deep in their eyes.

Tony swallowed hard and nodded. Miles smiled to him, like they were old friends. "Excellent. I'm glad we could agree."

He moved into the room, over to Tessa. "Again. I had a great time. We'll have to do it again soon." He leaned in and kissed her cheek. She was completely taken aback at the change that had come over her parents. They were actually scared.

"Ms. Bradley." He nodded to Mary and then Tony. "Sir. It's been a pleasure."

He started toward the door, stopping as he reached the handle. "And I just wanted to make sure you understand...I'll always take good care of your daughter when we're out. Mr Falk would be very upset if I allowed something to happen to her." He glanced back and looked at Tony. "Anything."

Tessa was almost certain the man was about to piss his pants. That macho bravado was a distant memory all the sudden. He nodded and Miles smiled to him.

"Good evening."
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Winter was in full effect, blanketing the city in sheets of white, a chill moving through the air even in the sunlight. Simon pulled his peacoat closed as he stepped outside, his breath visible as he exhaled. Falk taking down Orion Investigations was a warning. Once again, the people in his life were in danger because of him. There was no one to run to. Nowhere to turn for shelter. Over the past year, every car he'd stashed aside, every weapons cache he'd hidden throughout the city had been turned in and impounded. Now, he was regretting it. Time was, he'd just steal a new one, but even in this desperate state, he was pretty sure that was no longer him. It was time to leave. Time to pack his bags and never come back. He couldn't beat Falk. Not alone. And he most definitely WAS alone.

His Uber waited for him in the parking lot, a blue Honda Civic painted with the white of road salt. Simon pulled the door and slid inside, exchanging a few words and directions with the driver before they headed out onto those crowded, busy streets. Memories had come rushing to the front of his mind since Jakob Falk walked back into his mind. Most of them were unpleasant, but every now and again, one good one popped back up. Usually, involving Mulcahy. He wondered if the old priest was still around. Over the years, he often thought back to him, wondering what happened after he was taken.

The Civic ambled down the street, Simon spotting Old Man Hester's store. Or, rather, the porn shop that had once been Hester's. It had been decades since he'd been near this part of town. It was never what you'd call "nice", but it had gotten a lot more run down in the intervening years. He saw a dumpster he'd once eaten from on those months he was alone. Before Mulcahy. Before Falk. A little over a mile away was the industrial district and Falk's little dungeon. Being so close to it again was an odd feeling. A sense of dread creeping into the back of his mind. He was 35 years old now. He'd taken down criminal empires and gangs. He shouldn't be afraid of them capturing him again. Yet, here he was, feeling again like he was that same 15 year old boy, on the run for his life.

The old church came into view and something inside of Simon swelled. "Stop." The driver hit the brakes as Simon stared at the place. It had fallen into disrepair over the years, Some shoddy paint work that barely covered the graffiti on the walls, litter strewn all over the parking lot and clinging to the chain link fences. A high window had been broken and just boarded up, rather than being replaced. Simon paid the driver and stepped out of the car. If Mulcahy was alive...he might be in there. Right across the street. He could almost see him now as he did that first night. A tall, strong figure in the light of the moon, a cigarette between his lips. That night, he'd given Simon a roof over his head. Over the next few months, he'd given him purpose. Try as he might, Simon still never blamed him. It had been gambling debts that put him in Falk's possession, but Simon understood a fair bit about compulsion and how it affected one's life.

He stepped across that street, watching for traffic. He could remember Sundays after service, out there sweeping after everybody had left. Now they were buried in snow and leaves from Fall. Nobody had seemed to be trying there anymore. Standing outside and looking up at those massive, ornate oak doors still made him feel small. His boots sank into the pile of snow as he ascended the stairs, giving one of those doors a push. They had seemed so heavy back then. It was like trying to push a car. Now, of course, they were no big task. The inside wasn't much different than he'd remembered, aside from there being a bit more dust on everything and that big organ's pipes were showing hints of rust. The door shut behind him with an echo ringing out in that cavernous room. He walked down the aisle, fingers trailing along the pews. He could see there was damage to the pulpit, chips in the wooden corners, as if it had been knocked down a time or two. That life-sized cross with the realistically painted Jesus remained, just as it had over 20 years ago. Simon wasn't a believer, but somehow, seeing it gave him a comfort he couldn't explain.

"Sir?" A voice echoed through the room. "Can I help you?"

There was an age to it. A weakness. But that rumble was unmistakable. Simon turned slowly, gazing upon the face that greeted him. He was hunched a bit, clinging to a cane. Glasses covered his blue eyes, one clouded over almost completely with milky white. Wrinkles had carved into him and his hair had gone completely grey. But there was no mistaking him. It was Mulcahy.

"Can I help you, son?" He asked.

"Yeah." Simon said, stepping toward him. "I'm looking for someone."

"Well...not many people come around here anymore, but I'll see if I can help." Mulcahy smiled. God, he looked so frail. So weak.

"Tall guy. Brown hair. Blue eyes." He said.

Mulcahy chuckled. "Not much to go on."

"Decent fella. Old friend of mine." Simon continued. The old man squinted, still trying to figure him out. "You'd like him, Father. He's priest. But not a saint."

Mulcahy's face fell, his breath shuddering as he stepped back, bumping into the pew. He remembered those words and who he'd said them to. He couldn't forget the boy, even as age and life took so much from him, Simon Toews remained. "No." He said. "No, no. It can't be."

"It's been a long time, Father." Simon said, a smile spreading across his face as he reached out and steadied the old priest. Mulcahy took his arms in his hands and stared at him with saddened eyes. So many years had separated them. So much life. So much loss. It clearly hadn't been easy for either of them. Tears streamed down the old man's eyes as he wrapped his arms around Simon, pulling him close and clinging to him, completely overtaken. "I'm sorry." He said, his voice shaking. "I'm so, so sorry."

Simon was taken aback a moment, but slowly returned the hug.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2019 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mulcahy was hard at work, preparing coffee for his guest. Simon sat at the old table, looking around and remembering. He could see the spot where Falk's goon had thrown him and knocked him out. There was a gouge in the wood where he'd connected and, for a moment, that pain felt fresh. He shut his eyes and shook it off. Even the kitchen was messier. Mulcahy moved across the tile with a severe limp, favoring that cane greatly. Things had certainly gone to ***.

"What the hell happened here, Father?" he asked, shaking his head.

The old man glanced over his shoulder. "Falk, I assume." he said. "Let leak certain lies about you and me and your disappearance." The rumors of impropriety had been especially painful. Never once had he behaved in an untoward manner with anyone. He prided himself on being someone who could be trusted. "People stopped coming around. Soon, they started moving with their kids to the other side of the street when I came around. Eventually, I got vandals and thieves...had to start locking up at night."

Simon frowned. He might not have been a man of faith, but such disrespect to a church still seemed wrong to him. Mulcahy ran a hand through that silver head of hair, as beleaguered sigh escaping him as his shoulder slumped.

"This town started to change after that. Businesses got boarded up. Crime went through the roof. Wasn't uncommon for me to go to sleep at night to the sound of gunshots. Just..." The priest turned to Simon. "There's a rot in the heart of this city and Jakob Falk is at the center of it all."

The old man looked to his leg and grimaced. "Even if this place weren't going to Hell,...hard to get out and clean graffiti and trash with a bum leg. Tried for a bit, but it got to be too much. And it gets even harder when you start getting older. Eventually, everything else starts falling apart."


The coffee maker beeped, signifying it was finished. Mulcahy turned and grabbed two mugs.

"How'd it happen?" Simon asked.

Mulcahy lowered his eyes, propping himself up on the counter, silent for a moment. "You don't remember? It happened that night."

Simon didn't have to be told which. Not many nights they'd spent around each other were exactly worthy of the tone in the old man's voice. It would be one of the last things SImon saw before being knocked unconscious and dragged away. The Father trying to protect him and taking a vicious blow to the back of the knee.

"Musta hit me just right, because he whacked me with that Baton and I never got right again. Doctor said there was a dislocation, torn muscle and some nerve damage and...just a mess." Mulcahy shook his head, letting a weary breath flow from him. "That night changed everything here. It all fell apart so damn quickly..."

Simon furrowed his brow. "I gotta ask. After was 24 years... Why stay?"

Mulcahy turned and looked him in the eye. "Because, I don't give up. I won't let men like Jakob Falk see me run. Not again. I still believe in the good of people. There's a lot of decent folks out there in need of guidance, and I intend to be here to give it to them to the best of my abilities. There's a lot of darkness in the world, Simon. It's never too late to be a light."

Simon had to admire his optimism, even if he didn't quite share that outlook on the world with his friend. After everything he'd seen and lost...he was pretty sure people were just people. Neither good nor bad, but capable of both. It just seemed like, more often than not, the bad deeds far outnumbered the good.

Mulcahy approached with the mugs. "Still take it black, I assume?" he asked.

A smirk spread across SImon's lips. "No, actually. Two cream, two sugar. Thanks. "

"My. You HAVE changed." Mulcahy joked, getting a laugh out of Simon.

"So..." Mulcahy said. "Tell me about yourself. You married? Kids? Any of that?"

A bitter little laugh left Simon's throat as he smirked to the priest. "No. Not exactly. Had a girl for a while, but things went south. Like they always seem to."

"Sorry to hear that." Mulcahy eyed him, sensing there was more.

"I...I had a daughter." Simon said quietly. Mulcahy just watched him and listened. "Sweet girl. Smart. Her name was Cici."

Mulcahy hazarded a little smile. He could feel the love in Simon's voice as he spoke of his daughter...but he noted his young friend referred to her in the past tense.

"I got into some trouble with a fella named Cotter. I crossed him and Cici and his wife paid for it. Threw the woman to her death and...and burned my little girl alive."

"God, I'm so, so sorry, Simon." Mulcahy whispered. "What did you do?"

Simon glanced to him. For a moment he considered whether or not to tell, but deep inside...he felt no shame for his response. "I wiped out every last one of those motherfuckers out. Cotter, his men, his whole operation."

"That was you?" Mulcahy asked "I remember hearing a bit about that here and there."
Mulcahy was silent. It wasn't that he approved of it...but he could certainly understand.

"Besides," the Father said, "God forgives us all, even in our moments of greatest weakness, as long we repent."

Simon turned his eyes up to Mulcahy then, a fire burning behind those baby blues. "I'm not looking for forgiveness. He took everything from me. So, I took everything from him. My only regret is that it didn't last long enough."


Mulcahy could hear the pain in his voice. The rage that had burned nearly all his life and never completely went away. He felt for him. Part of him wished he'd been there during that time. To talk and console him. Maybe help keep him out of a life that would destroy the person he loved most. The younger man, sighed and stood, finally removing his jacket. The sleeves of tattoos covering his arms were revealed, disappearing under the sleeve of his t-shirt. Mulcahy paused a moment, looking at them.

"Mother of God, son. What are those?" He asked.

Simon shifted his gaze to his arms a moment. "Reminders."

"Of?"

"Every fight I ever won...and lost." He said, a bit distant. Mulcahy stared at the elaborate designs that snaked all across the canvas of Simon's skin.. They covered his arms and he could spy them creeping out from beneath his collar. He noticed, for the first time then, Simon's hands. There was no missing the fresh black eye and the fresh stitches, but this was...horrific. Raised scars littered his forearms beneath the inked skin. "Some of them are pretty recent. Some of them...some of them go back to our mutual friend."

"Jesus, Simon. What did they do to you?" Mulcahy asked sadly, not entirely sure he wanted to answer.

"Locked me up. Put me into cage matches with other kids. Had to get real comfortable with beating other kids half to death. Sometimes all the way. Eventually, you had to just square it with yourself that it was survival. That you couldn't really be blamed because some 8 year old would never take another breath because you crushed his windpipe with your foot. Didn't always work so well. Lost at first more than I won...that was pretty bad." Simon said. "But the worst nights were when you won. See...some men never see consequences for what they do...so they think they can do anything. Take anything. Well...they took from me. Me, Anna...all of us."

Mulcahy tilted his head, something perking him up. "Anna?"

Simon nodded slowly, his eyes lowering. "She was my friend. More than that, really. She kept me sane. Kept me alive...gave me hope. We escaped together. Made it 3 months on our own before I slipped up. We had to make a quick getaway and Falk's people were on our backs. Almost made it to the train when they grabbed her. I tried to save her, tried to pull her away...but she just knocked me into a train car right before the door closed."

"You ever see her again?" Mulcahy asked.

Simon shook his head. "Tried to make plans to go back and rescue her, but Falk had people out looking for me. I couldn't get close without them spotting me. Even had a few near misses over the next few months, but always managed to dodge it. When they found my room at a motel, I had to leave for a while. Eventually, they must've given up, because I stopped seeing them around. Even when they were gone, I wanted to go back, but...I was just too afraid."

"You don't have to explain yourself to me. I completely understand." the Father had heard rumors about what went on in Falk's Fighting Pits. It was a poorly kept secret, but nobody with any real power seemed to give a damn. He seemed to mull something over in his head for a moment before he finally spoke. "Tell me more about this Anna."

"Not a ton to tell." Simon shrugged. "We fought for him, got each other through the aftermath, and tried to survive. She was strong. One of the strongest people I've ever known. Smart. Kind. Even when she was trying not to be, it was...somehow still kind, if that makes sense."

The younger man smiled, remembering her. "She could be funny when she wanted. Kind of a dry sense of humor, but my God, Father...when she smiled..."

A lopsided grin formed on Mulcahy's aged face. "I...I need to ask you something, Simon." he said.

"Shoot." Simon said, sipping his coffee.

"Did...did she have red hair?"


Simon tensed visibly, the mug lowering slowly from his lips. "How did you know that?"

"And...a scar on her left cheek in the shape of a T?" He didn't need a verbal confirmation. The look on SImon's face was enough. "I know her."

Everything he'd said about her was dead on, as far as Mulcahy was concerned. She was every bit the strong, funny, kind soul Simon described. The younger man blinked, processing everything he'd just been told.

"Wait...you said...know. Not knew. You...KNOW her?" Simon asked.

Mulcahy nodded, that little smile returning. "We write twice a year."

He didn't know exactly how to process it. Anna was a piece of him he was certain was just gone for good. To hear she was not only alive, but well? That was a prospect he hadn't counted on.

"You ought to look her up." Mulcahy said.

Simon's gaze shifted up to the priest and he shook his head slowly. "I don't think that's a good idea."

Mulcahy barely missed a beat. "Why?"

Those blue eyes turned downward. "I shouldn't even have come here. Everything I do, everything I touch suffers because of me. I can't do that to her. Not again."

They were silent a moment, Mulcahy just watching his old friend. The weight of so many dead and hurt sat on Simon's shoulders, dragging him down.

"I think you should go see her." Mulcahy said. He took Simon's hands in his and looked him in the eye. "I think it will help."

"I can't." Simon insisted.

"You know that isn't true."

Simon opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out for a moment. He would kill to see her again. But he just knew it would bring the mess he'd created crashing down around her. "What if I go...and I just lead him to her?"

"You think he cares about her anymore? He didn't when she came to me." He said, softly.

Simon tilted his head curiously. "What do you mean?"

"Not my place to say." The old man said. "Not my story to tell."

God, the conflict boiling inside was on the man's face as clear as day. "Simon." He whispered, gripping his hand a little tighter. "Sooner or later, you're going to have to stop blaming yourself. Go. Talk to her. I promise, you won't regret it."
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Miles walked up the steps to his apartment, the memories of the night before fresh in his mind. After leaving Tessa at her apartment, he went out, wandering the city, spending his time in a few low-key bars and eventually stopping at a 24 hour diner. He wasn't big on sleep, and only did so when absolutely necessary, but tonight was different. He was still running on his 6th cup of coffee. His night out with the young starlet had been one of the best he could recall. It wasn't something he was used to. Part of him couldn't quite process what was so different. When he talked, she actually listened, rather than waited for her turn to speak. As far back as he could remember, people expected something of him. Usually, it was his body, his worth boiled down to simply fighting and sex. It was all he knew. Only Tessa seemed to genuinely enjoy being around him. She demanded nothing, expected nothing and he didn't exactly know how to react. He supposed that was why he'd insisted on walking her to her door. Why he'd put on that display with her stepfather. But even then, she didn't seem grateful for the subtle threats of violence. She seemed concerned. He couldn't understand that. That man would never lay a hand on her again, and she seemed...sad. Never let it be said that Miles had an understanding of the fairer sex.

His keys jingled in the door, unlocking it and giving it a push open. He could sense her there before he even walked in. A dark figure silhouetted by what light could pierce the drawn shades. Ruby sat in a chair, still in her immaculately tailored suit, those sharp, cold eyes showing a hint of disapproval. Miles took a moment to look at her. Those high cheekbones, full lips, and light green eyes locked on him with a steely gaze. Her short, dark brown hair was parted on the left, hanging longer on the right. The somewhat androgynous Ruby was petite, hiding her athletic form beneath those suits, the hints of her tattoos sneaking out from under the sleeves, but he always found her to have a sort of severe beauty. Most underestimated her, but he knew what she was capable of.

"Ruby." He said, casually, shutting the door behind him.

"What the *** do you think you're doing?" She asked him coldly.

"How'd you get in here?" He ignored her question and moved into the kitchen, scavenging in the fridge for a drink.

"Through the door." she said, eyes narrowing. "Answer the *** question. What are you doing with that girl?"

"None of your *** business." He said, pouring himself a glass of orange juice.

"That isn't your job, Miles." Her eyes trailed to him, disapprovingly.


"Never said it was. I met a girl, we had fun. End of." He said calmly.

"Tessa Bradley is a high value asset. Nevermind her connection to Toews, she's a public figure. People see you out there and it can bring the wrong kind of attention on Mr. Falk." She explained, standing up and walking over to the counter, stopping across from him. "If you need companionship, talk to Mr. Falk and he will arrange for it.

"I don't need him to get me a girl." He said, staring daggers. "And I don't need his permission."

"Your job is to serve as Mr. Falk's right hand. Your loyalty is to him and him alone. There's no room for this young lovers ***. Either you're with him or you're not." She said cooly.

"I've given my life to him." Miles eyes darkened. "My loyalty is beyond question. As for the girl...don't worry about it. She's fun. But that's it" He knew it was lie even as the words left his lips. He didn't know why, of course. It wasn't like he'd ever experienced anything like it before.
"That so?" She asked, a knowing smirk on her lips. "Let's say, for the sake of argument, Mr Falk has use of her with Toews, I can't help but wonder how firmly that loyalty lies. Would you turn her over? Harm her? Kill her if he had need? Personally? I have my doubts."

Miles stared daggers at her. She'd been there since the beginning. A fighter a few years older than himself. One of the fiercest to come up through Falk's ring. The first of the men who tried to bed her ended up castrated. When asked about it afterwards, she only bared her bloody teeth. It solidified her reputation among the crowd as a girl not to mess with. The men certainly kept their distance, which suited her fine. She was more interested in the women anyway. She never allowed herself to be their victim. When put in a room with them, she controlled it all, just as she did every weekend in the ring. There was a sick pleasure for her in taking power away from the powerful. When Miles had become strong enough to win, he rapidly became her biggest competitor. Even in their brutal climb to the top there was a measure of respect there, despite a complete lack of warmth between them. Still, he knew that she would relish the opportunity to take him out if given the chance.

"Mr. Falk doesn't need to worry about me. When called upon, I'll get the job done."

"Of course you will." She said, those bright, cold eyes never leaving his. Miles didn't so much as blink. Ruby stepped back from the counter.

"You're being watched, Kid. Watch your step. All I need is a reason." she said quietly and walked across the room.

Miles stared straight ahead and not at her. "Ruby?" He called after her, the woman halting at the door. "Don't ever threaten me again."

A smirk played across those sharp features and she brought her middle and pointer fingers to her temple, throwing off a little salute to him, leaving him alone as she stepped out.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once again, the grey dreariness of the city was in his rearview, SImon behind the wheel of a rented Ford sedan. He expected there to be a weight lifted, like the last time when he met Kate, Virgil and Millie. He was running again...but this time there was no relief. This time, he was headed for something, completely uncertain of what awaited him on the other end of it. Anna would be there, but what would he find when he got there? The expanse of fields were now blanketed in miles and miles of snow, the sun hidden behind a grey veil of clouds. How the hell had he let Mulcahy talk him into this? One moment, he was heroically swearing off putting his friends and loved ones in danger, and the next, he was packing his bags.

After everything he'd seen and done, he was surprised to find himself nervous at the prospect of meeting her again. Mulcahy hadn't exactly been forthcoming about what she was up to, other than the fact that she was unmarried and reasonably happy in whatever life she'd carved out for herself. Part of him wanted to just turn around before he *** it up for her. But curiosity, and some nameless desire drove him onward. He had to see her, even if she immediately sent him packing, he had to know it was really her.

His car slowed to stop at the crossroads, a sign pointing North reading "Haven".

"Bit on the nose, Anna." He chuckled to himself, flipping on the turn signal and cutting the wheel. She was on the far outskirts of town, Mulcahy had told him. The actual town took him back to Noble for a moment. That small, rural, salt of the Earth kind of place. He could definitely see the appeal. He passed through following the road as it became increasingly flanked with snow-covered pines. She lived in relative seclusion out here. Close enough to society to keep herself fed, and far enough away to be left alone. She was always the smart one, he thought. If he'd had half a brain, he'd have cleared out years ago. Maybe he could have avoided all the pain he'd been through in the past decade and change.

He travelled up the snowy, ill-plowed road until he saw the ranch. It was bigger than he expected. Stables and a large barn were off to the left and right of a large two story house, wider than it was tall. Wooden fences flanked the road, stopping in the large area in front of the house Three or four different cars were parked in along one side of the house, one of them a big, beat-up pick up. Lanterns hung upon the porch cast a warm light in the approaching night. Smoke rose from a chimney over the left side of the building, and he could see different people of multiple ages walking around inside through the windows. Did she have a family, he wondered? Hadn't Mulcahy mentioned she was unmarried? Maybe the old man got mixed up, he thought. Good for her, if she did. If anyone deserved it...

Simon pulled to a stop in the nearest clear space, remaining in the car for a moment. Once again, that fear came back. What if she told him to go away. What if she took one look and couldn't fake it enough to see him? He didn't think he could handle that. Part of him just wanted to turn around and leave. Let her live her life happy. Without him.

His eyes closed and he just breathed. In. Out. Let it go, Simon. Get out of the car.

The car door creaked open and he stepped out into the cold. His boots crunched in the snow as he made his way to the door, every step feeling like it weighed a metric ton. He was one the verge of running when that door opened. Simon froze.

Anna stood there. Her green eyes softer now, her red hair healthy-looking and tied in a loose bun. She wore a cream colored sweater under a slightly oversized rancher's jacket and a pair of blue jeans, slightly faded from wear. The scars remained, but they were less noticeable now. She was beautiful. More beautiful than he remembered. Just looking at her, his heart ached. She stared back, like she was seeing a ghost. He couldn't decide if the look on her face was sadness or happiness. Maybe it was a bit of both.

"Hey, Anna." he said quietly.

Her eyelids fluttered and a small laugh left her. "Hey, Simon."

The redhead smiled then, stepping forward and down the steps to him. Immediately, her arms wrapped around him and pulled him close. In an instant, the past 20 years disappeared. Simon held her just as tight, clinging to make sure she didn't disappear, the ensure he wasn't dreaming. Then...something inside broke. Wave after wave of emotion hit him hard and the tears began to come. Simon couldn't stop it. It just came. His breath came out in a quivering whimper, his eyes clamping shut. Anne just held him tight as his body shook, wracked with sobs.

When she finally pulled back, her eyes were glistening with her own tears, a hand reaching up and stroking his cheek. A chuckling breath left her and she sniffed, smiling up at him. "I guess we have a lot to talk about, huh?"


(OOC Note: Written to this music, if it helps. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt_IoFlvKFA Writing this scene utterly destroyed me)
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The house was as warm and welcoming as he'd imagined. The sounds of people going about their tasks filled the air. The scent of a warm meal wafting out from the kitchen. All over were pictures of kids and adults alike. In all of them, Anna stood with them, that warm, gentle smile on her face.

"Take your coat?" She offered Simon with a glance over her shoulder, pulling her own jacket from her shoulders.

Simon kicked the snow off his boots and stepped inside, removing that peacoat and handing it off. "Thank you."

Anna carried them to a closet and putting them up on hangars. A little girl came running through the room to her, bright eyed with a big mess of curly blonde hair. "Ms. Anna."She begged her attention.

Anna smiled brightly to the girl, her tone raising sweetly. "Yes, Miss Daisy."

"Can I feed the horses, pleeeeeeease?" She tugged on Anna's sleeves excitedly.

"Yes, sweet girl." Anna grinned and kissed the top of her head. "Yes, you can."

The little girl looked absolutely blissful at this gift of a chore, letting out a little "Eeeeee!" in response.

"Did you say hi to my friend?" Anna asked the little girl. Daisy shrank a bit, suddenly shy looking at him.

"Hi." She said a bit sheepishly. Simon crouched down to her level and smiled, offering her his hand.

"Heya, Daisy." He said. "I'm Simon. Anna and I are old friends."

The hint of a smile formed on the girl's face as she placed her tiny hand in his.

"Nice to meet you." She said politely.

"Likewise." He nodded. "Don't let me keep you, kiddo. Those horses were giving each other funny looks out there. I think they're getting pretty hungry."

Daisy giggled and ran off.

"Hat and gloves!" Anna called after her. Simon quirked a brow to Anna and smirked.

"Horses, huh?"

She held her palms up and shrugged. "Kid loves 'em."

"Oh yeah,He chuckled. "I'm sure she's the only reason you have them. Anna graced him with teasing little smirk.

"Yknow...Somehow, I didn't see you becoming a farmgirl."

"You and me both. But...that's a bit of a long story."

Simon imagined there were a lot of "long stories" for them to delve through. But for now...he had one thing gnawing at his mind. "So...uh...Daisy there?"

"Mmhmm?" Anna responded closing the closet and slipping out of her sneakers.

"She, uh..."

"She's one of my kids." Anna nodded, not yet sure of what he was asking.

"Oh." Simon said, his brows raising. "You, uh...you had kids, huh?"

Her brow creased as she looked to him curiously. Then she got it. "Oh!" She laughed. "Oh, no, no, no. Not like that. She and her mother stay here. They got caught up with a, uh...well."

"Not a nice guy?"

"No. It was a bad situation. They had to get out of it, so they came to me." She explained, leading him into the busy kitchen. A large man at the stove cooking up a stew, Anna gently placed a hand on his elbow as she passed the pair of them sharing a friendly smile. "S'cuse me, Otis."

"Ms. Anna." He nodded to her. "Grub's almost up."

"Smells great. Thanks, Otis."

Simon and the big man shared a glance, a slight defensiveness in the stranger's eyes as he regarded the tattooed newcomer. Simon nodded to him, a bit awkwardly. Otis sized him up and lifted his chin. Anna glanced over her shoulder.

"Get you a drink? Coffee, soda, water?" She asked.

"Coffee sounds good." He nodded. Anna poured them each a cup, handed his off to him and lead him through the house. Kids were playing games, an elderly couple sat at a chess board, and a few women were chit-chatting. They pushed their way through a set of double doors into a dining room, Anna sliding into a chair.

Simon looked around, taking it all in, flashes of Virgil and Kate's running through his mind. It was as every bit as cozy, but there was an energy to it, a life in the atmosphere of the place. He sank down onto a chair, mixing cream and sugar in his cup. "What is this place?"

Anna thought a moment. She'd never put a name to it, really. "Well...it's...kind of a half-way house. A refuge for..."

"People like us?" He finished for her. The smile on her face dimmed. It was impossible to leave the past behind, though they'd both tried like hell. Some days they could even convince themselves they'd buried it.

"Yes." She said, those emerald colored eyes dropping to the brown liquid in her mug. "Lot of people out there going through a lot of bad stuff. Sometimes, they just need a helping hand. If I can provide that...well, I feel like it's my duty."

A smile crossed his lips, watching her. Even when they were locked up together, she was a protector of the weak and damaged, himself included. He should have guessed this was where she'd end up. Suddenly, the image returned to him of the last time they'd seen each other, the girl being dragged off into a sea of people as the doors of the train slid shut. When their eyes connected again, he could tell they were thinking the same thing.

"Anna..." he said.

"Simon..." She protested, but he pressed on.

"Please." He said. "I need to know what happened."

Her eyes slid shut, Anna remaining silent for a long moment. When she opened them again...she was there.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The world around her was muffled beneath a burlap sack secured over her head. Her hands were bound behind her back with zip ties. They were tight. Too tight. The rigid plastic dug into her wrists uncomfortably. Simon had been right. The time had come when everything fell apart, just as he'd said it would. Part of her was furious and sickened at what he'd done. It was the cause of all this. But, deep down, she understood. What that man had done to him...to so many other young boys...he deserved to face justice for what he'd done...but she knew it offered no satisfaction. How many men had used her just like that man had used Simon? How certain had she been that putting a bullet between her abuser's eyes would assuage any pain and shame she felt over what had happened? Killing him did not make it go away. It just left her feeling hollow. But, still...she understood.

Anna was roughly yanked to her feet and pulled out of the car, immediately going limp. She couldn't escape, but damned if she was going to make it easy for them. Her boots scraped against the concrete floor, the barest hints of light visible through that scratchy burlap hood. It was the smell that told her where she was. She knew it all too well. Three months hadn't been enough to wipe it from her memory. The men dropped her to the ground, the girl landing on her side. The familiar, cool, damp concrete sending a chill through her bones. Anna did her best not to panic. It was time to take things a step at a time. The only certainty she had...was that she would not fight. Not ever again. No matter what they did to her. She would find a way.


How long she laid there, she couldn't tell. Minutes, hours, it all blended together. When the door creaked open, she flinched at the sudden sound. A pair of hands grabbed her and put her on her knees. She jerked her body out of their grasp, defiant to the end. Footsteps approached, but she didn't have to guess whose. He was humming a tune to himself. Quietly muttering the words.

"We'll meet again." he sang. "Don't know where..."

Her hands began shake, and she tried her best to still them.

"Don't know when...but I know we'll meet again some sunny day..."

The hood was pulled from her head, the light blinding her for a moment. Slowly, she began to make out the figure in front of her. Jakob Falk sat in a metal folding chair, that fancy suit flawless and clean, his scarred face regarding her pitilessly.

"Hello, Anna." he said calmly. "Welcome back."

She didn't respond, just glared a hole through his face. He did not seem bothered by it at all. He took in a lungful of air, letting it out in a long sigh. "Anna, Anna, Anna. You and Simon caused an awful lot of trouble."

Her eyes remained locked on him, something predatory in them mingling with pure, unadulterated hate.

"I had such plans for the both of you." he said, turning his eyes up at her. "You were to sit at my side. Want for nothing. Fear nothing. But you just. Couldn't. Be patient."

The tears that welled in her eyes were not out of sadness. They were the expression of unfettered rage. Still, she never broke eye contact. She would not cow to him.

"Did it feel good? Killing Mr. Stills? Killing Mr. Larkin? Was it worth it, Anna? For some silly idea of freedom? Eeking out a living on the scraps of society?"

"No." She said, finally. "Because we never were free. Were we? No matter what we do, we'll never be free of you. Will we? You made sure you branded us for life."

"I made you stronger."

She sneered at him. "You truly believe that, don't you?"

"I do." He nodded.

"You sad, sad little man." she shook her head. "It ends now."

Falk was not amused. "No. No, my dear. It's just the beginning."

She remained defiant, smiling right in his face. "I'll never be what you tried to make me."

"Oh? Well, let me tell you what you *will* do. You will go back into the cages. You will fight. You will repay your debt to me. And if you survive...then I'll decide what use you are to me."

"No." She said confidently. "Never again."

His brow furrowed. "Come now, Anna. You know what happens in the ring."

"Better than you do." She fired back. "And I won't lift a finger."

"You'll die." He said plainly.

"Then I'll die on my own terms."

Falk wasn't sure how to handle this. She was utterly defiant and unafraid of him. Whatever Simon had gotten up to with her out in the world, he'd given her a strength Falk had not seen before.

"If that is your fate." He nodded slowly. "Then so be it."

He stood then, slowly and started toward the door. As he reached for the knob, he glanced back to her. "Don't worry about Simon." Falk said. "It's only a matter of time. He can't hide forever."

Once again, he began humming the tune to "We'll Meet Again", low, slow, and haunting as he stepped through the door.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The girl was obstinate. Rebellious. But then, she would have had to be to make it as far and as long as she had. Jakob couldn't have that. That fire would have to be quashed somehow. Anna was fearless. It would take work to find her weakness. It was easier before, all he had to do was threaten Toews. Now she was emboldened, a sense of purpose achieved. Many had come through there with the confidence she possessed, but that was at the beginning when they had no idea what awaited them. Eventually, they all cracked. Anna knew exactly what world she'd reentered and still, she practically dared him to come for her. Jakob's lifeblood was control. Anna legitimately scared him.

He stood in that finely appointed office, the scent of fresh coffee and leather mingling with mahogany in air around him. Falk stared out the window overlooking the city. Grey skies showering everything in white, fluffy flakes. A world blissfully unaware, ripe for the taking to his mind. If only he could have grabbed Toews, this would have been so much easier. He underestimated the girl. Figured she'd beg for him, do everything in her power to stay with the boy and doom them both. From what he'd been told, it had been her own choice that separated the two of them. Granted, after seeing what the kid had done to Tobias Larkin, he was vaguely relieved. Falk had never cared for the man, himself,. In fact, he thought very little of the men and women who partook in his fighters, but the leverage and power it gave him over the rich and powerful was priceless. After everything that had happened, he couldn't have the boy in a room with them again. Simon was willing to kill, even if it wasn't in self defense. Putting him back in rotation would pile up bodies and questions would, inevitably, start getting asked. Attention he didn't want or need would be cast in his direction. Still...he wanted some retribution. Simon Toews killed his men. Made him look foolish. Dead, he was of little use. No. Jakob wanted him to hurt and the girl was not enough for him. Scars and bruises could heal, but the heart wasn't so easy to mend. He'd find a way. It was only a matter of time.

A knock came from the door, stealing away his attention. Jakob threw a glance toward the pebbled glass, a male outline on the other side, a white lab coat just barely recognizable upon his person.

"Come." He called out.

The door creaked open and Dr. Steinman, his new medical examiner entered the room. Tall, wiry, and always a little twitchy. His brown hair kept short and always on the messy side. Bags darkened the underside of his eyes, a perpetual 5 o'clock shadow on his gaunt cheeks. The good doctor had his license revoked after prescription meds went missing, his recreational habits becoming a liability to the hospital. But the man had skill. The combination of talent and an exploitable flaw was like catnip to a man like Jakob Falk.

"Mr. Falk." he addressed his employer. Jakob offered that amiable smile.

"David. How may I help you?" He greeted the man.

Steinman fidgeted a bit, his eyes lowering and refusing to make contact with Falk's, "Um...it...uh...The girl." He struggled.

Jakob folded his hands behind him, stepping out around his desk. "Yes. Anna. Is there a problem."

"What?" He asked, the barest hint of panic in his tone. "No. No, nothing like that?"

"Excellent. I want to get her back in rotation as soon as possible." Falk nodded. "Wouldn't do to have a sickly wretch out there infecting the clientele."

Steinman scratched at his neck, clearly high on his own stash again. "It's...I-I don't think that's a...uh...a good idea."

Falk squinted, eyeing him a moment. "And why, may I ask, not?"

"Well...th-the girl. She...she's um...she's...pregnant."

Falk's interest was piqued. "Pregnant?"

"Y-yes, sir." Steinman nodded.

"You're sure."

"Positive. About...3 or 4 weeks along." the doctor confirmed.

Well, that was a development. There was no doubt in Jakob's mind who the kid's father was. Given the timeframe, there was only one person it COULD be. A small smile played across his scarred face. In an instant, his concerns went away. He had his way in. Anna had something to lose.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It didn't take long for the girl to figure out what was happening to her. Her body began to change and when she started to show, there was no doubt what was happening. Every day she waited for some pervert to barge in and force himself on her. But it never came. She never received visitors, aside from the doctor to check up on her and the people who dropped off her meals. It was not what Anna expected at all. Falk had her put up in a decent room, not unlike the motel she and Simon spent those months in. She was well fed and cared for as the pregnancy continued. For the first few months she rarely slept. Most nights, she paced the room, trying to come up with an escape plan. The door was locked from the outside. Falk had her on lockdown. She wasn't even certain where she was, but she was sure that if she could get through that door, she'd find a guard and the long hallway waiting her. Escape was not an option.

It wasn't just the hopelessness of the situation or the utter confusion of her circumstances that was the most difficult. It was the loneliness. Never having anyone to talk to or confide in was torture. Denying affection or even the slightest amount of joy made even the doctor's visits an event to look forward to. Falk excelled in these kinds of mind games. Months passed and her body kept changing, new aches and pains cropping up that the junkie doctor told her were normal. Aside from that, the conversation was limited to the clinical. Whenever she tried to talk about anything else, he either ignored her or interrupted, saying "We're not allowed to talk about that." There were people who saw childbirth as a miracle. Something to be excited about and look forward to. That wasn't going to be her experience. When she wasn't trapped with crushing lonliness, she dreaded the thought of what Falk would do with the kid once it was born. Would he be evil enough to kill it? Would he hold it hostage while making her do his bidding? The worst she could imagine was the man raising her baby to be like her and Simon. Put into the ring when it came of age and made into a fighter and sold to the highest bidder for those nights of terror she was subjected to in her own youth? It chilled her to the bone to even consider it.

Some nights, she'd talk to Simon as if he were there. Imagining his side of the conversation. In those moments of delusion, he'd promise he was coming for her. That he'd take her away from all this and they could live happily with their child, far from the reach of this hellish place. As comforting as the thought was...it wasn't what she wanted. She hoped Simon was far, far away. Living safely, never to be hurt again. One of them had to get out alive, and she firmly believed he deserved it most of all. Whatever they did, she would take it. She would be strong and persevere, even in the face of Falk's emotional tortures. Other nights, she found herself with her hands on her expanding belly, talking to the unborn child within. She told it about its father. About who they were and all their hopes and dreams. She apologized to her future baby for the world it would be born into. She apologized that she couldn't save it.

Nine months passed. She was awoken from a rare moment to true slumber by a sudden rush of wetness and stabbing pain. For a moment, she thought she was being attacked, but when she found nobody there, she realized what was happening. As she stood, the contractions hit like a mack truck, the agonized groans leaving her of their own accord. Panic filled her as she doubled over, sinking back onto the bed. The guards must have heard her, because moments later, the doctor barged into the room. He spoke to her encouragingly and gently, getting her to lie down. It was rare to see him when he wasn't strung out on something, and tonight, she was grateful for him. There would be no epidural or pain management here, but he stuck with her through it all. Over the next 9 hours, it felt like the kid was ripping her body in half.. The agony was like nothing she had ever experienced, even in her short, painful life. It was only sheer will, adrenaline, and determination that she finally pushed one last time and the baby was out.

Exhaustion doesn't begin to even touch what she felt. Her body felt destroyed, her throat hoarse from screaming. She found herself trembling uncontrollably as her head swam wildly, the room spinning in a kaleidoscope of color and light. Try as she might, she couldn't catch her breath. Dimly, she was aware of her newborn's wailing. Weak and listless, she grabbed for him with one arm, but her body refused to respond in any way that might make a difference.

The room began to get dark, the world fading away as she was injected with something. The last thing she heard before losing consciousness was the doctor's voice.

"It's a boy."

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