Chapter Four: Ghosts

A damaged man struggles against gangsters, criminals and his own demons, always on the run from his past and looking for redemption.

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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:58 pm

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Anna had withdrawn from him in the weeks that followed his discussion with Falk.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 fuck 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 fuckn’ 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 fuck down and don’t fuckin’ 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 shit.” 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 fuckin’ ring! I see this shit again, and I’m putting you both through the fuckin’ 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.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:58 pm

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.”

“Fuckin’ 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 fuck 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 fuck 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.”
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:59 pm

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.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:00 pm

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 fuck 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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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Tessa Bradley » Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:03 pm

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 it the 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 shitty 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 shit. 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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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:03 pm

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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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:16 am

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. "Fuck 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 shit." 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 fuckin' 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 fucker 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 fucking smiling old face. He hated him. Every smile, every stupid joke and ego stroking line of bullshit 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...FUCK!"

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 fuckin' 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, dipshit. 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.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:20 am

The world was a dull, hazy blur. Everything that moved trailed, all sound was muffled. Thank fuck 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 fuck 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. Fuck 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 fucking 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 fuck!" 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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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:55 am

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 fuck 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 fucking life. I'm gonna rip your fucking heart out of your chest, you sick fuck." 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 fucking 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 fucking 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 fucking 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 fuck who deserves to be put down like a fucking rabid dog.." SImon spat back. "You prey on people. Turn them into your slaves. Sell them to your friends to beat and fuck 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 fucking 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."
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Sun Jan 20, 2019 1:07 am

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 shit 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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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Sun Jan 20, 2019 1:17 am

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.

"Fuck." 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. Fucker 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 shit."

"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 FUCK 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 fucking shut down!"

Simon blinked. Paige waited for an answer.

"I'm...wait what?"

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

Fucking Jakob Falk. It wasn't enough that he'd beaten the shit 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 shit goes sideways. You're a fucking albatross, Toews! Everything you touch turns to absolute shit!"

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 fuck away from them!" Paige glared up at him. "Get your shit 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, not to Kare....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."
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Simon Toews
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Sun Jan 20, 2019 1:18 pm

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 shit!" he heard Corrine's voice in his head. "You wanna save someone? Then stay the fuck 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.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Tessa Bradley
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Tessa Bradley » Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:51 pm

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 shit 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 fuckin' 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 shit 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 fuck 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 shit 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 fuck." 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. Fuck, 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 fucking night!"

Oh shit, 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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Anna
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:54 pm

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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Simon Toews
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:22 am

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.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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