Author Topic: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)  (Read 5940 times)

Simon Toews

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« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2018, 02:56:10 PM »
His eyes clenched shut as he clung  to her with everything he had.  "Me too."  He whispered.  For a long moment, he just let that moment settle.   Romance wasn't on his mind, but whatever she was, Tahlia was his friend.  Paige was alright, but she was often about as cuddly and sweet as a wasp’s nest toward him.  Losing Tahlia, and everything that followed may have improved his health and general well being...but it was a lonely existence.  He'd missed this.

"I'm sorry."  He said, holding her back a bit.  "I'm sorry I went the way I did.  You deserved better than that.  Far better."

"It wasn't...what you thought.  Not then."  She couldn't deny it had become what he suspected, It still least, assuming Eddie didn't do exactly what she was most afraid of.  He'd come to terms with what had happened.  If it hadn't been that night, it would have probably happened eventually.  Eventually, she would get another job.  That job would require her to do things he couldn't live with anymore, and they'd be here anyhow.  Though, it did strike a chord that he'd been wrong.  At least...that night.

"I was trying...broke contracts.  I went back to The Line...I wanted..."  She sniffled, and shook her head.  It didn't matter what she'd wanted.  Not anymore.  Without a word, she took one of his hands, and slid it up under her shirt, just along the ribs on her left side.  He would feel the scarring - the oak leaf burned into her skin.  She just hoped he remembered.  He almost recoiled to tell her to slow down when he put his hand under her shirt...but then he felt it.  

" branded yourself?" he asked

There was no way she could miss the flinch, but he hadn't let her go, and neither had she.  "The ink wouldn't stay...unless I thought about it, it kept...seeping out.  So I...I got the brand."  She kept her gaze lowered.  "I didn't...I thought maybe the physical pain would make it hurt less.  It did, for a little.  But I never forgot.  I didn't want to..."  Alone, away from her usual areas, she let out a breath, and let go of her glamour for the first time in ages.

One corner of his mouth upturned as she let go.  The lopsided smirk that was his and his alone took over.  "I'd almost forgot you can do that."

"You used to love me this way..." She chanced a hesitant smile, looking up at him from beneath her now-crimson bangs.  "I'm sorry, Simon...I tried.  I really did.  I just...I don't think I understood then...."

For months he would have killed for this apology.  But now that she was here...he didn't want it.  His hand came up, trying to halt her.  "Tahlia...we were different people then.   I was different..."  He trailed off a bit, lost in his thoughts for just a moment.  "I think...I think we were both confused about what we wanted...who we were..."  He let out a long, shuddering sigh.  "We were going through a lot.  I was...raw.  Confused.  And when I saw you with him...and that jealousy showed up...I didn't know how to handle it."

Few things had ever hurt him as much as that night.  The old him would have gone to war...but after everything with Vicelli and then with Kate and Virgil...he just didn’t have the fight in him anymore.  

"I knew that if I stuck around, I'd have become...THAT guy again.  I'd have done something...bad."  He didn't need to explain to her what.  She'd seen what happened with Vicelli.  It wasn't hard to imagine what he'd do to the man who stolen the woman he’d loved.

"It...I don't want to think about it.  I would have lost one of you.  And I don't..."  She'd seen what Simon could do, yes, and she'd seen what Eddie was capable of since then.  "I guess, I lost you anyway. nearly killed me.  I guess, in my own way, I did what you did...I ran away.  Only I just...went back to what I thought worked.  Only it didn't, this time.  I think I'm done, Simon.  Whether Eddie comes back or not."  She hadn't mentioned the giant Selkie, not directly, not until then.  But he'd threaded through the conversation.  "At least...I want to be."

"Do you think, maybe...Killer, I don't want to lose you again.  I need a friend in the worst way, and there isn't anyone I trust here as much as you..."

Simon smiled and rested his forehead to her's, a hand settling at the back of her head.  His eyes slid shut, just enjoying the closeness.  "Absolutely.”  It came out as a relieved breath.  Suddenly, he wondered exactly what he’d been dreading the past year.  Suddenly, he felt a weight lift from his shoulders and he couldn’t help the smile the graced his features.  “I'm not gonna lie, it's been pretty lonely.  The closest thing I have to friends are the PI's Paige is working with.  I'm hanging out with a bunch of cops."

Forgive her, the burst of laughter caught her off-guard.  "You? Hanging out with cops?  Oh, have changed..."  Shaking her head carefully, so as not to dislodge anything, she let out a slow breath, and relaxed against him.  He'd always been her safe place.  "What's she got you doing?"

 He forgot he hadn't told her...though, if she saw any footage of the other night (or of Tessa Bradley in general the past few weeks), she could have seen him in the background.  "You know who Tessa Bradley is?"

"Some little teen pop star, right?" It was her business to know these things, although the music wasn't her style and she tended to pay less attention to female celebrities much less than the men, for obvious reasons.  She shuddered as he stepped back, and clutched at his hand.  If she was holding him, he couldn't vanish.

He had to admit he found it endearing and just let her grasp onto him.  "That's the one.  Well, guess who got assigned as her bodyguard?"

And he was ever so happy about it, too.  It certainly wasn't a living nightmare that never seemed to end!  Not at all!

"Oh...oh Killer...I'm so sorry."  She didn't need to see much to know the girl was a nightmare.  Rumors spread, and Tahlia still had access to the right ears, and the right lips.  "Does it at least pay ok?  Can you free-lance?"

"Actually...yeah.   It pays pretty well."  He chuckled.  "She's a pain in the ass...but she's a walk in the park compared to the mother.  I've never wanted to hit a woman before..."

"I'd heard something about her...we don't run in exactly the same circles, obviously."  For a moment she considered asking Adder to hire him away, but that...wasn't necessarily smart.  No, if things went horribly wrong, she wanted to make sure Simon was well out of it.  "So that's what you're up to these days...I might actually have to check out one of her shows..."

That was an image... "Yeah, hope you like songs about friendship and high school drama.  Talented kid, but...writing needs some work."  He laughed.  To be fair, the girl had pipes.  She just didn't have to experience to sing about anything more than the teeny pop garbage.

"But yeah, she's obnoxious.  I had to clock some old pervert who tried to grab her the other night.  Be on the lookout for THAT one.  It's bound to be all over the tabloids."  He said.  "Then, she's got this step dad who pretty much admitted to me he hits her...I had to kinda put him in his place and...."

SImon sighed and shook his head wearily.  "Paige says I've got some bull**** hero complex or something."

"You do."  It was almost immediate, and delivered with a wry smile.  "I mean, probably not for the same reason, but...she's not wrong"  She'd have to remember to ask Bret to get her a copy of that one.  And see about getting her tickets to the girls next show.  And earplugs.  She didn't actually intend to listen to such drek, but a VIP pass might give her the chance to make Simon's life a little bit easier.

Well, that took the wind out of his sails.  He let out an exasperated sigh and stepped back, dejected.  "Oh, Jesus Christ...not you too."

Oh no, she wasn't letting him get away that easy.  Taking two steps, she wrapped herself around his ribs, and smirked up at him.  "The motel, the fire...those people in the dustbowl...Paige...even with Cotter..."  She bit her tongue, knowing that was a sore subject.  "You're not a cold-hearted man, never have been.  Why..." She took a deep breath.  "Why do you think I fell for you so hard?"

It didn't sit well with him, that title.  He didn't want it at all, despite all evidence to the contrary.  "I just fall into ****.  And then...I see something wrong and...what the hell am I gonna do?  Turn my back?  I don't WANT it, and I sure as hell don't need it.  That's not heroism.  It's...bad luck."

"Yeah, you fall into it.  But a lot of people would walk away.  You don't.  Even when it costs you."  Letting go of him, she took a step back, a bit embarrassed that she'd admitted as much as she had.  Taking a long swallow of her water, she glanced back up at him.  "Why did you come to the hotel, that night...?"

"You asked.  And I'm good at burning things."  His talent for deflecting with humor hadn’t diminished.

"Yeah, but you didn't need to.  We'd ****ed a few times, sure.  But you would have found another piece of ass quick enough.  You carried me out of there, lit the place on could have dropped me on a corner, or at the Inn.  You took me home. it what you will, aren't the type to walk away from a damsel in distress..."
 "That's a little dramatic..."  He chuckled. Try as he might, he had to admit...she wasn't wrong.   "But maybe you have a point."

"Of course I have a point.  I'm not just a pretty face..."  Tahlia scoffed, a half smile lingering on her lips.  He graced her with that easy smile as he leaned back against the tree.  It was so easy, just to fall back into old habits.  But he was right, they'd both changed.  Still, there were things...things she needed him to know.  "Simon...I meant what I said, after...after you got shot."

  Simon glanced at the ground a moment to watch his toe move a little pebble around before turning up to her.   That twinge of guilt was back with a vengeance.  "I know.  I did too."

"I still...I guess I still do, maybe I always will.  But it's different now.  It's been...well I guess we both grew up a little.’s true what they say: you never forget your first."

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2018, 06:45:42 PM »
She took another sip of water, and ran a hand back through those garnet strands.  She gave him a long look, and then a bright laugh broke from her lips.  "Jesus,'d you get better looking?"

He grinned again, running a hand through his short hair and shook his head.  "I uh...I haven't had a cigarette since....well.  Since.  And I drink, maybe once a month.  It's kinda cleared a lot up.  Evened me out."

"Is that the trick? Maybe I'll try that..." She knew she wouldn't, although she had cut back, and was spending more time doing things  Not quite the party girl anymore. "And you're working a legitimate more fights."  It wasn't a question.

He almost said no.  He stopped himself, squinting.  "Well....not intentionally?  I cold cocked some fat old pervert the other night for trying to grab Tessa. "  Simon couldn't help the smile forming on his face.  "Like riding a bike."

"Not like you were though.  Knights have to fight for their damsels, Killer...even if they're getting paid." Winking, she kept just out of arms reach.  She wouldn't put it past him to try and ...tickle her or something.  "It's ingrained.  Who you are.  Even if you use those powers for ... good... now..."

Simon smirked, he still wasn't on board with that term, but he didn't argue.  "So...what have YOU been into?  I don't imagine you've exactly settled down."

"Not...exactly?  I'm...actually cutting back on clients...still working at The Line. They have me running the book once a month at the Hold."  She'd always be a little grey, it was just how she was.

Somehow it was a comfort to him.  At least she was dependable.  "You DO seem like you're doing better.  You look good."

"Thanks.  Nearly dying a few times will really make you look at things.."  She shrugged, doing better was one way to look at things.  "Still have the penthouse, you'd probably love the Panamera...maybe if you're nice, I'll let you drive it."

"Oooh-hoo-hoo. Tempting."  He chuckled.   "They hooked me up with a Mercedes.  Quick little bastard.  Lotta space.  The other day a kid jumped up and tried to kick in the windshield and I faceplanted his ass into the roof."

"Sweet."  Chuckling at the thought, Tahlia ran a hand back through her hair, and looked at the strands for a moment.  It was strange how unfamiliar the color looked now.  With a thought, she switched it back to her usual blonde.  She looked back up at Simon, one hand sneaking under her shirt to brush the black pearl nestled in her navel.  "Wait...Mercedes...wasn't that the car at the beach?"

Simon pushed off the tree, memories flooding back of a time they jacked a car and took it on down to the beach to...well...they took it to the beach.  .  "It was indeed.  Though...I didn’t have to break into this one."  He took a seat at one of the benches, eyes up to her.  "Paige REALLY straightened my ass out.  Like, the second I got there she laid down the law.  'No smoking, no getting drunk, no drugs, no crime....

"Well, I guess that makes sense, her being a cop, or former cop, and...well...everything right before.  You could get your own place, now...if you wanted..."

He cracked a sheepish little grin.  “No women."

"No women?" Careful, Tahlia, finishing that sentence might not be a good idea.  Even if she suspected they were now both thinking the same thing.  

He laughed and nodded, "Said I had to get a hotel if I ever picked up a woman.  Not that I've exactly had time since moving in.  Most nights, it's the two of us eating pizza watching one hour dramas on HBO."

"...really?"  She couldn't help the note of disbelief. " are you not sneezing dust?  Once a night was never enough, you used to keep going for hours..." Aaaaaaaand now she'd kicked the door open, hadn't she.  Flushing deeply, she ducked her head, and focused on her water for a minute.  "Sorry..."

He didn't seem offended.  No this was amusement.  He just laughed.  "I know, I know!  It's amazing how a busy schedule makes you kind of forget about things.  Honestly, it's not that bad."  It really wasn't.  He didn't feel the constant need to bury himself in sex and substances anymore.  "To be honest, the smoking and booze was harder.  I mean, I snag a drink every now and again, but it's been...well, since us that I've REALLY gone out on a bender."

"Yeah, I guess we were positively made up of sex, drugs and bad decisions, weren't we..." And she'd loved every minute.  But some part of her had known they couldn't stay like that forever.  "It's...better now.  I guess.  I don't believe quitting smoking and drinking was harder than sex, though."  It was her own worst addiction, she knew, and she was a little surprised at how well she was handling her own relative dry spell.

He was quiet a long moment, a little smile forming slowly.  "well....I'm not saying it was easy...but you know.  I can go out and buy a pack of smokes and a bottle, but I can't...well...I'm not willing to go out and buy myself a woman."

The smile faded then, a more somber look in his eyes.  "Plus...I was a mess.  Wasn't really in any place for it.  I used to do that and it left me kinda...hollow."
"I used to have this...this hole.  This big emptiness inside of me.  And I filled it with all this destructive ****.  Women, drugs, booze, fighting.   And after everything the past couple years, I just...I don't have the hole anymore."

There was a moment of silence, her eyes wide, staring at him in thinly veiled shock, and hurt.  She knew that feeling, knew it well...but it had never happened with him.  Still...the little blonde looked away, closing her eyes to take a deep breath, and try to push everything away.  Her free hand slipped over the brand on her ribs, and she let the air out, shaking.  "Yeah...I...that's good, right?"

He could sense something was wrong   He wasn't entirely clueless.  He stepped up to her, placing a hand on her arm.  "It's because of you, y'know?"  He looked her in the eye, speaking softly.  "I went around just looking for death and punishment, and then you showed me there could be something more, regardless of how things ended."

She didn't want to cry.  Even with her current uncertainty...things were...good.  But they'd never gotten to do this, there had been no fight.  He had just been....gone.  "I didn't know I could.  I mean...I hadn't, ever.  You were just supposed to be a one-night stand, and weren't.   I didn't even know what was happening, and I tried so hard not to, cause I didn't think you did, or would..."  Eyes shimmering, she reached up, and brushed the backs of her fingers along his jaw.  "I guess we showed each other..."

He reached up and took her hand, placing a kiss at her knuckles.  "I think we were exactly what both of us the time.  It just..."  He sighed, still holding that hand.  "We burned hard.  Fast.  I think a little too hard and fast.  I don't think we could have lasted..."  There was a hint of sadness, though, he'd accepted this a LONG time ago.   But that little grin returned.  "But, damn were we good together."

"Yeah...we were...I still..." It wouldn't be her if she didn't dance on that line, swept away in the moment.  And the memories were right there.  But he was right.  They'd been intense, and explosive, sometimes literally, and they'd left a path of destruction behind them.  "Well, you know."  Keeping a hold of his hand, she bit her lip, pale green eyes staring into blue ones that she used to think held the whole world.

Those baby blues turned up to her, taking her in the moment, remembering every second they had together in almost crystal clarity.  his free hand reached up, thumb rested behind her ear gently.  He leaned in...and pressed a lingering, gentle kiss to her forehead,.

She'd meant only that she still thought of him, of the same moments that were probably running though his memory.  They'd never had a problem in that area, but for the first time...she was perfectly content with that kiss on her forehead.  She'd missed more than just the physical, with him.  She'd missed her friend, her confidante.  Especially now, when she was alone, and playing a dangerous game with no backup. But the rest...that was in the past.  Smiling, she turned her head and brushed a kiss to his palm.  "Still friends?"

He looked her in the eye, that solemn expression on his face as he smiled.  "Always."
Simon wrapped his arms around the woman who had once been the devil on his shoulder and his guardian angel all at the same time.  It had been a long, messy road to get there., but it felt right.  After a long year, Simon finally felt that weight leave his shoulders.  Tonight, he was happy.

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2018, 06:46:21 PM »
Tessa stared out the window as cars, buildings, and people whipped on by.  Simon eyed her a moment in the rearview.  She'd been quiet the past few days since the incident, keeping mostly to herself.  He had to admit, it was a welcome reprieve from the constant yammering on her phone and the incessantly bad attitude she usually put on around him...but something had changed in her.  She was afraid.  Not that he could blame her.  It wasn't every day you found out your own mother was willing to put your life at risk to drum up publicity.  

Eventually, the silence got to be just too oppressive.  Simon reached over and flicked on the radio  The voice of Chris Cornell singing "Shadow On The Sun" radiated from the speakers, and Simon settled in.  Tessa's eyes snapped forward, annoyance written all over her face.  Simon did his level best to just ignore it.

"Turn this crap off."  She demanded.

Simon smirked to himself and reached over, turning it up.

"Look, *** hole.  I don't feel like listening to your sad old bastard music, alright?  Turn it off!"  She shrieked.  

Simon began quietly singing along as he made a turn.  It absolutely infuriated the girl, but at least it seemed to take her mind off of things.  She slumped back in her seat with a disgusted sigh and glared out the window.  He could barely hide the amused smirk on his face, glancing back at her.

For a long moment, she just sat there, hate-****ing everything in sight as they passed.  Finally, she turned back to him  "What even IS this ****?"

"It's called music.  You should try it sometime."

Tessa laughed sarcastically and rolled her eyes, turning her attention back outside as he muttered something under her breath.  She surprised him as the silence that followed didn't last long.  

"Who is this?"  She asked, a bit of the edge leaving her tone.

"Audioslave."  He responded.  "Chris Cornell.  One of the best voices in rock history."

Tessa snorted.  "The best?"

"One of 'em."  He asserted.

"Doesn't say much for rock history, does it?"  She jabbed.

"Well, there aren't any computerized pitch changes to hide the singer's lack of talent, so I can see why *you* might think that."

The girl's brows rose incredulously.  "Excuse me?  I happen to have an AMAZING voice.  I don't NEED computers to sound great.  And I sure as hell don't need to drown it out with guitars!"

"You don't need to."  Simon nodded.  "So, what's the deal?  You just LIKE to...or?"

He knew he was just poking the bear and probably could have just let her be sullen.  But what was the fun in that?

"I do what the record company wants.  They want auto-tuning, they're gonna do it."  She defended herself.

"Wow.  That's some artistic integrity you've got there."  he said, the sarcasm dripping in his voice.

"Tell you what, Simon."  She said.  "When you're running with a million 30 million dollar contract and dealing with your mother and her *** hole boyfriend as your managers, you can talk to me about artistic integrity."

Well, damn.  Could've gone without that little guilt trip.  Subtly, he flicked the controls on the steering wheel, turning the volume down a bit.

"She always been like that?"  he asked, his tone becoming less antagonistic.

"What?  A straight up opportunistic bitch?" Tessa spat back.

"Sure."   He nodded.

Tessa glanced out the window, eyeing a little girl walking with her mother, hand in hand.  "No.  She actually used to be kind of decent.  A bit intense...but...not like this."

"The money get to her?"  Simon asked.

"I think so?"  Tessa shrugged.  "Plus, I think she never had the talent or voice to make it herself.  So..."

"She's jealous.  And being in control of you is as close as she's going to get to the spotlight."  Simon finished for her.  It was a common tale of child stars, from what he'd heard.  Overzealous parents with no discernible talent of their own living vicariously through their kids and losing sight of reality, running their kids and their careers into the ground.

Tessa glanced his way, unsure of his new tactic, and unwilling as of yet to let her guard down.  "Yeah.  Yeah, probably."

"Well, I'm gonna tell you something, and if you tell her I said it, I'll deny it...but your mother's a lowlife."  He said.  "If I didn't live by a strict code of honor, I'd take great pleasure in smacking the everloving **** out of her."

For the first time since they'd met, she actually smiled, a little laugh escaping her.  The corners of his mouth tugged upwards into a grin.  "From now on, I've got your back.  No matter what bull **** she tries, I won't let anyone lay a hand on you ever again.  Cool?"

The girl looked a little confused, but not at all disappointed.  "Cool."  She nodded.  

That self-satisfied grin remained on Simon's face as they sat, driving.  It was then he heard shuffling from behind.  Tessa leaned over the seats and reached forward and turned up the radio without a word said, letting the song blast out.

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2018, 08:48:31 PM »
(TW: References to sexual assault.  Violence against children)

"Get up."

The voice immediately preceded the loud clanking sound of the cell door opening.  Simon slowly woke up, groggy and sore from the uncomfortable, filthy concrete floor.  Sleep had come eventually, and for too short a time, he was elsewhere and this was all some bad dream.  Reality, though, came rushing in.  The muted aftereffects of the drugs left him a bit hazy, and the light piercing.

"Get up!  They'll beat you if you don't."  Anna said through grit teeth, trying to yank him up to his feet.  Simon took his time, but rose beside her, his neck aching from his awkward sleeping position.  

The man who walked down the aisle of children was built big and solid, his black t-shirt straining against muscle.  "Wake up, you bunch of pussies!  On your ****ing feet!"

The kids all snapped to, fear in their eyes as he passed.  The large guard stopped in front of one kid who dared look up at him instead of staring at the floor.  He turned.  "You eyeballin' me, ******?"  

The kid immediately turned his eyes down.   "No sir."

The big man glared down and suddenly lashed out, grabbing the boy by the neck and slamming him against the chainlink fence behind him.  He lifted the kid effortlessly and looked him right in the eye.  "Don't you ever ****ing eyeball me, you little ****!  You keep your ****in' eyes on the ****in' ground, understood?!"  

The kid tried to look away and nod that he understood.  He knew better than to try and claw the hand from around his throat.  That would only make things worse.  The guard dropped him roughly, the boy coughing and sputtering in a heap on the ground.

"Look at this bunch of whiny little *****.  Wouldn't last a second in a fight with a real man."  He spat on the ground.  As he turned around, Simon realized he recognized him.  He was the guy who'd shoved him through the door and into Falk's clutches.  Suddenly, a dark desire began to bubble in his young heart.  

"We have fresh meat today, boys and girls!"  He shouted.  "This is Simon.  Don't get too used to him being around.  This weak little ****'s not going to be here long.  Look at him.  This scrawny twerp was shacked up with a low life, degenerate priest when we found 'im."  He grinned and walked up to him.  

"The good father give you a little diddle, there kid?  Take ya into the confessional booth and make you cry to God?"  He laughed at himself.  Simon's rage overrode his common sense and he glared up at him.  Mulcahy was his friend.  His only friend.  The man who'd saved him from dying in the cold in some filthy alley.

The guard's brows rose and he chuckled derisively.  "Oh-ho-ho-ho...look at little Billy Bad-ass over here.  You wanna take a swing at me boy?  Huh?"

Simon's fist clenched almost involuntarily, the fire in his belly rising.

"Go on."  The guard said, leaning down and pointing to his chin "Give me your best.  ****ing.  Sh-"

Simon's fist lashed out in a jab, catching the bigger man in the throat.  It took the guy by surprise, his voice catching upon impact.  He gasped for air, stumbling back.  Simon knew better than to let him recover and leapt, grabbing him around the neck, Anna screaming "NO!" behind him.

He clutched with his weaker arms, trying to choke the life out of him, running on pure rage.  The bigger man reached behind him, grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him from his back.  With a violent, rough throw, he slammed Simon onto his back, the concrete sending pain radiating through him as the breath left his body.  He was utterly defeated.

"Let him be a lesson to you, you ****ers!"  The man shouted, rubbing his throat.  "You might win a battle...but you'll lose the ****in' war!"   His boot met Simon's ribs, drawing an agonized grown from the boy.

"If you face him in the ring today, be sure to give Simon here a nice warm welcome."  Again, he spat, this time a wad of phlegm and saliva splattering on Simon's cheek.

"Get yourselves ready."  He said.  "It's fight night."

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2018, 11:59:28 PM »
Simon moved around backstage as Tessa was performing for a packed audience.  He was keeping his eye on every aspect of the event, trying to run down a production assistant as they were going about their business.  

"Excuse me."  He called out to a girl in her twenties wearing a headset.  She was distracted, but turned to him.

"What can I do for you?"

"I need you to check on the situation outside.  North exit."  he requested.

She let out a put-upon sigh and started away.  "Look, I don't have time-"

"If we get out there and there's another mob awaiting us, you're going to wish you made the time."  He said firmly.  "Check the exit."

She glared up at him and pulled on her headset.  "Jerry, can you check the north exit for me? Yeah, for the girl."  The young woman crossed her arms, staring daggers at the man before her, but he didn't seem to care.  He had bigger fish to fry tonight.

Slowly, her face softened, melting into a concerned grimace as the color drained from her complexion.  It was all Simon had to see to know exactly what the scene awaiting them would be.  

"It's-" she began.

"Yeah."  Simon nodded.  "We'll need another exit.  Who's your chief of security?"

"Mr. Desmond."

"Great.  Take me to him."  

Simon followed her through the busy backstage, dodging crew members as they passed.  As they ascended the metal staircase to the security head's office, he glanced down.  Tessa was belting her heart out for those people, and damned if they didn't love her for it.  Off-stage, she was unhappy, withdrawn, and a bit miserable.  But there, in front of 30,000 screaming fans, singing her heart out, she was alive.  

The door opened and a rotund man in an illfitting uniform sat before a wall of screens, sucking back on an extra large soft drink.  One of the screens had a rerun of some 70's cop show playing.  The PA knocked and peered in.  "Mr. Desmond?"

Desmond wiped his pudgy, greasy fingers on his stained shirt, barely glancing back.  "Yeah?"

"Mr. Toews asked to speak to you?"  It was more of a question than a statement.


"Tessa's bodyguard."  She explained.

"Oh.  Right,  Whatever."  He mumbled, waving them in.

Simon hated the guy immediately on sight.  Something about the careless, slovenly way he carried himself.  This guy was there for a paycheck and nothing else.  Simon moved toward him, eying the screens.

"Help you?"  The fat man muttered.

"We're going to need an exit."  Simon told him.

"You've got one."  He pointed at the screen showing the already gathered mob.  If looks could kill, Simon's glare would have splattered the man all over the room.  

"Do you see all those people?"  Simon asked incredulously.  

"Eeeyup."  Desmond said, clearly disinterested.

"A few days ago, my client was attacked in a mob like that.  That's NOT happening again."  Simon was furious, but the guy clearly didn't see death two inches from his face.

"Look," Desmond rolled his eyes and swivelled around to face him.  "The girl's mother or manager or whatever called ahead and told us the plan.  You got a problem with it?  Take it up with her."

"Mary Bradley set this up?"

Desmond gestured to him as if to say "Get it now?"  Simon could feel his blood boiling.  In his time, he'd met countless despicable people, but none of them fueled his rage quite like Mary Bradley.

"You done?"  the non-plussed security head asked dismissively.

"I need another exit."  Simon demanded.

"Again."  Desmond rolled his eyes.  "You have a problem, talk to-"

Simon grabbed him by the shirt and rolled him back against a wall, his right fist cocked back and ready to slug him.  But he caught himself, seeing the sudden rush of fear in the man's eyes.  Beating the living hell out of this guy wouldn't make Tessa any safer.  In fact, it would probably cause more problems for the girl.  Didn't mean he couldn't use that fear though.

"Does it look like I'm asking?"  Simon growled.

Desmond's chest was heaving, his entire body shaking.  "W-w-west st-staircase!  Take it down, th-here's garage!  Lets out on the other side!  Okay?!"

Simon shoved him back into the seat, letting him go and stormed out and down the stairs just as Tessa finished her final encore.  He pulled out his phone and told his contact with the car the new plan just as the girl walked up, chugging a water bottle and wiping the sweat from her brow.  Simon hung up and handed her a jacket.  It was a lot chillier when you weren't under stage lights and pyrotechnics.

"God *damn*, did you see that?"  She said, beaming as assistants converged and took the mic pack off of her.  "Haven't had a show like that in months!"

Simon's smile was genuine but distracted.  "We've gotta get going."

"Okay...can I at least get some of this makeup off first?  Maybe a change of clothes because I'm sweating like a pig."  She said, that petulant tone still in her voice.

"No.  I'm sorry.  We need to move quick."  He said, all business.

The shadow of panic crossed her face just then, memories of the other night flooding back to her.  "Is something wrong?"

Simon eyed her a moment, debating how much to tell her.  "Not if I can help it."  He said.  She didn't need to know about the dirty details.  Not right now.  To her credit, Tessa swallowed her fear, set her jaw and zipped up her coat.  The corner of his mouth twitched into a grin and he canted his head to the left.  

"Come on.  Follow me."

The pair moved through the bustling backstage and down a stairwell.  Outside, the crowd was getting restless.  Hundreds of fans had gathered outside along with paparazzi.  There were, of course, the troublemakers interspersed looking to do just about anything to make a scene.  Even 15 minutes of infamy was enough for some people.  The chants began, Tessa's name shouted over and over and over.  The longer they waited, the more restless they got.  The metal barricades were barely holding them back as the crowd shook them.  Security was already on edge, lining the sides and desperately trying to keep order.  

Simon and Tessa stepped out into the empty underground garage as the black Mercedes pulled up in front of them.  Simon's contact stepped out and handed him the keys.

"Thanks."  He nodded and slipped inside.  He glanced in the rearview to see the girl sliding in back.  "Buckle up, keep your head down."

Outside, the damn burst and the crowd poured in.  It was utter chaos.  Later, they would find out 3 security guards were hospitalized along with several over-enthusiastic fans.  But Simon and Tessa simply drove away unscathed.

They were on their way to Tessa's penthouse when the phone rang.  Simon glanced down, eyeing the screen.  Mary Bradley.  Great.  He hit the accept button, letting the bluetooth pick up.  Tessa was going to hear this.

"Yeah."  Simon said.  He could sense the irritation before she even spoke.

"Where the hell are you?"  She asked.

"On our way to the hotel."

"Yeah, well, why am I watching the news and NOT seeing you two?"  She asked.

"Plan changed."  Simon said, making a turn.

"You don't have the authority to do that!"

"Job's to protect her.  I'll do what I have to."  He was in no mood for this woman's bull ****.

"Your job is to do what you're told!  When I set something up, you follow it to the letter!"

Tessa's eyes went wide.  She scoffed and leaned forward, her voice a bit shakey.  "Hey, Mom?"

There was silence then.  Her daughter was NOT supposed to hear this.  "Tess?  Sweetie?  Thank God you're-"

"Mom!"  She interrupted.

"Yes, sweetheart?"  Mary laid the concerned, loving mother act on pretty thick.

"**** off."  Tessa leaned forward and pushed the red button to end the call.  As she leaned back in her chair, a smile spread across her face, the slightest bit of laughter leaving her as she stared out the window.

Simon glanced back at her, quiet for a moment.  "You alright?"

"Screw 'er."  the girl said flippantly.

"I'd rather not."  Simon cracked with a smirk.

Tessa chuckled and nodded up to him.  "Put something on.  I'm not big on silence."

"Sure."  Simon nodded. "Anything in particular?"

"Whatever, dude.  You've got good taste.  Surprise me."  She said.

Frankly, he was unprepared for such a compliment from her.  For a moment, he sort of gawked.  As he pulled up some Johnny Cash, a genuine smile worked its way to his lips.  There would be consequences for tonight, but right now he didn't care.  The girl was happy and safe.

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Tessa Bradley

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« Reply #20 on: November 04, 2018, 08:36:57 PM »
(CW: child abuse)
There is a story in Greek mythology of a boy named Icarus.  The boy and his father, Daedalus wished to escape imprisonment within a labyrinth.  Daedalus created wings of wax and feathers to accomplish this.  In his hubris, Icarus ignored his father's wisdom and flew too close to the sun.  Icarus would see his wings melt and find himself drowned, his freedom short lived.  

Tessa Bradley has never heard this story.  

She and Simon had their little victory.  He took the girl out for a bite to eat, but eventually, she would have to go home.  She would have to face her mother...and worse, her boyfriend.  As they neared the place, dread began to set in.   Of course she'd seen her fair share of trouble over the years, but this was different.  She wasn't certain she'd be able to leverage her stardom to get out of this one.

It wasn't so much her mother, she knew what the woman was capable of.  The most she'd get was a stern talking to and a lot of empty threats, but she was too much of a self serving coward for any sort of follow through.  But, Tony, on the other hand...

She'd caught him several times, leering at her half dressed.  When she told her mom, she was accused of exaggerating if not lying and told to stop trying to cause trouble.  He came home one night, drunk off his ass, and barged into her room and made a pass.  When she told him to go sleep it off, he became enraged and tried to choke her.  Tessa ended up smashing a mirror over his head.  Even then, her mother sided with him.  She called her a liar and accused her of attacking the man.

He had to get more creative after that.  In the rare moments they were alone, he was verbally abusive.  Called her a slut, a tramp...and a lot of other names not exactly glowing with praise.  He (and her mother, to an extent) made it clear that no matter what happened, nobody would ever believe her.  The first time he'd really hit her, she was 14.  She mouthed off to him while he was getting ready for his job (back when he had one.)  Tony ripped his belt off and whipped her across the stomach.  The leather had pierced the skin and left a bruise for weeks.  He simply told her to hide it or it would get worse for her.

So it went on.  Tessa would get pissed, say something and he'd hit her somewhere it could be hidden.  But she didn't scream.  She never let him hear how much it hurt.  **** him.  Tessa could see the frustration in his face.  He wasn't getting what he wanted.  She promised herself, he never would.

Simon stood behind her as the elevator made its slow ascent to the penthouse.  She could feel his eyes on her and for once she felt safer because of it.  

"You gonna be okay?" He asked.

Tessa breathed in through her nose and glanced back.  She plastered a cocky smile on her face for his benefit.   "Nothing I can't handle."

"How bad is this going to cost you?"

Tessa stared ahead, that confident facade crumbling.  "I don't know."

"Well, I'm here."  He assured her.  It wasn't that she didn't appreciate the sentiment, she just didn't particularly cling to hope that it would make any kind of difference.  

The doors slid open, revealing the hallway to those big wooden doors.  Suddenly, her feet seemed to weigh a ton and every step closer was a struggle. Simon could tell her all the reassuring tough guy platitudes he wanted, but eventually he would be gone and it would just be the three of them. If her mother wanted him gone, he'd be gone.  With a police escort if she so chose.

No, this wasn't going to be his fight in the end.  Just as it hadn't been all those other nights she'd swallowed her pain until Tony was gone and cried herself to sleep.  

It took all she had to push that door open.  Tessa steeled herself, drawing every last bit of that false bravado as she stepped inside. Mary stood at the big window overlooking the city, a cigarette in her hand.  If she heard anything, she didn't show it.  Suddenly the room felt like a minefield.  

"Great," she thought, "how long before she goes off?"

Mary dropped the smoldering cigarette and stamped it out.  Tessa could see the rage coursing through her stiff body, mixed with, no doubt, copious amounts of wine.

"I suppose you both thought that was terribly clever." She said, that vicious edge to her voice.  

Tessa decided she wasn't giving into it.  Let her play her power game.  The girl knew she was in the right.  "I'm going to bed."

"No!" Mary snapped, turning on her heel.  She looked ragged, angry.  She was like an animal, ready to lash out.  "You're going to stand right ****ing there and you're going to tell me who the **** you think you are."

Tessa's jaw dropped, a disbelieving laugh escaping her.  "Who I think *I* am?  I'm Tessa Goddamn Bradley!  Who the **** are you, you raggedy, talentless parasite?!"

Mary took a step towards her hissing through clenched teeth. Simon stepped in front of the girl, a barrier between her and her mother. Mary stopped dead in her tracks.  She could see the look in him eye.  He was not going to let her anywhere near her daughter.

The older woman glared up at him.  "And you.  The big, bad protector.  You think you get to ignore my orders and keep this gig?  You're an employee *** hole.  You're to do what you're told.  When I say do, you ****ing do."

Simon locked eyes with her, he didn't hit women if he could help it, but if she put her hands anywhere near the girl, all bets were off.  "Guess again."

Footsteps came from down the hall, Tessa's stomach doing a barrel roll.  Even the sound of his footsteps sounded drunk.  "There you are, you little bitch!  Where the **** you been?"

"Piss off, you lush."  Tessa managed.  

Tony looked at her, bleary eyed for a moment.  She could smell the whiskey on his breath from there.  "What'd you just say to me?"

The girl's fists clenched and she readied herself. "I said, Piss.   O-"

He snarled and lunged toward her, but Simon intervened, grabbing him by the collar and driving him back up against the wall, hard.

"Big man."  Simon said in a predatory tone.  "Want to try taking a swing at me?"

Tony broke free and threw a wild punch.  Simon ducked it and immediately gave him a shot to the gut, knocking the wind from him with that mangled, rock hard fist.  

Mary immediately shrieked.  "Get off him!"

Tessa rushed over to Simon, grabbing him and pulling him back. "Simon!  Don't!"

Tony looked like he was ready to try again despite barely being able to breathe.

"Come on!"  Simon challenged him as he was pulled away.  

"I'm calling the cops!"  Mary shouted.  "You're fired, you white trash piece of ****!"

"Mom!  Please!"  Tessa pleaded.  "Hang up the phone!  Simon!"

He barely seemed to register her, so she gave him a shake. "SIMON!"

Finally, his eyes snapped back to her.  She looked him straight in the eye.  "This won't help me.  I need you to go."

"No."  He growled.

She couldn't have loved him more in that moment. She wished he would stay and protect her from these rotten people.  But he just made things worse with this. When he did go, it would be amplified tenfold.

"Please." She said softly.  "Just go."

Simon looked from her to Tony and shook his head.  Tessa's hand took him by the jaw and made him look at her.  "Yes.   I need you to go.  Now."

She could see the turmoil in his eyes.  She really did feel for him.  The girl tried to tell it all with a look.  "It's okay.  I'll deal with it.  It'll be okay."

He didn't calm, but he acquiesced. "He lays a hand on you, a single finger..."

Tessa smiled up at him. There wasn't much hope in the smile, but it was filled with appreciation. "I know.  Go."

It took a moment, but eventually, he started backing away.  Tony clutched his gut, staring daggers.  "Yeah, walk away, you cheap shotting cuck!  Go back to the gutter!"

"And don't come back!"  Mary joined in.  

But Simon kept his eyes on Tessa. She knew she only had to say the word and he'd let loose with the Simon Toews of old.  "Go." She mouthed.  

She knew how this would end.  She just didn't count on how painful it would feel.  Once again, she was alone.  That night would go on, and the pain would continue.  Only this time, the drunk bastard didn't need to hide it.  When it was over and she lay battered and bloody , part of her wanted to call Simon.  Get him here to wipe Tony, her mother and this whole ****ing nightmare out of existence...but it wasn't his fight.  

This was hers. And , though she felt beaten, Tessa was not broken.

Simon Toews

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« Reply #21 on: November 09, 2018, 08:33:11 PM »
The roar of the crowd could be heard from the cages.  The kids were stuffed in there, and a grim demeanor swept over all.  Simon's body was wracked with pain from the beating he'd received, and the panicked confusion at what was happening.  

The door creaked open, the kids all cowering as two burly men forced their way into the crowded room.  The two of them looked over the throng.

"Two."  One said to the other.  

There was general panicked murmurs as they all tried to make themselves small.  Except for a few.  They were the ones who lived for this.  Hardened fighters who saw the only freedom they had in these fights.  

They moved through them, touching the shoulder of one of the meek young ones.  The kid immediately started bawling and trying to escape as he was dragged off.  Simon's heart pounded against his chest as the men moved further in.

They were coming for him.  He just knew it. The hand reached out for him.  He clamped his eyes shut and waited for the inevitable.  

But it didn't happen. Instead he felt someone from behind push past him.  A bigger kid that looked like he'd seen more than his fair share of fights.  Maybe it wasn't his time.  Not yet.

"You need to stay small." The familiar voice behind him muttered quietly.  

Simon turned to find Anna, fading back into the shadow as best she could. Try as she might, , the brilliant mess of red hair gave her away.  

"I did." He replied.  

"Really?"  She said, annoyed.  "You looked them in the eye. That's the dumbest thing you can do.  You might as well send up a flare and yell 'pick me, pick me.'"

He wasn't sure why the rush of embarrassment rushed through him just then, but he could feel the burning in his face.  

"They're gunning for you." She said, a thousand yard stare directed through the locked door.  "You embarrassed Stills the other day.  You get in that ring and he'll make sure you hurt.  Bad.  Probably put you up against one of the bigger kids."

Simon felt the need to act tough.  Whether it was genuine or if he just wanted to impress her, he couldn't say.  "I can take care of myself."

He felt her hand grab his shoulder and yank him around hard.  The girl was strong.  "Listen, you dumb bastard!  I'm trying to save your stupid little life!  You have no idea what's in store for you.  You think you're tough because you landed a lucky punch?  They will beat you into the ground and leave you mangled and bloody.  And then...then it gets worse."

There was a distant look in her green eyes that sent a chill through him.  Anna had seen true horrors in her young life.  Horror he could not imagine.  Before he could enquire further, the roar of a crowd flooded in, the doors opening and a limp, battered body dragged along.  The burly man carrying him tossed the unconscious kid in a corner like a sack of potatoes.  

Anna got low, keeping her eyes to the ground, so Simon followed suit, his eyes on her tattered, filthy sneakers.  

"Round two, mongrels!" The man shouted.  Simon heard the clang of the cell opening and almost flinched.  Whimpers resounded as the adult pushed through the group, looking for their next fighters.  

A laugh that sent chills up his spine came just before he heard "You."

For a moment he was certain his time had come.  But the hand didn't touch him.  He allowed himself to calm as he heard someone move through the crowd of children to go into the ring.  One of the bigger, more aggressive kids, he was certain.  God help his opponent.  He dared let his eyes flick up to Anna.  It was as if she could sense his gaze.  She turned those bright green eyes up to him, and offered the barest hint of a smile.

But it suddenly faded, replaced with...something else. She quickly looked away.  Before the confusion could fully set in, a rough hand jerked him back around.  The big man sneered down at him.  "Yeah.  Stills is gonna love this.  You'll do nicely."

Simon's heart seemed to stop.  As he was being dragged forward, he panicked, trying to resist against the much stronger man.  "You better knock that **** off before I get angry kid!"  He snarled.  

Simon reared back and spat right in his face.  The backhand that followed took the young boy off his feet and had him stumbling into the others. His face stung and his eyes were a bit blurry when he was put into a headlock and dragged out toward the arena.  He clawed and pulled to no avail, stopping only after catching eyes with Anna.   She looked sad and a bit defeated, giving the slightest shake of her head.  

Then, he just stopped, watching her slowly disappear into shadows.

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #22 on: November 10, 2018, 02:55:32 AM »
The roar was deafening, the sudden flood of bright lights disorienting.  Simon found himself tossed aside onto the ground, dirt puffing up in a cloud around him and into his mouth.  His ribs ached as he coughed it up.  The dazed boy looked around, men and women in suits, the rich and powerful, all surrounded him, cheering and blood thirsty.  It took him a moment to gather his bearings as he pushed himself up onto his feet.  He could see the splatters of blood all around the ring from the previous fight.  Distantly, he wondered if the boy they'd brought back had been alive at all.  

The thought was short lived as he beheld his opponent.  The kid had him by 9 inches and probably about 30 lbs.  Scars littered his shirtless body.  This wasn't some scared welp.  This was a pubescent gladiator.  He stared at Simon with a burning hatred the young man had never known before.  It was almost enough to make him turn tail and run.  

Stills walked around the caged-in arena, holding a cordless microphone.  "Ladies and Gentlemen!  We have a fresh face in the pit tonight!"

The high-priced lowlives all screamed in excitement, holding fistfuls of money like Simon had never seen.  

"Let's give a warm SIMON!"

Again, that crowd roared.

"And in the other corner.  You know him, you love him...Nicholas: The SKULL SPLITTER!"  The cheer that erupted was loud enough it hurt Simon's ears.  He winced and backed into his corner, desperately looking for a way out.  The entire arena was caged in with razorwire wrapped around the top.

"You know the rules, folks.  And what are they?"  Still rose a fist, prompting them all to shout "NO. RULES!"

Simon turned and grabbed the chainlink fencing and pounded for all he was worth.  "HELP!  PLEASE!  GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

He knew it was futile.  He could see in their eyes this just enticed them further.  No, he would not find salvation here.  These weren't decent people.  These were privileged, sick animals.  They wanted blood.  His blood.  

It was only the rising cacophony that alerted him to his approaching opponent.  The older boy lunged, grabbing for him, but Simon managed to duck away, backpedaling quickly.  He held his hands up to Nicholas.  "Please!  Please don't!"

The older boy stalked toward him, a predatory look in his eyes.  If he felt any sort of pity, it did not show.  Simon was screwed.  The only thing he decided he could do was try and run.   Climb out where maybe the razor wire had a gap.  He turned to do exactly that, but found a hand gripping tight to his hair.  Simon's head snapped back as he was yanked by Nicholas.  He could feel strands ripping out from his scalp, his body falling helplessly to his back.

The boy they called "Skull Splitter" quickly straddled him and grabbed his throat.  Simon wriggled and struggled, trying in vain to pry the stronger hands from around his neck.   White bursts of light flashed in his eyes as his brain was deprived of oxygen, his eyes bulging from their socket.  In a last ditch effort, he clenched a fist and threw a blind punch.  Knuckles connected with throat and Nicholas' grip on him loosened.  Young Simon gripped his attacker and shoved him off to one side of him, coughing and sputtering as he tried to crawl away.

But the older boy was not out yet.  He jumped onto Simon's back and gripped him by the hair, smashing the smaller boy's face into the ground again and again and again to thunderous applause.  Dirt mingled with blood running from his temple,  Simon trying to do everything he could to fight back.  

Finally, a closed fist backhand caught Nicholas in the jaw.  It hurt Simon almost as much as it hurt his opponent, his hand aching from the impact.  Nicholas just got angrier.  He pulled the younger boy to his feet and lashed out, jabbing him the face.  One.  Two.  Three.  Lighting quick punches that didn't drop him, but kept Simon from holding any sort of ground.  

The people surrounding them howled.  They were loving this completely one-sided fight.  He finally fell back against the fence, clinging to the links to even stay vertical.  Nicholas appeared to him in double vision, his head swimming from the beating he was being dealt.  The older boy cocked a fist back, ready to deliver an ending blow, just as Simon's vision came back to normal.

Simon ducked away immediately, Nicholas' fist slamming into a pole and letting out a telltale crack that said he would have to learn to be a southpaw for a little bit.  Simon moved in quick and threw a punch.  It connected with the bigger boy's face, but this time, Simon knew he was hurting more.  Agony shot up his arm, his fist feeling like a ball of burning white pain.  He clutched his wrist with his free hand, screaming.  He'd broken his hand.  My god, he'd broken his damn hand!

Nicholas was sent reeling from the blow, but he knew how to take a punch.  He turned to Simon, blood trickling out of a fresh cut from his cheek.  The younger boy was more concerned with his injured hand than the towering monster before him.  Simon looked up just in time for Nicholas' heel to connect with his chest.  The smaller fighter was sent flying back into the cage, the back of his head clanging off a pole.  

Simon's body crumpled to the ground, exhausted and battered.  "Skull Splitter" was on him immediately, kicking him hard in the stomach and chest.  Simon tried all he could to ball up to protect himself, but it just was not working.  He just lay there, wheezing and groaning until Nicholas had finally had his fill.  

His hands shaking, his body in utter agony, Simon tried crawl away to the boo's of the crowd.  Nicholas pulled him up onto his knees and held him like a fisherman showcasing his latest catch.  They roared in approval.

Simon wanted every last one of them dead.  He wanted their lines ended, their empires crushed.  He wanted to burn every man and woman in that room to the ****ing ground.

Nicholas' fist connected with his face, Simon's head snapping to one side and jerking back after the blow.  It took a moment for the flashing white light that accompanied Simon's pain to go...but then the world just went dark.

Simon lay upon the ground, still breathing but out for the count.  He'd gotten the tar beaten out of him...and these people loved it.  If it was the last thing he did he'd get even with them.  With all of them...especially the man who'd put him there.  One day, Falk would pay.

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Corrine Paige

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« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2018, 09:55:39 PM »
“What the Hell happened?"

Corrine was livid.  The one armed woman paced back and forth as Simon sat like a little kid getting chastised by a parent.  One moment, she was finishing up some work at the agency and the next she was getting word that not only had Simon been fired, he'd actually attacked Tessa's...well, she wasn't entirely sure what he was,beyond Mary Bradley's boytoy.  

Simon knew the deal.  No fighting.  But Corrine knew how hard he'd been working at changing.  Maybe he deserved the benefit of the doubt.  Didn't mean she had to like it, of course, but some credit was due.  Those brilliant blue eyes turned up to her.  The shame in them wasn't from what he'd done to the man.  It was the feeling he'd let her down.  That was new.

"They were deliberately putting her in danger."  He said.  "I protected the girl like I was supposed to and they fired me."

"Yeah" Paige's brow cocked.  "And when, exactly, did suckerpunching the boyfriend come into play?"

She saw defiance in his eyes when he looked up, sharply.  "When he was moving in to hit her."

Corrine balked at him, her brows rising high.  "He's hitting her?"  She asked incredulously.  How the hell dumb were these people that they would risk injury to their meal ticket?  She'd met Mary Bradley.  The woman was about as warm and cuddly as a rattlesnake, but she certainly LOVED the lifestyle that girl's talent provided for her.  

"He bragged about it to me the day I met him.  I made it pretty damn clear what would happen if he ever did."  There wasn't a word strong enough to describe the hatred Simon had for that man. "He's a predator.  He got less than he deserved."

Corrine sat beside him, finger and thumb to the bridge of her nose.  There was a small part of her that still didn't quite believe him.  But the rational part had met Tony, and he seemed every bit capable of what Simon described. WAS kind of the tattooed mess's MO.

"We need to get her out of there."  Simon said.

"You get the girl to come forward, sure."  Paige said.  "You think you can manage that?"

Simon grimaced.  He'd seen that look in her eye.  It was one he'd had in the past.  This foolish idea that only the weak reported abuse.  The strong survived it and turned it on their abusers.  Tessa Bradley was not one to ask for a savior.  She was in control of her own destiny, her own survival.  She would handle her parents in her own way.

"That might not be so easy."

"Then we may be **** outta luck."  Paige said grimly.

Simon Toews

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« Reply #24 on: November 24, 2018, 12:27:48 PM »
Darkness had enveloped him.  The world went away.  He'd been beaten, and badly.  Consciousness was slow to return, but with it, was pain.  Every bit of him ached, the sharpest pain in his hand.  It was cold and damp in the cell, the concrete floor harsh and uncomfortable.  It was the cold rag on his face that fully brought him to.

Panic filled his bloodshot eyes, red like and ink stain around the bright blue iris.  The result of a burst blood vessel.  Simon had to squeeze his eyes closed to shut out the blinding light from above.

"Easy."  Anna said, wiping his forehead gently with the rag.  "Just relax.  You took a pretty good beating."

Simon's eyes eventually adjusted, taking her in.  She had scrapes and bruises and her knuckles were scabbed over and red, but for the most part, the girl looked fine.   Those red locks pulled back in a loose ponytail that left a few strands hanging.  

"Are you okay?"  He croaked out reaching his good hand toward her face.  The girl shied away and brushed his hand aside.  

"I'm fine." she insisted, a hint of impatience in her voice that took him aback.  He didn't have much time to consider it, though.  A stabbing pain tore through his arm distracted him as he tried to move.

"It's broken."  She told him.  "Try not to move it too much."

"I don't think that's going to be a problem."  He responded wryly.

Anna didn't so much as crack the slightest grin.  Her mind was elsewhere at that moment.  Simon watched her wash her hands in a bowl  The everpresent sadness within the girl was hard to miss, but even in those moments, she was still kind to him.  

"Thank you."  He said quietly. "For taking care of me."

She froze a moment, her entire body tensing. Anna refused to make eye contact.  "Don't." She muttered, scrubbing harder.  "Don't thank me."

"But, if it weren't for you, I don't think I'd survive this."  He said, wincing as he sat himself up.

"You won't."  She said.  "And if I was REALLY doing you a favor?  I'd have put that pillow over your head while you were asleep.  You think it's bad now?  Because you got a few broken bones?  You have no ****ing clue."

His battered brow furrowed in confusion. "Then why?"

"Because you're weak." Her voice took on a disgusted, annoyed edge.  "And I don't need your death on my conscience.  Not if I can do something about it.  Not yet."

"You're...pitying me?" Somehow, that hurt more than his bruised and beaten body.

"Good a word as any."

He didn't know what else to say.  Or if there was anything else to say.  He just blinked and lowered his eyes.

Once again, the clank of the cell door called their attention away.  Anna had the look of prey in the presence of a predator as a figure stepped into the room.  Simon's eyes were still struggling to adjust and he couldn't quite make out the man.  Not until...that voice.

Calm.  Easy.  Just the hint of an accent he couldn't place.  "Anna?  It's time."

Falk.  He'd never forget that voice.  One day he swore he'd hear it beg him for mercy.  Mercy that it would not receive.

Anna closed her eyes and took in a deep, bracing breath.  She pushed herself up onto her feet and made her way over with as much dignity as she could muster.  

Simon looked from Falk to her and back, panic meeting with a sense of inevitable dread. "Wait.  Anna, where are you going?"

She didn't answer.  Didn't look back.  

"Anna!" He called after her trying to get to his feet. His legs were still too weak, and pain ran wild through his body.  He collapsed onto the ground with a yelp.  

Falk gently placed a hand on Anna's back, guiding her out toward the corridor, watching as she was escorted away by Falk's men.  

Falk stood silent, his back to Simon.  His suit was immaculate, his dark beard and hair perfectly coiffed.  Simon glared up at him, propped on his one good hand.

"Where are you taking her?"  He snarled.

Falk glanced back, staring at him.  He gave a little whistle and a lackey came up with a folding chair, brushing past him and setting it up near the wounded boy.  Falk put his hands in his pockets and ambled on over, taking a seat.  He leaned forward, elbows propped upon his knees, keen eyes studying the boy.

Simon felt like an animal in a zoo.  Trapped.  

"How is your hand?"  Falk asked as if he gave a rat's ass.  

"Where did you take Anna?"  He said with as low a growl as his young voice could muster.  

Falk continued on as if he hadn't heard.  "They tell me it will be some time before it's properly healed."

"WHERE IS SHE?!"  Simon demanded, trying not to wince at the sudden stab of pain in his ribs.

Falk eyed him like a disappointed parent. "Manners.  We'll have to work on manners."

"**** your manners.  Why are you doing this?"

Falk pulled his lips between his teeth, controlling his own temper before again addressing the boy.

" I am simply a broker, boy.  Do you know what a broker is, Simon?"  He asked patiently.  "A broker provides things of value to those who are in a position to request his services.  My clientele have...particular demands.  I fulfill their needs in exchange for my own payment."

"By pitting children against one another?  You're a monster."

Falk quietly sniffed a laugh.  "Don't be naive.  There are no such things.  There are just people.  People with desires and needs.  It is not my place to judge them, just as it is not my place to deny them."

"You're killing us.  We're only kids!"  Simon argued.

Falk regarded him curiously, his brow furrowing.  "Let me tell you a story, Simon."

The boy clearly didn't want to listen, he just glared.  Falk went on, nonetheless.  

"When I was a boy, I lived in a small village in Istovia.  Not a town of much importance, just a little hamlet right in the middle of nowhere.   The first 8 years of my childhood were happy.  Typical, storybook fare.  My father would take me hunting, camping...generally, a good man.  But when I turned 8, there was a revolution.  The Separatists overthrew our government, and began hunting down those who dissented.  My father was one of them.  When they arrived that winter with their tanks and their guns, we fled into the woods with nothing but the clothes on our backs and a rifle.  We were nearly frozen to death every night, scarcely daring to light a fire lest they see us.  They hunted us like dogs for a month before they finally caught up.  Mother did not survive.  A bullet to the back of her neck brought her down.  When I tried to rescue her, my father dragged me away.  It took him hitting me in the face to calm me.  I can still feel the tears freezing to my cheeks."

Falk inhaled deeply, lost in the memory.  "'Never show them, Jakob.'  he told me.  'Never let them know they've hurt you.  Your tears will not help.  They will not bring your mother back.'"

Once again those green eyes settled on Simon, back in the present.

"Father became ill after that, coughing blood every night into his handkerchief.  He lasted only two weeks.  One night, I tried to wake him when a patrol came near, but he had died in his sleep, his eyes wide open and lifeless when I turned him over.  So, I took my father's rifle and I ran.  I ran until my lungs felt on fire, but they were still coming for me.  So I climbed a tree and I waited.  When they came into the clearing, I took aim with my rifle...and one-by-one, I killed them.  Then, I was alone again.  I've never known a chill so harsh as that year's winter.  I spent months in that forest, hunting them as they hunted me, killing as I went, taking shelter where I could.  Frostbite took two of my toes by the end, and I'd been shot 3 times, always scraping by and surviving by the skin of my teeth.  When the spring came and the snow went away, so, too, had the patrols.  The revolution had ended and the Separatists were, themselves, overthrown and executed.  I was 9 years old.  A child, but not anymore.  I was a survivor and I was stronger for it.  And so, too will you be...if you have the will."

Simon stared at him, finally he'd gotten to the point.  It did little to quell the disgust for the man.

"I learned as a child that my blood could spill just as easily as an adult.  Age is merely a number of little consequence.  Life is a privilege meant for the strong.  It must be earned and the weak do not survive because they do not *deserve* to.  One day, hopefully, you will understand that."  Falk said, rising from his seat, folding it shut and walking toward the cell door.  

As the guard let him out, the older man turned to face Simon.  "Rest.  Recover.  This is just the beginning."

Falk took his leave then, the guard locking the door behind him.  Simon lay there, the words of Anna and Falk both echoing in his head.  Anna had called him weak, and maybe she was right.  He HAD been weak.  Scared.  Emotionally dependent upon her.  In that moment, he swore to himself he never would be again.  He would earn his right to live.

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #25 on: December 06, 2018, 12:30:18 AM »
Simon sat outside the highrise, waiting for his new client to come down and meet him.  Some bigshot CEO, he'd been told.  That world never really interested him, outside of the paycheck, but a gig was a gig.  It had been weeks since the blow out with Tessa's parents.  Corrine pulled some serious strings to get him here.  Part of him considered taking the generous chunk of money Tahlia had kicked his way and live off that for a while...but two weeks without work and he was going stir crazy.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Working for these guys.  You like it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Simon."  He said, hand to his chest.

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

"Bodyguard."  He responded.

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

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

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

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

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

"But not you?"  He said.

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

"Not the dream job."  He nodded.

"No.  Not at all."  she grimaced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Anna Simmons

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« Reply #26 on: December 08, 2018, 02:50:29 AM »
The road to recovery didn't last nearly long enough for Simon's liking.  Before he knew it, he was on his feet again.   Every Saturday, they would be loaded up into trucks and taken away to a new fight.  Simon stuck on the sidelines, watching.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door slammed shut with a clang.  

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

Simon Toews

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« Reply #27 on: December 17, 2018, 12:01:13 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."  Simon muttered unhappily.  "Guess who gets to hang out with the rich and powerful tonight."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paige looked at him like he MUST have lost his mind, a derisive laugh leaving her.  "Yeah, we'll take it out of the massive pile of debt you currently owe me, Toews."

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #28 on: December 28, 2018, 08:15:58 PM »
(Cw: sexual assault)
Fighting became a way of life.  Together, Anna and Simon would spar whenever they could, honing their skills, readying themselves for the inevitable call to the ring.  Through the hell and misery of life under Falk's ownership, the sparring sessions became the highlight of their days.  At least it was something to keep their minds off of the reality in which they lived, an escape where they had control over something.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What's that?"  He asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Anna Simmons

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« Reply #29 on: December 28, 2018, 08:51:23 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 **** 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 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.