Kyle pulled open the front door at the sound of the third knock, and honestly wasn't even shocked that Kenny stood there in the snow, his hands shoved into his pockets.

This had been sort of a norm for years now, that Kenny would turn up at his house at odd hours. However, it was usually after a fight with his parents, and more often than not, Kenny would be bearing a bruise or two. Tonight, however, he seemed physically fine. A little tired, but that was to be expected, coatless as usual, and clutching a sketchbook to his chest. His blue eyes were underscored by dark circles, and his face looked paler than normal under the accumulating dirt.

"... Kenny?"

"... hey Kyle. Got a free floor tonight?"

"Got a free couch. And food. Come on in."

"Thanks, Kyle."

Very quickly, a plate of reheated leftovers and a glass of milk were set in front of Kenny at the kitchen table. The blond boy was thumbing through his sketchbook, and only looked up from it when Kyle tapped him on the shoulder. He set the battered book aside, starting to pick at the leftovers.

"... you don't like pot roast and yellow rice?" Kyle asked.

"It's edible, right? What's not to like?"

"Is it too hot?"

"'S fine, Kyle, thank you." Kenny took a more ambitious bite, chewing slowly. "Just haven't been eating since Kare."

"... wanna talk about it?"

"No." Kenny downed half the glass of milk in one go, and then took another bite of his food. "It's been over a week, Kyle. They come in three days ago talking about prosecuting Kevin, and telling Kare she has to testify or whatever..."

"They can't force the victim to testify, Kenny, Dad's told your dad that before."

"Mom was high, Dad was drunk, Kev was not only drunk but is also the shooter, and I wasn't in the room. Kare doesn't have to testify, but if she doesn't, Kevin's public defender's gonna rip prosecution to shreds because there's no credible witness. Mom and Dad are too scared of Kevin now to kick him out if he gets off, and who's to say he won't do it again?"

Kyle sighed, sipping his tea. "... you're scared that Kevin's gonna go free, and something else is gonna happen to Karen. Possibly something worse."

"... I should've been out there, Kyle. I should've gotten her out of the room when I heard them start fighting. But no, I sat in my room drawing like a fucking idiot." Kenny picked up his sketchbook again, then scowled, throwing it on the floor in anger.

Kyle picked the book up gingerly. The sketchbook had definitely seen better days, and much of the artwork contained within was done on scraps of paper jammed between pages and into the pockets inside the covers. He turned it over in his hands, opening it and thumbing through it.

Kenny's drawings weren't very unusual for a boy their age, though the skill level certainly was. Some were sketches, some were charcoal, inked, full color, even painted. Nude women, sketched in lewd poses with all the class of the hand of a college art student; crude, blocky faces screaming obscenities at small, humanoid shadows; flames surrounding non-descript figures; mean-looking, incredibly detailed dragons; scenes of explicit gore and sex abound...

But what surprised him most were the occasional breaks from the depravity of Kenny's warped, twisted little mind. Every so often, a vivid picture of a princess, or a superhero, or a small animal would grace the page, with careful detail put into the dresses, into the trim and lace and folds, into the capes and fabric, into the fur and especially into the faces. Not a single one of them looked sad or afraid; they all had an unmatchable expression of hope and happiness on their faces, as if the fact that they were being seen was the fulfillment of their wildest dream.

Then Kyle came to the last picture in the book. It was about halfway through the book, a picture of an angel. Her little hands were clasped together, peeking out from cavernous trumpet sleeves, and her white gown was trimmed in daintily drawn lace. But there was no denying who the little angel was modelled on.

"... Kenny... is this Karen?"

"... yeah. That was what I was doing instead of looking out for my kid sister. Pretty stupid, huh?"

"Not at all. Has she seen it?"

"Nah. Was gonna get it framed for her for Christmas." Kenny took the book back from his friend, glaring at the picture. "... it's no good anyway."

"That isn't true. Come on, Kenny, talk to me. What exactly are you worried about?"

"... Kare wants to do it. She wants to testify so Kev goes to jail and maybe some of the fighting at home would stop. But... she can't."

"Why can't she?"

"She's got selective mutism or something. She hasn't said a word to anyone in two years. I don't think she could talk now even if she wanted to. Dad sure doesn't."

Kyle bit his lip, then nodded a little. "I see."

"No you fucking don't!" Kenny snapped. "You don't see anything! The worst your parents ever do is ground you, the worst thing that ever happened to your brother was him breaking his arm sledding! My little sister got shot! By our older brother! You don't understand anything about what I'm dealing with right now!"

Kyle sat there quietly, letting Kenny vent. He leaned back in his chair, sighing very, very softly. "... still don't want to talk about it, huh?"

"... shut up, Kyle."

The redhead chuckled, ruffling his friend's hair. "Lemme go make up the couch for you."

"Thanks Ma."

"You're welcome, sweetheart," Kyle replied just as sarcastically, flicking him in the forehead. "Going to see Karen tomorrow?"


"Dad'll drive up with you, maybe talk to your parents about Karen's options. You guys need a better lawyer, man."

"Oh, let me consult our finances. Yeah no."

"... come on, bedtime. I'll make up the couch."