Didn't intended on starting anything new but this popped into my head and as always didn't leave me alone until I gave in. Will feature the return of one my main trio of OCs because one of them always has to pop up sooner rather than later plus he just sort of ended up fitting the personality I wanted for a background character so I went with it. Sooo yeah...let's see where this shit takes us.

...

Seth found himself walking alone on an empty street. He had his hands resting inside the pockets of his Slipknot hoodie though the cool autumn wind had long blown his actual hood down. His ears were starting to go numb but he didn't bother to actually pull the hood back up. He just kept walking straight ahead, his eyes glancing around but not focusing on anything for very long. The sun was just starting to disappear, making a pretty mix of purple, orange and pink up in the sky. Some of the buildings he walked by had flags mounted on them which whipped around wildly from the wind. He knew the street he was on but he wasn't used to it being so empty. Even during the night it was always bustling with people. The buildings in question were mostly bars and late night diners after all. Yet there he was, completely alone. It creeped him out but he tried not to dwell on it. He just wanted to get home. He was supposed to be home before dark and there was no way he was going to make it. Even if he ran he wouldn't make it so he didn't bother. Running in the cold always killed his lungs anyway. Hopefully his parents were going to be running late and wouldn't make it home before he got there.

In the distance he could hear sirens blaring but it wasn't until he realized he was walking towards them that he really paid attention to them. A sense of dread started to fill him. It started in his stomach, twisting his insides into a huge knot and making him feel like he was going to throw up. It moved its way up to his chest, constricting his lungs until he felt like he couldn't breathe. His head started to spin from the lack of oxygen and he felt himself start to tremble. Something was horribly wrong. He couldn't identify what it was but he felt like he should have. He had been there before. His mind screamed at him to turn around and run but his feet kept moving forward. He didn't want them to but there they were, leading him to certain doom. He turned the corner and stopped in his tracks.

Barely ten feet ahead was a burning car. Fire trucks and police cars has surrounded it, the uniformed men trying their best to put out the blaze. A surge of panic rose through Seth. He knew that car. He knew what this was. "No no no no no..."

Seth woke up in a cold sweat. His body almost shot straight up but weight on either side of him kept him down. He took several deep breaths and tried to regain his bearings. The images of the burning car still lingered but he did his best to chase them away. He didn't need to focus on that. He didn't want to. Instead he looked at his two sleeping companions, neither of whom had stirred as he woke up. Cody laid on top of his left arm, his face covered with his own arms he was using as a pillow. AJ laid under his right arm, her arms wrapped around his torso while her head rested on his chest. It had only been the three of them in the apartment tonight. Dolph was at work while Cooper...well actually Seth didn't know where he was. And given the fact the older male scared him more than a little he didn't really want to know. What he did know was that movie night had been a bust yet again. The TV screen showed the main menu of the DVD, the background music of it playing over and over again. Seth's eyes tried to find the remote without his body moving. He couldn't see it anywhere on the pullout couch. Not from his current position anyway.

Being careful to not wake his sleeping roommates, Seth untangled himself from them and sat up. The arm Cody had laid on was completely numb. He winced and started rubbing the feeling back into it. He still couldn't see the remote anywhere. There were no blankets to obscure it (even if this was the coolest room in the entire apartment it was too hot for them) and it didn't look like either AJ or Cody were laying on it. The damn thing had fallen. Seth sighed and very slowly moved off the mattress. He climbed off at the foot of it, nearly falling into the stand that held the TV and DVD player. That entire set up had come from a pawn shop so it really wasn't worth much but he would lose his head if he broke any of it. Thankfully he managed to catch himself and his search for the remote continued. He searched the floor by AJ's side first since he vaguely remembered her having it last. His memory didn't steer him wrong. It was there, resting face down on the dirty brown carpet. He picked it up and turned off the TV, plunging the room in nearly total darkness. Moonlight still streamed in through the window which gave him a way to see as he walked towards the kitchen. He set the remote on top of the TV on the way and braced himself for the sweltering heat that came with going to the kitchen these days. The end of May had brought on an early heat wave and coming into June it had only gotten worse. How any of them were going to survive the summer they didn't know. Their little bit of air conditioning was only doing so much. None of the others could sleep in their own bedrooms. Seth had been living on the pullout couch for nearly six months so he got no time away from anyone now. Nobody could even think about using the old oven to cook anything. It would only make the kitchen that much more unbearable. Not that that was such a huge problem. It was all they could do to keep the roof over their heads. Cooper didn't have a real job and most of his money went to his drug habit. Seth made minimum wage and Cody didn't do much better. AJ had to rely on tips, which were unpredictable at best. Dolph was the only one who made any real money but being the main bill payer along with paying for AJ's medication didn't leave him much to get groceries with.

Seth flipped on the kitchen light and started searching through what they did have. In the fridge he managed to find a can of Dr. Pepper but besides from some bologna and a jar holding a single pickle there was nothing to be had in a food capacity. The pantry produced slightly better results. He grabbed the half full box of Fruit Loops and took his impromptu meal out the door and on to the porch. They lived on the second floor of the apartment complex and shared the porch with the people in the apartment next to them. The porch had a wooden staircase attached to it, though Seth was quite sure that would give out any day now. He sat down in the old green lawn chair they had out there and stared out into the parking lot. There wasn't a lot to see at this time of night. A bunny scurried across the parking lot and turned the corner that led to the long, steep, pot hole filled driveway that was going to claim the life of everyone's tires sooner than later. He opened the box of cereal and reached in to grab a handful. The crinkling of the bag sounded so much louder than it normally did. He popped the fruity rings into his mouth, nearly moaning they tasted so good. He remembered a time he used to actually hate this cereal. Back when he could afford to be picky. Those days were long gone. Now he was just grateful to have anything in his stomach.

By the time Dolph's car pulled up into the parking lot Seth had long finished both the pop and the cereal. Seth's face brightened and without thinking he sprinted down the wooden steps to meet him. They creaked dangerously under his weight. The safer way would have been to go back inside, go to the living room and take the door that led to the hallway and the staircase that wouldn't potentially kill someone. But that would lead him out to the front of the apartment building and then he would have to run all the way around to the back...no, nobody did that. They all just risked their lives for the sake of speed.

"Hey!" Seth skidded to a halt right as the older man was getting out of the car. He had become rather enamored with Dolph, much to everyone's amusement. It wasn't a crush despite what crude teasing Cooper fancied doing from time to time. Dolph was attractive sure but Seth had found himself looking at him like he would an older brother. At some point since being brought home by the bleached blonde he started following him around the apartment, eager to please, to amuse, to annoy if need be. AJ found it adorable thankfully and took him under her wing much like Dolph had. She was barely older than him (nineteen to his eighteen) but she had more interest in him than any of his sisters had ever really displayed to him. She had even helped him dye part of his jet black hair blonde as a way to copy Dolph a little. He couldn't pull off being totally blonde but the two toned look seemed to suit him. At least that was everyone else told him.

"Hey kid." Dolph had barely four years on him yet he still called him kid. If it hadn't been meant as affectionate Seth would have had a problem. "What are you doing up?"

Seth shrugged. "Couldn't sleep." He tried to play it off like it was no big deal but he knew Dolph knew better.

"Nightmares again?"

Seth's non-answer was the closest to a yes that was going to happen. Dolph shut the car door and ruffled his hair sympathetically.

"I uh, got some stuff while I was out." Dolph walked around Seth to get to the trunk of the car. Seth could smell the mix of baby oil, cigarette smoke and cheap beer that had come from the strip club. Dolph worked there as a second job while he worked at the local gym during the day. "I couldn't go another fucking day with what we had." He opened the trunk to reveal several grocery bags full of food.

Seth's eyes widened. In all actuality it wasn't that much considering how many of them there were but it was the most food he had seen them have. "Rent is due this week how-"

"I'll take care of it," Dolph said quickly.

"But Barrett will have our heads-"

"I'll take care of it." Dolph wasn't leaving any room for argument. He picked up half of the bags and motioned for Seth to grab the others. "Help me out here."

Seth did what he was told. He waited for Dolph to close the trunk and dutifully followed him up the stairs. They went back into the kitchen, trying their best not to wake up Cody and AJ as they entered the apartment. Seth used his butt to knock the door shut behind them before putting his sacks on the table where Dolph had already placed the ones he had carried. The first thing Dolph did every time he came home was go and give AJ a kiss and tonight was no different. Seth watched the ritual, a small smile on his lips. He had never seen anyone dote on their girlfriend or boyfriend the way Dolph did to her. Cody and Cooper both pointed out that she was far from well and needed someone to baby her but to Seth it didn't change how sweet it was. He never had someone take care of him like that. His ex-boyfriend Jimmy had been too absorbed in himself to treat him with anything close to the love Dolph showed AJ.

Seth shook off his thoughts and busied himself with putting the groceries away. A few moments later Dolph joined him. "You still hungry?"

Seth nodded.

Without another word Dolph made a couple of tuna salad sandwiches and put them on paper plates. He handed one to Seth, who nearly scarfed it down in one bite. "Easy easy," Dolph chuckled. "Nobody's taking it away from you."

Seth grinned sheepishly but didn't eat any slower. He was still too hungry to take his time.

"So I talked to Naomi earlier. She and Jimmy are having a party tomorrow."

"Mmm?" Seth perked up.

"Yeah. She said they'd grill out hamburgers and hot dogs and we could light off some fireworks-"

Seth swallowed his mouthful of sandwich so fast he nearly choked. "How did they get fireworks?"

Dolph shrugged. "Don't ask me. I just got told to show up." He took of his own sandwich and chewed it slowly. "They said Roman would be there."

Seth's cheeks turned red at the deliberate reveal by Dolph. He hadn't wanted to blush but he hadn't been able to stop himself. Dolph laughed and with a whine he kicked the older man on the shin. "Fuck you dude!"

Dolph just laughed harder. "You should talk to him more. You like him."

"No I don't shut up." Seth was lying right through his teeth. He did like Roman. He didn't see how anyone couldn't. Jimmy's cousin was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. He was a bouncer at The Salty Dog and lived there in the building with them. He lived down in apartment 1D, one of the few people there to live by themselves. He played cards with Dolph and Cooper sometimes but Seth had never really had the courage to say much of anything to him. Dolph and Cooper claimed he was gay and needed a boyfriend about as much as he did but Seth didn't have the guts. He had only dated Jimmy because they had known each other for years and it just kind of happened. He didn't really know how to go about the whole relationship thing other than stumbling face first into it.

"If you didn't like him then why do you have that grin on your face?" Dolph nudged him playfully. "Look, I know it's been rough for you but you gotta get out more."

"I get out plenty," Seth said defensively. "I work, I go places-"

"When Cody drags you along." Dolph's expression got more serious. He put his hand on Seth's thigh and squeezed it gently. "You gotta go out and start living a little more. The world hasn't stopped turning. Do you really think your family would want anything less for you?"

"They're gone they can't want anything." Seth didn't mean to snap. He really didn't. The statement just flew out of his mouth before he could stop it. His own words made his chest ache and he wished he hadn't said it. He looked down and did his best to swallow the lump in his throat away. "Sorry..."

Dolph shook his head. "Don't worry about it." It was easy to tell he still held a lot of concern but Seth's unwillingness to talk about it made him back off. They finished their food in silence. When they were done Dolph took their paper plates and threw them away.

"You can sleep in my place if you want," Seth offered. "There's really not room for all of-"

"There's room." Dolph saw right through Seth's excuse to not go back to bed. He turned Seth towards the living room and pushed him forward. "We fit Cooper on there too with us before we can certainly fit without him."

Seth sighed. He knew that but he didn't want to go back to sleep. One nightmare a night was enough for him. He wasn't going to win this fight though. He never did. Instead he had to just accept defeat and crawl back to his spot between AJ and Cody. He pushed Cody to the side just enough that Dolph could move AJ over and get on the bed as well. AJ mumbled something in her sleep but Dolph just pulled her into his embrace and she went silent once more. Seth turned to face Cody and tried to set a steady rhythm for his breathing. He needed to try to at least pretend to be asleep. At first he was sure he wouldn't fool Dolph but the older man was too tired to realize and call him out for it. Seth soon heard the sound of his snoring and put his pillow over his ears to try to block it out. It was going to be a long night.