AN: No author's notes this time. Just enjoy reading the ending!


            "Skitts? You okay?" I asked, kneeling down beside him. He shook his head, and opened his mouth- but he was, once again, mute. No sound was made. I laid a hand on his shoulder, the guilt taking hold of my senses. This was all my fault.

            "Guys, we gots a visitor." Jack said, and I looked up to find the man standing there, dressed in a tuxedo and holding a glass of wine.

            "Haven't you done enough already?" I snapped, not standing up. He smiled, and then snapped his fingers. The space we were in suddenly changed, and we were in my family's old apartment.

            My father was sitting at the table nursing a scotch, and my mother was at the sink, elbow deep in washing the dishes. I remembered this night. It had been the last night I had with them.

            "You can't scare me with memories. It's all an illusion, nothing more." I said harshly, and we snapped to another place, this time reality. The old mansion, dimly lit up by sunlight coming through the windows and everything covered in ashes and dust.

            "Just stop this. I don't know who you are or what you want, but I'm done playing games." I muttered, trying to comfort Skittery at the same time.

            "No more games, boy. They weren't games in the first place."

            "Then what were they?"


            "Tests for what?"

            He didn't answer me, but instead changed the subject. "Now it is time for the final exam. One of them must die. I have decided which one the correct choice would be, and if you pick that one, then all of them…including you…shall be freed from my curse. However, if you choose wrong, the curse will not end, and all of you will be dead within thirty days. I had you bring the other three as consultants, and you may speak with them as you so choose for three minutes, starting now."

            He snapped his fingers and Mush's eyes suddenly opened, focusing after a few seconds. He sat up slowly, cradling his head in his hands. Jack started to fill him in on what happened.

            "I know." Mush said, looking straight at me. We gathered together in a kind of huddle, but what they didn't know was that I had already made my decision.

            "Blink, don't let our friendship get in the way of this, with any of us. All of the newsies are at stake here." Jack whispered, and I nodded. I looked over at Skittery, and quietly said, "Can you speak right now?"

            He shook his head, and I felt anger rise up in me once again. Bastard. How was I supposed to consult with Skittery if he couldn't speak?

            "There is a reason for his silence. Do not let it hinder you." The man said from across the room, even though he couldn't possibly have been hearing the conversation. If this guy has ESP, then why's he even bothering to let me think about it? He already knows who I'm gonna pick.

            "Blink, this is all you. I trust you." Mush said, meeting my gaze.

            "Thanks, guys. I know who I'm gonna pick, so we may as well get this over with." I said, and then I pulled them together into a tight hug. I held back my tears; I didn't want them to see me crying right now.

            I stood up and faced the man, and he smiled at me, a smile that could scare a grown man.

            "Are you ready?"


            He suddenly reached into his jacket and pulled out a knife, handing it to me by the blade. "Go ahead. Do the honors."

            "You're a cheap ass freak, you know that, right?"

            "Just do the job."

            I turned around to face my friends, my breath hitching in my throat. This was unbearable.

            "I'm sorry, Mush." I said, and then I raised the blade and drove it into my own chest. I saw Mush's eyes widen in panic, and he rushed forward and caught me as I fell.

            The pain was unbelievable. I felt a strangled cry escape my throat as we both sank to the floor, Mush already soaked in blood. My blood.

            "Blink…God, no…" he pleaded, and I could tell he was holding back tears as well. I could see a strange expression on the man's face, as if he were surprised at my choice…or…no. That couldn't be sadness I was seeing. He wasn't capable of that.

            "I'm…a coward…Mush…" I managed to choke out as my already limited vision was narrowing. The pain was fading, but I knew that wasn't necessarily a good thing.

            "What are you talking about, ya bum? That's…that's da bravest thing I've evah seen anyone do…"

            "Ya mean that?"

            "Every word, Blink. Every word."

            His voice seemed to be getting further away with each staggered breath I took. Everything was blurring and fading, and I could feel my grip on him loosening. He was at a loss for words, I knew that, and I had lost the ability to speak now. It didn't hurt anymore…it was more like a numb feeling, creeping over my body like a dark shadow. Dimly, I thought I heard Mush say, "We all love ya, Blink. Don't you forget dat, cause we won't. Evah."

            With that, the shadow dropped in on me and everything went black.


            "Carry da Bannah! Sell the papers, boys, sell the papers!"

            I groaned and rolled over in my bunk, reaching up and tightening my eye patch, as it had come loose during the night. Another day of selling papers in blinding heat. Ugh.

            I jumped off the bunk and practically landed on Racetrack, who was lighting up his first cigar of the day as he pulled up his suspenders.

            "Watch it, ya bum!" He muttered, and I just laughed and ruffled his hair. Mush yawned and stretched, unwilling to leave his bunk.

            I heard a yell of protest as Skittery grabbed Dutchy's hat and made a run for the door, laughing hysterically. Dutchy ran after him, almost tripping over Snitch as he was putting on his shoes.

            "Hey, give dat back, ya scabber!"

            "Ovah my dead body, blondy!"

            Everyone burst out laughing, but went about getting ready. Things like that were normal of the morning. But for a moment…I couldn't shake off a strange chill that had coursed through my body when Skittery had spoken.

            Must be your lack of sleep. You shouldn't have stayed up late playin' poker!

            The headlines weren't that bad today- a scandal in the mayors office, and something about a big earthquake overseas. So as I was sellin' I wasn't havin' to actually make up that many.

            "Earthquake is biggest in years! Thousands presumed dead!" I yelled, and a strange man in a suit walked up to me.

            "I'll have one paper, please."

            "Sure, mistah. Dat'll be a penny."

            He dug in his pocket, and my eyes widened in shock when he pulled out two quarters and pressed them into my hand, closing my fist around them as he took the paper. And as he began to walk away, he stopped and looked over his shoulder at me.

            "Your dad's probably real proud of you, do you know that? Real proud."

            With that, he disappeared into the crowd, and I lost sight of him. I scratched my head and went back to selling, but not before muttering to myself, "Strange guy. Really strange guy. Must need therapy or somethin'."


            AN: So…what do you people think? I hope you liked it…cause if you didn't…I don't know what I'd do…

            Anyways, now that you've finished it, review it. And guess what? I promised I wouldn't do any lasting damage to our boys, and I didn't! Whoopee!