Well, I need to start off with an apology to my coterie of readers. Life has been VERY busy for me. My current job, landscaping, leaves me with little free tiem, during which I am usually bone tired! So the last thing on my mind is to write more. But I haven't given up on the fic. And I owe -Rosalyn-Araya-, Jennifer.the.emotionless, Araya, simplegrl007, littlelostangel, and Golden-Sama a well written, complete fic. So I promise ya'll that I'll finish it. For now, here's the 6th chapter, about 3/4's finished. So enjoy!

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No…no! Stop…just stop…please! PLEASE!

The fearful pleas rang through the small home, pouring into his ears. Closing his eyes tighter, he begged for it to stop, to end. But still they came, clear even in the small hiding space.

AAAAUGH!

Even with his hands clamped over his ears, he could clearly make out the agonized scream. Tears forced their way out of his closed eyes as he struggled to suppress the cry of sorrow inside. He failed.

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With a sudden jolt, Kaitin's eyes slammed open. At first, everything was a blur. With agonizing slowness, shapes began to form, followed by motion. His eyes riveted on the slowly revolving fan blades above him. His rapid panting grew slower, as he became aware of where he was.

He slowly pulled himself up, ending up in a seated position. Somehow he'd ended up on the couch last night. Scrubbing his face with his hands, he wiped away some of the sheen of cold sweat from his skin. Head in hands, he shook it as he recalled the terror that had been his through the night.

The memories that had haunted him-it had been so long since he had repressed them, forced them into a cold dark corner of his awareness. He had forgotten them, wanting never to deal with them again. And then, that letter-

A thumping sound at his door jarred him from his reflection. It was a few moments before his synapses fired enough to tell him what to do. He opened his mouth to yell something, but all that resulted was a scratchy whine. After more seconds, during which the thumping repeated itself, the idea of opening the door came to him. Getting up from the couch, he shuffled to the door, unlocked it, and opened it enough to see outside.

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After a sleepless night, Rachael had finally decided that, whether or not who she'd seen was really who she'd thought it was, she owed Kaitin an apology. After all, he had invited her, free tickets and all. And other then what had happened, it had been somewhat enjoyable. It wasn't his fault, after all, if she might have seen someone she didn't want to.

So she'd taken the long bus ride over, and spent a few frustrating minutes pounding on his door. Just as she was about to give up and head back home, or something, the door had cracked just barely, and Kaitin's eye had peeked out. She saw the recognition bloom in his eye, but the door stayed where it was. After some awkward silence, she decided to figure out what was up.

"Ummm…are you going to let me in or just stare at me?" she asked in her usual dry tone.

Kaitin opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, swallowed, and then spoke.

"Right now might not be the best time…"

Rachael almost recoiled at the sound of his voice. Has he been gargling razor blades or something? Normally she would leave, but, Curiosity piqued, she stayed.

"Are you okay? You sound terrible."

Again the raspy voice. "I'm…I'm fine. Just a bad night…"

His shudder when mentioning the night left her less than convinced. Making a snap decision, she stepped toward the door and in her most authoritative tone, told him she was coming in.

His eye widened, then slowly closed and reopened. Then his weary face disappeared and the door opened. After she stepped in and he shut the door behind her, she got a closer look at him.

The first thing she noticed was that he was wearing the same clothes from the concert. Then she saw his drooping, bloodshot eyes. His hair was, unsurprisingly, mussed up, and he just looked weary, head hanging and shoulders slumped. He looks terrible! He was fine last night; what happened?

Halfheartedly motioning her to the couch, he slumped onto the nearest end, head downcast. She stepped over to the opposite end and sat down. Still his eyes remained downcast, and she felt worry trickle through her. I hope I didn't cause any of this. This is definitely not the usual Kaitin.

After giving him ample time to speak, she asked the question pressing down on her. "What happened to you, Kaitin?"

He surprised her by glancing up, face blank, and muttering "Why are you here?"

With but a moments hesitation, she gave him a half-truth.

"I tried calling you two or three times about last night. I wanted to apologize for making you leave early."

Dropping his head again, he waved her concern away with more lifeless words.

"Doesn't matter. It was free, anyways."

"Well, regardless, I'm sorry." Apology out of the way, she pressed on. "You look terrible; what's wrong?"

Eyes dull, he glanced at her once more, then let more dreary words out. "Nothing…I told you, I'm fine. Just...just a lousy night."

Frustration began to build in her at his caginess, and she pressed it down as she tried to pry from him just what was wrong.

"You're fine? You sound like you've been gargling razor blades, and you look like death warmed over."

Unable to meet her gaze, he led his head drop again and mumbled another dismissal. Having had enough, Rachael did something that surprised them both. Reaching out, she grabbed him by the shoulder blades and gave him a shake. Then she leaned towards him and, in a voice uncharacteristically caring, spoke to him.

"Don't try and hide it. I can tell you're fighting something. I've been through this battle before, and maybe I can help."

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Astounded by her words, Kaitin looked up. Her hands were still gripping his shoulders, and her pale face was only a foot or two away from his. Most of all, it was the concern in her voice that forced him to react. What do I know? Maybe she CAN help me. It's not like I have anyone else I can talk to about it. Suppressing a sigh, he returned her gaze for a few more seconds, then softly pushed her hands off of him and stood up. Stepping into the kitchen, he grabbed the letter from where it had fell from his hands, and returned to the couch. Handing it to her, he gestured for her to read.

After quickly reading it, she looked back at him, eyes asking for an explanation. Ignoring her unasked question, he took a deep breath, and then began to tell her the story…

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Liara Vanger was happy. She was working two jobs, barely getting enough sleep each night to function the next day. The bills seemed never ending, and her husband was currently unemployed. He was also an alcoholic, and was becoming abusive. The house was usually a mess, and she had no time to even begin to clean.

All these troubles and more, yet she was happy. The sole reason for her happiness was sitting across the worn out table from her, happily chewing on a peanut butter and honey sandwich. In between smacking bites he was beaming a wide grin at her, as cute as could be with his tousled hair.

Seven years ago she'd birthed her son Kaitin, and for seven years he had been the only thing keeping her afloat. Even as age began to take its toll, as her husband seemed to grow further away, and as life threw its curveballs, Kaitin brought her the sole continual joy she had. And soon, it would be eight years.

"So, Kaikay, are you ready to be eight years old?" She asked him, calling him by his favorite pet name.

At the mention of eight, he dropped the sandwich on his plate, and proudly held up eight fingers. "Uh huh, mommy, I'm ready to be a man!"

Liara smiled at the young boys comment. Her brother Vance, Kaitin's favorite uncle, had told him that once he turned eight he would be a man, and would have to be strong and help her get things done around the house. The thought of Vance made her smile droop a bit. Her brother had never liked her husband, Devin, and from the day she had met Devin, Vance had told her he didn't trust her eventual spouse.

She'd ignored her brother back then, figuring that he was just being the usual overprotective big brother. But the years had begun to validate him. It had started out so well. And then things began to go downhill.

Liara was interrupted from her reverie by the sound of the front door slamming shut. Unbidden, fear filled her veins. She knew that door slam, and she knew it meant one thing; Devin was drunk, and angry.

As much as it pained her, she had, months earlier, found a little hide-away for Kaitin, in case her husband became abusive towards their son. Though she shuddered to even think of it, she knew it was better to be safe than sorry. In the back of one of the closets, under the lowest shelf, was a crawlspace that Devin wasn't aware of. This had become Kaitin's safe hide, and this was where she now sent him.

Confident that Kaikay was safe, she headed towards the front of the house. Steeling herself against Devin's alcohol induced wrath, she whispered a silent prayer that maybe this time things wouldn't be so bad. As he came into sight, the shudder that ran down her back told her the prayer would remain unanswered.

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Rachael had remained intently focused on Kaitin, so she noticed when, partway into the story, his eyes closed and his breath came faster. Now he had stopped, suddenly, and begun to shake as if a chill wind had blown through the room. Then she noticed the drop of sweat that ran down the side of his face to his jaw.

Reaching out, she laid her hand on his wrist and began to speak to get his attention. She was cut off as he jerked his hand away from the contact, body jolting and eyes opening. The wild, fearful look in his ice-blue eyes caused her to lean away from him, a momentary pang of alarm shooting through her.

Just as suddenly, his eyes cleared and his gaze became regretful.

"Sorry…it's just…hard…to talk about this…it's been so long…" he softly apologized.

She gazed at him with unexpectedly sympathetic eyes. "You don't have to tell this to me if it's too much."

Shaking his head, he sat silent for a moment. "No, I…this…" After another moments silence, he looked up at her. The pleading in his eyes surprised her as he finished his thought. "I need to do this."

Their gaze's lingered upon each other as silence reigned. Suddenly growing embarrassed, Rachael nodded for him to continue the story. After another deep breath, he plunged back into the tale…

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Little Kaikay quietly shut the closet door, and then squeezed himself into his hideaway. He liked his little hiding spot. It was warm, and he always had fun pretending he was in a secret cave. Well, almost always. This time he was scared. He could hear his parents arguing. He always hated when they fought. Why couldn't they just be happy and nice to each other?

Abruptly, a crashing sound startled him. It was quickly followed by more angry words, and then the sickening thump of a person hitting the floor. Tears began to well up in his eyes as more harsh words were yelled. Then a few moments silence. Kaitin struggled to quiet his now rapid breathing. The next sound he caught chilled him. It was the desperate pleading of a female voice. Then a piercing scream filled the house.

Mashing his hands over his ears, Kaikay fought his sobs as tears gushed out of his clenched eyes and down his cheeks. The scream was abruptly cut off, and Kaitin suddenly felt hollow and cold inside. Sniffling, he fought to keep his sobs inside as a wave of sorrow crashed into him. The sound of approaching footsteps caused him to catch his breath and hold it.

He could hear Devin yelling at him, swearing at him and telling him to come out from wherever he was. Stifling the sobs that were racking his small body, Kaikay pressed his lips together and breathed as quietly as possible. The footsteps stopped, and so did Devin's angry ranting. It was soon filled by sounds of remorseful lament. Devin's moans of realization soon faded with rapid footsteps, followed by a door slamming.

It wasn't until Kaikay heard a car screech away that he dared to uncurl his little frame and crawl back into the closet. It took him another few minutes before he was able to leave the closet. The house was deathly silent. Fear seized him as he called out for his mother, with no answer. He broke into a shuffling hurry, panic growing as he searched for his mother. He slammed to a halt when he came around the kitchen counter, her name sticking in his throat. He'd found her.

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The story was cut off abruptly, as a sob wrenched itself from Kaitin's chest. He was weeping openly now, tears rolling unhindered down his cheeks. Unable to look at her, he dropped his head partially into his hands and sobbed, the sheer pain of the memory depriving him of further speech.

The sight was almost too much for Rachael. She was surprised by how much it tugged at her heart. She'd never been the sentimental type. So she was even more surprised by what she did next.

Reaching forward, she pulled the sobbing young man into her embrace. After but a moments resistance, he melted into her arms, leaning his head on her ready shoulder. For what felt like quite a long time, she just cradled him in her arms, all awkwardness gone, as he wept and sobbed. Soon, his sobs turned to sniffles, and then he began to breathe regularly again.

He stirred, and, almost reluctantly, she let him pull out of her embrace. Still amazed at her own behavior, she sat silent, waiting for him to speak. When he finally did, it was in a voice tinged with the remnants of past agony.

"Rachael, you…?" he hesitated, his question left unasked.

In a slightly ironic tone, she responded. "That's what friends are for, isn't it?"

His eyes widened at her comment, and then a barely perceptible grin flashed across his visage. His answer was simple. "Thank you."

Again he closed his eyes, breathing deep, and she had a moment to gaze upon him. She also had a moment to sort through her now very jumbled thoughts. What's coming over me? Why am I acting so…concerned about him? I've only known him for a month or two. Looking again at his face, she felt her brow furrow in uncertainty. Do I pity him? No, I wouldn't have come to apologize just because I pity someone. So why do I…?

Sudden realization dawned on her, but she almost squelched the thought out of habit. Is it because I care about him? The resulting jolt of dread from the thought filled her with trepidation. I can't afford to have feelings for anyone. She gazed back at him just as he opened his eyes. Something in them changed her mind. Still...There is something about him, something so…familiar. I've had friends before-I know I can at least do that much and be okay.

Her inner reverie was ended as Kaitin finally spoke up. "So that's my story. And, as you saw in the summons, I have to testify at Devin's trial tomorrow."

"And you don't want to because you don't want to see your father in prison?" She queried.

At the mention of the word father, his face clouded and his voice grew cold. "Don't' call him that ever again. He's not my father, and he never will be."

The sharpness in his voice caused Rachael to recoil a bit, and mutter a quick "Okay." Seeing her reaction, his face softened again and his voice grew warm.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have snapped at you-you didn't know. I just don't know if I can do this." Anxiety crept into his voice as he finished his sentence, and Rachael could see stress in the set of his shoulders.

She gave him a moment to continue, and when he looked down and away from her, falling silent, she struggled to find the words to speak that would help him. After debating several ideas in her head, she settled on the one that felt best.

"You need to have support. You should ask Glenn to come and support you."

Kaitin looked up at her, considering the idea. Then an uneasy expression crossed his face, and he asked her a simple question.

"Will you be there?"

The plain question left her speechless for a moment. She managed to gather her self enough to respond to him with a slightly skeptical "You want me to be there?"

Nodding his head affirmatively, he gave her his reasons. "I realize we don't know each other all that well, but you're my only friend besides Glenn. And I haven't told him that story, and I prefer to let him figure it out on his own at the trial." Exhaling, he went on. "You're the only person I've told that story."

Seeing the uncertainty that worked its way onto her face, he leaned forward and took her hands into his. The jolt that passed through her wasn't one of fear, nor of aversion. She could feel his warmth, and the gentleness with which he held her hands. Her brain told her to ignore the feeling, told her she needed to listen to the fact that she had no real reason to go to the trial. She ignored her brain, and gave ear to something that she seldom listened to-her feelings.

"I'll be there." That was about all she was able to get out. At least until he let go of her hands. The joyful smile that spread across his face was followed by a heartfelt "Thank you."

A short silence ensued as they looked at each other, then Rachael managed to regain her composure and break the quiet. "Of course, I'll probably need a ride." Her wry smirk was echoed by Kaitin's laughter. She wasn't sure what amazed her most, that she had agreed to go or how good it felt to see him laugh. She knew the confusion inside would bear serious thought later on. For now, she just shook her head at his now loud laughter and enjoyed a carefree moment with her friend.

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Kaitin still had Glenn's car, and he offered to give her a ride home. She refused it, telling him that he needed to get some rest before the trial. So now she was on the bus, by herself in the back. This was fine, because she needed some quiet to figure out the confusing mish-mash of conflicting feelings in her head.

Try as she might, she could not figure out why she was getting involved in Kaitin's life. I barely know him, and I haven't exactly been the friendliest to him. And yet he still treats me so kindly. The more she tried to figure things out, the more frustrated she became.

Finally, annoyed by her lack of progress, she leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and quietly began chanting a mantra to help get rid of some of the stress now pressing on her. She decided to give up on figuring the mess out for the moment. Which was fine, because others were hard at work on it…

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Well, this is it so far. Like I said, I haven't given up. I'm gonna finish this. So R/R please and I'll do my best to crank out some more chaps soon. Thanks ya'll!