"Spying on the parentals is not a nice habit, Grey."

Grey snorted from her perched position on Shia's back, idly shifting onto her knees as she pressed her tipped ear against the metal of the main room door. "Well, dear brother, it's not nice to kick us out of the room so they can talk about our potential rapists behind our backs."

Dante flinched slightly at that, trying his best to keep his features schooled. Shia, on the other hand, was not so good at hiding his reaction. "Damnit, Grey, don't talk like that," he snapped, grunting lightly when her boney knees dug into his shoulder blades. "Not everyone appreciates your blunt replies."

She scowled down at him, her hands tightening against his shoulders as she shifted her weight once more to find a better position. "Well, it's the truth. You'd think they would plot with us, considering that wind wench said that we were the targets. I mean, seriously. That's just wrong, keeping us out of the loop like that."

Dante eased his index fingers into the front loops of his jeans. "Grey, they probably need to get their head on straight before they talk about… that with you. How would you feel if your worst nightmare threatened your daughters? Would you want to look them in the face while you're trying to think of ways to keep your daughters from being… raped by a woman whose screws are a bit too loose? Besides," he added when the Twain brothers, their ears plaster against the door, threw him a nasty look at his direct statement, "why don't you just be the proverbial fly on the wall… only, you're really a fly on the wall?"

Dahlia cocked her head at him while Grey eyed him disdainfully. "Okay, first off, that is the lamest thing you have ever said. Second off, Dad is not that stupid. Any animal he spots, all talking will stop until he makes damn sure it's not one of us. Remember when Dahlia nearly fried Chase when we were young? Yeah, we tried to listen on that conversation too, but Dad caught me, and he locked me in a glass jar for two hours. Two flipping hours, with only a tiny little hole so I could breathe. If I morphed out of it, I would have had to skip our eighth grade dance. I ain't stupid. And also, they know we're out here, and they haven't shooed us away yet. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to concentrate. Thankfully, the men have deep voices, so it's easier to catch onto their words. Mom and Star… well, that's why I need to concentrate. Go… mess with Kira or something," she stated offhandedly, momentarily taking her hand off of Shia's shoulders to wave him off like an annoying pest. "She's somewhere around here, I guess."

Dante eased a shoulder against the wall. "Why isn't she here?"

Dahlia rolled her eyes, skillfully planting her foot on Chase's rear and sending him sprawling so she could use his back as a seat. "Dante, you dolt, Kiranne's not going to stoop to eavesdropping like us. That, and she was kinda shaken after that wind bitch locked eyes with her and said that we all were being sold as sex slaves. We can handle that," she said, using her hand to gesture at Ada and Grey with no emotions put behind the movement. "Kira? Not so much. She blushes if you talk about kissing. Rape isn't something she can take very well, especially since it seems like she's the main target-"

"Where's Sam?"

Dahlia broke off her tirade, mouth quirking downwards at Dante's hasty change of subject. It seemed that Kira wasn't the only one who had a hard time talking about something so sinister.

Grey caught on quickly to her brother's nauseated unease and twisted her features into a coy smirk to settle his nerves. "Sam's in her room, pouting, because they told Christian that he could stay but she couldn't. She thinks she should be involved in everything, and when she's not, well, she gets a bit testy."

Chase eased up onto his elbows, cupping his jaw in his hands while Dahlia settled, cross-legged, against the small of his back. "She doesn't take into consideration that Christian is a genius. He's twenty-one and has already graduated from one of the most prestigious colleges in the world. If anyone can help think of a plan, it'll be him."

"Yes, but Sam has this… Robin complex," Cameron said, blinking rapidly when Dahlia pressed her thumbs against Chase's shoulder blades, smirking manically as he gave a pained- or pleasured, he wasn't sure- groan. "She thinks she should have a part in everything."

Grey pulled her ear away from the door long enough to giggle and exchange knowing looks with Adara. "I think it's only because Christian is in there. Of course she wants some part of it. Say, Dante, why don't you trot off and find Kira? I'm sure she can use some company." Dante frowned when his older sister waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

Shia grunted beneath her, pushing his body from the floor and nearly toppling Grey onto her back. She squealed and wrapped her arms around his neck to gain balance. "Grey, I would prefer it if you would stop trying to hook my sisters up. I'd rather they stay just as they are, if you don't mind."

Grey frowned as she pulled her body around him to plop down on his knee. She turned slightly to pin him with her best adorable pout she could find in her arsenal. "Aw, but Sammy does want Christian. And, if memory serves, Kira's had a thing for Dante since-"

"I'm going to… go find something to do," Dante muttered as he waved an annoyed hand at his sister. He shoved off the wall, deftly ignoring Grey's pleased giggle, and disappeared down the hallway. When he was far out of his sister's sight, he cursed beneath his breath.

Why was it in his sister's nature to try and goad him into a relationship with Kira? Since the horrible incident with that bitch Rebecca at the cemetery, Grey had brought up the potential relationship between them constantly. When they were still too young to think about kissing, she had tried to push hand holding. When they hit thirteen, she brought up kissing. When they hit fifteen, it was dating, and from there on, it was a full blown relationship with dates and all that romantic crap. She didn't bother asking him if he wanted it, nor did she ask Kira if it was okay to profess her emotions about him to the entire world. She did it without question, uncaring if it pissed him off. Couldn't he move at his own pace?

Dante halted in the middle of the hallway, brooding silently about his last thought. If he wanted a relationship with her, he amended silently, and, pleased with this answer, continued on his trek.

Grey was one of those people who thought everything was okay if they thought the victim wanted it. She dug her way into the affairs of others- literally- and tried her damnedest to end the ones she wasn't happy with. Dante had lost more girls because of his sister's knack for cornering them in dark, secluded places and threatening to bring up unpleasant secrets she had dug up if and when they did anything she wasn't pleased with.

Dante really didn't mind that his sister cared deeply enough about him to try and ruin every possible romance he had, it was the fact that she didn't trust his judgment about the subject. She had no faith in him when it came to the opposite sex, so when he finally did come across the right one, she wouldn't be happy unless it was Kiranne.

It was too bad that Kiranne really did want to be with him. Dante sulked at the sudden tightening in his stomach as he slouched his way into the elevator. Really, couldn't she find some other guy to moon over? He was too lazy to be the sort of man she needed, especially since it would be her first relationship. He didn't know how to be romantic or sweet or gentle when it came down to the bare basics of a good relationship. He didn't cater to a woman's every whim, and when he get mad, he got nasty. He refused to back down during a verbal argument, and if they did something stupid, he said something about it, even if they did get huffy and puffy about it. Kiranne needed someone who would pull out her chair for her when about to be seated, open doors for her and buy her flowers for their one month anniversary.

But then again, what if she settled with some no good bastard who took all she was for granted? What if she agreed to be with some sleazebag who only wanted her for her body? What if she finally accepted Dick's offer? He would ruin her, Dante concluded with a tinge of guilty despair, all because Dante didn't want his chance with her. He would take everything she had, just because he wanted to conquer what no one else had. The only reason why Richard hadn't gotten his hands on her was because of her family, but if she came to decide that she would be with Richard, no one would stop her. They couldn't. Everyone in the tower had been raised to make their own mistakes- a fact Grey ignored. But if she agreed to Dick, wouldn't it be his mistake? After all, she wanted Dante, but if he acted as he always had been and ignored her feelings despite knowing all about them, she would think herself worthless, and go right into Dick's nasty arms.

Dante pressed the eighth floor button with more force than necessary. Why was he thinking on this? Every time he thought about Kira and the possibilities, he always managed to give himself a headache. When it came down to it, he decided, it was always Grey's fault. If it wasn't her actions, it was her words.

The elevator doors pinged open and Dante lazily stepped out, only to have something hard and heavy shoved into his stomach. His breath whooshed out of his lungs, but before he could even look down to see what had rammed into him, a soft, humiliated cry reached his ears.

"D-Dante! O-oh! I'm so sorry! I wasn't looking where I was going a-and-"

Dante rubbed his palm across his abused abs, narrowed eyes focused on the laundry basket held beneath her breasts. "You need to get your brakes checked," he groused, but his bad mood was doused by curiosity. Ignoring her mortified blush, Dante prodded at the plain white basket.

"Whatcha doin'?"

Her brows furrowed slightly at his sudden disposition. When she was positive he wasn't angry, Kira tightened her arms around the basket and managed, "Umm… laundry."

She shrank back when he glared hotly. "Laundry? Your laundry?"

Kira's face twisted in confusion, causing Dante to clench his teeth when a smile threatened to ruin his mock anger. "Umm… yes?" she stated slowly, head cocked slightly as she waited for his reaction on that.

"You were going to wash your clothes without informing anyone?"

Now that Kiranne thought him completely insane, Dante eased back on his frontal attack. "If memory serves, the losing team is to take over all the winner's chores, which includes laundry. You were going to betray this bargain?"

Her nose wrinkled slightly in confused bewilderment. "Umm…"

"Well, then, in that case," he decided, hands already reaching out for the laundry basket, "I must remove this from your person and take over my forced duty." He frowned when she tightened her grip on it.

"No! I-I mean, I-I have it u-under control. I can do my own laundry," she stated with more confidence, briefly glancing up at him through long crimson lashes. "You… are pardoned from my chores," she said softly. "I'd rather do them my-"

"Sorry, kid, but I don't go back on my word. I lost, fair and square… okay, so maybe it wasn't all that fair, but we were both deceiving, so… it's my job. Now, hand 'em over and I'll get them back to you when they're-"

"No!"

Dante lurched forward when she jerk the basket out of his grip, nearly toppling over at the strength she put behind it. When he caught his balance, Dante glanced down at her in shocked amazement. "Kiranne, what's your problem? I'm doing you a favor and we all know that's something I'm not known for doing."

He snatched his quick hands back out to the basket before she could turn tail and run. Wrapping long, pale fingers over the plastic rim, Dante gave it a little tug so it was trapped tightly between them. "Now, let me do my good deed and-"

"I can do it," she nearly purred with annoyed heat. Dane was so shocked by this new show of fire from her that when she twisted her body away from him, basket still in her grip, he jerked forward. Reacting quickly, Dante snatched out his arm and weaved it around her, using all his body weight to throw them both backwards so he wouldn't crush her if he had happened to fall forward. Kira had no choice but to let go of the basket so it dropped to the ground with a flurry of white cloth.

Dante hit the ground hard on his back, Kira draped over him. Dante shook his head to move aside the curtain of red curls covering his eyes like a fiery mask, grunting as his shoulder blades started to ache uncomfortably. She jerked her head to the side so her hair spilled over her shoulder and he was free to pin her with slightly narrowed eyes. "Jeez, Kiranne," he muttered, but there was no heat in his words.

Dante's eyebrows drew together when he spotted white out of the corner of his eye. He shifted beneath her to reach for it, but Kira was quicker. With a barely suppressed squeak, she jerked the clothing to her, causing her to lose her balance and crash completely into him. Dante could feel the heat of her blush leek through the barrier of their clothes and it suddenly dawned. He couldn't help but chuckle.

"You're washing your bras and underwear, aren't you?"

When she proceeded to blush the color of fresh blood, Dante chuckled again, gently easing her onto her side. He pressed a hand to her collarbone when she tried to get up to quickly gather the tumbled clothes. "That's what you're worried about? Man, I thought you were just being ornery." He sighed. "So much for that."

Kiranne watched him as he slipped to his feet, eyeing the scatter around him. "I haven't seen so much white since Christmas," he murmured in amusement as his eyes scanned her underclothing. "Do you have any other colors?" He wondered, grinning softly when she hesitantly shook her head.

He rolled his eyes gently. "You need more variety," he said conversationally as he reached down to pick up a bland bra. He was quite proud of her when she didn't jerk up and try to wrestle it from his grasp, instead opting to watch him with a permanent blush painted across her cheeks.

When he picked up what seemed to be the same style bra, he asked, "Do you even wear lace? Silk? Anything other than cotton?"

She leaned up into her elbows slowly, eyes locked on her feet as she mulled over her answer. He waited patiently, curious as to how far she could go without fainting and/or panicking that he was holding her bra in his hands.

"No," she finally said, blushing somehow deepening. "I… t-there's no n-need for t-that kind." Her eyebrows drew together when she realized the extent of their conversation, but she still made no move to do anything about his actions when he reached down to pick up her underwear. Instead, her eyelids fluttered closed, fists clenching as she mentally pretended that it was not happening.

"All white," he said in wonder. "Even in these. Why? I'd get tired of seeing the same kinda crap on me if it was me." He cocked his head, letting himself briefly enjoy the image of seeing her in the clothing he held in his hand before he moved onto the next pair to toss into the basket.

"No one sees it but me, so… it… doesn't really matter how t-they're made."

"Well I'm seeing it." Dante closed his eyes in embarrassment at saying such a bold thing to her. "Well… I mean… you know, never mind. I so just humiliated us both on that one, so I'll just drop it completely." He shook his head to get rid of the fantasy his stupid comment invoked.

"Well then… since you have nothing to hide from me, I'm going to wash your things," he stated when he picked up all articles of clothing. Kiranne finally did scramble up after him when he moved to the elevator, sliding her way in before the doors closed. He propped the basket on his hip, brow cocked as he studied her features. "Don't trust me?" He asked in jest, lips curving when she mumbled a hasty no.

"Or are you making sure I don't use too much detergent this time? You have to admit, it was quite amusing to watch Grey disappear in the bubbles when she tried to stop the washer." He grinned at the memory. "Oh, we so pissed her off then."

"Her h-height is a t-touchy subject," she murmured softly, hands wringing. This was the longest conversation she had ever been in with him and she refused to let her shyness get in the way of her small spark of confidence.

"I'd be pissed too if I was only four feet tall and crushing on a seven foot tall guy."

Kira cut her eyes to him in shock. "She likes Shia?"

Pleased that she managed one sentence without stammering, Dante nodded. "You didn't know? How can you miss it?"

Her eyebrows drew together. "I… don't really pay attention."

Dante shifted the basket in to his rest against his opposite hip so he could run a thumb between her brows. "Don't do that; you'll wrinkle that cute face of yours. And you don't notice things because you're trying too hard to be perfect. No one likes people who try to be something they're not just to find a place in the crowd." Dante's eyes softened when she turned her head away from him to stare at the laminated elevator floor.

"You know, people like you are just fine as they are. For some reason, they happen to find your shyness endearing."

Dante let her slip out of the elevator first when the doors slide open to the basement floors, silently trailing after her as she made her way to the laundry room. He watched her from behind, noting the way the muscles in her back tensed the closer he drifted, only relaxing when he purposefully paused to adjust the plastic basket to a more comfortable position and put more space between them. Inconspicuously, he sniffed the air to gauge her emotional state. Nervous, uneasy, excited, curious, a tinge of lust. Nothing completely out of the ordinary, but there was something else there, lingering beneath the spiced scent of her normal reaction towards him that made him pause and take stock of his range of knowledge. He had smelled the same scent before, but he couldn't quite place it. It was something dark, yet light, not yet morphed into its stronger state. He pondered over the new smell until they made it to the plain sliding door.

Kira keyed in the entrance code, programmed the inside lights at 33 percent and waited patiently for the doors to follow her command and quickly open up. When settled inside the small laundry room, Dante sat down the basket on a long stretch of cemented slab, set to be a bench. The air reeked of laundry soap and fabric softener, quickly killing any chance of him trying to figure out her new emotional scent. Disgruntled, Dante jerked open the washer, flicked on the water, and started to heap her clothes into the machine, all while dumping in over half a bottle of detergent. Kiranne wasn't quick enough to stop him, so she settled back, an amused ghost of a smile dancing across her face.

"That… might be the cause of the last bubble escapade," she said softly, barely managing to smoother her laugh when bubbles started to leak from the lip after he had snapped the dial to its cycle.

He frowned at the soap glove covering his hand. "Well damn." He waved it off nonchalantly. "We'll let Grey help clean up," he stated, face twisting into a coy smirk. Silence descended after that, Dante watching her twist her fingers together in her nervous habit and Kiranne deftly ignoring his gaze.

"Why aren't you up there?" He asked quietly after the spin cycle had started, putting them together in the small room for over twenty minutes.

Kiranne glanced up at him briefly before turning her head away to stare at a water stain bruising the wall caused by the last time Dante washed any clothes without supervision. "They don't want us in there for a reason," she mumbled quietly. "I don't want to overhear things we aren't meant to." With a sudden burst of confidence, she threw him a small, rare smile that held no trace of hesitance. "Besides, I'd rather not spy."

He returned her expression with full force. "You're right. I can't see you snooping around and plastering your ear to a door so you can try to pick up the deeper tones of the men." He rolled his eyes. "Grey looks even weirder now that she's perched on Shia's knee trying to overhear."

Kiranne smiled again, but once it returned to its rare place in her small assortment of confident expressions, she was back to twisting her fingers together. Dante let them slide back into silence, deciding only to speak if she brought up the subject.

He expected to spend the rest of the laundry cycle in silence, but Kiranne spoke up five minutes into the quiet. She refused to look at him as she asked his name hesitantly.

Eyebrow cocking up, Dante answered with a grunt. His eyebrows drew together when she bit her lip, her strange eyes clouding. "Do… you think that woman… do you think it's because of this?" Dante felt his heart drop into his stomach when she traced a slim finger against the ragged scar slicing across her throat. "Is she doing this because I didn't die?"

"Don't talk like that," he snapped, but his tone was too soft to be condemning. He slowly skimmed his tongue across his dry lips. "This is… because she's pissed that Mom and Star got away. That's all. But you don't have to worry. They'll figure something out. That, or just lock you in the tower for the rest of your life."

She nodded slightly, mouth curving. Dante let his own slip up at the corners, eyes skimming across her face. In reality, Kiranne really wasn't anything compared to her sisters as far as appearance went. Her features were plainer than pretty without anything painted on her. When she smiled, she could easily pass for pretty, but nothing more. She was nothing extraordinary in outward appearance, but because of that, she didn't even try to smother herself up in cosmetics. Unfortunately, it was another reason he didn't want to be with her. Not because she was not beautiful like his other girls were, but because she would constantly think she wasn't pretty enough for him. Dante was by no means vain, but he knew Kira would find any little flaw in herself to use it against herself and pretend that he didn't care. It also didn't help his case that he thought her more appealing without make up, even if he had yet to see her in it.

"I think the laundry is done," she said quietly and Dante snapped out of his revere long enough to notice that the washer had stopped. He blinked away cobwebs as he turned and proceeded to throw the whites into the dryer.

"How… are things with… M-Miranda?"

Dante flinched slightly, hands tightening around the lip of the washing machine. "Things are… ending," he slipped after finding his brain had switched onto overdrive at trying to find the best way to not hurt Kiranne, closing his eyes in distain at his stupidity.

"Ending?" She repeated, tone hesitant and slightly hopeful. She cleared her throat. "Why?"

Dante slammed the lid closed to the dyer and mulled over how to fix his mistake. One, he could pass it over as a joke and risk squashing her hopes, or two, he could just go out and tell her the truth. Just because he didn't feel the same way she did didn't mean that he couldn't talk openly to her. They were friends of sorts, and wasn't that what friends do? Console each other about rickety relationships? Besides, maybe she could be of some help. She just wanted him to be happy, so maybe she could give him some advice. It was worth a shot, after all. And it gave him another reason to keep her talking. If he did something stupid now, she'd close off and he'd be stuck in silence around her again. Things weren't stable between them at the present, so maybe this could balance them out.

He gave a heaving sigh and threw himself down on the bench, flopping around childishly until the crown of his head was nestled against her thigh and his lithe body was draped over the slab at odd angles. "This sucks," he amended, actually finding enough energy to go into detail about his screwy relationship with Jump City High School's most popular slut. "I should have never gotten myself into this. I mean, seriously, why would I lock myself in a relationship with a woman who wants sex more than I do? The only reason we started dating was because our supposed one night stand left her thinking that I was forever hers. Did you know that Richard was her first love? Yeah, surprised me too. But he dumped her, she was all angsty, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I was too lazy to tell her that I really didn't want my first time to be with the girl who has more notches on her bed post than a paid prostitute. I'm telling you now that if I had never come across her, I'd still be a virgin, and you know what? I would be so much happier. I wish I would have never followed her into that damn room. Sex really isn't worth it unless you're with someone you actually care about. So don't do it," he added on an after thought. "Don't have sex with any one if the only excuse you can find is because you want to make a guy happy, you're pressured into it, or because some guy tells you it'll be fun." Dante was quite proud of working that little lecture into his rant, even if none of the above situations had planted him in his annoying predicament.

He stared at the ceiling. "But I didn't break it off because I was lazy. I didn't want the drama, but I didn't want to be with her." He folded his hands across his stomach, fingers linking and frown settling between his eyebrows. "I'm not even content when I'm with her. All those after school callings are only because now that I know what sex is, I can't stop thinking about it, which is never a good thing for me, considering I think of it at all the inopportune times." And with all the wrong people.

He arched his head back slightly to catch her expression. He expected a blush, perhaps a frown even, but instead, she had one eyebrow cocked upwards and a secret, almost unnoticeable smile tugging at her mouth. He nearly pouted. Why was it that his mistakes were so amusing?

"Then leave," she said after a long, hesitant pause. With more courage than she had ever shown, she bopped her thigh against him, giving him room to use her leg as pillow. To say he was shocked was an understatement, but Dante stumbled over the surprise and quickly settled down. It was easier to see her expression while she pretended to be his therapist and her leg, surprisingly, was actually comfortable, sinewy muscle and all.

"Ah, but therein lies the problem. I dump her, she throws a hissy fit in public, and drama will unfold. Grey will get mad at something stupid she says to me, Miranda will undoubtedly call Grey short in some form or fashion, and Grey will pounce, starting an all out war. Grey will get expelled for fighting, Miranda will probably threaten to sue us, after being attacked by a supposed superhero, and will only drop the charges if I become her bed buddy again. So it all blows up in my face anyway."

He shifted against her when she unconsciously twisted a long piece of his hair between her fingers as she stared off into space, completely unaware that she was actually being comfortable around him, instead of trying to be perfect, like she thought everyone wanted. He knew the moment she realized what she was doing, she would bowl him over in her hurry to get away from him. Marginally, he let his body stiffen to prepare for the inevitable fall. Until then, however, he would enjoy this new side of Kiranne that only he had seen… and bask in the smug pleasure of his luck.

"But… I'm tired of being with a girl I can hardly stand to look at, much less screw… I mean… um, well, yeah… So I think that I'll end it. I can't be lazy about something like this, not when I can hurt more than just me. I don't care for her, but I don't want to hurt her, either… why are relationships this complicated? You're lucky you don't have to deal with one."

Dante went rigid the same moment she did, a curse already burning the tip of his tongue. Before she could heave him off her, he quickly turned onto his stomach, arranging himself so he could look her straight on. He ended up boxing her in with his arms and torso. As predicted, she tried to pull back, but he leaned closer, so her only escape was to tumble backwards, a road she wouldn't take without bruising her dignity. That was one thing Kiranne didn't try to alter. If anything, her dignity was all that she felt really belonged to her and no one else. No one could change her pride like they could her outlook. So instead, she went stiff, muscles tensing and blood boiling beneath her skin, though her eyes never left his. Her jaw clenched, a tic pulsing against her cheek.

"Don't make this difficult, Kiranne," he said softly. "You can't twist everything I say and make it out to be an insult. Otherwise, you'll never be completely comfortable around me."

She braced her palms behind her, grip tightening against the cement until it cracked and rained down to the floor in a light gray powder. "Who's to say I'm not comfortable around you?" The tender muscles in her neck stretched against her skin when he leaned closer and she leaned back, her collarbones defined against her dark skin. She moved back away from him as far as she possibly could while still keeping perfectly balanced.

"You were seconds away from shoving me off you, Kiranne. I could smell the hurt and despair. Dammit, Kiranne, why do you have to be so flipping sensitive? Everything anybody says to you is some form of an insult. It doesn't matter if we tell you how pretty you are or how much we love you, because you'll immediately belittle yourself." Kiranne focused her gaze on his bicep, something dark bubbling behind her eyes as he continued his angry tirade.

"I make a stupid comment like that, and suddenly you think I'm saying you're not good enough to be in a relationship. I don't understand you. Why do you do this? No one has done anything to you that would cause you to act like the world is against you. All you're getting is pity. Is that what you want? To be pitied? To be treated like glass, because one little word can break you? Do you want everyone's attention focused on you because you think you're nothing? Why do you-"

"I want your attention!" She snapped, her eyes boiling over with a fury he had never seen before.

Dante could do nothing more than stare at her, blood freezing in his veins as she shoved him away so he tumbled to the floor. He expected her to blush, stammer and run when she realized what she had just done, but Kiranne proved him wrong once again.

She plowed her fingers through her hair, loosening it from its bun at the nape of her neck so it tumbled down to her hips. Her face was flushed with pain, despair, and for the first time in her entire life, fury. Shy, sweet Kiranne was pissed, and it seemed, at the moment, she was finally going to let it all loose.

"All I ever wanted was your attention," she said softly, but the snarl was weaved into the words so the last syllable lashed at him like a whip. "You were the one I wanted to see me. I always had their attention, but never yours. You never looked twice at me. You would look at Sam, at Ada, even at Dahlia, but never me. I know I'm nothing compared to my sisters, but dammit, I was okay with that! You were the one who made me feel inferior. You knew how I felt from Grey, yet you still treated me like I was not worth noticing, as if that would help change how I felt about you. How was I supposed to feel? You are the reason I try so hard, only to fail over and over again because obviously, trying to amount to something in your eyes is a fault!"

"Kiranne," he managed to say softly, and that one word seemed to douse her in freezing water, for she went stiff again, the angry tears merging into tears of utmost humiliation.

He heard her quick intake of breath, followed by what had to be one of the most heartbreaking whimpers he had ever heard. "Oh god," she squeaked. "I… I didn't… I didn't mean… I'm so sorry."

And to his horror, she burst into tears and fled from the room without a backward glance. Dante scrambled to his feet, tripping over the laundry basket in his hot pursuit of her. Cursing, he jerked it out of the way, only to bang his knee against the corner of the bench.

He yelped out another string of sailor curses, hissing between his teeth when he put pressure on his bruised leg. He hopped out of the laundry room, raptor eyes scanning the hallways. He heard the elevator ding to the right, meaning she was heading toward her room. Dante skidded down the hall just in time to see the doors closing on her.

"Wait! Kiranne, dammit, we seriously need to talk about this! Hold the elevator!" Clumsily, he skidded down the hall, the soles of his shoes slick against the ground. He crashed face first into the wall, somehow managing the whip his body around despite the ache against the bridge of his nose. He smacked his shoulder against the wall when he noticed the doors slipping closed, but never managed to get his hand between the open space. He did, however, manage to catch her resolved gaze as she locked eyes with him, and for the first time in a line of many today, Kiranne looked wickedly determined.

"Dammit!" He pounded his fist against the metal, snarling at his own stupid actions when pain radiated down his arm. With another muttered curse, Dante tossed his back against the wall, letting his aching body slid down the wall until his butt plopped down hard on the cement floor.

This was just great. He had finally gotten some form of heat from her, and what did it turn out to be? Her snapping and practically telling him that it was his fault she had no confidence in herself. But… everything she said had merit. He did overlook her constantly, and for the exact reason she said. Because he knew how she felt. He knew she loved him, that she wanted more from him, and that scared the hell out of him. He didn't do relationships like that. Sure, he had been with Miranda for nearly two years, but there was nothing there that kept him attached. He wasn't emotionally invested with her, but if he gave in to Kiranne… well, he knew he would get too attached to her, which would only cause her harm. He didn't… have complete control over what he was, and if he ever found himself in a predicament where he got too physically close to her… there was no telling what he would do. It didn't matter with Miranda, because she was used to things being rough. But everything he was with Miranda, it wasn't her he was seeing, but instead…

Dante sighed as he raked his fingers through his hair, dropping one hand lazily to pinch his sore nose. If he could be the rough just picturing that it was her beneath him… there was no telling what he would do if presented with the chance to take things beyond merely kissing… and… well, it wouldn't exactly be good for her mental state of well-being.

Dante really wasn't sure how he would react around her, but he didn't want to take a chance, especially since it was Kiranne he was thinking about…

And yet, what if he was missing his greatest chance at happiness? If Kiranne could actually spark the sudden urge to take her out on a date (movie, food, or whatever dating required) then she had to have some hold over him. Normally, he was too lazy to even talk, yet around her he could spill out everything he usually kept inside, just out of arrogant spite. There was no telling what Kiranne could do for him. After all, no one knows that the future holds, so why not take the chance? For all he knew, Kiranne was actually the One. Yeah, corny, but still- what if he found everything he could possibly want with her?

On the other hand, was he really willing to take the chance? Dante dropped his head onto his bruised knee. And why did it feel as if her resolved gaze would be the end of Kiranne's adoration towards him? Of all the people, it was ironic that Kiranne was the most complex girl he had ever come across. She was the only girl he couldn't figure out, despite her simple nature. It would also be his luck that the one girl who really loved him would give up completely on him. But if he were in her shoes, he knew he would have given up long before. Damnit.

"Dante, sweetie, you are such an idiot."

His groan was long-suffering as Grey and Ada flanked him, both sliding down to mimic his posture like bookends. His sister patted his knee sympathetically. "It was mean of you to call Kiranne pitiful."

"I didn't mean it," he snarled, but it was mumbled, so the sting was lost on his sister… or just ignored. "And how did you hear? Peeping around the corner? You need to find a life, sister." If that was the case, than it seemed like his sister had a front row seat to his graceful face plant against the wall. Great.

"Dante, you are my life. And yes, we lost interest in the 'parentals' so we decided to spy on you. After all, you and Kira always hold the most amusement. But this time… well, let's just say we were all speechless."

"Even you?" He mocked, lifting his head long enough to pin her with a smug curve of his mouth. Grey pursed her lips and whacked him hard over the head, adding to the pain pounding down the bridge of his abused nose. "Listen to me, little brother… and don't mock your elders."

"Such a short temper you have, big sister."

Adara sighed, gently shoving Grey away when she tried to pounce. "Grey, what happened to your earlier proclamation? This won't help you lecture him if you let him rile you."

"Did you hear him?" She shrieked, causing Dante to recoil in pain. He rubbed his mistreated ears while Grey continued her rant. "He called me short. All I was doing was trying to help and he picked on my… height."

"Grey," Dante groaned, and obviously there was enough emotion in that one syllable that she stopped screeching in his ear. "Grey," he added more softly. "There is nothing you can say that I don't already know. It was stupid, irresponsible, and-"

"Good for her."

Dante's head snapped up in shock to see Shia shrug his wide shoulders. "I mean, a little anger is good for everybody. And she actually showed an emotion that wasn't linked to shyness or resignation. She got mad. You actually made her scream at you. That in itself is an amazing feat. It wasn't under the best circumstances, but maybe this will help smooth things along. After all, I'm sure that if you don't decide on what to do, Kiranne will."

And that, Dante decided as Shia patted him roughly on the shoulder, was exactly what he was afraid of.

XxX

Christian fiddled with a loose string dangling from his shirt, horror eating away at his insides as they played the tape for him. The wind witch's earlier threats were nothing compared to what he witnessed now.

"This is from the interrogation before she was linked to us," Twains said softly. "Masters wasn't kidding when he said this was bad."

Bile rising in his throat, Christian turned away from the screen, unable to listen any longer. Beast Boy had long past leaped from the couch to move as far away from the screen as possible, while Robin crushed the remote in his hands so blood careened to the floor from shallow wounds from the shards. Starfire, amazingly, had not made a sound, but he knew, just from the pale tint to her skin, that she was mere seconds away from breaking in some form.

"I think we get the gist of it," Christian murmured. Twain nodded softly, wrestling the remote from Robin's hand and clicking it off. It was moments like this, Christian decided, that he detested his sharp mind. If not for his mental acuity, he wouldn't be here, listen to the sickening things that woman said while offering the adults hope that he could somehow protect their daughters from Rebecca. Why couldn't he be normal just for a moment? Now, he knew, he would never be able to close his eyes without seeing one of his friends being brutally raped in one of the fashions that demon had mentioned. It was enough to actually make him sick to his stomach.

"So what do we do?" Beast Boy asked, voice choked. "I mean… Grey… wouldn't be able to survive that if… dammit." Christian flinched when Beast Boy's voice broke. "She's so small…"

"Stop," Raven snarled. "We can't think like that yet. All we need to concentrate on is protecting them from this. We can't let… that get in the way."

"She hired others like us to catch them," Starfire sobbed. "We've probably been taken down by some of the villains she's hired. We were almost taken down by a human, how can our girls fight against- ?"

"Starfire," Robin snapped. "Stop it. Raven's right, we can't think about that-"

"How the hell can you say that? My god, she practically painted a picture for us! How can you shove that aside like-"

"Beast Boy," Cyborg said softly. Beast Boy trailed off, eyes rimmed with red. He slinked toward Cyborg, throwing his body between Christian and Raven. Immediately, he linked his fingers with hers. "I know this is hard. I can't imagine what you are going through. My God, I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest, and these girls aren't even my blood. But I understand where Robin and Raven are coming from. If you think of nothing but what might happen, you won't have any room to prevent it from happening. So right now, we need to devise a plan on protecting them."

"Okay. Okay," Beast Boy repeated once more. "I'm sorry."

Cyborg cupped Beast Boy's shoulder in a comforting pat. "No prob, man. But right now, we need to lay down some ground rules."

"We can't let them out of the tower," Twain said, but Katelynn shook her head.

"Lex, they wouldn't agree to that." She held up a hand when he opened his mouth to protest. "Let me finish. They have school, friends, a life. If we take that all away just for a threat, someone might bend the rules. They're teenagers, Alexander. They think they're invincible. Even Sam. What would she do if you told her she couldn't further her education because some woman was threatening to hurt her?"

"She's step out just to prove she could protect herself," Robin said. "She's too much like me. I couldn't be kept inside when Bruce trained me. It's… not in my nature to take orders. Sam's the same way."

"So we don't take that privilege away," Cyborg stated. He waited until all eyes were on him. "We can't take away a teenagers freedom. We can limit it, but never remove it permanently. So, we set a curfew."

"A curfew isn't enough," Ethan said, eyebrows drawing together when Cyborg held up a hand.

"I know. But it's a start. I… have an idea. The thing is, it won't be simple."

"Don't make us wait, Cy," Raven said softly, her fingers tightening against Beast Boy's fingers.

"It will require pain on their part, but I think that if I design a tracking device that was can slip into their body-"

"We can keep track of them at all times," Robin concluded. "If they were taken, we could track them."

"Yes. But it might take time. There are certain precautions. I'm no medical doctor, but-"

"I am." Christian didn't have the energy to blush when their heads snapped up to stare at him. "If Cyborg can whip up an implantable tracking device, then I can put it in. I would… probably have to insert it into the muscle of the arm. It's the safest place for it. It will hurt, but in the long run, it will be helpful. That way, you can always keep an eye on them without restricting their lifestyle. But… we would have to have a test subject. If something goes wrong, then we would be screwed if all chips were inside us… but who would be the one to offer?"

"Sam," her parents echoed, causing Christian to press his index fingers together. "She'd probably hurt you if you thought of anyone else," Robin added, smiling slightly for the first time in hours.

He nodded, fully intent on going into more detail about the precautions Cyborg would have to take with the chip when Colt cleared his throat and asked, "Why would it be surgically implanted? Couldn't it be… in a necklace or something?"

Robin opened his mouth to answer, but Christian beat him to it. "After telling me everything you know about Rebecca, it would seem like she isn't a stupid woman. She would know immediately that we did something to insure their safety, so it would be the first thing she removed. She will probably already know that we have something like this in store, so she'll be ready to remove it quickly. However, by the time she gets around to it, we will have already gotten to signal and will know where they are or where they're heading."

"Right," Colt said, eyes distant. It was obvious he wasn't really paying attention to anything they had to say, not after the wind witch had made it obvious that those not be sold as sex slaves were to be handled with as the villain pleased. She had laid out many ideas, none of them healthy for a parent to hear. It was especially difficult to hear that his youngest daughter was mentioned by name as being to next victim of some man's planned torture.

"They need to be prepared." Beast Boy glanced up at Cyborg. "Do you have any holographic simulators that could help? If we present them with the highest level on it, they will be prepared for anything. We don't know what villains will go after which girl, but if they know to expect the worst and are already prepared for it, maybe we'll all have time to get to them before they can take them away. That, or just get out of it period. I remember you created one for us after Slade took Robin as an apprentice. Do you think you can tinker with it until you can get a nearly unbeatable level?"

Cyborg shifted slightly. "Yeah, I can, but the last time we tried that, it was so hard that Robin nearly bit the dust. I can't even go through the simulation without bending some part of me."

"It will be supervised, and when it gets too difficult, we cut it. But at least we know that if worst comes to worst, they can take better care of themselves because they went through the simulator."

"During this stage, I can work on the chips so no one will have enough time on their hands to actually picture what she said." Cyborg eased his elbows onto his knee and linked his metal hands loosely. "I can run the statistics past Christian to make sure nothing will jack with their physical makeup and then when the time comes, both of us can insert it into the girls."

"I think," Christian said slowly, "that everyone beneath the age of twenty should get one, female or not. You never know what her plan is, and why risk it? The first set will be given to the women, no problem, but we can't leave out the men. If nothing else, when the time comes, it'll be good to know where everyone is incase someone needs help. At least that way you can gauge on how much time it takes for them to get there, then estimate how much time the victim has before there is no hope in rescuing them."

He took a breath and looked around at the people around him, then continued. "But until then… I'm all against instilling fear in anyone, but I think you need to tell everyone above the age of twelve what is going on and what might happen in the worst case scenario. You can't sugar coat this and expect them to let you surgically implant a tracker into them. They're teenagers; they'll immediately think you don't trust them if you pop off with this information without telling them the reason behind it." Christian grimaced slightly. "Of course, after this is all over, if you don't remove them… well, they won't be able to sneak around…"

"Then it's settled," Twain said quickly as he slapped his palms against his thigh. "We'll tell them tomorrow."

"But I think we should give them a little break before we scare the shit out of them." Harley suggested. "I think it would be a good idea to let all the kids go to Hannah and Ethan's place like they offered. We can keep an eye on them but still let 'em roam free."

"What are we going to do about school? And how long will these chips take? After all, we do have quite a number of children. And are we doing this to the little ones?"

Starfire quickly jumped up. "No. We can't let someone so young go through with this. After all, their muscles aren't fully developed-"

"And we don't want their muscles to be damaged by the chip," Christian concluded. "It would cause great discomfort the rest of their life. We probably wouldn't be able to safely remove it, either- not when it reaches that point."

"I think I already have a rough draft," said Cyborg. " If everything goes as planned, and I charge up my battery without sleep, then I can have a test chip reading in about forty-five hours."

"And we can't keep them out of school," Raven interjected. "We'll talk to them tomorrow and tell them that if they want to go to school, they ride with an adult or in groups of about four or five. The older teens can keep their jobs as well, since they all work with us and we can keep a sharp eye on them."

"Then it's settled. I think it best if we all stay here at the tower. We have plenty of room and the kids can branch off with their respect age group. I'm sure Kiranne will let Sam stay with her or vice versa, or Dante can bunk with Shia or something. We'll figure it out." Beast Boy's voice was still a bit shaky, but other than that, he seemed as composed as Robin.

The group broke up to fix the sleeping arrangement. Christian let his eyes wander of the adults faces, mouth set in a straight line. No one was ever going to get over what the wind demon said, Christian concluded. They would fall asleep tonight with the image of their daughters being raped, tortured, killed, and there would be nothing anyone could do.

He watched them all leave, hands linked and body slouched forward on his knees as his mind shifted through the possibilities with the chips. If they could implant chips into a dogs, then humans shouldn't be any different. Right?

"Hey kid."

Christian glanced up when Robin and Cyborg settled on either side of him. "I'll make you a rough draft of the plans tonight and run it by you."

He studied the mechanical man with no emotions. "You know more about this than I do. I only know how to go about this surgically. But you have to know," he said softly, turning his attention to Robin, "I've never worked on a living, breathing human this way. I mean, now-a-days, they have mannequins that bleeds and dies on you if you screw up, but never humans-"

"Christian," Robin said softly, "we trust you. Sam trusts you," he added, watching with slight amusement as Christian went red. "If something goes wrong, no one will blame you."

Christian blanched at that, but Robin hastily added, "And since the first person you'll be working on is Samara, we all know you'll do everything in your power to make sure nothing goes wrong." Robin hesitantly patted his back, still not one for human touch unless it was his wife or children. "You need sleep, kid. Rest that brain of yours so we can start protecting our women."

Both adults stood up, Cyborg clapping him hard on the back so the boy genius lurched forward. Chuckling, Cyborg slung his arm around Robin and started bouncing his ideas off the startled hero.

Christian was mulling over the best way to go about implanting the chip into Sam when something small and dark threw itself down beside him. Startled, Christian swiveled his head to the side. Lucan was sitting primly beside him, back ramrod straight and hands linked in front of him like a Christian school boy.

"We need to talk," he stated, his forced tone octaves lower than his normal pitch as he tried to give himself the air of a grown man. Christian fought back a chuckle, instead pasting on a serious mask as he leaned back against the couch.

"About what? Girls?"

Lucan slid him a glance that had Christian cocking up a surprised eyebrow. The irritation mirrored within the gold depths of Luc's eyes was like looking straight at Sam. Amazed at this little boy, Christian draped his ankle against his right thigh and prepared to give this little boy advice about whatever he wanted to talk about. If it was women, however, both of them were screwed.

"I wanna know what's going on."

This was the last thing Christian expected. He barely managed to keep his jaw from sagging in shocked surprise. Only his degree from Harvard kept him from showing just how surprised he really was. Christian schooled his features and stared at the boy head on, making sure his eyes were void of any emotion. This had been taught to him during the first class he had, when the professor had stated that being a doctor was a lot more emotionally challenging than most jobs. Not all patients were going to survive surgery and not all children would walk out of a hospital room after a wreck. This was life, his professor had stated, but it doesn't make it easy. Telling a parent that their only child died during an operation takes a strength that many people don't have. You can't break down like they do. You can't weep with them when it sinks in and you can't turn away when the pressure get to be too much. So you paste on a face, offer your condolences, and when you do home, you break, but never before you walk out of those hospital doors.

Now, that logic was about to be put to the test. He was going to sidestep the kid every step of the way, yet he wouldn't look away, no matter what he did. If he could deal with Samara after she kissed him the first and only time and decided it was her duty to shove him over furniture when he happened to get to close to her, then he could deal with the mini-Sam in front of him.

"There's nothing going on, Lucan."

"Bullcrap! I know something weird is going on and Sam's involved in it! You can't hide that from me. I might be young, but I deserve to know! How would you like it if someone knew something you really wanted to know but wouldn't tell you 'cause they think your too young and-"

Christian blinked rapidly as Lucan launched into a tirade longer than the one before the dodgeball fight. "Lucan, stop and take a deep breath."

He did as he was told, but glared hotly at Christian the entire process. "I wanna know what's going on," he repeated, " and if you don't tell me, I'm gonna stomp on your feet."

Normally, this threat would have been completely harmless had it of been any other ten year old, but when said by a Tameranian, who, he was told, was much stronger than ten adult wrestlers put together, it was quite unnerving. Christian tucked his feet under him nonchalantly as he stated, "Lucan, this really is something that you don't need to hear-"

"Is Samara involved?" He asked, folding his dark arms across his chest.

Christian cocked his head. "Well, yes…"

"Then it involves me. Now tell me! I wanna know! If it's something bad, I can handle it. I'm much smarter than most kids my age and I can handle a lot of bad stuff when it happens so there's no need for you not to tell me, 'specially when it comes to Sam, who is like, my hero, so now, I have to protect her and-"

"Lucan," Christian said, gently easing on the kid gloves, "this isn't something you can protect her from. Otherwise, I'd tell you to go right for it, but not this. This… you don't understand, Luc. This would kill you if you knew anything about what was going on, and this is something you can't fully understand."

Luc, for a change, was silent. His body slouched forward slightly, fingers twisting. "I've gotta do something," he muttered, but his tone was thick, as if he were holding back tears. "I gotsta protect her, 'cause she don't have anyone else who will. She acts all bad and stuff, but she's gotta be protected to, and I wanna do that for her. She's gotta have someone to lean on, right?"

Christian hesitated, his mask cracking. "Umm… Lucan, look." He sighed heavily, plowing all ten fingers through his unruly tresses. "This is stuff even I wish I didn't know. Telling you will only make things worse. I know what's it like to grow up too fast, and I won't let that happen to you-"

His words broke off in a yelp when Lucan reached over with a speed that no human could manage and wrapped his hands- already grown past that of a ten year old- and wrapped it around Christian's wrist. Thankfully, Christian's hands were quite big for a man in his profession, so Lucan couldn't get his hand completely around his wrist, but what grip he did manage to get could easily break his bones if Lucan tightened his grip.

"I don't wanna hurt you, Chris, but I can't protect my sister without knowing what I'm protecting her from."

Christian flinched slightly when his grip tightened and the circulation to his fingers were cut off. "Kid," he growled, "if it were physically possible, I'd swear that you were Sam's child. Now, let go."

Lucan blushed, obviously taking this as a compliment, but did not loosen his grip. "Tell me."

Christian had one of two choices. Let the kid break his wrist- he knew that Lucan really wasn't aware of how strong his grip was and the actually breaking his bones was not on his list of things to do today, but the kid's grip was already to the point where pain flared down his arm- or really, really summarize what was going on. Christian wasn't a normal geek, so he really wasn't that wimpy, but he really didn't want to explain how he broke his wrist, so he finally managed, "Dammit, alright, you win. Now, lemme go so I can tell you."

Lucan, surprised that he was actually getting his way, dropped Christian's wrist and glanced down sheepishly at his combat boots. "Sorry," he mumbled as Christian rubbed the bruises blooming across his skin. "But I really wanna know, and I know that no one else will tell me. You care about Sam as much as I do, I hope, and I just figured that if all the things she says in her diary are true, then-"

"Diary?" The pain was momentarily forgotten as Christian gawked down at the younger boy. All maturity he had managed to hold since he returned from Harvard vanished. "She writes about me? In her diary? She writes about geeky old me, who didn't loose his virginity until a few night before graduation because he was terrified of the female population? Me? You're joking."

Lucan's eyebrows drew together as he regarded Christian with amused disgust. "Urm… yeah. She says she loves you-"

"Loves me?" Christian squeaked, causing Luc to giggle.

"Yeah. She don't think you're geeky. She says a lot of stuff about you in there, stuff that's kinda gross-"

"Gross how?"

"Kissing and stupid girly stuff like that. Nasty," he muttered, watching Christian as he joyfully hyperventilated. Sam, beautiful, smart, talented (and so not geeky) Sam, liked- no- loved him? Wow… just… wow.

"Jeez, stop drooling, will ya? I'll get her diary for ya. Now tell me or…" Christian's ecstatic bubble burst when Lucan adapted a very wicked look. "Or I'll tell Sam that you nearly had an asthma attack when I told you."

Christian's smile switched off as quickly as a light. "I don't have asthma."

"No, but it's geeky enough that she'll think twice about sleeping with you when the times comes... although I don't exactly know why she'd want to sleep next to you of all people-"

The rest was drowned out by Christian choking on his own salvia at this innocent declaration. Lucan waited impatiently for him to catch his breath, foot tapping in annoyance. "Now, tell me or I can think of something better… like… you don't feel the same way she does-"

"No! Damn, kid, you sure know how to work things to your advantage. Not even Sam does that. She just beats you until she gets her answer." Christian ran his thumb along the finger-shaped bruises as he quickly summarized Rebecca's plans so it was PG.

"Okay, here's the deal. A long time ago, when I was just a baby, this woman created havoc upon Jump City, killing innocent girls in the process. Mom, Star, Hannah, Harley, and Raven were captured by her, but got away. This ticked her off. So now, she has hired super villains- like the ones your parents used to fight- and plans on… kidnapping your sisters and the rest of the female population had between the girls who got away. And… well, they plan on… hurting them… badly," he finished lamely. "This is… really hard on everyone, so don't tell anyone I told you this, okay?"

Luc's eyes were bright with fear for his family. "But why does she want to hurt my sisters? What did they do to her?"

"Nothing," Christian spat in disgust. "She's doing this to get back at your mom and Raven for getting away. It is her form of revenge."

Lucan glanced away from him, eyes filling with tears. Christian was immediately swamped with guilt. "I didn't want to tell you this, Lucan. I tried-"

"I'm gonna protect her extra hard, then! She won't get none of my sisters unless she goes through me!"

Lucan leapt from the couch, hands fisted at his sides. "I'm gonna protect all my sisters from that lady if it's the last thing I do!"

Christian watched Lucan marched out of the room, tears making his gold eyes bright as he stomped his way down the hallway. He stared after him long after the door had closed. "Damn kid," Christian muttered. "He's too damn brave for his own good."

XxX

Sam opened her door irritably, annoyed that whoever was knocking so quickly had interrupted her train of thought. She didn't have much time to write, what with homework and training eating away all her free time, so nights like these- when she was too lazy to do either of the former- that she used her time to transfer her books onto the computer, where she could make corrections. Everyone knew never to bother her during this period of time, so, she knew whoever this was happened to be stupid or hurt. Most likely, it was the former.

"What?" She snapped.

She faulted when Lucan glanced up at her, eyes brimming with unshed tears. The immediate instinct to console knocked into her. She was on her knees in an instant, all anger dissipated. "Lucan, baby, what's wrong? Did Mac hit you again? Did you fall? What's the matter?" Lucan never cried, even if he did fall and scrape his knee. The last time he had cried was when he was five and he watched a animal get hit. Lucan crying was like Sam giving up: it just didn't happen.

"Luc, tell me what's wrong." She reached up to cup his face in her hand to make him look at her. Beneath her hands, his skin was hot. "Does something hurt?" Maybe he was sick. Did something happen to one of his friends? Did someone say something bad? What was wrong with him? Explanation ran rampant through her head, all worse than the last. What was wrong with Luc?

"Sam." She glanced up from Lucan's tear streaked face to see Christian leaning against the wall, arms folded over his chest and something heavy dancing in his fog-gray eyes.

"Christian, what's going on? What's wrong with him?"

A sob tore from her baby brother's throat, quickly catching her attention. Her heart constricted in her chest at her brother's pain. "Tell me what I can do for you, Luc," she said softly, at a loss for what to do.

And then, without warning, Lucan threw his body into her arms. "I'll protect you!" He promised, weeping against her chest. "I'll protect you from everything!"

Samara, for the first time her life, did not know what to do. Her shocked eyes locked with Christian, Samara gently wrapped her arms around her baby brother's back and smoothed down his hair. "It's okay, Lucan. It's okay. Nothing is going to happen to me. I promise."

XxX

"Gizzy!"

Gizmo slammed down his wrench in annoyance as her whining voice reverberated through his underground apartment. Two days with the woman and already he was ready to pull his non-existent hair out. He glared vehemently down at the innocent robot he had designed to clean up his pigsty and waited with growing impatience for her to throw herself into his arms and weep about something stupid.

It took one minute and twenty-six seconds.

"Oh, Gizzy, she tattled on me! She told them everything!" He started at his wall, tic jumping above his eyebrow. "She left nothing out! Oh, Gizzy, what am I to do? There will be no surprise now! They'll figure out a way to get out of it. Poo," she moped, folding her arms over his tiny chest. "This is not what I planned."

Gizmo shifted her in his lap so he could tinker more with his new maid. "You'll think of something," he stated monotonously, wishing for the umpteenth time since he had slept with this blonde annoyance in his lap that he had never gone to that stupid convention. What was he thinking? He had stopped following orders after Jinx had betrayed them, so what made him think he would enjoy being ordered around by a woman who used her body to get people to kidnap innocent girls so she could rape them? It was… sickening, and though Gizmo wasn't exactly right in the mind, he wasn't this cruel. Stealing, fine. Beating people up with his engineering? Whatever. Raping innocent girls, like Kiranne whose one mistake in life was to love a boy who didn't want her? Umm, no.

"Oh dear. This puts a bind on my plans. She was only supposed to mess with them, knock them around a bit without getting defeated, then toss the roses at them! That's all. They would have known I was coming, but never when, or what I would do." She bounced in his lap as she threw her tantrum like a five year old rich brat who couldn't get the pony she wanted for Christmas. "What shall I do now? They're going to figure out something and then I won't get my revenge!"

She slammed her fist down on the table, upsetting his tiny robotic maid. He watched in annoyance as his cleaning lady jerked up off the desk and started to short circuit, driving around on its wheels in dizzying circles until it flew off the table and straight into his fish tank.

"Oh," she said, sniffing. "That's one way to fry fish."

Gizmo sighed heavily, planting her feet on the ground so he could fish his maid out of the water and dispose of his fried fish. Rebecca watched him, sniffing daintily as she pouted and eased herself onto the table. "Gizzy," she whined again, taking no notice to Gizmo whacking his forehead against his metal lockers repeatedly. "I've been thinking…"

"Never a good thing," he muttered.

"What did you say, Gizzy? I couldn't hear you. And why are you so close to those lockers? Is something wrong?"

Gizmo sighed again. "No, I'm fine. I was just… looking for something."

"Oh," she pouted, looking every bit like a blonde, tiny, annoying cheerleader who thought the world revolved around her. "But I was thinking about Kiranne again."

Gizmo sat down across from her, forehead pounding. "Again?" What is your freaking obsession with that girl? There's nothing worth obsessing over! Unless, of course, you have some sick fetish with girls who are as innocent as that girl. Sick perv.

"And… I just can't take away all that innocence! I mean, it's who she is! I want to, but then I'll lose interest, and then I won't want her, and I'll have to kill her, and I don't want that! So I decided that I'll just screw with her heart," she chirped happily. "I mean, what better way to break her than to break Dante?"

Gizmo started at her, sickened, as she threw herself into his arms and planted a long kiss on his mouth. "So, Gizzy, what do you say we take a little vacation to Gotham City?"

XxX

Senior year + job+ filling out college applications + scouring down scholarships equals little time for writing. And, when I do have free time, I spend it sleeping. So… updates will be slower than usual. On the other hand, I actually made a outline of this, so I shouldn't have any writer's block tossed in my way.

I have decided that TWR: PoB will be my main focus. The Book of Garion is not doing well at all, so I'll only work on that when I have time or I piss those people off who actually read it and get enough heat from them (Like from your editor? I like that one. -RT). That, and I'm mulling over ideas for Before Dishonor.