"Sit here," Vicky ordered, directing Timmy to plant himself in her favorite large purple chair, one that was satisfyingly plush and big enough for two people to comfortably cuddle in... not that that was her intention, it was just the best seat in her home. She then walked over to her electric fireplace and switched life into it, giving the room a flickering orange glow for illumination, not to mention some much needed warmth. She stared deep into the fire to center herself, before again speaking to her guest in a controlled rhythm, not turning away from the flames.

"First off, does anyone else know you came out here, looking for me?"

"Well... no. No, I didn't think to tell anyone what I was up to. So I never did. Guess I didn't want them to think I was desperate or pathetic. Besides, this always felt personal, like I had to figure things out for myself, or at the very least by my own resources. So I came out here alone, looking for answers."

Well, that was good news for her, in case shit took a turn for the worst. Still, can't let him suspect anything, "I don't honestly know if I will tell you everything you want to know, but I'm not going to lie either. Got it?"

"I understand," he sighed, begrudgingly accepting her terms without a fight.

"Good... Well, if you have some questions then I'm as receptive as I'm ever going to be."

Timmy fidgeted some, getting a little more comfortable she supposed, before opening his sweetly shaped mouth, "I didn't do anything to drive you away, um... Did I?"

God, he sounded so worried, yet earnest for an answer. Had her absence really affected him so negatively? She knew some damage should have been expected, but for him to hold onto it for so long... "No... You didn't do anything to drive me off, or make me bored or sick of you. In all honesty, I missed you. But, uh," her eyes moved sideways and traveled across the room, resting on the source of an ever present ticking, "there is something out here I have to do, all the time, and you... It wouldn't have worked out."

His onset of silence told that he had absorbed her words with need and relief, but also seemed to look unsatisfied in her mind's eye, "That's a little reassuring. But, um, well, why not tell me? Why just disappear without a word?"

Her sight reset to forward so she could continue to gaze into the hearth, seeing strange living shapes flint in and out of existence. Of course he was going to ask this question, and of course it stung to hear the diminished despair beneath his words. Damn it all, she needed to hold onto her cool, so as to not seem fickle and careless with his heart, "It wasn't to do you harm, or to be cruel. Not really. I knew it would hurt you, but it also hurt me too. You have to understand there is a sort of void in me. Something so deep and depleting that love alone can't fill it. But when I was first out here I found something that could. I... I can't really say more than that, though I wish I could. Because if I did then..." she inhaled sharply, realizing what would have to happen if he ever found out, then shook her head some to perish the thought. No! She wouldn't let it come to that.

"Then?..." he inquired of her further.

She just shook her head more vigorously in response, knowing this must be frustrating to him, but holding strong to her conviction anyhow. There was no way she could let the truth out, he had to be protected.

"Okay..." Timmy was trying to remain calm, she could tell, "So you do something out here, in secret, because you need to, and can't have me around or else I would... get in the way, maybe?"

"That's a way of putting it..." She closed her eyes in unease, feeling like he was putting the pieces together much too quickly.

"Do you know what that sounds like to me?"

"What?" her voice wavered, eyes returning to her prized grandfather clock. This was it, she was going to have to go through with the worse case scenario after-

"Well... It kinda sounds like you became a super hero, doesn't it?"

Her composure snapped, lips tightened, and her eyes bulged, "W-what?!"

"I mean, doesn't it? Wait... was I on the mark? I was only making an observation. I didn't actually-"

"S-Stop!" she just about cracked up. What the hell?! How did he come to that conclusion? She turned to face him, eyes just about to water from the absurdity of it all, "This is supposed to be a serious conversation, don't joke around like its nothing."

"Don't see why I shouldn't," he shrugged, "I'm not going to get a straight answer whatever I do, right?" So... That must mean he purposefully just tried to make her laugh.

"Mnn... Trust me, its better if you didn't get the truth."

"And I doubt there is anything you have done these past five years I couldn't forgive, considering all the stuff I already forgave you for."

She felt her eyes narrow again, "I was holding back then, you know."

"Oh? So are you saying you aren't anymore?"

"Wah? N-no! I didn't say that."

"Well, now you don't have to," he smirked at her, "So, this is all related to how you used to be, huh?"

"You little twerp..." She had to admit though, that was smart of him. He got her guard down and then fished out another clue. Not that she was going to say so aloud, or make the same mistake twice. Still, that was a big hint he just surfaced, this wasn't looking good for her; or him, for that matter.

"... Would you believe I even miss when you used called me that?"


"Or just about everything, really. I missed the sound of your voice. The stories you would tell. How you held yourself when you got defensive. The sound of your laugh. The..." he bit his lower lip for a second, then gazed out the massive window overlooking the snow flurried city, his face degrading to sullen, "the... all the little things. Everything. I missed you."

Back to a serious tone then? Well, that detour sure lasted long, "I don't understand something," she confessed, gazing outside at the swirling winter burden, "Why? Why not move on? Why cling to me? I have been out of your life for all these years, not so much as a peep, yet at the first chance you had you rushed out here, looking for me. Normal people don't do that. They move on! They find someone else not worth the heartbreak and trouble."

Timmy was the one quiet now, seeming to search for the right words. Vicky, having grown tired of standing, moved over to the ottoman of the massive chair and sat herself feet away from her guest. She wasn't looking at him though, not that she couldn't feel his eyes return to her form, but rather kept her sight fixed to the only clock in the home. He sighed heavily, appearing ready to reveal some truth to her, "In all honesty, I don't have an amazing, world shaking answer for that. I was just unable to forget you, or forget what we had. How happy I was with you, and how empty I felt after you were gone.

"And nothing could fill me back up. Not friends, or family, or school, or even any kind of entertainment. Once in awhile I found distractions, and they helped me along the way, but every night I was so lonely and miserable. It was hard to get up in the morning sometimes, because I would think 'What's the point?'

"But I did. I got up and worked it all out day by day. Because I wanted to see you again. And I wanted to be something... someone you would be proud to know. Someone worth loving again. I blamed myself, a lot, and racked my brains trying to figure out what I did to drive you away..."

She wasn't looking at him still, though knew she had to say something, "I won't apologize for leaving. But, for what it's worth, I am sorry to put you through all that. I just... I can't stress how important it is for me to be out here. Nor can I give you anymore details as to why. You have to trust me on that."

"I want to... Its hard to swallow that though, you know? I've been desperate for an answer, and after finally finding you again I won't get one?"

"Again, I have a good reason."

"Is it illegal?"

Her lips tightened, and she exhaled harshly through her nose while turning away from her clock to face him, "You keep this prying crap up and I'll throw you out, right into that fucking blizzard, got it?"

He raised his hands up in a defensive posture, "Alright, alright," he said almost cheekily. Did that mean he supposed he had guessed right again? Well, what she was doing was illegal, so he had, whether he knew it or not. Damn it! That was two hints he managed to weasel out of her. She must have been fuming, for Timmy lowered his hands slowly and wore a guilty expression.

"Listen," he started with a plea, actually sounding sorry now, "It may be hard for me to accept; not being allowed to know why you left me, I mean. But... I can see it means a lot to you. And I don't want to push you away, not when I've finally found you again. So... no more attempts, okay?"

"Promise?" she asked after a moment of searching his face for insincerity, and finding none.

"Promise," he confirmed with a resigned smile.

"Good... And thanks, for understanding," not to mention saving his own hide from her.

"Yeah... Well, now that I can't ask about the most important question, which has been tearing me apart for years, mind you; I don't really know what there is to talk about."

Now she smiled a bit, for she saw his point, not that she would relent though, "Tough titty. So then, I have some questions for you, if you're done with me."

"Like I'll ever be done with you?"

"Watch it," she warned, "Now, the one that has been killing me the most, have you been loyal to me this whole time?"

"L-loyal?" His eyes widened before darting to the fireplace, making hers narrow once more.

"As in have you slept with anyone else after I left you? Or dated anyone?"

He fidgeted some as she repositioned herself on the ottoman, now sitting cross-legged and staring right at him. "Um... well," he began lamely, before catching her eye for a brief second, then inhaling deeply, and exhaling a resigned, "Yes..."

Suddenly, the sounds of her home seemed to have shut off. She couldn't hear the fireplace, or the ticking of her clock, or the raging storm just outside her large windows. Vicky noticed that her vision had dropped from his apologetically sodden face, to her cold bare feet. So he had... He really had broken his commitment. She remembered that on many occasions she did wish he had given up on them and just leave her in the past. But in the stingiest recesses of her heart she had always hopped he would forever remain loyal, despite what she was putting him through.

"I'm... I'm sorry, Vicky."

"Don't..." She very nearly cracked, "Its what I wanted to happen..."

"I don't believe that at all."

"Not like that stopped you..." She found it was easy to be negative toward him now, knowing he was capable of putting his hands on another woman.

Though instead of falling way to her displeasure, Timmy instead grew defensive, "Then how about you?"

"What?" Her heart sank even further, knowing exactly what he was asking.

"Well, you seemed so keen on breaking ties with me, so have you been with anyone else since coming out here?"

Her lips folded in on themselves, while her hands formed tight little fists. And although she wanted to admit to him her own transgressions, she somehow found it hard to confirm so with her voice.

"I figured as much," he concluded harshly for her, an audible bitterness souring his tone.

Her eyes shot up to his, mouth slightly agape, an expression of confusion and disgrace carved into her beautiful features. She closed her eyes and mouth again and tried to internally suppress the volatile mixture of outrage and guilt bubbling from within.

They were both quiet for a long while, neither seeming to wish for the continuance of the conversation. But as time ticked on, and her deep seeded demon was bound, a myriad of new questions formed in the host's wild imagination; thus Vicky's halted resolve slowly hummed back to life.

"Was it... Did it mean anything?" She focused her attentions to her ex-lover, needing to know all aspects of his answer, rather they be verbal or not.

Timmy raised his head slowly; a complex weave of hurt, betrayal, and remorse stitched over his adorably pale features, "It wasn't... I wasn't myself. She kept giving me wine, which made me light headed. But despite that I stayed by her side anyway. Then she sounded so sad, and kept our bodies so close together. I knew I should have told her to leave me alone, that I was in love with someone else, but... I was so lonely, and so out of touch with my reason. And it just sort of happened.

"I immediately regretted it, and left right after without even saying goodbye. I spent days reeling from what I'd done, drunk or not. But after I was able to accept what a fuck up I had been, I got back on track with trying to find you. I think it made me even more determined too, because somehow locating you would make it all better... But here I am, and I hate myself more than ever for being weak and giving in to seduction."

Vicky heard her companion's words, but was barely able to make sense of them; for she could feel two new great conflicting urges swelling within. One telling her to strike him and shout in his stricken face about how horrible she felt because of his careless actions. The other was to take him in her arms and comfort him, letting him know that he was not at fault and she still cared for him deeply. Yet she knew too well that neither instinct could be seen through; least she fail in upholding her resolve to both protect her Timmy, and not rekindle any aspect of their relationship. Though, truth be told, that last aspect was becoming harder and harder to justify.

So she held her tongue, and fought against either brash action as each in turn boiled to the surface of her ever tumbling demeanor. That is, until after he locked eyes with her again, and she saw that he had allowed tears to fall down his soft cheeks. The surge of culpability, hurt, and a need to right all of the wrongs he was feeling almost shattered her strained psyche. But she was able to clutch down and force herself to stick to the plan, despite the hurt within.

"I'm... I'm sorry, Vicky. I'm causing you pain, aren't I?" He said quietly, a crumpled quality pervading his soft words, "I shouldn't have lashed out like that, no matter how frustrated or disappointed I feel. Its rude, and careless, and-"

"Shut up," she barely spoke aloud, sounding as if her words were issued from a creaking faucet.

He obeyed with out question, still staring at her, only now with pity and helplessness spun through his deep blues.

Vicky closed her own pinks and tried to center herself once more. She listened for the heavy tic-toc of her grandfather clock again, gauging that time had not left its senses, and was still laying down a rhythmic beat to guide the world. Then her attention flew to the fireplace, the quiet hiss of gas igniting adding to the soundtrack. Her ears now focused on the muffled blaring of the blizzard against the reinforced glass of her home, adding ambiance to the score.

Yes, calm in the chaos. Calmed chaos. That was the essence of her soul. A wildness which can find peace of mind. Yet why? She was fire, uncontrollable and ever destructive. So how come there was control? And calm? And even peace? She saw his soft, caring face swim up from the depths of her darkened vision. That damn, lovable boy. If she was fire, then he was definitely water. No matter how hard she blazed against the world, he stayed his course, ever flowing through her being. Cooling it down, letting it settle and relax, and feel at ease.

What did it matter then? Really? So he had laid with another woman, and she had laid with different men. None of those people meant anything to either of them. They were negligible acquaintances. Worthless side notes. Forgettable instances. No love, no care, no point. It could only mean anything if they gave it purpose. Tch, did she really need to dwell on their past actions and let them sour this meeting? Stupid to even ponder.

Her radiant sunset eyes slid open heavily, finding the boy she had missed for so long waiting on her patiently. His own eyes were still so wet, and slightly tinged with pink around the rims. She took in a deep, plunging breath, before exhaling a twisted burden of apprehension, uncertainty, and worry.

"I want you to close those unfairly blue eyes of yours," she very nearly whispered, tone heavy with care.

He blinked some, looking as though he better think twice on her command. Thus the hot tempered devastation had narrow her sight before her guest figured it was smartest to follow her wishes.

"Good. Now, don't freak out or lose your cool. Okay? Just..." the woman behind the most gruesome mystery gripping the country let her heart guide her, "stay..." so that she crawled toward her absolutely most precious one, realigned herself to be parallel with his own position, "silent,"and pressed her cold skin against his warm body; side by side, arm around his middle, head resting onto his shoulder.

There, this is what he wanted, right? Or did she want it more? This was a scene right out of her fantasy earlier this evening, wasn't it? The two of them enfolded together, on her favorite armchair, watching the fireplace dance while listening to the snow storm whirl about. Controlled chaos again, she noted. Alright, his breathing and pulse have quickened, and he is rigid as hell, but he isn't disobeying her command for silence.

So, now that it was happening, could she still claim for this not to be what she wanted? To be so close like this? What of not allowing any actions that could move them along to reigniting their passion? Wasn't this dangerous? And stupid? So ill-advised… But damn it all, she couldn't find a single care. She had missed him so much, especially recently. Then all of a sudden there, under her apartment's Christmas tree, fate had seemed to present him to her. Okay, so she was stalking him just before that moment, but holy be hell if she hadn't accepted fate's challenge. She could have easily told him to get lost; yet she spoke with him, engaged him, quarried and quarreled. No, she had wanted him here, despite all of the arbitrary steps she made for both of them to take.

And she found she didn't care how foolish this cuddle was, nor if it went against her better judgment. Or if it negated the past hour of back and forth banter, and warnings, and pleads for understanding. Just as long as he didn't know what atrocities she was allowing herself to commit, then all would be alright, wouldn't it? This could be permitted again, having him to look forward to. Perhaps not all of the time, no. But why not every so often? Between hunts... that might work.

"Mnn..." he released wordlessly, just as she pulled his body in closer to hers.

"I'm... sorry too," she whispered feather soft, repositioning her form so that her head was comfortably pressed to his steadily rising and falling chest.

"Just like that?" he asked with a slight strain, amazement evident to her.

"Not just... There are conditions, ones I can't tell you, but I'm thinking them through."

"Wait... I thought we weren't-"

"I did too, but then the urge to feel you against me again got too great. You're still such a kid... and I still want to protect you, even from myself."


"Don't try to make sense of that. Just... Put your arms around me, I want to live out a little fantasy right now," he did as she had requested, and she smiled for it, snuggling all the closer into him, taking in his familiar scent.

Then, throughout the large flat, the grandfather clock began to chime, signaling the countdown to midnight with twelve ringing tolls of its brass bells. Vicky was now grinning to herself.

"Happy Christmas eve, Twerp. I'm going to want a present, you know."

"I was actually going to get you one today, had this plan to butter you up in case seeing me upset you."

"Smart... Still, I want it anyhow."

"Not surprised... Though funny enough I don't want one."


"The one thing I've been dreaming of and wishing for with all my heart has just come true. I found you, you are alive and well, you don't hate me, and we are sharing a loving embrace again. I don't have all of the answers, true, but I'm not going to complain."

Her heart began pounding then, and she was seized by the urge to kiss him. But she held the impulse down, for she felt a greater need to share an important conclusion, "You know, if you don't pry, and never look into or figure out what I have been up to out here; then... we might be able to give this a shot again."

Timmy was quiet for a moment, though Vicky could hear his heart rate increase drastically, "You... You mean that?" He asked in restrained excitement.

She felt her own pulse quicken then, "It can't be all the time. But I could let you know when I have a break between... what I'm so preoccupied with. And we can make plans to see each other. I've really, really fucking missed you," she gripped to him a little tighter, trying with all her will to keep her voice steady, "I didn't think you would let this thing go unanswered, but if you are willing to let it be, then I'll be more than happy to let you back in my life. But you have to promise me, no, swear to me that you will never try to figure out or uncover my secret. Understand?"

He gently loosened himself from her embrace and guided her to be face to face with him again, "I'll not only swear this, I'll seal it in the most profound way I know how," Then, ever so slowly, he leaned forward, closing his gorgeous blue eyes; and pressed his sweet, strong lips to her own.


The lovers' armchair wouldn't do, nor would the large rug set before the fireplace. This needed to be special, symbolic and memorable. So the older woman led her younger man by the hand wordlessly to her bedroom, not bothering to spring the lights to life, and sitting him down on the silk covered downy. She could be wild, and part of her wanted to, but the desire for this union to have meaning was overriding such notions.

She sat beside him, turning his face to her; tracing the outline of his jaw with her small finger while the rest of her hand cusp his soft, smooth cheek. Their eyes met, and yet he looked somehow apprehensive. Now that wouldn't do.

"What's wrong?" she asked simply, her tone reflecting the state of the weather outside.

"This... isn't some kind of dream, right? I haven't lost my mind and started making up some fantasy, have I?"

Really? That kind of thought? Didn't he know by now just to let a good thing happen, no matter the circumstance? The look she gave him said all of this clearly.

"I... I mean," he started sheepishly, an actual light blush spreading across his sweet face, "It's just, I've thought of nothing more than being with you again, and now that I'm here it just feels too good to be real. Somehow everything worked out for the best. And now I'm here, with you, and I just can't shake-"

There was nothing for it, she quieted his uncertainty with a strong, caring kiss. Placing her hands on either side of his face and holding him firmly from escape. He tried pulling back, perhaps in protest to being cut off, but she sounded a negate and urged him to stay with her. So he relinquished, and allowed her to take control. After finishing with a small smack of moisture, they came apart, heavy lidded, and all seeming nearly blue in the dim room.

"Don't question this," Vicky told him stoutly, hands sliding down to his shoulders, "I'm about to make everything right again, so let go of your worries."

She then applied pressure against his body, pushing him down onto his back, and feeling satisfied that her bed was so large, soft, springy, and smooth. Really, it had been worth the investment. Her hands moved to the hem of his shirt, grasping it firmly and pulling the garment up over the recent grad's torso. And damn it, of course he had a tank top too. Tossing the pink cloth off into the dark, she then performed the same set of actions with her own piece of clothing, making a show of how skilled she could be in undressing; then smiling at how transfixed the boy's eyes were on her chest. Yes, he sure missed her alright. And by the looks of it, the girls too.

Deciding not to keep him waiting any longer, her hands quickly snaked around her back and had unhooked her black bra in record time, quietly sighing in relief as her breasts fell down into their natural form. Liberating. No more restraints.

He began to sit up, probably intending to grasp her soft chest, but she instead crawled just out of his reach, and moved to the center of the bed, coming to rest against some propped up pillows. And just as she had intended, he followed her. For his obedience she pushed him onto his back again, grinning devilishly at how the surprise widened his eyes, then lowered her body to be parallel with his, squishing her full breasts into his yearning chest. Her nose then touched tips with his own, eyes locked to eyes, and they kissed passionately.

Timmy's hands moved to her bare back, smooth skin white as milk in the low light, such a wonder to behold. How he had dreamed, how he had desired! And now they were finally as one once again. He didn't just want to touch her, he had to! Had to know this was real. Had to commit it all to memory. Had to posses and never, ever let go again.

Rolling around, switching positions, each taking turns in removing the others remaining clothing. Then kicking or tossing them away to god knows what reaches of the cool dark room. His hardness against her soft. Her wetness against his damp. Kissing, moaning, grasping, pulling, releasing. No more clothes now, just naked body against naked body. Hands on privates, fingers enticing passion, feeling all there was to miss and desire. To need and dream of. To wish for. To live for.

On is back again, her round rump pressed perfectly into lap. God, how he loved her pressure. And how enticing her hot sex was against his own. He was so damn hard for her, pulsing in anticipation. His hands grasped her firm ass as he sat up, squeezing the wonderful flesh with love. Then his face met her's, and they joined mouths once more. Slowly, as her arms curled possessively around his back and head, she began to grind her soaking slit against his heated throb. This caused him to groan weakly into her, ending the kiss. She began to increase her pace, pressing her dampened bouncing tits against his well formed chest. In answer, he pressed his eager cock up against her in a matching stride.

Now he had an arm around her back, so as to better hold the pair together as they collided crotches in a flurry of exotic grunts and moans. Harder and faster they pressed, losing all sense of time and reason. For they both wanted the same damn thing, to climax as hard and fast a possible, like they had always used to do. Get the first one out of the way, enjoy the slow down, and then subsequent build up.

"Ah! Timmy!" Vicky managed to strain out of her dilapidated breathing, "You better be close!"

"So close," he eked out between grunts, right into his lover's ear. The hand he had on her ass squeezed again as she gripped harder at his back, the two slamming all the faster and more erratic into each others needing bodies. Then, as the building pressure finally burst forth, Timmy hugged Vicky to himself and convulsed as the waves of pleasure spilled out of him. For a few seconds later the fiery woman of his dreams rapidly ground against his newly glazed dick, before tightening up herself and clinging all the closer to his sturdy male form, releasing a strained cry of relief.

He lay down, eyesight blurred, and refused to let Vicky roll off of him. But she didn't seem to mind. In fact, she kept from completely collapsing and propped herself over him, dipping down for a sweet, deep kiss; with added nips for effect. After she finished with his lips her next target was his cheek, then his neck, then lower on to his heaving chest, where she stopped to play and suckle on his nipples. Meanwhile, one of his hands had found its way to one of her beautiful breasts, and gently squeezed and pinched the soft flesh.

Perhaps it was a testament to both of their eager wills, but in seemingly no time at all Timmy was stiff once more, while Vicky could feel the want for him to ravish her insides rise again. She exhaled with delight as he repositioned their forms, so that both were on their sides, and he was beginning to enter her from behind. One of his warm hands slipped beneath her and grasped her breast, the other taking hold of her knee and lifting her leg into the air, making his path to her pleasure all the more clear.

Then came the long, hard first strokes into her depths. She stole a sharp inhale despite herself. God, how she had missed this. Missed it being him. How he knew her favorite positions and took pride in performing them for her. She moaned heavenly as he began to pick up the pace, one of her arms wrapping behind her head, enveloping her lover's. Fingers snaking into his rich hair, gripping just hard enough to remain pleasurable.

He began to kiss and suck on her neck as his hips pistoned all the faster. She wasn't holding back her own moans any longer. She loved getting lost in the throws of making love to him, losing control of her body and mind and just lapsing into some carnal version of herself. Faster and harder he plowed, tighter his grip into her flesh became, yet he still knew just were to halt his strength so as not to bruise her. She had trained him so well, how sweet of him to remember even after all this time.

"I'm close," he managed to say between heavy breaths, making her grin.

"I want it!" She hissed between gritted teeth, desperation clear now to both of them.

His motions became erratic, frantic, animalistic. Shallow, hard thrusts were being executed in such quick succession she hardly could believe he wasn't a machine! Then the inevitable spasm seized his body as his grip on her passed the slightly painful threshold. "I love you!" he declared between the hardest grunts of ejaculation, then releasing his hold of her body and leaning his front into her back.

As he caught his breath the hand she still held on his head loosened, affectionately massaged his scalp, then moved forward to curl into his palm, fingers entwining. Her eyes were closed in satisfaction, the smallest of smiles pervading her seductive mouth. Part of her wanted to say something, but the other was happy enough hearing him declare his love for her at the height of his passion.

They rolled slowly together, face to face, a pillow under each head. Vicky continued to hold a small smile and his hand, her free fingers tracing the outline of her lover's face. His free hand moved to her body as well, gently traversing the curves of the muscles in her arms. For a wayward stretch of indeterminable time the cooling pair merely moved their touch about one another, feeling out and remembering all of the various shapes to the bodies each had missed with so much fervor.

Then, ever with the delicacy of drifting petals, they encircled one another in the warm embrace of finality.

"I never want to lose you again," Timmy whispered in a tired, but relieved hush.

In response Vicky pulled the rumpled covers over their interlaced forms, snuggling all the tighter into his warm body; a sound of agreement issuing from her throat, moving directly into his chest.

"I mean it when I say I love you," he whispered, one hand resting on the back of of her head.

"And I believe you," she accepted, graciously, gently.

"I think… I'm the happiest I've ever been."

"Mnn… I think so too."

"It's odd, though,"


"I feel so relieved, but also very tired. And I feel I can rest soundly for the first time in a very long time. But… well…"

Her eyes slowly opened half way, "You still think if you fall asleep, all of this might have been a dream after all, right?"

"Y-… yeah, exactly…"

"I'm worried too," she sighed, "When I woke up there was nothing all that different about today than any other day the past couple years. Until I saw you in front of that tree downstairs, and everything felt… strange. Unreal. And then I was that lonely girl back in Dimmsdale again, fresh out of college with no friends and struggling to make ends meet; and also wondering if she should end it all. But when I saw you on my doorstep; scared, wet, yet determined to make me happy… well… I needed that back then.

"And now I found you waiting for me again, years of betrayal ready to be shaken off… Yet… I can't seem to accept it. Like I don't deserve you, especially for what I put you though. Despite myself I ended up hurting you again. I mean, of course I want you here, I want you to belong to me again. I want to belong with you, but… No matter how I try to justify it in my head, I can't seem to shed this guilt."

Timmy gathered the one woman he ever truly loved all the closer, resting his head against her own, "I'm not going to tell you how you should feel, but if you are feeling guilt stricken, then know I forgive you. I will always forgive you, no matter what you've done. Alright?"

Vicky's heart fluttered frantically at his meaning. She pulled back slightly, so as to stare the boy down, "Do you mean that?"

"Yes, of course I do," he answered, though somewhat taken aback by her abrupt change in tone.

"Even if I've done something absolutely unforgivable?" despite her better judgment, Vicky refused to halt her unwise inquiry.

"Unforgivable?…" he held to her gaze, understanding that she truly needed to know this of him, "I can't imagine you ever doing anything unforgivable to me. But… yes, I think I would still try to find a way to forgive you."

She didn't respond at first, just kept her eyes locked to his, searching. She could always tell when he lied to her, and old habits die hard. But his face showed only compassion, not a sign of distrust… God, what a fool. If he was anyone else he would have been easy pickings. He wasn't anyone else, though. He was her Timmy. He belonged to her. And he would never hurt her, or betray her trust, or stab her in the back. She could relax around him. Be comfortable with him. Let her walls down and just be herself, with out ever being judged. So she smiled, closed her eyes, and snuggled back into his embrace.

Finally, the worst of the storm was over. The howling winds had moved onto oblivion, leaving only the silent fall of snowflakes behind.


Timmy refused to open his eyes. It had been such a good dream, a perfect dream even! If he didn't get up he could still pretend she was there with him, her naked body pressed to his, her fruit and flower scent prevailing his senses. How smooth her skin felt, how soft her hair. God, it was cold. And how come he heard ticking? He didn't own any mechanical clocks. Tic, toc, tic, toc; time's progression sure was heavy footed.

The sound of a familiar breathing, the hardness of fingernails against his skin. Was this his imagination? Was he perhaps still half asleep? It seemed so real, so maybe just a peek? One eye slid slowly open, revealing a brilliant blur of orange on lightest silver… Silver? His bed wasn't this soft and smooth, and besides, his covers were blue. And that orange… the same color as red hair. His vision focused, adjusted to the light. Tic, toc, tic, toc.

"Vicky?" he only just managed to dare, ever soft as a breath.

"Hmm?" she responded under all the weight of a heavy sleep come to pass.

"The sun rose…"

"Uh huh…" he never knew until then how much he missed hearing her groggy voice. Though that wasn't unexpected, for he had missed every aspect about her.

"And we're still here."

"Hope so…"

"Heh…" He chuckled softly to himself, relief and happiness prevailing within him once more. It wasn't a dream! Last night really happened! And they were intimate once more. Merry Christmas to him! Christmas… Hmm… "I was just wondering… Do you… think we could spend Christmas together?"

"Hm… I told you I wanted a gift, right?"

"Uh, yeah, that's right."

"Then I think that would be obvious… but now I think I want more presents."

"You do know its Christmas Eve today, right?"

"So what? Scared of a challenge?"

"For you? No way."

"Good. Besides, it's not like I have a list. Just surprise me with something nice."

"You do know I have a limited amount to spend on this trip…"

"Don't care, make me happy."

"And I'm not here permanently, I do have to get home at some point."

"'You do know,'" she mocked in a fairly accurate imitation of his voice, mumbled as it was, "You have absolutely no tact," irritation quite evident, "And you realize that I'm rich now, right?"


"Yeah, so you can miss your return flight and not worry, I can more than cover it… Which reminds me, when are you due to depart?"

"Uhh, in a couple days."

"Yeah, no, fuck that. I think I want to keep you around until at least New Years."

Timmy's heart nearly jumped into his throat at hearing her wish, "Yo-you mean that?"

"I missed you too, you know…" Vicky's head lifted as she readjusted her body to be parallel with his, eyes taking hold of his own, "So I want to enjoy you for a little, while we still have the chance."

Getting out of bed and dressed again was a languid and time consuming process. Vicky kept making excuses to call the young man back to her side, grabbing him, and pulling him back under the covers. Eventually, after many false starts and failed attempts, the pair finally made it to the kitchen, where the fire haired beauty insisted on making breakfast from scratch. After some customary small talk and catching up, Timmy decided to wander around his host's new lodgings.

He noticed she seemed to favor comfort over modern decorum standards. Hell, the place read more like the dwelling of a nineteenth century detective than a twenty-first century author. Especially with that massive grandfather clock! Then he remembered, she kept looking at the large wooden device during their conversation last night. He assumed she was just checking the time, but come to think of it there wasn't nearly enough light to make out where the hands were. So he took a closer look at the time keeping machine, and couldn't help but notice that the piece was hand carved, varnished, and lacquered; rather recently too, by the smell of it.

Yet there was something off. It wasn't that the entire structure had been widdled by hand, but rather parts of it were. And those parts… they were so twisted and misshapen. The limbs and torsos were purposefully too long, which played into the pain carved into the men's faces. There were unnatural openings in the flesh, showing muscles, tendons, and bones. Many of the hands were missing fingers, or feet missing toes, which could be found in various parts all over the carving. Actually, the flesh that had been cut out of the bodies, it was twirled and torn into tiny messages, tucked between the bodies. But the most unsettling aspect about the piece wasn't its grotesque nature, more rather…

"Hey, Vicky?!" Timmy shouted across the flat.

"What's up?!" The hailed yelled back.

"Where did you get this grandfather clock?"

"Huh?! Oh… that. Umm… why? Don't like it?"

"It's just… there's something odd about it."

"It's just a clock. And I like it. Wouldn't have had it custom made otherwise."

"You ordered this? Special made?"

"Yup! Well, the mechanics, anyway. Otherwise it started pretty normal looking."

"So… did you carve these… umm… twisted up bodies into it?"

"What if I did?" Why did she sound so guarded and apprehensive?

"I didn't know you sculpted, is all," not to mention they were hard to stare at, with the realistic looks of terror or anger on their hued faces. And were those Roman numerals carved into their foreheads? But that wasn't the only thing which was off-putting. Yes, they were quite horrible, but also somehow familiar. As if he recognized their features from somewhere.

"First off, that's a carving, not a sculpture. And second, Yes you do! I used to do it all the time! Remember, when you were a kid?"

"Not really, no!"

"Yes really, so! There was that weird couple of days when the President was visiting town, and for some reason I decided to be super nice with you. I even made a sculpture of you on a horse! And horses are hard! Like, really hard!"

Timmy stopped scrutinizing the clock and tried to focus on what Vicky had just said. Yes, that definitely happened. But it was all so… foggy. He felt like it was his doing that his babysitter decided to be so friendly, yet he couldn't figure out how he managed it. Nor why she returned to normal. "I… guess so."

"Check your brains, twerp! No guessing needed, I like to sculpt and carve."

Timmy shook his head unconsciously. It was just a clock, wasn't it? Custom made and hand carved, true. But none the less normal… right? Then how come he felt so drawn to it? So captivated by it? He continued to look the piece over, finding more words twisted in the strips of flesh. Phrases like, "Blood For Blood," or, "One Set For Another," and even, "End Begets End."

If the young man was paying mind to his surroundings, he would have noticed that the stove top had been shut off, the table set, and an irritated tapping had matched the ticking of the clock. Instead, he began truly scrutinizing the carving for more phrases, yet instead, next to each head found tiny names. There was Henry, Brian, Crim, Harry, Arthur, Trevor, Paul, Jackson, Phillip, Denis, Trent, Glen, Robert, Steven and…

"Gary…" Timmy managed to read aloud, despite feeling no air escape him. His eyes moved over the Roman numeral carved into his face, "Number one…"

This felt significant… why did this feel so significant? That name… number one. This gruesome scene. That name, number one! All of the dark exchanges delicately carved into the wood. That name! Number one?! Didn't all this match up with His work? That name?! The first?! Of fifteen?!

"My god…"

"Didn't know he belonged to you."

Timmy nearly leapt out of his skin! She had been standing right behind him, a pretty face devoid of any emotion.

"Umm…" The young man started lamely, "is, uh, breakfast?…"

"Ready, you mean?" Her voice was so even, so calm, "I finished and had the table set up ten minutes ago. But… you obviously find my clock much more appetizing."

"Err…" his heart was pounding, he had never heard Vicky sound like this, like nothing! It was unnerving, "Sorry… Its just a really well made piece."

She was merely staring at him now, as if to say she would only respond to honesty, not bullshit.

"Uhh, well, guess we should-"

"Do you actually like it?"

"The clock, you mean?"


"Of course the clock," he confirmed for himself, "I… I'm captivated by it. But at the same time it hurts to look at."

A slow blink, one step closer to him, "And what do you find so captivating about it?"

"Err… you know, how intricate it is. With all the little messages worked into the wood. It must have taken ages."

Blink, step, too close for comfort, "And what does that say to you?"

"Say?… Umm… Is, uh, is something the matter?"

Blink, step, making him back into the clock, "What made you claim God just now?"

"I… uh, I just…"

"Don't lie to me, I've always known when you lied."

"I…" Crap! Did this mean…? Could she actually be…? And what she had said about having to be out here, how there was something she was doing that she could never confess. Or that strange outburst in bed last night, questioning if he could forgive her of absolutely anything. And how she kept insisting he was to never pry! He closed his eyes tight, tensing up. He had to tell her though, lying was just as dangerous as the truth, "I think… this clock, it's a record, isn't it?"

Silence, but he could feel her breath on him now.

"A record of… murder. Killings. These are the victims of The Dread, right?"

Only silence.

"And you said you carved this… And you said I wasn't to pry anymore. That I shouldn't try to figure out what you were up to. That you were doing something out here and wouldn't tell me what, but you needed to…"

"So… does that mean?… Are you The-"

He felt a sting. A small, sharp, wet pain on his earlobe. His eyes opened in fear and shock, but only for a moment. She had nipped his ear, but was now suckling on the tender flesh. Then, releasing it carefully from her mouth, she brushed her lips carefully against his cheek, before leaving a wisp of a kiss.

"I love it when I scare you," she whispered playfully, grinning against his flesh.

Timmy felt a surge of anger and relief hit him full force in the chest. He quickly placed both hands on her upper arms and held her at arm's length, "What the hell?!"

Yet she was just snickering, a mischievous grin on her face, "You got yourself worked up over nothing! So I just lead you further down the hole you were digging"

"That isn't funny! I thought!… I was actually worried that-"

"That I was The Dread? Come on Timmy, I can be harsh, but I have never risked anyone's life before!"

"But… this clock! You've spent so much time working on it, I thought, well, why?"

"I wonder if I should find this insulting or not," she asked rhetorically, "I make a carving dedicated to one of the most infamous characters this city has ever known, and his victims, and that makes you think I committed murder?" She moved her arms up to break his hold on her, "Timmy, I told you already, its just a clock!"

"Alright… I'm sorry. It was just… Well, did you have to freak me out like that though?"


"Huh? Why?"

"Because I took the time to make us breakfast, and you went and let it get cold, leaving me alone to eat."

"Oh… Shit, I'm sorry. I was just… well, it really is a captivating work."

"Glad to hear it."

"Yeah… Alright, I'll go eat."

"Too late."


"You took too long, so I ate your share."

"You… you what?!"


Vicky unloaded a sigh of heaped repression into the empty apartment. That was too close! But, with any luck, he would no longer suspect her being The Dread. Just a writer and artist fascinated by his deeds, much like the rest of the nation.

She sort of felt bad that she had hurried the hungry boy into the freezing city, where he was sure to do battle with all sorts of crazed last minute holiday shoppers; but she needed some alone time to release her strain, decompress, and regroup.

Most of all, she had to deal with herself. She was actually about to do it. She was mere seconds away from taking his life! Then the idea to tease him and make him feel a fool fluttered across her mind and she went with it. And thank all that was good, it actually seemed to work! But damn it, she was really going in for the kill there. She nearly killed him just now…

She collapsed onto her comfortable couch, laying artfully out over the soft cushions. She had felt the need to end his life. Timmy! Her Timmy! And it had been so easy too, just knowing he was closing in on her secret had allowed self preservation to override love! What the hell was wrong with her?

She had to deal with this. Had to take all aspects of this situation into account, then decide on the best solution. Was she in the clear with Timmy? Can't determine… she'll have to come back to that point. Stick a tack in it and pin it to the wall. What was more important; being with Timmy again, or continuing her hunts? Hard to say. Both were so appealing, both helped to make her feel happy and complete. Would alternating between the two work out? At first, probably, but not in the long run. Timmy would eventually realize what she was up to. Hell, he was close enough already, and they hadn't even been reunited for a whole day yet!

But if she stopped her conquest of this city then wouldn't that be a clue to him too? No, not necessarily. There were plenty of killers throughout history who were never discovered and suddenly ceased their body counts. So why not The Dread too? Ah, but she knew why! She still had the urge to continue her work, both as a writer and a killer. Damn it all! She was going around in circles! OK! Stop! New approach!

Absolutely no hunting was going to happen while Timmy was around. So, couldn't she see if being with him would somehow supersede her need to seek out prey? And if so, then wouldn't that mean she could stop? Replace one vice with another, so to speak? And perhaps she could see, when he was gone that is, rather or not the prospect of his return could quell the hunger for evil blood? It was too early to tell for certain, but that might be a possibility.

"Fuck my life…" she bemoaned, hating the uncertainty of her motives.

Alright, pick that tack out again, was she in the clear with Timmy? Still couldn't say. Damn it! Still no clue! Too much was hinging on her own will power and ability to reclaim control over her cravings. Maybe that is what she needed to ask herself then? Would she ever be able to live with out hunting? Honestly, could she?

"No…" she answered inwardly.

Who was she kidding? Even if she tried to make a justification to have him in her life, she knew damn well he would figure out the truth. And when that happened… Shit. If she wasn't present then he might turn her in! Wait… might? Would he though? What if he didn't mind her being a vengeance killer? What if he accepted it and kept her secret? Supported her, even?

No! No, no, no! Make him an accessory? She had been over this before, that was never to happen! If she was ever found out, then he would be taken down with her! She couldn't ruin his life, not like that. Oh, how rich, she didn't want to ruin his life, but didn't mind taking it if she knew he had worked out the truth? But she did mind. It was tearing her apart at this very moment!

So… what had she figured out so far? She couldn't keep him, no matter how badly she wanted to, because he inevitably would have his life ruined, or ended, all due to her own weakness in being unable give up on hunting. But he wouldn't leave her either, he had proven that. He would just find her again, and again, and again. And there was also the possibility of him figuring out the truth when he was away, and maybe even ratting on her.

Damn it! Shit! Piss! Then she was stuck with him, but unable to give up killing? And so he would either be brought down with her, or be taken out by her? She was supposed to protect him! He was the only pure and good thing in her life! He was special! Sacred! Worth more to her than her own life!… Than her own life… Her own life…

Vicky opened her eyes slowly, realizing the answer.

"Damn it… I could really use a Christmas miracle right about now…"


Outside was cold and bright. The storm had been but a night terror, leaving behind a foot of blazing white snow! First on the young man's to due list was retrieve all of his belongings and check out of his hotel. Then he was off to hit up as many stores as he could. Timmy thought that perhaps the snow fall would have given people pause from venturing out today, but alas the ever chugging machine of commerce steamed on, surely taking the entire nation along for the ride, himself included.

By the end of the day he was cold, wet, and laden with too many bags. But, he felt he had done well enough, all things considered. He now possessed a handful of wonderful gifts to present Vicky, and by some Christmas miracle managed to not break the bank! When Timmy buzzed her room number to let him in, there was a lack of acknowledgment which ensued. So he buzzed again, waited, then buzzed a third time. When he tried buzzing a fourth time the lobby grew noticeably quiet. Making a quick note of his surroundings, the youth realized that he was completely alone. Finally, after a prolonged moment of familiar unsettlement, the elevator opened, causing the overburdened young man to heave a sigh of thanks before quickly making his way inside.

"Going up?" Asked a woman clad in a richly tailored yellow coat, wearing her heavy hood up, and giving the boy a start.

"Huh?! Oh, sorry, I didn't notice you there," somehow… "Um, yes, top floor please."

"Top, eh? Aren't we fancy?" The woman replied joyfully, though not making any eye contact. She pressed for the highest height, causing the doors to close and the ascent to begin.

Feeling an ache in his arms by the increase in gravity, he gingerly lowered his luggage to the ground. As he righted himself, Timmy noticed something odd about this lady, she was also sporting pink hair. Yellow and pink… why did that combination of colors always feel so… nostalgic? But even more so than that, he was unable to gauge her age range. She was no spring chicken by any stretch, yet at the same time not middle aged or beyond. As he tried placing her number lower, that seemed too little; and whenever he went higher that seemed much too much.

"So," the woman began casually; her voice rather pleasant to listen to, motherly, comforting, "Are you having an enjoyable holiday season?"

"Oh, um, yes, I suppose."

"Really now? Despite the bad weather?"

"Well… yeah!"

"Sounds like something good happened to keep your spirits up!"

"Uhh, I guess there was. Something good, I mean."

"Congratulations, then," he could practically hear the smile on her face, "Though you know what they say; the holidays are either the most wonderful time of year, or the most dreadful."

"Dreadful? Never heard of that before…"

"No? Hmm, guess people don't use that saying anymore, then." Don't use it anymore? He never heard it to begin with! The sentiment, yes, it rang familiar. But not with that specific 'saying'.

"Well, how about you?" Timmy asked in as friendly a manner as he could, "Are you having a good holiday?"

"How considerate of you to ask!" Why did she sound so surprised at that? "But, sadly, no. No I am not."

"Oh… I'm sorry."

"Not to worry, its only natural to have asked. In all honesty, its more my godchild who is having a tough time, rather than me. But I care about her dearly, so seeing her so upset makes me upset too."

"Your godchild?" Why did that ring a bell? No, better not to dwell on such things, least he get annoyed by untouchable specifics again, "Did something bad happen to her?"

"To her? No. To her father? Yes."

"What… Um, if you don't mind me asking; what happened to her father?"

She was quiet for a long moment, her mouth forming into a sad smile, "He was rarely around, result of a nasty custody battle. But he did love his daughter, and always provided her with care and never left her in want of anything. However, about four years ago to this day, he went missing. The police searched far and wide but were unable to locate him… alive, in any case. His body was discovered in a high rise apartment, mutilated, messages written on the walls in his flesh and bones. And evidence of his crimes against women who looked like his ex-wife were left on a projector near his remains.

"This devastated my poor god-daughter, and she became absolutely miserable. Not only had the father she so loved been taken away from her, but he also committed such heinous acts, now on display for the entire world to judge. But, because she was so saddened and dejected, my husband and I were able to come into her life and help try to make things more bearable for her.

"We saw the world together, went on fun little adventures, learned so much about one another. It helped her cope, or at least I had hopped so. However, she has recently become obsessed with finding out who had taken her father from her. So, here we are, in this city, looking for the one who she blames for ruining her life."

Timmy's blood ran cold. Again, that notorious figure was looming over his world. But why? Why did he have to come up so often? "You mean… your god-daughter and you are looking for The Dread?"

The pink haired woman smiled, somehow knowingly, as if she were privy to something he wasn't. Still refusing to make eye contact, though, "I wanted nothing more than to help her. That was until I began looking into this. And uncovering all the secrets to this mystery. The further I went down the rabbit hole, though, the more I disliked what I found. And now? I have… had so many conflicts of interest. The most relevant to me though, well… you see, any action I chose, any choice I made, someone I loved was going to be hurt."

Timmy blinked a few times, having gotten lost at the end there, in her strange jumble of words, "Umm…"

The hooded lady cleared her throat, possibly to show she was organizing her thoughts, "I know that sounds vague, forgive me."

"Its alright," the young man pronounced almost automatically, "Though for a second there it sounded as if you had figured out who The Dread was…"

"Figured out? No, not figured out, can't say that I have. I'm no detective, after all."

"So… continuing the search, it would have hurt people you care about, somehow?"

The lady tensed at these words, "I… I probably shouldn't have said that. Please forgive me again, I sometimes prattle on when I get worked up, or nervous… or both."

"Oh, no worries, I am a stranger after all."

"Heh… A stranger? I had almost forgotten… I don't know if you are aware of this, but you are a very easy person to open up to."

"Oh? Um, thanks, I think."

"It is a wonderful quality to have, for it allows you to make friends all that much easier. My god-daughter on the other hand… she is very much the opposite. Introverted, scared of talking to strangers; though loving and caring, with an outstanding sense of justice. Do you know what she wished for- I mean… what her Christmas wish was this year?"

Timmy merely shook his head from side to side, and even though she wasn't looking at him, she seemed to have read his gesture just fine.

"She told my husband and I, 'I wish that the person who killed my father would stop, and not hurt anyone else ever again,'" She was smiling in a different way now, prideful, "She could have wanted them to turn themselves in, or have something terrible befall them. Instead she just wants them to stop and be content. Isn't that something? Eleven years old and already so forgiving."

"That really is impressive," the brunette confirmed. A protracted silence nestled between the two, causing Timmy to feel both nervous and all the more curious. However, before he could fully sort out why he was having déjà vu again, his new conversant began speaking.

"You know, My husband and I moved here very recently," she announced rather haphazardly, "with our god-daughter. See, after her her father's discovery, her mother was unwilling to have anything to do with 'the spawn of such an evil person.' She was passed around from family member to family member, until I managed to make the proper arrangements and have her live with us. Then she wanted to come to this city. Not only to find the person who took her father's life and started her down a sad, terrible path; but also because her favorite author lives here, in this very building."

That last tidbit rang klaxons in Timmy's mind! "You mean… you moved here, all to help her cope? And to meet her favorite author," the boy could easily guess who that must be, "That was very gracious of you."

"You are too kind, Spor- I mean, sir."

"No need to call me sir. My name's Timmy. Its a pleasure to meet such a caring and good person."

"Ah… Thank you… I'm Wan- uh, Wendy."

"So… do you live on the top floor too?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, you never pressed another floor button. And we have been heading up for awhile now… Come to think of it, I'm surprised no one else has signaled for the elevator…"

"Very observant… Yes, we live up there."

"Ah! Then you would be Vicky's neighbors?"

"Vicky, huh? You must mean Ms. Victoria Valentine. So, that's who you know?"

"Who I know? Oh! I must be a new face, huh?"

"Considering there are only four residencies on the top floor, I was curious why you were heading up there."

"Well, hope I cleared up any suspicions you might have had. Say, has your god-daughter met with Vicky yet? I'm assuming that's who you meant when you told me about her favorite author."

"Yes, that is the very person. But… no," Wendy fell quite for a moment, a stern look arresting her features now. She seemed to be searching for just the right words, "Like I said before, my little girl has a big problem with nerves. And even though we might be neighbors, Ms. Valentine isn't exactly the neighborly type…"

"Err… no, I suppose she isn't."

"Yet you are quite fond of her, correct?"

"Heh… yeah, you could say that."

"So, are you merely a fan of her's too, or…?"

"I was her first real fan. Believe it or not, I actually knew her way before she was a writer. Both of our parents are friends, you see, so we saw a lot of each other growing up. Then we drifted apart when she went off to college, but I discovered her works years later and reestablished contact… I never would have thought when I was a kid that I would have fallen in love with someone as rough around the edges as her, but we came together somehow, and it felt so… special."

"Then you really do love her…" How come she sounded so sad about this? Sad? No… more like she had just confirmed something, and the finality of it was sitting wrong with her. Timmy decided to switch gears then, both for her sake and his own.

"Uhh… I do, yes… I'm sorry, but this has been bothering me, don't I know you from somewhere?"

Yet before Wendy answered, she finally locked her bright pink eyes with Timmy, and he was stunned by how luminous they appeared to be in the dim light. Then, before he was able to comment on her appearance, they reached their floor, the elevator chimed, and the doors slid open.

"Merry Christmas, Timmy," the pink woman smiled sadly, "Be strong… and goodnight." Then, despite his protests, his new acquaintance walked swiftly down the decked hall as he gathered his belongings. By the time he had exited the elevator, he saw no sign of Wendy in any direction.


She heard him open her front door, tentatively. She also heard him call for her, but somehow didn't feel like answering. Instead, she was lounging on her large, plush rug, staring deep into her dancing fireplace, and letting her mind mull over her decision. There was only one way to stop the killings and save Timmy. Only one way…

Then, suddenly, he stepped in front of her, filling her contemplative scene with his warm, yet concerned smile, "Hey, earth to Vicky! Are you alright?"

She had to blink some and shake her head, erasing the surprise off of her face, "Yeah… yeah, I'm okay. I was just thinking."

"Must have been about something good," he still didn't seem to be buying that she was alright, but was playing along anyway. Sweet boy…

"Good… yeah. I guess you could say that," her eyes now locked to his, and seeing the supportive smile on his face made a pleasant chill run through her being.

"Or… bad too, I suppose. It all depends which way you look at things." She watched in an amused sort of fashion as his smile slipped into a frown of concentration. Perhaps she shouldn't be playing with his head on this matter.

Allowing a small sound of resignation to slip past her pretty lips, she offered Timmy a look of gravity before patting the spot next to her. He followed her will nearly without hesitation, now facing the fireplace too. Vicky began to gather her courage, remaining quiet all the while. Then, with a jolt of both warmth and chill, she felt his soft hand form over hers; and without hesitation she grasp to his too, Thankful for his patience and praying for his understanding.

"I… I want to tell you something. To confess… and I ask for you not to freak out, or run away, or… well, I can't ask you not to be sick with me."

"Alright… Um, If you want to tell me anything, I'll listen. And don't feel like you need to rush, unless that helps. Err, what I mean is I'm all ears."

She couldn't help but smile, he could be just so adorable sometimes, "Thank you, Timmy,"


"Where to begin?… I don't know if I should just outright tell you the shocker, or ease you into it all. Well, as you know I had a very good reason to cut all ties with you, and I told you never to ask me why. But… I think if anyone ever deserved to know why it would be you. Especially now…

"Okay," she gripped to his hand tighter, so he wouldn't leave her side, just in case, "Timmy… I left you all those years ago because I was trying to protect you. Because you were the only pure and good thing in my life, still are, in fact. And I was doing something horrible out here. And If you ever found out what it was, or got caught up in all of it, I knew it would corrupt you. It could ruin your life, in fact.

"So… um, what I did… What I was doing was giving into the most basic desire I have always had. A desire that I would bury constantly before, and deny myself from ever committing. But oh, how I would fantasize about it! Dream about it! Know I could do it better than anyone else! I could also give it purpose, and meaning, and… make an art of it!" Her eyes were wild and wide, a grin slicing through her features like some tear in the earth.

"I… I see…" he fibbed, she could always tell when he fibbed.

"No, you don't," she corrected, forcing control over her facial features, "Timmy… remember last night, when you guessed that I had been doing something out here related to how I was before? When I was more vindictive and violent? Well, I had been suppressing those urges for years and years. I thought if I just ignored them then they would go away and I could become a better, happier person. But something happened out here. And I snapped! And it all came flooding back, but greater than before. And I realized I didn't have to hold back anymore! I could go all the way, I could dish out the ultimate punishment to the worst sort of person."

She noticed how his eyes were slowly widening, and skin becoming more pale with every sentence. But he was staying true to his word, he was hearing her through.

"And so… so I did just that. I met with Gary, a writer I greatly admired, and discovered his little secret. All those dead girls… He would tie them up, rape them, and then slit their throats. I was sickened at first, but then I realized he needed to be punished. And not by the law of the land, one he could easily weasel out of with the right lawyers. No, I had to take matters into my own hands.

"It was such a rush! It came so naturally, and I never flinched during any of it. In fact, I thrived! I was free! I felt justified and liberated. I knew how to not leave any traceable evidence behind. I knew how to steer the inevitable investigation away from me. I knew so many important things, and it was all so natural… But… What I didn't know was how much it would hurt to let you go. I thought I could handle it, I thought I had become stronger. I was wrong.

"The high only lasts so long. So I began hunting down deplorables. Murderers of the defenseless. I became a serial killer of serial killers. The media soon realized what was going on and they gave me a name. They called me The Dread. And everyone assumed I was a guy. Well, I let them. But you know, after the first few years, going after the specific prey became too boring. So I began to spy on people. To stalk them and make notes on every aspect about them.

"Then, every so often, I would find another murderer. I… I couldn't help myself! I became ecstatic and stayed with them almost all day and night. Until they noticed me… Whenever they notice me, its the end of the game, I had to finish them off. Typically they would invite me into their own homes, and I would accept. Then, when their guard was down, I would make the first strike, take them down! After securing their bodies I would wait until they came to, then kept them awake for as long as was possible as I dismantled their evil bodies. And in those moments… I fell complete. Whole as a person. Like there is nothing missing from my life."

She sighed heavily, taking notice how horribly quiet her lover had become, "But," she continued, disenfranchised, "I was wrong, it seems. I was missing something from my life. Something just as important as satisfying my need to outright punish the wicked, or probably more so, actually. I thought if I forsake my need to love I would eventually learn to only want to hunt. How stupid… what I was really doing was holding myself back again. I was suppressing another part of me that made me, me! Timmy…"

Vicky held his projection of abject disbelief, returning fire with a plead for understanding, "I am Victoria Valentine. I am a lover, a writer, an artist, and a murderer. The most infamous murderer. I am The Dread. And the only thing I want now is to go back and love the one person I care for above all others. The most beautiful, sweet, understanding, and above all else forgiving person I have ever known. So, now that I have laid out my greatest secret before you, I ask you… what should I do?"

Timmy seemed to have lost his voice. He was just staring at her, as if she were far away and inaudible.

"Timmy?" She repeated, sounding more desperate, and feeling it too.

"Proof…" he finally responded, barely able to get the word out.

"Oh… right, you would probably need that. You must be thinking-"

"Don't," he closed his eyes, seeming hurt, "Don't tell me what I must feel or think. You don't know just how I… I want to know if you can prove all this. Or if you are messing around with me again for some reason. Because you think its funny or something!"

"I… I'm not…"


"I'm not messing with you. I'm coming clean. I… I needed to tell you. You have a right to know, if… if…"

She saw his face become stricken, "If… you're going to be taking me back?"

She nodded, slowly.

He looked away from her and quickly withdrew his hand The shock of his touch vacating left the pale redhead with an emptiness she had been dreading all evening. "Timmy… I never kept any souvenirs. That would have been too risky, and they had nothing I ever wanted, save any cash they might have had lying around. But think about it! You had already come to this conclusion before. You had already figured it out! You know I'm telling you the truth."

"But you denied it! You said… you said…"

"What I said was I never risked anyone's life before. And I wasn't lying. I knew exactly what I was going to do to them. No risks."

"That… that was so devious…"

She couldn't help but smirk, though with a sense of sadness behind it, "Me? Devious? And someone who is so well versed with words?"

He sucked in his lips, looking both used and annoyed.

"Listen," she reasoned, all hints of coyness removed, "This is the truth. This is me. I'm coming clean, and wanting to know if… if you can still love me, or not."

"Love you?" her young man repeated, sounding more confused than anything.

Vicky met his eyes again, hoping to show no sign of dishonesty.

"Love you… I… Oh god…"

She knew that exclamation all too well, and couldn't hold back the smile crawling back into place, "Then, since you still love me, will you listen to one last tidbit?"

Silence, thus consent.

"Believe it or not, I've finished. Fifteen feels like the perfect number to end on. Fifteen in five years. I'm being honest when I tell you this too, I think I've gotten it out o my system. I don't have it in me anymore. No, really! I've been trying to hunt again for ages, but my heart just isn't in it. Then the next thing I know you are back in my life, and all I want to do is be with you! But I was scared! Scared you wouldn't love me anymore if you found out my secret. But I told you anyway! And you still love me! And I love you all the more for it!"


"And you already know you can forgive me anything! Especially since what I did was stop those monsters from hurting more people, if you think about it."


"So… I've figured it out! We can make this work, I just had to come clean, get your acceptance, and we can move on with the rest of our lives. Back together! As lovers, as-"

"Vicky!" Timmy shouted harshly, cutting her off.

"Timmy?" he had never, in living memory, done something like this with her before.

"Are you saying you want to go on, being lovers, and forgetting everything you just told me?"

"Forget? No! No, I want to just put it behind us. I want to close that chapter of my life, and begin the rest of it with you. Because… because as long as I have you, then I don't need anything else. I'm happy and content when I'm with you. I feel young and fierce! But sweet and refined. All kinds of mushy inside. Don't… don't you feel that way with me, too?"

"I… yes, I feel much the same. But… you've killed people…"

"I would barely call them people…"


"And you would too! I already saw how you were when talking about The Dread. You were just as fascinated as the rest! You felt he wasn't actually doing harm, stopping those things before they had the chance to hurt more innocent people. The police were useless! Waiting for the next kill to only make a negligible amount of progress. But I stopped them! Every one of them! I save lives, Timmy! And brought closure and justice to the families and friends of all those who were taken before their time."

"You're… you're making it so that if I argue with you, then I'm the bad guy here."

"Do you deny it?"


"Do you deny that you feel the way I do."

"I… I don't…"

"You don't…?"

"I don't know."

She moved closer to his body, pressing her lush form into his timid one, placing an arm around his form and pulling him into her, "You're lying again…" She whispered into his ear.

"Mn!" he tried to negate, but Vicky could tell, she had always been able to tell.

"Just say you forgive me. I already know you want to."

"Vicky, don't…"

She pressed her forehead to his cheek, "I know you must think its selfish, wanting to stay with me despite what I've done. Or maybe you think it just shouldn't be done, despite wanting to. Either way, you should. Take it from me, I've been repressing my own truth for years. You are a forgiver. You are a hopeless romantic. You are you, Timmy. You love me, and even though you are probably having a moral dilemma over it, you forgive me. You will always forgive me. Am I wrong?"

"I… Vicky, please…"

"Am," she placed both of her hands on his face, "I," then turned his head toward her own, "wrong?"

His lips were tightened, his eyes watering, and his mouth trembling. Then, ever so slowly, he closed his eyes, forcing tears the stream down his cheeks, and gave the smallest shake of his head.

For his honesty, and his unwavering loyalty, she pressed her lips to his. After a moment of fearful acceptance, her lover returned her kiss. She had found her answer. She had won.