Tick, Tock.

They were gone. His family, his best friends. Lost.

Tick, Tock.

The horrified look on their faces.

Tick, Tock.

They had been counting on him.

Tick, Tock.

And he let them down.

Tick, Tock.

Danny tried to focus on something besides that clock. How long had he been sitting here anyway? What was he even doing sitting here? He was examined by the paramedics and taken to his home before their bodies were pulled out of the rubble to be taken to the morgue. They didn't need to be examined. That was clue enough. They really were gone..

They left him here. To wait. What was he waiting for? A call from the police saying that they miraculously survived? Maybe he was waiting for some relative to come get him? But who? No one would want him if they knew their deaths were his fault.

That test. That damned test.

Tick, Tock.

Sam's mother and father had come to his house. Mrs. Manson screamed at him that it was all his fault she was gone. That Sam was gone. The grief-stricken mother didn't know that he had cheated on the test. That it actually was his fault. She needed someone to blame though. Soon after she cussed him out with everything she had, Mr. Manson told her to calm down, giving the distraught teenager cold glares before they left. If it hadn't been his fault, he would have stood up for himself. But he knew he deserved it.

Tick, Tock.

Danny stared at the picture in his hands. His family. Sam. Tuck. They didn't deserve that fate. He did. And yet here he was, sitting on his bed. He was alive. They were dead. And they all had had so much to live for.

Jazz. She would never get to choose between Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. He knew she would have excelled at any of them. How she loved to talk about the things she would accomplish when she grew up. A cure for the common cold. He had always known in his heart she could achieve it. But know she never would. He took that opportunity away from her. And even being as smart as she was, she never bragged about it. She always put others before herself, including him. She had even tried to help him study for the CATs. And he turned her down.

His father and mother were the nicest parents a kid could have- could have had. They loved him even though he was skipping school and failing. They had still trusted him, even after all that. So why couldn't he have trusted them with his secret? They would have understood, even with the given circumstances. He couldn't help but wonder: If he had told them, would this have been prevented?

Tucker and Sam were the best friends anyone could have asked for. They were always there for him. They always had his back. They sacrificed their own well-being for him. And that's exactly what happened a few hours ago.

All of them always put him first. He put himself before all of them.

Tick, Tock.

Sam. He never got to tell her how he felt about her. One of the many things he never admitted. He could pretend time and time again that he loved Paulina or Valerie. But in his heart, he knew he didn't care about them. They weren't special like Sam. They weren't beautiful like Sam. They didn't see the world in the way she did. They would never except him if they knew his secret.

He sighed loudly. He had to forget them. They weren't coming back. And dwelling on them wouldn't help. But what else could he do?

His phone kept ringing or vibrating. Both Valerie and Paulina had texted him telling him that they were sorry about what happened. Under normal circumstances he would have been overjoyed about getting a text from them, but now, it didn't matter in the least.

He growled loudly and gripped his aching head. Why wouldn't they just leave him alone?

He reached over to grab it and fling it out the window. But when he saw who was calling, his hand instantly froze.

Vlad Masters.

What did he want? To rub it in his face what happened? Danny scoffed and put his head under the pillow to silence the ringing. But it didn't help much. Soon though, it stopped. Danny sighed gratefully.

He reached over to blast it to smithereens when he realized that Vlad had left a voice message on it. He sighed loudly again, before picking it up and listening to the message.

"Hello, Daniel.. I heard what happened. I'm truly sorry, my boy. I'm sure you've met Ann, the social worker. She told me the news. She has also informed me that I've... been granted custody of you. I know that you hate me, and that you think I hate you. Despite those bad impressions I've left, I don't hate you in the least bit, and I would be more than happy to adopt you, and not for the reasons you think. I know you are going to protest, but please give me a chance, Danny. I'm flying in tonight, and I'll be by tomorrow to pick you up. If you want to talk, just call me, but if you don't it's perfectly understandable. Otherwise, I'll see you soon, my little badger. Ta."

Danny just sat there staring at the phone. He couldn't believe what he had just heard. Vlad Masters, his enemy, had just sounded... sympathetic. Like he cared. He wanted to adopt him. He wanted to show him he could be a good father. To show him he actually had a heart. Vlad wanted him to give him a chance. And the fourteen-year-old realized something:

He was willing to give him that chance.

Danny picked up his cell phone and dialed a number.

"Hey, Vlad. It's me, Danny.