I.

It was unquenchable. The more he did stunts - each growing increasingly life threatening - the more he sought stunts: the more he needed to seek them out. Like the old stuff wasn't good enough anymore; it didn't provide the imminence, the thrill, the adrenaline.

So, in the end, maybe he really couldn't stop. It was a drug to him - but so long as no one knew, he could pretend otherwise. So long as no one guessed there was any other reason behind his stunts than to become the world's greatest daredevil, then he was fine. Just aspire - aspire and satiate this addiction. No problem.

Yeah, he was cool; he was fine. That's what his confident smoothness told everyone, and that's all they should have to believe.

He was Kick Buttowski; tougher than steel, friend of pain. For him, no challenge was too great, no dare too difficult. Except for that one inevitable moment where his own inability to handle the temptation becomes the very moment where he takes it too far. His finale.

II.

Walking down the block with Gunther, Kick's attention rebelliously strays to a guard rail at the side of the road. Could be a grind rail... No, he tells himself sternly striding onward. He makes a valiant effort to rejoin Gunther's conversation, but he can't quite get into it. The Nordic boy is yammering happily on about an upcoming school project, where he gets to make Lingonberry pie and talk about his extended family. Kick nods cooperatively, though he hardly comprehended the words. He hadn't figured out what he will do for the project, and doesn't want to think about it.

Then they approach a new construction site, where an old building is being torn down. The workers are gone on lunch break, and the wooden skeleton of the five story building is laid partially bare to the elements. A roof with only half its peeling black shingles rests atop the brickwork, parts of which have already been torn away. The whole side of the building has been ripped off and its broken remains lay scattered in the muddy yard amongst supplies. Kick's interest is inevitably captured. There is a world of stunts, just waiting for him - but no, he'd promised himself not to.

Biting his lip, he stares firmly at the ground and forces himself to keep walking.

"Hey, Kick, something wrong?" Gunther asks, abruptly noticing his friends strange behavior.

"Fine," replies Kick in his own low rough voice, but his gaze veers to the construction site once more. to feel that wind rushing past his face, to relish in the danger of the moment... it was that feeling coming alive. "Actually, Gunther... I'll be right back."

The skateboard hits the sun-warmed pavement and he finds himself racing his own excitement to the half-destroyed structure.

Rushing through the doorless entrance, Kick soon finds a worn staircase and he jogs up quickly. At last he clambers onto the roof through a rotted hole, pulling his skateboard out after him. Carefully strutting across loose patches of the black roofing, Kick finally reaches the edge and grins, pausing.

The front wheels of his cobalt skateboard precariously rear over the forty foot drop; kick's foot the only thing keeping it from rolling off. His well-practiced eyes survey the course beneath him. There really isn't much material left to ride down, but on the third floor an unstable pipe protrudes from a window and snakes down another floor. The second floor offers an air-conditioning unit, which he could spin off and drop the remaining feet before landing and coasting on wooden beams back to Gunther.

"Kick, I don't think you should do this one!" said friend shouted up at the figure haloed by the sunlight. He looked so small atop the hulking building's corpse Kick had, of course, done numerous (likely insane) stunts, but this one required so much precision and relied largely on luck... he'd have to free-fall three floors before calculating carefully the rest of the way done, depending heavily on unsupported and shaky structures.

And Gunther is not as oblivious as Kick believes him to be - not as oblivious as everyone else. For god's sakes, they were all so oblivious... but Gunther knows. He catches all those subtle remarks, the myriad of emotions concealed within Kick's eyes. How could his parents not see their son's internal battle - a battle which Kick didn't even seem to be trying to win anymore.

Not that Gunther truly blamed his parents: he knows how good of liar Kick has become. How he hides scrapes and bruises, how easily he shrugs off questions. They care, yes - but they don't know well enough to see.

So he didn't blame them - not as much as he blamed himself. Because he hadn't noticed a problem sooner? Or because he knows he would feel just as helpless if he had?

And helpless he is.

Kick is oblivious to Gunther's genuine worry. He can understand his friend's concern, but it isn't like he hadn't gone down much worse drops before. Oh no, he isn't going to miss this opportunity.

And so Gunther watches helplessly from down below as Kick's weight shifts forward. He steps on the front of his skateboard: the half hovering off the roof's edge. The wheels dip down; a swimmer tentatively testing unsafe waters. Only the pull of gravity responds, unforgiving. It tastes the warning in the wind; the most subtle but urgent threat, unheard by the daredevil but screaming in Gunther's ears.

Unknowingly, a smirk taints Kick's features, for that feeling begins to unfurl. He crouches down on the sun-heated black roofing. A single moment he waits, then he kicks off hard. The smallest snick of wheels hitting the edge,

and he's falling.

Rapid staccato heartbeat, blood crashing through his veins. A rushing elation filling his chest so each breath is a gasp. Savage bliss, the divine aliveness, all surging in the delicate pin drop of a few stolen seconds. Time itself transforms, thundering at inhuman speeds in its traces while mutually taking life frame by frame. His skateboard is the sole protection between him and the lashing air and onrushing ground.

Kick pumps his fist above his head, and victory rests upon his tongue,

unspoken.