a/n: This marks the end of the first installment of The Lost Boys. I think I might have told you that there would be two parts and the next one is not a sequel, but rather a continuation of the story. I'm treating this like it would be TV show, so this is, like, the season finale, if that makes it easier to understand. I want to thank everyone who helped me make it this far in this journey and I hope in some shape or form, I helped a few of you out, whether it be with family problems, friend problems, or even problems with yourselves.

It feels a little weird to be ending this. Even though it's not entirely over, I feel different somehow. I've been dealing with this story for years, and a lot of it is based on extremely personal experiences that I'm glad I can share in a positive way.

I'll see you again real soon.

xx


Previously: Derrick admitted to Massie that he allows his father to beat him because he doesn't want him to hurt his mother. It also so happens that his father is the coach of the varsity soccer team and, due to a fight with his son, he benched Derrick during the championship game. The Tomahawks lost and Derrick's father has a bit of a drinking problem, so he's scared to go home. Instead, he asks Massie to stay with her, and during that stay, he lets slip that he's been in love with her for practically a year. Alicia got drunk at a party at the beginning of the year and had sex with Danny Robbins, who, in turn, got her pregnant, and, at her last doctor's visit, she finds out it's too late to abort the child. Chris likes Alicia and Danny's his cousin, but when he heard him talking about how he railed Alicia, he beat him up in the middle of the school hallway, resulting in his suspension from the soccer team. Claire made a slew of bad decisions in the short amount of time the group have been in the tenth grade and because of them, her father is sending her off to live with her grandparents.


He didn't know how long he sat there, or how long he wallowed in self-pity. What he did know was how uncomfortable it was, how his body heated up with each passing moment he remained on the edge of her bed, what with the comforter that was comfortable once before itching beneath his palms. The sound of the door slamming behind her echoed in his head until his heart beat matched the speed of the memory, racing every time the lock clicked shut.

He was numb, a feeling he was very much familiar with. If someone came over and slapped him in the face, he was sure he wouldn't feel it.

"Massie…" he all but stammered, trying to force himself to say something, anything, but nothing seemed good enough. What was he to say anyway? Was he supposed to apologize, sweep his proclamation under the rug, pretend it never happened? He couldn't. Wouldn't, actually.

It took him almost an entire year to figure out this was what he wanted: for her to know. Admitting that she meant more to him than anything else in the world was a lot for him to comprehend and it wasn't exactly the easiest thing to do. Feelings weren't his forte. He wasn't good at opening up, but he never expected her to run. That was his job, wasn't it?

Derrick coughed, glancing from the floor he seemed immersed in to the door separating him from Massie. He wondered what she was doing—did she feel as awful as he did? Was love supposed to feel this way? He opened his mouth to ask, had her name on the tip of his tongue again, when he heard the spray of the shower.

Truly fantastic.

With a heavy sigh and the tiniest roll of his eyes, he pushed himself off her bed, searching for his shoes and the sweatshirt he had worn to the soccer game on Saturday. He wasn't going to sit there and wait for Massie to be ready to discuss this, especially after she spent however long she needed in the shower just to figure out what it was she wanted to say.

That was the only reason she was in there, of course; he knew her well enough for that.

He just hoped he hadn't accidentally thrown out his house keys along with his soccer bag.

When he was finally outside—after a narrow run-in with Inez and what sounded like a blender—he pulled his phone out of his pocket, where an onslaught of (extremely frantic—on Josh's end) text messages awaited him.

josh [8:31]: where are you where is massie where is EVERYONE
cam [9:03]: do you and josh have some sort of romance going on that you didn't tell me about I've never seen him so out of whack before
josh [9:14]: alicia's not here either I am alone in all of my classes I hate you guys
plovert [9:48]: WHERE ARE YOU HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GO ON
kemp [11:07]: we're nothing without you
kemp [11:10]: it took josh 5 minutes to figure out if he wanted pizza or French fries and the entire time he was going "derrick would know what I want derrick always knows what I want"
kemp [11:15]: he picked French fries. In case you were wondering.
cam [11:45]: we have this really weird dependency thing going on here. I think it's very unhealthy. Please return to school as soon as possible. Ty ily.
plovert [11:49]: seriously are you dead I don't think I can plan a nice funeral I'm more of a wedding guy ya feel
kristen [11:53]: I hate you.
josh [11:56]: I miss you ):

It was funny, he thought, how much they cared when she did not, but even with that in mind, he couldn't bring himself to respond to any of them. Their codependency, the way they always seemed to need each other despite the obvious fact that they didn't, not really, always amused him, but. It didn't. Not now. He couldn't laugh at it this time like he always did when one of them latched on to him; he couldn't really do anything except kick at stray rocks on the ground and shiver involuntarily at the winter chill…almost like he was incapable of much else.

He was so stupid. What had he expected when he blurted those three words out? For her to say them back?

Well…yeah. He thought… maybe he didn't think, actually, but he thought that would've been it. His biggest secret out in the open. The truth about everything. I love you. I'm in love with you. Have been since I first met you. Just couldn't say it because I was scared. Ruined everything because I'm a piece of shit.

But he should've figured working with Massie wouldn't be as easy as he wished. She wouldn't let things play out in his favor; that's not how she did it. She was stubborn and hard to please and strong-willed and quick-witted and so fucking beautiful—

—and it wasn't doing him any good, thinking about what he shouldn't have said and how he was all in all sort of homeless since he was supposed to stay at her house—

His head was swimming so much that he dialed Cam, pressing the phone to his ear without bothering to check the time or even if he had the right number. There was too much going on in his brain, too much adrenaline in his body, fingers trembling, knees quaking, that he needed to talk to someone.

Cam picked up on the third ring. "I like you far too much," were the first words out of his best friend's mouth, "or else I wouldn't have left Spanish to sit in the bathroom to talk to you."

"You don't even like Spanish," Derrick reminded him, trying to keep the steely edge out of his voice. He didn't think it worked. "And it's not like I want to talk about the weather."

"Well. It is rather cold out. Did you notice?"

"This is not the time to joke, Cameron." He sighed, running a heavy hand through his hair. "I'm a fucking idiot."

His best friend hesitated and Derrick knew it was because he wanted to make some shitty comment on his behalf. Instead, he said, "So, you're not sick."

"Clearly," the blonde responded dryly, rubbing his nose with the sleeve of his sweatshirt. "I don't know why anyone thought—"

Cam let out a barely audible snort on the other end. "No one thought you were sick at all, D. You spent the night at Massie's, right? Too much tension there. I would've been surprised you showed." He paused like he was finished speaking, but ended up continuing almost as an afterthought: "Except Josh is very upset you've abandoned him."

"I'm pretty sure you told me to return to school, thank you, I love you, so he's not the only one who misses me terribly," Derrick teased, though it was forced and completely unlike him. It was like his voice wasn't even his anymore.

"You didn't call me to tell me about the eighteen text messages we sent you. Why are you a fucking idiot?"

"Eleven, actually, and one was from Kristen, who hates me."

"What's up?" Cam demanded, ignoring Derrick's smart aleck comment.

Derrick sniffed. "I told her."

"Uh. Told who what?"

The blonde rolled his eyes—because it was really fucking obvious, come on—and muttered, "Massie. That I love her." Then he bit his lip so hard he was sure it started to bleed.

There was complete and utter silence on Cam's part that Derrick had to pull the phone away from his ear to make sure the boy didn't hang up on him. He didn't, and Derrick heard the door swing open and closed as someone else entered the bathroom.

"You didn't," his friend mumbled. Cam's tone of voice matched Derrick's overall outlook on life and that only seemed to make it worse. "Why? Why would you even think that's a good idea? Last time you thought about it, you…"

"Dumped her with some shit excuse about her immaturity, I know." Derrick took a deep breath, his heart racing unnaturally. "It's not like… I didn't plan it or anything. It just. Came out, I guess. I don't even know why I let it get that far anyway—with my mouth, I mean. Not like. Never mind—and then she told me that I didn't, which thanks a lot, Massie, you clearly know how I feel and how long I've been battling this stupid fucking feeling, and locked herself in the bathroom."

"What did you expect, Derrick? Open arms? She spent a good part of this year thinking you, like, hated her or something and didn't want to date her anymore when in all actuality you've been in love with her since, like, the beginning of time and—"

"You don't have to tell me things I already know, man. I fucked shit up a lot worse than I could've imagined."

"You know she's going to tell Josh, right?"

Derrick sighed. "I'm eagerly awaiting his phone call. Believe me."

"He'll probably skin you alive for doing this to her," Cam told him, like he didn't already know that his other friend's loyalties clearly lied with Massie. "But… maybe it's for the best, y'know?"

"How is it for the best, Cam?" the blonde demanded, turning down a familiar road, the one with the huge oak tree, branches bare because of the winter, in the side yard of the house on the corner. "I told her, she told me no, and locked herself in a bathroom. I'm not feelin' any good vibes."

"But she knows." The faucet turned on. "She knows. It might… change things."

"Yeah, she might not talk to me again!" Derrick hissed. "I was stupid enough to think she loved me too because I was stupid enough to think she let herself feel anything for me again after I—"

"You really are a fucking idiot," interrupted Cam with a humorless laugh.

Derrick frowned, opening and closing his mouth like a fish. He couldn't get anything out, not even a simple inquiry, which propelled Cam forward.

"Of course she loves you," he said.

"She loved me. There's a difference. She told me herself."

"Bullshit," Cam countered. "It's not like she can turn that off whenever she wants."

"But. She went out with you."

His friend snorted. "Hardly. And even so, big freakin' deal. She went out with me, she loves you. It's really not that hard to understand."

"I. I don't…"

"She wouldn't have dealt with you for this long if she didn't love you. You're a moron."

"I don't know if that's a good thing or not."

"It is. Believe me. She's just scared that it's out in the open now, and that she has to deal with what she's feeling before she wants to. It's all about timing with Massie, but more importantly, it's all about her timing. She does things when she wants to, never when anyone else does. This threw her off, I'm sure."

Derrick raised an eyebrow as if she friend could see his facial expression and mumbled, "How do you know?"

"I'm very observant" was Cam's response. And then: "Look, class is gonna end in, like, ten, and I'm gonna have to use the explosive diarrhea excuse"—here, Derrick made a face—"but hold tight. It's not as bad as you think it is."

The call disconnected and a noise of discontentment formed in the back of Derrick's throat. He glared at his phone for a long moment with the thought of tossing it in the snow and leaving it there for good, before pocketing it roughly and stomping off down the block to his house.

Next time he decided to call someone for some sort of temporary relief, he was going to ring Josh instead. At least that boy would send him kisses or something until Derrick felt less like cutting his own foot off. Cam was far too rational.

He ran a hand through his hair and dragged his feet up the walkway to his front door. His head was swimming, mostly with just thoughts of the conversation—if that—he had with Massie, but the moment he put his hand to the knob, his stomach dropped, a sickening feeling that cleared him of that memory.

Something was wrong.

He didn't know how or why, he just did, the sinking in his stomach forcing him forward to push the door open, leaving him standing in his too-large foyer, breathing heavily.

It was quiet—a little too quiet, if you asked him, and he was almost convinced no one was home, that he was paranoid because he was practically rejected not even an hour ago.

But then he heard it: the harsh footsteps, the forceful murmurs of words he couldn't make out, and the female voice of his mother, trying to appease her husband.

Leaving the front door wide open, Derrick took off through the maze of his first floor, almost bumping into the edge of a couch, to make it to the kitchen, where he was positive they were. He skidded to a stop by the doorway, heart pounding in his chest.

With a palm to the wall, he tried to steady his shaky breaths in an attempt to regain control of his body. His father would never go after his mother if anyone was home and by the way he was speaking, as if everything that was wrong in the world was Candace's fault, Derrick was positive Sammi and Patrick were nowhere to be seen.

"…James, honey, I know you're upset, but let's calm down. I'll make you some coffee."

Derrick gritted his teeth together, hating the way his mother sounded, hating the way she had to deal with him. How old was he? Definitely old enough to know not to treat the woman he loved—that is, if he still loved her—the way he was. It made Derrick's skin crawl.

"I don't want your fucking coffee," his father snapped, the ferocity in his voice hitting Derrick hard. "I don't want anything. I want—" His threats were drowned out by the sound of breaking glass and his mother's intake of breath, small and scared, but refusing to show it—

That's when Derrick made his move.

The bowl that held the fruits was shattered on the floor; an apple was still rolling along the tile as he entered the room.

"Derrick!" Candace gasped, forcing a smile on her face. "When did you get home? Did you have fun at—oh, don't worry about that mess; it was just a little—"

Her son shot her a pointed look before turning around. "If you need someone to be angry with," he spat at his father, "be angry with me."

"Go upstairs, Derrick," his mother continued to press. "It'll be fine. Dad's just…in a mood."

"No, it will not be fine," the boy growled, his hard glare set on his father's face. Everything around him was tinted red. "And this is more than just a mood." He could smell the alcohol from here. The redness in his cheeks and the glassiness of his eyes were dead giveaways.

"Derrick," she pleaded.

"No."

"Let the boy stay, Candy." Derrick shivered at the nickname, feeling dirty just at the sound of it. His father always had to have the upper hand.

"Don't call her that."

"I can call her anything I want," James jeered.

Derrick bit down hard on the inside of his cheek, refraining from balling his hands into fists. "No, you can't," he forced out, "but you can go out and take a walk."

His father took a step towards him, but he refused to back up, remaining stationary in his spot. He felt his mother's hand ghost across his back, as if she were telling him to leave; he ignored it.

"Don't tell me what to do, Derrick." His name slipped out of the man's mouth silkily. "What I do and say is none of your concern."

"It becomes my concern when it has to do with my mother."

"Oh, so she's just your mother now?" James chuckled loudly though nothing was funny. "I wasn't aware you staked a claim on her."

Derrick frowned deeply. "It's not like you're treating her like she's anything special, so. Yes. I have."

"I don't have to treat her like anything—"

"She's my mother!" he shouted. "You don't get the right to shove her around like she's nothing! Why do you do it? Why is it so fucking easy for you to treat her like a piece of shit? Why."

"Watch your mouth around me, young man."

"You don't deserve any of my respect."

"I am your father—"

The blonde threw his head back and cackled. "I forgot how funny you are. Ha. Ha. Ha."

"Derrick, you don't know what you're getting into," his mother whispered behind him. He ignored her again.

James continued closer and Derrick stayed put, pressing his hand against his mother's shoulder to get her to move. "You're a little shit," he muttered. "Did you know that?"

"Yep."

It had to have been the smartass response that set him off, but Derrick wasn't sure, and he wouldn't be, not when this was all over, either.

James lunged forward, Derrick shoved his mother out of the way, and his body was slammed against the counter. A searing pain surged through his lower body, his hipbones sore. He threw his hands out before his father could get any closer and pressed his entire weight into his palms, pushing the bigger man back as far as he could.

Derrick was done. He was so fucking done with his father's shit. With the way he was always acting so superior. And he was done with himself, for not doing anything about it, for being so fucking weak and letting it slip past him. It was time for a change.

Something on the middle island rolled off when his father's large body hit it, but no one seemed to care. James only had eyes, albeit drunken and glassy, for him, and Derrick's heart raced at the sight of him, and he wanted to punch everything in his way.

Before he could act, a fist hit the side of his face, his mother screeched at his father to get her hands off her son, James, and Derrick's head flung back, just narrowly missing the cabinets above him.

Blood rushed in his ears. His cheek stung. His neck was sore. Despite the lack of sound—his anger was overtaking him, blocking out everything around him—Derrick surged forward and attacked back, his hands hitting every part of his father's body that was visible: his face, his neck, the spot where his neck and shoulder meet—

—and his father merely hit him in the gut.

The breath was knocked out of him and he struggled to gain his bearings, gripping the side of the counter. His mother was screeching still, yelling at James to leave Derrick alone, please please please, and James only said that he asked for it, but all the sounds were far away.

James didn't give him enough time to stand straight before he was back at it and Derrick flailed against him, his legs kicking and his hands slapping at anything and everything. He was gasping for air every chance he got. When his hand hit something fleshy, he gripped it tightly with his fingers, pressing his nails into his father's skin.

His father struggled to release him, but Derrick held strong, bringing his knee straight up once he was in a better position. The second he hit the man where the sun don't shine, James released him and Derrick all but tumbled to the ground.

He didn't stay there for long, hopping up even though he longed to wallow in the pain his father caused him, and gripped the neck of James' shirt. The man's breath hitched as Derrick dragged him across the kitchen floor, the anger and adrenaline giving him the strength he needed.

"Get out," he ordered darkly at the pathetic man. With some difficulty, he shoved him out the back door, letting him tumble down the three concrete steps. The alcohol in his system would make sure he didn't feel that until after the fact. "Don't even think about coming back."

James made no response, only curled in on himself in their backyard, and Derrick turned away from the sight in disgust, the door slamming behind him. "I'm calling the cops on him, Mom," he said, "and we have to change the locks."

He struggled to find his phone in his pockets, but his fingers kept shaking. He held the denim of his jeans out, shoved his hand inside, and gripped the phone, only for it to slip out of his sweaty grip. He had to call them; he had to let them know his father was a psychopath, but he couldn't. He couldn't, because he couldn't get a goddamn grip on his phone and he was going to come back and hurt his mother again and he couldn't let that happen, no no no—

His mother's arms were around him in an instant and he let himself succumb to the trembling. He gripped her back just as tight, squeezing her close to him, feeling warm and safe for the first time in a while. Head buried in her neck, taking in the sweet smell of her perfume, he let himself cry. Heavy, ugly sobs escaped him, ripping apart his throat, though he wasn't sure what he was really crying over anymore.

Candace didn't seem to care; all she did was run her fingers through his hair, rub his back. The movement was soothing, but he still couldn't catch his breath, couldn't get a hold of the bawling that wracked his body.

"It's okay now, baby," she murmured. "It's okay."

Derrick pulled away from her, taking in her appearance through watery eyes. Her face was red, her lips swollen from her biting them, and a big bruise blossomed by her temple. His fingers brushed against it gently, his eyebrows furrowed. "He hurt you."

"It's nothing, honey. I've had worse."

When he pulled his hand away, a red fluid stained his fingertips. "You're bleeding," he let out, his throat sore. He could feel the tears threatening to break through again, and his mother was blurry in front of him. "I'm sorry," he sobbed. "I'm so sorry I didn't do that sooner."

.

.

.

After her eyes were dry and she had eaten her weight in frozen yogurt, Dean drove Alicia back home. She felt empty, even though she was full, numb to everything in the world.

There was a child inside of her. Someone who needed her to take care of herself to care for it and it was awful that she didn't want to do any of that. She wanted it gone, never wanted to remember Danny Robbins.

And she couldn't get rid of it… it was too late to do anything. She was stuck with it, stuck with something she didn't want because of an awful, awful mistake. All she could do was suck it up and deal. Hopefully.

She took deep breaths to calm herself as the car waited for the iron gates to part. There is nothing wrong. Everything is fine. I'm no longer sick. I can go back to school.

She caught Dean's eye in the mirror and mustered up her biggest—and fakest—smile. It hurt her cheeks to have her face stretched out like this.

"We'll figure something out, Leesh," he promised, but Alicia knew there was no use in hoping for a miracle. She had learned one thing from this experience: She was never doing anything reckless again.

The car was parked, and her driver was out before she was. She sat there, looking blankly at the dark walls in the garage, and ran a hand through her hair. There was nothing else she could do except get up to her room and wait for Chris to come over. He would know how to make her feel better, even if that did mean watching Aladdin. Again.

Alicia perked up a bit with that thought in mind and hopped out of the car, the draft causing her to pull her scarf tighter around her neck.

She had no idea where Dean went, but the door leading her to the kitchen was open. She walked through, closing it quietly behind her, and hoped she could make it upstairs without giving off the impression that something was wrong.

As she passed through the kitchen, Joyce offered to make her a cup of hot chocolate. She agreed, still feeling the nip of the winter cold against her skin, and made her way to the staircase, ready to change out of her jeans and into sweatpants while she waited for Chris to come over. Thankfully, school would be ending soon—the clock in the hallway read 2:30. He'd be here in about an hour since he'd have to walk. Maybe Dean would be able to pick him up…

She was on the third step when her name was called from the other room.

"Yeah?" she called out hesitantly, holding a hand to her beating heart.

"Could you come here, please?" Her mother's voice was tightly controlled and Alicia closed her eyes for a second before murmuring her assertion.

Alicia's footsteps were light as she made her way to the dining room. It was an odd place for her mother to be, really. They never spent any time in here, not even during the holidays. It was one of the many look-but-don't-touch rooms in the Rivera household.

Both of her parents were seated at the head of the table, the Swarovski-crystal chandelier finally in use above them. The teen stood facing them, one of her hands gripping the back of a chair. She wasn't exactly sure what she was here for, so she kept her mouth shut and smiled politely at the two of them.

Len Rivera looked exhausted. His tanned face was paler than usual and the corners of his eyes exposed more wrinkles than he would have liked. His mouth was set in a straight line instead of its usual amused smirk. Had Alicia done something wrong?

Nadia, on the other hand, had her poker face on, something she used only when she was speaking to some of Len's high-end clients and hosting her slew of rich friends. "We were wondering how you were feeling."

"I'm better," she responded, licking her lips. "The doctor cleared me for school."

"That's great, pumpkin. I'm glad you're—" Nadia shut her father up with just one look and he swallowed down his words. Alicia frowned.

"Is there something you'd like to tell us?" her mother asked, looking at her curiously. In her hand was a piece of paper Alicia failed to notice earlier, and an open envelope was on the table before her.

The girl blinked and struggled to breathe through her nose without any sort of hitch. "Um. No?"

"No? Alright." Nadia pursed her lips, pressing the paper down with her long manicured fingernails. "Explain this, then."

Although Alicia was terrified to walk closer to them, she moved her feet, shoving her hands in the pockets of her sweatshirt to hide their shaking. She didn't understand why she was so afraid of them. There was no way they could possibly know about—about the pregnancy thing. Her doctor said she wouldn't tell them until Alicia was ready for them to know, so.

From where she was now standing, just a few feet away from her mother, she could only make out the name of her gynecologist's office on the top of the paper. Her stomach flipped—they couldn't have told them, could they?—and she tried to keep her expression neutral as she asked, "What is that?"

Nadia eyed her down and Alicia managed to swallow without them noticing. Potentially. Hopefully. "A bill," her mother said. "I was unaware you were seeing a gynecologist this entire time."

"What's it a bill for?" she questioned. "I was having bad period cramps, so I saw her. That's probably what it's for." The lie was weak at best, but if there was nothing to prove otherwise on that piece of paper, it could work.

"For over five hundred dollars?"

Alicia winced. She hadn't known the cost of the appointment would be that much. She had just hoped this would be one of those times where they just paid whatever it was in front of them and went about their day. Of course it wasn't. Not with her luck.

"They… uh. Had to run some tests."

"For what purpose?"

"They weren't sure what was causing the cramps." Alicia racked her brain for something else to add, something that made more sense. She used to be good at lying, but then again, that was before she had something this big to hide. "The doctor thought I had a… cyst. An ovarian cyst. If they pop, I would lose my entire ovary."

Still, her mother's gaze was on her, questioning, accusing, and not believing. "And?"

"I don't have one. I'm fine in that area."

"Then what was causing your pains?"

"I… they don't know yet. They wanted to see if it would happen this month again and then they thought of putting me on birth control because it would regulate the period—"

Nadia's loud sigh interrupted her mindless babbling. With creased eyebrows, she demanded: "The truth now, Alicia."

Alicia scrunched up her face, trying to seem as confused as possible. "That is the truth, Mom."

"If that's so, you won't mind if I call this office then, do you?"

Alicia's heart beat quickened until she was sure her family could hear it slam against her chest. "What? You don't believe me?"

Nadia shot her a look that spoke volumes. "I rarely believe you, Alicia."

"What? Why not?"

"You've been lying since you were twelve. You don't have that much credibility."

This hurt Alicia more than she'd like to admit. While she had never been particularly close with her mother—she liked her father a lot more—to have one of them say she couldn't be trusted… it wasn't exactly the best thing to hear.

Her mother's fingers were pressing into their phone when Alicia came back to Earth and she almost leapt across the table to get it away from her. "No—no," she forced out, trembling hands pressing against her face. "I—no. You're right. Please don't call them. I'd rather tell you."

Their attention was on her again and she felt her whole face heat up. She didn't want to tell them. Not right now. It wasn't like she could never tell them, but… she really wished she could.

She stood there, averting her gaze, staring at the floor, at the table, at the window, but never at them. "I, um…" she trailed off, wringing her hands together. "I. I went there because I… I…" She swallowed, looked at her hands and blurted: "IthoughtIwaspregnant."

"Alicia…" that was her father.

"And—and I am, and I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—I didn't know this would happen and—please don't hate me, I didn't want this and I don't—"

But she was silenced by the five awful words that let her mother's mouth. "Get out of my house."

.

.

.

It was when Chris was standing at Kemp's locker that he noticed the number of times Alicia called him in the past fifteen minutes. Another notification popped on his phone, alerting him that he had a voicemail, and he held a finger up to his friend so he could listen to it.

It started off with a strangled sob. "I… hi. Are you out of school yet? I hope you are—I don't really know what to do and I don't want to be by myself because I'm scared and and and and"—she took the deepest of breaths here, but she still sounded like she couldn't breathe properly—"my parents got me to tell them and they kicked me out of the house—I don't know what to do; I'm sitting on a corner and I don't have a jacket. Chris, I—"

The message didn't go any farther than that because Chris abruptly ended it, seething. How could they do that to her? When she needed them most, they made her leave? It wasn't even like it was her fault—Danny knew she liked him and he used it to his advantage after she got drunk enough.

Danny.

Chris spun around, looking around the hall for the older boy's head of dark hair. He was nowhere to be found.

Kemp's hand landed on his shoulder and Chris jumped. "Dude, you okay?"

"No." A deep frown furrowed his eyebrows. "I'm not."

"What's up?" his friend shouldered his bag and started the trek to Josh's locker, like they always did after school ended.

"I need to find Danny Robbins."

"Why?"

"I need to beat the shit out of him."

"Don't you think Hotchkiss did enough of that?" Kemp questioned.

Chris whirled around on him, narrowing his eyes. "No. Not nearly enough." He hurried up his pace, long legs going as far as they could with each step. He was certain he would find Danny somewhere.

Kemp struggled to keep up, pushing aside anyone that got in his way. "What is going on?" he demanded, coming to a stop when Chris looked down another hall.

"Alicia's parents kicked her out." The other boy's words were cold as ice, his tone not one to be messed with. "I am going to kill him."

"They what?"

After deducing that Danny wasn't in that particular area of the school, Chris took off again. They stormed right past their other friends ("Hey! Where are you going?" Josh shouted), Kemp right at Chris' heels.

"I don't know much, but she called me, and it's all Danny's fault." Chris forced the front doors open, stepping out into the bright winter sun, reflecting off the banks of snow around the school. "I'm going to cut his balls off and make him eat them."

"I don't want to touch anyone else's balls, but I'm down to punch him in the face," Kemp supplied, shielding his eyes to search for the boy in question. "Hey, I think that's—"

But Chris was already gone.

He made a beeline to where Danny was standing, flanked by his friends, and believe it or not, Skye Hamilton. How she got to Briarwood from OCD so fast was beyond him. His cousin—you couldn't really pick family, could you?—beamed when he noticed him.

"Chris! How goes it?" he questioned, as if he wasn't the one who impregnated his somewhat girlfriend, which in turn got her kicked out of her house, and indirectly got him suspended from the soccer team.

So, it made perfect sense when Chris forwent the formalities and opted to punch the older boy in the face instead.

"Whoa, little man!" Danny exclaimed, rubbing his nose. The punch hadn't done much damage; it was just enough to show Chris' discontent. "What's the hostility all about?"

"Don't call me 'little man'," Chris griped, slamming his fist into another part of his cousin's body. "And don't pretend"—another punch—"you don't know"—and another—"what my issue is."

Skye giggled at the display. Out of the corner of his eye, Chris saw her whisper something to one of her friends, and it was her amusement that enraged him even more. How dare she?

His hands balled up again, and he took a step forward, ready to throw himself at Danny, but one of his friends gripped his arms, keeping him in place.

"Is this about your stupid slut of a girlfriend?" Danny asked, a steely glint in his eye.

"She is not a slut!" Chris snarled back. "And it's all your fault! You're the reason everything is shit and I hate you."

Danny chuckled darkly. "Upset I popped your girl's cherry before you could?"

"Yeah," Chris retorted sarcastically. "So upset. So fucking upset." He snorted, rolling his eyes. "It's not about that, you dipshit. It's your fault she's fucking pregnant, that's what, and I am going to rip you to shreds for doing that to her. You dick."

For a moment, the taller boy looked lost, like he wasn't sure what to do, but then it was gone, replaced by his normal, ugly mug. "Well, that's her own fault, isn't it? Shouldn't have begged me for it if she wasn't prepared for the consequences."

"She didn't beg for it!" a voice snapped, but it most definitely wasn't Chris', and the next thing he knew Kemp was tackling Danny to the ground.

If there was someone you could always count on, it was definitely Kemp.

Chris struggled out of Danny's minion's grasp and, while Kemp held Danny down, slammed his knuckles into his face as many times as he could. The back of Danny's head hit the cement, but his hands still tried to wrap themselves around Chris' wrists to block the blows. Surprisingly enough, none of his so-called friends jumped in to help him. Skye was still giggling.

He didn't know how long he wailed on him for, his knees pressing into his shoulders to keep him still. His hands started to hurt and Kemp started to mumble things like stay fucking put and talk about one of my friends one more time, I swear, but after a while some sort of group formed around them, and arms were pulling him off his cousin, dragging him backwards.

"You're fucking stupid, right?" Cam hissed in his ear, crouching down to wipe Danny's nose blood off his knuckles with his sleeve. "There's gotta be something wrong with you if you decided getting into another fight with Danny was a good idea. Especially on school property."

Chris stared up at him without a care, blinking. "Yeah, so?"

"Well. Fighting is prohibited on school grounds and… well—"

"What is the cause of this?" Dean Don's voice boomed. His shoes stopped right in front of Chris, where the evidence was splattered not so nicely on his hands. Cam shot him The Look.

No one answered. At least, not until Skye, in her stupid, nasally voice said, "Chris Plovert did, sir. And for no reason whatsoever! Kemp helped him!" She sounded positively gleeful.

"No reason whatsoever?" Chris repeated, turning his head to look at the buttery blonde. She smiled at him, wiggling her fingers in that weird wave girls do, and he had half a mind to go punch her in the face. "Are you kidding me? Danny was—and Alicia is—and now I—"

But his mindless blathering did nothing for his case and Dean Don set his piercing gaze on him. "Again, Mr. Plovert? I thought you were above this sort of nonsense. You are the sophomore class president. You have a reputation to uphold."

"But—Danny and Alicia and he called her—but she's not—and it's his fault that she's—"

"I didn't tolerate it the first time it happened," his principal spoke sternly, "and I will not tolerate it again. You are suspended, starting tomorrow. And you, Mr. Hurley, two weeks of detention."

.

.

.

On the other side of town, away from all the drama, Claire Lyons shoved a number of envelopes in a mailbox before getting into her father's waiting car.

Whilst her destination was a different state, the envelopes in the darkness of the mailbox were addressed to four people in the Westchester area: Massie Block, Alicia Rivera, Dylan Marvil, and Kristen Gregory.

If they read them, it would be the last time those four girls heard from Claire for a long, long time.