Author's Notice: My writing has been stolen twice by someone who tried to pass it off as their own. If you recognize my writing anywhere please contact me immediately.

A WARNING TO ALL REEDUS WRITERS: In light of posting a very angry author's note to the story that the content was stolen from. I have been informed by a fellow writer that many other writers in the Reedus fandom have had their work stolen recently.

This person will most likely make a new blog, steal more writing, and submit it as their own to another innocent fic blog. Look out for writing you recognize and if possible inform the rightful owner.

A little girl, only the tender age of seven who has seen more of the debased side of human nature than any adult should have to bear sits on the floor of the flop house. The bare boards around her are littered with used needles, pipes and empty tins, the powdery contents long ago wiped clean by fiending fingers.

In front of her lies a rail thin figure almost skeletal, covered in scabs from years of incessant picking at the phantom bugs crawling just underneath the skin. The little girl tries again, shaking the steadily cooling body.

"Mother, wake up." she pleads "I'm hungry mom, please get up." she only pretends her mother is sleeping, knowing the cold grim truth.

This isn't the first overdose she's witnessed in her short grisly life.

The little girl left her mother's corpse on the floor. Climbing onto the broken down couch a few feet away, carefully minding a rusty spring sticking out of one cushion. She would wait. Her mother's dealer always came on Fridays, he would know what to do. Papa Joe as she called him, was always good to her. Bringing her food and toys, not that she ever got to play with them before her mother snatched them away.

She had once looked forward to Fridays just as much as her mother if not more, having been converted into a junkie for his affection and kind words. Such things were never spared by her mother though they cost nothing.

But lately she had found herself craving them less and less. Instead preferring the apathetic abyss slowly taking hold inside herself.

As hours trickled by slowly the girl had nothing to do other than look at the body. Study it. Morbidly fascinated.

The sound of a car pulling in the drive caused her eyes to tear from the prone figure in front of her, glancing quickly at the clock. Which told her that her 'savior' had arrived. Every Friday, five o' clock on the dot.

She bounded from the couch, hopping over her mother's ashen feet on her way to the door, flinging back the locks like her life depended on it. Though she had just surveyed the life slipping from her mothers eyes hours before, her face held the largest of her falsified smiles for the tall dark man standing in front of her. Thankfully he always believed they were real. Flying into his arms for a hug she felt awkward, unused to positive physical contact.

"Hey baby gurl, wha.." she could tell by the way he wrapped his arms a little tighter around her malnourished frame he'd seen her mother's body sprawled out on the dirty floor.

"Mama's dead papa Joe." she whispered, burying her head into his chest.

Not wanting him to know just how detached she really was, she produced a few tears. Appreciation for the manipulation and deception skills she had obtained from observing her mother flowed through her for the first time.

Had she shed any real tears filled with emotion they would not have been for the loss of her mom but for the gain of her freedom. Freedom from the shame of having a junkie whore as a mother and from the slum shack she'd been trapped in all her life. The beatings and verbal abuse had hardly phased her anymore. She scarcely cared that part was over.

Joe looked from what had once been one of his best customers to the neglected child clinging to him. He had never cared about any of the drug babies he came across at various shit holes on his delivery routs but Krystal was a different story. Maybe it was her wide dark brown eyes or her ability to always give him a smile even if her mama was using her as an ashtray to put out a cigarette. The kid had fire in her, something no amount of hellish torment could extinguish.

Her name alone stood as a testament to her mother's wickedness, naming her only child after the drug she loved more than anything in the word.

There had been many nights when Joe would bring food with her mother's order, sometimes cheap toys from the dollar store too because he knew all the money that shedevil had went into her next fix.

"Go on an getch yo things baby gurl, I gotta take you to a fire station er somethin'. Somewhere social services'll pick ya up an put ya ina home." for the first time he saw what he thought was true fear in her tainted eyes as she looked up at his ebony face, but it was only well practiced acting.

"Please don't do that, mama told me about foster homes and how mean the people are, please let me stay with you papa Joe you've always been nice to me!" she begged, her tone becoming more frantic, adding a little quiver into her bottom lip for good effect. "I'll be good I promise, I'll be useful and work. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it."

"Krystal, I cant keep ya baby, I ain't fit to be takin' care a ya. Ya can stay a few days then I gotta take ya somewhere ya can get whatcha need, a education and a family." he reasoned, unable to say no after all she'd already been through. He'd take her for a few days and then call social services, tell them he found her wandering around outside. He stood hating himself for the hope he saw bloom on her dirt smeared face.

"Thank you, thank you!" she exclaimed, hugging him before looking up at him with a grim seriousness beyond her years.

"I don't want to be called Krystal anymore. I want to be Kristy." She decided as Joe watched a darkness spread over her features like a cloud blocking out the sun.

Joe nodded in agreement, he had always found her name to be sickly ironic.

"Aight, I can do dat Kristy, now go on an getch yo stuff. Ya know where yo mama keep important papers, thangs like yo birth certificate an social security card?" he asked, patting out an itch in his cornrows.

"Yeah she kept lots of papers in a box under her bed, I know what's mine I'll go get everything." she replied with a nod before scampering past her mother's lifeless body to collect her few possessions.

Joe knew the lack of grief on Kristy's part was unnatural for a child her age, even in the circumstances with which she had been raised. At the same time he knew what a life like that does to a person, being a child of abuse himself. But there was something else deep down inside that girl too, something he had seen in her more and more lately during his visits, something unnerving.

Kristy quickly grabbed the garbage bag that contained the only clothes she owned, adding the drawing pad and broken crayons Joe had brought her last week. Which she had managed to hide from her mother's spiteful wrath. She shook off the memory of her toxic words about not needing "a nigger's handouts" and made her way to her mother's room.

At the closed door she hesitated. Raising her hand to knock out of habit, her naturally tan skin stretched white across her tiny knuckles. Her mother's room had always been forbidden, the place where she took many men and told Kristy not to disturb them while she was working. She knew exactly what line of work her mother was in, many times she had used that knowledge against her in their verbal wars.

'She's dead, the rules don't matter anymore.' she reasoned to herself as she turned the knob and flung the door open with a loud crack resonating off the walls.

She went straight to the bed getting down on her hands and knees to retrieve the box underneath. Once open she took every paper with her name on it, stuffing them in the garbage bag. There was money in the box too, the fruits of her mother's past week of 'work'.

'Maybe if I give him the money he'll let me stay longer.' she thought, placing it aside to give Joe. She knew full well three things made the kind of world she lived in go round. Drugs, sex, and money.

At the bottom of the box laid half a torn photo of her mother. She'd seen it only once before. When she'd asked who was in the other half her mother had backhanded her and snatched the photo away, telling her it had been her prick of a father.

Kristy put the photo in her pocket, careful not to bend it. Leaving the rest of the papers scattered about the floor she drug the garbage bag containing her life back to Joe whom was waiting patently outside, sitting on the front stoop. She shut the door behind her without wasting a second glance back at the woman who'd brought her into the world.

"Ya ready da roll baby gurl?" he asked, turning to look at her. Kristy nodded, extending the wad of cash wrapped in a rubber band towards him "Whatchu givin' me this fo?" he inquired, looking from the money to the frail girl in front of him, watching as she got that same cold glazed over look in her eyes again.

"To show you I can make you money. I don't want a family or school I want to stay with you and learn how to make money like you do" she answered seriously, continuing after a short pause to gauge his reaction.

"I'm not like other kids, even the ones from around here. There's something bad inside me, something wrong and dirty. If anyone like a doctor finds out they might put me away in a crazy house." She confessed, no longer hiding her true self from him.

Joe knew the truth in her words, there was something in that child besides the fire and determination he adored that was

"We'll see what kinda work a little gurl like you can do." he lied, hoping she would forget that ghetto dream and consent to living right.

Staring at the house her little brow wrinkled in concentration, thinking hard before the slam of Joe's door snapped her out of it. Slipping the photo from her pocket she flipped it over, frowning at not being able to read the words on the back. She turned to Joe with a compromise in her mind. She knew she was being irrational.

"What if I go to school to learn how to read and write and do math, all that stuff everyone needs? And at home you teach me how to make money on the streets?" she proposed in a businesslike tone.

Joe sighed, knowing she wouldn't give up he decided to placate her for now with this fake deal. Still fully intending on having her put into the system in a few days time.

"Aight but ya gotta bring you home A's little gurl or else this deal is off." he offered, extending his hand for her to shake.

She grasped it firmly and shook it harder than he'd expect from a girl her size.

Glancing down, not wanting her to see the guilt in his eyes he noticed the photo on her lap, offering to read it to her. She declined stating she wanted to read it on her own once she learned how. Joe smiled at her ambition as he backed out of the driveway and away from the house of horror she had once called home.

Kristy kept the photo not for her mother's image, but for the words she could not yet read scrawled on the back of it. Written in a handwriting she did not recognize as her mother's.

It had been six years since Joe made a deal he had no intention of keeping with a tiny devil in the front seat of his car.

When it came time to pick up the phone and call social services a week after he'd found Kristy alone in that dump with her mother's corpse. He couldn't bring himself to dial the number.

He found himself recalling the years he had spent in foster homes, and worse juvenile centers when said homes were unavailable. He shuddered at the thought of his little demon princess in those places, the hardened criminal found he had a soft spot for the damaged girl that ran deep.

It didn't help that she was handy when it came to household chores and basic cooking. Imagine his surprise upon waking up that first morning to the smell of cooked eggs and fresh laundry.

Despite most likely being born a meth baby and her lack of schooling Krystal was also shockingly smart and quick to learn. Returning on the second day of their arrangement from making deliveries Joe had found her sitting on the couch. Attempting to teach herself to read from one of his Hustler magazines, sounding out the words slowly.

"What's a ka..ka-li-te-orrr-uss.. clitoris?" she asked with a straight face.

"Gurl you find out when ya old enough. Lemmie find ya sumthin' else ta practice reading' on." Joe told her once he regained the ability to breathe from laughing so hard.

Taking the dirty magazine from her he replaced it with the only other reading material he had available, a refrigerator manual.

Once Joe realized there would be no parting with her he began preparations for forging a new birth certificate naming him as her father and enrolling her in school. All such plans were delayed until after the move due to Joe's boss promoting him to managing a lab in the upper peninsula. A long overdue promotion he'd been working towards for years. No more ghetto, no more small time shit in his basement, no more making his own deliveries. He could actually provide a safe, well, a safer environment for her now.

Joe had hoped to keep her away from the drug world but after six years of bringing in nothing but straight A's and skipping two grades, in addition to the two she had been behind due to her mother. Kristy had finally called him out on his end of their bargain.

Being a sophomore in high school at thirteen years old she had more focus, drive, and maturity than was normal or natural for a young lady her age. So he felt confident nothing could go wrong setting her up in the packaging department, something safe and out of the way.

The first day Joe brought her to the warehouse where the product was made he gave her the grand tour instead of just taking her straight to her department. A choice he would presently regret and years later rejoice. First stop was the break room, then his office where he explained the workings of it all.

With the small town sheriff paid off and most of the citizens employed at the warehouse or in distribution running the product down to Detroit, Joe had the entire town in his back pocket. Next up was the cook room, the room that upon her entering would change everything.

"And this here, is where we cookin' up the meth." Joe announced like a tourist guide for methamphetamine labs, grabbing a hazmat suit and gas mask for her as well as one for himself. "Now I want ya stayin outta here, ya hear me? Breathin' in the air while a batch is in progress could damage ya lungs, corrosive fumes an all."

When she stepped inside and observed all the different lab stations containing all manners of beakers, jars, bottles, tubes and ingredients all in different stages of the process, she felt something a normal girl would attribute to her first crush on a boy. Or falling in love. She was completely enthralled.

Stepping closer to a cooker's station whom was currently in the process of separating ephedrine from the cold medicine by mixing it with a solvent Kristy felt a complete rush envelop her. Her total unwavering focus was fixated on the actions of the man at work. Studying his every move with a startling intensity.

When Joe grasped her arm, motioning for her to step away from the table and follow him out of the lab, it took all her self control to command her body to obey and follow him away from what looked to her like heaven incarnate.

"That's what I want to do Joe!" she exclaimed, ripping off her mask outside. "That is what I need to be doing. You know how to do it, you can teach me!" She could tell already he was absolutely against it from the moment he saw the way she'd reacted.

She had developed a penchant for danger, though well hidden from Joe. Be it going out of her way to deliberately piss off a bully and start a fight at school. Or sneaking out to a river well know for undercurrents to swim in the middle of the night. Being in harms way seemed to be the only time she felt something, anything. Back there in that room she had felt a whole lot.

"Joe, you have to do this for me. If you don't I'll just go off and try learning on my own, possibly getting myself blown up! You could start me off with.. homework assignments, worksheets on the process and correct chemical combinations." she reasoned, stepping into his path when he was unmoved by her guilt trip tactic.

"Those chemicals are highly volatile and dangerous, yo ass is lucky I'm even lettin' ya inta packagin'. Dis whole damn warehouse could blow sky high an take half tha town wit it." he barked, walking around her, motioning with a wave of his hand for her to follow. She did so reluctantly with one more thing up her sleeve to try. "This room is pack-" he began.

"Joe the numbness went away when I was in there." she interrupted him softly, putting on the best puppy dog face she could manage.

Joe stopped mid step, turning to see if she was telling the truth and in all honesty she was.

She lived in a mind numbing fog, going through school and life in general on auto pilot. In that room, surrounded by those chemicals, she had felt truly alive for the first time since she could ever really remember.

"Are you fuckin' wit me right now?" he demanded, sounding more than a little pissed.

Becoming more so as he noted the animation in her features. The fire back in her eyes that had died sometime in the past six years, being replaced with ice.

"I'm deadly serious Joe, I felt...passion for what I saw in there." she admitted, continuing to manipulate him.

Joe threw his hands up in exasperation.

"Soccer, baseball, tap, jazz, the chess club, dead puppies and kittens, romance movies, all dat you feel nothin' for. But ya spend not even a full minute in a meth lab an ya feel "passion"!?" he laughed cynically, not yet through with his rant "Its so typical a ya Krystal, fits right inta yer entire fucked up life complex. I tried ta give ya a out, a normal life. What is it, ya wanna end up just like her!?"

One would think her response would be hurt, angry even at the use of her full name and the mention of becoming like her mother. Tears would be most appropriate for a girl her age. But not her. She shut down. Any semblance of that feeling of 'life' rushing through her from the lab was crushed by a title-wave of numbness. Joe saw it, like a candle being snuffed out by the wind.

Days later Kristy found a binder sitting on the kitchen table filled with instructions and equations. A note taped to the cover read 'study hard, your first test on safety is tomorrow'. A small twitching at the corner of her lips which could have easily been mistaken for a spasm was the first smile she'd had since that day in the warehouse.

Kristy stood at her work table, last one in the lab yet again. On the night of her twenty-first birthday no less.

In the eight years since her training in cooking had begun she had excelled, mastered it. Even surpassing her teacher. She had created a recipe entirely her own through trial and sometimes near fatal error in a shack not far from the house she shared with Joe. A recipe that produced a product so fine it was the most sought after and most expensive crank in the Midwest.

She and Joe had agreed that the recipe was to stay safely tucked away in her head alone, which resulted in long days and nights spent at work but she didn't mind. She lived for it, cooking was the only thing that brought her something like happiness. She'd finished high school early with honors and since graduation day she had been at the warehouse every day.

As far as drugs went she had only tried her own product once out of curiosity at what all the tweakers were raving about. And it didn't disappoint. That night she all but raped a sweet shy guy from distribution who'd been eyeing her for months. Aggressive didn't even begin to cover it. His pleas for her to take it easy and slow down had fallen on deaf ears as the violent euphoria of her creation rushed through her.

After the first time she didn't touch the meth again, it was too good. Made her feel too much. She knew it would be all too easy to become hooked. She didn't want to watch history repeat itself in the mirror, refused to become her mother's daughter.

After round two with the distribution boy she didn't bother with sex again either. Without the pain of the first time and the violence from her being spun out she barely felt his soft tender touch at all. Besides, cooking still gave her all the rush she needed, it was her art form. She was "the Michelangelo of meth." as Joe had quipped one day.

Her life had been great but these past few months things had gotten rather hostile in the business. A rival drug outfit had moved into their territory two counties over and security had caught one of their scouts in her personal lab just last week. Joe had sent the kid's mangled body back to their base as a message.

But as she felt a searing electric jolt run through her body accompanied by a needle penetrating her neck Kristy knew Joe's warning had only served as the starting pistol in a war for her recipe.

Lying in a hospital bed unable to move was torture, worse than anything the bastards who'd taken her had done. When they realized she was enjoying it they only upped the voltage. Pressed the blades further, cauterized the wounds deeper, and seared her flesh longer until she passed out unwillingly. Making her feel like an amateur freshman blacking out too early at a kegger.

The rage on their faces when she would only laugh hysterically at their demands for her secret had been priceless. She'd do it all again just to see it one more time. They'd only had her two days before Joe and the cavalry came charging to her rescue. But in those two days they had added a plethora of new scars on her body to accompany her old childhood ones.

Her favorites being ones they had made in the corners of her mouth. Slicing only the tiniest bit. Ripping the flesh the rest of the way. The small Glasgow smile they'd given her was payment in return for her laughter. She found it fitting in a sick sense, that her exterior now better matched her gruesome interior.

Joe, bless his blackened soul had died releasing her from her bonds. Her only regret had been his death, and even more so her inability to be saddened by it. The DEA had believed her plea of innocence seeing only a kidnap victim since Joe's body had been burned beyond identification in the blast from the rival lab exploding.

She imagined their shock at finding her on death's door, soul survivor of the drug war. Clawing and crawling her way through the forest towards them like a mangled, grisly monster out of a horror movie.

That's exactly what she saw herself as, a monster. Though she'd never taken a life with her own hands, she had no life inside her. Only a vast numbing emptiness from which she could only be reprieved while cooking. It had been five months since she last had that such reprieve. Five long months of bed ridden, therapy induced agony having been kept in the hospital due to her extensive injuries. She had passed the psych evaluation and therapy with flying false colors. If the doctors knew what was really inside her, or rather what wasn't, she knew she would have been locked away for the rest of her life.

All that was left was for her body to heal. She willed bones to mend and fractures to right themselves for she was quickly running out of patients with her own body and its slowness to recover. When the day finally came that she was healed just barely enough for release she bolted for the nearest bus back to the town she had occupied with Joe.

Not bothering with the house she made a beeline to a tree in the backyard she had memorized for this very purpose. Joe had put a plan in place should anything ever happen to him and the operation. She dropped down to the ground at the base of the tree clawing at the dirt savagely, digging with her bare hands until they hit metal.

She ripped the small box from the earth, wrenching it open. She pocketed the key to a storage unit in town that contained an SUV. Packed and ready with a spare set of all her cook supplies and instruments, a suitcase full of clothes, a fully stocked weapons case, and a large duffel bag filled with money for her escape.

Underneath the key in the bottom of the tin sat the old torn picture of her mother standing in front of a bar counter with a man's arm slung over her shoulder. The image of her father's body attached to that arm having long ago been ripped from the photo.

Kristy sneered down at her mother's smiling face. Flipping the picture over she re-read the note her father had left on the back for what felt like the millionth time.

'Be missin you always in Cainville Utah.'