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It runs in the family

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It Runs In The Family, Chapter One: Not So Normal After All

Do you ever feel like your life is just so normal and sane to the point where it scares you? Do you feel like nothing interesting is ever going to happen to you? Well, that's exactly how it feels to me. I go through the same old boring routine everyday. I wake up, go to school and then spend a bit of time with the family at home before the cycle starts all over again. That's what happens when you live in a average American street, in an average American town, in an average American city in an average country called North America on an average planet in an average universe that nobody has bothered to explore outside of. Hi, my name is William Wentz-Beckett but please call me Bill cause I despise how formal my name sounds. Welcome to what seems like my normal life at first, but this story is about how it changes and becomes something way more interesting.

Every story starts in a normal setting, even in a supernatural place like a town of monsters. There's always a way of being normal for them. We may consider it weird, but to them it's their way of being normal so therefore if the story in the monster town started with a family of vampires eating bloody soup for breakfast it would be their normal state. My normal state is way less interesting than that though. It starts with me coming home from school, and this is when you meet my family. I walked in yet again bored out of my mind from class and the workload school had given me. I came in and slumped down on the couch. As I did, a horrible rotten smell came to my nose. It was coming from the kitchen.
"Dad! You're burning dinner again!" I complained holding a pillow from the couch over my nose to block out the smell. Dad came into the living room quickly taking out whatever we were supposed to be eating.
"Is that supposed to be the casserole we are on Monday?" I mumbled.
"Why it sure is, we can never be more careful with how we use and reuse our food Bill!" He said enthusiastically, as if he couldn't tell I was downright disgusted by what he had pulled out of the oven. By the way, my dad's name is Pete. He's a bit of an odd man. He honestly can't cook for shit and he tries to cover up the fact we are eating four day old leftover casserole with his "save the planet and reuse everything" bullshit every single day of the week, apart from Friday's when we have takeaways. But honestly he's been trying his best to bring us all up on his own after mom left. It's good we have someone to look after us at all.

Pete lays down the casserole on the counter and starts cutting it into little pieces for all of us, the horrific smell of the casserole leads my older brother Brendon down the stairs pegging his nose with his hand.
"Oh dear god Pete! I guess dinner must be ready, but damn that smell. Are you sure it's still good for us to eat?" He asked in a queasy voice.
"Oh trust me Brendon! Of course it is!" He said with that same fake enthusiasm like he knew he shouldn't be eating it.
"Also, what the hell are you wearing?" He asked pointing at pete's pink frilly apron and matching oven mitts.
"This is the only thing I have to take out our hot food safely. If it wasn't for me burning my perfectly good black set a couple of nights ago, I would've still been using them. But these were the cheapest I could find at Costco."
"Whatever, it's just really funny to look at." Said Brendon sitting down at the table, I followed him to the table. Brendon as of right now is quite distant from the family. He used to be a very well-mannered person who loved to talk to me, give me advice and tell me stories. As we started to grow up, I grew out of bedtime stories, and he met Ryan and Dallon. Ryan and Dallon are the bad boys of our neighbourhood. They are those typical biker kids who smoke and drink and hang out together in abandoned parks. When Brendon got a motorbike for his thirteenth Ryan and Dallon became very impressed with him and taught him how to ride. Since then, they've been almost inseparable. He always leaves home as soon as he drops off his schoolbooks and goes off on his motorbike to meet them at god-knows-where to smoke a joint with them. After he had met them, he almost stopped talking to me entirely. Dare I say he looks down on me.

"It's good you guys came down for dinner early, where is your sister though? She seems to have lost track of time." Said Pete.
"She's probably stuck into her phone" said Brendon who hypocritically was on his.
"You can't really say much Brendon" said Pete, he turned around from the kitchen counter and yelled upstairs.
"Hayley! It's dinnertime now! Come down stairs"
"Just a second!" She replied. Soon I heard footsteps and she was down within about a minute.
"What were you doing?" I asked.
"I was just finishing of my thousand steps for today by walking around my room in a circle. I need to be fit for the race next week" she said wiping off a bead of sweat from her forehead. Hayley unlike both Pete and Brendon seemed to be pretty sane, which is why I considered her the easier person to talk to in the house. Sure, she was obsessed with being healthy and doing a lot of fitness, but she had to do that. She is one of our school's best athletes and does racing and volleyball as her professions. Shes quite a bit of a tomboy, but that's just from being raised around three guys because she didn't really know our mother. In fact, we all didn't really know mom. It's honestly a good thing though that she left, when Pete came out to her as bisexual he found out she unfortunately wasn't very liberal and was scared he was going to cheat on her with a guy so she left. Gone within only a night. Hayley was only about 4 at the time and I was only two, Brendon was seven. Pete doesn't like to talk about it to us because it makes him sad, but Brendon was old enough to remember a few details and he told us when he was looking after us one night before he had started going through his rebellious phase. Speaking of the ages of our family. I'am the youngest child, I'm 14 right now. Hayley is the middle child and she is 16 and about to study for the fancy sports college she wants to go to. Brendon is 19 and has been taking an extra year at high school because of his problems with this said rebellious phase he seems to be going through. As well as extra school, he goes to Drinkers and Smokers Anonymous because of drinking and smoking he got into through Ryan and Dallon. Despite this, he still sneaks out to see them and lies to Pete telling him that he's hanging out with two more "respectable friends". You may think that my family sounds pretty messed up, but really this is the norm for me. This is what I go through everyday, but that is about to change.

Whenever me and my siblings eat a dinner that is what we all consider disgusting, we normally see it coming. Whenever Pete plans on having leftovers, we buy junk food from the corner store bakery and dairy on the way home from school and we eat it together outside after Pete is done and he decides to take a shower upstairs. We have our own form of sign language, signals and way of sneaking out and our usual time of sneaking out. Tonight we were doing exactly that. Hayley signalled to me saying that Pete is making bodily indications that he will be taking a shower in fifteen minutes. I signalled back telling her that was cool. I stared outside the window to the abandoned house next door and sighed, yet again another night for doing something that could actually be interesting wasted. But then, something extremely out of the ordinary happened. A white van pulled up outside the house.

The door slid open and outside came five people. They looked like they were a family of some sort because some of the people that came out of the van were small and were being carried by someone who appeared to be a woman. The tallest of the bunch opened a door and led everyone inside. Now you may be thinking that this was just a regular family returning home, but note that I said the house was ABANDONED! What were these people doing here, this house wasn't even for sale. It was wrecked and broken and deemed unsafe to live in by the council so I don't know why these people were going inside. This house was right on the left side of our house, the right side was where Gerard lived. Gerard is to Pete our "annoying neighbour". They seem to be in some kind of rivalry with each-other over who has a prettier garden. The other house however is home to no one and Pete seemed to like it that way, one less annoying neighbour to deal with. I was so stuck in to this odd occurrence that I nearly screamed when Hayley tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that Pete was leaving.

Me, Brendon and Hayley tiptoed out of the house and poured our rotten casserole into the trash can on the way out. We sat down in a circle in the middle of the backyard and got out our school bags.
"What do we have tonight?" I asked.
"I thought we could treat ourselves to a little dessert afterwords." Said Hayley pulling out a warm bag from the bakery with three iced buns inside.
"Mmmm delicious" said Brendon, "well, I bought a bag of barbecue crisps"
"I bought a cheap baguette and stole the butter from the fridge" I said.
"This seems like some sort of fancy feast" said Hayley taking a chip.
"I wonder what it would taste like on top of the baguette bread?" Said Brendon taking another chip and cutting himself a slice. He put the chip on top and savoured it in his mouth.
"Wow, this is phenomenal. You guys have to try this"
"So... When we were at the table, did you guys see the van?" I asked.
"What van?" They both asked me.
"A van turned up outside the abandoned house next door. Five people came out of it and went inside, I've never seen them before."
"Bill I think you're seeing things!" Said Hayley.
"It's okay Bill, I always go quite crazy sometimes." Said Brendon sarcastically.
"No, I really did see five people go into the house."
"Well we didn't, therefore it most likely never happened"
Of course they weren't going to believe me. After all, I'm just a young teenager. Most older people don't believe in things young people say. After getting almost full on the baguette and the chips, I grabbed my iced bun out of the bag. When suddenly I heard a loud noise making me, Hayley and Brendon jump.
"Where did that come from?" Asked Hayley in a scared tone.
"It sounded like it came from behind the fence, around where the dumpster is." Said Brendon.
"True, maybe it's just raccoons." Said Hayley.
"Maybe we should go back inside, pete's probably going to be done with his shower soon and we don't want him to find out what we've been doing."
"How about we finish our food up in my room" said Hayley. We went inside, me going in last. Before the door closed, right over the fence where the abandoned house was, I saw a hand go over it. Not just an animal hand, a human hand.

"Dammit, we scared them off"
"Well that's because of Ryland tripping on that weak piece of wood"
"Oh I'm sorry!"
"Is this what family is supposed to be though?"
"I don't think families are supposed to be eating outside"
"Whatever, we can investigate tomorrow. Let's get our makeshift beds set up Gabe"

For the next day, I still became even more and more curious about the abandoned house. Ever since I saw that glimpse of a hand over the fence. I felt like I needed to know more. Pete told me I wasn't allowed to go inside because of possible toxins in the air and all these other dangers like unstable floors and rats, but I felt like I just needed to go in there. I was aching for adventure. I really wanted to know who these people were if they were still here. I wanted to know why, out of all the places in the world they could've picked. They would've chosen the old abandoned house from next door.

After school on Friday, I came home and ditched my school books up in my bedroom. Luckily there was no horrid smell coming from the kitchen as I knew it was takeaway night. As I ran out the door, Pete came downstairs to go to the phone and order Chinese.
"Where are you going Bill?" He asked me.
"Oh, just going down to the park. I'm kinda in a playground mood y'know"
"Ah I see, well please be home by dinner" he said taking out his phone. I went out the door and then snuck next door checking to see if Hayley, Brendon or anyone I knew in the neighbourhood were around. Luckily the coast was clear. I went up to be porch and gently pushed away the unstable wooden door.

The foyer of the house and the hallway into the other rooms looked exactly as I expected them to be, broken floorboards in some areas. Spiderwebs hanging off the ceiling. Dust over everything. The doors to every room were hanging wide open. I slowly walked inside, not because I was scared of someone catching me, but also because I didn't want to fall through the floor and hurt myself. I stumbled into what probably was the living room, judging by how much space there was and that we're was an old couch in there. All tatty and dusty. I looked around the space, with no sign of the people who came here in the van.
"Hello? Is anybody home?" I asked in a nervous voice. I felt a strange presence behind me, I turned around quickly to hear something running away from me. But these footsteps sounded way bigger than rat footsteps.
"Someone must be here, come out wherever you are"

Then I heard scared whispering in the hallway. Whispering that definitely belonged to a person. I went out of the living room and back into the hallway, yet again the people or person had run away from me again. I slowly made my way down the hallway, I went into a room where the door had swung open. I went inside and looked around, no one was there. The room had wallpaper chipping down the walls and there was a empty bed in there with no covers or sheets, just a mattress with orange stains on it. I was taking too much time taking in the details of the room that I forgot I was looking for the people. I felt a small tap on my back. I stood there, frozen and petrified. There could be a murderer or a creep standing behind me. I slowly turned around until I saw a man with an angry looking ski mask on, in all black, holding a baseball bat. He looked like a murderer straight out of a horror movie. I screamed like a girl and tried to duck underneath him to avoid the baseball bat potentially hitting me, but instead fell to the ground a little bit too fast and ended up hitting my head on the floor and going dizzy. The stranger in the mask started to take it off, but my vision became too blurry to make out what he looked like and then everything went black.

I woke up yet again in the same room I was in before, this time lying on that gross on old bed. I wanted to get up and leave but I felt too weak to get up.
"You really hit yourself hard didn't you" said a voice. It was one I didn't recognise.
"Yeah... Oh my god, wait a second.... Are you the guy in the mask?" I asked suddenly regaining my fear again.
"Well... Yeah I'am. Sorry I scared you dude, we've just been all around the country trying to defend ourselves so unfortunately I had to do that to you." The voice replied.
"What do you mean you're trying to defend yourself, and how have you been nearly around the whole country?" I asked. I sat up and got a decent look at the guy without the mask on. He had lightly tanned skin and curly dark brown hair teased up on the top of his head. He was still wearing his black clothes though. He looked only slightly older than me as well.
"We've been trying to find a place to stay, to get away from the orphanage." He explained. I gave him a confused look. I honestly didn't have a clue what he was talking about.
"Oh I see, you want a full explanation. Let me give you the short version. So basically, me and my adopted siblings formed together and became a makeshift family at an orphanage about a year ago. We got together so we could defend ourselves from bullies and scary matron ladies. However, we realised that standing up for ourselves and for each-other only got us in even more trouble and didn't help us at all. So when I learned how to drive I bought this van off a guy for only a hundred dollars and got everyone inside. We travelled around the whole country looking for a house to stay in, unfortunately most of the places we looked at weren't at a reasonable price for us considering what little money we had saved up, until eventually we drove into your neighbourhood and just so happened to find this place. Sure it's quite shabby and gross but we're going to make it a lot nicer."
"So you're our new neighbours"
"Of course we are!"
"So... Who are you?"
"Well, my name is Gabriel Eduardo Saporta, but please just call me Gabe because people always fuck up the pronunciation of everything else." He said shaking my hand.
"Well, my name is William Wentz-Beckett but please just call me Bill because I hate how formal my name sounds."
"I like the sound of your name"
"Oh please..."
"Gabe, do you seriously still have the stranger here? I thought we were going to take him home" a girl came over and stood outside the room with her arms folded. She had dark brown hair with a choppy fringe and it was all scraped up messily into a ponytail. She had pale skin and foggy blue eyes. She wore a brown plain dress with a dirty white shirt underneath and she wore tatty brown ballet flats.
"Well, I thought I would take this opportunity to maybe get to know our neighbours." Said Gabe.
"I guess I can see where you're coming from" the girl walked up to me and shook my hand reluctantly.
"Hi, I'm Vicky, but please call me Victoria. Vicky is only reserved for people I'm close with." She sighed.
"Why is she doing the reverse of how we like our names said?" I asked Gabe.
"Eh, she's just like that."
"I'm going to go and cook our dinner, by the way. I'm the only girl here! There aren't any others unless you count Ryland bringing them home, but when Ryland brings them home it means that they're most likely not yours for the taking." Said Vicky sarcastically. She left the room and went back to the kitchen.

"What's up with her?" I asked Gabe.
"It's a very long story, but she went through quite a lot back down at the orphanage"
"I heard somebody say my name!" Said another unknown voice. A boy who looked only slightly younger than both of us arrived with two girls underneath both his arms. He had black hair slicked back into a ponytail, dark sunglasses, and lots of fake gold jewellery on.
"I'm guessing you're Ryland" I said.
"Why it is indeed me!" He said letting the two girls out from his arms. They sat down in the corner of the room and started gossiping to each-other.
"From what I've heard you're kind of a ladies man aren't you" I said shaking his hand.
"Why I indeed am, I take all the women!" He replied snarkishly.
"Ryland, this is Bill. He's our new neighbour" said Gabe.
"Nice to meet you Bill." Said Ryland.
"Ryland, this dusty old house is lame. Can you take us somewhere else"
"Well I haven't explored too much of this neighbourhood yet, so maybe you can show me around" Ryland picked up both the girls in his arms again and took them away out of the room, just as the three left two little boys who didn't look much older than five or six approached the door worriedly.
"Alex! Nate! Come in" said Gabe taking both their little hands and bringing them inside. They started signing to him with their hands.
"Don't worry you guys! Bill isn't going to hurt us or take us back to the orphanage. He's a friend, and our neighbour and he just wanted to say hello. Now go to the kitchen, I think Vicky has made you two some dinner"
They both nodded their heads and walked in a straight line back to the kitchen.
"Why aren't they talking? They should be old enough to know how to talk" I said.
"They were dropped off at the orphanage when they were only very young toddlers so they were never taught. The matrons liked it that way because they had always wanted quiet children. So I taught them how to sign so we would be able to communicate."
"Do you know someone who is death or mute apart from them?"
"No, I just happened to find a sign language manual somewhere and used it to teach them how to talk to me without speaking"
"I see, that's pretty damn smart of you"
"It sure is" a bright orange light shone through the broken blinds on the window. It reminded me of a sunset.

"Wait Gabe, what time is it?" I asked suddenly remembering I had to go home.
"Oh, it looks like late evening right now. I was never taught how to tell time properly."
"Crap I have to leave! Sorry I really wish I could stay longer but my family is waiting for me and we have takeout" I said immediately standing up and walking back down the hallway.
"Bill please, we have plenty of food"
"No sorry, my dad is going to get so mad at me if I come home late. But I promise I'll visit tomorrow. It's Saturday and I don't have to go to school, maybe you guys can come and visit my place."
"Sure thing, I'll tell everyone the news"
"Goodbye Gabe!"
"Goodbye Bill! It was nice meeting you"
I ran out of the house as fast as I could and opened the door to my own home. As I opened it Pete was standing right there, and from what I could tell he did not look happy at all.
"Playground my ass William! I saw you go round to the abandoned house when I specifically told you not to go there" he scolded at me.
"Um, has the Chinese food arrived yet?" I asked trying to change the subject.
"No it hasn't, but we are not talking about this. We are talking about how you deliberately disobeyed me!"
Hayley and Brendon were sitting together on the sofa looking at me with worried faces. Like they wanted to find a way to get me out of this situation.
"What we're you doing in the abandoned house?" Asked Pete angrily.
"There are kids living there now! Orphaned ones! We've just acquainted with each-other and they want to come and visit us tomorrow"

Chapter Text

It Runs In the Family, Chapter 2: Meet Your New Neighbours

"I think William has gone insane" said Brendon sarcastically. He reached in his pocket to possibly grab a cigarette but forgot that pete was in the room with him and resisted.
"Guys! I have not gone insane, I really haven't! Please listen to me and let me tell you everything" I tried to say.
"No William! There's is no excuse for going into a place you were never allowed to go, it wasn't safe. I've tried telling you this a million times but you wouldn't listen" ranted Pete.
"Guys! I've had enough of this, just let Bill explain why he was at the house and these orphans he has bought into the conversation. He was obviously there for a reason, he would have never gone before if nothing was there." Said Hayley trying to defend me.
"Hayley has a point" said Brendon.
"Okay! Okay! Fine then, William. You can explain" said Pete reluctantly.

"Okay, so basically. Last night when we were eating dinner, I saw a white van pull up outside the abandoned house and five people went inside. It made me wonder what was going on, and then later at night I was just looking out the window about to go to bed when I heard this loud noise outside from around the fence in the backyard. So I went outside to investigate what was there, however I didn't see anything so I just thought it was Raccoons and went back inside, but as I was walking in I saw someone peeping over the fence so I decided that tomorrow I would go look inside to see who these people were. I snuck inside the house and then this guy in a ski mask holding a baseball bat came up behind me and then I freaked out and went unconscious for a bit." I explained.
"Now I can see where you got that bruise on your head" said Brendon.
"I woke up, and the same guy but without the ski mask was there and he looked only about a year older than me. He said his name was Gabe and he turned out to be actually quite nice and the only reason he was wearing that ski mask was to protect his family. And his family are all really just a bunch of escaped orphans who wanted to get away from all the people who were hurting them. And they're going to be our new neighbours"
"This sounds like the dumbest sob story you have ever told us" sighed Brendon.
"I'm not lying! It's true! You can meet them tomorrow if you want, they're coming over here to visit" I argued.
"Well you can't argue with that" said Hayley. Pete sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Ugh fine, they can visit. You can go down to the house, but they won't be staying there for very long. I say that we should find them a new place to stay soon enough." He said. Suddenly there was a knock at the front door.
"Takeout's arrived" said Hayley. Pete left and went to the door.

"So, tell me more about this Gabe. What are his family like?" Asked Hayley.
"Well, Gabe is the second oldest and the leader of the group and he looks after everyone like a big brother even though not all of them are related by blood. Victoria is kind of quiet and kind of secretive. I don't know much about her but Gabe says that a lot of bad stuff happened to her in the past. She's also the oldest person in the group. Ryland is kind of a bit of an arrogant douche and thinks he's really cool. He also manages to get all the girls in the street with some strange flirting method which somehow works even though he's honestly not that attractive. Alex and Nate are twins and are both mute because they were never taught to speak. So Gabe taught them how to sign instead. They are only about five or six" I explained.
"This sounds like some sort of children's book, are you sure you aren't making this up?" Asked Brendon.
"I'm not making it up!" I yelled back.
"Kids! Kids! I have dinner, please calm down" said Pete coming in the door with bags of Chinese.
"What took you so long?" Asked Hayley.
"I didn't have enough money on me, so I had to promise the delivery guy that I would pay him back the remainder tomorrow" he set down the food on the coffee table in front of us.
"Now, who's hungry?"

The next day:

I woke up the next morning and normally I would sleep in on a Saturday. However, right now I was excited because my family was finally going to be able to meet our new neighbours. I immediately got out of bed and got dressed and ran downstairs to see everyone else still in their pj's.
"What's the hurry Bill?" Asked Pete who was sipping a coffee.
"It's the orphans, you get to meet them today" I said about to rush out the door.
"But what if they aren't awake yet?" Asked Hayley.
"Oh they probably will be" I said, I opened the front door and bursted out.

Then I went next door. I immediately opened the door to a different atmosphere from the one that was there yesterday before I met Gabe. As soon as I opened it, I saw Victoria coming in with a whole load of bed sheets.
"Hi Bill" she said unenthusiastically, "what do you want?"
"Do you know where Gabe is? And what's up with the sheets?"
"He's in the kitchen making the twins breakfast. Also, I got these sheets from an op shop so we can have proper things to sleep in tonight. I just need to wash them"
"You guys probably don't even have a washing machine"
"I just wash them in a bucket and hang them. I was taught to do it back at the orphanage"
"Oh, I see"
"Look, go say hi to Gabe. I really need to get these washed" she said hurling the sheets over her back and going into another room. I went into the kitchen which was in the room across from the living room. Gabe was already in there cooking on a camp stove, he was yet again cooking two minute noodles just like Victoria had done yesterday.
"Oh hi Bill! Didn't expect you to come back" he said giving me a warmer welcome than Victoria did when I arrived. He pulled me into a friendly hug and backed away quickly.
"Yeah, dad got a bit mad at me when he found out I was here but he's happy that I'm safe. Him and the family, they all want to meet you guys" I said.
"That's great! I told everyone else about it too, we'll go just as soon as Alex and Nate have finished eating. They get really cranky when they are hungry" he said. He grabbed the pot of two minute noodles and poured them into little plastic bowls
on the table.
"Dig in you two!" Said Gabe.
"Hi guys!" I said sweetly to the two little boys. Both of them waved their hands back at me in a synchronised fashion. Ryland strolled into the kitchen shortly after smelling that the twins were having breakfast.
"Yo Gabe, can you make me some noodles too?" He asked as if he felt absolutely entitled to have them.
"I already made you some earlier you greedy man. We can't eat anything else until dinnertime because we have a food shortage"
"Oh right sorry" he turned around to see me, "hi Bill! Great to see you again, I heard we are going over to your place in a couple of minutes."
"That is indeed correct" I said, "where are those two girls you were with yesterday?"
"Oh, well... That's a touchy question"
"Gabe, do you know what happened?"
"I don't know much about what happened. All I know is that Ryland said the wrong thing and they thought he was a douche so they left him."
"Wow man, I'm sorry that happened to you"
"Nah it's okay, it just means I'm on the path to finding someone even more... Delicious!"
Gabe facepalmed himself and the twins started shaking their heads.

After a couple of minutes the twins were done with their breakfast which meant that we all had to leave to go to my house. I went back home and opened the door leaving everyone outside. Pete was sitting on the couch on his phone.
"Oh hello Bill, are your friends ready to come yet?" He asked.
"Yep, they're outside right now..." Gabe immediately burst through me thinking it was his cue to come in.
"Hello mr Wentz-Beckett, my name is Gabe and..."
"It's just Wentz thank you, Bill's last name is hyphenated with his mother's" I was now facepalming myself. Hayley and Brendon ended up coming down the stairs from hearing the commotion.
"I heard something make a loud noise, is everyone okay?" Asked Hayley.
"Um Hayley, they're here!" Said Brendon pointing at Gabe as if he was something dirty.
"Oh... Right of course!" Said Hayley, she came down the stairs and shook Gabe's hand.
"Hi, I'm Hayley. Bill's sister"
"Nice to meet you Hayley" said Gabe politely.
"Sup loser, I'm Brendon. I'm not going to be here for long though." He said waving at Gabe ignorantly and sitting on the couch.
"He's a little quiet" I said. Gabe made a hand gesture telling everyone else to come in. As soon as Vicky entered first Hayley took one look at her from face to feet and froze in her spot.

"So... This is your family" Vicky said unenthusiastically. Ryland and the twins bursted in behind her.
"Yo yo yo, where the party at?" Asked Ryland. He was holding the twins down in both his arms, they were shaking their arms wildly.
"Yes, this is my family" I said to Vicky. Everyone stopped moving and instead decided to just stare at each-other, creating an awkward atmosphere.
"Come on guys, you wanted to come over here" said Gabe. Vicky sighed reluctantly and walked over to Hayley, she shook her hand and rolled her eyes.
"Hi, I'm Victoria" she said. For a second Hayley didn't say anything as she was taking in her features.
"Hi I'm gay... Wait what!" She said spontaneously.
"Sorry, did you say your name was Gale?" Asked Vicky. Me and Gabe both facepalmed in the background .
"Sorry, I'm Hayley. I suck at introducing myself"
"Oh okay then, uhhhh, I'll talk to you later" said Vicky swerving away from her and going straight to Brendon.
"Do these people know any social skills at all?" Pete asked me, "they don't seem to know how to talk to normal people"
"That's probably because they had no one to talk to apart from each-other at the orphanage. Give them time" I said.
"Are you sure you really want to put your spare time and your energy into making these stray dogs into civilised people William?"
"They are not stray dogs! They are people who deserve a home and we need to be welcoming to them"
"I'm not going to say no to you Bill, but just remember. This is a thing you may be doing for life"
"I'd be totally fine with it Pete! I've never really had proper friends before. This is going to be good for me, it'll maybe teach me some stuff too."
"You are so open-minded. You're lucky you didn't end up like your mother Bill"

Very soon everyone had familiarised with each-other and had no problems with calling each-other by name. Brendon as soon as he had introduced himself to everyone left to pursue Ryan and Dallon much to my disappointment and possibly Pete's too if he ever found out about what he was really doing. Hayley on the other hand seemed anxious and speechless which was pretty odd to me cause she wasn't at all like this a few minutes ago before everyone arrived. Me and Gabe were just sitting on the sofa having some casual banter with each-other when suddenly I heard a crash in the hallway and screaming.
"Oh no! Not the vase! Not the jug too!"
"Mr Wentz, I'm so sorry, they've never been in a normal house before. I should supervise them better"
"Keep them away from the hallway at all costs!"
Pete and Ryland stormed out of the hallway together. Ryland was carrying Alex and Nate while giving them a disapproving look. Alex was trying to get out of Ryland's arms and Nate was sitting there still with glassy eyes while sucking his thumb. Pete went into the kitchen add grabbed a brush and shovel.
"What the hell happened?" Asked Gabe.
"Your brothers are like five or six and clearly don't understand the value of ceramic art!" Said Pete angrily storming back in.
"Mr Wentz, I don't understand, what happened?"
"They knocked over my prized jug and my prized vase... MY VASE!" He went into the hallway screaming over the broken bits of the ceramics. Pete always loved his ceramics, he collected them as a hobby and if me, Hayley or Brendon ever came close to touching them he would immediately patrol the hallway to make sure none of us made a silly mistake.
"Nice one you two! You're going to have to learn some manners now that you're in a normal neighbourhood" said Ryland.
"I don't think they should be here anymore, let me take them home and look after them" said Victoria.
"No, I insist! You guys both have people you are hanging out with and I wouldn't want to interrupt your conversations, the twins need me now more than ever." Replied Ryland.
"Of course" said Victoria.
"Well, sorry to be on my way so early Bill. You have a beautiful house and family despite the fact we've basically ruined our own reputation. And mr Wentz, once again I do apologise, I'll try make everything better for the twins I can assure you."
Pete didn't respond and continued to sweep up the broken pieces in the hallway.
"Well it was great you could come anyway Ryland, thank you" I said trying to make him feel better. Ryland left the house making sure the twins weren't trying to escape again.

"I... Need to check my notifications, Bill can you come with me for a second? You can talk to Gabe again shortly" she asked spontaneously pulling me upstairs into her room. She sat me down on her bed and sat down with me.
"You're not really checking your notifications are you?" I asked.
"No of course not, Bill it's an emergency"
"What's up?"
"Okay... I think that I..."
"It's okay Hayley, take your time..."
"I think I have a crush on Victoria!"
"Well if that ain't obvious enough, I was literally going to ask you that question once everyone had left"
"Oh goddamit! I'm so stupid, I've never had a crush on anyone before. So I don't even know how to act normal around anyone I think I may like."
"Look, I don't even know what to say myself. Because Victoria is a little reclusive and isn't sure she wants to open up to you right now. Not to be rude or anything. If you want to date her, you need to get to know her better cause as of right now, you're obviously attracted to her because of how she looks."
"How am I going to do that? I already made a complete fool of myself when I introduced myself to her, first impressions are supposed to be everything"
"Well yes, they can be. But I know you very well and I know you are not that first impression. Have another conversation with her, smooth things over."
"Thank you Bill"
"No problem, now, let's go back downstairs. I don't want to keep Gabe waiting"

"Hey, what happened up there?" Asked Gabe who was sitting just as I left him before.
"Okay, I'm not sure Hayley would like to tell me this, but I'm pretty sure I can trust you so maybe you would know how to keep a secret."
"Bill, it's okay. You don't have to tell me if it's really personal to your sister"
"No, I insist"
"Okay then, but be really quiet"
"So... Hayley has a crush on Victoria" I whispered into Gabe's ear.
"What?" He whispered back almost wanting to shout, "did I just hear what you said correctly?"
"Yes you did"
"Holy crap! That's crazy, she's only known her for like a few minutes. I didn't know Victoria was that desirable"
"Well according to my sister she is"
"Do you think we should? Y'know? Help them get together?"
"No, not yet. They don't know each-other well enough. Hayley is having a proper conversation with her right now to try get to know her."
"I barely know anything about socialising with anyone other than my family but I guess from how you're saying it I can tell it's good"
"Yes... You're right. That is a good thing"

"Hi..." Hayley let out one word from whatever confidence she had scraped up after she had left her room.
"Hi..." Said Victoria not knowing what to say back. Hayley tried to think of something witty to at least start a sentence with her.
"What a scene back there am I right?" She asked nervously.
"What do you mean?" Asked Victoria.
"When Alex and Nate knocked over Pete's prized possessions? Oh boy, I feel bad for the man but sometimes watching Pete get mad is funny"
"I can hear you Hayley!" Pete yelled in the distance. Victoria chuckled a little bit at his reaction.
"I can see why you like it so much."
"So... How's it going for you right now?"
"I honestly don't know how to feel. It's weird getting used to living in a whole new neighbourhood y'know"
"I can see how that would feel"
"I also feel quite bad for Ryland. If only the twins didn't act up so much we would all still be here."
"They're only little though, they'll come around"
"You seem quite understanding of things, even more than me."
"Eh, I try my best"

Me and Gabe continued to watch the conversation happen before our very eyes. It turns out my advice was working. For the first time ever I saw Victoria laugh. Not in the way that all of us would if Pete was doing something silly, in that snotty hysterical way we all did, but rather in a light chuckle. It seemed like a step up from the Victoria I first met, I guess I had to follow my own advice sometimes on first impressions and stop being a big hypocrite.
"Maybe Hayley is on to something" said Gabe.
"You could be right" I replied.
"Do you want to go somewhere alone?"
"Sure, where?"
"Is there a good place upstairs?"
"There's my room, but it's boring and dark. Let's go on the roof!"
"The roof? What's so interesting about a roof?"
"There's an amazing view of the whole neighbourhood and everything in town around us. Trust me, you're going to love it."
"Well if you insist!"

I took Gabe's hand and led him upstairs, he examined everything in the open doors around him that I found mediocre. I wish I had his innocence and sense of wonder. Right at the end of the top hallway I opened the mysterious door that led upstairs to the attic and then opened a trapdoor at the top sending down the ladder to help us up. As I sat on the roof, Gabe stared around the whole neighbourhood in that same sense of wonder. His eyes lighting up at the sights of everything.
"Wow... This is beautiful" he said.
"Don't you just love it?"
"I love it so much!"
"I go up here every evening. It's very soothing to watch"
"Can you tell me what everything is?"
"Of course I will, firstly. That's my other neighbour's house. His name is Gerard, Pete hates him! I don't really talk to him much cause Pete doesn't let me"
"Why doesn't he like him?"
"They're always getting into wars over who has a prettier garden. Both of them have tendencies of stealing each-other's plants."
"That's pretty funny"
"It is funny to watch. Me, Hayley and Brendon like to watch whenever they get into an argument."
"What else is there?"
"Well, in every other house here. There is at least one person that someone in our family knows of. Lots of people have at least a couple of kids I go to school with."
"Are you friends with them?"
"Eh, not really. I don't have a best friend, I'm acquainted with some of them though"
"I don't really have a best friend either. I've spent so much time focusing on the safety of my family that I haven't thought about making any"
"I'm not really considered popular at my school. People think I'm a average nerd."
"Could we be best friends?"

We stayed up there for many hours. We stayed up there for so long that the sun started to set.
"I love sunsets" Gabe said.
"Me too"
"I have good memories of sunsets. When me and my family were on the road, we'd always stop around a nice beach or hill and we would watch it together and eat whatever we had bought from the last town while watching it. We would never leave our spot until Alex and Nate started to get sleepy so we would bring them into the van and we would all nod off."
"That sounds really nice"
"It really was."
"Being on the road sounds really cool, I wish I had the freedom to do that"
"It was actually quite tough for us, but nights like that were all worth it."
Suddenly we heard a knock underneath the trapdoor, I opened it up to see Pete and Hayley standing in the attic.
"Gabe, Victoria has gone home to make dinner for everyone. It's best if you leave right now. Sorry to interrupt" Hayley said.
"Bill, our dinner will be ready soon too" said Pete, "we have only one day old Chinese and it ain't mouldy at all" said Pete, "also Hayley, could you fetch your brother from wherever he is?"
"Yes Pete, I'll be back shortly"
"It's a shame we had to be cut off" said Gabe, "I guess I'll see you tomorrow Bill"
"I'll see you too. I'll come over to the house"

Hayley had returned home with Brendon just in time for dinner. Both of them didn't look too happy. Hayley because she also knew what he really did when he was gone, and Brendon because he wanted to stay there all night. Of course they both covered it all up to not raise suspicion in Pete.
"So, what did you think of everyone?" I asked Pete before taking a light mouthful of chicken.
"I thought they had good intentions" he said.
"I guess I would say the same thing." Said Hayley, "Victoria was really nice" she said in a rather dreamy voice. I felt the need to roll my eyes at how smitten she was.
"I thought they were a bunch of losers. Bill, why do you always have weird friends? Oh wait, I forgot that they're mostly invisible!"
"Brendon Boyd Wentz-Urie! Don't say that to your brother!"
"Don't call me by my embarrassing full name!"
"Don't listen to him Bill"
"Ugh! I'm full, I'm going up to my room. See you all tomorrow" said Brendon stomping away from the dinner table and going upstairs.
"Good god, this boy has an attitude problem. I swear, every time we try set him straight he still stays this way. I thought it was just teenage hormones but no! Your brother is just a messed up jerk!"
"Pete please! He's trying his best" said Hayley.
"No, he's not making any effort at all. I know you like the be the peacemaker of this family, but your brother Brendon is a no good slacker!"

Later on that night, there was still tension in the air. Brendon had snuck out again. I could tell cause I could hear his motorcycle roaring away outside the house. Hayley had gone to her room and had locked herself up with mixed feelings over whether she should agree with Pete or continue to defend Brendon. However, also being happy that love was possibly in bloom for her and Victoria. I laid in there with those same mixed feelings Hayley had. But also with a gleam of hope, for the possibility of having Gabe as my new best friend. Pete crept upstairs and opened the door to my room.
"Hey Bill, sorry about what happened at the dinner table."
"It's okay. Brendon is Brendon you know! Families fight!"
"Yeah, I guess. I just wish Brendon wasn't like this all the time, I miss when he was happy and he was close and loved all of us. I want him to truly be your big brother again, not just some stranger"
"Me too"
"Also, I wanted to say somethings about the orphans."
"So I was thinking, these kids. They obviously weren't well educated enough back at the orphanage. It's never too late to learn new things and they can't stay like this forever. If you really want them to live in the real world with you, you need someone older to guide them. Cause you can't teach them everything. They need to learn how to read and write and all those valuable things."
"Are you suggesting that they go to school?"
"Of course I'am Bill, they do need to go to school"


Chapter Text

It Runs In the Family, Chapter 3: The Tenth Grader

Sunday, One day after the first meet-up:

To me, Sunday's are exactly to me as they are to most other people. Lazy days! On Sunday's, I sleep in to catch up on all the sleep I don't get during the rest of the week. When I finally have the motivation to awaken, I join the family and eat a few snacks and sometimes I get my homework done (not for the majority of the time) however, this Sunday was different. This Sunday was a turning point for all of us, and I will explain why.

"Okay everybody! I'm going to need all of you to gather around, we are having a family meeting" said Pete. Brendon groaned and put his phone down on the coffee table, Hayley came down from upstairs and obeyed Pete's orders without a single word of disagreement. I was already on the couch just minding my own business.
"Things are going to be changing around here now!" Pete said.
"Oh do you really insist?" Asked Brendon sarcastically.
"Yes, yes they are"

"So, for everybody in this family. We all have problems, well except Hayley! Nothing has been going on with her that I've noticed, but if she wants to say anything then we can make that happen." Explained Pete.
"It's okay Pete, everything is fine for me right now. All I need is some rides up to my games later next week and I'll be sorted" explained Hayley.
"Well, that can be arranged" said Pete,

"anyway, back on topic. Let's start with Brendon shall we?"
Brendon rolled his eyes and groaned again.

"So Brendon, despite the fact you have been going to those rehab meet-ups, you are still not changing even though there are literally people out there trying to help you." Said Pete. Brendon rolled his eyes again.
"So, I figured that maybe the whole group thing wouldn't be your cup of tea. So I'm sending you off for one on one counselling every Tuesday so that you can begin to understand your own problems a bit better and learn to be yourself again." Pete continued to explain.
All Brendon did in response was groan again.
"Hey, we're only trying to help you! We are going to be extra sure that you have a decent future and the only way to do that is to get you to open up to us again, I know you're still in there Brendon... Underneath all this!"
Brendon was still quiet, but the look on his face told me that he felt some piece of regret.

"Don't worry everyone, change isn't just coming Brendon's way too. Bill, I have something for you too" said Pete.

"What is it? I don't think I've stepped too far out of line recently" I said in my own defence.
"Oh no Bill, you've been a mostly good kid. I've been thinking, because Gabe and those kids are going to definitely be staying here. I thought that if they are going to adjust to being in this town, they will have to learn how to be normal so no one gets suspicious. Bill, we are sending them off to school!" Explained Pete.
"Well, that's a good thing. I won't mind at all going along with this plan. When will they be going?"
"I called up the school last night, they said that they will let them come for a couple of days to adjust this week and then I can make the decision to enrol them."
"You didn't tell the school that they were orphanage escapees?"
"Oh no, I told them that they are relatives... cousins!"
"Well, that's good I guess"

"And finally, the whole point of this conversation is that I'm not trying to torture you kids! I have changed planned for myself as well!" Said Pete.

"Like what?" Asked Hayley.
"I thought, since your mother left us we've barely been able to get by! I've been living off what little money mom has loaned me and it's still not good enough, we could run out very soon which is why I've called in a social worker." Pete continued.
"Wait what? What if they send us away somewhere if you are deemed an unfit parent?" I asked in worry.
"Don't worry Bill, you're not going anywhere. None of you are. No, this social worker is going to bring us back on track! They're going to help us live a better lifestyle, they're going to help me get a job, they're going to make sure that we are able to thrive again!" said Pete, "don't you think at all that the social worker is going to be like those horrific ones in the movies."

After the conversation, rays of hope were shining on me. Pete had definitely warmed up to Gabe and everyone else and I was happy they were going to finally live life together as normal people. Brendon was probably going to be the Brendon I knew and loved again, and while I didn't exactly understand what Pete meant by getting himself and all of us back on track, but it's good that he seems to be on to something.
"Hey Bill, can you go next door and tell Gabe and the kids about school? They'll be starting tomorrow so I want to make sure they are prepared and that we don't startle them with the idea of school happening so soon." Pete asked me as he started to prepare dinner for us.
"No problem Pete, I'll be back shortly. I'm sure that they'll be on board with the idea of school" I replied.

I rushed right down the footpath and barged through the creaky door in the abandoned house. Not caring if I broke a floorboard while running or if I accidentally ran into Victoria while she was cleaning something. I looked into the area that was slowly becoming the living room again and noticed that everyone was in there minding their own business. Victoria was busy with cooking something for everyone, Gabe was playing with the twins on the couch and Ryland was practicing cheesy pickup lines in the corner of the room. Gabe instantly noticed me and pulled me into another one of his welcoming hugs.
"Hello there Bill, it's so nice to see you again. What are you here for?" He asked me.

"Look, there's this big announcement I want to make right now and it's for everyone so we need to gather them around right now." I explained.
"Why of course, I'll get everyone" he said, "guys listen up! Bill wants to tell all of you something."

Victoria turned off the camp stove she was cooking on and Ryland came and sat on the dusty, ragged old couch with everyone else.
"What is it you want to tell us Bill?" Gabe asked me.
"Well... So, Pete talked to me earlier and he told me that he has really warmed up to all of you. He wants all of you to stay in this neighbourhood, and he wants to protect all of you. However, there's a few conditions that he has if he is going to protect you and ensure that the orphanage won't find all of you again!"

"Like what?" Asked Victoria.
"Well, firstly. To make sure that people see you as normal kids, you are going to have to be taught how to do normal kid things. One of the ways that we can ease you into this new normal world you are going to stay in, all of you are going to have to go to school!"
Everyone screamed in terror after the world school had left my lips.

Everybody in the room screamed. Gabe started shivering in fear, Ryland was frozen, Victoria was breathing heavily and panting at a fast rate. Alex and Nate started crying and Victoria started comforting them letting them dig their little heads deep into her warm comforting stomach.
"Guys! I don't understand, why are all of you suddenly so afraid?" I asked in confusion.
"Bill, how do you manage to get through school everyday! School is absolutely cruel and terrible and I never want to go to such a place again" protester Victoria.
"Look, I know school is stressful, but surely it can't have been terrible for you. Did you even have a chance to go to school at all? In any time of your life?" I asked.

"Look, since the orphanage couldn't afford to send all of us to proper school, so we had a school programme at the orphanage instead... It was absolutely terrible!" Gabe explained.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Well, first things first, since the majority of our classmates hadn't been taught how to make friends properly or at least be nice, so they did all these horrible things to us, they threw chairs at us, teased us and made our lives a living hell."
"Well did the teachers try to help you?"
"No! They ignored all of it, and sometimes they even joined in!"

"Bill, do you really want us to go to school? Do you think Pete would get mad at us if we said no?" Gabe asked me.
"I honestly don't even know, I don't think he would send all of you back because of that, but he would feel guilty because it means we would have to hide you in ways that Pete would never imagine, things more illegal than what we are already doing."
"Well... If that's the case, then we will have to do it" said Gabe.

"Guys! Can I have your full attention?" Gabe asked. Everyone turned over to him and quietened down again.
"Look, I know that school was horrible back at the orphanage, but we have to go if we want Pete to protect us! I don't want to go either, but we have to." Said Gabe.
"But Gabe, we don't know what it's going to be like for us! It could all go horribly wrong for all of us. I don't think I'm ready at all for it." Said Ryland.
"Me neither" said Victoria, the twins buried themselves further into her stomach.
"Well... How about we have a compromise! Because all of you don't know what school here is like, I will go to school with Bill tomorrow and you will get to stay home. When I come home I will tell you what school was like and whether it was good or bad, you will be prepared for what it's like! How does that sound Bill?" Gabe planned.
"Okay... I like the sound of this idea!" Said Victoria, Ryland and the twins nodded back at her.
"It's a deal" said Ryland.
"That's amazing! Gabe trust me, you'll enjoy school. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow"

"Okay, so I have tell Pete about this plan right now. Hopefully he will okay with it! That means I'll have to go, goodbye everyone. I'll see you tomorrow Gabe, we have a big day." I said, waving as I left the makeshift living room/kitchen.

The next day:

Last night when I returned home from Gabe's, Pete luckily agreed with his idea and understood that everyone still needed their time to adjust. He still insisted that all of them should go eventually, luckily Gabe agreed with that idea too.

The next day, it was finally the actual day of school. I would normally try to sleep in as much as possibly until Pete forced me to wake up, but today was different. I got up early and got myself ready before I made my way over to Gabe's and picked him up for his first day. Everyone else wished him luck and hoped that he would have a good opinion of school. Back at home, Pete had got some book, pencils, pens and a folder for Gabe. He had also grabbed my old school bag from the basement, that had a few odd drawings on it but otherwise it was in good condition.
"Thank you so much for all of this Mr Wentz, I feel like even if I don't like school I can still go there and feel good about my nice new things." Said Gabe.
"Of course! But you know that all of you have to go already, you and your group that you call a family... Ouch! Bill why did you do that?" I had elbowed Pete in the arm at the little statement I was afraid might offend Gabe, because when he referred to the others as family, he really took it seriously.
"Sorry Gabe, he's still getting used to the fact that he has agreed to protect all of you. He's trying his best." I said.
"It's okay Mr Wentz, everybody slips up."
"I'm happy you're so accepting about this."

After a few more minutes of chatting, Hayley came downstairs with all her gear. Hayley usually drove me to school because Pete had to stay home and prepare dinner and clean everything else up because he currently doesn't have a job. Hayley got her drivers license only just last year and managed to get her passengers license too this year, which meant Pete didn't have to drop me off anymore. Brendon didn't drive, he just rode his motorcycle for school.
"Come on, let's go guys!" She said, she opened the door to let us out first and then waved goodbye to Pete.

As we were leaving, Hayley opened the door to the car but was interrupted by Gerard sinisterly glaring at us over the fence.
"Well hello there Hayley, I haven't seen you properly since you were very young. Considering Pete is always hiding you from me, how is everything?" He asked in a fake nice voice.
"Everything is okay, thank you Gerard." Said Hayley trying to be polite to him.
"And Bill, goodness you've gotten so big! I remember when you were only a baby and Pete was holding you protectively in his arms." Gerard walked up to me and squeezed my cheeks like a annoyingly affectionate grandmother or aunt. It made me feel uncomfortable.

"And who are you supposed to be?" Gerard asked pointing at Gabe with a suspicious look on his face.
"Uhhhhh..." I paused for a second looking at Hayley with a bead of nervous sweat rolling down my forehead.
"He's our... cousin!" Said Hayley stepping in to save the situation.
"Cousin? He barely looks like you at all" Gerard replied.
"I'm twice removed!" Said Gabe.
"Oh, okay! What's your name?"
"I'm Gabe, nice to meet you" Gabe said trying to be polite but he had an expression that told me he was uncomfortable too.
"Well you kids should be going off to school now, I won't hold you back any longer. It would be a shame if you were late, plus I think my jug has finished boiling, no one likes cold tea." Said Gerard, he laughed in a oddly sinister way and sashayed back into his house.

We got into Hayley's car and began to drive at last.
"Gerard is weird! I don't feel like I can trust him." Said Gabe.
"We don't trust him either" I said.
"What's the deal with him?" Gabe asked.
"Basically, him and Pete have this silly rivalry and Pete thinks he's kind of creepy and doesn't feel comfortable with us hanging out around him. Also, there's a rumour going around the neighbourhood that he outed Pete." Hayley explained.
"What does outed mean?" Asked Gabe.
"Bill can probably explain that to you later."

The car pulled up outside of school, luckily we weren't late. There were plenty of other students swarming around outside.
"You guys are going to have to walk home from school tonight. I have practice for the competition." Said Hayley letting us out of the car.
"No worries, we'll see you later" I said.
"Goodbye Bill, and good luck on your first day of school Gabe. Bill will show you all of the places that you need to go to."
"Goodbye Hayley." Both of us said. We left her alone with the car as I took Gabe by the hand to the main building.

"I'm actually really excited about this, this isn't like the school at the orphanage at all" Gabe said looking at the bland building in front of him with more fascination than I'd ever seen on any other student. Even the new ones coming at the start of the year.
"Trust me, within a few weeks you'll get extremely bored of it." I said looking at him like he was nuts.
"I think it will be very good for me though I can barely count to ten and I can't even read at all so even though you may find it boring education is what I need as of right now." He replied.
"Right, of course!"
"And after that, I can bring everyone else so they can learn too."

As we were walking in, Cassadee walked up to us as we were outside the door. Suddenly my heart stopped. I have had the hugest crush on Cassadee, ever since she moved into the house across the road from me. Something about her girl next door vibe and look drew me in, as well as her gorgeous brown eyes and smooth and neat brown hair with blond streaks. She seemed perfect to me, and she had a nice personality too. Always saying hi to me in the hallways, we even hang out sometimes to study.
"Hi Bill! How are you going right now? And who's the new guy?" She asked. Her voice to me sounded like one of the many cliche foods you could use to describe a pretty girl's voice. Like melted butter or molasses. Smooth and sweet would be the adjectives to use.
"Oh uh... Well, this is Gabe. He just moved into the house next door and he's going to be living here."
"But doesn't Gerard live next door to you already?"
"No, the other house next door"
"You mean the abandoned one that's all messed up?"
"Uhhhh, my family are going to renovate and buy it" Gabe lied, he was going to renovate it with the gang. Who he would consider his family. But he didn't have a mother or father or any sort of parental figure.
"Wow, well at least you guys are going to be using the space for something!" Cassadee said optimistically.
"By the way, I forgot to formally introduce myself" said Gabe to Cassadee shaking her hand.
"Why thank you! I'm Cassadee"
"Uh, Cass what class do you have now?" I asked her.
"We have home room with Greta first!" She replied.
"Yes! Greta is the best teacher Gabe, you're going to love her! Come inside with us and we'll show you where home room is!"

Home room is arguably the most therapeutic class in the whole school, even if it isn't technically a class cause you basically just get to sit down and do what you want. One of the reasons was Greta. Greta normally teaches English, but she's me and Cassadee's home room teacher and she's just as good as a home room teacher. While most of the other teachers at school have a lack of emotional connection with students, Greta doesn't seem like a teacher at all, she's more like a friend or surrogate parent. She's always giving us a friendly hello, and asking us how we're doing at both school and home and she treats everyone in every class she teaches with that same kindness, she even lets us call her by her first name. She can't bear being referred to as Ms Salpeter, even the parents know this. Today was no exception.
"Hello Bill, hello Cassadee, how are you two?" She greeted us, she was sitting at her desk sorting out papers with that traditional teacher's Apple sitting next to her name card.
"Hello Greta, we're going good today. We just decided to arrive to class early because it's Gabe's first day at school today" said Cassadee.
"Oh of course! Hello Gabe, so you're Bill's cousin right?" Greta asked shaking his hand.
"Uh, yeah!" Me and Gabe both said in unison.
"Bill, you didn't tell me Gabe was your cousin." Said Cassadee.
"Ummm, I accidentally forgot to address that. Oops!" I said
"You two don't really look related" said Greta.
"Twice removed!" Said Gabe.
"Oh wow, that is interesting. It's cool that you two are close." Said Greta.
"Yeah... It's great." We both said.
"Well, I'll let Bill and Cass decide on where you should sit. Preferably between both of them or at least close to them."
"That's all good Greta, they'll like where we normally sit."

The other good thing about home room is my seat. Whenever I go into a new classroom, my chosen seat is everything when it comes to how will feel there. I despise sitting in the centre of the room because usually that's where all the "classroom warfare" happens. When you're in the centre, you're often the main target of a spitball. The back is okay, but the people there can often freak me out a little bit cause they're the kids that aren't the nicest of the bunch (and are the shooters of the spitballs) the front of the classroom is spitball free but being close to a snoopy teacher isn't always a good thing, I like to be off to the side. Especially if there's a window I can look out of. My home room seat is good, cause not only do I sit in front of Cassadee (which is explainable in itself) I get to sit by a window with the best view, I get to see the morning sun glowing on my face, I get to see it gleaming on the preschool playground next door to the high school, I also get to sometimes see Hayley running down the path with her Phys Ed class and every now and then she would wave at me if she noticed I was watching. Of course, naturally knowing my own experiences I would let Gabe sit in front of me.
"How do you feel about school so far Gabe?" I asked him.
"I like this! This is great, I think my family will love this too." He replied. He too was staring out the window.
"This is only the beginning" I said.

Back at home:

Meanwhile back at the house, Pete had just begun a story of his own. He sat down on the couch scrolling through Facebook on his phone. Suddenly he heard a knock at the door, he rushed over to open it to see a man standing outside with a huge binder stuffed with tons of papers, looking like it could explode with documents everywhere. Pete couldn't even have a good look at his face cause the binder was so huge.
"Dude, are you okay?" He asked.
"Please, can you help me get inside. This is such a heavy load I'm sorry." The man said. Pete picked up the binder and carried it over to the coffee table. The man at the front door sighed with relief and went to sit on the couch. Pete had a good look at him, his face was red from carrying the load and he was wearing a grey cap, glasses with thick black rims, a navy blue cardigan, a white t-shirt and dark grey jeans. His hair was a strawberry blonde colour and his eyes somehow managed to look both blue and green in different lighting.

"So I'm guessing you're the social worker" Pete said, the man had calmed down after a drink of water and a few deep breaths.
"Yes, I'm so sorry I wasn't able to introduce myself properly, my name is Patrick!" He said.
"Well, nice to meet you in person Patrick. I believe we talked over the phone once."
"Yes, we did" he replied, "so, Pete what do you want to change with your family. What do you think we can help you with to give them the best life possible?"
"Well, I think that Hayley is doing great. Nothing really needs to change with her, all I could do is get her to have some fun because she's always so busy with her sports. Bill is...." Pete paused when he realised he had nearly spilled the truth about Gabe and the other kids to Patrick.
"Bill is what sorry?" Patrick asked.
"Bill is fine, honestly don't worry about it." Pete said trying to clear things up.
"Oh okay" said Patrick.

"The person I'm really worried about though is Brendon, I feel like he really needs help and he's become so distant from this family. I just feel like he's there, but he's not part of us anymore. He lashed out at Bill when we were eating dinner last night! Even though he's sober and apparently straight edge now, he's still not the same. I want my son back!" Pete ranted.
"I can see why you are upset, recovering from drinking and drugs can be a very long and difficult process and it's good you're trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel. What have you done in the past to help with this situation?"
"Well, I've tried taking him to group rehab meetings. And apparently he's doing good and has a couple of friends there, but there's just something suspicious and I really can't put my finger on what it is, so right now I'm sending him to one on one counselling in hopes that maybe we can dig a little deeper and understand him." Pete continued to ramble.
"Well, you're doing a good thing trying to find ways to sort things out. It shows that you are a very nice caring parent. One bit of advice I could give you to possibly help you is that maybe you need to keep an eye on him. Maybe he's hiding something from you that you don't want to see, next time he leaves you, go into his room. Look for risk factors, anything that worries you. Then try and talk to him about it and if he doesn't respond call me about it."
"Thank you, that sounds good." Said Pete.
"No worries" said Patrick, "anything else I could possibly do to help?"
"Well the next thing I want to ask for is things that could help me. Me and the family, we've been living on a shoestring recently. Ever since my ex wife left us, we've been struggling with money. I haven't been able to find a job, I've barely been able to pay for food and we have to live off of leftovers almost everyday."
"Oh dear, that sounds like quite a problem" said Patrick, "so you're looking for a job?"
"Yes, and it could literally be anything. As long as it pays well for me, it doesn't have to be a total dream job or anything."
"Well, of course. I'll do some research on any places around town looking for new employees and see if they can fit you into their system. If it doesn't happen for a while, we'll send you money and maybe new food to help you live an okay few weeks or months until you get a job." Said Patrick.
"Oh thank you so much! I feel like this is going to help with the atmosphere in this house a lot, I want us to feel together again." Pete said.
"I definitely understand, like I said, it's good you're working towards feeling this way. Do you want to talk about anything else?" Patrick asked.
"No... Not really, maybe we can eat something and maybe have some coffee."
"Oh sure, I'm totally down for that. There's a place down the road with some good stuff. I'll pay if you like?"
"That sounds like a great idea."

Back At School:

Back at school, things were going great. Me and Gabe were blissfully unaware of Pete's meeting with Patrick. We had gotten through most of our classes and now it was finally lunchtime. As we were walking to the table a group of popular girls waved to Cassadee on the other side of the room.
"Sorry guys, I wish I could sit with you two. You're great, but I can't turn down sitting with the girls. You know what they're like." She went in and bro-hugged me, "goodbye Bill" she said. She left me and waved, all I did in return was stare and awkwardly wave back.
"Uhhhh Bill? Why is your face all red?" Asked Gabe. I suddenly looked on the reflective linoleum floor and realised I was blushing everywhere and it was a miracle no one was watching.
"Let's just go to our table Gabe!" I said awkwardly pulling him away from the middle of the room and over to where I sat at lunchtime.

My table was a group of boys who I wouldn't really consider my best friends in the whole world, but they were good company to me and they didn't make me feel like I was entirely alone. I sat with Sisky, Mike, Butcher and Chislett. Sisky was the group leader, he was a notorious prankster at this school. The artist behind most of the lewd graffiti on the bathroom walls and the comedian behind the funny things he would say into the intercom when no teachers were there to monitor it. He always liked to make sure that school was less like school and more like a party. Mike is quiet and reclusive. He barely ever says a word to anyone apart from a simple yes or no, even the people he shares the table with. The only way you can tell he is listening to you is when he nods at you. Butcher is often Sisky's biggest accomplice in his pranks. He's like the security guard making sure everything goes to plan and no teachers find out about what Sisky is up to. Butcher will every now and then tell a dad joke when we're all gathered at the table and we'll all roll our eyes. And Chislett has been the most recent addition to our group, he had moved all the way to here from Australia and people often tend to think he's a laugh cause of his accent and lingo. However we all think that it's endearing and some of us have picked up his lingo and will sometimes say some of the Australian slang that we hear from him.

"Hello Bill, how are you going?" Asked Sisky who immediately made me snap out of my state of embarrassment from the hug.
"I'm going good thanks." I replied.
"We were worried you weren't going to arrive because you had been standing in the middle of the room for quite a bit longer than usual." He said.
"Who's the new guy?" Asked Butcher pointing at Gabe.
"Well, guys, this is Gabe. He's my cousin" I said, getting used to the little white lie me and Gabe were going with.
"Nice to meet you dude! It's always good to have new people sitting here. Trust me, you'll always have good lunchtime company" said Chislett.
"Well it's really nice to meet all of you too!" Said Gabe. I sat down in my usual seat beside Sisky and he made some room for Gabe to sit next to him too.
"So Gabe, tell us about you. What made your family decide to move to this place?" Asked Sisky.
"Well... I lived in a different state for a while, and then my family just thought that this town would be a better place I guess!" Gabe fibbed. Sisky was about the ask him what state he came from when Mike unexpectedly interrupted and changed the subject.
"Um, Bill? You and Gabe don't really look like cousins, how are you two related?" He asked. Everyone looked at him with extreme surprise and then looked back at Gabe with a look of disbelief on their faces.
"Dude..." Said Chislett.
"You just made Mike talk! How did you do that?" Asked Butcher.
"I don't know what I did..." Said Gabe.
"Guys, stop acting so surprised" said Mike.
"Oh my god! You did it again!" Said Butcher.
"Gabe! You are a legend in our books. You have our upmost respect!" Said Sisky.
"Amen!" Said Chislett. In return to that Gabe didn't say anything, instead he just smiled sweetly back at them.

After lunch the rest of school was a breeze. Gabe ended up enjoying science the most out of all the classes he had been to and he also liked music a lot as well. In science Sisky humoured the class by blowing up some of the gear much to the dismay of the teacher. Afterwards, school was finally over for the day. But for once Gabe's presence made me feel like I didn't want it to end for once. We ended up getting our bags out of my locker and then we started on our relatively short journey home.

As we were walking through a nice woodsy path were we felt we were both alone, Gabe bought back the question from lunchtime that I didn't really want to bring up again.
"So Bill, at lunchtime. You were acting kind of weird when I asked you about why you had gone all red when Cassadee hugged you. What happened? Why did that happen?" Gabe asked me.
"Oh... You must have been really sheltered at that orphanage to not know what the basic concept of love is!" I said sarcastically.
"What is love?" Gabe asked me, I looked at him in shock. How could he be asking me that question seriously?
"You poor kid, the orphanage really did shelter you." I said.
"Can you tell me what love is?" Gabe asked.
"Of course" I said, "cause everyone needs to know this."

"So love can be many things, one thing it is though is that you feel very connected to a person. It's not like someone you just get along with, it's someone you're very close to. It can be family or..." I tried to explain before Gabe interrupted me again.
"So do you like Cassadee in a way that you want her as family?" Asked Gabe.
"No! I didn't even finish explaining, and if I did want that to happen that would be weird for a few reasons. But anyway, back on topic. It can also be a very close friendship, or romance." I continued.
"What is a romance?" Gabe asked.
"Well... You do know what a crush is right? When we met up at home the other day you seemed to know what it was when I told you Hayley liked Victoria." I said.
"Well, kind of. So is a crush just a word for saying a less-fancy romance then?" Asked Gabe.
"Kind of! The thing is, the line between a crush and feeling romantic love for someone is difficult to tell apart. Every now and then I will call a crush a romance or vice versa. But romances are very special. It's when someone feels the same way as you do about that person. That's one thing Hayley and Victoria don't feel for each-other yet, and Hayley only really finds her physically attractive, so it isn't love. At least not yet anyway!"
"What does having romantic feelings feel like to you?"
"It's where you don't really just think a person is beautiful on surface level but every part of them is beautiful. Their voice, their personality, their talents. It's everything! And it's you wishing that they think those same things about you too. It's feeling like you want to spend the rest of your life with that person, and marry them and live together."
"I know what getting married is, I didn't know that was really real though. I thought it was just a thing in those fairytales I'd read the twins every night." Said Gabe, "do you feel all this about Cassadee?"
"Yes... I do feel this way." I replied.
"Do you think she could like you back too?"
"I don't know yet, the thing with love is that. You have to wait for it to happen to you, sometimes it may be the result you're expecting. Sometimes things change and it's something entirely different." I explained.

I continued to answer more of Gabe's questions as we neared the end of our walk home. As we entered the familiar neighbourhood once more, Gabe had to leave me to check on everyone else and tell them about his school experience.
"Goodbye Bill, this was a very good talk. I'm excited to hear more." Said Gabe.
"That's good! I'll see you tomorrow" I said. We waved goodbye to each-other and then I went back to my own house.

As I was about to open the door, Patrick came out carrying his heavy binder of documents again much to my surprise and shock. Upon seeing me he ended up dropping a fair amount of his papers out the side of the binder. I kneeled on the ground with him to pick them up.
"I'm so sorry kid! I must have really given you a fright there." Patrick said loading the papers up yet again.
"What were you doing in my house?" I asked him.
"I'm Patrick, I'm Pete's new social worker. I'm coming here every week to help you guys out."
"Oh yeah, Pete told me about you yesterday." I said, "I'm Bill!"
"Nice to meet you officially Bill. I was just on my way out now, but if I ever catch you around when I come over it would be good for us to talk." He said.
"Goodbye Patrick."

At dinnertime a few hours later. We all had a relatively good time talking to each-other. Brendon was quiet tonight after the argument at the table the other night. He didn't really say anything to us, he just sat there and ate his food. Me and Hayley confided in with Pete about our good day today and all the interesting things we experienced. Including me finding out that Gabe didn't know the whole story of what love was.
"What? How could the orphanage have not taught him that?" Asked Pete.
"It's a shame Gabe and those guys were fatefully placed there, that's like the worst luck ever!" Said Hayley.
"Apparently he can only count to ten, and he can't read properly." I said, "when we were going through our textbook and he had to read out a paragraph, I had to keep correcting him on the pronunciation of words that would otherwise be easy for us." I explained.
"It was a good thing that we ended up getting him this help then! I wonder what the other kids will be like when they start school?" Asked Pete.
"I don't know, but this is the start of a journey for them to grow!" I said, "and it will be an interesting one for sure."

Back At Gabe's:

Back at Gabe's next door, it was starting to get late and the twins were getting tired so Gabe went to go put them to sleep while Victoria and Ryland got to relax. Gabe decided after having the conversation with me to read them one of the fairytales that he had mentioned to me earlier. He hadn't read these stories to the twins in ages cause he was afraid they were going to grow out of these stories, but they enjoyed it all the same. As he read them the story, they looked at Gabe with that same look of fascination that they had when Gabe read to them when they were even younger.
"And then, the prince climbed the tower and rescued the girl he had been pursuing for years. He saw her there just as beautiful as he remembered her, inside and out. They climbed down from the tower and within the span of a few days they were married and lived happily ever after." Gabe had stuttered and mispronounced a few of the words in the story because even with years of practice from reading this to the twins for ages, he still had a lot to learn. But the twins could tell he was reading it better without interruption as they remembered a time where Gabe would always have to pause or skip a word he didn't know how to say.
"How did you guys like that? I've been learning how to read better!" He said. The twins nodded in agreement and clapped.
"Today, when I was on the way home Bill told me another interesting story, about what love really is and how real and different it is! How would you two feel about hearing it?"
The twins nodded in agreement and signed to Gabe telling him yes.
"Okay, so... When you're really in love. You don't just think someone is pretty, it's special..."

Chapter Text

It Runs In the Family, Chapter 4: New Kids On the Block

After the first day of school, the rest of Gabe's family decided not to go yet until the start of next week. However, that was fine anyway. At least they were going to all start at some point. Gabe however, continued to go to school with me as he was very fascinated and he really enjoyed it. Eventually at long last, the next Monday had rolled around and it was now time for everyone else to start. And Pete already had them prepared.

During the time before everyone else's first day, Vicky caught Gabe reading another fairytale to the twins at night. She stood out the door as he told the story with such passion. Eventually when he finished he noticed Vicky was there and they tiptoed out into the living room.
"Man, your reading has been so good lately Gabe. I'm proud of you." Said Vicky.
"Thank you. It seemed like only yesterday when I couldn't tell the difference between the spelling of different and difficult." He replied.
"Yeah, that's wonderful. You also seem to have developed lots of passion for reading fairytales to the twins again. I haven't heard them in a long time, what's gotten into you?" She asked.
"Well... It's been kind of about what Bill has been teaching me lately. Stuff school hasn't been teaching me. Human things I haven't known to the full extent." Gabe said.
"What in particular?" Asked Vicky.
"Love..." Gabe said, speaking softly to not awaken the twins, but still with enough emotional passion from the stories to let Vicky know that he was feeling different from how he was normally feeling. Instead of Vicky experiencing the same glow of innocence and inspiration that Gabe felt, instead she felt a sense of nervousness rush through her spine. Because of how Vicky had been bought up, the subject of love was a touchy to her. In every context of it.
"Well it's lovely you've been feeling so good cause Bill's been teaching you about that stuff, but just a warning. It's not all the mush and rainbows everyone makes it out to be. If you're not careful with love, you can believe things you don't want to believe." Vicky ranted subtlely.
"Vicky, come on! At some point you'll have to see the light in things." Gabe tried to reason.
"Maybe someday I will see it, but now is not that moment." She replied. She passive-aggressively walked out of the living room and went to go put herself to sleep.

The Asher Mansion, years ago:

Before Victoria was sent into the hole of misfortune that was the orphanage. She had everything every young girl could ever want, a life of riches where everything was at her command. She was rich and privileged and lived with both her parents in a large mansion owned by several past family members before them. But while Victoria had everything she ever wanted (or really what every young girl wanted) her parents felt it wasn't enough for her so they treated her unlike any other girl her age. They treated her like a miniature adult. They took her to their aristocratic parties, started schooling her at an advanced level when she was four and by the time she was six she had become so used to this life that she didn't know how to act like a regular kid. Therefore her life at her old home was probably barely any sort of improvement from the orphanage life she was yet to experience. Victoria because of her innocence at age six thought she loved her life, and adored her parents. One night at yet again another one of her family's parties was about to change that.

"Victoria darling, could you please be a dear and let in the first guest for tonight?" Asked her father who was lazily sitting in the living room reading a newspaper.
"Yes father." She said obediently. She walked up to the door and opened it, standing outside was a slender beautiful woman. The typical stereotype for a beautiful aristocratic woman. A nice figure, long wavy and smooth blonde hair, eye makeup so heavy you couldn't tell what the real colours of her eyes were without it and glossy deep red lips. The look was topped off with a glittery strapless red dress and matching stilettos.
"Oh hello darling, you must be little Victoria! I'm Caroline." The woman introduced herself and bent down to shake Victoria's hand. As Victoria stared into those big white teeth that looked extremely enlarged when Caroline smiled she got a vibe that didn't seem too good. At all the other parties Victoria had attended, Caroline was never present which made her wonder if she could trust her. But since she was new and she would have all the time tonight to get to know her, she decided to give her a chance.
"Victoria dear, could you please take me over to your father?" She asked. Without saying a word she led her into the living room and then left without any suspicion. After all, her mother was calling her into the dining room to ask her to help set the table.

A few hours later, the party was in full swing. After the dinner and dessert since Victoria had nothing left to do, she decided to go upstairs into her room and play with her dolls until her parents called her down for something else. She went in her little haven and immersed herself in the magical and sophisticated world her dolls lived in. A world quite similar to her own cause her parents hadn't exposed her to any sort of fiction that would evoke fantasy in her. As she played in the guest bedroom next door she heard faint voices on the other side of the wall. The voices sounded happy, but not in the normal way you would describe happy. The voices sounded secretive as much as they sounded delighted.

Victoria pressed her ear against the wall and tried to listen in on what the voices were saying, and who the voices belonged to. They were both familiar to her, but she still couldn't figure out who it was. So she decided to sneak over to the front door of the next room. As she ran over, she heard two small sentences being exchanged.
"I love you"
"I love you too dear."
That was when she realised that the voice saying I love you was the voice of her father. The voice that was replying didn't at all sound like her mother. Without thinking of the consequences she opened the door and screamed. Lying on top of the bed in the guest room next door was her father and Caroline. Now she understood why her father had invited her, she was beautiful and he wanted her for more than some form of work friendship. As Victoria could tell from the glossy red lip-shaped smudges on her father's cheeks.

Victoria's father tried to stop his daughter from screaming in shock and disappointment in what was happening, but it was uncontrollable. She couldn't stop. Her father had betrayed her, and her mother. Suddenly at the sound of Victoria's fright her mother stomped up the stairs and while initially she was going in to punish Victoria for disrupting the party, once she looked at Caroline's once neat hair in a mess and her dress slipping up. And then at the father's undone tie and the red lipstick marks on his cheeks, all she could say or do to him was slap her husband across the face and yell
Victoria's father said nothing in response. Instead her parents stared at each-other. Baffled and caught in a crossfire as the mark of the slap began to grow redder than the smudges of lipstick on Mr Asher's cheeks. After this minute of staring, Victoria was sent to bed so that the grownups would be able to fight properly: like Lions.

Something as she tried to go to sleep after the trauma changed in Victoria. Something that made her believe she was delusional to trust her family for sure. However, what also changed, was whether she would ever be able to trust a lover. Knowing that her mother couldn't even trust her own father.

Present day:

The next day after Vicky had her little outburst to Gabe. They managed to somehow sort things out with a little bit of sleep and some talking over the breakfast table as the family had their regular meal of instant noodles and the addition of cereal without milk.

Meanwhile, back at my own home I woke up to Pete and Brendon having an argument downstairs and eventually Hayley trying to intervene. I got downstairs not caring that I wasn't out of my pyjamas.
"I will not go to this therapist! This person doesn't know who I'am. It'll be embarrassing and stupid, and group therapy didn't work for me either. So you need to stop thinking it will ever work!" Yelled Brendon.
"Brendon, it's this person's job to understand you. They are here to help! Group therapy didn't work for you, so what. Maybe it just works better for you on your own!" Pete yelled back.
"No! I'm not doing this, you want the old boring Brendon back and that's why you're trying to do this. Why don't you just accept that your son is gone and he will leave you forever at some stage, maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow! FOREVER!" Brendon screamed. He stormed out of the house and rode off on his motorcycle. Pete sighed, Hayley who was sitting at the table eating breakfast sighed too. Pete looked up the stairs at me and then freaked out cause he didn't notice I was there in the first place.
"Bill, I'm so sorry you had to see or hear that. You know what Brendon's like, it's his first day of therapy and all and he doesn't feel like he's ready to open up. Maybe he will one day though. He just has to understand I'm not mad at him for what he's going through." Said Pete.
"It's okay, we all know what he's like. Unfortunately I had to wake up to hearing this, but you know!" I replied.
"I'm sorry you had to hear that."
Sometimes I wish Pete didn't treat me like a baby sometimes even if I'am the youngest person here. Sometimes he treats me like I'm completely innocent and I don't know anything about the more adult struggles that we all go through here, normally I play along with it cause I don't want to make him feel like he's failed at keeping me safe but sometimes it gets on my nerves a little bit.
"Anyway, get dressed and eat something quickly. Gabe and the others are coming over today, you'll need to show them around school." Said Pete.
"Okay." I said not really knowing what else to say, I went upstairs to get ready.

After a few minutes Gabe and everyone else knocked on the door. Pete happily let them in despite his last interactions with everyone. (particularly Ryland, Alex and Nate.)
"Hello everyone, are you all ready for school today?" Pete asked.
"Of course I'am" said Gabe, ready to go in for his next round.
"Well, we are curious." Said Victoria.
"Agreed" said Ryland.
Pete took the rest of Gabe's family over to where he had school books and other supplies. Me and Gabe just sat on the couch together and caught up about what we had been doing recently. Hayley started coming downstairs after she was ready and then froze when she saw Victoria. Me and Gabe casually rolled our eyes at each-other.
"Do you think they're in love yet?" Gabe asked me.
"This is the second time they've interacted, I don't really think so." I whispered.
"Hello... There... Victoria" Hayley stuttered at her.
"Um... Hi! How are you right now?" She asked.
"Oh I've been good! Just doing lots of running." Hayley replied.
"Running?" Victoria asked.
"We do it as a sport. At school." Hayley said.
"Well that sounds interesting. Maybe you'll have to show me one day."
"Sorry to interrupt everyone but I think it's time everyone left right now. We don't want to be late." Said Pete unfortunately cutting into the budding conversation.
"Dammit, they were so close to getting closer to each-other." Whispered Gabe.
"I feel your frustration my buddy." I whispered back.

Hayley yet again drove us to school, as we were leaving the house Gerard didn't try to distract us at all whatsoever. Couldn't even see him in the big window on the side of his house watching us with his eagle eyes. As we stopped at the school everyone got out and said goodbye to Hayley and stood beside me waiting for me to tell everyone where they should go.
"Where are you going Hayley?" Victoria asked her.
"Running practice starts early for me." She replied.
"Can I come with you?"
"No sorry, only the team can come. Everyone has to go to their proper classes especially if they are new."
"Could I maybe come another day?"
"Maybe to one of the after school ones"
"Well that sounds good to me."
The two girls waved at each-other and then parted ways. Me and Gabe after watching Hayley and Victoria small talk winked at each-other.

"Hello Bill, hello Gabe it's great to see y'all again. Who's everyone else?" Asked Cassadee as we approached the school building. She was sitting outside doing leftovers of homework she forgot to do in a class we didn't share.
"Hello Cass, this is Victoria, Ryland, Alex and Nate." I said introducing everyone.
"My family" said Gabe.
"You have a lot of siblings!" Said Cassadee.
"Yep, I do." Said Gabe.
"Just one question about this?" Asked Cassadee.
"Yes?" I asked nervously, hoping she wasn't going to ask something that would blow our cover.
"Those two little guys that Ryland is holding, they look quite young to be high school students, how old are they?" She asked me, pointing at the twins.
"Oh, they're six." Said Gabe, "we're taking them to elementary after we get everyone else sorted."
"You wouldn't mind if maybe I took them to their first grade class? I volunteer to help new elementary kids whenever I have spare time so I can save y'all some trouble of finding their class." Cassadee offered.
"Oh no, really we're quite fine. The elementary school is only a few blocks away!" I said.
"No, I insist." She said.
"Can I come with you too?" Ryland asked, "just so they have someone familiar to walk with."
"Of course, and then I can find your class afterwards."
"That sounds good to me then."
"Well, see you in home room Bill." Said Cassadee. She went in to friend-hug me again and then walked away. Gabe looked at me and pointed at his face, implying I was probably blushing again.

"I wonder if Ryland is going to remember to tell Cassadee that the twins can't speak." Said Gabe.
"It's probably going to be hard to find a way to tell her without him accidentally explaining the whole orphanage backstory." Said Victoria.
"Ryland isn't that much of a big mouth, maybe it will work out." Said Gabe.
"Where am I supposed to be right now?" Asked Victoria turning away from Gabe to look at me.
"Oh I almost forgot, you're a older student. Which means your home room and your locker is upstairs." I said.
"How are we going to find out which locker is mine?"
"I'll just go to the principal's office and you can get your key from there. He'll also write down your home room on paper so you won't be lost. Are you fine with that? Will you be okay on your own?" I asked.
"Oh don't worry about me. I think it will all go fine." Said Victoria.
"Let's go find the office." Said Gabe.

The time we all spent in the principal's office was relatively short. The principal introduced himself to Victoria and handed her the key and the number for her home room. Luckily there were no questions about anything. Then I took Victoria upstairs to her locker then me and Gabe went to home room.

Because she also had her schedule, she took out the right amount of books she needed and then her pens, pencils and erasers and she shut the locker door putting the key in a pocket on her dress. She then began to look for home room as fast as she could before the bell. However, she was having difficulty finding it in the hallway and really all of upstairs in general. She knew not to go downstairs cause it was the classrooms for the younger students but she was tempted to double check down there too. Suddenly she dropped one of her exercise books on the floor and her key fell out of her loose pocket. Then two hands came in, they picked up the book and the key and handed it back to her. She looked up to see two girls, one of them had messy bleach blonde hair in pigtails, thick winged eyeliner, matte red lipstick and she was wearing a leather jacket, white blouse, a black and white plaid skirt and spiky black boots. The other girl had a similar outfit, but it had more red than white in it. She was also wearing fishnet tights and she was wearing black Mary Jane's. She had similar makeup to the blonde girl and the same pigtails but her hair was black.
"You have to be careful with your stuff, there are very stupid people there who like to steal things. Luckily that isn't us." The blonde girl said.
"Thank you." Said Victoria.
"We haven't seen you around before, I'm guessing you're a transfer student." Said the black haired girl. Since Victoria didn't know transfer student was fancy for new student (although it also applied of course to students moving from other schools) all she could do in reply to the black haired girl was nod her head.
"What's your name?" The blonde girl asked.
"I'm Victoria" she said.
"Well, I'm Z-Berg, and this is LynZ." Said the blonde girl. She reached out to shake Victoria's hand. Z seemed friendly enough so Victoria shook her hand too.
"Where were you off to?" Asked LynZ.
"My home room is in B19. I can't find it anywhere." Victoria explained.
"We can show you, we're in that home room too. It's how we both met, it's a hard to find the room because the sign was taken down by a vandal last summer and the school hasn't paid to get a new one." Z said.
"Well that's terrible." Said Victoria.
"We haven't really found it a problem, but yeah. I can see why it's so confusing for you." Said LynZ, "let's go, the bell rings in less than a minute."
And this to Victoria, was one of the many first times she would experience at this school. Including making her first new friends.

At the elementary school, as Ryland and Cassadee settled the twins in, it was proving difficult when Ryland remembered the twins couldn't speak.
"Why aren't they talking to us? Are they shy or something?" Cassadee asked Ryland as she tried to make conversation with Alex and Nate.
"Oh right, we almost forgot to tell you. The twins are mute." Ryland explained.
"Oh you mean they're deaf? Poor things."
"No, they can hear you. But they're mute, they can't speak because they have this condition where their vocal chords don't work properly, so they can't speak. It's very rare so I'm not surprised you don't know of it." Ryland fibbed, "isn't that right you two? You have to sign to communicate."
The twins nodded and signed yes, playing in with the lie.
"Oh dear that's a shame. Is it curable?" Cassadee asked.
"Unfortunately not," said Ryland, "the best you can do for them is to learn how to sign,"
"I don't really know how to sign now, but I'll maybe try learn some basic things on it tonight if I ever see the twins again." Said Cassadee.
"Sounds great," said Ryland.

Cassadee, Ryland and the twins arrived at the main office at the elementary and asked where Alex and Nate would be having their first class. The woman at the front desk who had already taken a look through her computer to see where they were signed up ended up finding their names and giving Ryland and Cassadee the classroom number of 3. Luckily, since Cassadee had volunteered helping the kids in this class before. She already knew where to go.

"Well hello there Cass, it's lovely to see you again. But I don't think you should be here, should you be in your own class?" Asked the teacher as the small group entered the classroom.
"Oh don't worry about me, I already let my home room teacher know I was going to be gone for a bit beforehand. We have newcomers here. I was just bringing them over to the elementary." Cassadee explained.
"Oh of course. These must be the twins that Pete Wentz enrolled. Alex and Nate right?" The teacher asked. The twins didn't respond.
"Oh of course, Mr Wentz told me about their condition. It's lucky I've been learning to sign since my little sister began to learn how to communicate." The teacher signed "hello" to Alex and Nate, they both smiled and signed "hello" back.
"Where did you learn to sign m'am?" Ryland asked.
"My little sister is deaf. These boys may be able to hear but it doesn't mean I have to communicate any differently. I'm sure all of you know sign language applies to all people stripped of spoken word." The teacher replied, "I'm guessing you're one of the brothers of Alex and Nate. Which one are you?"
"I'm Ryland."
"Well nice to meet you Ryland. What's it like moving up here?"
"It's been good, we've all been enjoying it much more."
"That's wonderful to hear." Said the teacher, "well I think the bell is about to ring back at the high school, maybe it's best if you two went back. I'll continue to get the twins settled."
"I'll see you another time ms." Said Cassadee.

"Cassadee, where is my class supposed to be? Am I in the same one as Gabe and Bill?" Ryland asked.
"You're a bit younger than Gabe and Bill so that means you're in a different one. But you won't be too bothered if you have no one you know in your first class?"
"No, I won't be bothered at all."
"Just remember that if you ever get lost just look for the numbers on the doors that look like the ones on your schedule."
"Thank you Cassadee. You're super helpful, how do you do this?"
"Cause I like being a nice person."
"See you later."
"See you too."

At lunchtime, me, Gabe and Cass followed the same routine as before. We got our food and Cass left us to sit with the popular girls. Then me and Gabe would go sit with Mike, Chislett, Sisky and Butcher. Since Gabe had first sat down with everyone Mike had been very talkative. It had been rather interesting to watch cause he'd be telling us funny stories of what happened at his home, stories that made Sisky's pranks look like first grade potty humour. Eventually Vicky, Z and LynZ came into the cafeteria too. Normally at this time the older kids would be still in class, but they had a free period and Z and LynZ were both hungry so they decided to sit with the freshmen and sophomores.
"Where are we supposed to sit?" Asked Z.
"I honestly don't know, I've never talked with many of the juniors." Said LynZ. Suddenly Vicky noticed me and Gabe.
"We could sit with my brother and his friends." Said Vicky.
"Are they typical annoying teenage boys?" Z asked.
"No, Gabe is very nice. His friend Bill is too." Vicky said.
"What about the other guys?" Asked Z.
"I'm sure they'll be okay, come on. There's plenty of room there." Said Vicky. She waved out to Gabe and he waved back.
"See, he doesn't mind us sitting with them."

"What's going on?" Butcher asked Gabe.
"Vicky and her new friends are going to sit with us" said Gabe.
"Vicky, you mean your sister?" Asked Butcher.
"Yep" said Gabe.
"We've never had any girls sit with us before. So this is like a big deal." Said Sisky.
"What about Cassadee, sure she has had to leave quite a few times but she's nice and has said she would sit with you." Said Gabe.
"We think Cassadee is alright too mate, we know she has wanted to sit with us. If only those popular girls weren't always keeping their Hawkeyes on her." Said Chislett.
"What's wrong with those popular girls?" Asked Gabe.
"Look, we'll go into social life politics later. We just have to keep our cool with this, besides, these are senior girls! We're hitting the jackpot man!" That's like, beyond just having Cassadee sit with you." Said Sisky.
"Hello guys." Said Vicky, me and my friends need somewhere to sit.
"Hello Vicky." Said Gabe. He moved to the side so that she sat in the middle of him and Sisky and I still sat next to Gabe.
"Where shall we sit?" Asked Z-Berg.
"Oh you can sit here." Said Mike edging to the side to let Z sit between him and Sisky. LynZ got into the gap too and sat beside Z.

"So, who are you two? Gabe asked Z and LynZ.
"Well, I'm Z-Berg and this is LynZ." Z introduced herself.
"Well it's nice to meet you two." Gabe said respectfully shaking her hand.
"Well it's not often we meet young boys like you." Said Z. Butcher lightly kicked Gabe from under the table.
"Nice one." He whispered.
"What do you two like doing?" Asked Sisky.
"Well, I want to be a artist one day. I love drawing" said LynZ.
"I really like music. I like to sing." Said Z.
"I bet your voice sounds great." Said Sisky.
"Well, it's not polished and pretty, but I like it that way." Said Z.
"I like music too" said LynZ, "that's why we've started a band together."
"Wow, that sounds awesome!" I said.
"What do you play in the band?" Asked Butcher.
"I play bass guitar" said LynZ proudly.
"I play regular electric guitar along with my singing. The reason we haven't performed or made anything yet though is because we don't have a drummer." Said Z, "we hope that one day we will be able to perform for the school and eventually for the world!"
"Wow, you have dreams right there." Said Chislett.
"What is the name of your band?" Asked Mike.
"We're called Dress-Code. We're a punk band."
"That sounds badass!" Said Sisky. Z chucked lightly.
"Thank you! Most of the other guys we've talked about the band to have made fun of us and think we can't be as cool as the guys in punk bands." Said LynZ.
"You know! That sucks!" Said Chislett, "what you're doing sounds cool. You could be huge. Maybe one day, you could be going all around the world like you dream about and then those guys who tell you that you can't do it, they'll probably be doing the same boring thing they've always been doing."
"That's actually very wise and mature for your age." Said Z.
"You know what's awesome, lots of the songs we are writing are about those stupid guys." Said LynZ.
"That's amazing! Diss them!" Said Sisky.
"You guys seem awesome, what are your names? Well I mean I already know Gabe and Bill, but who's everyone else."
"Well I'm Sisky, and this is Mike, Butcher and Chislett" he said pointing at everyone else.
"Well it's nice to meet you guys." Said Z.
"It's nice to meet the rest of you." Said Vicky, "Gabe, you seem good at picking friends."
Mike kicked Gabe under the table again and whispered "you're a legend" to him.

During the rest of lunchtime and break, we all continued to talk about Z and LynZ's band and the cool punk things that they were teaching the group. Vicky remained rather quiet for most of the break but then again, that was typical Vicky. She would occasionally pop into the conversation sometimes to agree with a statement every now and then. Other than that though, she didn't really say anything but instead eagerly listened. Me and the boys were all completely immersed in this new world that these two senior girls neither of us had met before were teaching. Eventually, the bell rang again and we all had to go to our next classes. Vicky, Z and LynZ left us and went upstairs much to the disappointment of the boys who wanted to keep on talking with them.

"Gabe you're such a legend! If your sister has more free periods at lunchtime, it means we get to talk with Z and LynZ again, maybe it even means that we have more of a chance of talking to other cool girls too." Said Sisky.
"I mean, can't you just go up to them and strike a conversation?" Asked Gabe.
"I mean, you could. But most girls think we're weird. It was a pleasant surprise that we managed to have such an awesome talk though, this literally never happens to us. It makes me feel like I have a chance." Said Sisky.
"What do you mean by a chance?" Gabe asked.
"I'm thinking of asking Z to prom." Said Sisky.
"Dudeeeeeee! Are you actually serious?" Asked Chislett in a teasing tone.
"I'm dead serious, she's classy, she's cool and she's beautiful! What's not to love?" Sisky asked rhetorically.
"Z is cute and all, but LynZ is to die for!" Said Mike.
"Damnnnnnn! Mike, I knew that Gabe could make you speak, but it takes a lady to add a little emotion into those rare little sentences " Said Butcher.
"Oh come on guys, it's not really that big of a deal." Said Mike.
"Oh yes it is!" We all said.
"Well anyways, me and Mike seem to be on to something here. When prom rolls around, me and Mike call dibs on Z and LynZ. Bill has Cassadee." Said Sisky.
"What is prom?" Asked Gabe.
"Once again Gabe, social life politics will be discussed tomorrow. But for brief context. Prom is a time where everyone goes to a dance in fancy clothes and if you're lucky you go with a person you love or have a crush on." Said Sisky.
"Wow, that sounds fun." Said Gabe.
"You'll love it. But how do you not know what prom is, you lived in this country your whole life!" Said Chislett.
"He lived a small town life, his school wasn't big enough to have a prom." I said winking at him to let him know his secret was still under wraps.
"Well that's a shame! You're really missing out on all the cool suburb stuff we have here, if you want we should all hang out together and we can take you around town."
"I love the sound of that! What about you Bill, you wanna come?"
"Totally!" I said.
"Yeah, it will be so fun. And maybe you can tell me even more about prom."
"Of course!"
Everyone continued to have a nice conversation going all the way through class and into the end of the school day. Yet again, in the eyes of my lunch group (who were now starting to become closer friends) Gabe was a legend yet again, and of course I was proud.

As me and Gabe walked home from school from our rather triumphant day. It was a whole other world of emotion for Brendon. Eventually Brendon returned home from wherever he was on his motorcycle and he reluctantly went with Pete to his first therapy appointment. Pete dropped him off to the office and left him in the waiting room.
"Don't worry Brendon, remember that your therapist won't reveal anything you've said to them to anyone else. Unless they are seriously worried about you." Said Pete. Brendon however, knowing what he had always been doing in secret knew that it would be harder for him than what Pete thought. Nonetheless he didn't say anything though, he just nodded in agreement to hide his fear.
"I have to go home and prepare dinner right now, with the new recipe that Patrick gave me. Maybe you'll love it. I'll pick you up when your session is over though and if I can't come, I'll send Hayley." Said Pete.
"Thank you" said Brendon in a monotonous voice, not really able to say much in response because he was too nervous.
"Goodbye" said Pete.
"Goodbye" Brendon said. He slumped into the waiting room couch and listened to the clock on the wall tick for seconds and seconds on end. Eventually after staring down the corridor into the many therapy rooms for minutes. (Even though it was starting to feel like a couple of hours to him) a man with short strawberry blonde hair, brown eyes and rectangular shaped glasses as well as a rather nerdy ensemble of an outfit walked in through the corridor and read out from his clipboard.
He stood up slowly, gulped, and walked shakily over to the man as he led him down the corridor.

"So, Brendon. My name is Mikey. I will be seeing you every week." The therapist said.
"Hello" said Brendon monotonously.
"Now, Pete your father tells me he's been worried about you because you've been quite distant from the family and you're always leaving when you're mad to go to a place that he knows nothing about. When did this start, what do you do, why do you think you do this, how do you feel?" Mikey piled all the questions on him, like a load of homework from a busy day of school.
"Well... Some of the things I'm going to talk about are sensitive and touchy to me. I know you're my therapist, and I know you're definitely going to be worried about me, but please don't tell Pete. I want to change, but I'm not ready to tell him about what I've been doing yet." Said Brendon.
"Of course, your confidentiality is one hundred percent guaranteed. I won't reveal any information that you don't want me to." Said Mikey, "so what is it you want to say?"
"Well... It started when I met these two guys..."

Chapter Text

It Runs In the Family, Chapter 5: A Day Out In Town With Siska and Co.

"Bill! You have a phone call!" Pete barged into my room with the home phone. I was lying down on my bed with Gabe while we were reading comic books together.
"Who is it?" I asked.
"I don't know this kid... But I think it's that Sisky guy again? He wants to talk to you." He explained.
Suddenly I remember when I gave Sisky the number for the home phone on the day Vicky, Z and LynZ sat at lunch with us. I remember we had plans to go hang out at the mall again next weekend to prepare for prom. Last week me, Gabe and the group went out for milkshakes and crappy arcade toy booty all while Sisky discussed all the high school social politics. Recently, Gabe has been getting into quite the swing of it. Especially because since that one day, we've been hanging out with Sisky a lot. Even if it's not in person he always manages call the home phone for the purpose of talking to either me or Gabe. Sometimes both. We had all been making our own plan for how prom was going to go down so that we could give Gabe his best first experience, and so that we could also get our outfits sorted, and also maybe get ready to ask out our potential dates. (I had already heard that Cassadee might be at the mall too because she had no homework, and that Z and LynZ wanted to take Vicky there so she could get a 'cool' makeover) so there was a chance of that happening.
"Thank you for letting me know dad, I'll take it from here!" I told Pete. I took the phone and put it on speaker so both me and Gabe could talk to Sisky.

"Hey Sisky, what's happening right now? Any updates about how we're going to work on prom?" I asked.
"Yeah! Bill, I just wanted to say that my dad can't drop us off because he's taking my brother fishing and I told him I don't want to go. So we don't have a ride into town. Is there anyone in your family who can pick us up and drop us off?" He asked.
"Uhhhhh... I don't really know!" I said.
"Wait a second Bill, what about Hayley. She's not really doing anything this upcoming weekend, maybe she could drop us off!" Said Gabe.
"Is Hayley your sister Bill, is she cute?" Asked Sisky.
"Why are you asking me this question? Besides aren't you asking out Z?" I asked back.
"Yeah, you're right about that! But then again it's good to have a backup plan." Said Sisky.
"I hate to break it to you, but Hayley is kinda a lesbian!"
"And she likes Vicky!" Said Gabe.
"Holy shit!" Sisky yelled.
"Adam T Siska! Do not swear!" Yelled a female voice in the background.
"Sorry mom!" Sisky shouted back, "anyway, go talk to Hayley about it! We really need a ride."
"No worries, I'll go ask her right now. Gabe please keep Sisky company while I go look for her." I said passing him the phone, "also Sisky! Don't you dare ask Hayley about her possibly being a lesbian. It's still a touchy subject for her."
"Okay Bill! Don't worry, I'm no homophobe."

I ended up catching Hayley in her room on her laptop.
"Hayley, I need you to do me and Gabe a solid!" I said.
"What can I do for you?" She asked.
"I need you to take me, Gabe, Sisky, Mike, Chislett and Butcher down to the mall this upcoming weekend." I explained.
"Bill I only have one passenger seat in the front and three in the back. I can't fit everyone!" She said.
"We can try and squeeze everyone in. The cops won't be too on us if we get to town quickly, besides, Gabe told me Vicky was going to be at the mall too with her friends. I'm just saying!" I bribed.
"Okay! Sign me up, I'll take all six or you even if the cops kill me for it. All of you are preparing for prom right?" Hayley asked.
"Yep!" I said.
"I guess I'll have to prepare too, make myself ready to potentially have a chance with having Vicky as my date. How about you Bill, are you thinking of asking out a special someone?" Hayley teasingly asked me.
"Well... there's Cassadee-" I got cut off.
"You mean that sweet girl from across the road? Aw, that's adorable! Good luck to you dude. I hope she says yes." Hayley gushed.
"Thanks..." I said, not really saying anything else because yet again I was getting dizzy and blushing furiously.

"Okay Sisky! Hayley can take us, she wants to prepare to prom too. And she's sold on the idea that Vicky will be there too." I said heading back into my room.
"Thank you Bill! This is going to be such a good Saturday, I can't wait to see you guys there." Said Sisky.
"We'll be excited to see you guys too." I said.
"Goodbye guys!" Said Sisky.
"Goodbye" both of us said, we hung up the phone and instead of going back to reading that comic book we were reading before, we just decided to talk about all of our biggest prom fantasies.

Flashback, a few days ago, at the therapist's:

Brendon started explaining his story to Mikey, his new therapist.

"Well, it started when I met these two guys... Dallon and Ryan! I met them when my parents split and I was coming to terms with the fact I wasn't going to ever see my mother again. I met them when I barely wasn't a kid anymore and so they were fine and kind of a nice support for me at first, they were good company. But then, as we got older they started growing up too fast and got into drinking and weed. And for my birthday one year, my dad got me a motorcycle. Dallon and Ryan already thought I was cool, but I wanted to prove I could fit in with them even more. So I too started drinking and weed, and I became really addicted to it. And it got so bad that soon my family decided to have an intervention with me and have me start going to group therapy with other alcoholics and drug addicts to hope I could meet better friends and become good again. For a short while, I kicked Ryan and Dallon out of my life and I thought it was alright. And I was keeping away from the drinks and weed, but then eventually I started suffering from really bad withdrawal. It made me feel even worse than the drinking and drugs combined. And I wasn't making friends at school or therapy so I relapsed in secret and started going back to Dallon and Ryan. I feel like I just couldn't live without them. To this day, I still lie to my dad about going out to see them. I tell him I'm seeing two guys from therapy! But that's just split my family up even more. It's made my dad angry and it's made me lash out at my little brother and my sister pretty much ignores me. I do regret it sometimes, but I just can't stop. I don't know how to stop!" Brendon explained in full detail.
"Wow... you've been through a lot Brendon. You've given me a lot of reference to work on, it's great you acknowledge you want to be close to your family again." Said Mikey.
"Well my dad forced me to come here. But, I guess it could be a step in the right direction." Brendon said.
"Now, looking back on what you've just told me. You seem to be relying on your addictions and these toxic friends as kind of a way to forget that your mother left your family when you were younger and it traumatised you in some way. Why did you mother leave, were you old enough to understand?" Mikey asked, writing down on his clipboard.
"My mother left when I was seven, she left the family when my dad came out to her as bisexual and she took it really badly and was scared he was going to cheat on her with a man. And it still badly scarred me and I started hanging out with Ryan and Dallon when I was about ten or eleven. Dad gave me the motorcycle when I was thirteen and they started drinking and smoking around that time too, I think it's because they also came from broken families, way more broken than mine. They had older brothers who passed it on to them at a young age." Brendon spilled out all his words as Mikey jotted down all of the points.
"I see where you're going here. You were old enough to be strongly impacted by your mother leaving you, that you needed a crutch, a coping mechanism to hold on to! All people who suffer from trauma need a thing to hold on to, so they can forget about it for a short period of time and make themselves feel better. Some can be good, and some can be harmful. You ended up using Ryan and Dallon and your addictions as your coping mechanisms. You don't choose your coping mechanisms, you kind of just fall into them and unfortunately you fell into some toxic coping mechanisms" said Mikey, "I think a way we can help you is to help you fall into using a healthier coping mechanism. I see your father tried to do this by taking you to group therapy, but obviously it didn't work and you didn't like it. That's okay! You need to maybe try some other things you will enjoy, to get the same satisfaction you get out of those friends or your addictions but healthier. A good healthy coping mechanism is channeling your sad feelings about anything into something creative instead of destructive."
"How can I do that?" Brendon asked.
"Well... it's really up to you. But if you want any suggestions. I see that when you explained your situation. You explained it, rather beautifully. I feel like maybe in some way, you can express your feelings by putting those words to paper in an artistic way. I see a lot of talent in you. I feel like, you could be very good at poetry!" Said Mikey.
"Poetry? I've never tried poetry apart from simple little haikus when I was a grade schooler. I don't think I was any good at it." Said Brendon.
"You don't have to be good at all, I'm just saying. Maybe give that a try. Put some of your feelings about anything going on in your head, your mother leaving, your addictions, your toxic friends, your family. Maybe one about wanting to change. Anything at all! Write something about it and let everything out and next time we have an appointment, you can show it to me." Mikey instructed.
"Will you like it?" Brendon asked.
"Like I said, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad. It just matters to me if you are letting out your feelings, instead of repressing them like you're doing with your toxic coping mechanisms. Let's make this a little thing between us that you can use to ask me whether any behaviours that you're uncertain about are a method of expression or repression. Anything you think might be a new coping mechanism, you can ask me until you feel you can tell the difference yourself!" Said Mikey.
"Thank you, I like the sound of that." Said Brendon.
"And I think our appointment time is up right now, but I'll see you next week! I'd love to see you maybe bring some poetry with you." Said Mikey looking at his watch.
"Thank you!" Said Brendon, he didn't know if he would take Mikey's request or not, but if he was going to start somewhere maybe he would consider giving it a shot.

Present day:

"Hey Brendon, what are you doing right now?" Pete asked him. Brendon was sitting on the table with a few sheets of a4 paper and a pencil. Deciding to make a start on that poetry.
"Mikey, my therapist told me that if I'm going to recover and feel better and maybe reconnect. I should try healthier coping mechanisms and suggested I should start doing poetry about my feelings." Said Brendon.
"Oh... that sounds really nice! It's good that you're making a start. What are you writing about?" Pete asked.
"I'm writing about recovering from my addictions and how it's separated us from each-other." Brendon explained.
"Wow, that's a very interesting thing to write about. So you're definitely going to try and change for the better. You're not going to refuse anymore?" Pete asked.
"No... I mean, maybe. I still don't really know how I feel about this. But maybe I should give it a shot. I don't really want to make you guys upset you know."
"Brendon, don't do this for us. You're really doing this for yourself and carrying on with your own life. If you start to work on the things Mikey says that you're talented at and you end up growing a passion for it. Then you can make yourself feel prouder than ever, and self-pride is one of the best feelings you can ever feel." Pete ruffled Brendon's hair and then went to go and make some dinner with another new recipe Patrick gave him. Brendon would normally flinch whenever Pete would touch now cause he feels like he's too old for it. But now, he didn't mind it at all. He didn't say a word back to him, instead he went back to working on the poem.

The next weekend:

It was finally the day of the hangout which meant I had to wake slightly earlier than I would've liked to on a Saturday. However, I didn't mind that at all today because it meant that I would prepping for prom with my closest friends, and some friends I was getting closer with. I woke up early, and got ready and within less than a minute Gabe turned up too because he could get ready quite fast. (Probably because of the lack of luxury items he could use to get himself ready, although recently Pete went shopping at Costco to go and get some stuff for the family so him and the family had little things to do to get ready for a day.)
"Hello Bill! Are you ready to prepare for prom?" Gabe asked me. He was wearing some new (cheap) clothes that Pete had brought him. A plain white shirt and some blue jeans. Along with a pair of running shoes. For once he looked a lot like a normal kid. Even though no one had ever questioned his background, occasionally I had a couple of people from the group telling me Gabe looked 'homeless' or 'shaggy'. All I could do was reassure everyone that brought it up that it was just the way he liked to dress and that he didn't really care about what he liked to wear. But the fact that today he would be in public outside of school and that he would need to learn to clean up for prom along with the rest of his family, meant that he had to wear something new.
"Yes! I'm ready to do this. I like what you're wearing by the way." I said.
"Thank you! Pete is very good at picking out clothes, these are so comfy." He said.
"If you like the feeling of regular new clothes, you'll love the suit we're picking out for you for prom." I said.
"You mean, me and us right?" He asked.
"Yes! Of course, we wouldn't let you wear anything that you don't like." I said.
"Where's Hayley, is she ready right now?" Gabe asked.
"She's still getting ready, it takes a little longer for girls." I said.
"Hayley doesn't really strike me as the type that would always want to look pretty." Gabe said.
"She doesn't normally take this long, but I told her Vicky is going to be at the mall. So now she wants to bring her best self." I said, "by the way, does Vicky want a ride?"
"She would go, but Z and LynZ insisted on picking her up. She's going to meet them at the corner of the neighbourhood." Gabe replied.
"Well I guess everything is sorted then in terms of organisation of getting there." I said, "now onto the social stuff. Do you have an eye on someone you want to ask out, cause there's a high chance they could be at the mall shopping for their outfits too."
"No... not really! I don't really have a crush on anyone. I'm just fine with going with my friends!" Said Gabe.
"Are you worried about being a third wheel though?" I asked.
"What's a third wheel? Sisky didn't tell about that when going over social stuff the other day." Gabe asked again.
"Oh well... it's when you hang out with a friend and their romantic partner and you start to feel left out. I don't want you feeling like this because I'll probably be with Cass and Sisky and Mike potentially have Z and LynZ." I explained.
"Oh... I see why you would think there's a problem. Well, I'm friends with the girls too! There shouldn't be a problem in any of the conversations. And if you all want to dance, then I won't mind." Gabe said. I patted him on the shoulder.
"This is why you're probably my coolest friend."

After about half an hour, Hayley emerged from the bathroom. Wearing her normal singlet and track suit pants getup. But she was also wearing a black tattoo choker, and her singlet was tied to the back so it looked more like a crop top. Her hair was out and she was wearing some simple winged eyeliner and lipgloss.
"Hello Hayley, you're looking pretty impressive today! Bet Vicky is going to think you're a real snack!" I teased.
"Oh shush! Are you guys ready, we pick up Sisky and the guys in less than a couple of minutes." She said brushing the tease away.
"Yep, we've spent all this time waiting for you!" I said.
"Sweet, lets go right now." She said opening the door and leading us both to the car.

At the corner of the neighbourhood:

"Hello Vicky! How are you going?" Z asked as her convertible pulled up at the corner. Since Vicky didn't have a phone all she could rely on was the time they both set for each-other to meet, the location and the hope that they wouldn't lose each-other.
"I'm going good thank you! Excited to do this." She said getting into the backseat.
"So, are you excited for prom?" Asked LynZ who was putting on another layer of red lipstick.
"I've heard inklings about it and I might go. But I don't get all of the fuss about dates, I don't really have anyone I want to go out with." Vicky replied.
"Honestly, we don't either. But it's fun to go there and request our favourite songs and dance to them with some cool friends! But if there's anyone out there who's nice and interested we might go." Said Z.
"Oh okay, I just don't think I'm going to date anyone. Love can be tragic." Said Vicky having a brief moment of reminiscence about her parents.
"Why on earth do you think that?" Both of them asked.
"It's honestly a rather long story, I don't think I should go into the details now. Besides it's probably better if I don't end up reliving it in front of you." She said.
"That's okay, you can always tell us another time." Said Z, "maybe just when all three of us are alone."
"Thanks guys! So what exactly are we doing today?" Vicky asked.
"We're getting our dresses for prom, but we're going to get you some cool new outfits so you can treat yourself." Said LynZ.
"What's wrong with what I already wear?"
"There's nothing wrong, we just notice that you wear it everyday. It would be nice if you had something new and fresh!" Said Z.
"I don't know, I feel kind of bad that you two are spending money on me." Said Vicky.
"Don't worry about it! We have plenty in our bank accounts, and you're our good friend. Why wouldn't we treat you?" Asked LynZ rhetorically.


After the incident at the party with Victoria's dad and Caroline. The Asher family had been rather dormant. The family did nothing together apart from live with each-other. Victoria's dad would pace down the hallways, her mother would be in a isolated room doing nothing but watching trashy celebrity news and wearing face masks. And Victoria herself would be isolated in her own bedroom. Accompanied by no one but her glamorous dolls and their own house. As Victoria was immersing herself in yet again, another session with her dolls. Talking to them as if they were real-human friends, her mother barged into the room.
"Victoria! Put your coat on, we're going out for dinner tonight!" She demanded.
"Why?" She asked.
"I don't know why, I just thought about maybe having some family time cause we haven't had any in ages. Now come on, no complaining!"
Without bothering to say anything, she grabbed her coat off the door-handle to her room, a pink silk and white faux fur ensemble. And ran off with her mother. She looked up at her as they walked down the stairs to go to the limo. Something in her eyes made her look somewhat longing.
"Now don't give me a sad face, be happy! We're going out for a nice treat!" Her mother told her, squeezing her cheeks and patting her shoulder.

Present day:

"Is this Sisky's house?" Hayley asked me. I gave her the slip of paper in which I had written the address on.
"I'm guessing it is, you go in and pick him up!" She said.
I ran out of the car along with Gabe, who insisted to come with me. Went up to the front door and rung the doorbell. Soon a series of loud thuds were heard until there was a small blur of a person in the decorated glass door. The door was answered by Sisky and the rest of the group with worried faces slipping out.
"Hey guys..." I whispered, "why do all of you look so scared?"
"We just need to get out quick! If my mom were to see you she would probably try to kiss you even if you aren't her sons." Said Sisky.
"Okay, no risking that then." I said.
"What's everyone else doing here?" Gabe asked.
"They decided it would be easier if you were able to pick us all up at once so you wouldn't have to drive to multiple addresses!" Said Sisky.
Everyone else nodded.

We opened the door to Hayley's car and Gabe and the group started piling in while I got in the front seat.
"Wow, some of you aren't going to have seat-belts!" Said Hayley sarcastically.
"Yep! We heard we all had to squeeze!" Said Chislett.
"Who are all of you?" Hayley asked.
They all rapidly introduced themselves.
"Okay is everyone inside now?"
"Let's go!"

The mall:

"Okay, now remember! If any of you get lost! Go meet at Macy's okay. If any of you guys need me, I'll be at the thrift store." Said Hayley, "and by the way Bill, good luck with Cassadee you nerd!" she elbowed me in the arm signalling a chorus of "oooooooohs!" from the boys. Then she walked away and finally we were all left to our own devices.
"Okay team, where should we all go first?" Asked Sisky.
"I don't know, but is anyone hungry? I feel like maybe we should eat before we go look for suits!" Said Butcher.
"Maybe we could all go to the arcade if we have change. Does anyone want to attempt to win Dragon Tower again?" Asked Chislett.
"Yes, but hopefully I win it! The princess at the end of the game that you save looks like Z-Berg. So it could mean good luck for when I asked her out." Said Sisky rubbing his hands together mischievously. Everyone else rolled their eyes.
"Shall we go to Burger King?" Butcher asked. Everyone else murmured little "sures!" And "why nots?"

Gabe saved us all a plush-seat table while Sisky went up to the counter with some of the money he had brought to order.
"Man Gabe, the normal kid experience doesn't get any better than this! Being at the mall, eating junk food with your friends and talking about video games and girls." I said to Gabe who was sitting right next to me.
"That sounds like the high life to me!" He said back. As all of us chilled out at the table, everything seemed to be going perfectly swell. Until me and Gabe heard a familiar yell coming from outside the Burger King.
"What is going on outside?" Asked Gabe. Me and him stepped out of our seats and looked outside, in the pottery store across from the Burger King, Gerard was in there! Yelling at the cashier.
"It's Gerard!" I said unenthusiastically, hearing Gerard screaming about something was a rather normal occurrence to me. He was always mad about something. Mad about Pete for a petty reason, mad about a dead plant in his garden, mad about Raccoons and Wasp nests! I could pretty much be hearing him rant about everything. A few days ago he was cursing and using lots of blasphemy at the television when his favourite football team didn't win their game. Wanna know why I even knew what he was yelling about? Well he's just that loud? Everyone in the neighbourhood knows that Gerard yells and everyone can hear what he's yelling about. Hearing him in public though... at another person! Was a different story.
"I demand a refund for pot! I did not damage it! It was my neighbours toast that flew out the window and knocked it off! I have the receipt!-" Gerard hollered at the cashier.
"Sir please, we are very sorry about what happened with your pot. But we can't refund you, the store's refund policy is that we can only give you back your money if the item is undamaged!" The Cashier tried to reasonably explain to him.
"No! I will not accept this at all! Can I please speak to the manager about this-" Gerard continued to argue.
"Sir, I think we're going to have to ask you to leave! SECURITY!" The cashier demanded.
"But.... but..." two heavy looking men in blue uniforms dragged him away from the store and took him away somewhere else.
"Hold on, he said that the neighbour's toast flew out the window and knocked over his pot." Said Gabe.
"Of course! Pete forgot to close the window while he was making breakfast!" I sighed.


Our toaster was a rather unpredictable machine. You never knew what it was going to do, but one thing it would do a lot was send the toast flying. Sometimes it flew on the kitchen floor, sometimes it landed coincidentally right on our plate, sometimes it even landed in the sink! However, it became even more disastrous if the window was open. If we were lucky the toast would probably just land on the little strip of land in between us and Gerard's house, but if it flew anywhere near Gerard's precious garden the consequences would be disastrous! And would lead to lots of argument between him and Pete. Once, it landed only just over the fence and while it didn't ruin anything, a whole flock of pigeons swarmed over it and then went for his fruit trees too. You could see how much Gerard scolded Pete about leaving his windows closed after that. Today was yet again another one of those incidents.
The toast was left to turn golden, the window was accidentally left open, and suddenly it was sent flying (and hard and black, because you never knew what to expect with how well the toaster would cook the toast itself) it took the plunge into Gerard's garden and knocked over his brand new pot he was hoping to put some seedlings in. Shattering it into a billion pieces.
"WENTZ! COME OVER HERE!" He shrieked while standing over the fence.
"Oh dear god, not again!" Pete murmured.

Normal time:

"Whatever, he shouldn't bother us now that he's probably getting kicked out of the mall." Said Gabe.
"Guys! I have our food now." Said Sisky arriving at the table with a tray of junky morsels.
"Oh sweet!" I said taking my cheeseburger about to dig in, suddenly Gabe tapped me on the shoulder.
"Dude! Why are you doing that?" I asked.
"Look at the table close by the door." Gabe said. I looked up and saw that Cassadee was sitting there waiting for her order.
"Maybe you should ask her out right now." Gabe suggested.
"Uhhhh... I don't know! Maybe another time, I don't want to do this while she's eating." I hesitated.
"You could at least say hi to her." Gabe said.
"Maybe on the way out, I just don't think I'll ask her out right now." I said. I stared longingly at the table, watching her playing with a plastic spoon out of boredom. I turned back and started eating my cheeseburger.

Eventually, everyone else started to recognise that Cass had arrived.
"So Bill... nows your chance!" Said Mike prodding me playfully in the arm.
"I don't think nows the time Mike!" I said.
"Yeah he's right Mike, he says he'll wait for when she's not eating." Gabe said, defending me.
"Okay okay, I'm just saying! That could be your one and only chance, don't mess it up." Said Mike, putting both his hands up to show he didn't mean any harm.
"I wonder where Vicky, Z and LynZ are?" Asked Sisky.
"I don't know, but maybe they could be wherever Hayley is. She wants to ask out Vicky and she could possibly be looking for them." I said.
"Wait, Hayley is gay?" Asked Chislett.
"Well... it's difficult. Vicky is basically her first crush so she doesn't really know what she is yet." I explained.
"Are you sure? Do you remember her liking any boys in the past, surely Vicky can't be her only crush." Said Sisky.
"Well... she told me back in grade school she liked this one boy. But then I asked her about it again a couple of weeks later and she said that she didn't really like him. She only was forcing herself to because the other girls in her grade liked him." I said.
"Maybe she is a lesbian then" said Chislett.
"Maybe she is, I just wouldn't force labels on her so soon." I said.

Eventually, we were all full on Burger King. We continued to talk for a few minutes and then decided to look for a cheap tailor. As we were on the way out, Cassadee noticed me leaving.
"Hi Bill!" She said, waving sweetly at me. All I could do was wave back and blush like I mostly do.

"Bill, what the hell did you just do? That was your chance!" Asked Sisky.
"I honestly don't know, it just really didn't feel like the right time for me. I was in a public place, and if I asked her. People would be awwing us and it would be embarrassing, and I feel like she would have to say yes even if she didn't want to go because the public would think it was cute. And I don't want to make her feel like that." I over explained.
"Bill, you are overthinking this! Okay, I wasn't trying to hassle you. You will have another chance, you can run into her somewhere else. Now, we have to get to work on what we will do next!" Said Sisky.
"I think we should all split and go look for different tailors and formal clothing stores to see what we all like. Then we can meet at the arcade like Chislett suggested. Maybe even go look for the other girls." Said Mike.
"That sounds like a great idea, I think we should all have a small group of people to stick with too. I say that Bill, Gabe and Butcher go together and I'll go with Mike and Chiz! Does that sound good?" Asked Sisky.
"Sounds like a plan, I'll see you at the arcade in maybe a couple of hours." I said. We then split in half, I don't think Hayley allowed us to do this. But we all had a foolproof plan, how bad could it possibly be?

As us three walked together, we saw Gerard walking out of the mall with a huffy expression on his face. Probably because he just had been told to leave. As we walked together, he turned his head and stared at me and Gabe. He had a rather surprised expression on his face, like he had just seen a ghost. Probably because he was seeing a kid of Pete's (and a suspicious looking newcomer) at a place where he was getting at something Pete indirectly did. He whispered something to himself and then turned away going back to walking out the door because he didn't want to get in trouble.

"Is that Bill... and that other kid... what's his name again?... Garry... Gordie... no wait.... Gabe! That's right. I've always noticed something suspicious about him, I feel like Pete is hiding some sort of horrible secret with this child! If I just get to the bottom of what it is, maybe Pete can be evicted from this near perfect neighbourhood once and for all. Then I won't ever have to deal with him ruining my lovely garden ever again!"

Me, Gabe and Butcher found a pop-up formal clothing store made specifically for the prom season. We decided that we would split up and look for our own suits and then meet outside and decide whether we wanted to buy anything or not. Immediately we split off from each-other and went for a browse.

First I went into the ties section. Looking for some simple first. I did have a tie already and it looked, but once when I went to junior prom wearing it. Pete soaked it in his cologne to the point where it smelled unbearable and made a me a loner that night. Since then, it's been rotting in the local landfill. I decided to go looking for something new and classy to match whatever suit I was going to wear. I scanned over the bow-ties first, not because I particularly wanted a bow-tie. I just liked looking at them to see if there were any with funny patterns on them. I ran my hand over the array of little bows looking at and feeling all of the colours and textures. From the maroon Velvet to the blue and spotty. I was so immersed in the variety that I didn't notice another hand doing the same thing too... a tan and freckled hand. Our hands accidentally collided awkwardly and we both twitched away and looked at each-other's faces. Cassadee was standing with me... in the bow-tie section.

"Bill... hi, fancy running into you here!" Said Cassadee nervously. Speaking unlike I had ever heard her before, normally she was fine saying hi to me. But us being alone together with our hands touching accidentally made her flustered and blushy. I wonder why?
"Nice running into you too... ummm, why are you in the tie section? Are you actually going to wear a suit?" I asked.
"Well only the top part of the suit! Maybe a nice sparkly skirt with it. I have this cool pink one I really like." She said.
"Oh yep, I like the sound of that!" I said, "are you excited for prom?"
"I'am actually! I love going there to dress up and for the music, even if I don't have a date. It makes me feel like I'm in a cool cheesy high school movie." She said.
"Nice! And those movies are good to watch haha." I said, "so... you don't have a date?"
Sisky's words of me telling me I could run out of chances began to swim through my head threateningly. I had to ask out Cass now, it could be a now or Never situation.
"No I don't have a date, I don't really have my eye on anyone right now." She said, she yet again started to sound nervous again. Like she was hiding something from me.
"Okay. Fair enough... I mean it's high school, you have your whole life ahead of you." After saying that, Sisky's voice inside my head was screaming DAMMIT! Over and over again.
"That's a rather mature thing to say." Cassadee said.
"Well my dad didn't raise me to be an idiot." I replied suavely.
"Do you like anyone Bill?" Cass asked.
"Well... actually, there's-" I was finally about to say my feelings. I was actually going to ask her, but then I heard a really loud cough behind me. It was Gabe.
"What's Gabe doing here?" Cass asked.
"I'm sorry! I really have to go, I'll come back later and tell you what I had to say..." I apologised. Running off to Gabe and awkwardly waving goodbye to Cass.

Gabe dragged me out of the aisle and out of the store.
"Gabe! Why did you do that? I was literally just about to ask Cassadee out." I said frustratedly.
"I'm sorry Bill, I really am. But Gerard is in the store right now and he was watching me!" Gabe panicked.
"What? He isn't even allowed to be in the mall, what was he doing?" I asked.
"I think he followed us here after he saw us. He was looking at me when I was looking at jackets, and then I felt uncomfortable so I went to the shirts section and suddenly there he was again! I'm so scared, what does he want from me?" Gabe clinged onto me and buried his head in my chest. I held onto him tightly and let him relax.
"Don't worry. We'll go look for Butcher and find another suit store. I'm not mad at you for interrupting my conversation." I said.
"Thank you Bill, you're the best. I really hope that Gerard doesn't find out where we come from. I hope that he doesn't send us back to the orphanage." Gabe said muffled in my shirt.
"Don't worry. We'll try our best to make sure he won't, now come on. Let's go find Butcher!"

Meanwhile, Sisky, Mike and Chislett had already found everything they had needed and had no worries in the world about a scary neighbour.
"Guys! We are going to look great tonight, I'm so happy we were able to find everything we wanted so quickly." Said Sisky.
"I feel like a fancy gentleman!" Said Chislett.
"Chislett, we are beyond gentlemen. With what we have just brought, we can get all the girls." Sisky bragged. Suddenly a conversation was overheard as they were passing the music store. Z, LynZ and Vicky were in there buying some CDS.
"Guys look! It's the girls, this is our chance." Said Sisky, "act natural."
"Do I look good?" Asked Mike.
"Yes yes, you look handsome."
"Is my hair not sticking out everywhere?" Asked Chislett starting to play with his hair.
"Chislett! It's fine, we look good. We just have to-"
"Hi guys, didn't think I'd run into you here." Said Z. She had already found them.

"Hello there Z. How are things going?" Asked Sisky, leaning back on whatever was behind him trying to look casual.
"We've been going good, we're just introducing Vicky to some cool new music." She said.
"That sounds awesome! What did you buy?" Mike asked.
"Lots and lots of punk." Said LynZ.
"Here, you can all take a look if you want." Z handed Sisky the bag of CDS and they all took looks at them one by one, passing them around and looking at the cover art.
"Wow! These look so awesome." Said Chislett.
"I like this one here!" Said Mike. The art depicted a drawing of a girl in the style of an old comic book. She had big muscles and she was standing heroically over an evil looking alien. The alien looked as if the girl had shaken and fought it to death. The girl looked proud and happy and she was flexing her muscles with a smile on her illustrated face.
"Oh! That's one of my favourites, but it's been so hard to find. I've been looking for it forever." Said Z.
"Who's the band?" Asked Sisky.
"The band is called Opaque Water! They're so awesome, I'd highly recommend them to you." Said Z.
"Awesome! I'll look them up when I get home." Said Mike.
"What are you guys doing here?" Asked Vicky, "isn't Gabe and Bill supposed to be with you?"
"We're out looking for good prom clothes. We went to one store but it wasn't too good, so we're looking for more." Said Chislett, "Gabe, Bill and Butcher are looking in another place but we plan to meet up again."
"Okay then!" Said Vicky.
"Unfortunately, there aren't anymore clothing stores in here just for prom clothes. But there's a thrift store here that we haven't been able to check out, are you guys interested?" Asked LynZ.
"Well of course, I mean. It's always good to look classy by looking well... classic!" Said Sisky.
"What was that supposed to imply?" Asked Mike.
"I do not know!"
"You guys are funny, come on. Let's go!" Z said leading the way for the boys.

While Sisky had scored with Z and Mike had scored with LynZ (maybe) me, Gabe and Butcher went to the formal clothing store that Sisky and the others had left a few minutes ago. We had now lost Gerard, so we figured we were safe and we kept on searching. Yet again, I was in the tie section. (Although I didn't expect to run into Cass again.) I ended up getting a simple black bow-tie and a maroon jacket with the money that Pete had lended me. I happily put them together and started walking up to the counter. Suddenly I was stopped in my tracks by Gerard.
"Agh!" I let out a small yelp.
"Hello Bill..." he said cunningly.
"What are you doing here? I thought you got kicked out of the mall by those security guards." I said.
"Well... I kind of did. But then I saw you and that Gabe kid you call your cousin and I thought, why not catch up?"
"That's creepy! For one, you're basically stalking us and not making us feel safe in a public place, two you were already told to get out and three, the fact that you were basically making us feel unsafe made me have to leave the other store right when I was about to ask out my potential date!" I ranted.
"Oh you teenagers and your little prom shenanigans! It's funny watching you be so petty, in some ways you're just like your father." My face started screwing up. A bead of sweat went down my red flushed face.
"By the way, I heard news on the street that somebody is hiding escaped orphans in the abandoned house. I don't know who it is, but those poor kids need to get back to their home. And the people hiding them need to be taken from the neighbourhood." Gerard said.
"What do you mean there's orphans being hidden?" I asked, not wanting to expose my secret to someone I really didn't trust.
"I've noticed ever since, that oddball gang of kids moved in next door on your side Bill! They're not your cousins, Pete is hiding them."
"You're jumping to conclusions." I said.
"Oh no I'm not, I witnessed you and Gabe talking about it when you tried to run away from me."
"Why do you want them gone, or us gone anyway? They're much happier here. They escaped because they wanted a better life and they hated that orphanage. We've been giving them more love than those matrons." I pleaded.
"It is indeed a shame that not much of the government's funding goes towards those orphans. But our government is our government and our law is our law. Therefore, those kids should be back where they belong." Gerard snarled.
"I won't let you take them from us!" I protested.
"Too bad, because no matter how hard I try to hide them. Every second I'll be keeping an eye on them. And when I catch them! I will call the police." Said Gerard, "and soon you'll be out of the neighbourhood. Maybe even out of the town. Say goodbye to your little friends, your lover and maybe even your family! As for me, well... we'll have no more stupid little arguments. No more feuds between me and old Petey!"
"Is this what this is about? You just want us all gone? Well tough, we brought this place. It's our home and the place next door is Gabe's family's home too. You want to take it all from us for your own indulgence. Yeah you can try, but we will win this!" I elbowed Gerard in the gut and then stormed away from him. Grabbing Gabe and Butcher and quickly paying for my stuff before Gerard would come looking for us again.

"What the hell just happened?" Asked Butcher, "why are you pulling us out right now?"
"Look, it's a long story about why. But basically we have this guy stalking us and we have to go find the others and leave the mall right now!" I explained.
"Come on, I don't know if we'll be able to scale the whole mall looking for them. But for now, let's go hide in the arcade." Said Gabe.

Me, Gabe and Butcher hid in a corner of the arcade. Occasionally getting up to play games with our change from the things we have brought. (Gabe and Butcher had also found some stuff) currently both of them were playing together on the basketball shooting game and I didn't know what to do.
"Guys I'm going to go and maybe get some snacks or a drink. I'll see you soon." I said.

I stared at the fridge at the snack bar and started looking at all my cold drink options. (Running from Gerard made me exhausted) as I stared I felt a tap on my shoulder. I shockingly turned around and saw Cassadee again. Holding a juice box while sitting at the little bar table. (I didn't have the time to notice she had arrived)
"Well Bill, turns out we've run into each-other again!" She said.
"It's funny how we do that." I said. She noticed I was sweaty and exhausted.
"Why do you look so tired, you look like you've been running from a bear." She asked.
"Well, it's a long story. But there's basically someone in the mall that I don't like, and they're going after me and Gabe." I said.
"That's a shame! I really hope that you're not too scared or anything." Said Cass
"Well, I'm a little less scared now actually. But still kind of nervous they might find me here." I said.
"Bill... you seem really paranoid! What's going on? You don't normally act like this."
"Well... I..... let me get straight to the point here! You aren't allowed to talk to anyone else about this except for me, Gabe, his family or my dad." I said, "Gabe... he's not my cousin!"
"What? He's not? Why did you say he was then?" Cass asked.
"Because, we are saying he's family to protect him and his family from the government right now. Because Gabe and his family are escaped orphans! All of them!" I explained.
"Hold On? Is this real or are you telling me some crazy story?" Cass asked.
"No it's true, Gabe has been living in the abandoned house next door to mine this whole time. They escaped because they wanted a better life, they were treated horribly back there and so we've decided to protect them all and teach them what a nice normal life with proper love and family is, unfortunately Gerard is threatening us and trying to expose them to not only send them back. But to get rid of us too." I continued.
"I see... to be honest, this does sound insane. But if I were you in this situation, I would do what you are doing too. You're very brave. Gerard is just really petty and I don't want him to make you and your family leave too. You're great." Said Cass, "so he's been chasing you around the mall?"
"Yes, and he was kicked out too. But then snuck back in so that he could follow us." I said.
"That's illegal! He actually shouldn't be doing that." Said Cass.
"Yeah, but he's Gerard... we know what he's like!" I said.
"I agree..." said Cass.

There was a short pause and a sigh in our conversation. Finally I felt like we were starting to get closer. Our faces were now so close I could examine every little detail of her. Cassadee's eyes looked brown from a distance but were actually blue with green specks in them. There were freckles everywhere. She was wearing sparkly makeup! I wonder what she was thinking about mine? Was it my brown eyes, my rosy cheeks? I honestly don't know, I just feel too plain for her.
"So maybe on a different note... you were going to tell me something important in the other store. What was that?" She asked.
"Oh right that..." I stuttered. This was now my perfect moment! It was time to determine the entire future of my love life.
"So, it turns out... for prom.... I do like someone, someone who is-"
"BILL! BILL!" I could hear Gabe running towards me in terror.
"Oh no, what is it now?" We both asked.

"Bill, he found us again! We need to find Hayley and the others right now!" Gabe huffed.
"Hayley is at the thrift store with Vicky and her friends. Sisky and the others just so happen to be there too, he texted me about it!" Butcher popped in.
"Okay guys, we'll go in a second! I just need to tell Cass something!" I said.
"Bill, what's important is that you guys need to be safe right now. It's fine if you don't tell me, we can talk about it later." Said Cassadee.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Oh wait... we should've gone somewhere else to talk about this." Said Gabe.
"No Gabe, it's fine. Bill told me everything. But don't worry, I won't tell anybody." She said.
"Okay then... what are we waiting for? Let's find the others!" I yelled taking Gabe and Butcher's hands and running out of the arcade. Cassadee waved goodbye and went back to her juice box, wondering what I was supposed to be saying to her.

"Hello Hayley, didn't expect to run into you here!" Said Vicky as she was browsing the thrift store.
"Well I didn't expect to run into you either, how are you?" Asked Hayley.
"I've been alright, I guess!" She said.
"I didn't know that you knew Hayley!" Said Z.
"We're... family friends!" Said Hayley.
"Yeah, we've known each-other for a while!" Said Vicky.
"Oh that's sweet, I forgot you guys are basically cousins. I think you were telling us that right Vicky?" Asked LynZ.
"Yeah..." Vicky mumbled. Hayley looked like she wanted to slap herself at that very moment.
"The real question is, how do you two know Hayley?" Asked Vicky.
"Well, we've known each-other since elementary even though we haven't really spoken to each-other properly. She's just always been around." Said Z.
"I agree with this!" Said Hayley. Hayley looked around and noticed that the boys were digging around in the suits.
"Did you bring them with you?" Asked Hayley.
"Yeah, kind of. We saw each-other outside the record store and then they decided to come with us." Said LynZ.
"But where are Gabe, Bill and Butcher?" Asked Hayley. Just a second after she asked that question, we had just ran all the way up to her. Exhausted and tired.

"Hey guys, what's happening? Why were you running?" Asked Hayley.
"It's Gerard.... he knows about us.... he's trying to expose us and get rid of us..." said Gabe.
"Wait what? Are you actually serious?" Asked Vicky.
"Yes, dead serious! He's been following us around the mall all day." I said.
"Oh god! I don't think we can stay here for much longer. We all need to go home and make sure that everyone else is safe." Said Hayley, "what else did he say?"
"He says he wants to kick out our family too for his own indulgence!" I said.
"Okay, that's a step way too far! We actually do have to go. I'll call Pete to tell him what's going on so that Ryland and the twins can be safe." Said Hayley.
"What's going on?" Asked Z.
"It's a family emergency right now." Said Vicky,
"Oh what? The fun is only just beginning!" Said LynZ.
"I'm really sorry, but it's a risk for the safety of me. I have to go somewhere safe." Said Vicky.
"If You need to be safe for at least a night, why don't you have a sleepover with us then?" Asked Z.
"You can stay the night with us! It will be good!" Said Z.
"No you don't understand, my family is at risk." Said Vicky.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure everyone's okay. Go have your fun! I don't think Gerard knows about you anyway." Said Hayley.
"Thank you!" Said Vicky going in for a big hug or gratitude. I immediately caught a glimpse of Hayley blushing. In one cheek just like I do!
"No worries... anything for you..." Hayley stuttered.

"Oh man, do we really have to go right now?" Asked Sisky.
"It's a long story, but there's a man stalking us and I don't want us to get hurt." I said.
"I guess that is understandable!" Said Chislett.
Hayley got out her phone and called Pete.
"Pete hi... we have a problem right now. We're leaving the mall early because Gerard is stalking us! And he found out that Gabe and everyone else are orphans... No Vicky is staying over with Z and LynZ... yes she will be safe, I don't think Gerard has seen her going out, it's mainly Gabe he's after... yes we all have prom clothes... no we don't have dates, we had to leave before anything had happened... can you please tell Ryland that him and the twins need to hide in a closet or something so that Gerard doesn't spot them?... I don't know about Gabe, but we're thinking about what he's going to do right now... keeping Ryland and the twins in the spare room? That sounds good... okay, we're on our way now. Goodbye Pete!" Said Hayley hanging up.
"Okay did you hear that?" She asked.
"Yep, Ryland at the twins are staying with us." Said Bill.
"Yes, I was thinking maybe Gabe could stay with us too. He could have a sleepover with you Bill and then when Gerard goes to inspect the house he'll find no one there" said Hayley.
"That sounds like a great idea, we just need to take away all our stuff so the house looks abandoned and nothing is suspicious." Said Gabe.
"Sweet, we can do that when we get home!" Said Hayley.

We piled into the car and then all drove home as fast as we could. On the way we all dropped off Sisky and the group.
"Why is everyone home so early?" Sisky's mom asked.
"It's a very long story m'am. A family emergency!" I explained.
"Of course, now if you need us remember that you have our number on the home phone." She said.
"Goodbye Bill!" Everyone else said I unison. The rest of the group were all staying at Sisky's until their parents would come and pick them up.

As we got home, immediately we opened the door to see Pete on the couch, and Ryland, Alex and Nate with all their stuff in a suitcase.
"Is everything okay, did he notice you guys were leaving?" Gabe asked Ryland.
"Nope!" He said.
"He must still be out at the mall!" Said Hayley.
"It's good that all of you are here anyway" said Pete, "how did Gerard find out?"
"He eavesdropped on us!" I said.
"Damn. Well, from now on, all of us are going to have to be extra careful okay. When all of you are leaving the house, you're going to have to make sure that Gerard isn't watching through the window or something. And we'll also need to have some sort of drill so that if he calls the police, or anyone to go looking for you. All of you will know where to hide. Until this situation dies down. Bill and Gabe will be having a sleepover tonight and Ryland and the twins can have the spare room." Pete explained.
"Okay, that all sounds good!" I said.
"It will be great actually because we're staying the night together!" Gabe said hi fiving me.

As me and Gabe set up everything in my room, we directed Ryland and the twins up into where the spare room is so they could set up too. Meanwhile, Brendon had finally come to a conclusion with his first creative endeavour. And for the first time in a while, he was actually proud of himself.
"Pete, come over here!" Brendon waved at him from the table. Pete was standing in the kitchen, doubling the size of our dinner because of the added "guests" in the house.
"What is it Brendon? I'm a little busy right now." He said, adding some seasoning to the food.
"I've finished my first poem!" He said.
"Ooh! That's cool, are you going to show it to Mikey this Tuesday?" Pete asked.
"Maybe... I feel it's a little rough around the edges, but Mikey said he didn't care whether it was good or bad. He just wanted me to make a start on something nice." Brendon said.
"Can you read to me from here?" Pete asked.
"Okay, I will."

The Glass Wall

Once there was a time when I felt
no feelings but sadness.
I felt that the people couldn't hear
me when I tried to speak.
Because I felt they weren't
listening, I built myself a glass

The wall made me see the people,
but I couldn't hear them and they
couldn't hear me. I felt better off

It wasn't until one day when they
tried to talk to me, when I realised
I regretted making the wall at all.
They talked to me, but because I
couldn't hear them, I was pushing
them away.

The more they tried to talk to me,
the more I realised that it was
better for me to make myself be
heard than to shove it down alone.

So one day I got a sledge hammer,
and now I'm taking my time to
break what I built.

"Brendon..." Pete said, a small tear rolled down his cheek.
"Dad, what is it? Are you okay?" Brendon asked.
"Brendon I'm fine... you've made me cry tears of joy that's all." He said.
"Because this is so beautiful!" Pete said, "no matter what you think. You're actually really talented. This poem just needs one more thing to make it stand out."
"What is it?" Brendon asked.
"Get some paint and make it colourful. You don't have to be intricate. Just really paint what colours you associate the poem with." Pete said. He turned away and put the roast he was making in the oven. Then he went to the long forgotten cupboard of crafty things we all used as little kids, and brought out the dusty set of paints and a paintbrush. And silently, Pete walked away.

A few hours later:

Me and Gabe were hanging out together in my bedroom and yet again reading comics together. Pete entered the room quietly and asked if all of us were okay.
"Pete we're fine! Thank you, why else are you up here?" I asked.
"Well, I just noticed Gerard going into the house next door with a torch to go looking for you. Let's just say he car out unsuccessful. The confused look on his face when he couldn't find anything!" Pete explained.
"Oh okay then!" We said turning back to our comic.
"Oh wait, don't turn back just yet. Bill you have another phone call!" Said Pete.
"Let me guess, is it Sisky again?" I asked.
"No, it's not Sisky... it's a girl! I think it's that one who lives across the road...-"
"Cassadee?" I asked.
"Yes! Thank you, I almost forgot her name. You can take the phone now." Pete said handing it over to me.

"Hi Bill!" Cass greeted me, like how she would've normally done in person.
"Hi Cass, how did you get our number?" I asked her.
"Well... everyone in the neighbourhood has each-other's numbers. In case you don't know, we all have a slip of paper by our home phones that has our neighbour's numbers on it." She said.
"I'm guessing my dad threw it out haha!" I said.
"Okay... well, are you, Gabe and the rest of his family okay?" Cass asked.
"Yeah, we're all good! Gabe is staying at my place tonight, and we have Ryland and the twins too. Vicky is staying with her friends." I said.
"I see... were you able to get away from Gerard?"
"Yes we are. We're safe now and we're staying here until he takes a break from hunting us down." I said.
"Okay. Now that we have that out of the way, what were you going to say to me earlier when we were at the arcade?" Cass asked.
"Oh... well, I don't think I should tell you over the phone. I think it's way too important for that." I said.
"Okay then, that's no problem with me... how about over dinner?" She asked.
"Wait what?"
"We could go have dinner somewhere and then you could tell me what you were going to say at the mall. How do you feel about that?"
"Oh right... I'd love that idea. When?" I asked.
"I don't know, maybe next Friday? Seven?" Cass asked.
"Sure thing. That sounds good." I said.
"Sweet, I'll run it over with my parents so they don't freak out about it. I'll see you at school!" She said.
"Goodbye Cass!"
"Goodbye Bill!"

"Bill, what just happened? Why are you freaking out?" Asked Gabe, who was now keeping me from passing out with joy.
"I think Cassadee just asked me out on a date!" I wheezed.
"Wait what? Are you actually being serious?" Gabe asked.
"Yes, she asked me to go have dinner with her next week! So I can ask her out to prom." I said.
"Wow, that sure sounds like a date to me. Bill, you have a high chance of getting with her and that is amazing. I'm proud of you!" Gabe said. The tone of his voice was starting to sound nervous and longing.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Nothing... just, when you and Cass do become a thing. Just don't forget we're best friends and that we should always stick together right?" Said Gabe. I noticed a small sense of third wheel slipping in. I patted him on the shoulder.
"Hey, it's going to be okay. We'll never stop being best friends." I said, "I may not love you in the same way I love Cass. But in a different way, I like you a lot! Nothing is ever going to change."
Gabe sighed with relief and then lied down on his side of the bed.
"Thanks, that's all I ever needed to hear." Gabe said.
"No worries dude!" I started to yawn, "I'm getting tired."
"Me too..." Gabe yawned too.
"Do you want to just sleep right now?"
"I'm down for that."

We curled up in the bed together and then turned out the one light in the room that was on. Without a word we began to dose off. Within a few minutes, as I was half asleep I felt Gabe turnover and then wrap his arms around me. Normally, any other guy in this situation would've freaked out and put a pillow between him and his friend. But I honestly didn't care, I felt safe and it assured me that he was safe too. Besides, he was rather comfortable too.

Chapter Text

It Runs In The Family, Chapter 6: The Worst Date In The World

"Wake up Vicky..." a voice whispered to her as she was half awake.
"Girl you're a deep sleeper!" The voice whispered again. Suddenly a cold hand touched her face, a REALLY cold hand.
"Oh my god!" Vicky finally sat up and briefly screamed and hyperventilated. Her vision adjusted to see it was Z telling her to wake up.
"How is your hand that cold?" Asked Vicky.
"I put my hand in the freezer just in case you didn't wake up instantly." Z explained.
"Hah..." Vicky murmured.
"We needed to wake you up anyway, cause we had this cool idea of something we could do." Said LynZ.
"What?" Asked Vicky.
"I thought that maybe... you could join our band. We've been looking for a drummer for ages and we thought, why not recruit you! You're a cool person." Said Z.
"I don't know how to play any instruments though." Said Vicky.
"Don't worry about it, we're punk! Who cares about playing an instrument properly!" Said LynZ.
"But that's not the main part of the day, we're thinking about making you one of us... we're giving you a makeover." Said Z.
"What are you going to do?" Asked Vicky.
"Come on, get up! Let's go to the wardrobe!" Z commanded.


Victoria woke up lying flat. Not knowing where she was. There was a bright white light shining aggressively in her eyes. Suddenly a black shadowy figure stood over her.
"Her eyes are opening... she's up." The person murmured softly to another person. Her vision adjusted to see a doctor with a white surgeon mask and plastic gloves on. Victoria looked around to see she was lying on a hospital bed and that her left arm was in a cast.

"Excuse me sir?" She asked, "where am I? Where are my mom and dad?"
"Ooh..." the doctor sighed, "this is going to be rather difficult to explain to you."
Another doctor, a female doctor went over to the bed and kneeled beside Victoria.
"You see... you were just in a car crash! Your parents were distracted while they were in the car. They ended up crashing into a construction site, and you broke your arm and you ended up getting a few cuts on your face from flying metal debris." The doctor got out a mirror and showed Victoria what her face looked like. There was one on her cheek, one on her forehead (that was stitched up) and one coming right off the end of her mouth. Victoria didn't know what to say about this, instead she thought about how upset her mother would be to see her face looking like this. Looking like the opposite of her "beautiful daughter". However she didn't have a word to say.

"Where are my mom and dad?" Victoria asked again.
"Yes, I was just getting to that. Victoria... when the doctors came over to rescue you, your parents were in a critical condition. That means that they were so hurt and broken they were basically fighting for their lives on the inside, they were barely still alive. You were very lucky that you were easy to fix. Those cuts on your face will heal, but your parents. They were way more broken than you. The other doctors tried their best to fix them... but it didn't work. Victoria... your parents are both dead." The female doctor explained.
"Dead?" A tear began to form in Victoria's eye.
"Sadly yes... they're not with us anymore. And they can't come back." The female doctor said.
Suddenly the tears became bigger and bigger and bigger, and soon they were spilling in big gushes down her face.
"I won't see my mom and dad again?" She blubbered.
"Sadly yes... you are what is called an orphan, that's a kid without a mommy or a daddy. We're happy you've woken up right now, because there's a lady in the foyer who wants to talk to you right now. About what's going to happen to you, and where you're going to go." The doctor explained.
"I'm not going to live in my home anymore?"
"We can't let you live there by yourself, you're only a little kid. We're finding you a new place to live." The doctor said, she started wheeling Victoria's bed out of the ward.
"Come on... let's go meet the lady."

Present day, back at the main house:

"Bill that is way too formal! You can't go out wearing that!" Pete said ushering in another bunch of fancy shirts and pants.
"Is this really necessary?" I groaned after taking off another shirt.
"Of course it is Bill, you have a date on Friday. You want to make a good romantic impression." Said Pete checking the size of the next shirt we were going to try. Brendon walked into the room hearing the conversation from somewhere else.
"What's going on?" Asked Brendon.
"Our little Billy here has a date!" Pete squealed.
"Dad, I swear to god. Do not call me Billy!" I protested.
"Hush now Billy, you know I like to call you that when I'm proud." Said Pete ruffling my hair affectionately.
"Who's he going on a date with?" Asked Brendon.
"He's going out with Cassadee, you know... she lives across the road from us?" Said Pete.
"Oh yep, I think I've seen her around" said Brendon.
"Come on Pete, we really don't need to put on all these fancy shirts. It's not entirely confirmed if it's a date, she never said it was one over the phone." I said.
"Oh come on, she asked you out for dinner! It's definitely a date." Said Pete, "you don't want to stuff any potential you guys have together by looking sloppy."
"Dad, I'm not trying to look sloppy. I'm trying to look casual!" I protested. Brendon rolled his eyes and chuckled a little bit and then left the room.


Brendon had just shown his first poem "The Glass Wall" to Mikey at his next appointment.
"Wow, Brendon... this is wonderful!" Said Mikey, "I knew that you were talented."
He held it up proudly, Brendon had embellished the paper he had written the poem on with black paint. He painted all around the words to give it somewhat of a dark atmosphere to it.
"Really, it's nothing... I don't think that's my best work." Brendon said awkwardly.
"Like I said before, it doesn't have to be good at all... you're off to a great start. You can keep writing these and keep showing them to me-" Mikey paused and then looked at Brendon and noticed he had a somewhat glum expression on his face.
"Is there something wrong?" Mikey asked.
"Well... you see, I quite enjoy writing poems about all the dark things that have happened. But I'm growing kind of bored of it. I want to write about something nice and happy for once." Brendon explained.
"Ah, I see... is there anything in particular?" Asked Mikey.
"Well, recently. I've been thinking about officially standing up to Ryan and Dallon and letting go of them for good, but I don't want to be alone when I officially do that. Because, since I've met them. I've never had proper friends at all." Brendon said.
"Ahhh... okay! You want new friends, and you want to write a happy poem about them." Said Mikey.
"Yeah, pretty much." Said Brendon.
"Well... I'm not the best at making friends ourselves. Everyone finds it hard to make friends, I don't just go up to a person instantly and ask for their companionship. Mostly, people meet their friends through circumstance. And sometimes, you need to make that circumstance happen." Said Mikey, "id say, you need to think of your own ways to put yourself out there. Show everyone the new you."
"How do I do that?" Asked Brendon.
"Look for activities in your school that maybe relate to things you're good at. Like your poetry! Maybe there will people who are just like you."

Present day:

As me and Gabe were walking to school the next day, I reached out of my bag and pulled out something Pete had given me earlier, a pair of walkie-talkies.
"What are these?" Asked Gabe.
"They're walkie-talkies, Pete wants us to communicate with each-other on the date." I said.
"No Bill, I can't ruin your date by being there with you." Gabe protested.
"No, you don't have to be with me at all. You can hide in the bathroom or something and I can talk to you from there if Cass leaves to do something." I explained. I turned on the walkie-talkie and talked into it.
"Turn yours on!" I said. Gabe pressed the button on his one and started talking into it too.
"Can you hear me?" I asked, my voice echoed out the other speaker .
"Yep, I can..." Gabe's voice echoed too.
"Hi guys!" I felt a tap on my shoulder and I saw Cass standing behind us.
"Oh... hi Cass, how are you?" I asked. My words slipped out fast.
"I'm good thank you, are we still doing this dinner thing on Friday?" She asked.
"Of course we are... why would I back out of it?" I asked, nervously giggling.
"Great! I'm really excited to talk to you, are we going to homeroom soon?" Cass asked.
"Yep..." I said softly.
"Sweet!" She nudged me on the arm and then hugged me again. (Like she had been doing for the past couple of days)
"I'm going to homeroom early to study, I'll see you soon." She waved and walked into the building. All I could do was wave back awkwardly as I blushed.

After the bell had rung, Brendon was making his way to his own homeroom. He was carrying a book of more poetry ideas in his hands, and a small pencil case. He looked around at all the rooms in the hallway awaiting to see his own, suddenly he slipped in a puddle of soapy water. Not noticing there was a sign that said 'slippery when wet'. His book and pencil case flew out of his arms and everything scattered onto the floor.

"Hey... are you okay?" A voice asked. Brendon looked up to see another boy standing above him. He was a slightly chubby boy with a round face and chin-length hair. He was also wearing a leather jacket, with a white shirt underneath and a simple pair of jeans and converse.
"Sorry to bother you man, I just wasn't looking where I was going..." Brendon apologised.
"You don't need to be sorry, I just wanted to make sure you're okay." The boy said, putting his hand on Brendon's shoulder.
"Well, my ass hurts a little bit cause I fell right on it. And my stuff has scattered everywhere, but otherwise I'm okay I guess." Brendon stood up carefully with help from the other boy taking his hand. After he stood up, he picked up his book and put all his stationary back in his pencil case. The other boy paused for a second and took a glimpse of the first page of the poetry book. The page where Brendon had glued the paper for "The Glass Wall".
"Did you write this?" The other boy asked.
"Uhhhh... yes!" Brendon said nervously, folding his arms. He didn't want this other guy to think of him as some weirdo.
"This is really good, when did you write this?" The other guy asked.
"Last week" said Brendon, "it's my first one actually. I've only just started writing poetry recently. It was a recommendation from my therapist but I actually kind of enjoy it."
"I write poetry too!" The other boy said excitedly.
"You do?" Brendon asked curiously.
"Yeah, I've been doing it for a little longer than you. But it's cool you've started doing it too. If you like, we could meet at lunchtime or something and read each-other's" the other boy said.
"I... like that idea." Said Brendon, he had a small smile on his face.
"Where do you sit?" The other boy asked.
"Oh... I sit at that empty table at the end of the room, no one really goes there." Said Brendon.
"Okay, sweet! Is it alright if I bring my friend Jon as well?" The other boy asked.
"Yeah sure." Brendon said, his smile got even bigger. The other boy reached out and shook his hand.
"My name is Spencer by the way!"
"My name is Brendon"
The final school bell went.
"We should probably be getting to class now." Said Spencer. He gave Brendon a wave and they both went their separate ways.

"Are you sure it's necessary to cut my hair for this?" Asked Vicky, her, Z and LynZ were skipping homeroom to continue Vicky's makeover. Vicky was wearing a uniform similar to the one's Z and LynZ already had on, except she was wearing a pink skirt and the embellishments were pink. (Both Z and LynZ decided pink was a nice signature colour for Vicky, when they decided to take the outfit to the tailor at the mall the previous couple of days ago.)
"Of course it is Vicky! If we're going to do the hairstyle that we have in mind, you'll need to have your hair spiky. And that involves cutting it!" Said Z. She got a pair of scissors out of her bag, first she did a trim on Vicky's fringe. Then before she got to work on cutting her ends, she closed her eyes and gulped.
"Why are you so afraid of scissors?" Asked LynZ.
"It's a very long story, but once... some people tried to harm me with scissors." Said Vicky as Z slowly snipped at her ends.
"What did they do?" Asked LynZ.
"They cut my hair very short, so short it could've been damaged. Then they locked me up. Since then I've always been sensitive about people doing things to my hair." Vicky explained.
"What kind of past did you come from?" Asked Z, "who did this to you?"
"Some girls... who were supposed to be like sisters to me. But they were cruel and messed up." Vicky explained, not really sure about opening up to the other two girls about the "orphan situation" just yet. It was a near miss at the mall when she unexpectedly had to flee.
"Broken family... man that must suck!" Said Z.
"Not really sure if it was even a family at all." Said Vicky.
"There! You're done!" Said Z. Vicky looked into the mirror and saw that her hair was now in a choppy, layered bob, with a neat fringe. For a while her fringe had always been all over the place, but for the first time she felt it looked decent.
"Wow..." she gasped. Touching the mirror and grinning.
"Do you like it?" Asked LynZ.
"I love it!" Said Vicky.
"There's only one more thing we need to do." Said Z.
"What is that?" Asked Vicky.
Z reached into her bag again and pulled out a couple of hair ties. Then, she pulled up the two sides of Vicky's hair and put them in pigtails. Only, instead of Z and LynZ's low pigtails. Vicky's were high and pointy. But they looked cool, and made her stand out in a good way.
"That's even better..." Vicky said.

At lunchtime today, me and Gabe waved goodbye to Cass and went to go sit with Sisky again.
"So... spill the tea!" Said Sisky, giving me a sly wink.
"The tea about what?" I asked.
"About Cassadee, word on the street is that she asked you out over the phone last weekend." Said Sisky.
"How did you find out?" I asked.
"Uhm... Gabe may have called me up instantly after it happened." Said Sisky.
"That's impossible, we were both asleep." I said.
"No... he woke me up in the middle of the night to call me." Said Sisky.
"Wait what?-"
"Hi Bill... hi guys! Guess what, the girls are all doing other things today, so I decided I would sit with you." Said Cass. She was standing by the table with her tray of lunch.
Sisky moved to the side and gave me a wink, Cass sat down next to me. Sometimes I wish Sisky wasn't too extreme about all of this.
"So Bill... I was wondering where we could go for dinner?" Asked Cass.
"Uhhhhh.... I'm not really sure..." I stammered.
"I was thinking, there's this new cheap place opening up in town. I thought that it would be a nice place to go." Said Cass, closing her eyes and smiling softly.
"I like the sound of that too... I guess!" I replied. Sisky and Mike both gave me angry looking glares. I don't know at all why they were doing that to me. Suddenly the bell ended up ringing.
"What class do you have next?" I asked Cass.
"I have science... upstairs! What about you?"
"I have English... downstairs." I replied.
"I guess I'll see you soon then." Cass hugged me again briefly and then left to go upstairs. However, instead of it feeling warm. It felt awkward.

"Dude! What the hell was that?" Asked Sisky as we were walking to class.
"What? All I did was take her suggestion." I said, "that's a nice gentleman thing to do."
"Dude! You're supposed to come up with where you guys will be going, that was why everything was kind of awkward after you did that." Sisky explained.
"It's not that big of a deal, I'm sure everything will be fine when the night rolls around. Besides, it's not like I'm going alone." I said.
"I'm keeping an eye on him!" Said Gabe, "well more like an ear actually! We have walkie-talkies."
"You better not screw this up man." Said Sisky poking my chest.
"Okay okay... just remember you're not the one keeping an eye on me." I said rolling my eyes at Sisky.

A few minutes ago:

Brendon's class had ended early and a few of the other classes in his grade had a free period too. So he decided to go and sit in the cafeteria and study a little bit.
"Brendon!" A voice called out to him. He turned around to see Spencer waving at him enthusiastically from his own table.
"Come sit down here." He said patting the seat. Brendon went and sat down on the bench next to him, Spencer was also sitting next to another guy. He looked relatively similar to Spencer in terms of the way he'd styled his hair and clothes.
"Hi Spencer," said Brendon.
"Hi!" He said, "how are you?"
"Free period..." said Brendon, not really knowing what else to say.
"Yeah, we had one too." Said Spencer, "by the way, this is my good friend Jon!"
Jon held out his hand for Brendon to shake.
"Hi, nice to meet you." Said Jon.
"Nice to meet you too." Said Brendon. Still being polite, but still confused about what to say, or how to come off as nice or interesting.
"Jon, Brendon has been writing poetry too!" Said Spencer.
"Oh really? Can I see it?" Jon asked.
"Uhhh... sure, I mean, it's not very good but... okay." Brendon grabbed his book out of his backpack containing the poetry and handed it to Jon. He skim-read the poetry and flipped through the pages relatively fast.
"Wow... this is all quite nice. What inspires you?" Asked Spencer who was reading through it with Jon too.
"Well... I've been going through a bit of a rough time recently." Brendon explained.
"I think I remember you telling me earlier your therapist recommended it to you as a coping mechanism. What's been happening?" Asked Spencer.
"Well... I've just, been having huge problems with my mental health ever since my mother left my family." Said Brendon.
"Ouch!" Said Jon, "when did that happen?"
"It happened when I was quite young, but I was old enough to feel damaged by it and distinctly remember it happening. I start drinking and doing drugs and stuff, and I used to hang with all these bad people. I only just started going to therapy recently, because my dad wants me to get better." Brendon continued to explain.
"Do you want to get better?" Asked Spencer.
"Currently I'm really conflicted right now, I feel like I can see both the lighter side and the darker side at the same time. It's like I'm starting to get better, but I'm barely on the edge of it. So it feels weird kind of basically learning to be a normal human again. I don't know if I like that feeling or not, but I know I'll be used to it one day."
"Ahhh... I see" said Spencer, "you know, I was also told by my own therapist to do poetry as well."
"You have a therapist too?" Asked Brendon.
"Well... I had one. You see, I'm adopted!" Said Spencer.
"Wait what?" Asked Brendon, "what happened to your biological parents."
"They were young and irresponsible. Not ready to have me. They drunkenly crashed their car one night and I was the only survivor, I think I was only two when it happened." Spencer explained.
"You were an orphan?" Brendon asked.
"I think maybe for about a year or something, then I was adopted. But like you, I had distinct memories of my old family too. It kind of messed me up a bit, I kind of went through what you did. With the drinking and the drugs and stuff... I feel for you man! I wouldn't say poetry completely fixed my life on its own, I think I'd say it helped me save myself." Spencer said.
"It's good you're making a recovery." Said Jon.
"It's great that we were able to meet each-other." Said Spencer, "I guess it happened for a good reason."
"Yeah... it sure did!" Said Brendon, he looked back at Spencer and smiled. For the first time in ages, he had found someone likeminded to him.

A few days later:

Friday -

"Okay Bilvy! Tonight's the night!" Pete squeed as he fussed around my tie and hair.
"Dad, this is not necessary!" I sighed.
"Come on Bilvy, you don't want to leave some bad first impression on Cass, do ya?" Pete asked cheekily, ruffling my hair. Ruining whatever elaborate style he tried to put it in.
"Dad, you ruined my hair again." I said.
"Eh don't worry, it was useless trying to get it to stay up at all." Pete chuckled. There was a knock on the door, it was most likely Gabe coming over to see what I looked like. (By order of Adam T Siska, codename: Sisky Business) Sisky had decided to get his own walkie-talkie too. So that me and Gabe could have extra communication tonight.

"Oh hello Gabe... Bill's upstairs if you want to see him."
"Thank you Mr Wentz" (yep it was definitely Gabe.)
"Aw, you're so polite. But you do know you can always call me Pete."
Gabe came upstairs into Pete's room where I was finishing getting ready and looked at me up and down.
"Well, Pete sure has taste." Said Gabe.
"Yeah... I think he took it a little too seriously, but I don't think I look that bad." I said giggling nervously. Gabe went close to me and adjusted my tie for no reason.
"Yep... it's perfect." Gabe smiled back at me.
"Pssst.... pssst.... what does Bill's outfit look like?" A voice was heard, coming from Gabe's pocket. Gabe pulled the walkie-talkie out. Sisky was on the line.
"Sisky! I can hear you, you don't need to whisper." I said.
"Oh hi Bill.... Gabe what is he wearing?" Asked Sisky.
"Uhhhhh, a black suit jacket. White shirt. Black tie, Windsor knot. Dark grey suit pants. Black shoes." Gabe listed.
"Okay, sounds fine! I'm tuning out, Gabe call me back if anything important happens, if not. Tell Bill my frequency." Sisky signed off. The other end of the walkie-talkie made a fuzzy noise. Gabe turned it off. As soon as that happened, there was another knock on the door.

"Hello Bill..." the timing was perfect, Cassadee had arrived. She was wearing a little black dress with a pink ribbon tied around the waist, with neon pink tights to match. Her hair was more teased than it usually looked and she was wearing the glittery makeup, similar to the way she was wearing it when we saw each-other at the arcade. Pete was standing behind me, winking.
"Can I come in?" Cass asked awkwardly. I forgot I was staring for probably a little bit too long.
"Oh yeah.... sure!" I took her hand and led her inside.
"Hello Cassadee, I'm Pete. I think you've seen me around." Pete leaned on the bench trying to make small talk with her.
"Hello Pete, yes I have seen you around. Nice to officially meet you." Cass stuck out her hand and shook his. Brendon was sitting at the dining table possibly working on another poem.
"Bill, you didn't tell me you had another sibling." Said Cass.
"What? Bill, how could you not tell her about me?" Brendon asked in a fake-whiney voice. He decided to be polite and shake Cass's hand too.
"I'm Brendon." He said monotonously before slouching back in his chair again.
"Well..." Cass giggled nervously, "what should we do before we leave?"
"Uhhhhhh I don't know...." I said. Suddenly Hayley and Gabe came down the stairs together.
"Hi Hayley, hi Gabe." Said Cass.
"We haven't talked before" said Hayley, "how do you know my name?"
"Bill's told me about you before." Said Cass.
"What? How could she know about Hayley and not me?" Brendon pouted.
"Relax Brendon, don't take it personally." Pete reassured him.
"What are you doing here Gabe?" Asked Cass.
"Oh... I was just here to... take back some stuff I left behind at a sleepover." Gabe faked an explanation.
"Ah, I see." Said Cass.
"Well, we should be going now." Said Pete, "we don't want any more awkwardness to ensue here."

As Pete escorted me and Cass out to the car. Gabe slapped himself in the face.
"What's wrong?" Asked Brendon.
"I was supposed to be watching Bill from the bathroom during the date so I could make sure everything goes well. I can't go in the car though cause that would be weird, and it would take ages to walk to the restaurant." Gabe started to freak out, "we never planned another ride for me."
"Don't worry man, I have you covered. Come on my motorcycle with me." Brendon stood up and took Gabe over to the garage.

Z's house:

"We've been waiting for this moment for a long time." Said LynZ.
"Where are you taking me?" Asked Vicky. They were going downstairs into Z's basement where Z had a surprise for Vicky now that her physical makeover was complete.
"Why do you sound so nervous?" Asked Z.
"Sorry... just... at my old home, there was an incident involving being in a basement that kind of scarred me." Said Vicky.
"Are you comfortable with telling us?" Asked Z.
"No, not really yet." Said Vicky.
"You don't have to worry, cause we're giving you a positive surprise here." Said LynZ. She pulled a chain and a small lightbulb turned on. The lightbulb revealed a white calico sheet covering up something big. Z went over to the sheet and pulled it away. Revealing a shiny and new looking pink drum set. The bass drum had a large pink heart in the middle.
"Is this mine?" Asked Vicky.
"Of course it is! We told you we were going to teach you some drums, so you could be in our band." Said LynZ.
"That's awesome." Said Vicky, "when are we going to start?"
"Come here tomorrow" said Z.
"I guess I'm already excited." Said Vicky.

The restaurant:

"Try and make sure that they don't see you." Brendon pulled up with Gabe outside. He looked into the window.
"I don't think they've arrived yet, you have some time to go to the bathroom and hide." said Brendon.
"But what about you? Would you like to help me?" Asked Gabe.
"I'd love to kid but I can't, I'm busy writing something important." Said Brendon.
"What's it for?" Asked Gabe.
"I guess it's kind of for my therapist, but also for some new friends." Brendon grinned thinking about Jon and Spencer and drove away after Gabe stepped off the motorcycle.
"I'll see you soon kid." Brendon yelled and waved at Gabe, within the matter of a few seconds he was completely out of sight.
"Okay Gabe, now you have to go find the bathroom." He said to himself, running into the restaurant.

After a few more minutes, Pete pulled into the carpark with me and Cass.
"You guys can get straight out now, I'll see you later. Hope everything goes well." Pete said wishing us off.
"Goodbye Pete, it's nice getting to know you." Said Cass. They both waved and then Pete too disappeared. Throughout the car ride on the way here, Pete tried his absolute best to not embarrass me in any way. He just sticked to simple questions like how it was going at school and stuff like that.

"Your dad seems pretty cool." Said Cass as we sat down at our table.
"Yeah, he's pretty neat I guess." I said, "he has managed to mostly keep all three of us in line and living our lives to the fullest... ever since our mom left us."
"Oh no, what happened?" Cass asked, "you're not too sensitive about me asking this question?"
"No, I can't answer it fine. My mom leaving didn't effect me much because I was very young and I couldn't remember it happening. But it really hurt Brendon and Hayley cause they were old enough to remember. Probably hurt Brendon the most, he started hanging out with bad people and drinking and smoking." I explained.
"Oh Bill, I'm so sorry. I had no idea! Why did your mom leave?" Cass asked.
"Because my dad came out as bisexual to her, and she didn't like that. Although there's a rumour that Gerard outed him to her." I said.
"That's awful. I can't believe she would do that." Said Cass, "your dad is very brave though. It's cool that he was able to pull through and look after y'all, even if you guys had to go through some tough times."
"Yeah, I guess that's why I consider him one of my heroes." I said.
"That's really sweet" said Cass, "do you have any memories related to your mom? At all?"
"Well... I don't remember doing anything with her. But I know what she looked like because of this." I said. I reached into my shirt and pulled out a golden locket. It opened up to a picture of her. Her hair was long, blonde and straight and her eyes were very big and photogenic.
"Wow, she's beautiful. It's a shame that she left your dad for a horrible reason though." Said Cass, "where did you find the photo?"
"My dad had decided to clean out all the photos of mom that were in the house. He ripped up tons of them and burned a few others. I was luckily able to salvage a couple. There's another one I keep in the bottom of my draw. Of her and dad together when they were teenagers too." I explained.
"Wow..." said Cass taking a closer look at the photo in the locket.
"Sorry to interrupt you two. But would you both like some drinks right now?" A waitress came to our table holding her notebook. I was tempted to ask her for a milkshake for us to share, but I was scared of making her think we were moving too fast.
"Two chocolate milkshakes please." I said.
"Actually, I'll have a strawberry one." Said Cass.
"Oh... sorry about that." I apologised.
"It's okay." Cass laughed.
"Aw, you two are adorable." The waitress cooed and went back to the counter to bring in the order.
"I wonder what that was about?" Cass started laughing, "a couple of greasy teens? Adorable?"
"Oh don't be silly, you're not greasy."
"Oh you haven't seen me on certain days Beckett!"
"You haven't taken a proper look at me everyday Pope!"

"I have to go to the bathroom." Cass said.
"Okay then, suit yourself." As soon as she left. I saw it as a cue to talk to Gabe. I pulled out the walkie-talkie.
"Gabe, psssst! Are you there?" I asked.
"Hello Bill, any updates?" Gabe picked up instantly.
"So... me and Cass just had a pretty deep conversation. About my mom." I said.
"Damn... are you trying to make her sympathetic so she can get hooked in?" Asked Gabe.
"No of course not! That sounds like some bad dating advice that Sisky would give, don't tell him that though." I said.
"Of course I wouldn't." Said Gabe, "what other news is there?"
"I kind of think we were flirting!" I said.
"What happened?" Asked Gabe.
"We were kind of being funny and sarcastic because she called herself greasy. And I told her that she wasn't, and she said I hadn't seen her on her bad days. Then I said, she hasn't seen me properly everyday. Then the best part is, we kind of jokingly referred to ourselves by our last names. Could this maybe be some subliminal sign that she... maybe wants to be a Beckett too?" I splurged out the information.
"Okay man, slow down. Maybe this could mean something. You just have to wait and see. Is that all the information?" Asked Gabe.
"Yes it is." I said.
"Sweet, ring me back when the time is right." The signal went off again. I turned off the walkie-talkie and put it back in my pocket quickly.

"Hey!" Cass came out of the bathroom one minute after I put away the walkie-talkie.
"Hi!" I said. The waitress arrived in perfect timing at the table and gave us our milkshakes.
"One chocolate milkshake for the guy, and one strawberry milkshake for the lady." The waitress set them down in the middle, "enjoy!"
Cass took a small sip out of her drink.
"Damn, this is pretty good. Didn't know what to expect considering this place is new." She said.
"Yeah..." I took a sip out of my drink too, "this is pretty delicious."
Another waitress arrived at the table almost instantly.
"Would y'all like to order your food now?" She asked.
"Uhhhh sure" said Cass, "I'll just have a cheeseburger and some fries for the both of us."
"I'll also have a cheeseburger. This is our first time here, so I think we'll have the same food just to see if our opinions are the same." I said.
"You guys are too cute." The waitress jotted down the order and walked away.
"Why are all the waitresses calling us cute?" Asked Cass.
"Uhhh... I have absolutely no idea." (I lied, I did have an idea)

Meanwhile in the bathroom, Gabe was waiting for Sisky to tune in to feed back the information I had given him earlier.
"Yo yo waddup! 'Tis Sisky Business on the line here? Gabe do you copy?" Sisky replied after Gabe had been waiting a few minutes for him to pick up.
"Yes, I'm here!" Said Gabe.
"What's the tea? How's it going?" Asked Sisky.
"So far things are looking really good. Bill has reported to me saying they had a really deep and meaningful conversation together, and they apparently flirted." Gabe explained.
"Hoo boy! That is good, I predict by the end of the night. Those two will be so deep in smoochvile that Bill will probably be sitting with Cass at lunchtime." Sisky joked.
"Well... I don't want him to leave our table. It's not our table without Bill." Said Gabe.
"Dude relax, he probably won't leave us. He's too cool for that. If anything I think Cass will start sitting with us!"
"Well that's fine... I guess."
"Sweet, things are looking great Gabe! Call me back when Bill feeds in more news." The signal died again.

"And that... is basically what happened. Sisky and Mike actually have the guts to ask out those senior girls." I said, "can you believe it?"
"Honestly it does seem like something they would do. I've always admired the confidence of those guys, but sometimes I feel like they have a little too much of it." Cass snorted. Since the ice had been broken about my mother, me and Cass had been talking happily nonstop. Currently I had decided to talk about some funny things in the group that she had missed. One of those things being Sisky's ladykiller complex. (That had rubbed off on Mike a little bit too)
"I know, they're so weird. But that's why I enjoy hanging out with them so much." I said, "what happens at your lunch table?"
"Eh, I honestly don't get along with any of those girls. We just don't have any common ground. They all just talk about boy bands and I'm always completely out of the loop on what they're saying." Cass sighed and rolled her eyes.
"That sounds kind of annoying, what kind of music do you like?" I asked.
"Don't get me wrong, I like heaps of different music. I do enjoy plenty of pop, but rock is where my heart lies. I don't want to sound like I'm superior to those girls, but yeah. It's just my preference really." Cass explained.
"Who are your favourite artists?" I asked.
"I've always loved Avril Lavigne. And Blink182 are pretty amazing as well." Cass squeed.
"So you're into pop punk?"
"Yeah, I'd say it's my favourite subgenre. I would like to sing and play guitar in a band one day. But I'm stuck learning clarinet because my parents hate having loud noise in the house." Cass groaned.
"Why would they complain about guitars though?" I chuckled, "clarinets make that really horrible squeaking sound! I feel like they would hate that more."
"I have to try really hard not to do that. It works to no avail!" Cass sighed.
"I don't know... maybe one day you could find a cool place to learn an instrument you want to play." I said.
"I'd have to do that as an adult, my parents are very nice don't get me wrong. But also very strict and kind of want me to have this perfect girl-next-door image all the time. I can't wait for when I'll be able to finally not have to go to school anymore, have to be perfect and just let out my reckless side." Cass explained.
"I see, but maybe you will..."
"Thanks Bill, it's nice to know you're supportive of me." Said Cass, "by the way, you were going to tell me something."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"You were going to tell me something when we were in the mall together. But then the whole Gerard incident happened so you had to leave. I think you were going to tell me tonight." Said Cass. My whole body froze and a big bead of sweat ran down the back of my neck. I didn't feel like I was getting closer to Cass anymore. I felt like I had been rubber-banded back to square one. Someone who was friends with Cass and on pretty good terms with her, but at the same time was somewhat a stranger to who she was beneath her appearance and outward personality. This moment was the time I could either be flung even closer to her than where I was before. Or stay where I was or go back even further.
"Bill? You're spacing out again." Cass waved her hand in front of my face.
"Oh right sorry I was just thinking of how to put this... uhhhhhh... so basically, in the arcade you asked me if I liked anyone romantically and if I wanted to go to the dance with anyone in particular. Well I-" was cut off again by the waitress delivering our dinners. I didn't know whether to think of this as an annoying delay. Or some well-given extra time for me to word this perfectly. Or maybe it was delaying a potential bad outcome.

"Two cheeseburgers and a plate of fries." The waitress said. She left and went back to the counter to assist some other people.
"Sorry, what were you saying?" Cass asked after she left.
"Oh nevermind, I don't know if I should say this while I'm eating." I backed out and stuffed two fries into my mouth.
"Well okay, if you insist." Cass took another fry.

Back at home:

"What are you writing now Brendon?" Asked Pete as he was making dinner for just him, Bren and Hayley.
"Oh... just another poem." Said Brendon.
"What's it about?" Asked Pete.
"Well... recently, I've been wanting to write a happy poem. All my poems so far have been about all the sad things that have been happening in my life. Recently, I think I made two new friends. People who I think are actually more of a positive influence on me than a negative one." Brendon explained.
"Who are your new friends?" Asked Pete.
"Their names are Spencer and Jon! They're pretty cool, Spencer has been in a situation like mine before and we both like to let out our feelings with poetry. I don't know Jon as well as him, but he seems pretty nice. They're both definitely a step up from Ryan and Dallon." Said Brendon.
"Well that's neat... did you ever truly break friends with those guys by the way?" Asked Pete.
"Well, Pete this is probably going to make you a little mad. But before you took me to see Mikey. I had been lying to you about seeing those guys from group therapy. Really, I made them up. I've still been hanging out with Dallon and Ryan and feeding into my addictions for maybe the past couple of years." Said Brendon.
"What?" Pete nearly dropped the tray of food he was grabbing out of the oven.
"I've been lying to you for the longest time. And I'm sorry, but now that I've been seeing Mikey and cleaning up my act. I too know my own mistake. I haven't broken friends with Ryan and Dallon yet, but I will someday." Said Brendon.
Pete sighed and laid the food on the counter for a minute. He pressed his hands to his face. A small tear rolled down his face.
"Why didn't I ever notice?" Pete mumbled into his hands.
"Pete, I'm so sorry. I can understand why you are disappointed with me. Believe me, I'm disappointed in myself too." Brendon said. He walked up to him and put an arm around his back.
"I'm actually really sorry..."
"Look, what you did wasn't cool. Lying to me, and hurting yourself has disappointed me as much as you think it has. It's also made me scared for your own safety, because I've barely known anything about what you have been up to for the past few years. But if there's one thing I'am proud of, it's that you're making an effort to be honest now. I know you're not entirely perfect and cleaned up yet. But you're getting there and I'm happy for you." Pete turned back from the counter and hugged Brendon, and for the first time in ages Brendon hugged back. Not reluctantly in any way.
"Can you show me a bit of that poem?" Asked Pete.
"Sure... I can maybe read a line or two to you." Said Brendon. He picked up the paper off the dining table.

I met the twin of my mind.
today. We look nothing alike but
somehow we feel like brothers.
We know what it's like to share
the same pain. And dance in the
pits of hell and still make it out
alive. We aren't related, but our
minds sure are.

Back at the restaurant:

Cass and I had finally finished our meals. (I admit I ate my food a little too slowly, to think even more about how I would confess to her.)
However, now it was done. My extra time had run out.
"So Bill, now that our food is done, can you actually tell me what you were going to tell me? I feel like you should do this quickly before we have another interruption." Said Cass. I tried to laugh off the fact that we had literally been interrupted like this more than three times now. I breathed in and then stretched across the table to put my hand to hers.
"Okay... so this is kind of serious." I said.
"Of course Bill. But please just tell me now." Said Cass.

"So when we were at the mall last week, both in the arcade and in the prom clothes store. You asked me if I liked anyone romantically and if I wanted to ask someone to the dance. Well... I do like someone. I've liked someone for as long as I can remember. I'd always known this person, ever since the days when our parents would make us have playdates as toddlers. I remember one day me and this person pretended to get married when we were about five. I never looked into it too much until I saw this person again in high school and realised that I was in love. I've never had more of a chance to ask her until now. Cassadee, that person is you! Will you go to the prom with me?" I spilled my guts. I spilled my heart. Now she finally knew how I felt. There was a pause, everything felt like it was in slow motion. Our hands were still touching and we were looking into each-others eyes. The green specks in Cass's eyes were twinkling more vibrantly than I had ever seen them before.
"Bill... look" Cass finally managed to say.
"What?" I asked.

"Bill, that confession. I'd say it's one of the sweetest things I've ever heard. Really, it's adorable. But maybe all these little delays that happened before we could get to where we are now... maybe they happened for a good reason." Said Cass.
"What do you mean?" I stammered. My heart started thumping at a fast rate. I felt like it could've broken out of my chest.
"I really don't want to have to tell you this without hurting your feelings. Because you've obviously worked hard to have the courage to tell me this, and I really admire you for that... but I can't say yes." Cass confessed.
"What?" I stuttered. Suddenly I felt in this moment, that I couldn't at all move my mouth to say anything else I could've been saying instead. Anything other that "what".
"Bill I like you a lot, I've always wanted to be a lot closer to you than we already are. But not like this! I'm not romantically interested in you, I just want to remain friends." It was official, Cass had set up the friendzone.
"But... I don't understand. I thought that this was a date, you're dressed all fancy and stuff." I said, I immediately regretted saying that. Feeling like I was now starting to come off as needy.
"My dad thought this was a date too, that's why he didn't let me dress normally. I'm guessing your dad did the same." Said Cass.
"Yeah... he did" I said.
"I'm really sorry I lead you on, I honestly didn't mean to I just-" I started spacing out as Cass continued to state her reasoning as to why she had no feelings to me. I spaced out so much that I accidentally sat on the on button to the walkie-talkie in my pocket. Letting Gabe hear everything that was going on right now. Little did I also know that I was beginning to shed tears of extreme disappointment as well.

"Bill... are you okay?" Suddenly I ended up coming back to earth. I realised I was starting to cry.
"No..." I sniffed, "I'm fine... what are you talking about?"
"You're crying right now!" Said Cass. Suddenly my vision started going shaky and a pang of embarrassment concocted within me along with that disappointed and upset feeling that was already within me.
"Bill... please I'm sorry I didn't mean for any of this to happen-" Cass tried to apologise to me again. But I didn't want to hear any of it, she had already said enough. She was just going to keep telling me the same thing over and over again just worded differently. I was done. I stood up and ran out the door letting the tears run down my face with no control. Letting my eyes go red and puffy. I ran out the restaurant dramatically, not caring how the people saw me. Not caring that Cass was calling for me to come back. Not caring that the walkie-talkie had fallen out of my pocket and that Gabe was listening to everything. After getting the news. I could hear him screaming.
"Bill! Are you okay, do you copy?" Before it fell on the floor and killed the signal. I was done. I was going to run home.

As soon as I had left the restaurant, Gabe came out of the bathroom to look for me. Coming over to the table where Cass and several of the other patrons at the restaurant were staring at the door. Distraught that I had run out in tears.
"What just happened?" Gabe asked Cass.
"Bill ran out, I think he's running home." Cass sighed. Facepalming herself and groaning frustratedly.
"What happened? I heard part of the conversation over the walkie-talkie before it broke." Gabe asked.
"I don't have feelings for Bill, and he's upset because of that. I never meant to make him feel like this I was just telling the truth. I think he feels that I led him on into thinking I had feelings for him when really I didn't mean to at all. The real question is, what are you doing here Gabe?" Said Cass.
"I was here to make sure everything went well! That's why Bill and I had walkie-talkies and why I was hiding in the bathroom." Gabe explained.
"Great! Now I feel even worse cause you guys were anticipating so much more, I feel like such a jerk!" Cass groaned.
"Hey, don't feel like that. You're not a jerk. You didn't mean at all to make Bill sad, I promise. I'll go look for him and take him home and make sure he's okay. Do you want to come with us?" Gabe offered.
"No, I honestly don't want to make anything worse for him. I'll just call my dad and explain everything and he can take me home. I'll see you at school next week." Cass said. She waved Gabe goodbye and he went off to go look for me.

Gabe had found me walking along the road. Looking like a hot mess. My hair that Pete had styled almost perfectly looked like a birds nest. My face was red and puffy from crying and my suit had a few dirt stains on it.
"Hey..." Gabe whispered. All I could manage was a simple hi. As all my energy to say anything else had been drained in that perfect confession speech. The speech I had been imagining in my head for days, all that practice for nothing.
"I heard about happened, you don't have to tell me anything. Sounds pretty terrible though." Said Gabe. He put his arm around my shoulder and I leaned into his.
"Come on, let's go home." He said.

We turned up at the house together after what felt like an hour of walking together in silence. We knocked on the door and Pete answered it looking at me in complete shock. He eyed me up and down. Looking from my dry out-teared eyes, to my dirty shoes.
"What happened here?" Pete asked taking me away from Gabe and holding me to his chest.
"Cassadee rejected him." Said Gabe. Pete made a small "aww" noise and started rocking me back and forth in his arms as if I was a baby again.
"Aw Bilvy, I'm so sorry. Man, it's a shame that it had to end like this. Come on, let's take you up to bed right now." Pete held my hand as he pulled me up the stairs. The energy and life in me fading with every step. Finally I was safe in my room. Where love troubles would never come and find me again. Pete laid me down on the bed and sat next to me. Combing back the hair that was in my face.
"Do you want some water?" He asked.
"No" I said blankly.
"Do you want to talk about it?" He asked again.
"Not right now." I replied.
"Okay then... I guess maybe you can sleep it off and then tell me tomorrow morning. That is... if you're in the mood." Said Pete, "I'll leave you and Gabe together."

Me and Gabe were alone together yet again.
"Are you feeling a little better?" He asked me.
"No... I still feel terrible." I mumbled. I rolled onto the side. As I laid down, I noticed Gabe taking off my shoes.
"Why did you do that?" I asked.
"I thought... if you were going to sleep without putting in pyjamas you probably shouldn't be wearing your shoes in bed." I managed to let out the smallest bit of laughter.
"Shall I stay with you tonight?" Gabe asked.
"I guess... I don't really want to be alone right now." I climbed into the covers of my bed.
"Sure thing then." After Gabe said that, he climbed into bed too and curled his arms around me like he did the other night. Yet again, I wasn't complaining about this at all. It felt rather comforting in this low time.

Chapter Text

It Runs In The Family, Chapter 7: Rescue Mission

Saturday morning, home:

I woke up, Gabe's arms still holding me tight for comfort.

For a second, I was oblivious to what had happened to me the night before.

Then it hit me all over again.

I remembered the sadness and the disappointment all over again.

What happened on that "date".

I turned slightly and Gabe woke up, he looked me directly in the eye without saying a word for a second. Maybe to try and see if there was any trace of sadness in my face. In that exact same second he blushed while his mouth was gaping wide open.

It seemed like he had realised something too. Still, I wondered what it was.

"Bill..." he whispered.
"What?" I asked.
"Did you have a good sleep?" He asked me.
"Uhhhh... not the best sleep ever. But when I did get to sleep, I'd say that it was alright." I replied.
"That sounds understandable." He said, "are you still sad about last night?"
"I guess I'am. I don't really think I'll be going out and doing anything today. I need some time just to cool off." I said.
"Do you think... you'll ever talk to Cass about it?" Gabe asked.
"Maybe one day, I just feel I'm too sad right now to do that. Doesn't mean I won't ever do it though." I said.
"Yeah, I hope that you guys still end up friends despite all this. Cassadee is a really nice person, she told me last night after you ran out that she felt like a jerk for rejecting you."
"She really did?"
"Yeah. She did, she'll probably be ready to talk with you when you are."
"That sounds good. I know that she would never be mean to either of us, even if she wasn't in the best mood." I said, "how was your sleep?"
"Slept like a baby. I was happy to keep you company." Said Gabe.
"It's good that you were willing to do that, glad that I picked you out to help me on this date. Even if I didn't get what I wanted. If I got someone like Sisky to help me, I feel like he would've been kind of harsh." I said.
"Yeah, I like Sisky a lot. I think he's cool, he's just... not that good in the caring department really." Said Gabe.
"It's cool that you're able to understand all this... you're the best." I said.

Gabe leaned on me and I leaned back on my pillow. We remained silent for a good few hours. I spent my time thinking... about what could've been.

Eventually, Pete barged into the room.
"Hey guys! What's going on right now?" He asked casually.
"Uhhhhh... we were kind of just, relaxing I guess." I said.
"Oh of course, I'm guessing you're still sad about what happened on the date." Said Pete. He went and sat on the end of the bed and put his hand on my shoulder.
"You know... you probably shouldn't give up on Cass. Maybe with enough time she might-"
"No, she was pretty firm about not wanting to go out with me." I said.
"Well... it's good that you at least will always have your pal Gabe by your side." Said Pete.
"Yeah... we were kind of talking about that already." Said Gabe, "but don't forget that you always have your family too!"
"Of course" I said. While what he said was a cliche, it really did comfort me. Gabe's family coming into our lives has certainly made my own immediate family a lot closer. Even if it was unintentional, I guess I'm grateful for being where I'm at now even if I'm at a bit of a low point.

"So... why did you come in here other than wanting to talk about the date with me?" I asked Pete.
"Oh, right! I'm guessing you don't want to go outside right now and that's fine. But, I've been experimenting with some baking recently. And these old ladies down the street are curious to try these Belgian biscuits I made." Pete explained.

"Are you sure they're not going regret wanting to try them?" I asked, chuckling nervously.
"Oh Bill, you're so silly. Don't worry, I followed the recipe and made sure they were perfect. You can even try one for yourself if you want."
"Thanks Pete, I'll get dressed quickly and bring them down. Can you give me the address?" I asked.
"Of course, I'll give it to you when you come downstairs."

A few minutes later

Pete indeed followed the recipe correctly for once. I was rather proud. The Belgian biscuits were delicious and not in any way messy. I found the icing especially delectable.
"Okay Bill, you can stop eating right now before those old ladies don't end up getting their food." Pete said jokingly.
"Shall I bring them down right now?" I asked Pete.
"Yeah sure, that's fine." Said Pete, "also Bill..."
"Just remember to check yourself and see that you're okay." Said Pete.
"Oh... okay, I will. I'll see you soon."
"See you later."

Just my luck that I had left the house at the wrong time. Cassadee was leaving at the same time to do a paper run.
"Hi Bill..." she waved at me, there was a uncertain and awkward tone to her voice. Not normal from her at all.
"Oh... hi Cass." I tried to not sound upset or surprised in a negative way. It obviously wasn't working.
"Are you okay?" She asked.
"Uh... yeah. I'm just bringing some cookies down to the old ladies at the end of the neighbourhood. Pete made these." I said, trying to quickly leave to avoid more conversation.
"Bill, I know what you're doing. Stop trying to avoid me, we need to talk this out." Cass stopped me.
"Look, I'm busy." I said.
"You're stalling me. I don't want to spend another second of the day where we are both trying to avoid each-other, we live in the same neighbourhood and therefore we're going to keep running into each-other. We can't hide from each-other forever." Cass pleaded. I turned back and sighed.
"You're right... I can't do that." I turned back and looked her in the eye, she put her arm on my shoulder comfortingly. It just made me feel worse.
"I'm still sad that you're not... y'know..."
"Into you? It's understandable, we all feel this way Bill. It's human."
"I know, it just still kind of hurts. I've liked you for a long time, and I kind of just ended up building a world where I imagined we would get together and live the perfect life. I guess because I had no idea of what you thought, I simply assumed that it would be easy for that fantasy to come true. It turned out to be impossible though and it hit me... hard." I tried to explain.
"I understand... it's okay. It's good you're being honest, most other guys would react rather violently to this sort of rejection. I'm happy that you're not afraid to tell me how you feel." Said Cass.
"It feels weird that I'm telling you this."
"I can imagine why." Said Cass, "I really hope that our friendship isn't ruined in any way. I like you a lot Bill, you're a really fun person to hang out with."
"Don't worry Cass, I couldn't imagine not having you as a friend either. I've known you for so long, I don't think that we can try and separate ourselves for that long." I said.
"Yeah... so... just friends?"
"Just friends."

We shook hands politely and walked off in separate directions together.

Despite the talk, I still felt a sense of being uncomfortable around Cassadee. But this is only the first day since the rejection after all, soon we'd learn to become good friends again without being embarrassed about that night. As soon as she walked away after shaking hands with me, I almost felt an urge to say an "I love you" back. However, I didn't want to make things stranger, I kept on walking.

Probably one of the most terrifying things I could've ever done was continue letting her leave, not because I didn't want her to leave for my own sake. But because of what would happen next looking back on this.

As I was still delivering the biscuits and having a rather pleasant conversation with the old ladies. Cass went inside to her empty, fatherless home. Not in the sense that her father had literally abandoned her. Just in the sense that he was out for work for a very long time today. She got the first phone call from the home phone that night.
"Hi dad! How is work right now?" She asks.
"Work is going pretty fine, just letting you know that I might be coming home late tonight. I brought some more ready meals from the supermarket if you're hungry later." Her father replies.
"Okay sure, when should you be back?" Cass asks.
"Around 7:00 instead of 5:00. Is that okay with you?"
"Of course it is! I'll spend the rest of my spare time doing some study."
"That sounds fair enough. I'll see you later darling."
"I'll see you later dad."

The phone hung up, the second one came in less than a minute.
"Hi babe... how are you? Is this the right number?" A voice from a person I don't know asks.
"Yes it is, hi! How are you?" Cass asks. Happy to be hearing from this unknown partner... one she would never tell me about for a while. A secret.
"I'm good. Just wanted to ask if you're okay after last night, heard you went on a date with someone you didn't really want to date."
"Oh... Bill... yeah, I never wanted it to be a date but my dad thought it was one so he set it up like one. Bill thought it was a date too and I had to turn him down, I feel bad for hurting his feelings, but I hope that we're still friends." Cass explains.
"That must suck for him, did you tell him about us?" The anonymous voice asks.
"No I didn't, I feel that if I did he would tell dad. And I haven't exactly... told him the whole story yet." Cass says.
"Fair enough, better safe than sorry" the voice says, "so you're okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Still a little awkward after that night but otherwise okay."
"That's wonderful to hear... well... I have to do some homework. But I'll try to call you again soon." The voice says.
"I hope that I'll get to meet you in person again. I miss you." Cass says.
"I miss you too... so much." The voice says again, "goodbye. I love you!"
"I love you too."

The second phone call cuts off again, next we get a third phone call. Another anonymous voice... but this time it's anonymous to Cass as well as me.

"Hello." Cass says, this time she sounds slightly irritated because of that fact she's getting interrupted by who seems to be a stranger.
"Cassadee Pope." The voice says, distorted to the point where it's creepy.
"Who is this?" She asks, starting to get worried. That's no normal person's voice when they're talking on the phone, even when the connection is bad.
"You know who I 'am." The voice says sinisterly.
"No I don't, I can't recognise you at all. Can you stop being so cryptic and tell me who you are?" Cass asks.
"I don't need to tell you who i 'am you've seen me everywhere... so has your little boyfriend Bill." The voice says, soon she hears nothing but heavy long breaths.
"He's not my boyfriend! We're just good friends! That's not the point of this conversation, who are you?" Cass snaps.
"Turn around..."
"Is this some kind of joke? This sounds like something Sisky would do... Sisky, if that's you and you've broken into my house for a prank it's not funny. I'm actually starting to get worried."
"Turn around..."

Cass slammed the home phone into the case, the phone ended up missing the slot and it dangled by the cord. She turned around in a huff to suddenly see a man all in black with his face completely covered by a homemade robber mask. In his hand he was holding a smartphone, left open calling a number with the signal static. This was no joke after all... this was real.
"What are you doing in my house?" Cass asks. Trying to sound angry, but with the words coming out weak and frail.
The man in the robber mask slowly walks towards her as Cass backs away into the wall until there's no room left for her to run. As soon as she realises that slowly walking away from the situation wasn't helping anything, she lets out a scream and tries to run out the back door to find someone trustworthy. The scream makes the man run towards her, Cass realises the back door is too far away, she tries to dodge him by jumping over the kitchen bench and jump out the window above the oven. (Which wasn't currently operating) Cass slips as she tries to slide on the bench causing the robber mask man to tackle her and hold her tight, she tries to kick him to leave his grip but his arms and legs are too tight around her body.
"HELP-" she screams once, she tries to scream more but the man has put his arms over her mouth. The next thing she feels is a whack over her head. The last thing she sees is a scratchy bag going over her head and then... black.


Back at Pete's Home:

"What have we got for dinner tonight?" Hayley asks as Pete approaches the oven.
"Well, you'll be glad to know it's not leftover casserole! I have made some spaghetti! Just like the stuff from the Italian takeout place." Pete says.
"Oh nice... it smells really good." Hayley says.
"Thank you, that sure means a lot to me." Pete says taking a silly bow. Suddenly, there's a knock on the door.
"Bill, go get the door!" Pete says.
"Okay" I roll my eyes and get up to answer it. I get quite a shock to see Cassadee's dad standing there giving me a dirty look.
"Uhhh... good evening Mr Pope! What brings you to our-" I get interrupted.
"Did you do this?" He asks.
"I don't know what you're talking about sir, what is going on?" I ask.
"Cassadee! She's missing!" He grips me by the shoulders and shakes me angrily.
"What? I heard nothing about this" I say.
"You know what you did Beckett! You kidnapped her because she didn't like you back!" Cassadee's dad continued to shake me, Pete could see that both of us were equally alarmed and broke us both up.
"Woah woah woah! Mr Pope, why are you throwing around these accusations at my son? He would never hurt a fly!" Pete steps in to defend me.
"Oh Mr Wentz! I think you definitely understand that only last night did Bill get rejected by Cass. He's obviously most likely kidnapped her to try and force her into a relationship!"
"And why do you think my Bill would do that? Bill, did you talk to Cassadee at all today?" Pete asks.
"We had a small conversation a few minutes ago, but I would NOT kidnap her!" I say.
"See Mr Pope, Bill has done NOTHING wrong!" Pete says.
"How do you know that your son is not lying right now Wentz?" Mr Pope asks, poking me in the chest passive-aggressively.
"I'm not lying! I care a lot about Cassadee but I would never do such a horrible thing!"
"I... highly... doubt it! You have three days to prove your innocence before I report you and your family to the police!" Mr Pope slams the door and stomps away, giving me an "eyes on you" gesture.

"What are we going to do Bill? We have no proof you're innocent, but obviously we... well... ugh! Why do we all have to get into such complicated legal situations." Pete says.
"Ugh! Tell me about it!" Brendon says.
"Hold on... Mr Pope says that he wants to report us to the police, most likely jail if we aren't able to prove our innocence in three days. I think this might give us an idea on who really kidnapped Cassadee." A lightbulb moment happens on the spot.
"Who do you think did it?" Hayley asks.
"Gerard!" I say.
"Look, I know that Gerard is a douchebag, but I don't think he could be dastardly enough to kidnap." Pete tries to reason with me.
"No, Pete! You need to read into the lines a little bit more. Gerard very recently told me that he basically wants all of us out of the neighbourhood so he can have more peace. He says that he would go to the lengths of getting us arrested because we're hiding orphans, just for his own petty reasons." I explain.
"Well... he wants us in jail for that reason. Not for a false accusation of a kidnapping." Pete says.
"Well... I another point I will make here is that if we do get falsely arrested for this and potential witnesses get called in. Gerard will probably get called in because he lives next door. And even if we are proven to have not kidnapped Cassadee, he would probably still willingly expose that we're taking care of Gabe's family. Because he knows he will be saying it to a position of power that could put us in jail. In fact, the point is. I think Gerard kidnapped Cassadee, and tried to frame it as me somehow. So that maybe just maybe... we could get exposed and thrown in jail for his own selfish reasons." I continue to explain.
"I don't know Bill... it seems like a bit of a reach for me!" Pete says scratching his chin.
"Just follow me and my gut here. I genuinely think that Gerard has something to do with this, me and Hayley, Brendon and my friends will investigate his house when he's not home. And we'll investigate Cass's place too. We'll find her, get her home safe, and see if maybe we can make Gerard's plan backfire on him." I say.
"I don't know Bill... as your father I think that it seems dangerous to try and do this with only a bunch of other young people helping you." I say.
"So you're saying you want to come with us?" I ask.
"Of course not! Once again Bill, I'm not going to get involved in some dodgy shit, and I don't want you to get involved in it either." Pete says, "don't worry, we can get Cassadee back to her father in some other way."
"I don't believe that we can Pete! I'm going to try no matter what you say." I say. Pete rolls his eyes at me.
"Fine... but don't say I didn't warn you! You're going into dangerous territory." He folds his arms and gives me a stern look. I go to the phone and call Gabe, and Sisky, and well... everyone of course!

The next day, everyone is lined up in the living room after Pete has left to go look for a job with Patrick. I explain everything that had happened last night to them, I let everyone answer questions.
"Wait... so basically, the general gist of this is that Cassadee's dad thinks you're a kidnapper and he'll report you to the police if we don't find out who actually took her?" Sisky asks.
"Yes! That's exactly what I'm trying to tell you." I say.
"And you think Gerard is behind this?" Gabe asks.
"Yes... I do!" I say.

"What do you want us to do about it?" Vicky asks.
"Gerard is out at lawn bowls right now. We have some time to go into his house and see if we can find evidence to see if it was him." I explain.
"But his door is probably locked!" Sisky says.
"Don't worry about it. I've had years of experience making hair clip keys to save me from tough places back at the orphanage." Vicky says.
"How?" I ask.
"Well... it's a rather long story. I wouldn't really want to go too into detail right now." Vicky says nervously rubbing her arm.
"Understandable." I say, "we can get into his house and leave easily. If there's no evidence... well... this is a loss I guess."
"Damn! Now I know what loss is!" Sisky and Mike say in unison. Chislett and Butcher slap themselves in the face.
"Guys! Someone literally got kidnapped and you have to make a LOSS joke?" Chislett says punching Sisky in the arm.
"Ouch!" Sisky winces.
"What is a loss?" Gabe asks.
"Gabe, do yourself a favour and don't try and find that out." I say.
"It's something stupid from the Internet." Chislett says.
"Oh... well I don't have a computer so frankly I don't care." Gabe says.
"Guys! We're getting distracted again! Let's go to Gerard's right now before we run out of time." Hayley says.

We sneak into Gerard's using one of Vicky's many hair clip keys. (She keeps a whole bunch of them in the pocket in her dress.) instantly, everyone goes in. Acting as if there should miraculously be a secret basement hiding Cassadee. I looked through Gerard's belonging, looking to find the slightest bit of evidence. Being delicate enough so that he wouldn't notice someone was here when he got home. Gerard's house is very very clean. Not surprising at all, despite the fact he gets his hands dirty while gardening a lot. He seems to make up for it with his clean almost freakishly perfect home. I had to tell everyone else not to turn the whole house upside down as they all looked. After what felt like an hour of rummaging through Gerard's stuff. There was absolutely nothing there. If Gerard had taken Cassadee he obviously did a very good job at trying to cover his own tracks.

We ended up calling it a night and going home, deciding that looking for Cassadee was a lost cause. As unfortunate as having to say that was.
"I hate to say it, but Sisky and Mike called it when they said that Cassadee is a loss." I say as I bring in some cold drinks for everyone back at home.
"I hope that isn't the first thing you will say to her if she is ever found." Hayley says, taking a sip out of one of the glasses.
"What are we going to do?... Bill we could both end up going to jail for this! Or I could go back to the orphanage." Gabe says. Vicky shudders and holds the rest of the family tightly in her arms.
"There's got to be another way..." Sisky says, "i'm sorry for saying that Cassadee is a loss. Also... how are you still willing to do this for her despite the fact she literally rejected your promposal?"
"Sisky! We can't all be upset about that right now, I admit that I was upset... I was in fact REALLY upset! As I would be in that situation. But this isn't about Cassadee not liking me back, she's still our friend and we have to-" I was interrupted by a knock on the door. Was Pete home? Did Gerard somehow notice that one of us might have unlocked the door?

I opened it to see that there was no one there at all. There are little kids who live a few blocks down the road, maybe they wanted to be cheeky and ding dong ditch us. I look down at the doormat and notice something small, red and shiny on the ground. I pick it up and see there's a lid on it. It opens up to the head of a USB drive. I turn it around to see if there's any sort of note with it. But there's nothing.

"Guys! Something weird was just left on the doorstep." I say.
"What is it?" Vicky asks.
"It's a USB! We need to plug it into the computer and see what's on there. I haven't seen it around before anywhere." I explain.
"What's a USB?" Vicky asks.
"Something technological we don't know about." Ryland says.

We go into the family computer room, I put the USB into the computer. The computer lets me know that there is one video downloading into the system. It takes a minute until it's ready for us to watch.
"What could it be about?" Sisky asks, "what if its malware?"
"This could be important." I say, "I think it's probably worth the risk."
"That's what you said before you asked out Cassadee... it sure was worth the risk wasn't it Bill." Mike asks teasingly.
"Shut up!" Everyone else says.
The video opens up in a dark room filmed on a cruddy old camera. There is an outline of someone sitting in a chair that I can't make out. An oh so familiar voice that sounds oh so threatening begins to speak out.
"Take five! You better not screw up your lines or else you're getting killed and your little friends are getting framed for it." The tone exactly matches Gerard's voice.
"Okay! Okay! I won't screw up!" The second voice to speak comes from the person in the chair. Another oh so familiar voice, the high pitched speech making my heart hurt as soon as I recognised who it was. A bright white light suddenly turned on, Cassadee was sitting in the chair with her hands tied together. Gerard was the one who had knocked on our door.

"Hi, my name is Cassadee Pope and if you are watching this video. Your name is probably William Wentz Beckett. If it turned up on your doorstep, it's probably because you went into Gerard's house earlier to try and look for me. First things first, your suspicions about Gerard being my kidnapper are correct. But please don't use this video to prove to anyone that it is him, cause if you do. He will ruin the lives of you or someone you care about. Don't try and look for me either, you'll never find me. Gerard will never let anyone know where I 'am. If you go looking for me and he finds out, be prepared to lose me or someone else that is special too. Gerard is using me right now, to try and get information out of me about Gabe and his family that he will eventually try to use against them in the court to send them back to the orphanage, and of course get you and your family out of the neighbourhood. Currently, I 'am persevering and trying my best not to confess anything. But it's getting harder by the minute. Eventually, his plan will work and he will succeed. Once again, this is no cry for help. This is a goodbye. Goodbye Bill... I love you! As a friend of course! Don't take that the wrong way." Cassadee explains. The camera shakes a little bit and Gerard's hand appears in front of the camera.
"Dammit Cassadee! You really had to end this with a friendzone. You could've made this a little more meaningful." He says.
"Well I thought you'd find that funny." Cassadee says, "of course I don't mean to be rude to Bill."
"Oh for crying out loud!-" Gerard begins to yell before the camera goes static and the video ends.

"...Bill? What do we do?" Gabe asks.
"We certainly follow the exact opposite advice the video has been telling us." I say.
"It's risky though Bill." Mike says.
"Besides we don't even know where she is." Hayley says.
"Guys guys! Quiet down a little, did you all ever pay attention to Cassadee's hands during the video?" Vicky asks.
"Why are you asking?" Gabe asks.
"Her hands were moving a lot throughout the video, I guess she was kind of nervous so maybe she was moving them out of fear. But because of the fact that they weren't entirely tied together, some of the things she was doing with them seemed more than just a way of being expressive." Vicky explains.
"Are you saying that she's possibly trying to sign to us?" Gabe asks.
"Yes! I totally think so!" Vicky says.
"How could she possibly know how to sign?" Chislett asks.
"She taught herself how to do it so she could communicate with Alex and Nate like us." Gabe says.
"Oh... right!" Chislett says.
"We need the sign manual now! Can you go home and get it?" Gabe asks Vicky.
"Yes! I'll be right back." She says.

After what felt like the longest minute ever, Vicky rushes back into the house with the sign language manual. Gabe opens it up to the alphabet. I play the video all over again. Vicky points out letters while I write out the possible message onto a spare piece of paper. By the time the video ends. There's a full message, I take away all the grammatical errors and suddenly it makes complete sense.

"Help me! I don't want to die. Gerard has taken me to the abandoned silo a few miles out of the city. As soon as you get this message, please leave right now. I'm counting on you Bill." The sign message says. If it weren't for that extra knowledge, Cassadee would be a loss after all! But she wasn't! We have hope!

"You guys heard her. We have to leave." Sisky says.
"Our parents are not going to let us go out of the city to do that." Butcher says.
"Guys! Don't worry, do we all have bikes?" Brendon asks.
"Yeah, some of us have bikes. Me and mike have a two-seater." Sisky says.
"We all came here on our bikes." Chislett says.
"Awesome! I'll get my motorbike for me, Bill and Hayley, I also got a couple of sidecars secondhand for Gabe and the family." Brendon says, "everyone follow me to the garage!"

It's only a matter of time before we are all out on the road, we follow Brendon's lead. From several years of running away from the family to various places for various reasons. He knows his way around the whole city and the small places surrounding it like the back of his hand. Hayley is in a sidecar with Vicky and the twins (who she decided to bring along as she didn't want them home alone). Gabe and Ryland are in another, I'm sitting behind Brendon clinging onto his back for safety. Just like we used to do when we were close and he only just got the motorbike. He used to take me to many places whenever he sensed I was bored. It feels just like the old days doing it all again.
"I've missed doing this." I say.
"Me too... I don't know why I ever stopped bringing you to places my motor buddy."
"Motor buddy..." I murmur to myself, that was a nickname he hadn't called me in such a long time. He always endearingly called me it whenever we went on trips.
"Should we do it again sometime?" I ask.
"Maybe one day... of course!" Brendon turns back and smiles at me, then checks to see how fast everyone else is at catching up with him.
"Keep it up guys! We're nearly there" he says.

Before we know it, we are at the silo. Thanks to Brendon's directions. We take a stop and decide to work on what we are going to do once we are inside.
"Okay... I have an idea. Me, Gabe and Sisky will get to the top door, which seems to be the only part of the silo that is open. We'll have Vicky, Hayley and the twins guarding the door. Butcher, Chislett and Ryland come in with us and watch out for potential danger while me Gabe and Sisky do the nitty gritty. Brendon, of course you stay with the vehicles and make sure they're safe." I explain, "am I clear?"
"Yes!" Everyone says together.
"Okay! You heard me, everyone stick to their tasks." I command everyone. Immediately, we rush to do what we are supposed to do. Me, Gabe, Sisky, Butcher, Ryland and Chislett go into the top door of the silo first. Not looking back as we have to go in fast.

"Remember to be quiet everyone and to be alert." I say. The first thing we see when we enter the silo is that we are standing on a metal balcony, able to see a few feet below that Cassadee is in the middle of the room still tied to the chair and still alive. Gerard is nowhere to be seen anywhere.
"Where's Gerard?" Gabe asks.
"I'm not sure, but I think my theory is that he went back to our place to put the USB on our doorstep. He'll most likely still be on his way back and if we can hurry up then we won't get caught." We tiptoe down the balcony and then all the way to the stairs that we try to be delicate on. But it's not helping that they're made of loud clanky metal.

Cassadee notices us coming down. Butcher, Ryland and Chislett stay on one part of the stairs so they can keep watch for when Gerard returns.
"Guys! You did it, you were able to figure out my message." Cass says, "I'm so proud of all of you."
"Yeah, we surprised we were able to figure it out so fast too." I say.
"Well I guess that means you're all smart then." She replies.
"Can you guys stop flirting so we can all get out of here? Sisky asks sarcastically.
"SHUT UP SISKY! Wait... Sisky is here?" Cass asks, suddenly very confused.
"We brought everyone here, this is a whole rescue mission that we all organised together." I explain.
"Wow... I'm so happy that you all care. But like I was saying before, can you please get me out of these ropes?" Cass asks.
"Of course! Of course!" Gabe says, rushing to her aid. I take a quick look back up the stairs to see there's still nothing there. I join him too.

I go to the ropes that are still around her hands while Gabe tackles the ones around her back.
"Bill..." Cass says.
"Yes?" I ask.
"Are you still upset about... what happened on Friday?" She asks.
"I'm not even sure at this point, things are getting better. But it's still a work in progress you know but at least I'm happy we're still good friends even after-" I stop talking after I hear Butcher yell RUN.
"What's happening?" Cass asks as the ropes around her hands are free.
"GERARD IS HERE! HE SEES US!" Chislett yells.
"WHAT IS GOING ON?" Suddenly I hear Gerard yell too. He pushes Butcher, Chislett, Ryland and Sisky out of the way and stomps down the metal stairs. He stops and stares at me and Gabe freeing Cass with absolute disgust and shock in his face.
"HOW?" Is all Gerard manages to say. His jaw drops to the floor still bewildered by what is happening.
"You should really tie up someone's hands properly next time you kidnap someone cause... they might know a little bit of sign language." Cassadee shrugs casually.
"Stupid girl! Too smart for your own good!" Gerard grabs a small dart gun out of his pocket and shoots it at Cassadee, not killing but tranquillising her. Her body goes completely limp? Her eyes closing and her side fringe slipping as her head rolls back.
"You really thought you could get away with this?... didn't you?" Gerard says, pointing the gun at me and Gabe.

We surround each-other, we walk in circles. We walk in circles completely petrified. All of us too scared to do anything. Even Gerard who seems to be nervous considering this is probably the first time he's ever kidnapped somebody. (Like I said, I guess he'll be willing to do anything to get Pete out of this neighbourhood.)
"What are you going to do to me? You don't have weapons!" Gerard says.
"You just have a crappy dart gun." Gabe says.
"Look... I'll come better prepared next time! Okay!" Gerard retaliates.
Both of us roll our eyes back at him.
"We actually do have weapons, really good ones!" I say.
"Haha! I highly doubt they're any good. You probably have toy weapons, you guys are only kids after all." Gerard scoffs, "you can't fight me with those."
"Look... it may sound cliche and stupid but the weapons we have are our own friends." I say.
"Wait what?... what is this dumb?...-"
"Butcher! Chislett! Sisky! Ryland! Get him
NOW!" I yell at the three boys tensely watching our argument from the stairs. They immediately rush down to join us. The shock of Gerard hearing our answer buys Butcher some time to put him in a headlock, Sisky punches him in the face and Chislett kicks him in the shin. Gerard falls to the ground, I give him an extra kick for good measure.
"Oh come on guys! Take it easy on me, I'm just an old man from next door. How would that look on your criminal record?" Gerard tries to guilt trip us.
"How would kidnapping our friend look on yours?" Gabe asks sarcastically as he goes back to the ropes on the chair and gets them loose enough so they slide right off. I pick up Cassadee bridal style and carry her carefully up the stairs.
"This is not the end Wentz! I have many other ways... MANY other ways! Watch out for whatever I will do next. You'll never be able to see it coming, you'll never be able to prevent it." Gerard laughs maniacally still lying in pain on the ground as we all run out the silo and alert everyone else to go back to their vehicles.

The ride home was quiet and awkward. This time on the motorcycle Gabe was the one being able to ride in the front with Brendon. Brendon insisted that I look after Cass in the sidecar. Ryland is also in there too, he's trying to start up casual normal banter so that he can make the situation in the sidecar less awkward. I'm not really responding to any of it, today has been so big and so exhausting. I just can't really say much. Cassadee is leaning on me, not intentionally of course but she's leaning on me as she can't lift her head up. For a moment her eyes fluttered open briefly and looked at my face shortly before they closed again. When it happens Gabe looks behind and sees it too. A look for an expression I can't exactly determine spreads across his face. I know for certain though that the vibes I'm getting from it aren't good.

When we get home the sun is just about to set. We decide that the first thing to do is return Cassadee home, tell her father she is safe and everything that has happened. I pick her up out of the sidecar and carry her to the door, I knock politely and wait for a few seconds. Almost immediately Mr Pope answers. He looks at my face fleetingly with a sour expression. Then he looks down to see his daughter in my arms, basically asleep.
"What happened?... you decided you were morally wrong in this situation?" He asks.
"No! I saved her! It wasn't me who took her, it was Gerard. He's the guy who lives to the left of my house." I say, "he's doing it to try and sabotage us."
"Why would he want to sabotage you?" Mr Pope asks.
"It's a very long story. I can tell you another day, but I have to let Pete know that we're all safe too." I say.
"What do you mean WE?" Mr Pope asks again. I point behind me to show everyone who is there, all my friends and both my siblings. Waiting in their vehicles for me to come back.
"You really did save her, you risked your lives to go looking for her cause... you do genuinely care." Mr Pope says, "sorry I ever doubted you kid. Your father was right, you are a good child after all. You aren't petty like Gerard apparently is, despite what happened on Friday. You never held a grudge. I should've never thought that you would've done that seeing what a heart you have."

"Is Cass okay?" He asks again looking at the sleeping girl.
"She got tranquillised while we were in the process of rescuing her. She's okay, not hurt, still waking up though." I say. I hand her over to him. She shakes a little before her dad stops her from falling. Her eyes flutter open again and look up at him.
"Dad?... where am I?... what's happening?" She slurs her speech.
"Sweetie it's okay. You're home, you're safe. You're still waking up. Let's get you to bed." Cass's dad comforts her. She balances herself by tying her arms around her dad as he takes her to her room.
"Thank you Bill... I'm truly grateful." He thanks me again before the front door closes and I'm standing alone on the porch.

I turn back to everyone else, feeling touched with a warm fuzzy emotion within myself. As beautiful and relaxing as the sunset turning a rosy pink.
"Okay! She's home now, it's all okay. We can talk about this later. For now, everyone needs to get their stuff back into the garage and we need to tell Pete about everything that happened so we can say that we told him so."
"Yep, okay! This sounds great! I'm totally here for this father/son tea. Let's go inside." Sisky says.

Chapter Text

Bad News My Dudes;

Hello everybody in the FBR5 fandom, I'd like to let everyone know that these stories are being discontinued. I never wanted it to come to this, but unfortunately all good things must come to an (somewhat indefinite) end.

Is this the end of writing fanfiction in general? Of course not! I'm still very passionate about fanfiction and I'm still writing everything else that I'm working on right now, but these stories are going to be abandoned.

Will I delete them? No, I won't delete them. I know that a lot of you really loved them and believe it or not I had fun writing them too, they really showed off my growth as a writer and I feel that with those stories I really improved my own technique. I'll leave them up, but they just will no longer be updated.

Now you're probably wanting the reasons why I'm discontinuing these stories I'm guessing... well if you've been keeping up with the bandom recently you would've known about the recent controversy that's been going on with William Beckett... who is basically a main character in both those stories.

If you don't know and you've been hiding from the internet for a while, then the basic story is that he has been cheating on Christine and the texts and (nude) photos sent between the girl and William were leaked on twitter. In the texts, Christine ended up finding out about everything when she found William's phone open mid-conversation and she opened up to the girl Emma-Leigh telling her to stop. She also ended up accusing him of physical abuse towards her and their daughter Evie, when Emma confronted William about this starting to grow concern about the situation he then responded with his own abuse allegations towards Christine, therefore making this plot even more confusing. Along with that, William had lied to Emma-Leigh saying that him and Christine were split and he was staying with his dad for the time being when really they were just separated but not broken up.

Personally I find this situation a little messy, but long story short as of right now I'm not supporting William. I'm not abandoning TAI... entirely, literally as I'm writing this I'm listening to Almost Here. Their music inspires me so much and makes me really happy and they'll always be my second favourite band. Everyone else in the band is lovely too so it makes up for it. But I'm cutting out his solo music entirely and not listening to anything new of his until he at least makes somewhat of statement.

I personally don't believe cheating alone is enough to cancel a person, people have proven that they're able to bounce back from it and try to be better after they do it. (Like Mikey Way and Ryan Ross) however the abuse allegations are what are keeping me from supporting William for a while until he says anything and brings out proof that the abuse never happened between both parties or if Christine was the abuser. However cause it seems he's being a big coward about it and making other people speak for him (Christine out of all people! And Sisky fairly indirectly as well) without delivering any answers instead of confronting his well... heartbroken fanbase and making an effort to fix the damage that's been done. Although I highly doubt he would ever do it, part of me still holds faith in him. Probably cause I don't want to have to let him go, after the all the good things I have experienced being a fan of his and looking up to him as a hero of mine.

While writing fanfiction about someone doesn't necessarily give them money, I'm going to discontinue the two stories that have William as a really important character. While they are relatively OOC compared to IRL William I don't want to have to continue writing them while feeling guilty. In fact... come to think of it Life On One Shelf might end up getting discontinued permanently cause I have to keep cancelling everyone I write into it. (Melanie, TØP, Poppy... and now Bill!) before I end up having to fuck up the plot any longer, I think it's time to let that fic die for good.

As for IRITF it really hurts to have to end it, I still find the story really enjoyable. And I had so many ideas for future chapters but oh well... I still have hope for any sudden redemption from William so that maybe when that happens I'll continue writing it someday.

If possible... I'll maybe publish some early epilogues to both stories to let everyone know what was supposed to happen in the end, cause I never want to leave everyone hanging if they've been following the stories for a while.

In terms of my other stories POSER and Girl At The (Pop) Rock Show, those are going to continue. Both stories do have William in them, but in GAT(P)RS he's kinda showing some of his cheating nature that funnily enough I wrote in as a trait for him before all this drama surfaced. Can you believe that I was woke? (Also, most of his appearances are in the flashbacks... and to be honest they're more mentions of him than actual scenes with him there so it's very minimal) And in POSER he's a very minor character, so it will be easier to fade him out of the story or make him somewhat villainous.

That's my two cents on this issue. I'll be releasing the tea on what happens on the end of each story later, and I'll finish the chapter for GAT(P)R show that I've currently been working on along with a POSER chapter that me and Imogen have been starting. Along with that, I'm making two brand new stories to replace the ones that are being discontinued. I'll maybe talk about them a little more in another "announcement" chapter.

Anyway... see you all soon! It's been nice talking to you.

Edie Xx